Merin’s Mid-Week Musings #12

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Mid-Week Musings is a new(ish) feature here at Read and Reviewed, where I sum up my reading for the past week and introduce a topic for discussion. It is inspired by Musing Mondays over at A Daily Rhythm and her previous WWW Wednesday meme, which has been discontinued.

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Reading Challenges! Since it’s the beginning of a new year, the talk about Reading Challenges is prevalent across the blogosphere. It makes me curious regarding how many of you a) participate in Reading Challenges and b) actually reach your goals by the end of the year. For me, I signed up for three challenges last year – TBR Pile, Debut Author, and Goodreads – and was able to complete two of three. This year I decided not to do the Debut Author Challenge, simply because I’m trying to stay away from galley sites and also am trying to curtail the number of books I outright purchase, but decided to do the TBR Pile Challenge because it’s more in line with my other goals for 2016.

So what about you? Do you participate in Reading Challenges? If so, which ones? Please link me in the comments!

And Happy 2016!

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Top Ten Bookish Resolutions

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Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created at The Broke and the Bookish. Each week they will post a new Top Ten list that one of the bloggers there at The Broke and the Bookish will answer. Everyone is welcome to join!

Today’s Top Ten Tuesday topic asks us to list our Top Ten Resolutions for 2016. I am choosing to do Bookish Resolutions, because that’s how I like to roll around here, and also because it’s a bit of a tradition for me to put together each year. Last year I made six Bookish Resolutions, and managed to complete the majority of them, so we’ll see how I do this year!

Also, as a sidenote, this is my 100th Top Ten Tuesday post. Thanks to the folks at The Broke and the Bookish for creating such a fun weekly meme! ♥

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  1. READ MORE BOOKS. Last year I read 40 books, which was double what I read in 2014. I consider this a MASSIVE success, but would like to read even more in 2016. I’ve set my Goodreads Challenge at 45 books, so that’s obviously the number I’d like to read, although more would also be acceptable.
  2. READ MY OWN BOOKS. This was also a goal last year, and I did really well. I’ve once again signed up for the TBR Pile Challenge, and hope to read 21-30 of my own books this year in order to reach my goal.
  3. READ ANY GALLEYS/ARCS IN A TIMELY FASHION. I did SO GOOD with this last year! While I might not have read them necessarily as early as I’d have liked, when I did request something, I got it read (one outstanding e-galley notwithstanding, because it’s up next for me in my reading queue). Of course, this is not counting the huge pile I accrued when I wasn’t being so well-behaved.
  4. COMPLETE 2 READING CHALLENGES. I’ve only signed up for two challenges this year – Goodreads and TBR Pile – which are the challenges I managed to complete last year. I figure goal #2 will help me out a lot with both, so feel that it’s totally doable!
  5. KEEP UP WITH THE BLOG. I am going to work really hard to get posts scheduled ahead of time in order to keep my original content coming in a timely fashion. This includes getting my posts cross-posted/scheduled over on my Tumblr as well.
  6. BE HAPPY. I’m a fairly happy person, but can sometimes get overwhelmed by everything I have to do for work and life and blogging. This year I really want to not feel guilty about taking a step away from things, even if that means not reading when I probably should be. I don’t want to be ruled by the number of books I’ve read, or the number of books I need to read. I just want to read when I want to, and be happy with what I achieve. Even if that means wasting a lot of time playing Sims 4 or something equally inane!

So once again, there aren’t ten of these, but I figure six goals I actually want to achieve are better than making up four more that I’m not super invested in.

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What are your Bookish Resolutions this year? Even if you aren’t doing the TTT post this week, but you still made your own Resolutions post, I’d love to read it! Please link me in the comments.

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MINI-REVIEW: Insidious by Dawn Metcalf

insidiousInsidious (The Twixt #3) by Dawn Metcalf
Harlequin Teen, 2015
[Goodreads] [Book Depository]

Previous Installments: Indelible | Invisible

NOTE: Summary contains spoilers for the previous books in this series.

True evil is rarely obvious. It is quiet, patient.

Insidious.

Awaiting the perfect moment to strike.

Joy Malone finally knows who she is, where she comes from and how to live in two worlds at once. And now she can introduce her family and friends to her mysterious boyfriend, Indelible Ink. But when Ink’s twin sister, Invisible Inq, calls in a favor, Joy must accept a dangerous mission to find a forgotten door between worlds—a door hiding a secret that some will kill to keep.

Unseen enemies, treasonous magic and an unthinkable betrayal threaten both the Twixt and human worlds as Joy races to expose an ancient conspiracy and unleash the unalterable truth—some secrets cannot remain secret forever.

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  1. I am a big fan of this series, and Insidious was no different. However, this book was long, drawn out, and sort of unnecessarily complicated in some parts, which ultimately dropped my rating.
  2. Joy continues to be stubborn and strong, and I liked that we got to see more of her interactions with her family, particularly her brother Stef. I did not like her jealousy over Ink’s relationship with another lady, however, and felt like it was rather ridiculous that she’d even think he might be cheating on her. It’s pretty obvious how he feels about her, especially at this point in the series!
  3. I find fairy etiquette fascinating, and loved that we got more of an up close look at it. I loved learning right along with Joy the dos and don’ts.
  4. While I continue to love Ink a whole, whole lot, I was not as fond of Inq in this installment. I hated that she kept a secret from her brother (pretty much out of spite, too, and also to manipulate his reaction once he found out), and also that she tried to use Joy for her own ends and means.
  5. The ending was kind of surprising and abrupt, so I’m definitely looking forward to seeing how everything comes together in the last installment!

FINAL THOUGHTS: This was a good set-up for the final book, although I personally don’t feel like I enjoyed it quite as much as I did the previous two. Still should be an epic ending, though!

3stars

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Happy New Year!

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I hope everyone had a safe New Year’s Eve! I’m just popping on very quickly (I know I’ve been gone for a while – life got busy!) to wish everyone a Happy 2016, and to also recap my reading in 2015. As you can see above, I completed my Goodreads challenge, reading 40/40 books, for a total of 13,710 pages. Here’s hoping that 2016 will be just as successful!

I am currently deciding which challenges I’m going to participate in this year, and will be updating my challenges page with the new ones when I decide. I managed to complete two out of three of them in 2015 – the Goodreads and TBR Challenges – so think I’ll just stick to two challenges again this year as well.

Also, as a heads up, I will be back with regularly scheduled posts and reviews starting on Monday, January 4th! Thanks for sticking around as I took my unannounced break from blogging. <3

How did you do with your reading in 2015? What goals are you going to set for next year? Please feel free to tell me in the comments!

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REVIEW: The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black

coldestgirlThe Coldest Girl in Coldtown
by Holly Black

Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2013
[Goodreads] [Book Depository]

Tana lives in a world where walled cities called Coldtowns exist. In them, quarantined monsters and humans mingle in a decadently bloody mix of predator and prey. The only problem is, once you pass through Coldtown’s gates, you can never leave.

One morning, after a perfectly ordinary party, Tana wakes up surrounded by corpses. The only other survivors of this massacre are her exasperatingly endearing ex-boyfriend, infected and on the edge, and a mysterious boy burdened with a terrible secret. Shaken and determined, Tana enters a race against the clock to save the three of them the only way she knows how: by going straight to the wicked, opulent heart of Coldtown itself.

The Coldest Girl in Coldtown is a wholly original story of rage and revenge, of guilt and horror, and of love and loathing from bestselling and acclaimed author Holly Black.

mythoughtsI am a huge fan of Holly Black, even though she’s written several books at this point that I haven’t yet managed to read. The Coldest Girl in Coldtown was an e-galley that I’d had sitting on my Kindle for a stupidly long time, but I actually went the audiobook route in order to actually read it. And I’m actually really glad I did, because the narration lent a spooky, eerie feel to the story – complete with some background music at key points in the story – and it kept me more engrossed than the book would have, since in the end the book is a dystopian-ish take on a world where vampires roam around and “infect” humans. Nonetheless, I found myself intrigued and in the end quite enjoyed it, even if the ambiguous ending was a tad unsatisfactory.

I will say that this isn’t your usual run of the mill vampire book. The vampires here are quite ruthless and violent, and we’re given a front row seat to their shenanigans. Tana’s situation is pretty dire from the instant the book starts – she wakes up to find that she’s one of only two of her friends who survived a vampire attack, and one of them’s been infected. She herself comes into contact with a vampire as well, so we have a whole “is she, isn’t she” plot that ramps up as the book progresses and the timeframe on her symptoms manifesting comes closer. We also get to meet Gavriel, who’s an ages-old vampire himself, whose true identity comes out as the book progresses. It’s via him that we see the violence mentioned, although Tana herself takes part in much of it later on in the book. If you’re not a fan of the mention of blood, this isn’t the book for you, let’s just put it that way!

There is a romance subplot in this book, but I actually found myself rooting for it instead of annoyed by it. Tana is a determined young lady, who’s trying to make the best choices for all involved, and she definitely makes some mistakes along the way. There’s a lot of conversation about if vampires are actually evil or if they retain their humanity in some ways after they’re changed, and it was interesting to see Tana try to figure out where she stood on the argument. I also liked how she refused to give up on Aiden as well, even though it would have been safer if she had. She’s a good narrator for this story – she has a tragic backstory that she references often (and it likewise influences her choices) – and while I didn’t necessarily agree with some of her decisions I know why she made them; that definitely helped warm me up to her, especially as she became more and more entangled in Gavriel and Lucien’s history.

I will say that this book has chapters that aren’t from Tana’s point of view, and as such the story is told kind of non-linearly, which annoyed me at times because she always seemed to insert one of these chapters right as things got interesting. Still, it helped introduce all the players and give some of their histories, and in the end I understand why she did it, even if it did mess with my reading a bit.

All in all, The Coldest Girl in Coldtown was a good read. It’s atmospheric, exciting, and set in an interesting world. If you’re like me and haven’t yet read it – and you’re okay with dystopian stories featuring vampires – do give it a read!

4stars

An e-galley was provided by the publisher via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.

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REVIEW: The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater

scorpioracesThe Scorpio Races
by Maggie Stiefvater

Scholastic, 2011
[Goodreads] [Book Depository]

It happens at the start of every November: the Scorpio Races. Riders attempt to keep hold of their water horses long enough to make it to the finish line. Some riders live. Others die.

At age nineteen, Sean Kendrick is the returning champion. He is a young man of few words, and if he has any fears, he keeps them buried deep, where no one else can see them.

Puck Connolly is different. She never meant to ride in the Scorpio Races. But fate hasn’t given her much of a chance. So she enters the competition — the first girl ever to do so. She is in no way prepared for what is going to happen.

mythoughtsI am one of those people who has a tendency to avoid books that are hyped to the moon and back, simply because I have this ridiculous fear that I will be in the minority who doesn’t like them. The Scorpio Races was one of those books. Upon its release, the only book I’d read by Maggie Stiefvater was Lament – which I loved – and then heard mixed things about her Shiver series (still haven’t read any of them), and took ages to get through The Raven Boys (but finally did and LOVED it), so this book just kept getting shoved further and further down my TBR list. But thanks to an Audible credit, I decided to give this one a shot – finally – and WOW am I glad I did. This book was really amazing.

There is so much to love about this book that I don’t even know where to start. First off, the setting is amazingly described: a small island known for its races, where tourists flock at only certain times of the year. Much of the island is extremely poor – the two main characters most notably – and yet they have fabulous traditions and beliefs that are especially apparent during October and November when the race takes place. I also really loved how the author took the story of the selkies – for that’s kind of what the water horses are based off of – and twisted it into something unique and different. What initially held me back from reading this book was just that I didn’t really understand what it was supposed to be about. In the end, I think that helped me, because I had no preconceived notions about what would happen. And let me just say that there were plenty of surprises in its pages!

The other big draw for me are Puck and Sean, who – simply put – are both awesome in their own ways. I loved Puck’s strength, her determination, and her relationship with her little brother. Sean took a bit longer for me to warm up to, but by the end my heart hurt for him, and it was his story that actually made me feel the biggest emotions. I also liked watching these two slowly weave their way into each others’ lives; the romance isn’t the focus here, and that just made it work even more.

Also, a quick note on the audiobook version: it’s a winner. The story is told via two narrators, one for Puck and one for Sean, and they were both fabulous. I’m glad I went the audio route.

For a book called The Scorpio Races, the races themselves take up very little of the book – two chapters, give or take – and yet it still works amazingly well even if it isn’t necessarily action packed. I honestly can’t find a single thing that I didn’t like about this book – it is all absolutely, brilliantly perfect, and I highly, highly recommend it.

5stars

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Merin’s Mid-Week Musings #11

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Mid-Week Musings is a new(ish) feature here at Read and Reviewed, where I sum up my reading for the past week and introduce a topic for discussion. It is inspired by Musing Mondays over at A Daily Rhythm and her previous WWW Wednesday meme, which has been discontinued.

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Bookish Secret Santas! I just got my match for one of the Secret Santas I signed up for and did some shopping, since I’m signed up for two and want to make sure I have time to get things to me and boxed up and sent their way before Christmas. Secret Santas are one of my favorite things about the holiday season – I love giving presents! – and I was curious how many of you reading this also participate in them.

So! Do you participate in any Secret Santa activities? If so, what’s your favorite part about them? I like finding bookish goodies to include with their book (or books) – it’s fun to troll around on Etsy and Amazon for little trinkets I can include in their boxes!

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REVIEW: The Winner’s Crime by Marie Rutkoski

winnerscrimeThe Winner’s Crime (Winner’s Trilogy #2) by Marie Rutkoski
Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2015
[Goodreads] [Book Depository]

Previous Installment: The Winner’s Curse

NOTE: Summary contains spoilers for the previous book in this series.

Following your heart can be a crime.

A royal wedding means one celebration after another: balls, fireworks, and revelry until dawn. But to Kestrel it means living in a cage of her own making. As the wedding approaches, she aches to tell Arin the truth about her engagement: that she agreed to marry the crown prince in exchange for Arin’s freedom. But can Kestrel trust Arin? Can she even trust herself?

Kestrel is becoming very good at deception. she’s working as a spy in the court. If caught, she’ll be exposed as a traitor to her country. Yet she can’t help searching for a way to change her ruthless world…and she is close to uncovering a shocking secret.

This dazzling follow-up to The Winner’s Curse reveals the high price of dangerous lies and untrustworthy alliances. The truth will come out, and when it does, Kestrel and Arin will learn just how much their crimes will cost them.

mythoughtsIt’s now been several weeks since I finished this book, and I am still unsure how to write this review. I didn’t go in to The Winner’s Crime with blinders on – I knew this book would be painful to read, based on the ending of the previous book – and yet it still managed to sucker punch me more than once. My heart broke not only for Arin, who just honestly doesn’t understand why Kestrel is agreeing to marry the prince, but also for Kestrel who is sort of caught in a no-win situation. Usually books that have you rooting for the main couple give you something good to hold on to, but that did not happen here. Arin and Kestrel are so very far apart at the end that I’m unsure just how things can possibly be fixed for the better – and I’m not just talking about their relationship.

First off, since I listened to this one on audio, let me give a little mini-review of the audiobook. The Winner’s Curse was actually the first audiobook I listened to in its entirety, and thankfully the narrator was the same for the sequel. She does a nice job with the pacing, and while she does do accents for the characters when they are speaking actual dialogue, it wasn’t off-putting at all and actually helped distinguish between their direct quotes and their internal monologues. She also did a good job with the more suspenseful portions of the story, keeping the mood intense and holding my attention, which is not always an easy task. All in all, I’m glad I went the audio route; this was a good audiobook, not just in the story, but in the production as well.

As for the book itself, I really want to avoid spoilers, so I’m not actually able to talk about too terribly much. I do want to say that Prince Verex really grew on me. I didn’t think I’d like him, since I wholeheartedly ship Arin and Kestrel, but he was charming and sweet and – like Kestrel – really just stuck in a bad situation. I do have to say that, at times, Kestrel was kind of irritating. She’s kind of stupid, and also extremely blind when it comes to her father, and yet you can’t help but feel for her predicament; she loves Arin, but can’t be with him, and honestly is trying to do what she thinks is best in order to keep him safe. However, that whole trope – hurting someone to keep them away from you in order to keep them safe – actually is one of my least favorite in existence, so. That didn’t help my feelings towards her at times, either. The character I honestly loved throughout this book was Arin, because he just made me feel for him. He’s another one who’s trying to do what needs to be done to help his country, but is also trying to reconcile his relationship with the woman he loves, even though he knows he shouldn’t. And good grief, that scene on the balcony? For something that didn’t even have an actual kiss, it was stupid, STUPID hot. Unf.

All in all, The Winner’s Crime was exactly what I wanted it to be, angst and sadness and pain notwithstanding. I don’t know how on earth things are going to be fixed – I don’t even know if they all CAN be – but I am definitely looking forward to the final installment. Here’s hoping there’s a little joy left for Kestrel and Arin!

4stars

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October Book Haul

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[Stacking the Shelves is hosted by Tynga’s Reviews]

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Purchased:

Also pictured: my new Marie mug from the Disney Store

E-books/Audiobooks/E-Galleys:

I broke my e-galley ban for the first time in several months, but both of these just look SO good. And since they’re both January releases, I figure I definitely have enough time to get to them before they’re released, so. Excuses, etc. :)

So those are my new acquisitions in the last month! What books did you pick up recently? Please link me to your book haul posts!

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October in Review

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October was pretty light on content, since I took a two-week hiatus due to general work busyness – report cards, and conferences, oh my! – so here is a sort of mini Month in Review, courtesy of some bullet points!

BOOKS READ IN OCTOBER:

winnerscrime scorpioraces insidious

REVIEWS POSTED:

OTHER POSTS OF INTEREST:

CURRENTLY READING/LISTENING TO:

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Happy November, everyone! ♥

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