My Blind Date with a Book

Hello, all you beautiful humans!

Who here has read a Blind Date book?

For anyone who doesn’t know, blind book dates are usually orchestrated by libraries and bookstores around Valentine’s Day, and essentially consist of a mysterious book wrapped up with a clue on the front.

In case you haven’t already noticed, I did not read this in February when I was supposed to. I also did not post this in February when I meant to.

I’m a queen of library renewals and disappointment.

Aaaaanyway, I’d never done one before, so I figured I’d give it a go this year. I am very much a judge-a-book-by-the-blurb-and-cover girl–AKA the absolute OPPOSITE of the whole going-in-blind thing–so this was very much something I am not at all used to.

The book I turned out to have gotten is The Last Time I Saw You by Elizabeth Berg. When when I picked it up, it was covered in brown paper packaging (tied up with strings! These are a few of my favourite things!), labelled “It’s a 5-Star fluff with a little protein to make it stick.”

Clearly, that tells me NOTHING except that it’s probably contemporary. I’m still not entirely sure what possessed me to go “yeah! Let’s definitely pick the most ambiguous clue for the first time you’re doing this!”

I wanted to guess things! I had nothing to guess!

I decided, against my usual grain, that I would not look up the title and read the blurb, that instead I would go in totally blind. So in the book about a 40th high school reunion, I first had to piece out oh they’re all seniors, oh they’re from high school, oh it’s a reunion.

It’s an interesting experience to have gone in without any reservations at all, and I found it largely freeing that I didn’t have any expectations, meaning I couldn’t so easily be disappointed. Also, everything was a surprise. Blurbs will often contain or allude to spoilers, presumably as a way of hooking their readers, but then twist ceases to be a twist! The shock isn’t shocking! This time I had ZERO spoilers, and had to piece everything and everyone out as I went. I didn’t know about, as the description states, “Candy Armstrong, the class beauty,” I just knew everyone was jealous of her or wanted her, meaning okay she’s probably the cheerleader.

A downside I found was that I couldn’t get excited about something that was going to happen. I mean, okay, if two characters are gonna end up together, I kinda want to know about it! To anticipate it! Get pumped about it! But I didn’t, so I couldn’t, which didn’t affect me as much as it could have but bugged me more than I, who hates spoilers, might care to admit.

The book itself at the end was pretty good. It definitely took some getting used to the seniors acting like sex-starved teenagers and superficiality of some of the characters, but as the novel progressed it showed more and more depth, offering not only a picture of nostalgia, but also the reality of coping with life coming to an end. I gave it 4/5.

As an experience, the blind date thing was neat. I’m not entirely sure if I’d do it again, and the book wasn’t exactly my usual style, but I found the whole ordeal (yes, ordeal) more fun that I’d anticipated!

Maybe come next Valentine’s Day, it’ll be a solid alternative to my nonexistent love life–who needs a real date when you’ve got a book? 😉

My Totally-Didn’t-Happen “TBR”

HELLO STRANGERS! Yes, strangers, because I’ve been gone so shamefully long I may as well be new here. Sigh. Aaaaanyway, I’ll be doing something new today: a totally-didn’t-happen TBR. Yeah, I made it up, so bear with me!

Backstory: I intended back in THE BEGINNING OF SEPTEMBER to do a Fall TBR. I was all excited, had all the books picked out, and…just never got the chance to write it. So then I thought ‘oh, I’ll just do that now!’ but, uh, no, because a) it’s DECEMBER and b) just as I’ve had no time to blog I’ve also had no time to read. Seriously. I’ve been on page 137 of Queen of Shadows since my vacation in AUGUST.

*Cries*

So instead, here is where I compile all those books that my optimistic reader self thought I’d read (until my academics-are-important self took a blow torch to that dream and watched it burn, baby, burn) with the thoughts that I like to imagine I would have reviewed for them and a hefty dose of self-deprecation. It’s a guessing game of hypotheses and sarcasm that I hope you will enjoy.

(PS. goodreads links are in the titles if you want to check anything out!) Continue reading

The Clockwork Scarab

17084242The Clockwork Scarab by Colleen Gleason

What happens when a genius, a vampire hunter, and a time traveler walk into a museum?

I don’t even know where to begin with The Clockwork Scarab. This book is probably the craziest mismatched hodgepodge of different elements I have ever read…and yet I enjoyed it immensely!

The novel introduces Alvermina Holmes and Evaline Stoker, niece of Sherlock and sister of Bram, a detective and vampire hunter tag-team duo called to investigate missing persons and a murder. It really is such a shame that they hate each other and refuse to work as a unit–or maybe not, since their antics are hilarious! Enter a time-traveling teen and the cult of an Egyptian goddess in a steampunk Victorian London, et voilà! A masterpiece of strangeness. Continue reading

The Darkest Minds

10576365The Darkest Minds by Alexandra Bracken

This book came highly recommended to me by a close friend back in high school when I was too preoccupied with all the fluffy romances and high fantasies on my shelf to hunker down and read a dystopia, which is not my usual MO. It’s taken me until now, two year after I graduated, to actually get around to it which is terrible because she was right and this is GOOD.

Shame. Shame. Shame. Shame. Shame.

(PS if you’re reading this, Carla…I’m sorry! You told me so!)

The Darkest Minds is set in a dystopian world where, thanks to a mysterious disease that decimated the USA’s population of youth, all children who survived have developed strange powers. Some are dangerous–like those with a command over fire, electricity, and minds–some are tame–like the telekinetics and logical geniuses–but all are sent to ‘rehabilitation camps’ where they’re locked up because everyone else is afraid. Ruby, our MC, is sent to Thurmond–the worst and most brutal camp there is–and after years of abuse and forced labour escapes to a rag tag group of escapees from another camp. They team up to search for a rumoured safe haven, East River–led by a teen with powers as dangerous as Ruby’s–all the while evading the bounty hunters and terrorists and camp officers set to capture them. But when you’re locked away for years you’ll find the world is not the same as when you left it and a ‘safe haven’ might not mean safety at all… Continue reading

Summer Recap

recaphead

Hello hello, bookworms! Can you believe summer is finally coming to a close? I can’t quite decide whether to be angry about having to go back to university, or glad because it’ll finally give me something to do again. What can I say? I’m a nerd, and life is weird without homework.

Aaaaaaaanyway, I just realized that I’VE NEVER DONE A MONTHLY WRAP-UP! Whaaaaaaaaaaat. Yeah apparently I’ve been doing them in video form, but not writing them up over on here, which is just all kinds of I’m-sorry and so-wrong. So to rectify the situation I’m doing a recap of July and August in one. The original plan was to do June in here too but that was getting to 20-something books and things were getting long. Like, even longer than usual long.

I might actually continue doing these seasonal wrap-ups instead of monthly ones because I like seeing everything all together, and school does have its dark sides–like ALMOST ENTIRELY PREVENTING ME FROM READING FOR FUN AND THEREFORE RUINING MY LIFE–but, uh, I should probably get one done first. So here we go! Continue reading

The Kiss of Deception

16429619The Kiss of Deception by Mary E. Pearson

You know that feeling you get when a book takes you completely by surprise? The Kiss of Deception takes that feeling and multiplies it to a million, then throws in a little extra for good measure.

THIS BOOK BLEW ME AWAY!

I don’t even know how to put into words how much I loved this! I love Lia, I love the assassin/prince stuff, I love the world, I love the plot, I love EVERYTHING. And yet all over goodreads people are dishing out one-stars like candy?????????

Does.

Not.

Compute. Continue reading

Deception’s Princess

17866944Deception’s Princess by Esther Friesner

Pack your suitcases, friends, because today we’re jetting off in a time machine back to Iron Age Ireland! Deception’s Princess is inspired by old Celtic stories of the legendary Maeve of Connacht who from my research after reading seems a lot more evil than our Maeve. The book follows the feisty favourite young daughter of the High King of Connacht as she navigates the treacherous field of over-eager suitors to carve a path for herself in her hostile expectation-laden world.

Sound familiar yet? Because I’m channeling a certain other fiery red-head here, though her name isn’t Maeve. It’s Merida. Continue reading

Sphinx’s Princess

6135633.jpgSphinx’s Princess by Esther M. Friesner

Guess what, guys? We’re delving back into Ancient Egypt once again!

By this point that probably doesn’t come as a surprise…

Sphinx’s Princess is a retelling/origin story of the Egyptian queen Nefertiti, one of the most famous–and mysterious–female figures in Ancient Egyptian history. She is most known for her part in religious heresy with her second husband Akhenaten, but Sphinx’s Princess follows Nefertiti (meaning ‘the beautiful woman has come’) in her life before even her first husband. Nefertiti’s family is conned by her beyotch of an aunt into marrying her to the crown prince Thutmose but make a deal to delay the wedding so the novel focuses on Nefertiti’s trials and tribulations in the palace with the royal family. Continue reading

Tangled Webs

18368525Tangled Webs by Lee Bross

Before we begin, I have something very important to show you all. Now, if you’ll please direct your attention slightly to the right of this screen…

LOOK AT THAT COVER!

I should know better by now than to go judging things by covers–but really, I think we’d all be lying if we tried to deny it–but this was just impossible to resist! Couple that with promises of blackmail and merchant ships and and eighteenth-century secrets and ohhhhhhhhh man. Come to mama!

(PS. I already regret that last sentence).

It really is a crying shame that appearences are so deceiving. Like a good politician, Tangled Webs left me so many empty promises. Exhibit A: the cover may be amazing but the book inside is mediocre.

I felt a little jilted actually because of just how much the implication of the synopsis led me astray. It doesn’t lie–Lady A is the most notorious blackmailer, she DOES sneak around as a boy, she DOES want out of her secret life, she IS emboldened by Grae–but where the synopsis promises all this with excitement and intrigue, the book delivers it in the most subpar, lukewarm, dull way possible. For one, there’s hardly any blackmail at all. Apart from two scenes of secret-trading, only one of which being particularly eventful, the rest is pretty much just Arista trying to escape. Where’s the intrigue? The spying? The manipulation? THE VERY THING THAT MADE ME WANT TO READ IT?!?!

Oh wait–it’s nonexistent.

Don’t get me wrong: Ariana gives it her best shot. But the book starts too late for us to get much of that. First scene is blackmail for Bones and I right away thought I’d enjoy it but that’s moments before she meets Grae, the day before she meets Wild, and the night before the fire that sets everything in motion. All of a sudden the blackmail is missing and she’s collecting payment for passage out of London. Oh and remember how she apparently dresses up as a boy to get around at night? Yeah. Once. And that’s before the fire too.

There are some instances where you can see the sneak of Lady A in dear Arista, mostly when she’s looking out for someone she cares about. Those are the best parts of the book so it’s unfortunate they’re so few and far between.

Arista herself isn’t particularly cunning or impressive. She’s more insecure and naive than anything else; this is fine, but not for a notorious blackmailer no matter how much of an alternate persona it is. She does have her moments though and she’s brave for sure, so that’s redeeming. IDK. I didn’t hate her, she’s just unimpressive.

Oh, and lustful.

HOLY INSTA-LOVE! Tangled Webs is probably the most at-first-sight devastating case I’ve read in ages. By the end of the first chapter, Arista and Grae have already met into a heady, lustful infatuation, followed by Grae hunting her down at every opportunity and she losing herself at even the merest glimpse of him. It’s also super horomone-charged–they’re clutching at each other every chance they get from the very second that they meet. Arista spends more time preoccupied by thinking about his touch and kiss and caress and fantasizing about the feel of him than she does figuring out her blackmail stuff, and even that is all done in relation to Grae! There’s chemistry there, that’s for sure, but physical chemistry. It’s more like they decided they liked each other and grabbed at the other than developed actual deep-rooted feelings for each other. Key word being ‘develop’ because 5 seconds doesn’t quite cut it.

A good point of Tangled Webs is the setting which is both unique and well done. Not many books are done in the eighteenth century–mostly we get the 1600s or 1800s –ad the Enlightenment is a cool period to be in. It’s one of the things that drew me to the book in the first place! Bross creates an authentic picture of 1725 London without spending too much time explaining or building it: it just is. This allowed the book to skip over a lot of that pesky set-up and feel, in a way, more real because it didn’t need to justify anything. It would have been nice though to dig a wee bit deeper into some facets of life in that period or weave them further into the story. For instance, there is one scene where Arista is taken to a secret feminist philosophy session which is fascinating! but hen nothing came of it. It would have been great if the scene was incorporated more into the main story, even just by using the people Arista met there, so that it became a more cohesive part of the book. There were a number of avenues introduced but left unexplored.

A general note on the story is that it’s not especially surprising. Now, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t try to surprise you–it gives it a good shot!–but any twists fall flat. It’s like that obnoxious kid who cracks a stupid joke but ends up the only one laughing: you get excited for the joke and then…you’re not. It’s like that, but minus the sad self-laughter (which I am all too familiar with…). I don’t know if it’s just me but I saw pretty much every ‘surprise’ Arista got coming from a mile away.

Overall Tangled Webs is alright. Not especially good, but it’s not especially bad either and even with everything I wasn’t fond of there were things that I did enjoy, even more when all thrown together. It definitely helps too that it’s a standalone novel (well, now–it was meant to be a duology but the second book got cancelled) because a) I don’t know how much motivation I could drum up for the second one and b) the ending wraps up nicely and anything more would seem forced. I’m content with what there is and more or less moderately content with the novel itself.


Click here for the book synopsis on goodreads!

Graceling

3236307Graceling by Kristin Cashore

Anyone else remember all the hype Graceling got YEARS ago?

I’d assumed it was an exaggeration–isn’t most hype?–but I was wrong. I was very wrong.

IMMA GO AHEAD AND HYPE IT UP ALL OVER AGAIN NOW 8 YEARS AFTER THE FACT BECAUSE IT’S JUST. SO. GOOD!

Graceling follows the teenage assassin of the king whose special magical skill, her Grace of killing makes her largely unconquerable. But then she meets Prince Po whose fighting Grace makes him the closest to an even match she’s ever experienced. So when Po leaves to investigate a sinister magical plot on the other side of their world, Katsa joins him on his journey. What follows is a sometimes harrowing tale of a mysterious king, a secret power, an entire kingdom corrupted thanks to one man’s powerful lie and the pairing set to right it all. Continue reading