Friday, October 24, 2014

The TBR Tag

My friends Andi & Sarah tagged me to do The TBR Tag! It's been ages since I've done a fun post like this, so I'll be sharing my answers with you today. The TBR Tag was created by Rachel & Dana in an effort to make sure we bloggers stay on top of our piles of books to be read! 

How do you keep track of your TBR pile?

It's a combination of two things:

(1) I use Goodreads as a primary tool, dividing the TBR into books for review, books I want to read, and books I'm putting under consideration. I also separate the Kindle books into a separate shelf to keep track of them! 

(2) I make stacks. There's something soothing about having physical reminders of the books I must/want to read, even though it's terrifying how tall they get sometimes. I usually make two piles - one for books I bought and want to read, and another for review books.

Is your TBR mostly print or ebook?

It's definitely a mix of both, though I do think physical books would win by a very slim margin. Or perhaps that just what eyeballing the stacks in my room has me saying.

How do you determine which book from your TBR to read next?

I do keep a schedule for my review books, and try to stick to that. But for the most part, I'm a mood reader. If I feel like reading something, I will! And if I don't, well, it won't get read at that very moment. I often bounce back and forth between reading review books and my own books, just so there's some sort of balance.

A book that's been on your TBR list the longest?

Oh, this is easy for me! It's definitely Anna Karenina. I've been wanting to read that book since I was in high school, and I own both a physical and an ebook copy. I'm hoping to read that one... at some point.

A book that you recently added to your TBR pile?

I was reading posts from Hannah recently, and I added Wherever the River Runs to my TBR because of her review. It sounds like such a great non-fiction read! I love that it combines travel and realizations about faith & God. 

A book on your TBR strictly because of it's beautiful cover?

I saw I Am Having So Much Fun Here Without You on the shelf at Barnes and Noble and immediately gravitated towards it. It's got such an eye-catching font, and some of my favorite colors, plus the title makes it sound awesome! 

A book on your TBR that you never actually plan on reading?

I wasn't sure if I'd find any book on my TBR that fit this category, but I did! I no longer feel like reading Sway, even though I was intrigued initially

An unpublished book on your TBR that you're excited for?

I'm going to cheat on this one, because there are simply too many to mention: A Court of Thorns and Roses, The Orphan Queen, Truthwitch, Winter and The Mime Order. And this was after I narrowed it down!

A book on your TBR that basically everyone has read except you?

I know that so many of my friends have read The Art of Lainey this year. They make it sound like an incredibly enjoyable contemporary! Plus, I own it so I have no excuse.

A book on your TBR that everyone recommends to you?

There are two I've gotten constant recommendations for - Forever Interrupted, and Nowhere But Home. I own both as well, so I probably should be reading them too.

A book on your TBR that you're dying to read?

I really want to read Station Eleven, a newer adult release that sounds imaginative and magical. I also really want to read Like No Other, which is a YA with a unique set of characters. And then there's The Blue Castle, a classic Hannah recommended!

The number of books on your Goodreads TBR shelf?

Let's see. There are 93 TBR books + 35 books for review + 87 TBR Kindle books + 140 books under consideration. This adds up to 355 books in total, which I think isn't all that bad!

YAY! That was actually pretty fun. It also really put into perspective all the books on my TBR! Looks like I've got quite a number of reads ahead of me, and hopefully, they're all good ones. I'm not going to actually tag anyone, but if you feel like playing, please do The TBR Tag and let me know!

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Snow Like Ashes - Sara Raasch

Snow Like Ashes Sara Raasch book cover
Snow Like Ashes by Sara Raasch
Series: Snow Like Ashes #1
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Publication Date: October 14, 2014
Source/Format: Edelweiss (Thanks!) || e-galley
[I received this book for review from the publisher. This in no way affects the thoughts expressed in my review.]

Sixteen years ago the Kingdom of Winter was conquered and its citizens enslaved, leaving them without magic or a monarch. Now, the Winterians’ only hope for freedom is the eight survivors who managed to escape, and who have been waiting for the opportunity to steal back Winter’s magic and rebuild the kingdom ever since.

Orphaned as an infant during Winter’s defeat, Meira has lived her whole life as a refugee, raised by the Winterians’ general, Sir. Training to be a warrior—and desperately in love with her best friend, and future king, Mather — she would do anything to help her kingdom rise to power again.

So when scouts discover the location of the ancient locket that can restore Winter’s magic, Meira decides to go after it herself. Finally, she’s scaling towers, fighting enemy soldiers, and serving her kingdom just as she’s always dreamed she would. But the mission doesn’t go as planned, and Meira soon finds herself thrust into a world of evil magic and dangerous politics – and ultimately comes to realize that her destiny is not, never has been, her own. (Goodreads)

It is always a wonderful surprise to discover new authorial voices to love! Sara Raasch is one such voice, as her debut YA fantasy Snow Like Ashes was quite impressive. Raasch brings to life an exciting new world populated with fascinating characters, settings and lore. She makes use of these elements, inserting them into a story that flows organically from start to finish. Compelling, readable and imaginative, Snow Like Ashes is an excellent fantasy series starter.

Raasch will have readers rooting for main character Meira right from the start. Meira is sassy, spunky and smart. She’s also got pretty decent fighting skills, and a desire to serve the kingdom of Winter with her talents. Really, Meira is the brand of female fantasy heroine I personally enjoy – capable of acting like a lady, but fierce as a tigress during battle. It’s all too easy to like her and what she brings to the table.

There are also plenty of other characters – heroes, villains, civilians alike. Among the secondary characters, there are three in particular that stand out: Mather (future king of Winter), Theron (a prince of the kingdom of Cordell), and Sir (the general of Winter that leads the merry band of refugees). Each one plays an important part, complete with actions and witticisms that change the course of this story. It would be a pleasure to get to know them more, along with all the others introduced in this series starter.

It’s story where Snow Like Ashes really shines though. There’s something utterly magical about the world Raasch builds – a land with magical conduits, various kingdoms and power struggles. The world becomes the foundation upon which this tale is told, and it works. The plot is simple – Meira and the remaining Winterians want to reclaim their kingdom, and are fighting to get the locket (a magical conduit) to do so. 

However, the plot does not remain simple as politics and relationships soon throw everything into an uproar – and Meira is in the middle of it all. It’s pretty compelling to watch her navigate through every new turn of events! As Snow Like Ashes progresses, it’s revealed that there’s much more to this mission than just reclaiming a kingdom. There’s just the right amount of fodder to lure readers into wanting more, while still ending the story satisfactorily.

Two minor reservations, however, as a heads up – There could have been a smidge more character development, and the amount of information, while it’s not dumped on the reader, is pretty overwhelming. While I didn’t have much of a problem, I realize that it’s a potential concern for other readers and thought mentioning it would be best.

Sweetness and surprise, tenderness and trouble, mystery and magic – Snow Like Ashes is filled to the brim with all these things and more. From the moment I read the first five pages, it was clear that would be a notable novel. Snow Like Ashes is a debut I’ll be wholeheartedly recommending, especially for those in search of a new fantasy series to fall for.

a collaboration with Rachel

OUR QUESTION: What's your favorite season?

There's definitely something about all four seasons that appeal to me - the new green of spring, the heat of summer, the cool of winter and the white of winter. But I harbor a special spot in my heart for summer! I live for sunny days, blue skies, summer thunderstorms. I love being able to wear all of my favorite dresses and flats, always being out and about, and just the general feeling of being relaxed and blissful during the warmer months. I feel like I always manage to do a bazillion things during the summertime too!

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Roomies - Sara Zarr & Tara Altebrando (Review)

Roomies book cover
Roomies by Sara Zarr & Tara Altebrando
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: December 24, 2013
Source/Format: Borrowed from Rachel (Thanks!) || ARC

When East Coast native Elizabeth receives her freshman-year roommate assignment, she shoots off an e-mail to coordinate the basics: television, microwave, mini-fridge. That first note to San Franciscan Lauren sparks a series of e-mails that alters the landscape of each girl's summer -- and raises questions about how two girls who are so different will ever share a dorm room.

As the countdown to college begins, life at home becomes increasingly complex. With family relationships and childhood friendships strained by change, it suddenly seems that the only people Elizabeth and Lauren can rely on are the complicated new boys in their lives . . . and each other. Even though they've never met. (from Goodreads)

I'll be honest: I really wanted to read Roomies because I had the whole roommate experience in college. The relationship you form with the people you share a room with is both that of friend and family, as you live, work and play together for four years (or maybe even longer). Even though Roomies is actually more about each girl's summer-before-college experience, and their correspondence during that time, it still wound up being an incredibly charming novel.

I really liked EB and Lauren, and felt that the shifts between their points of view was done quite seamlessly. It helps that they're very different people - EB is the only daughter of a single mom who is looking forward to moving away for college, while Lauren is from a big family with wonderful parents and lots of siblings who is looking forward to having some privacy and space. Their summers play out very differently, but have similar themes: figuring out how to keep tight with old friends, addressing some family things, and just a hint of romance.

Honestly, Roomies has a pretty basic premise, but I really liked it. Perhaps it's the fact that I could totally relate to how, slowly but surely, Lauren and EB formed a friendship. Or maybe it's because I could relate to parts of their separate stories about the summer before college. But what I really appreciated most of all? Roomies makes it clear that friendships can form between the unlikeliest of pairs, given time and proper communication. If you're looking for another contemporary novel to check out, definitely give Roomies a shot!

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