Monday, August 21, 2017

Book Review: Bitten

Before I dive into this review I need to give a heads up: there will be SPOILERS below. I'm giving this one a low star rating and I feel I need to pull example from the text to fully explain why. This is not a book I would recommend to anyone, but I also find myself having a complicated relationship with it, and I do plan to continue on with this series. Read at your own risk.

I get that this is an adult book and that a lot of adult paranormal romance tends to follow the same trends of alpha male romance. I also get that this is kinda a Twilight era book and that means that the kind of romances people reading this genre liked reading about are a bit different than they are today. HOWEVER that doesn't excuse the problematic relationship in this novel. Now, before I go all in depth here, let me tell you that it isn't as problematic as it could be. I think it gets as close to rape/rape play as a book like this can get without crossing the line. However, it doesn't cross that line, and there are a lot of points where, before anything happens, the characters will make sure the other is okay with it (to a degree; there are several moments where Clayton will tell Elena "just say no and I'll stop). Still, it's an uncomfortable relationship from both ends. Neither seems to be healthy for the other and if people I knew were in a relationship like this I would be seriously concerned. First off is the fact that Clay is the one who bit Elena and turned her into a werewolf. He took advantage of her, did this completely of his own volition (I don't care if he said he lost control; in the flashback scene it seems very much like he was a willing participant and she was an innocent victim here), and that made her mistrust him because of all the lies he had built up. And I totally get that! But he doesn't seem to. Even throughout the book she keeps reminding herself that she can't trust him after he did this to her, yet she always goes back to him. In fact, she has sex with him repeatedly even though she's in a relationship with a really good guy who would be (and is) heartbroken when he finds out. The first time she has sex with Clay (which is a really gross and rather disturbing scene if I'm being honest; more details in a moment) she leaves not feeling guilty. She even says that she should feel guilty but doesn't. While the next day that does change, a bit, and she promises herself never to cheat on Philip again, it only takes another opportunity for her to forget her guilt and sleep with Clay. Which continues throughout the whole novel. While I understand that she wasn't in love with Philip the way she felt about Clay it was still wrong that she did this, especially because she has full intention to go back and live with Philip and never tell him any of this happened. Specifically she mentions how it felt like a safety net that no matter what happens she could always go back to Stonehaven and have Clay waiting for her (because, NOPE, Clay will never move on from her for some reason, which is also super unhealthy for a relationship!). It's the first sex scene that really tipped me off to how problematic they really are together.
"Hold still," Clay said from behind me. "I'm helping."
"Helping? Helping what?"
I tries to pull my arms down, but he held them tight. Something soft slipped around my wrists. A sapling swayed overhead. Then Clay let go. I jerked my arms but only moved a couple of inches before the cloth around my wrists snapped tight. Once I was secured, he walked around and knelt over me, obviously far too pleased with what he was seeing.
"This isn't funny," I said. "Untie me. Now."
Still grinning he took hold of the top of my T-shirt and ripped it down the middle. Then he undid my bra.
And then a little further down the page (page 110 to be exact)...
"Is that better?" he whispered. "Since you can't fight me, you can't be expected to stop me. It's out of your control."
I had to reread this scene a few times before I determined it wasn't rape. She did, kinda, get into this position willingly, and when she goes outside with him, she's pretty certain of what's going to happen and totally fine with it. And he does tell her that if she wants him to stop he will stop, but she tells him to continue because she's enjoying their sex. But that doesn't mean this whole exchange isn't creepy as hell! Like, I was just blown away by how weird it all was. It does end up being consensual, but it toes the line so closely that I still worry about it. And on top of all this weirdness about their relationship, there wasn't even any romantic tension. They were impossible to ship and while their ending up together was supposed to seem romantic and as if they'll heal each other, I was just left thinking it was meh.

Another huge problem I had was the lack of women... in this series called Women of the Otherworld. I get that Elena is the only female werewolf (and, okay, it kinda makes sense in this world, but still) but she's still surrounded by only male characters. The only two other female characters who we're introduced to are Philip's mother and sister, and they're both busy planning a wedding shower or baby shower or something. They hold nearly no substance and have no role in the story except to help decorate it. They're barely characters. I was so let down because I was hoping for a lot more girl power in this book. I also took a lot of issue with Elena's characterization. In general I disliked her character (I thought she was a rather naive/dumb character and that she didn't grow at all) and I thought that her personal history was over done and not well thought out. We find out early on that as a child her parents died, and she was bounced around from foster home to foster home where she not only suffered PTSD that no one treated (but has somehow gotten better?) but that she was sexually abused and raped by many men. It's a heavy subject but isn't given the proper weight it deserves. Also, while she claims it affects her even in her present, I'm not shown anything on the page to really demonstrate this. It's very sad that it happened to her, but I couldn't sum up any emotion for this character. The "moral arc" of her story, too, bothered me. She's desperate to fit in as a human, and she sees this fitting in as being demure, always polite, the traditional woman role: never arguing, or losing her temper (or even getting mad and having a temper). It's ridiculous that she sees this as human. And she sees being angry and harder to control, and just generally having a will of her own, as the wolf in her, which makes her a monster. But in the end she realizes, it's okay to get mad sometimes. SOMETIMES. No, Elena, it's okay to be a person all the time. If you're an angry person that's okay. If you don't always do what you're told that's okay. I don't get the message that the book tried to impress where it's okay to sometimes not be what society tells you to be, but most of the time try to live with what the boundaries and expectations are. What???

The writing itself wasn't much to enjoy, which is a shame because I've read more of Armstrong's writing and I thought it was quite good. Maybe because it's a debut, or maybe because I was already having so many problems with it, but the writing did nothing to impress me. There was also little consistency with time (and when the sun rose or set; like events would happen in the middle of the night but then they'd get home and it would be like noon without ever saying that much time had passed; twelve hours is a lot of time to pass without noticing or mentioning something) or much of a grasp of the way a space worked on the page. There's one scene in the end where a character is holding a gun against someone, but is also holding Elena in his arms and keeping her trapped there. What? How does this work? At all? Do you not need to arms to both hold a gun and be threatening with it, and also two hands to hold someone's arms back? Also, the gun does just disappear in this scene, and the plot just keeps trucking.

Because the writing was poor I had a hard time connecting with any of the characters and an even harder time caring about the ones who died. No one is really fleshed out and they all just have basic roles to play if they aren't a main character. Besides Elena no one has any drive of their own, really, and they just do whatever is expected of them like NPCs in a game. Of all the side characters I will give some props to Jeremy for at least being interesting and not problematic but actually a good guy who does feel stress.

It may be surprising with all my complaints that I plan on continuing and finishing this series. For one, not every book is about Elena and Clay and I'm hoping that I'll find I like other characters more. For another, it felt like a very familiar book. I used to read a lot of paranormal romance and returning to the genre wasn't unlike getting under a warm blanket. Don't expect to see any more reviews for these books until I finish the series (or maybe at the halfway point as well, we'll see) when I do a series wrap up review because, as you can tell, they're kind of a waste of time to put too much energy into. However, they're quick guilty pleasure books and I haven't had one of those in a long time.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

The Longest Book Tag

Thank you Lauren from Always Me for tagging me in this awesome tag! This tag was created by Ditsha from Bewitchingly Paranoid.

I love big books and I cannot lie...

The Rules:
1. Make a list of the five longest books you've ever read.
2. Select two of the longest books on your TBR.
3. Discuss.
4. Tag others.

Here are my longest reads (according to Goodreads):

I don't think every edition has the same amount of pages, and I read a very small version which had nearly twice as many pages, coming in at 1009 pages, making it my longest read ever.

I loved, loved, loved this book even though it felt like it took me half a year to read. I actually do plan to return to it and read it again, and then finally read the sequel, and then Oathbringer (which is right around the corner!!). This one clocked in at 1007 pages.

This is one dense book! Not only is the story complicated and hefty, but it's chock full of end notes that enhance the story phenomenally. If you're even sort of interested in this, go read it immediately (or just watch the mini series; it's on Netflix now I think). Jonathon Strange and Mr. Norrell clocks in at 1006 pages.

I have waxed poetic for this series since I read it a few months ago so I won't harp on it anymore except to say that it really will live up to and surpass all your expectations. Wise Man's Fear is 994 pages long.

Last but not least is the final volume in one of my all time favorite series. Heir of Novron is actually a combination of two books but together they combine to be 932 pages long. 932 pages of amazing!

Here are two long books on my TBR:

At 1015 I didn't at once realize how long this one was. Regardless, I've wanted to read this book for a while, but with Tor featuring it pretty heavily last month on their Facebook I got even more excited.

It's not super long, at 827 pages, but I love this series and for whatever reason still haven't picked this one up.

Tag you're it!

*all covers are linked to goodreads page where you should go add them to your tbr

Friday, August 18, 2017

Discussion: Why Rereading is Getting Harder

I love rereading. It's not something I used think I would enjoy, but in high school when I needed to escape for a bit I found myself turning to favorite books and being able to relive them in all their glory. When I started blogging it became harder finding time to reread but when I did get the chances I still enjoyed the books. This year I've gotten a fair bit of rereading done, but I noticed that it's become harder for me to enjoy rereading.

The only exception to this being The Magicians. I originally read this senior year of high school and found it really depressing and unenjoyable. I reread it this year because I was really enjoying the show and found that I actually loved this book. A lot of the elements that I had disliked in high school were parts I tended to enjoy more this time, and I chalk that up to the fact that I'm older and more mature and because I've been able to enjoy more of the fantasy genre and really appreciate how this book subverts a lot of that genre.

The other books I've reread so far this year are ACOTAR, ACOMAF, Lady Midnight, Assassin's Blade, and Throne of Glass. With both ACOTAR and ACOMAF I didn't have nearly as hard a time enjoying them again, and I was easily reminded why I loved these books. I was finding that when I was reading them, though, that if I put them down for any extended period of time I didn't feel any particular urge to pick them back up; there was nothing driving me to actually continue reading them except my prior experience of enjoying them.

Lady Midnight was where I really and truly hit the wall. Rereading it I actually found myself disliking it. Moments I thoroughly loved in my first read through led me to just putting the book down and not wanting to pick it up. I disliked the characters, the pacing, and was even getting annoyed by the world of Shadowhunters. Now, this series has been with me since eighth grade, and turning away from it actually frightened me a bit and made me sad. What if I would never be able to return to these books that have gotten me through so much. Lord of Shadows put me back on the right track and I was able to enjoy it completely and become swept away into the world again. But disliking Lady Midnight put the kernel of thought into my head: Am I growing out of some of my books?

Recently I reread Assassin's Blade and Throne of Glass, two books I read every year. Yet they didn't inspire anything in me. I had a hard time finishing and even coming back to moments I forgot about, or seeing little things mentioned early on that have an impact on the most current book, couldn't keep me completely engaged. My mind wandered and my time was spent more often watching television. This gave me the other thought: Are some of my books running out of material?

I think it's a bit of both but I also think it has to do with the greater scheme of things, and the fact that I think an era is ending in YA.

Am I growing out of some of my books? Definitely. I've actually already discovered this when I was going through the books I keep in my closet. There were a lot in there that, flipping through again, didn't lead to any spark. I've donated most of them because I don't need them and because they don't hold special memory. I don't think I'm growing out of Shadowhunters but I do think Lady Midnight isn't nearly as good a book as I remember, sadly.

Are some of my books running out of material? Well, I'm not to sure about this. Like I said, I've read Throne of Glass every year since it came out. Every year I would find something new, some angle to the text that could make it a whole new book for me. This year that didn't happen. Soon I'll be rereading Crown of Midnight and the rest of the series and we'll see, maybe my thoughts with those will help me figure out what's been wrong. Maybe it's just not the year of Throne of Glass for me. I haven't read any other book nearly as much so I don't know what else to compare it to. In general I'm of the opinion that a good book never truly runs out of material or interpretations, but perhaps that could just mean Throne of Glass is not as good a book as I once thought.

What do I mean by the end of an era in YA? I mean that there have, recently, been a lot of books that just feel the same. I'm getting drained repeating stories outside of rereads. And sometimes it's not immediately noticeable and I'll go for a bit really enjoying a book, but when I look back and try to call up some of those things I loved about it, I'll also find those same traits in several others.

Has anyone else had a problem getting into rereads? Or are you feeling drained by things coming out? Even better: can you recommend me something that's different?

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Can't Wait Wednesday: Ice Wolves

I'm switching over from Waiting on Wednesday's to Can't Wait Wednesday, a meme hosted by Wishful Endings. The idea is basically the same, but it looks like the official hosts of Breaking the Spine have shut down the meme so it's time to move on. Description and cover image taken from Goodreads.
Everyone in Vallen knows that ice wolves and scorch dragons are sworn enemies who live deeply separate lives.
So when twelve-year-old orphan Anders takes one elemental form and his twin sister, Rayna, takes another, he has to question whether they are even related. Still, whether or not they’re family, Anders knows that Rayna is his best and only true friend. She’s nothing like the brutal, cruel dragons who claimed her as one of their own and stole her away.
To learn what he needs to rescue her, Anders will have to enlist at the foreboding Ulfar Academy, a school for young wolves that values loyalty to the pack above all else. But for Anders, loyalty is more complicated than blind obedience, and friendship is the most powerful shape-shifting force of all.
New York Times bestselling author Amie Kaufman delivers heart-pounding adventure and breathtaking magical inventions in this unforgettable story about finding one’s place in a sharply divided world.
Why I'm Waiting
For one, it's Amie Kaufman, and for another, this is the type of book I adored reading when I was younger. I'm also always in the market for good Middle Grade (I'm rather bad at just stumbling across it) and this promises to be so much fun. 

Ice Wolves releases March 27, 2018.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Book Review: Windwitch

There will be light SPOILERS for book one and for the beginning of book two in this review so tread lightly. For those who haven't begun the series yet: it's definitely worth the read and book two is even better than book one, even though book one was pretty great.

Where to start with this one? It was immediately obvious that I was going to thoroughly enjoy it when one of my all time favorite tropes appeared at the end of the prologue, Merik faking his own death. I could write a whole post (and maybe I will) about my love for this trope, but it mostly has to do with the reveal when the character is found to be alive again. Beyond that, I really enjoyed the direction being a dead man took Merik on. While I did like him, and yes, swoon over him a bit, in Truthwitch I wasn't quite convinced about his character beyond him being a prince and love interest for Safi. Being apart from the majority of the cast helped shape him as a character and I liked the other characters that were introduced to play in his arc, such as Cam (seriously, what an amazing character) and Vivia. Speaking of Vivia, I was thoroughly pleased that we got to get chapters with her POV not only to balance Merik but to overall enhance how epic the ladies are in this series.

While Merik's and Vivia's storylines may have been my favorite I was no less interested in Safi's storyline and Iseult/Aeduan's storyline. The former was great for both expanding the world, geographically and politically (I absolutely LOVE the Hell-Bards, and in particular Caden), and prompting Safi to learn from her mistakes and begin to take responsibility for her actions. While she hasn't done too much growing throughout the series (there is a lot of her planning to grow and change though... a writing tactic I rather dislike) I am looking forward to seeing where her character goes. The only disappointment, really, was that we didn't get a Vaness POV (maybe next book?...). Iseult and Aeduan was a plot I didn't really expect to turn out the way it did but I enjoyed their journey together. Of anyone, Iseult has become my favorite in the series. I think she's the most complicated character and the most interesting to read about- for me she's a wild card and I enjoy it. I definitely like Aeduan more than I did in book one, but he's definitely a mystery and I'm looking forward to seeing his character peeled away more.

The three different storylines were so well balanced that I never got tired of one and longed for another. I read each chapter as eagerly as the last, and I don't just think it's because the characters are interesting but because the writing is so well done! Between the three plots there was also a lot of really cool mirroring happening. I don't want to spoil anything because they tend to be rather important plot points, but it was with a deft hand that Dennard was able to beautifully intertwine the characters' journeys in this way.

For me the real mark of a good book comes in two ways: it makes a good reread (and it's a tad early to reread these books) and it follows you around even after you've finished it. I can absolutely say that even while I was at work I couldn't help but think about Windwitch. I kept going back over my favorite scenes in my head and it should be more than obvious that I am eagerly awaiting the next book in this series.

Now, the real question, how does one play taro?

Saturday, August 12, 2017

August Wrap Up #1

You may have noticed that I hit a bit of a snag in posting the last few weeks. This is due to one part work, one part mental health, and one part the book slump continuing. I keep thinking I'm out of it and then I fall right back in. Hopefully before I get back to school I can kick it for real and then I won't have to worry as much once the harder part of the year begins.

(a reread of) Throne of Glass

Currently Reading
I finally picked up Bitten by Kelley Armstrong, which has been sitting on my shelf for several years now, and while I'm enjoying it as a sort of guilty pleasure there are definitely some concerning things in the book. After this I'll be rereading Crown of Midnight and then, hopefully, 13 Minutes.

Media & Tags

Can't Wait Wednesday

Upcoming Posts
Windwitch Review
CWW: Ice Wolves
Discussion: Is Rereading Getting Harder
CWW: 10th Anniversary Editions
Bears v Babies Game Review
Music Monday: Kesha
July/August Book Haul
CWW: Book of Dust

You may have noticed that some posts I promised have disappeared (namely The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue review). This has a lot to do with the pressure I felt writing certain posts, pressure I put on myself, and that I couldn't do it at the time I wanted to do it and now I feel like I couldn't write a review that gave the book justice. I'm hoping to do some sort of mini-review at some point, but for now, please take my apology and go read the book because it's amazing.

A few weeks ago I talked about transferring the blog over to, possibly, a Wordpress blog. That was why there were so many advertisements on the site. Well, I hated the advertisements and I've also found that it could be a really hassle to change over sites. I don't want to say for sure it won't happen, but at the moment I'm just going to work very hard and see how far I can make Blogger go. There will be some changes happening to the site, though. Namely, I'm changing the days I post reviews. Instead of Monday, Tuesday (in the case of ARCs), and Friday, it's going to be Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday. I'm also working to make sure that I post book reviews more frequently than not- my goal is one in every three posts is a book review. Since school is right around the corner do expect to see me posting less- three to four times a week max, and some weeks definitely less. For now, those are the biggest changes but in the coming months I am planning some bigger ones to help spice up the blog (hint hint: review formats might be changing and the whole blogs design might be getting revamped).

If there's anything you'd think would help improve the blog (anything from post type to buttons to social media links; anything) don't hesitate to let me know. As much as it's my blog I like it to be accessible and friendly to everyone who visits.

Have a great rest of the month and thanks for stopping by!

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Candle Collection

I've been on a bit of a candle high lately (thanks in large part to Angela). While I have managed to more or less conserve my money I have bought a few candles this summer and I have plans to buy at least one more before I go back to school (and maybe ship it there so it will meet me). Since my recent candle reviews went over well (definitely expect to see more such reviews in the future) I thought I would share a look at my whole collection of candles. I've tried to include links to each individual candle, but if they're exclusives or no longer being sold I've tried to at least include a link to the shop itself.

My current burn (I try to feature a different candle each week) is Bourbon Maple, an autumn scent (it's finally the best season of the year!) from Bath and Body Works. It was probably the most expensive candle I've ever bought but it's delicious smelling, has great throw, and is just generally a top quality candle. It's also the first three-wick candle I've ever bought and I can see why they've got so much hype behind them.

I've also, unsurprisingly, got a rather large Sarah J Maas themed collection. (Going from left to right:) First up is The Night Lord from MuggleLibraryCandles and as soon as it arrived I knew they would be a favorite candle shop for me. I've also got two candles from LunaLovesByCorinna; the first one is Rhysand and the other is The Suriel: Prythian's Gossip Queen (which I think the whole fandom can appreciate). In front of those two is the Amarantha themed sampler from The Melting Library; it was part of the Villains Sampler Set a few months ago. On the Throne of Glass side of things I've also got Celaena's Apartment from In the Wick of Time, and Dorian from Meraki Candles.

If you know anything about me it's how much I love the Christmas season and in particular Christmas candles. They can make it feel like early winter any time of the year. The two Yankee Candles I have here are Sparkling Cinnamon and Balsalm and Cedar. I rarely burn them apart because they are the epitome of Christmas scent for me. I also have Wizards Chess from Meraki Candles and Christmas at the Little Palace from The Melting Library.

I talk frequently about my love for Caraval so it should be no surprise that I have at least two candles for the book (though I do plan on collecting far more). First up was Legend from The Melting Library. I also have Come Back Yesterday from Meraki Candles, which was, sadly, a limited edition from Fairyloot (I so wish I could buy a full sized of this).

(Going from left to right:) I have the Cabeswater candles from Meraki Candles, which is actually one of my Mom's favorite candles that I have. I also have Shadow (from American Gods) from Frostbeard. Interestingly enough, for the amount of times I've purchased things from them this is the first time I bought a candle from Frostbeard for myself. And from Melting Library I have Dirtyhands, Warden (from The Bone Season), and Liesl (from Wintersong- still haven't read that book).

As for my sampler collection I'm not going to name them all (nor link any because all the shops are linked above, more than once). In the center here I have the Divergent sampler, an exclusive from Fairyloot, which is a really summery scent. Making up the rest of the samplers are pieces from the Villains sampler set and the Beauty and the Beast sampler set from Melting Library.

Last but not least are the last of my candles, and these are all non-bookish. The large one in the front is from Kirklands, a local home goods store, and is one of my all time favorites: Orange Popsicle. It sounds exactly like a Dreamsicle and I could burn this forever. The next two are from WoodAndWaxCo on Etsy, a really lovely wooden wick candle company. On top is Green Tea, and on bottom is Aurora Borealis. And all the way on the end is a new candle I picked up on my trip to Philadelphia. It's from a little shop called Bee Natural that I stumbled upon in Reading Terminal Market (if you're in the Philly area and have never gone you're seriously missing out). Ordering from them is rather pricey, but I do love the Pumpkin Spice candle I got from them and I hope to be able to return.

I'm rather proud of my book candle collection, and I plan to continue to expand it. Candles have become such a nice addition to my life and seriously help relax me on stressful days. Do you collect candles? Which is your favorite scent? What's your favorite store? I always need more places to buy from so please give me bunches of recommendations down below!