Tuesday, June 2, 2015

May wrap-up

Wrap-Up posts are my favorite way to relive the amazing stories that I've read in the last month. May was a great reading month for me. I wasn't in school and I was kind of in between the end of the school year and the studying that I'm doing this summer so I got to read a lot of books in the past 31 days. I ended up finishing 10 books and posting 4 reviews. I did actually get to London on the 23rd, which is where I will be studying from now until July 4, so June might be a lighter month, both in posts and books read, simply because there are so many exciting things to do here. But anyways! Here is my May Wrap-Up.

1. Magonia – Maria Dahvana Headley ☆☆☆☆

Aza Ray is drowning in thin air.
Since she was a baby, Aza has suffered from a mysterious lung disease that makes it ever harder for her to breathe, to speak—to live.
So when Aza catches a glimpse of a ship in the sky, her family chalks it up to a cruel side effect of her medication. But Aza doesn't think this is a hallucination. She can hear someone on the ship calling her name.
Only her best friend, Jason, listens. Jason, who’s always been there. Jason, for whom she might have more-than-friendly feelings. But before Aza can consider that thrilling idea, something goes terribly wrong. Aza is lost to our world—and found, by another. Magonia.
Above the clouds, in a land of trading ships, Aza is not the weak and dying thing she was. In Magonia, she can breathe for the first time. Better, she has immense power—and as she navigates her new life, she discovers that war is coming. Magonia and Earth are on the cusp of a reckoning. And in Aza’s hands lies the fate of the whole of humanity—including the boy who loves her. Where do her loyalties lie?

This was a highly anticipated read for me this year, and it didn't disappoint. It was a little strange and whimsical while also dealing with some real world issues, and I like the balance between the real world and the fantastic. The main character was a little hard for me to connect to at first, but eventually I fell into the odd rhythm of the story and ended up loving the ending. I haven't heard anything about a sequel yet but I certainly think there are enough unanswered questions for there to warrant one. I hope there is, I would definitely read it. 
2. An Ember in the Ashes – Sabaa Tahir ☆☆☆☆☆

Laia is a slave. Elias is a soldier. Neither is free.
Under the Martial Empire, defiance is met with death. Those who do not vow their blood and bodies to the Emperor risk the execution of their loved ones and the destruction of all they hold dear.
It is in this brutal world, inspired by ancient Rome, that Laia lives with her grandparents and older brother. The family ekes out an existence in the Empire’s impoverished backstreets. They do not challenge the Empire. They’ve seen what happens to those who do.
But when Laia’s brother is arrested for treason, Laia is forced to make a decision. In exchange for help from rebels who promise to rescue her brother, she will risk her life to spy for them from within the Empire’s greatest military academy.
There, Laia meets Elias, the school’s finest soldier—and secretly, its most unwilling. Elias wants only to be free of the tyranny he’s being trained to enforce. He and Laia will soon realize that their destinies are intertwined—and that their choices will change the fate of the Empire itself.

This was another book that I absolutely couldn't wait for, and I am now obsessed with it. I have a full review up here where I speak in-depth to how much I loved this book, so you should definitely go give that a read. All in all, this isn't a story that will make you feel good as you read it before you go to sleep at night. It is uncomfortable, cruel at times, and it doesn't shy away from depictions of what a society like this is like. It isn't disturbing, per se, but it is enough to make you squirm at times, and that is what makes it so good. It takes this society and makes it feel real, which is both amazing and terrifying at the same time.

3. Kissing Ted Callahan (and other guys) – Amy Spalding ☆☆☆

Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist meets Easy A in this hilariously realistic story of sneaking out, making out, and playing in a band.
After catching their bandmates in a compromising position, sixteen-year-old Los Angelenos Riley and Reid become painfully aware of the romance missing from their own lives. And so a pact is formed: they'll both try to make something happen with their respective crushes and document the experiences in a shared notebook.
While Reid struggles with the moral dilemma of adopting a dog to win over someone's heart, Riley tries to make progress with Ted Callahan, who she's been obsessed with forever-His floppy hair! His undeniable intelligence! But suddenly cute guys are popping up everywhere. How did she never notice them before?! With their love lives going from 0 to 60 in the blink of an eye, Riley and Reid realize the results of their pact may be more than they bargained for.

The synopsis of this book is so adorable, it made me think that this could be a potential new favorite. And undeniably, it was a cute story with cute characters and a cute ending. But I couldn't help but feel like there was something missing from it. Maybe it was the fact that the main character seemed very childish to me, which threw me off because she was talking about things that aren't childish at all. I guess the reason this is three stars is because it was an enjoyable story but I felt like the tone didn't match the content. 

4. A Court of Thorns and Roses – Sarah J Maas ☆☆☆☆☆

When nineteen-year-old huntress Feyre kills a wolf in the woods, a beast-like creature arrives to demand retribution for it. Dragged to a treacherous magical land she only knows about from legends, Feyre discovers that her captor is not an animal, but Tamlin—one of the lethal, immortal faeries who once ruled their world.

As she dwells on his estate, her feelings for Tamlin transform from icy hostility into a fiery passion that burns through every lie and warning she's been told about the beautiful, dangerous world of the Fae. But an ancient, wicked shadow grows over the faerie lands, and Feyre must find a way to stop it . . . or doom Tamlin—and his world—forever.

Perfect for fans of Kristin Cashore and George R. R. Martin, this first book in a sexy and action-packed new series is impossible to put down!

Hands down, easily my favorite book of the month. I absolutely adore Sarah J Maas, as we all know, and so I had high hopes for this story. I'm happy to say that, for me at least, it met and surpassed all dreams I had about it. I even did my spotlight of the month on this book because I loved it so much. You can read that review (complete with ALL THE FEELS) here! This was such a well-written love story, with all our favorite elements of the Beauty and the Beast fairytale, just amped up and mixed with Faerie lore. It's brilliant and sexy and something that everyone here should consider adding to their tbr-immediately pile. 
5. The Apple Orchard – Susan Wiggs ☆☆☆

Tess Delaney makes a living returning stolen treasures to their rightful owners. She loves illuminating history, filling the spaces in people's hearts with stories of their family legacies.
But Tess's own history is filled with gaps: a father she never met, and a mother who spent more time traveling than with her daughter.
Then Dominic Rossi arrives on the doorstep of the San Francisco shop Tess hopes to buy, and he tells her that the grandfather she never knew is in a coma. Tess has been named in his will to inherit half of Bella Vista, a hundred-acre apple orchard in the magical Sonoma town called Archangel.
The rest is willed to Isabel Johansen. A half sister she hadn't heard of.
Isabel is everything Tess isn't: all softness to Tess's hard angles, warm and nurturing where Tess is tightly wound. But against the rich landscape of Bella Vista, with Isabel and Dominic by her side, Tess begins to discover a world filled with the simple pleasures of food and family, of the warm earth beneath her bare feet. A world where family comes first and the roots of history run deep. 

Usually not my kind of read at all, my mother and grandmother both recommended this book to me, and so I decided to give it a chance. I have to say, I didn't hate it! The writing style was more sophisticated than I was expecting and the story, especially the backstory about the grandfather's life, was compelling. The romance still felt a little corny and staged, which is why this is only three stars, but honestly it was an enjoyable read and I devoured it in less than a day. If you're looking for something easy this summer, I'd consider looking into this and its sequel. 
6. The Beekeeper's Ball – Susan Wiggs ☆☆☆1/2

Isabel Johansen, a celebrated chef who grew up in the sleepy Sonoma town of Archangel, is transforming her childhood home into a destination cooking school—a unique place for other dreamers to come and learn the culinary arts. Bella Vista's rambling mission-style hacienda, with its working apple orchards, bountiful gardens and beehives, is the idyllic venue for Isabel's project…and the perfect place for her to forget the past.
But Isabel's carefully ordered plans begin to go awry when swaggering, war-torn journalist Cormac O'Neill arrives to dig up old history. He's always been better at exposing the lives of others than showing his own closely guarded heart, but the pleasures of small-town life and the searing sensuality of Isabel's kitchen coax him into revealing a few truths of his own.
The dreamy sweetness of summer is the perfect time of year for a grand family wedding and the enchanting Beekeeper's Ball, bringing emotions to a head in a story where the past and present collide to create an unexpected new future.
From "one of the best observers of stories of the heart" (Salem Statesman-Journal), The Beekeeper's Ball is an exquisite and richly imagined novel of the secrets that keep us from finding our way, the ties binding us to family and home, and the indelible imprint love can make on the human heart.

Since I read the first one, I couldn't just not see what happened to everyone in the second one! And I gotta say, I liked this one better than its counterpart. For one, the backstory of the main character's grandfather was more of a focus here, and I liked those sections best of all. For another, I appreciated that this one ended on a cliffhanger, it made me like it more. Still not my usual cup of tea, but not one that I disliked reading, either.

7-9. The Selection, The Elite, The One – Kiera Cass (☆☆☆☆☆ to the first and third installments, ☆☆☆☆ to the second)

(synopsis for The Selection only) For thirty-five girls, the Selection is the chance of a lifetime. The opportunity to escape the life laid out for them since birth. To be swept up in a world of glittering gowns and priceless jewels. To live in a palace and compete for the heart of gorgeous Prince Maxon.
But for America Singer, being Selected is a nightmare. It means turning her back on her secret love with Aspen, who is a caste below her. Leaving her home to enter a fierce competition for a crown she doesn't want. Living in a palace that is constantly threatened by violent rebel attacks.
Then America meets Prince Maxon. Gradually, she starts to question all the plans she's made for herself--and realizes that the life she's always dreamed of may not compare to a future she never imagined.

I'd read The Selection two summers ago, and though I was skeptical going in, I really ended up enjoying it. I never continued on with the series though, and didn't really think to until the companion novel, the fourth book, came out this year. That was when I picked this series back up, and though there were some frustrating places in the middle for me, I actually was very satisfied with the ending that we got. I have a review of the whole series, book by book, here, so you should go check that out for more on my thoughts. 
10. The Heir – Kiera Cass ☆☆☆☆☆

Warning!!! Spoilers for The Selection in Synopsis!!! Princess Eadlyn has grown up hearing endless stories about how her mother and father met. Twenty years ago, America Singer entered the Selection and won the heart of Prince Maxon—and they lived happily ever after. Eadlyn has always found their fairy-tale story romantic, but she has no interest in trying to repeat it. If it were up to her, she'd put off marriage for as long as possible.
But a princess's life is never entirely her own, and Eadlyn can't escape her very own Selection—no matter how fervently she protests.
Eadlyn doesn't expect her story to end in romance. But as the competition begins, one entry may just capture Eadlyn's heart, showing her all the possibilities that lie in front of her . . . and proving that finding her own happily ever after isn't as impossible as she's always thought.

This book centers around the child of the couple from The Selection, and I was so intrigued to see how it would be different when it was a female-led Selection. I actually really enjoyed this one, perhaps more than the stories about her parents, and I appreciated the struggles that Eadlyn went through. I have a longer review for this one up on goodreads, so you can read that here

I hope everyone had a great May! 


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