Fire & Flood and Salt & Stone by Victoria Scott

Tella’s older brother is sick and none of the doctors can figure out what’s wrong with him. After being forced to move to Montana with the rest of her family, Tella receives an invitation to compete in the Brimstone Bleed–the winner gets a cure for any disease. Contenders will have to race across four different regions: jungle, desert, sea, and mountain. They will have an animal guide called a Pandora to aid and protect them. The only rule is to make it to base camp before the 14 day limit is up.

fire and flood20657437

I’ve heard some people say that these books are a cross between “The Hunger Games” and “The Amazing Race”. To them I say, “You’ve obviously never watched ‘The Amazing Race'”. Basically the only similarity to “The Hunger Games” is that the race officials don’t care if people die while out on the course. But the contenders are all different ages, they have these Pandoras with them to help out, they don’t have donors or mentors, and not everybody has to die for there to be a winner. The only similarity to “The Amazing Race” is that it’s a race that changes locations.

With that rant over with…these books are just okay. It’s a really interesting concept and I especially like the detail that Tella is trying to win the cure for her OLDER brother (as opposed to the younger sibling that most dystopian novels favor). Besides that, there’s not very much that I like about Tella. She’s vain and selfish and immature…she kind of bugged me the whole time. I didn’t feel like she grew as a character and let’s be honest, who is really thinking about their glittery closet when they’re in the middle of the desert dying of dehydration??? Her whole relationship with Guy was pretty weird too.  There’s a quote on page 108.

“[Guy’s] face pulls together. I realize it then–he hates me. And not in the way in which I find out later that he actually liked me the whole time.”

Except…he does end up liking her. So in retrospect, this sentence makes zero sense. I actually would have found the book much more interesting if Guy hadn’t liked her. The books had a lot of other inconsistencies as well. In the second book, Olivia refers to something that happened in the jungle leg of the race…SHE WASN’T THERE. That kind of thing just really bugs me. It feels like the writer isn’t being careful.

Overall, the books were just okay. The concept of the race and the whole setup was really promising (even the whole conspiracy theory) and I absolutely LOVED all of the Pandoras. But the human characters just didn’t do it for me. I think there’ll be a third book out sometime, but I’m not sure when. I’ll probably end up reading it.

Overall Rating: 3
Violence: Heavy
Sexual Content: Mild
Language: Moderate (mostly mild, but a few scenes with brief strong language).
Smoking/Drinking: Mild in the first, None in the second.

Liebster Award

LiebsterAward_3lilapplesI have been nominated for the Liebster Award by Emma over at SheReadsBooks. Her blog is definitely worth a look if you’re not already following her!

The Rules

  • Thank the person who nominated you and link their blog.
  • Give your readers 11 random facts about yourself.
  • Answer the 11 questions from the blog who nominated you.
  • Nominate 11 bloggers to receive this award.
  • Come up with 11 questions for your nominees!

The Facts

1. I’m currently obsessed with button up shirts (so comfy!) and watches (classy and functional!)
2. I graduated in December with a BA in Economics, but I totally would have gone for Library Science if I’d known it was a thing coming out of high school. Alas, I did not.
3. But…I will be applying for grad school this summer and hope to get my Masters in Library Science.
4. I got married when I was (barely) 20. My husband’s name is Jack and he’s wonderful and lets me read as much as I want 🙂
5. My dad is 100% Chinese while my mom is half Panamanian and half White. This resulted in us kids having a variety of fun cultural experiences growing up.
6. I am a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon) and I LOVE to answer questions about my religion!
7. I work in HR right now, but my dream is to become a librarian (I know, dream big right?)
8. I love baseball (thanks to my husband). Favorite Teams: Seattle Mariners, Oakland Athletics, San Francisco Giants
9. I grew up in the Seattle area (thus my affinity towards the Mariners), but I don’t like the Seahawks.
10. I’m the only one in my immediate family (parents and two siblings) who did not choose to attend the University of Washington for college. Instead, I decided to head on down to Utah to go to BYU.
11. I used to be in Elementary Advanced Placement classes. This made me think I was special until I got to junior high and realized that kids from the normal classes could get into honors classes too (and get better grades than me).

The Answers

1. Who are your top 3 favourite authors?
Right now…Sarah Dessen (reminds me of high school), Jennifer E Smith (instaread), and Jane Austen (so classic).

2. What character would you like to have as your Best Friend or Side Kick?
Cath from Fangirl. She’s so normal and fun and a little insecure, but overall just awesome!

3. If you could meet any actor that played a character from a book/s, who would it be?
Emma Watson. She just seems fiery and like an interesting person.

4. If you could choose one author to write the story of your life, who would it be?
Jane Austen. She would definitely make me wittier than I actually am.

5. What was your least favourite book ever?
Oh gosh…basically anything from Sophomore English. One that immediately comes to mind is O Pioneers! by Willa Cather. I’d probably appreciate it now (maybe) but at the time I was bored out of my mind.

6. What is one book that you love, but everyone else on the planet hates?
Lord of the Flies, also from Sophomore English. I don’t think a ton of people hate this book (it is a classic after all), but I don’t think a lot of people like it because it’s not very happy…and at times disturbing.

7. What is your favourite book that is not in the Young Adult genre?
The Monuments Men (you can see my review for it here). I don’t read very much outside of YA, but I loved this book.

8. If you got to play a YA book character in a movie or TV series, who would it be?
Maybe Lara Jean Song from To All the Boys That I’ve Loved Before…there aren’t very many YA books centered around Asian girls (that I’ve read at least).

9. What was the shortest time it took you to read a book?
A few hours. I can generally read a 300 page book in 3-4 hours if I’m really into it and there are no interruptions.

10. Which book do you believe should receive more hype?
Steelheart by Brandon Sanderson. I thought this book was so great! It’s a fascinating world with interesting characters, but I feel like I rarely see anyone talking about it!

11. What is your all-time favourite standalone novel?
For now…I’d say Since You’ve Been Gone by Morgan Matson (review here). I really enjoyed how much the main character grew throughout the book.

The Nominations

I am nominating…
Rachael at Awake and Reading
Jessica at Novel Infatuatus
Anjie at Love Thy Shelf
Erika at Erika the Bibliophile
Once Upon a Bookshelf
BookwurmGirl7 at A Girl With a Book in Her Hands
Check them out everyone! (Sorry, I could only come up with eight!)

The Questions

1. What book do you wish people would just stop talking about?
2. What author (living or dead) do you wish you could meet?
3. If you could only read one series for the rest of your life, what would it be? (Excluding Harry Potter)
4. What is your reading pet peeve? (Something authors do that you hate)
5. What book reminds you the most of your childhood?
6. If you could live in any book world, what would it be? (Again, excluding Harry Potter)
7. What book would you recommend to a non-reader?
8. What book-to-movie (or TV) was the greatest disappointment for you?
9. What was the last book to make you cry?
10. Where is your favorite reading spot?
11. What do you love most about reading?

Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge

The Gentle Lord rules the land and keeps the demons that are always lurking in the shadows at bay. He makes deals with the villagers but always asks a steep price–one people think they are willing to pay until payment is actually due. It’s because of one of these deals, made by her father, that 17-year-old Nyx finds herself getting ready for her wedding to the monster that she’s always feared and hated. Once married to the Gentle Lord, it’s her job to find a way to defeat him and rid her people of his treacherous deals and deadly demons. What she doesn’t count on, however, is actually falling in love with him and what consequences might result from getting rid of him.51kLYnddfHL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_

Another fairy tale retelling! This one is based off of Beauty and the Beast and the fact that they throw some Greek mythology in there only makes it sweeter. I thought this retelling was very well done–much darker than I thought it would be, but not too dark. I started to like Nyx as a character because she seemed like a strong, determined sort, but I was a little dismayed at how quick she fell for Ignifex. Sure he was handsome and she felt an irresistible attraction to him, blah blah blah, but her whole life she’d grown up thinking he was evil. Not just evil, but the most evil. Some may argue, “But she was just trying to manipulate him and steal keys and whatnot!” Fine, that might be true, so she’s excused for kissing him, but not for enjoying it right away. I don’t know…I had a hard time reconciling in my head how evil she thought he was before she married him and then this weird physical attraction she felt afterwards.

That being said, I really did like the book despite that inconsistency. I liked when Nyx would explore the house and it felt a little like a treasure hunt looking for the four hearts. And like I mentioned earlier, any book with Greek mythology in it automatically gets a few points in my book. Ignifex himself was an interesting and complex character. I had a hard time figuring out how he and Shade came to be and what role they were supposed to be playing in each others’ lives. So it was enjoyable to have that revealed to me later in the book instead of having figured it out within the first 50 pages.

Overall, I enjoyed this darker retelling of Beauty and the Beast. The ending was satisfying even after I, as a reader, had lost all hope of a happy ending. There’s currently a short story out called Gilded Ashes set in the same universe. This one’s based off of Cinderella and even though I’m not planning on reviewing it, I certainly enjoyed it (the romance didn’t feel too fast even though the book is so short). The second book in “The Cruel Beauty Universe” called Crimson Bound comes out May 5 and is based off of Little Red Riding Hood. I will definitely be reading it!

Overall Rating: 4
Violence: Moderate
Sexual Content: Moderate
Language: Mild
Smoking/Drinking: Mild

My Top Ten Book Blogs

Hello readers! This kind of post is a little out of the norm for me, but I’ve been fortunate enough to connect with a few other blogs and I just wanted to give a shout-out to ten other book blogs that I have particularly enjoyed. (Just a note, these are mostly all YA blogs just because that’s the genre that I’m mostly paying attention to).

The author posts book reviews, beautiful photography, and fun quotes.

Awake and Reading
This blog focuses on Children’s lit as well as YA and every once in a while she’ll post a fun video!

Books Baking and Blogging
The title is pretty self-explanatory. She’s posted a couple of recipes recently that I’m dying to try!

Commas and Ampersands
The thing I love most about this blog is the quote posts. I really like that she takes a picture of the actual page! She also has book and movie reviews along with updates of what she’s currently reading.

Literal Life
This blog’s a little different because it’s not about book reviews. Instead, every week the author will post a summary of book news. I find this so interesting! I’m not really a news person, but I like reading news about books!

novel infatuatus
This author posts some book reviews, but mostly they have a lot of fun posts about books.

Novels and Nail Polish
There’s just something about this blog that I really like (besides the fact that it’s very pleasing to the eye). I’m not really a nail polish person, but I like seeing what she does and how they sometimes tie in with books. Plus, pretty colors.

schindo’s list
This blog has some book reviews, but the thing that I really like about it are the recipes. I’m definitely trying the Two Ingredient Pancakes sometime this week!

I had a slight moral dilemma when following this blog…it posts links to PDF copies of popular YA books including “The Fault in Our Stars” and the ENTIRE “Mortal Instruments” series. My dilemma was concerning the legality of such a blog. However, since I always delete the books DIRECTLY after reading, it seems to me to be the same as if I had checked a book out from the library. But I wouldn’t be surprised if this blog go reported and taken down at a later time.

I like the “Exploring My Bookshelves” series that the author’s doing and I also like her other fun book posts.

Hopefully this can help my fellow bloggers to find a new, fun blog and maybe even a new book to read! I know I’ve added dozens of books to my TBR list just from the book blogs that I’ve started following. Happy reading!

The Kiss of Deception by Mary E Pearson

Princess Lia is about to be married to the prince of a neighboring kingdom–a prince that she has never laid eyes on. The idea of marrying someone she’s never seen is horrifying to her. On the day of her wedding she runs away to start a new life with only her maid as company. As she starts to settle into a new town, two handsome men show up at the inn that she’s working at. One is an assassin sent from a third kingdom to hunt her down and the other is the prince that she left behind.16429619

I liked this book a lot. It alternates between perspectives fairly often so you get a pretty good feel for what’s going on the whole time. This isn’t something that I usually like, because I always feel like I want the author to get back to my favorite narrator, but I felt like it really worked in this case. I definitely did not see the twist towards the end coming. I literally had to go back and read through some of the past chapters to make sure I wasn’t going crazy.

The characters. I liked Lia because even though she was a princess, once she left her home she was 100% willing to work and do manual labor to make money and earn her keep. She just wanted to be normal and she never acted like she was entitled to anything. I also liked that she didn’t fall for Kaden or Rafe right away. There wasn’t any instalove going on and once she picked one of them she didn’t really go back-and-forth about it like some characters I’ve read. There were two guys trying to get her attention, but it didn’t turn into an awkward love triangle.

Overall I thought this book was great. It’s the first in a series called “The Remnant Chronicles” and I’ll definitely be reading the rest of this series! The next book, The Heart of Betrayal, comes out July 7, 2015.

Overall Rating: 5
Violence: Heavy, especially towards the end of the book but not too explicit.
Sexual Content: Mild
Language: Mild
Smoking/Drinking: Moderate

Smart Girls Get What They Want by Sarah Strohmeyer

Gigi and her two best friends, Neerja and Bea, are smart girls. They work really hard in high school so that they can get whatever they want in college. But when they realize that nobody at school really knows who they are, they decide it’s time to make their mark on high school. Neerja goes out for the school play, Bea joins the skiing team, and Gigi runs for student rep. As they each step outside of their “smart girl” comfort zone, they start to realize that just being smart isn’t everything.9780061953415_p0_v4_s260x420

As a “smart girl” in high school, I felt like I could relate to the main character pretty well. What I couldn’t quite relate to was the fact that there were “hidden intellectuals” among the popular crowd. Either you’re smart and everyone knows it, you’re popular and everyone knows it, or you’re both and everyone knows it. At least that’s how it was at my high school. It wasn’t cool to pretend to be dumb, but it wasn’t uncool to not be taking all IB courses (yeah, I went to an American high school that offered IB classes, it was weird). Anyway, that was kind of the only thing I didn’t like about the book–the fact that I felt like high school life was a little over-dramatized.

On the plus side, I thought the characters were really fun! Gigi, Neerja, and Bea were an awesome group of girls who were all really supportive of each other. I liked that they didn’t really fight or ever have a weird third wheel thing happen. I thought Gigi in particular was a cool character and somebody that I would have liked in high school. I like that she had a thing for Eleanor Roosevelt and that her hero was Bones. The Bones thing especially just makes her feel more real.

Overall, it was a fun and easy read. It didn’t have a lot of character depth or development, which is something that I usually like to see, but I liked it anyway. This is the second book that I’ve read by Sarah Strohmeyer (the first being How Zoe Made Her Dreams (Mostly) Come True) and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed both of them.

Overall Rating: 4
Violence: None
Sexual Content: Mild
Language: Mild
Smoking/Drinking: Mild

Illusions of Fate by Kiersten White

Jessamin left her tropical island home of Melei to attend school in the country of Albion. It’s a country full of wet, gray weather and–apparently–magic. One day Jessamin meets a handsome stranger named Finn. He’s obviously rich, definitely handsome, and absolutely someone she should not be getting to know. After one dinner, however, it’s too late. Lord Downpike, Finn’s nemesis, has seen enough and knows that if Finn has any weakness at all, it’s Jessamin.61doTKTVeuL

Okay. Instalove. I HATE it. It’s just so unrealistic (and it usually feels forced). That was basically my only issue with the book, but it was such a prevalent theme that it made it hard for me to enjoy everything else that was going on. I liked Jessamin because I felt like she was a smart, plucky character, but the fact that she fell into instalove took away from that. She was too willing to do whatever Finn wanted in my opinion. Other characters…Eleanor was a really fun character and I liked that she didn’t seem to care what other people thought of her. Probably my favorite character in the whole book was Sir Bird. I just liked that the author was able to give such a clear personality to an animal.

A couple things I wish the author had spent more time on: Writing/changing magic. In the book Jessamin realizes that she can change a spell just by changing or switching around symbols. This was a very intriguing concept for me and I wish that more time had been spent on it. I would have liked to have seen Jessamin create more than just one new spell and done things with them. The second thing was the ending. It was much too abrupt with too little explanation…it’s hard to explain without giving any spoilers, but I’ll just finish by saying it felt like the author wasn’t sure how to end the book. It felt less plausible than the rest of the book, not because of what happened, but because it was poorly explained (and I might even go so far as to say poorly executed as well).

Overall, I liked the book and the characters were mostly fun. I did not care for the instalove aspect, and I wish Ms. White had spent more time on a couple of plot points, but still a good read.

Overall Rating: 3
Violence: Moderate
Sexual Content: Mild
Language: Mild
Smoking/Drinking: Moderate

Messenger of Fear by Michael Grant

Have you done something bad recently? Something REALLY bad? Did you get away with it too? Then you better look out, because the Messenger is coming. He’ll offer you a deal. Play a game or pay the price. If you win, then you get to go free, but if you lose then you’ll have to pay by living your greatest fear. So what’s it going to be? Pay or play?20419044

Okay, so I know this is the third Michael Grant book that I’ve reviewed on this blog, but this was actually the first one that I read. This is the book that made me look up and read the first two books from the Gone series. Let me just start by saying that this book was better. WAY better. I thought the concept was a lot more intriguing and thought provoking. The Messenger exists to create balance in the world. He brings justice to those that did not end up being punished by the world for their crime(s). Throughout the book the main character, Mara, struggles with the ethics of such a task. She finds that she’s been apprenticed to the Messenger, but she’s not sure that what they’re doing is right. It actually doesn’t seem like Messenger’s 100% sure either. That’s what I really liked. You have this really powerful character who’s fulfilling his purpose, even while he’s questioning it a bit. It creates an interesting dynamic and also helps the reader to feel more connected to him even though he’s some otherworldly being.

Mara was a good character. I liked her as a person and I felt my own inner conflict echoing hers. I felt connected to her. That’s why the plot twist towards the end really threw me for a loop. I did not see it coming. Without spoiling it, the twist is such that if the reader had been given this information at the beginning of the book, we would not have liked Mara. In fact, we probably would have hated her. The author did such a good job making Mara likable before dropping that bombshell on us. So even though it’s a pretty bad thing, we’re still rooting for her. Just genius.

This book came out last September and there is a novella called The Snake which I haven’t had the chance to read yet. Now, I believe there will be more books (at least one), but I haven’t been able to find out any information about when it’ll be out. But when I do, I’ll post it!

Note: This book contains some heavier themes including bullying and suicide, both involving teenagers.

Overall Rating: 4
Violence: Heavy. There are a couple of pretty graphic scenes.
Sexual Content: Moderate
Language: Moderate
Smoking/Drinking: Mild