Sunday, November 29, 2015

Review: The Last Time We Say Goodbye by Cynthia Hand

Title: The Last Time We Say Goodbye
Author: Cynthia Hand
My rating: 4 of 5 Stars


"You never know when it’s going to be the last time. That you hug someone. That you kiss. That you say goodbye."

These past few years there has been a “death trend” in YA. A lot of books about death, suicide, grieving have been released. I wasn’t tempted to read them. Partly it was because this type of books requires some emotional strength from reader; being busy and tired in real life I tend to read more light and fluffy books. But the main reason was that I have a feeling that some authors just use these serious topics to “spice up” their stories, skipping past important things.

But I made an exception for this book. Why? Was it this simple, but instantly grabbing my heart cover? Or was it this beautiful haunting title? I don’t know, but I’m so glad I’ve read it.

This story is about Lex, a girl who’s trying to come in terms with her brother Tyler’s suicide. This is one of those stories that sneak up on you. It is sad in a quiet way, it doesn’t make you emotional wreck at once, but drop after drop it fills your heart with sadness.

This book focuses more on the consequences of suicide for those left behind. While Tyler was present throughout the book in Lex’s memories and her thoughts about him, this was mostly her story.

I’m lucky, and I haven’t lost anyone I loved, but I feel like Lex’s grieving was portrayed very authentically. She misses her brother, they were very close, and she loved him so much. But at the same time she feels anger, resentment and guilt over what he had done. There’s also the fact that people treat her differently. She’s now “the girl whose brother killed himself”.

I appreciate that it was her own story, it wasn’t “a boy saved her” story (which I see a lot in YA). We become witnesses to how Lex is trying to come in terms with what happened, how it finally all come to forgiveness.

"Forgiveness is tricky, because in the end it’s more about you than it is about the person who’s being forgiven."

I also want to mention Cyntia Hand’s writing style: beautiful, easy-flowing, not too flourish. It worked for me perfectly.

This book made me appreciate what I have in my life. It made me want to hug my loved ones and don’t let them go for a while. The Last Time We Say Goodbye is a heartbreaking and beautiful story; it’s not easy to read but I highly recommend it.

Cynthia Hand lost a loved one. She wrote a heartbreaking author note. I’m very grateful that she was brave to raise this very sensitive for her topic and wrote this emotional and thought provoking book.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Kiss and Tell #2. So Over You

Kiss and Tell
Kiss and Tell is a feature about kisses in books. First kisses and good-bye kisses. Gentle kisses and angry kisses. Sensual kisses and awkward kisses. Kisses, that made me swoon, and kisses, that made me lift my eyebrow. Kisses, that made me smile and kisses that made me cry. Get ready, I’ll tell you about single one of them.

I’ve read this book a while ago, and I admit that some things became a little bit foggy. Not this kiss… It lingers. It has such visceral effect on me to this day.
"We stood too close. I could see the flecks of color, golds and greens in his eyes, and I was sure he saw the unshed tears caught in mine. The moment bore down on us, heavy, like the feel of the air right before a thunderstorm. A little sigh escaped my lungs, and my chin tilted just a bit. His palm smoothed a small path from my chin to my cheek, and his fingers feathered into my hairline. We were powerless to stop, and our lips inched closer.
Closer. Closer. The first brief pass of his mouth shocked me even though I had known it was coming. I clutched his arms for support and kept my eyes open. He hesitated, his forehead wrinkled in bewilderment, and then he swooped in again, both hands in my hair, and the bottom of my world dropped away.
We kissed with the same parry and thrust that we did everything. An answer to a taunt. Vying for what seemed to be the same thing, the clash of wills and lips."

from 'So Over You' by Gwen Hayes
So Over You is a brain candy kind of book. It is cute and funny. It has likable characters and delicious hate-to-love romance. It had hilarious banter, and it’s hugely entertaining.

Though this book is sweet and light, it deals with a very serious topic. And it was thrown onto the reader out of the blue. I wasn’t prepared for it at all. Just keep in mind that this book is not all fluff.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Mini-review: Gilded Ashes (Cruel Beauty Universe #2) by Rosamund Hodge

Title: Gilded Ashes (Cruel Beauty Universe #2)
Author: Rosamund Hodge
My rating: 4 of 5 Stars
A romantic and fantastical reimagining of the classic Cinderella tale, Gilded Ashes is a novella by Rosamund Hodge set in the same world as the author's debut novel, Cruel Beauty.

Orphan Maia doesn't see the point of love when it only brings pain: Her dying mother made a bargain with the evil, all-powerful ruler of their world that anyone who hurt her beloved daughter would be punished; her new stepmother went mad with grief when Maia's father died; and her stepsisters are desperate for their mother's approval, yet she always spurns them. And though her family has turned her into a despised servant, Maia must always pretend to be happy, or else they'll all be struck dead by the curse.

Anax, heir to the Duke of Sardis, doesn't believe in love either—not since he discovered that his childhood sweetheart was only using him for his noble title. What's the point of pretending to fall in love with a girl just so she'll pretend to fall in love with him back? But when his father invites all the suitable girls in the kingdom to a masked ball, Anax must finally give in and select a wife.

As fate would have it, the preparations for the masquerade bring him Maia, who was asked by her eldest stepsister to deliver letters to Anax. Despite a prickly first encounter, he is charmed and intrigued by this mysterious girl who doesn't believe in love. Anax can't help wishing to see her again—and when he does, he can't help falling in love with her. Against her will, Maia starts to fall in love with him too. But how can she be with him when every moment his life is in danger from her mother's deadly bargain?

After I finished Crimson Bound I wasn’t ready to tell good-bye to Rosamund Hodge’s stories. So I picked up Gilded Ashes. This book is set up in the same world as Cruel Beauty. It’s a loosely retelling of Cinderella. I’ve said it before; I love how Rosamund Hodge takes a fairy tale and transforms it into her own unique story.

I expected another ambiguous angry heroine from this author, but Maia was very different from Nyx and Rachelle. While I liked her a lot, I was longing for more complexity.

My favorite aspect of Gilded Ashes was relationship between Maia and her sisters. The sister dynamics remained me a lot of Cruel Beauty.

I wish this were a full novel instead of novella. So many paths were left unexplored. The ending also was hastily wrapped-up.

But I still loved this novella and thankful to Rosamund Hodge for another little glance into Cruel Beauty world.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Review: Crimson Bound by Rosamund Hodge

Title: Crimson Bound
Author: Rosamund Hodge
My rating: 5 of 5 Stars
When Rachelle was fifteen she was good—apprenticed to her aunt and in training to protect her village from dark magic. But she was also reckless— straying from the forest path in search of a way to free her world from the threat of eternal darkness. After an illicit meeting goes dreadfully wrong, Rachelle is forced to make a terrible choice that binds her to the very evil she had hoped to defeat.

Three years later, Rachelle has given her life to serving the realm, fighting deadly creatures in an effort to atone. When the king orders her to guard his son Armand—the man she hates most—Rachelle forces Armand to help her find the legendary sword that might save their world. As the two become unexpected allies, they uncover far-reaching conspiracies, hidden magic, and a love that may be their undoing. In a palace built on unbelievable wealth and dangerous secrets, can Rachelle discover the truth and stop the fall of endless night?

Inspired by the classic fairy tale Little Red Riding Hood, Crimson Bound is an exhilarating tale of darkness, love, and redemption.

Like Rosamund Hodge’s first novel Cruel Beauty, Crimson Bound was very atmospheric. The author created rich, full of lore world.

I love that she doesn’t just write retellings. She uses the original fairy tale as an inspiration and creates her own unique and alluring story. There were short chapters of legends throughout the main story and they added this dark edge.

"she wasn’t like any of the heroines in those stories"

Rosamund Hodge like no one can write unlikable angry heroines, full of guilt and self-loathing. Heroines that make bad and unmoral things. But I love them. I loved Nyx from Cruel Beauty and I fell in love with Rachelle. My friend Keertana had an amazing guest post with Rosamund Hodge on her blog. If you want to know why the author wrote such female characters, check it out here.

The aspect of the book that had the strongest impact on me was the unthinkable choice in front of Rachelle. She did an awful thing; yes she was tricked, but a person died because of her. Now she faces consequences.

"Every day for the last three years, she had thought she deserved to die.
She still didn’t want to. She wanted to live with every filthy, desperate scrap of her heart."

I loved the dynamic of Armand and Rachelle’s relationship. At first she considered him a fraud and despised him for that. Later they formed an untrusted partnership which transformed into friendship and finally love. They are very different persons, but somehow they complement each other.

"Armand was the one who knew how to speak, anyway. He smiled and turned his words into knives that sliced out answers and distinctions. She was just the girl who plunged blindly ahead and doomed herself doing it."

The romance wasn’t the main focus of the story, but it was unique. I’m in owe of Rosamund Hodge. To create a love interest who doesn’t have hands! I hope she would write NA or Adult. There were so many alluring possibilities in all her books which were not explored because of YA limitations. Though, in comparison to Cruel Beauty this book was surprisingly sensual and steamy.

"And then she felt it again: the sudden, sharp awareness of wanting to touch him, of the space between them as an open wound, of her own body being jumbled and awkward and far too separate when she could be pressed against him, waist to waist and chin to shoulder and her fingers sliding into that pale brown hair"

Rosamund Hodge created very interesting second characters. Erec was such a complex character. I can’t fully discuss him without spoilers, I just say that he intrigued and fascinated me. Despite his choices and his acts I couldn’t hate him, just like Rachel.

This book was surprisingly action packed. I expected something like Cruel Beauty in this aspect: a lot of mental battles, but nonexistent physical ones. But in Crimson Bound Rosamund Hodge gave the reader a lot of fighting scenes. I’m sure many readers will be thrilled. Since I’m not actually a big fan of action-packed books, this aspect was just ok for me.

Writers creating fantasy and retellings have to choose between romance and plot. More often than not they choose the latter and write plot-driven action-packed books. But I prefer romantic stories. I know, I know, they are criticized for shaky world-building or lack of action, but I love them. I will choose romantic story to action-packed book every time. Rosamund Hodge in Crimson Bound managed to deliver both aspects. Plot is very engaging; there are a lot of action scenes and the romance is wonderful.

The author created an original story with dark atmosphere and complex characters facing impossible choices. It’s beautifully written, thought-provoking and very entertaining. I loved this unique book and can’t wait what Rosamund Hodge comes up with next. Highly recommended.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Kiss and Tell #1. Exquisite Captive

Kiss and Tell
Kiss and Tell is a feature about kisses in books. First kisses and good-bye kisses. Gentle kisses and angry kisses. Sensual kisses and awkward kisses. Kisses, that made me swoon, and kisses, that made me lift my eyebrow. Kisses, that made me smile and kisses that made me cry. Get ready, I’ll tell you about single one of them.

I’m a grown-up woman, but I’m still a hopeless romantic. A good fictional kiss makes me feel butterflies in my stomach. So today I want to quote one of my favorite kisses and make you swoon with me.
"Her kiss told him everything she couldn’t say, wouldn’t say. It was hello and good-bye, yes and I hope so. It was an apology written as a love letter, sealed with fierce hope."
from 'Exquisite Captive' by Heather Demetrios
Sigh… I also love that this quote doesn’t reveal who the love interest is. You need to read the book and find out.

I usually pick up the series after all installments are released. I can’t deal with cliffhangers, and I have a hard time waiting for the next book. But I made an exeption for Dark Caravan Cycle series by Heather Demetrios. This beautiful cover caught my eye, and I was intrigued by the story about a genie. Then I’ve seen some mixed reviews. Some readers loved Malec, another hated him, but no one stayed indifferent. I love complex ambigues characters, so I had to know for myself. I enjoyed this book a lot and recommend it.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Your audience: bloggers or non-bloggers?

Last week Aentee at Read at Midnight posted “Posts I loved reading as a non-blogger”, where she discussed how her preferences changed since she became a book-blogger. Many people (myself included) admitted in comments that their tastes changed too, and that posts they loved as non-bloggers are not the same as those they love to read now.

So today I want to talk about content for non-bloggers and content for bloggers since it looks like it’s not the same.

I rated level of interest:
3 Stars – very interesting
2 Stars - moderately interesting
1 Stars – neutral or not interesting


Book reviews

3 Stars
Almost everyone admitted that they were looking for reviews when they were non-bloggers. Important note: readers are looking for a blogger with similar book tastes and interesting writing style (it can be snarky and sarcastic, other followers prefer beautiful writing, and some are interested in thorough and informative reviews).

Lists, recommendations, read-a-likes

3 Stars
Non-bloggers use these posts for their “to be read shelf” as well as book reviews.

New releases, book news

3 Stars
Looks like these posts are pretty popular among non-bloggers. And they find it helpful if there are also purchase links.

Book hauls

1-2-3 Stars
Very different opinions here. Some non-bloggers love this type of posts, some don’t.


2 Stars
Discussions are not as popular as previous types of posts, but non-bloggers still find them interesting. Note: non-bloggers prefer bookish discussions; they are not interested in discussions about blogging.


1-2-3 Stars
And again very different opinions. Some non-blogger like them, some – not so much.

Bookish events

2-3 Stars
Popular posts, especially if you add photos.


Book reviews

1-2 Stars
It looks like book reviews became more and more unpopular among book-bloggers. It makes me really sad, we are BOOK COMMUNITY after all. Why? I have a guess, though I may be wrong. Blogger usually follows many blogs, and our blogger-friends not always have the same book tastes (like our real life friends). The range of reviews that blogger reads is wider, and they read reviews on books that are not their genre or even not interesting for them at all. As a result reading the reviews can became a choir.

Lists, recommendations, read-a-likes

2 Stars
I guess among bloggers these posts more about raising a discussion and chatting with your friends.

Book hauls

1-2-3 Stars
It’s a way to see what your friends purchased and chat. Here book-tubers win, because many people admit that they prefer to see “real books”.

New releases, book news

1-2 Stars
Since bloggers are immersed in community, they usually know about new releases and book news, so they don’t find this type of posts very interesting.


3 Stars
Discussions are very popular in book community, especially blog-related discussions.

Graphic tips

3 Stars
As well as blogging tips graphic tips are very popular. Many bloggers want to add some unique designs to their blogs, so they find this kind of posts helpful.


1-2-3 Stars
Some bloggers love memes, others don’t like them. But many admit that after they’ve read 5-10 Ten Top Tuesdays in one day, it became tiresome.


2-3 Stars
Bloggers like to tag each other. It’s a fun way to communicate and get to know each other.

Bookish events

2-3 Stars
It’s great to visit an event vicariously through fellow blogger.

Non-bloggers and bloggers

Personal posts

3 Stars
Personal posts are very popular. It’s good to know a real person behind the blog, especially when you follow a blogger for a while.

Travels with photos

3 Stars
People love these posts (bloggers and non-bloggers alike).


Content for book-bloggers is not the same as content for non-bloggers. So if you want to widen you audience, you should write posts for both groups. If you want to engage bloggers, you should post more discussions, graphic tips, blogging tips. If you blog focuses on non-bloggers, your content: book reviews, lists, recommendations, read-a-likes, new releases, book news.

All these differences are not strict. I’m sure there are book-bloggers who love new releases as well as non-bloggers who find graphic and blogging tips interesting. Just do what you feel passionate about. It’s the reason we all started blogging after all. Happy and content blogger is always magnet for followers.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Review: The Return (Titan #1) by Jennifer L. Armentrout

Title: The Return (Titan #1)
Author: Jennifer L. Armentrout
My rating: 4 of 5 Stars


My friend Jeanne said in one of her reviews, that "sometimes you just need a book that makes you happy". And Return had such effect on me. I was absolutely giddily happy, with lightness in my heart and smile on my lips, when I closed this book. Don’t you think it’s worth something?

Warning: some minor spoilers for Covenant series ahead.

I admit I had my reservations about this book. Return is a spinoff of Covenant series. I’ve read it when I was just discovering YA. Wide-eyed and inexperienced in this genre, I loved it. Seth played a big role in Covenant, and I can’t say I was his fan. Firstly he made some pretty bad decisions with consequences. Secondly, I was Aiden team.

But Seth was very different in The Return. And it didn’t feel forced. Events in the last books of Covenant changed him. While he continued to keep his arrogant “I don’t care” façade, inside he blamed himself and he was so lonely. In Return we got to see vulnerable, gentle and caring Seth. Seth, who longed to be loved and to love. I fell in love with him.

Seth assigned to protect Josie, a mortal girl, and he was not happy about it. She was a wonderful heroine. She lived an average life of a college student, she studied, had fun with her best friend and had family problems. Then she was suddenly thrust into this new world with Greek Gods, dangerous creatures and she was told that she had a dangerous mission. She took it all in with admirable strength.

I loved their relationship with Seth. Josie stood her ground and I liked how she teased Seth. While Covenant is YA, The Return is NA through and through. There were a lot of delicious steamy scenes in this book. I loved chemistry between Seth and Josie. Jennifer Armentrout like no one can write amazing sexual tension. There was an element of forbidden romance and I admit I wanted more in this aspect. I think they gave up too easily to their attraction. I’m a fan of forbidden romance and I would love to be left hanging a little longer (like it was in Covenant, there was a huge forbidden romance).

Those of you who loved Covenant would be pleased to meet familiar characters. And there was a lot of fun in this book.

Jennifer Armentrout surprised me with her ability to make me look at a character from a new angle, to go beyond familiar. She did it with Seth and she did it with another character. If you've read Covenant, I’m sure you remember furies. I wasn’t a big fan of these dangerous creatures. I don’t want to spoil anything, so I just say that the author absolutely changed my view of them.

You don’t need to read Covenant before The Return, the author went over the most important events of Covenant. Though I personally think that those who’d read Covenant would enjoy The Return more. Advice: if you intend to read Covenant, the reading order is Covenant first, The Return next.

Of course The Return is not without flaws, there are a lot of usual NA tropes and world building is pretty weak, but you know what? I don’t care! I enjoyed this book immensely. It made me smile, it made me swoon, and it made me care for the characters. I didn’t have luck with several recent releases from Jennifer Armentrout, in truth I began to wonder that maybe she’s not the author for me anymore. This book made me realize that I still love her works and I can’t wait for the next book in this series!

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

DNF review: Changing His Game (Gamers #1) by Megan Erickson

Title: Changing His Game (Gamers #1)
Author: Megan Erickson
My rating: 2 of 5 Stars
He controls the game, but she’s rewriting all the rules…

Marley Lake is no stranger to awkwardness, but getting caught watching a dirty GIF by the company’s hot new IT guy exceeds even her standards. That is, until she realizes he's as turned on by it as she is. But with a big promotion on the line, she refuses to let her current dry spell be her downfall. Maybe.

Austin Rivers has no business lusting after the irresistible editor of Gamers Magazine. He's a secret partner in the business—and technically Marley’s boss. One look at that GIF, though, and he’s ready to install a whole lot more than just software…as long as she never finds out who he really is.

But reality’s not as virtual as it seems, and when Austin’s identity jeopardizes Marley’s promotion, he has to change his game or risk losing the only woman with the cheat code to his heart.

It looks like Brazen books are not for me. I’ve tried several and none of them worked for me. I don’t know what the problem is. Maybe it’s because they are short. It’s hard to develop characters and make interesting romance when you are so limited in pages, especially when a big chunk of the book is taken by sex scenes.

And I really expected to enjoy Changing His Game. A sexy nerd as a hero, a strong and driven heroine, forbidden romance (especially forbidden romance!) and sexy times – what not to love?

Well, I tried to finish this book twice. First time I managed about 20%, had a hard time getting into the story, decided that maybe I just wasn’t in the mood for this kind of story and put it on hold. Time passed, and I picked it up again and read about 50%, then I put it aside again.

Now almost two months later I have no inclination to continue it. So DNF.

What were my issues with this book? I couldn’t connect with the characters. I found them flat and uninteresting. The romance developed too quickly, though I don’t mind in this case, because you expect this from a Brazen book. What I mind though is a lack of chemistry. Since I read this kind of books with the only purpose – to get wonderful romance with sexual tension, I was greatly disappointed.

I don’t mean to discourage anyone from reading this little story though. Many of my friends enjoyed it. If you liked Brazen books previously you probably would enjoy Changing His Game more than I did.