OwlCrate: December 2016

Hey guys! It’s been waaaayyy too long since I’ve done one of these. But, HOORAY! The time has come for another OwlCrate unboxing!

In case you don’t know what the glorious OwlCrate is, it’s just like Fandom of the Month only.. better? I don’t know, I love them both. OwlCrate gives you a new release in the Young Adult world and a bunch of bookish stuff centered around a specific theme. It’s a subscription box that is worth every little penny – count on that. (You guys can sign up here)

I was so excited when I found out the theme for the December box. You ready?

EPIC

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I didn’t freak out. Nope, not at all. (That’s a lie).

The first goodie I pulled out of my goodie box was this awesome little book pin. LOOK AT IT! It’s so perfect and tiny and wonderful and I have no idea what to wear it with but by golly I’m going to wear it.

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Up net, I pulled out one of the coolest things ever. GAME OF THRONES COASTERS! *gasp*

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These were, are, so perfect. I have them sitting out on the coffee table for all to see. They’re my precious babies. The art on them is beautiful, and the quality is amazing. Honestly, these are so freakin cool.

Up next, we have a blank card! For all you stationary lovers out there, this is for you. The inside is completely blank so you can send whatever you want to whomever you want. But the outside? Perfection. It’s like my childhood has come back to say hi and ask if I want a hug.

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Then I pulled out this really pretty owl skull pin and a gorgeous sticker. I have no idea what to do with the sticker, but I love it – so it shall be cherished forever.

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Last, except for the book to follow, was the cutest thing I’ve ever received in an OwlCrate box. There was a small PopFunko Harry Potter mystery box, and… I GOT HEDWIG. It’s so cute! I screamed, and freaked out, and now Hedwig sits on my desk and watches over me in my dorm.

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Now, up last, the book! When I opened my box, I had no idea what to expect. Let me tell you, hot diggity darn was I pleasantly surprised. Of Fire and Stars has been on my wishlist since forever, and now I finally have a copy! Yay! Say hello to my little friend.

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Summary from Goodreads:

Betrothed since childhood to the prince of Mynaria, Princess Dennaleia has always known what her future holds. Her marriage will seal the alliance between Mynaria and her homeland, protecting her people from other hostile lands. But Denna has a secret. She possesses an Affinity for fire—a dangerous gift for the future queen of a kingdom where magic is forbidden.


Now, Denna must learn the ways of her new home while trying to hide her growing magic. To make matters worse, she must learn to ride Mynaria’s formidable warhorses—and her teacher is the person who intimidates her most, the prickly and unconventional Princess Amaranthine—called Mare—the sister of her betrothed.

When a shocking assassination leaves the kingdom reeling, Mare and Denna reluctantly join forces to search for the culprit. As the two become closer, Mare is surprised by Denna’s intelligence and bravery, while Denna is drawn to Mare’s independent streak. And soon their friendship is threatening to blossom into something more.

But with dangerous conflict brewing that makes the alliance more important than ever, acting on their feelings could be deadly. Forced to choose between their duty and their hearts, Mare and Denna must find a way to save their kingdoms—and each other.


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Fire Color One

“Haven’t you worked it out yet?” Margot asked him.
“What?”
“Life’s big secret. If a thing’s not dangerous, it’s hardly worth doing.”

Title: Fire Color One

Author: Jenny Valentine

Series: Standalone

Publication: January 31st 2017 by Philomel Books

Pages: 240

Source: Publisher in exchange for a honest review

Summary from Goodreads:

Sixteen-year-old Iris itches constantly for the strike of a match. But when she’s caught setting one too many fires, she’s whisked away to London before she can get arrested—at least that’s the story her mother tells. Mounting debt actually drove them out of LA, and it’s greed that brings them to a home Iris doesn’t recognize, where her millionaire father—a man she’s never met—lives. Though not for much longer.

Iris’s father is dying, and her mother is determined to claim his life’s fortune, including his priceless art collection. Forced to live with him as part of an exploitive scheme, Iris soon realizes her father is far different than the man she’s been schooled to hate, and everything she thought she knew—about her father and herself—is suddenly unclear. There may be hidden beauty in Iris’s uncertain past, and future, if only she can see beyond the flames.


My Thoughts:

Sometimes an impact can be made in a short amount of space. Like poetry, Fire Color One uses its small size to pack each page full of imagery and deeper meaning. It might be a short, quick read – but it leaves a lasting impact. Fire Color One stays with you, lingering like the crisp aftertaste of a ripe apple or the scent of turpentine after painting a masterpiece. This book is art celebrating other art. It’s fresh, beautiful, and full of meaning. Fire Color Once is a magically brief glimpse into something more than normal.

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The Chemist

“You’ll make mistakes because it’s impossible to know what is or isn’t a mistake until it’s made.”

Title: The Chemist

Author: Stephenie Meyer

Series: Standalone

Publication: November 8th 2016 by Little, Brown and Company

Pages: 512

Source: Purchased

Summary from Goodreads:

She used to work for the U.S. government, but very few people ever knew that. An expert in her field, she was one of the darkest secrets of an agency so clandestine it doesn’t even have a name. And when they decided she was a liability, they came for her without warning.

Now, she rarely stays in the same place or uses the same name for long. They’ve killed the only other person she trusted, but something she knows still poses a threat. They want her dead, and soon.

When her former handler offers her a way out, she realizes it’s her only chance to erase the giant target on her back. But it means taking one last job for her ex-employers. To her horror, the information she acquires only makes her situation more dangerous.

Resolving to meet the threat head-on, she prepares for the toughest fight of her life but finds herself falling for a man who can only complicate her likelihood of survival. As she sees her choices being rapidly whittled down, she must apply her unique talents in ways she never dreamed of.

In this tautly plotted novel, Stephenie Meyer creates a fierce and fascinating new heroine with a very specialized skill set. And she shows once again why she’s one of the world’s bestselling authors.


My Thoughts:

Stephenie Meyer has done it again, it’s as simple as that. I have been an avid fan of hers since Twilight, which I grew up reading. Then The Host, which blew my mind away. Now, with The Chemist Meyer has created a high stakes world filled with the threads of what makes her writing her writing. There is romance, suspense, humor, sugar and spice and everything nice. The Chemist is an exciting dance between the intoxicating romance of The Host and the thrilling intrigue of Jason Bourne and other spy films alike.

Juliana, Alex, or whatever other name she decides to go by, was a fantastic heroine. She was smart, savvy, and a terrifying badass in the best way possible. In all honesty, I think of her as someone to look up to in a way. She took what she had, what she could do, and she made a name for herself with it. She earned respect for her skills – something often lacking. She is not a good person, not at all. She’s tortured people for her job, she’s killed, she’s done things that would make you squeamish – but she tries. She wants to be one of the good guys, until everything in her world turns upside down and the good isn’t so good anymore. Alex, the name she goes by the majority of the book, is fascinating. Sure there were flaws in the character development and the character in itself, but as a component to the story Alex was everything she needed to be. I found myself absolutely loving her analytical approach to things. It was all practical, all business, totally deadly. It was refreshing. Of course, she had her moments that made her completely believable. There was a certain vulnerability to her, too. Which, when you’ve given a character this badass skill set and background, vulnerability can be hard to believe. Meyer nailed it.

This is one of those books that I can’t talk about because I will spoil it to the moon and back. I never saw any of the twists coming, not really anyway. I found myself on the edge of my seat, waiting, salivating, trying to figure out what was going to happen next. The characters are brilliant. They are so full of life, even Einstein the dog (He was amazing and I want one).  I can’t actually judge the whole spy aspect of the book, because I have absolutely no interest or experience with anything outside of James Bond and the basics everyone watches. I, personally, found the whole thing captivating. It was well thought out, nicely executed, and dipped in the most delicious intricacies.

Overall, The Chemist was well worth the wait. Stephenie Meyer has, and always will be, an instant buy author for me. The Chemist is yet another amazing addition to her fabulous books out in the world. I can’t wait to see what she does next.


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That Burning Summer

Title: That Burning Summer

Author: Lydia Syson

Series: Standalone

Publication:  January 24th 2017 by Sky Pony Press

Pages: 336

Source: Netgalley

Summary from Goodreads:

It’s July 1940 on the south coast of England. A plane crash-lands in the marsh, and sixteen-year-old Peggy finds its broken pilot—a young Polish airman named Henryk. Afraid and unwilling to return to the fight, Henryk needs a place to hide, and Peggy helps him find his way to a remote, abandoned church.

Meanwhile, Peggy’s eleven-year-old brother Ernest is doing his best to try to understand the war happening around him. He’s reading all the pamphlets—he knows all the rules, he knows exactly what to do in every situation. He’s prepared, but not for Peggy’s hidden pilot.

Told in alternating points of view, this is a beautifully written story about growing up in wartime and finding the difference between following the rules and following your heart.


My Thoughts:

I’m going to come right out and say it: I struggled immensely with this book. I couldn’t get into it, though the premise sounded promising. I didn’t believe the characters. I didn’t understand motivations. There was no character development. That Burning Summer sounded like a good idea, and it started off in the right direction, but it soon fell downhill into a cesspit of its own making.

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Frozen Tides

“Because if you don’t choose to fight against the wrong in the world, then you are the wrong in the world.”

Title: Frozen Tides

Author: Morgan Rhodes

Series: Falling Kingdoms # 4

Publication: December 15th 2015 by Razorbill

Pages: 413

Source: Purchased

Summary from Goodreads:

Rebels, royals, and monsters wage war over the Mytican throne in the shocking fourth book of the Falling Kingdoms series, from New York Times bestselling author Morgan Rhodes.

CLEO: Reeling after a bloody showdown in Limeros ending with Amara’s abduction of the water crystal, and a vacancy in the Mytican throne, Princess Cleo must cast aside her feelings and look toward her kingdom with the eyes of a Queen.

MAGNUS: With the kingdom in chaos, Princess Lucia still missing and quite possibly in danger, and a shocking realization about Cleo, the steely prince is once again torn between love and duty, leaving him wondering whether he’s strong enough to rule his people.

LUCIA: The young sorcercess has had her vengeance after the cruel death of her first and only love. Heartbroken and unable to trust anyone, she allies with the awoken Fire god, who also seeks revenge.

JONAS: After escaping death by the skin of his teeth, the defeated rebel—along with a mysterious stranger–leader reunites with Princess Cleo, only to find himself a mere pawn in a dangerous hunt for the elusive Kindred.

KING GAIUS: Abandoned by Melenia and betrayed by his own children, Gaius flees Mytica and sails to Kraeshia, where he attempts to ally with the famously brutal emperor across the Silver Sea.


Another List of Thoughts:

  • I still think Magnus is a horrible human being who uses his daddy issues as an excuse to do bad things and ignore the guilt (but I still like him. Does this make me a bad person?)

  • Lucia drives me nuttier than Kyan – and that’s saying something. STOP MAKING EXCUSES FOR DOING HORRIBLE THINGS DAMORA FAMILY. Gosh.
  • Cleo makes my heart do singy happy dances. Go get it girl, seriously. She’s amazing. Cleo is the only character I actually support in this mess. (But I still love Magnus.)

  • I can’t tell if I want to hug Jonas, kick him where it hurts, or give him a rabbits foot to possibly change his string of luck.

  • Too much plot, not enough time. But hot darn was it good.
  • FINALLY! FINALLY!

This book will make you question things you think you’ve figured out in the series. It will leave you experiences heartbreak, surprising laughter, and the faintest amounts of fangirling (that’s a lie, fangirling is to epic proportions). Alliances shift, some break, and new ones form. Long story short, it was fan-freaking-tastic.


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Gathering Darkness

“You don’t cry when someone pushes you down. You get up. You get up and you fight back. And pretty soon nobody’s going to shove you anymore because they’ll see it’s not worth it.”

Title: Gathering Darkness

Author: Morgan Rhodes

Series: Falling Kingdoms # 3

Publication: December 9th 2014 by Razorbill

Pages: 416

Source: Purchased

Summary from Goodreads:

In GATHERING DARKNESS, book three of the New York Times bestselling Falling Kingdoms series, the stakes have never been higher as three teams push forward on a race to find the Kindred, the four elemental crystals possessing ancient all-powerful magic, first:

Prince Magnus has just witnessed torture, death, and miracles during the bloody confrontation that decimated the rebel forces. Now he must choose between family and justice as his father, the cruel King Gaius, sets out to conquer all of Mytica. All Gaius needs now are the Kindred – the four elemental crystals that give godlike powers to their owner. But the King of Blood is not the only one hunting for this ancient, storied magic…

THE KRAESHIANS join the hunt. Ashur and Amara, the royal siblings from the wealthy kingdom across the Silver Sea, charm and manipulate their way to the Kindred, proving to be more ruthless than perhaps even the King of Blood himself.

THE REBELS forge ahead. Princess Cleo and vengeful Jonas lead them, slaying with sweetness, skill, and a secret that can control Lucia’s overpowering magic – all so they can use the Kindred to win back their fallen kingdoms.

THE WATCHERS follow Melenia out of the Sanctuary. They ally in the flesh with King Gaius, who vows to use Lucia’s powers to unveil the Kindred.

The only certainty in the dark times is that whoever finds the magic first will control the fate of Mytica… but fate can be fickle when magic is involved.


My Thoughts:

Finally! This series was off to a meh sort of start for me, but it has finally picked up the pace. While the ever present problems I have with some of the story telling and methods are still very much alive and kicking in this third installment, there is also a light shining through the other end for once. Gathering Darkness, much like the other books in the series, is full of unnecessary deaths and awkward confrontations. However, Gathering Darkness also brings a fire the other books have been lacking. It is adventurous, heart pounding, and it takes constant unexpected turns. One thing I do enjoy about these books is that I never know what’s actually going to happen. Gathering Darkness feeds of the success of the previous books while also highlighting a new region of unexplored territory. It is a much needed addition to this series.

Like I said, my main problems are still very prevalent. One of my biggest issues is the constant death. I am not opposed to killing characters (not in the literary standpoint, at least. As a fangirl, hell yes I’m opposed). I am, however, not akin to just killing them off. There is so much death, people are dying left and right and it is completely taking away the power of their deaths. Huge main characters have died and more will keep dying; the problem is that there is no meaning in their deaths. I honestly feel like the characters are being killed off just because she can’t think of anything better to do. It doesn’t further the plot and I feel absolutely nothing but annoyance when they die. My thoughts instantly turn to – oh lookie, there goes another one. Too much of a good thing can be bad, and these books are a prime example of it.

My second issue is the relationships between all of the characters. This is a problem that has been around since book one and has yet to dissipate or fix itself. The characters all fall in love like Romeo after he gets dumped by Rosaline: BOOM. One second they can be talking and the next they are kissing and there has been no romantic tension build up whatsoever. There is only one relationship that has actual grounds and it is the least likely one to happen. Everyone loves Cleo, but Cleo likes Nic, Jonas, and Magnus? Wait, what? I am honestly so confused with everything when it comes to the characters interacting. It’s all hot and cold. “I HATE YOU” and then they’re making out or something. None of the relationships have plausible grounds. I ship nothing with nothing – and that’s a problem for me.

Anywho, problems aside, Gathering Darkness did bring a lot of things to the table. It was exciting, entertaining, and thought provoking at points. I finally could feel and hope for some of the characters. I had a purpose to reading, I had a side I had chosen. Previously, I was reading just to read and see if something got better. Now? I wan’t to see success, I want to see vengeance. I actually want to see what happens to the characters – and that is a vast improvement over my prior feelings towards the books. Gathering Darkness is the perfect third installment, it was just enough to rejuvenate my interests.


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The Radius of Us

“And maybe one day soon, there will be more. But for now this is what we are.”

Title: The Radius of Us

Author: Marie Marquardt

Series: Standalone

Publication: January 17th 2017 by St. Martin’s Griffin

Pages:304

Source: Netgalley

Summary from Goodreads:

Ninety seconds can change a life — not just daily routine, but who you are as a person. Gretchen Asher knows this, because that’s how long a stranger held her body to the ground. When a car sped toward them and Gretchen’s attacker told her to run, she recognized a surprising terror in his eyes. And now she doesn’t even recognize herself.

Ninety seconds can change a life — not just the place you live, but the person others think you are. Phoenix Flores-Flores knows this, because months after setting off toward the U.S. / Mexico border in search of safety for his brother, he finally walked out of detention. But Phoenix didn’t just trade a perilous barrio in El Salvador for a leafy suburb in Atlanta. He became that person — the one his new neighbors crossed the street to avoid.

Ninety seconds can change a life — so how will the ninety seconds of Gretchen and Phoenix’s first encounter change theirs?

Told in alternating first person points of view, The Radius of Us is a story of love, sacrifice, and the journey from victim to survivor. It offers an intimate glimpse into the causes and devastating impact of Latino gang violence, both in the U.S. and in Central America, and explores the risks that victims take when they try to start over. Most importantly, Marie Marquardt’s The Radius of Us shows how people struggling to overcome trauma can find healing in love.


My Thoughts:

Sometimes you just need to sit down and read a contemporary that does something to you; whether it makes you laugh, cry, or daydream – but just something. The Radius of Us does just that with surprising feeling and consideration. It’s not often that a book handles the not so easy to discuss in society with grace, poise, and a beautiful mixture of language and story.

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