Top Ten Tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday is a meme created over at The Broke and the Bookish that allows us to list our top ten answers to a different question each week.

This week is a freebie week, and I’ve decided to do: Top Ten Books That Made Me Cry

Disclaimer: I am not proud of my reaction to many of the following books. Procede your own risk (well, really, it’s a risk to my credibility as a blogger, but regardless…).

1. The Host by Stephanie Meyer
I’m not a hardcore Twilight hater. I’ll admit, I have the books, and while they don’t tend to make their way into my reread pile, I probably won’t discard them anytime soon (all flaws and abusive relationship portrayals aside). The same goes for the movie (though luckily, I have enough pride to have limited myself to owning only the first, and that’s because it’s hilarious[ly bad]). However, I actually think The Host is rather underrated. Meyer will never be a literary author, but after slogging through the first two-hundred pages, I was shocked to find myself tearing through this. And when I reached the end, I was sobbing: big, heaving, ugly sobs. I’m not saying it’s great literature, but give it a chance; it might surprise you.
2. A Walk to Remember by Nicholas Sparks
All kidding aside, Sparks isn’t an author who usually makes it onto my TBR list. However, I hold a special place in my heart and on my bookshelf for this one title. I’m not quite sure why, because I really don’t like Jamie very much, but Landon gets to me every time. The setting (unlike the movie, the book is set in the 1950s) also really works for me. I like that Sparks left the ending of the book purposefully ambiguous, because otherwise I would be an utter wreck whenever I finished this one.
3. The Piper’s Son by Melina Marchetta
This book gutted me, utterly. It remains my favorite Marchetta title, and Tom is my absolute favorite of her characters. The intertwining of his troubles with those of his family is painfully raw, and though he manages to come out in a positive place, the journey is excruciating at times.
4. If I Stay by Gayle Forman
I wasn’t a huge fan of Forman’s If I Stay duology, but I have to admit that the first book did have me teary-eyed at times. It was more of a mist than a full cry, but it gets credit nonetheless.
5. The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger
The Time Traveler’s Wife ruined me for all other books for months. I still haven’t gotten over the beautiful tragedy of Claire and Henry’s romance, and I doubt I ever will. This is one title that, as much as I loved it, I haven’t been able to reread since my first experience because I just can’t bear putting myself through the pain a second time.
6. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling
Alright, I admit it. For as much as I’ve ragged on Rowling’s writing in the past, this last one got to me. I believe that Fred’s death was what did me in (same goes for the movie the first couple of times I saw it). And for those who haven’t yet read or watched Harry Potter…whoops.
7. Lover Awakened/Lover Mine by J.R. Ward
These two are by far my favorite installments in the Black Dagger Brotherhood series. After a dubious start with Dark Lover, Ward managed to create a world and characters so dynamic that my heart beats alongside theirs despite the more ridiculous elements of the stories (slang and product-placement being among its foremost flaws). Zsadist and Bella, John Matthew and Xhex: my favorite couple is a toss-up on any given day. Of course, that’s not including Qhuinn and Blay, the conclusion to whose story we will finally be getting next year.
8. A Separate Peace by John Knowles
This book nearly collided with a wall. When I think of reading experiences in which I became fully immersed in the story, to the point where the outside world ceased to exist, this one usually to comes to mind. The last few pages threatened to shatter the delicate thread of emotion that had built up within my seventh-grade heart throughout the day.
9. The Fault In Our Stars by John Green
I read spoilers. I read the last page of a book before I buy it. I knew what I was getting into. That didn’t make the inevitable any less severe. I fell in love despite myself, knowing all along that my heart would get broken, and even so, I’m already looking forward to my next reread.
That’s all she wrote for this week. My choices are a bit unconventional, to say the least. What can I say; I’m a hardened cynic except for when I’m not, and that’s usually at unexpected times. Are there any books that are guaranteed tear-jerkers that I’ve omitted?
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Title and Cover Release: Lover At Last by J.R. Ward

Earlier last week, J.R. Ward teased fans that we should be expecting an exciting reveal soon. Well, this morning she delivered on her promise, revealing not only the title of the next book in the Black Dagger Brotherhood series, but the cover as well!

Fans have been clamoring for Qhuinn and Blay to have their story elevated from a sideplot for years now. Last year, Ward stated that she believed her publishers would allow her to tell Qhuay’s story in a novella. Then, late last year, Ward hinted that she had huge news to reveal at the signing for Lover Reborn. Qhuay fans rejoiced and crossed our fingers that our wishes had actually been granted, and in March of this year our waiting finally paid off as we received the news that the next full-length installment in the BDB series would in fact be Qhuay’s story.

Lover At Last by J.R. Ward

Lover At Last, indeed, as this story has been fueling the series slowly on the sidelines since Lover Unbound was released back in 2007. Not only am I very pleased with the final title selection for Qhuay’s novel, but the cover is nearly perfect. I love how Qhuinn is depicted quite differently than the rest of the Brothers who have come before him; that sweatshirt hood really works wonders to set him apart. And it definitely is Qhuinn, based on those electric blue and green eyes. My only regret is that the publishers didn’t push the envelope that last inch and let Blay grace the cover alongside his partner, but if only one character could get the cover spotlight, I’m glad they chose Qhuinn. Though I love both characters, I’ve found Qhuinn’s development over the last few books to be the more dynamic of the two and, if indications from Lover Reborn play out the way I expect them to, then Qhuinn will soon be inducted as the newest member of the Brotherhood, so it’s only fitting that it’s him on the cover.

What do you guys think? Has the wait been worth it? Are you happy with the title and cover, or would you have gone in a different direction? And most importantly, is everyone as anxious for March 2013 to get here as I am?

It’s Monday! What are you reading?

It’s Monday! What are you reading? is a meme created at Book Journey to catalogue everything read in the past week, what you’re working on now, and what you hope to get to in the coming week.

I’m poised at the edge of the semester, and finals are just around the corner, so it will likely be another light reading week for me.

The Past Week

Lover Reborn by J.R. Ward

Wicked As They Come by Delilah S. Dawson

Reading Now

Black Heart by Holly Black

The Week Ahead

Heart of Steel by Meljean Brook

Review: Lover Reborn by J.R. Ward

Verily, I do believe this was a letdown.

Before I get started on one of the several ensuing rants, let me preface this review by stating that the Black Dagger Brotherhood series remains one of my favorite of the genre. I still anticipate the next book as soon as I’ve finished the last, and I run out to the bookstore to buy it as soon as I can. Considering the fact that my taste for paranormal fiction in general has been waning of late, it’s a testament to the strength of the characters Ward creates that my loyalty to her books remains steadfast. Truly, had this been a book by any other author, I might have been persuaded to rate it more highly, but knowing what the Warden is capable of, I couldn’t ignore the fact that Lover Reborn just didn’t capture me the way most of the previous books have.

Lover Reborn by J.R. Ward

While a large portion of Ward’s fan base was disappointed with her last effort, Lover Unleashed, I actually enjoyed Payne’s story far more than I thought I would. Setting aside grievances such as the fact that we hadn’t gotten to know the protagonists that well in previous books and the ever-annoying instalove, Ward managed to convince me of Payne and Manny’s feelings.

Unfortunately, where reading early negative reviews made my ultimate reaction to Lover Unleashed a pleasant surprise, I fear the inverse affected my reading experience for Lover Reborn. A glowing rating on Goodreads and reviews praising the book as Ward getting back to form had my anticipations pretty darn high going into this one, but I should have known better. For one thing, while I’m sure I’m in the minority with this opinion, I’ve never really warmed up to Tohr. Despite having known the Brother since the very beginning, I’ve never gotten a grasp on his personality as I have the other Brothers, and that which I did see I never clicked with. Even before losing his Shellan early in the series, his persona seemed somewhat bland in comparison to the other dynamic characters residing at the Brotherhood mansion; after Wellsie died, his absence from the next several books and ghostly presence in the last few did little to further endear me to him, despite feeling sorry for the trials he’s been forced to endure.

Lover Reborn did little to change my opinion of Tohr, and rather effectively sealed the deal that the most I will feel toward his character is ambivalence. This is generous, considering the fact that I could go so far as to say he struck me as a petulant, selfish scoundrel throughout many parts of the book, and I don’t think he did nearly enough to deserve having those epithets erased from his character description. While I can only guess at the pain and misery attendant with losing a mate and a child, Tohr’s interactions with John throughout previous books and No’One in this book left much to be desired from the once compassionate Brother who served as a pillar of strength for those he loved. The way he treats No’One in particular is inexcusable; I don’t care whether it was his idea to start with, because the manner in which he proceeded to deal with her was callous and shallow and made me yearn for the days when Ward’s main romance had my stomach twisted in knots from happiness rather than disgust.

That being said, I shake my head at Ward’s insistence that this was the right time to allow Tohr’s story to progress and, necessarily, to have him move on from Wellsie’s death. Though the series is going onto double digits now, looking back over the chronology of the series, most of the events have taken place over the course of two to three years, by my calculations. This is set against the backdrop of a series of characters who have already lived for centuries, which leads me to wonder how it could be that all of these characters who have searched for their mates for so very long could all be fortunate enough to have found them in such a short window of time. Fifteen months is no time at all in the real world to expect someone to have moved on from a grief so great, so it makes no sense to me for Tohr’s brothers to pressure him to do the same in a timeframe that, for them, should be no more than the blink of an eye. Crafting a convenient (and heretofore unheard of) plot device like the In Between didn’t help me to swallow this hefty pill, and conditioning Tohr’s relationship with No’One on helping him to save Wellsie left a bitter taste in my mouth.

While I can see how, in another time and place, allowing a past love to inspire a new one could be a beautiful tribute, Lover Reborn didn’t capture that sentiment. Had Ward allowed Tohr’s grieving process to play out in the sidelines of another novel, then his gradual acclimation to a life without Wellsie could have been a lovely sort of second love story, one with a bittersweet ending that would open the door to potential love in the future. Yet he wasn’t ready for this, and neither was I as the reader. I assume that we were supposed to get swept up in Tohr unknowingly falling in love with No’One in the midst of ardent self-denial, but that denial was too effective in my case, because I never saw anything beyond lust on Tohr’s part, making the ultimate love declaration too abrupt and hollow to save the five-hundred pages that had gone before.

What makes this lost potential more disappointing is the fact that I actually didn’t mind No’One. Granted, this isn’t a ringing endorsement of her character, but based on Ward’s past depictions of members of the Chosen and Glymera, I was expecting yet another weak-willed, subservient woman whose sole purpose was to please any male within twenty feet of the vicinity. While No’One did occasionally lapse in into the “verily” and “mayhaps” mould, she was by far the most headstrong of all such female characters we’ve been introduced to. I had little trouble believing that her martyr-like tendencies developed not out of the anachronistic trappings of her caste, but rather from a self-imposed punishment for the pains in her past. I warmed to her enough to respect her decisions, yet for someone whose convictions have led her to forsake her family, her friends, her name, her very existence, I could not understand how she so easily allowed Tohr to strip her of the trappings that she’s clung to for centuries. Ward lets us inside her head, but never to analyze her own emotions, an odd choice considering the fact that she was a protagonist.

That being said, what saved this book for me were the side stories, which probably didn’t comprise more than a sixth of the overall book, yet that shined far more brightly than the main storyline. First, might I say, thank the Scribe Virgin for Xhex. She’s long been my favorite female character in the series (and one of my favorites overall), and I’m so glad Ward hasn’t sacrificed her character development for the sake of allowing the overarching plot to progress in whatever fashion Ward is deadset upon. That’s not to say that I particularly enjoyed watching Xhex and John’s relationship strained so soon after mating, but it was believable and completely in keeping with their characters. Even in the midst of a marital crisis, their scenes were ten times as passionate as any of Tohr and No’One’s encounters, which does much to recommend what has turned out to be one of my top relationships in the series. I would have liked to witness first-hand Xhex and No’One forge the tentative bonds of a mother-daughter relationship rather than being relegated to gleaming knowledge from the sidelines, but I’m glad Ward went there nonetheless as Xhex has long needed some validation, no matter how self-sufficient she claims to be.

I’m still not sure I’m all behind the Band of Brothers storyline (though it’s a marked improvement from the Lesser chapters that proliferated in earlier novels), yet I’m warming to Throe and am open to the possibility of saying the same for Xcor. I don’t particularly like him much yet, and the fact that both of them seem fixated on Layla does little to convince me of either character’s worth or sanity, yet I can see Ward developing these three relationships in an interesting way in future novels. At least it gives her a few more characters to play with, since she seems to be running out at the moment. One big exception to that is Lassiter, whom I’ve never felt strongly about in the past, but I’m happy to say has secured a firm place in my heart after the events of this book. I’m glad to hear he has his own story in the works, though I hope it takes place in the Black Dagger world as opposed to the Fallen Angel series.

Of course, the main reason I read this book wound up occupying perhaps twenty pages in total, yet they were definitely worth it. In unison, all Qhuay lovers rejoice, because their time has indeed come, and while I am quite frankly furious with some of the choices Ward made in this novel that will have enormous ramifications in their story, I’m willing to forgive her at the moment because nothing can eclipse my joy over the fact that the next full novel will finally see these two friends fight for the relationship that has been a long time coming. Qhuinn’s character development was lovely to watch in this book, as he’s finally grown into the man he was always meant to be. My only tears came during one very important scene regarding his character, and the significance it has for the future is so very much deserved. While it’s still painful to watch Blay and Saxton together, I do hope that Ward has something special for Sax waiting in the wings, because honestly, that man is a saint not only to put up with what he has, but to voluntarily become the instrument that will allow this couple to grasp their future together.

I could wax poetic about my unhealthily high expectations for the next book, or about my fears that Ward won’t be able to overcome some of the awful decisions she’s made regarding their relationship so far, or about how much I wish Layla had remained a pretty little scribble of an idea on a margin of a page of Ward’s notebook rather than a presence that will likely pollute close to a third of the upcoming novel. For now, I’ll simply say that for fans of the Brothers, this book is a necessary step, if not the backslide that was Lover Enshrined, yet it doesn’t approach Ward’s best work. Still, it’s better than most of its peers, and portends great things for the future of the series.

In My Mailbox

In My Mailbox is a meme created by Kristi over at The Story Siren to share new book acquisitions, whether bought, gifted, received for review, borrowed, or won.

Bought

  • Illusion by Paula Volsky
  • Shadows Return by Lynn Flewelling
  • Mélusine by Sarah Monette
  • Sorcery and Cecilia by Patricia C. Wrede and Caroline Stevermer
  • Beauty by Robin McKinley
  • Black Night by Christina Henry
  • Of Darkness, Light, and Fire (Gate of Darkness, Circle of Light & The Fire’s Stone) by Tanya Huff
  • Trickster’s Choice by Tamora Pierce
  • Jenna Starborn by Sharon Shinn
  • Tangled Webs by Anne Bishop
Gifted
  • Archangel by Sharon Shinn
  • The Seer and the Sword by Victoria Hanley
  • The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
  • Glimpses by Lynn Flewelling
  • Lover Reborn by J.R. Ward

Top Ten Tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday is a meme created over at The Broke and the Bookish that allows us to list our top ten answers to a different question each week.

This week’s theme is: Top Ten Book on My Spring TBR List

1. Froi of the Exiles by Melina Marchetta

Considering that I’ve read and loved every Marchetta book I’ve come across (and that includes every young adult title she’s written), this one is a given. Add in the fact that my tastes have been running toward the epic fantasy genre lately, and I’m salivating for this title.

2. Casket of Souls by Lynn Flewelling

Since recently discovering Flewelling’s Nightrunner series, I’ve been feverishly reading through Alec and Seregil’s adventures. I count myself lucky that I’ve come upon these books after Flewelling has already written five; I can’t imagine the torture of waiting for each new installment since 1996.

3. Lover Reborn by J.R. Ward

I’m trying to keep my expectations in check, since I’ve heard enough rumors to let me know that the storyline so many of the Warden’s fans have been waiting for takes a step back in this book before its inevitable leap forward.

4. Discount Armageddon by Seanan McGuire

I’ve gotten a few recommendations for this title, and since McGuire’s Toby Daye series counts among my favorites, I have high hopes for this new series. The fact that it focuses on cryptids is a bonus.

5. Wicked As They Come by Delilah Dawson

This paranormal title sounds like the perfect blend of sexy and strange.

6. Alien Diplomacy by Gini Koch

I’m hoping that the fifth in the Kitty Katt series returns to the high octane adventure and humor formula of previous installments, but I’ll settle for anything I can get from these crazy A-C’s.

7. Black Heart by Holly Black

Black’s Curse Workers series is one of the most original young adult urban fantasy series I’ve come across. I’m on the edge of my seat for this conclusion to the trilogy.

8. Tangle of Need by Nalini Singh

Singh’s Psy-Changeling series has been a tad hit-or-miss for me, but I like many of her readers am eagerly anticipating seeing where this series goes in its second story arc (and hope that Kaleb gets his own book soon).

9. Insurgent by Veronica Roth

Roth’s Divergent is one of the few young adult dystopian novels to have captured my interest last year. I’m interested to see how she develops her world in this sequel.

10. Bitterblue by Kristen Cashore

I didn’t love Fire as much as I did Graceling, but Cashore’s elegant way with words, intriguing epic fantasy setting, and unusual love stories have me anxiously awaiting the third release in her Seven Kingdoms series.

Top Ten Tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday is a meme created over at The Broke and the Bookish that allows us to list our top ten answers to a different question each week.

This week’s theme is: Top Ten Books I’m Excited To Read in 2012

1. Lover Reborn by J.R. Ward

2. Doubletake by Rob Thurman

3. Ashes of Honor by Seanan McGuire

4. Mind Games by Carolyn Crane

5. Black Heart by Holly Black

6. Graffiti Moon by Cath Crowley

7. Lothaire by Kresley Cole

8. Once Burned by Jeaniene Frost

9. Froi of the Exiles by Melina Marchetta

10. Endgame by Ann Aguirre