Book Review

Book Review: China Rich Girlfriend by Kevin Kwan


china-rich-girlfriend-book-coverTitle:
China Rich Girlfriend

Series: Crazy Rich Asians #2

Author: Kevin Kwan

Publisher: Doubleday {imprint of Knopf}

Date Published: June 16, 2015

Format: Hardcover {Library}

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I really enjoyed the first part of this series; Crazy Rich Asians was a lovely little surprise for me last year. I usually don’t read too much contemporary and it’s beyond rare to find a book that will make me laugh (particularly in the out-loud-while-sitting in-a-coffee-shop-and-drawing-stares variety). All of this considered, I was very excited for this book! I had heard from friends that this sequel wasn’t as good as the first, so my expectations were somewhat tempered. While I agree it wasn’t as amazing, this book was tons of fun!

China Rich Girlfriend picks up 2 years after the first book ended. Rachel and Nick are about to get married, Astrid is still married to the increasingly wealthy (and awful) Michael, and their numerous aunts and uncles are still finding things to get upset about, from serious to ludicrous. While Crazy Rich Asians was mostly about Rachel being introduced to her boyfriend’s ridiculously wealthy family and trying to gain their acceptance, this book introduces us to Rachel’s mystery father and his family comes with a whole host of problems. Surprise, surprise, they are also billionaires (what would be the fun if they weren’t? :P)!

I totally recommend this to someone looking for a beach/vacation read or just in need of some entertainment. The characters are pretty much the same as the first book, don’t expect too much growth or enlightenment here, but I didn’t feel that was the point of the book. This is a sneak peek into this wealthy lifestyle and I’m not looking for major character growth. Don’t get me wrong, Rachel and Astrid, in particular, are lovely, but many of the side characters are flat. I did find the new characters from Rachel’s family, entertaining and there were some good stories there. I’ll refrain from saying too much in the review, but they are different from what we’ve seen before.

I will add, I am really happy that there is a third book in this series. It ends in an unsatisfying way, it’s not a cliffhanger or anything horrible, but my thoughts about the book would’ve been more negative if I thought it was the conclusion to the story.

Cover Critique: I love the covers to this series. I will shamelessly say that the covers are the reasons I wanted to read them in the first place! They are very graphic and simple, and I adore the bright colors. The paperback of China Rich Girlfriend has a different cover, which I also really like. I do think it makes a better pair with the paperback of Crazy Rich Asians than this one does, since they are both just faces rocking some awesome earrings.

Quick Version: This is a perfect summer read. And by summer read I mean something that will make you laugh and enjoy some soap-opera-level drama. China Rich Girlfriend is a charming book that excels in pulling you into its lavish world. The characters, apart from the main few, are fairly two-dimensional, but from the way Kwan writes them they still feel like people. Money can bring out the peculiarity in people and this book captures this in an entertaining way.

Score: 4 stars 

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Book Review: The Courtesan by Alexandra Curry

76bb0ddee4f2bc28810f6a7067006eeb1Title: The Courtesan

Author: Alexandra Curry

Publisher: Dutton [imprint of Penguin Random House]

Date Published: September 8, 2015

Format: Hardcover

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Sai Jinhua is only seven-years-old when her father is executed and leaves her all alone. As the daughter of her father’s adored concubine, she may have been his treasure, but his first wife does not see her in the same way. Left in ruins with a girl she despises, she sells young, sheltered Jinhua for seven silver coins. Jinhua is eventually sold to a brothel and her life takes an ugly turn. From having a father who refused to let anyone bind his little girl’s feet, she has her feet broken and destroyed. For their investment in her, she is expected to become a “money tree” at the brothel when she reaches the ripe old age of twelve. Her only joy at this time in her life is her friendship with the crippled maid (crippled by a foot-binding gone wrong) at the brothel, who becomes her sister.

The Courtesan is a beautifully written novel inspired by the real-life courtesan Sai Jinhua. She lived during a tumultuous time in China’s history (end of the Qing dynasty, the Boxer rebellion, and invasion by European powers, for example) and tended to find herself in the middle of it. Eventually she is taken out of the brothel and an old, peculiar scholar makes her into his concubine. With him she travels the world. He is named the ambassador from China to the Austro-Hungarian Empire and while he dreads leaving the homeland, Jinhua flourishes abroad. She tries her hardest to learn about this new world while her husband will not allow her to leave the house or take guests. However, little by little Jinhua starts to find her freedom.

Curry takes many liberties with the life of Jinhua, but there is not much concrete known about her life in the first place. She has become a figure of legend in China where people debate the veracity of almost every aspect of her life. I wasn’t bothered by this, though. Curry embraces this mysteriousness in the novel. She skips time periods in Jinhua’s life and at times (especially towards the end of novel) the novel feels like a series of elongated vignettes and poetic moments. This novel excels in my favorite part of historical fiction novels, which is crafting a character that feels real. Sometimes this genre gets so bogged down by accuracy that it neglects to make these legendary figures feel human and to give context for their world and actions.

This novel is truly about the search for freedom. Jinhua was owned for most of her life. She was either paying off a huge debt to a brothel or being a concubine to a man who saw her as something she wasn’t. She pays some huge prices for this throughout the novel. Her strife is mirrored by her friend, Suyin, who does not have the luxury/curse of being beautiful and desired. While Jinhua is the lead character without question, Suyin does play an important role in the novel and without her I feel that it would’ve been a lesser book.

Cover Critique: It’s so beautiful. I love the painting they chose for the cover. She looks so guarded and shy, while still being beautiful and intriguing. I also really like the title and author’s name on those two strokes of paint. The painting behind them is so realistically done and perfect, and those two slashes show a impulsive and emotional quality to the book.

Quick Version: The Courtesan is a book about a near-mythic, mysterious, controversial figure of Sai Jinhua. She went from young “money tree” at a brothel to a woman who traveled the world and influenced key political figures in early 20th century China. Curry weaves her tale with a focus on poetic language and immersing the reader into Jinhua’s emotions and experiences. I sadly didn’t know anything at all about Jinhua before reading this book and I’m left with a desire to learn more, which is something that all good historical fiction does.

Score: 5 stars 

 

 

Book Review: Wolf by Wolf by Ryan Graudin

Title: Wolf by Wolf

Author: Ryan Graudin

Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers [imprint of Hachette]

Date Published: October 20, 2015

Format: ARC {Received in exchange of a fair review}

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Yael wants Hitler dead. She is willing to do anything to see this man pay for what he has done to the world and her people. When she was a little girl she was taken to a death camp and after a being subjected to horrible experiments, she managed to escape. It’s now 1956 and Germany and Japan have carved up the world between them. A rebel group sees their chance to execute the Führer by entering Yael into the annual motorcycle race that crosses Asia, from Europe to Japan, which if she wins, we get her close enough to end him. The Nazi experiments left Yael with the ability to change her appearance. She must imitate last year’s female victor (Adele) to try to win again, but she does not anticipate Adele’s twin brother and a jilted boyfriend to also be in the race testing her cover at every moment.

I’m not usually into alternate histories. Alternate WWII stories, especially, tend to be everywhere and after a while they just seem to have more fun playing with ‘what-ifs’ than actually telling a good story and developing intriguing characters. Wolf by Wolf does an excellent job of not falling into that trap. It is original, clever, fast-paced, and the world is very well-developed.

Yael is a well-crafted character. She is damaged and because of her abilities she has spent most of her teenage life pretending to be the enemy. She can’t even remember what she used to look like before the experiments erased her identity, but Yael still manages to have a strong sense of self. The one thing that she cannot erase when she changes skin are the numbers stamped into her skin. She decides to hide these with elaborate wolf tattoos to represent people she has lost and what she is fighting for. It helps her remember who she is and even though it would be so easy, she doesn’t just run away from it all and blend in with the population. While racing and interacting with other racers we see her world expand and her character grow more and more.

Cover Critique: It looks like a WWII propaganda poster (what a surprise! 😛 ). I think it works perfectly for this book. I like it.

Quick Version: Really interesting and entertaining take on the Axis powers had winning WWII. The world is interesting and thought-provoking, the motorcycle race is entertaining, and the protagonist, Yael, made you want to keep reading and rooting for her. I didn’t know until I was at the end of the book that this was part of a series and while that lead to this ending being a bit anti-climatic, I still really enjoyed it and will definitely be reading the sequel.

Score: 4.5/5 stars

 

Book Review: Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

Title: Ready Player One

Author: Ernest Cline

Publisher: Random House

Date Published: August 16th 2011

Format: Paperback {own}

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I had been reluctant to read this book for so long. My husband and brother have been recommending this to me nonstop for the past year, and even though it sounded perfect for me, I was reluctant to take the plunge. Sometimes when people recommend things to you so much, you are afraid that you won’t like it or that you’ll somehow be disappointed. I’m beyond glad to say that this was not the case with Ready Player One. This book lives up to all it’s much deserved hype and it not only met my expectations, it exceeded them!

Wade Watts is a about to graduate from high school and his life isn’t going too great. It’s 2044 and the world is an ugly place. The only place that he, and most of the world, feel alive is inside the virtual world of OASIS. Everything for him happens inside his headset, including school and meeting friends. He hasn’t known much of a life outside of OASIS and has spent the majority of his childhood obsessed with finding clues to the secret the creator, James Halliday, left inside the game. In his will, Halliday promised that whoever solves the puzzles will inherit the company, which means control over OASIS and becoming a multi-billionaire. Halliday was an 80’s nut and completely obsessed with video games and geeky pop culture. The hunt for clues has stalled and everyone thinks that nothing will ever be found, but one day under-leveled Wade finds a clue. This turns everything on its head and the race ramps up. During the competition Wade finds out that there are big forces going after this prize and more than OASIS is at stake.

I’m a big 80’s nut and complete geek, anyone who knows me in real life can definitely attest to this. 😛 I’m the child of two 80’s obsessed parents, so my childhood consisted of a steady diet of John Hughes, action/scifi films, and 80’s songs. And while these references are entertaining and it’s amusing when you know exactly what obscure movie moment they’re referring to, it’s not what’s best about this book. Ready Player One manages to balance heart and brain better than most other scifi/dystopian titles. It’s very clever, but it doesn’t revel in its own intelligence. There are many different references that I didn’t understand at all (like specifics about old arcade games), but it didn’t lessen my enjoyment of those moments. Wade beating a game of Pac-Man is actually amusing to read about, which if you’ve ever watched anyone play it that’s pretty impressive. Even if we’ve never cared about beating Pac-Man that much, we can all relate to trying prove yourself better than the rest, whether it’s in a game or in real life.

The stakes always felt very high in this book. Many times with these types of stories you never really feel anxious for these players. Like, if they don’t make it, they’ll still be fine in the end. Cline does an excellent job of ramping up the consequences for the characters’ actions as the story goes on. It’s not a story about saving the world from Sauron or anyone who’s going to blow the planet to smithereens, but while you’re reading you do feel like if the protagonists don’t come out on top, many bad things would happen to them and to society.

Cover Critique: I really like this cover for the book and the original one. They both share the title in a huge font, spanning basically the entire cover. It makes for a striking and memorable image. The original is a little more graphic, since it is just yellow words on a red background. But that combination of colors has never been my favorite and makes the book look a little more dated, which considering the 80’s fest, is probably intentional. The cover I used on the post is the one I have, and I really like the illustration. It’s really well done and easily shows you just how bad the world outside this game is.

Quick Version: Ready Player One is an extremely entertaining book that you can easily read in a couple of days. It’s quick-paced and funny, and also makes you care so much for its cast of unique characters. While it does help to be a fan of 80’s pop culture and/or video games to get into it, the book does a good job of explaining these topics enough that you don’t have to be an expert to enjoy the novel.

Score: 5/5 stars 😎

Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon 

 

18692431Title: Everything, Everything

Author: Nicola Yoon

Publisher: Delacorte Press [imprint of Penguin Random House]

Date Published: September 1, 2015

Format: ARC {Received in exchange of a fair review}

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When I started this book I really thought I would enjoy it. It is sweet, charming, and has a unique story to tell. But about halfway through the book, a series of twists and plot developments left me sorely disappointed. I’m not going to spoil what happens, but the story just becomes increasingly cliché and unrealistic—especially after the so-perfect, yet oh so forbidden, love interest is introduced.

Madeline is not allowed to leave her home—severe allergies that were discovered when she was an infant have kept her cooped up for most of her 17 years. She’s basically a “bubble boy” and fills her days reading books, taking online classes, and hanging out with her mom and nurse, who are the only two people she has regular contact with. One day she glances out the window and sees a family moving in next door. Last time the neighbors left, it really devastated her, so she promises herself she won’t get too attached. Then she sees Olly. He only wears black, because of course that’s what brooding boys do. They begin talking over email and IM, but eventually that is not enough for them. They want to meet in real life, but Madeline knows that’s a slippery slope.

Their romance is too syrupy sweet for me. Writing limericks and haikus to each other somewhat ironically and stuff like that. It was only as the novel progressed that it got to be too much for me. I really dislike where the plot went and I went from enjoying the book, to being completely disappointed in the span of a few pages. I feel like Madeline went from being a character with potential charm and personality, to one that was making all these outrageous decisions without much founding. Later in the novel, Yoon gives a reason for these, but I felt that this twist cheapened the plot and relationships in the novel. It seemed to be a plot device thrown in so she could get the ending she wanted, rather than what would make the most interesting story.

Cover Critique: The cover for Everything, Everything is gorgeous. I love the white with the colorful pencil drawings outlining the text. It looks like a special book and I can imagine it’ll inspire many readers to pick it up.

Quick Version: After a promising start, I was left disappointed by Everything, Everything. What was initially charming about the novel began to grate on me, especially after some plot choices I found pretty questionable. I do admit that I am not the audience for this book, stories about sick teens have never been my favorites, but I had high hopes for this one. Yoon is an excellent writer and even though I was not a fan of this one, I look forward to what she does in the future.

Score: 2/5 stars

Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy

Title: Dumplin’

Author: Julie Murphy

Publisher: Balzer + Bray [imprint of HarperCollins]

Date Published: September 15, 2015

Format: ARC– Received in exchange of a fair review

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I’m so glad to be back to this blog! It’s been way too long and I am looking forward to getting Curiously Bookish back in action. I’ve had a crazy year that involved getting married and finishing grad school, so I’ve been understandably busy! 😛 I’m in the middle of restructuring this blog and getting some more exciting plans underway (I’ll have some exciting news to share with you guys soon!), but for now we’ll start with a book review:

Willowdean is a self-proclaimed fat girl who lives in Texas and is obsessed with Dolly Parton. If you don’t like her, too bad. She’s happy with her high school life (as much as anyone could be). But the summer before Junior year, things start to change. Her best friend, Ellen, and her are growing apart. Ellen is the typical all-American beauty and is becoming friends with the popular girls in her class, who keep acting like Willowdean and Ellen’s friendship is more of a charity case than a legitimate relationship.  On top of this, Willowdean’s new job at the fast food place comes with a super cute coworker, Bo. To her surprise Bo likes her, and instead of feeling elated, the normally confident Willowdean feels insecure. She begins to doubt herself around him and think of her body in negative ways when she’s with him. She’s desperate to get her old confidence back and she does the last thing she thought she would ever do, enter the local beauty pageant. To make things tougher it happens to be run by her former-beauty-queen mother.

This was a very entertaining read! Willowdean is definitely not the typical YA protagonist. She is very opinionated, confident, and clever. The story deals with body image in many different ways and with all kinds of characters. It’s about not being perfect, or what you see as perfect, and finding out that everyone can be just as insecure as you are. Murphy did a good job of balancing the message of being happy with who you are, with also being able to admit your faults and doubts.

I really enjoyed the way friendship was handled in this book. Willowdean and Ellen were everything to each other when they were younger, but now that they’ve gotten older, it’s not working out well. Willowdean feels like Ellen is leaving her behind and she doesn’t even feel comfortable talking to her about her maybe relationship with Bo. They drift further and further apart as Ellen makes friends with the popular girls that don’t like Willowdean, and the feeling is mutual. This forces Willowdean to make friends with some of the other girls in her class, the other girls who don’t fit in. This group is a bunch of girls who get bullied and teased, but unlike Willowdean, they don’t have the confidence to stand up for themselves. At first, she treats them with disdain and frustration, especially when they all decide to join the pageant along with her. Eventually, she begins to like them and sees the value of having different kinds of friends. That was probably my favorite part of the novel; you don’t need to have just one friend who is everything to you. Especially as you get older, your best friend and you may grow up to have different interests and like different things. You may drift apart, but that doesn’t mean that you aren’t still friends. You can make different friends and so can she, but you are still always there for each other.

Friendship is where Dumplin’ is at its strongest, but I wasn’t as big of a fan of the romance. I really just didn’t like Bo as a character. He was the brooding, mysterious boy and he really didn’t have much of a personality. He started the story as a transfer student who had some secrets, but it never progressed from there. He was also quite cruel to Willowdean in the early parts of the novel, he wants to keep their relationship a secret and only hangs out with her at work and by the dumpster or in his car afterwards. It just has so many red flags that even when he apologizes later, it still doesn’t sit right with me. There is another boy introduced later in the novel, Mitch, who I thought was a more interesting character. He really likes Willowdean and is very open about it, but she simply doesn’t like him like that. I guess that is very high school, though. Making the wrong decisions about boys is pretty realistic sometimes!

Cover Critique: I’m a big fan of the cover. It’s so graphic and simple. Willowdean in that pose in the red dress really does represent the novel well. Everything is clean and simple, which makes that red stand out even more. I also really like the crown at the top, it’s cute and combined with the image, really lets you know that this is a pageant book.

Quick Version: Dumplin’ is a charming, easy read. Willowdean is a girl you don’t see a lot in fiction, especially as the main character. Friendship and the issues that come with growing up and maintaining friendships are really a bright point in the novel. While I didn’t like Bo and the romance, the true heart of the novel lies with Willowdean and Ellen and learning how to be confident and love yourself, faults and all.

Score: 4/5 stars

The Awakening of Miss Prim, Natalia Sanmartin Fenollera

Title: The Awakening of Miss Prim

Author: Natalia Sanmartin Fenollera

Publisher: Atria Books [imprint of Simon & Schuster]

Date Published: July 8, 2014

Format: Galley– Provided in exchange of a fair review

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Prudencia Prim is a young woman who is looking for something different from her life in a big city. She moves to a remote village in France, San Ireneo, to work as a librarian in a large mansion. She is a highly intelligent woman; she has a great knowledge of literature and philosophy as well as holds a few different college degrees, but she also allows herself to be a little sentimental. When she arrive at the village she is surprised at how backwards everything is. This is a town were tea-time is taken very seriously and everyone seems to be able to quote Thoreau and Dante with ease. Miss Prim clashes with them often and the novel is full of philosophical debates and arguments about everything from home schooling to the necessity of having young girls read Little Women (any book that mentions how awesome Little Women is as a plot point is a total win for me).

The Awakening of Miss Prim is a very thoughtful book. There is not a ton of plot here. Not much actually happens in San Ireneo. At first I was bored with this book; I was waiting for something to happen. When I had gotten about a third of the way through, I realized that it wasn’t going to pick up, it just wasn’t that kind of book. And you know what, after I had that realization I started really enjoying it. This book will make you think, and it’s been a while since I’ve had a book do that. It presents all these different topics and the characters debate them endlessly. They never really give a “right” answer, which encourages us to come to our own conclusions.

You can feel how influential both Lousia May Alcott and Jane Austen were to Fenollera. She constantly alludes to them in the story and at times points out when she “rips them off.” If you enjoy the works of either of those authors there is a good chance you will like what Fenollera does here. The romance in this book is lovely, but you shouldn’t go to this book looking for something sweet and light. Miss Prim and her “Man in the Wingchair”, as she calls him, have their fair share of disagreements and different stances on big issues, but you’ll have to read the book to see how that all works out!

Cover Critique: I really like this cover. It’s colorful and sets this book apart from everything else out there. It is a little busy, but it’s done well and is perfect for the type of book this is.

Quick Version: The Awakening of Miss Prim is a book that doesn’t just want to give you a light-hearted romance, it wants to make you think. There is very little action in this book, I mean there is a whole plot point that is about whether or not Mr. Darcy is the “perfect man” and another about the pros and cons of matchmaking, but if you accept that, I believe this can be an enjoyable read.

Score: 4/5 stars 😀

The Princess in the Opal Mask, Jenny Lundquist

Title:The Princess in the Opal Mask

Series:  The Opal Mask #1

Author: Jenny Lundquist

Publisher: Running Press Kids

Date Published: October 22, 2013

Format: Paperback

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This is a very sweet retelling of a classic story. It’s like The Prince and the Pauper, but with pretty, feisty princesses and fairytale trappings. It was a cute, little book. The writing was smooth and so easy to read. I would have been all over this book when I was little– I really had a thing for princesses and fairytale retellings. It’s definitely more suited for the younger part of the YA audience (maybe even more of a middle-grade book), but that didn’t stop my from having a lovely time with it.

The best part of the novel are the two protagonists, Elara and Wilha, and how well they complement each other. Elara is an orphan living with an evil stepmother and stepsister (sounds pretty familiar, right?). She is angry and spiteful toward her adoptive family that treat her like a servant. She is an extremely proud and headstrong girl, and is not afraid to lie and manipulate situations for her benefit. Wilha is the crown princess. She lives a life of luxury, but has been forced to hide her face behind a mask her entire life. Not even her own father will look upon her face and no one gives her the reason why. Because of this, she’s– obviously– deeply insecure and shy. She has to go to the neighboring kingdom to marry the prince, and it doesn’t go smoothly. The two girls’ paths cross and they are forced to interact, much to their chagrin. Since they have alternating POVs, one of the most amusing parts of the novel was how these girls saw each other.

The romance in this book is quite lovely. There is no love-at-first-sight or fighting over a prince, like you’ll see in most fairytale stories.  I was happy to see a book were there was no tension between the girls about a boy. There is plenty of conflict, don’t get me wrong, but it’s about their relationship or about the plot, not about boys.

I do think that the development of Wilha and Elara’s arcs were a little uneven. Elara really comes into her own at the end of the book, and Wilha is only just beginning to do so. I know that there is another book in the series coming up (yay! So exciting). So, I’ll be interested to see if she gets more to do in the next novel. I still really liked Wilha, though. She is very meek and afraid to take action, but it makes sense for her character.

Cover Critique: This cover is simply GORGEOUS. The colors are lovely and the font is great. It really portrays the spirit of the novel well. The inside of the book also has some lovely design touches. The team at Running Press Kids did a wonderful job with this book.

Quick Version: Between Elara and Wilha you really get the best of fairytale protagonists. One is spunky and needs to learn tact and the other is shy and is trying to find her strength. These two girls are thrown into a world of deception and political intrigue, and as much as they don’t like it, they have to count on each other to make it out. The story is well-written and a great read. Highly recommended for any fan of retellings or fairytale-esque stories. Fantastic cover, too.

Score: 4/5 stars 🙂

Child of a Hidden Sea, A.M. Dellamonica

Title: Child of a Hidden Sea

Author: A.M. Dellamonica

Publisher: Tor, imprint of Macmillan

Date Published: June 24, 2014

Format: Galley– received in exchange of a fair review

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This book was an insane amount of fun to read! It’s light-hearted in a way that is sadly missing from much of adult fantasy. The story is the perfect beach read for a girl (me) who typically despises beach reads– I hate them with a passion. It’s fun, without being dumb, and the protagonist is spunky and brave, without being annoying beyond belief.

Our lead, Sophie, is a twenty-four year old who is seriously avoiding defending her master’s thesis. Instead she explores the world; she goes on research dives, climbs mountains, and spends large amounts of time sailing around at sea. Apart from her thesis, Sophie has one thing weighing her down: finding her biological family. She adores her adoptive family, her brother Bram is her best friend, but she still wants to find out something about the people that abandoned her. When she finally finds them, she sees her aunt being attacked by some creeps in an alley. As she is running in to stop them, a crazy wind starts up. Next thing she knows, she is in a different world. Sophie finds herself floating in the middle of the ocean with an unconscious aunt she doesn’t even know.

Sophie is thrust into a new world of political intrigue, hot sailors, and magic. What I probably love most about the novel is how she reacts to finding herself there. She does notice the handsome men and the corrupt politics, but her main focus is trying to figure out exactly where she is. This world is similar to Earth, but slightly different in more ways than just the magic. The animals look like their Earthen siblings, but are different enough to warrant some notice. Sophie is reluctant to accept magic as an answer and is always looking for scientific explanations. This is a more realistic response to an unknown situation than I usually see in most fictional characters. She is asking questions the majority of protagonists don’t even bother about. To me, this made Sophie into an especially intriguing character.

I haven’t read too many portal fantasies that I have actually enjoyed; these are fantasy stories where the hero is in our world and is transported into another fantastical one. There are some classics that are obviously really good (Narnia and Alice in Wonderland to name a couple), but for contemporary adult books… the landscape is pretty sparse. Child of a Hidden Sea did a great job reminding me what can be so great about portal fantasies. The characters are thrown into a new world, just like the readers. This is particularly pleasing when you have a character like Sophie; we feel like someone is asking the questions we want answered.

Cover Critique: I really like this cover. It’s a simple design that serves to show off a lovely illustration. Our lead is front-and-center with a pretty sailor boy by her side. There is also a hint at the magic in the book with the script on the sails. This cover would totally get my attention at a bookstore. It really conveys a sense of lightness that I feel is really appropriate to the story, and sets it apart from so many other fantasy books out there.

Quick Version: This book should really be in your bag for your next trip to the beach or for sitting by the pool. It is an intelligent and funny book with an exciting adventure and memorable characters. Child of a Hidden Sea has all the fun of a light and fluffy book, but it can surprise you at times with the amount of depth Dellamonica was able to pack into the world and it’s inhabitants. I enjoyed this book a lot, as you can probably tell, and I really loved the main character, Sophie. It’s tough in adult fantasy to find an engaging, intelligent, and flawed female lead– and this book definitely had that.

Score: 4.5/5 stars 😎

Thief’s Magic, Trudi Canavan

Title: Thief’s Magic

Series: Millennium’s Rule #1

Author: Trudi Canavan

Publisher: Orbit, imprint of Hachette

Date Published: May 13, 2014

Format: ARC– received in exchange of a fair review

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Tyen is crouched in an ancient tomb when he comes across someone who will change his life forever. This someone is Vella. She isn’t exactly a person, but rather a book that was a young woman many millennia ago. She holds the secrets of fantastic sorcerers who have become little more than legends in Tyen’s time, and he has no clue what to do with her. He is a student at the Academy, studying archaeology and magic. He knows that his professors would love to see this book and use the knowledge it contains, but is afraid that they won’t understand it. He fears Vella will be locked up in the archives or destroyed from expressing ideas considered heresy in their current age of industry. When his worst fears are proven correct, he decides he must do whatever it takes to protect her and the knowledge she contains.

Trudi Canavan’s Thief’s Magic alternates POV between Tyen and Fielle, who lives in a world were magic is only used by the Priests. To practice magic is to steal from the Angels, and it’s a major crime. She can see the Stain, a dark mark that shows the area where magic has been drained from the air, but must keep this skill a secret, as it’s a sign that a person can use magic and will send her into exile.

Fielle has begrudgingly accepted that she will never be able to use her latent skill and is trying to focus on being a good daughter. She comes from a family of fabric dyers, and even though they have significant wealth, they don’t have great social standing. An advantageous match could give them the respect they desire, but Fielle cannot help but fall in love with a talented, struggling artist. While she is concerned about her personal life, there is a corrupter making their way around the city putting them all in danger. This person is teaching people magic and creating issues for the Priests.

In Thief’s Magic, Trudi Canavan crafts worlds were magic is a non-renewable resource like oil or coal. Whenever someone uses magic, it leaves behind a stain, which is later filled in by more magic. The authorities of these worlds deal with this issue differently.

Tyen’s world is in the midst of an industrial and scientific revolution. Inventions are powered by magic, which is drained rapidly from the air. Authorities have responded by conquering other lands and stealing their magic, but it is still only a matter of time before it’s all gone. There are rumors that magic can be replenished, but these are dismissed as backwards conjecture.

In Fielle’s land, magic is more plentiful – but only because no one is allowed to use it. Readers are led to believe a war long ago drained almost all the magic from the land, so now only the Priests are permitted to steal it from the Angels.

Canavan does an amazing job creating the worlds these characters live in. The magic system in the novel is fascinating and unique. There’s no way to hide that magic has been used and at times the characters’ “reach” is not long enough to access it.

While the worlds are interesting, the pacing is a little slow. The first part of the book doesn’t have a lot of action, particularly Fielle’s half of the story. Tyen’s journey was more interesting throughout. The stakes felt much higher, and Vella is such an enchanting character. Her presence really elevates his story and their interactions are some of the best moments in the novel. As Fielle meets different people, her story improves greatly.

Another issue I had early on is that Tyen and Fielle are just so… good. They have a really hard time questioning, much less rebelling against, authority. To the reader, the Academy and Priests come across as corrupt and despicable the second we see them, so it’s hard to suspend disbelief that they would blindly believe in these systems. When their eyes finally do open, it’s such a relief. I could stop thinking about how naive they were, and start taking them seriously.

Cover Critique: The cover is pretty standard. Any book that has a thief or an assassin for some reason always has a hooded guy/girl on the cover, even if it has nothing to do with the story. It’s just a little boring. Those flames, though… those are really dumb looking. It just takes it down a notch.

Quick Version: Thief’s Magic is a beautifully written novel about what happens when magic is not in infinite supply and corrupt governments and churches control the use of the resource. Tyen and Fielle both notice this injustice — even though it takes them a while — and try to find ways to improve the situation. Tyen’s companion, Vella, is the most fascinating character and this book only scratches the surface of the secrets she contains. Even though it was slow to start, Thief’s Magic was a very engaging and entertaining read. I’m really looking forward to the next book in the trilogy.

Score: 4/5 stars 😀

I reviewed this book last week for Girls in Capes! You should go check out their site; they are really awesome. They are also hosting a giveaway for a hardcover copy of this book until 5/16!

Hey, it’s worth a shot! Free books are the best 😎