fantasy

Happy National Read a Book Day!

I found out that today was National Read a Book Day!  While I usually ignore the randomness that comes with celebrating something every day (like Watermelon day* or whatever), this one seemed pretty appropriate! 🤓

I’ve decided to celebrate by reading more of the Emperor’s Blades by Brian Stavely! I started it this weekend and I’m enjoying it so far.

Hope y’all are enjoying some reading time today! What are you diving into?

*Watermelons are pretty delicious, though… 😛

The Friday 56, Book Beginnings, & TBYS Readathon: The Emperor’s Blades

Friday MemesHappy Friday! It’s a long weekend and on top of these two memes, I’m doing a readathon. I know I haven’t been here for a while (sorry 😅), but I do have some exciting plans to get this little blog up and running! Now, let’s get started.

Firstly, I’m taking part in the Taking Back Your Shelves Readathon going on this weekend! It’s for finally reading books that you have had on your shelf for far too long. You can check it out by clicking on the link and if you want to see more updates on my progress, you can look at my Instagram and Twitter. 😀

Also, I’m participating in two different blog memes today. They complement each other so well, why not?

The first is The Friday 56 from Freda’s Voice! The rules are:

1. Grab a book, any book.
2. Turn to page 56, or 56% on your eReader.
3. Find any sentence (or a few, just don’t spoil it) that grabs you.
4. Post it.
5. Add the URL to your post in the link on Freda’s most recent Friday 56 post.

The second is Book Beginnings from Rose City Reader! The rules are:

Share the first sentence (or so) of the book you are reading, along with your initial thoughts about the sentence, impressions of the book, or anything else the opener inspires. Please remember to include the title of the book and the author’s name.
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The book I selected is The Emperor’s Blades by Brian Staveley! I’ve had this book sitting on the shelf since it’s release and I’m always meaning to read it. The Mister has already read the whole series and has been hounding me to start this. I decided that this Readathon was a good opportunity to get this giant book off my TBR.
Book Beginning:

Rot. It was the rot, Tan’is reflected as he stared down into his daughter’s eyes, that had taken his child.

56:

Valyn hesitated, suddenly conscious of the weight of her hand on top of his own, of the delicate, salty scent of her hair. She held his gaze with those wide, almond eyes of hers, her lips slightly parted.

Those sentences are pretty different! The first is quite dark and the second is a little romantic, which is actually a pretty good combo for me :P. I’m excited to dive into this book! What are y’all reading this weekend?

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

 

The Friday 56 & Book Beginnings: Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas

Friday Memes

Happy Friday everyone! I bet you are all as happy as I am that Friday is finally here. To start off this day, I’m participating in two different blog memes. They complement each other so well, it just had to happen!

The first is The Friday 56 from Freda’s Voice! The rules are:

1. Grab a book, any book.
2. Turn to page 56, or 56% on your eReader.
3. Find any sentence (or a few, just don’t spoil it) that grabs you.
4. Post it.
5. Add the URL to your post in the link on Freda’s most recent Friday 56 post.

The second is Book Beginnings from Rose City Reader! The rules are:

Share the first sentence (or so) of the book you are reading, along with your initial thoughts about the sentence, impressions of the book, or anything else the opener inspires. Please remember to include the title of the book and the author’s name.
The book I selected for this Friday is Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas. I’ve been wanting to read this book for ages (I feel like I’m the only one who hasn’t 😛 ). So, I’m starting it today!
Book Beginning:

After a year of slavery in the Salt Mines of Endovier, Celaena Sardothien was accustomed to being escorted everywhere in shackles and at sword-point.

56:

Instead of reading, she could perhaps use the pianoforte, but… well, it had been a while, and she wasn’t sure she could endure the sounds of her own clumsy playing. She traced a finger over a splotch of fuchsia silk on her dress. All those books, with no one to read them.

These sentences definitely want to make me read the book right away—mission accomplished! 😀 What do you guys think? Do you have a 56 or book beginning?

Book Traveling Thursdays: Crazy Plot Twist

This is Book Traveling Thursdays! A weekly meme created by Cátia [The Girl Who Read Too Much] and Danielle [Danielle’s Book Blog]. The goal is to share the covers from around the world of a book related to that week’s theme. You share the original cover, cover from your country, your favorite, and least favorite covers. You can find out more on the Goodreads group.

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This week’s theme is for a book that had a major plot twist. I do tend to fawn over books with crazy plot twists, so at first I had a tough time thinking of one book in particular. Until, I was looking at my shelf and saw Pierce Brown’s Golden Son peeking out at me. This book had an insane number of twists and turns, every time I thought I had figured out where it was going, Brown changed it up on me again. How could I pick anything else?

Original, My Country [USA], & Fave Cover:

So simple and graphic. The laurel wreath lighting on fire is the perfect representation of Golden Son. I also love the way that the title is written vertically across the cover and the wreath is tilted towards it, drawing your towards the words. It’s just very cleverly designed.

Least Favorite Cover:

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This cover is just so bad. I’m sad for Germany that they have to look at this. It takes a modern, scifi novel and makes it look like some outdated book published in the 80’s about the history of space or something.

And that’s all for today, folks! What do you think of the covers? 🙂

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 😎

May Mini-Reviews

May was a busy month for me! I did a lot of traveling, which is always awesome, but I haven’t had much of a schedule because of it. My reading has been a bit all over the place this month, but I did manage to get some books off of my TBR list that had been sitting there for far too long. Hopefully June will be more normal and I can actually get some posts up!

1. Red Rising, Pierce Brown

This book was so much fun. I wasn’t expecting to like it as much as I did, and I went into it with pretty high expectations. Darrow, the lead character, has a pretty awful life as a Red (the lowest class of their intergalactic society). After some super tragic stuff goes down, he gets recruited by a group of rebels to bring down their government. To do so he has to infiltrate the Golds (the top of the caste system) and try to bring them down from the inside. The first part of the book was a little slow to me, but once it gets going… it doesn’t stop. I stayed up til like 4am finishing it and I don’t regret it one bit!  {4.5/5 stars}

2. These Broken Stars, Amie Kaufman & Meagan Spooner

This book was okay. It was an interesting idea, but I didn’t enjoy it as much as I thought I would. It a story about a pair of teenagers traveling on a huge spaceship across the galaxy. She is a spoiled heiress and he is a war hero, and obviously they would never be allowed to be together. But when the ship crashes on a mysterious planet, they are the only survivors; so they must learn to get along and work together to find rescue. The problem I had was that I really didn’t care too much for the characters– the soldier was bland and the heiress was so grating. But it was well written and did have some lovely moments. I’ll probably pick up the sequel (if I’m not mistaken it involves different people, woohoo!). {3/5 stars}

3. The Mapmaker’s War, Ronlyn Domingue

This is another case of me having a problem with the protagonist, but Aoife was way worse than either of the kids in These Broken Stars. She made me angry. She was such a petulant, unhappy woman; I was just so done with her and her problems by the time I finished the book. Now that I’m looking back, I really don’t know why I finished the book. I would try to describe the plot, but nothing really stuck with me. I feel like even though things happened in the book, I never really felt invested in the story. The world Domingue built was very interesting and she is definitely a talented writer,  but things like the second-person point of view structure felt like she was trying too hard to make her work feel “different” or “literary.”  {2/5 stars}

4. Parallel, Lauren Miller

This was a fun, little book! It’s about a girl who wakes up one day with a completely different life. She was starring in a big, action movie and then next thing she knows she’s a freshman at Yale. It turns out that some strange cosmic event caused two different timelines to collide, and now she has to figure out what to do with her new reality. It does get a little science-y in parts (which is always fun for me :P), but never dry or boring. I really enjoyed this one. I think it would be a great beach read! {4/5 stars}

5. Words of Radiance (Stormlight Archive #2), Brandon Sanderson

I really loved this book. It’s so freaking huge; It’s 1000+ pages in hardcover, but I can honestly say it never got boring! I won’t get too much into the plot– it’s the second book in a series, and it’s hard to talk about it without spoiling everything. But I really do want to recommend this series to anyone looking for an outstanding epic fantasy series. The world is very different from all the others out there and the characters are nuanced and likable (well, at least when they have to be). If you’re anything like me, you’ll stay up way too late to see what happens to them. Just read it, I think y’all will like it 🙂 {5/5 stars}

What did you guys read in May? What was your favorite or least favorite book? 😀

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 😎

 

April Mini-Reviews

April was a busy month for me; I feel pretty proud of myself for all I was able to accomplish in it! I finished up my first year of graduate school, went to a variety of book festivals and signings, and celebrated my birthday! Even though I didn’t have a chance to read too much, I did enjoy what I did read. When I was looking at this list, I noticed that I read quite a number of graphic novels this month. I do tend to do that around exams. I guess all I want to do is distract myself with pretty art!

1. Bride of the Water God (Volume 1), Mi-Kyung Yun

This is a manhwa (a Korean graphic novel), and I’d never read one before. The art style is very similar to most manga, but it’s read left-to-right like a Western comic. I really enjoyed this story. It’s about a girl in an ancient village, which is going through a major drought. The villagers decide to sacrifice a young woman to the Water God, in hopes that he’ll give them some rain. Soah‘s chosen to go. She enters of world full of deities and magical things. But, of course, she’s not too happy about being shipped off to the handsome and petulant Water God.  {4/5 stars}

2. Demon Love Spell (Volumes 1-5), Mayu Shinjo

These books are hilarious. They’re pretty much romantic, silly beach-reads in manga form. It’s the story about a demon and a priestess that fall in love, and obviously that comes with many problems. I had so much fun reading these and I’m excited for the final volume, which comes out this summer. {4/5 stars}

3. The Here and Now, Ann Brashares

I didn’t enjoy this book. I’ve probably rambled about it enough already. Check out my full review here. {2/5 stars}

4. Library Wars (Volumes 1-11), by Kiiro Yumi

Yet another manga series I got into in April. This was honestly my favorite thing I read all month! This manga’s set in the near future when libraries are fighting the federal government over censorship. The situation has gotten violent and the local government and libraries have had to create their own army to protect freedom of speech– the Library Forces. We follow a young trainee into the Force and she is so adorable. She’s clumsy and so earnest. You can’t help but love her. The romance is really cute, too 🙂 {4.5/5 stars}

5. Boxers & Saints, by Gene Luen Yang

These books were really interesting. I can’t say that I loved, or even particularly liked them, but I really appreciated what the author was trying to do. Yang told the story of the Boxer Rebellion through two different perspectives. In Boxers, we follow a boy on his journey to save the country from the “foreign devils” invading them. In Saints, we follow a girl who is on the other side of the conflict. Both of the characters struggle a lot with their religions and sense of national identity. They are quick reads, if you want to give them a try, but I cannot wholeheartedly recommend them to you. {3.5/5 stars}

6. Sora’s Quest, T.L. Shreffler

This book was a nice surprise; I really enjoyed it. It was a very fun, quirky adventure story in a well-developed, fantastical world.  I wrote a full review of it, check it out here. {4/5 stars}

7. Thief’s Magic, Trudi Canavan

This was another great read. I reviewed it for Girls in Capes (they’re awesome and they have a GIVEAWAY going on for a copy of it). I’m putting review up here soon, as well! {4/5 stars}

 

What did you read in April? 😀