February Reading Wrap Up

Punk Rock Jesus – 5 stars
This is a hard core, action packed commentary on religious zealots and reality tv.

Two Dark Reigns – 4 starsThis series keeps the twists and turns coming!

A Book of Delights – 4 stars
A collection of flash fiction reminding us that everyday life is worth marveling at.

The Sculptor – 5 stars
An honest look at the trails of creating art and the extremes many will take for those creations to come to life.

We Set the Dark on Fire – 3 stars
When the lower class continues to be oppressed, can you sit idly by in your life of luxury and do nothing?

Alice Payne Rides – 3 stars
Alice and her motley group continue to trek through time, mucking up a few things along the way.

Binti – 3 stars
Traveling outside your pre-destined path can be challenging, especially without your family’s support. But the pursuit of knowledge is often worth it.

Nimona – 4 stars
This is a fun young adult graphic novel that proves not everything is what it seems on the outside.

Advertisements

January 2019 Reading Wrap Up

The Gilded Wolves – 4 stars
A decadent historical fantasy dripping in mystery and danger with a diverse cast of characters.

White Stag – 4 stars

Living with goblins is never a pleasant experience and Jenneke has been condemned to a century in their service. She battles her inner demons to remain human and resist the urge to turn into a monster.

Rosalynd – 4 stars
Rosalynd Van Helsing picks up the mantel of her family history and battles vampires in a snowy wasteland.

North Echo – 3 stars

A retelling of a Norwegian fairytale with elements from the Scottish ballad Tam Lin, Echo North is a whimsical adventure story steeped in love.

Paper Girls Vol 5 – 5 stars
Always full of adventure.

Outcast Vol 5 – 4 stars
This volume showcases new characters with exciting twists and new adventures.

Plumdog – 3 stars
Seeing daily life through the eyes of Plum the dog leads to a heartwarming journey with this love-filled family.

Watersnakes – 4 stars
Gorgeously illustrated story with mysterious ghosts and warriors and a battle to save the king.

The Wind-Up Bird Chronicles – 4 stars
To win his wife back, Toru will end up in the bottom of a well in the dream-like folds of reality.

A Land More Kind Than Home – 3 stars
The religious south often feels like a medieval fantasy world and Wiley Cash doesn’t shy away from making us uncomfortable.

Soundless – 3 stars
These villagers have lived decades in silence until one villager suddenly finds she can hear. Now she must find out what’s happened to her village to save them from continued misfortune.

The Heist That Won’t End

This is TECHNICALLY the first book I’ve read by Roshani Chokshi. I’ve listened to A Star-Touched Queen and A Crown of Wishes but it’s a different experience reading a physical book and listening to an audiobook while at work. Now I want to go back and actually read ASTQ and ACoW just to fully immerse myself in Chokshi’s writing.

The Gilded Wolves is a historical fantasy story with a group of misfits who were drawn together and use their unique talents to accomplish complicated heists. They each have their own agenda but work together to help each other reach their own goals. Chokshi bounces between each character so we see the world and different situations through them. Each character was easy to like: Severin, with his cool and collected demeanor; Enrique, with his dedication; Laila, for being able to see through people’s armor, Zofia, who’s mind never stops working to figure out the puzzles; Tristan, with his big heart; and even Hypnos, who just needed friends.

The story in general has a fast pace. There aren’t many moments the characters have a chance to breath, and because of that Chokshi has limited space to fit in backstory amidst the action. The story doesn’t feel satisfying because it’s not complete. Where most authors ease us into the plot, let us get to know the characters and the world, Chokshi drops us off amid the action. I expect there to be additional backstory continued in the second book.

One quick mention of a side story I liked and hope to see more of, the love triangle. It’s not something I’ve ever wished to see more of but Chokshi does this one right. Enrique is bi while Hypnos is gay and Zofia is straight. The dynamics of this triangle were exciting to watch unfold. I think it’s because it’s one of the first triangles I didn’t feel had an obvious right answer. A choice was made at the end, but I don’t expect it to stick throughout book two and it makes me more excited to see it continue.

While the story clips along at a fast pace, it’s easy to get swept up in the action. The magic system isn’t so complicated that it needs too much explanation to pick it up. The Order and their goals and why they are in place in this society got a bit lost in the shuffle but Severin and the group had a clear goal and completed it, while Chokshi set up enough of a cliff hanger for us to anticipate the next book.

2018 Reading Wrap Up

 

With the close of 2018, I wanted to do a full year reading wrap up. Goodreads says I finished 137 books but I’m going to bump that down to 134 because I don’t want to count the three books I know I didn’t finish. Sometimes you have to put down a book when you’re not into it and come back to it later. I came up with a few stats from my reading list this past year that I wanted to share with you!

 

 

• I read 34 books before my first nonfiction book
• I read 35 books before my first (and only) poetry book

Nonfiction doesn’t make my rotation often, and clearly poetry doesn’t either so congrats to Shy Watson with
Cheap Yellow for being my only poetry book of the year!

• I read 51 books before my first short story collection
• 52 ARC books
• 45 audiobooks
• 21 five-star books
• 8 library books (most of them were comics)
• 31 comics/graphic novels

But the most disturbing stat I uncovered, out of the 52 ARCs I read (and the main reason I read them is to review them) only FOUR of those ARCs turned into blog reviews. That’s horrifying! And embarrassing.
Here is a bread down of how I structure my reading. Comics and graphic novels are my “bedtime” reads. It’s a nice change of pace from what I’m staring at all day, and I take them as slow or fast as I want since I only read them in bed. All of my audiobooks come from the library (which I left out of the library group since those were physical books I picked up) and I listen to them on my desktop at work. I highly recommend this if you can get away with it! It has doubled my reading pace and I use it as a chance to enjoy books I might have at home and know I won’t get to anytime soon or those books I’ve heard good thing about but don’t own. Audiobooks have made my days at the office bearable.

 

 

Now about those ARCs. I collect them like my life depends on it, especially the ARCs that are true ARCs and won’t be on bookstore shelves for months. I organize them by pub date and read down the line, not even paying attention to what comes next. My goal is to read it and review it before it’s official put date. With a whole whopping four reviews last year, it’s obviously not working. I put so much pressure on myself to finish all these books that are being published in the same month so my reviews are relevant, I neglect to write the actual review. WHICH IS THE WHOLE POINT. It’s turned into the feeling of reading for school and I don’t get to read for myself anymore (where audiobooks have become a saving grace, at least).

Which brings me to my New Year resolution. I want to focus on the blog and getting actual reviews written and posted. I’m not ready to give up on it just yet. A goal of one posted review a month doesn’t sounds unreasonable. Selecting which ARC to review for that month will still allow me to read my other ARCs without the pressure of having to review all of them. Plus, if I know what I’m going to review that month it could help free me up from reading only ARCs and throw in a random book that has been sitting on my shelf for longer than I can remember. I can certainly manage my time on a weekend to get a review posted. With the internet as my witness, this is my goal for the new year.

Thank you for sticking with me and I plan to give you a review filled 2019. Happy reading!

Not All Battles Are Won On a Battlefield

Penguin Random House had a booth at New York Comic Con in 2017 and they did a give away for Ash Princess. Laura Sebastian was standing off to the side and naturally people were lining up for an impromptu signing. As she signed my book I told her I write book reviews and Ash Princess would be going into the “to be reviewed” pile, and here it finally is. 

There are several points I want to touch on and what better place to start than with the main character. Theodosia aka Theo aka Thora may be a princess but is a prisoner in the castle she grew up in. The Kalovaxians invaded Astrea, taking over the land, enslaving the people, and keeping Theo close by to ensure her people remain complacent. She’s whipped any time her people are not complacent or an invasion by the Kalovaxians goes badly. She’s a means to the Kaiser’s control and manipulation. The Kaiser requires Thora to attend all formal occasions, sending a new dress with an open back to show her scars, ensuring no one at court forgets who she is. As well as providing an ash crown Thora must wear. Naturally it crumbles, covering her in ash and often falling into her food. I was pleased Sebastian was bold with her descriptions and didn’t shy away from brutal imagery. Sebastian doesn’t sugar coat how gruesome a whipping can be.

We watch as Thora grows as a character, claiming her name back and taking on the responsibility of being the princess who will free her people. The statement “not all battles are won on a battlefield” is an appropriate description for this story. Theodosia doesn’t pretend she’ll have the strength for a physical battle but uses what she’s learned in a Kalovaxian court while she was required to attend all court events. She was mostly shunned, leaving her plenty of time to watch and listen. Using what she’s learned of those around her, she’s able to manipulate them to turn on each other, giving her people a chance to rise up and escape. At least that’s the plan. Theodosia’s transformation is an exciting one to watch and I imagine she’ll only gain more confidence as the story continues.

Sebastian’s debut shows promising things to come in her writing career. While some of this worldbuilding wasn’t the strongest and the ideas weren’t necessarily unique, it’s a solid start. I was pleased with Theodosia’s character development, using her wit to find a way to free her people. I expect this to only get stronger as Theodosia gets stronger. Ash Princess is solid and I’m excited to see where the next two books take Theodosia.

Mapping and Intrigue

Makiia Lucier is known for her historical fiction writing and she’s proved her strengths with her newest book. Isle of Blood and Stone revolves around an 18-year-old mystery of two missing princes and new clues have come to light. There are a couple of gripes people have shared in their own reviews, and I would like to address them and why those things didn’t bother me.

There were some complaints of there not being enough adventure. On the contrary, there is adventure, albeit not the type we might have expected. The protagonist, Elias, is a map maker. This world is largely untraveled and in the city of St. John del Mar, boys are trained to become geographers, preparing them to travel for months, if not years, at a time to chart not only unknown territory but areas recently affected by natural disaster. These maps are copied and sold to traders, showing them the best sailing routes, the best dock stations, and even what coves to expect pirates laying in wait. When we meet Elias, he’s just returned from a trip to Hellespont, charting their changed landscape after a recent earthquake. This might have been the story some people believed they would be reading. I think it does sound like an exciting adventure to follow. The dangers of sailing, visiting new lands even the protagonist doesn’t know. While the story Lucier tells us is a slow burner, it still has its adventures. The mystery is political in nature with two missing princes, but it certainly doesn’t all unfold in a stuffy chamber room. Lucier has a lot of world building to get through first. Which brings me to the next complaint.

There seems to be a bit of contradiction with how people feel about the world. Most agreed the world building was great and imaginative, but they were confused at times where characters were, where they were traveling to, and who characters were. None of this bothered me much. This is probably a personal thing, but I don’t pay too close attention to where characters are traveling or how long it takes them to get there. I’m more interested in what’s happening during the journey and what will happen when they reach their destination. When books include a map in the beginning (this ARC doesn’t include one but I fully expect something beautifully detailed, being a story about map makers after all) I don’t bother studying it until I’ve finished the book. Before I know the names of cities and towns or have a preliminary image in my head, the map means nothing to me. It becomes more interesting after the fact. As for the characters not being explained enough, that didn’t bother me expect for some names being similar. I had a writing teacher in college that always cautioned when you have several characters, keep their names distant, even to the point of not starting them with the same letter. When authors name their characters too similarly, that’s when I get confused. But this only happens here with two characters’ names starting with A. They were different enough in their personalities that if I didn’t skim over the name too quickly, it wasn’t a problem.

There is something enduring about Isle of Blood and Stone. It’s been a while since I’ve truly liked the strong female character and didn’t hate the romance. I criticize the romance in stories harshly, but I was rooting for this one to work out. It’s a romance based on years of friendship and it feels earned when Lucier finally give it to us. Mercedes is the strong female I’ve felt to be missing from my reading lately. She’s true in her loyalties and relationships while being fully capable of taking care of herself. The best part, she doesn’t spend every conversation reminding people of that. Of course, it happens a couple of times, but those times were legit reasons for her safety. And the one time you would expect her to have to fight about being capable, she is given trust and understanding. There were many moments throughout the story that were real and pure and it made me like the book that much more.

 

 

 

By Emily Coleman

What Makes Us Human?

Adrianne Finlay tackles a big concept with Your One and Only in only 320 pages. There is a vast amount that happens in this story, and there is even more that could happen.

As humanity is slowly killed by a plague, a group of scientists build a quarantined community in Costa Rica and tirelessly work on creating clones. As the original scientists die and the clone population grows, their views of humanity grow more perverse with each new generation. The originals intended for these clones to reproduce in a natural, sexual way, but the clones have their own ideas for such matters.

After 300 years of cloning the same DNA the structure is breaking down and becoming unstable. Using the archive of additional human DNA curated by the Originals, the clones create a human. Jack is treated with disgust and disdain for being different and not a perfect copy of one of the originals. He is left mostly isolated and introduced to the group of clones his own age when they are in their mid-teens. Naturally it doesn’t go well. One clone, Althea-310 sympathizes with Jack as she has a scar on her wrist, setting her apart from her flawless Althea sisters. And this sympathy is the beginning of the end.

Finlay dedicates much of the beginning of the novel to world building, thus giving it a slow start. She alternates POVs from Althea-310 and Jack and it helps greatly to round out not only the characters but the stores overall. The clones have bizarre customs, but we’re given a chance to understand them with Althea’s POV. Jack’s rage and violence wouldn’t have felt as sincere if we didn’t see his POV, either.

For as slow as the beginning is, the ending zips by. The action escalates as the story goes on, but I grew concerned as the number of pages dwindled and the plot seemed to lengthen. The ending is left opened but satisfying enough that I’m not expecting a sequel, but Finlay covers a lot of ground in a dozen pages. This leaves the whole story feeling off kilter. Finlay built an interesting world, giving us a unique clone story. Even with the unbalanced narration, it was still a fun read. It probably won’t make my top 10 for 2018 (there is a lot of year left) but I certainly don’t regret reading it.

 

 

By: Emily Coleman