Monday, January 23, 2017

Discussion Post: Fantasy Tropes I Actually Like

Hey everyone, I'm taking part in the 2017 Discussion Challenge hosted by Feed Your Fiction Addiction and It Starts at Midnight. The goal of this challenge is to do at least 12 discussion posts ina year. I'm not great with discussions and I am currently in the think of a severe reading slump so I thought, why not. Let's do a discussion.

You all probably know that I read a lot of YA fantasy. It's my favorite. Fantasy is my favorite genre and these days I am just more excited about YA novels that Adult or Middle Grade. This usually means that a solid 1/3 (maybe more) of the books I read in the year fall squarely in this category. And as original as they may seem, after a few they start to get real tropey. You start to see the same things over and over again. And sometimes it makes for a frustrating and predictable narrative. But to be entirely honest, there are also some really tropey books that I love. Why, because I like certain tropes. So here I want to explain a few of my favorites.

Side Note: If you want to fall down a rabbit hole of tropes check out this website called TV Tropes where I got a lot of information from. It's basically Wikipedia for tropes. All of the definitions here are taken directly or paraphrased from these entries.

1.) Reluctant Hero

Definition: They didn't want these powers, this magic, this curse, or whatever it is that was foisted upon them. The responsibility to save the world? Forget it! All those exciting adventures and the ability to potentially do anything? Take it away. They want nothing to do with it.

Why I Like Them: This is my favorite kind of protagonist. You will notice throughout this list that I don't typically go for the more traditional kind of heroes. The kind of people who think it's totally normal and acceptable to just drop everything to fight, the kind of people totally prepared mentally and physically for the task before them. I like heroes that are like "I kave no idea what I'm doing, this task is way out of my league, but I'll see what I can do." Not only is that easier to relate to but it's also so much more entertaining. It makes for more drama and conflict as the hero figures out what they need to do and better development as the go on a classic "Hero's Journey" which I love.

Examples: Harry Potter in the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling, Katniss Everdeen in The Hunger Games by Susan Collins, Frodo in the Lord of the Rings, All These People in this Top Ten Tuesday Post.

2.) Badass Princess

Definition: With all the luxury afforded to a princess and all the knights dedicated to her protection, who would have thought the most dangerous person in the castle is the princess herself? Instead of knitting or gossiping, this princess has developed powers or abilities that make her more like a cactus than a delicate flower. Instead of the Damsel in Distress, this princess's role in the plot is active. She still might fall in love with the hero, as a princess traditionally would, but she'll be fighting next to him instead of crying for help

Why I Like It: This I think should be pretty obvious. I know that the strong female protagonist cliche is pretty tired, especially in YA Fantasy but honestly I am seriously a sucker for it. For so long we had to endure damsels in distress or ineffectual and virtually unimportant female leads, but no longer. Now we have tough women who are the heroes of their own story. But as much as I am all for the SFP I am not a huge fan of the female warrior trope. I'm cool with the Lady of War but I personally prefer my kickass ladies to not feel like they have to act or dress like men to kick ass. That's why I love the badass princess. She will fight by the side of the male hero but she will do it in her skirts and crown to save her kingdom.

Examples: Aelin Galathynius in the Throne of Glass series by Sarah J. Maas, Danarys Targeryan in A Song of Ice and Fire, Lada Dragwyla in And I Darken by Kiersten White, A certain character in The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer, and a ton of others that seem to be spoilers. Apparently badass princesses do have to be in disguise.

3.) The Lovable Rogue

Definition: A person who breaks the law for their own profit but is nice enough and charming enough that the audience roots for them, especially if they don't kill or otherwise harm anyone.

Why I Like Them: I mean this is honestly one of my favorite tropes and often my favorite character, especially my favorite secondary character, will be a lovable rogue. For one thing I love an amoral character, especially if they fall on the hero side of the equation (more on that later). But what I really appreciate about Lovable Rogues is when they aren't the hero at all. They make such great "sidekicks" because they are the perfect foil for the more high strung hero types who seem to fixated on doing what is right. Plus bonus points if the lovable rogue is also the romantic lead because BANTER!

Examples: Sturmhond in the Grisha Trilogy, Thorne in the Lunar Chronicles, Rob in the Scarlet Trilogy, Kelsier's Crew in Mistborn, Basically Everyone in The Lies of Locke Lamora.

4.) The Chessmaster

Definition: The Chessmasters tug at their strings of influence, patiently move their pieces into places that often seem harmless or pointless until the trap is closed, and get innocent unwitting pawns to do all the heavy lifting. The best will also have layers upon layers of misdirection and backup plans in case an unexpected hero gums up the works.

Why I Like Them: Well for one thing, Chessmasters are my favorite kind of villians. There is nothing more satisfying than learning that everything you thought was harmless is actually been orchestrated by some malevolent force who has been pulling the strings without you even realizing. Plus I love when my fantasy has a lot of scheming and plotting and usually that means there is some kind of Chessmaster somewhere within the book. It makes for such compelling characterization and plot development.

Examples: I don't want to tell you because that ruins all the fun reveals. But you know some, right? Of course you do.

5.) Plucky Girl

Definition: Chessmasters tug at their strings of influence, patiently move their pieces into places that often seem harmless or pointless until the trap is closed, and get innocent Unwitting Pawns (who else?) to do all the heavy lifting. The best will also have layers upon layers of misdirection and backup plans in case some unexpected hero appears to gum up the works.

Why I Like It: I mean how can you not like a character who doesn't give up? I am the eternal pessimist, I am a worst case scenario kind of person, therefore I greatly admire characters who really should throw in the towel and don't. Seriously, these characters could very easily just say that's it, I give up, and I wouldn't blame them. But they don't and to me that makes the most amazing protagonist. It's really easy to root for a heroine who keeps getting back up. And in the end often the challenges that they are thrown make them, stronger, smarter, and a better hero.

Examples: Sansa Stark in A Song of Ice and Fire (fight me!),

6.) Anti-Hero

Definition: An antihero is a protagonist who has the opposite of most of the traditional attributes of a hero. They may be bewildered, ineffectual, deluded, or merely apathetic. More often an antihero is just an amoral misfit. While heroes are typically conventional, anti-heroes, depending on the circumstances, may be preconventional (in a "good" society), postconventional (if the government is "evil") or even unconventional.

Why I Like It: Remember when I said I like amoral characters? Yup, this is what I meant. I honestly love a good anti-hero. I love when you root for the character that you would not typically root for. I love when the actual hero of the story, the protagonist, the one who saves the day, is the one who is generally a terrible person.  Just like all the characters here it makes for really interesting characterizations and even though I know this is a trope it feel so much more creative and interesting than the steretypical hero who does everything perfect while saving the day. Those are not the tropes I enjoy. This however, I love.

Examples: Adelina Amouteru in The Young Elites, Quentin Coldwater in The Magicians trilogy. Joe Goldberg in You.

There you have it, all my favorite fantasy tropes. Obviously this is mostly for characters. I didn't set out to do that but it's just what this became. What are your favorite tropes. Leave me a comment with your thoughts. Thanks for stopping by and HAPPY READING!

Friday, January 20, 2017

Tsar's Guard Spotlight: Vika and Nikolai's Cinnamon Rolls Recipe


Hi Everyone,
I am so excited to be a part of the Tsar's Guard Spotlight Tour. The tour is a fan generated event to flail about our excitement for the upcoming release, The Crown's Fate by Evelyn Skye. I am super excited for this book because as some of you may know was one of my favorite debuts and audiobooks of last year. So I jumped on the opportunity to be part of this tour. Thanks Brittany for picking me!

Last year I loved being part of the Tsar's Guard Parade and shared a bookish recipe with you all that was inspired by the book. Last year it was Ludmila's Pumpkin Caramel Bars which were amazing and delicious. So I had to share another recipe with you all for this one.

I haven't read the book yet so I don't know what might be appropriate but I did hear from Brittany that multiple times throughout the book one character says the other smells of cinnamon and obviously that means that I had to make cinnamon rolls.Not only because of the whole smell this but because the main characters in this series are just so adorable and they are precious cinnamon rolls. You know what I mean, like the fandom Urban Dictionary definition of a cinnamon roll. "A character that is very kind and sweet but faces more hardship and suffering than they truly deserve. Comes from the usage of an article headline from 'The Onion' titled 'Beautiful Cinnamon Roll Too Good For This World, Too Pure.' to describe a person or character that is very good but faces a lot of pain in their life. " It just made total sense to make Vika and Nikolai's cinnamon rolls for both of these reasons.

But before we get into the recipe... Let's talk about the book.

Book Details:

Hardcover, 432 pages
Expected publication: May 16th, 2016 by Balzer + Bray


Synopsis:

The gorgeous and darkly compelling sequel to The Crown’s Game—perfect for fans of Red Queen and Shadow and Bone.

Magic is growing, shadows are rising, and the throne is at stake…

Russia is on the brink of great change. Pasha’s coronation approaches, and Vika is now the Imperial Enchanter, but the role she once coveted may be more difficult—and dangerous—than she ever expected.

Pasha is grappling with his own problems—his legitimacy is in doubt, the girl he loves loathes him, and he believes his best friend is dead. When a challenger to the throne emerges—and with the magic in Russia growing rapidly—Pasha must do whatever it takes to keep his position and protect his kingdom.

For Nikolai, the ending of the Crown’s Game stung deeply. Although he just managed to escape death, Nikolai remains alone, a shadow hidden in a not-quite-real world of his own creation. But when he’s given a second chance at life—tied to a dark price—Nikolai must decide just how far he’s willing to go to return to the world.

With revolution on the rise, dangerous new magic rearing up, and a tsardom up for the taking, Vika, Nikolai, and Pasha must fight—or face the destruction of not only their world but also themselves.

Author Info + Social Media Links:

Evelyn Skye is the New York Times bestselling author of THE CROWN’S GAME (out now!) and THE CROWN’S FATE (May 16, 2017). She was once offered a job by the C.I.A., she not-so-secretly wishes she was on “So You Think You Can Dance,” and if you challenge her to a pizza-eating contest, she guarantees she will win. When Evelyn isn’t writing, she can be found chasing her daughter on the playground or sitting on the couch, immersed in a good book and eating way too many cookies. Author Links: Twitter | Goodreads | Tumblr | Instagram | Facebook


Now... On with the recipe! *** Thanks food.com for the recipe. ***

Vika and Nikolai's Precious Little Cinnamon Rolls


INGREDIENTS

Dough 
2 cups flour
2 tablespoons sugar
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons butter
3⁄4 cup milk

Filling 
 4 tablespoons butter
1 cup brown sugar or 1 cup white sugar
3 teaspoons cinnamon

Glaze 
1⁄2 cup powdered sugar
1⁄4 cup milk

DIRECTIONS 

For the filling, in a small bowl combine softened butter, brown sugar and cinnamon to form a crumbly mixture.

Sprinkle 1/2 of the mixture over the bottom of a 9x9 pan.

In a large bowl mix together flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt.

Cut in softened butter (the directions say sometimes your hands are the best tools. I use a pastry blender but in a pinch, a whisk works).

Stir in milk to form a soft dough.

Roll out dough on a lightly floured into a rectangle about 1/4 inch thick.

Spread the remaining filling on the rolled out dough.

Roll up the rectangle, with a sharp knife slice into 18 small rolls (12 if you want them a little bigger).

Bake for 20-25 min at 400°F.

For glaze, combine powdered sugar and milk in a small bowl and stir until smooth. (pro-tip: add the milk slowly. You honestly may not need to add as much as it calls for)

Once rolls are finished, drizzle on glaze and serve warm.

A few things I learned: I have a very small kitchen and because of that I couldn't make one big roll so I made three small ones. This ended up making more individual cinnamon rolls which is never a problem. Add the milk slowly. The glaze got really liquidy and I had to add more sugar. I would suggest adding it a tablespoon at a time and when it gets to a desired consistency stop adding milk even if it's less than the recipe calls for. The pan will get disgusting and carmelized but that's good. It gives the bottom that crispiness.

But most importantly, these smell and taste absolutely amazing. I may have to make them again when the book comes out so I can eat them while I read or listen. Obviously I can't wait for May and the book to come out. I hope you enjoyed the recipe and any fellow bakers out there, be sure to make them for yourself. This was a really quick and easy recipe.

Before you go be sure to enter the giveaway that's part of the tour and check out all the posts. The ones I have been able to see so far have been amazing. There is a full list over on Brittany's Book Rambles/

 

Alright, that's all I have for now. Are you excited about The Crown's Fate? In honor of what character would you bake "Precious Cinnamon Rolls?" Leave me a comment with your thoughts. Thanks for stopping by and HAPPY READING!

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Waiting on Wednesday: A Crown of Wishes by Roshani Chokshi

A weekly meme hosted by Breaking the Spine

Title: A Crown of Wishes
Series: The Star-Touched Queen #2
Author: Roshani Chokshi
Published: March 28, 2017 by St Martin's Griffin

Synopsis: Gauri, the princess of Bharata, has been taken as a prisoner of war by her kingdom’s enemies. Faced with a future of exile and scorn, Gauri has nothing left to lose. Hope unexpectedly comes in the form of Vikram, the cunning prince of a neighboring land and her sworn enemy kingdom. Unsatisfied with becoming a mere puppet king, Vikram offers Gauri a chance to win back her kingdom in exchange for her battle prowess. Together, they’ll have to set aside their differences and team up to win the Tournament of Wishes—a competition held in a mythical city where the Lord of Wealth promises a wish to the victor.

Reaching the tournament is just the beginning. Once they arrive, danger takes on new shapes: poisonous courtesans and mischievous story birds, a feast of fears and twisted fairy revels.

Every which way they turn new trials will test their wit and strength. But what Gauri and Vikram will soon discover is that there’s nothing more dangerous than what they most desire.

Why I'm Waiting:

I really liked The Star-Touched Queen. It wasn't as amazing as I was hoping it would be with all the rave reviews I had seen but I think maybe that it suffered a little bit from the hype monster for me. And if I'm being entirely honest it wasn't the kind of fantasy plot that I go for. I'm not a big fan of Hades and Persephone/Beauty and the Beast kind of stories. Why am I saying this, well because this is the kind of read I do go for.

First things first, I loved the world building in The Star-Touched Queen and so I am really excited to explore it a little bit more, specifically I'm excited to explore the "real world" a little bit more. This is a series with a world within a world and exploring more of that is super exciting to me. Plus Roshani definitely created an atmospheric and lyrical read in the first one so I expect nothing less here.

But seriously guys, I am even more excited about this one because it is my kind of plot. One of my favorite things about fantasy is when it has heavy political intrigue and this feels like it has those elements. Not to mention I love a good warrior princess and I found Guari really compelling in the first book and want to know more of her story. I'm probably one a few people who would not be all that bummed if the characters from the first book made a reappearance. Well except for Kamala, more talking demon horse, please.

I am hoping to get my hands on a review copy of this book but I may also check out the audio. It seems like the kind of writing that would work really well with an audiobook for me. I haven't listened to the audio for The Star-Touched Queen so maybe I'll start there. Or wait to see who the narrator is. If it's a favorite I may have to pick it up. 

What about you? What are you waiting for this Wednesday? Are you waiting on A Crown of Wishes along with me? Leave me a comment with your thoughts. Thanks for stopping by and HAPPY READING!

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Top Ten Tuesday: Hidden Gems of 2016

A weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish 

1.) The Abyss Surrounds Us by Emily Skrutskie - My Review / Goodreads
This was one of my favorite debuts last year and definitely flew under the radar. It's an indie release so that kind of makes sense but it's so good. It's got diverse LGBT characters and is about sci-fi sea monsters and pirates.

2.) The Smell of Other People's Houses by Bonnie-Sue Hitchcock - My Review / Goodreads
This is another or my favorite debuts. I feel like it's the kind of book that will appeal to a wide range of readers. It's technically historical fiction but reads like contemporary. It's a great and interesting story about people connecting in the most unlikely places.

3.) Roses and Rot by Kat Howard - My Review / Goodreads
I really enjoyed this book. I liked it more than I thought I would. It was more complex than I thought it would be too. I really don't want to give too much away though. Just suffice it to say, if you like fairy tales you must read this.

4.) Kingdom of Ash and Briar by Hannah West - My Review / Goodreads
Another debut that I loved from an indie publisher. It was a fantastic YA fantasy that had god elements of a fairy tale retelling. The beginning wasn't super creative but it did take a unique turn and I loved it for that. Plus it was an action-packed fantasy standalone.

5.) Paper and Fire by Rachel Caine - My Review / Goodreads
This was one of my favorite books of last year and I am super in love with this series but I don't really hear anyone talking about it. I mean besides me and the people who I recommended it to. But it's a really fantastic alternate history/sci-f/fantasy series.

6.) Gena/Finn by Hannah Moskowitz and Kat Helgeson - My Review / Goodreads
I know a few fellow bloggers read and loved this YA contemporary but I feel like more people didn't talk about this one. Or at least as many people who should be talking about. All contemporary fans should read it. It's got the perfect combination of humor and seriousness.

7.) The Skylighter by Becky Wallace - My Review / Goodreads
This was one of my most anticipated releases of the year and it did not disappoint. I know a few people were talking about the first book in this series when it came out but not very many were talking about this one and I feel like they should have been.

8.) The Sleeping Prince by Melinda Salisbury - My Review / Goodreads
Same as above. I love this series and I am super excited for thelast book in the series to come out this summer. I think a few people were talking about it when it first came out and I know it got mixed reviews but I loved it. I think this series is a surprisingly dark and complex YA fantasy.

9.) Rocks Fall, Everyone Dies by Lindsay Ribar - My Review / Goodreads
This is one of the most unique books I read last year and is definitely a hidden gem. It's a little bit of everything: magical realism, mystery, contemporary, fantasy. It's a weird and fun book that I think more people should read.

10.) Enter Title Here by Rahul Kanakia - My Review / Goodreads
And another debut I loved that not a lot of people were talking about. I don't think it's the book for everyone but I loved the way it played with some of the tropes of YA contemporaries. It was a really unique read too.

11.) The Swan Riders by Erin Bow - My Review / Goodreads
And another sequel that I loved and not a lot of people were talking about. I know a handful of people loved The Scorpion Rules along with me but I feel like I was the only person talking about this book when it came out. And while this wasn't as good as the first one, it was great!

12.) When the Moon Was Ours by Anna-Marie McLemore - My Review / Goodreads
I thought a lot of people were raving about this one along with me but it has less than 1,000 ratings on Goodreads which makes me remember that I live in a blogging bubble. In case you haven't read this amazing diverse YA Magical Realism you should.

Honorable Mention: 
The Only Thing Worse Than Me is You by Lily Anderson - My Review / Goodreads
The Female of the Species by Mindy McGinnis - My Review / Goodreads

Monday, January 16, 2017

Book Review: Wayfarer by Alexandra Bracken

*** This is the second book in a duology. If you have not read Passenger be careful of spoilers. Also read those, they're great. ***

Title: Wayfarer
Series: Passenger #2
Written by: Alexandra Bracken
Published: January 3, 2017 by Scholastic
(Amazon / Goodreads)

Synopsis: All Etta Spencer wanted was to make her violin debut when she was thrust into a treacherous world where the struggle for power could alter history. After losing the one thing that would have allowed her to protect the Timeline, and the one person worth fighting for, Etta awakens alone in an unknown place and time, exposed to the threat of the two groups who would rather see her dead than succeed. When help arrives, it comes from the last person Etta ever expected—Julian Ironwood, the Grand Master’s heir who has long been presumed dead, and whose dangerous alliance with a man from Etta’s past could put them both at risk. 

Meanwhile, Nicholas and Sophia are racing through time in order to locate Etta and the missing astrolabe with Ironwood travelers hot on their trail. They cross paths with a mercenary-for-hire, a cheeky girl named Li Min who quickly develops a flirtation with Sophia. But as the three of them attempt to evade their pursuers, Nicholas soon realizes that one of his companions may have ulterior motives. 

As Etta and Nicholas fight to make their way back to one another, from Imperial Russia to the Vatican catacombs, time is rapidly shifting and changing into something unrecognizable… and might just run out on both of them.

I really loved Passenger and was so excited to read the next book in this series. And this book was another thrilling and action-packed read with great characters.

The biggest strength of this book is definitely the characters. I absolutely connected with the main characters in the first book in the series and in this one I was completely invested in seeing them succeed. Both Nicholas and Etta are strong, resourceful, and compassionate. They are the kind of characters that have strengths and weaknesses making them complex and well rounded. They spent most of the book apart which meant very little romance and I kind of loved that. Not only did I want them to get together but it made me appreciate them apart and allowed for some good character development.

This book also had a good combination of plot-driven and character-driven. On the one hand there was a ton of action in this book. It was full of thrilling escapes, fight scenes, and surprises. There wasn't a ton of action in Passenger but Wayfarer made up for that in stride. At the same time there were a lot of character based moments where the choices and motivations of Etta and Nicholas influenced the story and how it developed. It wasn't quite a Hero's Journey but it had those aspects in addition to the action based moments. For someone like me who prefers plot-driven reads Wayfarer struck the right chord.

Unfortunately however I didn't love the world building in this one. Passenger was one of those time travel stories that focuses more on the historical fiction aspects of the world building and I kind of wish that Wayfarer had done that as well. But the plot took more of the focus and that was kind of to he detriment of the word building. Now don't get me wrong, I think it's okay if there is more of a focus on the time travel aspect but if that's the case then there needs to be clear rules and understanding how all of that works, and that didn't happen here. A lot of the time it came off as confusing and muddied the book for me. I wish there was more explanation to the world.

Or maybe that was just because of the pacing of the book. This was a very fast-paced read, and it may have been too fast. It moved from moment to moment at such a breakneck speed that I almost didn't register what was happening now before it moved on to the next. I found myself kind of confused at times and even had to reread whole pages and sections because it moved too quickly. It did all build to a thrilling conclusion but when it was all over it didn't feel satisfying in the way I thought it would be. I know this series is only a duology but I feel like there's more. Or maybe I just want more.

This book wasn't perfect but I did rally enjoy it. It's a thrilling action-packed read with great character moments and exciting ending despite the fact that the world and pacing was a little confusing.

I give Wayfarer by Alexandra Bracken 9 out of 10 stars


Buy/Borrow/Bypass: Buy/Borrow. If you liked Passenger you will enjoy the second book in this series. It's not a perfect time travel series but it's definitely a really good one that I think fans of historical fantasy will enjoy.

Have you read Wayfarer? What did you think? Leave me a comment with your thoughts. Thanks for stoping by and HAPPY READING!

Friday, January 13, 2017

ARC Review: The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden

Title: The Bear and the Nightingale
Written by: Katherine Arden
Published: January 10, 2017 by Del Ray (Random House)
(Amazon / Goodreads)

Synopsis: At the edge of the Russian wilderness, winter lasts most of the year and the snowdrifts grow taller than houses. But Vasilisa doesn’t mind—she spends the winter nights huddled around the embers of a fire with her beloved siblings, listening to her nurse’s fairy tales. Above all, she loves the chilling story of Frost, the blue-eyed winter demon, who appears in the frigid night to claim unwary souls. Wise Russians fear him, her nurse says, and honor the spirits of house and yard and forest that protect their homes from evil. 

After Vasilisa’s mother dies, her father goes to Moscow and brings home a new wife. Fiercely devout, city-bred, Vasilisa’s new stepmother forbids her family from honoring the household spirits. The family acquiesces, but Vasilisa is frightened, sensing that more hinges upon their rituals than anyone knows. 

And indeed, crops begin to fail, evil creatures of the forest creep nearer, and misfortune stalks the village. All the while, Vasilisa’s stepmother grows ever harsher in her determination to groom her rebellious stepdaughter for either marriage or confinement in a convent. 

As danger circles, Vasilisa must defy even the people she loves and call on dangerous gifts she has long concealed—this, in order to protect her family from a threat that seems to have stepped from her nurse’s most frightening tales

*** I received an advance copy of this from the publisher via Netgalley. This fact has not changed my opinion. ***

I was instantly attracted to The Bear and the Nightingale when I learned about it. It's definitely my kind of read. A lush fantasy world amid a harsh historical setting, and a modern fairy tale kind of plot... how could I resist? I couldn't. So I was so happy to get a review copy from the publisher and dive right in. And while I really liked it, it didn't blow me away.

For one thing, this is not the kind of book you can sink your teeth into and power through (unless you get the audiobook, but more on that later). It's one of those books that is very slowly paced. It draws you in and slows you down as you take in every word and experience. If you like those kinds of books you will definitely love this one. I'm usually not big on books that aren't more plot-focused and I still really liked this. Usually if a book takes me weeks to read it I consider DNFing but I never did that here. I was willing to give it the time and I'm glad I did. The ending had great payoff even though it took it's time to get there.

Probably the best thing about this world though was the setting and world. This is a book that relies very heavily on it's atmosphere, and honestly that is exactly what it should do because seriously, the atmosphere is fantastic. It's one of those worlds that is full of magic and mystery but in a subtle kind of way. The fantasy creatures and magical elements incorporate a lot of folklore and fairy tales so it kind of gives off that kind of vibe within the story. The other thing that gave it a great atmosphere was the setting. The Russian wilderness setting contrasted so well with the fantasy elements in such an interesting way. And it felt subtly dark as well. It's one of those fantasy reads where just the setting makes the stakes really high. I love books that feel reminiscent of classic fairy tales in their world and atmosphere and this was one of those books.

As far as the plot goes, it was good but nothing that super impressed me. It definitely did build to a thrilling ending full of action and mystery but as previously stated it took it's sweet time to get there. This is a book full of exposition. It is lousy with exposition. I often complain about how I don't like books with a lot of exposition and you should add this one to that list. It was just so much set up. You knew there was exciting things coming but the plot development kept being like, "but first, here's a thing to learn." I just wish that it had gotten to the good stuff sooner.

But I did really like the characters here. The main character is Vasya, and she was amazing. Vasya is one of those strong female characters that I adore. She isn't particularly badass in a classical sense but she is tough and resourceful just as she is caring and vulnerable. What I loved about Vasya is that she had this absolute belief in the power of the magic all around her even when it even more difficult for her. And she cares so much about others that she will help them to her own detriment and that I can't help but appreciate in a heroine. But for the most part, this book was full of really dark and odious characters. There are so many threats here and all kinds of characters whose true morality and whether they are helping or harming are in question. I love those kind of characters and these ones are one of the main reasons I kept reading in the slower moments.

As I said before, it took me forever to read it and I think one of the main reasons I did eventually finish it was that on Tuesday, when the the book came out, I picked up the audiobook. And that was the best decision I have made in awhile. Because you guys, this audio was amazing. It is absolutely the kind of book that is perfectly suited to the audio format. The atmospheric world, the lush and gritty setting, the exposition and slower pacing, all things I prefer in audio. Not to mention that the narrator did an amazing job with the Russian accents making it so immersive. If you like audiobooks and want to read this book, get the audio.

On the whole this was a good read despite some things I didn't love. It's incredibly slow-paced and relies very heavily on it's atmosphere and the odious characters. It isn't a book that you can read in one sitting but it's a perfect winter read if you want to immerse yourself in something fantastical and atmospheric.

I give The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden 8.5 out of 10 stars


Buy/Borrow/Bypass: Buy/Borrow. This is good but I don't know if it's a rush out and get it immediately kind of read. If you are looking for an audiobook I'd say buy it, But definitely a good book to snag the next time you're at the library.

Have you read The Bear and the Nightingale? What did you think? Leave me a comment with your thoughts. Thanks for stopping by and HAPPY READING!

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Top Ten Tuesday: 2016 Books I Meant to Read

A weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish

I kind of love this week's theme. I mean how many books did you want to read this year and were not able to. There are too many books and too little time. Not to mention you can't really buy all the books you want to. So here is my list of books I wanted to read and didn't this year,

Books I Never Got My Hands On

1.) Nil on Fire by Lynne Matson - Amazon / Goodreads
I loved the first two books in this series and I read them shortly after they came out. But for some reason I have really been dragging my feet in reading the final book in the series. I really need to get to it though.

2.) The Imposter Queen by Sarah Fine - Amazon / Goodreads
I read my first Sarah Fine books in 2015 and wanted to read more of her stuff. This book is totally up my alley so it seemed totally perfect. But I never got my hands on a copy and still need to read it.

3.) Please Don't Tell by Laura Tims - Amazon / Goodreads
This YA mystery was a debut I really wanted to read last year but I never picked up a copy and didn't get a chance to read it. I'd like to still check it out though.

4.) Traitor Angels by Anne Blankman - Amazon / Goodreads
I've wanted to read Anne's previous books but I haven't. I really have no explanation for it. Not to mention that this book is totally up my alley. It's a historical mystery about Paradise Lost, I should have been all over this book.

5.) Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire - Amazon / Goodreads
I have heard really good things about this book and it sounds totally fantastic. Like it's about children who have been to magical lands. Like how amazing does that sound! You may know I like books that play with fantasy tropes.

Books I Own and Didn't Read

6.) My Lady Jane by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows - Amazon / Goodreads
Yeah, here's another book that I really should have read. Like this is my kind of book. I mean seriously. I've heard it's a hilarious read and it's historical fiction about court intrigue with a little it of fantasy to it.

7.) Nemesis by Anne Banks - Amazon / Goodreads
I bought a copy of this book when Anne Banks came to Pittsburgh and I thought she was hilarious and my kind of people. I had every intention of reading it and didn't.

8.) A Criminal Magic by Lee Kelly - Amazon / Goodreads
I bought a copy of this book when it came out because I saw it on sale and I had planned on reading it but didn't. Because seriously, it sounds so cool. And once again right up my alley because it's a historical fantasy.

BEA Books and Other Review Books

9.) Replica by Lauren Oliver - Amazon / Goodreads
I definitely wanted to read this book. It sounds super unique. But I continued to push it further and further down the TBR until the year was over and the book was unread.

10.) Rebel Genius by Michael Dante Dimartino - Amazon / Goodreads
I was so so excited about this book. I mean it's a MG fantasy from one of the creators of Avatar the Last Airbender which is my absolute favorite. And I even got a copy of this at EPA and met the author but still haven't read it.

11.) Metaltown by Kristen Simmons - Amazon / Goodreads
This one is similar to Replica. I was super excited about reading this book and was so pumped to get a copy at BEA and for some reason I just didn't prioritize it. Even when it fit the theme for that month I still didn't read it.

12.) The Girls by Emma Cline - Amazon / Goodreads
This is an adult book that I had heard a lot of hype and good things about. I got a copy on Netgalley and planned to read it but haven't yet. I still want to maybe take the time to read it but I'm not sure when I will be able to.

There you have it. The ten(ish) books I wanted to read last year but never read. What books did you want to read last year and never got a chance? Have you read any of these books? Is there any I should prioritize? Leave me a comment with your thoughts. Thanks for stopping by and HAPPY READING!