Welcome to another installment of My Thoughts Figuratively where I wax philisophically about things relating to reading and blogging. I used to do try and do discussion posts monthly and this is actually the second month in a row that I have posted one. Maybe I am actually going to be able to do that moving forward. But lately I have been thinking a lot about my reading and I wanted to talk about here to get my thoughts out and see if you all have experienced it.
If you have been a longtime reader of the blog you know that I used to do monthly themes where I would read a bunch of books based on certain topic. It could have been a genre like historical fiction or high fantasy, or something more specific like pirates of "island adventures." I really liked the structure and being able to explore certain types of books in depth. But as time went on I wasn't able to think of ideas anymore and the themes stayed the same. Plus as I started to read more it became harder to predict what I was going to read each month and stick to a specific theme. Over time I slowly dropped the theme and just decided to read what I wanted every month.
But reading what I wanted in any given moment was easier then it looked. So instead of knowing exactly what I was going to read next I was faced with crippling indecision on what book to pick up after I finished one. I mean, I had a general idea of what I was hoping to read for the month based what new books were coming out and what books I had review copies of, but in general I didn't have a plan. And when I don't have a plan I tend to get overwhelmed and give up. Call it anxiety or whatever else but it made deciding what to read next a tough choice. So in those cases I have taken to Twitter and let my followers make the decision for me. It's sometimes easier when someone else tells you what to do.
Then Wednesday night, as I'm deciding what to read next I asked myself what I was in the mood for. And that's when I realized that I have been asking myself what I am in the mood to read. A question I have never really thought about. I know that a lot of people are mood readers. It's a thing you hear all the time in the blogoshere "I'm a mood reader so I'm not interested in that right now." And I honestly never understood that. If a new book that you were really excited to read just came out, how are you not in the mood for it?
Are you a mood reader or can you set a TBR for the month? If you are a mood reader then let me know how you decide what to read next? HELP ME! Thanks for stopping by and HAPPY READING!
Friday, November 16, 2018
Thursday, November 15, 2018
ABOUT THE BOOK
Author: Lyra Selene
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Release Date: November 27, 2018
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy
Synopsis: Sylvie has always known she deserves more. Out in the permanent twilight of the Dusklands, her guardians called her power to create illusions a curse. But Sylvie knows it gives her a place in Coeur d'Or, the palais of the Amber Empress and her highborn legacies.
So Sylvie sets off toward the Amber City, a glittering jewel under a sun that never sets, to take what is hers.
But her hope for a better life is quickly dimmed. The empress invites her in only as part of a wicked wager among her powerful courtiers. Sylvie must assume a new name, Mirage, and begin to navigate secretive social circles and deadly games of intrigue in order to claim her spot. Soon it becomes apparent that nothing is as it appears and no one, including her cruel yet captivating sponsor, Sunder, will answer her questions. As Mirage strives to assume what should be her rightful place, she'll have to consider whether itis worth the price she must pay.
**** I received an advance copy of this book from the published in exchange for an honest review as a part of the blog tour. This fact has not changed my opinion. ****
I am usually looking for a new and different YA fantasy so when I read the synopsis for this book and saw the opportunity to take part in the blog tour for this one I jumped at the chance. And while I do think that this felt like a classic fantasy, and while it had a lot of promise it didn't quite deliver on that.
The thing that I think best expresses this for me is the characters.. This is a book full of odious and interesting characters. I usually prefer my fantasies to have characters who are on the darker side. People who have allegiances that are hidden and plenty of secrets. These were those kinds of characters. It made for interesting characters who I was curious to learn more about, but I feel a little bit like we didn't get that payoff. Some of the characters got good reveals towards the end of the book but for the most part they didn't strike an emotional chord for me. I think honestly because most of them weren't really very big surprises. The main character of Sylvie felt like a classic YA fantasy protagonist. She was tough and brash which I liked but she was also incredibly dense which I found a little frustrating. To be honest, that was one of the things that added to the classic feel of this book for me. It was the find of book where I preferred the secondary characters.
What I enjoyed most about Amber and Dusk was the world. For one thing, the magical system is one of those where each character has their own power and they feel almost like superpowers, which is a magical system I always enjoy. Plus the author was great about how the magic had clear rules and before the main character was able to use her powers in a significant way she had to learn how to control them, which is something I prefer in my magic. But the world also had a ton of political intrigue. I love when fantasies deal with court politics and the secrets surrounding the court and this book definitely handled that well.
I do think however that this book had too much world building and that's at the expense of the plot. New fantasy books always have a lot of exposition. I expect at least 100 pages of set up and world building. But this book kind of took things way too far. The most interesting part of the story for me didn't really kick in until about the last 80 pages and then it was over way too soon even though it sent into motion so much of the book's final act. There was one section that was only 20 pages long that I really wanted more from and I felt like this portion of the plot could have been expanded on. I need a very plot-centered story though so maybe most people won't mind about this too much.
All in all, I think this was an okay read. It had a lot going for it like odious characters and an interesting world full of political intrigue, plus it definitely read like a classic YA fantasy but it didn't quite blow me away.
I give Amber and Dusk by Lyra Selene 7.5 out of 10 stars
Buy/Borrow/Bypass: Borrow. If you are looking for a YA fantastic that is heavy on the world and political intrigue and light on the plot development then check this out. It has classic fantasy vibes that I think fans of the genre will enjoy.
Barnes & Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/amber-dusk-lyra-selene/1127731151
Book Depository: https://www.bookdepository.com/Amber-Dusk-Lyra-Selene/9781338210033?ref=grid-view&qid=1539641765675&sr=1-1
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Lyra Selene was born under a full moon and has never quite managed to wipe the moonlight out of her eyes. When she isn’t dreaming up fantastical cities and brood-ing landscapes, Lyra enjoys hiking, rainstorms, autumn, and pretending she’s any good at painting.
She lives in New England with her husband, in an antique farmhouse that’s probably not haunted. AMBER & DUSK is her debut novel.
•AMBER & DUSK by Lyra Selene
Monday, November 12, 2018
Written by: Stacey Lee
Published: May 24, 2016 by G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers (Penguin)
Synopsis: San Francisco, 1906: Fifteen-year-old Mercy Wong is determined to break from the poverty in Chinatown, and an education at St. Clare’s School for Girls is her best hope. Although St. Clare’s is off-limits to all but the wealthiest white girls, Mercy gains admittance through a mix of cunning and a little bribery, only to discover that getting in was the easiest part. Not to be undone by a bunch of spoiled heiresses, Mercy stands strong—until disaster strikes.
On April 18, a historic earthquake rocks San Francisco, destroying Mercy’s home and school. With martial law in effect, she is forced to wait with her classmates for their families in a temporary park encampment. Though fires might rage, and the city may be in shambles, Mercy can’t sit by while they wait for the army to bring help—she still has the “bossy” cheeks that mark her as someone who gets things done. But what can one teenage girl do to heal so many suffering in her broken city?
If you saw my Top Ten Tuesday post last week you know that this book was a backlist book I own but hadn't read. So as I was looking for an audiobook to listen to for two really long trips I had last week I saw this one and had to download it.
This book really solidified the fact that Stacey Lee is a fantastic author of historical fiction. I usually prefer my historical fiction to take a well-known or even lesser known event in history and then add fiction characters to explain and expand on the world. That is what this book did. It took the 1906 earthquake of San Francisco and told the story of it from the perspective of a young Chinese American girl. Stacey's writing really brought the even to life. You could feel the tremors along with the characters and the uncertainty of what was next after most of the city was leveled or in flames. It made for a very interesting and engaging read that had me worried for the characters and the city of San Francisco. You can tell that Stacey did her research into what happened during the earthquake. It felt interesting and like I was learning something at the same time.
And while that was the backdrop, there was so much more to this book than just the earthquake. It also showed the reader what it would have been like for a Chinese American with not only what it was like to grow up in Chinatown but the oppression that she experienced because of her race. And while it's easy for something like that to feel over-wrought this wasn't. It served to add drama to the narrative and to establish the historical time period. It also gave the story a timely quality as well. The heart of this story was really a young woman who is the child of immigrants trying to overcome her circumstances and thrive. And that will always be an engaging and inspiring story.
But maybe I enjoyed that so much because I really liked the characters on this book. Mercy Wong is a fantastic main character. Her voice really comes through in throughout the narrative. I felt like I knew who Mercy was, where she came from, where she wanted to go, and what she was going to do to get there. What I think I liked most about her is that she's equal parts tough street kid and vulnerable young woman. She's ballsy and abrasive sometimes but she's also kind and caring. She was a really complex character and I enjoyed her a lot. The secondary characters in this book were also really great. There was a great theme about family and loss, but also a running thread of found family and friendship. There were also really complex characters who had great development like Elodie and Headmistress Crouch. The characterization was one of the best parts of this book.
Finally, I couldn't conclude this review without mentioning San Francisco because the city itself was as much a character as anyone else. San Francisco is a place I have only been to once but but it is also a city that I loved. It has beautiful architecture, a gorgeous landscape, and an interesting history. All of that came alive in this book. I think Stacey Lee is from the Bay Area and she obviously has a lot of love for the city. But what I especially loved is the idea that she really considered what the city was like over 100 years ago. I am always someone who thinks about those things and wonders what a city and building was like when it was first built and if you are like me then you will really enjoy this book.
All in all., I really loved this book. It's a fantastic historical fiction novel with an engaging plot that explores a historical event from a unique perspective, amazing complex characters, and a great setting that really comes to life. I'm so glad I took the time to read it and I wish I hadn't waited so long.
I give Outrun the Moon by Stacey Lee 9.5 out of 10 stars
Have you read Outrun the Moon? What did you think? Leave me a comment with your thoughts. Thanks for stopping by and HAPPY READING!
Saturday, November 10, 2018
Written by: Natasha Ngan
Published: November 6, 2018 by Jimmy Books (Little, Brown Books)
Synopsis: Each year, eight beautiful girls are chosen as Paper Girls to serve the king. It's the highest honor they could hope for...and the most cruel.
But this year, there's a ninth girl. And instead of paper, she's made of fire.
In this lush fantasy, Lei is a member of the Paper caste, the lowest and most oppressed class in Ikhara. She lives in a remote village with her father, where the decade-old trauma of watching her mother snatched by royal guards still haunts her. Now, the guards are back, and this time it's Lei they're after--the girl whose golden eyes have piqued the king's interest.
Over weeks of training in the opulent but stifling palace, Lei and eight other girls learn the skills and charm that befit being a king's consort. But Lei isn't content to watch her fate consume her. Instead, she does the unthinkable--she falls in love. Her forbidden romance becomes enmeshed with an explosive plot that threatens the very foundation of Ikhara, and Lei, still the wide-eyed country girl at heart, must decide just how far she's willing to go for justice and revenge.
TW: violence and sexual abuse.
This book was one of my most anticipated debuts of the year. I read a lot of YA fantasy (because I love it, obviously), and I am always excited to see a standalone, especially one on the darker side with political intrigue. And this was a really good read.
One of the best things about this book is the world. I'm surprised by how rich and engaging the world of this book is even though it's more subtle. It's a book inspired by Asian cultures and the emphasis is interesting and makes for a lush and beautiful setting. I usually like my fantasies to go big when it comes to magic but this one didn't. Instead it just developed the story around the world where people have animal features. These are the people who are the most revered and powerful within this world and there is a firm caste system between the others with people just being human at the lowest level. And like a lot of fantasy there is a brutal and authoritarian ruler. It added more depth to the world and a lot of political intrigue to the plot.
But I will say, that I still have a lot of questions about the world of this book. I know the general rule of them is to show instead of tell when it comes to world building but then you have to actually show these things. Maybe I was just reading more into it then it actually was but I thought there was some opportunities for big reveals in the explanation of the world and magical system. This boiok never went there and I wish that it had.
However, it may be possible that the world building was simple because the plot took more of the focus. This is one of those books where I think the trigger warning is good because this is very much a brutal read. It doesn't shrink away from the abuse of power of the Demon King, not only on the people in general but the young women who are his courtesans. It's often hard to read but it made for a dark and engaging story that had me wanting the protagonists to succeed in their goal to overthrow the king. I'm a plot-driven reader and usually I prefer a book full of action and surprises but this too was on the more subtle side. It was a simple sort of rebellion story but it was an interesting one nonetheless. I was invested in the story and it definitely did build to an exciting conclusion.
As far as the characters, I am not entirely sure how I feel about them. I already mentioned the brutal antagonist and I feel like Ngan did a great job in developing a terrible villain that was easy to dislike. But I would have like some more from the protagonists. Lei was a good enough main character, the kind of person who goes through so much that you can't help but root for her over the oppressors. But as an individual, I don't think she really came to life. It's not that she didn't have individual traits, because she was definitely fierce and determined in a way that usually endears me to a character. I mean she has some serious Sansa Stark vibes and you know how I love me some Sansa. But she just didn't make that strong an impression on me.
What surprised me though it that I did however like the romance. It's a f/f relationship and I actually liked the way that it developed. It is a little bit of a instalove, I mean it develops very quickly, but I think the author does a good job of showing the character's inner thoughts about the relationship. It's a bit of a forbidden fruit sort of thing but it never got to over the top with that. I liked that the character was torn about her feelings which makes it all the more satisfying when it came together. It had a good balance too and didn't overpower the story for me.
All in all, I really enjoyed this book even though it wasn't perfect. It had a rich and engaging world, a plot that pulled me and kept me reading until the exciting conclusion, and a romance that I actually enjoyed.
I give Girls of Paper and Fire by Natasha Ngan 8.5 out of 10 stars
Have you read Girls of Paper and Fire? What did you think? Leave me a comment with your thoughts. Thanks for stopping by and HAPPY READING!
Friday, November 9, 2018
Series: Throne of Glass #7
Written by: Sarah J Maas
Published: October 23, 2018 by Bloomsbury Books for Young Readers
Synopsis: Years in the making, Sarah J. Maas’s #1 New York Times bestselling Throne of Glass series draws to an epic, unforgettable conclusion. Aelin Galathynius’s journey from slave to king’s assassin to the queen of a once-great kingdom reaches its heart-rending finale as war erupts across her world. . .
Aelin has risked everything to save her people―but at a tremendous cost. Locked within an iron coffin by the Queen of the Fae, Aelin must draw upon her fiery will as she endures months of torture. Aware that yielding to Maeve will doom those she loves keeps her from breaking, though her resolve begins to unravel with each passing day…
With Aelin captured, Aedion and Lysandra remain the last line of defense to protect Terrasen from utter destruction. Yet they soon realize that the many allies they’ve gathered to battle Erawan’s hordes might not be enough to save them. Scattered across the continent and racing against time, Chaol, Manon, and Dorian are forced to forge their own paths to meet their fates. Hanging in the balance is any hope of salvation―and a better world.
And across the sea, his companions unwavering beside him, Rowan hunts to find his captured wife and queen―before she is lost to him forever.
As the threads of fate weave together at last, all must fight, if they are to have a chance at a future. Some bonds will grow even deeper, while others will be severed forever in the explosive final chapter of the Throne of Glass series.
That's right friends, the Throne of Glass series is over. It's been a great four year ride with the series and I have been crazy impressed with how complex and engaging this series is. And while the last book in this series is not my favorite, it was a great ending to an amazing YA fantasy series.
The thing that continues to impress me about this series is the plot development. This is one of those series where clearly everything was planned out since the very beginning. Little things from the early books in the series and even the novellas come back in a big way in the final book as things start unfolding and everything was unfolding. Plus it is crazy action-packed. I have come to know this series for the fact that it has always been full of action, adventure, and surprises. This being that it was the final book, of course that was all of that was heightened. The stakes were high and a lot of this book took me on a crazy emotional ride.
That being, said the pacing was not great. This is a really long book. It comes in at a whopping 992 pages which not only makes it the longest book I have read this year but one of the longest I have ever read. But it's not out of the ordinary to read a fantasy book over 800 pages but they don't always feel like they are as long as they are. But this book felt long. There were a lot of moments where there were lulls in the story that had me not at all minding that I put it down.
I think one of the reasons why that the pacing was a bit problematic for me is that this is a series that is full of perspectives and in this book that was a little out of control. I honestly lost count with how many characters got to narrate a portion of the book but it had to be at least a dozen. And yes, that't not out of the ordinary for fantasy books but with this series it is always a bit jarring, especially because often it would change perspectives in the middle of the chapter. I have never liked that about this series and like everything else with this book that was heightened too.
But I do really love the characters in this series. Over the past seven main books and a collection of novellas I have definitely fell in love with these characters. So many of them are amazing and badass. It's been amazing seeing Aelin's development over the course of the series. She's maintained her heart of being arrogant and sarcastic while being an amazing leader and queen. So many of the other characters have also had great developments, including my two favorite Dorian and Manon. They both have some seriously kickass moments. But that is just the tip of the iceberg. Lysandra was freaking amazing and Yrene was fantastic. Even Chaol wasn't actually wasn't the most self-righteous asshole in this book. No, that distinction went to Aedion even though I still love him. All the characters really had great development and seeing them change and grow throughout the series was really enjoyable.
But my favorite thing about this book may have been the world. Sarah has managed to craft a totally complex world. We have learned so much about it over the past seven books and watching it all unfold in such a meaningful way was the best thing about this book. This series went from one where there was no magic to a sword and sorcery novel full of magic and mystery. There was so much to learn about when it comes to the Valg, the wyrdkeys, the gods of this universe, and how they are all connected. I do still feel like there are some unanswered questions when it comes to all of that, especially the word keys and some of the answers felt like cop out but it is still an amazing world that I loved.
All in all, this was a great ending to one of my favorite series. It was full of action and adventure, great characters, and a fascinating world. It wasn't perfect and felt a little long with way too many perspectives but I thoroughly enjoyed it and am not ready to see it end even though I liked the way it did.
I give Kingdom of Ash by Sarah J. Maas 9 out of 10 stars
Have you read Kingdom of Ash? What did you think? Leave me a comment with your thoughts. Thanks for stopping by and happy reading.
Tuesday, November 6, 2018
A weekly meme hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl
1.) The Wrong Side of Right by Jenn Marie Thorne
I was super interested in this contemporary before it came out in 2015 because I kind of worked in politics at the time but I never read it. Then after the election I didn't have the heart to read it but I do still want to.
2.) Dissonance by Erica O'Rourke
I heard really good things about this YA science fiction when it came out four years ago from blogger friends and I even received a copy as a gift but I still haven't read it.
3&4.) The Stormlight Archives by Brandon Sanderson
*runs and hides* I have read most of Brandon Sanderson's books but this one intimidates me because it is so long. I even started the audio but I just couldn't devote the time.
5&6.) Out of Sight Out of Time and United We Spy by Ally Carter
I have really been dragging my feet on this series. I got the last three books in a used book store haul over a year ago and I still haven't read the last two.
7.) Outrun the Moon by Stacey Lee
I loved Stacey's debut and even though I got a copy of this one (signed!) at ALA last year I still have not read it. I'm super interested in her book that's coming out next year but I feel like I should read this first, even though they are not related.
8.) A Madness So Discreet by Mindy McGinnis
I have read most of Mindy's books but not this one even though I have owned a copy of both the e-book and a physical copy. I keep thinking I will read this one and never do.
9.) That Naturals by Jennifer Lynn Barnes
I have read The Fixer series by Jennifer and loved it so I want to read this one. I mean it's about spies and the main character's name is Cassie.
10.) The Imposter Queen by Sarah Fine
I read Sarah's Phantom of the Opera retelling and I really enjoyed it so it made me want to read more of her books including this series. I got a copy of this I think from a Book Outlet haul but still haven't read it.
11 & 12.) Dark Triumph and Mortal Heart by Robin LaFevers
I saved the worst for last. I really hope people don't defriend me over this one. I loved the first book in the series but never continued. I plan to before the new book comes out in January.
There you have it! All the backlist books I own but have not read. What backlist books are still on your TBR. Leave me a comment with your thoughts. Thanks for stopping by and HAPPY READING!
Saturday, November 3, 2018
Written by: April Genvieve Tucholke
Published: October 8, 2018 by Farrar Straus Giroux (Macmillan)
Synopsis: A dark standalone YA fantasy about a band of mercenary girls in search of female glory.
Frey, Ovie, Juniper, and Runa are the Boneless Mercies—girls hired to kill quickly, quietly, and mercifully. But Frey is weary of the death trade and, having been raised on the heroic sagas of her people, dreams of a bigger life.
When she hears of an unstoppable monster ravaging a nearby town, Frey decides this is the Mercies' one chance out. The fame and fortune of bringing down such a beast would ensure a new future for all the Mercies. In fact, her actions may change the story arc of women everywhere.
This book was a really solid meh for me. I had heard some mixed reviews but my friend Michelle who never reads fantasy actually liked it so when I needed something new to read I let Twitter decide and this one was the winner. But, I just don’t think it was my kind of read.
For one thing, this is a character driven fantasy. Much of the book is about the characters hunt for glory and then deciding where they should go and what they should do to fight for themselves and for others. A lot of people love that sort of thing but I do not. I don’t like travel and only in rare cases do I like when the characters drive the plot. This was not one of those cases. It felt like an incredibly slow read for me. Now don’t get me wrong, there was plenty of fights and pretty high stakes but it felt like I had to wait entirely too long to get to those parts. The book definitely built to an exciting climax but by that point I was just skimming to get to the battle scenes.
I’m also surprised that I didn’t like the characters more than I did. A band of female assassin’s! How could they be anything but amazing. And yeah, they were pretty badass. And yes, they kicked ass and took names. And the sisterhood and teamwork between them and some of the other female characters we meet along the way was amazing. But as individuals I just didn’t connect with them. I didn’t feel why Frey wanted glory. Hell, I even forgot her name at one point in the book. If you are going to have a character-driven novel to enjoy it, you really have to enjoy the characters and I didn’t.
On thing I did love however was the world. It’s a really atmospheric world that is perfect for the fall. Tucholke’s writing pulls you in and the locations come to life in your mind. I could perfectly picture the sea breezes and the witches that inhabited their shore. I could see the fields of reads and the women who lived and wrecked havoc among them. I could see the monsters and creatures that inhabited the woods and mountains. It is one of those fantasies that is visually beautiful. The world is inspired by Scandinavian culture and myth and that’s a setting I really enjoy so this book really checked all the boxes in that respect.
The other really interesting thing about this book is that it is a Beowulf retelling. A genderbent Beowulf retelling. I love a genderbent retelling. However, I have not read Beowulf so I can’t really speak to the book on that level. I’m curious what fans of the epic poem think about this book. It did kind of make me want to read that, so I guess that is something.
All in all, this was only an okay book for me. I loved the world but I found the plot a little too slow and I didn’t connect with the characters, which made the book all the more challenging because it’s a character-driven narrative.
I give Boneless Mercies by April Genevieve Tucholke 7.5 out of 10 stars
Have you read Boneless Mercies? What did you think? Leave me a comment with your thoughts. Thanks for stopping by and HAPPY READING!