Monday, June 30, 2014

ARC Review: The Quick by Lauren Owen

Title: The Quick 
Author: Lauren Owen 
Published: June 17, 2014 by Random House
Amazon Goodreads

Synopsis: An astonishing debut, a novel of epic scope and suspense that conjures up all the magic and menace of Victorian London  

London, 1892: James Norbury, a shy would-be poet newly down from Oxford, finds lodging with a charming young aristocrat. Through this new friendship, he is introduced to the drawing-rooms of high society, and finds love in an unexpected quarter. Then, suddenly, he vanishes without a trace. Unnerved, his sister, Charlotte, sets out from their crumbling country estate determined to find him.

In the sinister, labyrinthine city that greets her, she uncovers a secret world at the margins populated by unforgettable characters: a female rope walker turned vigilante, a street urchin with a deadly secret, and the chilling “Doctor Knife.” 

But the answer to her brother’s disappearance ultimately lies within the doors of one of the country’s preeminent and mysterious institutions: The Aegolius Club, whose members include the most ambitious, and most dangerous, men in England.

In her first novel, Lauren Owen has created a fantastical world that is both beguiling and terrifying. The Quick will establish her as one of fiction’s most dazzling talents. 

 *** I received a copy from the publisher in return for an honest review. My opinion has not been affected by this fact ***

It's hard to call this book bad, but it's also hard to call it good. One thing I can definitely call it is long. Not physically long, more emotionally long. It took me all month to read it and despite enjoying a lot of things about the book I struggled a little through reading it.

One of the best things about the book was the writing style. Despite the fact that it a recent debut it reads much more like a classic than a piece if recent fiction. Like the setting of the book, it harkens back to a time long past. The prose was beautiful and engaging without a doubt. But much the classics to which I refer, The Quick just felt a little wordy and unnecessarily detailed. Perhaps my modern sensibilities can't handle something with vintage tendencies.

But for me the pacing was problematic. It started off very slow and then about halfway through, I was happy to see that it was getting very interesting but then everything fizzled at the end. I think it's biggest problem was that the beginning was just a lot of exposition. The synopsis makes you think we're dealing with only a few characters but the book is so much more detailed that that. There are many different storylines and characters being set up at the start of the book. Eventually they do end up intertwining and connecting later in the book, which was actually quite interesting.

I think what I was expecting is a Gothic mystery full of surprises but what I got was a supernatural story full of dramatic irony. Maybe I just thought the twist was obvious because of the books that this one was compared to, including one of my absolute favorite books. Maybe I was just expecting something of that caliber. Or maybe the dramatic irony was intentional or the authors inability to come out and state the obvious was more of a plot point than I thought. Either way I wasn't quite blown away by the twists and would have liked a little more mystery. 

Despite the harsh criticism I did enjoy the book. It was a good exploration into the world of the supernatural creature that inhabit this book. There was so much deep analysis of them and their mythology making me quite curious about the characters and their scientific study of the supernatural. It was an interesting spin on the genre and it's world-building. 

I think I would have liked the book so much more if thare had been a little slicing and dicing in the editing process. It's respectable and hearty 500 pages felt more like 1,000 at times and despite enjoying the plot and the characters, it was a struggle to finish. 

I give The Quick by Lauren Owen a 7 out of 10

I would recommend this books to fans of Supermatural fiction or Historical Thrillers who are invested for the long haul. This is not a book for the more casual reader, this book is an investment.

Have you read The Quick? Tell me your thoughts? Have you ever read anything that felt longer than it was? Tell me about in the comments down below! Thanks for watching... And HAPPY READING!

Friday, June 27, 2014

Feature and Follow Friday #31

A weekly meme hosted by Alison Can Read & Parajunkee's View

How it Works: 

The Feature & Follow is hosted by TWO hosts, Parajunkee of Parajunkee's View and Alison of Alison Can Read. Each host will have their own Feature Blog and this way it'll allow us to show off more new blogs!

How does this work? First you visit the blogs of our illustrious hosts and leave your name on the post using using the linky tools, then you create a post on your own blog that links back to this post (easiest way is to just grab the code under the #FF picture and put it in your post) and then you visit as many blogs as you can and tell them "hi" in their comments (on the post that has the #FF image). You follow them, they follow you. Win. Win. Just make sure to follow back if someone follows you!

What sets this Hop apart from others, is our Feature. Each week we will showcase a Featured Blogger, from all different genres and areas. Find out below. Just remember it is required, if you participate, to follow our Features and you must follow the hosts (Parajunkee & Alison Can Read) as a courtesy. How do you follow someone? Well, if you have a preference, state it in your #FF post. A lot of blogs are transitioning to Wordpress in which they do not have the luxury of GFC, so an RSS subscription is appreciated or if you choose an email subscription. If you don't have GFC please state in your post how you would like to be followed.

This Week's Question: 

Post a picture of your favorite coffee mug (or mugs if you can't choose one)

This Week's Answer: 

Despite being a coffee fiend, most of my mugs are pretty boring. I have some fun ones at my parents' house including a Harry Potter mug that I've had since 1999 I think, but here in Pittsburgh my mugs are pretty utilitarian. My favorite ceramic mug is one that my friend got me as a going away present from our favorite coffee shop in Providence. But my actual favorite mug and the one I use the most is my slate gray travel mug from Starbucks. It fits two mugs worth and it keeps the coffee warm for hours... HOURS! Seriously, I can still be drinking it four hours later and it's still hot!

 How about you? What's your favorite mug(s)? Leave me a comment with your thoughts.

 And remember this is a blog hop so take a look around and if you like what you see give me a follow and leave me a comment so I can follow back. I am indifferent to the manner in which you follow so pick your poison: GFC, Bloglovin, or Twitter. I also just started a BookTube channel so if you're an old subscriber you can check me out HERE! I've been posting videos every Friday! Thanks for dropping by, Happy FF and HAPPY READING!

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Audiobook Review: Steelheart by Brandon Sanderson

Title: Steelheart
Series: The Reckoners #1
Author: Brandon Sanderson
Published: September 2013 by Delacorte Press (Random House)
(Amazon / Goodreads / Audible)

Synopsis: Ten years ago, Calamity came. It was a burst in the sky that gave ordinary men and women extraordinary powers. The awed public started calling them Epics. But Epics are no friend of man. With incredible gifts came the desire to rule. And to rule man you must crush his wills.

Nobody fights the Epics...nobody but the Reckoners. A shadowy group of ordinary humans, they spend their lives studying Epics, finding their weaknesses, and then assassinating them.

And David wants in. He wants Steelheart - the Epic who is said to be invincible. The Epic who killed David's father. For years, like the Reckoners, David's been studying, and planning - and he has something they need. Not an object, but an experience.

He's seen Steelheart bleed. And he wants revenge.

So I have a bunch of different ideas for books I would like to write/read. One of them involves superheroes. Superheroes that are douchey, power-hungry jerks who do more harm than good. I no longer need to write this book because Brandon Sanderson has written it so well and I will never reach hat level. Seriously, how do you describe a book with an incredible world, amazing characters, and a brilliant plot full of mind-blowing twists? The only word that comes to mind is epic. Despite it's conotation within the story, that's what Steelheart is... EPIC!

If you're familiar with Brandon Sanderson then you know that what he does incredibly well is create an interesting and complex. Steelheart is no exception. Everything is so lusciously described in incredible deatail and the world of these heroes or Epics is incredibly unique and well-developed. Each Epic has it's own very specific power that is unlike anyone elses. Whether you are an illusionist who can make people see things, can create total darkness, generate power, fly, give your powers to others, you name it there is probably a person with that power. And there is a hierarchy, those who have the best or most powers are the people in charge. It may seem complicated but Sanderson makes it all seem so natural and easy to understand. It's not at all overwhelming and we are definitely shown and not told about this world. The rules are clear and unlike anything else I have read about previously. The book on the whole has a definite post-apocalyptic feel with the world being changed completely by an odd event that gives people supernatural powers. And while these Epics do their best to control the people and "provide" for them, it's pretty clear that things are not going very well.

It is also clear right from the beginning that these Epics are not heroes. This is not Batman and Superman flying around helping keep the streets free from crime. This is a book about people who allowed their powers to go to their head. There is such a deep-seated theme throughout the book about power and control. As the old saying goes "power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely." But what would they say about super powers? I love books that explore this concept and Steelheart is the kind of book the beauty handles this idea and creates a host of characters that are not only deliciously evil but complex and dubious.

It is these characters that really made me love this book. First there's David who is an amazing protagonist and MC. Right away we are able to connect with him and his struggle for vengence. And whilethat is what drives him he is so much more than that, he is also intelligent and funny. Probably my favorite thing about him is how truly bad he is at metaphors, it was quite the comic relief! The entire book I wanted to see him succeed and get exactly what he wanted because it was also what I wanted. But more than just David, the book was full of amazing secondary characters all of whom I loved. All of The Reckoners were fantastic and likable. There was snarky and badass Megan, intelligent and mysterious Prof, hilarious and optimistic Cody, thoughful and supportive Abraham, and Tia who is cautious and resourceful. Each character was distinct and interesting and I grew very attached to them throughout the book.

But for me the best part of the book was it's amazing plot full of action, mystery, and surprise twists. The book started out with an incredible opening scene and from there it never seemed to slow down. The plot just built and built until there was no way of containing it any further. It was like a volcano with the lid on (a Davidesque metaphor). As usual I spent most of the book trying to figure out exactly what was happening. Usually I'm not completely mind-blown by a plot twist and I thought that Steelheart was going to be just like every other book. I thought I had it all figured out and then Brandon Sanderson reminded me why he is a master storyteller and threw me for not one but two absolutely insane twists. When the book was over I couldn't wrap my head around exactly what had happened. One thing I knew for certain, this is a fantastic book and I can't wait for the next book in the series!

I experienced this book in audio format which was a really excellent choice. I love audiobooks but it takes a very specific book for me to really enjoy it's audio. Steelheart was that book. It was full of action and adventure with enough thrilling moments to keep me on the edge of my seat throughout the audio. And the narrator did a fantastic job of not only telling a compelling story but allow you to become immersed in it with his acting. All the voices and inflections of the characters were perfect. He was able to capture Cody's southern accent, Abraham's French accent, Steelheart's tough guy growl, and even an Indian accent. He was fantastic and he made the audiobook a fantastic choice.

I give Steelheart by Brandon Sanderson a 10 out of 10

It was a fantastic and interesting story with an amazing world, mindblowing plot, likable characters, and deeper themes about humanity. If you are a fan of superhero stories or books with lots of adventure then definitely check this one out!

Have you read Steelheart? What were your thoughts? Leave me a comment and keep the conversation going. Thanks for stopping by and HAPPY READING!

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Waiting on Wednesday: Bitter Greens by Kate Forsyth

A weekly meme hosted by Breaking the Spine

Title: Bitter Greens
Author: Kate Forsyth
Published: September 23, 2014 by St. Martin's Press
Amazon Goodreads

Synopsis: The amazing power and truth of the Rapunzel fairy tale comes alive for the first time in this breathtaking tale of desire, black magic and the redemptive power of love

French novelist Charlotte-Rose de la Force has been banished from the court of Versailles by the Sun King, Louis XIV, after a series of scandalous love affairs. At the convent, she is comforted by an old nun, Sœur Seraphina, who tells her the tale of a young girl who, a hundred years earlier, is sold by her parents for a handful of bitter greens...

After Margherita’s father steals parsley from the walled garden of the courtesan Selena Leonelli, he is threatened with having both hands cut off, unless he and his wife relinquish their precious little girl. Selena is the famous red-haired muse of the artist Tiziano, first painted by him in 1512 and still inspiring him at the time of his death. She is at the center of Renaissance life in Venice, a world of beauty and danger, seduction and betrayal, love and superstition.

Locked away in a tower, Margherita sings in the hope that someone will hear her. One day, a young man does.

Award-winning author Kate Forsyth braids togetherthe stories of Margherita, Selena, and Charlotte-Rose, the woman who penned Rapunzel as we now know it, to create what is a sumptuous historical novel, an enchanting fairy tale retelling, and a loving tribute to the imagination of one remarkable woman.

Why I'm Waiting and Why You Should Be Too

If you follow me on Twitter, Goodreads, or have seen my YouTube videos you know, I am absolutely obsessed with this book. If you do follow me on all these places then you are probably annoyed with me for continuing to rave about this book. But you guys, I loved it that much. So allow me to once and for all (that's a complete lie, I will not stop praising this book) tell you why I love Bitter Greens.

I recieved a copy of Bitter Greens from St Martins (Macmillan) at BEA and I immediately had to start reading it. I had heard about this book about a year ago when I started watching BookTube videos and I knew it was a book I would love. And while I had high expectations this book exceeded them. It may be my favorite book of the year so far!

Everything about Bitter Greens was flawless. It is a lot of things and everything it is, is brilliant! It is an exquisitely detailed and well-researched Historical Fiction novel set in the Middle Ages. It is a fairy tale retelling that creatively plays on the familiar story of Rapunzel. It is a dark and tawdry adult romance with just the right amount of sex scenes and expert treatment of some very difficult concepts. It is a low fantasy story with a hint of magic that makes it feel realistic and possible. It is a character-driven story of three women and the hardships that they have gone through during their lives. It is an expertly-crafted novel with interwoven plots and crazy twists. It is a gorgeously-written novel with beautiful prose and surprising feels. It is a book that you should put on your TBR list!

I cannot sing this books praise enough. If you like adult Historical Fantasy like Phillipa Gregory then pick this book up! If you like low fantasy stories with a hint of magic then pick this book up! If you like well-written retellings then pick this book up. Just pick it up and send me your feels! There is even a giveaway on Goodreads so head to the link above and enter to win an ARC! You will not be disappointed, I wasn't! And stay tuned for my full review of Bitter Greens closer to it's release date.

What are you waiting for this Wednesday? Leave me a comment with the book you are anticipating. Also let me know if you're as excited for Bitter Greens! Or if you're sick of hearing me continuously bookpushing it, let me know that too! Thanks for stopping by and HAPPY READING!

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Top Ten Tuesday - Cover Trends I Love

A weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish

So this weeks prompt is the top ten cover trends that we love or hate. First off, I gotta say, I don't really pay much attention to trends. I mean I see covers and think "I've seen something similar before" but then the monkey filing important information in my head decides that's not knowledge to hold on to so he sends it to the circular file. So I wracked my brain and came up with a few cover designs that I typically love!

1.) Girls in Pretty Dresses- Seriously, I know it's played out but I am a sucked for pretty dresses on the cover of a book!
ex.) These Broken Stars, The Selection, The Winner's Curse, The Jewel, and lots more

2.) Russian Architecture- This is less a trend and more of the fact that I read a lot of books set in Russia, especially at the moment.
ex.) Ruin and Rising, Egg and Spoon, A Thousand Pieces of You

3.) Not Quite Right Mirrored Images - Such mystery!
ex.) A Thousand Pieces of You, Alienated (and it's sequel), The Girl Who Never Was (and it's sequel)

4.) Maps - I LOVE MAPS! No seriously, look at my blog design
ex.) The Glass Sentence, Let's Get Lost, No Place to Fall

5.) Crazy Colored Clouds- Is there a storm coming? So much mystery, so many colors!
ex.) This Shattered World, The Cemetery Boys, Love Letters to the Dead

6.) Close Up Shots of Your (Usually Female) Protagonist- Look how they're so pensive and/or badass
ex.) The Falconer, Exquisite Captive, Bitter Greens

7.) Silhouettes - Again with the attempt and mystery! Hook. line, sinker... ME!
ex.) Get Even, Dear Killer, Jackaby

8.) Trees - I'm an environmentalist, I love trees, and forests, and roots.
ex.) The Vanishing Season, The Magician's Land, Rooms

9.) Metallic - What should I mention... ooohhhh SHINY!!!
ex.) Snow Like Ashes, Firefight, Etherworld (plus lots listed above probably!)

10.) Back-lighting from Sunsets - the colors are fun and it makes you feel happy!
ex.) Open Road Summer, We Were Liars, Second Star

Honorable mention to the colors teal and purple which will always catch my eye in a book cover but didn't make the list. As you can see many of these covers fall subject to three or four of these trends, which basically makes them all the more predictable and eye-catching so I love them! What cover trends do you see? Leave me a comment with your thoughts.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Book Review: The Wonderful Wizard of Oz b L. Frank Baum

Title: The Wonderful Wizard of Oz
Series: Oz #1
Author: L. Frank Baum
Published: May 1900 by George M. Hill Company
Amazon Goodreads 

Synopsis: The Wonderful Wizard of Oz is a children's novel written by L. Frank Baum and illustrated by W. W. Denslow. Originally published by the George M. Hill Company in Chicago on May 17, 1900, it has since been reprinted numerous times, most often under the name The Wizard of Oz, which is the name of both the 1902 stage play and the extremely popular, highly acclaimed 1939 film version. The story chronicles the adventures of a girl named Dorothy in the Land of Oz. Thanks in part to the 1939 MGM movie, it is one of the best-known stories in American popular culture and has been widely translated. Its initial success, and the success of the popular 1902 Broadway musical Baum adapted from his story, led to Baum's writing thirteen more Oz books. The original book has been in the public domain in the US since 1956.

Baum dedicated the book "to my good friend & comrade, My Wife", Maud Gage Baum. In January 1901, George M. Hill Company, the publisher, completed printing the first edition, which probably totaled around 35,000 copies. Records indicate that 21,000 copies were sold through 1900. Historians, economists and literary scholars have examined and developed possible political interpretations of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. However, the majority of the reading public simply takes the story at face value.

As you may know, here on the blog I like to do a monthly classic that fits the theme. This month's theme is retellings which makes choosing a classic a little difficult. What is a classic retelling? So instead of finding one that fit the theme perfectly I decided to choose a classic version of one of the books I was reading the retelling of. So I decided to read The Wonderful Wizard of Oz because despite my enjoyment of the movie and Oz retelling I have never read the original. And while I enjoyed reading the familiar story from its original source, as far as literature I wasn't completely entertained.

Firstly, what I found interesting about this book was further exploration of the land of Oz. The original source material always has much more info than other treatments of the story, so it was great to experience it from the way it was first written. Not only did we get to develop with the characters we are familiar with but we also got a few more and even got to visit some parts of Oz that weren't part of the movie. If the only thing you know about Oz is the Judy Garland film this book is actually quite different. It's definitely not as dark. We spend a lot less time with the Wicked Witch, and it is much less against fighting her and more about appeasing the wizard.

I also enjoyed and wasn't at all surprised by the books theme of politics and power. Many of the Oz retellings I have read including Wicked and Dorothy Must Die have an underlying theme of power and control. It is incredibly evident as to why after reading The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. Simmering under the surface is the idea of how those who take control don't necessarily deserve it and how they tend to take advantage of their "subjects." I've heard before that The Wonderful Wizard of Oz is political allegory for money and power in the late 19th century and after reading the book I am definitely in that school of thought.

But despite all that it did have going for it, I wasn't hooked on the story because of it's format and writing style. You guys probably know, I don't like travel montages. If all the characters do is move from point A to point B I am not at all entertained. I know going in that this is the kind of story The Wonderful Wizard of Oz is, but what struck me throughout the course of reading was just how basic the plot was. It just felt very superficial. Every chapter was just "they did this thing and went here." That is probably my least favorite type of writing style and I was kind of disappointed in the way the book was written. I know this book was written for children so I shouldn't it too harshly, I just always have high expectations even when it comes to children's books. Maybe if I had read it when I was younger I would have liked it a little bit more.

I give The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum a 7 out of 10.

I would recommend this book to fans of The Wizard of Oz who want to explore the source material or read the book in it's original form. Or I would honestly recommend this book as a great bedtime story for your children. Read this book aloud and get them hooked on Oz.

Have you read The Wonderful Wizard of Oz? What did you think? Leave me a comment with your thoughts. Thanks for stopping by and of course... HAPPY READING!