September 10, 2017

The Book Lode (26)

Yep, it's time for another book haul! This one is a mix of a few books for review, a Book Outlet order, and the results of a surprisingly fruitful perusal of the Chapters clearance section.



Books for review:

I'm Just No Good at Rhyming by Chris Harris

The Tethered Mage by Melissa Caruso (my review here)

Shoebox Funeral: Stories from Wolf Creek by Elisabeth Voltz

Text, Don't Call: An Illustrated Guide to the Introverted Life by INFJoe

You're Weird by Kate Peterson

Surprise Yourself by Lisa Currie

Thanks to Hachette Book Group, Penguin Random House, and Orange PRM (PR for Elisabeth Voltz) for the review copies!

Books bought: 

Wrong About the Guy by Claire LaZebnik

And Again by Jessica Chiarella

The Lost Summer of Louisa May Alcott by Kelly O'Connor McNees

Stray by Elissa Sussman

Strange Sweet Song by Adi Rule

The Other Me by Saskia Sarginson

Her by Harriet Lane

First Frost by Sarah Addison Allen

Night Film by Marisha Pessl

Mixed Magics by Diana Wynne Jones

A Beauty by Connie Gault

Oblivion by Kelly Creagh

Gilt by Katherine Longshore

Keeping the Castle by Patrice Kindl


September 4, 2017

The Tethered Mage: A Panoramic Review (Adult)


34219880"In the Raverran Empire, magic is scarce and those born with power are strictly controlled -- taken as children and conscripted into the Falcon Army.  

Zaira has lived her life on the streets to avoid this fate, hiding her mage-mark and thieving to survive. But hers is a rare and dangerous magic, one that threatens the entire empire.

Lady Amalia Cornaro was never meant to be a Falconer. Heiress and scholar, she was born into a treacherous world of political machinations.

But fate has bound the heir and the mage. And as war looms on the horizon, a single spark could turn their city into a pyre.

The Tethered Mage is the first novel in a spellbinding new fantasy series.
" (from Goodreads)

The Tethered Mage by Melissa Caruso

My reaction: I struggled to get into the first half of this book, I have to say, which felt rather sluggish and dense. There was a lot going on in terms of characters being introduced, and I had trouble keeping straight who was who. I really wish a character list had been provided! The first half also consisted of a lot of complex conversation — involving political intrigue and "war room"-style talk — and I kept getting confused and having to reread. 


Nevertheless, I plowed through and was rewarded by the second half of the book! The pace really picked up in the last third and it was definitely more riveting. There weren't very many new characters being introduced at that point, so I was becoming more familiar with the characters involved. There were some suspenseful "what's going to happen?" sorts of scenes in the climactic part of the story, and a twist I didn't see coming (spoiler, highlight to read: somehow I did not guess that her uncle was the Raverran contact).


Best aspect: the world-building. It was a cool premise to have magic workers as the Empire's army, with their power being controlled by magic-less individuals. Also, the author really fleshes out the different players/groups and the interests they are representing (unfortunately, this means that the plot in the first half suffers due to all of this world-building). Plus, there is a map!

I also thought the characters were well drawn, in particular Amalia and Zaira. Zaira has a spitfire personality, and is a bit of a wild card, and Amalia is a relatable and sympathetic narrator who demonstrates some growth throughout the story. The dynamic between the two of them was really interesting, as they started out with some animosity (particularly on Zaira's side, since she does not take kindly to having her magic controlled), and then progressed into more of a frenemy-ship. Although they are very different characters, I liked them both, so I was rooting for them to become friends!


If I could change something... I'd cut out some of the description and detail, particularly in the first half. I felt like the story sometimes gave up momentum in order to provide more detail in a scene. The writing felt generally overwritten, as though the author felt the need to select more exotic words one might find in the thesaurus rather than more commonplace ones. (I'm not opposed to using less common descriptive words in order to bring a scene to life, but in moderation!)  

I'd also bring a little more spark to the romance, as I was pretty lukewarm about it. I thought it was sweet (and it wasn't a huge part of the plot, so it wasn't a big issue), but I just wasn't super invested in that relationship. It was kinda take-it-or-leave-it for me.

If you haven't read it: and you like traditional-style fantasies with loads of political intrigue and maneuvering, as well as detailed world-building, this will be right up your alley. 

If you have read it: how do you think the Prince Ruven storyline is going to develop in book 2?

Just one more thing I wanted to mention: there was a sticky spot I thought Amalia got out of way too easily (spoiler: when Prince Ruven is threatening to kill her, and she just tells him she represents the Empire, and he backs off). 

Final verdict: 4 shooting stars. If you're getting discouraged by the slow pace of the first half, but are enjoying the characters and world-building, I recommend persevering!




Disclaimer: I received this as an ARC for review from the publisher. 

August 22, 2017

God Is In The Pancakes: A Rambling Review

7447005God Is In The Pancakes by Robin Epstein

This book ended up being more intense than I was expecting. The quandary that Grace faces is one I can imagine being extremely gut-wrenching, with no easy answers. It brought home to me how important it is that in Canada physician-assisted dying is now legal (with strict criteria that must be met).

I really liked the main character Grace; she was a thoughtful, independent teen girl who strove to (usually) do the right thing – and yet she wasn't perfect. Her reflections on everything going on in her life felt very realistic and I could often relate to her mindset, even if I did not always agree with her choices.

Her relationship with Mr. Sands really stood out as unique in a YA novel; often we see peer friendships and romances being explored, but it's rare to see an inter-generational relationship. Having candystriped for a year in high school, this was a personal touch for me. There was one particular gentleman who was my favourite patient – just as Mr. Sands was for Grace – and who was such a lot of fun to spend time with. There is so much about a hospital setting that is depressing, but this story definitely highlighted that building a connection with a patient there can brighten it.

Sidenote, but: the speech-language pathologist in me was wondering why they didn't try some augmentative/alternative communication (AAC) methods with Mr. Sands as his ALS progressed to affecting his speech. There are technologies available nowadays that can operate voice output devices with eye movement only, for instance. Instead it seemed like he just wasn't given any means to communicate anymore!


4 shooting stars. 


 

August 3, 2017

The Midnight Rose: A Rambling Review (Adult)

18143789The Midnight Rose by Lucinda Riley

I quite liked Anahita's voice and the historical chapters; in particular, the sections set in India felt fresh to me (I've read very few books with that setting). However, the modern-day sections dragged and I just found the conversations so boring and wordy. The dialogue seemed stilted and inauthentic at times. Generally, I think the book could have been pared down a lot more, to streamline the plot and avoid needless repetition.

I also found the story took a weird turn into the Gothic at the climax (spoiler, highlight to read: the whole scene where Rebecca is abducted by Lord Astbury) — I enjoy Gothic atmosphere and storytelling when that's what I'm expecting, but here it seemed a little out of place. There was also a psychological element that was explained in a confusing and potentially inaccurate way (
spoiler: Lord Astbury was referred to as having schizophrenia, but then Dr. Trefusis kept mentioning his alter ego/personality, which sounds more like dissociative identity disorder. They are two very different disorders!).

Overall, the historical chapters told through Anahita's voice felt real and compelling, but the story was let down by the modern-day counterpart. Given that I picked this up since it's a similar style of storytelling to Kate Morton's novels, I have to say: this book suffers for the comparison. 


3 shooting stars.

 

August 1, 2017

Flights of Fantasy 2017 Reading Challenge




Okay, so I've decided to join the Flights of Fantasy 2017 challenge! (Better late than never, right? I know I am too late to officially sign up, so this is just an announcement of unofficial participation, lol.) This challenge is hosted by Alexa from Alexa Loves Books and Rachel from Hello, Chelly. I participated in this challenge last year but failed to reach my goal :(

This year, I've already read about 15 fantasy books, so I figure, if I sign up now and aim for 25, that's achievable... *crosses fingers*

Books on my shelves already that could qualify for this challenge include:

- Red Queen
- Defiance
- Stray
- Strange Sweet Song
- Shadows on the Moon
- Monstrous Beauty


July 27, 2017

The Crowns of Croswald: Unboxing Video!

I was contacted by author D. E. Night's publicist the other day about her upcoming middle-grade fantasy The Crowns of Croswald, with an offer to send me a "magical book surprise." Of course, with that description, how could I resist?

So without further ado, here is the unboxing that I filmed! Thanks very much to D. E. Night and her publicist for sending this my way :)


July 24, 2017

The Fault in Our Stars: A Rambling Review

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

11870085I'm no longer practically the last person on Earth to have not read this book! This is one of those books that I think is objectively quite well-written, but I just didn't emotionally connect with, personally. (No, it did not make me cry.) Hazel was a likeable protagonist who felt human and distinctive, and since she is the narrator we get to know her the best; yet even so, I still didn't feel as close to her as I would have liked.

A lot of this book is composed of conversation and Hazel's musings, so not that much really happens plot-wise (except for a few key events). I knew going into it about the spoiler ending (has anyone managed to escape that spoiler by now?) so that was not a surprise.

I found some of the philosophical observations on life a tad lofty and pretentious at times (which at least the characters are aware of), but I did find a lot of them true to life, acknowledging human reactions that often get swept under the rug or covered up by our society. That was one of the things I liked best about this book, that it was quite blunt about how it cut through the "socially acceptable" layer of human responses to get at how people actually think and feel.

3.5 shooting stars.



July 17, 2017

My Life Next Door: A Rambling Review

My Life Next Door by Huntley Fitzpatrick

12294652This contemporary YA novel has gotten quite a bit of hype and I know a lot of people loved it, but unfortunately I didn't fall head-over-heels for it. I mostly liked the main character Samantha, whose voice was relatable and felt realistic as a teen's. Jase, on the other hand, while sweet and rather mature for a teenage guy, seemed a little too perfect; he never made mistakes and always appeared to know best, and it came off as a bit holier-than-thou at times (especially when all the other teens were making mistakes left, right, and center). I did enjoy the general dynamic of the Garrett family and the contrast to Samantha's, and found it interesting how entrenched she becomes in their life, which is unusual to see in a YA novel.

I felt kind of like this novel was split into 2 different parts: the lighter, bubblier, falling-in-love section that spans the first two-thirds of the story, and then the darker, heavier, angstier section of the last third. It was a little strange to suddenly have the story change direction and tone, and become much more serious. I thought Samantha's conundrum was a difficult one to face, and I liked the fact that the book was posing some moral questions and forcing her to think about what she believed in, but I also felt like it didn't exactly fit with the rest of the story that had come before.

Also, what an awful example some of the adults in this story set. I mean, just terrible. *shakes head*



 

July 14, 2017

The Book Lode (25)

I have not been able to resist the siren call of Book Outlet's amazing deals, and this book haul vlog is the result:


Books bought:

Proposal by Meg Cabot
Reluctantly Charmed by Ellie O'Neill
Crimson Bound by Rosamund Hodge
The Brides of Rollrock Island by Margo Lanagan
Bone Gap by Laura Ruby
Anne of the Island by L. M. Montgomery
Prized by Caragh M. O'Brien
Strangely Beautiful by Leanna Renee Hieber
The Time Traveler's Almanac by Ann VanderMeer and Jeff VanderMeer (Eds.)
The Complete Plays of William Shakespeare
Of Metal and Wishes by Sarah Fine
Defiance by C. J. Redwine
Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard
Prince of Shadows by Rachel Caine
The Secret Diary of Lizzie Bennet by Bernie Su and Kate Rorick
Sold for Endless Rue by Madeleine E. Robins

July 6, 2017

The Song Rising: A Rambling Review (Adult)

The Song Rising by Samantha Shannon

So, that was intense. The second half of the book really amped up the stakes and I felt like I was right there with Paige. I was a little disappointed with the lack of development of the Paige/Warden relationship (and that Warden didn't get a larger role, because I love his character). It seemed like they were getting emotionally separated to increase the drama more than because it would have naturally stemmed from the characters themselves (although Paige is, admittedly, rather closed-off, so it wasn't a huge stretch). (Why can those two not just TALK everything out??)

This book feels more like a "stepping stone" book than the previous ones have. A lot of the first half was chasing information down and rehashing conversations; however, things really picked up in the second half. I liked how Paige ended up playing such a pivotal role in the climax. There was also a reveal there that I definitely did not see coming.

Also, I enjoyed getting to see voyant communities outside of London, and it looks like we'll get to see some more of that in the next book! I think I didn't like this book quite as much as the previous two but I'm still looking forward to seeing what happens next.

July 5, 2017

Waiting on Wednesday: An Enchantment of Ravens, The Queen's Rising, & The Girl with the Red Balloon

Oh hey look, it's a Waiting on Wednesday post! I haven't had one of those on the blog for what feels like forever.



Waiting on Wednesday features books that we just can't wait to get our hands on! It used to be hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine and I will continue to do WoW posts on my blog periodically.

An Enchantment of Ravens by Margaret Rogerson


From Goodreads: "Isobel is a prodigy portrait artist with a dangerous set of clients: the sinister fair folk, immortal creatures who cannot bake bread, weave cloth, or put a pen to paper without crumbling to dust. They crave human Craft with a terrible thirst, and Isobel’s paintings are highly prized among them. But when she receives her first royal patron—Rook, the autumn prince—she makes a terrible mistake. She paints mortal sorrow in his eyes – a weakness that could cost him his life.

Furious and devastated, Rook spirits her away to the autumnlands to stand trial for her crime. Waylaid by the Wild Hunt’s ghostly hounds, the tainted influence of the Alder King, and hideous monsters risen from barrow mounds, Isobel and Rook depend on one another for survival. Their alliance blossoms into trust, then love, violating the fair folks’ ruthless Good Law. There's only one way to save both their lives, Isobel must drink from the Green Well, whose water will transform her into a fair one—at the cost of her Craft, for immortality is as stagnant as it is timeless.

Isobel has a choice: she can sacrifice her art for a future, or arm herself with paint and canvas against the ancient power of the fairy courts. Because secretly, her Craft represents a threat the fair folk have never faced in all the millennia of their unchanging lives: for the first time, her portraits have the power to make them feel."


An artist whose paintings have the power to make the fair folk feel? YES PLEASE. Also, look at that stunning cover.  

The Queen's Rising by Rebecca Ross


From Goodreads: "When her seventeenth summer solstice arrives, Brienna desires only two things: to master her passion and to be chosen by a patron.

Growing up in the southern Kingdom of Valenia at the renowned Magnalia House should have prepared her for such a life. While some are born with an innate talent for one of the five passions—art, music, dramatics, wit, and knowledge—Brienna struggled to find hers until she belatedly chose to study knowledge. However, despite all her preparations, Brienna’s greatest fear comes true—the solstice does not go according to plan and she is left without a patron.

Months later, her life takes an unexpected turn when a disgraced lord offers her patronage. Suspicious of his intent, and with no other choices, she accepts. But there is much more to his story, and Brienna soon discovers that he has sought her out for his own vengeful gain. For there is a dangerous plot being planned to overthrow the king of Maevana—the archrival kingdom of Valenia—and restore the rightful queen, and her magic, to the northern throne. And others are involved—some closer to Brienna than she realizes.

With war brewing between the two lands, Brienna must choose whose side she will remain loyal to—passion or blood. Because a queen is destined to rise and lead the battle to reclaim the crown. The ultimate decision Brienna must determine is: Who will be that queen?"


I love the whole notion of passions and patrons that must sponsor you -- I'm hoping for awesome worldbuilding in this one! (Although, does anyone else think the answer to 'who will be that queen?' will be, well, Brienna?)
  
And again, the cover. Gorgeous midnight blue shade.  

The Girl with the Red Balloon by Katherine Locke


From Goodreads: "When sixteen-year-old Ellie Baum accidentally time-travels via red balloon to 1988 East Berlin, she’s caught up in a conspiracy of history and magic. She meets members of an underground guild in East Berlin who use balloons and magic to help people escape over the Wall—but even to the balloon makers, Ellie’s time travel is a mystery. When it becomes clear that someone is using dark magic to change history, Ellie must risk everything—including her only way home—to stop the process."

Of course, I immediately think of this 80's song:


Ninety-nine red balloons go by... *hums*

Anyway... Time travel to 1988 East Berlin? Magical balloon escapes? A nefarious attempt to alter history? I am here for that!

What books are you waiting for?

June 29, 2017

The Brainy Book Tag!

So I'm always seeing book tags getting done on Booktube, and I've joined a few of them in the past, but I've never created my own before. However, inspiration struck in a tag idea that combines my love of psychology and books, and the Brainy Book Tag was born! Basically, it goes through the areas of the brain and there's a bookish question for each one.




The Questions:

Skull: Pick a book in your collection that you feel very protective of.
 
Brain: Pick a book that made you think.

 
Frontal lobe: Pick a book that you're planning to read soon.

 
Parietal lobe: Pick a book that enthralled your senses.

 
Occipital lobe: Pick a book that helped you see something in a new light.


Temporal lobe: Pick a childhood favourite that you have fond memories of.
 
Limbic system: Pick a book that evoked a really strong emotion in you.

 
Cerebellum: Pick a book that threw you off balance.

 
Insular cortex: Pick a book that helped you keep calm and carry on.


I would love if other people joined in! If you enjoy the brain, books, or both, feel free to do this tag (and let me know that you have participated so I can go watch/read it!)

June 23, 2017

Perfect Ruin: Read It or Weed It?

I have a limited amount of space for books, and let's be real: I'm always getting new ones. That means that some of them have to go, hence the reason for my new feature, "Read It or Weed It?" I am turning to you, dear readers, for your thoughts on some of the books I own but have not yet read (or started but not finished). Should I keep them on my shelves...or do they need to move along? I need your input!

17339241

The book for this post is Perfect Ruin by Lauren DeStefano. Is this one worth holding onto? It didn't grab me when I started it before (I only got a couple chapters in), but I could give it a stronger try if someone tells me it's worth the effort. Let me know what you think!

June 18, 2017

The Book Lode (24): Part 2

This is the second part of my recent book haul vlog (Part 1 is here), and covers the books I received for my birthday (thanks very much to my parents and my friend for these books!).



Books received:

Speaking in Tungs by Karla Jay
Mad Miss Mimic by Sarah Henstra
The Hating Game by Sally Thorne
Modern Romance by Aziz Ansari
Gilded Cage by Vic James
Ember Island by Kimberley Freeman
Sorcerer to the Crown by Zen Cho
A Field Guide to Awkward Silences by Alexandra Petri
Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult
Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen

June 11, 2017

Short & Sweet: Fangirl

16068905Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

This was a cozy, feel-good sort of read. I liked and related to Cath (apart from her obsession with Simon Snow fanfiction, which I felt was kind of excessive) and just generally, the characters felt real and fully formed. Some great bits of humour throughout, but also some true-to-life issues that gave the story a little more depth. I enjoyed this journey with Cath, and I think this is probably the best example I've read so far of what I had imagined "New Adult" fiction could be like.




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