Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Summer Bookish Bingo: Wrap-Up

Who finished their bingo boards? WE FINISHED OUR BINGO BOARDS!


Purple Cover: Orb, Sceptre, Throne by Ian C. Esslemont
MC with Physical Disability: The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly by Stephanie Oakes
Retelling: The Summer of Chasing Mermaids by Sarah Ockler
PoC Author: Renée Ahdieh - The Wrath and the Dawn
Title is 3+ WordsThe Geography of You and Me by Jennifer E. Smith
Finish A Series: Blood and Bone by Ian C. Esslemont
Blue Cover: The Outer Banks House by Diann Ducharme
Short Story: Poison by Sarah Pinborough 
June Release: Mireille by Molly Cochran
Published Over a Year Ago: Lord of Chaos by Robert Jordan 
Young Adult: Daughter of Deep Silence by Carrie Ryan
Face on Cover: The Vespertine by Saundra Mitchell
Award Winner: The Miseducation of Cameron Post by Emily M. Danforth 
Magic: Heart of the Sea by Nora Roberts 
Time Travel: highlight for a spoiler for a divisive fantasy series that released a second book in early June
The Invasion of the Tearling by Erika Johansen <---
Multi POV: Joyride by Anna Banks 
Beach Read: Emmy & Oliver by Robin Benway

Out of my Comfort Zone: In Real Life by Cory Doctorow and Jen Wang
(only my 3rd graphic novel and the second I have bought myself. In comparison, I've read 2,700+ books counted on Goodreads)

Tearjerker: Lies We Tell Ourselves by Robin Talley 
Fire in Title: Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson
 White Cover: The White Rose by Amy Ewing
 2015 Debut: Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon
Cover Has Changed: The Beginning of Everything by Robyn Schneider
Travel: Voyage of the Basilisk by Marie Brennan


Beach Read: The Summer of Chasing Mermaids by Sarah Ockler (6/2)
2015 Debut: After Hours by Claire Kennedy (6/4)
Published Over a Year Ago: Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery (6/6)
Young Adult: The Heir by Keira Cass (6/9)
Blue Cover: Clean Sweep by Ilona Andrews (6/10)
Out of Your Comfort Zone: Clownfellas by Carlton Mellick III (6/19)
White Cover: What If? by Randall Munroe (6/21)
June Release: Last Year's Mistake by Gina Ciocca (6/22)
Finish a Series: Mortal Heart by Robin LaFevers (6/30)
Award Winner: Ready Player One by Ernest Cline (7/1)
MC With Physical Disability: The Major's Faux Fiancee by Erica Ridley (7/3)
Retelling: Gilded Ashes by Rosamund Hodge (7/6)
Multi POV: A Little Something Different by Sandy Hall (7/11)
Face on Cover: A History of Glitter and Blood by Hannah Moskowitz (7/15)
Cover ChangedMariana by Susanna Kearsley (7/19)
Purple Cover: Grave Sight by Charlaine Harris (7/20)
Time Travel: Landline by Rainbow Rowell (7/21)
Short Story: Fed by Mira Grant (7/24)
Title More Than Three Words: Battlesaurus: Rampage at Waterloo by Brian Falkner (DNF 7/24)
Magic: Magic Burns by Ilona Andrews (7/24)
Travel: First World Problems by Leigh Ann Kopans (8/11)
POC Writer: The Young Elites by Marie Lu (8/20)
Fire in Title/On Cover: Heir of Fire by Sarah J. Maas (8/21)
Tearjerker: I Was Here by Gayle Forman (8/23)


So what do you think, kiddos? Has anyone ever rocked as hard as Jessie, finishing her board on 8/11? Are you impressed with my mad firework photoshopping? And most importantly, WHO'S JOINING US FOR FALL?

Monday, August 31, 2015

Book Haul: August

Only Jessie and I could go to dinner and each leave with more books than we walked in with.

That's right, after more than twelve years, your blogging hosts have finally met in FaceSpace. And it was awesome. She gives amazing hugs and the best, most thoughtful gifts and I'm just so brimming over with love. I can't wait to see her again in...9 months.

I might put a countdown on the front page. Like a garishly over-sized one. None of you mind, right?

But August wasn't just happyweddinghugs month, oh no. It was also the start of my first OTSP Secret Sister project. And my sister hit the ground running, gifting me both the entire Outlander series and The Distance Between Us, along with some pretty sweet goodies.


Thanks again, "Celaena"!

I'm on the world's strictest buying ban, but while in Mesa, what should I find but a used and rare bookshop with an ARC of Farewell Summer, Bradbury's final novel? You know that came home with me. In fact, I kinda sorta maybe left Mesa with eleven more books than I came with? I ended up leaving I Was Here in the rental car because it wouldn't fit in any of my suitcases?

I have a problem, guys.

AND THAT PROBLEM'S NAME IS JESSIE.


See, someone decided to have a book themed wedding, full of the most gorgeous bookish centerpieces and flowers and decorations. And that someone also decided to be the coolest bride in history and hand out blind date books as her favors! And then, when my husband decided to start collecting the books that didn't get taken, someone told him that was totally cool.

She's the best, right?


(DOBaS UK was my gift for making her wedding flowers, Farewell Summer, The Human Division, Origamido, and Lord Brocktree are from the used store, and the other five were our favors.)

And lastly, I got 7 eARCs, because what's another septet at this point?


I've already finished Lumiere, but I'm most hyped for Vengeance Road. 

So how was your August, friends? Did you get all the books you wanted?



Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Review: Lumière by Jacqueline Garlick

Title: Lumière
Author: Jacqueline Garlick
Genre: fantasy
Series: The Illumination Paradox #1
Pages: 400
Published: October 26, 2013
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Rating: 1 out of 5

Even in a land of eternal twilight, secrets can’t stay in the dark forever.

Seventeen-year-old Eyelet Elsworth has only one hope left: finding her late father’s most prized invention, the Illuminator. It’s been missing since the day of the mysterious flash—a day that saw the sun wiped out forever over England.

But living in darkness is nothing new to Eyelet. She’s hidden her secret affliction all of her life—a life that would be in danger if superstitious townspeople ever guessed the truth. And after her mother is accused and executed for a crime that she didn’t commit, the now-orphaned Eyelet has no choice but to track down the machine that was created with the sole purpose of being her cure.

Alone and on the run, she finally discovers the Illuminator—only to see a young man hauling it off. Determined to follow the thief and recover the machine, she ventures into the deepest, darkest, most dangerous part of her twisted world.

Lumière lacks polish. The world building is inconsistent, as is Eyelet’s characterization.

Eight year old Eyelet is precocious and impetuous, despite her secret condition. She doesn’t read like an eight year old, even a world wise one, when she says, ‘“The [mechanical] elephant, I mean. Did you see how positively delicious he was?”’. She frets about money and confronts a terrifying carney and recalls her mother’s green-blue eyes turning “watery grey”. These aren’t the actions of a child barely off leading strings. But then, they’re also not the actions of the self-involved teenager she becomes.

Seventeen year old Eyelet, we learn, attends the prestigious Brethren’s Academy of Scientific Delves and Discoveries, despite being a woman, in a world where girls have no rights. This privilege is due to her professor father’s (huh, I thought he was an inventor?) high standing in the Academy before his death. Except, through investigation into his Illuminator, we learn that he was demoted and disgraced before his death. So why would his daughter be granted this luxury? We then learn that she and her mother, long rumored to be a Valkyrie and guilty of Wickedry, (magic use,) LIVE AT THE PALACE WITH THE RULER. That’s right, a suspected witch and wife to a disgraced inventor is the Ruler’s nanny. (Don’t think about it too hard, Eyelet’s life at the palace will never be mentioned again after chapter five.)

Eyelet's father was working on a device to cure her of her epilepsy, but he died the day she discovered a carny had stolen the technology. She uses her school time to search for his missing research in an effort to find the original prototype. Her father’s nemesis, Professor Irving Smrt is also searching for the Illuminator and after Eyelet’s mother is convicted of Wickedry, Smrt pounces. Eyelet will either be killed as a witch like her mother, or Smrt will turn her over to an asylum for Madness, leaving him free to find the machine at his leisure. Instead, she flees from him into the city slums and manages to discover the machine that neither of them have seen in nine years, just as a third party loads it onto a carriage.

<spoilers>At the end of the book, Eyelet realizes that Smrt is the carny she confronted in the prologue. The carny is described as having “kippers for lips, they’re so scaly...I’d swear he was part crocodile.” Where as, “Professor Smrt’s lips remind me of a snake’s. Nothing but a sharply drawn line with a too thin tongue flicking out between.” In addition, we know Smrt was a professor at the Academy with Eyelet’s father, but the carny traveled, peddling the mini Illuminators with his plant/assistant, Mrs. Benson, until she died of cancer caused by the machine. There is literally no way to make those two backstories connect.</spoilers>

Again, the world building is extremely messy. The city is not London. It shares no physical similarities and even before the world was plunged into perpetual twilight, (which doesn’t seem to change the weather or affect crops…,) the city was surrounded by a wasteland called The Follies. Since the Great Illumination, the world is now ringed in pits to hell and swept over by suffocating fogs. The Follies are full of ghost-zombies and crazed cannibals. So what’s the best way to describe the romance? “So much more Romeo-and-Juliet that way, don’t you think?”, of course. There’s also a Cheshire Cat smile and clouds described as “Siberian” feeling. (Which is an awkward turn of phrase even in a world with Russia.) I could probably overlook a reference to a cockney accent to describe a lower city thief, but this is so sloppy, so half-assed, I cannot. Either set your steampunk in London or set it in an alternate universe, but you can’t have your cake and eat it too.

The romance moves so fast, by the time Eyelet is declaring that she’d grown to think of Urlick, the albino inventor who kidnapped her, as perfect, only four or five days have actually passed. (Part of me applauds the choice to make the love interest something less than the usual handsome, but when you have to describe someone I’m supposed to be falling in love with alongside the heroine as having “eyes shining like red stars in the night sky”, that’s difficult. How about rubies? Or embers? Or anything that’s actually red. Especially, since in this world, YOU HAVEN’T SEEN STARS IN NINE YEARS, BECAUSE THE SKY IS COVERED IN EVIL FOG.) And I didn’t understand why. Urlick terrifies Eyelet, forcing her to move into his lair, but refusing to tell her anything about it or the other people who live there. So when she comes across the maid with no tongue, the man with no arms, and the girl who screams violently, she obviously thinks Urlick or his father is torturing them. She spends most of the book screaming, at Urlick or from him. He does seem kind and creative in his chapters, but the reader sees that, not Eyelet.

The other issue with his appearance is Eyelet seems to be the only physically attractive person in the whole world. A search of the books shows the word “pretty” is only ever applied to her. The carny looks like a crocodile. Smrt is snake-like. Urlick is an albino with vicious port-wine birthmarks across his face and neck. Iris has frizzy hair and eyes “hanging droopy and sad as a dog’s half-masked under a pair of lazy lids.” Even Cordelia, the only physically unscarred person in the house, is only described as waif-like with sunken cheeks and dark circles. And then there’s Flossie, Urlick’s tutor. “She has a harelip and mean eyes, and a dark-brown, oval-shaped mole, covered in thick brown hair, which takes up most of her right cheek. A bloodred line extends from the bottom of the mole, like a tail, curling into a circle at the base of her throat...Her putty-pink lip strains over snaggled teeth.” As the only other woman in Urlick’s life, and someone also in love with him, that level of unpleasantness isn’t necessary and Eyelet’s continued fixation on other women’s ugliness reeks of mean-girlness. (I thought the prevalence of physical disabilities and epilepsy might be linked to the Great Illumination, but all of the characters, except maybe Cordelia were born and effected long before the flash. There’s no reason in the world building, except to make Eyelet better.)

Obviously, I didn’t enjoy this book and I can’t recommend it. If I read Noir, would I learn why Urlick’s inventions actually live and breathe? Would I learn why he had a bottle of smoke that lead to a mythical city and never noticed Eyelet broke it? Would I learn if Urlick’s Twitter knock-off takes off, earning him $18bn and letting him develop a way to take credit cards on mobile devices? Better question, would I care?

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Review: The Uninvited by Cat Winters

Title: The Uninvited
Author: Cat Winters
Genre: historical fiction, supernatural fiction
Series: N/A
Pages: 368
Published: August 11 2015
Source: from publishers for review via edelweiss
Rating: 4/5


Twenty-five year old Ivy Rowan rises from her bed after being struck by the flu, only to discover the world has been torn apart in just a few short days.

But Ivy’s life-long gift—or curse—remains. For she sees the uninvited ones—ghosts of loved ones who appear to her, unasked, unwelcome, for they always herald impending death. On that October evening in 1918 she sees the spirit of her grandmother, rocking in her mother’s chair. An hour later, she learns her younger brother and father have killed a young German out of retaliation for the death of Ivy’s older brother Billy in the Great War.

Horrified, she leaves home, to discover the flu has caused utter panic and the rules governing society have broken down. Ivy is drawn into this new world of jazz, passion, and freedom, where people live for the day, because they could be stricken by nightfall. But as her ‘uninvited guests’ begin to appear to her more often, she knows her life will be torn apart once more, but Ivy has no inkling of the other-worldly revelations about to unfold.
 

Cat Winters, with her three novels published to date, has established beyond a doubt that she can write. She is a wordsmith; each sentence is crafted and hand-picked and her books are uniquely in her voice. Those books are each eerie, atmospheric, creepy, original, and completely unforgettable.  She tackles interesting times and ideas, plays with themes and expectations and do so with aplomb. 

The Uninvited returns to roughly the same time shown so memorably for Winters' debut, In the Shadow of Blackbirds. Set in America, as WWI escalated and the Spanish flu first hit, Ivy Rowan's small world in Buchanan, Illinois is the unlikely story of a German emigre and an American recluse. It should also be noted that this isn't YA and Ivy isn't a YA protagonist. Her woes are much more than coming of age and striving for independence or first love. Ivy's world is ending -- in paranoia, in fear, in plagues, and in bodies.

For all that I liked Ivy's character, I never invested or wholly empathized with her. Winter's narrative is wonderfully atmospheric and effective, but it also kept me at a distance from the characters themselves. I never knew any of the secondary characters beyond Ivy's reserved impressions. Their presence and personalities are negligible, save Daniel. I think if I had emotionally connected more, if Ivy's narration wasn't so removed/in shock over Billy, I would have found this novel to be a 5-star read. 

The writing in The Uninvited is quietly lovely. The plotting is smart and less predictable than it first appears. It is obvious that Cat Winters is a talented writer and she's also a smart storyteller. Her third novel is haunting and different. It's not the usual tale you would see about an American family in WWI and it's also an engrossing one. Definitely recommended for fans of her YA novels.


Sunday, August 16, 2015

Book Blast: Enchantress of Paris by Marci Jefferson

Fraught with conspiracy and passion, the Sun King’s opulent court is brought to vivid life in this captivating tale about a woman whose love was more powerful than magic.

The alignment of the stars at Marie Mancini’s birth warned that although she would be gifted at divination, she was destined to disgrace her family. Ignoring the dark warnings of his sister and astrologers, Cardinal Mazarin brings his niece to the French court, where the forbidden occult arts thrive in secret. In France, Marie learns her uncle has become the power behind the throne by using her sister Olympia to hold the Sun King, Louis XIV, in thrall.

Desperate to avoid her mother’s dying wish that she spend her life in a convent, Marie burns her grimoire, trading Italian superstitions for polite sophistication. But as her star rises, King Louis becomes enchanted by Marie’s charm. Sensing a chance to grasp even greater glory, Cardinal Mazarin pits the sisters against each other, showering Marie with diamonds and silks in exchange for bending King Louis to his will.

Disgusted by Mazarin’s ruthlessness, Marie rebels. She sacrifices everything, but exposing Mazarin’s deepest secret threatens to tear France apart. When even King Louis’s love fails to protect Marie, she must summon her forbidden powers of divination to shield her family, protect France, and help the Sun King fulfill his destiny.

ABOUT ENCHANTRESS OF PARIS

Publication Date: August 4, 2015
Thomas Dunne Books/St. Martin’s Press
Hardcover & eBook; 336 Pages
Genre: Historical Fiction
Read an excerpt.


Purchase Links:


ADVANCE PRAISE

“Told with vivid historical detail and packed with court intrigue, this is sure to please fans of royal fiction.” — Library Journal

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Years after graduating from Virginia Commonwealth University, immersing herself in a Quality Assurance nursing career, and then having children, Marci realized she’d neglected her passion for history and writing. She began traveling, writing along the way, delving into various bits of history that caught her fancy. The plot for GIRL ON THE GOLDEN COIN evolved slowly after a trip to London, where she first learned about the Stuart royals. Marci is a member of the Historical Novel Society. She resides in the Midwest with her husband, making hair-bows for their daughter, trying not to step on their son’s Legos, and teaching a tiny Pacific Parrotlet to talk.
For more information visit Marci Jefferson’s website. You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Goodreads.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Review: Never Always Sometimes by Adi Alsaid

Title: Never Always Sometimes
Author: Adi Alsaid
Genre: contemporary, young adult
Series: N/A
Pages: 320
Published: August 4 2015
Source: received finished copy for review
Rating: 2.5/5


Never date your best friend

Always be original

Sometimes rules are meant to be broken


Best friends Dave and Julia were determined to never be cliché high school kids—the ones who sit at the same lunch table every day, dissecting the drama from homeroom and plotting their campaigns for prom king and queen. They even wrote their own Never List of everything they vowed they'd never, ever do in high school.

Some of the rules have been easy to follow, like #5, never die your hair a color of the rainbow, or #7, never hook up with a teacher. But Dave has a secret: he's broken rule #8, never pine silently after someone for the entirety of high school. It's either that or break rule #10, never date your best friend. Dave has loved Julia for as long as he can remember.

Julia is beautiful, wild and impetuous. So when she suggests they do every Never on the list, Dave is happy to play along. He even dyes his hair an unfortunate shade of green. It starts as a joke, but then a funny thing happens: Dave and Julia discover that by skipping the clichés, they've actually been missing out on high school. And maybe even on love.

It's easy to see what the appeal will be for Never Always Sometimes for a mainstream YA audience. Adi Alsaid writes with humor and charm and this brand of qurky teen coming-of-age is ever popular, thanks to the works of John Green, Rainbow Rowell plus newcomers like Alsaid here. The problem lies in the fact that due to the prevalence of stories like this, with just these kinds of characters, it takes so much more for a novel to truly standout. And while I did like Never Always Sometimes, it was a superficial enjoyment. For me, Alsaid's second novel is more predictable than it was memorable.

I like the diversity Alsaid brings to this novel. It's refreshing to have a novel with a PoC male main character, or a female character from a healthy, less conventional home situation. Including instances of racial and sexual diversity also feels like a natural extension for both characters; Julia's dads are largely off-screen for the book but nor are they tropes or caricatures. Dave's Latino heritage is never really addressed as an issue or non-issue; it's just another part of what makes him who he is. I did wish that Julia's dads had more of a presence -- both in their day-to-tay role (harassing someone the way Julia does is absolutely not okay and 100% not funny) and to illustrate how better suited for they job they were than her birth mother.

Dave is the more rounded character in Never Always Sometimes. For all that we spend the novel switching between the two POVS , Dave emerged far more defined to me. Julia reads more like a wishlist of genre tropes. She's pretty much an MPDG that tries to subvert that role... and never really quite gets there. In trying to thumb his nose at YA cliches, Adi Alsaid falls prey to several unfortunate genre staples.  Julia is the first one and biggest one but the plot is sadly predictable -- from Dave's crush to Gretchen to Julia --- and renders the ending less than satisfactory. 

Adi Alsaid can write good banter and create easy chemistry between his characters. I loved scenes with Dave and Julia that felt natural and not cliche, and all the scenes with Dave and Gretchen that didn't revolve around angst. Anytime the overworked romance(s) played second fiddle, Never Always Sometimes was charming and fun to read. I can't say I would reread this particular book again, but I would be curious to read whatever he writes next. If you prefer light and fluffy contemporaries, Never Always Sometimes is just in that vein of YA and will likely find a wide audience of fans.




  

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Review: The Major's Faux Fiancee by Erica Ridley

Title: The Major's Faux Fiance
Author: Erica Ridley
Genre: Romance
Series: The Dukes of War #4
Pages: 250
Published: June 1, 2015
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Rating: 3 out of 5

When Major Bartholomew Blackpool learns the girl-next-door from his childhood will be forced into an unwanted marriage, he returns home to play her pretend beau. He figures now that he's missing a leg, a faux fiancée is the best an ex-soldier can get. He admires her pluck, but the lady deserves a whole man—and he'll ensure she gets one.

Miss Daphne Vaughan hates that crying off will destroy Major Blackpool's chances of finding a real bride. She plots to make him jilt her first. Who cares if it ruins her? She never wanted a husband anyway. But the major is equally determined that she break the engagement. With both of them on their worst behavior, neither expects their fake betrothal to lead to love...

I think it's time for The Dukes of War and I to part ways. It's not just the lack of comedy or the difficult protagonists; I don't think there's anything left to explore in this world. (The preview of book five made that pretty clear.)

Bartholomew and Daphne are childhood friends who agree to a fake engagement to secure Daphne's inheritance. The plot is flimsy; Daphne's "evil" guardian is a pirate and minor character from the second book who Ridley is obviously planning to star in a future title. He's gruff and demanding and tells the couple that they'll marry by the end of the week, no stalling! So obviously, the Captain isn't mentioned again in their more than a month of stalling. The real conflict comes from Bart and Daph themselves, trying to out martyr each other.

Batholomew and his twin were notorious rakes before the war. Beloved by men as a boxing legend and woman as a legendary lover, Bartholomew became infatuated with the idea of fighting for his country. Edward followed him, but never came home. Worse, Batholomew lost a leg trying to save his brother. Traumatized and depressed, he vows to never return to society where people can pity and emasculate him. I had less issue with his plot than Daph's, until it came time for him to see his friends. The scene at the wedding and the fact that he never took up for Edward's pregnant fiance rubbed me the wrong way. He was so lost in his own grief, he couldn't even come together with the person who would understand it best. Understandable at first, but less so three-quarters of the way through the story.

Daphne always came second to her vicar father's flock. Desperate to be loved by him, she threw herself into charitable causes. She vows to never marry, as love and a husband would take her away from the people she champions. There's nobility in that, but Daphne is actually extremely selfish. She looks down on everyone around her for not helping "enough" or in her way. She doesn't want help, because she doesn't want to share. Even her best friend, who she knows takes up for rich and poor alike, is the subject of some really scornful, (and undeserved,) thoughts.

The romance is fine, though I didn't see as much chemistry between the main characters as I'd like. They're too self involved for anyone else. I did appreciate the big, romantic gesture and how fighting for Daphne taught Bartholomew some acceptance. What I didn't feel was how his family flipped on a dime afterwards. The love scenes were sexy and didn't feel repetitive, but there are only two.

In all, fans of the series may be disappointed, as The Major's Faux Fiancee is something of a departure and new fans won't find much substance.


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