October Recap

Monday, October 31, 2016
Heyoo! It's the end of October and time for a wrap up of everything we posted and reviewed here on APR. Dani's off living a jetsetting lifestyle (actually: working) so you're stuck with me for the duration. Muahaha!

Jessie's links and info for the month:

Books Read: 31

Notable Favorites:
A Song of War by various
The Hating Game by Sally Thorne

Heartless by Marissa Meyer
A Closed and Common Orbit by Becky Chambers
Because You'll Never Meet Me by Leah Thomas

Reviews Posted:
Two Minute Review: Like a River Glorious by Rae Carson (Gold Seer Trilogy #2)
Two Minute Review: Replica by Lauren Oliver (Replica #1)
A Song of War by Kate Quinn, Stephanie Thornton, Libbie Hawker, Christian Cameron, Vicky Alvear Shecter, SJA Turney, and Russell Whitfield
A Darkly Beating Heart by Lindsay Smith
Series Review: Wayfarers (The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet & A Closed and Common Orbit) by Becky Chambers 
Blood Red Snow White by Marcus Sedgwick
Timekeeper by Tara Sim (Timekeeper #1)
DNF Reviews for October

Fun Stuff:
Early October Book Haul
Top Ten Characters I'd Name a Child/Dog/Car After
Top Ten Winter Reads
Cover Reveal: The Fortune Teller by Gwendolyn Womack 

Illustrated edition of A Game of Thrones (opened to Arya/Jon feels, natch) aaaand illustrated edition of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets!

And now for Dani!

Books Read: 7
(I am guessing, from creeping on her GR challenge)

Reviews Posted:
DC Comics: Bombshells Vol. 1: Enlisted by  Marguerite Bennett
DNF Review: Nameless by Lili St. Crow
Backlist Review: Say Yes to the Marquess by Tessa Dare (Castles Ever After #2)

Fun Stuff:
Top Ten Best/Most Compelling Villains
Guest Post Review: Feedback by Mira Grant (Newsflesh #4)


Cover Reveal: The Fortune Teller by Gwendolyn Womack

The Fortune Teller
by Gwendolyn Womack

Release Date: June 6, 2017
Publisher: Picador USA
Formats: eBook & Paperback
Pages: 320
Genre: Fiction/Romantic Suspense

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Semele Cohen appraises antiquities for an exclusive Manhattan auction house, specializing in deciphering ancient texts. And when she discovers a manuscript written in the time of Cleopatra, she knows it will be the find of her career. Its author tells the story of a priceless tarot deck, now lost to history, but as Semele delves further she realizes the manuscript is more than it seems. Both a memoir and a prophecy, it appears to be the work of a powerful seer, describing devastating wars and natural disasters in detail thousands of years before they occurred.

The more she reads, the more the manuscript begins to affect Semele’s life. But what happened to the cards? As the mystery of her connection to the manuscript deepens, Semele can’t shake the feeling that she’s being followed. Only one person can help her make sense of it all: her client, Theo Brossard. Yet Theo is arrogant and elusive, concealing secrets of his own, and there’s more to Semele’s desire to speak with him than she would like to admit. Can Semele even trust him?

The auction date is swiftly approaching, and someone wants to interfere—someone who knows the cards exist, and that the Brossard manuscript is tied to her. Semele realizes it’s up to her to stop them: the manuscript holds the key to a two-thousand-year-old secret, a secret someone will do anything to possess.

Pre-Order at Amazon and Barnes & Noble

Praise for Gwendolyn Womack and The Memory Painter

“A sweeping, mesmerizing feat of absolute magic.” ―M. J. Rose, author of the Reincarnationist Series and The Witch of Painted Sorrows

“Gwendolyn Womack is a storytelling virtuosa, whose sexy, action-packed mind-boggler of a book is destined to become a classic.” ―Anne Fortier, author of Juliet and The Lost Sisterhood

About the Author

Originally from Houston, Texas, Gwendolyn Womack studied theater at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks. She holds an MFA in Directing Theatre, Video and Cinema from California Institute of the Arts. Her first novel, The Memory Painter, was an RWA PRISM award winner in the Time Travel/Steampunk category and a finalist for Best First Novel. She now resides in Los Angeles with her husband and her son.

For more information, please visit Gwendolyn Womack’s website. You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.

DNF Reviews October

Sunday, October 30, 2016
I have had a really good reading month. So many good books crossed my path in October that I am sad to see it go. I did have a few duds that needed to be DNF'd, though:

Marked by Sarah Fine (Servants of Fate #1)

In a broken landscape carved by environmental collapse, Boston paramedic Cacia Ferry risks life and limb on the front lines of a fragile and dangerous city. What most don’t know—including her sexy new partner, Eli Margolis—is that while Cacy works to save lives, she has another job ferrying the dead to the Afterlife. Once humans are “Marked” by Fate, the powerful Ferrys are called to escort the vulnerable souls to either eternal bliss or unending fire and pain.

Unaware of Cacy’s other life, Eli finds himself as mesmerized by his fierce and beautiful partner as he is mistrustful of the influential Ferry clan led by the Charon—who happens to be Cacy’s father. Cacy, in turn, can no longer deny her intense attraction to the mysterious ex-Ranger with a haunted past. But just as their relationship heats up, an apparent hit takes the Charon before his time. Shaken to the core, Cacy pursues the rogue element who has seized the reins of Fate, only to discover that Eli has a devastating secret of his own. Not knowing whom to trust, what will Cacy have to sacrifice to protect Eli—and to make sure humanity’s future is secure?

I tried multiple times over several days to get into this book with little success for either attempt. Marked was a hard sell for me as a reader, though I have greatly enjoyed the other novels I have read from Sarah Fine. This just didn't grab me; the magical systems seemed too convoluted with too little explanation for me to understand. Read 95/332 pages.

Hellhole by Gina Damico

A devil is a bad influence . . .

There was a time when geeky, squeaky-clean Max Kilgore would never lie or steal or even think about murder. Then he accidentally unearths a devil, and Max’s choices are no longer his own. The big red guy has a penchant for couch surfing and junk food—and you should never underestimate evil on a sugar high.

With the help of Lore, a former goth girl who knows a thing or two about the dark side, Max is racing against the clock to get rid of the houseguest from hell before time, and all the Flamin’ Hot Cheetos this side of the fiery abyss, run out.

Hellhole is another YA supernatural that I wanted and expected to love, but was just uninvolved with. Damico is often clever and funny and the parts I read reflect some of that, but this was not a great example of her strengths as an author. Read 90/349 pages.

Fool's War by Sarah Zettel

Katmer Al Shei has done well with the starship Pasadena, cutting corners where necessary to keep her crew paid and her journeys profitable. But there are two things she will never skimp on: her crew—and her fool. For a long space journey, a certified Fool’s Guild clown is essential, to amuse, excite, and otherwise distract the crew from the drudgeries of interstellar flight. Her newest fool, Evelyn Dobbs, is a talented jester. But does she have enough wit to save mankind?

In the computers of the Pasadena, something is emerging. The highly sophisticated software that makes interstellar travel practical is playing host to a new form of artificial intelligence, one with its own mind, its own needs, and its own desperate fears. Combatting this terrifying new threat becomes the fool’s secret fight. Evelyn Dobbs’s personal war might just cost Katmer Al Shei everything, and everyone, she holds dear. But if they fail, humanity itself is lost for good.

This has so many good ideas in it but the execution is all over the place. There's just too much with too little time and depth spent with each in the first 150 pages. It makes for a promising but frustrating experience. Read 175/455 pages.

Ivory and Bone by Julie Eshbaugh (Ivory and Bone #1)

A prehistoric fantasy—with allusions to Pride and Prejudice.

Hunting, gathering, and keeping his family safe—that’s the life seventeen-year-old Kol knows. Then bold, enigmatic Mya arrives from the south with her family, and Kol is captivated. He wants her to like and trust him, but any hopes of impressing her are ruined when he makes a careless—and nearly grave—mistake. However, there’s something more to Mya’s cool disdain…a history wrought with loss that comes to light when another clan arrives. With them is Lo, an enemy from Mya’s past who Mya swears has ulterior motives.

As Kol gets to know Lo, tensions between Mya and Lo escalate until violence erupts. Faced with shattering losses, Kol is forced to question every person he’s trusted. One thing is for sure: this was a war that Mya or Lo—Kol doesn’t know which—had been planning all along.

So, yeah. This book.... is just a big mess. It's detailed and has a great idea -- but the execution of that idea results in a pretty damn boring storyline. The blurb promises a lot but there's not much engaging about the characters or the plot of the book. Read 110/371 pages.

In the Shadow of the Gods by Rachel Dunne (Bound Gods #1)

A breathtaking talent makes her debut with this first book in a dark epic fantasy trilogy, in which a mismatched band of mortals, led by violent, secretive man, must stand against a pair of resentful gods to save their world.

Eons ago, a pair of gods known as the “Twins” grew powerful in the world of Fiatera, until the Divine Mother and Almighty Father exiled them, binding them deep in the earth. But the price of keeping the fire-lands safe is steep. To prevent these young gods from rising again, all twins in the land must be killed at birth, a safeguard that has worked, until now.

Trapped for centuries, the Twins are gathering their latent powers to break free and destroy the Parents for their tyranny—a fight between two generations of gods for control of the world and the mortals who dwell in it.

When the gods make war, only one side can be victorious. Joros, a mysterious and cunning priest, has devised a dangerous plan to win. Over eight years, he gathers a team of disparate fighters—Scal, a lost and damaged swordsman from the North; Vatri, a scarred priestess who claims to see the future in her fires; Anddyr, a drug-addled mage wandering between sanity and madness; and Rora and Aro, a pair of twins who have secretly survived beyond the reach of the law.

These warriors must learn to stand together against the unfathomable power of vengeful gods, to stop them from tearing down the sun . . . and plunging their world into darkness.

Grimdark, with strong religious strife was a theme... I just wasn't that into the storylines being set up here. I do like fantasies that are dark and gritty, but I need them to be original with the premise and how it factors into the overall plot. I set this down about 200 pages in, not intending to DNF but then never really felt like picking it back up.  Read 200/387 pages.

Goddess by Kelly Gardiner

Versailles, 1686: Julie d'Aubigny, a striking young girl taught to fence and fight in the court of the Sun King, is taken as mistress by the King's Master of Horse. 

Tempestuous, swashbuckling and volatile, within two years she has run away with her fencing master, fallen in love with a nun and is hiding from the authorities, sentenced to be burnt at the stake. Within another year, she has become Mademoiselle de Maupin, a beloved star at the famed Paris Opéra. Her lovers include some of Europe's most powerful men and France's most beautiful women. Yet Julie is destined to die alone in a convent at the age of 33. 

Based on an extraordinary true story, this is an original, dazzling and witty novel - a compelling portrait of an unforgettable woman. 

For all those readers who love Sarah Dunant, Sarah Waters and Hilary Mantel.

For me, I found the comparison to Hilary Mantel more accurate than Sarah Dunant. By which I mean this was a very detailed, slow, almost coldly told story. The characters weren't very lively and failed to make me sympathize or empathize. I was bored early (in a book about La Maupin! What???) and that did not change. Read 145/385 pages.

Late October Book Haul

Friday, October 28, 2016
The ARC gods over at NetGalley were very kind -- and so was my husband. So even though I've done one this month and my birthday is very soon....


The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden

A young woman’s family is threatened by forces both real and fantastical in this debut novel inspired by Russian fairy tales.

In a village at the edge of the wilderness of northern Russia, where the winds blow cold and the snow falls many months of the year, a stranger with piercing blue eyes presents a new father with a gift - a precious jewel on a delicate chain, intended for his young daughter. Uncertain of its meaning, Pytor hides the gift away and Vasya grows up a wild, willful girl, to the chagrin of her family. But when mysterious forces threaten the happiness of their village, Vasya discovers that, armed only with the necklace, she may be the only one who can keep the darkness at bay.

I saw this cover all over BEA but there were no ARCs to be found. So I am super excited to finally get to see what this is all about.

Breath of Fire by Amanda Bouchet (Kingmaker Chronicles #2)

"Cat" Catalia Fisa has been running from her destiny since she could crawl. But now, her newfound loved ones are caught between the shadow of Cat's tortured past and the threat of her world-shattering future. So what's a girl to do when she knows it's her fate to be the harbinger of doom? Everything in her power.

Griffin knows Cat is destined to change the world-for the better. As the realms are descending into all-out war, Cat and Griffin must embrace their fate together. Gods willing, they will emerge side-by-side in the heart of their future kingdom...or not at all.

I just read and reviewed book one in this series (A Promise of Fire) a few weeks ago. I had some reservations but I am pretty curious to see what happens next for these characters.

Ever the Hunted by Erim Summerill (Clash of Kingdoms #1)

Seventeen year-old Britta Flannery is at ease only in the woods with her dagger and bow. She spends her days tracking criminals alongside her father, the legendary bounty hunter for the King of Malam—that is, until her father is murdered. Now outcast and alone and having no rights to her father’s land or inheritance, she seeks refuge where she feels most safe: the Ever Woods. When Britta is caught poaching by the royal guard, instead of facing the noose she is offered a deal: her freedom in exchange for her father’s killer.

However, it’s not so simple.

The alleged killer is none other than Cohen McKay, her father’s former apprentice. The only friend she’s ever known. The boy she once loved who broke her heart. She must go on a dangerous quest in a world of warring kingdoms, mad kings, and dark magic to find the real killer. But Britta wields more power than she knows. And soon she will learn what has always made her different will make her a daunting and dangerous force.


Wintersong by S. Jae-Jones

Beware the goblin men and the wares they sell.

All her life, nineteen-year-old Liesl has heard tales of the beautiful, mysterious Goblin King. He is the Lord of Mischief, the Ruler Underground, and the muse around which her music is composed. Yet, as Liesl helps shoulder the burden of running her family’s inn, her dreams of composition and childish fancies about the Goblin King must be set aside in favor of more practical concerns.

But when her sister Käthe is taken by the goblins, Liesl journeys to their realm to rescue her sister and return her to the world above. The Goblin King agrees to let Käthe go—for a price. The life of a maiden must be given to the land, in accordance with the old laws. A life for a life, he says. Without sacrifice, nothing good can grow. Without death, there can be no rebirth. In exchange for her sister’s freedom, Liesl offers her hand in marriage to the Goblin King. He accepts.

Down in the Underground, Liesl discovers that the Goblin King still inspires her—musically, physically, emotionally. Yet even as her talent blossoms, Liesl’s life is slowly fading away, the price she paid for becoming the Goblin King’s bride. As the two of them grow closer, they must learn just what it is they are each willing to sacrifice: her life, her music, or the end of the world.

This sounds fantastic and eerie and lovely and I am so excited. I am going to read it as soon as the weather turns cooooold. (So never. But really, like soonish.)

Daughter of the Pirate King by Tricia Levenseller

A 17-year-old pirate captain intentionally allows herself to get captured by enemy pirates in this thrilling YA adventure.

If you want something done right . . .

When the ruthless pirate king learns of a legendary treasure map hidden on an enemy ship, his daughter, Alosa, knows there's only one pirate for the job—herself. Leaving behind her beloved ship and crew, Alosa deliberately facilitates her own kidnapping to ensure her passage on the ship, confident in her ability to overcome any obstacle. After all, who's going to suspect a seventeen-year-old girl locked in a cell? Then she meets the (surprisingly perceptive and unfairly attractive) first mate, Riden, who is charged with finding out all her secrets. Now it's down to a battle of wits and will . . . . Can Alosa find the map and escape before Riden figures out her plan?

Debut author Tricia Levenseller blends action, adventure, romance, and a little bit of magic into a thrilling YA pirate tale.

I also have high hopes for this one, though a lot of YA pirate tales have not worked out for me. May this be more like The Abyss Surrounds Us and less like... everything else.

Gifted (from my husband):

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets -- Illustrated Edition (Harry Potter #2) - this is my 5th edition of the same book (original hardcover -untouched, original hardcover --read, boxset edition, British paperback edition) and it is so lovely. I am so excited to reread.

A Game of Thrones - Illustrated edition (A Song of Ice and Fire #1 ) - the illustrations in this are in black and white and some in color and they are lovely. It makes me want an animated series from this artist!

and also Gemina by Jay Kristoff and Amie Kaufman, which I immediately started reading for the first/third time (read incomplete ARC twice before) so it wasn't there for the picture :D

Review: Timekeeper by Tara Sim

Thursday, October 27, 2016
Title: Timekeeper
Author: Tara Sim
Genre: historical fiction, supernatural fiction
Series: Timekeeper #1
Pages: 368
Published: expected Nov 1 2016
Source: publishers via edelweiss
Rating: 4/5

Two o’clock was missing.

In an alternate Victorian world controlled by clock towers, a damaged clock can fracture time—and a destroyed one can stop it completely.

It’s a truth that seventeen-year-old clock mechanic Danny Hart knows all too well; his father has been trapped in a Stopped town east of London for three years. Though Danny is a prodigy who can repair not only clockwork, but the very fabric of time, his fixation with staging a rescue is quickly becoming a concern to his superiors.

And so they assign him to Enfield, a town where the tower seems to be forever plagued with problems. Danny’s new apprentice both annoys and intrigues him, and though the boy is eager to work, he maintains a secretive distance. Danny soon discovers why: he is the tower’s clock spirit, a mythical being that oversees Enfield’s time. Though the boys are drawn together by their loneliness, Danny knows falling in love with a clock spirit is forbidden, and means risking everything he’s fought to achieve.

But when a series of bombings at nearby towers threaten to Stop more cities, Danny must race to prevent Enfield from becoming the next target or he’ll not only lose his father, but the boy he loves, forever.

The stunning first novel in a new trilogy by debut author Tara Sim, Timekeeper is perfect for fans of Cassandra Clare and Victoria Schwab.

Mix together a little bit of weirdly creative magic, a cast of diverse and realistic characters with a lot of charm, a new alternate version of our world, and add pure shippy fun and voila! You have the essentials of Tara Sim's timeywimey debut novel Timekeeper. It's a fun historical fiction novel combined smoothly with a romantic supernatural story and makes for pure and immersive reading entertainment.

Creative and clever are two apt descriptors for both plot and characters in Timekeeper; the comparisons to Schwab's Archived novels feels particularly apt. As much as I was engaged by the main character Danny's life inside and outside of his work with clocks, I was somewhat confused by how exactly Time works/Stops in this world. It's an important detail but it's not a exactly explained. The chemistry and charisma of the characters kept me engaged when the worldbuilding details were less than clear but even after finishing, I am left with questions. The short interludes from the mythology/history of this version of history were more often than not unnecessary and also lacked the impact the main storyline carried.

I am also admittedly a little iffy on how the romance developed between Danny and Colton. Relationships that build together bring more emotions, and though these two do engender shipping, it takes much longer for the audience than for the characters to invest in their love. Despite the quick nature of their relationship, I loved the author's choice of a casual retcon of society's attitude towards homosexuality for the times. It still is not a perfect world, but this allows Danny to live his life as a gay person without it being the main crux of his story. He's fully fleshed out and realized character with more to him than just his sexual orientation or sexual partner. It's a refreshing and natural approach.

Both original and engaging in equal measure, Tara Sim's anticipated Timekeeper makes for a memorable and unique read. It's the first in a series, though the events here are pretty much wrapped up. There's room for exploration, both in the alternate version of history and with these characters so I am eager to see what direction Sim will take the sequels.


Top Ten Winter Reads

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Top Ten Tuesday is all thanks to Broke and the Bookish!
Winter is my favorite season. I wait for it literally all the rest of the year and there are always certain books that come to mind when I picture curling up in front of the fire. 
1. The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater

It happens at the start of every November: the Scorpio Races. Riders attempt to keep hold of their water horses long enough to make it to the finish line. Some riders live. Others die.

At age nineteen, Sean Kendrick is the returning champion. He is a young man of few words, and if he has any fears, he keeps them buried deep, where no one else can see them.

Puck Connolly is different. She never meant to ride in the Scorpio Races. But fate hasn’t given her much of a chance. So she enters the competition — the first girl ever to do so. She is in no way prepared for what is going to happen.
"It is the first day of November..." and so Jessie must always reread the first Stiefvater she ever read.

2. Lovely, Dark, and Deep by Amy McNamara

Since the night of the crash, Wren Wells has been running away. Though she lived through the accident that killed her boyfriend Patrick, the girl she used to be didn't survive. Instead of heading off to college with her friends as planned, Wren retreats to her father's isolated studio in the far-north woods of Maine. Somewhere she can be alone. Then she meets Cal Owen. Dealing with his own troubles, Cal's hiding out too. And when the chemistry between them threatens to pull Wren from her hard-won isolation, Wren has to choose: risk opening her broken heart to the world again, or join the ghosts who haunt her.

I've only read this one once but the snow and the season  are such an important feature of the story.

3. The Distant Hours by Kate Morton

A long lost letter arrives in the post and Edie Burchill finds herself on a journey to Milderhurst Castle, a great but moldering old house, where the Blythe spinsters live and where her mother was billeted 50 years before as a 13 year old child during WWII. The elder Blythe sisters are twins and have spent most of their lives looking after the third and youngest sister, Juniper, who hasn’t been the same since her fiance jilted her in 1941.

Inside the decaying castle, Edie begins to unravel her mother’s past. But there are other secrets hidden in the stones of Milderhurst, and Edie is about to learn more than she expected. The truth of what happened in ‘the distant hours’ of the past has been waiting a long time for someone to find it.

Morton once again enthralls readers with an atmospheric story featuring unforgettable characters beset by love and circumstance and haunted by memory, that reminds us of the rich power of storytelling.
Eerie, evocative, the part and the present narratives, and all with a decaying castle....  who wouldn't want to read this on a autumn or winter's night?

4. Winterspell by Claire LeGrand

The clock chimes midnight, a curse breaks, and a girl meets a prince…but what follows is not all sweetness and sugarplums.

New York City, 1899. Clara Stole, the mayor’s ever-proper daughter, leads a double life. Since her mother’s murder, she has secretly trained in self-defense with the mysterious Drosselmeyer.

Then, on Christmas Eve, disaster strikes.

Her home is destroyed, her father abducted—by beings distinctly not human. To find him, Clara journeys to the war-ravaged land of Cane. Her only companion is the dethroned prince Nicholas, bound by a wicked curse. If they’re to survive, Clara has no choice but to trust him, but his haunted eyes burn with secrets—and a need she can’t define. With the dangerous, seductive faery queen Anise hunting them, Clara soon realizes she won’t leave Cane unscathed—if she leaves at all.

Inspired by The Nutcracker, Winterspell is a dark, timeless fairy tale about love and war, longing and loneliness, and a girl who must learn to live without fear.
I've read this the last two years running, right before Christmas. It just captures the feeling of the holidays and The Nutcracker for me.

5. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

Generations of readers young and old, male and female, have fallen in love with the March sisters of Louisa May Alcott’s most popular and enduring novel, Little Women. Here are talented tomboy and author-to-be Jo, tragically frail Beth, beautiful Meg, and romantic, spoiled Amy, united in their devotion to each other and their struggles to survive in New England during the Civil War. 

It is no secret that Alcott based Little Women on her own early life. While her father, the freethinking reformer and abolitionist Bronson Alcott, hobnobbed with such eminent male authors as Emerson, Thoreau, and Hawthorne, Louisa supported herself and her sisters with “woman’s work,” including sewing, doing laundry, and acting as a domestic servant. But she soon discovered she could make more money writing. Little Women brought her lasting fame and fortune, and far from being the “girl’s book” her publisher requested, it explores such timeless themes as love and death, war and peace, the conflict between personal ambition and family responsibilities, and the clash of cultures between Europe and America.

Maybe it's because pivotal Jo and Laurie scenes take place in winter or maybe it's because that's the first time I read this was a Christmas when I was a wee one.

6. Poisoned Apples: Poems for You, My Pretty by Christine Heppermann

Once upon a time...
you were a princess,
or an orphan.
A wicked witch,
fairy godmother,
prom queen,
team captain,
Big Bad Wolf,
Little Bo Peep.
But you are more than just a hero or
a villain, cursed or charmed. You are
everything in between.
You are everything.

In fifty poems Christine Heppermann places fairy tales side by side with the modern teenage girl. Powerful and provocative, deadly funny and deadly serious, this collection is one to read, to share, to treasure, and to come back to again and again.
Unflinching collection of feminist verse fairytale retellings. How else would you celebrate the new year?

7. The Impossible Knife of Memory by Laurie Halse Anderson

For the past five years, Hayley Kincain and her father, Andy, have been on the road, never staying long in one place as he struggles to escape the demons that have tortured him since his return from Iraq. Now they are back in the town where he grew up so Hayley can attend school. Perhaps, for the first time, Hayley can have a normal life, put aside her own painful memories, even have a relationship with Finn, the hot guy who obviously likes her but is hiding secrets of his own.

Will being back home help Andy’s PTSD, or will his terrible memories drag him to the edge of hell, and drugs push him over? The Impossible Knife of Memory is Laurie Halse Anderson at her finest: compelling, surprising, and impossible to put down.
Now you too can feel your tears freeze to your face! It's capable of being actually funny and quite heartwrenching but the cover and the family theme make me think of holidays and my family.

8. The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker

Chava is a golem, a creature made of clay, brought to life by a disgraced rabbi who dabbles in dark Kabbalistic magic. When her master, the husband who commissioned her, dies at sea on the voyage from Poland, she is unmoored and adrift as the ship arrives in New York in 1899.

Ahmad is a jinni, a being of fire, born in the ancient Syrian desert. Trapped in an old copper flask by a Bedouin wizard centuries ago, he is released accidentally by a tinsmith in a Lower Manhattan shop. Though he is no longer imprisoned, Ahmad is not entirely free – an unbreakable band of iron binds him to the physical world.

The Golem and the Jinni is their magical, unforgettable story; unlikely friends whose tenuous attachment challenges their opposing natures – until the night a terrifying incident drives them back into their separate worlds. But a powerful threat will soon bring Chava and Ahmad together again, challenging their existence and forcing them to make a fateful choice.
This book is so quietly lovely and detailed and... it should be read in all kinds of seasons, really.
9. Deathless by Catherynne M. Valente

Koschei the Deathless is to Russian folklore what devils or wicked witches are to European culture: a menacing, evil figure; the villain of countless stories which have been passed on through story and text for generations. But Koschei has never before been seen through the eyes of Catherynne Valente, whose modernized and transformed take on the legend brings the action to modern times, spanning many of the great developments of Russian history in the twentieth century.

Deathless, however, is no dry, historical tome: it lights up like fire as the young Marya Morevna transforms from a clever child of the revolution, to Koschei’s beautiful bride, to his eventual undoing. Along the way there are Stalinist house elves, magical quests, secrecy and bureaucracy, and games of lust and power. All told, Deathless is a collision of magical history and actual history, of revolution and mythology, of love and death, which will bring Russian myth back to life in a stunning new incarnation.
Russia and fairytales and it's a perfect fit for a winter book.
this one's cheating a bit but based on its cover and title...
10.  Wintersong by S. Jae-Jones

Beware the goblin men and the wares they sell.

All her life, nineteen-year-old Liesl has heard tales of the beautiful, mysterious Goblin King. He is the Lord of Mischief, the Ruler Underground, and the muse around which her music is composed. Yet, as Liesl helps shoulder the burden of running her family’s inn, her dreams of composition and childish fancies about the Goblin King must be set aside in favor of more practical concerns.

But when her sister Käthe is taken by the goblins, Liesl journeys to their realm to rescue her sister and return her to the world above. The Goblin King agrees to let Käthe go—for a price. The life of a maiden must be given to the land, in accordance with the old laws. A life for a life, he says. Without sacrifice, nothing good can grow. Without death, there can be no rebirth. In exchange for her sister’s freedom, Liesl offers her hand in marriage to the Goblin King. He accepts.

Down in the Underground, Liesl discovers that the Goblin King still inspires her—musically, physically, emotionally. Yet even as her talent blossoms, Liesl’s life is slowly fading away, the price she paid for becoming the Goblin King’s bride. As the two of them grow closer, they must learn just what it is they are each willing to sacrifice: her life, her music, or the end of the world.
I have high hopes for this -- it sounds like a great retelling of such a famous source. And the cover! I will probably be starting my ARC of this soon because I have zero self control.

Review: Blood Red Snow White by Marcus Sedgwick

Friday, October 21, 2016
Title: Blood Red Snow White
Author: Marcus Sedgwick
Genre: historical fiction
Series: N/A
Pages: 320
Published: expected October 25 2016
Source: ARC from publishers
Rating: 3/5

When writer Arthur Ransome leaves his unhappy marriage in England and moves to Russia to work as a journalist, he has little idea of the violent revolution about to erupt. Unwittingly, he finds himself at its center, tapped by the British to report back on the Bolsheviks even as he becomes dangerously, romantically entangled with Trotsky's personal secretary.

Both sides seek to use Arthur to gather and relay information for their own purposes . . . and both grow to suspect him of being a double agent. Arthur wants only to elope far from conflict with his beloved, but her Russian ties make leaving the country nearly impossible. And the more Arthur resists becoming a pawn, the more entrenched in the game he seems to become.

Russia wakes from a long sleep and marches to St Petersburg to claim her birthright. Her awakening will mark the end for the Romanovs, and the dawn of a new era that changed the world. Arthur, journalist and writer, was part of it all. He left England and fell in love with Russia and a Russian woman. This is his story.

First and foremost: this is not a fairytale retelling; don't let that cover or title fool you. There are elements of Russian fairy tales to be found in Marcus Sedgwick's newest Blood Red Snow White, but this is a book about Russia. It's often lyrical and poetic in its short, frequently-changing course but as with most books by this author, it is not a straightforward tale. This is a book that is one-third dreamy folk talk, one-third spy mystery, one-third historical fiction romance. It's an interesting mash of ideas and genres for one book with less than three hundred fifty pages, and only some of which really succeed.

The first section of the novel (titled A Russian Fairy Tale) is undoubtedly the best. This is the area most like a fairy tale -- folksy, with layered meaning and intent. The story of Russia waking into its Communist society is told subtly and magically. It was 5/5 stars for me and the highlight of the book despite only lasting 71 pages. The One Night in Moscow follows this auspicious  beginning and squanders it.  So many chapters primarily concerned with spying and Ransome -- both of which held much less interest and exactly zero emotional investment. 

Part III of three of the novel is aptly titled A Fairytale, Ending and this final narrative held a lot of emotion that had been sorely lacking in the addition before. Though not as mystical or alluring as the beginning of the novel was, it was a solid if somewhat predictable ending for an ultimately uneven read. Marcus Sedgwick is a clever man who writes creative novels; books that are often told in unique and original ways. Sometimes his methodology works better than others, and I am happy that at least this one was a better experience for me than his last.

Series Review: Wayfarers by Becky Chambers

Thursday, October 20, 2016
Technically, these two books are more companions than series, but eh, it's my blog and I do what I want.

Title: The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet
Author: Becky Chambers
Genre: science fiction
Series: Wayfarers #1
Pages: 404
Published: August 2015
Source: publishers via edelweiss
Rating: 4.5/5

Somewhere within our crowded sky, a crew of wormhole builders hops from planet to planet, on their way to the job of a lifetime. To the galaxy at large, humanity is a minor species, and one patched-up construction vessel is a mere speck on the starchart. This is an everyday sort of ship, just trying to get from here to there.

But all voyages leave their mark, and even the most ordinary of people have stories worth telling. A young Martian woman, hoping the vastness of space will put some distance between herself and the life she‘s left behind. An alien pilot, navigating life without her own kind. A pacifist captain, awaiting the return of a loved one at war.

Set against a backdrop of curious cultures and distant worlds, this episodic tale weaves together the adventures of nine eclectic characters, each on a journey of their own.

Title: A Closed and Common Orbit
Author: Becky Chambers
Genre: science fiction
Series: Wayfarers #2
Pages: 512
Published: October 20 2016
Source: publishers via edelweiss
Rating: 4.5/5
Lovelace was once merely a ship's artificial intelligence. When she wakes up in an new body, following a total system shut-down and reboot, she has no memory of what came before. As Lovelace learns to negotiate the universe and discover who she is, she makes friends with Pepper, an excitable engineer, who's determined to help her learn and grow.

Together, Pepper and Lovey will discover that no matter how vast space is, two people can fill it together.

The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet introduced readers to the incredible world of Rosemary Harper, a young woman with a restless soul and secrets to keep. When she joined the crew of the Wayfarer, an intergalactic ship, she got more than she bargained for - and learned to live with, and love, her rag-tag collection of crewmates.

A Closed and Common Orbit is the stand-alone sequel to Becky Chambers' beloved debut novel The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet and is perfect for fans of Firefly, Joss Whedon, Mass Effect and Star Wars.


Take note: Becky Chambers has published two excellent, diverse, and just plain fun science fiction novels in the last few years. First with the spaceship quest across galaxies among a ragtag band of characters and species in The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet and then planetside, wrestling with existential crises with AI and engineered humans during A Closed and Common Orbit, Chambers has shown an impressive breadth of imagination and creativity in her pair of companion novels. Both books have been entertaining and thoughtful; original in scope and in plot but not without humor and a ship or two.

The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet does a great job of setting up the world/s the characters occupy and travel among. The many rules and imagined cultures of this imagined future are varied and unpredictable but the author does a great job of disseminating the info without halting the pacing. Chambers' version of future includes multiple non-human aliens who interact (and are often confused/horrified by) humankind in unexpected but interesting ways. A Closed and Common Orbit is a bit less diverse when it comes to characters, aliens, and foreign cultures, but it also uses a nonhuman main character in an effective way to analyze humankind. 

 Societal expectations, gender, identity, and what it means to be human and/or alive are all key themes touched on within Chambers' clever science fiction. Using first Rosemary in TLWtaSAP and then Lovelace and Pepper as main characters is a smart move because of the different backgrounds and exposures each of the three women bring to their unique perspectives. Rosemary's struggle with politics, personal history and gender bias is contrasted with Lovelace's existential dilemma and also with Pepper's harrowing history and continuing quest. Their individual stories are wildly disparate, but each are deftly rendered and thoughtfully explore many issues relevant in modern society (slave labor, cloning, child labor, prejudice and discrimination, environmental waste...etc).

More than anything else, even with the occasionally heavy subject, these two books are original and entertaining to read. Each could be read independent of the other or without knowledge of other's contents, but I wouldn't recommend that. They both offer a ton of humor and are each filled with fantastically developed characters -- of all species and kinds. The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet may be more action-oriented than the introspective nature of A Closed and Common Orbit but both are great, fun reads; fantastic new additions to the scifi genre.

Review: A Darkly Beating Heart by Lindsay Smith

Wednesday, October 19, 2016
Title: A Darkly Beating Heart
Author: Lindsay Smith
Genre: historical fiction, time travel
Series: N/A
Pages: 272
Published: expected October 25 2016
Source: ARC from publishers for review
Rating: 3/5

A time-travel story that alternates between modern day and 19th century Japan as one girl confronts the darkness lurking in her soul.

No one knows what to do with Reiko. She is full of hatred. All she can think about is how to best hurt herself and the people closest to her. After a failed suicide attempt, Reiko’s parents send her from their Seattle home to spend the summer with family in Japan to learn to control her emotions. But while visiting Kuramagi, a historic village preserved to reflect the nineteenth-century Edo period, Reiko finds herself slipping back in time into the life of Miyu, a young woman even more bent on revenge than Reiko herself. Reiko loves being Miyu, until she discovers the secret of Kuramagi village, and must face down Miyu’s demons as well as her own.

I liked this historical/time traveling tale well enough (the premise is perfection, let's not lie here), but it's an often confusing narrative with many clarity issues over the course over its pages. The author undoubtedly has a great imagination and creates a good idea for the basic plots of A Darkly Beating Heart, but the execution of the main story is muddled from the outset and is an issue that never really resolves. 

A Darkly Beating Heart has such good bones, but outside of the previously mentioned clarity issues, the story is further hampered by the overall short length of the novel. Coming in at less than 300 pages total, there is a lot of ground to cover and events in the story progress either too quickly or too conveniently for my suspension of disbelief. Reiko's life and situation makes for interesting and compelling reading, but it passes by so quickly that I finished the book still left with questions. 

The main character's timeslip into the Edo period is perhaps the best aspect A Darkly Beating Heart has to offer, though these experiences are also abruptly covered and feel rushed. Reiko's initial confusion and disbelief at her surroundings and new situation soon become an evocative and atmospheric escape into a fascinating culture with hidden dangers. The author is careful to tie the past and the present storylines together, but the modern one was less dynamic in comparison.

There's a lot to like about A Darkly Beating Heart - the diversity, the inclusiveness, the creativity -- but it never crossed into "favorite" territory for me. It was an entertaining read but not a particularly memorable one.

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