Friday, January 30, 2015

S&S Bingo Challenge: Update 1

The first month of my year-long bingo challenge is over! I feel like it flew by, but it turns out I read a couple of books that fit my card without even trying :D

If you want to join in the Bingo challenge at any time, you can find the original card and instructions here. You can fill out one line to make a bingo, or try and fill out the whole card. This is mainly geared towards Science fiction and Fantasy, but you can use whatever genre you want!

Here's my progress so far:

1. 2nd book in a series: Crown of Midnight by Sarah J Maas *****

 I'm glad I stuck with this series because I LOVED THIS BOOK. Full review here!

2. POC main character: The Many Lives of Ruby Iyer by Laxmi Hariharan ***

The author of this book requested that I review it, and it sounded really cool: a pseudo-dystopian society based on the city of Bombay. The main character, Ruby, and in fact all of the characters are Indian or of mixed origin. Look out for my full review of this soon!

3. New-to-Me Author: The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon ***

I had heard a lot of mixed reviews about The Bone Season. It seems like people either really love it or really don't. I somehow managed to fall in the middle. Here's my review of its sequel, The Mime Order, which is more my thoughts on the series as a whole so far than just book 2.

Books I have planned for February:

Borrowed from a friend: Before They are Hanged by Joe Abercrombie
  • I borrowed this way back in November and I still haven't gotten to it. Whoops...
Urban Fantasy: Vision in Silver by Anne Bishop
  • Thank you Edelweiss for the eARC!
Written before 2000: The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
  • I'm going waaaaaay before 2000 since I bought volume one last year and I never got around to it. A friend gave me the second volume for my birthday this month, so now I have no excuses!

Are you working on your own S&S bingo card? Link me in the comments!

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Thursday, January 29, 2015

Review: The Mime Order

17901125Title: The Mime Order
Author: Samantha Shannon
Genre: Science fiction, fantasy, dystopian, adult fiction

My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

Goodreads Summary:
Paige Mahoney has escaped the brutal prison camp of Sheol I, but her problems have only just begun: many of the survivors are missing and she is the most wanted person in London...
As Scion turns its all-seeing eye on the dreamwalker, the mime-lords and mime-queens of the city's gangs are invited to a rare meeting of the Unnatural Assembly. Jaxon Hall and his Seven Seals prepare to take centre stage, but there are bitter fault lines running through the clairvoyant community and dark secrets around every corner. Then the Rephaim begin crawling out from the shadows. But where is Warden? Paige must keep moving, from Seven Dials to Grub Street to the secret catacombs of Camden, until the fate of the underworld can be decided.

When I picked up this series, I was really curious and excited about a world that was full of clairvoyants and spirits. I was intrigued by the idea of a psychic mafia and an unknown entity secretly pulling the strings.

While the world was exciting, I can't say the worldbuilding was. For most of The Bone Season, I was really confused about all the terms that were being thrown around. Not only were there dozens of clairvoyants/voyants with non-intuitive names, there was also lots of British slang that was unfamiliar to me. There's a glossary, but if you have to keep flipping to the back of the book every other page, something's not quite right. In The Mime Order, I had a better handle on what was going on so this wasn't as much of an issue. It was still hard to keep track of everything as new characters and types of voyants were introduced, though. The entire book felt like the author was trying to cram in every detail about the world. It was very detailed, yes, but a lot of it was unnecessary/confusing/presented in infodumps.

This wouldn't bother me so much if I had connected more to the characters. In book one, I was not a huge fan of Paige because she was so selfish and was always complaining about her relatively good situation while her peers were truly suffering. Despite everyone's interest in her potential, she herself was almost cowardly and it wasn't until the very end when she started to show signs of putting others before herself. I was hoping Paige would continue this in The Mime Order, and to some extent she did, but the majority of the book was still Paige being whiny and selfish. I really enjoyed her transformation at the end of this book though. She really owned her identity (in more ways than one) and finally took a step towards defending what she believed in instead of being someone's puppet.

While the plot of The Bone Season was full of revelations about Scion, the Rephaim, voyants, and the spirit world, this book is more focused on the aftermath of the escape from Sheol II. I enjoyed seeing things more from the Scion London perspective, especially with all the politics and betrayals that went along with the voyant underworld. Jaxon was a fascinating character, and I'm glad he had a larger role in this book.

I'm not sure if I will continue this series, but I did enjoy this book. I'm not hugely invested in these characters, but it's not a bad series and I can see that there's a lot of potential for revolution and earth-shattering consequences in future books.

*A free ecopy was provided by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review*
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Sunday, January 25, 2015

Review: Blue Lily, Lily Blue

Blue Lily, Lily Blue (The Raven Cycle, #3)Title: Blue Lily, Lily Blue
Author: Maggie Stiefvater
Genre: Young adult, fantasy, magical realism

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Goodreads Summary:
There is danger in dreaming. But there is even more danger in waking up.
Blue Sargent has found things. For the first time in her life, she has friends she can trust, a group to which she can belong. The Raven Boys have taken her in as one of their own. Their problems have become hers, and her problems have become theirs.
The trick with found things though, is how easily they can be lost.
Friends can betray.
Mothers can disappear.
Visions can mislead.
Certainties can unravel.

I think The Dream Thieves is my favorite of the series so far (RONAN) but BLLB was excellent as well. This was the first book of the series that I read on audio, and the narrator did a fantastic job with all the characters. I finally know what a Henrietta accent sounds like!

Blue Lily, Lily Blue picks up almost immediately where The Dream Thieves left off. Things are just a lot more intense in this book than the previous ones. Gansey is closer than ever to finding Glendower, the mysterious employer of the Gray man is right on their backs, Moira is still AWOL, and meanwhile Blue is stuck in the middle of everything, trying to keep at least some part of her life stable. There's a lot happening in this book in terms of plot, but the shining stars continue to be the characters.

I have always loved Maggie Stiefvater's writing style, but it really shines in this series. It captures the feeling of magic in the every day world so beautifully, and the words weave together so many intense emotions that it's almost magical in itself.

There are a lot of revelations and unexpected directions in terms of plot and character development. I cannot wait to see how these play out in the final book!

Oh, and just for laughs, a clip of the audiobook version of the Blue Lily, Lily Blue song:
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Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Top Ten Tuesday 46 - Fantasy subgenre recommendations

Top Ten Tuesday is a meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.
This week's theme: Freebie!
 Top Ten Fantasy Subgenre recommendations

Remember that sci-fi subgenre flowchart that I made for Sci-Fi November 2014? It had such a great response that I was inspired to make one for fantasy too. It just hasn't happened yet.

Today I'm taking a step towards actually making that flowchart by listing different subgenres of fantasy and some of my recommendations for them. These are both if you're new to the genre entirely or are looking for good books in subgenres you don't usually read. I've attempted to list a classic and a contemporary novel for each, but I don't think I've read quite enough to be able to fill out all of the categories. This list is by no means exhaustive!

Here goes!

 Epic Fantasy
 Urban fantasy
Sword & Sorcery
3 518848 
 Portal Fantasy
170609 14497
 Magical Realism
17675462 7597
 New Weird
 Heists, Cons, and Thieves (you got me, I made this subgenre up)
 Folklore/fairy tale retellings77368 6363322
 Alternate History/Historical fantasy

Did I leave off one of your favorites? Let me know so I can include it in the actual flowchart!

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Monday, January 19, 2015

Review: Half the World

21066604Title: Half the World
Author: Joe Abercrombie
Genre: Fantasy, young adult (more like crossover)

My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

Goodreads Summary (SPOILERS FOR BOOK 1)Sometimes a girl is touched by Mother War.
Thorn is such a girl. Desperate to avenge her dead father, she lives to fight. But she has been named a murderer by the very man who trained her to kill.
Sometimes a woman becomes a warrior.
She finds herself caught up in the schemes of Father Yarvi, Gettland’s deeply cunning minister. Crossing half the world to find allies against the ruthless High King, she learns harsh lessons of blood and deceit.
Sometimes a warrior becomes a weapon.
Beside her on the journey is Brand, a young warrior who hates to kill, a failure in his eyes and hers, but with one chance at redemption.
And weapons are made for one purpose.
Will Thorn forever be a pawn in the hands of the powerful, or can she carve her own path?

Gut reaction upon finishing: Badass women who actually talk to each other and have women friends? SO MUCH YES.

I really enjoyed Half a King and all the other Joe Abercrombie books I have read; they are all unique stories in that none of the characters can really be called "good" or "bad." There are definitely no heroes, but there are definitely still characters to root for. I especially enjoyed this one because not only was the main character an independent and kick-ass woman, there were many female characters and none of them were stereotypical.

Thorn is a young woman who would rather fight to the death than let a man get away with insulting her. That doesn't necessarily mean she'll win; Thorn is skilled, but not legendary, and initially takes a beating that leads to her near-execution. Father Yarvi saves her from certain death, but Thorn finds herself in a complex web of political intrigue. She's a pawn and a tool, but an unpredictable one, since she follows her intuition over orders. She's impulsive and can be immature, but she is certainly a character to root for. I loved her development over the course of the novel, from her sparring sessions with Skifr to her encounter with Vialine and finally Rin.

The political intrigue was excellent as well. Yarvi's "deep cunning" is in full force in this book, and it's amazing how much everyone manipulates and out-maneuvers everyone else. There are battles and assassination attempts, duels and alliances. I especially enjoyed how Thorn's most important battle was handled believably and realistically instead of the usual trope of "protagonist magically obtains special powers in the moment of crisis and wins by a landslide". As Yarvi pointed out in Half a King, there are many ways to win.

This book is an excellent story and also does an amazing job of portraying men and women with equal complexity and respect. I highly recommend this book for fans of fantasy, especially dark fantasy.

*A free e-copy was provided by Del Rey Spectra via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review*

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Saturday, January 17, 2015

Book Talk: From reader to blogger

First of all, sorry for being AWOL last week. Life got really crazy, to the point when I was celebrating when I had didn't have a 12+ hour day. Winter quarter is always the toughest, but this year is the toughest yet!

Whenever I did have a snatch of down time in the middle of the day, I'd want to spend it relaxing and doing what I love - reading. No matter how tough life gets or how upset/tired/frazzled I am, books always help calm me down and take me to a happier place.

I originally started reviewing books on Goodreads so that I could keep track of my own thoughts on books I'd read. I'm the "bookworm friend" in most of my friend groups, so people come to me asking for recommendations, and it got difficult to remember why I liked a certain book if I had read it a few years ago. Reviews help me keep track of my gut reaction to books, and it's really fun to see how that changes with re-reads.

I was already reviewing books for a couple of years when I decided to start a blog. Like I said earlier, I'm the "bookworm friend" which means most of my friends aren't really readers. I've been lucky enough in college to find a couple of SF/F loving friends that I can talk about books with, but even they don't read as widely or as much as me.

 I love being part of the book blogger community because everyone here really loves to read. You won't look at me funny when I'm freaking out about the next Sanderson book or flailing over the bromance of Jean Tannen and Locke Lamora. You're the ones who convinced me to read the Throne of Glass series, and even though I was skeptical at first, now I'm in love. You have gotten me through really tough and lonely days with your endearing comments and shared excitement for books.

Thank you.

I love you all, and I'm so glad I decided to take the extra step and start a book blog. It's tough to post more than 2-3 times a week for me, so thanks for sticking with me even when I go off the grid.

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Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Top Ten Tuesday 45 - Didn't get to in 2014

Top Ten Tuesday is a meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.
This week's theme: Top Ten 2014 Releases I Meant To Read But Didn't Get To

This one is kind of hard because I was pretty good about reading all the books I wanted to. I'm going to include some 2013 releases I wanted to read in 2014, because otherwise I wouldn't have 10 books for my list!

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