Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Top Ten Tuesday 51 - recent TBR

Top Ten Tuesday is a meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.

This week's theme: Recently Added TBR books

I'm pretty relentless about shaving down my TBR every time it hits 50 books, because I know if it gets bigger than that I'll never actually read half the books. Sometimes I shave it down by reading a lot of books that have been sitting on my TBR for a while, and sometimes I just take books off of it when I'm no longer interested in them.

Long story short, I add books to my TBR very slowly, so the last ten span from last week to last November :)

 A Blink of the Screen: Collected Short Fiction
Sir Terry's passing was such a sad moment for me because his children's Discworld books made such an impact on me as a child. I wanted to read more of his books, and I saw this on Netgalley, so I immediately requested it and added it to my TBR.
This one was recommended to me by Amy on the last TTT I did (Recommendations for people who love Pirates, Thieves, and Cons). It sounded right up my alley, so I added it to my stack. Plus, I've been meaning to read Fortune's Pawn by the same author (Rachel Bach = Rachel Aaron), so it'll be nice to read more from her!
Kazuo Ishiguro is brilliant and I was really excited when I heard that he was writing a fantasy novel. Can't wait to read this one! 
This one was recommended by a friend. We happened to be on the same flight home and we started talking about books (because of course I had my kindle out) and then she recommended this one to me. It sounds oddly like a bollywood movie that came out recently... (PK for those who are interested lol)
Mark (Mental Megalodon) has been raving about book 3 in this series, but of course I need to catch up with books 1 and 2. So here's book 1 on my TBR.
My roommate recommended this one to me. She said she bawled her eyes out reading this book, so I have to give it a shot!

This one has been on my radar for a while but I didn't add it to my TBR because I was daunted by the size. I finally caved after a few more recommendations and added this in January.

Obviously, this got added to my TBR the second I knew it existed. It's a Sanderson book after all.

Another series Mark has been raving about. I added it in December, asked my university to order it last month, and it's sitting by my bed right now. It will be read as soon as I finish Uprooted by Naomi Novik!

I've heard so many amazing things about this series and I'm very excited to read it. I got a little carried away requesting ARCs this month but once I finish all of them I'll get to work on this one.

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Monday, March 30, 2015

Review: Alloy of Law

10803121Title: The Alloy of Law
Author: Brandon Sanderson
Genre: Fantasy, steampunk

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Goodreads summary:In the three hundred years since the events of the Mistborn trilogy, science and technology have marched on. Scadrial is now on the verge of modernity, with railroads, electric lighting, and even the first steel-framed skyscrapers racing for the clouds.
Yet even with these advances, the magics of Allomancy and Feruchemy continue to play a role in this reborn world. Out in the frontier lands known as the Roughs, they are crucial tools for those attempting to establish order and justice.
One is Waxillium Ladrian, a rare Twinborn who can Push on metals with his Allomancy and use Feruchemy to become lighter or heavier at will. After twenty years in the Roughs, Wax must now put away his guns and assume the duties incumbent upon the head of a noble house—until he learns the hard way that the mansions and elegant tree-lined streets of the city can be even more dangerous than the dusty plains of the Roughs.

When I read the Mistborn trilogy, I fell in love with the cosmere and Sanderson's books. I was delighted to find out that there were even more Mistborn books set in time periods after the original trilogy. How brilliant is that? A world that evolves its magic and technology together; where characters we once knew and loved are now legends and gods of eras past.

The Alloy of Law is a sort of turn-of-the-century take on Mistborn. Scadrial now has streetlights, rail cars, and pistols. And along with pistols and railcars come good old fashioned rogues and shootouts. This book is immensely entertaining, especially thanks to the hilarious duo of Wax and Wayne (no pun intended? Knowing Sanderson, I doubt it...). Waxillium is a nobleman who wants nothing more than to get his hands dirty and actually defend the city instead of enjoying pointless parties with the rest of the nobility. He's a bit of an oddball in all circles, but no one can deny his sizeable inheritance. Wayne is more of a...free spirit. He is a charmer and loves a good joke, even when he's fighting for his life. A pretty young noblewoman, Marasi, also gets tangled up in their mess. She starts out as a pretty weak character but she grows so much and ends up being pretty badass by the end. I loved all of their friendly banter and camaraderie, and I can't get over how much Wayne loves his hat! It's a good hat, to be sure.

This book is part mystery, part fantasy, and part Western, and it's really hard to put down. I don't think I even need to recommend it because I'm sure all the Mistborn fans are already on top of it.

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Saturday, March 28, 2015

Review: The Empyrian Key

23635638Title: The Empyrean Key
Author: J.L. Tomlinson
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

Goodreads Summary:In Ardentia, a land carved by the Celestials and their magic, a great King lies dying.
Narcean soothsayer, Friziel Sunrender, has foreseen a shadow that threatens this already war-torn world, and whispers on the wind hint at the return of an ancient evil. To stave off this threat, he must call upon the halfbreed girl-child he banished years ago.
As a not-so-perceptive telepath and amateur scam-runner, Jahna Mornglow has filled the void left by an absent father, with the friendships of a bloodthirsty bar-maid and a bullied book-worm. Her mother, scarred by the racial prejudices of her past, refuses to nurture Jahna's Narcean abilities of prophecy and telepathy, warning her of the hate beyond the safety of Groden Cove – a beachside safe haven for misfits and those who wish to be left alone.
When hidden enemies move their pieces into play as the King's condition worsens; Jahna learns the true extent of her lineage, and is tasked with restoring a Celestial artifact known as The Empyrean Key. Jahna must now keep safe the world that has shunned and discarded her.

First of all, thank you to Jo-Anne Tomlinson for her patience with me reviewing her book, It's taken me months but I finally did it!

I was really excited about this book because I've been trying to make it a point to read and support authors and books that feature diverse characters. I know that authors are getting better about including more diverse minor characters, but it's still rare for the main character to be a person of color. In The Empyrean Key, the main character is markedly dark skinned and faces some discrimination for it. I was also hooked by the roguish main characters, who con people for a living and crack jokes to deal with their meager existence (sound familiar, Gentleman Bastard fans?).

I can definitely say I enjoyed this book, and it was a fairly quick and entertaining read. The witty banter and the sarcasm was great, and I liked the unconventional main characters. Jahna is from a race of seers or prophets, but she doesn't know how to use her powers. Her best friends and partners in crime are Lilac, a large and brawny barmaid, and Silko, a scrawny bookworm. The three of them have a wonderful friendship, and it was endearing to see how despite all the bravado and teasing, they had each other's backs no matter what.

I did have a few minor complaints with this book (hence 3.5 stars). As I mentioned before, I was really excited to see how the author dealt with the issue of race and prejudice against her main character. While Jahna was discriminated against, it was more out of fear of her prophetic abilities; her race was almost a non-issue. I also expected a bit more depth in the three main characters. I felt like they were quirky and unique, but after a while there wasn't actually that much more to them. This book felt like the first few hundred pages of a giant epic fantasy novel, so perhaps the characters have a lot more growing to do, but they still felt a little flat in the second half of the book. And finally, the lukewarm romance that came out of nowhere. Jahna was suddenly blushing and thinking about a character who only made his appearance very late in the novel, and the whole thing seemed abrupt to me.

While I do have some reservations about this book, I definitely enjoyed it. I am looking forward to more of Tomlinson's work.

*A free copy was provided by the author in exchange for an honest review*

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Friday, March 27, 2015

S&S Bingo challenge: March

March was probably my worst blogging month on record, because I basically fell off the map for over two weeks. This winter quarter was the craziest in terms of life and hard classes, but it's finally over!

Here's my update for my bingo challenge. I didn't get to read as much as I wanted to during the month, but I did make some progress.

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 for March:

1. dystopia: The Water Knife by Paolo Bacigalupi

I got this book from Edelweiss, and I was really excited about it because it's by one of my favorite authors. This book is terrifying, not just because it's gritty and brutal and has a fair amount of torture in it, but because of how realistic it is. There isn't any great nuclear cataclysm or some virus that wipes out the world; the world falls to pieces when there simply isn't enough water to go around.

2. Female Author: A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab

I've had a love-hate relationship with Schwab's books in the past, but this one was pure love! I cannot say enough good things about this book. Go read it! That is all.

3. Time Travel: Outlander by Diana Gabaldon

I was not expecting to enjoy this book as much as I did! This was a very entertaining book, and I definitely want to check out the show and the sequels. My favorite scene was actually Jamie and Jenny shouting at each other. I could definitely see my little brother and me yelling at each other just like that, although hopefully about less life-and-death things.

4. Humorour SF/F: Lock In by John Scalzi

This book blew my mind! In a world where people are locked in or paralyzed, people adapt by hooking up their consciousness to sleek mechanical bodies. With all those gender and racial stereotypes stripped away, how do we see ourselves? Besides the social commentary, this book is an excellent sci-fi murder mystery, complete with snarky protagonist. I loved it!

Books I have planned for April:

I'm still working on Sherlock Holmes. I have a feeling I won't finish it any time soon, but it's my published before 2000 book. I'm also planning on rereading Lies of Locke Lamora (reread a favorite) and Uprooted by Naomi Novik (dragons).

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

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Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Review: The World Before Us

22716411Title: The World Before Us
Author: Aislinn Hunter
Genre: Contemporary, magical realism

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Goodreads Summary:
When she was just fifteen, smart, sensitive Jane Standen lived through a nightmare: she lost the sweet five-year-old girl she was minding during a walk in the woods. The little girl was never found, leaving her family, and Jane, devastated. Now the grown-up Jane is an archivist at a small London museum that is about to close for lack of funding. As her one last project, she is searching the archives for scraps of information related to another missing person--a woman who disappeared some 125 years ago from a Victorian asylum. As the novel moves back and forth between the museum in contemporary London, the Victorian asylum, and a dilapidated country house that seems to connect both missing people, it unforgettably explores the repercussions of small acts, the power of affection, and the irrepressible vitality of everyday objects and events.
Here is a rivetting, gorgeously written novel that powerfully reminds us of the possibility that we are less alone than we might think. 
The World Before Us sounded like a haunting, unsettling, and poignant novel. I was really excited to uncover the ghosts of Jane Standen and see how past and present collide. Somehow, I just didn't get invested in the characters, and I felt like I was a distant spectator instead of someone immersed in these characters' headspaces. I was so distant that I just wasn't emotionally invested in this story, even though there were a lot of moments when I thought I should have been.

I think part of what made this story so unemotional for me is that it is narrated by a mysterious "we" who don't remember their names or lives or identities. The group that makes up the "we" is actually a set of ghosts who are trying to reconstruct their identity and relationship to each other using Jane Standen's research. This confused me at first, but once we started getting more pieces of the ghosts' identity, I started getting more invested in their lives. Then of course there had to be mysterious unexpected connections between all of them, and it felt too contrived for me to care anymore.

Another aspect of this book that made me take a step back from these characters is that Jane herself is emotionally numb. She is traumatized by a mistake in her past, and doesn't let herself think about it. She responds to her intense emotions by shutting them down instead of confronting their cause. We also only see her through the eyes of the ghosts, so it's hard to care about someone you're just watching instead of interacting with.

I think this book might be enjoyable and emotional for some people, but it just wasn't for me. I would recommend it for people who enjoy literary contemporary fiction; it is certainly a beautifully written and thoughtful look at the consequences of trauma.

*A free copy was provided by the publisher via NetGalley*

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Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Top Ten Tuesday 50 - Recs if you like Pirates, Thieves, and Cons!

Top Ten Tuesday is a meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.

This week's theme: Top Ten Recommendations if you like pirates, thieves, and cons

We all have a soft spot for those roguish characters that sail the seas or swindle their way through life. Who doesn't love a good pirate story? Here are some childhood favorites and recent loves of mine that I'd recommend!


If you haven't read this yet, we can't be friends.

In all seriousness though, this is one of my favorite books and I have been pushing it on everyone I know. I highly recommend it!

We all know the story of the Pied piper. But what if the piper is just a con who's following the orders of a talking cat?

Yeah, you read that right. Terry Pratchett's brilliant satire of fairytales is one of my favorite books from my childhood.

The Heist society series is about an entire family of cons, and it is so much fun! The characters are equal parts mysterious and eccentric, and I love reading about their (mis)ad ventures

This is a series I wish I enjoyed more, but a lot of people love it so I am recommending it on their behalf! Eugenides is a cocky thief who knows he's one of the best; one day his smooth talking gets him into a bigger job than he bargained for...

I don't want to give anything away about this book, but to pique your interest, absolutely nothing is what it seems in this Dickensian novel.

The ultimate heist, not for money or glory, but for freedom from a tyrant who has ruled for a thousand years. This book is epic and heartbreaking and just fantastic!

I adored this retelling of Peter Pan, told from Hook's point of view. The pirate is just as roguish as ever, with a soft spot hiding deep, deep down.


Another childhood favorite of mine. If you haven't read this, I don't know what you're doing with your life. It's such a classic and a great story.

Can't get enough of Jean and Locke? The gentleman bastards take on the seas in this sequel to Lies of Locke Lamora, complete with badass women pirates and sinister patrons and poison. Lots of poison.

I devoured the Redwall books as a child, and when I found out that Brian Jacques also wrote pirate books, I devoured those too! Ben and his dog, Ned, have the most fantastic adventures, and the people they meet are characters seem so real I wish I could meet in real life.

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Thursday, March 5, 2015

Review: The Rithmatist

17371024Title: The Rithmatist
Author: Brandon Sanderson
Genre: Fantasy, children's/middle grade

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Goodreads Summary:
The Rithmatist, Brandon Sanderson's New York Times bestselling epic teen adventure is now available in paperback.
More than anything, Joel wants to be a Rithmatist. Rithmatists have the power to infuse life into two-dimensional figures known as Chalklings. Rithmatists are humanity’s only defense against the Wild Chalklings. Having nearly overrun the territory of Nebrask, the Wild Chalklings now threaten all of the American Isles.
As the son of a lowly chalkmaker at Armedius Academy, Joel can only watch as Rithmatist students learn the magical art that he would do anything to practice. Then students start disappearing—kidnapped from their rooms at night, leaving trails of blood. Assigned to help the professor who is investigating the crimes, Joel and his friend Melody find themselves on the trail of an unexpected discovery—one that will change Rithmatics—and their world—forever.
A New York Times Book Review Notable Children's Book of 2013

Brandon Sanderson is so good at coming up with crazy ideas that sound ridiculous but the more you think about them, the more sense they make. Take the premise of The Rithmatist: Certain members of the population have a skill of making their chalk drawings come to life, and they duel each other as practice for dueling the wild Chalklings that threaten to destroy human civilization. At first you might roll your eyes (seriously? How could chalk drawings be scary?), but by the end of the book I promise you'll be sold.

Even if this is a children's/MG book, it has all the trademarks of Sanderson books that I have come to love. The great thing is that even if the audience and characters are younger, there is no dumbing down or resorting to cliches. Sanderson still manages to surprise you with his brilliant story-telling and world-building, which I find impressive since a lot of authors make their children's books a "lite" version of their other books. The world-building especially is fantastic, since it takes our familiar world and adds in just a few elements that change things subtly without being too obtrusive.

I loved that Joel is not a rithmatist himself but that he admires and really wanted to become one. He contrasts so much with Melody, who is from a family of Rithmatists but is useless at drawing her chalk figures properly. Together with the endearing Professor Fitch, these kids try and solve the mystery of who is targeting and harming the schoolchildren, and why. You would think that a 20-something reading a children's book would be able to guess the ending of the mystery, but nope! Either I've just lost it, or Sanderson is brilliant (Let's be real, we already know the second of those is true).

I highly recommend this for Sanderson fans as well as fans of fantasy looking for something less dense than the usual thousand page tomes. I hesitate to call it "lighter" because this book is quite dark for a children's book, but it is also endearing and humorous and wonderful as well.

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Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Review: Vision in Silver

21457243Title: Vision in Silver
Author: Anne Bishop
Genre: Urban fantasy, adult

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Goodreads Summary:The Others freed the  cassandra sangue  to protect the blood prophets from exploitation, not realizing their actions would have dire consequences. Now the fragile seers are in greater danger than ever before—both from their own weaknesses and from those who seek to control their divinations for wicked purposes. In desperate need of answers, Simon Wolfgard, a shape-shifter leader among the Others, has no choice but to enlist blood prophet Meg Corbyn’s help, regardless of the risks she faces by aiding him.
Meg is still deep in the throes of her addiction to the euphoria she feels when she cuts and speaks prophecy. She knows each slice of her blade tempts death. But Others and humans alike need answers, and her visions may be Simon’s only hope of ending the conflict.
For the shadows of war are deepening across the Atlantik, and the prejudice of a fanatic faction is threatening to bring the battle right to Meg and Simon’s doorstep…

My favorite of this series so far!

In my reviews of books 1 and 2 of this series, I kept saying things like, "I wish Meg would grow a spine and actually do things sometimes." Meg is awesome, don't get me wrong, and her kindness and childlike innocence is part of what makes her so endearing, but I wanted her to take a stand and do things for herself and her friends instead of watching on the side while her ferocious friends save the day. This book puts that in a whole new perspective.

Now that I see how much of a struggle the real world is for other cassandra sangue, I have so much more respect for Meg and her resilience. Things that I take for granted are things that Meg has to fight really hard to achieve; just walking to the grocery store and encountering unfamiliar or unpredictable things is enough to throw some of her friends into a mental breakdown, but here is Meg running her own store.

This book focuses a lot more on the aftermath of the "rescue" of the cassandra sangue, and how sometimes setting someone free can hurt them more than keeping them in their cages. It's a heartbreaking reality, and I thought the author handled the emotions and the implications really well. I loved getting to see snippets of lives other than Meg's, especially the girl who draws. I'm intrigued to see what role she will play in later books.

This book is also very much a story about family and taking care of your own. Agent Montgomery, the humans in the courtyard, and the Others face all sorts of opposition as more people buy into the Humans First and Last Movement. The whole "I will not help you because you are not like me" theme is scarily realistic, and it's a not-so-subtle poke at the racism and prejudices many people face in our world. I loved seeing Montgomery as a dad, because it brought out another dimension to his character.

If you were on the fence about previous books, I highly recommend this one. It's the best one so far!

*A free review copy was provided by the publisher via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review*

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Monday, March 2, 2015

S&S Book Haul: February

Book Haul

I didn't get a lot of books in February, but the few that I did are books I am really excited about!

Crown of Midnight - I got this book in exchange from one of my old ARCs, thanks to Andi's ABCs and Book Addicts Guide's "Have you seen this..." feature! Basically the way it works is someone asks for an old ARC or specific edition of a book they can't find, and if you have it, you can trade it for a book you're looking for. (key word being "old" ARC - you can't ask for books that haven't been published yet). I loved this book and I'm really excited that I have a copy of it now! It also brightens my day to know that another blogger found a book she was really excited to get her hands on too :D

A Darker Shade of Magic - So...I technically don't have this one in my hands yet because I pre-ordered the UK version and it's getting shipped at the moment, but I ordered it in February so that totally counts! I'm beyond excited for this book, especially after reading the 100ish page preview on NetGalley.

Lock in - I was really excited to read this book, because I haven't read any Scalzi before and this one sounded really cool. I asked my university library to order it and I finally got it last week! It's amazing so far!

ARCs I got in February

I didn't request too many ARCs this month either. It's been a slow month for reading because of midterms, but here's what I have:

This is a historical fiction novel that I got from NetGalley. I haven't read Water for Elephants by the same author, but I heard good things about it so I decided to give this one a try. It sounds a little strange, but I'll see how it goes!

This one is also from Netgalley. The blurb said "Swan Lake meets Robin Hood" and I didn't even bother reading the rest of the blurb before I requested it. I'm really excited to see how this one turns out.

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