Sunday, September 17, 2017

Kerrytown Book Festival


I moved to Ann Arbor a couple of weeks ago for grad school, and it's so different here compared to LA (where I've lived for the last 5 years). Everything is so much quieter in Ann Arbor...well, except the freight trains that insist on honking as they go past. I like that it's a smaller town, and obviously because it's such a college town there are plenty of coffee shops and bookstores :)

Last weekend was the annual Kerrytown book festival, which I found out about quite on accident as I walked down Main street. It was a really cute little festival, with about 50 booths ranging from indie bookstores to stationary/journal booths to art prints to bookish swag. I guess that's actually quite a bit, but having been to the LA Times Festival of Books in the spring, this one seemed tiny by comparison!


 


I got some awesome bookish magnets and bookmarks, and business cards from people who make bookish stuff. One of the business cards was stylized as a library due date slip, which I thought was really cute! They did not pay me to publicize them or anything, I just thought their card + stuff was really cute:



Also saw some cute art prints of the Star Wars ladies ("May the FIERCE be with you", online here) which I almost bought but didn't because broke grad student + I'd already bought some other stuff at the fair.


The one book I bought at the fair was the first volume of Saga from an indie comic book shop. I asked for comic recommendations and the guy just handed me Saga and said he hasn't met anyone who didn't love it (spoiler alert, I loved it). He also recommended Habibi, which I got from the library later on because it was super gorgeous but I just couldn't afford it at the moment.

All in all, a few hours well spent at the book festival! I'm hoping to make it out to some author events too. Literati cafe has Jeffrey Eugenides and Celeste Ng coming out later this month, and I've liked but not loved their books. I think it would still be cool to hear them talk about what makes them tick though! We'll see how much of my life research + homework eats up.

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Wednesday, September 13, 2017

SFF Reading Challenge: Update 4


I think I'm doing pretty well on the reading challenge, I have 6 books and 4 1/2 months left. The manga and the novella will probably be quick, so as long as the books I'm planning on reading are available at the library, I'm golden! (Watch me still struggle to finish the last few books in December LOL)

I've read 3 more books for the challenge since my last update. I finally read Library of Fates, a book I've been meaning to read for ages! I also read Foundation, a book that I read in middle school and completely forgot about. And Persepolis, a comic book I've wanted to read for years but could never find at the library until this month. All three books were awesome!

I also finally planned all the books I'm going to read for the rest of the challenge. I was really excited about getting approved for 27 Hours on NetGalley because that was one of my crowdsourced twitter recommendations for a book with an Ace/Aro character. The only other book I've read with an Ace character is Quicksilver (featuring Tori), and I'm always looking to broaden my perspectives and support authors who bring diversity in their books. The other planned books are in gray below.


Purple books are ones I've finished since the last update, black books are ones I finished earlier this year, and the ones in gray are books I'm planning on reading for the challenge. 

1) Fairy tale retelling: Miranda and Caliban by  Jacqueline Carey - A retelling of Shakespeare's The Tempest

2) Historical Fantasy: Range of Ghosts by Elizabeth Bear - an alternate history/fantasy based on Mongolia in the time of Genghis Khan

3) NPR top 100 books: Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson

4) non-British Steampunk: Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo - Russian/Scandinavian steampunk? 

5) Crossed with another genre: The City & The City by China Mieville - a police procedural mystery story that's also sort of sci-fi

6) Manga: Either Death Note or Ghost in the Shell, whichever one is at the library when I go next :)

7) Comic book: The Complete Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi

8) Urban Fantasy: Hunting Ground by Patricia Briggs

9) A classic: Foundation by Isaac Asimov


10) Superheroes: Wonder Woman Warbringer by Leigh Bardugo

12) Sci-fi western: The Gunslinger by Stephen King

13) earth-based sci-fi: Station Eleven by  Emily St. John Mandel - a beautiful post-apocalyptic story about how people find their humanity after the end of the world

14) A Sci-fi with aliens: Waking Gods by Sylvain Neuvel - ALIEN ROBOTS EVEN BETTER

15) Non-White culture fantasy: Library of Fates by Aditi Khorana

16) POC MCs: Seveneves by Neal Stephenson - multiple POC main characters, including Moira, Doc, and Ivy. Extra glad that Asian POCs were featured!

17) LGBTQIA+ MC: The Swan Riders by Erin Bow (Greta is bisexual, and some supporting characters are queer as well)

18) Ace/Aro character: 27 Hours by Tristina Wright

19) POC author: Stories of Your Life and Others by Ted Chiang - loved this anthology!

20) M/M Romance: A Conjuring of Light by VE Schwab - Rhys and Alucard are THE OTP

21) F/F Romance: Skullsworn by Brian Staveley - it would be spoilery to say who ;)

22) Pub 2016: Empire of Storms by SJ Maas - another epic love-hate installment of the Throne of Glass series haha

24) Novella: Binti by Nnedi Okorafor

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Sunday, September 10, 2017

#TRQ final update


The Reading Quest ends tonight! I don't think I'll be binge-reading anything before the night is out, so I figured I would put up my final stats now!


So I ended up at Level 5 with 200 XP! I also had 330 HP by the end of the challenge. I finished the Mage quest, just like I planned, but I only finished 1 book of the Knight quest. I did read a couple of books for side quests though. Here's a list of all the books I completed for the challenge:

MAGE
One word title: Foundation by Isaac Asimov
Contains Magic: Flame in the Mist by Renee Adieh
Mythology: Library of Fates by Aditi Khorana
First Book in a series: Persepolis (part 1) by Marjane Satrapi
Different World: ACOWAR by SJ Maas

KNIGHT
Verb in title: When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon

SIDE QUESTS
Respawn (previously DNF) - The Star Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi
Animal Companion (animal in title) - The Tiger's Daughter by K. Arsenault Rivera
Mini-Game (poetry/graphic novel) - The Complete Works of Maya Angelou
Open - Mask of Shadows by Linsey Miller


I'm pretty happy with how I did for this challenge. I normally would have been able to squeeze another book or two in, but moving across the country and starting grad school kind of threw a wrench in my normal reading habits LOL

I had a lot of fun with this challenge, though, and it really pushed me to finally read those books by POC that have been on my TBR forever. Now I have an even bigger list of books by marginalized authors or featuring POC/LGBTQIA characters, so I'm excited to get to those!

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Tuesday, September 5, 2017

TTT: Ten Books I Struggled to Get Into But Were Totally Worth It




Top Ten Tuesday is a meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish
This week's theme: Top Ten Books I struggled with but were totally worth it in the end


29579 
Foundation – Isaac Asimov
This story takes place over a century, and it's more like a short story for every era. I always have a hard time connecting with characters immediately, so it was hard to keep re-setting every 50 or so pages, but overall it was an awesome story!
68429

 Well of Ascension - Brandon Sanderson
I haven't re-read to confirm, but this is perhaps the only Sanderson book I dislike. It was really slow and angsty, but the ending was INCREDIBLY MINDBLOWING and book 3 made it more than worth it.
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The Queen of Attolia – Megan Whalen Turner
It took me until I re-read this book to fall in love with it, the first time I just found it dull. But that's just because I was being a lazy reader and not paying attention to the subtle threads MWT was weaving together :)
29760778 

The Tiger's Daughter - K Arsenault Rivera
I love the structure of this book in retrospect, but at first the fact that most of the book is in the form of letters addressed to "you" really threw me off. I eventually got used to it, and loved the story and characters.
17333324 

Ancillary Justice - Ann Leckie
I had to read the first 50 pages twice before I figured out what was even going on, but this book was so worth the effort! Definitely made me think about my assumptions about gender, but also it was just a really cool, non-linear sci-fi story.
23299512

This Savage Song - VE Schwab
I really have no idea why it was so hard for me to get into this book, but the voices of the characters in my head were too whiny. So after reading the first 50 pages three times, I picked up the audiobook, and promptly loved the characters and their incredible journey.
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The Count of Monte Cristo - Alexandre Dumas
There wasn't anything particularly difficult to get through with this book besides its incredible length. At around 1200 pages, it was a workout just to hold the book open! But this was a highly entertaining classic by an author whose work I really enjoy.
28260587

Empire of Storms - SJ Maas
For about 80% of this book, I was rolling my eyes. I honestly just wanted to read about Dorian and Manon, forget Aelin and the rest. And then somehow SJ Maas managed to make all that go out the window with an incredibly emotional final 100ish pages. I was really excited to see the epic scope of the series grow and see how many plot lines converged at last.
Image result for ember in the ashes

An Ember in the Ashes - Sabaa Tahir
I freaking hate Laia. She's so powerless and whiney and gorgeous but doesn't think so and just ugh. But the world was captivating and the other characters (especially in book 2) made it more than worth putting up with Laia.
Image result for jonathan strange and mr norrell 

Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell - Susanna Clarke
I really struggled with the slow pace of this book, especially with the incredible amount of footnotes. Once the second half of the story picked up, though, I was hooked. This book was magical and captivating, and watching the BBC mini-series has cemented it as one of my favorite fantasy books.

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Saturday, September 2, 2017

Review: Strange the Dreamer


28449207Title: Strange the Dreamer
Author: Laini Taylor
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

Goodreads Summary:The dream chooses the dreamer, not the other way around—and Lazlo Strange, war orphan and junior librarian, has always feared that his dream chose poorly. Since he was five years old he’s been obsessed with the mythic lost city of Weep, but it would take someone bolder than he to cross half the world in search of it. Then a stunning opportunity presents itself, in the person of a hero called the Godslayer and a band of legendary warriors, and he has to seize his chance or lose his dream forever.
What happened in Weep two hundred years ago to cut it off from the rest of the world? What exactly did the Godslayer slay that went by the name of god? And what is the mysterious problem he now seeks help in solving?
The answers await in Weep, but so do more mysteries—including the blue-skinned goddess who appears in Lazlo’s dreams. How did he dream her before he knew she existed? And if all the gods are dead, why does she seem so real?

Welcome to Weep.


I fell in love with Laini Taylor's DoSaB trilogy because of her magical ability to pick the perfect words to make even the most mundane situations seem gorgeous. Her prose is so unique and beautiful, and that prose is in full force in Strange the Dreamer. It was even better with an excellent narrator, Steve West, reading the story out loud. I also enjoyed DoSaB better on audio than with the paper book; maybe her writing style is more immersive and beautiful to me when someone is actually telling the story.

As with DoSaB, Strange the Dreamer is full of whimsical worlds and magic known only to a secret few. There are gods and humans who are each flawed and have bad blood between them. There are complicated families, found families, incredible friendships, despicable human beings, and excellent descriptions of food. I really loved the world of this story, especially as we slowly unearthed the history of what happened to the gods and their children.

All the characters were very well-sketched out and memorable as well. Ironically, I don't remember her name except that it started with an M - the child who controlled ghosts - was the most mercurial and terrifying character in the book. It's pretty incredible when an author can make your skin crawl every time a six-year-old makes an appearance (even if she's not actually six). Sarai was incredible as the Queen of Nightmares - torn between wanting justice for the atrocities committed against her people by the humans and wanting to understand the humans whose dreams she inhabits. She was vulnerable yet loyal and committed to helping everyone she loved. Lazlo was endearing, of course, with his broken nose and his incessant curiosity. I also really liked all the secondary characters.

So it seems like I can't stop gushing about how amazing this book was, so why only 3.5 stars? The book takes forever to get on its feet. The true plot doesn't begin until nearly halfway through the book, and as much as I loved getting to know the characters and world, I felt like all those details were preventing the plot from progressing for much of the book. The ending was spectacular, however, and full of twists and heart-stopping moments.

I definitely recommend this for fans of Laini Taylor, and for anyone else interested in immersing themselves in a lushly written fairy-tale world tinged with more than a little bit of darkness and pain.

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Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Review: The Invisible Library

21416690Title: The Invisible Library
Author: Genevieve Cogman
Genre: Steampunk, mystery, sci-fi, fantasy

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Goodreads Summary:The first installment of an adventure featuring stolen books, secret agents and forbidden societies - think Doctor Who with librarian spies!
Irene must be at the top of her game or she'll be off the case - permanently...
Irene is a professional spy for the mysterious Library, which harvests fiction from different realities. And along with her enigmatic assistant Kai, she's posted to an alternative London. Their mission - to retrieve a dangerous book. But when they arrive, it's already been stolen. London's underground factions seem prepared to fight to the very death to find her book.
Adding to the jeopardy, this world is chaos-infested - the laws of nature bent to allow supernatural creatures and unpredictable magic. Irene's new assistant is also hiding secrets of his own.
Soon, she's up to her eyebrows in a heady mix of danger, clues and secret societies. Yet failure is not an option - the nature of reality itself is at stake.


I had heard many awesome things about The Invisible Library, and the premise sounded pretty cool. I was really excited to read a steampunk novel that also featured Librarian-spy-thieves. I love characters who love books, and I love reading about spies and thieves, so naturally I loved Irene. I wasn't as in love with the book as a whole though. My main complaint was that the mystery moved too slowly, and I didn't really like Kai for most of the book (or his relationship/banter with Irene). When you don't love one of the two main characters, it gets hard to stay invested in the story. But Kai grew on me eventually, when he was done brooding and spilled all his not-so-hard-to-guess secrets.

The world building in this book was really cool. I loved the concept of the Library that exists in a parallel dimension, with portals to worlds all over space and time. I also really liked how more Chaos-filled worlds had technology and/or magic that defied reason - it was fun to see how crazy things could get.

I can't put my finger on why I didn't love this book, but I did have fun reading it. It's quick and enjoyable, although sometimes the big reveals and twists aren't actually that hard to guess before they're revealed.
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Sunday, August 27, 2017

Review: City of Stairs


20174424Title: City of Stairs
Author: Robert Jackson Bennett
Genre: Science fiction, fantasy

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Goodreads Summary:Years ago, the city of Bulikov wielded the powers of the Gods to conquer the world. But after its divine protectors were mysteriously killed, the conqueror has become the conquered; the city's proud history has been erased and censored, progress has left it behind, and it is just another colonial outpost of the world's new geopolitical power. Into this musty, backward city steps Shara Thivani. Officially, the quiet woman is just another lowly diplomat sent by Bulikov's oppressors. Unofficially, Shara is one of her country's most accomplished spymasters — dispatched to investigate the brutal murder of a seemingly harmless historian. As Shara pursues the mystery through the ever-shifting physical and political geography of the city, she begins to suspect that the beings who once protected Bulikov may not be as dead as they seem — and that her own abilities might be touched by the divine as well.

The world of City of Stairs has a pretty cool premise: A nation enslaved by another revolts, kills the Gods of their rulers, and then takes power for itself...but there's more to the story and we are just on the verge of discovering what really happened. I loved that the nations weren't based on medieval western Europe; the main characters come from countries based on south Asia, Russia, and Scandinavia (as far as I could tell, anyways). I also thought it was very cool how the cultures of both countries were well-developed and influenced how the characters from different places viewed the world so differently. The world-building in this book is top notch.

That said, I didn't love this book because it just felt very slow and plodding. I was bored throughout the middle. It just felt like the book was longer than it needed to be. There were political machinations and progress made on the murder mystery throughout the book, but what I really wanted to know was what happened in the cataclysm so long ago and what the ramifications were for "now". I got the answers I wanted eventually, complete with epic battle sequences, but it just took so long to get there that I nearly didn't finish.

I did enjoy this book, but I probably will not be continuing with the series.

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Friday, August 25, 2017

ARC review: Mask of Shadows

29960675Title: Mask of Shadows
Author: Linsey Miller
Genre: Fantasy, young adult

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Goodreads Summary:Sallot Leon is a thief, and a good one at that. But gender fluid Sal wants nothing more than to escape the drudgery of life as a highway robber and get closer to the upper-class and the nobles who destroyed their home.
When Sal Leon steals a poster announcing open auditions for the Left Hand, a powerful collection of the Queen's personal assassins named for the rings she wears -- Ruby, Emerald, Amethyst, and Opal -- their world changes. They know it's a chance for a new life.
Except the audition is a fight to the death filled with clever circus acrobats, lethal apothecaries, and vicious ex-soldiers. A childhood as a common criminal hardly prepared Sal for the trials. But Sal must survive to put their real reason for auditioning into play: revenge.


The premise sounded so cool (Assassin school! politics! revenge!) and I was really excited about the genderfluid MC, but sadly this is no Nevernight.

I usually really like flawed/morally ambiguous main characters, but Sal was borderline psychotic, so I had a hard time rooting for them. Mild spoilers, but all of this is mentioned in the premise/back-of-the-book-blurb, so I think it's fair game to talk about. Within the first chapter or two, we've established that Sal is an excellent thief and is great at sleight-of-hand. Somehow an advertisement flyer is enough incentive for Sal to violently kill someone and audition to be one of the Queen's elite bodyguards. Wtf, Sal, how did you think you would make it through the audition with a bunch of trained killers when you've been a common thief all your life? And even suspending disbelief on that, it was so hard for me to swallow how easily Sal justifies the murder and never acknowledges it again. And the clincher, you don't even find out Sal's true motivation for all this until much later in the book. I spent so much of the beginning questioning why Sal was making the decisions they did, which made it really hard for me to get on board with the whole premise. There were a bunch of other "wtf" moments for me throughout the book, again mostly stemming from Sal doing things that made no sense and not responding like a normal human being to disturbing situations.

And now to talk about the genderfluidity of our main character. I love that this book features an LGBTQ main character, and the book definitely helped me understand what it's like to identify as genderfluid. I also really liked that gender fluidity was accepted in this society, since many characters were familiar with the concept and what pronouns to use. And yet, there are still the assholes that refuse to make the effort to use the correct pronouns and acknowledge gender fluidity. I liked that these detractors existed, because it highlights the all-too-real struggle of minority groups of all kinds fighting to have their voices heard and identities acknowledged.

On the other hand, I was irritated by Sal's irrational anger towards people who made pronoun mistakes. Her reason behind the anger? "I dress like I am, plain as day." This rubbed me the wrong way, because it reinforces the idea that men and women must dress a certain way. There's no concept of people having the freedom to dress/present themselves as "femme" or "butch" depending on how they are feeling that day. I get that this book takes place in a medieval-inspired setting, and that women wear dresses and men wear pants in this world, but if we can bend historical truth a little to make gender-fluidity an openly accepted part of society, why not gender expression?

Now that I have my main complaints out of the way, I can talk about other things I enjoyed. I loved Maude, who was extraordinarily resourceful. She was a fully realized and important character with her own agency, which is so rare in servants and minor characters, especially when they are women. I also really liked how slowly the romance developed. It wasn't one of those cases of instalove or star-crossed romance (well...maybe a little bit of the latter), which was refreshing. I also really liked the different personalities of the elite members of the Queen's guard. Despite being masked and generally aloof, Emerald, Ruby, and Amethyst had distinct and lovable personalities. They are all dangerous but none of them are needlessly cruel, which was interesting given their job description. Just brownie points all around for featuring so many women who actually interact with and have bonds/relationships with one another, which is so rare in fantasy.

Overall, a quick and fun read. I definitely want people to read this because of how it brings in diversity to the usual cis white male-dominated fantasy world, but at the same time I had substantial reservations about the plot and the main character's sanity. I guess this is one of those see-for-yourself books!

A free eARC was provided by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review
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Tuesday, August 22, 2017

The Reading Quest Update


I was on vacation for about a week, so that's why I haven't posted anything in a little while! Now that I'm back, I wanted to give you all an update on my first week of The Reading Quest.

I ended up shuffling the books that I picked for the Mage, some of them I replaced and some I moved to side quests. I got a bunch of library books off of holds all at once, so I was trying to make most of them count towards the Reading Quest! And as always, I want to try to read more stuff by marginalized authors/about diverse MCs so I might end up shuffling some more if I can find more diverse books to read :)

I also made a spreadsheet to keep track of points:


Definitely spent waaaaaaaaaay too much time picking the perfect fonts for my headers HAHA

So far I've finished two books for side quests and I'm currently reading two more for the Mage. The ones I've finished are The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi (which was okay), and The Tiger's Daughter by K.A. Arsenault (which was INCREDIBLE). Thanks to those two books I'm finally at 50 points and have leveled up to Level 2!

I'm almost done with Foundation by Isaac Asimov, and I just started the audiobook for The Flame in the Mist by Renee Ahdieh. I didn't know Renee Ahdieh was biracial, so it was really cool to find out that both The Flame in the Mist series and the Wrath and the Dawn books are both ownvoice books! I loved The Wrath and the Dawn so I'm very excited about this one.

I think I'm in pretty good shape to finish the Mage quest on time and hopefully at least half of the side quests! If I still have time after that I'm planning on starting Knight or Bard. I'll see what library books land in my lap and go from there :)

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Saturday, August 12, 2017

Book vs Adaptation: The Magicians



The Magicians is a pretty irreverent fantasy series: the whole point of it is to be subvert common fantasy tropes, like the idea of a heroic Chosen One and magical boarding schools being joyful experiences. The books are so snarky and subversive, and I wasn't really sure if the TV show would be able to capture that without being grating and annoying.

I can't really say if I like the books better or the TV series better, because they each do some things better than the other. The TV series made the main cast of characters a lot easier to relate to, and the casting was absolutely perfect. I found Quentin a lot more likable in the first season of the show compared to the first book. In the book he is just so broody and directionless and depressed (which is the whole point, but it's still tough to get through a whole book of angsty Quentin). Quentin on the show is all of these things as well, but the faster pace of the show means he grows out of it quicker and it's less painful to watch. The first season of the show is also more dynamic, weaving in story lines from the first two books instead of only focusing on the first book. That means we get a lot more screen time with Julia early on, and I found her story more compelling in the books, so that was a welcome change. I also absolutely LOVE Margo (Janet) and Elliot on the show. They are so sassy and preppy and just absolutely perfectly cast.



Another thing the show does better than the book is being more explicit about how racially diverse the main characters are. Penny is played by Arjun Gupta, who is of South Asian descent, and Margo is played by Summer Bishil, who is biracial. In general the minor characters are also pretty diverse, and there are quite a few queer characters on the show. At the same time though, the show can sometimes miss the mark (in one episode, for example, a queer WOC is introduced and then dies in order to further the development of a white woman).

As much as I enjoyed the first season of the show, I feel like the second season started to grate on my nerves. It's tough to play a character like Margo or Elliot and still maintain a level of emotional complexity, and there were some scenes where the actors did a great job of that and other scenes where I just wanted Elliot and Margo to shut up. The same is true for Alice, I liked her initially but once she becomes a fixation/hallucination of Quentin's she's pretty painful to watch too. I think the sarcastic tone of the show just got too grating to me. It's so much more obvious and in-your-face when you're hearing quips from a bunch of characters instead of reading biting social commentary in between the lines of a book. 

There was also the whole Marina storyline which was so unnecessary. But if that storyline is the reason Kady is in the show, I'll deal, because Kady is easily one of my favorite characters. She's smart and resourceful and doesn't take shit from anyone. I loved seeing her relationship with Julia (best bitches forever!). 

The books grew on me and I liked each book better than the last, but I felt like I couldn't stick with the show after two seasons. Each book sees the characters grow up and make sacrifices, but on the show everything seems too flippant. Maybe this will change with later seasons, but I definitely need a break from the show for a while!
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Thursday, August 10, 2017

Review: Crooked Kingdom


28937572Title: Crooked Kingdom
Author: Leigh Bardugo
Genre: Fantasy, YA

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Goodreads Summary:Kaz Brekker and his crew have just pulled off a heist so daring even they didn't think they'd survive. But instead of divvying up a fat reward, they're right back to fighting for their lives. Double-crossed and badly weakened, the crew is low on resources, allies, and hope. As powerful forces from around the world descend on Ketterdam to root out the secrets of the dangerous drug known as jurda parem, old rivals and new enemies emerge to challenge Kaz's cunning and test the team's fragile loyalties. A war will be waged on the city's dark and twisting streets—a battle for revenge and redemption that will decide the fate of the Grisha world.


Okay it's been four months since I read this book, so forgive me for the vague review - I don't really remember details anymore :/

I really enjoyed Six of Crows, because I love stories about heists and morally ambiguous characters and friendships, and SoC had all of these things in spades. Crooked Kingdom was also pretty enjoyable for all the same reasons, plus it was easier to get into because I already knew the characters. Still, I didn't enjoy it quite as much as SoC. I felt like the book was a lot longer than it needed to be, and there were points in the middle where I was thinking to myself, "Okay, there's no way this plan is going to work because there's still 300 pages left..." Thinking about the page count was definitely a sign I wasn't totally sucked into the story. I did enjoy all the twists and turns though; it's nice to have a villain who is cleverer than you would expect.

I think a big reason a lot of people love this book more than Six of Crows is the cross-over with the Grisha series. I have only read the first book of that series and I didn't really like it, so I haven't bothered to continue with it. I missed all the references and characters that crossed over from the other series, so I didn't get to experience the fun of drawing connections between two connected worlds.

I really liked how all of the characters and their relationships developed in this book. Mild spoilers, but I'm glad Kaz doesn't magically get over his phobia of touching people with his bare hands by the end of the book. It's something he is working on, and I really appreciate that this is portrayed as a process and not a simple flip of a switch. I'm also thankful that the other character(s) involved don't push him and give him space to overcome his fears on his own terms. While I really liked that aspect of Kaz's character, he's just a bit too broody and self-hating for me to actually like his character as a whole.

Inej, on the other hand, continues to be my favorite. She has experienced a lot of pain and triggering events, but she powers through them because she won't ever let herself be held back by her past and the people who want to use her. And of course, Jesper and Wyland were adorable. One of my favorite parts of this book was Jesper's character arc and how his complicated relationship with his father develops. Nina's struggle with parem withdrawal was also really well-done and unsurprisingly painful to read about. I really liked seeing how Nina and Matthias' relationship was strained by the parem but they still found ways to love and support each other.

The ending was pretty shattering, and I'm glad that for once there wasn't some last minute deception or twist about the fate of a particular character. That's one of my pet peeves, when you mourn a tragedy that has befallen a character, only to discover that it was all a trick or that somehow the character has magically healed/escaped/been brought back to life. At the same time, I felt like the tragedy befell the least surprising character. The events that transpired are the direct result of actions that this character chose to take, so it's not like the consequences came out of nowhere. I wasn't actually upset about what happened to this character as much as I felt bad for the other characters dealing with its repercussions.

I think I would recommend reading the Grisha trilogy before reading this book, simply because I felt like I was missing a lot by not reading the other series. It's not my favorite fantasy heist novel, but it was still fun.

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