Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Happy New Year and Happy Release Day

2017 was a big year for Slavic influence--I read The Bear and the Nightingale, Uprooted, and The Fifth Doll; I also played several video games that centered around Slavic myths.  When Penguin sent me an ARC for The Girl in the Tower, I was ready to close out my year with more cheryti and snow.

The Girl in the Tower by Katherine Arden

The holidays kept my reading time somewhat limited, but The Girl in the Tower was a tale that just kept pulling at me to read chapters whenever I could squeeze them in.  

I was more impressed with this novel than I was with The Bear and the Nightingale.  I don't often enjoy the second novel in a trilogy more than the first because it often seems like the author is trying way too hard to write a second novel.  Those forceful pages were not present here.  There was a growth in writing that made the cohesion of storytelling better this time around.

While Vasilisa wandered the woods and mingled with cheryti in the first novel, she was a truly wild spirit in this novel.  The magic was more present and more real.  Perhaps it was all because we knew the characters and the myths now, the author didn't have to invest as much setup and we, the readers, got to enjoy the wild ride.  There even managed to be some tiny little twists.

I'm really glad that I got introduced to this series.  It has been an exciting set of reads and new stories.  For any bookworm, that's all we can ask.  The conclusion of the trilogy is due to be released this year as well.

The novel releases today, and I will be giving a hardback copy, direct from the publisher, of The Bear and the Nightingale to one lucky reader so they can get caught up before picking up The Girl in the Tower.  Check out my Giveaway tab for your entry.

Here's to another wonderful year of the printed word.

Monday, November 20, 2017

How did my month get so Sci-Fi?

What better way to create an air of mystery in your fantasy fiction world than create your own author?  That is exactly how we came up with Pittacus Lore.  He even has his own author page on the publisher's website.  That is dedication.

I Am Number Four by Pittacus Lore

Image result for i am number fourWhen I spent a holiday season working in a book store as a book seller, we always kept the Pittacus Lore books on shelves.  They were very successful with the teen readers.  I, however, had invested no time in reading them myself.  Then I saw the movie and the Kindle version went on sale roughly at the same time.  I have a strong belief that books are better than their visual counterparts.  They don't have time constraints for number one.  For number two, you get to use your imagination to build the worlds and characters which will most certainly not match up to a stylist, concept artist or casting director anywhere.

I was surprised at how close the movie was to the book.  It was impressive.  The plot was directly correlated between screen and page with minor, "unnecessary" scenes taken out.  These are the scenes that don't really build the characters or the world yet keep the book moving at a nice pace and filled out with pages.  As usual, nothing and no one looked like my imagination of them, but I may have been a little biased with having watched the movie first as to how they all shaped up in my mind--(they were like some hybrid of imagination and movie representations).

The most surprising bit of the entire story is how gut-wrenching the action was.  I haven't read a book in quite awhile where I stayed up past my bedtime to see what happened next.  The action or adventure stories I've been reading all had a break in the action somewhere that made a good stopping point for me to jump back into the real world.  I couldn't pull that off with this novel.  I found myself binge reading for hours and had the whole thing finished before I realized there was a real world happening around me.

I stand firm that digital books shouldn't be more than $5 so I won't be reading the next in this series until there is some form of sale or the digital publishing industry gets less greedy.  (I'm guessing there will be a sale first.)  Until then, I'll switch back to my toppling (metaphysically--as they all exist in the digital microcosm of Netgalley) to-be-read pile and perhaps unbury myself before New Year's.

Check out the Cover Reveals tab as I have some exciting new covers posted there from some truly gifted authors. 

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Was that a snowflake I saw?

It's almost turkey time!  Almost all the leaves have come down on the mountain.  The winds are howling and I swear I saw a snowflake the other day.  This is the time of year that I hunker down with all the good books I've been storing up and spend more time reading than writing up my reviews.  Though, I guess I really haven't been too good at those all year anyway.

Secondborn by Amy Bartol

Sci-Fi remains a genre I'll read but not one I seek out.  I was truly excited to see a new series from Amy Bartol pop up on the free Kindle monthly.  There is a strong pull to the dystopian worlds that Bartol creates.  They are certainly space operas but they also have a touch of the fantasy that makes me want to pick it up.

While the world in the "Secondborn" series is in space and time far different than our own, the characters are the same unrealistic level of gorgeous with a penchant for instantaneous love at first sight.  I could certainly live without those aspects, but that's why the characters interact so wonderfully together.

This isn't the first time an author has come up with a dystopian world where one people subjugate all the others to their vanity and frivolity.  It isn't even the first time an author has written a story about young female protagonist becomes the symbol of hope for an entire rebellion.  

What this story gives is an exciting adventure and exactly why I pick up a book.  According to Bartol's website, the other two books have been scheduled for publication already.  They are releasing less than a year apart!

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Time for warm apple cider and pumpkin pie

Fall is in full swing up in the mountains.  The mornings are crisp and smell like autumn harvest.  The days are perfect for being outside working without getting heat exhaustion.  The leaves are beginning to turn.  And best of all, Halloween is right around the corner!

The Fifth Doll by Charlie Holmberg

To get you in the spooky spirit, I highly recommend the lastest book by Charlie Holmberg.  She is quickly becoming my favorite author because no book has disappointed me yet.  I really feel like I cannot lose if I pre-order her work.

The Fifth Doll has been given a horror label by the publisher, but I'm not sold on that distinction.  The entire time I was reading the novel, I was waiting for that big tingling moment that made me want to hide the book in a chest at the bottom of the ocean, and it just never came.

There is a distinct creep factor to the story from several characters and the overall mechanics of the magic in the story.  But I actually found that The Paper Magician raised more hairs than The Fifth Doll.

What really made me love this story as much as all of Holmberg's works was the depth of moral inspection.  We once again have a heroine that is presented with the two sides of loving someone and the moral questions that can bring forth.  I am always up for a good book that makes me introspective.

What would happen if you opened your first doll?  You'll just have to go get a copy and read this amazing story to figure out what that question means and how you would answer it.  Now it's time for me to go off and do lots of autumn stuff.

I can say that I have been on a definite Slavic folk kick lately with both my video games and stories.  Now I'm working my way through The Girl in the Tower by Katherine Arden, the sequel to the amazingly gifted The Bear and the Nightingale. 

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Happy Release Day (again) to Christina Soontornvat

I previously raved about the excellent middle grade fantasy Changelings last September.  Here we are one year and one month later to welcome the conclusion to the duology surrounding Izzy and her fairy friends.

In a Dark Land by Christina Soontornvat

If you'd care to hear more of how amazing the first novel is, head back to my previous post.  Today, we are going to continue the raving with this succinct conclusion to Izzy's wonderful tale.  And boy, oh boy, does it have a completely different feeling.
A whole summer has flown by and Izzy still isn't back where she is supposed to be.  Or so she feels.  This is not the high adrenaline adventure story as the first novel.  This is dealing with all the lessons that were discovered in the first novel.  The fun spirit of all the characters are all still there but hiding behind the struggles of growing up and finding where you fit in the world.

The darkness and doubt are all just a part of growing up, and this novel handles it beautifully.  This is what a middle grade coming of age novel is all about.  I thoroughly enjoyed the story even if it wasn't the page turning adventure we got last time.  In a Dark Land really proved to me that this is an author who can grow along with her characters.  I look forward to future works.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

The not so recommended book review

I have been reading since I was very young and have certainly progressed through various reading habits over the decades.  Events in my life influence the materials I am reading, but one thing has always remained steadfast in my reading: I want to read books of principle.  I don't need them to be written well, they just simply need the story to be based on strong fundamentals.  That seems to be a fading spot I have to look for with stronger and stronger lenses these days.

The Waking Land by  Callie Bates

With a 19 year old protagonist, I can see this book being shelved in the young adult section and that worries me.  

I was anticipating this book with much enthusiasm and the promise to myself that I would get the review out ahead of time.  I want to help authors be successful in their work, and I enjoy being able to spread the word when they have a strong piece of literature being published.  Instead I ended up with a story that I've had to brew over the review for awhile so it was balanced.

My very high hopes were destroyed with just one scene in this story.  The story and the magic are easily a possible future or very distant past somewhere on the British isles.  There are standing stones and princes from across the sea.  There are clans that wear body paint and run into battle with cheers.  

I love stories that make an homage to the lore of Britain, Scotland, Ireland and Wales.  They are great stories that are very familiar to me and have a lot of room for imagination.  The botany flavor to the fantasy was even a very nice touch that made this book stand apart.

Then we get to the story itself, the writing and the principles.  We will ignore the fact the protagonist is a little weakly written and could use some development help.  We will ignore the fact that the Elanna and Jahan fall in love at first sight giving young girls the impression that that is ever real or that simple.

We will not, however, ignore the fact that this story was ruined in one atrocious scene where Elanna weds the land.  This was a completely unnecessary undertaking for a novel that could quite potentially be housed on the young adult shelves.  This sex scene added nothing to the story and the way the characters handled the situation afterwards was even more atrocious.  Shame on the editors for allowing it past the cutting room floor.

My four stars for the novel went to a 2 and never recommend this story to anyone in one swoop of the pen.  Check back in two weeks for my thoughts on Charlie Holmberg's The Fifth Doll, which I'm a quarter through and already enjoying very much, for a better recommendation on what to read when you don't want to rot your mind.

Friday, August 11, 2017

The Iron Ghost by Jen Williams

Image result for the iron ghostSome titles just don't make sense until you read them.  This was one of those books.  I stared at this book for a really long time during my reading slump trying to decide if it was worth cracking open.

I had enjoyed the first book with some slight hesitations in the nature of the characters.  Once my reading slump was over, I craved an exciting adventure story.  I felt like this would deliver just that and I had put it off for far too long.

I wasn't entirely disappointed.  This novel had the adventure story, and it even had a mildly nostalgic 80s fantasy adventure feel to it.  This was the quest of all quests for the Blackfeather Three that makes you want to swashbuckle around your living room when no one is looking.  What could go wrong?

Romance.  Not only does it not fit in these stories, each attempt at interjecting it into the story just falls flat.  All of the scenes feel forced and like the novel is trying to appease some editor by throwing it in there during the last round before publishing.  

And we'll just ignore the atrocious amount of editing errors -- the kind where it actually entirely changes the meaning of the story.  Fortunately, I bought it on sale otherwise I would be demanding a refund for the lack of polish presented.  

These are gallivanting mercenaries.  They get themselves into dubious situations of questionable sanity, and I enjoy reading how exactly they manage plan then fail then barely scrape through to victory.  Leave it that way.  Only 2 stars for this one and high hopes that the romance is left in the abyss.