Sunday, June 11, 2017

Fortnightly Update #35: George's Obsession

I've had a fairly productive reading streak in the past two weeks, but apparently my book buying streak was more impressive because that took me much longer to put together. I usually don't feel compelled to buy books (and I'm usually very picky about what I buy), but there were some on sale that I simply couldn't resist.

Recent Acquisitions (or the Piling of the-Piles):

the-pile Additions:

Marked in Flesh (The Others #4) by Anne Bishop
I ordered this because I noticed it was relatively low priced in paperback and I'm really excited to continue this series. My favorite of the Others series continues to be the first one, Written in Red, though.

The Innkeeper Chronicles, Volume One (Innkeeper Chronicles #1-3) by Ilona Andrews, Doris Mantair (Illustrator)
Earlier this year Ilona Andrews made pre-orders available for a special edition of The Innkeeper Chronicles that was signed and numbered and had exclusive illustrations in it. Since I've begun to collect special edition or signed copies by my favorite authors, I couldn't pass it up- I called it my third blogiversary gift to myself (I honestly still can't believe I've been blogging for that long!).

the-invisible-pile Additions:

Beauty (Folktales) by Robin McKinley
I think I've read this before, but I'm not completely sure- Robin McKinley wrote another Beauty and the Beast inspired tale that I read long ago, and my book memory pre-blog is a bit foggy. Anyway, I decided it would be nice to have it to read again.

The Paid Companion by Amanda Quick
I read one of Amanda Quick's historical romances before, and I enjoyed it, so hopefully I'll like this one just as much.

The Alabaster Hip (The Regency Romp Trilogy #3) by Maggie Fenton
I am a big fan of this trilogy (and I haven't even finished it yet!). This author started out self-publishing The Duke's Holiday, which got high marks from me early in my blogging career (and I do think I've reread it at least once). The trilogy was later picked up by a publisher. So far, my favorite is the first book, but this one could change that.

The Drowning Season by Alice Hoffman
Alice Hoffman is pretty much an auto-buy author for me (as long as it's cheap enough and I still have book money). This sounds similar to many of her other books- a family drama. But of course, you can't judge a book by its blurb.

The Good Girl's Guide to Getting Lost: A Memoir of Three Continents, Two Friends, and One Unexpected Adventure by Rachel Friedman
This sounded too much like a great summer book for me to pass on it- I can't recall reading any travel memoirs, so this one will be my first.

Sarum: The Novel of England by Edward Rutherfurd
Of course, though I've not read a 500+ page book this year, I had to buy another one- this is historical fiction. I hope it lives up to its ratings!

Graphic Novel/Comic Haul:

Marvel 1602 (Marvel 1602 #1-8) by Neil Gaiman, Andy Kubert (Illustrator), Richard Isanove (Digital Painter)
Ms. Marvel, Vol. 1: No Normal (Ms. Marvel, Volume III & IV #1) by G. Willow Wilson, Adrian Alphona (Artist)
Black Panther by Christopher Priest: The Complete Collection, Vol. 1 (Black Panther, Volume III) by Christopher J. Priest
Black Panther: A Nation Under Our Feet, Book 1 (Black Panther, Volume VII: A Nation Under Our Feet #1) by Ta-Nehisi Coates, Brian Stelfreeze (Artist), Laura Martin (Colourist), Joe Sabino (Letterer), Manny Mederos (Designer), Rian Hughes (Logo Designer), Jack Kirby (Writer, Artist)
I wanted to try out some superhero comics and I ended up buying 5 graphic novels (some of which I've already read). Apparently there was a special deal on Marvel comics, and I bought so many on Amazon that I qualified for a free one. For my freebie, I chose Black Panther by Christopher Priest- it sounds like the other Black Panther I bought (A Nation Under Our Feet) almost requires some Black Panther background reading, so hopefully that will get me more informed. In case you didn't know, there's a Black Panther movie coming out in 2018, and the trailer makes me want to see it in theatres:

Currently Reading:

I'm not sure what I'm going to read next, but I have The Fire's Stone on my Kindle's homepage and a book by Tanya Huff sounds like just what I need right now. 

Finished These Books:

Hello, Sunshine by Laura Dave
Unfortunately, this one won't be getting high praise from me- although the plot kept me engaged and guessing, I felt like most other things were lacking, especially the ending. However, if you're a fan of contemporary fiction I wouldn't let my rating discourage you- I much prefer SFF and historical fiction to their modern day equivalent.

Mockingbird, Vol. 1: I Can Explain (Mockingbird (2016-) (Single Issues) #1) by Chelsea Cain (Goodreads Author), Kate Niemczyk (Illustrations)
Mockingbird, Vol. 2: My Feminist Agenda (Mockingbird (2016) #2) by Chelsea Cain (Goodreads Author) (Text), Kate Niemczyk (Illustrations), Joƫlle Jones (Cover Artist)
I had a pretty big shock when I finished the second in this series, My Feminist Agenda, and rated it five stars- apparently, I've had no other books worthy of the rating this year. And no, I don't consider myself a huge fan of comic books, either. I feel a bit sad though- this series was cancelled, and when the second book came out initially, I recall the boy nerds throwing a tantrum because of the F word in its title. To be honest, the author presents the heroine (Bobbi) in the same manner many other of my favorite authors do- she's capable, she can take care of herself, and yes, she's human and makes mistakes. These two books showed me that yes, I can be a fan of comic books with superheroes in them.

Well, it seems like tradition that every summer I read a Dresden Files book, so I've already met my quota. I'm nearing the end of my stockpile, as I only have Dead Beat, the next in the series, on my Kindle, so I'm going to hold off on reading it until my Dresden Files stockpile is replenished. I always like to have an extra book by authors I like on hand just in case I want/need to read something by them.

The Ghost Bride by Yangsze Choo
This one is an inch away from five stars- it was that amazing. However, I did feel like some elements of the story, particularly the interpersonal relationships, were handled somewhat lightly, so that was the only reason I couldn't quite click the fifth star on Goodreads. Given that the relationships in this book were almost half of the plot, that mattered. Still, this is an intensely magical book that I highly recommend. I hope to get around to reviewing it, but if not- it's about half historical fiction and half fantasy, which makes it a heady combo for someone who loves both genres (AKA me).

In My Life: (George's Obsession)

There were no moose lingering near the house in the past two weeks, but I have been busy doing things outside- my mom bought a raised bed for us to garden in because we're both tired of pulling weeds out of the rather clay-like soil. Most of the flowers/minion army I planted in March are now blooming or beginning to bloom. The schizanthus is probably the most exciting (for me) to see, as I've never planted it before, initially thought I killed it, but now they're rather gorgeous. Schizanthus like cool weather and partial shade and according to garden websites, Canadians like them (due to cold hardiness, perhaps?).

I think our "blood thirsty roses" are actually climbing roses, but they have nothing to climb at the moment except passersby. Hence the blood thirsty-ness.

George, meanwhile, has become obsessed with our visitor- my grandma is visiting our house for the first time, and George is enamored with her. George has always been a friendly cat- he likes visitors, but he usually greets them, then runs off to nap or starts biting their hand (because he's true to the inexplicable nature of cats). When he met my grandma, he jumped into her lap and started rubbing against her- he was love-"mauling" her so much I had to ask if she was wearing catnip perfume (she wasn't). If Leia, Torrie, my mom, and I didn't like George so much, I'm pretty sure we'd send him back with my grandma, who lives in assisted living (and they allow pets, thank goodness). Apparently, almost-91 year olds are George's people. Sadly, this almost-25 year old is going to keep him from his true love.

Happy (Almost Summer) Reading!

Saturday, June 10, 2017

"The Emperor's Soul" by Brandon Sanderson

The Emperor's Soul is a novella set in the same world as Elantris, which was my first Brandon Sanderson novel- it's been so long since I've read it that I could scarcely tell you what it was about. And now I really want to reread Elantris, but that's a review for another day- The Emperor's Soul was the type of writing of Sanderson's that I love. You get absorbed into a different world with unusual magic, all while trying to figure out how Shai will get herself out of her sticky situation.

The Plot (As Seen on Goodreads):
'A heretic thief is the empire’s only hope in this fascinating tale that inhabits the same world as the popular novel, Elantris.
'Shai is a Forger, a foreigner who can flawlessly copy and re-create any item by rewriting its history with skillful magic. Condemned to death after trying to steal the emperor’s scepter, she is given one opportunity to save herself. Though her skill as a Forger is considered an abomination by her captors, Shai will attempt to create a new soul for the emperor, who is almost dead.
'Probing deeply into his life, she discovers Emperor Ashravan’s truest nature—and the opportunity to exploit it. Her only possible ally is one who is truly loyal to the emperor, but councilor Gaotona must overcome his prejudices to understand that Shai’s forgery is as much artistry as it is deception.
'Brimming with magic and political intrigue, this deftly woven fantasy delves into the essence of a living spirit.'

The magic in this book is a system of forging by way of stamping an object with a seal. Shai happens to be the best Forger (in convenient reach) for the sect of people who back the Emperor to employ, so she ends up being hired for the job with a somewhat impossible timeline. Interestingly though, I didn't feel the sense of urgency for her to complete the job- I think I'm a bit comfortable with Sanderson's writing, and thus can easily guess some of the twists or how the book will go (especially when it's short in length).

Shai, while an interesting heroine, probably didn't grab my attention like she should have. Because of her work, she seemed somewhat lacking in other respects (i.e. past and personality), and I felt like I didn't really know her, or that she could've been replaced with any other generic heroine and I wouldn't have even noticed. Still, I think the main strength in this book is the worldbuilding and magic, which kept me more alert than any of the other aspects.

The Emperor's Soul is a great short read for those who'd like to get acquainted with Brandon Sanderson's worldbuilding. However, it didn't quite show some of his other strengths (i.e. characterization and suspense) that I've grown to expect. Once you have a favorite book of an author's, every other book you read by them comes under closer scrutiny, and I think that's the case with this book- it's great, and probably better than many other 3.5 Star rating books I've read, but for Mr. Sanderson, it's just a solid 3.5 Stars book.

Rating: 3.5 of 5 Stars for a small taste of Mr. Sanderson's talents.

Age Advisory: Ages 16+ for violence, dark magic, and moral gray areas.

Page Count: 175 pages

Thursday, June 8, 2017

"The Wrath & the Dawn (The Wrath and the Dawn #1)" by Renee Ahdieh

I'd read several reviews that rated this book highly before I even put it on my watchlist because I'm very picky about young adult books, I tend to be disappointed by some of the highly rated YA books, and really, I tend to like adult books better. But the reviews were such that I convinced myself this one would be okay, as it had fantasy and romance and I tend to like that combination.

Initially, I liked it- the author has a wondrous way with words, Shahrzad is independent minded and bent on revenge, and the other characters (other than Khalid) were fairly likable, too. The atmosphere in this book was the best part of it for me- I'm a fan of Gothic romances, and this seems to follow in that tradition. You may see where this review is going- I liked some of the book, but I did have some major issues with the rest of it.

The Plot (As Seen on Goodreads):
'One Life to One Dawn.
'In a land ruled by a murderous boy-king, each dawn brings heartache to a new family. Khalid, the eighteen-year-old Caliph of Khorasan, is a monster. Each night he takes a new bride only to have a silk cord wrapped around her throat come morning. When sixteen-year-old Shahrzad's dearest friend falls victim to Khalid, Shahrzad vows vengeance and volunteers to be his next bride. Shahrzad is determined not only to stay alive, but to end the caliph's reign of terror once and for all.
'Night after night, Shahrzad beguiles Khalid, weaving stories that enchant, ensuring her survival, though she knows each dawn could be her last. But something she never expected begins to happen: Khalid is nothing like what she'd imagined him to be. This monster is a boy with a tormented heart. Incredibly, Shahrzad finds herself falling in love. How is this possible? It's an unforgivable betrayal. Still, Shahrzad has come to understand all is not as it seems in this palace of marble and stone. She resolves to uncover whatever secrets lurk and, despite her love, be ready to take Khalid's life as retribution for the many lives he's stolen. Can their love survive this world of stories and secrets?
'Inspired by A Thousand and One Nights, The Wrath and the Dawn is a sumptuous and enthralling read from beginning to end.'

I noticed someone comparing Khalid to Edward (of Twilight fame), and really, that's too kind of a comparison in my book. If Joffrey weren't so spoiled and single-minded- that is Khalid in my opinion. I can't discuss much in this review because I think more than a few people may go on to read it, but I felt like Shahrzad's spine dissolved after about two days in the palace (another highly disappointing part of the book for me). The love story failed to make me believe in it, and given that's core to this book, well- it's no mystery why I didn't like it.

Another issue I had with this book- although I tend to forgive most historical novels for keeping the heroine relatively secluded, not much happens with Shahrzad in this book. She pretty much kicks around the palace for most of it. The palace, while intriguing at first, bored me. Shahrzad is queen- that much is true, but I felt this book would've been better served with more action and less introspection/storytelling.

The Wrath and the Dawn is a lavishly written book that failed to impress me with its "love story". While I'm sure many people will find this book more than palatable, it didn't sit right with me, so I won't be recommending it unless you like hot, brooding boy kings. I may end up reading the second in the duology because I bought both for my Kindle, and though I scoff at the main love story, there is a secondary one that interests me.

Rating: 2 of 5 Stars for a fairy tale retelling that failed to spellbind me.

Age Advisory: Ages 16+ for cut scene sex (you don't read it, but you know it's there), violence, and murder.

Page Count: 395 pages
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