Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Book Review: Tell the Wind and Fire

TITLE: Tell the Wind and Fire
AUTHOR: Sarah Rees Brennan
GENRE: Urban Fantasy, Retelling
PUBLISHED: April 5th, 2016
PREMISE: A urban fantasy retelling of A Tale of Two Cities
MY REVIEW: Judging from the reviews, I'm apparently one of the few who actually really loved this book. Every review I've seen has ranged from "I hated it" to "eh." and I just am kind of scratching my head because this book was in my opinion, fantastic.
My only explanation is that people probably didn't like the ending. This is a retelling of A Tale of Two Cities and if you know that book, you know it ends very sadly. Brennan does not ignore that, and does not change that fact. And I'm sure people didn't like that. Me, I think it was great and I have more respect for authors who put in a more realistic ending then the typical happy one that is usual nowadays. Once again, I have to ask YA readers: what do you all want? You say you're tired of the "everything ends happily, tied in a bow" endings and then when a author gives you such an ending, you hate the book for it. It's the same story with love triangles and with complicated female characters. I could go on all day about how frustrating this is, but I'll spare the rant for now.
From where I'm standing, this is a great book. It is in fact, one of my favorite reads this year. It's not perfect, this is one of the few cases where I feel this could have done better as a series. But once again, the masses and I don't see eye to eye on something. So, I'm giving it a high rating, but since I seem to have different tastes, I suggest checking it out of the library to see if it's for you, first.
WHO SHOULD READ: A Tale of Two Cities fans, those that don't mind sad endings
MY RATING: Four out of Five magic rings

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Book Review: Well-Behaved Women Seldom Make History

TITLE: Well-Behaved Women Seldom Make History
AUTHOR: Laurel Thatchter Ulrich
CATEGORY: Non-Fiction
GENRE: History
PREMISE: The author who came up with the slogan well-behaved women seldom make history, talks about where the slogan comes from and various women from history who inspire the idea.
MY REVIEW: This was a random whim read. I know the phrase used in the title. In fact, I have a sticker of it somewhere, which probably surprises none of you. I picked this one up mostly to find out about where it came from because I'm nosy like that.
The chapter going into the history of that, is very interesting. From there the author goes into various women who have "mis-behaved" in history to explain what she's talking about. The result is a lot of mini-bios of women from medieval times to Gloria Steinam. It was interesting, but too brief for my tastes. Also the author had the tendency to ramble. Now, I'm probably the last person who should judge rambling. But in a published non-fiction gets old fast.
I did like this book, I just...wanted more. Mostly what it made me do is seek out biographies of the women mentioned for further detail. So if you're completely new to women's history, this might be a good beginner book for you.
WHO SHOULD READ: biography fans, feminists, history fans
MY RATING: Three and a half out of Five boss ladies getting stuff done

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Book Review: Serafina and the Black Cloak

TITLE: Serafina and the Black Cloak
Book 1 from the Serafina series
AUTHOR: Robert Beatty
PUBLISHED: July 2015
CATEGORY: Middle-Grade/Childrens (leaning more towards childrens)
GENRE: Historical Fantasyish
PREMISE: A girl living in secret under a manor goes on the case as children start disappearing after a man in a black cloak takes them.,.
MY REVIEW: Middle-grade can go one of two ways: it can be just books that happen to have middle-grade characters but is written with a larger audience in mind. Or it can really be intended for younger children. This one is the latter, I suspect. Which is okay, tweens need things to read! They can certainly do worse then this charming book.
The thing I liked most about this was the atmosphere and the dreamy-like writing. Other then was a pretty typical spunky kid goes on adventures book. The world building is...a bit funky. I'm personally kind of confused about a lot of the details. For instance, I'm not entirely sure if this even IS historical fantasy. For all I know, it could be present day. The world building was that vague.
But tweens should enjoy this. It's fast-paced, with lots of actions. Serafina is a delightful main character, and it's just fun.
WHO SHOULD READ: tweens/younger teenagers, those who enjoy adventure books
MY RATING: Three and a half out of Five spunky girls

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Book Review: A Wicked Thing

TITLE: A Wicked Thing
Book 1 in the A Wicked Thing series
AUTHOR: Rhiannon Thomas
PUBLISHED: February 2015
GENRE: Fantasy, Retelling
PREMISE: A retelling of sleeping beauty where Aurora wakes up to a completely changed world and a prince she doesn't know and doesn't want to marry.
MY REVIEW: This was one of the many of 2015 I said I was going to read and never got around to reading. But I finally got to it was okay. It was a bit bland for my taste, but ultimately it was an okay read.
There were makings for a great series here. I do love how the author really does try to world build...a little. Not enough, but it is there. There were some neat twists I wasn't expecting, particularly at the end that may make me read the second book. But this is yet another fantasy that is hindered by trying to focus too much on romance/love triangles rather then actual plot which was the far more interesting part.
As I said, there some interesting things going on, so I may pick up the next book. But ultimately...this was just an okay read.
WHO SHOULD READ: Sleeping Beauty fans, romance fans, Once Upon a Time fans
MY RATING: Three and a half out of Five princesses who get raw deals

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Book Review: Down With the Shine

TITLE: Down With the Shine
AUTHOR: Kate Karyus Quinn
PUBLISHED: April 26th, 2016
GENRE: Urban Fantasy
PREMISE: A girl takes her families illegal moonshine to a party, not realizing its power to grant wishes is in fact, very real.
MY REVIEW: I don't know what to make of this book to be honest. I...think I liked it. Maybe. However, there are issues. I'm not crazy about the romance in it. I also feel like there were two stories crammed into one here and the stories kept competing with one another.
I will say I like this author's imagination. This was one of the most unique ideas in urban fantasy I've read in awhile. I loved what she did with the wishes and the chaos it produced. If the author had just stuck to that element of it, this might have been a better story. But she started throwing all these other plot ideas that seemed to come from somewhere else. I kind of get the feeling they're trying to make this into a series. If it is a series and these plots are going to be explored more...okay. Then this is a perfectly decent first intro. But from what I see, it's not going to be a series so we're left with a bunch of plots that don't get explored enough instead.
There were things I liked about this book and there were things I didn't like. It's definitely a quirky one and it's a little too rough around the edges plotwise for my taste. It was interesting, if nothing else.
WHO SHOULD READ: fans of Kate Karyus Quiin, urban fantasy fans, fans of quirky books
MY RATING: Three and a half out of Five moonshines

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Book Review: Lair of Dreams

TITLE: Lair of Dreams
Book 2 in the Diviners series
AUTHOR: Libba Bray
PUBLISHED: August 2015
GENRE: Historical Fantasyish/Paranormal
PREMISE: Everyone is dealing with the fallout of their showdown in the last book. Some better then others. Meanwhile Henry meets Ling, a Diviner with powers of her own and they dreamwalk trying to find his lost love as a dangerous man lurks in the city while a sickness spreads through NYC...
MY REVIEW: I meant to read this ages ago when it first came out. But it was awhile before I could get my hands on it and I had a lot of books I needed to read before I could get to it. Getting to books I own always takes longer then with my library books, that's just the way it is. Then when I finally got to's long okay?
But it was definitely worth the wait. I love what Bray did with this sequel. I can sort of see where she struggled with the story, hence the delays and honestly, I'm fine with her delaying it. I'd rather a book be great and what the author wanted it to be, then have a rushed mediocre sequel. I kind of feel more authors/publishers need to do this more if I'm honest. It did drag in parts. Especially around the middle, but overall I loved this just as much as I loved the first book. And I loved the first book quite a lot.
So, despite maybe needing a few parts cut, I think this was a well done sequel. I can't wait until we get the next book which so far, has been promised for next year. ;crosses fingers and hopes the date sticks;
WHO SHOULD READ: Libba Bray fans, fans of The Diviners, Historical Fiction fans
MY RATING: Four and a half out of Five It Girls

Friday, August 12, 2016

Reading Through the Classics: On the Road

TITLE: On the Road
AUTHOR: Jack Kerouac
GENRE: Realistic Fiction
PREMISE: A guy and his friends travel around the USA .
MY THOUGHTS: I'm going to be completely honest: I...did not like this book. At all. Are some of the prose very pretty? Sure. Do I understand its importance in the Beat Movement? Absolutely. Doesn't change the fact that I was bored too tears while reading this. I've said it before, and I'll say it again: all the pretty writing and great prose in the world is not going to save your book, if your story is as dull as dishwater.
That is my big issue with it: it's boring. It's basically a constant repeat of the narrator going 1) we traveled to this spot, here's who we traveled with. 2) We had booze in this place, and had sex here. If there wasn't sex, there was sexist commentary aimed at the women who didn't give them sex. There was also some racist commentary thrown in for good measure. Yes, I know, it's the fifties. Keroauc was a product of his time/insert excuse here. Doesn't mean I have to like the sexism/racism.
While there could be a case made for how Kereouac did present a non-filtered view of the doesn't change the fact that literally nothing happened. It was just the narrator and his friends traveling and honestly being jerks while...doing nothing, really. Unless you count partying as doing something. It says something that the most interesting part of this book for me was the introduction that talked about the publication process of this book, Kerouac's life and the book's influence on the Beat Movement. When your introduction is more interesting then your story, you've got problems.
This is one case where I actually wish I had an English teacher there to give context to this book. This was my first Beat Movement book so perhaps that was an issue with why I couldn't connect with this book at all. In any case, this was not a classic for me. I will be trying other Beat books though, this is just an early example of the movement and from what I understand it changed over the course of time. Perhaps there are Beat books out there that actually have a plot and aren't completely sexist and racist like this one was. Though that's a big perhaps. It was the fifties/sixties after all.
WHO SHOULD READ: Lit fans I guess, Jack Kerouac fans, those interested in the Beat Movement

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Book Review: And I Darken

TITLE: And I Darken
Book 1 in the Conquerors Saga
AUTHOR: Kiersten White
PUBLISHED: June 28th, 2016
GENRE: Historical Fictionish/slight fantasy
PREMISE: A retelling of Vlad the Impaler's teen years if Vlad was female.
MY REVIEW: You guys know by now I'm pretty much here for anything Kiersten White does. Even her underwhelming books like The Chaos of Stars, I have managed to enjoy. I wanted to read this one the minute I heard about it and I'm glad to say it is one of the few this year that has managed to live up to its awesome premise.
The premise is very simple: it's a retelling of Vlad the Impaler's story if Vlad were a girl. It's so simple, yet so awesome. White clearly did her research. Despite not knowing much about this time period, I was able to understand everything going on. The characters are all wonderfully complex. This is a tad darker then what I'm used too from White, but considering the story of Vlad, it'd be weird if it wasn't dark. You know all those books trying to claim they're the YA Game of Thrones? This book actually might be that. But it treats its female characters ten times better and doesn't have unnecessary rape scenes. Yes, the rape scenes are unnecessary. Historical accuracy does not mean you have to have rape. I like Game of Thrones but that aspect of it (made worse on the show) drives me through the roof.
But back to And I Darken! If you're looking for a political intrigue with a kickass female character and just interesting characters all around, I recommend this book. The only complaint I really have about it, is that it drags somewhat in the middle. Other then that, it's a near perfect book. Definitely going to be one of my top ten books of the year.
WHO SHOULD READ: Game of Thrones fans, historical fiction fans, political intrigue/court fantasy fans, Kiersten White fans
MY RATING: Four and a half out of Five knives

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Book Review: Your Heart Is A Muscle the Size of a Fist

TITLE: Your Heart is a Muscle the Size of a Fist
AUTHOR: Sunil Yapa
PUBLISHED: January 2016
GENRE: Realistic Fiction (I'm not calling the 90s historical fiction damn it!)
PREMISE: A group of people's lives intertwine during the 1999 Seattle WTO protests.
MY REVIEW: I remember hearing about the Seattle protests, but still being in high school, I admit I didn't really understand what it was about. It probably didn't help that none of the adults in our school liked to talk about unrest in the US like this. Yay, Midwest Bible Belt education. Sigh.
This book does not fully explain it, but it does go into the events that happened through the eyes of different characters there. This definitely feels like a timely book, considering all the protests going on now. In fact, some o the conversations people have that I remember them saying mirror exactly what people have said about things like the Black Lives Matter protests. This took place sixteen years ago. The more things change, the more they stay the same, huh?
Prose wise, this book is phenomenal. It's also very strong pacing and story-wise. Overall, it's a very strong debut. About the only poor things I can say about it are that its messaging is not terribly subtle and that its ending is a little too abrupt and not satisfying enough. But other than those minor issues, this is actually one of the better debuts I've read this year.
WHO SHOULD READ: activists, literature fans
MY RATING: Four and a half out of Five thought provoking reads

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Thematic Sundays: Batman Graphic Novels for Beginners

Trying to get back into the swing of doing things. I admit Batman took me awhile because honestly...there's just so much of his stuff out there. Plus, there's all the sidekick books. For everyone's sake, I'm putting the sidekicks aside and focusing on just Batman. I'll probably make a list of Bat Family books somewhere down the line, but not for awhile.
So, with Batman, there are loads of ways you can approach the character. For the record, as with Superman, if you've seen most of Batman's movies or the animated series, you've basically got a good handle on Bruce's back story. The only thing that might confuse you is the different sidekicks. You probably can jump right into the modern comics if you wanted and skip the golden and early silver age stuff. But that's up to you as a reader. Again, I emphasize that you do not have to read the entirety of Batman's run to appreciate or understand the character. That's a myth made up by gatekeepers.

Note: all of these graphic novels are in reading order as best as I could put them. There are lots more graphic novels in between, these are just the starting points/and or important events in the character's history that it's a good idea to read.

Batman Golden Age Onibus Vol. 1 by Bill Finger

While you don't have to start from the very beginning. If you do wish to for purity's sake, these bind-ups are the place to start. They collect the early Golden Age issues of Batman in a handy chronological reading order.

Batman: Year One by Frank Miller

If you want to jump right into the more modern Batman, this is probably the best place to start. This goes into a lot of Batman's early days and is a good intro to the more modern Dark Knight that people are used too, now.

Batman: The Killing Joke by Alan Moore not what I'd call a good jumping on point for Batman. I'd only read it after you've gotten to Batgirl and Robin and have read Year One. I don't like it very much personally (sorry fanboys, but I don't). But this is a big event in Bat Family history though. Like it or not, if you talk about Batman, this book will come up and you probably will be expected to have an opinion on it.

Batman: A Death in the Family by Jim Starlin

Another book that is not necessarily a good jumping on point, nor necessarily the best Batman book. But it is an important event that had lasting effects on Batman.

Batman: Knightfall Arc

Knightfall was a big event. I personally got started on Batman while this event was going on. It' okay jumping on point. But probably not the best.

Batman: No Man's Land Arc

Another big event that basically started right after Knightfall. Bruce's life was hectic in 90s lets just say that.

Batman Incorporated Arc

This was an interesting new arc that saw Bruce tell the world he was Batman. Warning though, this whole idea got scrapped with the New52 so consider it a odd little AU.

Batman Vol. 1: The Court of Owls by Scott Snyder

If you want to skip all the old stuff and jump straight into the New 52 era, this is a good place to start. There's also Batman Vol. 4: Zero Year, which goes into New 52!Batman version of Year One, but if you've already read Year One, it might get dull for you.

Batman: The Dark Knight Returns by Frank Miller

You've probably heard of this book, even if you aren't a Batman fan. Where does it stand continuity wise? Hard to say. But like The Killing Joke, if you want to talk Batman with people, you will be expected to have an opinion on this book.

Batman: Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader? by Neil Gaiman

That's right, Gaiman wrote a Batman story at one point. Like the above mentioned Dark Knight Returns, it's not necessarily a part of  the canon timeline. Personally, I prefer this one over TDKR but I have a bias where Neil Gaiman is concerned so there you go.

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Series Review: The Others

SERIES: The Others
Books in Order: Written in Red
Murder of Crows
Vision in Silver
Marked in Flesh
AUTHOR: Anne Bishop
PUBLISHED: 2013-2016
GENRE: Urban Fantasy
PREMISE: A seer escapes from her prison and finds a new life among The Others, beings like shape-shifters, vampires, and so on.
MY REVIEW: Last year I read the first book in this series and basically fell in love. This year, I've been going through all the available books and am now fully caught up. I am still very much in love. The world-building in this series is phenomenal. I love the complicated dynamics going on between the characters. I love the slow burn of the conflict between The Others and humans. It's just so well done.
My only complaint is honestly, as much as I love all the detail...these books are really slow. I'm not kidding about this being a slow burn of a series. It's not totally boring or anything. There are things happening and they're important. But if you're someone who likes fast-paced plots...this might not be your thing.
Overall however, this series is great. It's one of my top urban fantasy series out there. I can't wait to read the next book next year now that I'm all caught up.
WHO SHOULD READ: Sookie Stackhouse fans, urban fantasy fans
MY RATING FOR SERIES: Four out of Five seers

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Book Review: The Secret History of Wonder Woman

TITLE: The Secret History of Wonder Woman
AUTHOR: Jill Lepore
CATEGORY: Non-Fiction
GENRE: Biography/Pop-Culture commentary
PREMISE: A researcher goes into detailed history about the creation of Wonder Woman by looking into the life of her creator.
MY REVIEW: I kind of suspect this book might not be for everyone. If you're looking for a book that is strictly about Wonder Woman herself...this probably isn't for you. It does go into Wonder Woman and the history behind her creation. But first and foremost it is about her creator, William Marsten and his life and how that life heavily influenced her story.
I personally, loved this book. It is detailed. Possibly more then it needs to be, but it gives you all the necessary info to help you understand how exactly Wonder Woman came to be. As a bonus, you even get some suffragist history because Marsten himself was greatly influenced by the suffragist movement. When fanboys inevitably try to tell you Wonder Woman isn't supposed to be feminist when the movie comes out, hand them this book. Highlight the parts where it says that was actually Marsten's entire intention with her.
As a non-fiction book, this is well written, detailed, and well organized. Some people apparently think all the detail is a bad thing, but I think it added to the book. But to each their own I guess. If you are interested in feminism history, like seeing how pop culture figures got created, then this book is for you.
WHO SHOULD READ: Wonder Woman fans, history fans, biography fans
MY RATING: Four and a half out of Five fingers crossed in the hopes that the Wonder Woman movie is good

Book Review: Chains

TITLE: Chains
Book 1 in the Seeds of America Trilogy
AUTHOR: Laurie Halse Anderson
GENRE: Historical Fiction
PREMISE: A young slave girl wrestles with loyalty and wanting her freedom during the American Revolution.
MY REVIEW: This is one of those books that has been on my TBR list for quite some time now. I always hear great things about it. Which doesn't surprise me, Anderson is a great writer. I'm not sure if this is my favorite of hers, but it definitely is pretty damn good.
This goes into a part of the American Revolution that a lot of people don't think about: the slaves during this time period. It goes into what they might have been going through during the Revolution. I'm not sure how well Anderson did things, I'm not a history expert, but emotionally, she got me as she always does with her writing.
There are a lot of convenient plot devices in it, but overall this was a very interesting historical book. It's kind of like Ruta Sepytys' books where most of the interest is there because it's a subject that most historical books just don't go into.
WHO SHOULD READ: Laurie Halse Anderson fans, Hamilton fans, Ruta Sepytys fans
MY RATING: Four out of Five interesting looks at history

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Book Review: A Curious Beginning

TITLE: A Curious Beginning
Book 1 in the Veronica Speedwell Mystery series
AUTHOR: Deanna Raybourn
PUBLISHED: September 2015
GENRE: Historical Mystery/Steampunkish
PREMISE: After Veronica buries her aunt, she's ready for a life of adventure. But before she can embark on said life, she gets caught up in a mystery...
MY REVIEW: I stumbled upon this book randomly while browsing around on Goodreads. So many of my books are found that way, which probably explains a lot about my random reading choices come to think of it. It sounded fun so I picked it up a the library.
It was pretty much what I was expecting from the summary. There's a sassy woman who is ahead of her time, a brooding man who gets charmed by said sassiness, and a mystery afoot. It reminds me a bit of the Parasol Protectorate series but not nearly as delightful as that series. But it is still pretty damn fun. There's bantering romantic partnership to help ease along the somewhat slow parts of the story. If you're going to have a slow story, always have banter, I say.
It's not the most original thing on earth, but if you're in the mood for a fun historical mystery with a sassy female lead, this book should please you.
WHO SHOULD READ: Parasol Protectorate fans, Miss Fisher Mysteries fans
MY RATING: Three and a half out of Five sassy female detectives

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Looking Ahead: August 2016 Releases on My Radar

First off, I apologize for my absence this month. There's been family drama/family vacations going on all at once so while I have definitely been reading, reviewing...has kind of gone by the wayside. I hope to get back into the swing of things this month. Ha ha. In the mean time, here are books being released this month that are on my radar that you can expect reviews for on here....eventually.

Released August 2nd:

Alienated Book 3: United by Melissa Landers

Honestly, I was a bit surprised to learn that there was a third book in this series. I felt the second book wrapped things up pretty neatly. But apparently the author felt differently. I guess we'll see how this goes.

August 9th:

Another Brooklyn by Jacqueline Woodson

Adult release from the author of Brown Girl Dreaming which I finally got to this year. I've been hearing good things about this one.

August 16th:

Court of Fives Book 2: Poisoned Blade by Kate Elliott

I'll be honest, I wasn't terribly impressed with Court of Fives. But, I always give three star book series starters one more chance to convince me to continue. Because every so often the second book turns things around into a great series/trilogy. I'm hoping that's what happens here.

Broken Earth Book 2: The Obelisk Gate by N. K. Jemisin

New N. K. Jemisin is always something to look forward too.

August 23rd:

Ghost Talkers by Mary Robinette Kowal

Adult fantasy release that just sounds really cool.

Jackaby Book 3: Ghostly Echoes by William Ritter

New Jackaby book! This series is criminally underrated.

August 30th:

Magisterium Book 3: The Bronze Key by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare

This series is basically Harry Potter AU fanfic. I don't care, I enjoy every cheesy moment of it.

Scandal and Scoundrel Book 2: A Scot in the Dark by Sarah MacLean

I became something of a Sarah MacLean fangirl this past year. It may be awhile until I get to this particular book, but I will get there.

Furthermore by Tahereh Mafi

Other then the gorgeous writing, I didn't really get into the Shatter Me trilogy all that much. But from what I see this book is completely different from Shatter Me so I'm giving Mafi another shot.

Ember in the Ashes Book 2: A Torch Against the Night by Sabaa Tahir

Ember in the Ashes was a fun read last year. I'm looking forward to the sequel.

And that is surprisingly it for this month. But that's mostly because next month is when a lot of really awesome things come out.