Friday, May 30, 2014

Fantasy Friday 5 - Beautiful book covers



This is a meme hosted by Rinn Reads where anyone can join in and talk about anything Fantasy!
This week, I'm talking about book covers. I love how fantasy book covers usually have painted/illustrated covers instead of photographs. I'm usually put-off by book covers that feature people's faces, because I like to imagine my characters. That's another reason I love fantasy book covers - they usually feature silhouettes or landscapes, which helps me imagine the world even better without being too imposing.

One of my favorite book covers are the ones from the Daughter of Smoke and Bone series. I love the US Daughter of Smoke and Bone book covers, but I like the elegance of the UK editions. They both fit the story in different ways - the US covers capture the raw emotion and intensity, while the UK covers hint at the elegant beauty of the prose.




I really love the cover of The Way of Kings. It's so beautifully drawn, and I love the suggestion of possibilities that may arise from the horizon. The cover brings so many questions - who is that guy standing there, and what is that figure on the other cliff? What sort of plan or destiny brought these characters here, and what will happen next? What world is this, with gorgeous cliffs and swirling skies? I'm so excited to start reading this in the summer - if you're interested, you can join in on the Way of Kings readalong as well!



There are so many different covers for The Lies of Locke Lamora, but these are my favorite:

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I love the rich colors and the simplicity of both designs. The font and the deep purple fit the Venetian(ish) setting really well at hint at magic in the first cover. The second one looks so warm and rich, and again a little bit like Venice.

I remember reading that the cover art for Eragon took hours and hours because each scale was drawn by hand. I can't even imagine that kind of detail, and I've spent a really long time staring at these beautiful, detailed dragons.


What are some of your favorite book covers? Do you prefer drawn/illustrated covers or photographs? How do you feel about characters on the cover?


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Monday, May 26, 2014

Top Ten Tuesday 28 - Unexpectedly Enjoyable books






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

This week's theme: Free for all!




I've decided to do Top Ten Unexpectedly Enjoyable books. These are books that aren't in the genre I usually read, or books that I wasn't expecting much from but blew me away. They're books that I was prejudiced against (ahem paranormal romance ahem hem) but ended up liking anyway. So here's to giving books a fair chance!


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I'd heard good things about Mira Grant's Newsflesh trilogy, but I'd never read anything by her. I didn't have any expectations going into this, but I loved it! I really enjoyed the characters and the technology, as well as the sticky ethical questions and conspiracies. The ending was predictable, but this book was a lot more enjoyable than I was expecting. Click on the cover to see my full review~

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 The cover of this book would usually have me running the other way. This is one of those books that I was pretty sure I wouldn't like - I decided to read it mainly because I was curious how a female Lord of the Flies would turn out. I actually ended up liking this book, even with its over the top satire. There are commercial breaks in this book, in case your poor 21st century attention span can't handle a book that's hundreds of pages long. The horror! I also really enjoyed the accents and the music, since I listened to this on audiobook. Definitely a lot more fun than I would ever publicly admit!
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I have always been intimidated by Haruki Murakami, because everyone loves his books and thinks they are brilliant. Honestly, I was worried I wouldn't even understand what was going on - metaphysical stuff usually goes way over my head. When I read this for a book club, though, I actually really liked it! It was way less dense and confusing than I was expecting.

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After a not-so-great first book and an ok second book, I'm actually not even sure why I decided to read the last one. But I'm glad I did - this one was a lot better than the previous two, and I could relate to the characters a lot more.

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I usually don't read contemporary novels, especially not contemporary romance. I'd actually read a couple of Sarah Dessen novels before this one, and found them rather dull and formulaic. Strangely enough, I really liked this one - for some reason, these characters and their struggles struck a chord with me and I wanted to cheer for them instead of roll my eyes at their perfect fairy tale endings.


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I really like books about heists and capers, so I was expecting to like this book. I just didn't realize how much fun it would be! Between the witty banter and the lovable characters, I was completely enjoying myself. The audiobook narrator definitely added to the charm.



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I started reading this out loud with a friend as a joke - I was upset one night and she said she had just the book to cheer me up. We read it aloud in different accents and eventually made it through the whole thing. I am now very fond of this terribly cheesy book, even though it's something I'd never have picked up on my own.

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This book was recommended to me by my librarian in high school. I had no idea what it was about, but this was one of those quiet books that just grabbed a hold of my heart and never let go. I cried at so many different points in this book - it's just so beautiful and hopeful despite all the struggles of poverty and racism.


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Thursday, May 22, 2014

Review: Half a King


18666047Title: Half a King
Author: Joe Abercrombie
Genre: Fantasy

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Goodreads Summary:
Prince Yarvi has vowed to regain a throne he never wanted. But first he must survive cruelty, chains, and the bitter waters of the Shattered Sea. And he must do it all with only one good hand.

The deceived will become the deceiver.
Born a weakling in the eyes of his father, Yarvi is alone in a world where a strong arm and a cold heart rule. He cannot grip a shield or swing an axe, so he must sharpen his mind to a deadly edge.

The betrayed will become the betrayer.
Gathering a strange fellowship of the outcast and the lost, he finds they can do more to help him become the man he needs to be than any court of nobles could.

Will the usurped become the usurper?
But even with loyal friends at his side, Yarvi finds his path may end as it began—in twists, and traps, and tragedy.

I'd never read anything by Joe Abercrombie, but I had heard lots of good things about his books. I jumped at the chance to request this book, and I was really excited to read it. It has a very different feel than most fantasy - I think the cover captures the mood very well. It's very dark and melancholy, but never intensely so. It's kind of like a soft blanket of shadows, or a fluffy rain cloud - it's dark, but it has its softer moments.

Half a King features an interesting protagonist. Instead of the usual honorable or courageous hero, we have Prince Yarvi, a cripple. He'd rather learn and heal than rule, but when he betrayed and left for dead, he swears an oath that he will reclaim his throne.

"I may be half a man, but I swore a whole oath.”

Yarvi must overcome all sorts of struggles, but not without some help. Life is hard, and the harsh nature of survival is never watered down. It was interesting to see how Yarvi gained the trust of others, and how their relationships shifted and grew over the course of the novel. You almost never know someone's true motives; this book is a complicated web of subterfuge and manipulation.

I really enjoyed the start of this series, and I look forward to more of Abercrombie's books!

*A free copy of this book was provided by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review*


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Monday, May 19, 2014

Top Ten Tuesday 27 - Ten Books About Friendship







Top Ten Tuesday is a meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.
This week's theme: Best Bookish Friendships

I'm so excited for this week's theme - there are so many books where the characters have such incredible friendships and it makes me so happy that my favorite characters will always have someone to watch their back. Friendships are one of the greatest things in life, and bookish friendships are often what makes me love a book or its characters.

(Please excuse the lack of pictures - I've had an incredibly busy week and I slapped this together last minute)

  1. Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein
  2. The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch
  3. Ptolemy's Gate by Jonathan Stroud
  4. Daughter of Smoke and bone by Laini Taylor
  5. Froi of the Exiles by Melina Marchetta
  6. More Than This by Patrick Ness
  7. Bruiser by Neal Shusterman
  8. Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman
  9. Along for the Ride by Sarah Dessen
  10. Dark Triumph by Robin LaFevers
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Thursday, May 15, 2014

Review: Republic of Thieves

2890090Title: The Republic of Thieves
Author: Scott Lynch
Genre: Fantasy, adult fiction

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Goodreads Summary (MILD SPOILERS FOR BOOK 2):With what should have been the greatest heist of their career gone spectacularly sour, Locke and his trusted partner, Jean, have barely escaped with their lives. Or at least Jean has. But Locke is slowly succumbing to a deadly poison that no alchemist or physiker can cure. Yet just as the end is near, a mysterious Bondsmage offers Locke an opportunity that will either save him or finish him off once and for all.
Magi political elections are imminent, and the factions are in need of a pawn. If Locke agrees to play the role, sorcery will be used to purge the venom from his body - though the process will be so excruciating he may well wish for death. Locke is opposed, but two factors cause his will to crumble: Jean's imploring - and the Bondsmage's mention of a woman from Locke's past: Sabetha. She is the love of his life, his equal in skill and wit, and now, his greatest rival.
Locke was smitten with Sabetha from his first glimpse of her as a young fellow orphan and thief-in-training. But after a tumultuous courtship, Sabetha broke away. Now they will reunite in yet another clash of wills. For faced with his one and only match in both love and trickery, Locke must choose whether to fight Sabetha - or to woo her. It is a decision on which both their lives may depend.

This was definitely a slower book than the previous two, but it was still quite good. It's almost been a month and I'm still on the fence about the ending. This book is particularly difficult to review because I am so in love with the characters that I can't bear to say I didn't like certain parts of their story. But then again, there were a few things that I need to get out of my system.

I have been gushing nonstop to anyone who will listen about the gloriousness that is the Gentleman Bastards series. When my copy of the book finally came in the mail, I immediately lent it out to my friends so that even more people could enjoy this incredible series. It is witty, clever, heartfelt, disturbing, gripping, and fun. It's rare that you get all of those things in one book, let alone in every book of a series.

Republic of Thieves does have all of those things I mentioned above, but it's not quite as much fun as the first two books. This book is far more character-centric and is less about the heists than the previous two. I can understand that a series needs to grow and progress, and I rather enjoyed the turn this book took plot-wise. I think it was helpful that I was warned beforehand by Nikki @ TWBI that this book didn't feature the heists I loved so much in the first books.

This book picks up almost immediately after the events of Red Seas Under Red Skies, with Locke incapacitated and Jean struggling to find a cure. When offered a deal with the bondsmagi to help them win an election in exchange for curing Locke, Jean doesn't hesitate. Rigging elections involves a lot of the same skill set as their usual cons, after all. But what the pair don't know is that the rival party has hired the one person Locke may not be able to outwit - the infamous Sabetha.

The rest of this review will contain spoilers for the first two books, so stop here if you haven't read them!

The story takes off from there, alternating between the past and present, showing us the complicated relationship between Locke and Sabetha. "Complicated" doesn't even begin to cover it - I think the author was going through his divorce when he was writing this book, and it shows - Sabetha is portrayed as this elusive, fickle woman who hurts Locke more often than not. Locke is usually such a resourceful guy, but all his cleverness and confidence melts away in the face of Sabetha. As I said in my status update, "Locke stop being a kicked-around puppy and listen to Jean for once in your life!" He tries so hard to get her to admit her feelings for him, and every time he gets close, she shuts down and turns him away. It's so sad to see Locke get so broken and mopey over her after all the things he's overcome to get here.

As I said, this book is really character-centric and even the elections plot is just a way for us to get to know Locke and Sabetha better. Jean continues to be an excellent best friend, and Locke and Jean's friendship is just as incredible as before. I also really enjoyed seeing the Gentleman Bastards with Chains again in the past. It was nice to see Calo and Galdo again! The retaliations between parties were fun and clever for the most part, but as I said that wasn't really the focus of this novel. The bombshell of this novel is finding out Locke's identity - this is the part I can't quite decide if I like or not.
If I have understood correctly, Locke is actually a bondsmagi who cracked the code on turning back the clock, and made himself a little boy again. Locke has no idea about his past, and half believes that Patience is lying to him. It was hard enough for me to swallow Locke's past, but then being told that Patience might be lying ticked me off. I don't know what to believe - I really hope Patience is mistaken but I don't think she is. Also Sabetha's reaction was just so frustrating! She had finally started trusting Locke and accepted her feelings, and then she up and runs away because Locke didn't tell her something he didn't know in the first place. I don't understand...

The epilogue promises an intense rematch between Locke, Jean, and a familiar foe - I can't wait to see how it all plays out!

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Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Way of Kings Readalong!





Have you ever read anything by Brandon Sanderson?

If you have, you know that his books are always brilliantly realized, with incredible worlds, complex and multi-faceted characters, incredible magic systems, intricate plotting, and a lot of fun. And if you haven't, you're in for a real treat.

Either way, you should join in this readalong!

We'll be reading the first book of Sanderson's Stormlight Archive, The Way of Kings starting June 22. It's quite a large book, so I'm aiming to split it up into about 200 pages a week. The tentative schedule is below:

  • June 22: Read through Ch12 (201)
  • June 29: Read through Ch28 (405)
  • July 6: Read through Ch42 (600)
  • July 13: Read through Ch57 (810)
  • July 20: Finish book (1002)
  • July 27: Final thoughts


If epic fantasy intimidates you, don't be overwhelmed by the size of this book! Sanderson is the guy that got me back into fantasy after years of putting it to the side because I got tired of pages and pages about random magical cities and too many convenient true identities/magical powers. I found his Mistborn series really easy to read, without too much magical jargon. I also really liked the characters, and was pleased to see that unlike most male white fantasy authors, Sanderson can write awesome female characters that have more to them than beautiful bodies. Ahem.

Even if you're on the fence, I think think this is a great place to start epic fantasy or give it another shot.

How do you participate? I'll be posting brief summaries of the chapters we've read so far so that people who have already read it can participate without spoiling things. I'll post about my thoughts so far and predictions about what's going to happen, and maybe a discussion post to go with it. You can stop by and comment with your thoughts or do your own posts on your blogs - just be sure to link me to them in the comments so I know to stop by.

I'm so excited - this is my first time hosting a Readalong, and I can't wait to experience a Sanderson novel with some wonderful fellow book lovers!

In the meantime, grab yourself a copy of WoK and tell anyone you know who might be interested!
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Monday, May 12, 2014

Top Ten Tuesday 26 - Almost DNFs






This week's theme: Ten Books I Almost Put Down But Didn't

1) 
10429045 -
This is going to be a controversial one, because I know a lot of people that love this series. There was a lot that bugged me about this book (mostly logical inconsistencies and writing style), and you can read my rant review here.
2) 7048800 -
I knew this book would be strange, but I wasn't prepared for how strange it was. I got bored in the middle and almost stopped reading, but kept hoping for things to pick up. They did, I suppose, but the ending was so strange it just put me off the whole book.

3)6482837
I loved Lauren Oliver's writing in Delirium, so I picked this up. At some point in the middle, I got a little tired of the stereotypical mean girl trying to redo her last day seven whole times and continue to be a stereotypical mean girl through it all. I kept waiting for her to grow and change, but nope. Full rant here.

4)The Dead and the Gone (Last Survivors, #2)
I enjoyed the first book in this series, but this second book was so boring! I confess I went on wikipedia and looked at the ending to see if it was even worth the effort of finishing. In the end I did finish, but I did not continue this series.

5) 6339664
Another one I know a lot of people love. There are just so so many things wrong with this book and the messages it sends. I felt like things were crawling under my skin the whole time, but I kept waiting for things to get better. They got worse. This blog post says it all better than I can: YA & Rape Culture

6) 537 
Everyone I know on goodreads loved this book, and I thought it sounded good, so I gave it a shot. I felt absolutely no connection to the main character and felt like most of the story was really tangential and washed out instead of the intense, "luminous" novel the book jacket promised. More on that here.
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Friday, May 9, 2014

Review: The Falling Woman


21842781Title: The Falling Woman
Author: Pat Murphy
Genre: (science fiction), magical realism, historical fiction

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Goodreads Summary:
Winner of the Nebula Award: An archaeologist with a strange power risks death to unlock the secret of the Mayans
When night falls over the Yucatan, the archaeologists lay down their tools. But while her colleagues relax, Elizabeth Butler searches for shadows. A famous scientist with a reputation for eccentricity, she carries a strange secret. Where others see nothing but dirt and bones and fragments of pottery, Elizabeth sees shades of the men and women who walked this ground thousands of years before. She can speak to the past—and the past is beginning to speak back.
As Elizabeth communes with ghosts, the daughter she abandoned flies to Mexico hoping for a reunion. She finds a mother embroiled in the supernatural, on a quest for the true reason for the Mayans’ disappearance. To dig up the truth, the archaeologist who talks to the dead must learn a far more difficult skill: speaking to her daughter.

I really liked the idea of this book, but everything about it just seemed faded - as though someone took the intensity dial and cranked it way down. I liked it, but it wasn't as good as I was hoping it would be. I think part of it was a matter of expectations. I was expecting science fiction, but this book read more like historical fiction. There was a lot more history and archaeology in this book than science and technology. I really enjoy historical fiction, but it just wasn't what I was expecting.

The Falling Woman interweaves the stories of a mother and daughter, Elizabeth and Diane Butler. Elizabeth is a renowned archaeologist who has struggled with sanity all her life. She sees visions of people from the past, and has had to deal with the stigma of insanity. Diane grew up away from her mother, and her dad has taught her to always be in control of herself. It's the complete opposite of Elizabeth's outlook on life, and after a twenty year separation, you can imagine that their reunion is a little awkward. The two meet in the middle of an archaeology dig of the ancient Mayan civilization. Spirits begin to haunt both women, and soon it becomes clear that they are both in danger.

I really liked Elizabeth's voice. She's such an original character, at least for me - she was a jaded yet fiercely determined archaeologist, and she embraced the supernatural and other cultures. Diane wasn't quite as interesting as her mother, but I thought she was a nice contrast to her mother and it was interesting to see her grow up throughout the course of the novel. I also really liked that the story focused on Mayan civilization. The Mayans were one of my favorite cultures to learn about in school, and I was fascinated by how much of their lives revolved around their gods and supernatural events. This book did a great job of portraying the Mayan culture without sensationalizing it, and gave it a lot of respect.

I also really liked the supernatural element and the overarching plot. What I didn't like so much was the lack of intensity. You would imagine some excitement if ancient Mayan spirits began talking to you and warning you of danger and sacrifice. The thing is, most of the book is just warnings. You don't know what the danger is until almost the very end, and when it actually comes it is very anticlimactic. I felt like there just could have been more. I appreciated the parallels in ancient and modern times, but it felt like the solution to the danger was too easy.

I liked this book, and I think it's worth giving a shot, but don't go into it expecting science fiction. This book is very much about history and archaeology, with a bit of the supernatural thrown in. It is also a mother-daughter story, and one about the sacrifices you make for the people you love.

*A free copy of this book was provided by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review*
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Sunday, May 4, 2014

General updates


First of all, thank you to everyone who stopped by for my blogversary - now I have plenty of great recommendations and two lucky winners for my giveaway!

Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction won a copy of Mistborn: Fall of an Empire and
Dre @ Sporadic Reads won a $10 Amazon Giftcard!

Congratulations to both of you :)

Now that I'm in my second year of blogging, I was thinking of doing a read-along. Anyone interested in a read-along of Brandon Sanderson's Way of Kings?
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I was thinking of doing a summer month (June or July) so that people would have time to read it in a month - this is a pretty large book! Or if you have any suggestions for a book you've been meaning to read and would like to discuss/do a read-along, let me know! I'd prefer fantasy/sci-fi suggestions :)


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