Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Top Ten Tuesday 63: If you like Game of Thrones...



Top Ten Tuesday is a meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.
This week's theme: Top Ten Book Recommendations if you love Game of Thrones

I feel like Game of Thrones is one of the few fantasy series that has gone completely mainstream. People who watch or read it aren't automatically labeled as nerds, which is pretty exciting! I think one of the things that makes Game of Thrones/ASoIaF so addicting is how horrifying it is: you just can't look away! There's a lot of shock value, since none of your favorite characters are safe.

Here are other series/books that are dark, gritty fantasy with a lot of shock value!




 20646731

If that blood red stripe on the cover doesn't convince you, here's a series that is just as bloody and vast in scope as Game of Thrones. I love this series!!
 3227063

This book is just as dark as ASoIaF but doesn't have the same huge cast of characters. Instead, we have an assassin with a disturbing past who is trying to make a future for himself...no matter what the cost.
 18666047

Joe Abercrombie is known for being the master of grimdark, and his books have the same gritty tone as George R.R. Martin's. This is his young adult series, so it's not quite as dark, but it has a lot of political machinations and morally ambiguous characters.
 15790883

Lots of blood, lots of politics, lots of characters, and some kind-of-magical-beings thrown in the mix. This book is a lot of fun and really hard to put down!
 886955

Another Joe Abercrombie. This series doesn't have many endearing characters, but it does have a lot of blood. A LOT.
 17910124

A really awesome epic fantasy novel with a lot of political manipulations and characters to root for on all sides of the conflict.  I really enjoyed this book and I'm very excited to keep reading!
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Saturday, September 26, 2015

Review: The Demon King


6342491Title: The Demon King
Author: Cinda Williams Chima
Genre: Fantasy, young adult

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Goodreads Summary:
Times are hard in the mountain city of Fellsmarch. Reformed thief Han Alister will do almost anything to eke out a living for his family. The only thing of value he has is something he can't sell—the thick silver cuffs he's worn since birth. They're clearly magicked—as he grows, they grow, and he's never been able to get them off.
One day, Han and his clan friend, Dancer, confront three young wizards setting fire to the sacred mountain of Hanalea. Han takes an amulet from Micah Bayar, son of the High Wizard, to keep him from using it against them. Soon Han learns that the amulet has an evil history—it once belonged to the Demon King, the wizard who nearly destroyed the world a millennium ago. With a magical piece that powerful at stake, Han knows that the Bayars will stop at nothing to get it back.
Meanwhile, Raisa ana'Marianna, princess heir of the Fells, has her own battles to fight. She's just returned to court after three years of freedom in the mountains—riding, hunting, and working the famous clan markets. Raisa wants to be more than an ornament in a glittering cage. She aspires to be like Hanalea—the legendary warrior queen who killed the Demon King and saved the world. But her mother has other plans for her...
The Seven Realms tremble when the lives of Hans and Raisa collide, fanning the flames of the smoldering war between clans and wizards. 

I liked this book, but it wasn't anything special. It's a pretty standard fantasy, involving a character with unrivaled magical potential who just doesn't know it yet, a sheltered princess who wants to see the world, and conspiracies growing under everyone's noses.

One of the most unique aspects of this world is the separation between the Clan and the Wizards. The Clan do not have magic themselves, but they create the amulets that wizards use to channel their powers. This obviously leads to tension, because what kind of wizard would want to rely on anyone else to use their powers? There's also the tension between the Queen and the Clan. I really liked the power plays between all of these groups and the subtle politics in how they interact with each other.

Raisa and Han weren't very interesting characters, and I wasn't particularly invested in their stories. I probably won't be continuing this series just because I don't care enough about the characters. This wasn't a bad book at all, though, and I definitely think it's worth a shot for people who are newer to fantasy!

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Friday, September 25, 2015

Review: The Lost


18528430Title; The Lost
Author: Sarah Beth Durst
Genre: Science fiction, magical realism, adult fiction

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Goodreads Summary:
It was only meant to be a brief detour. But then Lauren finds herself trapped in a town called Lost on the edge of a desert, filled with things abandoned, broken and thrown away. And when she tries to escape, impassable dust storms and something unexplainable lead her back to Lost again and again. The residents she meets there tell her she's going to have to figure out just what she's missing--and what she's running from--before she can leave. So now Lauren's on a new search for a purpose and a destiny. And maybe, just maybe, she'll be found...
Against the backdrop of this desolate and mystical town, Sarah Beth Durst writes an arresting, fantastical novel of one woman's impossible journey...and her quest to find her fate.

This book was surprisingly poignant. I don't really know what I was expecting with this book, but I wasn't expecting such a moving story!

I picked up this book because Nikki over at There Were Books Involved has excellent taste and she had a LOT to say about how much she loved this book. Thanks, Nikki, even though you didn't specifically recommend it to me because if I hadn't read your review I wouldn't have found such a charming book!

The Lost is kind of like light sci-fi or magical realism. It's mostly bound by the rules of the real world, and when there are surreal elements, you don't really know if they're magical or not. I really liked the idea behind the city Lost. Lost objects and lost people find their way there, but cannot leave until they find what they were looking for. Sometimes it's as simple as finding a lost sock, but sometimes what you're missing is something intangible.

Given the sarcastic narrator and the mysterious, subtly creepy way the story began, I wasn't expecting to be moved and filled with warm fuzzies as I read this book, but there were a lot of warm fuzzies. I was completely charmed by both Peter and Claire. Claire's story especially moved me to tears, both when we found out why she was lost and when she had a chance to be found. I also smiled the most when I read about Claire's fearless antics, including brandishing knives at threatening new neighbors while rocking a fairy princess outfit. Most badass six-year-old ever! And Peter...he freaked me out at first, just like he freaked out Lauren, but as he and Lauren get to know one another and we find out more about who Peter is...warm fuzzies all around.

The final part of the book takes an unexpected turn, but I really liked the contrast between where Lauren had been and where she is now. It really brings the story full circle and sparks your imagination.
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Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Book Talk: When you watch it before you read it...



I feel like this t-shirt sums up every book lover's opinion on movie/TV adaptations:


But what happens when you watch the adaptation before you read the book? I usually make it a point to read the book before the movie, but that isn't always the case. Sometimes I don't realize that a TV show is based on a book, and sometimes I can't get a copy of a book before I see a film in theaters. Here are couple of adaptations that I saw before I saw the book, and how the books measured up!


The Prestige

 

The Prestige is one of my favorite movies, period. Magic, mystery, twist upon twist, and a one killer of an ending (ha.). I have next to no technical knowledge on filmmaking, but even I can tell that every scene was deliberately filmed a certain way. It's beautiful to watch, and you can see the care that went into making every scene just right so that when the pieces come together, you realize the significance of a lot of little details you might not have paid attention to.

When I read the book, frankly I was disappointed. I felt like the explanation for the intense rivalry between the two magicians was much more believable in the film than in the book; when the whole story revolves around the rivalry, it was a major disappointment that the reason for the rivalry wasn't compelling. Another element of the book that was disappointing is that it talks a lot more about the descendants and future implications of Angier and Borden's one-upmanship. I was really excited about that element, but the way things played out, I just didn't care about the magicians' descendants and I felt like the ending left me hanging a little bit.

The 100

 

I love this TV show. I love all the characters, I love how the science behind the science fiction (usually) makes sense, I love how fierce and strong all the women are, and I love how diverse the cast is. When I found out it was based on a book series, of course I wanted to read it. So far I've only read the first two books, but even from book 1 there were a lot of differences between the source material and the adaptation.

The characters' essences are the same: Clarke is a well-meaning workaholic, Bellamy is very protective of a rebellious Olivia, Wells is a natural leader but is ostracized by the others. There are lot fewer characters in the books, and who lives and who dies is actually really different. My favorite change in the book is getting to know the stories of people still on the Ark, like Glass. We don't see much of the Ark on the show, and when we do, it's always the people in charge and not really every day struggles.

These two are so different that I can't really say one is better than the other. I really like both of them, but I have to say there are a few things that tip the scales in the TV show's favor. The show really plays up the interactions between many strong women, including Clarke, Raven, Olivia, Abigail, and Lexa. The show really shows how complicated and tangled everyone's relationships and motivations are, while the book is a little more simplistic in that regard. There aren't as many characters, so things aren't as complicated.

LOTR


I feel like it's traitorous of me to say I liked the movies better than the books, but it's true! To be clear, I am not talking about the Hobbit movies. Those were a disaster. I feel like the LOTR movies captured the epic scale of the books and really brought everything to life without being bogged down with pages of rambling descriptions and campfire songs. The movies were a super tightened-up version of the 1000+ page story, which I really enjoyed.

One change I didn't like in the films is the fact that they took out the entire "return to the Shire" portion at the end of the book. At first I felt like it was random and just tacked onto the end of the books, but I ended up really liking it. It shows us that there are often challenges even after the Big Boss Battle and that it takes a lot of time to pick up the pieces and make life normal again.

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Monday, September 21, 2015

Review: Empire Ascendant


23920769Title: Empire Ascendant
Author: Kameron Hurley
Genre: Fantasy, grimdark, adult

My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

Goodreads Summary:In this thrilling sequel to The Mirror Empire, Kameron Hurley transports us back to a land of blood mages, sentient plants, and warfare on a scale that spans worlds.
Every two thousand years, parallel dimensions collide on the world called Raisa, bringing a tide of death and destruction to all worlds but one. Multiple worlds battle their dopplegangers for dominance, and those who survive must contend with friends and enemies newly imbued with violent powers.
Now the pacifist country of Dhai's only hope for survival lies in the hands of an illegitimate ruler and a scullery maid with a powerful – but unpredictable –magic. As their dopplegangers spread across the world like a disease, a former ally takes up her Empress’s sword again to unseat her, and two enslaved scholars begin a treacherous journey home with a long-lost secret that they hope is the key to the other worlds' undoing.
But when the enemy shares your own face, who can be trusted?


I asked for the blood to rain down...I definitely got my wish!

This is one of those books that tears your heart out, takes a big bite out of it, and then smushes it back into place and hopes you can recover. Gory image? Well, you'd better get used to it if you want to take on this series! I'm usually terrified of gore and avoid books that are really bloody because I can't stomach it, but there is just something about this series that keeps me fascinated and glued to the pages even when I am internally running away screaming.

So what is it about this book that makes me so enchanted by it?

It might be the impeccable world-building. Hurley is up there with Sanderson in my eyes for creating stunning, intricate fantasy worlds. The magic, the cultures, the mythology...just when you think you understand everything, there's a new big revelation and you're left reeling all over again.

Or maybe it's the vast scope. Like ASoIaF, there isn't really a side that has all "the good guys". In The Mirror Empire it seemed like there was a clear side to root for, but Empire Ascendant makes you question your loyalties. Power corrupts even the most well-intentioned people, and sometimes the people behind terrible acts have an almost rational reason for them. Sometimes. There aren't just two worlds anymore, and there is a lot more at stake in this book than in Mirror Empire.

It could be the characters. They're all very morally ambiguous, and any one of them could drop dead because the story demands it. This is something that drove me crazy with ASoIaF, so much so that I stopped reading; why care about these people when they will most likely just drop dead? But Hurley doesn't let you make that call. Somehow I am deeply invested in all of these characters, even when they make choices that I can't bear. I know many of them will die (and many of them have died already...tears) but I can't stop caring!

I cannot wait for Book 3.

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Saturday, September 19, 2015

Review: Blood Bound


285205Title: Blood Bound
Author: Patricia Briggs
Genre: Urban Fantasy

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Goodreads Summary:
Under the rule of science, there are no witch burnings allowed, no water trials or public lynchings. In return, the average law-abiding, solid citizen has little to worry about from the things that go bump in the night. Sometimes I wish I was an average citizen...
Mechanic Mercy Thompson has friends in low places-and in dark ones. And now she owes one of them a favor. Since she can shapeshift at will, she agrees to act as some extra muscle when her vampire friend Stefan goes to deliver a message to another of his kind.
But this new vampire is hardly ordinary-and neither is the demon inside of him.
creeeeepyyyy

I should have known from the title that this was going to be a bloody book! Thankfully the worst of it was over in the prologue (which I had to skim...I don't do well with blood and guts).

While we met the vampires in Moon Called, we didn't really get to know them. Now we get up close and personal with the vampires and their strange customs. If you thought werewolves were territorial and possessive... To make matters worse, there's a demon who can control vampires on the loose, causing chaos for all the humans and paranormal creatures alike.

This book could have been simply terrifying, but it's a lot of fun too! I was laughing so hard to see how Mercy and Samuel were adjusting as roommates. Mercy is supremely sassy, which is great, and despite her wall of sarcasm, it's great to see how much she actually cares about her friends.

I will definitely be reading more of this series!



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Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Review: The Storyspinner


The Storyspinner (The Keepers' Chronicles, #1)Title: The Storyspinner
Author: Becky Wallace
Genre: Fantasy, YA

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Goodreads Summary:
Drama and danger abound in this fantasy realm where dukes play a game for the throne, magical warriors race to find the missing heir, and romance blossoms where it is least expected.
In a world where dukes plot their way to the throne, a Performer’s life can get tricky. And in Johanna Von Arlo’s case, it can be fatal. Expelled from her troupe after her father’s death, Johanna is forced to work for the handsome Lord Rafael DeSilva. Too bad they don’t get along. But while Johanna’s father’s death was deemed an accident, the Keepers aren’t so sure.
The Keepers, a race of people with magical abilities, are on a quest to find the princess—the same princess who is supposed to be dead and whose throne the dukes are fighting over. But they aren’t the only ones looking for her. And in the wake of their search, murdered girls keep turning up—girls who look exactly like the princess, and exactly like Johanna.
With dukes, Keepers, and a killer all after the princess, Johanna finds herself caught up in political machinations for the throne, threats on her life, and an unexpected romance that could change everything. 

Really good! Why did it end so soon?

I enjoyed the Storyspinner a lot more than I was expecting. I'd heard a lot of great things about it, but nothing in the blurb made me go "Wow, I really need to read this!" I'm glad I decided to read anyway, because this was awesome!

The Storyspinner is a lighter story than most epic fantasy. There aren't any vast battles or any dense worldbuilding; the fantasy world is basically just like a historical version of own except for the fact that there are a few magical people. There's also a standard "secret past" which isn't too hard to anticipate, but it's still rewarding to see everything play out.

But just because it's lighter on some fronts does NOT mean this book is all sunshine and roses. Given the first half of the story, I wasn't expecting how intense the second half was at all. Bad things actually do happen to beloved characters, unlike most YA novels (which was upsetting when it happened, obviously, but definitely made the book better!).

I really liked how Joanna actually had a relationship with her family. Usually main characters are long-lost or abandoned someone-or-others/chosen ones without a family, so I absolutely loved how Joanna would look after and tease her brothers. I also liked getting to know Rafi and Dom. I guess I'm just a sucker for sibling rivalry!

I also really enjoyed the Keeper subplot. It kept the story intense and helped push me through the slower first half to get to the intense end. I adored all the Keepers and their very unique personalities/approaches to doing their job!

Also, most of the characters have names/titles derived from Portuguese. HOW COOL IS THAT? The only other book I've read with a Portuguese flavor is Orson SCott Card's Speaker for the Dead, so I loved seeing that here too!

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Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Top Ten Tuesday 62: Top 10 Black Sheep books



Top Ten Tuesday is a meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.
This week's theme: Top Ten Books where I was the black sheep

I've done a lot of gushing on my TTTs about books I love, so this week I'm flipping it around. These are books that a lot of people have loved, but for whatever reason I didn't like them. This doesn't mean any of these books are bad, just that these are the books I wanted to love, but didn't. I hope I don't break too many hearts with this list haha


 10429045
I really wasn't a fan of the writing style or the whiny main character in this book. I hear this series gets better though, so I haven't totally written it off.
 537
They turned this into a movie, so obviously a lot of people liked this book. I thought it sounded cool, but when I actually read it I didn't like it at all.
 3682

It's been a while since I read this, but I know didn't particularly dislike it. I was just bored for most of it, which surprised me because I really like mysteries and the Victorian era.
 6482837

I loved Lauren Oliver's Delirium, so I was really excited about this book. Sadly, I just couldn't empathize with the main character.
 11870085

I didn't dislike this book either, but I definitely didn't get what all the hype was about. John Green is just not for me! I've tried reading many of his books since everyone loves them so much but I get so annoyed with them all.
 The Wise Man's Fear (The Kingkiller Chronicle, #2)

I have such mixed feelings about this series. There are some things I really respect and others that I absolutely cannot stand!
 16143347

I was expecting this book to be amazing, especially with all the hype. I didn't know anything about the plot but the description had me hooked. Yet I didn't connect with the characters and when I got to the big reveal, I thought "That's it?". I don't know why, but I just wasn't invested in this book.
 7896527

It's crazy to think that I didn't really like Throne of Glass and I almost didn't continue the series. Thank you blogosphere for convincing me to keep going, because I LOVE the later books. I'm still not a huge fan of book 1 though.
 22910900

Patrick Ness is one of my favorite authors and I was so excited for this book. I'm so disappointed that I didn't love it, but I just didn't fall in love with the characters :(
 13497818

It's JK Rowling, people! How could I not love this? I love the Harry Potter books and I even liked Cuckoo's Calling, but I didn't even finish this book because it was just so depressing and dull.


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Thursday, September 10, 2015

Review: Cry Wolf


2355575Title: Cry Wolf
Author: Patricia Briggs
Genre: Urban fantasy, adult

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Goodreads Summary:
Anna never knew werewolves existed, until the night she survived a violent attack... and became one herself. After three years at the bottom of the pack, she'd learned to keep her head down and never, ever trust dominant males. Then Charles Cornick, the enforcer—and son—of the leader of the North American werewolves, came into her life.
Charles insists that not only is Anna his mate, but she is also a rare and valued Omega wolf. And it is Anna's inner strength and calming presence that will prove invaluable as she and Charles go on the hunt in search of a rogue werewolf—a creature bound in magic so dark that it could threaten all of the pack.
It is recommended you read the prequel "Alpha & Omega" before reading Cry Wolf. 

I really enjoyed this! As usual, I think the audio made me a lot more invested in the characters than I would have been otherwise. I loved the voices of Charles, Anna, Asil, Bran...all of them! The narrator did a really good job with accents and in conveying all the werewolf politics (aggressive/dominant/submissive etc) through the voices.

This is by no means an action-packed book. Yes, there is a mysterious creature who may be killing innocents, but that takes a back seat for most of the novel. This book is mainly about Charles and Anna; Anna in particular must overcome her inhibitions about being in a relationship and belonging to a pack after experiencing abuse in her old pack. You would think this makes Anna the victim and Charles the savior, but it isn't so cut-and-dry. Anna heals Charles and the other wolves and often comes to the rescue in unexpected ways. I really liked that the relationship between Charles and Anna was mutually beneficial and they both had to overcome their vulnerabilities.

The truth about the mysterious creature was truly horrifying, but at the same time, you can understand where the "villain" is coming from. I don't want to spoil anything, but I will say the most compelling antagonists are the ones who believe they are doing the right thing, and that is certainly the case here.

I would definitely recommend this book for urban fantasy fans! I'm very new to the genre, but I really enjoyed this book.

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