Book Review! A History of Glitter and Blood

Seriously, that title. If you know of any book with a better, more evocative title, please share in the comments, because I don’t think one exists!

A History of Glitter and Blood

A History of Glitter and Blood will be available in early August 2015 – sorry for the super-advance review, but I was too excited to wait :-) – mark your calendars now!

This book is brilliantly, beautifully f*cked up.

And I’m just gonna say this right up front – this is a love-it-or-hate-it kind of book. There is no in between. Also, although there seems to be an impression out there that this is a YA book, I’d say it’s more along the lines of New Adult or even just plain Adult.

If you like your fantasy fiction to be all sunshine and rainbows or squeaky clean YA, walk away now. Ditto if you need clear narration and lots of detail. However, if you enjoy books that make shivers run down your spine and give you a sense of atmosphere so thick you can imagine that you’re there next to the characters, keep reading!

I was immediately drawn to this book by the title. I mean, “A History of Glitter and Blood?” Hell yes!!! I knew that this was going to be a dark fairy tale type story, which are some of my favorites to read. And the cover art is amazing (although I can see how the cover would also draw in a lot of people who really aren’t going to like this story.)

Here’s the publisher’s blurb:

Sixteen-year-old Beckan and her friends are the only fairies brave enough to stay in Ferrum when war breaks out. Now there is tension between the immortal fairies, the subterranean gnomes, and the mysterious tightropers who arrived to liberate the fairies.
But when Beckan’s clan is forced to venture into the gnome underworld to survive, they find themselves tentatively forming unlikely friendships and making sacrifices they couldn’t have imagined. As danger mounts, Beckan finds herself caught between her loyalty to her friends, her desire for peace, and a love she never expected.
This stunning, lyrical fantasy is a powerful exploration of what makes a family, what justifies a war, and what it means to truly love.

The narration is unique, and if you don’t realize what’s going on it’s a lot harder to read, but I picked up quite quickly that I was reading a story where the “author” was spazzing out and writing to himself as much as to anyone else. It takes some getting used to, but this is one of the best versions of this device that I’ve had the pleasure to read in a long time. Without the spazzy narration and note-to-self asides, I don’t think the sense of atmosphere would have been nearly as vivid.

I won’t say much about the individual characters or plot, because for me, those actually weren’t as important by the end as the actual feel and atmosphere they all added up to… which might sound bad, but actually I mean it in a very good way. The story touches on particular individuals and particular things that happen before and after a war, the choices they make, and how each character’s individual natures affect their choices, but this story’s brilliance lies in how it adds all those things up to create a very true, resonating portrait of humanity.

All that said, I loved it! If you like Holly Black or dark versions of fairy tales, you definitely need to read this.

Do you like to read books with weird narration and/or changing POVs, or do you stick to the more traditional first-person or third-person style?


Book Review! A Court of Thorns and Roses

Friends, I tried my hardest to get hold of an advance copy of this book, but I just couldn’t make it happen. Since I was so head-over-heels for the Throne of Glass books, I decided to go ahead and pre-order this one from Barnes & Noble for my Nook app so I could read it right away. Of course, I finished it just a few hours after it landed in my inbox.

It was awesome.

But I’ve been sitting on this post for a while because I was having a hard time writing a review that wasn’t too spoiler-y or too basic and vague… Anywho, here we go!

A Court of Thorns and Roses (A Court of Thorns and Roses, #1)

First of all, how amazing is that cover!?! I like that it gives you an idea of what the main character looks like without being the “girl in a formal dress looking over her shoulder” style that’s become ubiquitous. Also, red. Which is very fitting given the plot of this story. To get us started, here is the publisher’s blurb:

When nineteen-year-old huntress Feyre kills a wolf in the woods, a beast-like creature arrives to demand retribution for it. Dragged to a treacherous magical land she only knows about from legends, Feyre discovers that her captor is not an animal, but Tamlin—one of the lethal, immortal faeries who once ruled their world.
As she dwells on his estate, her feelings for Tamlin transform from icy hostility into a fiery passion that burns through every lie and warning she’s been told about the beautiful, dangerous world of the Fae. But an ancient, wicked shadow grows over the faerie lands, and Feyre must find a way to stop it . . . or doom Tamlin—and his world—forever.
Perfect for fans of Kristin Cashore and George R. R. Martin, this first book in a sexy and action-packed new series is impossible to put down!

First of all, the relationship between Feyre and Tamlin is a slow burn with a few bumps in the road, not an insta-love like the publisher’s blurb might suggest. There are lots of hard choices to be made, and Maas doesn’t pull punches to give Feyre an easy out, which I quite liked. About 2/3rds of the way through the book we learn more about Feyre’s family and a lot of depth gets added to their characters, which really took this book to the next level for me – it would have been so easy to use the family characters as set-up in the beginning and then leave them there, as flat, one-dimensional individuals who were holding Feyre back and had little to no redeeming qualities of their own, but Maas took the time to give them layers and make them continue to be an important part of the story and Feyre’s choices. Bravo.

There are a couple of characters that “help” Feyre out at various points in the story – for a price, of course. We’re dealing with the Fey here. Based on those characters I’m anticipating much more political gamesmanship in the next book, which is great, because Maas does so well with the politics and individual characters’ motivations in the Throne of Glass books. I’m also looking forward to seeing more of Rhysand in the next book, because I’m always a sucker for a tall-dark-and-handsome bad boy ;-) Although this is known to be a sort of Beauty and the Beast retelling, Maas very skillfully places the story in the world of the Fey and gives nods to the original tale while staying true to her own writing style and keeping the story fresh. If you know it’s there, you can most definitely see the parallels, but subtle enough that you could miss it if you didn’t already know.

While I really enjoyed A Court of Thorns and Roses and I love Sarah J. Maas’s writing, I think I like the Throne of Glass books just a little bit more. The two series each have a distinct feel to them, and I find that world and those characters a bit more intriguing. It probably stems from the fact that Throne of Glass is a totally original world from the author. That said, I will definitely be reading the rest of this series.

If you like a darker sort of fairytale à la Holly Black or Gregory Maguire, A Court of Thorns and Roses should be right up your alley!


Book Review! The Bone Season Series – Books 1 & 2

Holy. YES. (!!!!!)


That’s all I wrote in my notes for these books. That’s probably not helpful, though, so I’ll do my best to write an actual, thoughtful review for you guys :-)

Let’s start with the first book, The Bone Season:

The Bone Season (The Bone Season, #1)

This is one of those books that I picked up randomly, when I was browsing through my local bookstore for a paperback to bring with me on a long international flight at the beginning of February. I had a ton of ebooks on my tablet (most of them from NetGalley, which is pretty much the greatest thing ever for a book-reviewing nerd like me) but I was worried about my battery running out and then having nothing to read. Well… this book didn’t even make it through the first 8 hours of my travel. I started reading with every intention of putting it down once we were in the air and electronic devices were given the OK, but I was totally and completely sucked in and couldn’t put it down! At around 480 pages, it isn’t a skinny book either, so you know I was reading fast to see what was going to happen. I was lucky enough to not get sucked into this series until the second book was already released, and you better believe I bought the digital version of book #2, The Mime Order, as soon as I had internet service.


The publisher’s blurb: The year is 2059. Nineteen-year-old Paige Mahoney is working in the criminal underworld of Scion London, based at Seven Dials, employed by a man named Jaxon Hall. Her job: to scout for information by breaking into people’s minds. For Paige is a dreamwalker, a clairvoyant and, in the world of Scion, she commits treason simply by breathing. It is raining the day her life changes for ever. Attacked, drugged and kidnapped, Paige is transported to Oxford – a city kept secret for two hundred years, controlled by a powerful, otherworldly race. Paige is assigned to Warden, a Rephaite with mysterious motives. He is her master. Her trainer. Her natural enemy. But if Paige wants to regain her freedom she must allow herself to be nurtured in this prison where she is meant to die.

My thoughts: The Bone Season is a refreshing, captivating new take on the dystopian trend, and the added urban fantasy/paranormal/magic elements make it absolute perfection. Paige is a well-written heroine – she’s determined, but sometimes unsure of herself or of whether she’s making the “right” decision; she has power, but she needs to learn to use it. The cast of characters is large and diverse enough to keep things moving, but not so large (or so oddly named) that you can’t keep them all straight. Shannon also does a great job of making each supporting character their own person with depth. The set-up of the world and how certain parts of society are structured absolutely ring true as something that could/would/has happened in reality and it lends an aura of familiarity to the world as a whole that allows other more fantastic things to seem less over-the-top. It’s our world with embellishments, not something completely alien or unbelievable.

There is most definitely a forbidden-romance shtick, but I can overlook it given how amazing everything else is. The end of book #1 leaves off at a clear transition point, which I think worked out really well.

Now for book #2, The Mime Order:

The Mime Order (The Bone Season)

The publisher’s blurb: In the internationally bestselling The Bone Season, Paige Mahoney escaped the brutal penal colony of Sheol I, but now her problems have only just begun: many of the fugitives are still missing and she is the most wanted person in London.
As Scion turns its all-seeing eye on Paige, the mime-lords and mime-queens of the city’s gangs are invited to a rare meeting of the Unnatural Assembly. Jaxon Hall and his Seven Seals prepare to take center stage, but there are bitter fault lines running through the clairvoyant community and dark secrets around every corner. Then the Rephaim begin crawling out from the shadows. But where is Warden? Paige must keep moving, from Seven Dials to Grub Street to the secret catacombs of Camden, until the fate of the underworld can be decided. Will Paige know who to trust? The hunt for the dreamwalker is on.

My thoughts: The Mime Order picks up right where The Bone Season left off, with Paige and her fellow voyants sneaking back into Scion London. In this book, there is a ton of information about the inner workings of the Syndicate and how voyants work and get along with each other (or don’t). Paige works tirelessly to try and get the word out about the threat of the Rephaim, but she encounters a lot of trouble from unexpected quarters. The one small, niggling, complaint I have about this book is that for a “mollisher” who’s supposed to be second in command of a very powerful Syndicate gang and as an individual who just went through everything she did to get out of Sheol I, Paige is still very naive. Some of that is probably an effort on the author’s part to make the plot twists more unexpected, but it made me a little irritated that Paige seems to take a lot of things at face value when she clearly shouldn’t.

That being said, the plot twist at the end was absolutely crazy (which is where the five exclamation points at the top of this post came from!) and not at all what I was expecting. Total bombshell. At this point I’m equal parts upset and eager to see what book #3 brings!

Unfortunately, now it looks as though I have to wait until next year for book #3. I’d be mad, except that this appears to be a 7 (yes, 7!) book series. Based on what I’ve read thus far, I have really, really high hopes that Samantha Shannon will be able to pull off a seven book series without being boring or predictable in the slightest.

One thing I will say – a lot of the online reviewers mention that they picked this up because of the blurb that Samantha Shannon is being touted as “the next J.K. Rowling.” DON’T. Don’t even go there. Don’t do that to yourself. Only J.K. Rowling is J.K. Rowling, and if you go into this expecting “the next Harry Potter!” you’ll be sorely disappointed. And that would be sad, because this book is amazing!

If you’re a fan of Holly Black, The Throne of Glass series, The Hunger Games series, or if you just love a good YA dystopian book, you need to get your hands on The Bone Season books now. Trust me :-) Also, if you click the links above to the Goodreads pages, there are previews available for both books!

Have you read any of the Bone Season books? If so, what did you think? 


Book Review! The Inheritance Trilogy

First, my apologies, friends. I thought I had scheduled this post to go live aaaaaaaaages ago, but apparently not. Secondly, things got a little crazy at work, and then I went on two awesome vacations, so I’ve been pretty absent around these parts. Fortunately, vacation time and 12+ hour plane rides meant lots of reading, so I have several more reviews coming up soon! (You can check out my Goodreads page if you want a sneak peek at what’s coming.)

I’ll probably post a quick edit of some of my favorite vacation photos too, and I thought about maybe doing a post on how I packed for both vacations (China and the Czech Republic/Paris, respectively) and what I forgot/didn’t need. Would you all be interested in something like that? I feel like when I was scouring Pinterest and the internet at large for packing tips, most of what I found was for backpackers as opposed to people staying in hotels/apartments… Let me know!

Now, on to the good stuff!

The Inheritance Trilogy by N.K. Jemisin

I loved this series. I read the omnibus edition, which has all three and a “half” novels in one. I received this book from NetGalley and read it in my Kindle app, which was super convenient because this omnibus edition is about 1400 pages long! Although the individual books were released a while ago, I had never heard of them, but on NetGalley it stuck out to me for some reason and I decided to give it a go. When I saw in the introductory blurbs that this had Felicia Day’s stamp of approval, I knew I’d like it :-)

Rich in detail, with a complex plot and a good variety of characters and viewpoints, I never felt like this was falling into the standard fantasy tropes. Of the three books contained in this edition, I think the first book was the strongest and would be equally enjoyable even if you read it as a stand-alone, but I enjoyed them all and each story added it’s own interesting details to the world that Jemisin has created.

I particularly love that each of the books visits the same world, but in different places and at different times, narrated by different characters, so you can really get a sense of the whole society, rather than just a snapshot of particular characters in a particular place at a particular time. There is enough continuity of characters and places, though, that the books feel like they belong together and it isn’t overly confusing to the reader. (One of my favorite YA/fantasy authors of all time, Tamora Pierce, is equally good at this aspect of fantasy writing. If you’re going to spend the time coming up with a whole fictional world, and a good one at that, I want to get enough information and perspectives to feel like I’m immersed in it!)

Not everything in these books is sunshine and roses (although it’s not anywhere near Game of Thrones-level bloodshed/intrigue) but if you like fantasy, magic, and political machinations, you’ll like this book. I highly recommend this series to anyone looking for a good fantasy read, and I’ll definitely be checking out any of Jemisin’s other works!

What was the last great fantasy book that you read? I’m always looking for new material :-)


Book Review! Sparrow59

*Update* Sorry for the changing post/delays, I had this post saved and scheduled for 10am this morning, but WordPress apparently decided to not publish at 10am and to delete the whole review section…

Participate in a blog tour – with giveaway – for a book I already knew I wanted to review? Yes, please! In addition to writing a book, Sparrow59’s author, Devon Ashley, coordinated this whole blog-tour and giveaway herself. She’s clearly awesome. Sparrow59 just released on December 16th, and is only $1.99 until December 19th, so go pick up your copy now!

This is my first-ever blog tour, so let me know your thoughts on the format, the book, or anything else that strikes your fancy ;-)

My thoughts on the book:

That ending – whyyyyyyy?!

Ok, let me back up a bit. This book is a standard spy-thriller-mystery in the vein of the Bourne Identity, but told from the perspective of a female spy. At the end of a successful op, Sam, Drew, and their teammate Lance are waiting for extraction when the unthinkable happens – someone gets the drop on them. Now Lance and the rest of Team Sparrow are dead, Drew is missing-presumed-defector, and the CIA thinks that Sam is somehow involved in keeping Drew hidden. That would be bad enough, but Sam and Drew haven’t just been spies playing a married couple, they are actually husband and wife, and Sam has every intention of tracking Drew down and figuring out what happened.

Sam is a balanced, well-written character. She can’t magically do everything and doesn’t come out of every fight unscathed. I like how the author chose to stage her relationship with Drew (i.e. I’m glad that it started before they were partnered together, rather than the typical, “we were thrown together and now we’re in love” ridiculousness that I read so often). It’s fun to read a spy novel that has a female protagonist who is a competent professional, not just the bait for a honey-trap.

The plot of the book pretty much proceeds as you’d expect, right up until the last 10 pages or so. Prepare yourself for a rough ending, my friends. I do think it is a good ending for the story, and I’m definitely intrigued to see where the author takes things in the next two books that I see entries for on Goodreads (although there’s no release date for those yet.)

A bit of a sidenote: I enjoyed the bio-research aspect of the plot – it gives the whole story an original twist. That said, I’d like to see more of that included in the next two books (what chemicals are they using/making and how/why?) Details like that, which can educate a reader without them really being aware of how much they’re learning, are one of my favorite literary devices, and are a hallmark of good writing!

And now, for a GIVEAWAY!

There will be three giveaway winners, (1) signed hardback, (1) signed paperback and (1) $10 gift card to Amazon or B&N. The link below will take you to the Rafflecopter widget for the giveaway, just follow the instructions there to submit your entry.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Check out the other bloggers participating in the blog tour!

Blog Tour Line-Up

Monday, December 15th

Fire & Ice Book Reviews (review)

Rachel Reads Ravenously (review, excerpt #1)

All In One Place (review, excerpt #2)

Tuesday, December 16th (Release Day)

Besties & Books (excerpt #3)

MegPie93’s Book Review (review)

Bookworm Coalition (review, excerpt #4)

Wednesday, December 17th

A Soul Unsung (excerpt #5)

Books & Graphics (excerpt #1)

This Redhead Loves Book (excerpt #2)

Thursday, December 18th

A Literary Perusal (review, excerpt #3)

Barks & Baking (review)

Friday, December 19th

All My Book Finds (excerpt #4)

Books Need TLC (excerpt #5)

Get a copy of Sparrow59 for yourself here:

eBooks: Amazon US, UK, DE, IN, FR, ES, IT, JP, NL, BR, CA, MX, AU, Nook, Kobo. and Lulu.

(Paperbacks at Amazon US, UK, DE, ES, FR, ITHardbacks pending at Lulu)

* I did not receive any compensation for participating in this blog tour/giveaway, but I did receive a free ebook of Sparrow59through NetGalley. All opinions are my own!*


The Struggle is Real – Sometimes I Have a Hard Time Finishing Books…

Confession time – I can count on my fingers and toes the number of books I have started, but not finished. Some because they were too heavy at a time when I just wanted to read something light and magical, some that I just couldn’t get into, and some that were just plain awful. As I receive access to more titles through sites like NetGalley and Goodreads, which are often advance copies of new/unknown authors, I find that I’m struggling to finish books more frequently. I absolutely try to finish each book that I receive gratis becuase a) that’s why I got the book, so I can at least give it a rating or brief review, and b) usually I’m a super fast reader and I can just push through. Books that I’ve purchased for myself are harder to pick back up.

So, I thought I would entertain you with a list of titles that I’m having trouble with!

The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire: Volume 1

1) Gibbon’s Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire.

I love digging into books about Ancient Rome and Egypt, so I’m really interested in the information contained in this series, and it’s so hard to find books that will give you the straight up history without too much editorializing, but the writing in this is just so dry! I’m only about 1/3 of the way through the first volume. I have the edition pictured above, and if nothing else, it looks nice on my bookshelves :-)

One Hundred Years of Solitude

2) A Hundred Years of Solitude, by Gabriel Marcia Marquez.

This is a modern classic, but the writing, while it paints an enchanting picture, just meanders along. I like a fast-paced plot, personally (one reason I don’t read much non-fiction) so this one is hard for me. I’m sure I’ll finish it at some point, because it’s a good story, but I think I’ll have to be in the right mood for it (much like how I didn’t care for Austen in high school, which I first read Pride and Prejudice and Northanger Abbey, but once I got to law school I re-read P&P and liked it so much I bought Austen’s complete works and devoured them all.) I have the edition pictured above, and I love the cover!

House of Leaves

3) House of Leaves, by Mark Danielewski.

I was so deeply creeped out by this book that I put it down about halfway through and tried to forget about it. If you’re into horror, thrillers, creepy things or books like The Shining, give this one a go. But I’d advise keeping the lights on! The writing is phenomenal, and I love how things are deliberately set in weird places (you’d have to see the book to understand what I’m getting at here.)

Book of Air and Shadows

4) The Book of Air and Shadows, by Michel Gruber.

I think this is a good book, it reminds me a lot of Elizabeth Kostova’s The Historian (modern day scenes mixed in with historical ones, dangerous encounters, a search for historical artifacts, etc.) but the writing just doesn’t grab me the way Kostova’s did. I don’t feel as connected to the characters, and once I put it down I got distracted by a number of other books. I’m sure I’ll finish this one and post a review, but again, I think I’ll have to be in a certain “get things done and wrapped up” kind of mood.

The Supernatural Enhancements

5) The Supernatural Enhancements, by Edgar Cantero.

I got a copy of this book through NetGalley, but the photo above links to Barnes and Noble for anyone who’s interested (no affiliate links here, folks, I just like buy my books from B&N!) This isn’t a bad book, but I just can’t get into it. I stopped about 2/3 of the way through because I just don’t care about any of the characters, and the suspense I was expecting to feel based on the publisher’s blurb is non-existent. I think a large part of it is that the author switches up narration constantly and it really ruins the flow for me. Since this is a book I received through NetGalley, I’m going to push to finish it and post a review, but I’ll probably have to bribe myself with a trip to Starbucks… (because as we all know, I’m addicted to hazelnut lattes. Or hazelnut anything, really.)

Do you finish all the books you pick up, do you finish most of them, or do you immediately put down a book that’s not grabbing your interest? Are there any books that you think you might give a second chance?

Book Review! Chasing Power

I’ve received several advance/publicity copies of YA books through NetGalley since I joined earlier this year, but this is the first YA title that I’ve liked enough to share here on Barks & Baking!

Chasing Power

Chasing Power, by Sarah Beth Durst

Available to purchase on October 14, 2014.

The publisher’s blurb: 

Lies, secrets, and magic — three things that define Kayla’s life.

Sixteen-year-old Kayla plans to spend her summer hanging out on the beach in Santa Barbara and stealing whatever she wants, whenever she wants it. Born with the ability to move things with her mind — things like credit cards, diamond rings, and buttons on cash registers — she has become a master shoplifter. She steals to build up a safety net, enough money for her and her mom to be able to flee if her dad finds them again. Well, that, and the thrill of using her secret talents.

But her summer plans change when she’s caught stealing by a boy named Daniel — a boy who needs her help and is willing to blackmail her to get it. Daniel has a talent of his own. He can teleport, appearing anywhere in the world in an instant, but he lies as easily as he travels. Together, they embark on a quest to find and steal an ancient incantation, written on three indestructible stones and hidden millennia ago, all to rescue Daniel’s kidnapped mother. But Kayla has no idea that this rescue mission will lead back to her own family — and to betrayals that she may not be able to forgive… or survive.

My thoughts:

There were a few stumbling moments early on in the book, but I was fully on-board by the time Kayla and Daniel team up and start looking for the stones. The search takes them various places around the world, and while the different locations were interesting, I would have liked to see a bit more real history added into the story (it’s a great way to add to the reader’s knowledge without forcing it or being a great big info-dump.) Kayla is pretty decisive for a YA character, and not naive, which is refreshing. She also is very good at putting major issues in context and acting accordingly –  as evidenced by her reactions to the events toward the end of the book.

Kayla’s best friend, Selena, is a strong secondary character, and I love the dichotomy of how she acts with the rest of the world versus how she is around her family. It’s easy to write supporting characters that are one-dimensional/stereotypes who are only there to interact with the main characters, but I think it’s particularly important in YA books to support the idea that people are multi-faceted and may have a mix of more and less desirable characteristics, and that even the most put-together appearances may go hand-in-hand with personal struggles. That being said, I think that Daniel could have been written better – he felt a bit flat to me, and the scenes that I surmise were supposed to add “depth” to his character really didn’t. The “cocky-to-hide-his-vulnerability” thing was overplayed, he was very single-minded throughout the book (“must. find. mother.”) He basically gets a pass whenever he acts like a jerk, whereas Kayla and Selena dealt with things more maturely.

I’d say this falls at a 3.5/5 stars on my scale. I probably won’t re-read it, but it’s one I’ll probably recommend to other YA readers looking for new reading material.