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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?

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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!

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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? 

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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 🙂

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Book Review! Throne of Glass Series

Holy blog traffic, Batman! I’m sure most of you are here because of the lovely shout-out from Franish – with whom I’ve been bonding over the perfect maroon-y purple skirt from JCrew Factory. If so, you might be interested to take a peek at my favorite pieces for work casual wear, or the gym, and my makeup basics, and then please stick around for one of my favorite topics, book reviews!

 

Throne of Glass (Throne of Glass Series #1)

I’ve read the first two books of the Throne of Glass series, by Sarah J. Maas, in just two days, and I’m already halfway through the third book. Yup. Hooked. This is hands-down one of the best YA fantasy series I’ve read in years. Since the series isn’t done yet, I’m not sure if it will top The Abhorsen series, by Garth Nix, or the Tortall books, by Tamora Pierce, on my list of all-time best YA books, but it’s pretty high up the list.

The publisher’s blurb on these gives you a good idea of what to expect from the books, and it’ll be hard to do a review of all three books without any spoilers, but I’ll try! Celaena Sardothien is an assassin, trained from a young age to be the best at her brutal trade. When she’s summoned from her hovel mining salt in Endovier and sent to the capitol city of the ruthless Adarlan king to compete for her freedom, she’s not sure what to expect. Almost immediately, Celaena is drawn into a scheme much larger than herself, and with no one giving her the information she seeks – or any of the truth – she has to figure things out for herself, before she winds up on the executioner’s block.

Crown of Midnight (Throne of Glass Series #2)

One of the things I’ve truly enjoyed about this series is that Celaena is very decisive and not afraid to take action, even when she has doubts and may need to adjust her path once things heat up. Although she’s painted as a cold-blooded assassin, there are plenty of internal struggles and emotions for her to face, and ultimately she ends up being better and more mature for it. I’ve enjoyed seeing her character evolve so far over the first three books, and according to Goodreads, there are three books yet to go. (Which makes me deliriously happy. I love a good, long series!) There are also several interesting (read: not shallow) male characters and other important female characters that pop up over the course of the first three books, which gives the plot more depth and keeps things racing along quickly. No dragging, endless descriptions and boring filler scenes here!

Heir of Fire (Throne of Glass Series #3)

One of the reviews published in the paperback version of Throne of Glass (book one of the series, followed by Crown of Midnight, and then Heir of Fire) that caught my eye stated that they viewed Maas’ series as a combination of Tamora Pierce and George R.R. Martin’s Game of Thrones series, which I think paints a pretty good picture of where this sits in terms of fantasy works. The writing is much more direct and (overall) is less  gruesomely realistic than the Game of Thrones books (see my Goodreads reviews on those if you dare, I didn’t care for them) but also involves more politics, plotting, and death than Pierce’s books. The Throne of Glass books are broader in scope, but they remind me a bit of The Castings Trilogy, by Pamela Freeman (if you like the Throne of Glass books and fantasy in general, those might be worth a read.)

If you’ve read any of the Throne of Glass books, please let me know your thoughts! Did you devour them like I have, or were they not your cup of tea?

If you’re just popping by to check things out, I’d love it if you said Hi in the comments or maybe took a second to fill out the quick blog poll I posted recently!

(*Disclaimer: None of the links in this post are affiliate links and I am not getting anything at all from the respective companies or blogs they link to. But if JCrew, Goodreads, or Barnes & Noble ever start giving me goodies or cash, I’ll let you guys know! 🙂 )

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Book Review! Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore

Yesterday I read Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan.

Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore: A Novel

I saw this title while browsing for new e-books on Barnes and Noble’s website. I was looking specifically for new e-books so I would have something to read a) because I’ve been at home all day due to the federal government shutdown and b) because I was traveling back to the midwest to be in a wedding for one of my best friends, and I didn’t want to haul a bunch of books with me.

This book in particular stood out simply because of the title. I love the word penumbra. Does anyone else get excited about certain words, or is it just me? I have a whole list of words that I love because to me they perfectly embody what they mean or because they’re fun to say. Frond is my favorite word, it’s just fun to say. I also love penumbra, penultimate, plethora (if I think of others I’ll add them later… I seem to be stuck on p words at the moment.) I dislike the word “nonplussed” because to me it sounds like the opposite of what it means.

Anyway, the title of this book caught my eye, and the description was interesting. Here’s what the listing on Barnes and Noble’s website has to say:

The Great Recession has shuffled Clay Jannon away from life as a San Francisco web-design drone and into the aisles of Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore. But after a few days on the job, Clay discovers that the store is more curious than either its name or its gnomic owner might suggest. The customers are few, and they never seem to buy anything—instead, they “check out” large, obscure volumes from strange corners of the store. Suspicious, Clay engineers an analysis of the clientele’s behavior, seeking help from his variously talented friends. But when they bring their findings to Mr. Penumbra, they discover the bookstore’s secrets extend far beyond its walls.

The best way I can describe this book is that it’s intriguing. There’s a subtle sense of mystery and impending knowledge that keeps you reading (in fact, it reminded me a little of The Night Circus that way, although this plot line was more predictable, in my opinion.) I also really enjoyed how the main character of the book isn’t some “I have no obvious talent and I’m not very good-looking, but now suddenly everyone wants me/my powers” type that is so prevalent in fiction lately. Instead he knows his own strengths and reaches out to others who have different areas of expertise and works out the mystery with their help. One of the themes that runs through the book is technology versus traditional books, and I like what the author did with that topic. I like to follow the latest and greatest in technology, but there are books that I will go out of my way to buy in hardcopy, for various reasons.

Based on the book’s description above, I have to admit that I was expecting something a bit different from the mystery that actually was presented in the book -the reference to a “gnomic” bookseller had me imagining something more faery-related, especially since I’ve recently watched a lot of Lost Girl of Netflix (which I highly recommend, btw, but fair warning there are lots of sex scenes and they’re not all hetero). Even though it wasn’t quite what I expected, I enjoyed the style of writing, I like what the author did with the plot and I particularly appreciated the ending, which was realistic without being harsh. 

What’s your favorite word (or least favorite word) and why? Any thoughts on Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore?

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Book Review! The Rook

Good evening all! So I know that I said earlier that my next book review would be on the Oz series by Gregory Maguire, but I got sidetracked. Any readers who know me in real life know I’m usually reading 3 books at any given moment 🙂 Also, this book is so good I had to share it right away. Seriously, go get it right now. I can’t believe I didn’t get this as soon as it came out, but I’m already waiting to pre-order the sequel!

The Rook by Daniel O’Malley

The Rook

The Rook is probably best described as a contemporary urban fantasy novel. The main character, Myfwanny (pronounced Miff-any, like Tiffany) lives and works in London for a secret government agency that deals with supernaturally-talented individuals and the interesting situations that they (and other supernatural creatures) create. At the outset of the book, Myfwanny awakes in the middle of a park, with no clue about who she is, surrounded by dead people wearing latex gloves. As she digs in the pockets of her coat, she discovers a letter from her pre-amnesia self that gives her two options: danger, adventure and power, or a fake identity with which she can disappear from London and lead a peaceful life. Myfwanny makes her decision and spends the remainder of the book attempting to cope with the consequences, which range from the curious to the downright weird.

I was absolutely entranced by The Rook from the first chapter. O’Malley has a skillful way with words and the book is very cleverly paced and written. As this is his first book, and the author chose to create an entirely new “world” of supernatural beings within London,  the sheer amount of information he wanted to convey could have made the plot seem slow, but O’Malley’s ingenious plot device – Myfwanny’s letters to herself – adds increments of information when new characters or things come into the main plotline and really keeps things moving along.

Also, I love that since Myfwanny starts with no memories and no knowledge of herself, the reader gets to see how she decides who she will be (as opposed to who she was) as the book progresses. In the end, although Myfwanny has the same body and all the same skills and abilities as her prior self, the two end up being very different people. I think this particular piece of the plotline is all the more genius because it reminds us all that ultimately we are all in control of our own lives, and if we don’t like the way things are going, we can always change.

On a bit of a sidenote, this is another one of those fiction novels that I picked up at Barnes & Noble to read the description on the cover about 3 different times before I actually bought it. I was really in the mood for something sci-fi/fantasy based one day, so I decided to just go for it. I don’t know about anyone else, but when browsing in bookstores lately I feel like most of the descriptions on the back covers/dust jackets sound really trite (as in, been-there-done-that, this-is-so-cliché). I don’t know if it’s because the publishers have to try to draw you into the book in very few words and without revealing spoilers, or if it’s just that I’ve read sooooo many books that I feel like it’s harder for an author to surprise me. This novel’s description made me pause (which is why I picked it up 3 times in the store before I actually bought it) because it sounded a little hokey. This book is not hokey, it’s awesome. Read the first 3 pages instead of the blurb on the back cover. If you’re not hooked after that, I’ll be surprised.

Happily, the last couple of books that I purchased have been amazing! (The Night Circus, anyone?) I bought The Rook in paperback and not on my Nook, which was a fabulous decision, because I’m sure it will get lent out to many people!  Mr. O’Malley is also apparently hard at work on a sequel to The Rook (which I’m amazingly excited for) and every now and then he posts updates about it on his blog,  http://www.rookfiles.com/.

Recommended for fans of: The Night Circus, The Abhorsen series by Garth Nix, Holly Black’s books, or Dr. Who and Torchwood.

Now, a question for my readers: I’m finding it very difficult to describe my favorite portions of the book without giving away the entire plotline and everything exciting about it (which in this case is every. page.of.the.book.) Do you like the subtly hinting vague descriptions I’ve left you with, or are you clamoring for more detail? I’m toying with the idea of a general book review at the top of each book review post, followed by a more in-depth possibly-spoiler-containing review. Thoughts???