**Notice** Due to transfering back from a godaddy hosted wordpress blog back to blogger, reviews published before june 2017 don`t all have a pretty layout with book cover and infos. Our apologies.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

The Inquisition by Taran Matharu

The Inquisition by Taran Matharu

Book Stats:  

Reading level: Young Adult
Genre: High Fantasy
Hardcover: 350 pages
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends
Release date: May 10, 2016

Series:  The Summoner, #2

Source: Library

Reviewed by: Kara

Order: Amazon | Book Depository


A year has passed since the Tournament. Fletcher and Ignatius have been locked away in Pelt's dungeons, but now they must face trial at the hands of the Inquisition, a powerful institution controlled by those who would delight in Fletcher's downfall.
The trial is haunted by ghosts from the past with shocking revelations about Fletcher's origins, but he has little time to dwell on them; the graduating students of Vocans are to be sent deep into the orc jungles to complete a dangerous mission for the king and his council. If they fail, the orcish armies will rise to power beyond anything the Empire has ever seen.
With loyal friends Othello and Sylva by his side, Fletcher must battle his way to the heart of Orcdom and save Hominum from destruction . . . or die trying, in this sequel to The Novice by Taran Matharu.


All our favorite villains are back and they've banded together! However, our beloved heroes are together again too, this time having to work together to accomplish a mission that could mean the end of their world--overrun by orcs and goblins!

Since the cliffhanger at the end of The Novice where Fletcher won the tournament, earning his place at on the king's counsel, Fletcher was also immediately hauled away to await trial for supposedly killing Didric (who's still alive?). Some things get a bit murky or too far-fetched to believe here for the adult reader, but the intended audience probably won't notice. Despite this somewhat muddled beginning with trials and accusations, the real meat of the story comes more than halfway through as Fletcher is back with his team and other summoners along with newcomers and old enemies to journey as four teams to infiltrate the orc stronghold and destroy their horde of goblin eggs.

There are still a lot of underlying tensions other than our heroes/villains. The politics of the day have King Harold mostly powerless against his scheming father and the Triumvirate. There's also the rising potential of a civil war between the men, elves, and dwarves as there have been lots of violence perpetrated by supposed dwarf allies or, as accused, the dwarves themselves. With the infiltration of the orc stronghold, Fletcher's team of elf/dwarf allies carries the added weight of the political tension, especially as each team is led by a strong demon who is broadcasting their efforts to their society (i.e. The Hunger Games). Fletcher and his crew have the potential to make or break alliances for their society as a whole, and this tension plays out between their teams and their relationships within the team itself.

I was totally not prepared for the ending though I had sneaking suspicion there was going to be a pretty nasty twist in the story. (Pssst, I was right!)

Quick! I am anxious to read book 3 after another such shocking cliffhanger! (I realize these keep kids reading and are typical for younger grade books, but I find it torturous. *agonized emoji*) Alas, my library currently has a holds' list, so it'll be some time before I can find out and share a review with you all. Happy reading!


Saturday, August 12, 2017

Stacking the Shelves [267]


Stacking The Shelves is all about sharing the books you are adding to your shelves, may it be physical or virtual. This means you can include books you buy in physical store or online, books you borrow from friends or the library, review books, gifts and of course ebooks!
If you want to find out more about Stacking The Shelves, please visit the official launch page!
——————
 
Enregistrer This was another week where I went just a bit (more than a bit) overboard at NetGalley and Edelweiss. The books always look so fascinating! I can never resist the temptation. There are plenty of worse addictions, aren't there?

The complete pile is over at Reading Reality, but here are just a few teasers to whet your appetite for more books:



A Distant Heart by Sonali Dev
Penric's Fox by Lois McMaster Bujold (I've already reviewed this one!)
The Shift in the Tide by Jeffe Kennedy
Tramps and Thieves by Rhys Ford
Virtue by Victoria Vane

Please link your STS post in the linky below:


Thursday, August 10, 2017

The Novice by Taran Matharu

The Novice by Taran Matharu

Book Stats:  

Reading level: Young Adult
Genre: High Fantasy
Hardcover: 350 pages
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends
Release date: May 5, 2015

Series:  The Summoner, #1

Source: Library

Reviewed by: Kara

Order: Amazon | Book Depository


In this New York Times-bestselling novel full of action and adventure, a blacksmith's apprentice can summon demons. But can he win a war?
Fletcher is working as a blacksmith's apprentice when he discovers he has the rare ability to summon demons from another world. Chased from his village for a crime he did not commit, Fletcher must travel with his demon, Ignatius, to an academy for adepts, where the gifted are taught the art of summoning.
Along with nobles and commoners, Fletcher endures grueling lessons that will prepare him to serve as a Battlemage in the Empire's war against the savage Orcs. But sinister forces infect new friendships and rivalries grow. With no one but Ignatius by his side, Fletcher must decide where his loyalties lie. The fate of the Empire is in his hands. . . .
The Novice by Taran Matharu is book one in the Summoner trilogy, a stunning epic fantasy that started on Wattpad, and garnered over six million views on the site. The paperback edition contains an interview with the author, a special sneak peek of the sequel, The Inquisition, and more.


I've barely been able to keep this book in at my library, and recently got the chance to see why. It is perfect for a middle grade read, especially reluctant reader boys who like fantasy (finished all the John Flanagan series perhaps?), and is also great for those who like Pokemon or other gaming addicts. Young fans of Harry Potter or other 'magic school' books might also like trying this book as you can see Rowling's influence as well as influences of Tolkien in the orcs, elves, dwarves, etc. This series also follows a lot of the traditional fantasy tropes, what with having a mentor, going on a quest/journey, being a hero, fighting against a Dark Lord... However, despite having no few parallels, it still carries its own unique flavor with having summoners who possess certain levels of 'fulfilment' and can thusly control different types of demonic creatures. (Don't read demons as in demons and angels; read demons as magical creatures of the ether.) I found it, while not possessing extensive worldbuilding or levels to the fantasy (not a bad thing for younger readers), still quite enjoyable, engaging, and creative.

Fletcher is an interesting character, if somewhat of a Chosen One. What I liked best is how he befriends the dwarf and the elf, despite the society's tensions going on with dwarves and elves. Fletcher is an outsider and has been all his life, on account of being an orphan, and so he identifies with the other outsiders much easier, making him kind and empathetic to their feelings. He also stands up to bullying and other nastiness for himself and for others, making him a pretty good role model for younger readers. The addition of the dwarf and the elf also adds elements of diversity to the book, which is always great especially when treated as separate characters/identities rather than just as a race. Matharu does a good job of this, and we'll see this develop.

I also really liked the creatures and wish we could have learned more about them in general, as well as the types of magical learning. Still, we'll see more of this in book two, along with my most hated part of the book...

The cliffhanger at the end! No spoilers, but it just abruptly ends! Like this review. Book 2 review coming soon.

Saturday, August 05, 2017

Stacking the Shelves [266]


Stacking The Shelves is all about sharing the books you are adding to your shelves, may it be physical or virtual. This means you can include books you buy in physical store or online, books you borrow from friends or the library, review books, gifts and of course ebooks!
If you want to find out more about Stacking The Shelves, please visit the official launch page!
——————
 
Enregistrer This was a week where my stack overflowed to the point where some of it will appear next week. But this week's Stacking the Shelves at Reading Reality is still rather tall. Actually very tall, or it would be if it was print instead of ebook.

Here are just a few teasers. To see the rest, head on over to Reading Reality!



Duke of Desire (Maiden Lane #12) by Elizabeth Hoyt


Provenance by Ann Leckie


The Ruin of Angels (Craft Sequence #6) by Max Gladstone


Please link your STS post in the linky below:


Thursday, August 03, 2017

His Majesty's Dragon by Naomi Novik

His Majesty's Dragon by Naomi Novik

Book Stats:  

Reading level: Adult
Genre: Fantasy, Historical Fiction
Paperback: 384 pages
Publisher: Del Rey
Release date: March 28, 2006

Series:  Temeraire, #1

Source: Library

Reviewed by: Kara

Order: Amazon | Book Depository

Aerial combat brings a thrilling new dimension to the Napoleonic Wars as valiant warriors rise to Britain’s defense by taking to the skies . . . not aboard aircraft but atop the mighty backs of fighting dragons.

When HMS Reliant captures a French frigate and seizes its precious cargo, an unhatched dragon egg, fate sweeps Capt. Will Laurence from his seafaring life into an uncertain future–and an unexpected kinship with a most extraordinary creature. Thrust into the rarified world of the Aerial Corps as master of the dragon Temeraire, he will face a crash course in the daring tactics of airborne battle. For as France’s own dragon-borne forces rally to breach British soil in Bonaparte’s boldest gambit, Laurence and Temeraire must soar into their own baptism of fire.


I've been recommended to read this book by a few sources as it's been on quite a few "Best of..." fantasy lists for series. I also read Uprooted by the author a few years ago and absolutely loved it. It obviously is somewhat of an older title, but I'm happy to have discovered it. I knew if this book was being compared as Jane Austen plus dragons, I had to read immediately! I am glad I did. I can't wait to read the second (and I'm just waiting for my hold to come in before starting it too).

While some readers might be expecting similarities to other novels about dragons, the closest I can see that bears resemblance is in Harry Potter as each region has a few different types of dragons that are native to the area. This is where the comparisons cease, however. Temeraire himself is a very unique dragon. Dragons are bonded to their handler at hatching, and if not harnessed by this handler, they have a risk to become feral. When Temeraire hatches, instead of allowing his handler to be chosen for him, he sort of chooses himself, walking right up to our hero Will Laurence and talking to him, thereby making it Laurence's immediate task to be his handler and harness him. Temeraire also has excellent speech and reasoning capabilities, popping out of the egg like some small professor-ish dragon, a Doogie Howser dragon. This is exceedingly rare, as most dragons known at that time either require lengthy effort to have such reasoning skills (learned with age) or simply are not capable of the quick thinking that Temeraire displays. Laurence and Temeraire's relationship is comparatively more like two gentleman smoking cigars around a fire discussing politics and mathematics and other logic games than a mentor/mentee or parent/child relationship even while the dragon is relatively young.

Another bit that bears some getting used to is the language in the book. It really does read more stiffly and with genteel decorum much like Austen's novels rather than include more contemporary language. Since it has this boundary, there are some slight crossovers in the world that have to be addressed from Austen's regency period to cover some modern ideas. For instance, Laurence has to explain about whores to Temeraire and dress down some young boys for their actions. There are also women avaitors flying dragons who wear men's clothing and for all manner of purpose are addressed as men rather than 'lady' or 'miss' so-and-so like they would have been in proper society. All in all, it's very entertaining, and I'm quite keen to read the next, Throne of Jade.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Stacking the Shelves [265]


Stacking The Shelves is all about sharing the books you are adding to your shelves, may it be physical or virtual. This means you can include books you buy in physical store or online, books you borrow from friends or the library, review books, gifts and of course ebooks!
If you want to find out more about Stacking The Shelves, please visit the official launch page!
——————
 
Enregistrer Sometimes we really do judge a book by its cover - at least long enough to decide whether we might want to dip into it or not. This week I was definitely tempted to pick up a couple (few, more than a few) books for their covers. My complete (and rather tall) stack is over at Reading Reality, but let me present you with a few covers so that you may be equally teased.



The Bookworm by Mitch Silver


Edinburgh Twilight by Carole Lawrence

 


Hate to Want You and Wrong to Need You by Alisha Rai (I picked up both of them because I loved the cover of Wrong to Need You so much!)


Please link your STS post in the linky below:


Thursday, July 27, 2017

Traitor to the Throne by Alwyn Hamilton


Traitor to the Throne by Alwyn Hamilton

Book Stats:  

Reading level: Young Adult
Genre: High Fantasy, Mythology
Hardcover: 513 pages
Publisher: Viking
Release date: March 7, 2017

Series:  Rebel of the Sands, #2

Source: Library

Reviewed by: Kara

Order: Amazon | Book Depository


The sizzling, un-put-downable sequel to the New York Times bestselling Rebel of the Sands, by the Goodreads Choice Awards Best Debut Author of 2016!

Mere months ago, gunslinger Amani al'Hiza fled her dead-end hometown on the back of a mythical horse with the mysterious foreigner Jin, seeking only her own freedom. Now she's fighting to liberate the entire desert nation of Miraji from a bloodthirsty sultan who slew his own father to capture the throne.

When Amani finds herself thrust into the epicenter of the regime—the Sultan's palace—she's determined to bring the tyrant down. Desperate to uncover the Sultan's secrets by spying on his court, she tries to forget that Jin disappeared just as she was getting closest to him, and that she's a prisoner of the enemy. But the longer she remains, the more she questions whether the Sultan is really the villain she's been told he is, and who’s the real traitor to her sun-bleached, magic-filled homeland.

Forget everything you thought you knew about Miraji, about the rebellion, about djinni and Jin and the Blue-Eyed Bandit. In Traitor to the Throne, the only certainty is that everything will change.

Rebel of the Sands was a New York Times bestseller, published in fifteen countries and the recipient of four starred reviews and multiple accolades. But its sequel is even better.


This did not have second book syndrome! It was fantastic! Only made me love this series even more.

Since book 1, we've discovered that Amani is not human or Gallan at all, but that she is Demdji, a child of a human and a Djinni, and possesses particularly powerful magic over sand. This part of her needs to be kept quiet though as some factions kill Demdji and others sell their body parts for magical talismans. Instead, her skill with a gun helps her hide her magic, as Demdji cannot use their powers if touching metal. Additionally, we found out that Jin is, in fact, the Rebel Prince's half-brother and son of the Sultan. We also see Amani's cousin Shira and her old friend Tamid again. No spoilers here, but it surprised me!

In the first book, there was only hints of magic, but here, with Amani learning to use her Demdji heritage, there's already considerably more. We also are introduced to a real Djinni in the form of Amani's father, and with both, there is more myth and legend that creep up to make an appearance in this book, including more steampunk-like aspects.

This second installment begins with some separation of the events in Rebel of the Sands as her previous adventures were mostly with Jin. Now, Jin is largely gone for most of the book and Amani is more of a leader. On this trip to liberate a city for the Rebel Prince, she finds her long-lost aunt, Safiyah, who eventually betrays her, selling Amani to the Sultan. (Who would do this to their niece?! Too bad her mother isn't around to kick her greedy sister in the pants...) The Sultan has particular interest in Demdji, and he has Amani summon the Djinni who was her father, though she doesn't know why. Why does he want Djinni under his control? However, Amani is still determined to do her part for the rebellion. She is placed in the Sultan's harem and desired greatly by the Sultim, the Sultan's heir, which doesn't leave her in much of a favorable position, especially since the Sultan has taken precautions to keep her captive and obedient. After all, Demdji cannot tell lies. Still, Amani is able to gain some knowledge and allies while being in a pit of vipers...

My favorite part about this read is how Amani gets a chance to change things all on her own, with requested help, but still, she makes the decisions and takes the actions. She becomes more independent and in making her own choices, makes her own messes too. The ending and plot twists will, once again, blow you away.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Stacking the Shelves [264]


Stacking The Shelves is all about sharing the books you are adding to your shelves, may it be physical or virtual. This means you can include books you buy in physical store or online, books you borrow from friends or the library, review books, gifts and of course ebooks!
If you want to find out more about Stacking The Shelves, please visit the official launch page!
——————
 
Enregistrer Last week I had a stack that seemed to be several feet (or even meters!) tall. This week was a bit more manageable, but there are still a couple of books that I really, really can't wait to read. So here are just a couple of teasers from this week's not-so-tall stack over at Reading Reality.


Christmas in Icicle Falls by Sheila Roberts should probably receive a ten-yard penalty for "rushing the season" but this is a lovely series and I can never resist picking them up.


I just had to grab Level Up by Cathy Yardley, because I'm in the middle of the second book in this series, One True Pairing, and it's terrific. For all of us geek girls who have dreamed of meeting our favorite fandom crushes, this series looks like a winner.


Please link your STS post in the linky below:


Friday, July 21, 2017

Clockwork Princess by Cassandra Clare

Clockwork Princess by Cassandra Clare

Book Stats:  

Reading level:Young Adult
Genre: Steampunk / fantasy
Hardcover: 567 pages
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books
Release date: September 5th, 2013

Series:  The Infernal Devices #3

Source: Purchased

Reviewed by: Tynga

Order: Amazon | Book Depository

Danger and betrayal, love and loss, secrets and enchantment are woven together in the breathtaking finale to the #1 New York Times bestselling Infernal Devices Trilogy, prequel to the internationally bestselling Mortal Instruments series. THE INFERNAL DEVICES WILL NEVER STOP COMING A net of shadows begins to tighten around the Shadowhunters of the London Institute. Mortmain plans to use his Infernal Devices, an army of pitiless automatons, to destroy the Shadowhunters. He needs only one last item to complete his plan: he needs Tessa Gray. Charlotte Branwell, head of the London Institute, is desperate to find Mortmain before he strikes. But when Mortmain abducts Tessa, the boys who lay equal claim to her heart, Jem and Will, will do anything to save her. For though Tessa and Jem are now engaged, Will is as much in love with her as ever. As those who love Tessa rally to rescue her from Mortmain’s clutches, Tessa realizes that the only person who can save her is herself. But can a single girl, even one who can command the power of angels, face down an entire army? Danger and betrayal, secrets and enchantment, and the tangled threads of love and loss intertwine as the Shadowhunters are pushed to the very brink of destruction in the breathtaking conclusion to the Infernal Devices trilogy.

I am very late to this party. I LOVED Clockwork Prince so much when I read it that I didn't want to read Clockwork Princess right away. I just couldn't face the fact that it was that last book in the trilogy. I was not ready to let go! It was a double-edged knife though because I had a hard time getting back into the story. In fact, I thought the first half was really dragging and it wasn't until Tessa was kidnapped that I finally felt engaged in this last installment. 

There are many aspects I liked and disliked about this novel so I am in a solid grey zone here. First, Tessa... I loved her a lot more in the previous books. In this one she really feels like a damsel in distress and does no fighting what-so-ever despite having some training now. And the romance killed me. I've always thought she should be with Will, and her engagement with Jem never made sense to me. And I won't spoil anything for you, but I am not happy with how things played out romantically. 

On the other side, we FINALLY got answers about Tessa. Who her ancestors are, how she came to be, more info about her clockwork angel and toward the end, she finally used per power. Something she should've done more instead of being a defenseless lady (which she shouldn't be!). 

Will. I love Will and always have. The poor boy is sooo tortured though, sometimes it's hard to read. I loved that he took matters in his own hands though and worked hard toward his goals. I also really like his relationship with Magnus and I wished there was more of it. Those two make quite the pair! 

One of the aspect I loved most is how strong Charlotte is. She is a natural leader and she is caring and compassionate for her shadowhunters. She works really hard to do what is best even if she has no support. The difficult trail in front of her doesn't make her shy away and I command her for that. Despite her own loses, I was happy for her at the end of this novel.

Even though I didn't like this novel as much as I wanted too, the epilogue really kindled my passion for the Shadowhunter world. I feel a urge to re-read The Mortal Instruments series to see if I overlooked the appearances of some of the immortal characters, or if my perspective on some other characters will change now that I know their ancestors.  I haven't read book 5 and 6 of that series yet, so I will pick them up very soon, that's for sure. 

In conclusion, the books in the world are much better than the movie and the TV show. I urge you to pick up 'em up for an entertaining ride! 



Thursday, July 20, 2017

Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor

Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor

Book Stats:  

Reading level: Young Adult
Genre: High Fantasy
Hardcover: 532 pages
Publisher: Little, Brown & Company
Release date: March 28, 2017

Series:  Strange the Dreamer, #1

Source: Library

Reviewed by: Kara

Order: Amazon | Book Depository


A new epic fantasy by National Book Award finalist and New York Times bestselling author Laini Taylor of the Daughter of Smoke & Bone trilogy.
The dream chooses the dreamer, not the other way around--and Lazlo Strange, war orphan and junior librarian, has always feared that his dream chose poorly. Since he was five years old he's been obsessed with the mythic lost city of Weep, but it would take someone bolder than he to cross half the world in search of it. Then a stunning opportunity presents itself, in the person of a hero called the Godslayer and a band of legendary warriors, and he has to seize his chance to lose his dream forever.
What happened in Weep two hundred years ago to cut it off from the rest of the world? What exactly did the Godslayer slay that went by the name of god? And what is the mysterious problem he now seeks help in solving?
The answers await in Weep, but so do more mysteries--including the blue-skinned goddess who appears in Lazlo's dreams. How did he dream her before he knew she existed? and if all the gods are dead, why does she seem so real?
In this sweeping and breathtaking new novel by National Book Award finalist Laini Taylor, author of the New York Times bestselling Daughter of Smoke & Bone trilogy, the shadow of the past is as real as the ghosts who haunt the citadel of murdered gods. Fall into a mythical world of dread and wonder, moths and nightmares, love and carnage.
Welcome to Weep.


It's been some time that Laini Taylor has been working on this book, and I believe the publishing date got pushed back about 6 months from a previous announcement; so there's been plenty of anticipation!

Unlike her first series that starts with action and intrigue, this novel takes a much slower pace to establish the background, characters, and conflict. Because there are so many unknowns about the city of Weep and magic and barriers to Lazlo finding things out, the reader might find it confusing to follow at first. However, about 25% of the way through, the novel really picks up once Lazlo is in Weep and Sarai sees Lazlo through his dreams. Here the novel really grips you and carries you all the way to the finish, so if you're struggling, try and make it to this point in the book! I was surprised to find how much I liked it, actually, and surprises at the end just kept coming! (I did read where another review found this to be the opposite, that the beginning was fast and rich and the end was more of a slower slog...well, each reader their own!)

There are two things that are really great about this book: 1) Sarai and Lazlo's romance, which is so atypical and 2) the myth and magic of the lushly descriptive worldbuilding that really brings the world alive if not fully realized/revealed to the reader.

To understand a bit of the romance, I'll have to spoiler a bit. Sarai is one of the half-human gods' children living above the city of Weep and all of them have interesting abilities. Sarai is able to turn most of her (her spirit? her soul?) into moths and have them fly down to land on people in the city and influence their dreams. Lazlo is a newcomer to Weep, and when Sarai investigates him, he is able to see her, something no one else has ever been able to do before. They fall in love through the dream and the meeting of their minds, which is really beautiful and full of wonderfully rich imagery. As the reader experiences this with them, it is also the tale of two outsiders finding somewhere to belong and connect, and ultimately, shows possibilities of peace and hope for the future.

Laini Taylor has always been fantastic with description and making such creative, unusual fantasies and this one is no exception. At times, you're having to read so slow because you just don't want to miss the details and care in the setting creation. Weep, the creatures, descriptions of Lazlo himself...it's worth it to take your time to experience the history, the juxtaposition of opposing forces, and the emotion captured into words.

I also have to add, I loved how Lazlo is a librarian and has such passion for books and learning. (Shameless plug here for great librarians and readers/lovers of fantasy. Thanks, Laini!)

Here's one of my favorite quotes from the book:
"What's the point of being old if you can't beleaguer the young with your vast stores of wisdom?" - Master Hyrrokin
"And what's the point of being young if you can't ignore all advice?" - Lazlo
One last thing, you may not realize this is a series while reading it, but once you reach the end, it's rather obvious. So just know, we will probably be waiting over a year for book 2 (tentatively called The Muse of Nightmares though no other details have been released except that it exists as a duology) if you pick this one up, just in case you're a reader who likes to avoid book hangovers!

For two great interviews with the author on Strange the Dreamer and writing, see this one from USA Today and the other from Bustle.