**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.

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Stacking the Shelves [274]


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!
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Enregistrer I got lots of goodies this week, but this time I'd like to highlight a couple of my favorite self-published authors, both of whom sent me new books this week. If you want to see my entire Stacking the Shelves, it's over at Reading Reality. As usual.



Hell Squad: Ash by Anna Hackett

I got hooked on Anna's writing many, many books ago. Probably with the first Phoenix Adventures  book, At Star's End. But I love everything she writes. Several of her series are in my favorite genre, science fiction romance - and for those who are new to SFR, she never drowns the reader in technobabble. But each series is distinct and different in spite of being in the same genre. Hell Squad is post-apocalyptic, Galactic Gladiators are about space-traveling pit fighters and the Phoenix Adventures feature intergalactic treasure hunters. She also has a contemporary action-adventure-romance series, Treasure Hunter Security, that I'm almost certain is going to be a very loose "prequel" for the Phoenix Adventures, because those two families must be related! But if you are looking for a non-stop action both of the adventurous kind and between the sheets, you cannot go wrong with any of Anna's series. Start with At Star's End, Marcus, Gladiator or Undiscovered, depending on which flavor of action-adventure floats your boat. Better yet - collect the set - they are all awesome.



River Rising by John A. Heldt

I discovered John Heldt's books way, way back, as one of the international book lovers at the late and much lamented Book Lovers Inc blog. If you like time travel romance, and you have not discovered John Heldt, you are in for a real treat. His first book, The Mine, is one of the best time travel romances I've ever read. Right up there with Outlander. But The Mine, and all of his books, are marvelously different. Not just because he clearly does one hell of a lot of research (as does Gabaldon) but because his time travelers travel back in the United States, and to parts of history that were epochal but still very much part of our collective conscious. And he does an absolutely terrific job of making us feel what they feel - both the joys of discovery and the heartache of knowing what must come, no matter what. Heartbreakingly beautiful books, every single one.

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Thursday, September 28, 2017

Frostblood by Elly Blake

Frostblood by Elly Blake

Book Stats:  

Reading level: Young Adult
Genre: High Fantasy
Hardcover: 384 pages
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Release date: January 10, 2017

Series:  Frostblood Saga, #1

Source: Library

Reviewed by: Kara

Order: Amazon | Book Depository

This New York Times bestseller is perfect for fans of Red Queen.
Seventeen-year-old Ruby is a Fireblood who has concealed her powers of heat and flame from the cruel Frostblood ruling class her entire life. But when her mother is killed trying to protect her, and rebel Frostbloods demand her help to overthrow their bloodthirsty king, she agrees to come out of hiding, desperate to have her revenge.
Despite her unpredictable abilities, Ruby trains with the rebels and the infuriating--yet irresistible--Arcus, who seems to think of her as nothing more than a weapon. But before they can take action, Ruby is captured and forced to compete in the king's tournaments that pit Fireblood prisoners against Frostblood champions. Now she has only one chance to destroy the maniacal ruler who has taken everything from her--and from the icy young man she has come to love.
Vivid and compelling, Frostblood is the first in an exhilarating series about a world where flame and ice are mortal enemies...but together create a power that could change everything.

I started this book with excited anticipation, but after reading almost 3/4, I realized my problems with it were just not going to improve. I felt there was very little character development among our three mostly main characters: Brother Thistle, Arcus, and Ruby. Ruby does not stand out as a heroine and doesn't have much past besides her grandmother's stories and her mother dying almost immediately into the book. She also is pretty weak overall, and it's hard to see what strengths she has other than a temper. She has no other features to define her like a love of plants or animals or skills that set her apart. Her storyline is lending into a typical Chosen One where she'll be tempted by darkness, prophesied about, etc. And this brings up mostly what is wrong with this story: there's nothing that seems to be unique or stand out from the genre. It all feels borrowed from fantasy trope and predictable. Her romance with Arcus is also lackluster, as Arcus is secretive, brooding, and ultimately unimpressive in any detail that is revealed about his character. For most of the story, Ruby is either imprisoned or "in training" in an abby dedicated to Fors, a deity who takes in refugees. However, as a Fireblood, Ruby is largely hated. She's also (conveniently?) the only one of her kind left. She is supposed to be the only one who can kill the king and have an unstoppable Fireblood gift, but due to her weakness of character, this is very unbelievable.

The worldbuilding wasn't bad as I liked the details about the different gods, but it wasn't too clear what the history was and didn't make the reader feel fully immersed in the fantasy at all. There was little detail to the setting to set it apart or make it come alive. Ultimately, any reader who picks this up might enjoy it until they discover better written fantasies. There wasn't even enough suspense left for me to continue the book, much less try reading book 2, Fireblood, due to be released next month. After turning the book over, I also noticed it was highly praised by Morgan Rhodes, whose fantasies I also have a lot of problems with. I should have known better. Though I really liked Red Queen, which this was blurbed to have similarities to that title, this shot didn't even come close to being as good despite this beautiful cover. My opinion? Try Red Queen instead.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Stacking the Shelves [273]


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!
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Enregistrer And we're back with another edition of "As the Bookshelf Groans", otherwise known as Stacking the Shelves. Or, as is usual in my case, Overstacking the Shelves. My complete stack, as usual, is over at Reading Reality. But there are, as always, a couple of books I want to tease you with - I meant highlight.



The Lost Plot (Invisible Library #4) by Genevieve Cogman

If you believe that there is magic in books - I certainly do - the Invisible Library series is an absolute delight, starting with the first book, the introduction to this marvelous gateway between worlds, The Invisible Library. As The Lost Plot won't be found until early January, you have plenty of time to get caught up before Librarian Irene Adler's next breathless adventure.



A Spoonful of Magic by Irene Radford

I don't know about you, but I could certainly use a kitchen witch. (Especially in the morning, before I've had my first caffeine injection). But seriously, this one just sounds like a terrific start to a new urban fantasy series.


Please link your STS post in the linky below:


Thursday, September 21, 2017

Truthwitch by Susan Dennard

Truthwitch by Susan Dennard

Book Stats:  

Reading level: Young Adult
Genre: High Fantasy
Hardcover: 416 pages
Publisher: TOR Teen
Release date: January 5, 2016

Series:  The Witchlands, #1

Source: Library

Reviewed by: Kara

Order: Amazon | Book Depository

The instant New York Times bestseller from the author of the Something Strange and Deadly series!

On a continent ruled by three empires, some are born with a "witchery," a magical skill that sets them apart from others.

In the Witchlands, there are almost as many types of magic as there are ways to get in trouble--as two desperate young women know all too well.

Safiya is a Truthwitch, able to discern truth from lie. It's a powerful magic that many would kill to have on their side, especially amongst the nobility to which Safi was born. So Safi must keep her gift hidden, lest she be used as a pawn in the struggle between empires.

Iseult, a Threadwitch, can see the invisible ties that bind and entangle the lives around her--but she cannot see the bonds that touch her own heart. Her unlikely friendship with Safi has taken her from life as an outcast into one of of reckless adventure, where she is a cool, wary balance to Safi's hotheaded impulsiveness.

Safi and Iseult just want to be free to live their own lives, but war is coming to the Witchlands. With the help of the cunning Prince Merik (a Windwitch and ship's captain) and the hindrance of a Bloodwitch bent on revenge, the friends must fight emperors, princes, and mercenaries alike, who will stop at nothing to get their hands on a Truthwitch.

As I have a different opinion of this book than another reviewer, I thought I would talk about why I had such an alternate view.

I had such high hopes for this book. The cover is gorgeous. The idea of the novel is very intriguing, BUT (you did sense the BUT coming, didn't you?) there were quite a few big flaws that just made it a big disappointment.

First, there is too much action and too fast a pace to make sense. The story starts out with Safi and Iseult being chased due to setting a nasty trap for the wrong person. Why are they setting traps and robbing people? We never find out. Then, they are chased a few pages later again out of the city. And soon after that, Iseult must flee out of her former family's encampment due to a controlling Cursewitch and her mother's rushed escape plan. She meets up with Safi again, and both are being hunted by a Bloodwitch and having to flee the Empire aboard a Nubrevnan ship. A ship which has been contracted to spirit Safi away from her future husband and life as Empress and being chased by the Marstoks and the Cartorrans. It just keeps being a, pardon my terrible pun, witchhunt! There's no rest or time to get to know our characters without these super high, run-for-your-life stakes. Also, what is the point of being hunted anyway? Supposedly, it is because Safi is a Truthwitch and anyone who is a Truthwitch has the potential to be used for their power. What makes this different from being used as an Ironwitch or Threadwitch though?

There are many instances that pull the reader from the suspension of disbelief, bringing my next point to light: the lack of good worldbuilding. There's some great bones, but a lot of things are not explained that should be. Other readers/reviewers were asking about a glossary. This wouldn't be necessary if things were explained in the book at all. For instance, what is a Threadsister/brother? What makes this bond between Safi and Iseult so special? How many different types of witches are there? What makes them different from regular people? Can the Bloodwitch only hunt people with witcheries or anybody with blood? It's really frustrating, frankly, not to have these explained, and ultimately ruined this book entirely for me. Part of writing fantasy is that you have to have well-established worldbuilding and this just didn't, as it didn't support the elements it introduced. We don't find out a lot of things that really would have made the story come fully alive. Although I did finish this book, it just didn't interest me enough to even bother about reading book 2, Windwitch. I liked the characters mostly, but really wanted more of the focus on Safi and Iseult as they are there to hold the story up. The introduction of Merik is nice, but his connection with Safi just became too tiresome after awhile as it was mainly insta-love.

Side note: I noticed that Susan Dennard is bffs with Sarah Maas after getting to the acknowledgements. This is also probably should have clued me in that I was going to be disappointed as Sarah Maas and I don't get along.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Stacking the Shelves [272]


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!
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Enregistrer After Hurricane Irma blew through last week, it looks like the next two, Jose and Katia, are headed off the U.S. east coast and well away from the places that are currently still bailing out after Harvey and Irma. That's the good news.

And, as always, there have been more books added to the virtually towering TBR stack. It's important to have plenty of choices of stuff to read in any crisis - or just because. The complete stack is over at Reading Reality, but here are just a few teasers...




Cold Hearted Rake, Marrying Winterborne, Devil in Spring (The Ravenels series) by Lisa Kleypas

I read a spotlight/promo/teaser for the next book in the series, Hello, Stranger, and it just sounded to good that I had to borrow the first three books from the library. I'll have plenty of time (hopefully) to get caught up before the new one comes out in February.


The Lady Travelers Guide to Larceny with a Dashing Stranger by Victoria Alexander

In addition to meriting an award for longest title ever, this is the second book in the series, after The Lady Travelers Guide to Scoundrels & Other Gentlemen, which I read and which was an absolute hoot. So I'm looking forward to this one.

Please link your STS post in the linky below:


Thursday, September 14, 2017

The Forgetting by Sharon Cameron

The Forgetting by Sharon Cameron

Book Stats:  

Reading level: Young Adult
Genre: Fantasy, Space fiction
Hardcover: 403 pages
Publisher: Scholastic
Release date: June 27, 2017

Series:  The Forgetting, #1

Source: Library

Reviewed by: Kara

Order: Amazon | Book Depository

What isn't written, isn't remembered. Even your crimes. Nadia lives in the city of Canaan, where life is safe and structured, hemmed in by white stone walls and no memory of what came before. But every twelve years the city descends into the bloody chaos of the Forgetting, a day of no remorse, when each person's memories -- of parents, children, love, life, and self -- are lost. Unless they have been written.

In Canaan, your book is your truth and your identity, and Nadia knows exactly who hasn't written the truth. Because Nadia is the only person in Canaan who has never forgotten.

But when Nadia begins to use her memories to solve the mysteries of Canaan, she discovers truths about herself and Gray, the handsome glassblower, that will change her world forever. As the anarchy of the Forgetting approaches, Nadia and Gray must stop an unseen enemy that threatens both their city and their own existence -- before the people can forget the truth. And before Gray can forget her.

This was such a unique book and idea! While it seems like it could be overwhelming with all of the details at first, it was carefully put together and gave just enough information to keep the reader engaged without being lost. At first, I was trying to see how this civilization might resemble a former Canaan of the Bible, but don't bother. I think the only reason it is referenced this way is that it is another "promised land" of a sort, though any further description means spoilering some awesome revelations at the end.

Nadia is special among the residents of Canaan because she hasn't forgotten. She tries to make plans for her family so that in case they forget again, she will keep them together. Until Gray helps, she is basically running a one-girl band to find out the truth behind the Forgetting. Additionally, Nadia is one of the few that recognizes the emotional trauma of being forgotten and lost and left behind. That's possibly a great metaphor to explore, and one that invokes a sad reminder of the effects of today's dementia and Alzheimer's diseases. It's really wrenching to picture a child or teen going through that!

From the very beginning, I kept expecting Gray or someone to betray her/them. It happens, but not quite the same way I pictured. What is really phenomenal is how you don't really realize that this is science fiction and specifically dystopian space fiction until much later in the book. I would have really wanted to find out more about the details of this, but perhaps that is coming in the sequel The Knowing coming out next month, October 2017. (It should be noted that this sequel does not continue the story of Nadia but has whole new characters since it takes place well after this book.)

The character description and character development were great. They really stick with you, and so many of them do change throughout the course of the novel, including Gray and Nadia. There are a few things that are rather disturbing about the book such as the killings, physical abuse, lost or orphaned children, and torture. Some things may be traumatizing to middle school readers, especially if they couldn't take similar themes in The Hunger Games either.

As a librarian, the idea of the books and the archives was intriguing and fun. I really enjoyed this aspect, especially when Nadia gains a job at the Archives. However, no way would I want my own book collection. I definitely would not want to have to write everything down, have other people potentially read what I've written and take advantage of it, nor to forget my family if my books were lost or destroyed. Again, super personally thought provoking! I enjoyed this one more than Rook but not as much as her two steampunk novels. Still can't wait to see what The Knowing holds!

Saturday, September 09, 2017

Stacking the Shelves [271]


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 And it's Christmas! Not really, but my stack is beginning to look a lot like it might be. A few holiday books have already trickled in, but this week I have two from a couple of my favorite authors. The rest of my stack over at Reading Reality is a bit less Christmas-y. At least so far.

I don't know about you, but even the idea of lots of snow is more fun to contemplate than another hurricane. Harvey was awful, and now Irma is on the horizon. It may deal us a glancing blow in Atlanta, but nothing like the folks in Florida are going to get!

Stay safe everyone!


Christmastime Cowboy by Maisey Yates

This is book 10 in Yates' Copper Ridge contemporary western romance series. And although there was one clunker in the series, at least for me, all the others that I have read have been absolutely marvelous. If you like your heroines with a bit of all-too-real angst, this series is a winner.


Hold Her Again by Shannon Stacey

I first discovered Stacey through one of the Carina Press holiday anthologies, way back in 2011 or 2012. She just writes terrific contemporary romance, and her books are always marvelous.

Please link your STS post in the linky below:


Thursday, September 07, 2017

Flame in the Mist by Renée Ahdieh

Flame in the Mist by Renée Ahdieh

Book Stats:  

Reading level: Young Adult
Genre: Fantasy
Hardcover: 416 pages
Publisher: G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers
Release date: May 16, 2017

Series:  Flame in the Mist, #1

Source: Library

Reviewed by: Kara

Order: Amazon | Book Depository

From the #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Wrath and the Dawn, comes a sweeping, action-packed YA adventure set against the backdrop of Feudal Japan where Mulan meets Throne of Glass.

The daughter of a prominent samurai, Mariko has long known her place—she may be an accomplished alchemist, whose cunning rivals that of her brother Kenshin, but because she is not a boy, her future has always been out of her hands. At just seventeen years old, Mariko is promised to Minamoto Raiden, the son of the emperor's favorite consort—a political marriage that will elevate her family's standing. But en route to the imperial city of Inako, Mariko narrowly escapes a bloody ambush by a dangerous gang of bandits known as the Black Clan, who she learns has been hired to kill her before she reaches the palace.
     Dressed as a peasant boy, Mariko sets out to infiltrate the Black Clan and track down those responsible for the target on her back. Once she's within their ranks, though, Mariko finds for the first time she's appreciated for her intellect and abilities. She even finds herself falling in love—a love that will force her to question everything she's ever known about her family, her purpose, and her deepest desires.


I loved her other series of The Wrath and the Dawn so I was keen on reading this one as soon as I could (plus, she's a fellow North Carolinian)! I wanted to like this book just as much as TWATD, but I just...didn't. I listened to this on audiobook, and that made the Japanese accents and names and history come alive, but I might have missed some key details that I otherwise would not have if I had read the book. Maybe at a second reading I'll have a different perspective, but I might just not even try. :(

This was marketed as Mulan meets Throne of Glass. Now, I love Mulan, but I absolutely really dislike Throne of Glass, so that wasn't a sell for me. The Mulan comparison comes from a girl masquerading as a boy and learning to fight, possibly also from Mulan's headstrong tendency to do as she likes rather than what people tell her to do. Unlike Mulan, I didn't feel like we really understood a picture of Mariko's personality and background before she was attacked/left for dead and then insinuates herself with the Black Clan. She seems a bit of a Mary Sue as we find out she's gifted at swordplay, alchemy/chemistry, and designing weaponry. Other than the fact that she is not like other girls and does not pretend to be the perfect ideal noble girl, most of her personality and skills are bland. She also has a typical blind eye towards other's feelings, especially if they are of a lesser station than she is. When she discovers abuses her family has done to their servants, she is shocked. It's rather like she just woke up to seeing the suffering of others since she was attacked. This seemed very...unbelievable.

Another of the things I missed was about Ōkami and Ronmaru, and apparently, Mariko missed it too. It's partially a spoiler, so I won't go into it here, but the last bit of the ending was confusing and didn't make enough sense. Perhaps this is due to the cliffhanger but I think it was simply too farfetched an idea, or due to the fact that our main character is so blind, the reader is too. I enjoyed the descriptions and writing and romance (!) though somehow missed this was actually feudal Japan with a bit of magic thrown in. The magic also is hard to grasp, as there are shadowy figures or animals and a fierce jungle cat that seems like something magical. Ōkami has some weird power too that seems magical, but none of this is explained because Mariko is kept so much in the dark. Without these explanations, I was just frustrated overall and wanted more from this story as I really think it could have been amazing. The romance was quite honestly the best part, so if you want some steamy kisses...

Did anyone else read this? What did you think?

Read an excerpt.

Saturday, September 02, 2017

Stacking the Shelves [270]


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 Happy Labor Day weekend to everyone in the U.S. I hope that you are able to enjoy this last unofficial weekend of summer, and the Monday holiday.

But wherever you are, I hope you have wonderful things to read! In case you are looking for something to read, here are a couple of teasers. My complete stack is over at Reading Reality.



Embrace the Romance: Pets in Space 2 by S.E. Smith, M.K. Eidem, Susan Grant, Michele Howard, Cara Bristol, Veronica Scott, Pauline Baird Jones, Laurie A. Green , Sabine Priestley, Jessica E. Subject

This is the second Pets in Space collection. Last year's entry, just titled Pets in Space, had some absolutely lovely science fiction romance short stories and novellas, where the heroes and heroines achieve their HEAs with the help, or sometimes the hindrance of their space-faring pets, everything from cyber-dogs to dragons to robots. I'm really looking forward to the new collection!



Unmapped by Anna Hackett

Unmapped is the latest in Anna Hackett's marvelous action-adventure romance series, Treasure Hunter Security. I finished it last night (review coming this week at Reading Reality) and it's great fun. Antarctica hasn't seen this much action since they discovered the second Stargate!


Please link your STS post in the linky below: