**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, January 27, 2018

Stacking the Shelves [291]

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 I didn't see much of anything interesting, at least not until one of those Amazon suggestion thingies, the ones that say "if you liked this you'll like that" actually paid off. Or at least I hope so. The series certainly looks interesting - and I was able to get them from the library, which is highly appropriate, as they are library-based mysteries.

In addition to that little teaser, I also received an eARC for the next Amanda Quick book. I read Promise Not to Tell this week and absolutely loved it, so I'm really looking forward to this one! I always love her work, whether she's writing as Amanda Quick, Jayne Castle or Jayne Ann Krentz. Her books are always great reads!

The rest of my stack is, as always, over at Reading Reality.

Books Can Be Deceiving (Library Lover's Mystery #1) by Jenn McKinlay

The Other Lady Vanishes by Amanda Quick

Please link your STS post in the linky below:

Thursday, January 25, 2018

All the Crooked Saints by Maggie Stiefvater

All the Crooked Saints by Maggie Stiefvater

Book Stats:  

Reading level: Young Adult
Genre: Fantasy, historical fiction
Hardcover: 311 pages
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Release date: October 10, 2017

Source: Library

Reviewed by: Kara

Order: Amazon | Book Depository

Here is a thing everyone wants:

A miracle.

Here is a thing everyone fears:

What it takes to get one.

Any visitor to Bicho Raro, Colorado, is likely to find a landscape of dark saints, forbidden love, scientific dreams, miracle-mad owls, estranged affections, one or two orphans, and a sky full of watchful desert stars.

At the heart of this place you will find the Soria family, who all have the ability to perform unusual miracles. And at the heart of this family are three cousins longing to change its future: Beatriz, the girl without feelings, who wants only to be free to examine her thoughts; Daniel, the Saint of Bicho Raro, who performs miracles for everyone but himself; and Joaquin, who spends his nights running a renegade radio station under the name Diablo Diablo.

They are all looking for a miracle. But the miracles of Bicho Raro are never quite what you expect.

If you all didn't know, I'm a big Stiefvater fan. I think she writes such descriptive, lyrical fantasy and unforgettable characters. Two months ago, I was so thrilled to be able to go see Maggie when she came to YALLFest in Charleston, SC.

[This is obviously not a great picture. Sorry! I had to super hurry because she had tons of people in line and a very limited time to sign, so we were all trying to be quick and accommodating so as many of her fans could see her as possible (and I met the nicest two people in line that day, Bonnie and Kirsten!).]

This is Maggie Stiefvater's second standalone novel, after The Scorpio Races, and is a very odd little book. It has more world-building at the start than most of her books, and is just so niche, and yet positively wonderful. It's rather a redemption story and more magical realism than fantasy. If this is the first book of hers you pick up, you might be caught off guard, especially new teen readers, as it unfolds much more slowly. It contains a lot of characters and presents a number of facts the reader must keep straight to appreciate fully the scope and beauty of the novel. The reader is told of what each character wants and fears, but also of exceedingly strange impossibilities that strain credibility and threaten to make you break the suspension of disbelief barrier.

However, if you're able to get past this, you'll discover it's actually a gem. No, it doesn't beat my favorite of her novels, The Scorpio Races, nor is it quite as beloved as the Raven Boys series. Still, it's a story about a Latin American family, the Sorias, who have a particular set of gifts; they're saints and can perform miracles if they choose. Pilgrims have journeyed from all over to get a miracle out of desperation, and when their darkness is revealed into some manifestation, they must somehow conquer it to be fully healed. However, the sainted Sorias also have fatal flaws: if they interfere with the miracles they grant, their own darkness is revealed and can destroy any number of them. Therefore, the Sorias perform the miracles and then adhere to strict guidelines to stay away from the pilgrims desperate to find their second miracle and be fully healed. The pilgrims meanwhile are growing in number and must live with their particular affliction, like Jennie who can only speak by repeating back what people say to her. What you don't expect is that all the Sorias are pilgrims themselves, even if they don't realize it, and throughout the book, both pilgrims and Sorias have some lessons to learn about letting miracles come to fruition. It exposes a unique truth about being human -- that we all have flaws, big and little; some of us try to improve them, but you can still find the beauty in imperfections and courage in the effort of conquering them.

As far as the representation of Latinx culture, I can't really speak with any authority on that, but it didn't feel offensive to me. It felt rather like it brought out some truths that could be out there and happen to apply to this family. I enjoyed that this had a different perspective of culture and setting.  [I think we're all pretty tired of reading only about white people, and honestly, writing about only yourself (which you can't change) is boring and unimaginative and kind of selfish. How much better to write about different people and bring them to life in a unique way?] I loved having such a close range of family. I felt that was true to culture and the way I've seen it represented in people I know. Especially enjoyed that there is such a close sibling-like relationship between the cousins.

I wish we got to see more of Pete and the inside of Joaquin are the only two complaints I can give. I loved the bits with the rooster, also Francisco's roses, and I'm reminded how I'm always struck by the animals in Stiefvater's novels. I don't think she'll ever write a book without a significant animal.

The imagery is particularly memorable (see quotes below) and Marisita's tale of her past still comes to life vividly. Two other things I enjoyed were that 1) the owls, who seemed to congregate around the miracles, seemed rather like winged hope and that 2) Beatriz, who is descibed as la chica sin sentimientos or "the girl without feelings," who really discovered she had feelings but perhaps didn't know how to express them. Contrast her with Marisita who literally wore her feelings as falling sorrows of rain, and that just really makes me happy to have both of them. Can you tell they were my favorite?

Interesting quotes or other excerpts:
The beginning of Pete and the desert...

[Tony speaking] "You always this pedantic? Why don't you turn on the radio?"
There was no knob. Pete said, "I can't. The dial's missing."
With satisfaction, Tony replied, "Damn right it is, because I threw it out the window in Ohio. I didn't want to listen to its whining and I don't want to listen to yours, either. Why don't you just point those lost-puppy eyes of yours right out the window and stare at God's country for a while."
.     .     . 
 Pete fell deeply in love with it. 
This strange cold desert does not care if you live or die in it, but he fell for it anyway. He had not known before then that a place could feel so raw and so close to the surface. His weak heart felt the danger but could not resist. 
 He fell in love so fiercely that the desert itself noticed.
Owls, Saints, and Witches
Marisita had come from Texas to Bicho Raro, and on the border where she lived, owls were considered with distrust. The problem lay not with the owls themselves but rather with the lechuzas, witches who could transform themselves into owls with human faces. Even though Marisita trusted the intentions of the Sorias, there was no pretending that they didn't have otherworldly abilities. And although she did not believe the Church had been correct to drive them from Abejones, it was not difficult for her to see how she, as one of the Sorias' troubled pilgrims, also did not belong in a church.
It was just that Marisita was not sure that saints and witches were very different in the end.

Just for kicks - There were some horrifying things to note if you are a parent, especially a mom. Here's one example.

George Wyatt was a man of action. George Wyatt had been supposed to die in the womb, as his umbilical cord had been wrapped around his neck, but he'd decided that death was not for him and had chewed himself free. He'd been born two weeks early, his baby hands still clutching the ragged stump of his umbilical cord, his baby mouth already full of teeth. 

My favorite quote:

Read an excerpt.

Watch the brief trailer.

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Stacking the Shelves [290]

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 It's cold here in Atlanta. In fact, it even snowed again this week. This is the kind of weather I moved down here to get away from. What's going on?

But the cold weather makes curling up with a good book (and a cat or two) even more tempting. While my complete and surprisingly short stack is over at Reading Reality, I do have a couple of books to tease you with.

The Day of the Dead by Nicci French
Yes, I know the title is a bit creepy. But this is the final book in what has been an absolutely awesome psychological thriller series. If you like suspense thrillers and have not met Frieda Klein yet, start with Blue Monday.

Good Luck with That by Kristan Higgins
Higgins always does wonderful slice-of-life, contemporary romance/women's fiction, and this looks like another winner, as well as being considerably less creepy a teaser than The Day of the Dead!

Please link your STS post in the linky below:

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Stacking the Shelves [289]

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 Do you still have to stop yourself before writing the date as 2017? 2018 is well and truly on its way!

I have some fun books to tease you with this week. My complete stack is over at Reading Reality, but there were three books I just can't wait to share.

Someone to Care by Mary Balogh
The Westcott series, beginning with Someone to Love back in 2016, has been absolutely marvelous from beginning to end. If you like historical romances that feature interesting heroines, this series is just a treat.

To Die But Once by Jacqueline Winspear
I have a soft spot for historical mysteries, and the Maisie Dobbs series is simply one of the best. This is the 14th book in the series, but every single one has been a gem, and Maisie is a character to admire and want to follow. Each year's entry in the series is a treat for me, and I hope you'll take a look.

Celta Cats by Robin D. Owens
After a bit of a rocky start, the Celta's Heartmates series has become one of my all-time favorite fantasy/SF/futuristic/paranormal romance series. I know that's a lot of genres, but it fits a bit in all of them. This little collection of short stories is not, however, about the humans who populate Celta, but instead features their highly intelligent familiars, or fams, especially the fam-cats who make the series so much fun. For lovers of the series, this little collection is just a treat.

Please link your STS post in the linky below:

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo

Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo

Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo Six of Crows 2Book Stats:  

Reading level: Young Adult
Genre: High Fantasy
Hardcover: 560 pages
Publisher: Henry Holt & Co.
Release date: September 27, 2016

Series:  Six of Crows, #2

Source: Purchased

Reviewed by: Kara

Order: Amazon | Book Depository

Kaz Brekker and his crew have just pulled off a heist so daring even they didn't think they'd survive. But instead of divvying up a fat reward, they're right back to fighting for their lives. Double-crossed and badly weakened, the crew is low on resources, allies, and hope. As powerful forces from around the world descend on Ketterdam to root out the secrets of the dangerous drug known as jurda parem, old rivals and new enemies emerge to challenge Kaz's cunning and test the team's fragile loyalties. A war will be waged on the city's dark and twisting streets―a battle for revenge and redemption that will decide the fate of the Grisha world.

I'll tell you. After I finished Six of Crows, I was dying for this book. But when it came out, I thought, Oh no! If I read this, then it will all be over. Leigh (Bardugo) doesn't have anything else coming out. *insert despair/dying emoji here*.

So, there it sat. Taunting me on my bookshelf. Saying you know you want to read me because you'll love me, but I'll absolutely ruin you. MWHAHAHA!

UNTIL! *victory trumpet* Recently, she's had her The Language of Thorns published, which is a collection of short stories in the Grishaverse, AND she's announced she's writing King of Scars which centers around King Nikolai. Whew. A huge sigh of relief and now I can breathe and get on with this.

Crooked Kingdom picks up with the revelation that the Shu are hunting the Grisha in Ketterdam while our beloved crew had just experienced the crushing loss of Inej being taken captive by Van Eck. Kaz and crew have had some time to form a plan and they're just putting things into place to rescue Inej. In Inej's capture, Kaz's hard exterior has been bored through and he's anxious and reliving moments from his past that have made him vulnerable. Kaz has previously been thought to be bloodthirsty and fueled by greed, impenetrable by feeling. When it comes to Inej and his crew, this isn't the case, actually, and the others start to notice.

Kaz possesses a formidable amount of determination to succeed in his goal of freeing Inej and also besting Van Eck, but this determination, when levied by the humanity of his crew, threatens to fall apart. Nina has barely recovered from her emergency use of jurda parem and is still craving the potent drug. She hasn't been able to use her power since the event, either. Matthias has been taking care of her diligently, but he is a stranger in a foreign land and a wanted jailbird. Wylan is still wearing Kuwei's appearance, and dealing with his father's treachery and his own flaws of severe dyslexia. Jesper's betrayal was revealed, and he wrestles with his penchant for gambling as well as the news that his father has come to Ketterdam in search of him. Kuwei, their newest addition, is both collateral and a big liability as he doesn't even know the language or customs and stands to be fleeced or murdered if he even steps foot out of their custody.

Our heroes and heroines definitely possess less bravado this go around, though they haven't reached the limit of tricks up their proverbial (or in Kaz's case, literal) sleeves. The character development is more pronounced and relationships hinted at in the last book are better fleshed out. Since his encounter with Kaz & co., Van Eck has learned to respect their capabilities, and Kaz seems surrounded on both sides, since even he makes a deal with the devil, his personal devil Pekka Rollins. Favorite moment: When Kaz has a showdown with Per Haskell. Loose ends, like Rollins and Nina's Grisha connections and Jesper and Wylan's respective family issues, are all neatly and masterfully dealt with in the final climax of the novel.

Despite this being less of a delightful surprise than Six of Crows, Bardugo still pulls off a skillfully ingenious wrap up to the duology. If this series had food comparisons, Six of Crows would have been the mystery surprise of exotic flavors you didn't know you craved while Crooked Kingdom is full-bodied and richly satisfying to devour and complete the palate. I love this series and these characters, despite them being a bunch of teenage criminals. I am so sad to leave them! This duology will likely remain one of my top all-time favorites.

Download & Read an Excerpt

Watch the trailer with Leigh

Saturday, January 06, 2018

Stacking the Shelves [288]

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 Welcome to the first Stacking the Shelves post of 2018. Life is slowly heading back towards "normal" around here, for select definitions of normal. And it's bloody freezing here in Atlanta. I've lived plenty of places that were colder, but they were also usually a LOT better insulated.

As always, my full stack is over at Reading Reality, and I have a couple of books to tease you with here. Most of the "big" stack consists of Thea Harrison's Elder Races series. I never read them, but fell in love with the series over one of the novellas in Amid the Winter Snow. But I'm collecting the series from the library, and as Murphy's Law has it, I have almost all of the series at this point except, of course, the first book.

Rainbirds by Clarrissa Goenawan (isn't the cover gorgeous?)

Since Last Christmas by Jeffe Kennedy (that looks like one naughty elf!)

Please link your STS post in the linky below:

Thursday, January 04, 2018

Warcross by Marie Lu

Warcross by Marie Lu

Book Stats:  

Reading level: Young Adult
Genre: Science Fiction
Hardcover: 353 pages
Publisher: G. P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers
Release date: September 12, 2017

Series:  Warcross, #1

Source: Library

Reviewed by: Kara

Order: Amazon | Book Depository

For the millions who log in every day, Warcross isn’t just a game—it’s a way of life. The obsession started ten years ago and its fan base now spans the globe, some eager to escape from reality and others hoping to make a profit. Struggling to make ends meet, teenage hacker Emika Chen works as a bounty hunter, tracking down Warcross players who bet on the game illegally. But the bounty-hunting world is a competitive one, and survival has not been easy. To make some quick cash, Emika takes a risk and hacks into the opening game of the international Warcross Championships—only to accidentally glitch herself into the action and become an overnight sensation.

Convinced she’s going to be arrested, Emika is shocked when instead she gets a call from the game’s creator, the elusive young billionaire Hideo Tanaka, with an irresistible offer. He needs a spy on the inside of this year’s tournament in order to uncover a security problem . . . and he wants Emika for the job. With no time to lose, Emika’s whisked off to Tokyo and thrust into a world of fame and fortune that she’s only dreamed of. But soon her investigation uncovers a sinister plot, with major consequences for the entire Warcross empire.
If Marie Lu wrote it, I'll probably read it, so I've been waiting on this book for months, especially since it is a virtual reality gaming book. And look at this beautifully designed cover! I am blown away. It looks like a maze or block or symbolic for interlocking code.

Before I go further into the review of this book, I'll also say I recently completed Ready Player One by Ernest Cline, which you've probably heard about because the movie's coming out in 2018. (For years, I've also heard everyone rave about this book). For the sake of comparision, it is about young man who plays another virtual reality game called OASIS and goes on a scavenger hunt within it for the recently dead creator's "keys" to his vast fortune.

Right off the bat, it's hard to not draw similarities from Warcross to Ready Player OneWarcross might be about virtual reality, but it draws less off of games we have played before (unlike RPO, which mainly talks about games from the '80s) and creates its own world and game. The game part that is actually Warcross is complicated to explain. Warcross the game is rather like a version of ultimate capture the flag but "you" are a real player, and there is vast world-building and special abilities you can obtain in-game and trade. (Side note: when explaining this, I get an image of versions of old Halo games for capture the flag.)

Another difference is that Warcross virtual reality can be a lens through which you can interact and exist in the real world. Things are revealed in your surroundings as you go about your daily life, and Warcross points are awarded for doing things in life. (RPO has this too, but on a much smaller scale.) This is about where the similarities begin and end between the two books. If you're a big fan of RPO, sure, you might like this. If you hated RPO but are still interested in gaming books, it's different enough that you really might like it.

I really enjoyed the creativity of this book! The hardest thing to grasp for me though was the visual representation of the hacking. I'm a gamer too; I understand that there are limitations for describing video games in print. I think this is one thing that will divide readers. It's harder to relate to and see in your mind because the game and the representation of hacking within it are brand new.

Emika is an creative, determined, yet uniquely vulnerable heroine. She has no family because her father has died and her mother left them some time before. She is crawling with debt, mainly left from her father, and due to an infraction at school, is banned from computers for two years, unable to work at something she's actually gifted at: hacking. Instead, she is a bounty hunter within Warcross and her captures keep getting taken out from under her. Her luck, though, has finally run out and she's facing homelessness and extreme poverty until she performs a hack within the Warcross Championship game. This accidentally glitches her into the game where everyone can see her instead of her [null] hacked character. Emika is whisked off to Tokyo where she's facing multiple new experiences and challenges she's never encountered before. She's part of a team, which functions like a family of sorts, she's got a steady job with money though it's a secret, and she's romantically interested in Hideo Tanaka, the wealthy enigmatic creator of Warcross. Because of her loss and her self-reliance, she is a strong female character, but then, for such a strong female, you might be wondering why she falls so hard and so fast for Hideo, an insta-love situation. As a reader, I thought this was off-putting, but when you consider it, it still can be believable. Emika's rather a loner, having had few friends growing up and still fewer in her poor state, plus with the loss of her family. It doesn't change her strong character, but it does allow that she has areas with little experience and obvious vulnerability. No spoilers, but Emika does gain some perspective by the end of the book and grows emotionally.

Speaking of the ending, the twist at the end I guessed, but still very much enjoyed reading and understanding some character development. In the next book in the series, I would like to see Emika have more interaction with her teammates and have them grow to be more well-rounded characters. Not that they were flat, but they didn't have as much depth because Emika wasn't opening up to them. I thought they were intriguing side characters and want more! I'll be looking forward to reading the next installment and seeing what new exploits in virtual reality Marie Lu is able to dream up.

Favorite quotes:

"No one chose you," I snap.
"And have people been so great at choosing their leaders?" he snaps back.
"But you can't do that! You're taking away something that makes us fundamentally human!"
Hideo steps closer, "And what is it that makes us human, exactly? The choice to kill and rape? To war and bomb and destroy? To kidnap children? To gun down the innocent? Is that the part of humanity that shouldn't be taken away? Has democracy been able to stop any of this?"

Favorite Easter egg moment:
"Serene would be nice, Mr . . . Car."
"Fred," the car says.
"Fred," I reply, trying not to feel weird about talking to a bottle of champagne in an ice block. "Hi."
. . .
"I'm George," the bodyguard says as the car starts to drive us forward.