**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, February 23, 2019

Stacking the Shelves [347]

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!
I'm still working on so many books from ALA Midwinter that I'm able to prep this post a week ahead. Which is a good thing, as when you read this I'll have just gotten home after a red-eye flight from California and will hopefully catching up a bit on my sleep. (Unlike my husband, I can't sleep sitting up so I don't sleep on long flights.)

The full stack is over at Reading Reality, and it's ginormous again. There is a LOT of reading in my future!

Meanwhile, here are a few of the really pretty covers from this stack...

The Affair of the Mysterious Letter by Alexis Hall

After the Party by Cressida Connolly

The Little Teashop on Main by Jodi Thomas

Paris 7 A.M. by Liza Wieland

Please link your STS post in the linky below:

Saturday, February 16, 2019

Stacking the Shelves [346]

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!
I'm still in the midst of the month of ALA fallout, so I have books coming out of my ears! They'd be falling off of my shelves, but they're all ebooks. Our house would fall in if all my books were print!

My full stack is over at Reading Reality, and it's another big one. Maybe that should be "bigone" all one word. Like ginormous.

This week's teaser covers are for the books from this batch I'm most looking forward to sinking my reading teeth into. See what you think!

Jacked Cat Jive (Kai Gracen #3) by Rhys Ford

New Suns edited by Nisi Shawl

Old Baggage by Lissa Evans

A Prince on Paper (Reluctant Royals #3) by Alyssa Cole

Please link your STS post in the linky below:

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik

Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik

Book Stats:  

Reading level: Adult
Genre: High fantasy
Hardcover: 466 pages
Publisher: Del Rey
Release date: July 10, 2018

Source: Library

Reviewed by: Kara

Order: Amazon | Book Depository

With the Nebula Award–winning Uprooted, Naomi Novik opened a brilliant new chapter in an already acclaimed career, delving into the magic of fairy tales to craft a love story that was both timeless and utterly of the now. Spinning Silver draws readers deeper into this glittering realm of fantasy, where the boundary between wonder and terror is thinner than a breath, and safety can be stolen as quickly as a kiss.

Miryem is the daughter and granddaughter of moneylenders, but her father’s inability to collect his debts has left his family on the edge of poverty—until Miryem takes matters into her own hands. Hardening her heart, the young woman sets out to claim what is owed and soon gains a reputation for being able to turn silver into gold.

When an ill-advised boast draws the attention of the king of the Staryk—grim fey creatures who seem more ice than flesh—Miryem’s fate, and that of two kingdoms, will be forever altered. Set an impossible challenge by the nameless king, Miryem unwittingly spins a web that draws in a peasant girl, Wanda, and the unhappy daughter of a local lord who plots to wed his child to the dashing young tsar.

But Tsar Mirnatius is not what he seems. And the secret he hides threatens to consume the lands of humans and Staryk alike. Torn between deadly choices, Miryem and her two unlikely allies embark on a desperate quest that will take them to the limits of sacrifice, power, and love.

Channeling the vibrant heart of myth and fairy tale, Spinning Silver weaves a multilayered, magical tapestry that readers will want to return to again and again.

I am so thrilled Naomi Novik continued this same fairy-tale/mythology retellings that started with Uprooted, which I loved. Despite not being in the same quote series unquote, Spinning Silver is in the same vein without being in the same universe or style. Truly deserves the praise for being one of the best fantasy books of this year (and a recent 2019 YALSA Alex Award winner for the Best Adult Books for Teens!). 

It's not easy to get into as the pace is slow and the descriptions are fairly wordy, but that isn't to say that this is boring. It very much kept my attention through the creative events and threads that run through the stories of these three women: Miryem, Irina, and Wanda. Each time you think something could be wrapped up predictably, you're surprised to find the book has a lot more to go and you find you can't wait to discover where it will go. I thought it could be a mishmash of a few fairytales and legends like Beauty and the Beast, the Ice Queen, Scheherazade and the King, and most notably Rumplestiltskin. The words themselves seem to spin from silver and cold detachment of characters and scenery to gold with rich luster of intricate plot and detail and caring about all of the characters, even some of the "villains." There are some beautiful messages and themes in the story, some which are revealed to concern the Staryk king and Tsar Mirnatius. Others are that of family, loving the orphan, caring for the old and sick, honoring your servants, the dangers of greed...you could pick out a number of them.

While there are fantasy elements of the demon and the Staryk, the setting and character details pull from Russian, Polish, and Jewish culture. It delves into Anti-Semitic feeling with Jewish Miryem's family, who are taxpayers but haven't been paid. Russian Irina is the unbeautiful cloistered daughter of a lord. Polish Wanda is abused by her father and bereft of her mother. The real gem of this story is one of feminism, the power of women. All three women come together to embody a depth of great strength to save their families and their kingdom, whether by wiles and self-control, hard work and determination, or wisdom and courage.

I was very surprised (and pleased) by the ending, and sort of wanted it to keep continuing. Not that it wasn't wrapped up beautifully, but because it was so lovely, I wanted maybe an epilogue. Not your typical love story to highlight on this Valentine's Day, but falling in love with a great Galentine's fantasy is better!

Have you read it? What did you think?

Saturday, February 09, 2019

Stacking the Shelves [345]

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!
I have yet another ginormous stack over at Reading Reality. I'm still getting stuff from the ALA Conference last week, and it looks like I will be through the rest of the month!

And now, for the regularly scheduled teasers.

A Deceptive Devotion by Iona Whishaw

The Huntress by Kate Quinn

Mission: Her Defense by Anna Hackett

An Unconditional Freedom by Alyssa Cole

Please link your STS post in the linky below:

Thursday, February 07, 2019

A Map of Days by Ransom Riggs

A Map of Days by Ransom Riggs

Book Stats:  

Reading level: Young Adult
Genre: Supernatural, Time Travel Fantasy
Hardcover: 481 pages
Publisher: Dutton Books
Release date: October 2, 2018

Series: Miss Peregrine's Peculiar Children #4

Source: Purchased

Reviewed by: Kara

Order: Amazon | Book Depository

Having defeated the monstrous threat that nearly destroyed the peculiar world, Jacob Portman is back where his story began, in Florida. Except now Miss Peregrine, Emma, and their peculiar friends are with him, and doing their best to blend in. But carefree days of beach visits and normalling lessons are soon interrupted by a discovery—a subterranean bunker that belonged to Jacob’s grandfather, Abe.

Clues to Abe’s double-life as a peculiar operative start to emerge, secrets long hidden in plain sight. And Jacob begins to learn about the dangerous legacy he has inherited—truths that were part of him long before he walked into Miss Peregrine’s time loop.

Now, the stakes are higher than ever as Jacob and his friends are thrust into the untamed landscape of American peculiardom—a world with few ymbrynes, or rules—that none of them understand. New wonders, and dangers, await in this brilliant next chapter for Miss Peregrine’s peculiar children. Their story is again illustrated by haunting vintage photographs, now with the striking addition of full-color images interspersed throughout for this all-new, multi-era American adventure.

I'm not sure why, but I was super surprised when this book was announced. I guess I thought the series wouldn't be continuing after Library of Souls, but I've been waiting to read this book for months! Took me longer than I wanted but I finally did another readthrough of the first three before picking up this new novel. It's a new world finding peculiardom in America for Jacob and Miss Peregrine's peculiar children. For Jacob, this is a new set of conflicts and choices. Does he be normal? Does he be peculiar? It seems like his parents will not stand for both. At seventeen and after quite a period of absence for the events of the last couple books, Jacob has been back trying to force his life into his old-normal patterns, but his parents don't trust him and he cannot reconcile the knowledge of himself and his grandfather with his same-old.

Let's talk about his parents for a minute because Jacob has unusual parents for YA literature. 1) They're alive. 2) They don't have a relationship with their son. They do, and they make him do. The end.  3) They don't have relationships with their own parents, and in Grandpa Portman's case, there seems to be a great divide. 4) They believe everyone (except Grandpa) over their own son. This attitude gets worse, obviously, after Jacob's disappearance. It seems mind-boggling because he's 17 and they STILL never believe him. He's about to be an adult, and doesn't have a good track record for adult independence at 18. 5) Because of 4, they try to have him committed to a mental institution against his will. Usually this step is a last resort, and since he'll be 18 in a few months, this is the last time they can make this sort of step because after he's 18 and they try, the courts and law will get involved and things could get very ugly. 6) They are not described much in emotion, despite being well-drawn in facts. They're kind of bleh. Why does Jacob say he loves them because the reader hasn't been given anything to love about them, just pity or tolerate (see 3, 5). [Aside: Would you really having loving feelings toward your parents if they had you committed? I'm thinking no. Note to parents, probably don't be like Jacob's...]

This theme continues with the peculiar children under Miss Peregrine's care. How or why does Miss Peregrine not watch the children for signs of independence after all of their adventures? Every reader must have predicted this struggle. The children need to try out their adulting skills! Miss Peregrine is supposed to be good at taking care of children, and this is a key part of adolescent development (even if she's been watching over non-aging adolescents and children for years). She could be giving them space, but I think it's far more likely she's quite angry at their buck of parental supervision.

Those last couple chapters of the book came out of nowhere. It sort of made sense but...I found it less inventive and more horrifying since it takes us back to other terrible times to live in: the seedy grunge of American crime, though no mention of prohibition; corruption and white supremacy and racism of the South; gangs and gangsters and territorial fights. All of it makes you NEVER want to visit the American past. Instead we could've visited a loop from the Revolution or the Civil War. I am sad we missed out on these potentials. I wish there had been more descriptions with the American loops since we were back in the past. I had a hard time seeing the setting and just how different it was from our preconceived notions of the past.

Some random observations: My favorite part was the trip through Abe's house and his secrets. There was less of a connection to H to feel emotionally attached to him as Abe would. You'd think the "kids" would stop and get the hint to quit mentioning ymbrynes at whatever loops they visited! Noor! I really liked her even if her peculiarity was hard to grasp. It would be really hard to be in her situation. I liked Lily too. Moving on before any spoilers, this book had a few things I predicted (Emma/Jacob squabble -- relationships are never straightforward) and ended on a TOTAL CLIFFHANGER.

Mostly, there were a lot of questions I had at the end that don't get answered like:
FIONA?! WHERE IS FIONA? WHY are they not asking at every loop again? Because they're selfish and they forget?
Where's Nim? And the unnamed Bentham assistant? [Both of these are associated with the last book, Library of Souls.]
What about Horace's clue of Chinese food vs Contintental? This was not mentioned again.

These are a lot of questions and unknowns while waiting for yet another unknown: when will we get book 5? :'(

Monday, February 04, 2019

Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi

Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi

Book Stats:  

Reading level: Young Adult
Genre: Fantasy
Hardcover: 525 pages
Publisher: Henry Holt and Co.
Release date: March 6, 2018

Series:  Children of Orisha #1

Source: Library

Reviewed by: Kara

Order: Amazon | Book Depository

They killed my mother.
They took our magic.
They tried to bury us.
Now we rise.
Zélie Adebola remembers when the soil of Orïsha hummed with magic. Burners ignited flames, Tiders beckoned waves, and Zélie’s Reaper mother summoned forth souls.
But everything changed the night magic disappeared. Under the orders of a ruthless king, maji were killed, leaving Zélie without a mother and her people without hope.
Now Zélie has one chance to bring back magic and strike against the monarchy. With the help of a rogue princess, Zélie must outwit and outrun the crown prince, who is hell-bent on eradicating magic for good.
Danger lurks in Orïsha, where snow leoponaires prowl and vengeful spirits wait in the waters. Yet the greatest danger may be Zélie herself as she struggles to control her powers and her growing feelings for an enemy.

Since last year, I've heard a lot about this book, and I bet you have too. I heard Tomi speak last year at a fantasy conference panel, so I knew I had to pick it up. It has been lauded on many awards and recommended lists this year and breaks ground into new territory as a west African fantasy novel. It's a YALSA Morris Award finalist. I started reading it a few months ago, but it took me awhile to finish. If everyone else loved it, why was I not loving it too?

First, this is a very character-driven fantasy. There's a lot of dialogue, a lot of back-and-forth between characters that takes up probably 80% of the book. The entire premise of a magical west Africa and ten clans of magi all with their distinct brand of magic is definitely a great hook. I really wanted to read more about this! However, the background of the novel really didn't cover much history or even the setting. Rather than being well-grounded in a place you can feel, see, and realize through the page, there were whole portions where I felt like the characters were just rushing around and zapping themselves wherever the plot needed them to be next.

The lack of transition and fully-fleshed out setting was disappointing as I've never been to Africa but really wanted to see Africa through the details in description, not just a vague reference. It seemed like this novel weeded out all of the "boring" bits that typically happen with fantasy. (Note, fantasies aren't all actually long and "boring" ala Frank Herbert's Dune or The Lord of the Rings trilogy--which sometimes frustrates readers. See Leigh Bardugo's well-drawn descriptions in her Grishaverse.) The actions that happen are very direct and possess no subtleties, no layers of subplot, and when things do occur, it didn't paint a full picture.

This was probably my biggest complaint about the novel. Since there were not many details and descriptions, this left mostly dialogue and action which left me tired of the book and unconnected to the characters. For example, Amari is scarred by the murder of her handmaid Binta and there are constant references to how kind Binta was to Amari and how she feels about her, but the reader doesn't see this kindness and get attached to Binta. We only see it through Amari's narration, which makes it feel distant and hard to summon emotion to care what happens to her except that we're "supposed to" because of who and what she represents. Rather than this being the only instance, I also had a hard time believing everyone switches sides to see Zélie's point of view and how she's always on the "right" side. As the reader, sure, we're supposed to think Zélie is right in her pursuit for justice and freedom for her people, but the majority of the people she meets are supposed to be anti-magi, supporting the genocide of her people. Rather than them having a change of heart and an experience to change, they simply "see" how Zélie thinks, and suddenly they're on her side like Inan's back-and-forth conversion. For this matter, there's also the troubling insta-love with the prince. Why do they have to romance each other immediately?

I think this book, because of the roots of its creation in Black Lives Matter and racial violence and justice, was simply rushed to publication and did not take enough time to build up the characters and the world. I loved the ideas and creativity, but in fact, I would have preferred something like a subtle coming-of-age story. Such as, if the book started out with the three characters and described how each were raised - Zelie, Inan, and Amari. Then each started their adventure a few chapters later and slowly the reader discovers who they are and they come together to take on the full story as a team. Like the emotion it responds to, it's just too full of passion and rebounding and lacks the strength of connection to back it up. These mass scenes of violence--against families, children, parents-- happen but none of the characters really respond to it or process through it, they and the reader are left numb and vengeful. While the "bones" of this story are good and promising, the "blood" of the story just doesn't make it breathe and leap off the page.

What did you think? Let me know in the comments.

Saturday, February 02, 2019

Stacking the Shelves [344]

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!
My absolutely towering complete stack is over at Reading Reality. And it's ginormous!

This is the semi-annual post-ALA (American Library Association) Conference stack. An ALA Conference is like BookExpo for librarians. The publishers bring their forthcoming books - and the authors of those books, to the conference to get librarians to add books to their library's collections.

I always find way too many interesting books, but I do not pick up print ARCs, which are everywhere. I ask for eARCs from NetGalley and Edelweiss for the books that sound interesting. This reserves the print ARCs for librarians who are still working at libraries, and saves my back from toting them around the exhibit floor.

Books are heavy. VERY heavy!

It's a win-win as far as I'm concerned. My husband agrees wholeheartedly, as he used to do a lot of the book toting.

The following is a sample of what I saw and really liked. Please check out Reading Reality to see the entire haul!

Please link your STS post in the linky below: