Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Review: Binti: The Night Masquerade by Nnedi Okorafor

34386617Title: Binti: The Night Masquerade 
Series: Binti #3
Author: Nnedi Okorafor
Source/Format: Borrowed from the Library; Paperback
More Details: SFF
Publisher/Publication Date: Tor.com; January 16, 2018

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Synopsis from Goodreads...
The concluding part of the highly-acclaimed science fiction trilogy that began with Nnedi Okorafor's Hugo- and Nebula Award-winning BINTI....
Binti has returned to her home planet, believing that the violence of the Meduse has been left behind. Unfortunately, although her people are peaceful on the whole, the same cannot be said for the Khoush, who fan the flames of their ancient rivalry with the Meduse. Far from her village when the conflicts start, Binti hurries home, but anger and resentment has already claimed the lives of many close to her. Once again it is up to Binti, and her intriguing new friend Mwinyi, to intervene--though the elders of her people do not entirely trust her motives--and try to prevent a war that could wipe out her people, once and for all....
Before I get started, I wanted to clarify that while I try to be as vague as possible, this review may contain some minor spoilers for the first two novellas of the series. You’ve been warned.

After the cliffhanger end of Binti: Home, I was excited to dive back into this world and these characters in the finale novella of the trilogy, Binti: The Night Masquerade. For the most part, this novella answered the lingering questions I had—about how Binti’s story would end as well as the mystery of her “edan”. The ending was kind of open-ended in a way, but it still brought about the resolution of some of the personal and external conflicts that have plagued Binti since the first novella. Change is hard. Monumental and life altering changes are even harder, and Binti had to come to terms with the ways the events of the trilogy have affected her.

I liked the progression of the story. The politics from the previous novellas were back, and with the treaty in place, I could see how Binti could believe the conflict had settled. However, the rivalry between Khoush and the Meduse restarted and with deadly and destructive consequences. There was danger, but I liked how Binti remained true to her ways even in the face of overwhelming odds. Parts of the story were emotionally impactful but all too fleeting, because I was able to guess what would happen next. So, some parts of the story were a little predictable, and other scenes leaned a little into the territory of being a deus ex machina. I also won’t say too much about how the mystery of Binti’s “edan” was solved, but I have to admit that it made me laugh—not because it was funny, but instead it was just so…random that I couldn’t help but see it in a more humorous light.

The aliens—and even Oomza University—were all creative and unique, and I really loved those aspects of the story. And I know I keep mentioning the ship, Third Fish, but it was one of my favorite characters in this one, along with its baby: New Fish. So, when I say the technology in this trilogy is one of my favorite aspects because of its creativity, I really do mean that.

While there were a few “meh” aspects about The Night Masquerade, it was still a fitting end to Binti’s story. As a whole, the Binti trilogy was worth the read, and I look forward to reading more novels by Nnedi Okorafor….

Monday, May 27, 2019

Music Monday (80): Jamila Woods

   Rules:
  • Music Monday is a weekly meme hosted by Lauren Stoolfire at Always Me that asks you to share one or two songs that you've recently enjoyed. For the rules, visit the page HERE 
Breana: Today, I wanted to talk about one of my favorite songs from Jamila Wood’s new album, Legacy! Legacy!. I like all of the songs from it, so it was hard to choose just one to talk about. However, I decided on Miles, because I love everything about it. It’s also a great example of the kind of music you’ll find on the rest of the album...




What are you listening to this week?


Friday, May 24, 2019

The Friday 56 (155) & Book Beginnings: Binti: The Night Masquerade by Nnedi Okorafor

The Friday 56 is a weekly meme hosted by Freda's Voice where every Friday you pick a book and turn to page 56 or 56%, and select a sentence or a few, as long as it's not a spoiler. For the full rules, visit the the page HERE

Book Beginnings is a weekly meme hosted by Rose City Reader that asks you to share the first sentence (or so) of the book you're reading.


34386617Synopsis from Goodreads...
The concluding part of the highly-acclaimed science fiction trilogy that began with Nnedi Okorafor's Hugo- and Nebula Award-winning BINTI....
Binti has returned to her home planet, believing that the violence of the Meduse has been left behind. Unfortunately, although her people are peaceful on the whole, the same cannot be said for the Khoush, who fan the flames of their ancient rivalry with the Meduse. Far from her village when the conflicts start, Binti hurries home, but anger and resentment has already claimed the lives of many close to her. Once again it is up to Binti, and her intriguing new friend Mwinyi, to intervene--though the elders of her people do not entirely trust her motives--and try to prevent a war that could wipe out her people, once and for all....


Beginning: "It started with a nightmare..."

56: "When I looked toward the road leading to the Root, I was thankfully calm enough to simply observe what stood there like the spirit it was."


Comments: I can cross the Binti trilogy off of my TBR list now that I've read the final book of the series. The Night Masquerade was an interesting story. I liked it. What are you reading this week?


Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Review: Binti: Home by Nnedi Okorafor

30038654Title: Binti: Home
Series: Binti #2
Author: Nnedi Okorafor
Source/Format: Borrowed from the library; paperback
More Details: SFF
Publisher/Publication Date: Tor.com; January 31, 2017

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Synopsis from Goodreads...
It’s been a year since Binti and Okwu enrolled at Oomza University. A year since Binti was declared a hero for uniting two warring planets. A year since she abandoned her family in the dawn of a new day. And now she must return home to her people, with her friend Okwu by her side, to face her family and face her elders. But Okwu will be the first of his race to set foot on Earth in over a hundred years, and the first ever to come in peace. After generations of conflict can human and Meduse ever learn to truly live in harmony?
I liked Binti: Home more than I did the previous novella in the series. It felt like more of a complete story. A lot of the things I questioned about the first novella were addressed here including if there was any lingering animosity between the Meduse and the Khoush, and how Binti’s friendship with Okwu would affect her time as a student at Oomza University. The first novella was really about one girl traveling from home, whereas in Binti: Home it focused on her journey of traveling back to earth after feeling that it was time to face not only her family but the elders within her community as well. And that was one of the strongest aspects about the novella.

The story picks up a year after the end of the previous novella. Binti is attending the university, but her life is no easier. She has no friends other than Okwu, but seems to enjoy her studies. I also liked the direction that the author took with the character. Okorafor included the fact that Binti experienced nightmares and panic attacks, which necessitated her having to attend therapy. I liked the inclusion of this detail, because it addressed the direct ramifications of everything the character had been through in the first novella. The focus of the trilogy has always been Binti, and she went through a lot. It was a trial both figuratively and literally with themes of self-discovery, and confronting misconceptions and prejudices that have been taught. This is why the progression of Binti’s character was one of my favorite aspects about the story.

There were new characters introduced here, and I liked them well enough. And as was true with the first novella, I liked the technology here. There was also the return of the ship from the first book, Third Fish. (Listen, I just like this ship okay.) Also, the environments described throughout the story were as cool and innovative as the societies sustained by them.

So, Binti: Home was great. The ending was quite a cliffhanger with the fate of a lot of key characters in Binti’s life virtually unknown. Luckily, I had the foresight to check out Binti: The Night Masquerade from the library at the same time as Binti: Home. So I know what my next read will be....

Monday, May 20, 2019

Music Monday (79): Jungle, & Ciara

   Rules:
  • Music Monday is a weekly meme hosted by Lauren Stoolfire at Always Me that asks you to share one or two songs that you've recently enjoyed. For the rules, visit the page HERE 
Breana: Lately, I’ve been listening to music by Jungle. I first came across their song Heavy, California a while ago, and I really loved the sound of it. Since then, I’ve listened to most of their music that's currently available....


Music released on May 10th that I’m also  listening to: Beauty Marks by Ciara & Legacy! Legacy! by Jamila Woods.

Adri: I've already mentioned it, but I went to see Ciara at Jimmy Kimmel Live the other day, and I'm in love with her new album Beauty Marks. My favorite songs are practically all of them. But, my pick for today is Set.




Andrea: I'm also listening to Ciara this week. Although I love many of the songs on her album, Beauty Marks is my favorite.



What are you listening to this week?



Friday, May 17, 2019

The Friday 56 (154) & Book Beginnings: Binti: Home by Nnedi Okorafor

The Friday 56 is a weekly meme hosted by Freda's Voice where every Friday you pick a book and turn to page 56 or 56%, and select a sentence or a few, as long as it's not a spoiler. For the full rules, visit the the page HERE

Book Beginnings is a weekly meme hosted by Rose City Reader that asks you to share the first sentence (or so) of the book you're reading.


30038654
Synopsis from Goodreads...
It’s been a year since Binti and Okwu enrolled at Oomza University. A year since Binti was declared a hero for uniting two warring planets. A year since she abandoned her family in the dawn of a new day. And now she must return home to her people, with her friend Okwu by her side, to face her family and face her elders. But Okwu will be the first of his race to set foot on Earth in over a hundred years, and the first ever to come in peace. After generations of conflict can human and Meduse ever learn to truly live in harmony?


Beginning: ""Five, five, five, five, five, five," I whispered. I was already treeing, numbers whipping around me like grains of sand in a sandstorm, and now I felt a deep click as something yielded in my mind."

56: ""Thank you, Alhaji," I said, politely, straining to control my quivering voice."


Comments: I liked Binti: Home more than I did the first book in the trilogy. The ending was kind of a cliffhanger, and I'm excited to read the final book in the series: The Night Masquerade. What are you reading this week?

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Review: The Girl with the Dragon Heart by Stephanie Burgis

37534756Title: The Girl with the Dragon Heart
Series: Tales from the Chocolate Heart #2
Author: Stephanie Burgis
Source/Format: Borrowed from the library; Hardcover
More Details: Middle Grade; Fantasy 
Publisher/Publication Date: Bloomsbury Children's Books; November 6, 2018

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Synopsis from Goodreads...

Once upon a time, in a beautiful city famous for chocolate and protected by dragons, there was a girl so fearless that she dared to try to tell the greatest story of all: the truth. Silke has always been good at spinning the truth and storytelling. So good that just years after arriving as a penniless orphan, she has found her way up to working for the most splendid chocolate makers in the city (oh, and becoming best friends with a dragon). Now her gift for weaving words has caught the eye of the royal family, who want to use her as a spy when the mysterious and dangerous fairy royal family announce they will visit the city. But Silke has her own dark, secret reasons for not trusting these visitors. Can Silke find out the truth about the fairies while keeping her own secrets hidden?

Picking up sometime after the end of The Dragon with the Chocolate Heart, the sequel focused on Silke—a friend of Aventurine and promotional handbill writer for The Chocolate Heart—and what happens after she accepts a job offered by the crown princess of the kingdom: spying on the royals of Elfenwald. Long held secrets come to light and exciting twists lead to a story full of magic, dragons, and of course chocolate. So, The Girl with the Dragon Heart was as wonderful as I thought it would be. Burgis created unique and interesting characters, and many familiar faces returned for another adventure. The setting seemed to come alive with descriptions about the architecture, daily life experienced by the characters, and even details about some of the inner-workings of the palace as well as places outside Drachenburg. An aspect of the book worth noting was the friendship between Silke and Aventurine. The dynamics were great. Through thick and thin, they looked out for each other even when Aventurine, who is a dragon, didn’t think she needed any help. The royals of Elfenwald were interesting. I liked Burgis’s portrayal of fairies. They were regal, but also quite disconcerting at times. Plus, their reasons for visiting Drachenburg were suspect from the beginning, and when they finally made a direct appearance on page, they made Silke’s mission anything but easy.

Overall, The Girl with the Dragon Heart was a quick read and excellent sequel to The Dragon with the Chocolate Heart. I look forward to reading more books by Stephanie Burgis....

Friday, May 10, 2019

The Friday 56 (153) & Book Beginnings: The Girl with the Dragon Heart by Stephanie Burgis

The Friday 56 is a weekly meme hosted by Freda's Voice where every Friday you pick a book and turn to page 56 or 56%, and select a sentence or a few, as long as it's not a spoiler. For the full rules, visit the the page HERE

Book Beginnings is a weekly meme hosted by Rose City Reader that asks you to share the first sentence (or so) of the book you're reading.


37534756Synopsis from Goodreads... 
Once upon a time, in a beautiful city famous for chocolate and protected by dragons, there was a girl so fearless that she dared to try to tell the greatest story of all: the truth. Silke has always been good at spinning the truth and storytelling. So good that just years after arriving as a penniless orphan, she has found her way up to working for the most splendid chocolate makers in the city (oh, and becoming best friends with a dragon). Now her gift for weaving words has caught the eye of the royal family, who want to use her as a spy when the mysterious and dangerous fairy royal family announce they will visit the city. But Silke has her own dark, secret reasons for not trusting these visitors. Can Silke find out the truth about the fairies while keeping her own secrets hidden?


Beginning: "Once upon a time in a beautiful, dirty, exciting city full of people and chocolate and possibilities, there was a girl so fearless and so daring that..."

56: "With twilight closing in around the riverbank, he was the only one of the traders who wasn't busily packing up for the day."


Comments: I recently read The Girl with the Dragon Heart. I liked the story. What are you reading this week?

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

ARC Review: The Missing of Clairdelune by Christelle Dabos, translated by Hildegarde Serle

41953346Title: The Missing of Clairdelune
Series: The Mirror Quartet #2
Author: Christelle Dabos
Translated by: Hildegarde Serle 
Source/Format: Netgalley; eARC
More Details: Young Adult; Fantasy
Publisher/Publication Date: Europa Editions; May 7, 2019

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Synopsis from Goodreads...
When our heroine Ophelia is promoted to Vice-Storyteller by Farouk, the ancestral Spirit of Pole, she finds herself unexpectedly thrust into the public spotlight and her special gift is revealed to all. Ophelia knows how to read the secret history of objects and it could be no greater threat to the nefarious denizens of her home. Beneath the golden rafters of Pole's capitol, Citaceleste, she discovers that the only person she is able to trust is Thorn, her enigmatic fiance. Ophelia again finds herself unintentionally implicated in an investigation that will lead her to see beyond....
 
Picking up where the first book in the series ended, The Missing of Clairdelune is an excellent follow up to A Winter’s Promise. Part whodunit type of mystery with a lot development on both the character and world building front, The Missing of Clairdelune was an exciting story with enough twists and reveals to keep me on my toes. It was a thoroughly engrossing read, and at this point, I’m truly invested in this series.

The Missing of Clairdelune wasn’t a fast-paced kind of story, but overall, it was a good one. It was detail oriented, and dealt with complex issues—many of which had no easy solution. Around every corner there seemed to be something going wrong for someone, and there was more often than not a ripple-effect that reached even the main character, Ophelia. There were secrets, and some hard truths, which sometimes offered a different perspective on certain places and people. And for every question answered—or just hinted at—about the Rupture, the arks, the ancestral spirits, and Farouk’s obsession with his book, there were always more that were yet to be solved. By the end of the book, I still had more questions than answers.

I said it about A Winter’s Promise, and I think it applies here too: some of the best aspects about The Missing of Clairdelune is the characters. The whole cast is uniquely interesting, and the further development of both romantic and platonic relationships was remarkably well-done. Ophelia is such a fun character to read about. I liked her personality and quirks. The development to her character was also something to take note of, and I was also glad to see her asserting herself more as she figured out how to handle being Vice-Storyteller. Thorn was still kind of an enigma. For the most part the scenes where he and Ophelia interacted with one another were interesting, because they were very different characters. That being said, the direction his character went in was unexpected and very intriguing. Also among my favorite characters was Berenilde, Thorn’s aunt, and Rosaline, Ophelia’s aunt.

The setting was also interesting. Pole was an exceedingly dangerous place where alliances could turn at the drop of a coin, and the environment was constantly cold no matter the time of year. So, much of the book remained indoors where illusions were used as a substitute for the poor weather, which was primarily in Citaceleste where much of the story took place. It was all very cool. That being said, I was glad when the story eventually went outside of Citaceleste, because while it’s an intriguing place, I was also interested in seeing other parts of Pole.

Overall, The Missing of Clairdelune is the best book I’ve read so far this year. Plus, given the way the story ended, I’m very interested in what’s in-store for the characters in the next book in the series….

About the author...

Christelle Dabos was born on the Côte d’Azur in 1980 and grew up in a home filled with classical music and historical games. She now lives in Belgium. The Mirror Visitor, her debut series, won the Gallimard Jeunesse-RTL-Télérama First Novel Competition....

About the translator...

Since graduating in French from Oxford University, Hildegarde Serle has worked in London as a newspaper subeditor at The Independent and The Sunday Telegraph. She has a diploma in translation from the Chartered Institute of Linguists. She lives in London, but her heart lives on the Quai aux Fleurs in Paris...


Disclaimer: this copy of the book was provided by Europa Editions via Netgalley for this review, thank you!


Monday, May 6, 2019

Music Monday (78): Tame Impala, Lauren Daigle, & Lion Babe

   Rules:
  • Music Monday is a weekly meme hosted by Lauren Stoolfire at Always Me that asks you to share one or two songs that you've recently enjoyed. For the rules, visit the page HERE 
Breana: I’m still listening to Currents by Tame Impala. One of my favorite songs from the album is The Moment.



Adri: I couldn't believe I missed the initial release date for Lion Babe's new album, Cosmic Wind. I'm still in the process of listening to the full album, but for now I can say Western World featuring Raekwon is my favorite song from it.


Andrea: I was singing this song while Lauren Daigle was performing on the Billboard Music Awards. My daughter was shocked to learn that I knew the actual words to something that she hadn't heard of prior to seeing Daigle's performance on the BBMAs. I actually love listening to and singing You Say during my daily travels, so I thought I would share it for Music Monday. Enjoy!

  


What are you listening to this week?


Friday, May 3, 2019

I listened to We Need to Talk by Tayla Parx

April already looked like a great month for music, because of Lizzo’s album—and I feel like I’ve been waiting for it since the beginning of the year. Then, I came across We Need to Talk by Tayla Parx. With Tayla Parx’s history of working with artists like Khalid, Ariana Grande, and more—as a songwriter or featured artist—I was very excited to listen to We Need to Talk. This album had a great sound. The composition of the tracks is solid, the lyrics are interesting, and the whole album is lively. It leaves a distinctively good impression and a craving for more music from Parx. Even the interludes and shorter tracks have their own uniqueness—like Disconnected and Happy Birthday—they made a strong impression, and I wished they were longer. Of course, there are a number of other songs that are as equally good as Disconnected. Including the opening track, I Want You, which serves as an easy intro and hints at what comes next, and the mellow vibe of Read Your Mind. Overall, We Need to Talk is an excellent album that showcases Parx's talent....

  • (We Need to Talk was released on April 5, 2019)

Have you listened to this album? If not, would you? If so, what do you think about it?


Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Review: Wicked Saints by Emily A. Duncan

36118682Title: Wicked Saints
Series: Something Dark and Holy #1
Author: Emily A. Duncan
Source/Format: Borrowed from the library; Hardcover
More Details: Young Adult; Fantasy 
Publisher/Publication Date: Wednesday Books; April 2, 2019

Goodreads     Amazon     Barnes & Noble     Book Depository

Synopsis from Goodreads...
A girl who can speak to gods must save her people without destroying herself. A prince in danger must decide who to trust. A boy with a monstrous secret waits in the wings. Together, they must assassinate the king and stop the war. In a centuries-long war where beauty and brutality meet, their three paths entwine in a shadowy world of spilled blood and mysterious saints, where a forbidden romance threatens to tip the scales between dark and light. Wicked Saints is the thrilling start to Emily A. Duncan’s devastatingly Gothic Something Dark and Holy trilogy....
There was a lot of hype for Wicked Saints, but I was still immensely excited about it. It was one of my most anticipated releases of 2019 and sounded like a story that would appeal to my love of fantasy novels. I mean the synopsis talks about an interesting dynamic between magic, gods, and religion with contrary beliefs to act as an antagonistic foil to the MC’s cause. And while there were a lot of interesting ideas here as well as action and magic, I just didn’t enjoy this book as much as I thought I would. Parts of the story felt a little vague, and I never really got a good sense for the setting beyond a few key locations. That being said, the overall plot was good, the hints of history behind the central conflict were interesting enough, and the story was fast paced. So Wicked Saints was by no means bad. It was still a good story.

Blood was one of the big themes used in Wicked Saints since it was tied to the magic of the Tranavians. There was a lot of death and morally gray character in the book from both sides of the conflict. Nadya was kind of interesting, particularly how her magic worked and the relationship she had to the gods who spoke to her. However, at time I felt like her character got a little lost once she met Malachiasz. I mean everything he said she just believed it when she didn’t even really know him. Ironically enough, my favorite parts of the story were actually from the prince’s perspective. Despite his faults, I preferred his overall character arc to Nadya’s.

On the other hand, you have the gods, who were enigmatic and omnipresent when they wanted to be. I would have liked to see more of them, because they were interesting. They did make comments here or there, but they remained mostly in the background for much of the story, even during some of the scenes when they were around to help Nadya. There was a demand for such absolute, unquestioning devotion to the point where Nadya initially came off as extreme and close-minded. The same could also be said about the Tranavians.

Like I said, everyone was more or less morally gray in this story.

I’m still a little conflicted about how I feel about the ending of Wicked Saints. There were some really good parts to it when the momentum picked up and stuff was happening, but then there were others scenes that left a “meh” feeling. The clues were there, but man, Nadya just…let me not. Still, the ending, had its high points, and I have so many questions about the gods and Nadya's origins.

Ultimately, Wicked Saints was a promising opening to this series, and I want to read the next book to see what fallout the characters will face for what happened.

Have you read Wicked Saints? Do you plan to read it?

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