Showing posts with label Review. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Review. Show all posts

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Review: It Devours! by Joseph Fink & Jeffrey Cranor

28208687. sy475 Title: It Devours 
Series: Welcome to Night Vale #2
Author: Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor
Source/Format: Borrowed from the library; Hardback
More Details: Fantasy
Publisher/Publication Date: Harper Collins; October 17, 2017

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Synopsis from Goodreads...
From the authors of the New York Times bestselling novel Welcome to Night Vale and the creators of the #1 international podcast of the same name, comes a mystery exploring the intersections of faith and science, the growing relationship between two young people who want desperately to trust each other, and the terrifying, toothy power of the Smiling God. 
Nilanjana Sikdar is an outsider to the town of Night Vale. Working for Carlos, the town’s top scientist, she relies on fact and logic as her guiding principles. But all of that is put into question when Carlos gives her a special assignment investigating a mysterious rumbling in the desert wasteland outside of town. This investigation leads her to the Joyous Congregation of the Smiling God, and to Darryl, one of its most committed members. Caught between her beliefs in the ultimate power of science and her growing attraction to Darryl, she begins to suspect the Congregation is planning a ritual that could threaten the lives of everyone in town. Nilanjana and Darryl must search for common ground between their very different world views as they are faced with the Congregation’s darkest and most terrible secret

“Not everyone believes in mountains, yet there they are, in plain sight.”

I’ve listened to the Welcome to Night Vale podcast on and off over the years, and I don’t know why I put off reading the novels for so long. I enjoyed It Devours!. It’s just like an episode of the podcast. There were a number of familiar faces—like Cecil Palmer, Carlos, and others. And while It Devours! is a book (with some illustrations, but it isn’t mixed-media; no interviews or transcripts, etc.), it’s told in a similar tone as the podcast that makes the weirder aspects of the town seem like normal, everyday occurrences—which for Night Vale it is. However, that’s part of Welcome to Night Vale’s charm, and I’m glad It Devours! captured some of that.

This book was something else. From the very first page, it starts out by saying not everyone believes in mountains, which is a pretty accurate example of the kind of logic that exists in Night Vale. Time behaved oddly. There were helicopters that didn’t run on fuel. And there’s even a house that’s there, but everyone says it doesn’t exist anyway. What’s causing the massive holes that are steadily devouring Night Vale? Who is Darryl? What is the Joyous Congregation of the Smiling God? Those are just some of the questions that needed to be answered, and how they were eventually explained was what I liked most about the book. As such, the mystery was great. I was drawn into the story from the very first chapter, and the villains were sufficiently creepy—yet unassuming at times—with the means and motivation to do what they did.

The majority of the story is told from the perspective of Nilanjana Sikdar. She has a job at Carlos’s lab, and most of her acquaintances are from said establishment. She’s competent in situations when she needs to be, and despite all that happens, she returns to habits from her daily life whenever she needs to solve something. Nilanjana pretty much embodied the feeling of moving to a new place, feeling like you don’t belong, and trying to find out where you fit anyway. I liked the moments when she began to accept Night Vale for the way it was, as well as how she navigated the situation with the mysterious holes.

I truly enjoyed It Devours!. I don’t think the series has to be read in order, especially if you’ve already listened to the podcast. That being said, I’m definitely going to read the first book in the series, Welcome to Night Vale: A Novel.

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

ARC Review: Magic For Liars by Sarah Gailey

41555947Title: Magic For Liars
Series: n/a
Author: Sarah Gailey
Source/Format: Bookish First; bound ARC
More Details: Fantasy; Mystery
Publisher/Publication Date: Tor Books; June 4, 2019

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Synopsis from Goodreads...
Sharp, mainstream fantasy meets compelling thrills of investigative noir in this fantasy debut by rising star Sarah Gailey... 
Ivy Gamble has never wanted to be magic. She is perfectly happy with her life—she has an almost-sustainable career as a private investigator, and an empty apartment, and a slight drinking problem. It's a great life and she doesn't wish she was like her estranged sister, the magically gifted professor Tabitha. But when Ivy is hired to investigate the gruesome murder of a faculty member at Tabitha’s private academy, the stalwart detective starts to lose herself in the case, the life she could have had, and the answer to the mystery that seems just out of her reach...
Prior to reading Magic For Liars, I’d heard a lot of good things about Sarah Gailey’s other published work. I hadn't read them, but I was very excited to dive into this book anyway. Magic For Liars is a whodunit style murder mystery set primarily at Osthorne Academy, a boarding school for mages. From the start, it had a promising premise. And while parts of the story tended to be a little more predictable than others, that didn’t detract from my overall enjoyment of the book.

I liked the writing and pace of the story, as well as the setting. Right away, the prologue introduced the mystery. At first, it seemed like there weren’t any suspects, because the victim was well-liked by students and faculty. However, nothing was as it seemed. And despite Ivy’s idolization of places like Osthorne, they still had as many problems as any other school. She seemed to learn that lesson the hard way, and at times I was waiting for her to let go of her lies—the ones she was beginning to buy into—and focus on the case. As I mentioned above, I was able to kind of guess who the culprit would likely be, just not the motivation behind their actions. So, it wasn’t an issue, because there was so much I generally enjoyed about the book. Also, I was still invested enough in the story to wait around for the big reveal to happen.

Magic was such a big theme in the story. Some of it was kind of whatever goes. However the more academic side with rules and limitations was actually interesting to read about.

Ivy Gamble is a private investigator, and for the most part I liked her characterization. Even though she was solving other people’s issues, she had her own share of problems that—toward the beginning of the book—went largely unaddressed. She drank, resented her sister, was bitter about the magic she didn’t have, and thought about herself in a manner that I could often describe as self-deprecating. Many of her cases involved cheating spouses among other things. So, I could understand her enthusiasm and trepidation about being handed what she considered to be a big and important case that was unlike other’s she’d handled before. The other characters were interesting as well. None of them were perfect. A lot of them had secrets and quirks—like Tabitha Gamble, Mrs. Webb, and others. However, it’s what made them distinctive and memorable. I didn’t even mind the romance subplot.

Magic For Liars was an interesting blend of magic and mystery, and if you’re a fan of that, then I would say give this one a try. I wish there was a sequel, because I would have liked to see more from these characters. Overall, I look forward to reading another book by Sarah Gailey....


About the author...
Permission is granted to freely use either of these photographs for promotional or press purposes so long as they are credited ©   Allan Amato    2019.Hugo award winner Sarah Gailey lives and works in Los Angeles, California. Their nonfiction has been published by Mashable and the Boston Globe, and their fiction has been published internationally. They are a regular contributor for Tor.com and Barnes & Noble. You can find links to their work at www.sarahgailey.com. They tweet@gaileyfrey.
(Photo credit: ©Allan Amato 2019) 



Disclaimer: This copy of the book was provided by Bookish First and Tor Books for this review, thank you!



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….

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....

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....

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!


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

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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?

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Review: Binti by Nnedi Okorafor

25667918Title: Binti
Series: Binti #1
Author: Nnedi Okorafor
Source/Format: Borrowed from the library; Paperback
More Details: Science Fiction; Fantasy; Novella
Publisher/Publication Date: Tor.com; September 22, 2015

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Synopsis from Goodreads...
Her name is Binti, and she is the first of the Himba people ever to be offered a place at Oomza University, the finest institution of higher learning in the galaxy. But to accept the offer will mean giving up her place in her family to travel between the stars among strangers who do not share her ways or respect her customs. Knowledge comes at a cost, one that Binti is willing to pay, but her journey will not be easy. The world she seeks to enter has long warred with the Meduse, an alien race that has become the stuff of nightmares. Oomza University has wronged the Meduse, and Binti's stellar travel will bring her within their deadly reach. If Binti hopes to survive the legacy of a war not of her making, she will need both the gifts of her people and the wisdom enshrined within the University, itself - but first she has to make it there, alive....
I’ve read a couple of books by Nnedi Okorafor before—namely Akata Witch and its sequel, Akata Warrior. I liked both of them, and since then Binti has been on my TBR list. I liked Binti. It was a quick read, and a pretty unique take on a coming-of-age story. It was one girl’s journey to a university while struggling with the expectations placed on her by family. And while the story was an interesting one, I was conflicted about parts of the ending. It was good, but after everything that happened, there were aspects about it that were almost too neatly done. I did like the technology here, particularly the descriptions of the ship—“Third Fish”— which Binti boarded toward the beginning of the novella. I liked what Okorafor did with the Meduse, especially their unique appearance. I also liked Binti’s character, and that’s a good thing since the novella was from her perspective. Her hesitation and doubt about the decisions she was making were clearly illustrated in the narrative: she was chasing her dream while trying to maintain a feeling of being connected to the traditions of her family. At the same time she was going against their wishes while having to leave them behind on earth. Overall, Binti was an interesting read. I’m looking forward to eventually reading the rest of the trilogy.

Have you read Binti? If so, what did you think about it?

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Review: The Consuming Fire by John Scalzi

34942741Title: The Consuming Fire
Series: The Interdependency  #2
Author: John Scalzi
Source/Format: Borrowed from the library; Hardcover
More Details: Science Fiction; Space Opera
Publisher/Publication Date: Tor Books; October 16, 2018

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Synopsis from Goodreads...
The Interdependency, humanity’s interstellar empire, is on the verge of collapse. The Flow, the extra-dimensional conduit that makes travel between the stars possible, is disappearing, leaving entire star systems stranded. When it goes, human civilization may go with it—unless desperate measures can be taken. Emperox Grayland II, the leader of the Interdependency, is ready to take those measures to help ensure the survival of billions. But nothing is ever that easy. Arrayed before her are those who believe the collapse of the Flow is a myth—or at the very least, an opportunity that can allow them to ascend to power. While Grayland prepares for disaster, others are preparing for a civil war, a war that will take place in the halls of power, the markets of business and the altars of worship as much as it will take place between spaceships and battlefields. The Emperox and her allies are smart and resourceful, but then so are her enemies. Nothing about this power struggle will be simple or easy... and all of humanity will be caught in its widening gyre....
So, The Consuming Fire picked up where The Collapsing Empire left off with the collapse of the Flow being an imminent threat to even the Interdependency itself. This was one sequel that lived up to my expectations, and answered some of the questions I had about the Flow, the Interdependency, and where the story would go after the revelations at the end of The Collapsing Empire.

Where do you go when easy and far-reaching space travel is on the verge of going away? What can you do when the forces of nature are actively working against you? The situation presented an interesting conundrum, and the characters—all across the board—reacted differently; sometimes for the greater good, or for wholly self-serving reasons. There was Grayland II who wanted to do what was best for the people of the Interdependency. Yet, there were others who were in it for selfish reasons, wanting to believe the collapse is—as the synopsis states—just a myth. At the heart of the story, there was a lot of political intrigue—full of betrayals, plays for power, and so on. It was expected because the main characters were dealing with the imminent collapse of the Flow, and whatever ramification came from it. That also included the fate of the central government of the Interdependency. The Consuming Fire also touched on some interesting topics, such as the subject of denial of actual facts, and those in power trying to maintain it during a time of crisis. It’s something that was done well.

There was also more information about the Flow, which specifically delved into more about the collapse. Even if it wasn’t specific about what the Flow is, or where it came from. That being said, it still presented some interesting questions about the history that predates the Interdependency's inception.

Overall, The Consuming Fire was great. I liked the characters, and the twists were unexpected and exciting. Now, I’m very excited about what could happen in the third book in the series, The Last Emperox....

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Review: Fashioning Fashion, European Dress in Detail 1700-1915 by Sharon Sadako Takeda & Kaye Durland Spilker

8542739Title: Fashioning Fashion, European Dress in Detail 1700-1915
Series: n/a
Author: Sharon Sadako Takeda; Kaye Durland Spilker
Source/Format: Borrowed from the library; Hardcover
More Details: Nonfiction; History; Fashion
Publisher/Publication Date: Prestel Publishing; September 22, 2010

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Synopsis from Goodreads...
The creation of eighteenth and nineteenth century fashion moved at a much slower tempo than the lightning-speed pace of contemporary fashion, so great attention was paid to the smallest detail. Fashioning Fashion: European Dress in Detail, 1700-1915 celebrates these and brilliantly examines the transformation of the fashionable silhouette over this span of more than two centuries. Lavish photographs and illustrative text provide historical context, showing how technical inventions, political events, and global trade often profoundly affected style. It is little wonder that many of today's top haute couture designers often look to fashion of the past to find inspiration in the present. The intriguing and stunning examples of historic dress in this opulent volume are as captivating today as they were centuries ago. Fashioning Fashion showcases nearly two hundred highlights from the Los Angeles County Museum of Art's new European collection of rare pieces of historic fashion and accessories for men, women, and children. LACMA recently acquired this singular collection, which numbers more than 1,000 objects and represents a total of fifty years of acquisitions by prominent historic dress dealers and collectors Martin Kamer of England and Wolfgang Ruf of Switzerland. The pieces were chosen for their roles in the story of fashion's aesthetic and technical development from the Age of Enlightenment to World War I. This in-depth look at the details of these luxurious textiles, exacting tailoring techniques, and lush trimmings is the first presentation of this remarkable collection...
After I read the medieval history book—The Penguin Historical Atlas of the Medieval World, my thoughts about it can be found HERE—it got me thinking about the clothes of the time period, specifically how international trade, diplomatic ties, conflicts, and the like would affect historical clothing trends. Unfortunately, it was a topic The Penguin Historical Atlas of the Medieval World didn’t cover. So, of course, once I was thinking about it, I wanted to know a bit more about historical fashion. A quick search of my library's catalogue brought me to this book: Fashioning Fashion, European Dress in Detail 1700-1915. It was a quick but fascinating read with plenty of photo examples that highlighted a collection from the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. I thought it was interesting how trends changed but eventually old ideas were recycled and updated into something new, which was a prominent theme throughout the book. It was especially highlighted in sections that talked about the treatment of garments. I was surprised to learn about the difference in the quality for the stitching, particularly between expensive formal wear and undergarments. The latter of which had better, meticulous seams, because they were frequently washed. While a lot of other garments were described as being incapable of receiving the same treatment. One passage perfectly captures what I mean:

“Plain but functional items such as linen shirts, which had to endure frequent washing, were more carefully stitched than silk gowns, which eventually would be unpicked to be altered or “turned” (resewn with the reverse side of the textile facing outward, to prolong the life of the unwashable garment). Because Fabric was so valuable, it was customarily recycled, and clothes were not constructed to last as long as their textiles.”(p.73)

I found the relationship between technology and fashion interesting. I also liked the sections that talked about the “blending and manipulation” of the four principle fibers—silk, cotton, linen, and wool—to get other textiles. This book also touched on the working conditions of factory workers, as well as other issues relevant to this topic. There’s so much more I could say about this book, but then this post would turn into a summary of the book. That’s not what I’m trying to do.

Overall, Fashioning Fashion was fantastic. There’s still so much I don’t know about this topic, and I would be interested in finding more books like this one....

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

ARC Review: A Dangerous Collaboration by Deanna Raybourn

30518319Title: A Dangerous Collaboration
Series: Veronica Speedwell #4
Author: Deanna Raybourn 
Source/Format: First to Read; eARC
More Details: Historical Fiction; Mystery
Publisher/Publication Date: Berkley; March 12, 2019

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Synopsis from Goodreads...
Victorian adventuress Veronica Speedwell is whisked off to a remote island off the tip of Cornwall when her natural historian colleague Stoker's brother calls in a favor. On the pretext of wanting a companion to accompany him to Lord Malcolm Romilly's house party, Tiberius persuades Veronica to pose as his fiancée--much to Stoker's chagrin. But upon arriving, it becomes clear that the party is not as innocent as it had seemed. Every invited guest has a connection to Romilly's wife, Rosamund, who disappeared on her wedding day three years ago, and a dramatic dinner proves she is very much on her husband's mind. As spectral figures, ghostly music, and mysterious threats begin to plague the partygoers, Veronica enlists Stoker's help to discover the host's true motivations. And as they investigate, it becomes clear that there are numerous mysteries surrounding the Romilly estate, and every person present has a motive to kill Rosamund...

I guess you could say A Dangerous Collaboration was a story about secrets—some old, some new; some about strong emotions or actions; and some about the past and others about the present. So many secrets packed into one story! But given how isolated the setting was made out to be and in the context of the mystery surrounding the reason why Veronica and the others were called to the Romilly residence, it made sense. And no, it wasn’t only about the butterflies.

A Dangerous Collaboration was an all-around interesting story. It was a relatively quick read that wasn’t too action-packed but when there was danger involved, the stakes were typically high. There was an almost foreboding atmosphere which only deepened when more details came to light. So, I liked the mystery as well as the historical time period the book took place in.

As I mentioned above, the setting was fairly isolated: centered on an island owned by the Romilly family, accessible only by boat. It was a challenging place with many secret passageways, and it remained at the mercy of the weather—often storms—as well as the water because of the shifts in the tide and currents. Raybourn made good use of the location, which served as a perfect backdrop to the mystery at hand.

One of the things I most enjoy about this book is the main character Veronica Speedwell. She’s witty and smart and her passion about butterflies lends to some simple yet well written moments of quiet tranquility between her and other characters. I personally found the bits about the butterflies incredibly interesting in how well they were described—even the made up Romilly Glasswing butterfly (Oleria romillia), whose real life inspiration/counterparts are just as fascinating as their fictional version. I also enjoyed the banter between Veronica and Stocker and—once again—how well they worked together as a team to try and solve the mystery behind Rosamund’s disappearance.

With a cast of characters that had motivations as equally differing as their personalities, A Dangerous Collaboration was a fantastic installment to the Veronica Speedwell series....
About the author...
A sixth-generation native Texan, New York Times bestselling author Deanna Raybourn graduated from the University of Texas at San Antonio with a double major in English and history and an emphasis on Shakespearean studies. She taught high school English for three years in San Antonio before leaving education to pursue a career as a novelist. Deanna makes her home in Virginia, where she lives with her husband and daughter...
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Disclaimer: This copy of the book was provided by First to Read for this review, thank you!



Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Review: A Winter's Promise by Christelle Dabos

39724529Title: A Winter's Promis
Series: The Mirror Visitor
Author: Christelle Dabos
Translated by: Hildegarde Serle
Source/Format: Borrowed from the library; Hardcover
More Details: Young Adult; Fantasy
Publisher/Publication Date: Europa Editions; September 25, 2018 (First published June 6, 2013)

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Synopsis from Goodreads...
Volume 1 of The Mirror Visitor Quartet; Winner of the Grand Prix de l’Imaginaire.... 
Where once there was unity, vastly different worlds now exist. Over each, the spirit of an omnipotent and immortal ancestor abides. Long ago, following a cataclysm called the Rupture, the world was shattered into many floating celestial islands, known now as arks. Ophelia lives on Anima, where inhabitants can read the pasts of objects. What’s more, she is also a “mirror-traveler,” possessing an ability that has been passed down to her through generations. Her idyllic existence on Anima is disrupted when she is promised in marriage to Thorn, an influential member of a distant clan. Still only a girl, Ophelia must leave her family and follow her fiancé to Citaceleste, the capital of a cold and icy ark called Pole. But there, her future husband seems indifferent to her and she slowly realizes that her presence on Pole is part of a much bigger plot and has far-reaching ramifications not only for her but for her entire world. 
An unforgettable heroine, an insightful study of relationships, a rich and bountiful universe, intrigue and suspense, A Winter’s Promise is perfect for readers of Margaret Rogerson, Scott Westerfeld, Melissa Albert, and N.K. Jemisin....
A Winter’s Promise is one of the best books I’ve read so far this year. True to its synopsis, this book reminded me a little of N.K Jemisin’s Broken Earth trilogy, but also of Howl’s Moving Castle. There was an element of domesticity present throughout the novel rather than a focus on weapon and or magic heavy battles. And you know what? That worked out perfectly fine. A Winter’s Promise is a story that suited the characters as much as the characters suited the world they inhabited—which was all around a fascinating setting. And while the end of the book yielded more questions than answers, A Winter’s Promise was an excellent beginning to The Mirror Visitor series.

One of the elements that initially drew me to A Winter’s Promise was the event known as the Rupture. There was a lot of mystery surrounding it, which persisted throughout the novel. However, there are sequels to A Winter’s Promise. I hope some of those answers will be provided as the series goes on, because the history of the setting was fascinating.

The overall premise is pretty simple: Ophelia ends up in an arranged marriage she can’t escape from, and she’s not exactly the biggest fan of her new fiancé. Yet, the plot was anything but simple, and it was something that became apparent as more of the details surrounding the engagement were revealed. The situation also afforded a direct look into the individual societies on the two arks prominently featured in the story. Anima, Ophelia’s home ark—while strict about their ways and the expectation placed on her about her engagement—was still almost idyllic in comparison to that of Thorn’s. Pole was like Anima’s polar opposite. On Anima, the weather was fair and everyone was like family. On Pole, it’s always cold and snowy, and there was a clear hierarchy with distinct classes of people. A point of interest for me was seeing how Ophelia would adapt, if at all, to the new environment.

The characters were also something to make note of. I won’t go into specifics since I don’t want to spoil anything, but I enjoyed reading from Ophelia’s perspective. The synopsis says “an insightful study of relationships,” and that’s what I got from the story. It was a character driven story, and a lot of time was devoted to exploring relationships as well as everyday happenings. I did like how seemingly innocuous abilities could have unintended consequences. One such effect was Ophelia’s clumsiness. Initially, it came off as a bit off-putting at times, but I did catch the details about the cause of it. Thorn was a mystery and mostly remained as one, and what information there was about him revealed hints of an interesting character. I hope to see more of him in the next book.

So, there are a number of questions I still have. Thus, I’m looking forward to The Missing of Clairdelune. Luckily, the wait won’t be too long…

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Review: The Penguin Historical Atlas of the Medieval World by Andrew Jotischky & Caroline Hull

235005Title: The Penguin Historical Atlas of the Medieval World
Series: n/a
Author: Andrew Jotischky; Caroline Hull
Source/Format: Borrowed from the library; Hardcover
More Details: Nonfiction; History
Publisher/Publication Date: Penguin; April 28, 2005

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Synopsis from Goodreads...
The Penguin Historical Atlas of the Medieval World traces the development of peoples, cultures, and faiths between the coming of the barbarian invasions in the fourth century and the first voyages to the New World in the sixteenth. This colorful atlas illustrates the sweeping changes from the fall of the Roman Empire to the birth of Islam, the rise of Christianity, and the role of Judaism across Europe. Packed with vivid maps and photographs, this atlas is a perfect guide to Europe and its neighbors in the Middle Ages....

I was in the mood for nonfiction. So, when I saw that my library had a copy of The Penguin Historical Atlas of the Medieval World, I knew I wanted to read it. I liked this book. It was an interesting read. This book was all about a wide range of Medieval History with photos and maps detailing territories, borders, and routes relevant to the time period; individual and dynastic reigns; and so forth. It was divided into four parts: The Early Middle Ages, The Revival of Europe, Latin Europe and its Neighbors, and The Late Middle Ages. It covered everything from castles, economy, early universities, towns, and the expansion as well as the evolving role between the “spiritual and secular authority” in accordance to the shifts of power throughout the Middle Ages. Given that it was an “atlas”, the information was presented in a profile-like format consisting of an average of one to two pages. However, because of this format, parts of the book felt a little redundant to me. While there was a wide range of subjects covered, the information was limited in a sense and never delved as far into the history as it could have. That being said, I understand why, because the book was relatively short. It was also a good way to get introduced to subjects I can look further into later on.

Overall, The Penguin Historical Atlas of the Medieval World was an interesting read. If you’re looking for somewhere to start with medieval history, then consider giving this one a try...

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

ARC Review: The Beast's Heart by Leife Shallcross

40409247Title: The Beast's Heart
Series: n/a
Author: Leife Shallcross
Source/Format: First to read; eARC
More Details: Fantasy; Retelling
Publisher/Publication Date: Berkley; February 12, 2019

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Synopsis from Goodreads...
A sumptuously magical, brand new take on a tale as old as time—read the Beast's side of the story at long last...
I am neither monster nor man—yet I am both. I am the Beast. The day I was cursed to this wretched existence was the day I was saved—although it did not feel so at the time. My redemption sprung from contemptible roots; I am not proud of what I did the day her father happened upon my crumbling, isolated chateau. But if loneliness breeds desperation then I was desperate indeed, and I did what I felt I must. My shameful behaviour was unjustly rewarded. My Isabeau. She opened my eyes, my mind and my heart; she taught me how to be human again. And now I might lose her forever....
Lose yourself in this gorgeously rich and magical retelling of The Beauty and the Beast that finally lays bare the beast's heart....

I always look forward to retellings for the usual reasons. So it’s pretty obvious why I wanted to give The Beast’s Heart by Leife Shallcross a try. It’s a Beauty and the Beast retelling told from the perspective of the Beast, and I was looking forward to what twists Shallcross would inject into a tale that’s already so familiar. I liked this book. It was long and it followed the general plot of Beauty and the Beast—so, if you know anything about the story, some parts of this one will feel familiar. Yet, The Beast’s Heart was still an interesting retelling.

From the first page, I was drawn in by Shallcross’s writing. It was descriptive and expertly conveyed what the Beast was going through as well as the setting and the magic present in the story. Shallcross did a good job at creating a better picture of the loneliness he went through during the time he spent isolated in a forest and then in his chateau. So, one thing I did see more of was what the Beast was doing before the usual starting point of the story, and when he had time alone thereafter. 
I also liked how Shallcross handled the other parts of the story. With so limited a focus, I was afraid that some of the other characters—like Isabeau’s family—would get lost while the story played out between her and the Beast. But, that wasn’t the case at all. There was a gradual progression of the story for both main and secondary characters. And I have to say that I enjoyed how those parts were ultimately incorporated into the rest of the story. Now, one thing I do have to talk about is how familiar parts of the story felt. Because this was a retelling that closely followed the original tale, it took away some of the surprise that might have come with certain revelations had there been more differences. It wasn’t that big of an issue. Other than that, the story was good. 
Overall, The Beast’s Heart was a solid retelling of Beauty and the Beast. And, if you’re a fan of the original tale, then maybe consider giving this one a try. Needless to say, I’m looking forward to whatever Shallcross writes next....

About the author....

Leife Shallcross’s first novel, The Beast’s Heart, a "luxuriously magical retelling of the Beauty and the Beast fairy tale", will be published by Hodder & Stoughton in May 2018. She is also the author of several short stories, including Pretty Jennie Greenteeth, which won the 2016 Aurealis Award for Best Young Adult Short Story. Leife has a bit of a thing for fairy tales, and is particularly inspired by those characters that tend to fall into the cracks of the usual stories. She can be found online at leifeshallcross.com and on Twitter @leioss.

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Disclaimer: This copy of the book was provided by First to Read for this review, thank you!


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