Showing posts with label four birdcages. Show all posts
Showing posts with label four birdcages. Show all posts

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Review: Art Deco by Victoria Charles & Klaus H. Carl

8879754Title: Art Deco
Series: n/a
Author: Victoria Charles, Klaus H. Carl
Source/Format: Borrowed from the library; hardcover
More Details: Nonfiction; Art
Publisher/Publication Date: Parkstone Press; March 1, 2013

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Synopsis from Goodreads...

Art Deco style was established on the ashes of a disappeared world, the one from before the First World War, and on the foundation stone of a world yet to become, opened to the most undisclosed promises. Forgetting herself in the whirl of Jazz Age and the euphoria of the “Années Folles”, the Garçonne with her linear shape reflects the architectural style of Art Deco: to the rounded curves succeed the simple and plain androgynous straight line… Architecture, painting, furniture and sculpture, dissected by the author, proclaim the druthers for sharp lines and broken angles. Although ephemeral, this movement keeps on influencing contemporary design.

I’ve always been kind of interested in Art Deco. Not for architectural reasons, because I’m not an architect. Instead, I was interested in the look of it, for the aesthetics. I decided to pick up this book because I was going to do some art inspired by Art Deco and wanted to know more about it before I dove into a long, time consuming project. This book wasn’t very long. It was more of a technical read that delved into a lot of the history about the subject. Despite that, I liked this book a lot. It was divided into three primary sections: Architecture, Painted and Sculpted Décor; Furniture and Furniture Sets; and Jewelry. I liked all three, but my favorite one was the section on jewelry even though it was the smallest with the least amount of pages.

This book went over things I already knew about and other facts I wasn’t familiar with. It covered some of the influences and work that went into making Art Deco what it is. There was a lot of information accompanied by photo examples of work by noteworthy architects and industrial designers—such as Donald Deskey—that I hadn’t heard of before. There was one quote that seemed to best represent what most of the book is trying to explain:

“They did not in any way disavow tradition, but rather reconnected with it, reuniting art with functionality and developing a contemporary expression which is the obvious result of previous expressions” (p.120).

Even now, there’s such a contemporary feel to some of the furniture and buildings. And I found it interesting to read about how a broader range of building materials and techniques contributed to its creation. Those things attributed to the freedom to create a style that was both a work of art and practical because it was functional in daily life. There were paragraphs that talked about light weight/ reinforced concrete and how “marble panels can be fixed more firmly to it than brick” (p.24). There were pages that further delved into the finer details that explained the many painted and sculpted décor, ironwork, and panels among other things.

“Art Deco no longer sought to please through unnecessary ornamentation, but rather through moderation: balanced forms, harmony of proportions and tones, and a contrast of lights and shades—such are its essential principals” (p.113).

I have a better understanding of Art Deco, and I’ve really come to appreciate it . It was fascinating how buildings became art, and furniture became fixtures in a room in the same way someone would hang an art print. Needless to say, this book was good...

Sunday, June 3, 2018

ARC Review: Bruja Born by Zoraida Córdova

33918887Title: Bruja Born
Series: Brooklyn Brujas #2
Author: Zoraida Córdova
Source/Format: Netgalley; eARC
More Details: Young Adult: Fantasy
Publisher/Publication Date: Sourcebooks Fire; June 5, 1018

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Synopsis from Goodreads...

Three sisters. One spell. Countless dead...

Lula Mortiz feels like an outsider. Her sister's newfound Encantrix powers have wounded her in ways that Lula's bruja healing powers can't fix, and she longs for the comfort her family once brought her. Thank the Deos for Maks, her sweet, steady boyfriend who sees the beauty within her and brings light to her life.

Then a bus crash turns Lula's world upside down. Her classmates are all dead, including Maks. But Lula was born to heal, to fix. She can bring Maks back, even if it means seeking help from her sisters and defying Death herself. But magic that defies the laws of the deos is dangerous. Unpredictable. And when the dust settles, Maks isn't the only one who's been brought back...
Labyrinth Lost was one of my favorite reads from last year, and I was more than ready to return to the world of the Brooklyn Brujas. As such, I had high hopes that I would love Bruja Born just as much Labyrinth Lost. I did have one minor issue with it (more on that later). That being said, it was still such a fabulous story full of magic, family, and mayhem.

Lula Mortiz appeared in the last book, but wasn’t on-page much due to the circumstance surrounding the story of Labyrinth Lost. I remember her sister, Alex more, because she was the main character. So, I was excited to see that Lula was getting her own story. What I initially remembered about Lula was that she was a healer who seemed sure of her place in the world as well as confident in her magical capabilities. Bruja Born had a different Lula, and if you’ve read Labyrinth Lost you’ll understand what I mean. At the start of the story, she comes off as bit selfish and self-absorbed. She was readily willing to ignore the pain of others because she felt like they owed her. There was a point where her selfishness and refusal to accept what happened—as well as attempting to ignore what was really going on—kind of irritated me after a while. However, I also got that that pattern of behavior had a place in the story. Lula was supposed to be different and hurt in so many ways. So her willingness to cling to the one thing she perceived as being the most good and stable aspect in her life was believable.

Bruja Born was story about magic, family, and choices. Choices are tricky. Some are right, others are wrong, some are mistakes and you don’t even realize it until later. And the story of Bruja Born illustrates how a split second decision, a moment of desperation, can have unforeseen and lasting consequences. It was also kind of a coming of age type story. Lula had to grow up and understand her mistakes and be held accountable for her actions, as well as learning to let go of the past—no matter how painful—in order to move forward. So, despite my irritation at some of the things that happened, as far as the story overall, Bruja Born was amazing.

It was also nice getting to see some familiar faces from Labyrinth Lost like Rishi, Nova, and others. I also liked the new characters who were introduced, and I have my fingers crossed that they’ll make another appearance in the next book.
I’ll read the next book in the series since the story seems like it’s going to focus on Rose. I’m looking forward to that...


Disclaimer: This copy of the book was provided by Sourcebooks Fire via Netgalley for this review.

About the author...

Zoraida Córdova is the author of urban fantasies The Vicious Deep trilogy and the Brooklyn Brujas series. Her short fiction has appeared in the New York Times bestselling anthology, Star Wars: From a Certain Point of View. Zoraida’s most recent release, Labyrinth Lost, won an International Latino Book award, was named a Best Book of 2016 by Paste Magazine and has been optioned by Paramount Studios. Zoraida is also the author of the upcoming Hollow Crown, to be published by Disney Hyperion in 2019.

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Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Review: Envy of Angels by Matt Wallace

25819511Title: Envy of Angels
Series: Sin du Jour #1
Author: Matt Wallace
Source/Format: Purchased; ebook
More Details: Urban Fantasy 
Publisher/Publication Date: Tor.com; October 20, 2015

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Synopsis from Goodreads...

In New York, eating out can be hell. Everyone loves a well-catered event, and the supernatural community is no different, but where do demons go to satisfy their culinary cravings? Welcome to Sin du Jour - where devils on horseback are the clients, not the dish...
I didn’t know what to expect with the first book in the Sin du Jour series by Matt Wallace. Prior to diving into it, I’d heard a lot of good things about the series and my expectations were moderate. And I’m happy to report that I enjoyed this story. After all, it combined two of my favorite things: urban fantasy and cooking. With a combination like that, what could possibly go wrong? Well, for the characters, a lot actually. 

I’ve read urban fantasy that also had cooking/catering combined with paranormal elements. And while those stories were good in their own way, I also enjoyed Envy of Angels for what it had to offer. There was a certain, often elevated, degree of ridiculousness to some of the situations the characters ended up in. It was very unexpected, but at the end of the day it worked. The cooking was probably my favorite part of Envy of Angels. I always love the idea behind supernatural catering/restaurants, and this is one of the more unique interpretations of it that I’ve recently read. There was a quirky and strange approach to the types of ingredients described, while the cooking techniques were, well, kind of normal. It was what one would expect from any kind of restaurant kitchen except for the ingredients. The characters are also worth mentioning, because they were interesting. They came from different backgrounds and held different jobs and as a result their skills and internal monologue varied greatly. I particularly enjoyed the side plot that involved Sin du Jour’s “receiving folks” or procurement team. As it so happens, there's a short story about them over on Tor.com. It's called Small Wars, and you can find it here: Small Wars by Matt Wallace; Tor.com.

All in all, Envy of Angels was surprising in the best kind of way. It was everything I was hoping it would be and more. Suffice it to say, I will definitely read more books by Matt Wallace.


Monday, March 12, 2018

Review: Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

35210501Title: Ready Player One
Series: N/A
Author: Ernest Cline
Source/Format: Blogging for Books; Paperback
More Details: Science Fiction
Publisher/Publication Date: Broadway Books; August 16, 2011

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Synopsis from Goodreads...

In the year 2044, reality is an ugly place. The only time teenage Wade Watts really feels alive is when he's jacked into the virtual utopia known as the OASIS. Wade's devoted his life to studying the puzzles hidden within this world's digital confines--puzzles that are based on their creator's obsession with the pop culture of decades past and that promise massive power and fortune to whoever can unlock them. But when Wade stumbles upon the first clue, he finds himself beset by players willing to kill to take this ultimate prize. The race is on, and if Wade's going to survive, he'll have to win--and confront the real world he's always been so desperate to escape...
For the longest time, I’ve been hearing about Ready Player One by Ernest Cline. This author isn’t completely new to me. I read Armada and liked it, so, I didn’t go into Ready Player One totally in the dark about Cline’s writing. However, my expectations were very high. I expected to be wowed. And, I wasn’t disappointed. I liked Ready Player One

The OASIS was described as a “vast virtual world where most of humanity spends their days”, which is the only accurate way to describe it. There were more than a dozen different worlds within the game, made up of original places or franchises licensed for use in OASIS. It was open platform and the majority of the setting (where the story played out) was within OASIS. It wasn’t just a recreational pastime, but also a place to learn and make purchases using real money. It was also a place to form friendships and even romantic relationships.

The plot focused on the contest, or “the Hunt”, left behind by James Halliday (the creator of the OASIS). So, Ready Player One is a Willy Wonka-esque story with a heavy emphasis on virtual reality, peppered—almost on every page—with references to pop culture primarily from the 80s. There were mentions of Star Wars, Back to the Future, and many others; as well as video games and consoles, for example the Atari 2600. But, this was a book that also had something else to say: an underlying message mixed in with the action and the Hunt, kind of about escapism via virtual reality told through the experiences of past and present characters.

And that brings me to the characters. I thought Wade Watts was a relatively interesting protagonist. He was down on his luck and had horrible relatives. His situation wasn’t the best and the OASIS was his escape from his life in the stacks. He was also like a walking dictionary for 80s pop culture. But then again, so were a lot of the “gunters” involved in the Hunt.

So, I thoroughly enjoyed Ready Player One and will definitely read future books by this author.
Disclaimer: this copy of the book was provided by Blogging for Books for this review...

About the author...

Ernest Cline is a novelist, screenwriter, father, and full-time geek. His first novel, Ready Player One, was a New York Times and USA Today bestseller and appeared on numerous “best of the year” lists. Ernie lives in Austin, Texas, with his family, a time-traveling DeLorean, and a large collection of classic video games...

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Review: Daughter of the Burning City by Amanda Foody

30237061Title: Daughter of the Burning City
Series: N/A
Author: Amanda Foody
Source/Format: Borrowed from the library; Hardcover
More Details: Young Adult; Fantasy
Publisher/Publication Date: Harlequin Teen; July 25, 2017

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Synopsis from Goodreads...

Sixteen-year-old Sorina has spent most of her life within the smoldering borders of the Gomorrah Festival. Yet even among the many unusual members of the traveling circus-city, Sorina stands apart as the only illusion-worker born in hundreds of years. This rare talent allows her to create illusions that others can see, feel and touch, with personalities all their own. Her creations are her family, and together they make up the cast of the Festival’s Freak Show. But no matter how lifelike they may seem, her illusions are still just that—illusions, and not truly real. Or so she always believed…until one of them is murdered. Desperate to protect her family, Sorina must track down the culprit and determine how they killed a person who doesn’t actually exist. Her search for answers leads her to the self-proclaimed gossip-worker Luca, and their investigation sends them through a haze of political turmoil and forbidden romance, and into the most sinister corners of the Festival. But as the killer continues murdering Sorina’s illusions one by one, she must unravel the horrifying truth before all of her loved ones disappear...
I’ve wanted to read Daughter of the Burning City for a while now. I freely admit that I was drawn in by the gorgeous cover and premise, which promised a magical and dangerous circus-y type setting—which is a favorite trope/element of mine that I don’t read often enough. I liked this book a lot more than I thought I would. It was a deeply atmospheric story. There were so many things about it that were cool and unique that I almost wish I’d read it sooner, but it is what it is.

Overall, I liked the story. There was a lot going on between the mystery about who was killing Sorina’s illusion, and the broader conflicts surrounding Gomorrah’s travels through the Up-Mountains. There were a lot of unexpected twists. And the setting was sort of fun—it’s a festival after all—but it carried through on some darker themes. In that way, the burning city lived up to its name. And Foody succeeded at capturing the atmosphere of Gomorrah: the danger and mystery; how something of its nature moves from place to place, and what the way of life was like for the people who lived and worked there. The lore surrounding the smoke that clouds Gomorrah’s sky was as unexpected and cool as the scenery and members of Sorina’s show. There was, of course, a world outside of Gomorrah. There could have been…more to it, but there were clear hints of the landscape and brutal extremism in the Up-Mountain beliefs that often ended in violence.

Now the characters—for the most part, I liked them, particularly Sorina and her illusions. Sorina is a character I would best describe as somewhat naïve, but considering the story, her upbringing, and age, it ultimately worked because it fit with her personality. Now, Sorina is a character without eyes, and some of the expressions used to describe her emotional reactions were a little confusing. Such as when she was crying, but without eyes I wasn’t certain how it worked. I wish that her emotions had been better reflected in her illusion jynx-work. But otherwise, I thought her character and abilities were fine.

I don’t know. There was something about Daughter of the Burning City that I loved, a certain charm to the characters, story, and setting. And I liked the end. It was a satisfying conclusion for the characters, despite some lingering questions. Needless to say, I will definitely read more books by Amanda Foody...

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Review: The Cruel Prince by Holly Black

26032825Title: The Cruel Prince
Author: Holly Black
Series: The Folk of the Air #1
Source/Format: Borrowed from the Library; Hardcover
More Details: Young Adult; Fantasy
Publisher/Publication Date: Little Brown Books for Young Readers; January 2, 2018

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Synopsis from Goodreads...

Of course I want to be like them. They’re beautiful as blades forged in some divine fire. They will live forever. And Cardan is even more beautiful than the rest. I hate him more than all the others. I hate him so much that sometimes when I look at him, I can hardly breathe...

Jude was seven years old when her parents were murdered and she and her two sisters were stolen away to live in the treacherous High Court of Faerie. Ten years later, Jude wants nothing more than to belong there, despite her mortality. But many of the fey despise humans. Especially Prince Cardan, the youngest and wickedest son of the High King. To win a place at the Court, she must defy him–and face the consequences. In doing so, she becomes embroiled in palace intrigues and deceptions, discovering her own capacity for bloodshed. But as civil war threatens to drown the Courts of Faerie in violence, Jude will need to risk her life in a dangerous alliance to save her sisters, and Faerie itself.
I have been a fan of Holly Black’s writing for a number of years. I've always particularly enjoyed her books about fairies including The Spiderwick Chronicles (which I read as a kid), the Modern Faerie Tales, and The Darkest Part of the Forest. So, you can imagine how excited I was for The Cruel Prince.

I enjoyed this book. The plot had me hooked from the very first page. One thing I particularly enjoyed about The Cruel Prince was how it expanded the world already established in other books—like Tithe—and some familiar faces appeared briefly in the story.

The Cruel Prince didn’t necessarily offer anything new in terms of fairies—especially if you’ve read books by this author before. It read like Black’s usual take on fey lore with the fairies being cruel tricksters, and their society dark and atmospheric full of magic, danger, and politics. But that’s what I was expecting and it was done so well. What I didn’t expect was how much I liked the majority of Jude’s perspective. For the most part she was okay. I didn’t necessarily like all the decisions she made, and parts of her personality reminded me a little of Hazel from The Darkest Part of the Forest. At some parts, their goals were kind of similar, particularly in the beginning of The Cruel Prince. That being said, their stories were vastly different. It was also interesting to see the courts from the viewpoint of a human forced to live among the nobility of the fey and what daily life would be like for Jude and her twin.

The prince implied in the title, well…I didn’t like his character for about 50% of the book. The title says it all: he was intentionally cruel to Jude to the point of endangering her life. And that crossed the line. However, the twists with his character were unexpected, and he went through some much needed development in book 2 (part 2). I wasn't exactly sympathetic to his character, but he was tolerable.

Overall, The Cruel Prince was everything I was hoping it would be. The last few chapters were amazing, and I look forward to what Holly Black has in-store for this story.

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Thoughts on the Imperial Radch Trilogy: Review of Ancillary Sword & Ancillary Mercy by Ann Leckie

About the books...

20706284Title: Ancillary Sword
Author: Ann Leckie
Series: Imperial Radch #2
Source/Format: Gift; paperback
More Details: Science Fiction
Publisher/Publication Date: Orbit; October 7, 2014

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Synopsis from Goodreads...

What if you once had thousands of bodies and near god-like technology at your disposal?

And what if all of it were ripped away?

The Lord of the Radch has given Breq command of the ship Mercy of Kalr and sent her to the only place she would have agreed to go—to Athoek Station, where Lieutenant Awn's sister works in Horticulture. Athoek was annexed some six hundred years ago, and by now everyone is fully civilized—or should be. But everything is not as tranquil as it appears. Old divisions are still troublesome, Athoek Station's AI is unhappy with the situation, and it looks like the alien Presger might have taken an interest in what's going on. With no guarantees that interest is benevolent...

23533039
Title: Ancillary Mercy
Author: Ann Leckie
Series: Imperial Radch #3 
Source/Format: Gift; paperback
More Details: Science Fiction
Publisher/Publication Date: Orbit; October 6, 2015

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Synopsis from Goodreads...

The conclusion to the trilogy that began with Ancillary Justice...

For a moment, things seemed to be under control for Breq, the soldier who used to be a warship. Then a search of Athoek Station's slums turns up someone who shouldn't exist, and a messenger from the mysterious Presger empire arrives, as does Breq's enemy, the divided and quite possibly insane Anaander Mianaai - ruler of an empire at war with itself. Breq refuses to flee with her ship and crew, because that would leave the people of Athoek in terrible danger. The odds aren't good, but that's never stopped her before...


Just a quick note: I will be discussing the second and third book of the trilogy. I will try to be as vague as possible, but there may be minor spoilers. So, if you haven’t read the first book, Ancillary Justice or Ancillary Sword, then stop reading now.

No, seriously, look away.

Well then, you've been warned.

Still here? Alright then, read on... 
During my break from blogging, I planned to get a lot of reading done. And while I didn’t read as much as I wanted to, I did binge the rest of the Imperial Radch trilogy—Ancillary Sword and Ancillary Mercy—because I got the books as Christmas gifts.

As a whole, I enjoyed this series for its core themes and characters. In particular, my favorite part of the both books was the character Breq. I also enjoyed the politics—there was a lot of it—and other parts of Radachaai society outside of the palaces. And, I liked Leckie’s use of technology, and what she did with the AIs prominently featured throughout the trilogy.

Ancillary Sword…

I liked Ancillary Sword, but it was a little weaker than Ancillary Justice. I think the main issue I had was that some of the excitement of the first book was missing in the sequel. Sometimes, the stakes didn’t seem as high despite the danger posed to Breq and crew.

The political side of Radch has always been a focal point of the series, and it was one of the things I was looking forward to. In Ancillary Sword, Breq—former troop carrier, Justice of Torren, and current ancillary—is in a new role: fleet captain, a position given to her by one faction of Anaander Mianaai. However, while the civil war between the differing factions of Mianaai is made mention of, it seemed a little detached from the story because much of the fighting takes place off page rather than seeing parts of the conflict directly through the eyes of Breq—as was the case in Ancillary Justice. There was action in Ancillary sword, but not as much as in Ancillary Justice. But, I didn’t really expect it, given that from early on the narrative tended more toward Radch politics—although localized—and tea. And I mean lots and lots of tea.

But, it was kind of interesting to learn more about the AIs—ships and stations—as well as what different parts of the Radch was like. And Ancillary Sword was still a necessary read, because it set up the plot that continued into the next book.

Ancillary Mercy…


Now, by comparison, I enjoyed Ancillary Mercy more than Sword because the stakes were higher—the danger and conflict were more direct. During some parts, I was actually nervous for my favorite characters, and that only heightened how much of a page-turner Ancillary Mercy ended up being. It was an epic finish to the trilogy. It had all the elements I was missing from Ancillary Justice. There was a perfect blend of character development on all fronts—AI and people—politics, actions, mention of tea, and the conflict between Anaander Mianaai and herself.

One thing I enjoyed about Ancillary Mercy was how vivid the characters were—both familiar and new to the trilogy. Even the AIs had distinct personalities and habits despite being viewed by some as just equipment. I appreciated those little quirks.

The end, while not neat or overly happily ever after—and it certainly didn’t solve everything about the situation with Mianaai and Radch—was still a satisfying conclusion for the characters. And that made the whole series worth it.

Finally…

As a whole, the Imperial Radch trilogy was something else. I like to describe it simply as awesome. There were a lot of interesting ideas about technology, politics, justice, and the limits of an empire. And Leckie did a good job exploring them.
Would you read The Imperial Radch trilogy?

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

ARC Review: The Girl in the Tower by Katherine Arden

34050917Title: The Girl in the Tower
Series: The Winternight Trilogy #2
Author: Katherine Arden
Source/Format: Netgalley; eARC
More Details: Fantasy; Historical
Publisher/Publication Date: Del Rey; December 5, 2017

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Synopsis from Goodreads...

The magical adventure begun in The Bear and the Nightingale continues as brave Vasya, now a young woman, is forced to choose between marriage or life in a convent and instead flees her home—but soon finds herself called upon to help defend the city of Moscow when it comes under siege...


Orphaned and cast out as a witch by her village, Vasya’s options are few: resign herself to life in a convent, or allow her older sister to make her a match with a Moscovite prince. Both doom her to life in a tower, cut off from the vast world she longs to explore. So instead she chooses adventure, disguising herself as a boy and riding her horse into the woods. When a battle with some bandits who have been terrorizing the countryside earns her the admiration of the Grand Prince of Moscow, she must carefully guard the secret of her gender to remain in his good graces—even as she realizes his kingdom is under threat from mysterious forces only she will be able to stop...

I've been looking forward to The Girl in the Tower since January, and luckily the wait wasn't too long. I was primarily excited for it because of how much I enjoyed reading the first book in the series, The Bear and the Nightingale. That book had a semi-open ending, and I wanted to know where Arden would take the story since there were so many possibilities. And indeed, The Girl in the Tower picks up shortly after the end of The Bear and the Nightingale. Vasya made her choice, and she intended to stick to it.

By no means was I disappointed by The Girl in the Tower, but I didn’t enjoy it as much as the previous book. I still liked the story, but the first couple of chapters didn’t immediately draw me in the same way The Bear and the Nightingale was able to do. However, once the point of view shifted to Vasya, the story took on a familiar fairytale-like tone, which I was an absolute fan of. It quickly became apparent that this was the dark, icy, and magical sequel I was hoping for.

One of the things I like about Arden’s writing is how atmospheric it is. I particularly enjoyed the historical aspects of the book because of how detailed and real the characters and setting seemed to fit with the time period. She perfectly captured the landscape, weather, and dangers of the setting and society. The folklore is something to be noted too. There are a lot of old tales incorporated into Vasya’s story, which tied in with the magic. It was one of the things I enjoyed so much about The Bear and the Nightingale, and I was glad to see that it carried over into the second book.

That brings me to the characters. While Vasya’s story was the focus, I liked that the secondary characters had personality. They were present in the story, not just there as background noise. Then, there was Vasya. I liked her strength and determination. She learned a lot through her mistakes, and that made her character arch all the more interesting. Morozko—I don’t have much to say about the frost demon, because that would be a spoiler. What I will say is that he's one of my favorite characters in this series, and I appreciated the scenes he was in but wish he would have been more present in the story.

So, while the ending was a little abrupt, The Girl in the Tower was still a solid addition to the series. And if you enjoyed The Bear and the Nightingale, then this is a must read. Now begins the wait for book three.
Disclaimer: This copy of the book was provided by the publisher (Del Rey) via Netgalley for this review.
About the author...

Born in Texas, Katherine attended Middlebury College, where she studied French and Russian literature. She has lived abroad in France and in Moscow, and is fluent in both French and Russian. She has also lived in Hawaii, where she spent time guiding horse trips while writing The Bear and the Nightingale. She currently lives in Vermont...

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Friday, November 17, 2017

ARC Review: The Wedding Date by Jasmine Guillory

33815781Title: The Wedding Date
Author: Jasmine Guillory
Source/Format: Bookish First (Berkley); ARC
More Details: Fiction; Contemporary; Romance
Publisher/Publication Date: Berkley January 30, 2018

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Synopsis from Goodreads...

A groomsman and his last-minute guest are about to discover if a fake date can go the distance in a fun and flirty debut novel...
Agreeing to go to a wedding with a guy she gets stuck with in an elevator is something Alexa Monroe wouldn't normally do. But there's something about Drew Nichols that's too hard to resist. On the eve of his ex's wedding festivities, Drew is minus a plus one. Until a power outage strands him with the perfect candidate for a fake girlfriend. After Alexa and Drew have more fun than they ever thought possible, Drew has to fly back to Los Angeles and his job as a pediatric surgeon, and Alexa heads home to Berkeley, where she's the mayor's chief of staff. Too bad they can't stop thinking about the other. They're just two high-powered professionals on a collision course toward the long distance dating disaster of the century--or closing the gap between what they think they need and what they truly want...
It’s been some time since I picked up a contemporary romance novel. I had the chance to read a preview of The Wedding Date by Jasmine Guillory and couldn’t resist entering the raffle. After all, this book involves a couple of my favorite romance tropes: accidental meetings, and fake wedding dates. There were a couple of things I was a little on the fence about, but overall, The Wedding Date was a nice story with a cute main couple and a great cast of supporting characters.

I was already excited to read the full book just based off of the preview, and now I can say for certain that I liked this book a lot. It can feel a little formulaic at times, but the diverse and career-minded characters more than make up for that—particularly Alexa and Drew. Parts of the book focused on their respective professions and goals. It added a lot to their characterization. I thought it was a nice touch.

What I was a little conflicted about was certain aspects of the relationship. While I liked Drew and Alexa together, the start of their relationship happened quite quickly. At times, it felt more like lust. However, as the book progressed, they did talk, and the early chemistry really came through and developed into something more.

The Wedding Date is one of the best contemporary romance books I’ve read so far this year, and I look forward to reading Guillory’s next book.
Disclaimer: This copy of the book was provided by Bookish First and Berkely for this review.
About the author...

Jasmine Guillory is a graduate of Wellesley College and Stanford Law School. She is a Bay Area native who has towering stacks of books in her living room, a cake recipe for every occasion, and upwards of 50 lipsticks.

Monday, October 30, 2017

ARC Review: Beasts Made of Night by Tochi Onyebuchi

Beasts Made of NightTitle: Beasts Made of Night
Author: Tochi Onyebuchi
Source/Format: First to Read; eARC
More Details: Young Adult; Fantasy
Publisher/Publication Date: Razorbill; October 31, 2017

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Synopsis from Goodreads...

In the walled city of Kos, corrupt mages can magically call forth sin from a sinner in the form of sin-beasts – lethal creatures spawned from feelings of guilt. Taj is the most talented of the aki, young sin-eaters indentured by the mages to slay the sin-beasts. But Taj’s livelihood comes at a terrible cost. When he kills a sin-beast, a tattoo of the beast appears on his skin while the guilt of committing the sin appears on his mind. Most aki are driven mad by the process, but 17-year-old Taj is cocky and desperate to provide for his family. When Taj is called to eat a sin of a royal, he’s suddenly thrust into the center of a dark conspiracy to destroy Kos. Now Taj must fight to save the princess that he loves – and his own life...
Beasts Made of Night is another one of the books I was looking forward to. This was a highly entertaining book. It had an interesting system of magic with clear consequences and was set against the gritty and dangerous setting of Kos. I'm not going to lie, I was a total fan of this one. It did move at a slower pace, but some of the best young adult/fantasy novels I've read so far this year, have been like that—i.e. The Bone Witch by Rin Chupeco and Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor. In the case of Beasts Made of Night, this was due in part to the character arcs. The characters go through a lot of learning and training, and some parts of the book felt very day-to-day with exception of sin-eating. The ability of the aki was probably my favorite part of Beasts Made of Night, aside from the sin-beasts. Sin is at the heart of the story, and it was an interesting choice to take something—a decision that a person makes or an act that a person commits—and turn it into something that is alive enough to do harm. Not just that, but to make others carry that guilt like it was their own.

Beasts Made of Night is now one of my favorite books of 2017. There’s nothing about a sequel on the Goodreads page yet. I hope there will be, because this book felt more like a beginning with such a promising story and set of characters. Needless to say, I look forward to reading Onyebuchi’s next book.
 This copy of the book was provided by First to Read (publisher) for this review. 
About the author...

Tochi Onyebuchi is a writer based in Connecticut. He holds a MFA in Screenwriting from Tisch and a J.D. from Columbia Law School. His writing has appeared in Asimov’s and Ideomancer, among other places. Beasts Made of Night is his debut...

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Review: The Creeps: A Deep Dark Fears Collection by Fran Krause

The CreepsTitle: The Creeps
Author: Fran Krause
Source/Format: Blogging For Books; Hardcover
More Details: Comic; Humor
Publisher/Publication Date: Ten Speed Press; September 26, 2017
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Synopsis from Goodreads...

A follow-up to the New York Times best-selling Deep Dark Fears: a second volume of comics based on people’s quirky, spooky, hilarious, and terrifying fears... 


Illustrator, animator, teacher, and comic artist Fran Krause has touched a collective nerve with his wildly popular web comic series–and subsequent New York Times best-selling book–Deep Dark Fears. Here he brings readers more of the creepy, funny, and idiosyncratic fears they love illustrated in comic form–such as the fear that your pets will tell other animals all your embarrassing secrets, or that someone uses your house while you’re not home–as well as two longer comic short-stories about ghosts...
I’m always on the lookout for collections—short comics or short stories—because I don’t read enough of them. When I came across The Creeps by Fran Krause, I was instantly interested. Before getting a copy of this book for review, I wasn’t familiar with Krause’s artwork. However, I was pleasantly surprised by how much I genuinely enjoyed this collection of short comics.

The Creeps is filled with comics about deep dark fears. Think along the lines of being haunted by pets, falling through a portal hidden on the floor, and empty mascot costumes. The majority of the comics were, on average, only four panels long, but they were mixed in with a couple of longer stories that took up more than one page. I was expecting to really get a kick out of The Creeps, but it didn’t really make me laugh as much as I’d expected. That being said, the comics were still kind of creepy, and I liked the illustrations—bonus points for the fact that they were all in color.

All in all, The Creeps was pretty much the perfect October read.
This copy of the book was provided by Blogging For Books for this review.
About the author...

Ananimator and cartoonist. He is currently a teacher in the character animation program at CalArts, creator of several cartoons, and the creator of the Deep Dark Fears webcomic series and book.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Review: Defy the Stars by Claudia Gray

Defy the Stars (Constellation, #1)Title: Defy the Stars
Author: Claudia Gray
Source/Format: Borrowed from the Library; Hardcover
More Details: Young Adult; Science Fiction
Publisher/Publication Date: Little Brown Books For Young Readers; April 4, 2017
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Synopsis from Goodreads...

She’s a soldier.

Noemi Vidal is seventeen years old and sworn to protect her planet, Genesis. She’s willing to risk anything—including her own life. To their enemies on Earth, she’s a rebel.

He’s a machine.

Abandoned in space for years, utterly alone, Abel has advanced programming that’s begun to evolve. He wants only to protect his creator, and to be free. To the people of Genesis, he’s an abomination.

Noemi and Abel are enemies in an interstellar war, forced by chance to work together as they embark on a daring journey through the stars. Their efforts would end the fighting for good, but they’re not without sacrifice. The stakes are even higher than either of them first realized, and the more time they spend together, the more they’re forced to question everything they’d been taught was true.
I haven’t read a book by Claudia Gray in years. The last book I recall was Evernight, and I read that back before I started blogging. So I was eager to try Defy the Stars since science fiction is one of my favorite genres to read, and I’d heard a lot of good things about it. It took me a couple of days to read Defy the Stars, but I wasn’t disappointed by the story. Actually, Defy the Stars is now one of my favorite books.

You know, there are stories that deal with traveling from one place to another. Those types of stories can go either way for me. I’m specifically talking about ones that take place in space. Defy the Stars is one of the good ones. There was a lot of travel, but I kind of appreciated that because it gave the characters an adequate chance to get to know one another.

Defy the Stars was about an interstellar war with a daring plan. So there were battles, space ships, intelligent machines, and an interesting take on how technology would potentially advance in a future setting. I was expecting that. However, there were some things brought up in Defy the Stars that were almost like a mirror to current society. Especially how the stability of the environment is taken for granted. So, there was a moral conundrum going on that played into the philosophical element of the story. I wasn't expecting the philosophical aspects, but I liked how it actively challenged the characters and their way of thinking. It called their beliefs into question, and put them in situations where they had to take a second look at what they knew about the worlds they called home. It was an interesting direction to take the story, and it ultimately paid off.

I liked the main characters, Noemi and Abel. There was a clear difference between the two, and not just because of their respective allegiances. She was an ordinary person, and he was a Mech. Putting the two of them together in the same environment was entertaining, to say the least.

All that being said, the beginning was exceptionally good but my favorite part of the book didn’t happen until the later chapters. The end was phenomenal, and I’m excited to see where Gray takes the story in the sequel, Defy the Worlds.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Review: Women in Sports: 50 Fearless Athletes Who Played To Win by Rachel Ignotofsky

Women In Sports: 50 Fearless Athletes Who Played to WinTitle: Women In Sports: 50 Fearless Athletes Who Played to Win
Author: Rachel Ignotofsky
Source/Format: Blogging for Books; Hardcover
More Details: Nonfiction; Sports
Publisher/Publication Date: Ten Speed Press; July 18, 2017
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Synopsis from Goodreads...

Women in Sports highlights notable women's contributions to competitive athletics to inspire readers young and old. Keeping girls interested in sports has never been more important: research suggests that girls who play sports get better grades and have higher self-esteem--but girls are six times more likely to quit playing sports than boys and are unlikely to see female athlete role models in the media. A fascinating collection full of striking, singular art, Women in Sports features 50 profiles and illustrated portraits of women athletes from the 1800s to today including trailblazers, Olympians, and record-breakers in more than 40 different sports. The book also contains infographics about relevant topics such as muscle anatomy, a timeline of women's participation in sports, statistics about women in athletics, and influential female teams...

 Last year, I had the chance to receive a copy of Women in Science for review, and it ended up being one of my favorite reads of 2016. And now, Rachel Ignotofsky has released a new book, Women in Sports. I'm excited to talk about about this book since it's my latest nonfiction read, and it deals with sports. By the way, I don't follow sports like that. I'm more of a casual observer, but it's nice to know more about those who are considered pioneers in their respective sport—at least by nameand Women in Sports does just that.

Like Ignotofsky’s last book, Women in Sports was comprised of 50 profiles of women who excel at what they do. It included names like Serena Williams, Simone Biles, Danica Patrick, Kelly Clarke, Althea Gibson, Kristi Yamaguchi, and many others that I wasn't familiar with. The profiles are relatively short with a page of illustrations and another with a neat summary of early life and crowning/breakthrough moments. I honestly didn't mind because I went into this book expecting summaries. That being said, Women in Sports introduced me to a lot of women athletes that I'd honestly never heard of before. Another thing I want to mention was the overall design of this book. I loved it. The pages were colorful and covered in illustrations specifically tailored to the subject of each profile. I also liked the fact that there were a couple of other things added to this book like a chart on muscle anatomy and a timeline of when major accomplishments were made by various female athletes. Some of my other favorite profiles included:
  • Anita Defrantz (Rower and Athletic Administrator)
  • Deng Yaping (Ping Pong Player) (Professional ping pong is intense. Don't believe me? Look up some of Deng Yaping's matches on youtube). 
  • Gertude Ederle (Distance Swimmer)
  • Ashley Fiolek (Motorcross Rider)
  • and Melissa Stockell (Paratriathhlete)
Overall, Women in Sports is a good reference book and I look forward to Ignotofsky’s future work. I’m definitely going to keep this one on my shelf.
This copy of the book was provided by Blogging for Books for this review.
About the author...

Rachel Ignotofsky grew up in New Jersey on a healthy diet of cartoons and pudding. She graduated with honors from Tyler School of Art’s graphic design program in 2011. Now she lives in beautiful Kansas City, Missouri, where she spends all day drawing and learning as much as she can. She has a passion for taking dense information and making it fun and accessible and is dedicated to creating educational works of art. Rachel is inspired by history and science and believes that illustration is a powerful tool that can make learning exciting. She uses her work to spread her message about education, scientific literacy, and powerful women. She hopes this book inspires girls and women to follow their passions and dreams...

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Review: The Invisible Library by Genevieve Cogman

The Invisible Library (The Invisible Library, #1)Title: The Invisible Library
Author: Genevieve Cogman
Source/Format: Blogging for Books; Paperback
More Details: Fantasy
Publisher/Publication Date: Roc; June 14, 2016

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Synopsis from Goodreads...

Collecting books can be a dangerous prospect in this fun, time-traveling, fantasy adventure from a spectacular debut author...

One thing any Librarian will tell you: the truth is much stranger than fiction...

Irene is a professional spy for the mysterious Library, a shadowy organization that collects important works of fiction from all of the different realities. Most recently, she and her enigmatic assistant Kai have been sent to an alternative London. Their mission: Retrieve a particularly dangerous book. The problem: By the time they arrive, it's already been stolen. London's underground factions are prepared to fight to the death to find the tome before Irene and Kai do, a problem compounded by the fact that this world is chaos-infested—the laws of nature bent to allow supernatural creatures and unpredictable magic to run rampant. To make matters worse, Kai is hiding something—secrets that could be just as volatile as the chaos-filled world itself. Now Irene is caught in a puzzling web of deadly danger, conflicting clues, and sinister secret societies. And failure is not an option—because it isn’t just Irene’s reputation at stake, it’s the nature of reality itself...
The Invisible Library is one book I’ve been meaning to read for a while. I mean, it sounded like the kind of book I would enjoy anyway since its main theme is a mysterious library, librarians who double as spies, and of course books—lots and lots of books. In a lot of ways this one reminded me of The Librarians (the movies and TV series). Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mean that comparison in a bad way, because I actually enjoyed this book.

The Invisible Library was a pretty interesting story. It had a lot to do with one librarians search for a “particularly dangerous book.” This book was heavy on the mystery aspect. The majority of the book was spent building up the characters and the mystery surrounding the books’ disappearance and ultimate fate. Another thing worth noting was the library. I liked the fact that the library wasn’t just a library, but a place that connected to a lot of different realities. The individual realities were kind of interesting in that they could share common features and names, but were still different at the same time. So, there was a bit of a time-travel-y element to the story. I also found the librarians themselves to be a point of interest, because of how the library affected them and the roles they took on. Because hey, it’s just part of the job description, right?

Now before I end this review, I want to talk about the characters. The librarians were already kind of mysterious, especially the more higher ranking ones above where the MC, Irene, currently worked. Irene was pretty cool. I’m always a sucker for characters who are librarians—but Irene gets bonus points for working for a magical library, and being a spy. She was intuitive and had a love for books, and honestly, it was just kind of fun to read about the adventures she had. In the synopsis it’s mentioned that Kai—Irene’s assistant—had secrets. That part was alright, but I found his secrets easy to guess. However, I still have some questions about his character. So, guessable secrets aside, Kai was still interesting.

So, The Invisible Library was entertaining, and I look forward to seeing what comes next in this series.

This copy of the book was provided by Blogging For Books (publisher) for this review, thank you!
About the author...

Genevieve Cogman got started on Tolkien and Sherlock Holmes at an early age, and has never looked back. But on a perhaps more prosaic note, she has an MSC in Statistics with Medical Applications and has wielded this in an assortment of jobs: clinical coder, data analyst and classifications specialist. Although The Invisible Library is her debut novel, she has also previously worked as a freelance roleplaying game writer. Genevieve Cogman’s hobbies include patchwork, beading, knitting and gaming, and she lives in the north of England...
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