Wednesday, September 28, 2016

The Crown's Game

The Crown's Game (The Crown's Game, #1)Author: Evelyn Skye
Info: Balzer + Bray, copyright 2016, 399 pages

Vika Andreyeva can summon the snow and turn ash into gold. Nikolai Karimov can see through walls and conjure bridges out of thin air. They are enchanters—the only two in Russia—and with the Ottoman Empire and the Kazakhs threatening, the tsar needs a powerful enchanter by his side.

And so he initiates the Cr
own’s Game, an ancient duel of magical skill—the greatest test an enchanter will ever know. The victor becomes the Imperial Enchanter and the tsar’s most respected adviser. The defeated is sentenced to death.

Raised on tiny Ovchinin Island her whole life, Vika is eager for the chance to show off her talent in the grand capital of Saint Petersburg. But can she kill another enchanter—even when his magic calls to her like nothing else ever has?

For Nikolai, an orphan, the Crown’s Game is the chance of a lifetime. But his deadly opponent is a force to be reckoned with—beautiful, whip-smart, imaginative—and he can’t stop thinking about her.

And when Pasha, Nikolai’s best friend and heir to the throne, also starts to fall for the mysterious enchantress, Nikolai must defeat the girl they both love…or be killed himself.

As long-buried secrets emerge, threatening the future of the empire, it becomes dangerously clear—the Crown’s Game is not one to lose.

~Goodreads Description

This is one I feel like I should have reviewed right away.  It has only been a couple days since I finished, so it should be okay, but I already feel a little vague on the details.  And...I have zippo idea how to spell any of the names.  The struggle of audiobooks.

The gist.  There are two enchanters living and harnessing their power in Russia.  Vika, a wild, unsophisticated, and powerful young woman, and Nikolai, a young, creative man struggling to hide his abilities from his best friend.  There can only be one enchanter, and with the Ottoman Empire breathing down the Tsar's neck, it's time to determine who will become the Tsar's newest advisor.  Enter the Crown's Game - "an ancient duel of magical skill".  Enchanter pitted against enchanter where death comes to the loser.

This reminded me a lot of The Night Circus.  Not as fully realized, atmospheric, or well-written as The Night Circus, but very similar in premises - complete with forbidden love story.  It might have been because I was listening at super-speed, but each "turn" during the duel (where the Enchanters create something awesome in an attempt to impress the heir apparent) seemed to happen abruptly.  "Ta-da!  Here you go!"  A lot of telling without showing.  There also lacked a sense of urgency.  The Ottoman's were mentioned, but there didn't seem to be much in the way of impending doom or how the enchanters would actually play a part in protecting the kingdom.

All that being said, I was invested enough to want to continue reading.  There have been series starters I've read this year that left me lukewarm without an overwhelming desire to continue when the next installment arrives, but this one was different.  This one intrigued me enough to anticipate what will happen next.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

10 Books On My Fall TBR List

 Top Ten Books On My Fall TBR List
(Feature hosted by The Broke and the Bookish)

I was tempted to just put the books leftover from my Spring and Summer TBR lists to assure that they get read...but there are new, shiny, exciting books coming out this fall.

What's on your list?  Happy reading!

1) Heartless by Marissa Meyer

Gemina (The Illuminae Files, #2)
2) Gemini by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

Stalking Jack the Ripper (Stalking Jack the Ripper, #1)
3) Stalking Jack the Ripper by Kerri Maniscalco

The Diabolic
4) The Diabolic by S.J. Kincaid

Iron Cast
5) Iron Cast by Destiny Soria

Every Hidden Thing
6) Every Hidden Thing by Kenneth Oppel

7) Echo by Pam Munoz Ryan

Arabella of Mars
8) Arabella of Mars by David D. Levine

This Savage Song (Monsters of Verity, #1)
9) This Savage Song by Victoria Schwab

A Wrinkle in Time (A Wrinkle in Time Quintet, #1)
10) Time Quintet by Madeleine L'Engle

** I also plan on re-listening to Harry Potter (finishing up Chamber of Secrets right now), The Night Circus, and Illuminae...and maybe Ready Player One, and just for giggles - My Lady Jane (cause I just can't get enough of it :) OH!  And I still have to read Crime and Punishment.

If you'll excuse me, I'd better get started!


Monday, September 26, 2016

Graphic Novel Round Up: September 2016

Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur, Vol. 1: BFF Moon Girl and the Devil Dinosaur, Vol.1: BFF
Author: Amy Reeder, Brandon Montclair, Natacha Bustos (artist)
Info: Marvel Comics, copyright 2016, 136 pages

Took me a beat to realize that this is directly connected to Ms. Marvel.  That's how observant I am.  As "heroes" go, Lunella is adorable (with an adorable name) and worth rooting for - despite being just nine years old.  She's a genius with a mission - find a way to save herself from succumbing to her Inhuman genes.  And because of her genius, she now has a Red T-Rex as a pet.

Not an extremely well-plotted series started, but I still loved it, and I can't wait to see what happens with Luella next.
The Shadow Hero

The Shadow Hero
Author: Gene Luen Yang, Sonny Liew (artist)
Info: First Second, copyright 2014, 169 pages

A boy who loves his father and has never lived up to his mother's expectations.  A boy finding a destiny he never expected.  An unlikely hero.  Gene Luen Yang at his best.  Love this guy.  Love the art.  Love the ease of storytelling, the appreciation of culture and heritage, and the crazy mother.  Just love.
The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, Vol. 1: Squirrel Power

The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, Vol.1 & 2
Author: Ryan North, Erica Henderson (artist)
Info: Marvel, copyright 2015, 128 pages

With all the hype, I felt like I should have enjoyed this one more than I did.  Squirrel Girl is fun, and funny, and brave...but she's no Ms. Marvel.  I guess I'm just partial.  Love the tie-ins with other Marvel stories (especially Deadpool) and the humor.  But the whole concept of a girl with squirrel powers and squirrel friends felt a little crazy.
Ms. Marvel, Vol. 5: Super Famous

Ms. Marvel, Vol. 5: Super Famous
Author: G. Willow Wilson, Takeshi Miyazawa (artist), Adrian Alphona (artist), Nico Leon (artist)
Info: Marvel, copyright 2016, 144 pages

How do you balance real life and the life of a superhero?  How do you balance the emotions of teenager-dom with the responsibilities of an adult?  Kamala Kahn is excited about her new role as an Avenger, but what price does she have to pay to be a superhero?  Love the journey Kamala has traveled on the last couple of volumes.  Definitely makes her feel more like a "real" character with "real" problems.  One of my favs of the year.

Author: Raina Telgemeier
Info: Graphic, copyright 2016, 256 pages

Catarina doesn't want to move.  She doesn't want to leave her friends or her school.  But she does want her sister Maya to be more comfortable, an environment where her she can breath without struggle.  But the town of Bahia de la Luna isn't quite what she expected.  The town seems to be a little preoccupied with ghosts.  Cat is a bit of a scaredy cat, and Maya seems a little conscious of her own mortality, but the resolution is heartwarming and fun.  Plot is thin in places (or moves too quickly, missing some great opportunities), but the artwork is vibrant and fun and the characters likable.  Another solid outing by Telgemeier.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Top 12 Favorite Audiobook Readers

Top Twelve Favorite Audiobook Readers
(Feature hosted by The Broke and the Bookish)

Today is an "audio" freebie...with endless possibilities for fun lists.  Because I have been obsessed with audiobooks this year, I thought I would make a list of some of my favorite audiobook narrators.  I tend to fall in love with a reader and then only listen to books they read (and then I find another awesome reader with an accent and my attention gets diverted to their list...)  And I made myself stop at twelve :)

Everland | Wendy Spinale A Corner of White: The Colors of Madeleine, Book 1 | Jaclyn Moriarty
1) Fiona Hardingham

Juliet | Anne Fortier Moon Over Manifest | Clare Vanderpool
2) Cassandra Campbell

Etiquette & Espionage: Finishing School, Book 1 | Gail Carriger Prudence | Gail Carriger
3) Moira Quirk

Atlantia | Ally Condie Cinder: Book One of the Lunar Chronicles | Marissa Meyer
4) Rebecca Soler

The Night Circus | Erin Morgenstern Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, Book 1 | J.K. Rowling
5) Jim Dale

The Johnstown Flood | David McCullough Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption | Laura Hillenbrand
6) Edward Herrmann

The Big Over Easy: A Nursery Crime | Jasper Fforde Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell | Susanna Clarke
7) Simon Prebble

The Royal We | Heather Cocks,Jessica Morgan The Coldest Girl in Coldtown | Holly Black
8) Christine Lakin

An Ember in the Ashes | Sabaa Tahir The Crown's Game | Evelyn Skye
9) Steve West

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie | Alan Bradley The Clockwork Scarab: A Stoker & Holmes Novel, Book 1 | Colleen Gleason
10) Jayne Entwistle

Armada: A Novel | Ernest Cline Ready Player One | Ernest Cline
11) Wil Wheaton

 Enchanted | Alethea Kontis My Lady Jane | Cynthia Hand,Brodi Ashton,Jodi Meadows
12) Katherine Kellgren


Monday, September 19, 2016

A Torch Against the Night

A Torch Against the Night (An Ember in the Ashes, #2)Author: Sabaa Tahir
Info: Razorbill, copyright 2016, 452 pages

Elias and Laia are running for their lives.  After the events of the Fourth Trial, Martial soldiers hunt the two fugitives as they flee the city of Serra and undertake a perilous journey through the heart of the Empire.

Laia is determined to break into Kauf - the Empire's most secure and dangerous prison - to save her brother, who is the key to the Scholars' survival.  And Elias is determined to help Lai succeed, even if it means giving up his last chance at freedom.

But dark forces, human and otherworldly, work against Lai and Elias.  The pair must fight every step of the way to outsmart their enemies: the bloodthirsty Emperor Marcus, the merciless Commandant, the sadistic Warden of Kauf, and most heartbreaking of all, Helene - Elias's former friend and the Empire's newest Blood Shrike.

Bound to Marcus's will, Helene faces a torturous mission of her own - one that might destroy her: find the traitor Elias Veturius and the Scholar slave who helped him escape...and kill them both.

~Goodreads Description

It's always difficult a book that has been recently released.  You don't want to give too much away.  While I'm not opposed to spoilers, I understand others aversion to them.  There's one, maybe two spoilers that I'll try to stay away from.  One in particular that took me by surprise.  (It should be mentioned that I usually get so invested in a story that I start to become very unobservant - then BOOM!  What just happened?!)

As the description about describes, Elias and Laia are on the run, attempting to escape Serra with their lives, and on a mission to reach the prison at Kauf to rescue Laia's brother.  That, of course, is easier said than done.  The Martial army, the Commandant, and Helene, the Emperor's new Blood Shrike, are right on their tail.

I think I'm going to leave it there.  This is a journey book, and if you like journey books, you'll like this one.  I don't mind journey books, but with all of the action of An Ember in the Ashes, this felt a smidgen slow.  Just a smidgen.  Sabaa Tahir is that good.  Seriously.  This story, while filled with intrigue and suspense, is a character story.  And you really fall in love with the characters.

The Commandant is terrifying.  She is quickly traveling up the ranks of my most feared fictional villains.  She's ruthless, conniving, and violent.

Elias is selfless.  He has a big heart, despite his lethal abilities, and follows through (to a fault) on promises.  While I don't have a clear picture in my head of what he looks like, I know he's ruggedly handsome :)  (A reader just knows these things.)

Laia almost lost me in this book.  She was on the verge of making me mad, and unsurprisingly it was because of the love triangle between Keenan and Elias.  So often in teen fiction a girl becomes a damsel in distress when a boy is around.  Laia's fierce attitude, unwavering courage, and intent focus on her brother almost fell apart, but like a boss, Tahir calls attention to it.  It was intentional!  And while it doesn't really resolve itself positively, Laia comes out of it with a new "spark".  :)

As series sequels go, A Torch Against the Night is excellent.  The story progresses with additional obstacles thrown into the mix.  The characters continue to develop, moving toward who they will need to become for a final resolution.  And it's just exciting (despite the smidgen of slowness).

On a sidenote, I listened to the audiobook.  That is how I devoured the first, which means it was the only way I could devour the second.  Plus, Fiona Hardingham is a reader, and Fiona Hardingham can do no wrong.  Hilariously, the Warden at Kauf reminded me A LOT of the Six Fingered Man in the Princess Bride.  The cadence they chose to use for his voice made him both creepy and intriguing.

I can't wait for book three!

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Brownies and Broomsticks

Brownies and Broomsticks (A Magical Bakery Mystery, #1)Author: Bailey Cates
Info: Signet, copyright 2012, 323 pages

Katie Lightfoot's tired of loafing around as the assistant manager of an Ohio bakery.  So when her aunt Lucy and Uncle Ben open a bakery in Savannah's quaint downtown district and ask Katie to join them, she enthusiastically agrees.

While working at the Honeybee Bakery - named after Lucy's cat - Katie notices that her aunt is adding mysterious herbs to her recipes.  Turns out these herbal enhancements aren't just tasty - Aunt Lucy is a witch and her recipes are actually spells!

When a curmudgeonly customer is murdered outside the Honeybee Bakery, Uncle Ben becomes the prime suspect.  With the help of handsome journalist Steve Dawes, charming firefighter Declan McCarthy, and a few spells, Katie an Aunt Lucy stir up some toil and trouble to clear Ben's name and find the real killer.

~Goodreads Description

We've started a new program at our library called "Bookish Diner".  Each programming session we pick out a book or an author or a genre or some such thing that is food oriented.  Sometimes the recipes are included in the text, and sometimes we use recipes that remind us of the text, but either way we make delicious dishes, book talk books, and share the love of reading (and eating) with our patrons.

This month we chose culinary mysteries.  Because I'm apparently a programming procrastinator, I didn't read my selected book until the twelfth hour.  I powered through the weekend before the program and prepped my dishes.  And somehow I ended up with the most ridiculous book ever.

Katie Lightfoot recently ended a long relationship and is looking for a new start in life.  It just so happens that her Aunt Lucy and Uncle Ben in Savannah are opening a bakery, and Katie just happens to be a baker.  So Katie packs her belongings and heads to Georgia.  During her first day of work, a tragedy occurs just outside of the bakery.  This horrible, socialite woman who likes to yell at people and throw around power ends up dead, and the prime suspect is none other Uncle Ben.

Determined to prove her Uncle's innocence, Katie begins to inappropriately insert herself into the investigation.  I mean, like, dangerously.  And there's a love triangle.  And Aunt Lucy reveals a family secret.  And Katie is a witch.  It wanted to be Practical Magic, but it wasn't.

Despite a ridiculous plot line, one-dimensional characters, and a "familiar" dog, I have the overwhelming desire to continue reading the series.  Perhaps it's the catchy book titles, tasty recipes, or southern charm, but I got hooked despite myself.  This isn't mind blowing literature, but it's fun, and the ridiculousness makes it just a little more fun.

Plus, the book you can make Katie Lightfoot's chocolate peanut butter brownies and cheddar sage scones.  They were super tasty and easy to make.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Top 10 All Time Favorite Fantasy Novels

Top Ten All Time Favorite Fantasy Novels
(Feature hosted by The Broke and the Bookish)

I'm not 100% sure this list is accurate.  Create a list of "favorite" books is as difficult as creating a list of "favorite" songs.  What mood am I in?  Am I in the mood to laugh?  To cry?  To go on an epic adventure?  My mood really does determine my current "favorite".  And how do you define fantasy?  does fantasy have to have magic?  Or can it mean anything outside of the realm of possibility?

This here list brought up SO many questions.  But here is my answer.  If science is or could be involved, I don't include it in the fantasy category...and I choose to lump dystopias into that category as well, so some of my "favorites" that could sort of be on this list have been excluded.

That being said, here are my Top Ten All Time Favorite Fantasy Novels.  (And I don't take this list lightly, because I 've read a lot.  To make it to this list means something.  (I mean, not anything series, cause I'm just a book blogger...but for a person who likes to make lists and actually thinks of these things often, it means something)) (And I totally just did a parenthetical statement inside of a parenthetical statement...I think they're getting a little out of hand.)

What's on your list of favorite fantasy novels?  Happy reading!

1) A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle
Not just one of my favorite fantasy novels, but my favorite novel of all time.  Yep.  I like it that much.

2) The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
Atmospheric, lyrical, suspenseful, romantic, and beautiful.  It's time for a re-listen!

The Eyre Affair (Thursday Next, #1)
3) The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde
While I admit I haven't finished the series - five books in and Fforde's humor and storytelling is at the top of my list.

The Lord of the Rings (The Lord of the Rings, #1-3)
4) The Lord of the Ringsby J.R.R. Tolkien
The gold standard.  A truly remarkable feat of writing (even with all of the songs that put me asleep) and a story for the ages.

5) Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling
They revolutionized children's literature for a reason.

6) The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis
Because a girl never stops dreaming of walking the cliffs of Narnia with Aslan by her side.

7) The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer
Taking something old and making it new is no small feat.  Creating an epic tale in the process is just genius.

The Princess Bride
8) The Princess Bride by William Golding
"Heroes. Giants. Villains. Wizards. True love. - Not just your basic, average, everyday, ordinary, run-of-the-mill, ho-hum fairy tale."

The Raven Boys (The Raven Cycle, #1)
9) The Raven Cycle by Maggie Stiefvater
"She wasn't interested in telling other people's futures.  She was interested in going out and finding her own."  Oh Maggie.  Perfect.

10) My Lady Jane by Cynthia Hand, Jodi Meadows, and Brodi Ashton
I know this book just came out.  But I also know I've already read it twice and think about it often.  And then I laugh, because this book made me laugh.  And I smile, because it was whimsical and endearing.  And I dream of writing a book that gives me the feels like this book did.  And then I have to talk myself out of reading it again because there are other books that need to be read.  And then the cycle starts over.

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