Tuesday, September 18, 2018

First Chapter Tuesday: The Traitor Baru Cormorant by Seth Dickinson

First Chapter Tuesday is hosted every Tuesday by Vicki @ I'd Rather Be at the Beach. This is meme in which bloggers share the first chapter of a book that they are currently reading or thinking about reading soon. Join the fun by making your own post and linking up over at Vicki's blog, or simply check it out to find more new books to read!

It's another busy week, so I thought I'd share with you all one of the books I just recently picked up! It is:

The Traitor Baru Cormorant by Seth Dickinson



Trade season came around again. Baru was still too young to smell the empire wind. 

The Masquerade sent its favorite soldiers to conquer Taranoke: sailcloth, dyes, glazed ceramic, sealskin and oils, paper currency printed in their Falcrest tongue. Little Baru, playing castles in the hot black sand, liked to watch their traders come in to harbor. She learned to count by tallying the ships and the seabirds that circled them. 

Nearly two decades later, watching firebearer frigates heel in the aurora light, she would remember those sails on the horizon. But at age seven, the girl Baru Cormorant gave them no weight. She cared mostly for arithmetic and birds and her parents, who could show her the stars.

 But it was her parents who taught her to be afraid."

I think this is a fairly interesting and engaging start. I have been seeing people talking about how incredible this book is everywhere and I knew I'd have get to it eventually, but it kept popping up everywhere so I just decided to give in and request it from my library. I'm only ~100 pages in and I'm slightly on the fence still. It seems like it has a lot of potential and I have faith that it will pick up, but I've just had a bit of a time trying to get into it, so we'll see! I'm still really excited about finally reading it, though! It has a really fascinating premise.

Buy the book: Amazon Book Depository

What do you think? Would you keep reading these books? (And feel free to join in and make your own post!) 

*Excerpts are taken from the novel itself; I do not claim to own any part of the excerpt.

Monday, September 17, 2018

Review: The Shadow of What was Lost by James Islington

The Shadow of What Was Lost by James Islington
Orbit, 2017. 
Paperback. 736 pages. 

About The Shadow of What Was Lost:
"As destiny calls, a journey begins. 

It has been twenty years since the god-like Augurs were overthrown and killed. Now, those who once served them - the Gifted - are spared only because they have accepted the rebellion's Four Tenets, vastly limiting their powers. 

As a Gifted, Davian suffers the consequences of a war lost before he was even born. He and others like him are despised. But when Davian discovers he wields the forbidden power of the Augurs, he sets into motion a chain of events that will change everything. 

To the west, a young man whose fate is intertwined with Davian's wakes up in the forest, covered in blood and with no memory of who he is... 

And in the far north, an ancient enemy long thought defeated begins to stir."

The Shadow of What Was Lost had been sitting on my shelf for about before I finally plucked up the courage to read it. I'd been wanting to check it out for quite some time, but it's quite a chunker and it was a bit intimidating to start yet another series (I don't even know how many series I've started over the years), especially with a book of that size. But every time I heard something about it (which wasn't all that often, this one is a bit underrated), it was constantly raves. I finally decided to pick it up and now I'm having those 'why didn't I pick this up sooner?' thoughts. With all that being said, let's dive into the review!

The story starts off in a school setting, but it doesn't stay there for long and instead picks up rather quickly into an entirely unexpected storyline. I was fascinated by this story and how it evolved throughout the book. I'd also like to address the reviews that say this is a "rip-off Wheel of Time series," because although I can understand where they get that, it's clearly not. You can absolutely see inspiration between this book and other popular fantasy books, but Islington makes this entirely his own and incorporates his own unique storyline and world that sets it apart from others. There were so many twists and turns that left me feeling that this was a truly unpredictable novel, something that I really appreciated.

The world-building is really strong in this book. It felt expansive, but also manageable and not overly complex. I could follow along fairly easily with places and events that were described, something that certainly cannot be said for all fantasy books. One of my favorite locations in this book was a city called Deilannis that is semi-briefly visited, and it is locations like that that really added to my excitement and overall engagement in this book. In addition, the magic system was particularly interesting and I genuinely enjoyed learning how it worked. People in this world are separated into three main groups: the Gifted, the Augurs, and those with no magic. Augurs are the rarest and are considered to be essentially eradicated after they became unreliable and seen as a danger to the population. As a result of this, the Gifted were also 'bound' to the Four Tenets, which basically means that, at the core, they are unable to use their powers on any non-Gifted people--not even for self-defense--and are closely watched by the Administration. They are also, for the most part, completely hated and feared by all non-Gifted people. I thought that this setup made for an interesting story as it examined the various power constructs among these groups. For instance, the Gifted are technically more physically powerful, but the non-Gifted have them bound and unable to defend themselves, so therefore they are actually weaker. It seems like a basic setup, but it provided for a strong story and I liked seeing the differences between Augurs and the Gifted become more apparent.

I also loved our three main protagonists. I have seen a few complaints that the characters weren't developed well, but again I have to disagree. I thought all three of our main protagonists, Wirr, Davian, and Asha, were really well-written characters. Davian is what I would consider out main protagonist, though the POV shifts between him, Asha, Wirr, a man we meet named Caeden, and a few others along the way. I was never confused about whose POV we were in or what was going on, so I give props to Islington for using multiple POVs so successfully. It's not overdone and it's easy to follow along with what is going on--something I always appreciate in a complex fantasy series.

Davian appears to be your average young man, not overly outgoing, but also not exceptionally shy. His character begins to develop as the story moves along and we are able to learn more about him. His rather 'generic' initial impression changes immensely and he becomes a much more interesting character to follow as the story progresses. Wirr is a physically stronger person than Davian and has a more charismatic nature allows him to more easily journey in secrecy. He's an exceptionally loyal and trustworthy person and I loved watching his journey throughout the story as well. The final character I want to mention is Asha, who I would say is one of the more intriguing characters of the lot. Her journey through this story was so interesting and I love her relationship dynamics with various characters, as well as her own difficult journey that allowed her to grow and develop into a strong, fascinating character.

My favorite aspect of this book is simply how 'classic epic fantasy' it felt. Of course, I don't mean it's another Lord of the Rings or anything, but there was something very old school about the storytelling, the narrative, and the events of the story. It's very unique and highly engaging, and it also has an overwhelming epic quality that made me feel so at home and I desperately wanted to read it at any moment when I set it down. I wanted to race through this story, but I let myself read at a leisurely pace because I was enjoying it so much.

Overall, I've given The Shadow of What Was Lost five stars! If you like epic fantasy with compelling protagonists, strong magic systems, and and exciting plot, then you will love this one.

Buy the book: Amazon | Book Depository

You might also like:
A Plague of Giants by Kevin Hearne
Kings of Paradise by Richard Nell
A Time of Dread by John Gwynne
The Poppy War by R.F. Kuang

Friday, September 14, 2018

The Friday Face-Off: A Cover Featuring Wolves

Friday Face Off New
Welcome to The Friday Face-Off, a weekly meme here at Books by Proxy. Join us every Friday as we pit cover against cover, and publisher against publisher, to find the best artwork in our literary universe.

I felt that it was time to join in another Friday Face-Off, so here we go!

This week's topic is:
“He had killed man, the noblest game of all, and he had killed in the face of the law of club and fang.” – A cover featuring a wolf or wolves

When I first saw this topic, I though "perfect! I love wolves and I know I've read books with wolves, so this shouldn't be a problem at all." Well, not for the first time, I was wrong.
A lot of the books I've read that have wolves on the cover only have one or two editions out, so that was a problem.  I did notice that there a lot of books with foxes, tigers, and bears, though (a lot of foxes), and I'm sure I'm just not thinking of some wolf ones. The only one I found with multiple editions was The Bloody Chamber by Angela Carter, and even then it was few. To combat this issue, I decided to share a few of the covers with wolves that don't have many editions and then share a few of the Angela Carter editions. I don't know how to go about judging. Favorite overall? No judging? Who knows! Let's just enjoy the covers. :)

Various Wolves on Covers
The Wisdom of Wolves: Lessons from the Sawtooth Pack The Wolf (Under the Northern Sky) American Wolf: A True Story of Survival and Obsession in the West Godsgrave (The Nevernight Chronicle, #2)

The Wisdom of Wolves by Jim & Jamie Dutcher || The Wolf by Leo Carew || American Wolf by Nate Blakeslee || Godsgrave by Jay Kristoff

The Bloody Chamber editions by Angela Carter

 The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories The Bloody Chamber And Other StoriesVerine kamberThe Bloody Chamber And Other Stories

US anniversary paperback | Vintage paperback | Estonian edition (NSFW?) | Hardcover Vintage Classic

My choices
The Wisdom of Wolves: Lessons from the Sawtooth Pack The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories

I like all of these covers, but I'm partial to The Wisdom of the Wolves because it shows the entire gorgeous wolf itself. And I just love the detail in this edition of The Bloody Chamber, though I love the hardcover as well.

Which covers do you like best?

Here is one picture of me (and my  mom, but she looks fine) looking weird and oddly unperturbed by a huge wolf's open mouth pointed at my head and another of a lovely wolf that loved the smell of my head. It also licked my face. I let it, because you let wolves do what they want. (I look half-dead because it was so cold.)

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Thursday, September 13, 2018

Review: The Demon Race by Alexandria Warwick

*The Demon Race will be released Tuesday, September 18th in Ebook and Paperback formats!*

The Demon Race by Alexandria Warwick
Wolf Publishing, 2018
Ebook ARC. 351 pages.

About The Demon Race:
"A race across the desert. 
An unimaginable prize. 

It occurs once every thousand years: the Demon Race. A test of will and strength, it is a race across the Saraj, a fight for the prize of a lifetime. And it is the key to Namali Hafshar’s freedom. 

When shy, seventeen-year-old Namali learns of her arranged marriage, she flees home and enters the Demon Race for the chance to change her fate. But to compete, she must cross the Saraj on a daeva, a shadow demon that desires its own reward: to infect her soul with darkness. 

Namali soon learns the desert holds more dangers than meets the eye. The only person she can trust is Sameen, a kind competitor seeking his own destiny. As her affection for him grows, however, so too does the darkness in her heart. 

In this race of men and demons, only one can win. But the price of winning might be more than Namali is willing to pay."

Going into The Demon Race, I expected an adventurous YA novel that was on the darker side, but still something relatively 'of the norm.' I did not expect such a dark, emotional, character-driven, all-around stunning journey to find oneself. I am more than thrilled about this book. This is a standalone fantasy with a Middle Eastern-inspired desert setting and an abundance of demons and daevas. There is a very minor romantic aspect of this book, but it does not overtake the story and there is really nothing physical. There is, however, plenty of violence and disturbing aspects of this novel, so if that's not your thing then I would just keep that in mind.

The culture of this world is Middle Eastern-inspired, but with its own set of gods and religion that I really enjoyed learning about. I love that Warwick created some strong religious stories and rituals around this culture that really cemented it as something that felt authentic. At the same time, however I would have also loved to know even more about some of the other major gods or players. One small disappointment I had was with the daevas themselves. I won't go into the role they play itself because it's a small surprise, but I wanted to know more about them and what they were like. They were a clear representation of evil and sort of 'infected' people with their evil, but I would have liked to have them described more often or even expanded upon whether they had any sort of personality. This is a minor issue, but it is one that would have brought this book to life even more for me and intrigued me even more.

Our main protagonist, Namali, lost her mother a few years prior to the start of the events of this book and has been living alone with her father ever since. Her father has been closed off to her since her mother's death, and at the very beginning of the novel Namali is informed that she will be married off to a merchant, something she does not want to do. I thought Namali was a great character. She's not without her flaws, but she's a surprisingly steadfast young woman who knows what she wants--and what she doesn't--and will do anything she can do get it, a determination that she didn't even realize she had in the beginning of the book. As mentioned, this is a majorly character-driven book, so Namali's development throughout the events of the story are incredibly important and also written extremely well. She's a bit on the quiet side and is often unsure of herself, but at various moments of the book she begins to find her own bravery and find out who she truly is and what she wants from her life. Namali's entire journey through darkness, despair, anger, and hope is something that I found beautiful and that affected me deeply, as I could relate to many of the feelings Namali struggled with, even though our situations are of course vastly different.

The second most prominent character in this book is Sameen, a young man that Namali meets at the beginning of her journey. Sameen is an angel (not literally) and someone I hope I can be like. He's kind, caring, and seems to be a genuinely selfless person who cares about others. He knows what he has to do survival and is willing to do it, and he is also a very loyal person. I don't want to go into Sameen's role too much in this story, but he acts a wonderful balance for Namali's own struggles and is another great character int his book.

This is also a very insightful book with themes such as female oppression, judging others, etc., and I really enjoyed this most of the time. There were a few times where it did start to feel a bit overdone and that the message was being forced into the reader than the merely fully absorbed, but it still didn't bother me too much in the end. It is something that I could see some readers disliking, though, so I thought it was worth mentioning since it was something that even I noticed.

I don't know for sure whether or not the evil attempting to overtake Namali and other characters was meant to have any relation to depression or things in that realm, but this really hit home for me. The struggle between Namali and the evil that attempts to take over both her and the rest of the competitors is one of the biggest conflicts in this book, and it speaks to so many true aspects of life itself. The message that no matter how much darkness overtakes you, no matter how many bad thoughts you might have or fears you have about yourself, there is hope and there is a chance to find yourself again is a huge one in this book, and also one that I think is incredible important.

This is a book that I know I will not forget about easily, if ever, because of how much I wasn't expecting it. I didn't expect to highlight so many paragraphs and phrases that were so real and so relevant to my life and the world itself. The biggest surprise was simply how dark and cruel this book was. The Demon Race goes to some dark places, but it does so in a beautiful, impacting manner. Whether you like the story itself or not, there is no denying Warwick's ability to craft some truly beautiful words and employ a brilliant style of prose.

Overall, I've given The Demon Race four-and-a-half stars. If you like dark, character-driven adventure journeys, then you must pick this one up! This is one that I will definitely try to get my hands on a physical copy of so that I can easily revisit it and tab up my favorite lines.

Buy the book: Amazon

*I received a copy of The Demon Race courtesy of the author in exchange for an honest review. This has no effect on my rating of the book.*

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Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Can't-Wait Wednesday: Muse of Nightmares by Laini Taylor & Bitter Orange by Claire Fuller

Can't-Wait is a weekly meme hosted by Wishful Endings that spotlights exciting upcoming releases that we can't wait to be released! This meme is based off of Jill @ Breaking the Spine's Waiting on Wednesday meme.

This week's upcoming book spotlight is:
Muse of Nightmares by Laini Taylor
Publication Date: October 2nd, 2018
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
528 pages

From Goodreads: 

In the wake of tragedy, neither Lazlo nor Sarai are who they were before. One a god, the other a ghost, they struggle to grasp the new boundaries of their selves as dark-minded Minya holds them hostage, intent on vengeance against Weep. 

Lazlo faces an unthinkable choice—save the woman he loves, or everyone else?—while Sarai feels more helpless than ever. But is she? Sometimes, only the direst need can teach us our own depths, and Sarai, the muse of nightmares, has not yet discovered what she's capable of. 
As humans and godspawn reel in the aftermath of the citadel's near fall, a new foe shatters their fragile hopes, and the mysteries of the Mesarthim are resurrected: Where did the gods come from, and why? What was done with thousands of children born in the citadel nursery? And most important of all, as forgotten doors are opened and new worlds revealed: Must heroes always slay monsters, or is it possible to save them instead? 

Love and hate, revenge and redemption, destruction and salvation all clash in this gorgeous sequel to the New York Times bestseller, Strange the Dreamer."
I loved Strange the Dreamer so much and am so excited to be able to reenter this beautiful world. Lazlo is easily one of my favorite characters in fiction, so I look forward to seeing how this story continues.

Bitter Orange by Claire Fuller
Publication Date: October 9th, 2018
Tin House Books
320 pages
Pre-order: Amazon Book Depository

From Goodreads: 

"From the attic of Lyntons, a dilapidated English country mansion, Frances Jellico sees them—Cara first: dark and beautiful, then Peter: striking and serious. The couple is spending the summer of 1969 in the rooms below hers while Frances is researching the architecture in the surrounding gardens. But she's distracted. Beneath a floorboard in her bathroom, she finds a peephole that gives her access to her neighbors’ private lives. 

To Frances' surprise, Cara and Peter are keen to get to know her. It is the first occasion she has had anybody to call a friend, and before long they are spending every day together: eating lavish dinners, drinking bottle after bottle of wine, and smoking cigarettes until the ash piles up on the crumbling furniture. Frances is dazzled. 

But as the hot summer rolls lazily on, it becomes clear that not everything is right between Cara and Peter. The stories that Cara tells don’t quite add up, and as Frances becomes increasingly entangled in the lives of the glamorous, hedonistic couple, the boundaries between truth and lies, right and wrong, begin to blur. Amid the decadence, a small crime brings on a bigger one: a crime so terrible that it will brand their lives forever."
I love a quiet, intriguing mystery like what Bitter Orange promises, so I am really looking forward to checking this one out. The cover itself also really lends itself to that 'hidden secrets' sort of notion, both innocent and ominous.

What do you think about these upcoming releases? What are your anticipated upcoming releases?

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Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Top Ten Tuesday: Books I Loved That No One Talks About

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly book blog meme now hosted by Jana over at The Artsy Reader Girl!

This week's topic is: Hidden Gems

I have so many hidden gem types of books that I may ending making a follow-up post to this one with even more! But for now, here are ten books that I really enjoyed reading, but that I rarely see people mention. Be sure to let me know if you've read any of these!

The World of Tomorrow by Brendan Mathews
I have absolutely no idea how to summarize this book, so here's a brief snippet from the summary: "June 1939. Francis Dempsey and his shell-shocked brother, Michael, are on an ocean liner from Ireland bound for their brother Martin's home in New York City, having stolen a small fortune from the IRA. During the week that follows, the lives of these three brothers collide spectacularly with big-band jazz musicians, a talented but fragile heiress, a Jewish street photographer facing a return to Nazi-occupied Prague, a vengeful mob boss, and the ghosts of their own family's revolutionary past.Review
Buy the book: Amazon | Book Depository

Lost Boy by Christina Henry
I love retellings and stories inspired by classic stories and fairytales, so Lost Boy was one that really hit the spot for me. Lost Boy is a Peter Pan-inpisred story told from Hook's point of view--from the synopsis: "There is one version of my story that everyone knows. And then there is the truth. This is how it happened. How I went from being Peter Pan’s first—and favorite—lost boy to his greatest enemy.Review
Buy the book: Amazon | Book Depository

Black Chalk by Christopher J. Yates
If you like The Secret History or other dark school-themed books of that nature, then Black Chalk is a must-read. I have no idea why more people aren't reading this one!
"It was only ever meant to be a game played by six best friends in their first year at Oxford University; a game of consequences, silly forfeits, and childish dares. But then the game changed: The stakes grew higher and the dares more personal and more humiliating, finally evolving into a vicious struggle with unpredictable and tragic results. Now, fourteen years later, the remaining players must meet again for the final round. Who knows better than your best friends what would break you?"  Supposedly the premise of this is based off of the authior's own experiences at Oxford, also! Review
Buy the book: Amazon | Book Depository

The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly
This is one of my favorite books of all time and I still don't know why everyone is sleeping on this book. It's fairytale themed! And dark! And heartbreaking and beautiful!
"High in his attic bedroom, twelve-year-old David mourns the death of his mother. He is angry and alone, with only the books on his shelf for company. But those books have begun to whisper to him in the darkness, and as he takes refuge in his imagination, he finds that reality and fantasy have begun to meld. While his family falls apart around him, David is violently propelled into a land that is a strange reflection of his own world, populated by heroes and monsters, and ruled over by a faded king who keeps his secrets in a mysterious book..."
Buy the book: Amazon | Book Depository

Master Assassins by Robert V.S. Redick
I feel like I have personally raved about this book a lot on my blog, but I still do not see other people talking about it, so here we are. The full synopsis is far too long, so here's a brief (really, really brief) sentence about it: "Two village boys mistaken for assassins become the decisive figures in the battle for a continent in the thrilling new desert-based epic fantasy."  Review
Buy the book: Amazon | Book Depository

The Toymakers by Robert Dinsdale
I don't think I've seen anyone talk about this book and I just can't understand why. It is coming out in paperback this September and it would be a perfect winter/holiday read, so I'm not saying you should pick it up for that, but I'm not saying you shouldn't, either.
"It is 1917, and while war wages across Europe, in the heart of London, there is a place of hope and enchantment. The Emporium sells toys that capture the imagination of children and adults alike: patchwork dogs that seem alive, toy boxes that are bigger on the inside, soldiers that can fight battles of their own. Into this family business comes young Cathy Wray, running away from a shameful past. The Emporium takes her in, makes her one of its own. But Cathy is about to discover that the Emporium has secrets of its own." Review
Buy the book: Amazon | Book Depository

A Plague of Giants by Kevin Hearne
Kevin Hearne is most widely known for his Iron Druid books, but I'm here to tell you that you should also be checking out his latest series, Seven Kennings. It has a fascinating magic system with awesome characters, "complete with shape-shifting bards, fire-wielding giants, and children who can speak to astonishing beasts." Review

Buy the book: Amazon | Book Depository

The Secret Keepers by Trenton Lee Stewart
You may have heard of the incredible Mysterious Benedict Society middle grade series, but you may not have seen Stewart's most recent release, The Secret Keepers, mentioned much. It's another beautiful, exciting, and wonderful story--it came out two years ago now and I desperately need more from Stewart.
"When Reuben discovers an extraordinary antique watch with a secret power, his life takes an intriguing turn. As one secret leads to another, Reuben finds himself torn between his honest nature and the lure to be a hero. Now he is on a dangerous adventure--full of curious characters, treacherous traps, and hairsbreadth escapes--as he races to solve the mystery before it is too late. With fearless Penny, mighty Jack, and the wise Mrs. Genevieve on his side, can Reuben outwit a sly villain called The Smoke and save the city from a terrible fate?Review
Buy the book: Amazon | Book Depository

I Love You Too Much by Alicia Drake
I understand that not everyone likes to have their hearts ripped out, but if you do like that then I think you need to make your way to this book right here. I don't see it mentioned, but it was just beautiful. And it made me cry almost the entire time I read it. (FYI: I rarely ever cry while reading.) 
"In the sixth arrondissement everything is perfect and everyone is lonely. This is the Paris of thirteen-year-old Paul. Shy and unloved, he quietly observes the lives of the self-involved grown-ups around him: his glamorous Maman, Séverine, her younger musician lover, Gabriel, and his fitness-obsessed Papa, Philippe. Always overlooked, it's only a matter of time before Paul witnesses something that he's not supposed to see... Seeking solace in an unlikely friendship with rebellious classmate Scarlett and succumbing to the temptation of the numerous patisseries in his elegant neighborhood, Paul searches for unconditional love. But what will he do if he can't find it?" Review
Buy the book: Amazon | Book Depository

The Language of Spells by Garret Weyr
This is a really under the radar middle grade that I thought was the sweetest, most beautiful little book I've read in a while. It was surprisingly heartbreaking, but endlessly wonderful.
"Grisha is a dragon in a world that's forgotten how to see him. Maggie is a unusual child who thinks she's perfectly ordinary. They're an unlikely duo—but magic, like friendship, is funny. Sometimes it chooses those who might not look so likely. And magic has chosen Grisha and Maggie to solve the darkest mystery in Vienna. Decades ago, when World War II broke out, someone decided that there were too many dragons for all of them to be free. As they investigate, Grisha and Maggie ask the question everyone's forgotten: Where have the missing dragons gone? And is there a way to save them?"  Review
Buy the book: Amazon 

Have you read any of these? What books would you add to this list?