Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Can't-Wait Wednesday: Rule (The Unraveled Kingdom #3) by Rowenna Miller & Ghosts of Harvard by Francesca Serritella

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 spotlights are: 

Rule (The Unraveled Kingdom, #3)
Rule (The Unraveled Kingdom #3) by Rowenna Miller
Publication: May 19th, 2020
Paperback. 432 pages.

"The civil war that the charm caster Sophie and the Crown Prince Theodor tried so desperately to avert has come to Galitha. While Theodor joins Sophie's brother and his Reformist comrades in battle, hoping to turn the tide against the better-supplied and better-trained Royalist army, Sophie leverages the only weapon she has: charm and curse casting. She weaves her signature magic into uniforms and supplies procured with the aid of unlikely foreign allies, but soon discovers that the challenges of a full-scale war are far greater than the entrepreneurial concerns of her small Galithan dress shop. The fractured leadership of the Reformist army must coalesce, the people of Galitha unite against enormous odds, and Sophie create more than a little magical luck, in order to have a chance of victory."
I have been loving this trilogy and I am so incredibly excited for this finale! Sophie is a character that I have really grown to love and I've missed following her and this entire world and storyline.

Ghosts of Harvard
Ghosts of Harvard by Francesca Serritella
Publication: May 5th, 2020
Random House
Hardcover. 480 pages.

"Cadence Archer arrives on Harvard’s campus desperate to understand why her brother, Eric, a genius who developed paranoid schizophrenia took his own life there the year before. Losing Eric has left a black hole in Cady’s life, and while her decision to follow in her brother’s footsteps threatens to break her family apart, she is haunted by questions of what she might have missed. And there’s only one place to find answers. 

As Cady struggles under the enormous pressure at Harvard, she investigates her brother’s final year, armed only with a blue notebook of Eric’s cryptic scribblings. She knew he had been struggling with paranoia, delusions, and illusory enemies—but what tipped him over the edge? With her suspicions mounting, Cady herself begins to hear voices, seemingly belonging to three ghosts who walked the university’s hallowed halls—or huddled in its slave quarters. Among them is a person whose name has been buried for centuries, and another whose name mankind will never forget. 

Does she share Eric’s illness, or is she tapping into something else? Cady doesn’t know how or why these ghosts are contacting her, but as she is drawn deeper into their worlds, she believes they’re moving her closer to the truth about Eric, even as keeping them secret isolates her further. Will listening to these voices lead her to the one voice she craves—her brother’s—or will she follow them down a path to her own destruction?"
I'm a sucker for any mysterious plot line set on a college campus or boarding school situation, so this one seems right up my alley! Ghost stories can be hit or miss in execution, but I'm hoping this one will be done well.

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

Tuesday, April 7, 2020

Top Ten Tuesday: Books I Bought Because I Loved the ARC

This week's topic is: Books I Bought Because I Loved the ARC

I am someone that really values having a physical library of the books I've loved and even just books I've read in general. I don't necessarily have room for all of them, but uh, that's an issue for another day. Since books are not free (nor should they be!) and because I don't have unlimited money, I can't afford to purchase the finished copy of every ARC that I read and like. I wish I could support authors and publishers and purchase finished copies of every ARC I read, but to make up for that I always do my best to purchase copies when I can if it's a book that I really enjoyed. So this week I'm going to list ten (of many!) books that I've purchased after being fortunate enough to receive an ARC of! This is sort of just going to turn into a list of some of my favorite books/books I really love, but really, that's not a bad thing, is it?

The Empire's Ghost
The Empire's Ghost by Isabelle Steiger
I read a copy of this via NetGalley and absolutely loved it! I'm not sure why this fantasy didn't end up catching on, but I highly recommend it. And in the best news ever--the sequel is coming out this fall! I'm actually in the midst of re-reading this first book right now so that I can start an ARC of the sequel. This synopsis doesn't mention it, but this book has a fantastic cast of characters that are a ton of fun!

"The empire of Elesthene once spanned a continent, but its rise heralded the death of magic. It tore itself apart from within, leaving behind a patchwork of kingdoms struggling to rebuild. 

But when a new dictator, the ambitious and enigmatic Imperator Elgar, seizes power in the old capital and seeks to recreate the lost empire anew, the other kingdoms have little hope of stopping him. Prince Kelken of Reglay finds himself at odds with his father at his country’s darkest hour; the marquise of Esthrades is unmatched in politics and strategy, but she sits at a staggering military disadvantage. And Issamira, the most powerful of the free countries, has shut itself off from the conflict, thrown into confusion by the disappearance of its crown prince and the ensuing struggle for succession. 

Everything seems aligned in Elgar’s favor, but when he presses a band of insignificant but skilled alley-dwellers into his service for a mission of greatest secrecy, they find an unexpected opportunity to alter the balance of power in the war. Through their actions and those of the remaining royals, they may uncover not just a way to defeat Elgar, but also a deeper truth about their world’s lost history." Goodreads

Nevernight (The Nevernight Chronicle, #1)
Nevernight by Jay Kristoff
I had no idea when I an ARC of this that it would end up being such a big and important part of my life, but here we are! I fell in love with Nevernight immediately and precede to place an order for the Goldsboro edition once I realized it existed.

"Destined to destroy empires, Mia Covere is only ten years old when she is given her first lesson in death. 

Six years later, the child raised in shadows takes her first steps towards keeping the promise she made on the day that she lost everything. 

But the chance to strike against such powerful enemies will be fleeting, so if she is to have her revenge, Mia must become a weapon without equal. She must prove herself against the deadliest of friends and enemies, and survive the tutelage of murderers, liars and demons at the heart of a murder cult. 

The Red Church is no Hogwarts, but Mia is no ordinary student. 

The shadows love her. And they drink her fear." Goodreads 

We Ride the Storm (The Reborn Empire, #1)
We Ride the Storm by Devin Madson
This book has now been acquired by Orbit! I read a copy via a request from Devin Madson and it's been one of my favorite self-published fantasy review requests ever (and it's one of my favorite fantasy books, too). I recently reviewed an ARC of the equally beautiful Orbit edition and I'm planning to get into a re-read/new edition read!

"War built the Kisian Empire and war will tear it down. And as an empire falls, three warriors rise. 

Caught in a foreign war, Captain Rah e’Torin and his exiled warriors will have to fight or die. Their honour code is all they have left until orders from within stress them to breaking point, and the very bonds that hold them together will be ripped apart. 

Cassandra wants the voice in her head to go away. Willing to do anything for peace, the ageing whore takes an assassination contract that promises answers, only the true price may be everyone and everything she knows. 

A prisoner in her own castle, Princess Miko doesn’t dream of freedom but of the power to fight for her empire. As the daughter of a traitor the path to redemption could as easily tear it, and her family, asunder. As an empire dies they will have to ride the storm or drown in its blood.." Goodreads

Kings of Paradise (Ash and Sand #1)
Kings of Paradise by Richard Nell
This was another self-published fantasy review request and wow was this incredible. I still haven't read the sequel for some reason (!?), but I think I will need to re-read this one first before diving in.

"A deformed genius plots vengeance while struggling to survive. A wastrel prince comes of age, finding a power he never imagined. Two worlds are destined to collide. 

Only one can be king.

Ruka, called a demon at birth, is a genius. Born malformed and ugly into the snow-covered wasteland of the Ascom, he was spared from death by his mother's love. Now he is an outcast, consumed with hate for those who've wronged him. But to take his vengeance, he must first survive. 

Across a vast sea in the white-sand island paradise of Sri Kon, Kale is fourth and youngest son of the Sorcerer King. And at sixteen, Kale is a disappointment. As the first prince ever forced to serve with low-born marines, Kale must prove himself and become a man, or else lose all chance of a worthy future, and any hope to win the love of his life. 

Though they do not know it, both boys are on the cusp of discovery. Their worlds and lives are destined for greatness, or ruin." Goodreads

Gods of Jade and Shadow
Gods of Jade and Shadow by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
This was a beautiful sort of classic folktale frame of a story that introduced me to Silvia Moreno-Garcia's work!

"The Jazz Age is in full swing, but Casiopea Tun is too busy cleaning the floors of her wealthy grandfather’s house to listen to any fast tunes. Nevertheless, she dreams of a life far from her dusty small town in southern Mexico. A life she can call her own. 

Yet this new life seems as distant as the stars, until the day she finds a curious wooden box in her grandfather’s room. She opens it—and accidentally frees the spirit of the Mayan god of death, who requests her help in recovering his throne from his treacherous brother. Failure will mean Casiopea’s demise, but success could make her dreams come true. 

In the company of the strangely alluring god and armed with her wits, Casiopea begins an adventure that will take her on a cross-country odyssey from the jungles of Yucat√°n to the bright lights of Mexico City—and deep into the darkness of the Mayan underworld." Goodreads

The Wolf in the Whale
The Wolf in the Whale by Jordanna Max Brodsky
This is one of my absolute favorite books and I immediately ordered a finished copy after I finished my ARC.

""There is a very old story, rarely told, of a wolf that runs into the ocean and becomes a whale." 

Born with the soul of a hunter and the spirit of the Wolf, Omat is destined to follow in her grandfather's footsteps-invoking the spirits of the land, sea, and sky to protect her people. 

But the gods have stopped listening and Omat's family is starving. Alone at the edge of the world, hope is all they have left. 

Desperate to save them, Omat journeys across the icy wastes, fighting for survival with every step. When she meets a Viking warrior and his strange new gods, they set in motion a conflict that could shatter her world...or save it." Goodreads

Spin the Dawn (The Blood of Stars, #1)
Spin the Dawn by Elizabeth Lim

"Maia Tamarin dreams of becoming the greatest tailor in the land, but as a girl, the best she can hope for is to marry well. When a royal messenger summons her ailing father, once a tailor of renown, to court, Maia poses as a boy and takes his place. She knows her life is forfeit if her secret is discovered, but she'll take that risk to achieve her dream and save her family from ruin. There's just one catch: Maia is one of twelve tailors vying for the job.

And nothing could have prepared her for the final challenge: to sew three magic gowns for the emperor's reluctant bride-to-be, from the laughter of the sun, the tears of the moon, and the blood of stars. With this impossible task before her, she embarks on a journey to the far reaches of the kingdom, seeking the sun, the moon, and the stars, and finding more than she ever could have imagined." Goodreads

The Girl in Red
The Girl in Red by Christina Henry
I love Christina Henry so I was sort of already planning to purchase this at some point, but it's still one I ordered after finishing my copy from NetGalley!

"It's not safe for anyone alone in the woods. There are predators that come out at night: critters and coyotes, snakes and wolves. But the woman in the red jacket has no choice. Not since the Crisis came, decimated the population, and sent those who survived fleeing into quarantine camps that serve as breeding grounds for death, destruction, and disease. She is just a woman trying not to get killed in a world that doesn't look anything like the one she grew up in, the one that was perfectly sane and normal and boring until three months ago. 

There are worse threats in the woods than the things that stalk their prey at night. Sometimes, there are men. Men with dark desires, weak wills, and evil intents. Men in uniform with classified information, deadly secrets, and unforgiving orders. And sometimes, just sometimes, there's something worse than all of the horrible people and vicious beasts combined. 

Red doesn't like to think of herself as a killer, but she isn't about to let herself get eaten up just because she is a woman alone in the woods...." Goodreads

Vita Nostra
Vita Nostra by Marina & Srgey Dyachenko
I don't even know what to say about this book, but it's one I think about a lot and I really hope the sequels are translated into English one day.. or else it's time to start learning Russian!

"Our life is brief . . . 

Sasha Samokhina has been accepted to the Institute of Special Technologies. 

Or, more precisely, she’s been chosen. 

Situated in a tiny village, she finds the students are bizarre, and the curriculum even more so. The books are impossible to read, the lessons obscure to the point of maddening, and the work refuses memorization. Using terror and coercion to keep the students in line, the school does not punish them for their transgressions and failures; instead, it is their families that pay a terrible price. Yet despite her fear, Sasha undergoes changes that defy the dictates of matter and time; experiences which are nothing she has ever dreamed of . . . and suddenly all she could ever want." Goodreads

NottinghamNottingham by Nathan Makaryk
This is easily my favorite Robin Hood retelling and I can't wait for the sequel!

"No king. No rules. 

England, 1191. King Richard is half a world away, fighting for God and his own ambition. Back home, his country languishes, bankrupt and on the verge of anarchy. People with power are running unchecked. People without are growing angry. And in Nottingham, one of the largest shires in England, the sheriff seems intent on doing nothing about it. 

As the leaves turn gold in the Sherwood Forest, the lives of six people--Arable, a servant girl with a secret, Robin and William, soldiers running from their pasts, Marion, a noblewoman working for change, Guy of Gisbourne, Nottingham's beleaguered guard captain, and Elena Gamwell, a brash, ambitious thief--become intertwined. 

And a strange story begins to spread . . .Goodreads

Bonus Pre-Orders!

The House in the Cerulean Sea
The House in the Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune
Technically this is already out, but I have pre-ordered a signed edition from Mysterious Galaxy Books and well, those events were cancelled (with good reason!) so I am patiently awaiting whenever the finished copy of this beauty shows up. :) This book is perfect and I love it.
"A magical island. A dangerous task. A burning secret. 

Linus Baker leads a quiet, solitary life. At forty, he lives in a tiny house with a devious cat and his old records. As a Case Worker at the Department in Charge Of Magical Youth, he spends his days overseeing the well-being of children in government-sanctioned orphanages. 

When Linus is unexpectedly summoned by Extremely Upper Management he's given a curious and highly classified assignment: travel to Marsyas Island Orphanage, where six dangerous children reside: a gnome, a sprite, a wyvern, an unidentifiable green blob, a were-Pomeranian, and the Antichrist. Linus must set aside his fears and determine whether or not they’re likely to bring about the end of days. 

But the children aren’t the only secret the island keeps. Their caretaker is the charming and enigmatic Arthur Parnassus, who will do anything to keep his wards safe. As Arthur and Linus grow closer, long-held secrets are exposed, and Linus must make a choice: destroy a home or watch the world burn." Goodreads

The Only Good IndiansThe Only Good Indians by Stephen Graham Jones
This was such a dark and compelling story, I loved it--and I am enamored with that cover.
Review to come!
Out 5/19
"Seamlessly blending classic horror and a dramatic narrative with sharp social commentary, The Only Good Indians follows four American Indian men after a disturbing event from their youth puts them in a desperate struggle for their lives. Tracked by an entity bent on revenge, these childhood friends are helpless as the culture and traditions they left behind catch up to them in a violent, vengeful way.Goodreads

Have you read any of these books? If you read ARCs, what are some that you chose to eventually purchase!?

Monday, April 6, 2020

Review: The Book of Koli (The Rampart Trilogy #1) by M.R. Carey

The Book of Koli (Rampart Trilogy, #1)
The Book of Koli (The Rampart Trilogy #1) by M.R. Carey
Publication Date: April 14th, 2020
Paperback. 416 pages

About The Book of Koli:

"Beyond the walls of the small village of Mythen Rood lies an unrecognizable world. A world where overgrown forests are filled with choker trees and deadly vines and seeds that will kill you where you stand. And if they don't get you, one of the dangerous shunned men will. 

Koli has lived in Mythen Rood his entire life. He knows the first rule of survival is that you don't venture beyond the walls. 

What he doesn't know is - what happens when you aren't given a choice?"

This book was so much weirder than I anticipated and it took me a while to get into it. I was actually on the verge of DNF-ing it for quite a while in the beginning, but there was just something that kept pulling me towards the story, and I'm glad I stuck with it long enough because I eventually found myself completely captivated by this story and the characters within.

I'm not sure how to start this review. Koli Woodsmith is a young adult who is on the verge of undergoing a traditional 'testing' that everyone in his village does undergoes as part of a transition from child to adult. This test is to discover who is a Rampart, one of the rare members of the village who can make the old tech from the past work, or if he is to become like most of the other members of the village who cannot. Now, the synopsis also mentions that they live in a village where they are surrounded by "choker trees and deadline vines and seeds that will kill you where you stand," and I must say that they play a much smaller role than I expected. I enjoyed the story that we were given, but I do think that synopsis left me feeling a bit misled about the main objectives of this story, though perhaps they will end up playing a larger role in the subsequent books in this trilogy.

The first thing that you will probably notice in this book is Koli's manner of speaking, which makes up the first person narrative of the book. It comes across as having poor grammar and of Koli being uneducated, but it fits very well with the setting of this world and village that feels almost lost in time. I was not expecting this style of voice, so it threw me off and at first I wondered if it would be something that would irritate me throughout the entire book, but fortunately as I continued to get more into the story, I stopped noticing it as much and I found that it really complemented the atmosphere and overall setting of the story in a perfect way. It still takes some time to get used to, especially since there are plenty of in-world words and ways of saying things that are confusing at first, but it really does come together well. It's always a risky move to me when authors experiment with narrative in the way, but I would say that it paid off overall for Carey.

Koli, as mentioned, is the speaker of our main and only POV, and I found him to be a very relatable and sort of 'average' young man. He had a lot of thoughts and made many decisions that I could easily see myself or others make given the limited information that he has at various times in the story. His storytelling is not rushed, but rather he tells the reader the story in the manner that he prefers, often falling into digressions after saying something like "but I'll tell you about that in a little while," which, admittedly, tends to frustrate me a little in books, but as with other elements of this story, after a while I just sort of fell into it and found it to be another facet of the style of this book and it worked well.

A few other prominent characters are Monono Aware, Ursula, Koli's mother and sisters, his fellow-aged friends, and those who become Ramparts. Monono Aware is probably the most prominent secondary character, I'd say followed closely by Ursula, a woman that I really liked. Monono Aware is one of those characters that I wasn't sure about at first, disregarding her rather odd "form," but she slowly grew on me much in the same way that I think Koli grew on her. There was such a unique method of relationship between the two and I think that odd dynamic really contributed a compelling element to this story. Ursula is a slightly more mysterious figure that we don't know as much about, but she is just as compelling, if not more, than any other in this story. It is through Ursula that we are really able to move forward in the plot and learn more about this weird world and its past.

The last thing I want to comment on is the entire setting and world-building of The Book of Koli. Although I still find it a bit mysterious and I'm still not entirely sure of what happened in the past, I think Carey does a truly excellent job of creating this background that fits so perfectly with the atmosphere and rather piecemeal explanations that we get from Koli as he, as the same time, learns more about this world. The existence of the old tech intrigues me, as well as the different people and places that still seem to exist outside of Koli's village, and I look forward to hopefully exploring more of all of these topics in future books, though I did really enjoy experiencing the day-to-day life of Koli's village and getting a glimpse into what their existence was like.

Overall, I've given The Book of Koli a rating somewhere between 3.75-4 stars. The more I write this review and think about the book, the fonder I feel of it, but I recall struggling a lot with getting into the story and my constant "should I DNF or not" debate for a good portion at the beginning. That being said, if you also get off on a rough start with this book I'd encourage you to keep going--you might just end up as captivated by the world and story as I ended up being! Carey certainly has a gift for crafting a unique and unpredictable tale and I look forward to future installments of the Rampart trilogy.

*I received a copy of The Book of Koli courtesy of Orbit in exchange for an honest review. This has no effect on my rating of the novel.*

Friday, April 3, 2020

Month in Review: March 2020

Well, I'm not really sure where to start when wrapping up this month, to be honest! I think we can all agree that March was a rollercoaster in every sense of the word. I'll start off with a quick note that I am, as of now, healthy and fully isolation myself and staying home at this time. I hope you are all staying as healthy as can be right now, also! I already used to do my work from home and my Masters program is also an online one, so I'm already equipped for the stay-at-home deal, haha, but I know it's a huge adjustment for so many, so I hope you are all handling it well (and if you still have to work because you're essential, I hope you're staying safe! :) ) 

The big downsides for me personally are that my income has slowed considerably and I'm currently separated physically from my husband because of the temporary long distance situation. We've been temporarily long distance for a little while now with me traveling back and forth between Northern and Southern California and living about 50/50 in two places. I had to fly down to SoCal, where my mom lives (and where I grew up) about mid-March because I had jury duty, and it was around that time that everything started to really get crazy in the US and I decided that I was no longer comfortable flying. My husband and I both have cars, but neither are exactly cut out for a 7+ hour drive and I'm not sure how I feel about rental cars, so for the past few weeks and the foreseeable future I am staying home with my mom. Things could definitely be worse and I often feel a bit guilty for being upset over something this minimal in the grand scheme of things, but it's still difficult to be away from my partner right. At the end of the day, though, I'm just thankful that we are all safe and have a place to live and I know it's so much worse for so many people, so I try to keep that in perspective every day. 

In regards to reading, it's been a bit of a struggle to stay focused, but I'm working on trying to relax my own personal expectations and just be satisfied with any reading that I manage to get done. I've started and stopped more books this past month than I have in a long time, haha, which shows me just how scattered I am lately, but I managed to get through a good number of books in the end. Some standouts were Mexican Gothic (what a weird but amazing story!), The Adventurer's Son (unbelievable compelling and heartbreaking and thrilling), and The Sin in the Steel (if you like pirates and adventures and sarcastic characters, you'll love it!). I also decided to go ahead and include Livy's History of Rome that I've been reading for a class because, well, it's a book and I did read it, so it counts! Anyway, I'm hoping I can feel more solid about books in April, though I'm so sad that the libraries are closed (though of course I understand why)! Anyone else really feeling the loss of their local library?

Anyway: How was your reading month? Did you read any great books? Have you read any of the books I read? Let me know, I'd love to chat about any and all the books!

# books read: 14

WonderlandMexican GothicCome Tumbling Down (Wayward Children, #5)The Adventurer's SonThe Age of Witches
Wonderland by Zoje Stage 
Source: Publisher (Little, Brown) | Format: Physical ARC

Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia 
Source: NetGalley | Format: eARC

Come Tumbling Down by Seanan McGuire 
Source: Library | Format: Hardcover

The Adventurer's Son by Roman Dial 
Source: Library| Format: Hardcover

The Age of Witches by Louisa Morgan 
Source: Publisher (Orbit) | Format: Hardcover

The Sin in the Steel (The Fall of the Gods, #1)Trouble the SaintsThe Silvered Serpents (The Gilded Wolves, #2)The Book of Koli (Rampart Trilogy, #1)Blackwood
The Sin in the Steal by Ryan Van Loan 
Source: Publisher | Format: Physical ARC

Trouble the Saints by Alaya Dawn Johnson 
Source: Publisher | Format: Physical ARC

The Silvered Serpents by Roshani Chokshi 
Source: NetGalley| Format: eARC

The Book of Koli by M.R. Carey 
Source: Publisher (Orbit) | Format: Paperback

Blackwood by Michael Farris Smith 
Source: Publisher (Little, Brown) | Format: Physical ARC

A Time of Courage (Of Blood and Bone, #3)Lair of Dreams (The Diviners, #2)The History of Rome, Books 1-5: The Rise of RomeThe Mother Code
A Time of Courage by John Gwynne 
Source: Publisher (Orbit) | Format: Paperback

Lair of Dreams by Libba Bray  (re-read)
Source: Library | Format: Hardcover

The Rise of Rome: Books 1-5 by Livy 
Source: Owned | Format: Paperback

The Mother Code by Carole Stivers 
Source: Publisher | Format: Physical ARC

The DeepHearts of OakThe House in the Cerulean SeaBrightstormThe Woman in the MirrorThe Gobblin' Society  (Narbondo, #11)ProvidenceLegacy of Ash (Legacy Trilogy, #1)Along the Razor's Edge (The War Eternal #1)A Time of Courage (Of Blood and Bone, #3)
The Deep by Alma Katsu 
Hearts of Oak by Eddie Robson 
The House in the Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune 
Brightstorm by Vashti Hardy 
The Woman in the Mirror by Rebecca James 
The Gobblin' Society by James P. Blaylock 
Providence by Max Barry 
Legacy of Ash by Matthew Ward 
Along the Razor's Edge by Rob J. Hayes 
A Time of Courage by John Gwynne 

(other than reviews)

The Friday Face-Off:

Have you read any of these? What books did you read this month? I hope you all had a great month-- comment below and let me know!