Friday, September 20, 2019

The Friday Face-Off: Hair

Friday Face Off New
Welcome to The Friday Face-Off, a weekly meme 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. You can find a list of upcoming topics at Lynn's Books.

This week's topic is:
“Your hair is winter fire, January embers.” – A cover featuring hair

As soon as I saw this week's topic, I knew it had to be Mindy McGinnis' A Madness so Discreet. I usually don't like books with people on the cover, but this one of those rare covers that I am absolutely in love with that features a person.
......and unfortunately it only has two different cover editions. I'm still sharing those below, but for the rest I just decided to share a small array of various covers that feature some lovely hair (which is not something I ever really expected to type).

  A Madness So DiscreetDyskretne szaleÅ„stwo
2015 US Hardcover | 2017 Polish

Shadowfell (Shadowfell, #1)The Seer and the SwordThe Light of the Oracle
2012 US Hardcover | 2008 US Hardcover | 2007 US Paperback

The Madman’s Daughter (The Madman’s Daughter, #1)Spellbook of the Lost and FoundThe Queen of the Night
2013 US Hardcover | 2017 US Hardcover | 2016 US Hardcover

The Last Wish (The Witcher, #1)Kingdom of Ash (Throne of Glass, #7)
2008 UK Paperback | 2018 US Hardcover
My choice:
A Madness So Discreet
Honestly, most of these are pretty beautiful, but I'm always going to be partial to A Madness so Discreet probably! The Seer and the Sword and The Light of the Oracle are both particularly lovely, though.

What cover(s) do you like the most!?

Thursday, September 19, 2019

Review: A Song for a New Day by Sarah Pinsker

A Song for a New Day
A Song for a New Day by Sarah Pinsker
Berkley Books
Publication Date: September 10th,  2019
Paperback. 384 pages

About A Song for a New Day:

"In the Before, when the government didn't prohibit large public gatherings, Luce Cannon was on top of the world. One of her songs had just taken off and she was on her way to becoming a star. Now, in the After, terror attacks and deadly viruses have led the government to ban concerts, and Luce's connection to the world--her music, her purpose--is closed off forever. She does what she has to do: she performs in illegal concerts to a small but passionate community, always evading the law. 

Rosemary Laws barely remembers the Before times. She spends her days in Hoodspace, helping customers order all of their goods online for drone delivery--no physical contact with humans needed. By lucky chance, she finds a new job and a new calling: discover amazing musicians and bring their concerts to everyone via virtual reality. The only catch is that she'll have to do something she's never done before and go out in public. Find the illegal concerts and bring musicians into the limelight they deserve. But when she sees how the world could actually be, that won't be enough."

A Song for a New Day takes a fascinating--and at times haunting--look at a future in which the threat of mass danger, from bombs to shootings, has become so large that large public gatherings have been banned and are now illegal. There are 'congregation' laws that limit how many people can be in one place at a time and that regulate the size a building must be in concordance with how many people live there. Additionally, there was a disease that swept through the country and further encouraged people to remain seclusive and not venture out into areas where large groups of people gather that can spread germs.

A Song for a New Day switches POV between Luce, lead singer of a band, and Rosemary, a woman who has been living a fairly secluded life with her family while working virtually from her home. Luce's POV starts out in the past and slowly merges with Rosemary's present day, which presented some really interesting perspectives and background throughout the story. Luce is a bit like your typical musician/rocker, desiring nothing but to connect with others through her music and live her life touring around and sharing her music. The social changes that take place in this future-esque world hit musicians like Luce extremely hard and she has to sort of adapt to a new way of life and a new sneakier method of showcasing live music. Luce is an impressively tough and adaptive woman that adds such an interesting perspective and has one of the biggest life changes throughout the book that we get to see.

Rosemary was a really interesting character for a few reasons, most of which pertained to her sheer ignorance to most things that we take for granted everyday. Her complete lack of knowledge regarding how concerts even work, her naivete and innocence on what it's even like to visit somewhere far away from her home--especially a larger city such as Baltimore--and so many more relatively normal (for us) experiences. Experiencing all of these things through the lens of someone who grew up in a world in which taking the public bus, visiting a busy city, or even eating at a restaurant sans individual enclosed booths was genuinely fascinating. Pinsker really did a marvelous job of conveying her naivete and new experiences; she really noted every new thing Rosemary experienced and made it feel so plausible and authentic. It almost made me sad at times to see the things that were so foreign to Rosemary and how much we love doing those things today--imagine a world like that with no public gatherings, ever. Rosemary grows a lot over the course of this book and I liked seeing her journey, though I do think some aspects could have been developed a bit more.

As mentioned, there was a lesser but still prominent disease angle at play at this book and I was interested in its effect on the current state of things as well. However... I was slightly confused as to why it was also included. I felt as though the book could have easily just focused on the congregation-related issues and been just as strong; the disease only seemed to exacerbate people's fear and lead to more struggles for our protagonist. Perhaps its purpose was simply to showcase the fear that can so easily spread among the pubic, but it seemed like a somewhat unnecessary addition to the plot.

Despite my confusion over the disease storyline, I still appreciated everything else this book explored. I found this to be a really nuanced and interesting look at what this future filled with fear and danger would be like when taken to the extreme. I haven't read any other work from Pinsker before this one, but I will be sure to check out more from her!

Overall, I've given A Song for a New Day four stars! I was fascinated by the concept and overall thoroughly enjoyed this one, though there were still just a few issues I had with it.

*I received an ARC of A Song for a New Day courtesy of the publisher and NetGalley exchange for an honest review. This has no effect on my rating or enjoyment of the novel.*

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Can't-Wait Wednesday: The Library of the Unwritten by A.J. Hackwith & Curious Toys by Elizabeth Hand

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: 

The Library of the Unwritten (A Novel from Hell's Library, #1)
The Library of the Unwritten by A.J. Hackwith
Publication: October 1st, 2019
Ace Books
Paperback. 336 pages.

"In the first book in a brilliant new fantasy series, books that aren't finished by their authors reside in the Library of the Unwritten in Hell, and it is up to the Librarian to track down any restless characters who emerge from those unfinished stories. 

Many years ago, Claire was named Head Librarian of the Unwritten Wing-- a neutral space in Hell where all the stories unfinished by their authors reside. Her job consists mainly of repairing and organizing books, but also of keeping an eye on restless stories that risk materializing as characters and escaping the library. When a Hero escapes from his book and goes in search of his author, Claire must track and capture him with the help of former muse and current assistant Brevity and nervous demon courier Leto. 

But what should have been a simple retrieval goes horrifyingly wrong when the terrifyingly angelic Ramiel attacks them, convinced that they hold the Devil's Bible. The text of the Devil's Bible is a powerful weapon in the power struggle between Heaven and Hell, so it falls to the librarians to find a book with the power to reshape the boundaries between Heaven, Hell....and Earth."
Once again, I'm actually reading this one right now because NetGalley unexpectedly decided to grant me access to it! I'd requested it months ago so I wasn't sure if it would happen and it ended up being a great surprise. I am so in love with this concept of a library in Hell where unfinished stories live--it reminds me of the library from Nevernight!--and I can't wait to continue to see what this author does with the story.

Curious Toys
Curious Toys by Elizabeth Hand
Publication: October 15th, 2019
Mulholland Books
Hardcover. 384 pages.

"The year is 1915 and Pin, the fifteen year-old daughter of an amusement park fortune teller, disguises herself as a boy to run with the teenage boys who thrive in the dregs of Chicago's street scene. 

Unbeknownst to the well-heeled city-dwellers and visitors who come to enjoy its attractions, Riverview Park is also host to a brutal serial killer, a perfumed pedophile who uses the secrecy of a dark amusement park ride to conduct his crimes. When Pin sees a man enter the Hell Gate ride with a young girl, and leave without her, she knows that something deadly is afoot. 

The crime will lead her to the iconic outsider artist Henry Darger, a brilliant but seemingly mad man obsessed with his illustrated novel about a group of young girls who triumph over adult oppressors. Together, the two navigate the seedy underbelly of a changing city to uncover a murderer few even know to look for."
This sounds super creepy and intense and I am all here for it. This sounds like a great October read and I haven't seen anyone mention it anywhere so I have absolutely no idea what to expect, but I'm excited for it! 

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

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Top 5 Tuesday: Funny Characters

This week I decided to switch back over and participate in Top 5 Tuesday, hosted by BionicBookworm!

This week's topic is: Top 5 covers of 2019

I love nothing more than a witty, sassy, sarcastic, or otherwise humorous-in-some-way character. I particularly love when there are characters that I find hilarious in otherwise serious or dark books, which is something that I do fortunately come across a lot in fantasy. Having to pick only five funny characters was extremely hard for this week, so I basically just picked two (#1 & #5) that came from the top of my head, then went to Goodreads and looked through my most recently read books to find the rest. 

1. Fred and George Weasley from the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling

I mean, who else comes to mind immediately after thinking of funny characters from books? Fred and George Weasley are some of my favorite characters and also provide endless comedy relief.

2. Sidonius from Godsgrave & Darkdawn by Jay Kristoff
Sidonius' humor might be crass and occasionally overly sexual, but he just cracks me up almost every time he opens his mouth. I love that he's such a charismatic because no matter how his jokes might come out, he's got a heart of gold and I love him to death.

3. Rob Sutherland from The Unlikely Escape of Uriah Heep by H.G. Parry
This was one of the more recent reads of mine and I fell in love with Rob's narrative voice. He constantly had lines that cracked me up, whether they were things he actually said to someone else or just small remarks or retorts that only come through in his narration. I laughed so much throughout this book, largely due to Rob (though also because of the hilarity of other characters involved as well!).

4. Mr. Kindly from The Nevernight Chronicles by Jay Kristoff
I'm using the same book series because I love Mr. Kindly! He is the definition of dry, dark, sarcastic humor that never failed to make me snort some sort of laughter.

5. Whoever wrote The Everyman's Guide to the Tower of Babel from Senlin Ascends by Josiah Bancroft
Okay, so this isn't really a character per say, but these little excerpts at the beginning of each chapter in this book had me chuckling every time.

Have any of these characters made you laugh? Who are some funny books characters you like?

Monday, September 16, 2019

Review: Black Creek by Dan Kemp

Black Creek
Black Creek by Dan Kemp 
Publication Date: June 11th, 2018
Ebook. 459 pages

About Black Creek:

"The year is 1890, and a small town mayor is trying to hold his community together, while seeking revenge for his wife's recent murder. 

The year is 1972, and a small time crook is in way over her head as a deal goes very wrong. 

The year is 2020, and a homicide detective is on the trail of a serial-killing vigilante. 

On the eve of the 2020 presidential election, these characters, their stories, and more collide in cataclysmic fashion. 

The world will never be the same again, in an often grim, sometimes hopeful, modern fantasy that spans across the ages."

Black Creek is an ambitious and unpredictable fantasy quite unlike anything I've ever read.

The most important thing to know going into this book is that you might be a little confused at various times, but just hold on because I promise everything rights its eventually in some of the most creative ways. As you can see in the synopsis, the story switches between multiple timelines and casts of characters, but maintains a very important tie throughout all them that works to bring the story together.

After a rather life-altering event occurs in the 2020 storyline, the world is sort of thrown into a survival state that reminded me a bit of some post-apocalyptic books I've read in the past. The cause of this 'crisis' is is due to the fallout of a monumental conflict that occurs and also one that I found myself immediately drawn into. As a result, things start to get a bit dangerous and unpredictable for people on their own in this world and it was particularly interesting to see how all of these components played out for different people: for instance, some fall into a sort of cult following of a man they think is all-powerful, James, some create their own safe haven, and some just try to live where they can. I loved how Kemp explored these ideas and developed such an interesting world with so many different types of people.

The characters are all compelling in their own right and have some interesting storylines that all work together to explore more aspects of this world. I'm not sure how much I can say about each of them without getting too deep into plot details, but the main characters seem be Dorian, Jess, Skye, and James. James is easily one of the more fascinating characters I've read lately and I was entranced by his entire life story as portrayed in the book. Dorian, Jess, and Skye all come from vastly--and I mean vastly--different situations in this novel and I enjoyed seeing how they handled each situation that was thrown at them. My only sort of 'negative' is that I do think they could have been developed a little more, as their characters felt slightly stilted and similar at times.

This book is hard to sort of succinctly 'sum up' in a review because there are so many different ideas and experiences that occur within it. It's a wild ride that I thoroughly enjoyed and sped through much quicker than I expected to, which I think speaks well of Kemp's pacing. This story does have its slower moments, but nothing ever really dragged and I found all aspects and plot points equally compelling due to a steady pacing and consistent prose style. There is a constant sense of unpredictability and the knowledge that anything could happen at any moment that makes this is a book that's hard to put down.

Overall, I've given Black Creek 4.25 stars! This was such a fascinating and unexpected surprise and I am so glad that I was given the opportunity to read it. If you're looking for something new, I implore you to check out Black Creek!

*I received a copy of Black Creek courtesy of the author in exchange for an honest review. This has no effect on my rating or enjoyment of the novel.*

Saturday, September 14, 2019

Review: This Tender Land by William Kent Krueger

This Tender Land
This Tender Land by William Kent Krueger 
Atria Books
Publication Date: September 3rd,  2019
Hardcover. 464 pages

About This Tender Land:

"For fans of Before We Were Yours and Where the Crawdads Sing, a magnificent novel about four orphans on a life-changing odyssey during the Great Depression, from the New York Times bestselling author of Ordinary Grace. 

1932, Minnesota—the Lincoln School is a pitiless place where hundreds of Native American children, forcibly separated from their parents, are sent to be educated. It is also home to an orphan named Odie O’Banion, a lively boy whose exploits earn him the superintendent’s wrath. Forced to flee, he and his brother Albert, their best friend Mose, and a brokenhearted little girl named Emmy steal away in a canoe, heading for the mighty Mississippi and a place to call their own. 

Over the course of one unforgettable summer, these four orphans will journey into the unknown and cross paths with others who are adrift, from struggling farmers and traveling faith healers to displaced families and lost souls of all kinds. With the feel of a modern classic, This Tender Land is an en­thralling, big-hearted epic that shows how the magnificent American landscape connects us all, haunts our dreams, and makes us whole."

This Tender Land was an unexpectedly beautiful and moving story about a group of orphans as they embark upon a truly unforgettable adventure in hopes of attaining a better life for themselves. I genuinely didn't expect this book to affect me half as much as it did and I'm endlessly thankful that I decided to take a chance on a book I hadn't heard of.

I have genuinely been having the hardest time writing this review because I'm not entirely sure where to start. I know I say in a lot of reviews how "refreshing" a book might be, but This Tender Land truly was the epitome of refreshing. It has such a mix of innocence and wonder coupled with the harsh reality of life and cruelties that humans can cast upon one another--while also showing the power and impact that kindness and compassion can also have.

We follow four Native American children as they travel on their own down the Mississippi with the goal of reaching St. Louis. Odie O'Banion, younger brother to Albert, is our narrator for the journey and has such a gifted and eloquent method of storytelling. He's only twelve when he embarks on this journey, but the way he tells his story is timeless and far more mature than his age implies--a maturity that is both admirable and unfortunate from having been exposed to so many cruel actions starting from such a young age. Odie is a bit of a troublemaker, whereas his brother is much more dutiful and willing to follow directions. Odie's penchant for trouble causes a myriad of problems for both himself and others at times, but his steadfast loyalty and desire to help others and do good in the world overshadows his mistakes and makes him an incredibly well-developed and well-rounded character to follow. I felt so much for and with Odie on this journey and easily empathized with his internal struggles throughout.

In addition to Odie and his older brother Albert are Moses (or Mose) and Emmy. Mose is Odie's best friend who does not speak verbally and instead communicates through sign language and Emmy is a little girl who has recently lost everything and yet still manages to be the optimistic ray of sunshine that little girls tend to be. The friendship between these four characters is so well-done and truly portrays the realistic ups and downs that would accompany a long journey with people you love. There are arguments both big and small and tensions that rise to dangerous levels, but at the end of the day everyone has a deep love and caring heart for one another and never wants anyone to be hurt or forgotten.

Krueger does a great job of showcasing the time period of 1930s Minnesota. Elements of the Depression are abundant and I felt as if he captured the setting extremely well. In the afterword, Krueger explains the various research he performed on both the setting and the Native American elements that are so crucial to the story and it is readily apparent in this story.

Words are powerful and I always know the sign of a good book and author is when I am able to feel deeply for the characters and the events of a book, which is exactly what This Tender Land did. This book made me feel angry, it has made me want to cry, it's made me laugh, and overall it made me feel to the fullest extent the struggles that each character endured.

It is a beautifully written story of hope, endurance, and friendship. Overall, I can't give This Tender Land anything other than five stars.

*I received an ARC of This Tender Land courtesy of the publisher exchange for an honest review. This has no effect on my rating or enjoyment of the novel.*

Friday, September 13, 2019

The Friday Face-Off: Friday the 13th

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. You can find a list of upcoming topics at Lynn's Books.

This week's topic is:
Friday the 13th – unlucky for some!--A cover with ‘curse’ in the title

This week's topic ended up being slightly trickier than I expected it to be because all the books I thought had the word curse somewhere in the title or series didn't end up having it. Go figure. My next thought was Lois McMaster Bujold's The Curse of the Chalion, but I haven't actually read that one yet and I always try to pick books I've already then. Fortunately, I then remembered Tiger's Curse by Colleen Houck and we had this week's cover pick! Is anyone else in love with this badass-looking tiger?

  Tiger's Curse (The Tiger Saga, #1)Tiger's Curse (The Tiger Saga, #1)Tiger's Curse (The Tiger Saga, #1)
2011 US Hardcover | 2011 US Paperback | 2013 Indonesian

A Maldição do Tigre (The Tiger Saga, #1)A tigris átka (The Tiger Saga, #1)La malédiction du tigre (The Tiger Saga, #1)
2011 Portuguese | 2012 Hungarian | 2014 French

Tiger's Curse (The Tiger Saga, #1)預言中的少女 (白虎之咒, #1)Kuss des Tigers - Eine unsterbliche Liebe (The Tiger Saga, #1)
2015 Italian | 2012 Chinese | 2012 German

My choice:
Tiger's Curse (The Tiger Saga, #1)
Honestly, I just love the original US hardcover. I remember back when I very first saw this book because I knew that whether I liked Tiger's Curse or not, I absolutely needed to check it out based off of that cover. I am still in love with it today!

What cover(s) do you like the most!?