Thursday, November 14, 2019

Review: Realm of Ash by Tasha Suri

Realm of Ash (The Books of Ambha, #2)
Realm of Ash (Books of Ambha #2) by Tasha Suri
Publication Date: November 12th, 2019
Paperback. 496 pages

About Realm of Ash:

"The Ambhan Empire is crumbling. A terrible war of succession hovers on the horizon. The only hope for peace lies in the mysterious realm of ash, where mortals can find what they seek in the echoes of their ancestors' dreams. But to walk there requires a steep price. 

Arwa is determined to make the journey. Widowed by a brutal massacre, she's pledged service to the royal family and will see that pledge through to the end. She never expected to be joined by Zahir, the disgraced, illegitimate prince who has turned to forbidden magic in a desperate bid to save those he loves. 

Together, they'll walk the bloody path of their shared past. And it will call into question everything they've ever believed...including whether the Empire is worth saving at all."

Last year I had the pleasure of reading Tasha Suri's debut Empire of Sand and I fell so deeply in love with her writing and her characters. There's something special about the way Suri crafts her world and her stories and I couldn't be happier to say that Realm of Ash lived up to its predecessor in all of the best possible ways.

Realm of Ash takes place about ten years after the events of Empire of Sand and this time around we follow Arwa, Mehr's younger sister who only appears in the beginning of Empire of Sand. One of my favorite things about the first book was the characters, so I was honestly slightly unsure how I would feel about following a new set of characters--would they be as complex? would I fall in love with them even half as much as those from Empire of Sand? will there still be that magic? And, of course, by the time I was halfway through I felt guilty for even entertaining those questions.

Arwa is an incredibly strong character that undergoes so many major developments throughout the course of this story. Her commitment to her modesty and to maintaining her reputation for herself and her family were so beautiful and I just genuinely loved watching her navigate all of the obstacles int his book while trying to stay true to herself, only giving in when she felt something was right, not because of anyone else's influence. I couldn't help but feel connected to Arwa and was fully invested in her entire journey.

Another character that we get to know fairly well is Zahir, Princess Jihan's brother. I won't go into too much regarding him or his role because I feel like it's an important part of this journey. Nonetheless, I'll say that he's a similarly fascinating character and I just loved how Suri allowed us to get to know him slowly but steadily along with Arwa and to understand what his own feelings, goals, and motivations are in this world.

I love everything about how Suri develops her world. Her words are a special form of magic that managed to create a world and culture that felt so real and involved. I really like learning about the different areas and ruling powers that exist and how they function. I'm always fascinated by the 'magic' system that is at play in this world and how it ties into religion and other aspects that are so important to this world. In fact, one of my favorite things is how she conveys the traditions and religion of cultures in her world. There's no question over where certain people stand on things or how various ideas are received in this world and I think that shows Suri's deft at crafting an intricate world that still makes sense and is possible to follow.

I'm not entirely sure what Suri is planning to write next (please let there be another book in this series?), but whatever it is, I will absolutely be reading it. I would love to see even more of this world explored and I feel like there is so much more story that could be told about these characters and this world.

Overall, obviously I've given Realm of Ash five stars (a nice match to Empire of Sand's five stars!)

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Can't-Wait Wednesday: Where the World Ends by Geraldine McCaughrean & The Ship of Dreams by Gareth Russell

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: 

Where the World Ends
Where the World Ends by Geraldine McCaughrean
Publication: December 3rd, 2019
Flatiron Books
Hardcover. 336 pages.

"Every time a lad went fowling on the stacs, he came home less of a boy and more of a man. If he went home at all, that is.

Every summer Quill and his friends are put ashore on a remote sea stac to hunt birds. But this summer, no one arrives to take them home. Surely nothing but the end of the world can explain why they’ve been abandoned—cold, starving and clinging to life, in the grip of a murderous ocean. How will they survive such a forsaken place of stone and sea? 

This is an extraordinary story of fortitude, endurance, tragedy and survival, set against an unforgettable backdrop of savage beauty."
I actually recently received an ARC of this, but I still want to include on my CWW because it just sounds so interesting! I love survival-esque books, especially when it's around a group of friends. I really can't wait to dive into this one.

The Ship of Dreams: The Sinking of the Titanic and the End of the Edwardian Era
The Ship of Dreams: The Sinking of the Titanic and the End of the Edwardian Era by Gareth Russell
Publication: November 19th, 2019
Atria Books
Hardcover. 384 pages.

"In April 1912, six notable people were among those privileged to experience the height of luxury—first class passage on “the ship of dreams,” the RMs Titanic: Lucy Leslie, Countess of Rothes; son of the British Empire, Tommy Andrews; American captain of industry John Thayer and his son Jack; Jewish-American immigrant Ida Straus; and American model and movie star Dorothy Gibson. Within a week of setting sail, they were all caught up in the horrifying disaster of the Titanic’s sinking, one of the biggest news stories of the century. Today, we can see their stories and the Titanic’s voyage as the beginning of the end of the established hierarchy of the Edwardian era. 

Writing in his elegant signature prose and using previously unpublished sources, deck plans, journal entries, and surviving artifacts, Gareth Russell peers through the portholes of these first-class travelers to immerse us in a time of unprecedented change in British and American history. Through their intertwining lives, he examines social, technological, political, and economic forces such as the nuances of the British class system, the explosion of competition in the shipping trade, the birth of the movie industry, the Irish Home Rule Crisis, and the Jewish-American immigrant experience while also recounting their intimate stories of bravery, tragedy, and selflessness."
To be honest, I've never been overly interested in the Titanic (I've never even seen the movie--and I don't really have the desire to), but this sounds like a particularly interesting take on the event and everything that happened during and after. Looking forward to having the chance to read this one sometime!

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

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Top 5 Tuesday: Authors I Need to Read (Fantasy Edition!)

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

This week's topic is: Authors I NEED to read (fantasy edition)

I don't really have that many favorite bookmarks since I mainly use post-it-type notes as bookmarks, so I decided to hop back over to Top Five Tuesday and share five authors (of many) that I need to read! It's basically turned into a list of shame that I haven't read these, but I'm hoping to prioritize them soon!

1. Guy Gavriel Kay

TiganaThe Summer Tree (The Fionavar Tapestry #1)The Lions of Al-RassanUnder Heaven (Under Heaven, #1)
I've been meaning to read Guy Gavriel Kay for years now, but somehow I still haven't! It's always described and recommended to me in ways that make me think I'd really like it, so I'm really going to do my best to make it a priority next year to read at least one of his books.
2. R. Scott Bakker

The Darkness That Comes Before (The Prince of Nothing, #1)The Warrior Prophet (The Prince of Nothing, #2)The Judging Eye: OneNeuropath
Bakker is another that's been on my radar for what seems like ages, but I just haven't gathered the courage to dive in. I recall checking out The Darkness that Comes Before from the library a few years back, but the font was so tiny and cramped that I never ended up getting to it, haha. Hopefully the next chance will better!

3. Peter S. Beagle

The Last UnicornI'm Afraid You've Got Dragons
I've heard nothing but praises for The Last Unicorn and I really badly want to read it! The main reason I haven't checked out any of Beagle's work is because my library doesn't have any copies, so I just have to get around to buying a copy sometime. I'd also really like to support him and his work amidst the struggles around his books. 

4. Robin Hobb

Assassin's Apprentice (Farseer Trilogy, #1)Fool's Errand (Tawny Man, #1)Ship of Magic (Liveship Traders, #1)Fool's Assassin (The Fitz and The Fool Trilogy, #1)
Technically I've tried reading Assassin's Apprentice on two different occasions, but I never finished it either time so I'm not sure if that counts as having read Robin Hobb? Regardless, I have a feeling I'll really enjoy her books based on what I've read, I just have to be in the right mood for them since they seem to be somewhat on the slower side.

5. Juliet Marillier

Daughter of the Forest  (Sevenwaters, #1)Wildwood Dancing (Wildwood, #1)Shadowfell (Shadowfell, #1)The Dark Mirror (The Bridei Chronicles, #1)
Okay, so I have actually read something from Marillier--The Harp of Kings just a few months earlier--but there are still so many of her books that I haven't read yet and I just have a feeling that I am going to love them.

Have you read any books from these authors? What'd you think of them!?

Monday, November 11, 2019

Mini-Reviews: Japanese Crime Fiction--Confessions by Kanae Minato & The Devotion of Suspect X by Keigo Higashino

ConfessionsConfessions by Kanae Kinato
Mulholland Books
Publication: August 19th, 2014
Paperback. 235 pages.

About Confessions:
"After calling off her engagement in wake of a tragic revelation, Yuko Moriguchi had nothing to live for except her only child, four-year-old Manami. Now, following an accident on the grounds of the middle school where she teaches, Yuko has given up and tendered her resignation.

But first she has one last lecture to deliver. She tells a story that upends everything her students ever thought they knew about two of their peers, and sets in motion a maniacal plot for revenge.

Narrated in alternating voices, with twists you'll never see coming, Confessions explores the limits of punishment, despair, and tragic love, culminating in a harrowing confrontation between teacher and student that will place the occupants of an entire school in danger. You'll never look at a classroom the same way again."

I read Kanae Mintao's Penance a few years back and found it to be a compelling thriller that left me wanting to check out more from Minato. It's taken me a while to get around to it, but I've finally done it and it was just as twisty and unexpected as Penance (if not more!). This story thrives on plot twists, so I can't go into any details at all, but I will say that you really need to prepare yourselves for this one because it handles some extremely intense topics.

What I liked: Confessions was nearly unpredictable for me and I had some audible reactions to certain twists and moments that blew me away. This is a book about revenge--revenge that takes its form in so many different ways, and just when you think you have it figured out or think it's all over, there's something new to come and completely prove you wrong. I liked how Minato plays with her storytelling through different perspectives and manages to continuously bring in new ideas and possibilities.

What I didn't like: Since this story centers around a few main characters throughout the book, each each characters gets a certain part of the book to tell their version of the story. Although I like this part of the setup, what I didn't care for was how repetitive it made the book at times. It wasn't overly repetitive since each person tended to have their own unique story, perspective, and background, but it did result in more than a few scenes repeated a few too many times for my liking.

Overall, I've given Confessions four stars!

The Devotion of Suspect X (Detective Galileo, #1)The Devotion of Suspect X by Keigo Higashino
Minotaur Books
Publication Date: February 1st, 2011
Hardcover. 298 pages.

About The Devotion of Suspect X:
"Yasuko lives a quiet life, working in a Tokyo bento shop, a good mother to her only child. But when her ex-husband appears at her door without warning one day, her comfortable world is shattered.

When Detective Kusanagi of the Tokyo Police tries to piece together the events of that day, he finds himself confronted by the most puzzling, mysterious circumstances he has ever investigated. Nothing quite makes sense, and it will take a genius to understand the genius behind this particular crime..."

The Devotion of Suspect X is the sort of crime thriller that doesn't really follow a fast-placed plot or have all that much action going on, but it still manages to wrap you up in the story in such a compelling way with countless unpredictable twists.

What I liked: Higashino's careful plotting of the story and how he slowly unveils new information and twists is truly expert. There's a reason why people are always talking about this book! It's completely unexpected at almost every turn and has some incredibly clever ideas wrapped up in it. One of my favorite things that I've tended to notice about Japanese fiction in general is that it has a much 'quieter' feel to it than a lot of non-Japanese books I read. I'm not entirely sure how to describe it, but it's partially due to a focus on the smaller, day-to-day events and details rather than fast-paced, action-heavy, big scene books. It's much more about plotting and the details and important keys to pick up about characters.

What I didn't like: Honestly, there's not a lot that I didn't really like about this book. I would say the only thing holding me back from enjoy it more is that since it doesn't have a particularly fast pace and it delves so deeply into detail and conversations about different specific scenarios, it did feel as though it dragged slightly in some places. It still manages to feel like a fast-moving plot, but since it does have a slower pace and tone it can make it difficult to stay focused at times. I also can't say I ever felt particularly drawn to any of the characters, but I still enjoyed seeing their reactions and involvements within this book.

Overall, I've also given the Devotion of Suspect X four stars!

Friday, November 8, 2019

The Friday Face-Off: Explosions

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:
“big badda boom” – a cover that features an explosion

This was trickier than I expected! I couldn't seem to find any traditional 'explosions' on covers, so I just went with a variety of covers that have some sort of object or element in the midst of exploding. Or what seems to be exploding, at least. I really like a lot of these covers, there's a good mix of colors (especially Ody-C!) and a variety of what seems to be, er, exploding.

  The Winter of the Witch (Winternight Trilogy, #3)Vita NostraIlluminae (The Illuminae Files, #1)
2019 US Hardcover | 2018 US Hardcover | 2015 US Hardcover

The City of Brass (The Daevabad Trilogy, #1)ODY-C #1Daughter from the Dark
2017 US Hardcover | 2014 US Paperback | 2020 US Hardcover

A Shadow Bright and Burning (Kingdom on Fire, #1)Given to the Sea (Given Duet, #1)This Mortal Coil
2016 US Hardcover | 2017 US Hardcover | 2018 US Hardcover

My choice(s):
The Winter of the Witch (Winternight Trilogy, #3)Vita Nostra
The cover for Vita Nostra is one of my favorites by far, but I also just love the style and drama of The Winter of the Witch, so I'm choosing both!

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

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Can't-Wait Wednesday: The Light of All That Falls by James Islington & Labyrinth of Ice by Buddy Levy

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 Light of All That Falls (The Licanius Trilogy, #3)
The Light of All That Falls (The Licanius Trilogy #3) by James Islington
Publication: December 10th, 2019
Hardcover. 608 pages.

"The Light of All That Falls concludes the epic adventure that began in The Shadow of What Was Lost, the acclaimed fantasy blockbuster from James Islington. 

The Boundary is whole once again, but it may be too late. 

Banes now stalk Andarra, while in Ilin Illan, the political machinations of a generation come to a head as Wirr's newfound ability forces his family's old enemies into action. 

Imprisoned and alone in a strange land, Davian is pitted against the remaining Venerate as they work tirelessly to undo Asha's sacrifice - even as he struggles with what he has learned about the friend he chose to set free. 

And Caeden, now facing the consequences of his centuries-old plan, must finally confront its reality - heartbroken at how it began, and devastated by how it must end."
The Licanius Trilogy has easily become one of my favorite fantasy series and I am truly beyond words with my excitement for this final book. I have no idea what's going to happen and I can't wait to see how Islington handles everything.

Labyrinth of Ice: The Triumphant and Tragic Greely Polar Expedition
Labyrinth of Ice: The Triumphant and Tragic Greely Polar Expedition by Buddy Levy
Publication: December 3rd, 2019
St. Martin's Press
Hardcover. 400 pages.

"In July 1881, Lt. A.W. Greely and his crew of 24 scientists and explorers were bound for the last region unmarked on global maps. Their goal: Farthest North. What would follow was one of the most extraordinary and terrible voyages ever made. 

Greely and his men confronted every possible challenge—vicious wolves, sub-zero temperatures, and months of total darkness—as they set about exploring one of the most remote, unrelenting environments on the planet. In May 1882, they broke the 300-year-old record, and returned to camp to eagerly await the resupply ship scheduled to return at the end of the year. Only nothing came. 

250 miles south, a wall of ice prevented any rescue from reaching them. Provisions thinned and a second winter descended. Back home, Greely’s wife worked tirelessly against government resistance to rally a rescue mission. 

Months passed, and Greely made a drastic choice: he and his men loaded the remaining provisions and tools onto their five small boats, and pushed off into the treacherous waters. After just two weeks, dangerous floes surrounded them. Now new dangers awaited: insanity, threats of mutiny, and cannibalism. As food dwindled and the men weakened, Greely's expedition clung desperately to life.

Labyrinth of Ice tells the true story of the heroic lives and deaths of these voyagers hell-bent on fame and fortune—at any cost—and how their journey changed the world"
I love anything related to survival in polar/arctic/etc. climates, so this was sort of a no-question 'must-have' when I saw it. This sounds intense and fascinating and I hope to be able to check it out in December!

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

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

Top Ten Tuesday: Autumn Vibes

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

This week's topic is: Autumn Vibes

I actually had a bit of a difficult time with autumn vibes this week. It was hard to narrow down exactly what I consider 'autumn vibes' because it actually varies quite a bit. Sometimes I think of scarier things as being great or autumn, sometimes more of the whimsical and magical, and sometimes just straight up 'cozy' reads. In the end, I've decided to feature a mixture of books that are either on the cozy side or just have a great atmosphere that makes me think of fall--I hope they make you think of fall, too (or else it's just a random mix of books?)! 

The Illumination of Ursula FlightThe Sisters of the Winter WoodUnnatural MagicThe Problim Children

The Illumination of Ursula of Flight by Anne-Marie Crowhurst:
This is more on the 'cozy' autumn vibe because it's just such a delightful story and made me feel completely cozy and happy the entire time I read it. It's not without its drama and harder moments, but it's has so much character that I think it'd be perfect for an autumn day.

The Sisters of the Winter Wood by Rena Rossner
Something about this book just screams 'fall' to me--I think it's a mix of the covers, the close sister relationship, and the overall atmosphere.

Unnatural Magic by C.M. Waggoner 
Another one that fits more with the 'cozy' autumn aspect!

The Problim Children by Nataile Lloyd
This is a charming middle grade that just screams at me with autumn vibes.

The Glass Town GameCirceIn the Night Garden (The Orphan's Tales, #1)Witchborn

The Glass Town Game by Catherynne M. Valente
Another middle grade that feels so whimsical and inventive, but also maintains a sort of familiar fall atmosphere that works so well for this season!

Circe by Madeline Miller
What better time to dive into a story of mythology and witches than in the fall?

In the Night Garden by Catherynne M. Valente
These interconnected short stories are perfect for fall. Something about them just makes me want to curl up on a nice fall day and dive into them.

Witchborn by Nicholas Bowling
Another middle grade (though I'd say the older end of middle grade) featuring an incredibly 'autumn' atmosphere and plenty of witchy things.

Tess of the Road (Tess of the Road, #1)The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories

Tess of the Road by Rachel Hartman
Tess of the Road is a long, somewhat meandering journey of discovery and it feels perfectly relaxing and fall-like.

The Bloody Chamber by Angela Carter
And lastly, what does scream fall like some fairy tale retellings of the, uh, darker nature?

Have you read any of these? What books make you think of fall?