Monday, April 23, 2018

Sky In the Deep by Adrienne Young

*Sky in the Deep will be published, Tuesday, April 24th!*

Sky in the Deep by Adrienne Young. Wednesday Books, 2018. Hardcover. 352 pages.

Sky in the Deep was a decent book overall, but personally it was mostly a huge disappointment as well. I was highly anticipating this Viking book with an awesome female lead and plot that made me curious, so when I received an ARC of this title from NetGalley I was beyond thrilled. But then I started reading it and I felt myself becoming more and more disappointed as each page went by.

It really pains me to have a write this review because of how disappointed I was. The biggest problems I had with this book were that, for me, it was dry, boring, and fairly predictable. The plot itself just felt very flat and really lacked anything deep enough to captivate me. There really was only one major plot line happening and a few minor others, but none of them held much weight for me and I found it slightly cliche'd. I wanted a lot more depth regarding the world and the clans and the people within them. I think part of the problem is that we spend so little time with Eelyn in her blood Aska clan in the beginning and almost immediately jump to her being with the enemy Riki clan. Because of this, we're left with very little feelings or loyalty towards the Aska, so I didn't really feel the same hatred or frustrations as she did being towards the Riki while she was in their clan. There just wasn't enough given to the reader in the way of varying perspectives to fully understand just how dramatic and difficult this entire plot and situation was for Eelyn and the Riki clan members.

The  main character, Eelyn, came across a cardboard character to me with very little personality. I had zero connection to her and I felt like I didn't know her at all, which also left me not really caring about her. She was also incredibly close-minded to pretty much everything and it drove me crazy how judgmental she was and how she refused to even think about deeper reasons for why certain events might happen; if it wasn't something she thought was right, she shut her mind and stuck to her stubborn ways. It was beyond frustrating listening to her thoughts throughout the entire story. Spoiler:
Then, when she finally decides to overcome the hatred between the two clans, she becomes upset with her father and friend for not immediately understanding it as well! It was beyond hypocritical.


Many of the other characters, such as her brother, Iri, were also not all that captivating and didn't do much for me to care about them, but there were a few that stood out. Inge and Myra, for example, were two characters that I liked so much more than Eelyn. I think a story about Myra would be fascinating, or even a story about Inge's backstory and how she is who she is today. I found them to have much more well-rounded and developed personalities than Eelyn, and I would have liked to know more about people like them.

Sky in the Deep had extremely odd pacing as well. There were bursts of action and violence in the beginning, a few briefs moments in the middle, and one more brief burst at the end. And in between the violence was... not much else. I don't mind books where there's nothing really going on, but there has to be good character development or at least something going on in the meantime, and that just didn't happen in this case. The other issue I had was with the romance between our main character and another character. It was just unnecessary. I know it was meant to show how Eelyn's character develops, but it just wasn't a great way to do that. I actually wish the romance had been between two other characters if it was necessary to have some romance, but I don't want to go into detail on my opinions there due to potential spoiler issues.

Despite the negative aspects, I did find the battle scenes really well written and I could actually follow them pretty easily, which was a nice surprise. And although Young's writing style wasn't overly gripping for me, I did appreciate her strong attention to detail throughout the book.

Overall, I've given Sky in the Deep 2.75 stars., rounded up to three. I really liked the Viking setting and that aspect, but I just wish it had been executed better. This story was lacking so much depth, and I'm really pretty disappointed by that. I realize that I'm in the minority on this one.


*I received a copy of Sky in the Deep courtesy of NetGalley and Wednesday Books in exchange for an honest review. This has no effect on my rating of the book.*



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Friday, April 20, 2018

Discussion: Genre Snobbery and Other Frustrating Book Genre Issues


I could not begin to count the number of times that I've seen someone refer to 'genre fiction' with an air of superiority and utter disdain for said genres that they include in that category (i.e. fantasy, romance, science fiction, historical fiction, mystery, etc.). There are so many people that seem to think if you're not reading nonfiction, classics, or high-brow literary fiction then you're just reading fluff and wasting your time. I think I get angrier every time I hear things like that, and although I wish I could just brush it off and , I've seen too many people become upset or bothered by it, so I think it's time for a quick little discussion.

First, why do we even do this? Why do we judge any specific genre for something that likely isn't even true? I completely understand that not every genre out there is everyone's cup of tea, but that hardly means we should look down on it or write it off as being unimportant or unnecessary. For a personal example: I don't like romance books all that much; there's nothing wrong them, I just don't like romance as the main plot point in a novel--though of course I'd be lying if I said that there aren't always occasional exceptions. However, I've learned not to simply dismiss this genre as something silly and fluffy because there's so much more to it than that. Just  because non-romance readers think it's only filled with sappy love words doesn't mean it actually is. And hell, even if it is just a lighthearted romance--what's wrong with that? What's wrong with relaxing with a lovely book after a stressful day of life? Why is it so vital that someone only reads books that are viewed as 'important' and 'challenging'? If you simply prefer to only read those types of books then that's fine, but don't look down on people who wants to read other things. The point is: try not to judge what others want to read.

On the same topic, I tend to get irrationally annoyed when it comes to 'genre fiction' (if you haven't already figured that out). When it comes to fantasy in particular, fairy tales and the like have been around and told for centuries--usually with some sort of moral lesson to be learned à la the Brothers Grimm. Even in the ancient world fantastic texts existed, just look at The Odyssey or The Aeneid.  I've learned more life lessons from fantasy stories than I have from a lot of other types of books. Fantasy itself has broadened my own imagination and ability to wrap my head around complex  ideas and imagine different world systems. The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly, for example, is a fairy tale-inspired tale that helped me with dad's death when I was eleven years old because the protagonist was experiencing the same things that I was. I learned how to deal with very difficult issues because of that, but many readers would brush off books like that because they aren't a classic or something similar. I also love historical fiction because it allows me to travel back in time and learn about the culture a specific time period or location through the lens of an interesting story that also usually captures an important issue of the time. Most readers I've met that read from different genres, myself included, can pick out at least one important thing from almost every historical fiction, fantasy, science fiction, etc. book that we've read that has better shaped our worldview or taught us about different cultures and perspectives.

Something else that has become bothersome is how negatively young adult books tend to be viewed and classified, but that's an entire discussion on its own and not one that I have room to get into here. All I'll say about that for now is that I think it's horribly ridiculous how many people write off YA books just because they are classified as YA, even though YA is not actually a genre and more of a publishing term developed to target a specific audience due to the general age of characters in those books. People fawn endlessly over To Kill a Mockingbird, but if that were published today, guess what it would probably be published as? That's right, probably young adult.

The last thing that I want to talk about is simply how hard it can be to even categorize books sometimes. Sure, a traditional epic fantasy or murder mystery is easy to spot and label, but there are some books that mold multiple genres into one book and make it extremely difficult to accurately categorize them. One example might be The Changeling by Victor LaValle. That book sort of splits the line  between literary fiction and fantasy or magical realism, but it's not something that you can definitively say 'yes, it's this,' or 'no, it's definitely not that.' There's always overlap which then makes it hard determine. With books that overlap in genres like literary fiction and 'genre fiction,' I always wonder, 'So how will you manage to judge this?' I even imagine a book like Master Assassins by Robert V.S. Redick would appeal to die-hard literary fiction fans, but that they might be put off by the fantasy setting. When I was trying to organize by reviews by genre, I had a pretty good number listed as 'miscellaneous' because it was nearly impossible to pinpoint it to only one genre. Genres are limiting, and I think that's a big problem when it comes to getting people to read certain books, largely because many books will be ignored solely because of how they are labeled.

Honestly, there is so much more that I could say on these topics, but in the interest of not writing a small novel in the process, I'm going to leave it brief. Please let me know your own thoughts in the comments, I'd love to keep this discussion going! Whether you agree, disagree, don't care--let me know! (Or, if you're feeling shy, feel free to send me a message!)


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Thursday, April 19, 2018

Wayfarer: AV494 by Matthew S. Cox

*Wayfarer will be released Tuesday, May 8th!*

Wayfarer: AV494 by Matthew Cox. Curiosity Quills Press, 2018. Ebook. 300 pages.

This book was... insane. I haven't been that 'on the edge of my seat' in quite a while. If you like foreign planet/space thrillers, then this one's for you.

In Wayfarer, Kerys Loring jumps headfirst for the opportunity to explore an alien ruin on a foreign planet. Once there, however, she is shocked to discover that her ex is also stationed on the planet, an issue that takes the backseat when an extreme unknown alien threat takes over and plunges the base in chaos.

Wayfarer was a little slow at the outset and I wasn't sure if it was going to pick up enough to keep me fully interested. I'm here to tell you not to worry about that because boy, does it pick up! I loved the basic premise of simply exploring a new planet for potential alien life and that is what initially hooked me. And then, for lack of a better phrase, the shit hit the fan and things went crazy. I had no idea what was going to happen in this book and I don't want to tell you anything about it other than to say things get dark... and stay dark.

One thing that I didn't love about being caught so unawares was how blindsided I was to the immense violence and gore that occurred throughout the events of this book. I don't usually have a problem with violence and gore (I mean, I love grimdark books), but this was just so unexpected for me and done in such a real and relevant way that it really shocked me and sort of threw me for a loop. If you're okay with some violence then you'll be fine, but if you're really sensitive to violence then you might want to consider that before picking this one up.

I'm not sure how much else I can really say about the plot without giving away anything important, so I'm going to jump into talking about some of the characters and the writing. Our main character is Kerys, a young woman who is beyond thrilled to have an opportunity to be a part of history and explore this new planet and newly discovered alien activity. Kerys is, overall, a very bright and interesting character, but I found it hard to connect with her at times. This doesn't really pose as a huge issue for me because I don't always need to connect with a character, but I just felt like some of her actions were a bit odd at times. For being as bright as she was said to be, I found her lack of common sense and lack of inquisitiveness about questionable things a bit annoying. There were certain things that I was surprised she didn't question more and that she brushed off too quickly and I found myself wanting to yell at Kerys on more than one occasion for different things she did or didn't do. Despite this, I was still very much captivated by her strength and determination; she has learned not to sit back and let things happen to her, but instead sticks up for herself and tries to be a stronger person everyday.

There was a decent variety of supporting characters in this book as well, though I never really felt like I got to know any of them very well so I don't really have all that much to say about them. One of the other prominent characters in this book is Kerys' ex-boyfriend, Will, someone she was horrified to find already on the base at the planet due to a previous abusive relationship and not-so-great break-up back on earth. I'll be honest an say that I did have my misgivings that this ex-boyfriend aspect would overtake the book in a negative way, but it actually didn't and instead ended up taking a very interesting turn. I felt the other characters were oddly interested in their past relationship (no one usually cares that much), but it didn't bother me too much. I wish I had known the other characters a bit more so I could separate who was who more easily, but they still added some great personality to the story.

The writing itself was pretty well done an captured the horror and suspense of the situation on the base. The only issues I had were with the dialogue itself, which just sometimes felt a bit stilted and awkward. Some of the responses and conversations people would have just felt a little bit off and pulled me slightly out of the action of story a little as well.

Overall, occasional issues with the writing and pacing aside, I definitely enjoyed reading this crazy and unpredictable book and have settled on four stars, rounded up from 3.75. If you like thrillers and space and a gripping story, then definitely pick up Wayfarer.

*I received a copy of Wayfarer courtesy of Curiosity Quills Press in exchange for an honest review.*



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One Way by SJ Morden
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Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Waiting on Wednesday: The Poppy War by R.F. Kuang & All The Ever Afters by Danielle Teller


Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Breaking the Spine that spotlights exciting upcoming releases that we can't wait to be released!

This week's upcoming book spotlight is:
The Poppy War by R.F. Kuang
Publication Date: May 4th, 2018
Harper Voyager
544 pages
Pre-order: Amazon Book Depository 
From Goodreads:

The Poppy War
"When Rin aced the Keju—the Empire-wide test to find the most talented youth to learn at the Academies—it was a shock to everyone: to the test officials, who couldn’t believe a war orphan from Rooster Province could pass without cheating; to Rin’s guardians, who believed they’d finally be able to marry her off and further their criminal enterprise; and to Rin herself, who realized she was finally free of the servitude and despair that had made up her daily existence. That she got into Sinegard—the most elite military school in Nikan—was even more surprising.

But surprises aren’t always good. 

Because being a dark-skinned peasant girl from the south is not an easy thing at Sinegard. Targeted from the outset by rival classmates for her color, poverty, and gender, Rin discovers she possesses a lethal, unearthly power—an aptitude for the nearly-mythical art of shamanism. Exploring the depths of her gift with the help of a seemingly insane teacher and psychoactive substances, Rin learns that gods long thought dead are very much alive—and that mastering control over those powers could mean more than just surviving school. 

For while the Nikara Empire is at peace, the Federation of Mugen still lurks across a narrow sea. The militarily advanced Federation occupied Nikan for decades after the First Poppy War, and only barely lost the continent in the Second. And while most of the people are complacent to go about their lives, a few are aware that a Third Poppy War is just a spark away . . . 

Rin’s shamanic powers may be the only way to save her people. But as she finds out more about the god that has chosen her, the vengeful Phoenix, she fears that winning the war may cost her humanity . . . and that it may already be too late."

I just heard about this one the other week and I am so interested in this premise! The advanced reviews for it are incredibly promising as well, so I have hopes and hope to have a chance to pick it up!

and...

All the Ever Afters: The Untold Story of Cinderella's Stepmother by Danielle Teller
Publication Date: May 22nd, 2018
William Morrow
384 pages
Pre-order: Amazon Book Depository 
From Goodreads:

All the Ever Afters: The Untold Story of Cinderella’s Stepmother
In the vein of Wicked, The Woodcutter, and Boy, Snow, Bird, a luminous reimagining of a classic tale, told from the perspective of Agnes, Cinderella’s “evil” stepmother. 

We all know the story of Cinderella. Or do we? 

As rumors about the cruel upbringing of beautiful newlywed Princess Cinderella roil the kingdom, her stepmother, Agnes, who knows all too well about hardship, privately records the true story. . . . 

A peasant born into serfdom, Agnes is separated from her family and forced into servitude as a laundress’s apprentice when she is only ten years old. Using her wits and ingenuity, she escapes her tyrannical matron and makes her way toward a hopeful future. When teenaged Agnes is seduced by an older man and becomes pregnant, she is transformed by love for her child. Once again left penniless, Agnes has no choice but to return to servitude at the manor she thought she had left behind. Her new position is nursemaid to Ella, an otherworldly infant. She struggles to love the child who in time becomes her stepdaughter and, eventually, the celebrated princess who embodies everyone’s unattainable fantasies. The story of their relationship reveals that nothing is what it seems, that beauty is not always desirable, and that love can take on many guises. 

Lyrically told, emotionally evocative, and brilliantly perceptive, All the Ever Afters explores the hidden complexities that lie beneath classic tales of good and evil, all the while showing us that how we confront adversity reveals a more profound, and ultimately more important, truth than the ideal of “happily ever after.”

I've had my eye on this one for what feels like ages and I cannot wait for the chance to read it. I am a shameless retellings fan and I just love the sound of this one.

What do you think about this upcoming release? What are your anticipated upcoming releases?


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Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Top Ten Tuesday Make-Up: Characters I Liked From Books I Didn't Like

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

This week's topic is: Freebie!
Since I missed this topic from a couple weeks ago, I though that I would just make it up today as my choice for the freebie! This ended up being a lot harder than I thought and I could only manage to come up with seven (based on books that I have recorded on Goodreads). 

The Book ThiefThe Once and Future KingShadow and Bone (Grisha Verse, #1)The Queen of the Tearling (The Queen of the Tearling, #1)


Death from The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
It's no secret that I did not enjoy The Book Thief at all, but I did really love the concept of having Death be a narrator, even if the execution didn't work for me.

Merlin from The Once and Future King by T.H. White
I still feel like it's blasphemy to not like this book, but I was just so bored throughout this book. Despite this, I loved the character of Merlin (I tend to love his character in general) and the scenes featuring Merlin were definitely the best ones.

The Darkling and Genya from Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo
I wasn't a huge fan of this book for many reasons, but I was always intrigued by the Darkling and Genya. This was one of those cases where I found them more interesting than the protagonist. I'm working on re-reading this trilogy to see if my feelings have changed because I don't remember a whole, and so far I've only re-read Shadow and Bone (and my feelings didn't change :/ ). Hopefully the rest of the trilogy improves.

Fetch from The Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johannsen
Okay, so this is going purely off of what I think I remember because I remember very little from this book other than not liking it. Fetch is one of the only characters that I really remember and I do recall enjoying his character.

House of NamesSky in the DeepAn Enchantment of Ravens

Clytemnestra fro House of Name by Colm Tóibín (but only in the beginning!)
The first portion of this book that features Clytemnestra's point of view had me really loving her character. She was so intriguing and had so many different aspects of her personality that shone through... and then somewhere everything shut off and she had nothing three-dimensional about her. Before that, though, I thought she was great!

Myra and Inge from Sky in the Deep by Adrienna Young
Okay, maybe it's too early to include this one, but I'm going to anyway. I wasn't a huge fan of this book (review will be up next Monday!), but I did really enjoy the characters of Myra and Inge for bringing a lot of life and interest to the story. I won't say more than that since the book isn't out.

Rook from An Enchantment of Ravens by Margaret Rogerson
For the record, I didn't dislike this book so much as I was just disappointed in it. I really liked the character of Rook, however, and felt that he had a strong history and storyline that would've been much more interesting to explore.

What characters have you liked in books you didn't like?


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Monday, April 16, 2018

Child of Nod by C.W. Snyder

Child of Nod by C.W. Snyder. Curiosity Quills Press, 2017. Ebook. 274 pages.

"Once upon a time, there was a girl who was dead."

That opening line had me hooked immediately on this book and is pretty much what made me know that I wanted to read it.

Child of Nod turned out to be completely unexpected from what I thought this book might be. This book is pitched as darker take on Alice's Adventures in Wonderland in which Alice ends up in Nod, a corrupted fairy tale land on the other side of death. I knew that this would be a darker story, which is what drew me to it initially, but I had no idea just how dark and gory it would be or what exactly it would be like. This is hard book to even describe and rate because it just felt so different from most books. It's definitely one that I plan on revisiting

Going into this book, I wasn't really sure what age-range it was being marketed towards, but I assumed it was possibly young adult, although the cover could have been anything from middle grade to adult. I have to say that this is definitely not written for kids and leans heavily toward the adult side, which was perfectly fine with me (I'm always ready for more Alice retellings at any age range). It's definitely dark and also rather creepy, so if that's not your thing then this book might not be for you.

This is a very atmospheric book that focuses a lot on descriptions, images, and emotions. There's not a large amount of action, but the narrative itself is still surprisingly gripping. That being said, there is still plenty of plot development and this book was never boring. Child of Nod a slow-paced book that seems to focus more on development of the characters themselves than it does on large events.

Alice herself was a particularly intriguing character. The weird thing about this Alice is that about halfway through I realized that we, the readers, never really get any backstory about her life because she can't remember her past. It's not often that I read books from the perspective of someone who we don't really know much about, and I was also surprised that it didn't really bother me at all. I enjoyed getting to know Alice based on her present circumstances and how she reacted to things as they happened to her. Alice is sweet, but there's much more to her than that; she's exceptionally curious and eager to find out exactly what she's doing in Nod.

There are a couple of other characters that this narrative focuses on that were extremely interesting figures to follow. I did find myself slightly confused at times when trying to remember the identities of various characters and occasionally forgot who was who. This might not have been a problem if I had been able to easily check back to figure out who was who, but since it was on my Kindle I couldn't do that easily so I just kept reading until I got the hang of things. I still really enjoyed reading about the backstories on these characters, and it's within these backstories where some of the darker and more horror-esque moments occurred most often.

Snyder's prose is beautiful and is able to convey so much passion in such a short amount of time. Books that focus heavily on descriptions and journeys can sometimes be hard to get into, but I found myself riveted by Snyder's words throughout the entire story, something that proves to me that author knows how to write and craft an intricate, captivating story.

Child of Nod is a book that I still need to think about and consider the themes and what this book was meant to be about. I also think that this is one of those books that I would prefer reading as a physical book because I kept wanting to go back and check thing or just reread certain parts, in addition to the fact that I personally find atmospheric and description-heavy books are just easier for me to read. Regardless, Child of Nod will definitely make you think and it is one that I do recommend.

Overall, I've given Child of Nod four stars!

Buy the book: Amazon | Book Depository



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You might also like:
Gilded Ashes by Rosamund Hodge
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Friday, April 13, 2018

Bodacious Creed and the Frisco Syndicate--Kickstarter Campaign!

Hello everyone! Today I am excited to share with you all a Kickstarter campaign for the sequel of Bodacious Creed, a book that I recently read, reviewed, and immensely enjoyed.  As you may or may not recall, Bodacious Creed is a steampunk zombie western that is every bit as adventurous and intriguing as it sounds.

The author, Jonathan Fesmire, is currently working on the second novel in the series, Bodacious Creed and the Frisco Syndicate, and has recently launched a Kickstarter to help cover costs of creating the book, such as professional editing, cover art, and all those important elements that come with publishing your own novel! You can find all of the fine details over at the Kickstarter page, including a breakdown of the exact costs required and the research aspects that are required to write this series. The first book, Bodacious Creed, also found its success through Kickstarter!

Here is quick video overview of what the book and the Kickstarter are all about:


Sound interesting? Head on over and check it out!

About the first book, Bodacious Creed:
"U.S. Marshal James Creed has known loss, starting from the untimely death of his wife and daughter in a sudden fire. His work, chasing down and arresting outlaws across the Wild West, is all he has left to live for. Then one day, in 1876, the infamous killer Corwin Blake catches Creed by surprise and guns him down. 

Creed awakes after a mysterious young woman resurrects him in a basement laboratory beneath a brothel. Half alive, Creed feels torn between his need for justice and his desire to fall back into the peace of death. Creed's instincts drive him to protect the city of Santa Cruz, California, from the outlaws it harbors while searching for Blake. 

He uncovers a secret criminal organization, likely protecting Blake, determined to use resurrection technology for its own ends. The former marshal, now faster, stronger, and a more deadly shot than ever before, must work with a brothel madam, a bounty hunter, and the remaining marshals to uncover the criminal syndicate before they can misuse the machines of rebirth and create more mindless zombies. Meanwhile, he must also stop Blake, before the outlaw kills the only people he cares about. 

His own death can wait."

You can find more information about this series and the author at: https://www.jonathanfesmire.com/




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