Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Mini Review: Newt's Emerald by Garth Nix

Newt's Emerald 
by Garth Nix
Read: June 21 - 22, 2015
Published: October 13, 2015 by Katherine Tegen Books 
Source: BEA
Category: YA, historical fantasy, Regency England, cross dressing girls

Lady Truthful will inherit her family’s most valued heirloom on her eighteenth birthday. Until the Newington Emerald is stolen.

Lady Truthful, nicknamed “Newt” by her boy cousins, discovers that to her horror, the people closest to her have been framed for the theft. But Newt won’t let their reputations be damaged by rumors from a false accusation. Her plan is simple: go to London to recover the missing jewel. Despite her best intentions, a young lady travelling alone is frankly unacceptable behavior. So Newt and her aunt devise another plan…one that entails men’s clothing and a mustache.

While in disguise, Truthful encounters the handsome but shrewd major Harnett, who to her amazement volunteers to help find the missing emerald under the assumption that she is a man, Henri de Vienne. But once she and her unsuspecting ally are caught up in a dangerous adventure, Truthful realizes something else is afoot: the beating of her heart.

Truthful has far more than romantic complications to worry about. The stolen emerald is no ordinary heirloom-it is the source of the family’s luck and has the power to yield vast magic. It would be completely disastrous if it fell into the wrong hands. The fate of England depends on Truthful securing the emerald.

After reading two long middle-in-a-trilogy books in row I needed something lighter and quicker and that's exactly what I got with Newt's Emerald. This book is a little bit silly and a whole lot of delightful fun. Plus as a huge fan of regency romance, it was a wonderful nod to a favorite genres. Along with the mystery of a lost emerald, are hidden identities, a cross dressing girl, balls, spies and high speed boat chases. I never fully became engaged in the magic of this world. I was more interested in the historical aspects. But I loved following Lady Truthful and Charles on their adventures as they slowly come to terms with how they really feel about each other in a sweet slow romance. 

Love Triangle Factor: None
Cliffhanger Scale: Standalone

Friday, October 2, 2015

Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

Six of Crows
by Leigh Bardugo
Read: August 12 - 21, 2015
September 29, 2015 by Henry Holt and Company
Source: BEA
Category: YA, fantasy, Grisha-verse, heists

Ketterdam: a bustling hub of international trade where anything can be had for the right price—and no one knows that better than criminal prodigy Kaz Brekker. Kaz is offered a chance at a deadly heist that could make him rich beyond his wildest dreams. But he can't pull it off alone...

A convict with a thirst for revenge.

A sharpshooter who can't walk away from a wager.

A runaway with a privileged past.

A spy known as the Wraith.

A Heartrender using her magic to survive the slums. 

A thief with a gift for unlikely escapes. 

Six dangerous outcasts. One impossible heist. Kaz's crew is the only thing that might stand between the world and destruction—if they don't kill each other first.

I'm not sure why, but I've struggled to write a review of this book. I read Six of Crows back in August and enjoyed it so much. Plus the more I think about it, the more I like it. Over time, I've found that one of the best indicators of how much I enjoyed a story is how much it's stuck with me. In leu of a proper review (hey that rhymes!), I'm going to write a list of why I think you should read this book: 

You should read this book if...

1) You loved the Grisha trilogy (obviously!) - I don't think you people need much convincing, Hopefully you all have your copies already. This book has a completely new cast of characters but there are some hints to our beloveds, and it's wonderful digging further inside of a world you've already visited. There is so much more to explore, and many more fascinating characters to meet. Plus a lot more danger and intrigue, magic and mayhem to be had. 

2) You didn't like, or didn't read the Grisha trilogy - This story can stand on it's own, so don't worry about missing past information if you haven't read the other books (although I do recommend the trilogy). Six of Crows is set in the same world as Shadow and Bone, but this book felt a little more grown up to me. I think because it's a third person narrative and an ensemble cast, all of which I enjoy in my fantasy. The book isn't focused on one girl's growth like so many YA trilogies, and I think following a group of characters makes it feel more complex. 

3) You like heists with impossible missions - I don't go much for comparisons, but I like the Ocean's Eleven compare here. We have a group of very different individuals, who are assembled for a mission that they'll be lucky to survive, if not succeed. They have to gather their group and then travel to this place, all of which builds the story and characters. I love this set up, and how we learn more about each of the players as the plot unfolds. If you aren't sold already, there's even a map of the heist location! 

4) You enjoy ambiguously moral characters - In this book we have a group of thieves who are all a lot more than the sentences we're told about them in the description above. One of my favorite things about the story is the way the characters are revealed over time and the richness that brings to this tale. They are all very different, some friends, some enemies, but all with slightly - or more than slightly - grey pasts. They also aren't that willing to share information about themselves, so you have to be patient for it to come. These chracters have been broken, but they are survivors and will do anything to succeed (though whether they all want to succeed at the same thing remains to be seen). It makes for exciting storytelling to watch them at it. 

5) You like romance, but you don't like triangles - Romance is decidedly not the central focus of this story, which I appreciate, but it is present, which I also appreciate. We have three relationships brewing, though some are much more subtle and slower to build than others. I love the hints to each them, and the underlying tension throughout the book. There aren't any distracting love triangles involved either. Thank goodness

Some concessions: This book starts slowly, but speeds up as the heist gets going and the characters reveal more about themselves. If you haven't read the other series (even if you have) remembering the different orders of Grisha is challenging. But you can find some links online that will help. 

Love Triangle Factor: None
Cliffhanger Scale: Medium/High - we are definitely mid-series here. The objective of this book has been finished, but the story ends with a very clear indication of the characters' next mission. And not all of them are in safe places when the book concludes.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Blog Tour: A Thousand Nights by E. K. Johnston
Review + Giveaway

Blog tour organized by Rockstar Book Tours
See below or HERE for full schedule 

A Thousand Nights
by E.K. Johnston
Read: August 30 - September 4, 2015
Published:  October 6, 2015 by Disney Hyperion
Source: NetGalley (Thank you, Disney!)
Category: YA, retelling, fantasy, Middle East
Find: Goodreads | Amazon | B&N | Book Depository | Indiebound | iBooks

Book Description: Lo-Melkhiin killed three hundred girls before he came to her village, looking for a wife. When she sees the dust cloud on the horizon, she knows he has arrived. She knows he will want the loveliest girl: her sister. She vows she will not let her be next.

And so she is taken in her sister's place, and she believes death will soon follow. Lo-Melkhiin's court is a dangerous palace filled with pretty things: intricate statues with wretched eyes, exquisite threads to weave the most beautiful garments. She sees everything as if for the last time.But the first sun rises and sets, and she is not dead. Night after night, Lo-Melkhiin comes to her and listens to the stories she tells, and day after day she is awoken by the sunrise. Exploring the palace, she begins to unlock years of fear that have tormented and silenced a kingdom. Lo-Melkhiin was not always a cruel ruler. Something went wrong.

Far away, in their village, her sister is mourning. Through her pain, she calls upon the desert winds, conjuring a subtle unseen magic, and something besides death stirs the air.

Back at the palace, the words she speaks to Lo-Melkhiin every night are given a strange life of their own. Little things, at first: a dress from home, a vision of her sister. With each tale she spins, her power grows. Soon she dreams of bigger, more terrible magic: power enough to save a king, if she can put an end to the rule of a monster.

A Thousand Nights features many elements that I love. It has a historical feel with a rich setting, strong characters, and culture and customs that fascinated me. The location and time period are not named, but it has Middle Eastern influences that feel authentic, though I don't know enough to make any real statement on that. 

But I think what I enjoyed most about A Thousand Nights is how much this book surprised me, and that's what I wanted to talk about in five points:

1) This book doesn't have a romance. I don't need romance be the central element in a story, in fact, I like when it's a subtle side theme. But no romance at all? I usually avoid those books. And yet, 95% of A Thousand Nights is completely devoid of any sort of romance. I thought that would be a concession I'd have to make to enjoy this, but I actually ended up loving that aspect of the book. It allowed me to focus on the heroine's other relationships much more. 

2) This book does have a love story. But it's not in the way you might think. It is a love story between sisters. The bond between the narrator and her sister is the strongest and most important element in the book. These two characters are separated for most of the story, but their devotion to each other is a tangible, supernatural force. 

3) This book is about the power of women in a society ruled by men. Women in the narrator's world do not have a lot of power. The narrator herself is taken to be married to a man who has killed hundreds of wives before her. Although she comes from a loving family, it is her father who is in charge. Also, none of the women in this book are named, including the narrator. They are all labeled by what they do or how they relate to the narrator (my sister, mother etc.). But what I love is that as this story progresses we see those truths challenged again and again as the narrator and the other women prove that they have tremendous power, though it shows up in ways that are often overlooked.

4) This book doesn't appear to have a much of a plot, but the story is always moving forward. Instead of a linear, plot motivated tale, A Thousand Nights unfolds in layers. As we follow the narrator into her new world as wife of Lo-Melkiin, experiencing her daily life along with her, we watch her slowly discover her own strength and that of the women in her world. It is mostly at the beginning and the end that Things Happen. But I was riveted to this book all the way through, and the way it unfolds matches the theme that the most powerful force may be the one overlooked. 

5) The epilogue changed how I saw this story. First, I did think the big ending went incredibly quickly after the slow, more layered build-up though the book. I wanted more of the explosive part of the story. But that is a minor quibble. Especially when it was followed by an exceptional final chapter that unwrapped a new layer, and further altered the way I saw this retelling of the thousand nights. 

A note of comparison: I don't want to spend this review comparing A Thousand Nights to other books, but I'm going to mention it because this theme is becoming a popular one in YA. Although the setup makes this book sound very similar to The Wrath and the Dawn, and there are some similarities in the way the heroines becomes married to the wife-murdering ruler, I thought this retelling was actually quite different. I loved both books, though for different reasons, and I don't think it's helpful to either of them to judge them in comparison.

In Conclusion
A Thousand Nights is a rich and layered retelling of a classic legend about a woman who saves her world. I implore you not to overlook this tale. Even the cover has far more detail and meaning that I saw at first. 

Love Triangle Factor: None (very little romance)
Cliffhanger Scale: Standalone 


About the Author
E.K. Johnston had several jobs and one vocation before she became a published writer. If she’s learned anything, it’s that things turn out weird sometimes, and there’s not a lot you can do about it. Well, that and how to muscle through awkward fanfic because it’s about a pairing she likes.
You can follow Kate on Twitter (@ek_johnston) to learn more about Alderaanian political theory than you really need to know, or on Tumblr (ekjohnston) if you're just here for pretty pictures.
E.K. Johnston is represented by Adams Literary


Tour Schedule

Week One:
9/28/2015The Bibliophile ChroniclesInterview
9/29/2015Love is not a triangleReview
9/30/2015Wishful EndingsGuest Post
10/1/2015Such a Novel IdeaReview
10/2/2015Once Upon a TwilightInterview

Week Two:
10/5/2015Curling Up With A Good BookReview
10/6/2015Bookhounds yaGuest Post
10/8/2015The Book Cellar- Interview
10/9/2015Mundie MomsReview



3 winners will receive a finished copy of A Thousand Nights. 

Giveaway is for US residents only (Sorry, international readers!)
You must be at least 13 years old to enter
See my policies HERE 

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