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 

Friday, September 25, 2015

After You by Jojo Moyes

NOTE: If you haven't read Me Before You yet, please go do that before looking up information about the sequel or reading any reviews. I tried to keep my thoughts as spoiler free as possible, but it's impossible not to give something away that will influence your perspective. 

After You 
by Jojo Moyes
Read: July 18 - 23, 2015
Published:  September 29, 2015 by Pamela Dorman Books
Source: Netgalley (Thank you, Penguin!)
Category: Adult, contemporary, England, grief 
Series: Me Before You book 2 (don't read this without reading that one!)

Dear Reader,

I wasn't going to write a sequel to Me Before You. But for years, readers kept asking and I kept wondering what Lou did with her life. In the end the idea came, as they sometimes do, at 5:30 in the morning, leaving me sitting bolt upright in my bed and scrambling for my pen.

It has been such a pleasure revisiting Lou and her family, and the Traynors, and confronting them with a whole new set of issues. As ever, they have made me laugh, and cry. I hope readers feel the same way at meeting them—especially Lou—again. And I'm hoping that those who love Will will find plenty to enjoy.

—Jojo Moyes

It was very hard to leave Lou at the end of Me Before You, and I am thankful Jojo Moyes has given us another look into her life. Below are 5 observations about After You, +2 more hidden behind spoiler code: 

After You has an overall heaviness to it, but not the sharp highs and lows I was expecting and wanting. I've read two Moyes books before this one, Me Before You and One Plus One, both of which elicited very strong emotions from me - laughter and tears. FEELS are a favorite thing about Jojo Moyes' stories and my lack of them was disappointing. The reactions I felt were much more muted, and with the story being so long, sometimes I felt like I was slogging through it. 

2) Still, I think the level of emotions in this story is actually a good reflection of Lou's state throughout the book, and a testament to Moyes' ability to convey that. And maybe that was the point after all. Although the going was rough at times, the changes in Lou between the start and end of this book were rewarding to see. 

3) I was not a great fan of the Lily storyline. It seemed an overly obvious choice to include, and mostly frustrated me
. However, after finishing the book, can see the parallels it provided to other plot threads, and the way deepened some ideas and tied story elements together. There's another situation near the end involving a different character that is another frequently used plot device that I don't care for. However, that situation did bring out some of the strongest emotions I found in this book, so I did appreciate it for that. 

4) This book does have a romance, and it surprised me. It takes quite a while to come together, but ended up being different and more rewarding than I expected. There's a lot I want to say about it, but I don't want to spoil things! This was a positive part of the book for me. 

5) Lou's family continue to amuse me, and I love that they are always there for her, even when they're causing more chaos. They offered comic relief but also a more serious storyline that plays against what is going on with Lou. And I loved that Lou and Treena develop a stronger bond through this story. We also get to see the Traynors again, and I really liked Mrs. Traynor's storyline. 

Nothing I've hidden below is an enormous spoiler if you've read Me Before You, but I've decided to put it under the tag just in case: 

After You has such a different feeling to it than Me Before You, and the emotions I felt were not nearly as intense. But then again, Lou is also in a very different place than she was at the beginning of the series. Although this sequel does not stand out as much to me as the first did, and I felt weighed down by it at times, I am so thankful that I could take this journey with Lou, and I wish her all the good things in the future. 

Love Triangle Factor: None 
Cliffhanger Scale: End of series 
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