September 10, 2017

The Book Lode (26)

Yep, it's time for another book haul! This one is a mix of a few books for review, a Book Outlet order, and the results of a surprisingly fruitful perusal of the Chapters clearance section.



Books for review:

I'm Just No Good at Rhyming by Chris Harris

The Tethered Mage by Melissa Caruso (my review here)

Shoebox Funeral: Stories from Wolf Creek by Elisabeth Voltz

Text, Don't Call: An Illustrated Guide to the Introverted Life by INFJoe

You're Weird by Kate Peterson

Surprise Yourself by Lisa Currie

Thanks to Hachette Book Group, Penguin Random House, and Orange PRM (PR for Elisabeth Voltz) for the review copies!

Books bought: 

Wrong About the Guy by Claire LaZebnik

And Again by Jessica Chiarella

The Lost Summer of Louisa May Alcott by Kelly O'Connor McNees

Stray by Elissa Sussman

Strange Sweet Song by Adi Rule

The Other Me by Saskia Sarginson

Her by Harriet Lane

First Frost by Sarah Addison Allen

Night Film by Marisha Pessl

Mixed Magics by Diana Wynne Jones

A Beauty by Connie Gault

Oblivion by Kelly Creagh

Gilt by Katherine Longshore

Keeping the Castle by Patrice Kindl


September 4, 2017

The Tethered Mage: A Panoramic Review (Adult)


34219880"In the Raverran Empire, magic is scarce and those born with power are strictly controlled -- taken as children and conscripted into the Falcon Army.  

Zaira has lived her life on the streets to avoid this fate, hiding her mage-mark and thieving to survive. But hers is a rare and dangerous magic, one that threatens the entire empire.

Lady Amalia Cornaro was never meant to be a Falconer. Heiress and scholar, she was born into a treacherous world of political machinations.

But fate has bound the heir and the mage. And as war looms on the horizon, a single spark could turn their city into a pyre.

The Tethered Mage is the first novel in a spellbinding new fantasy series.
" (from Goodreads)

The Tethered Mage by Melissa Caruso

My reaction: I struggled to get into the first half of this book, I have to say, which felt rather sluggish and dense. There was a lot going on in terms of characters being introduced, and I had trouble keeping straight who was who. I really wish a character list had been provided! The first half also consisted of a lot of complex conversation — involving political intrigue and "war room"-style talk — and I kept getting confused and having to reread. 


Nevertheless, I plowed through and was rewarded by the second half of the book! The pace really picked up in the last third and it was definitely more riveting. There weren't very many new characters being introduced at that point, so I was becoming more familiar with the characters involved. There were some suspenseful "what's going to happen?" sorts of scenes in the climactic part of the story, and a twist I didn't see coming (spoiler, highlight to read: somehow I did not guess that her uncle was the Raverran contact).


Best aspect: the world-building. It was a cool premise to have magic workers as the Empire's army, with their power being controlled by magic-less individuals. Also, the author really fleshes out the different players/groups and the interests they are representing (unfortunately, this means that the plot in the first half suffers due to all of this world-building). Plus, there is a map!

I also thought the characters were well drawn, in particular Amalia and Zaira. Zaira has a spitfire personality, and is a bit of a wild card, and Amalia is a relatable and sympathetic narrator who demonstrates some growth throughout the story. The dynamic between the two of them was really interesting, as they started out with some animosity (particularly on Zaira's side, since she does not take kindly to having her magic controlled), and then progressed into more of a frenemy-ship. Although they are very different characters, I liked them both, so I was rooting for them to become friends!


If I could change something... I'd cut out some of the description and detail, particularly in the first half. I felt like the story sometimes gave up momentum in order to provide more detail in a scene. The writing felt generally overwritten, as though the author felt the need to select more exotic words one might find in the thesaurus rather than more commonplace ones. (I'm not opposed to using less common descriptive words in order to bring a scene to life, but in moderation!)  

I'd also bring a little more spark to the romance, as I was pretty lukewarm about it. I thought it was sweet (and it wasn't a huge part of the plot, so it wasn't a big issue), but I just wasn't super invested in that relationship. It was kinda take-it-or-leave-it for me.

If you haven't read it: and you like traditional-style fantasies with loads of political intrigue and maneuvering, as well as detailed world-building, this will be right up your alley. 

If you have read it: how do you think the Prince Ruven storyline is going to develop in book 2?

Just one more thing I wanted to mention: there was a sticky spot I thought Amalia got out of way too easily (spoiler: when Prince Ruven is threatening to kill her, and she just tells him she represents the Empire, and he backs off). 

Final verdict: 4 shooting stars. If you're getting discouraged by the slow pace of the first half, but are enjoying the characters and world-building, I recommend persevering!




Disclaimer: I received this as an ARC for review from the publisher. 

August 22, 2017

God Is In The Pancakes: A Rambling Review

7447005God Is In The Pancakes by Robin Epstein

This book ended up being more intense than I was expecting. The quandary that Grace faces is one I can imagine being extremely gut-wrenching, with no easy answers. It brought home to me how important it is that in Canada physician-assisted dying is now legal (with strict criteria that must be met).

I really liked the main character Grace; she was a thoughtful, independent teen girl who strove to (usually) do the right thing – and yet she wasn't perfect. Her reflections on everything going on in her life felt very realistic and I could often relate to her mindset, even if I did not always agree with her choices.

Her relationship with Mr. Sands really stood out as unique in a YA novel; often we see peer friendships and romances being explored, but it's rare to see an inter-generational relationship. Having candystriped for a year in high school, this was a personal touch for me. There was one particular gentleman who was my favourite patient – just as Mr. Sands was for Grace – and who was such a lot of fun to spend time with. There is so much about a hospital setting that is depressing, but this story definitely highlighted that building a connection with a patient there can brighten it.

Sidenote, but: the speech-language pathologist in me was wondering why they didn't try some augmentative/alternative communication (AAC) methods with Mr. Sands as his ALS progressed to affecting his speech. There are technologies available nowadays that can operate voice output devices with eye movement only, for instance. Instead it seemed like he just wasn't given any means to communicate anymore!


4 shooting stars. 


 

August 3, 2017

The Midnight Rose: A Rambling Review (Adult)

18143789The Midnight Rose by Lucinda Riley

I quite liked Anahita's voice and the historical chapters; in particular, the sections set in India felt fresh to me (I've read very few books with that setting). However, the modern-day sections dragged and I just found the conversations so boring and wordy. The dialogue seemed stilted and inauthentic at times. Generally, I think the book could have been pared down a lot more, to streamline the plot and avoid needless repetition.

I also found the story took a weird turn into the Gothic at the climax (spoiler, highlight to read: the whole scene where Rebecca is abducted by Lord Astbury) — I enjoy Gothic atmosphere and storytelling when that's what I'm expecting, but here it seemed a little out of place. There was also a psychological element that was explained in a confusing and potentially inaccurate way (
spoiler: Lord Astbury was referred to as having schizophrenia, but then Dr. Trefusis kept mentioning his alter ego/personality, which sounds more like dissociative identity disorder. They are two very different disorders!).

Overall, the historical chapters told through Anahita's voice felt real and compelling, but the story was let down by the modern-day counterpart. Given that I picked this up since it's a similar style of storytelling to Kate Morton's novels, I have to say: this book suffers for the comparison. 


3 shooting stars.

 

August 1, 2017

Flights of Fantasy 2017 Reading Challenge




Okay, so I've decided to join the Flights of Fantasy 2017 challenge! (Better late than never, right? I know I am too late to officially sign up, so this is just an announcement of unofficial participation, lol.) This challenge is hosted by Alexa from Alexa Loves Books and Rachel from Hello, Chelly. I participated in this challenge last year but failed to reach my goal :(

This year, I've already read about 15 fantasy books, so I figure, if I sign up now and aim for 25, that's achievable... *crosses fingers*

Books on my shelves already that could qualify for this challenge include:

- Red Queen
- Defiance
- Stray
- Strange Sweet Song
- Shadows on the Moon
- Monstrous Beauty


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