Keeper || An Advanced Review

Keeper (2)

34871966Title: Keeper

Author: Kim Chance

Publication date: August 30, 2018

Genre: Young Adult Fantasy

*Disclaimer: I was provided a free, advanced copy of this book from Netgalley and Flux Books/North Star Editions in exchange for an honest review. Opinions are my own.*

Synopsis: Lainey wants more than anything to get a high score on the SAT and go to a good college. Unfortunately for her, a 300-year-old witch has other plans.

When Lainey discovers her life is more tied to the supernatural world than she ever imagined, it seems those college applications might have to wait.

Bluejay Feather

Review: This book may well mark the beginning of a return for urban fantasy/paranormal romance. It’s been so long since I’ve read an urban fantasy from a debut author, but this book has the feel of a YA fantasy from the height of the paranormal romance craze.

I know several people who’ve been longing for this comeback, especially for witches. If you’re one of these people, this may well be the book for you.

That said, it drew a little too much inspiration from the books written during the paranormal romance craze for my tastes. There were a lot of tropes used in familiar ways, and it reminded me of a lot of books I’ve read in the past.

A great deal of the aforementioned tropes used are not favorites of mine either. For example, I’m not a fan of novels where a character discovers they’re special because of something an ancestor did centuries ago.

Yet, despite this, there were some elements of the book I enjoyed. It seemed atmospheric with a good sense of place, and I enjoyed that Lainey was worried about things most teenagers worry about, like the SATs.

I think this would have made the book a lot more relatable when I was a teenager. I would have loved this book around seven years ago.

As it was, I had difficulty motivating myself to keep reading. I suspect this was due to the story’s familiarity and the fact that I didn’t connect with Lainey as well as I would like.

Rating: People who who’ve been longing for YA paranormal romance and those who are looking for a gateway book to the genre may well love this book. However, it was not memorable or engaging enough for me to give it a high rating.

2.5 blue jays

What’s your opinion of paranormal romance? What’s the best urban fantasy you’ve ever read? Are you planning to read Keeper? 

Share your thoughts in the comments below!

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What to Read During a Hurricane

What to Read During a Hurricane

This list is brought to you thanks to hurricane Irma. As of this post, Irma is scheduled to pay me a visit this Sunday (September 10, 2017). If you’re missing out on Irma, this can be applied to future hurricanes, too.

Books are on my city’s lists of items to take with you to a hurricane shelter. This means selecting the right TBR is a critical part of hurricane preparation, and not procrastination from actual preparation.

That said, I’ve complied a list of books to enjoy while hunkered down during the storm and afterwords, during a power outage.

Bluejay Feather

Storm Themed books

These books are only for a certain kind of person to read during a storm. The storm can be great to set the mood for them, but they can also contribute to panicking if you’re stressed.

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Roar (Stormheart #1)

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The Gathering Storm (The Wheel of Time #12)

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The Way of Kings (Stormlight Archives #1)

 

Books to take your Mind off the Storm

These are more individual in nature, but include novels that are either humorous or a personal favorite. This last suggestion has the additional benefit of keeping your favorite novels out of harms way.

Since this is so individual, I’m going to list my choices and some books that have made me laugh.

My Choices

*I don’t plan to read all of these during the storm, of course. Most are for after the storm in case of a lengthy power outage with blocked roads.

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Flame in the Mist (Flame in the Mist #1)

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Sweet Legacy (Medusa Girls #3)

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Shadowshaper (Shadowshaper #1)

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The Towers of Midnight (Wheel of Time #13)

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A Memory of Light (Wheel of Time #14)

Humorous Reads

I’m not the best at selecting these, so I’m picking books that have made me laugh.

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The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

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The Lightning Thief (Percy Jackson and the Olympians #1)

Bluejay Feather

What would you read during a hurricane? If you were going to a hurricane shelter and could only bring one book with you which would you choose? Any one else in Irma’s path? 

Leave your thoughts in the comments below!

While I am sarcastic in this post, I am taking this seriously. The forecast is bleak. However, that’s no reason I can’t have some fun. 🙂

I also encourage those who are able to donate to help people affected by Irma, especially in places like Barbuda which have been hit by the storm hardest.

Stay save, everyone in Irma’s path!

 

 

Shades of Magic Series Review

220552622076487929939230Titles: A Darker Shade of Magic, A Gathering of Shadows, A Conjuring of Light (Shades of Magic Series)

Author: V. E. Schwab

Published: 2015-2017

Genre: Adult Fantasy

Synopsis: Kell is one of the only magicians able to travel between parallel worlds. Situated in his world’s version of London, he acts as intermediary to the royalty of three worlds. Bringing messages and information between them. Yet, behind the royals’ backs, Kell illegally transfers goods between worlds.

This smuggling remains a quiet side business until the day Kell makes a mistake and transfers something he shouldn’t. Something that puts everything and everyone Kell cares about at risk. It’s up to him and his new companion Delilah Bard, a thief from our world, to save all three Londons Kell travels to.

Review: The first two books captivated me and the third was enjoyable. Book one and two are some of the only books of their length I’ve read in a single day. Book three took a few days more, but the fact that it is the longest of the series might have something to do with this.

Other reviewers have said that they had a hard time getting into the first book, but I did not find this to be the case. I think my reading experience was different because I started the first book at a time when I had several hours to devote to reading without interruption. Books one and two are some of the only books I’ve read that have kept me up long past midnight in the last few years.

Something I’ve noticed about many of V. E./Victoria Schwab’s characters is that many of her male leads have personality traits more often found in female leads with the opposite true for her female leads. This holds true in this series for Kell and Lila. The dynamic that results from these character traits in Schwab’s dual point of view novels with one male and one female lead character contrast each other nicely.

Kell has, for the most part, lead a sheltered life up until the start of the first book. He was raised in a palace as part of the royal family with most everything provided for. Yet, Kell also has an identity crisis. He is one of the only members of his kind, a blood magician known as an Antari, and was adopted into the royal family. Kell’s search for identity contributes to some of the series’ main obstacles.

Lila spends her days picking pockets in our world’s version of London. Not the version of today, I believe it’s meant to be set sometime in the 19th century but can’t remember for sure. Lila dreams of becoming a pirate and leaving London. She enjoys cross dressing to the point that none of the authorities searching for her know she is a girl.

Holland is one of the series most developed side characters. He is the Antari from White London, and the only other Antari Kell knows at the start of the book. It takes a while before the reader gets to know him, but my perspective of Holland as a character changed drastically once I learned his motives.

Rhy is another major side character. He too undergoes much development throughout the series. While I liked Rhy, I don’t think I loved him the way many other reviewers seem to.

The different Londons contrasted one another well. I liked how Red London, White London, and Gray London were all surrounded by different counties with different cultures and histories.

That said, I had some issues keeping the world-building straight. I don’t know if this is because I read the first few books so quickly, or because it was just hard to keep track of. While it didn’t affect my overall enjoyment, I was somewhat confused by the characters’ appearances/the characteristics common among some of the ethnic groups featured in the novel. For example, Kell is described as pale, but Prince Rhy has dark skin. I suppose this could be explained by Kell being adopted, but it still made me wonder if I was reading their descriptions incorrectly.

Rating: 4.5/5 for books one and two 4/5 for book three with a 4/5 for the series as a whole.

4 blue jays

 

An Ember in the Ashes 4 Stars


22529162Title:
 An Ember in the Ashes

Author: Sabaa Tahir

Publication Date: April 28, 2015

Genre: Young Adult Fantasy

Synopsis: Laia is willing to sacrifice everything to rescue her brother. Including her freedom.

When Laia agrees to work on an undercover operation for the resistance, in which she must work as a slave for one of the most powerful women in the empire, the last thing she expected to find was a kindred spirit in her master’s son Elias.

Elias wishes to be free of his obligations to the empire about as much as Laia wants to rescue her brother. Together they might just succeed.

Thoughts: Since I’ve read an ARC of the sequel, to be released in August, I’ve decided it’s about time I sort out my confused feelings towards this book so I can move on to writing an advanced review of the sequel.

This book is addictive. I started listening to it on the last day of a road trip. When I got home that night at about 9 PM, I could not get to sleep until I’d searched my house for my physical copy and read it the rest of the way through.

I’ve read a number of reviews in which reviewers say this book got them out of reading slumps, and I can see why. It’s next to impossible to put down. The timing was also perfect for me to read this book at the time that I did, exactly halfway through The Way of Kings.

Most people who read my posts are probably aware that Brandon Sanderson’s Stormlight Archive series (the first book being The Way of Kings) is one of my favorite series, but even I started to feel a little discouraged about halfway through the first one because the book takes so long to read and I felt I wasn’t getting anywhere with it. Reading this book so quickly encouraged me to finish The Way of Kings, and I’m glad I did.

The society depicted is one that encourages blood lust, and one of the protagonists is a slave. It could have been unrealistic, or even disrespectful to glaze over the violence. However, there was a particular act of violence between characters who trusted each other that seemed to be crossing a line, and made me lose some respect for the characters’ in turn.

In the time since I’ve finished the book my confusion with regards to how I feel about this story has only grown. The story doesn’t standout in my mind from all the other YA epic fantasy books I’ve read, and therefore hasn’t proven all that memorable. 

I’ve come to the conclusion that the reason this story doesn’t stand apart for me is its usage of many common tropes in a way I’ve seen used often before. The magic system didn’t seem particularly unique, and felt largely unexplained in this first book.

The element of having magical masks that permanently adhere to peoples’ faces also brought to mind a number of questions in my mind while reading with regards to sweat, dead skin, and shaving. The story also followed a familiar formula with the novel being arranged around a series of trials.

The familiar elements of the story helped make it a quick read, but also made the story somewhat forgettable.

Rating: I recommend this to people who need a break from lengthy books, are trying to get into reading fantasy, or are trying to get out of a reading slump, but it is not a thought provoking read.

4 blue jays

 

Beautiful People: June 2016

Beautiful People for Writers

Beautiful People is a monthly meme hosted by Cait @Paper Fury and Sky @Further up and Further In in which writers answer questions about their characters.

This month I’ve chosen Glenda, a major side character in my current work in progress. Glenda is the half sister of the main character and a crown princess.

What is their first childhood memory?

Glenda’s first childhood memory is of being extremely dressed up for a holiday in her culture that celebrates the end of the rainy season. (Flooding is common there, and the people are happy to see the rain go.)

What were their best and worst childhood experiences?

Glenda’s best childhood experience was one time when she was alone in the palace gardens and many of the flowers were in full bloom and she fell asleep. Glenda loves flowers, and rarely gets to be alone. This particular time was one when she really needed a break from being royalty, and she was thrilled by the fact she’d managed to evade her guards for so long.

Glenda’s worst childhood experience that isn’t a spoiler is her father’s death in the first chapter. Sometimes the relationship between Glenda and her father could be tense, but she loved him and was devastated by his death.

What was their childhood home like?

Glenda lives in a palace. It is quite large and extravagant. She grew up being able to easily obtain almost anything she desired unless that thing was privacy.

What’s something that scared them as child?

The fact that she always knew her mother was hiding a huge secret, but wasn’t told for years. She was scared of what that secret might be and imagined something far worse than it actually was.

Who did they look up to most?

Glenda looked up to her mother because she respected her mother’s leadership skills. (Her mother is a queen.)

Favourite and least favourite childhood foods?

Glenda’s favorite food is a type of pastry that isn’t made in our world, but that exists in this one. Glenda really does not like tomatoes.

If they had their childhood again, would they change anything?

She’s only about twelve in the story, so still a child, but Glenda’d probably change the way she treated her half-sister, the main character, who she didn’t realize was related to her, and so treated poorly most of the time.

What kind of child were they? Curious? Wild? Quiet? Devious?

Glenda could be devious at times, but when it came time to look professional for her future subjects she would look professional.

What was their relationship to their parents and siblings like?

Glenda’s relationship with her half-sister Yuliana, the story’s protagonist, is a complicated one. Glenda didn’t know Yuliana was related to her for many years. Before then she’d only known Yuliana as a palace servant and had treated her as such.

Glenda’s relationship with her mother is much better than her relationship with her sister. She has great respect for the way her mother has led her country, but resents the fact that the queen keeps so much a secret from her.

Glenda loves her father as well, though she has some resentment for the fact that her mother was essentially forced to marry him to save her country. She’ll also occasionally get into some heated arguments with him, and rebel against his wishes significantly more often than those of her mother.

What did they want to be when they grew up, and what did they actually become?

This question cannot be answered due to major spoilers.

Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff 4.5 Stars

IlumimiaeTitle: Illuminae

Authors: Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

Published: October 20, 2015

Genre: Young Adult Science Fiction

Synopsis: Just hours after their recent break-up, exes Kady and Ezra find their home planet in the middle of a war between intergalactic corporations. In the evacuation the two find themselves on separate space ships.

If they want to survive Kady, Ezra, and the other refugees need to reach the nearest jump station, through which they can reach a more densely inhabited region of space, before those who invaded their planet catches up with the refugees.

Review: At first I had a hard time getting into this book. Adjusting to the formatting was a bit of a challenge, and months at a time passed in a matter of pages.

When I was on page 366 of 599 I noted in a Goodreads update:
“At first I was having trouble getting used to the constantly changing formatting, it can be jarring at times, but now I’m really starting to get into the story and the pace has really sped up.
— Dec 15, 2015 07:42AM”

However, I think the pacing picked up for me at an earlier point than I noted in that update. It was likely around page 250 or so. With the formatting the way the novel built to a climax was necessary to give the reader time to adjust to the formatting before everything started happening at once.

For those who think that this book is long with its length of nearly 600 pages I would like to remind them of the formatting. Had this book been written in the standard form of a novel there would likely have been much shorter.

I had a slight problem with some of the times technology was mentioned in this book. The characters had cars, a subway system, and tablets. It seemed as if at times the only technology that had progressed were weaponry  and spaceships that allowed for long distance space travel.

Considering that this book is supposed to take place in 2575, or over five hundred years in the future, this threw me out of the story a little. This is, however, a minor concern. Due to the way the story was narrated these objects were not described in detail and may have born little resemblance to their 2016 equivalents.

As this story takes place almost entirely on space ships in an isolated part of this fictional future, the reader isn’t told as much about the way the government functions  and other habitable planets. I think this was a good choice on the part of the authors as it allows the reader to become slowly immersed in the world-building as opposed to having the need to learn everything all at once. I hope to see more world building in the sequel.

I ended up reading this book twice. Once in physical form and then again in audiobook format not long after. This is unusual for me.

What Readers Should Know: This book contains many character deaths and zombie like individuals. All of the cursing in the physical version of the book is censored, but in the audio book the first and last letters of most of the curse words is not censored making it easy to tell what all of the censored words are.

Rating: This book started out a little hard to get into, but the second half made up for this.

4.5 blue jays

Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

23437156Title: Six of Crows

Author: Leigh Bardugo

Published: September 29, 2015

Genre: Young Adult High Fantasy

Synopsis: When a substance is developed that turns magic users known as Grisha into mindless slaves of great power the world is put at risk. A crew of six thieves are hired to pull off the heist that could save the world.

Review: 

Six of Crows is a great book, and so much fun to read. It was very reminiscent of some of my favorite fantasy novels, but at the same time stood apart from others in this category.

Six of Crows Crew

The strongest aspect of Six of Crows is the characters. In spite of the fact that there are so many narrators, each one comes across as distinct. I especially appreciate the fact that the characters actually acted like thieves.

In many books the character will go around saying that they’re known as an assassin, an experienced solider, or have a lot of experience stealing from important people, but then when it comes down to the act of either murdering or stealing something they hesitate.

This has never come across as realistic to me. At the same time, however, I recognize why many authors chose to portray their “ruthless” characters in this manor. It is difficult to sympathize with a person who can harm or steal from innocent people and feel no remorse, but Bardugo managed to pull it off. 

The relatively small number of characters with magical abilities made them all the more impressive. The main characters in Six of Crows are highly skilled individuals, yet for many of them these skills are natural in origin (ie intelligence), but the characters use them in such a way that seems almost supernatural.

Six of Crows Map

That said, the magic that we did get to see was a great addition to the story. My favorite aspects of the first book and a half that I read of the Grisha Trilogy was the world-building, so I was more than happy to reenter that world in Six of Crows.

Bardugo has created a very complex magic system different from what I’ve seen in many fantasy novels (especially YA) where the magic is often glossed over. Though this novel has much less focus on the magic system than the Grisha Trilogy, it managed to further expand upon it by showing what a Grisha’s power can do when pushed to extremes.

The world itself was expanded upon as well. I really liked how many of the characters in this novel were from very different parts of this world as this isn’t something we often get to see in fantasy, which often focus on one region of the world the writer has created.

The only negative criticism I have to offer is related to the reason I did not finish the Grisha Trilogy. That is to say that a significant portion of this novel was spent on build up. This is not to say that nothing happens, quite to the contrary, things seem to go wrong quite often. What I mean is that I spent most of the book anticipating the climax of the actual theft as opposed to anything the characters were trying to overcome at that particular moment.

I really wanted to love the Grisha Trilogy because I have a signed copy (see the image below), but am so glad that I can now consider myself a fan of Bardugo thanks to this book. I was hesitant to read this one because I thought I might need to finish the Grisha Trilogy first, but was pleased to find that this duology stands on its own.

Siege and Storm

In any case, I managed to get a hold of a signed bookplate. Used as a book mark, really like the way my copy of Six of Crows looks:

Be Dangerous

What readers should know: Though this book keeps everything very vague, one of the narrators was forced to work in a brothel against her will. She has since left this profession behind, but still bares negative effects of her time there.

As stated in this review the thieves in this book truly act as thieves. This means that some of the narrators steal and kill people throughout the story. There is also some language.

Rating: This is a really great book. I highly recommend it to fans of fantasy and people trying to get into fantasy.

4.5 blue jays