November and December Wrap-Up || So Many Great Reads

Monthly Wrap-up

November and December proved themselves productive reading months, but not so much in terms of writing months.

Bluejay Feather

Reading

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The Lies of Locke Lamora

Short Synopsis

A theif named Locke tries to get out of the dangerous web in which one of the city’s other influential thieves has him ensnared.

Thoughts

I heard such great things about this book. I enjoyed it. I would have enjoyed it even more had my version of the audio book not had a tendency to cut off before the end of chapters.

That said, my willingness to put up with the audio book’s quality speaks magnitudes for the book itself.

Rating

4 blue jays

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Towers of Midnight (Wheel of Time #2)

Short Synopsis

Thirteenth book in The Wheel of Time series.

Thoughts

I enjoyed it but, again, not enough to motivate me to finish the books in the middle of the series that I skipped.

Rating

4 blue jays

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Invictus

Short Synopsis

A group of teenagers travel through time and steal historical artifacts.

Thoughts

I enjoyed this one. See my full review for my thoughts.

Rating

4 blue jays

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Warcross

Short Synopsis

A teenage girl goes from almost homeless to completing in her timeline’s most competitive video game tournament.

Thoughts

I loved that this novel was set primarily in Japan, as there aren’t a lot of YA novels set there. The video game setting was fun, but the characters didn’t stand out in my mind as much as I would like.

Rating

4 blue jays

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The Empress (The Diabolic #2)

Short Synopsis

Sequel to The Diabolic, which followed Nemesis, a girl bred for the sole purpose of being an assassin.

Thoughts

My feelings for this book were conflicting and not helped by the fact that some of the elements that set Warcross apart from some of the other YA novels I’ve read were also present in this book.

However, I ultimately gave the book a high rating for reasons discussed in my spoiler review.

If you’re new to the series, please see my The Diabolic review.

4 blue jays

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Oathbringer (The Stormlight Archive #3)

Short Synopsis

Third book in an epic fantasy series.

Thoughts

A worthy sequel to Words of Radiance. (Which is saying something considering that the prequel is basically my favorite novel of all time.)

Its plot is less cohesive than its predecessor, but  there is still much exploration of the word of Roshar, the Knights Radiant, and Stormlight.

There will likely be a full review to come. In the mean time, those new to the series may enjoy my review of The Way of Kings. 

Rating

five blue jays

 

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The Hate U Give

Short Synopsis

Starr is the only one who knows the truth of her best friend’s death. A truth with the potential to tear her community apart.

Thoughts

It’s no secret that I don’t read a lot of contemporary books, but I make an effort to read some from time to time because there are some great ones out there.

This is one of those.

I was hesitant at first because I worried that, like a lot of books that deal with political topics, this book would be preachy. This fear proved unfounded.

The characters are well developed and the author’s world-building, and yes, I am referring to setting the scene in a contemporary novel as world-building, of Starr’s city and the division within it was fantastic. In addition, the book’s subject matter is incredibly timely.

One of the best debut novels I’ve read, and a great way to start discussions about a difficult topic.

Rating

five blue jays

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Before The Devil Breaks You (The Diviners #3)

Short Synopsis

Third book in The Diviners series, which follows a group of young people with supernatural abilities.

Thoughts

Wow, this escalated quickly, but not quickly enough in some ways.

I went into this believing it was the final book in the series and not a book still in the middle of the series. This, at first, left me confused by the lack of resolution.

Rating

4 blue jays

Aether of Night by Brandon Sanderson

Thoughts

Not including a synopsis because I’m not sure how much I’m allowed to discuss the contents, but this proved one of the best unpublished manuscripts I’ve read, if not the best unpublished manuscript I’ve read.

I had some issues with it that made me see why it wasn’t published, but it was still good.

Rating

4 blue jays

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Other Minds: The Octopus, The Sea, And The Deep Origins of Consciousness

Short Synopsis

An exploration of octopus’s intelligence.

Thoughts

I’ve long been fascinated by octopuses, and this was an interesting exploration of their thought process.

Rating

4 blue jays

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The Soul of an Octopus

Short Synopsis

Yet another exploration into octopus intelligence.

Thoughts

No, I did not suddenly develop a desire to listen to a string of nonfiction books about octopuses.

This one was turned on in audio book form while I was traveling because one of my traveling companions mistakenly believed it to be the book I’d been reading.

We listened to it anyway.

Rating

3.5 blue jays

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Influence

Short Synopsis

Details the ways people exploit psychology to convince people to do what they don’t want to and ways to circumvent falling for their ploys.

Thoughts

Read this one in audio book form on the same trip where I read Soul of an Octopus. My traveling companion was a huge nonfiction fan.

In some ways, this book changed the way I thought of the actions of those around me. I noticed some of the practices detailed in the book being used by people even before I finished reading it.

Rating

4.5 blue jays

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Children of Eden

Short Synopsis

Rowan is a second child born in a city where the law that each couple may have only one child is harshly enforced.

Thoughts

This may well be the most unpopular opinion I have ever posted, but I have to be honest.

I read this book because it was one of the only ones downloaded on my Kindle during a time when I had no access to WiFi or cell service.

Someone else downloaded this book while they were borrowing my device. Otherwise, I probably wouldn’t have chosen it to begin with.

Reading it with no prior knowledge of the reviews or publisher of this book, I honestly thought that this had been self-published and would have a low average rating. Imagine my surprise when I discovered this was not at all the case.

The most positive thing I can say about the book is that it is captivating. I was able to read it in a crowded place. Beyond that, the plot felt derivative of other YA dystopian novels I have read, and I didn’t care much for the characters.

The reason I felt the book might be self-published is because of all the melodrama, (Though, to be clear, I have read many great self-published books with little melodrama.) The book reads like a debut.

I can, however, see many people who are new to the dystopian genre enjoying this book because of its captivating nature and bisexual love triangle that I hear some readers searching out from time to time.

Rating

2.5 blue jays

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Steering the Craft

Short Synopsis

A non-fiction writing craft book by Ursula K. Le Guin.

Thoughts

Okay, so I didn’t read this book during November or December, but I did read sections of it throughout 2017. I never reported the book in my wrap-ups, so I’m mentioning it now instead.

A good, brief book on writing craft.

Rating

4 blue jays

Writing

Writing wise, the only thing I accomplished was writing and revising a short story. If my attempts at publication prove fruitless I may post it to the blog because I was rather satisfied with how it turned out.

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Hope you all had a happy New Year!

Anyone read any of these books? What did you think? What did you read at the end of this year? 

Share your thoughts in the comments!

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Should books make us happy? A Discussion || The Empress (Diabolic #2) Review

The Empress Discussion

Okay everyone, today I’m trying something a little different and writing a discussion post followed by a review. The discussion is spoiler free. Unlike my usual reviews, this review will contain spoilers. You have been warned!

Also note that this discussion is only my personal opinion. Feel free to disagree.

Not too long ago, I finished reading The Empress (The Diabolic #2) by S.J. Kincaid. It left me conflicted.

The root cause of this confliction is this: I regard good books as books that make me feel emotion, but how many of these emotions need to be positive for me to consider a book good?

Discussion

Extreme tragedy is more realistic. People experience constant ups-and-downs. Fiction reflects this reality, but it is not reality. Therefore, it doesn’t necessarily need to reflect the level of tragedy experienced in real life.

People in real life don’t often make a single decision that changes everything and leads to action. People in real life repeat themselves, are grammatically incorrect, and speak in run-on sentences.

Try as writers might, words on a page cannot and never will reflect every aspect of the world around us. Good thing too: if it did, novels would bore us all to tears.

And, yet, this makes the reality writers present in fiction no less important. Movements like “#ownvoices,” which promotes books written by someone belonging to an underrepresented group about a character from that same group, show how the reality presented in fiction might shape others perception of our own.

Herein we have the root cause of my dilemma: fiction cannot reflect all aspects of reality but the reality that is presented is of critical importance.

I suppose, then, the answer to my question depends on whether or not the depiction of extreme suffering depicted in a way that the reader feels some of the character’s emotions because they have come to care about this character so much is critical to what people need to experience in fiction to sympathize with the experiences of our fellow humans.

To this, I have no answer.

There is also the question of whether this matters in a work like The Empress, where the characters’ problems are ones we of the 21st century do not experience . . . At least, I hope there are no genetically modified bodyguards out there because if there are, I must be living under a rock.

Conclusion

In the end, it depends on the reason we’re reading. If we’re reading for escapism, books should, most likely, make us happy. If we’re reading for authenticity, then books probably won’t make us happy because life isn’t the most happy of places.

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Review

Please check out my spoiler free The Diabolic review or skip to the “Rating” section if you do not want to be spoiled!

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Last warning: spoilers ahead.

As you may have guessed from my discussion, I am still not sure how I feel about this book.

The first half is super awesome and I loved it. One of the things that bothered me about the world building in the last book was that the characters have all of this advanced technology but no one knew anything about science because science was forbidden.

In this book we have an answer. It’s explained so well, and I love the author’s idea for a space-faring society that regressed to the point where a ten-year-old today might know more about physics than the society’s emperor.

It’s the second half that left me conflicted.

It was so heartbreaking to first see Tyrus during the second half, mostly because it was hard to see Nemesis’s heart breaking. It made me realize how much I’d come to care for her, but it also hurt to see her so distraught.

I think the other thing I didn’t like about the way this book ended is that the second half almost seemed to undo the progress made in the first half. The characters made so many discoveries, but those discoveries were invalidated when most of what they discovered got destroyed.

I’m also surprised by how much I disliked the romance ending the way it did. Usually, I would love the female protagonists to have more agency and realize they don’t need a guy or, in some cases, that the guy is essentially abusing them, but seeing such a drastic change in the love interest just hurt too much.

Yet another example of how much I’ve come to care for these characters.

In the end, I suspect much of how I feel about this book will be influenced by the course book three takes.

End of Spoilers

Rating

Despite my misgivings, I will give this book a good rating because a book that can make me experience so many emotions is a well executed one.

4 blue jays

Do you read books that make you unhappy? Have you read The Empress? What is your favorite book that has left you emotionally torn? 

Please remember to flag spoilers in the comments!

I believe this is my first discussion post on my blog. If you would like to see more in the future, let me know in the comments!

 

Top Ten Most Anticipated Books For The Second Half of 2017

Top Ten Tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday is a meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week’s topic is my top ten most anticipated releases for the second half of 2017.

I had a hard time choosing my top ten books I wanted to read overall, so this wasn’t easy. However, once I got started I realized there really are some great books coming out in the next six months, so let’s get started.

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Our Dark Duet (Monsters of Verity #2)

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Release Date: June 13, 2017

Goodreads Synopsis: *Contains Spoilers for book 1*

Kate Harker is a girl who isn’t afraid of the dark. She’s a girl who hunts monsters. And she’s good at it. August Flynn is a monster who can never be human, no matter how much he once yearned for it. He’s a monster with a part to play. And he will play it, no matter the cost.

Nearly six months after Kate and August were first thrown together, the war between the monsters and the humans is terrifying reality. In Verity, August has become the leader he never wished to be, and in Prosperity, Kate has become the ruthless hunter she knew she could be. When a new monster emerges from the shadows—one who feeds on chaos and brings out its victim’s inner demons—it lures Kate home, where she finds more than she bargained for. She’ll face a monster she thought she killed, a boy she thought she knew, and a demon all her own.

Thoughts: Our Dark Duet is the sequel to This Savage Song. I loved the first book, so of course I want the second.

The Stone Sky (The Broken Earth #3)

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Release Date: August 15, 2017

Goodreads Synopsis: *Contains spoilers for the previous books.*

THIS IS THE WAY THE WORLD ENDS… FOR THE LAST TIME.

The Moon will soon return. Whether this heralds the destruction of humankind or something worse will depend on two women.

Essun has inherited the power of Alabaster Tenring. With it, she hopes to find her daughter Nassun and forge a world in which every orogene child can grow up safe.

For Nassun, her mother’s mastery of the Obelisk Gate comes too late. She has seen the evil of the world, and accepted what her mother will not admit: that sometimes what is corrupt cannot be cleansed, only destroyed.

The remarkable conclusion to the post-apocalyptic and highly acclaimed trilogy that began with the multi-award-nominated The Fifth Season.

Thoughts: I loved the first two books, so of course I want the final.

Oathbringer (The Stormlight Archive #3)

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Release Date: November 14, 2017

Goodreads Synopsis: *Contains spoilers for the previous books.*

In Oathbringer, the third volume of the New York Times bestselling Stormlight Archive, humanity faces a new Desolation with the return of the Voidbringers, a foe with numbers as great as their thirst for vengeance.

Dalinar Kholin’s Alethi armies won a fleeting victory at a terrible cost: The enemy Parshendi summoned the violent Everstorm, which now sweeps the world with destruction, and in its passing awakens the once peaceful and subservient parshmen to the horror of their millennia-long enslavement by humans. While on a desperate flight to warn his family of the threat, Kaladin Stormblessed must come to grips with the fact that the newly kindled anger of the parshmen may be wholly justified.

Nestled in the mountains high above the storms, in the tower city of Urithiru, Shallan Davar investigates the wonders of the ancient stronghold of the Knights Radiant and unearths dark secrets lurking in its depths. And Dalinar realizes that his holy mission to unite his homeland of Alethkar was too narrow in scope. Unless all the nations of Roshar can put aside Dalinar’s blood-soaked past and stand together―and unless Dalinar himself can confront that past―even the restoration of the Knights Radiant will not prevent the end of civilization.

Thoughts: Do I even need to explain why I want this one? The prequel, Words of Radiance, is one of my favorite books of all time. Of course I want the sequel.

The Empress (The Diabolic #2)

Cover to come.

Release Date: October 31, 2017

 

Goodreads Synopsis: *Contains spoilers for the previous books.*

The thrilling sequel to S.J. Kincaid’s New York Times bestselling novel, The Diabolic that TeenVogue.com called “the perfect kind of high-pressure adventure.”

It’s a new day in the Empire. Tyrus has ascended to the throne with Nemesis by his side and now they can find a new way forward—one where they don’t have to hide or scheme or kill. One where creatures like Nemesis will be given worth and recognition, where science and information can be shared with everyone and not just the elite.

But having power isn’t the same thing as keeping it, and change isn’t always welcome. The ruling class, the Grandiloquy, has held control over planets and systems for centuries—and they are plotting to stop this teenage Emperor and Nemesis, who is considered nothing more than a creature and certainly not worthy of being Empress.

Nemesis will protect Tyrus at any cost. He is the love of her life, and they are partners in this new beginning. But she cannot protect him by being the killing machine she once was. She will have to prove the humanity that she’s found inside herself to the whole Empire—or she and Tyrus may lose more than just the throne. But if proving her humanity means that she and Tyrus must do inhuman things, is the fight worth the cost of winning it?

Thoughts: The first book in this series managed to get me out of a reading slump. I am thrilled for the chance to read the sequel.

The Afterlife of Holly Chase

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Release Date: November 7, 2017

Goodreads Synopsis: On Christmas Eve five years ago, Holly was visited by three ghosts who showed her how selfish and spoiled she’d become. They tried to convince her to mend her ways.

She didn’t.

And then she died.

Now she’s stuck working for the top-secret company Project Scrooge–as the latest Ghost of Christmas Past.

Every year, they save another miserly grouch. Every year, Holly stays frozen at seventeen while her family and friends go on living without her. So far, Holly’s afterlife has been miserable.

But this year, everything is about to change. . . .

Thoughts: I liked but didn’t love the Unearthly series, but this book sounds like fun. Depending on the reviews, I might give it a try.

Whichwood

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Release Date: November 14, 2017

Goodreads Synopsis: A new adventure about a girl who is fated to wash the bodies of the dead in this companion to Furthermore.

Our story begins on a frosty night…

Laylee can barely remember the happier times before her beloved mother died. Before her father, driven by grief, lost his wits (and his way). Before she was left as the sole remaining mordeshoor in the village of Whichwood, destined to spend her days washing the bodies of the dead and preparing their souls for the afterlife. It’s become easy to forget and easier still to ignore the way her hands are stiffening and turning silver, just like her hair, and her own ever-increasing loneliness and fear.

But soon, a pair of familiar strangers appears, and Laylee’s world is turned upside down as she rediscovers color, magic, and the healing power of friendship.

Thoughts: I enjoyed but did not love Furthermore. However, this cover and synopsis have caught my attention. I’m excited to learn the direction this companion novel takes readers.

They Both Die at the End

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Release Date: September 5, 2017

Goodreads Synopsis: 

New York Times bestselling author Adam Silvera reminds us that there’s no life without death and no love without loss in this devastating yet uplifting story about two people whose lives change over the course of one unforgettable day.

On September 5, a little after midnight, Death-Cast calls Mateo Torrez and Rufus Emeterio to give them some bad news: They’re going to die today. Mateo and Rufus are total strangers, but, for different reasons, they’re both looking to make a new friend on their End Day. The good news: There’s an app for that. It’s called the Last Friend, and through it, Rufus and Mateo are about to meet up for one last great adventure—to live a lifetime in a single day.

In the tradition of Before I Fall and If I Stay, They Both Die at the End is a tour de force from acclaimed author Adam Silvera, whose debut, More Happy Than Not, the New York Times called “profound.”

Thoughts: I’ve heard next to nothing but good things about this author’s books. Maybe this will be the year I pick one up. The only reason I haven’t yet is because his books all sound sad, and I’m almost never in the mood to read something sad.

The Language of Thorns

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Release Date: September 26, 2017

Goodreads Synopsis: Love speaks in flowers. Truth requires thorns.

Travel to a world of dark bargains struck by moonlight, of haunted towns and hungry woods, of talking beasts and gingerbread golems, where a young mermaid’s voice can summon deadly storms and where a river might do a lovestruck boy’s bidding but only for a terrible price.

Inspired by myth, fairy tale, and folklore, #1 New York Times–bestselling author Leigh Bardugo has crafted a deliciously atmospheric collection of short stories filled with betrayals, revenge, sacrifice, and love.

Perfect for new readers and dedicated fans, these tales will transport you to lands both familiar and strange—to a fully realized world of dangerous magic that millions have visited through the novels of the Grishaverse.

This collection of six stories includes three brand-new tales, all of them lavishly illustrated with art that changes with each turn of the page, culminating in six stunning full-spread illustrations as rich in detail as the stories themselves.

Thoughts: I’m not usually one for short stories, but I loved The Six of Crows Duology, so I might give this a try.

Warcross

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Release Date: September 12, 2017

Goodreads Synopsis: From #1 New York Times bestselling author Marie Lu—when a game called Warcross takes the world by storm, one girl hacks her way into its dangerous depths.

For the millions who log in every day, Warcross isn’t just a game—it’s a way of life. The obsession started ten years ago and its fan base now spans the globe, some eager to escape from reality and others hoping to make a profit. Struggling to make ends meet, teenage hacker Emika Chen works as a bounty hunter, tracking down players who bet on the game illegally. But the bounty hunting world is a competitive one, and survival has not been easy. Needing to make some quick cash, Emika takes a risk and hacks into the opening game of the international Warcross Championships—only to accidentally glitch herself into the action and become an overnight sensation.

Convinced she’s going to be arrested, Emika is shocked when instead she gets a call from the game’s creator, the elusive young billionaire Hideo Tanaka, with an irresistible offer. He needs a spy on the inside of this year’s tournament in order to uncover a security problem . . . and he wants Emika for the job. With no time to lose, Emika’s whisked off to Tokyo and thrust into a world of fame and fortune that she’s only dreamed of. But soon her investigation uncovers a sinister plot, with major consequences for the entire Warcross empire.

In this sci-fi thriller, #1 New York Times bestselling author Marie Lu conjures an immersive, exhilarating world where choosing who to trust may be the biggest gamble of all.

Thoughts: I wasn’t particularly impressed by Marie Lu’s last series, but enjoyed Legend, so I’m willing to give this one a try.

Invictus

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Release Date: September 26, 2017

Goodreads Synopsis: Time flies when you’re plundering history.

Farway Gaius McCarthy was born outside of time. The son of a time-traveling Recorder from 2354 AD and a gladiator living in Rome in 95 AD, Far’s birth defies the laws of nature. Exploring history himself is all he’s ever wanted, and after failing his final time-traveling exam, Far takes a position commanding a ship with a crew of his friends as part of a black market operation to steal valuables from the past.
But during a heist on the sinking Titanic, Far meets a mysterious girl who always seems to be one step ahead of him. Armed with knowledge that will bring Far’s very existence into question, she will lead Far and his team on a race through time to discover a frightening truth: History is not as steady as it seems.

In this heart-stopping adventure, Ryan Graudin has created a fast-paced world that defies time and space.

Thoughts: Time travel is hit or miss, but I enjoyed this authors alternate history series, so I’m willing to give this one a try.

Bluejay Feather

Is anyone else excited for the books on this list? 

What are everyone else’s most anticipated releases for the rest of the year? 

Does anyone want me to continue doing Top Ten Tuesday in future weeks? 

Tell me in the comments below!