Blood for Blood 4.5 Stars

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Title: Blood for Blood (Wolf by Wolf #2)

Author: Ryan Graudin

Publication Date: November 1, 2016

Genre: Young Adult Alternate History, Fantasy/Science-Fiction

Note: An advanced copy was provided by the publisher (Little, Brown). Opinions are my own.

*This is the review of a sequel. For my review of the first book click here.

Synopsis: In an alternate 1956 where the Axis Powers won World War II Yael, a teenage Jewish concentration camp escapee, entered an ambitious cross-continent motorcycle race. The winner got to meet Hitler.

Her goal was to win the race, kill Hitler, and start a revolution. This book is the aftermath of that plan.

Thoughts: I didn’t know what to expect going into this book. I was worried with the way Wolf by Wolf ended this book would be all filler in an attempt to make a series out of a standalone.

I was wrong.

This book is one of the best dystopian revolution type books I’ve read. (Yes, I’m calling the government in this book “dystopian” even though it is based off of a form of government that once existed because this is alternate history, not actual history.)

What set this book apart from most other novels’ I’ve read centering around a revolution is that the main character, in this case Yael, still has an important message and roll to play in what is to come.

The world-building, something I didn’t feel was well executed in the first book, was better in this one. This is due in part to the fact that in the first book almost all the flashbacks were dedicated to showing Yael at the most devastating moments in her life, whereas these show a variety of circumstances.

This book put greater influence on Yael’s Jewish culture than the first one. Yael spent most of the last book pretending to be other people, and had trouble keeping herself from getting absorbed into the roll of the person she was pretending to be. That was not the case in this book. I enjoyed seeing Yael come into her own and embrace who she was. Though I can’t comment on the accuracy of the depiction as Jewish culture is not something I’m overly familiar with.

Our two leading side characters from the first book, Felix and Luka, play an even greater roll in this book than the first one. They get entire chapters from their point of views. I appreciated how, in spite of this choice, the author didn’t make the book all about romance.

I have a feeling Luka’s character arc in this book is going to be controversial. He accepted things rather quickly. Though the way he learned only part of what was going on at any given time made his actions more plausible.

Something else I noticed that I didn’t in the first one was that I’m not sure how accurately German words are used. I’m not anywhere near fluent in German, but when I read the first book my only exposure to German was spoken.

Between reading the first and second books of this series I decided to learn a little about the German writing system. Keeping in mind that the version I read was an ARC and I have only limited knowledge of German,  I think all of the German nouns in the book should have been capitalized but some weren’t. It seems to me like this is a very basic rule the author should have had a German speaker check for, but maybe I’m wrong since I’m not a fluent German speaker and this was not a finished copy.

Rating: A great sequel overall, though I had a few reservations.

4.5 blue jays

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BEA 2016 Experiences Part 1: I fail at traveling

This post will be detailing my experiences at Bookexpo America 2016 held at McCormick Place in Chicago from May 11 to May 13th. This post will cover the day I was in Chicago before the event, and the first day of BEA.

The decision for me to go to BEA was a last minute one, or as last minute as a decision can be when someone decides to go on a trip to a place no where near where they live. I am a university student, and my exams started not long after I decided to go on this trip and did not end until just before I was about to leave. This left me with little time to plan.

I figured this would be okay because my traveling companion was someone who had grown up in Chicago and had attended BEA in a previous year. This was a mistake.

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The view of Chicago from above at night.

I arrived in Chicago by plane late at night. The first thing that struck me was that it was not nearly as cold as I’d expected. I had visited Chicago before in the winter, but not in spring.

I packed just about all the cold weather clothes I own which, while admittedly is not very many, made my suitcase significantly more full than I would have liked. It also resulted in me removing an umbrella to fit in more winter clothes. Should have kept the umbrella, left the clothes.

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Picture of McCormick Place the day I arrived in Chicago.

My traveling companion and I awoke the next morning convinced we were late. We found our way to the convention center only to discover there was hardly anyone there. We knew we were in the right place because of all the book related signs and people setting up, but couldn’t figure out why so few people would be there until we realized the event didn’t start until tomorrow.

We’d arrived in Chicago a day early.

Admittedly, this was as much my fault as it was her fault. I never should have left all the planning to her even if I was busy with exams. Besides, the extra day gave us time to explore Chicago.

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Picture taken outside the Chicago Museum of Science and Industry.

The two of us opted to spend the day at the Chicago Museum of Science and Industry. It’s so big we didn’t have the chance to see much of the museum though it was still fairly early when we got there and we stayed until closing.

It was here that I came to the realization that the vague memories I have of running through and gaping at what I thought to be a giant toy submarine as a small child, was not a toy at all.

What I was actually remembering was the museum’s authentic WWII submarine.

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Leaving the museum.

After leaving the museum my companion wanted to take me to one of her favorite restaurants in Chicago. As we were on our way there, our driver informed us that the restaurant had closed down a few months before. We ate at a pizza chain we’d heard good things about, but that they don’t have in our city instead.

This left us in the middle of downtown Chicago. By the time we finished eating the rain had finally let up, so we walked around the city and took some pictures.

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Site seeing in downtown Chicago.

The next morning we woke up and were on time for the BEA blogger conference we’d signed up for. I only stayed for two panels because I was too excited for the event itself, which overlapped with the conference, but the two I did go to were interesting.

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The “Making the Right Connections: Publishers and Bloggers” Panel. Moderated by Stephanie Brown of nobsbookreviews.com with panelists Molly Brouillette, the Associate Director of Publicity for Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group, Stephanie Sinclair of cuddlebuggery.com, Lizzy Mason, the Director of Publicity for Bloomsbury Children’s Books, and Kristin Hackett of superspacechick.com.

The fist panel I went to talked about the logistics of requesting advanced copies from publishers. I learned a lot about when it’s okay to not review a book a blogger has accepted an ARC of, and how to turn people down easily when a blogger is not interested.

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The “Creative Content: From Ideas to Tools” panel. Moderated by Meg Morley of Cuddlebuggery.com with panelists Gillian Berry of The Art of Young Adult, and Writer of Wrongs, Ashley Evans of www.nosegraze.com, Samantha from Thoughts on Tomes, and Amanda of The Bookcraft.

The second panel I attended discussed how different platforms allow for bloggers to be creative in different ways, and how bloggers should chose the platforms that best allow them to express their creativity and brand. It was interesting to hear from individuals who use such different platforms (from Instagram, to YouTube, to WordPress) to discuss the same topic: books.

For the rest of the day I was too excited to take many pictures to document what I was doing, but suffice to say I was waiting in a lot of lines and talked to the people in those lines who (not so coincidentally) often happened to be a fan of whatever book we were waiting in line for.

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Me flipping through Blood for Blood by Ryan Graudin. The background is the outside of McCormick Place. Note: Book provided by the publisher. 

The book I wanted most being given out on day one was Blood for Blood by Ryan Graudin. It was being given out in the form of a dice game where people role a dice to win an ARC. The person in front of me in line saw that I wanted it so badly she agreed to give me her copy if she won it. It worked out rather nicely because she won the book I wanted and I won the book she wanted.

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Picture I took of my new acquisitions at the end of day one. Note: Books provided by their publishers. 

One thing I learned about myself from this event is that I am supper picky when it comes to books. Many of the people there probably ended up with around three times the amount of books as I did, but I was trying to be honest with myself and knew that if I randomly grabbing copies of everything I saw I wouldn’t read most of what I got. Also, I didn’t want to have to pay to ship a bunch of books home I would never read.

Even still, several of the books I acquired were ones that I took because they were presented to me in such a way that to turn them down would have been extremely rude. People who are more enthusiastic about ARCs would get more out of this event than I did, but in spite of this and the mistakes I made, I still had a lot of fun.

To be continued . . .

April 2016 Wrap-up and Announcement

Monthly Wrap-Up (1)April was an insanely busy month for me. While I did not accomplish much in the way of blogging I did manage to read six books and two novellas.

Before I begin I’d like to mention the two books I forgot to put in my March wrap-up, but have since edited that post to include. Not because I didn’t like these books, but because I forgot to mark them as read on goodreads until more recently.

Honorable mentions from March

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Short Synopsis: The queen of an alien civilization and a half human, half alien boy must team up to save themselves and humanity.

Thoughts: This book was a light and fun read. The writing was a little hard to follow at times. I sometimes wondered how the characters had gotten from one scene to another, and wasn’t too keen on the romance, but all in all it was a nice debut.

Rating: 3.5 blue jays

 

13638125Short Synopsis: Two college students uncover the key to getting superpowers which subsequently ruins their lives.

Thoughts: Very different from the other V.E. Schwab books I’ve read in the A Darker Shade of Magic series. I really enjoyed the way the novels’ two timelines interwove, and how  this book toyed with the traditional concept of good verses evil.

Rating: 

4 blue jays

April Reads

223236592360443525711360Short Synopsis: The second story arc of the Wings of Fire series following a new group of young dragons as they attempt to prevent a prophecy unrelated to the one in the first half of the series.

Thoughts: I like the direction the author has chosen to go with these new characters, but think these books should probably have been considered a spin-off as opposed to a continuation of the original series.

These books are highly addictive, and I look forward to the next installment.

Rating: 4 blue jays

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Short Synopsis: A novel about a girl trying to win a motor cycle race in order to kill Hitler, and its prequel novella centering around the events in the same race the year before.

Thoughts: I really enjoyed these. I’ve written a full review of Wolf by Wolf which can be found here.

Rating: 

4 blue jays

 

28698036Short Synopsis: There is always another secret.

Thoughts: This novella is definitely not for everyone. Seriously, those who haven’t at least read the original Mistborn trilogy should stay far, far away from this novella. Those who haven’t read at least the first six books in the Mistborn series, and even some other Cosmere novels not part of Mistborn series may want to avoid this as well.

Beyond that this novella has an unusual structure without a typical beginning, middle, end feel. This is all I can say about the novella itself without spoiling it.

Rating: 

4.5 blue jays

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Short Synopsis: First book in the Spin-off series to The Seven Realms.

Thoughts: I have a lot of conflicted emotions with regards to this book. The character death at the beginning felt a lot like a plot device, and knowing what I did about this individual from the previous series I found their death a little out of character.

I like our new cast, and am glad it looks like we’ll be seeing more of this world than we did in the previous series. I’d recommend reading the original series before this one if only because I enjoyed it more, but that could change as this series progresses.

Rating: 3.5 blue jays

Writing

Camp NaNo Graph April 2016Last month I participated in the April 2016 session of Camp NaNoWriMo. My original goal was  to write 20,000 words, but I lowered that to 15,000 words halfway through the month.

As the chart on the left shows, I ended up writing a significant amount on the last day of the event to meet my original goal. My total word count for the event was 20,084 words.

 

Announcement

Next week I’ll be attending Bookexpo America in Chicago. I’m very excited for the chance to interact with people who enjoy books as much as I do, get lots of books, see Chicago, and experience this thing people living in temperate climates refer to as “spring.” (I live in the sub-tropics. This is technically in the temperate zone, but it’s just not the same.)

Wolf By Wolf by Ryan Graudin

24807186Title: Wolf by Wolf

Author: Ryan Graudin

Publication Date: October 20, 2015

Genre: Young Adult Alternate History, Fantasy/Science-Fiction

Synopsis: In an alternate 1956 where the Axis Powers won World War II Yael, a teenage Jewish concentration camp escapee, enters an ambitious cross-continent motorcycle race. The winner gets to meet Hitler. Her goal is to win the race, kill Hitler, and start a revolution.

Thoughts: I went into this book not expecting to like it much, but was pleasantly surprised. Historical fiction isn’t my genre of choice, but I think the speculative aspects of this book are what made it appeal to me much more than most historical fiction.

The book focuses on the race itself as opposed to the historical aspects of a world where the Axis powers won World War II, though we do get to see a fair amount of the world considering the immense amount of distance traveled by the racers.

The world-building towards the beginning of the novel felt a little like info-dumping in the way it was introduced and almost made me stop reading, but the book soon picks up the pace and becomes less info-dump heavy as soon as the race starts. This is due in a large part to the fact that the focus isn’t on the world either, but on the interactions between the characters.

Yael, the main character, is a very dedicated, driven character, and all the flashbacks to her horrible past make her easy to see where that drive comes from. That said, she could feel a little too good at everything at times. Yes, Yael spent a lot of time training and being educated, but she hadn’t been riding a motorcycle nearly as long as her competitors, who were supposed to be some of the best in their respective countries. Yet, somehow she manages to be better at riding a motorcycle than most of her competitors who are undeniably also very driven, though for entirely different reasons than Yael.

Adele, the character Yael spends most of the novel impersonating, proves far more interesting than I anticipated despite the true Adele’s brief appearance in the novel. I feel like it would have been easy for Graudin to brush over Adele’s character and past since she wasn’t featured much, but the way we learn about her though the characters who have interacted with Adele before Yael began impersonating her made her seem just about as fleshed out as other major characters’ in the novel.

Felix, Adele’s twin brother, is yet another character it might have been easy for the author to make one dimensional or demonize, but the devotion he showed to his sister, or the girl he thought was his sister, made him a lovable character even as you know he’d likely turn on the protagonist the instant he realized her true identity.

Luka was an interesting character. The author made it so the reader never knew what to expect from him. He has a history with Adele and throughout the novel Yael and the reader are left guessing what their relationship in the previous race was that left Felix wanting to attack Luka anytime he gets near the girl they believe is Adele. Their relationship is hinted to have been romantic in nature. This made for a crisis of trust not typically seen in most other books because most characters are well versed in details of their personal romantic history.

I got a little distracted at times trying to figure out where my ancestors would have been at the times it was taking place and how the changes would have affected them. I have come to the conclusion that my birth would be next to impossible in this alternate timeline, which was, of course, my least favorite part of this book, but I can hardly blame the author for that. 🙂

On a more serious note, I can’t say I would have wanted to be born in this novel’s reality. It’s that bad.

Rating: This book has left me thinking about it for weeks, and I had such a fun experience reading it. However, I cannot entirely overlook its flaws. For these reasons it is getting a four out of five.

4 blue jays