Flights of Fantasy: Check-in (2)

b36ba-flightsoffantasy-2016

Flights of Fantasy reading challenge is hosted by Alexa Loves Books and Hello, Chelly.

End of January, beginning of February! Is it just me, or does time pass much more quickly once you’re finished with school? At any rate, let’s check in….

In January, I read a total of 10 books, only 4 of which had mainly fantasy elements (I still get confused as to whether or not dystopians and sci-fis are technically fantasy, so I won’t count those).

  • Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo
  • Nightmares! by Jason Segel and Kirsten Miller
  • Of Beast and Beauty by Stacey Jay
  • Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J. K. Rowling [re-read]

Considering I should average between 3 and 4 fantasies a month to meet my goal of 40 fantasies this year, I guess I’m on track so far! And a sidenote: I do tend to re-read the Harry Potters once or twice a year. I just happen to be in the middle of a re-read, since reading the illustrated edition at the end of 2015.

Vengeance Road by Erin Bowman

Details: 323pp, HMH Books for Young Readers ARC. Thanks again to my friend for providing me a copy!
Release date: September 1, 2015
Series: n/a
Rating: 4.5/5
Buy: Politics and ProseBarnesandNoble.comBook Depository

Summary (from Goodreads): Revenge is worth its weight in gold.

When her father is murdered for a journal revealing the location of a hidden gold mine, eighteen-year-old Kate Thompson disguises herself as a boy and takes to the gritty plains looking for answers—and justice. What she finds are untrustworthy strangers, endless dust and heat, and a surprising band of allies, among them a young Apache girl and a pair of stubborn brothers who refuse to quit riding in her shadow. But as Kate gets closer to the secrets about her family, a startling truth becomes clear: some men will stop at nothing to get their hands on gold, and Kate’s quest for revenge may prove fatal. Continue reading

Jackaby by William Ritter

Details: 299pp, Algonquin Young Readers hardcover
Release date: September 16, 2014
Series: Jackaby, book 1
Rating: 3/5
Buy: Politics & Prose BN.com Book Depository

Summary (from Goodreads):Miss Rook, I am not an occultist,” Jackaby said. “I have a gift that allows me to see truth where others see the illusion–and there are many illusions. All the world’s a stage, as they say, and I seem to have the only seat in the house with a view behind the curtain.”

Newly arrived in New Fiddleham, New England, 1892, and in need of a job, Abigail Rook meets R. F. Jackaby, an investigator of the unexplained with a keen eye for the extraordinary–including the ability to see supernatural beings. Abigail has a gift for noticing ordinary but important details, which makes her perfect for the position of Jackaby’s assistant. On her first day, Abigail finds herself in the midst of a thrilling case: A serial killer is on the loose. The police are convinced it’s an ordinary villain, but Jackaby is certain it’s a nonhuman creature, whose existence the police–with the exception of a handsome young detective named Charlie Cane–deny.

Doctor Who meets Sherlock in William Ritter’s debut novel, which features a detective of the paranormal as seen through the eyes of his adventurous and intelligent assistant in a tale brimming with cheeky humor and a dose of the macabre.

Continue reading

Lion Heart by A. C. Gaughen

Details: 348pp, Bloomsbury USA Children’s hardcover
Release date:  19 May 2015
Series: Scarlet, book 3
Rating: 3.5/5
Buy: BN.comPowell’sPolitics & Prose — The Book Depository

Summary (from Goodreads): Scarlet has captured the hearts of readers as well as the heart of Robin Hood, and after ceaseless obstacles and countless threats, readers will finally find out the fate of the Lady Thief.

Imprisoned by Prince John for months, Scarlet finds herself a long way from Nottinghamshire. After a daring escape from the Prince’s clutches, she learns that King Richard’s life is in jeopardy, and Eleanor of Aquitaine demands a service Scarlet can’t refuse: spy for her and help bring Richard home safe. But fate—and her heart—won’t allow her to stay away from Nottinghamshire for long, and together, Scarlet and Rob must stop Prince John from going through with his dark plans for England. They can not rest until he’s stopped, but will their love be enough to save them once and for all?

My thoughts: I am so conflicted with this final book in the Scarlet trilogy that I’m not even sure I can give it a rating that matches all my feelings. For one, I am still in love with the trilogy’s idea with gender-bending the classic Robin Hood tale to make a woman into the mastermind behind it all. In this book in particular, however, there seems to be one overly tragic flaw that’s making me question this whole book’s plot.

Who here loves a good B plot? You know. Like in many YA SFF books there’s the A plot, the characters on a classic SFF journey, and the B plot, that two of the characters were slowly falling in love. I generally like a B plot because it amps up the tension. BUT WHEN IT GOES COMPLETELY UNRESOLVED?? How would you like to get in a taxi on the way to your next big adventure only to find out that you’re never going to get out of said taxi? NO THANK YOU. No matter what kind of taxi ride it is (they can be pretty eventful if you’ve got an experienced taxi driver) you want to get out at some point. [[SPOILER AHEAD]] So YES, after all the lead up I wanted Scarlet to officially save her father KING RICHARD so that estranged father and daughter could be reunited. I mean HELLO Eleanor has already more than accepted her so why not have more of a family reunion? That was more than hinted at even in book 2 that when it didn’t come I felt sure my book had been mis-assembled and I was missing pages.[[END SPOILER]]

On the other hand, the romance was more pronounced. Normally I’m not a fan of romance in YA books, but it worked well for Lion Heart since it was the last in the trilogy: I wanted to see my favorite characters happy in the end! And even though Scarlet doesn’t end up meeting her birth father, she still continued to form a close bond with Eleanor, which was excellent to see. She and Eleanor also had a very similar mind set, a similar way of doing things, and it was great to see that it runs in the family!

Overall, it was a good end to the series, though it could have been more well-planned. I would’ve liked to see Scarlet meet her dad…. 3.5/5

Lair of Dreams by Libby Bray

Details: 624pp, Little Brown Books for Young Readers hardcover. (I was provided with a Netgalley e-ARC free for review — thank you, Little Brown!)
Release date: August 25, 2015
Series: The Diviners, book 2
Rating: 4/5
Buy: BN.comBooks-a-MillionBook Depository

Summary (from Goodreads): After a supernatural showdown with a serial killer, Evie O’Neill has outed herself as a Diviner. With her uncanny ability to read people’s secrets, she’s become a media darling, earning the title “America’s Sweetheart Seer.” Everyone’s in love with the city’s newest It Girl…everyone except the other Diviners.

Piano-playing Henry DuBois and Chinatown resident Ling Chan are two Diviners struggling to keep their powers a secret—for they can walk in dreams. And while Evie is living the high life, victims of a mysterious sleeping sickness are turning up across New York City.

As Henry searches for a lost love and Ling strives to succeed in a world that shuns her, a malevolent force infects their dreams. And at the edges of it all lurks a man in a stovepipe hat who has plans that extend farther than anyone can guess…As the sickness spreads, can the Diviners descend into the dreamworld to save the city?

My thoughts: Ms Libba Bray knows how to craft her series. The Diviners (book one) pulled me in just enough, but this second installment really kept me enthralled! Lair of Dreams goes one step further in that this time, we get more character diversity.

     The Good

More characters, first of all. I really like how Ling Chen and Henry get on together and play off of each other’s energy. And how they share an ability was another plus, that way we see their growth in tandem and they can be buddies through their evolution! (The worst is when there’s a character or two you really like as people and you have to watch them suffer.)

In The Diviners it took more time than I liked to get used to the flapper speech and colloquialisms, which is partly my fault for not exposing myself to enough literature of the flapper age. But there were also several uses that felt entirely too jarring and over-the-top. In this second book, every use appeared fluid and well-fitting with the motion of events. Something that tied in well with this was one or two uses of historical events that were woven into the fiction. That’s right, there actually was a sleeping sickness pandemic in the 1920s! I had to google it to be sure, but it sounded vaguely similar to historical events.

The mystery! Almost above all else, I love it when series string us along a theme thoughout all the books. So far, Libba Bray is doing just that with The Diviners what with the history of Evie and James and then Sam’s mom’s disappearance. We learn just a tad bit more in both instances to keep us drooling for more!

     The Meh

This could be just me, but I couldn’t remember the finer details of the first book! It’s been so long since I’ve read it, and I wasn’t even among the first people who bought the book in hardcover — I waited till paperback! I think that’s a huge drawback with having to wait so long between books — you forget things….

Please please please, if you felt at least lukewarm (but hopefully better than lukewarm) about The Diviners, stay tuned for Lair of Dreams! I think you’ll love it. 4/5

A note on #NatBookFest15!

IMG_2643

This past Saturday, the 5th of September, was Washington D.C.’s National Book Festival hosted at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center. After my experience at the Texas Teen Book Festival last year, I was hopeful but still kept my expectations low. And what do you know, IT WAS A BLAST.

The authors. Michael Buckley and Libba Bray. They were, I believe, the only two authors in attendance who’d written books I’ve read. Maybe you remember my review of Undertow in which I swooned and raved over subject matter that really sounded like it was meant for more than just teens to read. (Read: political undertones.) Mr. Buckley actually touched on this in his presentation which I LOVED. I’ve been (somewhat overly) analytical of books ever since AP English (or maybe it’s just in my nature?) and it’s so great to have my theories affirmed. Also, I just really like Buckley’s personality.

And then Ms. Bray??? I really want to be her best friend. She has a super-vibrant personality, even on stage, and her presentation felt more like an intimate “getting to know you” session. Listening to her speak today has made me want to purchase her Gemma Doyle trilogy so I can reread it over and over and reread what exists so far of The Diviners. And look into everything else she’s written, but I already know I liked those series before knowing Libba so I’m bound to LOVE them after knowing her, yes??? My logic is sound. As a side note, did you know that she was in a major car accident after graduating high school?? I didn’t.

The book sales. Separate tables with big signs denoting what each table was. Twenty cashiers, maybe more, to move through a twisty-turny line in under eight minutes. Politics and Prose knows how it’s done and needs to share their wisdom with The Book People. I really just love P&P. I probably shouldn’t have spent the money buying two books I’ve already read, but see the paragraphs above? I love these authors, especially after today, that I will revisit them enough to make the full-priced (now SIGNED) hardcovers worth it!!! Also, did I mention they’re SIGNED?? I love signed books.

The book signing. This is the only area on which I think the book festival could improve. As a reader of fiction, and mostly YA, I don’t understand the logic of having the YA author signings overlap by half an hour, when each author only gets a slot of an hour. Maybe it’s just my logic, but it seems like fans of one YA author are more likely to be fans of another YA author, so why have them overlap so much? Am I missing something?  Thank goodness I made a friend who happily got my Buckley book signed for me while I did the same with her Bray book, otherwise I would NOT have had the time to get both signed! Also, Libba Bray is a goddess because she stayed even after her allotted time just to finish her line.

IMG_2647

I was, of course, at the very back of Ms. Bray’s line.

One of my newly-found friends took this photo, since I didn't get to personally meet Mr. Buckley!

One of my newly-found friends took this photo, since I didn’t get to personally meet Mr. Buckley!

The other attendees. The bookish community is filled with some of the nicest, most beautiful people, and today proved that! It’s entirely possible that I was just overly happy and therefore overly talkative (there’s a trend between the two, I’ve noticed) but I met some lovely, fascinating people! Hopefully we’ll meet up again soon.

 

 

 

IMG_2646

#25

Screen Shot 2014-06-27 at 5.21.34 PM

 

My last library haul was ginormous, by my standards, but I never posted it! Here it is in all its glory.

Haul 7:31:15

 

I’ve been so hesitant in the past to take out more than 3 (maybe 4) books at a time because I didn’t think I could possibly make it through any more. My neighborhood library in Arlington has a 3-week loan period (versus my Houston library’s 2-week period) and I took advantage of that. I’ve made it more than halfway through the stack (already read Sapphire BlueMr. Penumbra’s, and The Sun Also Rises; currently reading Stardust) and still have about 8 days left. A written list of the books:

  • Stardust by Neil Gaiman
  • Silver Bay by Jojo Moyes
  • The Mysterious Affair at Styles by Agatha Christie
  • The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway
  • Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan
  • Sapphire Blue by Kerstin Gier