Sunday, 24 January 2016

Review: Written in Red by Anne Bishop

Title: Written In Red
Author: Anne Bishop
Publication Date: March 5th 2013
Publisher: ROC
Series: Book #1 in The Others series

Rating  4.5 stars

Synopsis: As a cassandra sangue, or blood prophet, Meg Corbyn can see the future when her skin is cut—a gift that feels more like a curse. Meg’s Controller keeps her enslaved so he can have full access to her visions. But when she escapes, the only safe place Meg can hide is at the Lakeside Courtyard—a business district operated by the Others.

Shape-shifter Simon Wolfgard is reluctant to hire the stranger who inquires about the Human Liaison job. First, he senses she’s keeping a secret, and second, she doesn’t smell like human prey. Yet a stronger instinct propels him to give Meg the job. And when he learns the truth about Meg and that she’s wanted by the government, he’ll have to decide if she’s worth the fight between humans and the Others that will surely follow.

Such a stellar read!

One of my reading goals for 2016 was to really delve more into my favorite genre which so happens to be fantasy. I created a tbr jar compiled of various fantasy novels that I found through booktube, instagram, and goodreads suggestions. If you want to know what's in this jar you can check out my fantasy tbr shelf here.

I mainly put in a lot of underrated fantasy books, whether high/urban fantasy, being a mixture of both adult and young adult, I would expand my knowledge of the genre more besides only reading the most popular fantasy books which are out now. I was so ecstatic when this was my first pick of my fantasy tbr jar and it definitely did not disappoint.

Written in Red is a uniquely set world in which the humans are aware of the indigenous creatures (Others) that reside in the world. Terra indigene which consist of Wolves, vampire, spirit bears, Elementals (kickass female deities of the various seasons i.e. winter, spring...and elements such as air and fire), and many we have yet to discover who can take the form of humans whenever they find suitable.

It's a interesting dynamic in which the terra indigene rule over the human government and their laws, keeping what they only see as prey in line. I'm always up for a beautiful blend of fantasy with interesting government political structure. 

Our main character, Meg Corbyn ends up getting tangled in the world of these creatures as she seeks shelter in working for them as their Human Liaison, while hiding from those from the compound she escaped.

Being a cassandra sangue, or blood prophet, Meg was kept in a compound by The Controller who holds blood prophets captive and sells their prophecies for money. Reading about blood prophets was so fascinating to discover. Anne Bishop makes Meg out to be almost naive to the outside world after being in captivity and only learning what those in the compound allow her to, but once in the real world she seems to be able to grasp things quickly and is quite perceptive.

Before I read this I thought being a blood prophet would just be an added on thing to her character with limited aspects. But in all actuality is complex. Meg has this utter compulsion at times to cut her skin to see a prophecy whenever she feels something is out of her control, or she senses something is amiss. It really is something she struggles throughout this novel, as you learn that some blood prophets end up becoming insane over time.

Meg is able to find acceptance and solace in the Others, who in the beginning want nothing to do with her, but in the end becomes almost like a family to her.

What really make this book are the characters. We are introduced to to many in this first book alone, but Bishop does a great job of distinguishing each person. My favorite character interactions would have to be those between Meg and Simon Wolfgard, who is the leader of the Lakeside Courtyard in which they reside and the one who gives Meg the job after she comes in stumbling half frozen into his store that first night.

Simon goes though significant character growth throughout this novel. From having a strong dislike of humans in the beginning and seeing them as nothing more as prey to taking Meg in as a liaison and becoming more use to her you can see his dynamic slightly shift as tries to understand her.

Another dynamic that I truly loved was between Meg and Sam, an adorable Wolf pup who is terrified of humans after one night when his mother is killed by one. It was endearing to see Meg become a mother-like figure for him as he begins to become trusting of her and the outside world. It was interesting to see because we know virtually nothing about Meg's life, such as how she end up in the compound, did she even have parents or siblings? She is so much more than her prophecies, the way she can emphasize and try to understand others frustration and pain is a valuable human trait, which really drives the plot.

Though I will admit that the plot is really slow going at times, it really picks up during fight scenes and the eventual climax.

I love how how terrifyingly scary Anne Bishop can make the terra indigene. Cross them and they won't mind tearing you limb from limb. The fight scenes can be so unapologetically graphic and I strangely love it. I have issues okay.

The only reason why I gave this 4.5 stars instead of 5 was because I wasn't particularly fond of the writing, which I hope improves over the course of this series. I know this is labeled as adult urban fantasy, but I also definitely recommend this if you're a lover of young adult fantasy.

Overall, Written In Red was substantial read for me. With great characters, interesting world politics, and internal struggles, I can definitely see this series as becoming one of my favorites. Really excited to delve into the next book Murder of Crows soon.

Sunday, 17 January 2016

December Wrap Up

In the month of December I read a total of 5 books, which wasn't at all the amount of books I wanted to complete last month but nonetheless here is my extremely late December Wrap-Up.

1. Life As We Knew It by  Susan Beth Pfeffer

Rating: ★★☆☆☆ 2 stars

Life As We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer was my first read of the month and I really did not enjoy this at all. This was the choice for my school book club so in a way I felt an obligation to give this book a try even though I was wary of it. Life As We Knew It is a post apocalyptic novel that follows Miranda and her family as they struggle to survive on earth after the moon is knocked out of orbit and is in closer proximity to the earth, causing a change in weather conditions. 

This novel was quite taxing to read. The main source of my dislike would have to be the writing. The way that Pfeffer writes is read as juvenile and it was hard for me to discern if this way a middle grade or young adult book. There isn't much that happens in this novel, the plot mainly just focuses on Miranda and her family staying in their house. The rest of the characters in this novel felt very one-dimensional and I couldn't really connect to them. Though I gave this 2 stars instead of 1 because during the end of the novel Miranda began to redeem herself which I really appreciated. I know there are three other books in this series, but I am certain that I won't be reading those.

2. A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara

Rating: ★★★★★ 5 stars (10 million stars)

A book of my heart and soul. If you follow me on Instagram you already know how much I am in love with this book. I have a full review here if want to know my complete thoughts. This novel is both beautiful and heartbreaking. A Little Life follows Jude St. Francis, the quietest and mysterious out of his three friends and catalogs their lives throughout college and mid-adulthood as Jude tries to come to terms with severe abuse he received as a child. This book is just so intricate and intimate. Hanya Yanagihara has such a way of manipulating words that make you feel deeply for Jude. At times it became very hard to read and many times I ended up having to put this book down. I can't recommend enough how phenomenal this book is, and if you take the time to consume it slowly, you'll enjoy it all the same.

3. The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne

Rating: ★★★☆☆ 3.5 stars

Started The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne in November, but finally completed it in December. This was required reading in my English class and I fairly enjoyed it. Recently I've been enjoying more of the classical literature that I am required to read in school. The Scarlet Letter centers around Hester Prynne who is ostracized by her Puritan village after they discover she committed adultery and is forced to wear an embroidered scarlet letter on her chest. This novel surprised me immensely. I will admit that Hawthorne can become quite verbose in his writing, but once you root through all the extraneous words, the story is very easy to follow. I appreciated being able to discuss this class and go more in depth into it. Hester Prynne becomes almost a saint-like figure as she humbles herself and takes her punishment. If you have to read this for class I recommend reading it slowly or even reading the modern text No Fear version to help discern some of the tougher parts of the text.

4. The Wrath and the Dawn by Renée Ahdieh

Rating: ★★★★☆ 4 stars

The Wrath and the Dawn by Renée Ahdieh is a retelling of the classic A Thousand and One Nights. This story follows Shahrzard who volunteers to be the wife of  Khalid, murderous boy-king who ends up killing his wife every night. Shahrzad volunteers in hopes of killing him in order to avenge her friend's death who was one of his victims. This story is languid and almost sensual and I really enjoyed Ahedieh's writing style, there was something atmospheric about the setting in the desert. Although I enjoyed this story for the most part I found it really disconcerting how it felt like the author was trying to absolve Khalid of his actions. That was the main reason why I did not love this novel, but I also wished the magical elements of this novel was explain more in depth because it came off as underdeveloped and halfhearted. I have a full review here if you want more of my thoughts.

5. The Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen

Rating: ★★★★★ 5 stars

The Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen was my last read of December. (I actually finished it on New Year's Eve) And this book flew to the top of my favorite books of 2015 list. I went into this novel with pretty high expectations and I am so glad that they were all met. The Queen of the Tearling is an unconventional fantasy story actually set in the future, with both medieval and modern aspects, and focuses on young queen Kelsea Raleigh, who upon turning nineteen must take up her family throne after so many years away from her kingdom. This novel had everything I wanted and then some. Kelsea isn't really a physically strong character, but she is wise and uses her brain. It shows how much she thinks situations through and actually cares for the well-being of her country, which she barely knows. For such a lengthy novel, the plot really flies through as Erika Johansen encapsulates you in this world. I am quite to get back to the second book, Invasion of the Tearling. My full thoughts can be found here.

Saturday, 2 January 2016

Review: The Queen of The Tearling by Erika Johansen

Title: The Queen of the Tearling
Author: Erika Johansen
Publication Date: July 8th 2014
Publisher: Harper
Series: Book #1 in the The Queen of the Tearling trilogy

Rating5 stars

Synopsis: The young princess must claim her throne, learn to become a queen, and combat a malevolent sorceress in an epic battle between light and darkness in this spectacular debut—the first novel in a trilogy.

Young Kelsea Raleigh was raised in hiding after the death of her mother, Queen Elyssa, far from the intrigues of the royal Keep and in the care of two devoted servants who pledged their lives to protect her. Growing up in a cottage deep in the woods, Kelsea knows little of her kingdom's haunted past...or that its fate will soon rest in her hands.

“Here is Glynn Queen, here is Red Queen,

One to perish beyond recall,

The Lady moves, the Witch despairs,

Glynn Queen triumph and Red Queen fall.”

Still cannot stop buzzing about this book, in all of it's amazing glory.

Completely entranced in this world that Erika Johansen has created. The Queen of the Tearling is such an utterly unique fantasy/dystopian story. Reading a fantasy that takes place in the future, but has a setting of "medieval times" all while still having many of our common day advances such as contraceptives, was what really hooked me into this world. So much thought and effort went behind this story and it really shows through her writing.

I started off reading this story believing it was going to be another typical fantasy story only to soon find myself constantly flying through the pages, needing to know what happens next immediately. Kelsea Raleigh is evidently not the same girl at the beginning of the novel juxtaposed to the queen we see at the end. I can honestly say that she is one of my favorite queens that I have read about out of the many fantasy novels I've consumed. Kelsea is fearsome creature. In the outset of the novel we see her as just a plain, unassuming girl who doesn't even have the respect of the people protecting her, but she soon grows into a force to be reckoned with.

Not much I can say to justify my love and adoration for Kelsea besides the essential component that she is just a smart person. The way she is developed makes her into such a tangible person, someone I can relate too. I love that Erika Johansen made her "plain" and not the typical "strikingly beautiful" description. I love how she was a little "overweight". I love that she honestly isn't that great with a sword or weapons for that matter. It makes her honest and true against the slew of characters who sometimes harbor great fighting skills in such a small amount of time. Kelsea is just badass in her own way. If there's an issue, she'll put a stop to it, immediately. If there's a problem, she'll throw herself into it. She uses her head to think situations through. I appreciate the love and care she has for her kingdom which she barely even knows. Just so much love for this character.
“Only appearance, Lady, but appearance in a queen is important. For you to wield a sword, it’s . . . not queenly.”
“I can’t be queenly when I’m dead. And I’ve had to defend myself too often lately to be content with only my knife.”
So many other phenomenal characters that appear throughout this book. The way Johansen manipulates the 3rd person perspective on the various characters so you can know them more in depth is just stellar. I really grew to love side characters such as Pen, Mace, the Fetch, even Javel at times.

The Red Queen was such a fascinating antagonist to read about. We don't really get to see too much of her in this novel, but I'm all the more intrigued to read her chapters. She isn't your typical brooding villain (though she is quite insane and frankly terrifying) there's just something uniquely peculiar about her. I'm curious to know how did she become a witch, if she is in fact one. How is she able to stay alive all these year? I'm really hoping for more of her backstory in the next book. Even more so, I want to know how she became so magically powerful. And also how magic even ended up in these kingdoms.

One thing that really had me on board was the political aspect of it. The fate and problems of the kingdom was essentially the main focus of this book. Kelsea genuinely cares for the well-being of her people and wants to establish initiatives to not only feed and cloth them, but to give them education and teach them how to read. Even throughout all the disgruntlement and annoyance of others, Kelsea stays steadfast in her decisions to make things right and just.

I appreciated the camaraderie between Kelsea, Pen, and Mace. Each of their dynamics just go well and intermingle efficiently with each other. Though there is that Queen's Guard loyalty between them, I can also see that there is an honest friendship among them. Kelsea's general interactions between people are just so solid. Such as her conversations with Marguerite and Ahmaldie and how she begins to trust and appreciate them.

Even as one who loves romance in a complex plot, I'm glad that this book went without it (Well at least for now). This book shows how great a book can be even without romance. Kelsea's concerns for her kingdom and potential war, is essentially her prime focus.

The Queen of the Tearling
was just a solid hit for me, and quickly became one of my favorites. There's so much intrigue, magic, and so many unknown variables for the remaining books to take us. Can't even contain myself to see what's in store in Invasion of the Tearling.