Thursday, April 20, 2017

Early Review: Skullsworn by Brian Staveley

Brian Staveley
Release: April 25, 2017
Goodreads Amazon
Brian Staveley’s new standalone returns to the critically acclaimed Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne universe, following a priestess attempting to join the ranks of the God of Death.

Pyrre Lakatur doesn’t like the word skullsworn. It fails to capture the faith and grace, the peace and beauty of her devotion to the God of Death. She is not, to her mind, an assassin, not a murderer--she is a priestess. At least, she will be a priestess if she manages to pass her final trial.

The problem isn’t the killing. Pyrre has been killing and training to kill, studying with some of the most deadly men and women in the world, since she was eight. The problem, strangely, is love. To pass her Trial, Pyrre has ten days to kill the ten people enumerated in an ancient song, including "the one you love / who will not come again."

Pyrre is not sure she’s ever been in love. If she were a member of a different religious order, a less devoted, disciplined order, she might cheat. The Priests of Ananshael, however, don’t look kindly on cheaters. If Pyrre fails to find someone to love, or fails to kill that someone, they will give her to the god.

Pyrre’s not afraid to die, but she hates to quit, hates to fail, and so, with a month before her trial begins, she returns to the city of her birth, the place where she long ago offered an abusive father to the god and abandoned a battered brother—in the hope of finding love...and ending it on the edge of her sword.
I'm going to be honest and admit that I haven't finished the last book in Staveley's Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne trilogy yet. I adored the first two books but I can't bring myself to read The Last Mortal Bond because I'm not ready for it to be over. One of my favorite characters from that series is Pyrre! She's the character that the others are wary of in a series full of badasses and professional killers.

Skullsworn is a standalone that takes place in the same world as Staveley's Tang Era-inspired debut trilogy. It works as a prequel that focuses on the origin story of my favorite Priestess of Death.

Pyrre Lakatur, as an acolyte of Ananshael, has been training with some of the most deadliest men and women in the world to become a deadly assassin since she was eight. She's now ready to attempt her final trial that will allow her to become a full-fledged Priestess of the God of Death. 

It won't be easy. To complete her trial, she must kill seven people in fourteen days, all of whom are tied to an ancient song, which includes “the one you love/who will not come again”. If she fails, she'll be put to death at the hands of her witnesses, Ela and Kossal, as an offering to their God. The problem is that Pyrre has never been in love. The only solution she can come up with leads her back to her hometown and the only man that has ever caught her attention.

This book was everything I wanted it to be! We learn of Pyrre's humble beginnings and even though she escaped once, she ends up back in a place she never wanted to be. We meet the man, Ruc, that she intends to fall in love with.

I just... loved every damn thing about it this book. It was full of conflict and macabre humor. And I loved how we got to be in Pyrre's head for the whole story! I didn't think I could love her more but I do after this book! I went into this book expecting blood and gore but I wasn't expecting it to take a philosophical approach to trying to define what love is but I'm so here for it! I'm here for all of it!

I devoured the book in one sitting. It was a fast-paced and masterfully told story. It was full of twists and turns that I had no hope of predicting the ending. This book was also wonderfully diverse and body and sex positive. I loved that it was delightfully feminist in a story filled with killing and death. Like the original trilogy, I found this refreshingly original and loved how it deviated from how a lot of fantasy books portray women. I would love to see more books like this in the genre.

The book comes to a satisfying conclusion but it still left me wanting more. I want a series chronicling her life up until she shows up in The Emperor's Blades. IS THAT TOO MUCH TO ASK?!?

If you haven't read the original series, you can easily pick this book up first. I loved it and I can't wait to see what Brian Staveley writes next! I'm going to keep my fingers crossed that we'll get a standalone book about the Flea at some point.

ARC provided by the publisher via Netgalley

  5 / 5 Stars!

Recommended for fans of: The Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne Trilogy by Brian Staveley

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Top 5 Wednesday: Favorite LGBTQ+ Reads

Top 5 Wednesday is a group of bloggers, booktubers and bookstagrammers posting on a common topic every (you guessed it) Wednesday. You can find the lists by searching #T5W or Top 5 Wednesday. And you can join the group on Goodreads if you want to participate.

This week's topic is:  Favorite LGBTQ+ Reads
This could include books that feature LGBTQ+ characters or are by LGBTQ+ authors.

5.The Captive Prince Trilogy by C.S. Pacat
I binge read this trilogy last after seeing several of my favorite authors and book bloggers gushing about it. I was a little on the fence when I finished book one but I ended up loving the series by the time I was done. I'll ship Damen and Laurent forever!

4. The Marvels by Brian Selznick
 This book was one of those books I picked up on a whim at the library last year that I ended up adoring! I don't want to say much about it because I don't want to spoil it. It was a very subtle LGBTQ+ book that was all the more powerful because of it.


3. Breath of Earth by Beth Cato
Okay, so the main character is not LGBTQ in this one. But the trans character is not only a scene stealer, but an integral part of the heroine learning to be herself. Breath of Earth also has airships, unique magic and a fascinating alt-history.

2. The Abyss Surrounds Us by Emily Skrutskie
The f/f romance is a pretty minor part of the plot but it plays in to the overall girl power vibe, which I loved. Though I'll admit I loved the pirates and sea monsters too.

1. Timekeeper by Tara Sim
Timekeeper was one of my favorite books of last year and it has the distinction of the book I gave away the most as Christmas presents. There's magical clock towers, a grumpy gay clock mechanic, and a ray-of-sunshine clock spirit! The worldbuilding and the characters are amazing! I'm going to be pushing this book for the foreseeable future.

What are your favorite LGBTQ+ reads?


Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Release Day Review: Veiled Menace by Deborah Blake

33311689Veiled Menace
(Veiled Magic #2)
Deborah Blake
Release: April 18, 2017
Goodreads Amazon
ARC provided by the publisher via Netgalley
Since Witches came out of the broom-closet in the early 21st century, they have worked alongside humans as police officers, healers, stock traders, and more. But they aren’t the only paranormal entities in our world...

Witch and police officer Donata Santori is no stranger to magical mayhem, but lately her life has been unexpectedly charmed. Her job as a Ghost Yanker now includes the occasional paranormal investigation, and she’s advancing her magical abilities with the help of an ancestor’s treasured spell book. And while both of her former love interests—reclusive half-Dragon art forger Peter Casaventi and disgraced Shapechanger Magnus Torvald—are nowhere to be found, she’s not averse to being wined and dined by wealthy businessman Anton Eastman.

But Eastman isn’t what he seems, and what he wants from Donata is far more than she’s willing to give. When a mysterious relic, the Pentacle Pentimento, resurfaces, along with Peter’s Dragon father and a shocking Santori family secret, Donata must fight to save herself, her friends, and just maybe the fate of the world from a magic as old as it is dangerous…

Veiled Menace is set about six months after Veiled Magic, the first book in the series. "Witch-cop" Donata Santori has finally gotten out of the basement, helping the chief of police with potential paranormal cases in addition to her job as ghost yanker. She's starting to see an increase in paranormal crimes that risk bringing the supernatural world to the attention of humans, who are aware only of the existence of witches.

I'm a big fan of paranormal police procedurals, so I'm a little bit disappointed that Donata doesn't spend the book working an official case. Most of what she does is exploring the unanswered questions from the previous book. I'm relieved that Donata finally solves the mystery of the sixth supernatural race though. I had some of it already figured out and was starting to get frustrated with her. What surprised me was how her family history came into play.

The love triangle that started in Veiled Magic gets even more complicated. The romance plot reminds me of more than one Keri Arthur series, though Blake is not as generous or as graphic with her sex scenes. I still enjoy the supporting characters in the series, especially Ricky the Kobold, but I wish that more new ones were introduced. There are still some supernatural groups that we haven't learned much about.

I feel like this series wants to be a trilogy. Donata may have solved the mystery, but there are still complications to be dealt with. Not to mention something of a cliffhanger in her love life. I hope that another book is in the works - I'll definitely want to check it out.

3 1/2  stars

My reviews of other books in this series:
Veiled Magic

Friday, April 14, 2017

Really Short Reviews: The Sarah Scribble's Edition

Adulthood is a Myth
(Sarah Scribbles #1)
Sarah Andersen
Release: March 8, 2016
Goodreads Amazon
Are you a special snowflake?

Do you enjoy networking to advance your career?

Is adulthood an exciting new challenge for which you feel fully prepared?

Ugh. Please go away.

This book is for the rest of us. These comics document the wasting of entire beautiful weekends on the internet, the unbearable agony of holding hands on the street with a gorgeous guy, dreaming all day of getting home and back into pajamas, and wondering when, exactly, this adulthood thing begins. In other words, the horrors and awkwardnesses of young modern life.

Adulting is hard. It doesn’t matter that I’m thirty and that I’ve been independent and living on my own for twelve years. Being an adult is hard. I don’t think I’ll ever feel like a real adult. And OH MY GOODNESS! Sarah Anderson totally gets that!

This is one of those comic collections that you’ll connect to on a whole other level. Seriously. The whole time I was reading this I was laughing and saying things like “OMG! That’s totally me!” or “Buwahaha! I’ve been there and done that.”. I was laughing so much that my boyfriend came over and started reading over my shoulder. We started it over immediately after we finished because it was that great! It perfectly describes some of the ups and downs of being an adult from getting out of bed to body image to being an introvert. I identified so hard with the introvert and bookworm strips!

I loved this comic collection so much! It is so amazing! I highly recommend picking it up if you’re in need of a book that will make you laugh. And it makes an amazing coffee table book!

  5 / 5 Stars!

Big Mushy Happy Lump
(Sarah Scribbles #2)
Sarah Andersen
Release: March 7, 2017
Swimsuit season is coming up! Better get beach-body ready! Work on those abs! Lift those butts!

...Um, or how about never mind to all that and just be a lump. Big Mushy Happy Lump!

Sarah Andersen's hugely popular, world-famous Sarah's Scribbles comics are for those of us who boast bookstore-ready bodies and Netflix-ready hair, who are always down for all-night reading-in-bed parties and extremely exclusive after-hour one-person music festivals.

In addition to the most recent Sarah's Scribbles fan favorites and dozens of all-new comics, this volume contains illustrated personal essays on Sarah's real-life experiences with anxiety, career, relationships and other adulthood challenges that will remind readers of Allie Brosh's Hyperbole and a Half and Jenny Lawson's Let's Pretend This Never Happened. The same uniquely frank, real, yet humorous and uplifting tone that makes Sarah's Scribbles so relatable blooms beautifully in this new longer form.

This book was laugh out loud funny just like the first book! And I related to so many of the comics again! Page 72 is totally me, just saying.

But unlike the first book, the author kind of channels Hyperbole and a Half and has a few frank discussions for the last third of the book and accompanies each with great illustrations. These stories were relatable but not as fun to read about. Which is good considering they touch on topics such as anxiety.

Overall, this volume was enjoyable and hilarious but it wasn't as great as the first one. I still highly recommend picking it up though.

  4 / 5 Stars

Recommended for fans of:
Heart and Brain by Brian Seluk
Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh
Giant Days by John Allison
Poorly Drawn Lines by Reza Farazmand

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Top 5 Wednesday: Books That Would Make Good Video Games

Top 5 Wednesday is a group of bloggers, booktubers and bookstagrammers posting on a common topic every (you guessed it) Wednesday. You can find the lists by searching #T5W or Top 5 Wednesday. And you can join the group on Goodreads if you want to participate.

This week's topic is: Books That Would Make Good Video Games

5. The Kate Daniels Series by Ilona Andrews
I'm not sure how this would work out as a video game but it has all the things I love in a video game: diverse playing options, romance, magic, and epic fights! Seriously! Can you imagine the boss fights this video games would have? The ones in the book are epic enough but imagine being able to play them! Although, the last boss fight against a certain character would probably be the hardest boss fight that we'd ever play.

4. Time Salvager by Wesley Chu
I'm a sucker for video games where I need to find missing items to complete quests. When I think of Time Salvager as a video game, I kind of imagine it as Tomb Raider in space where instead of finding treasures like Lara Croft you're time traveling to find things to help a dystopian society to keep going. I would play the heck out of that game!

3. The Betrayal Knows My Name by Hotaru Odagiri
Using a manga series might be considered cheating on this list but I grew up playing Final Fantasy and Kingdom Hearts so I'm always on the lookout for awesome games that are similar. This series would have great awesome weapons and epic boss fights against the Duras while having the emotional backstory that made RPGs some of my favorite video games. Also, imagine being able to play as any of the Zweilt! And think of all the romancing you could do! I would totally play this game just to have Hotsuma romance Shuusei. :)

2. The Mistborn Series by Brandon Sanderson

The magic system in this series is just perfect for a video game! Just imagine your character having to find vials of metal and coins to fight! And the boss fights would be epic! I would buy this video game in a heartbeat just to play Vin defeating the enemy with a ginormous koloss sword.

1. The Guild Hunter Series by Nalini Singh
Okay. This choice might seem weird but bare with me for a second. I think that this series would make an amazing RPG game. It has the backstory, it has characters you can romance, and it has tons of play options. You can play a vampire, an angel, or a guild hunter. You'd be able to go on side quests to capture rogue vamps, go spy on enemies with Jason, or to find missing treasures with Naasir. And then you can have totally epic boss fights with evil angels and archangels! Someone please make this into a game ala Dragon Age! I want the opportunity to have Illium romance Aodhan. Shhh! Don't judge my headcanon.

Honorable Mention:

The Adventures of Owl Series by Kristi Charish
 This book is the urban fantasy version of Tomb Raider that I never knew I needed! There's dragons, succubi, mummies, and all sorts of other supernatural creatures. choosing this book is a bit meta since the heroine is obsessed with a video game that helps her hunt down the artifacts that she's looking for. It would kind of be a game within a game! How cool is that?

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Review: Alex, Approximately by Jenn Bennett

Alex, Approximately
Jenn Bennett
Release: April 4, 2017
Goodreads Amazon
In this delightfully charming teen spin on You’ve Got Mail, the one guy Bailey Rydell can’t stand is actually the boy of her dreams—she just doesn’t know it yet.

Classic movie buff Bailey “Mink” Rydell has spent months crushing on a witty film geek she only knows online by “Alex.” Two coasts separate the teens until Bailey moves in with her dad, who lives in the same California surfing town as her online crush.

Faced with doubts (what if he’s a creep in real life—or worse?), Bailey doesn’t tell Alex she’s moved to his hometown. Or that she’s landed a job at the local tourist-trap museum. Or that she’s being heckled daily by the irritatingly hot museum security guard, Porter Roth—a.k.a. her new arch-nemesis. But life is whole lot messier than the movies, especially when Bailey discovers that tricky fine line between hate, love, and whatever-it-is she’s starting to feel for Porter.

And as the summer months go by, Bailey must choose whether to cling to a dreamy online fantasy in Alex or take a risk on an imperfect reality with Porter. The choice is both simpler and more complicated than she realizes, because Porter Roth is hiding a secret of his own: Porter is Alex…Approximately.

I don't usually say this but the last few YA contemporaries I've read have been glorious! I think part of their appeal for me is that they're standalones. One book and you're done. I can't remember the last time I read a standalone book before I started my ARCs for this last month.

Alex, Approximately was the YA You've Got Mail retelling I never knew I needed until I picked it up. Despite Jenn Bennett being one of my favorite authors, I was kind of nervous going into this book. You've Got Mail is one of my top five favorite rom-coms so I was worried I was going to overhype myself for the story and be disappointed. But Bennett totally pulled it off! This classic hate-to-love story felt fresh and modern while staying true to the original!

This book was everything I love in a contemporary romance! It was swoony and the romance was everything! It's a classic hate-to-love story with the requisite witty banter between Porter and Bailey! The quips they volleyed back and forth were clever and those scenes were adorable! I loved that they manage to stump one another every once in a while and it just added to the dynamic. And hallelujah! There's no instalove in sight with this book. We get to watch Bailey and Porter's relation change over the course of a summer and it felt completely realistic and unrushed. Also, like Bennett's other YA contemporary, this book was very sex positive! There are open and honest conversations about and portrayals of sex, masturbation, and female pleasure in this book and we need so much more of that in YA.

I could continue to gush about the romance but there were so many other great things that worked with it to make the book so amazing. There's great friendships and awesome family dynamics! It was so refreshing to read a YA book that didn't have absentee parents! I seriously loved Porter and Bailey's families! Bailey’s dad is wonderfully nerdy and earnest and obsessed with Settlers of Catan. He was such a fun character to read! Porter’s family was just as great! They're a surfing family and I loved seeing their interactions in their shop and at home.

The other great thing in this book is the setting! The small town California atmosphere worked so great and only added to the story. I LOVED the museum Bailey and Porter work in! It's a weird mansion-turned-museum that was delightfully strange and quirky! It was almost like it was another character in the book!

If you can't tell by all of my gushing, I ADORED THIS BOOK! If you're looking for a fun summer beach read, Alex, Approximately is definitely one to add to your list!

ARC provided by the publisher via Netgalley.


Friday, April 7, 2017

Really Short Reviews: The Beauty and the Beast Manga!

Before I get into my reviews for these manga volumes, I want to note that the ebooks for both volumes have been released but the physical copies don't go on sale on Amazon until April 25, 2017.

Belle's Tale
(Disney Beauty and the Beast #1)
Mallory Reaves
Release: March 28, 2017
Goodreads Amazon
In Disney's live-action film “Beauty and the Beast,” Belle, a bright, beautiful and independent young woman, is taken prisoner by a beast in his castle. Despite her fears, she befriends the castle's enchanted staff and learns to look beyond the Beast's hideous exterior and realize the kind heart and soul of the true Prince inside. This manga explores Belle's innermost thoughts as she learns that true beauty comes from within.

I love manga so I was super excited to see one of my favorite stories adapted into the format. I immediately requested it when I saw it on Netgalley.

There really wasn't anything new to the story in this comic but it was a nice blend of the old animated Disney movie and the new live-action adaptation. It covers the entirety of the new film but only from Belle's point-of-view. My favorite thing about this volume was the art. The illustration style was beautiful!

I found this to be an enjoyable read and I was glad that I had the next volume from the Beast's point-of-view to jump into immediately after I finished. If you're looking for a way to get into manga, this series would be a good place to start. I can't wait to buy a copy for my boyfriend's daughter and my godkids!

ARC provided by the publisher via Netgalley

  3.5 / 5 Stars

The Beast's Tale
(Disney Beauty and the Beast #2)
Mallory Reaves
Release: March 28, 2017
In Disney's live-action film “Beauty and the Beast,” Belle, a bright, beautiful and independent young woman, is taken prisoner by a beast in his castle. Despite her fears, she befriends the castle's enchanted staff and learns to look beyond the Beast's hideous exterior and realize the kind heart and soul of the true Prince inside. This manga explores the Beast's struggle as he tries to move on from his past and learn what it is to love.

Like the first volume in this manga series, I enjoyed seeing one of my favorite Disney movies adapted into this format. The art was amazing! The Beast was so beautifully drawn! One of the things I couldn't help but want after finishing this manga is a Beauty and the Beast anime. I would watch the heck out of that!

While this volume follows the movie pretty closely, the unique thing about this was that the story was told from the point-of-view of the Beast. I loved seeing how his thoughts and actions changed through out the story as he fell in love with Belle. It gave a new spin on this classic tale and it makes me sad that we haven't had more books and movies from the Beast's perspective.

I enjoyed this manga series so much! I can't wait to add the physical copy to my collection. It's so beautiful! I would definitely recommend having both volumes on hand so you can read the first and immediately dive into the second one. I hope this manga does well so we can hopefully get more Disney manga adaptations in the future.

ARC provided by the publisher via Netgalley

  4 / 5 Stars

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