Book Reviews · Books · Young Adult

Book Review: I Am Princess X by Cherie Priest

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My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Once upon a time, two best friends created a princess together. Libby drew the pictures, May wrote the tales, and their heroine, Princess X, slayed all the dragons and scaled all the mountains their imaginations could conjure. That is, until Libby died in a tragic car crash, taking Princess X along with her.

Once upon a now: May is sixteen and lonely, wandering the streets of Seattle, when she sees a sticker slapped in a corner window.

Princess X?

There’s an entire underground culture, focused around a webcomic at IAmPrincessX.com. The more May explores the webcomic, the more she sees disturbing similarities between Libby’s story and Princess X online. And that means that only one person could have started this phenomenon—her best friend, Libby, who lives.

Part novel, part comic book, this one was a quick and easy read. Not that quick and easy is a bad thing. In fact, by the time I was halfway through this one I found myself wishing that the Princess X webcomic empire existed in real life. (Can someone make this happen, please?!)

The premise of the story is fantastic, being the perfect blend of crime and fangirl fiction. I found the way Libby’s past unfolded via webcomic, under the guise of Princess X’s story, to be incredibly clever. Telling this story this way made it feel like the princess was an actual character, rather than just a gateway to May discovering that Libby was still alive.

Despite the short length, the story was rich with detail and intrigue. The cast of characters was a colorful  blend of pretend princesses, heroes, hackers, and rogue punks. I wish we would have seen a little more from Trick (May’s hacker neighbor) because he and May made an unexpectedly good team. But that’s just me being picky. One thing that I did really like was the lack of romance in this book. You don’t see that very often anymore in YA literature.

This was a great read about the power of friendship and not giving up hope. Two thumbs up!

Fantasy · Favorites · graphic novels

Book Review: Saga (1 & 2) by Brian Vaughn

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Last weekend I attended the highly anticipated, annual HeroesCon here in Charlotte. It’s a 3 day event celebrating all things comic books, graphic novels, superheroes, and nerdy pop-culture. This was actually my first year attending and I’m now wondering why the hell I haven’t gone sooner. It was so much fun. There was some interesting panel topics, but I was so busy checking out all the graphic novels, merchandise, art, and amazing cosplay (HeroesCon takes its cosplay seriously) out on the floor that I only managed to check out one panel. I will definitely be attending multiple days next year.

While I was at the con I (obviously) picked up some reading material, including the first two books in the Saga series. I immediately devoured both of them and will be picking up more of the series pretty soon.

Saga (#1) – When two soldiers from opposite sides of a never-ending galactic war fall in love, they risk everything to bring a fragile new life into a dangerous old universe.

Saga (#2) – The smash-hit ongoing epic continues! Thanks to her star-crossed parents Marko and Alana, newborn baby Hazel has already survived lethal assassins, rampaging armies, and alien monstrosities, but in the cold vastness of outer space, the little girl encounters something truly frightening: her grandparents!

This series has it all – outer space, plot, romance, weird ass fantasy creatures, raunchy sex, and comedy. It’s told from the point of view of Hazel, daughter of Marko and Alana, who was lucky to be alive. Her parents are from warring planets and have gone through hell to escape multiple assassination attempts. (The things we do for love, right?) We learn bits about where Marko and Alana come from – Landfall, the largest planet in the galaxy, and Wreath, satellite of Landfall. We see pretty quickly that not everyone is as ready to overlook centuries old feuds as the couple is.
The cast of characters in this story is brilliant, including teenage ghost Izabel (who makes one hell of a babysitter), a sidekick cat with the ability to tell when people are lying, and robotic royalty with televisions for heads.
Read this series. You can thank me later.
(Note: These probably aren’t suitable for younger readers, due to some pretty graphic sex illustrations)
Adult · Books · Fantasy

Book Review: Magic for Liars by Sarah Gailey

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My Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Ivy Gamble has never wanted to be magic. She is perfectly happy with her life—she has an almost-sustainable career as a private investigator, and an empty apartment, and a slight drinking problem. It’s a great life and she doesn’t wish she was like her estranged sister, the magically gifted professor Tabitha.

But when Ivy is hired to investigate the gruesome murder of a faculty member at Tabitha’s private academy, the stalwart detective starts to lose herself in the case, the life she could have had, and the answer to the mystery that seems just out of her reach.

(Goodreads)

Ivy Gamble is a PI with a chip on her shoulder because her sister was born magic. The sisters’ worlds up colliding when Ivy is hired to investigate a case at the school where Tabitha teaches. It’s interesting to see how Ivy navigates the magical world, all while trying to solve a murder at the same time. As far as I could tell, the magical “world,” isn’t really different from the non-magical one (which, to be honest, I found a tad disappointing). There are some magical schools and whatnot, but beyond that we don’t really learn what all the mages go out and do once they are out of school.

The school had a lot of similarities to Hogwarts, albeit a bit less eccentric. My brain couldn’t decide if I liked this or not, though, as I kept thinking “Well, that’s been done already.” The magic system and way the students used magic was pretty cool, being a little more technical than just waving wands around and such.

I liked this book, but I didn’t love it. I liked Ivy and all her flaws. I even liked most of the other characters in the story. I kinda felt like maybe there should have been more mention of some of the other students, since it was all focused on a very select few, but that didn’t necessarily ruin it for me. I think the biggest issues I had with the story was the lack of world-building and the predictable plot. Overall, it was a quick, entertaining read. I’d recommend this one if you’re looking for something that you don’t have to dive too deep into.

Book Reviews · Books · Fantasy · Sci-Fi · Young Adult

Book Review: Warcross by Marie Lu

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My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

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…

Emika Chen is pretty down on her luck when she accidentally glitches into the biggest Warcross tournament in the world. To her surprise, her small mistake is a ticket to the streets of Tokyo and a personal relationship with Hideo Tanaka. Emika was a great protagonist, with her badass hacking skills and funky appearance. She made some really good decisions and didn’t get overly wrapped up in the potential romance blossoming in front of her, which made me appreciate her even more.

Hideo is a fascinating character. The chemistry, the frustration, and the mystery surrounding him made it hard to tell if you were supposed to love or hate him. (I’m pretty sure this was intended though.) I enjoyed getting to see his relationship with Emika unfold and present some unexpected surprises. I liked the other characters of the story, also, but to be honest none of them blew me away. We didn’t get to know any of them particularly well, but it didn’t seem to hurt the story.

This was such an intriguing read. The way Lu blends the modern world (at least, I’m guessing it’s somewhat modern. We’re never really told this.) with a world set in a virtual reality really blew my mind. At times I found myself envious of Emika, wishing that my own life paralleled that in which she lived.

The ending surprised me and left me yelling at the book. You know, because I didn’t want it to end yet. I may or may not have already rushed out to the bookstore and purchased a copy of Wildcard. 

Adult · Books · Fantasy · Favorites · Fiction

Book Review: Assassin’s Quest by Robin Hobb

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My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

King Shrewd is dead at the hands of his son Regal. As is Fitz—or so his enemies and friends believe. But with the help of his allies and his beast magic, he emerges from the grave, deeply scarred in body and soul. The kingdom also teeters toward ruin: Regal has plundered and abandoned the capital, while the rightful heir, Prince Verity, is lost to his mad quest—perhaps to death. Only Verity’s return—or the heir his princess carries—can save the Six Duchies.

But Fitz will not wait. Driven by loss and bitter memories, he undertakes a quest: to kill Regal. The journey casts him into deep waters, as he discovers wild currents of magic within him—currents that will either drown him or make him something more than he was. Goodreads

Overall, this series has become one of my favorites. The world of political intrigue, corruption, and the magical veins running beneath the surface far exceeded any expectations I had when I first picked it up. That being said, my feelings towards the final book were not quite as strong as the first two.

The story started out promising – Fitz just came back from the freaking dead! – and for the most part, I enjoyed it. As always, the storytelling and details are so stunning that it’s hard not to get sucked in. Poor Fitz, he’s gotten his second chance at life and, once again, he’s sucked in the middle of a political and familial shit show. The personal turmoil and reflections in this book definitely showed how much Fitz had grown since the first book. And how much he has lost.

Despite all the horrible things he’s witnessed and the arduous journey he embarks on, there is one thing that remains constant in his life: Nighteyes. Oh Nighteyes. I adore Nighteyes. He is, hands down, the best character in this entire series and even if this book had turned out to be horrible, I would have read it anyway because of Nighteyes. The relationship that Fitz has with his Wit companion is more touching than any other relationship in the series. Or any other book, period. The new characters we were introduced to kept things interesting, although I can’t say that I was particularly attached to any of them. (By the end, Kettle got on my nerves.) I loved that we got to see more of the Fool and learn about his role in Fitz’s life.

I appreciated this book for all it’s details and intricacies, but was left feeling a little disappointed with the last quarter of it. Without wanting to give too much away, I will say that there was a lot of big and important things going on. Unfortunately, I felt the explanations of these things were glossed over. Of the explanations we did get, they hardly scratched the surface. I kept itching for more and coming up with a million more questions that never went fully answered.

I felt like the ending was a bit bittersweet, although I’m not sure if that was intended or not. It definitely didn’t go in the direction I expected, which is not necessarily a bad thing. Despite the few things that bothered me about this one, I still really enjoyed it and would read it again in a heartbeat, if not for Nighteyes alone. ❤

Books · Favorites · food · Non-Fiction

Book Review: Buttermilk Graffiti by Edward Lee

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My Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

According to Chef Lee, the best way to get to know someone is to eat the food that they eat. Not only do you learn about their personal tastes, but you develop a deeper connection to them and where they came from. This is exactly the notion that Lee chased when he began travelling all over the country, in search of American immigrants and the food and stories that they bring to the table.

In Buttermilk Graffiti we’re introduced to Lee and his own background as a Korean American chef with one foot in the deep South, the other firmly rooted in his family heritage. On his journey he takes us everywhere from New Orleans to learn about beignets, Connecticut to learn about smen, West Virginia to sample slaw dogs, and Louisville for some down-home goodness. And that’s only the beginning. The point of his journey was not only to taste delicious foods, but to learn about how they’ve evolved, if at all. How did authentic Korean food come to be in Montgomery, Alabama? How did Brighton Beach become a haven for Russian immigrants? At times, the answers he recieveonly inspire a dozen more questions.

Sometimes he’s the odd man out, other times he blends in flawlessly. That’s both the beauty and (sometimes) ugliness of American culture. Throughout his travels, Lee gives a voice to the other odd ones out, the ones who have much to say, share, and cook about. The ones who so seldom actually get a voice.

This was not only an inspiring and creative story about food, but an incredibly insightful look into the lives of who really makes up the melting pot that is America.

Adult · Book Reviews · Books · Fantasy · Favorites

Book Review: The Hod King

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My Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Fearing an uprising, the Sphinx sends Senlin to investigate a plot that has taken hold in the ringdom of Pelphia. Alone in the city, Senlin infiltrates a bloody arena where hods battle for the public’s entertainment. But his investigation is quickly derailed by a gruesome crime and an unexpected reunion.

Posing as a noble lady and her handmaid, Voleta and Iren attempt to reach Marya, who is isolated by her fame. Edith, now captain of the Sphinx’s fierce flagship, joins forces with a fellow wakeman to investigate the disappearance of a beloved friend.

As Senlin and his crew become further dragged in to the conspiracies of the Tower, everything falls to one question: Who is The Hod King?

Every book in the Books of Babel series is completely different than the last, but, once again, Josiah Bancroft hits the nail right on the head. The structure of The Hod King is different than the previous two books. Each chunk of the book follows a different member of Senlin’s former crew and chronicles their misadventures in Pelphia.

I really appreciated the character development in The Arm of the Sphinx. This time around, the characters we’ve come to know and love throw some unexpected surprises at us. Of all the characters in the story, I think I was most impressed with Voleta in this book and how different she is now than she was when we first met her. Even Iren, who didn’t do much for me previously, has finally found a place in my heart now that we got to see things from her perspective.

Pelphia is quite strange. It’s definitely one of my favorite ringdoms we’ve gotten to experience so far, even though most of the people there are quite ghastly. Even after reading book three, I am still in awe of the incredibly unique and richly detailed world of the Tower that Bancroft has created. The story only gets better and better as it goes along and I already know that I never want it to end.

I want to say so much more about this book, but I don’t even know how to begin critiquing perfection.

Adult · Book Reviews · Books · Fantasy · Favorites

Book Review: Arm of the Sphinx by Josiah Bancroft

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The Tower of Babel is proving to be as difficult to reenter as it was to break out of. Forced into a life of piracy, Senlin and his eclectic crew are struggling to survive aboard their stolen airship as the hunt to rescue Senlin’s lost wife continues.
Hopeless and desolate, they turn to a legend of the Tower, the mysterious Sphinx. But help from the Sphinx never comes cheaply, and as Senlin knows, debts aren’t always what they seem in the Tower of Babel.
Time is running out, and now Senlin must choose between his friends, his freedom, and his wife.
Does anyone truly escape the Tower?

Allow me to start off this review with a confession: I almost didn’t pick this book up. I enjoyed Senlin Ascends when I read it last year, but I couldn’t decide if I liked it enough to rush to read the second book. After seeing all the glittering reviews of the third book, The Hod King, recently, I realized that I might be missing out on something.

I was.

The Sphinx’s Arm has a different feel to it than the first book. It’s faster paced, grittier, and a bit more complex. (As if the Tower needed to be more complex!) Senlin and his friends aren’t just on the lam anymore; they’re pirates! They’re still trying to find Senlin’s wife, all while trying to avoid detection by Commissioner Pound. Everywhere they turn, the Tower, with all it’s political corruption and steampunk wonders, is doing its best to thwart them.

The story is rich with amazing (and sometimes terrible) characters, both new and old. The relationship  between Senlin and his crew has deepens and grows more complex with every misadventure they get themselves tangled in. Despite all their flaws and demons, the camaraderie between them is admirable. Senlin is quite different than he was in the first book. He’s not just the lost, desperate tourist searching for his wife anymore. He’s a leader and a friend, trying to do best by his crew. He’s smarter, bolder, and, although he fumbles a lot, you can’t help but love him. I really enjoyed the new characters introduced, as well, especially the mysterious Spinx and his lackey, Byron.

I want to share all the other details I loved about this book, but I don’t want to give too much away. I know we’re only two months into the year, but I already predict that this will be one of the best books I read in 2019.

*Potential spoiler*  (Was anyone else really hoping the Sphinx was actually going to be a spoon?)

Book Reviews · Books · Fantasy · Favorites · Young Adult

Book Review: The Wicked King by Holly Black

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My Rating: 5 out of 5 stars 

You must be strong enough to strike and strike and strike again without tiring.

After the jaw-dropping revelation that Oak is the heir to Faerie, Jude must keep her younger brother safe. To do so, she has bound the wicked king, Cardan, to her, and made herself the power behind the throne. Navigating the constantly shifting political alliances of Faerie would be difficult enough if Cardan were easy to control. But he does everything in his power to humiliate and undermine her even as his fascination with her remains undiminished.

When it becomes all too clear that someone close to Jude means to betray her, threatening her own life and the lives of everyone she loves, Jude must uncover the traitor and fight her own complicated feelings for Cardan to maintain control as a mortal in a Faerie world.

I enjoyed The Cruel Prince when I read it last year. Now, having read The Wicked King, I feel like first book pales in comparison. Jude’s grows from an angry, mistreated mortal living in the faerie world to a scheming, manipulative, powerful player in the fight over the throne. She’s not only determined to seize power from those who wish to steal it from her brother, but she’s determined to use every and anyone in the process. Jude is a freaking badass. (Although, I admit, I was still doubting her at the end of the first book.)

Not only do we begin to understand Jude better, but we see a different side of Cardan, as well. I liked him much better this time around than I did in the first book. While I’m normally indifferent to most hate-to-love relationships in YA books, I was totally on board with Jude and Cardan’s blossoming romance. Or hate-mance. Or whatever the hell it is. It’s a perfect mess.

We got to see a bit more of Taryn this time around, but never enough that I really developed much of an opinion of her. Throughout both books she’s kinda just felt like she was there as filler, which is weird, considering she’s the protagonist’s twin. That’s the only real complaint I have.

I loved every little twist and turn Black threw at her readers. By the end of the book, it’s clear that you can’t trust anyone. It’s faerie versus faerie. Human versus faerie. Faerie versus the sea. Sibling versus sibling. Father versus daughter. WHO IS GOING TO WIN!?!

I have no idea, but I want more!

 

Adult · Book Reviews · Books · Fantasy · Favorites

Book Review: In an Absent Dream by Seanan McGuire

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My Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

This fourth entry and prequel tells the story of Lundy, a very serious young girl who would rather study and dream than become a respectable housewife and live up to the expectations of the world around her. As well she should.

When she finds a doorway to a world founded on logic and reason, riddles and lies, she thinks she’s found her paradise. Alas, everything costs at the goblin market, and when her time there is drawing to a close, she makes the kind of bargain that never plays out well.

In an Absent Dream was one of my most ( if not the most) anticipated reads for this year. After devouring it last weekend, I am pleased to say that it most certainly did not disappoint.

The world of the Goblin Market is one of the strangest and most complex worlds that McGuire has created for the series. It is both beautiful and terrifying, putting emphasis on the importance of rules and the consequences of breaking them. Through the market’s rules force its inhabitants learn to be better people and give fair value to the world around them.

Before Lundy finds her door she’s a quiet child, keeping her head down and trying to figure out what it means to blend in. She’s already accepted that her life is going to be mundane and like everyone else’s. Her visits to the Goblin Market help her figure out who she really is and who she really wants to be. Through the rules and her friendship with Moon, Lundy finds a place she belongs and a sense of family that she never experienced before.

This was an absolutely stunning and heartbreaking tale. I wanted to cry when it was over because I was not ready for it to end yet. This might be my favorite book in the series, so far.