Books · Fantasy · Favorites · Fiction

Book Review: Reaper Man by Terry Pratchett

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My Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

‘Death has to happen. That’s what bein’ alive is all about. You’re alive, and then you’re dead. It can’t just stop happening.’

But it can. And it has. So what happens after death is now less of a philosophical question than a question of actual reality. On the Disc, as here, they need Death. If Death doesn’t come for you, then what are you supposed to do in the meantime? You can’t have the undead wandering about like lost souls. There’s no telling what might happen, particularly when they discover that life really is only for the living…

Goodreads

As humans, we are often taught to avoid and fear death. In Terry Pratchett’s world, you kinda want Death to be your best friend. Death is just one character in The Reaper Man, but he is the catalyst for the events that take place throughout the book. As his name suggests, he is the literal bringer of death and, afterlife be damned, he wants to start living. 

When Death decides to retire from his career the entire world gets thrown out of balance. People and wizards, like old Windle Poon, can’t even die properly anymore. It’s up to Windle, his new undead friends, and a group of bumbling wizards (of the living variety) to put a stop to all the madness.

I enjoyed all the characters in this story, but Death was by far my favorite. He was insightful and by far the most wise, despite having a childlike innocence at times. His relationships with Miss Flitworth, Binky, and the Death of Rats were surprisingly touching. Pratchett’s achievement at personifying death in such a way that makes you both laugh and really think about the importance of life was sheer brilliance.

 

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.

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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.

Books · Young Adult

First Impression Friday: Warcross

It’s been quite a while since I did a First Impression Friday post. Now that I’m getting back in the swing of blogging after my unplanned, sorta-hiatus, I figured it’s time for another one.

First Impression Friday is a weekly meme created by J.W. Martin. The goal is to talk about a book you recently started reading. Share you impressions, predict what you think will happen, say whether you think you’ll enjoy it, etc.

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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…

I’m only about 60 pages into this one so far, but I already love it. Emika is very different than a lot of female protagonists that pop up across the YA genre. She’s run into a whole lot of bad luck and trouble with the law, but her heart seems to be in a good place, which makes me want to root for her. Plus, she’s got rainbow hair and tattoos, which is always a plus in my book.

I love the futuristic, tech-heavy world that the author has created. It’s not that far off from the current world we live in, but Warcross is an integrated part of society. I’m finding the whole concept of basically being able go about your daily life, while actively engaging in virtual reality quite fascinating. (Although, I’m predicting that there will be some pitfalls to this.)

I don’t know much about the other characters in the book yet. I’m guessing Hideo Tanaka will have some secrets up his sleeves…probably some that will be dangerous to the players of Warcross. Or maybe not. Maybe he’ll be the smart millionaire who becomes the love interest of this story. I kind of hope not, but I guess we’ll see.

I’m predicting that whatever Emika gets hired to do for Hideo, there will be other people out there, other hackers like her, who will be trying to thwart her endeavors.

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. ❤

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?)

Adult · Books · Fantasy · Young Adult

Series I Still Need to Finish

I took a look at my bookshelves the other day and had a slight moment of panic when I realized how many series I started last year and have yet to finish. Typically, when I find a series I like I binge my way through it, but there were just too many good books to read last year that I couldn’t squeeze them all in. #bookwormproblems

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The Books of Babel series by Josiah Bancroft – I’ve already purchased my copy of Arm of the Sphinx (the second book) and will probably be reading it next. At least I’m getting close…

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The Mortal Instruments series by Cassandra Clare – I’m not going to lie, I’ve had mixed feelings about finishing this one. I really enjoyed the first three books in the series, but after reading the fourth I’m wondering if this one should have remained a trilogy. The fourth book felt more like a spin off to me than a continuation of the story I had come to know. That being said, I’m still somewhat curious to know what happens, so I’m probably going to finish this one.

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The Monsters of Verity duo by Victoria Schwab – No Schwab book/series must go unfinished!

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The Farseer Trilogy by Robin Hobb – Oh Fitz, I need to know if at least one good thing finally happens to you. After the ending of the second book I almost went out and immediately purchased the final book in the series, Assassin’s Quest. I have enough other books that I should probably get to first though…*whispers* for now.

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.

Adult · Books · Fantasy

First Impression Friday: In an Absent Dream by Seanan McGuire

It’s been a hot minute since I’ve done a First Impression Friday post. I was going to write one last week when I  started re-reading The Hobbit but decided against it because it felt like I was cheating, since I already read it years ago and knew what was going to happen.

(For those who are unfamiliar, FIF is a weekly meme created by J.W. Martin. The goal is to talk about a book you recently started reading. Share you impressions, predict what you think will happen, say whether you think you’ll enjoy it, etc.)

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This is the story of 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.

Just like the previous Wayward Children books, you immediately become immersed in the story’s main character. I love the way the author makes you feel like you already know and understand her characters right off the bat.

The Goblin Market is an intriguing one. The rules and nuances are rather unique compared to the previous worlds she has written about. For that reason, I am interested to see what kind of trouble Lundy gets in. Because you just know she’s going to break the rules at some point. Perhaps she will get in trouble with the Goblin ruler, if there is such a character.

Whatever happens, I already know it’s going to be beautiful and heart-breaking.

(Check out my reviews for the other books in the Wayward Children series: here)