Saturday, June 16, 2018

Daughter of the Burning City

Daughter of the Burning City by Amanda Foody

This is another book from my 'to read' pile! I'm slowly reading books from it....to only justify adding more. BOOK LIFE!

An amazon summary, "A darkly irresistible new fantasy set in the infamous Gomorrah Festival, a traveling carnival of debauchery that caters to the strangest of dreams and desires

Sixteen-year-old Sorina has spent most of her life within the smoldering borders of the Gomorrah Festival. Yet even among the many unusual members of the traveling circus-city, Sorina stands apart as the only illusion-worker born in hundreds of years. This rare talent allows her to create illusions that others can see, feel and touch, with personalities all their own. Her creations are her family, and together they make up the cast of the Festival’s Freak Show.
But no matter how lifelike they may seem, her illusions are still just that—illusions, and not truly real. Or so she always believed…until one of them is murdered.
Desperate to protect her family, Sorina must track down the culprit and determine how they killed a person who doesn’t actually exist. Her search for answers leads her to the self-proclaimed gossip-worker Luca. Their investigation sends them through a haze of political turmoil and forbidden romance, and into the most sinister corners of the Festival. But as the killer continues murdering Sorina’s illusions one by one, she must unravel the horrifying truth before all her loved ones disappear." AMAZON LINK OF JUSTICE


Sometimes people have an extra ability in this world and are commonly referred to as jynx or curse workers. A perfect place for people to hide from prejudices and make some money off of their abilities is at the traveling Gomorrah Festival. Sorina was adopted by the Proprietor (leader/owner) of the festival. Sorina has a very rare ability; she's an illusionist. She was also born without eyes but can still see. Her face as described as being smooth from the top of her forehead to her nose - there are no eye sockets or anything; just smooth skin. She can still see though, so to put whoever she meets at ease, she usually wears a mask over her eyes. Something else a little odd about Sorina, her illusions are their own separate people. She did create them, she has a small semblance of control over them (if she's near them, she can temporarily "put them away" MAGIC), but for the most part they are their own people. Each of her illusions is also very unique (a freak if you will) with their own curse worker abilities. They form a happy family, something Sorina craves, and they have their own tent and show within the Gomorrah festival. They are still illusions though, or well so Sorina thought until one of them is murdered.

Thattttttttttttttttt's enough summary.

The world building was interesting with the different types of curse workers at play in the story. It definitely became a, "I hope we solve this mystery" but not in the hokey way, but more like MY FAMILY IS DYING, PANIC way.

On top of that, there's an odd political climate going on. There are people referred to as the Up Mountainers and the Down Mountainers. Apparently, the Gomorrah Festival has been traveling between different Down Mountainers cities for years, and only recently have been allowed to travel to some Up Mountainers cities. I wish we knew more or had a more complete understanding of this political conflict. The Up Mountainers seem to be very religion driven and their religion says curse workers are devil workers or something along those lines, so the Up Mountainer people are very against the festival. The Down Mountainer people don't seem to care and just kind of, "*shrug* cool, magic!" as their general reaction. This does play into some further plot things later on, but no spoilers. There is a moment where they're like, "You know what? BARRAGE OF INFORMATION THAT SOMEHOW WAS NEVER RELEVANT BEFORE" and characters just spew facts about the history of the world/festival that doesn't ever seem relevant again, kind of. Like a poor excuse or explanation behind the motivations of some actions. Bleh.

Some of the characters were also in the LGBTQIA+ areas, which is always a bonus to me but I was also happy that it was more natural/authentically worked in rather than the constantly barraging you that they are somewhere in the LGBTQIA+ area.

Buttttttttttttt, I kind of got annoyed with Sorina after a while. She came off as a strong, willful, thoughtful character in the beginning who was mostly just afraid of being ostracized because she's a freak. She had lots of moments of self doubt, worry, and kind of struggling to do her best and discovering her best just isn't good enough. There was also this kind of weird, entitled attitude about her almost? Like, she never really hung out with people outside of her family without having a specific purpose to see them, but she would talk about them like they were a part of her family? I don't know, it didn't quite add up to me. A lot of the relationships with her family members also felt very authentic too, which was great to read. I also really, really really really wish we had gotten a better explanation or more of an explanation for Sorina's abilities. Specifically the strings aspect. There seemed to be a lot more there that just WASN'T explained because Magic? There hasn't been an illusion curse worker in a while? She's young? Take your pick of excuses.

I also would have liked to see MORE of the festival. We are given reasons of why Sorina knows what she knows about the festival, but there was a lot of things left unspoken. Plus, there doesn't seem to be a sequel to this book (after a few brief google searches). It just kind of irks me when authors introduce a TON of elements about a world, but never really bother to explain most of them. It's kind of like why bother having them in the first place?

....very meh of a read overall.

Happy reading!

Thursday, June 7, 2018

Truly Devious

Truly Devious by Maureen Johnson

Ehhh, so usually I tend to stay away from mystery books. I find them hard to get into, they tend to lack compelling plots to me, and I feel that a lot them stray towards the Scooby Doo effect. Like that whole, "I hope we solve this mystery!" and of course they do.

Then, enter Truly Devious. It's by Maureen Johnson, and I've read a lot of her books and even reviewed some here (THE LAST LITTLE BLUE ENVELOPE and THE NAME OF THE STAR).  She is definitely one of the authors that I get excited about whenever I find out they publish a new book.

...anyways, an amazon summary, "New York Times bestselling author Maureen Johnson weaves a delicate tale of murder and mystery in the first book of a striking new series, perfect for fans of Agatha Christie and E. Lockhart.


Ellingham Academy is a famous private school in Vermont for the brightest thinkers, inventors, and artists. It was founded by Albert Ellingham, an early twentieth century tycoon, who wanted to make a wonderful place full of riddles, twisting pathways, and gardens. “A place,” he said, “where learning is a game.”
Shortly after the school opened, his wife and daughter were kidnapped. The only real clue was a mocking riddle listing methods of murder, signed with the frightening pseudonym “Truly, Devious.” It became one of the great unsolved crimes of American history.
True-crime aficionado Stevie Bell is set to begin her first year at Ellingham Academy, and she has an ambitious plan: She will solve this cold case. That is, she will solve the case when she gets a grip on her demanding new school life and her housemates: the inventor, the novelist, the actor, the artist, and the jokester. But something strange is happening. Truly Devious makes a surprise return, and death revisits Ellingham Academy. The past has crawled out of its grave. Someone has gotten away with murder. 
The two interwoven mysteries of this first book in the Truly Devious series dovetail brilliantly, and Stevie Bell will continue her relentless quest for the murderers in books two and three." AMAZON LINK OF JUSTICE

Albert Ellingham is crazy wealthy and has decided to set up a school for learning in Vermont. Students are able to attend for free, but they have a certain spark about them. Albert is also obsessed with games, riddles, and the little intricacies of the world if you will. Albert discovered the area in 1928, started to build the school by blasting out some mountains, and the school was made. Then, everything goes along pretty smoothly, until his wife and daughter are kidnapped in 1936.

Flash forward to present day, Stevie Bell is a student at Ellingham Academy and she loves crime, detectives, and the whole field of solving mysteries. She's always been a bit strange to her parents but Stevie longs to attend Ellingham Academy; she wants to solve the murder of Albert's wife and figure out what happened to his daughter. (dun dun dunnnnn)

Oh, and before the kidnapping of the daughter/wife, someone called Truly Devious sent a letter to Albert indicating their plans. Someone was wrongly convicted in the 1930s (according to Stevie, and general speculation about the case), so it was deemed 'solved'. I would say more, but NO SPOILERS.

BECAUSE I LOVE THIS BOOK. I couldn't put it down, I lost a bit of sleep just trying to make more time in the day to read it, like it was just so good. 

Things to love about Stevie: She's quirky, odd, but she's also wildly realistic. She has anxiety and you get to see her coping with it in stressful situations, and she also has goals, both big and small, that she constantly sets and strives to achieve. She also makes mistakes. I swear too many authors either make their characters perfect with one major mistake that they spend the rest of the book/series recovering from, or like never make mistakes. Bleh. 

Things to love about the world: Ellingham Academy is exactly what you would expect an eccentric very wealthy man to create. From the lake to the tunnels, and even the secret passage or two. There were also very real elements about the world such as hints about the political climate, social media, etc; but they weren't the focus! They were just pieces being pulled together to form the larger puzzle!

Other things to love in no particular order: The side characters weren't just side characters, they were fully realized complete with their own personalities/traits/distinct differences. Like literally the only thing most of them had in common was they all attend Ellingham Academy. Done. There wasn't like a group of detectives running around for Stevie to join up with, there was no clique coming forward to adopt her as their own in this new school, there was just her housemates/friends and the fascination that comes with. The teachers/staff made appearances, they weren't a main feature, but when they were on the page, they were notable/there for a reason/weren't treated as people to just move/trigger the next step of the plot.

PEOPLE. There WILL be a sequel, and I am SO EXCITED. 

Love it.

Happy reading!!

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Onyx & Ivory

Onyx & Ivory by Mindee Arnett

I'm still actively mad at this book and it's been a few days since I finished reading it. Readers, the trickery is real.

Or, I'm just thick headed and get too hopeful about a book turning around... or just improving.

An amazon summary, "“At once fresh, at once classic, Onyx and Ivory is a page-turning blend of monsters, magic, and romance.” —Susan Dennard, New York Times bestselling author of Truthwitch
Acclaimed author Mindee Arnett thrusts readers into a beautiful, dangerous, and magical world in this stunningly epic and romantic fantasy for fans of Leigh Bardugo and Sarah Raasch.
They call her Traitor Kate. It’s a title Kate Brighton inherited from her father after he tried to assassinate the high king of Rime.
Cast out of the nobility, Kate now works for the royal courier service. Only the most skilled ride for the Relay and only the fastest survive, for when night falls, the drakes—deadly flightless dragons—come out to hunt. Fortunately, Kate has a secret edge: She is a wilder, born with forbidden magic that allows her to influence the minds of animals.
And it’s this magic that leads her to a caravan massacred by drakes in broad daylight—the only survivor Corwin Tormaine, the son of the king. Her first love, the boy she swore to forget after he condemned her father to death.
With their paths once more entangled, Kate and Corwin must put the past behind them to face this new threat and an even darker menace stirring in the kingdom." AMAZON LINK OF JUSTICE

This was an impulse pick up. Saw the description on amazon, the cover was gorgeous (I know I'm not supposed to judge a book by it's cover, but it reminded me SO MUCH of Finnikin of the Rock series which I reviewed HERE (shameless plug)), and I was having a case of the GIMMES. So I picked it up.

First mistake.

Then I started reading about how Kate was part of the royal courier service (this world's USPS), she was recognized, and now she's called Traitor Kate because her father tried to kill the high king of Rime. Then one of the high king's sons, Corwin, winds up in her city because of a tour, and locks eyes with Kate, and they knew each other during their childhood since they were both raised in the palace. Then it turns out the book is written from Kate's perspective and Corwin's perspective so the next chapter is all about Corwin and his royal angst but he can't take his eyes off of Kate who he hasn't seen in years. So it was a kind of slow, kind of off-kilter start, but there were interesting world element introduced. There are creatures called nightdrakes that are like murderous gargoyles that only attack at night, BUT there are people called Magists who wield magic to make ward stones that protect from the nightdrakes. There are other people who wield magic that are called Wilders, and who knows what the difference between the two kinds of magic are, but they're just different. Cool? ....not really, but whatever. Ignoring this one weird hiccup.

Second mistake.

There's like a thing that happens in the city (that I'm not going into because we'll be here forever), but it spurs Corwin to return home to find out what's happening as a whole country. Along the way home, their party get attacked by nightdrakes who can move around in the daylight (dun dun dunnnnnnn). So no one is prepared for them and they get pretty wrecked. Like Corwin gets bit by one, stabs it, it falls on top of him, and the poison from the bite starts making him a little bonkers. Then Kate rides up and is like Whattttttttt's going onnnnnnn? Sees these daytime nightdrakes (which she immediately calls daydrakes and the world just runs with it), and then shoots them with a revolver to save Corwin (oh yeah, she has a friend who is also a wilder and has made a revolver. She has another friend that happens to know the correct ratio for gunpowder to work within the revolver. CONVENIENT OR LAZY WRITING, YOU DECIDE), and drags Corwin to a safe house. Legitimately, I probably should have called it a day on this book at this point, but I didn't. Because I was still curious about these drakes, what was up with the magic, and Corwin/Kate have started to show the incredibly bad romance that's getting to be like a nasty car crash and you just can't look away.

Third mistake.

LONG STORY SHORT. I finished reading the book. We're LUNGING INTO SPOILER LAND, because I have NEEDS.

There's like a big boss fight at the end essentially where it becomes Wilders vs Magists. When the two magics meet, they literally cancel each other out. WHAT THE CRAP IS THAT. >_> There's also a Magist big boss who, through a bunch of backstory that doesn't make sense, unleash this crazy magic on the Wilders. BUT, Corwin! Who is an heir to the throne and has the mark of the Uror because previous book reasons, raises his marked hand and cancels out the big boss magic?! And Corwin has shown NO signs of magic before. WHAT IS IN THE WHAT WHAT. 

The book devolved into creating a ton of different plot points, trying to string them altogether by distracting you with new plot points, and kind of getting back to previous plot points but not really?! AND the writing style had so much tell, not show style to it. AND AND they had some of the weirdest, most stilted dialogue I've read in a book in a while. AND AND AND there was hardly any world building, like I have no idea if these people even have running water or electricity, but you know they have revolvers so that's something? AND AND AND AND ...they somehow hooked me enough to finish reading the book. BUT it's definitely going to have a sequel (BOO. YOU COULD HAVE AT LEAST FINISHED THE TRIALS).

ARGH. JUST LOTS OF ARGH.

....

Happy reading.

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Munmun

Munmun by Jesse Andrews

I picked up this book because another reader was so very enthusiastic and had a very curious yet careful way of explaining the book. After reading it... I get it.

An amazon summary, "In an alternate reality a lot like our world, every person’s physical size is directly proportional to their wealth. The poorest of the poor are the size of rats, and billionaires are the size of skyscrapers.
 Warner and his sister Prayer are destitute—and tiny. Their size is not just demeaning, but dangerous: day and night they face mortal dangers that bigger richer people don’t ever have to think about, from being mauled by cats to their house getting stepped on. There are no cars or phones built small enough for them, or schools or hospitals, for that matter—there’s no point, when no one that little has any purchasing power, and when salaried doctors and teachers would never fit in buildings so small. Warner and Prayer know their only hope is to scale up, but how can two littlepoors survive in a world built against them? A brilliant, warm, funny trip, unlike anything else out there, and a social novel for our time in the tradition of 1984 or Invisible Man. Inequality is made intensely visceral by an adventure and tragedy both hilarious and heartbreaking." AMAZON LINK OF JUSTICE

Ultimately this book felt like a coming of age story, wrapped up in survival themes, but also a caste system. ..it's a bit much, but it's mostly okay?

Alright, let me back up. When I first read the description I was kind of like, "So, it's the Borrowers and Giants with everyone in between and it's all based on their money? ...what???" But again, the other reader had that enthusiastic, curious yet careful way of trying to explain the book. So I gave it a chance.

Warner and his sister Prayer had a Father who was crushed by a bigger person who was pushed to step on top of their house by other bullies. Their mother was crippled and unable to work, which left Warner and Prayer to fend for themselves. Their mother wants them to go to law school so Prayer can attract a lawyer and make them all bigger through marriage/shared munmuns. Munmuns are essentially currency and the more munmun you have, the bigger you are.

Prayer and Warner go to law school, and Usher, Warner's friend, tags along for the journey as protection for Prayer...but he's in love with her and hopes she falls in love with him. Their whole mission is to find a husband for Prayer essentially...but the journey starts getting filled with mishaps and adventures along the way. 

The thing to keep in mind, is Prayer, Warner, and Usher are all little, about the size of rats. Cats, dogs, basically everything that moves and is bigger than them is a real threat to their safety. Their fragile, but never count them out.

There was a little bit more to this odd book, there are a lot of words spelled how they sound. Like 'ecks' is actually 'x'. There are strong themes of illiteracy because they're poor, did not go to school and it's cleverly reflected in the writing throughout the book.

There were also big themes throughout the book about the coming of age process that was super highlighted by the caste system and different dilemmas not only with coming of age but also society as a whole. I would go more into that, but it's woven throughout the story for the long haul, and no spoilers.

ALL OF THAT BEING SAID, I'm not sure it worked together cohesively and coherently. Admittedly, due to the style of writing it was a quicker read, but there's a LOT of content. It's 404 pages and I'm not entirely sure the ending is ...well, good enough for the rest of the content of the book. It's definitely an ending, I'm just kind of annoyed at which like last notes the book decides to end on. It makes a kind of heart wrenching point that echoes from previous parts of the book, but.... I wanted it to hit the gong so to speak. I feel like it was a xylophone end note rather than the booming gong I needed it to be? ... look at all these analogies.

Overall, I did like it, I really enjoyed the mechanics of the big/small once it was explained (I stopped thinking of them as Borrowers, haha). I'm kind of all over the book shelf on this one (haaaaaaaaa....haaaaaaaaaaaaa).

Happy reading!

Monday, May 28, 2018

Seeker of the Crown

Seeker of the Crown by Ruth Lauren

This is the sequel to A PRISONER OF ICE AND SNOW and will undoubtedly have spoilers for the first book. If you don't want A Prisoner of Ice and Snow spoiled, I would recommend not reading this review.

An amazon summary, "The fate of the queendom rests in her hands.
One month has passed since Valor broke her twin sister Sasha out of jail. But the girl responsible for her imprisonment, Princess Anastasia, has gone missing, and Valor still longs for justice. So when the queen, desperate to find her daughter, asks Valor and Sasha to track Anastasia down, they don't hesitate to accept the perilous assignment.
But just as the girls team up with old friends to embark on the search, the queen vanishes without a trace. If Valor can't restore the rightful ruler, she risks getting sent back to prison . . . and tearing her newly reunited family apart. Relying on her own instincts-and some allies she can't quite trust-Valor must navigate twisting city streets, bustling docks, and hidden passages to foil Anastasia' nefarious plot before it's too late.
Set once again in the icy and dangerous queendom of Demidova, Ruth Lauren sweeps readers on another unforgettable adventure alongside an equally unforgettable heroine." AMAZON LINK OF JUSTICE

After the events of last book, Princess Anastasia has escaped the dungeons. To alleviate suspicions from Prince Anatol, he's been banished so he cannot be perceived to be involved with Princess Anastasia's plans/acts. The Queen secretively approaches Sasha and Valor to give them a couple tasks she feels they would handle. To Sasha, she asks her to look into the prison where Sasha and Valor were previously held to improve conditions. To Valor, she asks her to find Princess Anastasia.

Valor finds a couple of friends who helped her break out of the prison, and are thrust into a whirlwind adventure trying to figure out where Princess Anastasia is, what she is up to, and also who she might be working with... BUT, in the midst of this, the Queen has disappeared in the middle of a chaotic moment in the middle of a festival. So now chaos on top of chaos.

The world building held up overall, there was a little more of the culture shown, but a lot of it was Valor, Sasha, and crew running around and just constantly trying to fix everything, get one step ahead of Anastasia and her crew. I want to see more of the culture to kind of show why Valor and Sasha are SO LOYAL to the queen, their country, etc. I know their Dad is a trusted adviser to the queen, and their mother is the First Huntswoman (so Sasha is the apprentice to their Dad and Valor is the apprentice to their mom (for those of us playing along at home)); but it still strikes me as a bit ODD that their children are entrusted with these BIG IMPORTANT TASKS when others could probably have done it...? ....?????

I did enjoy this book more than the first book since I felt it was a more complete story...and it may have helped that the story took place in multiple places of the country rather than mostly the prison.

I would still love to see MORE of the country and culture, but I suspect a book three is in the works, and all this political intrigue is keeping my interest piqued.

Happy reading!