Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Seraphina, by Rachel Hartman- Review repeat in honour of Shadow Scale's imminent release!

It is with great joy that I recently got the opportunity to read Seraphina's sequel, Shadow Scale. Not just because it's amazing, but also because it was the perfect opportunity to treat myself to a re-read of Seraphina.

And because Seraphina's gorgeous new paperback is now on shelves, and also because Shadow Scale comes out in just a handful of sleeps, what better time is it to either dive into this series for the first time, or treat yourself to the luxury of a re-read? I promise you, it is well worth it.

Just in case you don't trust the less prolific 2015 me, why don't you take a look at much more trust worthy, and prolific, 2012 me? Hmm?

From Goodreads:
Four decades of peace have done little to ease the mistrust between humans and dragons in the kingdom of Goredd. Folding themselves into human shape, dragons attend court as ambassadors, and lend their rational, mathematical minds to universities as scholars and teachers. As the treaty's anniversary draws near, however, tensions are high.

Seraphina Dombegh has reason to fear both sides. An unusually gifted musician, she joins the court just as a member of the royal family is murdered—in suspiciously draconian fashion. Seraphina is drawn into the investigation, partnering with the captain of the Queen's Guard, the dangerously perceptive Prince Lucian Kiggs. While they begin to uncover hints of a sinister plot to destroy the peace, Seraphina struggles to protect her own secret, the secret behind her musical gift, one so terrible that its discovery could mean her very life.

You know that feeling when a book blows your mind?  Where you're completely wrapped up in it from almost the first few words and you have issues putting it down until you're done?  Where everything is so vibrant and rich you're not reading your experiencing the story? The hubby commented once when we had 5 hour flight and I was about to start the last Harry Potter that I wouldn't be on the plane, I would be at Hogwarts so the 5 hour trip wouldn't bother me at all.  Its like that.  Anyhoots, Seraphina was that kind of read for me, and the amazing thing is (outside of that already amazing and rare accomplishment), this was a debut author guys. Yah, I know right? Impressive.

I'm not sure where to start, honestly I loved it all so much!  I suppose for starters I'll talk about the world she's built.  It's phenomenal in its subtleties, and impressive in it's scope.  Hartman hasn't just created a fantasy world with Dragons, she's developed cultures and prejudices, a whole world of whirling politics, segregation, intolerance and persecution.  The world is almost secondary to the society she's lushly filled it with.  And it's fascinating.
Undersecretary Eskar looked down her aquiline nose as if checking human features off a list.  Two arms: check.  Two legs: unconfirmed due to long houppelande.  Two eyes, bovine brown: check.  Hair the colour of strong tea, escaping its plait: check.  Breasts: not obviously. Tall, but within normal parameters.  Furious or embarrassed redness upon cheeks: check.
"Hmph," she said. "It's ot nearly as hideous as I always pictured it."
Orma, bless his shriveled dragon heart, corrected her. "She."
"Is it not infertile as a mule?"
My face grew so hot I half expected my hair to catch fire.
"She," said Orma firmly, as if he himself had not made the same mistake the first time. "All humans take a gender pronoun, irrespective of reproductive fitness."
"We take offence otherwise," I said through a brittle smile.
Eskar lost interest abruptly, releasing me from her gaze.
Which leads me to my next love about this story. The characters, my god what great characters!  Complex and layered, everyone of them had a surprising depth and were lovingly rendered.  No wishy washy fill in roles were played, no half baked side characters thrown in to move along the plot, everyone had a place and a history and everyone of them were absolutely absorbing.  At no point did the story wander off somewhere or with someone who wasn't incredibly interesting, no scene bored me, no conversation felt like the push compelling the story back into the interesting bits.  And funny! Did I mention how funny it was?  Seraphina's dry humour and her practical approach to even the craziest situation was so witty and refreshing, she was like no other heroine I can think of.  No super fighting/killing skills, no mad weaponry, she's just smart and no-nonsense.

There was something very compelling about how intelligent the story was.  No cop out love story (though of course there is a love story, it just doesn't own the narrative), no wild fight scenes, Seraphina is a clever political mystery.  The vocabulary matches the high caliber of the story telling and I even had to look up a word or two, which is a nice change of pace.  Hartman does not talk down to her audience which is so refreshing, so although it was complete fantasy I felt like somehow I was learning something.  Hopefully it was a higher level of vocabulary.  Honest to god, I read so much, but I could use a bump in my vocab.

I fell in love with this story plain and simple.  I loved the drama, the intrigue, I was torn by the prejudice and touched by how Seraphina and Orma struggled with their differences and yet loved each other all the same.  The love interest, Kiggs was charming and was one of the first love interests I've ever read who wasn't some gorgeous god of a man, Seraphina falls in love with his wit and personality and the reader does too.  I was paging through the book for this review and spent an hour re-reading passages sorely tempted to read it all over again.

Simply put, you have to read this impressive debut.  Needless to say I can't wait to see how this series spreads its wings going forward.

If you want a taste of what a wonderful treat you're in for, check out Hartmans short story prequel The Audition.  It's also totally delightful.

Seraphina, by Rachel Hartman
Published by Random House, July 10, 2012
My copy kindly provided by the publisher
Buy Seraphina on Amazon

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Catching up, My Life in Books

Ugh, it's embarrassing to admit how few books I've read this past year. I mean, I own and haven't read both Blue Lily, Lily Blue and the last part of the Mara Dyer series. And those are only two of the notable books I have sitting on my shelf unread, there are many, many others. What's more is I've wasted precious reading time reading some real stinkers, which should be considered a crime, or at least an offence for which you get rewarded a good read to make up for it.  The good news though is I've taken some time, at long last, to indulge in re-reading some favourites, like the Grisha trilogy, which is something I haven't allowed myself to do for ages.  It's hard sometimes, to step back and reclaim your reading pile from the obligations you feel towards authors, publishers and book clubs, especially when your to-be-read pile is frighteningly large.  Now that I'm completely and hopelessly behind in reviews, reading, posts and updating my blog, it has been much less guilt inducing to pick up old favourites and take my time with them.
The dread shelf of hopelessly behind reviews

Some less than impressive reads?
Talon was the biggest shocker, Julie Kagawa's Dragon series was announced with such fanfare I thought it would be astounding, but it ended up being the cheap version of Seraphina which still stands as the most impressive Dragon book I've read.

We Were Liars had a lot of hype, but I have to say, it really was just a whole lot of whinny rich brats and the havoc they created. Zero sympathy was elicited from me, and since the thriller element was poorly built up, it ended up being a really annoying book that just felt like it ate up precious time I could have spent elsewhere.
Can you believe that little skinny shelf used to be my YA/MG shelf?

On the other end of the spectrum, there were some unexpected killers this past year. Sinner seems the most obvious, and the most lauded, as a fan of Cole and Isabelle I was looking forward to this book a lot, but it was shockingly good. Possibly some of Maggies best work ever, kind of good. By far the winner of the whole wolves of mercy falls series, which now pales in comparison to this last book.

All the Bright Places had me crying my heart out for a good third of the book, but has me still thinking about depression and mental health. I had seen it compared to Eleanor and Park, and it has that same height of happiness, depths of despair quality. I'm pretty sure that Rainbow's husband Kai should not read All the Bright Places. She complained on twitter about how upset he was at her ending, so this one will surely kill him.

And speaking of Rainbow Rowell, Landline was spectacular, and will 100% connect with every adult who has been, or is in a long term relationship (married or not). If only we could re-live elements of the early days of our relationships when things get tough, maybe I should plug my old rotary phone back in? Just in case.
Oh look! The embarrassing shelf of hopelessly behind TBR's! Why yes, it IS stacked double to fit!

I think going forward some of my reading goals have to align with promising less and indulging more. It sounds simpler than it is, and it will definitely be a test of my will power (I'm a sucker for a review request email, seriously, I've taken to just not reading most of them since I know it's a bad rabbit hole for me to fall into), and it will likely have me turning back to the library for ebooks and holds which is also a sound financial decision now that I'm working less again. But most of all I hope it opens the door to re-read some of my many, many beloved books that line my copious bookshelves. It's been far to long since I had a Harry Potter read-a-thon, or since I last let myself disappear into Westros for a few weeks.
Ok, these books I've basically all read. Well except the bottom two shelves on the far left. But lets just pretend I've read them, hmm?

What about you? Have you read something either disappointing or astounding lately? And what are your reading goals for 2015?

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Catching up, because it's been awhile!

It's been a long while since I've done anything but post a review (and even those haven't been to frequent), so I thought it was time to do a few personal posts so you can catch up with me and all I've been up to for the past little while.

My life in Cats.
My life may have infinitely more baby dolls, sparkly shoes and tractors strewn about it, but if one thing is a constant it's my fuzzy kids. Thurman, Cheddar Cheese, Opal and Deliah may be considerably more harried then they used to be (lets face it, we all are), but they continue to have their way around the house just as much as Sybil. In fact, I'm pretty sure they are coming out ahead as I dress them up considerably less out of sympathy for their daily trials and tribulations.

I did say considerably less, not never.
Of course, having a baby in the house has it's perks.

Though it does mean you have to tolerate the baby.

Phone for you Dilly.
Caged beasts
Snuggle collapse!

Safari hunting expedition, lands cuddles.
Deliah turns 11 on March 27th, Cheddar turns 10 on August 31st, Thurman turns 5 on March 29th and Opal turns 3 on July 13th.  Though nobody acts their age, Opal is the worst as she still thinks she's a wildy beast, feral kitten. Albeit one who loves snuggles, but also scratching everything, tearing around the house and howling when she doesn't get what she wants.  My beloved copy of Landline recently had it's dust jacket defaced in one of her rampages. She's lucky she's cute.  Her name, when we adopted her, was Phantom, so I think we'll have to start calling her our Phantom Menace.

Speaking of cats! Over Christmas I found the most lovely children's book, Yoda: The Story of a Cat and his Kittens, by Beth Stern. I won't lie, what initially what grabbed my attention was that it was a picture book of a white Persian named Yoda, and I used to have a white Persian named Yoda. But what had me marching up to the till to buy it was the fact it's a book about adoption and fostering, with all the proceeds going to a rescue group. Beautifully illustrated with a great message for kids and adults alike, I highly recommend getting the kids in you're life a copy.

I have had to dial back my rescue work considerably, which has been disapointing. With a small child and 4 cats I'm way to overloaded to take on fosters, and way to busy to organize events or the like. But that doesn't stop me from trying to boost their tweets and facebook posts. Alas, one the few things I do on twitter of late!

But anywho, if I can inspire even one adoption I call my job well done.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Welcome to year 5!

It is hard to believe that this little blog has been plugging along for 5 years, but although my presence has been slim recently, and irregular since Sybil was born, I have still been reading, going to signings, events and even the occasional book club!

My annual read count was it's lowest ever for 2014, I came in at 61 books, nearly half of my regular numbers.  This was due to my six month attempt to work full time, somewhere on the opposite side of the city; thereby ensuring I was commuting 2+ hours a day, on top of an already long day.  Clearly that did this blog no favours (44 posts for the year, ouch), really it did no favours for any part of my life, which is why over Christmas I decided it was time for a change. I started with a haircut, and ended by quitting my job and taking a part-time baking job 3 blocks from my house.  It's been a week and it's already glorious. Great hours, enjoyable, active work that's leagues more energetic then a desk job, and a most excellent commute. The hope going forward, is that there will be more time in my life for all the things I love, including this blog. Plans include:

  1. Finally getting things up-to-date (looks askance at Reviews by Title page that is nearly two years behind).
  2. Catching up on some of the reviews. All may very well not be possible, as I've gotten far enough behind that some of these books really would need to be re-read to do them justice.
  3. Moving this little blog that could over to Wordpress and bringing it up to 2015 standards. Also making it more negotiable from an ipad, since I no longer have a laptop, and blogger is a bitch to use on an ipad.
  4. Getting back to chatting with all of you via this blog and also via Twitter and Facebook, where I have been very, very absent lately, due to that day job and commuting.
But enough about me! What have YOU been doing with your first 19 days of 2015? Any life changes??!

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Heir of Fire, By Sarah J. Maas - Review

From Goodreads:
Lost and broken, Celaena Sardothien’s only thought is to avenge the savage death of her dearest friend: as the King of Adarlan’s Assassin, she is bound to serve this tyrant, but he will pay for what he did. Any hope Celaena has of destroying the king lies in answers to be found in Wendlyn. Sacrificing his future, Chaol, the Captain of the King’s Guard, has sent Celaena there to protect her, but her darkest demons lay in that same place. If she can overcome them, she will be Adarlan’s biggest threat – and his own toughest enemy.

While Celaena learns of her true destiny, and the eyes of Erilea are on Wendlyn, a brutal and beastly force is preparing to take to the skies. Will Celaena find the strength not only to win her own battles, but to fight a war that could pit her loyalties to her own people against those she has grown to love?

This series is intriguing to me, it sways back and forth a little between being powerful and being a bit silly at times, and I think it has a lot to do with the scope of it. Maas has said recently that it was sold as a six parter, which is awesome, but does mean there are lots of middling parts where things are being set up and developed. To me this is where things can get a bit silly sometimes. Rowan, for instance, is a perfectly good character with a strong reason for being included, but all the bits where Celaena contemplates his body or ponders their strange intimacy (they've seen each other pretty much buck naked but aren't sexually attracted to each other) are both unnecessary and a bit weird. It's an element I feel wouldn't be there if their "training" storyline wasn't quite so long. It was a similar trap I felt Maas fell into a bit with the first book with the somewhat pointless love triangle, and the rather self defeating "romantic" moments that often ended up nulling out some of Celaena's so-called awesome skills (remember how many times both Dorian and Chaol were able to sneak up on her?).  I think this series would be considerably stronger if attempts weren't regularly being made to shack Celaena up with someone.

However, outside of the Rowan weirdness, this was a great book. Maas branches out into multiple POV's, including an unexpected bad guy, making  a slower growing pains book, much more page turning then it might otherwise have been.

Chaol and Dorian are perhaps the biggest surprise for me.  I didn't think following them in the wake of Celaena's abrupt departure would be overly interesting, and at first it was not, but their path is the truly startling one, and where all the shocks at the ending were felt the strongest for me.

Although I wasn't left as much on the edge of my seat as last time, I am looking forward to part four with enthusiasm. It makes my book saturated heart happy to see some epic fantasy, with a long reaching storyline take a foothold in YA.  May it's success lead to more.

Heir of Fire, by Sarah J. Maas
Published by Bloomsbury, Sept 2, 2014

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Mortal Heart, by Robin LaFevers, Review and Giveaway!

From Goodreads:
Annith has watched her gifted sisters at the convent come and go, carrying out their dark dealings in the name of St. Mortain, patiently awaiting her own turn to serve Death. But her worst fears are realized when she discovers she is being groomed by the abbess as a Seeress, to be forever sequestered in the rock and stone womb of the convent. Feeling sorely betrayed, Annith decides to strike out on her own.

She has spent her whole life training to be an assassin. Just because the convent has changed its mind doesn't mean she has...

Every book in this series has been more impressive than the last, and after Dark Triumph I was both elated by the prospect of Annith's story and worried she couldn't possibly top Sybella's story. In fact, Dark Triumph was such a phenomenal story I couldn't ever seem to do it justice review wise and eventually just gave up.  So let me just take a moment to say that it was a dark triumph of writing and a spectacular book that deserves every ounce of praise it received and then some. However, I needn't have worried, Annith's story was the icing on the His Fair Assassins cake, in every possible way.

There are many aspects I loved about this series. It was a unique mix of folklore, history and fantasy, it has fabulously broken girls who kicked ass in all regards, it uses three very different personalities to flesh out so many views and experiences of religion and belief, and it tells a sweeping and engrossing story.  The way the three books came together in the end was extremely satisfying, watching each girl come into their own and take hold of their destinies was cathartic and exciting, and LaFevers threw in enough reveals and surprises to keep you on your toes throughout.

I particularly liked the way Anniths story intersected with the other gods and revealed more about the mysterious other disciples and groups. Although it's hard to say where she could take it, I would love to see LaFevers explore more of this world from other view points.

I won't say too much more, for fear of spoiling something, but Anniths revelation about Mortain is by far my favourite, and definitely fitting for the final piece in this highly enjoyable series. I can't rave about these enough to do them justice, but if you're looking for a story with both heart and some of the toughest female leads since Katniss, well then, look no further.

Mortal Heart, by Robin LaFevers
Published by HMH Books for Young Readers, November 4th, 2014
My Copy kindly provided by the publisher
Buy Mortal Heart on Amazon

Haven't had a chance to check out Mortal Heart yet? Have a Canadian address? Well then, this is your day! Enter to win a copy and wait no further to dive in.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Belated winner announcement!

I would be a huge liar if I didn't admit that 98% of my life is belated now that I not only have a wee child but also am back to work, full time! I know, so not an issue for the average joe, but I am a spoiled girl who was working 3.5 days a week for several years now, and so have been used to lots of time to getting life things done in. Sigh.

But the good news is flowing tonight! I have a winner for the Spooktacular Giveaway hope which had over SEVEN HUNDRED people enter! Barring a non-answer from her, the winner is......

Check your junk mail for an email from me!

I also have belated halloween pics for you as well. Because how could it ever be halloween without cats in costumes, I ask you... honestly, how could it?! Oh, and the furless child as well.

Que jaws music...Is that...????
Yup, Thurman!

Joined by Bat Opal
she was rather fond of her costume.

I mean, who wouldn't be?

Cheddar was less impressed with his.

Oh right, then there was the furless child.

She was prodigiously talented at Trick or Treating.