Carry On by Rainbow Rowell

Carry On is a 522-page fantasy novel by Rainbow Rowell, published by St. Martin’s Griffin in October of 2015.

23734628Simon Snow, a wizard in his eighth year at Watford School of Magicks lives with his evil, vampire roommate Baz and is constantly worrying about and fighting against the Insidious Humdrum. The story shifts between Simon, Baz, and their friends Penny and Agatha’s points of view. More

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2015 Favorites Roundup Part 1

I read the most books I’ve EVER read in one calendar year in 2015 (133 books!). Although I read a lot of older books, I did manage to catch some that were fresh off the press.

These were my top three favorite books published in 2015.


The Invasion of the Tearling (The Queen of the Tearling, #2)The Invasion of the Tearling by Erika Johansen is the sequel to The Queen of the Tearling–a post-apocalyptic fantasy about the descendants of a group of people that travelled from American to England.

Queen Kelsea is now dealing with the effects of breaking the treaty with Tear’s neighbor, Mortmesne. Johansen steps up her game in the sequel by adding a second point of view, told through Kelsea’s visions of a woman (Lily Mayhew) dealing with pre-Crossing troubles in America. She also excels at conveying a wealth of truth in how young women actually think. Kelsea becomes such a beautifully, refreshingly real woman. I highly recommend this series. More

The Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen

The Queen of the Tearling is a 464 page novel, published by Harper Paperbacks in 2013. It’s the first in the series of the same name.

The Queen of the Tearling Cover

Much scientific (especially medicinal) knowledge was lost during the Crossing—three centuries previous to the events in this post-apocalyptic tale. I believe the Crossing was from America to Europe, partially due to a legend of an entire ship full of doctors and medical equipment sinking during the Crossing.

In the new feudal world, Queen Kelsea–who has spent 19 years being raised and trained to rule the Tearling–is herded onto the throne in place of the Regent who happens to be her slovenly uncle, desperate to keep his place on the throne. More

Grand Returns

I realized the other day how long it had been since I’d written a review when I got turned down for an ARC of a book. On Netgalley, that has never been the case before and they suggested updating my blog.

After getting a new job, moving, and trying to settle in to a new routine, reading had been the last thing on my mind. But now that I’m settled… I’ve jumped into the “start a million new books” phase. I just started reading The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling, Authority by Jeff VanderMeer, which is the excellent sequel to AnnihilationThe Way of Kings by a favorite of mine–Brandon Sanderson, and I’ve about finished Revelation Space by Alastair Reynolds which rides on the blazing space cowboy trail left by Firefly. 

Devoting time to reading has been so refreshing… Damn, I just love a good book. Here’s to many more in both of our futures.

 

Summer Reading

This summer (starting early May), a few friends and I plan to devour a long list of books. While we all have a few we’re not going to read, a few extras we plan to read, and therefore have an individual list, we will mostly read the same books. We’ll be tweeting about the books (#BookedIt / #bookclub), possibly adding some Youtube videos to the Booktube section, etc.

And of course, I’ll be reviewing a good majority of the books. So I thought I would throw out an invitation to join us. If you would like to join in the reading of the books, they will be updated regularly on my “Currently Contemplating” widgets and posts. I’ve already read some of these, but I’ll either be rereading them or just participating in discussion.

The list is made up of some YA, fantasy, sci-fi, etc. I’ll definitely be reading Republic of Thieves early on, because I’m going to CONvergence in MN in July, and Scott Lynch will be there! I also may reread something by Emma Newman, or continue her series, The Split Worlds, in hope that she’ll be there, too.  Here’s the list:

  1. Infinite Jest* by David Foster Wallace
  2. Exodus 2022 by Kenneth G. Bennett
  3. Will Not Attend: Lively Stories of Detachment and Isolation by Adam Resnick
  4. The Fault in our Stars by John Green
  5. The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch
  6. The Republic of Thieves by Scott Lynch
  7. Between Two Thorns/Any Other Name by Emma Newman
  8. Nothing But Flowers: Tales of Post-Apocalyptic Love edited by Jodi Cleghorn, with a story by Emma Newman
  9. American Gods by Neil Gaiman
  10. London Falling by Paul Cornell
  11. Clash of Kings by George R.R. Martin (My goal is to finish the last 200 pages, which I got stuck on a year or two ago)
  12. Uglies by Scott Westerfeld
  13. The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss
  14. Legend by Maria Lu
  15. Good Omens by Neil Gaiman
  16. His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman
  17. The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker
  18. The Maze Runner by James Dashner
  19. Among Others by Jo Walton
  20. The Black Prism by Brent Weeks
  21. Wool by Hugh Howey
  22. The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón
  23. The Eyes of the Dragon by Stephen King
  24. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
  25. Steelheart by Brandon Sanderson
  26. Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers
  27. Cinder by Marissa Meyer
  28. Midnight Riot by Ben Aaronovitch
  29. Light Boxes by Shane Jones
  30. Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro
  31. Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
  32. The Wind-Up Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi
  33. On Such a Full Sea by Chang-Rae Lee
  34. Everything Bad is Good for You by Steven Johnson
  35. Y: The Last Man by Brian K Vaughan and Pia Guerra
  36. Green Rider by Kristen Britain

*To be read ~ 15-20 pages a day due to massive length and intellectual demands.

We are constantly updating the list, so this is just a temporary one. I will probably add a new post each month updating the order/number of books for the projected month. If you want to read any of these books to join in on the discussion, you are more than welcome!

Between Two Thorns by Emma Newman

Between Two Thorns is a 384 page fantasy novel–which takes place in The Split Worlds–by Emma Newman, published by Angry Robots in February 2013. The Split Worlds started as an ambitious project where Emma Newman wrote one short story every week for a year, to be hosted on different volunteering blogs. Having read one of Emma’s earlier books, 20 Years Later, I was asked to host a story, which I gladly accepted. The story I hosted is called “Knotty Secrets.” Reading all the stories is not necessary to understand the books, but it was a fun experience to read a new story every week. As for Between Two Thorns, I received an ARC of the book from NetGalley for review.

Between Two Thorns CoverThe plot is set in the Split Worlds–Mundanus: our world, Exilium: the Fae world, and the Nether: the world of the Fae-touched, a world where people do not age and society is stuck in a Victorian Englandesque age.  In the Nether, all houses are mirrors of houses in Mundanus. Between Two Thorns takes place in Aquae Sulis, the mirror city of Bath, England–and something is going wrong there. The Master of Ceremonies, the man who practically runs high society, has gone missing. More

The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker

The Golem and the Jinni is a 486 page book published in April 2013 by Harper. I would call it a magical realism story, but Goodreads suggests historical fiction and mythology, which also seem fitting.

The Golem and the Jinni CoverI’m also going to copy the Goodreads blurb about the two main characters, because it describes them so succinctly:

Chava is a golem, a creature made of clay, brought to life by a disgraced rabbi who dabbles in dark Kabbalistic magic. When her master, the husband who commissioned her, dies at sea on the voyage from Poland, she is unmoored and adrift as the ship arrives in New York in 1899.

Ahmad is a jinni, a being of fire, born in the ancient Syrian desert. Trapped in an old copper flask by a Bedouin wizard centuries ago, he is released accidentally by a tinsmith in a Lower Manhattan shop. Though he is no longer imprisoned, Ahmad is not entirely free – an unbreakable band of iron binds him to the physical world.

The plot covers their travels across the ocean and their strange, hidden lives once they reach their destination–New York. The Golem lives in a Polish settlement of sorts, and is taken in by a rabbi who tries to teach her how to control her strange power of being able to “hear” peoples’ desires and the compulsion to help them. Meanwhile, the Jinni works with a tinsmith, using his natural gift of immense body heat (he is naturally a formless body of fire) to mend pots and pans. Both characters feel trapped in their current lives, and seek ways to release their energy.

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The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

The Ocean at the End of the Lane is Neil Gaiman’s latest book, published in June of 2013 by William Morrow Books. It is a 291 page fantasy novel. I actually finished this book last year (2013), but was doing a pretty terrible job of keeping up with reviews since I was reading so many books, and also was traveling over the holidays. Anywho.

The plot of the story is framed by a man returning home to attend a funeral. On the way, he gets sidetracked by visiting his childhood home and the farm of the Hempstock family at the end of his lane. He is reminded of a childhood friend that he used to have, and from there the story takes place almost completely in his memory of the events of his childhood.

The young boy meets Lettie Hempstock down the lane thanks to an unfortunate sequence of events. His parents, being short on money, allow a boarder to use their child’s room–one night, the boarder is found at the end of the lane, in his parent’s car, dead.

After, Lettie brings the boy to her house and they become fast friends. However, Lettie is no ordinary child, and she gets the boy into very extraordinary predicaments. After some strange events happen around the town, Lettie takes him to deal with whatever it is that has been causing them. This unleashes something terrible in the boy’s life, and the rest of the novel is him trying to deal with/defeat it. That probably sounds really vague, but I don’t want to give away one of the biggest plot points.

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Red Seas Under Red Skies by Scott Lynch

Red Seas Under Red Skies is the second book in the Bastard Gentleman Sequence by Scott Lynch published by Bantam Spectra in August 2007. It’s a 558 page fantasy of sorts about thieving and piracy, or as its description says, “swindlers and swindling.”

This sequel to The Lies of Locke Lamora again features Locke, this time only with his friend Jean Tannen, as they venture away from Camorr and into Vel Virazzo and Tal Verrar–countries far away from Camorr and the devastation they left behind of their House of Perelandro, the dubious thirteenth god devoted to thieves.

While Locke and Jean set up an enormous plot to break into an unbreakable vault of the man who runs the Sinspire–a massively profitable gambling house–the war leader, known as the archon, of a country no longer at war has other plans for them. In a twisting and convoluted plot, Locke and Jean end up on a ship on the Sea of Brass, with plans to be pirates of the seas and to stir up trouble in Tal Verrar’s waters. I really don’t want to give away the plot, which is massive, so I’ll leave it at that.

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Libriomancer by Jim C. Hines

Libriomancer is the first book in the Magic Ex Libris series by Jim C. Hines. It is a 308 page fantasy novel published in August 2012 by DAW. I’ve never read anything by Hines before, but this was a pleasant first novel experience.

Libriomancer coverBefore I get into characters, I wanted to describe libriomancy for anyone who hasn’t read the book. Libriomancy is what it sounds like–book magic. The most known form of libriomancy is the act of pulling objects, any that are small enough to pass through the borders of the pages, out of books and into our world. There are deeper and more interesting forms, but most libriomancers are only aware or capable of that basic ability. Libriomancy was founded by Johaness Gutenberg, and the background of it is fascinating.

The story is set in the UP (Upper Peninsula) of Michigan. It is told through Isaac Vainio’s perspective. Isaac is a sort of forcibly-semi-retired libriomancer that currently catalogues books in a library. His fire spider Smudge is his constant companion who ignites whenever any negative magical beings are around (he’s on his usual place–Isaac’s shoulder–on the cover). The other main character is Isaac’s female friend Lena Greenwood, who is a magical dryad that was plucked out of a book before she was actually alive.

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Daughter of Smoke & Bone by Laini Taylor

Daughter of Smoke & Bone was recommended and lent to me by a friend. It is a 418 page fantasy/magical realism novel by Laini Taylor. It is also the first book in the series of the same name.

The plot of the novel focuses on a 16 year old girl, Karou, who grew up in Prague in the presence of three chimaera and strange men who bring teeth to the chimaera named Brimstone to trade for wishes. Needless to say, her childhood was a little odd. Karou attends a school for the arts; she studies drawing and painting alongside her best friend Zuzana, who studies more physical arts–like puppetry.

Everything seems “normal,” or as normal as it can get for Karou, until Brimstone sends her on a mission to get more teeth in Marrakesh (Morocco) and she is interrupted by Akiva, an angel bent on closing the portal doors to Brimstone’s shop and cutting Karou off from her only family, for reasons unknown to her. When Karou tries to stop him, she sets on an unstoppable course to finding the true, awful, source of magic and the unending war in another world known as Eretz between angels and chimaera.

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The Way of Shadows by Brent Weeks

The Way of Shadows was Brent Weeks’s 645 page debut novel. It is the first book in the finished Night Angel Trilogy, which is a fantasy trilogy that Weeks has stated that he plans to write more about in the future. I borrowed this from the online NEIBORS site via my hometown library.

The plot takes place mainly in Cenaria, a country that is quite far behind us in technology. The main character, Azoth, is a guild rat who dreams of a better life. The guilds are groups of children and teens that steal to survive in the gutters and alleys of Cenaria’s ghetto, the Warrens. Azoth goes to the top wetboy–Durzo Blint–to apprentice him in order to get out of the slums. A wetboy is similar to an assassin, except for the fact that they are practically infallible. As Weeks writes, a wetboy has a deader, an assassin has a target–because assassin’s sometimes miss. Azoth does everything he can to get out of his abusive guild and into Durzo’s life, although overcoming his innate goodness makes his entrance into the world of killing difficult. More

Graceling by Kristin Cashore

While taking a film and literature class last year, each student had to take a part (a chapter, the intro, something of our choosing) of a novel or short story and adapt it into a screenplay that held the elements of the piece without just being written in a different form. While I chose the first chapter of The Name of the Wind (maybe I will post my adaptation if I’m ever feeling pretentiously good about myself), one of my to-be-librarian friends chose Graceling. She gushed about the plot and the powers of the characters. I admit, I was a little intrigued, regardless of the fact that she had probably started and finished the project the night before. Anywho. Graceling is a 471 page fantasy, romance story by Kristin Cashore.

Graceling is about people who have Graces which make them quite good at one thing. Some people don’t have Graces, but for those who do, life is a little more interesting. There are many types of Graces, like being exceedingly good at swimming, climbing, singing, etc. However, for the main character of this novel, we learn about the Grace of killing. Katsa is a young adult who has been bent to the will of her uncle, King Randa of the Middluns, ever since she showed her Grace by accidentally killed one of her cousins when she was eight. As she develops her killing skill, her uncle forces her to be his strong arm of “justice” by threatening his subjects with consequences from Katsa.

While out on a mission to save an elderly relation of a king from another country, Katsa runs into a man from that country, who happens to be Prince Po, a man Graced with combat skills.  While trying to figure out why the man was kidnapped from his country, Katsa and Po train together. Their conversations and adventures were incredibly fun and deep–you really get to know the characters.

I loved Po and Katsa as two strong fighters in Graceling’s old world. All the characters in this book were absolutely brilliant. You meet characters from other countries and learn about some of their culture, like Bitterblue, who is the daughter of another king. I would say characterization made the book, but honestly, everything in this book just worked for me. Cashore knew exactly how to write exciting fight scenes, not-too-gushy romantic scenes, frightening scenes, and mysterious characters. I was quite impressed by her easy writing style.

As for thickening plot, the secret villain was incredibly well-thought out and fascinating. The villain was intelligent and used a terrifying Grace. I don’t want to give too much away, because the adventure of reading the story really is that worth it. I read Graceling this past summer, and I hadn’t enjoyed a book as much as I did this one in what felt like a long time. I finished it quickly and immediately wanted to spread the love of the story. This book was fantastic, and practically no matter what you enjoy reading–although fantasy and worldbuilding lovers may especially appreciate it–I give this book my hearty recommendation. I plan to read the following novels, Fire and Bitterblue, in the future. I am really excited to read more of Kristin Cashore’s accessible style.

The Blinding Knife by Brent Weeks

The Blinding Knife is the 671 page sequel to The Black Prism. It is the second book in the fantasy Lightbringer four book series by Brent weeks. This story continues the narrative of the seven Satrapies and the Chromeria.  For a fuller explanation of the government and magic system–chromaturgy–see my review of The Black Prism.

The Blinding Knife (Lightbringer, #2)In this novel, the story focuses on developing relationships between Gavin, the Prism of the Chromeria, and the people closest to him–Kip Guile (son), Karris White Oak (ex-fiance), Andross Guile (father), and Dazen Guile (prisoner/brother). Brent Weeks really does some great characterization in this novel. I actually began to like Kip, who was really bullheaded in The Black Prism. Well, he’s still bullheaded, but now he has goals and sticks up for himself. We also meet some new characters, like Teia, a small slave girl who has been sponsored to train and be tested as a Blackgaurd, and gain a deeper understanding of Chromaturgy and secret draftable colors thanks to Kip’s training in the Blackgaurd.

Also partially thanks to that training, the fighting and focus on battle in this novel was more intimate and more involved than in the first novel. Kip trains and plans to try out for the Blackgaurd, the elite force that guards the Prism’s life and answers only to the White (basically the head of the Chromeria). While Kip is training, Gavin is attempting to defeat the bane — a “god” of a certain color. Gavin first attempts to find and tackle the blue bane, which has been causing many oddities such as blue snowflakes around the world. While searching for the blue bane, he is also trying to stop war from happening. During his search, we see a lot more of his relationship with Karris, which was one of my favorite things to read about in both novels. Whispers of betrayal and regret make their interactions electric.

While in The Black Prism there were whispers of color wights (drafters gone mad after they draft too much) answering to a higher calling, this novel actually presents the real threat. The Color Prince, known as Lord Omnichrome, is a polychrome wight–a drafter of many colors who has “broken the halo” on all of them, meaning he should have gone mad from drafting so much light. Instead of madness, he has taken to leading the wights and people who believe that wights can still be sane. This goes against everything the Chromeria teaches, so Gavin has to deal with both the wight banes and the Color Prince in order to attempt to stop a war.

In The Blinding Knife, Weeks does some more amazing work with his light magic system, introducing a new draftable color and new concepts of drafting and alternate theories of wights. Along with those improvements, his fictional world grows even more; we are introduced to Seer Island, a remote location that houses a mystical Seer that sort of helps, in the vague way that Seers do, Gavin search for the blue bane. These aspects, and the excellent character building that Weeks does, make this an even more fantastic book than the first. I could hardly put it down. He even throws in a fascinating card game–Nine Kings–that I really hope he explores more in the next book. This series is one of the best that I have read in a long time, and if you haven’t started reading it, I ask… Why not?!

Elantris by Brandon Sanderson

Elantris is Brandon Sanderson’s debut novel. It is a 622 page fantasy standalone. After reading and loving the Final Empire trilogy from Sanderson, I asked for some more books by him and got this one for Christmas. I’ve just been waiting for finals crunch to be over, so once summer hit, I picked this book up right away.

Elantris

The story takes place ten years after the pristine city Elantris, and its god-like inhabitants–Elantrians–have fallen. Elantris was once the capital of Arelon, and a huge hub of activity, as the Elantrians could perform magic of sorts to heal and feed the people of Arelon. However, one day the shining silvery people of Elantris started losing their white locks, started losing their shine, and started developing black spots on their skin and aches and pains that would never cease. The people of Arelon condemned the Elantrians to stay in Elantris–once a beautiful city, now a large prison. The unfortunate thing about being an Elantrian is that you aren’t born one, you can’t decide to become one–you are instantly transformed into one randomly in the middle of the night. It is uncontrollable and unpredictable, and once you show the telltale signs of darkened skin and hair loss, you get thrown into the guarded city.

This story follows three main points of view. The first is of Arelon’s fallen prince, Raoden, who was taken by the Shaod (the Elantris transformation), and was pronounced dead by his kingly father and thrown secretly into Elantris; the second is of Sarene–a princess from another nation who was the intended wife of Raoden in a political marriage who now finds herself widowed to a man she never met in person; and third, Hrathen, a Shu-Dereth priest, who is sent to Arelon to convert the citizens to Shu-Dereth within 3 months, or face their extermination at the hands of his religion.

The setting and the multiple nations were really interesting to read about. Sarene was brought from her home country of Teod in order to enter a political marriage to Raoden that Hrathen’s religious advances put into jeopardy. Sanderson does a fantastic job of entwining the three points of view and bringing the story together. The separate POVs also allow for some much needed movement for the plot, which is a tad slow in some areas. However, the characterization and relationships between major and minor characters makes up for that. For one novel, an incredible amount of change happens to each character.

Just like Sanderson’s Mistborn series, this book has well developed characters, an interesting magic system (though not as thoroughly discussed as Final Empire’s magic), and a magnetic pull that won’t let you put it down until you finish. Raoden and Sarene were both incredible characters that I loved to watch learn their surroundings and adapt in order to lead. Hrathen was a great character to hate, in a deeper way than just being the “bad guy.” It is honestly surprising that this was Sanderson’s first novel, as it is well written. Although there are some bumps in the pace of the plot, overall, it is a fantastically deep read for how quickly it goes. I would highly recommend this to anyone who likes fantasy, politics, magic, or Brandon Sanderson novels.

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