Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Socery of Thorns by Margaret Rogerson

Summary from Goodreads:
All sorcerers are evil. Elisabeth has known that as long as she has known anything. Raised as a foundling in one of Austermeer’s Great Libraries, Elisabeth has grown up among the tools of sorcery—magical grimoires that whisper on shelves and rattle beneath iron chains. If provoked, they transform into grotesque monsters of ink and leather. She hopes to become a warden, charged with protecting the kingdom from their power.

Then an act of sabotage releases the library’s most dangerous grimoire. Elisabeth’s desperate intervention implicates her in the crime, and she is torn from her home to face justice in the capital. With no one to turn to but her sworn enemy, the sorcerer Nathaniel Thorn, and his mysterious demonic servant, she finds herself entangled in a centuries-old conspiracy. Not only could the Great Libraries go up in flames, but the world along with them.

As her alliance with Nathaniel grows stronger, Elisabeth starts to question everything she’s been taught—about sorcerers, about the libraries she loves, even about herself. For Elisabeth has a power she has never guessed, and a future she could never have imagined.
This was the book I took with me to Chicago. It was my travel book. It kept me occupied on both flights, and I’m so glad I had it with me. Traveling home back to Boston on a mostly empty flight was a bit nerve wrecking. And I needed a good book distraction. This was definitely a good distraction.
Basically, I haven’t been loving most of the YA fantasy books I’ve been reading lately. So, I was more than happy to come across this one. More than one friend had recommended it to me. And more than one harsh critic had given it a good review, so I actually purchased it a short while ago (and I’ve been on a mostly well-applied book buying ban). I’m glad I own this one though, cause I definitely think I’ll re-read it again at some point.
It’s a fantasy romance about a girl who works in a library, where the books are alive….why wouldn’t I love this? Seriously, I’ve had dreams about these libraries since reading this. I want to go there. I know the books and magic of this world are kind of evil…but I don’t care. I want to go there.  I liked the blurred edges between good and evil in this book. I also found the world building to be really interesting and unexpected. The whole thing about magicians making deals with demons and books turning into monsters. I’ve never read anything quite like this. Also the librarians are kind of a bit like nuns…Such an interesting take on books and knowledge and the power of words, and those responsible for the keeping of knowledge.
I found the magical world obviously a lot more exciting than the enclosed library world –but a lot of that has to deal with how little the main character knew about the world until she was outside in it. There’s a bit of a “chosen one” kind of trope going on, but it has to do with living among books your whole life so I accepted it, 100%. I guess the one thing I did not love was how un-flawed the main character was. She was too good. Like she always put the good of the world before herself. She killed monsters, saved the town, helped save everyone and never thought or cared about if she’d be imprisoned or made homeless or punished for her actions. And I get that some people and characters can be rather selfless, but this was overkill to me.
I did love the romance. I loved the banter between the two of them so much. I love that they both had to learn that their relationship was what it was. I loved how brave they both were. I loved all the action scenes with the two of them. There was no nonsense about her being a girl and unable to fight. She kicked butt with her sword and became known for it. I also loved the magic. I forgot how much I missed magic in stories. I need more fantasy stories with magic in them.
All in all this was a great distraction book. If you need a good distraction right now (and let’s face it, who doesn’t?) this is a good one. It’s a nice slow burn romance. The magic and world building were great. Overall I really enjoyed this. I give it a 9/10.

Monday, March 23, 2020

The King of Crows by Libba Bray

Summary from Goodreads:
The breath-taking finale to the epic New York Times bestseller, The Diviners, from Printz winner and beloved author, Libba Bray.

After the horrifying explosion that claimed one of their own, the Diviners find themselves wanted by the US government, and on the brink of war with the King of Crows.

While Memphis and Isaiah run for their lives from the mysterious Shadow Men, Isaiah receives a startling vision of a girl, Sarah Beth Olson, who could shift the balance in their struggle for peace. Sarah Beth says she knows how to stop the King of Crows-but, she will need the Diviners' help to do it.

Elsewhere, Jericho has returned after his escape from Jake Marlowe's estate, where he has learned the shocking truth behind the King of Crow's plans. Now, the Diviners must travel to Bountiful, Nebraska, in hopes of joining forces with Sarah Beth and to stop the King of Crows and his army of the dead forever.

But as rumors of towns becoming ghost towns and the dead developing unprecedented powers begin to surface, all hope seems to be lost.

In this sweeping finale, The Diviners will be forced to confront their greatest fears and learn to rely on one another if they hope to save the nation, and world from catastrophe...
As I mentioned on Goodreads, reading Libba Bray is remembering the power of words. She will always be my favorite author. The first chapter was so good, I had to read it out loud to my husband, who had no knowledge of the series...and he loved it. Nick is now reading book 1! The power of Libba Bray’s beautiful, beautiful language!
I needed time both to digest this book and then to think about it after finishing it. It’s not the typical YA book. It’s intense. There’s some deep, dark, awful stuff in here that tears your heart into a millions tiny pieces and then plays with it….There’s the KKK. There’s more death. There’s sacrifice. There’s so much hardship for these characters that you come to love like family.
However, there are also reunions. There’s a marriage proposal! There are epic super powered battles. There are surprisingly good strangers that do good things. There are love stories. There’s live music. There’s traveling cross-country on the adventure of a lifetime. There’s also lots of fun supernatural stuff like ghosts, mythology, super powers, and apocalyptic battles.
This book is just so profoundly beautiful. Of course, Bray excels at character development. She now also is a master at setting. The landscape of the America she writes is a character of it’s own. America practically has its own heartbeat. I felt like I was on that farm with Evie. I was living on that river with those refugees. I was smelling the air on the train ride west. I was touching the grass of the circus. I felt it like I was there.
And the words! I think my favorite character is still Memphis. He makes a name for himself as he’s traveling. He calls himself the Voice of Tomorrow. He tells stories, and writes poetry everywhere he goes. Some of them get published in the newspaper. Some of them he just voices out loud. After one such story, a kid asks Memphis what happens at the end of everything. Memphis explains:
            “I suppose that depends on us,” Memphis answered. “We’ve got to be the heroes of our own stories. Sometimes that means reading the past for clues. Sometimes that means peering as much as you can into the future to light the way. Sometimes you go to work where no one can see you until you’re ready to be seen. Sometimes you got to walk in dreams so you know what a dream feels like, so you know the shape of your own longings. Other times, you got to bring the fire of your anger and righteousness! And sometimes you got to heal the things that are broken or sick. Even when it scares you. Even when you feel like walking away and pretending like you never saw the sickness. Don’t need special powers to do any of that. The truth is, the story never ends. It’s always happening. But whether it trips toward evil” –and here Memphis held out a fist –“or good,” he said, “offering the other, “well, now. That’s up to all of us. We are all storytellers telling the story, adding our piece” (248).
This book is powerful. In a way, it’s about the power of words and stories and how the media and how artists and also how influential people shape the stories we all know. It’s about doing the right thing, even if it means going against the story everyone else thinks is true. It’s about getting people to understand the truth for what it is and to listen to the stories of others. There are so many ways to dissect this novel. I could compare it to what’s going on today. I could talk about racism, about fake news, corrupt power, about history, about illness, etc.
This book is extraordinarily relevant to what is happening today. It’s a joy to read because of the action, supernatural suspense, character development, and setting. The language and writing style are just unbelievable poetic and gorgeous. I wish I could write like this. I highly recommend this book and this series to anyone really. I can’t wait for Nick to read all the books, so I can talk to him more about them. I give this a 10/10.

Sunday, March 22, 2020

A Good Week in Books (217)

So….I feel like life as we know it has changed drastically for everyone since my last blog post. Nick and I went away for a long weekend to celebrate our wedding (of 6 months ago) with my Chicago family. We literally left MA in a relatively normal time, on a full flight. And we returned to MA from Chicago 5 days later on a relatively empty flight and it feels like literally everything changed –and it changed fast.
My library is closed. I’ve been home over a week. And you’d think that would give me more time to read and write and do projects, but I just feel so stressed and on edge. I’ve been working from home, focusing on the digital aspect of my job –and learning a lot. But, it’s more than that. It’s the nightmare of this virus, and the constant awareness of how bad it is. Also, the amount of dystopias I’ve read…I’m in this constant state of worry.
All that honesty aside, I have to say thank goodness for books! I’m so thankful for the books in my life. I picked up a couple of signed books from my favorite bookstore in Chicago. I also got some ARC’s there too. My mom gifted me another signed book! I received some books for review from Macmillan and from Hachette. Also, thank goodness for my family and friends who have kept me sane through everything. I’ve definitely used more minutes on my phone plan this past week then I think I have in years…I’ve also learned how to use Zoom, and am in the process of figuring out Facebook Live. So, thank goodness for technology too. I hope everyone is doing okay out there, and staying healthy!
The new pretties:
Seasons of the Storm by Elle Cosimano (comes out 6/20)
The Betrothed by Kiera Cass (comes out 5/20)
Yes No Maybe So by Becky Albertalli and Aisha Saeed (signed)
Infinity Son by Adam Silvera (Signed)
The Dutch House by Ann Patchett (signed)
So this is Love by Elizabeth Lim
Aru Shah and the Tree of Wishes by Roshani Chokshi
Draon Hoops by Gene Luen Yang
Defy the Sun by Jessika Fleck

Tuesday, March 3, 2020

The Stars We Steal by Alexa Donne

Summary from Goodreads:
Engagement season is in the air. Eighteen-year-old Princess Leonie “Leo” Kolburg, heir to a faded European spaceship, only has one thing on her mind: which lucky bachelor can save her family from financial ruin?

But when Leo’s childhood friend and first love Elliot returns as the captain of a successful whiskey ship, everything changes. Elliot was the one that got away, the boy Leo’s family deemed to be unsuitable for marriage. Now, he’s the biggest catch of the season and he seems determined to make Leo’s life miserable. But old habits die hard, and as Leo navigates the glittering balls of the Valg Season, she finds herself falling for her first love in a game of love, lies, and past regrets.
I absolutely loved Brightly Burning, and as soon as I learned that Alexa Donne was going to re-tell an Austen story in space (like she did Bronte), I put a request in at the library. I completely forgot about said request. And then when it came in, it was like a surprise birthday present (not on my birthday). I pushed aside all other books. Persuasion is a close second favorite Austen book for me. There’s not a lot of retellings out there of it….let alone YA retellings of it…let alone YA retellings of it in space….
I’m glad that I was able to get my fears out of the way with Jane Eyre in space. So, I knew that this author could handle the intricacies of a well-known plot put to a modernized setting. Otherwise, I might have been a little hesitant to start this. Instead I approached it like a big bowl of microwave popcorn. I dug in. I left little left until I was completely done. Basically, I finished it super quickly.
I like that the author took liberties with time. Leo thankfully did not have to wait as long as Anne Elliot (From Persuasion) for the return of her true love. I also love that Donne turned Austen-eque courting into an almost The Bachelor-type dating game. I’d love to know what Jane Austen would think of reality tv dating shows…
This book also had a lot more political background to it. There’s  captain campaigns, black markets, mini revolutions, classicism, upstairs/downstairs hierarchies, and plenty of otherworldly suspense in the background of all the dating game courtships, wayward persuasions, and necessary marriage proposals. I loved every moment of it. I also loved the characters. The sister relationship, the cousin rivalry, the newfound friendships, and the dating moments were all so much fun to read about.
There were a couple of totally cliché moments involving the villain of the story and Leo’s mother that I didn’t really think added much to the overall plot. I kind of wish they weren’t there. I knew they were coming from a mile away. They made the bad character of the story seem more like a cartoon evil villain and less like a real person. I feel like she was bad enough without that. But, still, it was a very small part of the story.
This is the second Jane Austen type book I’ve read in a row, and I have to say this is definitely my preferred book of the two. I hope Alexa Donne continues to retell stories in space, and I cannot wait to see what she comes up with next. I give this a 9/10.

Monday, March 2, 2020

A Good Week in Books (216)

I’ve had a light couple of weeks. I finished one amazing sci-fi retelling. And I’m almost done with a YA masterpiece finale to what is becoming one of my all time favorite series. I received 3 new books for review. Thank you, Macmillan. And I feel like 2020 is shaping up to be a fantastic year for YA. So, let’s hope this good streak stays strong!
The new books:

The Midnight Lie by Marie Rutkoski
Phantom Twin by Lisa Brown
The Shadows Between Us by Tricia Levenseller