Quick Review: Steel Tide by Natalie C. Parker

I really love this series. It just gets better. Caeldonia and her crew have been separated because Cala couldn’t help herself and tried to take on Lir at the end of Seafire. Fortunately for her she was saved by the Blades, a group of former bullets. They heal her and she convinces them to help her get her crew back, even though it would mean for them to go back to some old bullet homesteads and put them in danger. The great thing about this book is that we truly get to see why Cala is the captain and why people are so willing to follow her. She had strength in the Seafire but we had met her after she had assembled her crew. In Steel Tide, we get a glimpse of her she was able to assemble her crew in the first place and earn such loyalty from them. Cala is a little rough behind the edges but she is so smart and brave that it’s hard to believe she can do everything. She has the ability to see every aspect of the situation and come up with the plan and execute no matter how impossible it may seem. Her belief that she is right and able to make the impossible possible make people follow her. Cala confidence also grows, she is still unsure why she is the leader and doubts her own skills but she knows something has to be done and is willing to do it. She has given people hope so the next book is going to be epic. I can’t wait to read it.

Review: Caraval Trilogy by Stephanie Garber

***MInor Spoilers***

All and all this was an enjoyable series. The Caraval trilogy is about sisters, Scarlett and Tella. In their own ways they both are obsessed with a mysterious and magical game called Caraval. It is lead by the even more mysterious Legend. Scarlett for years wrote letters to Legend begging him to bring his game to their small island for her sister’s birthday to no avail. That is until the invitation to play the game finally comes on the eve of her wedding. Scarlett is thrilled at the offer but doesn’t want to accept because she has convinced herself that her upcoming marriage will save her and her sister from the abusive father. Tella has either ideas and with the help of the charming Julian, Scarlett is whisked away to Legend’s private island to play Caraval. She plays the game in earnest as Tella is taken and to win the game she must find her before anyone else. It’s whimsical and heartbreaking as Scarlett overcomes her own fears and traumas to win the game and find her sister. Now, Tella I do not like as much as Scarlett. In fact if my sister did to me what Tella does to Scarlett I wouldn’t be so forgiving. I was very upset with how it ended and after finding out the second book, is from Tella’s point of view I almost didn’t want to read it. It wasn’t that bad. While Scarlett is earnest and constantly thinking of her sister and others, Tella is selfish and self involved. This Caraval isn’t like the others because it’s the real this time. The Fates who once ruled and were cruel were trapped in a deck of cards and are threatening to be released. The only person in their way is Tella. She made a a deal with the Prince of Hearts to help her get to the Caraval and in return she needed to find the true identity of Legend. Tella didn’t know she made a deal with a Fate. In the process of playing the game, Tella falls in love with a man named Dante who is more then she bargains for. If Tella wins she will either doom humanity by betraying Dante and Caraval or lose more of her family by betraying the Prince of Hearts. Well, things don’t end the way anyone thought and the final book has alternating POV of Scarlett and Tella. Honestly, I really wish it had more Scarlett then Tella but it was welcomed development to have Scarlett back. She was a little frustrating at first because she insisted on getting to know the Fiance she left behind and for little pay off. He was there and then not. Same with their Mother. Tella spends all of the second book, trying to release her only to have her die a few chapters into the third. Minor criticisms. The biggest issue I have that was never addressed is this. The end of the first book, Tella is believed dead by their abusive father. When the second book, they are invited to go with Caraval to the capital of the Empire. Scarlett doesn’t want to go because her former fiance lived there and was afraid they might be seen and word would get back to their father. So what does Tella do? She gets in engaged to the heir to the Throne. Their abusive father is the Governor of the island they grew up on. While news may travel slowly to their former home, it would eventually get to him that the heir was engaged and surely he would have recognized his own daughter. It was like this whole plot point was just forgotten and we are supposed to forget it too but it bothered me the rest of the series. Other than that, I enjoyed this series and I’m glad that I waited to read it until it was completed to start reading it. It’s nice to read a series all together for once.

Review: Seafire by Natalie C. Parker

I fell in love with the premise of this book immediately. A crew of woman sailors out for revenge against the regime that killed or hurt their families. It just seemed like the book I needed to read right now. Caledonia Styx, the captain is a flawed heroine for sure but she is also a good leader. Wracked with guilt after hesitating to kill the Bullet, member of the so called Army that rules the oceans, that lead to the death of her own family. She builds her ship and crew along with her friend Pieces. Many of her decisions on her personal desire to kill this one Bullet and this at times clouds her judgment. The weight of being the Captain and responsible for the lives of her crew members weighs heavily on her as their mission becomes more and more dangerous. After taking on one enemies ship they take on a Bullet. She doesn’t trust him but he offers her information that she can’t deny and things start moving very fast.

From the very beginning this book was intense. I could feel the tension that the characters were feeling throughout their journey. The story is in Caledonia’s point of view and we get a glimpsed of a determined but also conflicted girl. She is a born leader and has the complete loyalty of her crew but has so many doubts and fears that she can’t see it. Almost the entire book , Pieces tells her how much she needs to let go and trust that her crew has her back and just when I thought the message got through, she does something stupid but I won’t go into that because that would spoil the end. That’s the beauty of this book. It really is about female friendship. Caledonia only succeeds because of the crew she assembled and that’s a powerful message. Often girls are taught to be in competition with each other but we can be so much stronger together. All of the characters are fully fleshed out. We don’t get as much of their back story but we get full character traits and that each girl is their own person. In the upcoming books, I hope we get more of her crew and where they came from and how they joined the crew. I really loved this book and happy and sad that it’s a trilogy because I don’t want to journey to end but I also want to read the next book like right now.

Quick Review: A Question of Holmes by Brittany Cavallaro

I thought that the Charlotte Holmes series was only so supposed to be a trilogy. In fact, it was in my year-end review of Series I said good bye too last year. So talk about a surprise to find out that there was a fourth book. It’s always a little unnerving when an author decides to extend their series beyond the original plans because sometimes the story just isn’t there to support it. I felt that A Case for Jamie ended things pretty well. Lucien Moriarty was caught and Jamie and Charlotte were able to have a reconciliation. They didn’t know where their relationship was going to go but they knew that they were going to have some kind of relationship. I thought it was good way to end it. This book really wasn’t necessary but also not unwanted or unwarranted. Charlotte and Jamie are in Oxford for summer courses and while they are there they pick up a case. The year before, the drama department had a series of unfortunate accidents that ended with a student disappearing. The stakes are not as high this time, since the mystery has nothing to do with them but it still works. Charlotte is healing from the all the trauma of the past couple of years and from her family. Living with her Uncle Leander has really been good for her. It also, as well as this case, has given her time to figure out what she wants to do with her life and who she is. It also gives her time to truly work out her feelings for Jaime. I missed Jamie’s narration but it was fascinating to be on Charlotte’s head a little more. Getting a first hand account of not just how she deduces but also how she is processing her own trauma. I think we expect people to get over the trauma quickly and move on but it’s not the simple. We don’t change over night and that is what this novel illustrates. It’s a little bittersweet but also very healthy. I’m glad we had this final chapter. It may not have been as exciting as the previous books, it did give us the true closure we needed.

Review: The Wicked King by Holly Black

I’ve said it one but I’ll say it again. Holly Black is at her best when she writes about fairies. She is just well versed in fairy mythology that makes this world feel so steeped in tradition but also new and original. Add all he Royal Court intrigue and you have one great story. The Wicked King is the second book of her Folk of the Air trilogy and after the first book there was a lot of stack. Jude outmaneuvered her father to get the throne away from him and save her brother from having to grow up to soon. She tricked Carden into the throne while controlling him and thus the real power in the kingdom. A lot of the story revolves around those who have power and those who do not. Jude a human living in Fairy often times felt powerless. Even though she learned how to fight from Madoc she would always be at a disadvantage but the thing she has over fairies is that she can lie. Lying and her cleverness is what got her this far but controlling Carden is harder than she anticipated. He doesn’t like being commanded by her anymore than he does being the High King. Things get even more complicated when the Queen of the Undersea is taking this moment to push her advantage and someone close to Jude has or will betray her. Fairies may not be able to lie but that doesn’t mean they can’t deceive. Jude’s strength is her ability to strategies. To see Jude constantly adjusting and planning is truly fascinating. She is constantly looking at all the angles but even the best make mistakes. As much as she plans, she can’t always see the whole chess board. In the end, after all her planning and scheming she is not only maneuvered by Madoc but Carden as well. I’ll admit, I did not see the ending coming. I guess I should have guessed something was up since the title of the next book is The Queen of Nothing but it was still stunning. It’s agonizing that I have to wait until next year to find out what’s going to happen but I know one thing. Jude has not been defeated yet. She’ll be back and all fairies better beware.

Review: Queen of Air and Darkness by Cassandra Clare

Earlier this week I told Kate that I keep trying to Quit Cassandra Clare and her Shadowhunters but just can’t. This was after a discussion of authors continue stories of characters after the story had ended. She felt that Clary and Jace, Simon and Alec’s story ended up after the original trilogy. Not that I totally disagreed with her. I didn’t really like the second Mortal Instruments trilogy as much as the original but it did bring about some interesting characters that wouldn’t have existed if Clare had stop after the first three. I keep reading her Shadowhunters novels because Clare knows how to write characters. The secondary characters in The Dark Artifices are so well constructed it really brings to life the story. I have nothing against Julian and Emma but I was far more interested in Diana, a transgender shadowhunter who lived in fear of being found out. Despite her own fears she remained a well respected in the community. As cliche as it sounds, it took the Gwyn the fame leader of the Wild Hunt to see her as she is and without question to give her the strength to stop hiding. Ty a shadowhunter with autism. Shadowhunters have long shunned mundane medicine, so Autism isn’t something that they know or understand. Of course that can be said for us Mundanes as well. To Shadowhunters he seems strange and slow but he is actually quite brilliant. Change is not something that deals with easily so when his twin dies at the end of the last book and how he deals with it is so heartbreaking. And then there is Christina, Mark and Kieran. A Shadowhunter, a shadowhunter half fairy and a full fairy prince in a full blown three-mance. (is that a word? Well it is now because I not sure how to explain their relationship) Of course there is Magnus, the high Warlock of all our hearts still about. Helen and Aline a married shadowhunter couple coming back from exile and so many more. I know that Clare has been planning these books out years ago so she knew where the story was going to back in 2012 when she first introduced the Blackthorns. She couldn’t have known that her story of Shadowhunters using fear and bigotry to lead them towards fascism and tyranny would be so timely. Sadly. It only makes the wide variety of characters from different backgrounds, cultures, races, beliefs and lifestyles that more vibrant. The story would not have worked or would have not been as enjoyable without such a diverse and inclusive cast, just as our world is far better off with wide array of voices and viewpoints. No matter what people tell you. So while, I do agree that some of her characters stories have passed and it’s time to move on, I’m glad that she has continued the story to include so many more voices because it has definitely kept me interested.

Review: Kingdom of Ashes by Sarah J Maas

What a way to end a series.  It was seven books in the making and finally know how it all came together.  Aelin and her friends have been on a quite a journey.  From the beginning when Aelin was just an assassin and Dorian was a spoiled Prince.  It was expanded so far beyond that now. To other continents and other worlds.  What I liked about this was that every character had a role to play in the ending and that is quite a feat as there are a lot of characters.  I mean we are talking about Game of Thrones level of characters.  They are all flawed people but have one goal to defeat Erawan and Maeve and create a better world.  It wasn’t easy and there were many twists and turns along the way.  It started off slow as the characters were spread far and wide.  It also took me awhile to reacquaint myself with some of the characters as for most of them it’s been two years since the last time we have seen them but once they started to come together that it really started to pick up and get going.  So many story arcs to wrap up and most of them were.  I think a few left open a bit that we could go back and revisit Erilea.  Let’s get back to Aelin as she is really the heroine here.  Of all the characters she has been through the most.  She started out as a assassin and ended up a Queen.  She has endured enough trauma for several lifetimes and would have been forgiven if she gave up and she had plenty of chances to do just that but she doesn’t.  She gave everything she had for her country and her friends.  She used her intelligence and skills to outwit and defeat her enemies as much as she used her power.  I’ll miss reading about her because she was fun, smart and spunky. If you haven’t read this series you should and lucky you, you can now read it in it’s entirety without wearing years between books. 

Review: The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks

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So, I enjoyed this book immensely. It was so, so good. Its critique of society was subtle, but apparent, its heroine was super likable. Man, I love when a book is this enjoyable.

I think my favorite part was how Frankie grew and learned while the novel progressed. I also think it was great how she clearly struggled with wanting to be a part of something and wanting to create her own path and do her own thing.

Anyway.

This book is the story of Frankie Landau-Banks who, at the outset of the novel, confesses to conceiving of a series of pranks/vandalism that took place at her elite boarding school and were carried out by The Loyal Order of the Bassett Hounds, a secret society at said institution. From there, they go back to the beginning and lay out exactly what happened to bring her to this confession. The pranks are fun and the way she goes about getting them accomplished is pretty genius. Or, if not genius, is pretty clever.

I enjoyed this so much, and if you like reading about high school shenanigans and social commentary, I think you’ll like this one, too.

Review: Rainbirds by Clarissa Goenawan

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There was a time in my life when I almost exclusively read literary fiction. This is obviously not that time and so I’m both a little surprised and thrilled that the Asian Lit Bingo challenge got me to read two works of literary fiction in (a little more than) a month. Rainbirds was the second of these novels. It is set in Japan and follows Ren Ishida as he goes to the small city of Akakawa to take care of his sister’s affairs following her unexpected and untimely death. Keiko, you see, was murdered.

The novel is a slow burn. Ren decides to stay in Akakawa after he’s asked to take over his sister’s position at a cram school. He is finishing up his time at university, having submitted his thesis for his Masters degree in English literature at a university in Tokyo. He even moves into her unconventional living situation. His sister had been living rent-free in the home of a wealthy politician in exchange for bringing his catatonic wife lunch and reading to her every day. The story moves back and forth between Ren’s memories of growing up with his sister, who was almost a decade older than him, and the present-time narrative of Ren putting his sister to rest while trying to figure out how she died.

As Ren gets to know people in Akakawa, so do we. They are an interesting cast of characters. These side narratives help to build a picture of the city and also of Keiko’s life prior to her death. Ren discovers that he didn’t know his sister as well as he thought he had.

This novel was not what I expected it to be. After reading a few reviews before selecting it, I expected something more fast-paced and centered on the murder. But, this novel was slower and took was through many little mysteries to eventually weave a heartbreaking picture of this young man coming to terms with a tremendous loss. I am so glad that I picked this up, even if it broke my heart.

The audio book was read by David Shih and he did a wonderful job.

Quick Review: The Princess Diarist by Carrie Fisher

img_1088 The Princess Diarist is as heartbreaking as it is heartwarming. Carrie Fisher dusted off her old diaries she wrote while filming the first Star Wars movie in 1977.  Like everything in her life, she is brutally honest about what she saw and what she did and tells it with a biting sense of humor.  Reading this a year after her untimely death is definitely after bittersweet as she was more or less correct about her own obituaries would say and what pictures they would use. The bulk of this memoir is focused on her affair with costar Harrison Ford, who as you know played Han Solo.  Passages of her diary talks of her struggle to deal with the knowledge she is having an affair with a married costar and how she is falling in love with him even after telling herself that she wouldn’t.  She also talks about how she struggled on the set, being told to lose weight and hours in hair and make up and keeping up the facade that she was more experienced than she actually was and of course the awkward promotion of the movie after the release.  Carrie Fisher became Princess Leia in this diary and the transition wasn’t smooth.  There was a lot bumps and bruises along the way but she eventually found peace with her alter ego.  Honestly, we are lucky to have had Carrie as our Princess Leia and as our General Organa.

Kate and started this book by listening to it on audio book.  Carrie reads the book while her daugher Billie Lourd reads her diary passages.  I finished the book as an ebook and even though I was reading it instead of listening, I could hear her voice in my head.  Ebook or audio book, Carrie distinctive voice came through.