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review 2016-11-18 17:47
An Improvement: The Alliance of Isian | Review
The Alliance of Isian: The Isian Series, Book 2 - Serena Clarke,Carolyn Kashner,Red Mountain Shadows Publishing

A pleasant, clean, YA/NA fantasy romance.

 

War is coming and all the kingdoms must choose a side. Isian decides to make an alliance with their long-time enemies in order to defeat a common enemy. So Isian sends a proposal, offering their daughter to the prince, in order to ensure an alliance. Princess Gabrielle and her new husband, Prince Alec must learn to work together and trust each other in order to triumph in the approaching war. With a mysterious beast attacking the kingdom, their lives in danger, and overcoming their vast cultural differences, will love grow despite their trials?

 

Buy Now | +Goodreads

Disclosure: GMB uses affiliate links, clicking and making a purchase may result in a small commission for me.


Source: I received this book for free from the publisher. My opinions are my own.

 

BOOK DETAILS:

The Alliance of Isian by Serena Clarke, read by Carolyn Kashner, published by Red Mountain Shadows (2016) / Length: 7 hrs 30 min

 

SERIES INFO:

This is Book #2 of 3 in the "Isian" series, but could easily be read as a standalone. Number 3 is not yet available on audio.

 

SUMMARY:

In my review for Book #1, I wrote how that book didn't really appeal to me until the final third of the story. Thankfully, this book was more enjoyable almost from the start. I still feel that there isn't anything outstanding here, and that the dialog often seems too contemporary, but it was a sweet fantasy romance.

 

I have tagged the book with diversity, as Gabrielle and her family are POC and their country has different customs & culture.

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review 2016-09-24 07:01
A Prophecy Fulfilled: The Bronze Key | Review
The Bronze Key: The Magisterium, Book 3 - Holly Black,Cassandra Clare,Paul Boehmer,Listening Library

The camaraderie really clicks in this MG Contemporary Fantasy installment - just in time for things to really go sideways.

 

Students at the Magisterium are supposed to be safe. Under the watchful eyes of the mages, they are taught to use magic to bring order to a chaotic world. But now the chaos is fighting back. Call, Tamara, and Aaron should be worrying about things like pop quizzes and magic contests. Instead, after the shocking death of one of their classmates, they must track down a sinister killer...and risk their own lives in the process.

 

As Call, Tamara, and Aaron discover, magic can only be as good as the person who wields it. In evil hands it has the capacity to do immeasurable harm - unless it is stopped in time.

 

Buy Now | +Goodreads

Disclosure: GMB uses affiliate links, clicking and making a purchase may result in a small commission for me.


Source: I borrowed this book from the library and have added it to my Wishlist.

 

BOOK DETAILS:

The Bronze Key by Holly Black & Cassandra Clare, read by Paul Boehmer, published by Listening Library (2016) / Length: 8 hrs 30 min

 

SERIES INFO:

This is book #3 of the "Magisterium" series. There are expected to be five in total, with #4 & #5 (currently titled The SIlver Mask & The Enemy of Death) to be published in 2017 & 2018 respectively.

 

**This review contains spoilers for the previous book(s).**

 

SUMMARY:

This series is just getting stronger; and, although I continue to wish for more development of the side characters, Call is a current favorite protagonist.

 

This is a really fast read, with excellent pacing. And while I had correctly guessed who the spy was long ago, there was another secret revealed that completely surprised me.

 

As was revealed in various summaries, there are some deaths in this book; and while I was sad, the ending really left me excited for the next one.

 

CHARACTERS:

Callum Hunt: He starts the book in a really good place. He has accepted himself and no longer feels the need to evaluate his every action for potential evil overlordness.

 

That's not to say that everything is perfect in his life. He still feels insecure in his friendships, although they have moved beyond the conflict of the previous books. Even Jasper has ceased to be his nemesis and is officially labeled "frenemy."

 

WORLDBUILDING:

We only visit one new major setting in this book - the Collegium (where the students move on to after the Magisterium). But we also see some new places in the Magisterium and learn a bit more about the magical society, which is still a bit dystopian if you ask me.

 

PLOT:

I loved the beginning. Aaron is staying with Call this summer and it sounds like they really had a lot of fun. We get a bit of Tamara via phone. The catch-up/reminder stuff is well integrated. Call is a thinker and it was done via his thoughts, in a very natural way.

 

The end is definitely a cliffhanger that will leave you desperate for the next one.

 

HIGHLIGHTS / CAUTIONS:

  • Robot wars.
  • They discourage a potential new roommate.
  • Call's disability continues to be acknowledged. Sometimes magic helps, but other times he has to let his friends do what he can't.

 

I COULD HAVE DONE WITHOUT: The angsty "dating" & relationship stuff. It has never felt necessary to me. / Algae tea

 

NARRATION:

Character voices differentiated = Yes / Opposite sex voices acceptable = Yes. His voice is very deep, so the voices don't sound at all feminine but aren't falsetto or annoying. / Phrasing, Pacing & Pronunciation = Good / Emoting = Good. He continues to really capture the feeling of Call's story. / Speed = listened on 1.25, my usual.

 

BOOK DETAILS:

The Bronze Key (Magisterium #3) by Holly Black & Cassandra Clare, read by Paul Boehmer, published by Listening Library (2016) / Length: 8 hrs 30 min Buy Now | +Goodreads

Talk to Me (pretty please)

  • Who's your favorite snarky but not mean Middle Grade protagonist?
  • What's your opinion on romance & love triangles in MG fiction?

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review 2016-08-31 17:00
How Do You Forge a Soul?: The Emperor's Soul | Review
The Emperor's Soul - Brandon Sanderson,Angela Lin

This Fantasy novella is a treat for anyone who loves character based fiction.

 

 

Shai is a Forger, a foreigner who can flawlessly copy and re-create any item by rewriting its history with skillful magic. Condemned to death after trying to steal the emperor’s scepter, she is given one opportunity to save herself. Though her skill as a Forger is considered an abomination by her captors, Shai will attempt to create a new soul for the emperor, who is almost dead.

 

Buy Now | +Goodreads

Disclosure: GMB uses affiliate links, clicking and making a purchase may result in a small commission for me.


Source: I purchased this book myself from Audible.

 

BOOK DETAILS:

The Emperor's Soul by Brandon Sanderson, read by Angela Lin, published by Recorded Books (2012) / Length: 3 hrs 55 min

 

SERIES INFO:

This is a standalone novella. (It takes place on the same world as Elantris, which is part of Sanderson's larger Cosmere, but is unconnected.)

 

SUMMARY:

If you are someone who prefers books with lots of action, then this probably isn't for you. The only action is fairly brief, and doesn't come until towards the end. I, however, loved it for the way it explored both character and (non-romantic) relationships.

 

My question in the title has a double meaning. It stands both for Shai's profession as an art/soul forger and for forging in the sense of "making or shaping." One of the underlying themes of the story has to do with how the Emperor's soul developed the way it did the first time, and how the littlest decisions can put you on a path.

 

I have added the Diversity tag since, like many of Sanderson's other works, this has fantasy versions of Asian characters and cultures. (He spent two years in Korea as a young man.)

 

CHARACTERS:

Shai: I always struggle with protagonists who are criminals. I don't believe that crime should be portrayed as fun, harmless or even just acceptable. This book doesn't really go into that; it is more about what constitutes art and the ethics of that.

 

The aspect of Shai I found most interesting was the way she (beyond temporarily changing her own soul magically, or even just using a typical con artists ability to play a role) would reframe her own reactions by mentally chosing to become someone who was capable of dealing with her current situation calmly.

 

Gaotana: I love his complexity. He just wants to do what is best, but is also judgemental.

 

I usually include a section on the romantic relationship in this section. There isn't one here, but relation- ships are nevertheless a central theme. Gaotana is the hub around which things turn. His relationship with Shai, and with Ashravan. There is also a subtle message about the way we see people vs the way they are.

 

Allthough he is the next thing to dead from before the book starts, Ashravan, remains a central character. I like that, Emperor or not, he actually loved his wife.

 

WORLDBUILDING:

As usual, Sanderson builds a unique magic system with internally consistent rules and natural drawbacks. I love the discussion as to whether there is less merit to a work of art created using magic than to one created with actual paints. I'm sure this parallels arguments that digital artists deal with.

 

The novella takes place almost entirely within the palace, and mostly within a single room, and yet there is a feeling of a whole world behind it. And Shai's talent gives a natural opportunity to explore the objects in the room and what she can do with them.

 

PLOT:

I am not a big reader of short fiction. This novella was the perfect length for me though. The beginning sucks you in as everyone is afraid of something. It then takes its time to explore the themes, before ending with a perfect blend of action and emotion.

 

HIGHLIGHTS / CAUTIONS:

  • Shai & Gaotana's last moments together
  • The very end with Gaotana alone

 

I COULD HAVE DONE WITHOUT: a bit of fantasy language swearing (and the explanation of the word's meaning) / the concept of the blood magic *shudder*

 

OTHER CAUTIONSCaution: It is mentioned that a married guard is having an affair / There is some brief somewhat brutal violence

 

NARRATION:

Character voices differentiated = Yes / Opposite sex voices acceptable = Yes, I especially enjoyed Gaotana's voice which really captured the essence of his character / Phrasing, Pacing & Pronunciation = Good, I think I heard 2 small mispronunciations / Emoting = Good / Speed = listened on 1.25, my usual.

 

BOOK DETAILS:

The Emperor's Soul by Brandon Sanderson, read by Angela Lin, published by Recorded Books (2012) / Length: 3 hrs 55 min Buy Now | +Goodreads

Talk to Me (pretty please)

  • I don't read a lot of short fiction, what is your favorite standalone novella?
  • Does it bother you when the "hero" of a story is a criminal?

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review 2016-08-06 16:50
Trying to be a Lover as well as a Fighter: Firefight | Review
Firefight - MacLeod Andrews,Brandon Sanderson

I love David's character growth in this YA Superpowered Dystopia.

 

They told David it was impossible—that even the Reckoners had never killed a High Epic. Yet, Steelheart—invincible, immortal, unconquerable—is dead. And he died by David's hand.

 

Eliminating Steelheart was supposed to make life more simple. Instead, it only made David realize he has questions. Big ones. And there's no one in Newcago who can give him the answers he needs.

 

Babylon Restored, the old borough of Manhattan, has possibilities, though.

 

Buy Now | +Goodreads

Whispersync Deal Alert*: Audible = $3.99.

Disclosure: GMB uses affiliate links, clicking and making a purchase may result in a small commission for me.


Source: I purchased this book myself from Audible

 

BOOK DETAILS:

Firefight by Brandon Sanderson, read by MacLeod Andrews, published by Audible Studios (2015) / Length: 11 hrs 39 min

 

SERIES INFO:

This is Book #2 of 3 in "The Reckoners" trilogy. All three, and a novella, are out and available on audio.

 

**This review contains spoilers for the previous book(s).**

 

SUMMARY:

I have read some reviews of this book by people who don't like the romance. That's my favorite part, along with all the changes happening within the various characters. The action for me will always be secondary and I only enjoy it if it is firmly rooted in the characters and how & why they fight the way they do.

 

I have marked this with Diversity, since Val is Hispanic & Mizzy's African American and there are more roles for females in this one. (In the last one, Abraham was like the token "black guy" and Tia & Megan were the only females with true speaking parts)

 

 

CHARACTERS:

David: As I said above, I love his character growth, especially his developing compassion and awareness of the wider world. The bad metaphors did occasionally get to be a bit much, but the funny thing is that he isn't that bad at them unless he's trying not to be.

 

Megan/Firefight: I find that the contrast between how totally competent she really is as a fighter and her insecurities regarding her powers (and tendency to compare them to those of others) makes her seem like very normal young woman. I really enjoyed reading about her struggle to be something more (or is it less) than just an Epic.

 

David & Megan: In the last book, David confessed his feelings to Megan after her death, since he didn't know she was an Epic & could reincarnate. The stuff between them in this one were my favorite parts, and I loved them all. If I have anything negative to say about this relationship, it's that they have a little too much in common, which seems slightly unrealistic. But this is definitely a couple that could make it work - if it weren't for a few little things that might end up with his having to kill her. And that's if she's not just playing him after all.

 

Abraham & Cody are left behind in Newcago. In this book we have a new team: Val - mostly just grumpy & curt / XL - a bit creepy, but also a bit too much like Abraham / Mizzy - she is unique and fun. She's kind of their Q, but wants to be in on the action. I think she and David contrast nicely.

 

Prof & Tia - I had some issues with them this time around. They are struggling to adjust to the changes that David has introduced, and he's the one who suffers as a result.

 

The main villains in this one are: Regalia, the water controlling Epic who runs the city, and Obliteration, an Epic with bomb like powers. In addition, we have the mysterious Dawnslight, who is practically worshiped by citizens but may not be real.

 

WORLDBUILDING:

We get a whole new city in this book. Instead of the steel catacombs of an always night-time Newcago (Chicago) where people go about their business grimly - We get a glow-in-the-dark Babilar (Babylon Restored, i.e. sunken Manhattan) where people chose to party the nights away on the rooftops of the city's tallest buildings. The atmosphere & people in the city remind me of those usually seen in fictional accounts of New Orleans.

 

In Steelheart, David was extremely familiar with the city. The book started with his crazy dash through it, which demonstrated that. Here, he is not only unfamiliar with the geography but with the customs. I would say he is a fish out of water, but in this case it's more like a (non-aquatic) bird in the water.

 

PLOT:

The story starts in Newcago, as the Reckoners battle an Epic who has come to destroy them following their victory over Steelheart. It serves as a smooth way to introduce what happened in the previous book and the relationships that David had developed up to now.

 

One of the main themes in this book is trust. Everyone in the Reckoners seems to be working behind everyone else's back, rather than demonstrating true trust. And David's opinions and beliefs regarding the Epics are beginning to change. The book also centers on the fact that no one really knows anyone else's plan, whether they be ally or enemy (or even who's who at certain times).

 

This book ends with a full on cliffhanger, followed by a small wrapup scene.

 

HIGHLIGHTS / CAUTIONS:

  • Fortune cookie text messages
  • When David learns the truth about Calamity (and what happens after Regalia tries to punish him)
  • The big confrontation scene at the end, once everyone's plans have played out, and the quiet moments afterwards.

 

I COULD HAVE DONE WITHOUT: a bit of swearing

 

OTHER CAUTIONSCaution: There is violence in this book, and people do get killed, but it isn't graphic for the most part.

 

NARRATION:

Character voices differentiated = Yes; I think Mizzy's voice especially fits her, although I'm not sure what her accent is supposed to be. / Opposite sex voices acceptable = Yes / Accents good = ? (this is a post apocalyptic world, so I'm not sure we can map the accents to our current world) / Phrasing, Pacing & Pronunciation = Good / Emoting = Good / Speed = listened on 1.25, my usual

 

I always enjoy MacLeod Andrews narration and this is no exception. I feel like he truly conveys the growing complexities of David.

 

BOOK DETAILS:

Firefight (The Reckoners #2) by Brandon Sanderson, read by MacLeod Andrews, published by Audible Studios (2015) / Length: 11 hrs 39 min Buy Now | +Goodreads

Talk to Me (pretty please)

  • I've never been into comic books, but have recently enjoyed several regular books with super powered characters. Can you recommend some good ones?
  • Does it bother you when a group that has been working together suddenly start experiencing conflict?

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review 2016-07-16 16:31
Now SF Also: The Disappearance of Ember Crow | Review
The Disappearance of Ember Crow (The Tribe) - Ambelin Kwaymullina,Cara Gee

The previous book was a YA Post-Apocalyptic Paranormal Dystopia. This one has something for the SF lover as well.

 

After a daring raid on Detention Center 3 to rescue their trapped peers, Ashala Wolf and her Tribe of fellow Illegals - children with powerful and inexplicable abilities - are once again entrenched in their safe haven, the Firstwood. Existing in alliance with the ancient trees and the giant intelligent lizards known as saurs, the young people of the Tribe do their best to survive and hide. But the new peace is fractured when Ashala's friend Ember Crow goes missing, leaving only a cryptic message behind. Ember claims to be harboring terrible secrets about her past that could be a threat to the Tribe and all Illegals. Ashala and her boyfriend, Connor, spring into action, but with Ashala's Sleepwalking ability functioning erratically and unknown enemies lying in wait, leaving the Firstwood is a dangerous proposition. Can Ashala and Connor protect the Tribe and bring Ember home, or must they abandon one to save the other?

 

Buy Now | +Goodreads

Whispersync Deal Alert*: Audible = $3.99.

Disclosure: GMB uses affiliate links, clicking and making a purchase may result in a small commission for me.


BOOK DETAILS:

The Disappearance of Ember Crow by Ambelin Kwaymullina, read by Cara Gee, published by Candlewick on Brilliance Audio (2016) / Length: 9 hrs 35 min

 

SERIES INFO:

This is Book #2 of 3 in "The Tribe" trilogy. Book #3, The Foretelling of Georgie Spider, has already been published in Australia, but no U.S. publication date has yet been announced.

 

**This review contains spoilers for the previous book.**

 

SUMMARY:

I didn't rate this one as high as the previous one (which got 4.5*) because I felt like it took a while to get started. (And possibly because I was a bit sad to see conflict between Ashala & Connor, although I believe it was realistic and well handled.)

 

I liked the cover of this one better than the last one, although the just showing one eye theme means we don't get to see Ember's mismatched eyes.

 

This is another instance in which Audible placed a YA books in the 11-13 age category. I'm not sure what's up with that.

 

I tagged this one with Diversity, since it features an Australian Aboriginal character & beliefs and is written by an #ownvoices author.

 

 

CHARACTERS:

Ashala & Connor: There were so many things I wanted to say about this relationship in my review of the first book, but couldn't since they were all spoilers. One of those things was the fact that this was a case of semi-Instalove that I didn't mind. I believe that Connor was already half in love with Ashala before they ever met, due to having carefully studied her file. Then when Ashala actually shared his memories, she developed feelings for him. Her acceptance of him into the Tribe in such an intimate way (being willing to share a memory of her own), sealed it for him. (Going back and finding the evidence of their true relationship is a joy.)

 

In this book, Connor is growing and changing; and like any good partner, he helps Ashala do so as well. Although I hate to see conflict, I love the way Connor stands up for what he needs and for equality of expectations & risk. (I'm not one of those people who thinks that true love means doing anything for and taking anything from the other person. A healthy relationship requires communication and boundaries, and we get to see that here.)

 

Ember Crow: The fact that Ember has secrets is a central point of the book, so I don't think it is a spoiler to say I could never have seen this twist coming when I started, wow. Yet it all remains consistent with what has come before.

 

Georgie & Daniel - I am guessing that they are going to become a couple in the next book. It will be nice to learn more about 2 people who have been so important to the survival of the Tribe. / Jules - I am anticipating seeing more of him and how he might change & grow in the next book.

 

WORLDBUILDING:

We get to see more of the world in this one. Ember visits Fern City, which is a city constantly battling being taken over by the jungle. And a good portion of the book takes place in Spinifex City, where everyone is obsessed with a local drink but otherwise very laid back for this world. We also learn some very important things about about how the current dystopian state of their society developed.

 

PLOT:

As I said in the Summary, I felt like this one got off to a bit of a slow start. It wasn't until Ashala got a message that there was finally news from Ember that things started to take off.

 

Flashbacks through shared memories continue to be an important part of the narrative, and so this book isn't straightforward or chronological.

 

The previous book ended with the feeling that, although they hadn't changed the world, they had reached a stopping point. This one has a cliffhanger. The ending is nice, and some personal stuff is resolved, but there is a lot hanging over their head.

 

HIGHLIGHTS / CAUTIONS:

  • Nicky
  • Although it isn't pointed out directly, there were a couple of instances where I felt like Ember was emulating Ashala's best qualities
  • Jeremy Duoro (a normal human fighting for Illegals' rights) - I didn't get much of a feel for him in the last book, but the scenes related to him in this one were some of the best.

 

OTHER CAUTIONSCaution: There are some hints of intimacy between certain characters. / One character is still mourning his deceased male lover.

 

NARRATION:

Note: I am not sure how fair a review of the narrator this is. I really liked Candice Moll's narration of the first book, especially the Australian accent. Plus I very rarely like it when they change narrators mid-way. It would have been different if the majority of the book had been from Ember's POV, thus making it logical to have a different reader. But the central character is still Ashala.

 

Character voices differentiated = Only "sort of" / Opposite sex voices acceptable = just barely, I wasn't fond of Connor's voice at all / Accents good = Not applicable / Phrasing, Pacing & Pronunciation = Good / Emoting = Good / Speed = Slow; I listened on 1.5 instead of my usual 1.25

 

BOOK DETAILS:

The Disappearance of Ember Crow (The Tribe trilogy #2) by Ambelin Kwaymullina, read by Cara Gee, published by Candlewick (2016) / Length: 9 hrs 35 min Buy Now | +Goodreads

Talk to Me (pretty please)

  • Can you recommend any other books that mix paranormal and scifi?
  • Do you think Instalove is ever justified?

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