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review 2016-10-29 19:23
mind bogglingly unique, fantastical read
Magonia - Maria Dahvana Headley

"I’m dark matter. The universe inside me is full of something, and science can’t even shine a light on it. I feel like I’m mostly made of mysteries."

It was slightly past 12 AM, on day I Lost Track Of My Book Ping-ponging Slump. I had been having a rough night and I was throwing a Hail Mary, just looking for something... anything, to hold my attention long enough to get past the first few chapters. I found a sample of this book just lurking around my ereader for a while and have been sidestepping it mainly because of my GR friend's reviews. A LOT of people said it was merely ok, they didn't get it or were flat out disappointed. It might have been my need to shake things up a bit or a plea for a little ethereality in my life but I have to say that I...100%...disagree!! I really REALLY liked it!!

"I saw a circular diagram of the sky, and the stars looked like breeding fruit flies in a petri dish, and I was So Obsessed), the patterns of the stars form letters. Celestial alphabets. Writing that gets rewritten as the earth moves. If you look at the sky that way, it’s this massive shifting poem, or maybe a letter, first written by one author, and then, when the earth moves, annotated by another. So I stare and stare until, one day, I can read it."


Somewhere around 4:30 AM I decided that functioning properly during daylight hours is completely overrated and put the kettle on (in my head) and soldiered (euphorically) on. Was that logical? Debatable... Entertaining? Undeniably!! Yes, the beginning drags a bit (especially waiting for a young girl to kick it?!?). Yes, the ethereal part is SUPER out there, INCREDIBLY unique and at times a little disturbing to visualize...BUT, I bet you will not find a predecessor quite like this one floating around out there (hehehe). There are some standard issued tropes, though spun here completely anew. There are firsts abound with new creatures, city types, abilities and lore. The writing is not only fresh but elegant. Some twists were easily foretold while others blindside you so watch out. The world building could be confusing at times but is also rich and an in-depth making a solid foundation for subsequent books. It was extremely entertaining to witness the literary yarn unspool revealing a stunningly enchanted, interwoven tapestry. There are definitely moments of WHOA...WHAT THE??? DID THAT JUST HAPPEN?? Holy Havarti it did and is was oh so Gouda..I'm craving some apple slices and cheese, can you tell by the cheesy humor?? Okay, moving on now...if you're in the market for something you've NEVER encountered, something so out there it's hard to picture even after reading it with your own eyes. If you want to read about Love, of every type, so strong it defies anything and ALL obstacles. If you just want a fantastical journey lasting hours...READ THIS BOOK!!



“I can see you worrying. We’ll get through this. I’m a master fighter. If it turns out Big Bird’s hanging out in your bedroom, I’ll slay that bird.” This is actually weirdly comforting for someone who’s pretty sure that she’s about to die. Having a dad who’s willing to declare war against an institution as deeply rooted as Big Bird is not nothing."


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review 2016-02-27 17:24
Magonia - Maria Dahvana Headley

I can honestly say that I have never read a book like this before. I just finished Magonia and I'm not quite sure how I feel about it. Aza is a 15 year old girl who is dying from a strange disease. She is drowning in air. She suddenly starts seeing ships in the sky and hears her name being called. This is when things begin to get...weird.

What I liked about this book was it's uniqueness. A whole different world in the sky, ships sailing through the clouds, strange creatures like stormsharks and fun things like sky pirates. The cover is stunning and I also liked the fact that this story is based on mythology which I immediately googled upon completion. 


Some things left me a bit confused and those are the parts that I'm undecided on. For example, bird people that can open their chest and hold a small bird, that sings with them, inside. I was a little disturbed by the image and somewhat baffled by it. Why keep the bird in there of all places? 


There wasn't much or any explanation on some of the more outrageous elements of the story. If I suddenly had a bird in my lung that was talking to me, I can assure you, my biggest concerns would be getting that thing out and/or checking in to the nearest mental institute.

I had so many questions about how and why things worked the way they did but I am probably just over thinking things. I was very surprised at how this crazy story actually affected me though. There were some emotional scenes that I was not expecting to hit me as hard as they did. Despite the author's unusual writing style, the scenes were very moving. If you decide to take a journey to Magonia be sure to bring some Kleenex along.

My feelings are all over the place and I've never felt such mixed emotions about a book. I didn't love it and I didn't hate it. I wouldn't recommend this book to everyone only to those who want something fantastical and completely different.


- SW

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text 2016-01-25 20:55
New Books: When Preorders Arrive Early ...
Brotherhood in Death - J.D. Robb
Every Word - Ellie Marney
STARS ABOVE: A Lunar Chronicles Collection (The Lunar Chronicles) - Marissa Meyer
My Kind of Wonderful - Jill Shalvis
Ice Like Fire - Sara Raasch
Magonia - Maria Dahvana Headley
The Distance from A to Z - Natalie Blitt
Pucked Up - Helena Hunting
Sleeping with Her Enemy (Entangled Indulgence) - Jenny Holiday

Six new print books and some new ebooks have found their way into my home in the last weeks. I'm especially excited about the print books, because three are preorders I'm extremely excited about (Brotherhood in Death, Stars above and My Kind of wonderful), others are part in series I have enjoyed so far (Every Word and Ice like fire) and one, Magonia, is the hardcover version of a book I really enjoyed.


Two of my preorders arrived a few days early and yes, I love when that happens. I already read two of the short stories in "Stars above" and they were great, today I started reading the new In Death novel and so far it's an amazing one.


The books
Brotherhood in death - JD Robb
Stars Above - Marissa Meyer
Every word - Ellie Marney
My kind of wonderful - Jill Shalvis
Ice like fire - Sara Raasch
Magonia - Maria Dahvana Headley


Ebooks I recently bought:
The Baller - Vi Keeland
The Distance from A to Z - Natalie Blitt
Sleeping with her enemy - Jenny Holiday
Pucked Up - Hunting and Oaken


Happy Reading!


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review 2016-01-21 01:34
Review: Magonia by Maria Dahvana Headley
Magonia - Maria Dahvana Headley

Quick review for a quick read. Dude, I didn't know what I was getting myself into when I picked up Maria Dahvana Headley's "Magonia". Suffice to say, I'm quite impressed by it. I really didn't expect it to be this emotionally invested, intense, and imaginative read. Totally ended up enjoying the journey it took me on and it's one of those stories that will stick out in my mind for a long time to come. I mean, the closest of a comparison that I can make of "Magonia" to anything I've seen or read is the anime/manga series Rahxephon, but that's notably because of the power of the protagonists with song/singing and their "special" roles/identities in their societies, but even then, it's not that close. It takes on a very different mythos than what is commonly found in YA fantasy. (And thank goodness for that, because it's a breath of fresh air creativity wise. Why can't more YA books be like this?!)

There were moments where I really connected with the emotional intensity of Aza's experiences. From her lifelong battle of unexplained illness to being separated from those she loves in what seems like a permanent capacity. Also finding herself in a completely different identity and realm with choices she has to make in terms of the role she plays and the loyalties she shows. There are some caveats to it though, where the emotion has moments when it feels like it overpresses the point a bit too much for the given context, but I could say that I could palpate it and see why Aza reacts the way she does. Her voice is genuine, if a bit rocky to start before it starts smoothing out over the course of events in the novel. Jason was a nice alternate perspective, and I'm glad this book never hit the insta-love button or made the romance feel so out of place that it took over the story. I'm definitely very happy to see a YA fantasy that prominently focuses on the otherworldly elements, the action, the overarching conflict and relationships and takes the mythos and turns it into something that has the chance to shine on its own and prominently in the story. Though, if I could give a critique of it - there are certain aspects of the world depiction that seemed to me like they skimmed the surface and didn't quite immerse me as much as I hoped it would. I think I understood the world of Magonia and the skyships and rituals/beliefs that were depicted to a degree here, but there were details that still felt like they needed fleshing out.

I honestly can't take away from what was offered here, though. I didn't want to put this book down when I picked it up and found myself marathoning at a breakneck pace through the audiobook (brilliantly narrated by Therese Plummer and Michael Crouch. Plummer might get a nod for my favorite female narration this year because her depiction of Aza was spot on.) I know that I want to read more in this world and feel like I'm invested in the characters and their journeys to see where they go from here - so I'm definitely on board for the next book in this series.

Overall score: 4/5 stars.

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text 2015-12-25 12:00
Packaged Thoughts 2015: All the Books I Didn't Review

One of my resolutions as a blogger/reader is to review as many books as I can, if only because I enjoy doing so.  But like any other blogger out there, sometimes you just can't think of anything to say outside the scope of:  "I really liked this book.  It was awesome!"  or "I didn't much care for this book.  It was kind of boring!"  or "This book was just... *shrugs*".


There are a lot of books I had always meant to review the entire time during the reading process, but just never got around to doing so for one reason or another.


And so I decided to try what a lot of other bloggers will sometimes do:  Make a simple, one time post for the sole reason of giving extremely short and generic opinions of a bunch of books, whether I liked them or not.  (Knowing me, I'll probably end up getting carried away resulting in enough paragraphs to present a full review anyway, though, so my apologies in advance.)


In making this decision, I realized that there are several other books I had never meant to review that I wouldn't mind giving a shout-out about in this post.



The following books are in no particular order, though they may be organized in a fashion that makes sense only to me.  If I wanted to be logical about it, I would probably just list all the books in order by the author's last name or in the order of which I read them this year... but whatevs.



Career of Evil (Cormoran Strike #3) by Robert Galbraith (aka Queen Rowling)

-- 3.5 Stars


This book started out very slow.  As per usual, the writing is excellent and the characters are excellent.  But the book started out very slow.  I might have fallen asleep at some point, but, as is with every other book I may have fallen asleep reading, it could just be my own lack of healthy sleep cycles that's the problem.


But the book still started out very slow.  The flashbacks and the sudden inclusion of character histories to help propel the rest of the main story line (because I understand that that's why all of that was included), DID manage to elicit some wavering attention on my behalf.


But then all the set-up is taken care of and we dive into the rest of the book and it starts getting excellent.  Except, then I realize that this book is still trudging along with mostly set-up and side tangents and other such nonsense that barely focuses on the murder plot.


Career of Evil isn't a bad book, don't get me wrong.  And it's far from boring or uninspiring.  HOWEVER, it is definitely a step down from its predecessor, The Silkworm.  And that makes me sad, because I had hoped that, even if Career of Evil could not surpass The Silkworm's genius, it would at least still be an excellent work by Queen Rowling.


It kept me hooked, if only because of the character interaction and growing relation between Strike and Robin.  But it also bothered me because of a lot of side details and backstories that we probably could have done without.  And then Robin is given a downgrade in her character development when a much unnecessary cliched plot device is used to color her character's past.


This book could have been brilliant like The Silkworm.  But it was merely good and serviceable without the brilliance I'd hoped for it.  Did I mention it started out really slow?



by Tara Janzen

Steele Street books

#3) Crazy Wild -- 4.0 Stars

#4) Crazy Kisses -- 3.5 Stars

#5) Crazy Love -- 4.0 Stars

#6) Crazy Sweet -- 3.5 Stars


As far as the Steele Street books go, they involve the same formulaic story line with each and every book I've read.  There's a lot of haphazard narration that switches from one set of characters to another, a big military mission going on in the background, one crime thriller conspiracy going on in the foreground, lots of talk about cars and fixing up cars, lots of talk about sex, and lots of talk about the Steele Street guys and their strange quirks.


All packaged together, it's hard to grasp or follow if you're looking for anything inspirational or substantial.


But there is no doubt that I somehow manage to really, really enjoy reading these books if only because they are so much crazy fun that I don't care about substance or logic or any other kind of realism.  There's an underlying comedic tone to these books that make them extremely enjoyable.


Crazy Wild... it was interesting.  I much preferred the sexy, steamy romantic sexcapades of Creed and Cody (in comparison with Crazy Kisses' Kid/Nikki pairing)--as per usual, there's an amusing undertone of humor between these two and their developing relationship that just makes it fun to follow. 


Crazy Kisses didn't exactly turn out the way I'd wanted it to, but I still found some kind of entertainment with it.  I had looked forward to Crazy Kisses because of the ongoing Kid/Nikki, on-again-off-again romance that has been teasing us since the first book... but it felt slightly lackluster when it finally came around.


Crazy Love brings us to the long awaited Dylan Hart and Skeeter Bang romance.  It wasn't as exciting as I had hoped it would be, considering the build-up to their romance since two books previous, but it still delivered in the nonsensical quips, the strange, comedic atmosphere, and the action and the badass action.


Crazy Sweet rounds off the first part of the Steele Street series with the newest SDF member, Travis James, who has been present since the first book as Nikki McKinney's naked angel model for her artwork.  This guy has probably had a crush on every other girl introduced throughout these first six books, with his desires unfulfilled and lots of pent up frustration.  So it's his turn to have a romance now.


In Crazy Sweet, Travis's girlfriend/friends-with-benefits/lover/SDF-soul-mate-partner, Gillian Pentycote is on a revenge mission, and Travis is basically her keeper.  And really, not much actually happens in this book aside from the revenge mission and some sort of side mission featuring C. Smyth Rydell and a girl named Honey in El Salvador...


Really, all these books really suffer from is a case of haphazard "I don't know where this plot is going and I'm not even sure there's a main conflict in here".  Although all the craziness and the humor and the mindless fun and the hot sex more than makes up for the lack of direction in each book.  In the end, I realize I have so much fun reading these books that I don't care that I have no idea what's really going on.




by Paige Tyler

X-Ops books

#1) Her Perfect Mate -- 4.0 Stars

#2) Her Lone Wolf -- 4.0 Stars


I didn't expect much from Her Perfect Mate when I first decided to pick it up.  I had kind of subconsciously blown it off as a guilty pleasure romance read with erotica disguised as a military romantic suspense novel.  But I was pleasantly surprised by how much I ended up enjoying it, even in spite of some of the tacky dialogue and some of the weird content.


I didn't really have to suspend disbelief.  However, I DID have to overlook how quickly the "I love you"s came around and how readily our non-shifter human male was able to accept his cat-shifter female partner just because he had a thing for Catwoman.  It was a little incredible to believe that he wouldn't have freaked out first, but I got over that pretty quickly.


Still, my enjoyment of Her Perfect Mate lead to picking up Her Lone Wolf, and in this particular story line and instance, the suspension of disbelief was a little easier to grasp.  The romance was also a little more readily acceptable since the main couple had been lovers previously, before the timeline of the book.  The flashbacks were a little distracting, but they helped.


I will definitely try to pick up the next few books when they are made available, but I won't trip over myself trying to get a hold of them.  I DO like the brief background scenes of the ongoing major conflict that's propelling the series overall.  Lots to look forward to, that's for sure.




11 by Kylie Brant -- 4.0 Stars


Kylie Brant is one of my more favorite romantic suspense authors, if only because I really enjoyed what she did with the women of the Mindhunters series.  They were all competent, independent, skilled investigators who never really had to rely on a male partner at all times.  And also, Kylie Brant goes easy on the damsel-in-distress scenarios (except with her most recent, Secrets of the Dead... I'm still trying to figure that one out).


The point is: the heroines from Mindhunters typically kept themselves well out of trouble as their jobs dictated, and rushed into danger to save the day as their jobs dictated.  And they were always prepared to get themselves back out of danger if it came around to that.


When I discovered 11 as a new book listed under Kylie Brant's Amazon page, I got pretty excited and jumped on that one pretty quickly.  11 is set in the same world as the Mindhunters series, as we learn when Adam Raiker appears in the first (second?) chapter of the book.  But from that moment forward, it's kind of a book on its own and quite enjoyable at that.


The only unfortunate response I have, however, is that it's not very memorable.  You've got a P.I. and you've got a woman in hiding and you've got a resident baddie, psycho serial killer.  Action ensues, romance ensues, sex happens... and then Happily Ever After™.


And that's pretty much it.  After finishing the book, I barely had anything to say about 11 because there really wasn't anything to say about it.  I know I enjoyed it and gobbled it up like I would any other exciting romantic suspense.  But otherwise, I've got nothing.




by Rachel Hartman

Seraphina duology

#1) Seraphina -- 5.0 Stars

#2) Shadow Scale -- 4.5 Stars


Serephina was, hands down, one of the best high fantasies I had read back in 2013 (it was published in 2012).  Granted, this was back before I started making a thing of blogging my reviews more regularly, so I didn't subject the book to the same amount of note-taking and subconscious analysis that I do to books I read now.  However, I DO recall that I loved it so much that I immediately put the next book on my TBR... and then proceeded to wait forever... and then give a little whimper each time the release date for the second book got pushed back.


Seraphina had a lot going for it: a strong, unique, multi-layered heroine; a complex, intricately created world that interwove a dragon culture into it seamlessly; a sweet, subtle romance that had developed from a respectful admiration and friendship between two people; and a wonderfully narrated story with a rich, complicated conflict.  And characters, colorful, creative, unique, non-standard side characters and background characters and minor characters, all with their own multi-layered backgrounds lightly hinted out.


Rachel Hartman created a wonderful world and a wonderful story and a wonderful cast of characters for lovers of high fantasy.


This year, in preparation for the release of Shadow Scale at the beginning of the year, I wanted to re-read Seraphina.  Instead, I ended up buying the Audible and listening to it instead and once again found the experience a good one (with some minor drawbacks during those moments my attention might have drifted).  Seraphina was just as great as I had remembered it two years ago.


Then I finally picked up Shadow Scale.  And I devoured it.  While there was some questionable story progression flow and a conclusion that wasn't the most ideal, I still found the world of Seraphina wonderfully created.  We get to travel outside to the rest of the worlds and see the rest of the cultures only hinted at in the first book.  And on top of that, we get to continue following the same beloved characters as well as meet new characters.


The only issue I had with Shadow Scale, which made it a little less likable than Seraphina was that it had more moments of drag than the first book... and also the romantic resolution was just not what I had been expecting after all of that build-up between Seraphina and Kiggs.  Which was more disappointing than I like to admit, because I often don't like when a series dwells too much on romances... but Seraphina was never a story that based its happenings around a romance.  Instead, it serenaded us with the love story in the background, making sweet and beautiful little promises with the very subtle build-up between our main couple.


Color me shallow, but that had been enough to really damper my initial "I don't care about a lot of the flaws this book might have, I'm giving it a straight out 5 Star rating!"



Magonia (Magonia #1) by Maria Dahvana Headley -- 3.0 Stars


Really, Magonia was just a strange, strange book and I'm not even certain how I felt about it.  Even now I'm still not sure.  I read a review about it that carefully dissects the book into two separate story parts, wherein the first half is like typical, trendy "Sick Lit" and the second half is a weird paranormal high fantasy akin to something of the Castle in the Sky variety.


I'm inclined to agree.  Although I loved Castle in the Sky and thought that the fantasy part of Magonia wasn't really THAT much like it... or maybe it is.  I think I may have likened it to a Castle in the Sky doped up on an acid trip of some kind, what with the whimsical fantasy telling and all, but with more WTF-like strangeness than I could handle.


And now apparently the book is being formed into a series...


Do we really believe that's necessary?



Gimme Some Sugar (Pine Mountain #2) by Kimberly Kincaid -- 2.5 Stars


I've already said it once in my Turn Up the Heat review:  I liked the Line books by Kimberly Kincaid when I first picked up Love on the Line on a whim.  The food porn was pretty awesome and the romance was sweet and simple and had its moments of breezy.  The next two Line books were serviceable, even if not the best, because I was enjoying Kimberly Kincaid's humorous, easygoing writing style.


Turn Up the Heat was okay, but not the greatest contemporary romance in the world.  And then Gimme Some Sugar rolled around... and it was just... kind of... weird.  Don't get me wrong, it was cute and breezy in a way.  But the relationship and romantic development felt a little juvenile for an adult contemporary... and the repetitive "Feed her," thing was a little creepy.


And the main romantic conflict, when revealed, was just kind of... sad.


Whatever the case, Gimme Some Sugar just didn't seem to work for me, which ended up putting the Pine Mountain books squarely in my "I don't know if I'm going to continue reading this series" pile.  Though I may read one more book just to see where we go with it.



by Julie Garwood


#5) Slow Burn -- 4.0 Stars

#6) Shadow Dance -- 3.5 Stars


Julie Garwood's romantic suspense series seem to get better as each book progresses... and yet, in a way, they don't, really.  Enjoyable as they are, I can't help but notice that these past two books were a little less memorable than the previous two.  Although to be fair, even Murder List (book #4) wasn't quite memorable either.  Of the series, Killjoy (book #3) is my favorite--the character's stand out and I liked them.


Slow Burn was different from the other Buchanan-Renard-MacKenna installments in that the murder mystery remains a one-sided investigation throughout the book.  We honestly do not even get to see the main baddie at all and things remain a mystery up until the end--which is actually quite nice, because I could do without those trips through our mystery villain's twisted minds.


Of course, what stood out the most about Slow Burn was the beginning of the book in which a Wonderbra gets the most unique introduction I'd ever expected.  And, as usual, Julie Garwood's humor shines.


Shadow Dance is a little less entertaining if only because the narration seems to take a turn for the tedious.  There is entirely too much telling in this book and a lot of side mutterings by all the characters.  Of course, the typical Julie Garwood humor is still present, but the bantering between Jordan and Noah feels slightly more irritating than fun.


And, of course, I'm a bit disappointed, because, for some unknown reason, this is the installment I'd been reading my way towards.  Since the Buchanans are such a big law enforcement, badass family, I had been expecting Jordan Buchanan to be a badass law enforcement type as well, and if not, at least a badass female super woman of some sort.  I'm not even sure I know where I got that impression, really...





I might continue this feature every year if I can remember to do so.  Maybe it should also be another Bookish Resolution of mine.  We'll see.


With this, have a Merry Christmas everyone!  Hope every had a great year and will continue on to have another great one in 2016.




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