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text 2017-10-21 00:47
Reading progress update: I've read 105 out of 195 pages.
Annihilation - Jeff VanderMeer

So far this is not nearly as engaging as I was hoping it would be. Or as creepy. Or suspenseful. In fact, I'm really quite bored. :(

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review 2017-10-16 02:52
The Girl in the Tower
The Girl in the Tower - Katherine Arden

Katherine Arden does not disappoint with this second installment of her Winternight Trilogy. It seamlessly continues the story of Vasilisa as she strives to find a place for herself in a world that does not take kindly towards change and independence, despite its desire to forget the unfathomable traditions of the past. While this is a book where the charm of magic and pagan mystery tries to maintain a steadfast hold, it also does not shy away from the very personal issues of identity and belonging, as well as delve into the broader concerns of power, politics and duty.

I think that duty becomes one of the main conflicts within this story, as the characters begin attempting to reconcile their sensibilities and personal wishes with the eventual need to follow through with the tasks and responsibilities they are expected to fulfill. This holds true for both women and men, as the reader witnesses with both Vasya and her brother Sasha, as well as many of the other characters met over the course of the novel. The reader is also presented with the alternative, the individuals who have already had to assume their respective roles, forced to learn to adapt and derive a sense of pleasure from the various situations within their control.

There is a lot of truth presented in this book, and Arden does not attempt to provide simple answers to many of the questions and issues that arise. Magic can only go so far in supporting the natural order of things.

This is truly an excellent work, and I personally can’t wait for the next installment.

Copy provided by NetGalley

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review 2017-10-15 19:46
Artemis: A Novel - Andy Weir

I loved Andy Weir's previous book The Martian so when I found out about Artemis I immediately went to Netgalley to request it. This book follows Jasmine (Jazz) Bashara who is a porter (and also a smuggler) in Artemis the only city on the moon. Jazz is struggling to make ends meet when someone comes to her with a highly illegal task to do but with a reward too good to pass down. Jazz finds herself pulled into something way bigger and more dangerous than she thought it was.


Jazz was a bit of a mystery to me at first. I was really curious to see how she became a lowly porter. Once her past was laid out I was a bit disappointed. I think that is when I started to like Jazz less and less. She was definitely funny at times but her attitude could be a bit annoying especially since she only had herself to blame for the position she was in.


Sometimes I felt that this was a bit bogged down in too much discussion about pressure and chemicals mixing, basically in science. It is understandable that there would be some discussion about that but it got to be a bit much at times for me.


Overall I did enjoy this book and will definitely be reading more from Andy Weir.


Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for the galley.

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review 2017-09-17 20:22
A Red Tale by Nicola Mar
A Red Tale - Nicola Mar

Beautifully written, but just not really for me.


There really is some lovely writing here though. Some days, for me, that's enough, but not here. I'm kind of over essentially passive MC's who don't really seem to have any agency (or when they do seem to, not doing anything with it.) 


The MC here is so busy having things happen to her, and deus ex machina helpers pop up a la Alice in Wonderland style to move the plot along, that she almost disappears into the scenery. Some kind of tabula rasa for the story to be projected against. 


If you like Kate Griffin, Catherynne M. Valente, perhaps John Crowley (and I do, all three, very much), you might give the sample of this a shot though.



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review SPOILER ALERT! 2017-09-03 21:13
Unraveling (#2 -- Unblemished Trilogy) by Sara Ella
Unraveling (The Unblemished Trilogy) - Sara Ella

Eliyana Ember doesn’t believe in true love. Not anymore. After defeating her grandfather and saving the Second Reflection, El only trusts what’s right in front of her. The tangible. The real. Not some unexplained Kiss of Infinity she once shared with the ghost of a boy she’s trying to forget. She has more important things to worry about—like becoming queen of the Second Reflection, a role she is so not prepared to fill. Now that the Verity is intertwined with her soul and Joshua’s finally by her side, El is ready to learn more about her mysterious birth land, the land she now rules. So why does she feel like something—or someone—is missing? When the thresholds begin to drain and the Callings, those powerful magical gifts, begin to fail, El wonders if her link to Ky Rhyen may have something to do with it. For light and darkness cannot coexist. She needs answers before the Callings disappear altogether. Can El find a way to sever her connection to Ky and save the Reflections—and keep herself from falling for him in the process?






*NOTE: This is a continuation of a series, so we have some spoiler-y material down below. Click away now if you haven't read the first book and don't want spoilers!




But if you have read the first book, then you know that when we last visited this trio -- Eliyana, Joshua, and Ky -- Joshua was pushing to make things official with Eliyana ("El") and Ky took off to try to track down his missing sister, leaving a big question mark around the feelings that had been building between him and El throughout the first novel.


Now here we are in the second installment. Unraveling opens with Ky still gone, and Eliyana preparing to take the throne as the new ruler of the Second Reflection (modern day NYC serves as Third Reflection, with portals between the realms). Joshua is still around, attentive to Eliyana though there IS still something about his motives that feels questionable. El continually tries to convince herself that Joshua is the right man for her but in her quietest, most honest moments she can't deny that something between them feels off. She also can't shake off persistent thoughts of Ky, endlessly wondering of his welfare & whereabouts.  


If you, like me, were solidly Team Ky during the entirety of Book 1, no worries! Your guy is back! But it does take time for his story to come to the forefront. While the traditional chapter format is used to alternate between the voices of El and Josh, Ky's chapters (in his voice) are shorter and simply marked "Aside". But from them, we do learn what he's been up to since the close of Book 1 and that he's picked up the ability to read El's mind, even from a distance, which at first spooks her, then annoys her to no end until she ultimately accepts, even comes to appreciate it, seeing that it only goes to illustrate just how closely their souls are bound to each other. But what of that pesky Kiss of Infinity... was it Josh or Ky that got the TRUE binding kiss? That's El's big inner question for the first half of this second book. 


The other big mystery is the Callings. Something is making the various Callings (powers people of the Realms are either born with or come into) diminish or die off altogether. Also, the Thresholds (portals) between the Reflections (realms) are weakening, leaving people to fear that they will be trapped in one Reflection or another for all eternity if the Thresholds completely shut down. El journeys all over creation, desperately seeking the answer to this mystery, hoping she'll find the solution before it's too late. 


Finding myself such a big fan of the first book, this sequel immediately went on my mental anticipated releases list once I heard it was in the works! Once I finished Unraveling, I checked out online reviews out of curiosity. Seeing page after page of 4 and 5 star reviews, I just had to accept I was clearly going to have to be in the minority on this one. Let me be clear, I didn't hate this book, but MAN, was it a disappointment compared to the first book! 


It started off promising. The action was there early on -- we have someone dead by Chapter 2 already! -- but El, what happened to you, girl?! Unraveling, indeed! You went from being fun and quirky in Unblemished to whiny and obnoxious here! El just keeps re-hashing the same questions -- almost verbatim each time, I might add -- OVER. AND. OVER. AGAIN. El's inner monologue seems to be chock full of endless questions.  I found myself wishing El had a little bit more "warrior chick" to her personality in this story. She likes to TRY to assert herself from time to time -- "I am your queen!" -- but she doesn't have the presence to back it up. She seems to rely too much on everyone else to give her a direction to go in, her own mind too busy being too busy coming up with the next pop culture reference. 


That's likely what killed a lot of the story here for me. The strength of the novel as a whole gets ruined by what feels like author Sara Ella's insistence on pandering to the younger members of the millennial crowd -- for example, ending a sentence with " #nojoke ", or incorporating such cringe-inducing analogies as "shake it off Taylor Swift style." Blech. And the song references. THE SONG REFERENCES. Starts off a few here and there. Then suddenly it's EVERY FEW PAGES. Sara Ella tries to get away with it by writing in that Eliyana thinks in song lyrics but sorry, some of those references felt awfully forced. 


I get that everyone in our trio here fall between the ages of 17-23, so to some extent, writing in that style can be expected. My gripe is that it is most definitely overdone. Additionally, the plot in this second book suffers the double shot of having plot or character minutiae overly detailed while unfortunately being not nearly as entertaining and taut as the adventure readers were given in Unblemished. In the interest of full disclosure, I'll add that part of me (interest-wise) tapped out once the personal connection between Ky and Joshua was revealed. It struck me as a very soap-opera path to go down, which certainly didn't help my already floundering attention. 


There just weren't enough surprises for me in the plot as a whole. About the only things that caught me off guard were 1) the scene with the coral caves -- THAT was inventive! 2) the danger Khloe got into near the end of the book... but then, evil IS so often seeking the innocent, isn't it?


So if I had such problems with this plot how did it still get three stars outta me? Well, because there were things about it that I did, in fact, find myself enjoying a good bit. I do still like the character Ky, even if his love El grated on me during this part of their journey. {At one point Ky tells El, "You will always be enough for me," which is sweet... definitely something one always likes to hear out of a loved one... but as the reader, ol' El wasn't quite enough for me.}


I also quite enjoyed seeing the evolution of the sisterly bond between Eliyana and Ebony. Who doesn't love seeing progressive maturity in characters as a story unfolds over time, right? :-) For those elements, I am still invested in this series and will happily try out the conclusion due to come out next year. 


I noticed that in her author acknowledgements page, Sara Ella gave a shout-out to "author friend" Mary Weber, who penned the Storm Siren Trilogy. I wonder if Weber weighed in on plot brainstorming sessions at all. If so, this actually gives me hope in a way, because I had much the same issue with that trilogy -- absolutely adored the first book, was sorta meh about the second, came back once again really enjoying the 3rd and last book. I look forward to seeing if I have a similar result with the conclusion of the Unblemished series next year.



FTC Disclaimer: Thomas Nelson Publishers,via both BookLookBloggers.com and TNZ Fiction Guild, kindly provided me with a complimentary copy of this book & requested that I check it out and share my thoughts. The opinions above are entirely my own.



ICYMI: My review for Book 1, UNBLEMISHED





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