Six of Crows

Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

Ketterdam: a bustling hub of international trade where anything can be had for the right price—and no one knows that better than criminal prodigy Kaz Brekker. Kaz is offered a chance at a deadly heist that could make him rich beyond his wildest dreams. But he can’t pull it off alone…

A convict with a thirst for revenge
A sharpshooter who can’t walk away from a wager
A runaway with a privileged past
A spy known as the Wraith
A Heartrender using her magic to survive the slums
A thief with a gift for unlikely escapes

Kaz’s crew are the only ones who might stand between the world and destruction—if they don’t kill each other first.

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This was my first read from Leigh Bardugo and it won’t be my last! I loved this book! Took a couple chapters to get the feel for the world and characters, but it was definitely one of the best books I read this year (and this was the year of the good book)!

All six members of the crew were well drawn. I loved the backstory that went into each of them, but particularly the story between Nina and Matthias. I also liked the relationship between Inej and Kaz.

Really, there was just so much to love about this book from the world-building to the characters to the plot to all the clever twists the story took. I also liked the hardcover edition of this book – the edges of the pages were dyed completely black! It was a nice touch that you don’t often see in books.

I can’t wait to read Crooked Kingdom which I’ve already picked up! It will be one of my first reads of 2017. I’m also looking forward to checking out Leigh Bardugo’s Grisha trilogy.

Wildwood

Wildwood by Colin Meloy

Prue McKeel’s life is ordinary. At least until her brother is abducted by a murder of crows and taken to the Impassable Wilderness, a dense, tangled forest on the edge of Portland. No one’s ever gone in—or at least returned to tell of it.

So begins an adventure that will take Prue and her friend Curtis deep into the Impassable Wilderness. There they uncover a secret world in the midst of violent upheaval—a world full of warring creatures, peaceable mystics, and powerful figures with the darkest intentions. And what begins as a rescue mission becomes something much greater, as the two friends find themselves entwined in a struggle for the very freedom of this wilderness. A wilderness the locals call Wildwood.

The first book in the epic middle-grade fantasy series full of magic, wonder, and danger—nothing less than an American Narnia—from Colin Meloy, lead singer of the highly celebrated band the Decemberists, and Carson Ellis, the acclaimed illustrator of the New York Times bestselling The Mysterious Benedict Society.

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I usually read a lot of reviews for books from a new author before actually buying the book, so I normally have a pretty good idea what the book is about and whether I will like it or not. This book was given to me and that I didn’t really know all that much about what kind of experience I could expect from it.

Wildwood is populated by an interesting cast of characters and overall, I quite enjoyed this book. It’s set in Oregan and feels very Oregonian, from the descriptions of the forest to the illustration of the people, who all looked like bearded, beer-drinking Portland hipsters. Honest. Just flip to a picture of the bandits.

At first, I thought this book was intended to be read to children. And then I decided that the book was a little too dark for that. I don’t read much middle grade so I’m not sure if this is a good entry for that particular genre or not. I was expecting to find the story a bit predictable, but it really wasn’t.

Wildwood is the first in a planned trilogy with Under Wildwood being the second book in the series and Wildwood Imperium is the third.

 

Hollow City

Review of Hollow City By Ransom Riggs

This second novel begins in 1940, immediately after the first book ended. Having escaped Miss Peregrine’s island by the skin of their teeth, Jacob and his new friends must journey to London, the peculiar capital of the world. Along the way, they encounter new allies, a menagerie of peculiar animals, and other unexpected surprises.

Complete with dozens of newly discovered (and thoroughly mesmerizing) vintage photographs, this new adventure will delight readers of all ages.

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A solid second book in a trilogy. Hollow City picked up immediately after Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children ends. There’s a lot of action in this book as the children try to find help for Miss Peregrine and find themselves chased by Hollows and Wights.

One thing I really liked in this book is that the peculiar lore is deepened as the children explore the world outside their island and discover that The Tales is at least partially true. And of course, there are more of those awesome pictures.

I just watched the Miss Peregrine’s Movie today and while there were quite a few changes, it was still enjoyable! I didn’t realize the third book in the series, Library of Souls, was already out. I really hope the movie didn’t spoil the ending to the series!!

 

Magonia

By Maria Davhana Headley

Aza Ray is drowning in thin air.

Since she was a baby, Aza has suffered from a mysterious lung disease that makes it ever harder for her to breathe, to speak—to live.

So when Aza catches a glimpse of a ship in the sky, her family chalks it up to a cruel side effect of her medication. But Aza doesn’t think this is a hallucination. She can hear someone on the ship calling her name.

Only her best friend, Jason, listens. Jason, who’s always been there. Jason, for whom she might have more-than-friendly feelings. But before Aza can consider that thrilling idea, something goes terribly wrong. Aza is lost to our world—and found, by another. Magonia.

Above the clouds, in a land of trading ships, Aza is not the weak and dying thing she was. In Magonia, she can breathe for the first time. Better, she has immense power—and as she navigates her new life, she discovers that war is coming. Magonia and Earth are on the cusp of a reckoning. And in Aza’s hands lies the fate of the whole of humanity—including the boy who loves her. Where do her loyalties lie?

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This book has one of the most beautiful covers I’ve ever seen. Every time I would see a review for this book, it would remind me that I wanted to read it, if only because the cover is so striking. It finally came up as a Kindle deal so I was able to grab a copy of it.

Magonia wasn’t anything like I was expecting, but that isn’t a bad thing. It was billed as Neil Gaiman meets John Green and it is certainly reminiscent of The Fault in Our Stars (Green) and Stardust (Gaiman). Though the actual style of the writing reminded me more of a cross between John Green and Tahereh Mafi.

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I really liked how Aza’s illness was tied into her being Magonian and her lungs being more set up like a bird’s. I also liked how the knowledge about Magonia was plucked out of actual historical references. I liked that Jason, a main character in a YA novel, suffers from anxiety. And I loved the relationship between Aza and Jason.

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Overall, this was a fun and exciting book that kept me reading and not wanting to leave the iPad at home in case I had a few minutes to read a little more. There’s apparently a sequel to this novel that just came out. Advanced reviewers seem to say either they liked it a lot less or a lot more than the first one. Hoping the sequel comes up on Kindle deal soon so I can get it!

 

Harry Potter and The Cursed Child

By J.K. Rowling, John Tiffany, and Jack Thorne

It was always difficult being Harry Potter and it isn’t much easier now that he is an overworked employee of the Ministry of Magic, a husband and father of three school-age children.

While Harry grapples with a past that refuses to stay where it belongs, his youngest son Albus must struggle with the weight of a family legacy he never wanted. As past and present fuse ominously, both father and son learn the uncomfortable truth: sometimes, darkness comes from unexpected places.

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Ok so it’s a new Harry Potter! But it’s a play! And J.K. Rowling didn’t write it all by herself! But it’s a new Harry Potter! And J.K. Rowling is one of the authors!

I have to say, Scorpius Malfoy was my far and away favorite character in this book. I think he really made the story shine and really identified it as something that J.K. Rowling had her hand in.

If you’re a big Harry Potter fan, you’ll want to read the story because, really, how could you resist?! Just like I know you’ll be seeing Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them when it hits theaters later this year.

I won’t be discussing plot for those of you who haven’t read it yet, but I really need to go see this play. So if someone wants to donate a roundtrip ticket to London and tickets to the show, I wouldn’t say no! Or you know, if we can just hurry up and get this on tour in America. That’d work, too.

 

 

Series Spotlight: The Dark Tower

By Stephen King

Beginning with a short story appearing in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction in 1978, the publication of Stephen King’s epic work of fantasy — what he considers to be a single long novel and his magnum opus — has spanned a quarter of a century.

Set in a world of extraordinary circumstances, filled with stunning visual imagery and unforgettable characters, The Dark Tower series is King’s most visionary feat of storytelling, a magical mix of science fiction, fantasy, and horror that may well be his crowning achievement.

Because of the nature of this series, where the seven books really equate to one rather long novel, I am reviewing all seven books in one post.

The Gunslinger was my very first Stephen King book! After years of staying away from the master of horror because of my aversion to horror movies and being scared, I finally relented when my friend sent me the first two books in the series. And then I just gobbled them up from there. Like if you’ve been following me on Goodreads and have seen how many books I’ve read recently and how few actually have reviews on this blog, in my defense I have to say it was The Dark Tower. And if you’re my neighbor who’s wondering why I have been missing our writing dates or my boyfriend who wants to know why I’m not starting on the seriously amazing book idea he gave me, I also have to say, it was The Dark Tower.

I wish that excuse worked as well for me as it does for Roland.

~ Here there be spoilers ~

The Gunslinger

In The Gunslinger (originally published in 1982), King introduces his most enigmatic hero, Roland Deschain of Gilead, the Last Gunslinger. He is a haunting, solitary figure at first, on a mysterious quest through a desolate world that eerily mirrors our own. Pursuing the man in black, an evil being who can bring the dead back to life, Roland is a good man who seems to leave nothing but death in his wake.

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I didn’t particularly love this one, but I was intrigued enough to keep reading. And the book got better towards the end. Loved the confrontation with the man in black and Roland’s relationship with Jake. For the most part the story rattles along at a great clip and ends with you dying to get your hands on the next one. Which I already had, which leads me to…

The Drawing of the Three

While pursuing his quest for the Dark Tower through a world that is a nightmarishly distorted mirror image of our own, Roland is drawn through a mysterious door that brings him into contemporary America.

Here he links forces with the defiant young Eddie Dean, and with the beautiful, brilliant, and brave Odetta Holmes, in a savage struggle against underworld evil and otherworldly enemies.

Once again, Stephen King has masterfully interwoven dark, evocative fantasy and icy realism.

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This book really started to show me why Stephen King is one of our best storyteller’s. Eddie and Odetta were both just insanely complex, crazy characters. A junkie mixed up with the mob and an amputee black woman with schizophrenia. I can’t even imagine how you dream up characters like them, but I’m so glad King managed it.

I also enjoyed Roland’s foray’s into “our time” and how charmingly fish out of water he was and also how resourceful. His whole difficulty with figuring out how to get medicine and bullets was kind of ridiculous, but it was hilarious how he overcame his own shortcomings to succeed.

There’s a twist concerning the third person that is “drawn” that is so, so, so good. This and the zaniness of Odetta and Eddie really hooked me on this series. So I bought the third book…

The Waste Lands

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Several months have passed, and Roland’s two new tet-mates have become proficient gunslingers. Eddie Dean has given up heroin, and Odetta’s two selves have joined, becoming the stronger and more balanced personality of Susannah Dean. But while battling The Pusher in 1977 New York, Roland altered ka by saving the life of Jake Chambers, a boy who—in Roland’s where and when—has already died. Now Roland and Jake exist in different worlds, but they are joined by the same madness: the paradox of double memories. Roland, Susannah, and Eddie must draw Jake into Mid-World then follow the Path of the Beam all the way to the Dark Tower. But nothing is easy in Mid-World. Along the way our tet stumbles into the ruined city of Lud, and are caught between the warring gangs of the Pubes and the Grays. The only way out of Lud is to wake Blaine the Mono, an insane train that has a passion for riddling, and for suicidal journeys.

…which was even better than the second and I loved the second!

Although what happens to Jake in book one is revisited in book two, it was book three that really convinced me that the more random parts of book one were necessary after all. Jake comes back. The man in black comes back. Sex with demons comes back. Ali comes back.

It is also in book three that Roland’s “world” really comes alive. Finally, we start getting clues of how this whole place is set up with the twelve points, the guardians, the tower, and the beam.

King also introduced my favorite character in the series thus far: Oy! Oy is just amazing.

In this book the coincidences between things really start to pile up. And again, King proves how masterful a storyteller he is in that capacity. It’s one thing to write a story. It’s another thing to write that intricate of a story.

I feel sorry for anyone who had to wait between books three and four though. I would have gone out of my damn mind if I couldn’t immediately flip to book four and the resolution of the conflict with Blaine the Mono…

Wizard and Glass

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Roland of Gilead and his fellow pilgrims determine to reach the Dark Tower, but their quest is rife with confrontation, conflict, and sacrifice – from a vast computer system which bargains in riddles to Roland’s old enemy Walter and the wizard’s glass.

…which is continued in the opening pages of this book at a hurtling pace. As fast as Blaine the Mono is traveling. And then the pace comes to a screeching halt. Just like Blaine.

So apparently people are of two thoughts about this fourth book: either that the whole story of Susan is one of the most important elements of the whole story because it shapes Roland and starts his quest for the Dark Tower OR it’s a complete waste of time, super boring, about five hundred pages too long, and really takes away from the continuity of the narrative.

I’m more in the first camp, but I also found the story of Susan super painful to read because you already know there’s no happy ending here, though you don’t know exactly what happens, and then you find out and your heart is absolutely crushed beyond belief.

Seriously, I have hardly been able to tear myself away from the series and I had to give myself a few hours to recover from the horror of it.

But I did, so here we go to book five…

Wolves of the Calla

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Roland Deschain and his ka-tet are bearing southeast through the forests of Mid-World on their quest for the Dark Tower. Their path takes them to the outskirts of Calla Bryn Sturgis. But beyond the tranquil farm town, the ground rises to the hulking darkness of Thunderclap, the source of a terrible affliction that is stealing the town’s soul. The wolves of Thunderclap and their unspeakable depredation are coming. To resist them is to risk all, but these are odds the gunslingers are used to. Their guns, however, will not be enough….

So after the detour back to Roland’s youth, we’re finally back in the main timeline with Susannah, Jake, Oy, and Eddie (yay!)

We get a confirmation on that Susannah pregnancy (ugh) and that it’s a demon baby (double-ugh). The ka-tet gets drawn into the fight at Calla Bryn Sturgis because Pere Callahan has something they need: Black 13, another of those mystical orbs like the pink one that caused so much trouble in the Susan story. Apparently, there are 13 of these things (one for each point on the beam and one for the Dark Tower itself) and they all have strange abilities. Black 13 has the ability to help them open doors into other world’s which is important because they’re trying to save the rose that Jake found in New York.

So, they end up helping the Calla fight the Wolves who steal one from each pair of twins and send back that twin stupid and “Roont”.

Along the way, we hear the story of Pere Callahan, a character from Salem’s Lot who seems poised to join the ka-tet on their journey to the Dark Tower.

But before they can continue to the tower, the ka-tet has to chase after Susannah, who has been abducted by yet another personality from her delicate psyche. A personality that also decided to steal Black 13, because you know, nothing can ever go right in this quest.

The Wolves of the Calla also hearkens back to Book 3, The Wastelands, because it further establishes the coincidences and connections that seem to undercut this entire world. This book is super lengthy (almost 950 pages!) so it’s definitely an event to get through it, but like all the books in The Dark Tower series, worth the read.

In addition to the story of Pere Callahan and his vampires, and more strange robotic creatures like The Bear, we get introduced to the Manni, a group of almost mystical holy figures that I am itching to learn more about. It is they who discovered a door in a cave and it’s through that door the ka-tet will go….

Song of Susannah

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To give birth to her “chap,” demon-mother Mia has usurped the body of Susannah Dean and used the power of Black Thirteen to transport to New York City in the summer of 1999. The city is strange to Susannah…and terrifying to the “daughter of none,” who shares her body and mind.

Saving the Tower depends not only on rescuing Susannah but also on securing the vacant lot Calvin Tower owns before he loses it to the Sombra Corporation. Enlisting the aid of Manni senders, the remaining katet climbs to the Doorway Cave…and discovers that magic has its own mind. It falls to the boy, the billy-bumbler, and the fallen priest to find Susannah-Mia, who, in a struggle to cope with each other and with an alien environment “go todash” to Castle Discordia on the border of End-World. In that forsaken place, Mia reveals her origins, her purpose, and her fierce desire to mother whatever creature the two of them have carried to term.

Eddie and Roland, meanwhile, tumble into western Maine in the summer of 1977, a world that should be idyllic but isn’t. For one thing, it is real, and the bullets are flying.

These are the simple vectors of a story rich in complexity and conflict. Its dual climaxes, one at the entrance to a deadly dining establishment and the other appended to the pages of a writer’s journal, will leave readers gasping for the saga’s final volume (which, Dear Reader, follows soon, say thank ya).

 This was the first book I felt had moments of actual “creepiness”. Nothing so far in this series has been unsettling to me, but the climax of this one was.

This book has a lot of revelations in it (you would think by book 6 of a 7 book series we’d be done with revelations and waiting for the final confrontation, but no). About Mia, about the chap, about the dark tower, about Castle Discordia, about the Crimson King, even about Stephen King himself.

The most insane thing about this book to me was that the author wrote himself in as a character. That’s not breaking the fourth wall, this is something else entirely, breaking the fifth wall maybe? The end notes are an awesome read for Stephen King fans and I can’t help, but shiver that he aligned the birth of the chap with the exact date he gets hit by a car. We also learn the greater significance of the numbers 19, 99, and 1999.

And so we go onwards at last to The Dark Tower…

The Dark Tower

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The seventh and final installment of Stephen King’s The Dark Tower saga is perhaps the most anticipated book in the author’s long career. King began this epic tale about the last gunslinger in the world more than 20 years ago; now he draws its suspenseful story to a close, snapping together the last pieces of his action puzzle and drawing Roland Deschain ever closer to his ultimate goal.

This book me the most time to read out of the whole series. Partly because I had a lot of things going on and partly because I was hesitant to end my journey to the dark tower.

What a series this was. What a series indeed. I’m so, so glad I read this.

I have little to say about this book because it would just be too many spoilers, but this is a heartbreaker for sure. But so worth the read.

That ending is still endlessly debated by Dark Tower fans. I’m still sorting it out for myself and it’s been a week since I finished the series.

 

If I haven’t convinced you to read this series yet, I don’t know what it will take. Oh yes, perhaps that there’s a movie dropping in February 2017. So you better hustle if you want to read it all before you see the movie!

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Red Rising

By Pierce Brown

Darrow is a Red, a member of the lowest caste in the color-coded society of the future. Like his fellow Reds, he works all day, believing that he and his people are making the surface of Mars livable for future generations.

Yet he spends his life willingly, knowing that his blood and sweat will one day result in a better world for his children.

But Darrow and his kind have been betrayed. Soon he discovers that humanity already reached the surface generations ago. Vast cities and sprawling parks spread across the planet. Darrow—and Reds like him—are nothing more than slaves to a decadent ruling class.

Inspired by a longing for justice, and driven by the memory of lost love, Darrow sacrifices everything to infiltrate the legendary Institute, a proving ground for the dominant Gold caste, where the next generation of humanity’s overlords struggle for power. He will be forced to compete for his life and the very future of civilization against the best and most brutal of Society’s ruling class. There, he will stop at nothing to bring down his enemies… even if it means he has to become one of them to do so.

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Since I live in San Diego, last year I went down to Comic-Con to see what free stuff I could do or pick up. Not much, really. But as I was walking, someone handed me a free book from a box. This book in fact. I accepted it, but figured it was some badly-written indie book I’d end up donating. Lo and behold, when I got home I discovered it was this amazing best-seller!

Red Rising was awesome! I’ve been describing it as Hunger Games meets Game of Thrones meets The Martian. I’m sure there are better comparisons out there, but this is what I’m working with.

After about 50 pages in, this book had me hooked and didn’t let go. I started this book the night before I got sick and spent the next day on the couch sick and reading this book. It’s a long one so I probably read 75% that day and then the rest the following day.

It’s gripping, it’s expansive, it’s exciting, it’s violent, it’s heartbreaking, it’s imaginative, it’s a hell of a good time.

I’m looking forward to getting my hands on the second book, Golden Son soon.

And I sincerely hope a movie or tv show is in the works for this series.