Thursday, September 29, 2016

Review: Deviants of Giftborn (Etherya #1) by Zuri Amarcya

Deviants of Giftborn (Etherya #1) by Zuri Amarcya
Rating: 3.75 stars
Source: Copy provided by the author
Buy the Book: Amazon 
Summary: "Better deviant than dead. 

Raised among hostile, violent beggars, Nemma longs for the safety of her family and a better quality of life. She uses trickery and brute force to survive, but living among the desperate has its risks. When she inadvertently kills two powerful magiens, with a power she didn’t realize she had, she is forced to flee and seek help. This sets in motion a chase that will have a fatal end for her if she is unable to escape the all-powerful Sovereign Order. 

Ambitious merchant, Clisantha, manipulates others to work her way up the social hierarchy in Torak City. She uses her illegal powers to preserve her status, scrutinize her devious Lord stepfather and meddle with a mysterious magien. However, when hidden memories of her long-deceased father resurface, she becomes absorbed in the mystery surrounding his death, forcing her to put herself, her beliefs and everything she has strived for at risk. 

Nemma and Clisantha’s lives collide and revolve as they fall deeper into the secrets of their past, revealing a truth far more devastating than they could ever have imagined. 
Deviants of Giftborn is the first installment of The Etherya Series, a thrilling epic fantasy saga exploring the cost of consequence, justice and power. If you like compelling action, determined heroines, and magical societies, Zuri Amarcya’s adventurous and enchanting tale is perfect for you."

Review: First off, I want to thank the author for forwarding a copy of her novel to me.  Thank you!  I also want to reassure my readers that this has had no impact on my review.   On to the review!

The first thing that stood out to me is the world building.  This is a very imaginative world, complete with a competitive economy, class struggles, corruption, and misogyny, and with an original and interesting magic system.  It reminded me a little bit of Sanderson's Mistborn series, actually, and I think fans of that series would do well to look into this series as well.  Though I have to be honest, I can tell that this world was better defined in the author's mind than in mine.  I got the gist, but wished it was less fuzzy overall. And the misogynistic elements were frustrating.

About the characters, I noticed that the female characters covered a wide range in personality, morality, looks, habits, strengths, and weaknesses.  Brava!  I didn't know how to pronounce a lot of the names, but I appreciated the range in characterization. 

There are themes of friendship and choice and power, but they aren't explored too widely. Maybe in the next book.  I don't really take issue with this though.  It bothers me a lot more when books have an Agenda.  This book was just trying to tell a story.  Much more enjoyable than an Agenda Book.

Ms. Amarcya does a great job with her action scenes.  There were real moments of adventure and excitement.  The chapters between the action scenes were quite slow, alas.

This book tells this story through rotating perspectives from two very different people, and I never was confused as to which protagonist's head I was in. (Yay!)  The two stories don't connect or build on each other very well, however. I often felt like I was reading two different books.  

And while we're talking about the two protagonists' stories, I have another grievance.  The blurb mentions that the two protagonists lives "collide and revolve as they fall deeper into the secrets of their past," which is true, but I think is a little bit misleading.  I was expecting them two to connect much sooner than they did.  Truly, the amount of time Nemma and Clisantha spend in each others' presence is extremely small.  Perhaps it was a case of mismatched expectations, but from the blurb I thought they two would become a dynamic duo to overthrow the injustices around them.  In reality, their two lives rarely touched.  I liked both characters and enjoyed reading both stories, but I didn't think their respective stories flowed together the way they should have.

All in all, it's a fun new fantasy story, if not completely polished.  I'd give it a go if you like fantasy and are looking for a new series to entertain you.  It ends on a cliffhanger, though, so don't expect much closure!
Review in a GIF:
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Bottom Line: An entertaining new fantasy series, though it's got a few issues.  Still fun.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Mini-reviews: The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss and The Wise Man's Fear by Patrick Rothfuss

The Name of the Wind (Kingkiller Chronicles #1) by Patrick Rothfuss
Rating: 3 stars
Source: Library
Buy the Book: Amazon
Summary: "Told in Kvothe's own voice, this is the tale of the magically gifted young man who grows to be the most notorious wizard his world has ever seen. 

The intimate narrative of his childhood in a troupe of traveling players, his years spent as a near-feral orphan in a crime-ridden city, his daringly brazen yet successful bid to enter a legendary school of magic, and his life as a fugitive after the murder of a king form a gripping coming-of-age story unrivaled in recent literature. 

A high-action story written with a poet's hand, The Name of the Wind is a masterpiece that will transport readers into the body and mind of a wizard."

ReviewThis one snuck up on me. I almost DNFed about twenty times, and then I found myself requesting its sequel from the library. It's a slow burn for sure, with the first 150 pages being exceptionally slow. And it ended rather abruptly without any real conclusion. But some of the scenes were real lessons in masterful writing. And Qvothe is such a likable rogue.  While I ended up liking much of the book by the end, I'm still torn on my feelings for it as a whole.

Review in a GIF:
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The Wise Man's Fear (Kingkiller Chronicles #2) by Patrick Rothfuss
Rating: 4.5 stars
Source: Library
Buy the Book: Amazon
Summary: "There are three things all wise men fear: the sea in storm, a night with no moon, and the anger of a gentle man.

My name is Kvothe.  I have stolen princesses back from sleeping barrow kings. I burned down the town of Trehon. I have spent the night with Felurian and left with both my sanity and my life. I was expelled from the University at a younger age than most people are allowed in. I tread paths by moonlight that others fear to speak of during day. I have talked to Gods, loved women, and written songs that make the minstrels weep.  You may have heard of me.

So begins the tale of a hero told from his own point of view — a story unequaled in fantasy literature. Now in The Wise Man's Fear, an escalating rivalry with a powerful member of the nobility forces Kvothe to leave the University and seek his fortune abroad. Adrift, penniless, and alone, he travels to Vintas, where he quickly becomes entangled in the politics of courtly society. While attempting to curry favor with a powerful noble, Kvothe uncovers an assassination attempt, comes into conflict with a rival arcanist, and leads a group of mercenaries into the wild, in an attempt to solve the mystery of who (or what) is waylaying travelers on the King's Road.

All the while, Kvothe searches for answers, attempting to uncover the truth about the mysterious Amyr, the Chandrian, and the death of his parents. Along the way, Kvothe is put on trial by the legendary Adem mercenaries, is forced to reclaim the honor of the Edema Ruh, and travels into the Fae realm. There he meets Felurian, the faerie woman no man can resist, and who no man has ever survived...until Kvothe.

In The Wise Man's Fear
, Kvothe takes his first steps on the path of the hero and learns how difficult life can be when a man becomes a legend in his own time."

ReviewI really enjoyed this high fantasy. Qvothe is a really spectacular character. I was engrossed in his adventures, and enjoyed speculating about the mysteries. I am concerned about how past-Qvothe turns into present-Qvothe. I hope this isn't a tragedy in the end, but all the times present day Qvothe insists that this isn't a happy story has me worried. The thing I am the most concerned about, however, is that there is no release date for book three yet. This is a complex story with a large cast. Hurry up and release the last book before I forget anything!!

Review in a GIF:
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Monday, September 5, 2016

Dream Cast List: Red Rising Trilogy by Pierce Brown

I recently finished Pierce Brown's Morning Star (review coming soon!) which means I've got the Red Rising Trilogy on the brain.  It's been a while since I've done a dream cast list, so how about it?  Have you read this series?  What did you think?  Tell me your thoughts about my picks!

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Darrow played by Liam Hemsworth
Character Info: Protagonist, conflicted rebellion leader, described post-transformation as being angular, strong, brave, secretive, over 7' tall with golden hair, skin, and eyes.
Comments: I'm not sure Liam would want to do another adaptation since he just finished Hunger Games not too long ago, but I think he fits the Darrow look, and he's appropriately teen-heart-throb-y, so ratings.

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Mustang played by Georgina Haig
Character Info: Brilliant Gold, very clever and calculating, an excellent strategist and diplomat.  Accused of being manipulative.  Described as slender with gold hair and eyes.
Comments: This one is hard to cast, since Mustang needs to have the right combination of clever, vulnerable, and deadly.  Who would you cast?

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Cassius played by Dylan O-Brien
Character Info: Arrogant and charming Gold, excellent fighter, believes in honor.  Described as being exceptionally handsome, having curly golden hair and a big smile.
Comments: Am I right or am I right?

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Sevro played by Richard Harmon
Character Info: Sneaky, witty, and crude Gold whose loyalty is hard to get, but once you have it he's yours for life.  Leader of the Howlers.
Comments: I'm not even going to take any other suggestions here.  It's Harmon as Sevro or else the entire production is getting shut down.

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The Jackal played by Thomas Brodie-Sangster
Character Info: A brilliant Gold psychopath, sister to Virginia, son to Nero, loyal to himself before all others.
Comments: I just want to see him as the bad guy.  Something tells me he'd be fantastic.

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Nero au Augustus played by Jason Lewis
Character Info: ArchGovernor of Mars, father to Mustang and the Jackal, cold, calculating, at war with House Bellona.
Comments: I like his combination of intrigue and sharpness.

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Octavia au Lune played by Robin Wright
Character Info: The Sovereign of Society, arrogant, ruthless, but not a hypocrite- she really believes in the Society.
Comments: I went back and forth between Wright and Cate Blanchette, and I think both would work fine.  But I think Wright has just a touch more grit.  Personal preference, I suppose.

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Victra played by Cara Delevingne
Character Info: A powerful Gold, ruthless and blunt with trust issues.  Described as having nearly white blonde hair. Half sister to Antonia.
Comments: Could be awesome, no?

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Ragnar Volaris played by Dave Bautista
Character Info: A Stained Obsidian, one of the strongest and most deadly fighters in the galaxy.  Loyal to the rebellion.  Wise, massive, and stoic.
Comments: Recognize him from Guardians of the Galaxy?  He was awesome there, and he'd be awesome here too.

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Pax au Telemanus played by Josh Herdman
Character Info: Large Gold who is a student at the Institute with Darrow.  Values loyalty and friendship.
Comments: I wouldn't say that Pax is a Slytherin.  But I do sometimes think we sort too early.

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Antonia played by Rachel Skarsten
Character Info: A fellow student at the Institute with Darrow.  Described as beautiful, scornful, and cruel.  Half-sister to Victra.
Comments: I think Rachel has Antonia's intensity.

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Tactus played by Rami Malek
Character Info: A somewhat lost Gold, prefers sex and drugs to real relationships, tries to believe in friendship but struggles with his demons.  A bit of a loose cannon.
Comments: Because every film is better with Rami.

Aja played by Danai Gurira
Character Info: The Sovereign's chief bodyguard, perhaps the most skilled fighter alive, fiercely loyal to the Sovereign's cause.  Described as tall with dark skin.
Comments: I love her strength and ferocity.  She would make a great Aja.

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Fitchner played by Mackenzie Crook
Character Info: Sevro's father, a gruff and crass Gold with many scars.  Praetor at the Institute in Book 1.  Called a "bronze" (offensive term among Golds).
Comments: There's something about him that screams Fitchner to me, even though he's probably not the obvious choice.
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Roque played by Ki Hong Lee 
Character Info: Quiet and pensive Gold with an affinity for literature and nature.  Unusually gentle for a Gold.  Brilliant strategic mind.  Often called "The Poet."
Comments: I'm just a big fan of his.

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Quinn played by Antonia Thomas
Character Info: A fellow Gold at the Institute with Darrow.  Loyal to the rebellion.
Comments: YES.

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Eo played by Anna Popplewell
Character Info: A Red, Darrow's wife, a dreamer with a strong spirit who left a huge impact on her society.
Comments: I like Popplewell's aura of wisdom and spirit.  It doesn't take much more than that to spark a rebellion.

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Lorn au Arcos played by Mickey Rourke
Character Info: Renown Gold warrior and blademaster.  Teacher of many of the younger skilled warriors.  Older and scarred, but still believed to be one of the best fighters alive.
Comments: I'm not sold on this one.  But I can't find anyone else who I like more.

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Evey played by Margot Robbie
Character Info: A Pink who had wings crafted onto her body by Mickey.  Passionate and beautiful with green eyes.
Comments: It's not a huge part, but Margot would do nicely.

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Mickey played by Johnny Depp
Character Info: A Violet and a Carver responsible for Darrow's transformation.  Eccentric.
Comments:  Well Depp certainly has eccentric down pat.

What do you think?  Do you agree with my choices?  Who would you cast?  Tell me your thoughts!

Friday, September 2, 2016

Mini-reviews: Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert; Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates

Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert
Rating: 4.25 stars
Source: Library
Buy the Book: Amazon
Summary: "Readers of all ages and walks of life have drawn inspiration and empowerment from Elizabeth Gilbert’s books for years. Now this beloved author digs deep into her own generative process to share her wisdom and unique perspective about creativity. With profound empathy and radiant generosity, she offers potent insights into the mysterious nature of inspiration. She asks us to embrace our curiosity and let go of needless suffering. She shows us how to tackle what we most love, and how to face down what we most fear. She discusses the attitudes, approaches, and habits we need in order to live our most creative lives. Balancing between soulful spirituality and cheerful pragmatism, Gilbert encourages us to uncover the “strange jewels” that are hidden within each of us. Whether we are looking to write a book, make art, find new ways to address challenges in our work,  embark on a dream long deferred, or simply infuse our everyday lives with more mindfulness and passion, Big Magic cracks open a world of wonder and joy."

Mini-reviewMs. Gilbert and I are very different people. I appreciated hearing her thoughts on something we are both passionate about, as she thinks so differently from me. This book was interesting and often funny, and I liked how conversational it felt. That being said, I strongly disagreed with her on a few points. I approach creativity very differently. I do not think ideas are their own entities, floating around trying to find humans to plant themselves in. That whole idea was extremely woo woo, I thought, and had me giving this book the serious side eye. I also disliked her stance on higher education in the arts and disagreed with her on the importance of the arts in society. That being said, I liked how positive she was about the whole creative process and enjoyed hearing her stories. I liked how encouraging she was, regardless of your age, skills, talents, time, or any other factor. And, most importantly, by the end I was majorly inspired to go do something creative, even if for no other reason than because I like it.

Review in a GIF:
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Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
Rating: 4.5 stars
Source: Library
Buy the Book: Amazon
Summary: "In a series of essays, written as a letter to his son, Coates confronts the notion of race in America and how it has shaped American history, many times at the cost of black bodies and lives. Thoughtfully exploring personal and historical events, from his time at Howard University to the Civil War, the author poignantly asks and attempts to answer difficult questions that plague modern society. In this short memoir, the "Atlantic" writer explains that the tragic examples of Michael Brown, Trayvon Martin, and those killed in South Carolina are the results of a systematically constructed and maintained assault to black people--a structure that includes slavery, mass incarceration, and police brutality as part of its foundation. From his passionate and deliberate breakdown of the concept of race itself to the importance of the Black Lives Matter movement, Coates powerfully sums up the terrible history of the subjugation of black people in the United States. A timely work, this title will resonate with all teens--those who have experienced racism as well as those who have followed the recent news coverage on violence against people of color."

Mini-review: I feel weird giving this book a rating.  It's not a story so much as a history, a personal experience, or a lesson.  There is a lot of stuff to digest here, and I'd definitely recommend taking your time with it.  It's important reading, and this book needs to be out there.  Happily it is pretty well known by now.  I only wish there were more conversation on how to break out of or change the "dream" to not be destructive and exclusive, or what that new society would look like. But maybe that's a topic for another book.

Review in a GIF:
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