Review Tuesday: The Shattered Court by M.J. Scott

I borrowed The Shattered Court by M.J. Scott from a friend of mine. It was one of those, I was perusing her bookshelf, came across it and asked to borrow it. I was definitely not disappointed. This is my favourite book of the year so far.

shattered-courtFrom Goodreads:

Entangled in a court ruled by tradition and intrigue, a young witch must come to terms with newfound power and desire—and a choice between loyalty and survival.…

The royal witches of Anglion have bowed to tradition for centuries. If a woman of royal blood manifests powers, she is immediately bound by rites of marriage. She will serve her lord by practicing the tamer magics of the earth—ensuring good harvests and predicting the weather. Any magic more dangerous is forbidden.

Lady Sophia Kendall, thirty-second in line to the throne, is only days away from finding out if she will be blessed—or perhaps cursed—with magic. When a vicious attack by Anglion’s ancient enemies leaves the kingdom in chaos, Sophia is forced to flee the court. Her protector by happenstance is Lieutenant Cameron Mackenzie, a member of the royal guard, raised all his life to be fiercely loyal to the Crown.

Then Sophia’s powers manifest stronger than she ever imagined they would, and Cameron and she are inextricably linked in the process. As a witch unbound by marriage rites, Sophia is not only a threat to the established order of her country, but is also a weapon for those who seek to destroy it. Faced with old secrets and new truths, she must decide if she will fight for her country or succumb to the delicious temptation of power.…

This book starts off simple enough – you meet the two main characters Sophie and Cameron at the very beginning. Their life is a rather ordinary one. Cameron is a Red Guard – which means that he is a royal guard and someone who can do battle magic – and Sophie is a lady-in-waiting to the Queen. She is turning 21 and when she does she will find out if she has powers or not. If she does, she becomes an item auctioned off to the noble who will benefit the Crown the most. Oh, the joys of being a woman. Obviously, as it says in the description, Sophie does come into power. And she is unbound by marriage rites. What does this mean? It means that her powers are fully her own, and when you’re in line for a throne (even far down the line) that makes for a very dangerous situation.

The plot of this book is engaging and engrossing. The magic (what you know of it) is interesting, and the intrigue of the court, and who is responsible for certain things keeps you on the edge of your seat. Nothing is quite like it seems. I will admit however, that it is a little frustrating at times because you learn things slowly and only as Sophie learns them. I want to know all of the things, and I want to know them now!

The other thing that makes this book so enjoyable is Sophie and Cameron. They start of indifferent to each other and slowly (and then quickly) a bond grows between them. An unshakeable bond. These two characters and their relationship brought me joy. I want them to succeed. I’m rooting for them all the way. I’m smiling right now just thinking of them.

The book ends with many things left unanswered. It is definitely written as the first book in a series. I am so excited for book two – which is suppose to be coming out this year but that’s all I know. This is definitely a book that I’m going to be buying for myself and most likely reading again – maybe even again this year.

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Review Tuesday: A Lady’s Heart by Vivian Arend

I don’t remember how I stumbled across Vivian Arend, but I’m so glad that I did. I love the shifter series (fantasy + romance) and the cowboy series that she has. They’re so entertaining. You fall in love with her characters so easily in these two series.

I think that I read A Lady’s Heart in about a day – maybe a day and a half. It was a quick read, with an engrossing story. I also really enjoyed the fact that the story was about Mandy. Readers met her in a previous book in the series. She was a character that you felt terribly for, and who you really wanted to get a happily-ever-after.

a-ladys-heartFrom Goodreads:

Lady Amanda Ainsworth found a safe place to pull herself together under the roof of the loud, boisterous Takhini Wolf pack. Safe—except for the sexy grizzly shifter with the oversized biceps and the steely-grey eyes who’s also hanging his hat with the Whitehorse wolves. Justin Cullinan makes her light up and shimmer inside like the Northern Lights, and she knows it’s time to start her new life.

He may be the bodyguard and not the CEO, but Justin’s powerful in his own right. He gets what he wants—and who he wants is the sweet seductive Mandy. He’ll go as slowly as necessary, but he has no intention of stopping until she admits they’re meant to be.

But when her safety is threatened, all bets are off. Justin’s going to keep his lady safe and find out who’s stalking her, and the best place is hidden in plain sight in the biggest shifter town in the north.

That is, if they aren’t running into a trap…

Like I said earlier, you met Justin and Mandy in an earlier book. In that book you immediately feel sorry for Mandy, and you instantly like Justin. So the fact that this book is about the two of them is awesome.

One of the things that I love about this  book is that Mandy learns how to stand up for herself. She decides what she wants and Justin helps her, in any way that he can, get it. It was so empowering watching her take bigger and bigger steps towards the person that she wanted to become. And I love that Justin always built her up. There were things that she wanted to do that she thought was silly and small, but he was always there to remind her when she gave in to self-doubt that if she wanted to do them, then they weren’t silly or small. It was simply what she wanted to do. Mandy gaining back her self-confidence, and trusting herself was a highlight of this book for me.

I also just enjoyed her and Justin’s relationship. There is a little zest of danger thrown into the story because someone is following Mandy and they’re not sure who is and what their motiviation is, but it does add  some heat to the story and to their romance.

In this story you also of course run into characters from previous books, and it’s just so wonderful seeing them all again. It’s like running into an old friend and playing a quick catch up. And what I like about it to is that you don’t run into ALL of the previous characters, just enough that you enjoy the catch up without being overrun with information that hinders the flow of the storyline.

There are of course hints dropped about upcoming books – there are at least 2 different sets of would-be couples, though one more than the other, that I’m excited about reading.

This was a quick read, and an enjoyable storyline. If you haven’t read any of her shifter series, and you’re into fantasy and romance then definitely give this series a go!

 

Review Tuesday:The Fate of the Tearling by Erika Johansen

fate-of-the-tearlingThe Fate of the Tearling by Erika Johansen is book three in the Queen of the Tearling series. I picked up The Queen of the Tearling after I heard that Emma Watson was going to produce and star in it. I love Emma Watson – she’s a force of nature, and she reads. (Why does it seem like the majority of people the world pays attention to don’t?) So, after hearing this tidbit of news I picked up a copy. It was fantastic. I loved book one. Book two came along and I gobbled that up as well. It wasn’t as good as the first, but still pretty damn good. Then book three came along. The conclusion. And well…it tanked.

From Goodreads:

The thrilling conclusion to the New York Times bestselling Tearling trilogy.

In less than a year, Kelsea Glynn has transformed from a gawky teenager into a powerful monarch. As she has come into her own as the Queen of the Tearling, the headstrong, visionary leader has also transformed her realm. In her quest to end corruption and restore justice, she has made many enemies—including the evil Red Queen, her fiercest rival, who has set her armies against the Tear.

To protect her people from a devastating invasion, Kelsea did the unthinkable—she gave herself and her magical sapphires to her enemy—and named the Mace, the trusted head of her personal guards, Regent in her place. But the Mace will not rest until he and his men rescue their sovereign, imprisoned in Mortmesne.

Now, as the suspenseful endgame begins, the fate of Queen Kelsea—and the Tearling itself—will finally be revealed.

There are spoilers below. You have been warned.

The main theme and purpose of the protagonist Kelsea Glynn is to make her country, the Tearling, the utopia that it was originally suppose to be. However, corruption of that ideal set in hundreds of years beforehand and to fix it, well there are no easy answers. The idea of being a good Queen, of protecting her people and her kingdom was a great storyline, and the main storyline of book one.

The problem with this book for me is “utopia”. The author has set up this world where that is the end goal, which is lofty because at the end of the series she has to get there. And she does get there in one sense. The book ends in a utopia of a world. Kelsea fixes the moment where things start to go wrong hundreds of years in the past and thus changes the present. However, getting to that point was where the author lost me. I just wasn’t on board with the plot line. I think that the author was so concerned with getting to the utopia that she sacrificed the story to get there – the first books were shown to be unnecessary and I felt that I was cheated because she made the first two books redundant.

The Fate of the Tearling plodded along at a rather slow pace until the end when all of a sudden it was like the author realized she was running out of time and still had so much story left to tell. So much plot to get through, and thus she jammed it into the last 50 pages. It felt like she had all these strands she was desperate to weave together to make the story end the way she wanted it and it showed. It was like being pushed down a path covered with branches and told “this is the only way to go”. I feel like if she had decided to forgo utopia the book would have been so much better.

And that’s the other problem I have – utopia. The last few pages is devoted to it, but it rings hollow. The problem with utopia, just like the problem with communism is that it doesn’t take into account the human condition. It doesn’t take into account greed, or that fact that some people are assholes. It doesn’t take into account the desire for power, for control. It instead pretends that it doesn’t exist, which is more dangerous than acknowledging that it does. The ending of this book rings hollow because it’s unbelievable. It’s not a trustworthy ending. I was completely unsatisfied.

The first two books in this series are great, engaging and interesting. This book, however, was not. Before the end, I was longing for it to be over, and when it was, I was longing for a different storyline because this one drowned in the author’s desire to reach a particular ending that the story didn’t seem to want to follow.

 

 

Review Tuesday: The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi

windup-girlThe Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi is a fantasy novel that has won numerous prestigious awards like the Hugo and the Nebula, and I can’t for the life of me figure out why. This book was brutal, and the only reason I actually finished it was because I was reading it for my book club.

From Goodreads:

Anderson Lake is a company man, AgriGen’s Calorie Man in Thailand. Under cover as a factory manager, Anderson combs Bangkok’s street markets in search of foodstuffs thought to be extinct, hoping to reap the bounty of history’s lost calories. There, he encounters Emiko…

Emiko is the Windup Girl, a strange and beautiful creature. One of the New People, Emiko is not human; instead, she is an engineered being, creche-grown and programmed to satisfy the decadent whims of a Kyoto businessman, but now abandoned to the streets of Bangkok. Regarded as soulless beings by some, devils by others, New People are slaves, soldiers, and toys of the rich in a chilling near future in which calorie companies rule the world, the oil age has passed, and the side effects of bio-engineered plagues run rampant across the globe.

What Happens when calories become currency? What happens when bio-terrorism becomes a tool for corporate profits, when said bio-terrorism’s genetic drift forces mankind to the cusp of post-human evolution? Award-winning author Paolo Bacigalupi delivers one of the most highly acclaimed science fiction novels of the twenty-first century.

Now, I was the only person in my book club to actually finish the book – though one of us was almost done and was planning on finishing it. The other two had most definitely given up (at least for the foreseeable future). I would be proud that I had actually finished the book, but I haven’t read 2 other books for book club, so I’m still batting below average. Anyway, not the point. The point is this book.

The book starts off doing something that I completely hate – it drops you into the middle of a whole new world without any word of explanation and without attempting to explain anything. You have to figure it out as you go along, and in this case I feel like I missed out on some good story line because I didn’t understand what was happening, and because the author didn’t explain certain things – like how the world got to this point, how exactly did this world function, and essentially how did all of the pieces of this elaborate puzzle fit together?

The other problem with this book is that it (like bloody Games of Thrones, holy crap do I hate that book) introduced too many characters too quickly. Each chapter is from a different character’s perspective, which is fine, but because it rotated so much it took forever for you the reader to get invested in any character, and by the end of it all I was only invested in two – and even then, not overly.

So I’m now reading a book where I don’t understand much, and where I’m not really invested in any of the characters. Great times. The only thing that this book had going for it (in my opinion) is the main idea of the book that humanity has done this to itself. We didn’t care about the planet until it was too late. We thought we were gods and started gene ripping and splicing and the consequences was plagues and not enough food for the world. Greed screwed us. And let’s be honest greed is screwing the world we currently live in as well. That part of the book, the main idea of it was interesting and intriguing. The execution of that idea was brutal, horrendous and I longed for it to be over. The ending could not come soon enough.

And the ending – what bullshit. What random bullshit. It was not believable and was too heavy handed. The author definitely had a moment of “shit, I need these two people to meet, and I’m out of time…fuck it…they meet, the end.” *slams head on desk* BRUTAL.

This is not a book I enjoyed or liked. I would not recommend it and I have zero idea how it won any kind of awards. If you are one of those people who loved this book, for the love of God tell me how and why because I for the life of me cannot understand.

My Favourite Books of 2016

If you’re looking for some book inspiration to start of 2017, here are my top 3 favourite books that I read in 2016.

aeronauts windlassNumber 1: The Aeronaut’s Windlass by Jim Butcher.

This book is without a doubt my favourite from 2016. My bestie Jay recommended it to me – and without his recommendation I would never have picked this one up. I didn’t like Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files series and have stayed away from him, but Jay told me to give this one a go, and I’m so glad that I did. This book was epic. It was an amazing fantasy story, with a very well  built and thought out world, and consisted of characters that were unforgettable. I cannot wait for book two! Which reminds me I should go check the publishing date for that…anyway, you can check out my full review here.

 

Number 2: For Better or Worse by Lauren Layne.

I read a lot of romances this year (though truthfully for the last couple of years I’ve been reading a lot of romances) and while I have a couple of favourites this one is without a doubt my favourite. Lauren Layne has become for me one of the those authors that I just buy without evefor better or worsen needing to know the story because 9 times out of 10 the story is amazing and I fall head over heels for the characters. This book was no exception. The banter and chemistry that existed between the two main character was swoon worthy. I inhaled this book. More like this please Lauren Layne. You can read more about what I thought of the book here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

melting-pointNumber 3: Melting Point by Kate Meader.

I never wrote a review for Melting Point because it’s a short novella, but this book made my heart sing. The characters are simply so wonderful and have gone through so much that when they get their happily-ever-after it was just perfection. This book is part of the Hot in Chicago series (which is an amazing series, and which Lauren Layne actually recommended in her Weekly). And while the series was incredible, this little novella is my favourite part. It is a love story about 2 men, which I don’t read often – mostly because I just don’t come across very many of them – but it was such a moving story. Gage and Brady. Two characters who have gone through their own version of hell (and seriously, was that ever heart breaking) to eventually find each other. Now, I would most definitely recommend that you read the Hot in Chicago series because it’s SO good. And definitely read Melting Point. It’s one that packs a hell of a punch.

 

What were some of your favourite books of 2016? I’m on the hunt for good reads because the last two books I read I really didn’t like. (You’ll be hearing all about them in the coming weeks!)

 

Review Tuesday: The Sleeper and the Spindle by Neil Gaiman

I find that Neil Gaiman is hit or miss with me. For instance, I really enjoyed Stardust, but I loathed American Gods. I made it only about 100 pages in before I abandoned it. So, I was very happy that I enjoyed reading The Sleeper and the Spindle.

TheSleeperandtheSpindle_Hardback_1418011159From Goodreads:

A thrillingly reimagined fairy tale from the truly magical combination of author Neil Gaiman and illustrator Chris Riddell – weaving together a sort-of Snow White and an almost Sleeping Beauty with a thread of dark magic, which will hold readers spellbound from start to finish.

On the eve of her wedding, a young queen sets out to rescue a princess from an enchantment. She casts aside her fine wedding clothes, takes her chain mail and her sword and follows her brave dwarf retainers into the tunnels under the mountain towards the sleeping kingdom. This queen will decide her own future – and the princess who needs rescuing is not quite what she seems. Twisting together the familiar and the new, this perfectly delicious, captivating and darkly funny tale shows its creators at the peak of their talents.

Lavishly produced, packed with glorious Chris Riddell illustrations enhanced with metallic ink, this is a spectacular and magical gift.

Firstly, this book is a visual masterpiece. I loved the illustrations. They are beautiful, and I find that they add a lot to the story. They help tell the tale. I got creeped out looking at some of them, and I loved others – like the ones where you meet the dwarves. 

sleeper 3

This book looks and feels, and is, a true fairy tale. And like all true fairy tales this one has a darkness to it. This is the original kind of fairy tale where sometimes the world is a cruel and terrible place simply because it can be. It’s what fairy tales were before Disney came along.

There is also an excellent twist to the tale that I very much enjoyed, and didn’t see coming. It’s nice when an old tale takes on new twists and turns. The twist was definitely what gave this book its emotional punch.

This is not a book for young children I don’t think. I’d say maybe grades 4-5, and obviously, any adult who wants to give it a go.

I really enjoyed this tale, and I would recommend it to anyone is in the mood for a good tale.

Review Tuesday: The View From the Cheap Seats by Neil Gaiman

Neil Gaiman has a way with words. He is one of those authors that makes me look at things completely differently – such as “Night’s Bridge.” That’s a scene and an image I’ll never get out of my head. And he also has a way with speaking – the way that he speaks about reading and libraries and art is inspiring. Thus, I was very excited when I heard that he was coming out with a collection of his essays and speeches in The View From the Cheap Seats.

view from the cheap seatsFrom Goodreads:

An inquisitive observer, thoughtful commentator, and assiduous craftsman, Neil Gaiman has long been celebrated for the sharp intellect and startling imagination that informs his bestselling fiction. Now, The View from the Cheap Seats brings together for the first time ever more than sixty pieces of his outstanding nonfiction. Analytical yet playful, erudite yet accessible, this cornucopia explores a broad range of interests and topics, including (but not limited to): authors past and present; music; storytelling; comics; bookshops; travel; fairy tales; America; inspiration; libraries; ghosts; and the title piece, at turns touching and self-deprecating, which recounts the author’s experiences at the 2010 Academy Awards in Hollywood.

Insightful, incisive, witty, and wise, The View from the Cheap Seats explores the issues and subjects that matter most to Neil Gaiman—offering a glimpse into the head and heart of one of the most acclaimed, beloved, and influential artists of our time.

The book is broken down into different sections:

  1. Some Things I Believe
  2. Some People I Have Known
  3. Introductions and Musings: Science Fiction
  4. Films and Movies and Me
  5. On Comics and Some of the People Who Make Them
  6. Introductions and Contradictions
  7. Music and the People Who Make It
  8. On Stardust and Fairy Tales
  9. Make Good Art
  10. The View From the Cheap Seats: Real Things

The book started off strong with some interesting essays and forwards that he wrote for different books. I also really liked that there were some authors and works that I had never heard of because it meant that I kept opening Goodreads or Evernote to find or write down the different book titles that seemed interesting to me so I could read them later. It’s always fun when an author you enjoy essentially recommends new books to you.

However, by the middle, I was starting to falter. The introductions started getting repetitive and I started getting a bit bored. A couple of the people he was talking about became the “one in a million people” and I feel like I would have liked those forwards more if I wasn’t reading them all together in one shot.

The book picked up again though in the last couple of sections and I found myself devouring it. I loved the On Stardust and Fairy Tales section, and Make Good Art, as well as The View From the Cheap Seats: Real Things. There was one essay in that section about refugees that made me cry actually.

I’ve decided that the original essays or speeches that he wrote and put into this book are my favourite and kept me entertained and engaged the most. The forwards are the ones that I didn’t like nearly as much (though I liked the beginning ones more than the middle ones).

Overall though it was a book I enjoyed and I did end up making a list of new books and authors to check out. Can’t go wrong with that!