Archive for July, 2016

new kitty LuschkaGood morning fellow bookworms.  The big news in my family this week is that we adopted a cat!  Meet Pavlushka, a seven year old female adopted from the Montreal SPCA.  I have tried for many months to fill the cat shaped hole in my soul without success, and I am so, so grateful to Thad for accepting a new feline into our home.  Lushka is a curious, affectionate cat according to her profile and she was certainly happy to be petted at the SPCA.  

Lushka really enjoyed being out of the shelter and being fussed over last night.  She spent most of the evening on the sofa next to me demanding pets.  She has already worked out how to open our kitchen cupboards.  I think she’ll be a wonderful fit for our household. 

In more reading-related news, I did something I don’t often do this week – consigned a book to the did not finish pile.  This was Ice Like Fire by Sara Raasch.  As I mentioned in my review of the first book Snow Like Ashes, I found the plot rather predictable, and unfortunately for book two, the interesting worldbuilding was not enough to carry me through this time.  

I’ve also been continuing with my ARC of Blood for Blood by Ryan Graudin (fully as excellent as I expected it to be so far.) and Evelyn Skye’s The Crown’s Game which is improving the further along I go.  

Before the Snow, a prequel to Danielle Paige’s Stealing Snow was released this week.  I have read it and enjoyed it.  I should note that I have read Stealing Snow – I got the ARC at BEA this May.  I will say though that some of the twists of Stealing Snow were stronger to me for not having read Before the Snow.  I would suggest holding back on this and reading it afterwards as background reading.  I did really love the tie in with some of Andersen’s other fairy tales.  

This weekend, of course, sees the release of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.  I will certainly be devouring it as soon as it hits my Kindle on Sunday morning.  I’ve heard snippets about the story, and seen the rave reviews so I Iook forward to reading it for myself.  I’m still really hoping they will film the play and show it in cinemas. 

Upcoming releases in August.

August and September are generally big months for new book releases and this year is no exception.  This August there are five books coming out about which I am super excited.

First up is Rick Riordan’s For Magnus Chase: Hotel Valhalla Guide to the Norse Worlds.  For those of you who don’t know, Magnus Chase is the protagonist of Riordan’s Norse mythology based middle grade series.  I don’t know about you, but I’m not as familiar with Norse mythology as I am with Roman and Greek (the basis of Riordan’s other series) so I think this book will be extremely useful – and knowing Riordan, very funny too.  For Magnus Chase: Hotel Valhalla Guide to the Norse Worlds is released on August 16th.

Next up on August 23rd is Blake Charlton’s Spellbreaker, the third in his Spellwright trilogy.  For those of you unfamiliar with this series it has one of the most interesting magic systems I’ve read.  If Charlton’s world, words literally have power and take physical form.  I’m really looking forward to seeing how this series ends.  

Queen Rising is the second in Danielle Paige’s prequels to her Snow Queen retelling Stealing Snow.  As I mentioned earlier, I have read Stealing Snow and felt that the first prequel weakened some of the twists of the main novel.  I’ll be interested to see if the same is true for this one.  Queen Rising is released on August 30th.

Also scheduled for release on August 30th is Furthermore, Shatter Me author Tahereh Mafi’s first foray into middle grade.  I picked up a copy of this at BEA, but sadly it never made its way back to Montreal.  It does sound like a fun read.

Finally on August 30th we have The Bronze Key, the third in Holly Black and Cassandra Clare’s Harry Potteresque Magisterium series.  I’ve really enjoyed this series so far, mainly because of the very clever twisting of the Harry Potter tropes.  I’m definitely looking forward to continuing this.

What books are you most looking forward to in August?  Let me know in the comments!

Reading roundup – New Kitty! was originally published on Canadian eReader

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Court of Fives by Kate Elliott is a YA fantasy book and one that I found myself being sucked into even in the middle of a reading slump. I found the protagonists engaging and loved the world. I found it had a bit more substance than some YA fantasy novels.

What I liked

Cultural tensions. This is very much a tale of being caught between two cultures.  Our protagonist, Jessamy, is the child of a Saroese father and Efean mother and struggles to fit in with either culture.  Her father’s people, who are the conquerers of the Efeans, do not fully accept Jes as one of their own due to her mixed heritage yet her genteel upbringing closes her off from acceptance in her mother’s society.  Jes herself also struggles to find her place in her world.  The only time she can truly be herself is when she is training for the game the Court of Fives.  Although we do not live in a magical society, this theme may still strike a chord with many readers.

The Games.  I really enjoyed how the game of Court of Fives permeated the story to a great extent.  We see the games themselves a couple of times in the books, but it’s made clear that the skills Jes uses to become a successful Fives player are the same skills she and Kalliarkos will need to get out of certain situations and also to navigate Saroese politics.  I really loved that politics was hinted to be just a different version of the Court of Fives.

The magic and Jes’s journey.  The magic is very subtle in this book and is tied to the Efean culture.   At this point in her story Jes still struggles to accept her Efean heritage, so she has difficulty understanding the magic.  I expect that Jes’s journey in future books will be to embrace her cultural background, at which point the magic will become more and more prominent.  That I am excited to see. 

Little Women.  I read in the author’s notes that the characters of Jes and her sisters were based on those of Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women.  I didn’t notice that at first, but once you do see it, it is very clear.  It was fun seeing those personality types in a completely different setting.  I am curious about what it means for the sisters’ character arcs in upcoming books and whether they will mirror those of Alcott’s.

Moral dilemmas.  Certain of the characters, including Jes, face moral dilemmas at certain points in the book.  I felt these were very well written and engaged my sympathy for the characters.  I am very interested to see how the decisions made will impact future character development and relationships.  I’d like to think Jes will have more understanding for her father in future.

What I didn’t like

The romance.  I wouldn’t say I disliked the Kalliarkos/Jes romance; it’s more a case of I’m waiting to see how it plays out in future books.  I was concerned that it felt a little too much Instalovey, which I don’t like.  If the parallels with Little Women hold true, the future for the couple doesn’t look too rosy.

In the end I really enjoyed Court of Fives and gave it four and a half stars out of five.  I have an Advanced Reader Copy of the sequel, The Poisoned Blade, and I’m very excited to read it.  

Court of Fives by Kate Elliott – Review was originally published on Canadian eReader

ARC of Blood for BloodAs you will see from my picture, I got my hands on a copy of Blood for Blood by Ryan Graudin!  This is the sequel to Wolf by Wolf which I adored.  You can read my review.  Those of you who follow my blog will know that I missed out on this one at BEA in Chicago, and that it was one of my most anticipated reads for 2016.  Hachette Canada was kind enough to send me an Advanced Reader Copy.  Thank you soooooo much.  Expect me to share my thoughts on it over the next week or two.  Blood for Blood will be released on November 1st 2016.

More exciting news, this time from the world of audiobooks.  Brent Weeks announced this week that Simon Vance has recorded The Black Prism, the first book in Weeks’ Lightbringer series.  It was originally recorded by Cristofer Jean, and Vance took over narration duties from book two, The Blinding Knife.  Now, no disrespect to Mr. Jean, but this is Simon Vance we’re talking about.  Winner of multiple Audies and other awards and a damn good narrator.  I personally credit Brent Weeks and Simon Vance for my love of audiobooks.  When listening to The Blinding Knife (first in the series narrated by Vance) I kept getting strange looks from my husband for snickering out loud at Vance’s narration of some of Kip’s quips.  

For those of you on the fence about audiobooks, I can’t recommend this series highly enough, especially now that Simon Vance is narrating the whole series.  His narration of The Black Prism is now available from Audible.  

This week I finished Snow Like Ashes by Sara Raasch – you can check out my review if you’re interested.  I picked up the sequel, Ice Like Fire, from the library and it’s next on my reading stand.  Or, at least, it was until Blood for Blood arrived on my doorstep!

The second book I finished was Kate Elliott’s Court of Fives.  I found myself really drawn into this world – expect a full review next week – and I’m very happy I have the Advanced Reader copy of the sequel, The Poisoned Blade.  As I don’t have audiobook versions of Blood for Blood or Ice Like Fire, I am listening to Cold Fire, the second in Elliott’s Spiritwalker trilogy.

In non reading news, I have finally 100% completed Lego Star Wars: The Force Awakens!  Yay!  Now I can finally get back to reading. 

That’s all for this week folks – see you again next week.

Reading roundup – July 22nd 2016 was originally published on Canadian eReader

Snow Like Ashes by Sara Raasch is the first in a young adult fantasy series centering around Meira, a young refugee left orphaned when her country was overrun and conquered by a neighbouring power.  It focusses on her struggle to locate the missing magical Conduit of Winter and to free her imprisoned countrymen.

What I liked

The world.  I really enjoyed the world that Raasch has built for her story.  There are eight kingdoms; four Season realms, each dominated by a single season (our protagonist is from Winter) and four Rhythm, whose climate cycles through each season.   Each kingdom was wonderfully described and I loved their seasonal themes.  The tensions between the kingdoms were interesting and well described and I appreciated the political machinations that were going on behind the scenes.

The magic system.  The magic system of the Conduits was fascinating, and I look forward to reading more about the chasm of magic and the Decay in future books.  I always appreciate it when limitations are written into the magic system – often, they are as interesting as the magic itself.  In this case I enjoyed the fact that certain artifacts are limited by gender and can only be used in certain ways.  I loved reading how the various wielders of the Conduits worked within those limitations to either serve their own ends or help their people.

What I didn’t like

All the tropes.  Too often I felt that Raasch was ticking boxes to see how many YA and fantasy tropes she could fit into this book and more, that they are not subverted. Young orphan discovers she has a secret past and destiny filled future. Check.  Missing magical artifact hidden right at the heart of the antagonist’s power.  Check.  Young king struggling to meet the needs and expectations of his people.  Check.  Honestly, there are simply too many to name, and many I can’t name for spoiler reasons.  Now, I’m aware that there are very few new stories in the world. but I would have liked to see some kind of twist on these old tropes.  

The foreshadowing.  This came across as being rather heavily emphasised, which, along with the use of the tropes, made the story for me at least very, very predictable.  

The love triangle.  This seems an obligatory part of every YA book these days and Snow Like Ashes is no exception.  It wasn’t badly done, it just didn’t grab my attention at all.

Despite the predictability, the worldbuilding carried me through Snow Like Ashes and I gave it three and a half stars out of five.  I probably wouldn’t be interested enough to pay for the sequel, Ice Like Fire, but as it was available from my local library I will check it out.

Snow Like Ashes by Sara Raasch – Review was originally published on Canadian eReader

Every summer a large, Broadway style musical comes to Montreal – read about my Wicked obsession from a couple of years ago.  Generally it’s in English and plays at the huge Salle Wilfred Pelletier.  This year, as the flagstone show of the Juste Pour Rire festival a Quebecois it was decided to stage a French language version of hit show Mary Poppins.  It was considered quite a risk, given the size of the production, but judging from the bottoms on seats and reviews it one which has paid off in spades.

Yesterday I took myself off to see it at the Theatre St Denis and had a wonderful afternoon.  In terms of production values, the show was superb.  The sets are gorgeous, the cast is talented and well prepared, the magic tricks/stunts like when Mary Poppins enters or exits by flying high above the audience or the Banks disaster of a kitchen suddenly fixes itself are breathtaking.  Add to that the incredible Sherman Brothers’ songs and astounding choreography and you have a wonderful spectacle.  It produced one of the few mid show standing ovations I’ve experienced in North America.   The cause of that was the showstopping dance number Step in Time – sorry, Juste a Temps as it is here – and was well deserved.  

The theatre was as full as I’ve ever seen it and for every child in attendance there were at least three or four adults.  It certainly shows the place Mary Poppins still holds in people’s hearts.  Even now Feed the Birds – excuse me, Pour Nourrir les P’tits Oiseaux – brings a lump to my throat.  It is certainly very different seeing Mary Poppins as a child and seeing it again as an adult.  As a child, you are drawn into the wonder of Mary Poppins’ magic.  As an adult, it’s easier to see things from the adult Banks’ perspective, especially with the way the roles have been expanded for the stage musical rather than the Julie Andrews film.

Instead of a suffragette, Winifred Banks is a young former actress who has married into the upper middle class and struggles to adapt to her new role as wife and mother as well as to understand her husband, coming as he does from a different social background. She has a beautiful character arc (and some touching new songs) which is really touching.  Mr Banks’ role, too, is developed from the film with the revelation of his unhappy childhood under the tutelage of the show’s antagonist Miss Andrews, missing from the movie.  These are aspects that adults can pick up and appreciate while still leaving kids to enjoy the spectacle.

Mary Poppins, whether in London, Broadway or Montreal is a fantastic show and well worth going to.  Enjoy

 

five-stars

Mary Poppins a la Québecoise was originally published on Canadian eReader

Hello, yes I know I’ve missed a reading roundup – my apologies for that.  I’ve had a lot of shifts at work and was working some crazy hours over the last few weeks.  Also I had a virus which left me rather run down.  Also, there were some great season finale TV shows on – Game of Thrones and Outlander – which I really wanted to watch.  Also LEGO Star Wars: The Force Awakens won’t play itself.  Anyway, enough excuses.

Right now I’m in a kind of reading slump.  I have many, many books in my TBR, but none of them are taking my fancy.  Don’t you just hate that?  I have hopes that Snow Like Ashes by Sara Raasch may help ease me out of that slump.

Since my last roundup, I have managed to finish a few books, and consign one to my Did Not Finish pile.  Sorry The Crown’s Game, you just didn’t grab my interest fast enough.

The books I completed were Paper and Fire by Rachel Caine, for which you should have seen a full review go up earlier this week, Stealing Snow by Danielle Paige, one of the ARCs I received at BEA 2016 and On the Merits of Unnaturalness by Samantha Shannon.

Danielle Paige’s Stealing Snow was one of my most anticipated ARCs from BEA and I was really looking forward to reading it.  However, I didn’t enjoy it as much as I’d hoped.  I will write a full review nearer to the time.  I didn’t find Snow as engaging a protagonist as Dorothy Must Die’s Amy Gumm, and I personally prefer the world of Oz to Hans Christian Andersen’s world.  From Dorothy Must Die, I know that Paige’s narrative and characters become much stronger as the series progresses so I will be more than happy to check out book two. I gave Stealing Snow three and a half stars out of five.

On the Merits of Unnaturalness by Samantha Shannon is a companion novella to her Bone Season series.  At only 37 pages it is very short, but it is jam packed with worldbuilding and useful information.  It is written as an in-world pamphlet explaining the different orders of clairvoyants appearing in the series.  The Bone Season series is one that is really growing on me as it progresses – we’re at book two of a seven book series – and this novella has really whetted my appetite for The Song Rising due in March 2017.

That’s all for today.  Have a great weekend!

Reading roundup – July 15h 2016 was originally published on Canadian eReader

Paper and Fire by Rachel Caine is the second in The Great Library series and is the sequel to Ink and Bone, which was one of my favourite reads from last year.  I realised I never did a full review of it.  Bad Evelynne.  Paper and Fire was also one of my most anticipated reads for 2016 and it did not disappoint.  For those of you not familiar with this series, it is a contemporary alternate reality/fantasy in which the Great Library of Alexandria survived and now has a monopoly on the distribution of books in electronic medium and controls all hard copy books, too.  Naturally, this gives it the ability to control the flow of knowledge and as such it has gained almost immeasurable power.  Our protagonist, Jess Brightwell, comes from a family of book smugglers and has infiltrated the Library with the intent of continuing the family trade.  The people he meets there open his eyes to the extent of the Library’s corruption and change his perspective.

The sequel, Paper and Fire, opens shortly after the events of Ink and Bone and deals with the aftermath of the Library’s successful “divide and conquer” campaign against Jess and his friends.  The book can be summed up by “let’s get the gang all back together.” Jess must reunite his friends and make alliances with people who do not necessarily share his values.

What I liked

The characters.  For me the characters are the real highlight of this series.  Not only Jess, but his friends and allies too are all wonderfully developed.  Each of them has his or her story, motivations, hangups and fears.  They all act in unique ways based on their values and experiences, and it’s great to see how they develop throughout the series,

Scholar Wolfe and his relationship with Santi remain one of my favourite parings. Incidentally at EnterTheLibrary.com the author has published a few short stories, one of which is Wolfe and Santi’s first meeting – a wonderful meet-cute. We also get to meet some new characters, including Wolfe’s mother and get to see a snippet of life in the Iron Tower which was fascinating.

The world.  The world is simply amazing.  It’s fascinating to see the changes that the lack of freedom of information has caused in the world.  The automatons protecting the Library are also very very cool.

The pacing.  Caine kept the story moving along at a great pace – there was never a point at which I lost interest.  I kept wanting to listen to the next chapter.  

That kick ass ending.  The book does end on kind of a cliffhanger and it has made me very excited for book three.  I really look forward to it.

I gave Paper and Fire four and a half stars out of five.

four-half-stars

Paper and Fire by Rachel Caine was originally published on Canadian eReader

One of my pleasures on a Sunday evening has been watching HBO’s Game of Thrones season six.  This is the first time that the show has outpaced George R.R. Martin’s books which made it a particularly fascinating season.  The season was for me a mixture of highs and lows, with more highs than lows.  I will split the post here for those who don’t want any spoilers about season six.

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Good morning.  This week I’ve been really unfocussed in my reading.  I’ve dipped into several books, but not finished that many of them.  It’s been a crazy busy week for me at work, which hasn’t helped.  OK I admit it.  Any free time I’ve had I’ve spent playing Lego Star Wars: The Force Awakens rather than reading.  Those games are addictive.

One book I did finish and enjoyed was His Majesty’s Dragon by Naomi Novik.  This is the first in the Temeraire series in which the Napoleonic Wars are reimagined with dragons.  I loved the concept, characters and themes.  I especially enjoyed the relationship between Laurence and Temeraire, the dragon.  The ninth and final book in the series, League of Dragons, has just been published.  Much as I enjoyed the series, I’m not certain I want to invest the time to read the rest of the eight, so I cheated and read Tor.com’s Temeraire reread.  I’m hoping this will catch me up sufficiently and I will pick up League of Dragons in audiobook format – narrator is Simon Vance, how could I not go for the audiobook? – as soon as I have a spare Audible credit.  I gave His Majesty’s Dragon four stars out of five

The other book I finished, and it’s more of a novella really at 174 pages, is Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire.  This is set in a residential home for young people who have returned from visiting other magical lands and who need a place to help them readjust to normal life.  I was drawn to the concept and that was very interestingly done, in particular the “mapping” of the various magical realms onto a graph with axes of Nonsense-Logic and Virtue-Wickedness.  The fact that the main protagonist, Nancy, identifies as asexual is also fascinating, and very unusual in a YA novel,  It’s incredible how the removal of any sexual tension completely changes the dynamic of a story.  What I really didn’t enjoy so much was that it turned into a kind of gruesome murder mystery.  I wasn’t expecting that and it did impact my enjoyment of the book.  I gave Every Heart a Doorway three stars out of five.

Other books I dipped into this week were The Crown’s Game by Evelyn Skye which I’m listening to in audiobook format.  I’m not sure why, but it just hasn’t grabbed my attention so far.  I will persevere with it, however.  I’m not very far in, and I suspect it may just  be a slow starter.

This week I also started one of the books I picked up at BEA, Stealing Snow by Danielle Paige, the start of a new series retelling the story of the Snow Queen by the author of the Dorothy Must Die series.  So far I’m not finding it as easy to get into as Dorothy Must Die, but I remember that series was a slow starter too, so I will keep on with it.  At this point though Snow isn’t as engaging a protagonist for me as Amy Gumm.

It’s certainly a Danielle Paige week for me as the latest novella in her Dorothy Must Die series, The Order of the Wicked, hit my Kindle this past Tuesday.  I am enjoying it so far.  It’s great that the novellas, while not required reading for the series as a whole, do add extra depth and new perspectives to the narrative.

Winds of Winter, the Game of Thrones series 6 finale aired this week and it was a thing of beauty (a few missteps aside.)  That first 20 minute or so setup for Cersei’s trial was exquisite.  Much kudos to director Miguel Sapochnik.  The images of the protagonists preparing for their confrontation in the Sept of Baelor set to Ramin Djawadi’s breathtaking music Light of the Seven was stunning.  I’m listening to it as I write this.  This season has certainly showed some of Djawadi’s best work on the show to date.  I plan to do a full post on the season as a whole so I won’t say too much more now.

Upcoming releases in July

The first release I want to talk about is Paper and Fire by Rachel Caine, the second in the Great Library series.  Ink and Bone was one of my favourite reads of 2015, even if I see I didn’t write a review for it – oops.  The concept and the characters are so fascinating and I can’t wait to read more.  I’ve preordered it on Kindle and will likely pick up the audiobook, too.  Paper and Fire will be released on July 5th.

Also coming out in July is Before the Snow by Danielle Paige, the prequel to Stealing Snow.  Given how Paige’s novellas usually add some great context to the novellas, perhaps I should have waited to start Stealing Snow until I have read this.  Before the Snow is released on July 26th and I have preordered it in Kindle format.

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.  This is it, the big one.  The story we never thought we’d get.  This is the sequel to Harry Potter, penned by J.K. herself.  The twist is that it isn’t a novel, but a two-part play, currently in preview in London, and the book that will be published on Harry’s birthday, July 31st, is the rehearsal edition script.  So far everything I’m hearing about this – and I’ve managed to remain spoiler free #KeepTheSecret – is awesome.  I am really looking forward to hearing what happens to the next generation of Hogwarts witches and wizards.  Interestingly enough, at the time of writing the book is not available to preorder in Kindle format, so I’ve gone ahead and ordered it from Kobo.

Speaking of the wizarding world, did you catch the details Rowling released about Ilvermorny, the North American school for the magical community?  I really want a whole novel on Isolt Sayre’s journey!

That’s all for this week – the Force is calling to me to go play the Lego game.

Reading roundup – July 2nd 2016 was originally published on Canadian eReader