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Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Review: The Swan Riders

Title: The Swan Riders
Author: Erin Bow
Series: Prisoners of Peace Duology
Volume: 2
Genre: Post Apocalyptic, Science Fiction
Release Date: September 20, 2016
Goodreads
eARC recieved through NetGalley

A Quick Introduction: Greta Stuart has become and AI. Following the traumatic operation, she travels with Talis and two Swan Riders to the seat of the AI's power in post-apocalyptic Saskatchewan. However, her fate has triggered a rebellion against the AIs maintain peace through fear- AIs with no compunction about blowing up a few cities to makea  point.

Out of Ten: 8/10

Review at a Glance: A funny and stimulating companion to The Scorpion Rules explores humanity against the backdrop of a post-apocalyptic Saskatchewan.

Review: First of all, let us acknowledge the cover. I liked the cover of The Scorpion Rules, but these new covers? Wow. Beautiful. (I know mid-series cover changes are the worst. But look how beautiful the new covers are!) (I digress.)

I always have a bit of difficult time reviewing Erin Bow's books, and I find this duology especially challenging, because there's something about them that feels like they shouldn't work. Except that they kind of do.

It took me a little while to really get into this book- I found that with The Scorpion Rules as well- Erin Bow's writing is not the sort that you launch right into. It takes time to build. The setting interests me because 1) I'm Canadian, and it takes place in post-apocalypic Saskachewan (which for the most part looks a lot like pre-apocalyptic Saskachewan), and 2) I'm an enironmental science student, so there are aspects that are frightenningly plausible.

Where The Scorpion Rules stumbled for me, The Swan Riders was stronger. The sense of character was stronger. Greta remains a very internally strong character- having survived the AI upload, she's now basically struggling to hold herself together, and to hold onto the human parts of her. She's got a lot going on, but there's sometimes this strange feeling that, while she's the narrator, she's not always the main character. Even more strangely, that didn't bother me much... she's a character who is both an active participant and a more passive narrator, and it made for an interesting combination.

Talis gets a lot more focus during this book, as do The Swan Riders (who would've guessed that, based on the title?) Talis has always been a challenging character to understand, simply because he's so many things at once, and it was intriguing seeing those parts shift and change, and form more of a cohesive whole. In The Scorpion Rules, he was an interesting character because he's this combination of terrifyingly amoral and charismatically funny, but he didn't change much. In The Swan Riders he actually has a character arc, which was great to explore.

The thing about both The Scorpion Rules and The Swan Riders is that they're very much stories being told, in a way that renders the action not very action-y. It's not that it's terribly written, so much as that the action isn't the focus- the effects are, because these books are, in a lot of ways, ruminations on humanity and human nature that just so happen to contain characters and a plot. It's done in such an interesting way!


The humour in these books really works for me. It's alternatingly clever, morbid, and truly, truly bizarre, which fits my own sense of humour to a T. I do wish there'd been more of it, but that probably would have upset the balance!

Overall, I really enjoy The Swan Riders. It took me a while to get into, but I loved the humour and the thought-provoking aspects, and continued to be intrigued by the setting.. This sequel did a good job of wrapping up the story, in a way that was both fitting and somewhat bittersweet, and I'm really glad I read it!

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Review: Every Hidden Thing

Title: Every Hidden Thing
Author: Kenneth Oppel
Genre: Historical Fiction, Romance
Release Date: September 20, 2016
Goodreads
ARC recieved through HarperCollins Canada's First Look program.

A Quick Introduction: Legends of a massive dinosaur skeleton take Samuel Bolt and his struggling paleontologist father to the Badlands when they recieve a black, fossilized tooth in the mail. Also on the trail of "Black Beauty" is Samuel's father's long time rival, Professor Cartland and his daughter, Rachel- who hopes finding the skeleton will be her key to her university dreams and life as a paleontologist. Despite their fathers' enmity, and the fact that they're both chasing the same fossil, Samuel and Rachel are drawn to each other. When the truth of their relationship comes out, they have to decide whether or not to allow old prejudices and family rivalries to pull them apart.

Out of Ten: 7/10

Review at a Glance: An engaging novel featuring flawed but human characters and an unusual (and very interesting) setting.

Review: Here it is, my review for one of my most anticipated novels for this year!

Okay, a little background. Kenneth Oppel has been one of my favourite authors for a long time. He was kind of my introduction to YA? Airborn remains one of my favourite trilogies ever, so when I heard about this I was SUPER excited. Because I am also a dinosaur nut. I have been since I was about six, when I somehow managed to pronounce impossibly long dinosaur names, while still unable to spell the word because. So be warned, at least part of this is going to be me nerding out about paleontology... I promise I'll fit the review in somewhere, though.

Kenneth Oppel continues to impress me with his crafting of characters that feel very real. Samuel and Rachel are both very flawed people, but they still ended up being characters who I very much wanted to succeed. They're both driven, ambitious, and also quite selfish... so their relationship definitely had it's challenges. Their entire relationship had a bit of "unstoppable force meets immovable object" going on, with a side of feeling like it was rather abrupt. It wasn't necessarily unbelievable, it just felt like they were rushing into things and acting on impulse... which I suppose is a part of the story.


I think I understood Rachel better than Samuel, and I'm always happy to see female YA characters in science- there just aren't enough of them! It was nice to meet a character who also didn't outgrow her dinosaur obsession, and I quite liked her way of looking at the world. Samuel was a bit harder for me to like, but his motivations generally made sense to me (which is something that I think is sometimes more important than liking a character...)

I really liked the time period in which this was set- dinosaurs were still kind of a "new" thing, they were a sensation and fossil hunting was something alternately grueling and glamourous. The science of paleontology was just getting its start. Academics of all sorts are known to have long-reaching rivalries- ones that were known to end in property damage, physical altercations, and careers left in tatters. Or, at least, some very sarcastic peer-reviewed articles.

This book was completely devoid of action, either. The Badlands were a dangerous place at the start of the 19th century- a rough, forbidding landscape with poisonous creatures unfamiliar to visitors, and with the risk of conflict with indigenous peoples who (rightly) felt that their lands were being invaded and their rights disrespected (like, a lot, and we definitely see some of that in this book). The main conflict in this book, though, was that between Professors Bolt and Cartland, and their children's struggle to find a way to be together despite their family prejudices.

Overall, I enjoyed reading this, and really like the portrait of fossil hunting in it's fairly early day. The setting and time period were well crafted, as were the characters. While the impulsive relationship between the two main characters wasn't necessarily something I'd want for myself, it wasn't totally unbelievable, and it definitely moved the story along and set them both on their path. I'm just going to go ahead an recommend this to more mature YA readers (there is sex, sex happens, we do not fade to black, consider yourselves warned) who didn't manage to outgrow their dinosaur phase.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Reread Challenge: The Supernaturalist

WHEN I First Read
I read this right after I finished all available Artemis Fowl books and was desperate for more of Eoin Colfer's writing. It's my second favourite from Eoin Colfer, after the Artemis Fowl series.

WHAT I Remember
I remember the general story, and some vivid memories of specific scenes (the satelite scene, the end scene). I also remember wondering why on Earth we didn't get a sequel. I would still dearly love to revisit this world and it's inhabitants.

WHY I Wanted to Re-Read
My library has it available in audiobook. While waiting for the rest of the Artemis Fowl series became available, I listed to this one.

HOW I Felt After Re-Reading
I still really like it. It isn't as strong as Artemis Fowl, in my opinion. The plot and action isn't quite as tight. I don't like the dialogue as much, but there's something about Eoin Colfer's science fiction that's really excellent.

The Supernaturalist is also a bit grimmer in my eyes than Artemis Fowl is. Colfer is pretty good at bittersweet endings, but I think the end of The Supernaturalist is darker than the end of Artemis Fowl, not helped by the fact that it doesn't really feel finished. The Supernaturalist reads more like the begining of a series than a standalone. Also I don't think I'm totally over what happened to Stefan... he ends up being a bit of a tragic hero, doesn't he?

Basically the end verdict is "still pretty great, 10/10 would read more of this story."

WOULD I Re-Read Again
Probably at some point. I think I'll always feel a twinge of regret that this book is the only one I'll see with these characters, though.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Top Ten Books I Wish I'd Read As A Kid


Top Ten Tuesdays is a weekly feature created at The Broke and The Bookish.

1. The Spiderwick Chronicles by Holly Black and Tony DiTerlizzi: These were, of course, out when I was a child... they probably would have been right up my alley, if I'd known what my alley was.

2. The Nest by Kenneth Oppel: Granted this wasn't out when I was a kid, but I think it would have been fantastic to read when I was in the fifth or sixth grade.

3. Percy Jackson and the Olympians by Rick Riordan: I read these when I was in high school. I think I would have liked them... I was fascinated by Ancient Greek and Ancient Egyptian mythology at the time.

4. The Search for WonderLa by Tony DiTerlizzi: I love Tony DiTerlizzi's art. It was something that drew me to Spiderwick in the first place, and my favourite part of this one.

5. The H.I.V.E. series by Mark Walden: Child and teenage criminal masterminds were something that I was drawn to as a child (not worrying at all, Kelly), and something that I still enjoy reading about now. I think part of it was that I really like heist stories and cleverness.

6. The Selected Works of T.S. Spivet by Reif Larson and Ben Gibson: Again, brilliant kids. Also there was something about how T.S.'s brain worked that I think would have made sense to me.

7. Ungifted by Gordan Korman: I think it's very valuable to see that there are different kinds of intelligence... especially because school systems seem to have a very weird and narrow description "gifted."

8. The Glass Sentence by S.E. Grove: It's such an interesting idea. I think it's an idea that I would have liked  as a kid.


Monday, August 8, 2016

Review: The Glittering Court

Title: The Glittering Court
Author: Richelle Mead
Narrator: Kristen Sieh
Series: The Glittering Court
Volume: 1
Genre: Fantasy
Release Date: April 15, 2016
Goodreads

A Quick Introduction: Elizabeth's family fortune is failing- the only way to save it for her to marry into a family with money. After meeting her fiance, she decides that this is a fate she'd rather avoid and, passing herself off as one of her maids, joins the Glittering Court. The Glittering Court grooms lower class girls for marriages in the colonies across the ocean... and Elizabeth, now going by Adelade hopes that it will give her more choice in her own life.

Out of Ten: 1/10

Review at a Glance: Nothing about the plot, characters, or writing of this book made it intersting or remotely believable to me.

Review: Ugh. No. I started off vaguely unimpressed and progressed to very unimpressed as time went on. The thing with this story is that it's, well, boring. There's nothing about it that draws the attention, and I think Richelle Mead's writing really doesn't work for me. I came so close to DNFing this one.

I think the frustrating part with this story was that so much of it was TELLING rather than showing- something that was exacerbated by the fact that I listened to it as an audiobook. Most often we are told that a character displays a certain personality trait, rather than seeing it. I grew weary of the way descriptions were carried out... for all that telling, the world of the story was barely built and felt drab. It almost the way a historical fiction novel would, had someone done no research on the era they were writing about, and just vaguely borrowed the aesthetic.

I have never really found myself hoping for a love triangle. That is not what I do. At all. But there were moment while listening that I idlely wondered "oh, is this character going to come and be love interest number 2, so that I don't have to deal with her moping about what's his name again?" (Cedric. His name is Cedric, Kelly, at least remember his name.) This was a romance with absoloutely zero chemistry... they were just so boring together. Like, what do they even talk about? How hard it is to be the privelaged children of members of the conquering nation? The price of silk? How intensely unexciting their secrets are? I just didn't get why they liked each other- I didn't like either of them, and didn't care about them together.

The whole concept of this frustrated me, too. If she was really that desperate to have choice in her own life, surely she could have come up with a better way than essentially putting off being married to someone she doesn't know for another year or so? We are told that she is a very talented artist, surely she could have found a way to do something with that which was less convoluted and frought with room for error than her plan with the Glittering Court?

The narrator did an alright job. It was nothing fantastic, but I don't think it was her fault I didn't enjoy the book. I think the book wasn't enjoyable in any format.

Overall, I just didn't GET this book. I don't know why anyone thought it was a good idea. The prose lacked any vibrancy, the story had no flow, and the characters and plot appeared to be having a contest to see who could be LEAST interesting.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Ten Books You'd Buy Right This Second If Someone Handed You A Fully Loaded Gift Card


Top Ten Tuesdays is a weekly feature created at The Broke and The Bookish.

These sorts of questions are always a bit odd for me because I don't have that many books that I would only buy if I had a gift card... but at the same time I have a lot of books I have vague plans to purchase at some point in my life. So I kind of have both to few and too many options.

1. The Complete History of Middle Earth box set: I'm slowly working my way though a library copy of The Lost Tales right now... I'd love to eventually invested in the complete collection.

2. Magonia by Maria Dahvana Headley: I keep meaning to get the paperback, but I just somehow haven't done yet. Its definitely something that's been hanging out on my wishlist.

3. Across a Star-Swept Sea by Diana Peterfreund: Another one that I mean to acquire eventually... I have the first book and I was initially just waiting the paperback to come out and then I just... didn't?

4. The Harry Potter books by J.K. Rowling: My family's copies are rather battered, and there's one set of covers that I'd love to eventually get my hands on.

5. Harry Potter companion books (Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, Quidditch Through the Ages, and The Tales of Beedle the Bard) by J.K. Rowling: I read these a long time ago but never got copies of my own.

6. Rites of Passage by Joy N. Hensley: Again, I really enjoyed this one, and I'd love to have my own copy someday.

7. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen: I read this in ebook about five years ago and was really surprised by how much I liked it.

8. Ink and Bone and Paper and Fire by Rachel Caine: I'm currently planning to eventually get this series in paperback when it finishes, but I think I'd probably buy the hardcovers, because they're lovely, especially for Paper and Fire.

9. I'd probably buy a hardcover of The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater. I love my paperback, don't get me wrong, but I kind of want it in hardcover eventually. (Much like I'd love to eventually get the first three books of Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel by Michael Scott in hardcover).

10. My own copy of The Supernaturalist by Eoin Colfer. This is my favourite Eoin Colfer book after the Artemis Fowl series, and I keep meaning to get a copy for myself. I'm not huge on the new cover, though, so I might have to find a way to acquire the old one.

Monday, August 1, 2016

Review: This Savage Song

Title: This Savage Song
Author: Victoria Schwab
Series: Monsters of Verity
Volume: 1
Genre: Fantasy, Paranormal
Release Date: July 5, 2016
Goodreads

A Quick Introduction: Verity is a city divided, and Kate Harker and August Flynn are on opposite sides. Kate's ruthless father rules half the city, making people pay for protection from the monsters that roam the streets. August lives in the other half of the city, and is one of the monsters- though only one of three that are his particular brand of monster. He's been adopted by the family that rules his side of the city, as they attempt to keep all the other monsters under control. When Kate get's kicked out of her sixth boarding school, she is sent back to Verity- where August is assigned to befriend her. They've barely known each other a week when an assassination attempt sends them both running for their lives.


Out of Ten: 6/10

Review at a Glance: A fairly enjoyable series started set in an interesting world.

Review: This was my third attempt at Veronica Schwab's writing. I didn't get through The Archived, and, while I did finish A Darker Shade of Magic, I still didn't love it. For me, This Savage Song was better, but it still didn't astonish me. To me, I feel like a lot of it is that I like the concept of these stories, but the execution just misses the mark for me.

Victoria Schwab creates a world where violence literally does breed violence- every violent act spawns monsters- the type depends on the nature of the act. August is a Sunai, a creature generated by the most horrific acts humans can commit, and uses music to feed on the guilty. I loved the idea! I even liked the worldbuilding.
 
I also liked the characters. I found things that I admire about both of them (August a bit more so, I think), but there was something that I didn't completely connect to about either of them. They just didn't feel quite like real people. It's like there's something missing, and I'm not sure if that will be something that improves in the next book.

I think what kind of fell down for me was the plot. It wasn't that there was anything particularly wrong with it... it just wasn't told in a way that was totally engaging. It kind of lacked momentum, I suppose you could say.

Overall, I found that I preferred this to other pieces of Veroncia Schwab's work that I've picked up. I didn't love it, but it was still an enjoyable read and I quite liked the world, and it is possible that I'll pick up the sequel.