Sunday, May 22, 2016

Review: The Star-Touched Queen

Title: The Star-Touched Queen
Author: Roshani Chokshi
Series: The Star-Touched Queen
Volume: 1
Genre: Fantasy

A Quick Introduction: Cursed with a horoscope promising a marriage full of death and destruction, Maya is content to resign herself to life as a scholar. Thanks to her horoscope, she is blamed for anything that goes wrong. However, when her father decides to try and marry her off to quell outside rebellions, she finds herself married to Amar and queen of Akaran. But both Amar and Akarnan have secrets, and Maya begins to suspect that her life is in danger and must figure out the truth on her own.

Out of Ten: 6/10

Review at a Glance: A fantasy debut with a great concept that faltered a bit on execution.

Review: This was one of my most anticipated debut novels of the year, and overall I enjoyed it! While I didn't love it, it was still both an interesting concept and fairly well executed. The story pulled me in initially, but stumbled a bit as the story continued.

Maya's horoscope means that she is treated terribly by the women in her father's harem, where she lives and is blamed for every bad thing that happens- from small injuries to stillborn children. Maya basically navigates from difficult situation "people in the place I live routinely tell me to go die" to difficult situation "my father just told me he's planning to marry me off to a stranger" to difficult situation "I'm now the queen of a magical kingdom where nobody tells me anything about anything." For so much of the book it felt like things were happening to her, as opposed to her being an active participant in making them happen. Which was weird because she did do things, but there's something about the writing that feels kind passive.

I think that was one of the things that stopped me from all-out loving this one. It kept me from really being involved in the story. While I enjoyed reading about Maya's journey, I wasn't fully engaged in it. The romance between Maya and Amar felt kind of rushed as I read it. I also found all the secrets being kept from Maya frustrating. I know that, within the story, there was a magical reason, but from a storytelling perspective it felt a little contrived.

The plot itself was a great way to showcase a very interesting world- one that is both beautiful and imaginative. While this book did struggle in some places, I did overall enjoy the story, and I'm still looking forward to exploring this world more in the next book.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Review: Love, Lies, and Spies

Title: Love, Lies and Spies
Author: Cindy Anstey
Genre: Historical fiction, Romance

A Quick Introduction: All Juliana Telford wants while in London is to get the scientific research she and her father have been working on published. She is determined to get that done, and have an otherwise completely uneventful season before returning to her father in their country home. This plan is interrupted by a chance encounter (one where she was stranded on the side of a cliff) with Spencer Northam. Unbeknownst to Juliana, he has is own reasons for being in London- he's working as an Agent for the War Office, and the family she's staying with are under suspicion.

Out of Ten: 5/10

Review at a Glance: This novel focused mostly on a romance that I just wasn't feeling, and would have benefited from a change in pacing.

Review: I think this novel was okay for what it was, and the issue is that it just wasn't what I was hoping it would be. You may have noticed that I don't generally read stories that are just romance. I confess I was hoping for explosions. And also lady scientists. And this book didn't really deliver on those fronts.

I didn't really feel like either of the main characters were particularly memorable. It wasn't that I disliked them, but I wasn't terribly invested in the characters, or their romance. And since this story was entirely romance, that was a biiiiiit of a problem. They didn't really have any chemistry, I suppose? They didn't really have the characteristics that I like in my fictional pairings. I think I would have been more invested in the relationship if I'd been more invested in them as individuals. (Is this a veiled complaint of NOT ENOUGH LADY SCIENTISTING? Maybe.)

The writing was just kind of "meh." There were certain word that were used excessively, and I found that really getting on my nerves. (The overuse of the word "pure" for one thing kind of made me want to scream.) Otherwise this writing was just sort of flat, and the dialogue suffered for that. The plot meandered somewhat- it was fairly simple, and didn't move anywhere with much urgency.

Overall, this novel just didn't have what I was looking for. It was definitely a fluffy romance, but didn't have the kind of character depth and writing that I would have liked to see.

P.S. Also the lack of an Oxford comma in the title dove me to distraction.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Ten Books I Picked Up On A Whim

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

I'm going to go with some books that I actually purchased on a whim. I'm not generally an impulse-buyer, but sometimes, if something sound's interesting and it's on sale, I'll pick it up. (Mostly if something is $3.99 on Book Outlet.) Mostly because I have a hard time figuring out which books I have actually read and a) enjoyed or b) hated were the ones that I picked up on a whim. If that makes any sense.

1. Control by Lydia Kang: I heard about this one a really long time ago, I'm looking forward to picking it up.

2. A School for Unusual Girls by Kathleen Baldwin: Historical science girls are my jam. Basically any mention of that catches my interest.

3. Shutter by Courtney Alameda: Horror sounds fun.

4. Maid of Secrets by Jennifer McGowan: While it isn't historical science girls, it is historical ladies doing stuff, so I'm up for it.

5. Trial by Fire Josephine Angelini: I remember when this came out I considered reading it and just... didn't. I like the new cover a lot, so I grabbed the paperback off Book Outlet.

6. Valour and Vanity by Mary Robinette Kowal: I think I read Glamour and Glass a long time ago... this is more a commitment to eventually reading the series than anything else.

7. Forbidden by Kimberley Griffiths Little: Ugh, this was a mistake.

8. Compulsion by Martina Boone: This ended up being alright. I liked the gothic-y feel.

9. Mortal Danger by Ann Aguirre: What a disaster. I quite liked Enclave, but this was disappointed by this one in the worst way. You can read more about why here.

10. In the After by Demitria Lunetta: This was an interesting read, I'm hoping to eventually pick up the sequel.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Armchair BEA: Wrap Up

I haven't done an ABEA post in two days. The reason is mostly "because I am the worst." But also because I have been reading for Bout of Books for some of that time.

Anyway. This is the second time I've taken part in Armchair BEA, and I really enjoyed it. I got to help out with the international committee this time (how weird is the spelling of committee? very weird) and that was a great experience! I kind of dropped the ball toward the end because things were happening, but I still really enjoyed it.

The Twitter chats were kind of my favourite part this time. It was fantastic to engage with so many other book lovers! I got to help out with the international Twitter chat, which was incredibly fast paced. The chat was an hour, but it felt a lot shorter because of how much happened.

Anyway, thanks again to the ABEA team for running such a fun event, I had a great time being part of it!

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Bout of Books 16 Update

A.K.A. The "Kelly has failed" post.

A.K.A. The "why oh why did I sign up for two big events in one week when I have the time management abilities of a potato?"

Anyway. Thus far I have read:
  • Under a Painted Sky by Stacey Lee (FINALLY!)
  • The Girl from Everywhere Heidi Heilig
I've also started and dropped a couple of other books. I'd really like to get some more reading done tomorrow, especially because I've got a couple of holds waiting at the library!

Review: Rebel of the Sands

Title: Rebel of the Sands
Series: Rebel of the Sands
Volume: 1
Genre: Fantasy
Release Date: Mar. 8, 2016

A Quick Introduction: Sharpshooter Amani is desperate to get out of her dead-end desert town. When she meets Jin, a foreigner passing through, she seizes an opportunity for escape. However, escaping her family proves more difficult than expected, and she's finds herself in a situation beyond imagining.

Out of Ten: 7/10

Review at a Glance: A quick, fun fantasy debut set in a magical desert.

Review: Wow, I should not have put of review this one for so long. I still remember stuff, but I don't think I'm going to really communicate the full impact of the book. This is what happens when I read during exams. I picked this one up during an author event that ACTUALLY CAME TO CANADA.

I really enjoyed this one. It wasn't a particularly heavy read, it was overall just a fun fantasy. Amani was a very determined, and such a resourceful character, and she also has her flaws. She makes impulsive decisions, and she has a temper that occasionally gets the better or her. Jin was... sort of flat in the beginning, and I still feel like he's not completely formed as a character. Their relationship felt a little abrupt, but I also think it has potential to grow as the story progresses (this is a series).

I seem to enjoy fantasy novels set in the desert. Granted, I haven't read that many, partly because there really aren't that many. A place as hostile as the desert opens up a whole bunch of new challenges, and novels set there also draw on different cultures for inspiration. There's a lot of potential there, and I'm delighted to see it being explored!

The magic system is interesting. It's familiar somehow, but I'm not quite sure how. I get the sense that there is going to be bigger magic as the series continues.

Overall, this was a fun read, and I'm looking forward to continuing the series.

Armchair BEA: Aesthetic Concerns - Books & Blogs


I am the worst cover judge. Back when Fierce Reads released the new The Winner's Curse covers, I was VERY MUCH NOT IMPRESSED. Granted, I feel like I had my reasons for that one, and I was both surprised and impressed when they relented and released the hardback with the originally planned cover.

 For me, covers are a part of the reading experience, especially because they can communicate expectations about the audience of the book... I don't know how else really to describe it. Also it is possible that I just like pretty things.

Cover-related choices I have made:
  1. Been interested in a book almost solely because I like the cover.
  2. Not been interested in a book almost solely because I dislike the the cover.
  3. Bought the hardcover because I don't like the cover on the paperback. (In my defense, often I do this when the hardcover is on sale)
  4. Not bothered purchasing the rest of a series I was on the fence about because I didn't like the cover change and might as well just borrow them from the library.
  5. Purchased new copies of a favourite trilogy because the tenth anniversary editions were so lovely. (In my defense there were also on sale.)
I'm just saying, look at them.

So yep, I do have a bit of a thing about covers.


This blog is in DESPERATE need of an upgrade. (Seriously.) It's more that I've been toying with moving to self-hosted Wordpress for almost two years now, and I've just been putting it off. So basically I'm stuck in limbo.

Things I really should do this year, a numbered list:
  1. Get an icon and banner made. I think making one myself is outside of my skill set.
  2. Finally decide whether or not I want to migrate to self-hosted Wordpress. I think part of me never expected to still be blogging here, so now making an actual commitment is weird to me. And so now I dither.
  3. If I'm not doing that, update the layout here. I've had this layout for way too long. WAY to long. It is very much not me.
Basically, what I'm saying is that I am truly terrible at branding. It wasn't really something that I associated with blogging when I started- I was in high school and far more preoccupied with all the things high schoolers are preoccupied with (bog mummies and mass extinction events), and really didn't know anything about building a brand. I only too one business class in high school, and it taught me very little (though I do make excellent spreadsheets). 

This is somewhere I'm totally open to suggestions... its probably always going to be one of my weaknesses, just because I'm not as interested in it as I am about going on and on about books...

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Armchair BEA: Introductions and Diversity in Books


What name do you prefer to use?

How long have you been a book blogger?
I've been at this blog since 2012. I did post about books before, but it wasn't on a blog meant specifically for books. That blog is dead and gone now, which is for the best, really.

Have you participated in ABEA before?
Yep! This is year two for me.

What is your favourite genre and why?
Fantasy, probably. My go to answer for "why" used to be that I'm an escapist... this is true, but I don't really think that's ALL of it. After all, a lot of fantastic fantasy novels explore real world issues through a different lens.

Which day of ABEA are you looking forward to most?
I'm pretty excited about tomorrow, because I'm on the international team this year and that's the day of the Twitter chat.

How do you arrange your bookshelves? Is there a rhyme or reason?
My shelves are mostly arranged using the ancient art of "just try to make everything fit on the shelves." Otherwise, by... mood, I suppose? And yes, those are two IKEA bookshelves stacked on top of each other. My father was kind enough to attach them to the wall so that I could stack them without worrying about them falling.

Which books are you most excited for on your TBR? What are you most intimidated by?
I'm probably most excited about either The Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo or Gemina by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff. My go-to answer for "most intimidated by" used to be The Silmarillion, but I've read that now... hmm. Maybe The Origin of Species by Charles Darwin?


I feel like it's possible that the answer is always going to be "there is not enough diversity anywhere at all." That said, it's A LOT better than it was when I started reading YA, looking back.

I'm mainly a YA fantasy reader, as mentioned above, which has had a bit of an issue with diversity. Popular high fantasy especially ended up trapped in this "kind of medieval-ly England where everyone is white men, written by authors who are also white men" rut, which I think it might be just starting to get out of. It's getting there. Crawling in the general direction, at least. And I think YA is on the forefront of that.

Don't get me wrong, there's a lot of work to do, but YA is where I see a lot of it getting done. (It is possible that this is because YA is where I spend my time. Possibly I have sampling errors. Watch out for sampling errors, kids.)

Types of diversity I am seeing, that I would like to continue to see more of:
  1. Characters diverse in ethnicity, race, and/or cultural background. Especially written by AUTHORS of diverse ethnicity, race, and/or cultural background. (We definitely need more of that.)
  2. Non-neurotypical characters. I can count on one hand the positive representations of non-neurotypical characters in fantasy novels. We just don't see a lot of characters that are struggling with learning disabilities or mental health issues in fantasy.
  3. On that thought, characters struggling with disabilities in general.
  4. LGBT+ characters. This is getting more common, which is great. I'm glad strides are being made, but I'd really like to see more. Especially transgender characters, and characters that fall into the "+" part of LGBT+. 
  5. Diversity of place. I read a lot of high fantasy, but also a lot of fantasy that is set in our world. And, by "our world," I mean America and/or London. Because that seems to be where most of them are set. I had a moment of horror when I was working on some stuff with the international team and realised that I couldn't name a single YA fantasy novel off the too of my head that took place in China.
Generally, the representation I see it pretty decent, but every so often I'll come across something that makes me cringe. Not going to go into too much detail now, because I'm trying to remain! upbeat! and! optimistic! (It's a thing I'm trying out...) But trust me, terrible representation definitely exists. It does more harm than good. Terrible representation isn't really representation at all, in a way. Since it isn't really all that representative.

Overall, I'm glad that SOME progress is being made, and I'm hoping to see a lot more. There's a real push for it, and hopefully that continues to have an impact.