Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Book Review: The Dream Thief (Drakon #2) by Shana Abe

The Dream Thief (Drakon #2) 

Synopsis: Buried deep within the Carpathian Mountains lies the legendary dreaming diamond known as Draumr, the only gem with the power to enslave the drakon. Since childhood, Lady Amalia Langford, daughter of the clan's Alpha, has heard its haunting ballad but kept it secret, along with another rare Gift: Lia can hear the future. In it, she realizes that the diamond - along with the fate of the drakon - rests in the hands of Zane, a human...and her future lover. A master thief, Zane is the only man trusted by the drakon to bring them the stone. But Lia knows that he straddles two world and will become either her ally - or her overlord. Now, driven by the urgent song - and by her visions of Zane - Lia breaks every rule to join him. For to protect her tribe she must tie her destiny to that of the one man capable of stealing her future...and destroying her heart.

Normally with book series, the first book is typically the best one. And while I absolutely loved The Smoke Thief, The Dream Thief surpasses it in almost every way. It is darker, sexier, and more epic than the first book. 

The Dream Thief follows Amalia Langford, the daughter of Rue and Kit from the first book, and Zane who was also featured in The Smoke Thief as the hardened child-thief who had been taken in by Rue. Zane is all grown up now in The Dream Thief and he makes one hell of a sexy leading man. Hardened and cynical from his years in London's underbelly he wants nothing to do with love- he wants only power and money. It is so satisfying as a reader to see Zane's change of heart as he falls in love with Amalia - the moment when he actually realizes it is breathtakingly romantic. It made me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. The redemption of a bad boy is a common trope in romance novels but I like how Zane doesn't have a complete personality overhaul - his character changes in a realistic and believable way while his charmingly sarcastic wit stays intact.

Lia is another wonderful character. Her terrifying visions of the future have made her desperate to save her family - even if it means sacrificing the man she loves. Her struggle with her duty to keep her tribe safe versus her attraction to Zane makes her into an intriguing and complex character. She doesn't have the same kind of strength as her mother, Rue - part of it is not being able to complete the Turn, despite her four other siblings being able to. She is determined, though - and not afraid to love a man who has the potential to tear her entire family apart. 

I enjoyed the whole 'quest' aspect of the story - it was definitely on a grander scale than the last book. I thought the climax of the book was spectacular and a little bit heart-wrenching to read - but this being a romance novel, we all know that it works out in the end. Well, maybe not everything. In these books, actions have consequences and those can be devastating. I'm looking forward to seeing how it all works out in the next three books.

If you like romantic stories that feature 'forbidden love', look no further. This one tops them all.

Who would play Zane in a movie:

The delightful Andrew Lee Potts, who played a devastatingly sexy Hatter on the SyFy miniseries Alice. He's able to play a charming rogue with a sarcastic sense of humor - he would be perfect.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Book Review: The Smoke Thief (Drakon #1) by Shana Abe

 The Smoke Thief (Drakon #1) 

Synopsis: In this bewitching novel, Shana Abe transports us to an exhilarating world of romance, adventure, and magic. Here, among northern England's misted hills, live a race of extraordinarily beautiful and sensual beings with the ability to shape-shift from human to dragon and back again. Now their secret - and their - survival is threatened by two forbidden lovers...and a passion that will break every boundary.

Dubbed the Smoke Thief for a series of daring jewel thefts, Clarissa Rue Hawthorne didn't expect the drakon leader himself to come to London dangling the tribe's most valuable jewel as bait: the Langford Diamond. But Christoff, the charismatic Marquess of Langford, had to catch Clarissa before anyone else did - or risk exposing the entire clan to the world of ordinary mortals. He never expected that the outcast halfling he pursued would have a proposition of her own to save the drakon - a proposition so dangerous, so tempting, that Christoff will find it impossible to resist: to join forces with her.

Not since Benedict Cumberbatch lent his voice to Smaug in The Hobbit films have dragons been so sexy. This book has it all: fantasy, adventure, romance - and, of course, dragons.

The story takes place in eighteenth century England where Clarissa Hawthorne is treated as an outcast among her Drakon tribe - simply because her father was a human. Faking her death at the age of seventeen, she escapes to London and uses her unique ability to become a successful jewel thief. 

Unfortunately, the drakon do not take kindly to 'runners'. They are seen as a danger to the tribe and must be contained at all costs. That is why Christoff 'Kit' Langford, Alpha of the tribe, sees it as his personal duty to find Clarissa - and take her as his Alpha bride. 

I love the way Shana Abe revealed the magical world of the drakon. The prologue reveals the origins of the drakon and is so beautifully written, that it reads like an enchanting fairy tale. I got goosebumps when I read it. The entire book is written with such vivid, descriptive language that the reader is immediately sucked into the world and fully immersed in it. After reading it, I had to remind myself that shape-shifting dragons weren't actually real. :(

The chemistry between the two main characters is explosive. It builds and it builds and when they finally get together it is hot. The library scene in particular - well, I won't spoil it but I will say this - be prepared to take a cold shower after.

This book is so much more than a romance novel - it is the beginning of a truly exquisite fantasy series and I cannot wait to read the other books in the series. 

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

I'm On YouTube!

Hi, just wanted to let everyone know that I am starting my own YouTube channel, SuicideByBooks

I've only uploaded two videos so far, an introduction video and a Series Review of the Peter Grant series by Ben Aaronovitch.

Please show your support by liking and subscribing!

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Book Review: Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh

Hyperbole and a Half: Unfortunate Situations, Flawed Coping Mechanisms, Mayhem, and Other Things That Happened  

Allie Brosh writes the award-winning blog Hyperbole and a Half. This book is a collection of a few of her popular blog entries as well as some new material.

Having never read Brosh's blog, I wasn't sure what to expect when I started reading this book. All I knew about it was that it was apparently pretty funny.

Major fucking understatement.

I read this book in approximately three hours and laughed hysterically through most of that. The only other book that has made me laugh as hard was Let's Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny Lawson, another kick-ass lady blogger. And I'm not talking about the kind of laugh where you just blow air through your nose for a second. I'm talking about the kind of laughter that starts loud and then becomes completely silent as you're just writhing around on the couch gasping for air and if someone were to walk in on you they would call the paramedics because they would be under the impression that you were having some kind of seizure. Read this book in public at your own peril. People will think you have escaped from a mental institution.

The best parts of this book are the chapters featuring her dogs and the ones on depression. The cartoons of her dogs are hilarious and I have never read anything on depression that is so accurate while at the same time making me pee my pants. 

This is one of the funniest books I have ever read in my entire life. Buy it. Read it. Pee your pants.

Here's my Video review of Hyperbole and a Half

Friday, July 18, 2014

Book Review: Abhorsen (Abhorsen #3) by Garth Nix

 Abhorsen (Abhorsen, #3) 

Synopsis: The Abhorsen Sabriel and King Touchstone are missing, leaving only Lirael - newly come into her inheritance as the Abhorsen-in-Waiting - to stop the Destroyer. If Orannis's unspeakable powers are unleashed, it will mean the end of all Life. With only a vision from the Clayr to guide her and the help of her companions, Sam, the Disreputable Dog, and Mogget, Lirael must search in both Life and Death for some means to defeat the evil destructor -before it is too late...

The last book in the Abhorsen series is everything I hoped it would be: action-packed, emotional, with a bittersweet ending. Also, redemption for one of my favorite characters in the series. I can't tell you who it is because that would spoil the whole thing for anyone who has not read the Abhorsen series. (Seriously, get on that, these books are amazing.)

Lirael continues to grow and take on more responsibility and authority in this book. I love her ability to take charge and do what she has to do, even if it scares her. Also, her mysterious companion, the Disreputable Dog is revealed to be more than she originally let on.

I can't really write too much more about this book, otherwise I will spoil it. Let me finish off this review by saying that the Abhorsen series is one of the best fantasy series I have read in recent years. It's right up there with Kristin Cashore's Graceling and Leigh Bardugo's Shadow and Bone. I love the magic of the Old Kingdom and I love all the characters. I love how women share equality with men in the world Garth Nix has created. The Old Kingdom is a place where both women and men can have positions of power and nobody makes a big deal about it. It is also a place where Death is not as frightening as we humans usually make it out to be.

The Abhorsen series touches on some very powerful themes: love, sacrifice, power, fear and, of course, Life and Death. It is at times philosophical without being preachy. It is a highly entertaining fantasy series that will also make you think.

Here's my Video review of the Abhorsen series.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Book Review: Lirael (Abhorsen #2) by Garth Nix

Lirael (Abhorsen, #2) 

From the back cover: Lirael has never felt like a true daughter of the Clayr. Now, two years past the time when she should have received the Sight that is the Clayr's birthright, she feels alone, abandoned, unsure of who she is. Nevertheless, the fate of the Old Kingdom lies in her hands. With only her faithful companion, the Disreputable Dog, Lirael must undertake a desperate mission against the growing shadow of an ancient evil. 

This second installment in the Abhorsen series takes place about twenty years after Sabriel. Lirael follows two main characters: Lirael, a daughter of the Clayr and Prince Sameth, son of King Touchstone and his Abhorsen Queen, Sabriel. 

Lirael's story starts when she is just fourteen. She is a supposed daughter of the Clayr although she has yet to be granted the Sight, the power that will enable her to see into the future. She is very insecure and depressed about her lack of power and feels she doesn't belong anywhere. At one point she even contemplates suicide. After a few missteps and a few dangerous adventures as a Third Assistant Librarian, Lirael sets out on an a journey to stop the evil that is threatening the Old Kingdom.

I liked Lirael a lot. I thought her progression from a shy, insecure girl to a strong, confident young woman was natural and believable. Even when she finds out what her true destiny is, she is still afraid and unsure at times but she faces her problems head on and doesn't run away from them.

Prince Sameth is another story. As the Abhorsen-in-Waiting it is to his disadvantage that he is afraid of everything to do with Death. Although, it's not surprising considering when he first went into Death he almost became the slave of an evil necromancer. Sam resists his duties as the Prince and the Abhorsen-in-Waiting. He makes some very bad decisions at first and I couldn't help shaking my head at the poor, naive Prince. However, he does make progress through the story and towards the end grows up a little and is almost admirable. 

Of course, there are reappearances from some of the characters in Sabriel including King Touchstone, Mogget the malevolent cat, and Sabriel herself. 

I loved this book. Lirael reveals more of the mythology and the history of the Old Kingdom. I loved seeing some of my favorite characters from Sabriel as well as getting to know the new characters introduced in this installment. I definitely recommend the Abhorsen series to anyone who likes strong female characters, epic fantasy, and a truly unique magic system. Also, talking animals. 

The book does not really have an ending as such. Instead it sets up for the third book in the series, Abhorsen, which I am currently reading now. So if you read this book, have the next one of the series on stand-by. You're going to want to read it right away.

Here's my Video review of the Abhorsen series.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Book Review: Sabriel (Abhorsen, #1) by Garth Nix

 Sabriel (Abhorsen, #1) 

From the back cover: Sent to a boarding school in Ancelstierre as a young child, Sabriel has had little experience with the random power of Free Magic or the Dead who refuse to stay dead in the Old Kingdom. But during her final semester, her father, the Abhorsen, goes missing, and Sabriel knows she must enter the Old Kingdom to find him. She soon finds companions in Mogget, a cat whose aloof manner barely conceals its malevolent spirit, and Touchstone, a young Charter Mage long imprisoned by magic, now free in body but still trapped by painful memories. As the three travel deep into the Old Kingdom, threats mount on all sides. And every step brings them closer to a battle that will pit them against the true forces of life and death - and bring Sabriel face-to-face with her own destiny. 

Not since I read Kristen Cashore's Graceling, have I totally and absolutely fallen in love with a fantasy series. Sabriel has everything I'm looking for in a fantasy novel - a kickass heroine, an intriguing magic system, wonderful world-building, and a realistic, yet touching, romance. 

The beginning of the book is a bit slow and it took a couple of chapters for me to immerse myself in the world of the Old Kingdom. However, once I got used to the terminology and the magic system, I was hooked. And once the plot swings into action, it hardly ever lets up. I love how Garth Nix gradually reveals the world of the Old Kingdom and the Charter Magic by showing the reader through dialogue and action rather then slowing the story down with endless exposition. 

Another thing I liked about the book were the characters. Sabriel has got to be one of the most well-written female heroines I have ever come across. She is strong, intelligent, and capable - but far from perfect. She has her moments of weakness along the way - self-doubt, anger, frustration - but these flaws help make her more real. Touchstone, the young Charter Mage is another great character. He is less sure of himself than Sabriel - not surprising seeing as he's been imprisoned for two hundred years. He looks to Sabriel for leadership but I don't think that makes him weak - it makes him vulnerable and human. I loved the build up of romantic tension between Sabriel and Touchstone - it didn't seem forced and it didn't take away from the main focus of the story. 

Sabriel is technically a Young Adult novel but I highly recommend it to fantasy fans of all ages. It is a complex, well-written fantasy that will appeal to fans of Graceling and Lord of the Rings. 

Gotta go, I'm off to read the sequels. 

Here's my Video review of the Abhorsen series.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Reading Wish List: July 2014

July 1

 1. Sinner (The Wolves of Mercy Falls #3.5) by Maggie Stiefvater
Sinner (The Wolves of Mercy Falls, #3.5)

I have not had a chance to read Stiefvater's werewolf trilogy yet although I've heard really good things. This latest installment follows the character of Cole St. Clair.

2. Conversion by Katherine Howe

Strange things are happening to the girls attending St. Joan's Academy - could it be because the Academy is located in Danvers, Massachusetts - previously known as Salem Village?

3. All Those Vanished Engines by Paul Park
All Those Vanished Engines

An alternate-history SF novel told in three parts that puts a new spin on the Civil War, World War II - and imagines a future with aliens. 

4. Beautiful Oblivion (Maddox Brothers #1) by Jamie McGuire
Beautiful Oblivion (Maddox Brothers, #1)

The first installment in a new contemporary romance series. That cover is beautiful.

5. How to Tell Toledo from the Night Sky by Lydia Netzer
How to Tell Toledo from the Night Sky

Okay, so the title is a little weird but this story of astronomy and star-crossed love is supposed to be a phenomenal read.

6. One Plus One by Jojo Moyes
One Plus One

Jojo Moyes' first book, Me Before You, was a huge hit. This one promises to be just as good. 

7. The Skeleton Crew: How Amateur Sleuths are Solving America's Coldest Cases by Deborah Halber
The Skeleton Crew: How Amateur Sleuths Are Solving America’s Coldest Cases

A book about Sherlock wannabes who are successfully solving cold cases using the internet.

July 8

8. Four: A Divergent Collection by Veronica Roth
Four: A Divergent Story Collection (Divergent, #0.1 - 0.4)

The much-anticipated collection of short stories featuring the beloved Four from the hugely popular Divergent series. 

9. Midnight Thief (Midnight Thief #1) by Livia Blackburne
Midnight Thief (Midnight Thief, #1)

A debut novel in a fantasy series that follows a young girl who is offered a job with the Assassin Guild. 

10. The Queen of the Tearling (The Queen of the Tearling #1) by Erika Johansen

The Queen of the Tearling (The Queen of the Tearling, #1)

This is the book I'm most excited about this month. I predict this series is going to be huge - a film adaptation is already in development with Emma Watson slated to star as the main character, Kelsea Glynn. In the book, Kelsea must reclaim her throne from the Red Queen, an evil sorceress. 

11. California by Edan Lepucki

An SF debut novel about a couple who must risk everything - even their unborn child - in order to survive in the harsh landscape of a dystopian California.

12. Landline by Rainbow Rowell

Rainbow Rowell is known for her YA novels, Eleanor and Park and Fangirl, both of which have been very well received by critics and YA fans alike. (Fangirl is one of my favorite books of all time.) Her new novel, Landline, is for adults but I'm sure fans of her YA stories will enjoy this one just as much. 

13. A Grimm Warning (The Land of Stories #3) by Chris Colfer
A Grimm Warning (The Land of Stories, #3)

The third installment of Chris Colfer's (of Glee fame) fantasy series for Middle Grade readers. There's a dragon on the cover!

14. The Country of Ice Cream Star by Sandra Newman
The Country of Ice Cream Star

A dystopian novel that is being compared to The Handmaid's Tale, Divergent, and Cloud Atlas. 

15. Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands by Chris Bohjalian
Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands

July seems to be a month of dystopian novels - this is another one. Emily Shepard must survive in post-apocalyptic America after a nuclear meltdown - a disaster her own father might have caused. 

16. Unruly Places: Lost Spaces, Secret Cities, and Other Inscrutable Geographies by Alastair Bonnett
Unruly Places: Lost Spaces, Secret Cities, and Other Inscrutable Geographies

A nonfiction travel book that delves into the world's last unexplored places. Promises to be a fun, engaging read.

17. The Universe: Leading Scientists Explore the Origin, Mysteries, and Future of the Cosmos by John Brockman
The Universe: Leading Scientists Explore the Origin, Mysteries, and Future of the Cosmos

I'm always eager to read about this fascinating universe that we are a part of.

18. The Hundred-Year House by Rebecca Makkai
The Hundred-Year House

A generational saga told in reverse - slowly revealing the mysteries of the Devohr family.

19. Land of Love and Drowning by Tiphanie Yanique
Land of Love and Drowning: A Novel

From Goodreads: Chronicling three generations of an island family from 1916 to the 1970s,Land of Love and Drowning is a novel of love and magic, set against the emergence of Saint Thomas into the modern world. Uniquely imagined, with echoes of Toni Morrison, Gabriel García Márquez, and the author’s own Caribbean family history, the story is told in a language and rhythm that evoke an entire world and way of life and love.

July 15

20. The Kiss of Deception (The Remnant Chronicles #1) by Mary E. Pearson
The Kiss of Deception (The Remnant Chronicles, #1)

To escape an arranged marriage, Princess Lia flees to a distant village, where she meets two mysterious young men - one, her jilted groom, and the other an assassin sent to kill her.

21. Illusive by Emily Lloyd-Jones

X-Men meets Ocean's Eleven in this Sci-Fi novel about a group of super criminals. 

22. Wayfaring Stranger by James Lee Burke
Wayfaring Stranger: A Novel

Weldon Holland grows up during the Great Depression, has a run-in with Bonnie and Clyde and fights in the Battle of the Bulge - and that's just a few things that happen in this sweeping historical novel.

23. The Shadow Hero by Gene Luen Yang, Sonny Liew
The Shadow Hero

A graphic novel telling the story of the first Asian American superhero, the Green Turtle.

24. The Book of Life (All Souls Trilogy #3) by Deborah Harkness
The Book of Life (All Souls Trilogy, #3)

The final installment in the magical All Souls' trilogy. 

25. The Outsorcerer's Apprentice by Tom Holt
The Outsorcerer's Apprentice

A comical fantasy novel that deals with the economical realities of magic and mayhem. 

July 22

26. Dissonance (Dissonance #1) by Erica O' Rourke
Dissonance (Dissonance, #1)

Del is a Walker - no, not a zombie. In Dissonance, a Walker is someone who can move between parallel worlds that are created every time someone makes a choice - even a choice as insignificant as whether or not to eat breakfast. 

July 29

27. The Good Girl by Mary Kubica
The Good Girl

This thriller about the abduction of a prominent judge's wife is already being compared to Gone Girl. Here's hoping it lives up to the hype.

28. Dear Daughter by Elizabeth Little
Dear Daughter

Ten years ago, Janie was convicted of murdering her own mother. Released on a technicality, Janie is determined to prove her innocence.

29. Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty
Big Little Lies

The Husband's Secret was on a lot of year-end Best of 2013 book lists. Moriarty's follow-up promises to be included on 2014 best book lists. I'll admit - I have yet to read anything by Liane Moriarty but that cover is amazing. 

30. Bird Dream: Adventures at the Extremes of Human Flight by Matt Higgins
Bird Dream: Adventures at the Extremes of Human Flight

I've always been fascinated by flying, whether it be birds, planes, or humans wearing flight suits. I cannot wait to read this book.