Review: Truthwitch

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Goodreads Summary:

On a continent ruled by three empires, some are born with a “witchery”, a magical skill that sets them apart from others.

In the Witchlands, there are almost as many types of magic as there are ways to get in trouble—as two desperate young women know all too well.

Safiya is a Truthwitch, able to discern truth from lie. It’s a powerful magic that many would kill to have on their side, especially amongst the nobility to which Safi was born. So Safi must keep her gift hidden, lest she be used as a pawn in the struggle between empires.

Iseult, a Threadwitch, can see the invisible ties that bind and entangle the lives around her—but she cannot see the bonds that touch her own heart. Her unlikely friendship with Safi has taken her from life as an outcast into one of reckless adventure, where she is a cool, wary balance to Safi’s hotheaded impulsiveness.

Safi and Iseult just want to be free to live their own lives, but war is coming to the Witchlands. With the help of the cunning Prince Merik (a Windwitch and ship’s captain) and the hindrance of a Bloodwitch bent on revenge, the friends must fight emperors, princes, and mercenaries alike, who will stop at nothing to get their hands on a Truthwitch.

I quite enjoyed Dennard’s first series, starting with Something Strange and Deadly, so when I saw she was coming out with a Fantasy series I was all over it!

I was so impressed by this book, it’s her best yet and I can’t wait to see where the series goes. She set up such a rich and nuanced world filled with magic, politics, and defining relationships.

The start was kind of slow, but I think was necessary for character and world building. After the initial set up, we were able to get lost in the constant twists and turns, revelations, and relationships that carry the story. There were so many aspects introduced throughout the book that I am so excited to see developed in the rest of the series.

The central point of all the action in this book really focuses on relationships. Safi and Iseult, Threadsisters, had such a great dynamic. They have different strengths and weaknesses that balance each other out perfectly, and are wholly devoted to each other no matter what. They accept each others flaws and use their desire to be the best friend possible to push themselves individually. We see a similar dynamic between Merik and his Threadbrother Kullen. I really liked that while there is an undeniable attraction between Safi and Merik, both of them are still always primarily focused on their best friends. So while a romance is budding, and I can’t wait to see where it goes, the focus of this continues to focus on love beyond the romantic kind. Similar to A Darker Shade of Magic, and something I am really enjoying when it comes to the YA genre.

Also, I think this is a boarder line YA book. I don’t think I will ever understand what truly classifies as YA (I mean I keep seeing Unbroken in the YA section at the bookstore, and that doesn’t make any sense to me). Anyway, it’s defiantly complex enough, and a bit steamy at times, that I think it fits into more of the mature YA books – and let’s be honest, those are my favorite.

Movie Review: The Revenant

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I don’t do a lot of movie reviews on this blog. But sometimes, I just can’t help myself. Especially when I severely dislike it, but it’s getting nothing but acclaim. I’m not pretending to be some movie expert, but I like to think I have pretty eclectic tastes, I like my fair share of the “artsy” movies.

Well, my husband really wanted to see “The Revenant,” and after he told me the true story about Glass, I thought it could be fun. I mean I haven’t read the book, but I got a general idea of the story. So when we got into the movie, and the main reasons for Glass’ revenge was completely different, I was already frustrated.

I understand why the makers altered it. A man defying all odds and surviving this incredible journey after being mauled by a bear isn’t as touching if it’s to get back his hatchet and rifle. Avenging his murdered son is much better. I understand that, but that’s not what really happened! Beyond the very substantial shift in the main goals of the primary character, I was board for about two hours of this.

The first half hour was exiting and stimulating. Life on the frontier is being illustrated, conflict instigated, potential political elements introduced, bear attacks! But after that it was a lot of scenery shots, which were pretty, but come on we could have cut like half an hour if they had calmed down – all paired with the same music cord by the way. Leo only has about 10 lines, and is unconscious, crawling, or struggling the whole time. If anyone deserves an Oscar from this movie it’s Tom Hardy, who was amazing, his screen time was the only time I wasn’t contemplating what I could be doing if I wasn’t trapped in that theater.

But what really did it for me though, was the lack of political explanation – probably not helped by the lack of dialogue. We have American and French traders, and at least two Native American tribes. Between the three one tribe seems to be a common enemy, but we never are told why! Yes, I know they were unhappy about their lands being taken, but there had to be more to that, why were they targeting another tribe as well, what specifically were their goals, or their original land boarders and natural resources, how was that influenced by the Europeans traders? I may be overthinking it compared to the average movie gower, but this really annoyed me. There was such potential to etch a rich historical landscape, but it fell flat.

It fell flat in basically every aspect for me. I just really did not like it. Have any of you seen this? What did you think?

Review: Me and Earl and The Dying Girl

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Goodreads Summary:

Greg Gaines is the last master of high school espionage, able to disappear at will into any social environment. He has only one friend, Earl, and together they spend their time making movies, their own incomprehensible versions of Coppola and Herzog cult classics.

Until Greg’s mother forces him to rekindle his childhood friendship with Rachel.

Rachel has been diagnosed with leukemia—-cue extreme adolescent awkwardness—-but a parental mandate has been issued and must be obeyed. When Rachel stops treatment, Greg and Earl decide the thing to do is to make a film for her, which turns into the Worst Film Ever Made and becomes a turning point in each of their lives.

And all at once Greg must abandon invisibility and stand in the spotlight.

This book was interesting. Though short and a quick read it took me longer than I expected to get through. I lost interest part way through, partly because I’m sick and kept falling asleep while reading, but primarily because I was not a fan of the MC for a large chunk of the book, or he and Earl’s bawdy language.

I will say this though, I got it. It’s a book that takes on all the tropes that come along with any “cancer book” and shows that, like in real life, these big dramatic, life-altering events don’t always have that big of an impact on you. Or you don’t automatically find an emotional well you had originally walled off. And that it’s awkward to deal with these sorts of situations, especially with people who you never had a very deep connection with.

There were also moments of hilarity. The first quarter of the book had me laughing out loud constantly.

However, it quickly becomes obvious just how flawed our MC is, and though he thinks he understands these flaws, he doesn’t. He’s a loner, scared to care about anyone or have anyone care about him because he’s terrified of not fitting in or being hurt. I can understand parts of this, as Greg notes several time – High School Sucks. Earl is the closest thing he has to a friend, and I loved that Earl was the blatantly honest moral compass of the duo, especially with his unconventional family life. Earl said all the things to Greg that I wanted to say. As Greg hangs out with Rachel though he also unveils an extremely selfish side of himself, and he can’t admit that he likes this girl even a little as a friend, and that drove me crazy. She’s the only person who listens to him, she doesn’t judge, she doesn’t try to make him change, she simply listens.

And while Greg points out numerous times throughout the book that there was no amazing connection between he and Rachel, that she didn’t change his life, that watching her die had no profound effect. It’s all a lie.

It’s all a lie while still being able to avoid the tropes of those Other Books though, and that’s where the charm of this really shines through. It was certainly not one of my favorite books, but I am glad that I read it, and it’s interesting POV is certainly refreshing and makes it worth the read.

Coming This Week: Jan. 25

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I’m a multiple book a week reader, usually. Lately though I have been in a slump. I’ve read a few good ones: Illuminae, Truthwitch, A Darker Shade of Magic to name a few. But overall, nothing this year is really getting me in that “I can’t wait to pick up this next book,” mood. I think I may just be in a general non-reading mood. It hits me every once in a while, and I’ll Netflix binge instead. But this just seems worse than usual. So in an effort to fix it, and get me excited again, I am going to be revisiting some favorites. First on the list, The Hunger Games, who doesn’t get excited about that?

But, while I continue to wallow in my uninspiring art encounters until then, you get to hear more whining on Wednesday, this time about a movie.

Book discussions this week will be:

Review: Illuminae

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Goodreads Summary:

This morning, Kady thought breaking up with Ezra was the hardest thing she’d have to do.

This afternoon, her planet was invaded.

The year is 2575, and two rival megacorporations are at war over a planet that’s little more than an ice-covered speck at the edge of the universe. Too bad nobody thought to warn the people living on it. With enemy fire raining down on them, Kady and Ezra—who are barely even talking to each other—are forced to fight their way onto an evacuating fleet, with an enemy warship in hot pursuit.

But their problems are just getting started. A deadly plague has broken out and is mutating, with terrifying results; the fleet’s AI, which should be protecting them, may actually be their enemy; and nobody in charge will say what’s really going on. As Kady hacks into a tangled web of data to find the truth, it’s clear only one person can help her bring it all to light: the ex-boyfriend she swore she’d never speak to again.

Told through a fascinating dossier of hacked documents—including emails, schematics, military files, IMs, medical reports, interviews, and more—Illuminae is the first book in a heart-stopping, high-octane trilogy about lives interrupted, the price of truth, and the courage of heroes.

I saw so much hype for this book, and while I love the Starbound series co-authored by Kaufman, I wasn’t sure about this one. But with Christmas approaching I decided to add it to my wish list. I’m glad I did.

I got this in hardback, which I think is the best way to read it as I don’t know how it would translate to e-reader. It’s an epistolary book, but goes beyond even that. It’s composed of audio transcripts, e-mails, IMs, memorandums, journal entries, after-action reports, and what becomes a central narrator – the artificial intelligence system in the middle of it all. While this aspect is what makes the book so unique, I was worried that it would make it hard to connect to the characters; that was foolish of me.

Even written in such a detached way, we still get glimpses inside the characters heads that unveil their deeper emotions and drivers. I also really liked how the format lead to the unraveling of the story. We go in with certain facts, but as we get farther and farther into the story more things are being revealed, and the extent of the damage done spirals out of what little control we thought the characters would have over it all.

While at times the narration of the AI bogged me down a bit, it was also one of the more interesting voices of the story, and really became an ambiguous villain. The romance element of this was also really well balanced, it was there, but it wasn’t drowning you, and since it was already established we didn’t have to worry about those “moments” that build it up and solidify it that sometimes take away from the action of a story. Coming into a YA book with an established relationship was something I hadn’t seen before too.

This reminded me a lot of the Starbound series in the general “world”, but it stands far enough apart that I think it will be able to please fans of the first series as well as brining in new fans who are more focused on the Sci-Fi element.

Overall, I immensely enjoyed the interesting format, well plotted and surprising story, and the potential this series has. Definitely one worth the hype.

Monthly Word Count

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I’m sure all of you who participate in Camp NaNo understand the power of that chart that maps your writing progress. That little chart has so much influence over me during the month long writing challenge. When I am ahead I feel so accomplished, so capable. When I am under that line I start to feel nervous,it perpetuates my writers block, and sometimes it completely gets out of hand.

Well, no matter what, having something holding me accountable is a great driver for my writing habits. For any of my habits actually. I always do better exercising with a partner, in school I loved having deadlines, and I always had assignments done early. So, I decided to find a way to create a NaNo chart for myself, to give me a visual representation of my progress, of what I was working on, and of the patterns of my work habits.

I went with a basic Excel spreadsheet, but I love it! It’s easy, I list the days, my word count, and what I was working on. Then I have the total WC put in a chart and I can see my progress throughout the month.

December was weird because I was out of town half the month, but you can see I was still able to get a ton of work done before then! This is also a great way to make me stick to my schedule, I can’t lie to the spreadsheet, and it will show me exactly how much of an impact my lazy day has on my productivity.

Do you keep any kind of chart mapping your writing progress?

 

 

 

 

 

Review: Spelled

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Goodreads Summary:

Fairy Tale Survival Rule #32: If you find yourself at the mercy of a wicked witch, sing a romantic ballad and wait for your Prince Charming to save the day.

Yeah, no thanks. Dorthea is completely princed out. Sure being the crown princess of Emerald has its perks—like Glenda Original ball gowns and Hans Christian Louboutin heels. But a forced marriage to the brooding prince Kato is so not what Dorthea had in mind for her enchanted future.

Talk about unhappily ever after.

Trying to fix her prince problem by wishing on a (cursed) star royally backfires, leaving the kingdom in chaos and her parents stuck in some place called “Kansas.” Now it’s up to Dorthea and her pixed off prince to find the mysterious Wizard of Oz and undo the curse…before it releases the wickedest witch of all and spells The End for the world of Story.

Honestly, I wasn’t all that revved up to start this book. I’ve read a lot of Fairy Tale retellings, and while I won’t say it’s getting old, I think I was starting to think there weren’t many new ways to do it.

Well, Spelled was a pleasant surprise. The book isn’t specific to one Tale, and I think that is definitely running in it’s favor. It’s taking the common themes, tropes, characters, and ideas of Fairy Tales and approaching them in a comedic and adventurous way.

I hated the MC when the book started. She was spoiled, selfish, and materialistic.

I loved the Prince the minute we met him. He told Dorthea exactly what he thought of her, and while a little arrogant, seemed to have  a right to be.

Schow was able to take these two characters, flip their world upside down, and send them into the world with a questionable guide to amazing results. As we get to know Dorthea more we realize a lot of her personality comes from a deep desire to please her distant mother, a general lack of experience in the real world, and find that she is quick to admit her failings and works to take responsibility. Kato likewise softens up a bit. His arrogance is still there, but in a more likable way as he figures out that Dorthea isn’t a stupid as he thinks, and finds that they work well together.

The rest of the cast is filled with villains who rest on a scale from desperate to pure evil, sidekicks who push the main duo to grow within themselves and as a team, and mentors who give just enough advise to guide our characters naturally.

What I went into expecting to be “just something fun,” turned out to be that and more. I will certainly be watching this series for more.