Tag Archives: book review

Reading Goal Roundup and My Top Books/Series of 2014

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2014 is over, and while I didn’t succeed in reading 100 books this year, I did read twice as many as last year (65 vs 32). Also, I did read some great nonfiction as well as find some new series to obsess over.

I’ve cleaned off my digital bookshelf to make room for shiny new books. Also, in short order, I’ll be sending out a post about upcoming book releases that I’m excited to read. 🙂

Here’s a recap of what I read in 2014.

  • A Study in Silks (Baskerville Affair #1) by Emma Jane Holloway
  • Caliban’s War (Expanse #2) by James S. A. Corey
  • Up from the Grave (Night Huntress conclusion) by Jeaniene Frost
  • Burn (Pure #3) by Julianna Baggott
  • Abaddon’s Gate (Expanse #3) by James S.A. Corey
  • Dawn’s Early Light (A Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences #3) by Pip Ballantine and Tee Morris
  • Magic Breaks (Kate Daniels #7) by Ilona Andrews (plus a reread of the first 6 books)
  • Boy, Snow, Bird by Helen Oyeyemi
  • Frog Music by Emma Donoghue
  • A Study in Darkness (Baskerville Affair #2) by Emma Jane Holloway
  • A Study in Ashes (Baskerville Affair #3) by Emma Jane Holloway
  • A Conspiracy of Alchemists (Chronicles of Light and Shadow #1) by Liesel Schwarz
  • A Clockwork Heart (Chronicles of Light and Shadow #2) by Liesel Schwarz
  • The Graveyard Game (Company #4) by Kage Baker
  • The Life of the World to Come (Company #5) by Kage Baker
  • The Sorcery Code (Sorcery Code #1) by Dima Zales and Anna Zaires
  • Talented (Talented Saga #1) by Sophie Davis
  • Skyship Academy: The Pearl Wars by Nick James
  • The Girl with the Windup Heart (The Steampunk Chronicles #4) by Kady Cross
  • The Blackhouse  by Peter May
  • The Giver by Lois Lowry
  • Balanced on a Blade’s Edge (Dragon Blood #1) by Lindsay Buroker
  • Fortune’s Pawn (Paradox #1) by Rachel Bach
  • Honor’s Knight (Paradox #2) by Rachel Bach
  • Heaven’s Queen (Paradox #3) by Rachel Bach
  • Claimed (Flash Gold #4) Lindsay Buroker
  • A Lady of Spirit (Magnificent Devices #6) by Shelley Adina
  • Ruin and Rising (The Grisha Trilogy #3) by Leigh Bardugo
  • Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
  • The Astronaut Wives Club by Lily Koppel
  • The Race Underground: Boston, New York, and the Incredible Rivalry That Built America’s First Subway by Doug Most
  • Cibola Burn (Expanse #4) by James S.A. Corey
  • The Immortal Crown (Age of X #2) by Richelle Mead
  • Caged (Talented Saga #2) by Sophie Davis
  • The Secret Place by Tana French
  • Hunted (Talented Sage #3) by Sophie Davis
  • The Book of Life (All Souls Triology # 3) by Deborah Harkness
  • Blood Rights by Kristen Painter
  • Archetype by M.D. Waters
  • Prototype by M.D. Waters
  • Sisters’ Fate (The Cahill Witch Chronicles #3) by Jessica Spotswood
  • The Lewis Man by Peter May
  • The Infinite Sea (The Fifth Wave #2) by Rick Yancy
  • Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay
  • Burn for Me (Hidden Legacy #1) by Ilona Andrews
  • The Winter Long (October Daye #8) by Seanan McGuire
  • Gossamer Wing (Steam and Seduction #1) by Delphine Dryden
  • The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell
  • Disenchantment & Co. (Disenchantment & Co. #1) by Lynn Viehl
  • The Clockwork Wolf (Disenchantment & Co. #2) by Lynn Viehl
  • Annihilation (Southern Reach Trilogy #1) by Jeff VanderMeer
  • Authority (Southern Reach Trilogy #2) by Jeff VanderMeer
  • Acceptance (Southern Reach Trilogy #3) by Jeff VanderMeer
  • The Clockwork Dagger (Clockwork Dagger #1) by Beth Cato
  • Sky Pirates (Chronicles of Light and Shadow #3) by Liesel Schwarz
  • Far Orbit Anthology by World Weaver Press
  • The Atlantis Gene (The Origin Mystery #1) by A.G. Riddle
  • Waistcoats & Weaponry (Finishing School #3) by Gail Carriger

Top Books/Series:

Archetype and Prototype by M.D. Waters

Burn for Me (Hidden Legacy #1) by Ilona Andrews

The Winter Long (October Daye #8) by Seanan McGuire

Paradox series by Rachel Bach

Magic Breaks (Kate Daniels #7) by Ilona Andrews

Dawn’s Early Light (A Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences #3) by Pip Ballantine and Tee Morris

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A couple of books to add to the pile…

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Daily Candy posted an article about their most anticipated books for this year…I read over the list and while most of them didn’t interest me, I did find a couple of interesting gems so I’m throwing them on my digital book pile.  I took recommendations from io9 last year though and was mostly disappointed.  Here’s hoping these suggestions prove more entertaining!

Boy, Snow, Bird by Helen Oyeyemi
Releases 3/6/14

–The Snow White story retold (again)…the line from the blurb that drew me: “fearlessly tackles complicated issues like race and female competitiveness, even as it tells a fascinating story.”

Frog Music by Emma Donoghue
Releases 4/1/14

–Author of Room (which is amazing)…this title is a work of historical fiction based on a crime in 1876 San Francisco.

The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell
Releases 9/4/14

–a flight of magic and fantasy, what drew my eye: “set partially in a near-future Ireland after the world’s climate has collapsed.”

Book Review: Star Cursed by Jessica Spotswood

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Star Cursed by Jessica Spotswood is the one of the most satisfying sequels I’ve read lately.  Before I tell you why I think so, we’ll take a moment to recap and acquaint ourselves with the basic plot.  Oh yeah, and if you haven’t read the first book in the Cahill Witch Chronicles, Born Wicked, I suggest not reading any further until you do!

In the opening pages, we discover little time has passed since Cate Cahill sacrificed her own dreams to protect her sisters, Maura and Tess, by joining the Sisterhood.  Cate isn’t sure she is the foretold witch the Sisterhood believes her to be but she makes an effort to embrace her new life anyway.  Meanwhile, terrified of the prophecy, the Brotherhood enacts new laws denying women the right to read, to attend school, or to work outside the home.  The changes wrought by these laws and the arrest of a friend and fellow witch prompt Cate to realize that her sisters are safer within the Sisterhood than outside of it.  She requests they join her but the sisters’ happy reunion is short-lived  when it becomes evident that Maura yearns to be the prophesied one and lead the Sisterhood to victory, regardless of the cost. With the Brotherhood’s quest to find the prophesied witch intensifying and the Sisterhood splintering over how best to react, Cate will have to rise up as a leader and decide who is worth trusting as the future begins to unfold and more of the prophecy is revealed.

Born Wicked introduced this amazing alternate world, but Star Cursed is where Spotswood’s world-building really comes alive, adding to the mystery surrounding the Sisterhood as well as revealing tantalizing new details about the prophecy.   These new elements build texture to the overall mythology and story arc.  Character development is also paramount as we learn more about Maura and Tess.  Their characters grow.  Tess matures.   Maura, well Maura, doesn’t really mature so much as develops in a new direction.  But through it all, we gain insights into their personalities and dreams.  The author makes it easy to identify with the characters and understand why their relationships are transforming in certain directions.  Their dynamic as sisters  is the cornerstone of this installment, driving pivotal moments both for individual characters and the larger community.  Old resentments and secrets continue to divide the sisters despite the prophecy’s dark prediction that one sister will murder another before the turn of the century. It is as though they cannot stop themselves from racing toward their respective destinies regardless of what it means for themselves or each other.

As in first book, Star Cursed has a healthy does of romance and Finn, the boy Cate was forced to set aside when she joined the Sisterhood, reappears but I’ll let you readers discover how their relationship evolves.  All I will say is Spotswood does an amazing job of weaving romance into the fold without sacrificing any essentials.

Deep breath.

I need a minute to rant about the Brotherhood.

After spending the entire novel angry at this fictional organization, I want to freely admit that I abhor them.  Irrational I know, but isn’t it a great feat when an author can provoke a visceral response from the reader?  I, for one, was deeply affected.  Part of why it is so easy to despise these men centers not on their fictional beliefs/actions or the historical link to the notorious witch trials or past women’s rights battles.  Simply, I was disturbed because making the leap to similar transgressions in the modern era isn’t difficult. At all. Today, there are still countries where women are denied these basic freedoms.   Even here in the US, women have access to an education, the ability to work and support themselves but continue to fight for others. The consistent and continued fight to be able to make decisions for our own bodies is just one but there are many more.  The politics in this book will keep you thinking long after you’ve read the last page.

Darker and more foreboding than its predecessor, Star Cursed is well-developed and fast-paced.  It is an amazing second novel with enough unexpected twists and turns to delight any reader.  I can’t wait to see how it all ends!

Go out and buy it from your local brick and mortar or hop over to an online retailer today!

Online retailers:

 Amazon

Barnes & Noble

 iBooks

The Best of All Possible Worlds Book Review

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In a distant future, humans have spread across the universe. Somewhere along the way, several different human races emerged including the Sadiri. The Sadiri are a disciplined race with sophisticated emotional control and reliance on rational thought and behavior (think of the Vulcans from Star Trek). The Best of All Possible Worlds by Karen Lord opens when the planet Sadira is destroyed by an unprovoked genocidal attack.  The only Sadiri to survive are those individuals who were off-world at the time.  More women were living on their home world during the destruction, so there is significant gender disparity among the survivors. Of those remaining, some are working to create a new home world, New Sadira, while others find refuge on the plant Cygnus-Beta.  There, the Sadiri attempt to regroup after the massive loss.  These survivors are also hoping to secure appropriate mates from the taSadiri race living on Cygnus-Beta. The taSadiri happen to be the most genetically compatible to the Sadiri because they are actually Sadiri descendents making them the most ideal candidates.

The story is told almost exclusively through the first-person account of civil servant, Grace Delarua, who is tasked with helping one of the Sadiri leaders, Dllenahkh, transition to the Sadiris’ new home on her planet.   She eventually takes part in an assignment to help Dllenahkh and a few others (some officials from her world as well as Sadiri officials) seek possible genetic taSadiri matches. Yet, they are searching for more than just perfect genetic counterparts.  Their primary interest lies with taSadiri societies that have maintained some of the Sadiri belief systems, rituals, and histories so that the Sadiri way of life will not be lost as they repopulate their numbers.

While this novel is categorized as a science fiction, it is basically a romance story set in a futuristic world. Don’t get me wrong, it does have some sci-fi elements like time travel, telepathy, mindships, and alternate universes but except for telepathy, these concepts aren’t described in any great detail. Still, I enjoyed the slow blooming love affair between Dllenahkh and Delarua.  Their affection is clearly based on the mutual respect and caring that is fostered by the combined sharing of each other’s cultures.

Slow-moving at times, the novel does pick up once the love story takes shape. At the heart of this work is how two dissimilar groups establish relationships and gain understanding and acceptance as their races merge into one society. It is the familiar tale of how people come to realize that they have more in common with their neighbors than they originally believed.

However, this work has some issues. The entire planet of Sadira suffered this horrendous genocide and what’s left of its people are strewn across two worlds, New Sadira and Cygnus-Beta.  Obviously, the author’s intent wasn’t to showcase the dark aftermath of genocide but considering half the characters in the book lost their home world, family, and friends less than a year prior, it felt as though it should have been more significant.  At times, even Delarua almost forgets the pain the Sadiri must be suffering…but she is an outsider to this void and emptiness they must be feeling.  Dllenahkh is the obvious choice to address these ideas, however, while Dllenahkh has a minor POV throughout, it is not large enough to gain the deeper insight needed. The author does deviate from the romance angle at times to deal with political and ethical issues but the transitions into these scenes are usually less than smooth and don’t feel central to the story.  Still, I choose to concentrate on the story Lord was telling and reserve my judgment on that score.

The Best of All Possible Worlds is a solid read and enjoyable but it isn’t a novel I’d want read over and over again. Still I recommend it specifically to those individuals who enjoy their science fiction a tad more literary as in the style of Ursula K. Le Guin or those who enjoy romance set in fantastical worlds.

Available from a number of retailers including Amazon and Barnes & Noble.