Sorcerer to the Crown Review

February 26, 2016

I kept hearing about this book. I kept meaning to read it. I finally got around to it. Now I get it.

Zen Cho’s Sorcerer to the Crown is the magical feminist fantasy novel I’ve been waiting for. It’s funny and fun and smart. Every time I thought there was something that was going to make me groan unhappily, it got flipped on its head. My only complaint is the continued use of “female” as a noun, and I think that might just be a pet peeve of mine.

The characters are strong and relatable and, occasionally, ridiculous. The plot is engaging and the writing is great. I wanted to keep reading — not only to find out what would happen next, but because it was an enjoyable experience.

Seriously, this book is delightful. It has something for everyone. I whole-heatedly recommend it. It’s the first in a trilogy and I don’t even care that I have to wait (OK, I care a little bit). I’m all in.

Captain Underpants is in the bookish news right now and this time it has nothing to do with being challenged (this series is frequently banned for being inappropriate or encouraging children to disobey authority).

The full story can be found here, but the long and short of it is that in the course of the newest book, it is revealed that one of the characters is gay. And it isn’t a big deal. In fact, it isn’t even remarked upon.

This is incidental diversity and it is exactly what needs to happen in literature. Kids (and all readers for that matter) need to see characters who are like them in books, but the stories they read don’t always need to be about how they’re POC, gay, differently-abled, etc. In some ways this just highlights differences and reinforces ideas that a white/straight/cis experience is the norm and anything else is a variation.

Incidental diversity shows that a gay character can be gay without that being the story. A character who is a POC or differently-abled or of a different religion can have varied experiences in a multitude of genres and that part of their identity is just that: only a part of who they are.

 

So while I don’t care very much about Captain Underpants, I am super excited about this. Hopefully more authors/illustrators and publishers will take note and we’ll see more diverse characters being regular characters.

As some of you may recall, I read Garth Nix’s Sabriel, and while I really enjoyed it, I initially decided that I wasn’t going to continue reading the series. And then there was so much buzz about Clariel and the other two books (Lirael  and Abhorsen) were right there at the library and… yeah.

I enjoyed Clariel, but if I’m being honest, not as much as the other books in the series. I liked the concept behind the book and how it took a different direction than the other books, but somehow it didn’t all mesh the way I wanted it to. Some people were disappointed with Clariel  because they found the character to be unlikable in whatever way. I can see how she is not the most likable person, but I think much of it is a fair representation of a certain type of teenager — somewhat selfish and wrapped up in her own interests, but fiercely devoted to her family, despite any disagreements. Clariel reads like a hard-headed teenager for a lot of the book. That doesn’t necessarily make her actions any less infuriating though.

Even though Clariel takes place in the same world, it feels like such a departure from the rest of the series because of the tone and the way the story progresses in a different direction. I certainly would not discourage a fan of the other books from reading this, but they should be prepared for something a bit different.

Golden Son — Review

March 9, 2015

Golden Son is the second book in Pierce Brown’s Red Rising trilogy and I can assure you that it does not suffer from second book syndrome.

Darrow continues to live as a Gold, working to gain favor and influence in order to bring down the Society from within. But the Bellona are still after him and with multiple players in the game the dynamics are constantly changing.

Golden Son is gripping and fast-paced. I absolutely tore through it and now I’m a bit mad at Pierce Brown because I have to wait for the next book and if there’s one thing I’m not, it’s patient.

This series is gearing up to be a thrilling dystopian masterwork. Sometimes jarring in its violence and brutality, it shows characters battling with still-universal questions of love, loyalty, trust, and identity.

Sabriel — Review

November 7, 2014

I initially decided to pick up Garth Nix’s Sabriel because it was one of those books that I kept hearing about every once in a while when talking about books and then we were coming up on the release of Clariel (which is part of that series) and there was so much buzz. So I got my act together and added it to my never-ending holds list at the library.

And I really liked it.

It has multiple forms of magic and a girl hero coming into her own and a snarky sidekick. What more could you possibly want?

There are hints of romance which I could really take or leave, but I get the impression it’s sort of important for plot things later on. In any case, the driving force of the plot in Sabriel is not the romance.

So here’s the thing. I enjoyed this book and went to find out which was the next book in the (then) trilogy (now it’s a series—Clariel is the fourth book). That’s when I realized it isn’t really a continuation of the story, though it is connected. At that point I decided that I wasn’t going to continue with the series.

Now if you follow me on instagram (which you should because I post all kinds of awesome book pictures … and sometimes pictures of my cat) then you’re calling shenanigans because you know that I picked up Lirael and Abhorsen in my last library visit. Well, everyone kept gushing about Clariel and as we’ve already established, I’m weak in the face of the giant monster that is book buzz.

So there you have it: I loved Sabriel and I buckled in my resolve to not read the rest of the series, so those reviews will show up at some point. Though I picked up four other books at the same time and have countless other ARCs and books I’ve bought that I should also be reading.

If we could just stop time for a bit so I could get some reading done that would be super.

The Grisha Trilogy

September 15, 2014

OK, so one of my friends in real life and on the interwebs wrote about Leigh Bardugo’s Grisha trilogy for Book Riot not too long ago and after reading her recommendation I flitted off to an online bookstore that shall remain nameless and bought Shadow & Bone immediately. I didn’t actually start reading it until a week or so later, but once I did I blew through the entire series (the other two books are Ruin & Rising and Siege & Storm in that order) in a matter of days. I may not have slept much…

The Grisha trilogy takes place in Ravka, a Russian-ish nation where the First Army of fighters and the Second Army of magic-wielding Grisha work together to keep the country safe. Alina grew up in the home of a benevolent duke after she was orphaned as a young girl. Now grown and studying to be a mapmaker with the First Army, she enters the Fold with her regiment. In the midst of an attach halfway across, Alina unleashes a power she never knew she possessed — one that could be the key to destroying the Fold and saving her country. But not everything is as it seems and Alina must master not only her power, but her own desires in order to succeed.

I was all over this series guys. There’s a badass heroine coming into her own, magic, reality meeting mythology, a bit of romance, and so much more.

Bardugo has received a bit of criticism (at least on Goodreads) for the Russian elements being kind of flawed. I don’t know enough to comment on that, but really, this series doesn’t take place in Russia, so while this criticism may have legs, it’s important to remember that Bardugo may have just used aspects of Russian culture or folklore as a jumping off point. I’m willing to give her the benefit of the doubt, anyway.

If you want to get lost in a world for a few days, I definitely recommend this trilogy. I really enjoyed the characters and the story. Bardugo also wrote a few companion folk tales that I’ve bought, but not yet read. I am, as you might imagine, super excited to dive into those as well.

Reading Vampire Academy

September 12, 2014

Richelle Mead’s Vampire Academy series follows the adventures of Rose Hathaway — a dhampir, or half human/half moroi bodyguard race— and her best friend Lissa, a moroi — or mortal vampire. Rose is training to become a guardian, which means she’ll spend her life defending Lissa and other moroi against strigoi— ruthless, immortal vampires more in line with the vampires of human nightmares.

I’m not going to go too much into the plot here because there are six books. Let’s just say that there’s adventure, romance, intrigue, and plenty of fighting.

I thought Mead’s treatment of the vampire tropes was really interesting. She made vampires her own in these books, but didn’t depart too far from tradition as to be snicker-worthy. They also help to draw distinction between the good, magic-wielding moroi and the evil, undead strigoi. I appreciated the nod to the older vampire legends.

I personally found some of the plot points through the series a little bit eye-roll inducing, but I think the books are written for a slightly younger audience, so maybe I’m just a cynic.

Overall though, these books made for some quick, enjoyable reading. I’d recommend them for older teens or young/new adults (that’s a genre now, right?).

I’ve spent the past few months making my way through Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson and the Olympians series. I usually finished the books in a day or two, but they’re in high demand and so I often had to wait a little bit for each one to become available at the library. The last book in the series was published in 2009, so the fact that there are still holds on all copies in the series speaks to its popularity with readers.

I genuinely enjoyed reading each of these books. They’re fast-paced and the characters are fun. I especially enjoyed the riddles from the Oracle and the representations of the Gods and mythical creatures. I think I’d call these Mythology Lite, but really, Riordan manages to pack a good deal into each book.

By now you know that folk tales and mythology set my heart aflutter, so I hope that these books have sparked a deeper interest in myths in some (or all!) of Riordan’s readers/

I would classify this series as sort of middle grade/ young YA (with the disclaimer that judging age ranges is not at all my forte), which is not typically my thing. Even so, I (as previously stated) really enjoyed it. I could get all nit-picky, but 1) it’s been a while since I’ve read some of them and 2) any criticisms I had were fairly minor. I would recommend the series, especially for kids, but also kind of just across the board if youi’re looking for a fun, quick read with a mythology tie-in. Have at it!

Review — The Magician King

September 2, 2012

I read The Magician King by Lev Grossman pretty quickly. I’d picked it up in the bookstore portion of the Center for Fiction when a customer was asking for recommendations. I remembered hearing about it so I glanced at the cover copy to refresh my memory and see if it was something in the vein of what she was looking for. The customer wrote down a few of my recommendations (but didn’t buy anything), but I ended up totally wanting to read this book. It was only in hardcover though, and I am too poor for that right now. Then I found it in the circulating collection, so all bets were off.

So fun fact: as I was reading this I didn’t feel particularly lost, but there were a lot of references to things that happened before in the past/before the point where this book starts. I found that kind of bizarre and kept wondering why Grossman hadn’t written a book about all of this since it sounded like there was a lot of action(!) and drama(!) involved. And then I found out that he had in fact written a book about all of that (The Magicians) and I was reading the sequel. I’m a truly impressive creature, I know. Anyway, I was more than 3/4 of the way through The Magician King before I realized this, so I finished it and am now reading The Magicians.

I’m almost done with The Magicians, so I thought about just waiting and then giving you the reviews in order, but what’s the fun in that?

I really enjoyed The Magician King, and I think that the fact that I was able to get so far into it without realizing that I was reading a sequel speaks volumes about Grossman’s ability to draw the reader into the story. As I said, I wondered why Grossman hadn’t written about the previous events. I was curious, but I was never confused.

As a writer Grossman doesn’t take himself too seriously, which can be refreshing and funny at times, but starts to get old and seem amateurish if used too often.

I also found parts of the plot…improbable? That’s probably not the right word to use given that this is a fantasy novel, but I’m sticking with it for lack of a better phrase. After the near-disastrous results of rushing through the first door opened with a magic key, wouldn’t Quentin be a bit more careful the second time around? I get that Grossman needs these characters who are all in different places to talk to one another, but getting stranded gets old fast. And the ending! In a game of lowly bureaucrat vs. royalty, shouldn’t royalty have the upper hand there? Why is there any talk of punishment coming from them?

The ending is unsatisfying for other reasons, but I do admit that had everyone gone back to Castle Whitespire to live happily ever after with everything all nice and tidy, that would have been unsatisfying and anticlimactic as well. Maybe I’m just difficult to please.

This makes it sounds like I have a lot of complaints, but over all, I really liked The Magician King. It had just the right amount of mystery and magic, with some humor and plenty of adventure thrown in. Yes, there are blurbs on the cover that mention Harry Potter. No, I will not make a comparison.

On an almost entirely separate note, am I the only one who wishes that the Fillory novels mentioned in the book were real? I want to read them. They sound like fun, sort of like the Magic Treehouse books, of which there are probably 60 by now.