Heroine Worship

Heroine Worship

Heroine Worship (Heroine Complex #2) by Sarah Kuhn

Published July 4, 2017

Aveda Jupiter, badass superheroine extraordinaire, is bored. Ever since she and her best friend (and former personal assistant) fire-wielder Evie Tanaka stopped a demon invasion four months earlier, Ms. Jupiter (aka Annie Chang) has been frustrated with the lack of opportunities for superheroine intervention in San Francisco, but also because no one takes her seriously and everyone thinks she is just a attention-hogging diva. She wants to be an exemplary best friend to Evie, and so when Evie gets engaged and asks her to be the maid of honor, she takes her job very seriously. Things finally start happening with Scott, the mage who works with her company, and Annie has been in love with him forever. Only the damn demons seem to keep getting in the way of everything. Can Evie and Aveda set aside their difference and work together to defeat these demons? 3-1/2 stars. 

This book draggggggggged a lot, especially in the middle. I kept waiting for the plot to progress and it did eventually, but took its sweet time to get there. If I didn’t like the characters so much, I probably wouldn’t have finished it. The first book in the series, Heroine Complex, was entirely from the viewpoint of Evie and I really sympathized with her for having deal with someone who never appreciated her and what she did for her boss/friend. This book is entirely from Annie/Aveda’s viewpoint, which is completely different. We find out pretty early on that Annie is not the overly-confident diva that she originally appears but is completely vulnerable and emotional, especially after she realizes what a complete b**** she’s been to her best friend over the years. Then there’s Scott, the mage she’s known for years who she has had a crush on since she was twelve years old, and who has only recently started acting like a normal human being with her. I loved the interaction between the two of them and how shy they were as they got to know each other again, properly this time. 

Disclaimer: I received this book, from Berkley Publishing Group via Netgalley, in exchange for my honest review. 

 

The Waking Land

The Waking Land

The Waking Land  by Callie Bates

To be published: June 27, 2017

Lady Elanna Valtai (El for short) was kidnapped at age five by the King of Ereni because of her father’s political connections and designs. She is raised as the adopted daugher in King Antoine’s court but never fits in because everyone thinks her family are traitors. Fourteen years pass and El has cut all ties to her family and considers herself Ereni. That is until the King is mysteriously murdered, and she is blamed for it. She escapes with the help of a mysterious young man with magical abilities named Lord Jahan and his party of Caerisi supporters. She soon has to deal with her parents that abandoned her so long ago, and the semi-dormant nature magic she has been keeping secret for years. Magic is forbidden and is punishable by death. Will El be able to lead the rebellion that will determine her destiny and possibly her future love? Recommended for ages 14+, 4-1/2 stars. 

I adored this book! The world-building was great and the author really did manage to create a rich detailed novel. El could be a spoiled princess who cares about nobody but herself (like her adopted sister Loyce), but she is way more than that. This is especially true after she realizes all that is going on her around her – i.e. her role in the political machinations of her father and the kingdom of Ereni. Eren reminded me of late medieval/early Renaissance England, while Caeris reminded me a lot of Scotland with a splash of Ireland, and a little bit of Diana Gabaldon with the magic stones and power of the earth element of the story. I loved the El and Jahan story! Finn totally reminded me of Leith from the TV show Reign, in fact the actor is who I picture in my head whenever I read about him. He’s got that whole innocent caught in the middle vibe, especially in regard to being the next king, and I do feel a little bad for him as he’s seems to have feelings for El. That marriage to the land scene at the end of the book…wow is all I can say.

There were two things I didn’t like about this book. The first was that the story dragged a bit in the beginning and end, which dragged the story out unnecessarily, and made it hard to get into and then I was praying for it to hurry up and end. Second, there was not enough background information on one of my favorite characters besides El, Jahan Korakides. Seriously, he’s El’s love interest and all you know are some vague details about the guy and he’s the most interesting character because he’s a sorcerer who completely hides this fact and manages to live amongst royalty. 

 

Norse Mythology

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Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman

Published: February 7, 2017

Taken from Goodreads.com: In Norse Mythology, Gaiman fashions primeval stories into a novelistic arc that begins with the genesis of the legendary nine worlds; delves into the exploits of the deities, dwarves, and giants; and culminates in Ragnarok, the twilight of the gods and the rebirth of a new time and people. Gaiman stays true to the myths while vividly reincarnating Odin, the highest of the high, wise, daring, and cunning; Thor, Odin’s son, incredibly strong yet not the wisest of gods; and Loki, the son of giants, a trickster and unsurpassable manipulator. From Gaiman’s deft and witty prose emerges the gods with their fiercely competitive natures, their susceptibility to being duped and to dupe others, and their tendency to let passion ignite their actions, making these long-ago myths breathe pungent life again.

I’ve never had the opportunity to advance read one of Mr. Gaiman’s books, so I jumped at the chance when I saw it on Netgalley. Plus it’s about one of my favorite subjects that I have loved since a child, and I could identify with Mr. Gaiman’s similar experience, in regards to the introduction of Norse mythology into his life, in the foreword. His writing is beautiful as it always is and I discovered stories I had never heard before, but I guess I just thought it would be different and a better interpretation because of his past work involving Norse mythology (Odd and the Frost Giants and American Gods). 3-1/2 stars. 

Disclaimer: I received a copy from the publishers, WW. Norton & Company on Netgalley, in exchange for my honest review. 

Best Books I read in 2016

I am so glad 2016 is over! Though I didn’t read as many books as 2015 (mostly because a lot of what I read was fan-fiction, which I love, but doesn’t count towards my reading goals for the year), I still read a decent amount of good books (232 total). I read a ton of mangas (71 – impressive when you think they’re about 2oo pgs each) and there were a lot of really good ones there. This is the first year I’ve had a separate category for mangas on my end of the year list. The theme for this year appears to have been romances, though not intentionally, mostly just because of issues in my personal life reflecting into what I chose to read. 

Picture Books

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  • Jack Frost (Guardians of Childhood #3) by William Joyce – I love William Joyce’s books and this one was a visual masterpiece. I love the Guardians of Childhood series and this is graphically amazing younger children’s version before he brings out the full-on book for the chapter book series. A new interpretation of the Jack Frost myth, and it is this book whose story was featured on The Rise of the Guardians movie that came out in 2013. 
  • I Love You Already by Jory John – brought to you by the same guy that did Goodnight Already!, which I adored. Hilarious sequel about Bear and his neighbor Duck, who annoys the crap out of him but who he still likes. Reminds me of parents and kids. 
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  • Mother Bruce written/illustrated by Ryan T. Higgins – funniest book I read this year, hands down. Goose baby-wearing by a grumpy bear, enough said. 
  • It Came in the Mail written/illustrated by Ben Clanton – Picked it up after discovering his other adorable comic, Narwhal and Jelly (described below). An adorable book and very imaginative. A little boy, aptly named Liam (like my son), wants desperately to get something in the mail. So he writes a nice little note to the mailbox begging for something and gets a surprise, a dragon in the mail. So he asks for more and chaos ensues, but he comes up with a clever solution.

Children

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  • Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson – I read this for our tween book club and really enjoyed it, but it is a 337 page verse novel, which can kind of be scary for some kids. It is an autobiographic poem essentially about the author. 
  • The Creeping Shadow (Lockwood & Co. #4) by Jonathan Stroud – I love pretty much anything this man writes, but this one was a great continuation of the Lockwood & Co series. I have described this as “Ghost epidemic in the UK with kids as ghost hunters but the ghosts can actually kill you, and only kids can see them”. Glad Lucy finally got back with Lockwood, George and Holly. 
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  • Funny Bones: Posada and His Day of the Dead Calaveras by Duncan Tonatiuh – tells the story of one of the most famous Mexican illustrators who created a lot of the images we know today about Dia de los Muertos (one of my favorite holidays, along with Halloween)
  • The Noisy Paint Box by Barb Rosenstock – a wonderfully creative biography of abstract artist Wassily Kandinsky, whom I discovered last year, who could hear colors and see sounds
  • Narwal: Unicorn of the Sea (Narwhal and Jelly #1)  written and illustrated by Ben Clanton – a recent discovery that was too cute for words. How can you not love a Narwhal and Jellyfish who love waffles, imagination, reading, and creating their own unique pod full of friends?
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  • The Marvels by Brian Selznick – this one had been on my to-read list for ages and finally got read it. It is a masterpiece like pretty much all of his work, which he writes and illustrates. Everyone should read this. The book, which starts in 1766 and ends in 2007, is about the Marvel and Nightingale families and their connection to each other. But it is also a story about love in all its forms, acceptance, understanding, and the complicated relationships within families (which really hit home for me this year). 
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  • A New Hope – The Princess, The Scoundrel and the Farm Boy by Alexandra Bracken – picked this one up as a way to get my son who loves Star Wars more into audiobooks. I loved it, more than him. It had all the cool sound effects, a lot of the movie dialogue, and a whole backstory on Princess Leia, Han Solo, and Luke Skywalker. Am definitely listening to the other two adaptations. Highly recommended as an audiobook, though more suited to 9-14 yr olds than 5 yr olds.

Young Adult

  • The Lunar Chronicles (Cinder, Scarlett, Cress, and Winterby Marisa Meyers – probably the best series I’ve read in a while. I love fairy-tale retellings and this one is an awesome sci-fi version with cyborgs, genetically-engineered wolfmen, space pilots, and psychotic Lunars (as the name suggests, people from the Moon). Plus the romances are fantastic and varied. 
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  • Fangirl and Carry On by Rainbow Rowell – definitely two of the absolute best books I read this year. I adore all the stuff I’ve read so far from this author, and look forward to reading more in the future. You should read Fangirl first and then Carry On, though they can both stand on their own, as Carry On is literally a big part of the first book. I was totally Cather Avery and wished I could find someone like Levi. Sigh…

Manga see this post for reviews for most of them

  • Kamisama Kiss Vol 20 – 22 by Julieta Suzuki – I love this series, so anymore books I get to read are awesome. See my initial reviews of the series here. 
  • A Silent Voice Vol 1-7 by Yoshitoki Oima – I have never read a manga about bullying, esp as it was about a deaf girl, and that is what drew me to this book. It really was unlike anything I’d ever read and was a very unconventional romance. 
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  • Wolf Children: Ame and Yuki by Mamoru Hosoda – another unconventional fantasy romance (seems to be the year for them) about a half wolf/half man who meets the love of his life and their children. Great anime as well. 
  • Library Wars Vol 14
  • Library Wars Vol. 14- by Kiiro Yumi – I love the craziness of this manga. I love the ideas of a militarized librarians protecting censorship. 
  • Ouran High School Host Club, Vol 1-11 by Bisco Hatori – loved the anime so decided to read the books to see if there was any extra awesome and there is. 
  • Kimi Ni Todoke (From Me to You), Vol 1-25  by Karuho Shiina – This is one of the sweetest mangas, heck romances, I’ve read in awhile. I can identify
  • Demon Love Spell, Vol 1-6 by Mayu Shinjo – the most ridiculous idea and worst name ever for a manga, but it made me LOL and keep reading till I finished the series. 
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  • Horimiya Vol 1-5 by Hero – another great manga romance series on an unconventional topic; Two high school students, who are not all they seem, fall in love and start a relationship. They are seriously the cutest, most awkward couple ever, which makes it so fun to watch the story unfold. 

Adult

  • The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper by Phaedra Patrick – an ARC (Advanced Readers Copy) I picked up because it reminded me a bit of Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand by Helen Simonson (another awesome aging adult book). It was a bit of a romance, journey to lead you to new discoveries – i.e. your self after a traumatic event, in this case the death of Arthur’s beloved wife. 
  • The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah – read this one for my bookclub and just loved the story of two very different sisters in the French Resistance during WWII
  • Dragon Age: MageKiller (Magekiller #1-6) – An ARC I was lucky enough to review this year, I want to read the whole series now. 
  • The Japanese Lover by Isabel Allende – I’ve loved her books for years and so gladly picked this for my bookclub and enjoyed it as well
  • Poison or Protect: Delightfully Deadly #1 and Imprudence (Custard Protocols #2) by Gail Carriger – 1st one is a novella about one of her characters from the Finishing School series, which was a fun little romp. 2nd one is all about her dad going crazy, a bit of sex education, and the crap really hitting the fan in regards to the G0d-breaker Plague (a continuation of events that happened in her first series, my favorite The Parasol Protectorate).
  • The Last Kingdom and The Pale Horseman (The Saxon Stories #1-2) by Bernard Cornwell – fabulous series, that they also turned into a miniseries, about life in King Alfred the Great’s court. It is set in the 9th century and told from the viewpoint of a young boy raised by the Vikings who is actually a Saxon lord. Very much looking forward to reading more books in this series

The Kaiser’s Last Kiss

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The Kaiser’s Last Kiss by Alan Judd

To be published: Jan 3, 2017

Kaiser Wilhelm has been exiled to the Netherlands since 1918. In 1940, the German Army (the Wehrmacht) have invaded Holland and are interested in him, or rather interested because of what he might do to support the Allies or the Third Reich. So they send a twenty-three year old SS officer named Martin Krebs to gather intelligence on the former emperor. His secondary mission is to find the British spy known to be in the area and trying to recruit the Kaiser. Despite deciding to use the SS as a way to further his career, he has become a bit disillusioned with the Nazis and what they are doing. Everything goes a little pear-shaped after Krebs falls in love with a young Jewish woman who is a servant at the Kaiser’s house. Will Krebbs be able to complete his missions? 3 stars. 

I really wanted to like this book, but I just felt like it fell flat for me. I liked the parts about the Kaiser, and I think he really stole the show away from Krebs and the Jewish maid. Apparently Christopher Plummer as the Kaiser in the movie adaption does the same thing. I always think of Wilhelm as the young man from the BBC series, Edward the Kingand Judd’s interpretation is pretty similar. I loved that he liked to talk in English and read out passages of Wodehouse to his guests. Krebb and the maid were just a kind of boring story. Yes, it was a forbidden love, especially because he was in the SS, but it didn’t do much for the story. I thought the visit from Heinrich Himmler, the head of the SS and the Gestapo, to the Kaiser’s house was much more interesting and wondered if it was true. Apparently no, though he did get a visit from Goering at some point during the war. 

Winter

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Winter (The Lunar Chronicles #4) by Marissa Meyer

Winter isn’t completely the completely useless crazy princess all the nobility on Luna maker her out to be. She is beloved by the common people, something her stepmother Queen Levana has never been, and the Queen hates her for it. Winter, in turn, despises her stepmother for using her Lunar gift to permanently scar her face and not allowing her to be with the love of her life, Jacin, a palace guard. She allies herself with Cinder, Emperor Kaito, Cress, Thorne, Wolf and Scarlet as they plot to take down Levana and install Cinder as Queen of Luna. Will they be able to defeat Levana and each be able to find their happy endings? To find out read the exciting conclusion of The Lunar Chronicles! Recommended for ages 14+, 4-1/2 stars. 

I reviewed the other Lunar Chronicles books here and here, and although I ultimately loved this book, it was so freaking long I nearly gave up several times. It took me about a month to finish on audiobook, though that was with several interruptions. I mean c’mon, it was 19 discs. We’re almost getting into Game of Thrones territory here (it had 28 discs). I really think it should’ve been divided into two books as the story took so much buildup to get to the point, which was to take down Levana and install Cinder on the Lunar throne as queen. The theme of this book was about Winter, the stepdaughter of Queen Levana who has been mentioned in previous books but you hadn’t heard much about until this book, and was a reference to the fairy tale Snow White and the Seven Dwarves. Winter was so flighty and weird that at first, I kind of hated her character, but as the book progresses the reader realizes that her odd behavior isn’t completely her fault. She has chosen to withhold the Lunar gift (mind control) and therefore has essentially driven herself crazy. 

I loved the character and relationship development between the couples: Kai and Cinder, Thorne and Cress, and Wolf and Scarlet. Kai and Cinder are so awkward when the book starts, probably because of the kidnapping but once he understands everything, they are too cute together and apart (especially when he is dealing with Levana). Wolf and Scarlet were interesting because she was tortured and he was genetically modified, but they are still so in love with each other no matter what has happened. Thorne and Cress are my favorite relationship and characters, aside from Cinder. Cress is very brave despite feeling insignificant all of the time. And Thorne is such a dashing rogue (very Han Solo in my opinion), though at the same time completely petrified at the thought of losing Cress, even though he can’t seem to voice it until the very end.

I found the part at the end, the face-off between Cinder and Levana in the audience room to be completely insane but fantastically written by the author. The way Levana keeps using Cinder’s friends against her physically and keeps thwarting all her attempts, even pretending to surrender; it honestly was kept on the edge of myself till the last minute wondering who was going to come out on top. Apparently there’s a short story about one of the characters getting married in the author’s book  Stars Above, so I am definitely going to check that out later. 

Saving Hamlet

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Saving Hamlet by Molly Booth

To be published: Nov 1, 2016

Emma Allen just got a cute new haircut and she can’t wait to start her sophomore year of high school. She is especially excited this year because she will be the Assistant Stage Manager for the high school’s production of William Shakespeare’s Hamlet, and her senior crush Brandon is directing the play. Only things start to go wrong from the beginning. She is thrust into the role of Stage Manager, the cute soccer guy with no acting skill gets cast as Hamlet (which infuriates her best friend Lulu who had wanted the role and is not talking to her right now), and Brandon is a horrible director. Plus, as Emma discovers one night, she can go through the trap door of her high school stage and ends up in Elizabethan London at the Globe Theater where Shakespeare and the King’s Men are performing the original Hamlet. Because of her short haircut and clothes, she is mistaken for a boy and soon becomes Master Allen. She catches the attention of Master Cooke, the young man playing Ophelia. What is a girl to do? To find out, read this fascinating glimpse into the play Hamlet as seen through teenage eyes. 

I did find it interesting that I managed to read two ARC time-travel books back to back last week. This one was completely different from the other one, but has similar qualities, i.e. about growing up and rediscovering yourself and what you can be. I loved the in-depth study of the play and the characters and their motives, as it is one of my favorites and I enjoy watching different interpretations of it. I’ve never seen the play in street clothes, but it seems like it would work just fine, as it did in the text. The David Tennant version of Hamlet they mentioned in the book is really quite excellent, I recommend it. 

I liked the interpretations of Hamlet and Ophelia that Josh and Lulu came up with during the course of the play. During the “To be or not to be” speech, Josh suggests that “maybe this is about being stuck in a weird place. Knowing that you have to do this thing, but not being brave enough to do it. Being too much in your head.” I am totally guilty of doing this, especially with events going on in my life right now, so I can see where he is coming from about it. My favorite part was about Lulu’s interpretation of Ophelia, which also has points about it that remind me of my life at the moment. She says:

“I’ve always thought that Ophelia was this throwaway character and that Shakespeare was a sexist pig for writing her so fragile…But lately I’ve been thinking: she’s always being controlled, right? By her father, by her brother, by general sexism and the court. But then she has this love and she does everything correctly but loses everything, including Hamlet…She’s just so alone  and so done with living in this sexist world that doesn’t make any sense. So she just lets it take over, and gives in, and lets herself drown in it.” 

Emma is actually a pretty interesting character. She has decided to do drama instead of soccer (even though she was awesome at it) and changed to a whole new better group of friends. Her best friend is bisexual and her friend’s parents are super traditional and are in denial about everything, and making their daughter’s life miserable. Emma likes Brandon, the unattainable older hottie, but he barely acknowledges her existence outside of the play. Then there’s Josh, the untrained actor who rescued Emma from a party last year and she’s kind of attracted to, but not ready to admit it. Then of course, there’s the whole part of the book in Elizabethan England, where Emma becomes a boy assistant stage manager and uses the skills she acquires there to help out Josh in the future. I loved the mysterious Master Cooke character and I kind of would have liked to get to know him better or maybe have her pick him in the end. 

Disclaimer: Thank you to Disney Hyperion, via Netgalley, for allowing me to read a copy in exchange for my honest review.