Friday, April 21, 2017

Beautiful Places in Florence Inspired by The Most Beautiful Woman in Florence by Alyssa Palumbo

When I received an email from the folks of St. Martin's Press to ask if I wanted to read a copy of The Most Beautiful Woman in Florence by Alyssa Palumbo I was so excited. For one thing, I am a big fan of historical fiction and some of my favorites have been published by St. Martin's and even more of them have dealt with art or artists. But mostly it was because I absolutely love the city of Florence.

When I was in college (I don't really want to admit to you how long ago that was but it was a substantial period of time, like it's in double digits). I spent a semester abroad in Florence. There really wasn't a good reason as to why other than I wanted to go there. I did study history and political science but I did focus more on the recent era which isn't exactly when Italy and Florence was the most important place in the world. But it is still a city full of history.

And it's gorgeous. I've been really wishing I could go back lately. A few friends (I'm looking at you Pili) have gone lately and it makes me jealous af of them. But while I can't make that happen I can live vicariously and remember some of my favorite places and all the beautiful places to go and things to see in the city. So I wanted to share with you all some pictures with you as I prepare to start the book.


I mean seriously, look at how gorgeous that view is. But this picture was also taken from my all-time favorite within the city...

Boboli Gardens


Giardiano di Boboli are the grounds of the Pitti Palace, which were the main seat of the Medici when they controlled Tuscany. They're a sculpture garden full of roman antiquities and of course renaissance sculptures by the like of Stoldo Lorenzi and Guilio and Alfonso Parigi. There are lots of walking trails and little nooks to stop and read or do your homework.

My favorite thing about the Boboli Gardens is how quiet it is. It's on the southern side of the Arno which is mostly removed from the touristy part of the city and when you are up there you almost forget that you are in one of the largest cities in the country/world. It's like being in the wilderness.

Il Duomo


No, that doesn't stand for dome but it does have one. Duomo basically means catherdral. Every city in Italy has one. The one in Florence is pretty well known though. I used to know all kinds of facts about Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore (Catherdral of St Mary of the Flower) because when I was living there I became a Duomo Tour Guide for a work study job. I didn't give many tours but like it was still a pretty dope job. (Yes, I said dope).

But it started as a Gothic design by Arnolfo di Cambio and the dome was designed by Brunelleschi. It has the fifth largest free standing dome in the world but at the time it was the largest. On the interior of the church the dome is painted with a huge fresco of The Last Judgement (a very common ceiling painting at the time). Outside there is the campanille (bell tower) which was designed by Giotto and I would suggest climbing if you want a good view of the city center because it's cheaper and less popular than the dome. It also has the Baptistery which has Lorenzo Ghiberti's Gates of Paradise which have these gorgeous bronze reliefs on them.

Seriously, if you are in Florence you cannot avoid the Duomo and you shouldn't. It's huge and beautiful and worth a visit.
Piazza della Signoria


This was my favorite place to people watch in Florence. It's sort of tucked away but it is also the location of Palazzo Vecchio which is the old town hall of Florence. The piazza also is where the Loggia dei Lanzi is located which has bunch of really gorgeous sculptures. It's also the entrance to the Uffizi, the main art museum in Florence. What I'm saying is that it's really well trafficked.

But it's also very popular because Palazzo Vecchio is also the location of the original Michelangelo's David. It used to stand outside at the entrance (you can see it on the left-hand side of the image on the right). Now they have a replica because I think it caused too many crowds blocking the Uffizzi. There is also a sculpture there called lovingly "Big White Guy," which totally sounds bad and is not at all specific because like every sculpture is white because it's made out of Carrara marble/

And just before you get to Piazza della Signoria is one of my favorite gelaterias in Florence. It's called Perche, No which means why not in Italian. So yeah, why not get gelato and then go hang out in the piazza watching tourist go by taking pictures of the David.

Ponte Vecchio


No I'm really only including Ponte Vecchio because it's super well-known. I mean don't get me wrong, it's super well-known and really pretty. It is the last surviving Medieval bridge in Florence. They used to all look like this but over time floods and earthquakes took care of the other bridges but not this one.

The bridge is full of different shops and stalls which you can see on the sides there. It used to be where the butchers would set up shop but now it's just really expensive jewelers and other artisans along with tourist traps.

I used to cross the Arno at Ponte Vecchio all the time because my friends lived across the river and also there is a really good gelateria just on the other side of the river called La Strega Nocciola.

There you have it, some popular and gorgeous places in Italy. Today I am starting reading The Most Beautiful Woman in Florence and I will make sure to keep an eye out for all these locations. I'm sure a few of them will be mentioned. And if you happen to read the book and you see them you will know what to look for.

Thanks for stopping by and don't forget to come back on Monday for my review of The Most Beautiful Woman in Florence by Alyssa Palumbo. HAPPY READING!

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Comics I've Read Recently: Spring 2017

It seems like every couple months I go through a cycle where I read a ton of comics, and in the past few months I have done just that. I tend to go through entire periods where I read no comics and then suddenly I will read four in the span of a month. I don't know why, maybe I have to be in the mood or maybe I just read other things. So I thought I would share some of my thoughts on them for you all.

Batgirl, Vol. 1: Beyond Burnside by Hope Larson and Raphael Albuquerque 
(Amazon / Goodreads / Comixology)

Synopsis: A part of DC Universe: Rebirth! 

 Barbara Gordon looks to add a new bullet point to her already impressive Batgirl resume: travel agent. Having just (barely!) survived the Battle of Burnside and verging on an Arkham-worthy breakdown, the star pulls a Kerouac and gets on the road to find herself.

Follow Babs on her worldwide quest in Batgirl, Volume 1: Beyond Burnside, with New York Times best-selling author Hope Larson and award-winning artist Raphael Albuquerque leading the way! 

Collecting: Batgirl 1-6

My Thoughts:

I have to say, I was a little nervous about reading this comic. Now not because I don't like Batgirl, because I do. Hell, my phone lock screen is Batgirl reading a Wonder Woman comic. No, I was nervous because I do love Batgirl. And I really loved The New 52 Batgirl. I didn't want a new iteration of the character, I wanted the Babs I had just grown to love. But this was a great extension of that story.

I think they did do a good job of connecting the classic character with that of her modern incarnation. It wasn't a total departure or retcon which was but if I am being entirely honest I didn't enjoy it as much. Story wise it was interesting enough with a good plot that took over most of the book and interesting smaller storylines for each issue. And the art was fantastic and colorful which I really enjoyed.

What I think I didn't like as much was the character. I do appreciate that they didn't completely throw out the previous run which, let's be real, happens a lot with comics but I still didn't like it as much. Barbara didn't feel as much like the fun and modern twenty-something like she did in the New 52 run. She was still kickass and snarky but I was still missing something.

Only the whole, this was a good comic that I think fans of the character will enjoy but it get very much like a bridge book. I'm curious for what is next for the DC Rebirth version of the character and I'm glad to hear she's back in Burnside. If you like Batgirl or you are a fan of any of DC's superheroines, check this out, but if you are new to the character, start with The New 52.

Wonder Woman, Vol. 1: The Lies by Greg Rucka and Liam Sharpe

Synopsis: A part of DC Universe: Rebirth! 

New York Times best-selling writer Greg Rucka returns to Wonder Woman! After suffering an unimaginable loss, Diana must rebuild her mission as Earth's ultimate protector and champion. However, in the midst of her grief, her Lasso of Truth stopped working! Start down the rabbit hole as dark secrets from Wonder Woman's past unravel her present!

 From the ashes of DC Universe: Rebirth, critically acclaimed writer Greg Rucka along with illustrator Liam Sharpunveil a tale that will forever alter the DC icon in Wonder Woman, Volume 1: The Lies!

Collecting: Wonder Woman 1, 3, 5, 7, 9, 11, Rebirth

My Thoughts:

Okay so remember how I said I loved The New 52 version of Batgirl? Well I never read The New 52 Wonder Woman. At least not as extensively as I read Batgirl. I read a few volumes but I wasn't as connected with that version of the character. So that being said I was interested to see the direction they would take the character in with the movie coming up.

And while I enjoyed it a great deal, I wasn't totally blown away. This is a really good example of what I think that DC Comics is trying to do with Rebirth, the characters have been retconed and had their stories changed so many times that it's hard to know what is canon. And honestly, Wonder Woman is just as confused as we are. And while I appreciate that levity, it doesn't make for a great story.

And yes, there were some good elements and some classic Wonder Woman playing peacemaker and kicking ass when necessary, but on it's own it wasn't a great comics volume. I think when the series continues and we are able to move past this volume it will be much better.

If you are a Wonder Woman fan maybe check this one out, but if you are reading the character for the first time, do not start here. I would also maybe suggest waiting until you have volume 2 and reading them together. I have that one now so we shall see how I feel.

Rat Queens, Vol 3: Demons by Kurtis J. Weibe and Tess Fowler
(Amazon / Goodreads / Comixology)

Synopsis: Having survived the end of the world, the Queens follow Hannah back to where it all began: Mage University. A long perilous journey awaits the Rat Queens as they attempt to find out what happened to Hannah’s father while battling their own demons.

 Collects RAT QUEENS #11-15, RAT QUEENS SPECIAL: BRAGA #1, plus extras!

My Thoughts:

Oh I totally love this comic. Rat Queens is absolutely one of my favorites and one of the main reasons that I got into comics a few years ago. I've been dragging my feet in reading the next volume but when I saw it was on sale on Comixology I picked it up and read it almost right away.

And while I don't think this is my favorite in the series, it was a really amazing next installment. This volume is absolutely, without a doubt, about Hannah. Hannah has to come to terms with her past and face literal and figurative demons in this book. I think maybe the reason I didn't love it as much is because I didn't love Hannah's development. Yes, I am all about her becoming who she is deep down but it lost some of it's heart. I don't want to give too much away but I didn't like the way it ended.

But I seriously love these characters. After three volumes I have become so attached to them and their stories. Violet is probably my favorite and she wasn't a very big part of this one so that could have added to my thoughts of it. I also really love the fantasy or sword and sorcery vibe to it. It's a comic I think fantasy fans will appreciate even if you aren't a fan of comics.

Ms. Marvel Volume 4, Last Days by G. Willow Wilson and Adrian Alphona
 (Amazon / Goodreads / Comixology)

Synopsis:From the moment Kamala put on her costume, she's been challenged. But nothing has prepared her for this: the last days of the Marvel Universe. Lucky she's got the help of Carol "Captain Marvel" Danvers! Between teaming up with her personal hero to rescue her brother and trying to keep her city from falling into an all-out frenzy, Kamala has barely had time to come to terms with the fact that the world is literally collapsing around her. But the truth will catch up to her, and soon. When the world is about to end, do you still keep fighting? Kamala knows the answer. Let's do this, Jersey City.

Collecting: Ms. Marvel (2014) #16-19, written by G. Willow Wilson and illustrated by Adrian Alphona, plus material from Amazing Spider-Man (2014) #7-8

My Thoughts:

Ms. Marvel is another one of those comics that got me excited about comics a few years ago. Actually, she might have been the first one I read. And similar to Rat Queens, I have been dragging my feet in finishing the series because I don't want it to end. But again I saw that it was on sale on Comixology and I couldn't pass it up.

And this next installment was just as good as the previous ones. Kamala Khan is a fangirl and a superhero rolled into one and as a nerdy female comics fan I can't help but relate. I feel like Kamala is all of us and seeing her popularity rise in and out of the comic is hugely satisfying. But she also still maintains the heart of the character. She's far from perfect and I liked seeing her succeed and mess up at the same time.

The best part of this comic however is the art. In other comics and graphic novels I find myself thinking that they are kind of boring or simple designs and I think it's because I was spoiled by the likes of Ms. Marvel. Seriously, the art is so intricate and if you look closely you will notice some really fun and interesting things,

My one criticism, and this is the case I think for a few other Marvel comics that came out around the same time (see Squirrel Girl just below), but it was really short. I mean it had it's own storyline but it felt like it was just a means to an end, that end being Civil War and Ms, Marvel becoming an Avenger. Which I'm cool with but I just want more Kamala.

Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, Vol. 2: Squirrel You Know It's True by Ryan North and Erica Henderson
(Amazon /Goodreads / Comixology)

Synopsis: The breakout character of 2015 continues her one-woman crusade against injustice and jerks! These TAILS of the Squirrel Girl will show you the Marvel Universe's most powerful super hero from a bunch of brand-new perspectives, several of them Quite Astonishing.

Collecting: The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl 5-8, material from GLX-Mas Special, The Thing 8, Age of Heroes 3

My Thoughts:
I read the first volume of Squirrel Girl in my last comics binge and I loved it so much that I wanted to read more. So Comixology again was having a sale and I got the next two volumes for just under $10, which was very exciting because I needed some Squirrel Girl in my life.

And yes, like Ms. Marvel, this was a very short volume of the character. I mean it was even shorter because it only had a few actual volumes of this version of the character and then it had a few other versions at the end. It was just not enough for me.

That's because I really like Squirrel Girl. She doesn't take herself too seriously and she is the kind of superhero who really honestly loves what she does in fighting crime and helping people. It's great to see such an upbeat and inspiring hero. I also love that she tries to solve problems without fighting, and often succeeds, but isn't afraid to use her fists. Like I said, inspiring.

Things have been really stressful lately and it was really nice to take a break and have a lighthearted and fun comic and character like Squirrel Girl. I really enjoyed this volume and I can't wait to read the next one.

And those are all the comics I have read in the past few months. Have you read any of these comics? What did you think? Do you have any comics or graphic novels that you would recommend to me? Leave me a comment with your thoughts. Thanks for stopping by and HAPPY READING!

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Audiobook Review: Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor

Title: Strange the Dreamer
Written by: Laini Taylor
Series: Strange the Dreamer #1
Narrated by: Steve West
Published: March 28, 2017 by Little Brown Books for Young Readers
(Amazon / Goodreads)

Synopsis: A new epic fantasy by National Book Award finalist and New York Times bestselling author Laini Taylor of the Daughter of Smoke & Bone trilogy. 

The dream chooses the dreamer, not the other way around--and Lazlo Strange, war orphan and junior librarian, has always feared that his dream chose poorly. Since he was five years old he's been obsessed with the mythic lost city of Weep, but it would take someone bolder than he to cross half the world in search of it. Then a stunning opportunity presents itself, in the person of a hero called the Godslayer and a band of legendary warriors, and he has to seize his chance to lose his dream forever.What happened in Weep two hundred years ago to cut it off from the rest of the world? What exactly did the Godslayer slay that went by the name of god? And what is the mysterious problem he now seeks help in solving? 

The answers await in Weep, but so do more mysteries--including the blue-skinned goddess who appears in Lazlo's dreams. How did he dream her before he knew she existed? and if all the gods are dead, why does she seem so real? 

In this sweeping and breathtaking new novel by National Book Award finalist Laini Taylor, author of the New York Times bestselling Daughter of Smoke & Bone trilogy, the shadow of the past is as real as the ghosts who haunt the citadel of murdered gods. 

Fall into a mythical world of dread and wonder, moths and nightmares, love and carnage. 

Welcome to Weep.

When a book you want to read has an audiobook narrated by Steve West, you listen to the audio no questions asked. That's exactly what happened for me with this book and I'm glad I did because not only was this a fantastic read but it was a great audiobook.

First things first, we have to talk about Laini Taylor's gorgeous writing. I didn't know what to expect from the author because despite everyone raving about it, I have not read Daughter of Smoke and Bone and after reading this, I am regretting that decision. Because Laini definitely has a way with works. Her prose has a way of creating a captivating atmosphere and an enthralling world. It's not overly flowery but it has a distinct lyrical quality that draws you in and keeps you reading. These are the kinds of books that work really well as audios and that was definitely the case here.

The other great thing about Laini's writing is the plot development. This is definitely a book with a great plot that had me engaged from beginning to end. It's one of those books that slowly builds to a thrilling conclusion that has you totally really and desperately needing the next book in the series. It's also one of those books that is full of mystery and surprises. I definitely figured out one of the major twists but this was still a book full of mystery. Even when it was over I was left with all kinds of questions and curiosities. 

But I will say, I did still have some complaints about the plot and the pacing. In general it had a good flow and there wasn't a point where I wanted to stop reading but I did want them to get back to certain aspects of the story. It did drag in parts and this is a longer book that feels like a long book. I think my main issue with the plot and pacing was the focus on the romance about two-thirds of the way into the book. It's not that I didn't like the romance, I just felt like it took away from some of the larger plot development. But you know me, I'm romancephobic.

Although I do understand that the romance was a necessary part of the character development and I really enjoyed the characters. First there is Lazlo our title character. Lazlo was instantly likable and easy to root for. He is an orphan who has to earn every ounce of respect he has. But he is also a dreamer who believes in magic and wants more for himself and to explore Weep, a place of legend. He was the perfect main character for this book and I was absolutely rooting for him. The other main character is Sarai, she is Godspawn, the daughter or a "God" who can invade people's dreams and change them. She is feared throughout Weep because of her mother and is known as the Muse of Nightmares. But she could not be more different. She's sweet and caring. I wanted to see Sarai get her way and rooted for her just as much. There are also plenty of great secondary characters that I hope we get to learn more about in future books.

And finally, I really enjoyed the world building of this book. I read a lot of YA fantasy and sometimes they can feel very similar and like they're the same old same old. And while I did get some vibes of other books that I enjoy, I found Strange the Dreamer totally unique and interesting. It was a world full of magic and mystery. There were clear rules and an interesting magic system that I think we have only just begun learning about. 

I really enjoyed Strange the Dreamer. It's a great start to what I'm sure is going to be an amazing series. It's got gorgeous writing, an engaging plot, likable characters, and an atmospheric world. Basically everything all good fantasy should have. 

I give Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor 9.5 out of 10 stars


Buy/Borrow/Bypass: Buy. I know this was a totally hyped up book when it came out last month but it is deserving of that hype. It's a great read of you haven't picked by up you should. Check this book out, especially if you like audiobooks.

Have you read Strange the Dreamer? What did you think? Leave me a comment with your thoughts. Thanks for stopping by and happy reading.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Book Review: The Upside of Unrequited by Becky Albertalli

Title: The Upside of Unrequited
Written by: Becky Albertalli
Published: April 11, 2017 by Balzar + Bray (HarperCollins)

(Amazon / Goodreads)

Synopsis: Seventeen-year-old Molly Peskin-Suso knows all about unrequited love. No matter how many times her twin sister, Cassie, tells her to woman up, Molly can’t stomach the idea of rejection. So she’s careful. Fat girls always have to be careful. 

Then a cute new girl enters Cassie’s orbit, and for the first time ever, Molly’s cynical twin is a lovesick mess. Meanwhile, Molly's totally not dying of loneliness—except for the part where she is. Luckily, Cassie's new girlfriend comes with a cute hipster-boy sidekick. If Molly can win him over, she'll get her first kiss and she'll get her twin back. 

There's only one problem: Molly's coworker, Reid. He's a chubby Tolkien superfan with a season pass to the Ren Faire, and there's absolutely no way Molly could fall for him. Right?

I absolutely loved Simin Vs. and so when I heard Becky was going out with a new book I was so excited to read it. And just like her debut this was a great contemporary full of sweet romantic moments, humor, and the complexities of life.

The thing that I liked most about this book was the characters. It's not often that I relate so hard to a character but Molly Peskin-Suso is one of those rare characters that I completely saw myself in. Part of this of course is Becky's talent for writing complex and realistic characters that are relatable and interesting. But honestly, so much of it was also just that Molly and I are a lot alike. One of the best things about Molly is that she's not perfect. She's awkward and insecure and sometimes her anxiety and fear of rejection makes it really hard for her. It was really interesting and refreshing to see a character who is dealing with a metal health struggle in a genuine way, especially one that mirror my own. Molly was a Greg character and easy to root for.

But the book had plenty of fantastic characters. This is a book that is full of secondary characters and each of them engaging and different. I really like Molly's moms and it was cool reading a book about someone who have LGBT+ parents. I also really liked the relationship between Molly and her sister Cassie. They went through a very realistic period where they go from best friends to not being so close and I found that relationship super realistic and relatable.

But of course I have to talk about the romance here. This is a book about someone who is always crushing on guys and never takes the next step until two guys come along. I was worried about there being a lot of swooning and thankfully there wasn't. Molly's crushes made sense and they worked. I was also worried about there being a love triangle and there wasn't. It wasn't all simple and easy but there was a clear front runner. I was absolutely Team Reid. Reid was so freaking adorkable and sweet. I really liked him and thought him and Molly were so cute together. I'm not sure why I was worried about the romance, I should have trusted that Becky would do it right and she totally did.

But in general this is just one of those contemporaries that was the line between serious and fun perfectly. There are some really serious and intense moments both internally for Molly and externally with the people around her. But the book never gets too preachy and it never beats you over the head with the lesson. It does a really good job of entertaining and informing. Plus it's fun and cute. There are some super sweet romantic moments and there are some really funny moments. It's not as laugh out loud as Simon Vs but it's really well-balanced.

I absolutely loved this book. It had great characters, an interesting storyline, and the right balance between serious and light-hearted. Becky has once again crafted an amazing book.

I give The Upsode of Unrequited by Becky Albertali 9.5 out of 10 stars

Buy/Borrow/Bypass: BUY! Yup, absolutely read this book. It's not as funny as Simon Vs. but it had the perfect balance between serious and light-hearted. Contemporary fans should absolutely read.

Have you read The Upside of Unrequited? What did you think? Leave me a comment with your thoughts. Thanks for stopping by and HAPPY READING.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Waiting on Wednesday: Ash and Quill by Rachel Caine


A weekly meme hosted by Breaking the Spine

Title: Ash and Quill
Series: The Great Library #3
Author: Rachel Caine
Published: July 11, 2017 by Berkley (Penguin)

Synopsis: The unforgettable characters from Ink and Bone and Paper and Fire unite to save the Great Library of Alexandria from itself in this electrifying adventure in the New York Times bestselling series. 

Hoarding all the knowledge of the world, the Great Library jealousy guards its secrets. But now a group of rebels poses a dangerous threat to its tyranny....

Jess Brightwell and his band of exiles have fled London, only to find themselves imprisoned in Philadelphia, a city led by those who would rather burn books than submit. But Jess and his friends have a bargaining chip: the knowledge to build a machine that will break the Library’s rule.

Their time is running out. To survive, they’ll have to choose to live or die as one, to take the fight to their enemies—and to save the very soul of the Great Library....

Why I'm Waiting:

I was recently sent a copy of this book from the publisher and I am super excited to read it. I really love this series. I mean I was absolutely ecstatic recently when I found out it was going to be five books.  It was one of my favorite books of 2015 and that was a year full of amazing books. And the series is just so unique and interesting.

For one thing I have gotten so attached to the characters in this series in the past two books in this series. It's such a diverse and complex group and they are really easy to root for. And that is good because they have been through so many hardships and I am anxious to see what is going to happen to them next, especially after the way the last book ended.

But also I love the world of this book.  It's such an amazing combination of the political intrigue of a dystopian series and the magic and mystery of a school fantasy. The Great Library is one of the most amazing locations but also one of the most devious villains and worlds I have seen before. We've been seeing more of the library and learning more about the library with every book and I'm sure we will get more in this book as well.

I'm also really interested in this book because reading the synopsis I think there is going to be some really thrilling adventures. Come on, it tells you they are in prison in Philadelphia. Also... Philly! I am so interested in exploring what the US is like in this world. Oh man. I'm excited. 

What about you? What are you waiting for this Wednesday? Are you waiting on Ash and Quill along with me? Leave me a comment with your thoughts. Thanks for stopping by and HAPPY READING!

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Top Ten Tuesday: Most Unique Magical Systems/Powers

A weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish

SO today's prompt is about uniqueness. I love a weird and unique book, who doesn't. And originally I was just going to list some of the unique books I have read. But I wanted to narrow it down a little bit to unique fantasies. I read a lot of fantasies and they tend to feel really predictable. But then I decided that really what makes these books unique is their magical systems. So that's what I am going to give you. My favorite unique magical worlds and powers.

1.) Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson - My Review
Sanderson is the master of unique magic. Seriously this list could be all his books. Mistborn has three really unique ones because they all combine having an innate ability with using a physical object. Plus there are sixteen different branches within two of them.

2.) The Reckoners by Brandon Sanderson - My Review
Let's get my other favorite Sanderson power system out of the way. I freaking love the Reckoner powers. This is a series about people who have superpowers but it's more about how power corrupts so there is some fun stuff to it. Plus there is this whole thing about weaknesses and fears. It's good.

3.) The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon - My Review
I read The Song Rising recently and I seriously love the clairvoyant power systems. I think it's really cook because it goes beyond the basics of seeing the future and reading tarot cards. There are higher orders where you can control spirits and like Paige's where you can invade people's minds and control them.

4.) Carry On by Rainbow Rowell - My Review
This was Rainbow's first foray into writing fantasy and I loved that because it came from a place of respect and still was super unique. I love that in this world different objects could preform magic and that spells could be nursery rhymes or poems.

5.) The Magicians by Lev Grossman - My Review
Okay so the best part of this magical system is that it subverts the tropes by having this theme that magic doesn't solve problems, it creates them. Plus it's unique in the way that anyone could be a magician but not everyone is a magician. And the whole hand movements and chanting combination. It's all really unique.

6.) The Kingkiller Chronicles by Patrick Rothfuss - My Review
The cool thing about the magic here is that for the most part it's super scientific. It's all about like alchemy and energy manipulation. That in and of itself is unique. And then there is naming. I don't even fully understand it really but it's magical and it's fascinating.

7.) Truthwitch by Susan Dennard - My Review
This is one of those series that has some common magical systems, I mean it's basically a lot of elemental magic. But then it has other really unique powers like Safi who is a Truthwitch and can tell if people are lying. And then there are Threadwitches and Voidwitches which are very unique and interesting.

8.) A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab - My Review
Another series with some common magical systems like elemental magic. But then you have the blood magic that the Antari are able to do. That magic is fascinating and super unique. Not only can they travel through worlds but they can do lots of other really neat stuff.

9.) Nevernight by Jay Kristoff - My Review
There isn't a ton of magic in this series and there could be more, there should be more. But the little that you do get is super unique. The main character in this series Mia is able to control shadows and darkness. Plus the has a not a shadow cat that she made. It's very unique.

10.) The Young Elites by Marie Lu - My Review
This is a series where there are plenty of powers. Some of them are ones you see a lot but the main character has one of the most unique I have seen. Adelina is an illusionist, which in and of itself isn't super unique. But her power is rooted in fear. She taps into her own fear and those of the people around her, which I think is cool.

11.) Rocks Fall, Everyone Dies by Lindsay Ribar - My Review
This is another one of those books that shows how magic doesn't necessarily solve problems. It does a lot of exploration of the idea of whether magic is good. Plus there is a really unique power where you can see into people's pasts and steal things from them by touching an object they owned.

12.) The Girl from Everywhere by Heidi Heilig - My Review
So this is probably the only book on the list where it isn't actual people with powers. This one is instead about the power to travel through time. There is some fantasy to it but the real unique thing is that you mostly need a map and you go to what the map shows so it can be real, historical, or fictional.

There you have it. What are some of the most unique magical systems/powers you have read. Like I said, I love a good magical system especially if it's unique. So if you have recommendations, let me know. Thanks for stopping by and HAPPY READING!

Monday, April 10, 2017

ARC Review: The Edge of the Abyss by Emily Skrutskie

Title: The Edge of the Abyss
Series: The Abyss Surrounds Us #2
Written by: Emily Skrutskie
Published: April 18, 2017 by Flux
(Amazon / Goodreads)

Synopsis: Three weeks have passed since Cassandra Leung pledged her allegiance to the ruthless pirate-queen Santa Elena and set free Bao, the sea monster Reckoner she’d been forced to train. The days as a pirate trainee are long and grueling, but it’s not the physical pain that Cas dreads most. It’s being forced to work with Swift, the pirate girl who broke her heart. 

But Cas has even bigger problems when she discovers that Bao is not the only monster swimming free. Other Reckoners illegally sold to pirates have escaped their captors and are taking the NeoPacific by storm, attacking ships at random and ruining the ocean ecosystem. As a Reckoner trainer, Cas might be the only one who can stop them. But how can she take up arms against creatures she used to care for and protect? 

Will Cas embrace the murky morals that life as a pirate brings or perish in the dark waters of the NeoPacific?

*** I received an advance copy of this book from Michelle who got it from the publisher at ALA in exchange for an honest review. This fact has not changed my opinion. ***

I really liked the first book in this series and I was so excited to be able to read an advance copy of the second book. And while it's very different, it's just as good and maybe even better.

The Edge of the Abyss for one thing has and amazing and action-packed plot. I mean it's a book about pirates and sea monsters, how can it not be thrilling! And boy was it. There are so many amazing action scenes throughout the book and it really builds to an exciting climax. There was even so much build up that in the last twenty pages I made the decision to go somewhere late rather than not finish. It was that exciting. It took me just a few days to finish it because I really couldn't put it down.

The other great thing about this book is the world. I would say that much of the first book was about the Reckoners or sea monster, but most of this book is about the pirates. We get to see so much more about the inner workings of he pirate society here and even get to meet more of them. It was really interesting and I loved seeing Cas trying to figure out her place as a Reckoner trainer turned pirate. But don't think there are no sea monsters because there are. Oh man, there are plenty. Even that is expanded a little bit and we get to see them in action both wild and trained and it was really cool. These two things work together really well and definitely made for a fantastic and engaging world.

This book too has some great characters. In the first book we slowly got to know the crew of the Minnow. They're pirates so obviously they walk that fine line between good and bad. That line definitely got explored further in this book and I loved that. But no one got that exploration more than Cas. I really like her as a character. She's so complex. She's one of those characters who really tries to do the best thing even if that means doing some bad things for a good reason. I love those kinds of characters and it's one of the things I like about Cas. Plus she's so sassy. But all the characters here are great.

And honestly, I even like the romance here. The best part about it is that it's not easy. You can tell that the characters are deeply for one another but they are still constantly fighting. It's so on-again and off-again which I actually appreciate. It felt realistic and not forced. It's great to see that in a relationship. Plus it's a f/f relationship which added an even better level of awesomeness. In the end I totally ship it.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It's a fast and action-packed read. I loved the first book in the series and this book is just as good if not better with a thrilling plot, an interesting world, and complex characters.

I give The Edge of the Abyss by Emily Skrutskie 9.5 out of 10 stars


Buy/Borrow/Bypass: Buy. If you enjoyed The Abyss Surrounds Us you will love this book. And if you haven't read that and you are looking for a thrilling book about pirates check this series out. It's great.

Have you read The Edge of the Abyss? What did you think? Leave me a comment with your thoughts. Thanks for stopping by and HAPPY READING!

Friday, April 7, 2017

ARC Review: Shadow Run by AdriAnne Strickland and Michael Miller

Title: Shadow Run
Series: Kaitan Chronicles #1
Written by: AdriAnne Strickland and Michael Miller
Published: March 21, 2017 by Delacorte Press (Random House)
(Amazon / Goodreads)

Synopsis: Firefly meets Dune in this action-packed sci-fi adventure about a close-knit, found family of a crew navigating a galaxy of political intrigue and resource-driven power games. 

Nev has just joined the crew of the starship Kaitan Heritage as the cargo loader. His captain, Qole, is the youngest-ever person to command her own ship, but she brooks no argument from her crew of orphans, fugitives, and con men. Nev can't resist her, even if her ship is an antique.

As for Nev, he's a prince, in hiding on the ship. He believes Qole holds the key to changing galactic civilization, and when her cooperation proves difficult to obtain, Nev resolves to get her to his home planet by any means necessary. 

But before they know it, a rival royal family is after Qole too, and they're more interested in stealing her abilities than in keeping her alive. 

Nev's mission to manipulate Qole becomes one to save her, and to survive, she'll have to trust her would-be kidnapper. He may be royalty, but Qole is discovering a deep reservoir of power--and stars have mercy on whoever tries to hurt her ship or her crew.

*** I received an advance copy of this book from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This fact has not changed my opinion. ***

This book is pitched as Firefly meets Dune so I obviously needed to read it. I have been saving it to read during my science fiction themed month and I'm glad I didn't wait much longer because this book was everything I was hoping it would be. It's a fantastic read full of action, adventure, political intrigue, and a great sci-fi world.

For one thing this a book with amazing plot development. I say it all the time but I am a plot driven reader. My favorite books tend to be ones that take me on an exciting adventure and have thrilling action and plenty of surprises. This book had all of those things. It's definitely one of those books that is jammed packed with adventure. It slowly built to a thrilling conclusion and almost every one of the 400 pages had something going on. For the most part it has a space opera kind of vibe as the readers are taken from one part of the galaxy to another all in the name of the plot. There were thrilling escapes and acts of "thrilling heroics" as Jayne would call them. What I'm saying is that I seriously loved the plot development here and even though it is a long book that you can't really power through, it didn't feel long.

But the book also had really great character development. It alternates perspectives between Nev and Qole. When we first meet Nev he is full of secrets and trying to help his family by getting close to Qole and her crew. Qole is the captain of a ship in the outskirts of the galaxy where people, for lack of a better word, mine shadow a material that turns a profit because of it's use in fuel and other things. Being in the head of both main characters meant that we got to know them pretty well. And while they were complex ad interesting characters, the characterizations was subtle. Which honestly was a refreshing change. A lot of times you can kind of beat the readers over the heads with a characters personality traits, but that didn't happen here. And honestly it made the characters feel realistic, They weren't caricatures which can very easily happen with space operas.

But I also felt that way with the secondary characters. This could be a really cliche unlikely team sort of story but it was more than that. We didn't really get to know many of the secondary characters on a very deep level but they still made a really strong impression. I think maybe it's because this is a book about found family and the relationships that develop throughout the book are all about that. The relationships develop slowly over the course of the book, especially for Nev. While the two P.O.V. characters share the protagonist role but with this aspect of the story it is so much more about Nev and honestly that was okay. And I will say, there is a subtle romance to it but for this romancephobe it never got to an annoying level for me.

Another thing that I liked about the book was the world building. It's definitely a fantastic science fiction world. It's the kind of world that you would expect full of spaceships and technology but I love that kind of stuff so I really enjoyed that. But it went further than that. It's also a world full of not really political intrigue but aspects of it. It definitely explored the idea of power and control and some of the economic aspects that go with. I totally appreciated that part of the book because that is not something you see very often when it comes to YA novels. But that was just such a small part of the world. I think there could be so much more to this part of the world building. There also could have been so much more to the world. I think this was the kind of book that wanted to show instead of tell but instead it ended up just having some weirdly placed info dumps that just left me with more questions. I really liked the world here but thew execution wasn't totally fantastic.

All in all Shadow Run was a fantastic read. It is a thrilling book with interesting characters and an engaging science fiction world. It's supposed to be a series if Goodreads is to be believed but it definitely reads like a standalone. But if there is more, I'm into it. I enjoyed this book a lot.

I give Shadow Run by AdriAnne Strickland and Michael Miller 9 out of 10 stars


Buy/Borrow/Bypass: Buy. If you are a fan of science fiction than definitely check this book out. If you are like me and you prefer books that is full of plot driven adventure then I think you will really enjoy this book. Or maybe just get it to read something full of thrills and action but a good found family theme.

Have you read Shadow Run? What did you think? Leave me a comment with your thoughts. Thanks for stopping by and HAPPY READING!