In Other Lands – Sarah Rees Brennan

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Source: Goodreads

Elliot Schafer is obnoxious. No one at school can stand him, his father at home ignores him, and his mother left when he was a baby. Then one day his teacher drives him to the middle of nowhere and sells him to an oddly dressed woman because he can see a stone wall where his classmates cannot. What ensues is part adventure, part education, part self-discovery, and all about the love.

 

A review of this book popped up on Goodreads about two months ago, and I requested it from my library immediately. Blurbed by many well-known authors, including Leigh Bardugo, Tamora Pierce, Cassandra Claire, Gregory Maguire, and Holly Black, this book was a definite addition to my TBR. In Other Lands was published just under a month ago, on August 17th, and a copy arrived at my library a day early! I can’t even tell you how exciting that was.

Let me start by saying that there are no chapters. The book is sectioned by year, following Elliot from the ages of 13 to 18. The ‘otherland’ is a fantastic world full of diverse peoples and even more diverse cultures. This book is not only a play on the portal-world trope but also a narrative on how our culture is being constantly blended and added to with new words and beliefs. From sexuality to gender stereotypes to machismo and sexism, this book hits it all right on the head. With a Trigon ball.

Being CisHet and having people close to me who identify on the LGBTQ+ spectrum made this book all the more dear to me. While I’m sure not everyone will agree, I felt that it did a good job of handling the differences in sexuality and not blowing them out of proportion, as often happens in literature and in other media. It wasn’t anyone’s defining characteristic, and that’s exactly as it should be. That being said, there is quite a bit of discussion throughout of intimacy and menstruation, as well as actual (but not overly detailed) intimacy. So, I wouldn’t recommend reading this if you’re under the age of, say, 14, or if you are uncomfortable at all with that kind of scene, whether CisHet or LGBTQ+. With the addition of a few of the other cultures whose major sexism is the reverse of humans, it can all become just a bit much all at once.

 

Overall I am glad to have read it and will be recommending it to many of my friends, CisHet as well as LGBTQ+, to read.

 

HHC Rating: 4 Stars

Disenchanted: The Trials of Cinderella (Tyme, #2) – Megan Morrison

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Source: Goodreads

 

Ella Coach doesn’t want riches or fame, only justice for a mother who died working in a sweatshop. Prince Charming isn’t looking for true love, but he’s done playing with people’s hearts too, now that The Charming Curse has been broken. Serge is an executive fairy godfather. He’s granted wishes beyond your wildest dreams, even made queens out of barmaids, but now he caters mostly to the rich and famous who pay to be on his list. Until one day a name no one knows appears on it. Ella Coach.

 

This second installment in Morrison’s Tyme series is just as fantastic as the first. Unlike Grounded, in which we follow the characters on an epic quest of sorts, Disenchanted deals with problems much closer to home. A prince who is finally free to act like himself grapples with the world who liked him better the way he was. A girl who knows first hand the horrors of a sweatshop sets out to make things right. A fairy uncovers a nefarious plot to overthrow a corrupted king. We also get a Cinderella who’s a person of color, and she’s not the only POC character! There’s also a Crimson Fairy who is dealing with everyone hating him base don his heritage, and then the normal class wars that you see in most fairytales. There’s a lot going on here, but it all melds together beautifully.

While I was disappointed at first that we weren’t going to explore multiple kingdoms this time around, I found the in-depth look at a single kingdom infinitely interesting. Because Ella is dealing with worker compensation, the reader gets a good hard look at the economy in the kingdom of Blue. Morrison has a talent for taking real-world problems and making them understandable to the average person, no matter their age. This narrative on the importance of all lives, not just the wealthy, is something everyone can relate to, especially right now.

The world building was wonderful yet again, and I can’t wait to see what else Morrison and her world of Tyme co-creator Ruth Virkus come up with for the next book in the series, which has tentatively been titled Transformed: The Perils of the Frog Prince and is due to be published in Summer 2018.

 

Curio Street Reads Rating:  5 Stars

 

Other reviews in this series:
Book #1 – Grounded: The Adventures of Rapunzel
Book #3 – Transformed: The Perils of the Frog Prince (To be published in Summer 2018)

Ella Enchanted – Gail Carson Levine

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Source: Goodreads

Ella is cursed at birth to be obedient: any order given to her must be obeyed. Up until she is fifteen, her mother and Mandy, their cook, have kept her safe from harm. That all changes when Ella is sent away to finishing school, where she must learn to brave the world and all of its occupants. Ella’s life is further complicated by the attentions of Prince Charmont, who’s love and friendship she desires, but whose life would be in constant danger if it were to become wrapped up in hers.

 

This book was my favorite as a child and has always held a special place in my heart. There are few books that are more important to me than the Harry Potter series, and this is one of them. Ella was one of, if not the very first strong female lead character I ever read about, and she has stuck with me through thick and thin. I think I’m on my third or fourth copy of the book because I love it so much that I used to lend it out (which I never do anymore), and people kept losing it for extended periods of time. So now I just buy copies for everyone and give them as gifts.

Re-reading it yesterday on my 25th birthday for what is probably the 30th or 40th time, I noticed a number of things I’ve been overlooking in the story. Growing up I always saw Ella as the epitome of a strong female character. I saw her as selfless, romantic, and kick-butt. Yesterday, I tried to pay attention to the little details, possibly for the first time since my initial reading all those years ago. Mainly what I realized is that there are no 100% good characters in this story. Mandy and Lucinda each have ways in which they can help Ella, but they decline to use their talents. Prince Charmont readily admits that he has anger issues and holds grudges for years – rather like Mr. Darcy’s ‘my good opinion once lost is lost forever’ nonsense. Even Ella is quite selfish. The story is told in the first person, occasionally delving into Ella’s mind and often into her intentions, and typically reveals that she is at her core a human teenage girl, not the kind of hero/heroine to be placed on a pedestal. Ultimately, it is her selfishness and the opposing need to be selfless that results in breaking the curse – in a very odd, somewhat confusing and relatively anticlimactic scene that made perfect sense to my younger self but now seems a little lack luster.

Over the years, I often picked up Ella Enchanted as a comfort read. If I was stressed then I could read about how Ella defeats her demons and gain the courage to fight my own. But this time around it was like looking at one of my heroes through fresh eyes or new spectacles, and realizing they were as much of a selfish brat in their early and mid teens as I was. Up until more recently, I deeply identified with Ella’s character, and growing out of her feels like I’m finally, just maybe, growing up.

This book is not perfect. I can admit that now – maybe for the first time – but it will always be especially dear to me. I may even love it more because of its imperfections. I definitely recommend this book (not the film. PLEASE NOT THE FILM) to LITERALLY EVERYONE, because there are just so many lessons, adventures and discoveries to be found in its pages.

 

HHC Rating: 5 Stars

A Conjuring of Light (Shades of Magic, #3) – V.E. Schwab

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Source: Goodreads

The third book in the Shades of Magic series picks up where A Gathering of Shadows ends, with a familiar darkness spreading across Londons and our protagonists in peril.

I really wanted to love this book, but when I picked it up soon after finishing the second volume, I found myself burned out by the constant action. Book two was fairly fast paced, and A Conjuring of Light is a continuation of that same situation. I ended up having to put the book down for three months before I could pick it up without feeling completely drained. I don’t see this as a problem for the people who read the series as it came out because the books were released a year apart, but going forward, it’s important to note the potential for burnout if you plan to read the books back-to-back.

I enjoyed all of the characters, but much like the first volume, I found it hard to be invested in them when I couldn’t personally identify with any of them. The storyline was good, the fabric of the plot woven tightly, with nearly all of the ends getting bound up neatly in the conclusion while leaving room for universe expansion both forward and backward. Some bits, such as the history of Kell’s coat, would be entertaining to explore in the future.

While I was taking my reading break from A Conjuring of Light, my sister borrowed and devoured the series in its entirety while studying for finals. I feel that I must add that she loved all of the characters and never experienced the burnout that I did.

Overall, I enjoyed it, and it was a fitting end to the trilogy. I would definitely recommend it to fantasy readers of all kinds for its plot, its diverse characters, and its beautiful world building. V.E. Schwab has done great things with this series, and I only wish I hadn’t gotten burned out and had been able to enjoy it to its fullest potential.

 

HHC Rating: 4 Stars

 

Other reviews in this series:
Book #1 – A Darker Shade of Magic
Book #2 – A Gathering of Shadows

 

 

 

 

The Waterless Sea (The Chanters of Tremaris, #2) – Kate Constable

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Source: Goodreads

Half a year has passed since the crew of Fledgewing defeated the evil chanter Samis, but trouble still lurks in Tremaris. A man named Heben arrives on the secluded island where Calwyn and her friends have built their home. He is looking for help: chanter children are being kidnapped and only other chanters stand a chance of finding them. The harsh deserts of the war-torn Empire of Merithuros will test everyone’s strength, and the price of peace is higher than anyone could have imagined.

The Waterless Sea is the second novel in Constable’s Chanters of Tremaris series, and it certainly doesn’t disappoint. With Darrow absent from much of the action this time around, we see Calwyn stepping up to plate to lead our band of heroes. She becomes much more confident in her decision making, even while she fights her ever-growing skill in learning the nine powers. Of course, that doesn’t stop her from wondering where Darrow is all the time, but hey, no one is perfect (especially Darrow).

The range of characters is much wider in this installment, but the storyline is also more straight forward, which I quite enjoyed. Character development was also on point. Given that this was a re-read for me, I wasn’t sure nearly 25-year-old me was going to love it as much as 12-year-old me did, but I needn’t have worried. IT’S STILL GREAT. I enjoyed this book so much that I’m not even mad anymore that Thriftbooks sent me an ARC copy instead of the actual copy I ordered. And as soon as I finish this review I’m going to start the third book instead of finishing the book I need to read for next week. My plan is to read The Tenth Power in about two days and then take next week’s review book, A Conjuring of Light, with me on my vacation Tuesday.

The Waterless Sea, for being so short, didn’t miss out on anything. It doesn’t suffer second-book-syndrome, which often affects middle books of trilogies and forces them into allowing absolutely nothing to happen. In fact, many things happen. Multiple people die. Calwyn grows up and takes charge. Darrow is still the weirdly jealous dude forcing himself to stand in the corner instead of partaking in everything life has to offer. New characters are painted into the story. It’s all very interesting but I can’t go into anything without spoiling everything, so I’ll have to leave it at that.

You should go read this series. It’s really good. I’m literally only taking points off because of Darrow.

HHC Rating: 4.75 Stars

Other reviews in this series:
Book #1 – The Singer of All Songs
Book #3 – The Tenth Power (Review available 6/27)

The Singer of All Songs (The Chanters of Tremaris, #1) – Kate Constable

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Source: Goodreads

Calwyn has only ever known a life inside the great impenetrable wall of Antaris. She knows there is more to the world – after all, where else would the traders come from? but she is content with her quiet life as a priestess to the ice goddess. Then one day a man appears claiming the impossible, that he has flown over the wall. Worse yet, he claims another is coming after him who seeks to rule all of Tremaris, and who holds the power to become the master of all nine magics – The Singer of All Songs. Now it is up to Calwyn, who must summon all her wits and courage, to brave the unknown world with the help of a stranger in order to stop an evil that could destroy not just Antaris, but all of Tremaris.

 

The first book in Kate Constable’s Chanters of Tremaris trilogy is deeply satisfying and wondrously spellbinding. Her magic system is powered by song; different notes and octaves having entirely different effects, from general elemental control to animal speaking and ice forming, to illusions and healing. The world of Tremaris itself is amazingly diverse and nuanced, especially for something published over 10 years ago now.

When I read this book brand new in 2004 during a Harry Potter dry spell, it captivated me, and I probably read the whole book in a day knowing my 12-year-old self. Rereading it a dozen or so years later was just as magical, even though I had to space out my reading a little more because I no longer have the luxury of summer breaks in which to devour six months worth of books.

Calwyn is a complicated heroine. She yearns to understand herself and her place in the world, which of course is in constant change because of the adventure she embarks on, but she also has more basic desires. She wants love, she wants family, and she wants peace. Her courage is always simmering just below the surface, ready to leap to attention at the slightest provocation. As the main character, Calwyn is a bit of “Chosen One” or “Special Snowflake”, but she also contains the vast mysteries of her unknown past, her mother’s life journey, and her clearly missing father.

The Singer of All Songs is on the fence of a Middle-Grade/Juvenile or Young-Adult label. Nothing overtly sexual takes place, but there are quite a few hints dropped as to what goes down during the festival of shadows, and relationships in general. The ‘romantic relationship’, if it can even be called that, between Calwyn and Darrow is pretty much only them looking out for each other and thinking about whether they like one another or not while being slightly possessive. That’s as far as it goes in the first book anyways. I’ll need to finish my re-read of the rest of the series before I can give you an accurate report. The storyline itself lacks the ‘lesson’ which most middle-grade books contain, so I would push this one a little closer to young-adult because of that, but otherwise there’s no objectionable content for the under 14-year-olds.

The only reason I would take stars off is that I think including some of the words or tunes for the magic system would have been extremely cool. I know that’s a ton of work to create and remember, but when books come out alongside Harry Potter, readers start wishing everything was just as immersive as J.K. Rowling’s Wizarding World.

 

HHC Rating: 4.5 Stars

 

Other reviews in this series:
Book #2 – The Waterless Sea
Book #3 – The Tenth Power (Review Available 6/27)

Cover Reveal (& Other Goodies!): The Dragons on Nova – Elise Kova

COVER REVEAL

 

Today is the day!! Today, Elise Kova and Rockstar Book Tours are revealing the cover for The Dragons of Nova, which releases July 11, 2017! I am beyond excited to get to be a part of their Cover Reveal Blitz Team, which means this blog, along with many others, get to bring you the cover in all of its glory, along with a synopsis and an EXCLUSIVE EXCERPT from the book, AND a giveaway of an ARC (Advanced Readers’ Copy), signed by Elise!

Scroll on down to see everything! IT. IS. SO. GOOD.

 

 

 

 

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Title: THE DRAGONS OF NOVA (Loom Saga #2)

Author: Elise Kova

Pub. Date: July 11, 2017

Publisher: Keymaster Press

Formats: Hardcover, eBook, audiobook

Pages: 488

Find it: Amazon | B&N | TBD | Goodreads

 

Can we just talk about this gorgeous cover?! It features Cvareh, as we met in the first book, The Alchemists of Loom, standing on top of what can only be a Dragon glider! And the immediate background of Nova with the boco birds flying past, not to mention the scaling in the far background and the House Xin symbol in the O of Nova, oh my goodness, this is all just too cool!

If you haven’t read The Alchemists of Loom yet, it’s ON SALE through May 7th as an eBook for 99¢! You can access the sale here. There’s also going to be a read-along of The Alchemists of Loom starting May 8th and running through the end of the month, so now is the perfect opportunity for you to catch up on the series before The Dragons of Nova releases in July! Find the Facebook group for the read-along here.

If I haven’t yet managed to convince you to start this series, check out my review of the first book here!

 

Now let’s get into the synopsis and the excerpt!

 

Cvareh returns home to his sky world of Nova with the genius crafter Arianna as his temperamental guest. The mercurial inventor possesses all the Xin family needs to turn the tides of a centuries-old power struggle, but the secrets she harbors must be earned with trust — hard to come by for Ari, especially when it comes to Dragons. On Nova, Ari finds herself closer to exacting vengeance against the traitor who killed everything — and everyone – she once loved. But before Ari can complete her campaign of revenge, the Crimson Court exposes her shadowed past and reveals something even more dangerous sparking between her and Cvareh.

While Nova is embroiled in blood sport and political games, the rebels on Loom prepare for an all-out assault on their Dragon oppressors. Florence unexpectedly finds herself at the forefront of change, as her unique blend of skills — and quick-shooting accuracy — makes her a force to be reckoned with. For the future of her world, she vows vengeance against the Dragons.

Before the rebellion can rise, though, the Guilds must fall.

*****Exclusive Excerpt!*****

“They’re coming from the front!” Nora screamed over the crescendo of the engine gaining speed. On cue, the train lurched as an endwig was splattered to a bloody mess on the point of the engine’s pilot.

“Bloody cogs,” Florence cursed. The Vicar Alchemist had sent her to protect the mission as the Revolver, but one of her wasn’t going to be enough. “I’m going to the engine.”

“What are we going to do?” The usually self-sure Nora had the face of a cornered hare.

“You’re going to fight.” Florence passed her a weapon.

“I’ve never shot a gun before.”

“Now is a great time to learn.”

“I’m an Alchemist!”

Seriously, Florence was a breath away from shooting the woman herself. “You’re dead if you don’t adapt! There’s three more bombs exactly like the ones you just used, right there. Just fend them off until the train gets up to speed. But don’t use any other disks.”

Florence had no more time to waste as the train lurched again. They just had to survive until the train reached full speed. For all the endwig were, they certainly couldn’t keep up with a locomotive.

She hoped.

The wind whipped her hair around her face as she stuck her head from the train car. Florence reached out for the ladder to the right of the door, scaling up before another endwig could emerge. She swung up just in time as an explosion nearly blew her foot clean off.

“By the five guilds, you two only had three bombs!” she screamed over the wind, not knowing if they could hear. “Ration them a bit!”

Standing, Florence looked in horror at the tracks ahead. Dozens of endwig lined the path, running eagerly to meet the train. She loaded six canisters at once.

Jumping to the tender, Florence lost her footing atop the moving train car. A nail snapped clean off as she sought a grip that would prevent her from being thrown to certain death. If she fell now, she would never get back on the vessel. She’d be torn limb from limb.

Gritting her teeth, Florence rose to her knees, shooting two endwig in the process. She wedged herself between two grooves on the top of the tender. Blood pooled around her shins as she dug them into the metal for a grip where there was none, but she was stable enough to take aim, and that meant she could open fire.

Five shots down, and Florence reloaded her gun. Endwig came relentlessly like a never-ending nightmare. But the train didn’t gain any more speed. She repeated the process, waiting for the vessel to be like her bullets, whizzing through the night at deadly speeds.

“Anders, now would be a great time to open her up!” she screamed.

There was no reply.

“Anders, Rotus, we need speed, get us out of here faster!”

Five long claws curled around the door of the engine in answer. Florence watched in horror as the white silhouette of an endwig, dotted in the black blood of a Chimera, pulled itself from the engine room. Florence swallowed hard.

They were without Rivet and Raven, stumbling through the darkness, enemies at all sides. She raised her gun slowly, looking fearlessly at the face of death itself. Her revolver was steady over the rocking of the train.

“You think I’m not used to this?” Her mouth curled into a mad grin. “I’ve been fighting my way out of the darkness my whole life. And you’re not going to stop me now.”

Gunshots echoed through the forest.

*****

About Elise:

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Elise Kova has always had a profound love of fantastical worlds. Somehow, she managed to focus on the real world long enough to graduate with a Master’s in Business Administration before crawling back under her favorite writing blanket to conceptualize her next magic system. She currently lives in St. Petersburg, Florida, and when she is not writing can be found playing video games, watching anime, or talking with readers on social media. She is the USA Today bestselling author of the Air Awakens Series as well as the Loom Saga (Keymaster, 2017).

Website | Twitter | Instagram | Facebook | Tumblr | Goodreads

 

And last but definitely not least, the ARC giveaway! Click through to the Rafflecopter page to enter your details and be entered to win!

Giveaway Details:

One (1) Winner will receive a signed advanced readers’ copy of THE DRAGONS OF NOVA.

Enter to win through Rafflecopter using your Facebook account or email address HERE!

 

 

 

Thank you all so much for coming by today and checking out the cover reveal! I don’t know how I’m going to wait until July to read The Dragons of Nova. I may just have to re-read The Alchemists of Loom a few more times before then!

If you enjoyed this post, give it a like to let me know, and feel free to share it on Facebook and other social media platforms to spread the word!

 

 

Until Next Time,

Amanda