Today's Decameron

A love for (fantasy) stories!

Top 5 Wednesday – Favorite Underrated Books! — January 25, 2017

Top 5 Wednesday – Favorite Underrated Books!

Welcome back to my blog! Wednesday really means Top 5 Wednesday (click here to get more information about the group!) and without further due let’s dive into the topic: Favorite underrated books!

The list is in no particular order but these are all books I gave 4 or more stars, books that gave me something new and different. And I was shocked to know that these book have so few “reviews” on Goodreads. Hence I thought they needed more shut out!

Malice, book #1 of the Faithful and the Fallen by John Gwynne

This is a traditional medieval fantasy book with significant military aspect and multiple points of view, with a huge religious impact on the series – as the title of the series might suggest.
The writing is delightful, the books address political, military, religious and other themes; it deals with death, betrayal, loyalty, love, family relationships, magic, giants, angels.
It is a complex book, introducing a great world, used at its full potential the map and the world as it is built.

I am proud to say that this is a book I “found” by myself, I research a lot before giving it a go, no one suggested this book and no one I knew at the time read this book (or books of the series).
And I loved it. I just need to finish the series but if you love fantasy, traditional, with a medieval setting and with some twists to it, this is the book for you!

The Waking Fire, book #1 of the Draconis Memoria by Anthony Ryan

Fantasy readers tend not be new to Anthony Ryan; I am exception to this though because I never read anything by Anthony Ryan but I wanted to try reading this book.
I was blown away, I could not stop reading it, I could not stop loving the characters, I could not stop thinking about the book!
The story is set in a steampunk world – and I was never interested in steampunk! – where dragons and gifted people are at the center of the development of this story. I do not want to give anything away.

I am actually thinking about working on a review shortly because it was such an amazing read, it deserves more from me! In the mean time, please feel free to read my review on Goodreads!

The Thousand Names, book #1 of the Shadow Campaigns by Django Wexler

Ah, you know I am in love with this book. I just did I a gush review of the book (here) and I cannot stop stating how impressed I am with this book. Just make yourself a favor and start this book.

The Invisible Library, book #1 of The Invisible Library series by Genevieve Cogman

This was such a gem buried under a ton of less interesting books.
Imagine this: A female 007, working for the Library (yes, it still means a place filled with books!), with intrigue, twists and dragons. Yes, you heard it, dragon, fae and other magical creatures.
The book is primarily set in a Victorian London – another delightful element, I almost felt like being in a Bronte book but with a spy as the main character – and the main character is an extremely like-able and relate-able. She gets entangled in an multidimensional mess which she needs to solve with her assistant, against another (flashier) spy colleague and several scary foes!

I will continue reading the series and I will provide you with more thoughts about the series itself during the year!

Promise of Blood, book #1 of the Powder Mage series by Brian McClellan

This is another book I read just in the last month and I was so obsessed about it!
I would almost say that this is heavily inspired by the French Revolution (there are so many similarities) and I just loved it. I actually was particularly inspired by the Enlightenment philosophy and the (American and) French Revolution; and I did not even know this book would be inspired by this period!
The plot is great, it keeps pulling you into the middle of things; the magic systems (yes, there are several levels of magic abilities and they are separate and work on different levels) are pure genius and the characters are just magnetic. I had a hard time putting the book down and I liked this book so much I felt like reading – and read – a prequel book which I generally try to avoid.
What are your favorite underrated books? Have you read the books I refer to? Would you agree with this assessment?

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The Thousand Names – Gush Review — January 22, 2017

The Thousand Names – Gush Review

The Thousand Names by Django Wexler

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Published by Roc on July 2nd, 2013

 

Where to begin here to gush about this book? Let me start from the very simple information. This is a gush review and the excitement took over – hence it is more difficult to put my thoughts in an orderly manner.
This is the first installment in the Shadow Campaigns series. The name of the series is so clever and you will connect the reference only while reading the book; I thought that was a clever use of the name, a bit out of the latest “quick” shortcut using the title of the first book.

Now, imagine being a soldier in a 18th or 19th century, armed of your bayonet and shipped to a far region, in the desert, and remote from anything you know. Imagine living there for some years without being really involved in any fight; imagine receiving suddenly a new colonel and he suddenly drives you into battles with locals.
Imagine how rattled you would be when the rifles start shooting all around you; when you are asked to stand still and wait for the chain of command to issue the shooting command while the opposing faction is running towards you – and not only running but riding horses at you.
That must be terrifying. Nothing short than that. This book is just that good in making you participate in the life of the soldier.

And let me stress out the detail again: The book is set in the desert. Amazing descriptions of the desert too.

The writing style is amazing – clear and delightfully ample in descriptions. Now, there is an argument that (too many) descriptions might be boring and unnecessary. In this case, they work perfectly well; impressive amount of useful details (including the gory ones which make the scenes more realistic) that increase the quality of the book.
One more element I can add here before digging into additional details. The book is built to follow two points of view, Winter and Marcus who are amazing characters – and more details in a second!

From now on we dive into spoiliry details! Beware of the spoiler!

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The story is spectacular. It starts and focuses on military activities. This is a book following an army that – despite the limited numbers – wins battle after battle. An army that recently was assigned a new colonel, Janus bet Vhalnich. A man with extraordinary brains (and being clever is not necessarily a positive trait in the army as Marcus will point out here and there) who is willing to expose his army and himself to risks in order to achieve greater results.

Marcus d’Ivoire is a great captain – he is in command of the army until Janus comes on board. And Marcus becomes the right hand of the colonel; torn by this position, often being in charge of army once again, having to take unpopular or difficult decisions. He is a hopeless gentlemen, almost too much for his own good. He will actually start a romantic relationship with the mysterious Jen, a woman who is sent to “observe and report” on behalf of the Last Duke.

Winter Ihrenglass is a soldier who is volunteer by her hateful Sargent Davis. Davis thinks it is a suicide mission – why else asking for people deserving a promotion without explaining the reason of such advancement? – but it turns out to be a promotion. Winter – a woman in an army where only men are enlisted who has a past that taunts her and a past she tried to escape as much as possible, yet is constantly there to remind Winter where she comes from – is a serious soldier, dedicated to her job, caring for her troops and willing to make the ultimate sacrifice for her soldiers – or to allow the rest of the army to survive. It is just a great combination of self doubt, a constant element which makes her so much stronger than she is, and stubbornness. Yet, she is smart, quick to read the battlefield, deciding even faster how to attack or counter attack and standing next to her soldiers.
Now, her secret – being a woman – is actually a big burden and she constantly needs to pay attention to this. But what she would never expect is that one of her corporals, Bobby, would actually revamp her mysterious past; and sharing the same secret as Winter!
And another amazing lady added to the team is Feor – a local girl who is knowledgeable about magic and she has special abilities. She is actually one of the last protectors of the Thousand Names by the end of the book; yet throughout the book she will be the trigger of many of the most dangerous interactions for Winter and Bobby!

Now, magic; for two thirds of the book, the story mostly focuses on the battles and the military life of our POV. Yet, and almost suddenly, magic is introduced in the world through Feor. Feor binds a spirit (possibly a way to describe it) into Bobby’s body when she is about to die – the wrinkle here is that the binding would work only with women although there is no explanation for this particular element; it is just the way it is. She might die in the process yet her skin acquires an odd white color. Feor is afraid that the consequences of the binding is her death or casting from her society but she performs the ritual anyhow. This event triggers two different reactions: Bobby becomes invincible (even when she is being slashed in half by a sword) and Feor becomes depressed and ready to get killed.

Connected to the binding are the Thousand Names. Janus’ actual mission is to find the Thousand Names and use them; yet the ending of the book will reserve amazing surprises. Janus who for a second was slipping in the bad guys field, is actually the rescuer of the names, he genuinely wanted to avoid the names to fall in the Shadow Priests hands – an old evil society that was known as disbanded years before but it became an evil secret society! – yet wanted the names to perform the binding on himself. Yet, in order to save the day, the one who participates in the binding is actually Winter – upon Feor’s suggestion and due to the fact that she is a strong woman.
The last note is for Mother, a very peculiar and ancient presence who tries to contrast Janus until she cannot oppose him any longer. A struggle that ends up in her “disappearance”; but did she really disappear?

Let me also highlight that the book ends with a change of pace, the book clearly introduces the new setting and that ending was so good I needed to start the new book immediately – so I peaked into The Shadow Throne and I am more excited than ever!

Gardens of the Moon (the Malazan Book of the Fallen #1) – Gush review and casting choices! — January 18, 2017

Gardens of the Moon (the Malazan Book of the Fallen #1) – Gush review and casting choices!

Gardens of the Moon by Steven Erikson

Published April 1st 1999 by Bantam Press

 

Let’s start with the basic information you need to know about this book (and series): You either love this book (and the series) or you hate it, at least according to Steven Erikson.
I am not sure whether I agree with that statement: My assessment is rather that the book requires some “work” by the reader – or maybe I should talk about faith in the story – and it might scare/annoy/displease readers.

In my opinion, this is just the perfect fantasy book. To be fair my opinion is formed following a re-read. The first time around I really liked it but this time around I loved it (this is why I am convinced that the book requires a bit of faith on behalf of the reader). It might have been my return to the Malazan world, it might have been the possibility to share my love for the book on Goodreads, it might have been that I am older. Whatever the reason, the re-read made me believe this book is perfect.
Why perfect you ask? World building, story and characters are simply stunning; perfect pace and the writing style is just tailored to this world.

I want in particular to highlight the world building in this case. This series is actually born as a board game – now my recollection on this matter is a bit murky but I believe this was supposed to be a competitor to Dungeons and Dragons. The deal for the game did not go through but the development of the world is thorough and extended; most importantly, the world is so clear in Steven Erikson’s mind that every time he adds a detail he knows precisely how this will work and what the effect of said detail on the story. I think Steven Erikson (as a disclaimer, I have not read the Ian C. Esslemont books yet) is the author who best commands an extremely complicated world building and he nails it. I genuinely believe this is the best world building in modern fantasy story telling – it is difficult to compete with Tolkien.

Also, the world was based on a script. I read an intro to the book that refers to the background of the creation of the Malazan world and how Canadian TV show producers asked Erikson and Esslemont to lower their expectations. It is a quite an inspirational introduction as well – a bit too many curses in between but the message conveyed is great: Always shoot for the stars. Do not settle for second best. And I hope I am summarizing it properly.

As for the story, this is the first book in the Malazan Book of the Fallen yet it is a novel that introduces the world, the characters, the complexity and the relationship between humans and gods. The story revolves around the conquest of the Malazan Empire of the Genabackis continent. The Empire is on its way to conquer all the free cities; but it also discusses the change of regime and the methods of carrying it out (Laseen wants to remove all the supporters of the prior emperor), there is assassinations sprees and attempts. There are gods who like to meddle with the humans but there are also gods that want to make a statement and, possibly, have revenge against (certain) humans. Also, there are plenty of assassins, relevant guilds and associations! Did I mention there is plenty of magic and brand new races? Did I mention that magic is so unique and linked to gods – current and abandoned? If you are getting intrigued, then this book is for you!
I am not properly describing the whole plot, I am providing bits and pieces of what you will find.

Let me get into what I really wanted to discuss, which are the characters. But I do not want to get into the description of the characters – they are amazing, the development and depth is just spectacular (especially in a book of “only” about 660 pages). What I would love to see in the next future is a TV series based on the Malazan Book of the Fallen. Erikson and Esslemont already pitched a script and Games of Thorne is a success.
I do not have casting ideas for everyone – and yes, I am inviting you to add your ideas below! – but here is what I thought about and why. The casting I thought about did not consider whether an actor or actress is mostly movie or TV show oriented but lately the distinction has been really murky lately.
Here you might find some spoilers to the book so: BEWARE OF THE SPOILER!

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The Adjunct Lorn – Shailene Woodley.
I think Shailene Woodley would be able to convey Lorn’s arrogance, besides being extremely close to Lorn’s looks.

Laseen – Kate Winslet or Taraji P. Henson.
Now, Laseen has dark blue skin so this should be a diverse character but she also seems to be a ruthless ruler. Hence, two great actresses for this particular role. And yes, I thought very much about Lena Headey but she is already a main protagonist (and amazing interpreter) of Games of Thrones so I am trying to avoid borrowing cast from GoT.

Quick Ben – Sterling K. Brown
Sterling K. Brown is an amazing interpreter and Quick Ben has so much to offer. Not only he is the mage for the Brideburners but he has a “dark” past, he is just so much more than what he shows at the beginning.

Kalam – Chadwick Boseman
Chadwick Boseman is a great Black Panther, capable of sharing emotions with the audience but he is also extremely good in its fight scenes. Kalam is an extremely interesting character. An assassin, a former (the only alive!) Claw and particularly good at what he does. One of the most defining traits is also the relationship to Quick Ben and I would hope that Chadwick Boseman and Sterling K. Brown are so good!

Dujek Onearm – Courtney B. Vance
I first “met” Courtney B. Vance as the director in the NCIS tv series. To some extent, Dujek has a similar vibe. A great grandfatherly figure yet an implacable warrior and unstoppable general. Perfect match!

Kruppe – Zach Galifianakis
If you know Kruppe, do I need to add anything? K

Tattersail – Jaimie Alexander or Bryce Dallas Howard (if she agrees to wear a black wig)
Tattersail is one of the best mages available to the Malazan Empire, with centenary experience and commanding of her powers in a way few mages can. Yet, she has such a human side and it is what defines her the best. Jaimie Alexander is currently doing a great job with Blindspot and her character pretty much encompasses both traits: Though warrior and sweet human being.
Bryce Dallas Howard was amazing in Jurassic World and she might be able to bring those traits back to life with Tattersail – with a lot of hand gestures!

Fiddler – Riz Ahmed
Fiddler is the one with the feeling, the one who has the sixth sense. And he likes to work with explosives and has sense of humor. I loved Riz Ahmed in Rogue One – so he can bring seriousness – but he is also hilarious (I had so much fun watching his interviews) so I believe he could bring that added value to Fiddler!

Hedge – Dwayne Johnson
Do I need to add more?

Ammanas – Keanu Reeves
A great actor for one of the most complicated characters in the whole Malazan Empire. Genius, insane, rancorous, capable. Keanu Reeves can pull this off!

Cotillion – Richard Armitage
Cotillion is one of my personal favorite characters in the whole Malazan world. Patron of assassins, he is just an amazing character, depth and skills are his main traits. Richard Armitage is a great actor and who did not fall in love with Thorin Oakenshield in the Hobbit? Well, I did!

 

I know there are so many other characters – and I have been thinking for a long time who could portray Anomander Rake and I still cannot decide! – so please comment below to discuss who should be playing who!

Favorite polarizing books – T5W —

Favorite polarizing books – T5W

We are back talking about the Top 5 Wednesday (T5W) topic on favorite polarizing books!
If you want to know more about Top 5 Wednesday, please visit the link to the Goodreads group here!

5 . Uprooted by Naomi Novik (Hardcover, 435 pages, published on May 19th 2015 by Del Rey)

I really enjoyed the fairy tale vibe and writing style of Naomi Novik; I found myself drifting into this land of magic and mystery, a place I wanted to visit and spend time learning everything about the Dragon and his abilities.
Yet, this is a book that targets a specific audience, women. Hence the polarization. Now, I am not saying male readers will not like it (nor that female readers will most certainly like it) but the book is addressing a specific target and I do not think there is anything wrong with that.

4. Storm Front (the Dresden Files#1) by Jim Butcher – Mass Market Paperback, First Edition, 322 pages, published on April 2000 by Penguin ROC

Urban fantasy is a very specific and difficult genre to work with. Storm Front is the first book of the Dresden Files and I loved it. Set in Chicago, a P.I. aiding the police in order to solve murders; this is a book that has mixed reviews yet I had so much fun reading it. So much that I would love to resume reading the series this year and continue following the hilarious Harry and his skull.

3.  A court of thorns and roses – Hardcover, 1st Edition, 416 pages, published on May 5th 2015 by Bloomsbury USA Childrens –  and

2. A court of mist and fury – Hardcover, 1st, 624 pages, published on May 3rd 2016 by Bloomsbury USA Childrens

both by Sarah J. Maas

This was a difficult choice because I continue expressing an unpopular opinion but here it comes.
A court of thorns and roses has been cast by most of the readers as a poor book. I did not think so; I actually liked this quite a bit; true Feyre might not always make sense in her decisions, yet she is a strong and independent woman. The world that Sarah J. Maas introduces is interesting, the interaction between humans and Fae is cool and the Fae kingdoms is extremely well thought.

A court of mist and fury is absolutely praised by the community. I did not find it that spectacular; sure, it continues the story set in the first book but I did not particularly connect with Feyre this time around. Sure, Sarah J. Mass keeps introducing interesting fantasy concepts, new races, abilities, old and new foes; yet the quality of the book did not appear to be much different than the first one in my opinion.

1. Gardens of the Moon (the Malazan Book of the Fallen #1) by Steven Erikson
This is one of those series that even the author is aware you either are going to love or hate. To be fair, I believe that the complexity of this book allows for an “easy” hate target because it requires the reader to be a bit more engaged than with the vast majority of other (fantasy) books. It is a difficult book, it is complicated to understand and especially at the beginning the connections tend to be a bit lost. Yet, the rewards for sticking around are immense. I also noticed that Gardens of the Moon has a very “low” score on Goodreads and I was completely shocked to know that. I have to admit that I only heard positive comments about the book – and all the people I recommended the series to just loved it – so I am curious to know what the issue with the book really is.
This is one of my gush books – and I am preparing a review for it with casting reference!

Please let me know your thoughts about this list and comment below to tell me what are you polarizing favorite books – or what are the books you did not enjoy but the community gushed about them!

Rise of Empire (The Riyria Revelations #2) – Gush review! — January 10, 2017

Rise of Empire (The Riyria Revelations #2) – Gush review!

It has been quite a while since I started reading The Riyria Revelations series; and I had a hard time understanding why I put it aside. Gladly I came to the realization that I had too much new stuff around me that I wanted to try; hence the distraction from the series. I want to be clear that the “separation” was never caused by the series’ quality, I just had a hard time adjusting to Goodreads and the amount of awesome fantasy telling out there.

In case you missed out, here is the review to Theft of Swords!

I took copious notes while I was reading the book – which comprises two stories of Riyria duo and their friends – and I have so many positive notes about this series and Michael J. Sullivan. I confess that I was so impressed while reading Rise of Empire that I immediately bought the hardcover version of Age of Myth which begins a new series (Legends of the First Empire) and cannot wait to delve into that story!

And after a gigantic intro – yes, I am so hyped about this book and the story that I would just gush all over the place!

In summary this is a 4.5 stars book. Two great characters are in the middle of the events, working together to avoid a war, facing a genius foe with a grudge against Royce; and emotions are running high!

Now, this book contains two installments of The Riyria Chronicles – and they are one better than the other. Yet, provided that they are separate stories, the book just flows with finesse.
Let’s start with the best elements of the book. The characters – especially Royce and Hadrian but also Arista – are the strongest asset of the series and this book in particular. Two more elements I will touch later: The story and the writing style!

And now it is time to delve into the details – hence, spoiler alert!

 

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Royce and Hadrian are the two members of the Riyria duo – basically, extremely skilled thieves, who made a fortune – at least I would expect so! – by pulling the most complicated heists or other type of tasks (deliver messages where no one has gone yet!).

They are also the perfect yin and yang: Royce – with elvish blood which is a significant trait in all the books – is a ruthless, calculating and scary thief, able to use the shadows as his cover, with difficulties to show empathy and interest in other people. Hadrian instead loves people, the world, skilled warrior – actually so skilled he does not have competitors in the field – who values loyalty and honor. The two are pretty much family and they love each other.

Book 3 starts with a strain on the relationship and I think the best part of the book is Hadrian development and interest. Once the relationship is repaired (also because Hadrian has a very good heart) Book 4 was all about the couple at sea and as gladiators. And I was happy!

But let’s talk about Arista, princess, clever and spoiled. But wait this book is all about Arista and her development, her becoming the strong female lead she is supposed to be. She is an educated young woman (an education she fought to have in a time and place where women do not care about that aspect too much), strong willed and stubborn (which are not necessarily the same thing) becoming a (not so successful) ambassador for her reign. And from this starting point, she becomes a young woman, down to earth, understanding of struggle and generous. Also, independent and magic! Yes, magic as in she is a witch and embraces her skills! She also falls in love for the first time and falls in love for a second time – although she will have her heart broken twice in a short term. To be fair, I am expecting Arista to finally settle with Hadrian but only Heir of Novron will tell! Also, she spends book 4 being a spy, triggered by the murder of Esrahaddon – and I was in absolute shock – launching Arista in mission impossible mode. Arista successfully infiltrates behind enemy lines – although she ends up pushing her luck so much she ends up in prison.

In short, Arista is one of my favorite female characters lately – and I have not seen many male authors being able to create such successful (and not ordinary) female leads so an additional praise for Michael J. Sullivan!

We also find new (good) characters and I loved Amilia, she is just so genuine and a great care giver. She really puts it all out and it shows. I want to have an Amilia in my life.

The story is just this Arthurian tale, in which the main difference is that the main characters are not traditional Prince Charming, because the main characters are thieves and a woman; yet, the amount of work and dedication required are just staggering and the main characters do not get side tracked. They are a new version of heroes ultimately. You will find the story to be catching your attention yet it is not complicated enough to make you go back and forth on the page to understand what is happening.

Finally, I genuinely think this book is rich in violence – not grim dark but there is a bit of everything, assassination, brutal killings, uprising, gore description of brutality, attempted rape; so far from light topics – but Michael J. Sullivan‘s delivery of the characters, the dialog and the descriptions just add a lighter tone to the telling which makes this book even more magnetic than already is with the cool stuff happening to the main characters!

In essence, this is a great work of fantasy, I would go as far as to say that anyone would love this series, it is one of those books which can be easily read and loved by every fantasy reader.

Top 5 Wednesday! — January 4, 2017

Top 5 Wednesday!

I am particularly excited today because I will be making my first Top 5 Wednesday (T5W) post!

If you want to know more about Top 5 Wednesday, please visit the link to the Goodreads group here!

This post is dedicated to the 2017 goals, so here we go! And yes, this seems to be a duplication of yesterday’s post but I just joined the T5W and I thought this was a perfect post to start with!

1. Complete the 100 books challenge.
I set a an extremely ambitious reading goal and I am going to check half way through whether I am on track or not.
It is a difficult goal – I have a full time job that usually expands to 50/60 hours a week which is awesome but it might reduce my reading time. Another challenge is presented by Overwatch and World of Warcraft: Once I start playing, it will be difficult for me to stop.
In essence, ambitious goal but I will re-evaluate the progress on a monthly basis and possibly I will readjust the goal.

2. Rating
In June 2016 I joined Goodreads and found the love for books and the reading community of my favorite genre and books.
Provided that I discussed this goal in more detail yesterday in my post, I want to use a greater range of ratings to be able to modulate appropriately my scores.

3. Blogging about books
Last year I had some ups and downs with blogging, I started my own experience, I had the fantastic opportunity to join another group of talented bloggers but it did not click. So I re-started the solo experience. Hence I want to be able to resume sharing my love for books!

4. Be more active – not only physically but be more engaged in general beyond work.
Besides work, I tend to be very lazy. If there is something that I am not too interested in, I will definitely avoid doing a task until it is necessary. Also, I have stopped going to the gym and I believe my body is not too happy – I feel more tired than I should be.
Hence, the life goal will be to be more active!

5. Make monthly TBR and actually try to stick to them as much as possible!
As we all know, the best part of participating in a reading community is the exposure to books and authors you might not know. The only downside is that the TBR list just explodes.
I want to be more “organized” in this and actually create a monthly TBR and try to stick to it as much as possible (and I am avoiding to state to comply with it in absolute terms because it is normal to change plans and I want to allow myself a bit of flexibility).
One additional wrinkle to this will be that, if I actually start a new series, I need to stick to it until I finish it. I can modulate it in reading back to back or one book a month (or another cadence) but I need to constantly keep reading the series, so I do not end up having too many loose ends!

All in all, I am excited about the new year!
What are your goals? Do you have thoughts about my goals? Comment down below!

Do not forget to follow me so you will receive updates on my latest posts, book reviews and other fun posts like T5W!

2016 overview and 2017 resolutions! — January 3, 2017

2016 overview and 2017 resolutions!

2016 is just behind us and I involuntary started making 2017 resolutions. Once I realized what I was doing, I started evaluating my 2016 reading experience before making the 2017 resolutions!

2016 reading year
After a significant break from reading – and I still am not sure why I stopped reading for so long – I returned to my old love, possibly my first hobby ever. Reading.
What is reading, you might ask? Well, it is a lot more than putting eyes on a page and understanding what the author is saying. Reading is a tool that allows me to experience so many different places, points of view, worlds, characters. Ultimately, it is a journey of the mind. And it is different than visual mediums – comics, movies, TV shows – because it does not “help” you process the information by providing you the image but it allows you to process the written words into the image you make of it. To some extent, you can say it is the ultimately entertaining system. Yet, it requires a bit more “work” because you need to be more engaged.

Also, 2016 marked the starting of my Goodreads experience! I have always loved fantasy books yet I never had anyone around me experiencing the same attachment to this genre. Goodreads filled that gap in my experience and reading suddenly became an interactive activity!

I resumed reading in July 2016 – I read something during the beginning of the year but barely a book in 6 months. Somehow in July I felt like a new world opened to me and I had an interesting 2016 last half.

I read 45 books which is not too bad, although I hoped to hit 50 really. I experience a minor reading slump between the end of September and the beginning of October but I believe it is physiological.
As mentioned a billion times, I primarily read fantasy – I have so much to read I think I will be a happy reader for years.

Some series were just spectacular – the Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne by Brian Staveley was just an amazing series for me.
I loved The Faithful and the Fallen by John Gwynne, albeit I need to read Wrath. I think I am still emotionally drained by Ruin and I need to gather my strength to resume the series.
Another series that blew my mind was The Red Queen’s War by Mark Lawrence. The antihero working with a violent hero, in a Nordic mythology with significant Christian influence, in a map that is so similar to Europe!
Also, the Lightbringer series by Brent Weeks is a precious gem for me. I loved the magic system, the characters, the story and I cannot wait for the fifth book of the series.

Three series I started and I want to continue (this is bordering in my 2017 resolution) are:
(A) The Gentlemen Bastard series by Scott Lynch – I read The Lies of Locke Lamora and I was fascinated by the characters.
(B) The Riyria Revelations by Michael J. Sullivan. I loved Theft of Sword so much but somehow I did not continue the story – my theory is that I had too many books to choose from and I wanted a sample of everything! So continuing this series is a significant goal in 2017 for me – and to start the brand new series by Michael J Sullivan!
(C) The Stormlight Archive by Brandon Sanderson. I am not really sure I need to add more than the name of the series. Now, The Way of Kings is actually the only book I read in the first half of the year and it is AMAZING. I started Words of Radiance but I want to resume from the start and Oathbringer will be released in 2017 so I want to be updated for the new release! In 2016 I was also able to read Warbreaker and I loved it.

Other delightful notes go to The Invisible Library by Genevieve Cogman and I will continue the series. If you like fantasy, London, spies, books and magic this is just a marvelous series for you to pick!
One more shout out goes to The Waking Fire by Anthony Ryan; I was so impressed by the book, the setting, the world building. Now, this is the first book of The Draconis Memoria series and I am already an Anthony Ryan fan.

I also read some YA fantasy – primarily as reads to break the other fantasy reading – and I had some interesting encounters but nothing that a YA fantasy fan cannot tell you louder and more convincingly than I can.

2017 resolutions
First and foremost, rating. I spent almost six months rating books, especially on Goodreads and I have been primarily using 4 and 5 stars rating. It means two things: One I had luck in picking the books this year, I was entertained and happy; two, I cannot modulate my ratings properly because I miss some depth.
Hence, my 2017 resolution will be to use also 3 stars rating because 3 stars must be considered a good rating. I actually read Robin Hobb page and there is an argument there that 2 stars are aa good rating too so I feel more empowered by my decision at this point. I have to confess I also started a discussion on Goodreads on the topic and I definitely feel more confident about this decision more than ever.

Second and since I set a 100 book reading goal, I want to have a TBR and stick to it. I just cannot continue starting new series without finishing the ones I want to continue reading. I just need to be more organized and I might improve my reading experience. I will also understand if I like this approach better and see whether order or chaos work better for me!

Third, and in light of the above, I want to return to the Malazan Book of the Fallen series by Steven Erikson. I cannot recall a series that made me so excited about fantasy in the past – besides Tolkien obviously -; hence I resumed the whole series. I partially read it but I want to be consistent and read one book a month.
Also, I would love to start the Ian C. Esslemont w stories on the Malazan Empire and I might do that in parallel – although the Malazan Empire series has 6 books so shorter than the Malazan Book of the Fallen.
Also, I want to continue with the series I referred to above and read the Mistborn first trilogy!
One series I am considering starting is also The Moontide Quartet by David Hair. It appears to be a series that has mostly positive reviews but not exclusively so I am looking forward to delving into the series – I will make a post as to why this series seems so interesting to me.
Please let me know what amazing suggestions you have! This year I want to focus on epic/high/grimdark fantasy but I want to know what are the fantasy series that you like!

The Alchemists of Loom (Loom Saga #1) by Elise Kova — January 1, 2017

The Alchemists of Loom (Loom Saga #1) by Elise Kova

The Alchemists of Loom (Loom Saga #1) by Elisa Kova is probably the best YA fantasy books I read so far – and I wonder if this is really categorized as YA, I read conflicting information on this aspect.

This book was provided to me by NetGalley in exchange for an honest opinion.

For me is a 4 out of 5 stars book! In short, this is a book that will appeal to fantasy readers of all ages, with a great steampunk flavor, focus on the world building and story about the underdog.

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First and foremost, let’s judge the cover: It is absolutely stunning. The person depicted is absolutely fierce and looks like she knows what she is doing. The color scheme is absolutely to my liking which adds value to it!

As for the book itself, the best elements of this book were the story and the world building, in my opinion. The characters, albeit likeable, are a little under the nose and the writing is good but it does not stand out.

The story is set in a very oppressed world, it is a story about revolution – and it occurs to me that I am listening to the Rogue One soundtrack while writing about it – or, even better, it is a story about rekindling a revolution.

And from here on, beware of the spoiler!

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Let’s talk about the world building and I will just focus on certain elements that I genuinely loved and made the book stand out. I loved the premise which is that the world (Loom specifically) is actually oppressed by the Dragons who came from Nova and conquered all, primarily because they are the magic wielders of this world.
The Dragons imposed a number of “revolutions” including the association of a Fenthri – this is the name of the oppressed race – with one of the five guilds and the association must be self explanatory, hence everyone must have the relevant guild symbol tattooed on the face. Not having a tattoo makes a Fenthri illegal.
Another extremely interesting idea of the book is to represent Dragons and Fenthri as obviously visually different: the Dragons’ skins are vibrantly colored while the Fenthri are grey. I can genuinely see this aspect easily reflected in a visual mean – comics, tv series, movie.

There is a twist though: this is a third “category”, the Chimera, Fenthri who altered their body by adding Dragon’s blood and/or organs (Dragons regrow almost all parts of their body, unless they are killed with a blow to the heart or beheaded). The Chimera can wield magic and they can be as powerful as the Dragons.

The Dragons’ world is also built to reflect a caste system, they are divided in families and they are also hierarchically structured within each family. The concept is introduced in the book and explained enough in the book but I expect this to be further developed in the next book in the series!

As for the story, this is a story about rebellion, a story about hope (yes, I am definitely referring to Rogue One here) and the possibility to make the Loom a better place. I just love a good revolution book. The oppression is well described throughout the book, especially by drawing parallels to how the world used to be before the Dragon ruling was established.

The book is told through four – then five – points of view and I liked this. At the very beginning the story was a linear story told through three different points of view and I just felt for it. I thought it was just so clever. Unfortunately it could not be sustained throughout the book – especially if you want to have the rebellion and oppressor perspective – but I was entrenched by this use of the point of view. I understand it is not revolutionary but I found it a refreshing change compared to the books I read recently.

As for the writing itself, I cannot complain but it was not whimsical either. It was solid, clear, understandable despite having to introduce a brand new world to the reader.

Finally, the characters. I genuinely do not want to spend too much time on them but they are good, albeit “common”, if you allow me the use of this term. And I think it is a good choice, the world is complicated enough and there might be the need for more stable elements as well. In all of this, to some extent, I liked Leona’s character a bit more, she was properly represented as a ruthless and in love woman, a person who would do anything for her loved one, including sacrificing her own sister – well, actually kill her – and her own life.
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Please let me know your thoughts about this book and if you found the review interesting!

Do not hesitate to contact me for discussing books and stories!

The Demon King (Seven Realms #1) — December 28, 2016

The Demon King (Seven Realms #1)

Hi All and welcome (back) to the blog!

This time I would like to review The Demon King by  Cinda Williams Chima

Edition Kindle Edition, 524 pages

Published on October 6th 2009 by Disney Hyperion

Genre: YA Fantasy

The Demon King – Goodreads

 

A great story of courage and strength, with strong male and female characters that can be great role models, a very interesting world and history that has ramifications in the present and a great writing style! (aka 4 stars out of 5!)

 

I have to admit I had a blast while reading this book. Clearly this is a YA fantasy book yet it is deeper than other YA fantasy I have read, especially lately. It almost feels to me that it could be a good transition book between YA and adult fantasy because of the depth of the characters, a fairly intricate world explained in a very linear manner and the themes that are tapped into. The story also makes the characters deal with betrayal, court deceit and deaths and other type of violence.

In a nutshell, I really loved it and, comparing it to other YA, it is one of my favorite so far. It does not hurt one bit that the writing is really good and it took me no time to get used to the rhythm and the story (it is not always the case, also when you read amazing books!). In short, the book is really fast to go through even if it is around 500 pages. I was engaged in the story and I cared a lot for some characters (well at least more than others) and I felt like sharing the contempt against the villains of the story which to me signifies that the villains were really good – or at least the villains hit the right notes to make me despise them!

The review might be a bit lengthy but I hope it will be a good guidance if you are interested in picking this book up. One last note, I have read the book as an ebook with the audiobook (yes, it seems the lazy reading version but it allows me to better get all the details!)! Also,

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Plot and storytelling:

The book is written following several PoW and this was inevitable because of the different story lines being developed and they are nicely expanded but not in such detail that makes the plot obvious. There are still quite some twists and turns so that the book ends up being extremely engaging.

There are several general topics that are touched throughout the book: The corruption of power, the influence of strong figures on a frivolous woman, war and its effects, nature and its importance of preservation, and so on and so forth. Yet, they do not feel overwhelming; there is the right amount of the right ingredient to make the story interesting and provide the reader with more depth than a mere story to read.

I also particularly enjoyed the magic system and the clear explanation that was given. If one likes magic for the sake of magic, this is a good book. If one likes magic and he or she likes a magic system that is properly explained and it is clear in its structure and existence, then this is a very good book for that. The world is pretty much based on two types of magic that cannot be used by the same people at the same time. On one side there is the green magic, the magic that the Clans (pretty much those who are in balance with nature) can yield – but the yielding covers healing and magic artifacts. The green magic wielders are not mages in the traditional sense. On the other side, there is the high magic, the more traditional magicians, yet for them to use their powers, they need amulets and other green magic artifacts. It is a world in balance and structured this way after the war following the Demon King almost destruction of the world and Hanalea’s rebuilding of the world, around one thousand years before the events of the books.

Yes, so there is also quite some history in the book – there are some pages dedicated to teachers explaining Hanalea and the impact of her actions – as depicted in art. I really enjoyed that particular scene of the book (also because it highlighted the importance of education and it was another good message to have in a book!).

 

Characters:
I am really in love with certain characters.
Raisa is the first one and this surprised me. I am usually not the fan of main female characters in books (not sure if it is a prima donna reaction to them or if I simply do not find the main female characters very compelling – or simply, I do not get along with them, and we would be back to point one above…) yet, I likes Raisa. She is strong and assertive of her independence which might be the trait I liked the most. I think she is one of the first female main characters that wants her independence, is confident in her independence yet is open to learn and understand more to solidify her independence. Yes, I liked this particular aspect of her character a lot. And yes, you got it, in my mind Raisa equals independence. And I will stop making the parallel.

She is the princess heir and, instead of being the usual princess know-it-all and absolutely selfish, she understands she is a flawed human being and that she needs to work on it in order to become a better queen for her people. To some extent, she fees ordinary in her “normal” traits but she feels extraordinary in the will and efforts she puts into achieving her goals. I found her believable and authentic although she is entangled in what seems a love triangle, although it just turns out that she is sixteen and her hormones just make her head turn around for many many adolescents of about her age.
Hanson (or Hunts Alone, I love this Clan name!) is such a strong willed character. He used to be a street lord – despite his young age – but for the love of his sister mainly and his mother, the gives the delinquent life up and starts working really hard to become a straight shooter. It requires for him to do several jobs, to do a lot of work and to be extremely poor, especially because his mother does not really provide for the family. For most of the book, he is just a “regular” guy who tries to make meats end and, not being so regular, keeps running into trouble, starting from the unpleasant meeting with the young wizards, continuing with his encounter with the queen guards, and finishing in the revelation of who he really is. Actually, that scene is one of my favorite: His reaction to the announcement was so genuine to me that really left a very warm memory of that moment.

He is also a very tormented soul and the deaths at the end of the book really hunt him – and I suspect will continue to do so on the following books – and leave a mark on him. And I have to confess a soft spot for his connection with his sister, the best person in his life and he tries to live up to the expectations of being the big brother.
Amon might be the most “cliché” character yet he filled his role in the best way as the guard for the princess heir Raisa. I am looking forward for more developments here! I am expecting his role to become more and more important and, to some extent, I am curious to see if he can be the first one in his bloodline to actually act upon the love for his princess. I do not want to say more than this, the book will provide plenty of explanations but I am cheering for the Raisa and Amon couple!
The Clan and the Demonai: I loved it. I might be wrong here but this felt more like a Native American setting which I found particularly refreshing. I was really having a blast reading through the scenes dedicated to them and their habits, rituals and system. While I was reading. I really wanted to be there, I really wanted to be part of the Clan and be able to choose my own future. It also provides the setting and upbringing of Anvill Demonai who is a great father figure. I hope he will have more space in the following books because it really feels that his role in this first book was a bit too irrelevant; hopefully this will change starting from the second book in the series!
The Bayars: the evil family and, incidentally, a wizard family. I have to confess a certain propensity to connect the Bayars (and Gavan in particular) to the Malfoys (especially Lucious) – I do not know if the parallel even makes sense but there are some similarities in my opinion. The Bayars, and in particular father and son in this first book, have really big plans to overthrown the balance of a thousand years – Gavan is setting himself as a big influence over queen Mariana, it almost feels like he is ruling the queendom through Mariana and he has a plan to restore high magic to its prominent status, as it was before the Naeming (the truce following the Demon King almost destruction of the world). Yes, Gavan is particularly nasty and annoying but he is so well characterized that it makes him a really good villain! Micah, his son, is an evil soul, as clearly evidence throughout the book but he did not develop the devious planning his father already has so I am curious to see what will be of him in the following books!

In essence, I strongly recommend this book and I already purchased “The Exiled Queen” and I cannot wait to start with that as well!

Have you read the book? Did you like it? What were the best elements of the story? What is the character that you liked the most? Let me know posting down below!

Aristea!

 

Truthwitch (The Witchlands #1) —

Truthwitch (The Witchlands #1)

Hi All and welcome back to the blog!

Today we will dive into Truthwitch by Susan Dennard, the first installment of the Witchlands series, by Susan Dennard

Edition Kindle Edition, 416 pages

Published on January 5th 2016 by Tor Teen

Genre: YA Fantasy

Truthwitch – Goodreads

 

A solid and addicting start on this new series, with strong female protagonists and some extremely interesting and promising witchery system

Aka 3.75 out of 5 (5 being the “awesome” score!)

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I have to confess that I had mix feelings about this book. I could not stop reading it since the writing is good and flows really well, not to mention that I really wanted to know how the story went. Yet, I was absolutely clear so to what did not convince me about the book and the book kept hitting those points.

I also have to disclose that I have been reading this book between epic and high fantasy books – I can probably say that my expectations might have started as an epic fantasy book but this is a YA fantasy and I should have switched gears; provided that I also had very pleasant experiences with other authors in YA fantasy. But this is neither here nor there, it is a discussion for another time!

 

So, let’s delve into it!

Plot and world building. The plot was not bad at all; I was expecting a less “twisted” story line, but I was pleased to read some turns here and there which was certainly a positive! The world building though it is quite limited and, honestly, I do not know whether this choice is intentional. The whole story is based on the world being at the brink of a new war among kingdoms, since the 20-year peace treaty is about to expire. It would also appear that very few of these reigns is doing anything to stop the conflict from happening. The story of the first book, though, focuses on the two main characters, Safiya and Iseult, their friendship and their adventure. I am therefore hopeful that the first book was required to make the readers knowledgeable of the main characters of the book to have a second book (and following ones) focusing more on the political intrigue, also because Safiya is a truthwitch (below I will provide more information about what that is, in case you need more explanation). To conclude the reasoning: Why would emperors and empresses go a long way to try to secure a truthwitch at their side, if not to gain an edge on the other reigns? Which makes me hopeful that the answer is: Because the next book is just around political intrigue! Yes, I know, I have been going around the same concept for a while – and yes, I know, I cannot even change the book yet since the second book of the series will be out in January 2017. But I can still hope and hope shall live.

The witchery – as it is called in the book – is quite interesting but it is not fully explained; it is not set in an understandable structure, so it ends being a lot of cool type of witches (Bloodwitch, Treadwitch, Truthwitch, Windwitch, etc) but it does not explain much about how the witchery is managed in this world and how it interacts with the muggles of this world. Yet, I am hopeful for book 2, I am really praying this book will provide me with the structural explanation I am looking for!

 

Characters. The book clearly founds itself on two main characters, Safiya, noble origins and a misfit, and Iseult, which is a reject of society because of her skin (better, because of her heritage being a Nomatsi). The two of them, I would say, are based on an almost literal representation of yin and yang, one being blond and the other brunette.

Safiya is a noble born, spoiled (maybe it is my superficial approach to her), reckless and self-centered until the last chapters of the book in which she finally makes a sacrifice having in mind only the benefit of others. Said all of the above, she still seemed a very flat character. It did not help the fact that she is a Truthwitch, an extremely rare witch, one that happens every 100 years, who can tell, surprise surprise, truth from lie. And it does not help the fact that several people need her abilities which is one of the friction point in the plot for me: Why would be a person who can tell truth from lie, which is obviously handy to have, be more important than a person who can bend the wind to one’s will, especially when you are on the brink of war with all other reigns? It might be me, I might be having the wrong (better, different) perspective, but I cannot see why a truthwitch would be worth so much attention. Yet, it is the premise of the whole book, so I tried not to think about it is such a negative connotation. As for Safiya, I have to concede some smiling in her early interaction with prince and admiral Merik – another character that seemed so predictable and flat although he can fly (which really is a great plus!).

The only character I brought myself to care somewhat about is Iseult. I actually got annoyed as Safiya because she kept endangering the person she calls her dear friend. Iseult, in my opinion, is a more interesting character, not only for her heritage – I really like the pages dedicated to her interaction with her village – but also because there is no much mystery around her and the reasons for the attempts on her life AND, most importantly, her relationship with the Puppeteer.

Closely link to that, is the Bloodwitch Aeduan. He is pretty much the trigger for the protagonists to escape the city, he is the villain throughout the book. But is he really? Or is the villain going to be his father, this mysterious person who is not named (yet, I suspect he is Corlant, the man who terrified Iseult’s mother and apprentice). He is a little less flat – primarily because he is the bad guy but not really – and today I realized I would love for an Aeduan and Iseult to get to know each other and, who knows, possibly become a couple!

And I could go on and on the characters but I will leave the characters section with this hope for the best character yet: I am really expecting Vaness to be the best character she can possibly be, convincing, fierce, strong, ruler and whatever else she needs to be. I just hope to be blown away by her!

Navy/Pirates. Yes, this book has this amazing aspect exploited and I loved it! It might have been one of the best parts of the whole book and I was ecstatic to read about ships, battles, admirals, pirates and fights on the sea! This part of the book really hooked me even more than the first part of the story!

Friendship. Now, this is going to be controversial. All the reviews I heard/read about this book really focus on how amazing the friendship between Safiya and Iseult is. But is it? I really felt that for most of the book it was a one-side friendship in which one would give it all and the other would suffer because of the decisions of the other. On the other side, how dependent on each other the characters are? Truth to be told (truthwitchery?!?), both of them are more than able to handle anything being thrown at them on their own, yet they continuously think that they lack the abilities of the other and therefore are less than a whole. Really? Now, my skepticism made me question my humanity: Am I so cynical I cannot see beautiful things? I still cannot answer the question on my own but I think that in my early twenties I really wanted to have a friend as close as these two are. So maybe I will be less cynic about the relationship and think how beautiful the rainbows are – after all, this is also meant to be a beautiful place to squat!

Did you read Truthwitch? Did you like it? What other aspects of this book you liked? What parts, if any, of the book left you puzzled or disappointed?

 

Aristea