Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Top Ten Tuesday: Underrated/ Hidden Gem Books I've Read In The Past Year Or So


Happy Tuesday and welcome back to Top Ten Tuesday, a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish!  This week's topic is Underrated/ Hidden Gem Books I've Read In The Past Year Or So.  All of these have less than 1,000 ratings on Goodreads, but they all deserve so much more love.  Each book on my list will be linked to my review and will show the number of ratings it has as of Sunday, January 14, 2017.


The Trial (PULSE #1) by R.A. Crawford - Goodreads Ratings: 12


Redemption by Elora Mitchell - Goodreads Ratings: 22


Amanda Lester and the Pink Sugar Conspiracy by Paula Berinstein - Goodreads Ratings: 81


The 13th Continuum by Jennifer Brody - Goodreads Ratings: 166


Frost by M.P. Kozlowsky - Goodreads Ratings: 250


Future Shock by Elizabeth Briggs - Goodreads Ratings: 578


Ink and Ashes by Valynne E. Maetanni - Goodreads Ratings: 790


Down With The Shine by Kate Karyus Quinn - Goodreads Ratings: 840


The Awesome by Eva Darrows - Goodreads Ratings: 841


Revenge and the Wild by Michelle Modesto - Goodreads Ratings: 911


Have you read any of these underrated/ hidden gems?  What hidden gems have you discovered this year?  As always, thanks for visiting my blog, and perhaps even leaving a comment!

Monday, January 16, 2017

The Sword of Summer (Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard #1) by Rick Riordan - Review


❋ ❋ ❋  

Since Magnus's mother died two years ago, he's lived on the streets of Boston by keeping his wits about him and a few steps ahead of the police and school truant officers. One day, a man his mother claimed was dangerous finds him and tells him that his father is a Norse god. Magnus thinks it's crazy talk, but then thinks back about the circumstances surrounding his mother's death and it doesn't seem quite that crazy anymore. Anyway, this crazy guy wants Magnus to help him locate an ancient sword that he believes is at the bottom of the river - and he's convinced that this sword could help prevent Ragnarok, aka Doomsday. At the worst possible moment fire giants attack Magnus to claim the sword, which would be a really, really bad thing, and if Magnus wants to save the lives of innocent bystanders he's going to have to make a lethal decision. You know what they say, the best way to start a new life is to die. Welcome to Hotel Valhalla.

Rick Riordan has easily taken his place as one of my favorite authors and I can easily say that his new series, Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard, is a fantastic new addition to his pantheon. I absolutely adored his Percy Jackson series and I've enjoyed what I've read of the Kane Chronicles so far (I have yet to dive into the Heroes of Olympus and The Trials of Apollo), so as soon as I heard that he was trying his hand at Norse mythology I had to get my hands on it after having enjoyed his take on Greek and Egyptian mythologies so much. Overall, The Sword of Summer is a fantastic, and hilarious, way kick off the new year. I fully expected it to be laugh out loud funny and it is - from the chapter titles, Magnus's fluency in sarcasm and his dorkiness, and the Norse gods are the kind of quirky you could expect after Percy Jackson. It's the characters that really make this book. Magnus, our main character, is pretty great - his internal monologue is just the best. Did I mention that he resembles a sixteen year old Kurt Cobain? I also really appreciated Samirah al-Abbas's dedication to her work as a Valkyrie, plus she's a daughter of Loki so she has a few interesting tricks up her sleeve.

Overall, I could go on an on about how much I loved meeting Magnus and Sam, exploring Hotel Valhalla, learning all about the Norse gods (Thor really steals the show - and he is nothing at all like the Marvel Cinematic Universe's Thor), and all the rest, but don't just take my word for it. If you haven't read it yet, I highly recommend getting your hands on a copy and jumping in feet first with Magnus. If you're a fan of Percy Jackson, you have to read this, and if you're at all interested in Norse mythology, you really need to see what you think of Riordan's highly entertaining vision. I can't wait to read the sequel, The Hammer of Thor.



I read this novel from December 23, 2016 - January 1, 2017 and my review is also on Goodreads.

Music Monday: The Panic Is On


Happy Monday everyone and welcome back to Music Monday! Let's share some songs we've been enjoying lately!  If you would like to play and I really hope you do, please see the rules and link up below.

Rules:

Every Monday share one or two of songs you've been enjoying lately.  It doesn't have to be a specific genre, new, or one of your favorites - just something you'd like to share with others.  If possible, share a music or lyric video of the song and your thoughts on the song(s), artist(s), and/or music video(s).

If you would like to participate in Music Monday, please join the link up by sharing your post's url.

This week I'm spotlighting three songs from the album The Panic Is On: The Great American Depression as Seen by the Common Man, which features music from the Great Depression from 1929-1938.  It includes genres from swing, blues, and country - some songs are sound more optimistic in outlook (like what I'm featuring below) where others are just plain depressing.  Either way all of the songs are great window into life during that time and the album is a must listen if you're interested in American history.  I'm lucky to have stumbled upon CD at the library.

"If I Ever Get A Job Again" by Dick Robertson and His Orchestra (1933) - This optimistic swing number looks forward to a future with a job and everything that the singer will do once he has steady work - like "never be a snob again" "live within my means, carry a dollar in my jeans","no turning out the light, bidding my appetite goodnight", "get two rooms and a kitchenette", and maybe even "find a sweet somebody", but he'll have to get "two suits and overcoat" and even "buy underwear."


"(Everything's Gonna Be) O.K. America" by Art Kassel and His Kassels in the Air (1932) - Even though you can hear the air raid sirens, this just sounds so optimistic, hopefully, and patriotic that you want to believe him and that everything will be okay - even though there are still several more years until the country was out of the woods.


"We're in the Money (The Gold Digger's Song)" by Charlie Palloy (1933) - Before I heard this original, I was familiar with the beginning: "We're in the money, we're in the money, we've got a lot of what it takes to get along/ We're in the money, the skies are sunny".  The next line (and on) threw me - I wasn't expecting it to take this turn: "Old man Depression you are through you done us wrong."  Anyway, once you listen to it you'll certainly have a new perspective on a song you thought you recognized  In this particular song, Palloy is singing and he's playing the guitar - and he's also known for the song from around the same time called "Brother Can You Spare a Dime?"



Sunday, January 15, 2017

A Criminal Magic by Lee Kelly - Review


❋ ❋ ❋ 

After the passage of the 18th Amendment, magic, addictive and dangerous, has finally been made illegal. Of course, the underworld market for magic is absolutely booming. Sorcerers cast illusions to assist in mob crime, smugglers have brought in magical contraband from abroad, and gangs have set up underground speakeasies where patrons can lose themselves to magic and take an intoxicating brew called sorcerer's shine. Joan Kendrick, a young sorcerer, takes an invitation to join Washington DC's most notorious crime syndicate, The Shaw Gang, since her father is no longer in any condition to shine. She has to support what family she has left. Alex Danfrey, a Federal Prohibition Unit trainee with a complicated background and magical talent of his own, has been given new orders. He has to go undercover and infiltrate the Shaw Gang to assist in an upcoming raid that the Unit is planning. Before long, Joan and Alex cross paths and find themselves in the middle of a game of cat and mouse.


As soon as I heard about A Criminal Magic by Lee Kelly, I knew I had to read it. That's partly because I loved her debut novel, City of Savages, and the combination of historical fantasy elements. I'm interested in real world Prohibition and the booming criminal underworld that it gave rise to, so add to that magical elements and I was automatically sold. Plus, it's been marketed as Peaky Blinders meets The Night Circus and those are two of my favorite things. While I didn't love this story quite as much as City of Savages, I was still incredibly hooked on Joan's and Alex's stories. My favorite aspect of this novel is the world-building hands down. Like I said before, this is one of my favorite time periods to read about and Kelly uses some of my favorite elements - gangsters, molls, flappers, tommy guns, lies, and double crosses. The addition of urban fantasy elements just makes the deal all the sweeter.

I also enjoyed getting to know her characters and we get to both Alex and Joan well with the alternating perspective chapters. Both have great characterizations, but of the two I preferred Alex a little more than Joan. Although, she's trying to do right by her sister, which I can get behind, but she does make some poor decisions. Joan and her team do have some fantastic and imaginative scenes - and the Red Den is just really cool. Alex makes some bad calls, too, of course, but I liked his backstory a little more. And, I just really like the gangster stuff, okay. Plus, before they meet up, I'd say Alex gets some of the better scenes. On that note, the story really picks up the pace once Joan and Alex meet. I wouldn't say it's slow or not as good when they aren't together, but that that's when the story really hits its stride.

Overall, I highly recommend A Criminal Magic by Lee Kelly. Do you like The Night Circus, Peaky Blinders, Now You See Me and Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them? If so, you absolutely need to try A Criminal Magic by Lee Kelly. I know that this is a standalone novel, but it ends in such a way that leaves an opening - I wouldn't say no to a return to this unique take on an alternate Prohibition.


I read this novel from December 15 - 27, 2016 and my review is also on Goodreads.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

The Last Star (The 5th Wave #3) by Rick Yancey - Review


❋ ❋ 

The Others are the enemy, we are the enemy. The Others are everywhere and they are nowhere. They want to take the planet or they want us to keep it. They're here to kill us, but they're here to save us. Riddles are everywhere, but Cassie is sure of one thing - she's been betrayed and so have Ringer, Nugget, and Zombie, plus all other human inhabitants of planet Earth. We have been betrayed by the Others and by ourselves. In our final days, Earth's survivors are going to have to decide what's more important whether that's saving the planet or saving ourselves.

Rick Yancey's The Last Star is the final installment of one of my favorite series, The 5th Wave. While I liked it well enough, it just didn't quite live up to my expectations and it just didn't quite hook me in the way the first two did. My favorite aspect of the finale is easily Ringer's perspective and everything that she goes through as an enhanced human/ alien hybrid. Plus, the action scenes are handled well. However, there are too many point of view characters and not enough focus on anyone in particular. I would have preferred to have seen more from Cassie's and Evan's point of view, like in the beginning of the series. There are so many perspectives that at times it could be difficult to keep track of which one I was listening to since the two narrators weren't the best at differentiating between all of the characters voices. Perhaps I would have preferred reading the novel rather than listening to it on audiobook.

Overall, The Last Star, the grand finale of The 5th Wave series is a let down in comparison to the first two books. For me, it incorporated too many POV characters and the atmosphere that I enjoyed from the earlier ones is lacking. However, this less than stellar conclusion makes me appreciate the first two novels in the trilogy all the more. I am looking forward to seeing what Rick Yancey will write next.



I listened to this audiobook from December 18 - 21, 2016 and my review is also on Goodreads.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

The Friday 56 (With Book Beginnings): My Lady Jane by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, Jodi Meadows + 50/50 Friday


Welcome to The Friday 56, a weekly meme hosted by Freda's Voice.

These are the rules:
1. Grab a book, any book.
2. Turn to page 56, or 56% on your eReader.
3. Find any sentence (or a few, just don't spoil it) that grabs you.
4. Post it.
5. Add the URL to your post in the link on Freda's most recent Friday 56 post.


I'm also taking part in Book Beginnings, a weekly meme hosted by Rose City Reader.  The rules are pretty simple - you share the first sentence or so and your initial thoughts, impressions, or whatever else it inspires.  Don't forget to link up your post's url with Rose City Reader.


This week I'm spotlighting my next read, My Lady Jane by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows.  I've been looking forward to this 2016 release for a while and I decided to take Anne @ Head Full of Books advice and read it next.  It sounds like a lot of fun, so here we go!


Beginning:

Prologue

You may think you know the story.  It goes like this: once upona time, there was a sixteen-year-old girl named Jane Grey, who was forced to marry a complete stranger (Lord Guildford or Gilford or Gifford-something-or-other), and shortly thereafter found herself ruler of a country.  She was queen for nine days.  Then she quite literally lost her head.

56:

"I simply cannot marry him, that's all.  Not him."

"But I hear he's a fine young man, Jane," Edward said.  "Lord Dudley assured me that Gifford will be a model husband."

When he wasn't busy galloping around the countryside, Edward thought a tad guiltily.


This week I'm also taking part in a brand new linkup called 50/50 Friday, which is hosted by Carrie @ The Butterfly Reader and Laura @ Blue Eye Books.  Every week they'll have a new topic featuring two sides of the same coin - this week the topic is Most/ least favorite cover.


Most:


A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab - Of the three books in the series, this is easily my favorite cover.  However, all of them look amazing.

Least:


Dairy Queen by Catherine Gilbert Murdock - I just finished this for Book Riot's Read Harder Challenge and it was excellent.  Unfortunately, this cover does not do it justice in any sense of the word.  Seriously, ignore it and just skip to the good stuff inside.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

The Alchemists of Loom by Elise Kova: Blog Tour, Review, + Giveaway


I'm very excited today to welcome you all to my leg of The Alchemists of Loom by Elise Kova Blog Tour, hosted by Rockstar Book Tours! Below you will find the details and summary of the book, my review of the novel, an about the author, Elise Kova, a giveaway, and the blog tour schedule. Thanks for visiting my stop on The Alchemists of Loom Blog Tour!


About the Book: 
Title: THE ALCHEMISTS OF LOOM 
Author: Elise Kova 
Pub. Date: January 10, 2017 
Publisher: Keymaster Press 
Pages: 380 
Formats: Hardcover, eBook, audiobook 
Her vengeance. His vision. 
Ari lost everything she once loved when the Five Guilds’ resistance fell to the Dragon King. Now, she uses her unparalleled gift for clockwork machinery in tandem with notoriously unscrupulous morals to contribute to a thriving underground organ market. There isn’t a place on Loom that is secure from the engineer turned thief, and her magical talents are sold to the highest bidder as long as the job defies their Dragon oppressors. 
Cvareh would do anything to see his sister usurp the Dragon King and sit on the throne. His family’s house has endured the shame of being the lowest rung in the Dragons’ society for far too long. The Alchemist Guild, down on Loom, may just hold the key to putting his kin in power, if Cvareh can get to them before the Dragon King’s assassins. 
When Ari stumbles upon a wounded Cvareh, she sees an opportunity to slaughter an enemy and make a profit off his corpse. But the Dragon sees an opportunity to navigate Loom with the best person to get him where he wants to go. 
He offers her the one thing Ari can’t refuse: A wish of her greatest desire, if she brings him to the Alchemists of Loom. 

Praise For THE ALCHEMISTS OF LOOM:

“A heart-stopping adventure! Elise Kova reaches new heights with this fast-paced triumph of steampunk, fantasy, and a touch of romance. The Alchemists of Loom is a must-read!”
– DANIELLE L. JENSEN, USA Today bestselling author of the Malediction Trilogy

“Prepare to have your mind blown. THE ALCHEMISTS OF LOOM is the perfect mashup of genres, with a killer heroine, fiery romance, and friendships that run as deep as blood.”
– LINDSAY CUMMINGS, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Zenith and The Murder Complex 

“A new favorite. Kova has created a world of contrasts that I can assure you, is like none you have read before.”
– MEG MCGORRY, N3rdbomber

“Reading THE ALCHEMISTS OF LOOM was like curling up with a favorite fantasy classic. Yet what truly transported me was the brilliant twists and layers that make this story totally unique, totally fresh.” – SUSAN DENNARD, New York Times bestselling author of the Witchlands series

“The Alchemists of Loom is bloody, epic, and brimming with violence. Elise Kova gives fantasy, and steampunk fans, two whole new worlds to delight over as new characters strike out in an adventure sure to leave readers reeling for more. The cast of characters takes readers into a darker realm where no one is pure, everyone has an agenda, and, sometimes, the best friends one can have can be formed between enemies”
– RACHEL E. CARTER, bestselling author of The Black Mage

My Review:

❋ ❋ ❋  

I've been wanting to try Elise Kova's work since I started seeing Air Awakens around the blogosphere, so when the opportunity came up to review her newest release, The Alchemists of Loom, I jumped at the chance.  Just read the summary and look at that cover (plus, all of that advance praise) - how could anyone resist.  I wasn't one hundred percent sure of what to expect since I hadn't read Ms. Kova's work before, but I was really hyping it up in my mind.  And, happily, it fully lived up to the hype for me!  I found myself fully invested in the world and the cast of characters.

The world and characters of Loom, and Nova, that Elise Kova has created is incredibly rich with a complex history.  It's in the epic fantasy vein, but with a healthy dose of steampunk elements.  The Fenthri of Loom, usually squat in size and ashy in color, don't have magic like their Dragon overlords from the city of Nova above the clouds.  Instead, they engineer and experiment with technology.  The Dragons are seemingly the opposite of their Loom counterparts with their bright colors, lanky frames, and magical abilities.  They, aka the Dragon King, control Loom and have brutally imposed their will on Fenthri society and how their Guilds operate.  They can also fly, but not in they way you would expect.  There are also people called Chimera.  Chimera are Fenthri who have needed to receive Dragon parts, organs, and/ or blood to survive and as a result can access Dragon magic.  Essentially, the citizens of Loom are slaves of the Dragons.

All of that's just a quick overview, but you can see how unique and complicated things are right from the beginning.  Like I mentioned before, I was absolutely taken in by all of this and I couldn't help but want to know more about this unique land.  Of course, it takes a bit to get things straight, but it never becomes overwhelming.  Although, we're set loose in the middle of this place, I found myself fairly quickly able to get my balance.  A good deal of that has to do with the characters populating this realm.

This novel features several perspective characters - mainly Arianna, Florence, and Cvareh - a Chimera, a Fenthri, and a Dragon, respectively.  Each are quite different and we get a very good idea of how the Kova's world works through their interactions - primarily between Arianna and Cvareh.  While Ari hates Dragons, she comes to learn that she and Cvareh have a little more in common than she would have thought possible.  I also particularly liked reading about the friendship between Ari and Florence.  Florence is pretty great, by the way,  she works as a Revolver making weapons for Ari.  Basically, Florence really gets a kick out of blowing things up.

Overall, The Alchemists of Loom by Elise Kova is an amazingly creative and imaginative steampunk fantasy that comes highly recommended from me.  It's fast-paced and action-packed with complex world-building, plenty of magic, and a great central female friendship.  I think you'll also like this novel if you're a fan of Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas and A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab.  I, for one, can't wait for the sequel, The Dragons of Nova - and I'll need to pick up Air Awakens as soon as possible.

About Elise: 


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 upcoming Loom Saga (Keymaster, 2017).

Website | Twitter | Instagram | Facebook | Tumblr | Goodreads

Giveaway Details: 

1 winner will receive a signed finished copy of THE ALCHEMISTS OF LOOM, International.

3 winner will receive THE ALCHEMISTS OF LOOM Swag Packs, International.



Tour Schedule: 

Week One: 
1/2/2017- Beyond the Book Reviews- Interview 
1/3/2017- Emily Reads Everything- Review 
1/4/2017- Once Upon A Twilight- Excerpt 
1/5/2017- NovelKnight- Review 
1/6/2017- Two Chicks on Books- Interview 

Week Two: 
1/9/2017- Zach's YA Reviews- Review 
1/10/2017- A Gingerly Review- Excerpt 
1/11/2017- Always Me- Review 
1/12/2017- BookHounds YA- Interview 
1/13/2017- Lost in Ever After- Review