Defy the Stars by Claudia Gray – Review

cover-defy-the-stars

Published: April 4, 2017

Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

Genre: Young Adult, Science Fiction

Pages: 512 (Hardcover)

My Rating: 4.5/5.0

A copy of this book was received from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Synopsis:

Noemi Vidal is a teen soldier from the planet Genesis, once a colony of Earth that’s now at war for its independence. The humans of Genesis have fought Earth’s robotic “mech” armies for decades with no end in sight.

After a surprise attack, Noemi finds herself stranded in space on an abandoned ship where she meets Abel, the most sophisticated mech prototype ever made. One who should be her enemy. But Abel’s programming forces him to obey Noemi as his commander, which means he has to help her save Genesis–even though her plan to win the war will kill him.

Together they embark on a daring voyage through the galaxy. Before long, Noemi begins to realize Abel may be more than a machine, and, for his part, Abel’s devotion to Noemi is no longer just a matter of programming.


I was initially skeptical about a YA book with a human/AI plot mostly because I thought it would just be a trendy romance thing. I was SO wrong about that! I was pretty much swept off my feet by the characters and the story in Defy the Stars and couldn’t put it down.

Noemi is a young soldier in the decades long war between Genesis and Earth and she’s preparing for a suicide mission. Fortunately for her, this is disrupted by a surprise attack on Genesis’ ships during one of their last training maneuvers. In an attempt to save the life of her friend Esther, she boards an Earth ship that was damaged in a battle 30 years ago. Here she encounters Abel, an uncanny AI unit designed by the Earthen forerunner in cybernetics, Burton Mansfield. Abel can’t save her friend, but he does know the one weakness in the Gates that allow easy travel between distant worlds and Noemi is now his commander. Here begins their weeks-long journey between worlds to gather the equipment needed to destroy the Gate and hopefully stop the hostilities between Earth and Genesis.

I absolutely loved Noemi and Abel. Abel’s growing humanity and his coding are in an epic struggle and it’s really quite touching. Noemi struggles with so many things, from her feelings toward Abel (does he have a soul?), her duty, and her religion. It was refreshing to see Christianity portrayed positively and have a character that had a very believable internal debate within herself. I thought it was also really fantastic that all the worlds that were mentioned actually got page-time! Admittedly, the cultures weren’t terribly detailed but we got the gist and besides, there are plenty of opportunities in the sequels additional worldbuilding. The secondary characters, particularly Virginia, were pleasant additions to the cast and I can’t wait to see what (if any) roles they’ll play in the sequel.

Defy the Stars was such a pleasantly awesome book. It just made me feel good and when I got to the end I was pretty happy. Of course it’s got the classic “save the world” trope, but it doesn’t feel so heavy and dour as it sometimes can, though Defy the Stars retains the seriousness. Overall, I’d highly recommend this one, especially if you’re curious about YA science fiction.

Waiting on Wednesday: Oathbringer by Brandon Sanderson

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine where bloggers feature a book that we just can’t wait to get our hands on!


Cover- Oathbringer

I feel as I’ve been waiting forever for Oathbringer to be published (okay, 3 years) and I am SO excited for it! Right now it looks like it will clock in at over 1200 pages and I’m guessing every bit of it is going to be glorious. I haven’t review The Way of Kings or Words of Radiance on here because I read them long before I started blogging, but I loved both of them. The Way of Kings may have been one of my first forays into adult fantasy, but it’s been so long that I can’t remember. I like the cover art and it makes me even more curious about the contents of Oathbringer, though I can’t say this is my favorite style to see on books. Needless to say, I can’t wait for November 14, 2017.

The Immortals by Jordanna Max Brodsky – Review

Cover- The Immortals

Published: February 16, 2016

Publisher: Orbit

Genre: Urban Fantasy, Mythology

Pages: 447 (Hardcover)

My Rating: 3.5/5.0

Synopsis:

MANHATTAN HAS MANY SECRETS.
SOME ARE OLDER THAN THE CITY ITSELF.

Manhattan.
The city sleeps. Selene DiSilva walks her dog along the banks of the Hudson. She is alone-just the way she likes it. She doesn’t believe in friends, and she doesn’t speak to her family. Most of them are simply too dangerous.

Murders.
In the predawn calm, Selene finds the body of a young woman washed ashore, gruesomely mutilated and wreathed in laurel. Her ancient rage returns. And so does the memory of a promise she made long ago. To protect the innocent-and to punish those who stand in her way.

Gods.
With the NYPD out of its depth, Selene vows to hunt the killer on her own. But when classics professor Theo Schultz decodes the ancient myth behind the crime, the solitary Huntress finds herself working with a man who’s her opposite in every way. Together, they face a long-forgotten cult that lies behind a string of murders, and they’ll need help from the one source Selene distrusts most of all: the city’s other Immortals.


The Immortals is another book that I would have liked to read upon its release, and months later I am just now getting around to it and only then because I have it on audio. A good fantasy steeped in mythology is always fun and this was no different.

Selene DiSilva (aka Artemis) is currently dwelling in New York City where she serves as a vigilante private investigator/enforcer for any women that come to her begging aid. In the aftermath of a domestic incident, Selene misses the call of a woman in distress and only finds out about the ritualistic murder hours after it occurred. The victim was a woman from the history department at New York University, and Selene’s investigation brings her into contact with Theo, one of the professors at NYU. As the investigation progresses, it becomes clear that the murders are an attempt at reviving the Eleusinian mystery cult. With the Greek pantheon in serious decline and a key piece of security footage, it becomes clear that an immortal is involved, though which one is it?

This was an entertaining read, though I’m unlikely to continue on with the series just because I thought it worked well by itself. The characters were pretty well written, though clearly Theo wasn’t memorable enough because I had to go look up his name. Selene played cool, but she was pretty much a rage machine on the inside plus she was tightly wound- She probably should have had a sip of Dionysus’s special brew. I’m writing this review a few weeks after finishing the book, so any strong opinions have faded with the time.

Stacking the Shelves: 4/1/17

Stacking The Shelves is a weekly meme hosted by Tynga’s Reviews and it’s all about sharing the books you are adding to your shelves, may it be physical or virtual. You can include books you buy in physical store or online, books you borrow from friends or the library, review books, gifts and of course ebooks!


Received for Review:

Roadfood by Jane and Michael Stern

I’ve probably never mentioned this before, but I LOVE food and I think roadtrips are pretty awesome too, so when I had the chance to snag a copy of RoadFood I jumped on it. This book covers 500+ excellent eateries in the United States and gives  a nice rundown of why a restaurant made the list. Thanks to the publisher and Blogging for Books.

The Falconer by Elizabeth May

A story about a girl that kills faeries is right up my alley and I’ve been meaning to catch up on this series anyway. Thanks to Chronicle Books & NetGalley.

Wicked Like A Wildfire by Lana Popovic

In an act of serious oversight, I forgot that Edelweiss was an awesome place to find eGalleys. I remedied that and managed to snag this pretty little book from Katherine Tegen Books.

Dividing Eden by Joelle Charbonneau

Another Edelweiss win. Dividing Eden has been on my list for a few months and it looks great! Thanks to HarperTeen for the eGalley.

Books Purchased:

Hunted by Meagan Spooner

I was pretty excited for this one and had it delivered on release day! This is a nice blend of Russian folklore and the classic Beauty and the Beast story. Expect to see a review in the next few weeks, as I’ve already devoured this story.

The Long Way to A Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers

I’m kind of glad I waited so long to check out this awesome space-roadtrip because the standalone sequel is already out! I only just finished this yesterday, but I should have a review forthcoming in the next few weeks for this one as well.

 

Red Sister by Mark Lawrence – Review

Cover- Red Sister

Published: April 4, 2017

Publisher: Ace

Genre: Fantasy

Pages: 432 (Hardcover)

My Rating: 4.5/5.0

A review copy was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Synopsis:

I was born for killing – the gods made me to ruin.

At the Convent of Sweet Mercy young girls are raised to be killers. In a few the old bloods show, gifting talents rarely seen since the tribes beached their ships on Abeth. Sweet Mercy hones its novices’ skills to deadly effect: it takes ten years to educate a Red Sister in the ways of blade and fist.

But even the mistresses of sword and shadow don’t truly understand what they have purchased when Nona Grey is brought to their halls as a bloodstained child of eight, falsely accused of murder: guilty of worse.

Stolen from the shadow of the noose, Nona is sought by powerful enemies, and for good reason. Despite the security and isolation of the convent her secret and violent past will find her out. Beneath a dying sun that shines upon a crumbling empire, Nona Grey must come to terms with her demons and learn to become a deadly assassin if she is to survive…


Red Sister, the first book in Lawrence’s Book of the Ancestor series, which is a brand new world and completely unrelated to the Broken Empire. That statement was for all you people that couldn’t get past Jorg Ancrath’s callous exterior to his broken interior and find out that he was only about 90% the bastard you thought he was. Rest assured, Nona Grey is much more likable than Jorg but just as much a killer, thus fulfilling all your grimdark needs.

This book had me at hello or rather those killer opening lines which, upon reading, should make anyone immediately run to purchase this book.

It is important, when killing a nun, to ensure that you bring an army of sufficient size. For Sister Thorn of the Sweet Mercy Convent Lano Tacsis brought two hundred men.

Seriously people. Battle-nuns. I didn’t know this was missing from my life until it was there. Nona Grey comes to the Convent of Sweet Mercy at a tender young age, having narrowly escaped the gallows for the attempted murder of the son of a wealthy and powerful man. At first glance you may think that going to a convent will tame Nona and turn her into a pious girl, but nothing could be further from the truth. You see, the Convent of Sweet Mercy trains girls who have the blood of the ancient tribes to be killers.

At the convent Nona meets many other girls around her own age and surprisingly makes a solid group of friends. I anticipated a rivalry between Nona and another girl, but was pleased to find that they end up being closer than any of the others. That was definitely a petty, mean-girl catfight that I didn’t want to deal with for an entire series and I breathed a sigh of relief when it didn’t happen. I greatly enjoyed all the characters, whether student, teacher, or enemy. Nona in particular was wonderful and as many reviewers before me have said, Red Sister was a classic coming-of-age story. Abess Glass is cunning and if she were in Game of Thrones, she would sit the Iron Throne or run the spy network. The Sisters who teach each class are ridiculously proficient and tough and the whole teaching system reminded me of that featured in Nevernight by Jay Kristoff.

Mark Lawrence also managed to squeeze some fascinating world building in between all that nun training. Abeth is a planet on the brink of death- the sun is dying and ice has encroached on much of the planet. Only the nightly heat from the focus moon (which I suspect is a type of satellite or space mirror) has kept the ice at bay from a narrow strip around the planet and even that can’t hold doom at bay forever. Abeth’s magic is fueled by the blood from the ancient tribes (gerant, hunska, marjal, and quantal) and enhanced when in proximity to the shiphearts. Most of the shiphearts are lost under the ice, but one resides below the Convent of Sweet Mercy, providing toasty warm water and easier access to the magical Path. Did I mention that there’s intrigue, prophecy, and some exciting subplots?

Overall, Red Sister was an excellent book and definitely one that will appeal to a broader audience than Mark’s previous two trilogies. This is one series I’ll have to have hardcover copies of, because they’re too good to not be gracing my shelves. If Red Sister sounds like your cup of tea, check it out on April 4, 2017!

Waiting on Wednesday: Godsgrave by Jay Kristoff

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine where bloggers feature a book that we just can’t wait to get our hands on!


Cover- Godsgrave

IT’S SO BEAUTIFUL. Plus the title is awesome and I just can’t wait to see how much trouble Mia and Mister Kindly get into. The synopsis for Godsgrave promises a gladiatorial combat theme, which I’m pretty fond of and I’m sure there will be a least a little bit of satisfying vengeance. Definitely going to try and get my grubby paws on an advanced copy so I don’t have to wait so long! If you haven’t read Nevernight you should, so you can dig into Godsgrave with the rest of us when it’s released on September 5, 2017.

Tigana by Guy Gavriel Kay – Review

cover-tigana

Published: 1990

Publisher: Roc

Genre: Fantasy

Pages: 676 (Paperback)

My Rating: 4.0/5.0

 

Synopsis:

Eight of the nine provinces of the Peninsula of the Palm, on a world with two moons, have fallen to the warrior sorcerers Brandin of Ygrath and Alberico of Barbadior.

Brandin’s younger son is slain in a battle with the principality of Tigana, which the grief-stricken sorcerer then destroys. After sweeping down and destroying the remnants of their army, burning their books and destroying their architecture and statuary, he makes it so that no one not born in that province can even hear its name.

Years later, a small band of survivors, led by Alessan, last prince of Tigana’s royal house, wages psychological warfare, planting seeds for the overthrow of the two tyrants. At the center of these activities are Devin, a gifted young singer; Catriana, a young woman pursued by suspicions of her family’s guilt; and Duke Sandre d’Astibar, a wily resistance leader thought dead.

Meanwhile, at Brandin’s court, Dianora, his favorite concubine and–unknown to anyone, another survivor of Tigana–struggles between her growing love for the often gentle tyrant and her desire for vengeance. Gradually the scene is set for both conquerors to destroy each other and free a land.


Of course Tigana was good, I mean, it was written by Guy Gavriel Kay so how could it not be? This is only the third book of Kay’s that I’ve had the privilege of reading, but I can say that it will not be my last, though another currently holds the title of favorite.

The setting of Tigana is predominately Mediterranean-like, bringing to mind Italy or Greece. The Palm is a single island, divided into 9 city-state regions, each having their own traditions and sub-cultures. Twenty years prior, two mages from different lands came and conquered eight of the nine provinces, with the ninth (Senzio) remaining somewhat neutral. The four western provinces are under the control of Brandin of Igrath and the four eastern provinces are under the control of Albarico of Barbadia. The two conquerors are enemies, however they are at a perpetual impasse, each refusing to antagonize the other to the point of war. As is typical of Kay’s books, these titans aren’t our main characters. The MC’s are a deposed prince and his rebellious Tiganese compatriots.

3 WEEKS LATER….

I’ve been putting of completing this review because honestly, I don’t have all that much to say about it. Tigana shows the expected layered complexity of Guy Gavriel Kay’s other books and plays on the idea that small choices and common people can make great impacts on the outcome of events. It’s magical (literally and figuratively) and is definitely worth the read. I like the audio versions of Kay’s books, particularly those narrated by Simon Vance because I feel less bogged down in the details that way. Of course I’d recommend this book, simply because it’s quality fantasy!

Currently Reading: 3/27/17

Cover- The Falconer

The Falconer by Elizabeth May

I got a copy of this from NetGalley a few days ago and I’m just super excited to read this one! This is the first book in trilogy which will be completed in June 2017, so if I like it I’ll binge read the next two books in the next few months. A mix of faeries, steampunk, and historical fiction makes The Falconer sound like a pretty awesome read.

I’ll be starting an as of yet undetermined audiobook this week also!!

Blood Rose Rebellion by Rosalyn Eves – Review

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Published: March 28, 2017

Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy

Pages: 416 (Hardcover)

My Rating: 3.5/5.0

Synopsis:

The thrilling first book in a YA fantasy trilogy for fans of Red Queen. In a world where social prestige derives from a trifecta of blood, money, and magic, one girl has the ability to break the spell that holds the social order in place.

Sixteen-year-old Anna Arden is barred from society by a defect of blood. Though her family is part of the Luminate, powerful users of magic, she is Barren, unable to perform the simplest spells. Anna would do anything to belong. But her fate takes another course when, after inadvertently breaking her sister’s debutante spell—an important chance for a highborn young woman to show her prowess with magic—Anna finds herself exiled to her family’s once powerful but now crumbling native Hungary.

Her life might well be over.

In Hungary, Anna discovers that nothing is quite as it seems. Not the people around her, from her aloof cousin Noémi to the fierce and handsome Romani Gábor. Not the society she’s known all her life, for discontent with the Luminate is sweeping the land. And not her lack of magic. Isolated from the only world she cares about, Anna still can’t seem to stop herself from breaking spells.

As rebellion spreads across the region, Anna’s unique ability becomes the catalyst everyone is seeking. In the company of nobles, revolutionaries, and Romanies, Anna must choose: deny her unique power and cling to the life she’s always wanted, or embrace her ability and change that world forever.


Blood Rose Rebellion is one of the more highly anticipated debuts for Spring 2017. In many respects, it holds characteristics that are common in YA fantasy, however, the setting and folklore make it stand out from the crowd. The story begins in London but several chapters in the setting changes to that of Hungary, which is a country that I’ve not seen pop up in any of the fantasy I’ve read. The folklore is similar to that found in stories like The Bear and the Nightingale, which was set in Russia- yet again something that hasn’t yet been overdone in fantasy literature.

Anna Arden is a member of a prominent Luminate family but lacks the magic that so defines every member of that social class. She can however destroy spells, which is no easy task and should be impossible for anyone that can’t seem to access the reservoir of magic employed by the Luminate. After a bit of a scandal, Anna is packed off to mainland Europe to accompany her aging grandmother back to her homeland of Hungary. In Hungary, she’s surprised to find a place of her own, though not necessarily a place her family would approve of. As in many YA books, there’s political dissent, a young heroine, and enough tragedy to make the story seem legitimate rather than another gilded fairy tale, and a difficult decision that will be pivotal for the entire social system.

Am I the only one that is getting a bit fed up with the constant repetition of themes across YA fantasy? I give Rosalyn Eves due credit for making her story somewhat unique among a herd of sameness, but changing the setting and giving the story an Eastern European influence can’t hide the fact that’s it’s really just more of the same. I did appreciate the fact that Anna didn’t suffer from the plague of insta-love and her romance was much more slow burning than I usually see. Anna and her acquaintances choices also had very real, serious repercussions that didn’t affect only themselves, but the entire society. People were killed, thrown into prison, and suffered other consequences for the choices made by themselves and others.

Blood Rose Rebellion certainly had its pros and cons, but was an enjoyable book and a strong debut. I suppose I’m feeling jaded with the YA genre and as a result may be over-critical about certain aspects, but all genres seem to go through fazes. Right now it’s the political dissent/unique culture faze, which is cool but everything begins to feel overused so quickly. I loved that this book had me googling pictures, terms, and historical events. I think it’s great that by reading fantasy I can also learn a little about a new topic! Overall, I would say that yes, Blood Rose Rebellion is definitely worth a read.