Stacking the Shelves: 1/15/22

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


Received for Review: 

The Orbit Goods

I received two very exciting ARCs since my last post – The City of Dusk by Tara Sim and Age of Ash by Daniel Abraham. I also received a finished copy of A Practical Guide to Conquering the World by K.J. Parker, which I totally forgot I requested until it showed up earlier this week! Many thanks to Orbit for all the exciting new books to read!

The Paradox Hotel by Rob Hart
You had me at locked room murder mystery + time travelers. I love the concept – thanks to Ballantine Books for the eARC.

Pennyblade by J.L. Worrad
The cover for this was so cool that I had to check it out. It’s about a mercenary exiled from her homeland which sounds like something I would be keen on, though I’m keeping my expectations reasonable due to mixed early reviews. Thanks to Titan Books for the eARC.

The Bloody Throne by S.C. Emmett
Hands down this is one of my favorite fantasy series right now and it’s HIGHLY underrated political fantasy. Ecstatic to have my hands on an eARC from Orbit!

Our Lady of Mysterious Ailments by T.L. Huchu
The first book in this series was a surprise favorite in 2021 and I’m looking forward to returning to this strange world. Thanks to Tor Books for the eARC.

Daughter of Redwinter by Ed McDonald
This is one of my most anticipated fantasy releases coming up. I already know Ed McDonald is a fantastic writer and I think this new world is going to be excellent. Thanks to Tor Book for the eARC!

Friend of the Devil by Stephen Lloyd
Boarding school murder mystery settings always suck me in! This is another one where early reviews are mixed, so I’m tempering my expectations a bit but it’s also a very short book. Thanks to GP Putnam for the eARC.

My Purchases:

I had a sudden fascination with learning about making cocktails after Christmas (thanks Youtube rabbit hole) and picked up a couple books that were highly recommended. Not sure I’ll actually make anything, but Cocktail Codex and Smuggler’s Cove are both really lovely books!

I’d also like to give a shout-out to Nerdy Ink if you’re looking for lovely new covers for some of your books! I really hated having mismatched covers for the ACOTAR series, so I bought these and the quality is gorgeous! They are periodically adding new series and I’m thinking about getting the Red Rising set next.

Goodness! I have been rolling through audiobooks so quickly in the last month or so! I’ve picked up Firesky, A Swift and Savage Tide, Kingdom of the Wicked, Kingdom of the Cursed and Nolyn. I’m not even getting into ebooks that I’ve bought… I have too many books on my TBR!

Daughter of the Moon Goddess by Sue Lynn Tan – Review

Published: January 11, 2022

Publisher: Harper Voyager

Series: The Celestial Kingdom Duology #1

Genre: Fantasy

Pages: 512 (Hardcover)

My Rating: 4.5/5.0 

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

Synopsis:
A captivating debut fantasy inspired by the legend of Chang’e, the Chinese moon goddess, in which a young woman’s quest to free her mother pits her against the most powerful immortal in the realm.

Growing up on the moon, Xingyin is accustomed to solitude, unaware that she is being hidden from the feared Celestial Emperor who exiled her mother for stealing his elixir of immortality. But when Xingyin’s magic flares and her existence is discovered, she is forced to flee her home, leaving her mother behind.

Alone, powerless, and afraid, she makes her way to the Celestial Kingdom, a land of wonder and secrets. Disguising her identity, she seizes an opportunity to learn alongside the emperor’s son, mastering archery and magic, even as passion flames between her and the prince.

To save her mother, Xingyin embarks on a perilous quest, confronting legendary creatures and vicious enemies across the earth and skies. But when treachery looms and forbidden magic threatens the kingdom, she must challenge the ruthless Celestial Emperor for her dream—striking a dangerous bargain in which she is torn between losing all she loves or plunging the realm into chaos.

Daughter of the Moon Goddess begins an enchanting, romantic duology which weaves ancient Chinese mythology into a sweeping adventure of immortals and magic—where love vies with honor, dreams are fraught with betrayal, and hope emerges triumphant.


While I may have picked this up purely for shallow reasons (just look at that cover!), I stayed for the amazing story told within. Daughter of the Moon Goddess is the perfect blend of action, romance, and gloriously magical mythology, plus you’ve got a totally awesome strong female lead! Kudos to Sue Lynn Tan for such a beautifully executed debut novel!

Daughter of the Moon Goddess is a re-telling of the story of Chang’e, the Moon Goddess. The story seems to follow the basic myth where ten suns are scorching the Earth until the archer Houyi shoots nine of them from the sky. In the original tale, he’s rewarded with an immortality elixir, but Chang’e takes the elixir instead to prevent it’s theft and she becomes the Moon Goddess. In this tale, Chang’e takes the elixir because she fears she and her unborn child will die while she’s in labour and is banished to the moon by the Celestial Emperor. Unknown to the the other immortals, Chang’e has a daughter named Xingyin who she has been raising in her palace on the moon. When the Celestial Empress shows up unannounced she becomes suspicious and Xingyin flees the moon, only to wind up in the Celestial court where she then becomes companion to the Prince. She spends many years training and learning with her unlikely friend all the while keeping her heritage secret, but also yearning to earn the Emperor’s favor so that she might free her mother. 

The story takes place over a surprisingly long amount of time, though much of it is fast-forwarded through since it’s repetitive training and learning. It does spend a good deal of time establishing Xingyin and Prince Liwei’s friendship and then their blossoming romantic interest in one another, which of course is promptly nipped when Liwei is engaged to a Princess of the Phoenix kingdom. Xingyin determines to make her own path from here by joining the military alongside the famed Captain Wenzhi as a special archer attache. She makes quite a name for herself slaying monsters and helping to keep the peace in other kingdoms and she eventually begins to fall for Wenzhi, though she still cannot forget her feelings for Liwei. It’s actually a rather well done love triangle despite the fact I usually find them nothing but frustrating! There are some nice twists along this hero’s journey and I enjoyed the pacing. I find that the years passing, coupled with the setting, and writing style made for an overall ethereal feel and then WHAM that last quarter of the book was action packed and bittersweet!

I’m pleasantly surprised to find that I loved this as much as I hoped I would, plus with such a beautiful cover I think I’ll pick up a hardcover to add to my bookshelves! Anymore, I only do this with my favorite books because quite frankly, I’m running out of space and have to keep donating books I didn’t love as much as others. Daughter of the Moon Goddess is a book that will easily appeal to both adult and young adult fantasy readers and would be a great bridge for those who are wanting to delve more into adult fantasy titles. This is perfect for fans of mythology or fairytale retellings, those who want to delve into more Chinese inspired fantasy, or even just someone looking for a strong female lead with a great character arc!

Can’t Wait Wednesday: The Drowned Woods by Emily Lloyd-Jones

Can’t-Wait Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Wishful Endings to share upcoming book releases that we’re excited about! This meme is based on Waiting on Wednesday, which was created and hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine.

Basically I am a sucker for nice covers and I really dig trees, so this is a win-win. Also, the synopsis mentions a corgi that might be a spy, so that’s also a tremendous selling point for me. I’ve had the Bone Houses (also set in this world, but a standalone) on my shelf for at least a year now so I think it’s probably high time I check out that book too! The Drowned Woods is expected to release on August 16, 2022.

Currently Reading: 1/10/22

 A Practical Guide to Conquering the World by K.J. Parker
The third and final book in the Siege trilogy and it’s already proving to be fascinating. This series has a unique brand of humor that I’ve found I really enjoy!

Nolyn by Michael J. Sullivan
It’s finally time to pick up the first book in Sullivan’s latest book series. I haven’t found time to squeeze in the hard copy I bought amongst all the other books I’ve been reading, but this was an Audible deal a few days ago so I picked it up in that format as well. I love Tim Gerard Reynold’s narration!

Firesky by Mark de Jager – Review

Published: December 7, 2021

Publisher: Solaris

Series: The Chronicles of Stratus #2

Genre: Fantasy

Pages: 536 (Paperback)

My Rating: 4.0/5.0

Synopsis:
Relentless. Unstoppable. Dragon.

Desire burns in Stratus’ soul, powerful like an inferno. With his memory returning, he finally knows who—and what—he is. His is a dragon, brought low by the hand of a dark magician known as the Worm King, separated from his true love, tortured for centuries and now trapped inside the body of a human.

But with the memories of his old life comes a return of his true magic, and with it, his true form is slowly returning.

And Stratus wants revenge. Bloody and relentless, he slaughters his way through hordes of the undead to reach his archenemy, fighting not only for his own justice but for the whole of humanity… 


Everyone needs more books about dragons in their life. Firesky manages to be even more interesting than your usual dragon book by featuring a dragon who is trapped in a man’s body. He transformed himself to escape a terrible captivity where he was brutalized by magical and physical means at the hands of a wizard who calls himself the Worm Lord. Sounds pretty cool, right?

The story picks up directly after the events of Infernal, meaning Stratus is still a wanted man and his friend Tatiana has now disappeared on a mission of her own. Stratus makes a promise to the court mage to help him bring down the Worm Lord basically so he can get out of the city to find Tatiana by using their magical bond.  Thus begins the harrowing journey to find and kill the Worm Lord. It reminded me of a series of dungeons (probably because there were literal dungeons) that must be completed to get to the final boss and it was pretty interesting. 

The plot is fairly straightforward – Stratus needs to rescue Tatiana, kill the Worm Lord, and find his lady love since he’s beginning to suspect she never died all those centuries ago. It’s an adventure story but definitely on the darker side of things. Lots of necromancy, mind controlling brain worms (*barf*), and bloody vengeance. The plot actually carried on much further than I initially thought it would, what with the bad guy not being the ultimate bad guy and all that. 

I enjoyed it and thought it was a solid, satisfying conclusion to the duology. I’m also a big fan of the narrator – Obioma Ugoala did a fantastic job bringing Stratus’s draconic voice to life! While I’m a little sad to be leaving this world behind, I’m equally looking forward to what Mark de Jager writes next!

Can’t Wait Wednesday – Babel: Or the Necessity of Violence: An Arcane History of The Oxford Translators’ Revolution by R.F. Kuang

Can’t-Wait Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Wishful Endings to share upcoming book releases that we’re excited about! This meme is based on Waiting on Wednesday, which was created and hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine.

First off, I’ve decided to change over to the Can’t Wait Wednesday weekly meme from Waiting on Wednesday! The first Wednesday of the new year seemed like an excellent time to make that change. 

Now on the the important stuff – Babel finally has a cover and I can feature it!! The cover itself perfectly fits the dark academia theme that has me (and seemingly everyone else) thoroughly hyped for the release. Can’t wait to see where R.F. Kuang takes us with this latest work. Babel will be released August 2022.

Powder & Page’s Best Books of 2021

I’ve enjoyed looking through everyone else’s Best Of lists and decided I’d do my own version this year! The books below are listed in the order I read them and are primarily books I’ve rated 5 stars throughout the year, with a small handful of my favorite 4.5 star reads thrown in to round out the number. If you’d like to check out my full reviews, they’re all linked below!

 

The Frozen Crown by Greta Kelly
Political intrigue, witches and wizards, totally unputdownable!

The Councillor by E.J. Beaton
Epic amounts of political intrigue, murder mystery, amazing main and secondary characters

Odin’s Child by Siri Pettersen
Inspired by Norse mythology, translated from Norwegian, incredible world-building, subverted my expectations

Black Sun by Rebecca Roanhorse
Inspired by the civilizations of Pre-Columbian Americas, brutal first chapter, really cool magic

The Shadow of the Gods by John Gwynne
Viking inspired fantasy, bad-ass characters, surprisingly heartwarming found families trope

Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir
First contact with aliens, surprisingly heartwarming, humorous, must save humanity!

The Library of the Dead by T.L. Huchu
A girl who can speak to the dead, an occult library, vibrant characters, and disturbing Lovecraftian monsters

The Blacktongue Thief by Christopher Buehlman
Snarky, memorable main character, excellent audio narration, horrific goblins, and an uncanny blind cat

The Last Graduate by Naomi Novik
Satisfies those  dark academia cravings, awkward romance, epic heroism, and the threat of the graduation gauntlet full of terrifying monsters

The Empire’s Ruin by Brian Staveley
Epic scenery, scary beasties, bad-ass characters, builds super well on the previous books set in the same world

 

Angel Killer by Andrew Mayne
Edge of your seat thriller, awesome introduction to Jessica Blackwood, borders on the supernatural

The Forever King by Ben Galley
Seriously deep lore, ultra cool magic (the mages have magical books inked onto their skin!), classic epic fantasy themes, tons of cool magical races

The Bone Ship’s Wake by RJ Barker
Incredible series finale, emotional gut punch ending, and sea dragons

A Spindle Splintered by Alix E. Harrow
Fun spin on the Sleeping Beauty story, incredible friendship, and girls refusing to accept ‘fate’ without a fight

Empire of the Vampire by Jay Kristoff
The moody, goth vampire tome I’ve been waiting my whole life for, solid world-building, such dramatic characters

The Liar’s Knot by M.A. Carrick
Secret societies, vigilante heroes, TWO awesome magic systems, and the fashion is to die for. Also, PEABODY.

The Man Who Died Twice by Richard Osman
Compelling mystery that feels lighthearted despite the murder, elderly folks solving murders, surprisingly humorous, excellent audiobook narration

All of Us Villains by Amanda Foody
Extra dark riff on the magical tournament trope, grimdark for young adults, explores what people will do in order to survive, so much drama!

Year of the Reaper by Makiia Lucier
Incredible standalone low fantasy book, jaw-dropping plot twists, one of the best YA books I’ve ever read

Engines of Empire by R.S. Ford
January 2022 release, fantastic world building, semi-industrialized world, political intrigue. Full review coming soon!

Waiting on Wednesday: The First Binding by R.R. Virdi

“Waiting On Wednesday” is a weekly meme originally hosted on Breaking the Spine but has since linked up with “Can’t Wait Wednesday” at Wishful Endings now that the original creator is unable to host it anymore. This is a great way to share upcoming releases you’re excited about!

I’m not gonna lie, the synopsis for The First Binding gives me serious The Name of the Wind vibes and that’s precisely why I added it to my TBR. It’s also one heck of a tome, coming in at 864 pages, so I’m expecting more than enough worldbuilding and adventure! This is expected to release August 16, 2022.

The Bargainer Series by Laura Thalassa – Review

Overall Series Rating: 4.0/5.0

Synopses:

Rhapsodic by Laura Thalassa

A Strange Hymn by Laura Thalassa

Dark Harmony by Laura Thalassa


I don’t often review whole series in one fell swoop, but I binge read this and honestly I’m not sure I could tell you exactly what happened in each book! I’ve been craving pure, fun escapism fantasy lately and that seems to mostly be taking the form of fantasy romances. Some have been really awful, some have been just plain absurd (couldn’t even bring myself to review one series!), and some like this one have actually been pretty good.

This is the story of Callypso Lillis (what a name) and a dark Fae king called the Bargainer. He deals in favors and for each favor you ask he gives you a tattoo (or in Callie’s case, a bead on a bracelet). As with all bargains, he can collect on the debt at any time, for any reason, and basically ask anything which is quite a daunting piece of knowledge. Callie first called The Bargainer in to dispose of her father’s body and clean up the crime scene because she murdered the bastard after years of sexual abuse. Eventually the Bargainer, aka Desmond Flynn, calls in his owed favors and asks Callie to help him solve a series of disappearances in the Fae realm. Over the course of the investigation they fall madly in love with one another, but all cannot remain sunshine and roses because a big baddie called the Thief of Souls is still kidnapping Fae and returning the women impregnated and in a coma. The plot over the course of the three books focuses on tracking down the Thief of Souls, keeping Callie out of his clutches because he desperately wants her, and lots of spicy scenes with Callie and Des. And some backstory from the time Callie and Des first met to how they were initially separated.

The whole story was  such fun that I binge read all three books in about a week. And it only took that long because I was trying to shuffle in a review book in between all that. Is it going to win any literary prizes? Nah, probably not but I was surprised to find that the characterization and the plot were a lot more solid than I expected. These characters have history, motivations aside from animal lust, and even some solid friendships for good measure. My biggest problem with this book is that Callie and Des began seeing each other when she was only 15, BUT it did remain platonic on Des’s part. NONETHELESS, the author really could have set this up with Callie being a college student with almost no change to the plot whatsoever and it would have been infinitely less perturbing. Like, WHY must authors do stuff like this? The book is most definitely not young adult and is not specifically geared toward teens, so the age change would have made sense in that respect as well.

Overall, despite some apparent flaws this was a good, wickedly fun series with plenty of spicy moments. If you don’t like fantasy romance this will clearly not work for you, so stay far away. On the other end of the spectrum, if you’re craving another book that will fill the Feyre + Rhysand shaped hole in your soul, you should most definitely check this out. I loved it and might even read it again at some point. It’s also on Kindle Unlimited, so you can check it out for free if you subscribe to that service.

Currently Reading: 12/27/21

The Justice of Kings by Richard Swan
I really just can’t wait any longer to read this and I’m trying to embrace mood reading since I tend to zoom through books when I do that. So, even though it means I’ll be picking this up nearly two months before its release date I think it will help my productivity overall! I can’t resist a good fantasy/mystery hybrid and the early reviews are so good!

I’m also doing a verrrrry slow re-read of The Eye of the World after having watched The Wheel of Time show. I remember it being much more interesting the first time I read it like 7 years ago.