Farewell to August, Random Life Updates™, ETC. (ノ^∇^)ノ゚

Well would you look at that! I read more books than I expected, even if most of them aren’t from my TBR…. *looks around shiftily* With the end of August I’ll once again pretend we have fall here, even if all the weather does until the end of the year is alternate between raining cats and dogs to scorching summer heat.

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Review | Every Falling Star by Sungju Lee and Susan McClelland

every falling starEvery Falling Star by Sungju Lee and Susan McClelland
Published September 13, 2016 by Amulet Books, 336 pp.
Copy provided by publisher and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Summary:

Every Falling Star, the first book to portray contemporary North Korea to a young audience, is the intense memoir of a North Korean boy named Sungju who is forced at age twelve to live on the streets and fend for himself. To survive, Sungju creates a gang and lives by thieving, fighting, begging, and stealing rides on cargo trains. Sungju richly re-creates his scabrous story, depicting what it was like for a boy alone to create a new family with his gang, his “brothers”; to be hungry and to fear arrest, imprisonment, and even execution. This riveting memoir allows young readers to learn about other cultures where freedoms they take for granted do not exist.


Honestly, other memoirs or accounts of people who have escaped North Korea read very academically. They describe the gulags, the bleakness of the places perfectly, but it all seems clinical. There is nothing wrong with this, and this does not diminish their ordeal in any way, just that for me as a reader, I tend to feel detached, and it’s like I see theories and numbers rather than people.

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Review | Magic Bitter, Magic Sweet by Charlie N. Holmberg

magic bitter magic sweetMagic Bitter, Magic Sweet by Charlie N. Holmberg
Published June 28, 2016 by 47North, 306 pp.
Copy provided by NetGalley and publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Summary:

Maire is a baker with an extraordinary gift: she can infuse her treats with emotions and abilities, which are then passed on to those who eat them. She doesn’t know why she can do this and remembers nothing of who she is or where she came from.

When marauders raid her town, Maire is captured and sold to the eccentric Allemas, who enslaves her and demands that she produce sinister confections, including a witch’s gingerbread cottage, a living cookie boy, and size-altering cakes.

During her captivity, Maire is visited by Fyel, a ghostly being who is reluctant to reveal his connection to her. The more often they meet, the more her memories return, and she begins to piece together who and what she really is—as well as past mistakes that yield cosmic consequences.

From the author of The Paper Magician series comes a haunting and otherworldly tale of folly and consequence, forgiveness and redemption.


If someone asks me what fantasy is, I’d probably show them this book. Granted, it might not be the best fantasy book, but as something that encompasses the general definition* of the genre, Magic Bitter, Magic Sweet I think fits the bill perfectly. It’s got magic (you don’t say), otherworldly creatures, and phenomenal baked goods. Yup.

sparkly muffins

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First Lines Fridays: 5 August 2016

How has your week been everyone? 😀 I have the flu and I can’t taste anything but it’s all cool!

First Lines Fridays is a weekly feature for book lovers hosted by Wandering Words. What if instead of judging a book by its cover, its author or its prestige, we judged it by its opening lines?

  • Pick a book off your shelf (it could be your current read or on your TBR) and open to the first page
  • Copy the first few lines, but don’t give anything else about the book away just yet – you need to hook the reader first
  • Finally… reveal the book!

 

If ever, this will be my first magical realism book! It has LGBTQ themes as well, so I’m quite excited to read this one.

As far as he knew, she had come from the water. But even about that, he couldn’t be sure.
It didn’t matter how many nights they’d met on the untilled land between their houses; the last farm didn’t rotate its crops, and stripped the soil until nothing but wild grasses would grow.

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Review | Girl in the Shadows by Gwenda Bond

girl in the shadowsGirl in the Shadows by Gwenda Bond (Girl on a Wire #2)
Published July 5, 2016 by Skyscape, 382 pp.
Copy provided by publisher and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Summary:

Eighteen-year-old Moira Mitchell grew up in the shadows of Vegas’s stage lights while her father’s career as a magician soared. More than anything, Moira wants to be a magician too, but her father is dead set against her pursuing magic.

When an invitation to join the Cirque American mistakenly falls into Moira’s possession, she takes action. Instead of giving the highly coveted invitation to its intended recipient, Raleigh, her father’s handsome and worldly former apprentice, Moira takes off to join the Cirque. If she can perform alongside its world-famous acts, she knows she’ll be able to convince her dad that magic is her future.

But when Moira arrives, things take on an intensity she can’t control as her stage magic suddenly feels like…real magic. To further distract her, Raleigh shows up none too pleased at Moira’s presence, all while the Cirque’s cocky and intriguing knife thrower, Dez, seems to have it out for her. As tensions mount and Moira’s abilities come into question, she must decide what’s real and what’s an illusion. If she doesn’t sort it out in time, she may forever remain a girl in the shadows.


Agh I hate when the concept is great but the execution falls just short of making it so, and I think Girl in the Shadows is one example of that. Magic and the circus? Yaaas sign me up! But I felt like it never really came off the pages. The circus world is there when convenient, but not really explored, Moira and Dez as characters are flat and their romance didn’t make sense to me, and the only interesting characters didn’t get enough screentime.

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Review | Unseen Messages by Pepper Winters

unseen messagesUnseen Messages by Pepper Winters
Published March 30, 2016, 591 pp.
Copy provided by publisher and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Summary:

“Instincts are what keep us safe from fate. Ignoring them can change your life forever.”

Fame and fortune arrived overnight and after months on the road with her singing tour, all Estelle craves is peace. Tired and ready for paradise, she travels to Fiji to recuperate.

Stubborn and surly, Galloway is avoided by most–which is exactly the way he likes it. However, he’s done spending his life in regret and hopes to find redemption in the tropical wilderness.

Together, they board the flight that changes their fate forever. Crash landing on a deserted island, they not only have to figure out how to survive with no skills and daily dangers–learning how to fish, find water, and build shelter–but also inherit two children who look to them to keep them alive.

However, staying alive might be the least of Galloway and Estelle’s problems. As days creep to months and rescue doesn’t find them, their desire for each other ignites.

They started as strangers.
They grew to be friends.
They fought the desire to be lovers.

Lust can be the most beautiful thing. Love the most rewarding. But not on an island where life hangs by a thread and giving into temptation can kill you.

Can they survive being forgotten or will love be their ultimate undoing?


First thoughts after finishing this: man this was depressing. I mean, Galloway and Estelle got out alive, but after what everyone went through… I don’t think I can celebrate. Also, I don’t think I can celebrate because I couldn’t exactly get behind Galloway and Estelle’s romance, which makes me feel selfish. Don’t get me wrong, they deserve it after all they’d been through on that island, but the romance didn’t feel real.

This is also a pretty long read, just a bit shy of 600 pages and I regularly read books around the same page count – it’s just that the first 45% of this dragged. Like I struggled to get through that for almost a week. Once you do get past that though, you can finish it within the day.

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Review | The Neverland Wars by Audrey Greathouse

the neverland warsThe Neverland Wars by Audrey Greathouse
Published May 9, 2016 by Clean Teen Publishing, 302 pp.
Copy provided by Clean Teen Publishing and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Summary:

Magic can do a lot—give you flight, show you mermaids, help you taste the stars, and… solve the budget crisis? That’s what the grown-ups will do with it if they ever make it to Neverland to steal its magic and bring their children home.

However, Gwen doesn’t know this. She’s just a sixteen-year-old girl with a place on the debate team and a powerful crush on Jay, the soon-to-be homecoming king. She doesn’t know her little sister could actually run away with Peter Pan, or that she might have to chase after her to bring her home safe. Gwen will find out though—and when she does, she’ll discover she’s in the middle of a looming war between Neverland and reality.

She’ll be out of place as a teenager in Neverland, but she won’t be the only one. Peter Pan’s constant treks back to the mainland have slowly aged him into adolescence as well. Soon, Gwen will have to decide whether she’s going to join impish, playful Peter in his fight for eternal youth… or if she’s going to scramble back to reality in time for the homecoming dance.


 

Ahh that cover. If only I could love the book as much as I love that cover.

The Neverland Wars feels a bit incomplete – a lot of loose ends are left, and I still have so many questions, the foremost being: how in the world do “adults” transmute magic and funnel it into the “real world”? The last time I heard and read the word “transmute” was when I was a huge fan of Fullmetal Alchemist and suddenly it pops up here without a concrete explanation.

Also, I’m trying out a new-ish review format, so if you don’t feel like reading through this review, there’s a handy summary at the bottom! 😀 Skip to TL;DR, haha.

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May Wrap-Up

Hello everyone! May has ended and here where I am, the rainy season has set in. It’s still kind of hot, but at least I have rainy days to look forward to.

As usual, I set my TBR at a comfortable 7 books (including my requisite classic and uncharted genre ones, the latter of which I have yet to post, hah) – for the first time since January I somehow managed to complete the TBR!

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Reviews

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For May I managed to review 9 books, which is a pretty healthy mix of the start to a new series….

  • Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo – finally, a book where I can get behind the hype! Multiple POVs work so well with this one, and you get to know the characters and their motivations through it, not just view other relationships through another lens. Much wow, highly recommend.
  • The Falconer by Elizabeth May – if there is one word to describe this book, it would be mash-up. So many genres in one book, but at least it’s interesting! The fae lore could be explored a bit more, but I think that’ll be tackled in the next book.
  • The Midnight Sea by Kat Ross – part-historical fiction, part-fantasy, this is one of my pleasant surprises for the month. This is based on Western Asian history, definitely not a setting you see often! Or at least, I don’t see often.

standalones…

  • The Shadow Queen by C.J. Redwine – a Snow White retelling; this was just okay, but I find the universe it’s set in interesting, so I’d probably read the next one. This is the first of a series of standalone books set in the same universe.
  • The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi – an anticipated 2016 read! But it didn’t quite meet my expectations, just somehow touched them? Beautiful writing and awesome world-building, but plot was a bit lacking for me. This is another standalone in a series of books set in the same universe, and because the world-building is A+ I’m looking forward to the next one.
  • Dreamology by Lucy Keating – another sort-of foray into contemporary YA, but still with a mix of fantasy. Not my favorite, because the actions of some of the characters don’t sit well with me, but if you’re looking for a light, fluffy, dreams-come-true kind of read, and can look past what the characters did so they can be together, this one will do it, I think!

and a sequel!

  • Heir of Fire by Sarah J. Maas – well, Rowan certainly doesn’t make a good first impression, but at least he got his act together when Aelin really needed it. Finally almost caught up with this series, just the Queen of Shadows to go!

I also read We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson, whose Merricat is one of my favorite narrators ever, and a DRC, A Thousand Salt Kisses by Josie Demuth.

Digital Review Copies

 

I trawled through NetGalley for books I could add to my TBR (and maybe request too), and I ended up getting approved for The Neverland Wars by Audrey Greathouse (A+ cover), and Unseen Messages by Pepper Winters. The former is a Peter Pan retelling, and the latter is a survival-type of contemporary romance. Excited to start reading these!

Upcoming

I have a book tag to fulfill (the Alphabet Book Tag), and I’ve yet to post my Uncharted Genre for May, so I’ll get right to that! I was actually a bit thrown off my mojo during May, because for one, our internet and landline conked out at the end of April and only got fixed around the 3rd week of May. At least it’s fixed now!

A Thousand Salt Kisses by Josie Demuth

a thousand salt kissesA Thousand Salt Kisses by Josie Demuth
Published April 29, 2016 by Wise Ink Creative Publishing, 443 pp.
Copy provided by Wise Ink and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Summary:

Seventeen-year-old Crystal White is the new girl on Starfish Island. Dragged to the remote community by her environmental activist father, she is eager to find fun that doesn’t involve touching fish guts or listening to local folklore.

During a midnight swim with some new friends, Crystal is pulled out to sea by the waves. Convinced she’s going to drown, Crystal is rescued by Llyr, a handsome stranger. As she searches for him in the following weeks, she finds there may be more truth to the Starfish legends than she thought.

Over a sizzling roller-coaster summer, Llyr introduces Crystal to magic she’d only ever dreamed of. But as Crystal comes to love Starfish Island, it begins to drive her family apart. A nearby power plant is devastating local marine life, and her parents are stuck in the middle. As the magic and mundane parts of Crystal’s life converge, she finds herself risking everything to save Llyr, her family, and herself.

How goes it?

I’m— I don’t know what to say. Where to start? That the heroine is one-dimensional, as are the rest of the characters? That the parents don’t act older than teenagers? That this book somehow managed to take mer-people and make them uninteresting? This is also another book that has transitioned from Wattpad to print, before I say anything else.

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