Sunday, December 10, 2017

Top Ten by Katie Cotugno

Top Ten
by Katie Cotugno
Publication Date: October 3rd 2017
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Find This Book: Top Ten
Rating: 5/5

An ARC of this book was provided to me by HarperCollins in exchange for an honest review.

So not even getting to the actual plot, I love how the story is told. It’s got a really cool nonlinear narrative and like the back of the book says- this narrative is compelling. I can’t imagine the novel being told in chronological order- it is perfect the way it is. That being said I can get how non-linear timelines are not for everyone. For those who want to read a creative experience pulled-off well- this book is for you! Instead of a start and an end, the reader gets taken through the 10 most important parts of Gabby and Ryan’s friendship. It starts with their senior year graduation and then goes back and skips around their high school career, their ups and downs, their best memories and their major fights.

The story is about the complicated relationship of Gabby and Ryan. Honestly, who hasn’t had that weird relationship where you don’t know how you became friends with the person? Gabby is a bisexual photographer (woot woot thanks for the rep) and additionally struggles with social anxiety (which I don’t have personal experience with but it seemed pretty realistic?). This book is not about discovering Gabby’s sexuality, or coming out to her family, or societal acceptance- she simply is bi which was nice to read about. Ryan on the other hand is a party-hard hockey player who the author does a great job of not stereotyping. He’s not a ‘dumb sports jock’ and his character is three-dimensional.
These characters are from two different worlds and their two beings somehow clicked and I feel like everyone has this bizarre experience at some point? Very relatable. The book is told from both POV’s so you really get a feel for both characters equally. How they met and continue their relationship made for quite the entertaining read (this book also got shelved with my tear-jerkers: books that made me emotional to the point where I almost cried). 

 This was the perfect stand alone book!

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

The City of Brass by S.A. Chakraborty

The City of Brass
by S.A. Chakraborty
Publication Date: November 14th 2017
Publisher: Harper Voyager
Find This Book: The City of Brass
Rating: 3.5/5

I was given an eARC of this book by HarperCollins.

The hype for this book was so real that I somehow managed to get through this even though I can’t normally focus on ebooks. I loved how much cultural information was packed into this book and all of the political details between the daeva tribes and their magic system. I didn’t find much of the ending predictable in the slightest which was really refreshing but honestly most of it is hard to talk about and discuss unless you’ve already read it!

I must say I only vaguely new about Djinn, Ifriti, Marid etc. from my Bartimaeus days (I love those books and I love Jonathan Stroud) and that being said it really felt like I was getting thrown in the deep end with the MC Nahri who was also being introduced to everything around her. A paperback/ hard copy is definitely the way to go with this book because there are a lot of mythological/cultural terms that were a pain in the ass to flip back to the glossary of the ebook every time, but I did feel like I learned a bit which is always something I enjoy when reading. There where plenty of terms I didn’t know and just went along with not really knowing and getting context clues to work things out which was weird, but something I can appreciate. So many books are written by white women about white women for white women and I think this book had an all non-white cast with a minor side plot of lgbt diversity. A breath of fresh air, honestly.

What could have added to the experience for me might have been doing something similar to the beginning of Forest of a Thousand Lanterns where the author gives readers the pronunciations of the character’s names. I do understand this is a bit of a double edged sword though. On one hand, it’s ridiculous that names like Julia and Margot aren’t expected to have pronunciations accompanied with them while names like Darayavahoush are, but at the same time as a reader I want to completely respect the character’s name and the culture behind the story by not butchering their name. It’s certainly an interesting debate to say the least and I would love to hear other opinions on the subject, but I suppose this is a bit of a tangent in regards to my purpose being to review the book!

Another quick side note, there's a bit more swearing (the f word) and a bit more sexual content than I was expecting from a YA book. Not anything explicit, just more than expected i.e. insinuating sexual rumors, calling character whores etc. though that again could be a result of a more conservative culture being the background of the novel. 

Like I said, the last 100-200 pages (again this was on ebook I read on my phone screen so real page numbers are a mystery) were a wild ride with a lot happening at once and a lot of the stuff happening at once was really unexpected. Everything felt like it was really wrapping up into a stand alone book and I was wondering where the story was going to go since I had heard this was to be a trilogy. It only made me realize that what I thought was the big picture wasn’t actually the big picture! I will definitely be reading the next book but the hype won’t be as intense for me as I don’t think my favorite character will be receiving a lot of screen time especially considering how book twos are primarily just less interesting set-ups for the end of a trilogy. However, I seem to be in for an amazing book three and I anxiously await a conclusion (and my fav character better be stellar in it or I will fight someone)!

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Merrett's Gift by Ian Mitchell-Gill

Merrett’s Gift
by Ian Mitchell-Gill
Publication Date: June 3rd 2016
Publisher: FriesenPress
Find This Book: Merrett’s Gift
Rating: 3.5/5

I was given a copy of this book in exchange for honest review.

I’m not going to lie, this book had a slow start. Why? Because the author tackled the challenging prospect of 6 (quickly down to 5) main characters and Merrett who I assumed was the main character wasn’t actually introduced until like page 80. The slowness comes with the prospect of lots of information getting flung at the reader from all sides about all topics. The POV floated from character to character. It was done in a super cool way format-wise, but this means it takes a lot longer to get attached to the characters since you are not getting to know and bonding strongly with any one character. It was a unique approach which I thought was really cool. Unfortunately, it meant that it took the first 150 pages or so for me to get really into the story. However, once I was into it I was *really* into it!

Imagine some super talented angsty teens with a wholesome mentor-mentee relationship attend a high-tech spy school. That’s this book. It was even more heart-warming finding out that this book was written chapter by chapter for the author’s own students and is now something they are sharing with a larger audience (aka me). I was a bit skeptical with some of the student behavior, as it’s extremely different from how my friends and I acted in middle school and high school, but I’m sure his students know better than I and of course there may be some behavioral differences as well being from different countries.

The most interesting part of the book was the 25-years-later epilogue. As there is a book two, I was pretty shocked! I’m genuinely intrigued as to what book two could possibly be about. There’s currently not a book description on Goodreads and I haven’t read the back cover yet, but I know I’m in for a plot-twist filled adventure! I’m hoping for a bit of improvement in the writing (while the plot was action packed and awesome, this story was a bit of tell-don’t-show) and I will be sure to update you all soon about my read of Book 2: Merrett’s Choice!

*Side note. Pretty sure Lydia is ace? But also it's hard to really get backstory and details about any one character when there are five MC's. My interpretation however is that Lydia is ace and I am I prepared to fight about it.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

BroodyBFF Challenge #9- Why I Love Reading Discussion

Today’s blog post is going to be a discussion. The topic is thanks to the #BroodyBFF’s Challenge #9- The Love of Reading!

I don’t think I have the knowledge about The Bookthat made me a reader, but I’ve loved reading for as long as I can remember. My childhood classics- Lyle the Crocodile, Horrible Harry, Magic Tree House- grew into a lifetime of reading- Animorphs, Percy Jackson and the Olympians, Harry Potter, The Inheritance Cycle.

My love of reading comes from a child-like sense of wonder and the desire for exploration. Reading give me thousands of lives and experiences. I don’t have to make the same mistakes humanity has already made, there is learning on top of the emotional connect and sense of community. Additionally, reading will take me to places I will never get to see and experience. Whether the setting is far away and expensive to travel to or is a fictional location, reading is like going on vacation.

People I will never meet, plots that will never happen, things too terrible and too good to be true, that all occurs in the books that I read- especially since my favorite genres are Sci-Fi/Fantasy. Is it an escape from reality? I’m not quite sure. I feel like if I am growing as a person through my reading, it is not quite the same as reality escaping but more of a way to further understand the reality around me. Reading makes it easier for me to imagine life from other perspectives which I think is an important skill. Could my YA perspectives be written a bit more diversely? Heck yeah, and I know that we are getting there. The YA community seems to be the most outspoken about stereotypes and wanting real diversity from the publishing business and I know I am going to watch a new generation of writers bloom.

I love reading now, and I love the direction I’m seeing the industry head in. I’m currently reading Warcross by Marie Lu and one of her anecdotes about her writing was how long it took her to write an Asian-American character. It was a scary thing, the possibility of being rejected as a writer simply because publishing houses will only have a handful of token POC books each season. Her struggle about not openly describing characters the way she pictured them struck me, and it is so powerful that her MC in Warcross Chinese-American and I hope all of the tremendous success this book is having till only propel the confidence of not only herself, but other authors to continue being true to themselves!

A toast to reading- may it never stagnate, and may the well of good literature never run dry.

You can check out my fellow #BroodyBFF responses on Twitter

Brooding YA Hero: Becoming a Main Character (Almost) as Awesome as Me 

The BroodyBFF's street team will run from May to November, so check back here at Love at First Write regularly for new challenges and updates, and follow me and @broodingyahero on Twitter to see the hashtags, visual challenges, and #BroodyChats! 

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Brooding YA Hero: Becoming a Main Character (Almost) as Awesome as Me by Carrie Ann DiRisio

Brooding YA Hero: Becoming a Main Character (Almost) as Awesome as Me
by Carrie Ann DiRisio
Publication Date: October 17th 2017
Publisher: Skypony Press
Rating: 5/5

I was given an ARC of this book for winning a Broody Street Team Challenge.

For all Young Adult Readers, this is the book for you! This book says all the things that go through your head when reading a YA book, no matter what sub-genre. It discusses tropes, clich├ęs, character types, genres, settings, and plots. Things we readers love to complain about and wish could change about the genre. As a reader or a prospective writer, this really is a book for everyone.

As someone who’s been following BroodingYAhero on twitter for a loooong time I was so excited to hear that Carrie was going to be writing a book from Broody’s POV. He never fails to make me laugh and this book met and went beyond my expectations.

Our hero, Broody McHottipants takes us through what it’s like to be a main character and how to be a main character an honestly it was so wholesome and inspiring. Normally after I read a good book, I go on Goodreads and like my favorite quotes- for this I would literally be liking the ENTIRE book it was a hilarious read.

Did I mention that this book is INTERACTIVE??? Not only is there plot about Broody writing a book about how to be a main character, and not only is there information delivered in an easy to learn way, but there are also fun quizzes. My entire workplace did a Madlibs from this book! I didn’t know that I could swoon over something other than our Brooding YA hero, but I did for this book. This book deserves all of the positive adjectives you can think of and shines brighter than Broody’s miraculous gemstone eyes (please don’t tell him I said that).

I know that I'll be reading this book again in the future, and that it will always be in the back of my head when the tropes I love to poke fun of inevitably recur in my future reading. I am literally SO excited for this to come out so that I can see all of the gorgeous illustrations that will go in the official release! 

You can check out my fellow #BroodyBFF 's on Twitter

Brooding YA Hero: Becoming a Main Character (Almost) as Awesome as Me 

The BroodyBFF's street team will run from May to November, so check back here at Love at First Write regularly for new challenges and updates, and follow me and @broodingyahero on Twitter to see the hashtags, visual challenges, and #BroodyChats! 

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Oracus: The Lavorian Rider by Paul Gaskill Review+Q&A

Oracus: The Lavorian Rider (Oracus #1)
by Paul Gaskill
Publication Date: August 4th 2014
Publisher: Paul's Books Ltd
Find This Book: Oracus: The Lavorian Rider
Rating: 4/5

I was given a copy of this book in exchange for honest review.

For readers who love Fantasy lands, this is a book I’d recommend to you. The beginning reminded me strongly of Eragon (which I love), to the point were I was describing the first couple of chapters to my co-worker and they thought I was talking about Eragon, BUT then the book really came into its own. Unlike many fantasy lands, there are no dwarves or elves. Instead, the Oracus Trilogy has all brand-new races (and you can even see drawings at his website HERE). While the world-building is present, the new races can be a little confusing and I would definitely recommend browsing the images while starting. For those who love maps- ME, I love book maps- you can also find a map of Pharia and some more lore about the Lavorian Riders at the link mentioned above!

The book is about a Kingdom ruled by Jowra. I’m not too sure if Pharia is the continent or the Kingdom (or both?) because you are thrown into this world with the main character. You learn everything as Oracus learns it, so I guess he hasn’t thought to ask yet. It’s tough asking the world-building questions when you’re busy being thrown into being bonded with a magical creature and being trained to save the kingdom from Jowra’s evils. It was really cool learning through the characters’ instead of getting a huge inner monologue from the MC to get the reader up to date.

Ok so there’s a kingdom. Check. There’s an evil king to defeat. Check. Now explain the magical creatures Nikki! That's where it's complicated and a bit contradictory. Ok so there are Lavorians, creatures born out of Obulars (basically eggs from what I can tell) and they bond with the first being to touch them (this seems to be regardless of race with is pretty cool). They themselves seem to be any animal, but covered in metal that cannot be removed or pierced by weapons, they never stop growing, and no two are the same. I’m not quite sure how that works because there seems to be a bunch of Lavorians and they’ve existed for a long time so there’s no way there haven’t been repeats. So maybe just no two species that are the same are living at the same time? Again, the lore is a little contradictory in the first book, but I’m assuming the reader learns more in the sequels as Oracus learns more! 

Being bonded comes with a bunch of cool abilities like mind links, have a cool metal partner, and gaining a rider power (no two are alike). Additionally, the Lavorian and its rider will never die of old age. They can be killed, but not by natural causes. Again this is where the lore gets fuzzy for me: should a mortal kill a rider, the mortal will then possess the rider’s power, the rider's Lavorian will lose its’ metal coating as punishment for failing its' partner, and the Lavorian now belongs to the mortal. It seems like only the evil king (Jowra) can kill other riders and still repossess the killed rider’s powers but honestly I'm not too sure. It was also fuzzy as to if he can use other rider’s powers in his vicinity his power. Or of his power is only to claim the powers of riders he has killed. 

Our MC Oracus is one such rider who bonds to a lion Lavorian; discovers the world outside his small farming village; actually has a good, nontoxic relationship with people; spends months upon months training to help the rebellion; has both positive and negative experiences with others finding out who he is; and gets a taste of battle all before the end of book one. 

Is the book perfect? No, I clearly have some questions about Lore, but I hope that gets clarified for me in the future. There were only three grammatical errors that I noticed, but that did not hinder my reading experience in the slightest (I'm just used to editing as I read and notice these things). The plot is interesting, and (after the first couple chapters) surprisingly unexpected- the book was hard to put down after I started getting into it! I grew fond of Oracus and Bandor, and found their relationship sweet and amusing. I was even pleasantly surprised with how this book’s ending paused the story line. Additionally, I'm happy to report that were were characters that got screen time and that got to speak that were *not* teenagers for a change. And they weren’t the crazy old people too stuck in their ways to see the necessary change trope either. They were realistic middle-aged characters- thank goodness.

I currently have a large queue of to-read books, but I am definitely adding the rest of the trilogy to my list!

Meet The Author

Oracus' Author: Paul Gaskill


 "Paul Gaskill is a fantasy author from the UK. He was born in 1991 and was educated at John Port School in Derby, where he took a liking to Mathematics. Fast forward a number of years and Paul studied Mathematics at University and then became a Financial Adviser, still in the city of Derby. Despite the career in numbers, Paul’s secret love was letters, and his novels were created during the evenings when everything finance during the daytime had been forgotten."


Nikki: What has your writing life been like until now?

Paul: Believe it or not, I studied Mathematics at University. And it was DURING my course that I started writing Oracus. I learned about numbers, and I wrote words in my spare time. 
I became a Financial Adviser, and I continued to write words in my spare time. 
Now, I write words. Maybe I should have realised sooner that writing novels was what I was made for!

Nikki: Is there any pre-existing mythology incorporated in your novel?

Paul: None whatsoever. Everything I write is completely original. Certain authors and their work have obviously influenced how and what I write, but I’m talking about people and places and creatures and races and cultures and politics and everything else. Whatever I create is the first of its kind. J.R.R.Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings created a foundation for Dwarves and Elves and Men, whilst J.K.Rowling’s Harry Potter is full of cleverly adapted versions of creatures that we already know. But you’ve never before heard of an Ulatori, or a Sashtram, or a Hazin’al before. Everything is fresh (except Humans, I guess). Check out my website if you want to know more; my illustrator has brought these races to life!

Returning to the original question: I have nothing but respect for authors who research mythology and other legendary elements in huge detail and incorporate them, without flaws, into their work. But I excel at doing things in a slightly different way.

Nikki: Where did you get the idea of Lavorians from?

Paul: Lavorians are what started the Oracus Trilogy. They were the very first idea that began the whole process. I didn’t wake up one day and say “Hey, I’m gonna write a book!” I thought, “Ooh, these creatures have promise!”

I’ve always been an animal lover and I’ve always been a fantasy reader. Lavorians definitely bring the two together. Who wouldn’t like to have a pet with incredible powers who answers to them, and to them alone?

*An interesting extra point: a Lavorian was originally called a Parnorius. Unfortunately, its plural quickly became a problem. Should it be Parnoriuses or Parnorii? My dilemma persisted for several chapters until I changed the race’s name to Lavorian (and I breathed a sigh of relief).

Nikki: How was your experience with editing and getting a book cover as an Indie author?

Paul: Since I began writing I’ve had a close relationship with my illustrator who lives in the same city. A fantasy series of books isn’t the easiest of projects to supply for, so I’ve been fortunate to have a magician on my side. Every suggestion I have thrown at him has been somehow created in a way that was beyond even what I’d imagined. It’s something I will never take for granted. 

As for editing, I’m lucky in a way that I never realised before I began writing. My family members aren't the kind of people to give plaudits where undeserved. After I’d edited and improved my initial draft, family scrutinised it and made it clear that adjustments could be made. Oracus underwent a face-lift (as well as a few other bits of surgery) and came out as the polished edition that it is today. Critics will say that without having sent the series to a professional editor, it will never be as good as it could have been. I cannot judge that, so I guess the answer is solely in the reading.

Nikki: Are you currently working on anything?

Paul: Yes, I’m pleased to say that I am. During the writing of Oracus, I had composed an idea for a new project. As soon as Oracus was completed, I began to put that idea into writing. 
‘The Eleven’ will be an adult fantasy novel – a step away from the young-adult work that I have already had published. Originally, I had expected the project to be a series. Now, though, I’m considering publishing it as a solo epic novel. I hope this statement doesn’t set the bar of expectation too high, but ‘The Eleven’ will be phenomenal.

You can catch up with Paul Gaskill at the links below!

Thanks for joining us today Paul, it was a pleasure having you here!