Anne Bishop: Etched in Bone

New York Times bestselling author Anne Bishop returns to her world of the Others, as humans struggle to survive in the shadow of shapeshifters and vampires far more powerful than themselves…

After a human uprising was brutally put down by the Elders—a primitive and lethal form of the Others—the few cities left under human control are far-flung. And the people within them now know to fear the no-man’s-land beyond their borders—and the darkness…

As some communities struggle to rebuild, Lakeside Courtyard has emerged relatively unscathed, though Simon Wolfgard, its wolf shifter leader, and blood prophet Meg Corbyn must work with the human pack to maintain the fragile peace. But all their efforts are threatened when Lieutenant Montgomery’s shady brother arrives, looking for a free ride and easy pickings.

With the humans on guard against one of their own, tensions rise, drawing the attention of the Elders, who are curious about the effect such an insignificant predator can have on a pack. But Meg knows the dangers, for she has seen in the cards how it will all end—with her standing beside a grave.

I’ve been waiting a year for the fifth and final book in The Others series to come out. And I’ve had the ARC in my collection for months–I had to have been one of the first to be approved for it. My willpower is SO STRONG, guys. Sometimes I don’t know how I manage to wait until the release month to read these. Probably because I just have way too many books in line.

Anyway, the anticipation was strong with this one. I’ve loved the first four, and the last one teased some mega romance. My body was ready.

But maybe my brain wasn’t? Or maybe it’s because I’m halfway through marathoning ASOIAF for trivia next week. THIS FELT LIKE SUCH A CHORE. I couldn’t make it halfway.

Something about Etched in Bone just didn’t measure up to the rest of the series. Slow doesn’t begin to describe it. It also barely focuses on Meg and Simon at all, which is what I was really looking forward to in this last edition.

One thing I noticed, in the slowness, is that Bishop is continually reintroducing characters to us, even though this is the fifth book. Really, if you’ve made it this far, you should know her world by now–how packs operate, why Meg is special, etc. A little bit of that is fine, but it shouldn’t still be happening more than 25% into the book. it makes the story/series seem very choppy and ruins the flow of it.

The plot also focuses around domestic abuse, and there is a LOT of victim blaming. For a series that unpacks mental illness and addiction, I was pretty grossed out by how this topic was being handled. Maybe it resolves itself later–but it wasn’t looking good.

I hated to DNF this, but I hated to finish it more. When a book becomes a chore, it just is not worth it, no matter how much I loved the rest of the series. I’m so disappointed.

NetGalley and Roc provided this ARC for an unbiased review. This post contains affiliate links.

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Review: The Magicians

Quentin Coldwater is brilliant but miserable. A senior in high school, he’s still secretly preoccupied with a series of fantasy novels he read as a child, set in a magical land called Fillory. Imagine his surprise when he finds himself unexpectedly admitted to a very secret, very exclusive college of magic in upstate New York, where he receives a thorough and rigorous education in the craft of modern sorcery.

He also discovers all the other things people learn in college: friendship, love, sex, booze, and boredom. Something is missing, though. Magic doesn’t bring Quentin the happiness and adventure he dreamed it would. After graduation he and his friends make a stunning discovery: Fillory is real. But the land of Quentin’s fantasies turns out to be much darker and more dangerous than he could have imagined. His childhood dream becomes a nightmare with a shocking truth at its heart.

At once psychologically piercing and magnificently absorbing,The Magicians boldly moves into uncharted literary territory, imagining magic as practiced by real people, with their capricious desires and volatile emotions. Lev Grossman creates an utterly original world in which good and evil aren’t black and white, love and sex aren’t simple or innocent, and power comes at a terrible price.

I’ve heard so much about The Magicians, and most of it has been summed up in one sentence. “If you love Harry Potter, you will love this one too!”

…ok…well…I kind of see the resemblance, in that there is a magical school that normal people can’t get into, and there ARE three friends that get into trouble…but that’s really where the similarities end.

As far as the school goes, it is college vs junior/senior high. The result is a super fratty feeling, instead of Griffindor vs Slytherin. Everyone is drunk the entire goddamn book. And I do mean the.entire.goddamn.book. Also, sexsexsexsexsexsexsexsexsexsexsex.

Please don’t tell your middle schooler that if they liked Harry Potter they should read The Magicians. This is not the book for them.

Once they graduate, all semblance to HP disappears and it becomes pretty much CS Lewis fanfiction. Fillory is Narnia and it almost feels like this is set generations after Lucy and her siblings rule.

I didn’t hate it. I didn’t love it. I probably won’t continue on with the series. To read it as fanfiction of two of my favorite fantasy sets–completely entertaining–but I have a hard time seeing it as anything other than that.

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I won this book in a Twitter contest.

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The Kingmaker’s Daughter

The Kingmaker’s Daughter is the gripping story of the daughters of the man known as the “Kingmaker,” Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick: the most powerful magnate in fifteenth-century England. Without a son and heir, he uses his daughters, Anne and Isabel as pawns in his political games, and they grow up to be influential players in their own right. In this novel, her first sister story since The Other Boleyn Girl, Philippa Gregory explores the lives of two fascinating young women.

At the court of Edward IV and his beautiful queen, Elizabeth Woodville, Anne grows from a delightful child to become ever more fearful and desperate when her father makes war on his former friends. Married at age fourteen, she is soon left widowed and fatherless, her mother in sanctuary and her sister married to the enemy. Anne manages her own escape by marrying Richard, Duke of Gloucester, but her choice will set her on a collision course with the overwhelming power of the royal family and will cost the lives of those she loves most in the world, including her precious only son, Prince Edward. Ultimately, the kingmaker’s daughter will achieve her father’s greatest ambition.

I knew that Game of Thrones had been based on The War of the Roses, but I had no idea just how closely it followed it. From the very moment I started reading The Kingmaker’s Daughter, it was impossible not to compare the two–even though one is complete fantasy, and one is based on real history. It really shine a whole new light on the series.

But, this review isn’t about GOT. So that’s enough about that.

Since I love British history as much as I do–especially Tudor history–it’s impossible not to love Philippa Gregory. I’m pretty sure I have every one of her books on my Goodreads TBR. She is pretty much THE historical fiction author of our time. Her stories are thick with passion and drama, and she goes super deep into the lives of the women who lived in those castles and magnificent dresses. She reminds us that it SUCKED to be a woman back then–our idea of “princess”  today is not exactly accurate.

The Kingmaker’s Daughter takes us into a story of a relatively unknown queen, and through her eyes we see it all–war, treason, childbirth, witchcraft, and everything else a woman had to deal with while the men battled for power. Gregory writes the game of chess magnificently.

It’s been awhile since I’ve picked up a Philippa Gregory novel, and now I’m rehooked. Be warned. I know where her section of the library is now! If you love historical fiction, or you just finished GOT and are asking yourself “WHAT DO I READ NOW?”–this is a good choice! It’s also part of an overall Cousin’s War series, so there are more!

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The Winner’s Curse

As a general’s daughter in a vast empire that revels in war and enslaves those it conquers, seventeen-year-old Kestrel has two choices: she can join the military or get married. But Kestrel has other intentions.

One day, she is startled to find a kindred spirit in a young slave up for auction. Arin’s eyes seem to defy everything and everyone. Following her instinct, Kestrel buys him—with unexpected consequences. It’s not long before she has to hide her growing love for Arin.

But he, too, has a secret, and Kestrel quickly learns that the price she paid for a fellow human is much higher than she ever could have imagined.

THAT IS THE WORST CLIFFHANGER EVER WHAT THE FUCK MARIE RUTKOSKI.

I mean, I knew this thing was a series but god dammit. COULD YOU NOT?!

WAY TO MAKE ME BUY THE NEXT BOOK IMMEDIATELY WHEN I HAVE A MILLION OTHER THINGS TO READ RIGHT NOW.

Also, I’m out of Google Play credits AND SO I CANNOT BUY THE NEXT BOOK IMMEDIATELY.

Guys, I’m having a crisis. This wasn’t even a 5 Book Dragon rated book. It was just a 3.5 ish…4 maybe. It was a fun book. I read it all in one day, so it’s fast-paced. I wasn’t sure how I felt about a few things–the slavery, some of the racial references, etc. I did like that the women were trained to be soldiers, before choosing war or marriage (it would be better if they had more options, but at least they weren’t completely disregarded).

So this wasn’t a book I was super emotionally invested in. It was entertaining, but fairly predictable at first. Girl meets guy from different class, father gives ultimatum, girl falls in love with guy from different class anyway, war breaks out. The rest kind of sneaks up on you.

And then the ending. HOW COULD YOU LEAVE US WITH THAT ENDING? Oh man. That is the most cliffhangery cliffhanger ending I’ve ever seen.

Gotta go, I need to do a bunch of Google Reward surveys so I can rack up some Play points as fast as possible. I’ll be reading the next book the very second I have enough.

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Glass Sword

As wonderful as anticipation is in the Booklr world, it can also be a killer. When I read Red Queen, the sequel had just been announced, so everyone was talking about Glass Sword already. There was a pretty big divide on RQ–you ever loved it or hated it. I was in the love it category, so I was really looking forward to Glass Sword. And when we got the cover reveal, oh man.

I mean, look at this. It perfectly matches RQ.

The only word I can use to describe my emotion while reading this book is despair. I am despairing over how BORED I am. What happened????

In Red Queen, we have this fantastic, complicated character development in Mare Barrows as she discovers her powers, tears apart a kingdom, etc. In Glass Sword, Mare is demoted to The Little Lightning Girl–basically just the middle of a sad love triangle between two annoyingly distracted dude-bros.

All Mare talks about is Cal. Cal this, Call that. Cal, the fire prince, who burns so hot, blah blah blah. You’re the freaking lightning girl! You’re supposed to be a badass yourself–get over it! And Kilorn is JUST as moony and weak. He’s so goddamn pissy about being friendzoned that he can’t focus on the mission. What a mess.

I’m about halfway through this, and I’m so disappointed that I can’t continue it. The world that was built in Red Queen just falls apart here. I hope for Aveyard’s sake that it’s just the curse of the middle book and maybe a finished trilogy will complete the circle. But for me…it’s just not worth continuing.

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Marked in Flesh

I’m baaaack! Did ya’ll have a good Spring Break? I certainly did.

I keep thinking that I didn’t get much reading done at all–but in reality, I read THREE books! They were all just from the same series, so my brain counts them all as one. I mentioned this last week, but I was due to read Marked in Flesh by Anne Bishop for its release on March 8…and then realized it was not the second book in her The Others series, but the FOURTH! Oh no!

I always hate being late on a deadline, but I was taking a hiatus anyway, so I’ll just play a bit of catch up with my reviews this week. You’ll forgive me, right? Thanks!

I read the first book, Written in Red, almost exactly a year ago, and loved it. Anne Bishop mixes fairy tale with indigenous culture set in a dystopian landscape. It’s pretty fierce. It’s been awhile since I’ve binged an entire series like this, and this was a great one to lose myself in.

When you get into the series as a whole, you really get to see the themes Anne Bishop pulls into her dystopian fairy tale. As I mentioned before, the main component is about prejudice between the indigenous race and the humans. The war between the HRL and The Others reads very familiar to those in America today (and heck, those in America throughout our bloody frickin history). Another very heavy theme is in regards to mental health. The first two books reference cutting and severe bodily harm quite often, even referencing it as an addiction–the other two books do too, but it’s a major theme in the first two. The third book is all about abuse:  getting away from the captor, healing after the fact, recovery. The fourth is war. All of them cover PTSD.

Sounds pretty rough, right? Did I mention that those big themes are wrapped up in a completely gorgeous, dark, dystopian fantasy series? GUYS GO BUY THIS SERIES IMMEDIATELY. The romance tension is so thick you will need Namid’s teeth and claws to cut through it.

This is the fourth book. And as it was getting closer and closer to the end I was thinking, this can’t be it, right? I mean, there’s only 5% left and not enough closure and I NEED ANOTHER BOOK! Goodreads says there’s an Untitled Book #5. All is well with the world. I only have to wait until 2017. GIVE IT TO ME NOWWWWWWWW.

Sigh. I guess I’ll just have to read something else. This is why I don’t binge anymore.

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Winter

It’s funny, I just read a post the other day about reviewing every single book that I read, and the arguments for or against. Really, unless it is a reread (like Harry Potter), or a super long classic or poetry anthology that I work on for months and don’t have much to stay about (I doubt I’ll do an actual post on The Faerie Queene), I pretty much review everything I finish.

Which makes it very frustrating when I have absolutely nothing to say about a very famous/popular book.

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I should have emotions about Winter, right? I loved the rest of the series. The characters were wonderful, the plot was engaging and creative. I absolutely love fairy tales, and the futuristic twist from Marissa Meyer was no exception. I’ve been waiting months for this 800 page “conclusion” (I use that word loosely, because what exactly IS Stars Above, anyway?), and now it is here and I’ve read it and…

…nothing.

I sat in front of my cursor for two hours Friday night, and then again yesterday morning and could not write a damned word. No feels. Nothing.

It’s not that the book is bad. I liked it, I turned page after page, just like the others. But there were no surprises. No gasps. No end of chapter cliffhangers. Everything happened exactly as I expected it to. Winter’s lunar sickness was sad, but even that, for some reason bothered me.

Winter just felt rushed to me. As if Meyer heard all of us screaming HURRY UP AND FINISH THOSE 800 PAGES OR WE WILL BREAK DOWN YOUR DOOR! And maybe she did. The fact that we have an 800 page conclusion, with another epilogue book certainly makes me wonder if she didn’t accomplish what she wanted to. But, I am certainly not the author, so I do not know these things.

I do know I love The Lunar Chronicles. I’m happy my characters got their happy endings, as they should. And I will surely read Stars Above when it is released.

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Six of Crows

If there was one book I had to name as the most popular Booklr read for the second half of 2015, it would be Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo. Not a day has gone by since September that I haven’t seen at least 20 posts about this strange black-dyed book. Even one of the Tumblr-famous guys renamed his blog after it!

I didn’t pick up on it right away–I knew Bardugo had written a previous trilogy, one I hadn’t read yet, and I thought this was just a continuation. So I shrugged my shoulders and moved on until I found time to read the rest of the Grisha books. When someone posted an ask/answer that it was related, but separate, on the bandwagon I jumped (although the other three are still on my TBR).

I finally got the book from my library this weekend, just in time, since I needed a next #ReadWomen pull…

…and then I almost gave up 40 pages in. This starts so slow and jumpy. Can you be jumpy and slow at the same time? Apparently. Bardugo uses the same multi-character narration like George RR Martin does in Game of Thrones, which works mostly, once you get going…but it can be really confusing at the beginning.

However, the story does have a steep crescendo into action once the plot starts moving. Six of Crows is part Italian Job and part Robin Hood, with just a dash of Name of the Wind thrown in. I can see why people have been so drawn to it.

I’m interested enough in the Grisha alchemy to take a peek at the previous trilogy. However, I think Six of Crows is a one and done for me. It was interesting enough, but I’m not as excited as everyone else to continue on with the rest of the series. Three book dragons for this one.

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Shattered Blue

Being on vacation is doing really really good things to my reading count. As it is, I am writing this post a week in advance. I’ve written FOUR blogs today (which for you guys in the future is actually Tuesday Sept 8), and I don’t go back to work for another week! I am going to be sooooooo far ahead holy crap.

This would be a really great time to read something super long like Crime & Punishment…but this is vacation after all. Who wants to read Russian lit on vacation? NOT ME.

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Instead, I’ll stick to things like Shattered Blue. This was a cute little YA fantasy that took absolutely no time to read at all. We are talking an hour and a half, tops.

Noa recently lost her sister in an accident, and now has to face her boarding school without her. It’s awkward, and she hates how everyone looks at her. There’s a new boy, though, who takes a fascination with her, and they bond over poetry. There’s something so different about Callum–and after a very weird incident with a tree, he tells her he is Fae. Not the cute, dusty, winged kind either…his world is a scary one, in the middle of a civil war, and his family is right in the center of it.

I have a feeling this will be a popular one among YA fans. It rings the same bells as Twilight, which, while I didn’t read that whole series, I’ve read enough to know this follows the same kind of mystical patterns. Callum reminds me a lot of Edward–that seems great on the surface, but maybe the relationship isn’t all that healthy–kind of thing going on. And then there’s his brother Judah, who is very much the tough guy, very troubled, but doesn’t turn out exactly what you expect at first. Definite love triangle here, obviously.

I really liked the concept of the story–it had some Fae themes that I’ve seen before:  the Fae needing to consume light from humans in order to survive, different species of Fae fighting against each other. However, I feel like maybe this story just isn’t quite there yet. I can’t tell you exactly what is missing–I’m not sure myself what it is. Maybe the whole Isla storyline–I didn’t really understand why her ghost kept coming back, it seemed unnecessary and awkward–either do something more with it, or let her stay dead, or maybe just remove her altogether. I also didn’t see why the mother needed to “steal” Noa’s poetry to make it Isla’s, again, that whole part of the book was just strange. This is one of those books that I read where I just think it needs a bit more work before the final release. It has potential, it just hasn’t been realized yet.

 

NetGalley provided this ARC for an unbiased review. Releases September 15.

 

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The Ciphers of Muirwood

Shortly after I posted my review for The Banished of Muirwood, I received an email from the publicist letting me know that the second book was up on NetGalley! That’s never happened before, so I immediately went and grabbed it! Absolutely, yes I want to read that second book, slam bam thank you ma’am!

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Jeff Wheeler’s first Covenant of Muirwood book just came out on August 18, so he is not wasting any time releasing these. From the sound of his Author Note, his third one is already in the works (and Goodreads says expected publication 2015), so I wouldn’t be surprised if it is already written. He’s even talking about a third trilogy! I really have got to get my hands on the first, and pronto!

I mentioned in my last write-up that the king seemed a bit like Henry VIII. This theme only gets more pronounced in The Cipher of Muirwood–in fact, it’s downright obvious that Henry was a major inspiration for Wheeler’s fantasy. He has banished his very devout daughter, Maia, and her mother (who is even named Catrin) so that he can marry a new heretic woman–very much an Anne Boleyn character, only with previous children of her own. There’s a slimey chancellor Crabwell who is a deadringer for Cromwell. And even a modest lady-in-waiting named Jayn Sexton that the king can’t seem to keep away from.

While I found those parallels amusing, they aren’t really the focus of the story at all. Just something fun for an Anglophile to pick apart. The real basis of the trilogy is the deep threads of a magical sect of religion that has been passed down to Maia through the maternal side of her family. The journey she takes in Banished brings her to Muirwood Abbey, where she must take her Maston test and fulfill her destiny. And she must do it quickly, before Whitsunday and the arrival of her father and a potential war.

My doubts about the slow start of the first book were completely dashed in this second one. I am almost jumping up and down with anticipation of the third, and if I didn’t already have a full pile of books on hold at the library right now, I’d probably see if they had the first trilogy. I may just have to buy it on my Kindle the next chance I get. Guys, if you love fantasy, you need to be reading Jeff Wheeler. Just do it.

 

Netgalley provided this ARC for an unbiased review. Releases September 15 2015.

 

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