VD The Book Yogi

lover of artistic language and the language of art

January Wrap Up

Woo I stayed on track for January too! With the exception of putting off one book just a few days after I couldn't possible wait to finish a series. I am also super pumped that every book so far this year has been an above 4 Star, enjoyable read. Check them out below!


What I Read

The Girl In The Tower | Katherine Arden

Published: December 5, 2017
Genre: Adult Fantasy
My Rating: 5 Stars

Sometimes sequels to excellent first novels can fall flat. The magic is less potent, the characters less engaging, the plot weaker. 
None of these issues occurred with The Girl in the Tower, and I am so freaking happy about it. Vasya is just as wild, just as independent, and yet makes believable mistakes as she continues to grow up. Mysteries that began in the first book continue to be solved, while at the same time new ones arise.
Arden is so talented at blending magic and the history of Russia together, keeping us grounded in  the politics and society of Moscow while at the same time the fantastical creeps at the edges. From domovois in bathhouses to the frost demon always watching, no matter how ingrained in the reality of the city Vasya becomes, no matter the plans her family and society have to trap her, cage her into the suppressed life of a woman of this time period, the magic of the wild forest is never far, and she never loses sight of herself. 
And for Morozko: it will work out, I'm counting on it. <3

 

Traitor's Blade | Sebastien de Castell

Published: March 6, 2014
Genre: Adult Epic Fantasy
My Rating: 5 Stars

Listened to this on audiobook, and enjoyed! I'll be getting the next one for audio as well, since I have a credit to use, but I like this one enough (and feel confident about the sequels) to purchase the hard copies and add to my library shelves. Plus, I love these covers and they'll make great additions to the library :)
I saw this tale compared to The Three Musketeers after I finished, and while I did say "oh okay, I get that," not once while reading did I make that comparison. There are plenty of stories about friends on a journey to somewhere, fighting for some cause. I enjoyed the comradeship between Falcio, Kest, and Brasti, and also the notion that at any time they could go their separate ways. What binds them is a pact and a king long dead to most of their fellows, so they are at once still trying to be true to their values as Greatcoats while also admitting that the old times are gone and perhaps they should move on. Lots of satisfying action, and I loved de Castell's style of writing and the swordplay descriptions, especially the notion that a conversation can (and does) occur with every thrust and parry. 

 

A Gathering Of Shadows | Victoria Schwab

Published: February 23, 2016
Genre: Adult Fantasy
My Rating: 4.5 Stars

Started out and finished strong, but got a bit slow throughout the middle. Full of great character development and all necessary build-up, I don't want to go as far as to say the middle dragged. But the pace definitely slowed as we journeyed with each character and tension built.
One tiny issue I had was how fast Lila suddenly came into her powers. The tournament she enters (love it, Lila!) is comprised of carefully selected, extremely practiced and talented magicians, and yet she who just began her practice four months earlier and can only just barely summon a flame holds her own against her competitors...I thought it was a bit of a stretch. Lila's badass in a lot of ways, and completely understandable that her powers come on fast due to...certain rarities *wink*...but I don't think she needed to suddenly be that talented in magic as well as everything else she rocks at.
That tiny nitpick knocked a half star away, but I still loved this one and couldn't wait to buy the final book. Which leads us too...

 

A Conjuring of Light | Victoria Schwab

Published: February
Genre: Adult Fantasy
My Rating: 5 Stars

Broke the rules and ordered this one instantly upon finishing AGOS. I couldn't wait, and it did not disappoint. Action packed from start to finish, if my complaint with AGOS was that the middle moved at a slow pace, then it was completely made up for with this final installment. Surprises, heartbreaks, and above all else originality...Schwab has crafted a perfect not-conclusion to this world. The story ends with most loose ends tied up, although it's open for more (which I hear is in the works, following new characters...yay!)

I also cannot gush enough about how air-tight the plot and rules of magic are in this world. Characters are not suddenly able to do more than they should, even if they discover new means of using such magic. I adore how neatly the romances are woven in - no odd breaks from the crisis going on to spend time swooning. The romance served a perfect sub-plot, aiding without ever overtaking the main plot.

A perfect conclusion with the option to return!


February New Releases

I don't have anything on my radar for this month, as I'm sticking to my "avoid-the-hype" rule! That works, because there were several released in January that I can catch up on now and still abide by my second rule, only one new buy a month!


February TBR*

*As usual, subject to change on a daily basis. I seem to take issue with being told what to read, including by myself.

 

The Cruel Prince | Holly Black

Published: January 2, 2018
Genre: YA Fantasy

This got pushed back from January when I couldn't wait to finish the ADSOM trilogy. But looking forward to it as I've been hearing good things from other reviewers I trust!

Synopsis:

"Of course I want to be like them. They’re beautiful as blades forged in some divine fire. They will live forever.

And Cardan is even more beautiful than the rest. I hate him more than all the others. I hate him so much that sometimes when I look at him, I can hardly breathe.


Jude was seven years old when her parents were murdered and she and her two sisters were stolen away to live in the treacherous High Court of Faerie. Ten years later, Jude wants nothing more than to belong there, despite her mortality. But many of the fey despise humans. Especially Prince Cardan, the youngest and wickedest son of the High King.

To win a place at the Court, she must defy him–and face the consequences.

In doing so, she becomes embroiled in palace intrigues and deceptions, discovering her own capacity for bloodshed. But as civil war threatens to drown the Courts of Faerie in violence, Jude will need to risk her life in a dangerous alliance to save her sisters, and Faerie itself."

 

A Wrinkle In Time | Madeleine L'Engle

Published: January 1, 1962
Genre: YA Fantasy Classic

Technically another of my currently-owned, and a book already read (at least 20 years ago!) But with the new film coming out next month, I had to give this one a re-read!

Synopsis:

"Meg Murry and her friends become involved with unearthly strangers and a search for Meg's father, who has disappeared while engaged in secret work for the government."

 

Knight's Shadow | Sebastien de Castell

Published: March 5, 2015
Genre: Adult Epic Fantasy

I enjoyed the audiobook of Traitor's Blade a lot, so this will be my audiobook for February.

Synopsis:

"Following his beloved debut, Traitor's Blade, Sebastien de Castell returns with volume two of his fast-paced fantasy adventure series, inspired by the swashbuckling action and witty banter of The Three Musketeers. Knight's Shadow continues the series with a thrilling and dark tale of heroism and betrayal in a country crushed under the weight of its rulers' corruption.

A few days after the horrifying murder of a duke and his family, Falcio val Mond, swordsman and First Cantor of the Greatcoats, begins a deadly pursuit to capture the killer. But Falcio soon discovers his own life is in mortal danger from a poison administered as a final act of revenge by one of his deadliest enemies. As chaos and civil war begin to overtake the country, Falcio has precious little time left to stop those determined to destroy his homeland."

 

Freedom's Slave | Heather Demetrios

Published: February 28, 2017
Genre: YA Fantasy

This will be my "currently-own" read for February. I started this trilogy early last year and liked it well enough - didn't love it, but didn't dislike it by any means. Time to finish!

Synopsis:

"An Empress Fighting for Her Crown
After three long years in exile, Nalia is ready to return to her homeland and sit on the throne that is rightfully hers. But the gods might have other plans. Forced to endure untold horrors on the journey to Arjinna, Nalia learns that it will take more than cutting down the tyrant Calar to get her crown.

An Army Fighting to Survive
Raif’s return to Arjinna as the commander of the revolution against Calar and her army isn’t as smooth as he’d hoped. Though he has more soldiers than ever before, his love for Nalia is losing him the trust of his comrades...and the war. But little does the resistance know that insurrection is brewing among Calar’s own ranks—and from the one person she trusts the most.

A Land Worth Fighting for
Arjinna is dying—Calar’s evil experiments with dark magic and the strength of her own psychic powers threaten to destroy the land of the jinn. Is Nalia and Raif’s enduring love enough to transform and rescue their homeland? Will they be willing to save the realm, no matter the cost?"


2017 Favorite Reads

I had a reading goal of 50 books, and completed it (yay!) just on time. Part of the problem in getting there was morning sickness that threw me off of reading for a good two months. The other part was one disappointing read after another, leading to slump after slump. It turns out I was pretty hard to please in 2017, even with books I did enjoy. I read plenty of books that I had anticipated and really liked, such as A Court of Wings and Ruin, but as far as making it to favorite status only a few made the cut. 

Going into 2018 my reading goals have changed a bit - I mentioned it in my December wrap up that I'll be going for quality over quantity, and one way to help me be more selective is to set my reading goal for less. So I'll be aiming for only 25 books this year, and avoiding that hype-train in YA on which it is very easy to be swept away. To help, I've set myself the below rules:

  • Only buy ONE new book/release a month
  • Read one of the books I currently own a month
  • One audiobook a month

25 is technically only about 2 books a month, and already the list above has me reading more than that. But with little prince coming in April, and the books on my 2018 wait-list thinned out considerably (more selective!), I hope to be reading more of the towering stack I already own and be less sucked-in to the hype of new YA releases. And hopefully, I'll have a year full of new favorites by next Christmas.

So, on to the favorites of 2017!


The Bear And The Nightingale | Katherine Arden

This story is a magical step into a winter fairy-tale. The Russian inspiration was a breath of fresh air amidst all of the Arabian themes in the last couple years. Don't get me wrong, I'm still loving those Arabian themes, but it was one of those instances where I didn't realize I'd been craving something new and different until I had it in front of me.

Read my full review on Goodreads.


Hunted | Meagan Spooner

This book was such a surprise. Beauty and the Beast is my favorite fairy tale, and I've read countless retellings, many of which I've loved even though they followed every predictable path. I just love the tale, no matter the form.

Hunted did not follow the traditional mold, and the deeper I went into the forest the more I loved it.

Read my full review on Goodreads.


The City of Brass | S.A. Chakraborty

I am so glad another of my highly-anticipated reads for this year did not disappoint. I loved everything about this story, my heart pounded at all the right times, and I was wailing in impatient denial at the ending. I NEED the sequel, now.


Furyborn | Claire Legrand

Some books you just vibe with, and this one was 100% my cup of tea. Flawed characters you kind of hate/love, a story that connects across centuries, just the right amount of grim, and plenty of action. Also, this is a YA that read more on the adult side of the genre, which I tend to enjoy more (though I still have the pet peeve of certain content belonging in Adult fantasy).

Read my full review on Goodreads.

December Wrap Up

A successful month, I think! Very proud I stuck to my planned TBR for December :D

Along with the novels below, I also finished up some books on Buddhism and Stoicism containing daily meditations that I've been reading throughout the whole of 2017. Throw in the children's books Everything Is Mama, Your Baby's First Word Will Be Dada, and Llama Llama Red Pajama, and that's a December full of completed reads!


What I Read

A Court of Broken Knives | Anna Smith Spark

Published: (Print) August 15, 2017
Genre: Adult Fantasy
My Rating: 2.5 Stars

Listened to this one as an audiobook, and loved the narrators. But I never really cared about the characters, and it didn't really have any real plot. By the end I saw clearly what the point was, though the journey was more a bunch of thrown-together action scenes on which we got to go along for the ride. I do have the hard copy of this as well, and read some of the chapters. The writing is different, not a technicality-focused editor's cup of tea. I see what the author did, recognize it as taking creative license and firmly grasping her unique style. But it won't be to everyone's liking.

 

Forest of a Thousand Lanterns | Julie C. Dao

Published:
Genre: YA Fantasy
My Rating: 1.5 Stars

I had to hate-finish this book. I appreciated the setting, but was not interested in the story in the slightest. It is supposed to be a tale of how a wicked queen rises, the events in her young life that shaped her from good to evil. Xeifang starts out as a good, kind, doesn't-want-to-hurt-a-soul person, and the change from this person to the magic-lusting heart eater at the end was completely unconvincing. She didn't change slowly, or believably, it was just one moment she couldn't imagine taking the life of an innocent creature and the next she's eating the heart of her rivals. The one aspect that was present the entire novel was her obsession with beauty, instilled in her by her aunt her whole life as the only thing making her special. So I could believe this obsession with being beautiful driving her to justify the magic she uses, but everything else about this story was lack-luster. 

 

Furyborn | Claire Legrand

To Be Published: May 22, 2018
Genre: YA Fantasy
My Rating: 5 Stars

Some books you just vibe with, and this one was 100% my cup of tea. Flawed characters you kind of hate/love, a story that connects across centuries, just the right amount of grim, and plenty of action. Also, this is a YA that read more on the adult side of the genre, which I tend to enjoy more (though I still have the pet peeve of certain content belonging in Adult fantasy).
Read the my full review here.

ARC provided by Sourcebooks and Fairyloot - many thanks!


January New Releases

There are four coming in January that I have on my radar, but it remains to be seen if they will make it to the TBR.

The Cruel Prince | Holly Black

Published: January 2, 2018
Genre: YA Fantasy

Synopsis:

"Of course I want to be like them. They’re beautiful as blades forged in some divine fire. They will live forever.

And Cardan is even more beautiful than the rest. I hate him more than all the others. I hate him so much that sometimes when I look at him, I can hardly breathe.


Jude was seven years old when her parents were murdered and she and her two sisters were stolen away to live in the treacherous High Court of Faerie. Ten years later, Jude wants nothing more than to belong there, despite her mortality. But many of the fey despise humans. Especially Prince Cardan, the youngest and wickedest son of the High King.

To win a place at the Court, she must defy him–and face the consequences.

In doing so, she becomes embroiled in palace intrigues and deceptions, discovering her own capacity for bloodshed. But as civil war threatens to drown the Courts of Faerie in violence, Jude will need to risk her life in a dangerous alliance to save her sisters, and Faerie itself."

Everless | Sara Holland

Published: January 2, 2018
Genre: YA Fantasy

Synopsis:

"In the kingdom of Sempera, time is currency—extracted from blood, bound to iron, and consumed to add time to one’s own lifespan. The rich aristocracy, like the Gerlings, tax the poor to the hilt, extending their own lives by centuries.

No one resents the Gerlings more than Jules Ember. A decade ago, she and her father were servants at Everless, the Gerlings’ palatial estate, until a fateful accident forced them to flee in the dead of night. When Jules discovers that her father is dying, she knows that she must return to Everless to earn more time for him before she loses him forever.

But going back to Everless brings more danger—and temptation—than Jules could have ever imagined. Soon she’s caught in a tangle of violent secrets and finds her heart torn between two people she thought she’d never see again. Her decisions have the power to change her fate—and the fate of time itself."

Reign of the Fallen | Sarah Glenn Marsh

Published: January 23, 2018
Genre: YA Fantasy

Synopsis:

"Odessa is one of Karthia's master necromancers, catering to the kingdom's ruling Dead. Whenever a noble dies, it's Odessa's job to raise them by retrieving their souls from a dreamy and dangerous shadow world called the Deadlands. But there is a cost to being raised--the Dead must remain shrouded, or risk transforming into zombie-like monsters known as Shades. If even a hint of flesh is exposed, the grotesque transformation will begin.

A dramatic uptick in Shade attacks raises suspicions and fears among Odessa's necromancer community. Soon a crushing loss of one of their own reveals a disturbing conspiracy: someone is intentionally creating Shades by tearing shrouds from the Dead--and training them to attack. Odessa is faced with a terrifying question: What if her necromancer's magic is the weapon that brings Karthia to its knees?"

The Hazel Wood | Melissa Albert

Published: January 30, 2018
Genre: YA Fantasy

Synopsis:

"Seventeen-year-old Alice and her mother have spent most of Alice’s life on the road, always a step ahead of the uncanny bad luck biting at their heels. But when Alice’s grandmother, the reclusive author of a cult-classic book of pitch-dark fairy tales, dies alone on her estate, the Hazel Wood, Alice learns how bad her luck can really get: her mother is stolen away―by a figure who claims to come from the Hinterland, the cruel supernatural world where her grandmother's stories are set. Alice's only lead is the message her mother left behind: “Stay away from the Hazel Wood.”

Alice has long steered clear of her grandmother’s cultish fans. But now she has no choice but to ally with classmate Ellery Finch, a Hinterland superfan who may have his own reasons for wanting to help her. To retrieve her mother, Alice must venture first to the Hazel Wood, then into the world where her grandmother's tales began―and where she might find out how her own story went so wrong."


January TBR*

*As usual, subject to change on a daily basis. I seem to take issue with being told what to read, including by myself.

A reading goal for me in 2018 will be to read less. Sounds odd, but I've been trying to focus on quality over quantity, and that means being a hell of a lot more selective on the books I buy. That also means STAYING AWAY from the hype train. Also, there's the not-so-little change in lifestyle that'll occur mid-April, and I'm anticipating even less reading time. Another 2018 goal is to only buy one new book a month, and read at least one of the books I currently own a month. That said, of course 4 of the 9 books I have on my 2018 wait-list happen to be publishing in January, so we'll see how well I stick to that one-book-buy-a-month thing.

 

The Girl In The Tower | Katherine Arden

Published: December 5, 2017
Genre: Adult Fantasy

*Currently Reading* I didn't get to this one in December, though it was the one I was most looking forward to! I wanted to make sure I finished all the other books I had pending in 2017 (like a dutiful, responsible book reader) before I let myself get sucked in.

Synopsis:

"The magical adventure begun in The Bear and the Nightingalecontinues as brave Vasya, now a young woman, is forced to choose between marriage or life in a convent and instead flees her home—but soon finds herself called upon to help defend the city of Moscow when it comes under siege.

Orphaned and cast out as a witch by her village, Vasya’s options are few: resign herself to life in a convent, or allow her older sister to make her a match with a Moscovite prince. Both doom her to life in a tower, cut off from the vast world she longs to explore. So instead she chooses adventure, disguising herself as a boy and riding her horse into the woods. When a battle with some bandits who have been terrorizing the countryside earns her the admiration of the Grand Prince of Moscow, she must carefully guard the secret of her gender to remain in his good graces—even as she realizes his kingdom is under threat from mysterious forces only she will be able to stop."

 

The Cruel Prince | Holly Black

(Info above)
After reading some trusted reviewers opinions on how much they enjoyed this one, I've allowed that hype-train to pick me up and pre-ordered. That's technically my one new book limit for January... 

 

Traitor's Blade | Sebastien de Castell

This will be my audiobook for January. This series/author has been on my TBR for a while so I'm glad to finally be starting.

Published: March 6, 2014
Genre: Adult Epic Fantasy

Synopsis:

"Falcio is the first Cantor of the Greatcoats. Trained in the fighting arts and the laws of Tristia, the Greatcoats are travelling Magisters upholding King’s Law. They are heroes. Or at least they were, until they stood aside while the Dukes took the kingdom, and impaled their King’s head on a spike.

Now Tristia is on the verge of collapse and the barbarians are sniffing at the borders. The Dukes bring chaos to the land, while the Greatcoats are scattered far and wide, reviled as traitors, their legendary coats in tatters.

All they have left are the promises they made to King Paelis, to carry out one final mission. But if they have any hope of fulfilling the King’s dream, the divided Greatcoats must reunite, or they will also have to stand aside as they watch their world burn…"

 

A Gathering Of Shadows | Victoria Schwab

Published: February 23, 2016
Genre: Adult Fantasy

This will be my "currently-own" read for January...I'm ready for more Kell and Lila!

Synopsis:

"It has been four months since a mysterious obsidian stone fell into Kell's possession. Four months since his path crossed with Delilah Bard. Four months since Prince Rhy was wounded, and since the nefarious Dane twins of White London fell, and four months since the stone was cast with Holland's dying body through the rift--back into Black London.

Now, restless after having given up his smuggling habit, Kell is visited by dreams of ominous magical events, waking only to think of Lila, who disappeared from the docks as she always meant to do. As Red London finalizes preparations for the Element Games--an extravagant international competition of magic meant to entertain and keep healthy the ties between neighboring countries--a certain pirate ship draws closer, carrying old friends back into port.

And while Red London is caught up in the pageantry and thrills of the Games, another London is coming back to life. After all, a shadow that was gone in the night will reappear in the morning. But the balance of magic is ever perilous, and for one city to flourish, another London must fall."