VD The Book Yogi

lover of artistic language and the language of art

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."


Furyborn | Thoughts

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).

The prologue was one that tells an end and a beginning, and I was hooked from the second page. For Rielle, whose past we know and ending we see right from the start, I was still interested to see her journey from the girl we meet in chapter one to the one we see in the prologue. I had SO. MANY. QUESTIONS. and it took the entire book to answer them all, but in the best ways. Some things I guessed, some things you know are inevitable since we already know Rielle's fate, and some things I thought I knew but still held a sliver of doubt until confirmed.

Rielle was more of the hate side of hate/love for me. She's cocky, knowing full well she is one of the prophesied queens and basking in the attention it is getting her. I didn't like her as a person, and wouldn't want to call her a friend if I knew her in real life. And that's what is so great about her - she felt like a real person I got to know and decided was not the kind I'd keep in my circles. When a character is able to make you forget they are only that, a character in a story, it's one of those times when you have to realize the impact an author was able to make on you, even if the reaction was dislike. I look at art the same way - a piece that makes you feel so strongly for or against it has done its job; it made you feelsomething. Plus, the author writes Rielle (and Eliana, but I'll get to her) in such a way that you accept them as they are and I, at least, still felt pity for her as the inevitable consequences of her actions start to play out. 

Eliana is a bit of a mystery, a character that would have been easy to suddenly have do a 180 from the bounty-hunter background we're given at the beginning to a "suddenly saw the light" heroine. Nope, she stands true to her upbringing, and there were things she did I disliked as well, but as a person she would be the one I'd want in my life. She's an unapologetic badass, looking for fights in too many of her encounters (but hey, she's got the skills to back it up), and every bit of what she does is to protect and provide for her younger brother and ill mother. She's both courageous and a coward, serving an Empire of evil to keep her loved ones safe while shutting off any feelings towards the good people she hurts by doing so. She keeps complicated emotions at bay and justifies her complacency with her situation by remembering the repercussions her family would suffer should she disobey.

Rielle and Eliana are two completely different people, their personalities jumping off the page. Legrand has done an excellent job of creating two identities uniquely their own.

I'm not going to say too much about the plot, even under a spoiler tag, as I think this deserves a read where you go in with questions. The questions were what drew me along, anticipating more answers on every page. But I enjoyed the world, the clear-cut system of rules for the elemental magic, and the stark differences shown between the time periods. There was more magic-building than world-building, even with a map and glossary, but I'm okay with it. The romance was definitely my style, more on the adult side and with a lot less whiny pining. There are way more important things going on in each of the MC's lives than if that guy is into them. 

I will note that I've seen some comparisons to Cassandra Clare's Mortal Instruments series, and aside from one side character named Valentine I really don't see the similarities. This book is far better written and put together, the characters much more believable and nowhere near annoying, the romance leaves out all of the angst, and there's the *little* difference that the plots are nothing alike. So really there's just the fact that they both have angels and half-angels, and if you're telling me that no one else can write about angelic beings I'll just *insert eye-roll here*. Especially because Furyborn's angels are definitely notthe angels you know. And there's that whole controversy surrounding Clare's originality in the first place...but I'll leave off.

ARC provided by Sourcebooks and Fairyloot - many thanks!