VD The Book Yogi

lover of artistic language and the language of art

August Wrap Up

I am toying with the idea of doing wrap-ups in place of lengthy reviews for each of my reads, simply because of the time I put into a review and the lack I have of said time. When something starts to feel more like a chore than fun, I try to take a step back, especially if it was something I started doing for the joy of it in the first place. I do have reads that I'll likely have just too much to say about--and in the case of such excitement (or adverse reaction), expect a full-length review. But for the time being, I'm going to try mini-reviews as part of this monthly wrap-up, and see how it goes!
So, I had six books on my August TBR, which was a little ambitious given my hectic lifestyle and the general busyness of last month. So I consider it a job well done to have completed four of the six!

Hunted | Meagan Spooner

5 Stars.

Technically I started this one the last two days of July, but since it finished in August I'm counting it. Hunted is easily my new favorite Beauty and the Beast retelling, for so many reasons.

This is not a traditional retelling, and the time the author dedicates to building the relationship between hunter and hunted is fabulous. This is no quick love story, where our Beauty sees the good in the Beast immediately. Yeva is driven by hatred and fury, and she will kill the Beast by any means. She is not swayed by simple niceties, by her slowly growing knowledge of his cursed state. He will die, she has promised it, because his death will bring her peace.

Blend in Slavic and Russian folklore, and the haunting magic of a medieval Russian forest, and we have a very, very different tale than the one I've loved for most my life.

(This is one of those I was super excited about, thus you can read my full review here.)

The Library Of Fates | Aditi Khorana

3 Stars.

Once again we have a potentially fascinating story leaning too heavily on all the pretty ideas it does not explore deeply enough along with its pretty cover. This was a highly anticipated read for me. The cover is gorgeous, the Indian setting is one I've been obsessing over, and the new folklore a story like this promises is exciting. I felt as excited for this as I was last year to read The Star Touched Queen, but I remember how poorly that went so I was equally cautious. Thankfully, the storytelling and cohesiveness were bounds above The Star Touched Queen, but Library still fell short for me.

It promises with both the premise and the cover a no nonsense heroine and let me be clear, that is not our heroine. Amrita is a spoiled princess in many ways, none of which are necessarily her fault, but my problem with her isn't that she started out that way. I take issue with characters who have absolutely no conviction. In love with one person one moment, another the next. On a mission for one thing here, another there. Loyal to one stranger in a heartbeat, loyal to herself almost never.

When I think on summarizing the plot, I absolutely love it. It plays with time and lost goddesses, mysticism and fate, love and reincarnation and the exploration of life beyond what we know. All themes I adore. Except once again, all the deeper themes and potential for an epic story of love and self-discovery fell lazily to the side while we trekked along with Amrita on her very, very convenient journey to find her true love. The last 25% alone is what helped this go from 1 star to 3 for me. So when I summarize the plot, I pull all the very best symbolism and mythology from this tale and love it, while leaving out the muck that drags it down.

Though painfully obvious at times as well as convenient and extremely rushed, The Library of Fates told a tale of which I loved the idea, just not the delivery. 

Daughter of the Burning City | Amanda Foody

4 Stars.

"My Gomorrah is a home. Their Gomorrah is a show."

Surprising, unique, well-crafted, and full of twists I did not see coming.Set in the infamous Gomorrah Festival, this story follows Sorina and her family of "freaks" as they survive amidst the mysterious and oftentimes dangerous world of a travelling festival. What makes them special is not just the fact that they are a family comprised of a fire-breathing baby, a winged teenager, a tree-man, a fish-man, a very flexible sister, a matron, and a man of nails, but rather that each of them is an imaginary creation of Sorina's mind. Illusions, brought to life starting when she was a child and slowly growing more sophisticated. They make up the Festival's Freak Show, with none of the spectators ever the wiser to the fact that it is Sorina pulling the strings.

Sorina herself is also a freak, eyeless, though through some unknown power she is able to see her surroundings as clear as anyone. I enjoyed the system of magic, mostly the way it set its rules and does not break them. Sorina has limits that are established from the start and she does not suddenly transcend herself to overcome impossible tasks. Even when the fact that she can see despite being eyeless is explained it fits within the rules.

When members of her family begin turning up murdered, questions Sorina never considered before push her to discover not only who the murderer is, but who exactly she is and what her true power may be.

The story got a little slow in the middle and I felt myself dragging through for a bit, but the mysteries and ultimate revelations that come throughout the last quarter are well worth it. A few times I thought I had a guess of where we were headed, only to discredit my own theories and revisit them again a few pages later. I did not see some of the twists, and while sometimes in tales like this the twists can be far-fetched, everything about each of these made sense. I was satisfied with nearly everything about the ending, from Sorina's true abilities realized to the new roles each character finds. Without spoiling anything, the only aspect I am still unsure how I feel about is Luca and his ending. The revelation of his character is fabulous, and I should have, would have, seen it coming I think had I not been so convinced by Gomorrah and the magic it both accepts as normalcy and eyes with hypocritical derision. But I still don't really know if I particularly like the idea Luca's end left me with...that no outsider could ever see Sorina for who she was and love her as such without any special circumstances.

I definitely enjoyed the utter uniqueness of this story, and the exploration of what exactly makes a person real in the eyes of not just others, but also their own.

A Darker Shade of Magic | V.E. Schwab

4 Stars.

I've been waiting a while to read this one. It's one of those stories I bought ages ago because of all the hype surrounding the series and V.E. Schwab in general (and, let's be honest, she totally deserves it because she's awesome). But as these things go, the more I tell myself to read something because I will likely love it, the more I push it to the back of my TBR. Finally, FINALLY, I read it. And yes, Kell is amazing...not just because he is one of the only remaining Antari, but also because of how human he is. I loved him and his many-sided coat.

For the most part, the story is a very simple one. There are three Londons (think parallel universes), and only the Antari can cross through the doors to each using blood magic. The magic has limits, and the more even a powerful man like Kell uses, the more he will be drained. Each London has a different degree of magic - Grey London would be "our" world, with little to no magic. Red London is Kell's London, and it is bright and vibrant with magic in everything and everyone. White London too has magic, yet it has run too wild and the world is drained of life and color. With the exception of the quite-powerful rulers, only desperate rituals to bind small magic to the body grant anyone else in this London magic. And once there was Black London, where magic ran freely through everything and burned too bright, burning through humanity and the very world.

When Kell is tricked into carrying a dangerous remnant of Black London through to his London, wild magic is released and a quest begins to clear his name, avoid the fellow Antari who hunts him, and get the piece of Black London back where it belongs. We meet Lila along the way, an aspiring pirate for all intensive purposes, and she is dragged (or rather drags herself) along with Kell to escape her dreary London and find adventure in a new one.

The story is simple and follows a very straight-forward path, but mostly I enjoyed the execution. I appreciate Schwab's writing because she is clear, she is concise, and she is above all else a talented writer who is meticulous with her details. From and editor's standpoint, that is all I can ever ask for. And she has the creativity for such imaginative worlds and the foresight and ability to connect all her dots, make sure she has smooth plots with no holes, and she doesn't waste time forcing in unnecessary subplots too early. There are questions about Kell's past and Lila's that were unanswered, but we'll get to them in time. We may see something between Lila and Kell in the future, but for this chapter of the story it just didn't suit. And the fact that I'm pretty sure we all know what Lila is after that colossal hint towards the end is just another discovery I can't wait to make with both her and Kell in the coming books. But for ADSOM, it had all it needed to be an excellent intro into all the Londons.

Now, on to A Gathering Of Shadows, and hopefully Black London...

As Travars.

Tuesday Tops | New Releases

Hello booklings! This week's top releases will be a little packed, since I'm throwing in last week's releases as well (Labor Day got me). Add that on top of the fact that September is a monster release month full of highly anticipated sequels and new series, and we've got a bunch of books to look forward to!
If you're not familiar, Tuesday Top Releases is a list of the books publishing each week that caught my eye. Likely all books will be in the fantasy genre, and expect a healthy mix of YA and Adult. I'm sure I'll include a rogue contemporary or romance in here and there, especially if there's a lot of interest-worthy buzz. I don't promise to read all the books on the list, but I'll pick my "most anticipated" release each week and make sure to link my review if I was lucky enough to score an ARC from the publisher beforehand. Happy reading!

Black Bird of the Gallows | Meg Kassel

Published: September 5, 2017
Genre: YA Paranormal Romance
Read my review here


"A simple but forgotten truth: Where harbingers of death appear, the morgues will soon be full.

Angie Dovage can tell there’s more to Reece Fernandez than just the tall, brooding athlete who has her classmates swooning, but she can’t imagine his presence signals a tragedy that will devastate her small town. When something supernatural tries to attack her, Angie is thrown into a battle between good and evil she never saw coming. Right in the center of it is Reece—and he’s not human.

What's more, she knows something most don't. That the secrets her town holds could kill them all. But that’s only half as dangerous as falling in love with a harbinger of death."


Godsgrave | Jay Kristoff

Published: September 5, 2017
Genre: Fantasy


"A ruthless young assassin continues her journey for revenge in this new epic fantasy from New York Times bestselling author Jay Kristoff.

Assassin Mia Corvere has found her place among the Blades of Our Lady of Blessed Murder, but many in the Red Church ministry think she’s far from earned it. Plying her bloody trade in a backwater of the Republic, she’s no closer to ending Consul Scaeva and Cardinal Duomo, or avenging her familia. And after a deadly confrontation with an old enemy, Mia begins to suspect the motives of the Red Church itself.

When it’s announced that Scaeva and Duomo will be making a rare public appearance at the conclusion of the grand games in Godsgrave, Mia defies the Church and sells herself to a gladiatorial collegium for a chance to finally end them. Upon the sands of the arena, Mia finds new allies, bitter rivals, and more questions about her strange affinity for the shadows. But as conspiracies unfold within the collegium walls, and the body count rises, Mia will be forced to choose between loyalty and revenge, and uncover a secret that could change the very face of her world.

Set in the world of Nevernight, which Publishers Weekly called “absorbing in its complexity and bold in its bloodiness,” Godsgrave will continue to thrill and satisfy fantasy fans everywhere."


Tower of Dawn | Sarah J. Maas

Published: September 5, 2017
Genre: YA Fantasy


"In the next installment of the New York Times bestselling Throne of Glass series, follow Chaol on his sweeping journey to a distant empire.

Chaol Westfall has always defined himself by his unwavering loyalty, his strength, and his position as the Captain of the Guard. But all of that has changed since the glass castle shattered, since his men were slaughtered, since the King of Adarlan spared him from a killing blow, but left his body broken.

His only shot at recovery lies with the legendary healers of the Torre Cesme in Antica—the stronghold of the southern continent's mighty empire. And with war looming over Dorian and Aelin back home, their survival might lie with Chaol and Nesryn convincing its rulers to ally with them.

But what they discover in Antica will change them both—and be more vital to saving Erilea than they could have imagined."


Sing, Unburied, Sing | Jesmyn Ward

Published: September 5, 2017
Genre: Contemporary Literary Fiction


"A searing and profound Southern odyssey by National Book Award winner Jesmyn Ward.

In Jesmyn Ward's first novel since her National Book Award winning Salvage the Bones, this singular American writer brings the archetypal road novel into rural twenty-first-century America. Drawing on Morrison and Faulkner, The Odyssey and the Old Testament, Ward gives us an epochal story, a journey through Mississippi's past and present that is both an intimate portrait of a family and an epic tale of hope and struggle. Ward is a major American writer, multiply awarded and universally lauded, and in Sing, Unburied, Sing she is at the height of her powers.

Jojo and his toddler sister, Kayla, live with their grandparents, Mam and Pop, and the occasional presence of their drug-addicted mother, Leonie, on a farm on the Gulf Coast of Mississippi. Leonie is simultaneously tormented and comforted by visions of her dead brother, which only come to her when she's high; Mam is dying of cancer; and quiet, steady Pop tries to run the household and teach Jojo how to be a man. When the white father of Leonie's children is released from prison, she packs her kids and a friend into her car and sets out across the state for Parchman farm, the Mississippi State Penitentiary, on a journey rife with danger and promise.

Sing, Unburied, Sing grapples with the ugly truths at the heart of the American story and the power, and limitations, of the bonds of family. Rich with Ward's distinctive, musical language, Sing, Unburied, Sing is a majestic new work and an essential contribution to American literature."


They Both Die At The End | Adam Silvera

Published: September 5, 2017
Genre: YA Contemporary


"On September 5, a little after midnight, Death-Cast calls Mateo Torrez and Rufus Emeterio to give them some bad news: They're going to die today. Mateo and Rufus are total strangers, but, for different reasons, they're both looking to make a new friend on their End Day. The good news: There's an app for that. It's called the Last Friend, and through it, Rufus and Mateo are about to meet up for one last great adventure and to live a lifetime in a single day."




Before She Ignites | Jodi Meadows

Published: September 12, 2017
Genre: YA Fantasy


"Mira Minkoba is the Hopebearer. Since the day she was born, she’s been told she’s special. Important. Perfect. She’s known across the Fallen Isles not just for her beauty, but for the Mira Treaty named after her, a peace agreement which united the seven islands against their enemies on the mainland.

But Mira has never felt as perfect as everyone says. She counts compulsively. She struggles with crippling anxiety. And she’s far too interested in dragons for a girl of her station.


Then Mira discovers an explosive secret that challenges everything she and the Treaty stand for. Betrayed by the very people she spent her life serving, Mira is sentenced to the Pit–the deadliest prison in the Fallen Isles. There, a cruel guard would do anything to discover the secret she would die to protect.

No longer beholden to those who betrayed her, Mira must learn to survive on her own and unearth the dark truths about the Fallen Isles–and herself–before her very world begins to collapse."


Warcross | Marie Lu

Published: September 12, 2017
Genre: YA Sci-Fi


"For the millions who log in every day, Warcross isn’t just a game—it’s a way of life. The obsession started ten years ago and its fan base now spans the globe, some eager to escape from reality and others hoping to make a profit. Struggling to make ends meet, teenage hacker Emika Chen works as a bounty hunter, tracking down players who bet on the game illegally. But the bounty hunting world is a competitive one, and survival has not been easy. Needing to make some quick cash, Emika takes a risk and hacks into the opening game of the international Warcross Championships—only to accidentally glitch herself into the action and become an overnight sensation.

Convinced she’s going to be arrested, Emika is shocked when instead she gets a call from the game’s creator, the elusive young billionaire Hideo Tanaka, with an irresistible offer. He needs a spy on the inside of this year’s tournament in order to uncover a security problem . . . and he wants Emika for the job. With no time to lose, Emika’s whisked off to Tokyo and thrust into a world of fame and fortune that she’s only dreamed of. But soon her investigation uncovers a sinister plot, with major consequences for the entire Warcross empire."


Nyxia | Scott Reintgen

Published: September 12, 2017
Genre: YA Sci-Fi


"Emmett Atwater isn’t just leaving Detroit; he’s leaving Earth. Why the Babel Corporation recruited him is a mystery, but the number of zeroes on their contract has him boarding their lightship and hoping to return to Earth with enough money to take care of his family.


Before long, Emmett discovers that he is one of ten recruits, all of whom have troubled pasts and are a long way from home. Now each recruit must earn the right to travel down to the planet of Eden—a planet that Babel has kept hidden—where they will mine a substance called Nyxia that has quietly become the most valuable material in the universe.

But Babel’s ship is full of secrets. And Emmett will face the ultimate choice: win the fortune at any cost, or find a way to fight that won’t forever compromise what it means to be human."


Fireblood | Elly Blake

Published: September 12, 2017
Genre: YA Fantasy
Read my review of Book 1, Frostblood here


"Against all odds, Ruby has defeated the villainous Frost King and melted his throne of ice. But the bloodthirsty Minax that was trapped inside is now haunting her kingdom and everyone she loves. The answers to its demise may lie to the south in Sudesia, the land of the Firebloods, and a country that holds the secrets to Ruby's powers and past....

Despite warnings from her beloved Arcus, Ruby accompanies a roguish Fireblood named Kai to Sudesia, where she must master her control of fire in a series of trials to gain the trust of the suspicious Fireblood queen. Only then can she hope to access the knowledge that could defeat the rampaging Minax--which grows closer every moment. But as sparks fly in her moments alone with Kai, how can Ruby decide whom to trust? The fate of both kingdoms is now in her hands."

There is some serious hype surrounding several of these releases, but for me the most anticipated is easily Godsgrave. I'm currently waiting on my Goldsboro special numbered and signed edition to arrive from the UK (damn that international standard shipping), but I'm a click away from ordering the US hardback from Amazon and getting on my way with Mia and the wonderful stabstabstabbing. Due to my lack of control with book buying recently (and always, let's be honest), the hubs has prohibited duplicate book purchases. I'll likely listen for another day or so before I do what I want anyway, as per usual. :)
On another note, while the ACOTAR series is arguably one of my favorite new series, Sarah J. Maas lost me on the Throne of Glass series back at the end of book 2. I just don't...care anymore. Oh well!
Which of these is making it to your TBR?

Black Bird of the Gallows | Thoughts

5 Stars.

Black Bird of the Gallows surprised me. As a paranormal romance, it is a bit outside my genre but I've been in a slump with fantasy so no better time to branch out. From the second or third page I knew I was going to like it...which is admittedly a big leap to assume so early on. But I did, because I was laughing at Meg Kassel's writing. Clever, well-written, and just the right amount of cheeky, I knew immediately I was going to have no problem finishing, whether I liked the story or not. Thankfully, I did really enjoy the story.

Black Bird has a low fantasy setting with nothing seeming out of the usual in a small Pennsylvanian mining town. There's no world-building needed, and we get the tone of our characters' social standing in the first few chapters. Not part of the popular crowd (and not unhappy about that fact in the least), Angie and friends spend their free time putting musical talents to good use at local clubs, while also keeping them hidden from teasing bullies at school. Nothing appears out of the norm from any other high school or small town, except growing hints towards the supernatural. Crows gathering and following Angie around, a strange man with shifting faces...In a contemporary setting where there are strict rules of reality, the slightest notion of something paranormal can make big splashes.

I enjoyed Angie's character even if I never felt completely attached to her. Though we meet a few characters, the story focuses mostly on Angie and Reece, the new boy who moved into a vacant house next door. Although slightly cliche, Reece is the epitome of a high-school jock, sized up by Angie instantly as popular and out of her league. The book is filled with many basic stereotypes; band members are unpopular geeks, sports players and pretty girls are mean-spirited bullies. Set aside any ruffled feathers that these are all standard molds for a high-school drama, and you'll enjoy the nod to music and disc-jockeying. We follow Angie on the journey to learn more about her mother's death and the reasons she is afraid to show more than just her friends who she really is. I go back and forth with the idea that she needed Reece's criticism and approval to ultimately come out of her shell, because in this day I'll be damned if you say any woman needs a man to succeed. But sometimes it doesn't have to be a man helping a woman, it can be just that you needed a friend to help push you past your comfort zone - which is what Reece does.

This is a romance, so nearly every scene hinders on some form of encounter with Angie and Reece. I didn't mind, especially as most of those scenes are tied neatly in with the advancement of paranormal activity. Perhaps I have just missed out on the creative idea of harbingers of death, but it's a unique twist in a YA world full of vampires, werewolves, and fae. Not to mention the Beekeepers...beings that take on the faces of their victims and spread a disease of madness? Delightfully creepy, and Reece is just the right amount of dark, without too much brooding. I was also pleased that big chunks of the story did not revolve around the typical "we can't be together" angst; if there were any brief thoughts of the like, they were quickly put aside in adopting a "live in the moment" mentality. 

As I said earlier, the writing is what sold me from the beginning. I was reminded of Kendare Blake's writing style in Anna Dressed in Blood, with the camaraderie I felt to the group of friends and the laughs I had at the wit. The story is well-paced, with a steady flow of reveals and twists so I was never bored. There are some moments in dialogue that info-dumped slightly, but not to a point that interrupted the flow of conversation. I found no editing issues to dwell on, the plot is neat and the story wraps up cleanly. If it does conclude a little too nicely with all the ends coming together happily...well I don't mind that either in a YA world fond of ripping out our hearts. Now and then I need a standalone without the frustration of an unnecessary cliffhanger, and I loved how Black Bird of the Gallows ended, and ended well. That said, I could very well see Angie and Reece's story picking up to continue the hunt to end a curse, encountering even deadlier and older magic. I would go on the next adventure with them.