Love in the Multiverse || A Thousand Pieces of You Review

Initial Thoughts: 

Well this was cute.


A THOUSAND PIECES OF YOU

by Claudia Gray
Harper Teen, November 2014
Science fiction, young adult, romance
Rated: 3 / 5 cookies

Marguerite Caine’s physicist parents are known for their groundbreaking achievements. Their most astonishing invention, called the Firebird, allows users to jump into multiple universes—and promises to revolutionize science forever. But then Marguerite’s father is murdered, and the killer—her parent’s handsome, enigmatic assistant Paul— escapes into another dimension before the law can touch him.

Marguerite refuses to let the man who destroyed her family go free. So she races after Paul through different universes, always leaping into another version of herself. But she also meets alternate versions of the people she knows—including Paul, whose life entangles with hers in increasingly familiar ways. Before long she begins to question Paul’s guilt—as well as her own heart. And soon she discovers the truth behind her father’s death is far more sinister than she expected.

That cover though

Okay, so can we talk about the cover just a wee bit? Because how could anyone not talk about the gorgeousness of it? Seriously, I would have picked it up out of a bookstore just because of the colors alone. That said, yes, this is definitely me judging the book by its cover, and normally I let the premise and the title take me along the ride. But this? Claudia Gray was blessed with the cover gods.

Now that that’s over with…

Dammit, romance

Again, this is probably another case where I didn’t read the book jacket summary in its entirety, and most of what I’d known about this book was that it dealt with the multiverse. And, honestly, I already said “hell yes” to the fact that this book has a multiverse.

So…kind of like Dark Matter right? Except for young adults and a less complicated explanation of how the multiverse works?

Well…ah, who was I kidding. It’s a young adult book, so it reads like a young adult book, with young adult problems.

Let’s backtrack a bit before I start raving about things first. Marguerite Caine is the daughter of two famous and brilliant scientists. In her world, she is sort of the black sheep of the family–while her brain isn’t completely out of left field, Marguerite chose to follow the artistic route rather than her family’s scientific calling. Hard to imagine, considering her parents are the inventors of the Firebird, a multi-dimensional traveling device that becomes the focal point–and the plot-mover–of the book.

The book itself opens up rather well, to be honest. It starts out with enough action and contemplation to get me interested. Heck, when Marguerite spends most of the first chapter filled with hate and planning to kill some guy named Paul, I was like, “DO TELL, MARGUERITE. WHY YOU MURDEROUS?”

Honestly, Marguerite’s resolve to kill Paul made me wish she’d gone through it like Uma did. Just saying.

So Marguerite–with the help of Theo, her-other-love-interest-but-that-is-honestly-mostly-arbitrary-because-seriously-nothing-comes-out-of-it-at-all–travels several parallel dimensions in search of Paul in order to exact vengeance for a murder he supposedly committed. Let’s all just blatantly trust our narrator, because of course she’s got all the facts and information, the logically, scientifically-minded girl that she is. Oh, wait, she doesn’t have all the facts. But nevermind because this being a YA, the guy she’s chasing will probably managed to be the same guy she’s going to fall in love with. I mean, the title is A Thousand Pieces of You. If that’s not romantic, I don’t know what is.

Which brings me to the brass tacks. This book is predominantly a romance. Yes, it has a wonderful backdrop and several worlds that I could see expanded rather well in future installments. Yes, it has an awesome plot-driven premise that boils down into some crazy conspiracy that is much bigger than I’d imagined. But also yes, it’s a romance with a love triangle. A frelling. Love. Triangle. Not only is it a love triangle, but both guys were pretty much the same archetype of a typical romantic interest: geeky, hot, intense, and overprotective. The only difference between Theo and Paul are that one’s more sociable than the other and one’s just a wee bit smarter.

Sigh.

It didn’t help that Marguerite was probably the least interesting character to me. Sophia would have been a great POV. Katya would have been a great POV. Josie would have been a great POV. Instead, the perspective fell on a girl who just happened to become a special snowflake due to circumstance (BECAUSE SHE DOES BECOME A SPECIAL SNOWFLAKE). Instead, we get someone–whose sole reason for multi-dimensional travel is vengeance–who gets sidetracked because she fell in love with the guy she’s been chasing. I mean, Marguerite, seriously, remember the time when you adamantly believed Paul was a murderer? Yeah…

That being said, I will say I enjoyed the book. I had listened to the audiobook version of this book, which was fantastic because of the different accents performed by the narrator. I also particularly loved that the multiverses were varied and rather interesting in their changes. Claudia Gray gave not just one world, but several, and that in itself is worth a lot of kudos. My favorite dimension has got to be the Russian world, which took up a chunk of the book. A lot of the characters in this dimension got fleshed out, and I would definitely read a sequel that returns to this world later on. The love affair between Marguerite and Paul was certainly more palatable with Russian accents in tow, and I’m kind of glad for this (also, sue me, I have a weakness for my “the princess and the guardsman fall in love” trope).

All in all, A Thousand Pieces of You is not a book without its fair share of faults. The love story was predictable, and it gets cheesy from time to time. Marguerite as a character could have been better written. There were still a lot of questions I would have loved to have answers for, and the multidimensional travel explanations were definitely lackluster in comparison to another multiverse book I’d loved (Dark Matter).

But while the book had elements I didn’t like, I thought the story picked up quite a bit once the truth about the conspiracy was fully revealed. I ended up listening to the audiobook really quickly, I was never really bored, and I adored every single time Henry and Sophia were iterated in each dimension. I’d totally read the rest of the trilogy because I’d love to see more of these characters show up again.

3 out of 5 cookies! I’d recommend this book because cover, Russia, and multiverse. Yeah.


Have you read this book? What did you think?

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Food and Fandom: A Little Taste of Carthak

I’ve been on a Tortallan high these past few weeks, especially after my bout with Tempests and Slaughter by Tamora Pierce. As part of my review, I took pictures of quotes I wanted to use and passages I wanted to get back to again just to re-read.

Unsurprisingly enough, most of those pictures involved descriptions of food. I blame Varice for this.

“You should get to know different flavors, alone and mixed,” Varice told him soberly. “We can be brought low by a common poison if we don’t know when something wrong is added to our food and drink. Our Gifts won’t warn us unless, of course, you know your poisons.”

The lovely addition of Varice in Tempests was a splendid move on Pierce’s part. Between Ozorne’s ambition and Arram’s destiny for greatness (as he’s been constantly told by the crocodile god), Varice is one gifted student who has no such desire to become great, powerful, or famous. And yet she’s very intelligent and no ordinary “kitchen witch.”

She’s also a great addition to the narrative because she brings so much perspective on food. Like, seriously, so much food.

As drums pounded and trumpets blared in the arena, a slave selected different fruits and set the on plates, then added small cups of sauce. Varice giggled when she saw that Arram regarded the serving process with mistrust. “You dunk a bite of fruit in a cup, silly. It makes the taste more sophisticated.” She speared a grape on a thin-bladed knife and looked at the three small cups. “This is tamarind syrup, this one is cherry, and this, I am sure, is lime with…” She dipped her grape and tucked it into her mouth before the syrup could drip into her dress. “Mmm, cinnamon,” she said with approval.

That description alone already made me salivate and crave fruits with dipping sauce. Actually I could really just use tamarind juice right about now.

Anyway, the point is, the whole book had a lot of different recipes I wanted to try. Near the beginning of the book, I’d actually found a mention of pastries I wanted to make, like “tassen”, which, after some digging, I found out was a shortened, creative rewriting of “hamantaschen,” which is a Jewish pastry. Now, I’d tried store-bought hamantaschen, but wasn’t actually a fan of the dry texture, so I might hold off on actually making those when I’ve found a decent recipe that I like. That said, there were still a lot of things I could have done for this book that epitomized the Carthaki culture.

The breakfast that waited there helped. While Varice and Arram used pancakes with pistachios to scoop up eggs, Cosmas fed Preet whatever she expressed a wish for in between sips of tea.

One thing I noticed about the food in Tamora Pierce’s Tempests and Slaughter is that they do eat a lot of stew.

“In the meantime, if you have not read it already, you may wish to look at Strange Things in My Stew by Farmer Cooper of Tortall. It was written three hundred years ago and is out of fashion, but there are things in it you will not find in the modern texts.”

Which eventually brought me to this sentence.

“Stop frowning,” Ozorne told Arram as they dove into their beef tajine.

And, of course I had to look up what beef tajine was, because, ya know, I needed an idea for dinner and this sounded like a good thing to look up.

When I found a Moroccan version of the dish, I just HAD to make it, cilantro and all.

Beef Tajine

Tajine is apparently a common dish in Morocco, and named after the tajine pot it is cooked in. Now, I don’t have a tajine, but I imagine it’s a pot you can slow-cook meats in. I also don’t have an earthenware cooking pot big enough for the dish I wanted to make…but I made do, because, hell, what is cooking if not improvising, right?

Heh.

The recipe and prep times were pretty straightforward. A lot of the waiting actually comes from having to simmer the entire stew until the meat is nice and tender and the potatoes and carrots are soft and easily eaten in a bite. Yum.

One of the only things I had been tentative about adding was the cilantro. I’m not a big fan of cilantro, and I’ve seen a lot of recipes use too much of it in a dish to the point where the cilantro overpowers just about everything else (I’m talking about YOU, guacamole). So when the recipe called for 1/4 cup of fresh cilantro, I almost decided not to use it entirely.

Which would have been a big mistake. The cilantro actually augmented the flavors and worked well with the spices involved. In the end, it was so. damn. good. It’s no wonder they eat so much of it in Carthak.

I’d make beef tajine again in a heartbeat.

Again, for the full recipe, check out The Wicked Noodle. I didn’t stray very far from this, to be honest! The only thing I did alter was the carrot and potato ratio. I used one large carrot and an assortment of baby potatoes. Everything else was a mixture of following the recipe and tasting for flavor.

With all this said and done, time for lunch!

Tortall Just How I Like It || Tempests and Slaughter Review

Initial Thoughts 

Ughhhh I still have so many questions that needed answering WHY DID IT HAVE TO END?! But mostly two things. 1. I am biased to almost all things Tamora Pierce so the rating here could have easily been 5 stars because yes I effing enjoyed the book. But 2. While I absolutely adored Arram living a Harry Potter lifestyle during a fantastical medieval setting, what I was mostly left with was the desire to reread the entire Immortals series again and the desire to move on with the plot because THINGS HAPPEN OMG at the end. BUT THE QUESTIONS!

Alright I’m done.


TEMPESTS AND SLAUGHTER

by Tamora Pierce
Random House, February 2018
Fantasy, young adult
Rated: 4 / 5 cookies

Arram Draper is a boy on the path to becoming one of the realm’s most powerful mages. The youngest student in his class at the Imperial University of Carthak, he has a Gift with unlimited potential for greatness–and for attracting danger. At his side are his two best friends: Varice, a clever girl with an often-overlooked talent, and Ozorne, the “leftover prince” with secret ambitions. Together, these three friends forge a bond that will one day shape kingdoms. And as Ozorne gets closer to the throne and Varice gets closer to Arram’s heart, Arram begins to realize that one day soon he will have to decide where his loyalties truly lie.

Carthaki-Bound!

You’ve got to understand this about me: I’m a die-hard Tamora Pierce fan. Back in the not-so-distant past, I went so far as to write fanfiction for certain scenarios that were never expanded upon in the Tortallan series. By the time I’d finished-slash-devoured The Immortals quartet, I was so completely enamored by the idea of Numair’s character and his meeting up with the Alanna gang that for a long time I couldn’t bring myself to read anything else. And then I started writing fanfic about it. And then I started sharing that fanfic. And then I began to get really into the details.

Fast forward almost a decade since the rumors of a Numair book has been in tow (no, seriously, I’d been promised one since 2010, dammit, and I’d heard about a possible Numair novel in the works as early as 2007…), and I can finally let out a sigh and a squee because YES, Pierce has done it once again and I cannot wait for the next book already!

Tempests and Slaughter delivers where it counted. If I had to compare it to anything, it would be Harry Potter meets the medieval times plus gladiators and slavery. You have your medieval magical school which is Carthak University. You have your golden trio of Arram, Varice, and Ozorne (though honestly, Ozorne is hardly humorous and extremely prejudiced against a certain race, and it’s Arram who’s the super nerdy know-it-all), and you have a Chosen O–actually, nope. Nah. It’s not that kind of story.

What Pierce did well was make her magical school a workable, plausible one. If the world had magic during medieval times, I’d totally buy this homage to a school system with modified and differentiated curricula (HAH! I’m using educational terminology, take that, nay-sayers!). I mean, who wouldn’t want to teach very promising and enthusiastic students on a one-on-one basis? Only in an ideally magical world, amiright?

I absolutely loved the characters in the story. Pierce has had so much writing experience under her belt by now that getting the details in is seamless for her. She always writes such interesting personalities and backgrounds, and she always delivers on strong female characters, regardless of whether the female is a kitchen witch, a slave/gladiator, or an elderly magic teacher. There are also familiar characters that have appeared in her previous books as well, and it’s really great to see them. That said, now I have to reread The Immortals series again, because there’s so much allusion to that series that I keep wanting to pick up previous books to find characters so I could make sure I knew who they were. Cannot. Deal.

That being said, I did find myself wanting more. A lot of this first book of Arram’s/Numair’s story focused on his time growing up in Carthak’s only magical school (the only other one that could boast a similarly high standard of magical education at this point is the City of the Gods in northern Tortall). At this point we really only get a glimpse of how the characters were like, what the political climate is, and how the culture and setting greatly differed from Tortall’s familiar and favorable world. Not much really happens as far as overall conflict until near the end of the novel. Not that I minded too much, but still, I would have loved to have seen more progression on the plot and wouldn’t have minded a curtailing of Arram’s in-depth studies.

Overall, though, as a fan of Pierce’s work–especially that of her Tortallan series–I’d heartily recommend this. It would not necessarily be bad to read this before getting into the other books, as timeline-wise, this probably happens concurrently or a little after Alanna: The First Adventure. Maybe I should throw in a reading guide order of the Tortall series at some point…that might be a nice idea.

4 out of 5 cookies! With all of the leading up to the next book, I absolutely cannot wait to see what Pierce has up her sleeve next!


TTT: “Queen”ly Books

For more information on Top Ten Tuesday, click here.

I figure I should get back into the blogging business, and what better way than to get back on track with a Top Ten Tuesday list, amiright? This week, the topic is “Frequently Used Words in [_____] Titles” which made me think of the plethora of fantasy books I’ve seen lately that use “Queen” in their titles. So instead of highlighting ten words that get overused in titles, I decided to do ten books that have Queen in the title!

Ten Fantasy Books that use Queen in the Title

The Orphan Queen by Jodi Meadows – This is probably one of the books that’s been on my TBR for the longest time. I just…haven’t gotten to it yet?

The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi – Definitely one of the priority reads. I might even end up reading this for my and Meg’s Fableulous Retellings Podcast…

The Queen of the Damned by Anne Rice – Read this book years back when I still had a thing for Anne Rice vampires. Wasn’t as great as Interview with a Vampire, but it was still good.

The Iron Queen by Julie Kagawa – I actually read the first book of the Iron Fey series, though to be honest, I couldn’t bring myself to read the rest.

Queen of Sorcery by David Eddings – Absolutely loved The Belgariad, so I’d recommend the series to high fantasy fans.

The Shadow Queen by C.J. Redwine – Another one that’s on my list to read. I’d given this to one of my voldies as a Christmas present, and she’d enjoyed it.

Trickster’s Queen by Tamora Pierce – I actually liked Trickster’s Choice, but I haven’t read the sequel. Wasn’t too interested in knowing what happened to some of the characters, really.

Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard – The more I think about this book, the more I believe this was only “meh” for me.

The Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen – Ugh. Sucky main character = nope.

Queen of Shadows by Sarah J. Maas – Enjoyed the first book a lot, but I haven’t honestly been catching up to this series. This is a favorite series of one of my voldies, though!

There are definitely more Queen-related titles out there, many of which are not fantasy books, but if I had to keep listing them, I’d never end this list!

TTT: Surprisingly Good Books

For more information on Top Ten Tuesday, click here.

Sometimes I read books that surprise me in a good way. It doesn’t really happen so often mostly because I tend to have high expectations with my books, and they either meet those expectations or not. (Oh, god, when did I become a book snob?! I SWEAR I’M REALLY NOT.) Occasionally, though, there are some books that pulled punches and knocked it out of the ballpark. So there ya go.

Top Ten Books That Were Surprisingly Good

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell – Contemporary new adult isn’t something I normally enjoy or read, but I had to pick this up because A) it spoke to me, and B) it’s by Rainbow Frelling Rowell, and I loved Carry On, so I had to try this book. No regrets there. Loved this almost as much as her book on gay wizards.

Gilded Cage by Vic James – With an overglut of dystopian YAs, why would we need another one? Gilded Cage was surprisingly good for a dystopian, but it’s also because there’s fantasy thrown in here, and several perspectives I actually enjoyed.

Speak Easy by Catherynne M. Valente – Okay, this one was a stretch. I figured I would enjoy this book, and I did. But I didn’t think I’d enjoy it that much. It definitely put Valente on a priority list for me, that’s for sure.

The Girl in the Tower by Katherine Arden – I will say I actually liked this book better than its predecessor, and that’s a surprise considering it’s the second and sequel of an already good book. This one had a lot more adventure, though, since for the most part, character intros were made and done with in The Bear and the Nightingale.

The Last American Vampire by Seth Grahame-Smith – This is a sequel to Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. Honestly, need I say more? I haven’t even read the first book before biting (hah!) into this one, but it was available on audiobook and I just had to borrow it! I will admit I didn’t take this seriously, but it was so well done.

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr – IS SO SAD THO. Really, it was poetic to listen to as an audiobook. I didn’t think I’d enjoy it as much as I thought I would, but I did up until the last quarter of the book. Then I just died inside and asked the world what I did to deserve such an ending. Sigh.

Blood of the Earth by Faith Hunter – I find I’m picky with my urban fantasies. Many haven’t really appealed to me, which is a shame because I really do want to try as many as I can. They’re also pretty easy, quick reads. Faith Hunter in particular is pretty good at her craft. For some reason, I’ve actually enjoyed Blood of the Earth much more than Skinwalker, but she’s still an author I’d read more of!

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline – Honestly, I don’t know why it had taken me so long to actually read this! Loved the book to pieces; it was a blast from the nostalgic past, and while I had misgivings about it, Whil Weaton’s audiobook narration clinched the deal. Surprisingly good, and I cannot wait for the movie.

Outlander by Diana Gabaldon – This was a book that I’d listened to on audiobook concurrently while I watched the show. So I can’t remember whether I’d read the final scenes first or watched them. Either way, I actually enjoyed this book. Maybe the fact that Sam Heughan plays Jamie Fraser helped. A helluva lot.

Last Call at the Nightshade Lounge by Paul Krueger – Another urban fantasy new adult mash-up! And yeah, okay, quick read, somewhat silly, somewhat dramatic. But come on. It’s a book about bartenders who have superpowers based off of the type of cocktails they cook up and drink. I enjoyed this way more than I thought I would, clearly.

How about you? What books were surprisingly good?