Operation Bring Back Magic || Children of Blood and Bone Review

Initial Thoughts: 

OMG I AM CRYING WHAT THE FRELL HAS THIS BOOK DONE TO ME. I AM NOW AN EMOTIONAL WRECK AND WHY ISN’T THE NEXT BOOK OUT WHY.

This is fantasy at its finest. Actually, the last bit in the book reminded me of Lady Knight by Tamora Pierce because both books clearly touched upon real-world issues and influences and put these issues in mothereffing FANTASY and it was. SO. GOOD.

Needless to say, it’s taken me ages to get from start to finish, but that’s what made the journey a million times worthwhile.


CHILDREN OF BLOOD AND BONE

Tomi Adeyemi
Henry Holt Books, March 2018
YA fantasy
Rated: 5 / 5 cookies

They killed my mother.
They took our magic.
They tried to bury us.

Now we rise.

Zélie Adebola remembers when the soil of Orïsha hummed with magic. Burners ignited flames, Tiders beckoned waves, and Zélie’s Reaper mother summoned forth souls.

But everything changed the night magic disappeared. Under the orders of a ruthless king, maji were killed, leaving Zélie without a mother and her people without hope.

Now Zélie has one chance to bring back magic and strike against the monarchy. With the help of a rogue princess, Zélie must outwit and outrun the crown prince, who is hell-bent on eradicating magic for good.

Danger lurks in Orïsha, where snow leoponaires prowl and vengeful spirits wait in the waters. Yet the greatest danger may be Zélie herself as she struggles to control her powers and her growing feelings for an enemy.

Listen. LISTEN. There’s only been a handful of audiobooks I’ve listened to that I then had the need to read a hard copy of, and seriously, that list only amounts to two so far. One was A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab, and the other is Children of Blood and Bone. Now, this could very well just mean “oh hey, I really shouldn’t listen to fantasy at all, because knowing me, I’m gonna want a copy of the book anyway,” and yeah, this is very true. There’s a reason I don’t normally listen to fantasy on audio.

But this book. I urge you to listen to it. I urge you to read it. Seriously, from the beginning of the very first page, I had chills as I listened to the audiobook. And then I had chills again when I read the page myself. And then I had chills thinking about both altogether.

I think about the way her corpse hung from that tree.

I think about the king who took her away.

And there’s every reason to squee, because as a reader, I savored the book as slowly as I could, entrenching myself in a world where magic is on the verge of coming back. And as a writer, I had to keep getting snapshots of my favorite lines because holy hell, the words fell so elegantly on the page that I had to admire Adeyemi’s word choice.

I fucking loved this book. So much. I don’t care what anyone else says.

But let’s pretend that I didn’t already love the book on page 1. Let’s play a game of:

If I Didn’t Already Love The Book…

If I didn’t already love the book, I’d love it for its diversity. It’s a book inspired by Yoruba culture and West African mythology. It is an African world that touches on heavy themes like colorism (because it’s clear in the book that the lighter-skinned nobles and kosidan are treated better than the darker-skinned diviners). It is a world that touches on deep-rooted prejudism for “the Other” that every single time the word “maggot” is mentioned, you can’t help but flinch because of how much that word is drenched in puddles of hate. It is a world where women are once again marginalized by society, but it is also a world where many of the women are not at all defenseless (Kaea, Mama Agba, Amari, Zelie, Zu, Folake, the diviners and kosidan in Mama Agba’s care just to name “a few”). And hot damn it felt good to see so many of them rise up and fight.

I nod, remembering Father’s rants from long before the Raid. The Britaunis. The Porltoganes. The Spani Empire–all civilizations destroyed because those who had magic craved power, and those in charge didn’t do enough to stop them.

If I didn’t already love the book, I’d love it for the worldbuilding and rich history. There are maji clans listed in the beginning of the book. There are places I would love to visit, including the temple at Chandomble. There’s even mention of worlds that had succumbed to the dangers of magic, which gave rise to a fear and hatred against it. I loved that the world got fleshed out, and if that meant a lot more exposition happened in certain parts, then so be it!

If I didn’t already love the book, I’d love it for its very non-subtle Avatar: The Last Airbender parallels. It is no secret that Adeyemi pulled inspiration from places like AtLA and Ember in the Ashes (which I saw with glee when the actual term, “ember in the ashes” got used in the book at least once). She’s said so in interviews herself. I mean, Inan is definitely an African Zuko, complete with amber eyes, uncanny competence in finding the Avata–erm, the ONE diviner, and a shitton of daddy issues. Okay, so Inan isn’t scarred physically, but he does gain a bit of an interesting physical feature, has a tendency to hate himself, was on his way to a really good redemption arc throughout the book, but somehow manages to eff that up like Season 2 Zuko.

Yeah, pretty sure if I had to peg Inan somewhere in the Avatar: The Last Airbender universe, he’d be season 2 Zuko. Without the influence of an awesome Uncle Iroh–which TOTALLY made all the difference.

If that itself wasn’t already a dead giveaway of Blood and Bone’s AtLA-ness, how about the random mentions of Zelie–whose power over the dead can be greatly enhanced by bloodbending–and her affinity to water?

“You seem at home in the water,” I say. “I’m surprised you’re not a Tider.”

“Maybe in another life.”

Zelie smells like the ocean. There’s a whiff of saltwater and sea whenever Mr. Dreamie McDreamer thinks about her silver eyes and white hair. And like…COULD THIS SHIP BE ANY MORE CUTE THOUGH?

“What were you thinking?” I ask.

“You were in danger,” he answers. “I wasn’t.”

He reaches down and grazes a cut on my chin. A strange flutter travels through me at his touch. Any possible response jumbles in my throat. I don’t know what to say to that.

And maybe, just maybe in another life, my ship actually, truly happens, too. Or, you know, there’s always fanfic!

…ZUTARA FTW #sorrynotsorry #fightme

If I didn’t already love the book, I’d love it for the perfect composition of sentences. Some sentences were like music to my ears. I had to repeat reading them because they were so well-placed. I don’t know how long Adeyemi stared at the computer for as she typed her book up, but if it were me, I’d still be racking my head around how to sort my sentences out. She just makes word choice look effortless.

But for all my plotting and maneuvering, it’s obvious the girl isn’t here. Though there’s no shortage of glaring diviners, her silver gaze is not among them.

I release the throwing knife as something I can’t place deflates in my chest. It sinks like disappointment.

It breathes like relief.

I just…sigh.

If I didn’t already love the book, I’d love it for the fire in Zelie and the lionaire in Amari. I will admit Amari wasn’t as interesting to me up until she’d started to show her competence with a sword. But she is a lionaire by the end of the book, and I was rooting for her to get shit done and shank a few people (which she does, so YASQUEEN to that!). Zelie was always my favorite, though. She is your feisty protagonist with a responsibility like no other. I cannot wait for what happens next, and if it means going back into Orisha with Zelie and Amari in tow, I wouldn’t mind it one bit.

“You clutch it the way a child clutches a blanket,” Zelie releases a heavy sigh. “You fight for a man who will always hate you just because of what you are.”

You tell him, Zelie. You tell him.

5 out of 5 cookies! Seriously, you guys. This is definitely one of my favorite books of the year.


Have you read this book? What did you think?

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Mini Reviews: Avatar the Last Airbender – Smoke and Shadow

I actually meant to do a full review of all three parts combined (because they were relatively short), but decided laying them out as mini reviews worked best, considering I did have pretty  much the same things to say about the three volumes. I enjoyed them, of course, though I did wish some things changed. I thought the relationships got stuck in the same place, which I thought never went anywhere healthy. I also thought the bit with Zuko’s mother was a bit annoying and unnecessary (though I will say the whole Firebending thing runs deeply in Zuko’s family, because yeesh, his relatives–save his actual mother–are brimming with Firebending magic).

Anyway, I’ve talked enough about this. Here are the minis!

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Have you read this series or watched the show? What did you think?

Art and Birds and Sacred Geometry || Rebel Genius Review

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Initial Thoughts: 

The good thing is this story is swashbucklingly adventurous and reminiscent of Avatar: the Last Airbender. The bad thing is that it isn’t Avatar: the Last Airbender. Just a sorta kinda copy with a completely different world and magical system. Did I like it? Yes! I did wish the story’s medium had been an animated one, though.


REBEL GENIUS

by Michael Dante DiMartino
Roaring Brook Press, October 2016
Middle grade adventure fantasy
Rated: 3.5 / 5 cookies
provided by NetGalley (thank you!)

rebelgeniusIn twelve-year-old Giacomo’s Renaissance-inspired world, art is powerful, dangerous, and outlawed. Every artist possesses a Genius, a birdlike creature that is the living embodiment of an artist’s creative spirit. Those caught with one face a punished akin to death, so when Giacomo discovers he has a Genius, he knows he’s in serious trouble.

Luckily, he finds safety in a secret studio where young artists and their Geniuses train in sacred geometry to channel their creative energies as weapons. But when a murderous artist goes after the three Sacred Tools–objects that would allow him to destroy the world and everyone in his path–Giacomo and his friends must risk their lives to stop him.

Not gonna lie, the first thing I saw when I saw the cover of this book was Michael Dante DiMartino’s name and everything pretty much shut down from there, because all I kept thinking was, “Avatar. Avatar the Last Airbender on paper. ON BOOK FORM. With art and stuff. OMGWHATISTHIS WHAT IS HAPPENING I WANT THIS.” As a big AtLA fan, I was practically stoked when I found that half the AtLA creative team wrote a book for children.

Of course, it’s not AtLA by any shape or form, though there are enough similarities in the story and characters that it’s difficult to avoid the comparison. Which is why this review is probably going to bring up AtLA a lot. I mean, I’ve already mentioned it twice in this paragraph alone. Sorry not sorry.

A World of Art

Rebel Genius takes place in an interesting world where artists of all kinds possess Genius–magical birds with jeweled crowns on their heads. Most of the time, the Genius arrives at birth and grows alongside the artist, and the partnership between the two are often beneficial. The artist is endowed with a magical skill, and with the right training, both artist and Genius can grow to become powerful in the ways of sacred geometry.

That is, until the Fire Nation–Nerezza attacked. Since then, as the Supreme Creator, Nerezza has forced artists to part with their Geniuses. Unfortunately, by killing the artist’s Genius, it inadvertently kills off the artist’s soul, and thus most lives are also lost because of this. In the case of Giacomo, he lost his parents under the Supreme Creator’s rule.

Enter Team Avatar–Genius. The characters have some of the quirks of the AtLA team, and it is definitely hard not to see them otherwise. Unfortunately, because the show itself had such great character development, the featured characters in Rebel Genius paled in comparison. Milena was easily my favorite character, and even she doesn’t get much limelight. A lot of characters were introduced as well, though I found that I held little sympathy for any of them. Zanobius held some interest because he had that “father-son/creator-creation” moral dilemma that is pretty much the stuff of a hero’s journey story, but even then his character is kind of flat. It’s hard to like someone whose point of view gets rewritten every so often. On top of that, the book really focused on the worldbuilding and the magical system, so the characters pretty much just wandered through the backdrop.

But what a beautiful and interesting world it is! I mean, artists gain power through knowledge of sacred geometry. Art and math, for eff’s sake. That shit is beautiful. It’s profound. It’s the kind of magical system I’d like to live in because geometry and symmetry is aesthetically pleasing (and fun to play with). Now I wouldn’t love to live in the world Nerezza sought to make, but hey, that’s a different dilemma altogether.

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Also, can I just say how great it is to see illustrations within the text? I will say it was a little difficult to picture a few descriptive details, so having sketches of characters and situations gave me a better visual of what was happening in the story. For those who also had some trouble with the math-ish concepts, it may have been a good thing to add illustrations, only to see how Genius powers worked (and even then, it was still somewhat hard to grasp).

All in all, though, I enjoyed the story. It was fast-paced, descriptive, and interesting. I couldn’t really rate Rebel Genius too high, though, because as I said, much of the character work paled in comparison, and the story seemed to be just an introductory story into the world. I would love to have known more about what was happening overall, and would have loved more progression on the story itself. The entire adventure in the Land of Death and Duke Oberto’s was such a roundabout way of trying to get to the Compass. I can easily imagine it as an episodic story, but for me it didn’t quite work in book form.

Now…if only there was an animated form of this book…oh wait.

That was the last gif, I swear!


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Did you read this? What did you think?

Food and Fandom: Avatar the Last Airbender

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It seems like such a long time since I did one of these, but since one of my cousins celebrated a birthday, there was no doubt I was going to bake him a geeky fandomy cake of fandomy awesomeness! The subject in this case? Well, no other than Avatar: The Last Airbender!

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The first thing I’m obviously going to say is that Avatar: The Last Airbender–and, by association, The Legend of Korra–is one of my favorite animated shows ever. EVER. And this is not saying things lightly, because I used to watch a lot of anime (now, not so much, but I mostly blame time constraints and my inability to pay attention to too much subtitles). I even crack a ‘toon now and then, no shame in that. But yes, Nickelodeon did well airing AtLA. It was good for my soul. And I’m still harboring a girly-crush on Zuko, even when he’s jail-bait (though technically he’s not anymore, considering time jumps and stuff…). Actually, I’ll admit I have a girly-crush on most of the Fire Nation denizens. I include Azula on this list.

But anyway, on to the cake!

avatarcake1Believe it or not, even when I look cakes up online, it still takes quite a bit of time to conceptualize what I wanted to do exactly. There was a question of what cake flavor and coloring would do well with food coloring, the method in separating colors so that the cake itself didn’t mix into one icky glob of color-goo, the question of icing style, whether or not I was using chocolate at all, and how the outside decoration was going to be formed especially considering that I was going to be using chocolate after all. In the end, after talking to my sister (who is the more artistic one), I made a preliminary sketch of what I wanted this AtLA cake to look like.

I knew I wanted to draw the bending elements on the outside of the cake, but I also wanted to show that my inside matched. So I went ahead and did a color code combination. I was a little worried at first that the blue and red colors wouldn’t come out well, only because I used a boxed lemon cake flavor (yes, this was not a cake I made out of scratch…that was too much effort), and the yellowish coloring could very well screw things up. But after a drop or two more of the red and blue, the colors came through and I was back in the clear. Phew to that.

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It does kind of like the Google Chrome logo, doesn’t it?

The next problem was figuring out how to keep the colors separate in my cake pan without going the “rainbow cake” route, wherein all I had to do was dump each color down one at a time. I didn’t have any metallic dividers, at least not one that would fit a cake pan, and I was definitely NOT using cardboard to stuff in the middle, when I have to put the pan in the oven. So in light of innovation, I grabbed some aluminum foil, folded them a bit, and formed blockades in order to form four quadrants.

There was a lot of concern of whether or not the batter would seep out and onto another quadrant. And, well, it kind of did, but at that point I was more amused than annoyed, because guess what nation decided to encroach on the other quadrants? Yeah, the Fire Nation. Everything did change when the Fire Nation attacked.

In any case, I managed to pour all of the batter before the Fire Nation overran the Earth Kingdom and destroyed the Air Temples (ahahaha). And by that point it didn’t really matter so much as long as I got everything into the oven.

And look! Isn’t this pretty?

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I used a lemon cake mix and even the frosting isn’t from scratch this time, but whatever. My main goal was to design and decorate a cake in the geekiest way I could, and I had my sister to help me on that front. Once I frosted the lemon cake with a ready-made dark chocolate frosting, I cooled it and had my sister help me draw up the design with writing icing. Then, to top it all off–since my cousin is a lover of chocolate–I garnished the cake with dark chocolate pieces and dark chocolate Lindt truffles.

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Needless to say it looked scrumptious enough to eat, and my sister did such a GREAT JOB with the elemental symbols! I’m glad she took that on.

Pretty much the only thing we didn’t manage to do was make cake pops of AtLA characters. We kind of ran out of sticks, so maybe next time.

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An interesting thing to note is that my cousin’s first cut went into the Earth and Water kingdoms. I personally asked for the border of the Earth Kingdom and Fire Nation. Here’s hoping I can lightning-bend and metal-bend by the end of the weekend.

Until next time!

TTT: Favorite TV Shows I’ve Watched Recently

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For more info on Top Ten Tuesday and The Broke and the Bookish, click here.

Oh boy. Listing top ten TV shows is almost as bad as trying to figure out my top ten books of all time. I watch too much TV (and movies, for that matter), and it’s so much easier to binge-watch things with all these video-streaming channels available at my fingertips.

Rather than hash out my favorite shows of all time (because, as I said, there are a lot of them), I’ll go with:

Favorite TV Shows I’ve Watched Recently.

Pushing Daisies – This goes on both my favorite shows of all time and what I binge-watched last March. I don’t even know where to begin singing praises for this show, because I adored everything about it, from the love story, to the characters, to the cleverly placed puns, to the popping and colorful visuals. It was the saddest feeling to see this show get cancelled.

Doctor Who – This was probably my gateway drug into sci-fi–and British–shows, and it seriously took a friend of mine a good year to convince me to watch it. Eccleston was my first Doctor, but the show cemented itself for me at David Tennant (well, maybe a few episodes before that when Jack Harkness strolled into my life…). I’m way excited about Peter Capaldi stepping in as the most recent regeneration.

Avatar: The Last Airbender – Hands down one of the best animated shows in the Western world. I haven’t technically watched the show in a while, but I did just finish its sequel, The Legend of Korra. While Korra kind of pales in comparison to The Last Airbender (Zuko<3), there is no denying the fact that the animation is breathtakingly beautiful. The last half of LoK’s second season was intense, and I’m hearing raving about season 3 so far, which is terrific.

Game of Thrones – This show, I cannot even–yeah. I am so, so, so glad that HBO picked this up and did the adaptation so well, because it tells me that adapting fantasy books for TV is possible. Not that this is the first adapted fantasy by any means. But goodness, it’s certainly returned adult high fantasy on the TV map.

One Piece – I could probably fill an entire TV watchlist just on anime alone, but I won’t. This has been the only anime I’ve been watching lately (well, lie, I’ve started Attack on Titan and am five episodes away from finishing Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood), and definitely my favorite of the shonen anime. I watch this with family, too, so I think that makes the experience extra awesome.

Arrow – I’ve always been pleasantly surprised at how well the CW managed to bring Green Arrow out of the page and onto the screen, and without the introduction of superpowers either! There are some characters that drive me up the wall for their extreme melodrama, but Team Arrow more than make up for those shortcomings. Plus, omg I cannot wait for the upcoming Flash spinoff as well.

Sherlock – The modern take on Sherlock is refreshing, but I’ve listed this as a favorite because Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman just work absolutely well as Sherlock and Watson. Oh, and Mark Gatiss and Steven Moffat need to stop being TROLLS about this. Moriarty my ass.

The Tudors – Okay, I haven’t watched this lately, but I started The White Queen just recently, and my mind went back to how awesomely done The Tudors had been. Natalie Dormir as Ann Boleyn was just phenomenal. Also, Jonathan Rhys Meyers. Also also, Henry Frelling Cavill. Yeah.

White Collar – You can learn a lot about conning and art forgeries with Neil Caffrey around. I love this show because it’s light and serious and Matt Bomer is beautiful. No, seriously. I’ve seen people play pool in movies and shows, but none as sexily and elegantly as Bomer’s Neil Caffrey.

Nikita – I’m actually relieved the CW ended this show when it did, because anything more and it would have dragged out into a world of Nope. Thankfully, the short final season channeled all the badassery of season one. Also, Maggie Q as Nikita? What could be better than that? (Well, Shane West co-starring as Michael, I suppose…).

Honorable Mentions: The Big Bang Theory, Farscape, The IT Crowd, The Walking Dead, The Good Wife, Mad Men, Ripper Street, Grimm, and Castle (if I pretend that the last episode of season 6 didn’t happen)

What I’m currently binge-watching: The White Queen, House, Breaking Bad