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!


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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?

Empress of a Thousand Skies || Review

Initial Thoughts: 

For something that’s set up for a duology, there is much to tie up plot-wise. Not surprising for a space opera per se, but I thought a few things could have been resolved already. Also, way too many random coincidences used to move the plot. Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world…anyway, some good parts, some bad, I’m still on the fence mostly on this book.


EMPRESS OF A THOUSAND SKIES

by Rhoda Belleza
Razorbill, February 2017
Young adult, science fiction
Rated: 3 / 5 cookies

The only surviving heir to an ancient Kalusian dynasty, Rhee has spent her life training to destroy the people who killed her family. Now, on the eve of her coronation, the time has finally come for Rhee to claim her throne – and her revenge.

Alyosha is a Wraetan who has risen above his war refugee origins to find fame as the dashing star of a DroneVision show. Despite his popularity, Aly struggles with anti-Wraetan prejudices and the pressure of being perfect in the public eye.

Their paths collide with one brutal act of violence: Rhee is attacked, barely escaping with her life. Aly is blamed for her presumed murder.

The princess and her accused killer are forced to go into hiding – even as a war between planets is waged in Rhee’s name. But soon, Rhee and Aly discover that the assassination attempt is just one part of a sinister plot. Bound together by an evil that only they can stop, the two fugitives must join forces to save the galaxy.

In a galaxy far, far away…

Cue the whole Star Wars opening sequence for when you read the book jacket summary. I swear to you the overall effect makes it even more dramatic. And, believe you me, this entire thing takes a turn for the drama. But such is a space opera, amiright?

But seriously, can we talk about this whole memory cube business first?

So in this world/galaxy, er, thing, most people are wired into a memory cube, which pretty much holds what I’m assuming is a database of their personal experiences. Because of Rhee’s flashbacks, it seems like an equivalent of a perfect recollection, one which she could go back to over and over again. So when that gets unplugged, most memories are essentially wiped out. And this is a universal thing. I wonder how much of this is hackable and easily attained/rewritten because the whole thing is largely online…

I shudder to think.

Having perfect recall and being able to go back to a memory over and over again is both a blessing and a curse, imo.

But I digress. My point is there’s a lot about this technology that was interesting to me, and I would have loved to have seen it unfold. In fact, Alyosha and Kara’s subplot kind of touches on this conspiracy about the memory cubes, which is probably why I found their POV the second most enjoyable scenes to listen to, the first being the fast-paced, high-risk chase taking place with Vin and Aly.

That being said, a lot of the story hinged on kismet and character ignorance. Several times, Aly and Rhee escape their conflicts unscathed because of a set of coincidences that were set in motion before they even entered the scene. Several times, the characters do stupid things and they still manage to survive (Aly crashing in a spaceship after a high-risk chase, Rhee dropping a pill and getting herself and Dahlen nearly killed). In one particular scene, it just so happens that both characters meet eye-to-eye for a hot second and then suddenly, everything escalates. I just…where’s the buildup? Where’s the danger? Why are the characters so. frelling. dumb?!

No, seriously. These characters had way too many issues that could have been solved if they weren’t so stupid and self-obsessed. The main villain was predictable, boring, and honestly, sounded like the equivalent of a Mary Sue if villains could be characterized as Mary Sues. Rhee, as the only survivor of the Kalusian dynasty, is supposed to have been taught to take over the throne of an empire, yet I in no way thought of her as anyone who would be fitting to take over a throne. The beginning of the book pretty much starts a few days before her coronation, and yeah, okay, shit happens, and we have explosions and death, and mo’ money, mo’ problems, but from the get-go, Rhiannon was the most aggravatingly ignorant girl ever. She reminded me of another YA girl-ruler who I completely despised because all that education and preparation amounted to absolutely nadand in the end do we really want to trust someone like that in a seat of power?

You’d think perfect recall would allow Rhee to dwell on memories and analyze the minutiae of human interaction and facial expressions. You’d think she’d pick up on facial cues through that recall. Instead, she spends the entire last few years thinking about shanking the guy she THINKS killed her family. Without proof. Without any other evidence other than the fact that she has a memory of her father’s adviser arguing vehemently against peace. And because the guy was so against her father’s policies, it’s clear that he TOTALLY DID IT.

Spoilers, he didn’t. Oopsie daisy? And does Rhee learn? Not in the slightest.

I could probably list a few other things that bothered me about this so-called empress, but I’m so over it, and I want to move on to better things.

Alyosha’s arc was definitely the most interesting to read. While Rhee’s journey was focused on the overarching galactic politics (peace versus war, an empire in arrears, a princess looking for revenge, and a madman trying to frame the wrong person), Aly’s had the most human-interest. Besides the memory cube technology, what I thought Belleza did well on was her touching upon race and racism in the galaxy. The Wraetan are looked down upon, and it mostly has to do with the coloring of their skin. When Rhee’s ship explodes before reaching her coronation ceremony, all the blame goes to Aly, a Wraetan who is blamed because of course it would be a dark-skinned Wraetan who would want to kill off Kalusian royalty. This aspect continues to be brought up throughout the book, and Aly has to constantly deal with not only escape, but survival. Easier said than done when most of the empire is out there to kill him…

Overall, a lot of what the characters did bugged me. A lot of the events made me roll my eyes because of course it would happen that way. I did greatly appreciate the interesting twist with the technology, and I liked the inclusion of different race dynamics in the story. I also liked that this was a space opera, because then lots of different characters and plots within plots within plots. There were a lot of loose ends that still needed to be tied up, however, and Belleza could have kept her story a little less convoluted. That said, I actually am keen to read the next book, if only to find out more on the whole memory cube plot.

3 out of 5 cookies! And honestly, this whole “the two fugitives must join together” thing on Goodreads is another blurb gone wrong. The two main characters never actually meet each other in the book, so um. Yeah.


Did you read this book? What did you think?

TTT: Book Quotes

For more information on Top Ten Tuesday, click here.

I have done quote-related Top Ten Tuesdays before, but I specified them mostly through Terry Pratchett quotes and swoon-worthy quotes. So this time I’ll actually do my Goodreads favorites! I’ve been trying to save quotes up from books I absolutely adored, but it’s much harder to do when you get so invested in a book that you forget to take pictures or make note of what quote you really loved. Also, Goodreads doesn’t always have the one particular quote I want from a particular scene from a particular book…but I’ll make do.

I also limited quotes to one from each author, because then I might end up just doing a V.E. Schwab special or something…wait. That’s not an entirely bad idea…I’m going to save that for another quotes-related TTT!

Top Ten Book Quotes a la Goodreads

“Captain?”

“Yeah?”

“Do you think it was destiny that brought us together?”

He squinted and, after a thoughtful moment, shook his head. “No. I’m pretty sure it was Cinder.”

Cress by Marissa Meyer

There’s a lot of quotes that made me die a bit in Marissa Meyer’s Lunar Chronicles series, and this one wasn’t half as funny, but it’s so. damn. true. I blame Cinder for everything. And I love her for it.

Elend smiled. “Oh, come on. You have to admit that you’re unusual, Vin. You’re like some strange mixture of a noblewoman, a street urchin, and a cat. Plus, you’ve managed–in our short three years together–to kill not only my god, but my father, my brother, and my fiancee. That’s kind of like a homicidal hat trick.”

The Hero of Ages by Brandon Sanderson

Elend is just full of snazzy things to say about awesome Vin.

Richard did not believe in angels, he never had. He was damned if he was going to start now. Still, it was much easier not to believe in something when it was not actually looking directly at you and saying your name.

Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman

No list of quotes would be complete without a Gaiman quote. Honestly, it was between this and one from American Gods, but the AG one would have meant the use of profane things.

“I’ve looked at the world for quite a few years now and I’ve found that if I don’t laugh, I’ll probably end up crying.”

Demon Lord of Karanda by David Eddings

Silk is the bees’ knees! Again, there were plenty more fun things he’s said in the Belgariad, but this one has a grain of truth that still resonates with me. I laugh to prevent myself from crying over the world, too, Kheldar.

The ships hung in the sky in much the same way that bricks don’t.

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Galaxy by Douglas Adams

Which brings me to this gem of a Douglas Adams quote. ‘Nuff said. I could do a special on his sayings, too.

Does the walker choose the path, or the path the walker?

Sabriel by Garth Nix

Definitely another quote that’s stayed with me for years on end.

The more I know of the world, the more I am convinced that I shall never see a man whom I can really love. I require so much!

Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen

Pretty much the modern version of this is: “Fictional men have given me high expectations in romance!” True dat.

Once upon a time, the sky knew the weight of angel armies on the move, and the wind blew infernal with the fire of their wings.

Days of Blood and Starlight by Laini Taylor

I love all of Laini Taylor’s “Once upon a time” openers in her Daughter of Smoke and Bone series. This one was just extra poetic, which was beautiful.

“So you would have me throw Shazi to the wolves?”

“Shazi?” Jalal’s grin widened. “Honestly, I pity the wolves.”

The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh

Honestly, I’m surprised I didn’t use any of the other quotes I adored in Wrath, but I really liked this one.

“Things are or they are not, Vasya,” he interrupted. “If you want something, it means you do not have it, it means that you do not believe it is there, which means it will never be there. The fire is or it is not. That which you call magic is simply not allowing the world to be other than as you will it.”

The Girl in the Tower by Katherine Arden

Magic is so much clearer now! Seriously, though, Morozko you old frost demon, you.

Was there a book quote that stayed with you for a while?

Wrap Up: January and February 2018

I’m doubling up this time around because I completely forgot to put up January’s monthly wrap-up. Not that much happened in January. I mostly took pictures of food and books, or, well, you know, busy doing nothing much?

Books Read

Well, a double feature of monthly wrap-ups makes it look like I did a ton of reading at least…

Wildwood Dancing by Juliet Marillier || Speak Easy by Catherynne M. Valente || Interstellar Cinderella by Deborah Underwood || Six-Gun Snow White by Catherynne M. Valente || Out of My Mind by Sharon M. Draper || Empress of a Thousand Skies by Rhoda Belleza || She Captains by Joan Druett

Currently Reading

Tamora Pierce did a signing last month for Tempests and Slaughter! I’ve been looking forward to this book for a long time, and I’ve totally pushed back on all my other books to read this. Yeeep.

Snow Like Ashes by Sara Raasch || Tempests and Slaughter by Tamora Pierce || Tortall: A Spy’s Guide by Tamora Pierce || Ghost Slayer by Majanka Verstraete || Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl || The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories by Angela Carter

Writing

So I’m sitting and listening to music on my way home, and something came to me. I might actually write it down.

Movies

The Academy Awards are tonight, actually, so it’s only appropriate that I highlight my Oscar-movie bingeing for the past two months! I’m only sad that I didn’t get through all the movies on the list, but for the most part, I got through all of the Best Picture nominations at least (well, the last one I’ll be watching last minute).

Mudbound || The Breadwinner || The Big Sick || The Shape of Water || Boss Baby || The Post || I, Tonya || Molly’s Game

I absolutely loved The Shape of Water so much that I might actually buy myself a copy to keep (and I haven’t done that in a while). I, Tonya and Molly’s Game are longshots, but I really liked how they scripted the dialogue in Molly’s Game and I thought Margot Robbie and Allison Janney was fabulous in I, TonyaThe Breadwinner was really good, but it’s honestly Pixar’s category to lose as usual.

Dunkirk || Coco || Get Out || Darkest Hour || The Phantom Thread || Lady Bird || Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri || Victoria and Abdul

I’m normally a period piece kind of gal, but even Victoria and Abdul bored the shmat out of me. I didn’t like Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, and honestly I hope Get Out wins for screenplay in that vein, because it was definitely well-written. I’m respecting Dunkirk for cinematography, but I honestly couldn’t tell you what the movie was about; I’ve totally forgotten already.

Television

I pretty much binged my shows, though most of my focus has been on movies.

Supergirl, Season 1 – After my general misgivings about how good Supergirl was going to be, I’ve gotten hooked since. Once past a certain number of episodes, it definitely got tons better. Also, I CALLED IT ON THE MARTIAN.

The Royal House of Windsor – This was something I watched after I ran out of The Crown episodes. Again. It wasn’t bad, I suppose, but definitely NOT The Crown.

Video Games

Injustice 2 – I don’t normally play fighting games, but for the Injustice franchise and its superb CG animations, I’m game for anything. This was a fabulous continuation of Injustice, and if there’s a third, I’m looking forward to that, too!

Dishonored: Death of the Outsider – I honestly consider this a spinoff of Dishonored 2, and while it was shorter as far as gameplay, it still packed a wallop. The story was straightforward and contained much less conspiracy, but if this was how Arkane Studios wanted to completely tie up the Dishonored series, it’s definitely a strong finisher.

Fooding

I ate and baked a lot of things, okay? What more do you want from me?!

Florentines || Chicken Gyro || Artichoke and spinach mac n’ cheese || Medovik || Chocolate covered frozen fruits || Chocolate mousse || Banana nutella crepe || Waffle fries

The end of March is going to be interesting, because, um, I’m headed off to a far away place (aka PARIS YAY!), so we’ll see how I’ll fare as far as updates go.