Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Waiting on Wednesday *71*

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly feature hosted by Jill over at Breaking the Spine where book bloggers get together & spotlight an upcoming release we're especially looking forward to!

Here's my pick this week:

The Immortal Crown by Richelle Mead
Age of X #2
Expected Publication: May 29th by Dutton Adult

Gameboard of the Gods introduced religious investigator Justin March and Mae Koskinen, the beautiful supersoldier assigned to protect him. Together they have been charged with investigating reports of the supernatural and the return of the gods, both inside the Republic of United North America and out. With this highly classified knowledge comes a shocking revelation: Not only are the gods vying for human control, but the elect—special humans marked by the divine—are turning against one another in bloody fashion.

Their mission takes a new twist when they are assigned to a diplomatic delegation headed by Lucian Darling, Justin’s old friend and rival, going into Arcadia, the RUNA’s dangerous neighboring country. Here, in a society where women are commodities and religion is intertwined with government, Justin discovers powerful forces at work, even as he struggles to come to terms with his own reluctantly acquired deity.

Meanwhile, Mae—grudgingly posing as Justin’s concubine—has a secret mission of her own: finding the illegitimate niece her family smuggled away years ago. But with Justin and Mae resisting the resurgence of the gods in Arcadia, a reporter’s connection with someone close to Justin back home threatens to expose their mission—and with it the divine forces the government is determined to keep secret.
Some of you may remember me being kind of all over the place when it came to the first book in this series (Gameboard of the Gods) but that doesn't mean I'm not curious to see what direction Richelle Mead plans to take her adult dystopian series next.  I'm hoping some of the issues I had with book 1 will be resolved and that the sequel will offer more information on the world...and it's mythology.

What are you waiting on this week? Link me up!

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Early Review: A World Without Princes

A World Without Princes by Soman Chainani
The School for Good & Evil #2
Expected Publication: April 15th 2014 by HarperCollins

In the epic sequel to the New York Times bestselling novel, The School for Good and Evil, Sophie and Agatha are home, living out their Ever After. But life isn't quite the fairy tale they expected.

When Agatha secretly wishes she'd chosen a different happy ending, she reopens the gates to the School for Good and Evil. But the world she and Sophie once knew has changed.

Witches and princesses, warlocks and princes are no longer enemies. New bonds are forming; old bonds are being shattered. But underneath this uneasy arrangement, a war is brewing and a dangerous enemy rises. As Agatha and Sophie battle to restore peace, an unexpected threat could destroy everything, and everyone, they love—and this time, it comes from within.
*An ARC was provided by HarperCollins in exchange for a honest review*

A World Without Princes is the follow-up to The School for Good and Evil, which was a debut full of promise for me.  I was very eager to see how the story would develop in the sequel, how the characters would evolve and how also they would actually end up back at the School for Good and Evil - especially considering the ending of book 1.  As I mentioned when I read the first book, this is a series that has it's basis in 'classic fairy tales'which means it follows in the tradition of a prince seeking his princess and/or a princess seeking her prince.  In my first visit to The School for Good and Evil I found myself wishing the plot had shaken things up a bit more when it came to usual fairy tale tropes but this time, I was prepared for the style...and that might be why I found myself enjoying A World Without Princes even more than it's predecessor!

Now I'll admit that I'm probably biased : give me a story about a magical school and I am a happy girl on principal.  It should come as no surprise then that the idea of returning to the School for Good and Evil was appealing to me. I was pleasantly surprised and  impressed by how author Soman Chainani went about bringing both his main characters Agatha & Sophie back there in a totally new and exciting way.   In fact, I found that whole return-sequence to be riveting; a real thrill-ride that unravelled in my mind like a beautifully animated cartoon!  Once the girls arrive at the school, they find that some alarming changes have taken place.  Instead of having dual schools with one dedicated to good and one dedicated to evil (like their first year there), the two girls discover a new kind of fairytale: one with a school for girls and a school for boys! And now both sides consider the other one to be the enemy... all because of Sophie and Agatha's fairytale from the previous year.

I was hooked on the premise for A World Without Princes from the start, in equal parts out of curiosity about the change in schools and because I want to know how the girls' fairy tale will eventually end up. In the first book, I had mentioned that I thought the story focused a lot more on Sophie's character while my favorite, Agatha had been a little left out. I was pleased that this time around Agatha was a lot more front and center.  We got to see how being the princess in her fairytale has changed her from the goth-witch girl she once was. On the other hand, Sophie continues to inevitably have the more compelling story arc, because of her constant battle with the villain inside her, so I revelled in getting her side of the story as well.  And while I wasn't necessarily a huge fan of the idea that Agatha must choose between her Prince and her best friend, remembering that this is a place young people are taken to learn how to be fairy tale princes, witches and princesses helped me put aside my concerns and just enjoy the ride.

Much like the first book, A World Without Princes had a lot of humor and a little more gender-bending hints at forbidden romances.  I love the tongue-in-cheek quality it's written in, just enough to raise questions and discussions with younger readers without being too alarming for the more conservative folks out there ;-)  Again part of me does wish it might have pushed the envelope a little more, but that fact never really dampened the fun I was having while reading this.  There is some really cool and exciting magic well as some more familiar tropes, reminiscent of that other series set magical school...but all in all, it had a fresh, well rounded blend of fantasy.  In fact, there was a bit less magical training per-say this year - likely due to the plot-twist - but there were some new magical elements to their classes and day-to-day activities so it all balanced out in the end.

More than anything though, I think what kept me on the edge of my seat was that this time around, it wasn't always clear who was good and who was evil.  Sure one of two of them were obviously baddies but their motives were anything but obvious.  There's nothing like a good mystery to keep me compulsively reading until I know ALL THE ANSWERS!  The ending was a major twist for me - I did not see that one coming - which of course brought on major anticipation for the third book! If you enjoyed The School for Good and Evil, you should definitely check out A World Without Princes!

My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Previously, my review for book 1 - The School for Good & Evil

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Harry Potter MotW #37

Harry Potter Moment of the week is a weekly meme hosted over at Uncorked Thoughts. The idea is to share one favorite moment, magical item, character, spell, quote, object from the books, films or J.K.Rowling herself!    For information on how to join up & for upcoming topics, click here.

  Worst Umbridge Moment

Ugh. Umbridge.  I think we can all agree that any moment she appeared on page or film was some variation of a 'worst moment'.  She was either building up to doing something vile and heinous, doing something vile and heinous...or, just finishing off from doing something vile and heinous.  She spied, manipulated, lied, bullied, abused and tortured her way through Hogwarts and the Ministry for Magic.  We all hate her even worst than Voldy himself so many moments come to mind when trying to think of the worst of the worst.  The way she lobbied and discriminated against anyone NOT a pure-blood, her role in the Muggle Registration Act (it's implementation AND her role as judge jury and executioner)...Sacking Trelawney is an especially loathsome one as well but I've always hated her the most for:

Torturing Harry

That moment, in her office with just her and Harry, when she calmly and sweetly explains about her 'special quill' and Harry proceeds to write his first line...and he comes to the full realization of just how sick and twisted she is.  That whole scene just weighs on me every time I read it or even just thinking about it now.  

I could babble and rage on and on about her but instead I'll just share a link I found that makes a really interesting point as to why we all hate Umbridge even more than Lord Voldemort.  Check it out here (if you want) and share your thoughts in the comments below!

Oh and for the record, here's what I think is the best Umbridge moment:


Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Waiting on Wednesday *70*

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly feature hosted by Jill over at Breaking the Spine where book bloggers get together & spotlight an upcoming release we're especially looking forward to!

Here's my pick this week:

The Fire Wish by Amber Lough
The Fire Wish #1
Expected Publication: July 22nd 2014 by Random House

A jinni. A princess. And the wish that changes everything. . . . 

Najwa is a jinni, training to be a spy in the war against the humans. Zayele is a human on her way to marry a prince of Baghdad—which she’ll do anything to avoid. So she captures Najwa and makes a wish. With a rush of smoke and fire, they fall apart and re-form—as each other. A jinni and a human, trading lives. Both girls must play their parts among enemies who would kill them if the deception were ever discovered—enemies including the young men Najwa and Zayele are just discovering they might love.
I haven't read a story about trading places in a loooong time and The Fire Wish sounds like the perfect cure for that.  I love the exotic setting and the combination of princes, princesses and a jinni.  There does seem to be a romantic element to this but I think if it's done well, it could be quite entertaining - even funny at times.  I feel sure our dual MC's will get into all kinds of exciting adventures along the I'm really wishing to get ahold of this one soon :)

Thoughts? Let me know when you link me up below!

Friday, April 4, 2014

Review: AtLA - The Search II

The Search - Part 2 by Gene Luen Yang
Avatar: The Last Airbender: The Search #2
Published July 10, 2013 by Dark Horse

Enter the Forgetful Valley

As Fire Lord Zuko continues his quest to uncover his mother's fate, a shocking revelation causes him to question everything he knows. It's an opportunity that his sister, the deadly and insane Azula, will not fail to take advantage of as she joins Zuko and his friends, Aang, Katara, and Sokka on their journey into a mysterious forest from which some people never reemerge...
The second book in The Search trilogy picks up right where book 1 left off: fresh off of a huge revelation that could very well change everything.  The gAang ;-) continues on with their mission to find Zuko's mother though and their journey leads them to The Forgetful Valley, a perilous forest from which they might never be able to escape.

The main focus of The Search story arc is to uncover the mysteries of Zuko's past, so naturally the story  alternates from the present day situation to Zuko (and Azula's) childhood.  To me, the flashback sequences were just as compelling as the current events being told and I loved the way both ends of the tale balanced each other out.  One of the best things about the animated series was the details involved in the storylines and it's lovely to that aspect brought to life in graphic novel form.

I found that regardless of being in the present time or the past, the second volume in The Search trilogy stayed thoroughly compelling throughout.  Some bits are totally laugh-out-loud funny, others are intense and action packed. Still others bring the feels in surprising and unexpected ways...and other moments are just plain cool.  I love that the crew is on the road again, travelling to new and exciting locations. The Forgetful Valley was a creepily cool example of this, and right in line with the kinds of places Aang would have brought his friends to in the original series.  I always especially enjoyed Aang's encounters with Spirits or the Spirit World so meeting some new and impressive Spirits was a real treat!

As a long-time Zuko fangirl, I absolutely adored getting new information about his past - even though a lot of it was tragic.  It just all really helps to put his character into perspective.  Same goes for Azula - it seems her current issues stem from some childhood events as well, so getting that insight is really invaluable to their story as a whole.  I won't go into much more details on this front to avoid spoilers, but let's just say Ozai is an even more horrible man than even the animated series led us to believe O.O  Another one of my favorite things about the animated series is the freaking incredible character development and author Gene Luen Yang certainly brought that to the forefront his graphic novels as well!

The Search Part II was a fun and exciting continuation to this trilogy.  The ending once again pretty much forces you into the next volume; if only by sheer force of anticipation ;-)  I'd recommend this trilogy (and all the other Avatar graphic novel trilogies Dark Horse Comics have put out) to Avatar: The Last Airbender fans of all ages!  And to anyone out there that has never watched it: what are you waiting for? -Hit the show title link to find out what you're missing!

My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Harry Potter MotW #36

Harry Potter Moment of the week is a weekly meme hosted over at Unc orked Thoughts. The idea is to share one favorite moment, magical item, character, spell, quote, object from the books, films or J.K.Rowling herself!    For information on how to join up & for upcoming topics, click here.

  Trelawney vs. Firenze

Oh tough call!  I guess they're both quite odd, in their own way...but they're also wise in their own way too.  As much as Trelawney ended up not being the complete flake we thought her out to be, I think I still would have preferred:


There was something incredibly mysterious about him from our first meeting with him in the Forbidden Forest.  He spoke in riddles but there was always hidden knowledge in his words.  I think I would have quite liked his class.  The way it looked and felt like being outdoors...looking at the stars.  I don't know if I would have understood much, or even passed his class at all...but to be honest, that could be said for Trelawney's class as well!  

Professor Firenze was a centaur, part of the Forbidden Forest Centaur colony, and a Divination teacher at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry from 1996 to 1998.  Before sometime in March 1996, he lived with the colony in the Forbidden Forest, on the borders of Hogwarts in Scotland. In 1992, Firenze saved Harry Potter in the forest from Lord Voldemort, frightening him away and carrying Harry on his back to safety. Despite his heroics, his herd saw this as a dishonourable act, as they considered themselves too great to be ridden by humans.
About four years later, in March 1996, Albus Dumbledore, Headmaster of Hogwarts, hired him to teach Divination in Sybill Trelawney's stead, after she was sacked by Dolores Umbridge. But once again, the other centaurs saw this as servitude, and his colony attacked and banished him. They would have killed him were it not for the intervention of Rubeus Hagrid.  After Dumbledore was reinstated as headmaster, Trelawney was returned to her classroom, since Firenze's was still estranged with his colony, Dumbledore allowed them both to continue teaching, though Trelawney was uncomfortable with sharing her classes with a centaur. When Firenze was injured fighting in the Battle of Hogwarts, he returned to his colony later when the other centaurs had come to the opinion that his pro-human leanings were not so shameful.Harry Potter Wikia

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Waiting on Wednesday *69*

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly feature hosted by Jill over at Breaking the Spine where book bloggers get together & spotlight an upcoming release we're especially looking forward to!

Here's my pick this week:

Midnight Thief by Livia Blackburne
Midnight Thief #1
Expected Publication: July 8th 2014 by Disney Hyperion

Growing up on Forge’s streets has taught Kyra how to stretch a coin. And when that’s not enough, her uncanny ability to scale walls and bypass guards helps her take what she needs.
But when the leader of the Assassins Guild offers Kyra a lucrative job, she hesitates. She knows how to get by on her own, and she’s not sure she wants to play by his rules. But he’s persistent—and darkly attractive—and Kyra can’t quite resist his pull.

Tristam of Brancel is a young Palace knight on a mission. After his best friend is brutally murdered by Demon Riders, a clan of vicious warriors who ride bloodthirsty wildcats, Tristam vows to take them down. But as his investigation deepens, he finds his efforts thwarted by a talented thief, one who sneaks past Palace defenses with uncanny ease.

When a fateful raid throws Kyra and Tristam together, the two enemies realize that their best chance at survival—and vengeance—might be to join forces. And as their loyalties are tested to the breaking point, they learn a startling secret about Kyra’s past that threatens to reshape both their lives.
Assassins! Knights! Revenge!  I am loving the sound of Midnight Thief! Granted the hints of a budding romance gave me pause - but if it's done right it could add another layer to this adventure.  I also think it's great that both Kyra and Tristam have their own separate agendas from the start and end up uniting despite themselves.  This could be truly brilliant!

Thoughts? Share them below when you link up ;-)
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