& Review: The Song of the Orphans by Daniel Price

The Song of the Orphans by Daniel Price Publisher: Blue Rider Press, July 2017

The Book Itself: Simple and graphic. Truth be told, I like the cover of Flight of the Silvers a wee bit better, but this story speaks louder than this cover.

My Review:

After their world collapsed in a sheet of white light, everything and everyone were gone—except for Hannah and Amanda Given. Saved from destruction by three fearsome and powerful beings, the Given sisters found themselves on a strange new Earth where restaurants move through the air like flying saucers and the fabric of time is manipulated by common household appliances. There, they were joined by four other survivors: a sarcastic cartoonist, a shy teenage girl, a brilliant young Australian, and a troubled ex-prodigy. Hunted by enemies they never knew they had, and afflicted with temporal abilities they never wanted, the sisters and their companions began a cross-country journey to find the one man who could save them.

Now, only months after being pursued across the country by government forces and the Gothams—a renegade group with similar powers—the Silvers discover that their purpose on this unfamiliar earth may be to prevent its complete annihilation. With continually shifting alliances and the future in jeopardy, the Silvers realize that their only hope for survival is to locate the other refugees—whether they can be trusted or not.

I hope all of you get the pleasure of waiting a long time for the sequel to a book you really loved, only to see it in person and realize it is an absolutely massive brick of a novel, and you can’t wait to dive in. It’s the best feeling.

Fair warning: this book is brain-numbingly complex and A LOT OF STUFF HAPPENS. Plus, I wrote this review a month or two after reading it, so bear with me here.

I read The Flight of the Silvers again in preparation for the sequel. I remembered that book being quite complex, with lots of players, and I wanted to come into this book fresh from the world the author first introduced me to. A lot of the nemeses and parties involved are the same as the first book. In a super quick, condensed recap, we have:

1. The Silvers, our heroes: Hannah, Amanda, Zack, Theo, Mia, and David. They have now also joined up with Peter Pendergen, a sensei of sorts for these poor six kids who found themselves plopped into an alternate America after their own world ended, only to ALSO discover that they have superhuman abilities now.

2. The Pelletiers: mysterious, all-powerful beings who “saved” each one of the Silvers…and also several other groups of people from the original Earth. For reasons yet unknown at the start of this second story.

3. Weasily little Evan Rander: a former member of the Silvers who repeats the five years between apocalypses because his ability to jump back in time at will makes him think he can just bully the Silvers sadistically and relentlessly forever. He took it a step too far in The Flight of the Silvers and the Pelletiers took him away somewhere…

4. The Gothams: a large group of people with superhuman abilities who live under the radar in AltAmerica. A small group of them are out to get the Silvers because they believe that our misfit heroes will bring about their world’s apocalypse.

5. The government: alllllways with the government, am I right?! DP-9 was one of the Silver’s antagonists last book, because you don’t really want a bunch of kids running around showing off their freaky abilities causing havoc in public. One of their members, Melissa Masaad, has left DP-9 now and is working for the mysterious Integrity unit, a group who seems to be on the side of the Silvers now…

All of that pretty lamely sums up the characters in play. It’s no wonder Song of the Orphans is over 750 pages long, because you need at least that to sort out this tangled mess of people! (I mean that in the best way)

I’m not even quite sure where to start with this review. You should know that if you read The Flight of the Silvers, loved it (and why would you be going onto the sequel if you didn’t at least like the first one, right?!) and are tackling this new one: just get ready. And if you can swing it, read it while convalescing after surgery like I did, so the book can have your constant, undivided attention for when one of its many crazy fight scenes grabs you and doesn’t let go.

I can think of three huge action scenes in the book that really tear you apart. They wound you for several reasons, sometimes all at once. They usually involve 1.) learning an earth-shattering answer to one of the Silvers many questions about their existence, and/or 2.) a character you love dies, almost dies, or is critically wounded. Also, it looks like this review will be full of lists. Buckle up. Price also introduces us to several other characters to fall in love with and subsequently get gutted by. With the introduction of the other color groups in the last book (Silvers, Golds, Coppers, etc), you know our big cast of characters is just going to get bigger. And it looks poised to expand even more drastically with the last book.

Every action scene is brilliantly written, in an edge-of-your-seat, frantically-whipping-through-pages kind of action. The backstory of this world and its characters is being slowly but methodically filled in. By this book’s end, we have a lot, but not all of the answers. And I’m okay with that. We get to know the Pelletier’s ultimate reason for selecting the Silvers, and I still have some questions about it (okay, I basically don’t really get it quite yet, but maybe I’m just thick in the head), but the stage is still set for the third book: we still have an apocalypse to worry about. We learn A LOT more about the Gothams (and meet several hundred more of them…), and even more about the nuances of the Silver’s abilities. More than one of them finds new ways to use their freaky powers for the good of the team. And new characters introduce new powers to the field of play.

There is a big character twist revealed in this book, which I frankly saw coming. This might be because I came into this book fresh off a re-read of the first. But Price drops huge, unbelievable hints in both books, you guys. Here’s how it went for me (all names changed to avoid Spoiler Land):

Book: Oooooh, someone here isn’t who they say they are!

Me: Oh, it’s probably Cameron.

Book: But look, Jane is acting really suspicious!

Me: No, it’s most definitely Cameron. You said a bunch of sketchy things about them in book 1.

Book: Hang on, now Bob did something that definitely makes them seem like a double-crosser.

Me: Nope. It’s still Cameron.

Book: AHHHH!!! IT WAS CAMERON ALL ALONG! AREN’T YOU SURPRISED?

(Please note that Cameron is a unisex name. So I haven’t even spoiled anything there. Ha.)

So….not that surprised at all. I recognized the red herring hints trying to steer me to different people and stuck to my guns on this “Cameron” lady or fellow. It was still an emotional moment, and the characters acted appropriately betrayed (although really, I would think at least one of them would piece it together at that point), but it wasn’t as shocking to me as it could have been.

I also just want to say that there is a really beautiful scene having to do with the book title and a song and reaching out to the other groups of original Earth-ers. Not even kidding when I said I teared up. I’m such a softy.

I should wrap this up, otherwise you all will be drowning in lists and quippy imagined conversations between me and inanimate objects for days. Song of the Orphans is a superb sequel. Yes, it expands the already gigantic world and cast from The Flight of the Silvers, and I’m still scratching my head on certain things already explained or yet to be fleshed out (who the flipping hell is Ioni and WHAT IS HER MOTIVATION?!) but I have a sneaking suspicion that all will be revealed in the knockdown, drag out fight that will be the third book. Sometimes sequels seem like mere bridges to the final installment in a trilogy and not a lot happens, but boy, do things happen in Song of the Orphans. I am so here for the ride.

My Rating: 4 out of 5 silver bracelets

Advertisements

& Review: Godsgrave by Jay Kristoff

Godsgrave by Jay Kristoff Publisher: St Martin’s Press, September 2017

The Book Itself: Uggghhhh these covers are so cooool! The dark, masked moodiness, the gray-toned background, even the font of the title….gimme!

My Review:

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.

I don’t know if you remember how ga-ga I was over Kristoff’s first book in the Nevernight series. If you don’t remember, I’ll post a link to it here. I’ll wait.

Okay, so I really liked it, right?! In a nutshell, I called it “Hogwarts for assassins” but full of twisty nuances and a really atmospheric plot peppered with endearing yet deadly characters. I’m a sucker for a good magical school story. And while Godsgrave all but kisses its magical school goodbye, it still had me zooming through pages to see what would happen next to my favorite characters.

If you haven’t yet read Nevernight, a.) go do so, RIGHT NOW, or b.) put your fingers in your ears and start humming a tune to yourself while I spoil the hell out of it here (not sure how humming and plugging your ears will inhibit your reading ability, but there you go). Godsgrave plops you straight into the action, much like Nevernight did, in the thick of a plot Mia has been planning for months. For the first third of the book or so, Kristoff switches off between the present day and a few months prior, when Mia is working for the Red Church, eventually planning the current murder job. This does get a bit distracting, as just as the tension in one plotline builds to a peak, we fade into the other plotline. But soon the two sync up and we’re all hands on deck with Mia for a different kind of murder education.

GLADIATOR GAMES. At first I was a little hurt that Mia wouldn’t just stay in magical murder school forever, but I eventually caught on. Posing as a slave in order to compete as a gladiatii (aka a straight up Roman-style gladiator) to achieve her goals, Mia gets more embroiled in the politics of her fellow man. There are new revelations about her past (we FINALLY get to hear more about her mysterious, god-like parents), about her abilities as a darkin, and the structure of the world around her. You get to know her fellow slaves/gladiators, and, just like Mia, you don’t want to like them because getting close to people who will most likely die turns out badly for everyone.

The gladiator games are a roulette wheel of ways to die. In this book, Kristoff covers the gamut: fighter against fighter, fighter against multiple other fighters, fighter(s) against giant, seemingly unbeatable beast(s), murderous chariot races, and teams of fighters in massive spectacles of architecture and historical battle recreation.

It’s all awesome.

Mia makes a lot of questionable decisions in this book. Which in hindsight, is good – she’s a devious little assassin we all want to win, but she’s still ruled by her heart, her hormones, and/or her stubbornness sometimes. This puts a lot of people in danger. This leads to some really stupid decisions. I still can’t quite wrap my mind around the merits of some of her decisions. But maybe all will be revealed in the next book. WHICH IS COMING OUT SOON, RIGHT? RIGHT?!?!

And that ending. Come. On. If you want the mother of all cliffhangers, if you want to hate and at the same time love an author with a tiny, vicious sliver of your humanity, look no further, my friends. There are a couple of big, enormous whammies in those last few pages. From the start of the last round of the gladiator games (heartbreaking. I think I kept letting out tiny little whimpers of “No…NO!” every few sentences), to Mia’s fade to black, it is EXACTLY how I would expect an installment of Nevernight to end, and yet I didn’t see it coming at all.

Just read this series. Please.

My Rating: 4.5 gladiatii helmets out of 5

& Fridays: June Book of the Month

Hello all!

For the past several months (it might even be a year…) I have been participating in a lovely subscription service called Book of the Month. Like many of its kind, Book of the Month sends you a book each month to enjoy, review, lend out to friends, post about on social media, etc.

What I like about Book of the Month is that while they don’t send out fun bookish merchandise like Owl Crate or Uppercase (both of which I have done before), they offer you choice. Each month you can choose a book from five different options on their website. These books range in genre from fluffy romance to YA to epic sci-fi. And if none of the options pique your interest? You can skip the month! It is $14.95 per month, which is far less than I would pay for a brand new hardcover in a bookstore.

I also like that this service exposes me to new books: I haven’t already heard about the titles they offer – most of them aren’t already on my to-read list, but I almost always find something interesting to buy and/or add to that list.

Feel free to check it out for yourselves! This isn’t an ad – I don’t receive any benefits from telling you about it. But I’ve been crazy happy with the service so far.

The Book of Essie by Meghan Maclean Weir (publication date: June 12, 2018)

Description: “Esther Ann Hicks–Essie–is the youngest child on Six for Hicks, a reality television phenomenon. She’s grown up in the spotlight, both idolized and despised for her family’s fire-and-brimstone brand of faith. When Essie’s mother, Celia, discovers that Essie is pregnant, she arranges an emergency meeting with the show’s producers: Do they sneak Essie out of the country for an abortion? Do they pass the child off as Celia’s? Or do they try to arrange a marriage–and a ratings-blockbuster wedding? Meanwhile, Essie is quietly pairing herself up with Roarke Richards, a senior at her school with a secret of his own to protect. As the newly formed couple attempt to sell their fabricated love story to the media–through exclusive interviews with an infamously conservative reporter named Liberty Bell–Essie finds she has questions of her own: What was the real reason for her older sister leaving home? Who can she trust with the truth about her family? And how much is she willing to sacrifice to win her own freedom?”

The Anomaly by Michael Rutger (publication date: June 19, 2018)

Description: “If Indiana Jones lived in the X-Files era, he might bear at least a passing resemblance to Nolan Moore — a rogue archaeologist hosting a documentary series derisively dismissed by the “real” experts, but beloved of conspiracy theorists.

Nolan sets out to retrace the steps of an explorer from 1909 who claimed to have discovered a mysterious cavern high up in the ancient rock of the Grand Canyon. And, for once, he may have actually found what he seeks. Then the trip takes a nasty turn, and the cave begins turning against them in mysterious ways.

Nolan’s story becomes one of survival against seemingly impossible odds. The only way out is to answer a series of intriguing questions: What is this strange cave? How has it remained hidden for so long? And what secret does it conceal that made its last visitors attempt to seal it forever?”

When Katie Met Cassidy by Camille Perri (publication date: June 19, 2018)

Description: “Katie Daniels is a perfection-seeking 28-year-old lawyer living the New York dream. She’s engaged to charming art curator Paul Michael, has successfully made her way up the ladder at a multinational law firm and has a hold on apartments in Soho and the West Village. Suffice it to say, she has come a long way from her Kentucky upbringing.

But the rug is swept from under Katie when she is suddenly dumped by her fiance, Paul Michael, leaving her devastated and completely lost. On a whim, she agrees to have a drink with Cassidy Price-a self-assured, sexually promiscuous woman she meets at work. The two form a newfound friendship, which soon brings into question everything Katie thought she knew about sex—and love.

When Katie Met Cassidy is a romantic comedy that explores how, as a culture, while we may have come a long way in terms of gender equality, a woman’s capacity for an entitlement to sexual pleasure still remain entirely taboo. This novel tackles the question: Why, when it comes to female sexuality, are so few women figuring out what they want and then going out and doing it?”

Calypso by David Sedaris (publication date: May 29, 2018)

Description: “David Sedaris returns with his most deeply personal and darkly hilarious book.

If you’ve ever laughed your way through David Sedaris’s cheerfully misanthropic stories, you might think you know what you’re getting with Calypso. You’d be wrong.

When he buys a beach house on the Carolina coast, Sedaris envisions long, relaxing vacations spent playing board games and lounging in the sun with those he loves most. And life at the Sea Section, as he names the vacation home, is exactly as idyllic as he imagined, except for one tiny, vexing realization: it’s impossible to take a vacation from yourself.

With Calypso, Sedaris sets his formidable powers of observation toward middle age and mortality. Make no mistake: these stories are very, very funny–it’s a book that can make you laugh ’til you snort, the way only family can. Sedaris’s powers of observation have never been sharper, and his ability to shock readers into laughter unparalleled. But much of the comedy here is born out of that vertiginous moment when your own body betrays you and you realize that the story of your life is made up of more past than future.

This is beach reading for people who detest beaches, required reading for those who loathe small talk and love a good tumor joke. Calypso is simultaneously Sedaris’s darkest and warmest book yet–and it just might be his very best.”

The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang (publication date: June 5, 2018)

Description: “Stella Lane thinks math is the only thing that unites the universe. She comes up with algorithms to predict customer purchases–a job that has given her more money than she knows what to do with, and way less experience in the dating department than the average thirty-year-old.

It doesn’t help that Stella has Asperger’s and French kissing reminds her of a shark getting its teeth cleaned by pilot fish. Her conclusion: she needs lots of practice–with a professional. Which is why she hires escort Michael Phan. The Vietnamese and Swedish stunner can’t afford to turn down Stella’s offer, and agrees to help her check off all the boxes on her lesson plan–from foreplay to more-than-missionary position…

Before long, Stella not only learns to appreciate his kisses, but to crave all the other things he’s making her feel. Soon, their no-nonsense partnership starts making a strange kind of sense. And the pattern that emerges will convince Stella that love is the best kind of logic…”

Whew!

So, first of all, this was one of those Book of the Month selections where I liked EVERYTHING. I mean, come on – sweet, nerdy romance? Funny essays? Indiana Jones meets sci-fi?! It was honestly tough to narrow it down.

In the end, I chose not one, not two, but three new books this month! The Book of Essie, The Anomaly, and The Kiss Quotient. My to-read piles are becoming precariously tall again…

Stay tuned for upcoming reviews of said books, as well as much more to come!

What did you or would you have chosen this month?

& Review: Warcross by Marie Lu

Warcross by Marie Lu Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd, September 2017

The Book Itself: A simple, colorful graphic on a plain white background make this cover stand out. I like that the word “Warcross” looks cross-hatched, almost like a maze, and that it has a chrome-like finish. Perfect for a futuristic video game story.

My Review:

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 Warcross players who bet on the game illegally. But the bounty hunting world is a competitive one, and survival has not been easy. 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

I read this ostensibly for my brother, who is not a big reader, but who gobbled up Ready Player One like it was candy. The description reads like a YA version of Cline’s 80’s-infused virtual reality wonderland: most of the world’s population participates in escapism virtual reality, using glasses invented by a mysterious celebrity wunderkind. It has a little bit of Smash-Bros-meets-World-of-Warcraft gameplay in it too: many people play a stylized game of Capture the Flag called Warcross, where teams compete to steal the other team’s “Artifact” – a digitized, glittering jewel that hangs over player’s heads à la the Sims. The terrain these games are played on changes: cityscape, ruined jungle, outer space, etc.

It was a fast read for me. I unfortunately haven’t read any of Lu’s other work (her “Legend” series is resting comfortably on my vast to-read shelf) but at least in this book she is very good at leaving you on a cliffhanger at the end of a chapter so you just need…to…read…one…more. The gameplay scenes are well-written: fast-paced and tension-filled, with just enough detail that your mind can fill in what the scene doesn’t spell out. There’s a good dose of steamy romance for good measure, too.

Two gripes: I felt the plot made strange, unnecessary jumps through the story, and I found the twists to be quite predictable.

Our protagonist, Emika, glitches herself into a championship Warcross game. The creator of the game (aforementioned celebrity wunderkind) then places her in the championship in order to find out who else has been hacking into the system. The story is poised to go through fairly smoothly and formulaically: Emika participates in tournament games, gets to know her teammates, trains in different game scenarios, all the while trying to catch a hacker on the side. But the book zooms through what could be some great scenes: whole games in the tournament are summarized in a paragraph, including some games our hero is involved in. Weeks go by in a sentence, backstories are summarized in a few lines. The book could have easily been 100 pages or so longer, and I believe people would have read it. The premise was interesting, but the execution made me feel that the story was rushed.

And maybe this is just because I’m a huge bookworm and I read a lot of YA, but there are two plot twists planted at the end of the story, and I saw both of them coming a mile away. And just because I saw them coming doesn’t mean I want to spoil them for any of you. But the story lost a little of its tension and mystery for me when I pinpointed who I thought the hacker antagonist was, and what another character’s true intentions were. When I closed the book, I was filled with more of a “Huh…well I guess I was right,” reaction, other than a “WHAT?! WHERE’S THE NEXT BOOK I NEED MY HANDS ON IT NOW SO THAT I CAN SEE THE AFTERMATH OF THAT UPSET!” feeling.

It’s a good story. I really wish the secondary characters were fleshed out more (Emika’s teammates and Hideo’s parents, specifically), and that there was just more of it. I hope the sequel is meatier: full of more gameplay and nerdy character backstory and surprises.

My Rating: 3 out of 5 joysticks

Long Time No See…

Heyyyy everyone! ::sheepish grin::

Sorry I dropped off the face of the earth for over a year on this blog here. Life got in the way and then it kept getting in the way and then I used that excuse month after month.

But enough with those excuses! I think reviewing the books I read has really helped me remember what I read and streamline my choices for books to read next. I also truly hope to build this blog into something I am proud of, so here goes another attempt at blogging regularly!

::raises teacup in triumph::

When I last saw you, I was reading my way through 2017. Here are a couple of titles that I really loves, some of which you will be seeing reviews of in the coming weeks:

The Animators by Kayla Rae Whitaker and The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid were both titles I found via Book of the Month (monthly posts from that lovely service to come as well!) they are both incredible stories, and both turned out much differently than I expected them to.

Robert Jackson Bennet’s The Divine Cities trilogy came to a close in City of Blades, where we FINALLY get a story narrated by the gruff-yet-gentle Sigrud. This is truly a terrific series and the finale didn’t disappoint.

The second installments of two series close to my heart also didn’t disappoint: Godsgrave by Jay Kristoff and The Song of the Orphans by Daniel Price were gorgeous, heart-stopping, and I can’t wait for their finales

Finally, I read those doorstops by Brandon Sanderson: The Way of Kings and Words of Radiance. Friends of mine have been pestering me for years to read these, and I finally caved…and they were incredible. I am trying to carve out time to read the massive tome that is Oathbringer (it’s 1,200 pages, y’all….1,200 PAGES!), but you know how it is: so much to read, so little time!