Book Review: Defy  March 5, 2015

Defy (#1)

by Sara B. Larson.

Defy Defy is the story of Alexa Hollon, a girl with preternatural fighting skills in a male-dominated world and country at war. When her parents are killed, tween Alexa and her twin brother know it’s just a matter of time until the king’s men find them – forcing him into the army and her into a breeding house. So with some quick thinking, they disguise her as a boy and she joins the army, too. However, if you are expecting a Mulan-esque story, you are out of luck. This is it’s own creature.

Fast forward a few years, and Alexa is 2nd in command of the elite guard for the Prince. She was born for this life, but hormones start to kick in with young adulthood, making hiding who she is and her reaction to certain men around her harder and harder. Between the strike of another tragedy, gaining the friendship/attention of the Prince, and the political unrest of a country at war and tired of it’s king’s depredations, the stage is set for a well-paced fantasy YA adventure. With a good dash of romance thrown in, of course.

This was a decent read. It paced well and the overall plot was interesting enough to keep me reading. I liked that Alexa, while being a tough girl and awesome fighter, also had realistic feelings/reactions for a teen girl when it came to her romantic entanglements. She’d didn’t swing wildly out of character to flirt or wear pretty frippery, but caught between two men she was equally interested in caused some very natural inner turmoil for her. As a former teen girl myself, I very much remember the swirl of conflicting thoughts and feelings of that age, and I felt this was portrayed pretty spot-on.

I am sick and tired of the oh-so-predictable YA love triangles, though. And in this case neither of the candidates interested me terribly much, so I’m not sure I agree with Alexa’s taste. No book boyfriends from this one. As another point, the world-building could’ve used a bit more work. I don’t know if this will be expanded on in book 2 or not, but I felt like the story framework and ‘why’ of the politics wasn’t fully explained.

Overall, though, still a decent read.

I give it 3/5 stars.

Buy From Amazon

Defy


Tuesday Treasure Trove  March 3, 2015

Tuesday Treasure Trove


Things of Note:

I am over this grey, rainy, cold nonsense. Excuse while I go curl up under a mountain of blankets on the couch until Austin’s normal 70-and-sunny weather returns.

Leave a note for me when I emerge: What’s an awesome thing that’s happened to you lately?
 


Book Review: City of Stairs  February 26, 2015

City of Stairs (#1)

by Robert Jackson Bennett.

City of Stairs Disclaimer: City of Stairs does not actually feature stairs as much as you might think. What it does feature is a no-nonsense & brilliant spy, her hulking Nordic ‘secretary’, a handful of maybe-or-maybe-not-dead gods, a murder mystery, pocket alternate realities, magic-as-religious-act, and a whole host of interesting characters and political-bureaucratic tangles. In sum: it’s a full, fun read.

The Continent, blessed by their 6 gods, used to be the most powerful empire in the world. Until a hero from Saypur (one of their colonies) managed to kill off the gods, thereby also erasing all of the magic and structures of society that the gods had gifted their favored land. Now Saypur rules its former conquerer. The city of Belikov, once the central hub of the Continent and home to the gods, has fallen far, but is still home to plenty of intrigue. 70 years may have passed, but its citizens haven’t forgotten their golden age, no matter how their new rulers try to censor history and any mention of divine beings. The city hasn’t forgotten either; there are areas where reality seems to shimmer, or change. Add together the new overlords, one native faction wanting to move forward, and one faction wanting to return to the past, and you have a nice mix of flammable politics. When Saypur makes the questionable decision to send a historian to study Continental history and artifacts- that the Continentals themselves are forbidden from viewing or speaking about- it throws a match on the whole situation.

Enter Shara Komayd, a high-ranking intelligence officer from Saypur, sent to investigate the historian’s murder. She is undercover as a minor bureaucratic functionary with only her giant bodyguard/secretary Sigrud as back-up. What starts as a simple murder investigation soon turns up more questions than answers. Why exactly was the historian murdered- simple offense or some deeper reason? Why does the Saypuri Foreign Minister not want Shara in Belikov? Why do some areas of the city seem to change, or allow people to disappear? How is Shara’s old flame from college mixed up in this? Why do some of the god’s miracles still work? What really happened all those years ago when the gods were killed? What if they aren’t actually dead?

I enjoyed this book a great deal. It was a bit slow to get started, but once Shara arrived on the scene things picked up and I was hooked. I loved her as a main character. She is smart and no-nonsense and capable, but also human underneath with her quirks and things from her past she’d rather not relive. Sigrud, her companion, is one of the best sidekick characters I’ve come across in a long while. He’s just so… taciturn. And efficient, and seemingly blasé about necessary violence. But he’s got some depth to him, too. The writing is very atmospheric, and the world has a kind of proto-Russian/Eastern European feel. And overall the mystery was very well done, though at the end I did feel it wrapped up too quickly (and so was glad to hear there will be a sequel).

If you like mysteries with an urban fantasy setting, give this a try.

I give it 4/5 stars.

I received a free copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Buy From Amazon

City of Stairs


Tuesday Treasure Trove  February 24, 2015

Tuesday Treasure Trove


Things of Note:

There was actually ICE on my car yesterday when I went to take Sienna to her doggy class. ICE! I know you New Englanders are thinking “yes, and where’s your 6 feet of snow?” but that is CRAZY for Texas! Especially as it was just 70 degrees this past weekend, and is supposed to be back up to 70 degrees the beginning of next week. Nuts, I tell you. And not the kind I’m a fan of. (Peanuts, you guys, get your minds out of the gutter)

Tomorrow Ian has the afternoon off so we can go do a tasting with the company we’re probably going to book for catering for our wedding. Should be nom-alicios. And after that we’re going to go look at a decor company’s showroom because boy has gotten it into his head that we should have an arch for our ceremony. I am not arch-averse, so arch-viewing we shall go.

Also, apparently my shop is big in Europe right now, because in the past week I’ve had orders from both Croatia and Austria. Also, Taye Diggs followed me on my business Twitter account, so overall I’m really feeling like I’ve made it this week. :-D

What’s new in your world lately?
 


Book Review: Half a King  February 20, 2015

Half a King (Shattered Sea #1)

by Joe Abercrombie.

Half a King Prince Yarvi of Gettland never expected or wanted to be king. Born the crippled youngest son to a family that values fighting skill over all else, Yarvi has mostly been ignored while studying to be a minister. Until soldiers return from a skirmish with the news that both his father and brother are dead – and he is now king. Thrust onto the throne and mocked for being only half a king due to his crippled hand, it’d decided that he must lead a troop of men to seek revenge for his father’s death and establish himself as a man. He survives the battle, only to meet betrayal at its end. Left for dead and then taken for a slave, Yarvi vows to take back his throne, no matter the cost.

This book was a bit slow to get going (I was indifferent to Yarvi’s character at first), but by the end I was loving it. It’s definitely a coming of age story – or maybe we should use the phrase coming of maturity. Yarvi’s journey from a sheltered ‘weak’ princeling to a cunning, forceful man capable of exacting revenge is not an easy one. In fact, it is harsh and vicious and bleak. There’s a reason the author’s nickname is Lord Grimdark. But despite that, Yarvi manages to make friends, kindle a possible love interest, and plumb some surprising depths in himself. It is a fantasy world, but there has been no evidence of magic so far in the series- only mention of various gods, and some herb-witch type women who know plants and poisons. And there are some definite surprises in store, especially closer to the end. The big surprise was particularly well done- the author didn’t foreshadow it to death like some do, but once it was revealed you could think back and pick up on little clues. That is how a plot twist should be done!

Overall, once I got into the story, I was definitely hooked. Book #2 (Half the World) was just published this week, and I for one can’t wait to pick it up.

I give it 4/5 stars.

I received a free copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Buy From Amazon

Half a King


February Etsy Finds  February 18, 2015

For this month’s Etsy round-up, I’ve got some soft, romantic finds, and some wintry finds. Both seemed appropriate given the recent holiday and weather. :) Take a look:

Rose

Pink Rose Pillow Cover Natural History Botany Nature In Design Pink Decor Garden Decor Nature
$30.00
Baby Shower Gift, Pink Pompoms Mobile Branch, Eco Friendly Baby Girl Room Decor, Dusty Pink Rustic Nature Home Decoration, Tagt Rdtt
$49.00
Pressed Flower Necklace Pressed Flower Pink Centaurea Delicate Pale Petals Minimalist Botanical Resin Jewelry Bridal Nature Naturalist
$29.00
Ceramic Heart Dish - pink, lace
$12.00
Valentine Pink - Framed and Matted Abstract Landscape Original Watercolor Painting Steamboat Spring 2 - ORIGINAL art, not a print
$65.00
Pastel Baby Girl Nursery Decor- pink yellow peach cream flower print nature photography, kids children girls
$30.00
Pink Rose Necklace Country Chic Flower Jewelry Pastel Fashion Floral Jewellery Bridesmaids Jewelry Bridal Necklace Botanical French Style
$26.00
Wood and Seed Bead Necklace - Pink Necklace - Boho Necklace - Mauve Necklace - Wooden Bead Necklace - Dusty Rose Color
$32.50
LED Wild Rose Fairy Lights in Orchid Pink, Wedding, Bedroom, Party Decor, Pink String Lights
$22.00
Glasswing butterfly- small original watercolor painting, pink flowers, minimalist
$65.00
sakura spirit bear
$86.00
Dusky Pink Floral Chandelier - Floral Wreath Mobile Fairytale Flower wreath/Wedding floral decoration Photo prop Floral arrangement ring
$59.00
Leather Notebook with custom initials, Coral Pink Leather, Includes standard size notebook - Re-usable - Avaliable in A5 and A6 sizes
€27.50
Wild Roses, Summer, Square, Pink, Bright, Nature, Soft, Dreamy, Flower, tan, Spring, Bloom
$20.00
Short Sleeve Women Top, Summer Cardigan, Light Pink Vest, Women's Blouse
$79.00
100% Silk  Coral Pink Scarf
$44.99


Silver Birch

5x7 - Birch Trees, Silver Birches, Watercolor Painting in Black and White, Soft Delicate Watercolor Print Wall Decor
$9.30
Crystal and Pearl Bobby Pin - Winter Wedding Bridal Swarovski Crystal / Pearl Extra Full Spray Bridal Hair Pin
$16.00
Silver Laurel Ring Silver ring Leaf ring Silver branch ring Cute ring Christmas Gift mom Birthday Gift best friend Birthday Gift sister
$14.00
White Silk Feather Earrings . Fabric Leaf. Clear Crystal. Sterling Silver. Summer Fashion. White Wedding. Bridesmaids Gift
$27.00
72" Silver Birch tree painting Abstract Modern Acrylic Painting Wall Art Textured White Silver Metallic Modern Ready to Hang art by ilonka
$1099.00
Dangling Leaves Necklace
$20.00
Olive Branch Bracelet, Leaf Bangle, Silver Bracelet, Silver Bangle, Bridesmaid Bracelet, Bridesmaid Gift, Bridesmaid Jewelry, Silver Jewelry
$14.95
Willows in the Boston Public Gardens Reflection over Swan Pond, Black and White Photograph, tree, romantic
$17.00
Snowy Woodland Scene Photograph Lincoln Park Forest Scene Affordable Home Photography Snowy Forest Woodland Scene Snowy Trees
$7.99
Modern Leaf  Necklace - S2035-1
$12.00
Silver Leaf Earrings Nature Jewelry Minimalist Leaves Naturalist Garden Gift Bridal Fall Botanical Unique Conifer Tree Dangles
$22.00
Large Fallen Silver Birch Leaf Necklace - REAL Birch Leaf
$28.99
Woodland Ivy Leaf Headpiece, Renaissance Bridal Wedding Circlet, OOAK, Handmade, Sterling Silver
$285.00
Birch Tree Forest - Card set of 8
$12.00
Silver Birch Bark Earrings - Unique hammered silver rectangular earrings
$55.00
Silver birch pillow tree black charcoal cushion shams UK designer fabric  16 x 16  inch handmade
$30.00

Any pieces stand out? What color palette does this time of year make you think of?