Stacking the Shelves #13

Now that I’ve done my Best Of list, it seems to make sense to do a final Stacking the Shelves for the year. I have to say, there seems to be something about the month of December where I get book crazy. It’s been a little less than a month since my last post, and yet I’ve managed to acquire some twenty books in that time frame! And that doesn’t count one that will arrive in January and that I think I still have 3-4 ARCs out for request on NetGalley and Edelweiss that I’m hoping to get my hands on. Yikes. Maybe I should be sliiiightly more choosy for a while? My TBR pile would thank me 🙂

For the last time in 2015, let’s do this.

ARC

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My first unsolicited ARC. I feel all grown up :* It’s pure sci-fi, which I’m looking forward to. I played in the YA end of the pool in 2015, so looking to dip my toes more in the adult end in 2016.

DRC

There’s definitely a broad assortment of books in this group. In the YA camp we have The Prophecy of Shadows (Greek mythology-inspired), Daughter of Blood (epic fantasy), Seven Black Diamonds (faery) Burning Glass (romance/fantasy), Beyond the Red (sci-fi) and Flawed (dystopian).  On the adult side we have Submissive Seductions (erotica) A Girl’s Guide to Landing a Greek God (Greek mythology based) and Masks and Shadows (historical).  It’s a fun mix. The books here are posted in order of publication date; though it’ll take me a while to get to Daughter of Blood. It’s the the third in a trilogy and I managed to pick up the first two for $1.99 each on Kindle and will be reviewing those first. The others are all stand-alones/first in series, so there is that :*

physical books traded for by me

I picked these up in a blog sale. These are all young adult except for The Forbidden Library which is more middle grade, but Django Wexler was an enticing thought. Becoming Jinn got a lot of love when it came out and others sounded like fun (angels! steampunk!). Given the size of my TBR pile though, these are definitely going to be lower on the totem pole for when I’m looking for something different to mix it up.

eBooks bought by me

Another hodgepodge of adult and young adult. The Strange Maid is the sequel to the just-reviewed The Lost Sun. Hidden is the next Alex Verus novel. The Heir of Night/The Gathering of the Lost are the first two in the Wall of Night books. These Broken Stars is a sci-fi/romance The Rook is a fantastical thriller and Tooth and Claw is a novel of manners…with dragons.

Twenty-one books. Twenty-one. I think I need to slow down just a wee bit. LOL. So. Have you gone as crazy as I have? What have you added to your shelves?

Updraft – Fran Wilde

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Summary:

In a city of living bone rising high above the clouds, where danger hides in the wind and the ground is lost to legend, a young woman must expose a dangerous secret to save everyone she loves

Welcome to a world of wind and bone, songs and silence, betrayal and courage.

Kirit Densira cannot wait to pass her wingtest and begin flying as a trader by her mother’s side, being in service to her beloved home tower and exploring the skies beyond. When Kirit inadvertently breaks Tower Law, the city’s secretive governing body, the Singers, demand that she become one of them instead. In an attempt to save her family from greater censure, Kirit must give up her dreams to throw herself into the dangerous training at the Spire, the tallest, most forbidding tower, deep at the heart of the City.

As she grows in knowledge and power, she starts to uncover the depths of Spire secrets. Kirit begins to doubt her world and its unassailable Laws, setting in motion a chain of events that will lead to a haunting choice, and may well change the city forever—if it isn’t destroyed outright

Review:

I hate it when you can’t really pin down why a book doesn’t work for you. When you hate a book it’s often easy to point at this or that and definitely go “this is it.” But with books like Updraft it feels a bit more puzzling and it takes more time to essentially feel it out and try to do your guesstimate as to why it didn’t work, and even when you do, there’s always some lingering doubt as to whether that was truly it, but it will have to suffice.

On the surface, this is one of those that should have worked for me: the world building was unique, the magic system kind of different and the lead Kirit likable. So what went wrong?

First thing I can think of is pacing: it takes a full third of the book to get going. Wilde spends a decent amount of time trying to make it seem as if there’s a chance things will go different, but as a reader, I know it cannot be else we wouldn’t have the plot summary that we have. As a result, the time devoted to avoiding the expected outcome is only well spent if it gives us added depth either in the character or world building. Do I think it did those things? Not really, which ultimately made it felt like a waste of time.

Second, though the world is unique, the story itself isn’t. You can figure out the beats pretty readily. At one point there’s a fight and you know who her opponent will be even before its announced. It’s supposed to be a twist, and yet you can sense it coming a mile away.

Finally, I honestly don’t think the stakes are as high as the book would have you believe. On the scale of evil that is the norm for these kinds of books, the Singers aren’t really all that bad and their secrets aren’t that mysterious or that shocking. There is one thing that they do (which I won’t spoil here) that is definitely on the bad side, but did I feel like there needed to be revolution the way you can make the argument in say Divergent or The Hunger Games? Not really. It’s a pretty mild dystopia. While it’s nice to not have them be All of the Evil, if you aren’t vested in the stakes, than it makes it harder to be vested in the story. I just didn’t feel like this was worthy of getting up in arms about.

Like I said, this is one of those ones where I’m left cold, but I didn’t exactly dislike it either. If the premise is intriguing to you and you were going to pick it up anyway, I’d say wait for it to go on sale. Otherwise, you can keep looking.

Verdict: Skip It

Available: Now

The Scorpion Rules – @erinbowbooks

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Summary:

A world battered by climate shift and war turns to an ancient method of keeping peace: the exchange of hostages. The Children of Peace – sons and daughters of kings and presidents and generals – are raised together in small, isolated schools called Preceptures. There, they learn history and political theory, and are taught to gracefully accept what may well be their fate: to die if their countries declare war.

Greta Gustafsen Stuart, Duchess of Halifax and Crown Princess of the Pan-Polar Confederation, is the pride of the North American Prefecture. Learned and disciplined, Greta is proud of her role in keeping the global peace, even though, with her country controlling two-thirds of the world’s most war-worthy resource — water — she has little chance of reaching adulthood alive.

Enter Elián Palnik, the Prefecture’s newest hostage and biggest problem. Greta’s world begins to tilt the moment she sees Elián dragged into the school in chains. The Prefecture’s insidious surveillance, its small punishments and rewards, can make no dent in Elián, who is not interested in dignity and tradition, and doesn’t even accept the right of the UN to keep hostages.

What will happen to Elián and Greta as their two nations inch closer to war?

Review:

 Patience is someone else’s virtue – Talis, the Book of Utterances

A nicely fitting quote to start off this review, as once again I am skipping ahead to look at a book that isn’t due out to til the end of September. Like with Illuminae my gut was telling me to read this now and so I did. And I am so glad. My gut seems to be on to be something.

The Scorpion Rules is dystopian sci-fi set about 400 years from now. Humans left the earth to go to hell in a handbasket and soon the population dropped like flies due to shortages of basics like food and water, but also due to wars over things like food and water. The UN decided that the best way to try and figure out how to end all the fighting was to let an AI by the name of Talis do the thinking for him: he decided to take control of the sub-orbital weapon systems and began systematically wiping cities off the face of the map until they started listening to him. After a few days, they got the point. He then implemented the Children of the Peace system: you want to rule, you put up your heir as collateral. You don’t go to war, they’re free at 18. They can then marry, produce an heir of their own, and the cycle begins anew. Go to war, and your child is killed. It actually works pretty damn well. Until it doesn’t. And then everything goes to pot.

First off, these are two things I like right away: there is nary a whiff of The Hunger Games or Divergent to be found. I didn’t actually think they were publishing genuinely unique dystopian books in YA anymore, so kudos to Simon & Schuster for that. Furthermore, there’s a groundedness here that actually feels believable. The Hunger Games is a classic for a reason, but there is some suspension of disbelief that people would just be willing to sacrifice their children for ritualistic slaughter so damn easily. At least here the children have a chance to live: find a diplomatic way to resolve things, and everything will be okay. Not always easy to do mind, but it IS doable. Another thing I like is Talis. Although I loved Illuminae there was more than a hint of HAL in AIDAN. Talis feels entirely like his own unique person with distinct personality. He’s kind of a snarky bastard, and as I’ve already tweeted at Erin, I would love if the final edition of this had some kind of version of the Book of Utterances because I’d love to read more.

Moving beyond that, I love Greta. I love her stoicism. Her bravery. Her sense of self-sacrifice. Her acceptance of her fate and her ultimate fate for that matter can be seen as kind of a downer, but then you look at how she saved others at the same time and I can’t help but admire her for her strength. More than once she is referred to as the leader of The Children of Peace and you can understand way. I also love her interactions with the other characters: especially Elián and Da-Xia. I like how Erin toys with the hint of romance between Greta and Elián, but that she ultimately realizes her love for Da-Xia. Elián helps her to realize that there is some virtue to passion and fight – something almost beaten out of them by the Abbott, but Da-Xia has been there for her since she first came to the Precepture. It’s all so quiet and lovely and the kind nuanced look that can be hard to find in adult fiction, let alone YA.

If I have any quibbles, it’s that I’m not totally sold on the title. To be honest, I find it kind of a generic thriller title. I feel like I could go to the store and find Tom Clancy’s The Scorpion Rules. It’s apt, but it doesn’t grab you. The former title, Art of Scorpions is a little more cumbersome on the tongue, but I think it’s also more intriguing. Likewise, the cover art just misses the mark for me. It’s a bit abstract: once you see the scorpions it all makes sense, but until you see it, it’s just kind of weird. That said, it still is kind of eye-catching and sometimes that makes all the difference.

I have to say, YA sci-fi might be kind of limited, but what it lacks in quantity it seems to be making up for in quality. If you want a smart, mature book that does things differently than most, go pre-order this, even if you don’t normally read YA. The best way to get more books like this is to support the ones that are out there or in the pipeline. I know I will.

Verdict: Buy It

Available: September 22nd

2015 Stacking the Shelves #1

Hey everyone!

First Stacking the Shelves of the year! Got a mix of physical books, e-books, and ARCs for ya 🙂

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First up is my Book Outet Boxing Day haul. This is only the second time I’ve bought with them. I have to say that it’s kinda underwhelming when your “scratch and dent” (Alloy of Law) is in better shape than the non-“scratch and dent” books (The Goblin Emperor came with a torn dust jacket. D: ) I also have to say I wish they were a bit more forthcoming with how their coupons worked. They promised you half off. What they GAVE you was an extra 20% off after the 30% off. That’s about 46% off, not a full 50% off. It’s sketchy to say the least and something to keep in mind, though the books are still a great deal. Anyway, in the stack we have:

Blackwatch – Jenna Burtenshaw
Dangerous Women – edited by GRRM & Gardner Dozois
Nil – Lynne Matson
The Alloy of Law (Mistborn #4) – Brandon Sanderson
The Goblin Emperor – Katherine Addison

I kinda of blew it, I didn’t realize that Blackwatch was the second in the series – I’ll probably try and find the first one at the library. I enjoyed Rogues so decided to give Dangerous Women a try. I’ll probably and handle it the way I did the last anthology and post every few days covering each book. I’ve been following Matson on Twitter for a while now, so decided to give Nil a try. The Alloy of Law is the first of the second Mistborn trilogy. I still have the other two to read first but it was too good a deal to pass up, especially since it follows a whole new cast of characters and could be read out of order. And finally, I got my hands on a physical copy of my number 2 book of 2014 The Goblin Emperor because it was that awesome.

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And here we have my new ebooks! Red Rising I finally gave in and grabbed it for $1.99. I’m still weary of the genre, but it has so much praise that at that price, it’s hard to pass up. Enchantress sounds like fairly traditional fantasy, but there’s always a place for that, if it’s well done. And finally, Sebastian was a gift from my #TBTBSanta from my wish list: I want to see how it stacks up against her Black Jewel and The Others series.

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And finally we have my new eARCs. Masters of Blood and Bone is dark fantasy, a sub-genre that I don’t look at often; perhaps this will give me cause to read more in it! Seeker intrigues me. It’s being touted as Game of Thrones meets Hunger Games. While it’s an advertising trick that I hate, it does intrigue me – it’s being touted as YA literature on NetGalley. Curious to see how it turns out. Both reviews will be out in February.

So that’s it! Not a few books though. I need to start working down my list. Ah, bookworm problems. 🙂

What have you picked up recently?

ARC Review – Under My Skin (Immortality Strain #1) by Shawntell Madison

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Summary:

Everyone wants to either be a member of the Guild or work for them. Little does the populace know that the Guild hides sinister secrets…

For Tate Sullivan, life in her small, coastal town is far from glamorous. The affluent lives of the Guild members and their servants isn’t something she has ever wanted. But all sixteen year-olds must take a simple test, and Tate’s result thrusts her into the Guild’s world, one where they hide horrible plans for those they select. Tate must fight the relentless General Dagon for control of her mind, body, and soul to keep the one precious thing she has always taken for granted: herself.

Her only ally is the same handsome boy she is pitted against in General Dagon’s deadly game. Quinn desires nothing more than to end the life of General Dagon who has taken over Tate’s mind. While romance blooms between Tate and Quinn, General Dagon plots to eventually take over Tate’s body, and love might end before it even begins.

Review:

Oh book, I wanted to like you. You easily have the most interesting idea I’ve seen for a YA dystopian in ages, and for a self-published title, you are polished to a T and proof that self-published titles can easily sit side-by-side with books from the big publishers.

On the other hand, you squander your idea by completely and utterly under-developing it. This book raises so many questions: if everyone wants to at least work for the Guild, then shouldn’t it be common knowledge that your family gets a stipend if you get chosen? Whatever happened to the people we met at the facility who got chosen, but who weren’t bid upon? Did they get to put to work as janitors or were they killed? The Guild’s secret to immortality is body hopping in vessels like Tates, but it seems like Tate was wearing out pretty damn fast. If a body only lasted a year or two at most before they had to jump again, what kind of system is that? And if bodies last longer than that, why wasn’t it made clear that she was an exception, not a rule? I get that it’s set-up for future books, but it’s kind of important for understanding how this whole thing works. Speaking of body jumping, wouldn’t people notice? Like how did no one question that General Dagon suddenly has a daughter named Elsie or is the conspiracy so vast that the common person just doesn’t even know that it’s going on? How does Tate protect herself so damn well when the other vessels fell so quick? She have partial immunity to the virus or is it just because the plot demands? How does getting shocked by a machine once suddenly let you be able to “feel” who would make a good host? If Dagon is so good at controlling bodies he’s taken over, shouldn’t they have assumed that he was letting her do whatever she wanted? Why is there a Resistance any way? They seem to serve little purpose in this world other than to help explain things to Tate, we certainly see no other impact on the world at large.

You see how this is problematic.

Aside from the sense that all of this happening because the author wants it to happen this way, there isn’t much else to talk about. Tate is your generic YA heroine: loves her parents, loves her cousin, intelligent and plucky, determined to stand up to The Man. Her relationship to Quinn is less love and more Stockholm Syndrome. There’s nothing between them that can ever be constituted as romance; it’s all business between them. It’s difficult to shake the feeling that any emotions she develops for him are out of the fact that a) he’s handsome b) not a creep and c) the only guy even close to her age in the compound.

Overall, I feel like there’s promise here, but the premise just proved too elusive for the author to wrap her head around in a way that doesn’t eventually make you start questioning it – and considering this is only the first book in a series, you have to have a more solid foundation to work on.

This was a fun book, until things completely fell apart for me, and ultimately my enjoyment of much of book wasn’t enough to overcome the rather series problems with it later on.

Verdict: Skip it

Available: Today.