TBR Unhaul: Week Five

I continue with this seemingly fruitless task of narrowing down my TBR pile. And yet, I find the process oddly soothing. It also brings much needed attention to backlisted titles.

The Squire’s Tale – Gerald Morris

Life for the young orphan Terence has been peaceful, living with Trevisant, the old Hermit in a quiet, isolated wood.

That is, until the day a strange green sprite leads him to Gawain, King Arthur’s nephew, who is on his way to Camelot hoping to be knighted. Trevisant can see the future and knows that Terence must leave to serve as Gawain’s squire. From that moment on, Terence’s life is filled with heart-stopping adventure as he helps damsels-in-distress, fights battles with devious men, and protects King Arthur from his many enemies.

Along the way, Terence is amazed at his skills and new-found magical abilities. Were these a gift from his unknown parents? As Gawain continues his quest for knighthood, Terence searches for answers to the riddles in his own past.

KEEP – I love anything Arthurian.

The Dragon’s Eye – Kaza Kingsley

Life is not easy for twelve-year-old Erec Rex. His single mother can barely support her six adopted kids. And they’ve moved into an apartment so tiny that Erec sleeps with the washing machine. Worse, there is a strange force within Erec that is making him do odd things. His urge to obey these thoughts grows — until it becomes impossible to resist them.

Then one morning, Erec’s mother is missing. The force inside Erec commands him to find her, leading him on an adventure that will change him forever. When he arrives in Alypium, a hidden world where old knowledge of magic is kept, Erec learns that his mother and the entire kingdom are in peril. And he might be the only one who can save them.

AX – Description doesn’t draw me in.

Skulduggery Pleasant – Derek Landy

Meet Skulduggery Pleasant. Sure, he may lose his head now and again (in fact, he won his current skull in a poker match), but he is much more than he appears to be—which is good, considering that he is, basically, a skeleton. Skulduggery may be long dead, but he is also a mage who dodged the grave so that he could save the world from an ancient evil. But to defeat it, he’ll need the help of a new partner: a not so innocent twelve-year-old girl named Stephanie. That’s right, they’re the heroes.

Stephanie and Skulduggery are quickly caught up in a battle to stop evil forces from acquiring her recently deceased uncle’s most prized possession—the Sceptre of the Ancients. The Ancients were the good guys, an extinct race of uber-magicians from the early days of the earth, and the scepter is their most dangerous weapon, one capable of killing anyone and destroying anything. Back in the day, they used it to banish the bad guys, the evil Faceless Ones. Unfortunately, in the way of bad guys everywhere, the Faceless Ones are staging a comeback and no one besides our two heroes believes in the Faceless Ones, or even that the Sceptre is real.

So Stephanie and Skulduggery set off to find the Sceptre, fend off the minions of the bad guys, beat down vampires and the undead, prove the existence of the Ancients and the Faceless Ones, all while trading snappy, snippy banter worthy of the best screwball comedies.

KEEP – Sounds quirky.

The Fairy-Tale Detectives – Michael Buckley

For Sabrina and Daphne Grimm, life has not been a fairy tale. After the mysterious disappearance of their parents, the sisters are sent to live with their grandmother–a woman they believed was dead! Granny Relda reveals that the girls have two famous ancestors, the Brothers Grimm, whose classic book of fairy tales is actually a collection of case files of magical mischief. Now the girls must take on the family responsibility of being fairy tale detectives.

KEEP – I am a sucker for anything Brothers Grimm.

 

The Land of the Silver Apples – Nancy Farmer

Jack is amazed to have caused an earthquake. He is thirteen, after all, and only a bard-in-training. But his sister, Lucy, has been stolen by the Lady of the Lake; stolen a second time in her young life, as he learns to his terror. Caught between belief in the old gods and Christianity (790 AD, Britain), Jack calls upon his ash wood staff to subdue a passel of unruly monks, and, for his daring, ends up in a knucker hole. It is unforgettable — for the boy and for readers — as are the magical reappearance of the berserker Thorgil from a burial by moss; new characters Pega, a slave girl from Jack’s village, and the eager-to-marry-her Bugaboo (a hobgoblin king); kelpies; yarthkins; and elves (not the enchanted sprites one would expect but the fallen angels of legend). Rarely does a sequel enlarge so brilliantly the world of the first story. Look for the conclusion in The Islands of the Blessed in 2009.

KEEP – I loved the first book even if I don’t remember it all that well.

The Blade Itself – Joe Abercrombie

Logen Ninefingers, infamous barbarian, has finally run out of luck. Caught in one feud too many, he’s on the verge of becoming a dead barbarian – leaving nothing behind him but bad songs, dead friends, and a lot of happy enemies.

Nobleman Captain Jezal dan Luthar, dashing officer, and paragon of selfishness, has nothing more dangerous in mind than fleecing his friends at cards and dreaming of glory in the fencing circle. But war is brewing, and on the battlefields of the frozen North they fight by altogether bloodier rules.

Inquisitor Glokta, cripple turned torturer, would like nothing better than to see Jezal come home in a box. But then Glokta hates everyone: cutting treason out of the Union one confession at a time leaves little room for friendship. His latest trail of corpses may lead him right to the rotten heart of government, if he can stay alive long enough to follow it.

Enter the wizard, Bayaz. A bald old man with a terrible temper and a pathetic assistant, he could be the First of the Magi, he could be a spectacular fraud, but whatever he is, he’s about to make the lives of Logen, Jezal, and Glokta a whole lot more difficult.

Murderous conspiracies rise to the surface, old scores are ready to be settled, and the line between hero and villain is sharp enough to draw blood.

AX – I’m going to read Abercrombie’s Half a King first. If I like that, then I’ll add this.

Over Sea, Under Stone – Susan Cooper

On holiday in Cornwall, the three Drew children discover an ancient map in the attic of the house that they are staying in. They know immediately that it is special. It is even more than that — the key to finding a grail, a source of power to fight the forces of evil known as the Dark. And in searching for it themselves, the Drews put their very lives in peril. This is the first volume of Susan Cooper’s brilliant and absorbing fantasy sequence known as The Dark Is Rising.

KEEP – I WILL ONE DAY READ THIS BOOK. I’ve only owned it for YEARS.

 

H.I.V.E. Higher Institute of Villainous Education – Mark Walden

Otto Malpense may only be thirteen years old, but so far he has managed to run the orphanage where he lives, and he has come up with a plan clever enough to trick the most powerful man in the country. He is the perfect candidate to become the world’s next supervillain.

That is why he ends up at H.I.V.E., handpicked to become a member of the incoming class. The students have been kidnapped and brought to a secluded island inside a seemingly active volcano, where the school has resided for decades. All the kids are elite; they are the most athletic, the most technically advanced, and the smartest in the country. Inside the cavernous marble rooms, floodlit hangars, and steel doors, the students are enrolled in Villainy Studies and Stealth and Evasion 101. But what Otto soon comes to realize is that this is a six-year program, and leaving is not an option.

With the help of his new friends: an athletic martial-arts expert; a world-famous, beautiful diamond thief; and a spunky computer genius — the only other people who seem to want to leave — can Otto achieve what has never been done before and break out of H.I.V.E.?

KEEP – I love evil characters and books where kids go off to school.

Lord Loss – Darren Shan

Grubbs Grady has stiff red hair and is a little big for his age, which means he can get into R-rated movies. He hates history and loves bacon, rats, and playing tricks on his squeamish older sister. When he opts out of a family weekend trip, he never guesses that he is about to take a terrifying journey into darkness. Hungry demons and howling werewolves haunt his waking nightmares… and threaten his life.

KEEP – I didn’t like Darren Shan’s Cirque du Freak series. I read the first book twice. Didn’t like it. Watched the movie. Didn’t like it. But I’ll give this a shot because someone recommended it to me on twitter, and Shan liked the tweet.

 

Crown Duel – Sherwood Smith

A deathbed promise to their father sends a daring girl and her brother off to war. Filled with intrigue, romance, and magic, this spellbinding novel is a dramatic coming-of-age story about a girl who rises from impoverished beginnings to take command of her own fate.

KEEP – Yeah, sure. Why not?

 

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TBR Unhaul: Week Four

Just going to dive right in.

Fire in the East – Harry Sidebottom

The year is AD 255 – the Roman Imperium is stretched to breaking point, its authority and might challenged along every border. The greatest threat lies in Persia to the east, where the massing forces of the Sassanid Empire loom with fiery menace. There the isolated Roman citadel of Arete awaits inevitable invasion.

One man is sent to marshal the defences and shore up crumbling walls. A man whose name itself means war: a man called Ballista. Alone, Ballista is called to muster the forces, and the courage to stand first and to stand hard, against the greatest enemy ever to confront the Imperium.

This is part one of WARRIOR OF ROME: an epic of empire, of heroes, of treachery, of courage, and most of all, a story of brutal, bloody warfare.

AX – I read that it starts slow.

Kraken – China Mieville

In the Darwin Centre at London’s Natural History Museum, Billy Harrow, a cephalopod specialist, is conducting a tour whose climax is meant to be the Centre’s prize specimen of a rare Architeuthis dux—better known as the Giant Squid. But Billy’s tour takes an unexpected turn when the squid suddenly and impossibly vanishes into thin air.

As Billy soon discovers, this is the precipitating act in a struggle to the death between mysterious but powerful forces in a London whose existence he has been blissfully ignorant of until now, a city whose denizens—human and otherwise—are adept in magic and murder.

There is the Congregation of God Kraken, a sect of squid worshippers whose roots go back to the dawn of humanity—and beyond. There is the criminal mastermind known as the Tattoo, a merciless maniac inked onto the flesh of a hapless victim. There is the FSRC—the Fundamentalist and Sect-Related Crime Unit—a branch of London’s finest that fights sorcery with sorcery. There is Wati, a spirit from ancient Egypt who leads a ragtag union of magical familiars. There are the Londonmancers, who read the future in the city’s entrails. There is Grisamentum, London’s greatest wizard, whose shadow lingers long after his death. And then there is Goss and Subby, an ageless old man and a cretinous boy who, together, constitute a terrifying—yet darkly charismatic—demonic duo.

All of them—and others—are in pursuit of Billy, who inadvertently holds the key to the missing squid, an embryonic god whose powers, properly harnessed, can destroy all that is, was, and ever shall be.

KEEP – I haven’t read any Mieville yet.

No Shame, No Fear – Ann Turnbull

A young Quaker girl and the son of a wealthy merchant face intolerance and persecution in this gripping historical novel that evokes the passion and idealism of young love.

“Don’t cry. We won’t be parted. I promise.”

It is 1662, and England is reeling from the aftereffects of civil war, with its clashes of faith and culture. Susanna, a young Quaker girl, leaves her family to become a servant in town. Seventeen-year-old Will returns home after completing his studies to begin an apprenticeship arranged by his wealthy father. Susanna and Will meet and fall in love, but can their bond survive — no matter what? Theirs is a story that speaks across the centuries, telling of love and the fight to stay true to what is most important, in spite of parents, society, and even the law.

KEEP – Moar historical fiction.

Bloodsucking Fiends – Christopher Moore

Jody never asked to become a vampire. But when she wakes up under an alley Dumpster with a badly burned arm, an aching neck, superhuman strength, and a distinctly Nosferatuan thirst, she realizes the decision has been made for her.

Making the transition from the nine-to-five grind to an eternity of nocturnal prowlings is going to take some doing, however, and that’s where C. Thomas Flood fits in. A would-be Kerouac from Incontinence, Indiana, Tommy (to his friends) is biding his time night-clerking and frozen-turkey bowling in a San Francisco Safeway. But all that changes when a beautiful undead redhead walks through the door … and proceeds to rock Tommy’s life — and afterlife — in ways he never imagined possible.

AX – I haven’t read any of Moore’s work. If I like the other work I’m keeping of his, then I can always add this again to the list.

Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal – Christopher Moore

The birth of Jesus has been well chronicled, as have his glorious teachings, acts, and divine sacrifice after his thirtieth birthday. But no one knows about the early life of the Son of God, the missing years — except Biff, the Messiah’s best bud, who has been resurrected to tell the story in the divinely hilarious yet heartfelt work “reminiscent of Vonnegut and Douglas Adams”-Philadelphia Inquirer.

Verily, the story Biff has to tell is a miraculous one, filled with remarkable journeys, magic, healings, kung fu, corpse reanimations, demons, and hot babes. Even the considerable wiles and devotion of the Savior’s pal may not be enough to divert Joshua from his tragic destiny. But there’s no one who loves Josh more – except maybe “Maggie,” Mary of Magdala – and Biff isn’t about to let his extraordinary pal suffer and ascend without a fight.

AX – I’d have to read the bible to understand and I’m not in the mood to do that.

The Stupidest Angel: A Heartwarming Tale of Christmas Terror – Christopher Moore

‘Twas the night (okay, more like the week) before Christmas, and all through the tiny community of Pine Cove, California, people are busy buying, wrapping, packing, and generally getting into the holiday spirit.

But not everybody is feeling the joy. Little Joshua Barker is in desperate need of a holiday miracle. No, he’s not on his deathbed; no, his dog hasn’t run away from home. But Josh is sure that he saw Santa take a shovel to the head, and now the seven-year-old has only one prayer: Please, Santa, come back from the dead.

But hold on! There’s an angel waiting in the wings. (Wings, get it?) It’s none other than the Archangel Raziel come to Earth seeking a small child with a wish that needs granting. Unfortunately, our angel’s not sporting the brightest halo in the bunch, and before you can say “Kris Kringle,” he’s botched his sacred mission and sent the residents of Pine Cove headlong into Christmas chaos, culminating in the most hilarious and horrifying holiday party the town has ever seen.

KEEP – I’ll read it around Christmas time.

Years of Wonder – Geraldine Brooks

When an infected bolt of cloth carries plague from London to an isolated village, a housemaid named Anna Frith emerges as an unlikely heroine and healer. Through Anna’s eyes we follow the story of the fateful year of 1666, as she and her fellow villagers confront the spread of disease and superstition. As death reaches into every household and villagers turn from prayers to murderous witch-hunting, Anna must find the strength to confront the disintegration of her community and the lure of illicit love. As she struggles to survive and grow, a year of catastrophe becomes instead annus mirabilis, a “year of wonders.”

Inspired by the true story of Eyam, a village in the rugged hill country of England, Year of Wonders is a richly detailed evocation of a singular moment in history. Written with stunning emotional intelligence and introducing “an inspiring heroine” (The Wall Street Journal), Brooks blends love and learning, loss and renewal into a spellbinding and unforgettable read.

KEEP – A plague o’ both your houses!

Heart-Shaped Box – Joe Hill

Aging, self-absorbed rock star Judas Coyne has a thing for the macabre — his collection includes sketches from infamous serial killer John Wayne Gacy, a trepanned skull from the 16th century, a used hangman’s noose, Aleister Crowley’s childhood chessboard, etc. — so when his assistant tells him about a ghost for sale on an online auction site, he immediately puts in a bid and purchases it.

The black, heart-shaped box that Coyne receives in the mail not only contains the suit of a dead man but also his vengeance-obsessed spirit. The ghost, it turns out, is the stepfather of a young groupie who committed suicide after the 54-year-old Coyne callously used her up and threw her away. Now, determined to kill Coyne and anyone who aids him, the merciless ghost of Craddock McDermott begins his assault on the rocker’s sanity.

AX – Rock stars don’t interest me. Middle-aged men don’t interest me.

The Cleric Quintet – R.A. Salvatore

R.A. Salvatore’s Cleric Quintet tells the story of the scholar-priest Cadderly, plucked from the halls of the Edificant Library to fulfill a heroic quest: to stop the chaos curse unleashed upon Faerun.

This one-volume collection includes all five of the original Cleric Quintet novels–Canticle, In Sylvan Shadows, Night Masks, The Fallen Fortress, and The Chaos Curse–complete and unabridged, with an introduction by the author. The Cleric Quintet is the prequel to R.A. Salvatore’s best-selling novel, The Ghost King.

KEEP – I love all things Forgotten Realms. I’ll probably never get to this because I can’t seem to catch up on Drizzt’s series. He keeps writing them so damn fast!

Dune to Death – Mary Daheim

Bed-and-breakfast hostess Judith McMonigle and her policeman beau Joe Flynn have finally gotten hitched—and they’re off on a sunny honeymoon to beautiful Buccaneer Beach. But an unfortunate confrontation with a dune buggy run amok puts hubby Joe in hospital traction—leaving his beleaguered blushing bride stranded in paradise with a bad case of ennui by the sea. Luckily irrepressible cousin Renie has selflessly agreed to keep Judith company. And when the landlady of their cozy, costly cottage by the shore turns up dead in their living room, the cousins suddenly have a murderous mystery to keep them afloat. Rumors of a fortune in buried pirate gold add spice to their adventure. But digging up both a treasure and a killer is dirty business—and Judith and Renie might end up digging their own graves.

KEEP – I picked up one of the books in this series in high school during those sessions where they forced you to read. I liked it enough to go back and start from the beginning. It’s just one of those fun mysteries.

 

Got rid of 4/10 – Down to 909!

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The World Needs Library Simulator

I’m a big fan of escaping reality and where better to do that than in VR? Not only can you immerse yourself in another world, you can choose to be anything you want (Goat Simulator), work any job you want (Garbage Truck Simulator), and date the hunky man of your dreams (Dream Daddy: A Dad Dating Simulator).

So I ask myself, why not have a Library Simulator?

In this game, you could:

  • Learn the Dewey Decimal system.
  • Replace books on shelves.
  • Help visitors find the perfect title for their bookish needs.
  • Scan books for visitors to check out.
  • Create beautiful displays.
  • Read short stories and decide if they go or stay.
  • Attach your Goodreads account and browse actual titles, add them to your TBR, and recommend to others (not fishing for sponsors or anything).

You could even pick different settings: A brightly-lit, ultra modern library with lots of wasted space. An Inner city library with bars on the window (there’s only the one) and an armed security guard. Personally, I would prefer to lord over a more traditional library with polished mahogany shelves, antique tapestries, and candle sconces. This could even add to the excitement–if someone tips over a candle, everything burns!

As if that wasn’t already intensely titillating, here’s where it gets really fun:

  • If people don’t heed your shushes and stern looks, you can stab them in the neck with your Pen of Righteous Discipline.
  • If someone bends the spine of a book, you get to break or remove theirs.

    View post on imgur.com

  • If someone smuggles in food and drink, you get to stuff it down their throat until they choke.
  • If someone dog-ears a page, you get to put a slit in their ear. After, say, two offenses, they lose the ear. And their library card.
  • If someone attempts to steal a book, well, we’ll let them live because who can resist a good book?

Let us not forget story time, children!

 

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[Review] My Italian Bulldozer – Alexander McCall Smith

Title: My Italian Bulldozer
Author: Alexander McCall Smith
Genre: Fiction
Published: 2017
My rating: ★★1/2

From Goodreads:

When writer Paul Stewart heads to the idyllic Italian town of Montalcino to finish his already late book, it seems like the perfect escape from stressful city life. Upon landing, however, things quickly take a turn for the worse when he discovers his hired car is nowhere to be found. With no record of any reservation and no other cars available it looks like Paul is stuck at the airport. That is, until an enterprising stranger offers him an unexpected alternative. While there may be no cars available there is something else on offer: a bulldozer.

With little choice in the matter, Paul accepts and so begins a series of laugh out loud adventures through the Italian countryside, following in the wake of Paul and his Italian Bulldozer. A story of unexpected circumstance and lesson in making the best of what you have, My Italian Bulldozer is a warm holiday read guaranteed to put a smile on your face.


I was supremely excited for this book. I gushed about it to friends and family. I kept looking at the cover again and again (because isn’t it kinda awesome?), and kept seeing it posted on all these “Books to Look for in 2017” lists. I even recommended it to a coworker to bring with on her trip to Italy.

Then I read it.

My disappointment in this book rivals the disappointment my parents have when I do needlepoint on Saturday night. They just look at me wondering, why aren’t you out partying? Why are you wasting your youth?

Why is this book so tame?! I expected a riotous journey through the Italian countryside, but it fell flat. There were quirky moments that made me feel like I was watching a British sitcom, but they hardly got a chuckle from me. Perhaps the humor was just too subtle . . . or nonexistent. I bulldozed (aha) through the novel just to get it out of the way and move on with my life (which, according to my family, I do not actually have).

To keep myself entertained, I started picturing Martin Freeman as Paul. If it ever is adapted into a film, he would fit the part perfectly. He has that pushover appeal.

I will admit, this book is a good palate cleanser after you’ve read a dark and dreary novel. There is a simplicity and innocence to it that I find oddly charming, and I also loved the mouthwatering descriptions of food. However, this is the first and last time I recommend a book I haven’t read. Lesson learned.

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TBR Unhaul: Week Three

I continue to skim the excess fat from my Goodreads TBR pile. To see last week’s and learn how you can join in (if you dare), click here.

Blood Red Horse – K.M. Grant

You need three things to become a brave and noble knight:
A warhorse.
A fair maiden.
A just cause.

Will has a horse—a small chestnut stallion with a white blaze in his brow. Ellie is a fair maiden, but she’s supposed to marry Will’s older brother, Gavin. And as for the cause, King Richard is calling for a Crusade. The Knights of England must go to the Holy Land to fight.

Will and Gavin will go. Blood will be shed. Lives will be taken. But through it all, two things will be constant—Ellie, and a blood-red horse called Hosanna…

KEEP – Don’t know much about the Crusades, but they interest me.

 

Wintercraft – Jenna Burtenshaw

Ten years ago Kate Winters’ parents were taken by the High Council’s wardens to help with the country’s war effort.

Now the wardens are back…and prisoners, including Kate’s uncle Artemis, are taken south on the terrifying Night Train. Kate and her friend Edgar are hunted by a far more dangerous enemy. Silas Dane – the High Council’s most feared man – recognises Kate as one of the Skilled; a rare group of people able to see through the veil between the living and the dead. His spirit was damaged by the High Council’s experiments into the veil, and he’s convinced that Kate can undo the damage and allow him to find peace.

The knowledge Kate needs lies within Wintercraft – a book thought to be hidden deep beneath the graveyard city of Fume. But the Night of Souls, when the veil between life and death is at its thinnest, is just days away and the High Council have their own sinister plans for Kate and Wintercraft.

KEEP – Gotta love dead men.

Unholy Night – Seth Grahame-Smith

In Grahame-Smith’s telling, the so-called “Three Wise Men” are infamous thieves, led by the dark, murderous Balthazar. After a daring escape from Herod’s prison, they stumble upon the famous manger and its newborn king. The last thing Balthazar needs is to be slowed down by young Joseph, Mary and their infant. But when Herod’s men begin to slaughter the first born in Judea, he has no choice but to help them escape to Egypt.

It’s the beginning of an adventure that will see them fight the last magical creatures of the Old Testament; cross paths with biblical figures like Pontius Pilate and John the Baptist; and finally deliver them to Egypt. It may just be the greatest story never told.

KEEP – I would need to read the bible first though…I honestly have no idea who the three wise men are.

 

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter – Seth Grahame-Smith

Indiana, 1818. Moonlight falls through the dense woods that surround a one-room cabin, where a nine-year-old Abraham Lincoln kneels at his suffering mother’s bedside. She’s been stricken with something the old-timers call “Milk Sickness.”

“My baby boy…” she whispers before dying.

Only later will the grieving Abe learn that his mother’s fatal affliction was actually the work of a vampire.

When the truth becomes known to young Lincoln, he writes in his journal, “henceforth my life shall be one of rigorous study and devotion. I shall become a master of mind and body. And this mastery shall have but one purpose…” Gifted with his legendary height, strength, and skill with an ax, Abe sets out on a path of vengeance that will lead him all the way to the White House.

While Abraham Lincoln is widely lauded for saving a Union and freeing millions of slaves, his valiant fight against the forces of the undead has remained in the shadows for hundreds of years. That is, until Seth Grahame-Smith stumbled upon The Secret Journal of Abraham Lincoln, and became the first living person to lay eyes on it in more than 140 years.

Using the journal as his guide and writing in the grand biographical style of Doris Kearns Goodwin and David McCullough, Seth has reconstructed the true life story of our greatest president for the first time-all while revealing the hidden history behind the Civil War and uncovering the role vampires played in the birth, growth, and near-death of our nation.

AX – I tried reading Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and couldn’t get into it. If I like Unholy Night, I’ll give this one a try.

Farlander – Col Buchanan

For fifty years the Holy Empire of Mann, an empire and religion born from a nihilistic urban cult, has been conquering nation after nation. Their leader, Holy Matriarch Sasheen, ruthlessly maintains control through her Diplomats, priests trained as subtle predators.

Ash is a member of an elite group of assassins, the Roshun, who offer protection through the threat of vendetta. Forced by his ailing health to take on an apprentice, he chooses Nico, a young man living in the besieged city of Bar-Khos. At the time, Nico is hungry, desperate, and alone in a city that finds itself teetering on the brink.

When the Holy Matriarch’s son deliberately murders a woman under the protection of the Roshun, he forces the sect to seek his life in retribution. Ash and his young apprentice set out to fulfill the mandate, and their journey takes them into the heart of the conflict between the Empire and the Free Ports…into bloodshed and death.

AX – I have other books about assassins that I want to read more.

Envy – Gregg Olsen

Crime lives–and dies–in the deceptively picture-perfect town of Port Gamble (aka “Empty Coffin”), Washington. Evil lurks and strange things happen–and 15-year-olds Hayley and Taylor Ryan secretly use their wits and their telepathic “twin-sense” to uncover the truth about the town’s victims and culprits.

Envy, the series debut, involves the mysterious death of the twins’ old friend, Katelyn. Was it murder? Suicide? An accident? Hayley and Taylor are determined to find out–and as they investigate, they stumble upon a dark truth that is far more disturbing than they ever could have imagined.

AX – Meh.

 

Across the Nightingale Floor – Lian Heran

In his black-walled fortress at Inuyama, the warlord Iida Sadamu surveys his famous nightingale floor. Constructed with exquisite skill, it sings at the tread of each human foot. No assassin can cross it unheard.

The youth Takeo has been brought up in a remote mountain village among the Hidden, a reclusive and spiritual people who have taught him only the ways of peace. But unbeknownst to him, his father was a celebrated assassin and a member of the Tribe, an ancient network of families with extraordinary, preternatural skills. When Takeo’s village is pillaged, he is rescued and adopted by the mysterious Lord Otori Shigeru. Under the tutelage of Shigeru, he learns that he too possesses the skills of the Tribe. And, with this knowledge, he embarks on a journey that will lead him across the famed nightingale floor—and to his own unimaginable destiny…

KEEP – I’ve heard a lot of praise for this book.

Odalisque – Fiona McIntosh

Captured by slave traders in the inhospitable desert, Lazar fought his way to freedom, earning the coveted position of Spur of Percheron. Charged with protecting his adopted city from enemies on both sides of its walls, he has led a charmed life as confidant to and protector of Zar Joreb for many years. But now Joreb is dead. . . .

Though Joreb’s well-intentioned fifteen-year-old heir, Boaz, will take the title of Zar, the balance of power lies in the hands of his beautiful and cruelly ambitious mother, a former harem slave who rose to power by the Zar’s favor. Aside from Lazar, whom Boaz trusts and respects, the young Zar’s only friend is Pez, the court jester, a misshapen dwarf whose tricks and diversions are accepted only because he is known to be mad.

When a stunning young girl is brought to the palace to fill a space in Boaz’s harem, both Boaz and Lazar are surprised by their unexpectedly strong reactions to her. But Ana, the odalisque, finds the closeted world of the harem stifling and unbearable. And unbeknownst to all, the gods themselves are beginning to rise in a cyclical battle that is just beginning, and will enmesh everyone in the palace in a struggle for the very soul of Percheron.

KEEP – I’m still reading McIntosh’s Valisar trilogy, it’s not the most compelling, but I’ll still give this a try.

The Winter King – Bernard Cornwell

Uther, the High King, has died, leaving the infant Mordred as his only heir. His uncle, the loyal and gifted warlord Arthur, now rules as caretaker for a country which has fallen into chaos – threats emerge from within the British kingdoms while vicious Saxon armies stand ready to invade. As he struggles to unite Britain and hold back the enemy at the gates, Arthur is embroiled in a doomed romance with beautiful Guinevere. Will the old-world magic of Merlin be enough to turn the tide of war in his favour?

KEEP – I am a sucker for Arthurian mythology and I liked Cornwell’s The Last Kingdom.

Gates of Fire: An Epic Novel of the Battle of Thermopylae – Steven Pressfield

In 480 B.C., two million Persian invaders come to the mountain pass of Thermopylae in eastern Greece, where they are met by 300 of Sparta’s finest warriors. The Greek loyalists battle for six days in a prelude to their ultimate victory.

KEEP – For SPARTA!

 

 

 

We are down to 912 books (from 923)! Wow, only a lot more to go…

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Down the TBR Hole: Week Two

Last week I joined in a meme called “Down the TBR Hole” which was originally started on the blog Lost In A Story. I’m trying to trim down my 900+ TBR pile on Goodreads and managed to get rid of 4 out of 10 books, which means there are 4 less books in the world that I feel obligated to read (the struggle is real).

How to participate:

  • Go to your Goodreads to-read shelf
  • Order by ascending date added
  • Take the first 5 (or 10 if you’re feeling adventurous) books
  • Read the synopses of the books
  • Decide: keep it or let it go?

Let’s begin!

Small Steps – Louis Sachar 

Two years after Camp Green Lake, Armpit is home in Austin. With a record, everyone expects the worst except disabled neighbor Ginny 10. They take small steps on the right path until Camp pal X-Ray has a get-rich-quick idea. Teen pop sensation Kaira DeLeon spins his life out of control. Doing the right thing is never a wrong choice, but a small step in the right direction.

KEEP – I first read Holes in third grade and instantly fell in love with it. I’m just really hesitant to read the sequel. What if it’s not as good? What if it taints my view on the first one? What if it ruins my childhood?!

 

Clockwork Angel – Cassandra Clare

In a time when Shadowhunters are barely winning the fight against the forces of darkness, one battle will change the course of history forever. Welcome to the Infernal Devices trilogy, a stunning and dangerous prequel to the New York Timesbestselling Mortal Instruments series.

The year is 1878. Tessa Gray descends into London’s dark supernatural underworld in search of her missing brother. She soon discovers that her only allies are the demon-slaying Shadowhunters—including Will and Jem, the mysterious boys she is attracted to. Soon they find themselves up against the Pandemonium Club, a secret organization of vampires, demons, warlocks, and humans. Equipped with a magical army of unstoppable clockwork creatures, the Club is out to rule the British Empire, and only Tessa and her allies can stop them…

AX – I read City of Bones years ago and thought it was (don’t kill me, fangirls) only okay. One day I’ll try to delve back into the series, but I can’t read this until I do that.

 

A Stranger at Green Knowe – L. M. Boston

L. M. Boston’s thrilling and chilling tales of Green Knowe, a haunted manor deep in an overgrown garden in the English countryside, have been entertaining readers for half a century. Now the children of Green Knowe–both alive and ghostly–are back in appealing new editions. 

KEEP – I loved the first in the series, The Children of Green Knowe. Every time I think about it, it gives me this warm, nostalgic feeling even though all I remember is that there are creepy ghost children.

 

 

SilverFin – Charlie Higson

Before the name became a legend. Before the boy became the man. Meet Bond. James Bond.

Something is in the water at Loch Silverfin. Something deadly. Something secret.

On his first day at Eton, James already meets his first enemy. In remote Loch Silverfin, a terrifying discovery threatens to unleash a new breed of warfare.

AX – My only experience with James Bond is Goldeneye on the N64 (I mastered the frigate level). There’s only room for one teenage spy in my heart and that is Alex Rider.

 

The Akhenaten Adventure – P.B. Kerr

Meet John and Philippa Gaunt, twelve-year-old twins who one day discover themselves to be descended from a long line of djinn. All of a sudden, they have the power to grant wishes, travel to extraordinary places, and make people and objects disappear. Luckily, the twins are introduced to their eccentric djinn-uncle Nimrod, who will teach them how to harness their newly found power. And not a moment too soon . . . since John and Philippa are about to embark on a search to locate a monstrous pharaoh named Akhenaten and his eerie tomb.

AX – Unfortunately I’m being very selective with the MG I’m reading these days.

 

 

The Seventh Tower – Garth Nix

Tal has lived his whole life in darkness. He has never left his home, a mysterious castle of seven towers. He does not see the threat that will tear apart his family and his world. But Tal cannot stay safe forever. When danger strikes, he must desperately climb the Red Tower to steal a Sunstone. He reaches the top…

…and then he falls into a strange and unknown world of warriors, ice ships, and hidden magic. There Tal makes an enemy who will save his life and holds the key to his future.

KEEP – Despite trying and failing to get into his other books, including Mr. Monday and Sabriel, I will give this a shot since I’ve heard such good things about it.

 

Knight’s Castle – Edward Eager

When the ancient toy soldier comes alive, the Old One grants Roger’s wish to adventure in “yeomanly” Sherwood Forest. Will Roger earn his second wish, to save his father? Need for an operation brings Roger 11 and younger Ann to stay with bossy cousin Eliza and Jack. Can the children convince Ivanhoe to marry Rebecca over Rowena, and conquer the castle – in pjs?

KEEP – I loved Half Magic and didn’t realize it was actually a series until recently.

 

 

 

The Liberation of Sundrian City – Ander Louis 

If ignorance were bliss, would you seek truth?

In a sheltered city that has locked itself away from the dangers of the outside world, a band of underground rebels, driven by this very question, plan to uncover the truth beyond their impenetrable wall.

Meanwhile, as he struggles to bring his own life together by solving the mysterious murder of his parents, thirteen-year-old Linus Smith will come to learn – the hard way – that he is a gifted war elephant rider, and find himself in the most unlikely place – at the crux of a liberation.

The Liberation of Sundrian City is the explosive new adventure novel by Ander Louis.

Join the Liberation!

AX – No, I don’t want to join the Liberation!

 

Anansi Boys – Neil Gaiman 

God is dead. Meet the kids.

Fat Charlie Nancy’s normal life ended the moment his father dropped dead on a Florida karaoke stage. Charlie didn’t know his dad was a god. And he never knew he had a brother. Now brother Spider is on his doorstep—about to make Fat Charlie’s life more interesting . . . and a lot more dangerous.

KEEP – I’m still on a quest to find a Gaiman novel that I love. Or even just like.

 

 

Goddess of the Night – Lynne Ewing

Vanessa, who has always had the special power to become invisible, discovers that she and her best friend Catty, a time-traveler, are goddesses of the moon who must fight together to overcome the evil Atrox.

KEEP – My friend was way into this series in middle school. I still need to know what all the hullabaloo is about.

 

 

 

 

 

Got rid of 4/10 again. Not bad!

Have you read any of these? 

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Down The TBR Hole: Week One

One of my favorite things to do is peruse bookish lists and add to my TBR. On Goodreads, I have well over 900 titles marked as to-read. Each time I compare that to the number of actual titles read (567), I have a panic attack.

I’ve been wanting to cull my TBR for a while now, but hadn’t the motivation until I came across “Down the TBR Hole,” originally created by Lia at Lost In A Story.

How to participate:

  • Go to your Goodreads to-read shelf
  • Order by ascending date added
  • Take the first 5 (or 10 if you’re feeling adventurous) books
  • Read the synopses of the books
  • Decide: keep it or let it go?

Each week, I will post ten books and their synopses (from Goodreads), then decide what I’m keeping or axing. Should only take about, oh, 90 weeks. Longer if I keep adding. At any rate, I hope you’ll gain something from this. Either new books to add to your TBR or motivation to do this yourself. For me, I hope I’ll learn to be more discerning. I once thought I’d read every book that crossed my path, but now I realize the foolishness in such a pursuit (unless I am one day bitten by a vampire–here’s hoping!)

If you’ve read something on this list that I decide to let go, but you really liked, let me know and I just may keep it. You may not be easing my stress, but you will be recommending me a great book and that’s all I can ask for. Also, if there is one that I’m keeping that you really just loathed with all your being, do tell. No point wasting time on sucky books.

Let’s begin, shall we?

Curse of the Spider King – Wayne Thomas Batson and Christopher Hopper

The Seven succeeding Elven Lords of Allyra were dead, lost in the Siege of Berinfell as babes. At least that’s what everyone thought until tremors from a distant world known as Earth, revealed strange signs that Elven blood lived among its peoples. With a glimmer of hope in their hearts, sentinels are sent to see if the signs are true. But theirs is not a lone errand. The ruling warlord of Allyra, the Spider King, has sent his own scouts to hunt down the Seven and finish the job they failed to complete many ages ago.

Now 13-year-olds on the brink of the Age of Reckoning when their Elven gifts will be manifest, discover the unthinkable truth that their adoptive families are not their only kin. With mysterious Sentinels revealing breathtaking secrets of the past, and dark strangers haunting their every move, will the young Elf Lords find the way back to the home of their birth? Worlds and races collide as the forces of good and evil battle. Will anyone escape the Curse of the Spider King?

AX – Sounds interesting, but I haven’t been into MG lately since it is far too tame.


The Travelers – D.J. MacHale

Every territory of Halla has a Traveler. They lived for years–some even for decades–before learning of their true destiny. What was life like for Bobby Pendragon’s fellow Travelers before they joined him in the fight to save every time and place that has ever existed? What led up to their becoming the guardians of Halla? The answers are here!

In this first of three thrilling Pendragon prequels, read about Vo Spader’s death-defying adventures in the underwater world of Cloral, Gunny Van Dyke’s race to find a murderer in 1930’s Manhattan on First Earth, and the tough challenges Kasha faced on Eelong well before Bobby Pendragon arrived . . . 

KEEP – Pendragon is one of my favorite series ever. Maybe when I reread all ten books, I will finally get to this. Sigh. I’ve just added more to my list…


Runelight – Joanne Harris 

The squabbling Norse gods and goddesses of Runemarks are back! And there’s a feisty new heroine on the scene: Maggie, a girl the same age as Maddy but brought up a world apart – literally, in World’s End, the focus of the Order in which Maddy was raised. Now the Order is destroyed, Chaos is filling the vacuum left behind… and is breaching the everyday world.

A chilling prophecy from the Oracle. A conflict between two girls. And with just twelve days to stave off the Apocalypse, carnage is about to be unleashed . .

KEEP – I read the first book years and years ago. I think I liked it. Honestly, I’m going to read anything with Loki in it.

 

 


Gladiator: Fight for Freedom – Simon Scarrow 

Rome, 61 BC

RECRUITED as a gladiator, young Marcus Cornelius Primus faces a new life of brutal training, governed by strict rules, as he learns the skills of an elite warrior.

But Marcus cannot simply forget his past. His father lies murdered by soldiers and his mother has been kidnapped and forced into slavery. Marcus is determined to find his father’s old commander, Pompeius the Great, to seek justice for his family and set his mother free.

Yet, unbeknown to him, Marcus is hiding a life-threatening secret. And if the Romans discover it, there will be no escape . . .

AX – I love anything set in ancient Rome, but I’m not entirely sold on the synopsis (or the cover).


The Vampire Lestat – Anne Rice 

Once an aristocrat in the heady days of pre-revolutionary France, now Lestat is a rockstar in the demonic, shimmering 1980s. He rushes through the centuries in search of others like him, seeking answers to the mystery of his terrifying exsitence. His story, the second volume in Anne Rice’s best-selling Vampire Chronicles, is mesmerizing, passionate, and thrilling.

KEEP – I liked Interview with a Vampire. Also, I own it, so I better read it.

 

 

 

 


Snow White and the Seven Samurai – Tom Holt

Once upon a time (or last Thursday, as it’s known in this matrix) everything was fine: Humpty Dumpty sat on his wall, Jack and Jill went about their lawful business, the Big Bad Wolf did what big bad wolves do, and the wicked queen plotted murder most foul.But the humans hacked, cried havoc, shut down the wicked queen’s system (mirrors 3.1) and corrupted her database – and suddenly everything was not fine at all. But at least we know that they’ll all live happily ever after. Don’t we?Computers and fairy tales collide to hilarious effect in the latest sparkling cocktail of mayhem, wit and wonder from the master of comic fantasy.

KEEP – Sounds quirky.

 


The Dragon’s Path – Daniel Abraham

All paths lead to war…

Marcus’ hero days are behind him. He knows too well that even the smallest war still means somebody’s death. When his men are impressed into a doomed army, staying out of a battle he wants no part of requires some unorthodox steps.

Cithrin is an orphan, ward of a banking house. Her job is to smuggle a nation’s wealth across a war zone, hiding the gold from both sides. She knows the secret life of commerce like a second language, but the strategies of trade will not defend her from swords.

Geder, sole scion of a noble house, has more interest in philosophy than in swordplay. A poor excuse for a soldier, he is a pawn in these games. No one can predict what he will become.

Falling pebbles can start a landslide. A spat between the Free Cities and the Severed Throne is spiraling out of control. A new player rises from the depths of history, fanning the flames that will sweep the entire region onto The Dragon’s Path-the path to war.

KEEP – Epic fantasy is my weakness.


Dark Light of Day – Jill Archer

Armageddon is over. The demons won. And yet somehow…the world has continued. Survivors worship patron demons under a draconian system of tributes and rules. These laws keep the demons from warring among themselves, and the world from slipping back into chaos.

Noon Onyx grew up on the banks of the river Lethe, the daughter of a prominent politician, and a descendant of Lucifer’s warlords. Noon has a secret: She was born with waning magic, the dark, destructive, fiery power that is used to control demons and maintain the delicate peace among them. But a woman with waning magic is unheard of, and some would consider her an abomination. 

Noon is summoned to attend St. Lucifer’s, a school of demon law. She must decide whether to declare her powers there…or to attempt to continue hiding them, knowing the price for doing so may be death. And once she meets the forbiddingly powerful Ari Carmine—who suspects Noon is harboring magic as deadly as his own—Noon realizes there may be more at stake than just her life.

AX – I love stories with demons, but if I don’t want to immediately go out and purchase the book, then it probably doesn’t belong on my list.


The Map of Time – Felix J. Palma 

This rollicking page-turner with a cast of real and imagined literary characters and cunning intertwined plots stars a skeptical H.G. Wells as a time-traveling investigator.

Characters real and imaginary come vividly to life in this whimsical triple play of intertwined plots, in which a skeptical H. G. Wells is called upon to investigate purported incidents of time travel and to save lives and literary classics, including Dracula and The Time Machine, from being wiped from existence.

What happens if we change history?

AX – Steampunk, time travel, Dracula? Like, why am I taking this off the list? I normally don’t look at people’s reviews since I like to form my own opinion, but this one didn’t get the best ratings. It’s been on my list since 2012 and I still haven’t read it. Perhaps there’s a reason.


Sorceress – Celia Rees 

It came to Agnes unbidden: a vision of Mary Newbury, a young woman driven from her Puritan settlement, accused of being a witch. It is an image of a life about to change radically, as Mary defies all accepted norms — embracing independence, love, and loyalty to a Native American community that accepts her as one of their own. The two women’s lives are separated by almost four hundred years, but they are linked by more than blood. For, like Mary, Agnes has special powers — powers that Mary seeks to ensure that the rest of her story is told. 

KEEP – I read the first book, holy balls, like years ago. I don’t remember much, which means I’ll have to reread it in order to read this.

 

 

Woo! Got rid of 4/10 books. Only 919 more to go!

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Why Alphabetizing Your Private Library is The Worst: A Journey

It’s Friday night and I’ve just consumed a small Albino Turtle. Two shots of espresso, my limit for this week, surges through my veins. I’m jittery and restless until an idea hits me. An idea to do something worthwhile. Something good. I quickly fold piles of clothes and vacuum the carpet that hasn’t seen the light of day in weeks. Vivaldi blares from a Bose speaker.

Armed with my catalog of books and a damp rag, I begin. I clear the top shelf of a bookcase, wipe it down, and start the alphabetizing process.The Invisible Road by Rafael Abalos goes first, followed by The Woman in the Dunes by Kobo Abe. Then Joe Abercrombie’s Half a King. Slowly, the shelf fills. Tall books tower over vertically impaired ones. Fantasy buddies up to literary and mystery.

I am a revolutionary breaking the barriers between genres. Tonight, we are all one. We are paper. We are ink. We are words and ideas.

I play air violin to Carmen Fantasy, Op. 25 by Pablo de Sarasate and dance among stacks of books that cover the floor and bed. My mom steps into the room and turns right around. My brother asks me, “Are you out of your mind?”

By midnight, I think he may be right. I waver when my beloved Artemis Fowl books end up on the bottom shelf. As if they are nothing better than mass market paperbacks. I remind myself again, despite our outward appearances, despite the thickness of our bindings, we are all equal. Even with this inclusive new attitude, I am ill at ease with World War Z nestled against Wuthering Heights. Yet I knew when I began it would be complete, albeit meticulously organized, chaos. Determined to see it through, I shanghai my boyfriend into helping.

By three in the morning, I begin to admit that this undertaking may possibly be a mistake. I have only organized two out of four bookshelves, but that isn’t the issue. I can deny it no longer–the simple fact is that a new book would compromise the integrity of the entire system. For any new book that I buy, I would have to make room by moving every subsequent book one space over. I cannot do that for nearly 1,000 books.

The idea of a living shelf that is constantly evolving appeals to me, but it is not one easily maintained. Dejected, I quit. I do not get to the letter R. My dreams of having Rainbow Rowell’s Carry On next to J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter are crushed.

The next day, I gain perspective. No longer are my books equal. No longer will I blur the lines. With steadfast resolve, I segregate my books by genre.

I make it to midnight before I clear enough space on the bed for me and my dog to pass out. My boyfriend has to move fifty or so books just to get to the bed.

He knows I’m crazy, but he loves me anyway.

Uttering every violent threat I can think of to myself, I finish Sunday evening, but I am pleased with the results. I have two bookshelves dedicated to fantasy, one YA/adult, the other MG. Another bookcase houses science fiction, paranormal romance, horror, and fantasy. The last is full of literary classics, realistic fiction, magical realism, thriller, and . . . fantasy.

I have a lot of fantasy, okay?

I even did a bit of organizing by color (of which I am normally staunchly against) for my stand-alones. Interestingly enough, after filling the shelves, I had about fifty mass market paperbacks that I had no space for. They’re now stacked between a bookshelf and an armoire. I can only imagine it’s like having spare parts after dismantling and reassembling an engine.

I would strongly dissuade anyone from this overly ambitious endeavor, particularly if you have a large collection. I’m sick of handling books and will not be reorganizing again until the next time I move. Alas, I recently bought four new books and they are sitting untouched in the box they came in because I don’t want to find room for them.

How do you organize your shelves? 

 

 

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[Review] The House – Christina Lauren

Title: The House
Author: Christina Lauren
Genre: YA Horror
Published: 2015
My Rating: ★★★★★

When her family can no longer afford to send her to private school, Delilah returns to public school in her hometown. There, she thrusts herself upon the mysterious boy she’s had a crush on since forever.

Gavin has a secret–his house has a mind of its own and has raised him since he was a small child. House is the only family he has until Delilah enters his life, and House isn’t interested in sharing him.

I loved this! I was so thoroughly creeped out. I read it late at night (of course) and it got to the point where I’d demand my boyfriend to stand guard outside the bathroom. He wouldn’t humor me.

To be honest, I’m a bit of a chickenshit. Horror buffs might not feel the same tingles of adrenaline I did. But it’s not like there’s some thing in the house that hates Delilah. It’s the entire freaking house. Every inanimate object inside it has a mind of its own. Not only that, but its reach extends past the house, through roots and wires, to other homes. It’s not like you can easily sneak around and get away from it. The whole town is unsafe.

The characters are both endearing and I appreciated the dual point of views. Delilah looks sweet and normal, but is obsessed with the macabre. She doodles gruesome pictures in her notebooks, watches slasher flicks, and alphabetizes her books by the cause and number of deaths (might have to look into this). She’s also fiercely protective of Gavin, who is a doll (not literally, to clarify). He looks like your mysterious, haunted bad boy, but he’s actually a sweetheart. They are utterly adorable together and I was seriously worried that something horrible was going to happen to both of them.

I would recommend this to fans of Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake. It’s not as bloody and full of angst, but it still made me laugh and gave me the chills.

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[Review] The Love Interest – Cale Dietrich

Title: The Love Interest
Author: Cale Dietrich
Genre: YA Fiction
Published: 2017
My Rating:  ★★

Caden is a Nice, the boy next door. Dyl is a Bad, the tortured and dangerous hot guy. After years of training to become spies–specifically, the Love Interest of a Chosen (a person who will one day likely have great influence and power)–the two are thrust into the real world to compete in making a brilliant young woman fall in love with them. When the two begin to have feelings for each other, their mission becomes even more complicated. Worse, whoever she doesn’t chose will die. 

I was so looking forward to this book. I first saw it in Writer’s Digest, where they put a spotlight on debut authors. The cover snagged my attention first, followed by the odd but compelling premise. Two boys who fall in love with each other instead of the girl they’re supposed to? Heck ya!

Unfortunately, I knew I was doomed from the beginning. The voice and the dialogue felt stilted and juvenile. Yes, I’m an adult–wait, did I just say that? All right, yes, I admit it: I am physically an adult. But I read a lot of YA. There’s stuff that feels super kid-lit and stuff that has crossover appeal. This did not have crossover appeal. It just felt too…bubbly for what was happening. Perhaps it was because the story is told from the Nice’s perspective. If it had been told from the Bad’s perspective, there likely would’ve been a lot more angst.

The plot, especially in the last half, felt extremely over the top. When I was going in, I didn’t realize this would be a life or death situation and that the loser would be incinerated. I’m generally all for action, but I could’ve done without it here. I wanted the author to focus more on Caden and Dyl’s relationship. Something more realistic would’ve been more compelling. There’s also so much attention to clothes. Like, every scene there’s a description. Honestly, who cares?

I’ll admit, there are a few gems. Caden asks his coach, “Wouldn’t it be better to send us in when we’re a bit older? No one finds the love of their life while they’re a teenager.” To which she replies, “You haven’t read many YA novels recently, have you?” Dietrich pokes fun at trends in YA. How boys are expected to behave in those stories. Not like persons in their own right, but someone to cater to the girl’s every whim. The boys alter their appearances and their personalities to conform to the girl’s desires. They put her ahead of themselves at all times. It’s nice to see someone take that love triangle trope and turn it on its head. It made me think more about my own characters and how I want them to be fully fleshed out individuals.

Overall, I really wanted to like this book. The idea intrigued me, but I didn’t like the execution. It’s a debut and unfortunately it reads like a debut.

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