Image

Book Review: Feast of Fools by Rachel Caine

feast of foolsTitle: Feast of Fools

Author: Rachel Caine

Series: Morganville Vampires #4

Genre: Teen Paranormal Romance

Rating: 4/5 stars

The Overview: In the town of Morganville, vampires and humans live in relative peace. Student Claire Danvers has never been convinced, though, especially with the arrival of Mr. Bishop, an ancient, old-school vampire who cares nothing about harmony. What he wants from the town’s living and its dead is unthinkably sinister. It’s only at a formal ball, attended by vampires and their human dates, that Claire realizes the elaborately evil trap he’s set for Morganville.

feast of fools 2

The Review:

Funny story: so Morganville #1 (The Glass House) was actually one of the very first paranormal YA books I’ve ever read. At the time, I really didn’t know what to expect from the genre… and wasn’t really blown away. Fast-forward about a decade and hundreds of YA books later to the moment where I finally decided to continue on in the series. I discovered it is actually way better than I initially gave it credit for. This came about while I was trying to create a top ten YA list – while I could name countless books that I enjoyed, I could not for the life of me come up with ten series that I absolutely LOVED (especially compared to my top ten fantasy list, where I had trouble narrowing it down from twenty). I surprised myself when I realized Morganville had enough merits to make that list.

For one thing, it’s written well. For another, the characters are quirky and well-rounded. Not to mention the plot offers a unique take on the vampire world (which is incredibly appealing considering how many teen vampire books are out there). Overall, it’s gritty, original, and has an abundance of personality and charm.

So with all of those good things said, it made me start to wonder why I initially didn’t enjoy the series as much then as I am now. I think I’ve finally figured it out: the love interest. Morganville (as well as Caine’s Weather Warden series) commit a good portion of their pages to romance. The trouble is, I didn’t find a single one of the male leads appealing. While I can definitely see their merits and why other readers find them attractive, they just aren’t my type. This tells me two things 1) Caine and I have very different tastes in men and 2) I haven’t been able to fully appreciate the story up to this point because I’m not emotionally invested in the love story. Believe me when I say I know how weird of an issue this is… I’ve only come across this problem once or twice before, but three instances for a single author – unheard of! 

The good news is, now that the plot outside of the romance has advanced considerably, I’m finding the series incredibly fun to read. Even though everything still takes place in Morganville, the conflicts have broadened to become more serious and include more characters. I now have a lot more substance to sink my teeth into (pun intended), so I’m definitely excited to see what happens next!

This is a great series for people who enjoy paranormal but are tired of the perfect “bubblegum” atmosphere that most teen books present. This one is fast-paced, quirky, and definitely one of the best of the genre. It doesn’t quite stack up to some of the adult urban fantasies, but holds its own nonetheless.

Other books you might like:

by Niki Hawkes

Image

Coming Soon: The Rogue Knight by Brandon Mull

the rogue knightTitle: The Rogue Knight

Author: Brandon Mull

Series: Five Kingdoms #2

Genre: Middle Grade

Release Date: October 21, 2014

The Overview: Cole Randolph never meant to come to The Outskirts, but when his friends were kidnapped on Halloween he had to try and save them. Now he is trapped in a world that lies between wakefulness and dreaming, reality and imagination, life and death. Cole’s in search for his friends has led him to Elloweer, another of the five kingdoms that make up The Outskirts. He is accompanied by Mira, Twitch, and Jace; new friends he’s met here in the Outskirts who each have their own important missions. The group is following news that Mira’s sister, Honor, could be in danger. However, Cole and Mira are soon the ones facing direct threat, and must resort to a fascinating new kind of magic to protect themselves. Their journey brings them across familiar faces, some more welcome than others, until their paths ultimately cross with the infamous man known throughout Elloweer as the Rogue Knight. Will he turn out to be an unstoppable enemy, or a key ally? Every move is filled with danger as Cole and his new friends try and outwit the High King, who will stop at nothing to regain what he has lost.

the rogue knight 2

Hosted by Breaking the Spine

Aside from Harry Potter, Fablehaven is easily my favorite middle grade series. I’ve read the books more times than I can count. Since the final book was released, I’ve since gone out and read the Candy Shop War (which I liked), Beyonders (which I did not like), Wild Born (cool!), and Sky Raiders (which is easily my favorite series since Fablehaven). So, even though Beyonders was kind of a disappointment, I’m grateful for this new series – it has me fired up about Mull all over again. I was lucky enough to chat with him for a moment at a book signing and to hear him talk about the “awesome stuff you haven’t even seen yet” coming up in the Five Kingdom series has me pumped!

 As a side note, he also mentioned that after finishing the series he will be working on a spin off of Fablehaven featuring the dragon sanctuaries prominent in book 4!!!!! I am fricken stoked.

by Niki Hawkes

Image

Top Ten Fantastic Authors I Need to Read More From!

top ten tuesday

Hosted by The Broke and the Bookish

So many books and so little time! You all know how it is: you read a single book from fantastic author and then never quite manage to make your way back to them despite the best intentions. I have a difficult time reading books in a series back to back (it’s a sickness that comes from wanting to read ALL THE BOOKS!). So more often than not brilliant (new to me) 5-star authors get put in a queue behind authors and series I’m already highly invested in. The bad news? I usually end up waiting ages before continuing. The good news? I know from this list that I have at least ten amazing authors to look forward to… eventually. Behold:

Top Ten Fantastic Authors I Need to Read More From!

Some of these novels made my top ten list of 2013. I can’t wait to read more!

What authors would make your list?

by Niki Hawkes

Image

Book Review: Dragonsong by Anne McCaffrey

Dragon songTitle: Dragonsong

Author: Anne McCaffrey

Series: Harper Hall Trilogy #1

Genre: Fantasy

Rating: 4.5/5 stars

The Overview: Every two hundred years or so, shimmering threads fall, raining black ruin on Pern. The great dragons of Pern hurl themselves through the beleaguered skies, flaming tongues of fire to destroy deadly Thread and save the planet. It was not Threadfall that made Menolly unhappy. It was her father who betrayed her ambition to be a Harper, who thwarted her love of music. Menolly had no choice but to run away. She came upon a group of fire lizards, wild relatives of the fire-breathing dragons. Her music swirled about them; she taught nine to sing, suddenly Menolly was no longer alone.

Dragon song 2

The Review:

This is going to be a fairly short review for a really great dragon book. I don’t know that I can honestly claim to have a Dragon Obsession with out having read at least a few McCafferys (although I’d like to note I eventually plan on reading all them). Even though Dragonsong is only the first book of the Harper Hall Trilogy, I can already tell it’s going to be just as good as the original Dragonriders of Pern series.

As with Pern, I initially had trouble getting into the flow of the story because of the writing style – it’s not exactly what I would call accessible. McCaffrey uses a rather high-brow language that can sometimes make you feel as if you’re trying to read a textbook. While I think the more readers you can retain with your writing the better, this particular writing style is part of what makes these books unique, so they get a lot of allowances where other books might not. I only had a difficult time focusing at the beginning of the book, but once I settled into the flow of the language, the story came alive.

I absolutely love Dragonsong’s storyline – it’s about a teenaged girl who accidentally enthralls a bunch of fire lizards with her remarkable music. The main character, Mellony, was as charming as she was atypical. She is not a petite, helpless little waif but a tall, strong, capable young woman who knows what she wants out of life (even though she doesn’t always get it). I found her incredibly likable because of how humble, hard-working, compassionate she was – I can totally see why the fire lizards were drawn to her.

I liked this story so much that I’m kind of kicking myself for not continuing on straight away. I’m eager to see where Mellony’s story takes her next and am secretly hoping for some sort of love story to develop. Overall, if you like McCaffery (or dragons in general) I think you’ll enjoy Dragonsong. It takes place chronologically after Dragonquest of the Dragonriders of Pern series, but right before The White Dragon, so you may at the very least want to read the first two of that trilogy to avoid spoilers. In trying to figure out what order to read the books in, I found the lists on this website very helpful.

Other books you might like:

by Niki Hawkes

Image

Book Review: Dualed by Elsie Chapman

dualedTitle: Dualed

Author: Elsie Chapman

Series: Dualed #1

Genre: Teen Dystopian

Rating: 2.5/5 stars

The Overview: Two of you exist. Only one will survive. The city of Kersh is a safe haven, but the price of safety is high. Everyone has a genetic Alternate—a twin raised by another family—and citizens must prove their worth by eliminating their Alts before their twentieth birthday. Survival means advanced schooling, a good job, marriage—life.

Fifteen-year-old West Grayer has trained as a fighter, preparing for the day when her assignment arrives and she will have one month to hunt down and kill her Alt. But then a tragic misstep shakes West’s confidence. Stricken with grief and guilt, she’s no longer certain that she’s the best version of herself, the version worthy of a future. If she is to have any chance of winning, she must stop running not only from her Alt, but also from love . . . though both have the power to destroy her.

dualed 2

The Review:

I’d been eyeballing Dualed for about a year before I actually picked it up. I almost snagged a copy right when it came out but held off because of some negative reviews. Then Divided (book 2) popped up on my radar a year later and I decided to take a risk and give Dualed a try despite poor initial feedback. I liked it for the most part, but there’s something to be said for the overall opinion of the masses. I’m not saying the majority is always right, but with an obscure title like this, they are accurate more often than not. Maybe I should’ve listened, but on occasion I find a book I love despite public opinion so I decided to read it anyway. It was entertaining, but I have some disclaimers:

You see, it was kind of a depressing. I understand and even expect bad things to happen in dystopian societies, but I also expect some small glimmer of hope to help pull me through all the grit. As the entire plot of Dualed centered around two “twins” endlessly striving to destroy one another, that ray of hope was awfully hard to come by. Either the main character has to kill someone or be killed herself. Not exactly a cheerful concept. But not that it needed to be, although I did find myself craving a bit more balance. 

To that end, I think the author should have considered lightening the mood during the slow bits with some subtle humor – it would’ve gone a long way towards making her characters more likable, thereby making the highs and lows of the story more intense. Instead, it was one-note, and that note was depressing. I ended up looking to the competition element to pull me through the story. It was a decent battle, but I would’ve loved to see an infusion of even more intelligence, strategy, and skill into the main character – kind of like what we saw with June in the Legend series. 

I think it would be accurate to say that every aspect of the book left me wanting, some a bit more than others. It wasn’t a bad book by any means, I was just able to identify several specific ways I thought it could be better. I liked it enough to pick up the second book, but ended up setting it aside because it took an even darker turn than the first one and I wasn’t in the mood for that type of story.

In the whole scheme of dystopian books, this one wasn’t one of my favorites, but it definitely wasn’t one of the worst. I’d say if you’re interested in the premise and kind of know what to expect going in, I think you’ll probably enjoy it. I may go back and finish the second book someday, but at the moment it’s not a priority.

Other books you might like:

by Niki Hawkes

Image

Top Ten Underrated Fantasy Authors!

top ten tuesday

Hosted by The Broke and the Bookish

 I did a TTT similar to this many moons ago so I need to apologize to the handful of you who have been following me since then. I normally don’t repeat topics, but I strongly feel that these authors deserve just as much of a spotlight as the well-known mainstream authors (if not more). Talking about brilliant authors most people haven’t discovered yet is why I love being a bookseller and a book blogger. It’s impossible to read all the books, so you might as well read the best. I should point out that these authors may not be technically “underrated” but they are certainly deserving of more recognition!

Top Ten Underrated Fantasy Authors!

 Not only are these epic, well-rounded fantasies, but also happened to be among my all-time favorites. Their writing, plots, characters, and world-building are phenomenal and on par with (and in some cases better than) any other fantasies on the market. These authors deserve kudos for their amazing story-telling, and I plan to continue championing them for as long as I can. If you love fantasy and need some good reading, this is a great place to start!

by Niki Hawkes

Image

Escape Reality Book Club – September’s Selection!

Escape reality book club

Hosted by your’s truly and Charlotte at Apathy and Rhetoric

Your votes have been counted and the results are in! 

September 2014′s official book club book is:

These Broken StarsTitle: These Broken Stars

Authors: Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner

It’s a night like any other on board the Icarus. Then, catastrophe strikes: the massive luxury spaceliner is yanked out of hyperspace and plummets into the nearest planet. Lilac LaRoux and Tarver Merendsen survive. And they seem to be alone.  Lilac is the daughter of the richest man in the universe. Tarver comes from nothing, a young war hero who learned long ago that girls like Lilac are more trouble than they’re worth. But with only each other to rely on, Lilac and Tarver must work together, making a tortuous journey across the eerie, deserted terrain to seek help.

Then, against all odds, Lilac and Tarver find a strange blessing in the tragedy that has thrown them into each other’s arms. Without the hope of a future together in their own world, they begin to wonder—would they be better off staying here forever? Everything changes when they uncover the truth behind the chilling whispers that haunt their every step. Lilac and Tarver may find a way off this planet. But they won’t be the same people who landed on it.

So what happens now?

If you missed the Escaped Reality Book Club launch post, click here for more details.

Otherwise, you are all invited to join in the fun!

We will be reading These Broken Stars throughout the rest of September and geeking out about it on our official Facebook page, followed by a meeting at Menchies Frozen Yogurt for those of you in the Southern Utah area.

This blog reaches a global audience, so we realize not everybody will be able to make it to the meetings. Because of that, if you read the book and want to be included in the discussions, I would love to host a Facebook conversation for anybody who shows interest (just send me a message through our Facebook group, or leave a comment).

Have fun! :)

Image

Coming Soon: The Dagger’s Path by Glenda Larke

The Dagger's PathTitle: The Dagger’s Path

Author: Glenda Larke

Series: The Forsaken Lands #2

Genre: Fantasy

Release Date: January 13, 2015

The Overview: It should have been easy — return the stolen feather and restore Ardhi back to his rightful place. But when Saker, Ardhi, Sorrel, and Piper arrive to find the island in chaos, returning just the one feather will not help — not when the other three have mysteriously disappeared as well. As Saker and Ardhi work to mend the distrust caused by Ardhi’s betrayal and attempt to retrieve the other feathers, they slowly find a sort of peace with the islanders. That is, until Saker realizes they unintentionally led the Spice traders straight to the sacred island they were hoping to protect. Now Saker must fight with both the Va witchery and Chenderawasi magic to defend everything that Ardhi holds dear. But Saker’s powers are very new, and their enemies have them surrounded.

The Dagger's Path 2

Hosted by Breaking the Spine

 Glenda Larke is easily one of my all-time favorite fantasy authors. I’ve read every book she has published so far (including the Mirage trilogy which I had to pay big bucks to have shipped over from Australia), and have absolutely loved every last one. She always dazzles me with epic world-building, amazing characters, and well-woven plots, and her work in this latest trilogy is no exception – in fact, it has the potential to be my favorite yet. The Lascar’s Dagger (Book 1 in this series) was phenomenal and I highly recommend it to anyone who loves epic fantasy. I am so excited for this second book I can hardly stand it. And it gets even better – the release day also happens to be my birthday! :)

by Niki Hawkes

Image

Top Ten Books I’m Taking on My Cruise!

top ten tuesday

Hosted by The Broke and the Bookish

This topic is in no way, shape, or form even close to what it was supposed to be (Top Ten Characters I’d Have Lunch With) because my Top Ten Favorite Character Names and Top Ten Female Characters Who Inspire Me lists pretty much covered everything I wanted to say on the subject. Therefore, I am taking a personal angle this week by naming the:

Top Ten Books I’m Taking on My Cruise!

All of these titles are on my Nook, which is why this post is significantly different than my Top Ten Books on My Fall 2014 list coming up in a couple of weeks. I have been beating myself up for months for not having read some of these titles, so the fact that I am limited to just what’s on my Nook while on vacation actually has me excited that I stalled on reading them for so long. Our Alaskan cruise is going to be amazing (pictures to come), and I’ve somehow managed to save some of the best books to take along!

Have you read any of these? Which one should I start?

by Niki Hawkes

Image

Book Review: Defy by Sara B. Larson

defyTitle: Defy

Author: Sara B. Larson

Series: Defy #1

Genre: Teen Fantasy

Rating: 4/5 stars

The Overview: Alexa Hollen is a fighter. Forced to disguise herself as a boy and serve in the king’s army, Alex uses her quick wit and fierce sword-fighting skills to earn a spot on the elite prince’s guard. But when a powerful sorcerer sneaks into the palace in the dead of night, even Alex, who is virtually unbeatable, can’t prevent him from abducting her, her fellow guard and friend Rylan, and Prince Damian, taking them through the treacherous wilds of the jungle and deep into enemy territory.

The longer Alex is held captive with both Rylan and the prince, the more she realizes that she is not the only one who has been keeping dangerous secrets. And suddenly, after her own secret is revealed, Alex finds herself confronted with two men vying for her heart: the safe and steady Rylan, who has always cared for her, and the dark, intriguing Damian. With hidden foes lurking around every corner, is Alex strong enough to save herself and the kingdom she’s sworn to protect?

defy 2

The Review:

I picked up Defy kind of on a whim because I came across it at the library while planning for my upcoming trip to the Vegas Valley Book Festival in October. You see, Larson is scheduled to be at that event, and I’m trying to read all of the books that sound interesting before going. While Defy was definitely on my “books I’m interested in” list, it wasn’t near the top… but now I’m thinking maybe it should’ve been.

Every once in a while I’m lucky enough to pick up a book that fits my mood perfectly at that moment. I enjoyed Defy thoroughly while I was reading it (which is arguably the most important part), but when I examined its elements critically afterwards, several objections arose. Normally reflection just reinforces the opinions I formed while reading, but in this case, it kind of knocked Defy off its pedestal. 

Defy takes a common story – a girl forced to take on the guise of a boy to survive – and presents it in slightly different way. Larson did what many other authors trying to execute this plot point did not – she made it feasible. First of all, Alexa was not a meek little waif but a tall, young woman graced with handsome enough features to pull off the ruse. She also had a twin brother, which went a long way towards completing the illusion. Add to all of that her powerful swordsmanship and fighting skills, and you have a combination for a very interesting take on a tired story. I really liked Alexa, even in though I feel she let herself slip out of “character” a few too many times. Maybe if she’d lost her deception pretense for any other reason than “boy troubles,” it wouldn’t have bothered me, but because she let herself be swayed by the opposite sex so often, I lost a little bit of that strong, independent’s character I fell in love with at the beginning. I’m hoping she gets some of that self-worth back in the second book because I know she’s got it in her. 

I liked Larson’s world and her conflicts but, as with Cass’ Selection trilogy, I don’t think they’d hold up very well to close scrutiny. In fact, this is the number one objection I’ve read from my fellow reviewers. While I see their point of view (and don’t disagree with their assessments), I have to say none of the objections got in my way of enjoying the story while I was reading. I had such a fun time with this book, and I think that goes to show that a book doesn’t have to be perfect to be good. Larson’s focus may not have been on world-building, but her focus on characters, specifically relationships, was strong enough to keep me entertained.

Although, even the relationship deserves a disclaimer. I absolutely adored the relationship Alexa had with one person, but kind of hated the immature infatuation she had with another (those of you who are squeamish around love triangles should look away now). I love books where I can see the appeal of both male leads as potential mates but didn’t get that here. For me, there was only one clear winner for Alexa, and if I’m honest I will be reading on to see if that’s how the story fleshes out (although, I have a sneaking suspicion we are going to have a Jacob/Edward situation on our hands). We’ll see I guess.

So here’s my question: do I rate the book based on how it made me feel while I was reading it (close to 5 stars) or do I rate it based on my assessment of the book after I was finished (closer to 3 stars). I think the only thing to do is stop over-thinking it and just take an average of the two – a 4 star rating – and call it good. Overall, I really like Defy and felt its strengths outweighed its weaknesses. It had a similar qualities to the amazing books below, but I don’t have complete confidence behind my recommendation of it to others. I’d say if you go in expecting a light, fun read, you’ll probably enjoy it. I will definitely be seeking out Larson at the VVBF and have already purchased a hardcover copy to get signed.

Other books you might like:

by Niki Hawkes