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Book Review: Obsidian and Stars by Julie Eshbaugh

Title: Obsidian and Stars

Author: Julie Eshbaugh

Series: Ivory and Bone #2

Genre: Teen Fiction

Rating: 2.5/5 stars

The Overview: After surviving the chaotic battle that erupted after Lo and the Bosha clan attacked, now Mya is looking ahead to her future with Kol. All the things that once felt so uncertain are finally falling into place. But the same night as Kol and Mya’s betrothal announcement, Mya’s brother Chev reveals his plan to marry his youngest sister Lees to his friend Morsk. The only way to avoid this terrible turn of events, Morsk informs Mya when he corners her later, is for Mya to take Lees’ place and marry him herself. Refusing to marry anyone other than her beloved, and in an effort to protect her sister, Mya runs away to a secret island with Lees. And though it seems like the safest place to hide until things back home blow over, Mya soon realizes she’s been followed. Lurking deep in the recesses of this dangerous place are rivals from Mya’s past whose thirst for revenge exceeds all reason. With the lives of her loved ones on the line, Mya must make a move before the enemies of her past become the undoing of her future. -Goodreads

The Review:

If you caught my recent review of Ivory and Bone, you’ll remember me saying I really enjoyed the book, but had a few issues with the logistics feeling a bit forced. Eshbaugh was modeling the story after Pride and Prejudice, trying to follow the same basic storyline. My hope going into Obsidian and Stars was that it would feel a little more organic and free-flowing – which it actually did. The trouble is, I found a different set of issues to complain about long the way…

Obsidian and Stars lost a bit of the magic that made Ivory and Bone so unique. The creative story construction in I&B around an atypical narrative was my favorite part – it was presented as recounting, where a boy told the girl his perspective from the point when they first met. It was so cool! In O&S, however, the POV switched to straightforward first-person. There was also very minimal cultural immersion, which took away the other element that set Ivory and Bone apart. The one consistency I can praise is Eshbaugh’s beautiful writing voice – if I finish the series, it might be for that alone.

My biggest issue, however, were the conflicts.

Most of the obstacles the character faced in Obsidian and Stars were caused by what I viewed as bad decision-making and a general lack of common sense… almost to an infuriating degree. Because of this, I felt very un-invested for most of the novel while they ran around fixing these self-induced problems (most of which also felt incredibly unfeasible – the juxtaposition between teen angst toleration and the harsh realities of prehistoric life are pretty laughable. I overlooked it in I&B, but I lost patience in the second). Furthermore, all of the remaining conflicts were so similar to what happened in the first book that I found myself losing interest even further to the point where it was a struggle to finish.

I’d really hoped the second book would’ve taken the story beyond the narrow framework of the first and really expanded on this cool setting. Despite my disappointment with Obsidian and Stars, I like Eshbaugh’s writing voice and the basic components to her story well enough that I might still pick up the third book when it comes out in 2018. I’m just really hoping when I do I’ll see stronger conflicts and a heavier focus on the things that make this series special.

Other books you might like:

by Niki Hawkes

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Coming Soon: Nyxia by Scott Reintgen

Title: Nyxia

Author: Scott Reintgen

Series: The Nyxia Triad #1

Genre: Teen Sci-fi

Release Date: September 12, 2017

The Overview: Emmett Atwater isn’t just leaving Detroit; he’s leaving Earth. Why the Babel Corporation recruited him is a mystery, but the number of zeroes on their contract has him boarding their lightship and hoping to return to Earth with enough money to take care of his family. Forever. Before long, Emmett discovers that he is one of ten recruits, all of whom have troubled pasts and are a long way from home. Now each recruit must earn the right to travel down to the planet of Eden–a planet that Babel has kept hidden–where they will mine a substance called Nyxia that has quietly become the most valuable material in the universe. But Babel’s ship is full of secrets. And Emmett will face the ultimate choice: win the fortune at any cost, or find a way to fight that won’t forever compromise what it means to be human. -Goodreads

Nik’s Notes:

Okay, I’ll admit I’m a sucker for a cool cover.
And YA Sci-Fi.
And intense competition reminiscent of Hunger Games…
…Pretty much everything Nyxia is offering.

Rest assured, I’ll be hounding for a copy as soon as it comes out in September. ;P

Any ARC readers so far? Thoughts??

 by Niki Hawkes

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Book Reviews: Steeplejack & Firebrand by A.J. Hartley [+Giveaway!]

Titles: Steeplejack and Firebrand
Author: A.J. Hartley
Series: Alternate Detective #1&2
Genre: Teen Fiction
Rating: 4/5 stars

Steeplejack and Firebrand were two of the most unique books I’ve ever read – the type of stories that continue to resonate long after you finish them!

The books were successful on several accounts. The “whodunit” detective mystery was engaging, made all the more compelling by Anglet’s (the main character) personal stake in solving the crime. Her involvement felt more organic than not, and the passages dedicated to developing her convictions and motives were my favorites of the book. She also had a heartfelt side story going on, which offered a satisfying amount of character depth. Anglet is definitely the best part of this series.

The second best part is the inclusion of diversity of characters and an author who wasn’t afraid to write about unfair class systems and discrimination. He offered a variety of dynamics between races not usually seen in YA, for which I applaud. Anglet is a non-white main character, and in a market clamoring for more diversity in books, she was a breath of fresh air. My only issue is that the cover art makes her race a little ambiguous – I would’ve liked to see her more strongly represented.

The books take place in what feels like a 1920s era city, complete with tall buildings (obviously, based on the need for steeplejacks), a neat alternate light/energy source, and plenty of dirty-dealings and underground crime. Interestingly enough, this urban setting is fringed by hippo-occupied rivers, lion-prowling brush lands, and native tribes people. Needless to say it made for a unique atmosphere. I wasn’t totally convinced of its feasibility, given pollution issues and humanity’s tendency to dominate and destroy any threats around major hubs. Then I discovered A.J. Hartley spent some time in South Africa doing research for this series… and now imagine the story reflects this weird dichotomy fairly accurately. It’s still hard for me to wrap my brain around, but I can’t deny that the threat of charging hippos and lurking crocodiles added a lot of spice to the story. Sometimes it’s the most unlikely of real-life situations that are the most unbelievable in fiction. Side note: A.J. Hartley has to be one of the most interesting authors I’ve come across (you can see what I’m talking about on his website).

Both novels were equally compelling. While Firebrand didn’t have quite as much growth for the main character, it made up for it by having her become much more immersed in her new “career.” At one point near the beginning I thought it was flirting with hokey, then the author surprised me with an awesome twist, and I was hooked!

Overall, this series (so far) has been incredibly entertaining, memorable, and thought-provoking. I was especially glad to see a YA/Mystery hybrid that felt like a true merge of those genres (where the mystery felt sophisticated enough to appeal to readers of that market). Overall, there wasn’t a single thing I didn’t like about Steeplejack or Firebrand – both exceeded my expectations with flying colors. I’m eagerly awaiting another Alternate Detective novel.

I want to think the publicists at TOR/Forge and A.J. Hartley for a chance to read and review an early copy of Firebrand – I enjoyed it thoroughly!


Steeplejack and Firebrand Giveaway!

Open to US and Canada Residents!
Click on the link to enter:

  a Rafflecopter giveaway

A winner has been chosen and notified. Thanks for entering! :)

 I wish this went without saying, but please verify your GR friendship/Blog following status before claiming entries (all of your entries will be disqualified if you’re dishonest or mistaken).

This giveaway will run until midnight [MST] on Friday July 21, 2017. Good Luck! :)

Other books you might like:

by Niki Hawkes

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Coming Soon: The Last Magician by Lisa Maxwell

Title: The Last Magician

Author: Lisa Maxwell

Series: N/A (at the moment)

Genre: Teen Fantasy

Release Date: July 18, 2017

The Overview: Stop the Magician. Steal the book. Save the future. In modern day New York, magic is all but extinct. The remaining few who have an affinity for magic—the Mageus—live in the shadows, hiding who they are. Any Mageus who enters Manhattan becomes trapped by the Brink, a dark energy barrier that confines them to the island. Crossing it means losing their power—and often their lives. Esta is a talented thief, and she’s been raised to steal magical artifacts from the sinister Order that created the Brink. With her innate ability to manipulate time, Esta can pilfer from the past, collecting these artifacts before the Order even realizes she’s there. And all of Esta’s training has been for one final job: traveling back to 1902 to steal an ancient book containing the secrets of the Order—and the Brink—before the Magician can destroy it and doom the Mageus to a hopeless future. But Old New York is a dangerous world ruled by ruthless gangs and secret societies, a world where the very air crackles with magic. Nothing is as it seems, including the Magician himself. And for Esta to save her future, she may have to betray everyone in the past. -Goodreads

Nik’s Notes:

“It’s like magical Newsies without the singing” -Lisa Maxwell

The Last Magician is yet another of those upcoming releases I had to refrain from ARC requesting (I have a set list of titles I’m allowed to request – see my ARC Management Tips post if you want more elaboration). I wanted to though; the cover has my attention and the premise sounds super interesting. Add magic to that old-time New York setting, time travel, and a thief who specializes in magical artifacts, and I am sold! I’ll definitely be acquiring a copy as soon as it comes out. :)

Has anyone read this yet? Thoughts??

 by Niki Hawkes

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Coming Soon: Royal Bastards by Andrew Shvarts

Title: Royal Bastards

Author: Andrew Shvarts

Series: N/A (as of yet)

Genre: Teen Fantasy

Release Date: May 30, 2017

The Overview: Being a bastard blows. Tilla would know. Her father, Lord Kent of the Western Province, loved her as a child, but cast her aside as soon as he had trueborn children. At sixteen, Tilla spends her days exploring long-forgotten tunnels beneath the castle with her stablehand half brother, Jax, and her nights drinking with the servants, passing out on Jax’s floor while her castle bedroom collects dust. Tilla secretly longs to sit by her father’s side, resplendent in a sparkling gown, enjoying feasts with the rest of the family. Instead, she sits with the other bastards, like Miles of House Hampstedt, an awkward scholar who’s been in love with Tilla since they were children. -Goodreads

Nik’s Notes:

Royal Bastards is one of those books I had to resist from requesting on NetGalley (if you caught my ARC Management Tips: How to Avoid Over-Requesting post, you’ll understand why this is a big deal). It just looks so dang interesting! But luckily the release date is not that far off. It appeals to me on a few levels – the summary makes it sound cheeky, the context of the story promises a lot of mischief, and the overall “feel” I’m getting from the book is making me reminiscent of Locke Lamora (Lynch), Kvothe (Rothfuss), and Jimmy the Hand (Feist). It’s probably a little unfair to expect so much from a YA debut, but if it’s half as good as these other works, I’ll be happy. :)

Has anyone read this yet? Thoughts??

 by Niki Hawkes

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Guest Book Review: Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

Title: Ready Player One

Author: Ernest Cline

Series: N/A

Genre: Adult Fiction w/ YA Appeal

Rating: 4/5 Stars

The Overview: It’s the year 2044, and the real world is an ugly place.
Like most of humanity, Wade Watts escapes his grim surroundings by spending his waking hours jacked into the OASIS, a sprawling virtual utopia that lets you be anything you want to be, a place where you can live and play and fall in love on any of ten thousand planets.

And like most of humanity, Wade dreams of being the one to discover the ultimate lottery ticket that lies concealed within this virtual world. For somewhere inside this giant networked playground, OASIS creator James Halliday has hidden a series of fiendish puzzles that will yield massive fortune—and remarkable power—to whoever can unlock them.  -Goodreads

The Guest Review
by Petrik

Ready Player One is a Fiction/YA/Dystopian hybrid that takes place in the year 2044 where our world is suffering from global energy crisis and everyone needs a means to escape from this harsh truth. This is where OASIS, a genius MMORPG utopia created by James Halliday arrived as the solution to their need for escapism. I’d be lying to myself if I said this book isn’t something that’s written for me. The whole concept and tributes featured in this book are exactly my thoughts and hobbies of the past, some of which still persist to this day.

The plot of RPO itself is actually really simple. Before his death, Halliday leaves a will that stated, if anyone is able to solve the puzzle he hid in OASIS, that person will receive all his wealth and power. This is literally the plot and where the story began for our main character, Wade, who has devoted his life into this treasure hunt.

“You’d be amazed how much research you can get done when you have no life whatsoever.”

Honestly, I have two main problems with the book:

1. First, almost all problems that appeared in the book were… how do I say this? Too convenient for Wade. It’s like he’s some Gary Stu who can do literally everything that relates with not only OASIS but every software and hacking, out of nowhere.

2. The excessive details hurt the pacing a lot of times. When the plot really starts, I couldn’t put down the book but most of the time, there was way too much unnecessary repetition to the details. This made the book as something that was more written for a movie adaptation (there will be one coming in 2018 and it’s directed by Steven Spielberg so I’m hopeful for it).

Despite these problems, I still enjoy reading RPO very much and it’s because the main strength of the book lies not within its plot or characters but within the concepts and tributes to every single popular entertainment media in the 80’s and 90’s. The whole concept and world building of the book is something that resonates with me so much even though the concept itself is not actually original. If you’ve been following anime and video games like me, you’ll probably know about this franchise called “.hack'”(2002) or this popular anime called “Sword Art Online” (2012) and they’re pretty much the exact same thing as what OASIS is about. Even the way to access it via a VR consoles is the exact copy, the only differences is that .hack and SAO have more dangerous real life repercussion in playing the game. However, it’s the tributes and crossovers with every single popular media in the 80’s and 90’s that made RPO a unique experience to read.

Every single elements in RPO revolves around those tributes, this book is pretty much a utopia for geeks and nerds (don’t take this as offensive, I think geeks and nerds are awesome). Video games, anime, movies, music, movies, cultures that were popular in the 80’s and 90’s were featured here and I mean every popular one from western and eastern culture.

Look at this picture for example:

[borrowed from http://orig02.deviantart.net/4941/f/2… (click link for full resolution)]

This is from a scene in the book and trust me, I can tell you the name of every single thing in this picture and their stories cause I watched and played all of them growing up. Mobile Suit RX-78 Gundam, Macross, Leopardon, Kurosawa from Cowboy Bebop, the list goes on and on. This picture featured only a tiny fraction of what medias were featured in the book, there are still so much more for you to find out for yourself if you decide to read it (or watch it next year when the movie come out). With the book revolving around this concept and world building, it made reading it a really fun experience and a palate cleanser from my usual “Adult Epic Fantasy” read, don’t get me wrong, it’s my favorite genre but we all need a break sometimes.

What made the book even better for me however is the theme that was explored, escapism.

“Being human totally sucks most of the time. Videogames are the only thing that make life bearable.”

This quote is in the book but I’m not kidding, I actually said this quote word by word back when I was in middle school (around 15 years ago). RPO provides a solution to a harsh reality and now, imagine if this solution really exists in our world and by that, I mean something as huge as OASIS. I’m almost quite sure that a lot of people, including me, would be playing that game like we’re obsessed. Mute people can speak in the game, anyone disabled can function perfectly, weak person can be strong, an introvert can be outgoing, the list goes on but most of all, you can actually make a living out of playing the game. Who wouldn’t want that?

I’ve been playing video games since I was 5 years old. Name every popular actions, FPS and RPG from Playstation 1 era until this year, I can guarantee you I’ve played almost all of them. Final Fantasy series, Suikoden, Metal Gear Solid, Wild Arms, Dark Souls, The Legend of Dragoon, Devil May Cry, Pokemon, etc or even anime, TV series and manga that I won’t mention here, the list is way too long. The point is, other than mandatory school and colleges, I spent most of my time escaping from reality with these entertainment.

Guess which one I sacrificed? Good grades. It’s not bad, I rarely study but I passed every subject with average results. Do I regret it? No, the thing is, my form of escapism shaped who I am today. In my opinion, gaming and reading is one of the best forms of entertainment to increase your sense of empathy since you experienced thousands of different lives from different worlds and circumstances. However, these hobbies do cause loneliness if you do them excessively and this, in my opinion is what the book tried to convey. Too much of anything is never good for you, even if it’s something you love.

“I created the OASIS because I never felt at home in the real world. I didn’t know how to connect with the people there. I was afraid, for all of my life, right up until I knew it was ending. That was when I realized, as terrifying and painful as reality can be, it’s also the only place where you can find true happiness. Because reality is real.”

I faced major loneliness last year when I played video games way too much, it almost ruined my life. Gaming can be a really lonely hobby, especially once you finished a game and try to talk about it with someone. The community is too cancerous and childish, where you can’t state an opinion without getting any of them riled up. What I meant is something really simple, for example “hey, I think this is the best game I ever played” and the reply you’ll get will be something like “your gaming taste is shit.” I figured, I can’t spend my life on this too much anymore. Don’t believe me? Search on Youtube any new released games such as “Legend of Zelda” or “Horizon Zero Dawn,” look at the comment section and you’ll see more comments bashing Xbox community more than praising the game itself.

It’s one of the reason I tried reading again, starting with Mistborn back in September 2016 and oh boy my addiction to gaming decreased by a LOT. I’m much happier now since I started taking reading seriously. The main reason is this, I have people to share my experience with, in the forms of reviews or discussions. In the end true happiness lies in our world. Balance your life, to quote the Beatles, “all you need is love”, every wealth you have, every hobbies amounts to nothing if you don’t have someone to share it with and that, is what I think the book tried to convey the most to us. Everything must be in balance, besides, let’s face it, without our mundane reality, we won’t enjoy reading or playing video games that much anyway.

Overall, I had some problems with RPO but despite them, I really enjoyed reading it and I find the concept and the theme of the book something that’s really important and resonates with me. It induced a lot of nostalgia factors and again, a really great standalone and palate cleanser. Right now it’s one of the best of its kind I’ve ever read.


I’d like to welcome Petrik to The Obsessive Bookseller as an occasional guest reviewer! He’s responsible for some of my favorite book review over on Goodreads, so I’m thrilled he decided to share some thoughts here. His reviews are always awesome assessments with a very relatable personal touch. Aside from a couple of outliers, we tend to rate titles very similarly. I’ve always enjoyed his reviews, and I hope you will too. :)

Petrik has been a gamer and reader since he was five years old. Not once did he think back then that his two passions would last a lifetime. His favorite genres are Epic Fantasy, High Fantasy, Grimdark, and Science Fiction.

You can follow his reviews on Goodreads here.