Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Descendant of the Crane by Joan He

Synopsis (via Goodreads): Tyrants cut out hearts. Rulers sacrifice their own.

Princess Hesina of Yan has always been eager to shirk the responsibilities of the crown, but when her beloved father is murdered, she’s thrust into power, suddenly the queen of an unstable kingdom. Determined to find her father’s killer, Hesina does something desperate: she engages the aid of a soothsayer—a treasonous act, punishable by death... because in Yan, magic was outlawed centuries ago.

Using the information illicitly provided by the sooth, and uncertain if she can trust even her family, Hesina turns to Akira—a brilliant investigator who’s also a convicted criminal with secrets of his own. With the future of her kingdom at stake, can Hesina find justice for her father? Or will the cost be too high?

In this shimmering Chinese-inspired fantasy, debut author Joan He introduces a determined and vulnerable young heroine struggling to do right in a world brimming with deception.

"Someone with eyes like that could have smiled as they bled."
I received an ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. My thoughts and opinions are my own. Any quotes I use are from an unpublished copy and may not reflect the finished product.

I cannot stop thinking about this book! I really hope there are plans for a sequel. I need more Hesina and Akira, Mei and Sanjing, soothsayers and everything else. Initially, I wanted to take my time with it, but that plan quickly went out the window. I couldn't flip through the pages fast enough! Descendent of the Crane is easily one of my favorite reads this year!

All of the characters were fascinating and unique. Lilian was sassy and always had a smile for her friends. It was obvious how much she cared about her brother and sister. She still used an affectionate childhood nickname for Hesina, and always brought laughter to their conversations. Lilian was loving, sarcastic, and always put her family first. Her twin brother, Caiyan, was more reserved and quiet, but she never failed to tease a smile from him.

Caiyan and Lilian were Hesina's adopted siblings, but they didn't see it that way. They were family, and that's all that mattered. They put each other's interests before their own, and I think that really shaped the overall story. However, they did keep secrets that eventually damaged their relationships, despite having good intentions. Their actions stemmed from love and a desire to keep each other safe. It was tragically complicated, and my heart hurt for all three of them.

Sanjing is Hesina's blood brother, but the two were at odds more often than not. They saw the world differently, but both took their roles very seriously. They both had their people's best interests at heart, but had very opposing ideas about how to keep everyone safe. Their relationship felt very honest and realistic. They're teenagers with responsibilities they're not entirely ready for, facing threats from outside and inside their city. It was hard to know who to trust, because everyone had their own agenda. Sanjing and Hesina do love one another, but it's understandably complicated.

Akira was a very interesting character that the author doesn't elaborate on very much. He plays a crucial role in the story, but his past remains a mystery. We're not even told if Akira is his real name. We know some minor details about experiences he's had, but nothing really significant. The author hints at important details, and I really hope he's fleshed out more in a future book. I really enjoyed him as a character, and his interactions with people were often meaningful. He doesn't always say a lot, but he's very observant and knowledgeable.

Rou was incredibly sweet and always had a something kind to say to his siblings. He may only be a half-sibling, but he still referred to Hesina as his sister. He was there for her when no one else was, and showed a hidden bravery that I hadn't expected. He's loyal and willing to do whatever it takes for his family, even if they've been less-than-friendly towards him in the past.

The Silver Iris, Mei and her shadows, and even some of the council members, were all very well-written, and I enjoyed learning about them. I even liked learning about the characters that were easy to hate, because they all had a role to play within the story. There were a lot of hidden agendas and surprises that I didn't anticipate, and I enjoyed being kept on my toes.

I know this post has been mostly about the characters, because they're truly amazing, but the story itself was fantastic and impossibly creative. I loved the rich history the author created, and I hope we learn more about soothsayers and the Eleven in the future. I think they've both committed atrocities, although I don't think either group anticipated how long their hate and destruction would continue.

I really loved the Descendent of the Crane and hope there will be a sequel! The ending left the story somewhat resolved, but definitely open for more. It hasn't concluded, but I'm okay with where the author left things.



Friday, April 19, 2019

Giveaway: Saving Meghan by D.J. Palmer
[ARC + Audiobook on CD]

Hello, lovelies! It's been ages since I've had a giveaway on the blog, so this one will have two winners! One person will win an ARC of Saving Meghan by D.J. Palmer, and someone else will win the Saving Meghan audiobook on CD. No, it's not possible to win both, haha. Sharing is caring (at least that's what I've been telling my kids)!


Synopsis (via Goodreads): Can you love someone to death?

Some would say Becky Gerard is a devoted mother and would do anything for her only child. Others claim she's obsessed and can't stop the vicious circle of finding a cure at her daughter's expense.

Fifteen-year-old Meghan has been in and out of hospitals with a plague of unexplained illnesses. But when the ailments take a sharp turn, doctors intervene and immediately suspect Munchausen syndrome by proxy, a rare behavioral disorder where the primary caretaker, typically the mother, seeks medical help for made-up symptoms of a child. Is this what's going on? Or is there something even more sinister at hand?


I will be using Rafflecopter for this giveaway, and the first winner selected will be given a choice between the two prizes. Once that has been confirmed (see rules and details below), a second winner will be selected (again via Rafflecopter), and will be given the remaining prize! This giveaway is open internationally! 

Rules:

This giveaway officially starts on April 19th and will end on May 3rd. The winner will be announced on May 4th (Star Wars Day!) on this post within the Rafflecopter form, and also notified via email. The winner will have 48 hours to respond or I will have Rafflecopter select another winner (read my full giveaway policy here). Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Red Queen (Red Queen, #1) by Victoria Aveyard

Narrated by Amanda Dolan
Synopsis (via Goodreads): This is a world divided by blood - red or silver. The Reds are commoners, ruled by a Silver elite in possession of god-like superpowers. And to Mare Barrow, a seventeen-year-old Red girl from the poverty-stricken Stilts, it seems like nothing will ever change. That is until she finds herself working in the Silver Palace. 

Here, surrounded by the people she hates the most, Mare discovers that, despite her red blood, she possesses a deadly power of her own. One that threatens to destroy the balance of power. Fearful of Mare's potential, the Silvers hide her in plain view, declaring her a long-lost Silver princess, now engaged to a Silver prince. 

Despite knowing that one misstep would mean her death, Mare works silently to help the Red Guard, a militant resistance group, and bring down the Silver regime. But this is a world of betrayal and lies, and Mare has entered a dangerous dance - Reds against Silvers, prince against prince, and Mare against her own heart.

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First of all, the title is a little misleading. It should be RED PRINCESS instead of RED QUEEN, because of reasons. The title makes you think one thing going into the story, but it's not really an accurate description of what happens. I can see how it might work after reading the entire book, but for some reason it bothered me. It's a very small detail that didn't really impact my feelings about the book as a whole, but I thought it was worth mentioning. If you've read this, what do you think?

Moving on! I really enjoyed Red Queen overall. I thought Mare was an interesting character that's morally complex. She steals for her family to survive, yet makes questionable decisions that could endanger their lives. She lies to protect herself and others, but I think she lies to herself the most. If she had been more honest with how she was feeling, and for whom, I think some of her problems could have been avoided. Mare was swept up in the Silver's world and almost lost herself in the process.

I wish we had seen more of Mare's family, because I thought they had an interesting dynamic. We spend a little of the book in the Stilts, but not enough to really get a feel for her relationships and what her life was like there. Yes, we see the bare bones of it all, but I would have enjoyed seeing her interacting with friends and family more, and gotten a better sense of their personalities. Kilorn particularly. He's a very complex and fascinating character, but he pops up randomly and exchanges very few words with Mare.

It's your typical class division, except this one is based on blood and powers, not just wealth and connections. Reds have been taken advantage of for decades simply because they cannot do what the Silver's are capable of. They're being forced to do the world's dirty work, with no benefit, and no way out. They live in horrible conditions, and are abused into submission. I wish their plight had been more of a focal point, and Mare had been more concerned with helping them than furthering the politics of a rebellion. Yes, I can see how a rebellion was necessary for the people to free themselves, but I wish Mare had been less focused on the Red Guard's plans, and worked more with Julian and other people like him. She had an opportunity to really help people, but she started following the ideas of others instead of being her own person.

I guess I had more issues with this one than I thought! Overall, it was great. There's a lot of action and fighting, and I thought the Silver's powers were interesting. They can do fantastic things, but they can also use their abilities to be really cruel. Imagine what they could have done in the world, if they had simply wanted to help others...

Cal was an equally conflicted character, but he was loyal to a fault. He'd never experienced betrayal before Mare (that he was aware of), and her manipulation of him was hard to watch. She claims to have feelings for the prince, despite being engaged to his brother, but she flip-flops constantly. I don't think even she knew what she really felt, and I wish she had taken a second to figure it out. Maybe then she could have avoided some of her mistakes.

I do think this is a series I will continue, but I'm not desperately searching for the next book. The ending left me feeling hopeful, but also wary of what's to come. I'm also not sure why Farley lied about someone super specific and integral to the story, and I'm curious if that will be addressed later on. Did she think not saying anything would keep Mare motivated? Regardless, it wasn't right for her to keep that secret.

I'm on the fence with this one, and Glass Sword will be the deciding factor. I hope there is more character growth, and a significant change in the overall story. There's an opportunity to do a lot with the ending of Red Queen, and I'm curious where the author will go from here.

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

My Weekly Pull [66] & Can't Wait Wednesday [36]

My Weekly Pull is something I do every Wednesday to show which comics I had pulled for me that week! If you're into comics, or you're looking to start, please join me! If you decide to do your own post, there's a link-up at the bottom. I would love to stop by and check it out!

Spider-Man Life Story #2 (of 6) by Chip Zdarsky, Mark Bagley
Transformers #3 by Brian Ruckley, Angel Hernandez, Nick Roche, Ron Joseph
West Coast Avengers #10 by Kelly Thompson, Gang Hyuk Lim, Eduard Petrovich

Miles Morales Spider-Man #5 by Saladin Ahmed, Javi Garron,  Marco D'Alfonso

Jacob's comics for the week!
Kick-Ass #13 by Steve Niles, Marcelo Frusin
Amazing Spider-Man #19.HU by Nick Spencer, Chris Bachalo, Greg Land
Daredevil #4 by Chip Zdarsky, Marco Checchetto, Julian Totino Tedesco
Guardians of the Galaxy #4 by Donny Cates, Geoff Shaw, David Marquez
War of the Realms #2 by Jason Aaron, Russell Dauterman, Arthur Adams, Matthew Wilson
War of the Realms Punisher #1 (of 3) by Gerry Duggan, Marcelo Ferreira, Juan Ferreyra
War of the Realms War Scrolls #1 (of 3) by Jason Aaron, Andrew Sorrentino 

Phew! Jacob is getting a lot of comics this week. I'm completely caught up on my reading (comics only, haha), so I'm really looking forward to getting these! My son and I have been reading the Transformers comic together, and it's awesome. They've started over from the very beginning, and it's been a blast learning the history behind the autobots (and the other generations) and their world. We're loving it!

I really enjoyed the 60's version of Spider-Man Life Story, and I'm curious how the 70's is going to go. In the 60's, Spider-Man was torn between going to war and fighting, or staying where he was. He felt somewhat obligated to enlist, since he had powers and could help, but he also knew that he was needed where he was. He also didn't know if it was his place to fight in the war, and it was interesting to see Peter Parker struggle with what felt right. A very creative perspective! Chip Zdarsky is a phenomenal writer. 

West Coast Avengers ended with me feeling completely blindsided, so we'll see where the story goes from here. Thompson has finally combined the loose threads from All-New Hawkeye with West Coast Avengers, and questions are finally being answered. Although, I don't think they're the answers anyone expected.

I highly recommend Miles Morales Spider-Man! Saladin Ahmed is an amazing writer, and he's been really creative with Miles and his story. He also ties real word issues into his writing, and his words really make you think and question how you feel about certain things. Miles Morales is only a kid, but he's dealing with very adult problems. He's also fighting supervillains, and trying to get to class on time, but there are bigger issues being addressed. It's really, really good!

Can't Wait Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Tressa at Wishful Endings, that highlights upcoming releases that we're anticipating and excited to read. It's a spinoff of the feature Waiting on Wednesday that was hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine.

How to Build a Heart by Maria Padian
Expected publication: January 28th 2020
Synopsis (via Goodreads): One young woman’s journey to find her place in the world as the carefully separated strands of her life — family, money, school, and love — begin to overlap and tangle.

All sixteen-year-old Izzy Crawford wants is to feel like she really belongs somewhere. Her father, a marine, died in Iraq six years ago, and Izzy’s moved to a new town nearly every year since, far from the help of her extended family in North Carolina and Puerto Rico. When Izzy’s hardworking mom moves their small family to Virginia, all her dreams start clicking into place. She likes her new school—even if Izzy is careful to keep her scholarship-student status hidden from her well-to-do classmates and her new athletic and popular boyfriend. And best of all: Izzy’s family has been selected by Habitat for Humanity to build and move into a brand-new house. Izzy is this close to the community and permanence she’s been searching for, until all the secret pieces of her life begin to collide.

How to Build a Heart is the story of Izzy’s journey to find her place in the world and her discovery that the choices we make and the people we love ultimately define us and bring us home.

How to Build a Heart is a recent addition to my TBR, and I think it's going to be a story that a lot of people will relate to. Even if we're not constantly moving around, it's hard to find your place in the world. 

*Share your My Weekly Pull post! Please leave the direct link to your My Weekly Pull post and not just your blog's URL. Thank you for participating and happy reading!

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Gregor and the Code of Claw (Underland Chronicles, #5)
by Suzanne Collins

Synopsis (via Goodreads): Everyone in the Underland has been taking great pains to keep The Prophecy of Time from Gregor. Gregor knows it must say something awful but he never imagined just how awful: It calls for the warrior's death. Now, with an army of rats approaching, and his mom and sister still in Regalia, Gregor the warrior must gather up his courage to help defend Regalia and get his family home safely. The entire existence of the Underland is in Gregor's hands, and time is running out. There is a code to be cracked, a mysterious new princess, Gregor's burgeoning dark side, and a war to end all wars.
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Warning! Possible spoilers for the previous books in the series.

Gregor and the Code of Claw wasn't what I was expecting. I've been reading this series to my kids (usually at night before bedtime), but the books became increasingly violent as the story progressed. I had to skim over a few of the battles and deaths so my children wouldn't have nightmares. They're old enough to enjoy chapter books being read to them, but not quite old enough to understand senseless killing and the intricacies of war. Also, terrible things happen to some of our favorite characters, and I had a hard time explaining why I was crying uncontrollably.

Suzanne Collins has a knack for making you fall in love with characters and then killing them when you least expect it. She did the same thing with The Hunger Games series. I still haven't forgiven her for the that, and I'm definitely not going to forgive her for this.

At times it was easy to forget that Gregor was just an eleven or twelve-year old boy. He always seemed much older in conversations, and in the way he handled himself during battles. I know he's a Rager, but he still showed a lot of maturity for his age. Luxa and Howard, too. He showed compassion for the other species living in the Underland, even when everyone else belittled the Nibblers or ridiculed the Crawlers.. He saw something worth saving in every creature, and not just those that called themselves allies. Every life had value to Gregor, and it was a lesson a lot of Underlanders needed to learn.

I know I've mentioned this before, but Collins made me love cockroaches. That doesn't mean I'm going to avoid smushing them, because they're definitely getting smushed, but now I'll hesitate for a millisecond beforehand. Boots was adorable, and I really enjoyed her relationship with the Crawlers. She even learns how to communicate with them! She and Hazard were awesome characters, and really acted their ages. 

Ares is the best bat ever! I loved him and his relationship with Gregor. They both feel like outcasts, even though they have two of the biggest hearts in the Underland. They're willing to sacrifice themselves (repeatedly) to save the lives of others, but remain underappreciated. I really wish it had been possible for Ares to live aboveground with Gregor and his family, but giant bats might cause a panic. However, it was New York, so they may have been okay.

Ripred and Lizzie's relationship also pulled at my heartstrings. Ripred's history doesn't really come up until this last book, but I feel like I understand him more now. He has a reason for everything he does, and his crazy idea about the prophecies made me rethink everything I thought I knew. I've always thought this series had a little magical realism, but now I'm not so sure.

Every book we lost friends and allies, but Gregor and the Code of Claw really impacted me emotionally. After five books, I started to care deeply about the characters, and they felt very real to me. It was hard to lose some of them. Honestly, the book before this one was difficult as well. Hundreds died, including babies, and it made me ill. Suzanne Collins is a phenomenal writer, and really packs a punch with her stories. They make you think about the world, even though the one she is writing about is completely fictional. 

We own this series, so it'll definitely be one we read again in the future. I wish we had read it sooner! It may have been written for a younger audience, but I enjoyed it immensely. The kids would fall asleep, and I'd still be reading, haha. I honestly kept telling myself I would read just one more chapter, and then stop four chapters later. ;)

Monday, April 15, 2019

Q [8] Do you prefer hardcovers or paperback copies?

Book jackets (sometimes referred to as dust jackets) drive me bananas. They're constantly slipping off, or bending and tearing at the edges. I know they're there to protect to book, and that the jacket being damaged from normal wear and tear means the book itself is left relatively unscathed. However, unless they are taped down (like library books, which is awful on its own), they don't stay in place.

I read in very unconventional places, like next to the stove when I'm cooking (I know, I know), but I also read a lot outside of the house. I have three kids, so we're pretty busy, and I always take a book with me when we go somewhere. Hardbacks don't always fit in my book sleeves, and I like the padded protection they provide the books tossed into my purse or diaper bag.

Paperback copies are also less bulky. They take up less space on my bookshelves, which means I have more room for books (always a good thing). Plus, paperbacks are lighter, so they hurt less when they fall on my face (this happens more than I'd like to admit). They also tend to be similar in size, so my shelves look more uniform, even though I like some of the chaos.

What about you? Do you prefer hardcovers with book jackets, or paperback copies? Are you okay with both? Let's talk books!

Sunday, April 14, 2019

The Sunday Post [15]

The Sunday Post is a weekly meme hosted by Kimberly at the Caffeinated Reviewer! It's an opportunity to share news, post a recap for the previous week, showcase books, and highlight what's planned for the week ahead.

News:

We've had a lot of rainy weather this month, so the yard was starting to look like a jungle. It took me three days, but I finally finished all of the yard work. This is the first time we've had an actual backyard (apartments, a house in the city), and it was a challenge. Our house sits on a hill, so it was a lot of up and down with the mower, plus the gopher mounds--ugh. My arms are still aching. I also watched a YouTube video and taught myself how to change the line (whatever the plastic stuff is called) that goes inside a weed eater. I feel super accomplished this week, but also extremely exhausted.

My son is loving soccer, and he's preparing for a piano recital next month. All three of them have enjoyed playing in the rain and mud (they've been taking a lot of baths). The spring weather has been lovely, but we also had a few days in the 80s that were a touch too hot for my liking. I'm not looking forward to another Texas summer.

I'm completely caught up on comics! Yay! I stayed up late one night and tackled my stack. It helps that I haven't had anything pulled the last two weeks, and now I can hopefully stay on top of things. I'm also on schedule with the ARCs I have left, which is flipping fantastic! I'm working on reading backlogged books on NetGalley to improve my percentage. I was doing pretty well for awhile, but my finger was a little click-happy back in January (so many amazing books!).

Previous week on the blog:

Monday: Nothing!
Friday: Nothing!
Saturday: Nothing!

What I'm currently reading: 

 A Monster Like Me by Wendy S. Swore
Tempests and Slaughter (The Numair Chronicles, #1) by Tamora Pierce

I'm undecided on A Monster Like Me at the moment. I like the overall vibe for the story, but some things were just too unrealistic. I've rolled my eyes aplenty. Descendant of the Crane has been wonderful so far! I'm really enjoying it. I only started Tempests and Slaughter last night, but it seems okay. I'm curious if they're going to remain young children throughout the book, or if there will be a time jump at some point. 

What I plan on reading next:

 This is Not a Love Scene by S.C. Megale
Every Last Breath (Final Hour, #1) by Juno Rushdan
Under the Moon: A Catwoman Tale by Lauren Myracle, Isaac Goodhart (Illustrator)

What I'm watching:

I recently finished The Umbrella Academy, so that was fun. It didn't end how I thought it would, and I'm curious what they would do with a second season. Vanya really surprised me! I have so many questions. However, Klaus is undoubtedly my favorite! I loved him and Ben. Does anyone know if Five has an actual name? Also, he really screwed up when he altered the timeline again, and I was super happy with the way things were progressing, too. 

Challenge updates:


I'm behind on most of my challenges, but definitely making progress! What have you been reading? Are you participating in any challenges this year? Let's talk books!