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A Face Like Glass

I’d like to take the time today to review one of my favourite books of all time. This is a book I happened to stumble across one time when I was at the library. This was the first time I was house sitting, so I was going to be on my own at someone else’s house for about a month, and I thought I should borrow some books before I went, to give me something to read. This would have been around 2012. Since then, I have felt the need to go out and buy this book, along with everything else that I could find by this author. I found myself insanely in love with the worlds and characters that Frances Hardinge put into books.

A Face Like Glass. The title is the first thing that compelled me to pick up the book. I mean, a face like glass, what did that mean? Was there someone with transparent skin? Then came the cover. A girl in a cage, above who knows what? Mysterious things? Yes, colour me intrigued. The blurb? Wonderfully intriguing without explaining anything. I was sold on the fact that I desperately needed to borrow and read this book.

I couldn’t put it down. It was one of those books that rekindled my love of books. If you ever get those times when you struggle to read, despite desperately wanting to read, you know where I was at. Then I found this book which trapped me inside its payments almost from the first page.

Neverfell was a wonderfully curious young girl, in a world she didn’t understand. I was positively delighted to discover the world of Caverna through her rose tinted glasses. A delightfully dark world deep, deep underground, Caverna is a sprawling system of caverns, where people are used to wonderfully marvellous things as a course of every day life.

Grandible, who takes on baby Neverfell after she fell in some cheese he was making, introduces us to a world we don’t quite understand. When she finally ventures beyond his home, we learn that Neverfell is somehow special. For, in the world of Caverna, expressions are learned. They’re crafted by people who imagine what it is an emotion is supposed to look like. Nuances are valued highly by the upper crusts of society, who can afford to hire the best face crafters. Neverfell, meanwhile, has a face that clearly shows what she’s feeling. Unlike the blank-faced people of Caverna, she stands out like a sore thumb.

There was so much that I loved about the world of Caverna. There were the amazingly deep characters, and the premise of people who’s faces were an empty canvass, but then there were so many more intricate details woven into the tapestry of Caverna. There was the cheese which gave you marvellous visions, the wine which helps people forget or remember something of their choice. The jelly that was filled with the sounds of songbirds. Of course, then there was Caverna itself. A world where cartographers go insane for trying to map things out, and those who speak too long to a cartographer find themselves likewise beginning to go insane.

Frances Hardinge captured a wonderful world within her novel that I felt as though I would never experience the wonderful like of again. Indeed, finding such a wonderful, intricate world as this is a rare find. Since reading it, I have tried to pawn this book off on so many friends. I have shoved it at people, explaining how wonderful the world was, how intriguing the characters. Unfortunately, many of my friends have not yet taken me up on this, and I have yet to have someone to discuss this wonderful book and world with.

I cannot possibly express enough how amazing this book is. The story is wonderful and compelling. The characters realistic. The world phenomenal. I have already read this book three times, and will absolutely be rereading it again in the future.

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Shadow of the Fox

Since I completely forgot to do a review last week, I’d love to do two this week. However, I haven’t really finished reading something new, and I’d rather save some more of the older series I’ve read for reviews when I haven’t read something recently. So, instead, I’ll just stick with the one I was planning to do last week.

The last OwlCrate I received had two books in it for me to read and enjoy. Because I have so so many books on my to be read pile, it’s taken me a while to get to just one of them. I’ll get to the other eventually this year, but for now, I recently decided to read one of them, and I was flailing around and so happy with it, so of course it’s going to be the next book I review.

Shadow of the Fox. Okay, it’s already got me with the name. The cover’s beautiful, with a hint of mystery and intrigue. Then I notice it’s by Julie Kagawa? Yep, already invested and sure that I’m going to love it.

I first found Julie Kagawa when I discovered Talon. The concept of dragons in human bodies, infiltrating our world? Beautiful. I loved it so much. Then I discovered her Iron Fey series. I’m a sucker for Fey. Especially a good story of them, which I found this to be. (Haven’t managed to track down the second part of that series though, sadly, so I feel as though I’m left with an itch that needs to be scratched).

I know with my previous review, Girls of Paper and Fire I spent a lot of time happily ranting about the romantic storyline, and how much I loved it, and the representation it offered. I don’t think I went as deeply into how much I loved the Malaysian representation. (Which I did, very much.) I am a huge sucker for diversity. Well, not a sucker. I wouldn’t say that you could write any old thing and have it be diverse and I’d be all for it. That being said, I do generally find myself very excited when I pick up something that’s popular and has a non-caucasian, or non-straight main character. It gets me excited. Needless to say, I was very happy when I found that this book was set in a very Japanese-styled world.

So, sidenote here, I’m a total weeb. I love anime. Not even slightly ashamed to say it. Which may have sealed the fate of my enjoyment of this story. I loved the casual mix-ins of Japanese and English. The writing is in English, but there are small phrases here and there which are Japanese, much as the culture of the world is based on Japan. From kitsune to samurais. The small “arigatou’s” and using “ano” as well or instead of “um” made me strangely happy.

Of course, Japapnese culture is so much more than the language. The lore in the world was absolutely beautiful. Being a huge fan of kitsunes before now, (what’s not to love about mysterious foxes?) having a main character as one was wonderful. What was even better, was how Kagawa managed to stay true to the myths. It can be all too easy to say you like the mischievousness of something, like Fey, dragons, or kitsune, only to cut it out or cool it down because it makes characters less sympathetic to readers.

Yumeko was incredibly sympathetic. That she was raised by monks who tried to encourage her humanity, compared to her natural curiousness and desire to play tricks on people, created a wonderful contrast between those two sides of her. What was even better? Not only were there moments of introspection where she fought against pulling tricks, but she actually pulled tricks.

I loved it so so much. The story was wonderful, the characters had a lot of depth to them and I found them very believable. The world was absolutely beautiful.

I will absolutely most definitely be reading this series again at one point. Though, one thing I will say, which absolutely does not detract in any way from my love of the book, is that I can draw some correlation between Kagawa’s works. To be fair, I mostly only noticed this earlier, and specifically while I was writing this review. I did notice the similarity between her choice in protagonists (typically mischievous non-human species. Although Meghan did start out as human). Then her love interest seems to be rather uptight, drilled into a certain way of life which is very contrary to the female protagonist. Finally, there’s an interesting and funny side character who has some of the more interesting lines at points as they don’t have as much invested in whatever quest the protagonist and love interest are on, but come along anyway. It’s a small thing, and by no means suggests that the stories are the same, though sometimes I enjoy noticing little similarities in an author’s work. It tells you so much about the author themselves.

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Girls of Paper and Fire

Like the vast majority of my book purchases, I came across Girls of Paper and Fire in QBD when I was randomly looking through the YA section for anything that might happen to take my fancy. The title and the cover drew me in, then I was sold when I read the blurb. Due to some enthusiasm on my part, as well as understanding, this review does contain a couple of minor spoilers. If you don’t wish to be spoiled, I recommend you read the book first.

Is it just me or is the whole “Royal Male Figure” gets what’s basically a harem a popular genre at the moment? Okay, it might just be me. But then, there’s The Selection series, which has the Prince in what’s essentially a The Bachelor situation, picking from a… well, a selection of pretty girls. Then there was Grace and Fury, a fantastic book that came in one of my OwlCrates (before I had to give it up ;_;) where the ruler, or in this case his heir, had a similar selection from a bunch of girls preened and polished to take on the role, to select three women for his wives/consorts. Then Girls of Paper and Fire… Okay, yeah, sure, it’s no Twilight, Vampire Diaries, Vampire Academy, The Chronicles of Vladimir Tod, Evernight, House of Night, Cirque Du Freak, etc. Vampire craze, but maybe I’m not crazy in seeing a pattern here.

Beyond the blurb, I wasn’t really sure what to expect from Girls of Paper and Fire when I first opened it up. Until I read the Author’s Note at the beginning. That Author’s Note made me desperately want to find Natasha Ngan and give her the biggest hug I could (if she wanted one).

I am so thankful for the existence of this book, and that it was apparently in one of the latest OwlCrate editions. (Sad I missed out on it through them, though it’s even more evidence that the OwlCrate people and I have a shared excellent taste!)

Ngan wrote this book because she knows that everyone deserves to have their story told. That’s how a gay Malaysian girl who had to deal with rape and abuse came to have her story told. (I am talking about Lei. I have no idea if Ngan is gay and has had to deal with rape and abuse, though all the more reason to hug her if she has.)

Lei was a wonderful character who I found myself feeling deeply for very quickly. Smart and strong, I found my heart breaking at her situation, even more so when we got to further know Wren, and Wren’s situation.

The world was immersive. I found myself vividly picturing the Moon and Steel caste walking around. From bird demons to wolf demons, and the bull Demon King, I could easily envision them as a part of the world, looking down on mere humans for not having the same abilities as them.

The story was absolutely stunning. I was cheering for Lei as she stood up against oppression every chance she got, and found myself saddened when she was kicked back down by those who are on top. The love story had me cheering (in so many ways. I cannot stress enough how much seeing a gay love story happen without very clear signposting on the book makes me happy.)

The characters were truly wonderful. From Lei, who stood up when she could, to the spoiled Bull King who played with his toys. Of course there’s Wren, strong, determined Wren. But mostly I found myself loving Ngan’s depiction of Aoki, if for no other reason than the truthful depiction of how not everyone who’s abused sees it that way. They can often overlook the bad times and think of the good. That, and her being the youngest of the girls being the one to see the King as kind makes the most sense, as when we’re younger we’re more eager to look for love in the wrong places, and see the tiniest things as signs of something better.

I cannot possibly recommend this book enough. It enraptured me, and as a lover of diversity in YA I want to throw it at as many people as possible to make them read it. That being said, it does deal with some very heavy topics, particularly rape and abuse, and I can understand that not everyone can handle such things. If you are one of those who can handle it, I highly recommend Girls of Paper and Fire, and I hope you find yourself as drawn in to Ngan’s world as I was.

I will most certainly be reading this again at some stage. Likely before the next one comes out. (If there’s not going to be a next one, I will protest quite vigorously!)

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Spellcaster Review

When I started reading Two Dark Reigns on Wednesday, I assumed that I would be giving my review for that series today. However, as I got closer to the end of the novel, it became increasingly clear to me that this would not be the case. It’s fine, I managed to be quite composed when I finished the novel, and didn’t throw it at the wall when I realised that the series wasn’t quite over yet. Dangit Kendare Blake!

So, I won’t be reviewing that series today, because the series has not yet finished, and with the exception of newly released novels I’m trying to stick to reviewing finished series. Well, newly released novels, and Indie novels I suppose. Instead of reviewing the Three Dark Crowns series by Kendare Blake today, that will wait until sometime next year, when I manage to get my hands on the next (and hopefully final) book. Well, I wouldn’t be unhappy if it weren’t the end of the series. I’d actually be quite happy in some ways, because I do really enjoy the world and the series. That being said, I’m now stuck with that annoying feeling of waiting for the next book in an amazing series. It always seems to take forever.

Instead, today I’ll be reviewing the Spellcaster series, by Claudia Gray. I had no idea what I was getting into when I picked up the first book in this series. All I knew was that it was YA, and it had something to do with magic. I was sold enough on that.

I found the characters incredibly investing. Nadia was a compelling protagonist, Mateo was an interesting and sympathetic romantic interest. Elizabeth was an outstanding villain. Then there was my favourite character, the lovely dynamic Verlaine. It would be safe to say that Verlaine utterly captured my heart. Mateo was cool and all, but Verlaine stole the show for me when it came to characters.

As interesting as the characters were, I would have to say it was the magic system which really drew me deep into my love for this series. Instead of the typical wands and magic spells, or chanting and using will, each “spell” was crafted by using the spellcaster’s memories. This method of spellcasting absolutely floored me.

The story itself was also quite interesting, and again, the world and magic system were absolutely stunning. I will most definitely be recommending this book to lovers of YA, romance, urban fantasy, and anyone who has any interest in interesting magic systems.

It’s also on my to be read again pile. When I make it through my to be read for the first time pile. <_< I’ll get there.

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The Laughing Man

I have some amazing friends, and some of my amazing friends are amazingly talented. One such friend, who I have known since High School, has recently published his second book. Just because it’s with an Indie publisher does not make that any less impressive. I’ve even had the pleasure, though a lot more recently, and through a different friend (amazing how your friends can know each other without you when you all like writing!) to meet the main brains behind Ouroborus Books, which is the Indie publishing company several of my friends have been published through.

In an even more amazing coincidence, I was at a different friend’s party a little while before Christmas. This is a friend I knew from my first high school, before I met the previous fr5iend I was talking about, who I’ll get to again shortly. While talking with the other people there, I discovered that one of her work colleagues is also published through Ouroborus Books. Okay, well, I thought it was an insane and amazing coincidence, though I can understand if you don’t find it the same.

So, my friend from high school. Let’s call him… Robert J. Barlow. Although I mostly knew him as just Rob in high school. I honestly don’t think I could tell you what his middle name is, aside from the fact that the initial is J. I wouldn’t even be able to tell you that much if he hadn’t opted to include it for his nom de plume with his debut novel The Laughing Man.

So. The Laughing Man. There’s a lot I could talk about here. Both Rob, the author, and Sabrina, the publisher, are my friends, so I don’t want to chew him out, but I also want to be truthful. So, here goes:

The story: I was, like everyone I know who has read this book, captivated by the story. It’s an amazing story, well written, with an incredibly interesting world, and some fabulous (some in more ways than one) characters.

The characters: I can’t fault anything here, they were all wonderfully well written. They were engaging, dynamic, thoroughly interesting, and all wonderfully individual.

I was absolutely honestly thoroughly into this book, the world, the plot, the story. It was incredible.

My issues? There were a few places where the editing could have been a bit tighter. The copyediter didn’t seem to do the best job. I feel kinda bad saying this, but it took me so long to get through this book (I started reading it last month) because there were moments I just had to massage my brain to get through it.

On a passing glance, it would absolutely pass muster. Unfortunately, there were some paragraphs in later chapters that weren’t indented properly. Sometimes a single paragraph contained two different characters speaking (Something I distinctly remember being a huge no-no in one of my classes last semester, when my tutor thought two different characters were speaking, when it was just the one…) which made me unfortunately a bit confused at times. There were a few cases of “in” in the place of “on” and vice versa, or other similar slip ups, and a few little spelling errors.

That, and there were a few phrases here and there which I found I had to stare at for a while in order to understand what it was that was trying to be conveyed. Though honestly I’m not sure how much of that was my not necessarily being 100% engaged in the book at that time for whatever reason, or something that might have been able to be clarified by a little bit of editing.

So, on the whole, absolutely do love and would recommend the book. (Not just because one of my friends wrote it and another published it) It might have a few kinks still, but that doesn’t mean it’s not an absolutely stunning read. I will absolutely be reading this book again, and hopefully when I have money again sometime I’ll be able to buy The Spinning Sister, which is the second book in the series, and has already been out. (Okay, so it took me a while to get around to buying the book, and then reading it… I’m not the best at reading books I buy promptly. Also not always great at buying books immediately when they come out, which is mostly a money thing, and sometimes a “that book caught my eye more immediately” thing.

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Throne of Glass Review

I had seen the popularity surrounding Throne of Glass by Sarah J Maas for a few years now, yet it took me a while before I decided to check it out. It’s only been within the past couple of years that I’ve truly become spend-happy when it comes to buying books, and until then I mostly relied on being able to find something in the library, which isn’t always the case with extremely popular books.

Barely a chapter into the first book and already I found myself understanding the craze. The first book drew me in with its wonderful competition for the title of King’s Assassin. I found Celaena interesting, although there were certainly times when I may have rolled my eyes a bit. I mean, she’s a deadly assassin, she’s insanely smart, she has an obsession with books, and chocolate.

Not going to lie, when I read A Court of Thorns and Roses, I saw how much Maas has progressed since her first series in how Feyre was less of Mary-Sue than Celaena. She’s still likely somewhere on the spectrum, but Celaena almost seems as though she could easily take the cake there. Particularly when the bomb drops in a later book and it’s revealed that she’s Terrasen’s missing Princess Aelin.

Even with the strong Mary-Sue vibes given off from the main character, I found myself thoroughly enjoying the series. Just as I could see Maas’s writing progress with more well-rounded characters in her second series, I could see the same progression within this series, particularly as it went on. The first book focuses primarily on Celaena, Dorian, and Chaol. The last book has a large main cast who are all integral to the plot, and manage to be interesting and well-rounded characters.

The series is a lovely blend of action and fantasy, which is just what I needed when I first picked it up. The writing is compelling, and the characters interesting (particularly if you can get past any eye-rolling moments that might occur when you see badass assassin Celaena make herself sick by gorging on chocolates).

I also found it quite wonderful to see just how much the series progressed from what started as a simple competition for the King to a battle that could give Middle Earth a run for its money.

I will definitely have to be reading this series again sometime. After I’ve gotten over my current book hangover thanks to Kingdom of Ash, the final book in the series.

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The Lunar Chronicles

I mentioned in my latest blog how I was originally sceptical regarding the quality of a finished NaNo product. After all, writing fifty thousand words within a single month is a lot, and given one of the core tenets of NaNo is not editing what you write until the month’s finished, I found it hard to believe that the finished product would be as good as something someone took their time to write.

Hardly the first or last time I’ve been wrong. Today’s review, in honour of National Novel Writing Month, is the Lunar Chronicles, by Marissa Meyer. Not only did Meyer win NaNo, and go on to later publish a book from what she’d written, but during November 2008 she wrote three novels in a single month, which she later edited, and finally published, as the first three novels in the Lunar Chronicles. Knowing that made me eat my thoughts in regards to quality of a NaNo novel.

Of course, I know that much of the work that goes into a novel is done in the editing stages, though as a perfectionist who likes to get things write the first time, it can sometimes be hard for me to accept that. Yet I want to be an editor, involved mainly in that process. Yeah, I know I’m weird and illogical.

I have yet to read Fairest, but last year I bought Cinder on a whim. Once I’d finished it, I immediately had to go out and buy Scarlett, Cress, and Winter. I may have a bit of a problem when it comes to buying books. What can I say, I like to support fellow authors. While enjoying their wonderful words.

When I reviewed The Selection series, by Kiera Cass, I mentioned how I regretted judging the books by the covers, which is what lead to me taking so long to get around to reading them. The same thing happened with this series. Except, instead of expecting some sappy romance, I was expecting… Well, Twilight. The focus of red on the black cover for a Young Adult novel series gave me flash backs. Eventually, however, I bit the bullet, and I’m very glad I did.

On the scale of genres, I usually sit very far on the fantasy side, though now and then it’s nice to dip my toe into science fiction. I found that Meyer managed to blend both genres together perfectly. While there was a lovely science fiction setting, there was some classic fantasy tropes which worked together quite well. Then again, when you’re retelling fairy tales, the tropes are easy enough to fit in there.

I found the characters all amazing. As with Richelle Mead’s Glittering Court series, she manages to create four unique and strong heroines. Each heroine is strong in their own way. They all have their own goals and motivations, which are entirely different from each other. There’s Cinder, a genius mechanic cyborg, who also happens to be the lost Lunar princess. What starts for her as a pull towards a handsome prince, becomes a fight for the freedom of the people on the moon, whom she barely knew to begin with.

Scarlett lost her grandmother, and fell for the Big Bad Wolf. She stands up for the side of right, and for those who can’t stand up for themselves. While not the mechanical genius that Cinder is, she’s pretty handy with a gun.

Cress is a genius computer whiz, who grew up isolated on a satellite. She becomes attached to Cinder and her Prince, and dreams of her own handsome rogue saving her.

Finally, there’s Winter, the loving Princess, who’s equally loved by her people, although hated by her step mother (what is it with fairy tales and step mothers?). She has a strong attachment to a childhood friend, and an aversion to the glamour that is popular among Lunars.

The series is wonderfully written, with a cast of captivating characters, a compelling plot, and a fantastic setting.

I highly recommend it, and will almost certainly read it again at some point.

Not bad for something where three whole novels were written in the space of a single month.