Saturday, December 30, 2017

Spotlight: The Blood Prince

About the Book:
Until two years ago, Rainbow was ruled by dragumens. Now, there’s a human Empress on the throne, and she rules with an iron fist. Breaking promises after promises, she controls the people with lies, taxes, and murder. Everywhere in the land, rebellion is brewing. Gangav, the fallen dragumen prince who wants nothing more than revenge, rallies humans and dragumens to his cause. Sasha, his best friend and fiercest supporter, is eager to help him and is spoiling for a fight. Alexander on the other hand never wanted to be a part of it, but finds himself with no other choice when tragedy strikes home, bringing the cruelty of the empress to his doorstep. When news of a spy amongst their ranks turns everything on its head and the sudden outbreak of a new illness threatens the safety of the rebels, the three of them must find a way to relocate their camp before they are discovered, or the rebellion may very well end before it even begins. The first book in the Scale Hearts trilogy, The Blood Prince is a story about dragons and rebellions, but also about inner strength and figuring out your place in the world.

About the Author:
Marie Blanchet is a designer by day and a writer by night, which means that she doesn’t really sleep a lot. Graduated from the UniversitĂ© du QuĂ©bec en Outaouais in graphic design and comic arts in 2014, Marie has since gone on to write a webcomic and work full time in graphic design. The Blood Prince is her first novel, and she intends to write a great many more. She loves fantasy and sci-fi, long walks in the forest, and taking pictures of her rabbit.


Disclosure: this post contains links to an affiliate program (Amazon), for which I receive a few cents if you make purchases.

Review: On Being Insane

Title: On Being Insane: In Search of My Missing Pieces
Author: Elliot Gavin Keenan
Page Count: 106
My Rating: 4.5 TURTLES: A really great read, I highly recommend!
*I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review

After being diagnosed with Asperger's Disorder at age seven, Elliot becomes fascinated with the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (the Bible of American psychiatry) and its enumeration, categorization, and systematization of innate human differences. This specialized knowledge of the DSM's rules and codes comes in handy as Elliot struggles through multiple psychiatric hospitalizations for severe bipolar depression, but his dreams of being a clinical psychologist seem ever further out of reach until a kindly professor and autism scientist termed herein as Dr. Pinball takes notice of his abilities. This is a story of one young man's searching: for sanity, for stability, and for the people who understand. They may be found in unlikely places.

Wow, I cannot believe something this insightful and well-constructed was written by someone my age! Partially due to the classes I took this semester, I have been reading more memoirs than usual and there is something about the somewhat meandering flow of anecdotes and timelines that I really like about the genre and that I think this book does very well. It is also an incredibly honest self-examination, which I have also something it shares with the memoirs that have made the biggest impact on me.

I also think this book is really important because the author is so open about his Aspergers, bipolar depression, and trans identity. There are nowhere near enough stories, especially own voices stories, about people any of these identities, let alone with them intersecting. This memoir is so important for this reason because it is enlightening and informing for people who do not know what it is like to live as a queer person or a person with Aspergers or bipolar depression and could be really empowering and affirming for other people who do have these identities.

I really, highly recommend this book. I do have to disclaim that I work for the company that published it, but I promise I am not overly hyping my opinion because of that. This is a well-written and insightful book (and a quick read, around 100 pages!) I am excited to see what Elliot Keenan will write next!

Disclosure: this post contains links to an affiliate program (Amazon), for which I receive a few cents if you make purchases.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Review: Dream Eater

Title: Dream Eater (A Portland Hafu novel)
Author: K. Bird Lincoln
Page Count: 219
My Rating3.5 TURTLES: A very enjoyable read, I recommend you check it out.
*I got this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review

Koi Pierce dreams other peoples' dreams.

Her whole life she's avoided other people. Any skin-to-skin contact--a hug from her sister, the hand of a barista at Stumptown coffee--transfers flashes of that person's most intense dreams. It's enough to make anyone a hermit.

But Koi's getting her act together. No matter what, this time she's going to finish her degree at Portland Community College and get a real life. Of course it's not going to be that easy. Her father, increasingly disturbed from Altzheimer's disease, a dream fragment of a dead girl from the casual brush of a creepy PCC professor's hand, and a mysterious stranger who speaks the same rare Northern Japanese dialect as Koi's father will force Koi to learn to trust in the help of others, as well as face the truth about herself.

I got an advanced copy of this book from Netgalley a while back, and now that it has been out a while I have finally gotten to reviewing it. I got pretty far behind in reviewing this semester, but my winter break has given me some time to slowly get caught up. I became aware of Dream Eater through the publisher’s newsletter, which I have been on for a while, and the premise really grabbed me. I love fantasy books that use real mythology as its starting point (Rick Riordan remains one of my favorite authors) and it is set in my hometown of Portland, so I was intrigued by the setting too. Also, the cover is gorgeous and badass.

I really liked how the mythology was used in the book. Most of it that is in the book is Japanese and Native American with some Middle Eastern mythology woven in, but I got the feeling that the myths in this world go far beyond that. I loved how the different powers of the different creatures manifested and how well thought out the politics of the “Kind” were. I’m not sure if this is going to be a series, but there certainly feels like there is a lot more to explore here.

Another thing I really appreciated about the book was its diverse cast of characters. The main character, Koi, and her sister, for example, are of Japanese and Hawaiian descent and the two other most important characters are also Japanese. I checked my Goodreads page just now, and out of the 62 books I read this year, only one other book had its main character be of Asian descent and just a few more had important secondary characters or authors of Asian descent, and while I don’t have exact numbers, I know my sample of books is indicative of a larger pattern in publishing. As many of you likely know, there is a huge lack of non-white main characters in Young Adult/New Adult novels. Thankfully, this has been changing somewhat recently, but many groups like Asian-Americans are still very underrepresented. As someone who knows how important being able to see aspects of one’s identity in media is, I really appreciated the representation going on in this book, particularly since the novel highlights Koi’s cultural heritage and makes it important to who she is as a character. I hope to read many more books like Dream Eater in that sense in the future.

Another thing I really liked about the book was how well thought out the setting was. I knew the author really had a map of the city in her head (or in front of her on Google Maps) as she was writing. It was especially engaging since, as a native Portlander, I have been to and could picture many of the places in the book.

Having said that, there were some aspects of how the setting was portrayed that I wasn’t a huge fan of. In a way, it felt like the book really wanted us to know how well it knew Portland, so there is a lot of namedropping of places in Portland. A lot. And while I might know that Uwajimaya is a super awesome Asian superstore, the vast majority of people reading this book will not and might be confused when Koi mentioned that she goes there sometimes and gives no context for what it is. This odd specific namedropping didn’t just happen with places. Koi mentions several times that she is craving chocolate or that chocolate will improve her mood, but instead of saying “chocolate,” each time she says a different specific bar from a specific brand. Sometimes the bar name would be five or six words long, and it felt like more specificity than I needed for a hypothetical candy the character thinks in passing she is in the mood for.

There were a few other instances where the novel went a little overboard with making sure we knew it took place in Portland. For one, it kept telling us. The weather wasn’t just the weather, it was the “Portland weather” which, to some extent could have made sense since many Portlanders do think of rainy/misty weather as “Portland weather,” but there were other things labelled as “Portland” that didn’t make sense. For example if Koi falls, she lands on “Portland moss.” There is no such thing, there is moss that is in Portland, but at this point in the story, we already know where we are, and the repeated reminders felt like overkill.

Also, on top of the namedropping and the unnecessary labelling of things as “Portland”, Koi apparently can’t even think metaphorically in a way that isn’t Portland related. Instead of saying “I was so tired I felt like I had run a marathon” or something else more general or widely used, she said “I felt like I had swum the length of the Willamette” (which is a river that runs through Portland, though I don’t think the book ever mentions that) or “I felt like I had just run the Portland Hood to Coast marathon.” First of all, it isn’t even a marathon, it’s a 200 mile relay race from Mt. Hood to the Oregon coast, second of all, it isn’t the “Portland” Hood to Coast, it’s just Hood to Coast. I think the route might go through Portland, but again – 200 miles, Portland is just a stop along the way. Also, the only two TV shows that are mentioned in the book are Leverage and Grimm – both of which are filmed in, you guessed it, Portland.

So while to some extent I really enjoyed being able to completely picture where every place in the story was, at times I also felt a bit like rolling my eyes at the overkill of it sometimes. I’d be curious to see if it is as obvious to someone who does not know the city as well or if it was just me.

While this book had its ups and downs for me, overall I did like it and would likely read the sequel should one come out. If you are a fan of New Adult, mythology, or urban fantasy, I suggest you give it a go.

Disclosure: this post contains links to an affiliate program (Amazon), for which I receive a few cents if you make purchases.

Spotlight: The War Ender's Apprentice

About the book:
In the chaotic universe, many intelligent species are on the brink of war, but the Guild holds the violence at bay to foster peaceful trade. The most renowned War Ender is Lady Alana of House Eyreid. Alana hopes to train her nephew Roark, in her vocation. 

It was supposed to be a simple training mission aboard an Interrealm slave ship. However, when Alana finds her people enslaved, she murders the crew and rescues every slave—whether criminal, dishonored, or stolen. A fleeting vision of Roark's future compels her to offer the newly freed Eohan a War Ender’s education. 

For her vision to come true, Alana must rescue Eohan’s young brother who was sold in the last port and lost somewhere in the Realms, but first, they have a war to end.

About the author:
Prior to becoming an author, Elizabeth Guizzetti worked as an artist. She created the graphic novels, Faminelands and Lure, and the comic book series Out for Souls & Cookies. Other Systems is her first published novel. She currently lives in Seattle, WA with her husband and two dogs

Disclosure: this post contains links to an affiliate program (Amazon), for which I receive a few cents if you make purchases.

Friday, December 22, 2017

Review: Keep Her

Title: Keep Her
Author: Leora Krygier
Page Count: 264
My Rating: 4.5 TURTLES: A really great read, I highly recommend!
*I have given an ARC in exchange for an honest review

Destiny doesn’t factor into seventeen-year-old adoptee Maddie’s rational world, where numbers and scientific probability have always proven to be the only things she can count on as safe and reliable. Still, Maddie is also an artist who draws on instinct and intuition to create the collages she makes from photographs and the castoff scraps she saves. But when her brother falls in with a Los Angeles street gang, Maddie loses her ability to create art.

Then fate deals Maddie a card she can’t ignore: Aiden, a young filmmaker she meets when a water main bursts inside a camera store. Aiden is haunted by the death of his younger brother, and a life-changing decision he must now make―whether or not to keep his baby daughter. Caught in a whirlpool of love and loss, Maddie and Aiden find that art and numbers, a mission to save endangered whales, and a worn-out copy of Moby Dick all collide to heal and save them both.

I have been a fan of Leora Krygier’s for a while now, so I was very excited when I heard she was releasing a new book! There is something achingly magical about her stories I can't quite put a finger on. Most of the time for me, the plot is the most important part of the story and the writing is vehicle to carry the plot, but Krygier’s writing is so beautiful, both in its descriptiveness and how it seems to tow a unique line between straight fiction and magical realism, that it takes on its own importance for me besides driving the story forwards.

I also love how she interweaves letters with the narrative and how we really get to see inside the minds of the two main characters. This author is not afraid to explore different themes of family in her books. In Keep Her, she focuses particularly on adoption, both from the perspective of the child and birth and adoptive parents, but also familial grief and forgiveness. I really appreciated the complexity and nuance she brought to these topics. I think often they can be treated a little tritely, but this book does not do that. With the themes of cultural identity, art, and environmentalism on top of family, Keep Her is incredibly multi-faceted and manages to pack a lot in in a relatively small amount of space.

One of the few things that jumped out at me that did not seem to be on par with the rest of the book was that the subplot around Maddie’s relationship with her brother seemed a bit rushed. The pacing of the rest of the book was good, but then a conflict that she had had with him since before the book started resolve within a few pages. I would have liked to see more of his journey since between when Maddie sees him earlier on in the book to two they meet and work things out, he seems to be a completely different person. And while, his explanation for why that is makes sense in the story, it is still abrupt.

I highly recommend this book. If you haven’t read anything by this author before, I would especially suggest you take this chance. It is one of those books that is not well-known, but reads like it should be, which are some of my favorite types of books to review.

If you have read this book or any books by Leora Krygier, I’d love to know your thoughts in the comments!

Disclosure: this post contains links to an affiliate program (Amazon), for which I receive a few cents if you make purchases.