The Girl in the Tower (Winternight Trilogy 2) by Katherine Arden

The magical adventure begun in The Bear and the Nightingale continues as brave Vasya, now a young woman, is forced to choose between marriage or life in a convent and instead flees her home—but soon finds herself called upon to help defend the city of Moscow when it comes under siege.

Orphaned and cast out as a witch by her village, Vasya’s options are few: resign herself to life in a convent, or allow her older sister to make her a match with a Moscovite prince. Both doom her to life in a tower, cut off from the vast world she longs to explore. So instead she chooses adventure, disguising herself as a boy and riding her horse into the woods. When a battle with some bandits who have been terrorizing the countryside earns her the admiration of the Grand Prince of Moscow, she must carefully guard the secret of her gender to remain in his good graces—even as she realizes his kingdom is under threat from mysterious forces only she will be able to stop.

Finally got to read my ARC from NYCC 2017!!

At a Deleted Scenes panel I went to where Arden was one of the speakers she said that she ended up rewriting The Girl In the Tower twice! The version of The Bear and the Nightingale that was published was only half of her original story, but when she went back to the second half it just wasn’t working anymore. So she scrapped the whole thing and started over for the sequel.

I am still curious what the first draft was like.

I was a bit of a mess when reading this sequel. I started it, got nearly half way through when life got in the way and I was too exhausted to read. Then I went away on a vacation and I never read on a vacation because I am too busy touring. Then I picked up where I left off after I got settled into my regular routine. So I feel a bit disjointed as I try to write this review.

I liked it, though not as much as The Bear and the Nightingale. Maybe I’ll feel differently when I reread it. When the third book comes out I’ll listen to the first two on Audible. I already have TBatN in my library.

I really liked the early scenes with Vasya and Morozko I liked their dynamic and I was happy that my questions from the first book about Morozko and the necklace were answered.

I liked Vasya’s rebellion against a patriarchal society and her fight for freedom in medieval Russia. Though sometimes I shook my head at her when she was risking her disguise with silly wagers and races. Girl, you are playing with fire! Figuratively and literally!

Speaking of medieval Russia, Arden really makes the setting feel just right for this fairy tale. I don’t know much about historical accuracy, though she did as much research as she could for a “poorly documented era” (her words). It just really felt like you were there. I also enjoyed the political games and deceptions being played. That added a frustratingly suspenseful dynamic.

One downside of the story is that I did predict who the ghost really was, though I didn’t guess the twist. It does make me want a prequel novel though because what a tragic love story that is!

There isn’t much of a cliffhanger since the villain was disposed of but I do like Vasya’s niece and I want to see where her magic takes her. I also still just really like the way the relationships are written, especially between Vasya and  Sasha, and Vasya and her horse. And of course we can’t see the last of Morozko.

3.5 out of 5 Chyerti

Some of my favorite poetic quotes: I know they say to check the finished work but I am too lazy and I like the way it was written in the ARC:

Page 67: “The more one knows, the sooner one grows old.”
Page 87: “I carve things of wood because things made by effort are more real than things made by wishing.”
Page 189″ The first stars had kindled in a sky gone royally violet, and the moon heaved a faint silver curve over the ragged line of palaces.”
Page 235: “Every time you take one path, you must live with the memory the other: of a life left unchosen.”

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The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas, Narrated by B.J. Harrison

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Revenge at all cost!

A young sailor returns home from a dangerous voyage. His father and his sweetheart are waiting for him. But an act of jealous treachery changes his life forever!

An unexpected meeting changes everything and the man who was once an unknown sailor emerges as The Count of Monte Cristo, mysterious, rich, and powerful enough to take the ultimate revenge against his enemies.

I love, love, love this classic novel. Definitely one of my all time favorites. The complexity of it is just brilliant. It’s not just a revenge story (though the revenge is juicy and deserved!) but also a story of hope and forgiveness.

I began listening in the fall of 2017, but I didn’t like the narrator’s voice and couldn’t get past the first chapter. Then I found B.J. Harrison. He narrates a few of Poe’s short stories I love and his voice work is amazing. When I saw he narrated TCoMC I started listening to his rendition.

For two days in December I listened to 14 chapters. Then I took a break to do a re-listen of the Red Rising books before Iron Goldcame out. Fast forward to mid-February I went back to TCoMC and spent the next couple of months only listening to it. The audiobook is 52 hours long (117 chapters). To clear things up in the beginning (February- March) I wasn’t listening everyday. I was doing like only 5 hours a week. The past few weeks of April I have been listening 1.5 – 2 hours daily.

The length of the novel can be intimidating but it is so engaging, and the prose is so poetic. I book marked a lot of sections. I’ll have to share a few of my favorite quotes.

There are so many details between the events and the characters’ connections. There is just so much planning involved that
A) I would have loved to see the outlines that Dumas made and B) I don’t know how anyone can read an abridged version. So many little details from early in the story come back later. You may think something is insignificant, but it’s not. Every subplot has a purpose.

I kept a list of the characters nearby and would refer to it in the beginning to keep them straight, but as time went on I didn’t need it.

I love the evolution of Edmund’s character from innocent and naive to worldly, educated and cunning. I don’t know how Edmund juggled all those identities and stories. (My friend who listened to it right before I did called Edmund the first Batman. I’ll say! She also listens all day long and finished in about a week or so. Damn!)

I loved the way Harrison changed his voice for Edmund. When he was young and naive it was a bit higher and faster. When he became the Count it was deeper and more articulate.

Harrison is a wonderful narrator. His pacing is just right and he does a great range of voices so you know which character is speaking. I love the way he pronounced the name Mercédès. Actually, if it weren’t for the audiobook and hearing all these French names and words pronounced correctly I would be saying them in my head the incorrect American way.

I also loved the way Harrison said “Yes” for Monsieur Noirtier de Villefort (he is paralysed and only able to communicate with his eyes, but retains his mental faculties). His “Yes” is very long and deep.

I could go more into all the characters and their fates but that would turn into a whole essay. (So maybe another post someday.) I’m really glad that I persisted because now I am proud to say I read The Count of Monte Cristo.

5 out of 5 Millions in Diamonds.

FAVOTRIE quotes:

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Star Wars – From a Certain Point of View by 40 various authors

In celebration of Star Wars’ 40th anniversary, Del Rey is going to shine the spotlight on those unsung weirdos, heroes, and villains with a unique, new anthology. Star Wars: From a Certain Point of View, coming October 2017, will bring together more than 40 authors for 40 stories. Each will be told from the perspective of background characters of A New Hope — from X-wing pilots who helped Luke destroy the Death Star to the stormtroopers who never quite could find the droids they were looking for.

This was a New York Comic Con 2017 special edition cover

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Experience Star Wars: A New Hope from a whole new point of view.

On May 25, 1977, the world was introduced to Han Solo, Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia, C-3PO, R2-D2, Chewbacca, Obi-Wan Kenobi, Darth Vader, and a galaxy full of possibilities. In honor of the 40th anniversary, more than 40 contributors lend their vision to this retelling of Star Wars. Each of the 40 short stories reimagines a moment from the original film, but through the eyes of a supporting character. From a Certain Point of View features contributions by best-selling authors, trendsetting artists, and treasured voices from the literary history of Star Wars:

Gary Whitta bridges the gap from Rogue One to A New Hope through the eyes of Captain Antilles.
Aunt Beru finds her voice in an intimate character study by Meg Cabot.
Nnedi Okorofor brings dignity and depth to a most unlikely character: the monster in the trash compactor.
Pablo Hidalgo provides a chilling glimpse inside the mind of Grand Moff Tarkin.
Pierce Brown chronicles Biggs Darklighter’s final flight during the Rebellion’s harrowing attack on the Death Star.
Wil Wheaton spins a poignant tale of the rebels left behind on Yavin.
Plus 34 more hilarious, heartbreaking, and astonishing tales from Ben Acker, Renée Ahdieh, Tom Angleberger, Ben Blacker, Jeffrey Brown, Rae Carson, Adam Christopher, Zoraida Córdova, Delilah S. Dawson, Kelly Sue DeConnick, Paul Dini, Ian Doescher, Ashley Eckstein, Matt Fraction, Alexander Freed, Jason Fry, Kieron Gillen, Christie Golden, Claudia Gray, E. K. Johnston, Paul S. Kemp, Mur Lafferty, Ken Liu, Griffin McElroy, John Jackson Miller, Daniel José Older, Mallory Ortberg, Beth Revis, Madeleine Roux, Greg Rucka, Gary D. Schmidt, Cavan Scott, Charles Soule, Sabaa Tahir, Elizabeth Wein, Glen Weldon, Chuck Wendig

Narrated by a full cast, including:

Jonathan Davis
Ashley Eckstein
Janina Gavankar
Jon Hamm
Neil Patrick Harris
January LaVoy
Saskia Maarleveld
Carol Monda
Daniel José Older
Marc Thompson
All participating authors have generously forgone any compensation for their stories. Instead, their proceeds will be donated to First Book – a leading nonprofit that provides new books, learning materials, and other essentials to educators and organizations serving children in need. To further celebrate the launch of this book and both companies’ longstanding relationships with First Book, Penguin Random House has donated $100,000 to First Book, and Disney/Lucasfilm has donated 100,000 children’s books – valued at $1 million – to support First Book and their mission of providing equal access to quality education. Over the past 16 years, Disney and Penguin Random House combined have donated more than 88 million books to First Book.

I bought the NYCC edition and read most of it, but mostly I listened to the audiobook. Sometimes I followed along as I listened.

I’m trying to decide how to write up this review. I loved the stories, so this is not a negative review. It’s just I feel like I have to talk about all 40 stories.

Overall, I enjoyed every one of the stories. Mostly the stories are told in chronological order of the movie, though some jump back and forth to set up a character or setting. You can feel the authors’ different personalities and styles. You can also tell the authors didn’t communicate because events in the stories of the same setting (e.g. the Cantina) contradict one another. However, this is just for fun. A chance to see A New Hope from other characters’ eyes and it’s a beautiful way for fans to relive that feeling of experiencing ANH for the very first time again.

5 out of 5 Galaxies.

Now for my thoughts for each story. All 40 of them.

“A long, long time ago in a galaxy far away.”

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The Freemason’s Daughter by Shelley Sackier

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The Outlander series for the YA audience—a debut, full of romance and intrigue, set in early eighteenth-century Scotland.

Saying good-bye to Scotland is the hardest thing that Jenna MacDuff has had to do—until she meets Lord Pembroke. Jenna’s small clan has risked their lives traveling the countryside as masons, secretly drumming up support and arms for the exiled King James Stuart to retake the British throne. But their next job brings them into enemy territory: England.

Jenna’s father repeatedly warns her to trust no one, but when the Duke of Keswick hires the clan to build a garrison on his estate, it seems she cannot hide her capable mind from the duke’s inquisitive son, Lord Alex Pembroke—nor mask her growing attraction to him. But there’s a covert plan behind the building of the garrison, and soon Jenna must struggle not only to keep her newfound friendship with Alex from her father, but also to keep her father’s treason from Alex.

Will Jenna decide to keep her family’s mutinous secrets and assist her clan’s cause, or protect the life of the young noble she’s falling for?

In Shelley Sackier’s lush, vivid historical debut, someone will pay a deadly price no matter which choice Jenna makes.

Picked up an ARC from NYCC 2016.

This story is being advertised as “The Outlander series for the YA audience” and I don’t agree. I never read Outlander, or seen the show, but from what I have heard The Freemason’s Daughter doesn’t have enough romance to earn that comparison. I am not saying I expect sex scenes in a YA novel, but there wasn’t enough heat between Jenna and Alex. Or Jenna and Daniel.

There also was not enough action, conflict, or suspense. Not much happens in the book until the last few chapters, which were rushed and then it ends abruptly. There were some points when I thought it would finally become exciting,

Spoilers!

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Top Ten Tuesday – July 25: All about the visuals: Favorite Graphic Novels/Comic Books

Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created at The Broke and the Bookish.

This was originally a TTT on January 31, but I never got to do it.  I’ll do it now in honor of SDCC this past weekend, and since The Broke and the Bookish prompts are on hiatus.

Been years since I read all these Clone Wars volumes. I’m just mentioning the parts that stuck out in my mind.

1) Star Wars: Clone Wars, Volume 7: When They Were Brothers
Script by W. Haden Blackman, Art by Brian Ching

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Many on both sides of the Clone Wars have been wounded or killed. But the war has taken its toll on the survivors, too.

Consumed by the belief that the Dark Jedi Asajj Ventress still lives, Obi-Wan Kenobi has temporarily forsaken his duties and recruited Anakin Skywalker in his desperate hunt for Ventress.

But Anakin believes that Obi-Wan is chasing a ghost-because he himself killed Ventress. And Anakin’s doubts about his former Master’s quest are not assuaged when, following the trail of the rumors of Ventress’ existence, they walk into a trap set by their old enemies, the bounty hunter Durge and Count Dooku!

A tale that tests the strengths of the bonds of brotherhood!
• Collects Obsession Issues 1-5 and the 2005 Free Comic Book Day comic.

I don’t love the art, but I like it. It’s a bit scratchy at times, but the story is my favorite. First of all there is Anakin and Padmé on Naboo. Five months before the events of RotS. MMM-hmmm. *waggles eyebrows* *whispers: Luke and Leia*
Second, Obi-Wan interrupts them to ask for Anakin’s help hunting Ventress.
Third, Ventress!!! She lives.

2)Star Wars: Clone Wars, Volume 9: Endgame
Script by John Ostrander, Pencils by Jan Duursema, Inks by Dan Parsons, Colors by Brad Anderson.

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In the jungles of the Wookiee homeworld Kashyyyk, Quinlan Vos wages a battle of impossible odds against his own troops to protect his loved ones. On the icy Outer Rim world of Toola, Jedi Master Kai Huddora takes a terrified Padawan into his charge after her own master falls to Order 66. Amidst the forests of New Plymto, Dass Jennir finds himself in league with a band of rebels he’d led attacks against only days before. Not all Jedi are scattered across the galaxy however, and soon, a brave few will plot to topple Sith rule-by setting a trap for the newly unveiled Darth Vader!

• Collects Star Wars: Republic 79-83 and the one shot Star Wars: Purge

I love the conclusion of Quinlan Vos’ story and that he survived Order 66 (this is now Legends). The artwork for the pages when he reunites with Khaleen and meets his son Korto are so beautiful. Clean and realistic. I like comic books where the art looks so realistic you feel it can be a photo.

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Pierce Brown’s Red Rising: Sons Of Ares #3

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Story by Pierce Brown, Script by Rik Hoskin, Art by Eli Powell.

Amidst the Sons’ daring operation, Fitchner recalls the assignment where he learned about true strength and honor from the Reds his Gold contemporaries looked down upon. Haunted by the things he experienced at The Institute, his life takes a turn as he meets the woman who would forever change his life…and, therefore, society as a whole!

 

I have been looking forward to this issue because we get to see Fitchner meet his wife, Brynn. Comic books always sum up the story so we don’t get the in-depth details, but I liked seeing how their meeting occurred and relationship developed.

I don’t see why the curse words are blocked out. I think of this story as being for adults and there is plenty of violence in them, so why block out the curses?

I still don’t like the sloppy style of the artwork. Though the cover by Toby Cypress, with Brynn’ flaming red hair is my favorite. Looking at the past issues I like the covers by Toby Cypress and not the covers by Eli Powell.

Looking forward to more Fitchner and Brynn, even though it does not end well.

4.5 out of 5 scythes. 

 

 

Nemesis (Project Nemesis 1) by Brendan Reichs

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He killed me. He killed me not. He killed me.

It’s been happening since Min was eight. Every two years, on her birthday, a strange man finds her and murders her in cold blood. But hours later, she wakes up in a clearing just outside her tiny Idaho hometown—alone, unhurt, and with all evidence of the horrifying crime erased.

Across the valley, Noah just wants to be like everyone else. But he’s not. Nightmares of murder and death plague him, though he does his best to hide the signs. But when the world around him begins to spiral toward panic and destruction, Noah discovers that people have been lying to him his whole life. Everything changes in an eye blink.

For the planet has a bigger problem. The Anvil, an enormous asteroid threatening all life on Earth, leaves little room for two troubled teens. Yet on her sixteenth birthday, as she cowers in her bedroom, hoping not to die for the fifth time, Min has had enough. She vows to discover what is happening in Fire Lake and uncovers a lifetime of lies: a vast conspiracy involving the sixty-four students of her sophomore class, one that may be even more sinister than the murders.

 

I got an ARC from NYCC 2016.

I enjoyed this book because it was a quick page turner. I just had to know what exactly was going on and if my suspicions were correct. The suspense pushed me to speed through.

I didn’t see the explanation coming but I don’t think my theory was that far off. There are still some questions that need answers. I’m sure it’s being saved for book 2.

I liked Min a lot. She was a fighter. Noah was annoying at times but the build up of his character makes sense in the end. What I felt had no foundation was the attraction between them. I was glad that the love triangle (I guess they are obligatory in YA novels) was minor and not the focus.

The bullies/popular kids were mainly one dimensional but I understood the motivations when I guessed correctly about two of them.

Sometimes the dialogue was repetitive when the three main characters were searching for answers or were discussing theories.

These critiques are not deal breakers. I found it to be an engaging story. The set up was exciting and reveal left me wanting to know some answers.

I am looking forward to Phase 2. Goodreads says Genesis comes out in March 2018.

4 out of 5 Resets.

Some of my thoughts. Beware: Spoilers!

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