Woodwalker by Emily B. Martin

251055_600

“What on earth would I gain from that?” I asked him. “Risk my own neck by violating my banishment just to leave you? The sentence placed on me if I return is execution. If I’m entering the mountains again, I’d damn well better get something out of it.”

Exiled from the Silverwood and the people she loves, Mae has few illusions about ever returning to her home. But when she comes across three out-of-place strangers in her wanderings, she finds herself contemplating the unthinkable: risking death to help a deposed queen regain her throne.

And if anyone can help Mona Alastaire of Lumen Lake, it is a former Woodwalker—a ranger whose very being is intimately tied to the woods they are sworn to protect. Mae was once one of the best, and despite the potential of every tree limb to become the gibbet she’s hanged from, she not only feels a duty to aid Mona and her brothers, but also to walk beneath her beloved trees once more.

A grand quest in the tradition of great epic fantasies, filled with adventure and the sharp wit—and tongue—of a unique hero, Woodwalker is the perfect novel to start your own journey into the realm of magical fiction.

I got this book as part of the Harper Collins Fantasy Quest mystery box I bought at New York Comic Con 2019.

It’s scary and exciting to buy books blindly. The Harper Collins Fantasy Mystery Box is 2 for 2! I really enjoyed this story.

The world building and pacing is very well done. It was easy to get into the world and understand the politics, religions, customs, and history.

Emily B. Martin uses her knowledge as a park ranger well. I am not an outdoors person, but as I stepped into this world I wanted to become a Woodwalker. It was very magical, even though there is no magic/spell casting in the world. It was a very exciting adventure story.

I figured out the twist shortly before it was revealed because I recalled the first chapter.

5 out of 5 Fireflies. 

Favorite Quotes:

Page 124: -don’t do something if you don’t think you can do it well.

Page 139: “Always determine what’s important, and what’s urgent. Prioritize.

Page 217: It’s a cruel thing, time. Some days stretch into a thousand lifetimes, endless in their drudgery. Some flip over as quickly as the turn of a book page. And the some seem to do both at the same time, speeding you along faster than you can blink while still allowing you that slow, simmering dread deep in your stomach.

Page 248: “..the Light is more than just how people revere it. It’s more than a full moon, or a reflection on a waterfall. It exists beyond how we perceive it, and beyond how folk act on it.”

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz

15801353._SY475_

Dante can swim. Ari can’t. Dante is articulate and self-assured. Ari has a hard time with words and suffers from self-doubt. Dante gets lost in poetry and art. Ari gets lost in thoughts of his older brother who is in prison. Dante is fair skinned. Ari’s features are much darker. It seems that a boy like Dante, with his open and unique perspective on life, would be the last person to break down the walls that Ari has built around himself.

But against all odds, when Ari and Dante meet, they develop a special bond that will teach them the most important truths of their lives, and help define the people they want to be. But there are big hurdles in their way, and only by believing in each other―and the power of their friendship―can Ari and Dante emerge stronger on the other side.

I bought this book back on July 29, 2014 and it has been on my TBR since. It being June and Pride month, I finally read it, and much if it takes place during the summer, so it is a great summer read.

I really loved it. It’s beautiful. I cried.

I did have some small issues with it.

Spoilers  Spoilers  Spoilers Spoilers.

Continue reading

Queen’s Peril by E.K. Johnston

49000155

When fourteen-year-old Padmé Naberrie wins the election for Queen of Naboo, she adopts the name Amidala and leaves her family to the rule from the royal palace. To keep her safe and secure, she’ll need a group of skilled handmaidens who can be her assistants, confidantes, defenders, and decoys. Each girl is selected for her particular talents, but it will be up to Padmé to unite them as a group. When Naboo is invaded by forces of the Trade Federation, Queen Amidala and her handmaidens will face the greatest test—of themselves, and of each other.

Queen’s Peril just came out this month and it’s a prequel to Queen’s Shadow.

Just like Queen’s Shadow, I really enjoyed this book. I only have the hardcover and so I didn’t listen along with the audiobook this time. It is such a fast read, mostly because it is for YA readers, but I like YA. Also, like I said with my last review: there aren’t any big battle scenes and no lightsaber fights, but if you love Padmé, then this is a book to read.

*A few minor spoilers – but not really if you know Star Wars like the back of your hand, and read Queen’s Shadow.*

Continue reading

Star Wars: Master and Apprentice by Claudia Gray, narrated by Jonathan Davis.

212100_600

An unexpected offer threatens the bond between Qui-Gon Jinn and Obi-Wan Kenobi as the two Jedi navigate a dangerous new planet and an uncertain future in the first canon Star Wars novel to take place before the events of Star Wars: The Phantom Menace.

A Jedi must be a fearless warrior, a guardian of justice, and a scholar in the ways of the Force. But perhaps a Jedi’s most essential duty is to pass on what they have learned. Master Yoda trained Dooku; Dooku trained Qui-Gon Jinn; and now, Qui-Gon has a Padawan of his own. But while Qui-Gon has faced all manner of threats and danger as a Jedi, nothing has ever scared him like the thought of failing his apprentice.

Obi-Wan Kenobi has deep respect for his Master but struggles to understand him. Why must Qui-Gon so often disregard the laws that bind the Jedi? Why is Qui-Gon drawn to ancient Jedi prophecies instead of more practical concerns? And why wasn’t Obi-Wan told that Qui-Gon is considering an invitation to join the Jedi Council – knowing it would mean the end of their partnership? The simple answer scares him: Obi-Wan has failed his Master.

When Jedi Rael Averross, another former student of Dooku, requests their assistance with a political dispute, Jinn and Kenobi travel to the royal court of Pijal for what may be their final mission together. What should be a simple assignment quickly becomes clouded by deceit and by visions of violent disaster that take hold in Qui-Gon’s mind.

As Qui-Gon’s faith in prophecy grows, Obi-Wan’s faith in him is tested – just as a threat surfaces that will demand that Master and apprentice come together as never before or be divided forever.

I did the same thing that I did for Queen’s Shadow. I bought a hardcover special edition at Celebration Chicago last year and I downloaded the audiobook, because I like the music and sound effects included. And I read along as I listened.

I really enjoyed this book, but let me get the things I didn’t like out of the way. These little things knocked off a star in the rating.

– No character, especially Jedi, in the Star Wars universe, in the films or other mediums says “By the Force” or “Thank the Force.” Actually, it’s a big pet peeve of mine when I see it written in fan fiction.

– The voice for Mace Windu was totally off. Which was a let down because the other voices were spot on. I don’t know what that accent was.

– Young Obi-Wan’s love of flying felt out of character.

Ok, so on to the likes!

– Great voice work for Qui-Gon, Obi-Wan, Dooku, and Rael Averross (a new character).

– I loved the flashbacks with Dooku and studying the prophecies.

– I loved any discussions and debates the Jedi had about prophecies, and how wanting to control the future lead to the Dark Side.

– I loved Rael’s renegade Jedi attitude and disregard for the Jedi Code, especially when it came to celibacy. Now I want to read a fan fiction where he became Anakin’s teacher because things would have turned out WAY differently.

– I really liked Rahara and felt such sympathy for her.

– I found the idea of performance artist demonstrators really amusing.

– One of my favorite things were seeing the fault lines in the Jedi Order because it makes their downfall understandable. Like how they would serve the government of the Republic over being guardians of justice. Also, how some of their methods of raising young Jedi are wrong. I made a lot of bookmarks.

– I loved the little preludes to The Phantom Menace.
Like the plight of the enslaved people that Czerka corportation owned.
The Chosen One prophecy.
I am sure Qui-Gon learned from the young princess to look closer next time, and don’t underestimate her.

Everything tied together to well. Sometimes the pacing was a bit slow, but I liked the plot of story and the conclusion of it. I had so many suspects and was actually surprised by the twist.

4 out of 5 Prophecies.

Queen’s Shadow by E.K. Johnston, narrated by Catherine Taber

Written by the #1 New York Times best-selling author of Ahsoka!

When Padmé Naberrie, “Queen Amidala” of Naboo, steps down from her position, she is asked by the newly-elected queen to become Naboo’s representative in the Galactic Senate. Padmé is unsure about taking on the new role, but cannot turn down the request to serve her people. Together with her most loyal handmaidens, Padmé must figure out how to navigate the treacherous waters of politics and forge a new identity beyond the queen’s shadow.

I bought a hardcover copy at Celebration Chicago last year and I downloaded the audiobook, because Catherine Taber (the voice of Padmé on The Clone Wars) narrates. I read along as I listened.

I loved this book. This might not be a book for every Star Wars fan because it is way more political than the novels we’re used to. There aren’t any big battle scenes and no lightsaber fights, but if you love Padmé, then this is a book to read/listen to.

So I loved this book for many reasons. The friendships between Padmé and the handmaids were great. It was wonderful to see what their strengths were and what their interests were outside of their duties.

The transition from being queen to becoming a senator and navigating the different political arenas was so well done. I especially like seeing Padmé learn how she had to change her demeanor, make allies, and learn how to shed the negative image people had about her. She had to get out of the shadow of what she did to Chancellor Vellorum as queen.

I loved the inclusion of the press articles because image is everything in the public eye.
Besides character image I loved the descriptions of her clothing. Practical armor hidden in style.

Minor spoilers below, but not really if you know a lot about Star Wars.

Continue reading

Gods of Jade and Shadow by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

The Mayan god of death sends a young woman on a harrowing, life-changing journey in this dark, one-of-a-kind fairy tale inspired by Mexican folklore.

The Jazz Age is in full swing, but Casiopea Tun is too busy cleaning the floors of her wealthy grandfather’s house to listen to any fast tunes. Nevertheless, she dreams of a life far from her dusty small town in southern Mexico. A life she can call her own.

Yet this new life seems as distant as the stars, until the day she finds a curious wooden box in her grandfather’s room. She opens it—and accidentally frees the spirit of the Mayan god of death, who requests her help in recovering his throne from his treacherous brother. Failure will mean Casiopea’s demise, but success could make her dreams come true.

In the company of the strangely alluring god and armed with her wits, Casiopea begins an adventure that will take her on a cross-country odyssey from the jungles of Yucatán to the bright lights of Mexico City—and deep into the darkness of the Mayan underworld.

I got this ARC from NYCC 2019 when I bought a mystery box from Penguin Random House.

I am very unfamiliar with the Mayan gods, folktales and myths and I feel like I learned a lot from this story (even though Moreno-Garcia said in the glossary that this is a work of fantasy and not anthropological text.)

I loved this story and that it’s a stand alone novel.

I loved the slow burn love story between Casiopea and Hun-Kamé. I loved the final message that love is the strongest magic and it transforms. The ending is perfect. Lessons were learned and characters transformed.

The dynamics between all the characters were well done. The reader roots for Casiopea and has hatred for her cousin Martin, who’s a bully. Yet, Martin is not one dimensional antagonist and you get to see where his jealousy comes from.

The 1920’s imagery (the fashions) was so pretty and it would be great to see this as a miniseries.

The pacing was a little slow about 3/4 of the way through and I did put it down for a few days but that’s a tiny criticism. Otherwise it’s a beautiful, magical, and modern fairytale.

4 out of 5 Jade Necklaces.

The Queen of Blood by Sarah Beth Durst

Set in the magical world of Renthia, The Queen of Blood is Sarah Beth Durst’s ambitious entry into adult epic fantasy. With the danger of Peter Brett’s The Warded Man, heart of Naomi Novik’s Uprooted, and lyricism of Patrick Rothfuss’ The Name of the Wind, this is the first chapter in a series destined to be a classic.

Everything has a spirit: the willow tree with leaves that kiss the pond, the stream that feeds the river, the wind that exhales fresh snow . . .

But the spirits that reside within this land want to rid it of all humans. One woman stands between these malevolent spirits and the end of humankind: the queen. She alone has the magical power to prevent the spirits from destroying every man, woman, and child. But queens are still just human, and no matter how strong or good, the threat of danger always looms.

With the position so precarious, young women are chosen to train as heirs. Daleina, a seemingly quiet academy student, is under no illusions as to her claim to the throne, but simply wants to right the wrongs that have befallen the land. Ven, a disgraced champion, has spent his exile secretly fighting against the growing number of spirit attacks. Joining forces, these daring partners embark on a treacherous quest to find the source of the spirits’ restlessness—a journey that will test their courage and trust, and force them to stand against both enemies and friends to save their land . . . before it’s bathed in blood.

I first received The Queen of Blood (Book One of The Queens of Renthia) as a panel giveaway at Book Con in 2017.

Then at NYCC 2019 I bought a mystery box from Harper Collins. The theme was Fantasy Quest and one of the four books inside was The Queen of Blood.

I took that as a sign that it was time to finally read it and I’m glad that I did.

The world building is well done. So is the character development. What I really liked was the positive female friendships.

There’s action, humor, mystery, and some romance. It was such a relief to read about a romance that is not a triangle and not childish. It also doesn’t focus much on the romance, but just enough so you understand the characters feelings.

This was my favorite quote because it made me laugh:
Page 211: “Even a handfull of gravel is a useful weapon when thrown at the right time. My mother embroidered that on a pillow.”

I liked the message that while Daleina is not a natural talent she works hard, studies hard and pushes through difficulties. She discovered what she was good at and developed that skill.

When I first saw the thickness of the paperback I was a little apprehensive, but the pacing is just right. Durst knows how to balance the action with the quieter moments, and knew when to have the story jump forward in time.

I will finish the trilogy eventually. I’ll either borrow the books from the library (when they open again after this Covid-19 pandemic is gone) or with a B&N coupon.

4 out of 5 Spirits.

Hidden Figures: The Untold Story of the African American Women Who Helped Win the Space Race by Margot Lee Shetterly, narrated by Robin Miles.

Hidden Figures: The Untold Story of the African American Women Who Helped Win the Space Race by Margot Lee Shetterly, narrated by Robin Miles.

The phenomenal true story of the black female mathematicians at NASA whose calculations helped fuel some of America’s greatest achievements in space. Now a major motion picture starring Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, Janelle Monae, Kirsten Dunst, and Kevin Costner.

Before John Glenn orbited the Earth or Neil Armstrong walked on the moon, a group of dedicated female mathematicians known as “human computers” used pencils, slide rules, and adding machines to calculate the numbers that would launch rockets and astronauts into space.

Among these problem solvers were a group of exceptionally talented African American women, some of the brightest minds of their generation. Originally relegated to teaching math in the South’s segregated public schools, they were called into service during the labor shortages of World War II, when America’s aeronautics industry was in dire need of anyone who had the right stuff. Suddenly these overlooked math whizzes had shots at jobs worthy of their skills, and they answered Uncle Sam’s call, moving to Hampton, Virginia, and the fascinating, high-energy world of the Langley Memorial Aeronautical Laboratory.

Even as Virginia’s Jim Crow laws required them to be segregated from their white counterparts, the women of Langley’s all-black West Computing group helped America achieve one of the things it desired most: a decisive victory over the Soviet Union in the Cold War and complete domination of the heavens.

Starting in World War II and moving through to the Cold War, the civil rights movement, and the space race, Hidden Figures follows the interwoven accounts of Dorothy Vaughan, Mary Jackson, Katherine Johnson, and Christine Darden, four African American women who participated in some of NASA’s greatest successes. It chronicles their careers over nearly three decades as they faced challenges, forged alliances, and used their intellects to change their own lives – and their country’s future.

 

I bought the audiobook after seeing the movie in 2017 and wanted to listen to it now for Women’s History Month.

I am so torn about what to say. I think these stories are so important – the unsung heroes, especially women, who didn’t get the credit they deserved. The brains behind the achievements and discoveries much be known. Especially when it is centered around women in STEM.

However, listening to this book was a real struggle. I would tune out, or leave the room and let it run. Half way through I started skipping ahead so I could “skim” it. It was filled with too many facts. It was like listening to a text book. I especially would tune out when it explained anything about engineering, aerodynamics, mathematics, or computing. There were also so many facts about the history of segregation and the space race. I understand the importance of telling it, but the delivery – just rambling facts was so boring.

I often struggle with non-fiction books. I want to be shown facts, not told facts. In the end what I really wanted was the movie in novel form.

2 out of 5 Rockets.

Bonds of Brass by Emily Skrutskie

252863_600

A young pilot risks everything to save his best friend–the man he trusts most and might even love–only to learn that he’s secretly the heir to a brutal galactic empire.

Ettian Nassun’s life was shattered when the merciless Umber Empire invaded. He’s spent seven years putting himself back together under its rule, joining an Umber military academy and becoming the best pilot in his class. Even better, he’s met Gal Veres–his exasperating and infuriatingly enticing roommate who’s made the Academy feel like a new home.

But when dozens of classmates spring an assassination plot on Gal, a devastating secret comes to light: Gal is the heir to the Umber Empire. Ettian barely manages to save his best friend and flee the compromised Academy unscathed, rattled both that Gal stands to inherit the empire that broke him and that there are still people willing to fight back against Umber rule. As they piece together a way to deliver Gal safely to his throne, Ettian finds himself torn in half by an impossible choice. Does he save the man who’s won his heart and trust that Gal’s goodness could transform the empire? Or does he throw his lot in with the brewing rebellion and fight to take back what’s rightfully theirs?

I got this ARC from the Book Wizard at New York Comic Con 2019.

They story starts off with a lot of action and interesting characters. The middle lags a bit and it wasn’t until the last hundred pages or so that it became a page turner. Also, with the coronavirus quarantine happening I had a whole day to finish the last 100 pages.

The story is packed with tropes (star-crossed lovers, fake dating, there’s only one bed,etc.) but even so, it was all fun. I really liked that it wasn’t instant-love between Ettian and Gal. They have known each other from 2.5 years, so we already in the middle of them pinning for one another.

 

The rest of the review has some spoilers. So beware.

immaculatecheapaztecant-small

Continue reading

The Half-Life of Marie Curie by Lauren Gunderson, Narrated by Kate Mulgrew & Francesca Faridany

In 1912, scientist Marie Curie spent two months on the British seaside at the home of Hertha Ayrton, an accomplished mathematician, inventor, and suffragette. At the time, Curie was in the throes of a scandal in France over her affair with Paul Langevin, which threatened to overshadow the accomplishment of her second Nobel Prize.

Performed by Kate Mulgrew and Francesca Faridany, this play by Lauren Gunderson is an ode to two remarkable women who, despite tremendous personal and professional obstacles, continued to devote their lives to scientific innovation and social change.

Playwright Lauren Gunderson was awarded a commission through the Audible Emerging Playwrights Fund, an initiative dedicated to developing innovative original plays driven by language and voice. As an Audible commissioned playwright, she received funding and creative support to develop The Half-Life of Marie Curie.

I finally decided to listen to this Audible Original for Women’s History Month. I really loved it.

First – I never knew that Marie Curie had an affair with a married man and there was a whole scandal. So, wherever she is now she should be happy to know that is not her legacy. I only knew of her scientific achievements.

Second – I am embarrassed to say I never heard of Hertha Ayrton. But that is what Women’s History Month and audiobooks are for, learning new things. She sounds badass.

The performances were fantastic. Kate Mulgrew and Francesca Faridany had great chemistry. There were some sad moments:

Hertha Ayrton: It’s love’s destiny to wound us. That’s how you know it mattered at all.

But also it was incredibly funny. This cracked me up:

Hertha Ayrton: Men get to have sex all the time. They don’t mind what Einstein does with his evenings. Einstein gets to keep his lab.

Marie Curie: Einstein doesn’t have a lab. He just wanders the halls looking a bit off.

Also, it being a short audio drama, it is so easy to listen to again anytime.

5 out of 5 Nobel Prizes.