Foundryside by Robert Jackson Bennett

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Sancia Grado is a thief, and a damn good one. And her latest target, a heavily guarded warehouse on Tevanne’s docks, is nothing her unique abilities can’t handle.

But unbeknownst to her, Sancia’s been sent to steal an artifact of unimaginable power, an object that could revolutionize the magical technology known as scriving. The Merchant Houses who control this magic–the art of using coded commands to imbue everyday objects with sentience–have already used it to transform Tevanne into a vast, remorseless capitalist machine. But if they can unlock the artifact’s secrets, they will rewrite the world itself to suit their aims.

Now someone in those Houses wants Sancia dead, and the artifact for themselves. And in the city of Tevanne, there’s nobody with the power to stop them.

To have a chance at surviving—and at stopping the deadly transformation that’s under way—Sancia will have to marshal unlikely allies, learn to harness the artifact’s power for herself, and undergo her own transformation, one that will turn her into something she could never have imagined.

I picked this up at NYCC when I took the Book Wizard Quiz at the Penguin Random House booth. You were asked a few questions on the tablet and then your answers dictated which book you received. I can’t remember the questions or answers when I got Foundryside, but I would say that the Book Wizard was right! I really enjoyed Foundryside.

At first it took me some time to get used to the terminology, but Robert Jackson Bennett does a good job of explaining scriving. I really liked the imaginative mix of magic with science and what I loved was the mysterious mythology. I can’t wait to see what the next book reveals about the ancient and unknown history of the world Bennett created.

Besides the incredible world building, the fully developed characters really drew me in. They were complex and compelling. I loved the way their relationships developed and I was rooting for the good guys. Some of the characters were so funny. I love Clef’s personality, and I especially loved the conversations he had with Sancia. Another character who made me laugh was the Mountain.

The action is a page turner. Reading those scenes was easy to picture in my head. I can so see this becoming a TV series or movie.

Thank you Book Wizard for giving me a new world that intrigues my imagination. I am anticipating the sequel in 2020.

4 out of 5 Keys.

The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern

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From the New York Times bestselling author of The Night Circus, a timeless love story set in a secret underground world–a place of pirates, painters, lovers, liars, and ships that sail upon a starless sea.

Zachary Ezra Rawlins is a graduate student in Vermont when he discovers a mysterious book hidden in the stacks. As he turns the pages, entranced by tales of lovelorn prisoners, key collectors, and nameless acolytes, he reads something strange: a story from his own childhood.

Bewildered by this inexplicable book and desperate to make sense of how his own life came to be recorded, Zachary uncovers a series of clues–a bee, a key, and a sword–that lead him to a masquerade party in New York, to a secret club, and through a doorway to an ancient library hidden far below the surface of the earth.

What Zachary finds in this curious place is more than just a buried home for books and their guardians–it is a place of lost cities and seas, lovers who pass notes under doors and across time, and of stories whispered by the dead. Zachary learns of those who have sacrificed much to protect this realm, relinquishing their sight and their tongues to preserve this archive, and also of those who are intent on its destruction. Together with Mirabel, a fierce, pink-haired protector of the place, and Dorian, a handsome, barefoot man with shifting alliances, Zachary travels the twisting tunnels, darkened stairwells, crowded ballrooms, and sweetly soaked shores of this magical world, discovering his purpose–in both the mysterious book and in his own life.

I got an ARC at New York Comic Con. On November 6th at The New York Public Library I went to the event: The Starless Sea: Erin Morgenstern with Kelly Braffet. There was also a book signing. If I find some time I will write about that event too.

I bought the hardcover but kept reading the ARC because it was easier to carry and I didn’t want to get the nice signed hardcover dirty.

The Starless Sea was a whirlwind! So much happens and I am still absorbing it all. This story will definitely require a reread at some point. Actually, I plan to listen to the audiobook one day.

At first it seams that the short stories in between the main story are random interludes, but they do connect. There are some things I am still confused about, or maybe they were not answered at all?

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Jackpot by Nic Stone

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From the author of the New York Times bestseller Dear Martin –which Angie Thomas, the bestselling author of The Hate U Give, called “a must read”–comes a pitch-perfect romance that examines class, privilege, and how a stroke of good luck can change an entire life.

Meet Rico: high school senior and afternoon-shift cashier at the Gas ‘n’ Go, who after school and work races home to take care of her younger brother. Every. Single. Day. When Rico sells a jackpot-winning lotto ticket, she thinks maybe her luck will finally change, but only if she–with some assistance from her popular and wildly rich classmate Zan–can find the ticket holder who hasn’t claimed the prize. But what happens when have and have-nots collide? Will this investigative duo unite…or divide?

Nic Stone, the New York Times bestselling author of Dear Martin and Odd One Out, creates two unforgettable characters in one hard-hitting story about class, money–both too little and too much–and how you make your own luck in the world.

I was lucky enough to get an ARC of this book. I really, really enjoyed it. I became really attached to the two main characters, Rico and Zan. I loved their ups and downs, and the message about how we have choices. The supporting characters also bring the whole story to life. I laughed often and some scenes got me choked up. While there are some low moments, it all leads to a feel good ending.

A small critique: I will say I did predict where the ticket was, however; that did not hinder my enjoyment. I also would have liked to know a bit more about some incidents in Zan’s past.

I loved the small chapters from the point of view of an object. That was such a humorous and entertaining use of personification.

Some favorite quotes, one because it is funny and the other because it is so true to life:

Page 63: “My apologies, sir” Zan says. “It’s just funny seeing Pope Paul, Malcolm X, and British politician sex in the same line, am I right guys? That Billy Joel was something’ else!”
The whole class laughs.

Page 90: It’ll never cease to amaze me that my mother’s fear of unpaid medical bills is stronger than her fear of death.

4.5 out of 5 Lottery Tickets.

Thrawn: Treason by Timothy Zahn; narrated by Marc Thompson

Grand Admiral Thrawn faces the ultimate test of his loyalty to the Empire in this epic Star Wars novel from bestselling author Timothy Zahn.

“If I were to serve the Empire, you would command my allegiance.”

Such was the promise Grand Admiral Thrawn made to Emperor Palpatine at their first meeting. Since then, Thrawn has been one of the Empire’s most effective instruments, pursuing its enemies to the very edges of the known galaxy. But as keen a weapon as Thrawn has become, the Emperor dreams of something far more destructive.

Now, as Thrawn’s TIE defender program is halted in favor of Director Krennic’s secret Death Star project, he realizes that the balance of power in the Empire is measured by more than just military acumen or tactical efficiency. Even the greatest intellect can hardly compete with the power to annihilate entire planets.

As Thrawn works to secure his place in the Imperial hierarchy, his former protégé Eli Vanto returns with a dire warning about Thrawn’s homeworld. Thrawn’s mastery of strategy must guide him through an impossible choice: duty to the Chiss Ascendancy, or fealty to the Empire he has sworn to serve. Even if the right choice means committing treason.

 

I think this will be the last of the Thrawn books for a while based on the timeline. It is set right before the finale of Rebels. The third book of this trilogy was not my favorite of the three. I was a little bit bored in the middle of the story, and I thought the plot was a bit..weak.

That being said I will focus on some of the positive things.

I really liked the humor Marc Thompson brought to some of the characters. Such as his Sean Connery voice for Admiral Savit. That cracked me up. As did his pompous, snobby voice for Assistant Director Ronan.
Whenever Director Krennic made an appearance he was always yelling, but Marc’s voice work for him was spot on. Oh, and I was so amused by the jokes at his expense about his white cape. So pretentious.

I loved the voices Marc did for the Death Troopers and how they were just grilling Assistant Director Ronan, because he was so annoying.

This time Thrawn did not say “Perhaps” as much! What a relief!

I did enjoy the subplot with Eli Vanto, the Chiss and their navigators. He didn’t annoy me this time and it was interesting to see his role with the Chiss were he is an outsider. I wouldn’t mind seeing more of them and learning more about the Force Sensitive girls who navigate their ships.

SOME SPOILERS BELOW!

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Review of Iron Gold – the audiobook.

Iron Gold By: Pierce Brown
Narrated by: Tim Gerard Reynolds, John Curless, Julian Elfer, Aedin Moloney

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I last read Iron Gold back in January of 2018. This week I listened to the audiobook for the first time to refresh my memory for Dark Age (coming out this Tuesday).

I have heard mixed reviews about the new voices. Some say that Lysander’s voice is too low and that he doesn’t do different voices for different characters speaking. Some say Lyria’s is too whiny and others say she has great emotion.

Here are my thoughts:

Tim Gerard Reynolds, as always, is perfect for Darrow’s POV. I have no complaints.

The voice of Lysander, Julian Elfer, was what I imagined a Gold like him to sound. Kind of stuffy and pompous. Something was off with the volume. His parts sounded lower and I’d turn up the volume. It is true that he doesn’t do many variations for the voices and it’s hard to tell who is saying what. Actually at 25% in I started reading along on my ebook.

Lyria, Aedin Moloney, has the accent I imagined her to have, but like the narrator for Lysander, she didn’t have much range for doing the different voices. Especially for Ephraim and Holiday. I will say though that I think she got the emotion of Lyria right: the anger and sadness.

After TGR the narrator for Ephraim, John Curless, was second best. John Curless is the only one to return for Dark Age. He really got the tone of Ephraim and was able to do more of a variety of voices. I really liked his accent for Volga and The Duke of Hands.

Listening to Iron Gold to refresh my memory was a smart decision. I forgot some details, but my feelings from the review I wrote in 2018 have stayed the same.

So excited for Dark Age! I’ll read the ebook first, then listen to the audiobook, and I will review both. I’ll reserve judgment for the new voices, though I think I will miss Julian Elfer and Aedin Moloney. I got used to them.

Full Disclosure by Camryn Garrett

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In a community that isn’t always understanding, an HIV-positive teen must navigate fear, disclosure, and radical self-acceptance when she falls in love–and lust–for the first time. Powerful and uplifting, Full Disclosure will speak to fans of Angie Thomas and Nicola Yoon.

Simone Garcia-Hampton is starting over at a new school, and this time things will be different. She’s making real friends, making a name for herself as student director of Rent, and making a play for Miles, the guy who makes her melt every time he walks into a room. The last thing she wants is for word to get out that she’s HIV-positive, because last time . . . well, last time things got ugly.

Keeping her viral load under control is easy, but keeping her diagnosis under wraps is not so simple. As Simone and Miles start going out for real–shy kisses escalating into much more–she feels an uneasiness that goes beyond butterflies. She knows she has to tell him that she’s positive, especially if sex is a possibility, but she’s terrified of how he’ll react! And then she finds an anonymous note in her locker: I know you have HIV. You have until Thanksgiving to stop hanging out with Miles. Or everyone else will know too.

Simone’s first instinct is to protect her secret at all costs, but as she gains a deeper understanding of the prejudice and fear in her community, she begins to wonder if the only way to rise above is to face the haters head-on.

I got this ARC at Book Con 2019.

I am a bit torn about my feelings for this book. I really liked the message it sent to teens and young adults to educate yourself and take responsibility when it comes to sex and HIV. Simone takes her condition seriously and asks her doctors questions. And that is a really good example to set.

The novel did have some flaws that I will address with spoiler tags.

Well this one is not much of a spoiler but something that Camryn Garrett can learn not to do. The teens roll their eyes way too much. It felt like it happened on every page and it would irate me to no end. There are many different ways to express a teenager being annoyed. The side eye, the stink eye, the squint eye; as well as verbal sounds: “Ugh,” “Ew,” and “Pfft,” just to name a few.

SPOILERS AHEAD!

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A Short History of the Girl Next Door by Jared Reck

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Matt Wainwright is constantly sabotaged by the overdramatic movie director in his head. He can’t tell his best friend, Tabby, how he really feels about her. He implodes on the basketball court, even though no one cares about the JV team. And the only place he feels normal is in Mr. Ellis’s English class, discussing the greatest fart scenes in literature and writing poems about cantankerous candy-cane lumberjacks.

If this were a movie, everything would work out perfectly. Tabby would discover that Matt’s madly in love with her, be overcome with emotion, and fall into his arms. Maybe in the rain.

But that’s not how it works. Matt watches Tabby get swept away by senior basketball star and all-around great guy Liam Branson. Losing Tabby to Branson is bad enough, but screwing up and losing her as a friend is even worse.

After a tragic accident, Matt finds himself left on the sidelines, spiraling out of control and in danger of losing everything that matters to him. From debut author Jared Reck comes a fiercely funny and heart-wrenching novel about love, longing, and what happens when life as you know it changes in an instant.

Even though this book came out in September 2017, the copy I read was an ARC I had on my TBR pile since Book Con 2017.

I was so surprised by how much I really loved it. I thought it would just be another YA novel about unrequited love and it would get put in the donate pile when I was done.

At first I thought it was ok, and the basketball lingo went over my head, but I really grew to like the characters. Especially Tabby, Matt’s mom and his grandpa. Oh, and I love that Matt, his dad and Tabby love Star Wars.

Jared Reck is an 8th grade teacher and that really helped with setting the tone of what teenagers are like. I felt like I was thrown back into high school.

The book takes a dramatic turn and I found myself unexpectedly bawling my eyes out. But the story ends with hope and I really liked the message.

So, I am not going to put this in the donate pile. It’s book with a lot of heart, some humor, and it’s got short chapters (which was a relief after the last book I read). It’s a quick 2-3 day read.

5 out of 5 Nerds.