Book Con: Saturday, June 3, 2017

My sister and I got on the queue at Random House to get our Underlined goodies. We are signed up to Underlined and got an email saying we could skip the line (yea right!) and get prizes.

This is our swag. We each got a tote, a beach towel, an accessory pouch, a phone charger, a book mark, and two books. I got The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman and A Short History of the Girl Next Door by Jared Reck. Sis got The Golden Compass and The Breathless by Tara Goedjen.

Mayim Bialik Autographing
Jun 03, 2017, 12:30 PM – 1:30 PM, Booth 1921

I bought Mayim’s book, Girling Up: How to Be Strong, Smart and Spectacular so I could get her autograph ticket. It was the only book I bought all weekend.

I started reading it while on the queue. It’s a great read for a girl just starting puberty and I would have loved it when I was 10 or 11. It will be a quick read and will finish the rest in a day, soon.

(While I was on the queue my sister picked up the give away for The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner.)

When I got up to talk to Mayim I told her that Bette Middler should play her mom on The Big Bang Theory. (Beaches reunion!) Mayim said that is a great idea and maybe when she is done with Broadway. (Bette is currently staring in Hello Dolly!)

I think with Sheldon proposing to Amy and there being a possible wedding soon, it’s a perfect opportunity.

After taking a photo with me and my sister she asked, “Sisters?” and we said yes.

Below the cut: Stephen Chbosky and Nicola Yoon.

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The Sun Is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon

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Natasha: I’m a girl who believes in science and facts. Not fate. Not destiny. Or dreams that will never come true. I’m definitely not the kind of girl who meets a cute boy on a crowded New York City street and falls in love with him. Not when my family is twelve hours away from being deported to Jamaica. Falling in love with him won’t be my story.

Daniel: I’ve always been the good son, the good student, living up to my parents’ high expectations. Never the poet. Or the dreamer. But when I see her, I forget about all that. Something about Natasha makes me think that fate has something much more extraordinary in store—for both of us.

The Universe: Every moment in our lives has brought us to this single moment. A million futures lie before us. Which one will come true?

I loved this book so much. During the epilogue I was reading through tears. I felt the outcome of events was very plausible and a good balance to the fateful events that took place throughout the book.

I didn’t cry the entire time, just during the epilogue. It was also really funny too, like when Times Square was compared to hell. I feel the same way. As a native New Yorker the setting was another favorite thing of mine. It really made the story come alive. I could picture everything about it.

I connected with both Natasha and Daniel. Like Daniel I believe in fate. I think coincidences are very, very rare and it’s most likely something “meant to be”, that events are lining up to all connect together.
I also believe there are infinate multiverses. For each choice we make somewhere out there is a version of us that made a different choice.

I love the short chapters (makes for a fast read), and the different points of view from the older generation that immigrated to the U.S., the kids who grew up in the U.S., and the strangers who effect and are affected by the main characters. It really made it complete and balanced.

At the end of the month the film adaptation of Nicola’s other book, Everything, Everything, is coming to theaters. I hope it’s a good adaptation and does well at the box office so that this book can also be adapted into a film.

5 out of 5 Suns that are also stars.

Sons of Ares (Sons of Ares Issue 1)

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From the world of the best-selling YA series Red Rising comes a story of love and loss and rage!
In the future, when mankind has spread across the stars, the hierarchy of man is dictated by the color of one’s caste. The Golds rule all, but what will happen when one falls for a lowly Red? See how a forbidden love will set the course of events for the future and lead to the formation of the formidable Sons of Ares!
Written by author Pierce Brown (The Red Rising Trilogy) and Rik Hoskin (Heroes of Skyrealm, Brandon Sanderson’s White Sand), with art by Eli Powell (Yakuza Demon Killers, The 13th Artifact), comes the in-continuity story of revolution and Red Rising!

4 out of 5 Sons.

I love prequels. This is a good start to know more about Fitchner and the beginning of the Sons of Ares.

The introduction gives a brief description of the Red Rising world for those who have not yet read the Red Rising trilogy. But honestly, stop what you are doing and read it right now before reading this series.
I really like that the colors of the dialog bubbles tell you which Color of the society is speaking.
What I am not a big fan of is the style of drawing. It’s too sketchy and messy. I know it’s probably more expensive to produce, but I like clean and detailed comic drawings.
However, I am really excited about this new series.

Spoiler below:

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Blood Rose Rebellion by Rosalyn Eves

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The thrilling first book in a YA fantasy trilogy for fans of Red Queen. In a world where social prestige derives from a trifecta of blood, money, and magic, one girl has the ability to break the spell that holds the social order in place.

Sixteen-year-old Anna Arden is barred from society by a defect of blood. Though her family is part of the Luminate, powerful users of magic, she is Barren, unable to perform the simplest spells. Anna would do anything to belong. But her fate takes another course when, after inadvertently breaking her sister’s debutante spell—an important chance for a highborn young woman to show her prowess with magic—Anna finds herself exiled to her family’s once powerful but now crumbling native Hungary.

Her life might well be over.

In Hungary, Anna discovers that nothing is quite as it seems. Not the people around her, from her aloof cousin Noémi to the fierce and handsome Romani Gábor. Not the society she’s known all her life, for discontent with the Luminate is sweeping the land. And not her lack of magic. Isolated from the only world she cares about, Anna still can’t seem to stop herself from breaking spells.

As rebellion spreads across the region, Anna’s unique ability becomes the catalyst everyone is seeking. In the company of nobles, revolutionaries, and Romanies, Anna must choose: deny her unique power and cling to the life she’s always wanted, or embrace her ability and change that world forever.

I picked up an ARC from NYCC in October.

At First In Line I showed them the email I received in exchange for the Blood Rose Rebellion. I got very excited when I read the jacket because I have a friend from Hungary named Noémi (No-amy). I messaged her about the book and asked if her name is popular in Hungary. She said:
“It’s not a very common name, actually. It was a writer who came up with it in 1872. In that book the main guy is an aristocrat and he goes on his boat and discovers an island where only a mom and the daughter lives. He falls in love with the daughter, whose name is noèmi. It means beautiful. So then he starts going back and forth between his real life and the mysterious island with his beautiful lover. And writers like to use the name in their books ever since.”

I liked the character Noémi and wish there was more of a storyline for her. Perhaps in book 2. I really appreciated the glossary and the character guide in the back. It helped immensely. I still pronounced words and names wrong. I would ask my friend Noémi if I was saying it correctly and I was embarrassingly wrong.

As the world building goes, I liked that magic was not a secret society but out in the open and controlled by the aristocracy. I think the mix with some Hungarian historical events made it an interesting historical fantasy novel. I don’t know much about Hungarian history so I learned a little bit.

I was glad I read The Bear and the Nightingale first so that I was familiar with some of the mythical creatures that make an appearance.

There were many things I did like about the story, like Anna’s struggle with her decision and how breaking the binding was not done in a simple 1,2,3 rushed plot. It took a few tries. However, towards the end of the book I lost motivation to finish. I pushed to finish and even started to skim it. I can’t say why I lost steam because I liked the story and the characters, but it took me more than a month to finish.

I can’t say I’ll go out and buy the second book of the series, but if I see an ARC at Comic Con or Book Con I’ll pick it up.

3 out of 5 Broken Spells.

The Valiant (The Valiant, #1) by Lesley Livingston

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Princess. Captive. Gladiator.

Fallon is the daughter of a proud Celtic king, the sister of the legendary warrior Sorcha, and the sworn enemy of Julius Caesar.

When Fallon was a child, Caesar’s armies invaded her homeland, and her beloved sister was killed in battle.

Now, on the eve of her seventeenth birthday, Fallon is eager to follow in her sister’s footsteps and earn her place in the fearsome Cantii war band. She never gets the chance.

Fallon is captured and sold to an elite training school for female gladiators—owned by none other than Julius Caesar. In a cruel twist of fate, the man who destroyed Fallon’s family might be her only hope of survival.

Now Fallon must overcome vicious rivalries and deadly fights—in and out of the arena. And perhaps the most dangerous threat of all: her forbidden yet irresistible feelings for Cai, a young Roman soldier.

I picked up this ARC at NYCC 2016.

I have some mixed feelings about The Valiant. I’ll start with the critiques.

The story and plot twists were predictable. I guessed nearly everything that was going to happen.

At lot of the story is also spoon fed to us, but I feel that is because the book is meant for a young reader. The book jacket does say grades 7 (ages 12) and up.

Yet, I found myself enjoying it. I liked the sisterhood between the characters.
While the romance was a bit underdeveloped it wasn’t annoying and overly mushy.

The pacing was a bit slow at times, but I really like the setting of the Roman Empire The Cleopatra and Caesar cameos were fun.

While it wasn’t the greatest story, I am curious about the sequel. Although, I do feel the end could have gone another way and left this as a standalone novel. But I do like that it offers a story for young adults with strong female characters who are not damsels in distress.

3 out of 5 female gladiators.

Gilded Cage (Dark Gifts #1) by Vic James

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Not all are free. Not all are equal. Not all will be saved.

Our world belongs to the Equals — aristocrats with magical gifts — and all commoners must serve them for ten years. But behind the gates of England’s grandest estate lies a power that could break the world.

A girl thirsts for love and knowledge.

Abi is a servant to England’s most powerful family, but her spirit is free. So when she falls for one of the noble-born sons, Abi faces a terrible choice. Uncovering the family’s secrets might win her liberty, but will her heart pay the price?

A boy dreams of revolution.

Abi’s brother, Luke, is enslaved in a brutal factory town. Far from his family and cruelly oppressed, he makes friends whose ideals could cost him everything. Now Luke has discovered there may be a power even greater than magic: revolution.

And an aristocrat will remake the world with his dark gifts.

He is a shadow in the glittering world of the Equals, with mysterious powers no one else understands. But will he liberate—or destroy?

I picked up and ARC at NYCC in October.

I really liked the set up of this alternate reality where those with magical powers (Skill) are the rulers (Equals). Usually the magical beings are in hiding and have their own world separate from those without magic. This turn around makes for an interesting story with power struggles, political maneuvering, and a rebellion that’s going to be a bitch of a time. Some reviewers on Goodreads said it was too political and they couldn’t keep the characters straight. I don’t get what they mean. It’s YA and easy enough to follow.

I was happy that it was told from different POVs in the third person. That really gave the world building a fuller picture and we got to understand both the Equals and the slaves. Some characters got more chapters than others and so their story was better developed, but I hope to see more from Silyen in the next book. He’s so conniving and the most mysterious.

A great starting point for a new trilogy. I’ll be awaiting the next book.

4 out 5 Years of Servitude.

Beheld (Kendra Chronicles #4) by Alex Flinn

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Kendra first beheld James over three hundred years ago. Since then, she’s tangled with witch hunters and wolves, helped a miller’s daughter spin straw into gold, cowered in London as bombs fell, and lived through who knows how many shipwrecks.

Being a powerful witch, she has survived it all. But immortality can be lonely. Kendra isn’t ready to stop searching for the warlock she had met centuries ago. With the help of her magic mirror, Kendra will travel the world to reconnect with her lost love—and, of course, she can’t help but play a hand in a few more stories along the way.

Featuring retellings of Little Red Riding Hood, Rumpelstiltskin, East of the Sun and West of the Moon, and The Ugly Duckling, Alex Flinn’s latest young adult novel, Beheld, is fresh fairy-tale fun from beginning to end.

A few weeks ago I could have added this to the Top Ten Tuesday list I did: Books I wish had more sorcery.

I received this ARC at New York Comic Con in October. At the time I didn’t know it was part of a series, but the author has said on Goodreads that it can be read independently from the rest of the books. That is somewhat true, but I did feel like I was missing who Kendra was.

I read some reviews on Goodreads, and many were disappointed that this book does not feature Kendra (a bad-ass witch who is a fan favorite) much. Even though I have not read the previous books I have to agree. In three out of the four fairytale retellings she is either a supporting character or a footnote.

The search for her beloved James is a subplot to the subplot. The synopsis on the jacket is so deceiving:

Featuring retellings of Little Red Riding Hood, Rumpelstiltskin, East of the Sun and West of the Moon, and The Ugly Duckling”

No- it’s the other way around, a retelling of fairytales featuring Kendra and her quest.

So that being established I’ll get to my thoughts on the retellings.

Little Red Riding Hood is set in Salem, Massachusetts during the witch trials. This story features Kendra and her magical abilities the most, but I was still disappointed. I get that these are short stories so there isn’t much word count availability, but it was a lame and boring let down. It was a nutshell version of The Crucible, with a slash of Red Riding Hood, and pinch of Kendra falling in love with James. Which, by the way, was so rushed I was not feeling the love and attraction between Kendra and James.

Rumpelstiltskin was actually my favorite retelling. It featured the most magic, on Rum’s part, spinning the straw into gold. That was the most endearing part; when Rum and Cornelia are getting to know each other and are falling in love.

Spoiler: I liked the twist that Rum was a good man and an orphan who had plans to better himself. The twist of claiming her first born is that he marries Cornelia and considers her daughter – fathered by another man- his daughter. I am convinced that two characters in the next story, though their cameos are small, they are the decedents of Rum and Cornelia’s children. They possessed gold objects. While such characters and objects appear in the original tale, I feel there is still a connection. It is not a coincidence.

East of the Sun and West of the Moon is a tale I had never hear of and had to look it up. It being a Norwegian tale makes sense since the antagonist is a troll.

I liked it well enough, but the story is so rushed that the details are eliminated.
Spoiler Alert: When the troll turns to stone the prose is so bland. The description is a few short sentences and so unpoetic.

Kendra had become a random supporting character at this point.

The Ugly Duckling is a story I really enjoyed, but it is so misplaced in this narrative as a whole. By this point Kendra is a footnote that appears towards the end and James is an afterthought in the last few moments. It is also the the story with the least amount of magical events.

Besides that, I really liked it because it had the most developed characters. I enjoyed the friendship between Chris and Amanda. I was rooting for them. They also made me laugh at some moments.

However, the description on the book jacket is false advertising. As endearing and enjoyable some moments were, if you’re looking for a story about Kendra and James and magic, this isn’t it.

2 out of 5 men in the mirror.