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.

The Glass Hotel by Emily St. John Mandel

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Vincent is a bartender at the Hotel Caiette, a five-star hotel on the northernmost tip of Vancouver Island. On the night she meets Jonathan Alkaitis, a hooded figure scrawls a message on the lobby’s glass wall: “Why don’t you swallow broken glass.” Leon Prevant, a shipping executive for Neptune-Avradimis, reads the words and orders a drink to calm down. Alkaitis, the owner of the hotel and a wealthy investment manager, arrives too late to read the threat, never knowing it was intended for him. He leaves Vincent a hundred dollar tip along with his business card, and a year later they are living together as husband and wife.

High above Manhattan, a greater crime is committed: Alkaitis is running an international Ponzi scheme, moving imaginary sums of money through clients’ accounts. He holds the life savings of an artist named Olivia Collins, the fortunes of a Saudi prince and his extended family, and countless retirement funds, including Leon Prevant’s. The collapse of the financial empire is as swift as it is devastating, obliterating fortunes and lives, while Vincent walks away into the night. Until, years later, she steps aboard a Neptune-Avramidis vessel, the Neptune Cumberland, and disappears from the ship between ports of call.

In this captivating story of crisis and survival, Emily St. John Mandel takes readers through often hidden landscapes: campgrounds for the near-homeless, underground electronica clubs, the business of international shipping, service in luxury hotels, and life in a federal prison. Rife with unexpected beauty, The Glass Hotel is a captivating portrait of greed and guilt, love and delusion, ghosts and unintended consequences, and the infinite ways we search for meaning in our lives.

 

I got this ARC at a give away during NYCC ’19.

I’m really glad I listened to the audiobook of Station Eleven right before reading this ARC because there are some Easter eggs. (Though it’s not a requirement to read Station Eleven before.) It’s almost a parallel universe in a way. I loved that the story played with alternate realities. I imaging an AU of my life all the time. I also liked the elements of ghosts or being haunted by the past (depending on the reader’s views).

I really like Mandel’s style of writing. The Glass Hotel goes back and forth in time and between different POVs. It does it really well. The pacing and the way details unfold is seamless. It made it a real page turner.

I loved the multi-POVs from everyone: the criminals in the Ponzi scheme and the victims of the scheme, and seeing how they all are connected to each other. The characters are interesting and well develop without boggling the book with too much detail.

I also have many favorite quotes that I related to, but I feel that is opening a whole other discussion and I’m going to keep this review just a review.

So here is one quote that made me chuckle:
Page 94 – “You cannot be both an unwashed bohemian and Cary Grant.”

This is so me and all the imaginary discussions I have:
Page 285 – “It turned out that never having that conversation with Vincent meant that he was somehow condemned to always have that conversation with Vincent.”

Yes, I know I am supposed to check the ARC with he final print before quoting, but these are just too good not to share.

4.5  out of 5  Investments. 

Infinity Son by Adam Silvera

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Balancing epic and intensely personal stakes, bestselling author Adam Silvera’s Infinity Son is a gritty, fast-paced adventure about two brothers caught up in a magical war generations in the making.

Growing up in New York, brothers Emil and Brighton always idolized the Spell Walkers—a vigilante group sworn to rid the world of specters. While the Spell Walkers and other celestials are born with powers, specters take them, violently stealing the essence of endangered magical creatures.

Brighton wishes he had a power so he could join the fray. Emil just wants the fighting to stop. The cycle of violence has taken a toll, making it harder for anyone with a power to live peacefully and openly. In this climate of fear, a gang of specters has been growing bolder by the day.

Then, in a brawl after a protest, Emil manifests a power of his own—one that puts him right at the heart of the conflict and sets him up to be the heroic Spell Walker Brighton always wanted to be.

Brotherhood, love, and loyalty will be put to the test, and no one will escape the fight unscathed.

I got an ARC during NYCC at a post panel signing with Adam Silvera.

It took me some time to get into this world. I was having a difficult time keeping characters straight and I could have used a Dramatis Personae.

I also had a difficult time understanding the difference between a celestial and a specter until more then halfway through. It felt like I was just thrusted into the world and expected to understand the terminology and mythology without much explanation. Especially, with the mention of the Blackout. I still don’t know what that event entailed.

However, it is a really fast read and once I got into it, it started to clicked.

There were some plot twists that were predictable. I also had an issue with the amount of time spent training for a couple of characters. No way could they be that good in that short amount of time.

But honestly, I’m not that bothered because I think the things I liked about it outweighed what I think could have been improved.

What I really enjoyed were the relationships between the characters. There was a lot of drama and a lot of tensions, mostly within the Spell Walkers themselves. I liked it because not only did it make the story interesting but it will allow for growth and development in the sequels.

The story also showed the power of social media, when it works for you and against you.

I liked the clear influences and Easter eggs from Harry Potter.

Another plus was having a cast of diverse characters.

The cliffhangers have enough spark that I will look out for the next book in 2021. I do like a fast fantasy read.

3 out of 5 Phoenixes

New York Comic Con 2019 – Sunday

New York Comic Con 2019 – Sunday, October 6

I’m going to start off with…

List of all 17 books from NYCC 2019:  If there is a link then I read and reviewed it.

Penguin Random House mystery box, Ladies First in Sci-Fi and Fantasy:
Trading in Danger by Elizabeth Moon.
Sorcerer to the Crown  by Zen Cho.
Gods of Jade and Shadow by Silvia Moreno-Garcia.

Harper Collins mystery box, Fantasy Quest:
King of Ashes by Raymond E. Feist
Woodworker by Emily B. Martin
The Heir of Night by Helen Lowe
The Queen of Blood by Sarah Beth Durst

Knopf Doubleday ARCs:
The Glass Hotel by Emily St. John Mandel.
The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern

Penguin Book Wizard quiz:
Foundryside by Robert Jackson Bennett
Bonds of Brass by Emily Skrutskie
A Plague of Giants by Kevin Hearne

Panel giveaways:
Alphabet Squadron by Alexander Freed
Burn the Dark by S.A. Hunt (DNF)

Free book at Signing
Infinity Son by Adam Silvera
The Warded Man by Peter V. Brett
The Nobody People  by Bob Proehl

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My sister and I started Sunday by going to the Part of their World: A Conversation with the Disney Princesses.

Ariel. Belle. Princess Tiana. Join Jodi Benson, Paige O’Hara, and Anika Noni Rose -three of the all-star voices from the modern Disney age – as they talk about their experiences voicing some of the greatest animated characters of all-time. Moderated by Dani Fernandez (Host for Disney, E!, Nerdist and The Nerdificent Podcast on iHeartRadio).

We loved this panel and it totally brought a few tears to my eyes.

Many of the things they discussed in this SyFy Wire video they also discussed in the panel. I couldn’t find a video of the panel on YouTube.

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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.

New York Comic Con 2019 – Saturday

New York Comic Con 2019 – Saturday, October 5

I was going to wear my Padmé green velvet costume that I wore at Celebration Chicago, but since I was not feeling well I decided against it. I just didn’t want to schlep around in a gown. I wanted to wear a comfy hoodie with pockets that I could put my tissues in.

So I wore my Her Universe Padmé hoodie. It’s the yellow, pink and purple ombré hoodie that I bought at Celebration Chicago.

I am bummed that I didn’t dress in cosplay, but it’s ok. I’ll wear my costume next year. I’ll also take even more vitamin C so not to get a cold.

My sister and I started our morning by going straight to the Penguin booth for The Starless Sea (by Erin Morgenstern) ARC giveaway.

Like I had said in an earlier post, the set up was super annoying and chaotic. I guess Knopf Doubleday were told they were not allowed to have people line up, which is stupid and ridiculous because A) every other booth at Penguin had lines, as did all the other booths on the show floor, and B) people will still loiter around until 11 and be in the way anyway.

The people loitering around the booth became a disorganized crowd of people just storming the booth at 11am sharp to get the free ARC. They would have been much better off counting the number of books the had, line people up and give them a numbered ticket after scanning their badges. Or first come, first serve, scan badge – hand out numbered tickets starting at 10am and then ask people to return anytime that day after 11am to get their guaranteed copy.

I think they totally underestimated the demand for The Starless Sea. This is the first book that Erin has written since the beloved The Night Circus ,which was published in 2011.

That is a big break, so of course people want this book. One girl told us that an ARC of the book was stolen right out of her hand at a giveaway at Book Con.

SO the fact that they didn’t line us up properly was a nightmare. The people working the table told the crowds not to loiter and come back at 11. But no one listens because they know if they do – they will miss out.

And they were really down to the second. It was at 11 sharp when they started scanning and handing out the books. The loitering crowd became a pushing mosh pit. You can say no pushing – but come on? How are people supposed to get out of the crowd once they got their book? At least when there is an ORGANIZED LINE there is an entry and exit point.

Utter ridiculousness.

My sister and I did manage to keep ourselves towards the front of the loitering crowd and were successful.

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My sister and I also took the Book Wizard quiz. I got an ARC of Bonds of Brass by Emily Skrutskie.

I forgot to mention in the previous post that we also tried to guess the number of books in this stack for Orbit Books.

We were guessing by the thickness and adding it up on the calculator.
We guessed 9,594 pages. The answer is 9,590 pages! Off by 4 pages! UGH!

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New York Comic Con 2019 – Friday continued.

New York Comic Con 2019 – Friday, October 4- Part II

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After Lucasfilm Publishing- Stories from a Galaxy Far, Far Away I immediately went to a room near by for another book panel: Family Members: The Best of Allies, The Worst of Enemies.

Whether they’re genetically related, or found family, one’s relationships with one’s parents and siblings are often among the most complex and intense of one’s life. Authors relate the familial entanglements with their characters’ best friends and worst enemies. Explore the tangled limbs and pointy branches of some family trees with Adam Silvera (Infinity Son), Nikki Richard (Demon In The Whitelands), Bob Proehl (The Nobody People), Joan He (Descendant of the Crane), and Akwaeke Emezi (Pet) in conversation with bookseller Ali Kokmen.

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New York Comic Con 2019 – Thursday and Friday.

New York Comic Con 2019 – Thursday, October 3

I don’t have much to say about Thursday. An important project had to be finished at work and so I had to sacrifice the panels I wanted to see. I ended up getting to the Con a little after 4PM and I only stayed a couple of hours.

I missed out on some of the ARCs the publishers were giving out but I did buy a mystery box from Penguin Random House.

 

I chose Ladies First in Sci-Fi and Fantasy and inside the box were two pins, a lined notebook, and these books.
Trading in Danger (Vatta’s War 1) by Elizabeth Moon
Sorcerer to the Crown (Sorcerer Royal 1) by Zen Cho
Gods of Jade and Shadow by Silvia Moreno-Garcia. Even though this book has already been released the book in the box is an ARC.

Besides buying those books I walked around the floor and checked out the Hallmark Pop-Minded booth. There are some ornaments that I will want to buy when they come out. I didn’t buy any of their NYCC exclusives this year. There were none that interested me.

The panels I sacrificed were:

Star Wars Audiobooks: A Behind-the-Scenes Conversation at 11:15 am-12:15 pm.
Get the inside scoop on how the Star Wars audiobooks are recorded and produced with some of the biggest Star Wars authors, voice actors, and producers in the business! You’ll hear from narrators Marc Thompson, Saskia Maarleveld, and Euan Morton in a tell-all panel moderated by Nick Martorelli (PRH Audio producer) about the new Star Wars titles they’ve worked on, how they create the characters, what it’s like in the recording booth and how production builds different layers of voice narration, sound effects, and music into the final track.

Rotten Movies We Love: Critics and Fans Reflect on the Stinkers that Stole our Hearts at 12:30 pm-1:30 pm. (Such a shame I missed this one because these Rotten Tomatoes panels are always a fun time.)

Ever been crushed to learn your favorite movie – or a new one you’re dying to see – has been given the infamous green splat from Rotten Tomatoes’ Tomatometer? Inspired by the upcoming book, Rotten Movies We Love, comedian and movie lover, Mark Ellis hosts Rotten Tomatoes Editor-in-Chief Joel Meares, RT editor Jacqueline Coley, and a number of critics in a lively discussion about films that are so bad they’re good, underrated gems, and iconic cult classics. An interactive experience, audience members are empowered to put on their critic hats and join the spirited conversation – and participate in RT’s fan-favorite Tomatometer guessing game, Street Vs. Elite. 

Part of Your World-Building at 2:30 pm-3:15 pm.
It’s our world. Just add monsters. And ghosts. And time travelers. Four acclaimed fantasy and science fiction novelists discuss bringing their books to life. Featured panelists include Kat Cho (Wicked Fox), Rebecca Roanhorse (The Sixth World Series), and Zoraida Cordova (the Brooklyn Brujas series).

This one was actually at the NYPL on 5th Ave. I thought, and was hoping, that even though I would definitely be missing the other two panels maybe I would be finished in time for this one. Zoraida Cordova was a part of this panel and so I brought with me Labyrinth Lost and Bruja Born for her to sign. But I didn’t even make it to this panel. Carried around the heavy hard covers with me for nothing.

The last hour of the day my sister joined me after she left work. She also bought a mystery box from Penguin. She picked my second choice which was Classic Sci-Fi. She also got two pins and these books:
Hyperion by Dan Simmons
The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle
Foundation by Isaac Asimov

When she saw the Asimov book she was like, “I knew it!”

New York Comic Con 2019 – Friday, October 4- Part I

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Year Zero by Rob Reid

 

I got this book at NYCC 2017. I saw the author speak at a panel about deleted scenes and then went to his book signing.

I found his deleted scene (for After On) to be very funny and that prompted me to go to his book signing.

The plot of Year Zero had lots of promise and it started out really funny, but about half way through the jokes got old and I also became bored by the story. Sometimes it was hard to follow all the descriptions of copyright laws and the descriptions of the alien worlds. I hate to admit that I started to skim about three quarters of the way through.

Also, the footnotes were distracting. Small ones were fine, but they often turned into whole paragraphs. That tangent is just unnecessary and I also just skipped reading those all together towards the end.

I didn’t find myself connecting with any of the characters so in the end I didn’t really care what happened. Hence the skimming.

I feel horrible giving such a poor review but it is an honest one.

Since I already bought After On I will give that one a shot and hope I like it better than Year Zero.

2 out of 5 Downloaded Songs.