Saturday, August 27, 2016

#Stacking the Shelves / Bought, Borrowed, and Bagged # 30

Bought Borrowed and Bagged is all about the latest additions to your library – virtual or actual, with books that are  bought, borrowed, won or ARCs  you will be reading soon. Bought Borrowed and Bagged is a homage to to Barron’s Books and Baubles from Karen Marie Moning’s amazing Fever series, and is hosted by Braine over at Talk Supe. 

Thanks for Shopping by!

Have a great weekend! 

This Weeks Reviews: 

Monday - Admiral by Sean Danker (Adult, Science Fiction)

Wednesday - The Demon King by Cinda Williams Chima (YA, Fantasy)

Thursday - Breath of Earth by Beth Cato (Alt History, Science Fiction)

Friday - The Scorpion Rules by Erin Bow (YA, Science Fiction)

Saturday - The Tattooed Heart by Michael Grant (YA, Fantasy)

Scheduled for Next Week: 

Monday - Vicarious by Paula Stokes (YA, Science Fiction)

Blog Tour/Release Day Review  - Unraveled by Jennifer Estep (UF) 

Wednesday - The Flame Never Dies by Rachel Vincent (YA, Fantasy)

Thursday - Infinite Risk by Ann Aguirre (YA, Urban Fantasy)

Friday - The Exiled Queen by Cinda Williams Chima (YA, Fantasy)

Saturday - The Masked City by Genevieve Cogman (SciFy, Time Travel)

*Received from Edelweiss, NetGalley, Library*


Friday, August 26, 2016

#Saturday Review - The Tattooed Heart by Michael Grant (Young Adult, Horror) @MichaelGrantBks @KatherineTegen

Series: Messenger of Fear # 2
Format: Hardcover, 400 pages
Release Date: September 22, 2015
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
Source: Edelweiss
Genre: Young Adult, Horror

Mara has already witnessed more evil as the Messenger’s apprentice than most people do in their lifetime, but the games continue.
The Messenger leads Mara to the funeral of a Muslim boy named Aimal, who died standing up for his people, and then to an abandoned store, where they discover Graciella, a girl battling addiction. The all-knowing Messenger recognizes that they are victims of heinous crimes. Mara and Messenger will find the wicked—those who act out of selfishness and greed, and others who become violent because of prejudice and hate.
But Mara and Messenger pay a price too. For every person who is offered justice, they will wear a tattoo that symbolizes the heart of the crime. And as Mara delves deeper into her harsh reality, she is suprirsed to realize that part of her is drawn to the sometimes compassionate Messenger. In spite of all the terror she and Messenger inflict, Mara will discover that caring in this world is the hardest part of all.
The second book in New York Times bestselling author Michael Grant’s Messenger of Fear series, The Tattooed Heart combines fantasy with real-world horror stories to create a satisfying conclusion. 

“If you prick a finger with a poisoned thorn, say not that you are innocent when the heart dies.”

The Tattooed Heart is the second and apparent final installment in Michael Grant's Messenger of Fear series. The Tattooed Heart 
continues the story of 16-year old Mara, who has been sentenced to be the apprentice to the Messenger of Fear after surviving her own judgment. Mara was a bad person when she was alive. She had friends and acolytes, but that wasn't enough for her. She ended up driving a fellow student to commit suicide. An act she is still paying for. Mara is now responsible for dolling out justice and punishment to others who have been accused of inhuman acts against others.

She answers the call of Ishtil, Goddess of wickedness and Justice. Mara dreams of loss and alienation. Her life really is a nightmare and not a dream that she can wake up from. She uses dreams to escape her currently reality, especially when she is forced to watch as those who are punished for their actions, are force to play for their very souls. In this reality, the wicked are forced into playing a game where winning is the only real options. If you fail to play the game, you have to face an even more harsher reality in the Shoals. Let's call the Shoals Hell for all intentions of this book. With each judgment, Mara ends up being tattooed reminding her of the horrors she was forced to judge.

"The balance between good and evil, true and false, pain and pleasure, low and loss, hatred and indifference. However you name them, these balances are all that keep the world spinning."

Mara's mentor, who she has feelings for, continues to look for his lost love Ariadne. Messenger has been obsessed in finding her, but he also has to show Mara the ropes so that she can one day take his place. The Tattooed Heart takes Mara and the Messenger from the Middle East, where a young boy named Aimal runs towards terrorists who aim to kill young girls attending school and pays the ultimate price for his heroism. To a school in Iowa where racism drives the actions of two boys that cause a ripple affect elsewhere. But, it also includes the story of a girl name Graciella Jayne who's entire life is such a sad story, that I couldn't help but feel emotionally drained by how society treats those who have been kicked in the face time and time again.

Michael Grant has apparently stated that this is the final book in the series. I am not sure if that is a good thing, or a bad thing since there is definitely room for more story. Mara definitely grows in this book. She becomes more of character who doesn't allow anyone to push her around. She makes choices, and decisions, and travels to the Shoals where she has an encounter with Oriax, who works for Malech and knows what really happened to Ariadne. Oriax has been a thorn in Mara's side hoping to sway her into switching sides. But, Mara has been set on a different path. I think this ending is bitter sweet in several ways. We see Mara's new future, while also seeing that she has lost the only person who has taken the chance to set her on the right path. We see that she has found compassion in a way that I believe was the right and only thing she could have done.

#Friday Review - The Scorpion Rules by Erin Bow (YA, Science Fiction-Dystopian)

Series: Prisoners of Peace # 1
Format: Hardcover, 384 pages
Release Date: September 22, 2015
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books
Source: Edelweiss
Genre: YA, Science Fiction/Dystopian

The world is at peace, said the Utterances. And really, if the odd princess has a hard day, is that too much to ask?
Greta is a duchess and crown princess—and a hostage to peace. This is how the game is played: if you want to rule, you must give one of your children as a hostage. Go to war and your hostage dies.
Greta will be free if she can survive until her eighteenth birthday. Until then she lives in the Precepture school with the daughters and sons of the world’s leaders. Like them, she is taught to obey the machines that control their lives. Like them, she is prepared to die with dignity, if she must. But everything changes when a new hostage arrives. Elián is a boy who refuses to play by the rules, a boy who defies everything Greta has ever been taught. And he opens Greta’s eyes to the brutality of the system they live under—and to her own power.
As Greta and Elián watch their nations tip closer to war, Greta becomes a target in a new kind of game. A game that will end up killing them both—unless she can find a way to break all the rules. 

The Scorpion Rules is the first installment in the Prisoners of Peace duology by author Erin Bow. In the beginning, Global Warming caused the Polar ice caps to melt and flood entire countries. This lead to massive population migrations, which strained water and food sources. People started killing each other. Regional wars popped up. Then an AI  known as Talis decided to step in and save humanity from itself. He destroyed whole cities to send a message that enough was enough. He made wars personal by killing the children of those who made the decisions to go to war, instead of suing for peace. 

400 years later, Talis has maintained the fragile peace by taking children as hostages and keeping them in a place called Precepture until they reach Eighteen. Every world leader is required to send their heirs to a place where they are taught to avoid wars at all costs. In this world, heirs are called Children of Peace and attend school where they are taught history and politics. Every single day those like Greta Stuart, who has been at the Precepture since she was 5, Gregori, Li Da-Xia, Han, Thandi, and Atta know that if their parents declare war on another country, they will be taken away by the Swan Riders and killed.

As with everything, change must happen. So, when Elián Palnik, from the Cumberland Alliance, arrives and claims that he not going to follow the status quo, things get rather interesting. Elián learns the high cost of rebellion, as do the rest of his fellow Children of Peace. They each face their own form of punishment as a result of his rebellion. When Elián's Grandmother declares war on Greta's country and invades the Precepture, both know that they will be dead shortly. That is the price of living in a world where AI's control everything, including weapons from space that can easily level entire cities.

The cast of characters in The Scorpion Rules are diverse as it comes. They are just as important as Greta and Elián to the overall scheme of things. The romance in this book could be considered a bit on the evil side. Greta may have feelings for Elián, but there's little doubt that Li Da-Xia is as important if not more to Greta. Especially after she makes a choice that changes her from human to AI in order to save those she loves. This is a book that is filled with ideas that SJW around the globe believe in, especially when it comes to access to clean, drinkable water. In this reality, the Children of Peace not only grow their own food, but are responsible goats, yes goats as well.

I was hesitant to read this book due in large part to the range of negative reviews that I have seen across the spectrum. I finished this book to see if I should bother reading the sequel called Swan Riders. I still haven't come up with a good answer to that question. I think this book could have been a bit better on the world building. I would have liked to learn more about Greta's other COP that are just as important as she is. I would like to know why the twist in the romance was necessary. I have a feeling that it won't continue beyond this book. I could be wrong.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

#Thursday Review - Breath of Earth by Beth Cato (Alternative History, Steampunk) @BethCato @HarperVoyagerUS

Series: Breath of Earth # 1
Format: E-Galley, 400 pages
Release Date: August 23, 2016
Publisher: Harper Voyager
Source: Publisher
Genre: Alternative History, Science Fiction

After the earth’s power under her city is suddenly left unprotected, a young geomancer must rely on her unique magic to survive in this fresh fantasy standalone from the author of the acclaimed The Clockwork Dagger.
In an alternate 1906, the United States and Japan have forged a powerful confederation— the Unified Pacific—in an attempt to dominate the world. Their first target is a vulnerable China. In San Francisco, headstrong secretary Ingrid Carmichael is assisting a group of powerful geomancer wardens who have no idea of the depth of her own talent—or that she is the only woman to possess such skills.
When assassins kill the wardens, Ingrid and her mentor are protected by her incredible magic. But the pair is far from safe. Without its full force of guardian geomancers, the city is on the brink of a cataclysmic earthquake that will expose the earth’s power to masterminds determined to control the energy for their own dark ends. The danger escalates when Chinese refugees, preparing to fight the encroaching American and Japanese forces, fracture the uneasy alliance between the Pacific allies, transforming San Francisco into a veritable powder keg. And the slightest tremor will set it off. . . .
Forced on the run, Ingrid makes some shocking discoveries about herself. Her already considerable magic has grown even more fearsome . . . and she may be the fulcrum on which the balance of world power rests.

Breath of Earth is the first installment in author Beth Cato's new series called Breath of Earth. Cato is also the author of the steampunk driven duology known as Clockwork Dagger, as well as several novella's in the same universe. Breath of Earth is a story that takes place between April 15 and April 18, 1906. The last date should be familiar to anyone who has heard about the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake that destroyed the city. 

The twist is that this series is set in an alternative history, steampunk world where the United States and Japan have formed an alliance called United Pacific. There are other alliances as well, including the Russian & Ottoman Empires. Cato has created a world where Japanese airships and technology helped the North win the Civil War. It is a world where Japan is the senior partner in the alliance with the US and has no hesitation in destroying China while showing its muscle. 

Geomancers are important to a city like San Francisco. They can absorb the energy from earthquakes, while keeping severe damage from happening. The energy they absorb, is transferred into a crystal known as Kermanite. 25-year old Ingrid Carmichael is the personal secretary to Earth Warden Sakaguchi, a member of the Cordillean Auxiliary of Geomancers. Ingrid, however, has a secret. She may be the only woman in history who is more powerful than those in the Auxiliary. Ingrid is able to store energy like a bank vault.

A fact that belays the  fact that she is also a woman who isn't white, which means that she gets very little respect if any, from men of this era. People actually people that Ingrid is an immigrant who is likely illiterate since only white people have the brains and skills to be a Geomancer. Cato doesn't hesitate to use sexism and racism to tell her story. Something that is actually a breath of fresh air and accurate for this era, especially towards the Chinese and women.

Ingrid's situation becomes dire when she and Warden Sakaguchi nearly die after a bomb goes off under the Auxiliary. Ingrid's powers become even more impressive when she is somehow able to save herself and the man who has raised her from a child. Ingrid's adventure starts in earnest after she meets the pacifists Cypress Jennings and his partner Fenris Braun who own a steam driven airship.  I loved the fact that Cato twists Theodore Roosevelt's history. Instead of becoming President, he is instead one of the powerful Ambassadors. 

I can't say this enough. If you are truly interested in learning more about this era, then please feel free to read the Afterward at how certain people were treated during this age. Happily, this book is not a standalone. I have been told that the next book will be titled Call of Fire, and will release in 2017. That's good news. 

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

#Wednesday Review - The Demon King by Cinda Williams Chima (Young Adult, Fantasy)

Series: Seven Realms # 1
Format: Hardcover, 506 pages
Release Date: October 6, 2009
Publisher: Hyperion Books
Source: Library
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy

Times are hard in the mountain city of Fellsmarch. Reformed thief Han Alister will do almost anything to eke out a living for his family. The only thing of value he has is something he can't sell—the thick silver cuffs he's worn since birth. They're clearly magicked—as he grows, they grow, and he's never been able to get them off.
One day, Han and his clan friend, Dancer, confront three young wizards setting fire to the sacred mountain of Hanalea. Han takes an amulet from Micah Bayar, son of the High Wizard, to keep him from using it against them. Soon Han learns that the amulet has an evil history—it once belonged to the Demon King, the wizard who nearly destroyed the world a millennium ago. With a magical piece that powerful at stake, Han knows that the Bayars will stop at nothing to get it back.
Meanwhile, Raisa ana'Marianna, princess heir of the Fells, has her own battles to fight. She's just returned to court after three years of freedom in the mountains—riding, hunting, and working the famous clan markets. Raisa wants to be more than an ornament in a glittering cage. She aspires to be like Hanalea—the legendary warrior queen who killed the Demon King and saved the world. But her mother has other plans for her...
The Seven Realms tremble when the lives of Hans and Raisa collide, fanning the flames of the smoldering war between clans and wizards.

The Demon King is the first installment in Cinda Williams Chima's Seven Realms series. This series that alternatives narratives between two characters. The first is 16-year old Hanson "Han" Alister aka Hunts Alone. Han is a former street lord who has tried to stay on the straight and narrow for the sake of his mother and little sister. The second is Raisa ana'Marianna, the princess heir of the Fells who has been seeing the Grey Wolves that indicate that trouble is brewing. 

These two characters couldn't be more different. Han wears silver cuffs on his wrists, while Raisa has been raised not only in her mother's world, but also her fathers which is much more exciting. Hans best friend is known as Fire Dancer and seems to know a lot about magic. Raisa's is Amon Byrne who comes from a long line of guards who have sworn to protect the monarchy with their lives, if necessary. One could hint that Amon would have been the perfect romantic interest for Raisa had things been different.

After a brief encounter with Micah Bayar and friends who are all magicians, Hans finds an amulet that only he is able to touch. An Amulet that people will kill in order to find. Raisa, in the meantime, finds that her own mother may be under the sway of magic that nearly destroyed the seven realms during the reign of the Demon King and Hanalea who Raisa tries to emulate. Raisa's curiosity and bravery really gives this book the much needed kick it needs to get going. 

My reading of this particular novel became necessary after I read Chima's Flamecaster which takes place 20 years after this series. It became necessary because this novel really hits on several characters who will be important cogs in Chima's new series. The Demon King, for all purposes for this review, takes place a thousand years after an agreement between the clans and the Wizard Council ended the calamity that nearly destroyed the world. Yet, as history is often likely to repeat itself, readers will find subtle hints that things aren't exactly all that copacetic when it comes to peace and harmony in the Seven Realms. 

The Demon King is slow paced for the first part of this book and that's fine since you need to understand the world and the characters that you are attempting to connect to. Han truly is the most intriguing character because of his silver cuffs and his street creed and the clans who have basically raised him. Whenever I find myself reading an Epic Fantasy novel, I have to suspend disbelief at the situations that these characters find themselves in.

Aye, I dare say that Raisa is a bit pretentious and snotty at times. She spends too much time thinking about who she is supposed to marry, or who she is supposed to kiss, and ignores what is going on right under her eyes. When the grand scheme is finally exposed, it is then that Raisa shows who she is really capable of being. That being said, and this being the first book in the series, reading The Exiled Queen next is almost mandatory to ensure that you remember how this book ended. 

In the end, The Demon King is a story that is filled with magic, treachery, heart breaking loss, action, and a whole lot of interesting secondary characters that hopefully will carry over into the next installment.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

#Tuesday Review - The Beauty of Darkness by Mary E. Pearson (Young Adult, Fantasy)

Series: The Remnant Chronicles # 3
Format: Hardcover, 679 pages
Release Date: August 2, 2016
Publisher: Henry Holt and Co. (BYR)
Source: Library
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy

Lia and Rafe have escaped Venda and the path before them is winding and dangerous - what will happen now? This third and final book in The Remnant Chronicles is not to be missed.
In The Remnant Chronicles a princess must find her way in a reborn world, through cultures built on myth, fairy tale, and the disconnected pieces of a world gone by. It is a story about the resilience of humanity and the short reach of history. But mostly The Remnant Chronicles is about Lia, and her timeless story of love and sacrifice.
Lia, Rafe, and Kaden's story comes to an epic conclusion in the final book in The Remnant Chronicles.

The Beauty of Darkness is the third and final installment in author Mary E. Pearson's The Remnant Chronicles. Picking up right where The Heart of Betrayal left off, Pearson once again weaves her way through FOUR separate narratives as she has done in the previous installments. The narratives are from Princess Lia of Morrighan, Crown Prince Rafe from Dalbreck, Kaden, the notorious assassin from Venda, as well as Pauline, Lia's handmaiden who has been left behind to deal with Lia's disappearance and being named an enemy of the state. 

The Beauty of Darkness takes our characters from Venda, where Lia and Rafe, with the help from Jeb, Tavish, Orrin, and Sven have managed to escape in the most incredible way possible. To Dalbreck, where Rafe must face a kingdom in disarray, a challenge to his leadership, and a choice between saving Dalbreck which may or may not face a rather large Vendan army incursion, or helping Lia with her own issues. Finally, to Morrighan where Lia's actions have come home to roost, and where her final showdown with the Kamizar, her parents, and those who have supported the Kamizar's attempt at taking over her country remain at large.

This really is the first time that readers have seen Dalbreck even for a brief moment. One could also say that about Morrighan as well, but we do get more of a feeling of the cutthroat politics of both nations. 
Dalbreck is the place where Lia was supposed to be Queen of after events prior to this trilogy were set in motion. It is a place resplendent in riches and beauty. It is also the place where Rafe has to find himself and lead a country that has been shocked by the deaths of the countries monarchy. This is the place that Rafe left behind in order to chase Lia all the way to Venda and back when he could have returned home.

Readers, you have to really give Rafe a whole lot of credit for his patience like Job. At any point in this trilogy, he could have told Lia to stuff her self, and walked away. At many points in this book, he should have done just that because Lia was making mistakes left and right without thinking first. Yet, in the end, he goes above and beyond the call of duty and makes Lia's decisions look a whole lot better than they should have been. Lia ended up being a better character in this book, than in previous installments. She's more of a take charge person and damn if she didn't have a whole lot of issues to take charge of.

I am happy that Pearson did away with the silly love triangle. I would say that Kaden and Lia are better as friends, than as romantic interests. I loved Kaden in this book, as well as his friends Griz and Eben. I am happy that Kaden becomes someone Lia can rely on rather than someone she needs to fall in love with. I am happy that Pauline found a slice of her own happiness after being left behind to deal with Lia's disappearance. I even liked who Pearson gave her a happy ending with. Shocking to say that I won't spoil that point. 

I loved Orrin, Tavish, Jeb, and Sven. They were Rafe's brothers in arms, and Lia's protectors when she needed them the most. I have to say that I felt really awful for the Vagabonds who Lia met in The Kiss of Deception. But, I am happy that at least one of the characters, Natiya, got a chance to do her part. The Beauty of Darkness isn't a joyful novel. It is filled with despair, and bloodshed, and deaths of those who have been around since the beginning. It is a novel of reunions, backstabbing, prophecies, gifts, and characters who shine when the darkness is about to sweep over them. The ending leaves some unanswered questions, but overall, I can freely allow my mind to wander into the realm of what could possibility happen next.

Monday, August 22, 2016

#Monday Review - Admiral by Sean Danker (Science Fiction)

Series: Evagardian # 1
Format: Hardcover, 320
Release Date: May 3, 2016
Publisher: ROC
Source: Publisher
Genre: Science Fiction

“I was on a dead ship on an unknown planet with three trainees freshly graduated into the Imperial Service. I tried to look on the bright side.”  
He is the last to wake. The label on his sleeper pad identifies him as an admiral of the Evagardian Empire—a surprise as much to him as to the three recent recruits now under his command. He wears no uniform, and he is ignorant of military protocol, but the ship’s records confirm he is their superior officer. 
Whether he is an Evagardian admiral or a spy will be of little consequence if the crew members all end up dead. They are marooned on a strange world, their ship’s systems are failing one by one—and they are not alone.

Admiral is the first installment in author Sean Danker's Evagardian series. Admiral is a militaristic science fiction story that features the narrative of a lead character named Admiral. The story begins when "Admiral" wakes up in his sleeper pod to find that he has been stranded on a dead Ganrean trade ship with three others. He soon discovers that he has been given the label of Admiral, and that the other three survivors are all recent graduates of the Evagardian Academy headed for the Julian, the Empresses' own flagship.

The graduates are Lt. Deilani, who sees the Admiral as either a Spy, a fraud, or someone not to be trusted. She does almost everything in her powers to push his buttons and get to admit who he really is without any success. Ensign Nils, who mostly follows his orders and is the most brilliant engineer you will find. He skills are more than impressive. Private Salmagard is a negotiator who recognizes who recognizes the Admiral, but doesn't give away who she thinks he really is. She follows his lead all the way without much if any hesitation. 

The one thing the crew can agree on, however, is that this unknown Admiral has some skills. He knows the ins and outs of the situation and has the leadership to put things into motion. He's not just a stationary subject that dictates to others while sitting around reading a book, or feeding his face with the short supply of food. Each of the characters brings their own goods along with them. Deilani knows her medical sciences, Nils is MacGyver in space, while Salmagard isn't afraid to get her hands dirty and is probably my favorite character. There might even be a bit of a romantic connection had the author leaned that way.

With the four facing life or death consequences from being stranded on a dead ship with no other surviving crew members, the mystery behind who the Admiral is remains something that will remain a secret until perhaps the sequel or mayhap a prequel? The four not only have to deal with a dead ship that is slowly tearing itself apart, but a planet that has a strange green atmosphere and alien life forms. They have to deal with the reality that they are putting their trust in someone they really don't know. They have to trust that he will somehow lead them to safety, and not leave them behind to the planet that is home to some very interesting alien life. They have to also deal with the fact that they are on a hostile planet where anyone could capture them and use them as cannon fodder to get what they want from the Evagardian's. Admiral is an intriguing book that reminds me of the original Aliens or the Martian. I shall definitely be reading the sequel called Free Space