Saturday, January 9, 2016

The Wizard's Promise

From Amazon:
Hanna has spent her life hearing about the adventures of her namesake Ananna, the lady pirate, and assassin Naji. She dreams of the same adventures, but little does she know she is about to tumble into one of her own. Hanna is apprenticed to a taciturn fisherman called Kolur, and, during a day of storms and darkness, are swept wildly off course.
In this strange new land, Kolur hires a stranger to join the crew and, rather than heading home, sets a course for the dangerous island of Jadanvar. As Hanna meets a secretive merboy, and learns that Kolur has a deadly past, she soon realises that wishing for adventures is a dangerous game - because those wishes might come true.

My Thoughts:
First of all-I love this cover so so much.

I also really enjoyed Clarke's other series? duology? starting with The Assassin's Curse (read 2012, sequel read in 2013). This takes place in the same universe and stars the daughter of someone who knew the protagonist in that series.

Anyways. The Wizard's Promise is about a young potential Wind Witch who is also a fisherman's apprentice who is whisked away on an adventure when her master finds it necessary to storm an old lover's wedding and stop her from marrying a villain. Of course, in this book, they haven't yet made it that far. In fact this book mostly focuses on the trials of sailing so far north, and the falling out between Kolur and Hanna before she ultimately decides to help him in his quest in addition to a powerful witch and the North Wind. Needless to say, I am eagerly anticipating the follow up.

Rating: ***1/2

Friday, January 8, 2016

The Adjacent

From Amazon
In the near future, Tibor Tarent, a freelance photographer, is recalled from Anatolia to Britain when his wife, an aid worker, is killed—annihilated by a terrifying weapon that reduces its target to a triangular patch of scorched earth.

A century earlier, Tommy Trent, a stage magician, is sent to the Western Front on a secret mission to render British reconnaissance aircraft invisible to the enemy.

Present day. A theoretical physicist develops a new method of diverting matter, a discovery with devastating consequences that will resonate through time.

My Thoughts:
To be honest, I have no idea what happened in this book. I mean. I can give you details and what superficially happened. But I don't know what's going on. Are all the storylines echos of a single event? Multiverses? Retellings of the same event? With that said, while frustrating, I really enjoyed The Adjacent. Don't know what's happening-but it was an enjoyable and puzzling experience. There are also more storylines than the summary indicates...and the Tommy Trent one is a rather small part though magic is a common thread-as is flying-as is photography.

Rating: ****

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

The Master Magician (The Paper Magician Series)

From Amazon:
Throughout her studies, Ceony Twill has harbored a secret, one she’s kept from even her mentor, Emery Thane. She’s discovered how to practice forms of magic other than her own—an ability long thought impossible.
While all seems set for Ceony to complete her apprenticeship and pass her upcoming final magician’s exam, life quickly becomes complicated. To avoid favoritism, Emery sends her to another paper magician for testing, a Folder who despises Emery and cares even less for his apprentice. To make matters worse, a murderous criminal from Ceony’s past escapes imprisonment. Now she must track the power-hungry convict across England before he can take his revenge. With her life and loved ones hanging in the balance, Ceony must face a criminal who wields the one magic that she does not, and it may prove more powerful than all her skills combined.
The whimsical and captivating follow-up to The Paper Magician and The Glass Magician, The Master Magician will enchant readers of all ages.

My Thoughts:
This is the final book in a trilogy. A short book, a mere 200 or so pages. But it is packed with adventure, tension, and a satisfying conclusion!  Our protagonist Ceony is finally preparing to take her exam to become a Magician (in Folding naturally), after two years of apprenticeship and two novels. Unfortunately a criminal who has already made attempts on her life escapes en route to his execution and causes a bit of an obsession for Ceony. While she should be preparing for her exam, she instead seeks out this murderer multiple times and dabbles in non-Folding magics that should be forbidden to her. Sounds exciting, right? All in all, an enjoyable conclusion to a great (middle grade?) trilogy! I will definitely pick up Holmberg's newest book once it goes on sale since she can clearly write some enjoyable and easy young adult (?) fantasy!

Rating: ***

Sunday, January 3, 2016

No Sweat: How the Simple Science of Motivation Can Bring You a Lifetime of Fitness

Amazon says:
Selected as the #1 book in diet/exercise for 2015 by USA Best Book Awards.
We start out with the best intentions. We're going to exercise more and get in shape! Then five days a week at the gym turns into two... then becomes none. We hit the snooze button and skip the morning run.
We really do want to be healthy and fit, but we're over whelmed and overextended—and exercise feels like another chore to complete. Is it any wonder we don't stick with it?
Behavior expert Michelle Segar has devoted her career to the science of motivation. In No Sweat, she reveals that while "better health" or "weight loss" sound like strong incentives, human beings are hardwired to choose immediate gratification over delayed benefits. In other words, we're not going to exercise unless it makes us happy right now.
So what's the solution? To achieve lasting fitness, we have to change our minds—before we can change our bodies. In No Sweat, Segar shows us how. Translating twenty years of research on exercise and motivation into a simple four-point program, she helps readers broaden their definition of exercise, find pleasure in physical activity, and discover realistic ways to fit it into their lives. Activities we enjoy, we repeat—making this evidence-based system more sustainable in the long run than a regimen of intense workouts. Even if we don't sweat, we really benefit.
The success of the clients Segar has coached testifies to the power of her program. Their stories punctuate the book, entertaining and emboldening readers to break the cycle of exercise failure once and for all. Getting in shape has never been so easy—or so much fun. 

My Thoughts:
  While the many conclusions of this book seem rather intuitive and maybe even obvious, I did enjoy the emphasis on Meaning and Permission when it comes to fitness and self-care. Segar emphasizes low-impact, informal, and joyful movement in small increments for a lifetime-arguing that it still adds up to more than a few weeks of high-intensity followed by a lifetime of inactivity, burnout, and guilt. Which is probably true, and I'm sure resonates with most people. I'm the asshole who likes high-intensity, highly structured workouts so this didn't really appeal to me and I admit it made me realize a silly bias....because that just didn't seem like "real exercise." This type of misconception or socialized expectation of what exercise should look like is a large part of Segar's discussion on basically overthrowing our societal and personal paradigms of what constitutes "real" fitness and what we "should" be doing versus what would bring us joy, fuel our lives, and improve our relationships with ourselves and others. I want to keep this review short (so I can keep up the habit of reviewing...definitely in line with Segar's philosphy!) but I did enjoy this bit of fitness motivation and do intend to incorporate her process into my own life!

Rating (Nonfiction): ***

2016 Goals

1. 120 books!
2. At least 12 non-fiction! Doesn't have to be academic-could be makeup or self-help or whatever!
3. At least a cursory review of each!
5. Have fun!

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Deathless by Catherynne M. Valente

Author: Catherynne M. Valente
Title: Deathless
Themes: love, power, humanity, war, death

Plot: From Amazon

Twentieth-century Russian history provides a background for Valente's lush reimagining of folkloric villain Koschei the Deathless and his dalliance with Marya Morevna, a clever but troubled young woman. After Koschei sweeps Marya away from her family's home in St. Petersburg-Petrograd-Leningrad, Baba Yaga assigns her three tasks that will make her worthy of marrying Koschei. As she spends more time in Koschei's Country of Life, Marya starts to become too much like her unearthly lover, until naïve Ivan Nikolayevich helps her regain her humanity (as well as the sympathy of the reader). Valente's lush language and imagery add to the magic and fundamentally Russian nature of the story, drawing pointed parallels between the Soviet Union's turmoil and the endless war between Koschei and his brother, Viy. Readers used to the Brothers Grimm and Charles Perrault will find this tale peculiar but enchanting.

My Thoughts: Reading Deathless was a revelation for me. It was my first Valente (certainly not my last) and it shocked me. I devoured this disturbing, sensual, and beautiful re-imagined folktale. I can't say that there is a single likable character in the whole novel...with a cast ranging from humans, spirits, demi-gods (??), and seasons. But they are compelling. The imagery alone is fantastic-Marya lives in a human world full of twelve mothers, red scarves, and house spirits. Then she is transported (it's a long trip including trials and feasts which is an unnerving and delightful sequence in itself) to the land of Life which is populated by spirits, living architecture, and the unending struggle against Death and his kingdom.

In addition to the bold and bizarre world-building, Marya enters into marriage with Life, who puts on skin to please her. The exploration of an open marriage and bdsm is intriguing though certainly not the main focus of the novel. This melding of Russian folklore is truly about war and loss and that all things End. I'm still not sure if I want to read all the fantastic elements of the story as an escapist fantasy from the realities of starving during a crumbling regime in mid-century Russia or as a wonderful surrealist dark fiction.

Rating: ****1/2
The only reason this doesn't have five stars is because I know this dark magical realism thing doesn't appeal to everyone. 

Similar Books: Amazon recommends Gregory Maguire and Neil Gaiman and similar authors...but I am forced to disagree. Neither gets as grimy, dirty, dark, and transcendent as Valente does in Deathless. With that said, I really can't think of any similar reads off the top of my head. Oops.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Best of 2015

God I'm inconsistent.
Well here's a list. I do enjoy lists.

Best Books of 2015
1. Annihilation/Authority/Acceptance by Jeff VanderMeer (is it overthetop to say lifechanging? these books haunt me. I was consumed by them when I read them in January...and am still obsessed now).
2. Moriarty by Anthony Horowitz (enjoyed every step of the way)
3. Vicious by V. E. Schwab (loved this spin on heroes/villains and the nemesis!)
4. Deathless by Catherynne M. Valente (Valente has stolen my heart this year, can't wait to read more)


Honorable Mentions
1. Tender Morsels by Margo Lanagan (so good. Did do a mini review of this!)
2. The Lathe of Heaven by Ursula K. Le Guin (Why did I only discover Le Guin this year?)
3. The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker (unexpected love but how could I resist a friendship/love story between a clay golem and a trapped jinni as immigrants during turn of the century New York?)
4. Skullcrack City by Jeremy Robert Johnson (surreal New Weird madness. Love)
5. The Rook by Daniel O'Malley (fun read!)

* I did read Station Eleven and Ready Player One this year but found them just okay-good books but after the hype machine I was underwhelmed. I would recommend Station Eleven. Ready Player One only if you love the 1980s.

Notable Media
1. Rediscovered the music of my high school years...why hello My Chemical Romance, Fall Out Boy, and Panic! At the Disco...I do still love you.
2. Rock bands with female vocalists-Halestorm, In This Moment, and The Pretty Reckless. 
3. Gin Wigmore and July Talk. I don't know why...but loving those raspy vocals.

1. The Song of the Sea. Amazing. I cried.

1. Once Upon a Time. For real this time.
2. The X Files. Holy shit I'm ready for you January.