What I’m Reading: The Wicked King by Holly Black

You know, I’m pretty sure that in all my life I will never be able to say enough about Holly Black and her fantastic writing. I grew up loving the idea of Fairies (the big, human-ish ones that we now call the Fae, in order distinguish them from the tiny little ones with wings (which I also love, but that’s a tale for another day)). And Holly Black really brings them to life for me.

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The second book of the Folk of the Air trilogy is perhaps better than the first one, The Cruel Prince, which I reviewed last year, and if I have to give a reason for this it is because in The Wicked King we get to see the underwater fae, and if you’ve read my books, you know that I love underwater kingdoms—they are just so exotic! (also, Hello! Aquaman!) Jude continues to be a strong kick-a** hero, who isn’t afraid of a good fight. What could be better? I can’t wait for the next book.

5/5 Stars

JEH

What I’m Reading: The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert

Young Adult Book Review: The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert

When I first heard about this book, I was tempted to pick it up straight away, but it’s a good thing I didn’t since I received it in the OwlCrate box that month. Melissa Albert’s writing style was a bit different than I’m used too, with some sentences that took a couple reads to understand, but once I adjusted, I quickly fell into the pages of the story.

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Now, I enjoyed The Hazel Wood, but something about the ending didn’t quite jive with my expectations at the beginning of the book. I loved the beginning. I loved the promise of the mystery and the shadowed back story, but I felt the end took this twist that was unexpected but also not quite as full as I was expecting. It was fast and happened really quickly, when it probably could have had much more time devoted to it.

The main character Alice as fun and loveable, as were Finch and Audrey and most of the other characters. This book is very fairy tale, but modern, which I really like. Now, apparently, this is the first book in of two, or possibly a trilogy, I’m not sure. But according to GoodReads a second book is expected next year. However, The Hazel Wood ends well as a standalone, so I don’t really feel like I’d have to pick up the second book. I’m thinking that maybe the second book is about different characters in the Hazel Wood world, so it will be interesting to see how that ends up.

Here’s a quote I that I loved, from page 128 of The Hazel Wood:

“Everyone is supposed to be a combination of nature and nurture, their true selves shaped by years of friends and fights and parents and dreams and things you did too young and things you overheard that you shouldn’t have and secrets you kept or couldn’t and regrets and victories and quiet prides, all the packed-together detritus that becomes what you call your life.”

Overall, I’d give this book 4/5 Stars, but if there were room for decimals, it would probably be just a bit below a four. Have you read The Hazel Wood yet?

JEH

Trying to Commit to a Publishing Schedule

One of the hardest things about self-publishing (at least for me), is committing to a publishing schedule. I’m terrible at picking release dates for my books and achieving that date. Having a day job never helps, since something always comes up that slows down book development, but as I’m currently a full-time writer until July, I’m hoping I can make some big goals and stick to them. It’s been lovely going to cafés and drinking tea, and getting so much work done on projects that I love.

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In the works right now I have The Circlet: Artifacts of Avalum Book 2, which is off with my beta readers. After I get their comments, it will be another round of edits before sending the book to my editor. I’m hoping to have The Circlet released in May.

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This week I finally found the time to compile the Black Depths Boxed Set for the complete series. I whipped together an ebook cover and compiled all the books into one gigantic read. It’s live on Amazon, Kobo, and Smashwords right now, and should be up on iBooks and Nook soon. If you like to read everything all in one go (or no someone who does), be sure to spread the word.

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I’m slowly picking away at The Chain: Artifacts of Avalum Book 3, and hope to release that in the fall, with a box set of that series to follow after a couple months. There are two books I wrote years ago that I’m planning to clean up, one of which I will release as a one off and the other that I hope to shop around to a small, literary press. Both of those should be complete by May.

What I’m trying to figure out now, is what story idea should I pursue next? I love self-publishing, and I want to write a series that is similar to both Black Depths and Artifacts of Avalum. I would like to get the outlining for this series done before I head back to my day job in July, but, as I’m also working on my short story collection, I’m not sure how much time I will have.

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But, here’s a chance for you to vote. My main debate right now is whether I should write another “Port-hole” fantasy, which means the characters start in this world and travel to a different, fantastical world, (similar to Artifacts), or whether I should write a 100% fantasy, where Earth does not exist (or at least the characters in the book don’t know about Earth, because they have magic, not space travel). Do you prefer fantasy that is connected to our world, or not? Let me know in the comments!

JEH

What I’m Reading: The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater

Young Adult Book Review: The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater.

This is one of those books that you hear about forever, and that you know a lot of people love, but you just put it off because something about it doesn’t appeal to you. To me, I didn’t like the cover or the blurb, so I never picked it up. But then one day it was one of the best books available at my library for ebook lending, so I checked it out.

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I loved it! I have to say that I became obsessed. I don’t think, looking back, that the cover or the blurb do the actual book justice. The blurb is really long and doesn’t at all bring up the books mystical elements (just that bit about her mother being clairvoyant really). What drew me into the book was the lay lines and tarot, two things I’ve always been interested in. Also, the blurb makes it sound like the book is all told from Blue’s point of view, but a lot of the book, (I’d say more than half), is told from the boys points of view.

If you like magical mysteries, Raven Boys is definitely a book I’d recommend. And if you like Audiobooks, this one is very well done.

JEH

What I’m Reading: A Torch Against the Night by Sabaa Tahir

Young Adult Book Review: A Torch Against the Night by Sabaa Tahir

I read An Ember in the Ashes sometime last year and you can find my review of the first book of the trilogy here. I had been wanting to read A Torch Against the Night for a while, and I finally picked it up in February.

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I love this series. I loved the first book, and I loved the second book too. I can’t wait to find out what will happen in book three.

My favourite parts of this series are the strong characters. I love strong characters, which is probably why I love Helene more than Laia. Laia could be a little bit stronger, though she is stronger than most.

The setting and world building is great. And in A Torch Against the Night, the world expands to new destinations as more is revealed about the world.

The third books in this series (the Ember Quartet), is to be release on June 12th, 2018, and I’ll definitely be picking it up. Have you read this series yet?

JEH

 

What I’m Reading: The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon

Young Adult Book Review: The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon

Every so often I take a break from Young Adult Fantasy books and read something along contemporary lines. Most of the time I love these books, but for some reason it’s one genre I just can’t read back to back. Maybe because it gives you so much to think about.

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The Sun is Also a Star follows two immigrant teens in New York, one who is a legal immigrant and one who is not. Their narrative is interwoven with little bits and insights about other side characters, and all together this makes for a magical book. I loved it. The  characters are so real and deep that you just can’t forget them. And all the questions they ask resound with, “hey, I’ve wondered that too”.

And then there’s that fantastically bright cover!

If you’re looking for a contemporary YA read, I would highly recommend this one.

5/5 Stars

JEH

What I’m Reading: Their Fractured Light by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner

Young Adult Book Review: Their Fractured Light by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner

Sometimes the problem with borrow e-books (or audiobooks) from the library is that they expire and if I haven’t read them fast enough then I need to go on the wait list to borrow them again. This happened with Their Fractured Light.

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Their Fractured Light is the third and final Starbound novel. I was pleasantly surprised by the first book in the series, but was a bit disappointed to find that each book in this series has two different main characters. Their Fractured Light follows Sophia and The Knave on their fight to save the galaxy. While the story does intersect with the characters from the first two books, this story is mostly about Sophia and the Knave.

All in all, the book was solid. I liked the experience of seeing a new world, getting to know a different piece of this galaxy, but I didn’t like the characters quite as much as I did in the first two books, probably making Their Fractured Light my least favourite book in Starbound. Still a solid read and enjoyable book. I plan to one day read more books by Amie Kaufman and Meaghan Spooner, especially Unearthed, which was just released this month.

4/5 Stars

JEH

What I’m Reading: Prodigy by Marie Lu

Young Adult Book Review: Prodigy by Marie Lu

Prodigy is the second book in the Legend Trilogy by Marie Lu. This book has a fairly high rating on Goodreads, and I have some friends that just love this series. I think the books are okay, but I don’t seem to find them as engaging as some people.

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Prodigy once again follows June and Day as they struggle against the government. I think my main reason for disengagement with this story is the lack of detail. I feel more confused about the world it is set in than knowledgeable. I like the story, I like June’s character (more so than Day’s), but I’m sad to say that I just don’t love it. This book is a bit along the lines of The Hunger Games and An Ember in The Ashes, both of which I love. So maybe Prodigy just has too much competition. Still, it is a good read, especially if you are a die-hard fan of dystopian young adult books.

3.5/5 Stars (rounded up to 4 on Goodreads)

JEH

My 2017 Reading Roundup

Today is the last day of the year! That means it’s time to take a look at how I’ve done over the past year, and to look at my plans for next year.

I set my Goodreads goal to 60 books for 2017, and reached that goal last week. I’m currently sitting sitting at 62 books finished, and may finish the gigantic Oathbringer before the end of the night (my New Year’s Eve plans consist of dinner with wonderful friends and their families, and coming home early to read), which would put me at 63 books!

My most favourite read of the year was The Girl Who Drank The Moon. I seriously love this book. One of my all time favourites.

My second favourite read was An Ember in The Ashes. I’m hoping to start A Torch Against The Night, and to finish this series when the final book is released in 2018.

My third favourite read was Lost Stars. This book, set in the Star Wars universe really surprised me. But it’s also stuck with me, and I’m actually kind of hoping Disney turns this one into a movie. And no, I never did get around to posting about this book, and this is the only picture I took of this read.

I am, of course, loving Oathbringer, but as I have 75 pages left, it wouldn’t quite be fair to place it in my list of favourites yet, though I’m sure it would be.

My favourite cover and book picture was of Jane Eyre. I also loved my day trip out to Crooked Bush, and just had to share this picture again.

What were your favorite reads of 2017?

Tomorrow I’ll update on my goals and plans for 2018. Happy New Year everyone!

JEH

What I’m Reading: The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black

Young Adult Book Review: The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black

I wasn’t sure what to expect when I started this book, but I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised. The Darkest Part of the Forest is a beautifully written (and I mean pink-sunset beautiful) novel about a young girl, her brother, a sword, and a forest full of dark faerie folk.

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Probably my favourite part of this book was that it is a standalone novel. After reading a bunch of trilogies or series, sometimes it is so nice to read a book that is just that, a book. Nothing more expected, no more cliff hangers. Hazel, the main character, is strong and headstrong, and contrast nicely to her gifted brother Ben, who is gay. It was really great to see the loves and lives of Hazel and Ben intertwine. The relationship between the two characters is fully explored and deep with complication, just like sibling relationships often are.

The only thing that sometimes wore on me with this book, was the slow, backstory which cropped up here and there. Sometimes it felt like a bit too much of the story took place in the past, but mostly I did see a place for it. And the writing was so good that it made all of the reading worthwhile.

A solid 4.5/5 Stars.

JEH