Review: Avatar, the Last Airbender- the Rise of Kyoshi by F.C. Yee

41104164

F. C. Yee’s The Rise of Kyoshi delves into the story of Kyoshi, the Earth Kingdom–born Avatar. The longest-living Avatar in this beloved world’s history, Kyoshi established the brave and respected Kyoshi Warriors, but also founded the secretive Dai Li, which led to the corruption, decline, and fall of her own nation. The first of two novels based on Kyoshi, The Rise of Kyoshi maps her journey from a girl of humble origins to the merciless pursuer of justice who is still feared and admired centuries after she became the Avatar.

Continue reading “Review: Avatar, the Last Airbender- the Rise of Kyoshi by F.C. Yee”

Review: Sophia, Princess among Beasts by Emily Raymond

 

42779065

A princess who has lost her mother and father finds herself in a terrifying world that urgently needs a queen.

Sophia is smart, beautiful, and accomplished, a beloved princess devoted to the people and to reading books. The kingdom is hers, until she is plunged into a nightmarish realm populated by the awful beasts she read about as a child.

The beasts are real. And so is the great army marching on her castle. The people look to Sophia for protection. They will all perish unless she can unlock an ancient secret as profound as life and death itself.

Continue reading “Review: Sophia, Princess among Beasts by Emily Raymond”

BEA 2019, Pt 4- BookCon

And now, the last.

BookCon first popped up in 2014 when the creative minds behind BEA decided to cash in on the supernova that was the YA market and separate the bulk of it from the main show. They sectioned off the wing where the Autographing tables were and pushed every small/indie YA booth over there with them. Wheras BEA is pretty much an industry- related event, BookCon was wide open to the public.

This was most likely where the term “shitshow” first started.

While BEA attendees could travel back & forth, BookCon patrons were kept corralled on their side. Which meant you couldn’t move, you couldn’t talk to any vendors and there was no point in going over there since every nook & cranny was filled with people who had nowhere else to go. All lines for all drop/events/autographs were filled hours beforehand mainly because there wasn’t anything else for them to do.

As I’d explained in my first post, since my application for BEA had been rejected I signed up for BookCon. Since it was a separate event happening after the Expo, I hadn’t given it any thought and they had to have improved things since then… right?

Well… the price was cheap. It was only about $60 for the weekend as opposed to $300 for the 2 1/2 days of BEA, but you also get what you pay for. Like any big event, the devil lies in the details. Unlike BEA where only the high profile events and celebrity appearances require pre-registration, for BookCon you need to sign up (and pay) ahead of time for EVERYTHING- lectures, seminars, even the Autographing Tables! A big reason I attended was to try to get some things I’d missed at BEA- and turned out I still didn’t. All the stuff that’s free upon admission at BEA is treated like DLC at BookCon. Heck, where BEA is for promoting the main reason for BookCon is to sell. It’s more like a flea market than anything.

Floor Map

First thing I noticed was that the showfloor’s been halved. For the BEA the entire floor was available; for BookCon they cut off the side where all the indie & smaller publishers were located.

Instead of letting us all queue up on the atrium floor as we do for the BEA, were we shuffled off to the side wing- again where the Autographing Tables were usually located and behind the UnBound vendor area. Which meant you were gonna have 4x the attendees in literally half the space.

To top that off, everyone who’d attended those panels & lectures that you had to preregister for got early access to the showfloor. So they were already in line for drops & events that were listed to happen at right 10am when the floor opened up, which blew my morning since now I couldn’t do any of the stuff I wanted to. Real smooth.

Did manage to pick up a couple of titles I’d missed out on at BEA. Only thing was because of the crowd the line took over TWO HOURS to move and yeah- I missed out on two other signings because of it. *sigh*

I did manage to snag a copy of an exclusive ARC by Melissa de la Cruz, so there’s that.

Melissa de la Cruz

Finally, there was a particular ARC I’d wanted from Harper Collins- the Tiger Queen- that was listed to drop that afternoon, right before the close of business. Come to find out they’d given out all their copies the day before and didn’t have any left for the advertised drop that afternoon…

For me, BookCon was basically mop-up duty for the BEA. I met some folks, had a few good conversations and managed a few things but overall… it’s literally just for people who don’t attend BEA, publishers to sell their catalog & a cash cow for the promoters. There was only one thing left for me to do after all the bullshit:

Nachos

Here’s the BEA haul and the good stuff from BookCon.

BEA Haul

BookCon Haul

BEA2019 Pt 2- This & That

A few things about some of the actual author events and stuff.

Banner- Sulwe

Actress Lupita N’yongo has a children’s book coming out in October.  Both she & the illustrator, Vashti Harrison, did an autograph session- no interactions, no photos (they made you put your phone away before you got up to the booth even though anyone just passing by, or deliberately hanging around, took plenty of their own pictures)… and the publisher neglected to mention they weren’t giving out the book- they just signed a promo sketch for it.  Waited almost 45 minutes in line for that crap.  Pfft!  I knew some of the security people posted around the booth and immediately handed mine off to one of them.

Before all the madness happened, the bold, strong sister Karine Jean-Pierre made an appearance signing her new memoir.  So close to greatness!

Karine 1

I managed to acquire a Chuck Wendig ARC!

Me Holding Chuck Wendig Book

These two lovely ladies were on hand signing their new book as well!

Author- Maika & Maritza Moulite

Got to meet & talk with former Obama cabinet member Richard Stengel about his new book.  We agreed more than we disagreed.

Author- Richard Stengel

 

BEA2019 Pt 1: A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Book Expo…

Atrium 1

What a week…

The past few years applying to BEA was like trying to get refugee status or something. They wanted everything except my grandmother’s phone number. I understood the point: lots of people were stocking up on ARCs and selling them- even advertising them prior to actually getting them. Couple of years ago there was a woman who brought her kids to a trade show just to help her snag extra copies to sell. Heck, a woman was just caught trying to sell Leigh Bardugo’s ARC on eBay for $200 the same day it was given out!!! So, yeah- I get it…

…so you can imagine my surprise when my application was rejected.

That took a moment to process. I’d been attending since 2010, and had even been a VIP Attendee; the only one I missed was that one time they went to Chicago. And now I wouldn’t be attending this year’s either.

When I contacted them via the handy link they provided to inquire what the issue might be- had I possibly neglected to provide some info, etc- I got the stock response: “…it’s our event… we reserve the right to refuse anyone… all decisions are final… blahblahblah.” Not what I asked, but whatever, yo. And hey- they still invited me to register for BookCon!

*sigh* Aiight… I haven’t been to BookCon since they initially rolled it out- and lemme tell you, that first one was probably how the term “shitshow” got coined. It’s been a few years, so how bad could it possibly be now? (More on that in another blog) And it was relatively cheap, so- what the hell? I’d still have the week off beforehand.

By Wednesday I’d remembered something: when I first started attending BEA in 2010 they also had onsite registration at the Javitz Center. Then a friend of mine also advised me to try it, so I treked out to the Javitz and wouldn’t ya know- I got right in with no problem!!! Yep- after giving me a bunch of bullshit online they let me sign up on the spot anyways. Only difference was the $50 I would’ve saved via Online Early Registration.

Amazing.

A few of the usual YA publishers were set up in the atrium looking to snag your attention before you got caught up in all the madness.

I’m not the only one who’ll tell you the quality of BEA has declined the last few years. This one was stark in its degradation: fewer small/indie/self publishers, less swag, even fewer author booths & signing sessions from the big guys. I didn’t bother with any of the panels, sessions or lectures- there really wasn’t any new information to pick up from them. A big problem was the layout of the floor. What used to be a strict, linear structure was jumbled and cross-combined: 1200 & 1300 numbered booth in the 1400 rows, etc. It didn’t help that an entire wing of was taken up by something called UnBound: vendors selling all the knickknacks & chotchke you see in bookstores- mugs, pens, candles, etc.

Most of the usual suspects were present- Hachette, Penguin, Simon & Shuster, Macmillian, Shadow Mountain, Sourcebooks, Black Stone- but I was surprised to see this spot by Granity Studios, Kobe Bryant’s indie. The books looked really interesting.

Some of the smaller vendors like Vesuvian were off on the side, but never seemed to be around. Went by their booth three times to check them out- and no one was there! Not a good look, fellas.

Vesuvian Books Ad

Best moment came when I was trying to find the line to stand in for an ARC drop only to discover George Takei was signing previews of his memoir graphic novel about his time in American Concentration Camps during WWII. Got to shake his hand (twice) and chat with him for about a minute & a half! (apologies for that to everyone in line)

George Takei 1

Second best moment came at the end of a long, kinda disappointing day. Hachette reissued a book from just a few years ago- think I still have the ARC- complete with the same campaign: free beer! Granted- they were Coronas, but at that point you take what you can get! In fact, a few spots were doing it: mimosas, fruit & veggie snacks and whatnot.

All in all, it was memorable only for what it lacked in comparison to previous years.

Review: Warrior of the Wild by Tricia Levenseller

43446574

How do you kill a god?

As her father’s chosen heir, eighteen-year-old Rasmira has trained her whole life to become a warrior and lead her village. But when her coming-of-age trial is sabotaged and she fails the test, her father banishes her to the monster-filled wilderness with an impossible quest: to win back her honour, she must kill the oppressive god who claims tribute from the villages each year or die trying.


Lot of hit & miss here.

First the premise is intriguing but kinda heavy-handed… and ridiculous.  A bunch of local villages have little to no contact with each other yet have so much in common: customs, language, traditions & their subjugation to the will of a powerful being.  It’s explained Peruxolo just showed up one day, brought everyone to their knees with his powers & it’s been downhill ever since.  They still venerate the goddess they’ve always prayed to- who never intervened in any of this- but this one’s here, now & wants stuff.

The idea of a girl leading a village is unthinkable, yet Rasmira’s father finds himself in just that situation what with having no sons in all of his brood.  His wife even feels the brunt of his disappointment for her role in all this and responds by both shunning her precocious child and seeking what she considers redemption in a very un-motherly way. Fortunately, Rasmira’s sister is a master healer who’s created a poultice that heals wounds almost immediately- based on properties of some of the local monsters- and packs a whole bunch of them for her before leaving.  Oddly enough, these come in pretty handy later on.  Whew- glad we dodged that bullet.

During her exile, Rasmira meets an unlikely pair of likewise exiled boys- Iric & Soren- who’ve been surviving in the wild for about a year now, via their partnership.   After the usual getting to know you/can we trust you process, Rasmira convinces the boys that by working together on their mattgurs, they can all go home- especially if they complete theirs first.  Luckily, Iric happens to be a master at smithcraft to make their weapons & armor and Soren’s a pretty darn good hunter himself with a heart as big as the world, the kind of heart a girl could learn to appreciate in a guy.  Wow- what are the odds of all that happening?

Being a YA novel, the three teens with skills & reasoning far beyond those of the adults bond together and manage to do what the adults failed to even attempt in hundreds of years- including bonding together just to survive in the first place.  Go figure.

The concept of the mattgurs is almost incomprehensible.  You failed your Rite of Passage- now go away and die.  We’ll assign you a challenge to make it look like you’ve got a chance to come home but, seriously- fuck off.  Why?  With almost no contact between villages, monsters all over the place and a god who demands so much tribute you need every able-bodied person on hand to meet quotas you’re having trouble meeting… why would you do that?

Finding, trapping & killing the monsters to complete their quests took some work, but it’s nothing anyone else couldn’t have done if they’d ever so much as TRIED!  Granted, solving the mystery of Peruxolo takes some effort & daring, but that’s the worst part of the book: making everyone else dumb so the main characters seem smart by comparison.  It’s made clear that no one’s ever even attempted to before just so these three can save the day.

It’s also LGBT-friendly, as Iric’s open homosexuality isn’t even an issue & his primary motivation is to get back to his village to reunite with the boy he loves.  The social commentary subtext feels forced seeing how same-sex relationships are normal yet women can’t be warriors or leaders.

There’s plenty of stuff to like here- the mystery of Peruxolo never really is one, but unearthing the details will hold your interest.  And there’s some character moments & insights that are clever and the world itself is interesting.  It just all feels like set pieces that never really fit together.

3.5/5 stars.

Reading Progress- pg 279/Part 4 of Warrior of the Wild

 

Two quests down, one to go. Rasmira finally lets go of her past and she & Soren have declared their feelings for each other while Iric works out ways to help complete her quest.  A quest that moves further towards reality as they discover more of Peruxolo’s secrets.  A little too contrived and well, simplistic, for my tastes but it’s well paced and some good characterization. The final challenge & mystery of the god himself awaits.

 

Reading Progress: Priory of the Orange Tree & Warrior of the Wild

43446574

***As her father’s chosen heir, eighteen-year-old Rasmira has trained her whole life to become a warrior and lead her village. But when her coming-of-age trial is sabotaged and she fails the test, her father banishes her to the monster-filled wilderness with an impossible quest: to win back her honor, she must kill the oppressive god who claims tribute from the villages each year or die trying.***

I’m on page 199. Wasn’t feeling it too much at first; seemed more focused on the idea of romance than telling the story. The heroine, Rasmina, was more intent on getting her first kiss from a boy than focusing on passing her battle test, even during the battle.  But I gotta admit- I didn’t see that twist coming. 

Things have picked up since her exile: Rasmina discovers allies out in the Wilds and makes progress in her seemingly impossible quest to kill a god (who clearly isn’t one). The idea that NO ONE ever ventured beyond the confines of their village is kinda odd and feels forced, but it’s not that improbable. Like most YA books nowadays characters are also LGBT- friendly.

29774026

***The House of Berethnet has ruled Inys for a thousand years. Still unwed, Queen Sabran the Ninth must conceive a daughter to protect her realm from destruction—but assassins are getting closer to her door.

Ead Duryan is an outsider at court. Though she has risen to the position of lady-in-waiting, she is loyal to a hidden society of mages. Ead keeps a watchful eye on Sabran, secretly protecting her with forbidden magic.

Across the dark sea, Tané has trained all her life to be a dragonrider, but is forced to make a choice that could see her life unravel.

Meanwhile, the divided East and West refuse to parley, and forces of chaos are rising from their sleep.***

I’m up to pg 317 of 848.  This is the best book I’ve read in a long time!  A true heir to the GoT style of storytelling, this a broad, sweeping drama of grand legends, noble beasts, evil monsters, tireless conspiracies, unsung heroes, hidden legacies and schemes high and low coalescing into a perfect storm.  And like GoT, there’s plenty of people you really shouldn’t get too attached to.  And I’m not even halfway done yet.

New ARCs arrived this week…

Picked up two more ARCs to add to the ever-growing mountain in m apartment that they’ll one day find me buried beneath. s’cool- there’s worse ways to go out.

Only real problem is they might get in the way of finishing one of the best books I’ve read in a very long time:

Decisions, decisions…

Review: Scarlet (Scarlet #1) by A.C. Gaughen

11983940

Will Scarlet is good at two things: stealing from the rich and keeping secrets – skills that are in high demand in Robin Hood’s band of thieves, who protect the people of Nottingham from the evil sheriff. Scarlet’s biggest secret of all is one only Robin and his men know…that she is posing as a thief; that the slip of a boy who is fast with sharp knives is really a girl.

The terrible events in her past that led Scarlet to hide her real identity are in danger of being exposed when the thief taker Lord Gisbourne arrives in town to rid Nottingham of the Hood and his men once and for all. As Gisbourne closes in and puts innocent lives at risk, Scarlet must decide how much the people of Nottingham mean to her, especially John Little, a flirtatious fellow outlaw, and Robin, whose quick smiles have the rare power to unsettle her. There is real honor among these thieves and so much more – making this a fight worth dying for.

Continue reading “Review: Scarlet (Scarlet #1) by A.C. Gaughen”