Wednesday, December 31, 2014

January TBR

Here's a tentative list of what I'll be reading next month.  There is no particular order, really, and things may change.

Graphic Novels
Hellblazer vol. 2 by Jamie Delano
Hawkeye vol. 1: My Life as a Weapon
Vampire Hunter D vol. 1
Batman and Son by Grant Morrison

For My Challenge(s)
Finish a Series: Elementals Series by Brigid Kemmerer
My Brother's Choice: The Innocent Mage by Karen Miller

Mistborn, The Well of Ascension, and The Hero of Ages by Brandon Sanderson

The Queen of Attolia and The King of Attolia by Megan Whalen Turner

Top Ten Books of 2014

10. The Assassin's Curse (The Assassin's Curse, #1) by Cassandra Rose Clarke

Ananna of the Tanarau abandons ship when her parents try to marry her off to another pirate clan. But that only prompts the scorned clan to send an assassin after her. When Ananna faces him down one night, armed with magic she doesn't really know how to use, she accidentally activates a curse binding them together. 

To break the spell, Ananna and the assassin must complete three impossible tasks--all while grappling with evil wizards, floating islands, haughty manticores, runaway nobility, strange magic...and the growing romantic tension between them.

9. The Iron Trial (Magisterium, #1) by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare

Most kids would do anything to pass the Iron Trial.

Not Callum Hunt. He wants to fail.

All his life, Call has been warned by his father to stay away from magic. If he succeeds at the Iron Trial and is admitted into the Magisterium, he is sure it can only mean bad things for him.

So he tries his best to do his worst - and fails at failing.

Now the Magisterium awaits him. It's a place that's both sensational and sinister, with dark ties to his past and a twisty path to his future.

The Iron Trial is just the beginning, for the biggest test is still to come . . .

8. Wither (The Chemical Garden, #1) by Lauren DeStefano

By age sixteen, Rhine Ellery has four years left to live. She can thank modern science for this genetic time bomb. A botched effort to create a perfect race has left all males with a lifespan of 25 years, and females with a lifespan of 20 years. Geneticists are seeking a miracle antidote to restore the human race, desperate orphans crowd the population, crime and poverty have skyrocketed, and young girls are being kidnapped and sold as polygamous brides to bear more children. 

When Rhine is kidnapped and sold as a bride, she vows to do all she can to escape. Her husband, Linden, is hopelessly in love with her, and Rhine can't bring herself to hate him as much as she'd like to. He opens her to a magical world of wealth and illusion she never thought existed, and it almost makes it possible to ignore the clock ticking away her short life. But Rhine quickly learns that not everything in her new husband's strange world is what it seems. Her father-in-law, an eccentric doctor bent on finding the antidote, is hoarding corpses in the basement. Her fellow sister wives are to be trusted one day and feared the next, and Rhine is desperate to communicate to her twin brother that she is safe and alive. Will Rhine be able to escape--before her time runs out?

Together with one of Linden's servants, Gabriel, Rhine attempts to escape just before her seventeenth birthday. But in a world that continues to spiral into anarchy, is there any hope for freedom?

7. Death Masks (The Dresden Files, #5)

Harry Dresden, Chicago's only practicing professional wizard, should be happy that business is pretty good for a change. But now he's getting more than he bargained for.

A duel with the Red Court of Vampires' champion, who must kill Harry to end the war between vampires and wizards...

Professional hit men using Harry for target practice...

The missing Shroud of Turin...

A handless and headless corpse the Chicago police need identified...

Not to mention the return of Harry's ex-girlfriend Susan, who's still struggling with her semivampiric nature. And who seems to have a new man in her life.

Some days, it just doesn't pay to get out of bed. No matter how much you're charging

6. City of Heavenly Fire (The Mortal Instruments, #6) by Cassandra Clare

In this dazzling and long-awaited conclusion to the acclaimed Mortal Instruments series, Clary and her friends fight the greatest evil they have ever faced: Clary's own brother.

Sebastian Morgenstern is on the move, systematically turning Shadowhunter against Shadowhunter. Bearing the Infernal Cup, he transforms Shadowhunters into creatures out of nightmare, tearing apart families and lovers as the ranks of his Endarkened army swell.

The embattled Shadowhunters withdraw to Idris - but not even the famed demon towers of Alicante can keep Sebastian at bay. And with the Nephilim trapped in Idris, who will guard the world against demons?

When one of the greatest betrayals the Nephilim have ever known is revealed, Clary, Jace, Isabelle, Simon, and Alec must flee - even if their journey takes them deep into the demon realms, where no Shadowhunter has set foot before, and from which no human being has ever returned...

Love will be sacrificed and lives lost in the terrible battle for the fate of the word in the thrilling final installment of the classic urban fantasy series The Mortal Instruments!

5. Throne of Glass Series

*I've read the first book in the series three times (this year marked the third time), and the sequel twice (this year marked the second time)*

Lost and broken, Celaena Sardothien’s only thought is to avenge the savage death of her dearest friend: as the King of Adarlan’s Assassin, she is bound to serve this tyrant, but he will pay for what he did. Any hope Celaena has of destroying the king lies in answers to be found in Wendlyn. Sacrificing his future, Chaol, the Captain of the King’s Guard, has sent Celaena there to protect her, but her darkest demons lay in that same place. If she can overcome them, she will be Adarlan’s biggest threat – and his own toughest enemy. 

While Celaena learns of her true destiny, and the eyes of Erilea are on Wendlyn, a brutal and beastly force is preparing to take to the skies. Will Celaena find the strength not only to win her own battles, but to fight a war that could pit her loyalties to her own people against those she has grown to love?

4. Green Arrow: Quiver (Green Arrow Return, #1) (Issues 1-10) by Kevin Smith

Writer/director Kevin Smith (Clerks, Chasing Amy, Dogma) delivers an awe-inspiring tale which resurrects DC Comics' original Emerald Archer -- the legendary Green Arrow! Stunningly rendered by the top talents of Phil Hester and Ande Parks, Green Arrow: Quiver follows Oliver Queen through man's most uncharted realms -- life, death, and back to life again. This deluxe hardcover edition collects the first ten issues of the best-selling Green Arrow monthly series, includes the original painted covers by Matt Wagner and features a new introduction by Kevin Smith.

3. Riyria Revelations by Michael J Sullivan

*while I love the whole series to death, I'm putting the final book below, so beware of SPOILERS; the first book is just as amazing, but the series gets better as it goes so I had to put the best*


The New Empire intends to celebrate its victory over the Nationalists with a day that will never be forgotten. On the high holiday of Wintertide, they plan to execute two traitors (Degan Gaunt and the Witch of Melengar) as well as force the Empress into a marriage of their own design. But they didn’t account for Royce and Hadrian finally locating the Heir of Novron—or the pair’s desire to wreak havoc on the New Empire’s carefully crafted scheme.

2. Lumatere Chronicles

Critically acclaimed and universally beloved, the Lumatere Chronicles - consisting of Finnikin of the Rock, Froi of the Exiles, and Quintana of Charyn - is now available in its entirety in this e-book collection! Discover the fantasy trilogy that reviewers have called "thrilling, romantic, and utterly unforgettable" and that School Library Journal recommended for "fans of the intricate fantasies of Megan Whalen Turner or George R. R. Martin."

1. American Gods

*I own three copies of this book.  that's how much I liked it.  one's an ebook, one a regular paperback, one a signed hardcover.  that's right, be jealous.  it's signed*

First published in 2001, American Gods became an instant classic—an intellectual and artistic benchmark from the multiple-award-winning master of innovative fiction, Neil Gaiman. Now discover the mystery and magic of American Gods in this tenth anniversary edition. Newly updated and expanded with the author’s preferred text, this commemorative volume is a true celebration of a modern masterpiece by the one, the only, Neil Gaiman.

A storm is coming . . . 

Locked behind bars for three years, Shadow did his time, quietly waiting for the magic day when he could return to Eagle Point, Indiana. A man no longer scared of what tomorrow might bring, all he wanted was to be with Laura, the wife he deeply loved, and start a new life.

But just days before his release, Laura and Shadow’s best friend are killed in an accident. With his life in pieces and nothing to keep him tethered, Shadow accepts a job from a beguiling stranger he meets on the way home, an enigmatic man who calls himself Mr. Wednesday. A trickster and rogue, Wednesday seems to know more about Shadow than Shadow does himself.

Life as Wednesday’s bodyguard, driver, and errand boy is far more interesting and dangerous than Shadow ever imagined—it is a job that takes him on a dark and strange road trip and introduces him to a host of eccentric characters whose fates are mysteriously intertwined with his own. Along the way Shadow will learn that the past never dies; that everyone, including his beloved Laura, harbors secrets; and that dreams, totems, legends, and myths are more real than we know. Ultimately, he will discover that beneath the placid surface of everyday life a storm is brewing—an epic war for the very soul of America—and that he is standing squarely in its path.

Relevant and prescient, American Gods has been lauded for its brilliant synthesis of “mystery, satire, sex, horror, and poetic prose” (Michael Dirda, Washington Post Book World) and as a modern phantasmagoria that “distills the essence of America” (Seattle Post-Intelligencer). It is, quite simply, an outstanding work of literary imagination that will endure for generations.

What books did you enjoy reading this year?  Let me know in the comments!

Book Review: The Archived (The Archived, #1)

Author| Victoria Schwab
Edition| Hardcover American
Genre| YA Horror/Paranormal
Rating| 4.5 stars

This is perfect for fans of The Devouring by Simon Holt or The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater.  It's got an eerie tone and an original premise that I adored.  It's one part ghost story, one part murder mystery, and one part magic.

Mac is a Keeper, which means she hunts down Histories in the Narrows.  A History is the essence, or literal history, of a dead person.  The Narrows are a place between the Outer (our world) and the Archive (where sleeping Histories are normally kept, it's like a giant library).  Keeping up?  After moving to a new house (actually, a really awesome hotel/apartment complex) to escape a family tragedy, she finds herself busy with a massive amount of Histories and a mystery that stretches back to the original inhabitants of her building.

The premise sounds really cool (I don't particularly do it justice) and the cover is freaking awesome, so I had high expectations.  It met them.  It didn't really surpass them though, so that, in addition to a slower pacing around the middle, kept it from being five stars.

The characters are great, I feel like I know them pretty well.  Wesley, in particular, has become a new favorite among characters.  I was hoping more would be done with the other residents, but leaving them out didn't hurt the book in any way.  Additionally, some of Wesley's back-story would have been nice, but again, without it the book is perfectly fine.

As for the story itself, that was written very well.  The mystery had me, as a reader, on my guard, pointing fingers at everyone.  When the reveal happens it's not completely unexpected, but it's also a sigh of relief to finally take your nails from your mouth.  I was very literally biting mine in anticipation.

This promises a decent series, but as far as I know, only one other book has been published and a third one is tentatively expected at some point in the future.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Book Review: The Thief (The Queen's Thief, #1)

Edition| Kindle eBook
Genre| YA Fantasy

I would actually be surprised if you hadn't heard of this book.  It's been around for a bit and I've seen it on several author's blogs exclaiming their love for it.  The one that made me particularly want to read it was Sarah J Maas, author of the Throne of Glass series.

The premise is rather basic- Gen is a thief locked away in the king's prison.  He's released by the king's magus (an adviser) under one condition- he needs to steal something.  Thus begins the adventure.

This book is short but has racked up lots of positive reviews.  Many people who have read it fawn over it.  But when I started reading it I had wondered if I picked up the wrong book.  It was good, but it wasn't the best thing I had ever read (especially coming off of The Lumatere Chronicles).  So I double checked the reviews and many of them said that you would have to wait at least a hundred pages before realizing how magnificent it really was.  Normally I wouldn't wait that long for a book, but the story was good and the mythology was stellar (it's a world roughly based of ancient Greece/Rome and the mythology is reminiscent of it as well, in all the best ways) so I didn't mind.

It's worth the wait.  I think it's more than a hundred pages I had to wait, but as soon as it hit, I couldn't put it down.  I was up until one o'clock reading it and when I was finished I couldn't stop saying "I need the next one" and rocking back and forth in withdrawal.

While I haven't picked up the next one yet (I'm trying to conserve the amount of money I spend on books going into the new year) I will be as a special New Years present to myself.  And then, chances are high, I'll pick up book three and book four.

I wish I could tell you more, but it's best going into this book blind.  Really, give it a try.  It's short, it won't take up too much time, and it's a surprisingly amazing YA fantasy.  I give it a solid five stars.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

TV Review: Constantine (Season 1, Episodes #1-8)

Watch| 7pm (Central Time), Fridays on NBC
Starring| Matt Ryan (John Constantine); Harold Perrineau (Manny); Angélica Celaya (Zed Martin); Charles Hatford (Chas Chandler)

The premise is taken directly from the first volume of reissued Hellblazer comics, which I seriously recommend. John Constantine is a professional exorcist and has a string of bodies behind him, including a young girl whom he doomed to hell. Teaming up with Chas, an old friend who can't exactly die, and the mysterious Zed, who's also a psychic of sorts, he travels the country stopping the Rising Darkness.

It had a slow start thanks to the hiccup with the main female lead and then hit another bump when it got a shortened season (although season two is still a possibility, and one I'm rooting for).  It finally hit its stride around episode six, and peaked in episode seven with an episode that distinctly reminded me of a classic Supernatural episode.  Now that the plot is finally moving it should attract a regular viewership.

The characters are likable in that roguish way anti-heroes are supposed to be.  The sympathetic one is Zed, the quiet one Chas, and the snarky one, of course, is John himself.  The actors fit into their roles, and I actually can't complain about any of them (which is a nice surprise).  Annoyingly, Zed and Chas never seem to share the same air space, switching episodes back and forth as if the directors can't bear to take some of the spotlight away from John.  Having a balance of the three could strengthen the show and lead to quicker character growth.  As for the supporting characters, they seem a little gullible.  This show has a bit of leeway, getting to play in the sandbox that is the magic side of DC comics, and should take a fuller advantage of that.

The cinematic quality is pretty good.  Camera work nice, although every once in a while a strange angle is thrown in that makes me scratch my head.  It is gory, and I would recommend it for mature viewers due to this.  If you can handle Hannibal you're probably fine.  Personally, I revel in the gore, very few shows tackle it these days.  In all honestly, I would have preferred to see this kind of show on a movie channel where the characters can go wild in their dark, gritty world.  For an NBC production, it's very good.

I'd give it an overall rating of a B+, but I'm a bit biased since I'm a fan of the source material.  It's not too late to catch up on it before the season picks up again on January 16th.