Review: The Tethered Mage by Melissa Caruso

34219880*I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.*

Title: The Tethered Mage

Author: Melissa Caruso

Publisher: Orbit

Publication Date: October 14, 2017

ISBN: 9780316466875

Synopsis from Goodreads:
In the Raverran Empire, magic is scarce and those born with power are strictly controlled — taken as children and conscripted into the Falcon Army. Zaira has lived her life on the streets to avoid this fate, hiding her mage-mark and thieving to survive. But hers is a rare and dangerous magic, one that threatens the entire empire. Lady Amalia Cornaro was never meant to be a Falconer. Heiress and scholar, she was born into a treacherous world of political machinations.But fate has bound the heir and the mage. And as war looms on the horizon, a single spark could turn their city into a pyre.


This was a great book that I would have absolutely adored as a teenager. It’s so reminiscent of everything I read and got addicted to in high school. Reading The Tethered Mage was a pretty nostalgic experience for me. Although this book has been classified as adult fantasy, it’s definitely solidly in the YA category. It’s got a youthful narrator who is coming of age, it’s got innocent romance that blooms throughout the story, and the majority of it’s key characters are young or very youthful. It reminded me a lot of various Tamora Pierce books I read voraciously throughout my young reading life.

Lady Amalia Cornaro is the heir to her mother’s thrown. She is set to be a political leader and has a life set out ahead of her. A huge wrench it thrown into her path when she accidentally becomes a Falconer, tethered to a powerful fire mage, Zaira. Their relationship is tumultuous but these two are tied together for life. Their story is full of disaster, with sparks of friendship, and romance with other thrown in their providing glimmers of hope. The world they’ve both always known is threatened and everything verges on the edge of collapse as war looms in the distance. Amalia is trying to find herself and forge new friendships in this turbulent world. She is attempting to emerge from under her mothers shadow but with the ever present and unknown threat closing in, she’s risking everything, even her life, to try and make a change for the better.

I really like Amalia as a character. I think she’s got a lot of tenacity and fire. It’s no wonder her paired Falcon is a fire mage. She comes from a life of privilege, yes, but she is deeply empathetic and desires to learn as much as she can from whomever she can. She wants to use her position for good, but learning how best to do that does take time. She’s young and makes many mistakes, but she want to succeed and works hard to show everyone what she’s made of. She’s a take-charge kind of girl who possesses a lot of perseverance and moral strength. Her mage, Zaira, is wild and strong. She presents herself to be tough as nails and unforgiving. She is unyielding and often reckless. But as we get to know her, there is a soft side under that shell. She’d never admit it, but she’s as loyal as she is rebellious, connect most with those who show her true devotion and honesty.

The plot as a whole is quick and interesting. There are high stakes deceptions, threats around every corner, and an intricately weaved conflict that wages and builds as the novel progresses. The world that Caruso has created is vast and multi-faceted. This Empire is political and magical. The people within it try to balance both to create a civilization that is safe and secure. Difference societies have different views on what that means which is a point of contention throughout the novel and is a strong factor is the push towards war. I’m curious to see how this story continues in the subsequent books in the series. I think this world has a lot to offer. I’m a new fan.

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Review: Strange Fire by Tommy Wallach

25984653*I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.*

Title: Strange Fire

Author: Tommy Wallach

Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers

Publication Date: October 3, 2017

ISBN: 9781481468381

Synopsis from Goodreads:
They said that the first generation of man was brought low by its appetites: for knowledge, for wealth, for power. They said mankind’s voracity was so great, the Lord sent his own Daughter to bring fire and devastation to the world. The survivors were few, but over the course of centuries, they banded together to form a new civilization—the Descendancy—founded on the belief that the mistakes of the past must never be repeated.
Brothers Clive and Clover Hamill, the sons of a well-respected Descendant minister, have spent their lives spreading that gospel. But when their traveling ministry discovers a community intent on rediscovering the blasphemous technologies of the past, a chain of events will be set in motion that will pit city against city…and brother against brother. Along with Gemma Poplin, Clive’s childhood sweetheart, and Paz Dedios, a revolutionary who dreams of overthrowing the Descendancy, Clive and Clover will each play a pivotal role in determining the outcome of this holy war, and the fate of humanity itself.

—–

In Wallach’s Strange Fire, humanity has been wiped out and the society that remains has been divided in into those of the Descendancy who follow the Church of Father, Daughter, and Holy Gravity, those in the city of Sophia who seek to understand the ways and technology of the society that came before them, and the Wesah warrior women. These societies all run counter to one another, but their limited population makes it impossible for one group to gain the upper hand over the others in this new world, but that doesn’t stop them from trying. Those of the Descendancy shun the “anathema” — the technology that those in Sophia possess and are developing. The Church believes in only the Father and the Daughter and spreading the Holy message to all. Those in Sophia thing the Descendancy to be primitive and embrace learning and development. Lastly, the Wesah run a matriarchal society that operates on strength and often violence to survive. Each group keeps it’s own lands and borders and seeks to expand its following.

First off, I loved this cover. I think it really encapsulates the theme of this story–the contrast between the technology that is only just beginning to be rediscovered and the stark shunning of all advancement by a society that more closely resembles what we’d recognize as 18th or 19th Century civilization. The story is really neat, envisioning a post-disaster world where surviving peoples have reverted to extremes in order to re-establish societies and traditions. We only get a small glimpse into this world as our characters only have a small perspective and do not have the ability to go beyond the boundaries of their small world.

I did find the book to be pretty slow moving as a whole. I almost walked away from it a few times. I can’t say what the final version looks like, but my advanced copy was printed in a terrible difficult font to read. I found myself getting a little squinty–which is not something I’ve ever noticed while reading, and I didn’t particularly enjoy that part of the experience with this book.

In terms of plot, there’s not a ton of action, and even the action that does occur is short lived and has little build up. This book is first in a series though, so perhaps Wallach’s intention was to focus on world-building and to build more action into the next book. But for as interesting as this plot sounded, it was a little sleepy. I didn’t find any of the characters to be too interesting. Paz piqued my interest as her whole character is based on deception and she’s a strangely detached, manipulative, and unemotional character. The remaining characters, however, fell a bit flat for me. I was most intrigued by the premise of this book, but I can’t say I’m motivated to continue reading.

From the research I’ve done on Goodreads, it seems like people, as a whole, are enjoying this book. Wallach fans are super excited and eager to read it. I think it’s worth a shot. I didn’t love it, but I think that many others do. I’d encourage you to try it and let me know what you think! I’d love to hear some differing opinions! 🙂

Review: Invictus by Ryan Graudin

 

33152795*I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.*

Title: Invictus

Author: Ryan Graudin

Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

Publication Date: September 26, 2017

ISBN: 9780316503136

Synopsis from Goodreads:
Farway Gaius McCarthy was born outside of time. The son of a time-traveling Recorder from 2354 AD and a gladiator living in Rome in 95 AD, Far’s birth defies the laws of nature. Exploring history himself is all he’s ever wanted, and after failing his final time-traveling exam, Far takes a position commanding a ship with a crew of his friends as part of a black market operation to steal valuables from the past. But during a heist on the sinking Titanic, Far meets a mysterious girl who always seems to be one step ahead of him. Armed with knowledge that will bring Far’s very existence into question, she will lead Far and his team on a race through time to discover a frightening truth: History is not as steady as it seems. 


The author of The Walled City, Graudin, has written another incredible, thrilling, and heart-stopping novel, Invictus. This young adult novel has everything you could want in a book: friendship, romance, family, time travel, inter-dimensional travel, and so much more. It’s a standalone novel, and as much as I would LOVE to read a whole series about these characters, it is entirely strong on its own. I appreciate Graudin’s decision to leave this one alone. She reached great heights with this book, and a series would only take away from what this book has to offer. This novel is history meets sci-fi perfectly blended together to create an intense story full of mystery and imminent threat with an ending that is so completely perfect.

I loved each character, unique with their own quirks and completely loveable for it. Farway Gaius McCarthy, the main protagonist, is confident and is a strong leader. He’s quick on his feet and is a true romantic at heart. His lady, Priya, has a kind heart and is strong and steadfast, the perfect qualities for their medic. Imogen is so much fun, full of silliness and burst with colour, literally. She changes her hair colour with every mood and makes it her mission to infuse every situation with a spark of happiness. Gram is the quiet and incredibly intelligent one. He gets them where they need to go in space and time, finding comfort in the certainty of numbers and problem-solving. Together these characters make up the Invictus. Their group works together seamlessly, joined by the bonds of love and friendship. They’ve endured all sorts of worlds and missions before and we can see the trust and strong relationships that this past has built. Everything changes when Eliot joins the picture, but I will save that for you to discover for yourselves.

What I loved most was the theory of time and dimensions. This book goes into much depth in it’s exploration of time travel and inter-dimensional travel. Graudin invents plausible machines and technology to move characters from time to time. It creates a very interesting concept for conflict across the ages and eras, adding an extra level of excitement to the rising action and climax of this story.

I found the characters to be likeable and relatable. Some were family, some were friends, and others were romantically involved, yet the romance element was not too overwhelming in the slightest. It just existed and wasn’t the focal point of the story. There was more about the bonds of friendship and the strength of family which I felt was refreshing. This world that Graudin’s created is fantastic and beautiful. There are so many interesting elements to discover throughout. I’m going to have to read it again to really take it all in, but upon first read, I so, so enjoyed.

I’d definitely recommend this novel. Graudin has yet to disappoint and I look forward to whatever she’s cooking up next.

Review: Manhattan Beach by Jennifer Egan

34467031*I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.*

Title: Manhattan Beach

Author: Jennifer Egan

Publisher: Scribner

Publication Date: October 3, 2017

ISBN: 9781476716732

Synopsis from Goodreads:
Manhattan Beach opens in Brooklyn during the Great Depression. Anna Kerrigan, nearly twelve years old, accompanies her father to the house of a man who, she gleans, is crucial to the survival of her father and her family. Anna observes the uniformed servants, the lavishing of toys on the children, and some secret pact between her father and Dexter Styles. Years later, her father has disappeared and the country is at war. Anna works at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, where women are allowed to hold jobs that had always belonged to men. She becomes the first female diver, the most dangerous and exclusive of occupations, repairing the ships that will help America win the war. She is the sole provider for her mother, a farm girl who had a brief and glamorous career as a Ziegfield folly, and her lovely, severely disabled sister. At a night club, she chances to meet Styles, the man she visited with her father before he vanished, and she begins to understand the complexity of her father’s life.
—–

Although Jennifer Egan has published quite a few books, this is the first novel of hers that I’ve read. I did enjoy Manhatten Beach. It’s an interesting perspective on a World War II story, told from the perspective of a woman at home in New York City who is a part of the female workforce that steps up as the men move overseas to fight. I really enjoyed the main character, Anna. She has a lot of pluck and a desire to prove herself in a male-run world. She’s unafraid to go after what she wants and she’s keen to learn how best to get her way in this era that stands against her as a woman. Anna is haunted by the loss of her father who disappeared when she was a young child–a mystery that has long remained unsolved. Anna’s existence is driven by her desire to know what happen and to seek some closure. In her travels, she encounters a wealthy night-club owner, Dexter, who leads her to learn more then she ever imagined.

Anna’s story is interesting and well constructed. Because of her personality, she goes after very interesting pursuits and really opens up the female world of the 1930s/1940s for the reader. We get a glimpse of the factories and the women who put in long hours to contribute to the war. The disparity between the genders is prevalent even with so many of the men off fighting. Those who remain behind respond with wariness, condescension, and even anger when Anna dares to step outside the bounds of her place in the working world. I did really enjoy Egan’s exploration of women’s roles throughout this novel. I think she approaches the topic in an interesting and engaging way through her protagonist. Anna, despite her ambition, still comes up against road blocks at every angle. Her fight to succeed is not always successful and that makes her a very real character.

Now to the stuff that I didn’t enjoy so much. There was a lot that went on outside of Anna’s story, and that, I found, detracted from how interesting her chapters were. We also get to see the perspective of Dexter as well as the perspective of Anna’s father, Eddie. All of these stories tie together, however, their level of readability and interest is much decreased and sometimes makes it difficult to get through the story as a whole. These parts don’t often seem necessary and I don’t think that add real value to the story as a whole. I couldn’t bring myself to care about Dexter even in the slightest. I wanted to, but I didn’t find there to be anything alluring about his character and his story was slow and lacked much depth. Eddie’s tale contains a jump in time. He as well is quite the unredeemable character. He’s wily and right from the start, it’s clear that he’s heading on the path of danger. Both of their plot lines are a bit rambling and don’t have clear direction. It slowed me down as I read, and did make it hard to continue and return to the Anna bits.

Overall, it’s not a bad story. It has it’s really great moments and it is not without weaknesses. I didn’t mind it and I’m open to reading more of Egan’s work in the future.

Review: Reading People by Anne Bogel

34713218Title: Reading People

Author: Anne Bogel

Publisher: Baker Books

Publication Date: September 19, 2017

ISBN: 9780801072918

Synopsis from Goodreads:
For readers who long to dig deeper into what makes them uniquely them (and why that matters), popular blogger Anne Bogel has done the hard part–collecting, exploring, and explaining the most popular personality frameworks, such as Myers-Briggs, StrengthsFinder, Enneagram, and others. She explains to readers the life-changing insights that can be gained from each and shares specific, practical real-life applications across all facets of life, including love and marriage, productivity, parenting, the workplace, and spiritual life. In her friendly, relatable style, Bogel shares engaging personal stories that show firsthand how understanding personality can revolutionize the way we live, love, work, and pray. 


I’m so excited to share this book with you! Anne Bogel, also known as The Modern Mrs. Darcy, is one of my favourite bloggers. I’m an avid reader of her blog emails and I love tuning into her podcast, What Should I Read Next?. So, naturally, I was thrilled when she announced the release of her book, Reading People. Anne has spoken about personality theory many times on her blog. She introduced me in the past to Myers-Briggs (I’m an ISFJ-T) and spoke a lot about how awareness of one’s personality can help us understand how and why we are the way we are. I’ve done a lot of reading on personality since then, and done many personality-typing quizzes to gain further insight into myself and what makes me, me.

Reading People will walk you through the various assessments that exist out there in the world–what they look at, how they assess, and how to understand them. Anne’s writing is clear, engaging, and friendly–the same qualities that drew me to her blog. Although we’ve never met, and probably never will, through her honesty and her anecdotes, as well as her own thoughts and experiences with the processes of discovering her own personality types, I feel as thought I’ve gained a friend in her. Her new book opens the door for those looking to understand themselves and those around them better. She talks a lot about being an HSP, a highly sensitive person. I never thought this to be something I might identify with, but after reading this book, recognizing many of the characteristics in myself then completing the online quiz with quite conclusive results, I feel as though I’ve come to understand myself even deeper.

I hope you’ll all take the time to read this incredibly informative and relatable book. A bit of introspection goes a long way to understanding oneself and others in your life. It’ll help you understand conflict better and how to navigate it. It’ll show you how to accept, understand, and even appreciate different strengths in others. It’ll provide insight into friendships and relationships. The list goes on. This is a great book and it deserves a read.