Review – Crooked Kingdom (Six of Crows #2) by Leigh Bardugo

Crooked Kingdom (Six of Crows #2)

By Leigh Bardugo

SummaryWhen you can’t beat the odds, change the game.

Kaz Brekker and his crew have just pulled off a heist so daring even they didn’t think they’d survive. But instead of divvying up a fat reward, they’re right back to fighting for their lives. Double-crossed and badly weakened, the crew is low on resources, allies, and hope. As powerful forces from around the world descend on Ketterdam to root out the secrets of the dangerous drug known as jurda parem, old rivals and new enemies emerge to challenge Kaz’s cunning and test the team’s fragile loyalties. A war will be waged on the city’s dark and twisting streets―a battle for revenge and redemption that will decide the fate of the Grisha world.

Source: I purchased a hardcover

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Review:

Crooked Kingdom was a great sequel/finale to the Six of Crows duology. I was emotionally invested in the fate of the characters and everything seemed to go wrong at the end of Six of Crows. I had no idea what the characters would have to do to fix their fate and change the game to go in their favor. My favorite part of the sequel was watching the characters admit their own feelings to themselves, whatever those feelings might have been. I felt like book 1 was them showing off with this extravagant heist and because things went so badly for them, some of their internal reflections were more personal in this installment.

Crooked Kingdom was well written and fairly well executed. The fates of everyone hung in the balance and they weren’t the top dogs on the streets of Ketterdam anymore. There were political issues, merchants gunning for them, and street gangs to contend with. Each person was personally tested as their weaknesses were made apparent.

My only real issue was the length, but more-so the amount of various plans/heists/jobs the book went through. I knew so much had to happen and that not all of their schemes would go well. I knew that Kaz made some backup plans and some of them rested upon the first plan failing, but also some plans just failed. It was exhausting as the reader in some situations trying to figure out if the plan failed, if what just happened actually happened, or if I should just wait to see what happens next. Book 1 did a great job of showing just how great Kaz was at contingency plans and not communicating plans to his crew so that when his crew thinks a plan failed, it all actually went according to Kaz’s plan. I didn’t need more of it in book 2 when I’m also watching Kaz lick his wounds and admit he can’t be the best at everything and also trying to place more trust in his crew. I feel like almost every heist/plan was like “BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE” to the point where I didn’t get emotionally invested in a plan, didn’t believe that someone cracked or fell or failed, so the big reveals were actually just sort of mild. Basically, I just got tired of the push and pull and didn’t think it was always necessary. It made me sort of disconnect a bit because it was always a false alarm that someone was in real trouble, so when someone actually was, I didn’t know how to feel about it or whether I believed it was true. 

Aside from the constant surprises, Crooked Kingdom was an adventure that I was happy to be on. I also enjoyed that book two connected a bit more with the events of The Grisha Trilogy and can now see why/how the books are connected other than the setting. In the end, I was emotionally invested and I grew to love each and every one of the characters. I definitely recommend the duology.

Star 4

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Top Ten Tuesday – Goals

Top Ten Five Bookish Resolutions/Goals

 

1. I plan to read… less. I know that sounds weird, but I know that pushing myself to read the same amount of books (or more) is going to be harder this year as I move overseas and take on more hours at work beforehand.

2. Streamline reviews. I’m used to setting up my reviews in advance, but it’s getting harder to make time for blogging, so I need to come up with a system of giving myself less work to do. Maybe have Goodreads publish directly to my blog? I’m not sure yet, but doing a blog review, photo review, and Goodreads review is 3 times the work.

3. Tackle the TBR. I am moving overseas this year and get to move all of my books with me. I need to be sure that I’m not dragging books that will sit unread for 3 more years and actually read them!

4. Purge the shelves. If I’m still holding on to a book I’ve had for 5+ years that I still haven’t read, it’s time to get rid of it.

5. Less impulse buying. This will be easy once I move, as shipping will be much longer and more difficult to deal with. There’s no reason I need to preorder a book because “everyone is talking about it” if I know I’m just going to stick it on my shelf for years.

 

Review – ReRead – Six of Crows (Six of Crows #1) by Leigh Bardugo

 

Six of Crows (Six of Crows #1)

By Leigh Bardugo

SummaryKetterdam: a bustling hub of international trade where anything can be had for the right price—and no one knows that better than criminal prodigy Kaz Brekker. Kaz is offered a chance at a deadly heist that could make him rich beyond his wildest dreams. But he can’t pull it off alone…

A convict with a thirst for revenge.
A sharpshooter who can’t walk away from a wager.
A runaway with a privileged past.
A spy known as the Wraith.
A Heartrender using her magic to survive the slums.
A thief with a gift for unlikely escapes.
Kaz’s crew are the only ones who might stand between the world and destruction—if they don’t kill each other first.
  

Source: I purchased a hardcover (and it is such a gorgeous book!)

Original Review posted July 2016.

The book itself is gorgeous and I think it’s relevant to mention that because it truly adds to the experience. The book has black edges and red end paper and a gorgeous cover. The chapter illustrations are well done and the sections of the book that are broken into parts are completely black with white lettering. I don’t know that owning the physical book is necessary, but I will say that it added to it and I appreciated the book more as a result.

The story was gripping. The cast of characters were flawed and dangerous, each with their own particular set of skills and motivations, making them quite the crew of criminals. A very important heist came along and Kaz put together his crew to do what was typically considered impossible.

The story was dark and mature. It wasn’t a dark setting with naïve characters hoping to find their calling, as was the Grisha trilogy. Instead, these characters were already dark and had some pretty unlikeable flaws. None of them were innocent or longed for a more innocent life. Maybe Kaz was the worst of them, but at least he wasn’t pretending to save them or do the heist for anything other than the millions promised. The book was almost like an Ocean’s Eleven set in a dark world with magic and danger. The twists kept coming and plans changed, but the crew was well versed in the motivations of others and attempted to stay a step ahead.

The book was definitely entertaining and full of twists. The characters were all rough around the edges, and not entirely decent people, but they grew on me quickly and I was interested in all of their backgrounds and motivations and even hoped for things I knew better than to hope for.

I’m not going to try to compare it to the Grisha trilogy because it’s so different. It’s about something else entirely and, while I do miss characters like The Darkling, it was less about Grisha in general and more about gangs and shifts of power and greed. It did what it was supposed to do well. It’s great if you want more of the world without the same kind of story that was in the Grisha trilogy. If you’re expecting a romance or coming of age YA fantasy, this is not the book for you.

I highly recommend Six of Crows. It was well done and interesting. I loved the plot and the cast of misfits and I can’t wait to see what happens next.

Star 4

 

2017 Thoughts:

I am actually glad that I reread Six of Crows because, though still rated it 4 stars, it was not at all what I imagined and I didn’t really think on it as fondly as I do the Grisha Trilogy and had little desire to read the sequel because I wasn’t invested in the fates of the characters.. it’s been over a year and I bought the sequel, but wasn’t really as stoked to read it. I enjoyed reading it at the time, but I think part of me wanted something more in the same vein as Bardugo’s other series. The reread was better because I knew what to expect and truly enjoyed myself and appreciated the characters a lot more. I think during the first read, I felt maybe there were too many POVs and too many shifts because it wasn’t something I expected. During the reread, I felt like I enjoyed the POV changes a lot more. I wouldn’t have called Six of Crows romantic back in 2016, but I realized rereading it that it did have moments and I was so invested in the interpersonal dynamics of everyone in the group. I couldn’t wait to pick up Crooked Kingdom and find out the fate of all my favorite characters and the relationships that were starting to bloom.

 

 

Review – Storm Front (The Dresden Files #1) by Jim Butcher

 Dresden.jpg

Storm Front (The Dresden Files #1)

By Jim Butcher

SummaryHarry Dresden — Wizard

Lost items found. Paranormal Investigations.
Consulting. Advice. Reasonable Rates.
No Love Potions, Endless Purses, or
Other Entertainment.

Harry Dresden is the best at what he does. Well, technically, he’s the only at what he does. So when the Chicago P.D. has a case that transcends mortal creativity or capability, they come to him for answers. For the “everyday” world is actually full of strange and magical things — and most of them don’t play well with humans. That’s where Harry comes in. Takes a wizard to catch a — well, whatever.

There’s just one problem. Business, to put it mildly, stinks. So when the police bring him in to consult on a grisly double murder committed with black magic, Harry’s seeing dollar signs. But where there’s black magic, there’s a black mage behind it. And now that mage knows Harry’s name. And that’s when things start to get… interesting.

Magic. It can get a guy killed.

Source: I received a paperback as a gift for Secret Santa

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Review:

I’ve heard of The Dresden Files, but it never really showed up on my radar as something I might enjoy. When I got the first book from a coworker in my secret santa gift, I looked at the synopsis and realized it was the kind of book that would be perfect for me. I love science fiction, fantasy, urban fantasy, mysteries, and thrillers and The Dresden Files is a mash up of all of those things in one book. It’s more closely related to an urban fantasy, but Harry Dresden was basically a wizard P.I. so there was definitely the crime/mystery element as well. (I mean, if you were shopping for a book for me without knowing the specific books I’d want, this is honestly the best pick because it’s bound to appeal to me on some level! So genius!)

I loved Storm Front! It was so much fun and I really liked Harry’s POV. I loved the way the book kind of threw me right into this world where wizards were a thing, but like most urban fantasies, it’s not a big deal for the magical part of society to exist, but it’s still something that most people don’t deal with. I feel like Storm Front set the reader up for the rest of the series and wasn’t necessarily the strongest book as a standalone, but yet I also feel that there were some obvious conclusions so that, if I really wanted to, I could stop reading right now and feel like I read a book with a regular story arc. 

I definitely recommend Storm Front and I’m thankful that my gift giver person at work seemed to know me well enough to pick it out for me. It was right up my alley and a good mix of everything I love in my fiction and I don’t know that I would’ve picked it up otherwise. The urban fantasies from male POVs can be hit or miss, but much like the Iron Druid Chronicles, The Dresden Files seems to be a solid book with likable characters and a plot that just keeps grabbing me. I think I’ll definitely pick up the other books in this series!

On a side note, I am a huge fan of table top gaming and I noticed there is a board game for this book. This isn’t something I see a lot of with the fiction I read, despite the games I play and the books I read having many similar themes. Games are usually based on classic D&D or classic literature (like Lovecraft) or cult classic tv shows/movies… and the fact that there is a board game for The Dresden Files makes me hopeful that this is a world with some really solid plot/world building with a ton of fans, which makes me even more eager to read the rest of the series.

Star 4

 

 

Review – Jurassic Park/The Lost World by Michael Crichton

Jurassic Park/The Lost World

By Michael Crichton

SummaryFrom master thriller writer Michael Crichton: Two imaginative masterpieces of speculative science, full of adventure and larger-than-life characters. In Jurassic Park, scientists of today clone dinosaurs of the prehistoric past to serve as attractions in a modern theme park. When a rival biogenetic firm attempts to steal the scientists secret, the stage is set for a nightmare of science and dinosaurs run amok. The Lost World picks up the story six years later, with scientists scrambling to find the jungle island that served as the dinosaur production factory for Jurassic Park. Once again, rivalry and subterfuge combine to create life-threatening dangers for the scientists, who must contend with the rampaging dinosaurs as well as their cutthroat competitors.

This volume contains the full text of both of Michael Crichton’s bestselling novels. Featuring a beautifully stamped bonded leather cover, gilt edging, colorful endpapers, and a satin-ribbon bookmark, this collectible edition is a fine addition to any home library.

Source: I purchased a copy.

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Review:

I’ve grown up watching Jurassic Park and I’ve probably seen the film at least 20 times in my lifetime. When I was a kid, dinosaurs were super popular and at the time, the movie was considered to be pretty decent in terms of being realistic, so I remember watching it in science class on substitute teacher or fun days. Being the bookworm that I am, I’m actually shocked it took me so long to read it!

Jurassic Park was definitely a good novel and I found that I enjoyed it as much as the movie. I think it’s actually better, but there’s something nostalgic about the movie that makes it seem better in my mind. For most people, I’m sure they feel the book is better than the movie. 

I loved getting the various points of views in the book. The movie felt very much like Dr. Grant was the main character and the book wasn’t really like that. Many pivotal scenes and dinosaur knowledge tidbits were in the book from Grant’s POV, but the book followed a lot of the other characters and many of the scenes took place before the famous tour even began, from the investors in the park to the setup behind Nedry stealing embryos. 

As much as I love raptors, I was glad to see the book explore some of other species while still giving me those raptor scenes I know and love. I felt like the book was just more well rounded as a whole and I got to see the full picture. And it was much more obvious to me that the park’s creator was absolutely insane and selfish and completely oblivious to the issues of creating such a park. I think I fell for the smoke and mirrors a bit more in the movie as a kid.

Still, the movie was more.. dramatic and scary. It hit you in the gut a bit more and the book pokes more at your brain and is much more thought provoking, especially in terms of ethics in science. 

Dr. Malcom was equally annoying, though.

I don’t have as much to say about The Lost World with comparisons because I can’t recall the movie very well and have confused it with parts of Jurassic Park III. I remember the T-Rex in California thing and I’m happy to report that the book was not that dumb! I enjoyed The Lost World, but I have to admit that I’m partial to Dr. Grant and can’t really stand Dr. Malcom, so I found the book to be slightly less enjoyable than Jurassic Park, especially having read it directly after it. 

I think The Lost World did a better job of exploring the dinosaurs themselves as so many scientists were weighing in on what they were observing and asking themselves whether observing a thing changes it or if you can be impartial. It was much more of a commentary on science and processes than it was anything else, but I liked that aspect quite a bit. 

Still, Dr. Malcom annoys me and I couldn’t done without his smartypants interruptions on every page because he thinks he knows everything. 

Star 4

Blog Tour and Review – Between the Blade and the Heart (Valkyrie #1) by Amanda Hocking

 

Between the Blade and the Heart (Valkyrie #1)

By Amanda Hocking

Summary: When the fate of the world is at stake

Loyalties will be tested

Game of Thrones meets Blade Runner in this commanding new YA fantasy inspired by Norse Mythology from New York Times bestselling author Amanda Hocking.

As one of Odin’s Valkyries, Malin’s greatest responsibility is to slay immortals and return them to the underworld. But when she unearths a secret that could unravel the balance of all she knows, Malin along with her best friend and her ex-girlfriend must decide where their loyalties lie. And if helping the blue-eyed boy Asher enact his revenge is worth the risk—to the world and her heart.

Source: I received a digital copy from NetGalley for review as part of a blog tour.

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Review:

Between the Blade and the Heart was a fun read. I loved the setting! It was sort of like an urban fantasy set in an alternate world where immortals roamed and gods existed. The valkyries were human women that were chosen to dispose of immortals, as choosing other immortals would provide a conflict of interest. The main character, Malin, was a valkyrie in training and a student when she wasn’t out trying to take down the next immortals on the list. 

I wouldn’t consider Between the Blade and the Heart anything like Game of Thrones or Blade Runner, so the synopsis is a bit misleading in that regard. I’d categorize it with other urban fantasies blended with a bit of Norse mythology. I think the comparison in the synopsis is trying to allude to the fact that there are gods and it’s futuristic in a way. It was more in the same vein of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, both fun and adventurous.

Malin was a character I couldn’t help but want to root for. She went against the grain, cared about her friends, felt sort of unloved, and pushed people away who cared too much about her. She was interesting and I wanted to sort of figure her out, while also following her on this epic adventure where things went drastically wrong. Everything she thought she believed was basically wrong and her world was upside down. She had to form some alliances that weren’t comfortable, like teaming up with a guy who tried to kill her and teaming up with her ex girlfriend. Awkward, right?

The personalities of the characters were what made this book shine. None of your typical tropes were present (aside from girl suddenly possesses the qualities to save the world).The main character was sarcastic, a bit rough around the edges, and yet soft and vulnerable in different ways. 

I definitely recommend the book if you’re looking for a fast paced, fun, and entertaining urban fantasy. I loved the attitude and sass of the characters, the relationship drama, and the serious fate-of-the-world drama. It was enjoyable to read!

Star 4

 

About the Author: Amanda Hocking is the author of over twenty young adult novels, including the New York Times bestselling Trylle Trilogy and Kanin Chronicles. Her love of pop culture and all things paranormal influence her writing. She spends her time in Minnesota, taking care of her menagerie of pets and working on her next book.

 

Snag a copy:

Amazon

Barnes & Noble

Books-a-Million

IndieBound

Powells

 

Social Media:

Author Website: http://www.worldofamandahocking.com/

Twitter: @Amanda_Hocking

Facebook: @AmandaHockingFans

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Review – How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie

How to Win Friends and Influence People

By Dale Carnegie

SummaryYou can go after the job you want…and get it! You can take the job you have…and improve it! You can take any situation you’re in…and make it work for you!

Since its release in 1936, How to Win Friends and Influence People has sold more than 15 million copies. Dale Carnegie’s first book is a timeless bestseller, packed with rock-solid advice that has carried thousands of now famous people up the ladder of success in their business and personal lives.

As relevant as ever before, Dale Carnegie’s principles endure, and will help you achieve your maximum potential in the complex and competitive modern age.

Learn the six ways to make people like you, the twelve ways to win people to your way of thinking, and the nine ways to change people without arousing resentment.

Source: I borrowed a paperback

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Review:

I do not read much nonfiction, but the 2017 POPSUGAR Reading Challenge had the prompt to read a book with career advice. At first, I was just going to read On Writing by Stephen King, but I do the challenge each year to do exactly that: challenge myself to read outside of my comfort zone. Also, I’m not a writer or an aspiring writer. 

Around the same time I was trying to figure out what to read, I was taking a class at work on pursuing leadership and figuring out what areas my strengths and weaknesses were. I’m a great written communicator, but I don’t place much emphasis on networking or other social things at work and that was definitely an area I could (and still can) improve upon. So as I was looking for things that may help me professionally, this book was recommended. It was perfect timing, as it met the prompt and was relevant to me professionally at the same time.

How to Win Friends and Influence People always seemed like something that wasn’t up my alley. I don’t want to be a sly and charming salesperson or have an army of friends and somehow that’s what I’ve always associated this book with. I’m not sure why. But the moment I started reading it, I realized that it was a book that I, as an introvert, have always needed. It’s not about making lots of meaningless friends or being popular, but about understanding how to connect with people in a relevant way, especially if you’re in an industry that deals with people. 

I highly recommend that introverts read this book. Also highly emotional or reactive people. Or those quick to anger. It was completely eye opening and so extremely relevant! And simple! It was also helpful in my personal life, as I’m not always the easiest person to get along with and there are so many simple techniques to get other people talking and make connections.

I’m not the type to fall for any self-help book hype like “this book changed my life” or anything and I read any book like this with a bit of skepticism because things aren’t that easy and I don’t want to be a cheery robot who spouts off positivity all day at work. I loathe those books, even the ones that still have good messages like Who Moved My Cheese.. it’s still over the top and I feel those books exist to milk the industry for all the money it can. I feel like HTWFAIP spoke to me as a regular person and wasn’t trying to be one of those run of the mill attitude changing books. Maybe it has just been on the market longer than those trendy books and missed that boat, but that’s also part of the appeal.. it was real and simple and exactly what I needed. It’s been sold for over 75 years and the methods are pretty much tried and true. I am glad I read it and I feel like I’ve learned some tactics to help me place interpersonal relationships and networking as a bigger priority in my personal and professional life.

Star 4