Posted in Book Review

The Language of Thorns: Midnight Tales and Dangerous Magic

Read Dates: August 20, 2019 – August 26, 2019
Publication date: September 26, 2017
Source: Owned hardback

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The Language of Thorns2.png

5 cats

Leigh Bardugo has bamboozled me again!
This time it’s with a collection of short stories passed down through generations in different villages spread across the lands of the Grishaverse. Novya Zem, Ravka, Kerch, and Fjerdan stories that absolutely set my soul alight. They were clever and they were beautiful and they were shocking and I LOVED THEM.

Let’s get into it.

Ayama and the Thorn Wood
A queen gives birth to a terrible wolf child and the king banishes it to a maze. However, one day the wolf escapes and chaos ensues over the Zemeni lands. Herds of cattle are attacked and human bones are piled up for the townspeople to see… So the king calls for someone to bargain with the beast in exchange for riches. Ayama, urged by her grandmother, volunteers and sets out to find the beast in the thorn wood. The beast requires a story. One that will not bore him and should Ayama succeed in holding his attention, he will agree to leave the village be.

This story was so magical and enchanting. I loved Ayama from the beginning and I loved where the story took her character. There’s a lesson to be learned from this story and also just the pure beauty of the ending this story gives us.

The Too-Clever Fox
A story of a fox born as the runt of his litter who is able to outwit any other creature, freeing himself from life threatening situations. Until one day the fox befriends a famous hunter’s sister in order to find out how the hunter is able to hunt so quietly and fiercely.

I saw the ending coming but it didn’t take away from the story at all. I still felt the shock that the author intended and was on the edge of my seat as the fox had to, once again, wiggle his way from a dire situation. Another lesson, and another entrancing story.

The Witch of Duva
Girls are going missing in the village.
Nadya and Havel live with their grieving father who has just lost his wife, their mother. When a woman named Karina comes into their lives and seems to only want the children to leave she and their father be. Havel goes off the the war but Nadya remains and wanders off one day into the woods to escape her overbearing and hateful stepmother. She becomes lost and finds the shack of a witch who she stays with for a time learning to make potions and meals. But Nadya could’ve never prepared herself for the truths the witch comes to reveal to her.

At the end of this story, in my notes, I wrote the word “WOW”. And that’s honestly the best explanation I can give you for how I felt about this story. This one actually DID have me fooled and then when all was revealed, I was in SHOCK. This story was so wonderful, and yet so chilling… Two of my favorite things.

Little Knife
This is the story of Yeva, a duke’s daughter who is so beautiful that no one can look upon her without going mad. Every man wishes to win her favor and wed her. But the greedy duke sets a task for all the men who wish to have her hand in marriage. The duke creates challenges that he believes only the prince has the resources to win, as the duke wishes his daughter to be married to the prince so that they can be rich and live a wealthy life. Semyon is a poor, penniless man who wishes to marry the beautiful Yeva and, as luck would have it, has the favor of the river who he named “Little Knife”. The river helps him win every challenge to win the beautiful Yeva, but at what price?

This story was my least favorite of all the stories in this book but I still liked it! It seemed, thus far, that all of these stories were here to teach you a moral. Stories grandmothers and mothers told their children before bed at night to keep them honest and well-behaved. This story was fun and I loved the ending but it just wasn’t my favorite… (We’ll get to that one.)

The Soldier Prince
The Clocksmith is a creepy, isolated man who decides it would be in his best interest to marry into money so he can live a comfortable life. So the Clocksmith sets his sights on Clara, the daughter of a wealthy couple whom he befriends. He attends parties at their home, bringing his magical trinkets to woo the other party goers. To win the favor of Clara, he crafts her a nutcracker doll. He enchants the doll so that he can learn all of Clara’s secrets, wishes and dreams. Clara becomes so attached to the nutcracker that her family worries for her and wishes for her to become more social with real people. Only Clara, the nutcracker, and the Clocksmith know the true nature of the doll and just what Clara can have the doll become with just a few simple words spoken to it.

This one was FASCINATING. The spin the author put on this story was amazing! Toy Story meets Peter Pan? Something like that. Anyway, it was wonderful. But… still not my favorite.

When Water Sang Fire
Ulla and Signy are mermaids who, when their voices combine, can create magic unlike anything anyone has ever seen. The two are invited to accompany the princes to the surface where they will use magic to grow legs and live among the King and Queen for three months until they can find a suitable gift to bring their King. Each prince must present their King with a gift from the mortal world. The King will decide which price will become King based on the gifts he receives. Ulla and Signy are swept into court life by the youngest price, Roffe, who takes an interest in the two and their magic. But Roffe is willing to go to great lengths to present his father with the best gift and become King… and he may end up pulling Ulla and Signy into something sinister that they could never hope to recover from.

Welcome to my favorite story in the book!! THIS STORY WAS EVERYTHING. I admit, I do have a soft spot for the mermaid stories. Once I read the REAL “Little Mermaid” story, I was obsessed. I loved the dark side of it and this story gave me just that. BUT BETTER. That ending! I was breathless. Speechless. I wanted MORE. Dear lord, Leigh, please give me a book about Ulla? Please?

Honestly, guys, Leigh Bardugo is holding my heart in her hands. I’ve been making my way through the Grishaverse one book at a time and all I have left now is King of Scars. (And then the one that comes after that which I would LOVE to have a release date for…) I don’t ever want her books to end. I absolutely adore Bardugo and everything she’s done up to this point. If you aren’t interested in reading any of the Grishaverse books, at least pick up The Language of Thorns. It has nothing to do with any of the characters or stories from the Grishaverse but the stories within it are so beautifully constructed and I HIGHLY recommend them to ANYONE who just enjoys a good fairy tale. I LOVED this book and I’m quite sure I’ll be reading it again and again.

Keri

Posted in Book Review

Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo

Read Dates: July 23, 2019 – August 19, 2019
Publication date: September 27, 2016
Source: Owned paperback

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Crooked Kingdom 1

4 cats

Welcome to the world of the Grisha.

Kaz Brekker and his crew of deadly outcasts 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.

“Why do you guys say that?, anyway? No mourners, no funerals? Why not just say good luck or be safe?
“We like to keep our expectations low.”

Once again, I am left in a tizzy over one of Bardugo’s books to the point where I can’t write my own dang synopsis. She keeps doing this to me.

I have to say, this book was nothing like what I expected. This book wasn’t about ONE plot… there were so many different things going on and the gang had to pull off MULTIPLE different jobs to reach the endgame.

It was suspenseful, it was daring, it was unexpected…
I was a mess reading this book.

Dear lord, how do I talk about this book without spoiling anything!?

That’s the problem with Ketterdam, Jesper thought as they stumbled uncertainly through the dark. Trusting the wrong person can get you killed.

The gang is back but nothing is resolved. They pulled off an impossible heist in Six of Crows, but the book left us with more issues for the gang to deal with. A member of the gang is kidnapped and held hostage, tortured for information. Someone they thought they could trust has betrayed them. They learn that you can’t trust just anyone… maybe not even each other. But they all have a common goal in this book. So they all band back together to achieve another job that leads to another job that leads to each individual character’s end goal.

It’s not often you find a book with more than two main characters where you can connect with them all and develop feelings for them all. But this book did it. Of course, there were some characters that I worried about or wanted to read more than others but I never found myself not wanting to read one of the character’s chapters. The story flowed so well in how it was told through multiple characters. I think it’s so beautiful when an author can achieve such a thing and not get story lines or plots all mixed up and out of order. Bardugo KILLED IT. Seriously.

No mourners, no funerals. Another way of saying good luck. But it was something more. A dark wink to the fact that there would be no expensive burials for people like them, no marble markers to remember their names, no wreaths of myrtle and rose.

This book hit so hard. It left no room for perfectly happy endings. In the back of your mind, you know a story like this has to have a little heartache. They’re thieves and smugglers for heaven’s sake. No band of thieves can go this long without losing someone or facing some sort of tragedy.

But the tragedy I got with this book was THE WORST POSSIBLE THING THAT EVER COULD HAVE HAPPENED. I was SHOOK. I was in TEARS. Ughh. I don’t even want to talk about it. Unless you’ve read the book. Throw me a message and lets talk about how TERRIBLE that part near the end was. I’m still not okay.

I have to talk about the relationships in this book as well. I can’t not talk about them… because they were beautiful. The friendship between Inej and Nina was just as wonderful as it was in Six of Crows. The relationship between Nina and Matthias is still changing and growing from the last book and I was thoroughly obsessed with it all the way to the end. I connected with Jesper a little more this time since we got to learn a little more about his backstory. His relationship with Wylan is so much fun. The banter they throw back and forth was a blast. I also enjoyed Kaz and Jesper, though Kaz was a jerk for most of the book, I saw right through him and understood how much he thought of Jesper even though he wouldn’t come right out and say it. Then there was the Kaz and Inej relationship… ugh… just ugh. I felt all the emotions with all the characters. They all went through their own issues and they had someone from the group to help them through it. Then there was the fact that they all had each other. Every single one of them. They became a family.

I loved the plug of characters from the Shadow and Bone series. I felt like I was in on a secret the entire time as to who these characters were. I loved knowing something that the other characters didn’t know. So that was fun. I also loved the references to the Saint Alina, who is also from the Shadow and Bone series. It was super cool and incredibly satisfying to get to see how the rest of the world is faring after what happened in Alina’s story.

At this point, there won’t be a single Bardugo book that I don’t go after. She’s made her case and I’m here for it. Whatever she writes, I’ll read. I’m her ride or die at this point. She’s created such a cool universe and I’ve enjoyed every angle she’s taken in it. Next up will be Nikolai’s story. I’ve been so excited for his book since I read the very first Grishaverse book. I can’t wait to see where she takes his character and his story line.

At last, Sturmhond straightened the lapels of his teal frock coat and said, “Well Brekker, it’s obvious you only deal in half-truths and outright lies, so you’re clearly the man for the job.”

Keri

Posted in Let's Talk About

Let’s Talk About: Artists

Let’s take a moment to appreciate artists, ladies and gentlemen…

We look at books all the time and think to ourselves how beautiful the cover looks, and that cover makes us want to read that book. There are people behind that cover. There are artists who create those covers. They envision something and then it becomes a reality one brush/pencil/pen/crayon/chalk stroke at a time. They take an author’s imagination, mesh it with their own, and a beautiful cover is born.

But we’re not just talking about the artists behind the cover porn we all love to oogle at, we’re talking about the artists who create the meat of the book. The people who take a moment to read the book and choose a font that fits the contents and feelings of the book. We’re talking about the people who edit the words to fit just so on the page so that it’s aesthetically pleasing to the eye. The margins, the spaces, the attention to breaks in words and how a paragraph flows from one page to another. There are people behind those little things that make a book so easy to read.

I have a friend who is a graphic designer and she recently told me about “rivers”. I had no idea this was a thing but when she began explaining it to me, I knew exactly what she was talking about. “Rivers” are those ridiculous spaces between words. It’s when it looks like the author has typed three spaces between certain words and it’s so distracting! It was at this point that I realized, there are so many elements of a book that begin and end with an artist. An artist who can tell you the technical terms for all of these types of layouts and styles.

Birthday Photo
Here’s a picture that same friend drew me for my birthday. It’s my favorite birthday card EVER.

I’m mentioning these things because these are all things most book readers take for granted. These are things most people don’t know by name. These are things we EXPECT from a book. We expect the book to have the proper grammar, a great cover, and for the lines of the book to be even and to flow well. What we don’t realize, is there are people who work to make that happen. There are people who sit for hours going through a 600-page book to ensure that each page is properly aligned. If not for these people, books would be a mess. Think of all the books that came out before the technology to make these alignings and layouts possible. I think this is why so many people shy away from old books and claim they’re too hard to read. It’s because these wonderful designers weren’t running around in abundance to make our books look and FEEL better to read.

So, this is for you artists and designers out there. Maybe you’re getting the appreciation you deserve and that’s wonderful. But I fear that a lot of you may not be getting the praise you’ve earned. This is for all of you. Some of us see you. We always have. We’ve always felt our eyes drawn to the margins of your perfect pages. We’ve always noticed how the font seems to fit the genre of the book we’re reading and how it adds to the feelings we have for the words on those pages. We see you. I see you. You are the very spine of the books we read. You are appreciated, and I hope you never stop designing because you are wonderful at it and you are making such a huge difference in the lives of readers whether they realize it or not.

SUPPORT YOUR LOCAL ARTISTS. Remind them how wonderful they are. Something as simple as going on to their social media page and giving their work a like. Tell them why you love it. When you see a picture that moves you, take a moment to realize that there’s an artist behind that picture who felt the same as you about it as they were creating it.

Let’s give a round of applause to the designers and artists of the world. The world is theirs, we just live in it. And what a beautiful world they’ve created for us.
🖤 🖤 🖤 🖤 🖤 🖤 🖤 🖤 🖤 🖤 🖤 🖤 🖤 🖤 🖤 🖤 🖤 🖤 🖤 🖤 🖤 🖤 🖤 🖤 🖤 🖤 🖤

Keri

Posted in Monthly Wrap-Ups

July Wrap-Up

July Stats
Number of Books Read: 4
Pages Read: 1,680
Average Rating: 3.5
Favorite Book of the Month: Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo
Least Favorite Book of the Month: Siege and Storm by Leigh Bardugo
Current Progress Made Towards Yearly Reading Challenge: 37 of 50

Good lord guys, I am soooo late.
Better late than never, right?

So July was hectic. We started packing up our apartment, so every moment that I wasn’t at work or packing, I was being completely worthless and sitting on the couch watching Regular Show.

When I did read, it was a Leigh Bardugo novel. I’ve been on a journey with her books and I realllllly wanted to finish her Grishaverse by the end of July but that didn’t happen. In my defense, I got really close! I’m about halfway through Crooked Kingdom and after that will come King of Scars! I can’t wait to read Nikolai’s book.

So far these books have been really good. They’ve kept me thoroughly entertained and I’ve enjoyed reading Crooked Kingdom in August and seeing all the references to the characters from the Shadow and Bone trilogy.

The only reason I listed Siege and Storm as my least favorite book of the month is because it’s the second book of the series and those are always the worst. It’s when characters hit the lowest of their lows and it usually contains a frustrating strained relationship between main characters. I’ve always hated second books in trilogies.

I absolutely panicked when I realized I started with the wrong Bardugo novel… I started with Six of Crows because I saw so much hype surrounding it and totally missed the fact that there was trilogy that came before. But I think the way I read them was kind of perfect. Six of Crows set up the world for me just enough to where I knew what was going on when I started Shadow and Bone. I feel like I may have followed it a little easier because of that. There aren’t many references to the characters from the Shadow and Bone series in Six of Crows so it wasn’t too detrimental to the reading experience.

I’m excited to get into the last bit of Crooked Kingdom and also to finally get to read Nikolai’s book. I’m writing to you now from the love seat in my parents living room! We are finishing up moving tomorrow so things will be a lot more settled after that.

I only have one honorable mention for the month and that is…
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This movie hits theaters October 18, 2019 and I am BESIDE MYSELF. I can’t wait to go see this. It looks like it may be a bit cheesy but I’m willing to bet I’m going to absolutely love it.

Hoping to read a lot more books in August! (I always say this… let’s see if I actually do it this time…)

Shout out to my parents, aunt and uncle, and my in-laws for helping us move and get settled. The process has been a lot easier with so many people helping us and cheering us on.

Keri