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Saturday, December 2, 2017

December 2017 Book Review: Glimmerglass


GLIMMERGLASS
By Jenna Black
~Book Review~


AVALON has a mesmerizing allure to it, a mysterious city in Britain where magic comes to life. For teenage Dana who has an embittered relationship with her alcoholic mother, she is willing to travel behind the curtain with her fey father and enter the court of faerie.

However, she soon discovers that she is a Faeriewalker who can bring magic into the human world and technology into Avalon. Her rare ability makes her a target, but luckily she befriends fey siblings Ethan and Kimber to help uncover the mystery of who is behind the attacks on her life.

The story is fairly predictable but the core characters are amusing and memorable. I like that Dana and Kimber team up and develop a close friendship, Dana’s bodyguard Finn was the typical close-mouthed serious warrior which I’m always a sucker for, and Dana’s teacher Keane was entertaining with his I-love-you/I-hate-you routine with Dana. Tragically, he’s not the main love interest – that falls to Ethan, Kimber’s brother, who is pretty banal, irritates Dana (but makes her swoon as well!), leaving just the reader still sorely irritated. He didn’t seem to have much going on besides his abs.

The world-building in Glimmerglass reminded me of Eoin Colfer’s Artemis Fowl series. It felt college-age, contemporary, with faerie student dorm houses, modern references name dropped here and there, and a focus on hormones over plot. However, it was a neat concept to explore magic v. technology and what would happen if Dana brought over guns into the faerie land?

Overall, a swift and entertaining read, but for fantasy fans who want more in-depth faerie world building, check out Julie Kagawa’s Iron Fey series.

Recommended for fans of: Carrie Jones, Alexandra Adornetto, Lauren Kate

Upcoming Book Review: The Cursed Child by J. K. Rowling, Jack Thorne, and John Tiffany

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Thailand Travel Series: Bangkok


~Welcome to the Thailand Travel Series~

This visit briefly covers Bangkok, features Angkor Wat in Cambodia, and then focuses on Southern Thailand: Phuket; Phrang Nga Bay; Railay Beach; Ao Nang. Happy Traveling!



MY HOMETOWN had entered a terribly cold season newspapers started calling “the Great Dark,” so you can imagine how happy I was to touch down in hot, humid Thailand for two weeks.

We chose to travel at the end of October through early November in Bangkok. It was a bit of a gamble. We knew some folks who had gone at this time a couple years earlier, and the Bangkok airport was flooded. As such, they had to reroute their trip to Singapore and travel up through Malaysia to Southern Thailand by train. November marks the start of the dry season. We did experience quite a few thunderstorms that rolled in around 4 PM like clockwork, but otherwise, the weather was remarkably beautiful.




We arrived on the streets of Bangkok at midnight, bleary-eyed and disoriented after our fourteen hour flight from the States. It was a hard toss-up between Korean Air and Asiana, but we eventually went with Korean Air since they had a better deal at the time. We flew from Honolulu to Incheon, South Korea (approximately 9 hours) and then from Incheon to Bangkok (approximately 5 hours). Korean Air excels at customer service and our flight over even had a second level on the plane. Also, it had been so long since we could take advantage of a free entertainment system (and free checked bags for the way back), I had been looking forward to going on a movie-watching binge. But I think the effect wore off after six hours or so. I find it notoriously difficult to sleep on planes, so I had no sense of time whatsoever when we landed.

Both Incheon International Airport in Seoul, South Korea and Suvarnabhumi International Airport in Bangkok, Thailand are ultramodern, sleek, open airports. Everything is meticulously labeled and includes English translations, and we did not experience any difficulties transferring to our next flight. I had missed this part of the world, but I felt the familiarity rise as gradually, English was overtaken with Korean and then Thai, the smoggy humidity settled into my skin, and a sense of being other invaded my perceptions. We had both feverishly studied to pick up common Thai phrases and spent countless commuting hours listening to audio books, but Thai is a tonal language, so that in itself was a new challenge. However, we experienced a warm greeting and appreciation toward our willingness to try and speak Thai. Many in the hospitality industry spoke basic English as well, so we navigated down to the second floor where our shuttle came for us.



Since we were spending two weeks in Thailand, we packed light with only carry-ons: two backpacks and then one roller board and a duffel bag. We had a detour to Siem Reap, Cambodia planned, so we didn’t want to waste time dealing with checked luggage. We booked all of our hotels ahead of time by researching online and through Lonely Planet. We ended up booking everything on Expedia, which worked out well overall, except for our Air Asia flight we booked through them to get to Siem Reap. Air Asia ended up canceling our departure flight and notified us. However, we were suspicious that it might be a fraudulent email and called both Expedia and contacted Air Asia to confirm. Expedia told us there were no delays, but just to make sure, we utilized Air Asia’s online chat since we didn’t have an international phone plan at the time, and they said that it had changed. We were able to book on a different flight through the online chat, but even up until the day of our departure, Expedia didn’t get the memo. Goes to show, make sure you go by whatever your airline says! However, Expedia was helpful for us to message our hotels a couple weeks out to arrange airport shuttle pick-ups and all the reservations went through. 

The only other ticket we bought ahead of time was the train ticket from Surat Thani to Bangkok (www.thairailwayticket.com or passenger-ser@railway.co.th). Other things like excursions we waited to book through travel agencies once we arrived in Thailand, since a) you never know how the weather might turn out and b) the travel agencies will discount whatever price the brochures and media posts a couple times, or work to find you a trip you’re looking for at the price you want. Tour agencies are about a time a dozen, especially in the touristy areas. But more on that later!







Bangkok was still abuzz with activity at midnight. We stayed at the Phoenix Hotel on the outskirts of Bangkok near Suvarnabhumi Airport (20 minute drive approximately). It was about $52 USD for 2 nights for a small room with basic amenities and free airport shuttle pick up and drop off. On the second floor was a large row of  different hotel pick up and drop off people. We spoke to the gentleman with a clipboard and he okayed that someone would be by soon in The Phoenix shuttle to grab us. We later learned the Phoenix Hotel’s shuttle left every hour. We kept the man in close view as we slumped over our luggage on the floor nearby, but sure enough, he soon gestured for us to go out and catch our shuttle that had pulled upon the curb outside.

In hindsight, we would recommend a hotel even closer to the airport (10 minutes or less), or you can arrange to stay in the airport itself, if you are just using it as a rest stop as we were. There weren’t many good flights to Siem Reap without going through Bangkok, so we thought we would spend a day there to adjust to the time zone and see the palace. We did spot a Novotel nearby, which we would learn is a premier hotel chain that has locations throughout Thailand and has top-notch service.

The Phoenix Hotel staff was courteous and the rooms were clean; the airport shuttle for free was definitely a perk. The TV sputtered and gave you about two channels, and the breakfast wasn’t free but had a decent porridge for about 80 baht (at the time of this article, the exchange rate was approximately 33 baht to 1 USD). Bed was comfortable and the bathroom came with shampoo and conditioner. For the toilets, remember to throw toilet paper in the trash can and don’t flush it to avoid clogs.

Curiously enough, the exchange rate was the best at the airport, which I've never seen happen. But we were able to get 33 baht for 1 USD - at other banks further away from the airport, the highest it would get would be 32.8, and some were only offering 31. I would familiarize yourself as much as possible with the exchange rate and if you see it, even if close to the airport, go for that deal. You might not necessarily find that rate somewhere else. Also, bring a lot of US cash (as much as you feel comfortable with and keep it close!) - that way you don't have to pay as much in ATM fees by card later. Traveler's checks is another option. 

We bought soap from a 7-11 on the corner nearby. Always keep an eye out for those convenience stores – they carry everything that the hotels will up-charge on like soap, sunscreen, bug spray, quick snacks ect. The biggest thing we went there for was bottled water, since it’s advised not to drink tap water in Thailand. Also, you can stock up on Chang beer :). 

Likewise at 7-11, the cashier gave us what looked like Hello Kitty stamps upon receipt every time. We soon had a massive collection of them. Save these stamps – you can use them to trade for certain items or just take a discount off your bill. We had no idea what to do with them for half our time in Thailand, so on our last day, we got a good 50 baht off our bill!




If you’re planning to spend a couple days in Bangkok, definitely grab a spot deep in the heart of the city. Minimize your travel to walking as much as possible. Bangkok was huge, sprawling. We woke in the morning (strangely awake for all the traveling we’d been doing!) and ventured out to the downtown. We caught the free shuttle to the airport again and from there, went down to the bottom floor of Suvarnabhumi Airport where the Airport Rail Link was, ready to venture into the heart of Bangkok.

Hot unfolding maze
All mourn King Bhumi in black
City gifts the stranger

*Above is one of the many haikus my tired and numb brain conjured after sitting on a train for 9 hours from Surat Thani Station up to Bangkok. I thought I would share them sporadically so you can experience my slow mental shutdown from the all-day train ride to a full day of flying back to the States the day after.




Upon arriving at the Airport Link, all of the coin slot machines were out of order. We quickly learned that we had arrived during the remembrance of His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej. As such, all public transportation like trains and buses were free. From what I could see, it looked like typically for using the Rail Links, you could either purchase tickets or get a pre-paid card that you swiped each time when you entered and swiped again when you left. They had an information booth set up as well. The Airport Link is one of several that serve Bangkok, which starts at Suvarabhumi and ends at Phayathai Station (about 30 -40 minute journey). There were a couple places you could transfer to other Rail Links as well. As such, there was probably an easier way to get to The Grand Palace, but our plan was basically to get as far into the city as we could and then Uber the rest of the way.

Ah, yes. Uber serves Bangkok! It was very convenient. We had paid for a limited international phone plan, so I put in our location and could quickly see the price. We hadn’t quite gotten into our haggling mode yet, so it was preferable to going straight to the tuk-tuks. I found out later the Uber price also factors in tolls (there were quite a few toll booths on major roads in Bangkok) and drivers don’t expect tips in Thailand. Uber would also message me codes to get baht discounts on future Uber rides.





The driver got us as close to the palace as could but explained that due to the remembrance ceremony, we couldn’t enter the Grand Palace today. We walked alongside the river encircling the palace sight-seeing until the crowds wearing black grew so thick that cars couldn’t get through. Hundreds had turned out to line up for the parade that would be happening later and lined the alleys and bridges. One large courtyard had a screen replaying the life of King Bhumi while the military saluted.






At this point, we felt very conspicuous since we were pretty much the only ones not wearing black, so we wanted to duck out and not cause disrespect. However, we ran into a line of what looked to be a grade school association of some kind. One man tried to hand me a water bottle, and I thought he must have wanted me to pay for it, so I declined. But the next few groups of people all had gifts they pressed into our hands: different pastries, small noodle dishes, and the best-tasting coconut ice cream ever given it was such a sweltering day. We finally caught on that it was all part of the remembrance ceremony and gratefully accepted – by that point, I was wondering where the water bottle guy had gone.










We found a complex of temples to duck into that led us to a stream, and suddenly all the noise of the city fell away. Tucked away in the heart of Bangkok along the stream was a hodgepodge of tin roofed homes cluttered together with cats perched on top and an odd assortment of items sprinkled from porch to porch. A family clustered together on a bridge to watch an old TV broadcast of the event. Then we tumbled out of that alley back into rows of concrete apartments. We finally wound up at the Democracy Monument around sunset.







We had a flight to catch the next morning to Siem Reap so we retraced our footsteps from there, since it took us a good 1.5 hours away to get back via train/airport shuttle (see how big Bangkok is?). My phone was dead, so we haggled with a tuk tuk driver. He wanted 400 baht to take us back to Phayathai Station, but we said 300. He said he could do 300 if we agreed to meet with his “sponsor” for a stop, which we definitely weren’t interested in, so we settled on 350 baht. Still more hefty than if we’d done Uber, but we were tired. The ride certainly woke us up!  





I am glad we got to be in Bangkok for the ceremony. If we’d had more time, I would have liked to see the Grand Palace and other sights around Bangkok like one of the nearby Floating Markets or Ayutthaya, Thailand’s former capital full of sprawling temples and jungle a day trip north of Bangkok.

We would have to save a trip to the north of Thailand (and include Chiang Mai!) another time. For now, we were jetting off to Siem Reap, Cambodia to explore the vastness of Angkor Wat.


Disclaimer: The above content is depicted as fiction, not fact. 

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

November 2017 Book Review: Nightshade

NIGHTSHADE

By Andrea Cremer

~Book Review~



*Warning! Spoilers!*

THIS BOOK IS PARANORMAL CANDY. I binge-read the Nightshade series, cursed violently at the romantic turn of events in the final book, and then tried to get into the Nightshade prequels but just couldn’t. The reason being, the world-building was interesting, but what really hooked me in the main series was the secondary characters.

The similarities to Twilight are striking, but in the right way. The chemistry between Calla and alpha wolf Rem was smokin’, the bond the other wolves had with Calla touching, and the relationship between the werewolves and the Keepers tense enough to keep things interesting. This really is a case where the secondary characters grow in your heart much more than the main duo do, alpha Calla and the human boy she saves from a bear attack, Shay. So naturally, it’s a bit more painful to experience all the bad stuff that usually happens to secondary protagonists, but it’s definitely the type of series that’s addictive.

Calla is a Guardian, an alpha werewolf who serve as protectors for the sorcerous Keepers in a world laden with monsters. She is the betrothed of fellow alpha Ren, who, much like Cassian from Sophie Jordan’s Firelight series (identical plot but with dragon shifters) is much more complex and interesting than whiny, bland Shay. Unfortunately for us all, Calla spots the human Shay wandering around the woods and instead of letting a bear eat him, saves him and thus sets off a forbidden love triangle that will take three books to be resolved.

There is a bit more action in this book than Firelight. Calla unfortunately doesn’t live up to her bad-ass potential in fighting but instead exhibits a bad temper instead, so don’t expect much from her. However, at least we have Ren, Ansel, Bryn, Mason, and Fey who aren’t afraid to get their paws dirty. Tensions flare as motivations behind why the Keepers need Calla and Ren’s marital pack merge and who is the real manipulating enemy come to a head.

Overall an enjoyable read with addictive paranormal romance flair and memorable secondary characters.

Recommended for fans of: Stephanie Meyer, Sophie Jordan, and Courtney Moulton
Upcoming Book Review: Glimmerglass by Jenna Black

Sunday, October 1, 2017

October 2017 Book Review: The Girl in the Steel Corset

The Girl in the Steel Corset

By Kate Locke

~Book Review~




Warning! Minor spoilers! 

FINLEY JAYNE, our late 19th century English heroine, can knock full-grown men out cold in a corset made out of steel, no less. No wonder she is ill-tempered. Paying homage to Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde as well as reminiscent of Oliver Twist, Kate Locke’s steampunk The Girl in the Steel Corset introduces us to a group of peculiar outsiders, whose newest addition thrashes back and forth between her good and evil natures.

The first couple chapters are exhilarating, as there is nothing more satisfying than seeing a leering brute get taken out by someone he underestimates. Once serving girl Finley comes back to the reality that she has defended herself against someone of upper class, she goes on the run to escape the consequences. She meets Griffin King, who takes her under his wing like the Artful Dodger, and meets fellow uncanny miscreants such as a part-robot and a genius inventor.

Unfortunately, it is here that the book begins to lose its suspense and the plot slows to a meandering crawl around a very surface level exploration of the characters’ lives. There is a shadowy villain, the Machinist, who, predictably, lurks from the shadows and doesn’t effectively establish himself as a menacing threat. Sam, who is part-robot, is super-charged aggressively hostile toward Emily, an inventor, and by the end of it, I still wasn’t convinced as to his reasons for being so. It just made him immensely dislikeable. And Griffin was a bland leader with none of the Artful Dodger’s charm.

All of the potential of Finley’s dual character is lost as she is relegated to share the stage with Griffin’s point of view. It would be an interesting exercise if Griffin didn’t exist and Finley served as the sole main character, gathering the other misfits to her side, and having a more personal, intense relationship with the Machinist in order to build up the tension. Griffin didn’t really serve as anything, certainly not as the fascinating subtle bad influence like the Dodger demonstrated, like the type of mentor who seemingly has good intentions, but whom the more naive “Oliver” character (Finley) needs to learn to establish her independence against. Rather, he just served as a disinteresting romantic prospect and not essential to the plot. Without Griffin, I would venture to say that Finley’s other romantic interest, the swaggering Cockney crime lord Jack Dandy, would still have given the story enough spice.

As such, I am hesitant to continue the series, as the stage is just too over-crowded to provide a more intense, deeper characterization of not just the protagonists, but even of the steampunk world itself. The Girl in the Steel Corset feels like it is trying to be too many things (a romance, a steampunk noir mystery, a philosophical struggle between good and evil natures), and in the end, leaves none of them memorable. I would recommend the series to readers looking for a more light-hearted, slow-paced romance with bits of steampunk magic here and there.

Recommended for fans of: Cassandra Clare, Colleen Houck, and Shelley Adina

Upcoming Book Review: Nightshade by Andrea Cremer 

Monday, September 4, 2017

Update on Writing Projects

When I realized it was September, my jaw literally dropped. Seriously, where has this year gone? It has been quite the whirlwind. Writing will always be my passion, and I have big plans for the Changeling Sisters Series and the Afterlife Chronicles in the years ahead. However, this year has been gobbled up largely by personal life events, one of which involves wedding bells - enough said! I could start an entire separate blog on the intricacies of wedding planning in today's age. Those of you who elope are pretty smart :) However, I have faith that the big day will all come together and I am truly looking forward to it. 

As such, please know that I have continued writing on the newest Changeling Sisters novel, Year of the Rat, in all of my spare time. Soon of which, I will have much more of! So thank you for hanging on, faithful readers, and I hope that all of you as well on the day-to-day will be blessed with that elusive gift of time. 

-Heather 

September 2017 Book Review: The Grimm Legacy

The Grimm Legacy
By Polly Shulman
~Book Review~ 



*Warning! Spoilers!

THIS IS A HEART-WARMING middle school read in the vein of modern-day fairy tales. Elizabeth is lonely and has trouble fitting into a new school but her luck perks up when she accepts a job at a mysterious repository where patrons check out ancient artifacts instead of books. However, Elizabeth soon catches on that some of the artifacts are far from normal. When objects belonging to these “special” collections start going missing, suspicion falls on her group of newfound repository friends.

The Grimm Legacy is a nice change of pace. Light-hearted, fun, and full of curious rooms to explore like the Garden of Seasons or the sci-fi chamber with its own shrink ray, I was endlessly entertained by where Elizabeth would end up next. Of course, the star of the repository is the Grimm Collection, full of cauldrons that can make delicious meals, seven league boots, and magic carpets. I was mentally urging Elizabeth to hurry up and discover its secret, but eventually, she realizes how much of a unique job she has undertaken. Elizabeth has a well-depicted diverse group of friends with the lovely, intelligent Anjali, handsome jock type Marc who struggles to juggle family obligations, and the sarcastically humorous Aaron. Elizabeth learns to speak up for herself and not to be bossed around by others, especially once it becomes clear that not everyone’s interest in the Grimm Collection is benign. However, it is Anjali’s younger sister Jaya who most often steals the scene, declaring herself the defender of the group by handcrafting special “protection” knots as they go after the artifact thieves.

The charm and creativity of this book is something lacking in many fantasy tales these days that feel like a flat rehash of other authors’ ideas. I felt like I was reading something more along the lines of Harry Potter with the spark and right touch of magic to make the pages fly by. Much recommended when you’re in the mood for a slower read that takes its time to reveal a wondrous secret world.

Recommended for fans of: Lloyd Alexander, JK Rowling, Terry Brooks

Upcoming Book Review: The Girl in the Steel Corset by Kate Locke

Monday, July 31, 2017

August 2017 Book Review: Antigoddess


Antigoddess

By Kendare Blake

~Book Review~

 Antigoddess (Goddess War, #1)

IN YA FANTASY WE HAVE SEEN GREEK GODS go through a modern day make-over like in Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson series or star as tortured love interests (mainly Hades) such as in Aimee Carter’s The Goddess Test. However, what if they started to die off?

Arguably much of their relevance already has, but it is a fantastic perspective to base a series around. I really enjoyed the dynamic between the two main character deities, Athena and Hermes, who discover they have begun to deteriorate in horrifically painful ways. Athena has wings sprouting in her lungs, for (gods’) sakes! What happened to Demeter really made me cringe. So I was excited for the quest as Athena and Hermes set out to find the source of their unraveling immortality. Along the way, a rift ruptures between Athena and those deities trying to solve the mystery, and those gods who have sided with the enemy.

Then there is Cassandra. *Sigh*. The story would have been better off without her, in my opinion. She is a typical judgy, charmless human protagonist who knows better than anyone else (definitely knows more than these gods who’ve been around a millennium) but, as Fate would unluckily have it, she is a Seer tied to the gods’ fate. That means we get chapters of her judging other people at parties, judging other people in her house, and judging anyone who tries to make her do anything. Very endearing sort, but just skim through her chapters. Luckily she’s not the sole POV.

The story is told with a stark, bloody boldness that is refreshing. You can feel the unpleasant prickle of feathers prickling along the roof of your mouth as Athena suffers. Aphrodite is a nut case, and Demeter is a freakin’ rolled out carpet. There are deaths, and they are in-your-face and rattling. The gods are by far the best characters, feeling just human enough that you root for them more so than the real humans. However, Odysseus was pretty bad-ass.

I would recommend the Goddess War trilogy, if anything, just to hear what gruesome fate has befallen the other gods. There were some major players missing in this installment (Hades and oh yes, Ares) who definitely get their due in subsequent installments. Zeus, however, does remain oddly absent for the overtly self-absorbed shapeshifter who runs rampant around the earth cornering maidens. However, perhaps that is to give more of a spotlight to gods like Athena and Hermes, whom we get to know very well by the end of the series. This is a unique re-imagining of what Greek Gods are doing in today’s world and well worth the read.

Recommended for fans of: Rick Riordan, Ellen Oh, and Sarah Fine

Upcoming Book Review: Steelheart by Brandon Sanderson  

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

July 2017 Book Review: White Cat

WHITE CAT

By Holly Black

~Book Review~



THE CURSE WORKERS SERIES is truly a breath of fresh air in the genre. My only wish is that I wish Holly Black had delved more into the most interesting thing about it – the curses!

Granted, I feel like the first book, White Cat, is wonderful. The other installations don’t quite capture the magic of a kid named Cassel who discovers he is a rare Transformation worker (voiced on the audio book by Jesse Eisenburg who is a perfect Cassel, I may add). I would recommend the first book in the series and read the others if you’re really head over heels for the characters. Me, not so much, since the focus on all the really cool things that could be achieved with curse working was traded in for a focus on the more everyday lives of our elite high school students.

Anyway, this review is on the first book. And it’s awesome. Sleight of hand, charming, death curses, power over memory – these are but a handful of gifts that a Curse Worker may manifest in an alternate America, where Black has set up a great world full of crime lords employing these curse workers, the law who forbids such practice, and your everyday, normal millennial. Cassel is the type of hero who is smooth talking and doesn’t know when to stop, which often gets himself into trouble, but he also picks up on things and knows when he’s being played, which is cool. He is the one non-gifted son in a gifted Curse Worker family: his mother can charm, his brother Philip is a brawler, and his other brother Barron, is a memory worker, which means he can manipulate memories (scary!) His grandfather is a death worker, which means he can kill people with a touch. What is neat about these curses is that they have “blowback” on the person doing them, which means that however big the curse, so much more will be the price toll upon the curser. His grandfather can lose teeth, fingers, ect for taking a life, that sort of thing.

Cassel does have his faults. He is hopelessly in love with Lila, the daughter of a Curse Worker family mob boss, which is always annoying when you as the reader don’t see what’s so great about her. However, it is revealed early on that Lila is *dead* due to Cassel…or is she? Cassel has memories of doing the deed, but as his brother is a memory worker, it goes to show that in this world, you don’t know who you can trust, and the truth can be far more twisted. Cassel gets entangled in unraveling the mystery behind Lila’s death with the help of a mysterious white cat who appears in his dreams, and the result is a smart alec adventure where Cassel discovers just where he fits in this Curse worker world.

I would definitely recommend – the plot is slow in places, but I highly savored returning to this audio book on my to-and-from work commutes. The ending keeps you on the edge of your seat, and I definitely enjoyed the twists and turns. Cassel is an endearing, flawed protagonist who stands out as real in the very Gary Stu YA fiction spectrum. I’m not as satisfied with the other installments, but this one stands well on its own!

Recommended for fans of: Rick Riordan, Laini Taylor, Jonathan Stroud
Upcoming Book Review: Antigoddess by Kendare Blake

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

June 2017 Book Review: Red Queen


Red Queen

By Victoria Aveyard

~Book Review~

 Red Queen (Red Queen, #1)



Warning! Spoilers!

MARE BARROWS IS A RED, which means she is a commoner, destined to serve the royal Silvers who have superpowers like mind control or fire. Mare is on the side to a budding resistance to this society until a turn of fate reveals that she, too, has magical powers. The Silver royal family responds by betrothing her to one of their sons and claiming that she is a lost Silver princess. However, Mare knows that the reality is nothing of a kind, and thus begins exploring her mysterious powers as the flames of revolution grow higher.

The training scenes of Red Queen were the best part, where Mare gets to test her lightning powers against other royals who can manipulate metal, have super speed, ect. She forms a bond with the down-to-earth Silver prince Cal, a formidable fighter with fire powers who gets all the attention. She also meets Maven, the younger prince and the son of the new queen who is more bookish, quieter, and jealous of his older brother’s feats.

Beyond the training scenes, it was hard to stay invested in this book. Mare is a generic passive heroine who reacts rather than acts; Cal has a non-existent personality; and I was about to give up all hope on the sniveling Maven as well until Aveyard’s twist at the end. That was a breath of relief, but I felt that it should have happened sooner. For me, the biggest problem was the lack of tension. There are seemingly no villains or anyone who is much of a challenge to Mare for three quarters of the book, which contributed to my rapid skim reading. There should have been; the queen reads minds, for heaven’s sake, but the complacency upon her and Maven’s side was pretty suspicious from the get-go. I was really hoping Aveyard would get there sooner, but instead it’s used as a catalyst to set up the rest of the books in the series.

While mildly entertaining, not much stands out to engross the reader in this world over the myriad of other YA fantasy offerings. The most intriguing dynamic is between Mare and Maven once his secret is revealed, but the other characters were all fairly forgettable.  

Recommended for fans of: Marie Rutkoski; Mary Pearson; Morgan Rhodes

Upcoming Book Review: White Cat by Holly Black 

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Ireland Travel Series: Sligo, Ireland

This is Part VIII of the Ireland Travel Series. Read Part I here.

ABOUT TWO HOURS NORTH of Galway lies Sligo, near the border between the Republic and Northern Ireland. This town has a mix of the historical mixed with the industrial, as well as many neighboring country homes. We were fortunate to stay with a family friend who whipped us up some prime Irish coffees every night and introduced us to friends going out for the night.




We visited The Beach Bar (http://www.thebeachbarsligo.com/surfing.html), which had the foresight to offer both surfing lessons as well as beer! Sligo is situated on a gray bay with loads dark, craggy sand and shells, but the waves make for good surfing. The Beach Bar offers lessons for all levels of surfer. I was extremely impressed with the trio of wet suited folks who trooped in from the pitch-black evening outside and ordered up a round. The autumn was so cold that the hot spiced whiskey I had really hit the spot.



We also toured the local scene to see the colorful array of houses and even attended a rugby match. Sligo is home to the Sligo RFC Team at Hamilton Park. Other sights include the beautiful St. John the Baptist Cathedral, Glasshouse Hotel, and the pretty Garavogue River that runs through the town. This can be a spot to launch your trip up to Northern Ireland, but at this time, we were focused on visiting family friends.






We ended the trip with a final round at The Beach Bar. Surrounded by good cheer (and good beer), there is no place the captures the wild, rugged human spirit like the rolling green hills of Ireland.

Sights of the countryside.


Here ends the Ireland Travel Series. Until our next adventure!

Disclaimer: the above is presented as fiction, not fact.