Audio Book Review: Sorcerer To The Crown by Zen Cho, Narrated By Jenny Sterlin

Book: Sorcerer To The Crown by Zen Cho, Narrated by Jenny Sterlin

Published September 2015 by Recorded Books|13 hours, 9 minutes

Where I Got It: I own the audio book

Series: Sorcerer Royal #1

Genre: Adult Fantasy

Magic and mayhem collide with the British elite in this whimsical and sparkling debut.

At his wit’s end, Zacharias Wythe, freed slave, eminently proficient magician, and Sorcerer Royal of the Unnatural Philosophers—one of the most respected organizations throughout all of Britain—ventures to the border of Fairyland to discover why England’s magical stocks are drying up.

But when his adventure brings him in contact with a most unusual comrade, a woman with immense power and an unfathomable gift, he sets on a path which will alter the nature of sorcery in all of Britain—and the world at large…

I really liked Sorcerer To The Crown.  It was hard to get into, especially at the beginning, but by the end of the book, I was really glad I stuck with it.  I loved Prunella, and she was such a cool character.  It’s interesting, because you’d think she wouldn’t have a huge role in the book, but she turns out to be pretty important.  I’m hoping there’s more of her in the next book.

I think the one thing that kept me going with this book was the fact that I listened to.  I originally tried to read it in print, got a few pages in, and decided to give the audio book a try.  I’m glad I did, because I really liked the narrator.  She really brought the humor and time period to life, and I think if you like Gail Carriger’s books, you’ll really like this one.  There’s something something about the history and magic and humor, though her books are quite different from this one.

There were times where I wasn’t paying attention, but I suppose that’s what happens when I’m listening at home while I’m cooking or something.  At least it didn’t fade into the background the way The Reader did when I listened to that recently.

Still, it was fun to listen to, and there were quite a few times when I couldn’t help but laugh.  And there were some really interesting things about the book as well- Zacharias has a lot of enemies, and there are a lot of people who don’t think he should be in the position he’s in, just because he was a former slave, and because of the color of skin.  And when you add in Prunella, who’s at a school because women are seen as unsuitable for magic.  I think some of that got lost in the audio book, though maybe those were the points where I wasn’t completely paying attention.

I like that it’s set in an alternate Regency England.  Can this type of fantasy stay around for a while?  It’s a nice change from the medieval Europe fantasy that seems pretty normal for fantasy, and it’s nice reading something different.  I think that might be why I liked it so much.  Plus, even though there is a sequel (which needs more Prunella, because she is absolutely amazing), it’s pretty self-contained.  It makes me curious to see where things are going to go, but there is enough going on in the book that there’s so much she could do with another book.

I also really liked the narrator.  I liked her enough that I think I want to at least see what else she’s narrated.  Her narration, like I mentioned earlier, is what kept me going with the audio book, especially since I struggled with the beginning.

4 stars.  I really liked Sorcerer To The Crown, and I can’t wait to see what happens next.

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Book Review: Labyrinth Lost by Zoraida Cordova

Book: Labyrinth Lost by Zoraida Cordova

Published September 2016 by Sourcebooks Fire|324 pages

Where I Got It: I borrowed the hardcover from the library

Series: Brooklyn Brujas #1

Genre: YA Urban Fantasy

Nothing says Happy Birthday like summoning the spirits of your dead relatives.

Alex is a bruja, the most powerful witch in a generation…and she hates magic. At her Deathday celebration, Alex performs a spell to rid herself of her power. But it backfires. Her whole family vanishes into thin air, leaving her alone with Nova, a brujo boy she can’t trust. A boy whose intentions are as dark as the strange marks on his skin.

The only way to get her family back is to travel with Nova to Los Lagos, a land in-between, as dark as Limbo and as strange as Wonderland…

I really loved the magic, traditions and culture in Labyrinth Lost.  When I first heard about it, I knew I wanted to rea it, because it seemed really different.

Los Lagos was a really vivid setting- it had this Wonderland feel to it, and I think, if it were to be adapted into a movie or t.v. show, that Los Lagos would be really pretty to look at.  I thought things were pretty interesting leading up to Los Lagos, and as pretty and vivid at it seems, it was also the point where I started to lose a little bit of interest.

I think it’s mostly because the stakes never felt really high.  I know Alex is trying to get her family back, but there was never the sense of urgency that she would never get them back if she didn’t comply with the Devourer’s wishes.  It was pretty predictable that she’d be reunited with them, and I kind of felt like the book never really made me feel like it was a distinct possibility.

There were also a lot of the tropes you’d see in a book like this.  The girl who’s the most powerful in a while, but doesn’t want it and would do anything to get rid of it.  There’s the best friend who has no idea her best friend is a bruja but goes after her anyway, and the bad boy with a troubled past who, in the end, does the right thing by trying to help our heroine.  It wasn’t annoying enough to make me dislike it, but just annoying enough for me to bring it up. So keep that in min if you’re thinking about reading it.

The magic and folklore were really different, and I liked the idea of a Deathday celebration.  There was something very old and traditional about the magic, like it was passed down from generation to generation.  I also really liked the contrast between Brooklyn and Los Lagos and Brooklyn and the magic we see in the book.

I did think Alex was a little bit on the bratty side- her family really cared about her, as did a lot of other people, and it seemed like she threw it right in their faces at her Deathday celebration.  I am curious about why her mom didn’t really put her through their magical training a little more.  I wonder if maybe that’s part of Alex’s problem.  Maybe not, but I do wonder if it would have made a difference.

And the cover!  It’s really unique and I’d definitely pick it up based off of the cover alone.

4 stars.  I can’t wait to read the next book, because I am curious to see where things go.  Especially with how the book ended.  It is really unique, and worth checking out!

Book Review: The Flame Never Dies And Behold The Dreamers

the-flame-never-dies-coverBook #1: The Flame Never Dies By Rachel Vincent

Published August 2016 by Random House Children’s Books|241 pages

Where I Got It: I borrowed the e-book from the library

Series: Well Of Souls #2

Genre: YA Dystopia/Paranormal/Post-Apocalyptic

What It’s About: For fans of Cassandra Clare and Richelle Mead comes the unputdownable sequel to The Stars Never Rise, a book Rachel Caine, author of the bestselling Morganville Vampires series, called “haunting, unsettling, and eerily beautiful.”

ONE SPARK WILL RISE. Nina Kane was born to be an exorcist. And since uncovering the horrifying truth—that the war against demons is far from over—seventeen-year-old Nina and her pregnant younger sister, Mellie, have been on the run, incinerating the remains of the demon horde as they go.

In the badlands, Nina, Mellie, and Finn, the fugitive and rogue exorcist who saved her life, find allies in a group of freedom fighters. They also face a new threat: Pandemonia, a city full of demons. But this fresh new hell is the least of Nina’s worries. The well of souls ran dry more than a century ago, drained by the demons secretly living among humans, and without a donor soul, Mellie’s child will die within hours of its birth.

Nina isn’t about to let that happen . . . even if it means she has to make the ultimate sacrifice.

What I Thought: I liked it, but not as much as I thought I would.  I think a lot of it is that things were resolved pretty well in the first book, and it did work well as a stand-alone.  I don’t regret reading it, because The Flame Never Dies answers some questions and resolves some loose threads that came up in The Stars Never Rise.  But at the same time, it worked so well as a stand-alone that while I liked it, I’m also sort of meh about it.  What I think surprised me with this book is that, like the first book, things are resolved, with some loose threads and unanswered questions. From what I can tell, there will be only two books, so at least the overall story is resolved.  But things are open enough that there really could be another book in the series to answer those questions.

I was kept on the edge of my seat, though, and there were several times where you’re reading it, knowing that something is about to happen, and you’re just waiting for it to actually happen.  There weren’t a lot of surprises, but there were a few, and she does have a way of making you WANT to keep going.  There is part of me that wants more, but at the same time, I feel like, with this series, Vincent knew her stopping point and where things were headed.  It is nice knowing that the idea won’t get old because it’s being spread out over all of these books, and it easily could have gone that way.  But it didn’t, and I really appreciate that.

My Rating: 3 stars.  It’s enjoyable and fun, but I didn’t enjoy it quite as much as the first book.

behold-the-dreamer-coverBook #2: Behold The Dreamers by Imbolo Mbue

Published August 2016 by Random House|380 pages

Where I Got It: I borrowed the hardcover from the library

Series: None

Genre: Adult Fiction/Adult Literary Fiction

What It’s About: Jende Jonga, a Cameroonian immigrant living in Harlem, has come to the United States to provide a better life for himself, his wife, Neni, and their six-year-old son. In the fall of 2007, Jende can hardly believe his luck when he lands a job as a chauffeur for Clark Edwards, a senior executive at Lehman Brothers. Clark demands punctuality, discretion, and loyalty—and Jende is eager to please. Clark’s wife, Cindy, even offers Neni temporary work at the Edwardses’ summer home in the Hamptons. With these opportunities, Jende and Neni can at last gain a foothold in America and imagine a brighter future.

However, the world of great power and privilege conceals troubling secrets, and soon Jende and Neni notice cracks in their employers’ façades.

When the financial world is rocked by the collapse of Lehman Brothers, the Jongas are desperate to keep Jende’s job—even as their marriage threatens to fall apart. As all four lives are dramatically upended, Jende and Neni are forced to make an impossible choice.

What I Thought: I ended up really liking it! Behold The Dreamers was a really good look at what it’s like to be in immigrant in the U.S. Things like the Great Recession and the collapse of Lehman Brothers really does have an effect on EVERYONE, and that was something I never thought about before. They came here for a better life, and they ended up not being able to stay, for a lot of different reasons- the biggest reason being their lawyer. Their lawyer didn’t seem all that great, or interested in truly helping them. I can easily picture families or people like the Jongas hiring a lawyer who seems more interested in the money they’re getting than actually helping their clients.

I felt for them, and how hard they both worked to have a better life for them and their children, only to have it change so much. They do end up going back to Cameroon, and it seems like they’re set financially over there, but they tried so hard to stay here. I felt like Behold The Dreamers showcased how desperate people are to come here and stay here, and how they will do anything to have a life here.

I definitely thought Jende and Neni were a lot more sympathetic than Jende’s employers.  I get they were affected by it to, but it was hard to sympathize with a family who seemed to be more interested in maintaining their lifestyle than actually trying to work on themselves.  They do seem to have their issues, but they were far more unlikable. The Edwards family were much meant to contrast the Jonga family, and you see how different things are for the privileged and those who come here, hopeful and wanting a better life.  Perhaps that is what Mbue was going for, and I did feel for all of the characters, even when it was hard to care about them and like them.

My Rating: 4 stars.  I really liked seeing Jende and Neni come to the U.S., full of hope and optimism, only to have their dreams dashed.  It’s such a great read, and I really recommend it!

Book Review: For The Record by Charlotte Huang

For The Record CoverBook: For The Record by Charlotte Huang

Published November 2015 by Delacorte Press|310 pages

Where I Got It: I borrowed the hardcover from the library

Series: None

Genre: YA Contemporary

Blog Graphic-What It's About

If Almost Famous were a YA novel…a raw, honest debut celebrating music, friendship, romance, and life on the road.

Chelsea thought she knew what being a rock star was like…until she became one. After losing a TV talent show, she slid back into small-town anonymity. But one phone call changed everything.

Now she’s the lead singer of the band Melbourne, performing in sold-out clubs every night and living on a bus with three gorgeous and talented guys. The bummer is that the band barely tolerates her. And when teen hearthrob Lucas Rivers take an interest in her, Chelsea is suddenly famous, bringing Melbourne to the next level—not that they’re happy about that. Her feelings for Beckett, Melbourne’s bassist, are making life even more complicated.

Chelsea only has the summer tour to make the band—and their fans—love her. If she doesn’t, she’ll be back in Michigan for senior year, dying a slow death. The paparazzi, the haters, the grueling schedule…Chelsea believed she could handle it. But what if she can’t?

Blog Graphic- What I Thought

I liked For The Record!  I know it’s compared to Almost Famous, but as a YA novel, but as I’ve never seen Almost Famous, I’m not sure how For The Record compares.

All of the characters are so distinct, and they have their own personalities.  They’re so different from each other, and I liked that Huang made them so unique and not the same person.  They really stood out on their own, as individual people, but individual people who came together as a group.  There’s a lot of balance in the band, and I liked that about them.

I did get frustrated with Chelsea at times, but she’s flawed and not at all perfect, and I liked that about her.  She still has a lot of growing to do, but she also grew a lot in the book.

I also wish we saw a solid friendship in the book.  I’m fine with things being weird with the band, since she’s new but I was really disappointed in the only friend she seems to have.  Mandy seemed shallow, and unwilling to deal with the consequences of her actions.  She came across as ungrateful and expecting Chelsea to fix things for her.  I know she stuck by Chelsea in high school when everyone else hated Chelsea, but if they really were best friends, Mandy wouldn’t have used it to guilt Chelsea into helping her.  I thought Chelsea was too forgiving of Mandy, and even though they talk about what happened, something the way Mandy apologized and talked about it felt really fake.

Even though the ending was open-ended, and things are up in the air for Chelsea, I wanted a little more resolution. It fits with everything that happens in the book, and I do like it enough that if there were something that wrapped up For The Record, or even focused on what Chelsea’s up to, I’d read it.

Overall, it’s a cute book, and I thought Huang did a really good job at showing what it was like for Chelsea to be new girl on the bus, and what it was like for her adjusting to fame and what it was like on the road.  I’m not completely sure how accurate of a portrayal it is, but it did feel like a pretty realistic at all aspects of Chelsea’s rise to stardom.

I wasn’t into the romance, but it was complicated and messy and even a little bit predictable.  But I kind of liked how complicated and messy it was for Chelsea.

Blog Graphic- My Rating

3 stars.  I liked it, and it’s cute, but I didn’t love it.