The Friday 56: Windwitch

The Friday 56The Friday 56 is a weekly blog meme hosted by Freda’s Voice. Join us every Friday and share an excerpt from a book you’ve been reading.

Rules:

*Grab a book, any book.
*Turn to page 56 or 56% in your eReader.
*Find any sentence (or a few, just don’t spoil it) that grab you.
*Post it.
*Add your (url) post here in Linky. Add the post url, not your blog url. It’s that simple.

**Be sure to leave a link to your Friday 56 post in the comments!**

“Stop,” he ordered. “We’re going in there.” He pointed to a narrow row house. Its sign declared a toy shop within, but its closed shutters suggested something else. “It’s tenements now,” Merik told Cam, as if this explained why they had come here.

It explained nothing, but Cam didn’t ask for more. She never asked for more. She trusted her former admiral, former prince, even when Merik so clearly lacked any real plan. Any real clue.

The highly anticipated sequel to Susan Dennard’s Truthwitch, Windwitch lived up to all my expectations, which doesn’t always happen with sophomore installments. Read my full review here. Cover is linked to Goodreads.

Goodreads Synopsis:

      “After an explosion destroys his ship, the world believes Prince Merik, Windwitch, is dead. Scarred yet alive, Merik is determined to prove his sister’s treachery. Upon reaching the royal capital, crowded with refugees, he haunts the streets, fighting for the weak—which leads to whispers of a disfigured demigod, the Fury, who brings justice to the oppressed.
      When the Bloodwitch Aeduan discovers a bounty on Iseult, he makes sure to be the first to find her—yet in a surprise twist, Iseult offers him a deal. She will return money stolen from him, if he locates Safi. Now they must work together to cross the Witchlands, while constantly wondering, who will betray whom first?
      After a surprise attack and shipwreck, Safi and the Empress of Marstok barely escape with their lives. Alone in a land of pirates, every moment balances on a knife’s edge—especially when the pirates’ next move could unleash war upon the Witchlands.

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Special Note: February sign-ups for the Winter 2017 Comment Challenge ends the 26th. If you’re interested in a fun challenge that gives you an opportunity to connect with other book bloggers, consider joining us. We partner bloggers and encourage them to comment on one another’s blog all throughout the month. Click the image to the left for all the info.

Windwitch by Susan Dennard

windwitch-by-susan-dennardTitle: Windwitch
Author: Susan Dennard
Series: The Witchlands, #2
Pages: 400
Publisher: Tor Teen
Release Date: January 10th 2017

      “After an explosion destroys his ship, the world believes Prince Merik, Windwitch, is dead. Scarred yet alive, Merik is determined to prove his sister’s treachery. Upon reaching the royal capital, crowded with refugees, he haunts the streets, fighting for the weak—which leads to whispers of a disfigured demigod, the Fury, who brings justice to the oppressed.
      When the Bloodwitch Aeduan discovers a bounty on Iseult, he makes sure to be the first to find her—yet in a surprise twist, Iseult offers him a deal. She will return money stolen from him, if he locates Safi. Now they must work together to cross the Witchlands, while constantly wondering, who will betray whom first?
      After a surprise attack and shipwreck, Safi and the Empress of Marstok barely escape with their lives. Alone in a land of pirates, every moment balances on a knife’s edge—especially when the pirates’ next move could unleash war upon the Witchlands.”

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      “Speed was a mistake. Nomatsi roads weren’t meant to be crossed quickly. They demanded time. The demanded respect.
      So it should have come as no surprise when Iseult reached a clearing and the solid ground abruptly gave way. It should have come as no surprise when a net snapped up to yank her high in the trees.”

Susan Dennard continues to build on her universe and characters in her sequel Windwitch, the second book in her fantasy Witchlands series. Truthwitch introduced a world of magic where a truce between Empires was on the brink of collapse. At the story’s center is the unlikely friendship between Safi and Iseult, young women born into different circumstances, whose bond has get them both afloat. At the end of the first book, these threadsisters are torn apart and several Empires make their move to gain an advantage over the others. Both Safi and Iseult are desperate to get back to the other, but between them are several people with their own motives, who may just succeed in keeping them apart. One of the issues I had with the first book is how quickly readers are thrust into this new world with it’s complex network of witchery and how it took me a long while to get a firm grasp on Dennard’s universe. In this second book, I eased right into the story and instead of being bombarded by new elements, Dennard expands on the ones she has already introduced in the first book. There is still a bit of mystery when it comes to Void witches, but I have a feeling that the author is planning to explore this more in the third novel.

Though Safi and Iseult are the main players in this series, Dennard introduced Prince Merik in Truthwitch and much of this second story focuses on him and his people. Merik has worked hard to provide for Nubrevna, but at every turn he has had to contest with his sister Vivia, who is more than willing to use questionable methods in order to achieve the same goal. At the beginning of the book, we learn that Merik is presumed dead after a failed assassination attempt and so he stalks the streets with no name, hoping to discover the identity of his would-be murderer. I really liked the evolution of Merik’s arc as it not only helped in developing his character, but also aided in bringing Vivia to the forefront as well. Both characters have been defined by how their father perceives them and while much of Vivia’s hatred for her brother stems from the slights shown to her, Merik’s animosity for his sister lies in his mistaken perception not just of her but of himself. Vivia became a standout character for me in this one. Her aggressive attitude is a direct result of the misogyny she faces in her own court; her hard hand, a necessary attribute as she hopes to prove to everyone that she has more of her father in her than her mother. I was really glad to see that Vivia was much more than what she appeared to be in the first novel and really look forward to seeing where her arc goes from here.

Safi is a character who continues to grow. While she hoped for a brand new life with Iseult, she’s come to realize that her motives have been entirely selfish. She voluntarily goes with Vaness, the Empress of Marstok in order to help her friends, but as a Truthwitch, she is valuable to a number of players and their journey hits a roadblock. Safi has the privilege of influence if she would just take hold of all that she is capable of, something she continues to grapple with in this second novel. My favorite scenes by far were the ones between Iseult and Aeduan. As Iseult fights to find Safi, she enters into an unlikely and tenuous alliance with the Bloodwitch. A bit of an enigma in the first novel, Aeduan’s motives are hard to pin down, as is his character. On one hand, he’s ruthless and unstoppable, but on the other, he shows signs of being motivate by more than just a desire for revenge. As a Threadwitch, Iseult was taught to control her emotions in order to better interpret the threads of others. When her own emotions were hard to understand, she always had Safi to help her, but without her, Iseult feels like half of herself is missing. We also learn more about the mysterious voice that has been haunting Iseult’s dreams and the while Iseult is always desperate to shake off her past and the constant reminders of her shortcomings, these are the things that will continue to play a big role in who she becomes.

Windwitch is a fantastic sequel with great character development and breathtaking action and Bloodwitch, the third novel in the Witchlands series, cannot come fast enough.

Rating: 5/5

★★★★★

Top Ten Tuesday: Hidden Gems Read in the Last Two Years

Top Ten TuesdayTop Ten Tuesday is an original blog meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week’s topic is “Ten Underrated/Hidden Gem Books I’ve Read In The Past Year Or So.” There are some books that I really love and I’m always shocked to find out that not many fellow bloggers have read them. Here are ten books I’ve read in the last two years that have less than 2000 ratings on Goodreads and that I’d like to see more bloggers read. Covers are linked to Goodreads.

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1. Iron Cast by Destiny Soria – How is it that not many bloggers have read this golden debut? Get on that now!

2. Death, Dickinson, and the Demented Life of Frenchie Garcia by Jenny Torres Sanchez – I don’t think I’ve come across a single blogger who has read this book. Why? It’s so good!

3. In the Time of Dragon Moon by Janet Lee Carey – Technically, this is part of a series, but each book can be read as a standalone.

4. Labyrinth Lost by Zoraida Córdova – This debut wasn’t perfect, but it has a lot of promise and the world building was really good.

5. Places No One Knows by Brenna Yovanoff – I’m really surprised that not many bloggers have read this one. It’s really unusual and I just loved it because of this fact.

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6. The Vanishing Throne by Elizabeth Throne – Considering how many ratings the first book got, I was surprised to see this sequel not get as much love. It’s too bad because this second book is even better than the first.

7. The Steep & Thorny Way by Cat Winters – All of Cat Winters’s books are amazing, so it astounds me that not many bloggers have picked up more of her books.

8. Silver Eve by Sandra Waugh – I’ve been waiting for news of a third book in this series, but I’m starting to doubt it will ever be published. It’s a shame because the first two books are really very good.

9. The Wolf Wilder by Katherine Rundell – A beautifully written middle grade novel that deserves more readers.

10. Summer of the Mariposas by Guadalupe Garcia McCall – I’m always partial to books featuring sisters and this one had its own brand of magic which I really liked.

Have you read any of these books? What is the one book you wish more bloggers would read? Let me know in the comments and be sure leave a link to your own TTT post, so I can visit.

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Special Note: The Winter 2017 Comment Challenge is well under way. If you’re interested in a fun challenge that gives you the opportunity to connect with other bloggers, consider joining us for February. Sign-ups are now open through the 26th. Click the image to the left for all the info.

Kernels of Nonsense: Preordering Debut Books

Kernels of Nonsense (2)Kernels of Nonsense is a discussion feature here on the blog where I like to tackle various book and blogging related issues.

With 2017 just getting started and with it an endless lists of new authors making their debuts, it’s time to start contemplating which debut books are worth a preorder.

Confession time: most of the books I order throughout the year are preorders. I like planning out my purchases and usually I end up buying a bunch of books all at once (usually after Christmas and my birthday because taking advantage of all those gift cards is how I roll). Last year I tried to be more picky about what books I bought because I know that even though I would love to own all the books, they may not all be worth my money.

Last year I bought six debut novels without knowing too much about them aside from their synopsis. And while all of these received positive ratings from me, I think it would have been wiser to wait on half of them as they would have been better library reads than purchases. In hindsight, I should have waited for my fellow bloggers to review them, because then I would have known this.

So I ask this question: how do you decide which debut novels are worth purchasing when you haven’t read anything by these authors?

I’d like to think that a synopsis alone isn’t enough to persuade me; after all, I (and I’m sure everyone else) have experience being letdown after being completely pulled in by a synopsis. But in many cases, this is all we have when it comes to impending debuts.

I know for many bloggers, early reviews can help decide whether these books are worth preordering. I tend not to trust early reviews, not because I think bloggers are being dishonest, but because the pool of bloggers is so small. If I really want to know how the book community feels about a certain novel, waiting a couple of weeks (or more) after its release is the better way to go. There are exceptions to this, however, because the more you’re a part of this community, the more you start to create a rapport with certain people and if your tastes in books really click, then you’re bound to trust their judgment more than others.

There is another way to get a glimpse of what’s to come with these debuts and that’s excerpts. Sometimes publishers make the first few chapters of a novel public to entice readers. For me, this is the least enticing thing imaginable. I hate spoilers, I’d rather go into a book not knowing anything than knowing a little too much. Whenever I see teasers from series I’ve been reading (Marie Rutkoski’s The Winner’s Kiss comes to mind), I panic and stay as far away as I possibly can from these excerpts. I don’t want to know anything until the book is in front of me. This of course means that these sneak peaks for debut novels are no help to me.

I want to be even pickier this year with debut novel purchases. There are tons I’m really interested in (see my TTT post: Top Ten 2017 Debuts I’m Excited For), but I want to be more patient. There’s also the library option and while it sometimes requires more patience than I can sometimes handle, I really must keep in mind that I don’t have to buy everything I get excited about. So far I’ve only preordered Lilliam Rivera’s The Education of Margot Sanchez and Rhoda Belleza’s Empress of a Thousand Skies. Both sound incredible and I want to support more diverse authors this year, so this works well in that favor. I’ll likely add Angie Thomas’s The Hate U Give to this list. Honestly, I’m just waiting for the price to drop and as soon as it does, I’m buying it. But what other debuts should I consider purchasing? It’s only the first month of the year and I might not have as much self-control when fall comes around and another slew of debuts get published.

How many debut novels do you buy in a year? What persuades you to take a chance on these novels? Excerpts? Earlier reviews? Perhaps an author interview? Have you preordered any 2017 debuts yet? Let’s discuss in the comments!

The Friday 56: Salt to the Sea

The Friday 56The Friday 56 is a weekly blog meme hosted by Freda’s Voice. Join us every Friday and share an excerpt from a book you’ve been reading.

Rules:

*Grab a book, any book.
*Turn to page 56 or 56% in your eReader.
*Find any sentence (or a few, just don’t spoil it) that grab you.
*Post it.
*Add your (url) post here in Linky. Add the post url, not your blog url. It’s that simple.

**Be sure to leave a link to your Friday 56 post in the comments!**

“Two weeks ago, amidst mad chaos at a train station, Ingrid became separated from her aunt. The train departed. Ingrid was not on it. She stood alone on the platform for two straight days, shivering, waiting for her aunt to return. The aunt never came back.”

Ruta Sepety’s Salt to the Sea is both hopeful and tragic, a historical fiction novel that will stay with you long after you’ve finished. Read my full review here. Cover is linked to Goodreads.

Goodreads Synopsis:

      “Winter, 1945. Four teenagers. Four secrets.
      Each one born of a different homeland; each one hunted, and haunted, by tragedy, lies…and war.
      As thousands of desperate refugees flock to the coast in the midst of a Soviet advance, four paths converge, vying for passage aboard the Wilhelm Gustloff, a ship that promises safety and freedom.
      Yet not all promises can be kept.
      Inspired by the single greatest tragedy in maritime history, bestselling and award-winning author Ruta Sepetys (Between Shades of Gray) lifts the veil on a shockingly little-known casualty of World War II. An illuminating and life-affirming tale of heart and hope.”

Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys

Salt to the Sea by Ruta SepetysTitle: Salt to the Sea
Author: Ruta Sepetys
Series: N/A
Pages: 393
Publisher: Philomel Books
Release Date: February 2nd 2016

      “Winter, 1945. Four teenagers. Four secrets.
      Each one born of a different homeland; each one hunted, and haunted, by tragedy, lies…and war.
      As thousands of desperate refugees flock to the coast in the midst of a Soviet advance, four paths converge, vying for passage aboard the Wilhelm Gustloff, a ship that promises safety and freedom.
      Yet not all promises can be kept.
      Inspired by the single greatest tragedy in maritime history, bestselling and award-winning author Ruta Sepetys (Between Shades of Gray) lifts the veil on a shockingly little-known casualty of World War II. An illuminating and life-affirming tale of heart and hope.”

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“The bombs began falling. With each explosion, every bone in my body vibrated and hammered, clanging violently against the bell tower that was my flesh.”

Ruta Sepetys’s Salt to the Sea is a moving historical fiction novel that takes its time unfolding the mysteries of each character. Not being familiar with this particular historical event, I went into this knowing very little. Told through alternate points of view, each chapter gives a small glimpse into the four main characters: Joana, Florian, Emilia, and Alfred. It took some time to get used to the abrupt change in narration, as Sepetys only spends a few pages on each character before moving on. However, once you get acquainted with these characters, they hold your attention to the breathtaking end.

It bears noting that the synopsis for this novel is a little incorrect, as two of the four characters are adults and one specifically is twenty one. It doesn’t make much of a difference, but it put me in a different mindset when trying to get a handle on who these characters were. Joana’s story centers around the guilt she carries around. It isn’t revealed until later what she feels guilty about, but it’s a burden that weighs heavy on her. Her training as a nurse makes her irrevocably valuable to those she is traveling with and also opens doors for her and her companions to escape a terrible fate. When we first meet Florian, he’s standoffish and cold. Much of who he is is kept hidden, but as his journey has him crossing paths with the other characters, he slowly opens up. Florian’s connection to characters like Joana and Emilia is hard fought, he resisting most of all, but it is these relationships that play a vital role in how his journey will end.

Emilia is young and desperate. Trying to hide the fact that she is Polish becomes increasingly difficult, but meeting Florian and then Joana may give her a chance to survive in a world where her people have suffered so much at the hands of by both German and Soviet forces. She is both brave and a little naive, but her resilience defines her above all else. Alfred is the only character that I was confused about. Much of his narrative just felt like a young, confused kid running his mouth, not realizing how truly insignificant he was. It wasn’t until later on in the story that I fully understood his role. Though this was a deliberate technique on the author’s part, there were times when Alfred’s POV came up and I really didn’t feel very interested in his perspective.

Salt to the Sea is full of heartbreak, but also exemplifies the power of the human spirit in the face of unspeakable cruelty and tragedy.

Rating: 4/5

★★★★