January 2016 TBR

It’s a new year, time for new reading goals and habits! While I haven’t done a TBR in quite a while, I want to get back in the habit of reading consistently. I never stopped reading, it just wasn’t getting as much attention as I’d have liked in 2015.

 

My goals for this month are modest as I want to make sure my goal is something realistic. Here we go:

Jan 16 TBR 1

Tithe: A Modern Faerie Tale/Modern Faerie Tales #1

 

Author: Holly Black

Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books

Genre: YA

Pages: 336

I first heard about this book on YouTube thanks to John Book Giving Guide video on the Vlogbrothers channel (though he references the second novel, Valiant). Since then, it appears that everyone else has read this (supposedly fantastic) novel so I had to buy it. Plus, I’m a sucker for amazing covers like this one.

Before I Go To Sleep: A Novel

 

Author: S.J. Watson

Publisher:  Harper Paperbacks

Genre: Mystery/Thriller/Suspense

Published: 2012

Pages: 368

I first heard about this from a vlogger in the BookTube realm a couple of years ago. From what I recall, she wasn’t an enormous fan of the genre, but was gifted the book and fell in love with the story. I know there’s a film adaptation from 2014 with Colin Firth and Nicole Kidman, so I may just watch the movie after reading the book and do a comparison post. I’m expecting to love this. Nothing gets me like a good suspense/mystery novel.

Beyond the Painting

Author: Masood Vahdani

Publisher: Partridge Press (Penguin Random House)

Genre: YA Fantasy

Pages: 125

This is a YA novel that Vahdani kindly sent me to review over  on WOTN that I haven’t got to yet. Shame on me. Beyond the Painting is a dark YA fantasy story surrounding vampires and relationships. From the promising reviews and description Vahdani gave me, this story deals with vampires though thankfully, they aren’t the overly exhausted whimsical kind. While I enjoyed Twilight when it was happening (remember, Faulkner said to read everything), I get where everyone is “over” the vampire thing. Still, I’m intrigued by the idea of this story. YA fantasy done right is always a win for me. I’m curious to see if this lives up to my expectations.

While not technically part of my January TBR as I just finished it (and started in December), here’s a bonus read:

And Again

Author: Jessica Chiarella

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Genre: Literary Fiction

Pages: 320

This isn’t technically part of my January TBR because I finished it at the beginning of the month, but it’s worth your attention. I was lucky enough to be sent this as an advanced reading copy (ARC) late last year to review the piece for Word of the Nerd (if you aren’t aware, I write and edit there).  It comes out today and and was published by Simon and Shuster. You can read my review here if you want to hear my two cents. Quick opinion: this book will haunt you in all the best ways.

What are your reading goals for this month? Do you find TBR piles helpful?

Tell me what January releases have you running to the bookstore.

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Book Review – The Orb of Wrath (The Merchant’s Destiny Book 1)

Author: Nic Weissman

Publisher: Self Published

Release Date: June 17th, 2015

Pages: 318

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The Orb of Wrath strives to combine classic fantasy elements with popular storytelling styles and unique fantasy creatures. The story follows Erion, a looter who is masterful at creeping quietly through most any area and also has the foresight to understand when he is in the company of friends or foes. Early on, Erion is contracted to complete work for a somewhat regular customer, a dark elf named Phoroz. As Erion and his assumed brother Mirthir travel, readers are introduced to Samar, an elf who is a skilled archer and as wise as an elf is expected to be. The cleric Ithelas and his father, a knight named Thost are all summed by Phoroz to create a team and retrieve the Orb of Wrath from a distant land.

While Phoroz does not tell the newly formed team what the orb is for or why he wants them to retrieve it, he promises them a handsome monetary reward in addition to whatever rewards they may find in the castle where the orb is hidden. Going into the mission, the group knows they will likely face a powerful Vampire who’s lair houses the orb.

As the team travels together and meets various creatures and obstacles on their way to retrieve the orb, another group of men, Urlabus, Vargarr and Sathudel have their own mission involving the orb. While these men are much more military oriented, it is clear that they too make up a team that is not as familiar with working together as a team and must rely on trust to push through to their objective.

While The Orb of Wrath makes good use of standard fantasy elements like orcs, elves, vampires, and other fantastic creatures, the story suffers from some odd phrasing and gramatical errors that can quickly take the story from engaging to distant and confusing. While this story is a great example of constructing a fantasy arc, there are moments where the plot connections are all too obvious. Spell descriptions and some explanations were overly generic or even unnecessary, further breaking the immersive qualities of the story itself.

Where this story shines is in it’s generous character descriptions. While the character development (and overall writing) could be more polished, Weissman takes the time to give readers a fair amount of back story for each of the main five characters in the team. Most of the action heavy scenes are also well paced and balanced in there descriptions. While Weissman introduces some interesting new creatures (like the Tugrins) and clearly has a good understanding of standard fantasy roles, the story is more generic than it is unique. The Orb of Wrath could be a good read for someone who is new to fantasy and therefore may not understand some of the terminology, however the inconsistently in the plot speed and the overuse of excessively descriptive language could be a turn off for those who prefer characters show how something works rather than describe it word for word.

The Orb of Wrath is currently free on Amazon for the Kindle ereader/Kindle app and on Smashwords. You can learn more about Weissman’s work on his website.

Review Note: This review was originally published on Word of the Nerd, republished with permission.

Finding Emma Review

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Author: Steena Holmes

Published: 2013

Length: 276 pages

Publisher: Lake Union Publishing

Rating:

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Finding Emma brings us a mystery involving small town life and a heartbroken family. The story opens with little Emma’s third birthday. She is playing at her house with her mother and two older sisters when she slips outside unnoticed and disappears. Two years later with no new leads in the case, Emma’s family is falling apart. Her mother, Megan is on a mission to find her daughter but her dedication is keeping her from enjoying life with her other two daughters and her husband.

In a rural farm town just a few miles outside of Megan’s city, an elderly couple, Jack and Dottie, are raising their granddaughter, five year old Emmie. Dottie brought Emmie to live with them when her estranged daughter Mary was no longer able to care for Emmie. As the two stories unfold, we learn the two families have secrets to keep and each family is not truly living the life they appear to lead. A chance encounter at a local fair and a family picture will change both families lives in ways they never saw coming.

While the story was intriguing enough to keep the pages turning and Megan was easy to sympathize with, stronger character development and a richer plot would have made the story more engaging. The second Amazon Kindle book in Emma’s story, also published in 2013, titled Emma’s Secret may provide the answers that were left open ended in Finding Emma and bring some new light into the story.

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