Friday, November 16, 2018

Macky Reads Twilight of the Elves

(Alexa's Note: If you haven't yet read the first book in this series, The Adventurers Guild, you may want to go over to check out Macky's review for it! Otherwise, carry on.)

Once again, the “me and my friends save the world” genre has done it for me.

I cannot say enough how much I enjoyed reading this. It has the weight of having a whole first book to know and love the characters, while having the absolute genius of opening up the world a bit more and having our guys be set up to do even greater things. 

Still at the center of the story are Brock and Zed, two best friends reeling from the decisions they made in the previous book, while being celebrated (and full-fledged) adventurers. The friends around them are as brilliant and lovely as ever, brought to life in four dimensions by the dialogue and plot. 

Moreover, there are so many familiar fantasy elements here that I could have sworn this is a secret love song to tabletop role-playing games. It’s perhaps just my own newfound love of Dungeons and Dragons that’s coloring my view of this tale and its elements, but I swear that when the book goes into endgame, any RPG lovers will enjoy the game elements that have found their way into the story. Would I be surprised if I found out Zack Loran Clark and Nick Eliopulos actually played table top RPGs? Not in the slightest. 

What I also did not find surprising (and relished at that) is how consistently well-written this is, which is consistent in both books. If anything, the story is better and the style has been refined in this sequel. I could not put this book down!

A word of warning though, as this is a second book of what I hope is a series of a great many book - there is a cliffhanger. Not the kind where you want to run screaming for the hills and begging the book overlords to have mercy on your fandom psyche, but its enough to make you freak out just enough to need the next installment.

Twilight of the Elves comes out November 15, so if you have read already read the first one, grab it! And if you haven't read the first, grab'em both!

Twilight of the Elves by Zack Loran Clark and Nick Eliopulos
Series: The Adventurers Guild #2 | Previous Book in Series: The Adventurers Guild
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion | Publication Date: November 13, 2018
Source: ARC received from the publisher (Thank you!)

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Abbreviations #70 | The Devil's Thief, A Very Large Expanse of Sea + The Darkest Star

If you’ve been following my blog since last year, you’ll know that I thoroughly enjoyed The Last Magician. (I even shared five reasons to check out the series!) The entire premise of that novel is that Esta is sent back to the past to retrieve an artefact that will change the course of history (and magic) forever, only to discover that there is much more to this situation that she could have ever expected; the entire premise of The Devil’s Thief is Esta (and company) dealing with the aftermath of what goes down by the end of The Last Magician. And, friends, this sequel is so darn good! If you thought the world of magical mayhem, power struggles and complicated characters was immersive and entertaining in the first book, well, you’re thrown right back into it and you’ll find the stakes continue to get higher and the situations more harrowing. Just like its predecessor, it requires the reader to really pay full attention to keep track of all that’s going on, but it’s worth the time it’ll take to read it! The plot was clever, the characters were (still) wonderful (particularly Esta and Harte), and I really enjoyed it. While it ends on a little more of a cliffhanger than the first one does, I really am looking forward to seeing where Lisa Maxwell will take us next when the series continues.

The Devil's Thief by Lisa Maxwell | Series: The Last Magician #1 | Previous Book in Series: The Last MagicianPublisher: Simon Pulse | Publication Date: October 9, 2018 | Source: ARC picked up at BEA 2018 (Thank you!)

2002, a year after 9/11, a time when life for someone like Shirin - 16, Muslim, female - is very difficult. Guarded against how horrible people can be, she’s built up her defenses and refused to let anyone get close enough to hurt her. But she never expected to meet Ocean James, a person so different from her who wants to get to know her; she never expected to find joy in breakdancing with her brother and the rest of their crew. With all these unplanned things going on, Shirin might just find the courage to let her guard down and let the world in… A Very Large Expanse of Sea is on the shorter side, but it offers an honest, character-driven take on what life likely was for Muslim teens after 9/11. It gives readers the gift of perspective, a chance to empathize with and gain a stronger understanding of someone in that difficult position, and I really admired how Tahereh Mafi did it. I enjoyed Shirin as a main character, particularly because she was so multi-dimensional; Mafi didn’t hold back when revealing her personality, good and bad, and it made the story that much more real to me as a reader. While it did get hard to read at times (in an emotional sense), it was still quite powerful. I’m certainly glad I was able to read it, and would encourage others to check it out too.

A Very Large Expanse of Sea by Tahereh Mafi | Publisher: Harper Teen | Publication Date: October 16, 2018 | Source: e-galley downloaded from Edelweiss (Thanks!)

Evie Dasher’s world is turned upside down when she gets caught up in a raid at a notorious club where humans and surviving Luxen can mingle and finds herself being rescued by an unnaturally gorgeous guy named Luc… who just so happens to be much more powerful than any ordinary Luxen. As their paths continue to cross, Evie finds herself drawn deeper into a world she’s only heard about in passing and finding out that maybe she doesn’t know as much about her world and herself as she thinks she does. Now, I haven’t read all of Jennifer L. Armentrout’s novels yet (that would be something you could attribute to my BFF Rachel!), but I thoroughly enjoyed the Lux series (and have reread the first three books multiple times). It’s entertaining and hilarious, and even though there are definitely predictable moments, I still think it’s one of the most enjoyable paranormal series I’ve ever read. The Darkest Star was a great addition, a spin-off that had the same humor and heart (and addictive easy-to-read writing) that characterized the previous series. I really enjoyed revisiting the world years later and seeing it via an alternate perspective. I also just really liked Evie as a new narrator and Luc as the love interest (especially when the bantery bits came in), and was especially excited to see some familiar faces pop up here and there! Even though I did find parts predictable, it was still so much fun to read. I’m definitely looking forward to the next book in the series!

The Darkest Star by Jennifer L. Armentrout Series: Origin #1 | Publisher: Tor Teen | Publication Date: October 30, 2018 | Source: ARC received from the publisher (Thank you!)

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Gift Guide for Jade | Kingdom of the Blazing Phoenix Blog Tour

I read and loved Forest of a Thousand Lanterns last year, so you can imagine how excited I was for Kingdom of the Blazing Phoenix! It's the companion sequel, out just last week, which happens years later and follows the journey of Jade, the last princess in the line of the Dragon Kings and the only one who stands in the path of Empress Xifeng's complete takeover of Feng Lu. I just finished it last week (and adored it!), and I'm so thrilled today to be a part of the blog tour. I hope you enjoy the gift guide for Jade and her adventures, and check out the giveaway!

hair combs | When Jade arrives at the palace at the behest of her stepmother, one of the things that immediately happens is that she goes from the simple way of dress she employed at the monastery to being dressed in all sorts of opulent looks - from well-woven silk to opulent jewelry to elaborate hairpieces, like these combs. (This is another pretty alternative!)

apple-shaped bag | The apple is a common element in both the original Snow White tale and this novel, and it certainly plays a part in one of the most pivotal moments in both. I thought that this cute bag would be a great accent piece and a way to symbolize that!

fish bone necklace | Who wouldn't daydream about the potential to make a wish or two and have it granted? I know I do! This dainty little necklace would serve as a fun reminder of the potential to find magic, to experience magic in the world with just a little bit of faith...

burning rose art | If there's one thing that I loved about Jade (and there's definitely more than one thing), it's that she was brought up with a deep appreciation for life and the simplest of needs. She goes on the greatest of quests, and struggles to find her courage, and eventually, her journey takes some unexpected twists and turns that change her as a person. I feel like something as beautiful as this three-panel artwork would really remind her of what she experienced and how she's grown.

Chinese myths and legends | Stories play a large part in Jade's journey, particularly the ones she's heard her Amah tell her over and over again since she was a child. I loved learning a little bit more about these stories through reading this novel, and I think Jade would appreciate a collection of them to store in her own personal library.

white paper lanterns | Functional, lovely and symbolic of the path she needed to take on her journey, I have no doubts in my mind that Jade would find a place to recreate the glow of the lantern lights hanging from the trees of the Great Forest in her own home.

tapestry | I've already said it before, but I also want to say it again - I think Jade would really appreciate art. I also think she'd have a special soft spot for embroidery, simply because of the gift Amah gave her of an embroidered map that plays a role in her epic quest. 

dragon jewelry box | Through her mother's side of the family, Jade is directly of the line of the Dragon King. This jewelry box is a fun little nod to that, and it's also a good representation on the role that dragons play in this novel.

phoenix crown | Every princess needs a crown - and this one would be a lovely fit for Jade. She would look positively regal in it, but the symbolism (and the fact that it's for a bride) play a large part in my choosing to include it here.

floral dress | When Jade was still living with the monks, she loved to decorate her room with flowers. I just have the sense that she'd incorporate that into her life wherever she ends up, and this dress would be a lovely way for her to do so.

Kingdom of the Blazing Phoenix by Julie C. Dao
Series: Rise of the Empress #2
Previous Book in Series: Forest of a Thousand Lanterns
Publisher: Philomel Books
Publication Date: November 6, 2018

Princess Jade has grown up in exile, hidden away in a monastery while her stepmother, the ruthless Xifeng, rules as empress of Feng Lu. But the empire is in distress and its people are sinking into poverty and despair. Even though Jade doesn't want the crown, she knows she is the only one who can dethrone the empress and set the world right. Ready to reclaim her place as rightful heir, Jade embarks on a quest to raise the Dragon Lords and defeat Xifeng and the Serpent God once and for all. But will the same darkness that took Xifeng take Jade, too? Or will she find the strength within to save herself, her friends, and her empire?

Julie C. Dao ( is a proud Vietnamese-American who was born in upstate New York. She studied medicine in college, but came to realize blood and needles were her Kryptonite. By day, she worked in science news and research; by night, she wrote books about heroines unafraid to fight for their dreams, which inspired her to follow her passion of becoming a published author. Forest of a Thousand Lanterns is her debut novel. Julie lives in New England. Follow her on Twitter @jules_writes.

I'm really excited to be able to host a giveaway for you guys! I had the chance to see Julie at her launch event in New York City for Kingdom of the Blazing Phoenix, and as always, she was the loveliest. She was kind enough to sign a paperback copy of Forest of a Thousand Lanterns and my ARC of Kingdom of the Blazing Phoenix - and one lucky winner will get their hands on both! This giveaway is US only, and open through 12:00 AM on November 21, 2018. Winner will be selected randomly and contacted directly via email. Good luck!


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