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Thursday, November 29, 2018

Kaemon (The Lux Series): A Ship in My Fleet

A Ship in My Fleet
Kaemon (Katy and Daemon)
From: Lux Series by Jennifer L. Armentrout

***Assume spoilers for the entire Lux series***

For years, Kaemon has been one of my go-to favorite ships in the YA lit world. Theirs is like one of those ships that is just so inherently right; as in, I can in no way see either of them with any other character. Even if the series were attempted to be crossed-over with another JLA series or otherwise, it just wouldn't happen. The two of them are just meant to be together, not only because of circumstance (although I think that does add another dimension of depth to their relationship).


Image result for obsidian jennifer armentroutI will cop to the fact though that for the longest time I did not know what their ship name was. I read the series a bit late in the game-- I only had to wait for two publications in the series-- so I missed some of the height of figuring out the ship name and hype seeing the name online. And then in terms of fanfiction, I think it's hurting a little. Huge gratitude for those who have written Kaemon fanfics, but my heart wants more of this ship. <3<3<3 Also, it has been a long while since I've read these books, so as I make references and try to tie them down to certain books, I may be slightly off.

When I Started Shipping:
Right away. From the synopsis. I don't even care that it was slightly insta-love-y but also classic teenage angsty. They were this series's OTP and will always be this series's OTP. For me though, their relationship was set in stone (as in, through concrete scenes) when Daemon, in Obsidian, is talking to Katy about beauty and how people who are truly beautiful are beautiful on the inside. And of course he's talking about Katy in this moment so it's super adorable. But more than that, it shows his reflections and introspection on life and it matches what we as readers have seen valued by Katy by that point. It brings out that other side of Daemon in the best way and in a way that makes the partnering of him and Katy so easy to get behind.

Favorite Canon Moment:
There are so many moments where my heart and soul swoon because of these two. A lot of them hilarious, a lot of them making me want to scream, and a whole lot of them wishing I had my own Daemon carbon-copy. I'm going to cheat this section a little and pick two moments, one that brought me to tears and one that made me so incredibly happy.

Image result for lux series german covers
German edition-- beautiful!

The first is when Katy gets captured by the DOD in Opal. My chest hurts just thinking about that moment when she is separated from everyone, especially Daemon, by only the briefest of moments and the smallest of split seconds. It's worse because we all sort of knew what was about to happen with the testing and stuff to Katy in a way, but had to use our imaginations at the same time (this was when I had to start waiting for the books to come out). Anyway, the real killer in that scene is that it is the first time Daemon every tells Katy he loves her. As she's being taken away from him for God knew what testing. After just getting his brother's girlfriend out of the system. And after three books of them getting to the point of knowing they love each other. And watching Daemon not say it for the entirety of the book. Ugh.... ***lies on floor***

The second is a much happier one, when they decide to get married. It was brilliant. And not just because there is a cameo of another ship from a different series (Kaidan and Anna from The Sweet Evil trilogy by Wendy Higgins). But because it made sense. It all clicked into place so that this spontaneous moment was earned and deserved. And then afterward it was so amazing to see the two of them be so happy together. After everything that they had gone through and despite not knowing what they were going to be facing in their future, they knew that they would always have each other, even if someone catastrophic were to happen. Reading that scene was like releasing a breath that had been building and being held since the beginning of the series.



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Sztella Tziotziosz- cover model for Katy
Katy:
As someone who reviews books and has a book blog, I relate to Katy so much it isn't even funny. But that is slightly beside the point. Looking at Katy in the relationship, I think she has such a normal reaction to everything. A little too on the skeptical and hard-to-accept side, but her reasoning is sound. Daemon was an ass to her for a good portion of the beginning. I don't blame her for throwing logic into the conversation of deciding what their relationship or lack thereof would look like. Especially because she knew herself so well that it probably would have hurt like nothing else if she had opened up to Daemon (someone she knew she was interested in at first) if only to be rejected later, or worse mocked later. And nearly all of Daemon's past behaviour to her would have suggested that he would do just that. So when later in the series she tells him she loves him, it makes the moment all the better because Daemon and the readers know it is completely authentic. From that moment on, I love that Katy had the best dedication and faith in the relationship. She was 110% on board.

Daemon:
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Pepe Toth- cover model for Daemon
Lovely guy. Great being. Stupid as can be when pursuing Katy. It was so frustrating watching him try to clean the slate with Katy to the point where I would actually get a little upset with him for assuming she should be on board with the relationship sooner than when she did. I will give him credit though for showing great dedication and determination toward Katy for the rest of the series. I love that he was so caring for her and wanted her to be happy and be herself, even in the midst of all the alien craziness. And I think he does a really great job of balancing how he feels for Katy with his ideals and values that he has had for his family and race since before he met her. Yes, he would do anything for Katy and his family, but in his ideal world both and all things coexisted perfectly. And if they couldn't, then he would rearrange something as necessary to find a balance of both.

Image result for opal jennifer armentroutKaemon:
As a couple, one of the best things that I loved reading them do were the witty conversations and teasing and/or flirting that they had. Some of the most funny lines from the series were from these moments. And they show how well the two of them balance each other. Where one is overly sarcastic to the point of being rude (typically Daemon), the other would pacify things. Where one is over thinking the details of things (typically Katy), the other would help them step back to take a look. The compliment each other and highlight the best features of the other.


It's been awhile since I've seen Kaemon in the limelight for anything, but let's never forget the love we have for them. As I've been writing this and the more I think about it, the more I really want to reread the series from start to finish. There are some truly painful moments where I felt my heart spiderweb and nearly be ground into powder, but I know it will be worth the ride by the end of it all.

Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Interview with Author Heather Dixon Wallwork

Magical Music and The Enchanted Sonata:

An Interview with Heather Dixon Wallwork


Along with reading her newest work, The Enchanted Sonata, I was so lucky to be able to interview author Heather Dixon Wallwork! This novel is a retelling of The Nutcracker-- that Christmas classic that never seems to grow old. For a full synopsis of the novel, you can find the Goodreads description here, or you can look at my review of the book (I have both a spoiler-y version and a spoiler-free version, so you can take your pick!). It was so great to find out more about the story behind this story and what Heather's thoughts were about the characters and writing. I am so excited to share this with you all!


*****

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1. What inspired you to write this adaptation/interpretation of The Nutcracker? How long did it take for your idea to become the published version that it is today?

I've always wanted to write a retelling of The Nutcracker, it's been on my brain for about 10 years now.  My friend, Jake Wyatt, had the idea to write it with a mix of The Pied Piper, and the two stories had such a great mesh of rats and music that it felt perfect for The Enchanted Sonata.  I started writing the book about 4 years ago and have loved every second of it.


2. What was the hardest part of writing this novel?

The villain was tough.  He went through a lot of iterations--at first he was an actual rat, then a human turned into a rat, then a child, then after all these wildly different takes, fleshed out into the Phantom-of-the-Opera-esque character of Erik Zolokov.  It was a challenge to create someone who was evil enough to turn children into toys, yet sympathetic and a music genius.  In the end I really like how his character turned out.


3. Which scene from the book is your favorite?

Oooo...I love this question.  Any scene with Nutcracker and Clara, those were so much fun to write.  The end scene <3  I also adore the nuns.  The scene where Nutcracker discovers they've been illegally wiretapping the telegraph lines...that has me laughing every time.


4. If you could switch places from any character in your book, who would you switch with and why?

I'd like to be Alexei Polichinelle, I think.  I'd love his life--living inside a chocolate shop, all the delicious smells, the entrepreneurship of running the business, and creating new candies.  Oh man, creating new candies.  That was legit one of my favorite things, coming up with all kinds of Polichinelle chocolates and goodies.  It makes my mouth water just thinking about it.  Alexei has a sweet gig.


5. Which movement from The Nutcracker is your favorite?

Oh my word, ask me to pick a star from the sky 😍😍 I adore all the movements, the dancing, the costumes, the sheer delicacy and grandeur of the songs...I think my favorite, though, would have to be the Overture.  It always sends a shiver of excitement up my spine.  The sparkling strains mean the next two hours will be filled with beautiful music, stunning dancing, and Christmas.


6. Is it hard to write about music? 

It did offer a challenge, both because you can't hear music in a book, and because it needed to connect with people who weren't musicians.  So I couldn't go deeply into music theory or circle-of-fifths stuff, but stayed close to more familiar terms like "pitch" and "crescendo."  One of the motifs in the book is that good music--really good music--could make you feel more than hear.  Because of that, a lot of the music is described through emotional and physical descriptions.  Certain melodies pound with the heart, or ring in the ears, or fill someone with wistful hope.



7. Both this book, The Enchanted Sonata, and your book Entwined beautifully describe the arts of music and dance. Is there one in particular (music or dance) that you like more?

Oooh, that's a hard one.  I took dance in college and love it, but am also terrible at it.  (I lack the fluidity so many dancers have.)  Music has been a part of my life since I was a kid, with piano and flute lessons for years, and it's still a huge passion.  So I lean towards music on this one.


8. Which fairy tale or classic story is your favorite?

Definitely The Nutcracker and The Twelve Dancing Princesses are at the top.  I also love love double love Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, and The Wild Swans.

I also have an obsession with nursery rhymes.  I've often written (bad) poetry and nursery rhymes on my blog.


9. Do you have any other stories or ideas you're working on right now that you're either excited about or are able to share?
Oh my yes!  Right now I'm working on revising an animatic of an original story, Gele Tulpen  (Dutch for Yellow Tulips).  It's a Jewish/WWII bittersweet fairy tale.  You can watch the current version here. I'm hoping to get the revision done in time for the new year, and if the stars align, get funding to produce it as a stop-motion animated short.  (If wishes were fishes, of course ^_^)

*****
Heather's other written works include Entwined, Illusionarium, and contribution to the anthology Perchance to Dream: Classic Tales from the Bard's World in New Skins. To find out more about Heather and her work, you can check out her website http://story-monster.com/.

Thank you so much to Heather for agreeing to do this and to Katie and Smith Publicity for helping set this up!
Thanks for reading!

Monday, November 26, 2018

Black Dagger Brotherhood Series by J.R. Ward-- Review of Books 1-3

Reviews of Books 1-3 in the Black Dagger Brotherhood Series by J.R. Ward

42899I only started these books late last week, but I have been flying through them. Currently, I am on the fourth book Lover Revealed and I am honestly using these books as motivation to get my work done. The holidays were nice because I could binge-read, but now I'm letting myself read a little bit once an hour or a bit after each section of work. Because of that though, I have not been writing full reviews for these books and I don't want to go back and do it either. I also don't want to just not write about them though because they are GREAT!

Dark Lover (Wrath and Beth)
Jumping into this book, I was really worried that it would be a cheesy vampire romance, but while it is a vampire romance, it is not cheesy at all. This first book was a great gateway into the series. It establishes the main cast (from what I've read so far at least) and it sets up a strong foundation for the world that Ward has created. Wrath definitely creeped me out at first, but then as things were explained more and more about the world it all started to make sense and I love that Wrath and Beth are together.


Lover Eternal (Rhage and Mary)
35729This book was better than the first. I was slightly hesitant about it at first because I had just fallen in love with Wrath and Beth and I knew they weren't going to be the stars of this book, but I really really enjoyed this one. The characters, because they were already established, got to be so much more rounded in this book and I loved the way that Mary was able to stay with Rhage. It was also just great to watch Rhage change and develop as a person. The best part of this book though was how it all resolved itself and seeing the Scribe Virgin allow the two of them to be together.


Lover Awakened (Zsadist and Bella)
Of the three that I have read so far, this one was the best. Zsadist terrified me in the first two books. It was good that there was some preparation for this ship in the previous book because otherwise not only would it not have made sense, but it would have been a rough introduction to the ship. As the book went along though, I rapidly began to hope that they would be together and my heart broke for Z more and more. The way that these two work around each other is both amazing to read because they are great together, but also frustrating because I feel like their communication with each other needs to be forced out at the last possible minute. *Sighs heavily* Anyway, I am really looking forward to how they interact with each other and others in the upcoming books. ALSO, THEY HAVE A YOUNG!!! I can't wait to see Z and the Brotherhood interact with that baby and be super protective of her.
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Of these ships so far, I think my favorite is... Rhage and Mary. I love all of them, and I am really looking forward to seeing them more in the future books. Rhage and Mary though I think are my top ship as of right now- but only marginally. Zsadist and Bella are right there with them.

I'm curious to see where the rest of the books go because there are only so many brothers in the Brotherhood. Right now, I'm reading Butch's story, which I'm not sure how I feel about it yet. But then after that? After all the brothers have mates? Ward has been doing a good job of introducing new characters, so I guess some of the books will cover them... it will be interesting though I think. (Please don't spoil me! I'm looking forward to just reading them as they come.) I think I may have given all of these books 5 stars on Goodreads, but from best to worst I would rank them as: Lover Awakened, Lover Eternal, then Dark Lover. But seriously, they're all amazing.

Thanks for reading!

Saturday, November 24, 2018

My Bookish Christmas List

Image result for books in snowMy Bookish Wish List


This may or may not be the best time of the year to get a bunch of shopping done with Black Friday, Cyber Monday, holiday deals, etc., etc.... so I'm just going to leave this list here of what bookish and nerdy things I know that I would like and I'm going to recommend some general ones as well. Honestly, there's a very good chance that I will buy at least one of these things myself. Also, any of the images will have links in their descriptions in case anyone is curious and wants to buy it.

My Wish List
Image result for jane austen mug
Jane Austen mug
1) Books. Pfff- who would've thought? For real though here's a quick list of titles that I'm interested in: Every Note Played by Lisa Genova, Circe by Madeline Miller, From Lukov with Love by Mariana Zapata, The Darkest Star by Jennifer L. Armentrout, Consumed by J.R. Ward, The Room on Rue Amelie by Kristen Harmel. There are a lot more, but I'll leave it at this for now.

2) A Jane Austen mug. This may be overly common, but I love Jane Austen's books and these mugs are completely adorable and I would use mine for everything from oatmeal to coffee.


3) A book print dress (or scarf) with really almost pages from any book. I just think these are both so beautiful and so perfect for personality.

Image result for book print scarf the raven
Book Print Scarf

4) Floating bookshelves. With all the books I already have and the ones I want to get there is no shelf space left for me. I really need to go through my books and donate some of them, but I also just really like how floating shelves look. There are a couple of spots where I think they would look good, plus I'm out of floor space so there's also no other option.

5) Character candles. I. Am. Obsessed. I have yet to find a company that I don't like. But I also am just generally in love with the smells associated with the Night Court and Rhys from the series A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas, and luckily nearly every company I've come across has seemed to have some sort of candle related to that. The more the merrier I say.

My Bookish Recommendations List
Image result for library socks
Library socks
1) Start with my favorite books. I truly love these and would highly recommend them. Here's my Goodreads shelf because there's too many to list.

2) Library socks. Personally, I lose socks like other people lose pennies. I stopped trying to wear matching socks years ago, so this gift probably wouldn't be the best for me, but they are super cute and I wish I didn't lose socks so that I could wear these.

3) Bookends-- really any kind will do. Maybe get some personalized ones or really interesting ones, because eventually you put books on top of the shelves and you need something to stop them from falling.

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Jamie Fraser pillow
4) Throw pillows. A lot of people really love these things, either for use or for decoration, and there are PLENTY of great bookish throw pillows out there. There are some that even look like book characters!

5) Tea and mug combo set. Just set someone up for a cozy reading session. They'll have the book (or you could get one) and you'll provide the nourishment. They'll be all set to cuddle up and read and relax.

Best of luck if you're looking for gifts this weekend and I hope you find what you're looking for!

Thanks for reading!

Friday, November 23, 2018

The Enchanted Sonata by Heather Dixon Wallwork Review

42279745The Enchanted Sonata by Heather Dixon Wallwork
4.56 out of 5 Stars

***I received a copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.***


In this retelling of The Nutcracker we get to see so much more of the story that Heather Dixon Wallwork has spun around the original. Clara Stahlbaum is a pianist that hopes to catch the attention of her famous male counterpart Johann Kahler through her performance at a Christmas concert. The night before however, on Christmas Eve, she is transported into the land of Imperia where she encounters magic, evil rats, and a prince-turned-toy Nutcracker. It was delightful fun to read and perfect for the holiday season.

SPOILERS BELOW

PLOT: 
I really enjoyed the plot. I knew going into it that it was essentially going to be like the original story/ballet, so it was already attention-grabbing to me. I really appreciated though the different twists that Dixon Wallwork took on this story. The added depth to the characters- understanding the backgrounds of why they are they way they are- really added to the connection to what was happening. Even knowing (sort of) what was coming, I was still curios and itching to keep turning the pages. The element that really did it for me though was the Pied-Piper-esque dynamic that Erik brought with him. It was super creepy in the best way to see him turn the children into toys and hear his rationale as to why it was okay. This retelling was a perfectly even balance of unique original story and classic elements from the first story.
Image result for NUTCRACKER
CHARACTERS:
Clara-- Being completely honest, Clara annoyed me to no end for the longest time with her obsession with Johann. Maybe I'm a bit too much like Nikolai in personality, but I was on his [Nikolai's] side the whole time... what Clara had was painstakingly obviously not love and was actually completely made up. When she finally got it through her head that she was illuding herself it was one of the best moments of the book to me. Because that also gave room for her to realize how she felt about Nikolai so it was a win-win situation. Outside of her love life, it was slightly frustrating to she her doubt herself in her musical capabilities, but at the same time it made sense for her character and development.

Nikolai (Nutcracker)-- I felt so bad for Nikolai from the beginning. It took me awhile to catch on that the General really was just looking out for him, but I still just felt so bad for him. He was a little too doe-eyed toward everything, but it was made up though by his compassion for everything as well and his ability to lead.

Erik-- Of course the antagonist is the creepiest character, but as I mentioned earlier, it was really creepy to hear Erik's reasoning as to why what he was doing was okay. It helped a lot to have his back story in there, which I really appreciated. He was still super disconcerting but in a good literary way.
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Zizi and Alexei-- These two were both really great side characters. I just wanted to quickly point out how cute I think they are and I love that there were there.

Johann-- I'm not even sure if Johann really is a character worth mentioning. He doesn't have many acting moments in the book and the ones that are there show that he is a bit awful and petty. Really, the only thing that I liked about this character is that it gave Clara's character depth.

WRITING:
I love this writing. There's something about it that's just so narrative if that makes any sense? I feel like this is a story you could read out loud to a child and be able to solidly hold their attention. By the way, while this is listed as young adult, I seriously think a middle-grade reader could read this as well. Back to the writing- the story just knits together so nicely without being overwhelming or confusing, yet is engaging at the same time. Lastly, I love the title of the book. I really think it's a great fit.
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Dixon Wallwork is able to completely capture the story not just in words but the sensation of the music she describes. I have never before read a work where music is incorporated so seamlessly into the narrative. What's truly great about it is that it carries the essence of the music in the story inside the words of the plot and the descriptions of the music. You don't need to know music to feel the sensation she describes. The Enchanted Sonata is itself an enchanting piece of art.

Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Spoiler Free Review: The Enchanted Sonata by Heather Dixon Wallwork

42279745 The Enchanted Sonata by Heather Dixon Wallwork
4.56 of 5 stars
Spoiler Free Review 

***I received a copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Thank you!***

In this retelling of The Nutcracker we get to see so much more of the story that Heather Dixon Wallwork has spun around the original. Clara Stahlbaum is a pianist that hopes to catch the attention of her famous male counterpart Johann Kahler through her performance at a Christmas concert. The night before however, on Christmas Eve, she is transported into the land of Imperia where she encounters magic, evil rats, and a prince-turned-toy Nutcracker. It was delightful fun to read and perfect for the holiday season.

Dixon Wallwork is able to completely capture the story not just in words but the sensation of the music she describes. I have never before read a work where music is incorporated so seamlessly into the narrative. What's truly great about it is that it carries the essence of the music in the story inside the words of the plot and the descriptions of the music. You don't need to know music to feel the sensation she describes. The Enchanted Sonata is itself an enchanting piece of art.

Full review to come tomorrow!

Thanks for reading!

View all my reviews