The Ciphers of Muirwood

Shortly after I posted my review for The Banished of Muirwood, I received an email from the publicist letting me know that the second book was up on NetGalley! That’s never happened before, so I immediately went and grabbed it! Absolutely, yes I want to read that second book, slam bam thank you ma’am!

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Jeff Wheeler’s first Covenant of Muirwood book just came out on August 18, so he is not wasting any time releasing these. From the sound of his Author Note, his third one is already in the works (and Goodreads says expected publication 2015), so I wouldn’t be surprised if it is already written. He’s even talking about a third trilogy! I really have got to get my hands on the first, and pronto!

I mentioned in my last write-up that the king seemed a bit like Henry VIII. This theme only gets more pronounced in The Cipher of Muirwood–in fact, it’s downright obvious that Henry was a major inspiration for Wheeler’s fantasy. He has banished his very devout daughter, Maia, and her mother (who is even named Catrin) so that he can marry a new heretic woman–very much an Anne Boleyn character, only with previous children of her own. There’s a slimey chancellor Crabwell who is a deadringer for Cromwell. And even a modest lady-in-waiting named Jayn Sexton that the king can’t seem to keep away from.

While I found those parallels amusing, they aren’t really the focus of the story at all. Just something fun for an Anglophile to pick apart. The real basis of the trilogy is the deep threads of a magical sect of religion that has been passed down to Maia through the maternal side of her family. The journey she takes in Banished brings her to Muirwood Abbey, where she must take her Maston test and fulfill her destiny. And she must do it quickly, before Whitsunday and the arrival of her father and a potential war.

My doubts about the slow start of the first book were completely dashed in this second one. I am almost jumping up and down with anticipation of the third, and if I didn’t already have a full pile of books on hold at the library right now, I’d probably see if they had the first trilogy. I may just have to buy it on my Kindle the next chance I get. Guys, if you love fantasy, you need to be reading Jeff Wheeler. Just do it.

 

Netgalley provided this ARC for an unbiased review. Releases September 15 2015.

 

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The Invasion of the Tearling

I’ve committed the ultimate blogging sin. The one, huge habit that I have had to stop doing since starting I Lay Reading.

My number one rule:  DO NOT FINISH THE BOOK RIGHT BEFORE BED.

Crap.

Why is this so terrible? I used to do this all the time–the finality of it meant I could fall instantly to sleep. Ahhh but therein lies the problem. When I finish a book, I blog it immediately (or, if I cannot get to a computer, then I at least write down a pretty detailed outline), so that my thoughts and feelings are fresh and vibrant.

Going to sleep between finishing and blogging basically smothers those feels with my pillow. My brain is sluggish and sleepy. No matter how much I loved the book (or hated it), I just never feel as good about what I have to say.

In fact…all of this is just procrastination because I didn’t know how to get started…

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We recently read The Queen of the Tearling for the #adultbooklr Book Club in July, and I was so looking forward to the second book. It seemed like everyone jumped right into The Invasion of the Tearling and loved it even more than the QOTT, so I was dying for the library to catch up to me on the hold queue.

My coreaders were not wrong. I really enjoyed QOTT, and IOTT just builds upon the series. Book 1’s setting is a little mysterious–is it medieval fantasy? Is it the future? What is The Crossing? We know there was America, and they are in something called New Europe, but where are they really?

In Book 2, Kelsea’s character and magic really develop, as does the whole background of the dystopian set up. Through Kelsea’s fugues, we get to see what happened pre-Crossing–who the Tear characters are, what happened to America, what the Crossing was. There’s also quite a lot of character development among the other main and secondary characters as well.

I really liked QOTT for what it was, but I know some people thought the writing not complex enough, or that it spends too much time building up to nothing. IOTT builds on everything that QOTT lays out. Don’t give up on Kelsea just yet, I encourage you to read the second book. It’s worth it.

 

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The Deerslayer

Did you know that The Last of the Mohicans is actually a series? We see series all the time now, but we don’t think about them much back in the 1800s. Maybe they happened more than I realize. I’ve seen books with multiple volumes and one title, but this is the first I’ve seen in an actual series like this.

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James Fenimore Cooper wrote The Leatherstocking Tales about an adventurer called Natty Bumppo–a white man who was raised among the Delaware Indians in the what is now New York. Even though he was raised among the Native Americans, he loathes the idea of harming his own kind. He hunts (giving him the nickname of Deerslayer), but he does not like the idea of war. He crosses paths with two white men, Hurry Harry and Floating Tom who have taken up scalping for trade, and try to convince him to do it with them. He tries to convince them to stop, but they don’t listen and are trapped by the dangerous Huron tribe.

This book…I just…have really mixed feelings.

I liked Bumppo’s character. He’s a good man, and he just wants to be left alone in the woods. Also, he’s asexual. He has a chance to marry the beautiful girl, and he says, “Meh…no thanks, I think I’ll go back and head off back in the trees, but thanks. Let’s just be friends, k?” He joins the fight because he has to get the idiots out of danger, but I got the idea that it was really really complicated and was just messing things up for him. Towards the end, Judith asks him if he wanted to fight and he tells her that while he can now claim the title of Warrior, he hates it and fights only out of necessity.

Also, the descriptions of the land are beautiful. This is written by someone who has spent a great deal of time in upstate New York. My Coursera professor added this to our historical fiction syllabus–which is why I am reading it now–and he showed us a picture of the lake Cooper references. The details are perfect, down to the exact spherical boulder on the shoreline.

However, I struggled a great deal with the racial context. I think sometimes it is hard for me to remove myself culturally from what I know now about the struggles/pain white men have caused in this country. I’m not even sure if that sentence made any sense. But even though I know in my head that Cooper was using the terminology that his characters would have called “injins” and “red men,” it still just makes me cringe. Bumppo and Hurry Harry have a pretty heated debate about the differences between white men and red men–Bumppo is trying to convince Harry that all men are equal, even if culture and tradition is different–and it just gets really ugly. It hurts my heart to know that I could pick that conversation up, take out “red” put in “black” and drop that conversation pretty much anywhere in the US right now, and it would still fit exactly.

I don’t talk about that subject much, mostly because I don’t know what to say, and what I mean will never come out right. But that part of the book really got to me, and I couldn’t leave it out.

There isn’t much else–the book is a little hard to follow at times. It is pretty chaotic. People have multiple names and there isn’t a whole lot of setting buildup. This is one that I read Wiki before I reviewed to make sure I understood what I read. I’m not ashamed to admit it, people!

This isn’t really a book I’d recommend, unless you really like old adventure stories. But, I know I’m going to have to read The Last of the Mohicans at some point for the Boxall 1001, so I stuck it out.

Seriously though, I am going to make someone else write my TBR for September. Why did I do this to myself? WAR WAR WAR DEPRESSED WARWARWAR DARK WAR

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The Banished of Muirwood

I don’t know if you have noticed but I have been reading some pretty HEAVY stuff lately. Four of the reviews I’ve done this month have had the word “dark” in them. Two of the others have been about war. Whoa, Haley. I think it’s time to back read something lighthearted, and soon.

You guys ok, out there? Sorry for all the doom and gloom! It wasn’t on purpose, I promise!

I’d love to tell you this review is better…but, it’s another book of war. *grimaces* Sorry….but it is a magical war, so that has to count for something. Stick with me.

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Jeff Wheeler apparently woke up from a dream one night with a girl in his head. He luckily had paper in his nightstand and ferociously began scribbling about her evil father and the man hired to protect her. Since then, he’s written stories about his world of Muirwood, but is finally releasing Maia’s story.

Maia is born princess to a king who doesn’t quite know how to handle his own power. He’s almost a Henry VIII kind of guy, and banishes her mother so he can take on another queen and thus another kingdom. In doing so, he must banish Maia and disown her, even as he claims he loves her. Along her path, Maia finds herself with a great deal of magic, and even greater trouble.

While this is definitely fantasy, Wheeler built his world of Muirwood upon a base of real ancient history references. Or, at the very least, references to places from real authors. There is a character, “the kishion,” which when I Googled, pointed to Kadesh in Galilee. Another reference, “aurichalcum” is a metal Plato references when he talks about Atlantis (obviously that one is more about the author than the place). There’s a few more things that build upon ancient Greek culture or works. I mention this because while the premise for the story came from a dream, and there were certainly made up places, names, and language in the book–it was obvious to me while reading that Wheeler had done quite a bit of research before sitting down to write. I would be so interested to see his notes. It fascinates me how authors create and build their ideas and from where they pull inspiration.

I will say, that at first I was unsure about the writing. Maia was banished, running, in obvious danger. Then she just shows up at a random inn and the hunter she needs is at that exact place (very Strider from LOTR), and she just gives him her full name, title, problem, all of it. And he agrees to help her with no suspicion or confirmation whatsoever. Well, ok then! There were a lot of holes in the first 10% of the book. It made me a little weary.

However, shortly after I made that note in my journal, the book picked up and I started getting answers pretty quickly. Maia is still pretty naive, really throughout the whole book. But, I think that’s more of a character flaw than a writing issue, once I got into the meat of the story. Give it a chance past the first 20%, it’s a slow starter, but it does become a valid fantasy after that. I’ve added the rest of his Muirwood history to my TBR–I am wondering if those would help the beginning holes at all. Sounds like he’s also working on a second book to Maia’s story, woot!

NetGalley provided this ARC for an unbiased review. To be released on August 18.

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Half a King

High fantasy. Seems like it’s everywhere now, since Game of Thrones became popular.

I dunno, maybe it was everywhere before that, but it’s one of those things where you don’t notice it until you do, and then it’s everywhere.

Either way–I’m glad, because I love it. I mean, I don’t foresee anyone writing as hardcore and complicated a world as George RR Martin’s, but there is a lot of great stuff out there.

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Today’s selection was Half a King by Joe Abercrombie, and it did not disappoint. Yarvi, a second son, is set to take his minister’s test, when his father and brother are killed. Suddenly he is thrust into kingdom and all it’s responsibilities. He is quickly betrothed to his brother’s promised wife, and coronated. However, his uncle sees the opportunity to take the throne. I don’t want to give you any more, because, spoilers, but the book is essentially Yarvi’s fight for a kingdom he wasn’t supposed to have.

If I had to hazard a guess, I’d say this is based in Viking/Norse history. The names have sort of a Scandinavian feel to them, and the lifestyle is based around the sea and oarsman powered boats. Besides that, the world is fairly simple in it’s structure, at least in this first book. The characters are well written, and everything flows well.

I especially liked the banter between the oarsmen (and women). As you’d expect, they were an ornery, dirty lot, but good-natured and hearty. Once they got out of captivity, I loved how they banded together into a family group. Oh, and the author sneaks in a Homer-esque joke in there, so watch out for that. Definitely got a smirk out of me!

Something else important about this story–the hero of this book is disabled. While everyone else gives him a world of crap for it–like thinking him the lesser prince, for instance–he never lets it slow him down. If anything, it makes him smarter and stronger.

I just added the second book to my TBR, which is about as great a compliment as I can give any series. If it’s good enough for me to pick up the next one, you know you’ve got a winner in my heart! Now, let’s see how soon the library will take to get it to me.

The Queen of the Tearling

I’ve mentioned #adultbooklr on this blog before. There are no restrictions, other than you must be over 18, and you must love books. That’s it! We are just a giant book club, really, and there were way more adults on Tumblr than I realized! The idea isn’t to be exclusive–quite the opposite, actually. We have a constant chat on GroupMe, which is fantastic. There’s also a Goodreads group. Check out the Tumblr tag to learn more about it.

Every month we are going to have a club book to read. This was the first, and the choice was The Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen. I had already read it, but it was back before I started the blog (or right at the beginning), so it didn’t get a review. Perfect opportunity to do another readalong!

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Kelsea grows up isolated in the woods with a pair of surrogate parents in a house full of books and learning. But one day she is torn from that quiet life by a group of soldiers claiming she is the heir to the Tearling throne and they whisk her off to her new kingdom. Suddenly she is supposed to save a whole people from the tyranny of a witch queen!

QOTT is setting up for a series, and I think it does that very well. There is a lot of character development in this first book, so you get the expectation that there will be a lot of action in the upcoming additions. Kelsea is not the usual femme fatale that you see in these heroine roles–she describes herself as plain, short, and out of shape. But when it comes to doing what needs to be done to save her people, she has the guts and inner strength to go the distance. She makes a fantastic role model for young women, in my opinion–she’s an extremely relatable fantasy character.

I’m looking forward to The Invasion of the Tearling, which was just released last month. It’s on my library’s hold list, so as soon as they will give it to me, I’ll let you know what I think!

Under the Lights

As promised, I HAD to continue the Daylight Falls saga. There was just no way I could continue with anything else knowing I had that book sitting on my Kindle waiting to be read.

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8 hours later, done. Like I told you yesterday, these are quick, fun reads. For me, I consider them brain candy. However, this second book had a fantastic twist that I definitely didn’t see coming–and I wish more books had.

In Behind the Scenes, there are basically four main characters:  Ally, her best friend Vanessa, Vanessa’s co-star Liam, and his best friend Josh. Ally and Liam hook up in that book, so it would make logical sense that the second book would be the other two getting together right? And, at first, it totally seems like that. To be honest, I was rolling my eyes a bit, and settling in for a boring book. I really didn’t like them together–I though they were pretty shallow characters in the first one.

But, oh nay nay!

I won’t go into a whole lot of detail here about the plot, because I want you to go pick this series up (Under the Lights is due out June 30, so you have a month to read Behind the Scenes!). However, I will tell you that this one includes not only POC characters, but also Gay and Bi characters as well. It talks a lot about how important representation is in the media and on screen, and how hard it is to come out to friends and family.

I was expecting just another New Adult romance novel, but I got so much more than that. I hope Dahlia Adler continues to write these kinds of characters and stories, because they are so important! Go get your hands on book #1, so you can read #2 at the end of the month!

 

NetGalley provided this ARC for an unbiased review.