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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Reading as an Experience

When I approach a new book, I often know very little about it.

Many have been on my TBR for years–recommendations from acquaintances long forgotten–“Oh, you should read this!” Any one who finds out how much I read has a book for me, so it goes on The List. Bestsellers often end up on there, popular books making the rounds on Tumblr, and of course, the Boxall 1001. The List is over 3,000 titles long.

I will usually read a brief description of an ARC before I request it, but even then, it’s a month or two before I actually read it, since I prefer to wait until just before release to do the review. I have a general idea of most of the popular classic novels, but just an outline or topic. Only in the rare occasion that I really love the author and have been anxiously waiting a release, or it’s a book with a huge publicity push will I actually have a strong knowledge base before beginning.

Why do I do so little research about the books I read? Two simple reasons.

  1. I read almost a book a day. At that volume, it would be impossible for me to read pre-reviews on every single book. Nope, can’t do it.
  2. The biggest reason, though, is that I’d much rather go into a book blind. That way, every twist and turn is new, every character I meet is unexpected. It’s the same reason I often don’t watch every movie trailer anymore. I want to experience the book fresh. Sometimes with ARCs I hardly even pay attention to who the author is. I take notes with my reactions, mark down quotes, etc. With difficult books, I will often Wiki it, to make sure I am understanding what is happening–though I don’t usually do that until later in the story, or afterwards, unless I am really confused.

Reading for me is an immersive experience, and I try to get as much out of it as possible. It is enjoyable, but it is no longer just a hobby. I learn a great deal from the books I read, and so I have expanded the breadth of what I am taking in.

I’ve discussed this multiple times here before–how much I read, what I read, how I do it. I won’t get into that now. But learning is important to me, and I get really excited about it.

 

However, I’ve had a few conversations about reading as an experience this week. Not everyone reads the same way I do. And you know what, THAT IS OK!

I had one conversation where we geeked out about the toxic relationships in Wuthering Heights and analyzed the perception of that novel as a romance vs what the book really is. We talked about how we think all classics are well-written because the language is so much different than modern day English, but in reality, the authors fought with each other about their writing style as much as we do now.

But you know what also makes me really excited? Talking to someone who struggled with reading for years, hating it because they had trouble with dyslexia or any other reading disorder. But then someone gave them Harry Potter (or Twilight or Percy Jackson or INSERT BOOK HERE) and it opened up words for them. And it may take them a month to read one book but now they can do it and we can geek out together about our favorite stories. And it has nothing to do with the great masters of writing or the state of the world. It’s just words on a page that fit together to make a story that we all can share.

 

My point is this–read what you like. For years I read Nora Roberts and Rachel Gibson smut. I read every JD Robb In Death book in order for like 4-5 years. Maybe longer. That’s no longer my thing, but if it’s yours GREAT! If you’re an adult who loves YA, thumbs up. If you’re a kid who likes adult fiction, YES! Comics, newspapers, magazines, shampoo bottles? Done.

I’m kind of joking about the shampoo bottles, but I can’t say I haven’t done it when there’s nothing else in the bathroom.

Paperbacks, hard covers, ereaders, audiobooks. All valid sources. Guys, let’s stop arguing about what people like to read, and get excited about everyone who loves it as much as we do. Bookworms have gotten made fun of since the beginning of time. Let’s not beat up on each other too.

I firmly believe that reading is a process. It starts with that first book we fall in love with, and we just keep going. Every next book drags us a little further down the line. Maybe one day we step out from our normal genre into something new. Maybe next time it’s a bit more advanced than what we are used to. That process can be fast, or it may take a long time and be really gradual–and it may change hardly at all. My grandfather read Westerns his entire life…until the last year or two when he started reading Amish Christian fiction. So don’t let me or anyone else pressure you to step outside your comfort zone, but I do encourage it, when you’re ready.

There is a whole world of books out there! And you know I have a full List of recommendations for you!

Happy reading everyone!

March Photo Challenge: Recommendation

Since starting the blog last year, I have been reading more new books than I used to. Obviously, it helps my stats here, but mostly I’m just interacting with so many bloggers that I have been exposed to more reviews than used to see. My TBR list has just EXPLODED.

And suddenly, I have become an influencer. When I started this little blog, it was purely for my own entertainment, but people are actually reading my reviews! So, I must keep the content current, and provide you with my take on the best upcoming books to read.

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A friend told me about NetGalley awhile ago, and I am completely hooked, so now it’s my turn to pass on the recommendation. This is where I get most of my ARCs (Advance Reader’s Copies).

Here’s how it works:  You simply register with NetGalley for an account. Let them know what type of books you like to read, if you run a blog/where you’ll be posting reviews and such. Once you get your profile set up, you can start requesting books, and you’ll get emails tailored to your genre preferences telling you what is available next. Then you wait. If a publisher approves your request, you download the book, read it, and then review it! It’s that simple. You don’t always get every book you request, but I’ve gotten most of them. It just depends on the availability and how many people have asked for that particular book. (I have seen some people get really angry when they don’t get picked for an ARC, but to me it’s a privilege to get chosen.)

The books are all ebooks, and you can send them to your Kindle (which is what I do), or I believe there are other formats as well. They don’t cost anything, besides feedback to the publisher. These are prepublished copies though, so sometimes the formatting is a little strange, or there are editing markers–like (?) or (1.)–included in the text where it is obvious a change will be made before the book is actually printed.

Still, the privilege of a sneak peek at a favorite or new author, and getting to market a book on my blog is such fun! And I’ve gotten to do a couple book tours too, and even have gotten some comments from the authors themselves!

If you have a review blog, this is a fun way to get eyes on new books that are coming out. You’ll keep in touch with publishers and authors too, and let your readers know what’s coming!

 

Just a disclaimer–although NetGalley has given me plenty of books to read through their program, they did not ask me to write this post. These are all my own opinions.

Since You’ve Been Gone

My last post was a happy, fluffy, feel good favorite…and now I’ve got to be a bit of a Debbie Downer. Sorry about that. They can’t all be warm ones.

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Mary Jennifer Payne is coming out with her first YA novel in February. Since You’ve Been Gone is the story about a Canadian teen on the run with her mom. They land in London–new school, new flat, new troubles. Right off the bat, even though she doesn’t tell us until later, we get the feeling why they are running. Him. Someone tore Mom up at some point. We find out later exactly what happened…

Since You’ve Been Gone took me about 2 hours to read. I’m reading an ARC on my Kindle, and if Goodreads hadn’t told me it was 224 pages, I would have considered this more of a novella. While the subject matter is pretty intense, the reading itself is fairly simple. I’m not going to say this is the best book I’ve ever read as far as quality…but it definitely hit me somewhere. Would I buy it? Probably not. But, I expect this is going to resonate well with the teen crowd.

 

Disclaimer:  I received this ARC from NetGalley.

This fulfills PopSugar #4:  A book published this year.

Robinson Crusoe

After reading some very droll old literature, I was ready for something with a little more POP to it, to finish out the year. Thankfully, Robinson Crusoe was next on the Kindle list.

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I can completely see why this book is so popular. It may not have the same thrill as it used to, but I can picture dad or an older brother reading chapters of this before bed, siblings tented under sheets with flashlights after lights out. And, I’m sure, even though it did have cannibals and mutiny, there was also quite a lot of Bible included too, so Mother would approve.

I have mixed feelings about this book. The survival story on its own was very interesting. We joke about Tom Hanks going crazy in Castaway, having a volleyball as a friend, and he wasn’t even alone that long. Crusoe was on that island for almost 30 years! He built a farm, raised goats, built a boat to get around in. He didn’t just survive, he THRIVED.

I start to struggle a little bit towards the end of the book, mostly once he “saves” Friday. Here you are, you FINALLY interact with someone from another culture, and instead of listening to them, learning from them….NOPE. Everything he has to say is wrong. WRONG WRONG WRONG. I’m not saying he should have become a cannibal, but talk about whitewashing. Down to the fact that Friday called him Master, and Crusoe never did learn Friday’s real name. GRRRRRR. I guess in my head there’s ministering…and there’s shoving things down people’s throats.

Ok…deep breath…stepping off my soapbox.

Told you I had mixed feelings. This will probably get 2 stars from me. It’s good writing as far as literature goes, for the time period, and longevity. But, some of the subject matter just hit me the wrong way.

 

 

Fairies: The Myths, Legends, & Lore

I’ve always been fascinated by mythology, and I think that is what most draws me to fantasy. I love the way authors use similar themes throughout to weave these stories that, even though it is fiction…there is this seemingly thread of truth to it all. It is all so familiar, and those “truths” go back and back and back so far that we really don’t know if they are fact.

As William Faulkner said, “Facts and truth really don’t have much to do with each other.”

Skye Alexander’s book on the fae was very educational and informative. I’m on my fourth page of journal notes today, which might be a record. She covers all of the basics, from Tinkerbell to Jinn (what we know more commonly as Genie). The myths and legends for all of the fairies get broken down by country.

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I have mixed feelings about the structure of this book. I probably would have liked it more if I hadn’t read it on a Kindle. I think this is one of those books you need to have in your hand, because there are just so many formatting changes, and pictures, and insets. The paperwhite just couldn’t do it justice. Plus…I happen to know that this has a gorgeous purple cover (the Goodreads pic doesn’t do it justice), and ooooh do I want it so badly.

However, even knowing that my reading was tainted by ebook format, I still have some hesitations. This does read very much like a college research paper, which unfortunately means it is a bit dry. There were subject headings every single paragraph, it seemed. Bullet points were extremely prevalent. I am glad it was well cited, but part of the reason my journal is so full is because she almost overdid it with quotes from other authors. Don’t get me wrong…I love when authors use quotations…to a point. But, I think it also detracts attention from the main body of work, so there is such a thing as too much of a good thing.

I did really enjoy the insets, and I think I would have liked them even more if I had seen them in book format, rather than on the kindle. These were little stories about real life fairy sightings, examples to prove what Skye was describing. These made her research much more interesting.

Overall, I think this would be a wonderful thing for any fan of lore, fantasy, mythology, fairy tales, etc to have on their shelves. Also, if you are an author, you should definitely have this to flip through as a quick reference. It would be really handy just to pick this up when you need to know something about Irish legend, quickly. The book doesn’t have anything super in depth on any of the subjects, but it is really interesting basic information. I’m adding it to my To Buy list, and I’ll probably read her other books. I know she has one on Mermaids that I’m for sure going to check out!

Ebooks

There is a constant debate over whether Ebooks are “real books.” It gets pretty heated sometimes.

I’m not sure there’s many bibliophiles who would disagree with me that the best smell in the world is that of old, musty book. There’s nothing else like it. And it’s true, electronic words just cannot compare with ink on a yellowed, tattered page. Kindles, even with customized covers, cannot match the excitement of a bookshelf full of multi-colored books of every size, texture, age, author, title, organized perfectly and collected obsessively.

I am so proud of my bookshelves. You know this. I will never stop collecting REAL PAPER BOOKS. And in a fire…there would probably be a few I would have to grab.

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But. All that said. I also have a Kindle. And a tablet. And I regularly use Overdrive through my library on my computer and my phone.

Why? Why do I continue to read electronically, when there are so many REAL books available to me?

Ebooks are a convenience. Every reason really comes back to that one point. I would love to buy every book, I really would. But, books are expensive. Thankfully, Overdrive has made it so easy for libraries to provide ebooks to us. I can download them to my kindle or tablet in seconds, and off I go. And I love Kindle Unlimited too! It got a lot of hate when it first came out, but I’ve really enjoyed it. And, I talked to an author the other day, who told me that after a reader gets 10% through a book, he gets paid as if they bought the book. Sounds like a pretty good deal to me!

The other great thing about Amazon…so many classics are free. I probably have 150 books from my Boxall list already downloaded on my Kindle, just waiting to be read. They are the hard ones, the books I will have to highlight and look up definitions–and guess what–I can do that just by holding down a finger. I can’t do that with a real book. And you KNOW I hate highlighting real books. Ugh. Some books I just prefer to read interactively!

Often times, I’ll use Ebooks as an “audition.” Once I read it electronically, I just HAVE to own a copy. Most of the books I own, I’ve already read. I do have a TBR Shelf, but it’s relatively small in comparison to the TBR folder on my Kindle. Which is another convenience of ebooks–storage. I can always have a book ready. When we went on vacation, I took my tablet, rather than 5 different REAL books. It was just easier.

Finally, having a Kindle and tablet makes it possible for me to participate in NetGalley and Penguin First to Read programs. I never thought I would be able to read books before they got published, and it’s so cool that publishers give us this opportunity! They’ve really taken advantage of the book blogger community to get feedback on their premarket books…and we all love it! GIMMIE THAT ARC! How cool is it that we are the first people to read the up-and-comings? I love it and certainly do not take the privilege lightly.

When you read as much as I do, you’ll take words in any format they come. Ink on a page, or eink on a tablet. Just please give me more more more. And if you haven’t picked up a Kindle or Tablet only because “well, people say that’s not real reading.” Trust me, it’ll make your reading experience even better. I’m reading even more than I did before I ordered my Kindle. And, probably reading better, because it’s so interactive.

(At this point, I should probaby say, this is not an ad for Kindle, and I haven’t been paid. I just really love my Paperwhite. This applies to any tablet or ereader.)

Where do you stand on the real book/ebook fence? Do you use both?