Rocket City Lit Fest 2015

Recently, I participated in the first ever Rocket City Lit Fest in Huntsville, Ala. It’s been a personal goal of mine to get out to more book events and one located in my neck of the woods was another perfect opportunity to fangirl about books in a public setting.

Left to Right: My Friend Alyssa, Jenny Lawson and me.

Left to Right: My Friend Alyssa, Jenny Lawson and me.

The most notably speaker was Jenny Lawson, who recently released her new book Furiously Happy: A Funny Book About Horrible Things. To be honest, I’m not much of a nonfiction reader, but I felt obligated to buy a copy and get it signed (because, ya know, bookish street cred) and I’m so glad I did because I’m really enjoying it so far. It’s being promoted as a hysterical, ridiculous book about crippling depression and anxiety, and sadly this is just what I need!

As always, I attacked the vendor hall with my budgeted cash and had a blast meeting tons of new authors, some local, others more well-known. I love to support indie authors and meeting people who are following their dream of writing. It is very inspiring. I discovered some awesome authors and their books such as:20151028_193218_001

  • Rescued by Larynn Ford (It’s about shifters. Enough said.)
  • The Movie Star’s Red Hot Holiday Fling by Christine Glover (Female marine dealing with PTSD and hot action star? Yes, please!)
  • The Light of Asteria by Elizabeth Isaacs (Such a pretty cover!)
  • Saving Evangeline by Nancee Cain (Another naughty priest novel. Bring it on!)
  • Keeper by Ingrid Seymour (An intriguing YA fantasy)
  • The Forest Bull by Terry Maggert (TBH, I bought this because the author seemed so cool!)
  • Furiously Happy by Jenny Lawson (see above)
  • Not Pictured: Outlaw by Nicole James (Hot Bikers. You’re welcome.)

I’ve already read Christine Glover and Nicole James, and both books were amazing. I immediately purchased more of the author’s books. Reviews to come.

I went to a few panels, but my favorite was a screening of a documentary called “Love Between The Covers,” which features popular romance novelists and the impact of the romance genre on the publishing industry. Basically, romance dominates the book market and without romance, the industry wouldn’t be thriving. I loved how the documentary focused on how romance is looked down upon as a genre and explores why this is. My favorite line? It’s looked down upon because it’s a genre “made for women, by women.”  I may be hyper-sensitive to feminist ideals since I’m taking a feminism graduate class but it was super interesting.

Since this was the first one, the attendance wasn’t as much as I was expecting but it made for shorter lines. I am expecting this event to grow year after year. I’ll be going back next year for sure. I’m not sure what else to share so I’ll leave you with this picture of me and my man Edgar.

20151010_103426

I’m just a poe boy from a poe family

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Rook by Sharon Cameron

I really enjoyed Rook by Sharon Cameron.The cover caught my eye at the bookstore and I love stories with arranged marriages and masked vigilantes.

23399192History has a way of repeating itself. In the Sunken City that was once Paris, all who oppose the new revolution are being put to the blade. Except for those who disappear from their prison cells, a red-tipped rook feather left in their place. Is the mysterious Red Rook a savior of the innocent or a criminal?

Meanwhile, across the sea in the Commonwealth, Sophia Bellamy’s arranged marriage to the wealthy René Hasard is the last chance to save her family from ruin. But when the search for the Red Rook comes straight to her doorstep, Sophia discovers that her fiancé is not all he seems. Which is only fair, because neither is she.

As the Red Rook grows bolder and the stakes grow higher, Sophia and René find themselves locked in a tantalizing game of cat and mouse.

This novel is so much more than an exciting, action-packed tale about justice in a world drowning in oppression. It had this depth to it that spoke to the literary academic in me. In fact, Rook is an homage to the early 20th-century adventure novel The Scarlet Pimpernel, which is where some elements of the plot and the red-tipped rook feather come from. The creation of this new Paris, where the “time before” is the modern, plastic world we all know was brilliant world-building. I loved that Sophia and her family collected ancient artifacts (i.e. plastic things) and I loved the underlying commentary about history repeating itself. It’s hard to imagine a world where they forget all the knowledge and innovation that’s been discovered before, but history tells us this has happened and Rook is Cameron’s way of exploring that dystopian future.

This future is so entertaining because of characters like Sophia and René. They are both amazing in their own right. Sophia is a strong, badass heroine that fights for what is right and for the life of her brother. Without giving too much away, René has his own personal motives and people he cares deeply about. I really enjoyed the cat and mouse game between them. They had fun, witty banter and some electric tension. The transition from the arrangement to the end is heart-warming and left me sighing in contentment by the end.

“He thought she was someone who could break the pattern of history. And he was offering to break it with her.”

There is tons of action in this book. The suspense was killing me at times. Would so and so be rescued? Would they get there in time? Who is good and who is bad? These questions swirled through my mind as the stakes grew higher and higher as Sophia races to save her family. This is an edge-of-your-seat kind of book.

Rook was exciting, romantic and intriguing. If you like books with political games, daring rescues and an inconvenient but irresistible romance, this book is for you.

STARS: 5 out of 5

The Martian by Andrew Weir

The Martian by Andy Weir is the first classic science fiction novel I’ve read in years, and with a foul-mouthed, botanist genius as the main character, it was an entertaining read.

18007564Six days ago, astronaut Mark Watney became one of the first people to walk on Mars. Now, he’s sure he’ll be the first person to die there. After a dust storm nearly kills him & forces his crew to evacuate while thinking him dead, Mark finds himself stranded & completely alone with no way to even signal Earth that he’s alive—& even if he could get word out, his supplies would be gone long before a rescue could arrive. Chances are, though, he won’t have time to starve to death. The damaged machinery, unforgiving environment or plain-old “human error” are much more likely to kill him first. But Mark isn’t ready to give up yet. Drawing on his ingenuity, his engineering skills—& a relentless, dogged refusal to quit—he steadfastly confronts one seemingly insurmountable obstacle after the next. Will his resourcefulness be enough to overcome the impossible odds against him?

I listened to the audiobook of The Martian over a long road trip and it kept me on the edge of my seat. The book is told in mission log notes with a glimpse at what’s happening on earth scattered within the book. Mark Watney was such a kickass and hilarious narrator. From his personal anecdotes to full-out freak outs about being stranded on mars, I was thoroughly entertained by Watney’s commentary.  Here are a few examples:

“Actually, I was the very lowest ranked member of the crew. I would only be “in command” if I were the only remaining person.”
What do you know? I’m in command”

“Also, I have duct tape. Ordinary duct tape, like you buy at a hardware store. Turns out even NASA can’t improve on duct tape.”

“Maybe I’ll post a consumer review. “Brought product to surface of Mars. It stopped working. 0/10.”

“They say once you grow crops somewhere, you have officially ‘colonised’ it. So technically, I colonised Mars.
In your face, Neil Armstrong!”

“I admit it’s fatally dangerous,” Watney said. “But consider this: I’d get to fly around like Iron Man.” “We’ll keep working on ideas,” Lewis said. “Iron Man, Commander. Iron Man.”

Needless to say, I was laughing my butt off at Watney’s misadventures as he tries to survive on an unforgiving planet in a HAB only designed to last 30 days. The humor gives the reader comic relief as Watney survives catastrophe after catastrophe and the suspense only builds more and more as earth comes together to save him.

The only issue I had with the book is there is a lot of data and numbers that I would normally skim but since I was listening to the audiobook, I was a captive audience forced to listen in excruciating detail each aspect of Watney’s crazy experiments. This book must have required a lot of scientific research and I’m pretty sure it was all accurate, from the science involved to make water with rocket fuel down to the actual location of abandoned rovers on mars.

I highly recommend this to anyone who likes science fiction with a whole bunch of snark. The Martian has recently been made into a movie and I’ll be sure to check that out soon.

STARS:5 out of 5

Releases and Recommendations: Starlight by Melissa Landers

It’s Tuesday! The wonderful day that books are released to the world.

Today, I’m anticipating the release of Starlight by Melissa Landers, which will be released on Tuesday, February 2, 2016.

21793182Life in the outer realm is a lawless, dirty, hard existence, and Solara Brooks is hungry for it. Just out of the orphanage, she needs a fresh start in a place where nobody cares about the engine grease beneath her fingernails or the felony tattoos across her knuckles. She’s so desperate to reach the realm that she’s willing to indenture herself to Doran Spaulding, the rich and popular quarterback who made her life miserable all through high school, in exchange for passage aboard the spaceliner Zenith.

When a twist of fate lands them instead on the Banshee, a vessel of dubious repute, Doran learns he’s been framed on Earth for conspiracy. As he pursues a set of mysterious coordinates rumored to hold the key to clearing his name, he and Solara must get past their enmity to work together and evade those out for their arrest. Life on the Banshee may be tumultuous, but as Solara and Doran are forced to question everything they once believed about their world–and each other–the ship becomes home, and the eccentric crew family. But what Solara and Doran discover on the mysterious Planet X has the power to not only alter their lives, but the existence of everyone in the universe…

I’m feeling the sci-fi vibe for this book. The heroine sounds kickass and who doesn’t like a quarterback? Plus, it sounds like this takes place in space and/or alien planets. I’m really excited about this one.

Court of Fives by Kate Elliott

I anticipated the release of Court of Fives by Kate Elliott, so I had super high expectations. I’m on a fantasy kick so I’ve read a bunch of young adult fantasy novels back-to-back recently, and this one definitely stood out in a great way.

18068907On the Fives court, everyone is equal.

And everyone is dangerous.

Jessamy’s life is a balance between acting like an upper-class Patron and dreaming of the freedom of the Commoners. But away from her family, she can be whomever she wants when she sneaks out to train for the Fives, an intricate, multilevel athletic competition that offers a chance for glory to the kingdom’s best competitors.

Then Jes meets Kalliarkos, and an improbable friendship between the two Fives competitors—one of mixed race and the other a Patron boy—causes heads to turn. When Kal’s powerful, scheming uncle tears Jes’s family apart, she’ll have to test her new friend’s loyalty and risk the vengeance of a royal clan to save her mother and sisters from certain death.

In this imaginative escape into an enthralling new world, World Fantasy Award finalist Kate Elliott’s first young adult novel weaves an epic story of a girl struggling to do what she loves in a society suffocated by rules of class and privilege.

The horrifying world in which the story of Jessamy is placed is truly vibrant, dark and mystifying. From the confines on women to the hatred of individuals of a different race, this book is a world both drastically different but eerily similar to our own. Jes is a strong heroine with badass skills, but not the ones typically found in YA fantasy like fighting but in running the fives. The Court of Fives is a five-part competition with various obstacles, which I viewed like a dangerous version of American Ninja Warrior. Jes’s position in society is high enough that she can’t run them professionally but her illegitimate birth keeps her from walking the high-born circles. Her struggle to please her stoic father and follow her passion makes for an enthralling journey.

The dynamic between Jes as one step away from servant and Kalliarkos, one step away from Prince, was intriguing. Kal’s kindness and Jes’s courage bring out the best in each other. I really enjoyed their relationship, but their world has no room for fairy tales. In an effort to not spoil anything, the horrors that Jes’s family must go through hurt my heart and I was in full-on worry mode through most of the book. The villains in this story are truly horrible and Jes’s father is frustratingly stuck in his societal cage. However, Jes’s ability to overcome any obstacle while relying on help from some friends makes for a heart-pounding and harrowing rescue mission.

I really enjoyed this book. The ending was open-ended but with enough closure to satisfy readers. However, the decision Jes must make is not going to be a popular decision. It’ll be interesting to see what happens in the next installment of this trilogy.

STARS: 4.5 out of 5

Releases and Recommendations: Sword and Verse by Kathy MacMillan

It’s Tuesday! The wonderful day that books are released to the world.

Today, I’m anticipating the release of Sword and Verse by Kathy MacMillan, which will be released on Tuesday, January 19, 2016.

22065067Raisa was just a child when she was sold to work as a slave in the kingdom of Qilara. Despite her young age, her father was teaching her to read and write, grooming her to take his place as a Learned One. In Qilara, the Arnathim, like Raisa, are the lowest class, and literacy is a capital offense. What’s more, only the king, prince, tutor, and tutor-in-training are allowed to learn the very highest order language, the language of the gods. So when the tutor-in-training is executed for teaching slaves this sacred language, and Raisa is selected to replace her, Raisa knows any slipup on her part could mean death.

Keeping her secret is hard enough, but the romance that’s been growing between her and Prince Mati isn’t helping matters. Then Raisa is approached by the Resistance—an underground army of slave rebels—to help liberate Arnath slaves. She wants to free her people, but that would mean aiding a war against Mati. As Raisa struggles with what to do, she discovers a secret that the Qilarites have been hiding for centuries—one that, if uncovered, could bring the kingdom to its knees.

Secret languages? Forbidden romance with a prince? Sign me up! I’m intrigued with this one. I’m always fascinated with class dynamics between royalty and slaves, and it will be interesting to see how the author explores the linguistic possibilities with the language of the gods.

An Ember In The Ashes by Sabaa Tahir

An Ember in the Ashes is the much-hyped book by Sabaa Tahir. This is the first book I’ve read from this author and I was impressed but not completely sold.

20560137Laia is a slave.

Elias is a soldier.

Neither is free.

Under the Martial Empire, defiance is met with death. Those who do not vow their blood and bodies to the Emperor risk the execution of their loved ones and the destruction of all they hold dear.

It is in this brutal world, inspired by ancient Rome, that Laia lives with her grandparents and older brother. The family ekes out an existence in the Empire’s impoverished backstreets. They do not challenge the Empire. They’ve seen what happens to those who do.

But when Laia’s brother is arrested for treason, Laia is forced to make a decision. In exchange for help from rebels who promise to rescue her brother, she will risk her life to spy for them from within the Empire’s greatest military academy.

There, Laia meets Elias, the school’s finest soldier—and secretly, its most unwilling. Elias wants only to be free of the tyranny he’s being trained to enforce. He and Laia will soon realize that their destinies are intertwined—and that their choices will change the fate of the Empire itself.

This book lacked one important element that I’ve come to expect in Young Adult fantasy as my personal preference for this genre — a romantic relationship. The romance in this story was seriously lacking. It wasn’t insta-love or a slow burn or a friends-to-lovers romance, it was practically non-existent. I was getting friend zone vibes where the characters were indifferent to the idea of the opposite sex and never made an attempt to get within five feet of the other. It was frustrating because the synopsis declares their “destinies are intertwined” but it’s more like they both hitchhike on the same bus as indifferent passengers. It made the plot less effective because I didn’t believe in the “strong connection” between the two main characters, Laia and Elias. I didn’t believe in Elias’s attraction and Laia’s crush.

However, what really worked for this book was character development. Both Elias and Laia grew exponentially throughout the story (but apart mind you) and it was amazing to see the transformation. They didn’t grow as a couple or because of each other. It was, again, like two indifferent passengers on the same journey. I like Elias more than Laia. I felt he was easier to connect with and his motives were clearer. With Laia, she took too long to realize her own strengths and I didn’t sympathize with her as much as was expected.

Nevertheless, the writing was phenomenal, specifically the action sequences. I was enthralled in the obstacles each character had to face and the stakes were high. This book actually stressed me out because Tahir tortures her characters so fervently. My heart couldn’t take it and I’d have to set the book down to ease the mounting pain in my chest. With that said, you’ll see that evoking an emotional response from the reader is easy for Tahir, but I wish she’d translate that same emotion-grabbing talent in the relationship between Elias and Laia. I’m hoping for more of a realistic connection in the next book, A Torch Against The Night, which will be released in April 2016.

I liked this one but I wish I felt more between the two main characters.

STARS: 4 out of 5