Wednesday, July 12, 2017

The Reluctant Queen by Sarah Beth Durst

Series: The Queens of Renthia #2
368 p.
Publisher: Harper Voyager
Published: 7/4/17
Source: From author for review
Everything has a spirit: the willow tree with leaves that kiss the pond, the stream that feeds the river, the wind that exhales fresh snow . . .
And those spirits want to kill you.
It’s the first lesson that every Renthian learns. 
(minor spoilers for first book in blurb) Not long ago, Daleina used her strength and skill to survive those spirits and assume the royal throne. Since then, the new queen has kept the peace and protected the humans of her land. But now for all her power, she is hiding a terrible secret: she is dying. And if she leaves the world before a new heir is ready, the spirits that inhabit her beloved realm will run wild, destroying her cities and slaughtering her people. 
Naelin is one such person, and she couldn’t be further removed from the Queen—and she wouldn’t have it any other way. Her world is her two children, her husband, and the remote village tucked deep in the forest that is her home, and that’s all she needs. But when Ven, the Queens champion, passes through the village, Naelin’s ambitious husband proudly tells him of his wife’s ability to control spirits—magic that Naelin fervently denies. She knows that if the truth of her abilities is known, it will bring only death and separation from those she loves. 
But Ven has a single task: to find the best possible candidate to protect the people of Aratay. He did it once when he discovered Daleina, and he’s certain he’s done it again. Yet for all his appeals to duty, Naelin is a mother, and she knows her duty is to her children first and foremost. Only as the Queen’s power begins to wane and the spirits become emboldened—even as ominous rumors trickle down from the north—does she realize that the best way to keep her son and daughter safe is to risk everything.
My thoughts (spoiler free):

You hear so much about sophomore slump in series but this one has none of that. I really liked the first book, but I have to say I enjoyed this one a bit more. This may also be enjoyed more by adults than the first one as one of the heroines in the tale is a mother, Naelin, who is quite mature to start, but still grows and has even more maturity in the end.

This book is split between several POVs (more than the first book) but you are never lost and it flows well. The multiple POVs enhance the story and bring you more fully into what is going on. We do get less of Daleina, our heroine of the last story, and her role and character feel like it is more relegated to a secondary character which might be my only complaint about the book. I really wanted to be with her as she also grew into more maturity. However, this is really a minor niggle and I still enjoyed the character who has fully embraced her new role in the story.

There were red herrings I fell for, some twists I figured out early and one huge twist I didn't see coming. This was an interesting adventure and a harder puzzle to see come together. It did fall into place well in the end and the book feels complete. You are left with open roads to more books in the series but no real cliffie... until... the epilogue. It wasn't the kind of cliffhanger I hate but it is one that does the job nicely in making me want the next book NOW.

I give this book 4 1/2 stars. I really think this one was even better than the first book, but do not skip that first book. The first book solidifies the world and the problems within it. It is also a good book and should not be missed on that merit. I highly recommend this series to those that enjoy fantasy. It can also be easily enjoyed by those that don't foray too deep in fantasy since it isn't heavy handed but an enjoyable adventure.

If you missed it, the review of first book, The Queen of Blood.
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Monday, July 10, 2017

The Queen of Blood by Sarah Beth Durst

Series: The Queens of Renthia
368 p.
Publisher: Harper Voyager
Published: 9/20/16
Source: From author for review
An idealistic young student and a banished warrior become allies in a battle to save their realm in this first book of a mesmerizing epic fantasy series, filled with political intrigue, violent magic, malevolent spirits, and thrilling adventure 
Everything has a spirit: the willow tree with leaves that kiss the pond, the stream that feeds the river, the wind that exhales fresh snow... 
But the spirits that reside within this land want to rid it of all humans. One woman stands between these malevolent spirits and the end of humankind: the queen. She alone has the magical power to prevent the spirits from destroying every man, woman, and child. But queens are still just human, and no matter how strong or good, the threat of danger always looms.

With the position so precarious, young women are chosen to train as heirs. Daleina, a seemingly quiet academy student, is under no illusions as to her claim to the throne, but simply wants to right the wrongs that have befallen the land. Ven, a disgraced champion, has spent his exile secretly fighting against the growing number of spirit attacks. Joining forces, these daring partners embark on a treacherous quest to find the source of the spirits’ restlessness—a journey that will test their courage and trust, and force them to stand against both enemies and friends to save their land... before it’s bathed in blood.
My thoughts:

I really enjoy Sarah Beth Durst's work and was excited to get this one, especially since I had the next ready once I finished it. I was not disappointed with this addition to her work and I really enjoy this author's imagination.

This is mostly a story about Daleina who doesn't exactly want to be queen but be an important part of protecting her realm. Her magic is different than the others as well as weaker, but her determination makes up for the rest. She also seems consumed by her quest and being simultaneously pushed and supported by her sister she forges ahead. In the end she makes several life altering decisions including who she wants to be in this world, but plans never work out the way we intended. She is forced into another decision and that leads us to the end of the first book. A satisfying ending but still not a completely happy one either.

I should also mention some of the other secondary characters who really enhance the worldbuilding and play nicely off our heroine. None are perfect but their imperfections really make the character. Ven is an interesting character we know we will see again but I have to say my favorite was Bayn the wolf. I won't explain more about that character, you will just have to see for yourself.

While I would consider this one to be YA, I think adults would also enjoy this fantasy. The worldbuilding is unique and I really am curious about the spirits they rely on and fear. It is a interesting mix of emotions and precarious trust (and total lack of trust) between both. It also leads to many questions about this world that aren't answered here but the lack of those answers aren't frustrating as we are learning as the characters learn.

I give this book 4 stars and I highly recommend it everyone. I really think it will appeal to those that enjoy fantasy and a unique world. It will make you crave the next book.

🌳

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

What's Going On? AKA Why I've been a bit MIA...

In some ways this is going to be a hard post to write. I was tempted to just go with some shows I've been watching but I'm going to tear the bandaid off and just get to it.

In May I lost a member of my family. My sweet girl. You've only seen her a few times on the blog and she was very loved. She was only 13.
My Sweet Girl
She was an Alaskan Malamute and I got her when my cousin passed. He had 2 and his mom couldn't take care of both where she was going to live (she lived with him previously) and his brother could only take one. She did not get along with either of my parents dogs and when my big pup worked his magic, she accepted him as her minon. She got a bit nervous as he grew but he had no problems accepting her as his queen. They got along famously. In fact if he got scared she came running to make sure he was okay. She was his rock in life. I can't share more or I'll cry again. 

She left a huge hole in the house and my big pup really got depressed. So much so I started to worry. I had always intended to get someone for him to play with since my sweet girl couldn't with her arthritis and pain especially in the last year. She didn't care for other dogs so I wouldn't stress her out with another dog. However, I knew my big pup would need a companion of the puppy persuasion sooner rather than later. As his depression got deeper (even my mother commented on it) I knew I had to look for a dog sooner than I had intended. It was too soon for me, but I just needed to get over myself. So I started looking for female who was either a doberman pinscher, a pittie (as sometimes they are hard to place), or a black dog. All rescues if you were wondering but no judgement here because I only care that you provide a good forever home for it once you get an animal.

Then I saw...
Pictures from EAPL
and
Pic from EAPL
With that face I knew I found the perfect one to drive me and the big boy crazy for the next few months. I figured a pup would be best to easier get them together or otherwise I'd have to pick something closer to home for more than one "get to know me" session. Sadly, I didn't see one that looked to be compatible nearby. 

The monster... I mean pup *cough* 😜 was from the Evergreen Animal Protection Services who gets dogs from shelters in CO and neighboring states into foster homes for adoption. She was the last of her litter to go (black dogs don't often get picked). She is a Shepard mix (momma was a Shepard mix and daddy was a high fence jumping salesman). The big boy simultaneously loves and is annoyed with her. I expected that, but he isn't depressed!

Before the pup was picked up to go to her forever home, I did whip up something for the little monster... uh... pup. The font is small and I added a paw prints design which I combined in a program for machine embroidery. I tinted some muslin fabric with a fabric paint (just slightly to give it a bit of an aged look) before I embroidered on it. I then put it on top of some nylon webbing and made the collar.
I didn't realize how accurate this would be...
And her sporting it on a rare down time...

Everything wasn't totally smooth sailing as I did have some problems allergy wise. However, I have found it can be remedied by what you feed and bathe dogs in (Side note: I have a cousin who has a an allergy to dogs but has very little problems with my dogs). She had a med quality puppy food they were feeding her which wasn't exactly bad, but obviously not compatible with me. I carefully looked around (dogfoodadvisor.com) and found one that was "clean" and simple ingredients out of all the ones this brand had. I also trust the company and had researched it previously and it didn't seemed to have changed since the last time I looked at it (Merrick if you were wondering). My allergies cleared up shortly and I think she even feels better with the change. Now she is more of a handful than ever. LOL If you are wondering my big boy is on a homemade diet due to his specific medical problems.

She is now 3 months old and is already learning sit and come with pretty good accuracy. That can be a good thing and and bad one. It tells me she is smart but hopefully I can keep up. We will see (help me? LOL). 

I'll always miss my sweet girl and nothing will keep me from missing her a lot, but the new pup (which I'm not unconvinced she didn't send to me to keep me on my toes) will help with the sadness. She is not a replacement but an addition to the family. She has already helped my boy who is having fun playing with her and watching her drive me insane. INSANE!

So I've been preoccupied at the moment, but it is nice that it isn't all bad news (I think). Now I have to go yell at a pup who just got something she shouldn't have gotten....

🐢

Monday, July 3, 2017

DNF: Draw Your Weapons by Sarah Sentilles


Genre: Nonfiction
Published: July 4, 17
Publisher: Random House
Source: From NetGalley and publisher for review

A single book might not change the world. But this utterly original meditation on art and war might transform the way you see the world--and that makes all the difference.
"How to live in the face of so much suffering? What difference can one person make in this beautiful, imperfect, and imperiled world?" 
Through a dazzling combination of memoir, history, reporting, visual culture, literature, and theology, Sarah Sentilles offers an impassioned defense of life lived by peace and principle. It is a literary collage with an urgent hope at its core: that art might offer tools for remaking the world. 
In Draw Your Weapons, Sentilles tells the true stories of Howard, a conscientious objector during World War II, and Miles, a former prison guard at Abu Ghraib, and in the process she challenges conventional thinking about how war is waged, witnessed, and resisted. The pacifist and the soldier both create art in response to war: Howard builds a violin; Miles paints portraits of detainees. With echoes of Susan Sontag and Maggie Nelson, Sentilles investigates images of violence from the era of slavery to the drone age. In doing so, she wrestles with some of our most profound questions: What does it take to inspire compassion? What impact can one person have? How should we respond to violence when it feels like it can't be stopped? 
Draw Your Weapons stirs and confronts, disturbs and illuminates. A single book might not change the world, but this lucid, radiant, and utterly original meditation on art and war might transform the way you see the world--and that makes all the difference.

My thoughts:

I'm quite upset that this is my first official DNF of the year. I thought this one would be perfect for me. Taking on a different perspective than we usually see on violence and war and what we really want to change through these perspectives including those that believe in pacifism. I love seeing things you contemplate through new eyes and taking from a few artists that lived through different eras with their own perspective on violence in the world. I really just wanted a different perspective than I would have considered before. I wanted some food for thought with people who do not glorify violence and some who see it as a springboard for creation despite the destruction. Now this sounds like I've already put this book up for failure with my expectations but I would have been satisfied with a good tale even if I had heard it all before.

Unfortunately, I could not get into how she wrote the book. Sort of like a stream of consciousness that felt a bit like a diary from many perspectives. It just flitted from one POV to another. Even if they were connected I wanted a bit more grounding before I take off into the stratosphere and I didn't get very far before I put it aside. I can sometimes make myself try to get used to the author's intended format but I think with so much going on right now I just didn't have the patience.

If you still feel like this is something you would enjoy, I say go for it. Perhaps the format that doesn't fit me will fit perfectly with you.

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