ARC Review: The Waking Land

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Del Rey books was kind enough to provide me with a Netgalley copy of Callie Bates’s recent debut, The Waking Land. I really wanted to like it, but most of the time I was reading it, this book put me to sleep. Read on to see where this fantasy could have gone better.

32671619Lady Elanna Valtai is fiercely devoted to the King who raised her like a daughter. But when he dies under mysterious circumstances, Elanna is accused of his murder and must flee for her life.

Returning to the homeland of magical legends she has forsaken, Elanna is forced to reckon with her despised, estranged father, branded a traitor long ago. Feeling a strange, deep connection to the natural world, she also must face the truth about the forces she has always denied or disdained as superstition, powers that suddenly stir within her.

But an all-too-human threat is drawing near, determined to exact vengeance. Now Elanna has no choice but to lead a rebellion against the kingdom to which she once gave her allegiance. Trapped between divided loyalties, she must summon the courage to confront a destiny that could tear her apart.

The premise of this book was amazing: nature magic, complicated family ties, rebellion! I am a 100% nature nerd. I never, ever would have dreamed that an imprint of a major publisher would publish a YA book like this, with such a strong natural science element. Bates’s love of the outdoors shines through. I cannot stress how excited I was to read a book about an aspiring botanist who studies forest composition, knows how to identify trees, and sketches mushrooms.

Even though I am basically the ideal audience for this book, I could not get into. At all. In fact, forcing myself to read more than ten pages at a time was awful. If I didn’t feel obligated to finish and review the book, I would have quit no later than halfway into the book. What went wrong here, with so much promise?

For starters, the main character. Elanna’s character concept was great. Her struggle between embracing her family and heritage and feeling loyal to the culture she was raised in (also, Stockholm syndrome) was one of the things about the synopsis that drew me to the book. Unfortunately, the Stockholm syndrome aspect was brushed over, and Elanna’s status as a reluctant heroine seriously hindered the plot.

Elanna is, understandably, unwilling to give up her life’s goals and put herself in serious danger for a cause she doesn’t even believe in. But that means that the plot moving forward is directly counter to her character’s goals for a good chunk of the book. And once she had failed at running away from her fate three or four times? She showed absolutely no agency! Events, even serious, life-altering plot events, just happened to her without her participating or even fully understanding for almost the whole book. On the rare occasions when Elanna did make some decisions of her own, I found myself groaning because her decisions made no sense. For example, despite complaining for most of the book about not understanding her powers or having enough control of them to actually help her people, Elanna repeatedly refuses a request-slash-order to go meet with the only people who can teach her more about her magic. Come on, El.

The world building was pretty cursory and shallow. Bates put in just enough information about the various countries and cultures for you to get a vague idea of them: a pseudo-France, a Greco-Roman style empire, a slightly pagan-Celtic territory. Anything beyond the most basic flavoring of this fantasy world was so forgettable that I struggle to recall it now.

And then there was the romance.

The Waking Land has, quite possibly, the most severe case of insta-love I’ve ever seen. About halfway into the first chapter, Elanna chances upon a dashing young man with a warm and deep voice. Obviously, he is handsome interesting, and El remarks, “This man[…] makes Martin Bonnaire, whom I’ve been swanning over for months, look like a sorry sack. And he is staring right back at me, as if I’m worth looking at.”

So far as I can tell, the relationship hinges exclusively on the fact that the love interest looks at Elanna like he really sees her. From that point on, she’s basically smitten with this guy who mystically understands the “real her” by sight alone. Despite the awful, cringe-worthy start to the romance, Bates does occasionally manage to make it surprisingly cute once the couple is established.

As this book approached the climax, it did pick up the pace and manage to better hold my interest, but that was not enough of a reward for the two weeks it took me to slog through to the end.

Apparently, this book is going to be the first in a series. I have no interest in continuing. That being said, though, I would absolutely consider reading future books by Bates. I didn’t care at all for Leigh Bardugo’s debut when it came out, but Six of Crows and Crooked Kingdom were both phenomenal! I am optimistic for Bates’s potential, and look forward to reading some of her future work–as long as it doesn’t feature Lady Elanna.


All in All…

  • 2/5 sea stars
  • Published June 17th, 2017, by Del Rey Books
  • 400 pages
  • For fans of headstrong MCs, first person narration, botany, Celtic-inspired settings

I received this book free through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Blogiversary, of Sorts

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Today is a nice day.

I’m (mostly) moved into my new place. I start my new job tomorrow. It’s hard to wrap my head around the idea that I live here, now. Next week I won’t find myself back in my old apartment, back at my old job.

Today, according to WordPress, is also my one year blogging anniversary. On this day, I sat out on the front porch and set up my WordPress account and dedicated hours to creating a blog. (Two blogs, actually. My nature writing blog is currently defunct. This one didn’t launch until December, but was still created back then.)

I remember brainstorming for my bio and coming up with a silly list of goals to go at the end. After all, what’s more illustrative of a person’s heart than who they want to be? The list had three items on it:

  • Get a pet snake
  • Move to the coast
  • Have a job involving fish, oysters, or both

Now, exactly one year later, I have accomplished all three. It’s exciting, for sure. But now I also feel adrift. I had been so busy figuring out how to get here that I never much wondered what would come next.

After a few days of puzzling, I think I’ve settled on a starter goal. It’s time for me to write a novel.

Over the past year, starting with the blogging project, I got back into writing. Somewhat. I tried NaNoWriMo for the first time and had a blast. I attended some writing workshops. I at least thought about doing Camp NaNoWriMo in April, and I’m giving it another go this month. I’ve been tinkering and toying with writing a book.

But tinkering and toying don’t get you anywhere, at the end of the day. It’s time for me to do this thing for real. I don’t know what it’s going to be or to look like at the end, but I’m in it for the journey, and it’s just the right time for me to start a new journey. Anchors aweigh!

Life Update: Big Changes, Little Reading, Much Stress

Life has been a little crazy for me.

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By crazy, I mean that in the past three weeks:

  • My boyfriend moved 10 hours closer to me an started a new job
  • I got offered a dream job (Which is two hours further from the boy. Figures.)
  • I took said new job and I start on July 5th
  • I still don’t have a place to live where my new job is (Yikes.)
  • Visited the boy in his new apartment after his first week at a new job
  • Visited my folks and met my little brother’s first girlfriend

I also started summer camp season at my current job, meaning I get to work super early, am outside in the heat and humidity all day, and want to fall asleep the second I get home. It’s a blast, but it’s draining, and it makes dealing with all the logistics of leaving my current job, moving, and starting my new job that much harder.

All told, no new posts from me for a little while. I tried to get together ARC review of The Waking Land last week, but that’s on the sideline for a bit, as well as reading and blogging in general while I continue to swing wildly between giddiness and despair and try to get my life in order.

In two weeks, I ought to be a functional person again and hopefully will be back at it here on Sea Reads. Fingers crossed, anyway. Until then, read some great summertime books for me!

Much love,

~Sea

The Typewriter Project: Perspective

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I totally spaced out and missed the first round of the Typewriter Project, a creative writing challenge hosted by Mahriya @ MyBookishLife, but I’m getting in just before the buzzer for round #2! The theme of this week is perspective, an often overlooked aspect of writing. Where your story is coming from changes the kind of story it ends up being, and the perspective you choose is the filter through which your writing passes.

For this second installment of the Typewriter Project, Lia @ Lost in a Story did a guest post for Mahriya on the different types of perspective you can write in and how to write using perspective creatively. Keeping with the theme, Task #2 was to write the opening of a story using a unique perspective. I went with a perspective that I certainly never would have thought to use if not for this challenge!

It began and ended as it always does: with a fall.

He fell quickly. Countless times I have heard people describe a fall as though the fabric of time tore away from the pattern of warp and weft and went null; as though the world ceased to exist except for that one, unending event. This is never the case. Each and every human who has ever tripped or slipped, jumped or dropped, has fallen under my hand in the exact same fashion. They fall quickly.

I watched Roan Messinger plummet precisely as humans do, albeit from a drastically greater height than most. I stared him down as he twisted through the breathless, sickening rush of open sky, and I did nothing. As always, I remained: infinitely able to intervene, and unrelentingly unwilling to do so.

It was possible, you see. It was well within my power to suspend him in midair, to suspend that awful moment of impact. But to save one soul from the crushing pull of the ground, to release my grip on one tiny piece of the cosmos for but a moment, would have risked everything slipping from my grasp, and the world depends on me. My strength and will, my gravitas, create your gravity. The fate of all things rests upon me binding them together, and upon that force never failing.

If ever there was a human I would have risked it for, it was him. For as surely as gravity predicts the future of the world, in that fleeting, tumbling moment, the future also hung upon the shoulders of a boy falling out of the sky.

Of a boy running out of time.

The perspective? First person, from gravity personified as the narrator.

What do you think? Are you also participating in the Typewriter Project? Have you read any books with wildly creative perspectives included? Drop me a line; I’d love to know!

Top Ten Tuesday: Anticipated Books of Late 2017!

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Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish for sharing your favorite contenders in different book categories!

The wheel of time keeps turning, and the list of amazing-sounding books to drool over keeps growing. There are tons of books worth looking forward to in the second half of this year, and here are 10 that have found their way onto my TBR!

The Language of Thorns, by Leigh Bardugo

Having just recently devoured Six of Crows and Crooked Kingdom, I can’t wait to get another fix of Bardugo’s amazing storytelling.

Love speaks in flowers. Truth requires thorns.

Travel to a world of dark bargains struck by moonlight, of haunted towns and hungry woods, of talking beasts and gingerbread golems, where a young mermaid’s voice can summon deadly storms and where a river might do a lovestruck boy’s bidding but only for a terrible price.

Sasquatch, Love, and Other Imaginary Things, by Betsy Aldredge & Carrie DuBois-Shaw

I have always been a huge fan of “monster” shows (River Monsters, anyone?) but you don’t need to be a Sasquatch fan to be excited for this book! This has so many story elements I like: a sense of adventure, a wacky, fun family, love/hate romance. This sounds like so much fun, and I can’t wait for its release.

Hunting for monsters was never so awkward.

It’s bad enough that Samantha’s parents, charter members of the Northern Ohio Bigfoot Society, have dragged their daughter around forever, hunting for yetis. But now they’re doing it on national TV, and worse, in front of an aristocratic prep-school crew including a boy who disdains Samantha’s family.

But when he scorns her humble Ohio roots, she becomes determined to take him down. As they go to war, their friction and attraction almost distract them from the hint that Sasquatch may actually be out there somewhere…

Dress Codes for Small Towns, by Courtney C. Stevens

I was lucky enough to meet Courtney over the holiday weekend, and I was so impressed with her as a person and an artist! Her elevator pitch for her upcoming book was “sexually-fluid Footloose” and hearing all about the way she crafted the book has me eager to give it a try.

All the Crooked Saints, by Maggie Stiefvater

I saw an ARC of this book in-person over the weekend and literally gasped. I didn’t realize how badly I want to read this until it was right there and I couldn’t even lay a finger on it. Come on, October, get here already!

One Dark Throne, by Kendare Blake

Three Dark Crowns is one of those books that I didn’t thing was amazing while I was reading it, but that I can’t stop thinking about after the major cliffhanger/plot twist ending. I am way looking forward to seeing what kind of drama goes down in the next book!

A Poison Dark and Drowning, by Jessica Cluess

Cluess’s debut, A Shadow Bright and Burning, did not have me convinced during the beginning, but Cluess made some interesting choices and played with some standard fantasy tropes in really interesting ways. I think that her second book just might be really, really good.

An Enchantment of Ravens, by Margaret Rogerson

This late ’17 debut won me with the phenomenal cover, but the premise is a promising and innovative take on faerie stories. If this synopsis doesn’t totally sell you, I don’t know what will!

Isobel is a prodigy portrait artist with a dangerous set of clients: the sinister fair folk, immortal creatures who cannot bake bread, weave cloth, or put a pen to paper without crumbling to dust. They crave human Craft with a terrible thirst, and Isobel’s paintings are highly prized among them. But when she receives her first royal patron—Rook, the autumn prince—she makes a terrible mistake. She paints mortal sorrow in his eyes – a weakness that could cost him his life.

Furious and devastated, Rook spirits her away to the autumnlands to stand trial for her crime. Waylaid by the Wild Hunt’s ghostly hounds, the tainted influence of the Alder King, and hideous monsters risen from barrow mounds, Isobel and Rook depend on one another for survival. Their alliance blossoms into trust, then love, violating the fair folks’ ruthless Good Law. There’s only one way to save both their lives, Isobel must drink from the Green Well, whose water will transform her into a fair one—at the cost of her Craft, for immortality is as stagnant as it is timeless.

Isobel has a choice: she can sacrifice her art for a future, or arm herself with paint and canvas against the ancient power of the fairy courts. Because secretly, her Craft represents a threat the fair folk have never faced in all the millennia of their unchanging lives: for the first time, her portraits have the power to make them feel

Even the Darkest Stars, by Heather Fawcett

The premise of this debut promises adventures that take you to new heights–it’s a fantasy story about sisters, sibling rivalry, and mountain climbing. It definitely sounds like a stand-out because of its unique premise.

Kamzin has always dreamed of becoming one of the emperor’s royal explorers, the elite climbers tasked with mapping the wintry, mountainous Empire and spying on its enemies. She knows she could be the best in the world, if only someone would give her a chance.

But everything changes when the mysterious and eccentric River Shara, the greatest explorer every known, arrives in her village and demands to hire Kamzin—not her older sister, Lusha, as everyone had expected—for his next expedition. This is Kamzin’s chance to prove herself—even though River’s mission to retrieve a rare talisman for the emperor means cimbing Raksha, the tallest and deadliest mountain in the Aryas. Then, Lusha sets off on her own mission to Raksha with a rival explorer, and Kamzin must decide what’s most important to her: protecting her sister from the countless perils of the climb or beating her to the summit.

The Disappearances, by Emily Bain Murphy

Summer and Fall are my favorite times to read creepier books, and this upcoming book sounds exactly that!

What if the ordinary things in life suddenly…disappeared?

Aila Quinn’s mother, Juliet, has always been a mystery: vibrant yet guarded, she keeps her secrets beyond Aila’s reach. When Juliet dies, Aila and her younger brother Miles are sent to live in Sterling, a rural town far from home–and the place where Juliet grew up.

Sterling is a place with mysteries of its own. A place where the experiences that weave life together–scents of flowers and food, reflections from mirrors and lakes, even the ability to dream–vanish every seven years.

No one knows what caused these “Disappearances,” or what will slip away next. But Sterling always suspected that Juliet Quinn was somehow responsible–and Aila must bear the brunt of their blame while she follows the chain of literary clues her mother left behind.

The Changeling’s Journey, by Christine Spoors

Not only does this sound like an awesome indie fantasy, but as an added bonus, it is by one of our very own bookish community members! This is the first self-published book by Christine of Wee Reader, and I am so excited to read it!

Ailsa is dead. Leaving Morven the last surviving changeling in the village. Everyone knows it is only a matter of time before she too is dead. Desperate to find out why the fairies steal human babies, and to save her own life, she leaves her family behind, travelling north into the fairy kingdoms with her best friend.

They soon find that making their way through vast magical forests, across kelpie-ridden lochs and over seemingly endless mountain ranges is more than they were prepared for. Despite the countless evenings spent listening to stories about adventures, fairies and magic, they find themselves out of their depth. Fighting to stay alive.

Meanwhile in the fairy kingdoms, Princess Freya of Culhuinn struggles to cope with life now that her love has been taken from her. Whilst Queen Euna of Norbroch spends more time lost in her memories than she does ruling her kingdom.

One changeling’s journey to save her life will alter their world forever.


What about you?

Did you participate in this week’s Top Ten Tuesday? If so, feel free to drop me a link in the comments! I’m sure there are tons of upcoming releases that haven’t even hit my radar, so make sure I don’t miss out on anything epic!

Mini Review: Death and Night, by Roshani Chokshi

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Roshani Chokshi has become one of my favorite breakout YA authors as of late. Her sophomore novel, A Crown of Wishes, was a phenomenal follow up to her unusually strong debut in The Star-Touched Queen. To celebrate her second book and her release tour, Chokshi and St. Martin’s Griffin also recently put out a prequel novella to The Star-Touched Queen which builds on some deleted scenes and scrapped details from said book to show readers the origin of the reincarnation-spanning romance between Maya and Amar.

Death and Night is a quick and sumptuous 33965619read. As one can expect from Chokshi, this novella floated through a captivating series of magical settings and is populated by a cast of charming mythological characters, some familiar and some new. When I read The Star-Touched Queen, the absence of the history between Maya and Amar was something I felt distinctly, so I was glad to see that backstory here! I really enjoyed seeing how Amar and Maya grew and changed from being together, and it was nice to learn the significance of some details, like the true origin of Maya’s pearl and sapphire necklace.

I could tell that Death and Night did not get quite the same editorial rigor that a full novel would have; it was a bit light on one or two plot point explanations and a bit heavy on internal monologues from our narrators. Those are very minor complaints, though!

Like most prequel/companion novellas, you can skip this if you haven’t read or didn’t like Chokshi’s other works. If you’re a Star-Touched fan, however, Death and Night is a definite must-read!


All in All…

  • 4/5 sea stars
  • Published May 2nd, 2017, by St. Martin’s Griffin
  • 132 pages
  • For fans of The Star-Touched Queen, mythology, ~romance~

I received this book free through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

ARC Review: You Can’t Win Them All, Rainbow Fish

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Did you know they were still making Rainbow Fish books? I sure didn’t. Not until I saw You Can’t Win Them All, Rainbow Fish on NetGalley, that is. I couldn’t say no to this version of one of my childhood favorites. Thanks to North South Books Inc. for providing me with a copy!

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The Rainbow Fish, originally published in 1992, was considered a classic children’s book when I was in elementary school. I adored it. The lush, flowing, blue-tinged illustrations and shiny scales captured my attention, and I thought the message about sharing and kindness was great. Now, as an adult, I see that there is some controversy over it in the form of reviews containing the phrase “socialist propaganda.” Hmm. I’d have to re-read it myself to say whether the book addresses the theme of sharing and community in a positive way or not.

I cannot imagine the new release in the series, You Can’t Win Them All, Rainbow Fish being subject to any claims of impropriety or sending bad messages. The only claim I can lay against it is that, quite frankly, it’s boring.

Rainbow Fish and his friends like to play hide and seek. On one such day, they do, and Rainbow Fish gets irate when he loses, even to the youngest and smallest fish. He swims away in a huff, and is lectured by his friend on being a good sport.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with that; it’s a good message for kids to hear. However, the writing is no-frills and preachy. For a book about having fun and playing with friends, it’s disappointing that there’s no whimsy or fun in the story itself.

This would be a fine book to read to kids, especially kids who need to learn some sportsmanship, but it’s not one you’ll enjoy reading for them.


All in All…

  • 3/5 sea stars
  • Publication June 1, 2017, by North South Books Inc.
  • 32 pages
  • For fans of morality stories, the other Rainbow Fish installments

I received this book free through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.