Thursday, June 25, 2015

Review: The Master Magician

{Click here to view it on Goodreads}

If you haven't yet read the first two books in this series, and you think that you might be interested in reading this series, then you should stop reading right here, because I am about to ruin everything for you. All of the surprises will be gone. So, if you want to find out why I love this series so much, click  here to read my review of the first book and then, once you've read all of them, come back and find this review. If you don't know whether or not you might want to read this book, then let me give you a short list of books that it reminds me of: Jane Eyre + Pride & Prejudice + Harry Potter, with its own twist and a wonderfully creative world that is something along the lines of magical realism (where magic is simply accepted as a part of day-to-day life). And if you have read the first two books but haven't read this one yet (it was published on June 2, for those who didn't have it pre-ordered), then go read it now (and come back later)!

Now that I've added a sufficient disclaimer, I can begin to tell you about this book, which is the third installment in the Paper Magician trilogy by Charlie N. Holmberg. I am rarely the type of person who gets hyped up about a series to this level-- really, only Harry Potter has made the cut in the past. So after I stumbled upon the first book in the series by accident on my Kindle, I was surprised to find myself pre-ordering the next two in the trilogy and eagerly awaiting their release dates. I love this story because I love its main character and the way that she fits (or doesn't fit) into her community. 
Ceony Twill is an exceptionally brilliant young woman who takes it upon herself to excel through secondary school and win a scholarship to be a magician's apprentice. In Ceony's world (which is set in a Victorian-esque era), magicians are a part of everyday life. Rather than all being lumped together, however, they belong to a category of magical occupations that focus on the manipulation of one material. There are smelters working with metal, gaffers working with glass, excisioners (who are evil unless they're certified to be a doctor) who work with human flesh, etc. Ceony is forced into an apprenticeship of folding, which is the manipulation of paper. She's disappointed at first, but in the first two installments she comes to find that the life of a folder doesn't have to be dull. At the end of the second book, Ceony and Emery's relationship finally became what it was meant to be, and at the beginning of the third book, they've settled into a comfortable routine of light affection while they await Ceony's magician test, after which Emery will no longer be her mentor and they will be free to make their relationship public (or more public than it already is, at least). 
The problem is that Saraj Prendi is back-- and this is where I ran into my first problem with the book. Saraj is just kind of a blah character overall, and I wish that there had been more development to his character in this book. Mostly he just pops out of hiding when it's convenient so that he can give Ceony a heart attack and then go back into the shadows while she chases after him. Ceony is just as fearless as ever, and my favorite part about this book was how she defied social norms by becoming a master of all the magic materials. Her determinedness is something that I really admire, and I love that she can be so incredibly talented and intelligent without needing to be praised by others. She's perfectly happy to keep her brilliance to herself. Let's not forget Emery either, whose quirks are endearing and who has a fiercely protective side when it comes to Ceony, despite the fact that he has zero control in their relationship (which I found funny and refreshing for this time period).  
I could go on and on about different parts of the story, but the gist of it is that I really enjoy this series and would recommend it to so many readers. There were only two issues that I had with this last book: the matter of finding and killing Saraj (it just didn't feel as dangerous as the first two books), and the ending. I know, I know...the ending was kind of perfect in its own way, but I wanted more. In fact, I want another book (or four) in this series. So I found myself wrinkling my nose at the last sentence because I just didn't want it to end, and I felt like Holmberg shut the door without letting me see the best part. I'll still be keeping this series close at hand for re-reading this year, because despite its flaws, it's become one of my all-time favorites.

Bottom Line Rating: 5/5

Title: The Master Magician
Author: Charlie N. Holmberg
Publisher: 47North, June 2015
Price: $4.99
Format: E-book
Source: Amazon Kindle Store

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

My Summer Reading List {Part II}

If you missed the first installment of this year's summer reading list, then start by clicking here. This summer I'm pulling books from my own shelves in an effort to check off some books that I've been meaning to read for quite some time. So far I've been getting in a lot of extra reading time and loving every minute.
Onto the list, which I'm trying to keep to a reasonable number of books. In reality, I won't get to all of these, and I'll definitely be adding more to the pile from the library, but I like having a general plan to go off of. I'm hoping that you might be able to find something here too!

Have any recommendations? See anything you'll be adding to your own summer reading stack?

Happy Reading!

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Review: The Swan Thieves

{Click here to view it on Goodreads}
I believe I've mentioned here before that Elizabeth Kostova's The Historian is one of those books that I look back on with reverence. I included it on my list of best books to read in October. This is her second novel, and it's been on my shelf for years. I tried reading it once before but must have picked it up at the wrong time because I couldn't find that connection between myself and the characters-- and with over 500 pages to this story, that connection is necessary. I brought it to my new apartment on a whim--it was the first book I picked up for my summer reading-- and this time I was able to fall right into the story. It's one of those books that's a little hard to explain, on account of a plot with a rather large mystery and a cast of characters that weave in and out through time, creating this wonderful sense of blurred lines between past and present. Dr. Marlow is a successful psychiatrist-- he has a quiet life, a painting hobby, and an ordinary client list-- until he is asked to care for Robert Oliver, a rather famous painter who has been institutionalized after attacking a painting at the National Gallery. Marlow's interest in the mysteries of Robert Oliver lead him to go beyond the limits of a typical doctor-patient relationship as he searches for the answers to Robert's illness. The book one of many perspectives-- split between Marlow's journey and the life of a French Impressionist in the 19th century, and every character is an artist in some way. The tribulations of the past are brought forefront, creating this sense of fear for what's to come and despair over knowing that the tragedy has already come to pass. Marlow must sift through history to uncover Robert's secret, revealing a new perspective on Robert's mental illness and casting it as a beautiful obsession with art. I'd recommend it for readers who enjoy reading about art (and who find it romantic), and for those who like their mysteries uncovered slowly and left half-hidden in shadows. The only flaws that I found in it were that the descriptive style can get a bit overbearing--if you like your authors to be concise, Kostova is definitely not for you. If you haven't read anything by Kostova yet, read The Historian first, then pick up The Swan Thieves, I highly recommend adding both to your shelf.

Bottom Line Rating: 4/5

Title: The Swan Thieves
Author: Elizabeth Kostova
Publisher: Little Brown & Co., January 2010
Format: Hardcover
Source: Personal collection

Monday, June 15, 2015

My Summer Reading List {Part I}

I recently moved into a new apartment and had to face that daunting task of choosing which books to bring with me. This is one of the hardest parts about moving, if you ask me, because it forces me to predict my reading preferences for the foreseeable future. That's not to say that the books on my shelf are my only options for the next few months-- I lived a two-minute walk from the library and also rely on my Kindle when I'm in a reading rut-- but still I like being able to just grab one from my shelf as I get into bed each night. As I packed up a few boxes of books for my new place, I decided to challenge myself to create a little summer reading list. I've really been trying to spend less on books in general, so I pulled books that I haven't read (or want to re-read) from my own shelf. 
Below you'll find my picks for this summer (although this doesn't include any of the library books that I will inevitably add to the list over time).

The Swan Thieves by Elizabeth Kostova // I just finished this one a few nights ago, so keep an eye out for a review soon! This one is for fans of dual narration, historical fiction, and art fiction. 

The Paris Wife by Paula McLain // I picked this one up so long ago but still haven't read it because I felt like it was going to be perfect for a summer read.

The Master Magician by Charlie N. Holberg // You saw this one in my June Currently Coveting. I actually put off reading it because I'm so sad that it's going to be the last in the series. I just love these characters and the world that Holmberg has built. I'm about half-way through it now and already strongly recommend it to fans of the first two in the series.

The Twelve Tribes of Hattie by Ayana Mathis // You're going to see a trend here: a lot of books that were really, really popular a few years ago, and that's because I never got around to reading them. 

The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd // Another Oprah pick, because let's be honest, she has great taste in books.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J. K. Rowling // Is a summer reading list complete without at least one Harry Potter? Definitely not. I absolutely love plopping down in my comfy reading chair and diving into this series. I have that hands-down-best-books-ever feeling when I think about how much this series has impacted my life as a reader. You can read a little more about my sentimentality for this series here.

The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker // This is my newest book and it looks like a good one to bring on a vacation or pick up when you have time to fall completely into a book. Here's the line that made the difference between putting it back on the shelf or tucking it into the crook of my arm and heading to check out: "On a seemingly ordinary Saturday in a California suburb, 11-year-old Julia and her family awake to discover, along with the rest of the world, that the rotation of the earth has suddenly begun to slow. The days and nights grow longer and longer, gravity is affected, the environment is thrown into disarray." What a hook. I can't wait to read it.

That's all for now-- I don't want this post to turn into my longest ever-- so check back next week for Part II!

Happy Reading!

Friday, June 5, 2015

Bookworm Buys: Barnes & Noble Totes

Today is the best Friday ever because it's the day that I am finally reunited with my bestie! This morning I boarded a plane to the windy city for a long weekend with my favorite girl. We are planning a weekend packed with all of the best things that Chicago offers and I am so happy to finally do things that long-distance friends rarely do-- even a simple in-person coffee date is a treat for us!
While I am off on my adventure, I thought I would leave you with a little treat for your favorite bookworm (which might be, you know, yourself). I found these totes while browsing Barnes & Noble a few weeks ago and fell head-over-heels in love.

You can find these totes online (by clicking the links above) or in your local Barnes & Noble. I stood there for (no joke) twenty minutes debating which one to take home with me. (I even sent out snapchats for help with the decision.) I ended up taking home the Bespectacled Book Lover one (even though all of my snapchat responses said things like "why not both?") and have been using it as my book bag for my graduate classes. It is super roomy (fits my laptop, planner,  a binder, etc.) and has one zippered pocket and a magnetic closure. These bags would make great gifts for teachers, librarians, moms (because kids create a need for bottomless totes, am I right?) and anyone who loves to flaunt their love of literature. The best part? They are only $20! This bag has quickly become my new favorite and I think makes toting all of my stuff a little more fun. 

Enjoy the weekend, and happy reading!

P.S. Not a fan of totes? The Bespectacled Book Lover print also comes in a cute coffee mug and a set of adorable note cards.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Children's Review: The Order of the Owls

{Click here to view it on Goodreads}
The Order of the Owls is the first in a series featuring a feisty and fearless girl named Minerva Mint. As a baby, Minerva was found abandoned in a train station, bundled into a travel bag with a volume of The Universal Encyclopedia. Also in the bag was an envelope with the deed to Lizard Manor, a crumbling estate that's rumored to be haunted but really is filled with an array of eccentric creatures, such as the band of foxes that reside in one of the five lounge rooms. Minerva is taken in by kindly Mrs. Flopps, and together they live in the manor while Minerva waits for her parents to come claim her. In this first adventure, Minerva makes friends with Ravi and Thomasina, two children who live in the nearby town. What I most liked about the book were the characters: Minerva is seemingly undaunted by her distressing past and eager for an adventure while Ravi finds his new friends' antics to be a distraction from his homesickness for India. Thomasina is the rich girl living in a house that is the stark opposite of Lizard manor. Despite Thomasina's background, her character is surprisingly not snobby and unaffected by the difference between her lifestyle and those of her two new friends. I liked that she was a departure from the classic formula for the "mean girl" in this tale. The plot itself is driven by Minerva's desire to find her parents, but the mystery of Minerva's past is made even more threatening when a couple tries to claim her as their own in order to get their hands on the deed to the manor. Though the adventure is not particularly fast-paced, I read the book in just a couple hours and find myself looking forward to the next in the series. I was expecting some elements of magic or fantasy to be involved, but the book is rather comforting in its ordinary setting and realism and reads like a remix of Pippi Longstocking and Annie.  I would recommend it for readers in 2nd to 4th grade and to those who prefer their characters to be smart, outspoken, and up for anything.

Recommended for ages 7-10 years (grades 2-4).
Bottom Line Rating: 4/5

Title: The Order of the Owls (Minerva Mint #1)
Author: Elisa Puricelli Guerra
Publisher: Capstone Young Readers, 2014
ISBN: 978-1-62370-038-6
Length: 154 pages 
Format: Hardcover
Price: $9.95 on Amazon
Source: Public Library

Monday, June 1, 2015

Currently Coveting {June}

Summer reading season is finally here!
I love seeing how much more people invest in their bookshelves during the summer months. I wish that I could say that this is going to be the summer for me to laze around and finish all of the books on my list, but I doubt that will be my reality. My schedule is positively packed this summer, which is leaving me more determined than ever to keep reading as part of my everyday routine. I've been piling up the books for my own summer reading list, and though most of them come from my own shelves, I found a few new ones that I wanted to share with you this month! I have a sneaking suspicion that all of these will be making their way onto my library list. 

Deadweather and Sunrise (The Chronicles of Egg #1) by Geoff Rodkey // Why not start off with a book from my favorite niche of children's lit? I love fantastical middle-grade novels, and this one promises to be full of adventure, magic, mystery, and fearless friendships. 

The Master Magician by Charlie N. Holberg // Obsession alert! Remember when I read the first in this series and absolutely couldn't get over it? I loved the second one just as much, and I pre-ordered this third installment last year. I am beyond excited that it's coming out tomorrow (!!!!), just in time for my weekend trip to see my bestie-- I have a feeling it will make the perfect travel read!

Book Scavenger by Jennifer Chambliss Bertman // A brand-new middle grade book (publication is set for tomorrow), and the plot reminds me of my favorite series. I love when a puzzle is involved-- I think twisted plots and crazy-smart characters make for great discussions with middle grade readers!

Pirate Hunters: Treasure, Obsession, and the Search for a Legendary Pirate Ship by Robert Kurson //  For non-fiction and adventure-lovers alike! This is the story of two men willing to risk everything in their search for the lost ship of the pirate Joseph Bannister. I love treasure-hunting movies so this was an obvious pick for me. I can hardly wait until its publication on the 16th!

Check back next week for part one of my summer reading list, and share your picks for June below!

Happy Reading!