Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Blog Tour Review: Sightwitch by Susan Dennard



Sightwitch
(The Witchlands #2.5)
Susan Dennard
Release: February 13, 2018
Goodreads Amazon B&N Book Depository
Before Safi and Iseult battled a Bloodwitch...
Before Merik returned from the dead…

Ryber Fortiza was a Sightwitch Sister at a secluded convent, waiting to be called by her goddess into the depths of the mountain. There she would receive the gift of foretelling. But when that call never comes, Ryber finds herself the only Sister without the Sight.

Years pass and Ryber’s misfit pain becomes a dull ache, until one day, Sisters who already possess the Sight are summoned into the mountain, never to return. Soon enough, Ryber is the only Sister left. Now, it is up to her to save her Sisters, though she does not have the Sight―and though she does not know what might await her inside the mountain.

On her journey underground, she encounters a young captain named Kullen Ikray, who has no memory of who he is or how he got there. Together, the two journey ever deeper in search of answers, their road filled with horrors, and what they find at the end of that road will alter the fate of the Witchlands forever.
Review:

Going in, you should know that Sightwitch is a little different from the other books in the Witchlands series. In fact, I like to think of it as an actual artifact from that world. In Windwitch, Merik visits Kullen's apartment:
Merik's attention snagged on one spine now, a familiar title he'd seen Kullen reading on the Jana only hours before his death.
The True Tale of the Twelve Palladins
Merik's breath caught. He yanked it off the table in a rasp of leather, a puff of dust. He peeled back the cover. . .
Different copy. He exhaled - hard. This addition had a torn first page; the one on the Jana had been smooth.
And when you peel back the jacket on Sightwitch:
*gasp* And the first page tells us that "Sightwitch diaries have a way of changing, depending on who reads them." So while most of the book is Ryber's journal, we also have pieces of Erydice's, a Sightwitch who lived a thousand years earlier. The magic (or perhaps the goddess if you ask a Sightwitch) tells us everything we need to know, even though it's more than Ryber intended to tell. Within those journals are maps and sketches and other bits that Ryber collected that help tell the story.
 
My only real criticism is that I wish I could tell which parts Ryber added, like with whatever the Witchlands equivalent of tape or paperclips would be at the corners to give more of a scrapbook feel. I feel like the pages are too clean, though there instances where Ryber's made notes in the margins, which I love.
As readers we learn the history of the Witchlands along with Ryber and her friend Tanzi, including the origins of their magic and the story behind the construction of the underground city in Windwitch. I found those stories just as fascinating as Ryber and Erydice's own. It's so compelling, I read it more or less in one sitting. (It was a snow day, so I did have to pause for some kid-related trips to the kitchen.)

Sightwitch is set a year before Truthwitch, so it is technically a prequel, but I agree with the decision to call it book 2.5. Learning the world's mythology is so much more meaningful when you're already invested. I also think it would be frustrating to go from this story to Truthwitch where Ryber and Kullen play such small parts in the story. And I have so many theories about where the series is headed now that I know what the endgame is. At least, I think I do. I even have a (very spoilery) idea about the title of book four.

I've just been fascinated by the entire Witchlands series. I'm happy that I read Windwitch and Sightwitch together though, because I feel like there's so much going on in all of these books. If you want to refresh your memory but don't have time for a reread, Susan Dennard has done these really fun gif recaps of both of the previous books, Truthwitch and Windwitch. Even if you don't need a refresher, I highly recommend them.


    
4.5  stars

My posts about other books in this series:
Truthwitch

About the Author

I’ve come a long way from small-town Georgia. Working in marine biology, I got to travel the world—six out of seven continents, to be exact (I’ll get to you yet, Asia!)—before I settled down as a full-time novelist and writing instructor.

I’m the author of the Something Strange and Deadly series as well as the New York Times bestselling Witchlands books, Truthwitch and Windwitch, and if I’m not writing, then I’m busy slaying darkspawn or earning bruises at the dojo.

I live in the Midwestern US with my French husband, two spoiled dogs, and two grouchy cats. Learn more about me and my cookie-addiction on the blog, newsletter, twitter, instagram, or pinterest.

Friday, February 16, 2018

Manga Series Review: Finder Deluxe Editions, Vols. 1-5

I've been going back and forth on how I'm going to do these manga series reviews. I've toyed with doing a similar post to our Read This F@!%ing Book posts or to do a series of Really Short Reviews. For now, I've decided to go the Really Short Reviews route with a short manga primer before hand.

So let's talk about m/m romance manga. These manga are frequently called Boys Love and fall into two main categories: yaoi and shounen ai. Shounen Ai is the non-explicit m/m romance manga and Yaoi is the explicit version. Both of these manga genres are aimed towards women while Bara is the mange genre that is targeted towards gay males.

The series I'm reviewing today falls into the Yaoi category. Something you need to keep in mind about Yaoi is that it perpetuates a problematic trope. That trope being that of non-consensual sex or sex with dubious consent. Way too many of the romances in this genre start off with rape. If that bothers you, Yaoi is not for you.

So let's talk a bit about each volume. My reviews aren't going to be long and will just be a few of my thoughts about them. I will be honest. The Finder series does use that non-con sex trope. I know it's problematic but I can't help but love it a lot though.


Finder Deluxe Edition: Target in Sight, Vol. 1
(Finder Deluxe Edition #1)
Ayano Yamane
Release: June 13, 2017
Goodreads Amazon
Pain and pleasure collide when a sophisticated underworld boss crosses paths with a naive photographer hell-bent on bringing him down!

This deluxe edition includes never-before-released material as well as a double-sided color insert and special cover treatment! Photographer Takaba Akihito takes on a risky assignment trying to document the illegal activities of the Japanese underworld. When he captures its leader—the handsome, enigmatic Asami Ryuichi—in the crosshairs of his viewfinder, Takaba’s world is changed forever.

Freelance photographer Akihito Takaba is captured by the very subject he’s been stalking in his viewfinder—the handsome and enigmatic crime lord Asami Ryuichi! The older man ravages him, both body and mind. Does this mean the end for the naive photographer, or will he live to shoot another day?

Review:
This whole volume sets up the initial meeting between our two love interests. It's the story of young photographer who goes looking for a scoop and becomes entangled with a brutal and kinky Yakuza boss and all the problems that comes with this.

I love Takaba Akihito and how determined he is! As much as I like him, he does make some stupid decisions. I've reread this volume every time but every time I'm struck about how mysterious and cruel Asami Ryuichi is and how much I want to know more about him. 

This volume was a good start to the series.

   1/2
  3.5 / 5 Stars



Finder Deluxe Edition: Caught in a Cage, Vol. 2
(Finder Deluxe Edition #2)
Ayano Yamane
Release: August 8, 2017
Pain and pleasure collide when a sophisticated underworld boss crosses paths with a naive photographer hell-bent on bringing him down!

This deluxe edition includes never-before-released material as well as a double-sided color insert and special cover treatment! Photographer Takaba Akihito takes on a risky assignment trying to document the illegal activities of the Japanese underworld. When he captures its leader—the handsome, enigmatic Asami Ryuichi—in the crosshairs of his viewfinder, Takaba’s world is changed forever.

Impulsive freelance photographer Akihito Takaba isn’t one to back down from a challenge. Undeterred by the ravaging his body took at the hands of crime lord Asami Ryuichi, Akihito stakes out the handsome crime boss’s club hoping to get the information he needs to take him down. Meanwhile, rival mafioso Fei Long returns to Hong Kong after his run-in with Asami and reminisces about their time together seven years earlier. What could the future possibly hold for this very deadly love triangle?

Review:
This volume is all about furthering the tension between Asami and Akihito. There's a stake out at Asami's club and the introduction of a character who is going to be a big part of the series later. Fei Long is an interesting yet brutal addition and we get to see more of his back story in the later part of this volume. The world is getting bigger and this manga is getting more and more interesting.

   1/2
  3.5 / 5 Stars



Finder Deluxe Edition: On One Wing, Vol. 3
(Finder Deluxe Edition #3)
Ayano Yamane
Release: October 10, 2017
Pain and pleasure collide when a sophisticated underworld boss crosses paths with a naive photographer hell-bent on bringing him down!

This deluxe edition includes never-before-released material as well as a double-sided color insert and special cover treatment! In Finder, Photographer Takaba Akihito takes on a risky assignment trying to document the illegal activities of the Japanese underworld. When he captures its leader—the handsome, enigmatic Asami Ryuichi—in the crosshairs of his viewfinder, Takaba’s world is changed forever.

Freelance photographer Akihito Takaba has something Fei Long wants, and the crime boss will stop at nothing to get it, including kidnapping the young photographer’s friends! Akihito turns to the only person he can think of for help, Fei Long’s former lover and current rival Asami Ryuichi. But when Asami’s old flame meets his new replacement, sparks fly!

Review:
This volume sees the return of Fei Long and things get really interesting as he targets Akihito for something. Akihito's friends get kidnapped and he becomes the pawn in the game between Asami and Fei Long as he tries to get them back. Things happen and through his reckless behavior Akihito gets himself in the worst trouble he's been in yet. The drama ramps up in this volume and I am here for it!

   
  4 / 5 Stars



Finder Deluxe Edition: In Captivity, Vol. 4
(Finder Deluxe Edition #4)
Ayano Yamane
Release: December 12, 2017
Pain and pleasure collide when a sophisticated underworld boss crosses paths with a naive photographer hell-bent on bringing him down!

This deluxe edition includes never-before-released material as well as a double-sided color insert and special cover treatment! Photographer Takaba Akihito takes on a risky assignment trying to document the illegal activities of the Japanese underworld. When he captures its leader—the handsome, enigmatic Asami Ryuichi—in the crosshairs of his viewfinder, Takaba’s world is changed forever.

Impetuous photographer Akihito Takaba finds himself in trouble again! After pursuing crime boss Fei Long, he’s captured and spirited away to Hong Kong, but not before Asami takes a few bullets during a failed rescue attempt. Now all the despondent Akihito can think of is whether or not his lover is alive, and if so, are Asami’s feelings strong enough to attempt yet another rescue?

Review:
In Capitivy is the main meat of the Hong Kong arc and it is full of pain, drama, and tension. Asami and Fei Long are injured and Akihito has been kidnapped by the Baishe triad. This chapter is much darker than the previous ones but there's a lot of action and plot advancement. There's also quite a bit of non-consensual sex.

This volume was the most gripping of the series so far in my opinion but it ends on a cliffhanger that just about killed me when I first read it in its first English translation. Things don't go as planned but it acts as a killer set up for the next volume. What I loved the most about this one is that we finally FINALLY get some indication of Asami's feelings and I am here for it! It's a problematic relationship but I can't help but ship it.

   
  4 / 5 Stars



Finder Deluxe Edition: The Naked Truth, Vol. 5
(Finder Deluxe Edition #5)
Ayano Yamane
Release: February 13, 2017
Pain and pleasure collide when a sophisticated underworld boss crosses paths with a naive photographer hell-bent on bringing him down!

This deluxe edition includes never-before-released material as well as a double-sided color insert and special cover treatment! Photographer Takaba Akihito takes on a risky assignment trying to document the illegal activities of the Japanese underworld. When he captures its leader—the handsome, enigmatic Asami Ryuichi—in the crosshairs of his viewfinder, Takaba’s world is changed forever.

Crime boss Ryuichi Asami puts everything on the line to save his lover, Akihito Takaba, from the hands of his enemy. Unfortunately for them, Fei Long has grown quite fond of his captive. Meanwhile, Russian mafioso Mikhail Arbatov takes advantage of the situation to steal something precious. When three of the underworld’s biggest crime bosses clash, will Akihito be the one caught in the cross fire?

Review:
This volume marks the end of the Hong Kong and it was an explosive conclusion to that arc! I could not put this book down! It is action-packed with violence, intrigue, and sexual tension in spades! Asami’s spy has been discovered. The Russian Mafia has come on the scene and asserts their power by abducting Akihito from Fei Long. Asami's plan goes pear-shaped and he proves just how far he is willing to go to get Akihito back. The characters have reached a new level. Now, they all feel three-dimensional and very real. We get the full story from so many POVs and I love it!

But my most favorite thing about this volume though? I am here for all of the Asami and Akihito page time. Asami gets Akihito back about halfway through and we get to see how their relationship has change since they've been apart and how they have grown together. The second half was tender, revealing, and really quite steamy!

Overall, this volume is the best of the series so far! And I can't wait to see what happens now that Asami and Akihito are back in Japan. Everything was wrapped so well in this volume that I have no idea what's going to happen next!

ARC provided by the publisher via Edelweiss.

    1/2
  4.5 / 5 Stars

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

We Love Lists: Romance Trend Predictions


Happy Valentine's Day everyone! For the last few weeks, all the romance writers in my Twitter feed have been dreading the romance-bashing articles that were sure to appear leading up to today. I think they were pleasantly surprised when Buzzfeed published this article by Jamie Green called Who Gets A Happily Ever After In 2018? It talks about the ways in which romance novels are making a political statement. 

While it wasn’t exactly the point of the article, I was struck by a paragraph about how romance trends respond to the political climate: “In the ’80s, office-set romances were a site for playing out power struggles that many women were, for the first time, experiencing. Post-9/11 paranormal romance offered heroes who could literally save the world. And after the 2008 financial crisis came the billionaires.” And it got me thinking about what trends we might be seeing in the next year or two. Here are some predictions:

Female politicians and women running for office
For the past year we've seen the women in Congress become some of the loudest voices of resistance. And thousands of women all over the country are running for office. They are sure to inspire a few romance heroines.

Blue collar heroes (the anti-billionaire)
2018 will see the last of the Fifty Shades movies, so maybe it will also mark the end of the billionaire trend? Even the cowboys and rock stars in romance novels are so often rich ones. Since we've seen so many rich, powerful men exposed as sexual predators lately, it might be time for the "regular guy" hero to have his turn.

Characters who are community organizers, human rights attorneys
Okay so there are already some "regular guys" in police and firefighter romances, but I think there are lots of other heroic professions to explore. And there's no reason those activists, or those firefighters for that matter, have to be men.

Natural and environmental disasters 
With all of the hurricanes, earthquakes and forest fires we saw in 2017, I can't imagine natural disasters not working their way into some stories.

Hackers and cybercrime cops
I loved Megan Erickson's Zero Hour that released last month. It's the first in a series about hacker heroes. Since data breaches and propaganda campaigns have been in the news so much in the last year, I expect we'll see the subject even more in the future.

SciFi and Fantasy romance
We've just established that the real world is full of natural disasters, billionaire predators and cybercriminals so it makes sense that more people would want to escape to a completely fictional place. And the success of series like Amanda Bouchet's Kingmaker Chronicles is sure to encourage more SFF romance. (A few hours after I wrote this paragraph I saw this article by Kayleigh Donaldson on SyFyWire, so I'm not the only one who thinks the genre is one to watch.)

More diversity 
We're already seeing more diverse romance than we did a few years ago. The legalization of gay marriage in 2015 led to more LGBTQ romances, for example. But I expect the percentage will continue to grow. And all the media attention on immigrants lately will probably inspire more people to write about them, as well as other POCs. I also think there's been a focus on POC and LGBTQ Own Voices works in YA, so adult romance will eventually catch up.

What do you think the next romance trends will be?



Monday, February 12, 2018

Comic Review: Voltron Legendary Defender, Vols. 1-2

About a year ago, my godkids were raving to me about a cartoon on Netflix called Voltron: Legendary Defender and I will admit they made me interested in watching it. I had seen a few clips from the old anime it's a remake of but I really knew nothing about it going in. I LOVED IT! It's cheesy space opera-y goodness that is just plain fun to watch. I love the characters and they each have their quirks. I binge watched the first two seasons in a day. And it just keeps getting better and better with each new season they add.


So while I was waiting for Season 3 to be released, I discovered that they had created a comic based on the show. I immediately went to my local comic bookstore and bought it. I loved it too! When Volume 2 of the comic went up as Read Now on Netgalley, I had to download it. I wasn't disappointed! So in celebration of Volume 2's release tomorrow, I'm going to share a few of my non-spoilery thoughts on each volume.


Voltron: Legendary Defender, Vol. 1:
(Voltron: Legendary Defender #1)
Time Hedrick, Mike Iverson, and Digital Art Chefs
Release: February 7, 2017
Goodreads Amazon
This trade collects the first comic book chapter of the epic series airing on Netflix. From days of long ago, from uncharted regions of the universe comes VOLTRON: LEGENDARY DEFENDER! When Team Voltron takes on a dangerous training mission in deep space, Coran, Princess Allura's majordomo, is captured by an ancient enemy. It will take teamwork, smarts, and, of course, Voltron, to save their friend's life. This galaxy-spanning adventure is a never-before-seen chapter of the epic animated series reboot by show writers Tim Hedrick (Avatar: The Last Airbender) and Mitch Iverson.

Review:
Before you read this comic, you really should go watch the tv show. This volume acts as a side story to the cartoon and takes place after the events in Episode 10 of Season 1. And it's all about a paladin training exercise gone awry which always makes for fun times for the Voltron crew.

I really enjoyed reading this volume. It was fast-paced and action-packed while also managing to retain the quirkiness and humor of the show while giving us more insight into the paladins and their personalities. I absolutely adore the art style of this comic. It's very similar to the animation style of the show and it's awesome!

If you haven't watched the show, go do that now! And if you're like me and just want more Voltron goodness, go and grab a copy of this volume. You won't be disappointed!

   
  4 / 5 Stars




Voltron: Legendary Defender, Vol. 2: Pilgrimage
(Voltro: Legendary Defender #2)
Tim Hedrick, Mike Iverson, and Rubine
Release: February 13, 2018
When the Voltron Paladins respond to a distress call, they discover a group of alien settlers on a mining planet under attack by the Galra. The five daring pilots must then escort the convoy of rescued settlers to their new home. To succeed they must cross into increasingly dangerous territory, successfully navigate amongst frightening predators and colossal beasts, and battle the evil Galra!

Review:
I enjoyed the first volume of this comic series, but I LOVED this one! It was amazing! The events in this trade take place after Episode 3 in Season 2 and are full of lots of Hunk moments and a really cool new alien race who thrives on fighting! This comic really embodies everything I love about this franchise remake.

The art in this one is just as awesome as the first volume and still contained the humor and quirkiness that defines this series for me. I loved discovering more about this new alien race and seeing the paladins interact with them. I flew through this volume and before I knew it I had run out of pages. My favorite part of this volume probably had to be Lance giving love advice to Hunk. It was kind of hilarious.

As soon as I finished, I wanted more! I can't wait to see what other stories they can tell us about the paladins' adventures in this format. I'm hoping the next volume has more Keith or Shiro moments. I want to know more about them. *crosses fingers*

ARC provided by the publisher via Netgalley.

    
  5 / 5 Stars


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