Book Review: Daughter of the Sun

A book about Egyptian Gods, cats and magic (and it’s released on my birthday?) … I think Daughter of the Sun was meant for me! I am so thankful to Xpresso Book Tours for the chance to review this debut novel by Zoe Kalo.

28934536Daughter of the Sun
by Zoe Kalo
Release Date: May 2016
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Summary from Goodreads:

Sixteen-year-old Trinity was born during a solar eclipse and left at the doorsteps of a convent along with a torn piece of papyrus covered with ancient symbols. Raised by nuns in the English countryside, she leads a quiet life until she’s whisked away to the Island of Cats and a grandmother she never knew.
But before they can get to know each other, her grandmother dies. All that Trinity has left is a mysterious eye-shaped ring. And a thousand grieving cats. As Trinity tries to solve the enigma of the torn papyrus, she discovers a world of bloody sacrifices and evil curses, and a prophecy that points to her and her new feline abilities.
Unwilling to believe that any of the Egyptian gods could still be alive, Trinity turns to eighteen-year-old Seth and is instantly pulled into a vortex of sensations that forces her to confront her true self—and a horrifying destiny.

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As a self identifying egyptophile, I get so excited when authors choose Ancient Egyptian mythology / culture / history / religion as a base for a new book. As a practicing Pagan, I’m always a little leery about books involving the Gods of Egypt. Of course there were some artistic license when it came to facts about the Gods (eg, Apep is technically not a God and Ammit did not work for him.) However, Daughter of the Sun was a pleasing read on all accounts.

I’ll admit that it took me a while to get “into” Trinity, our heroine. After around the 30% mark I was completely won over and couldn’t put the book down. I loved her chemistry with Seth, and while there was some teenage crushing and hormones flying, I was happy that this book is insta-love free!

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It is also worth noting that Zoe Kalo is presumably a great lover of cats (and if you doubt me feel free to check out all the adorable kitten photos on her twitter). She way she writes cats into the book is astounding. Every little quirk, mew and lick is incredibly authentic. I love it when a writer is skilled at writing about the animals in the character’s story, it makes it more warm and fuzzy, no pun intended.

However, Daughter of the Sun was not without its faults. The plot moved along a bit too quickly for my liking, falling into the “telling not showing” trap that I as a reader and a writer am all to familiar with. I would have like to see things slowed down a bit so I could get to know Trinity better before her life was turned upside down. As the story went on the narration of pacing did improved a lot.

I hope as the series goes on, Trinity stops being afraid of witchcraft and magic and accepts her powers for what they are. It bums me out when magic doers are instantly labeled bad or cast as villains.

Wrapping up, this was a quick read by a new author who shows much promise. The story was wonderfully imaginative and I hope to see more authors taking inspiration from Ancient Egypt. I can’t wait to read the second installment in the trilogy – but sadly there is no indication on the author’s Goodreads page when that will be.

A free copy of this book was provided for an honest review. Thank you Xpresso Book Tours!

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Book Review: Annabeth Neverending

Anyone who knows me knows that I love books based in Ancient Egypt. So when I saw that Xpresso Book Tours was hosting this gem, I quickly put my name in for a copy.

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Annabeth Neverending 
by Leyla Kader Dahm
Release Date: December 2015
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Summary from Goodreads:

At first, teenager Annabeth Prescott thinks she’s found quite a deal when she talks down the price of an ankh pendant she discovers at a flea market. She soon wonders if the bauble is more than she’s bargained for when she faints and glimpses images from a past life in ancient Egypt.
The discovery coincides with another new find: Gabriel, a handsome young man who takes an interest in her. When she meets his twin brother C. J. at a Halloween party, she realizes they look exactly like two boys who figure prominently into her memories.
Does C. J. share the heroic qualities held by his past incarnation Sethe, her bodyguard when she was Princess Ana? Does Gabriel possess the same evil powers he wielded as Kha, the black sorcerer who sought her affection?
Love meets the supernatural in this gripping young adult paranormal romance. Readers with an interest in reincarnation, as well as ancient Egypt, will be drawn to its mystical mixture of history and hesitation as Annabeth sways between the two brothers.
Will her reincarnated soulmate win out? Or will Kha finally find the way to her heart?

This book hooked me from the description and I was extremely happy to receive a free copy for to to review. I find that the magic and mystery often gets over looked in modern media (or BUTCHERED in the case of Gods of Egypt, but I digress) .

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The book gets right into the story line with Annabeth finding the ankh and meeting Gabriel in the same day. She feels an instant connection to him and they start dating. Soon after she meets CJ and things start to get spiced up.

Annabeth is a good main character / narrator, but I would have liked a bit more backstory and set up to the plot. Annabeth’s past life flashbacks are consuming and very well written. The author has obviously done her research. I’ve done my own learning about Ramses the Second and read other books set during his reign. However,  I felt like she accepted being reincarnated much too smoothly and the fact that she had the confidence to tell her neighbor so quickly (and be completely believed) a bit unrealistic.

I knew from the premise of the book that there was going to be some sort of love triangle. It’s a common theme in YA books and I’ve come to accept that.
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As a self-published book, Annabeth Neverending could have used an editor to make it stronger. What stuck out to me the most was a novice mistake of “telling” rather than “showing”. The story moved along briskly and without much resistance by the main character. Things happened too quickly and too conveniently. However, this is the author’s first book and keeping that in mind, it was very good. We all start somewhere, and I am looking forward to see the author grow her skills.

Wrapping up, this was a quick read by a new author who shows much promise. The story was wonderfully imaginative and I hope to see more authors taking inspiration from Ancient Egypt.

A free copy of this book was provided for an honest review. Thank you Xpresso Book Tours!

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Book Review: Godless

Despite it being published over ten years ago, I’d never heard of Godless until I was browsing Book Outlet. It was a quick (under 200 pages) read that was filled to the brim with a healthy mix of satire and philosophy.
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Godless

by Pete Hautman
Release Date: November 2005
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Summary from Goodreads:

“Why mess around with Catholicism when you can have your own customized religion?”
Fed up with his parents’ boring old religion, agnostic-going-on-atheist Jason Bock invents a new god — the town’s water tower. He recruits an unlikely group of worshippers: his snail-farming best friend, Shin, cute-as-a-button (whatever that means) Magda Price, and the violent and unpredictable Henry Stagg. As their religion grows, it takes on a life of its own. While Jason struggles to keep the faith pure, Shin obsesses over writing their bible, and the explosive Henry schemes to make the new faith even more exciting — and dangerous.
When the Chutengodians hold their first ceremony high atop the dome of the water tower, things quickly go from merely dangerous to terrifying and deadly. Jason soon realizes that inventing a religion is a lot easier than controlling it, but control it he must, before his creation destroys both his friends and himself.

I knew from the blurb on the back of the book that I would enjoy Godless. I am a person who is intrigued with religion, comparisons, satire and everything else under that umbrella. I have a lot of respect for people who question the religions they grew up in as well as respect for people who have strong faith (as long as they aren’t fanatics about it.)

Godless commented on a number of concepts. Jason was bored of the religion of his father (Catholicism). He has a spiritual experience under the city’s giant water tower and decided to start his own religion. Very quickly, he learns that it’s easy to start a religion but not so easy to control it.

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Many people have a religion but no faith. Some people go to church, mosque or temple simply because it’s what their parents do. Very few people believe 100%, including myself. I appreciated this part of the commentary the most. Finding a spirituality (or lack thereof) that works for someone is such a personal experience, no two are alike.

Out of all the inanimate objects to worship, I would agree that the water tower does make a lot of sense, seeing how every living thing needs water to survive. As a Pagan, I believe that I understand this choice better than someone who comes from a stricter Abrahamic faith.

Pete Hautman explains in his notes that the inspiration for this book came from all the questioning he went through as a teen. During a debate with his friends (who were from other religions) someone just asked the question “What if the water tower is God?” Godless answers that question.

Godless is very deserving of the National Book Award, and I recommend it to anyone who enjoys a bit of blasphemy and a bit of soul searching.

 

Series Review: Immortal Beloved

Author Cate Tiernan is probably best known for her Sweep Series. When I had the chance to get all three of the Immortal Beloved books *in hardcover* at once, I quickly snapped them up, without ever having read anything by Teirnan before.
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The Immortal Beloved Series
1 – Immortal Beloved
2 – Darkness Falls
3 – Eternally Yours 

by Cate Tiernan
Release Date: 2010 – 2012
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Summary from Goodreads:

Nastasya has spent the last century living as a spoiled, drugged-out party girl. She feels nothing and cares for no one. But when she witnesses her best friend, a Dark Immortal, torture a human, she realizes something’s got to change. She seeks refuge at a rehab for wayward immortals, where she meets the gorgeous, undeniably sexy Reyn, who seems inexplicably linked to her past.
Nastasya finally begins to deal with life, and even feels safe–until the night she learns that someone wants her dead.

February was the month of digging into the lovely books I purchased on Boxing Day from Book Outlet. After reading many different books all over different series, I was in the mood to read a series from beginning to end and chose Immortal Beloved. The books are around 400 pages each, but they read quick. I actually read the trilogy in about a week, which is an achievement when you’re a mother and a full-time student.

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I loved Natasya (more on that later) and to be honest, I started the book completely jealous of her crazy, care-free immortal life style. That faded as I realized that her partying was her way of coping with 450-ish years of hell. I really bonded with her as a character, which is something I usually have more difficulty than I would like to admit. She’s so… REAL – and that is an aspect in leading roles that seems to be lacking in YA these days.

In my life, I have the privilege of things like war and famine being far away, in history or in the news. Going through the process of self-healing and discovery with Natasya and Rayn brought many feelings to the surface. I felt raw and sad, missing times that were well before my own. Sometimes I wished for 500 year old memories and then realized that living forever seemed more like a curse than a blessing. If there’s one thing that Cate Tiernan does perfectly, it was the flash-back. They were each so richly written that I felt as if I was holding a tiny time machine in my hands. She is a masterful writer.

Going by the blurb, I was worried about insta-love between Natasya and Rayn, but I was pleasantly surprised. Now granted, there was some insta-lust, but I’m pretty sure I’d be giddy over this Viking God too. All of the characters blended together well and all grew at a good pace. Of course, Natasya had some of the best character development.

As i cracked open the second book,  Darkness Falls, I was mostly anticipating what would come for the  “villains”, Boz and Incy. Teirnan wrote these indulgent, self-destructive characters perfectly and I think even in our modern lives, we all know one or two people that remind us of Boz, Incy and the other wayward Immortals. I won’t put any spoilers in here but whoo-wee Incy! I love myself a bad boy … but he took it too far.

Unfortunately, what irked me the most was the inconsistencies in the Immortal’s world/backstory/rules. Half the time the reader got a “It is because I say so” or “It is because it is” answer to basic questions about where the Immortals come from and how they age. The information slowly built up over the course of the series, but many questions were still left unanswered. I would have liked their culture and past to have been a bit more well developed, but that didn’t stop me from enjoying the series.

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About the cover change. While the new editions of covers are lovely and cohesive and filled with “girl in a gown” goodness, I prefer the original 2011 covers. They seem to match the tone and topic matter of the novels better. My set at home has the 1st book in the original cover, and the other two in the more recent renditions. I’m glad I have at least one original, because I adore the pendant imprint on it. It’d make a sweet tattoo – just sayin’.

If there’s one thing I love most about Tiernan’s writing, it’s the tone. Natasya’s narration was the perfect mix of funny, sarcastic and self-serving, as I would expect an immortal “teenager” to be. There were several times that I laughed out loud and other times where I shook my head at her ridiculousness. Cate Tiernan has worked in children’s and teen publishing for a long time and she has mastered the technique of a perfect narrator.

There’s a lot more about this book that I could get into, but then this review would go on forever. Let’s just say that this book came to me exactly when I needed it. I’ve been going through some things myself lately and having Natasya go through them with me made me feel like I wasn’t so alone.

The question is now… what to read next? I probably won’t dive into Sweep, because I’ve heard that it can be quick offensive and eye-roll inducing for Wiccans. However, when shopping for this series, I also got my hands on Birthright, which seems like it will be a great read. But I also have a bunch of new releases to read.

If only I was Immortal, then I could finally have the time to read everything.

50 Book Challenge 2016 – January

I’ve decided to use 2016 as my year that I will get in touch with physical books again. Last year, I read mostly on my e-reader and I really have missed the intimacy of turning real pages.

As mentioned in my last reading post, I’ve decided to stick with 50 books as my goal for 2016. (This doesn’t include all the non-fiction I read for school!) I’ve also made a goal to do more reviews, and I’ll be linking my reviews in this monthly posts as well.

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January – 5/4
1. Glass Ceiling by Julie LaVoie <SEE REVIEW HERE>
2. Library of Souls (Miss Peregrine’s Peculiar Children #3) by Ransom Riggs
3. Cress (The Lunar Chronicles #3) by Marissa Meyer
4. The Iron Warrior (The Iron Fey #6) by Julie Kagawa