Thursday, June 30, 2016

New Release: Age of Myth by Michael J. Sullivan

"Age of Myth" by Michael J. Sullivan
Book 1 in The Legends of the First Empire series
First published June 28, 2016
432 pages
My rating: 4 out of 5
Image from Goodreads

Thank you to Random House and NetGalley for a free advanced copy in exchange for an honest review!

The Short of It:
This readable fantasy novel was a bit slow to start, but eventually I was totally sucked in and couldn't put it down!

The Long of It:
I requested an advanced copy of this book from NetGalley on a total whim because I'd been craving some fantasy and I'd seen it on a couple other blogs. I had no idea what to expect, being completely new to this author and fairly new to the epic fantasy genre, but I was pleasantly surprised.

"Age of Myth" is a tale of four strangers whose paths are on a crash course that will ultimately change the world. In the land of Elan, the Fhrey are considered by humans to be gods who cannot be killed. But in a moment of righteous rage during a chance encounter, a man named Raithe proves that the gods are not immortal after all -- unwittingly igniting the spark that will result in a war between the humans and the Fhrey.

Then there's bold, brave and kind Persephone, a clan chieftain's widow who's hell bent on doing whatever's necessary to secure safety for her people. Suri, my favorite character, is a 14-year-old mystic who feels most at home barefoot in the woods and whose best friend is her pet wolf. And Arion is from the other side of the game: she's a powerful Fhrey, one of the few who can wield the Art -- what we humans think of as magic. Her chapters give readers a look at life on the other side of the border, in wealthy, technologically advanced and luxurious Erivan, where the prevailing belief is that humans are primitive animals, though most Fhrey have never actually set sight on a "rhune." Raithe, Persephone and Suri, all misfits in their own way, must band together against the Fhrey in the battle for the fate of humankind. And on which side will Arion's allegiance fall?

It took some time for me to get oriented in this unfamiliar world, learn new terms and mythical creatures, and figure out who the characters were. The book gets off to a bit of a slow start, but about halfway through I was hooked. Sullivan's worldbuilding is excellent, with rich atmosphere and detailed descriptions, and I'm excited to get back to Elan in the second book.

And now that we've gotten to know our protagonists and the stage is set for action, I expect that the following books will be much faster-paced and more adrenaline-filled page-turners. I was a little worried the writing in a high fantasy novel like this might be slow, complicated or pretentious, but it was utterly readable; I almost wished for a little more beauty or flourish in the writing. It was a fairly long book, but it was a quick read for its size.

This is the first time I've read anything by Michael J. Sullivan, but fantasy fans might like to know this is a prequel to his popular Riyria Revelations series (though no knowledge of Riyria is necessary to enjoy "Age of Myth"). And readers who've already been introduced to the author will know that he has a unique writing process: he composes the entire series before the first book is published, so there's no wondering when the next book will come out or fretting about some catastrophe that prevents the author from penning the conclusion of the saga. There are four more books to come in the Legends of the First Empire series, with the next installment set to release exactly a year from now -- and I will most definitely be reading it!

P.S. There's a very helpful glossary in the back of the book!

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Yarn Along: "Written in Red" and Cap Sleeve Lattice Top

Yarn Along is a wonderful weekly feature hosted by Ginny at the Small Things blog about two of the best things in life: books and knitting.

yarn along 062816

Reading: I'm about a third of the way through "Written in Red" by Anne Bishop and I'm totally loving it! I don't think I ever would have picked up this urban fantasy novel on my own -- the first in The Others series -- but I'd seen it recommended by several bloggers and it has a great Goodreads rating. I was craving some fantasy escapism, so I grabbed it when I went to sign up for my Hawaii library card last week. It's set in an alternate modern-day when the Others -- supernatural beings like shapeshifters and vampires -- rule the world and humans tentatively co-exist with them.

Knitting: I feel like I'm finally making visible progress on my Cap Sleeve Lattice Top! It's folded in half so you can see where the neck and arm holes are going to be, and I just have that big ol' stockinette portion and the bottom ribbing to finish, which will be a breeze. Then it'll be time to learn the mattress stitch for sewing up the sides (something I've put off for years!).

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

25 Bookish Art Prints to Add to Your Wishlist

I have conquered the dreaded Top Ten Tuesday "freebie" with this super-fun (at least, it was fun to put together!) compilation of gorgeous bookish art prints from Etsy and Society 6! Forget 10; books and art are two of my favorite things and there was no way this list was going to be that small. Hope this lovely list brings a smile to your day! :)

Etsy shop: thewheatfield
I already own two prints from this shop and I would love more! Katie Daisy's artwork is just gorgeous.

Etsy shop: FlourishCafe
I own this print and one other from this shop and they're so pretty in person!

Etsy shop: OohPrint
This is my favorite Harry Potter quote and this print just looks so magical!

Etsy shop: flapperdoodle
Flapperdoodle is such a fun shop! I have some awesome notecards from there (a wonderful gift from my BFF)!

Etsy shop: TheFoxandTheTeacup
Oh, The Fox and The Teacup. I want everything in this entire shop (and her Society 6 store). Last year I bought a packet of stickers featuring woodland critters reading, but I really want an art print, or one of the tote bags in her other shop. I love all her artwork, even the non-reading-themed stuff!

Etsy shop: bluedogrose
I own this cozy print too! It was a much-appreciated birthday present last year.

Society 6 shop: PaperFury

Etsy shop: TheRootedPair
"Words, in my not-so-humble-opinion, are our most inexhaustible source of magic."
-- Albus Dumbledore

Etsy shop: FolioCreations
This shop has tons of different card catalog prints like this!

Etsy shop: BluePoppyGallery
It's a bit hard to see, but the map is made up of titles of books set in each state. What a clever idea!

Society 6 shop: PaperFury
I tried to limit myself to just one print from each shop, but PaperFury has the most gorgeous stuff and it's exactly my style! I couldn't resist adding another to the list.

Etsy shop: OldStyleDesign
I love this L.M. Montgomery quote, though it was remarkably hard to find it in artwork form. The entire thing goes: "I am simply a book drunkard. Books have the same irresistible temptation for me that liquor has for its devotee. I cannot withstand them."

Etsy shop: BrightSpotPapier
This print is so gorgeous! I love that quote, I love Earl Grey tea, and I love those decorative book spines. This may be my next bookish art purchase.

Etsy shop: AddisonandLake

Etsy shop: SweetDailiness

Etsy shop: happylandings
I love dogs and I love books, and this is my all-time favorite book-related quote. I even own a t-shirt emblazoned with this Groucho Marx saying, a souvenir from the New York Public Library!

Hermione has infinite wisdom! This was another awesome and well-known quote that was surprisingly hard to find in art print form. Maybe I need to start my own Etsy shop!?

Etsy shop: PemberlyPond
This shop has all kinds of fun prints in this style; lots of Jane Austen, as you can guess from the shop name, but I thought I already gave Jane enough love in this post.

Etsy shop: FromHannahsHand

Society 6 shop: Frying Sausage

Society 6 shop: Evie Seo

Society 6 shop: Abbie Imagine

Etsy shop: BokaPrint
This fun print is totally customizable. You can pick the color, title, author and publication date, and there are four penguin images to choose from. (If you need a bookish wedding gift, there's even a bride and groom penguin option!)

Monday, June 27, 2016

Monday Musings

The aptly named rainbow shower tree, the official tree of Honolulu!

Highlight of the week: Our kitty cat, Lily, finally made it to Hawaii! She spent the last month with her grandparents in Colorado and she flew out to Oahu on Thursday. What a trooper; I'm sure the day of plane rides was utterly miserable, but she survived. She's a resilient, well-traveled Air Force cat!

Reading: I finished my advanced-reading copy of "Age of Myth," which comes out this Tuesday. It's the first in a new 5-book fantasy saga and, though it took me a while to get oriented to the setting and all the characters, I really enjoyed it in the end. (Review to come on Thursday!) Then I read "The Last One" by Alexandra Oliva, another ARC, which releases in July. It's sort of a genre-blending thriller, part apocalypse, part reality show, part outdoor survival, part character study. It wasn't the best book I've read this year, but it was pretty good! And on Saturday night I started "Written in Red" by Anne Bishop, the first book in the urban fantasy series The Others, which I've been meaning to read for ages!

Knitting: I made some more progress on my Cap Sleeve Lattice Top this week. You can see a progress photo on my Yarn Along post here.

Watching: We finished our binge watch of season 1 of "Mr. Robot." What a fascinating show! It's about a cyber security expert turned vigilante hacker who also happens to have schizophrenia. We also watched "Deadpool," finally, and it was pretty good; it made me laugh out loud several times. Definitely an adult super-hero movie! We finally got our DirecTV hooked up on Thursday and we've got all the movie channels free for three months. That means we can catch up on this season's "Game of Thrones"! (We watched the first two episodes this weekend.)

Listening to: I finally checked out the "Hamiliton" soundtrack and I can see what all the fuss is about. I'm not a huge fan of musicals, but this score is unique, original and modern.

Drinking: I had a terrible day on Thursday so I treated myself to a boba tea. Yum! One thing I did miss about Hawaii is that there are as many boba drink shops as Starbucks (probably more)!

Looking forward to: The movers are delivering our household goods on Friday! It will have been three months since we've seen our stuff and I am SO ready to sleep in my own bed again! Just a couple more nights!


I'm linking up with Kathryn at Book Date for It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Yarn Along: "The Last One" and Cap Sleeve Lattice Top

Yarn Along is a wonderful weekly link-up hosted by Ginny at the Small Things blog about two of the best things in life: reading and knitting.

yarn along 062216

Man, this time difference! It's so weird to think that as I'm sitting down to whip out this post at 1 p.m., just after lunch, it's already 7 on the east coast! I actually wasn't planning to do a Yarn Along post this week, but I'm sitting around waiting for the DirecTV guy to come hook up our cable and I collected some pretty plumerias on the ground when I walked to the mailbox, so I figured I might as well!

Reading: Last night I finished the book from last week's Yarn Along post, a fantasy novel called "Age of Myth" by Michael J. Sullivan. After a bit of a slow start -- it took me a whole week to read! -- it picked up and I ended up really enjoying it. I'll definitely look forward to the next installment of the series. Today I'm going to start an advanced-reading copy of "The Last One" by Alexandra Oliva, an apocalyptic thriller that's been compared to "Station Eleven" and "The Passage," both of which I loved. I'm in the mood for a fast-paced page-turner and this sounds like it'll fit the bill.

Knitting: It's a little hard to tell in the picture, but I did make some progress on the front lattice of my Cap Sleeve Lattice Top (pattern). Only a couple more inches, then it'll be stockinette the rest of the way. I've been knitting while we binge-watch the first season of "Mr. Robot," an awesome show about a cyber security expert/vigilante hacker/schizophrenic. Season 2 comes on USA in a couple weeks, so we discovered it just in time thanks to Amazon Prime (and having no cable!).

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

My Favorite Reads From Winter and Spring 2016

I looked back over my reads from the first half of 2016 for this week's Top Ten Tuesday list and it turns out that I've had a pretty good bookish year so far! That's a relief, because it started off terribly with a slew of mediocre and disappointing books. But now, mid-June, I've read 7 five-star books, which is exciting considering I only read 11 five-star books in 2015 and two of those were Harry Potter audiobooks (and those shouldn't really count, because they're re-reads and of course they're going to be five stars!).

Below are my favorite reads from the last six months. What are the best books you've read so far this year?

* 5 Star Favorites *
"Uprooted" by Naomi Novik 
This is my favorite book of the year so far; it's a delightful standalone fantasy novel that I just could not put down. I highly recommend it!
"Letters to the Lost" by Iona Grey
"Letters to the Lost" was a brilliant dual narrative that takes place during WWII and present-day. As you probably guessed from the title, it's partly told in letters, one of my favorite things!

"Furiously Happy" by Jenny Lawson
The first memoir on my list is a both hilarious and serious look at mental illness. I read and loved The Bloggess' first memoir, "Let's Pretend This Never Happened" (sooooo funny!), and her second book did not disappoint.
"Jane Steele" by Lyndsay Faye
I found this "Jane Eyre" re-telling to be unique and utterly addicting! I love Jane re-imagined as a badass heroine!

"The Wolf Road" by Beth Lewis
I just finished this book the other day but I'm sure it'll be on my best books of the year list. It's set in a post-apocalyptic future and is told by 17-year-old Elka, a wild child raised in a hut in the woods by a man she just found out is likely a serial killer.
"The Atomic Weight of Love" by Elizabeth J. Church
I'm not usually a huge fan of character-driven novels, but this one is done right. It's a historical fiction tale centered on Meridian, a bright ornithology student who follows her scientist husband to rugged and rural Los Alamos, New Mexico, when he's asked to work on the Manhattan Project. 

 * 4.5 Star Great Reads *
"A Gathering of Shadows" by V.E. Schwab
I don't typically review sequels (too hard to avoid spoilers!), but you can see my review of the first book in this fantasy series, "A Darker Shade of Magic," here. I enjoyed "A Gathering of Shadows" even more than the first installment. Such fun books!
"June" by Miranda Beverly-Whittemore
"June" is a perfect summer read -- and not only because it takes place in both June 1955 and June 2015. It's a gripping novel of long-kept secrets and glamorous Hollywood stars and a dilapidated old mansion in small-town Ohio, perfect for reading in a hammock or at the beach. Plus, I guarantee you'll fall in love with the narrators!

"The Alaskan Laundry" by Brendan Jones
Another character-driven novel -- what's happening to me?! I picked this one up because I love reading about Alaska, but the captivating main character -- who works her way up from fish hatchery to Being Sea crab boat while running from her difficult past -- held my attention.

* 4 Star Honorable Mentions *
"Lily and the Octopus" by Steven Rowley
What a sweet, charming, heartbreaking story. It's a must for any dog-lover!
"You" by Caroline Kepnes
Oh my gosh, talk about creepy! A sign of a good book is that it stays with you, and even though I read this months ago I have no trouble recalling the plot and all the insane happenings. -- and how Caroline Kepnes sorta, kinda got me to like a sociopath stalker! I'm hoping to get to the sequel later this year.

"Poor Your Soul" by Mira Ptacin
This book was a heartbreaking and touching and raw memoir about family, making an impossible choice, and moving on. What do you do when you find out your baby won't be able to live outside your womb? And how do you survive the grief that comes after?

Monday, June 20, 2016

Monday Musings

anniversary collage

Highlight of the week: We got the keys to our new house on Wednesday, which also happened to be our 8th anniversary! We didn't do anything special other than eat at one of our favorite Hawaii places, Teddy's Bigger Burgers. We were tired and sweaty from moving the last of our stuff over from base lodging and picking up and hauling in our new washer and dryer. We had to leave our old washer and dryer in Ohio when we sold our house, and the Navy-owned home we're "renting" doesn't provide them, so we decided to splurge on a fancy new front-load set. I love it so far!

We still have two more weeks until the moving company can deliver our stuff (ugh!) but we have a few military loaner things until then. The furniture is not particularly comfy and cooking with the few pots and gadgets we could borrow from the Air Force loan closet requires some creativity. I cannot tell you how happy I will be to sleep in my own bed again! July 1 can't get here fast enough. (Plus, until then, I'll be by myself every day sitting in a house that's basically totally empty! At least we were able to pick up our other car Friday so I can make up some excuses to get out of the house. I see some Starbucks runs in my near future! And maybe some retail therapy...)

Reading: I didn't get a whole heck of a lot of reading done this week. I blew through the rest of "The Wolf Road" by Beth Lewis (review -- I loved it!) and then started another advanced-read book, "The Age of Myth" by Michael J. Sullivan, the first in a new fantasy saga that comes out next Tuesday. I'm enjoying it ok, but I'm not really hooked into the plot yet and have to keep reminding myself to pick it up. Something I'm struggling with a bit is having absolutely no idea what time period it's taking place in. It could either be the very-long-ago past or the future. I think I'm just having trouble orienting myself in the overall setting. I have no idea if it's totally fictional or based on a real place. I need details!

Knitting: I made a tiny bit of progress on my Cap Sleeve Lattice Top this week. You can see a picture from last Wednesday here on my Yarn Along post. I'm sure I'll get a lot of knitting done this week with Jarrod working and me having a massive amount of free time.

Watching: We don't get our cable hooked up until Wednesday, so we've been subsisting on Amazon Prime. I read "Dark Places" a couple weeks ago and I was excited to see the movie version on Amazon. It was ok... definitely not as good as the book, though. I felt like a lot of backstory was missing and that it jumped around too much. Last night we started the TV series "Mr. Robot," about a cyber security expert/vigilante hacker. We watched the first two episodes and we're both totally intrigued!

Eating: I had the best chocolate croissant this weekend! One of my favorite Hawaii restaurants is La Tour Cafe. I particularly love their sandwiches, and they also sell macarons and other fresh-baked breads and pastries. When we ate there on Friday night they had some chocolate croissants for sale and I snatched one up to have for breakfast on Saturday morning. It was sooooo good. There's a photo on my Instagram.

Looking forward to: Our kitty, Lily, has been hanging out with her grandparents in Colorado for the past 3 1/2 weeks, and she'll finally be heading out to Hawaii on Thursday! She was supposed to come out sooner, but we couldn't find any cat-friendly lodging while we were searching for a house. I'm excited to have a furry companion around again -- though I'm 100% sure she'd rather stay in Colorado and avoid the plane ride! I'm also looking forward to getting my Hawaii library card now that I have proof of address. I've been reading e-books for the last three weeks and I'm so ready for a real book!


I'm linking up with Kathryn from Book Date for It's Monday! What Are You Reading?
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