Let’s Talk about giving authors a second (or third) chance

I try to keep my “to be read” list locked down and part of that is being really strict about what I add. It has to be a book I really want to read and one I really think I’ll get to. I don’t add later books in a series until I’ve read and liked the first. More importantly, if I dislike a book by an author, I cut my losses.

Generally this involves a two-or-three strike policy; I’ll try two books by an author and if I dislike them both I move on with my life. If two of the books are part of the same series I will give three chances. (Unless it’s a book I really dislike for whatever reason, then it’s often a one-strike policy.)

I am starting to re-evaluate this strategy.

I had already read and not totally loved two books by White. One book wasn’t what I wanted it to be and the other just wasn’t a personally satisfying read. It happens. I assumed that, although White’s books always sound great and are often go-to recommendations that I give other readers, her writing style just didn’t work for me as a reader.

Then something interesting happened. I read White’s story “Welcome to Christmas, CA” in My True Love Gave to Me and I adored it. I literally cried while reading this story because it was so touching and beautiful and perfect.

Then I started hearing about Illusions of Fate on goodreads and I was totally enchanted by the premise and the cover. Then other bloggers I trust started telling me it was really good. So I decided to read it. And it was everything I hoped for and more. For most of the time while I was reading, I couldn’t stop smiling. I began recommending it to people while I was still reading it.

I’ll talk more about why I loved the book in my review. Here I wanted to talk about the fact that I took a chance on this book and it totally paid off.

Now this could mean my tastes have changed. It could mean that White’s writing style has changed. Or it could mean that my reading tastes have a lot to do with plot and premises that I find appealing.

What does that mean about my two-strike policy? Have I missed other books by authors I wasn’t sure about but might ultimately love? There’s no way to know and since I am so strict with my TBR I won’t be going back to re-evaluate all of the authors I’ve elected to skip. But perhaps like all good rules my reading policy might sometimes be made to be broken.

So let’s talk about giving authors a second chance in the comments. At what point do YOU cut your losses with a certain author or series?

Mortal Heart: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

“The sum and total of who I am and who I will ever be is already contained within me.”

Mortal Heart by Robin LaFeversSired by Death himself, all of the girls at the convent of St. Mortain are blessed with gifts from their godly father and tasked with carrying out his dark work in the world. Annith has watched her sisters come and go from the convent of St. Mortain, all the while waiting patiently for her own chance to serve Mortain and leave the confines of life in the convent behind.

After years of proving herself the perfect novitiate, after passing every test, Annith’s future outside of the convent is less than certain. When she learns that the abbess wishes to groom her as the next Seeress, Annith knows it is time to strike out and choose her own path–wherever it might lead–in Mortal Heart (2014) by Robin LaFevers.

Mortal Heart is the conclusion to LaFevers’ His Fair Assassin Trilogy. It is preceded by Grave Mercy and Dark Triumph.

Like its predecessors, Mortal Heart works largely on its own since Annith is a new narrator and the arc follows her. The larger events of 1488 Brittany and the young Duchess’ struggles to hold onto her country continue as do the machinations of the Abbess.

Although there is a lot of overlap between these books in terms of their timelines, Mortal Heart is the first time readers truly get to know Annith as more than an extremely skilled and obedient novitiate of Mortain. However, Annith soon reveals that she has quite a bit of grit. Even without special gifts from Mortain like her closest friends, Ismae and Sybella, Annith is a fierce protagonist who is not afraid to seek out her own path.

Readers of the first two books will anticipate a certain order of events to this story. While many expected elements (and familiar characters) do feature here, Mortal Heart still has numerous surprises to keep readers guessing (or, more accurately, gasping in surprise).

As always LaFevers delivers a well-researched historical fantasy as well as a detailed author’s note separating fact from fiction and outlining the actual historical events featured in the novel. This book is well-plotted with a perfect balance between new story and tying up elements from the previous installments in the series. Mortal Heart is an expertly written conclusion to a delightfully clever series. The only regret readers will have is realizing that the series is truly over.

*This book was acquired for review consideration from the publisher at BEA 2014*

Possible Pairings: Brightly Woven by Alexandra Bracken, Etiquette & Espionage by Gail Carringer, The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson, Graceling by Kristin Cashore, Fire by Kristin Cashore, The Wicked and the Just by J. Anderson Coats, Vessel by Sarah Beth Durst, The Lost Sun by Tessa Gratton, The Agency by Y. S. Lee, Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi, The Winner’s Curse by Marie, Rutkoski, Poison Study by Maria V. Snyder, The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner

Monday Memories: Clariel

Monday Memories is a weekly feature hosted by Miss Print and the Book Bandit. Just take a photo of a book from your personal library (or a library book that’s significant to you, etc.) and talk about why it matters. Is it your first ever signed book? The first book you reviewed on your blog? Whatever it is, write it up in a Monday Memories post and share it. Just please link back if you decide to join!

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Today for Monday Memories I’m talking about Clariel by Garth Nix.

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Clariel is the book I never knew I always wanted.

I didn’t know this book was even going to exist until Cecelia from The Adventures of Cecelia Bedelia told me about it a few months before BEA. I could hardly fathom more Old Kingdom books. Then, as BEA 2014 approached, you can imagine my surprise and happiness when I realized Garth Nix would be at BEA to sign arcs. (Since Nix is Australian it is not an exaggeration to say he is almost never in the US.) So great was my excitement that I waited an hour in line to see him at BEA. Then, the next day after another loooooong day at the Javits I dragged poor Nicole down to Books of Wonder for a BEA-centric signing because obviously I needed the rest of my Old Kingdom books signed.

You can read all about the ensuing BEA adventures too of course.

You can also read my review of Clariel but like I said it was everything I never knew I always wanted. It broke my heart and then put it together. While Clariel isn’t my favorite Old Kingdom character, it’s not an exaggeration to say that this might be my favorite Old Kingdom book (for now at least!).

To join, click the Inlinkz frog below to link up. Then see what everyone else has to say :)

Week in Review: October 19

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This week on the blog you can check out:

This week was pretty good for me. I got a lot of mail (I love mail). I got a lot of good feedback on things at work (top BookMatcher, maker of exquisite “How to: Reader’s Advisory” handout). And I’ve been getting rid of a lot of books which are either being given away on my blog or twitter OR are going to the stash at work to give to teens. This is slightly embarrassing because I am giving away a lot of books from BEA without reading them (and I was really restrained this year about what I took!) but it also means I feel less guilt about requesting arcs from publishers.

And, since I’m already obnoxiously bragging: I am already scheduling blog posts for 2015 which means I get to pick up a shiny, new ARC to read soon. I do have to take a step back though from planning ahead because it’s a little dizzy making.

I also had a blast this week on the blog reviewing the entire Old Kingdom series (so far anyway). I love this books and reading Clariel before it published this week reminded me just how much I love this series and why. *heart*

This weekend is busy too (I’m writing this on Friday as I often pre-schedule these posts) with a book signing on Friday night with Nicole, work on Saturday, AND a bead show on Sunday with my mom and Nicole. Mom is starting to feel a lot better and is walking around more (and wanting to walk around more) so I am stoked for this bead show.

We’re nearing the year mark for Mom’s surgery (and past the year mark for my aunt’s death which was at the beginning of this month) and it’s been on both of our minds. But earlier this week she looked at me and she said that instead of thinking about it as the anniversary of her brain surgery we should think about it as the anniversary of when she lived and was okay. And I really like that idea.

I talk a lot on Twitter about trying to re-frame myself to be unflappable and positive. And it’s really hard, and often has few to no rewards, but it honestly helps. So I’m going to keep trying.

I’m also gearing up for Monday Memories which, if you have a blog or even if you don’t, I hope you’ll join!

How was your week?

Abhorsen: A Review

Abhorsen by Garth NixLirael has finally found a place for herself as the Abhorsen-in-Waiting. She has even found unexpected family and friends in Sam and the Disreputable Dog. But with this new knowledge comes an immense responsibility.

A necromancer is trying to awaken Orannis the Destroyer with the help of Chlorr–a Greater Dead creature–and Sam’s unwitting best friend Nick. Only one barrier keeps Orannis from unleashing its terrible power. Orannis must be stopped. Lirael does not know how, only that she has no choice but to find a way in Abhorsen (2003) by Garth Nix.

Abhorsen is the conclusion of Nix’s original Old Kingdom trilogy. It is preceded by Sabriel and Lirael. The book is followed by Nix’s recent prequel Clariel.

Abhorsen picks up shortly after the conclusion of Lirael. Lirael and Sam are still struggling to prevent Orannis from awakening. Everything Lirael has learned both in the Clayr’s glacier and without will be put to the test as she races to find a way to bind the Destroyer.

Nix once again delivers a high action fantasy adventure here. Lirael in particular comes into her own in this story as she embraces her past and everything that her new role as Abhorsen-in-Waiting entails.

Abhorsen is a nail-biting conclusion to an excellent trilogy. While the story ends beautifully, readers will still want to see more of these characters long after the book is done.

Possible Pairings: Plain Kate by Erin Bow, Brightly Woven by Alexandra Bracken, The Demon’s Lexicon by Sarah Rees Brennan, Fire by Kristin Cashore, Vessel by Sarah Beth Durst, The Lost Sun by Tessa Gratton, Seraphina by Rachel Hartman, Magisterium by Jeff Hirsch, Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones, Dreamhunter by Elizabeth Knox, Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers, Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas, Finnikin of the Rock by Melina Marchetta, The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski, The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner, Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld, Illusions of Fate by Kiersten White

Lirael: A Review

Lirael by Garth NixLirael has been raised as a daughter of the Clayr–part of the extended family who live within the Clayr’s glacier seeking to understand their visions of the future. But Lirael has never fit in among the Clayr despite years of trying. She does not look like any of her Clayr family. She has no knowledge of her father. She was abandoned by her mother.

Worse, and far more shameful to her, Lirael does not have the Sight which allows all of the Clayr to see into possible futures. Instead, a full two years after she should have developed the Sight, Lirael is left feeling the outsider.

With little else to occupy her in the Clayr’s glacier, Lirael begins to experiment with Charter Magic while working as Second Assistant Librarian. In honing her natural affinity with the Charter, Lirael summons a strange companion and also sets herself on a path to oppose an ancient evil and choose her own future in Lirael (2001) by Garth Nix.

Lirael is the second book in Nix’s Old Kingdom series. It takes place roughly 18 years after the events in Sabriel. (Readers unfamiliar with Sabriel should still be able to jump into the series with the help of background passages for key information.) On the other hand, readers familiar with Sabriel will recognize familiar characters as well as relatives of characters featured in Sabriel.

Although Lirael is a very different heroine from Sabriel, this story treads similar territory as Lirael tries find her own identity and make a place for herself in the Old Kingdom. Lirael is savvy and smart. Although she makes mistakes including some rash decisions, Lirael learns throughout the story and her growth is obvious as she comes into her own.

Lirael is another beautifully evocative fantasy from Nix. The blend of high fantasy elements with action and adventure continues in this second installment as Lirael learns more about her past and meets some unlikely friends and allies along the way. Page-turning twists and shocking reveals will leave readers eager for the next installment.

Possible Pairings: Plain Kate by Erin Bow, Brightly Woven by Alexandra Bracken, The Demon’s Lexicon by Sarah Rees Brennan, Fire by Kristin Cashore, Vessel by Sarah Beth Durst, The Lost Sun by Tessa Gratton, Seraphina by Rachel Hartman, Magisterium by Jeff Hirsch, Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones, Dreamhunter by Elizabeth Knox, Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers, Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas, Finnikin of the Rock by Melina Marchetta, The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski, The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner, Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld, Illusions of Fate by Kiersten White

Clariel: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

Clariel by Garth NixClariel is the daughter of one of the most renowned goldsmiths in the Old Kingdom. With ties to both the Abhorsen and the king, she also is part of a powerful family line. Despite the supposed prestige, Clariel wants nothing to do with her mother’s goldsmith work or the city of Belisaere which will apparently further her mother’s ambitions.

While Clariel plots her escape back to the Great Forest near Estwael, she finds herself drawn again and again into political machinations within Belisaere. The more she tries to escape, the more problems (ranging from a Free Magic to a decidedly unwanted marriage proposal) appear to keep Clariel in the city.

Clariel knows her own mind better than most and is determined to choose her own path no matter who or what might try to stop her. But with so many temptations and obstacles, can Clariel ever truly be free? More importantly, how many times can a passion be thwarted before it goes horribly, irreparably astray in Clariel (2014) by Garth Nix?

Clariel is a prequel to Garth Nix’s Old Kingdom series. It is set roughly 600 years before the events in Sabriel (the first Old Kingdom book).

Readers of the Old Kingdom books will know that Clariel eventually becomes Chlorr of the Mask–a villain who features in first three Old Kingdom novels. Beyond that fact, Clariel is its own story. Free of spoilers for the rest of this series, this book can serve as an equally good entry point for readers looking to discover the world of the Old Kingdom.

Clariel is a brusque, singular protagonist. For most of the novel she cares little about others or anything beyond her immediate desire to return to the Great Forest. In a lesser narrative these attributes might have made for a self-absorbed heroine and little else. Clariel, however, is much more than that. Even though her agency is undermined again and again, even while she is constantly manipulated, Clariel remains her own woman.

In Clariel, Garth Nix presents a nuanced story about choice and redemption featuring a capable heroine. Even knowing what Clariel eventually becomes, Nix has delivered a story that is as taut as it is heartbreaking. A must-read for fans of high fantasy.

Possible Pairings: Plain Kate by Erin Bow, Brightly Woven by Alexandra Bracken, The Demon’s Lexicon by Sarah Rees Brennan, Fire by Kristin Cashore, Vessel by Sarah Beth Durst, The Lost Sun by Tessa Gratton, Seraphina by Rachel Hartman, Magisterium by Jeff Hirsch, Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones, Dreamhunter by Elizabeth Knox, Salt & Storm by Kendall Kulper, Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers, Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas, Finnikin of the Rock by Melina Marchetta, The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski, The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner, Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld, Illusions of Fate by Kiersten White

*A copy of this book was acquired from the publisher at BEA 2014 for review consideration*