Monthly Archives: February 2018

ARC Review – Blood and Sand by C.V. Wyk

Title: Blood and Sand

Author: C.V. Wyk

Rating: ★★★

Synopsis: Roma Victrix. The Republic of Rome is on a relentless march to create an empire―an empire built on the backs of the conquered, brought back to Rome as slaves.

Attia was once destined to rule as the queen and swordmaiden of Thrace, the greatest warrior kingdom the world had seen since Sparta. Now she is a slave, given to Xanthus, the Champion of Rome, as a sign of his master’s favor. Enslaved as a child, Xanthus is the preeminent gladiator of his generation.

Against all odds, Attia and Xanthus form a tentative bond. A bond that will spark a rebellion. A rebellion that threatens to bring the Roman Republic to its end―and gives rise to the legend of Spartacus…

Huge thank you to Raincoast for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

I wasn’t sure what to make of Blood and Sand when I started reading it. I loved the idea that it was a lady!Sparticus story, but if I am being honest, this one took me awhile to get into. The writing wasn’t my cup of tea from the start and I had a hard time connecting with Attia, which I recognize was somewhat the point at the beginning.

This is a book that needs to build, so there’s a lot of information at the start about the world that Attia inhabits. Once she’s in the arena, this book turns on in a great way. The action sequences are clearly this book’s strong suit, as Attia is quite the lady badass. However, I couldn’t stop drawing parallels to Lesley Livingston’s The Valiant as I was reading this book, and I’ll admit, I liked that one a bit better just because the pacing and writing in Livingston’s book had a good push to it. I recognize that this and The Valiant have their differences, but at times I couldn’t stop thinking about what made them similar.

I will say that I wasn’t fond of the romance between Attia and Xanthus. A lot of the time Xanthus’ behaviour just rubbed me completely the wrong way. Again, I don’t mind a romance formed by an unlikely bond, but there I just couldn’t get into their romance and found myself skimming those sections because I really just wanted to go back to the political intrigue and the battle scenes.

Blood and Sand is a decent debut, but not without its ups and downs. I think once the world was established, the book truly hit its stride for me and I was enjoying the politics and struggles that Attia had to overcome, but parts of the book just fell short for me. I think this will appeal to readers who love bad ass ladies (which I do love) and who don’t mind a slower build up. The mix of fantasy and historical fiction is interesting, but I don’t think I’ll be continuing on with the series.

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ARC Review – American Panda by Gloria Chao

Title: American Panda

Author: Gloria Chao

Rating: ★★★★

Synopsis: At seventeen, Mei should be in high school, but skipping fourth grade was part of her parents’ master plan. Now a freshman at MIT, she is on track to fulfill the rest of this predetermined future: become a doctor, marry a preapproved Taiwanese Ivy Leaguer, produce a litter of babies.

With everything her parents have sacrificed to make her cushy life a reality, Mei can’t bring herself to tell them the truth–that she (1) hates germs, (2) falls asleep in biology lectures, and (3) has a crush on her classmate Darren Takahashi, who is decidedly not Taiwanese.

But when Mei reconnects with her brother, Xing, who is estranged from the family for dating the wrong woman, Mei starts to wonder if all the secrets are truly worth it. Can she find a way to be herself, whoever that is, before her web of lies unravels?

Huge thank you to Simon Teen Canada for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

American Panda has a misleading cover. From first glance, it seems like this book would be a cute, fluffy read — and it is in parts. This book also at times takes a bit of a darker tone, which is rather unexpected. Even with that tonal shift at times, I happily want to recommend this book.

This book follows the story of Mei, a Taiwanese-American girl who has very strict parents. Her family wants her to be a doctor, marry someone who is Taiwanese and also aspiring to a similar career. Under no circumstances is Mei allowed to date someone who is not Taiwanese or approved by her parents. In fact, her parents already have Mei’s life plotted out for her.

This was such a difficult read for me at times as I found myself sympathizing with Mei a lot. I recognize that I am not Asian and have never had this experience, but I was a former ESL teacher whose main clientele were all Asian, and on numerous occasions I would have conversations with my students about their home lives and parent’s expectations. It broke my heart a lot of the time given many of the teens I dealt with just wanted to be understood by their parents, and you definitely see that here with Mei. She wants her parents approval, but she still also wants to be her own individual with her own choices being made. There is a huge tug-and-pull between following traditions and choosing your path in this story, and it makes for an interesting story, if one I’ve heard many times before.

Some of my favourite parts of this book were Mei’s interactions with her disowned brother, Xing. Xing and Mei’s re-connection is one of the strongest parts of this story as it gives you a lot of insight into just how important certain traditions to older generations. Being Italian, I oddly can understand this given many Italian parents only want their children to marry other Italians. I really just loved how close the siblings became given the circumstances involving Xing’s becoming disgraced.

One area where this book didn’t quite work for me was some of the humour. I found it to be pretty hit-or-miss, and oddly found myself loving the book more when it was about the family relationships and less about Mei’s interest in Darren (though I’ll admit, they were very cute!). I really felt for Mei’s mother in the story, regardless of how overbearing she was.

American Panda is a story I’ve read before, but one I still very much enjoyed. I found Mei’s perspective very informative and her feelings were completely worn on her sleeve. She’s a girl I definitely found myself connecting with even though our circumstances are so different. Don’t let this fluffy, cheerful cover fool you — Gloria Chao doesn’t shy away from punching the reader in the feelings.

January Reading Roundup!

January was a very productive reading month. I read a combination of my own books and library books, and managed to complete quite a bit. One thing I have been doing is seeing if my library has an audiobook version of books I physically own and I have been finding it super helpful to tackle things I want to read, but haven’t necessarily tackled yet. Audiobooks have been a bit of a godsend right now as I work through cleaning and purging my house. I will share a Shelf of Shame photo update perhaps at the end of Feburary just so you can all see what the stats has been on that project.

Here’s the January reads I knocked out from my personal collection:

I am pretty pleased with this pile, even if it mostly came from the ARC shelf. Point is that I need to read what I own and I think that counts just fine. 🙂 Favourites from this stack were a toss up between The Closest I’ve Come by Fred Aceves and A List of Cages by Robin Roe, both which just emotionally affected me in great ways. I highly recommend those two for sure!

Here’s what I read from the library (no photo since the majority of these guys were already taken back).

  • The Boy in the Black Suit by Jason Reynolds
  • #Weratedogs: The Most Hilarious and Adorable Pups You’ve Ever Seen by Matt Nelson
  • When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi
  • The Language of Thorns: Midnight Tales and Dangerous Magic by Leigh Bardugo
  • Burning In This Midnight Dream by Louise Bernice Halfe
  • Miles Morales by Jason Reynolds
  • Crash Override: How Gamergate (Nearly) Destroyed My Life, and How We Can Win the Fight Against Online Hate by Zoe Quinn
  • Raymie Nightingale by Kate DiCamillo
  • Girl, Interrupted by Susanna Kaysen
  • Beneath the Sugar Sky  by Seanan McGuire

I am not going to focus too much about the books above, but needless to say, all of the ones I read above were fantastic and totally worth your time.

Then lastly, books I borrowed.

  • Tam Lin by Pamela Dean

I borrowed this one from a girlfriend of mine years ago and I FINALLY read it. I put it on my monthly goals list to complete just so the motivation was where. I liked it, though it is a very dense fantasy classic. Not sure if it’s one I’d ever read again, but I am happy I have knocked it out.

I am hoping February is as much a productive reading month as January was. I only acquired three books in the month, which I think is amazing given how my old book buying habits were. Two were books sent me (one was a gift from a friend, the other from a publisher) and I bought the one Jason Reynolds book my library didn’t own. I am hoping to keep up with everything I am sent this year, and again, I think it’s totally doable, but I will need to just keep at it.

Let me know if you’ve read any of the books above. I’d love to know your thoughts!