Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Release Spotlight: A Deadly Education (Naomi Novik)

Today I spotlight the highly-anticipated magical Young Adult novel A DEADLY EDUCATION by Naomi Novik! Set in a deadly magic school where "survival is more important than any letter grade," I've been excited to read this first Lesson of the Scholomance for a while and hope to get my hands on a copy soon. See below for all the details on this fantastical story and purchase your copy today!

Title: A Deadly Education
Author: Naomi Novik
Publisher: Del Rey Books
Release Date: September 29, 2020

Lesson One of the Scholomance

Learning has never been this deadly

A Deadly Education is set at Scholomance, a school for the magically gifted where failure means certain death (for real) — until one girl, El, begins to unlock its many secrets. There are no teachers, no holidays, and no friendships, save strategic ones. Survival is more important than any letter grade, for the school won’t allow its students to leave until they graduate… or die! The rules are deceptively simple: Don’t walk the halls alone. And beware of the monsters who lurk everywhere. El is uniquely prepared for the school’s dangers. She may be without allies, but she possesses a dark power strong enough to level mountains and wipe out millions. It would be easy enough for El to defeat the monsters that prowl the school. The problem? Her powerful dark magic might also kill all the other students. 

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Monday, September 28, 2020

Manga Review: Frau Faust Series (Kore Yamazaki)

Frau Faust, Vol. 1 (Frau Faust, #1)Frau Faust, Vol. 2Frau Faust, Vol. 3 (Frau Faust, #3)
Frau Faust, Vol. 4 (Frau Faust, #4)Frau Faust, Vol. 5

Series Title: Frau Faust
Author: Kore Yamazaki
Volumes Reviewed: 5 (complete)
Publisher: Kodansha Comics
US Release Date: September 2017 - November 2018
Genre: Alternate Historical Fantasy
Content Rating: Older Teen (strong violence, human experimentation, child possession, murder, a few words of language)
Format Read: Paperback
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Summary (of Volume 1):

From the creator of The Ancient Magus' Bride comes a supernatural action manga in the vein of Fullmetal Alchemist! With electrifying art and a gripping story, Frau Faust reimagines the protagonist of the classic tale who makes a deal with the devil as a tenacious female scholar.

More than a century after an eccentric scholar made an infamous deal with a devil, the story of Faust has passed into legend. However, the true Faust is not the stuffy, professorial man known in fairy tales, but a charismatic, bespectacled woman named Johanna Faust, who happens to still be alive. Searching for pieces of her long-lost demon, Johanna passes through a provincial town, where she saves a young boy named Marion from a criminal’s fate. In exchange, she asks a simple favor of Marion, but Marion soon finds himself intrigued by the peculiar Doctor Faust and joins her on her journey. Thus begins the strange and wonderful adventures of Frau Faust!

*          *          *

Series: This is a five-volume manga series, all released and available.

Frau Faust is a brief but entertaining five-volume series about following your heart and doing things your own way with the time you have. Set i
n an alternate historical world of alchemy and religion that we barely scratch the surface of, it tells the story of the immortal Faust as she hunts for the hidden pieces of her formerly contracted demon, Mephisto, in an attempt to finally achieve death after over a century. Along the way she makes new friends, reconnects with old ones, reminisces past accomplishments and failures, weaves a little magic, and loses a bit more of herself in every violent confrontation with those who would try to capture or kill her. There's a lot of pain, and as typically happens when dealing with demons things can get pretty creepy at times, but despite a more melancholy finish there's a little humor and a lot of hope for all concerned by the end. Although the artwork is not afraid to be occasionally grotesque with unusual creatures and violence that doesn't shy away from blood and gore, it's generally rather simple and handsome with backdrop settings and expressive, emotionally-charged characters.

Bonus Stories: Volume 1 boasts the bonus short story, The Invisible Museum. Not only does it offer a fascinating location in the mysterious museum of invisible exhibits along with a fun cat-and-mouse chase story, but the intriguing theme of desiring to disappear proved both a dark and hopeful one. And the butterfly really was quite beautiful. 4.5 Scribbles.

Conclusion: A short but engaging alternate historical fantasy with lots of thrills, chills, and onion-layered characters. Especially recommend if you already enjoy Yamazaki's other series, The Ancient Magus' Bride.

Scribble Rating
3.5 of 5 Scribbles

Other Reviews That Might Interest: 

Nightschool: The Weirn Books by Svetlana Chmakova
Pandora Hearts by Jun Mochizuki
Time Killers by Kazue Kato

Friday, September 25, 2020

The #FridayReads Review (9/25/20)


Welcome to The #FridayReads Review, a regular Friday segment where I share what I've been reading the past week, and what I'm planning to read next! Want to join the Friday fun? Post your own #FridayReads Review and leave the link in the Comments below, or just Comment with what you've been reading!

Death Sworn by Leah Cypess (ARC)
I was struggling to get into Ten Thousand Skies and was craving a fantasy so I grabbed this for a re-read with plans to finally read the sequel next. It's been at least 5 years since my original read so I didn't recall much going in, but I think I've been enjoying it as much as I did before. It's a simple plot with a static setting, and I recalled one of the twists from the start so one aspect has been rather frustrating, but overall it's a quick, easy read with engaging characters and I'm already looking forward to the sequel. 

Living-Room Matsunaga-san vol. 2 by Keiko Iwashita (PBK)
4 Stars. A fun and cute boarding house love story with interesting characters. Looking forward to the next one!

(subject to change with my ever-shifting reading whims)
A Beauty & the Beast-esque story with unique characters and a generally interesting plot. This next volume is due to arrive at the library for me soon.

So what are you reading this week?

Monday, September 21, 2020

Review: Network Effect (Martha Wells)

Network Effect (The Murderbot Diaries, #5)Title: Network Effect
Series: Murderbot Diaries, Book 5
Author: Martha Wells
Publisher: Tor.com
US Release Date: May 5, 2020
Genre: Science Fiction Suspense
Content Rating: Adult (strong violence, language)
Format Read: Hardcover
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Murderbot returns in its highly-anticipated, first, full-length standalone novel.

You know that feeling when you’re at work, and you’ve had enough of people, and then the boss walks in with yet another job that needs to be done right this second or the world will end, but all you want to do is go home and binge your favorite shows? And you're a sentient murder machine programmed for destruction? Congratulations, you're Murderbot.

Come for the pew-pew space battles, stay for the most relatable A.I. you’ll read this century.

I’m usually alone in my head, and that’s where 90 plus percent of my problems are.

When Murderbot's human associates (not friends, never friends) are captured and another not-friend from its past requires urgent assistance, Murderbot must choose between inertia and drastic action.

Drastic action it is, then.

*          *          *

Series: This is the fifth book, and first novel, in The Murderbot Diaries series. I highly recommend reading the series in order, and for this book you definitely need to have read Book 2, Artificial Condition.

After thoroughly enjoying three of the first four novellas in this thrilling science fiction series about the awkward and emotionally stunted but highly relatable human/bot construct, Murderbot, I was rather looking forward to this fifth book and first full-length novel. But while some of the action was engaging and a new character piqued my interest, on the whole Network Effect did not impress.


  • Movement. Right from the start I struggled to follow the movement of the characters, occasionally so lost I didn't even understand that someone had been shot, or even crossed a room. At one point I had to go back and re-read a section four times and still didn't quite see what I'd apparently been told. This disappointingly lessened the impact of the action and Murderbot's clever plans.
  • Emotional Growth. Murderbot is naturally growing emotionally through the series, but unfortunately in this book it grew into a petulant teenager who went about whinging and generally being an annoying arsehole. Thankfully the griping and backtalk tapered off in the second half as action took up a great deal of its attention, but then at the end it started to really contemplate its feelings and for the first time not exactly hate them, and this new emotional turning point was somewhat off-putting for me. I will be interested to see how it continues to progress, I guess, but in general I wasn't a fan.
  • Pacing. After four novellas that really only had enough word count for action and really important non-action bits, this full-length novel had way too much time on its hands. Every little detail of the "adventure" was laid out, over-complicating a plot that really wasn't that complicated and even dragging out the action scenes a bit longer than necessary. The whole middle of the book was step-by-step planning, with actual bullet-point strategy sessions and checklists (seriously). This made the story a bit too tediously realistic and sadly drained most of the urgency out of the whole affair.


  • Action. The action was entertaining when I could follow it.
  • Three. New character Three was a surprising and interesting addition to the cast, and its uncertain bits were my favorite sections of the story. I hope we'll continue to follow its growth in future books.
  • Murderbot. Despite Murderbot's petulant first half and overly emotional second half, when it wasn't whining I still relatively enjoyed its adventures for the most part and look forward to continuing its story in future books

Conclusion: Disappointing. The action and movement were unusually described and a struggle to follow, Murderbot acted like a whiny teenager, and with so many extra pages the story took its time to walk us through every single bullet-pointed and check-listed step of their "adventure." What I understood of the action was engaging though, and when Murderbot was too busy being violent to ponder its emotions the story was generally enjoyable. And I really liked new character Three. Although Network Effect is currently battling Book 2 for least favorite of the series, I'll definitely be giving the next book/novella, Fugitive Telemetry (April 2021), a read.

Scribble Rating
2.5 of 5 Scribbles

Other Reviews That Might Interest: 

Fortune's Pawn by Rachel Bach
Made to Kill by Adam Christopher
Zero Repeat Forever by G.S. Prendergast

Friday, September 18, 2020

The #FridayReads Review (9/18/20)

Welcome to The #FridayReads Review, a regular Friday segment where I share what I've been reading the past week, and what I'm planning to read next! Want to join the Friday fun? Post your own #FridayReads Review and leave the link in the Comments below, or just Comment with what you've been reading!

Ten Thousand Skies Above You by Claudia Gray (ARC)
Finished the first book and went straight into the second as planned. Only a few chapters in but as before the story started right in the middle of things and I was immediately engrossed - so far so good!

A Thousand Pieces of You (Firebird, #1)
A Thousand Pieces of You by Claudia Gray (ARC)
4 Stars. Despite a few plot holes I think I enjoyed this even more the second read! Started up right in the middle of the action and barely let you or the characters catch your breath for the intrigue and romance. Looking forward to reading the second book immediately. You can read my original review here.

(subject to change with my ever-shifting reading whims)
Ao Haru Ride vol. 7 by Io Sakisaka (PBK)
Discovered I'm several volumes behind in this series so I've acquired them for a binge soon.

So what are you reading this week?

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Waiting On Wednesday: This Golden Flame (Emily Victoria)

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly blogging event in which one spotlights an upcoming release they are eagerly anticipating.

This week's pre-publication "can't-wait-to-read" selection is:

Title: This Golden Flame
Author: Emily Victoria
Release Date: February 2, 2021
Publisher: Inkyard Press

Flee across the sun-and-shadow islands of Eratia, where runes have the power to unleash monsters…

Seven years ago, Karis was forced to become an acolyte for the Scriptorium, the rune scholars who rule Eratia. For centuries, these Scriptmasters have sought the key to reanimating the country’s fearsome automaton army, and anyone they deem unable to help them achieve their goal is sent away…including Karis’s brother, Matthias.

Then Karis discovers a unique human-sized automaton and unintentionally wakes him up. Intelligent, with a conscience of his own, Alix has no idea why he was created. Or why his father—Eratia’s greatest traitor—once tried to destroy the automatons.

Upon learning Matthias is being held by the Scriptorium’s sinister leader, Alix and Karis set out to rescue him and uncover the truth about Alix’s past. But when Karis is faced with an unthinkable choice, betraying everyone she cares about may be her only desperate chance to save their world.

Why I'm Looking Forward To It Asexual female MC + sentient male automaton + script magic = a me book, no question!

What book are you waiting on this week?

Monday, September 14, 2020

Review: The False Prince (Jennifer A. Nielsen)

The False Prince (The Ascendance Trilogy, #1)
Title: The False Prince
Series: The Ascendance Series, Book 1
Author: Jennifer A. Nielsen
Publisher: Scholastic
US Release Date: April 1, 2012
Genre: Older Middle Grade Fantasy
Content Rating: Teen (brutal violence, minor torture, murder)
Format Read: Paperback
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In a discontent kingdom, civil war is brewing. To unify the divided people, Conner, a nobleman of the court, devises a cunning plan to find an impersonator of the king's long-lost son and install him as a puppet prince. Four orphans are recruited to compete for the role, including a defiant boy named Sage. Sage knows that Conner's motives are more than questionable, yet his life balances on a sword's point—he must be chosen to play the prince or he will certainly be killed. But Sage's rivals have their own agendas as well.

As Sage moves from a rundown orphanage to Conner's sumptuous palace, layer upon layer of treachery and deceit unfold, until finally, a truth is revealed that, in the end, may very well prove more dangerous than all of the lies taken together.

*          *          *

Series: This is the first book in The Ascendance Series, formerly The Ascendance Trilogy. The series originally had three books, all released and available, but a fourth book is now scheduled to release October 2020.

The False Prince is the intriguing and carefully-worded account of an unreliable narrator's quick ascent from orphan to king by way of a lot of bravado and half-truths. If you know this going in it makes for a thrilling read, and if you don't then it makes for a thrilling second read because by the end you'll want to go back and read it again to catch all the subtle clues. 

For the most part the plot is a political intrigue, a genre I typically pass on but here was simple, confined, and engrossing enough to sufficiently invest me. The story is not just sneaking and scheming, though - with its many beatings, minor torture, murder, and threats of much more, it's not for the faint of heart and I was surprised by the Middle Grade label for all the brutal violence. Main character Sage also acts and reads much older and wiser than his young age as he comes to terms with the state of the world and his place in it, although he's still completely relatable for teens as he brazenly fights against the controlling nobleman while quietly working in the shadows to save the lives of his new friends and the nation from sinister plans

To say much more would spoil the read, so if you'd enjoy a quick fantasy of political intrigue with a delightfully unreliable narrator, lots of snarky wit, and bursts of violence, then I highly recommend you give The False Prince a try. As this book is only the beginning of Sage's story I have since binged the rest of the trilogy, and you can look for my review of Books 2 & 3, The Runaway King and The Shadow Throne, soon.

Scribble Rating
4.5 of 5 Scribbles

Other Reviews That Might Interest: 

The Fog Diver by Joel Ross
Ink and Bone by Rachel Caine
The Girl of Fire & Thorns by Rae Carson
Trial By Fire by Josephine Angelini
A Shadow Bright & Burning by Jessica Cluess