Book Review: Throne of Jade (Temeraire #2) by Naomi Novik

A lot more emotionally painful than the first book, but in a good way. Combined with a new setting, I am officially 110% in love with this series.

4.5/5 stars

cover-throne-of-jade

Read my review of the first book, His Majesty’s Dragon, here.

synopsis for reviews 2

When Britain intercepted a French ship and its precious cargo–an unhatched dragon’s egg–Capt. Will Laurence of HMS Reliant unexpectedly became master and commander of the noble dragon he named Temeraire. As new recruits in Britain’s Aerial Corps, man and dragon soon proved their mettle in daring combat against Bonaparte’s invading forces.

Now China has discovered that its rare gift, intended for Napoleon, has fallen into British hands–and an angry Chinese delegation vows to reclaim the remarkable beast. But Laurence refuses to cooperate. Facing the gallows for his defiance, Laurence has no choice but to accompany Temeraire back to the Far East–a long voyage fraught with peril, intrigue, and the untold terrors of the deep. Yet once the pair reaches the court of the Chinese emperor, even more shocking discoveries and darker dangers await.

See it on Goodreads

my thoughts for reviews 1

While His Majesty’s Dragon made me fall in love with the Temeraire world, Throne of Jade was the book that captured my heart. It was not like I did not have an emotional connection to the first book, but I had a much stronger (and more painful) one with the second.

Throne of Jade revolves around Temeraire and Laurence’s fight to stay together, despite Chinese tradition that says Celestial dragons must belong to emperors. Politics, customs, and the lure of Chinese dragon culture all come between the two of them, creating an undeniably stressful story.

The world-building was incredible. Though two-thirds of the story focus on the journey to China, Naomi Novik still started to introduce the new characters and customs that they would encounter directly once they reached their destination. She brought the new setting to life and created an entirely different dragon culture than the one she had established in Britain.

Despite the complexity of the world Novik built, the specifics were never hard to keep track of. I easily understood the different perspectives of the Chinese envoys, the power struggle in the royal household, and the different aspects of dragon life. This creative but understandable world-building allowed me to enjoy the new setting without losing the train of the original story.

Temeraire experienced significant growth, becoming an even stronger character. The Chinese had a distinctly different view of dragons than the British, and in the new environment, Temeraire started to embrace different parts of his identity. Though it was painful when those changes brought him away from Laurence, I loved watching Temeraire’s development. He truly was a three-dimensional character, more fleshed-out than most of the human characters in the series.

Laurence changed in his own ways, fully embracing his identity as a dragon captain and fiercely fighting to keep Temeraire. I had not expected the argumentative side of Laurence that appeared, but I enjoyed seeing him come out of his uptight shell. Though he took longer to adjust to the Chinese culture, Laurence did allow it to change how he saw his native country.

The side characters remained somewhat one-dimensional, though the characters that were introduced in Throne of Jade had more layers than those that stuck around from the first book. I did not mind the way the characters were portrayed, because it did not hamper the story. Each character added a necessary element without getting in the way.

Throne of Jade was well paced, with action-packed fight scenes balanced against more emotional scenes of character growth. Though the book was not constantly dramatic, the threat to Laurence and Temeraire’s relationship kept me engaged and eager to read on.

Of course, with the Napoleonic Wars still going on, there are lots of intense fight scenes. One part of this book that separated it from the last one was the complexity that was added to Temeraire’s bloodthirsty nature. Yes, he still loves a fight, but he starts to think about the consequences of his actions and the nature of the battles he is fighting.

I would recommend Throne of Jade to anyone who read His Majesty’s Dragon. If the world-building or characters were not complex enough in the previous book, that problem is solved. If you want more fight scenes and dragons (who doesn’t?) they are just as dramatic and nuanced as before. And if you fell in love with the series in book one, book two will not disappoint.

Top Ten Books to Give Friends to Turn Them Into Bookworms

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.

This week’s theme is a Holiday Gift Guide freebie, so I’m talking about books to give people to turn them into bookworms. I think a lot of people want to be readers, and know what they’d want to read about, but do not know which books to read.

For the person who wants magic

1. Graceling by Kristin Cashore

cover graceling

One of the first YA books I ever read, Graceling has stuck with me because of its unique world-building, fierce characters, and slow-burn romance.

2. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

cover night circus

Nothing says “magic” like The Night Circus. Told in an interesting voice, this book creates a vivid and wonderful magical world and throws the reader into the middle of a heartwrenching romance.

For the person who loves social change

3. Beauty Queens by Libba Bray

cover beauty queens

I will shout about this book until the end of time. I thought it would be a frivilous, trope-filled story about beauty pagents, but it ended up being one of the most unabashedly feminist stories I’ve ever read.

4. Going Underground by Susan Vaught

cover going underground

This is another book that has profoundly shaped the way I see the world. With complex characters, a subtle romance, and a hilarious parrot, this book is perfect for anyone looking to see teenage relationships in a different way.

For the person who needs A Dramatic Story

5. Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein

cover code name verity bigger

This is the kind of book that grabs you on the first page and steadily breaks your heart for the next 300 pages. Perfect for anyone who needs to be 110% invested in a story to finish it.

6. Illuminae by Jay Kristoff and Amie Kaufman

cover illuminae

Hilarious and terrifying in equal measure, Illuminae is another book that will force even the most half-hearted reader to devour the story.

For the person who wants fluffy feels

7. The Fill-In Boyfriend by Kasie West

cover the fill in boyfriend

This book is perfectly fluffy, with surprisingly emotional scenes and low-key Doctor Who references.

8. The Unexpected Everything by Morgan Matson

cover the unexpected everything

Though this book is long for a contemporary romance, you will savor every single page. More than just a fluffy romance, The Unexpected Everything talks about friendship, self-discovery, the perils of dog walking, and writers block.

For the Person who just doesn’t have time

9. I’d Tell You I Love You, but Then I’d Have to Kill You by Ally Carter

cover gg 1

This is the kind of book that you can read in one sitting. Light-hearted and slightly ridiculous, the first Gallagher Girls book is perfect for someone who wants to read, but does not have time to commit to a longer story.

10. A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

cover a monster calls

Short but profound, A Monster Calls is the kind of story that breaks and heals your heart simultaneously. For the full experience, read the illustrated version!


What are your go-to books for gifts? Have you read any of these books?

Happy Tuesday!

Book Review: His Majesty’s Dragon (Temeraire #1) by Naomi Novik

How can dragons be so cute and so bloodthirsty at the same time?!?!?

4.5/5 stars

cover his majestys dragon

synopsis for reviews 2

Aerial combat brings a thrilling new dimension to the Napoleonic Wars as valiant warriors ride mighty fighting dragons, bred for size or speed. When HMS Reliant captures a French frigate and seizes the precious cargo, an unhatched dragon egg, fate sweeps Captain Will Laurence from his seafaring life into an uncertain future – and an unexpected kinship with a most extraordinary creature. Thrust into the rarified world of the Aerial Corps as master of the dragon Temeraire, he will face a crash course in the daring tactics of airborne battle. For as France’s own dragon-borne forces rally to breach British soil in Bonaparte’s boldest gambit, Laurence and Temeraire must soar into their own baptism of fire.

See it on Goodreads

my thoughts for reviews 1

Ever since I read Uprooted, I have been dying to read this series. The ninth and final book just came out, so I figured it was time to start.

I loved this book. It’s the Napoleonic Wars with dragons—what could go wrong? But it ended up being so much more than bloodthirsty dragons and fight scenes.

Laurence was the perfect protagonist. He started the book as a naval captain, but then the dragon, Temeraire, chose Laurence to be his companion. Thrust into the Aerie Corps, Laurence had to not only figure out how to be a dragon captain, but unlearn his navy habits and learn new Corps ones.

Older than other captains and an accidental captain, Laurence was a permanent outsider, creating a fascinating POV for the book to be told from. His voice was simultaneously stuffy and empathetic, so if his naval prejudices were ever annoying (which they were), his clear compassion for dragons and his fellow officers made up for it. His character’s arc was nuanced but natural, and though he learned how to be a part of the Corps, he never lost his naval quirks.

While I loved Laurence, I LOVED Temeraire. He was adorable—there’s no way around it. His voice was clear from his first line. He was unabashedly himself and ridiculously loyal to Laurence. Intelligent, inquisitive, and wholly unconvinced about things like royalty, Temeraire was also an outsider in the dragon world. Also, he was freaking bloodthirsty. Like Laurence, his character created a fascinating window into the dragon world because he has one foot inside and one foot outside of it.

The rest of the characters helped round out the novel. None of them had complex characterization, but in their own ways, they added necessary personalities to the story. I especially loved the different dragons that Naomi Novik added to the story and the way they interacted with Temeraire.

The world-building in His Majesty’s Dragon found a rare balance between historical accuracy and fantastical creations. Naomi Novik created an intricate dragon culture both a national level in the Corps and an international one, with different breeds and training systems for countries across the world. Additionally, the Corps’s society was hierarchical but easy to understand.

Set against the backdrop of the Napoleonic Wars, the book was tied closely to real historical events and details. However, Naomi Novik managed to add dragons to the story without losing the historical fiction feeling. Reading His Majesty’s Dragon honestly feels like reading historical fiction—so much so that I sometimes forgot that dragons didn’t exist in Napoleonic times (not really, but almost).

His Majesty’s Dragon started out a little slow, but after the first quarter of the novel, the pace picked up. Honestly, I didn’t mind the slow pace of the beginning because it gave me time to understand the characters and the world before the intense fighting started. Laurence and Temeraire’s training was dramatic at times, but also light-hearted, giving the book an interesting mood. However, His Majesty’s Dragon got intense, and if you’re looking for heart-pounding fight scenes, this book is perfect for you.

I would recommend this book for anyone looking for a story that straddles the line between historical fiction and fantasy. Though the characters are adults, I feel like this book would be accessible to YA fans. There is no romance, so the story is a celebration of friendship and loyalty, something every reader can connect to.

Book Review: Headless by Tristram Lowe

A sinister murder mystery that slowly reveals its paranormal secrets, set against the vivid backdrop of Japan.

3.5/5 stars

cover-headless-no-white synopsis-for-reviews-1

Being a photographer at a Tokyo newspaper is no walk in the park—unless you’re Akio Tsukino and only get assigned to shoot parades and park festivals.

All that changes when a serial killer starts chopping off heads in nearby Kofu. Akio maneuvers his way onto the assignment in order to prove himself and get closer to enigmatic staff writer Masami Sato. When the investigation takes a supernatural turn, the unlikely partners find themselves caught between solving the mystery and saving their own lives.

In this thrilling and imaginative debut by Tristram Lowe, getting the story may cost them their heads.

See it on Amazon (paperback or Kindle) or the author’s website

my thoughts for reviews 1

I was given a copy of Headless by the author in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinions.

Headless started out your standard murder mystery but ended a distinctly creepy paranormal story. Though I am usually not a fan of contemporary stories turning paranormal, there was good balance between the two elements throughout the novel that allowed me to enjoy it.

I loved the setting of Headless. Most of the books I read are set in the US or a fantasy world, so it was refreshing to read a book set 100% in Japan. I felt like I got a really good sense of not only the individual places the characters visited, but of the culture.

The story was told in third person, alternating between Akio’s and Masami’s POVs. Akio’s POV told the bulk of the story. Both characters had strong voices and interesting personalities that brought the story to life.

Akio‘s character was interesting for me. He was young and awkward, with a clear idea in his head of who he “should be” without any hope of becoming that ideal. He could be annoying at times, but I was willing to forgive him because I understood where his character was coming from. His voice was clear throughout the novel, reflecting the growth Akio experienced.

Masami was my favorite character. She was the take-no-shit reporter who has a lot of hidden talents and absolutely no patience for Akio’s idiocy. Though we got to see a lot of her development and personality from Akio’s perspective, I loved the chapters told from her POV, and wished there were more of them.

Akio was slightly obsessed with Masami (trying to find the ice queen’s “human” side), while Masami had zero patience for Akio. The chemistry between them never developed, but I actually loved that. They were thrown together by circumstances and developed a working relationship, but they were never going to become best friends.

The mystery unfolded nicely, starting off simple and gaining complexity as it sucked me in. From the first chapter, the reader (if not the characters) has a sense of who the killer is, but as the story progressed, I found myself surprised by the details that fleshed out that initial idea. By the end of the book, I was engrossed with the mystery, loving the combination of supernatural and historical details.

The only problem of the book is the pacing. In the part of the book where the characters are still looking for “real world” explanations, the pacing dragged a little. However, about halfway through it picked up, and by the end, I was completely engrossed in the story. The transition from a normal murder mystery to a paranormal thriller felt natural, and helped grab my attention.

I would recommend Headless to anyone looking for a murder mystery with a supernatural twist and a unique setting. Though the book had undeniably dark and creepy moments, the humor helped balance it out. Ultimately I will remember it for the fascinating mystery and historical angle, not just the number of people who got beheaded.

Top Ten Authors I’m Thankful For

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.

This week’s theme is a Thanksgiving freebie, so I’m talking about the top ten authors I’m thankful for.

1. Libba Bray

Libba Bray is important to me for a lot of reasons. Her stories are complex and imaginative, never staying in the same genre. Her female characters ooze Girl Power. And her writing is hilarious.

2. Maggie Stiefvater

Maggie Stiefvater is the author who convinced me that lyrical writing does not have to get in the way of storytelling. Her stories have amazing world building with sutble fantasy elements and slow burn romances that give me all the feels.

3. Brandon Sanderson

Brandon Sanderson is the author who convinced me that incredibly complex world building can make a series more dramatic, instead of weighing it down, and that plot twists can be genuinely shocking.

4. JK Rowling

cover-harry-potter-and-the-sorcerers-stone

Though I am not the biggest Harry Potter nerd out there, I am thankful for those books. They inspired my love of reading and were the basis of some of my closest friendships.

5. Stephanie Perkins

Anna and the French Kiss was one of the first contemporary romance books that I read that genuinely impressed me. Up until then, I had enjoyed the genre without expecting much from it, but Stephanie Perkins convinced me that the stories could have substance and emotional impact in ways that I hadn’t expected.

6. Morgan Matson

If Stephanie Perkins convinced me to expect a lot from contemporary romance, it was Morgan Matson that met those expectations. SYBG was one of the first books I read where I deeply empathized with the main character, and TUE has a hilariously unique love interest.

7. Elizabeth Wein

Elizabeth Wein is the author who convinced me of the heartbreaking qualities of historical fiction. Code Name Verity blew me away in a way that no other book has since, and Black Dove White Raven put my soul back together with an adorable story about friendship (and then shattered it again). If you are looking for deeply moving historical fiction with amazing friendship (and no romance!), you need to read her books.

8. Kristin Cashore

Graceling was one of the first YA books that I ever read. It sucked me into the YA fantasy genre, and I’ve never looked back. Even now, her stories are some of my favorites to reread, with their gorgeous world building and heart-wrenching romances.

9. Susan Vaught

cover going underground

Going Underground was one of the first books that ever changed the way I saw the world. When I read it, I hadn’t even heard of the problem the book addressed (I’m purposefully being vague so I won’t ruin the surprise), but its message has stayed with me to today.

10. Megan Whalen Turner

Finally, Megan Whalen Turner is the author that convinced me that slow, carefully written books with hidden meanings are my favorite. Her stories do not race from start to finish, but if you give them a chance, they will blow you away.


Which authors are you thankful for? Have you read any of these books? Do you have any recommendations?

Discussion Post: Blogging for Likes

I’ve been mulling over this topic in my mind for a while now, and I’ve finally decided to get over myself and just write it. This was partially inspired by Victoria’s post @ Doodles and Scraps in which she talked about how she feels about getting likes versus getting subscribers, and the difference in her follower and like counts:

Like I said, my follower count is going up, and it’s amazing! My likes seem to be going down a bit, though? Not hugely, just by a couple, so I’m averaging around 15 likes per post. For someone with nearly 700 subscribers, that seems awfully low.

I think a lot of WordPress bloggers can relate to this sentiment. Unlike a platform like Instagram, where hitting 100 likes is relatively simple, WordPress is not a “like heavy” platform. I have almost 600 followers, but if one of my posts gets 20 likes, I basically die of happiness.

Now, I love WordPress. It is easy to use and looks fairly professional. It is the home of hundreds of amazing book bloggers. The WordPress Reader app on my phone is my main method of blog-hopping. I’m not going to abandon WordPress because it’s hard to get likes…I’m not that shallow.

I am kind of shallow, though.

That’s what this post is about. I’m going to lay out my feelings on blogging for likes, and I’m honestly curious to see if you guys feel the same way.

So…do I want likes?

Umm, yes. Likes and comments are awesome. They make me feel like people actually care about what I’m saying and they help me take pride in my posts. Getting WordPress notifications is sometimes the best part of my day.

Of course, I like comments more than likes, especially on a review or a discussion post when someone is really responding to my content. I think we all crave the personal nature of a comment…but I also enjoy the little rush of a like.

So…do I blog for likes?

Yes? No? Sometimes?

Yes: I take part in Top Ten Tuesday because it is a fairly reliable way to get traffic to my blog and the posts generally do well in terms of likes.

No: I don’t tailor the books I read to match with current hype. I pretty much just read what I’m in the mood for when I’m in the mood for it and then write a review.

Yes: Sometimes I choose not to write a review for a second book in a series if the review for the first book totally flopped.

No: I throw out some poetry on my blog every once and a while. I know the poems won’t attract a ton of likes, mainly because this is a bookish blog more than it is a writing blog, but I still do it because I enjoy it.

So here’s what it comes down to:

I have a blog because I love talking about books. Blogging helps me revisit the books I’ve read, learn about new ones, and celebrate my favorites. I didn’t start my blog to get likes or followers—I honestly didn’t think it would happen. And overall, I don’t blog for the likes, I blog for the act of blogging and to be a part of the community.

But still, it would be dishonest to act like I don’t care about likes. I choose which posts to put energy into based on how well I think they will do. I’m a high school student with a limited amount of time to blog and a desperate need for good news, so it is impossible for me to separate the act of blogging from people’s reactions to my posts.


What about you? Do you think about likes when you’re writing a post? Do you care about likes/comments/followers? Was this post relatable or foreign to you?

Poetry: This Was Supposed to Be a Poem

I wrote this last night after an indescribable school day. I am extremely raw and frustrated right now. I know that we will get through this, but that does not mean that yesterday was not horrifying.

This was supposed to be a poem

About victory and relief

With lyrical metaphors of broken

Glass ceilings.

 

This is not a poem

About victory

I have nothing to share but what I saw today:

 

Empty faces

Scared

Shocked

Searching for something other than

This.

 

Off-balance bodies

That tried to step forward and were instead shoved

Back.

 

Wide eyes and muddled minds

That forgot youth

Was a bubble, and all bubbles

Pop.

 

My class is staring into our future

And a horrifying abyss is staring

Back.

 

We thought we would break glass last night,

But we broke instead.