Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Daughter of the Burning City by Amanda Foody

Daughter of the Burning City by Amanda Foody
Harlequin Teen, 2017
*second cheat book for February 2018, received in Once Upon a Book Club YA August 2017 box*

First off a confession - this is technically the SECOND cheat book for me for February. I'm so ashamed. *hangs head* I had an ARC from the 2017 Book Expo, but I got rid of it and never read it while I technically owned it.  So....when I decided I really wanted to try out the Once Upon a Book Club book boxes, one of the ways I justified it was that I had technically already had this book once upon a time, but realistically this is a second cheat book for me....

Now that I've made my confession, let me tell you my thoughts on the book itself! Aside from a super pretty cover - it's purple and rich and dark and twisty (which always appeals to me), it has a wicked premise. I kind of want to jump into Foody's head to see the world from which she plucked this story and its characters.

In this book, when the fabled ancient city of Gomorrah burned, it did not disappear.  Rather through a series of powerful enchantments it turned into a forever burning, moving city, now the most decadent, wicked city festival in the world. The daughter of the city's proprietor, Sorina, is an illusionist who runs the festival's freak show... populated, aside from herself, entirely with entertainers who also happen to be illusions that she has created.  A half-man, half tree, a girl with no bones, a man who is covered with fingernails rather than hair, a hark-girl who soars above the audience, a man who breathes through gills and wears a water helmet when not in his tank, a baby who spits fire, a two-headed boy, and a manager who (sometimes) has the strength of ten men.

When they travel to the contentious Northern mountains region they face hostility from the local government run on religious principles. Shortly after arrival in their first Northern city region, one of Sorina's illusions is murdered; a feat that should have been impossible.  As she and her family grieve, she also begins to investigate and her discoveries illuminate not only a traitor in their midst, but facets of herself that she never knew existed. 

The festival atmosphere coupled with the danger to Sorina and her illusions drew me in from the very start.  It was easy to visualize Gomorrah and its inhabitants, to see the festival workers and what they offered to the public.  Then the idea that Sorina could bring her imaginings to life is so amazing.  I wish I could show others the things I see in my head sometimes!  So often I mourn my lack of true artistic talent because what I see in my mind's eye and what appears on paper are two disappointingly different things.  *sigh*

The story unfolds well and I was on the hook right until the revelation at the very end. I liked how even the illusion characters had their own fully-faceted personalities, just as if they were real family members to Sorina.  I mourned along with her when each murder occurred.  The topics of grief and family dynamics are both well explored here. 

I thoroughly enjoyed this book and am looking forward to reading more from Amanda Foody!

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Once Upon a Book Club - My First Unboxing!

So, something I discovered in the last few years that I've always found fascinating but never got a chance before to try are book subscription boxes.  They have all different varieties at different price points and some offer single box purchases as well as monthly, quarterly, or annual subscriptions. 

So what are they?  Well many of them offer a signed or exclusive first edition hardcover of a newly released book with five to six themed bookish goodies included in the box with the book.  If you want to check them out online, some of the biggest are Owlcrate, LitJoy, or the one I'm going to discuss today, Once Upon a Book Club.

Once Upon a Book Club is an amazing interactive reading experience.  They have two boxes each month.  One that features an adult fiction book, and one that features a young adult fiction book. Then, here's how they differ from other book boxes, they include wrapped "presents" that are items you unwrap as you reach marked pages while you read the book! They are curated to match the important pieces of text and it really brings the book to life.  Plus, Once Upon a Book Club now does discussion questions for their readers and arranges for a Q&A with the author of the featured book.  Very, very cool.

I really wanted to try this box out, but I was nervous to try the newest box (they do not tell you the book title ahead of time, only give hints) so I purchased an older box from their website that featured a book I was dying to read anyway, Daughter of the Burning City by Amanda Foody. It was their August 2017 YA box.

Spoilers ahead!!! 

So as I read the book which is about a girl who runs the freak show, full of her own living, breathing illusions, in the moving carnival-city of Gomorrah, there were four places where there were sticky notes that prompted me to open one of the gifts in the box. 

As Sorina gets frustrated with her new friend Luca, she storms outside his tent and kicks over the wooden sign he has outside proclaiming his talent.  Included in the box was a version of this wooden sign! Very cute.

Next, I was prompted to open a gift when Sorina finds a bag of fifteen gold coins that she didn't realize she had collected from someone and lo and behold, there was a bag of "gold" coins included in the box!

The third prompt was to open a small box when Sorina takes Luca's pocket watch for close inspection after he's been arrested.  The box contained a replica of the watch described... including the damning inscription that alerts Sorina that something about Luca is not what it seems...and it works in real life. So cool!

The last prompt came right at the end of the book so I don't want to spoil things in case you choose to read the book (and I would recommend it; I enjoyed it!) but I will say that the gift was a red sequined mask which was very fitting.  Sorina wears a variety of masks throughout the book.

So, here's my full unboxing (revealing what the box contained):

Daughter of the Burning City
Hardcover copy and poster
Wooden sign reading "Gossip-Worker" 
Bag of 15 "gold" coins
Pocket watch (that actually works!)
Red sequined mask

All in all, this was a GREAT box with a fun to read book, made even more special because of the interactive method used to read the book.  I kind of wish I had gotten the box when it first came out and other people who had gotten the box did the readalong, etc, as that would have been even more fun, but I enjoyed it all on my own!

I will definitely be trying this box again sometime in the future. I may even be asking for a gift subscription when my birthday comes around this year. 

Full disclosure: book box purchased, I did not receive this for review or endorsement, all opinions are firmly my own.

Friday, February 9, 2018

Coveting the New and Shiny

While I'm sticking to my guns and working within the confines of my self-imposed 2018 Books I Already Own Challenge, I have to admit I am COVETING all the new and shiny books I see all over social media...and in my own Library.  *sigh*
My January Cheat Book
My February Cheat Book

I am allowing myself one new book a month as my "cheat book," and while that's helping, it's very much also forcing me to be VERY, very choosy.  I have a list of potential cheat books already and as more books get published this year, I'm sure it will be added to, and I cannot see how I'm possibly going to survive having to parcel them out one per month without dying of jealousy when I cannot get to the whole list I'm dying to read, LOL!!

Just for the first three months of the year alone, I have a list of another six books I'm making grabby hands at... definitely not going to work out for the one per month rate I'd been hoping would just be a nice and easy way to satisfy my urge for the new and shiny. 😂

Anyway, I haven't yet decided what my cheat book will be for March, and there aren't any I'm desperately coveting in April yet, so I may be able to read two of these at least without going outside my challenge:

Released in January
Released in January
Released in February

Released in February
Released in February
Releasing in March

It's so hard sometimes to put off reading the shiny, new, gorgeous and awesome sounding books that everyone else is reading and enjoying, but I did challenge myself this year and it's meant to be tough and I want to try to keep with it for as long as possible.  So... I guess a couple of these will be going onto my list to read in 2019.  Now, how to decide???? *wails*

Any other books you're coveting this spring?