Sunday, August 19, 2018

ARC Review: Shadow of the Fox By Julie Kagawa

Shadow of the Fox by Julie Kagawa
Publisher: Harlequin Teen
Release Date: October 2nd, 2018
Format: Egalley,
Source: Netgalley*
My Rating: 

Goodreads ★ Amazon ★ B&N ★ TBD

One thousand years ago, the great Kami Dragon was summoned to grant a single terrible wish—and the land of Iwagoto was plunged into an age of darkness and chaos.

Now, for whoever holds the Scroll of a Thousand Prayers, a new wish will be granted. A new age is about to dawn.

Raised by monks in the isolated Silent Winds temple, Yumeko has trained all her life to hide her yokai nature. Half kitsune, half human, her skill with illusion is matched only by her penchant for mischief. Until the day her home is burned to the ground, her adoptive family is brutally slain and she is forced to flee for her life with the temple’s greatest treasure—one part of the ancient scroll.

There are many who would claim the dragon’s wish for their own. Kage Tatsumi, a mysterious samurai of the Shadow Clan, is one such hunter, under orders to retrieve the scroll…at any cost. Fate brings Kage and Yumeko together. With a promise to lead him to the scroll, an uneasy alliance is formed, offering Yumeko her best hope for survival. But he seeks what she has hidden away, and her deception could ultimately tear them both apart.

With an army of demons at her heels and the unlikeliest of allies at her side, Yumeko’s secrets are more than a matter of life or death. They are the key to the fate of the world itself.
Okay full disclosure, I LOVE Julie Kagawa. I read all of her Iron Fey series during the summer in between my college years, and I adored them so much! I read Talon from her a few years ago, so I was so excited when Netgalley* gave me the opportunity to read an advanced reader copy of the first book in her newest series, Shadow of the Fox! 

This fantasy series was so cool, because it really dug deep into Japanese feudal society and folklore of the Yokai. Which I knew next to nothing about going into this book, but I feel like I have learned a lot about Japanese mythology, while also being really entertained! I saw a lot of reviews saying it gave them Inuyasha feels, and I would say that is pretty accurate. She paints a clear picture with her words of the setting of this novel, and I also felt like I got a really good sense of the culture. 

At first I was really unsure about this novel because we are introduced to a character whom I thought was the protagonist, and then we kind of forget about her and focus on our main characters Yumeko & Tatsumi. I was so very confused, but that character you first meet does play a part later on in the novel, I just didn't know it yet. I was really glad that Kagawa brought that around, because I was thinking, "okay, why have that intro??" I also got over it, because I really loved the characters Yumeko and Tatsumi that were brought to life later in the book.

Yumeko is a super interesting character to me, she's a half-Yokai -- a Kitsune (fox), but she has to hide her true form when she ends up traveling with humans. I found her delightful, even though she is super naive and trusts anyone she comes across. I think it makes sense since she grew up in a temple raised by Monks and knows pretty much nothing about the outside world. I also think she is so trusting because she likes to see the good in everyone and she really tries to do the right thing. Even though at the same time she is deceiving everyone around her. I think her personality really painted the conflict she feels inside of trying to balance her human and Yokai sides. 

Tatsumi is such a stoic, crotchety character, so of course I loved him! He has a lot on his plate, and is dealing with his own demons (literally) so it's really hard for him to trust anyone or even be around other people. My heart really broke for him and his situation. I'm not sure if it's clear about his background in the Shadow Clan. I was curious if he was born into it, or if he's like a slave and can never leave it. Can he chose to leave the life of Shinobi, or is he stuck in his predicament? I'm hoping to get more answers on this as this series progresses. I also feel there might be a slow burn romance between Tatsumi and Yumeko? He definitely learns to care for her, and I liked seeing that struggle in Tatsumi. 

This book was so action-packed! It also is a "quest" novel, which is my favorite type of fantasy novels to read. I loved all the trials and Yokai they come across in their journey to the Steel Feather Temple. They collect a group to travel there and come across some real binds to get out of. Like a cursed town, a demon bear and a blood mage! This book was so exciting! Although, fair warning if you have read Kagawa before, you know she likes to leave you itching for the next book in the series. This one was no different. The book doesn't end with Yumeko getting to the Temple. She has just started her journey, and it ends with some crazy things that will need to get resolved in the next books. I am very excited to continue reading this series and see where it goes. 

This book is written in different perspectives, sometimes it was in third person, and sometimes we would get the first person switching back between Tatsumi and Yumeko. I found this slightly distracting, and I think maybe this book would be slightly better written in third person altogether. I also had some issues distinguishing between the two first person voices. It wasn't a deal breaker for me, because the plot and action in this novel was amazing, but it did make me rate this a little lower than I normally would. I still think this is a really awesome start to a series, and I highly recommend it.

Are you excited for this new series? 

*I received a free egalley copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Happy Reads Everyone!

Friday, August 17, 2018

One With The Force: The Jedi Order Is Kind Of The Worst

Another new One With The Force post coming at you, and it didn't take me another 4 months to post this feature. 😂

Today, I want to talk about the Jedi Order, and how I think they are not all that cracked up to be. A lot of this stems from the current Star Wars lore from the prequel movies, the Clone Wars cartoons...and the Knights of the Old Republic video game. I'm also not 100% sure if the lore we learn about in the game are officially canon, but Dave Filoni did bring some of that lore in Star Wars Rebels with the Dark Saber and Mandalorian Wars. So take this all with a grain of salt. That being sad MASSIVE spoilers ahead for the KOTOR video game, so if you haven't played the game yet (I mean it came out in 2003, so I think it's been long enough now) I would maybe skip over that part. I will being putting SPOILER ahead of the paragraph I talk about that and END SPOILER so you can still experience this post.

I think one of my key problems with the Jedi Council is how they treat Anakin Skywalker, and I think a lot of how they deal with him being "too old" and being so strict might have played a hand in his turn to the dark side. The Jedi would get mad if Anakin didn't do something the way they wanted it to be done, and throughout The Clone Wars he was getting continually frustrated with how they handled things. This drove a wedge between him and his master Obi-Wan, which allowed for Palpatine to really seduce him to the dark side. BUT, I still think the Jedi are a little hypocritical. They believe in not killing prisoners, so when they finally figure out Palpatine is the Sith Lord, Anakin is surprised that Mace Windu wants to just kill him out right, because that's "not the Jedi Way." Anakin tries to do right, and tries to adhere to the code, but it ends up back firing and he is further seduced by the dark side. Isn't it a little hypocritical for the Jedi to just want to kill a villain out right? From what we know of the old order, they only killed when they had to and there was no other option. They didn't get joy out of killing a enemy, but in the case with Palpatine and Mace, it seems like Mace is not living by the Jedi Code. That part in Revenge of the Sith has always bothered me. Anakin was trying so hard to do what he was supposed to, but the Council just beat him down at every chance they could.

So, there is a big reveal in the Knights of the Old Republic, which was spoiled for me anytime I got stuck on something and had to look something up on a forum. It's okay though this game came out in 2003! So the character you play kinda doesn't know what they are doing in the battle, but it's discovered that they are strong in the Force so the Jedi Council agrees to train them. Even though they complain again about them being too old, another rule that annoys me about their order. So you go around trying to stop the evil Darth Malak, who was once a Jedi but fell to the dark side alongside his master Darth Revan, who he later killed. Guess who the playable character is??? Darth F---ing Revan!

The Jedi decided that because they don't kill prisoners, they saved Revan and essentially brainwashed them to fight on their side. WHAT.THE.ACTUAL.F!! It made me so mad when I found that out! I still played the game on the light side, because that's how I role, but it's also what sparked me to write this post in the first place. The Jedi basically try to excuse it because they were doing something for "the greater good", and I think that is just such BS! I think it makes them out to be such massive hypocrites. Like, how does that make the Jedi better than The Sith? Just because they are doing it for the "right" reasons? UGH, I'm still mad about it. It's exactly what the Sith do to one of the party members in the game once this is revealed, so I think it just really shows that The Jedi really aren't that much different from The Sith.

Let's also talk about the whole "Only a Sith Deals In Absolutes." Um...dude, that in itself is an absolute. I think that problem with the Sith and the Jedi is that they both think their way is the right way. The Jedi believe that being on the path of the light is how to be just and good, but the Sith think that the Jedi imprison them by not allowing them to use some of the dark energy of the force. I think they are both wrong. I think they are actually just a different side of the same coin. They are just one extreme over the other, and I think what "balance in the force" really means to be able to pull from both the dark and light side of the force, but not let it take over you. Yes, you guessed it, I am a fan of Grey Jedis! I really think Grey Jedis are the whole point of being in balance with the force. It might also be why I love Star Wars characters that don't hold strictly to the teachings, but kind of do their own thing. Or like Ahsoka just walked away from the order because they were basically untrustworthy to her.

The whole "no attachments" rule has also always irritated me, a lot. I mean that's how you got Darth Vader! You done goofed, Jedi Council! Like, I get why this order has this rule, but I think their structure about love turning people to the dark side is a little far-fetched. The Jedi aren't unfeeling, and they definitely have attachments to either each, so the you can't love rule just always seemed really dumb to me. I will say that I do like in the Clone Wars that Obi-Wan would have left the order, his whole life, for the woman he loved, but they both think their duty is more important than their love. So in theory, some Jedi might have left because of this, but the rule has always seemed dumb to me.

After playing KOTOR, I started to really think about the Jedi Order and all the things they do. I think they do a lot of things wrong. So, this is probably the most controversial thing I will say on this blog, but...I kinda get why in The Last Jedi Luke doesn't want the order to continue. Like, they F--ed up A LOT!

What do you think? I want to hear what you think about this. Are the Jedi as bad as the Sith? Do you think despite all this, the Jedi Order should be returned?

Happy Reads Everyone!

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Deanna Plays: KOTOR was the Star Wars game I was looking for

Deanna Plays is a monthly feature on this blog where every third Thursday of the month I talk about something related to video games. Sometimes these are reviews of the games themselves, sometimes it's a list of books to read if you play X, and anything in between!

I've got another Deanna Plays coming at ya! Which, I totally thought I was posting NEXT week because I thought the third Thursday of the month was next week. FAIL! So, bear in mind this one might be a little sloppy, but who am I kidding dear reader, you are used to sloppy Deanna by now.

Today I am talking about the video game Knights of the Old Republic (KOTOR). This game is super old (circa 2003) that was developed by Bioware. 😍😍 I am a Bioware fangirl so no surprise that I loved this game. I could also really see where the company would eventually go with their other games Mass Effect and Dragon Age. It was really fun to see that transition backwards. 

Like I said, the game is old so the mechanics of it are very clunky. The combat was also very weird to me, since it was kind of turn-based which was a new experience for me. I don't think I really like turn-based combat in games. I definitely prefer real-time combat. I got over it, but it took me a really long time to get into this game because it's mechanics were so outdated. Like, I walked away from it for MONTHS before picking it up again and plowing through it in just a couple of weeks.

What really mattered to me was the story. I love a good RPG, and this game was what I wanted in a Star Wars game. I am pretty disappointed we don't have a more current Star Wars game like this one right now. I'm not a FPS gamer, so Battlefront didn't cut it for me, even with the single-player campaign the added into the second one. I'm just not interested in it. I love a game where I get to make complicated choices, and where I get to recruit a diverse group of characters that I get to learn more about as the game progresses. KOTOR gave me all of that. I also think there was a romance to this, but I think I totally messed it up with Carth so nothing ever happened. CARTH?!? Why don't you love me? 

I ended up really loving this game, even though the big twist really annoyed me. I have a post that will go into the spoiler zone about that tomorrow for One With The Force. I found the ending super frustrating in this game, but that's normal for big battle endings. I definitely didn't prepare well enough! This game was fun, and I really enjoyed it, this is the type of game I hope we get to see in the near future from Star Wars, but I'm not sure if we will get it.

Have you played KOTOR? What did you think?

Happy Reads Everyone!

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Top Ten Tuesday: Favorite Bookish Blogs/Websites

Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish in June of 2010 and was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January of 2018. It was born of a love of lists, a love of books, and a desire to bring bookish friends together.

Oh, man, this topic is really hard to write about! But not in the way you think. I find it hard to come up with ten bookish blog/website, because there are just so many to choose from! It's going to be really hard for me to narrow it down, because they are so many I want to include. Let's see how I do! technically AudioShelf is a bookish podcast, but I am going to break the rules and include them, because I love what Brad and Britney bring to the table with their fun podcast about audiobooks!

I've got to include Greg from Greg's Book Haven on this list. Greg is a machine! He pumps out so much content on his blog, I don't know how he does it! He's also super friendly, and I love chatting with him about different books either via our blogs or twitter. Also, I am pretty sure he is the ONLY one that reads my star war feature One with the Force. Thanks, Greg!

Val from the Innocent Smiley is one of my favorite bloggers. We bonded over our mutual love for Garrus Vakarian in the Mass Effect video games. I also love that she has a similar style of blogging to me. She just writes when she feels like and if she doesn't feel like it, she just doesn't post. It's great!

Another blogger I have been in contact with for awhile is Jess from Jessticulates (Formerly Curiouser and Curiouser). I think Jess and I started communicated during one of the Sci-Fi Months? I honestly can't remember. But it's her I have to thank for getting me to finally read Silvia Moreno-Garcia, and she is one of my favorite writers now! Thanks, Jess!

BookRiot is bookish website that I adore. They have so much content, and a lot of it comes from writers and contributors of different background and opinions. Also they have a TON of podcasts, which I love. They also have a ton of different giveaways at any given point. I also get an email from them everyday for the best deals they have found on Kindle books on amazon that day. IT'S AWESOME!

Erica from Erica Robyn Reads and I connected fairly recently, in the last year or so, I think? I love her blog! She is super responsive, and she reads a lot of different content from me that it's always interesting to read what she's thinking. I love all the kid's books she reviews. They are always so cute, and have the best artwork!

Okay, again techincally this is a podcast, but 88 Cups of Tea does also have a website with amazing content, and there is closed Facebook group you can join. I'm a part of it, and a lot of it is for aspiring writers to discuss their writing process. I'm ashamed I haven't been that active on it because I shamefully have not been writing again. I am so glad that Yin Chang created this space for us writers. 

I'm pretty sure I discovered Destiny from Howling Libraries through a past Top Ten Tuesday post I wrote. I love all the stuff she does with her blog. If you love horror, she has been reviewing a ton of it lately. Go check her out!

I was pretty sure Darque Dreamer Reads was another blog I found through TTT, but now I'm not sure. What I liked about her blog is that it's not just about books, she also does beauty reviews. She also has awesome hair!! I love the colors on her blog too. It's so colorful!

Drew is another book blogger that I adore, mostly because he's funny AF and he's not afraid to swear a lot on his blog! I wish I had his courage. I mean I swear A LOT in real life, but not so much on the blog. Drew has written some funny posts about how not to submit review requests to bloggers, and on the subject on selling ARCs. They are great, go check out his blog.

There are some many other bloggers I love, that I just couldn't fit on this list. Who are some of your favorite bookish blogs?

Happy Reads Everyone!