Categories
Fantasy Young Adult

ARC Review: The Gilded Ones by Namina Forna

Thank you so much to the publisher for my ARC of The Gilded Ones in exchange for an honest review! All opinions are my own

Quick Facts:

  • Title: The Gilded Ones
  • Series: Deathless, #1
  • Author: Namina Forna
  • Publisher & Release: Delacorte Press, 2/9,/21
  • Length: 422 pg
  • Rate & Recommend: 🌟🌟🌟⚡ probably for YA readers who don’t get too hung up on details

Here is the synopsis from Goodreads:

Sixteen-year-old Deka lives in fear and anticipation of the blood ceremony that will determine whether she will become a member of her village. Already different from everyone else because of her unnatural intuition, Deka prays for red blood so she can finally feel like she belongs.

But on the day of the ceremony, her blood runs gold, the color of impurity–and Deka knows she will face a consequence worse than death.

Then a mysterious woman comes to her with a choice: stay in the village and submit to her fate, or leave to fight for the emperor in an army of girls just like her. They are called alaki–near-immortals with rare gifts. And they are the only ones who can stop the empire’s greatest threat.

Knowing the dangers that lie ahead yet yearning for acceptance, Deka decides to leave the only life she’s ever known. But as she journeys to the capital to train for the biggest battle of her life, she will discover that the great walled city holds many surprises. Nothing and no one are quite what they seem to be–not even Deka herself.

So… This is a nicely brutal tale about girls with demon heritage being tortured and bled for their Golden blood, then eventually murdered via the religious Death Mandate for their kind.  I was really excited to see religious purity in a book until I quickly realized it was an oppressive, not pious set of laws.

The women are relegated to male servants per the Infinite Wisdoms, until Deka is brought to the Capitol city to train in the emperor’s army of demons, alaki, which will defeat these Deathshrieks.  There is a huge reverse info dump at the end of the book but we don’t learn much about them, or the history of the empire until that time.

Quickly about the writing: anyone wanting to write first person present tense needs to read this book, she is one of the rare authors ( or has a beast editor) that doesn’t cross tenses!

Here is an itemized list of the issues I had with the world building, in no particular order:

1) The book started in a cold weather climate, but everyone is wearing delicate ceremonial dresses. Finally on the journey to the capitol the author remembers that it’s cold and they need furs

2)once the girls are brought to the Warthu Beta (training house) – things happen SUPER fast in the weapons and martial arts training. I’m supposed to believe that in two weeks they go from clueless to clever swordsmasters? Come on, show us some of that training. It’s like a ridiculous fast forward and magically they are all warriors.

3) so the Jatu recruits and female Alaki are supposed to pair up and be battle/life buddies. The whole book focuses on male to female/demon animosity – but- there is really no bonding at all shown between the pair, they just kind of become trusting fireside bffs one night after those mysterious training weeks pass

4) instalove – oh my gosh the kid back home called her pretty, ONE TIME, and later looking back she said she loved him 😂😂 I can almost ship Keita and Deka but we needed that bonding time that wasn’t shown

5) the plot and twists read VERY closely to Skyhunter which came out earlier this year – oh yes very monstrous monster bad guys, very inhuman indeed

6) dumb animal names – Ex: leopardan – it’s a fantasy world, either come up with fantasy names or call it a stupid blue leopard. I did like Ixa the shapeshifting not-cat though

7) if the One Nation is literally an entire hemisphere (I’m guessing Russia, Asia, irish&etc, and Africa), why so much land grabbing? The scale of land required to produce four separate races like that is essentially an entire hemisphere, now within one nation, and that should be shown on the map.

8) feeding off #7 – I would have liked a brief explanation of life during the rule of The Gilded Ones – is Forna omitting it because the entire history is a lie and life was terrible back then? Or are we supposed to just believe that they were fair/awesome rulers and take it at face value? The jatu did manage to unite an entire hemisphere though, the goddesses might have created a women’s world with oppressed men for all we know, and they could have been right to fight back. Either way, uniting a whole hemisphere under one nation is pretty impressive and not addressing this is a huge plot hole.

9) lack of setting – I get that describing sand dunes is stupid but most of the descriptions were of people and animals. What about the jungle, the common areas, even the food? Some scenes had scents described. Setting is what connects to the atmosphere…of which there wasn’t much of one.

I mean it’s not even a bad story, or a story you read every day. I like the idea of torturing someone to death nine times and teaching them to survive, but these YA authors aren’t thinking their worlds through very well and I don’t think that ‘character driven’ OR that it’s a Young Adult book is a good excuse not to at least cover world building basics. Everything I addressed up there could have been fixed without much extra page space.

The good things included female friendships, teachers (whose potential were mostly wasted as no lessons were really shown), shapeshifting pets, snarky horse-people, and… A not really happy ending. It’s an ending fitting for the story even though it got a little sappy for the tone leading up to it.

I did like the main group of girls too, Britta and Belcalis were about as different as two people can get and they still made a fast group of allies, friends with Deka. There’s an unconventional amount of grimdark suffering and it’s kind of terrific.

Overall? Honestly not a bad read just poorly executed at times. Could be a standalone but there’s at least one more book coming. It releases 2/9, and I am pretty neutral on recommending it as the good story and the lack of world building make it a wash. I’ll read the next one though.

Categories
Fiction Literary Fiction

ARC Review: Sophomores by Sean Desmond

Thank you so much to the publisher for my giveaway digital ARC of Sophomores!  I don,’t always gravitate towards general / literary fiction but read the last 50% of this one in one night and have no regrets!

Quick Facts:

  • Title: Sophomores
  • Series: N/A
  • Author: Sean Desmond
  • Publisher & Release: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1/26/21
  • Length: 384 pg
  • Rate & Recommend: 🌟🌟🌟🌟 for fans of fiction, nostalgia, and literary discourse!

Here is the synopsis from Amazon:

The late 1980s come alive in this moving and keenly observed story of one boy’s unforgettable sophomore year, and his parents’ surprising journey alongside him.

It’s fall 1987 and life as normal is ending for the Malone family. With their sterile Dallas community a far cry from the Irish-American Bronx of their youth, Pat and Anne Malone have reached a breaking point. Pat, faced with a debilitating MS diagnosis, has fallen into his drinking. Anne, his devoutly Catholic wife, is selected as a juror for a highly publicized attempted murder trial, one that raises questions–about God, and about men in power–she has buried her entire life. Together, they try to raise their only son, Daniel, a bright but unmotivated student who is shocked into actual learning by an enigmatic English teacher. For once, Dan is unable to fly under the radar, and is finally asked to consider what he might want to make of his life.

With humor and tenderness, Sophomores brilliantly captures the enduring poignancy of coming of age, teenage epiphanies and heartbreak, and family redemption.

Such a great premise.  I latched onto “enigmatic English teacher” and decided to give the book a shot! The book follows each member of the Malone family for about a year, and I think the easiest way to review this one is to give each character/storyline a paragraph!

Let’s start with Dan: he is a sophomore in a private high school for boys, smart but not drawing attention to it. His absolutely brilliant honors English teacher sparks a sense of Give-A-Shit into Dan when Mr. Oglesby challenges the class to not be regular rats, but Norwegian rats! It’s just something you have to read.  Dan deals with his father’s alcoholism and sickness, and the family’s overall dysfunction, while navigating sophomore year amongst a group of realistically loveable and ridiculous friends.  I liked having glimpses into their shenanigans and family troubles, and they were funny!

It’s not a party til someone shoots a firework out of their ass, right? 😂😂

Anne, the mother, is selected to be a juror in a local high profile attempted murder trial, where a Reverend tried to (allegedly) murder his wife .  I think Anne sees herself and her own suffocation in the victim.  What a life, I can’t imagine having a blithering alcoholic husband who loses his job and keeps spending money on alcohol! I would be screaming and picking fights too, but I have to hand it to her for staying in the house.  Anne’s unravelling is pretty sad to see

Pat, the father, is an alcoholic like his own father.  He loses his job at the airline after enough people catch him drinking when he should probably be working or available for work.  He knows he’s sick, with both MS and Alcoholism, and has an epiphany in the hospital at one point where he and this other alcoholic are just taking up beds for people who might be having real emergencies. Yep, that happens.  I really disliked Pat, I’m kind of surprised he wasn’t scared of alcohol after his own childhood.  His point of view served to show the family’s history a bit too though and then he became the broken head of a broken  household, trying to break the cycle he was stuck in.

Would Oglesby like that analysis? I wish my AP English teacher cared so much!

Anyway – all of the storylines form well rounded, thoughtful characters.  Dan’s hilarious friends and high school life offset some of the tougher themes like faith and broken families.  It is a very real story that spares no feelings whatsoever, and I did read the last 50% in one sitting 😳

My only thing was the absolute number of words I had to look up! I consider my vocabulary pretty well rounded and I was still thankful to be reading on Kindle so I could just click words! So many words.

I would totally recommend for anyone interested in high school nostalgia, literary discourse, football, Irish American slice of life, fiction in general, and family stories!

Categories
Crime Historical Fiction Mysteries Suspense

Book Review: Germania by Harald Gilbers

Thank you so much to Thomas Dunne Books & St Martin’s Press for the lovely finished copy of Germania in exchange for an honest review! All opinions are my own!

I would start by profusely apologizing for my turnover time on this book, reading has been a little bit impossible as my work schedule still averages 4-5 12hr nights a week! The good news is: this is my last back logged book!! Literally all my books now are publishing in February or later! Yay for small victories and let’s hope the pandemic winds down soon so the hospital can go back to normal

Anyway anyway, without further adieu..

Quick Facts:

  • Title: Germania
  • Series: Richard Oppenheimer #1
  • Author: Harald Gilbers (tr. Alexandra Roesch)
  • Publisher & Release: Thomas Dunne Books, December 2020
  • Length: 348 pg
  • Rate & Recommend: 🌟🌟🌟⚡ yes for mystery/investigative/WWII fans!

Here is the synopsis from GoodReads:

From international bestselling author Harald Gilbers comes the heart-pounding story of Jewish detective Richard Oppenheimer as he hunts for a serial killer through war-torn Nazi Berlin in Germania.

Berlin 1944: a serial killer stalks the bombed-out capital of the Reich, preying on women and laying their mutilated bodies in front of war memorials. All of the victims are linked to the Nazi party. But according to one eyewitness account, the perpetrator is not an opponent of Hitler’s regime, but rather a loyal Nazi.

Jewish detective Richard Oppenheimer, once a successful investigator for the Berlin police, is reactivated by the Gestapo and forced onto the case. Oppenheimer is not just concerned with catching the killer and helping others survive, but also his own survival. Worst of all, solving this case is what will certainly put him in the most jeopardy. With no other choice but to further his investigation, he feverishly searches for answers, and a way out of this dangerous game.

In Germania, Richard Oppenheimer used to be a detective for the Berlin police, but as a Jew under Hitler he is now forced to work a menial job. One SS agent is stumped when a serial killer starts leaving desecrated bodies in front of WW1 memorials, and he consults (forces) Oppenheimer to help catch the killer. Amidst air raids and bombs and constant fear of death in the rubble of Berlin, Oppenheimer and Vogler try to solve this case.

The setting felt so real as well with rubble strewn streets, frequent rain fall, bombed out buildings, and foreigners from everywhere.  It ties in perfectly with the blackouts, oppressive and depressing overall atmosphere of the book.

So much danger, whether from the constant air strikes, Hitler’s regime, or a truly brutal killer, makes this a quietly exciting mystery.  Oppenheimer is clever and an observant investigator, so many pages are spent as he puzzles out the case to his new boss, Vogler.   Some thoroughly brutal descriptions of desecration were enough to really give me the chills about this killer.

I liked the characters too, Richard knows that his life is hanging by a thread but he still feels the thrill of being back on the case.  He is an inherently good person.  I think Vogler is too, he would never admit it but he sticks his neck out for Oppenheimer quite a bit and has at least a small streak of humanity.  I would have liked a little more from the killer – they had a few paragraphs here and there but it was hard to tell when he was the one being featured, and the glimpses were small! I think he had a good and believable arc to insanity though.

As he is investigating, Oppenheimer learns that he is not being told all the facts.  That says, he does a phenomenal job with what he is given.  It’s definitely more of a literary investigative mystery than a thriller, although some parts are exciting.  I don’t know much about German history at all so it was also interesting to read about landmarks, architecture, and some of Hitler’s less than popular Aryan breeding and spy schemes.

It is also my first German translated book.  I don’t think a lot of German words and phrases translate well, which created some blocky language and curious phrases at times, but not enough to affect enjoyment.  Gilbers is a history proficient theater writer, so I felt like I was getting an accurate portrayal of Nazi politics as well as a dramatic and depressing atmosphere.

I definitely couldn’t figure out why the party cared so much about one murderer… But… You’ll find out why when you read it!

I took the 1.5 stars off for the book being a little anticlimactic – I think Oppenheimer should have been more present during the criminal apprehensions, but his role was only to figure out who did it. Also without knowing the German history I had to look up quite a few abbreviations, and lord knows that German words are a mouthful to pronounce. All the points for setting and atmosphere though and for the characters.

I think this is a wonderfully human mystery and would recommend to anyone interested!

Categories
General Fiction Historical Fiction Literary Fiction

ARC Review: The Arsonists’ City by Hala Alyan

Thanks so much to Bookish First and HMH (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt) for the advanced copy of The Arsonists’ City in exchange for an honest review! All opinions are my own.

This is an extremely rich and nuanced look into family, life, heritage, and identity, but I struggled with whether or not to feature this one on the blog.  I try really hard to stick to cleaner content these days and there are more than a few mature sexual situations & adultery in this one, but there’s also a discourse on humanity, immigration, and reconciliation that as a 30-something, I could appreciate, and hey, we are all adults here.

Quick Facts:

  • Title: The Arsonists’ City
  • Author: Hala Alyan
  • Publisher & Release: HMH, 03/09/21
  • Length: 464 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: 🌟🌟🌟 yes for fans of the genre

Here is the synopsis from GoodReads:

A rich family story, a personal look at the legacy of war in the Middle East, and an indelible rendering of how we hold on to the people and places we call home

The Nasr family is spread across the globe—Beirut, Brooklyn, Austin, the California desert. A Syrian mother, a Lebanese father, and three American children: all have lived a life of migration. Still, they’ve always had their ancestral home in Beirut—a constant touchstone—and the complicated, messy family love that binds them. But following his father’s recent death, Idris, the family’s new patriarch, has decided to sell.

The decision brings the family to Beirut, where everyone unites against Idris in a fight to save the house. They all have secrets—lost loves, bitter jealousies, abandoned passions, deep-set shame—that distance has helped smother. But in a city smoldering with the legacy of war, an ongoing flow of refugees, religious tension, and political protest, those secrets ignite, imperiling the fragile ties that hold this family together.

I was originally interested in this book because allegedly my grandfather was a random Syrian exchange student’s brother, and I sometimes feel interested in Syrian books assuming he came from the actual motherland.

So let’s just discuss content first because it’ s the first thing that anyone reading the book encounters.  A man is murdered in the prologue, and it sets the whole book up to be super dramatic and interesting and I am thinking “oh boy this is going to be good!!”  Then the next thing you know one of the characters is on her stomach thinking about a deflated condom, like, shit.  So now I have to remember her depressing sex life throughout the rest of the book, and it’s a theme through all the characters’ chapters, including a heavy discussion of the gay sibling’s sexuality, which is tied to Beirut’s youth culture in general somehow. Between that and pretty much everyone either contemplating or committing adultery at some point, I am like… Well sex is not what I want to read, and it’s depressing.

But it’s part of life, which along with death, are major themes of the book.  Idris and Mazna immigrated to America on asylum when he started his surgical residency, leaving his ancestral house behind.  Years later once Idris’ father dies and the house is empty of family he decides to sell it – which brings the scattered family all back together.  In Beirut.  For one very enlightening summer.

Each of the three siblings and Mazna the mother, were the chapter points of view. This sorted into the present (the kids) and past (Mazna).  It is always interesting to see people struggle bus through their 30s in slice of life style, because that’s me, but a big part of me just didn’t care.  Mazna’s story was legitimately interesting with her life between Damascus and Beirut, and seeing the war, plus being brown in America once they immigrated.  None of the characters were really likeable for me though, like I wanted to like Mazna but she’s so stubborn and then hooked up with that film guy, plus she took Idris (a heart surgeon) for a total moron.

The book spent a LOT of time building each character. It is kind of the point of the book, but some parts involving the siblings were just boring to me.  I didn’t care about Marwan’s band or Ava’s cheating husband, or even Naj, even though she had the most interesting life by far it was all flings and drugs and music. Once they got to Beirut and all the secrets started coming out, it got more interesting.  

There were so many side characters mentioned too that I just couldn’t keep track… Many of them not horribly relevant but still.  Also I liked Alyan’s writing style and language use overall but occasionally just lost her train of thought.  She would get philosophical/ profound at times and drift off into left field to the point where I had no idea where the train of thought ended up.

One thing that I thought Alyan did really well was setting – she gave a good feel for the sights and smells and weather, food, even the knick knacks in rooms, plus the atmosphere in general. 

I can relate a lot of the book to real life though – for example – being entitled to our secrets, and maybe not needing to know all of our parent’s secrets.  Also learning that we (as adults) are maybe a little bit more like them than we like to admit.

I know this is a book that a lot of people are loving for Alyan’s fantastic writing style and the story of love, loss, immigration, and familial reconciliation that she tells, and I don’t blame them at all. I think fans of the genre will love this. I just found it to be a 12 day long snooze fest when the kids were featured and I was limited to one rather long chapter at a time.

Overall: definitely recommend for fans of family dramas, sagas, and character based books!

Categories
Fantasy Historical Fiction

ARC Review: Knight’s Ransom by Jeff Wheeler

Thank you so much to 47North via NetGalley for my digital arc of Knight’s Ransom!!

Wheeler has finally done it!  It seems like he took every little bit of constructive criticism from the first Kingfountain trilogies, chewed it over while he wrote something different, then came back and wrote an absolutely amazing first novel in this new series!

I just freaking love the world of Kingfountain and it’s lore and magic, and was so psyched to read this as an ARC (before obviously preordering it) heheh.  I have read them all, including the books following Ankorette, but don’t think it’s necessary to read them in order to start here, although you’ll miss some Easter Eggs.

Quick Facts: 

  • Title: Knight’s Ransom
  • Series: The First Argentines, #1
  • Author: Jeff Wheeler
  • Publisher & Release: 47North, 1/26/21
  • Length: 431pg
  • Rate & Recommend: 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟 yes for fans of knights, clean reads, epic worlds with a tad of magic

Here is the synopsis from GoodReads:

Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown. A brutal war of succession has plunged the court of Kingfountain into a power struggle between a charitable king who took the crown unlawfully and his ambitious rival, Devon Argentine. The balance of power between the two men hinges on the fate of a young boy ensnared in this courtly intrigue. A boy befittingly nicknamed Ransom.

When the Argentine family finally rules, Ransom must make his own way in the world. Opportunities open and shut before him as he journeys along the path to knighthood, blind to a shadowy conspiracy of jealousy and revenge. Securing his place will not be easy, nor will winning the affection of Lady Claire de Murrow, a fiery young heiress from an unpredictably mad kingdom.

Ransom interrupts an abduction plot targeting the Queen of Ceredigion and earns a position in service to her son, the firstborn of the new Argentine dynasty. But conflict and treachery threaten the family, and Ransom must also come to understand and hone his burgeoning powers—abilities that involve more than his mastery with a blade and that make him as much a target as his lord.

This is such a hard review to write because I just want to gush, I mean I had over a page of notes and highlights 😂

Ransom and Claire remind me so much of Owen and Evie, except they’re more age appropriate and Claire is an absolute firecracker.  They are better childhood characters as well, because Wheeler finally admits that he can’t write age appropriate kids so they grow up pretty quickly, with the book occuring mainly in Ransom’s 20s.

So Polidoro Urbini is back, telling the history of the first Argentine kings.  He finds Claire de Murrow’s journal and it becomes the framework of the story, then fleshed out by current events.

When Devon Argentine takes the throne of Ceredigion, the child hostages of the prior ruler get to go home.  For Ransom, that means trying to become a Knight in his uncle’s household.  Training and warhorses and tournaments, poor choices and hard life lessons including naivety and betrayal mark Ransom’s path to Knighthood.

Could he possibly be Fountain Blessed?  I found it shocking that he hadn’t heard enough legends to put two and two together, but his fighting prowess is unbelievable and it makes him a target.

Without spending hours gushing about individual battles, defeats, more hard lessons, and Ransom’s resilience … He eventually ends up in the service of Argentine’s heir, which is a mixed blessing and curse.

There is an absolutely absorbing plot to overthrow Devon the Elder, and more poor life choices which eventually leads Ransom to, I assume, in book 2 take the pilgrimage to find out if he is indeed blessed by the lady of the fountain.

There is a fountain blessed assassin out and about as well, and it’s crazy because we have no idea who she is or who she is working for.  The line of poisoners is a pretty heavy storyline in the Kingfountain books so she’ll have a bigger part in the coming books.

Pulling from Merlin and Arthur and the Lady of the Lake, Kingfountain takes some of it’s magic and lore from those ancient tales.   Of course there is one magic Wizr board in the story, plus all the legends and lore of Kingfountain (and now Legault, thanks to Claire), that make Wheeler’s world feel so real and immersive.

The characters make it feel real too, take the Argentines: yes they are the royal family but they love and bicker and break like anyone else.  Ransoms Uncle and all the wiser, older lords and commanders, I can’t even list all the great characters.  It feels even realer too that Ransom has such a high standard of Knight’s honor, so the courtship with Claire becomes a side story that he doesn’t think is achievable.

But it’s so sweet how he tiptoes.  Who knows if Wheeler will ever put them together or not, he is 50/50 with OTP pairings and Kingfountain never seems to work that way.

Layers upon layers of betrayals and intrigue and lore make Kingfountain what it is.  I have to mention the Queen’s exile to her tower too, since it becomes such an important landmark in the later books and I loved seeing some of the origins.

Yes please sign me up for more riding alongside Ransom, now one of the richest men in the country after multiple knight’s tournament wins.   I can’t wait to jump into his pilgrimage next and then see where the world takes us ❤

Let me say one more time too – WHEELER WRITES CLEAN FANTASY!! Language and sexual situations (both rare in his books) are kept G-rated, with some sad deaths and  knightly battles but I would happily hand any one of his books to a reader of any age group

Out 1/26 from 47North, thank you again for my early read!

Categories
Adventure Paranormal Thrillers

My Stop on the *Kept From Cages* Book Blog Tour!!!

Thank you so much, as always, to Storytellers On Tour for having me on their book tour for Kept From Cages by Phil Williams!  Thank you as well to the author for my finished copy, all opinions are my own!

IMG_20210116_092411_824

Quick Facts:

  • Title: Kept From Cages
  • Series: Ikiri, #1
  • Author: Phil Williams
  • Publisher & Release: Rumian Publishing, September 2020
  • Length: 261pg
  • Rate & Recommend: 🌟🌟🌟🌟 yes for fans of urban paranormal, thrillers, and sass!

Here is the synopsis:

No one returns from Ikiri.

Reece’s gang of criminal jazz musicians have taken shelter in the wrong house. There’s a girl with red eyes bound to a chair. The locals call her a devil – but Reece sees a kid that needs protecting. He’s more right than he knows.

Chased by a shadowy swordsman and an unnatural beast, the gang flee across the Deep South with the kid in tow. She won’t say where she’s from or who exactly her scary father is, but she’s got powers they can’t understand. How much will Reece risk to save her?

On the other side of the world, Agent Sean Tasker’s asking similar questions. With an entire village massacred and no trace of the killers, he’s convinced Duvcorp’s esoteric experiments are responsible. His only ally is an unstable female assassin, and their only lead is Ikiri – a black-site in the Congo, which no one leaves alive. How far is Tasker prepared to go for answers?

Kept From Cages is the first part in an action-packed supernatural thriller duology, filled with eccentric characters and intricately woven mysteries

The plot/story: there is so much going on in this book that the action is literally almost nonstop, from the first page. There are two separate storylines that alternate chapters, one being the gang of musicians and the other is agent Tasker. Both storylines are packed with action and I found myself more drawn to the musicians and the little girl.

Bits and pieces of the overall puzzle are brought into the action slowly, so it took a while to start learning what was going on but I was well entertained in the process! Eventually the two storylines start to connect and it’s an absolute whirlwind when they finally do.

The Setting: deep Southern Louisiana is apparently a really great setting for a paranormal clash between criminal jazz musicians and a mysterious, evil man with a sword. The heck were those demons?? Agent Tasker’s story ends up in Ikiri, a village in the African Congo that the toughest men out there don’t return from. Is it civil war or a front for something darker that is leaving all those villages slaughtered? Williams doesn’t waste too much momentum on setting but I never had any problem picturing the layout, and my favorite setting was definitely the homemade town on stilts. For the biblical flood when it comes, obviously.

Somewhere in between the plot and the characters are the supernatural elements too. Power from…a spirit? An energy? Zombies! Unexplained mass murders. Women in trees and a whole pack of apparently undead assassins…. Omg so much packed in that it almost got confusing at times.

The characters: ah gosh the characters are amazing. The band is a sassy group, especially Leigh Ann. I loved their banter and found family-ness, it seems like most od them have lost quite a bit and then found each other! Zip is a cool character once she comes out of her shell, a literally red-eyed child that may or may not be some kind of devil spawn.

Tasker is an agent that investigates magical energy, and he’s trying to figure out what the heck this giant corporation unleashed in the Congo. Why did a village in Norway look like a rabid mob came through? He finds a sort of partner, a super unstable assassin with an imaginary friend, who if not likeable is at least interesting. Tasker’s team is a motley bunch and it’s interesting watching him unravel the international mysteries surrounding … The Source.

Overall takeaways: Anyway – yes, I am totally on board with this. Each chapter has a little cliffhanger that makes the book REALLY hard to put down. I wondered about an English author trying to write Southern American slang, but he does a really brilliant job with the linguistics, then come to find he writes language texts! I would totally recommend for fans of paranormal anything, and fans of thrillers. Kept From Cages is different but totally worth the read, I’m on board for book 2 when it’s ready!

Guys! If you follow this link you can find the other tour host’s reviews, and I highly encourage you to do to so!

Meet the author!

Phil Williams is an author of contemporary fantasy and dystopian fiction, including the Ordshaw urban fantasy thrillers and the post-apocalyptic Estalia series. He also writes reference books to help foreign learners master the nuances of English, two of which are regular best-sellers on Kindle. He lives with his wife by the coast in Sussex, UK, and spends a great deal of time walking his impossibly fluffy dog, Herbert.

Here are the author and book links!!

Book Links
• Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/55115499-kept-from-cages
• Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/dp/1913468097
— — —
Author Links!
Website: https://phil-williams.co.uk/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/fantasticphil
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/philwilliamsauthor
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/ordshawphil/
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6579274.Phil_Williams

Categories
Adventure Science Fiction

ARC Review: Doors of Sleep by Tim Pratt

Thank you so much to Angry Robot Books for the digital advanced copy of Doors of Sleep in exchange for an honest review! All opinions are my own!  If you are a fan of multiverse adventures and creative characters, check this out!

Quick Facts:

  • Title: Doors of Sleep
  • Series: Journals of Zaxony Delatree, #1
  • Author: Tim Pratt
  • Publisher & Release: Angry Robot Books, 1/12/21
  • Length: 272 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: 🌟🌟🌟⚡ yes for sci-fi, multiverse fans!

Here is the synopsis from Goodreads:

What would you do if you woke up and found yourself in a parallel universe under an alien sky? This is the question Zax Delatree must answer every time he closes his eyes.

Every time Zax Delatree falls asleep, he travels to a new reality. He has no control over his destination and never knows what he will see when he opens his eyes. Sometimes he wakes up in technological utopias, and other times in the bombed-out ruins of collapsed civilizations. All he has to live by are his wits and the small aides he has picked up along the way – technological advantages from techno-utopias, sedatives to escape dangerous worlds, and stimulants to extend his stay in pleasant ones.

Thankfully, Zax isn’t always alone. He can take people with him, if they’re unconscious in his arms when he falls asleep. But someone unwelcome is on his tail, and they are after something that Zax cannot spare – the blood running through his veins, the power to travel through worlds…

Wow, what a wild ride! I can only imagine how Zax feels since I was getting dizzy just travelling with him!  I think the book’s biggest strength is just the sheer number of creative ideas on the pages – I coined a term for it, like “word salad” but it’s “universe salad.”  One page might spit out six wildly different universes if Zax is travelling quickly.  Pratt’s well of ideas seems to be endless.

There are many pop culture nods that I enjoyed spotting too, like an Emerald City universe with a yellow brick road and all.  One thing the book accomplishes is making me feel soooo small, the possibility of endless universes and endless galaxies, planets, and he is only seeing a small portion…

nothing mattered against the span of the infinite, so if you wanted to care about anything at all, you had to care about the small things. There was nothing in the multiverse but small things

So Zaxony is travelling alone and it was hard for me to latch onto the story before he found a travelling companion, that is a super interesting plant/human hybrid.  They become great friends and Minna is able to perform many scientific tasks to make Zax’s life easier.  They also eventually pick up an analytic war crystal named Vicki who I think is the best character 😂

In the worst-case scenario, an insane chip of diamond was unlikely to cause harm to others at least, and, best case, perhaps I’d finally get some answers

– Zaxony, on Vicki

Once the antagonist shows up in truth and the book turns into a pursuit, giving Zax and company a purpose, I finally latched onto the story.  This happened maybe halfway through and is why I only gave Doors of Sleep 3.5 stars, I felt aimless before that point.  The Lector is a brilliant terrorist with the aim of conquering all the worlds, creating a moving empire, and it’s going to take mote than weapons and traps to stop him…. A really brilliant bad guy who is only limited by his inability to comprehend the true grandness of the multiverse.

I wondered why he didn’t just kill them, but then remembered: the dead do not suffer

–Zaxony, on the Lector

Did I mention that the Lector is more than a little bit brutal? How in the world are they going to take him and his army down?  I should mention Zax too as a character – he is thoughtful, a general good Samaritan with strong principles about helping people, but he is also flawed and sooo lonely before he meets Minna. I loved that they ended up just being partners and not pursuing anything romantic too.

Overall: clever but brief world building, strong friendships and interesting characters, many philosophies, and a twisty OMG ending, made me enjoy this book quite a bit.  I am definitely 100% on board for the next book and hope you guys will check this one out!  Just released on January 12th so grab your copy now!

Categories
Fiction Mysteries Suspense

Book Tour Stop & Review! The Perfect Guests by Emma Rous

Thank you so much to Berkley Publishing Group for the invite to read and feature The Perfect Guests by Emma Rous!  This is a twisty mystery/gothic suspense novel featuring a huge old manor house and I couldn’t put it down!

Quick Facts:

  • Title: The Perfect Guests
  • Series: N/A
  • Author: Emma Rous
  • Publisher & Release: Berkley 1/12/21
  • Length: 302 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟 yes for fans of the genre!

Here is the synopsis from Amazon:

The USA Today bestselling author of The Au Pair returns with another delicious, twisty novel—about a grand estate with many secrets, an orphan caught in a web of lies, and a young woman playing a sinister game.

1988. Beth Soames is fourteen years old when her aunt takes her to stay at Raven Hall, a rambling manor in the isolated East Anglian fens. The Averells, the family who lives there, are warm and welcoming, and Beth becomes fast friends with their daughter, Nina. At times, Beth even feels like she’s truly part of the family…until they ask her to help them with a harmless game—and nothing is ever the same.

2019. Sadie Langton is an actress struggling to make ends meet when she lands a well-paying gig to pretend to be a guest at a weekend party. She is sent a suitcase of clothing, a dossier outlining the role she is to play, and instructions. It’s strange, but she needs the money, and when she sees the stunning manor she’ll be staying at, she figures she’s got nothing to lose. 

In person, Raven Hall is even grander than she’d imagined—even with damage from a fire decades before—but the walls seem to have eyes. As day turns to night, Sadie starts to feel that there’s something off about the glamorous guests who arrive, and as the party begins, it becomes chillingly apparent their unseen host is playing games with everyone…including her.

Oh yes this book is so twisty. Beth and Sadie alternate chapters, telling the history and present of their time spent at Raven Hall until the timelines eventually converge. One of my favorite plot tools ever is used too, which is the mystery person point of view! I thought this one was a ghost and I am not even going to tell you if I was right or not, but eventually it becomes obvious who it is.

All three plot lines are equally strange and interesting. The gothic atmosphere of Raven Hall permeates the entire story and creates an excellent setting for a mystery. Rous describes the Fens well as part of the book setting, and also in an afterword about her time living in the region.

I read this one in two sittings and have no regrets, it’s one of those addictive mysteries that begs to be solved. I had it all wrong anyway, per usual, and didn’t find it all that predictable either. I mean I thought I did and was wrong…so.

Definitely pick this one up if you like gothic settings, twisty mysteries, games, secrets and lies, and a little bit of arson. The book is wrapped up fairly nicely too so you won’t be puzzling over loose ends

Have you read it yet? Do you like books set in other countries? I had to look up some words but enjoy reading about other regions and cultures!

Categories
Adventure Fiction Young Adult

Book Review: Fable by Adrienne Young

In my quest to read more books that I already own, I picked up Fable by Adrienne Young as my second physical book this year!  I enjoyed Young’s Sky in the Deep duology quite a bit, and wasn’t disappointed here either

Quick Facts:

  • Title: Fable
  • Series: Fable, #1
  • Author: Adrienne Young
  • Publisher & Release: Wednesday Books,  September 2020
  • Length: 361
  • Rate & Recommend: 🌟🌟🌟🌟 yes for YA adventure fans

Here is the synopsis from Amazon:

Welcome to a world made dangerous by the sea and by those who wish to profit from it. Where a young girl must find her place and her family while trying to survive in a world built for men.

As the daughter of the most powerful trader in the Narrows, the sea is the only home seventeen-year-old Fable has ever known. It’s been four years since the night she watched her mother drown during an unforgiving storm. The next day her father abandoned her on a legendary island filled with thieves and little food. To survive she must keep to herself, learn to trust no one and rely on the unique skills her mother taught her. The only thing that keeps her going is the goal of getting off the island, finding her father and demanding her rightful place beside him and his crew. To do so Fable enlists the help of a young trader named West to get her off the island and across the Narrows to her father.

But her father’s rivalries and the dangers of his trading enterprise have only multiplied since she last saw him and Fable soon finds that West isn’t who he seems. Together, they will have to survive more than the treacherous storms that haunt the Narrows if they’re going to stay alive.

Fable takes you on a spectacular journey filled with romance, intrigue and adventure.

Let’s start with The Plot and Story: I liked the story quite a bit. Fable is abandoned by her father after a shipwreck, and has to find her way first back to him, and then to a life of her own.  There is plenty of danger and storms on the high seas, as well as tension on the ship to keep things interesting.  The reader learns the twists and secrets along the way, as there was no info dump and we learn about the world as Fable sees and remembers it. I was never compelled to keep reading at any point but was never bored either.  Young is one of those authors who sacrifices a lot of potential action and exciting events for character time, which caused Fable to lose points from me

The Characters: Like I said, Young spends more time on her characters than anything else, so I will go there next.  Thankfully they are good characters.

Fable is a great example of showing, not telling, how bad-ass a character is.  She survives on the island of thieves through pure determination and skill, then holds her own on a crew of suspicious traders.  We are never told, she just acts, and that is what separates a true leading lady from all the Mary-Sues of the literary world.  I like her!

West is a mystery and we get the sense that he still has a lot to uncover.  His crew is a great lot once you get to know them, with limited banter but you know they’re a family.

Saint, her father and the most influential of the traders, is also a mystery but he will come back in book two, I’m sure.  They had one nice moment towards the end though and I felt almost bad for him!  Fable’s scar though- geeeez.  At least he did give her the tools to succeed.

The World:  The world is called…..oh wait, it’s not.  The area of the sea is generally referred to as “The Narrows,” but Young really did not focus on world building.  There are multiple regions mentioned with people that may be influential in book two, but the map only shows the places on West’s trade route and the country is given no name.  There is so much world building you can do with traders (ask Garth Nix) but Young follows the belief that YA readers want characters, so we don’t get that.

The area/country isn’t given leadership either, in some books featuring traders there is one person at least overseeing things, or the guilds have power.  Some powerful trader lady elsewhere is mentioned but not as leadership.  There are trading guilds in another area, which I love, but they aren’t expanded on so we don’t know how they run,  just that for example,The Merchant’s Guild can revoke trade licenses.  Saint is the most prominent trader and has a lot of political influence, and there is an antagonist, Zola, but without much background he just seems like a jaded cartoon villain.  There isn’t much on local customs and traditions at all except for the sailor who feeds the birds

Setting: The towns/cities/islands are described pretty well, as well as life on the boat at first anyway, and I think her best world-building came in the descriptions of the seas and the storms.  There is one scene where they go underwater, everything is silent and the lightning illuminates bodies and the ship breaking….  ….setting is where the book makes up a lot of brownie points, the ocean and Fable’s memories are well told.

Young still hasn’t learned how to tell time either.  Sky in the Deep was notorious for passing time in an impossible manner, and this is no different.  A journey that should take a few days happens….oh….lets say they get there in the morning, including a break to drop anchor for a few hours at least.  Someone’s severe wounds are healing and apparently it either happens in three days, or more time passes and she doesn’t show it well.

Overall: This is YA, and thr teens probably don’t care if the action is a little bit anticlimactic or just glazed over at times,  because the characters kiss instead, right? It was still a good story though and I’ll be reading my ARC of book 2, Nameless, soon due to the cliffhanger at the end! Would recommend for fans of young adult adventures, and books that take place on the seas!

Categories
Biographies, Memoirs, Nonfiction

ARC Review: Robert E. Lee and Me by Ty Seidule

Welcome to a special edition of a OneReadingNurse book review … On American History. A topic that while I read and discuss extensively elsewhere, I normally keep off the blog where I focus on Fantasy/Sci-Fi. Below you can see a very small portion of my Civil War library, one of my favorite time periods to discuss.  And yes, I have read most of those texts.

0106211508a

Thank you so much to St. Martin’s Press for the digital ARC of Robert E. Lee and Me: A Southerner’s Reckoning with the Myth of the Lost Cause by Ty Seidule.  The book reads as equal parts a reflection, a memoir, and a history lesson, with an interesting but brief speculation on alternate history as well.  I am just going to start by saying I agree 100% and wholeheartedly with his premise ((of the war being based on slavery, systemic racism and oppression via monuments, and Lee committing treason)), before I break down why I don’t necessarily love the book.

Quick Facts:

  • Title: Robert E. Lee and Me
  • Author: Ty Seidule
  • Publisher & Release:  St. Martin’s Press, 1/26/21
  • Length: 304 pages (including approx 60 pages of index)
  • Rate & Recommend: 🌟🌟🌟⚡ maybe

Here is the synopsis from GoodReads:

In a forceful but humane narrative, former soldier and head of the West Point history department Ty Seidule’s Robert E. Lee and Me challenges the myths and lies of the Confederate legacy–and explores why some of this country’s oldest wounds have never healed.

Ty Seidule grew up revering Robert E. Lee. From his southern childhood to his service in the U.S. Army, every part of his life reinforced the Lost Cause myth: that Lee was the greatest man who ever lived, and that the Confederates were underdogs who lost the Civil War with honor. Now, as a retired brigadier general and Professor Emeritus of History at West Point, his view has radically changed. From a soldier, a scholar, and a Southerner, American history demands a reckoning.

In a unique blend of history and reflection, Seidule deconstructs the truth about the Confederacy–that its undisputed primary goal was the subjugation and enslavement of African Americans–and directly challenges the idea of honoring those who labored to preserve that system and committed treason in their failed attempt to achieve it. Through the arc of Seidule’s own life, as well as the culture that formed him, he seeks a path to understanding why the facts of the Civil War have remained buried beneath layers of myth and even outright lies–and how they embody a cultural gulf that separates millions of Americans to this day.

Part history lecture, part meditation on the Civil War and its fallout, and part memoir, Robert E. Lee and Me challenges the deeply-held legends and myths of the Confederacy–and provides a surprising interpretation of essential truths that our country still has a difficult time articulating and accepting.

Alright, that summary is a mouthful but Seidule has excellent credentials to live and experience the history firsthand, from first a civilian and then a military perspective.  Some people may remember Seidule from a viral video in 2017, or more recently for openly criticising POTUS after his West Point commencement speech.

The aforementioned video, HERE, in 2017 went viral. Seidule received death threats

After reading this review, if you want to see a phenomenal speech that Seidule gave at Lee Chapel, the basis for this book, and summarized at the end of the book, take the time and watch it HERE.

Alright enough, let’s discuss the book itself .

IMG_20210106_154737_344

Seidule does a pretty good job condensing a TON of history into enough paragraphs that lay readers can understand the injustices of slavery, reconstruction, and the civil rights movement, in relation to the public placing of confederate propaganda.  Why did a monument pop up? Well, someone probably initiated a bill about desegregation or civil rights.  Maybe there was an important vote coming up.

Later on I discuss how Seidule arranges the history he presents, but I am a little shocked at how much he glazes over Union blunders (Maryse Hill/Fredricksburg for example) then criticizes confederates for similar slaughters.  Actually it’s not shocking because lay readers won’t care and Seidule wants us to be mad. Right. Onwards.  I had to google one general that he mentioned there – Humphreys – and found his paragraph to basically be the wikipedia entry… Facepalm.

Seidule’s wife originally tuned him into the Confederate Lost Cause myths of slave happiness, of southern gentlemen, of lies and propaganda, and the myth of Lee himself.  Let me stop there and say that Seidule is pissed, and I don’t blame him but I found his passion/anger extremely off putting.  There is enough anger already, but the author is targeting a white middle class audience and he wants us to get the point.

On that note, how readable is this book for that audience?  The chapters are LONG.  I read textbooks for fun and am down for it, but after chapter 4 a lot of readers are going to tune him out, which is curious because you have to read until chapter 7 to hear anything positive said about Lee.

My first question as a lay reader would be: What did this guy do, that everybody worships him so much? Was he a military genius? What did he accomplish? Are any part of the myths accurate?

Well – lots, yes, quite a bit, and some, yes, are those answers.  Without going into a historical diatribe I can say that in chapter 7, Seidule finally answers those questions and gives Lee enough credit to make him not seem like a complete idiot.  Prior to that, if I knew absolutely NO history, I would have not understood why Lee was worshipped so much.  For the readers who just want to be mad about racism through a 2020 lens and ignore the war itself – this is a fantastic book.  He even ends chapter seven with a perfect segue to the rest of the book: why it was SO bizarre that Lee went with Virginia.  Did he commit treason? I think so.  Should we worship him? No.  Does he deserve a tad bit of credit as a military strategist and general? I think yes.

Even if you don’t watch the entire speech linked above, watch like 30 seconds of Seidule’s longer speech, note the Recumbent Lee statue, and you’ll see that Lee is actually somewhere at or around Jesus in Southern history and curriculum

Not so much anymore, but he was.

0106211510

This is a picture of a Civil War media book, where the New York Times coverage is shown next to the Southern newspaper’s coverage of certain events.  Northern vs Southern media has always, always been a battle.  Seidule acts like this started after the war and it didn’t, the myth was propagated even as the war happened.

I am from northern NY and was raised with a GRADE SCHOOL curriculum  in which we watched a movie where a slave was made to create a fire under a cauldron, and boil himself to death while being stabbed with a pitchfork.   One of the more interesting chapters talked about the totally disillusioned southern curriculum, where slavery was a positive thing for everyone.  Thankfully I wasn’t raised with any of these myths.

Another ‘myth’ discussed is that the South only lost because of manpower and resources.  There was definitely a numerical advantage (I am not getting into numbers here) even though it wasn’t as profound as re written history wants people to believe, and you can’t possibly deny that Southern supplies and conditions were atrocious.  My point is that even though the myths are myths, they are rooted in SOME fact. Except the slavery one, which is total hogwash and I agree with Seidule that Gone With the Wind is total trash.

Content wise, the most informative and disturbing part was about the lynchings in Virginia and history of lynching in general – I thought it started with civil rights but was predominately a white punishment before the war.

0106211508_HDR

0106211508a

One more interesting thing I want to point out is that to an amateur historian looking for books about the civil war and the portrayals of the Generals, society, historical accuracy vs a lauding of a myth… There is a lot of literature out there.  It is easier to find books on the confederacy and confederates, although I probably have dug up equal reading on both sides at this point.  Most of the Union biographers don’t match the gusto of the southern ones.  The year the books are written and the historian themselves effects the writing so much, from the textbooks to the fiction.  I even have books of songs and poetry and medicine from the war and hardly any of it is impartial, which only roves that from day one this has been a charged subject.  I think the historians that Seidule mentions are quite good picks from what I can tell, and have ordered a few of their books based off his recommendations.

The takeaway: Do I recommend this book? Seidule sets out to prove that the Civil War was about slavery, and monuments are about oppression and racism.  He succeeds very handily.  Minus the long chapters and Seidule’s angry “passionate” and often repetitive writing… I would say read the book.  Read it but not as a Civil War historical source.  Read it to learn about the roots of racism and how it’s manifested over the years, but keep your mind open to further historical reading because it’s all pretty fascinating.