Categories
audiobooks Fantasy Young Adult

Cursed by Marissa Meyer (Audio & Book Thoughts)

The good news is that this book came out in November, and I’m reading it in January! ARCs aside I am nearly caught up with new releases and can start reading my backlog soon.

You can find my review for Gilded here, and now let’s talk about Cursed.

Bookish quick facts:
  • Title: Cursed
  • Series: Gilded #2 (Duology)
  • Author: Marissa Meyer
  • Publisher & Release: Feiwel & Friends, 2022
  • Length: 496 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐ ⭐ for fans of dark fairy tales and retellings

A quick note on the audio: narrated by Rebecca Soler, at 16.5 hours from MacMillan Audio in 2022

Here’s the synopsis from Am*zon:

Be still now, and I will tell you a tale.

Adalheid Castle is in chaos.

Following a shocking turn of events, Serilda finds herself ensnared in a deadly game of make-believe with the Erlking, who is determined to propel her deeper into the castle’s lies. Meanwhile, Serilda is determined to work with Gild to help him solve the mystery of his forgotten name and past.

But soon it becomes clear that the Erlking doesn’t only want to use Serilda to bring back his one true love. He also seeks vengeance against the seven gods who have long trapped the Dark Ones behind the veil. If the Erlking succeeds, it could change the mortal realm forever.

Can Serilda find a way to use her storytelling gifts for good―once and for all? And can Serilda and Gild break the spells that tether their spirits to the castle before the Endless Moon finds them truly cursed?

Romance and adventure collide in this stunning finale to the Rumpelstilskin-inspired fairy tale

My thoughts:

At this point I’ve read nearly everything that Marissa Meyer has published, and most of it has been consumed by listening to Rebecca Soler.  I’m going to get the annoying thing out of the way first and then talk about all the good things.

The thing is, I think Meyer really had to stretch to make this book 500 pages long.  There was a lot of repetition, a lot of explanation, and while I understand that she wants the reader to get the point, I feel like I would have been more bored if I was reading the text. That said, at this point we know that the Erlking is absolutely evil. Serilda is generally a pretty smart person yet she just kept begging and screaming and crying at him repeatedly over multiple instances, and I just got sick of listening to it.

So parts of both the audio and the text got to me. I just hate people that whine and the audiobook was extremely whiny at times, striking a small nerve.

So on to the positives. I applaud how far and how dark she took this story – even if I felt like the end was a total cop out. I was so devastated by the events leading up to the ending and … I would have just left it.

The lore, stories, action, and characters, were all pretty much on par with the first book.  I liked meeting the gods and monsters and generally appreciated the pacing of the book.  It wasn’t that I was bored, it’s just that the same type of situation between Serilda, the kids, and the king, repeated itself so much that it became more tiresome than shocking.

Not to say that there were not many good parts though. There’s plenty of fierce magic and snarky banter to keep the pages interesting.

TLDR/Overall: All of that said though, I highly recommend reading Cursed if you liked Gilded. It’s just more of everything and it’s difficult to find YA books that are willing to go quite as dark as this series.  With plenty of dark fairytale lore and fantasy imagery, you can’t go too wrong with Meyer.


Thanks for checking out my book and audiobook review for Cursed by Marissa Meyer. I obtained my copy through Libby and as always, all opinions are my own❤️

Categories
Science Fiction

SPSFC2 Quarterfinalist Review: The Empyrean by Katherine Franklin

The At Boundary’s Edge team has narrowed our original allocation down from 28 books to 7 “Quarterfinalists”, all of which we are now reading in full and scoring out of 10 points. The top three books will move forward as semifinalists. As always, this is my own review and reflects only my own individual opinion and score, not that of the team

As one additional note here, the first round is now complete! We chose to read seven full books and you’ve seen my reviews for each of those.  Soon there will be semifinalist announcements from the competition and I’ll know which six books we are reading next!


Alright everyone, my last “quarterfinalist” review is for a space opera called The Empyrean! Let’s take a quick look at the book first and then I’ll share my thoughts.

Bookish Quick Facts:
  • Title: The Empyrean
  • Series: Galaxy of Exiles #1
  • Author: Katherine Franklin
  • Release: Self pub, 2022
  • Length: 478 pages (Paperback length)
  • SPSFC Rating: 5.5/10
Here’s the synopsis via Am*zon:

Emotion is a weapon. Harnessing its power could destroy worlds.

Palia’s emotions are in turmoil. After watching her son succumb to Empyrean fire, she barely escapes the same fate. Guilt ridden and alone, she will not stop until his killer is brought to justice.

The Protectorate forbids Ferrash to have emotions. That suits him, since he cannot avoid the people who control the Empyrean. Making this sacrifice prevents them from hijacking his feelings and using them as a weapon against him.

When Ferrash spots Palia’s ship venting atmosphere, he is forced to save her. Having an enemy from the Hegemony on board could see him accused of treason. But when the Empyrean reveals its potential as a destroyer of worlds and Palia’s link to it, Ferrash knows he can’t let her leave.

With billions at risk of succumbing to the Empyrean weapon, can the enemies join forces and prevent the same fate that killed Palia’s son?

My thoughts:

I first want to add the disclaimer that I purchased the audiobook (I can only stare at an e reader for so long). I physically read the first 150 pages in order to judge technical presentation, editing, etc.  The fact that I listened to the rest is not affecting my score nor am I going to comment on the experience, other than that it was a decent production and James Alper seems like a solid narrator.

So, about the book! I liked the overall idea quite a bit.  The story opens with a planetary explosion and utter devastation, vivid imagery, and it was enough to snag my attention from the get go.

Broadly, I can appreciate the plot regarding interstellar weapons potential and the fact that emotion could be harvested as a source of power, magic, fire. The Empyrean is full of interesting concepts.

It’s also got a few likeable characters and, my favorite part, a hilarious but all too brief episode with a rather large animal companion.

Where this story ended up falling flat for me was in execution.  There were some big, overarching mysteries hinted at throughout, and the thing is that for an author to hold onto those mysteries and just keep dropping hints, the reward has to be worth it.  I really truly hate to say that the “answers” fell flat for me and that the entire final resolution was a bit of a weak setup for the next book in the series.  Many characters and events appeared and vanished throughout without the page time they needed to land an impact.

While individually I liked Palia and Bek, Farrash felt pretty out there. The romance felt more like a proximity attraction without much to ground it on, so the … Uh … Pinnacle of Action scene didn’t land either. The concept did, I get what the author was going for, I just couldn’t see it.

I’m smacking myself because this sounds harsher than I mean it to.  For editing and presentation this is one of our stronger books, and if I had spent a tiny bit less time feeling lost I would have enjoyed it much more overall.  It’s a great plot that just got lost in the execution.

(Plus, I’m one of those blind-ish people who endlessly appreciate books that are turned into audio and made affordable).

TLDR: Overall – The Empyrean held a great idea and a lot of wonderful imagery, but overall it didn’t hit home for me.  I’m rating 5.5/10 for SPSFC purposes and would recommend for fans of space operas with broad scopes!


Thanks for checking out my book review of The Empyrean by Katherine Franklin! I was provided a free digital copy for judging purposes, although I purchased the audiobook on my own to help me finish our books (and save my eyes) within the allotted time frame. As always, all opinions are my own 🚀

Categories
Science Fiction

SPSFC2 Quarterfinalist Review: Empire Reborn by A.K. DuBoff

The At Boundary’s Edge team has narrowed our original allocation down from 28 books to 7 “Quarterfinalists”, all of which we are now reading in full and scoring out of 10 points. The top three books will move forward as semifinalists. As always, this is my own review and reflects only my own individual opinion and score, not that of the team


As the first round winds down to a close in the next week, I’m back with ‘quarterfinalist’ review number 6 out of 7! I’m also absolutely ecstatic to say that I finally found a book that I personally believe has a chance of making the top ten.  Empire Reborn is meticulously edited and the best presented, every character motivation makes sense, her ideas translate to paper 100% of the time, and it hits all the space opera first in a series checks.  Again these are only my personal thoughts but I’d throw down for this book!

Let’s take a look at the book itself and then I’ll share the rest of my thoughts.

Bookish quick facts:
  • Title: Empire Reborn
  • Series: Taran Empire Saga #1 (Cadicle Universe #12)
  • Author: A.K. DuBoff
  • Publisher & Release: Self, March 2021
  • Length: 388 pages (Kindle Length)
  • Rating: 8/10 for SPSFC purposes (⭐⭐⭐⭐) and yes for space opera fans
Here’s the synopsis via Am*zon:

A forgotten enemy’s return reignites an ancient war.

Jason Sietinen lives in the shadow of greatness. He’s worked hard to become a TSS officer in his own right, but having war heroes for parents is hard to top.

When Jason is assigned to investigate a mysterious attack, he finds evidence of powerful transdimensional beings never before seen. Or so he thought.

Jason soon learns that critical information was lost through the millennia: Tarans had an ancient treaty with the aliens. Unfortunately, rogue actions by a shadow faction within the Empire just broke the peace.

With the future of the Empire hanging in the balance, Jason must find a way to unite the Taran worlds, including the lost colony of Earth, against the mounting threat. There’s just one problem: how do you fight an enemy you can’t see or touch?

My thoughts:

The first thing you probably noticed is that this book is very deep in an already existing universe.  Past events are referred to fairly frequently but the author also does a good job setting up this series on its own merit.  All the big pieces are there to create something multifaceted and interesting going forward.

 I believe in presentation and editing, both of which were accomplished near flawlessly here.  I think I found one tiny grammatical typo and that is huge compared to the rest of our book allocation. Technical merit aside, space operas should have these big casts, big stakes, and big moral discussions, all of which DuBoff has here.

 I wasn’t a huge fan of the slang (really, fok vs fuck and shite vs shit, etc, isn’t going to break any language barriers) but otherwise I have nothing else bad to say.  It makes sense to have similar language roots between descendant cultures but I think that facet needed something…just a different approach.  It didn’t affect the book though, plus she was consistent with it, and I got what she was trying to do. Not the biggest deal but that’s my only nitpick here.

Theme wise, she tackles some big sci-fi tropes and moral dilemmas.  There’s multiple instances of first contact, force vs diplomacy, the integration of new government,  interdimensional cause and effect, and a lot more.  I generally overall just like what she did her even if it ultimately wasn’t the most exciting read.

Oh heck, did I mention telekinesis as a weapon? The book didn’t need the Men In Black tie-in but it was there, and I believe it’s going to come into play moving forward. There’s a whole idea of this telekinesis tying into an upper dimension that I’m waiting to learn more about too.  Also planet sized space leviathans.  Realistic characters.  Big ideas that suit this genre well.

TLDR & Overall: this has all the good space opera elements and is presented as well as the average trad pub book.  I hope I get time to read more of DuBoff’s books, I did already download the next one for when time permits.  I also truly hope we see this one in round two 😅


Thanks for checking out my book review of Empire Reborn by A K. DuBoff.  I was provided a free copy for judging purposes although found it on, and used Kindle Unlimited. As always, all thoughts are my own 🚀 

Categories
audiobooks Dystopian Science Fiction

1984 by George Orwell (Revisiting the Classics)

With a book this popular that has been beaten to death in every literary way possible, how does one talk about it in a simple book blog post?

I tend to just focus on my own reading experience. I used to live for these satirical, dystopian, cautionary authors, and have found a lot of the classic titles for free on Audible. It’s been a great way to refresh my memory on these amazing books that I read so long ago.

Especially today with everything and it’s mother being referred to as “Orwellian”, I think it’s a relevant time to re read 1984.  I probably hear that phrase at least twice a week on the news and laughed recently when the last indie dystopian book that I read used it.

Anyway ~ the other reason I picked 1984 up now is that I’m trying to read as many books as possible set in London before I go in March!  With how Russian-esque this book is, I completely forgot it took place in London.

So, about 1984 itself.  One of the things that I liked most reading it as an adult was the linguistic portion, especially the appendix at the end where he explains the principles of Ingsoc (English Socialism).  To me language is the most essential part of anything, and I strive to expand my knowledge daily.  In reverse, stripping language away so that people don’t even have the words to express dissent, could accomplish the means of The Party moreso than anything else.  Duckspeak, UnGood, Double Plus UnGood … Yeah, I definitely like that aspect the most and think the new language is most unique thing Orwell wrote.

I’ve also never thought of war as a way to blow excess resource and manpower so that no one else can have it.  One of the many things that made me go “hmmm”

I almost feel like Doublethink is real these days too.  Everything in America has two polarities right now and often times it gives me a headache.  Ex: I’m a nurse, I know my science, but then people scream opposing ideas at me for years and I know it’s plain stupidity but it’s almost enough to dissociate at times.  There are tons of examples of this & I can see where Winston’s mind just fractured under torture.

Some other places where I’ve seen 1984 in modern action besides the daily news are …. Star Trek! The Next Generation, I had to look up the episode but remember when Picard was captured and tortured but refused to say that 2+2 didn’t equal 4? Season 6, Episodes 10 and 11, highly recommend.  I also think (vaguely) and I can’t prove this but when I first heard Team America’s Dicks, Pussies, and Assholes speech, that it was based on 1984′s ‘three classes of people’ concept.

Back to the book… I do definitely think it’s a relevant cautionary tale and that it should continue to be read in schools.  Governments are trying to tell us everything like what cars to drive and how to cook, and certain factions of society are trying to force the rest of us to think a certain way and accept certain lifestyles… Everything is just so polarized. It’s relevant.

Broadly speaking, it’s also just a well written book.  Slightly predictable but an enjoyable read, chilling at times, and makes me think.  I remember tuning out in high school when we got to the super long chapter about reading the book, and I did it again as a 30 something.  Otherwise I really do think it’s a fine overall read.

Tl:DR: overall, this is one of the more readable classics and I absolutely think it stays relevant today. I used to live for this group of satirical & cautionary authors and 100% still enjoy reading it today. Going back via audio was a great choice to refresh my memory and experience it slightly differently than the first time around.


Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: 1984
  • Series: N/A
  • Author: George Orwell
  • Released: 1949
  • Length: 339 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐⭐ for everyone!

Here’s the (I believe original) synopsis:

The new novel by George Orwell is the major work towards which all his previous writing has pointed. Critics have hailed it as his “most solid, most brilliant” work. Though the story of Nineteen Eighty-Four takes place thirty-five years hence, it is in every sense timely. The scene is London, where there has been no new housing since 1950 and where the city-wide slums are called Victory Mansions. Science has abandoned Man for the State. As every citizen knows only too well, war is peace.

To Winston Smith, a young man who works in the Ministry of Truth (Minitru for short), come two people who transform this life completely. One is Julia, whom he meets after she hands him a slip reading, “I love you.” The other is O’Brien, who tells him, “We shall meet in the place where there is no darkness.” The way in which Winston is betrayed by the one and, against his own desires and instincts, ultimately betrays the other, makes a story of mounting drama and suspense.

A Quick Note on the audio: the version I listened to was by 11h22m by Blackstone Audio, narrated by Simon Prebble. I think he’s a great narrator for the story and gave a wonderful performance of equal parts hope & horror. 

Categories
Science Fiction

SPSFC2 Quarterfinalist Review: Earthship by John Triptych and Michel Lamontagne

The At Boundary’s Edge team has narrowed our original allocation down from 28 books to 7 “Quarterfinalists”, all of which we are now reading in full and scoring out of 10 points. The top three books will move forward as semifinalists.  As always, this is my own review and reflects only my own individual opinion and score, not that of the team


As the first round winds down to a close in the next week, I’m back with ‘quarterfinalist’ review 5 out of 7!  Today I’m talking about another book that I voted to read in full, and feel like overall it was a positive decision.

Bookish quick facts:
  • Title: Earthship
  • Series: N/A
  • Author: John Triptych & Michel Lamontagne
  • Published: Self, 2021
  • Length: 578 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐✨ or 6.5/10 for SPSFC purposes. I recommend for fans of apocalyptic stories like 2012
Here’s the synopsis from GoodReads

Our world will be destroyed. Only a chosen few can escape.

In the near future, a cataclysmic collision with a rogue planet destabilizes the sun, causing an exponential increase of its output. With the ever-increasing heat, life on earth will be extinguished within a decade.

As the global crisis deepens, it falls on a handful of individuals who will determine whether humanity survives. NASA scientist Dr. Olivia Quinn must outwit a corrupt government system and warn the public before it’s too late. Veteran astronaut Valerie McKinnon and her son Sawyer are in a race against time to build a space ark that could rescue countless lives. And Armand Balkan, a cutthroat trillionaire who seeks to maintain his empire by any means possible, could either save or doom them all.

My thoughts:

I generally enjoyed reading Earthship and consider it a slightly above average self published work.   It has super short chapters, lots of action, moves forward quickly, and covers a huge scope of storytelling through many different plotlines.

The thing with end of the world plots though is that there are only so many ways to tell that story, and this one took it on a global.scale. The downside is that there’s a verifiable metric ton of head hopping that left me confused at times. There are tons of names to keep track of, multiple big storylines, and at the end of the day there are many loose ends trailing off into space.

The characters are easy to root for but there are just way too many.  This would have made a great movie but trying to compact it into a book would have been better served with a more streamlined plot.  Each point of view added something to the story but definitely were not necessary.  The first six, possibly 7 chapters were all from different perspectives and it made my head reel.  Also towards the 3/4 mark they threw in a rather large religious cult storyline that changed the tune of the book and added even more complications. I have mixed feelings on it including that the book already had enough going on and that I couldn’t really believe how influential the cult got,

Regardless, I love a good end-of-the-world plot. 😆 Earthship tackles issues like the building of space stations and generation ships, who survives, who dies, what do the people remaining behind have to deal with? It doesn’t really go hard into moral debates though, just mentions these themes as a matter of fact. It’s equal parts exciting, gory, sad, and properly horrifying at times. I liked the characters but never had time to get attached to any of them and they were all 2-dimensionally static as this was a pure action flick.   I am ok with that, I would rather read big disasters and military coups than character growth, but I also like having something to grab onto.

Technically speaking, the book has a fairly good presentation.  It was at least spell checked although it had more than a few word placement errors.  I like the cover. One of my biggest qualms was the passing of time not being shown except by character comments.  I think if months or years are going to go by in between these short chapters, it’s best to show dates.

There’s a lot of inconsistency in character motivations too. With time passing randomly and no development it was often hard to place characters from one appearance to the next.  He changed chapter styles too towards the end of the book, going to multiple points of view within one chapter.  Again, an exciting read if you don’t follow details too closely.

Overall – the less you think about this one the better. For an action flick in book form it provided a proper amount of entertainment.  The ending left a lot of loose ends as some space operas will, but I think we should have had a little more general closure. It’s been designated as a stand alone so I would have loved an epilogue. A good idea that ended up falling flat on execution.

TL:DR

Earthship is a good action story that had way too much going on. I read it quickly and enjoyed it but can also pick at issues all day.  I would recommend for fans of action, adventure and apocalypse type fiction.


Thanks for checking out my book review of Earthship by John Triptych and Michel Lamontagne. A free copy was provided for SPSFC  judging purposes but I found my copy on Kindle unlimited. As always, all opinions are my own 🚀

Categories
audiobooks Science Fiction

Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir (Or, what makes sci-fi go mainstream?)

It seems like everyone and their mother has read Project Hail Mary. Half of the reviews start with “I don’t read sci-fi, but this is really good…” Or some similar thought.  Even the audiobook is rated as one of the highest on Audible.  I’d go as far as to say that this was probably 2021’s most widely consumed sci-fi book out there. It almost won a Hugo. A movie is in the making.

So… What makes something with this much actual science & physics go mainstream? Is it the author’s popularity?  Word of mouth? Will bloggers plug anything slated to be popular? Or, is it actually just *that* good of a book to cross genre popularity? Is it riding The Martian‘s coat tails?

I… Don’t know.  Let’s see the bookish quick facts then I’ll share my thoughts, and then hopefully you all will share yours

Bookish quick facts:
  • Title: Project Hail Mary
  • Series: N/A
  • Author: Andy Weir
  • Publisher & Release: Ballantine Books, 2021
  • Length: 496 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐⭐ For those interested
Here’s the synopsis from Am*zon:

Ryland Grace is the sole survivor on a desperate, last-chance mission—and if he fails, humanity and the earth itself will perish.

Except that right now, he doesn’t know that. He can’t even remember his own name, let alone the nature of his assignment or how to complete it.

All he knows is that he’s been asleep for a very, very long time. And he’s just been awakened to find himself millions of miles from home, with nothing but two corpses for company.

His crewmates dead, his memories fuzzily returning, Ryland realizes that an impossible task now confronts him. Hurtling through space on this tiny ship, it’s up to him to puzzle out an impossible scientific mystery—and conquer an extinction-level threat to our species.

And with the clock ticking down and the nearest human being light-years away, he’s got to do it all alone.

Or does he?

My thoughts:

I think I have a complicated relationship with science fiction right now. I normally read at least two per month, but with the SPSFC going and some ARCs that I picked up, I’ve been reading almost exclusively sci-fi and I just feel burned out.

PJM was a good read and had a lot of elements that I tend to love.  There’s a big disaster, plenty of snark, first contact, big problems that need solving, and linguistics issues that sci-fi as a genre is uniquely equipped to handle. All positives.  I genuinely thought he did a great job covering so many issues with real science and making things feel plausible.

Regarding my burn out – the thing is, I literally *just* read a book with space algae and fist bumps. I almost guessed maybe that book ripped this one off but the other came first. It is to be noted that the other book was vastly inferior to PJM, but the fact stands that it’s all feeling a little bit “the same” to me right now.

PJM had a ton of actual science in it too, which isn’t usually what occurs in popular sci-fi novels. I was never good at or a fan of physics despite taking it through a basic college level, and trying to listen to the explanations and experiments on the audiobook just had me tuning out. Bored to tears. It wasn’t overpowering and I hope high school physics teachers everywhere are salivating, but omg I’m not.

 Ray Porter was a good narrator and I don’t feel like I wasted an Audible credit, but I did much better with the actual text. My other issue with the audiobook was that there was practically no space between the past and the present tense sections so it was difficult to follow along and I was missing the transitions.

Overall: as I said, it’s a good story. It’s a good idea and is overall quite funny too. The first contact elements were the absolute favorite for me and I always love a book that tackles a good linguistics problem with a clever solution. The ending was absolutely priceless.

So my question is, can the general non sci-fi reading public tolerate a little hard science in the presence of a good story? Could we hype up more popular sci-fi if we really wanted to and send it mainstream? I’m sure we can, and all those “I don’t read sci-fi but…” readers will hopefully give more of the genre a shot


Thanks for checking out my thoughts & review of the Project Hail Mary book by Andy Weir and audiobook narrated by Ray Porter.  I originally used an Audible credit on the audiobook, then ended up grabbing the book instead. As always, all thoughts are my own ⭐

Categories
Biographies, Memoirs, Nonfiction Fantasy Paranormal

Book Tour Stop: A Cup of Tea at the Mouth of Hell by Luke Tarzian

Thanks as always to Escapist Book Tours for having me on their tour for A Cup of Tea at the Mouth of Hell by Luke Tarzian! You can check out the book tour’s home page, see the other posts, and find out about the author at the link there!

A Cup of Tea at the Mouth of Hell book cover

Here’s the book blurb:

BRIEFLY, A WORD ABOUT ORDER

Order is the focal point around which existence revolves. Without order there is only chaos. And in the halls of Damnation (pronounced Dam-NAWT-ion, thank you kindly) the first sign of impending chaos is a cup of tea made without the water having first been well and properly boiled in a kettle.

Why is this relevant, O nameless narrator, you ask? Who cares about the preparatory order of tea in the fires of Hell?

Lucifer, dear reader. After all, how does one expect to properly greet the newcomers to Hell without having first had a hot cup of tea to bulwark the cold?

Behold The Morning Star, frantic on the annual Morning of Souls, the arrival of Damnation’s newest recruits.

Someone has misplaced the kettle.

See Also: Sad Boi Searches for His Missing Tea Kettle • Bring Your Tissues • Me, Myself, and I and the Times We Got High

My Thoughts:

I have a hard time rating emotional outpourings, it feels wrong to!! How do you even?  What can you say? The story itself is whimsy, clever, and a mix of funny and slightly hard to push through since I also lost a parent very recently and things are a bit .. fresh 

The novelette starts in one place and ends somewhere totally different.  Join the characters for Lucifer’s therapy session and a joint at a hellish pizza parlor before having a look at the author’s own life.

The story itself is a bit hard to follow in that at first the demon, Stoudemire, is telling the story, then there’s a “real life” letter thrown in, followed by more demon narration before Lucifer is the final voice. He uses the same phrases as Stoudemire too so while it’s not relevant to the story itself, it’s tough for me to follow similar voices on both narrators. Lastly, it switches back to the “real life” narrator before the third section, which is a lovely collection of the  author’s own meditations on grief, trauma, writing. I think my point is that the organization threw me off

But overall? Totally recommend. This is great. It’s funny. It’s “whimsy Hell” and you’re traversing trauma and The Phallic Forest at the same time. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it (and read it twice), I just think I’d have loved it if he would have grouped the fiction and nonfiction into their own sections to let the respective narratives flow.  I’ve actually got copies of the author’s books and 100% going to check them out sooner rather than later.

A Cup of Tea at the Mouth of Hell quotes (ig) (1)

Once again, thanks so much to Escapist Book Tours for having me. I found my copy of A Cup of Tea at the Mouth of Hell on Kindle Unlimited and as always, all opinions are my own ♥️

Categories
Science Fiction

The Rush’s Echo by Ginger Smith (ARC Review)

Thank you so much to the author for my advanced digital copy of The Rush’s Echo The first book in the duology was published over two years ago by Angry Robot and now we have closure. I was a little worried honestly that there would be a lapse in quality since this one is self-published, but I didn’t see that at all. This is a well-presented and edited ending to the story and I’m glad that it’s out in the world.

Bookish Quick Facts:
  • Title: The Rush’s Echo
  • Series: Untitled Duology #2
  • Author: Ginger Smith
  • Publisher & Release: Self, 01/10/23
  • Length: 474 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ for space opera & soft sci-fi adventure fans
Here’s the synopsis from Am*zon:

TY, HAL, VIVI, AND BERYL JOIN THE OPPOSITION TO PUSH THE COALITION OUT OF THE EDGE ONCE AND FOR ALL.

In this sequel to The Rush’s Edge, Halvor Cullen and the crew of the Loshad return from a lukewarm meeting with the Mudar to an Edge on the verge of war. A vat operative has used every genetically engineered talent and programmed skill she has to infiltrate the heart of the Opposition forces and disrupt their resistance to the Coalition.

In a desperate attempt to stop their enemies, Vivi must confront the specter of her past as the crew petitions the shadowy hacker group Echo to succeed. When the mission goes awry, and they are forced to leave a crewmember behind, the team wonders if their victory against the Coalition will come at all, and if so, at what cost?

My thoughts:

If you click the link in the first paragraph you can see my thoughts on the first book.  It’s been 2 years and I didn’t have any trouble getting back into the plot line thankfully. For those that read these back to back, you won’t be bored with recapping either.  Smith built on everything in book one and didn’t drop the bar at all on quality!

The characters continued to grow and mature as a team, as a family, and as individuals.  As they dealt with old and new trauma there was quite a lot of relationship navigation and continuing themes on what it is to be human and where the VAT soldiers fit in after military service.  I think she did a great job tackling PTSD and to a lesser extent addiction and programming.

We also got to see some of the atrocities committed on the soldiers by the Coalition.  It gave the characters the highest of stakes and something personal to fight for.  The multiple points of view kept the action rolling at all times and there were some pretty exciting scenes. We also got to meet the Mudar race which just added one more layer of depth to the war effort.

Overall I’ve really got nothing bad to say about the conclusion here. I was rooting for the home team characters all the way, even the morally gray ones, and found the last half of the book pretty hard to put down. I think there’s good resolution to all of the major points definitely recommend these books for Space Opera and Military sci-fi fans.

Categories
Fantasy

Before They Are Hanged by Joe Abercrombie (Book Thoughts)

Well well, look at me committing to a series for once.  It certainly helps that about four of us are buddy reading on discord right now and having a good chat about the series, plus the books are just that good so far!


Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: Before They Are Hanged
  • Series: The First Law #2
  • Author: Joe Abercrombie
  • Publisher & Release: Gollancz/Pyr 2007
  • Length: 560 pages (Orbit PB 2015)
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ yes keep going if you liked book one!

Here’s the synopsis:

The second novel in the wildly popular First Law Trilogy from New York Times bestseller Joe Abercrombie.

Superior Glokta has a problem. How do you defend a city surrounded by enemies and riddled with traitors, when your allies can by no means be trusted, and your predecessor vanished without a trace? It’s enough to make a torturer want to run — if he could even walk without a stick.

Northmen have spilled over the border of Angland and are spreading fire and death across the frozen country. Crown Prince Ladisla is poised to drive them back and win undying glory. There is only one problem — he commands the worst-armed, worst-trained, worst-led army in the world.

And Bayaz, the First of the Magi, is leading a party of bold adventurers on a perilous mission through the ruins of the past. The most hated woman in the South, the most feared man in the North, and the most selfish boy in the Union make a strange alliance, but a deadly one. They might even stand a chance of saving mankind from the Eaters — if they didn’t hate each other quite so much.

Ancient secrets will be uncovered. Bloody battles will be won and lost. Bitter enemies will be forgiven — but not before they are hanged.


My thoughts:

Disclaimer: I’m not going to give any overt spoilers but it can get tricky when talking about sequels and subsequent books in a series. I do my best!

First up, here’s my favorite quote:

Is it coming for me? Several tons of rock, about to splatter my remains across the city? What a ludicrously random way to die. He felt his mouth twitch up in a faint smile.

-Glokta’s pov

I think the utter randomness of events in these books, and in other military SFF, is what makes them particularly endearing to me.  When books follow a set formula they get boring.  I think, overall my favorite part about this series is that you never really know what’s coming next.

There’s also many healthy doses of character development, random death, bonding, falling outs, murder, politicking, savagery, and, being realistic, among other things.

Glokta carried my favorite storyline just because I love how utterly savage he is, even when he’s being a good guy.  I love politics and plotting and he navigates it all rather cunningly, while at the same time he couldn’t care less if he died.

The other storylines all have their moments (and their oh-shit moments) too.  The other characters all serve to expand the world, the military, and backstory of the magic.

Some characters surprised me too like West, Dogman, Pike, you never know who’s going to become a main character going forward.  I think he stepped it up with the dialogue and banter in this one overall too and it’s just a more mature story in every aspect.

I have to mention the final chapters!  It’s grim, it’s realistic, it’s sad, and I’m more than surprised by who had the final scene in the book.  Will Dogman be a major character going forward?  It seems like he will have to be! We still don’t know what’s up with the bloody-nine either, I’m excited to learn that mystery which was originally shown in book one.  I love the whole ending. Not every quest and mission is going to end in some kind of prophetic victory and now going forward the characters just have to keep doing the best they can with what they’re given. It’s refreshing to see a quest fail miserably for once.

Anyway, in every aspect imaginable I am excited to read on and see how this thing ends!


Thanks for checking out my book thoughts and review of Before They Are Hanged!  Have you read it? Want to chat about it? Leave a comment! I grabbed my copy via Libby and as always, all thoughts are my own.

Categories
Science Fiction

SPSFC2 Quarterfinalist Review: Inquisitor by Mitchell Hogan

The At Boundary’s Edge team has narrowed our original allocation down from 28 books to 7 “Quarterfinalists”, all of which we are now reading in full and scoring out of 10 points. The top three books will move forward as semifinalists.  As always, this is my own review and reflects only my own individual opinion and score, not that of the team


Hi everyone, I’m back with my fourth SPSFC ‘quarterfinalist’ review! Let’s take a look at the book and then I’ll share my thoughts.

Bookish quick Facts:
  • Title; inquisitor
  • Series: N/A
  • Author: Mitchell Hogan 
  • Publisher & Release: Self, 2015
  • Length: 300 pages (Kindle version)
  • SPSFC Rating: 7/10 
Here’s the synopSis from Am*zon:

To Inquisitor Angel Xia, it was just another corporate killing on a backwater planet. But as the bodies begin to pile up and she finds herself a target, she realizes she’s stepped on one toe too many.

Barely escaping attempts on her life by powerful agents with seemingly limitless reach and influence, Angel senses even her co-Inquisitors can’t be trusted. But as the web tightens, she receives a cryptic message from a computer program claiming to be a little girl in desperate need of her help. She insists she’s being held prisoner by a major corporation, but is this just a trap to silence Angel…permanently?

Now a fugitive with her life inextricably linked to the girl in the program, Angel is taken to extremes she never knew she was capable of, and to forgotten places at the edges of known space that hold the darkest secrets of humanity, and the greatest threat to its future.

My thoughts:

Inquisitor is a fast paced adventure featuring an agent (inquisitor) who ends up in an interstellar race for her life as she unravels a corporate scheme.  The thing is, what she initially encounters and investigates is only the tip of the iceberg as far as the scale of the crimes and conspiracy taking place.

I really liked the idea of the book, and it was blisteringly fast paced. The reason I rated it so high is because despite it’s issues, I couldn’t put it down, and for me the entertainment value of a space opera/adventure counts for a lot.

The themes cover a lot of AI ethics, a rogue AI and rogue agent, the agency of sentient creations, right and wrong on an interplanetary scale, and the rights and needs of one vs many.  Plus don’t forget explosions and high tech weapons.

The issue is that the “big plot” has a lot of “big questions” left highly unresolved.  *Oh, they’re working on it* isn’t a resolution to me.  Which brings me to MY big realization: this was supposed to be a character centered book.  I didn’t like the characters and the idea that *women are useless if they can’t procreate*. Hello, we have other goals too. There are big plot questions with the main character’s family and with the genevolve race that were hinted at and not answered, so I was getting ready to buy the sequel and was shocked when there wasn’t one.  Alright, so he probably just didn’t know how to wrap it all up.

About the characters: both main characters were emotionally volatile, flip floppy, and ultimately annoying, also like REALLY ungrateful, and I hope the author thinks women can be more than that 😅 I think overall he just really didn’t know how to wrap up the plotlines, so he gave the characters resolution and called it a day. (PS how exactly does he think 2 year olds act? Those kids are kindergarten age at least)!

I think the author should have given the relationship a little elaboration too, he didn’t give us anything to make it believable and also hinted at infidelity (a huge turn off for me).

That ALL said though – Inquisitor was still entertaining as hell. If the end hadn’t changed my view of the entire story, I’d be up at 8 or 9 points. I love AI stories and the action was on point.  If you like international agents in space and rogue AI, I’d recommend it for sure.

You can also see my team mate’s review here


Thanks for checking out my ‘quarterfinalist’ review of Inquisitor by Mitchell Hogan! A free digital copy was provided for judging purposes although I did find mine through Kindle Unlimited. As always, all opinions are my own ♥️