Categories
audiobooks Science Fiction

Goodbye to the Sun by Jonathan Nevair (Book Review)

I tried to focus on indie books during Sci-Fi month this year and then fell off the reading boat. I hope you guys enjoy the few reviews I’ve managed to post!

I did manage to finally finish Goodbye to the Sun by Jonathan Nevair. I hear so much about the Wind Tide series and have had it on my TBR since it was released.  So then #1 popped up on Chirp with an audiobook sale and I said OH PERFECT, IT’S TIME!

Overall there were some really good aspects, and others missed the mark by five miles for me, so let’s look at the book then dig into my thoughts


Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: Goodbye to the Sun
  • Series: Wind Tide #1
  • Author: Jonathan Nevair
  • Publisher & Release: Self, 2021
  • Length: 348 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: all thoughts on the audiobook (DNF) aside, I’m rounding up to ⭐⭐⭐ for the book itself

Here’s the synopsis from Am*zon:

A nonstop thrill ride across an unstable galaxy, combining moral struggle with character-driven adventure…

Tucked away in the blue sands of Kol 2, the Motes are on the brink of cultural collapse. Razor, a bold and daring pilot, leads a last-ditch gambit against their local oppressors, the Targitians. The plan – abduct visiting Ambassador Keen Draden and use him as a bargaining chip to restore her people’s independence in the Sagittarius Arm. But when the operation unravels, Razor is forced to renegotiate terms with the arrogant diplomat.

Light years away on Heroon a radical resistance blossoms. The alluring rainforest planet haunts Keen. All his problems started there during the Patent War, but it’s where Razor’s troubles may find a solution. The moral tide ebbs, exposing an impossible choice that links their futures together more tragically than they ever thought possible.

Goodbye to the Sun: a space opera inspired by the Greek tragedy, Antigone.


My Thoughts

A quick note on the audio: I just strongly dislike the production and couldn’t finish it. The narrator barely varies his voice or brings excitement. I don’t know if it was the voice or the recording but a lot of words, regardless of playback speed, sounded fuzzy and I kept hearing words incorrectly and became confused. The audio was a DNF after maybe one hour of playtime

So I ended up reading the Kindle version because honestly, the story wasn’t that bad once I took a break and forgot the audio.  There’s a story of a rebel trying to save her people, an ex soldier turned diplomat who is carrying PTSD and war trauma, and a bunch of other interesting characters.  I loved the characters and you never know what you’re going to get from their arcs.

One of my favorite tropes and one that Nevair did execute well, was bringing a place into play as a character itself.  Heroon is a tropical rainforest planet in danger, with beautiful insects and trees and a true spirit of its own. In a way, Kol-2, the other main setting, also had a life of its own with blue sands and wind tides used for energy production.

I also liked the family vs honor vs loyalty vs duty themes.  Who is deluded, who is willing to make what level of sacrifice, what motivates these characters at the end  … All of these things play into the plot and add depth.  As far as the science itself, I needed a little more about how the wind was used in these monopolies, is it stored, shared, transferred, how is the energy even stolen during raids? There was plenty of sci-fi though!

I did think there were too many planets and people and names thrown out at first, some of the politics were lost on me but at the end most of it came together.  I think scope wise it’s a fairly solid space opera.

So now we are at the point where I talk about the things that drove me nuts. I hate feeling lectured by books, and there’s no way around the fact that the book spends an inordinate amount of time lecturing about gender politics. In the middle of a terse situation. It’s not normalizing something if there are multiple lectures involved and I think it went beyond a normal amount of topic exploration. Even in the middle of a heated exchange of rifle fire these characters are hand signing their genders to each other.  I’m all for normalizing but not if it comes at the cost of a lecture.  Also I had a hard time with the points of view – Razor was used in the present tense to summarize the action and give more insight into Keen, who then covered the “action” chapters that occured in the past.  I think I wanted Razor to have a little more agency in the past tense chapters because she would have been interesting on her own, not just as a frame for Keen and other challenges of morality.

In closing, I can’t recommend the audio.  I did absolutely love the settings and plot and moral conflicts. Nevair also nailed the action scenes when he didn’t slow them down with lecture or diatribe, which is just a huge pet peeve of mine.  I think if you like sci-fi with a strong ethical base and plenty of twists, turns, and betrayal, check this one out!


Thanks for checking out my book review of Goodbye to the Sun by Jonathan Nevair! The book was purchased by me and read for my own enjoyment. As always, all opinions are my own ♥️

Categories
audiobooks Science Fiction

Wistful Ascending (Audiobook Review) by JCM Berne

Before jumping into this review I have to thank everyone who has reached out this week. As much as I joke around it’s been a bit dreadful and I endlessly appreciate everyone in the book community who has been down for shared storytime or just validating how useless I’ve been this week. I’m not sure what I’d do without the book community sometimes 😅

Secondly, thank you so much to the author for the audiobook code. I rely a little heavily on audio these days due to my eyesight and am endlessly thankful especially for a bit of pure escapism this week. I’m trying not to just be numb and having superheroes and sentient AI ships (and bears with three penises) queued up on audio has been just what I needed.


Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: Wistful Ascending
  • Series: Hybrid Helix #1
  • Author: JCM Berne
  • Publisher & Release: Self, 2020
  • Length: 405 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ for anyone interested

A quick note on the audio: narrated by Wayne Farrell at 13h 29m, definitely recommend for fans of audio!

Here’s the synopsis:

A superhero space opera for grownups.

For fans of Invincible and Marvel Cinematic Universe films who like a little hard science fiction in their superheroes.
If Thor and Harry Dresden combined in a transporter accident.

The il’Drach have conquered half a galaxy behind the civilization-ending Powers of their mixed-species children.
Half-human Rohan, exhausted by a decade fighting for their Empire, has paid a secret and terrible price for his freedom.
Now retired, he strives to live a quiet life towing starships for the space station Wistful. His most pressing problems are finding the perfect cup of coffee and talking to a gorgeous shuttle tech without tripping over his own tongue.
A nearby, long-dormant wormhole is opened by a shipful of scared, angry refugees, and the many eyes of the Empire focus uncomfortably on Wistful.
As scientists, spies, and assassins converge, reverting to the monster the Empire created is the surest way to protect his friends. And the surest way to lose them


So what if our superheroes are half alien? What if there’s a DS9ish space station (that’s also sentient) out by some wormholes in the far reaches of a galaxy, and one such superhero has escaped there after deciding to escape his past? What mix of aliens would gather there? What if there’s equal parts humor and tragedy and high octane fight scenes? Would a superhero feel awkward if someone talked to him while peeing?

I listened to this one nonstop in my free time this week, then read the last few chapters on Kindle. You’ll love Rohan and Wei Li and Wistful.  Snarky ship AI’s and the integration of different species are some of my favorite sci-fi tropes and they are here in abundance. I like that the book never took itself too seriously but did have some serious themes. It’s fast paced with readable prose and perfect for my brain right now. I guarantee with all the plot lines and things happening that you’ll never be bored.

I also liked the world building and look at space station life.  There are shopkeeps, refugees, many cultures meshing together,  and even a mysterious tailor.  On a wider scale I think there’s enough background given to the wider conflict and dominant alien race to paint the big picture without bogging the book down with too many details.

There was one wtf moment regarding where their powers came from but I ultimately decided it was more funny than anything else.

All in all, I totally recommend this one as pure space opera & superhero escapism. It’s great in book or audiobook form!


Thanks for checking out my audiobook review & book review of Wistful Ascending.  The audiobook code was received for free in exchange for an honest review and all opinions are my own. Stay tuned for my thoughts on #2 and #3 because both are queued up on Kindle Unlimited right now!

Categories
audiobooks Mysteries Paranormal Suspense

The Outsider by Stephen King (Audiobook Review)

I think it’s a fair goal to continue to read one Steven King book every month until I’m sick of it. The good news here is that every book I read just causes me to crave more 😅

Additionally helpful towards this goal is the fact that Will Patton narrates a considerable number of Stephen King’s books and he is by far my favorite audiobook narrator of all time.

I think the first question that readers looking at The Outsider should consider is: Do I have to read the Bill Hodges trilogy first? Do I want to? It’s a bit of a commitment but I do believe that meeting Holly Gibney prior and having some familiarity with that series will greatly enhance enjoyment of The Outsider, as it did for me. That said though, you could absolutely read this one alone and only miss a few references. (Plus Will Patton also narrates those books so you could take that route 😅)


Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: The Outsider
  • Series: Holly Gibney #1
  • Author: Stephen King
  • Publisher & Release: Scribner, 2018
  • Length: 576 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐⭐ not for the fainthearted

Here’s the synopsis:

An eleven-year-old boy’s violated corpse is discovered in a town park. Eyewitnesses and fingerprints point unmistakably to one of Flint City’s most popular citizens—Terry Maitland, Little League coach, English teacher, husband, and father of two girls. Detective Ralph Anderson, whose son Maitland once coached, orders a quick and very public arrest. Maitland has an alibi, but Anderson and the district attorney soon have DNA evidence to go with the fingerprints and witnesses. Their case seems ironclad.

As the investigation expands and horrifying details begin to emerge, King’s story kicks into high gear, generating strong tension and almost unbearable suspense. Terry Maitland seems like a nice guy, but is he wearing another face? When the answer comes, it will shock you as only Stephen King can.

As a quick note on the audiobook: offered by Simon & Shuster Audio, narrated by Will Patton at almost 19 hours and worth every second. 


Alright this one starts out as a straightforward enough crime novel, and then takes a rather jarring turn for the supernatural once Holly gets involved.  I think though that since this is something I’ve come to expect from Stephen King, the supernatural transition worked for me and was neither a shock nor a jar as I’ve seen some people writing in their reviews.

As you can tell from the first sentence of the synopsis, if any kind of child brutality bothers you definitely do not read this one. I don’t think I would recommend it as someone’s first Stephen King book either, but I have no problem saying you could start with the Bill Hodges Trilogy and then work into it.

I almost always love the majority of King’s characters.  Ralph is enjoyable both as a detective and a person, especially towards the end when he is willing to suspend disbelief to help Holly the most.  He’s a real hero! My other favorite character was Yune Sablo, although I’m not sure if I would have liked him as much without Will Patton lending his voice.  Yune served as a bridge between all of the other factions and was one of the first to throw some legitimacy into the supernatural line of thought. That and he was just funny.

After the events of End of Watch I wondered how Holly was going to hold up, and thankfully she seems to be doing well. Quirky and whip smart as ever.  I like watching her manage her issues and relate to others in her own way, and it’s undeniable that she’s as brave and prepared for action as anyone on the force.

While the book was brutal and a little bit hard to read at times, I appreciated The Outsider because the action never let up and there was always something to be interested in.  At least in the first half of the book too it was fun to play detective and try to figure out how the heck the crime had occurred. I like the themes of the supernatural versus the terrible things that criminals do in everyday life, and how different really is our understanding of these things? Holly had some excellent insights too into the nature of the paranormal and humanity’s potential reaction to the possibility.

Overall, I would definitely recommend this one if you are a fan of Kings writing or a fan of crime/paranormal detective thrillers.  I’ll certainly continue to seek out other books along this line that he’s written.

(P.s. no, I have not seen the TV series yet but I am 100% interested in it, especially since Stephen King liked it, so maybe I’ll try to track that down this winter!)


Thanks for checking out my book review & audiobook review of The Outsider by Stephen King! 

Categories
audiobooks Science Fiction

Armada by Ernest Cline (Audiobook Thoughts) ~ Or, does anyone care about Wil Wheaton anymore?

Synopsis & book facts can be found at the end, I just decided to rant and joke around in uninterrupted peace

I’m going to have a hard time writing out a whole review of this book.  It’s literally The Last Starfighter’s plot having a baby with Enders Game, re written with one idea from every science fiction game, tv show, movie, and adjacent pop culture item out there, shoved into one book. It’s like item -> location -> item -> location, ad infinitum. Everything from HG Wells to Team America to Tron.

OH IT FUNCTIONS LIKE THE DEATH STAR -YOU KNOW, FROM STAR WARS!

Ok. Great

Everything was a thing from something else. While this did feed into the plot and make sense at the end, I found that it got boring real quick.  It didn’t help that both the start and ending were weak either.  I love a good pop culture reference as much as the next person but how much can you really take from everywhere else and then slap the actual most half-assed ending ever on it? 

Well friends, read the book and find out.

Or don’t. I had content issues with it too for a YA book but I know I’m on a losing battle with that one, let’s just say the defending generals spent too much pre invasion time mixing business with pleasure 🙄 . Actually I’m not even sure if it’s a YA or not, but Zack is in high school so I assumed so.

Anyway, maybe don’t do what I did. Don’t listen to the audio.  I never particularly had strong feelings one way or the other about Wil Wheaton but his voice irked me for some reason. I can’t take him seriously and I think it rubbed off on my feelings on the book, which by no means is meant to be taken seriously either.  It’s just a big geeky parade of everything.

I actually picked the book up because I was curious as to Wheaton’s narration skills.  Plus what’s he even been doing these days besides raising kids, podcasting, playing games, and narrating a few Ernest Cline books? Who knows.

I can’t really dislike the guy because Sheldon (Big Bang Theory) made him a hilarious long running joke on the show.  I can’t really dislike him because TNG gave him a stupid ending either.  I just, I don’t know, let me pose it to any audience members here:

Does anyone actually care about Wil Wheaton anymore? Did you guys ever have  feelings about him one way or another?


Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: Armada
  • Series: N/A
  • Author: Ernest Cline
  • Publisher & Release: Ballantine Books, 2015
  • Length: 384 Pages
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐✨ sorry not sorry hahah but if you really love sci-fi pop culture and young adult books maybe try this one

Quick note on the audio: obv narrated by Wil Wheaton, I didn’t love it.  Whether he was hollering or sad or just talking, I just didn’t enjoy this book at all.  It’s 11:50 long from Random House Audio

Here’s the synopsis:

Zack Lightman has never much cared for reality. He vastly prefers the countless science-fiction movies, books, and videogames he’s spent his life consuming. And too often, he catches himself wishing that some fantastic, impossible, world-altering event could arrive to whisk him off on a grand spacefaring adventure.

So when he sees the flying saucer, he’s sure his years of escapism have finally tipped over into madness.

Especially because the alien ship he’s staring at is straight out of his favorite videogame, a flight simulator callled Armada—in which gamers just happen to be protecting Earth from alien invaders.

As impossible as it seems, what Zack’s seeing is all too real. And it’s just the first in a blur of revlations that will force him to question everything he thought he knew about Earth’s history, its future, even his own life–and to play the hero for real, with humanity’s life in the balance.

But even through the terror and exhilaration, he can’t help thinking: Doesn’t something about this scenario feel a little bit like . . .  well . . . fiction?

At once reinventing and paying homage to science-fiction classics, Armada is a rollicking, surprising thriller, a coming-of-age adventure, and an alien invasion tale like nothing you’ve ever read before

Categories
audiobooks Crime Horror Paranormal

Later by Stephen King (Audiobook Review)

I continue to have no regrets about reading through my endless Stephen King backlog.  In October I finished both Wizard and Glass (The Gunslinger #4) and Later, which is his third surprisingly deep horror & crime novel for the Hard Case Crime publisher.

What I like most about King as a person, and an author, is that it’s 2022 and he’s still writing amazing shit like “he kept moving further west like some fucked up braindead pioneer” to describe the main characters uncle, who kept moving to cheaper nursing homes as the family’s finances got worse.  It’s equal parts fucked up and hilarious – King is my go to author when I need a break from the politically correct world.

As an aside, I started and now love following King on Twitter.  His comments are like a little morale boost in the middle of a crazy world.

Anyway, ok let’s talk about Later


BOOKISH QUICK FACTS:

  • Title: Later
  • Series: N/A
  • Author: Stephen King
  • Publisher & Release: Hard Case Crime, 2021
  • Length: 272 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐⭐ for classic King & horror/paranormal fans

A note on the audio: Later is narrated by Seth Numrich, who has narrated many King novels and is absolutely phenomenal. Solely rating Numrich’s narration, an easy 5 stars. 6h32m long for Simon & Shuster Audio

Here’s the synopsis off Am*zon:

SOMETIMES GROWING UP

MEANS FACING YOUR DEMONS

The son of a struggling single mother, Jamie Conklin just wants an ordinary childhood. But Jamie is no ordinary child. Born with an unnatural ability his mom urges him to keep secret, Jamie can see what no one else can see and learn what no one else can learn. But the cost of using this ability is higher than Jamie can imagine – as he discovers when an NYPD detective draws him into the pursuit of a killer who has threatened to strike from beyond the grave.

LATER is Stephen King at his finest, a terrifying and touching story of innocence lost and the trials that test our sense of right and wrong. With echoes of King’s classic novel ItLATER is a powerful, haunting, unforgettable exploration of what it takes to stand up to evil in all the faces it wears.


Later is a short little novel that has an incredible amount packed into it.  It’s a coming of age story for Jamie, it’s a touching-at-times story of different ghosts, there’s a crime aspect, and it’s a horror story.

Like I said, this is a horror story

It’s so much more than that though.  I love the characters too, from Jamie to his mom to the old professor that the family stays friends with and eventually guides Jamie through his murdery ghost problem.  Nothing like an eccentric old man that likes to make fairy tales sound academic and terrible, right?

Oh, right.  I was absolutely never bored, and thankfully never that scared either.  Some King books are downright horrifying but Later never quite fit that mold even when it was in it’s horror element.  I think he meant to keep a slightly lighter tone and focus more on the people than the scares in this one.

Another of my favorite King aspects is that he loves to shout out his prior novels and other authors too.  The Ritual of Chud is back.  Jamie’s mom runs a literary agency and mentions many, many books & authors including Sue Grafton.

I was so ready to smash that 5 star button until that very last reveal! It wouldn’t be a King book if someone didn’t have a mommy problem, but, it didn’t work for me at all.  I’m glad to see others agreeing with this sentiment🤣

I don’t want to ramble forever but I would wholeheartedly recommend this one if you like fast paced stories with a little bit of humanity, horror, action, ghosts, monsters in all their forms, and King’s classically offbeat sense of fucked up humor.

As a note about Stephen King audiobooks – I don’t know if King personally hand picks his narrators or what but I’ve discovered most of my favorite narrators through listening to his books.  They are an amazing bunch including Will Patton and Seth Numrich, both of whom bring their stories straight to life and add that little bite that adds something extra to King’s novels!

Categories
audiobooks Fantasy

The Weeping Sigil by Jordan Loyal Short (Book Thoughts)

Wrapping up GrimDarkTober here with … More dark fantasy! Back in August, I was lucky enough to participate in a book tour for The Skald’s Black Verseand knew that I needed to read The Weeping Sigil sooner rather than later. As always, I’ll keep this one 99% spoiler free.

I eventually bought the audiobook and despite that and despite enjoying the narration quite a bit, I ended up reading the second half pretty quickly.  Fully recommend checking out this series if you like dark fantasy, folklore, and fast paced action with some scifi elements.


Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: The Weeping Sigil
  • Series: The Dreadbound Ode, #2
  • Author: Jordan Loyal Short
  • Publisher & Release: Self, 2020
  • Length: 337 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Here’s the synopsis:

Adrift in the void, Henrik’s rescue is only a prelude to slavery.

But his new life on Tyria is not at all what he expected. When the illustrious House of Quoll purchases him, Henrik finds himself living in the home of his old enemy, Prefect Brasca Quoll. Desperate to hide the truth of his last days on Heimir, Henrik dives into the murderous game of Tyrianite politics. Devastated by the catastrophe on the Norn homeworld, the Federation teeters on the brink of civil war.

While the Shining Ones maneuver their champions for the final confrontation, Henrik’s fevered visions unveil the scope of Moriigo’s nightmarish rebellion.

Aboard a stolen voidcraft, Brohr and Lyssa hurtle into the depths of the starry abyss, on a desperate exodus in search of safe haven. But the outer reaches of the system are full of strange worlds, haunted ruins, and bizarre cults.

As anarchy grips the streets of Tyria, Henrik vows to reveal the true peril facing the Federation: Moriigo’s return! While rival electors, assassins, and federal inquisitors plot the downfall of House Quoll, Henrik must bind himself to the future of his onetime enemies, lest the horrors of his prophetic visions come to pass


So this one picks up right where The Skald’s Black Verse left off.  The Skoljan refugees are heading towards Brohr’s blue planet but have no idea why, and Henrik is adrift in space awaiting rescue.

I think this one excelled most by introducing a lot of new places and people to the world.  Descriptions of the Clockwork and other marvels of the new worlds kept me interested.  Seeing the grand Roman-esque world of Tyria and it’s politics and intrigue.   Terrifying void creatures that actually just wanted to cuddle each other? Ok. I’m down.

Probably the best thing about the book is that I just like Short’s writing.  For a self published book these are exceptionally well edited, and the audio (narrated by Aaron Smith) sounded amazing too.

I think I mentioned the little chapter preludes in book one’s review.  They’re occasionally just anecdotes or parts of texts but often add a lot to the world.  We finally learn what the Dreadbound are because of these little excerpts so I definitely recommend paying attention to them.  Anything quoted from text or prophecy (or heresy)? ends up being if not important, at least interesting.

Henrik and Brohr are still the two main points of view, but now we also get to meet a raider captain named Petra and of all people, Brostar Quoll (Brasca’s father).  I actually liked the Henrik storyline the best in this one as we see him become a pawn of prophecy, blinded, and wreaking all sorts of amazing havoc in Tyria.  I didn’t even dislike Brostar, he seemed like a much better person than his son.  The little kid was cute too and I’m more than a little afraid for his future.  All the political intrigue, plotting, betrayal, and prophecy tied into this storyline was amazing.

Not that Brohr’s storyline was dull, but I can only take so much screeching and bloodshed.  I liked the segment regarding the “shit luck” of the people, because it’s a real dark fantasy trope for characters to just keep making the best out of whatever is left to them. It’s certainly sad to see every ounce of the Norn refugee’s hope stamped out but I just feel like Brohr is heading towards his part in this inevitable war of the gods, and it’s not as interesting yet.  I never liked Lyssa nor cared about her either so… my bad, more Henrik please!

No one had asked him if he wanted to be haunted, to be cursed, a butcher, a horror. He did not walk a path of freedom, but one of fate. She would understand. The sagas needed monsters (p. 253)

So yeah, there wasn’t much hope here at all.  It kept getting darker, and darker, and darker, right until the end.  There’s more magic, more prophecy, more of everything, and I’m probably to jump right into book three and have absolutely no regrets about it.

Categories
audiobooks Horror Science Fiction

At the Mountains of Madness by H.P. Lovecraft (Story Thoughts)

I was wide awake around 3am last night and looking for something to read on my phone that was short and GrimDarkTober appropriate. Hummm.  Not that I don’t have an entire library on my phone, but I started thinking about Poe which eventually led me to At the Mountains of Madness via the Project Gutenberg website. Originally published in three parts in 1936 in Astounding Stories magazine, this is one of the first chronological stories featuring certain Lovecraftian entities.  I guess it’s also in line with my sort of consistent sci-fi on Saturday posts too.

Here’s a little synopsis from GoodReads:

Long acknowledged as a master of nightmarish vision, H.P. Lovecraft established the genuineness and dignity of his own pioneering fiction in 1931 with his quintessential work of supernatural horror, At the Mountains of Madness. The deliberately told and increasingly chilling recollection of an Antarctic expedition’s uncanny discoveries –and their encounter with an untold menace in the ruins of a lost civilization–is a milestone of macabre literature

Can’t go wrong with a little cosmic horror, right?  Well, this one was a mixed bag for me.  On one hand, I wish the novella had been a 15 page short story (it was somewhere around idk 130 pages)?  On the other hand, the weird parts are SO blessedly weird that it’s oddly endearing.

The things I think are important to know about Lovecraft are that 1) he actually was afraid of the cold and didn’t react to it well, and 2) most of his stories are connected in some way.  At the Mountains of Madness is the first of his stories in which The Old Ones are mentioned, plus he’s talking about the Cult of Cthulhu and The Necronomicon, as well as references to other stories.  I’d maybe like to re read some of the stories in order but man, ugh.

So… Ok.  It’s a great concept.  One disastrous and terrible expedition to Antarctica prompts the survivor to try to dissuade another team from going.  All things considered, the novella managed to put me to sleep because a girl can only take so much geology and archaeology in one story.  It was so slow to get to anything even remotely interesting, which I considered the discovery of the aliens.

Oh, the aliens! They’ve got heads, respiratory systems, tentacles, but they’re obviously vegetables.  They came about 100 million years ago when Antarctica was a jungle (book logic) and obviously couldn’t possibly be a threat.  It was interesting to learn about them (through statues and art because they can draw with tentacles, obviously).  Like I said, blessedly weird. The history of the Elder Ones vs the Shoggoth was probably the high point since to this day, it’s the most bizarre creation story I’ve ever read.  What gives that someone so full of such wild ideas can be such a dull writer?

“It is absolutely necessary, for the peace and safety of mankind, that some of earth’s dark, dead corners and unplumbed depths be let alone; lest sleeping abnormalities wake to resurgent life, and blasphemously surviving nightmares squirm and splash out of their black lairs to newer and wider conquests.”

Well…. Yeah obviously they should be left alone, but for the sake of the story not being three pages long, better dissect it immediately 

Towards the end when we are trying to build suspense, what the actual heck was Lovecraft’s fixation on the stupid penguins? I’m trying to learn about bodies and terror and the big bad guy in the cave, not the stupid penguins.  Also a little architecture is always cool but there was so. Much. Architecture.  Yes I get it, there are arches and cartouches (I know what this means now) in quantity, moving on. More book logic was that since they took four hours to walk into the cave, photographing and drawing everything, it would obviously take them even longer to straight backtrack in a hurry……right? Right!? I’m sorry I just can’t with this.

Unfortunately (or fortunately)? the novella would have been only 20 pages long if Lovecraft didn’t describe every angle of the sun and keep the characters pushing forward despite cosmic horror and certain death. Oh hey, the cave is too dark and obviously something tore these men and dogs apart. Nope.  Too short, have to send them forward.

Not going to lie I wouldn’t have finished it if I didn’t find an audiobook, of which I listened to the last three hours today.  I found a copy narrated by William Roberts by Naxos Audio, which was still honestly boring as hell but it sounded like a radio broadcast and fit the story well.  I would recommend that style in case anyone wants to tune out the truly droll parts.

Overall … I’m like ok, I definitely would stay the hell away from Antarctica if I heard this account.  That was the whole point of the story: the narrator was trying to scare off a future exploration expedition. He did succeed.  I liked it and love weird things, plus certain parts were definitely suspenseful, but it was just too long and repetitive and mostly boring for me to love At the Mountains of Madness.  I’m going with ⭐⭐⭐ but I do think sci-fi and classic fans should read this one!

Categories
audiobooks Fantasy Fiction Horror

Wizard & Glass by Stephen King (or, why I can’t finish a series)

Ever notice that I tend to get about three or four books into a series and then quit? The fact is that in between ARCs I never had time to read these giant, door stopping books, and once they got above 8-900 pages I was just about out of luck …

Well, this book was one of these clonkers. It took me two weeks to get through it even listening on partial audio (28 hours total 😭) so it’s kind of easy to see where a reader with deadlines gets to these longer books and comes to a screeching halt.

Or maybe that’s just me.  Anyway, the great Mark Lawrence wrote (see GoodReads) that you are either a Roland (and hate Wizard & Glass because no progress is made) or an Oy (you love everything about the journey despite it being a giant flashback).

For once I am glad that I’m taking the time to be an Oy, and this is a more than appropriate kickoff to GrimDarkTober.


Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: Wizard & Glass
  • Series: The Dark Tower #4
  • Author: Stephen King
  • Publisher & Release: Grant, 1997
  • Length: 704 original hardcover (my PB around 930 pages) 
  • Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐✨ I’m team “enjoy the journey”

Here’s the synopsis:

Roland the Gunslinger, Eddie, Susannah, and Jake survive Blaine the Mono’s final crash, only to find themselves stranded in an alternate version of Topeka, Kansas, that has been ravaged by the superflu virus. While following the deserted I-70 toward a distant glass palace, Roland recounts his tragic story about a seaside town called Hambry, where he fell in love with a girl named Susan Delgado, and where he and his old tet-mates Alain and Cuthbert battled the forces of John Farson, the harrier who—with a little help from a seeing sphere called Maerlyn’s Grapefruit—ignited Mid-World’s final war

So this book started out where The Wastelands left off, in an epic riddling contest between Eddie and Blaine the Mono. Was I belly laughing at the dead baby jokes? 

Um…. Maybe? I had a cathartic laughing experience at the baby and the SuperFlu one, I have such tied up feelings about pandemics and it’s not usually who I am but I think I just needed to laugh at something particularly horrible.  Some inner turmoil definitely released there, so thank you Mr King.

Anyway, Eddie is probably turning into one of my favorite book characters of all time, even if our main characters essentially drop off the page once Roland starts his story.

It’s creepy, dark, witchy, mystical, had me absolutely cringing at some especially gory parts, and was everything I’ve come to expect from King at this point.  I wanted Roland and Cuthbert and Alain to succeed. It was painful to watch youth and inexperience war against the more hardened players as they uncovered the true goings on in Hambry.

Not going to lie, I’m all for Roland and Susan too.  I was actually pretty broken up about how that all ended.  P.S. none of this is spoilery, it’s all alluded to in prior books.

Character wise – really quick – yes I liked the boys and their personalities. It was nice to finally “meet” them. Rhea the witch is probably the creepiest witch I’ve read in a LONG time, and more than once I had to put it down and go think non-gorey thoughts for a bit.  Sheemie was the real hero in the pages for sure.

One thing that struck me was the level of anticipatory grief that I was having for certain character deaths that actually never occured. They have to happen at some point but not all happened here and for that I was glad, because it was hard enough to read what was already there.

I do wish that King hadn’t essentially gone all Wizard of Oz at the end. It was just weird, and felt a lot weirder than the whole Charlie the Train thing he had going on before.  I won’t hold the ending against the rest of the book but it did put a weird taste in my mouth after such a disturbingly wonderful journey.

Quick note on what I heard from Frank Muller when I was listening – he’s a great narrator and added a LOT to the story, made my skin crawl reading Rhea’s parts!

Long story short: I’m an Oy. I appreciated the journey and am excited to keep reading forward.  When will I have time for the next book, even longer at 931 pages? I hope next month! 


The Dark Tower series so far:

1. The Gunslinger

2. The Drawing of the Three 

3. The Waste Lands


Categories
audiobooks Fantasy Historical Fiction Middle Grade

The Witches of Crannock Dale by Thomas M. Kane (Audiobook Review)

Thanks to the author for letting me listen to and review the audiobook of The Witches of Crannock Dale! I’ll also be interviewing Thomas Kane on the Sunday Brunch Series soon so keep an eye out for that 🍳🎤

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: The Witches of Crannock Dale
  • Series: Mara of the League #1
  • Author: Thomas M. Kane (Nar. Stevie Marie)
  • Publisher & Release: Self Published, 2019
  • Length: 288 pages (11h48m run time)
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐⭐ yes for middle grade fans!

Synopsis:
Spies. Witch-hunts. A little girl who asks dangerous questions.

When invaders threaten, eleven-year-old Mara must grow up fast. All her life, her homeland has been on the brink of war with the Commonwealth of Waan. But as bells warn of approaching enemies, her own realm’s knights arrest her favorite aunt for witchcraft. This prompts her to rethink much of what she has been taught about her country. When adults ignore her points, she teams up with unlikely friends in a bid to rescue her aunt and protect her village. Mara must make sense of grown-up politics if she is to save the people she loves.

This is Book One of the political fantasy series Mara of the League.

I thought that for a middle-grade, this one checks pretty much all the boxes for me.  I can’t speak for the rest of the series yet but Mara is 11 here, and the content stays 100% age audience appropriate. Although she is 17 in book two I believe it remains a middle grade age level throughout.

Mara is a very smart and brave little girl who eventually becomes a spy for her country in later books. Here in Witches we are introduced to Mara and her family and learn about the plots and political conflicts happening in the world.  Told in the first person point of view of an 11 year old, I think it’s a marvel that Kane had me interested in the imposter bandit king and how the war will eventually unfurl.

Mara is an easy character to root for as she becomes involved in local issues.  I liked her brother too and the rest of the family.

As I’m obviously not 12 anymore (🤣🤣🤣), when reviewing for middle grade, I tend to look more at whether the book is fast paced (yes), interesting (yes), repetitive (no), and age appropriate (yes). I think it will hold their attention well. It’s also extremely well edited for a self published book so that’s helpful!

Are the themes something I would want my little niece reading? Yes, absolutely. Mara has to navigate complicated adult politics while still doing what she thinks is right. She also learns  that sometimes rules do have a time and place in society, and that actions can have severe and unintended consequences.  I like the sense of responsibility she has towards family and even town & country.

The issue I had is that the audio itself did not hold my interest, likely due to the Authors Direct app and a few challenges that it presented. That was an experience related issue though and I think Stevie Marie was a pretty solid, clearly spoken narrator. I did end up reading on Kindle Unlimited though and was then lucky enough to see the map and drawings.

Overall: I’m excited to keep reading to see how Mara and the war develop.  It’s a solid middle grade read that I think YA can enjoy too since Mara ages fairly quickly in the books. Stay tuned for the author interview!

Categories
audiobooks Fantasy

The Blacktongue Thief by Christopher Buehlman (Book Review)

A few weeks ago I had a patient with a very Irish wife. She was a talker, and usually I discourage talkers because I have actual work to do, right? Wrong! I told this woman to talk as much as she wanted because I love listening to the Irish accent and rolling cadence.  Anyone remember Damian McGinty? /Swoon

Anyway, that led me to asking the SFF Oasis discord group if they knew of any audiobooks narrated by Irish natives, and the one recommendation that popped out was The Blacktongue Thief by Christopher Buehlman.

Although he resides in Florida and is not the tad bit Irish that I know of, Buehlman came pretty darn close to nailing it and I just love, love, loved, both the book and audiobook of this equally funny and dark fantasy.  When I wasn’t laughing out loud at the slang and other hilarious turns of language, I was cringing at the darker elements or “oooh-aaaahing” at the world building and tattoo magic. Definitely a book I would recommend to most fantasy fans.

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: The Blacktongue Thief
  • Series: Blacktongue #1
  • Author: Christopher Buehlman
  • Publisher & Release: Tor Books, 2021 (Macmillan Audio)
  • Length: 416 Pages (12:26 audio length)
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐⭐✨   For fans of slightly darker fantasy that can take a joke

Here’s the synopsis:

Set in a world of goblin wars, stag-sized battle ravens, and assassins who kill with deadly tattoos, Christopher Buehlman’s The Blacktongue Thief begins a ‘dazzling’ (Robin Hobb) fantasy adventure unlike any other.

Kinch Na Shannack owes the Takers Guild a small fortune for his education as a thief, which includes (but is not limited to) lock-picking, knife-fighting, wall-scaling, fall-breaking, lie-weaving, trap-making, plus a few small magics. His debt has driven him to lie in wait by the old forest road, planning to rob the next traveler that crosses his path.

But today, Kinch Na Shannack has picked the wrong mark.

Galva is a knight, a survivor of the brutal goblin wars, and handmaiden of the goddess of death. She is searching for her queen, missing since a distant northern city fell to giants.

Unsuccessful in his robbery and lucky to escape with his life, Kinch now finds his fate entangled with Galva’s. Common enemies and uncommon dangers force thief and knight on an epic journey where goblins hunger for human flesh, krakens hunt in dark waters, and honor is a luxury few can afford.

A thief misjudges a mark and ends up on the adventure of his lifetime, discovering political intrigues and magic beyond his imagination along the way . Other reviewers have plugged the book as Abercrombie x Eames and I agree pretty well with that assessment.

This is a rare novel where I praised most of the elements equally, so it’s hard to tell where to start.  Let’s do the characters first.  Kinch is one of those characters that I ended up rooting for right away due to his sense of humor and ability to quickly assess and act in various situations.  Galva is a tough warrior with the sense of humor of a rock, and her lack of sense of irony/sarcasm alone makes her likeable. She inadvertently provides a more natural comic relief than Kinch and his frequent turns of phrase.

I don’t always love narration from the first person point of view but it ended up being an immersive and enjoyable experience via the audiobook.  I did a mix of reading and listening and believe that to not hear the words out of the author’s mouth is to miss a large part of the experience of consuming this book. This is also a big, big fantasy world with lots of local flavor and many stories and song, which are sung beautifully in the audiobook, and seeing it all through Kinch’s eyes gives us a consistent “jumping point” into widely varied action.

Have you ever wondered the difference between a squid and a kraken? Basically stay the f*ck on land. You will learn. The book covers adventure on both land and water!

I’ve briefly touched on the world building which is very well done.  You get all sorts of both macro and micro details, legends, songs, food, local customs and laws, even money, magic, and more. It’s a lovely scale of world building. I’ve never minded small info dumps and found this a good balance. One thing that added a little depth to the entire book was how the cause and effect of various wars and curses and actions of the populace have ripple effected the entire novel.  I like that consistency.

As a horse girl that has read a lot of horse centric fantasy, I can say that outside of Green Rider I have never seen horses described as gratuitously as Buehlman does.  The end scene with the giant… *sigh*

Now let’s talk about my other favorite part- the magic system! The magic tattoos are so freaking cool, just, so cool.  I have never seen the ink represent actual living animals and living spellwork before. I would give my skin to be able to call upon my old dog’s portrait to bring her into existence again! There’s also more macabre magic that is not tattoo related but I think it’s worth reading to see what those things entail.

I always appreciate books that take language into consideration. Kinch spends a lot of time with his various language speaking companions explaining the difference between languages, his word choices, and, of course the slang! The slang is just phenomenal, it’s an art form that the author is professionally versed in (literally) and I never knew if I’d be laughing out loud at something completely absurd or cringing at something going down the grim dark rabbit hole on the next page. The light and dark is fairly well balanced but overall the book had a darker tone despite all the dry humor.

All things considered, this is definitely an audiobook or book worth checking out.

And did I mention there’s a blind cat? There’s a blind cat