Categories
audiobooks Fantasy

Prism Cloud by Jeff Wheeler (Book Thoughts)

I binge finished the Harbinger series last week and have just not had time to sit down and write about it. I want to wrap up my thoughts on these books before starting my Malazan talks! Reviews for the prior books in the series are linked at the end.

Let’s jump into it!

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: Prism Cloud
  • Series: Harbinger #4
  • Author: Jeff Wheeler
  • Publisher & Release: 47 North, March 2019
  • Length: 348 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: 🌟🌟🌟⚡

*The book currently has a 4.42 rating on GoodReads, so the majority of his fans are onboard with the series*

Here’s the synopsis from GoodReads:

Friendship is strained to its breaking point in Wall Street Journal bestselling author Jeff Wheeler’s fourth Harbinger novel.

When the emperor is assassinated, Sera Fitzempress is the noble most eligible to inherit the empire. Her upcoming marriage to the prince would cement her position. And as a champion for peace, Sera is the only promise of hope for staving off war between the worlds of Kingfountain and Muirwood. But standing between her and her enemies is just one devastating secret.

Sera’s best friend, Cettie, a girl born of a lower class, has made a shattering discovery: her entire existence has been a lie. Now Cettie must give up the only life she’s known and fought for and leave behind the man she loves to stop Sera’s wedding. For this discovery could bring the whole of Kingfountain to ruin.

As Cettie struggles to determine her true loyalties and loves, her allies fall to wicked plots, and she becomes increasingly alone on her journey to a destiny she never wanted—one that could ignite an unstoppable war.

Oh geez, where to start with this one. Cettie almost ruined the book for me. Prism Cloud was the best of them as far as plot, action, and intrigue, even the other characters shined, but Cettie was absolutely terrible.

Sera once again was the superstar of this novel.  She broke out of her prison in Pavenham Sky transformed into a much more patient and focused woman and was able to make amazing things happen in both Empires. Trevon and Durrant were superstars too both in their own ways.

There was a touch of romance, absolutely lovely (and then heartbreaking) to see Sera and Trevon actually falling for each other after so many differences. One of my favorite aspects was how they discovered that Muirwood’s Medium and Kingfountain’s Fountain Magic were so similar

Another thing I respect Wheeler for is not being afraid to kill off one, two, or six of our favorite characters. The beginning and end of the book both featured terrible murders and just, wow.  The Adam and Fitzroy scene at the end was unbelievably sad.

The other main plot line besides the ill-fated Kingfountain wedding was that Corinne finally outmaneuvered Cettie, who had a crisis of faith and totally succumbed to it. All the scheming and intrigue was finally revealed and yes, it went deep, but Cettie turned into a snivelling moron. It was so uncharacteristic and bad that reading her chapters was painful. I could not believe her arc went downhill so quickly – it was like Wheeler wanted to rehash Maia’s storyline (see next book) but honestly I would have rather seen Cettie fighting for Sera. Cettie knows what found family is and was willing to throw it all away so quickly, knowing that her deceiver was the worst of everyone!? It was just SO bad, it didn’t ring true at all.

And of course – she got kidnapped.  I’ll talk about it more during Broken Veil but it really kills me that Wheeler’s MoA for this series is to alternately diminish each character while the other shines, like, how many times can you use kidnapping as a plot device in one series?

The rest of the plot and action held the faults at bay for the most part but I think Wheeler could have done better overall

My favorite part was 100% at Kingfountain, and everything involving Sera.  Watching her maneuver against Montpensier and finally unravelling the entire political plot was by far the high point of the story.  As was Sera and Adam’s escape after the terrible events that occurred.  I also will talk about Adam more in the next book’s review but his bravery was stunning.

While the other characters and the action would have made this the best read of the series, Cettie dragged the book down. I’m coming in at a strong 3.5 with this one but by no means dislike the book or series at all.

Once again if anyone likes audio, Kate Rudd is amazing.  She is clear and coherent and does great voices.

The Harbinger Series:

Categories
audiobooks Fantasy

Mirror Gate by Jeff Wheeler (Book Thoughts)

I saved my Mirror Gate review to fall on the Wyrd & Wonder prompt 5-Star Fantasy! It wouldn’t be a fantasy reading month if I didn’t finish and feature at least one book by Wheeler. See my review links for prior books in the series at the end!

While I didn’t give Mirror Gate 5 stars (sorry but I already read Muirwood) – I can constantly rely on Jeff Wheeler for clean, wholesome fantasy that keeps me absorbed from cover to cover. More often than not his books breeze 5 stars for me. 

**One last note before talking about the book – holy cow did anyone see the release day numbers for Druid?? It slammed #1 in both epic and historical fantasy for both book and Kindle form!! Wheeler’s fans were READY for it!**

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: Mirror Gate
  • Series: Harbinger #2
  • Author: Jeff Wheeler
  • Publisher & Release: 47 North, August 2018
  • Length: 349 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: 🌟🌟🌟🌟 yes to this world colliding series

Here’s the synopsis via Am*zon:

Wall Street Journal bestselling author Jeff Wheeler continues his wondrous Harbinger series in which two young women unite as two worlds approach the brink of war…

Though relations between Princess Seraphin Fitzempress and her father have been strained, Sera’s royal position has remained unchallenged. Filled with self-doubt, she struggles to grasp the Mysteries—her greatest trial yet.

An education in the enigmatic magic is a necessary one, should Sera plan to rise in her station and invoke her powers during war. But the emperor’s death now leaves both Sera and her ambitious father eligible for the throne—a contest the prince regent intends to win. Even if it means an alliance with a rival empire.

Sera’s hope lies in Cettie, a waif raised in the world below, whose life has intertwined with Sera’s in the most unexpected ways. The Mysteries come easily to Cettie, and her studies have begun to yield new insight into her growing powers. But those same powers put Cettie in the path of those who would destroy her.

Now as the threat of war ignites and an insidious sickness spreads throughout the kingdom, Sera and Cettie will need to gather their courage and fight for each other’s lives…and for the future of their endangered world.

Mirror Gate jumps about 4 years into the future after Storm Glass left off. Cettie and Sera are about to take the test at Muirwood Abbey, but dark machinations are working against them.  There was more action and excitement in this book than the first one!

With the Emperor now dead, Sera’s father will scheme up literally anything to get her out of his way to the throne. Unfortunately the odds are against her as war also brews with Kingfountain(!) and she just doesn’t have the experience needed to step into office yet

“I apologize if I’ve embarrassed you, Mr. Skrelling,” she said. “I think it for the best if you depart and compose your feelings”

– Cettie

I love Cettie. She brought back a lot of old Muirwood memories including the cruciger orb, kestrals, the myriad ones, and even a kishion. While it was nice to revisit this lore, my gut told me to dock a star for rehashing old ideas instead of bringing in new ones, regardless of how it all ties together.

I liked seeing Cettie & Sera and think the page time recapping Muirwood lore would have been better spent showing their growing relationship or time at the Abbey, vs catapulting them 4 years ahead to BFF status.

There’s a new character named Juliana who was just amazing! She is utterly fierce and added a lot to the plot, action, and banter

“Hang the Aldermaston!” Juliana barked. Doctor Redd covered his eyes, shaking his head worriedly.

One thing I especially liked was how Wheeler brought back an idea that @niseam_stories also wrote extensively on – that bizarre, harmful, misleading thoughts may either come from outside influence or our mind trying to play ticks. We should be wary and critical of those thoughts. 

The mind could only think of one thing at a time, and she had every right to control what those thoughts would be

Wheeler is big on thoughts influencing actions.

One thing I didn’t like was in one of the Aldermaston’s lectures, Wheeler got lost in the theology and dropped a few phrases like ‘second life’ that needed explanation. Also while the colliding world theme was cool, it was kind of hard to see Kingfountain as a conquering nation of zealots, with submarines? How long after Trynne’s storyline did this occur?

Overall: betrayal, political machinations galore, more betrayal, more intrigue, and all of the above is exactly what I love about these books. I picked it apart but really immensely enjoy this world. 

The end left the characters in interesting places and I am extremely excited to read the next book in the series. War is beginning, Sera is trapped, and Cettie is learning how deep found family truly runs.

Kate Rudd is an amazing narrator too, I hope she keeps narrating all of Wheeler’s books!

The Harbinger Series

Categories
audiobooks Fantasy

Storm Glass by Jeff Wheeler (Book Thoughts)

Hi book friends! I have had an absolutely phenomenal reading time in April, including finally starting the Harbinger series.

Look at that cover, do you even need any other incentive to pick up the series?

I flew through Storm Glass in about a day with a mix of reading and listening.  I like Wheeler’s books because they are entertaining and interesting while not being overly complicated, making for quick reads.

Read if:  regency England with a steampunk twist imposed on a fantasy setting of floating  estates sounds good!

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: Storm Glass
  • Series: Harbinger #1
  • Author: Jeff Wheeler
  • Publisher & Release: 47 North, June 2018
  • Length: 367 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟 for clean fantasy fans

Here’s the synopsis via GoodReads:

Theirs is a world of opposites. The privileged live in sky manors held aloft by a secretive magic known only as the Mysteries. Below, the earthbound poor are forced into factory work to maintain the engine of commerce. Only the wealthy can afford to learn the Mysteries, and they use their knowledge to further lock their hold on society.

Cettie Pratt is a waif doomed to the world below, until an admiral attempts to adopt her. But in her new home in the clouds, not everyone treats her as one of the family.

Sera Fitzempress is a princess born into power. She yearns to meet the orphan girl she has heard so much about, but her father deems the girl unworthy of his daughter’s curiosity.

Neither girl feels that she belongs. Each seeks to break free of imposed rules. Now, as Cettie dreams of living above and as Sera is drawn to the world below, they will follow the paths of their own choosing.

Both girls will be needed for the coming storm that threatens to overturn their worlds

So I finally got around to starting the Harbinger series, and I’m not disappointed at all. I always make a point of reading the author’s note of a book first, so I knew a little bit about what to expect including that Wheeler wanted to write a historical fiction but ended up imposing that setting into another fantastically built fantasy world.

Imagine the strictest social hierarchy, privilege versus poor, strict governesses, early discovery, factories, even zeppelins.  I think it was interesting that Wheeler started bringing technology and steampunk vibes into a book and one of the main themes is how the characters take new science and incorporate it into their world view. Is it Mystery (magic) or mystery (something yet to be discovered)?  I also liked how these themes are tied directly to the magic in the world.

I love the world building, the rich estates and gardens, waterfalls, and how they contrast with the dirt poor factory districts below teeming with sickness and poverty.

How can you beat a system designed to keep the poor poor, the rich in debt, and everyone except the tip-top of the Elite in check? Hmm

Cettie and Sera are both great protagonists and I can’t wait to follow them through the series. Each is a strong-willed young woman and for once I think that Wheeler actually made children (think around 12, preteen,) seem age appropriate.

Cettie came from the Fells, one of the poor factory districts, and is adopted into a rich floating family estate by a kind military leader. Sera is a princess (!!!A descendent of Maia and Collier about 200 years down the line!!!) who will eventually battle her father for the Empire.

There are whole bunch of Side characters that are worth mentioning too, including Cettie’s new adopted siblings and an estate keeper who is easily as evil as Umbrage!

The plot is quick moving, there is not much down time at all.  There are some hints that end up being obvious and I’m sure some obvious points will turn into surprises later on in the series.

This is also a series that ties into the Muirwood books, in that it takes place in the same world and Muirwood Abbey plus an Aldermaston have a cameo at the end.  I am excited to see more of this setting in the next book.  There is also a Kingfountain tie-in and a mention of a Bhiku, I believe from the Dryad-Born series. I think it’s wild to try to envision all these stories taking place in the same world.

One comment I want to make is to reply to a few people saying they feel that reading this series is like reading the Book of Mormon: …. Ack, I get it but I don’t feel it, yet at least.  Historically the human race makes sense of the world and each individual reality through stories, faith, folk tales, fantasy, but the point is: stories.  Even if part or much of the books is an allegory, the vibe I get is that the characters are deeply attuned to learning and some, like Cettie, are more in concert with the Mysteries (faith, magic, sentience, etc) than others.  I know Wheeler can get preachy (what do you expect from a pastor?) but as I said, I’m not feeling it here, simply a story making sense of the world’s history as he sees it, and I personally love the science and faith intertwining into the characters world view.

Long story short: magic, danger, excitement, propriety and society, learning, debt and tithes, more magic, found family to the max,  and willful young women ready to take on the hierarchy!

Categories
Adventure audiobooks Suspense Thrillers

The Pursuit (Book Thoughts) by Janet Evanovich and Lee Goldberg

I decided to finish out the Lee Goldberg portion of the Fox and O’Hare series and was not disappointed.  Book 4 – The Scam – was my least favorite in the series and I almost didn’t read The Pursuit but now I’m glad I did.

The action was back.  The heist and con were dangerous, exciting, and interesting, and the bad guy was actually pretty dark in how he treated his employees (and was planning on killing tons of Americans).

A new character was introduced, if anyone remembers the robbery that the team accidentally botched in The Chase – the leader is brought back as a sewer expert.  Oh my gosh he had me cracking up with laughter because he took himself so seriously, but he did his job.  It was also nice to drop back in on Montreal, one of my favorite cities!

The regular team is back as well, Willie and Boyd and the crew.  We finally see some chemistry and action between Kate O’hare and Fox too, which *even I* was ready for at this point.  I’m glad Jake (her dad) approves too.  I’m also glad that he got to pass his love for rocket launchers onto Willie!

The characters carry these books for sure even when all else fails.  Jake always manages to bring in some amazing old military buddies and the entire team has great chemistry at this point. I always say there is banter for days but it’s true!.  There’s a new office assistant type character as well that I think was a Goldberg addition 😂

I think what finally set this one apart was the ultimate danger and complexity of the con – I do love medical things and the bio terror / terrorism angle was something new for the series. Also it seemed like a lot of bad guys got shot and killed – and the FBI was like GUYS YOU’RE ON YOUR OWN! 

Overall: if you think there’s a book 3-4 slump, I would keep reading for this one.  You can always check out the audio as well, Scott Brick can do no wrong and delivers a solid no frills narration with plenty of vocal variety!

Categories
audiobooks Biographies, Memoirs, Nonfiction

When You Are Engulfed in Flames (audio thoughts) by David Sedaris

Continuing my simultaneous quests to read outside my lines and pick up random popular authors that I haven’t read yet, I turned to one of the many essay collections by David Sedaris.  This is his sixth, and while I heard that some of the earlier ones were more funny, I thought a “recent” collection might be more pertinent to today’s issues. Whether or not that is true, it was interesting to “throwback” to some of the things happening “back then” without today’s lens!

It is HARD to pick nonfiction these days when there is so much of it out there. I first heard the Sedaris name on Bojack Horseman, as his sister Amy voices a prominent character, and she seems like a hilarious person and decent actress.

Having gone to the Van Gogh exhibit recently and almost purchased a tote with the painting on the cover of When You Are Engulfed in Flames on it, i thought “hey this will be a good place to start”

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: When You Are Engulfed in Flames
  • Author: David Sedaris
  • Publisher & Release: Little, Brown & Company – June 2008
  • Length: 336 pages
  • The Audio: self narrated by David Sedaris, 9 hours from Hachette Audio

I think it is a little bit hard to rate humor because everybody has a different sense of humor.  While I have a feeling that Sedaris’ personality won’t go over well with the 2022 “woke” crowd, I personally find him funny and admire the way that he can make everyday embarrassment into something worth reading about.

If you are looking for a lighter read with funny observations about life and personal experiences, Sedaris seems like a regular go-to for many people and I would certainly read & listen to more of his writings.

I laughed the most when Sedaris was *convinced* that his husband wanted a human skeleton for Christmas, when his mother – in – law had a worm in her leg with a penis-shaped head, and, at the many mistakes that happen when the literal translation of languages leaves something to be desired.  This happens a lot between Japanese and English and we see the best of it as Sedaris tries to quit smoking by immersing himself in Japanese culture

There is also some heavier commentary on his early drug and alcohol use, getting out of the closet, and many things that he probably wasn’t laughing at at the time but now can reflect back on and find the story to tell.

The audio is great too, I think he is a great orator and kept it interesting. The live recording portions were of good quality too.  Why was Sedaris sitting mostly naked in a urology waiting room? Well – you’ll have to read to find out

Categories
audiobooks Fantasy

Star Mother (Book Review) by Charlie N. Holmberg

My head is still hurting from a few recent extremely dense reads. Looking for something lighter I turned to Holmberg, an author I can count on for a faster paced, magical read without too many details bogging it down – and was not disappointed.

Her latest duology, Star Mother, came out this winter and I have had it on my radar. I love her books when I need something cute and addictive without investing a wealth of brain power.

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: Star Mother
  • Series: Star Mother #1
  • Author: Charlie N. Holmberg
  • Publisher & Release: 47 North, 11/01/21
  • Length: 268 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: 🌞🌞🌞🌞 for romantic fantasy fans or an intro to fantasy

Here is the synopsis via Amazon:

A woman’s heart proves as infinite as the night sky in a breathtaking fantasy by Wall Street Journal bestselling author Charlie N. Holmberg.

When a star dies, a new one must be born.

The Sun God chooses the village of Endwever to provide a mortal womb. The birthing of a star is always fatal for the mother, and Ceris Wenden, who considers herself an outsider, sacrifices herself to secure her family’s honor and take control of her legacy. But after her star child is born, Ceris does what no other star mother has: she survives. When Ceris returns to Endwever, however, it’s not nine months later—it’s seven hundred years later. Inexplicably displaced in time, Ceris is determined to seek out her descendants.

Being a woman traveling alone brings its own challenges, until Ceris encounters a mysterious—and desperate—godling. Ristriel is incorporeal, a fugitive, a trickster, and the only being who can guide Ceris safely to her destination. Now, as Ceris traverses realms both mortal and beyond, her journey truly begins.

Together, pursued across the Earth and trespassing the heavens, Ceris and Ristriel are on a path to illuminate the mysteries that bind them and discover the secrets of the celestial world.

The Plot: This is a fast paced story about a mortal woman who chooses to bear a child of the Sun. I fully enjoyed her journey and watching her develop relationships with both the Sun and *the quintessentially complicated  dark/mysterious/brooding man who is quite a mystery*.  The plot is pretty unique and I enjoyed the idea of the story and lore behind it.

The Magic: In regular Holmberg fashion, she gives the reader just enough lore to understand the world and appreciate the magical elements. The magic held by the celestial beings and their legends felt very folklore ish to me.  The book avoids a few complicated rabbit holes (Time not making sense, for one example), by saying that the Gods only need to know certain things. Then the tides and universe run on Starpower – so it’s something different but all vaguely explained.  I liked the idea of interacting with the Gods and demigods and how they are formed! Ristriel had the most interesting magic by far but talking about it gets spoiler real quick!

World Building: I would like to see more world building in general, but Holmberg mainly tells us the main ideas we need to know for the story to make sense.  I did like the descriptions of the Sun Palace and patriarchal society.  If someone prefers characters and action to world building this will be a perfect book.

The Characters: Ceris was introduced as a prankster with an immature but great sense of humor and I liked her from the start. I don’t want to give too much away about Ristriel.  He was dodgy about who and what he was and I think Ceris let it go a little too quickly.  I also have to admit that while I definitely rooted for and wished each character well as individuals – I didn’t see the chemistry between them.  The Sun was honorable and offered many times to do the right thing by Ceris (from a Christian standpoint anyway) and I liked his lore/legends as well. I hope the next book offers more of the Earth and Moon!

Themes: from the afterword, she wrote the book while in and coming out of a dark place. I liked the musings on faith and divinity, finding family, and keeping your promises.

One thing that did throw me was when a priest called Ceris out for abandoning her 100% fully CHOSEN mate with whom she had the star child – the choice and free will was highly emphasized too throughout the book – I thought he was right.  Coming from a Christian author I was very surprised to see Ceris freak out about her honor as a woman when one can’t argue that she should have stayed with the Sun, who had offered to make her a queen. Ris could have been paired with someone else and prior to this Ceris had been extremely loyal to her betrothed. I also loved the cover but I missed where there was a fox in the book! I think it should have been one of Ristriel’s forms!

All in all, I fully recommend for romantic fantasy fans, folklore, or someone wanting to try fantasy for the first time!

A few notes on the audio: through Brilliance Audio, I didn’t realize that Kristine Hvam did any narration for 47North authors! I am familiar with her from the Daughter of Smoke and Bone trilogy, Ravenspire, and so many more. She is a well respected fantasy narrator (she does other genres too) and this is another solid performance from her.  As the kindle audio is weird, I read and listened about 50/50 to this book.  For sure, though, I definitely appreciate authors like Holmberg and Jeff Wheeler who make their books and audiobooks accessible to read and listen via Kindle Unlimited!

Categories
audiobooks Mysteries Suspense Thrillers

Before I Go To Sleep (Book Thoughts) by S.J. Watson

Before I Go to Sleep by SJ Watson is a slightly older (2011) psychological thriller & suspense novel.  It is probably the book that kicked off the more recent popularity of the ‘amnesia trope’ as I have seen many books peg themselves as ‘for fans of…’ this one.

Between that and the fact that I wanted to watch the movie, I bumped this one up on my backlist!

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: Before I Go To Sleep
  • Author: SJ Watson
  • Publisher & Release: HarperCollins, June 2011
  • Length: 368 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐⭐ by nature slightly repetitive, but still a good domestic psychological suspense

Here is the synopsis via GoodReads:.

Christine wakes up every morning in an unfamiliar bed with an unfamiliar man. She looks in the mirror and sees an unfamiliar, middle-aged face. And every morning, the man she has woken up with must explain that he is Ben, he is her husband, she is forty-seven years old, and a terrible accident two decades earlier decimated her ability to form new memories.

Every day, Christine must begin again the reconstruction of her past. And the closer she gets to the truth, the more unbelievable it seems.

Christine wakes up every day and has no idea about … Anything. Where is she? Who is this stranger in het bed? Why is she 47 now?

Every day, her husband reorients her and then heads odd to work.  She is contacted by, and then begins to work with a new doctor, in secret, and starts writing down daily events and what her husband tells her.  Things get even weirder when she realizes the strange man – her husband apparently – lies to her.

The game for the reader becomes trying to decide if Ben is lying because he is sick of living day in day out with an amnesiac?  Are the memories of losing a son too painful for him? Is Christine just paranoid? Or… Is it something more sinister.  Also, where does this new Dr – Dr. Nash – fit into everything?

While the book is by nature very repetitive at first, it got definitively creepy and more thrilling towards the end. I guessed the ‘who’ but not the ‘why’ at all, and the WHY is definitely the grabbing point.  The last 25% was very exciting and for me that made up for the slower start.

The psychology was pretty cool too, I enjoyed reading about different types of amnesia and the therapy, and then seeing the figurative walls coming down.

That ending though, that ending 😂

I would recommend this one for fans of domestic thrillers and a man writing hilarious descriptions of a weiner. Oh yes – after the third time a penis was described as “comical”, I had to butt out and see if the author was a man or woman.  Not to say that as a woman, I don’t tend to find penises comical – but this was definitely a man writing the sexy scenes 😂

A note on the audio: If anyone is an audio fan, I think Orlagh Cassidy was a properly confused and then horrified sounding narrator.  Christine spent most of her time either confused, scared, hopeful or hopeless, and Cassidy conveyed that all very well.  I loved her accent and also think that the audio would make this book more enjoyable for those who (like me) tend to lose focus with repetitive text.  It runs 11hours 32 minutes from HarperAudio and I obtained my copy through Libby!

Categories
audiobooks Fantasy

The Magician’s Land (Book Thoughts) by Lev Grossman

It didn’t matter where you were, if you were in a room full of books you were at least halfway home

This series is a modern fantasy favorite of mine. The trilogy only got stronger as it went and I think the ending was perfect.  I don’t know what else I can say after two books – Grossman has an easy to enjoy writing style, complicated character arcs, interesting and master level magic, and a story that just kept building.

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: The Magician’s Land
  • Series: The Magicians #3
  • Author: Lev Grossman
  • Publisher & Release: Viking, 2014
  • Length: 416 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ for how it ended

Here is the synopsis (spoiler free thankfully): 

Quentin Coldwater has been cast out of Fillory, the secret magical land of his childhood dreams. With nothing left to lose he returns to where his story began, the Brakebills Preparatory College of Magic. But he can’t hide from his past, and it’s not long before it comes looking for him.

Along with Plum, a brilliant young undergraduate with a dark secret of her own, Quentin sets out on a crooked path through a magical demimonde of gray magic and desperate characters. But all roads lead back to Fillory, and his new life takes him to old haunts, like Antarctica, and to buried secrets and old friends he thought were lost forever. He uncovers the key to a sorcery masterwork, a spell that could create magical utopia, a new Fillory—but casting it will set in motion a chain of events that will bring Earth and Fillory crashing together. To save them he will have to risk sacrificing everything.

It’s the story of a boy becoming a man, an apprentice becoming a master, and a broken land finally becoming whole.

As a glasses smudging 30something who is still working on career satisfaction and figuring out how to do the life thing, I think Quentin gets super relatable in this book

I love books where the characters are 30 somethings. You never know who’s going to end up married with kids, who is going to flourish or flounder or even end up dead.  The four main characters (and Alice) finally grew into their roles and realize/figure out who they are and what they are capable of.

I liked Quentin as a professor, and how he was able to work with Plum and kind of get her on the right track/guide her through the post Brakebills disaster.  Plum was a good addition to this book – she brought some youth and wit and new blood into the mix.  I actually liked Umber more than Ember and enjoyed those scenes a lot.  All the characters grew up and Quentin found his hope again at the end – what more could we ask for.

I do wish there had been a little more closure for Janet & Elliot, but they will be ok. The kings and queens have a ton of work to do. Their chapters were some of the best in the book.

The Quentin/Alice ending was perfect – the moral is that life goes on. Seeing them content was everything.

Other than the quote up top, here were two others that stuck out to me.  There were tons of funny one liners but hear these:

“Fuck love, fuck marriage, fuck children, fuck fucking itself: this was his romance, this fantasy land at whose helm he sat, steering it on and on into the future, world without end, until he died and tastefully idealized statues were made of him.” – that was Elliot having his moment

“Magic was wild feelings, the kind that escaped out of you and into the world and changed things. There was a lot of skill to it, and a lot of learning, and a lot of work, but that was where the power began: the power to enchant the world.”
– I’m so happy that Q figured things out. Remember that he was always searching for external happiness, never realizing what he held inside? 

I know the trilogy has mixed reviews but I do think that people around my age (30s), the HP generation, will enjoy these books.  Don’t compare the books to anything else, just enjoy the series for what it is.  I know there are tons of changes but I’m interested in finishing the TV show too

**I don’t have much to add about the audiobooks but Mark Bramhall really did a good job bringing the stories and characters to life.  Would definitely recommend for audio fans or if the text seems dry**

Categories
audiobooks Fantasy

Fate’s Ransom (Book Review) by Jeff Wheeler

I was lucky enough to be invited to read Fate’s Ranson, the final installment of The First Argentines series as an ARC.  While normally I would drop my TBR and jump on it, I knew what was coming … and I put this one off for a few weeks. 

My apologies to the publisher but even in a better state of existence the end absolutely ruined me!! Ruined! Not ugly crying but more the silent streaming tears of ruination kind!

I will do the review without spoilers, although this is absolutely not a standalone and you need the first three books in order to read the ending.

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: Fate’s Ransom
  • Series: The First Argentines, #4
  • Author: Jeff Wheeler
  • Publisher & Release: 47 North, January 4th 2022
  • Length: 455 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐   I think this is an amazing series for those who like clean fantasy, knights and battles, medieval settings, are looking for an intro to fantasy, a little magic and a world of intrigue

Here is the synopsis (taken from Amazon)

Betrayal, war, and the risks of loyalty collide in the epic conclusion of the First Argentines series by the Wall Street Journal bestselling author of Lady’s Ransom.

Ransom Barton has served three Argentine kings. The new successor to the throne is the ruthless Jon-Landon, a fallible strategist when it comes to war. After losing against the Occitanian armies, the king forces Ransom to bear the blame and removes him from the council. But Jon-Landon isn’t yet through with humbling the honorable knight of Ceredigion.

When a retaliatory battle succeeds, Jon-Landon invites Ransom back into his circle. Though Ransom’s Fountain magic is made stronger by his fealty, he’s once again forced to make a terrible choice. And this time, Ransom’s wife, Claire, and their sons could pay the price for Ransom’s loyalty.

But as tensions between Ceredigion and Occitania reignite and alliances at court begin to crumble, a desperate Jon-Landon discovers his only ally is the knight he betrayed. With the future of Kingfountain hanging in the balance, Ransom agrees to help. And as secret enemies reveal their endgame, Ransom knows that he may have to make the ultimate sacrifice for the survival of the Argentine dynasty.

The synopsis really says it all: Jon-Landon is an insufferable twat and his spy master is even worse.  Ransoms pays the heaviest price as petulance and jealousy destroy the kingdom from the inside, while opportunistic kings attack the borders. 

There is a little more magic in this book. The real history of the Wizr board is revealed with how this particular game began.  There are miracles of the fountain to behold.  Alix hints at having more abilities than anyone is aware of, and I really wish we had seen more of her and Estian’s motivations than what we learned at the end.  (I wonder if maybe in reading the two books about Ankorette, we learn these poisoner secrets so that Alix only had to give a nod to it in a later book? I skipped them but am going to go back for sure).

There was so much intrigue, as in every book, although I felt like this was more about Jon-Landon cutting off his own arms than having a good reason to conquer his own allies. Ransom stayed loyal to the Fountain above all else.  There were some parts that almost turned to dark fantasy, as in, children were murdered, graphic poisonings, etc, but even in the darkest times there was a way forward.

There was the typical dose of battles, strategy, reconciliation ,and heroism that I come to expect from these books.  The “Dex Aie” chapter was pretty much everything.  Ransom and Estian finally had their showdown, although I could have gone for an epic duel.

What else… oh yes, the family scenes.  I wish Wheeler would do families in more of his books, I just loved seeing the twins causing mayhem with the princess.  I think he’s got a strong sense of family and it shows in the pages, it surprised me that this isn’t something he has written before.  The twins were somewhat of the comic relief in some otherwise terrible situations. I have theories about how they will grow up and be married and further the realm for sure.

My only question was – so obviously some years had passed in the beginning of the book, but I don’t think everything else aged consistently.  Dappled would have been older too and probably not as strong and resilient as he used to be.  Ransom’s kids didn’t seem to age appropriately either, either that or there weren’t really that many years that had passed. 

Either way, let me close by giving Claire the spotlight – I think she deserved the protectorate position at the end, so much!! She was the most capable queen and saved the day so many times throughout the series.  While the devastation at the end did absolutely ruin me, I couldn’t have hoped for a better outcome for Claire.  I don’t know how I feel about the fact that she more or less converted to the belief of the Fountain, although again, the ending, the ending, the ending.  I’m glad she affiliated herself with Constance and got to see the Deep Fathoms for herself. 

All in all – yes definitely recommend these books for those seeking an exciting medieval fantasy series.  I think they are great books for teens too, easy to follow plots and very clean content. I am interested in checking out the history and books that the series and Ransom character are based on.  There was a knight named William Marshal and his service to four kings (the Plantagenet line, predecessors of the Tudors) was a real piece of history.  There’s a fantastic author note about it all.

((Very lastly- these books are available on KU, with free audiobooks as part of that subscription. This is the case with most Jeff Wheeler books. This series is narrated by Kate Rudd and she is absolutely fantastic – very dramatic – but very good. As another way to check out his books I would highly recommend that route)

Categories
audiobooks Mysteries Suspense Thrillers

The Guest List (book thoughts) by Lucy Foley

I am about to dive back into another fantasy and sci-fi binge.  While I love reading indie, it’s been fun to try a few new and different popular authors this month, the last of them being Lucy Foley.

I see her novels on Bookstagram FREQUENTLY and figured I should give her a shot, even if her name makes me giggle as a nurse 😂

Anyway – Libby had The Guest List available and I tend to LOVE full cast audiobooks.  I don’t think I could have finished if it was a book – the atmosphere and location worked but the format and story was rough for me

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: The Guest List
  • Author: Lucy Foley
  • Publisher & Release: William Morrow, June 2020
  • Length: 320 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐ for fans of the mystery genre

Here’s the synopsis:

wedding celebration turns dark and deadly in this deliciously wicked and atmospheric thriller reminiscent of Agatha Christie from the New York Times bestselling author of The Hunting Party.

The bride – The plus one – The best man – The wedding planner  – The bridesmaid – The body

On an island off the coast of Ireland, guests gather to celebrate two people joining their lives together as one. The groom: handsome and charming, a rising television star. The bride: smart and ambitious, a magazine publisher. It’s a wedding for a magazine, or for a celebrity: the designer dress, the remote location, the luxe party favors, the boutique whiskey. The cell phone service may be spotty and the waves may be rough, but every detail has been expertly planned and will be expertly executed.

But perfection is for plans, and people are all too human. As the champagne is popped and the festivities begin, resentments and petty jealousies begin to mingle with the reminiscences and well wishes. The groomsmen begin the drinking game from their school days. The bridesmaid not-so-accidentally ruins her dress. The bride’s oldest (male) friend gives an uncomfortably caring toast.

And then someone turns up dead. Who didn’t wish the happy couple well? And perhaps more important, why?

I can definitely see where critics were comparing this to a Christie novel but it was very hard for me to not know the crime or victim up front. I’ve been spoiled by modern thrillers where, when it’s relevant, we almost always know who the victim is.  How am I supposed to guess who did it or why if I don’t know what I’m guessing at?

There was so much back story about the couple and the husband’s Uni and wedding plans and etc etc. These aren’t things I typically care to read about so I was honestly pretty bored. She kept hinting at some obviously dark events in the past – at least the reveals were pretty entertaining but the hints were so vague.

The best part was probably the descriptions of the island and the haunted atmosphere in Aoife’s chapters, but even that could have been amped up more. Irish folklore and legends always have a place in stories, and a few were mentioned in name only.

I think if we had known who died earlier on it would have been a lot more interesting.  The family drama was kind of entertaining but at the same time I just couldn’t bring myself to care.

Regarding the audio! I liked the female narrators but the men left something to be desired. Some of the female narrators really did not do convincing men either. I definitely didn’t like the present tense chapters where eventually the crime was narrated.

If you like this closed door mystery genre of books, I could still recommend this one, although I’ve read many better ones (personal opinion) recently that kept me on my toes and got exciting much sooner.