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
Fiction Mysteries

Book Tour & Review ~ Who Me? Fog Bows, Fraud and Aphrodite by Charlotte Stuart

From grimdark to cozy mystery, what the heck will I post next 🤣

Thanks so much to Kate Rock Book Tours for having me on the tour for this surprisingly fun cozy mystery! I chose to read it because I love CATS! and Macavity sounded like quite a character. How can I not read something with a snarky orange cat in it?

Note: it is #2 in a series but reads as a standalone

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: Who, Me? Fog Bows, Fraud and Aphrodite
  • Series: Macavity and Me #2
  • Author: Charlotte Stuart
  • Publisher & Release: Seale Publishing, June 2021
  • Length: 236 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐✨ Yes for fans of cozy mysteries and cats

Here’s the synopsis:

From the open porthole on her sailboat, Bryn Baczek overhears a heated argument on a nearby boat followed by a loud splash . . .then silence. 

Bryn lives on a sailboat in a small marina with her cantankerous cat, Macavity, and a series of short-lived goldfish. While seeking evidence to prove a neighbor innocent of murder, she ends up being threatened by the victim’s abusive boyfriend, betrayed by a close friend, and almost bored to death by an uncooperative accountant.

Although Bryn shares what she learns with a charming detective whose manicured mustache she finds off-putting, she is one step ahead of the police in identifying the murderer . . . a step that puts her in a dangerous face-to-face confrontation.

Who, Me? Fog Bows, Fraud and Aphrodite is currently a finalist in the Chanticleer Mystery and Mayhem contest. It also won a Firebird Book Award for humor and is an Author Shout Recommended Read and a 5 Star Readers Favorite.

I laugh every time I read the synopsis. Short lived goldfish and a cantankerous cat just about sums it up, plus a disappearing woman and all of Bryn’s shenanigans.

I don’t usually enjoy cozy mysteries but Bryn was not a complete idiot like most main characters in these books.  She worked along with the police without obstructing the detective, used her resources well, and actually managed to solve the case without bringing too much harm to herself or anyone else!

The mystery itself got a bit convoluted for me at the end although it was fun watching the characters follow the paper trail.  I missed how the perpetrator knew … Uhhmmm…. Things.  I think a seasoned mystery reader may have guessed the murderer but I had Nooooo idea who it was.

Despite the fact that I can’t follow the details of a murder plot, the characters totally carried the book.  It took some time to learn about Bryn and her friends/family and it was a good crew.  I loved Logan and Judd who were hilarious and may or may not love cats.  My favorite part besides Macavity and the string of goldfish is how Bryn is portrayed as a single, happy, self sufficient 30 something who is alone but not lonely.  Parents don’t get it! I can relate!

Overall: I would read Stuart’s other books for sure, I can’t wait to see more of Bryn’s adventures when I need a break from heavier reading. Definitely recommend this for cozy mystery fans who like strong main characters and need a few good laughs!

Categories
Fiction Historical Fiction Literary Fiction Romance

The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne (Book Thoughts)

In an effort to broaden my reading horizons and shore up some of my literary gaps, I started reading a few classics every year.

For my summer session of classic torture, I was surprised to find that The Scarlet Letter was not really that challenging to read. It is fairly short and the language isn’t terribly insufferable either (My last classic was Notre Dame de Paris ((The Hunchback of Notre Dame)) and … Whew, no thanks).

So let’s talk about my reaction to the book, if I think it has relevance today, and I’ll treat you to my teen-speak synopsis of the book.

Originally published in 1850, here’s the Signet Classics synopsis:

This tragic novel of sin and redemption is Hawthorne’s masterpiece of American fiction.

An ardent young woman, her cowardly lover, and her aging vengeful husband—these are the central characters in this stark drama of the conflict between passion and convention in the harsh world of seventeenth-century Boston. Tremendously moving and rich in psychological insight, this dramatic depiction of the struggle between mind and heart illuminates Hawthorne’s concern with our Puritan past and its influence on American life.

Broadly – I enjoyed the read.  It’s not hard to know what’s happening, and minus a bit of minute descriptive language mostly in the first novella about the Custom House, it was pretty readable.

His author intro is everything: Oh you’re offended by my sketch? I think it’s fine, it’s not like I burned the place down!! I bet Hawthorne had a big personality.

Relevance: I think it has relevance as a cautionary tale today in a world where teen moms get “famous” on TV and you can’t even scroll Bookstagram without seeing books with x rated content advertised. I would definitely put this in a home school curriculum to talk about Puritanism, early settlements, guilt, adultery, having children out of wedlock, stigmas and identity, I mean there’s a lot of discussion content here that I imagine parents would rather handle.

Here’s my teen speak synopsis:

Part 1: So Mr. Hawthorne was in the hot seat for blasting his employer after being fired, and said HaHaHaHA I’m gonna publish this anyway because it’s not offensive so enjoy! Sticks and stones!

Part 2: The Scarlet Letter. Ok so this lady living in Puritan Salem/Boston finds this brown eyed pastor waxing poetic, and even though she’s married, they get their shenanigans on. What the heck did she think would happen when she had a baby? This wasn’t 2020 where Jerry Springer lets your baby daddy and your husband fight it out on live TV, your @$$ is going to be hung by the neck!

That didn’t happen because Hawthorne had to write a book longer than 5 pages, so the two men have to kill each other with psychological warfare instead. A good lesson about carrying around a guilty conscience.

Long story short – actions have consequenes

A few random thoughts:

  • I thought it was funny that even the beggars were shunning charity from Hester. These days everyone grabs all the free stuff regardless of who is handing it out
  • A character mentioned transmuting alchemy to gold, which is something I usually see in fantasy books or nonfiction moreso than historical fiction
  • The book takes place 50 years before the Salem Witch Trials and Hawthorne brought in some real historical figures as characters.  Bellingham was the real governor, as was Hibbins who mentioned witchcraft throughout the book and was hanged in real life shortly after it took place. I didn’t know how many women were hung before the actual frenzy took place

Overall thoughts: I didn’t feel bad for Hester at all. She wasn’t forced into marriage and knew the laws of the time. Dimmesdale probably took advantage of his authority position and that isn’t an excuse for either of them since she clearly knows how to say NO to men in power based off the rest of the book.  I know 2020 is whack but choices, actions, they all have consequences and I’ll never support adultery.  That’s why I think this is a good cautionary tale to lay against idiocracy like “Teen Mom”

This is a quicker, easier to pick apart classic and I definitely think it held up over the years.

Soooo what classic should I read in the fall?

Categories
Contemporary Fantasy Romance Young Adult

Three Kisses, One Midnight by Roshani Chokshi, Sandhya Menon, Evelyn Skye (ARC Review)

Thank you to Wednesday Books for the early digital copy of Three Kisses, One Midnight by *all those authors* lol!  I haven’t read anything by Skye or Menon but I love Chokshi as a YA author and was happy to grab a copy of this.

This is a young feeling YA with witchy & folklore elements, that hit me like a Halloween version of Cinderella.  Three friends are attending the town’s annual masquerade gala and are intent on finding true love prior to midnight.  It was a little silly but magical and cute overall, and I think that younger YA readers will enjoy the book

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: Three Kisses, One Midnight: A Novel
  • Series: N/A
  • Author: Roshani Chokshi, Sandhya Menon, Evelyn Skye
  • Publisher & Release: Wednesday Books, 08/30/22
  • Length: 288 pages
  • Rate & Recommend:  ⭐⭐⭐✨  for younger teen readers

Here’s the synopsis from GoodReads: 

New York Times bestselling authors Roshani Chokshi, Evelyn Skye, and Sandhya Menon craft a spellbinding novel about discovering the magic of true love on one fateful, magical night in Three Kisses, One Midnight.

The town of Moon Ridge was founded 400 years ago and everyone born and raised there knows the legend of the young woman who perished at the stroke of twelve that very same night, losing the life she was set to embark on with her dearest love. Every century since, one day a year, the Lady of Moon Ridge descends from the stars to walk among the townsfolk, conjuring an aura upon those willing to follow their hearts’ desires.

“To summon joy and love in another’s soul
For a connection that makes two people whole
For laughter and a smile that one can never miss
Sealed before midnight with a truehearted kiss.”

This year at Moon Ridge High, a group of friends known as The Coven will weave art, science, and magic during a masquerade ball unlike any other. Onny, True, and Ash believe everything is in alignment to bring them the affection, acceptance, and healing that can only come from romance—with a little help from Onny’s grandmother’s love potion.

But nothing is as simple as it first seems. And as midnight approaches, The Coven learn that it will take more than a spell to recognize those who offer their love and to embrace all the magic that follows

The synopsis sounded a little not-my-style but I’ll read anything that Roshani Chokshi writes.  The first friend, Onny, has an insanely rich family and her parents host the Moon Ridge founding day gala every year.  Since it’s the 400th anniversary they are sparing no expense and creating the most magical, amazing celebration ever.

There was a good overall mood and setting, I would totally go to that masquerade.

I think the best part was also the most jarring part – Chokshi’s prose.  The other authors wrote the dialogue and stories, and then her lyrical and magic descriptions were tagged into paragraphs.   Text, Text, text, “and it was like *insert block of Chokshi prose*”.

I think they should have melded it together a little better somehow but it really did flow well overall.

Split into three sections, a section for each friend, we get to see how each teen embraces both the literal and figurative magic of the night.  I was surprised to enjoy the third story the most – True had an amazing personality and I feel like the authors gave us a rough idea of her at first, so I got to overcome my first impression of her as she also had her own struggles.  I liked her story the most too.

Each teen had a little adventure and I think True had the best one.  Each character was good though, I didn’t particularly dislike any character or segment.  Ash’s was slowest but interesting, Onny was insufferable and had to learn to look under the surface of people, and I already talked about True!

There are good youth friendly themes of being yourself, honoring family, accepting yourself and others, and others.

Overall, I’m pretty excited that these authors got together.  I do think some of the content isn’t quite as cute as they intended it to be, which is why I went with my neutral rating.  I do appreciate that they kept the main characters to kissing only. The characters tend to talk and text like 12 year olds and they are intended to be 17+! Like I said, I would recommend for the younger YA spectrum and also have no trouble giving this to a strong middle grader.

Thanks again to Wednesday Books for my advanced copy, all opinions are my own.

Categories
Fiction Mysteries Suspense

The Comfort of Distance by Ryburn Dobbs (Book Thoughts)

I was invited to read The Comfort of Distance by Ryburn Dobbs and am leaving a voluntary review. My devices struggle with the PDF format so I ended up finding the book on Kindle Unlimited and read the edition provided there. **See disclaimer at the end**

This book spans a few genres. It is more about forensic anthropology and detective work than it is a police procedural, with some mystery and suspense elements too.  The characters alluded to but didn’t say “Bones”. Check this one out if you like Bones, with a socially awkward and overly introspective anthropologist that reminded me a lot of Detective Monk in many ways.

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: The Comfort of Distance
  • Series: The Sebastien Grey Novels – #1
  • Author: Ryburn Dobbs
  • Publisher & Release: Dandiprat Press, October, 2020
  • Length: 276 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐✨ for fans of the genre

Here’s the summary from Am*zon:

Someone, or some thing, is leaving bodies in the Black Hills.

Forensic science meets literary fiction in this captivating police procedural. Deep in the forests of the Black Hills, human remains are being discovered – one bit at a time. Rumors of a rogue man-eating mountain lion are spreading through the county and panic is starting to swell. Sgt. Hank LeGris of the Custer County Sheriff’s Office is feeling the pressure; he needs to find out who the dead are, and how they got that way. Hank suspects that the bodies are the result of a more sinister predator. But in order to solve the mystery, he will have to reach back into his own dysfunctional family history and pull in the only person who can get to the bottom of these strange cases – his estranged and disordered brother, the brilliant forensic anthropologist Dr. Sebastien Grey.

When Sebastien arrives in the Black Hills, he takes his brother, and Detective Tiffany Reese, on a whirlwind tour of forensic thinking and deductive reasoning, not only solving the mystery of the human remains, but the murder of a local thug as well. In the process, Sebastien himself is forever transformed by his own success and by the charm and kindness of the lovely Detective Reese: “One day I hope you give yourself permission to be different, Sebastien. You’ll be happier.”

The Comfort of Distance is equal parts forensic mystery, police procedure and character study, with dashes of comedy and romance thrown in. Readers will be cheering at the end and ready for more

The prologue and initial scenes definitely had me interested in The Comfort of Distance.  Someone is brutalized and left for dead, and shortly after we meet the main cast of characters.

When the book introduced Sebastien Grey as a disordered person in therapy, I honestly rolled my eyes because so many detective novels take that route to show them getting their career back on track. Thankfully Dobbs took a different route and simply used that introduction to, well, introduce the character and his quirks.

The book quickly redeemed itself with interesting detective work, good characters, and multiple plotlines to keep things fresh and moving forward.

Grey turned into an interesting character that it is easy to root for.  I feel like he snapped right out of a lot of his problems (taking prescriptions inappropriately, etc) pretty quickly while on the case, which showed that his brain maybe just needed a little occupation than it was getting in California? I’m not sure what to make of Dr Grey’s character arc but he definitely ended up in a good place and I was happy for him.

I’m kind of wondering if Sebastien wasn’t slightly based off the fashion designer by the same name.

The other characters are likeable too, with good dialogue and banter and teamwork.  There is some family drama between the brothers which I hope gets more exposure in future novels.  One character had a lot of antipathy towards Sebastien at first that seemed to magically resolve, and I needed more background into the whole family conflict.

Also there were a ton of names and different storylines thrown out in the first few chapters.  Most of them came together well by the end but I thought there were a few loose ends too.  My last gripe is that the KU version did have a few – as in probably fewer than one per chapter – editorial issues, which did not detract too much.

The setting was well described in terms of weather, terrain, local mood and atmosphere, but I had a hard time pinning down the mood of the entire book.  I had Monk in my mind and read the book through a lighter, slightly more humorous lens than a serious detective novel or police procedural. That said, I think the book shined the most when Sebastien was doing his forensic magic.  It was interesting and showed that he really does have a great mind in there.

I haven’t gotten to do a OneReadingNurse medical disclaimer© in a while, but I would like to point out that Buspar \ buspirone and similarly Wellbutrin \ buproprion are long acting medications and have absolutely no indication or supportive data for as needed use. Please use these medications as prescribed by a physician.

Anyway, overall, I didn’t LOVE this book but definitely want to read the next one to see how Sebastien fares moving forward! I would recommend this for fans of forensic and detective novels like the Temperance Brennan and Eve Duncan series!


**Disclaimer: I do not normally take review requests for books that are available on KU. My normal policy for KU available books is, if interested, to mark them as want-to-read and then check it out IF/WHEN time allows. I missed this and it happens

Categories
audiobooks Fiction Paranormal

Elevation (+ Laurie) by Stephen King – Book & Audio Thoughts

I needed a Novella for the SFF Oasis book bingo this month and listened to Elevation (and Laurie) written and narrated by Stephen King!

I don’t want to spend too much time talking about these novellas so here is a pair of mini reviews:

Elevation 🌲🌲🌲

I thought this novella was kind of ridiculous. It had an interesting premise but was more about the town of Castle Rock getting woke than the sci-fi element, which was never explored or explained at all.  I liked the characters, character development, and storyline well enough.

What lacked was that I expected King to explore the gravity loss idea and sci-fi element a lot more than he did. As he did not, I found the whole thing lacking. I won’t spoil the ending but found it, just, utterly stupid.  Ok, bye Scott

Laurie 🐶🐶🐶🐶🐶

This seems very un-King-like but I loved Laurie! A man who lost his wife is being nagged by his sister, who brings a puppy to his house. Obviously he gripes and complains and the puppy going to pee on the rug and he hates her, etc etc, but then all cuteness ensues. There’s even a thrilling event at the end.

I need more animal cuteness from King, who usually makes his animals terrifying

He is a pretty good narrator too, he should read more of his own books!

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: Elevation
  • Author: Stephen King
  • Publisher & Release: Scribner, October 2018
  • Length: 160 pages
  • See ratings above

A quick note on the audio: about 3:46 long from Simon & Schuster audio, released at the above date and narrated by the author

Here’s the synopsis:

Although Scott Carey doesn’t look any different, he’s been steadily losing weight. There are a couple of other odd things, too. He weighs the same in his clothes and out of them, no matter how heavy they are. Scott doesn’t want to be poked and prodded. He mostly just wants someone else to know, and he trusts Doctor Bob Ellis.

In the small town of Castle Rock, the setting of many of King’s most iconic stories, Scott is engaged in a low grade—but escalating—battle with the lesbians next door whose dog regularly drops his business on Scott’s lawn. One of the women is friendly; the other, cold as ice. Both are trying to launch a new restaurant, but the people of Castle Rock want no part of a gay married couple, and the place is in trouble. When Scott finally understands the prejudices they face—including his own—he tries to help. Unlikely alliances, the annual foot race, and the mystery of Scott’s affliction bring out the best in people who have indulged the worst in themselves and others.

Categories
Fiction Mysteries

The Lost by Jeffrey B. Burton (Book Review)

Thank you endlessly to Minotaur Books for sending over another great read this spring!  I feel terrible because it came out back at the end of June. The book was received in exchange for an honest review and as always, all opinions are my own!

When I finally got into my lovely finished copy of The Lost, I found it to be a quick, engaging K9 mystery with some thrilling aspects as well. This is #3 in the series but totally reads as a standalone. 

The K9 mystery genre is one that I’ve really been getting into with the Search and Rescue books, Rookie K9 unit, and anything by David Rosenfelt, so if you like lighter, funnier mysteries and K9 detectives definitely check this one out!

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: The Lost
  • Series: Mace Reid K9 Mystery, #3
  • Author: Jeffrey B Burton
  • Publisher & Release: Minotaur Books, June 2922
  • Length: 288 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐⭐ for a quick and fun mystery read

Synopsis:

The Lost is the next mystery from author Jeffrey B. Burton starring an extraordinary cadaver dog and her handler.

Glencoe, Illinois: A home invasion turned kidnapping at the mansion of billionaire financier Kenneth J. Druckman brings Mason “Mace” Reid and his cadaver dog, Vira, to this wealthy northern suburb of Chicago. Druckman was assaulted, left behind while his wife and young daughter were taken for ransom.

Brought to the scene by the FBI, Reid specializes in human remains detection, and Vira is the star of his pack of cadaver dogs he’s dubbed The Finders. After Vira finds the dead body of the mother, former supermodel Calley Kurtz, everyone is on high alert to find Druckman’s missing daughter before the five-year-old disappears forever. But the trail Vira finds on the property’s dense woodlands leads right back to Druckman himself.

With the help of Detective Kippy Gimm, Reid and Vira must race against the clock. Nothing is as it appears to be . . . and the red herrings could be lethal.

First off, I definitely liked this one as a standalone.  I had no trouble meeting the characters and understanding what was happening, although I am definitely 100% adding the first two books to my TBR to meet the dogs more in depth.

This is a relatively short mystery with shorter chapters too so it’s a very quick read, perfect for the summer!

The characters are funny and kind but also talented as heck.  I liked seeing a lot of Vira the golden retriever’s tricks and abilities, especially her capacity to recognize feelings and stand in as a therapy dog.  Then she can turn around, find a body, nail a bad guy – Vira is an all around pro.  I would have liked to see more of the actual dog training though I imagine it featured in prior books.

There’s plenty of action too. The plot is decent, it’s a little heavier than the average mystery and while it is labelled as a “cozy animal mystery” on Amazon, I didn’t recognize the cozy element as much.  Mace is an amateur sleuth but his dogs know their business, and he was extremely observant.  His cop girlfriend/partner did good work too and seems kind & intelligent as well as bad ass.

Where the book lost a star with me was the format of the reveal – like the book started with an unknown bad guy, then the plot and mystery developed – right in the middle, the answer was revealed – then the last half dropped the mystery and turned into a thriller, featuring the characters trying to locate a kidnapping victim and dodge various curve balls including the Russian Mafia and a crazy rich person.

My only gripe is that giving the answer away in the middle took a bit out of the second half for me since I was expecting red herrings and mystery and had to adjust my expectations. I also wish the events at the start of the book tied into the rest a little more, finding some resolution for that crime. Maybe the next book?

Overall – I liked this one. It was thrilling, interesting, funny at times, and the dogs were great. Everything that a K9 detective mystery should be!

 

Categories
audiobooks Dystopian Fiction Science Fiction

Aftermath by LeVar Burton

I think I can speak for my entire generation saying that we all love LeVar Burton. From Trekkies to Reading Rainbow and even now with LeVar Reads, the man has been a literary and sci-fi presence longer than I’ve been alive 

Last year, Burton recorded and narrated Aftermath on audio for the first time. He added a politically charged Forward/Author’s Note on the state of America and the commentary that truth is often “stranger than fiction”. His debut novel published back in 1997 and it’s a little ironic how accurate he was in predicting how 2019 would look.

That said, I’m agreeing with the GoodReads rating that lives around 3.37/5 for the book. It was a solid debut but his political commentary shut me off before the book even started. I find that blatant political statements shut me off these days when I’m turning to fiction for escapism, although he raises many good points. Aftermath has many cool and interesting parts, it struggled in places too, and as always Burton is an amazing narrator. 


Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: Aftermath
  • Series: n/a
  • Author: LeVar Burton
  • Publisher & Release: Aspect, January 1997
  • Length: 288 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐ for fans of speculative fiction, light scifi, post holocaust/apocalypse type reads

Audio: approx 10 hours, narrated by the author, from Hachette Audio, 2921

Here’s the synopsis:

The acclaimed actor’s shockingly prescient novel of speculative fiction “presents a near-future United States torn apart by civil war and deep racial strife” (Tampa Bay Times). For the first time ever, available as an audiobook read by the author.

America today is teetering on the edge of the alarming vision presented in LeVar Burton’s debut novel, written more than two decades ago…. 

In 2012, the first African American president is assassinated by a White extremist – just four days after he is elected. The horrific tragedy leads to riots, financial collapse, and ultimately, a full-on civil war. In its aftermath, millions are left homeless as famine and disease spread throughout the country.

But from Chicago, a mysterious voice cries out….

To Leon Crane, a former NASA scientist now struggling to survive on the streets, the pleas he hears remind him of the wife he could not save – and offer him a chance at redemption.

To Jacob Fire Cloud, a revered Lakota medicine man, the voice is a sign that the White Buffalo Woman has returned to unite all the races in peace and prosperity.

And to little Amy Ladue, the cries are those of her mother, who disappeared during the devastating St. Louis earthquake – and who must still be alive.

These three strangers will be drawn together to rescue someone they have never met, a woman who holds the key to a new future for humanity – one remarkably brimming with hope.

I do think it’s interesting that they a new synopsis for the audio, which is the one I included. So yeah, you can tell that there’s quite a bit going on in the book. There’s a timeline at first that introduces how events came to be, and America is in the *Aftermath*

But then there’s also a completely separate plot line where a scientist is captured and the book turns more post-apocalyptic as the other characters are traveling to rescue her. I feel like he had two separate ideas and try to impose the scientific invention for curing disease storyline into a separate speculative fiction background

It mostly works too.  The storyline itself was fast paced but felt a lot longer than 288 pages.

Burton’s writing is where it really fell flat for me, and it was hard to gauge exactly how devastated America and the world was.  There are tent cities and extreme poverty and rationed electricity in some areas, but then Disney World is still open? There are high tech scientific inventions coming out of a supposedly broke and corrupt world where the banks are shut down but people are still rich? If you don’t think too hard it’s a good read but I was trying to parcel out exactly how devastated the world really was. He also made a good point of saying how the farms vs the rich vs those already in poverty would handle the changes …. I just had a hard time with the Disney World and other incongruous things.  Disney would take an entire city’s electricity ration!

Another thing with the writing – and he did this frequently – would be to say something like “there were two choices, right or left.  The right side was blocked, which meant she had to turn left.” Not a direct quote but it drove me nuts when he over explained simple choices and events like that. 

I did like the historical events created for the book though, the timeline made sense.

Moving towards the end of the book, Burton changed gears and took on some real post apocalyptic type elements of horror, which fit but vastly changed the tone of the book.  He also likened a grain silo to a giant p*nis which stuck out like a … I don’t know, a giant p*nis from the rest of his descriptive language.

To end on a positive note – the characters were pretty standard but all pretty likeable, I wanted them all to succeed. They rotated chapters in different points of view and Burton kept each narrative voice distinct and age appropriate.  I liked Jacob the most, the old Sioux was surprisingly both the comic relief and springboard for the epilogue and story going forward.

Overall – definitely I have mixed feelings on this one. I would recommend more for fans of speculative fiction than Sci-Fi readers.  My biggest takeaway is that for being written in 1997 – Burton had a hell of a vision of the future. 

p.s. look at the old original cover 🤣 I love it
Categories
audiobooks Fantasy Fiction

The Drawing of the Three by Stephen King (Book Thoughts)

Continuing my The Dark Tower series read, The Drawing of the Three is even weirder than The Gunslinger! I imagine the conversation when planning this book went something like –

King: I want to write about the gangs of NY and schizophrenics

Tabitha: yeah well you started with a weird horror fantasy western

King: I’ll incorporate interdimensional travel into the story, it’ll be fine

Tabitha: impossible

King: hold my beer

Ha .. ha… Ha… Actually …. KA

Ka?

“Kaka,” Eddie said, and laughed. “Come on Roland. Let’s take a hike”

Alright alright most joking aside, let’s talk a bit about this wonderfully weird book

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: The Drawing of the Three
  • Series: The Dark Tower #2
  • Author: Stephen King
  • Publisher & Release: 1987, I read the Signet edition
  • Length: 463 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐⭐ yes for those who can stomach the typical King level of vulgarity 

Here’s the Synopsis:

While pursuing his quest for the Dark Tower through a world that is a nightmarishly distorted mirror image of our own, Roland, the last gunslinger, encounters three mysterious doorways on the beach. Each one enters into the life of a different person living in contemporary New York.

Here he links forces with the defiant young Eddie Dean and the beautiful, brilliant, and brave Odetta Holmes, in a savage struggle against underworld evil and otherworldly enemies.

Once again, Stephen King has masterfully interwoven dark, evocative fantasy and icy realism.

Ah gosh it’s hard to review these kinds of books because I know I’m not adding anything to the Canon, so I just talk about my experience.

The Gunslinger was weird and wild and this book utterly surpassed it in that regard. Roland has parlayed with the man in black, apparently for 10 years, so this installment picks up afterward on the beach with a pile of bones and the remnants of a tarot reading

I still think King just tossed a bunch of random ass ideas together to create Roland’s ka-tet.  Gangs, sure why not.  A crazy schizophrenic lady, sure why not.  Gotta get a serial killer in there too… and the funny thing is that at the end of the day, it worked

The Odette/Detta character annoyed me senseless, probably because of how accurately King portrayed schizophrenia/multiple personality disorder.  Props, props, I just found her to be way too vulgar and had me thinking about excessively vulgar patients I’ve dealt with, and yeah, no thanks. Her back story is great though.

 I loved Eddie, and I’m glad he arrived first in the text. He’s like a lost boy with a rough family history and bad decisions.  The whole storyline with Balazar and the drugs was pretty entertaining, then you toss in the Eddie & Roland dynamic and you get wonderful madness   Roland trying to make sense of NYC was equally amazing, I think King nailed the entire WTF of the experience and created a fully wild novel

Seeing as how Roland had no freaking idea what was going on in the modern world, he took it in incredible stride. Definitely my favorite part was how he kept misinterpreting the words and having to think on his feet

The journey from the terror of the beginning to the camaraderie at the end was a wild one.

What does the lobstrosity say? Well – you should listen to the audio to find out.  I listened to a few hours.  Frank Muller took over this narration (through Simon & Schuster audio) and the whole thing is about 13 hours if you go that route. 

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There are lobstrosity tshirts… That’s all 

The Dark Tower Series reviews:

1 – The Gunslinger 

Categories
audiobooks Dystopian Literary Fiction Science Fiction

The End of the World Running Club by Adrian J. Walker (Book & Audio Thoughts)

I haven’t read a dystopian in a while and found one that I don’t see talked about a whole lot.  The End of the World Running Club hits all the right points for a dystopian but fell short over all for me and I’m blaming it on 1) the audio and 2) the ending.

When I read these types of books, the primary questions in my mind are “Ok, how far will these characters go to survive, and what keeps them going? What flavor does the ending leave for both humanity and our remaining characters?”

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: The End of the World Running Club
  • Series: ” ” #1
  • Author: Adrian J. Walker
  • Publisher & Release: Sourcebooks Landmark, September 3017
  • Length: 464 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐✨ more for those who want to sample the genre

Here’s the synopsis from Am*zon:

Asteroids are striking Earth, the end of the world is near, and Edgar Hill is on the wrong side of the country.

Over five hundred miles of devastated wastelands stretch between him and his family, and every second counts. His only option is to run―or risk losing everything he loves. He’ll have to be ingenious and push himself to the very limit if he wants to see them again. Can he reach them in the race against time, or will the end of the world defeat him?

A dystopian page-turner about the endurance of the human body and spirit―perfect for lovers of apocalyptic science fiction, running books, and anyone who knows that true strength comes from love.

As I said it hits all the points of a good dystopian. There’s a cataclysmic event, despair, survival, hope and hopelessness, the exploration of human nature, an incredible journey, etc. Everything the book should have.  There are helpful friends and harmful scum along the way, complete with all the obstacles you’d expect in a cross country run through a landscape devastated by asteroids.  It also takes place in the UK which is not something that I see so frequently in these types of novels.

That said, I had mixed feelings about where the book ended, and I think a lot of my overall negative feelings are influenced by the fact that the audiobook narrator’s voice got so annoying that I had to close it down and buy the ebook.

I really liked the beginning because Ed, the narrator, started at the end of the story with the description of three graves that he was thinking of digging up to prove his sanity.  Or had he already lost it? He talked about beliefs and it set the book up for the potential to be a mirage.  The whole beginning was absolutely wonderful as the asteroids occurred and then the family was trapped in the cellar. I felt like it went slowly downhill once Ed & Co started the journey.

At the end, again focusing on the graves, Edgar made a big point of bringing into question whether or not the events he told actually happened, versus what he believed. So… I don’t really know what to believe happened at the end and I wasn’t in the mood for that much literary ambiguity in a now open ending. I do think these books need open endings but not necessarily a riddle.

Anyway, I got truly annoyed with the book about the time that Jenny Rae came in. Whether or not my annoyance should give the author more points, I’m not sure. I tend to be super picky with dystopian and this one had a lot of really good elements, and some overdone ones. Like a large, borderline schizophrenic woman that wreaks havoc and is the last person in the world that should be in charge of anything, but would definitely come out on top in the apocalypse.  This is an archetypal dystopian character and I kind of just feel like somebody would have shot her before she came to any kind of power. That whole section was hard, (but heck yeah go Mr Angelbeck!)

Ed’s character arc from inviting the end of the world to running across a continent for his family was lovely.  He’s a morally gray character – as is everyone in a dystopian – and I liked who he became. Harvey, Bryce and Grimes were good characters too but we didn’t get too much of a good look at them. The book took an appropriately deep dive into humanity in general as well as what keeps us going in the dark. Running not so much although there were a few long distance insights and I am in awe that the untrained people ran so far.

I would recommend this one to people wanting to try a dystopian, but probably not hardcore fans of the genre. My favorite one to recommend (after The Road) is A Boy and his Dog at the End of the World. As far as this one, I would read a book version and stay away from the audio. I just did not like the narrator’s voice because he always sounded so happy, regardless of what was going on, and there was an awful lot of loud yelling. The guy also could absolutely not do female voices and eventually I shut it off and bought the ebook, which was a better experience.