Categories
Fiction Historical Fiction Young Adult

Book Review: And I Darken by Kiersten White

This is a book that I actually read last year in a buddy read, but since I am finishing the series now I think it makes sense to bring the old reviews onto the blog here!  The Conqueror Saga is generally an antihero retelling of Vlad the Impaler taking Wallachia (now Romania) back, Mehmed II’s (The Conqueror) reign as the Ottoman Sultan, and eventually the clashing of the two parties.  And I Darken starts Lada and Radu off as young kids, sent to live with the Ottomans as bargaining chips, aka hostages.  They grow up with the young heir to the Empire, Mehmed ….

Quick Facts:

  • Title: And I Darken
  • Series: The Conqueror Saga, #1
  • Author: Kiersten White
  • Publisher & Release: Delacorte Press, June 2016
  • Length: 486 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: 🌟🌟🌟🌟 yes!

Here is the summary from GoodReads:

No one expects a princess to be brutal, and Lada Dragwlya likes it that way. Ever since she and her gentle younger brother, Radu, were wrenched from their homeland of Wallachia and abandoned by their father to be raised in the Ottoman courts, Lada has known that being ruthless is the key to survival. She and Radu are doomed to act as pawns in a vicious game, an unseen sword hovering over their every move. For the lineage that makes them special also makes them targets.

Lada despises the Ottomans and bides her time, planning her vengeance for the day when she can return to Wallachia and claim her birthright. Radu longs only for a place where he feels safe. And when they meet Mehmed, the defiant and lonely son of the sultan, Radu feels that he’s made a true friend—and Lada wonders if she’s finally found someone worthy of her passion.

But Mehmed is heir to the very empire that Lada has sworn to fight against—and that Radu now considers home. Together, Lada, Radu, and Mehmed form a toxic triangle that strains the bonds of love and loyalty to the breaking point.

This is everything I could ever want in historical fiction.  Right from the start, Lada is a feral and passionate child and I was sucked into the book immediately.  The short chapters made it hard to put down for a very, very long time.

The Story:  The story and plot kept moving pretty quickly throughout the book.  From Wallachia to Edirne to Constantinople, there was plenty of treachery, political intrigue, assassinations, friendships, brutality, and self actualization to keep the pages turning.

I could hardly ever put the book down as the power swung back and forth and everyone’s lives hung in the balance.

Between her father’s brutal nature and being introduced to people like The Head Gardener, who planted bodies on stakes in the Sultan’s square, the stage is set for Lada’s future.

The World: I think White does a great job with setting and world building.  Architecture, weather, language, enough geography to envision the land are all present.  So is the mood – the mood of each scene was so well permeated through the pages that I think it really sealed the world building for me.  I learned a lot about Islam and those customs as well, which was presented tastefully as a peaceful religion.

Another thing I didn’t know much about was how sultans behave, the hierarchy of the wives and harems, and warfare in that era.  I think White really blends facts into fiction well and without being boring.

The Characters: Lada is probably my favorite YA character of any series ever.  She is bent on taking back her homeland, and all other loyalties pale to that towards her Wallachia.   Watching her grow from a terroristic child to.. well.. A terroristic young woman, was a really interesting character arc.  She’s not untouchable and I really felt for her as she tried to iron out her adult feelings of happiness vs homeland, being a woman in a patriarchal society, and what she knows she deserves vs. what is offered to her.  Her military strategy and political cunning are believable and I just am rooting for her and her band of soldiers.

Radu, her brother, is terrible, neither character is meant to be liked but Radu was really truly terrible.  He was a scared, whiny child, who ends up hero worshipping Mehmed, then both siblings end up being in love with him.  Radu spent so much of the middle of the book just whining about Mehmed that I got sick of it and docked a full star.   Later Radu turns into a political worm, I mean spy, wait no I mean worm.  Lada was always terrible to him and I have a feeling she’s going to end up paying for it.

Mehmed was a spoiled brat but he eventually has to become the sultan, at age 15.  I don’t have much to say about him, he has to grow up quickly and make some tough choices once he learns how savage the world truly is.  They all do.  The side characters and political plotting, including Mehmed’s mother, are another strong point.  That woman is just savage!  Lada’s band of Janissaries have great banter too, and so does much of the dialogue.  The relationships in the book are interesting and generally complicated.

Misc: I want to gush about so many things related to these books but I can continue to do so in the next review.  I never feel like I do some of these books justice, and this is one of them.  The political intrigue and cunning is just so freaking intricate that it kept me rapt.  If Radu had been slightly less insufferable it would have been a solid 5🌟, even Lada riding off into the frozen wastes with her men can’t undo that for me

“The daughter of Wallachia wants her knife back.”

The authors note states that Vlad the Impaler as a woman makes for a more interesting story… And I totally agree.  She also points out that each of these characters is historically portrayed differently by the conquerors vs the conquered… another interesting story lens that (spoiler alert (not)) will be exploited more in the coming books.

Stay tuned for my review of Now I Rise, book two, hopefully coming tomorrow!

Categories
Biographies, Memoirs, Nonfiction Fiction General Fiction Historical Fiction

Book Review: Open Heart by Gregory D. Williams

Thank you so much to Grand Canyon Press and Bookish First for the finished copy of Open Heart in exchange for an honest review! All opinions are my own!  I just want to say first how real this book felt – this is why I love books about medicine and life written by medical people

Quick Facts:

  • Title: Open Heart
  • Author: Gregory D. Williams
  • Publisher & Release: Grand Canyon Press, December 18th 2020
  • Length: 418 pg
  • Rate & Recommend: 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟 yesss

Here is the synopsis from GoodReads: 

Life is fleeting. Love is a gift.

In this coming of age novel set in the 1970s, Gene Hull is whitewashing the trunks of Arizona citrus trees when he spots a beautiful girl and falls instantly in love. The girl is vulnerable and shy. Though Gene breaks through her reserve, a date at a wave park turns into a near disaster, and Gene must call on the one person he can always rely on—his doctor father.

Although the girl survives and Gene wins her over, what will happen when they leave for college? Is she truly “the one,” or will distance drive them apart?

When a freak accident blows a hole in Gene’s freshman year, his grades tank, and he bobbles the ball with the love of his life. She’s gone forever. Not only that, but he’ll never get into med school on grades alone.

Hoping to improve his chances of admission, he spends the summer trailing a famous heart surgeon. But can Gene, determined to live up to his father’s legacy, turn his summer in the “Heart Room”—an operating theater of chilling cold, bone saws, and macabre humor—into an experience that would make his father proud? Will he ever love again?

If you like novels where family life is complicated, and parents’ expectations trickle down into their children’s lives, then you’ll love Gregory D. Williams’ roman à clef about life, love, and finding one’s own true path.

Buy Open Heart today for an inside look at a team of surgeons healing broken hearts and a young man trying desperately to heal his own.

I always thought The House of God was the quintessential fiction so read for people coming into medicine, but Open Heart has it’s place right alongside it

I’m inordinately sad that the author passed away, the book feels like his legacy and love letter to medicine. Kind of Ironic considering that Carl’s death had a huge impact on the book – I wonder if the author knew it was coming, or if he died suddenly? I want to take the text in context if he thought he was writing his legacy!

Williams really touches on what it means to trust each other and lean on your family / “family” in healthcare. He even mentions death breakfast (death cheese anyone?) I feel like every hospital has a Jesse. And an Irene. And heck, there’s a Dr Harrington too. I feel like there’s something in the book that every medical person out there can relate to.

*That patient you just felt helpless about for so long, even though there’s nothing you could have done for them

*Or that time you f*cked up and it’ll haunt you just the same

*Have you ever lost your shit over an outcome?

Like I said, this will hit medical people right in the feels

There is a lot of medical talk (1970s style) about heart surgery and bypass that I am not sure laypeople would get through without skimming, but I found it fascinating. Gene’s life, growing up, taking ownership of your mistakes, and learning all about love should be enough to keep anyone interested in the book.  Being accountable and owning your actions are hard concepts for young folks to learn.

I obviously liked the OR chapters the best, and the parts about forgiving yourself for mistakes, growing up, moving forward, letting your heart “come off bypass” so to speak

Jesse the tray guy and Rui’s bad elephant jokes were more perfect additions. Honestly the doctors and nurses were really great characters and I liked the parallels between the OR family life and Gene’s family.  Reconciling what you think your parents are like and learning the truth is always a hard lesson.

100% recommend Open Heart for anyone in medicine, and anyone looking for a good coming of age story as well. This is a superbly written novel for anyone that likes reading about characters learning hard and real life truths.

Categories
Biographies, Memoirs, Nonfiction Middle Grade Young Adult

She Plays We Win! A Coffee Table Book for Girls

Thank you so much to Dart Frog Books for my copy of She Plays We Win! It is a coffee table book of photography by Christin Rose, depicting young girls at sport along with quotes, advice, anecdotes, and brief interviews with some of the athletes!

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Here is the description from Amazon:

Description

When photographer Christin Rose started She Plays We Win in 2016, she set out to create a photo series that would celebrate the confidence and perseverance of young girls in athletics. The project grew exponentially with the help of social media as girls all over the country connected through a love for the game and formed a community to uplift and encourage one another.

Inspired by the positive influence of sports in her own formative years, Rose connects effortlessly with the young athletes and truly captures the hustle and heart of what it means to be a competitor. With She Plays We Win, The Book, Rose debuts her first comprehensive collection of work and has teamed up with the Women’s Sport’s Foundation to commit of the proceeds to help keep women of all ages in the game.

Bursting with life and color, this fun and interactive book is as bright and bold as the girls donning it’s pages. Real stories of trials and triumph from over 200 fearless young athletes and powerful images of sweat and sisterhood offer an inspiring read for women of any age.

My Thoughts:

This is a little different from what I usually feature on here but it’s such a great book for girls of any age.  The ones depicted are ages 7-14 and from all over the world, various races, various levels of poverty, and even a few disabled athletes are included!! I was thrilled to see equestrian sports (yes horse sports are sports!), boxing, hockey, skateboarding, and other less conventional sports for young girls as well as the more popular ones like basketball and track.

These amazing photos aren’t necessarily of state champions and record setters either, which is cool because it will be extremely relatable to readers.  These are just every day girls showing and supporting others in that sports are accessible, and a great foundation for life skills, hard work, fun, and following their dreams.

The book also states that a portion of the proceeds go towards the Women’s Sports Foundation!  So much girl power packed into this volume.  Definitely 100% recommend this book for any young girls, I wish I had it when I was a kid trying to play everything!

I hope you’ll check out the website to find out more about #ShePlaysWeWin , a movement and community empowering girls in sports!

http://www.sheplayswewin.com/

Categories
Fantasy Fiction

Book Review: The Part About the Dragon Was Mostly True

Thank you to the Parliament House for having me on the book tour for The Part About the Dragon Was (Mostly) True! All opinions are my own!

Quick Facts:

  • Title: The Part About the Dragon Was (Mostly) True
  • Series: Heloise the Bard, #1
  • Author: Sean Gibson
  • Publisher & Release: The Parliament House, Dec. 15th 2020
  • Length: 308 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: 🌟🌟🌟⚡ yes for comedy/fantasy fans

Here is the synopsis from Amazon:

Sure, you think you know the story of the fearsome red dragon, Dragonia. How it terrorized the village of Skendrick until a brave band of heroes answered the noble villagers’ call for aid. How nothing could stop those courageous souls from facing down the dragon. How they emerged victorious and laden with treasure.

But, even in a world filled with epic adventures and tales of derring-do, where dragons, goblins, and unlicensed prestidigitators run amok, legendary heroes don’t always know what they’re doing. Sometimes they’re clueless. Sometimes beleaguered townsfolk are more hapless than helpless. And orcs? They’re not always assholes, and sometimes they don’t actually want to eat your children. Heloise the Bard, Erithea’s most renowned storyteller (at least, to hear her tell it), is here to set the record straight.

See, it turns out adventuring isn’t easy, and true heroism is as rare as an articulate villager. Having spent decades propagating this particular myth (which, incidentally, she wrote), she’s finally able to tell the real story-for which she just so happened to have a front-row seat.

Welcome to Erithea. I hope you brought a change of undergarments-things are going to get messy

This is a comedic fantasy, from what I can see it actually started as a create your own adventure in a GoodReads group, then turned into a book! So Heloise the Bard is telling the epic tale of a band of adventurers that slayed the terrible Dragonia, who terrorizes the village of Skendrick…

.. Well, kind of.  This book is her account of what *actually* happened.  It is a look at the less glamorous parts of adventuring including vegetable eating dragons, pooping in swamps, rock giant rectums, orc hookups, idiotic peasants … Yeah you get the point hahahah.

The characters were a mixed group. There is an overly-foul mouthed rat wizard, a rock giant, a half elf, a half halfling-half dwarf, and a full elf.  They are each pretty touchy and incompetent at times.  I liked the rock giant the most, and found Heloise super annoying! She just was not funny to me.  The rest were!

Some parts were really quite hilarious, others not so much.  The only other thing I have read like it is Kevin Hearne’s Kill the Farm Boy series, which was a bit more clever and had more puns.  Heloise uses a lot more toilet humor than dry wit.  It is definitely not a boring book though, regardless.  I would recommend for fantasy fans looking for a laugh, or those searching along the lines of Monty Python.

Categories
Fantasy Young Adult

Book Review: Heartmender by V. Romas Burton

Heartmender is a book that I saw making it’s Instagram rounds when the sequel came out this fall, from the same publisher as Dragon Blood!  I am all about clean reading books with wholesome messages, so I really want to thank Monster Ivy Publishing for taking on and publishing these awesome books!

Quick Facts:

  • Title: Heartmender
  • Series: Heartmender, #1
  • Author: V. Romas Burton
  • Publisher & Release: Monster Ivy Publishing, September 2019
  • Length: 338
  • Rate & Recommend: 🌟🌟🌟🌟⚡ for essentially everyone

Here is the description from GoodReads:

In the land of Barracks, the economy thrives on the barter of their citizens’ most precious commodity—a human heart. Each year, the Heart Reign festival is thrown for those who have become of age to trade their hearts for their deepest desires. And this year is Adelaide Tye’s year to trade.

After despising Heart Reign for years, Addie endures her Extraction and discovers that her heart isn’t gray and dying, like all other hearts in Barracks, but bright red, alive, and teeming with power.

With a warning from the extractor of hearts, Addie rushes through Heart Reign to make her choice—trade her heart to Schism, the monster who took her brother years before, or go in search of the Mender—a mythical man said to purify hearts and save her own heart. Either decision will rip her away from the one man who has always been by her side.

Knowing there is only one real choice to make, Addie jumps through Schism’s red door and is thrust into a dark and dangerous realm where she is faced with making a trade she may not survive.

The story: Heartmender is about a world where people literally trade their hearts for just about anything. Wealth, beauty, love, clothes -they sell their souls for their greatest desire. One year, a monster comes to the town and offers a new trade: your heart, for an unknown choice. Addie’s brother jumps at this choice, for unknown reasons, and her life drastically changes.

The world: I think this is a really well built world. Weather, history, geography, myths and legends, food, social structure: it’s all there. Heart reign is well explained and I really, really absolutely love how the monster’s realm is described and crafted.

It pained me to dock any part of a star but I eventually had to, for something I call “world plausibility.” At first I joked that no one can live without a heart, and Burton laughed and said “all the heart surgery goes under ‘magic’.” I can deal with that, but it still has to be world plausible – like maybe the citizens have a second pacemaker or another organ that keeps them alive. Star Trek was really famously good at making bizarre medical stuff world plausible.

Characters: I liked Addie and her anxiety, and watching her becoming more confident as her choices were affirmed throughout the novel. Brave, selfless, loving, conflicted, loyal – all words to describe Addie. Claire and Silas seemed good characters too, and there were so many little mysteries to solve about them all that advanced as the story went on.

Christ/Life allegories: First off, the book is not preachy at all, although the Christ/Life allegories are hard to miss. As Addie travels through Schism’s realm, she has to overcome seven doors full of temptations and obstacles, that are clearly the seven deadly sins. Those who succumb to the temptations (gluttony, lust, etc) turn into terrible monsters. There are also multiple usages of darkness and light, the lantern/guide on Addie’s path, and asking for help when it’s needed. In the afterward, Burton makes note that sometimes the light may only show you a few steps at a time, but it never fully goes away.

The book’s main theme seems to be about choice, and it resonates. There is always a choice and one must consciously make the choice to continue moving forward. Regarding more doors and choices and Addie’s fears, my favorite quote of the novel is:

“Not all doors lead to darkness”

-The Heartmender

My personal takeaway: I struggle a lot with the outcomes of my life choices and sometimes find anxiety a barrier to making further choices, and I needed that message in my life. Addie has similar struggles with anxiety and moving forwards at times. Sometimes one’s choices DO lead to light and positive outcomes, and it’s better to keep fighting than to succumb to whatever temptation is keeping one stagnant or afraid.

Anyway – I digress – overall, this is definitely a great fantasy read with a largely wholesome message. I really can’t wait to read on to book 2 and get into the more questy, uniting the realm part of the storyline!

Categories
Fantasy Young Adult

Book Review: Dragon Blood by Mary Beesley

Thank you so much to Monster Ivy Publishing for my gorgeous finished copy of Dragon Blood in exchange for an honest review! I’m so happy to have connected with a publisher that focuses on clean reads and can’t wait to read and share more of their books!

Quick Facts:

  • Title: Dragon Blood
  • Series: Draco Sang Trilogy, #1
  • Author: Mary Beesley
  • Publisher & Release: Monster Ivy Publishing, November 2020
  • Length: 416 Pages
  • Rate & Recommend: 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟 Yes!

Here is the synopsis from Goodreads:

Cal, a hungry sixteen-year-old sick of mining the sand, wants to fit in and make his ma proud, but instead, his violent tendencies bring shame – And the truth. He’s the son of a Draco Sang. Carriers of the Dragon’s blood, the Draco Sang transform into half human, half beast, as they mature into adults. And if Cal can’t control the dark impulses of his dragon blood, he’ll grow into a man-beast – and he’ll be hunted.

Ferth, son of a Draco Sang chief and last of his class to grow claws, needs to prove his worth to his father, or he’ll be sent to the slave house. Hiding his human heart, he joins the army headed south to conquer the fertile human lands.

Neither brother feels they belong. Cal is human, fighting against becoming a beastly Draco Sang, while Ferth is struggling to push back his humanity and transform into a worthy Draco warrior.

Before ever meeting in open battle, Ferth is sent to kill Cal. But when he learns they are brothers, he must decide which loyalty is stronger, blood or country. And whether to finally give in to his humanity.

The story/plot:  This is an amazing story of two brothers on either side of a war, and the powers of nature vs nurture in one’s upbringing. I think the synopsis is a little spoilery – but it didn’t affect my reading, enjoyment, or surprise as I went along.  One of my favorite tropes is when siblings are on opposite sides of a war, so it did entice me to read the book originally.  Trust me, you know about as much as the brothers do as the book goes along.  The plot kept moving at a steady pace, the chapters were perfect lengths, and I really enjoyed the story in general.

The World: this is a young adult fantasy world where the Northern race, the Draco Sang, have animal personas. Similar to His Dark Materials, the more “human” Draco Sang have an animal partner, where the “beast” ones turn into something like the chimaera from Daughter of Smoke and Bone.  I promise you will actually like these White Wolves though.  To Cal and the humans on one side of the war, the Draco Sang are the monsters, the enemy. To Ferth and the rest of the Dragon descendents, the humans are weak, slaves, ripe to be conquered, and the Sang who reject their inner beast are at the highest level of blasphemy.

As well as a well developed conflict to set the stage for war, the world itself was so well developed.  The seasons change, the terrain is varied and well described.  I felt like I had a good handle on the layout and geography and climate.  There is food, camp roles, military strategy, wildlife, and many real life issues that deepen the level of world immersion.

The characters: I just can’t get over how well these characters are crafted and how each one transforms as their blood and family ties become less of a mystery. Cal isn’t meant to be liked at first, and Ferth is more of a lame but good guy, and they both quickly grew on me.  The inner conflicts are real and made sense, grappling with humanity vs inner beast.  It is an interesting study in nature vs nurture, with each brother having to reconcile his nature, his blood, with his own conscience, humanity, and upbringing. The secondary characters are a fully developed (but not overkilled) lot as well, and I love them. I know and hope we will be seeing a lot more of them in book two.

There is plenty of banter and loss and closeness and found family elements within Cal’s army unit.  I recently saw an Instagram question about which crew you would spend Christmas with? I would totally spend it with Cal, Ferth, his close little unit, the baby, and the entire military family.  It was just so heartwarming at the end.

And WHAT A BOLD ENDING!! I LOVE IT! No spoilers but oh my gosh I can’t wait for book 2 to come out!

Overall:  this is a great fantasy novel and it is entirely, completely appropriate for the young adult reading level. I also think the adults can enjoy it with no problem as I certainly did! I would totally recommend to anybody with even the slightest interest in the novel so far and for those seeking clean reads. Thank you so much again to Monster Ivy for my copy!

Categories
Fantasy Middle Grade

ARC Review: White Fox by Chen Jiatong (tr. Jennifer Feeley)

Thank you so much to Chicken House for my advanced copy in exchange for an honest review! All opinions are my own!

Quick Facts:

  • Title: White Fox
  • Series: White Fox, #1
  • Author: Chen Jiatong (translator: Jennifer Feeley
  • Publisher & Release: Chicken House, October 2020
  • Length: 288 Pages
  • Rate & Recommend: 🌟🌟🌟🌟 yes for middle graders and fans of animal protagonists!

This is such a great book for middle graders. Dilah, an adolescent fox with no friends, sets off on a quest after his parents die. All he has is a moonshine gem and some cryptic instructions, and his mother’s last words to send him on his way!

Along the journey Dilah meets some unlikely friends – a seal, weasel, horse, and rabbit. Each new friend shows him something about friendship and eventually two of them join the adventure. Ankel is a clever weasel who wants to learn everything and become a scholar, while Little Bean is a rabbit that has a great interest in medicine. The main message of the book seems to be to value your friends and their contributions.

Additionally Dilah learns that everything in the world isn’t so black and white as he originally thought. Of course he wants to become a human – but there are also very evil humans as well as the good ones. There are also bad animals.

The cover art is just beautiful and there are many great illustrations along the way too.  They are such cute drawings and I love foxes anyway.  I will break here to say that while the book is translated, it doesn’t feel choppy or difficult to me at all.  I believe that the version coming out in October is a hardcover, while a paperback has been available in the states since last year.

Anyway – ending on a bit of a cliffhanger, I totally think that middle graders will love this book.  I loved it and will be interested when the next installment releases for sure.  Content is appropriate but does mention parental death, someone is shot, and an animal is accidentally poisoned.

Do you love animal protagonists too?  Can you recommend any good translated works?  Thanks for reading along with me!

Categories
Science Fiction

ARC Review: The Rush’s Edge by Ginger Smith

Heyy space opera fans, how’s it going?  Thank you so much to Angry Robot for the eARC of this fast-paced sci-fi / space adventure in exchange for an honest review! All opinions are my own!

Quick Facts:

  • Title: The Rush’s Edge
  • Series: N/A?
  • Author: Ginger Smith
  • Publisher & Release: Angry Robot, November 2020
  • Length: 328 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: 🌟🌟🌟⚡ for fans of the genre! Maybe new sci -fi readers too

Here is the synopsis from Amazon:

With the help of his commanding officer, a genetically engineered ex-soldier fights back against the government that created him and others like him to be expendable slaves…

Halvor Cullen, a genetically-engineered and technology implanted ex-soldier, doesn’t see himself as a hero. After getting out of the service, all he’s interested in is chasing the adrenaline rush his body was designed to crave. Hal knows he won’t live long anyway; vat soldiers like him are designed to die early or will be burnt out from relentlessly seeking the rush. His best friend and former CO, Tyce, is determined not to let that happen and distracts him by work salvaging crashed ships in the Edge.

Then Hal’s ship gets a new crewmember – a hacker-turned-tecker named Vivi. As they become friends, Hal wonders if he’s got a chance with a natural-born like her. Then on a job, the crew finds a sphere that downloads an alien presence into their ship…

Multiple clashes with the military force Hal and his crew to choose sides. The battle they fight will determine the fate of vats and natural-borns throughout the galaxy. Will they join the movement against the Coalition? What has invaded their ship’s computer? And can there be a real future for a vat with an expiration date?

 There are a lot of things that I really liked about The Rush’s Edge, so let’s start there.  I love science fiction that touches on ethics related to robotics, genetics, and AI – I guess I can thank Mr Asimov for that one.   Hal is a Vanguard Assault Trooper, one of thousands genetically enhanced and modified to serve as cannon fodder for the ACAS (government).

As the description states, what future can these troops have?  Should they fight back?  The book takes a long look at the prejudices and ethical issues surrounding the soldiers and that was my favorite element.

The action is steady as well, the book was certainly never boring.  From scrapping to mission to heart pounding escape or combat scenes, even the character and relationship building parts kept the story moving forward.

The characters were really good too,  Hal and the other soldiers deal with PTSD and finding their place in the world after their service.  Are they allowed to want a future? Can they fall in love? Can they command their own ship or fight in their own war? These are questions that Hal navigates through with help from his crew.  Tyce, the captain, seems like such a caring person too, as does Beryl the ship’s medic.  Vivi is just great too, a natural born that represents the naivety of most of the general population about their government and military.  She is strong and smart and perfect for Hal and the crew.

I also love when AI’s have personalities.  A friendly AI/alien is more rare in books than malicious ones so that was a fun plot twist…but no spoilers.

The downside was that at the end, I felt like the book would be a great introduction to a series. All the characters are introduced/found and the crew kind of chooses each other as a family, but it ends in a very open way. I also didnt think that any of the major plot points were cleared up at all, so either it’s all open to interpretation or there will be more books. In that manner I docked two stars, only because it seemed like all the right space opera elements were tossed in without any element of connectivity or closure towards the end goal. The book 100% accomplished forming a crew, and if there ends up being another book I will 100% bump this straight to a 5 star rating.

Would recommend for space opera fans and maybe those just getting into sci-fi, as there is a lot going on in the book rather than hardcore space and technology action.

Thanks for reading along with me! Do you like scifi/space operas?

Categories
Fiction General Fiction Literary Fiction

ARC Review: The Butchers’ Blessing by Ruth Gilligan

Thank you so much to the publisher for my Advanced copy in exchange for an honest review! All opinions are my own!

Quick Facts:

  • Title: The Butchers’ Blessing
  • Series: n/a
  • Author: Ruth Gilligan
  • Publisher & Release: Tin House Books, November 10th 2020
  • Length: 312 or
  • Rate & Recommend: 🌟🌟🌟⚡sure,  because I think it’s a personal problem

Here is the synopsis from Goodreads:

Every year, Úna prepares for her father to leave her. He will wave goodbye early one morning, then disappear with seven other men to traverse the Irish countryside. Together, these men form The Butchers, a group that roams from farm to farm, enacting ancient methods of cattle slaughter.  

The Butchers’ Blessing moves between the events of 1996 and the present, offering a simmering glimpse into the modern tensions that surround these eight fabled men. For Úna, being a Butcher’s daughter means a life of tangled ambition and incredible loneliness. For her mother Grá, it’s a life of faith and longing, of performing a promise that she may or may not be able to keep. For non-believer Fionn, The Butchers represent a dated and complicated reality, though for his son Davey, they represent an entirely new world—and potentially new love. For photographer Ronan, The Butchers are ideal subjects: representatives of an older, more folkloric Ireland whose survival is now being tested. As he moves through the countryside, Ronan captures this world image by image—a lake, a cottage, and his most striking photo: a single butcher, hung upside-down in a pose of unspeakable violence.

A widow’s grief after losing her 7 sons and husband in a war, led to the curse: no cattle can be slaughtered without 8 men present and touching the cow at the time, to celebrate her grief and keep it alive. Enter the butchers – a squad of men that go around Ireland, leaving their families behind to slaughter cattle for people that believe in the old traditions.

First off – I made the mistake of thinking this is historical fiction – and it is definitely more literary fiction and coming of age than historically true, as the curse and butchers are fictional.

I was 100% on board with this as fiction set in 1990s Ireland, until the last page, which made me re evaluate the whole entire book. I can’t say why it threw me without spoilers, but it was so out of character for the entire book. What did I miss? What happened next? I also wasn’t following some of the things that happened in the last few chapters, the finality didn’t make sense and I felt like the aim of the story unravelled a bit as it was coming to a close. I was at 5 stars until i finished the book and dropped to 3-3.5, and it didn’t help that I originally read it thinking “historical fiction,”

Set in a time of Irish cultural change, The Butchers’ Blessing is a meditation in faith, growing up, growing apart, and changing culture. My brain had it pegged as historical fiction but its just stereotypical of Irish legends, in a more modern setting. Regardless, this is a great story (minus the last page). It is labelled as a literary thriller and while definitely dark and poetic at times, I don’t think its really a thriller. There is the ever present issue though of how the heck a Butcher got hung up by his feet and left in a cold storage. Tension in the country surrounding BSE and old vs new in general, is a huge ongoing theme in the novel.

The chapters bounced between Gra, Una, Davey, and Fionn, four characters at different life stages. Una is probably the main character and has to cope with growing up while her dad is off slaughtering 11 months out of the year, targeted by her classmates, and wanting to follow in her dads footsteps. Davey is learning who he is before he heads off to college. Gra and Fionn both are dealing with growing apart from their kids, difficult parenting, and various senses of desperation and loss. Each character has to come to terms with the changes brought to their personal lives as Ireland and it’s people modernized.

For a meditation on growth, self discovery, a bit of corpse defamation and mystery, Irish legend, beautiful writing, and a whole lot of growing pains, this is an excellent read for anyone I would say 14+. I just didn’t like the ending and felt like it brought the whole book out of character, as well as some events occuring that I just don’t personally care to read about. I would still recommend to anyone interested in Irish folklore, life, and some 90s throwback culture!

Categories
Fantasy Young Adult

Book Review: Hourglass of Destruction by Alpha Four

Happy pre-thanksgiving craziness to everyone!  I have been spamming the Far Forest Scrolls books on Instagram since I first read Na Cearcaill, see that review here.  I read book two, Hourglass of Destruction, a few months ago and just realized upon finishing the new release, Rise Above the Storm, that I never wrote about book 2 here!  I am so thankful to the author for providing finished copies for review purposes!

Quick Facts:

  • Title: Hourglass of Destruction
  • Series: Far Forest Scrolls, book 2
  • Author: Alpha Four (A4)
  • Publisher & Release: Far Forest Scrolls, December 2019
  • Length: 294 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: 🌟🌟🌟🌟 yes for fantasy fans!

Here is the synopsis from Goodreads;

Hope and jubilation are transient riding companions as the Knights and squires depart Castle Liberum for a tournament of nations. Those spurious emotions quickly evaporate, as a journey meant to unite the fracturing realms of Verngaurd promptly turns into a battle for survival.

Dark creatures spread roots of death and deceit, infecting ancient alliances, intent on turning the soil red with civil war. Can the Knights fight through the gathering enemy forces and turn back the coming storm before the sands of time run out?

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Hourglass Of Destruction picks up right where Na Cearcaill left off, in the middle of a plains battle. The dragons, dwarves, and allies survive despite heavy losses, and proceed to the Tournament of Flags, which is supposed to unite the allied kingdoms in games of strength and skill.

This book took on a much darker tone than book one. The allies are being driven apart by the Dark Warriors and evil White Wizard, certain sects framed for attacks in an effort to break alliances and ignite civil war. Seemingly successfully too.

The knights see just how deep the Proliates have nested into the cities, destroying libraries and reverting buildings into temples to their god Tallcon. How will the Knights and allies prevent war when it is so clearly brewing?

The treachery and betrayal and sadness ramp up as the knights suffer a huge loss among their own at the tournament. It was fun to see how the games took place, competitions and challenges are some of my favorite book events. Most of the action took place at the tournament so there is plenty of that, but also occurring is a deep exploration of the political meltdown that occurred and is occurring to shape the future of Verngaurd. The book also contains plenty of life wisdom, continuing that large philosophical contribution from book one

We finally meet Bellae’s protector as well, and learn more about the dragons. I love how the knights and squires lean on each other throughout the tournament, but there is still a level of detachment between the characters and the reader. I still love Bellae and Lontas and Finn, also Ritari is growing on me. I gotta say I saw it coming but the end of this one had me bawling.

Filled with plenty of amazing artwork and action for a book that only chronologically covers a few days, this is a great fantasy series for middle grade / YA / or anyone that likes their fantasy with a deep world build, plenty of battle and magic, and a philosophical twist.