Categories
audiobooks Fantasy Paranormal

The Gunslinger by Stephen King (My Experience)

Go then, there are other worlds than these

Now that I’ve read a few Stephen King books I am aware of a couple of things. He has gone through some significant and very different life stages, and depending on which stage he was in when he wrote a book, it’s going to be a very different reading experience.  His thoughts on this book began in college …..

The Dark Tower series gets a vast amount of praise from readers across all genres and I figured it was about time I check it out.  Number one, The Gunslinger, is short and felt rocky at times, which can be explained by the fact that it was originally 5 short stories!

There are ideas, there are flashbacks, there’s action in the present day, and there’s certainly a lot of room for King to move forward. My main impression is that I don’t think he knew it was going to turn into a giant epic series when he first wrote The Gunslinger. After doing some research I found that after the other books were written King went back and did some serious revising to the first to make it more consistent with the other books, and this is the version I have.  It’s interesting though because you can see where the five stories are and while each has its own individual flavor, they mostly fit well when pieced together to create Roland’s adventures.

And there you have it from Wikipedia. So what are my impressions of the book? I had no idea if I was reading fantasy or dystopia or what.  They should have left the Whelan cover to make it clear at first! You’ve got lowkey demons, a sharpshooter, a talking raven, throwbacks to something like Arthurian times in a castle court, with guns, and an overarching Old West feel.

It’s bizarre and brilliant and I’m keenly interested. I have so many questions about how the world’s fit together, how Jake ended up in this wasteland, how 10 years can pass in a moment, and so many other things! 

If nothing else King has me hooked lined and sunk as far as continuing to read on because I want all the answers. 

I don’t know where this thought fits into the rest of my thoughts but there’s this whole over current of weird hormones and sexy situations haha I think King had some issues to work through at some point, as also indicated by the Bill Hodges trilogy and “honeyboy”🤣

It’s also no secret that Roland is considered a hugely iconic character, so let me look at him quickly.  He’s obviously a badass sharp shooter on one level, but when he talks about his past he seems ancient. How did he get from a beautiful green world of castles and courts to a dystopian desert chasing the Man in Black?  His interactions with Jake Chambers shows that he has never heard of our Earth, even though his world mirrors Earth in many ways.  Roland isn’t fearless, he has deep feelings where the boy is concerned, but he’s also quite singleminded in purpose at this point in the series. 

And if that spiel on time and size at the end doesn’t blow your mind, nothing will 😂

One penultimate note is that Michael Whelan did the original cover! That makes it a legitimate fantasy as far as I’m concerned

Screenshot_20220621-100659

And the last note – it was recommended to me to try the audiobooks because the narrator adds a lot of fantastic personality to the text and I couldn’t agree more.  Most of my King reading has been on audio because of Will Patton narrating quite a few books, but George Guidall   is absolutely phenomenal as well.  Would highly recommend to fans of thrillers and fantasy.

Here’s the Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: The Gunslinger
  • Series: The Dark Tower, #1
  • Author: Stephen King, narrated by George Guidall
  • Release: Originally 1982, there are so many versions this is confusing to me now
  • Length: approx 7 hours audio, around 280 on page
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐⭐ heck yeah to thriller and fantasy, weird western fans

Here’s the synopsis via GoodReads:

The Gunslinger introduces readers to one of Stephen King’s most powerful creations, Roland of Gilead: The Last Gunslinger. He is a haunting figure, a loner on a spellbinding journey into good and evil. In his desolate world, which mirrors our own in frightening ways, Roland tracks The Man in Black, encounters an enticing woman named Alice, and begins a friendship with the boy from New York named Jake.

Categories
Science Fiction

Book Tour & Giveaway: At the Threshold of the Universe by T.A. Bruno

Thank you endlessly to T.A. Bruno for the beautiful hardcover of At the Threshold of the Universe! Do ya all see the 4th quote down🤪

I’m so glad that Escapist Tours picked up the tour for the end of the trilogy.  I’m a huge fan of the series and it came to a whopping conclusion. Bruno not only wrapped up the storylines but created this amazingly intense backstory for the events leading up to the start of the first novel and eventual fall of the solar system.  There is a proper balance of nostalgia and forward motion to tie everything together and bring The Song of Kamaria to an epic conclusion!

You can find the giveaway and other info below.  I also linked to the Sunday Brunch Series feature that we did before if anyone wants to further “meet the author”!

Cover

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: At the Threshold of the Universe
  • Series: The Son of Kamaria, #3
  • Author: T.A. Bruno
  • Publisher & Release: Self Published, May 2022
  • Length: 496 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐⭐✨yes 100% recommend to SFF readers or anyone looking for an adventure

Here’s the Synopsis:

ALL SONGS END.

War ravages Kamaria as an old enemy resurfaces from the depths of the ocean. Offering no support in the coming battles, the Auk’nai isolate themselves in their tightly guarded Nest. Outgunned and outmatched, humanity once again trembles on the edge of obliteration.

The Castus family is torn apart. Denton fights on the front lines, hoping to free Cade from a nightmarish foe. Meanwhile, Eliana and Nella set out on a path that will change everything they understand about the Sirens. The Song will end, but who will remain to hear its final verse?

I didn’t think he would take it easy on the characters but was not ready for how perfectly devastating this book would be.  The depth of suffering in the final battle for humanity … Was actually probably appropriate, I wouldn’t have loved the book if he had done anything less.

I liked how I pretty much spent the entire book chewing my nails for the characters. Extinction was a very plausible conclusion as things got bleaker and bleaker for the remaining humans – and I didn’t let my figurative breath out until it was over.

That said – you guys already know that these scenes play out like a movie.  Everything is laid out for the imagination and the authors experience in cinema and visual storytelling is apparent as war rages between moments of quiet in Kamaria’s magical settings.  It reads like scifi on a fantasy planet and it works here.

The backstory was my favorite part.  Cade is able to learn the history of the Undriel through the eyes of the leader and generals and now we finally know how the machines began and why they pushed humanity out of the solar system. There are some curve balls to keep it interesting and at no point does he drop the general feeling and tone of the rest of the book.

Nella separately learns the history of the Sirens and I’ll admit that this part went a bit over my head with the timelines and tasks. It had its moments though and hey, now we know. 

We also get many memorable quotes as things go to hell for Denton and the Marines.  Combs said this in one of the last quiet moments of the story and it merits repeating:

I had that pegged as one of the flagship passages of the book and it was an accurate guess!

Many characters in the series are memorable in both life and death.  In war some deaths are heroic and others are utterly pointless. I did like how that was reflected, as well as how the memories are carried forward.

In all honestly I did dock half a star for … This is painful but the editing wasn’t quite there in this one.  The first two books were nearly flawlessly edited and this one is just not up to par. It’s a personal preference and typos throw me out of immersion like nothing else, although the rest of the books presentation is stellar

The section and chapter artwork is another extra touch that makes this feel like a classic scifi read.

Overall …. I mean this is one of my favorite independently published series out there and I think he did the conclusion full justice.  It’s action packed, cinematic, in the feels, epic in scope, and you just want to shield the entire human race from any further harm.  I think giving Talulo the last word of the Song and Cade the epilogue was a good touch too, we can’t forget how much the Auk’nai also lost. 

100% no hesitation to recommend this series to anyone! Thank you again to Escapist Book Tours and the author for having me on the tour!


Alright now that I’ve hopefully gotten everyone interested in the series (p.s. In The Orbit of Sirens is an SPSFC finalist)!  Here is the giveaway:

At the Threshold of the Universe giveaway

http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/79e197ac30/ enter here, open now and ends 6/22!

Book Links:

Amazon Series Page: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B09B4YVKGT
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/60484283-at-the-threshold-of-the-universe

Meet the author!

T. A. Bruno grew up in a suburb south of Chicago and moved to Los Angeles to pursue a career in the film industry. Since then, he has brought stories to life for over a decade as a previsualization artist. At home, he is the proud father of two boys and a husband to a wonderful wife.

Author Website: TABruno.com
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/TABrunoAuthor/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/TABrunoAuthor
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/TABrunoAuthor

There’s also the Sunday Brunch Series interview to check out for more info! https://onereadingnurse.com/2021/08/22/sunday-brunch-author-interview-series-featuring-t-a-bruno/

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.

Categories
Science Fiction Thrillers Young Adult

Exo by Fonda Lee (Book Thoughts)

I’ve been on a sci-fi binge recently and have absolutely no regrets about picking up Exo by Fonda Lee. Everyone talks about The Green Bone Saga books but I don’t think I’ve ever seen Exo on Bookstagram or Twitter, so here we are.

YA scifi is totally hit or miss and I only have good things to say about Exo. Content and theme wise I’m all about this one both as a sci-fi and YA book! (If you see Categories – I also gave this one credit as a thriller because it’s more action than ideology based, although there’s plenty of both).

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: Exo
  • Series: Exo #1 (Duology)
  • Author: Fonda Lee
  • Publisher & Release: Scholastic Press, January 2017
  • Length: 384
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐⭐ for Sci-fi thriller and YA fans

Here’s the synopsis from GoodReads:

It’s been a century of peace since Earth became a colony of an alien race with far reaches into the galaxy. Some die-hard extremists still oppose alien rule on Earth, but Donovan Reyes isn’t one of them. His dad holds the prestigious position of Prime Liaison in the collaborationist government, and Donovan’s high social standing along with his exocel (a remarkable alien technology fused to his body) guarantee him a bright future in the security forces. That is, until a routine patrol goes awry and Donovan’s abducted by the human revolutionary group Sapience, determined to end alien control.

When Sapience realizes whose son Donovan is, they think they’ve found the ultimate bargaining chip . But the Prime Liaison doesn’t negotiate with terrorists, not even for his own son. Left in the hands of terrorists who have more uses for him dead than alive, the fate of Earth rests on Donovan’s survival. Because if Sapience kills him, it could spark another intergalactic war. And Earth didn’t win the last one…

Excellent synopsis, ok here we go. So Earth is now a few generations post invasion and governed by an alien race. Humans are part of the government and enjoy many rights, they have been given advanced alien technology in including these fused Exocels, protection from other alien races, and many other benefits

There’s a faction of humans that didn’t benefit so much though and have turned into a terrorist organization called Sapience. Donovan’s security patrols are primarily concerned with rooting these terrorists out, although *most* are smalltime offenders.

Long story short, things go badly and Donovan gets thrown into the world of Sapience.  He has literal and figurative bombshells thrown at him and learns both sides of the war.  He sees the face of “evil” and ultimately faces legitimate moral conflicts involving family, loyalty, the alien races, and the big picture of Earth’s survival.

The ideas of nature vs nurture and natural vs unnatural are huge themes in this book. The main character has significant life changing events that allows him to see both sides of the story and I think this is great for YA readers.  Both of Donovan’s parents had terrible choices to make and also made terrible choices, and isn’t it eventually the child’s burden to sort this out and make their own choices? Yes, and Lee NAILS this 

There’s also first contact from the perspective of the leader of the alien race. This is an interesting choice and not done so frequently.  He comes to survey Earth and has never seen humans before, even though the aliens on Earth have grown up with humans and protect/care for them. The leader is like “ew, the hell are these little squishy things and why do they have Exos? Do we need to save these things?”

Another thing I appreciate is the LANGUAGE! World appropriate slang that is based off the Zhree (alien) language is a great touch.  Tell me again why SFF books need modern day swearing, especially in YA … they don’t!

Lastly a note on the characters – I liked Donovan and Jet too.  Jet is a saint and Donovan is lucky to have him as a best friend.  I do think the little romance could have been cut out but it was clean and gave the characters incentive to bridge the gap between their politics.

Overall: fast moving plot, plotting, frequent action, great characters, micro and macro threats, family… This is a really solid Young Adult book and I think some adults may enjoy it as well.

Categories
Fantasy Young Adult

Game of Strength and Storm by Rachel Menard

Happy slightly late pub day to Game of Strength and Storm! Thanks to Flux Books via NetGalley for the digital arc, all opinions are my own

This is a very loose labors of Hercules retelling. It sounded interesting despite the fact that I don’t tend to be a fan of mythological retellings and have been breaking up with YA, so maybe don’t take my opinions too seriously

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: Game of Strength & Storm
  • Series: The Labors of Gen
  • Author: Rachel Menard
  • Publisher & Release: North Star Editions, 06/07/2022
  • Length: 400 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐ for me personally. Content wise I would recommend for a pretty clean YA fantasy read

Here’s the synopsis from GoodReads:

Victory is the only option.

Once a year, the Olympian Empresses grant the wishes of ten people selected by a lottery—for a price. Seventeen-year-old Gen, a former circus performer, wants the freedom of her father, who was sentenced to life in prison for murders she knows he didn’t commit. Castor plans to carry the island Arcadia into the future in place of her brother, Pollux, but only after the Empresses force a change in her island’s archaic laws that requires a male heir.

To get what they want, Gen and Castor must race to complete the better half of ten nearly impossible labors. They have to catch the fastest ship in the sea, slay the immortal Hydra, defeat a gangster called the Boar, and capture the flesh-eating Mares, among other deadly tasks.

Gen has her magic, her ability to speak to animals, her inhuman strength—and the help of Pollux, who’s been secretly pining for her for years. But Castor has her own gifts: the power of the storms, along with endless coin. Only one can win. The other walks away with nothing—if she walks away at all.

I seem to be in the minority here as the book has great early ratings, but I didn’t love it. It’s solid enough for YA but took me almost three weeks to finish because I honestly was not interested and had trouble with the repetitive inner monologue.

The concept was interesting and there was plenty of action interspersed throughout, but overall as an adult reader I just wasn’t as engaged as I think a teen would be.  I also like the theme of family loyalty which is explored in different ways.

Character wise- I can’t deal with inner monologue that never changes. Pollux said the same thing over and over and so did Castor who had no character growth at all.  It’s hard for me to read multiple points of view when the characters just keep repeating themselves. The main character, Gen, didn’t really change much either except to open her barriers to a proximity romance and gain slightly more awareness of the way the empire works. I liked the magic, abilities, and attitude of the characters, although the most enjoyable part for me was the animals

What do you think it would be like to ride in a whale’s mouth? A monkey with 100 eyes? Flesh eating mares?

Gen’s ability to communicate with different creatures was the high point for sure

Plot wise I wanted a little more from some of the tasks. Overall it was fairly fast paced but I found myself skimming over a lot of repetitive introspection. The final battle’s ending struck me as a bit silly and I thought the book would be a standalone. I can’t see myself reading the sequel.

I like that the content and language was appropriately clean for YA.  There were a few kisses between m/f and briefly w/w but otherwise the content was extremely low. One of my favorite things about the Flux imprint is that they tend to keep things on the tame side!

I would recommend for YA 100% and accordingly went with my three star, aka neutral rating

Categories
Mysteries Suspense Thrillers

Locust Lane by Stephen Amidon (ARC Review)

Thank you so much to Celadon Books for my super early copy of Locust Lane by Stephen Amidon!  This is the first time I’ve been sent a first round survey ARC so that’s super exciting.  Book received for free in exchange for an honest review and early feedback.

I’m not sure about the etiquette for extremely early reviews but I think it’s better to just post it now while I’m still thinking about the book and help to put it on people’s winter radar.

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: Locust Lane
  • Author: Stephen Amidon
  • Publisher & Release: Celadon Books, 01/17/23
  • Length: 320 pages
  • Rate & Recommend:  ⭐⭐⭐⭐ for fans of domestic suspense, mystery

Here’s the synopsis from GoodReads:

For fans of Mystic River by Dennis Lehane and Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng, Stephen Amidon’s Locust Lane is a taut and utterly propulsive story about the search for justice and the fault lines of power and influence in a seemingly idyllic town. Can anyone be trusted?

On the surface, Emerson, Massachusetts, is just like any other affluent New England suburb. But when a young woman is found dead in the nicest part of town, the powerful neighbors close ranks to keep their families safe. In this searing novel, Eden Perry’s death kicks off an investigation into the three teenagers who were partying with her that night, each a suspect. Hannah, a sweet girl with an unstable history. Jack, the popular kid with a mean streak. Christopher, an outsider desperate to fit in. Their parents, each with motivations of their own, only complicate the picture: they will do anything to protect their children, even at the others’ expense.

With a brilliantly woven, intricately crafted plot that gathers momentum on every page, this is superb storytelling told in terse prose—a dynamic read that is both intensely gripping and deeply affecting.

I am constantly impressed with the books coming out of Celadon.  Regardless of the genre they tend to be on the literary side and very well around. It’s a bit difficult to classify this novel but it’s a mystery and it’s suspenseful and there’s a lot of small community he-said-she-said in the process of finding justice for the murder victim.

Locust Lane is told from the alternating viewpoints of I believe five different people in the community. It was a bit difficult to keep the storyline and voices straight at first which is the main reason why I docked a star.  The characters are explored more deeply than I usually find in thrillers, which serves to show how the people from different backgrounds fit into the wealthy and privileged area.

When the girl is found murdered, the detectives immediately zero in on the teen who is a foreigner. We watch the wealthy and powerful members of the community band together to cover up the indiscretions of the other teens while the mother of the victim and a less than credible witness go about trying to expose the actual murderer.

It was interesting to watch the details come out.  Woven throughout the murder mystery are themes of disturbed youth, alcoholism, grief, coping with various upbringings, tough parenting challenges, wealth and power. A big part of it is seeing how different characters handle similar challenges such as the loss of a child or being reliant on someone else’s money.

And of course the mystery itself – this is a compulsive read and I was definitely never bored reading it. I picked the wrong suspect for the crime but that’s nothing new. I would definitely recommend this one for people who like mystery and suspense and exploring different character backgrounds.

Locust Lane is out in January, keep it on your radar!

Categories
audiobooks Fantasy

Broken Veil by Jeff Wheeler (Book & Series thoughts)

I think I sat on this review a little bit too long. I wanted to think about the themes and the overall series and not come in on a gut reaction, except now the lines between the books have flared together a bit especially since I binged the last three.

Disclaimer that this post is going to get a little series spoilery because it’s book 5 and I think it requires a little bit of discussion about the series as a whole. Anyway, let’s jump in!

Bookish Quick Facts;

  • Title: Broken Veil
  • Series: Harbinger #5
  • Author: Jeff Wheeler
  • Publisher & Release: 47 North, June 2019
  • Length: 346 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐✨ I definitely recommend the series, although I’m not sure that it got stronger as it went

Here’s the synopsis from GoodReads:

Wall Street Journal bestselling author Jeff Wheeler’s epic Harbinger series comes to a breathtaking conclusion as two women are swept into a battle that could destroy two worlds.

Rescued from a world of poverty, Cettie Pratt has avoided a bleak destiny—until now. Deceived and manipulated, she has been groomed for the ultimate betrayal: to destroy her best friend and stop peace from uniting two war-torn worlds. Her path leads her to a mysterious underworld where appearances can be deceiving.

Sera Fitzempress knows the value she has to her enemies. As heir to the empire, she must keep her foes at bay and prevent them from unleashing a being of unspeakable evil upon the world while fighting a brutal war. But her enemies are more cunning than Sera expects, and the key to their plans is none other than her best friend.

Neither woman knows what to believe. Neither one knows if she can trust the other. Both Cettie and Sera have made decisions that have irrevocably changed them. But the decisions they have yet to make will determine the fate of their world…

As I said, I’ve been the last three books in the series so it’s a bit hard for me to remember where one book started and the other ended. Each book does have some time pass between events but for the most part the story picks up where it left off.

Each book in the series has quite a bit of action and it’s hard to say which one was the most action-packed, but I think Broken Veil takes the cake there. We got to see Cettie at the poisoners school, which was one of my favorite parts of the series because after reading Kingfountain I always wondered what exactly happens in those places. It’s a very good example of how different facets of culture and conflict do not necessarily view themselves as evil.  In any other world Cettie would have loved it at the school 

Keeping on the Kingfountain train of thought, I definitely missed something huge by not reading the trilogy focusing on Trynne.  There was a cameo at the end of Broken Veil that featured Owen and Sinia, and I have no idea how the actual heck that happened but I’m curious now.  Apparently Cettie also ended up like Trynne in more ways than one, which brings me back to how Wheeler seems to have rehashed a lot of old ideas in the Harbinger series.

Combining the worlds so much definitely worked though, especially when comparing the religions and showing that even in such a divided culture there is harmony to be found in these things.

Sera and Cettie both spent quite a bit of time walking in Maia’s shoes, Ereshkigal came back, there was the Oathmaiden thing, plus bringing all the old Muirwood lore back – either Wheeler ran out of ideas, or more likely to me he wrote this for the people who probably won’t go back and read Muirwood.

I’ve always thought that he should re-release those books with updated editing so that it’s not embarrassing to recommend them, but I think that this series was a concession to the unlikelihood of that ever happening.  The new series also is about very very early Muirwood.

Okay, let’s get back to talking about Broken Veil. 

I have always respected Wheeler for not being afraid to kill off characters, and as a result we get to hear Adam Creigh as the interlude voice in this edition. Adam won my respect as an honorable and brave figure throughout these books so it was nice to get a look inside his head.  I love the fact that he ended up in a hospital and found fulfillment after all of the things he’s been through in the series

The same for Cettie and Sera, everyone got pretty good resolutions although the book felt unfinished to me.

Now speaking of the end of the book, let’s talk about divine intervention. I don’t mind it in this case because the Medium is kind of the unsung hero of both the Muirwood and Kingfountain trilogies, although in some degree it made the struggles of the characters seem slightly diminished. One could also look at it as multiple tests of faith being rewarded, and a message to Sera about the future of her realm. It was definitely an epic act of divine intervention that resolved the action and it also reminded me a bit of a few passage in Revelations, terribly paraphrased, that talk about moving mountains and islands, raining hailstones, and then calling on these devices for protection and salvation. One other thing to consider is – who is piloting Idumea?

With Ereshkigal coming back and the Mirror Gates closing there is a new world coming for sure.

The two things that really annoyed me were 1) The stupid kidnapping thing. Cettie and Sera took turns being kidnapped throughout the entire series to further the plot. It lost its interest and got old real quick, and by the time that I happened in this book I was just so sick of it. Sera didn’t need to see the things that she saw but at the same time I just wish he had come up with something different.

The second super annoying thing is that for all the fact that Stephen and the Fitzroy’s adopted her, Cettie spent a chunk of this book calling him her “almost brother”.  That’s fine but she had been calling the others mother and father and sister already so it felt very weird for her to start using that language and it stuck out like a sore thumb.

All other things aside, I did absolutely love the entire story and plot line of this final book in the series.  Everyone including Corinne got brought to their knees at one point or another.  The level of intrigue and backstabbing had my head spinning in the best way possible.

I’m finding it hard to bring my thoughts onto paper but overall I would definitely recommend this one if you like strong characters, vivid settings, political intrigue, questions of faith, found family, action, period dramas, redemption arcs.  Overall this was a satisfying ending to the series and that is the important thing.

 I do want to take a minute and mention the audiobook. Kate Rudd narrates most of Wheeler’s books and she is absolutely phenomenal. Her voice does such credit to these characters and events. I switched back and forth between audio and text and always appreciate the fact that Wheeler provides free and/or extremely cheap audiobooks as part of his run on Kindle unlimited.


The Harbinger Series:

Categories
audiobooks Thrillers

The Gatekeeper by James Byrne (ALC/ARC review)

My last read of May was The Gatekeeper by James Byrne! Thanks so much to Minotaur Books for the ARC, and I also received an advanced listening copy so I will be reviewing both here! All opinions are my own!

This is what I like in a summer read – nonstop action, banter, entertaining main characters, over the top fight scenes, a few laughs thrown in, and a plot that is easy enough to follow without burning all the brain cells trying to keep up. Plausible, nah, but entertaining as heck – 100%.

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Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: The Gatekeeper
  • Series: ?
  • Author: James Byrne
  • Publisher & Release: Minotaur Books, June-07-2022
  • Length: 336 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐⭐✨ for anyone who likes thrillers like Evanovich or Orphan X

Here’s the synopsis from GoodReads:

James Byrne’s The Gatekeeper introduces Dez Limerick in the most anticipated new thriller in years.

A highly trained team of mercenaries launches a well-planned, coordinated attack on a well-guarded military contractor – but they didn’t count on one thing, the right man being in the wrong place at the right time.

Desmond Aloysius Limerick (“Dez” to all) is a retired mercenary, and enthusiastic amateur musician, currently in Southern California, enjoying the sun and sitting in on the occasional gig, when the hotel he’s at falls under attack. A skilled team attempts to kidnap the Chief legal counsel of Triton Expeditors, a major military contractor – in fact, Petra Alexandris is the daughter of the CEO – but their meticulously-planned, seamlessly executed scheme runs into the figurative ‘spanner-in-the-works,’ Dez himself.

After foiling the attack, and with nothing better to do, Dez agrees to help Alexandris with another problem she’s having – someone has embezzled more than a billion dollars from her company and left very few tracks behind. But Dez is a gatekeeper – one who opens doors and keeps them open – and this is just a door of another kind. And the door he opens leads to a dangerous conspiracy involving media manipulation, militias, an armed coup, and an attempt to fracture the United States themselves. There’s only one obstacle between the conspirators and success – and that is Dez, The Gatekeeper.

The book introduces Dez in a mercenary operation that is apparently his last.  Retiring to California, he coincidentally ends up in a hotel where he foils a kidnapping plot that is only the tip of the iceberg of issues he is about discover.

The plot is definitely not plausible and at no point did I think that the bad guys were going to win, but it was certainly entertaining to get there. America at this time can definitely relate to white supremacy and big money companies with big egos so I don’t think it’s too far off from reality.  I got immense satisfaction out of Dez making quite a few of these people look like complete idiots.

Dez is never fleshed out but he’s by far the highlight of the book. A tactically well rounded character, he can hack and set traps and fight. He is built like a truck, funny, and absolutely kick ass. I loved his Brit/Scottish accent and all his quirks.

Petra is the female lead, a force of nature as well. I loved seeing her dress down her father and the other power players. There are a few other female characters that are brave and badass too, in unconventional ways. Another favorite side character was a personal assistant named Alonzo!

I think the place where I docked half a star was that some of the descriptions of both Dez and Petra became repetitive without telling us anything new.  I don’t come to thrillers for character development but it would have been good to have some indication of where Dez came from, although I appreciate the mystery as well.

I also had a chance to hear John Keating narrate the audio! I read and listened about 50/50 to review both fairly and I think he did a phenomenal job, especially with Dez and his cutaway “sorry!”. Sometimes accents are hard or make it difficult to understand the narrator but I found key thing to be clear and consistent in all voices. I did have to raise the speed to 1.5 in order to make it sound like a human but I am totally okay with a narrator speaking slowly in order to enunciate.

The end left it open for more Gatekeeper books too so – hopefully! I definitely recommend this one for people who enjoy fast-paced action-packed thrillers that don’t take themselves too seriously!

Categories
Fantasy

Gardens of the Moon by Steven Erikson (Thoughts & First Impressions)

A lot of people have been waiting very patiently for this and I apologize for how long it took. There is so much that one could potentially say about Gardens of the Moon and the Malazan  series in general, and for my first post I want to take a very general approach to how I felt coming into the book and how I feel coming out of it and into the next one. I think this will have a lot of good information for other first time readers and those debating about whether to start the series

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: Gardens of the Moon
  • Series: Malazan Book of the Fallen, #1
  • Author: Steven Erickson
  • Publisher & Release: Tor Books, 1999
  • Length: 666 pages (MMPB)
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐⭐ and yes, hard yes, for anyone with even a casual interest in military or regular fantasy

Here’s the synopsis via GoodReads:

Vast legions of gods, mages, humans, dragons and all manner of creatures play out the fate of the Malazan Empire in this first book in a major epic fantasy series from Steven Erikson.

The Malazan Empire simmers with discontent, bled dry by interminable warfare, bitter infighting and bloody confrontations with the formidable Anomander Rake and his Tiste Andii, ancient and implacable sorcerers. Even the imperial legions, long inured to the bloodshed, yearn for some respite. Yet Empress Laseen’s rule remains absolute, enforced by her dread Claw assassins.

For Sergeant Whiskeyjack and his squad of Bridgeburners, and for Tattersail, surviving cadre mage of the Second Legion, the aftermath of the siege of Pale should have been a time to mourn the many dead. But Darujhistan, last of the Free Cities of Genabackis, yet holds out. It is to this ancient citadel that Laseen turns her predatory gaze.

However, it would appear that the Empire is not alone in this great game. Sinister, shadowbound forces are gathering as the gods themselves prepare to play their hand…

Conceived and written on a panoramic scale, Gardens of the Moon is epic fantasy of the highest order–an enthralling adventure by an outstanding new voice.

Okay, so anyone with even a casual interest in fantasy has heard of Malazan, and with that knowledge comes the fact that this fandom is completely full of elitist fucks.  I let that level of elitism deter me for a long time because I found it intimidating, which is just stupid, because when a book is just this damn good people just need to read it.  I get the hype, I really do, but let’s talk about this on an introductory level

First off, the author recommends reading them in publication order which I think is awesome. The series seems super intimidating but it’s really not because the reading order, at least the first time through, is pretty straightforward.

The book itself is written on such an amazing, huge, wonderful scope, that yeah you are absolutely not going to pick up everything on the first read. I sure as hell didn’t. I’m halfway through book two now and learning quite a bit about book one still so do not be concerned if you start reading and go ” holy fuck I have no idea what’s going on” – trust me, you’ll get there.

One of the things that I tend to love about military fantasy is that it’s very realistic in terms of the reader knowing just about as much as the characters knowing. A lot of fantasy holds your hand and explains things and walks you through what’s happening, but in a military engagement this is absolutely not going to be  realistic. If the characters know what’s going on, you probably know what’s going on, but even then sometimes you don’t. Eventually in the text things are explained so you kind of have to just keep reading and learn as you go

That said, there’s a very helpful index including people, places, and some of the phrases used in the text. A good example is the word “Soletaken” – you can either look it up in the index, or just wait for someone to explain it. 

I think the coolest thing about this book is just how absolutely epic and all encompassing it is. You’ve got humans, non-humans, empresses, mages, gods and other deities, assassins, the undead, dragons, talking giant ravens, hounds, magic weapons, epic sorcery, and just about anything else you could ever want in a fantasy mashed into these pages somewhere. It’s truly and epically impressive and I’m not even scratching the surface.  

Another thing that I really appreciate is how Erikson does not mince words. If a character is fat, awesome, if they’re black, awesome, whatever.  Burned, missing an eye or arm, whatever. Just about the only thing that makes anybody turn their head is a puppet with devastating sorcery capabilities.

Even the most boring storyline in this book eventually ties into bigger things and gives you a big validating “oh wow!” moment, or six.  Even when the text isn’t necessarily exciting you get cool fantasy names like “Despot’s Barbican” to keep you entertained and curious. I didn’t love the Darujistan political storyline until it started falling into place, but it was still cool.

The level of political intrigue is right up there as well, both within and outside of the Malazan Empire.   The mages are plotting, the gods are plotting, Dujek is plotting, some of Whiskey Jack’s men are plotting …. Everyone’s got an end game and you have no idea what any of it is until Erickson decides to tell you.  Some of the plots carry right over into the next book too.

The sorcery and some of the fight scenes are epic too.  So are the characters and interwoven plots. I love the names like WhiskeyJack, Tattersail, Anomander Rake, Topper, Fiddler, Quick Ben – Erikson comes close to Glen Cook in the “fun military nicknames” category – and just smashes him everywhere else. No offense but Cook even admits he was outdone in the book plug 🤣

Some of my favorite themes were … Cause and effect. Luck. PTSD and how war sucks away humanity. Friends and found family.  Protecting your own.

Some of the coolest magic – Anomander Rake’s sword, which essentially sucks souls into it and puts them to a hellish task.  Also Hairlock’s puppet shenanigans.  The shape shifting.  At the end it was hard to tell 100% what happened but that was some damn fine sorcery as well with the “house” appearing. One more awesome point of magic is the future telling or guiding Deck of Dragons. It’s not readily apparent how involved and magical the decks are, but when it comes out it’s quite interesting!

I feel like I’m already writing an essay (while hardly scratching the surface).

I want to stress again to first time readers too –  just keep reading when you feel overwhelmed, I think the best approach is to let it wash over you without interrupting the reading too much. You’re not stupid, you’re not alone, it’s a LOT to take in.

I am told that this is the least well written of his books as well, so I have high high high hopes for the rest of the series

🖤

Categories
Fantasy

The Summer Tree by Guy Gavriel Kay (Book Thoughts)

I was so glad to read The Summer Tree along with a fantastic group of bloggers for this year’s Wyrd & Wonder read-along! I have been posting each week this month, and now this is my regular old book review and thoughts post, spoiler free!

Let’s jump right in:

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: The Summer Tree
  • Series: The Fionavar Tapestry, #1
  • Author: Guy Gavriel Kay
  • Publisher & Release: 1984
  • Length: around 380 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: 3.5 stars – I didn’t love the book but I respect it and think it fits in with 80s fantasy. Would recommend for adult fantasy readers

Here’s the synopsis via GoodReads:

The first volume in Guy Gavriel Kay’s stunning fantasy masterwork.

Five men and women find themselves flung into the magical land of Fionavar, First of all Worlds. They have been called there by the mage Loren Silvercloak, and quickly find themselves drawn into the complex tapestry of events. For Kim, Paul, Kevin, Jennifer and Dave all have their own part to play in the coming battle against the forces of evil led by the fallen god Rakoth Maugrim and his dark hordes.

Guy Gavriel Kay’s classic epic fantasy plays out on a truly grand scale, and has already been delighting fans of imaginative fiction for twenty years.

This book truly has about a hundred different editions from different publishers but I’m pretty sure it was originally published in 1984 somewhere in Canada.

My first main thought is that based off of the synopsis I never ever ever would have picked this book up if it was not for the read along. I definitely didn’t love or particularly enjoy it but it was entertaining and got me thinking about fantasy as a larger genre and wear certain styles and tropes fit in so I definitely think that the read had value.

Essentially the plot is that five grad students in Toronto get sucked into an adventure in a magical world. They don’t get a lot of information before going but more or less take on the adventure in different ways, integrating themselves more or less successfully into the politics and struggles of Fionavar.

My biggest issue with the whole book is that it was essentially a hyper dramatic stage drama cartoon playing out in my head. The villains were the absolute super worst, the characters were all more or less cardboard cutouts, and it was really hard for me to care about what was going on beyond saying like “hahah Wow that’s fucked up”

Underlying everything there was value in the prophecy, lore, foretelling, historical events, and world itself of Fionavar. I did enjoy the world building that was given and GGK hinted at some of the events that would be happening in the next book so I’m kind of excited to see where he takes the series.

Some parts were better developed than others but it was enough to make me believe that GGK is well capable of building a world and magic and struggles that I would want to read, although other parts were not fleshed out very well at all.

Speaking of the way that he writes, I had a really hard time with some of the purple prose and language in general. I really did feel like I was reading a stage drama script sometimes that cued how dramatic the characters were trying to be.

It’s hard to talk about it without giving spoilers but I think that it’s a hyper exaggerated and tropey book, which is absolutely an author choice and there for entertainment. I do think The Summer Tree fits in with some of the older fantasy that I’ve read from that time period and would recommend for adult readers age 18 plus who are interested in some classic fantasy.

War, kingdom, evil, destiny, prophecy, sword and sorcery – this does have the elements of a solid read even if the stylistic choices didn’t work for me.

One final thought: I really wish that my edition had the Pegasus on the cover because pretty much all of them seem to except mine 🤣