Categories
Fantasy Science Fiction

Book Review: The Guardian of the Palace by Steven J. Morris

Thank you so much to By the Book VBP tours for having me on the Instagram tour for The Guardian of the Palace!  This is a fast paced, urban fantasy + invasion story mash-up that surprisingly works really well.  I would recommend to contemporary fantasy fans!

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: The Guardian of the Palace
  • Series: The Guardian League, #1
  • Author: Steven J. Morris
  • Publisher & Release: Indie, 01/22/21
  • Length: 358 pg
  • Rate & Recommend: 🌟🌟🌟🌟✨ for fans of the genres!

The Plot & Story: So the book actually doesn’t list a synopsis, and I am going to give you the key points really quick.  There is a huge four-block-wide building going up in NYC called The Palace, and Garnet “Red” Hernandez is hired on as a security head as construction continues.  She is ex military special ops, and her team of three friends are the other main human characters of the story.  Red sees something strange in the lower levels of The Palace, and before we know it there is a two fronted alien invasion going on.  The fun part is finding out why, how, and who exactly these invaders are.  To what lengths will the Guardians go to save Earth?

The prologue was incredibly gripping, and the book never let me go until the end…and I’m glad that book two is coming out soon.

The Characters: We also see a bit of Red’s military career to show where she and the rest of the characters came from, how they bonded, and what kind of people they are.  Red is a strong person who believes in rights, humanity, and the power of a strong team.  Rocks, Bear, and Scan are the rest of her group and I liked them too. The banter is interesting, they seem like real people, and extended amounts of good dialogue can be hard to find these days.  The chapters tend to stay pretty short and are mainly told from Red’s point of view.

I REALLY like the non-human characters.  Let’s just say there is an Elf, a troll, and a dwarf, and they are a little bit hilarious in their own ways.

The World Building: One of my favorite aspects was how Morris was able to blend the non-human and fantasy aspects into the modern day setting, giving plausible explanations for non-fantasy readers to follow fairly easily.   He gives enough info for the Infected and the other aliens that the explanations make sense, without doing any huge info dumps.

Misc: The place where I docked half a star was that when the other characters start having point of view chapters, I didn’t think their voices sounded distinct enough.  Not so much Agent Smith, but Rocks and Scan sounded very similar, and Grundle sounded extremely human in his thought processes.

I like how towards the end, the characters for the next book are set up and introduced more. Morris presented a clear path going forward, with a bit of a cliffhanger to keep me wanting to see the next book.

Thankfully, book two, Stars in the Sand, is coming out soon! I will be touring that book on June 2nd so keep an eye out for the review!

Giveaway! If you think this book sounds good, I am currently giving away a SIGNED, FINISHED COPY on my bookstagram! Go enter now  by clicking on this link1

Categories
audiobooks Crime Thrillers

Book Review and Musings: The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson

This week I read another backlist TBR book!  I read The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo back in college but really didn’t remember it.  What I can remember is talking about the book with my dad and being in complete disbelief that two people can read a book so differently!

So that’s my muse of the day: how do people read books differently, notice different things, focus on totally opposite aspects?

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo
  • Series: Millennium, #1
  • Author: Stieg Larsson (trans- Reg Keeland
  • Publisher & Release: Vintage Crime/Black Lizard, September 2008
  • Length: 465 pg
  • Rate & recommend: 🌟🌟🌟🌟 yes but maybe on audio if the Swedish pronunciations throw you off!

Here is the synopsis:

Murder mystery, family saga, love story, and financial intrigue combine into one satisfyingly complex and entertainingly atmospheric novel, the first in Stieg Larsson’s thrilling Millenium series featuring Lisbeth Salander.

Harriet Vanger, a scion of one of Sweden’s wealthiest families disappeared over forty years ago. All these years later, her aged uncle continues to seek the truth. He hires Mikael Blomkvist, a crusading journalist recently trapped by a libel conviction, to investigate. He is aided by the pierced and tattooed punk prodigy Lisbeth Salander. Together they tap into a vein of unfathomable iniquity and astonishing corruption.

What a book and mystery!! I liked the format of having two separate storylines, one for Blomkvist and one for Salander – each storyline was vaguely connected, while not necessarily related. Salander’s storyline established her history, personality, and potential, while the other introduced the magazine, plot, characters. Once the storylines merged the book never slowed down!

As a younger person I was so interested in the action and kick-assery, that I couldn’t believe my dad read it and was focusing more on the characters. Throughout the years for some reason Salander was a favorite character study of his, and I can appreciate that a little more now.

After Salander wrapped up her…troubles …for the time being, she was able to progress as a person emotionally as well as professionally and I think she had a great storyline. I don’t think Blomkvist would have gotten the mystery and link about hating women without her. He was the more static character but multifaceted too at least. Henrik also haha I loved that old shark.

Anyway – I think the Swedes have a certain distinct style of writing thrillers and mysteries that also incorporates a little more horror and grotesque than most other cultures. I read The Wolf and the Watchman maybe last year and the absolute horror story involved reminded me of the hatred and violence in this book. Men that hate women would have been a good title to keep😳. This book wasn’t just about a disappearing heiress – there was a corrupt sadist acting as a guardian of state Wards, biblical justifications for brutal torturing and murders in the past, a few romantic subplots, it was really a thriller once it got going. I wasn’t sure if the book wanted to be an investigative thriller or a psychological drama but it can be all of it, right?

Overall: I totally loved it, and I also was really glad for some reason that – now bear with me – anytime a Nazi pops up they are usually the criminal, but while the Nazi in this book was obviously a shithead – he wasn’t one of the main antagonists, more like some crazy old guy.

I had no freaking idea who the real criminal(s) were.

I also listened to a few chapters on audio and think Simon Vance is a great narrator. He took the guesswork out of the pronunciations and did fantastic voices.

My only gripe was literally the last paragraph of the book, why end it on a Misunderstanding? When that device wasn’t used throughout the rest of the book? I can’t wait to read the rest of these books!

Categories
Dystopian Literary Fiction Science Fiction

Book Tour & Review: Composite Creatures by Caroline Hardaker

Thank you so much to Angry Robot Books (Caroline, Gemma, and Sam are good eggs!) for having me on the book tour for Composite Creatures, an exciting new book that releases on 04/13/21!  This is a low-key science fiction novel that is also a meditation on the future of healthcare ethics, growing up, growing older, and prioritizing what matters most

Here is the synopsis from Amazon:

How close would you hold those you love, when the end comes?

In a society where self-preservation is as much an art as a science, Norah and Arthur Ratare learning how to co-exist in their new little world. Though they hardly know each other, everything seems to be going perfectly – from the home they’re building together to the ring on Norah’s finger.

But survival in this world is a tricky thing, the air is thicker every day and illness creeps fast through the body. And the earth is becoming increasingly hostile to live in. Fortunately, Easton Grove is here for that in the form of a perfect little bundle to take home and harvest. You can live for as long as you keep it – or her – close.

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: Composite Creatures
  • Series: N/A
  • Author: Caroline Hardaker
  • Publisher & Release: Angry Robot, 04/13/21
  • Length: 400 pg
  • Rate & Recommend: 🌟🌟🌟✨  Yes for the patient readers

The Plot & Story: I honestly believe that the less you know going in about this book, the better.  Health in the UK is going drastically downhill in the future as the air itself causes cancer, the animals are all extinct, healthy life expectancy is pathetic… and the NHS is handing the reins over to a private company.   Enter an elitist group called Easton Grove, that promises health and happiness to those who can afford it, and pass all the tests.  

What exactly is this little bundle that Easton Grove offer?

Hardaker makes us wait, and wait, and wait, and wait, and wait……and wait for it.  Most of the reveal happens towards the end of the book so I definitely recommend this one for the patient readers.  In the meantime we get a lovely meditation on life, losing one’s parents, falling out from our old friends, and co-existing with our chosen company.  This one takes a good hard look at life’s hardships.  The question becomes – is it worth holding out so long for the answers?  It took until the very last page but I think so.

The characters: I also think that the less you know about the characters, the better.   Norah and Arthur seem like a good pair, except it again takes a very long time for the book to reveal how they got together.  I liked Norah a lot and really, really hated Arthur until almost the end.  I think Hardaker did that on purpose though, she waited until page 400 out of 400 to make me forgive him, in that she also showed Norah as a “Composite Creature”

What does that even mean? Well – read it to find out

The World: Think of a slightly futuristic, overly polluted London with toxic soil, a sky with no birds, and a generally gray atmosphere.  The book creates gorgeous reminisces of the past through artwork and Norah’s memories of her mother.  I will give Hardaker endless Kudoes for the imagery in the book.  Hardaker is a published poet and I think that shows in her debut novel quite a bit.

Miscellaneous: One other cool thing I noticed is that RJ Barker (you know I always rave about The Bone Ships) blurbed the book, so that’s awesome.

The only thing that I really didn’t like was that Hardaker made us wait, for EVERYTHING.  She would mention a name, or a conflict, or a story, and give us absolutely no background until much later in the book.  Luke and Aubrey were good examples of this – I spent half of the book feeling like I missed something, but eventually I realized that we would eventually learn what’s going on.  I didn’t feel like these smaller reveals were necessarily worth waiting for though, which is where I docked the 1.5 stars.  I would have liked an occasional “bone” from the author.

Overall: Definitely recommend for fans of twisty, meditative books, mysteries, speculative fiction, sci-fi, and strong character builds.  


Meet the Author:

Author and poet Caroline Hardaker in her workspace. Caroline has published several books, including Bone Ovation.

Instagram: @angryrobotbooks – @caroluna_writes_stuff

Twitter: @angryrobotbooks | @carolinehwrites

More Information can be found about the author on her website:

https://carolinehardakerwrites.com/about-caroline-hardaker/


There is also plenty of book tour left, so make sure to check out the following hosts on Instagram or on their blogs! Thank you again to Angry Robot for letting me participate and feature the book!

graphic: list of book tour, blog hosts
Categories
Adventure Fantasy

Book Review: To Unite A Realm by Mary Beesley

Thank you so much to Mary Beesley for the finished Kindle copy of her newest book, To Unite A Realm!  This is an enemies to lovers story set in a very low fantasy world, so if you like adult fantasy romance… Check it out!  I read the book in two sittings and have no regrets at all.

My main point to keep in mind: the plot and characters totally carry this book, so if those are your preferred elements, read on!

Quick Facts:

  • Title: To Unite A Realm
  • Series: ?
  • Author: Mary Beesley
  • Publisher & Release: Boroughs Publishing Group, November 2020
  • Length: 252 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: 🌟🌟🌟⚡ for those looking for a quick read!

Here is the synopsis from GoodReads:

Through a prism of lies…

Vera Wilson, youngest daughter to the leader of her country – a county conquered by the tyrannical Grays – agrees to marry Angus Gray, heir to the throne of The United Realm. She hates him and everything his clan represents. But she has to protect her family and believes this marriage will keep them alive – unlike the friends the Grays have already murdered, one right in front of Vera. After a hasty ceremony and an awful wedding night, Vera travels to Alta Glenn, home to the Grays.

At first, life there is excruciating, but over time she learns that everything she’s been taught, everything she believes about the Grays and their clan is nothing more than a web of well-constructed lies. Almost too late, Vera protects Alta Glenn from impending disaster and realizes her husband is the exact opposite of what she expected him to be. Now, she doesn’t know if it’s possible for him to ever love her

The Story: I think the plot/story itself is a great idea.   A marriage to promote a peace between the rulers of a realm and a conquered landholding, the only catch being that the Grays are murderous, terrible people.

We follow Vera very quickly through her  meeting, marriage, and travel to her new husband’s homeland.  Once there, she starts learning the truth about how things really are in the Realm…and surprisingly the Grays aren’t the bad guys.  Well. Not the worst anyway.  The levels of betrayal and intrigue keep the story moving.  There is a side plot of a disease being used as biological warfare, to which a vaccine is available but controlled by Vera’s father.

The book progresses them rapidly from enemies to… well, you’ll have to read to find out if they become lovers.

The World: honestly the world just makes no sense whatsoever, but the plot is moving too rapidly to need that information.   The Realm apparently consists of multiple countries or landholdings.  One has colleges and labs and science and trains, another had an army and weapons stockpile, one seemed to have marshland and maybe boats, and the leading one, Alta Glenn, seemed to be a Scottish highland retreat community with only horses for transportation and the occasional revolver, although they did have electricity.   I don’t know how the heck those people obtained or stayed in power!

The only magic in the book consists of Euns, magic birds that are probably my favorite thing in the book.  They are sarcastic, murdery, able to talk, and act as lie detectors.  They are essentially giant murder parrots.  Although this isn’t enough for me to label the book an epic fantasy at all, I’ll give it low fantasy.

The mix of modern and old just doesn’t always make sense, even if the geography is fairly well described and gorgeous.  What were the streets of Alta Glenn even made out of, and how big is the place? I kept picturing a village vs a large town with a main shopping street… I loved the views out the windows though and the journey through the mountain passes.

…and a horse pops out a baby and weans it in a 3 month time period.  The other thing I REALLY needed more info on was the disease and bio warfare aspect, what was this thing? Manmade? Lab made? Where did it come from? It’s way too big not to elaborate!

Like I said – just don’t think about the world and enjoy the story.  If I hadn’t started thinking this would have been an easy 5 star book for how quickly I devoured it.  The characters and story are meant to just carry the book

The characters: Vera is the daughter of the ruler of the scientific country.  She has a huge character arc, showing strength and wisdom way beyond her upbringing.  Watching her get stronger and meld into the Gray family was lovely.

Angus… I mean he’s a man, but he means well I think.  Once the miscommunications are cleared up he gets SO much nicer.

Bear! Bear and Naira are supposed to be evil and terrifying but I really just need y’all to read the book and meet them yourselves.  There are a whole host of amazing Alta Glenn side characters that give the book a found family feel.

Content: the book is fairly low on content.  There is sex, between a faithful married couple, that is mostly closed door. It’s not entirely consensual at the start but they agree that they made their choices.  Otherwise there is some bloodshed, poison, a burned animal, and miscarriage.

Overall: I read the book in one day, so what can I say.  Great characters and plot are 100% enough to carry the book through the world that it exists in. 

Categories
Fiction General Fiction Suspense

ARC Review: Dead on the Delta by Sherry Knowlton

Thank you so much to Milford House Press for the digital ARC of Dead on the Delta!  Seeing as I live in frozen western NY, this armchair safari to Botswana was a good pick for me right now

Quick Facts:

  • Title: Dead on the Delta
  • Series: Alexa Williams, #5
  • Author: Sherry Knowlton
  • Publisher & Release: Milford House Press, 2/16/21
  • Length:254 pg
  • Rate & Recommend: 🌟🌟🌟⚡ for fans of the genre!

Here is the synopsis from Amazon:

Alexa Williams is about to spend four months doing lion research in the African bush with her boyfriend Reese. She looks forward to witnessing the elemental life and death struggle of the wild, but she never imagines she’ll become one of the hunted on the remote Okavango Delta.

Botswana protects its wildlife with strict policies and an entire army deployed to combat poaching. So Alexa and Reese are shocked when poachers wipe out an entire herd of elephants. At the site of the mass slaughter near their lion project, they promise authorities that they’ll watch for suspicious activity as they travel the Delta.

When the country’s strict wildlife conservation policies come under debate in the capital, tensions flare and Alexa begins to suspect the ongoing poaching incidents may be about even more than the illicit ivory trade. Especially when a close friend dies when caught in the crossfire.

After an alarming series of near escapes, gunmen attack the safari camp where she and Reese are staying, and Alexa must brave wild animals and the dangerous labyrinth of Delta channels in a desperate attempt to save the hostages, including the man she loves.

The book definitely has two strong points: setting and atmosphere.  I never had trouble picturing the sights, smells, and animals of Botswana.  Whether they were bouncing along in the camp vehicle or hanging out on the deck at the lagoon, Knowlton exceeds at providing even the sounds of the environment.  The prevailing mood was always apparent as well which was a great way to keep me immersed in most of the scenes.

Alexa, Reese, and the other characters are a good bunch and they seemed to have realistic relationships.   I liked that none of them were perfect and they all had real life issues to work through as well.  The romance is pretty cute too, I can tell they care deeply for each other.

This is Alexa Williams book #5, and my first read of the series.  That said, I don’t expect an info dump but I spent the first few chapters not knowing if Alexa was a researcher, tourist, detective, Interpol or what the heck. Come to find she is a lawyer.  A very brief introduction to Alexa and Reece was definitely needed, I felt like the characters were moving shadows in the environment as everyone except Handsome Harry lacked physical descriptions as well.

The book had plenty of harrowing danger and political intrigue, although Alexa was only involved peripherally in the poaching investigation.  She stumbled upon them by accident at every encounter and we never really knew if the Defense Force was making any progress with the poachers.

I also tuned out a bit when the commission was discussing conservation policies.  It was interesting to learn about poaching and some of the wildlife conservation issues though, I think more detecting, poking around by Alexa, and overall suspense would have made it a better read for me.  It seemed like either total disaster mode or everyday life with little between mood wise.

Overall – I totally enjoyed the reading experience.  I might have even googled safaris to see what was involved in booking one.  I would like to go back and read the first Alexa novel to learn a little more about her, but I can definitely safely recommend the book for fans of good characters, strong settings, lawyers, animals, and conservation efforts!  

Free book received in exchange for an honest review, all opinions are my own

Here are some links for the book and author!

Categories
Fiction Historical Fiction Young Adult

Book Review: Now I Rise by Kiersten White

Happy new year! I had always meant to read The Conqueror Saga one after the other, but life happens, and now I have finally finished Now I Rise!  You can see my review for book one, And I Darken, HERE

Quick Facts:

  • Title: Now I Rise
  • Series: The Conqueror Saga, #2
  • Author: Kiersten White
  • Publisher & Release: Delacorte Press, June 2017
  • Length: 476 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: 🌟🌟🌟🌟 yes!

Here is the synopsis from GoodReads:

Lada Dracul has no allies. No throne. All she has is what she’s always had: herself. After failing to secure the Wallachian throne, Lada is out to punish anyone who dares to cross her blood-strewn path. Filled with a white-hot rage, she storms the countryside with her men, accompanied by her childhood friend Bogdan, terrorizing the land. But brute force isn’t getting Lada what she wants. And thinking of Mehmed brings little comfort to her thorny heart. There’s no time to wonder whether he still thinks about her, even loves her. She left him before he could leave her.

What Lada needs is her younger brother Radu’s subtlety and skill. But Mehmed has sent him to Constantinople—and it’s no diplomatic mission. Mehmed wants control of the city, and Radu has earned an unwanted place as a double-crossing spy behind enemy lines. Radu longs for his sister’s fierce confidence—but for the first time in his life, he rejects her unexpected plea for help. Torn between loyalties to faith, to the Ottomans, and to Mehmed, he knows he owes Lada nothing. If she dies, he could never forgive himself—but if he fails in Constantinople, will Mehmed ever forgive him?

As nations fall around them, the Dracul siblings must decide: what will they sacrifice to fulfill their destinies? Empires will topple, thrones will be won . . . and souls will be lost.

The Story: The story itself is equally if not more interesting and engaging than book one.  There is absolutely no down time between the siblings and the skirmishes prior to the siege, Lada’ s bloody path, and all the political maneuvering (aka murdering) heheh.

‘Let them come,’ she said. ‘I will drink their blood and dance on their corpses’

The Characters:  Lada is razing cities, striking fear and seeking allies to take back Wallachia.  She gains some unlikely allies including John Hunyadi (an interesting historical figure), and a slimy politician that unbeknownst to Lada, thinks he can control her once she’s in power 😂 funny, right?  Lada is an unholy terror and I love her.  She is also very human in this book, once running out of the woods in her undergarments as she was trying to warn her men and forgot to get dressed 😂 another funny point was when they had to go on a treasure hunt to see if her castle actually even had a Treasury.  White is trying to make Lada more relatable, lonelier, more vulnerable, which contrasts so sharply with her brutal, impaling, murdery side.  The character arc is amazing in this book.

Perhaps she will find a balance”

“No. She will go down in flames and blood”

Radu is as whiny as ever, serving as a spy in Constantinople as Mehmed’s forces are getting ready to engage in the famous siege.  Now there’s not one, but two men that he has to constantly whine about and decide which one to betray.  When Radu isn’t being a terrible, cutthroat spy, he’s whining.  Radu once again gets the star docked from the book, even if he is a decent spy.

Hunyadi might have been my favorite side character for his fatherly advice to Lada and that whole wonderful beautiful alliance.  Constantine and Radu’s party in Constantinople really do a good job showing two sides of a conflict, how both are human and led by great, but terrible men.

Hold hands with the devil until you are both over the bridge

The Setting: the new setting is Constantinople, which is perfectly portrayed as a dying city.  In the one biblical/paranormal sequence of the book, there is a flood, followed by the light of God physically leaving the church and then bloody crescent moon when it should have been full.  Gave me the chills.  White does a great job with the moral and religious concerns of both sides, I mean who are the infidels in this case?  The wall and the siege and the desperation just felt so real, as did Lada’s trek through the borderlands seeing what the Boyars did to her country

It was always jarring to hear the Ottomans referred to as the infidels, because that was what they called the Christians

One quick note on the audiobook: at one point I wanted to keep reading and found the audiobook on Libby – it sounds like it’s read by a native speaker, which threw me off only because her pronunciations were so different than what I had been reading in my head that it threw me off.  I did listen long enough to get a better sense for the dialect but honestly didn’t love her as a narrator.

Put his body on a stake in the Square as proof that I keep my promises

Takeaway: The scope of these books is unbelievable and just so well done.  I love both dark and alternate history and the combination is first rate.  So much conflict, amazing characters, and all out war just makes these books unputdownable.  Book three, Bright We Burn, is definitely being read soon.

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.