Categories
audiobooks Fantasy

Star Mother (Book Review) by Charlie N. Holmberg

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

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

Bookish Quick Facts:

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

Here is the synopsis via Amazon:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Categories
Fantasy Young Adult

This Vicious Grace (ARC Review) by Emily Thiede

Thank you so much to Wednesday Books for the super early digital ARC of This Vicious Grace! My first selling point was that Tamora Pierce plugged it, and then I thought the synopsis was grabbing so I *ahem* definitely didn’t put down my TBR to read it.  A YA fantasy with a battle between the gods, a snarky bodyguard romance, and banter for days? Heck yes

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: This Vicious Grace
  • Series: The Last Finestra, #1
  • Author: Emily Thiede
  • Publisher & Release: Wednesday Books, 6/28/22
  • Length: 448 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐⭐ Yes with a caution to my religious readers,  for religious interpretation and premarital relations

Here is the synopsis:

Three weddings. Three funerals. Alessa’s gift from the gods is supposed to magnify a partner’s magic, not kill every suitor she touches.

Now, with only weeks left until a hungry swarm of demons devours everything on her island home, Alessa is running out of time to find a partner and stop the invasion. When a powerful priest convinces the faithful that killing Alessa is the island’s only hope, her own soldiers try to assassinate her.

Desperate to survive, Alessa hires Dante, a cynical outcast marked as a killer, to become her personal bodyguard. But as rebellion explodes outside the gates, Dante’s dark secrets may be the biggest betrayal. He holds the key to her survival and her heart, but is he the one person who can help her master her gift or destroy her once and for all?

Considering how disenchanted I have become with YA fantasy recently, I did enjoy this one.

The population of the country has settled onto islands where the Goddess uses a pair of warriors to keep swarms of demons at bay.  This happens maybe once every 20 or so years, which gives the islands plenty of time to identify the next Finestra and Fonte, train them, and have them battle ready.

I thought the Italian inspired lore and names were cool.  Each chapter holds a proverb in the old language, and I made a game out of guessing the English translation before reading it.

The plot is fairly straightforward and fast paced.   We get some lore and history of Dea vs Crollo, the two deities engaged in this battle, and I honestly thought the religious lore and customs that developed as a result were extremely well done.  The populace lives the way they do as a result of the world they live in, namely extremely devout, hierarchal, and ready to save the wealthy when the demons come.

The worldbuilding is there on a micro level as well! We know the mood of the fortress, the city, the figures in power.  The weather and the hidden beaches.  What they eat and drink, the local customs, and how social structure is accomplished.

The magic? Pretty standard, it works on an energy type of system but becomes magnified and more powerful when combined with other people’s.

The characters were awesome.  Alessa is the Finestra, sheltered into solitude and waiting to find a Fonts, a battle partner, that she won’t kill by accident.  Dante is the bodyguard that she hires and he is just … ha ha way too much.  A bad boy with a bookish side.  The other fontes were funny and also good characters.  The banter for days is real.

Now let’s get into the stronger stuff: I think it’s awesome and important to explore the theme of interpreting your religion and making it work for you, and I think it’s something that many Catholic teenagers struggle with.  I think the author brought this into the book and also stressed the importance of friendship, community, working together, and not going life alone, all of which are A+++ themes.  THAT SAID, this is a YA book and I would have stopped the theme before throwing celibacy out the window, especially since it was with someone other than her intended (even though it was an arranged marriage).  I know that self realization through sex is like the cool topic in YA right now but I just hate the trope, and if I’m analyzing this from a Catholic standpoint the author definitely took a FANTASTIC theme … too far.

Also I would have liked to see one or two major character deaths since the ending is a huge and hugely devastating battle.  I never find it realistic when everyone ends up living.  The author copped out of one huge plot twist with a good save, a very good save, but I think I wanted more death.

Lastly: this is small details but the cover does not scream “fantasy”. I would not cover buy it as is, although I hope that doesn’t deter people

All in all: great plot, great pace, great world building on both a micro and macro level, and good themes even if one went beyond propriety. I would totally recommend it and definitely plan on owning a copy of both This Vicious Grace and it’s sequels

Thanks again to Wednesday Books 🖤 all opinions are my own

Categories
Adventure Historical Fiction

The New Kingdom (ARC Review) by Wilbur Smith & Mark Chadbourn

Thank you so much to Zaffre and Bookish First for the opportunity to read yet another new Wilbur Smith novel!

I swear by Smith’s historical fiction, with it’s  unapologetic brutality and what I feel is probably a pretty honest portrayal of how things would have been.  By all accounts his novels are well researched, plus always an interesting adventure whether the book is read in order or as a standalone.

That said, I will admit to seeing a huge difference in the writing quality of this installment vs. the original Smith novels.  If I remember correctly this one fits in sometime around Warlock, or it crunches the events of a few books…. Heck maybe I need a reread

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: The New Kingdom
  • Series: Ancient Egypt, #7
  • Author: Wilbur Smith & Mark Chadbourn
  • Publisher & Release: Zaffre, 9/7/21
  • Length: 432 pgs
  • Rate & Recommend: 🌟🌟🌟🌟 yes for fans of HistFic and adventure

Here is the description:

In the heart of Egypt,
Under the watchful eye of the Gods,
A new power is rising . . .

In the city of Lahun, Hui lives an enchanted life. The favoured son of a doting father, and ruler-in-waiting of the great city, his fate is set. But behind the beautiful façades a sinister evil is plotting. Craving power and embittered by jealousy, Hui’s stepmother, the great sorceress Ipsetnofret, and Hui’s own brother Qen, orchestrate the downfall of Hui’s father, condemning Hui and seizing power in the city.

Cast out and alone, Hui finds himself a captive of a skilled and powerful army of outlaws, the Hyksos. Determined to seek vengeance for the death of his father and rescue his sister, Ipwet, Hui swears his allegiance to these enemies of Egypt. Through them he learns the art of war, learning how to fight and becoming an envied charioteer.

But soon Hui finds himself in an even greater battle – one for the very heart of Egypt itself. As the pieces fall into place and the Gods themselves join the fray, Hui finds himself fighting alongside the Egyptian General Tanus and renowned Mage, Taita. Now Hui must choose his path – will he be a hero in the old world, or a master in a new kingdom?

Smith saw potential in the Hui character and wrote him a history/spinoff story, possibly series.  I totally 100% endorse this decision and can’t wait to see what the next one holds.

While each and every one of Smith’s books can be read as a standalone, the cameos in The New Kingdom are there along with quite a few easter eggs for returning readers.  I thought Taita’s eyes would fall off his face from rolling them so much.

Despite solid pacing and excitement throughout, I thought the book didn’t quite deliver on the synopsis. The Ka stone and the Gods were hinted to be a big part of the novel and to avoid spoilers, I will just say that I wanted more from both of those topics.

I wanted more from Hui becoming a charioteer as well, but I believe we will see the fruits of that in the next novel.

I liked watching Hui come so close to losing his true self. He was so sweetly naive until his family’s betrayal. Then he became a thief, a guard, a Little Rat, then a killer, and finally, in an amazing scene, a hardened captain.  Throughout the book Fareed, a scout, was a static character but acted as a soul mirror for Hui.  A running theme throughout the book was to find out how much humanity Hui retained through all his trials, and in another amazing scene Smith showed that through it all Hui never did lose his true self.

Smith is not an author for inner monologue but Hui is a fairly deep and interesting character.

Tanus and Taita, well, all I can say is go read the other Ancient Egypt books.

Tim Holland wrote a great afterward to provide a broad historical context for the characters, and I almost wish it had been presented as a forward.  It makes sense that with thousands of years of peace and prosperity, Egypt felt pretty invincible.

The other thing that makes these books seem so realistic is how well Smith brings the climate, setting, and mood of the populace into play: whether in a baking desert, war-torn city, refugee camp, or Pharaoh’s palace, I feel like I can picture those sun burnt dripping slaves and sandstorm, midden heaps and incense, terrified citizens… For historical fiction and immersion these things always feel important to me

The only other thing I would have asked for was either section breaks or dates, because it was very hard to tell how much time was passing between major events and I feel like that information would have been helpful to the story.

Overall, not Smith’s best but another very solid book.  He is one of my auto buy authors.  Definitely and always recommend for HistFic readers and adventure lovers.

Categories
audiobooks Biographies, Memoirs, Nonfiction Crime

Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI, by David Grann

It’s nonfiction November, and I have had this e-book on my digital shelf forever! Between the time of year and a friend’s recommendation, I finally read it. 

Quick verdict: a bit hard to follow at times, but I feel like everyone should be aware of this part of  indigenous history and the crimes involved

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI
  • Author: David Grann
  • Publisher & Release: Doubleday, April 2017
  • Length: 352 pgs
  • Rate & Recommend: 🌟🌟🌟✨

Here is the description:

From New Yorker staff writer David Grann, #1 New York Times best-selling author of The Lost City of Z, a twisting, haunting true-life murder mystery about one of the most monstrous crimes in American history

In the 1920s, the richest people per capita in the world were members of the Osage Indian nation in Oklahoma. After oil was discovered beneath their land, they rode in chauffeured automobiles, built mansions, and sent their children to study in Europe.
      Then, one by one, the Osage began to be killed off. The family of an Osage woman, Mollie Burkhart, became a prime target. Her relatives were shot and poisoned. And it was just the beginning, as more and more members of the tribe began to die under mysterious circumstances.
      In this last remnant of the Wild West—where oilmen like J. P. Getty made their fortunes and where desperadoes like Al Spencer, the “Phantom Terror,” roamed—many of those who dared to investigate the killings were themselves murdered. As the death toll climbed to more than twenty-four, the FBI took up the case. It was one of the organization’s first major homicide investigations and the bureau badly bungled the case. In desperation, the young director, J. Edgar Hoover, turned to a former Texas Ranger named Tom White to unravel the mystery. White put together an undercover team, including one of the only American Indian agents in the bureau. The agents infiltrated the region, struggling to adopt the latest techniques of detection.  Together with the Osage they began to expose one of the most chilling conspiracies in American history. 
      In Killers of the Flower Moon, David Grann revisits a shocking series of crimes in which dozens of people were murdered in cold blood. Based on years of research and startling new evidence, the book is a masterpiece of narrative nonfiction, as each step in the investigation reveals a series of sinister secrets and reversals. But more than that, it is a searing indictment of the callousness and prejudice toward American Indians that allowed the murderers to operate with impunity for so long. Killers of the Flower Moon is utterly compelling, but also emotionally devastating

So Killers is an extremely interesting story with an investigative journalism and true crime feel.  i feel like if I hadn’t switched to the audiobook, parts of it would have been drawn out and slower to read, especially the third section.

The book is about the Osage and their exploitation, murders, and lack of justice during the 1910’s thru 1930s. After the tribe moved to a rocky, hard to farm area following the Louisiana Purchase and further movement west, prospectors struck liquid gold and the tribe became rich on oil. After that, they were prime targets of greedy men and women all over the country. Then the murders started.

Split into three sections, the first about the Osage and the victims, centered around one lady and her family in particular. The second section was about the investigation into the murders and the eventual FBI involvement, and the third from today’s perspective about the author’s research and viewing of the area.  He dropped in and saw how depressed the tribal lands looked in present time, with some descendants still looking for answers about the murders. 

I think it’s an important and brutal part of history to be aware of, but honestly wasn’t a fan of the telling. I read parts 1 and 3 and listened to Will Patton 🖤 narrate the second. The whole book felt loosely strung together and it was impossible to keep track of so many names; I felt lost through most of it.  There were sooo many names and descriptions in part one, and eventually I told myself that the names are less important than the history in general, but this ruined some of the true crime, whodunit part of the book for me

That said, there is also a lot of good, interesting, and exciting information and many exciting stories provided about the events and murders, of both the tribal members and of those investigating.  Anyone too close to the source usually ended up dead as well.  I couldn’t believe how much corruption and greed there was, for some reason I thought a lot of that outlaw justice and exploitation was over by the 1920s, but I was very very very wrong.

One of my favorite facts was about all the Sherlockian private eyes that were trying to investigate – this was funny only in that I never knew there were pipe smoking detectives trying to play Sherlock back in the early 1900s. I cringed when someone did a lobotomy and poked a murdered victim’s brain with a stick.

What I will carry forward is the knowledge that these injustices happened, and that justice for these people was hard fought, inconclusive, and fleeting at best.

Overall: read or listen to it for sure if you have interest in Native American, American history, true crime, history of law enforcement

** a quick note on the audio: published in 2017 by Random House Audio, 9 hours and 7 minutes long.  Narrators are Will Patton, Ann Marie Lee, Danny Campbell.  I will obviously listen to anything that Will Patton reads, I feel like he could make a cereal box interesting.  Each narrator read one section.  Ann Marie Lee was okay, but not amazing, and I think the author should have read Danny Campbell’s section.   If the text is a little dry I would say switch over and give audio a try

Categories
Adventure Fantasy Young Adult

Crossbones (ARC Review) by Kimberly Vale

Thank you so much to Bookish First for the digital ARC of Crossbones! I claimed this one using my points, and all thoughts are my own.

I have not read a Wattpad book before. I own White Stag by Kara Barbieri but never got there – I’m curious to see if the quality of writing is similar, aka decent but falling a bit flat from what I’d expect. I’ll call this ‘the Wattpad stigma’ because it seems to be a real thing

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: Crossbones
  • Series: Kingdom of Bones Trilogy, #1
  • Author: Kimberly Vale
  • Publisher & Release: 10/05/21, Wattpad Books
  • Length: 376 pgs
  • Rate & Recommend: 🗡🗡🗡 Idk probably for Cinderella vs Pirate fans

Here is the synopsis:

Never trust a pirate.

The Blood Bell tolls, marking the death of the pirate king and the start of the Trials―a heart-stopping competition where the reward is the Bone Crown. Only one contender can claim the coveted island throne; each will gamble life and limb to win.

Captain. Sister. Maiden.
Csilla Abado yearns to prove her strength to the seasoned pirates who balk at her youth and to her elder sister who has always craved Csilla’s captainship. She will risk everything to become the first pirate queen, no matter the cost.

Dealer. Son. Legacy.
Kane Blackwater wants to leave behind the dirty gold and shady trades he’s made to keep his father’s ship, the Iron Jewel, alive. The Trials represent a new beginning―yet rumors of a secret heir are swirling, threatening his hopes of becoming the pirate king.

Stowaway. Daughter. Storm.
Lorelei Penny longs for nothing more than to avenge her mother’s death. Stowing away on the Iron Jewel was supposed to get her closer to the killer, but instead she finds herself caught up in the deadly battle where loyalty and desire collide.

Csilla. Kane. Lorelei. Each on a mission. The sea, however, has other plans. Dark tides are rising, and if they aren’t careful, they’ll surely drown.

You guys know that I will do anything for a good pirate story.   Now that I’m aware that this is supposed to be the first in a trilogy, I’m much more confident in my 🌟🌟🌟 rating

If it’s going to kick off a trilogy, I would expect much more in-depth world and character building, more lore, more everything.   The characters don’t need to rush from thing to thing and the author can take time to build relationships and such

The characters are a good lot but they don’t make great pirates.  They do say time and time again that they are meant to protect their homeland more than be ruthless brigands, but they seem more like YA cinnamon rolls than pirates.

Yes they have their ruthless streaks but they came together fairly easily in an alliance.  Are we just going to drop all of the terrible things that Kane has done?  What about Rove?  I want details!

There was a good foundation to the world building, but I want more on the entire Incendia vs Cerulia conflict.  More lore too, the gods and goddesses are an interesting basis but it all just wasn’t quite enough for me.

The trials seemed a bit anticlimactic too, plus for all of the times that it was said there were only 4 map pieces and each captain would get a piece – there were 5 captains.  

There were definitely positive aspects like the magic, I love when innate magic is attached to bloodlines or kingdoms.  I just felt like the whole book was skimming over the surface when, again for the start of a trilogy, there should be more depth.

The Scilla vs Rhoda thing was the most real relationship in the whole book for me, what a terrible betrayal by her sister.  The other relationships seemed fluffed together quickly.

I don’t know how to describe it either, but I just didn’t think the characters… Felt like pirates.  Rove and Kane did at least at the start, but Flynn definitely didn’t.  Neither did Scilla really, I needed more time at sea to show … pirating. 

I might give it one more book but I don’t know.  The ending felt more like Cinderella than pirates, and there are a ton of phenomenal pirate books out there right now

Once again thank you to Bookish First and Wattpad Books for the digital ARC!

Categories
Fantasy

Song of Echoes (book review) by R.E. Palmer

I am reading a ton of self published fantasy this fall, thanks to some amazing indie authors that have reached out about their books. One such author was R.E. Palmer!

Song of Echoes reads like a classic fantasy. I’ve been in a huge slump recently toward all the character driven drivel and romance in new fantasy books. This book presented it’s world and told a story, one with inherent magic and two very different character points of view that don’t interact. It’s kind of what I love about self published work

Overall it was not perfect, but interesting and refreshing

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: Song of Echoes
  • Series: Song of Echoes, #1
  • Author: R.E. Palmer
  • Publisher & Release: FrontRunner Publications, 07/05/21
  • Length: 434 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: 🌟🌟🌟🌟 for classic, adult fantasy fans

Here is the synopsis from GoodReads:

All that has gone before is woven into the Song; joy, sorrow; kind acts and cruel acts; creation and destruction. Past, present, and what has yet to come, make themselves known — if you know how to listen.

For three hundred years, the people of the Five Realms have lived in relative peace, protected by their great leader, the Archon. Yet, far to the north, in the frozen lands beyond the Draegalen Trench, the Ruuk stir, driven by a rising evil, long believed banished from the world. But rumors questioning the Archon’s ability to defend the realms once more, persist.

Elodi, the Lady Harlyn, uneasy in her new role following the death of her father, and Toryn, a farmworker and outsider in his village, must discover a way to fight an enemy that all but defeated their ancestors.

The story starts with a legend, and then throws a lot of places and names and lore at the reader.  It didn’t take long to figure out what areas were important to remember though, and once the story got started with Toryn and Elodi it was hard to put down.  Who would know that maybe those old legends are true?

The world has inherent magic, but it isn’t really elaborated on or discussed at all until towards the end.  There is also workable magic, presented as a handful of feared sorcerers with inherent abilities.  The source is hinted at but will be further explored in later books.

The world seems like a geographically diverse continent, with forests and mountains and everything in between.  I did like how the setting of each area shaped the characters and their personalities, as they should. 

Elodi is the newish leader of her realm, gathered at the Archon’s keep with the other Lords to inspect the realms defenses.  Toryn is a farmer, dying to see beyond the gates of his home region but unable to due to restrictions placed by the Archon on travel.

As we learn more about the politics, dangers, and impending war of the realm, everything starts to make sense and fall into place.  There are multiple dangers to each border but the Archon is obsessed with only one enemy, totally ready to leave the rest of the realm to fend for itself on extremely limited men and resources.

I really ended up liking Elodi, she was brave as hell at the end and a credit to her title, leading her knights.  Toryn had less of an impressive story arc but set himself up to be a bigger player in the next book.  I actually liked that the storylines didn’t intersect, it’s a nice change from every author just shoving romance down my throat for the sake of it.

There are a lot of really good side characters too and Palmer doesn’t hold back from inserting some tragedy into the pages. There are some tough siege and battle scenes.

I think the physical descriptions and setting were my favorite aspect.  The mountains and bridges form some amazing natural defenses, and everything sounds so majestic.  Without being repetitive, Palmer brings each area and vista to life.

Theme wise … Honor, veteran pride, loyalty, found family, and the value in stories, are some of my favorites.

I think the down side was that the book got off to a slow start.  It does take a bit to figure out who is who, who is important, and what regions we need to remember, but I think it’s worth it.  I would have liked more from the inherent magic.  I will definitely be keeping an eye out for book 2!


Shout out to the cover artist as well –  Kentaro Kanamoto does some amazing fantasy artwork! http://www.kentarokanamoto.com/

Find the book online!

GoodReads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/58145883-song-of-echoes

Amazon link: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B095XQ9VQ
Website: www.frontrunnerbooks.com

 

Categories
Fantasy Young Adult

Earth On Fire, Ocean of Blood (book thoughts) by A4

I was so excited when the fourth Far Forest Scrolls book released! I read it this October and figured that since I’ve been diligently reading from the start, I would post my spoiler free book thoughts.

There may be series spoilers – I think and hope not but it’s hard after four books to remember 😂

Series recap and reviews:

Na Cearcaill – 🗡🗡🗡🗡

Hourglass of Destruction – 🗡🗡🗡🗡

Rise Above the Storm – 🗡🗡🗡🗡🗡

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: Earth on Fire, Ocean of Blood
  • Series: Far Forest Scrolls, #4
  • Author: A4 – Alpha Four
  • Publisher & Release: Self, 09/07/21
  • Length: 481 pgs
  • Rate & Recommend: 🌟🌟🌟✨ I’m in for the series at this point, I do think it’s good for advanced young readers 

Here is the book blurb:

Pushed into civil war, the nations of Verngaurd descend into a series of devastating and fatal battles that leave the ground bloodied and in flames. Will Friar Pallium’s years of planning be enough to overcome the considerably larger army of nations arrayed against them? With an elaborate series of feints and ambushes planned, the only assured outcome is substantial death on both sides. With the Allies and the Confederacy focused on fighting each other, the Dark Warriors are all too happy to move in and conquer territory.

When the trials of their odyssey are finally revealed the League quickly discovers it will be longer, more strenuous, and infinitely more dangerous than they could have imaged. Bellae will have to face eccentric guardians of uncertain motives while struggling with the devastating loss of one of her companions—and her part to play in his tragic death.  

I like the concept, storyline, presentation, and artwork of these books so much.  What I’m struggling with is who to recommend them to, and also the pacing of the series as a whole.

The best line of this fourth installment was Bellae and the League of Truth – they finally started their quest and got so far as to find two sets of crystals.  The issue: it took four books to get here.  I get that it’s a slow burning series and epic quest, but I’m struggling with how long it took to get them here.

The guardians and the quest itself is awesome though.  Bellae is starting to crack a bit under the tragedy and pressure.  It’s truly unfortunate that she had to do this at her age since the quest was never intended for a child.  The other squires are such a good team and I like the other league members too.

Oh Crann, why though 😭

The other storyline was the beginning of the civil war – it was brilliantly thought out, including maps, but I honestly just tuned out at the length of the battle scenes.  The traps and prestidigitation were amazing and incredibly well thought out – but again, half of the entire book only covered the start of the war, and only a few encounters.  The cliffhanger though 😭

J think Luchar stole the whole book at the end with his diatribe prior to the final battle.  I think he secretly became my favorite knight and I’m just blown away by the depth he has hidden the whole time.  Half crushed or not, he’s joining that final battle.

Speaking of depth: I think this fourth book had the broadest emotional spectrum yet.  Oh I have both cracked up laughing and been absolutely bawling at points throughout the other books, but this one went straight to the dark pit of the Eaglian’s souls with black humor about Tallcon, death, and religious fanaticism, to the point that I found some of the exchanges truly terrifying.

So what do I think overall? These books are more about the journey than the speed. About the pearls of wisdom and range of emotions, and the author taking his time to get the story where he wants it to be.  It’s truly an indie project and I bet a labor of love, including the continuation of all the wonderful artwork in the book. 

This one still stays clear of language and romance, but continues with gore gore and gore in the war scenes.  It’s almost cartoonist at times but I still would strictly say 14+ with these and probably try them for boys trying to find fantasy books.

Lastly: I am just going to throw some of my favorite quotes here at the end!

Dreams, which can seem so hardy, even sturdy, within the fortified confines of our skull, acutely become fragile and vulnerable when exposed to the outside world. Each time we fight to achieve a dream, we uncover part of our heart. It takes courage to reveal a dream and diligent fortitude to achieve it

– Veneficus

 

At the end of the day, even those of us who have never fought in a war have battle scars, visible and invisible, repressed and haunting, external and internal, public and confidential. Regrets can cling to our souls like invasive dew

– a scroll

 

“When you’re fighting the wrong war, there can be no victory, no matter the outcome.”

-Friar

 

“In life, and on this quest, do not lose sight of the importance of the journey itself. Concentrate on your heart and dedicated effort. Those are the things you can control. Isn’t your best all that you, and the world, can ask?”

– Patuljak

 

“Just because I don’t worship your god does not mean that I have a lesser conviction, or right, to victory”

– Friar

And … Lastly:

“Even as the clouds of confusion rumble and turn black, I stand. I stand in front of uncertainty and scream, ‘I will know you.’ I will fight to know you. As long as I have breath, I will never let doubt or fear win. As long as I can move even one part of my body, I will fight, tear, and claw for Knight victory. When I heave my last breath, I leave no regrets.”

– someone I really hope survives 


Categories
Contemporary Fantasy General Posts, Non Reviews Paranormal Thrillers Young Adult

September Unblogged Book Thoughts

I normally don’t do wrap up posts but I read quite a few books in September that I don’t plan on reviewing in depth, so here is a super quick summary of my reading month! If anyone searches for the titles at least it will show up somewhere now 😂

September:

1) Dreams of the Dying ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐- I took the time to read the appendices and extras and therefore counted it as a September read.  Review here. Also the author is doing an extra special Sunday Brunch Series this month 😍

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2) Loves of Shadow and Power – ⭐⭐⭐⭐ review here. A good adult Asian mythology. Author Edith Pawlicki also did a wonderful SBAIS interview here!

3.  The Diviners by Libba Bray – ⭐⭐⭐⭐ loved it.  A fantastic audiobook. Review here

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4. Ringlander: The Path and the Way by Michael S. Jackson – ⭐⭐⚡ so I was part of a book tour for this one and truly just didn’t understand more than the bare bones of what was happening due to lack of background, plus the editing really ruined it for me. The book was a good idea though and did have some high points. I interviewed him for my tour stop and never posted a review.

5. Two Dark Reigns by Kendare Blake ⭐⭐⭐⭐ – I really wanted to review each of these individually but it became too hard without spoilers.  Plus I binge read them so they all melded into one another.  Book 3 finally brought things together and I have a lot more respect for each of the queens.  Katharine is actually not a bad queen crowned and the others are each pulling their weight now.  Love all the plotting and sub plots and more plotting, plus lore and legends

6. On the Winds of Quasars by T.A. Bruno – ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ this series is definitely my top sci-fi pick of the past two years. Only good things to say

7. The First Christmas by Steohen Mitchell ⭐⭐⭐⚡ – a different perspective on the nativity, stripped away the Christian lens to present a real/magic realism. Review here

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8. Speechless by Ava Cates ⭐⭐⭐- the author hates me for this one but I just can’t read books where high school kids go from class to class anymore. The editing on the Kindle version made it hard for me too, it was hard to tell chapter breaks and such. I think a little more supernatural background might have carried it for me but the details were slow coming. Either way this is a quick, high school age appropriate read with deaf rep. I think younger readers will love it!

9. The Job by Janet Evanovich and Lee Goldberg ⭐⭐⭐ I know I have been writing up reviews for the rest of the books in this series but this third installment was my least favorite so far. The chemistry and banter totally carried the book since I really didn’t think the case and con were as interesting as the others. They lost me on the fake sunken treasure scheme and trying to understand how it worked. They had a point about men and shiny beepy consoles though 😂 I just love O’Hara’s dad and his fixation with weaponry, but overall this one fell flat

10. The Keeper of Night by Kylie Lee Baker ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ I am actually going to blog this one next so hold my thoughts. It’s a beautifully wonderfully dark YA debut that made me so sad but it’s perfect for fall

11. Five Dark Fates by Kendare Blake ⭐⭐⭐⭐ haha ok I really liked what she did with the ending. Each queen finally bucked up and put their big girl pants on and did what they had to do for the island and the people.  We finally got some main character deaths and I am more or less onboard with who Blake chose to off vs. keep alive! She commented on my Instagram post too so that’s amazing!

 11.5 The Young Queens by Kendare Blake – I liked the novella a lot! It was good to get more background into the raising and separations and early lives of the queens.  Mirabella and Luca stole the show in this one, I would have seen them in a totally new light having read this novella before the books. I would either read it after the second or third if it were me again

Categories
audiobooks Historical Fiction Horror Paranormal Young Adult

The Diviners (Book/Audiobook thoughts) by Libba Bray

Lo and behold I finally read a book this month! The Diviners by Libba Bray is a great fall or Halloween time of the year pick.  The frights and gore and level of creepiness probably make this YA paranormal read appropriate for age 16+, but would not recommend for younger kids!

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: The Diviners
  • Series: The Diviners, #1
  • Author: Libba Bray
  • Publisher & Release: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers – September 2012
  • Length: 578 pgs
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐⭐ for fans of paranormal, 1920s, creepy vibes and darker themes

Here is the book blurb:

A young woman discovers her mysterious powers could help catch a killer in the first book of The Diviners series–a stunning supernatural historical mystery set in 1920s New York City, from Printz Award-winning and New York Times bestselling author Libba Bray.

Evangeline O’Neill has been exiled from her boring old hometown and sent off to the bustling streets of New York City–and she is ecstatic. It’s 1926, and New York is filled with speakeasies, Ziegfeld girls, and rakish pickpockets. The only catch is that she has to live with her uncle Will and his unhealthy obsession with the occult. Evie worries he’ll discover her darkest secret: a supernatural power that has only brought her trouble so far.

When the police find a murdered girl branded with a cryptic symbol and Will is called to the scene, Evie realizes her gift could help catch a serial killer. As Evie jumps headlong into a dance with a murderer, other stories unfurl in the city that never sleeps. And unknown to all, something dark and evil has awakened…

Audiobook note: it is slightly over 18 hours of listening time, narrated by January LaVoy. Published by Listening Library in 2012.  LaVoy is a freaking amazing narrator, she has to cover everything from flappers to demons to jazz musicians and totally nails it

“Your mother and I do not approve of drinking. Have you not heard of the Eighteenth Amendment?”

“Prohibition? I drink to it’s health whenever I can”

Ok so this book, AND the audio, both have truly creepy vibes at times.  It is a chonker but for the most part extremely quick paced and a lot of fun to both read and listen to. I felt the danger while they were investigating the murders and dealing with the spirit!

There is a lot of 1920s slang that was a little annoying, and I don’t know if it’s authentic or not.  Evie and Sam, Jericho, Theta, Memphis, Will, they were all great characters with their own arcs of trauma, self acceptance, and skills to bring to the table. Their back stories were interesting, sad and dark.  There were a lot of characters but no one was wasted. I just docked a star because I was not buying the romance at the end, at all, it happened pretty  quick and just didn’t feel real

“People will believe anything if it means they can go on with their lives and not have to think too hard about it.”

The mystery itself seemed dark for YA, but unique and I loved it.  A demon? Spirit? Ghost? Is acting out the 12 offerings in a sacred text to become the prophesied beast, reign hellfire, reshape the Earth.  It results in bloody murders across NYC that Evie is in a unique position to help solve

How do you invent a religion?” Evie asked.

Will looked over the top of his spectacles. “You say, ‘God told me the following,’ and then wait for people to sign up.”

I was thinking about the concept of having to banish/kill the spirit on his own terms, as in the legend/religion/prophecy becomes true because it’s believed, or is fuelled by beliefs. I see that theme in paranormal and mythology texts lot, and then got to laughing because in a Christmas eve homily about 10 years ago the priest said something like “it’s true because we believe it” — and we all looked at each other saying “no, we believe it because it’s true, not vice versa” lol.

Now I am stuck on this whole belief vs truth thing.  It is a huge theme in the book and an interesting one for that YA age to ponder

“People tend to think that hate is the most dangerous emotion. But love is equally dangerous,” Will said. “There are many stories of spirits haunting the places and people who meant the most to them. In fact, there are more of those than there are revenge stories.

So yeah, this is a book/audio that I’d definitely  recommend for those who like sassy female leads, paranormal, mysteries, life in the 20s, and all that.  Some tough themes are handled like death, violence, corpse and live body mutilation, confronting dead parents, religious zealotry, a kitty is killed for a ritual 😭 and implied sexual thoughts, but 16+ should be fine!

Are you reading any spooky books yet this fall!?

Categories
Dystopian Science Fiction

Twenty Five to Life (ARC review) by R.W.W. Greene

Thank you so much to Angry Robot for having me on the book tour for Twenty Five to Life by R.W.W. Greene!

This book is a futuristic “what-if”- what will happen when sea levels rise and pollution is unbreathable? How will the governments manage the end of the world crisis? The book starts at an end of the world party as colony spaceships are deserting the Earth, and everyone left is going to have to fend for themselves.

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: Twenty Five to Life
  • Series: N/A
  • Author: RWW Greene
  • Publisher & Release: Angry Robot, 8/24/21
  • Length: 279 pgs
  • Rate & Recommend: 🌟🌟🌟🌟 yes for Scifi, dystopian fans!

Here is the book blurb:

Life goes on for the billions left behind after the humanity-saving colony mission to Proxima Centauri leaves Earth orbit … but what’s the point?

Julie Riley is two years too young to get out from under her mother’s thumb, and what does it matter? She’s over-educated, under-employed, and kept mostly numb by her pharma emplant. Her best friend, who she’s mostly been interacting with via virtual reality for the past decade, is part of the colony mission to Proxima Centauri. Plus, the world is coming to an end. So, there’s that.

When Julie’s mother decides it’s time to let go of the family home in a failing suburb and move to the city to be closer to work and her new beau, Julie decides to take matters into her own hands. She runs, illegally, hoping to find and hide with the Volksgeist, a loose-knit culture of tramps, hoboes, senior citizens, artists, and never-do-wells who have elected to ride out the end of the world in their campers and converted vans, constantly on the move over the back roads of America

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It’s hard to pinpoint this book, but I think it’s really about living out your days as best as you can, keeping hope in the worst situations, and finding “the point”.

Most of the population has moved into these tiny cube apartments in towers in the big cities, where the government can offer housing, food, and keep everyone happy aka addicted to pharma emplants and living in Virtual Reality.  While this is life for most of the world, a few citizens live out their lives roaming America’s roads and seeing the sights in caravans.   That certainly sounds better than living as an avatar with no purpose, and no sense of how to interact with anyone anymore!

Julie isn’t quite legal age but she decides to risk running away to join these drifters rather than live out the days till the end of the world in a box.  I really liked Julie and the lady that kind of adopts her on the road, called Ranger. The roads are dangerous and filled with caravans, gangs, and tons of other dangers including disease and weather phenomenon. I like that these people would rather be free than submit to VR, and most have become survivalists.

There are themes of looking out for your neighbor, taking care of the Earth before it is too late, addiction, friendship, sickness and loss, hope and generally making the most of one’s life. It’s almost a plausible future too, who’s to say what would happen if the population has to converge mostly on one continent? Yikes!

The book is funny at times with great banter and plenty of girl power, I gave this one a strong four stars!

Please do check out the other tour hosts as well!