Posted in Book Review

The Bedlam Stacks by Natasha Pulley – Book Review

Although I hadn’t been shot at for years, it took me a long time to understand that the bang wasn’t artillery.

First line in The Bedlam Stacks by Natasha Pulley

Author: Natasha Pulley

Published: July 13th 2017

Genre: Historical Fiction/Magical Realism

My rating:

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Buzzwords: Peru, disabled MC, friendship, culture clash

Synopsis: In 1859, ex-East India Company smuggler Merrick Tremayne is trapped at home in Cornwall after sustaining an injury that almost cost him his leg and something is wrong; a statue moves, his grandfather’s pines explode, and his brother accuses him of madness.

When the India Office recruits Merrick for an expedition to fetch quinine—essential for the treatment of malaria—from deep within Peru, he knows it’s a terrible idea. Nearly every able-bodied expeditionary who’s made the attempt has died, and he can barely walk. But Merrick is desperate to escape everything at home, so he sets off, against his better judgment, for a tiny mission colony on the edge of the Amazon where a salt line on the ground separates town from forest. Anyone who crosses is killed by something that watches from the trees, but somewhere beyond the salt are the quinine woods, and the way around is blocked.

Surrounded by local stories of lost time, cursed woods, and living rock, Merrick must separate truth from fairy tale and find out what befell the last expeditions; why the villagers are forbidden to go into the forest; and what is happening to Raphael, the young priest who seems to have known Merrick’s grandfather, who visited Peru many decades before. The Bedlam Stacks is the story of a profound friendship that grows in a place that seems just this side of magical.

Goodreads

Review

Through The Bedlam Stacks author Natasha Pulley takes the reader on a journey to a far-out village in Peru in the year 1859. We follow Merrick as he hesitantly has agreed to help his friend Clem and the India Office collect cuttings from some very special trees that can treat malaria. They only grow in Peru but are heavily guarded to keep a monopoly in place, which makes the mission one of high risk.

Disability Rep

Merrick is recruited because of his great knowledge of plants, but he worries about the strain the journey and danger of the mission will put on his leg. You see, he was previously injured and now has trouble walking without a cane. His disability is one of the major topics of the book. I haven’t been able to find any own-voice reviews of this book to gauge the quality of the disability representation in here. However, in my own humble opinion, it was done in a way that was both respectful and educational. Very much one of my favorite aspects about the book. He’s also not the only character with a disability.

Slower Than Slow

Patience is a keyword should you decide to read The Bedlam Stacks. It is so slow that it almost grinds to a halt. Luckily, you’re rewarded for your patience when you get to the end. It’s the kind of book that if you DNF it midway through, you have no idea what it’s about. Just trust that there’s a point to it all.

Friendships

The way this book explores different kinds of friendships was what really made me love the reading experience. It goes into how friendships aren’t necessarily logical. Sometimes it just works, and other times it’s way more complicated than that.
I also just adore when characters show affection for each other, and The Bedlam Stacks very much delivered in that area.

He laughed. It showed how he had been when he was younger. Mild-mannered and handsome. In a shilling-spin of an instant, I realised that he wasn’t crude work but the ruin of something fine.

The Landscape of Peru

A lot of time is spent describing the landscape of Peru that Merrick travels through, and here we get to the reason why I only rated this book 4 stars and not 5. This description-heavy style of writing isn’t exactly my favorite. I have a hard time picturing what I’m reading, which means that these descriptions do nothing for me. Some of the magical realism aspects also went a little over my head because of this, but not to the extent that I wasn’t able to understand the story. I would have loved a more atmospheric writing style to make me feel like I was in that little village in Peru. I’m sure that would have made me love the book even more.

Overall

A book that took me out of my comfort zone, but nonetheless, gave me a reading experience I haven’t been able to stop thinking about. Natasha Pulley has woven an incredible story that slowly but deliberately pulls you in through deep character interactions and a desire to uncover the secrets of a small village.
My last attempt to convince you to read The Bedlam Stacks is this quote:

It’s good for a person to be terrorized by a goat. Hard to get high and mighty when there’s something chasing you for vegetables.

I hope you found this review useful. It’s a book I highly recommend, but it’s also very much a book that isn’t to everyone’s liking. I’m just very happy I read it, so let me know if you plan to. Or already have. I definitely plan to read more from this author.

Posted in Book Review

Book Review: Burn by Patrick Ness

On a cold Saturday evening in early 1957 – the very day, in fact, that Dwight Eisenhower took the oath of office for the second time as President of the United States of America – Sarah Dewhurst waited with her father in the parking lot of the Chevron gas station for the dragon he’d hired to help on the farm.”

First line in Burn by Patrick Ness

Title: Burn

Author: Patrick Ness

Published: June 2nd 2020

Genre: YA Fantasy

My rating:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Buzzwords: Dragons, 1950’s America, racism

Synopsis: Sarah Dewhurst and her father, outcasts in their little town of Frome, Washington, are forced to hire a dragon to work their farm, something only the poorest of the poor ever have to resort to.

The dragon, Kazimir, has more to him than meets the eye, though. Sarah can’t help but be curious about him, an animal who supposedly doesn’t have a soul, but who is seemingly intent on keeping her safe.

Because the dragon knows something she doesn’t. He has arrived at the farm with a prophecy on his mind. A prophecy that involves a deadly assassin, a cult of dragon worshippers, two FBI agents in hot pursuit—and somehow, Sarah Dewhurst herself.

Goodreads


For this review, I’ve decided to go back to my old style review format where I share my likes and dislikes about the book in a few headlines and then give you my overall thoughts in the end. We’re starting with the negatives to end on the positives. Note that since I gave this book 5 stars, the dislikes are not my personal dislikes, but aspects about the book that I imagine other readers might not enjoy as much.

  • A Not So Epic Story

This book might feature dragons, but it isn’t epic fantasy. The atmosphere of the entire book gives off more of a small-town-vibe than grand fire-breathing dragon fights.

  • The Ending

Obviously not going to say much here other that I can see how it might not be a universally loved ending.

  • The Writing

Ness’ writing is impeccable as always. For some reason, I keep being surprised by his ability to make me care about whatever topic he wants me to care about. For example (and I know this might have me kicked out of the fantasy reader community), I don’t care about dragons. Only when Patrick Ness writes them apparently.

I also really like how he has a very subtle way of writing. Not everything is explained in great detail so he allows his readers to think for themselves and fill in the gaps. This is also why I want to recommend Ness to readers who usually don’t read YA. Burn is the kind of book that’s primarily categorized as YA because the characters are young, not because the writing or the themes are too youthful.

  • A Bunch of Great Characters

We follow quite a few characters in this book when you consider how short it actually is (382 pages). I love all of them! Even the ‘bad guys’ are written in a way where you understand them when you absolutely despise them. The rest of the characters are incredibly diverse and clearly portray distinct and well-rounded personalities. Several of them go through some interesting moral dilemmas throughout the story, which very much was the thing that kept me hooked.

  • Relevant Social Commentary

It takes place in 1957 in America which means that even though the racism of that time isn’t the main focus of the story, it’s still naturally there. The main character, Sarah, has a black mother and a white father and the book portrays multiple instances where that is a problem for her. As we know, those scenarios didn’t stop in 1957.

There is also quite a bit of LGBTQ+ representation in there although none specifically identify themselves. Two of them are very clearly gay, though. Another thing that wasn’t popular in the 1950’s.

  • Short “Chapters”

Now by ‘chapters’ I don’t actually mean chapters. I mean that it switches point of view quite often within each chapter. You just get these somewhat short scenes (not too short), before we move on to the next one. I really like this kind of storytelling. It gives a certain speed to the story so that you’re never bored with a POV.

I was pleasantly surprised by the book. The synopsis is pretty vague (on purpose), so the only reason I picked it up was because of Patrick Ness and my determination to read all of his books. This book proves that I can continue doing that.

The book’s strongest trait is that it is so well written while also manages to be thought-provoking. It portrays a historic setting but never fails to be relevant to our current society.

It’s a book I highly recommend, especially if you like a character-focused, low fantasy story with small-town-vibes and a pinch of dragon.

Posted in Book Review

Oathbringer by Brandon Sanderson – Spoiler Chat and Favorite Quotes

“Eshonai had always told her sister that she was certain something wonderful lay over the next hill.”

First line in Oathbringer by Brandon Sanderson

Author: Brandon Sanderson

Published: November 17th 2017

Genre: Fantasy

Series: The Stormlight Archive #3

My rating:

Rating: 4 out of 5.

I went into this book with the expectation that I wasn’t going to like as much as the other two books in the series. Several reviews had made me apprehensive about it and that was a good thing. You see, I agree with people who say this doesn’t match the level of the previous books, but because I was aware of that before going in, I’m actually not disappointed. It is still some of the best fantasy you can find.

I’m giving a MAJOR SPOILER warning here. The rest of the post will be discussing aspects about the book in detail. If you still want to read my favorite quotes, they’ll be at the bottom. They contain only mild spoilers.

Review

Oathbringer is Dalinar’s book. Which means we’re off to a rocky start because I’ve never been that interested in Dalinar. He’s too honorable and boring in many ways. The flashbacks we got from him failed to keep my interest most of the time. All those battle sequences! I know it was trying to emphasize his love of fighting at that point in his life, but I don’t think I needed that many fight scenes to get that. That’s probably my main criticism of the book: too many unnecessary chapters making the same point over and over again. This book didn’t need to be this long. But back to Dalinar.
My favorite scene in those flashbacks was when Evi died (I know, I’m horrible). The way that was so obviously connected to his need for revenge and his bloodthirstiness. It’s literally what killed her and the implications for his character because of that were so interesting.
I had a problem with him in a specific, though probably insignificant, scene when he’s in Thaylen City. He’s sees a room full of wounded people and FORGETS THAT HIS SON CAN HEAL PEOPLE! Yeah, he remembers later after a he duels someone for no apparent reason (yay another fight scene), but why is that not his first thought when he sees people in need of medical attention? I mean, we all know Dalinar would sacrifice Renarin to a chasmfiend if it would gain him an advantage, but still, come on, man! I love Renarin deeply if that rant didn’t make it clear.

Moving on to Shallan… still not a character I really like and this book might have made me dislike her more. First I want to share the first thing I wrote down when I was making notes for this post:

  • WTF is going on with Shallan?

Now that I’ve finished the book that is still my question, I guess. I didn’t care for the split personality thing for several reasons. Firstly, I’m not exactly sure what prompted it. She spends most of the book feeling sorry for herself because she realized she killed her abusive parents. In my opinion, she could have done worse than that so I don’t see why she’s behaving like some horrible thing happened to her. Secondly, the point in the end ended up being about people being more than one person and that we have different sides to us. I mean… duh. It’s really not that revolutionary. It doesn’t mean you have to create two entirely new personas! Thirdly, the fact that Shallan was in love with Adolin but Veil was in love with Kaladin. I’m sorry but that was creeping me out!

My main complaint about Shallan in Words of Radiance was that her actions and especially her mistakes didn’t seem to have any consequences. It is such a stark contrast to every other character in the series. That means that when she got that boy killed in Kholinar I was like: FINALLY! I had hoped it would prompt some interesting future thoughts about how to solve a problem… but no. She was very quickly comforted by Wit and never thought about that boy again.

I really want to talk about some characters I liked now, so Kaladin. He took a little bit of a step back in this one which is understandable (but still upsetting for me), because he was such a main character in the first two books. It’s also why I started to become a little confused when he was about to say the Fourth Ideal. He hadn’t exactly “earned” it throughout the book, but I was so pleased with how that was handled. That you actually see him fail to say the words. He’s in one of his depressive episodes at that point so it’s nice to see that he’s not invincible.
Another thing I really liked about Kaladin in this book is his friendship with Adolin. Like, it’s the best and most precious thing about this book. I need more of it.

And speaking of Adolin, he’s quickly becoming a highly interesting character. I’ve always liked him, not as a person but as a character with potential. It’s great to finally see him living up to it and evolving as a person.

The last thing I want to touch upon is best introduced by the notes I made when I read a certain scene in this book:

  • MOASH YOU FUCKING HORRIBLE, DESPICABLE, DISGUSTING PIECE OF GARBAGE!!

Yeah, save to say that Moash earned himself a spot on my list of most hated characters when he killed Elhokar. And the way he did it! God, I’m so angry.
I really liked, though, how he was used as a contrast to Dalinar. When we’re with Moash, we see him telling himself that the things he’s done isn’t his fault. He had no choice. He takes no responsibility for his life and his actions. Amaram does a similar thing later on. Cut to Dalinar who defeats the enemy by saying “I did it. It was my choice.” Owning up to his mistakes and accepting the pain it causes. That’s what a strong person does instead of pushing the responsibility onto others.

To end this section on a positive note: the Bridge Four POV chapters in this book gave me life. Sanderson, please make that a thing in the next books as well.

The last part of this post is dedicated to my favorite quotes of the book, so enjoy.

Favorite Quotes

Dalinar Kholin could make choosing what to have for breakfast look like the most important decision in all of Roshar.

And there you have Dalinar summed up in one sentence.

“What,” Pattern said with a hum, “is a chaperone?”
“That is someone who watches two young people when they are together, to make certain they don’t do anything inappropriate.”
“Inappropriate?” Pattern said. “Such as… dividing by zero?”

Oh, Pattern. You’re so precious ❤️

The trick to happiness wasn’t freezing every momentary pleasure and clinging to each one, but in ensuring one’s life would produce many future moments to anticipate.

Is this Sanderson coming for the tourists who spend so much time taking pictures of everything they see? I like the sentiment that happiness doesn’t come from a single moment but from multiple.

Merely being tradition does not make something worthy. We can’t just assume that because something is old it is right.

*conservatives have left the chat*
This quote is too accurate but there are so many people who don’t realize that. Continuing to do something simply because it’s “tradition” isn’t always a justifiable reason.

Don’t deflect your evils by pointing out the faults of others.

When you’ve done something wrong, it’s very natural to point out that others have made similar mistakes. That doesn’t make your mistake any less wrong though. We weren’t talking about the others. We were talking about you.

Sometimes a hypocrite is nothing more than a person who is in the process of changing.

I really like this quote because I don’t think being a hypocrite is necessarily a bad thing. It can be but if a person is going through a learning process, don’t throw hypocrite in their face.

Maybe you don’t have to save anyone, Kaladin. Maybe it’s time for someone to save you.

I think I died…

Those were a lot of the thoughts I had while reading Oathbringer, a book that elicited quite a few emotions from me as you can probably tell. I’m now very ready for the fourth book to come out in November.
I would love to discuss my thoughts even further with you. Especially Shallan. I’m still confused about her storyline. See you in the comments!



Posted in Book Review

Book Review: The Ballad of Songbird and Snakes by Suzanne Collins

“Coriolanus releashed the fistful of cabbage into the pot of boiling water and swore that one day it would never pass his lips again.”

First line in The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins

Author: Suzanne Collins

Published: May 19th 2020

Genre: YA Sci-Fi/Dystopia

Series: The Hunger Games #0

My rating:

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Synopsis: It is the morning of the reaping that will kick off the tenth annual Hunger Games. In the Capitol, eighteen-year-old Coriolanus Snow is preparing for his one shot at glory as a mentor in the Games. The once-mighty house of Snow has fallen on hard times, its fate hanging on the slender chance that Coriolanus will be able to outcharm, outwit, and outmaneuver his fellow students to mentor the winning tribute.

The odds are against him. He’s been given the humiliating assignment of mentoring the female tribute from District 12, the lowest of the low. Their fates are now completely intertwined—every choice Coriolanus makes could lead to favor or failure, triumph or ruin. Inside the arena, it will be a fight to the death. Outside the arena, Coriolanus starts to feel for his doomed tribute . . . and must weigh his need to follow the rules against his desire to survive no matter what it takes.

Goodreads

Review

A villain will never think of themselves as a villain. The reason why the villain origin story is so appealing to us is because we want to see how they justify their actions. How do they live with themselves? How can a human being be so evil? That is what The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes sets out to show us through Coriolanus Snow’s experiences during the tenth Hunger Games.

We are introduced to the Snow family’s life which is still heavily effected by the war ten years prior. It’s a struggle to make ends meet and Coriolanus is working desperately not only to remedy the situation, but also hide it from the rest of the Capitol. This is interesting because you would think this would make the reader pity Snow and feel sorry for him, but it actually doesn’t. And that is one of the main great things about this book. He is in no way redeemed with this book or absolved from his future sins. You’re very clearly not meant to like him. That doesn’t make him any less interesting though.

The way Collins builds his character is very much through his interactions with people around him. She has made sure that his life contains both genuienly good people and absolutely horrible people. And also some morally gray ones inbetween. He makes his own choices as to which of these people he’s influenced by, which I really like. It is not his poor background that has made him evil, but his own choices. I could always follow his thought-process and understand why he choose to way he did which I think is a sign of great writing.

Turning to some of the less positive things about the book, I need to stress that this book is too long. Especially the first third seemed to be making the same points over and over again. There isn’t much of a plot either so that first part was sort of missing a direction. Like what are we doing? I’m not a reader who needs a definitive plot but if you are, I can almost guarantee that you won’t like this. It’s much more about Snow as a character and there just happens to be some stuff going on around him that he reacts to.

The stuff going on around him, though, is also pretty interesting. We really get to see how The Hunger Games started out and how different they were back then. I think that’s important to show because the Games we see 60 years later are so extravagant and unreal. Seeing the progress of getting to that makes it even more plausible that, yes this is something we as human beings can create.

So now the question: do I recommend this? Yes. But only to those who already really love The Hunger Games and are interested in a slow-paced villain origin story. There has been some polarizing views on this book and I definitely see how. This is not for everyone, although I found it interesting. It’s just as brutal and thought-provoking as the original trilogy even though it in other aspects doesn’t reach their level.

Posted in Book Review

Book Review: Chainbreaker by Tara Sim

“The clock counted every painful second with ticks as thunderous and regular as a heartbeat.”

First line in Chainbreaker by Tara Sim

Chainbreaker (Timekeeper #2)

Author: Tara Sim

Published: January 2nd 2018

Genre: YA Fantasy

My rating:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

*This review contains SPOILERS for the first book in the series, Timekeeper (link will take you to my review).*

Synopsis: Clock mechanic Danny Hart knows he’s being watched. But by whom, or what, remains a mystery. To make matters worse, clock towers have begun falling in India, though time hasn’t Stopped yet. He’d hoped after reuniting with his father and exploring his relationship with Colton, he’d have some to settle into his new life. Instead, he’s asked to investigate the attacks.

After inspecting some of the fallen Indian towers, he realizes the British occupation may be sparking more than just attacks. And as Danny and Colton unravel more secrets about their past, they find themselves on a dark and dangerous path—one from which they may never return.

Review

Taking place a few months after the events in Timekeeper, Chainbreaker continues the story of clock mechanic Danny Hart after he has been reunited with his father. However, not everything is as great as it should be. Danny struggles with keeping his relationship with clock spirit Colton a secret while also worrying about a cryptic message from an unknown sender.

While Victorian London always manages to get me intrigued, the greatest strenght of this book is its relocation to India. A change of scenery really helps the story as it avoids becoming too repetitive. We follow our characters all the way to India and are introduced to so much culture. The author herself is half Indian, and you can tell that she really wanted to make the reader familiar with Indian traditions, languages etc. It’s not something I knew a whole lot about before reading this book so I found all of it highly interesting. I also really enjoyed how this information came so naturally. Our characters also know very little about the country and so they are learning alongside the reader.

The move to India also gives this book more of historic feel than its predecessor, as it weaves elements of the British Empire’s existence in India into its plot. It’s the kind of thing where if you’re just slightly interested in that topic, I highly recommend you read this trilogy because the author does such a good job depicting it.

Another thing I really want to compliment this book for is its characters. We see a change from single POV to 3 POV’s compared to the first book which is really refreshing. Instead of just sticking with Danny all the time as we did in book 1, we get to know Daphne and Colton a lot better in this one. I really liked how the different POV’s were used to both letting the reader know what’s going on at different locations, but also fleshing out the characters and their struggles. It made it seem like a natural decision to include them.

Overall, I love this book! Possible even more than the first one, especially because I could feel how passionate the author was about the subject-matter. She had a clear message, but managed to still create a story that is adventurous, heartbreaking and important. I still need to read the last book, but I already know that this is a trilogy I’m going to be recommending a lot in the future.

Posted in Book Review

Book Review: Chosen Ones by Veronica Roth

“The Drain looked the same every time, with all the people screaming as they ran away from the giant dark cloud of chaos but never running fast enough.”

First line in Chosen Ones by Veronica Roth

Author: Veronica Roth

Published: April 7th 2020

Genre: Fantasy

My rating:

Rating: 2 out of 5.

Buzzwords: chosen one PTSD, Chicago, urban fantasy

Synopsis: A decade ago near Chicago, five teenagers defeated the otherworldly enemy known as the Dark One, whose reign of terror brought widespread destruction and death. The seemingly un-extraordinary teens—Sloane, Matt, Ines, Albie, and Esther—had been brought together by a clandestine government agency because one of them was fated to be the “Chosen One,” prophesized to save the world. With the goal achieved, humankind celebrated the victors and began to mourn their lost loved ones.

Ten years later, though the champions remain celebrities, the world has moved forward and a whole, younger generation doesn’t seem to recall the days of endless fear. But Sloane remembers. It’s impossible for her to forget when the paparazzi haunt her every step just as the Dark One still haunts her dreams. Unlike everyone else, she hasn’t moved on; she’s adrift—no direction, no goals, no purpose. On the eve of the Ten Year Celebration of Peace, a new trauma hits the Chosen: the death of one of their own. And when they gather for the funeral at the enshrined site of their triumph, they discover to their horror that the Dark One’s reign never really ended.

Goodreads

Review

I’m so confused about my own feelings towards this book by Veronica Roth that I had been highly anticipating. The premise of exploring the aftermath of saving the world is such an intriguing idea. However, a book needs more than that and I overall felt that there were several areas where I found this book lacking.

We start off by being introduced to a group of 5 chosen ones – Sloane, Matt, Ines, Esther and Albie – ten years after they defeated The Dark One. Through the entire book, however, we only follow Sloane and her POV. I have previously called for more fantasy books to only have one POV, but in this case, I actually think that was the book’s first mistake. When you clearly have a group of 5 people, I would have loved for the POV to switch between them. Maybe not all of them but still more than one.
The story gets a little repetitive and stale through Sloane’s constant POV. We only get her struggles and thoughts and those kind of went in a circle. So for a book that deals with the PTSD of being the chosen one, I would have loved to seen the differences in the way the character’s handled it. But no, this book is only about Sloane.

And speaking of Sloane… she’s not that great. Which I think is the point. That is what I thought was really well done in this book. She’s clearly meant to an unlikeable main character. She’s selfish, rude, childish and has a certain dark sense of humor. Her characterization, however, is done so that is makes sense why she’s like that. It really fits her character. Personally, I think I’m too much of a Hufflepuff to appreciate these sorts of characters, so it didn’t exactly make me love the book. Nevertheless, if that is your jam, I think you might like this book.

So now that we’ve discussed Sloane, let’s talk about everyone else because this is where I was really disappointed. Every other character is actually seriously underdeveloped and seem only to appear when they need to push Sloane’s story along. Which really is such a shame because they could have been really interesting. The other chosen ones, for example, seemed to be dealing with their PTSD in different ways but we never really got to see it. It would have been great with something to break the monotony of the story.

The plot of this book is difficult to talk about in a review because it doesn’t get revealed until quite late in the book, so it’s really a spoiler to say anything about it. Besides the fact that it took waaaay too long for us to get to it, I did find it surprising and a good twist. However, the pacing of this book sort of killed it for me. Everything was drawn out and the book could easily have been shortened. For one, I could have done without all the detailed descriptions of buildings that seemed to be the most important even in high-stakes scenes.

Another thing I wish hadn’t been in the book were the snippets of documents that preceded most chapters. We would get excerpts from interviews, news articles, top secrets reports etc., but they might as well have been titled “Info Dumps“. My main problem with them wasn’t even that but the fact that they weren’t written as proper articles, reports etc. They were clearly just written for me to tell me stuff instead of being written for the people in the world of this book. It pretended to be real but it so clearly wasn’t that it pulled me out of the story every time. They were also so confusing that I got very little out of them.

I think I’ll stop rambling now. Do I recommend this book? Yes. If you think Sloane sound like your new favorite character, then yes, I think you’ll like this book. If you’re also into slow-paced fantasy stories that focus more on psycological trauma than fighting the bad guy, this might be your book.

Posted in Book Review

Book Review: A Touch of Death by Rebecca Crunden

“The sun’s relentless heat had been overwhelming all summer, but it was particularly taxing that morning.”

First line in A Touch of Death by Rebecca Crunden

Note: I received a free copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.

Author: Rebecca Crunden

Published: February 23rd 2017

Genre: Science Fiction/Dystopia

Series: The Outlands Pentalogy #1

My rating:

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Buzzwords: Oppressive government, horrible futuristic disease, romance

Synopsis: A thousand years in the future, the last of humanity live inside the walls of the totalitarian Kingdom of Cutta. The rich live in Anais, the capital city of Cutta, sheltered from the famine and disease which ravage the rest of the Kingdom. Yet riches and power only go so far, and even Anaitians can be executed. It is only by the will of the King that Nate Anteros, son of the King’s favourite, is spared from the gallows after openly dissenting. But when he’s released from prison, Nate disappears.

A stark contrast, Catherine Taenia has spent her entire life comfortable and content. The daughter of the King’s Hangman and in love with Thom, Nate’s younger brother, her life has always been easy, ordered and comfortable. That is, where it doesn’t concern Nate. His actions sullied not only his future, but theirs. And unlike Thom, Catherine has never forgiven him.

Two years pass without a word, and then one night Nate returns. But things with Nate are never simple, and when one wrong move turns their lives upside down, the only thing left to do is run where the King’s guards cannot find them – the Outlands. Those wild, untamed lands which stretch around the great walls of the Kingdom, filled with mutants and rabids.

Goodreads

Review

In a world where hovers and arranged marriages are everyday life, we follow Catherine Taenia who has had the sheltered and safe upbringing that comes from having influential parents. She faces great challenges in this book as she is forced on the run along with Nate Anteros whom she hates with a passion.

The books starts off with a strong introductory chapter that really manages to set the tone as dark and gritty. That is in general a strong-point in this book. It’s a very horrifying world. You get corruption, abuse of power (of the worst kind) and people getting executed for seemingly minor offences. Personally, I find it particularly horrifying that people are kind of forced to have children because their society needs more people. As someone who doesn’t want children, I find that extremely scary. I do see a lot of potential concerning the world building in the next books in the series. It seems like we only just scratched the surface here in book 1.

A conflicting point for me throughout the book were the characters. I liked the main character, Catherine, when I was a part of her thought processes. Her describing her feelings and her doubts were probably my favorite parts of the book. It was so well written that I felt was she what feeling. Also, I always appreciate it when authors spend more time on characters’ emotions than what buildings look like. My problems with the characters came into play through the dialogue. For some reason it felt a little off to me sometimes. Like what a character was saying didn’t exactly fit the tone/mood of the situation and said character. It made it difficult for me to get a feeling of the characters, especially the side characters, whose thoughts I didn’t know. That left me only really caring about Catherine which is a shame.

The book has some high-intense scenes that completely captured me and made me unable to stop reading. I could feel that the stakes were high and I wanted desperately to know what would happen. My only problem was that these scenes were cluttered together at the beginning and at the end of the book. Not saying that a book should be all action from beginning to end but the middle part just felt a little pointless. It became just a tad meandering and I had trouble paying attention.

Overall, I do think A Touch of Death is a good book. I would recommend it to those of you who like more character-driven dystopia that still give you an intriguing plot with moments that will make you hold your breath.

Posted in Book Review

Book Review: The Library of the Unwritten by A. J. Hackwith

“Books ran away when they grew restless, when they grew unruly, or when they grew real.”

First line in The Library of the Unwritten by A. J. Hackwith

Author: A. J. Hackwith

Published: October 1st 2019

Genre: Fantasy

My rating:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Buzzwords: Books about books, angels and demons, diversity, magical library

Synopsis: Many years ago, Claire was named Head Librarian of the Unwritten Wing– a neutral space in Hell where all the stories unfinished by their authors reside. Her job consists mainly of repairing and organizing books, but also of keeping an eye on restless stories that risk materializing as characters and escaping the library. When a Hero escapes from his book and goes in search of his author, Claire must track and capture him with the help of former muse and current assistant Brevity and nervous demon courier Leto.

But what should have been a simple retrieval goes horrifyingly wrong when the terrifyingly angelic Ramiel attacks them, convinced that they hold the Devil’s Bible. The text of the Devil’s Bible is a powerful weapon in the power struggle between Heaven and Hell, so it falls to the librarians to find a book with the power to reshape the boundaries between Heaven, Hell….and Earth.

Goodreads

Hi, guys. You’ve stumbled upon my review of The Library of the Unwritten. Before going into this book, my expectations were very high. The synopsis on its own presents such a unique concept or rather several unique concepts.

At the center of the story you have this magical library that stores all the books that have only ever been an idea and not an actual book. And oh yeah, it’s in Hell because of course it is. However, what really caught my attention was the fact that characters come to life to look for their authors (or sometimes to just live their own life). Isn’t that the dream of every reader? To talk to fictional characters? Well, all of that made me have really high hopes for this book. 

Because of the world’s originality, there’s a lot for the reader to learn at the beginning of the book. However, the author avoids being info-dumpy because the plot takes off pratically immediately so the reader kind of learns things along the way. It left me a little confused in the beginning of this book because there was a lot of information to grab onto and the plot wasn’t all that clear to start with. 

It became a little bit of a tough start for me but the further along I got, I became more and more mesmerized by the amount of thought that went into this book. It needed that build-up in the beginning because the pay-off later on is a stroke of genius. Or rather several strokes. You can tell the author cares deeply about books and writing because of it. I love when something like that transcends the page.

Another thing that hooked me was the characters. It’s definitely a character-focused story but not the kind that doesn’t also have a plot though. We follow a group of very (!) different people while they go on a quest-like adventure through different worlds. Every single one of these characters is so well written. They are complex and well rounded with intriguing backstories that kept me invested all the way through. They are now characters that I love with all of my heart and yes, I would die for them

I just quickly want to touch on the writing. It was something I had to get used to because it’s a little complex with some very long sentences and complicated words. This doesn’t mean that it’s bad by any means. It just meant that I wasn’t able to fly through it and I wouldn’t categorize it as an easy read. My non-native-speaking English mind had to pay attention in this one. 

Finally, I want to say that this book not only had such cool themes about books and writing, but also about mental health. You read about some raw and honest emotions throughout the book and I felt all of them. Hackwith makes it all so realistic and relevant even though it’s a fantasy book. She proves that the genre can provide so much more than just escapism. 

So those were my thoughts on The Library of the Unwritten which is now one of my favorite books. I can’t wait for the sequel, The Archive of the Forgotten which is out October 6th. 

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Posted in Book Review

Book Review and Spoiler Talk: The Gray Wolf Throne by Cinda Williams Chima

“Raisa ana‘Marianna huddled in her usual dark corner at the Purple Heron, picking at her meat pie.”

First line in The Gray Wolf Throne by Cinda Williams Chima

Author: Cinda Williams Chima

Published: January 1st 2011

Genre: YA Fantasy

My rating: 1 star

Hi, guys and welcome to my third post about the Seven Realms series, reviewing The Gray Wolf Throne. I debated whether to write this post or not because as you can tell from my rating, I did NOT like this book. This review is therefore going to be a little ranty but I’ll try to keep it brief. 

Having liked the first two books in the series, I was expecting this third book to be even better as we’re nearing the end. Now that I’m done, I’m struggling to find something positive to say about it. 

My main issue is probably the pacing. This book was waaaay to slow. Too much time was spent leading up to and preparing for significant events (which there were very few of). The dialogue went in circles. The characters would talk and talk and talk but they were having the same arguments with slightly different wording every time. They also spent a lot of time feeling sorry for themselves and it got pretty sickening after 300 pages. 

Basically, a lot of this book was not necessary for the plot or the character development. Important parts of this book would probably only take up about 100 pages (out of 517) and so I wonder whether this book should have ever existed. 

Another issue for me was the cringey and out-dated romance tropes. There have been a few of those in the previous books but not enough the make me annoyed. In The Gray Wolf Throne, however, they were just piled on top of each other and took up most of the book. I’m not going to describe them here because that would take forever and be kind of spoilery. I go into some of them in my spoiler section if you’re interested. One I want to call out though. The book trying to be “feminist” but then you have female characters hating other female characters purely because they like the same guy. No. Other. Reason. Stop it! The way that it is done in this one is making me especially angry. 

Okay, I’m going to stop this here. I’m still going to read the last book in the series because I might as well. This next part is going to be all about spoilers so stop reading if you don’t want to know more. 

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Spoiler Talk

  • Very slow start. Did we need to spent this much seeing them travel? It could easily have been condensed. 
  • Why was Crow’s identity revealed at the beginning? Without a spectacle? We got the information and then “oh let’s move on.” There was a build up for a reveal by the end of book 2 so why didn’t we get it there? I’m wondering why he was completely ignored in the last half of the book. They spent to much time talking about him before that. 
  • The dialogue is going in circles. Everybody trying to take the blame for something riddiculus and then feel bad for themselves. 
  • It was such a shock to me that the queen just died! I mean, I expected it to happen at some point but I guess I thought it would actually happen on the page. Not for it to be something we’re just told about. It was expected because we obviously need Raisa to be queen so Marianna had to go. 
  • Not gonna lie… I’m a little creeped out by the Mellony/Micah thing. 
  • Why is it that Raisa hasn’t punched Nightwalker yet? And why is she humoring him? He’s such a jerk and needs to be told. Same really goes for Micah. It’s really the trope of “the guy is hot so it doesn’t matter how he behaves” and it’s frustrating. Also don’t understand why Raisa would accept a kiss from Nightwalker 5 minutes after she’s reminded that he’s still with Night Bird.
  • There was no ending? Like… nothing happened. It just faded out with the coronation. I expected something to go wrong there as there hadn’t been a climactic moment. Did anything happen in this book? I felt like I was waiting and waiting and waiting. Then I came to the end to find out that I was waiting for nothing. Disappointed. 

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That was my thoughts on The Gray Wolf Throne by Cinda Williams Chima. Not exactly a good reading experience but I haven’t lost hope for the series. I want to see how it ends. Let me know what you thought of it if you’ve read it. 

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Posted in Book Review

Book Review and Spoiler Talk: The Exiled Queen by Cinda Williams Chima

“Lieutenant Mac Gillen of the Queen’s Guard of the Fells hunched his shoulders against the witch wind that howled out of the frozen wastelands to the north and west.”

First line in The Exiled Queen by Cinda Williams Chima

Hi, guys. I’m back with another review of a book in the Seven Realms series!! We’ve made it to book 2: The Exiled Queen. As in my post for the first book, I’m going to give my overall thoughts of the book first and then transition into a spoiler-section in the end. However, be aware that there will be spoilers for The Demon King in my overall thoughts. 

Author: Cinda Williams Chima

Published: September 1st 2010

Genre: YA Fantasy

Series: Seven Realms, Book 2

My rating: 4 stars

Synopsis: Haunted by the loss of his mother and sister, Han Alister journeys south to begin his schooling at Mystwerk House in Oden’s Ford. But leaving the Fells doesn’t mean that danger isn’t far behind. Han is hunted every step of the way by the Bayars, a powerful wizarding family set on reclaiming the amulet Han stole from them. And Mystwerk House has dangers of its own. There, Han meets Crow, a mysterious wizard who agrees to tutor Han in the darker parts of sorcery—but the bargain they make is one Han may regret.

Meanwhile, Princess Raisa ana’Marianna runs from a forced marriage in the Fells, accompanied by her friend Amon and his triple of cadets. Now, the safest place for Raisa is Wein House, the military academy at Oden’s Ford. If Raisa can pass as a regular student, Wein House will offer both sanctuary and the education Raisa needs to succeed as the next Gray Wolf queen.

Everything changes when Han and Raisa’s paths cross, in this epic tale of uncertain friendships, cut-throat politics, and the irresistible power of attraction.

Goodreads

Spoiler-free Review

The Exiled Queen starts off right where we left the characters in The Demon King with both Han and Raisa travelling towards Oden’s ford with their respective groups. I gotta say that this made me a little worried I wouldn’t like the book. It’s clear that our characters are going to travel a while and then enter a school setting at Oden’s ford. A long travel and a school setting are two of my least favorite things to read about so I was not set up to like this book. However, it worked out really well. 

The first half of the book is the strongest in my opinion. It’s very action packed while at the same time expanding the world and teaching you about the different realms. Those are both things I wanted more of from this book compared to the first. 

The latter half is spent more on character development which was also needed but the story dragged a little bit because of it. Maybe it’s just me and that school setting not getting along but the story was more or less put on hold while the characters were learning stuff. The positive outcome of this, however, is that I like the our main characters more after reading this. Especially Han’s character came together for me and I now appreciate him a lot more. Raisa is a character I’m not completely sure I love yet. She has moments where I can tell she has the potential to become my favorite character… but then she also has moments where she’s the stereotypical annoying female character so I’m not sure what to think of her. 

The last thing I just want to mention in this part of the review is the book’s commentary on racism. It’s very subtle but nonetheless effective which I think is completely intentional. None of our two main characters are the subject of the discrimination so they don’t experience the problem in the same way as someone like Dancer. Very much a real-life representation of privilege I would say. 

Now, let’s move on to the spoiler section. 

Spoiler Talk

I’ve made a list because I love lists. This is in no particular order and is just a list of random thoughts I had while reading. Enjoy. 

  • Very cool that we started with a chapter from the POV of Mac Gillen. I love these kinds of insights into the mind workings of the bad guys.
  • I normally don’t enjoy long ‘travel sequences’ in books but this is an exception. First of all because action is happening all the time!! Second of all because I really like how Chima uses the characters’ journey as a way of showing off the world. And not just the scenery. We get little insights into the culture and political situation of the different areas and it’s so cleverly done. I love it!
  • That first scene with the Henri Tourant guy… I appreciate it when an author can make me despise a character in just a couple of pages. He was so obnoxious and so realistic too. I’ve definitely been in arguments with people like him who don’t check their “facts”.
  • For some reason I find it hilarious that Han is such a ladies man. And that we actually see it! We’re just not told about some relationships in the past (although we get that too), but we also see him unapologetically turning around to look at some girl’s legs while he’s talking to Dancer. It’s not that he’s a “bad boy” because of it, well,… he is but in a good way, you know. I really just think it’s refreshing to see this character trait in a male MC.
  • I’m sad to say that I find Raisa annoying. Especially in that scene when Amon tells her why they can’t be together. She keeps interrupting him because she just assumes that she must have all the information. Just listen to him for a second! When she suggested that they try kissing anyway, I almost rolled my eyes to the back of my head. He’s just told her it’s going to put him in excruciating pain and she just wants to try it out? Great solution.
  • I wish Han would interact more with his friends Dancer and Cat. We barely saw his friendship with Dancer in the first book and I had hoped this would be rectified when they actually went to school together. It didn’t exactly. It gives me the feeling of being told about a friendship instead of seeing it but of course it’s a minor detail.
  • Gotta admit… I assumed Dancer was gay. But okay, he’s with Cat now. We don’t know much about their relationship as of yet so not sure if I ship it yet. We did get a female/female romance in here though which I appreciated. They are some seriously minor characters though so I hope to see some other queer elements later on.
  • The ending was fine without being amazing. I’m not sure it gave that many answers (who the hell is that Crow-guy?!?) but instead worked to set us up for the third book.

There you have my thoughts on The Exiled Queen which I hope you either found entertaining or insightful. Maybe not, but still, let’s chat in the comments if you’ve read it. What did you think of this second installment in the Seven Realms?

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