Just One More Chapter

Whenever you read a good book, somewhere in the world a door opens to allow in more light. 

-Vera Nazarian

 

I'm just trying to light up the world as much as I can one SciFi/paranormal/fantasy/space opera/time travel book at a time. 

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Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern

The Starless Sea - Erin Morgenstern

WOW!! I just finished listening to this Audiobook and I am blown away by the enormity of it all. I LOVE Erin Morgenstern, I always have! In fact, the Night Circus happens to be in my top 10 favorite standalones of all time!! Her inexhaustible imagination is enviable. Her brain is both unique and fascinating in equal measure and always comes dressed to impress. Her ethereal, yet distinctly un-floofy (it's a word) writing invokes a visceral response in me that is downright Pavlovian.


“For those who feel homesick for a place they’ve never been to. Those who seek even if they do not know what (or where) it is that they are seeking. Those who seek will find. Their doors have been waiting for them.”


This was one such book for me. I was wanting, needing, fiending for... Something. A Something book rich in both body and soul. Even though I am a HUGE fan of her work/brain/Worlds, when I finally commited to sitting down and wrapping myself up in the Starless Sea, I had no idea it would satiate my literary cravings so completely.


The writing, of course, is sublime. It is transcendent, boundless, celestial and Extra... Extra-ordinary, extra whimsical and extra je ne sai quoi. There are many intricate machinations going on simultaneously. The myriad of characters are supernal and each a star in their own right. There are incredible circumstances that intersect and moments that interject. There are unforeseen twists and great loping turns... both of which may very well be described as Finesse incarnate... so much so that you will find yourself scouring the prose for clues while blissfully being swept up and away... simply grateful to be brought along for the ride.


It feels like I took in a great many threads and wove together an approximation (be it a beautiful approximation) of what the tapestry was meant to be. There is SO much going on in the Starless Sea and I know, with 100% certainty, that there are still new threads to discover... tidbits scattered here and there to be gathered and incorporated into the whole with each successive revisit, gently augmenting it in subtle yet significant ways.


Within these pages lay stories embedded within tales and a beautifully rounded cast of characters within the lore. It is a multi hued yarn that comes together to form a picture tangible enough to envelope you and your inner King of the Wildthings. It kept me in a state of perpetual awe. It is a refuge... a love letter to the Story and the Storyteller alike. For those who feel lost or those that feel there should be something more to this life... Something more magical, adventurous, dangerous, spectacular or simply just... more. This is an invitation for we dreamers to let loose and dream impossible dreams. It calls to those of us who "are here to wander through other people's stories, searching for our own." For we are the consummate revelers among the harbors embracing the edges of the Starless Sea.

 

All of the above is both accurate and adjective laden SO I'll boil it down to this-- this book is all sorts of evocative, fanciful, wonderous, and lush AND I can not recommend it highly enough!

Of Silver and Shadow by Jennifer Gruenke


Of Silver and Shadow is a gritty, YA(ish), Magically Realistic Fantasy. It is a solid debut and also quite unputdownable! There are Revolutions, Coup(s), back alley ring fighting to the death... dum dum dummmm... and killer assassins that were raised from tiny little foundlings(?), groomed to be killing machines. There is forbidden love and a slooow burn that is almost too slow to believe... plus extremely iffy wooing dialogue that is both uncomfortable and slightly painful (at times) to witness BUT I'm getting ahead of myself... back to the specifics.... The world building is good, the character development even better and the writing?? Well, the writing skillfully held my undivided attention... I was fully dialed in and absorbed. The pacing is on point, thankfully there are no lagging spots to slog through.

 

There are 4 POVs:

 

1) Ren -our Silver wielder, kick ass, antiheroine that cuts people at will with her sharp tongue and bleak outlook.

 

2) Darek- Ren's love interest and full time partaker in the Rebellion. We were repeatedly told just how handsome, loyal , handsome and brooding he was... did I mention he's handsome?? We were told this much too often and each time it niggled a little more, it felt insincere. Hopefully this will be ironed out here and avoided completely in book #2. Also, with regards to Ren and Darek, their dialogue was (often) stilted to the point that both the banter and the burn left me feeling cheated... but again, I'm hoping these things will be addressed and polished in book #2. If Ren's awkward romantic connection doesn't resolve itself completely, she can always go for the roguish royal with a gooey caramel center... which, by the way, I am SO here for... and speaking of which...

 

3) Kellen- the youngest princeling that has a heart of gold (to his father's chagrin), a gentlemanly nature and is painfully, classically handsome as well. He was unfortunately born into a family of sadistic vipers but still manages to be (undercover) sweet, thoughtful of others and their plights and man is he good at keeping secrets. Kellen was one of my favorite characters. I loved his roguish, multifaceted, reluctant ruler charm.

 

4) Adley- is one of the King's Children (bad ass killers who were trained up from tikes) who somehow manages to retain a shred of her humanity. She is nasty with a longbow, one part of a forbidden love assassin duo, and an all around badass character.


Then there is the Silver wielding. I get that information on magic, at the time, was scarce due to a purge BUT it could have been explained to us with a touch more detail... even just a smidge. It/we needed it and sadly, again, I felt jipped. Its form, function and scope are almost entirely unexplained and for it being such a central part of the story, it came up lacking.


Overall: this story is a strong debut by Jennifer Gruenke and an all around satisfying read. The way the (seemingly) separate lives of our MCs comes together is done skillfully. The ending is a bit Cliffy for my liking BUT I was left feeling that the foundation for the next book in the series was laid down nicely. The time I spent reading seemed to evaporate at an unbelieveable rate which is always a good sign. Even with the rough spots I mentioned above, it turned out being an enjoyable way to spend a quiet day. I enjoyed experiencing this story alongside the morally ambiguous chatacters and I wholeheartedly believe that those who love the genres I mentioned will find this book appealing... why not give it a go?

 

~ Enjoy

 

*** I was given a copy of this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review ***

Keys to the Demon Prison by Brandon Mull

Keys to the Demon Prison - Brandon Mull

"Decent ending to the series. I love, adore, need more Bracken!" - my 9 year old daughter.

 

"Overall story and concept were entertaining but the characters were a bit whiny. The ending didn't completely live up to its potential." - my 36 year old husband.

 

I, myself enjoyed this series. We listened to it entirely on Audiobook and the voices were quite impressive. This last installment was satisfying and I agree with my daughter... Bracken is awesome!

Shorefall by Robert Jackson Bennett


You know what we have here? What we have here is a chaotic, action packed sequel that doesn't fall prey to the dreaded 2nd book blues. There were some issues with convenient problem resolutions that (too) easily moved the plot along in order to circumvent some sticky spots. This always rankles me. I'm not good with easily obtained powers, accomplishments, or love. Is that a dealbreaker this time? No, maybe because it wasn't rampant. There was, however, an inordinate amount of action. There was SO much going on that it became TOO much... with a constant barrage of high octane action, it was hard to savor and enjoy myself completely. I think I was numb there for a while. There were times when I zoned out and had interesting inner conversations that can only be had with oneself. I'll spare you the details BUT even though I entertained the idea of skimming, I took deep breaths, tenaciously dialed back in and resisted the urge... I refocused and you know what?? Besides digressing abysmally... it turned out being well worth the renewed effort!


SO, why did I drift off you might wonder? Well, I'm not quite sure the exact reason why Shorefall didn't tick all the adrenaline steeped boxes for me BUT all was not lost... for out of nowhere... BAM... the ending blindsided me. The ending totally made up for the rest of the mind-numbing parts and then there were the reveals. The few twisty bits SEEMED to be easily sussed out beforehand but I doubt you'll see where the most important ones lead.


On the technical end: The world development was strong. The writing was well done and the characters... The characters in Shorefall were multi dimensional and nicely fleshed out. They were both full-bodied and relatable... even the bad guy... guys... things??


First up were the Sapphic dynamic duo. I happen to love Sancia & Bernice as a couple... I am SO here for them. I even loved how close they got in this book. It could easily have been too much, saccharine sweet closeness but instead... it worked.


Next was Orso. Orso shrugged off his know it all, pain in the butt persona and seriously redeemed himself. By the end I even found myself, hands waving in the air, riding on the Orso bandwagon. I appreciated his mental dexterity that he so graciously added into the mix. I treasured the close-knit connections he formed with Sancia et al. AND most importantly, I kept my fingers, toes and eyeballs crossed hoping that the literary Gods would deem him fit for survival. His life was in constant peril... it's a good thing he has talented friends.


The last MC I'll mention is Gregor. Gregor's plight really sucked!! Not only did it suck to read his dreadful situation on paper... errr screen... but it also sucked putting myself in his tortured headspace... especially as the story progressed. He was such an excellent good/bad/good(again?!?) guy that I'm sure you'll (most likely) love him like I did. You'll both love him and root for his deliverance from his every day suffering to some sort of zen-like existence... no matter how that's achieved... well, kind of... you'll see.


Anyway, do you know who had a pretty good excuse for being bad bad bad and batshit crazy??... wait for it... Ophelia and Crasedes. The whole cast's backstories were poignant, and some came from way further out than left field, but they all had compelling reasons for acting the way they did. It was fun finding out everyone's origin story AND the way each character's background was parsed out was extremely satisfying.


I, like many, absolutely love a great "Holy Shit, where did that come from?" moment. You know, the kind where you curse out loud and put the book down just to take it all in... well, this did happen once here maaaaybe twice (depending on your literary constitution). Good stuff right?!? Well, on the flipside, even though there was a lot going on, if you exclude the ending, parts of the story felt too convenient and the rest? Well the rest felt a bit like WWIII was being waged on my senses. BUT I'll chalk up my annoyance to "it's probably a me thing" because if you break the story down to its main components... the Trifecta of Awesomeness (Writing + World Development + Character Development)... Shorefall comes out looking like a shiny new penny.


{{{ting}}}


Soooooo, what's the final word?


Overall: it's all about that ending. It really redeemed itself in the final 20% of the book. The rest was good. Though I wasn't fully swept away nor dragged down into the trenches of this tumultuous story... fighting tooth and scrived nail to survive the impending magically technological apocalypse... even considering all of that, I still can't say it was disappointing. Now, that might sound underwhelming and like a shite recommendation BUT please keep in mind that I LOVED Foundryside and I had extremely high hopes for Shorefall. Yes, it never reached my exceedingly high expectations BUT it was a damn fun book to read and really, what more could you want with some quiet Me Time?


Will it be worth looking out for, and committing more time towards, book #3? I say, without hesitation or compulsion, that if you enjoyed Foundryside and are interested (at all) in seeing where the characters end up and what they get themselves into... and mostly... somewhat... out of (or at least "out of" adjacent) then I say go for it!!


~ Enjoy


*** I was given a copy of this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review ***

The Beautiful by Renee Ahdieh

The Beautiful - Renee Ahdieh

Here's a little backstory before I jump right into the review: I like to think of myself as a malleable reader. I love many genres and I don't shy away from sojourning in reads that are not typically in my comfort zone. In the past, reading books about Vampires and other dark beings was a heady and thrilling endeavour but this subgenre lost its appeal quite some time ago, somewhere around the time that Vampires became mainstream and were EVERYWHERE. When Vampires became trendy, the market was saturated with many an author trying, and more often than not failing, to successfully hitch a ride on the bloodsucking craze train. It has been a long time since I've even wanted to peek inside the dust jacket of a Vamp story. Now, did the synopsis of The Beautiful completely sell me on this read? No. Did the synopsis sound utterly unique? Again, no BUT the book did sound promising and a few of my Good Reads friends spoke highly of it so I relented and eventually gave it a whirl and I'm pretty glad I did.

 

The Beautiful is a period piece that revolves around our MC Celine, our second (mystery) MC - the serial killer- and New Orleans' gritty, glitzy, oft times seedy underground world. The seediest and most nefarious of the bunch is a group known as La Cour des Liones... but more about them in a bit. Back to Celine. This new world, in the New World, becomes her new home after leaving (fleeing??) Paris... sorry for the repetition, it's late, I'm sleepy and words are mushy at the moment... please just roll with it?


Anyway, Celine finds New Orleans' dangerous side to be sexy and alluring. It is the impetus for her budding obsession with the town and its locals. It is also a catalyst for the emergence of something deep within her... something dark and suppressed... something she never knew existed until recently... awakening... stretching... wriggling to the surface... taking her firmly in its grasp as it both scares and thrills her in equal measure. While Celine is trying to get to know, and come to terms with, her "true" self there are things going bump, nibble, chew chew in the night... things not completely Human. There is an age old feud between the Brotherhood and the Creatures of the Night and Celine finds herself dragged into this conflict, put squarely in the center, and doesn't know for sure if she even wants to break free and run to safety. Why not?? Well safety isn't really her thing but also because safety might only be an illusion here in 1870's New Orleans. There's a serial killer on the loose and anyone can be the culprit... It could easily be Sebastien or Michael- both men vying for her affection. There are many other possible suspects but the beauty is the twisty twist way the killer is revealed. I won't spoil things for you but let me say this, you most likely will not have sussed out who is behind the killings and what their motivations are ahead of time AND if you somehow do know who is behind the killings early on, I implore you to write a review telling how you got there.... I need to know!!

 

::: GASP :::

 

end runon sentence!


Back to Celine... again. Celine is a strong willed, opinionated, sassy heroine. She never lets her fears (or ignorance) about a person (or situation) stop her from doing what she feels is right and from achieving whatever goal she has set her mind to. She is persistent and stubborn and does whatever it takes to catch a killer, a lover and/or her idyllic Life.

Who will she be sharing that idyllic life with? Well, there are of course 3 legs to any blossoming love triangle, this one consists of Celine, Sebastien and Michael. I normally loathe love triangles but this one was rather tame and didn't rankle and tap dance on my very last nerve so there's that.

 

You've heard about Celine so here's a little bit about both men:

 

Sebastien is the brooding lothario, who loves his family and money above all else. He is the heir to the fortune of the whole of New Orleans it seems. He is the scion to his uncle's legacy and the leader of the Cour des Liones.

 

Michael is the Detective on the serial killer case. It just so happens that he crosses paths with our MC, Celine, because she is aquainted with some of the victims and therefore implicitly connected to the cases. Just how and to what end you'll have to read for yourself but it is the beginning of a connection between the two AND (even though he has yet to figure out how he himself feels about her) Sebastien is not at all happy about it. Michael and he have a history together, one we are not privy to in detail... one that apparently saw the two pitted against one another while vying for the same girl... again.. they seem destined to be forever locked in love drama BUT we are kept from the extent of the previous love tangle. We wander around and scavenge in the dark, grasping for clues... but alas, we are kept from the crux of the matter. While the two bumble and try to vy for Celine's attention, we get a glimpse at how witty and spunky she is. She matches her paramore perfectly. They play nicely off each other and go from lust-loathing to lust-loving to who knows what's next?? They seem to be star crossed lovers but we'll have to wait and see. I won't reveal which suitor she falls for and possibly ends up with but I will say that, in the end, I was left feeling extremely frustrated and cheated.


Enough about the characters though... how are the technical aspects of the book, you might wonder?? Well, glad you asked (mentally). The Beautiful is a well written book with a yummy slooow burning hate --> mutually amorous--> ??? percolating relationship(s). It is (almost) entirely set in New Orleans... a fabulous, flamboyant, high octane city that bubbles over with... je ne sais quoi. Sinning is easy in this city... here amongst the revelers, the city's glitzy underground... and especially when cavorting with those who hold Court in the wee hours of night. La Cour des Liones is populated with all manner of scaries that go bump or boo or just slurp in the night and we are never completely sure what sort of dark Thing each character is... that is until they want us to know and by then it's too late.


This book is an amalgamation of mixed genres. It is a thrilling, Murder Mystery with a sprinkle of Romance that contains a pinch of a PG (13?) rated love triangle. The world building is dark, sultry and rich. The character development is well rounded, fleshed out nicely and rather satisfying. AND the twists?? Well, there were few twists but what they lacked in quantity they made up for with quality. It had my rapt attention. I spent a whole sleepless night, bleary eyed and sore from all of the different reading contortions that go hand in hand with a marathon read. Now, was it AMAZING?? Was it the pinnacle of this genre, the best I have ever read? No! Was it a master piece? Also, No BUT it was entertaining and worth the evening I devoted toward it. Really, what more could you want out of a handful of quiet (if the spouse's snoring is discounted) hours alone? Being satisfied with the time spent, lost within its pages, wishing there was...more... more time... more pages... more story to keep me held captive a little while longer. The simple fact that I wanted more of its world and more of its morally grey characters speaks louder than any flowery wording and zealotry ever could.

 

Overall:

 

Currently it is night again and as I prepare to unwind, I find myself a little sad, wistfully wishing that I was settling back down and heading off to witness the drama unfolding in the world of The Beautiful once again and THAT speaks volumes!... at least to me. Was it perfection? No, but I'll most likely be on the lookout for book #2. If you're into books about the Things in the night that scare the crap out of grown men and can possibly leave you with disturbing mental imagery you might wish exorcised then I say "give this one a go", you just might enjoy the next few quiet hours of Me Time.

~ Enjoy

 

The Last Human by Zack Jordan

Hello from way up on this sturdy fence that I find myself straddling. I'm stuck here, debating pros and cons, wondering which will prevail and persuade me to its side.

 

I'll start off by saying that The Last Human is a cute romp through Space. It has a very unique premise with sweeping ideas that are difficult to wrap my brain around at times. Ideas about Life, the unfathomable vastness of the Cosmos and we, cosmic Beings. This is more pronounced in the parts of the story that speak of how awe inspiring and terrifying the enormity of Nature is and how beautiful and oft times inescapable Chaos can be. It proposes an infinite number of varying inhabitants in this grand place we call Space plus its innumerable Stars, Galaxies, Universes and more (?!?). Is our knowledge about our Universe just a blip in an intelligent design too intricate for us to comprehend? Are we tiny cells in a body too great to fathom? Veering away from that theme there is also a supposition that Luck might simply be the result of higher intellectual Beings manipulating and guiding our lives to their whims. All of these concepts are proposed and batted around in The Last Human.

 

This premise sounds especially yummy for those like me who flock to Space Operas like a moth to flame BUT the plot was hard to get through in places causing me to sporadically lose focus and interest. It literally took me over a week to finish this read. For me, a read that takes 11 days is a read that has dragged on 9 days too long. There weren't any glaring issues with the pacing but still I stumbled and plodded along, especially at the 3/4 mark. So, why did I lose interest you might ask? Well, to be honest I'm not quite sure. Does that answer suck? Why yes, yes it does SO I'll inspect the Trifecta of Awesomeness ( Writing Quality + Character Building + World Development) and try to find the answer somewhere in there.


So, the writing was decent. The scope of the World Development was grandiose and mindboggling at times!! There was a staggering amount of speculated solar systems and species on (and off) the Network- a megalomaniac, sentient program that unifies millions of species allowing those connected to understand each other's speech, to have easy inter-species chatting with visible text that hangs in the air above with the sender's emotions attached as well, mind to mind direct conversations with some, and a plethora of other detailed information readily available for connected users.


Was it the Characters then that were bogging things down? It's doubtful. This book boasted a bunch of new, diverse species as well as sentient machines. How can that be boring? Well, it turned out to be bipolar like me, interesting yet boring... weird huh??


We have our MC, known by a few names by the end of the book but mostly referred to as Sarya the Daughter. She's a Human that was loyally raised by an armed and dangerous, spider-like apex predator called a Widow. Sarya unwittingly picks up a lot of attitude and a mannerism or two from dear old (scary killer) surrogate mom. Sarya's a picture perfect case of Nature vs Nurture! Which one will win out? You'll have to wait until book #2 to see. Sarya is constantly underestimated. She is a fighter and a true survivor with a kick ass attitude towards life. She is literally raging against the Powers That Be... going after THE Man, THE Network, overcoming her species' destructive behavior, lust for dominance and predilection for Chaos. She rolls with the punches and readily adapts to rapidly fluctuating situations BUT her plight, her destiny, her obsession became tiresome and I'm not sure why.


Some secondary characters were interesting too. They were fleshed... errr furred... errr chitinous exoskeletoned out (it's a thing) and even a few turned out to be quite lovable/loathable. Some grew on me like a mold and some chafed and niggled from the start but the characters were relateable/ hateable and dimensional and that's saying a lot.

All of this sounds promising right?!? I thought so too, that's why I requested this arc for review. Now, with the holidays upon us, I admit that I've been stressed out and overextended trying to get things ready so I can rock a large Thanksgiving weekend at my place SO it might be a stellar case of "It's not you, it's me" BUT I have no way of discerning that, only time (and many reviews) will determine if that is the case.

 

::: Deep breath:::


Sorry for the blatant runon but when a thought comes together in my head I must follow it wherever it goes... I'm old, either use it or lose it... BUT I digress!


Overall:

 

I wanted to like this one... NAY, I wanted and was ready to love, adore and covet this one but alas, it wasn't meant to be (for me). For me it was hit and miss and the rating reflects that. Although it had all the right ingredients, it flowed like cold honey in places and that's hard to stomach. It was an interstellar romp through Space that instantaneously traversed solar systems and universes at FTL speed, ended up docking at MEH and never fully recovered. The ending was anticlimactic and confusing as to where things were headed. It saddens me to yuck someone's hard work, especially because I requested the honor of accepting it into my life (for free) and passing judgment on it (also for free) BUT in the end the book turned out to be just decent and unfortunately that's a huge letdown. I feel like I could have easily spent my limited time doing something more productive such as: getting the brine ready sooner so the turkey could marinade longer, spending quality alone time with my daughter who is growing up at the speed of light and not looking back no matter how much I plead with her to slow down and enjoy being young OR I could have blissfully slept in.

 

End runon rant #2


Anywho, I needed to accomplish all of those activities (yes, sleeping is an activity in my house) above at some point during the week but you (probably) know how it is with us bibliophiles... get a book... errr ereader in hand and the world melts away. This sounds awesome too right? Well, you'll have to read Last Human and see for yourself but if you do would you please write a review so I can see which side of the fence you land on?


This book might appeal to some avid, patient, lovers of Space Operas. Those that adore books featuring a cornucopia of diverse species, diabolical plans to take over all known universes BUT although that sounds like my Tribe, it wasn't a snug fit. I believe there's a place, a reading community, perfectly suited for this book and although that wasn't 100% me this time, it might be you AND if it is, I won't judge... I'm not really a judgey kind of person anyway unless you're a tempting tome... a juicy bit of literature passing my way.

Final 2 cents:

I most likely will not be moving on to book #2 but I'll leave it, respectfully, at "Let's Wait and See".

 

~ Enjoy (or don't)


*** I was given a copy of this book by Netgalley in exchange for an honest review ***

 

Call Down the Hawk by Maggie Stiefvater

Call Down the Hawk - Maggie Stiefvater

Right off the bat, here is a Beth's World PSA.

 

Fair warning:

 

There will be a controlled burn of fangirling in this review. I was aiming for low key reverence but the Force is strong with Padawan Maggie. Hopefully this is more of a tame, reflective piece of quiet admiration. SO, if a bibliophile with big heart eyes, fervently in love with a book, an author or a fictional world isn't for you then stop right here and move on to the next review. I hope that doesn't come off as rude... I mean that in the nicest way possible BUT if you think I'm a shameless zealot now, you should see all the goopy lovey bits I omitted. Okay? Are we good? I'm glad you stayed... let's move on BUT you've been warned!

 

End aggressive announcement!!


Now, if Freaking Awesome Badassery had a nom de plume its would be Maggie Stiefvater. She has a way of leading you down the rabbit hole with a tempting trail of well placed, prickly yet succulent literary breadcrumbs. Then when she has you firmly in her grasp... enticed and ensnared...BAM... you're bludgeoned over the head with verbal magnificence and dazzled with Lynch brothers and Apocalypse fearing Dreamer hunters and psychics and more. Then you realize you're not alone, you're now one of us.

 

:::chant::: one of us... one of us.

 

BUT do not fret, there are many wonderful things here like Nuance. There are onion-like layers of intricacies within this pièce de résistance... mottled subplots within plots that'll have you scratching your head and wondering what in your life has brought you here and where in the hell is this story going? There are characters that are multifaceted hues of Gray, just the way I like them. They are so deliciously complex you won't be certain which side of them will show up to any given scenario, keeping you on your toes. There are doppelgangers, secret societies, magical markets & artifacts. Most of the time I was wondering where in God's green Earth were we being led? I laughed. I cursed aloud "Holy Hell in a Handbasket" (PG version). I wondered how one person can imagine all the slip-n-slidey, turny twisty bits (plus freaky horror dreams), BUT there are most certainly twisty bits aplenty! Plot twists worthy of M. Knight Shyamalan's respect.

 

true fact: in my house he is known, affectionately, as M. Knight Shama- lama-ding-dong. He was dubbed this by my daughter who has yet to watch any of his movies BUT after eavesdropping on the adults one night (and because she thinks everything that comes to her mind and out of her mouth is automatically gold... which, in this case it was)... she blessed us with her 2 cents ... here it was born, here it stuck, and here it shall stay... but I digress.


There were other types of depth to the book as well. There was suspense, and intrigue and a plethora of confusion (in a good way). You'll be kept guessing the entire read (on multiple fronts) and for the most part, things will begin to click but don't expect to fully know what's going on and where things are headed. With one question answered, 2 more pop up.


Speaking of dark brooding enigmas... you were thinking about him right? Am I right?? Do you love Ronan as much as I do? Silly question, how could you not? But just when you think you couldn't love Ronan any more, Call Down the Hawk has come along to correct your folly. I found myself following the subtle trails of this complex plot and they led straight to my smitten heart AND do you know what I found there hermetically sealed and stuck with an impervious layer of sticky stuff (that's definitely the technical term)? I found Ronan Lynch (and Adam of course but this book didn't really feature him much) Gorilla Glued with glittery embellishments and bells and ribbons... Ronan would absolutely detest it YET there it was... and there he was... and there they all were (both old friends and new ones) and there they all shall live for forever and a day in a big heaping mess of veneration.


Remember that humor I spoke about earlier? Well, it was subtle and it elicited pure expressions of joy from me. It was the type of humor that crescendos from quiet appreciation ---> school girl giggles ---> laughing so loud even a train full of jaded NYers stop their busy, mind your own business mottoed, lives to look over at me with unbridled curiosity... hoping to find something funny enough to bring a little joy, a little mirth to brighten up their robotic 9-5 lives.... praying that the bubble of happiness I now radiate... personify... exude, will at least expand to incorporate them and at best grow to include the whole damn cynical World.

 

Sorry for the extreme runon. When Life happens, it often happens in long drawn out runons and I just report what I see BUT, I also digress... again.


Anyway, back to the goods...


One of the best parts of the book was that we also got to be better acquainted with the Lynch Brothers Trio and man-oh-man let me tell you just how broken, resilient, beautific, humanly flawed and how perfectly imperfect they all were. There's a Lynch brother flavor for every type of reader and one for any bipolar mood swing you might have and one for the most eclectic of admirers. Our foray into the lives of the Lynch brothers 3 was so much better than in the Raven Cycle that I even found myself commiserating with/swooning over Declan ... D-Bag... Mr. Boring... Zippy Shoes or whatever name you assign him (I vote for Zippy Shoes). Each brother believed himself to be the "fake" brother... the fuckup... the black hole, deep dark void, infinitly blackest of black sheep of the family. Who's right? Who will be the Lynch family's downfall? Who will survive and come out the other end still intact and emotionally unscathed? Will any? All? None? Can anyone truly claim to be able to accomplish that feat as they traverse Life in all of its fickle glory? Who knows? I have my theories although with THAT ending no one besides Mrs. Maggie can say for certain and she's not telling... for now.


You know what IS telling? I preordered this a la Amazon Kindle (not a paid for endorsement) and after gobbling it up in record time in print... errrr digital, I still bought the Audiobook from Audible (also not a paid endorsement) as well. It was SO worth having both forms because narrating it in your own head using your own cadence, tempo and tone is a vastly different experience than listening to another person's perspective, their inflections, their rendition of how each character, piece of dialogue and the overall essence of the book should be portrayed. It feels like you're experiencing a whole new book that feels familiar but doesn't convey as such.


What it all boiled down to was this, Call Down the Hawk's accolades are 100% deserved in any format. I loved Maggie Steifvater before this gem and I'm relieved to report that she has most assuredly not disappointed this time around!! Although it's apparent that I'm a bit biased, I admit that I'd pay to read her take on anything (even a farmer's almanac), especially if it's set in this World with these Characters with this gorgeously creative, poignant writing and honey sweet narration.


Now, who exactly is this Will Patton guy you might ask? I'm so glad you did! He is the same voice that gave life to the Raven Cycle series and if you know even a little bit about me you'll know how I fawn over and covet all things Raven Cycle especially its characters. Gansey, Blue, Adam, Ronan et al are family now... no, better than that they are indelibly etched into my soul (cue dramatic music) and it's partially due to Patton's performances. He was born to embody these books! His voice is haunting and lilting. It can be crooning, comforting and capricious as hell. Just when you are one with the ebb and flow... WHAM... it's now all sorts of razor sharp edges and gravel on fire.


You might be wondering if it is necessary to read The Raven Cycle series beforehand. Personally, if you started here, I feel it would keep you from picking up on some subtle nuances and semi-critical background info BUT it is not imperative. Mrs. Stiefvater gives just enough backstory to keep you from needing a rescue party. For me, I believe that having prior insight into this universe helped make things more tangible, relatable and definitely more enjoyable. So take that as you may.

And that ending... it has an ending (duh) but you know the sort... the kind that ramps up the cardiac BPM... offers the promise of answers and peace of mind but delivers emotional scars and (forgivable) disappointment. I loved it but I want, I crave, I NEED answers... STAT!!


Overall:

This was an extremely addictive timesuck (in the best possible way). With highest marks for Mrs. Stiefvater for acing the Trifecta of Awesomeness (Writing Quality + Character Development + World Building). My only gripe was with the ending. The last few pages felt more like a sheer drop off a steep cliff instead of a drawn out, suspense laden Cliffhanger. I'm not a huge fan of even the tamest of Cliffys but thankfully this one wasn't torturous. The rest made me want to climb the tallest NYC fire escape and scream my ardent adoration at the top of my lungs (into the smoggy night) until my breath gave out, my throat dried up and the neighbors started yelling out of their windows... a la West Side Story style... for me to "Shut the hell up already"... ahhhh, now that's the good stuff right there. If a book leaves you breathless, hoarse and recieving police citations for noise pollution and disturbing the peace, then it's a keeper... AND this one's undeniably a keeper... grab one asap! I can't wait to see... hear... read what you think.


Aside:
I wholeheartedly apologize for the brain farting mental tangents. Both the hard copy and Audiobook held me completely captive the entire time so please don't take my squirreling mind as an indication of a sloppy, wandering narrative because it's probably just my age showing or the beginnings of insanity... oh well... both sound fatal but neither are Mrs. Stiefvater's fault.


~ Enjoy

Queen of Nothing by Holly Black

The Queen of Nothing - Holly Black

Oh heck yeah!!!!

 

The One. The Only. Mrs. Holly Black. Has done it. AGAIN!! This isn't a drill! This powerhouse of a writer has consistently wowed me and I never tire of her voice. I don't know why I worry where these stories are going when they're in her exceedingly capable hands. This final installment in The Folk Of The Air series is everything I was hoping for, and even what I secretly wished for, in the wee hours, pleading to whichever deity would listen, asking for a satisfying ending AND did it work?? Again, HECK YEAH!!


Holly Black is a master wordsmith and it shows. She has a deliciously talented mind that has yet to disappoint. This book has it all!! It has courtly intrigue, war, betrayal, Love, hate, deviousness, devotion, selfishness and salvation, filial drama and siblings working together as one cohesive unit of badassery!... and really, what more can you ask for?? I don't want to ruin a single moment so I'll leave things as vague as I can but I must gush where gushing is due. Here's a brief, fanatical, rundown of the goods.

 

There is, of course, Jude Duarte who is an ultra kick ass heroine with major Daddy issues. If I could be any literary female character, she'd be in the top 3, maybe even #1... She is clever. She is devious. She is strong even when she doesn't believe herself to be and especially when others underestimate her fortitude. She is loyal. She is as fair as a human living in Faerie, cavorting with the Fair Folk can be. She is merciful(ish). She is Oh SO Human and a slew of other powerful adjectives. BUT most notably, in The Queen of Nothing, we see a new side of her, she is vulnerable in an incredibly realistic way. She does Vulnerable with a healthy serving of doubt, a dollop of self consciousness and all sorts of reticence and sublimation. I at once feel for her and want to be her. She is the backbone of this amazing tale and an inspiration for girls everywhere!


Naturally, afterJude we should mention, in the same breath, with the same reverence, King Cardan. Cardan who almost shares the spotlight equally with Jude AND who, in my (double heart eyes) opinion deserves to be given as many accolades as the girl/woman/queen of the hour. Cardan who I can't EVER get enough of even if I had a slow flowing IV drip of him inserted directly into my body, rationing out portions of him so I may enjoy his company longer (in a non-creeper way of course)... I would ask for it to be opened up to full throttle... I need MORE MORE MORE of him (again not in a creepy stalkerish way) especially QoN Cardan!! The Cardan we get in this hyper vivid finale exhibits many of the same qualities as Jude plus he can even be a (not so) little monster to deal with. Both he and Jude prove that wishing on the literary stars, hoping and praying with fingers crossed for perfectly concluded character arcs is not completely futile.


Now, speaking of futile, you'd naturally go straight to Taryn, Jude's morally questionable twin. In this book Taryn manages to crawl out of the Shitter, take her name off the Shit List and redeem herself. She elevates herself to proper sister material worthy of the freakishly amazing affection of her siblings. She now IS the shit BUT this review is taking a turn so enough shit talk for now.

 

Back to the book's ethereality...

 

Holly Black can frame a scene almost like no other. You'll believe yourself transported, living inside the story instead of watching it from on high. The World building is beautific but the Character Development is phenomenal. This cast is diverse and robust and fully tangible in all their flawed/awesome/majestic/magical glory. The writing style is typical Holly Black and by that I mean it's sublime. The Audible narrator was Caitlin Kelly who happens to breathe life into each and every character so completely that I no longer found myself passively listening while doing my chores. Instead I was in among the action or like a movie was being performed in my mind. Caitlin plays each character so distinctly and with such conviction, I could actually see the person's lips moving in my mind and the action was palpable. She is the perfect accompaniment to Mrs. Holly's brilliance. All of these factors put together create an overall experience that is intoxicating. At once I both craved for things to speed up so I can find out what's next and concurrently needed things to slow down so I could savour every moment. The epilogue was longer than most and Oh SO Good! I have been feeling rather blasé about books relating to the Fae this last year or so but Mrs. Black can (and did) make a converted zealot out of even the grouchiest of cynics.... aka Me.

 

Overall:

 

Here I am, the sole family member awake, in my eerily quiescent home, begging for just a little more time in this world... with these characters... with this author. This foray into the land and lives of the Fair Folk was enjoyable on a catastrophic level. I have been demolished (in an amazing way). I wish I could start this book over, with fresh eyes, and experience it anew as if it were my very first time. I envy you, sitting there perusing these reviews, debating on whether or not you should devote your time and emotions to this book. I envy your naiveté, your purity, your newness but most importantly I envy your innocence!! If you've read the first two books and are on the fence with regards to this last paragon then what are you waiting for?? You NEED this (audio)book in your life toot sweet! If you just tripped and blundered your way onto this scene by happenstance then you really need to read both proceeding books... you'll be lost in the sauce without them. Let me (hopefully) be the first to skip the slow clap and jump right into the rapid-fire hand slapping of utterly devoted fandom... it deserves... nay, it DEMANDS it and rightfully so! I'm in love! You will be too, I'm certain of it! Join me! You'll thank me later!!

 

End rampant exclamation mark usage!

 

~ Enjoy

 

Dreamland by Nancy Bilyeau

Well well well...this was something... something wonderful. Dreamland turned out to be an excellently written Historical Fiction whodunit set in New York more than a century ago. The foundation and general demeanor of this chronological opus seemed to be very well researched. Having grown up in Manhattan Beach Brooklyn, the whole atmosphere of the book felt incredibly familiar. I formed an instant connection, a tether to the heart and soul of the story, due to the sheer authenticity of the backdrop. Sure, the fine details were different, as would be expected with such a generational gap between the story's setting and my own experiences, but this period's Coney Island and its surroundings were undeniably congruent with my many many childhood memories. It was as if I just left mere days ago... and if I lived over a hundred years ago... BUT since I didn't, I found myself torn between being sad that I wasn't around to see some of the country's greatest technological advancements AND being ecstatic with my modern day rights as a woman (this of course was the clear winner). I love my right to vote, to earn equal pay as a man, to wear comfy bathing suits or even pants if I'd like.


Anywho, I saw this book as an homage to Women. It showcased a few strong female characters including (but not limited to) our MC Margaret (aka Peggy), her sister Lydia and even her aunt Helen who bravely circumvented the family's united front (and best interests) by warning Peggy of a possible familial plotter planning her demise. It was intense and extremely satisfying. Peggy was accessible, spunky and likeable. She exhibited grace, tenacity, honor and poise all while operating under the heavy thumb of her uncle David, the family's heir apparent Ben and Society as a whole. She was unafraid to stand up for those she loved and defended her admirable morals with vigor. Lydia, on the other hand, was a quiet type of strong. She stoically held her own against a stifling, overprotective family, a capricious fiance and a world looking to put her in her place. She emphatically vowed to be a proponent for Women's rights and her sibling relationship with Peggy was both compelling and envious.


What was the actual Trifecta of Awesomeness (Writing Quality + Character Development + World Development) like? Well, good thing you asked... ummmm thought... whatever! Dremland's pacing was spot on. The writing was beautific with period appropriate dialogue that was neither flowery nor verbose yet extremely satisfying. The characters were well fleshed out and the world building was elegant and exceedingly rich. These touches left me feeling like an actual participant in the story rather than a mere voyeur and it was fantastic!


As fantastic as it was, it did feel like a guilty sort of enjoyment because this poignant book illustrated some major biases of this bygone era. The injustices included the socioeconomic diaspora of the immigrant working class as well as the disparity between the sexes. What was considered to be acceptable, expected and tolerated behavior? In response we were given a tiny, seemingly plausible, peek into the lives and appetites of the Rich as well as a glimpse into the mindset, behavior, and treatment of the immigrant population a century ago. Sadly it was not too far off from some modern day conditions/expectations AND not only were the foreigners discriminated against but Women's conditions were stifling and (at times) abhorrent as well.


That being said I had three major gripes:

 

First, there was a crazy obsessed crazy person who may or may not have been unravelling at the seams. This could certainly work nicely in a story but here it was just confusing. Was he or was he not in love with our MC? Was he the one trying to kill her? Was he the one responsible for the local women's deaths? Was he schizophrenic? Was he an alien? Who knows? Well, we only SORT of know at the end (which is what makes things confusing) but still... I'm not telling.

 

Second, there was a glaring case of insta-love whereby "I love you(s)" were exchanged by both parties after just 2 meetings... a big No-No for me.

 

Third, some chapters jumped around and switched topics and voices without preamble or segue. These jumps made things feel incongruent and violently yanked me out of the story's flow. I ended up having to backtrack to find the train of thought again WHICH, needless to say, was jarring and exceedingly frustrating.


Overall:

This was an ethereal gem that harkened back to a "freely discriminating " "simpler" era that has passed in years but whose mindset has never been fully outgrown BUT... on the other hand... we got authentic, poignant writing, a wonderfully well rounded cast and a lush, robust World... who could ask for more? This book has it all!


If you are a Historical Fiction lover or an admirer of Whodunits in general then this book will certainly resonate with you! I am not a regular when it comes to those genres. Although after having read this book, I can definitely see the appeal. If you're on the fence about testing these genres let me be the first (or 100th) to tell you that a book like this one could easily make a convert out of you or me.


What are my final two cents? Well, that's easy, I think you should go ahead and give Dreamland a try... you'll thank me later.


~ Enjoy


*** I was given a copy of this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review ***

Pax Novis by Erica Cameron

Pax Novis... oh Pax Novis... how you have vexed me! I finished this book quickly but ended up deliberating for days. I argued with myself...pros and cons... I revisited some areas and kicked things around the ole noggin. I thought and debated and it niggled and chaffed... not literally, that would suck! No, the indecision felt like a blemish on my reviewing capabilities. I thought and thought until my tired brain hurt. I couldn't get away from thinking about it but it always came back to the glaring difference between what this book delivered and what it had the potential to be. I know, that's not a fair way to judge a book but... full disclosure... I was slightly disappointed, a smidge letdown. This was an entertaining letdown but a letdown nonetheless YET I remain optimistic. SO, please bear with me if this review seems fickle, I'm still stuck up here, straddling the fence.


This turned out to be a semi- sluggish SciFi/Space Opera about an intergalactic, winner takes all, case of hide and go seek. Did I just whittle the entire book down to a mere child's game?? Why yes, yes I did and unfortunately, even when all of its feathers were puffed up and preened, it wasn't much more robust. This might be due to the fact that the story took place almost entirely in a single locale, the spaceship Pax Novis. With such a flat, 2D backdrop, things felt cramped and stifling. The writing was decent and the characters were too, but there was nothing stellar about either. On the other hand, Pax Novis did manage to tick a bunch of hot topic boxes like Cira having two mothers, Riston & Adrienn being nonbinary and even Cira being Asexual. So, if those are staples in your genre of choice then this is a definite winner for you. Now, I myself love a good yarn that bucks the norm BUT here it felt too on the nose for my taste... like a sledgehammer being used when a scalpel was needed. There were even new pronouns made up to use as alternatives to inherently gendered terms. I found these new pronouns to be distracting. Granted, they weren't so obtrusive that I couldn't catch what was being implied but still, distracting is...well.... annoying. Then, just when I thought the book was hitting its stride, the last third of the book had my attention wandering. I found myself counting the pages, hoping it would resolve quickly, wondering which book in my formidable TBR pile would be my next conquest, what things I should put on my shopping list and

 

::dum dum dummmmm::

 

I thought about all the cleaning I had to do...

 

:::GASP:::

 

These gloomy portents were nothing short of bad juju... bad juju I say!! And now I need to smudge the room.

 

Anyway,

 

Overall: this is a light romp across the Milky Way. With potentially Star Trek-y vibes for the future, Pax Novis has the foundation for a fun, new series. Will I continue on to book#2? It's a firm...Maybe... although right now I am leaning more towards no. Way to commit right? Well, I'm still not sure the motley crew pulled me in or piqued my interests enough to commit to more time with them BUT I can see where it might, potentially, be headed. If it goes the way I'm envisioning it, Pax Novis can be a great Space Opera... which happens to be one of my favorite genres. SO, here's to hoping for the best!

 

~Enjoy

 

*** I was given a copy of this book by Netgalley in exchange for an honest review ***

Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo

Ninth House - Leigh Bardugo

Sooooo...a review... coherent thoughts...let's give this a go...

 

As I sit here in the wee-ist of hours... skulking about in my quiescent home... staring shell-shocked into the night... I am not only spooked and shaken, but I might also be experiencing a touch of PTSD as well. Only time will tell. What I do know with 100% certainty is that I was beyond overjoyed to have frolicked about in Leigh Bardugo's new world and even more thrilled to have come out the other end of this read (mostly) intact. I love forays into her beautiful (apparently twisted) mind although I am still struggling with a heavy dose of WTF did I just witness?? So, I must warn you that this is AN ADULT BOOK, with trigger worthy material, geared towards MATURE READERS!!

 

You have been warned!!

 

Okay, that being said, here are my 2 cents on the matter...

 

This book was a fiercely grim, tachycardia inducing insight into the Nature of human beings, in particular Yale's (oft times not so) secret societies and what they are capable of. We peered into the psyche of an occultist venerating class of people with extreme entitlement issues. A group that believes the World (and all of its wonders) is due them and that there are no such things as moral boundaries holding them back from carrying out the most egregiously wanton actions. It was a beautiful, perfectly poisonous, work of art. Granted it was a beautiful construct with a rotten, festering, noxious, fetid core BUT a beauty nonetheless.


Leigh Bardugo is hands down one of my all time favorite authors which was one of the main reasons why I dropped everything in my life (besides taking care of my Little) to devour this book. Being a shameless Fangirl, I admit that I "might" be a pinch biased but regardless of my manic ferver, this was a strong, viciously delicious (in a gruesome kind of way) book that peeked into dark places... some of which were better left alone.


Ninth House boasted Leigh's exquisitely skillful writing, creepy yet robust world building and remarkably unforgettable characters. We were dropped into a lurid world populated by a minacious cast that was chock full of rapacious appetites. It was gritty Magical Realism at its seediest and an excellently written Whodunnit wrapped in other, tangential Whodunnits.


I must admit, it was touch and go there for a while. I debated the merits of standing my ground and finishing what I started versus abandoning this book mid stride due to an overabundance of creepy, grotesque and plain old scary material that I questioned if I could stomach. Let me state right here and now that I am ecstatic with my decision to see things through! I knew going into this book that the outré premise was dark, dark, dark though no amount of review surfing prepared me for just how depraved...disgusting (at times)... debauched... deplorable and dire this was. I know, I know...that's a lot of ominous adjectives but they are a necessary evil, Ninth House was all of those plus a slew of others... even ones that don't start with D.


Little known fact (or maybe not so shocking if you have read any of my previous reviews), I myself happen to be a squeamish wimpy flamingo with my head firmly stuck in the sand when it comes to reading Horror, Rape and/or Torture. I am exponentially repelled when these atrocities are perpetrated on children. SOOOO where did that leave me regarding Ninth House? Well yes, it was filled with blasphemous, mind F'ing magic, malevolent mischief, reproachful "Good Ole Boys" entitlement and terror inducing nonchalance towards torture, drugging, raping, and blackmailing. Yes, it featured betrayals at every turn, despicable adulting and MURDERRRRR...

:::dum, dum, dummmmm:::

On the other hand, there were redeeming qualities, especially in the MC, Alex. She possessed an extreme sense of self preservation and by the end she also exhibited real growth as a no nonsense, kick ass female/human being. The female bonding under extreme circumstances was awesome to behold. It ended up leading to true, tested under fire, friendships that I adored immensely. I especially loved the relationships Alex forged with her roommates, Oculus and even (though not a female bond) with Centurion.


Overall:

This was a memorable experience. Get ready, Ninth House will immediately suck you in and threatens to never let you (fully) go. There were a few times when I cringed, blanched and ran for some mood lighting (emphasis on lighting) but again, squeamish flamingo present and accounted for. With unresolved issues sprinkled about, there ended up being plenty of room for a sequel. I am already throwing my money at that nonexistent book #2 which I will unashamedly be sooping up as soon as it is released into the wild.

Anyway, I highly reccomend this twisted read and predict that it will be an instant hit and beloved addition to any avid, (explicit content loving) Adult literature enthusiast. This bibliophile is hooked and that says a lot considering that there's still sand in my hair.

 

~ Enjoy

The Vanished Birds by Simon Jimenez

Fair warning: this review is a bit Adjective laden. I apologize right here and now...some things had to be expressed ... verbosely.

Well well well... This lucky find was a true work of art! It was a magnificently wrapped present that I didn't know I absolutely had to have in my life until I tore into it. It was a lot of things (mostly all sorts of awesome) but it was also somewhat tricky to whittle down to bite size pieces without giving away too much of what I believe to be spoiler material. Soooo I won't regale you with my regurgitated version of the synopsis, better writers than I have succinctly captured its essence. What I will say is that I categorically loved this read!! It beautifully showcased the literary genius that is Simon Jimenez's mind.


Let's start off with the basics. The story was primarily character driven and oh how I lost myself in their depths. The world building, on the other hand, was ethereal, resplendent, and quite impressive but the stars of the show were most definitely the Characters. The Characters were (at times) resilient, hopeful, brave, (at other times) bereft, defiant, and (always) adventurous pioneers... in other words, they were perfectly flawed human beings like the rest of us. The writing was skillful and seasoned without being pretentious. The prose, delicate and not overpowering. The way the characters and their situations were presented were both tasteful and seductive. There were interwoven vignettes that were equal parts gorgeous, traumatizing and oh so poignant. I absolutely adored each character's contribution to the finely woven tapestry, BUT I was a little confused towards the end. I'll have to revisit the last few pages to make sure I got exactly what was being intimated ... AHEM, Ahro's birth (birth mother??)--> Quiet Ship pickup... who the hell called those psychopaths onto the scene?? Anyway, I digress. The rest was A.M.A.Z.I.N.G!! It jumped around spotlighting seemingly unrelated people and illuminated their seemingly singular lives. Then, slowly, masterfully, the entwining threads of commonality amongst the group started to form a fully cohesive picture. We were constantly seeing through the different character's deliciously tinted shades of Reality and I was SO enamored with that/them/EVERYTHING!


The story was chock full of modern day societal hot topics and dilemmas such as: the dissipation of environmental resources, the ramifications of corporate greed, mass extinctions, genetic tinkering, society's toxic influence on body image, the future of tech and more. It also masterfully portrayed the splendor of Resonance, not only the instrumental kind but that of Familial harmony and the crescendo of carnal cadences as well. There was a plethora of musical accoutrements like the physical act of playing instruments and songs being sung (and internalized) but metaphors and similes and an all around reverence for its presence in the Universe as well. Jimenez colored the Cosmos with a veritable palette of music, light and emotion. It was surreal.


Another thing that made me swoon was the slew of strong female representation, it had me falling deeper in love with every turn of the page. Fummiko was scary brilliant and bucked the traditional views of what makes a Woman desireable and worthy. Nia was strong, smart, at times (reluctantly) affectionate, a loyal friend, and a kick ass Captain that never gave up on who and what she desired/needed. I even adored Dana's gossamer presence BUT I strongly recommend that you do not get too attached to the cast members, Jimenez showed no qualms about harming, mutilating or killing off his beloved characters...snuffed some right out... gone in a blink. So yes, there were times that I raged against the book and times when I coddled and cradled it in my lap. I'm not too proud to admit that there were tears shed too... tears of outrage and tears of profound happiness and best of all were the tears of personal connection. I was put through the gamut of Feels and I begged for more. The end was happy and sad and satisfying all at once (except for that one little hiccup of confusion) and ultimately, it was well worth every emotion wrung out of my storm battered heart.


Overall:

This SciFi/Space Opera/Dystopian amalgamated gem will certainly appeal to lovers of those genres but I foretell this reaching the Snubbers as well. It's true, Science Fiction...Space Operas... and Dystopian novels aren't for everyone (especially smooshed into the same book) BUT If you're a little reticent and on the fence about picking up The Vanished Birds because you've been spurned in the past by any of those genres, I say go for it anyway because it is most definitely worth the time and emotional investment!

 

~ Enjoy

 

*** I was given a copy of this book by Netgalley in exchange for an honest review ***

 

The Social Butterfly by Beth Bracken

This little nugget of cuteness is a moral (about when being a chatty kid is okay and when you need to zip it) wrapped in a gorgeously illustrated foil. The crux of the story is easily discernible and my 8 year old liked it but didn't love it (except for the beautifully colorful pictures). Now to be fair, my 8 year old and I are probably outside the sought after demographic BUT we can see the appeal for those circling around Kindergartners age.

 

Overall:

 

This one is cute cute cute but definitely has a specific age target and sadly, my little one is no longer little enough to eat this one up. That being said, ultimately this read is a gem, especially for those Littles that don't mind a story smacking you in the face with a blatant moral.

 

Actual Rating: 3.5 Stars

 

*** I was given a copy of this book by Netgalley in exchange for an honest review ***

Tamamo The Fox Maiden by Kel McDonald and Kate Ashwin

This read was an amalgamated graphic novel and folklore from various Asian cultures mashup. For me it was a hit or miss scenario. Many of the stories were new to me and their ratings varied wildly. The History of the Spectre Ship was awesome and Frog Skin was Rumpelstiltskin-ish. My favorite by far was The Tongue Cut Sparrow which was poignant and a bit horrifying (even if it was just desserts). There were a couple I didn't get, like Two Foxes and The Flying Ogre. The stories were basically judged on: if lessons were learned, was the moral conveyed, and was the writing style and graphics written well and drawn nicely. Is that shallow? I don't think so...it simply is what it is.

 

Overall:

 

The stories, for the most part, were intriguing (especially the ones where lessons were learned), engaging and new (for me). The varying graphics were interesting and showcased quite a lot of talent. Unfortunately, this is a one time read sort of book (for me) but I can definitely see parents sitting down with young ones and going over some of these tales repeatedly. SO, what's the verdict? It's a mixed bag of nuts (for me) and that is why the rating reflects it. Is it worth the time? Yes! Would I recommend it to a friend? Maybe, it would depend entirely on the friend and their reading preferences BUT ultimately it's a fun way to spend some time!

 

*** I was given a copy of this book by Netgalley in exchange for an honest review ***

The Trouble with Shooting Stars by Meg Cannistra

Unpopular review here:

 

This one was a flop in my eyes. The premise sounded amazing and the book was touted as a fantastical middle grade coming of age story which it did hit upon but again, ultimately, fell flat. I almost put it down and left it on the shelf for good but I felt that I needed to put my heartfelt (yet unpopular) review out there so people who are debating on whether or not to pick up this read could see that it didn't vibe with everyone. There are a bunch of glowing reviews and I respect that but for me, this one was sluggish and a bore. World building was okay and character development was too but it lacked some...Jun use qua to tie everything together into an interesting, cohesive work of art.

 

Overall:

 

This is magically unique and has a great premise but ultimately doesn't deliver. It might be a case of "it's not you, it's me" but the tedium and lack of oomph ruined it for me. I didn't care one whit what was going to happen next and not caring for the plot or the characters, as a general rule, is a surefire recipe for a harsh rating. It seems that this is a Love it or Hate it read... and you know where I fell on that scale.

 

*** I was given a copy of this book by Netgalley in exchange for an honest review ***

Prince of Air and Darkness by M.A. Grant

Holy cannoli... Magic + Sexytime (explicit at times) = a steamy, unputdownable read. I must admit, I tried to read this book twice before and I wasn't impressed in the least. This, the third and final try, was my last ditch effort and thankfully my tenacity paid off. I really enjoyed it this time around. Maybe my headspace was all wrong in previous attempts or maybe I was another person mere months ago, whatever have you, today I am thrilled to give this book a glowing review. It went from a vitriol-lite review to fanatical praise.

 

The writing was succinct and straightforward yet not curt or lacking. The world building was excellent as was the case with the character development. There was a satisfyingly torturous slow burn m/m romance. The relationship grew into a really sweet codependency and ultimately a solidly, labeled entity. There was of course a Fae presence though it did not take up the entirety of the plot like many Fae stories do. It was primarily about these two Male MCs and their juxtapositions with one another and their world as a whole.

 

Overall:
This book is solid on all fronts. I am wholly invested in these Characters and this World and can not wait to read book #2!

 

~ Enjoy

 

Actual rating: 4.5 stars

 

***I received a copy of this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review ***