Whenever you read a good book, somewhere in the world a door opens to allow in more light.
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.
Ok, I'd like to start of with 1) an observation and 2) a confession.
1) The small passage quotes at the start of each chapter irked me... irked me something fierce. Deal-breaker? No, but it was evident right out of the gate.
2) You should know that I was unaware that this was the second book in a series before I requested it. This might not have been a problem seeing as how it was following different characters this time around BUT the whole backstory... the whole history of the Magic and the history of the World in general was explored more deeply in the first book... so I've heard. That being said I did still like the background building but it did not feel seamless nor complete... the Plot skipped around like a truffle pig with ADD rooting around erratically, searching for some fertile Plot but alas, there was none to be found here. Harsh? Yes, but this book took a loooong time for me to get around to reading (and to get into) and the premise was SO promising... I'm sorely disappointed though... in fact, I'd like to ask for a Time refund but hey... C’est la vie
Now, characters. Firstly, I DO NOT appreciate nascent romantic relationships that feel forced... it makes me cringe and look to skim... ugh! Secondly, I (usually) loathe insta-love, it has an extremely low success rate with me... UGH!! BUT with both of those strikes I must admit that the biggest problem I had with the characters were that I found it extremely difficult to muster feelings for ANY of the cast (and the POV list was large... larger than it needed to be)... that's a travesty in my eyes... a severe, literary faux pas. Without relateable/loveable/loathable/gripping/interesting (take your pick) characters to commiserate with and feel for, what kind of cohesion can the best of plots have?? I'll answer that obviously rhetorical question... it's NONE!
Soooo it's obvious, I'm one of THOSE readers. I like my stories to be heavily character driven or at least have nailed 2 out of the 3 of the Trifecta of Awesomeness categories.
The Trifecta of Awesomeness:
writing quality + character development + world building
This is the rubric I use to judge a book... it's consistent and fair so when I say that Whispers of Shadow and Flame did not slay any of those three (in fact it barely handled one of them well... the second was a fail and the third was just MEH... so basically it's a wash) categories then you know exactly why I am saying that this book is not for me.
Writing: decent- succinct but sloooow paced ✔️
Characters: woefully underdeveloped and flat ✖️
World: erratic but decent
This book took a loooooong time to finish. I would start and stop and start again... often... and I dreaded having to come back to it time and again BUT I made a commitment to read it and review it so here I am... here WE are... better late than never right?
Well, let's start...
Straight out of the gate, this book had issues! Basic as bologna issues... writing/editing 101 issues. Granted, I was reading off of an eARC mind you BUT the editing was sorely, woefully inadequate... the story rooted around for a plot and do you know what? There was none to be found. The plot jumped around like one of those electric, jumping, vibrating bouncy balls for toddlers... you know that ones right? It's those things that help toddler to learn motor skills by tracking the ball's erratic movements but I for one do not find that pleasurable in my reads so take that for what its worth.
On the plus side, its wasnt a total disaster. I'll give credit where it's due... the premise was interesting. Full stop.
Next issue was that it had unrelateable characters AND if I can't connect with a single character (a major literary faux pas in my eyes) the story is DOA. Since this book was not for me I decided to go off (my usual adjective ladden) script and I kept this review brief.
Erratic plot + characters that I don't care one whit for + poor editing = loss of my attention and a poor rating. Oh how I long for that time back but que sera sera.
My final 2 cents: This one just wasn't for me and I almost (gently) placed it in the DNF pile and quietly tiptoed away. Make of that what you will... bottom line: this wasn't my cuppa... period.
*** I received an advance review copy for free from NetGalley, and I am leaving this review voluntarily. ***
This (audio)book was cute... nothing ground breaking or mind altering but it was a briskly paced, cute take on (not so monstrous) Monsters. This book should've been downgraded to a Middle Grade read. There was no grit... no heat... no wrecking of my soul or even the slightest of tugs on my heartstrings. In fact I didn't really attach myself, my hopes, my devotion to ANY of the characters... this is usually the kiss of death in my world... the whole cast come off as a bit thin BUT I'm a true believer that IF it was originally classified and pitched to me as a MG read then I think my whole approach (and thus my rating) would have been different.
It most certainly could've been classified as an anxiously awaited book failing to live up to the mega-hype surrounding it. That, again, sounds like the kiss of death for a read for this frustrated bibliophile BUT the unique premise, some twisty twists and the audiobook's narrator went a long way.
Anyway... less about my expectations and more about what the book actually delivered...
There was a hint of a love triangle that was pretty tame and I'm thankful it wasn't developed enough to be nauseating... YET.
Then there were some tried and true tropes like watching our FMC come of age and into her powers, a variety of differing familial powers, Good vs Evil and the like. There were some typical moral dilemmas and philosophical quandary like what makes a Monster a Monster? Is a Monster predestined to do monstrous deeds? Are monstrous deeds only done by Monsters... when is a monstrous deed deemed acceptable? Is there a Monstrosity gradient? Etc... etc...
I was anxiously awaiting the drop of this book, so much so I preordered it on Audible (not a paid for endorsement) waaaay in advance. It unfortunately did not (completely) live up to its hype but few books seldomly do. I gave Only A Monster some leeway because of its unique premise, brisk pace and overall cuteness BUT be aware... if you are looking for MONSTEROUS MONSTROSITIES you will need to look elsewhere. If you're looking to attach your whole being onto a (villainous?) deeply robust character... you'll need to look elsewhere. There is a touch of Time Travel, something I usually eat up but here it was a decent/convenient plot device so if you're looking for a nicely developed Time Travel yarn... this is probably not it. I will most likely part ways with this series but I will fondly renember how I got lost in its depths for a few peaceful hours.
My last 2 cents: if your looking for a Middle(ish) Grade read about (tame) Monsters with a unique premise (always a plus) then look no further!
It was cute... end of story!
This SFF Romance-lite Space Opera was a really fun (audio)book to listen to. Both narrators gave stellar (tee hee) performances and the male orator sounded very much like Steve West (yummmm). It was so much fun that I wanted to do extra chores just to keep listening.
Now, when I say it's SFF I'd like to be clear... This isn't hardcore SciFi, if that's what you're looking for you'll be pretty disappointed. In fact, it isn't fully a Space Opera either... yes it takes place in space and on other planets but there isn't much talk about said Space or said planets, just like there isn't much scientific jargon about how things work and why. BUT don't let that deter you! This skimpy SciFi/ quasi-Space Opera, makes up for those deficiencies by giving us a variety of Fantasy to mull over with Truebonding and various types of (psyonic) Magic.
Another plus was that this (burgeoning?) Romance (is there even a romance to speak of??) was not insta-lovey (I really loathe the insta-love trope) even though there was a magical bond tethering each to the other straight from the start. So there wasn't a slow burn so much as an instant hate--> begrudging respect--> slightly enamored/protective state on both sides therefore calling it a romance is a bit premature... let's just leave it at they are done with the murderous thoughts about one another and have moved on to respecting and wanting to protect one another... a big leap from - stabby stabby/ I'll throw you out of an airlock and never look back- type thoughts.
This was a really enjoyable (audio)book!! The characters were dynamic, interesting and morally gray (as they damn well should be). The writing was solid and the world building kaleidoscopic. I loved that our FMC, Vesper, was a super smart, techno savvy tinkerer with understated beauty. She grows from a lab rat doormat to a bad ass revenge seeking, psyonic force wielding hero by the end of the book. Our MMC, Kyrion, was always physically (and magically) strong but, by the end, he has a few personal A-HA moments leading to a modicum of emotional growth. His tortured soul/ killer persona is valid... he was wronged wronged wronged by the Man calling all the shots and ruling over everyone. There were subtle hints about what's likely to come in future installments and those few breadcrumbs, along with my enjoyment of this first book, have me excited for book #2. I have enjoyed Jennifer Estep's writing, and her whole vibe (to be honest) with previous books and I am excited to see more of the Galactic Bonds series.
This little shtunk (as my mother would have called it) had me on the verge of throwing in the towel. I am always reluctant to give up on a read (doubly so for ARCs). The DNF pile feels like a shameful public record of my biblio-failures... a list of my botched attempts at connecting with someone's brain baby... their heart and soul. BUT after trying to read this book multiple times, and being unable to sit with it for more than 30 minutes at a clip, I almost gave up... almost... what did happen was that I waited until its audiobook was released and snatched it up, hoping for a different vibe. Thankfully I did because I found this (audio)book to be highly enjoyable.
Kingdom Of Liars takes place in a land where the use of one's innate talents, called Fabrications, could have the very unfortunate effect of losing one's memories, or even losing an entire physical ability, each time it is employed. Obviously, this alone could make things problematic. It could lead to some very disjointed, patchwork character narratives to say the least. Our MC, Michael Kingman, showed some unmistakable signs of memory inconsistencies of his own. He also exhibited some kind of burgeoning, unknown, Fabricator ability. We were unsure what was the cause of his mental gaps and we had no idea if/how many times he had already used his mysterious Fabrication talent. Were his memories lost due to his own actions, or was there a more nefarious (outsider's) plan in play?
Michael was a frustrating protagonist to follow around. Although he scraped by with what little he had left after his father's execution, mother's ill health and the fracture of his once unflappable Family unit... to top it all off... he also had to contend with his faulty memory. He floundered about while lacking pertinent information to make well informed decisions which was... annoying. For someone that should have been hobbled by what he didn't know, he sure found ways to blunder into, and out of, unbelievable circumstances. He was very lucky to have friends in high, and low, places and though he was frustrating to get behind, he was also quite likeable. He was most certainly an Unreliable Narrator... and this Nick Martell navigated skilfully.
I was impressed by the world building but confused by the broken moon's ultimate place within the storyline. Why was it necessary to introduce it and its fallen (possibly prophetic) pieces to us? Maybe I missed its relevance but if not, I hope the answers will be given in subsequent books. The magic system, on the other hand, was a bit underdeveloped BUT it was also unique and thankfully left room for a ton of possibility.
I enjoyed the story's time-line. It started near the end, then went back in time to better explain how we got to Michael's execution day and then back to the present. How did he get to that point? Who helped and how much? Are his memories sound and reliable? Who killed the young prince? Was Michael's father set up? Why did his father, and Michael as well, plead guilty to the murder of a royal while refusing to utter a word in their own defense? There were more mysteries and the ending... the ending made all of the fuss and patience and time put into it well worth it! What a twist! It answered a handful of questions but there are many more that need to come to light. I need to know! I am excited to see where this story takes us (and Dark the mercenary- one of my favorite characters) in book #2.
This debut (audio)book was enjoyable. It was the Unreliable Narrator done right. There were schemes, machinations, betrayl, court juxtapositioning and misdirection aplenty. I must admit... I found excuses to spend more time with Mr. Martell's surprising gem. In order to have more time with these robust characters, in this richly detailed world, I found reasons to do extra chores. EXTRA chores!??! That's right... and that's saying a lot because who likes cleaning the bathroom or sweeping/vacuuming/mopping? Apparently I do (when simultaneously listening to a good book).
In my humble opinion, the audiobook was much more palatable than the print version. If you're having trouble soldiering through then I suggest switching things up and enjoying it auditorily!
I'm definitely going to be on the lookout for book #2!
*** I was given a copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review ***
I'm currently a mess. I'm doggie paddling around in a puddle of my own tears! Why oh why did I subject myself to this inevitable heartache when it was pretty obvious, from the synopsis alone, that this story was (almost) certainly going to gut me?
Most of the time this read felt like I was plodding along at a steady yet adventurous, unputdownable pace. I ambled along, immersing myself in a tale about a Good Girl meeting a Bad Boy... Good Girl aims to save Bad Boy, especially from himself... she annoys Bad Boy to the point that it becomes flirtatious (on both sides)... Bad Boy reciprocates the attraction Good Girl has for him AND these mismatched lovers try desperately for Forever together. This is especially difficult because he's an incorrigible, mafia boss, sinner extraordinaire and she is a pious fletching Angel trying to earn enough feathers, to add to her incomplete wings, so that she can ascend. In order to collect feathers, she must save his dastardly dark soul... or at least convince him to do some random acts of kindness. I will admit that Feather was a bit tropey BUT tropey doesn't necessarily mean bad. Tropey could be like coming home to a well loved, well worn, broken in recliner... sitting in front of a crackling fire... picking up a much beloved, deeply creased book... all while holding a cup of hot jasmine tea in the other hand.... aaaaaahhhhhhh!
Also, if you're a bit squeamish with stories that dabble/bathe in Sexy-Time scenes... then this is not the book for you! Naughty bits aside, it also had many sweet, memorable, adoration filled, little tender, reverent moments that might just make you SQUEEE out loud.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book but that ending.... phew eeee! I need a moment to center myself... realign my devastated chakras. I'm not usually a fan of the Romance genre BUT I did have a good time with this slowly percolating tale of mismatched Amore.
Luckily book #2, Celestial, comes out in a little over a week. I suggest checking this book out if you're a fan of X rated, NA reads that are peppered about with Romantic prose and have Star Crossed Lovers vibes.
This book started off in a totally different direction than what I expected and that worried me. It turns out that I worried for no reason because once I settled into the story, I was hooked.
I am a huge fan of Circus novels... doubly so when they are paranormal or occult in nature. This book was both and more. Not only did it have a magical, demonic circus from Hell... it also had anxiety inducing life or death events, a perilous romp through the streets (and ages) of Paris, familial drama and maybe the most imaginative and tempting depiction of Hell (as seen through the windows of the circus and by the Ferris Wheel trip slowly descending down... down... down). We get all of this plus fierce, bad ass female characters and the men who love them.
Then there were disappearances, intrigue, a treasure hunt (of sorts), personal quests, devious machinations and MUUUUURDER... dum dum dum... Watching it all unfurl and then coalesce was both gratifying and exciting. How each factor (and tidbit) was teasingly doled out led to an addictive need to know more as well as setting a well honed pace.
Sounds awesome right?? There's more...
There's MAGIC. The Magic System was not (and need not be) explained to us in detail... it was pretty straightforward, standard fare. High ranking demon passes on special powers to his daughters... his magically mischievous progeny perform in & are irrevocably linked to this scintillating circus for time immemorial. There was a (super) tame love making scene as well as (numerous) intimated
risqué trysts. There was betrayal, a slight love triangle (if pining over a missing or possibly dead fiancé could be considered one leg of a triangle) and then a cool magical showdown at the end.
The premise sounds both unique and intriguing right?? Yes and Yes!! It was also raw, tangible, rife with possibility... oddities... and filled with varying types of Love. There was the love between Parent & Child, sibling love, love of the Arts, carnal love and (of course) the most important kind of love... love for oneself.
Onto the Trifecta of Awesomeness:
Writing + Character Development + World Building:
The Writing was not too flowery nor bland or curt... it was in that ever elusive Goldilocks zone. It was just right.
There were a few interesting M.Knight Shyamalan bits that blindsided me. Better sleuths than I will most likely be able to suss out some of the twisty turns early on but I think there might be at least one in there that will have them caught off guard and reeling.
The characters: primary, secondary and even tertiary, were compelling and expressive.
The entire magical lineage was a conga line of gifted, kick ass females starting with twins Cecile (the favorite, sweet and slightly naive) and Esme (super strong and a tad touched in the head). They were never supposed to have survived their birth but SURPRISE... out popped the super close, twin female Hellians. Every woman, through the generations, found that their destiny/Fates were entwined with tangled roots, securely fastening their futures to their demonic progenitor and his super mysterious and exclusive playground of misfits. The imprisioned and tormented souls that performed were just trying to serve out their macabre scentences and then BAM!! They became babysitters for their boss's audaciously unrepentant offspring.
The World Building's grunt work was seemingly precise and exhaustively researched. The depiction of Paris's two very different eras was both rich and lush. I swore I could see it all play out, in glorious 4K High Definition, in my mind. Since I have never had the pleasure of seeing Paris firsthand, I was incredibly impressed by Mrs. Sayer's ability to paint an eloquent and vivid mental image.
It was grand yet subtle as to avoid clubbing you over the head and force feeding you info dumppy fodder. WHICH is never fun to swallow nor appreciated (yet is usually tolerated) by this ever evolving bibliophile's taste buds.
I was wholeheartedly addicted to this story... it was unputdownable. I just needed to know more and more and more and... oops, it's dawn and I'm only 80 pages from the end... might as well stay up and finish the rest. As a result I ended up being bleary-eyed, hangry and (until the coffee kicked in) a bit of a snippy Grump BUT it was worth it because things felt complete... all was right in the world (sans pandemic) knowing where everyone ended up.
I could easily picture myself giving up (almost) anything just to be allowed to visit, play and/or perform within its wickedly delicious, seductive sanctum. It was so attractive a read that I am admittedly looking forward to reading book #2.
*** I was given a copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review ***
Ok, let's start this off by first going backwards. I was a HUGE fan and absolutely loved Blood Heir to itsy teeny tiny pieces. SO when I say that I feel truly lucky to have been gifted an ARC of its successor, I mean it! I wanted to go into Red Tigress fully cognizant of each and every minute detail from the first book and... I am not (completely) embarrassed to admit that... some tidbits may have slipped through the cracks in my memory. Since the wait between books was lengthy enough for my mushy brain (which, in the interim, was fed a bevy of arguably less awesome reads) to smudge some details... I decided to first revisit Blood Heir, this time I did so auditorily. Hearing that beloved book in another's voice (coupled with my undiagnosed amnesia) felt like I was experiencing the story nearly anew. I still enjoyed it but it was definitely a different experience.
Just like book #1, the characters were the main course in Red Tigress. Although the world building, action and twisty turns were yummy, the characters are what you come to the table for. The cast (secondary included), and the novel as a whole, were a slew of adjectives (that I normally would hit you with but won't) that all convey their beauty and scope coupled with a rich, diverse cast and see??? I'm doing it again.. I can't help myself... I'm a Descriptor junkie... Sorry (not sorry?). Anyway, I just wanted to say that those unnammed adjectives would say "Amazing" and "Robust" in 15 different ways.
One aspect that pulled me in and made sure I stayed fully present was the amount of kismet there was between all of the main characters. It was clever and seamlessly executed... they all just seemed to coalesce (for their own reasons), leading to bonds that seem(ed) ironclad. I also enjoyed getting to know new personas like Kais. There's always room in my heart for a well written, morally ambiguous, sharp edged (marshmallow centered) player on the scene.
With Red Tigress, the pace and action intensity ratcheted up the endorphin production... flinging my emotions about at the most climactic spots... especially during the last quarter of the book... what a ride!
AND then it ended... the ending was a bit cliffy, which is not always a bad thing. There was some resolution BUT, for the most part, most major things were not wrapped up neatly... not a deal breaker though. In fact, where once the characters, and each of their personal journeys, were harmoniously converging, some did so no more and it hurt. It was an unforseen, and (at least en mi casa) unappreciated ending. I'm not going to sugarcoat it... I wished, quite a bit, for another ending but it's a great hook to make sure you're here for book #3. That might sound harsh but I don't mean it to be because Red Tigress is just as good if not better than Blood Heir and really, what more could you want from a sophomore book? I loved Blood Heir and I really enjoyed Red Tigress. That might sound like a demotion in enjoyment levels but I am nearly certain that once I get over that ending... really ruminate, pick it apart and assimilate it... this book's rating will peak.
I truly enjoyed this book... ending and all... sort of... ok, I was triggered. I think it's going to take some time to reconcile what I believe should have happened vs the Reality of what did.
Even still, there are so many things to love about this book and more importantly this series. The writing is solid, the world building crisp and lush and the characters... the characters are evocative and are of varying moral hues, just how I like them.
I definitely reccomend this one and think you should give it a shot... ending be damned! At least it didn't go all George R. R. Martin on us... although it was touch and go there for a while!!
*** I was given a copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review ***
-- WOW!! CUE RUN-ON, ADJECTIVE LADEN FANGIRLING RANT--
It was amazing to be back in the head of the (not so old yet) venerable Mrs Holly Black and her delectable world of Folk Of The Air series! YES, I ate, nay consumed this book in one sitting and it was scrumptious!! I absolutely LOVE Cardan... I am not shy admitting this! He's such a naughty/impossible to abhor / Fae King that may seem like a guilty pleasure to fantasize about BUT is 1000% worth all of the fanatic, reveling at his (unfortunately fictional) altar... and then there's Jude... an undisputed, kick ass Queen to Cardan's King of Elfhame. She's the resident, magnificent, Female bad ass, rebellious adrenaline junkie with an unapologetic Saviour Complex... together they are formidable and I just adore them to teeny weeny smithereens. I ate up every last beautiful word Mrs Black has generously gifted us and I need more more more. My main complaint, you guessed it, was that it was way WAAAAAY too short!! I revere Holly's unique/ sacrosanct mind and can never get enough of her literate Brain Babies!!
The writing was poignant and enticing without being flowery or verbose. The characters were gorgeously poignant and brilliantly emotive (as usual)! The world building was ethereal, folktale(esque), charming, idyllic and picturesque. Adjectives adjectives everywhere and every last one true... and more.
This compilation of tales was fascinating and whimsical and done with as much imagery and artistry as what we have come to expect from a Holly Black novel. I am hoping with all my heart that there will be more installments to this World although I believe I am wishing in vain BUT I will vehemently wish until Mrs. Black pops that radiantly multihued bubble.
If you liked Holly Black's Folk Of The Air series, you'll DEFINITELY love this short read!
This MG read was a quick, entertaining, jaunt through Cali. It had a very relaxed vibe with laid back, modern dialogue. The premise was awesome with unique mythological creatures and an interesting explanation for their Magic. This Korean tale of Magic, Family (both given and chosen), Friends and Power merged nicely with the modern day backdrop.
The writing was good if not a tiny bit succinct. Although it did tend to be predictable at times, it still was fun exploring this fantastical world. Then there was the foooood! There was a whole lot of eating going on and this foodie appreciated all of the enticing shout outs to yummy cuisine.
The pace was steady but not frantic as the plot... needing to save the quickly diminishing life of a sister... called for (but never really delivered). I felt little to no suspense even though there should have been (strike# 1). There also was no struggle with conflict resolution. Things just simply worked. No pain for the gain = a slightly cranky reader here (strike# 2). BUT I let both transgressions slide (for the most part) because the rest was undeniably entertaining.
The world building was the star here AND even though I'm more of a character driven novel enthusiast, I still enjoyed this read. I might not be the exact demographic for this book though... it definitely has a younger (than myself) vibe... but I enjoyed it all the same.
If you're on the fence or just plain curious, you should definitely give this book a shot ESPECIALLY if you like a read with a strong female MC coming of age with close relationships, Magic and loads of mythical creatures and fantastical scenarios happening right smack dab in the middle of modern day California. It is a fun, clean, magical adventure suited for all ages.
*** I was given a copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review ***
A modern day take on the ole Immortals Living In A Mortal World Trying Not To Be Discovered... or impacted too greatly by said Mortal World... with a Biblical flavor.
This was an interesting look into a possible outcome for the occupants of The Garden Of Eden, both Flora & Fauna... in modern time. First off I have to say that I loved loved loved the book's characters... especially the Edenites. Adam's confusion, pain, empathy in certain situations and indifference in others were such raw... visceral emotions... I just wanted to reach into the story and hug him. Then there were the Birds. Each and every one of them was awesome in their own way. Rook was a Bad Ass Don't Piss Me Off Or I'll Own Your Who Family By Midnight. Owl was a Bad Ass I'll Tear You To Itsy Pieces And Nibble On Your Face For A While. Magpie was Shifty but in a totally Cool and even insightful way. Crow was Bad Ass, I Can Hunt You Down No Matter Where You Hide kind of way. There were also non-bird species like beautiful, colorful, sweet, tender Butterfly and her galliant protector Boar. The other characters were equally emotive and just as deliciously gray.
If you're looking for a simple, good, clean, wholesome read that is good for all ages then you should skip this one because it can be B.R.U.T.A.L!
Can there be a sequel? I say yes but it's a yes with a caveat. If there were to be a part 2 then it would be done with some key players notably absent... and when I say absent I mean absent in a Never To Return For A Cameo (or Lead Again)... ever! Even for immortals there are ways...
I really enjoyed this one and as long as you're not looking for some kind of whitewashed, scripture touting, Bible-centric read then I think you'll like it too.
*** I was given a copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review ***
This read was a quick, fun, lighthearted romp through the streets of Northern Italy. The descriptions of the backdrop alone made me yearn to visit... wade knee deep in canal water, walk its historic streets... gawk at its renowned architecture, be paddled around the canals in the world famous gondolas, eat my fill at a Saint's festival and drink coffee at a street Cafe with a flirty companion. The world building was great... probably the best part of the book... well, that and the pacing. Things never felt stagnant nor sluggish which kept the story rolling along... steamrolling over its rough spots like the Character Development.
The cast was decent, although each persona could have seriously benefited from some extra character boosting oomph... a good bout of TLC. The MCs were difficult to get behind, possibly due to an unfortunate lack of dimension.
Oh, and then there was the predictable insta-love. This is usually a HUGE No Go for me. Sometimes... rarely... an author can manage to make an insta-love work but that was not the case here. Here it was shameless, unapologetic and extremely off-putting.
This was a quick jaunt through Venice Italy... an undeniably gorgeous setting. I tore through this predictable (semi) guilty pleasure and that is the best I can say about it. The premise of magical mobsters with a multitude of powers but only 1 dominant gift was really promising. Unfortunately, Sinking City spent so much time on the freaking insta-love that it never really (truly) came into its own as a well rounded Fantasy. It was a good distraction for a little while but not an adventure I'll be looking to continue.
The velvety richness of this semi sweet semi tormented read was delicious and everything I wanted... needed... everything and so much more. The trauma, the resilience, the neurosis, the healing the strength, the weakness and resolution, the family both born into and found, the loss and the finding... and so many other more layered, nuanced emotions that fail to jump to mind right now... all nestled deep within this precious tale.
I listened to this book in 2 sittings. That might not sound impressive but I hid behind locked doors for almost 2 hours after finishing my chores in order to hear what happened next soooo.... here I am... at the end of the epilogue... tears in my eyes and I'm not quite sure if they are happy ones or sad. I don't want to leave this room... this oasis of infinite possibilities that Amelia, Nolan, Alex, and the rest of the cast I have come to see as Family and Friend, have created in my home, behind these locked doors, making it feel wonderous. The narrator of this audiobook was Lesa Wilson. She and this story were a perfect fit. This is the type of book that calls me back to the YA genre again and again even though I am quite a few years past Young Adult status.
I loved Amelia Unabridged and all of the complicated Feels it is making me feel! It was a fairytale-esque book with the feel of a personal journal plus the magic and charm of a quaint town bookstore plus a sweetly budding Amore coming together to form a poignant memoir... a love letter... a guided tour of how our drowning MC, Amelia, emerged from the tumultuous, unrelenting Sea of Grief and managed to find refuge on its shores with another who was coping with his own grief demons.
Amelia Unabridged was beautifully written and beautifully narrated!! It felt like peeking inside someone's diary... intimate, raw, visceral and unfiltered and I happened to LOVE this guilty little pleasure!
This world, on the other hand, was everything... at least it was to me... and I'm almost positive that if you give these beautifully broken characters a chance to whisper their beautifully spun yarn directly to your heart, you will treasure it as much as I do! All that beauty tied up in an exquisite little package that is definitely bigger on the inside.
I am thankful to that deviously Clever Wind for gently nudging me towards this gem AND I hope that, if this review doesn't sway you, you'll find that Clever Wind at your back leading you to this book as well.
Are you a fan of National Treasure? Enola Holmes? Indiana Jones? If you said yes to even one of those then you're in the right place. This book kept a brisk pace right from the start and was loaded... seams bursting... with action... not a sluggish spot to be found. There were treasure hunts and betrayls. There was rare book burnings and avenging of said sacrilegious book defilement. There was mystical magical juju and Apocalypse averting action starring our main trio (Sam, Joana and Bennnett) accompanied (sort of) by a group of end of the world avoidders called Solas Fior or the Sacred Brotherhood (of uselessness). Together, this motley crew, led by our MC Sam- who happens to be REALLY smart, observant, patient, a bit naive and an all around Enola- seeks to destroy the Evil magic wielding Cabal.
There were puzzles, ciphers, curses, chases by car, train and on a steamer ship all topped off with a nefarious magical cherry on top. There was even a wee-smidgen of a PG romance replete with stolen glances and some risqué hand holding. It was tame and not the main focal point of the story which, for those who are adverse to mixing good clean sleuthing with raging hormones, might be glad to hear it.
Then there was the similie fiasco... or at least one disturbing one that stuck with me waaaay longer than it should have. I'm not 100% sure how I feel about "stone walls slick from the damp interior and pulsing like newly formed skin". Firstly, ewww... Secondly, is this even a thing? Maybe I'm out of touch but I find it hard to believe that new skin pulses, it might be damp like slick, slimy stone walls but pulse?? Unfortunately, at each natural pause my OCD kicked in... I HAD to know. My brain obsessively wandered back to that sentence over and over again, pondering its validity and trying to visualize it... again, yuck! Luckily the action kicked up a few notches and the mind yuck of that sentence faded into the background.
Then I looked down and saw my progress, I was already at the 92% mark which, in my opinion, happened way too quickly.There was a lot of esplaining to do and very few pages to do it in. Trepidation crept in... I was fairly certain that there was about to be a cliffhanger in my immediate future BUT I read on... warily... because stopping now was unimaginable. Anyway, I am happy to report that, after reaching the end, I was pleasantly sated... all was right with the world and a peaceful night's sleep was had by all... especially me because I got my hands on this sparkling gem.
This Magically Realistic Historical Fiction period piece was beautifully crafted, fun to read and thoroughly unputdownable. The characters were substantial and wholey wholesome. The clever scenarios our MCs faced were nicely navigated especially by our resident plot accelerator, Samantha Knox. Is there any conundrum she can't suss out? She and her Friends -> Lovers beau were a duo to rival Indiana Jones, Sherlock Holmes or Nicholas Cage (hehehe) AND they (luckily) had a third partner in crime... Joana, a snarky, street smart, outside of the box quick thinker. She's Sam's best friend, Bennette's devil may care sister and a vital addition to the perfectly nerdy yet capable team. The world developement was also nicely done. It was visceral, emotive, compelling and convincing.
Was there wiggle room left for a sequel? Yes!! And that's a good thing because I can definitely see this being a binge worthy series!
*** I was given a copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review ***
I have seen mixed reviews for this book but the premise sounded too good to pass up PLUS it's a Garth Nix novel. It's set in 1983.... an era I think we, as a species, could have easily skipped right over with minimal regret BUT Garth Nix is an awesome writer and an extremely imaginative one to boot soooooo here we are.
I'm glad I didn't miss this read because I enjoyed every second (a little less so with that ending but overall a great experience)! Here we have some of England's Old World mythology mixed with Magically Realistic, modern Urban Fantasy and you know what?? That sounds like a big steaming pile of mish mosh BUT, on the whole, it meshed together nicely. The old school Magic blended seamlessly with the New... so much so that I could easily convince myself that all of the mystical, magical chaos within the book is real and happening in our own Reality. Maybe it is, maybe it isn't but either way it is GREAT fun imagining the possibilities. This Alt-London seems like a place I'd like to live in... well, as long as I can be a bookseller... or an Old One... they both kick ass!
The world building was exciting and evocative. Sadly, I'm not completely familiar with the places named BUT the descriptions were so emotive that I felt surreally connected to them. They intrigued me enough to want to pack my bags and go on an adventure... maybe not like Susan, Merlin and Vivien but a romp through the streets of London sounds idyllic. Look out England, I'm on my way... just kidding, we're in the middle of a global pandemic but it's a trip I will absolutely be putting in my Wish Jar that's full of places and things I want to do and see as soon as it's safe to be out and about, in a normal(ish) capacity, with other human beings.
Anyway... Enough about Covid and more about Magic!
The characters are next. They were distinct and full of personality. Merlin and his sister, Vivien, were my favorite MCs though there were characters here for all types. This was mainly a coming of age story for Susan... a slightly fickle, naive18 year old girl that was yanked right out of her comfortable, cozy life while searching for her biological dad. Who or what is he?? Therefore who or what is she?? You have to read to find out BUT just know that it was a decent plot discovery. The three MCs, Susan, Merlin and Vivien ran around trying to find clues as to the identity of Susan's father, why people were out to kill her and who the hell was behind all of the madness? Was there a traitor? Who could they trust in a world occupied with all sorts and manner of beasties that looked at them like the lunch bell rang and they're on the menu? Who will aid them against the malevolent creatures both dead and undead coupled with the rest of the nefarious things that go bump in the night? This wasn't a horror book but there were a plethora of beings like Goblins, Cauldron Born (zombies), giant inter-dimentional Wolves, Water Sprites, Scarecrow Watchers and more... all out looking for Susan. Why her? Why now? Good questions! With all of this death and betrayal who could they go to for help with finding out these answers? Who will help them rectify all of the wrongs committed as well as help them navigate their seemingly insurmountable Destiny?
The writing was solid. The short poems at the start of each chapter were unique. I especially loved one that spoke about the Night and Day only having fleeting moments together... it was beautiful!
AND then there was that ending. It felt completely out of step with the rest of the book. It was rushed, convenient and a bit of a letdown if I'm being perfectly honest. I get that it was probably left a bit ambiguous on purpose in order to allow for a possible sequel but the ending we were given, especially the epilogue, was the worst part of the whole book. It wasn't a complete hot mess but this definitely could have been a 5 Star book if the ending were tweaked a bit.
This book was addictive and creative and I found it difficult to put down. I adored everything about it... well almost everything... that's right Epilogue, I'm looking at you... but honestly I loved it! The duality between the Left-handed and Right-handed booksellers and all of the wonderful things they were able to do was entertaining. The Left-Handed Booksellers of London is good clean fun and for me to be enamored with it to the degree that I am is a testament to its efficacy.
Looking for a fun, unique read with a magical coming of age aspect + a very very slow (cheeky) burn? Then you want to be here. There are all sorts of creatures and beings... friends forged in life threatening chaos...and Betrayal(??). I look forward to book#2... if there will be one... man I hope there will be because I think Garth Nix has given us a tale with tons of possibility... it hurts to think it could be left hanging in limbo. Well, time will tell.
This is one of those reads that has you thinking you know what sort of ride you're in for and by the third chapter you realize that you've severely miscalculated... you have no idea where you're heading so you strap in and pray for the best... it wasn't... by any means... your standard Multi Dimensional Traipsing fare. There were most definitely triggers for domestic violence both implied and incurred as well as drug use, murder and brutal treatment of anyone and everyone... no one is 100% safe, not children or the elderly BUT it isn't graphic or gorey or horrific, just disturbing... I'm not condoning, just relaying.
That aside, this book was twisty and turny and all sorts of unique, messed up, hard-hitting exposition. It had an expertly crafted, slowly teased out, unfiltered, unapologetic character reveal. Each dribbled fact we were given felt like a dirty secret earned and even though some were freely given in the beginning and some were easily sussed out, they weren't any less delicious.... the rest felt hard won and masterfully doled out... little breadcrumbs leading us to the character's truist self. We learn as she does about her background, morals, self-checks, stopgaps and core values. We learn what she is/has been/will be willing to do to keep "safe", what she was willing to overlook in that pursuit, who/what she will allow herself to ultimately become and it is exciting AND, in the end, extremely rewarding.
The writing was solid... the world(s) development far exceeded that and THAT'S saying something. I stayed up into the wee-ist of hours craving... absolutely fiending to know what happened next and I regret nothing. I might not have known where the story was going but it turns out that I was in good hands the whole way... what a ride... what a great example of how streamlined and unencumbered Scifi can be and ohhhhhh what a satisfying ending can look like!
This book shows much love and for the LGBTQ community and showcased an extremely complex, well developed POC MC... I loved the inclusivity all around.
"It is only one world in infinite universes where this impossible happiness exists, but that is what makes it so valuable ."
That about sums up my feelings for this book. I highly, 100%, both hands in the air, reccomend this read!