The Book of Koli by M.R. Carey

 

Everything that lives hates us…
 
Beyond the walls of the small village of Mythen Rood lies an unrecognizable landscape. A place where overgrown forests are filled with choker trees and deadly seeds that will kill you where you stand. And if they don’t get you, one of the dangerous shunned men will.
Koli has lived in Mythen Rood his entire life. He believes the first rule of survival is that you don’t venture too far beyond the walls.
He’s wrong. (taken from Amazon)

Thank you to Angela Man and Orbit Books for providing me with this book in exchange for my honest opinion. This book is available now.

It’s taken me quite a while to write this review. I’ve been trying to sort out my thoughts, without much success. Hopefully, I won’t be too jumbled with my review.

Ultimately, The Book of Koli and I just weren’t friends. It’s not a lack of talent on the author’s part: in fact, I highly recommend his other book, The Girl With All the Gifts. Carey wrote a detailed dystopian novel, and has a very clear idea of where he wants to go with it.

I struggled a lot with the language used. There’s a reason for the less-than-exceptional grammar, but it bugged me. I kept mentally correcting the dialogue, which was quite distracting. Oddly enough, this sort of language is used in the brilliant show Firefly and I can handle that just fine. I wonder if listening to this book would have distracted me less.
The main character, Koli, was a bit annoying from time to time. My main issue was that, in following his point of view, the reader missed out on some awesome things that were only briefly touched on. The book moved slowly, picking up steam way past the halfway point. That isn’t necessarily a negative thing, just be aware that this isn’t a non-stop action book.
My main takeaway from this book is this: the author is skilled, but this story simply isn’t my bag.
Have you read this? What did you think?

Westside Saints by W.M Akers- ARC Review

Westside Saints - W.M. Akers - Hardcover

Return to a twisted version of Jazz Age New York in this follow up to the critically acclaimed fantasy Westside, as relentless sleuth Gilda Carr’s pursuit of tiny mysteries drags her into a case that will rewrite everything she knows about her past.

Six months ago, the ruined Westside of Manhattan erupted into civil war, and private detective Gilda Carr nearly died to save her city. In 1922, winter has hit hard, and the desolate Lower West is frozen solid. Like the other lost souls who wander these overgrown streets, Gilda is weary, cold, and desperate for hope. She finds a mystery instead.

Hired by a family of eccentric street preachers to recover a lost saint’s finger, Gilda is tempted by their promise of “electric resurrection,” when the Westside’s countless dead will return to life. To a detective this cynical, faith is a weakness, and she is fighting the urge to believe in miracles when her long dead mother, Mary Fall, walks through the parlor door.

Stricken with amnesia, Mary remembers nothing of her daughter or her death, but that doesn’t stop her from being as infuriatingly pushy as Gilda herself. As her mother threatens to drive her insane, Gilda keeps their relationship a secret so that they can work together to investigate what brought Mary back to life. The search will force Gilda to reckon with the nature of death, family, and the uncomfortable fact that her mother was not just a saint, but a human being. (taken from Amazon)

Thank you to Netgalley for providing me with this book in exchange for my honest opinion. This book is available now.

I read this book without having read the first one in the series. I was able to follow the story-line without any problems, but I’m sure I would have appreciated it more if I’d read the first book.

I put off writing this review for way too long because I wasn’t sure how to put all my thoughts into words. I’m still having that issue, but I think this review is just going to be a weird one. That works, because the book is best described as “weird.” I like a little weird, so that is in no way an insult.

This book was a bit of a downer for me, to be honest. I found myself picturing the entire thing in varying shades of gray (even the things that were specifically described by color). I went into the book expecting light and funny, which wasn’t quite what I got. Gilda, the detective, was an intriguing character. I think I missed some character development in the first book, because she didn’t seem to grow all that much in this one. Her cynicism definitely got on my nerves from time to time.

There was some quippy dialogue which I appreciated. I love a good quip. Or a bad quip. Pretty much any quip. It wasn’t quite enough to pull me out of the oppressive atmosphere of the book, but it did garner an appreciative nod from me.

There were some bits that felt a little choppy to me. It’s a very strong possibility that it was intentionally written that way, and I just didn’t get it. Sometimes an author and the reader just don’t jive. It’s abundantly clear that this author is very talented, I just couldn’t connect.

I think I can chalk this book up to “wrong book for right now, right book for another time.” I’ll probably reread this at some point in the future, when a little bit of a hopeless vibe isn’t going to mess with my happy.

Would I recommend this book? I honestly don’t know.

The Obsidian Tower by Melissa Caruso- ARC Review

The Obsidian Tower (Rooks and Ruin, #1) by Melissa Caruso

One woman will either save an entire continent or completely destroy it in a captivating epic fantasy bursting with intrigue and ambition, questioned loyalties, and broken magic.
“Guard the tower, ward the stone. Find your answers writ in bone. Keep your trust through wits or war–nothing must unseal the door.”
Deep within Gloamingard Castle lies a black tower. Sealed by magic, it guards a dangerous secret that has been contained for thousands of years.
As Warden, Ryxander knows the warning passed down through generations: nothing must unreal the Door. But one impetuous decision will leave her with blood on her hands–and unleash a threat that could doom the world to fall to darkness. (taken from Amazon)

                               Thank you to Netgalley for providing me with this book in exchange for my honest opinion. This book will be available on June second.

This book was a mixed bag for me. There were things I liked, and other things that just didn’t work. You can’t please everyone all the time, you know? I’ll talk about the good, the not-so-good, and the annoying.

First of all, I liked most of the characters. The main character, Ryxander, confused me with her odd choices (if there’s something actively dangerous going on, maybe save the half-hearted attempts at diplomacy for later?), but the supporting characters were great. I really enjoyed Foxglove and Ardith. They were both so unique in their own ways. Ardith, in particular, was a blast to read. They had a devil-may-care attitude that just might have covered something far deeper. It was an intriguing thought.
The magic system in the book was fascinating. I liked that Ryxander had an incredibly strong power, but it was considered “broken” because it was so dangerous and impossible to control. Seeing how that power affected her negatively, as well as anyone else unfortunate enough to be caught in its path, was really cool.
The idea of a dangerous secret lurking deep within a castle was an interesting one, and the actuality of the secret was really cool. It was not at all what I expected. Where things went from there, though…
I felt like I spent the majority of this book waiting for something to happen, with no payoff. There were so many times where I thought, “Ah! This is it! It was all setup and now I get to see why!,” only to find more exposition, and more reiteration of the same political situation. There’s a possibility that it will all pay off in the second book, but I don’t know if I want to take that chance.
I also could not get a handle on Ryxander. She seemed to be very smart, but only in one aspect. Most of her choices left me scratching my head (metaphorically, of course). I didn’t understand why she prioritized things that were less of an immediate problem, as opposed to serious dangers.

One last thing that rankled at me: the use of the word “chimera” for creatures that were truly anything but. Now, this is a problem with me, not with the book. A chimera as I’ve always read it is a two-headed monster (one is a goat head, the other a lion head) with a snake’s head as the tail. While the chimeras in this book were incredibly creative, I wish they’d been called by any other name. Again, this is just an issue with my weird fantasy hang-ups and in no way affects the quality of the writing.

Overall, this wasn’t a bad book, it just wasn’t for me.

The Ranger of Marzanna by Jon Skovron

The Ranger of Marzanna (The Goddess War (1)): Skovron, Jon ...

When their father is murdered by imperial soldiers, two siblings set out on opposite paths–one will destroy the Empire forever and the other will save it–in this thrilling new epic fantasy.
Sonya is training to be a Ranger of Marzanna, an ancient sect of warriors who have protected the land for generations. But the old ways are dying, and the rangers have all been forced into hiding or killed off by the invading Empire.
When her father is murdered by imperial soldiers, she decides to finally take action. Using her skills as a ranger she will travel across the bitter cold tundra and gain the allegiance of the only other force strong enough to take down the invaders.
But nothing about her quest will be easy. Because not everyone is on her side. Her brother, Sebastian, is the most powerful sorcerer the world has ever seen. And he’s fighting for the empire. (taken from Amazon)

Thank you to Angela Man and Orbit books for providing me with this book in exchange for my honest opinion. This book is available now.

Before getting into my thoughts on the book itself, I have to mention the gorgeous cover. Before even reading the blurb, I was interested in this book, based on the amazing artwork. The blurb made me want to read it all the more.

I liked this book, but I didn’t love it. The idea was a great one: two siblings who find themselves on opposite sides of a war, told from their points of view. The Slavic influences were intriguing, and I really enjoyed the wintry feel of the world in general. As far as fantasy settings go, I dug this one.

The main characters are Sonya and her brother Sebastian. Sonya is the last surviving member of the Rangers of Marzanna, an elite warrior group. She has special gifts that are given to the rangers, which made her a pretty hardcore fighter. She was rather underdeveloped as a character, though, and I struggled reading about her. There was so much potential to her, but it wasn’t fully realized. Yet. She may become more three dimensional in the following installment.

As for her brother, Sebastian…have you seen The Force Awakens? There’s a scene where Kylo Ren throws a temper tantrum and the stormtroopers that were heading his way just turn and walk away. Reading about Sebastian felt like watching Kylo Ren’s tantrum. He really needed someone to put him on timeout. The two of them together…oy vey.

However, the other characters were fantastic. They made up for the less than stellar main characters, and each brought their own brand of extra something to the book. My favorite was Jorge, an apothecary who ends up involved through a strange set of circumstances.

While I didn’t love the book, I liked it enough to be curious about the next book. Sometimes a series improves as it goes on and the author gets their groove. I’m hoping that will be the case for this book.

Craigslist Confessional: A Collection of Secrets from Anonymous Strangers by Helena Dea Bala- ARC Review

What would you confess if you knew it would never get back to your spouse, your colleagues, or your family? What story would you tell about your life if a stranger was willing to listen with no judgement, no stigma, and no consequences—just an unburdening and the relief of confession?

After graduating from law school, Helena Dea Bala was a lobbyist in Washington, DC, struggling to pay off her student loans. She felt lonely and unfulfilled but, after a chance conversation with a homeless man she often saw on her commute, she felt…better. Talking with a stranger, listening to his problems, and sharing her own made her feel connected and engaged in a way she hadn’t in a long time. Inspired, she posted an ad on Craigslist promising to listen, anonymously and for free, to whatever the speaker felt he or she couldn’t tell anyone else. The response was huge—thousands of emails flooded her inbox. People were desperate for the opportunity to speak without being judged, to tell a story without worrying it would get back to friends, family, or coworkers—and so Craigslist Confessional was born.

The forty confessions in Craigslist Confessional are vivid, intimate, and real. Each story is told in the confessor’s voice; they range from devastating secrets (like addiction, depression, and trauma), to musings on lost love and reflections on a lifetime of hard choices. Some confessions are shocking, like the husband who is hiding his crippling sex  addiction from his wife. Others are painful, like the man who is so depressed he rarely leaves his hoarder apartment. Some give us a glimpse into a brief chapter of someone’s life—like the girl who discovered that her boyfriend was cheating on her with a mutual friend, or the college student who became a high-end call girl. Others are inspiring, such as the woman who lost her son too young, but sees his memory live on through the people who received his donated organs.

Every confession presents a point of view not often seen, not often talked about. Craigslist Confessional challenges us to explore the depth of our empathy and it’s a call to listen to one another. (taken from Amazon)

 

Thank you to Netgalley for providing me with this book in exchange for my honest opinion. This book will be available on July seventh.

I was originally intrigued by this book because it was described as appealing to readers of Postsecrets. For those who don’t know, the concept behind Postsecrets is this: people write their secret, whatever it may be, on a postcard and mail it anonymously to an address. The postcards are collected and printed. The secrets range from sad to uplifting. Craigslist Confessional feels like a longhand version.

First of all, people like the author of this book are rare. To be able to just listen to someone tell a story, without offering advice or judgement, is a skill that not everyone has. It’s apparent throughout that author Helena Dea Bala really cares about the people she speaks with, and it makes the book even better.

This book is really, really good. It’s also really sad. Often, the stories not shared by people are left untold because they’re so hard to tell. The book contains tales of drug use, death, and regret. However, there are also stories of triumph and encouragement. Five minutes in, I was tearing up. I don’t often cry at books (although when I do, I completely fall apart), but this book got to me.

That being said, this book will not be for everyone. Parts of it are incredibly harsh. To be honest, I skipped a couple of the stories, once I realized where they were going. I did that to avoid things that might upset my mental well being. Even though I had to skip a few of the stories, I loved the rest of the book. It is a reminder that, even though we don’t all share the same experiences, we all share the same emotions. We can all relate.

If you can handle reading about the tougher subjects, I recommend this book.

The Garden of Lost Memories by Ruby Hummingbird


The Garden of Lost Memories: A heartbreaking page turner about ...

Just because you feel ordinary doesn’t mean you aren’t extraordinary to someone else.

Sixty-two-year-old Elsie knows what she likes. Custard creams at four o’clock, jigsaw puzzles with a thousand pieces, her ivy-covered, lavender-scented garden.

Ten-year-old Billy would rather spend his Saturdays kicking a ball, or watching TV, or anything really, other than being babysat by his grumpy neighbour Elsie and being force fed custard creams.

If it was up to them, they’d have nothing to do with each other. Unfortunately, you can’t choose who you live next door to.

But there is always more to people than meets the eye…

Elsie doesn’t know that Billy’s afraid to go to school now, or why his mother woke him up in the middle of the night with an urgent shake, bags already packed, ready to flee their home.

Billy doesn’t know that the rusting red tin he finds buried in Elsie’s treasured garden is a ticking time bomb waiting to explode her carefully organised life. And that when he digs it up, he is unearthing a secret that has lain dormant for twenty-eight years…(taken from Amazon)

Thank you to Netgalley for providing me with this book in exchange for my honest opinion. This book is available now.

This is such a sweet story! It’s one of those books where the characters jump off the page and wander around in your heart. Elsie and Billy both need each other. What starts as a begrudging babysitting blossoms into a beautiful friendship throughout the course of the book. I don’t like the term “all the feels,”   but in this case it’s appropriate: this book made me feel both happy and sad, melancholy and hopeful. I really can’t put my finger on why, but The Garden of Lost Memories reminded me a bit of A Man Called Ove. 

The writing is simple but pretty, which suits the story. The way the characters are developed is nothing short of brilliant. That Elsie’s character is explained perfectly just by sharing her daily routine is pretty amazing.

Billy is a sweetheart. He had a lot of difficulties that he was dealing with, and seeing him warm up to Elsie was heartwarming. I love that they bonded over gardening. It made me wish I could grow…well, anything (I actually managed to kill a cactus once: I’ve got special skills).

This book moves slowly, the way relationships grow. I recommend this to anyone who needs a literary hug.

We Ride the Storm by Devin Madson

We Ride the Storm (The Reborn Empire, #1)

In the midst of a burgeoning war, a warrior, an assassin, and a princess chase their own ambitions — no matter the cost — in Devin Madson’s visceral, emotionally charged debut fantasy novel.
War built the Kisian Empire. War will tear it down.
Seventeen years after rebels stormed the streets, factions divide Kisia. Only the firm hand of the god-emperor holds the empire together. But when a shocking betrayal destroys a tense alliance with neighboring Chiltae, all that has been won comes crashing down.
In Kisia, Princess Miko Ts’ai is a prisoner in her own castle. She dreams of claiming her empire, but the path to power could rip it, and her family, asunder.
In Chiltae, assassin Cassandra Marius is plagued by the voices of the dead. Desperate, she accepts a contract that promises to reward her with a cure if she helps an empire fall.
And on the border between nations, Captain Rah e’Torin and his warriors are exiles forced to fight in a foreign war or die.
As an empire dies, three warriors will rise. They will have to ride the storm or drown in its blood.
The Reborn EmpireWe Ride the Storm (taken from Amazon)

Thank you to Orbit Books and Angela Man for providing me with this book in exchange for my honest opinion. This book will be available for purchase on June 23rd.

The plot twists in this book has plot twists! Full of cut-throat characters, intrigues aplenty, and many a gory scene, We Ride the Storm is an excellent fantasy, one that deserves to be mentioned among the ‘greats’ of the genre.

The world-building was excellent. Each character was so different and the multiple perspectives allowed for a rich tapestry of setting development. While told from the points of view of the three main characters, each character is told in the first person. That would normally have the potential to be confusing. However, each character was so unique that it was easy to follow.

I loved how each character and every sub-plot managed to coalesce into one story. My favorite character was Rah. He was the leader of a nomadic tribe with a cause. His feelings of injustice and his refusal to just lay down and take the easy road endeared me to him. All of the characters are amazing, though.

This book will not be for everyone. It is a bit on the brutal side. But the story-telling is incredible and the story Devin Madson has woven is engrossing. I highly recommend this to fantasy lovers who don’t mind a little gore.

Ruthless Gods by Emily A. Duncan

Amazon.com: Ruthless Gods: A Novel (Something Dark and Holy ...
Nadya doesn’t trust her magic anymore. Serefin is fighting off a voice in his head that doesn’t belong to him. Malachiasz is at war with who–and what–he’s become.

As their group is continually torn apart, the girl, the prince, and the monster find their fates irrevocably intertwined. Their paths are being orchestrated by someone…or something. The voices that Serefin hears in the darkness, the ones that Nadya believes are her gods, the ones that Malachiasz is desperate to meet—those voices want a stake in the world, and they refuse to stay quiet any longer.

In her dramatic follow-up to Wicked Saints, the first book in her Something Dark and Holy trilogy, Emily A. Duncan paints a Gothic, icy world where shadows whisper, and no one is who they seem, with a shocking ending that will leave you breathless. (taken from Amazon)

Thank you to Netgalley for providing me with this book in exchange for my honest opinion. This book is available now.

Gothically gorgeous, this follow-up to Wicked Saints (review here) was everything I wanted it to be. I loved the darker vibe, and the progression of characters. It took a little bit longer to really “get going” than the first book did, but the character-building made it worth it. All of the main players have had their world shaken in some form or another, and seeing how they handled it (or didn’t) was fascinating.

I enjoyed reading about Nadya’s crisis of faith (for lack of a better term); it was heartbreaking and interesting, all at once. As in Wicked Saints, Malachiasz was my favorite (I’ve nicknamed him “Mal” because there is zero chance I’ll ever read that name correctly). He’s such a complicated character; I love it!

Emily A. Duncan’s strength lies in her ability to create an atmosphere both dangerous and foreboding. I had no idea what was going to happen next, which was fabulous. My only complaint about this book is that I would have loved to have a summary from Wicked Saints in the beginning, simply because so much happened.

If you like a darker feel to your fantasy, this series is for you.

Where Dreams Descend by Janella Angeles- ARC Review

Where Dreams Descend (Kingdom of Cards, #1) by Janella AngelesIn a city covered in ice and ruin, a group of magicians face off in a daring game of magical feats to find the next headliner of the Conquering Circus, only to find themselves under the threat of an unseen danger striking behind the scenes.

As each act becomes more and more risky and the number of missing magicians piles up, three are forced to reckon with their secrets before the darkness comes for them next.

The Star: Kallia, a powerful showgirl out to prove she’s the best no matter the cost

The Master: Jack, the enigmatic keeper of the club, and more than one lie told

The Magician: Demarco, the brooding judge with a dark past he can no longer hide

Where Dreams Descend is the startling and romantic first book in Janella Angeles’ debut Kingdom of Cards fantasy duology where magic is both celebrated and feared, and no heart is left unscathed. (taken from Amazon)

Thank you to Netgalley for providing me with this book in exchange for my honest opinion. This book will be available for purchase on June second.

I was interested in this book because a review said that fans of The Night Circus would love it. I must say, I have no idea why the review said that, since the two books are so incredibly different. However, I still found this book to be incredibly enjoyable.

Kallia is a very powerful magician. When the book opens, she works for the enigmatic Jack (also known as The Master) in a club known as Hell House. She lives on his estate, a pampered but lonely existence. Kallia dreams of leaving and travelling to the city of Glorian. When she sees a flyer advertising a competition for magicians she seizes her chance, despite Jack’s warnings against leaving.

Kallia is the only female in the competition, and it is clear from the beginning that she is not wanted. Strange doings start and what began as a competition turns into something far deadlier.

What makes this book stand out are the fantastic characters. On top of Kallia, there’s Canary, a fire eater; Aaros, a thief-turned-magician’s assistant; and Demarco, a judge from the competition who’s hiding something. And, of course, there’s Jack. I didn’t love Kallia because she’s so convinced that everyone is against her. She’s very prickly. However, it made her incredibly interesting. The other characters were all very well-developed. Jack is my favorite. He’s such a mystery. There’s obviously more to him than is revealed in this book, and I can’t wait to see where his story-line goes.

This book ends on a cliff hanger, so if that’s a pet peeve of yours, you might want to wait for the sequel to be released before reading it. I loved it, though. The stakes were raised and there are loose ends waiting to be tied up. If the sequel continues in the vein of this book, it’s going to be a doozy.

This book was a blast. I highly recommend it.

The Age of Witches by Louisa Morgan- ARC Review

Amazon.com: The Age of Witches: A Novel (9780316419512): Morgan ...

In Gilded Age New York, a centuries-long clash between two magical families ignites when a young witch must choose between love and loyalty, power and ambition, in this magical novel by Louisa Morgan.
In 1692, Bridget Bishop was hanged as a witch. Two hundred years later, her legacy lives on in the scions of two very different lines: one dedicated to using their powers to heal and help women in need; the other, determined to grasp power for themselves by whatever means necessary.
This clash will play out in the fate of Annis, a young woman in Gilded Age New York who finds herself a pawn in the family struggle for supremacy. She’ll need to claim her own power to save herself-and resist succumbing to the darkness that threatens to overcome them all. (taken from Amazon)

Thank you to Orbit Books and Angela Man for providing me with this book in exchange for my honest opinion. This book will be available on April seventh, 2020.

Reading this book, I found myself in a “it’s not you, it’s me” situation. It was well written, but I just really didn’t care for it. Possibly, it was because the book didn’t seem to match its blurb. When I read the description, I expected a lot more action than there is in the book. I guess I failed to take into account the time in which this book takes place.

Annis comes from a long line of witches, but she is unaware of it. Her stepmother, Frances, is also imbued with powers. She decides to use them selfishly, in an attempt to gain herself notoriety. Here’s the first thing in the book that I wasn’t a huge fan of: the whole “evil plot” consists of making Annis marry someone with station so that Frances can be a part of the upper class. That’s a reason that just isn’t all that interesting to me, personally.

I also didn’t really connect with the characters at all. Annis only cared about her horses and, when she thought about marrying rich, it was with an eye toward the horses she’d own and be able to breed. James, the other part of the duo, was a prude who didn’t think women capable of anything. It made it difficult for me to care about either of them. The slow-building possible-romance just didn’t work for me.

The world was well-realized, however, and the writing was top-notch. Louisa Morgan wrote with an eye to detail that made it incredibly easy to visualize the settings. She told the story using four different points of view, but the switch-off was smooth and easy to follow.

Despite the author’s obvious skill, this book just didn’t butter my biscuit.