My Review of Shadow of Night (All Souls Trilogy, #2) by Deborah Harkness

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Info from Goodreads

Picking up from A Discovery of Witches’ cliffhanger ending, Shadow of Night takes Diana and Matthew on a trip through time to Elizabethan London, where they are plunged into a world of spies, magic, and a coterie of Matthew’s old friends, the School of Night. As the search for Ashmole 782 deepens and Diana seeks out a witch to tutor her in magic, the net of Matthew’s past tightens around them, and they embark on a very different—and vastly more dangerous—journey.

Hardcover, 584 pages – Published July 10th 2012 by Viking Adult

4/5 stars

This book deserves a Wow as well. Forgive me as I stumble over reviewing this because I’m not so sure how to do so without spoiling some of the first book. It’s like seeing a preview to a movie sequel before you’ve seen the first one, now you definitely know that one lady lives because she’s in the second trailer. So then I say to you dear reader, if you haven’t read the first book, A Discovery of Witches, and you think you will, don’t read this yet. I recommend you just go right to reading it or you can read My Review of A Discovery of Witches. I have no doubt if you enjoy the first one at all you’ll have to read the second. By all means if you’ve read the first and are still unsure, then read on! Or please if you’ve read them both or the whole trilogy and want to discuss your thoughts and feelings read on and let’s chat. I’d love to hear how you thought it worked or what didn’t. However, PLEASE do not spoil book three for me!

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Okay, some basic spoilers to follow…

This book got saucy with the romance, which we knew it had to but not being a regular romance reader it made me blush. While the author went there with the intimacy I don’t think she overdid it. The scenes weren’t long and drawn out and many times they concluded or started with other bits of useful information. I really appreciate that about a writer, when they don’t box a scene up to serve one purpose. If you don’t like romance or reading about intimacy AT ALL, you’ll probably get more than a little annoyed. That being said, Diana and Matthew’s relationship is central to this story so, pick your battles. Oh and for those of you that might be triggered, there are a couple aggressively passionate love scenes between Matthew & Diana. They’re not abusive or unwanted, they’re just…intense to say the least. If you ask me, regardless how you feel about love scenes, the overall story is worth it. The scenes are at least PG-13 – R-rated, but don’t quote me on that.

Traveling back in time as we did was really interesting. I wondered how it would work out and if it would. Harkness did not disappoint with her research and ability to make it work in a natural way even though time travel is so unfortunately unnatural. Spoiler: she did not force the concept of hiding it from everyone. Lesser or less experienced (pardon me) authors might try and make you believe no one noticed Diana was out of place. You don’t just slip back into the 16th century unnoticed. Nope, not Harkness, she works with and through that. The other characters’ responses to such details are great.

Now, do I think this book had to be 584 pages? No. It would not have suffered from leaving some more pages on the cutting room floor. At least halfway through the book you might be feeling like you’re more than ready to move on from time traveling. There were at least a few places where they mentioned going back to the…future/present and I got excited for a change of pace. Alas it did not yet come. But that’s not to say the time spent in the past was full of the same monotonous routine. Not at all. A lot happens in 1590-1, interesting twists and turns full of creepy people. Nonetheless, there’s still a lot we could have skipped.

That’s probably my biggest critique besides Deborah Harkness’ love for lots of setting and time period details, not my favorite. If I liked this amount of detail than she deserves a high five. 😉

This book is full of emotion. There’s so much going on what with Matthew returning to a past he once knew, people he once knew and loved. We get to dive into his vulnerability and watch him fight to unfold, unfold and then come back together again. The relationship with his father Phillipe is very special, never mind that Phillipe himself is a well-written, nuanced character. I do hope they personify him well in the TV series because he’s so iconic. It would be an enormous shame should they miss the mark. We meet a lot of other great characters, including Matthew’s nephew Gallowglass. The characters alone are a great reason to read this book.

This book really gives us a chance to get to know Matthew better. Plus I really enjoyed getting a better look at the history of witches, vampires, and daemons. The traditions and ceremonies were fun, sometimes drawn out, but still interesting.

Lastly…

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I want to address something I saw people complaining about in the first book: Matthew’s dominant, aggressive personality and behaviors. It seemed his character got the feminists all riled up. Don’t forget that Diana is more than attracted to Matthew, she’s wildly in love with him, all of him. She’s more than capable of handling herself and is in no way an unwilling participant or victim here. I am not implying that whatever he does is made okay because she loves him. Nor am I saying that love somehow makes abuse okay. I’m also not saying that a woman who can handle herself can’t be abused. All I’m saying is keep it in the context of the story. Diana is not abused or taken advantage of by Matthew. But there are OTHER people who abuse and physically harm Diana, as we saw in the first book.

It’s not okay to hurt or (try to) control another person, whether you’re a man, woman or child. It’s also important to be able to distinguish an abusive person from a personality you just don’t care for. Masculinity is not toxic, but not unlike femininity, it can be.

Deborah Harkness didn’t create a chauvinistic prick in Matthew. No, she created a 1,500+ year old alpha male vampire with heavy emphasis on the fact that he is a predator, and I mean predator as in the animal kingdom, not a sexual predator. Matthew is very cognizant of his domineering behavior and worries about the parts of him that make him dangerous. In the first book you discover that he is avoiding being intimate with her. He’s worried about the possessive nature of a vampire once they take a mate. I get it if the aggression triggers you and any trauma you may have experienced, and for that I’m sorry if you have those experiences. I’m very sorry if you or anyone you care for has been affected by abuse and/or violence of any kind. It’s never acceptable for anyone to be taken or used in any way against their will. I do not condone violent masculinity and I’m not supporting it here. But there’s a difference between highly masculine men and abusive masculinity. However that is NOT what is happening in this story with Diana and Matthew. His over-protectiveness is not the abusive kind; he has EVERY right to be worried about and for her. His behavior cannot be taken out of context. And lest you forget, Diana more than handles herself when she thinks people MIGHT being pushing her around.

Diana and Matthew’s relationship is not an abusive one. While there are elements that might trigger you, kept in the context of the story, you will see that there is a real relationship of love and compassion. And let me tell you, Diana does more than what she wants. There are more than plenty of instances where Diana will annoy you because she doesn’t listen and just goes and does what she wants. Trust that Diana very much her own woman no matter.

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I welcome your thoughts and comments, but not your book three spoilers. 😉 If you read this based on my referral please give me a shout out on your blog and link back to me here. I will start reading Book 3, The Book of Life, immediately following so stay tuned for my review of that in the next couple weeks. Then I’ll give watching the AMC TV series a try, although I’ll tell you right now, I don’t like their pick for Matthew.

Thank you! If you want to read more of my reviews, CLICK HERE.

You can also see what I’m reading at 2019 TBR

Or what I plan to read soon Spring 2019 TBR

My Review of A Discovery of Witches (All Souls Trilogy, #1) by Deborah Harkness

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Info from Goodreads:

(My review from Oct 2018 follows)

Book one of the New York Times–bestselling All Souls trilogy—”a wonderfully imaginative grown-up fantasy with all the magic of Harry Potter and Twilight” (People)

Deborah Harkness’s sparkling debut, A Discovery of Witches, has brought her into the spotlight and galvanized fans around the world. In this tale of passion and obsession, Diana Bishop, a young scholar and a descendant of witches, discovers a long-lost and enchanted alchemical manuscript, Ashmole 782, deep in Oxford’s Bodleian Library. Its reappearance summons a fantastical underworld, which she navigates with her leading man, vampire geneticist Matthew Clairmont.

Harkness has created a universe to rival those of Anne Rice, Diana Gabaldon, and Elizabeth Kostova, and she adds a scholar’s depth to this riveting tale of magic and suspense. The story continues in book two, Shadow of Night, and concludes with The Book of Life, coming from Viking in July 2014.

Paperback, 579 pages – Published December 27th 2011 by Penguin Books (first published February 8th 2011)

My Review (Oct 2018)

4.5/5 stars

I’ll start off by saying Wow and then I’ll say my biggest issue with this book was it’s very long, which isn’t wholly bad but I don’t love lots of description of place and setting and there’s a lot of science and history (I don’t necessarily dislike but…) that doesn’t drive the story forward. For a lot of people the science and history is doing to be a distracting, dragging deal breaker. If you can push past it, do. That said I’m also often an impatient reader; I think I just want to hurry up and get to the active parts! 

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This really is an amazing story, whether you’re a romance fan or not (I’m not). There are typical tropes of course, which may also be deal breakers for you (I for one tend to roll my eyes at them to say the least, however…) The romance is just one element that happens to be central to the plot. There’s so much going on beyond their relationship it doesn’t overwhelm the story. It’s thrilling, mysterious, and very well written. Deborah Harkness does an excellent job throwing curve balls. She also excels at character development. Even thinking about the characters now (there are many) they all stand out and carry their roles in the story well. I love when an author fleshes out their characters and they really do become their own thing, person, being. She does all of that. I will add that if you can’t stand extra masculine characters who happen to be VERY OLD (think immortal vampire) thus they’ve got some traditional “I’m the man” behaviors then you might not be able to stand this. But if you can get over that and see passed that for what it is, Matthew’s overall character as an alpha vampire, you might come to respect it especially given his sensitivities.

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The plot is compelling, especially the main characters Diana and Matthew. Their attraction to each other and resultant behaviors is exciting to say the least. Through their relationship (emotional and physical) we learn a lot about vampires. It’s a really neat way to present that information. I find this presentation to be unique (disclaimer: I do not read a lot of vampire/witch etc stories). I like her consistent reference to them being predators and their behaviors as such, instead of them just being these magical scary beings. The underlying system of magic is great, there are clear definitions of beings and yet we’re reaching for this mystery that connects us all throughout the story. Of course we’re learning about witches all along as well.

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Sure there were times when the story was slow, but all in all it was worth it. There’s some more cliches near the end that are kind of corny and hard to swallow but I ran with it; I think the story is strong enough to survive them. And there may have been some minor discrepancies here and there (little bits that read like huh?) but when the STORY CHARACTERS are this good things like that roll off the duck’s back and you forget all about them. I didn’t know what to expect when I discovered this book but I was impressed early on, declaring I would no doubt be reading the whole trilogy (waiting to receive the other two now). For me this was a story that had I had to review (check-in) throughout the book I wouldn’t have given it 4.5 stars but when viewed as a whole I’m happy giving it 4.5 stars. If you like Fantasy, especially witches and vampires, I recommend this book. It’s not all mushy love – though there’s plenty of desire & I appreciate that it never goes overboard – rather it takes us through the complexities of life as witches, vampires and daemons (not as much of the latter, which is fine). We see their behaviors, their needs, their history, it’s fascinating. Humans aren’t the only ones with prejudices and the life of these others creatures is rife with them. So what happens if a vampire and a witch fall in love? Why doesn’t Diana use her magic and what does it mean if she does? Why is Matthew so powerful? Can he reconcile his primal behaviors and needs? We get these answers in this book, even if not all of them and there’s clearly more to learn in the next two, the answers here are fully satisfying. The power these characters exude is fantastic. Let me say it’s palpable. So check it out. Happy reading!

I’ll amend this with what might be a little bit of a spoiler and say

I read someone else describe this as a kind of mash up of Da Vinci Code & Twilight. I like the Da Vinci Code; I’m not a Twilight fan. In an effort to remain honest, I agree for the most part. So if you hate both of those proceed to this book with caution. 😀

Have you read this and/or the trilogy? What did you think? As I post this (after the fact) I’m reading book #3, The Book of Life so don’t spoil it for me! 😉 But I’d love to know what you all think. Will you read it now? Let’s chat, I love to chat!

If you’re interested in knowing what else I’ve read, am reading or plan to read let me provide you some links!

My Reviews

2019 TBR

Spring TBR

My Review of The Deepest Blue by Sarah Beth Durst

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Info from Goodreads:

(My review follows)

The natural magic of the classic The Island of the Blue Dolphins meets the danger and courage of The Hunger Games in this dazzling, intricate stand-alone fantasy novel set in award-winning author Sarah Beth Durst’s beloved world of Renthia.

Life is precious and precarious on the islands of Belene. Besieged by a capricious ocean full of malicious spirits, the people of the islands seek joy where they can. Mayara, one of the island’s fearless oyster divers, has found happiness in love. But on the day of her wedding to the artist Kelo, a spirit-driven storm hits the island with deadly force.

To save her loved ones, Mayara reveals a dangerous secret: she has the power to control the spirits. When the storm ends, she is taken into custody by the queen’s soldiers and imprisoned with other women like her.

They vary in age and social status, but to many they are heroes who will aide the country or witches that will sacrifice themselves trying. No matter who they are, the women are sent to a terrifying place—an island filled with bloodthirsty nature spirits, and left without food, water, shelter, or any tools except their own instincts and magic. Whoever survives the Island of Testing will be declared heirs to the queen. But no matter if she wins or loses, Mayara knows that the life she dreamed of is gone.

368 pages – Published March 19th 2019 by Harper Voyager

My Review of The Deepest Blue

3/5 stars

It was very difficult for me to rate this book. In part because I’m a fan of this author and her Queens of Renthia trilogy as well as her book Lost (unrelated to this world or series). I think reviewing a book is made even more troublesome when you’ve been anticipating its release and it doesn’t live up to your expectations. That’s what happened here.

While I enjoyed the story, and I already enjoy spending time in Renthia, there are a number of things that felt superficial and missed their mark. I liked the main character Mayara. She’s tenacious and brave, and full of love for the people she cares about. The book opens beautifully on Mayara and Kelo’s wedding day. Right off the bat we get a taste of why Mayara’s family sometimes calls her reckless. We know this protagonist is going to take us on an adventure. For the most part the opening to this story was spot on. There is some spoiling that goes on in the rest of this review, not in detail but enough detail to spoil the story some or a lot.

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But then there were things that started to get to me. For instance, mentioning repeatedly how Mayara gets ready for a deep dive, how she compares so much to getting ready for a deep dive and every time she takes deep breaths we have to remember that that’s what she does when she’s getting ready for a deep dive. *Sigh.*

A major pet peeve of mine when it comes to reading in general, and something I’m trying to remember as I write my own book, is opportunistic writing, as I like to call it. I don’t like when characters are just made to fit because you need them to. Or turns in the story just go that way because the author needs them to, not because they flow naturally. In the case of this story, Mayara’s new found friend Roe has apparently been studying in secret and yet she seems to be no better at controlling the spirits than Mayara? How and why? In this case, if you’re going to make your character be awesome, more awesome than they should be, then build that case for us please. Don’t just say yup there you go, that’s how it is, Mayara is just a natural. Break some scenes down for me. Don’t just tell me oh yeah she’s not so good but then, she’s still got this. What does she figure out that helps her that she didn’t know before? How does she break through what she doesn’t know? Don’t just keep reminding me she’s not practiced but then showing me she’s plenty capable. Show me something in Mayara’s character that makes her special with regard to the scene. Other than her ability to swim and dive. Expand on these things.

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Again, these are notes to myself as I write and to all of us writers in addition to critique of this story. Remember show-don’t-tell is a relevant, worthwhile piece of advice. Even if it’s just a little scene or a little tidbit or even something that isn’t obvious, put it in there to show us this character has an edge. Show me, don’t just tell me they do. And don’t keep telling me about the same quality, that’s not enough to carry me through believing and rooting for her. Yes she’s brave and fearful and that’s real, but go deeper please. Show me how it comes to be that she navigates through these murky waters (pun intended) instead of expecting me to roll with it because she’s the main character, and ya know, that’s how it goes.

The author constantly tells us that Mayara likens every challenge to a deep dive and here’s the ritual that precedes it (please no more). Give us more of her inner character and how she breaks things down to get through them, but please know that once you’ve told us a couple times you don’t have to spell the same thing out every time thereafter. (Have I done it enough with regard to this detail? That’s how it felt reading.) It was things like that by the way that made me wonder if Mrs. Durst wasn’t getting confused with her art of writing middle grade. I’m probably reading into that since I know she writes in different age groups, nevertheless, that’s how I felt, that she at times forgot she was writing for adults.

Back to what I was saying: she tells us about getting ready for deep dives. (OMG, this again, really eLPy?) Tell us more about what’s happening that makes her capable of handling the spirits when, in this part of the world, girls hide their affinity for fear of being found out and sent to the island for testing. They don’t get to explore their affinities on their own or often. And maybe expand on this especially for those of us who have read the other series. What did Mayara miss by not being able to study her affinity? What does everyone miss? Don’t spend so much time on the same elements of love and Kelo and her family. Now she’s face to face with this affinity that she’s had to hide, how does she face it? What does that feel like for her to confront this?

It’s fair to say that we know from the start that this girl is going to be our hero, she’s going to go to the island. But what happens once we get there and even the immediate lead up to their departure feels so forced! She just so happens to be the last girl and now they’re off? So everyone else got to train for some undisclosed amount of time and she’s just shit out of luck? I know I’ve already given some spoilers here but I don’t think they’re too consequential however I won’t go into much detail in terms of other incidences that bothered me once they got to the island. All said and done for me it felt like the author tried too hard by not being creative enough to make Mayara the heroine. How? Why? How? There’s a lot that was opportunistic. Put her in a desperate situation because that’s what these stories do. Right? NO, don’t do that! I mean do it but show us readers how and why, not just because that’s what you think the story needs. Build us a sand castle but show us the tools, the methods, the failed attempts, the learning curves, the successes. Show us that the “it-just-so-happened-that” moments are realistic in your story, they don’t just happen. They happened. Don’t remind me I’m reading a made-up story.

Things like: so and so got injured so ya know, it’s all up to Mayara. Really? I mean, really? How perfect that our heroine has to do it on her own instead of someone more qualified with the spirits. Really? The whole scene on the island was tied up like a bow and way too neat. And I’m sorry but I was really hoping for the diversity of spirits that we saw in the previous trilogy. It’s really an inconsequential thing but I got sort of bored with the spirits seeming to be of the same five or so forms.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m still a fan of Sarah Beth Durst and I will continue to read her work. I do hope she continues in this world, in fact, I hope she explores the entire world, that whole darn map she drew for us! But please don’t sew them all up so nicely. I love happy endings, I’m not saying leave us with some sour bitter ends, but don’t make the bow so damn perfect!

There were some nice twists in this story, some conclusions that were satisfying but the end result as a whole was very disappointing because it was SO similar to another book she wrote. How did Mayara with her supreme lack of experience and training with spirits wind up in THAT position? I was left shaking my head going “REALLY! HOW?!” At least in one of the Queens of Renthia books the character built up, and worked up to her position. It didn’t “just-so-happen”. There are what should be deep emotional conversations that fall flat and/or feel like they’re written for a younger group. Then these violent scenes that are like whoa, was that for shock and awe, oh yes this is for young adult/adults. All in all, perhaps this book was rushed. It missed its mark for me. I don’t dislike Mayara or the other characters but I’m not connected to her. Do I want to see her again? Meh…sure? But give her some more meat please, more emotion, more depth.

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While you may think I’m a jerk and mean and all that fun stuff at this point – that’s fine – I will say I very much enjoyed the sociopath we met in previous books, Lady Garnah. She is a well-developed character who is both loathsome and likable in the strangest way. I dare say I had to root for her a few times. This character has had time to marinate and she works. She exhibits the difference between rushing a character and/or forcing their story to your will and allowing them to be who they are in the story. She was a welcome surprise and an A+ for me.

At the end of the book Durst explains that she wanted to write a book about someone growing and strengthening from love, not just pain. In her personal experience she grew a lot from her love for her husband and her family. I respect and admire her making this attempt to approach this from a different angle. That said while she didn’t completely miss the mark she kind of did because for me she tried so hard to stay on the love page that it felt like she may have deliberately avoided character and story development that leaned too much towards pain and hardship. I hope if we see Mayara again we get a full pallet of the colors of her personality and a deeper look inside.

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And it is with a heavy heart I give this book 3/5 stars. I have to be review with integrity so there it is. Sarah Beth Durst keep going, I can’t wait to read more, but this one I think IMHO needed more time in the oven especially given the deep philosophy behind what you were attempting.

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Note to myself and all authors, not every main character should be a queen.

My Review of The Honours by Tim Clare

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Info from Goodreads:

(My review to follow.)

TRUE HONOUR IS ENDLESS. JOIN US.

1935. Norfolk.

War is looming in Great Britain and the sprawling country estate of Alderberen Hall is shadowed by suspicion and paranoia. Thirteen-year-old Delphine Venner is determined to uncover the secrets of the Hall’s elite society, which has taken in her gullible mother and unstable father.

As she explores the house and discovers the secret network of hidden passages that thread through the estate, Delphine uncovers a world more dark and threatening than she ever imagined. With the help of head gamekeeper Mr Garforth, Delphine must learn the bloody lessons of war and find the soldier within herself in time to battle the deadly forces amassing in the woods . . .

The Honours is a dark, glittering and dangerously unputdownable novel which invites you to enter a thrilling and fantastical world unlike any other.

Kindle Edition, 416 pages – Published April 2nd 2015 by Canongate Books

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My Review of The Honours:

4/5 stars

This book gets a very well-earned 4/5 stars.

From the very beginning I recognized this would be a well-written book with beautiful prose. Tim Clare, I’d say, masters “show, don’t tell”. It took a little bit longer than I would have liked to get into the action, the meat of the book, but once that happened I was all in. The second half of the book seems to fly by, making it hard to put down.

I found that I wasn’t always guessing what would happen next, which is an easy thing to do when reading especially with books that are less than original. This is because I couldn’t guess, I didn’t know. The Honours is wholly original. It’s a worthy read even if you find the beginning kind of slow, keep reading, trust me you’ll be glad you did.

The ending wasn’t as satisfying as I’d hoped it would be but it wasn’t a “bad” ending, just left me with more questions. Luckily, at the time I read this I know book 2, The Ice House, is coming out in a month. I will be pre-ordering my copy soon and adding it to my Spring TBR. Some might find this to be a strange story and/or not what they expected, but it is very interesting and entertaining, to say the least. Well-worth the time spent reading it.

Considering I listen to his podcast, which is how I found this book in the first place, I must say he lives up to his hype. I wondered as I’d hear him critique people’s first pages (which was half of why I took to his podcast) if his reading really lived up to his critiques. Did he critique himself as thoroughly and did he live by his own rules? Yes folks he does. You might already know I don’t love loads of description, which would normally make this book slow to read. While it did make this a slower read in the beginning especially, it really made reading it like watching a movie for me. He does such a great job engaging the senses. This is an admirable work of art.

“Delphine woke with a start, gripped by the conviction she had missed her stop. The carriage was empty. She swung her feet tot he floor and turned to the window. Her groggy face gaped back at her. Beyond the glass, the night was rock-black. Her damp hair stuck to her cheek in strands. She shivered.

“Pulling on her duffel coat, she got to her feet and walked around the carriage. It was deathly quiet, aside from a steady ca-chuck ca-chuck. Her chest tightened. The train was heading back to the rail yard. She imagined spending the night on the cold carriage floor, Mother doubled over in tears on a deserted platform, policeman searching the tracks by electric torchlight, digging in snowbanks, the whisper of pencil lead on notebooks, her fellow passengers brought in for questioning, the finger of blame swinging sure as a compass needle towards the large man with the cigar – well, he was still with her when I left – the conductor recounting with relish the man’s sudden unprovoked aggression, his wild gesticulations and fiery eyes – like a fiend he was, sir, like a man possessed – the newspapers tattooed with lurid headlines: CIGAR-SMOKING CHILD-SNATCHER STILL AT LARGE, and Daddy, ashen, wracked with torment (at this she felt a pang of guilt), before a knock at the front door, and in she would glide to bellows of relief, to tears and a hug as tight and strong as plate armour.”

Now tell me that isn’t how your imagination works, especially when you were 12 years old? This isn’t even an eventful seen but I thought it gives you a very small taste of his writing, plus I really didn’t want to spoil anything or tell you too much about the book. It’s way more fun to discover it as you with no solid expectations or understanding of what’s to happen. And I think the name Delphine is lovely. 😉

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Have you read this? Are you going to now? Be sure to let me know when you do if you read this because of my recommendation, and if you don’t my giving my review a pingback or shout-out I would be so grateful. Don’t forget The Ice House is coming out in May, so read this in time to pick it up!

If you want to read more of my reviews CLICK HERE.

And check out my 2019 TBR as well as my Spring TBR to know what I’m reading, or at least planning too.

Thanks so much for stopping by!

My Review of Borderline (The Arcadia Project #1) by Mishell Baker

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Info from Goodreads:

(My Review of Borderline follows (from May 2018))

A year ago Millie lost her legs and her filmmaking career in a failed suicide attempt. Just when she’s sure the credits have rolled on her life story, she gets a second chance with the Arcadia Project: a secret organization that polices the traffic to and from a parallel reality filled with creatures straight out of myth and fairy tales.

For her first assignment, Millie is tasked with tracking down a missing movie star, who also happens to be a nobleman of the Seelie Court. To find him, she’ll have to smooth talk Hollywood power players and uncover the surreal and sometimes terrifying truth behind the glamour of Tinseltown. But stronger forces than just her inner demons are sabotaging her progress, and if she fails to unravel the conspiracy behind the noble’s disappearance, not only will she be out on the streets, but the shattering of a centuries-old peace could spark an all-out war between worlds.

No pressure.

Paperback, 390 pagesPublished March 1st 2016 by Saga Press

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My Review of Borderline (from May 2018)

4/5 stars

Disclaimer: I don’t read a lot of fantasy per se so I don’t have a whole lot to compare to. With that said I really enjoyed this book. It was a quick easy read – read it in a weekend – and I’m not a fast reader. A more character-based story if you ask me, it was relatively fast paced with short chapters (of which I’m a big fan), but not action packed.

Disclaimer 2: I am personally biased towards her use of mental illness in the story. Mishell Baker knows what she’s doing and doesn’t fuss around putting make-up on a pig. This isn’t a dark story, it’s light-hearted in a lot ways which complicates writing about mental illness as you don’t want it to be romanticized. I think she balanced this well. Might it seem too light a treatment to some people? Sure. But this is a light fantasy so what do you expect. But I respect that she chose a main protagonist who’s handicapped both mentally and physically. There are a lot of struggles she faces that ground us in a sense of reality even as we’re dealing with bad fairies and good fairies. This story was dynamic and unique. All the characters main and otherwise had personality and stood out on their own.

Sure as a story I think this is more an introduction to this system of magic, the Arcadia Project and our main protagonist so it may fall flat for those of you looking for a lot of excitement and action; it’s more mystery than action. If you want to read an interesting story about magic and mental illness than dive in.

As far as the ending goes I was satisfied but a little mixed. It kind of felt too swift. On the one hand I don’t want the conclusion to unravel super slowly but it was kind of a wham-bam action scene. Well it did unravel in terms of the information and then there’s the final scene, like I said the conclusion. And yet what more did I want? In terms of a conclusion to the “mystery” it worked, it made sense, but it wasn’t super exciting. I think there were other parts of the book that I was more interested in. However the ending didn’t discourage me from wanting to hurry up and read the next one. More than anything the book left me saying okay next, can I have the next book now please? 

So I’m giving this book 4 stars, I’d reach for 4.3 if I could. It was kind of light, nothing totally mind blowing, but I found the portrayals of mental illness to be intense. The author deserves a lot of credit and respect for doing that well. Like I said I’m going to read the next book and I will also be looking into more of Mishell Baker’s writing.

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I’ve since read all three books in this series (I don’t know if there’s more to come in the future). You can read my reviews HERE.

Want to see what else I’ve read so far in 2019? Go to my REVIEWS.

You can see what I’m currently reading and what I hope to read this year at my 2019 TBR.

My DNF and Review of Gutshot by Amelia Gray

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I really tried with this book; I swore I was going to finish it even though I’d taken almost zero interest in the first 80 pages I read. Last night I skipped around to a few more stories because I felt guilty about the very idea that I was going to DNF it. You can’t just quit a book!

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But where’s my integrity? I’ve been talking about DNFing and reading other blog posts about DNFing books. At the end of the day I think we all agree there’s not enough time to spend it reading a book you don’t like when we all also agree that there’s too many books to read every single one you could ever want! So there I was reading a book that was like plugging my nose to avoid tasting what I’m eating. I just wanted to hurry up and get through it and call it read.

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If I had one hundred or so pages left to go in that book but I was barely interested 80 pages in, why? That’s one hundred pages I could be into the next book such as The Honours or The Voyage of the Basilisk. At least the latter I know I’m going to like a little bit because I’ve liked the first two in The Memoirs of Lady Trent series. And The Honours, well I know there’s a story there, it sounds interesting, and I like the author’s podcast. Do I really want to keep reading a collection of stories that has me saying

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This might as well be my review but no, I’m going to follow the format I’ve used on other books and give you my Goodreads review.

Info from Goodreads:

(My DNF & review of Gutshot follows)

A searing new collection from the inimitable Amelia Gray

A woman creeps through the ductwork of a quiet home. A medical procedure reveals an object of worship. A carnivorous reptile divides and cauterizes a town. Amelia Gray’s curio cabinet expands in Gutshot, where isolation and coupling are pushed to their dark and outrageous edges. These singular stories live and breathe on their own, pulsating with energy and humanness and a glorious sense of humor. Hers are stories that you will read and reread—raw gems that burrow into your brain, reminders of just how strange and beautiful our world is. These collected stories come to us like a vivisected body, the whole that is all the more elegant and breathtaking for exploring its most grotesque and intimate lightless viscera.

Paperback, 209 pagesPublished April 14th 2015 by Fsg Originals (first published March 3rd 2015)

My DNF & Review of Gutshot by Amelia Gray

1/5 stars (sorry, not sorry)

I don’t know if it’s fair to leave a rating for a book I didn’t finish but then again this is a testament to how I feel about this book and what I’d rate it, so I did.

The reason I DNFed this book is because it wasn’t interesting to me. I gave it a chance, for real, I read almost half the book. Let me tell you it is very difficult for me to just quit a book. Given how small it is I was determined to read it in its entirety but then I came across a story that was extra graphic and violent. It turned me off completely. I’m not skittish about violence but this felt like it was just violent to be violent. I’m sure there was a deeper meaning but it wasn’t worth spending anymore time on it, even though I read the story to the end to see if it was worth it after all. Nope. The stories I did read in addition to that one weren’t anymore interesting. So many of them were pointless. At the end of the story I’d sit there thinking, did I miss something or was that not a story at all? I got tired of wondering about the rest of the story between the lines, I couldn’t get into the story on the lines.

I get stories having a deeper meaning and subtle nuances but they have to be interesting to start. Sure there were pieces here and there that made me decide to keep reading. I thought this was going to be my cup of tea but turns out it’s not. And I’ve decided not to be afraid to DNF books that I’m just not connecting to at all. Why when there are so many I will enjoy at least half the time? 

I like weird stories but I want there to be a story, some meat on the bone and these stories were just bone IMHO, like broken bones. Reading the blurb again I feel a little cheated because that makes the book sound really interesting. It turned out to be like a movie trailer in which all the good parts are in the trailer.

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Have you read this book? Do you plan to? Let me know what you thought, feel free to share your thoughts even if you disagree. I love discussion!

CLICK HERE to check out my other reviews.

And visit my 2019 TBR to see what’s piquing my interest. You’ll find what I’ve read so far this year, what I’m currently reading, and what I plan to read. How do our TBRs compare?

My Review of Phantom Pains by Mishell Baker

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Info from Goodreads:

(My review of Phantom Pains follows.)

Four months ago, Millie left the Arcadia Project after losing her partner Teo to the lethal magic of an Unseelie fey countess. Now, on what’s meant to be a last visit to the scene of the crime, Millie and her former boss, Caryl, encounter what seems to be Teo’s tormented ghost. One problem: according to Caryl, ghosts don’t exist.

Millie has a new life, a stressful new job, and no time to get pulled back into the Project’s chaos, but she agrees to tell agents from the Project’s National Headquarters her side of the ghost story. During her visit, an agent is gruesomely murdered in a way only Caryl could have accomplished. Millie knows Caryl is innocent, but the only chance she has to save her from the Project’s severe, off-the-books justice is to uncover the mystery behind incorporeal fey known as wraiths. Why has the centuries-old Project never heard of them? And how do you fight an enemy that is only seen when it wants to be seen? Millie must answer these questions not just to save Caryl, but to foil an insidious, arcane terrorist plot that would leave two worlds in ruins.

Paperback, 406 pagesPublished March 21st 2017 by Saga Press

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My Review of Phantom Pains:

5/5 stars

Four months after the last book took place we’re back with Millie Roper, the unlikely and oh so imperfect hero from last time. While no longer working for the Arcadia Project they need her, and she needs them, to help tie up some loose ends. But loose ends they are not! Arcadia and the Arcadia Project have found themselves in turmoil and faced with a new mystery. Millie has to help her friend who’s facing exile, help her boss to keep her job, and help herself get through every day challenges. In this book we meet a whole host of new characters that stand out in a number of ways, the head of the Arcadia Project, Arcadia royalty, monsters, and more Echos!

This book was great, I have no trouble giving it five stars. I really appreciate that Mishell Baker uses short chapters, it makes for an easier read, IMHO. This story is fast-paced and full of new information about this strange world of fantasy. I’m impressed by Mrs. Baker’s imagination and her expression of it. There are some great twists and turns in this book. A very entertaining read no doubt. Pay attention because there’s a lot of details at times but interesting nonetheless.

I also appreciate Baker’s diverse cast of characters. You know she’s word painting this world with a realistic brush. It’s not often that you find a main character who suffers from mental illness, is a double-amputee, and is a woman. Baker teaches and shows us another world in a number of ways and makes it easier to get lost in the story. 

I recommend this book to anyone who’s a fan of adult fantasy and diverse characters. This is not your usual cast of characters or fantasy novel so it’s a must read. If you haven’t read the first in this series, Borderline, do start there. This could be read as a stand alone, perhaps, but best playing its part in the series. I will be reading Book #3 very soon, which was published in 2018. 🙂 😀

Thanks for reading my review of Phantom Pains. As I write this I’ve already read and review the third book in this series, Impostor Syndrome. I’ll also be putting up my review of the first book Borderline, from May 2018.

And I have more Reviews!

Have you read any of this series or perhaps you plan to? Tell me what you think. Or maybe you’re a fan of fantasy or all things Fae. Whatever the case I’m game to talk. 😀

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For more of my reviews of the Arcadia Project, CLICK HERE. You might also find interesting bits of Arcadia Project news there in the future.

And don’t forget to check out my 2019 TBR, promise you’ll find something interesting to read there! Soon I’m going to put up a sort of reading schedule, let’s call it a monthly TBR so you know what to expect. Stay tuned for March plans (maybe when YOU read this they’ll be a link there for you to follow).

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My Review of Impostor Syndrome (The Arcadia Project #3) by Mishell Baker

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Info From Goodreads:

(My review of Impostor Syndrome follows)

In the third book of the Nebula Award–nominated Arcadia Project series, which New York Times bestselling author Seanan McGuire called “exciting, inventive, and brilliantly plotted,” Millie Roper has to pull off two impossible heists—with the fate of the worlds in the balance.

Three months ago, a rift between agents in London and Los Angeles tore the Arcadia Project apart. With both fey Courts split down the middle—half supporting London, half LA—London is putting the pieces in place to quash the resistance. But due to an alarming backslide in her mental health, new LA agent Mille Roper is in no condition to fight.

When London’s opening shot is to frame Millie’s partner, Tjuan, for attempted homicide, Millie has no choice but to hide him and try to clear his name. Her investigation will take her across the pond to the heart of Arcadia at the mysterious and impenetrable White Rose palace. The key to Tjuan’s freedom—and to the success of the revolution—is locked in a vault under the fey Queen’s watchful eye. It’s up to Millie to plan and lead a heist that will shape the future of two worlds—all while pretending that she knows exactly what she’s doing…

Paperback, 480 pagesPublished March 13th 2018 by Saga Press

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My Review of Impostor Syndrome:

4.5/5 stars

This was tricky for me to rate. I really enjoyed this whole series and wonder if there will be a fourth installment. While this was a great installment it didn’t wow me the same way the second did. So I gave it five stars since you can’t leave half stars but 4.5 is what I really give it.

Mishell Baker is a great writer. Her imagination and creative direction impress me, I look forward to discovering more of her work. Hopefully we’ll see more of this cast of characters. That said, I thought this book could have been a lot shorter. As with the previous two this was a busy, active book, which makes for an entertaining read. However a lot of time was spent on relationships, too much time IMHO.

Other than that this was another fun read I could read it relatively fast, for me that’s saying a lot. It was full of the usual cast of characters in addition to some cool new ones. I enjoyed getting to know them all more. Great twists and turns and the system and workings of the magic in this world do not get old. I really appreciate the beings she’s created in this world and how they vary. Her characters are real and dynamic, human and otherwise. I appreciate that her main character, Millie, is a double amputee finding her way through Borderline Personality Disorder. She’s not a character you see every day but this story is proof that we need more real life characters. She is an unlikely hero but a good one nonetheless.

Of course I recommend this book, I recommend this series! Definitely start from the beginning. 😉 

Thanks for reading my review of Impostor Syndrome. I’ve got more reviews, click here!

For more of my reviews of the Arcadia Project, CLICK HERE. You might also find interesting bits of Arcadia Project news there in the future.

Check out what else I’m reading or planning to, 2019 TBR.

Have you read this or other Mishell Baker books? Please share your thoughts, I love comments!

Review of The Tropic of Serpents (The Memoirs of Lady Trent #2) by Marie Brennan

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From Goodreads:

Three years after her fateful journeys through the forbidding mountains of Vystrana, in which she lost her husband, the widowed Mrs. Camherst defies family and convention to embark on an expedition to the savage, war-torn continent of Eriga, home of such exotic draconian species as the grass-dwelling snakes of the savannah, arboreal tree snakes, and, most elusive of all, the legendary swamp-wyrms of the tropics.

The expedition is not an easy one. Accompanied by both an old associate and a runaway heiress, Isabella must brave oppressive heat, merciless fevers, palace intrigues, gossip, and other hazards in order to satisfy her boundless fascination with all things draconian, even if it means venturing deep into the forbidden jungle known as the Green Hell – where her courage, resourcefulness, and scientific curiosity will be tested as never before.

Published February 17th 2015 by Tor Books (first published March 4th 2014)

My Review

4/5 stars

It’s been a while since I read the first in this series so I couldn’t remember just what I was in for or wasn’t. At times I wished the story itself would pick up and I really wanted to read more about dragons than anything else. All in all though this book ended really well, so if you’re feeling a little dissatisfied, hold on I think you’ll appreciate finishing it.

This book is not a bad book, it’s written well, simply put it’s just not your average story. Imagine dragons are real but they haven’t been well studied, if much at all. Now go back in time, let’s say like early 1900s, and imagine a woman scientist, naturalist whose life revolves around dragons. She’s a young woman, in her 20s, with a young son this time around. She’s very likable, an adventurer who doesn’t always make the best choices, and she’s dedicated to dragons, their well being, and her study of them. While she’s always pushing the boundaries she has to live within the restrictions of a world that doesn’t encourage women in science (she had to publish her work under her husband’s name) let alone trousers. This is a story about her adventures and studies so it’s not always exciting but IMHO it’s very interesting. Reading it I felt like I could very well be reading a real memoir, it was fun to imagine and helped me get through the slower parts of the story. And it’s not even that this is a slow story by any means, every chapter is full of a new development, I’m just pouting because I wanted more dragon time. That said the people of the Green Hell, the swamp of Mouleen, are themselves quite interesting. I think it’s fair to say this story has a long lead up to a great conclusion.

If you want to read about a world with dragons from a natural history perspective, that includes all aspects of such expeditions to study them, then you’ll really enjoy this. There’s a lot more than dragons going on here and they’re not the same dragons you read about in all the other fantasy stories you’ve come across. Again, think real world dragons. One of the best parts, I think, is that this is a world with dragons across the globe in all kinds of environments. There’s different species of dragons, not just the one kind like we’re used to hearing about. Most other stories treat dragons like there’s only ever one kind of dragon. That is not the case here.

I’ll be starting the next The Voyage of the Basilisk sooner than later because I’d like to stay in the vein of this kind of writing, this book ended with an excerpt from the next, and I already have it in my possession. 😀 Check my 2019 TBR for Voyage of the Basilisk and more!

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For more of my reviews CLICK HERE!

Review of “Binti” by Nnedi Okorafor

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From Goodreads:

Her name is Binti, and she is the first of the Himba people ever to be offered a place at Oomza University, the finest institution of higher learning in the galaxy. But to accept the offer will mean giving up her place in her family to travel between the stars among strangers who do not share her ways or respect her customs.

Knowledge comes at a cost, one that Binti is willing to pay, but her journey will not be easy. The world she seeks to enter has long warred with the Meduse, an alien race that has become the stuff of nightmares. Oomza University has wronged the Meduse, and Binti’s stellar travel will bring her within their deadly reach.

If Binti hopes to survive the legacy of a war not of her making, she will need both the gifts of her people and the wisdom enshrined within the University, itself – but first she has to make it there, alive.

Published September 22nd 2015 by Tor.com

The following is my review:

5/5 stars

Very short – 90 pages – but excellent book. If you’re a fan of sci-fi but don’t get a lot of time to read, get this book, you will not be disappointed.

This book follows the protagonist Binti as she sneaks away from her home, something her people do not do, to attend a famous university. She is the pride of her people but also the first of them to be accepted to said university. Despite the stares and murmurs of the majority Binti presses on. What happens next, well you’ll have to read.

Nnedi Okorafor shows us instead of telling us, what life is like in this time and age. She has created a character that is courageous and adventurous but also unique. The story itself, the structure of it, isn’t so new but the content is original. The events that take place are fresh and original. I could not predict this book as it progressed though my mind tried as it does with every book. This book is full of beauty, science, grand imagination, and ugly realism, subjects we can relate to in our present time. I’ll leave you with the fact that Binti is what’s called a master harmonizer, now think of math as beauty… have fun!

I will certainly be reading the rest of this series.

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Check my 2019 TBR for more upcoming reads and what I’m currently reading.

For more reviews, CLICK HERE!