Book Review: Into the Crooked Place by Alexandra Christo


Rating:  ★★★1/2

I was very excited about Into the Crooked Place because the blurb was giving me strong Six of Crows vibes.  I guess they call this gangster fantasy these days?  While parts of it does feel like SoC, overall the book missed the mark a little for me.

The world building was pretty good.  Christo imbued the setting with seemingly sufficient grit.  There’s history.  There’s buskers peddling magic.  The magic itself I struggled with a lot.  It often felt like there weren’t any strict rules, some of it felt “hand wavey” if you will, which I occasionally struggled with.  Wesley “summons” charms from his skin?  There wasn’t a lot of explanation about where the charms come from or how they get their specific powers.

Another thing I struggled with, is it’s explained initially there is no new magic, so anything the buskers sell is somehow recycled or a trick.  But where was it recycled from?  Is there that much illicit magic laying around that 50-100 buskers in several different cities can afford to sell many of these charms and potions every night?  I felt like I was just supposed to take all this at face value.

The characters were all great and yet I often felt like I wasn’t connecting.  There was funny banter and wit and sass galore, a f/f relationship/romance that I actually did enjoy.  But often a chapter would devolve into the character’s inner monologue about their significant/desired other and that often took me out of the story a bit.  I think the story would have been sufficient with just Karam’s and Saxony’s romance, because that one felt relatively effortless, while Wesley and Tavia’s romance/flirtations, often felt shoehorned in.

The plot was okay.  It was high action, but a lot of the action could have been skipped without any detriment to the story.  There were several fist fights that felt like we were seeing them just to show how tough Wesley or Karam were.  There were a lot of training scenes.  It’s just not my favorite way to read action in a book.  I cared about the fights against the bad guys, not so much the fights and the training amongst themselves.

The other thing I want to note- I finished this on Saturday, less than a week ago.  And I am struggling to remember lots of the details.  It wasn’t an unenjoyable experience, but it simply wasn’t that memorable.

Into the Crooked Place released on October 8, 2019 and can be found on GoodReads or Amazon.  Thank you to the publisher for sending a copy in exchange for a review.

Top Ten Tuesday: Character Traits I Love


Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish in June of 2010 and was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January of 2018. It was born of a love of lists, a love of books, and a desire to bring bookish friends together.

This week’s topic is character traits!  I like this topic, but also- it’s not something I’m very good at articulating.  I can point to characters I love and say: “That!” but when asked why I rarely understand the reason.  So I’ll give it my best shot :).

Super Intelligent


Mycroft Canner in Too Like the Lightning – Mycroft knows all the things.  Obscure facts it would never even occur to normal people to google.  But also – watch out.  Because book smarts aren’t the only things whizzing through his brain.



Ariel Corta in New Moon – Ariel is one lawyer you do not want to mess with.  She’s basically everything I wish I had been when I grew up.


The Last Kingdom by Bernard Cornwell

Uhtred of The Last Kingdom – Uhtred is probably one of the proudest characters around.  I should qualify this statement though, by noting I really only enjoy pride as a trait when the character can back it up with actual things to be proud of.


Gnomon by Nick Harkaway

Constantin Kyriakos in Gnomon – I think the words I used to describe his chapters were “pure unadulterated joy”.


The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner

Eugenides in The Thief – There are a lot of characters I could mention here: Kaz Brekker, Amber Reynolds of Sometimes I Lie… the list goes on.  But Eugenides is pretty hard not to love.


Tuesday Mooney Talks to Ghosts by Kate Racculia

Tuesday Mooney in Tuesday Mooney Talks to Ghosts – My initial thought went right to Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer, but the Biologist really is an extreme example, and I’m not as crazy about her as I was about Tuesday Mooney.  The book describes her as a loner, but I didn’t get that sense.  She has friends, but she prefers a small circle of close friends rather than lots and lots of friends.  This trait I love because it’s one I always relate to.

That Guy Who’s Really Just a Great Friend

Traitors Blade by Sebastien de Castell

Falcio Val Mond of The Greatcoats – It’s hard to put a finger on why I love Falcio so much, but I think it comes down to what a great friend he is, and how much he cares about the people around him.

That Girl Who Can’t Adult

One for the Money by Janet Evanovich

Stephanie Plum in One for the Money – Perhaps even more relatable than being introverted, as I am that girl who can’t adult.  Sure, I don’t have two boyfriends, or a gun toting, spandex wearing BFF, but pretty much everything else about Stephanie’s life applies.

Hairy Breeches

Ragnar Lodbrok 2

No, Hairy Breeches isn’t really a favorite quality.  It’s just what Lodbrok means.  And no character list of mine would be complete without mentioning the fictional portrayal of Ragnar Lodbrok in History Channel’s Vikings.  I guess it’s not much of a surprise considering he possesses 5 of these 9 traits (6 out of 9 if we’re counting hairy breeches, which he never actually wears).

That’s it for me!  What are your favorite character traits?

Book Review: Fate of the Fallen by Kel Kade

Fate of the Fallen by Kel Kade

Rating:  ★★★★★

I’m so excited to (FINALLY) be sharing this review.  I read this book almost immediately after I received it in the mail back in July/August, and am dying to gush about it with someone.  Kade takes a very common trope (the chosen one) and imagines what might happen if for whatever reason the chosen one were not available to save the world.

It’s one of my least favorite tropes because it never really made sense to me.  Like are we really saying all the rest of the characters in the world are so incompetent that even working together there’s only one person who could save them all?  Come on.

Eye Roll Gif

By turning that trope on it’s head, we’re already we’re being set up for all kinds of fun surprises.  Like really, what does happen when the chosen one is out of the picture?  Is the world going to end?  I felt like I couldn’t immediately envision the ending.  I have no idea how the ending is going to go.  Could this be the first trilogy which really results in the end of the world?!  I mean I hope not, but I’m on the edge of my seat here.

Aside from a premise that feels completely fresh, I absolutely adored most of the characters.  Aaslo is endeared to the reader from the very beginning.  He is best friends with Mathias.  Mathias is the golden boy, handsome and smart and talented.  Aaslo is no slouch either, but he’s constantly overshadowed by Mathias (Aaslo doesn’t mind, he’s not a center-of-attention kind of guy).  He’s not outgoing, not particularly charismatic, he has no real filter on his mouth, and is not smooth with the women.  Despite all that, he is smart and he is capable with sword and axe.  And maybe he’s not a likely hero, but he has the capacity to become one.

But Aaslo is not the only character I cared about.  We have the rogue thieves, Peck and Mory, the kind Marquess of Ruriton, Teza the barmaid, Dolt the horse, Myropa the reaper… the list goes on.  There just wasn’t a character here I didn’t care about.  I loved them all.

I struggled at first, with how very derivative this all felt in the first fifty pages or so, almost cartoonish in its depiction of fantasy, but once Kade makes the division between all those stories that came before and her own, the result is immediately something familiar and yet entirely new.

AND THE BANTER.  Dear God, the banter had me laughing out loud in some places.  Whether it was Aaslo’s inner monologue, or him bantering with Mathias, or with Dolt.. I had a smile on my face almost the whole time I was reading.  Banter aside, the book in general is just so funny.  There was one scene in particular I remember that felt very slapstick, which isn’t my thing in movies, but always works for me in books.  It’s rare to find something this funny that never felt like it was trying to be funny.

The world building is really great.  I mentioned before that this story initially feels derivative but one of the things that helps it to stand out is the number of different elements from all fantasy sub-genres included.  We have witches and mages, monsters and zombies, gods and goddesses… the list goes on.  In our travels we see cities, forests, swamps, sprawling estates, wide open plains, the setting never gets boring or stale and gives an epic sense of adventure.

If I were to critique one thing, it would be that the prophecy is not very specific. It’s a huge part of the story so I wish I had received a little more information about it up front.  As it stands I’m still not sure what the prophecy even is beside: “The world is going to end. The one marked by the world is our only hope.”  Well how is the world going to end exactly?  Who are they going to war against?  What makes ‘the one’ the only one?  Some of this information does come out in Myropa’s story, which helps alleviate the problem, but still, I found myself wanting for specifics.

It’s a very small critique that I was easily able to overlook in lieu of everything else this book delivered.  I am dying to get my hands on book two and absolutely recommend this to anyone that reads.

Thank you to GoodReads and Tor for hosting the giveaway in which I won this.

Fate of the Fallen releases on November 5, 2019 and can be found on GoodReads or pre-ordered on Amazon.

Month in Review: September 2019

Despite a slew of DNFs at the end of the month, I actually enjoyed most of my reading, and completed quite a few books.

Books read: 9 for September, 77 for the year

DNF: 3

Pages read: 3,581 out of 25,300

Hours listened to: 12 Hours

Average rating: 3.89

Female Authors: 2 out of 35 for the year

Favorite Read:

The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix Harrow

The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow

Audiobooks Listened To:

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel – I am not reviewing this because there’s plenty of reviews already out there, but I enjoyed it, and the audio was fantastic.  Highly Recommended.

I Am Legend by Richard Matheson – I very much enjoyed the audio on this also.  The ending took me by surprise, but I loved this story.  I quit on the other stories because the narrator changed but not for the better.

Other Reads Completed:

A Pilgrimage of Swords by Anthony Ryan

War of the Wolf by Bernard Cornwell

Limited Wish by Mark Lawrence

The Institute by Stephen King

Imaginary Friend by Stephen Chbosky

Pet Sematary by Stephen King

ARCs Received:

Into the Crooked Place by Alexandra Christo

Tuesday Mooney Talks to Ghosts by Kate Racculia

Half Way Home by Hugh Howey

The Vanished Birds by Simon Jimenez

eGalleys Approved:

The Companions by Katie M. Flynn

Providence by Max Barry

Sword of Kings by Bernard Cornwell

Planned Reads for October:

I will not have time to read anything outside of this already massive list.

How was your September?  Have you read any of these?


Three Mini DNF Book Reviews

As a follow up to yesterday’s discussion post, it only seems fitting that I follow it up with my three DNF reviews.  I’ve decided not to rate these, because although I know why I’m not finishing, I don’t want to say I’d recommend or not recommend them, not knowing how they end.

Overthrow by Caleb Crain

I was so excited for this book when I first heard about it.  It seemed like a dystopian novel with some fantastical elements (ESP) and a bunch of dreamers for characters.

What it actually is, is contemporary literature.  This is not my thing.  If I had realized that’s what it was I would have NOPED it right away.  

I made it to page 140 before I decided I didn’t want to continue.  In that time, we read three chapters, so that was strike number one.  Chapter one is 72 pages long.  That’s not a chapter.  It’s a novelette.

In that time I actually did grow to like Leif and Matthew, who I originally thought were the two main characters in the book.  If the book had continued to keep Matthew as the POV character, I actually might have continued.  Unfortunately, it jumped POVs to a character named Chris, who at that point, was one of the least interesting characters.  Chapter three switched POVs again to a character named Elspeth.  Chapter four, the point at which I decided I had no desire to continue, saw yet another shift in POV, to Julia.  Whose presence in the novel at all is questionable, nevermind the utter lack of necessity to give her a POV.  The POV shifts were strike number two.

And the final nail in the coffin was the world building, or lack thereof.  These characters seem to be protesting something, belonging to a wider movement called Occupy.

I have no idea what the hell they were protesting.

Their smaller group within the larger group, whose name I can’t recall (but whose initials are something ridiculous like RFTGFP) believes that people should strive to perceive other people’s feelings.  Leif is really good at it.  He can sense your email password. Chris cannot do it, but believes in it and believes that it’s the most important thing ever.  Or something.

I just didn’t get it.  I mean- yeah I get the larger message, we’d all be better people if we stopped to put ourselves in other people’s shoes once in awhile, but I don’t know why or how the government fits into it.  There’s some talk of Homeland Security, and tapping phones and monitoring computers… but no indication that any of it was done prior to the group hacking someone’s email.  The whole premise is bizarre, and seems overly complicated while also being too simple, and ultimately just not what I wanted.

Just a note on the writing- the author appears to be some kind of literary journalist, so he uses a lot of obscure words and fancy language that feels superficial at best because he didn’t give us a lot of insight into what the characters were actually feeling.  I consistently felt like I was missing some of the context.

Anyway- this is probably going to be a wonderful book for someone, just not me.

I won a free copy of this book in a giveaway on GoodReads.  Links if you want to check it out for yourself: GoodReads and Amazon.


This book has the misfortune of being one more science fiction horror novel in a long list of science fiction horror novels I’ve read this year.  I’ve read at least two other books (and one novella) this year that, simply put, did it better.

This was a buddy read, which is usually sufficient reason for me to push through (no person left behind!), but my two fabulous buddies finished it in a couple of days while I was still hanging out on page 94.  At which point they advised me it did not get better and they’d forgive me for DNFing.

I happily took their advice.

I don’t have any specific complaints except that this felt more like a set up to a bad romance than there was any actual horror being included and I was extremely bored.

The setting was cool.  But I saw almost this exact setting done in The Last Astronaut by David Wellington and Walking to Aldebaran by Adrian Tchaikovsky, both of which were far more atmospheric than The Luminous Dead (not to mention less time consuming).

It’s a shame because I think it could have been good if it had been a novella, or if it had booted the romance and pitted our two MCs against each other as hero and villain.

I am not finishing and I have no regrets.  Links: GoodReads and Amazon.

A Hero Born by Jin Yong

This is the one I feel guiltiest about, because I don’t even think there is anything particularly wrong with it, except that we are just not jiving right now.

I attempted to read the introduction three times before I decided it was way too dry and skipped to the beginning.  In the beginning, we meet two heroes, Skyfury Guo and Ironheart Yang, that feel earnest in their desire to be heroes, but also a little like SpongeBob and Patrick in their competence.

SpongeBob and Patrick Gif

I hate saying that- because I know this is a cherished piece of literature in China, but the whole thing just felt a little cartoonish.

The part that I read was technically all backstory for the hero: what happened in the months leading up to his birth.  I might have continued if the introduction were dropped and the back story was reduced to 10-15 pages.  (If we’re looking at the blurb: “Guo Jing, son of a murdered Song patriot” this is as far as I got in the book, the murdered Song patriot.)  If the pacing is this slow, 15% of the book is back story, I just don’t want to continue.

The action scenes weren’t very exciting to me.  I read once, that the difference between a good action scene and a bad one, is that a bad one will only describe what is happening.  Good action scenes will describe how a character feels when they are in the action.  This is a case where the movements are described adequately, but entirely without feeling.

I had a hard time envisioning the setting and the characters.  The villains, from what I read, seemed like they weren’t going to be very fleshed out at any point in time.  Just hooded figures, evil magistrates, maybe a shadowy emperor or something.  It’s a dated method of story telling.  Understandable, since it was originally written in 1957, but also something I don’t want to read right now.

I might come back to this at some point, knowing what I know and skipping the back story because the premise does sound very exciting (Genghis Khan!) but it’s not going to be any time soon and I don’t want to leave the book unreviewed on NetGalley.  I attempted it.  I made it through 70 dense pages or so.

Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley who provided a copy in exchange for review.  A Hero Born can be found on GoodReads or ordered on Amazon.

Have you read any of these?  What did you think?

Discussion: The Dawn of the DNF

Maybe it’s just because September was overloaded with new releases I wanted to read.  Maybe it’s just because October is my favorite month for reading because it feels like a solid excuse to read only horror without feeling too guilty about it.  Maybe I just really suck at picking books I think I’ll enjoy.  Or to spin this in a positive light, maybe I am good about going outside my comfort zone and trying things I’m not sure I’ll like.

I don’t like DNFing.  But at the end of September I ran into a problem.  I started a bunch of books I really had no desire to finish.  One of them was a buddy read I’d been looking forward to since we scheduled it a few months back.  One of them was a new release I’d been pining for since I first saw it on Edelweiss and originally was declined for but later won in a GoodReads Giveaway.  One of them was an ARC I was approved for months ago, when I might have been more in the mood to read it but put off because I didn’t want to read it too early, and am now just not enjoying the way I want to.

I feel obligated to finish all of them.  But I know it will put me in a reading slump because I’ll come up with other things I’d rather be doing than reading a book I don’t actually want to read.

So I’m DNFing.

And you know what?  It’s probably one of the most liberating choices I’ve made in a long time.  It won’t result in some scathing review I have to put up because I forced myself to finish a book I didn’t want to read.  And because it won’t be some ranting-hate-filled review I’m probably at less risk of offending the poor author who poured countless hours, blood, sweat and tears into writing it.  Or the publisher, who selected that manuscript over a thousand others to publish, and then poured time and resources into putting that book in the wider world.

Do I feel guilty?

Yeah.  I do.  I was given at least two of these books in exchange for honest reviews.  And while there’s nothing dishonest about saying I didn’t finish, or that a book wasn’t for me, it feels half-assed.  Like I didn’t hold up my end of the bargain.

But at the same time, I’ve given each of these books almost a hundred pages to make me care, and they just haven’t done that.

This isn’t a movie.  It usually doesn’t take a mere two hours to read a book.  It’s 10, 15, sometimes 20 hours of my life that I’m not enjoying, that I can say with reasonable surety is not going to become enjoyable, and I’m never going to get back.  I wouldn’t keep playing a video game that was no fun or riddled with glitches that made it unplayable.  I wouldn’t finish a meal that tasted bad.  I’m not going to continue reading a book I’m not enjoying.

I’ve seen some readers argue that if you don’t finish the book, you shouldn’t leave a review.  And while I understand the argument- anything could happen in those final pages – it could become enjoyable.  But can a book you dread picking up really perform that much of a turnaround?  Can you really go from hating a book to loving it?

I don’t think so.

I’ve seen books go from mediocre to awesome.  I’ve seen books go from good to bad.  It’s rare that I see a book go from awful all the way to enjoyable.

And it’s not even that a book has to be awful to make me want to DNF.  It could just be that it’s not for me.  I think that’s an even harder obstacle to overcome.

The fact is- I just don’t have the same amount of time to read like I used to.  And I’m making a conscious choice to spend those hours reading what I actually want to read instead of reading something that makes me miserable.

What I am confused about, since I’ve never really made a conscious choice to DNF, is what the rules are for DNFing?  (Are there rules?)  Does it have to happen around some significant plot point in the book?  For example, a scene of rape or child abuse that makes you not want to continue?  Do you have to give it so many pages before you quit?  Do you need to determine that the text is borderline unreadable?  As may be the case in something self published that wasn’t properly vetted by an army of beta readers and developmental editors?

So you tell me, fellow readers, what are your rules for DNFing?