Book Review: The Trials of Koli (Rampart Trilogy #2) by M.R. Carey

The Trials of Koli by MR Carey

Rating:  ★★★★★

The Trials of Koli picks up where The Book of Koli left off.  Koli and Ursala and Cup are heading to London and chasing the signal of The Sword of Albion.  Meanwhile, we are also treated to Spinner’s POV, and following her journey in the present timeline.  

This book seemed to have more action in it than the first one, but even without the action I was hanging on every word.  If you liked the characters the first time around, they’ll hook their claws in you in book two and not let you go.  Ursala and Monono seem to take a step back. They are still there and active in the story, but the reader is given more insight into Spinner and Cup and it’s impossible not to care about them.

Carey builds upon the world he’s made here- giving us glimpses of how other villages live, of other tech that exists, of belief systems, ruins of the old world and defenses used, etc.  Where I felt unsure about how dangerous the world really was in book one and wanted to see more of it- the danger is full blown here. I was left wondering how anyone at all is left alive. (In other words- were I a character in this book, I doubt very much I’d have lived past page one…)

The writing style is still very much the same (stream of consciousness-Tom Sawyer/Huck Finn style).  Personally I love it and think it helps bring the characters to life but I know for some that was a sticking point.

Anyway- I don’t want to spoil anything, I just came to say that while The Book of Koli is outstanding, somehow The Trials of Koli is even better.  I can’t wait to get my hands on book three!

The Trials of Koli released on September 15, 2020 and can be found on GoodReads or ordered on Amazon.  Thank you to Orbit Books and NetGalley for the review copy!

Top Ten Tuesday: Cover Love

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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.

Today’s topic is a cover freebie- so I’m going to go with books I was initially attracted to based on the cover.  I know we all do this sometimes, but I feel particularly guilty of it quite frequently lately.

Sharks in the Time of Saviors by Kawai Strong Washburn – It’s impossible not to notice this cover when you’re walking past it. Look at the bright colors? And why is that shark upside down? Is it dead? I’m about eight chapters into this and loving it so far. A wonderful sort of magical realism story.

Oil and Marble: A novel of Leonardo and Michelangelo by Stephanie Storey – I love that the cover goes along with the title here. I originally thought this would be non-fiction but it turns out it’s historical fiction. I have high hopes but reviews seem mixed.

Creatures by Crissy Van Meter – Truth be told, I’m still unsure on this book. But I adore this cover- it’s busy and my eye keeps catching on something new every time I look at it.

Crossings by Alex Landragin – I snatched this up from NetGalley because I couldn’t say no to this cover. I read the blurb and deflated a little bit but then I looked at the cover and said “oh well.” It’s pretty enough that if I like it I may just buy it to look at (it’s even prettier in person).

The Death of Vivek Oji by Akwaeke Emezi – This is another book that’s hard not to notice with it’s bright red and pink against a backdrop of gray.  I’ve also heard great things about the author though I’m still unsure if it’s right for me.

The Book of Hidden Wonders by Polly Crosby – This one has been floating around recently and it catches my eye everytime.  Something about the cover just feels mysterious and inviting.

Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell – So this is an interesting one because I actually don’t like this cover. I don’t like the style, I don’t like the feather across the eyes.  It makes me want to squirm in my seat. I’m also weirdly drawn to it because it makes me so uncomfortable.

City of Strife (City of Spires #1) by Claudie Arsenault – I wish this was a picture of a real city in real life so I could really go there.

West by Carys Davies – I like the weird mesh of styles here and the big bold letters.  I think I’ve added this and taken it off several times because I don’t love the blurb but I do love the cover.

Beyond Redemption (Manifest Delusions #1) by Michael R. Fletcher – I love the western feel of this cover and the bold blocky art work. I’m reasonably sure this book is too heavy on the magic for me to ever get around to reading it, but I keep it on the TBR because why not.  

And that’s it from me! Have you read any of these? Do you like any of these covers? 

Book Review: Afterland by Lauren Beukes

afterland-by-lauren-beukes

Rating:  ★★★1/2

Afterland is about the Manpocalypse. How could I not pick up a book about the Manpocalypse? (And yes, they really call it that in the book.)  Anyway, we follow a mother, Cole, and her son, Miles, across the country as they attempt to flee back to their homeland.  They are being chased by Cole’s crazy sister Billy, who wants to sell Miles’s boy-specific-body-fluids on the black market, and the goverment, sort of.  I say sort of because the goverment, disappointingly, doesn’t come much in to play in the present timeline.

Now before I start this review, I want to say that I mostly enjoyed this book.  The writing was hard-hitting and edgy.  The characters were flawed and sympathetic.  The story moves along at a good clip most of the time.  However Beukes’s books always seem to leave me unsatisfied. I feel like they are blurbed and advertised in a way that promises something the books never deliver on.

 In this case, it was the world building.  I wanted to know what the world looked like with most of the men gone. I wanted to know what happened to all those male-dominated fields. Did commercial air travel come to a dead halt?  What about construction?  Was there some sort of emergency training program to get women involved in those fields?  What happened to some of the immune men? Am I to believe they are all under government protection? They didn’t go off on their own and start a cult where they were worshipped by women?  Or worse, abducted and held prisoner? I don’t know. I just wanted to see more. I wanted a tour of what the world looked like post-Manpocalypse and we’re given a frustratingly narrow view.

There is a point, about midway, where Cole and Miles encounter a religious cult.  The plot seems to slow quite a bit here and begins a lot of preaching about God and His plans which grew tiresome for me very quickly.

Otherwise I enjoyed this for the most part. I think if you go into it knowing you won’t be getting to see all those things I was hoping for, you could enjoy it.  The writing was the best part for me and in places reminiscent of The Mere Wife, but unfortunately falls just short of the mark of being a great book.

Afterland can be found on GoodReads and Amazon if you’d like to check it out.

Book Review: Eden by Tim Lebbon

Eden by Tim Lebbon

Rating:  ★★★

Eden is a science fiction eco-thriller in which a group of extreme sports enthusiasts and supposed environmentalists race through one of the last places on Earth that has been reserved for nature. Eden is known as a Virgin Zone, a place where all the humans have been relocated, and whose borders are agressively protected by paramilitary groups (Zeds? Zions? I don’t really care).  These places have been given back to nature in an effort to preserve them from human pollution/poaching/ deforestation/etc..

I had been looking forward to this since I first heard about it.  It sounded like it might be one of those SciFi-Horror crossover books I’m so fond of (a la Crichton) and best of all it was set in a jungle- which is one of my favorite settings for a book (especially one that contains elements of horror).

Which is why I am so very displeased to tell you that this is probably one of the most mediocre, vanilla, unexciting books I have ever fucking read.

I didn’t even know it was possible to write a Science-Fiction-Eco-Thriller-Horror-Genre-Bender that was this fucking boring.

First of all- the character motivations don’t make any sense.  Supposedly all these characters care deeply for the environment.  They believe in the purpose of the Virgin Zones.  They think what humans have done to the planet is horrible.

So what the hell are they doing violating the laws of these zones? Contaminating these pure zones with their presence?  For bragging rights?  I don’t buy it.  And judging by the number of times the author made his characters repeat some justification of their actions, I don’t think he really bought it either.

But that’s not really my problem with this book.  I can get down with a good popcorn thriller where the idiot victim is running up the stairs instead of outside.  It’s basically my favorite kind of book (and movie for that matter).

What is not forgivable, is that the big bad guys are a lynx, a coyote, and a wolf.

First of all.  I thought Eden was supposed to be what was left of the Amazon Rainforest.  None of those animals are native to that area (I have yet to even mention the grizzly that shows up- I’m not spoiling this. I’m doing you a favor.).  I am willing to accept that perhaps I am mistaken about where Eden is set.  I still think that these are ridiculously boring choices for what is supposed to be a horror book.

It was borderline insulting. As if the author put no thought or effort into the book at all. Like these were the first animals he thought of so he went with it and never bothered to edit them into something more exciting (hell I would have accepted the bear- but it gets no action).

Jurassic World More Teeth

Why yes, Dr. Wu.  Yes I did.

What about a crocodile?  A huge nest of giant poisonous spiders?  An anaconda?  A leopard?!  A terrible alien predator thing with too many teeth?

Forgive my rambling.  The characters weren’t too terrible for what they are.  I can’t say I cared too much for any of them but it’s not the kind of book you read for it’s deep character building.

There wasn’t much suspense built in. The author reveals his hand too early, doesn’t take the time to build up the suspense properly.  There are subplots that don’t make much sense…. ugh.  The reason for the animal attacks is never given any explanation or thought (and frankly, that subplot was a lot scarier than what actually happened).

I know this is a very rant-tastic review so I’d like to close this by saying Eden isn’t really as bad as all that… but it’s also not worth reading. I’d check out Devolution by Max Brooks if you’re looking for something in this vein.  Or a re-read of Jurassic Park.  Or pretty much anything else. #SorryNotSorry

Top Ten Tuesday: Books that made me hungry

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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.

Happy Tuesday friends!  I meant to do more TTTs in August but the topics weren’t speaking to me much.  If I’m being honest- I don’t know that I’m going to make out any better with this topic- but I thought it would be fun to try.

Beyond the El by John Chu

Beyond the El by John Chu – This is a short story, and probably doesn’t count, but it’s definitely the first one that came to mind.  The MC is what is known as a food crafter (someone who cooks with magic?) and he spends the whole story trying to recreate his mother’s dumplings. Dumplings are pretty much my favorite food group… so, yeah. Had to mention it here. (As a bonus, this one is free on Tor.com.)

How Long Til Black Future Month by NK Jemisin

How Long ‘Til Black Future Month? by N.K. Jemisin – This is a collection of short fiction by N.K. Jemisin. There are two food related stories that made my mouth water: “L’alchemista,” where a chef is challenged to cook magical recipes by a mysterious stranger, and “Cuisine des Memoires,” where a strange kitchen can recreate any historical meal, the last supper, or Queen Elizabeth’s coronation dinner, or even a meal whose only significance is personal.

Fallout The Vault Dwellers Official Cookbook by Victoria Rosenthal

Fallout: The Vault Dweller’s Official Cookbook by Victoria Rosenthal – Okay. If you’ve ever played Fallout, you know that none of the food items you pick up ever sound appealing.  But still… aren’t you just a little curious to know what Deathclaw Wellingham tastes like? Or Radstag Stew?  Come on. You know you want it.

Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo – Because Waffles.

Red Sparrow by Jason Matthews

Red Sparrow by Jason Matthews – I didn’t actually like this book that much. In fact, I disliked it so much I never saw the movie even though I really wanted to.  But.  For some reason the author included a bunch of recipes throughout the book and many of them actually sounded really good.  I never got around to trying them because the book was borrowed, but I wanted to.

Wicked Appetite by Janet Evanovich

Wicked Appetite by Janet Evanovich – Evanovich’s novels always make me hungry.  Lizzie is a baker of most excellent cupcakes, and Stephanie Plum seems to frequent Chick-fil-A quite often.  Although I will add it’s totally unfair that Diesel can eat as many cupcakes as he wants without having to worry about his figure.

Yes Chef by Marcus Samuelsson

Yes, Chef by Marcus Samuelsson – Samuelsson is probably one of my favorite TV chefs. In this memoir he recounts how he learned to cook from his Swedish grandmother, and went on to study in some of the most renowned kitchens in the world.  The hunger is just part of the experience.

Luna New Moon by Ian McDonald

New Moon (Luna #1) by Ian McDonald – One of the main characters in this story is a teenager, Lucasinho, who likes to bake cakes.  He seems to have a talent for it too.  IIRC – there are also some killer descriptions of Brazilian coffee which is my other favorite food group.

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern – Carnival food is my guilty pleasure. I don’t care that it’s terrible for you. Or that most of it is deep fried.  We get one big carnival in New England a year and it is my mission to taste it all.  Granted- the food I’m referring to isn’t exactly the candy apples and popcorn of The Night Circus, but it was hard not to be reminded.  (I’d give my left arm for a giant bag of hot kettle corn right now… Probably won’t happen this year.  Damn you 2020.)

So I made it to nine.  I tried.  (Who knew books that make you hungry were so hard to remember?)  Do you have any favorite foodie novels? Let me know so I can check them out!