Book Review: After the Flood by Kassandra Montag

After the Flood by Kassandra Montag

Rating:  ★★★★

After the Flood is set in a world where catastrophic flooding has left behind only mountain peaks as livable land.  Sometime during this flooding, a pregnant woman named Myra is forcibly separated from her daughter Row.  Seven years later, we follow the story of her and her second daughter Pearl as they chase down the only lead they have to Row’s whereabouts.

First- let me say that this book was not at all what I expected.  I thought it would lean more towards the literary rather than science fiction.  I wasn’t expecting a lot of action.  I wasn’t expecting such a fantastic story.

But I think within a single chapter I was proved wrong.  The story dug it’s hooks in me and didn’t let go.  Myra is a kick ass woman – the kind of strong female protagonist I always say I want more of.  She’s not perfect though.  In reading some other reviews after finishing, I saw her described as unlikeable.  A risk taker.  Someone who didn’t always have Pearl’s safety in mind.

Those reviewers aren’t wrong.  Myra doesn’t always make the best decisions for Pearl.  Her relationship with her remaining daughter is sometimes difficult to witness.  Pearl needs more attention then she is often given.  But at the same time, I often felt like I understood Myra.  I can’t imagine what it would be like to have a daughter out there in unknown  or dangerous circumstances and just giving up on her.  Pearl’s circumstances were known.  Myra’s imagination wasn’t running wild with a thousand horrible things Pearl might be enduring.

Anyway- mother/daughter relationships aside, the book was pretty exciting.  From naval battles to terrifying sea storms and shark attacks, my fingers just kept turning pages and I had a very hard time putting it down.  Some of the scenes might have been a little over-the-top in terms of believability, but I didn’t mind because I was having so much fun with it otherwise.

That being said- I did feel the middle of the book was a little more slow going than the some of the other parts.  Part of advancing the plot was Myra scheming to win people to her side, and she struggles a lot with the ethics and morality of what she does.  I think it was all important to her character building, but some of those parts did move a little slower than the rest of the book.

After the Flood is really dark.  It isn’t a feel good, heart warming story that’s going to make you feel all fuzzy inside.  Plan for it to do the opposite of that.  Still- I thoroughly enjoyed this, and I’ll be on the lookout for more from this author in the future.

After the Flood released on September 3, 2019 and can be found on GoodReads or Amazon.

Book Review: The Deep by Rivers Solomon

The Deep by Rivers Solomon

Rating:  ★★★★

The Deep is kind of unique in that it is a book inspired by a song: “The Deep” by clipping..  I’ve included it below in case you’d like to take a listen.  The Deep is about Yetu, who belongs to a race of creatures that live beneath the surface of the sea, the Wajinru.  They are descendants of pregnant African slave women who were thrown overboard by slave owners.

The pain of the Wajinru people goes so deep, they cannot bear to remember these events more than once a year, at an event they call The Remembering.  In the mean time, the memories are held by one single Wajinru, the Historian.  For now, that historian is Yetu.

But Yetu is overwhelmed by these memories.  They are drowning her, killing her, even with how painful they are.  Sometimes she becomes so lost in these memories she cannot eat, she cannot sleep.  She wishes she were dead.  Yetu is determined to get rid of the memories.

The writing is beautiful.  The way the world beneath the surface of the sea is described is perfectly haunting, the cold currents, the whale song, the way the light pierces the surface.  It’s everything I would hope for in a book that is set in the sea.

I also loved the world building and history of the Wajinru people.  How they learned language, how they rescued their kin from the water, how they explored the sea and passed along their memories.  Although this novella is relatively short, there is a lot to digest.

At it’s core, it’s a story about memory and history.  How important it is to carry on those memories, to not forget about where you come from.  How memories outlive us and persist beyond time, how an entire culture can be erased with no one to remember it.

Despite it’s dark premise, The Deep was a story full of hope.  People uniting, overcoming a painful history together, sharing the burden.  I read The Deep in just a day, and I’d recommend the story to anyone interested in the premise.

The Deep released on November 5, 2019 and can be found on GoodReads or ordered on Amazon. Thank you to Saga Press and NetGalley for the eARC provided in exchange for review.

clipping. – “The Deep”

Book Review: The Dead Girls Club by Damien Angelica Walters

The Dead Girls Club by Damien Angelica Waters

Rating:  ★★★★

The Dead Girls Club is a supernatural thriller full of nostalgia. It flashes back and forth between the present moment with Heather, as her past catches up with her, and flashbacks to moments shared with her best friends when she was 12. It brings back memories of sleep overs and sneaking out after dark, telling ghost stories in the dark, and playing games like Bloody Mary or Light as a Feather, Stiff as a Board.

The author nailed the character of 12 year old girls, the fights, the love between them, the back and forth chatter. She had me remembering things I hadn’t thought of in ages. Overall I liked most of the characters and felt they were pretty fleshed out. I did grow frustrated at times with Heather’s inability to communicate with her husband and friends, as well as her increasingly erratic behavior, but it makes sense in the context.

The writing style felt very heavily stream of consciousness, which isn’t always my thing and grew a little tiresome here from time to time. Otherwise the writing and dialogue were fine.

The pacing never feels slow, (I’d actually describe it as quick) but the actual action doesn’t really ramp up until the very end. It’s more of a slow burn, strange things happening throughout, each becoming more brazen and mysterious. I often found it hard to put it down, no matter which storyline I was following. The spooky parts are sufficiently creepy, but it doesn’t veer too far into horror territory.

The ending is not predictable (I sure didn’t guess it, I don’t think anyone else will either) but it also isn’t surprising, I don’t want to say it’s been done before, but I feel like things like it have been done before. There was no definitive OMG I can’t believe it! Moment.

Overall a solid entry into the thriller genre with mass appeal. Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for providing an electronic copy for review.

The Dead Girls Club releases on December 10, 2019 and can be found GoodReads or preordered on Amazon.

Book Review: A Little Hatred (Age of Madness #1) by Joe Abercrombie

A Little Hatred Age Of Madness Joe Abercrombie

Rating:  ★★★1/2

Here’s a review I never expected to write.  This is my first Abercrombie, and if there were any of the fantasy greats I thought I might get along best with, but haven’t read yet, it’s Abercrombie.  His name gets tossed in with that of Mark Lawrence a lot, his books are described as grimdark.  I always had the sense they were exciting and action packed and filled with morally grey warrior-types.  Which is why A Little Hatred, sort of baffled me.  I went in with the wrong expectations, which is not really fair to the book, but that’s what I do.

I don’t even know how to tell you what this is about- mostly because it would take me too long, but also because there isn’t any strictly defined plot here.  We follow the lives of seven characters spread across Adua from different walks of life.  And while the characters grew on me in the end- at first I struggled with how very much I did not like almost all of them:

Rikke – One of the few I did like, almost immediately.  She has fits and what is referred to as “the Long Eye.”  The ability to see into the past and future.  Walks to the beat of her own drum.  Tough.

Savine dan Glokta – My reaction to Savine was immediate, visceral rejection.  I disliked everything about her.  I daresay I even hated her a little.  Something about her viciousness came off as fake, or trying too hard for me.

Leo dan Brock – Warrior.  But not the best warrior.  Young and Proud.  A momma’s boy.  Also a fool.  A whiny fool.

Prince Orso – Another whiny, spineless, gluttonous fool. Heir to the throne of Adua.

Vick – Another POV I disliked and continued to dislike, but can’t say much about here for sake of spoilers.

Clover – Another POV I liked at first.  An old warrior, dry sarcastic humor, cleverer than his betters- I got the sense he was a part of past books.

Broad – Another warrior and survivor of the Styrian war.  Liked him immediately, but failed to see what his contribution to the story would be.

I mean- when you initially hate 4 of 7 view points… It doesn’t bode well.  It’s grimdark… but it wasn’t fun for me.  I didn’t expect them to be shining examples of humanity, I just expected them to be smarter, cleverer, more interesting than they came off as initially.

I did grow to like them, eventually, but in some cases it took awhile and in some cases I never did get around to enjoying them.  Plus, the number of POVs crammed into a 470 page book was kind of overwhelming.  Can you pick this up and read it without having read The First Law trilogy?  Yeah.  Do I recommend it?  Not particularly.  I felt like if I’d read The First Law I would have enjoyed or appreciated this much more.

The second thing that threw me off was the inclusion of industry and manufacturing.  This I had been warned about from various reviews… But it still felt like an odd mix for me.  Sword fights and industry.  By the time industry comes into the history pages of the real world, guns have been around a long time, and multiple wars have been fought using them.  The battles felt medievalish while the cities felt more like the late 1800s.  It just didn’t work for me.

Now towards the middle of the book, where we work up to what very much feels like the climax, I was invested.  The characters had grown on me a little, I’d had a lot of the world building figured out, the action was picking up and it was written well. But again, I had a really bad feeling following all that action because it seemed to come to a complete stop so we could watch all the romances in the book disintegrate. *eye roll*

The pacing in this book was all over the place.  Boring, Exciting, More Boredom, Brilliant Ending.  And what’s more, I didn’t feel like any of those 100+ pages between Exciting and Brilliant Ending were really necessary.  I skim read a lot of it.  I still didn’t care enough about the characters to want to read that much of their inner monologues or see how they interacted at diplomacy parties.

I’m sorry okay?!  I know most reviews I’ve seen have been glowing, and those readers aren’t wrong.  Abercrombie’s writing is perfect.  Truly some his lines had me grinning ear-to-ear.  But his structure and pacing and character building often didn’t work for me particularly.

I will probably go back and read The Blade Itself and see if that book agrees with me more.  I mean, who doesn’t want to read about about a guy called the Bloody Nine?  He *sounds* like much more of what I expected in this book, which I hope will make me appreciate The Age of Madness just a little more.

A Little Hatred can be found on GoodReads and Amazon.  Thank you to all the buddies who read this with me and tolerated my moaning and groaning.  I’m sorry.

 

Book Review: I Will Make You Pay by Teresa Driscoll

I will make you pay by teresa driscoll

Rating:  ★★★

I Will Make You Pay is a thriller about a journalist named Alice that starts receiving threatening calls and gifts on Wednesdays. I’ve been trying to branch out my reading a little more because I’ve been feeling a little burned out on SFF these days, but this book made me remember why I don’t read thrillers often.

The thing is, I think in order for a thriller to work you have to care about or connect with the character to some degree (to create suspense). Thrillers tend to focus heavily on secrets and twisty turny plots, so it’s not often I find characters in a thriller that I either love or don’t feel like card board cut outs. I also have grown very tired of damsels in distress, and we are reminded at every turn that Alice is a damsel in distress, between Matt, the PI who basically acts as her body guard, and Tom, the boyfriend, and Jack, the coworker, I never at any point in time felt like Alice was capable of sticking up for or defending herself. It was kind of frustrating.

In Gone Girl, Amazing Amy is incredibly despicable, and I wouldn’t say I cared about her, but that woman is absolutely not a damsel in distress. Those are the kind of women I want to read about. No matter how awful they might be. Any sign at all that Alice was actually trying to protect herself might have helped but she just refused.

I’m sorry if I sound like I’m being harsh or insensitive- I can absolutely see how a person who was being stalked would feel and is absolutely powerless in that situation, but I just would have liked to have seen something that said she was thinking of her own safety, either giving in and letting the PI act as her bodyguard, or actually purchasing that pepper spray she browsed online, or signing up for a self defense class. But she doesn’t do anything at all.

Anyway. I was worried the whole time that I knew very early on who the stalker was and I didn’t- so it had that going for it. There were also a few surprising plot twists along the way. (Content Warning: pedophilia abounds in this plot. It’s not graphic, but it is disturbing and I could have lived without it.)

Anyway- I skimmed a lot of parts towards the end that I just didn’t care about, Alice’s musings about her childhood, Matt’s musings about past cases. I’m still not sure why we were shown the whole Ian subplot. It was great that Matt was such a nice guy, but really it had NOTHING to do with the actual plot.

Finally, the line “I will use cheese wire on you” was introduced early on and repeated frequently. It made me laugh… which is not what it was supposed to do, but I just kept thinking to myself, and how the hell is that going to work? Cheese wire? It’s inventive I guess but I really don’t think that it’s all that threatening. And something about it is not very eloquently said? I don’t know.

Anyway- not a bad read but not a great read either. Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for sending an eARC for review.

I Will Make You Pay can be found on GoodReads or ordered on Amazon.

Book Review: Sword of Kings by Bernard Cornwell

Sword of Kings by Bernard Cornwell

Rating:  ★★★1/2

I’m a little depressed after finishing this.  I just realized I have to wait at least another year for a new Uhtred book.  Also – I think the tone of these books is getting darker.

In Sword of Kings, Uhtred is called upon for help from Edward’s queen, Eadigfu.  She believes Aethelhem and her step-son Aelfweard are plotting against her and her children.  She sends for Uhtred, seeking his protection against their mutual enemies.  And Uhtred, feeling restless, and also suspicious of a plot against him, against his better judgement and the advice of friends, comes to rescue her.  At which point, of course, things go terribly, horribly wrong.

Edward dies, leaving Mercia and East Anglia to Aethelstan, his true heir, and Wessex to Aelfweard, the recognized heir.  There’s also the matter of the oath Uhtred has sworn to kill Aethelhelm, and others.  (I mean really, is there any oath he hasn’t sworn at this point?)

We say goodbye to a couple old friends.  I was a little upset by the way those character deaths were handled, which seemed almost thoughtless.  It happens off page toward the end, and while Uhtred seems upset by one, he admits that he was relieved about the other, and it bothered me quite a bit.

He’s often painted as a sort of Knight in Shining Chain Mail (he literally saves like 13 orphans in London from misery in this book), and to have that line thrown in so carelessly toward the end felt like a disservice to his character.  I didn’t feel like it reflected who he really was or his past actions.  It’s hard to really say what it was without spoilers, but it wasn’t a good way to end.

Anyway- I did like some of the new characters (Beneditta).  And Finan received a lot of spotlight here, and his friendship with Uhtred is one of my favorite things about the Saxon Stories.  The battle scene at the end was fantastic.

Overall – well worth reading if you are a fellow Uhtred fan.  My hangups with this one were more personal than anything else.  Thank you to Harper Collins and Edelweiss for the eARC for review.

Sword of Kings releases on November 26, 2019 and can be found on GoodReads or preordered on Amazon.

Book Review: The Fountains of Silence by Ruta Sepetys

The Fountains of Silence by Ruta Sepetys

Rating:  ★★★★1/2

This is my first experience with Ruta Sepetys.  It didn’t disappoint!  The Fountains of Silence takes place under the reign of General Francisco Franco, after the Spanish Civil War and WWII.

We follow the lives of four very different characters.  Daniel is from Texas, the son of a wealthy oil tycoon.  Ana is the daughter of Republican parents that were executed when she was younger.  She lives with her older sister’s family and works at the Castellana Hilton in Madrid.  Rafa is her brother, who was forced to attend a reform school following the death and discovery of his parents, and became friends with Fuga, an aspiring torero (bull fighter).  He wants nothing more than to work the arena at Fuga’s side as his promoter and protector.  Puri is Ana’s cousin, a staunch  Catholic and supporter of Franco.  She works at the orphanage, caring for all the abandoned children.

This is a largely character driven novel and the plot takes quite some time to reveal itself.  I didn’t mind it here, because the chapters were all very quick (2 or 3 pages, sometimes less) and I was urged onward by Daniel’s relationship with Ana, as well as the tension brought on by his passion for photography in a country that was very careful not to let the rest of the world see inside Franco’s regime.  Puri and Rafa also have story line’s with some intrigue and each line pulled me in and kept me engaged at different times in different ways.

The plot, which as I said is slow to be revealed, is incredibly sinister.  The reader gets hints here and there of what is to come, but it’s something so awful the reader just doesn’t want to believe.  To get to the end and learn the truth of things… I was shocked.  It’s a secret that has really only come to light in 2018, if I understood the note at the end correctly.  A full 40 years after the death of Franco, which only heightened the impact of the story Sepetys has told.

The writing was descriptive and painted beautiful pictures without ever feeling like it was spending too much time on the details.  I love when a writer can make me feel the setting with just one sentence, one single image, and Sepetys does it wonderfully.  People standing in line for blood, a torero in a suit of lights in profile, people washing at the fountain, a garden in Madrid at night… I felt transported to another time and place and found the book almost impossible to put down.

The only thing that held this back from being a full five star read – was I wished I understood Puri’s character and story better in the end.  It’s clear in the beginning that she is young and naive, and she undergoes an awakening of sorts throughout the novel, but in the end we see her, and she’s maintained her silence for ten years, and the reader never really gets a chance to understand what she’s thinking in the end.  Thank you to the publisher for sending a review copy.

The Fountains of Silence released on October 1, 2019 and can be found on GoodReads or Amazon.

 

Book Review: People of the Lake by Nick Scorza

Rating:  ★★★

People of the Lake is about a girl who spends the summer with her dad in his hometown. It’s a quiet little town on Redmarch Lake, except the people there are weird. They don’t like outsiders. They don’t talk to outsiders. And they are definitely hiding something.

One night, after a party in the woods, a teenage boy washes up dead on the lakeshore, and the following morning a note shows up from Clara’s twin sister, written in a secret language they shared as twins. The only problem? Clara’s sister Zoe has been dead for eight years.

This book was slow to get going. It lingers a lot on unnecessary details. Clara’s inner monologue is often repetitive, as is the recounting of her mornings at the coffee shop. The dialogue often felt stiff and cliched. It isn’t bad per se, but it’s not really good either.

I also struggled with the way Clara was written. She was written very much how I think adults believe teenage girls are, rather than how they actually are. She was never fully realized as a person outside of her teenage girl-dom. There were a lot of tropes and cliches stuffed in that just came across as dated. (A step dad she doesn’t want to know, the weird unfriendly goth girl, the awkward Dad… the list goes on.)

That said, I did enjoy the plot. A lot of the details were held back until the end, keeping me in suspense. Even when I struggled, I wanted to see where the crazy train was taking me. There’s a silly romance shoehorned in at the end that you’ll see coming a mile away. By the time they got to “I love you’s” I was rolling my eyes.

There’s some odd pieces of history going back to the 1400s thrown in, that don’t feel like they ever culminate into anything. They reveal bits and pieces of the town’s history but don’t actually contribute to the overall story beyond what the character’s tell us (and what the character’s tell us is much more coherent).

The spook factor was decent. I loved the imagery of lights in the woods and the howling, accompanied by the ever present lake, so silent and still. It’s definitely supernatural in nature, as a heads up, if that kind of horror is not your thing.

I think this could have actually been great if there had been some stronger editing to get rid of the tropes and repetitiveness, and maybe been trimmed down to a novella size to keep the pace up.  Thank you to the publisher and Edelweiss who provided an eARC for review.

People of the Lake released on October 15, 2019 and can be found on GoodReads or Amazon.

Book Review: Tuesday Mooney Talks to Ghosts by Kate Racculia

Tuesday Mooney Talks to Ghosts by Kate Racculia

Rating:  ★★★★1/2

I requested Tuesday Mooney Talks to Ghosts on a complete whim, and it turned out to be one of the best surprises I’ve had this year.  Nothing about this novel is what I typically read, not the genre (which I am still having trouble naming) and not the tone (light/feel good).

But it was so much fun!  The beginning of the book has a lot of fun 90s references.  At times it reminded me of Ready Player One’s penchant for the 80s, but better, because it was the 90s.  I also loved the setting, Boston, MA, which is one of my favorite cities and not too far from where I live.

Mostly though, I loved Tuesday.  It’s rare that I see myself in any fictional representation of someone.  She’s an introvert, and never has a wide group of friends, doesn’t really date, and prefers it that way.  She likes to solve puzzles and mysteries, and has a small fascination with all things occult.

The plot of the book is this: eccentric billionaire dies, and leaves behind a treasure hunt for anyone who cares to join.  The prize is a piece of his fortune.  Of course, Tuesday wastes no time getting started.  Joining her is the mysterious Archie, an heir to another wealthy family, her best friend Dex (who absolutely steals all his scenes) and her young neighbor friend Dorry.

But there is a lot more to the story than this.  Each character harbors their own secrets and has their own struggles. The plot twists and turns, layering small reveals on throughout the ending half.  I never once guessed any of them.  Some of them were shocking but they didn’t feel too outlandish (maybe sometimes).

Either way, I had a blast with this book and I thought the ending was fantastic.  I don’t want to spoil anything, so you’ll just have to read it for yourself.  Thank you to the publisher for sending an ARC for review.

Tuesday Mooney Talks to Ghosts released on October 8, 2019 and can be found on GoodReads and Amazon.

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.