Blog Tour: Where Dreams Descend (Kingdom of Cards #1) by Janella Angeles

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I’m excited to present my stop on the Where Dreams Descend blog tour! 

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In a city covered in ice and ruin, a group of magicians face off in a daring game of magical feats to find the next headlinerof the Conquering Circus, only to find themselves under the threat of an unseen danger striking behind the scenes.

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

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

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

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

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

My Thoughts

Where Dreams Descend sets some lofty goals for itself- comparing it to The Night Circus and Phantom of the Opera. I’m pleased to say it meets those expectations fairly well. I loved the atmosphere and Angeles’s writing makes for an almost cinematic experience. It was easy to picture the old world glitz and glamor of glittering chandeliers and extravagant halls, as well as the more whimsical, playful scenes of the Conquering Circus, the dramatics of the performers’ clothing. The setting easily sweeps the reader away.

But I have to say I think the best parts of this book are the female empowerment. Kallia is a refreshing main character. She consistently defies expectations, relishing in it even, making room for herself where the men would rather exclude her. And while there is usually a man nearby to catch her when she swoons, she is by no means relying on them to sweep in and save the day. Several other female characters were strong and independent as well- Ira the seamstress holding her own at the card tables, and Canary, who was a very minor character but was a delight to read anyway, and the rest of the circus performers are a ragtag group of rough-around-the-edges women that I really adored.

This book is heavy on the romance and the mystery and ends on a huge cliffhanger. Hopefully the next book won’t keep readers waiting long as there is still a lot to uncover!

Where Dreams Descend released on August 25, 2020 and can be found on GoodReads and Amazon. Thank you to Wednesday Books and NetGalley for the review copy.

Have you read Where Dreams Descend or do you plan to? Let me know in the comments below!

About the Author

JANELLA ANGELES is a Filipino-American author who got her start in writing through consuming glorious amounts of fanfiction at a young age—which eventually led to penning a few of her own, and later on, creating original stories from her imagination. A lifelong lover of books, she’s lucky enough to be working in the business of publishing them on top of writing them. She currently resides in Massachusetts, where she’s most likely to be found listening to musicals on repeat and daydreaming too much for her own good. Where Dreams Descend is her first book.

Book Review: The Wolf of Oren-yaro by K.S. Villoso

The Wolf of Oren-Yaro by KS Villoso

Rating:  ★★★1/2

The Wolf of Oren-yaro follows the story of Queen Talyien of the Jin-Sayeng, the first woman to ever sit the Dragonthrone.  Her marriage to the rival clan’s heir, Rayyel, was supposed to unite the fractured lands, ruled by warring Dragonlords.  However, Rayyel leaves the night before their coronation, and she is crowned alone.  Five years later, Rayyel has finally requested a meeting with his wife, and Talyien is all too eager to reconcile, even if she might be walking into a trap.

If I’m being honest- this story is not quite what I was hoping for.  There is action and adventure, there is political intrigue, but mostly, this is a story about a failed marriage, and a woman who would go to seemingly any length to make it work.  I was often frustrated with the amount of inner monologue dedicated to the husband when Tali also had a son at home to think about.  I was frustrated at the selfishness of her, at the infuriating decisions she makes.

Despite the fact that I am also a single mother, I found Talyien very hard to relate to.  I know every family situation is different, and Talyien’s choices are valid, but felt very dated.  Almost every scene that brought up Rayyel I was thinking to myself- “Why hasn’t she kicked him to the curb yet?!”  I wanted her to want to be more independent then she seemed, and at the end, during the final climactic scene, I was pretty disappointed with her feelings on the matter.  Her husband is definitely not the sort of man I’d waste breath on, that’s for sure.

My issues with Tali aside- it doesn’t take long for the action to start, and the action scenes strike the perfect balance of excitement without overextending themselves.  Tali finds herself in all kinds of interesting situations, and if you aren’t looking too closely at the logic of the plot, I think the right reader could have a lot of fun with this book.  There were some scenes I found myself laughing along with, and it kept the pages turning.

The writing was mostly good.  There were a few places where it felt amateurish and the dialogue a little stiff- but for the most part I have few complaints.  The pacing could use a little work.  The book seemed like it fell into a pattern at some point- we’d get some action, then a flashback scene, and then a few chapters of Tali’s thoughts on the whole thing.  I wasn’t always sure the flashback scenes were needed, although they did occasionally give some nice backstory.

I’m not really sure this book or series is right for me, but plenty of readers are already enjoying it, so take my review with a grain of salt.  The Wolf of Oren-yaro released on February 18, 2020 and can be found on GoodReads or ordered on Amazon.  Thank you to Orbit Books who provided an eGalley in exchange for an honest review!

 

 

Top Ten Tuesday: Favorite Love Stories

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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.

This week’s topic, in honor of Valentine’s Day I’m assuming, is a Love Freebie.  I actually used to read quite a bit of romance, and I’ve already done a favorite couple’s post in the past.  You’ll probably see a few of the same couple’s here, but hopefully there are a couple new ones also.  I’m going with favorite love stories- so not everything here falls strictly into the romance category.

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen – I’ll go ahead and get the easy one out of the way.  Elizabeth Bennett and Fitzwilliam Darcy don’t have quite an enemies to lovers romance, but it was probably a prototype for that.  It certainly doesn’t start out with googly eyes.

The Immortal Highlander by Karen Marie Moning

The Immortal Highlander by Karen Marie Moning – So it’s paranormal fantasy, but it’s also primarily a romance.  This has a “love is the path to redemption” trope, which feels a little outdated now, but Moning made it work in the best way.  Adam is an immortal Fae cast out from Faery.  Gabrielle is just a simple law student, and the only person who can see Adam.

Bel Canto by Ann Patchett

Bel Canto by Ann Patchett – This is probably the only tragic romance I’ll ever read (knowingly anyway).  The relationship between Roxane Coss and Katsumi Hosokawa is devastating, and I was blubbering like a baby whale by the end of it.

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Outlander by Diana Gabaldon – A historical fantasy romance.  Jamie and Claire’s relationship isn’t perfect, and sometimes it’s downright traumatizing, but these two just had some great chemistry on the page.  I’d keep reading these books, but they’re all like 800 pages long, and I’m not entirely confident the story is headed where I want it to since some future parts have been spoiled for me.  Either way- this was a great book.

The Wolf in the Whale by Jordanna Max Brodsky

The Wolf in the Whale by Jordanna Max Brodsky – What I loved so much about this story was the obstacles each person had to overcome within themselves to be able to go on to love the other person.  That they accepted each other in the end as they were was just so uplifting to me.  Omat and Brandr quickly went on to be one of my favorite couples of all time. (Review here)

The Fountains of Silence by Ruta Sepetys

The Fountains of Silence by Ruta Sepetys – This was another surprise favorite from last year.  It’s historical fiction more than it is even romance, but the romance between Ana and Daniel was one of my favorite parts.  Their story follows a “lovers from opposite sides of the tracks” trope. (Review here)

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The Calculating Stars by Mary Robinette Kowal – Including this is probably cheating, since it’s not even remotely a love story, and Elma and Nathaniel York are already very much in love when we “meet” them.  But they are still one of the cutest and most romantic couples in fiction.  I’m including a link to The Lady Astronaut of Mars because to me, it’s so important to their story, and made their romance in TCS that much sweeter. (Review here)

The White Queen by Philippa Gregory

The White Queen by Philippa Gregory – I’m not actually the biggest fan of Philippa Gregory, but I did love this book.  I loved not ever knowing if Edward IV would return to Elizabeth or be turned against her by his family.  Their’s is definitely a tumultuous relationship.

The Winter Sea by Susanna Kearsley

The Winter Sea by Susanna Kearsley – This is another historical romance.  I keep meaning to read more of Kearsley because this one is such a favorite but other books keep taking precedence.  This is probably one of the sweeter relationships portrayed, and it’s a slow burn sort of romance.

Darkfever by Karen Marie Moning

Darkfever by Karen Marie Moning – Mac and Barrons are probably my favorite romantic couple of all time. Their story follows an enemies to lovers trope for sure.  I kind of gave up reading these, because I think the author needed to end it after book five and lost her way, but the Fever novels are some of the few I’ve reread.

And that’s it!  What are your favorite love stories?

Books for Reading Outside Your Comfort Zone

My reading tastes have changed a lot over the years.  There was a time when I never would have thought to pick up a space opera (and it still isn’t my go-to genre/subgenre).  I started with Stephen King’s The Green Mile and sort of just never went back.  It’s not hard to see how I ended up there- I live in New England, and most of us (or at least my family and friends) love a good ghost story.

So I thought maybe I’d put together a list of books I’ve enjoyed over the years that don’t strictly fit the SFF genres, and maybe when you need a break, or are just looking for something new, you can (hopefully) find some inspiration.

Romance:

Might as well get this genre out of the way.  I don’t like romance all the time, and I don’t think it’s necessary to have a romance crammed into every book just because.  However– there are still times when I just need a guarantee that a happily ever after is coming.  A well done romance- for me- can turn out to be the best read.

Halfway to the Grave by Jeaniene Frost – Is a decent intro to romance give it’s urban fantasy feel.  I haven’t read all of them, I think I gave up after book three.  But I remember thoroughly enjoying the first book.  I think this series suffered from there not really being much more to tell about Cat and Bones after book one.

The Immortal Highlander by Karen Marie Moning – Moning’s Highlander series are all time travel romances.  There’s no science attempting to explain them, things just sort of happen.  If you can get over that, these are some of my favorite romance novels out there! (Especially this one.)  Bonus: If you read and enjoyed Moning’s urban fantasy Fever series, some of those characters got their starts in these books (and I was not sorry to see them return).  Side note: No need to read them in order, and her first book, which I can’t even remember the name of, can safely be skipped.

Outlander by Diana Gabaldon – Outlander is a pretty obvious shoe-in given the popularity of the TV Show, although I hesitate to recommend it because of it’s length, and it’s slow start.  It can also be pretty dark at times.  I have yet to finish this series too, although I’d like to someday.

Nonfiction & Memoir:

I don’t read enough nonfiction, and I’m usually hesitant to read any memoir.  They feel disastrously self-important to me.  However- I decided to open my mind last year, and found a few reads I thoroughly enjoyed.

Yes, Chef by Marcus Samuelsson – Is one of my favorite memoirs ever.  Marcus Samuelsson is a Food Network chef in case you haven’t heard of him, and he’s had a really interesting life and it’s a great story about how he got his start.  I recommend the audio if you can listen- he reads it himself.

The Stranger in the Woods: The Extraordinary Story of the Last True Hermit by Michael Finkel – This one was pretty popular not too long ago.  My mother recommended it to me and I’m glad she did.  The sheer fact that Christopher Knight managed to survive about 30 Maine winters with no house and no guaranteed source of heat, is incredibly impressive.  I’ve seen a Maine winter.  They are no joke.  Knight’s a pretty fascinating guy.

Shit My Dad Says by Justin Halpern – Listen.  Justin’s dad is really effing funny.  I think I read this one with my eyes, but I listened to the sequel.  If Justin reads the audio on this, get it, and thank me later, especially if you’re in need of a laugh.

Contemporary Fiction:

This is probably the genre I struggle with the most on this list and I’m not sure why.  I guess because it offers the least escape for me?  Like if there’s nothing new to discover about the world why am I reading it?  I’m probably cheating with a couple of these, because there are definite fantasy elements, but I’d label them as contemporary before anything else.

Bel Canto by Ann Patchett – Probably literally the only piece of actual contemporary literature I’ve ever read.  This is a book aiming to break you and mostly succeeds.  I’ll probably never read it again, and I definitely won’t watch the movie.  But that shouldn’t stop you from reading it at least once.

The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin – Not only did I mostly enjoy this, but I think I read it all in one day.  I couldn’t put it down.  It plays with the idea of self fulfilling prophecy, which I’ve always loved.  It is a pretty dark story at times, but gave me a lot to think about.

Wicked Appetite by Janet Evanovich – This book has the most fantasy elements of any other I’ve put on here- but I’m not sorry.  I get the feeling Evanovich is just phoning it in at this point, with all her co-authors, but I really wish she’d just buckle down and finish the Lizzy and Diesel series already.  I’d keep reading them.  I’m not even going to attempt to explain the plot because it’s ludicrous, just know it’s lots of fun.

Historical Fiction:

I am always baffled when Fantasy readers seem so averse to historical fiction (or maybe we’re not and that’s just my impression).  I guess my reasoning is that to me they aren’t that much different?  Yes, more research goes into historical fiction, and maybe some books are dry, but that varies from book to book.  I’ve read some that feel like timelines and paragraphs are included for the sake of the history, but for a good historical fiction novel, the history is just the backdrop for the story.

The White Queen by Philippa Gregory – Avid readers of historical fiction don’t love this novel because of the more fantastical elements Gregory included (witchcraft), but I’ve read some of her other work and I think this particular book is better for it (I think all her books would be better for it actually) but that’s why it makes a nice segue for fantasy readers.

The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett – I’d be crazy not to warn you that this book is …sometimes… slow.  It’s a book about how a church gets built.  But dear God – the drama. On and on and on.  It’s like a medieval soap opera.  And I loved it for that.

The Last Kingdom by Bernard Cornwell – Yeah, shameless Uhtred plug, I know.  I couldn’t help myself.  These books are fast and they are so much fun.  If you even remotely enjoyed the TV series, you owe it to yourself to read the book. If you haven’t watched the show, just know this has everything you could ever want. Kings and Queens, warriors and heroes, cunning priests and scheming Vikings, epic battles and plots galore.

Graphic Novels:

I’ve only recently started reading Graphic Novels, and prior to that I would have told you I was not the type of person who was going to ever read a Graphic Novel. Not because there was anything wrong with them, but just because they don’t feel like reading (and in some ways, they still don’t feel like that).  But I’ve found they make for a great diversion, especially if you’re struggling to find something to pick up.

Y: The Last Man by Brian K. Vaughan – I’m recommending this over Saga because I think it’s easier to follow (also I like it better).  Sure it’s written blatantly like every man’s fantasy come true- but I thought Agent 355 was a nice counterpoint to that.

Nimona by Noelle Stevenson – Easy, fun read.  You really can’t go wrong with Nimona.  She’s not a kid, she’s a shark.

Welcome to Lovecraft (Locke & Key #1) by Joe Hill – I love these books.  Seriously.  They are creative and the story telling and characters are perfection.

Thrillers:

Okay- this category is kind of a gimme, because I think Science Fiction Thriller is a big enough cross-over genre to be it’s own subgenre- so I’ll try to avoid throwing in the obvious shout outs to writers like Blake Crouch and Michael Crichton.  That’d defeat the purpose… wouldn’t it?

The Silent Corner by Dean Koontz – Full disclosure: I haven’t actually read this book. I won the second in a giveaway without knowing I had entered a giveaway for a sequel.  I would recommend starting with The Silent Corner instead (though honestly, I had figured out what I needed to).  I’m only recommending this one because I did enjoy the second.  These are great because there is some science/technology involved, but it’s more of a thriller than anything else.

Sometimes I Lie by Alice Feeney – I reviewed this not too long ago, and was so happy I ventured outside my normal comfort zone for it.  It’s a twisting, turning, roller coaster thrill ride, and you’ll never see the ending coming.

The Passenger by Lisa Lutz – I feel like this book got overlooked somewhere between the Gone Girl and The Girl on the Train excitement.  (And I love Gone Girl, but I think the world is pretty well aware of it by now, so I didn’t feel the need to give it it’s own place here).  I think The Passenger was far better than The Girl on the Train.  It kept me guessing where TGotT did not.

Horror:

I could give you three horror books to read- but you probably already know who wrote them (his initials are SK, and he has a son I’m pretty fond of too), and as far as the horror genre goes, I could probably stand to take my own advice and venture outside my comfort zone.  Got any suggestions?

Three Quick Book Reviews

I’ve actually finished several quick books the past week or two and I’ve been avoiding reviewing them because they were just the sort of books I didn’t have much to say about afterwards.  So I’m going to just give quick impressions here.

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Rating:  ★★

Alien Virus Love Disaster by Abbey Mei Otis (or: “Abandon all hope, ye who enter here,” my tag line, not the book’s.) This is the review I’ve been dreading most because I wanted so badly to like it and just couldn’t connect with it at all.  It’s a collection of bizarre short fiction mostly incorporating some kind of romance and/or alien contact.

With a title like Alien Virus Love Disaster– I was expecting something weird, yes, but also something funny.  Like the Stephanie Plum of alien books.  And it was just dark, depressing, despairing.  There isn’t a single shred of hope in the whole darn book.  Not one tiny story.

I gave it two stars instead of one because on the upside, the stories are unique and inclusive.  I can honestly say I’ve never read anything like them, and I can see how they would be right for someone, just not me.  I wanted to laugh, I wanted to be uplifted, and instead I ended up dragged down in a way I wasn’t prepared for.

The Road by Cormac McCarthy

Rating:  ★★★★

The Road by Cormac McCarthy (abridged, narrated by: Rupert Degas):  I know what you’re thinking.  “But Sarah, didn’t you just completely rip apart the last book you read by Cormac McCarthy just a few short weeks ago?”

Why yes, blogger friends.  Yes I did.  But I rewrote that review three times because I couldn’t get Blood Meridian out of my head.  And to me, the hallmark of a good book is one you can’t stop thinking about. (It’s the best 2 star book I ever read, lol.)  So I borrowed this on audio on a whim from my library.  Unfortunately all they had was the abridged version, so I can’t tell you what I missed out on, but I can tell you I would give this a go eye reading the full version.

The narrator, Rupert Degas, did a phenomenal job (except for his girly voices, which are weird, but only a small part of the book).  His voice is perfect for this kind of grim, desolate, post-apocalyptic world.  Hearing it instead of reading it solves a lot of McCarthy’s style choices.  The narrator was able to convey dialogue and made the issues I had with a lack of punctuation almost nonexistent.  I think audio is a good way to be introduced to McCarthy.

Anyway- our two MCs are Man and Boy.  They are traveling The Road to get South.  America’s population has been decimated by some kind of sickness.  What’s left are the good guys and the bad guys.  Man and Boy are “good” guys, as good as good can be in this world anyway.

The environment itself is the biggest challenge, lugging around supplies, enduring weather, falling trees (I got the sense the trees were all dying).  And when they encounter bad guys, it gets grim and dark real fast.  The message of the book is that hope and beauty can still be found in even the darkest places, I think, because despite all the many, many low points, there were still some significant high and happy points.

McCarthy’s writing really is beautiful and often reads like poetry.  I wasn’t glowing or gushing when I finished it, but I didn’t find my mind wandering too frequently when I listened, and that’s usually a challenge for me.  I’d definitely recommend this if you enjoy post-apocalyptic fiction.

Trigger content: again, if you have them I sort of must insist that you avoid McCarthy at all costs.  Nothing is off limits for him.

Stephen Kings N. by Marc Guggenheim

Rating:  ★★★★

Stephen King’s N. by Marc Guggenheim, illustrated by Alex Maleev – This is a graphic novel adapted from Stephen King’s novella of the same name found in his collection: Just After Sunset.

I enjoyed this- the art work was great and dynamic, and the mystery sucks you in right from the start.  It starts with a letter from a woman to an old friend talking about her brother’s death.  From there we flash back to where it all started.  The brother was a psychologist working with a patient who developed OCD after visiting Ackerman’s field in Motton, Maine.

It wasn’t quite a full five stars for me because the whole story is pretty ambiguous, but I enjoyed it nonetheless, and will definitely check out the novella.  If you decide to pick this up, don’t skip the foreword.  Guggenheim pays a beautiful tribute to a good friend and makes clear his fondness for King and his excitement over this project.  I’d love to see more of King’s short stories adapted into Graphic Novels turned into Graphic Novels.

 

 

Book Review: A Taste of Honey by Kai Ashante Williams

I am still slogging my way through The Queens of Innis Lear.  I’d DNF it but right now it feels like a battle I need to win.  Hoping to get it done this weekend.  So in the meantime, I haven’t been very motivated to read much else.

I did quickly squeeze in A Taste of Honey for a buddy read though.  This was part of Tor.com’s free novella offerings for Pride Month. Did you know they give away a free book every month?  You can visit that page here, and download a copy of The Murders of Molly Southborne by Tade Thompson for free until June 29th.

A Taste of Honey by Kai Ashante Wilson

Rating:  ★★★

Blurb (from GoodReads): Aqib bgm Sadiqi, fourth-cousin to the royal family and son of the Master of Beasts, has more mortal and pressing concerns. His heart has been captured for the first time by a handsome Daluçan soldier named Lucrio. In defiance of Saintly Canon, gossiping servants, and the furious disapproval of his father and brother, Aqib finds himself swept up in a whirlwind romance. But neither Aqib nor Lucrio know whether their love can survive all the hardships the world has to throw at them.

This is told in three parts.  Part one I enjoyed a lot.  It’s lets the reader see how Aqib and Lucrio first meet and was a great set up for the romance.  It was pretty hard not to ship these two right from the start.  Part two I struggled with.  It’s told in alternating timelines that jump all over the place.  There’s a reason for it, but it doesn’t make it any easier to digest.  Part three is about the same length as part one and gives us the conclusion.

A lot of the time during part two I was frustrated.  I read a quote from another reviewer once (that I can’t find now, so this quote isn’t exact so I can’t credit correctly) that said something along the lines of: “There are two great sins an author can commit when writing a book: failing to meet expectations, or failing to set them.  Of those two, failing to set them is far worse.”  (Seriously, not exact- Google gives me nothing.)  I had been struggling with this in some stories for years, and never had words for it until I read that.

I feel like A Taste of Honey very much fails to set any expectations for the reader.  Throughout the entirety of part two I was just wondering why I was being told this story. I didn’t feel glued to the page or compelled to keep reading.  I can’t explain why without spoilers- but I will say that the plot of this story is not: Aqib and Lucrio must overcome  the prejudices against gay men in their society and amongst Aqib’s family in order to be together and get a HEA.  Is that a pretty straightforward and rather generic romance plot?  Yeah. It is.  But it comes with the suspense built in.  And readers would have read this story based on that alone, because these characters were fantastic, the world building was unique, and their relationship was beautiful.

Instead we’re given something else entirely that feels more like the saga of a man who’s life has big dramatic events, but in which he has no agency to change things.  Therefore there is no suspense.

The world building is super unique and I loved the parts with the animals.  Although magic isn’t really my thing, there do seem to be some vague rules about the system and that too, felt unique.  If you’re the kind of reader who enjoys piecing together the information about the world for themselves, this may be a great choice for you.

I’m not going to spoil anything, so I’m not going to set any expectations for you either, but if you can slog it through the middle to get to the end it does make up for some of the slow going middle parts.  A few of the other buddies that read this enjoyed it much more than I did so if you like, we can all just blame that other book I’m reading for putting me in a bad mood.

A Taste of Honey can be found on GoodReads and Amazon.

Have you read this book?  What did you think of it?

 

Book Review: Witchmark (The Kingston Cycle #1) by C.L. Polk

Witchmark C.L. Polk

Rating:  ★★★

Blurb (from GoodReads): C. L. Polk arrives on the scene with Witchmark, a stunning, addictive fantasy that combines intrigue, magic, betrayal, and romance.

In an original world reminiscent of Edwardian England in the shadow of a World War, cabals of noble families use their unique magical gifts to control the fates of nations, while one young man seeks only to live a life of his own.

There’s a lot of hype surrounding this book, and it’s no wonder, having been nominated for the Nebula, Locus, and Lambda Literary Award.  Having been nominated for all these awards may have been a detriment to the book in the end.  I was expecting a lot.  Something like my reaction to The Wolf in the Whale.

I’ll be honest and say that I read most of this in one day, so it certainly started on a good note.  When I finished the book, I initially rated it 4 stars, but upon reflection felt like I should lower the rating.  It had an enchanting and cozy feel to it.  It feels like historical fantasy, but it’s technically a secondary world that feels a lot like London (though Kingston makes me think of Jamaica which would have been awesome).

The world building all seems very solid on the surface.  There are rules.  It’s not a free-for-all.  There’s structure and status.  However, by the time I reached the end, I was questioning how coherent and consistent those rules really were.

Some minor world-building spoilers ahead:  The super wealthy elite are all mages from powerful families, meanwhile, witches are persecuted.  I’m confused about a few things in this regard: A) Do the non-magical people know that the wealthy elite are mages? B) If they do know, why persecute witches and not mages? and C) If they don’t know- am I expected to believe that the mages are just immune to witch trials due to their class status?.  Either B or C is fine and acceptable, but it was never really explained and I felt like it was integral enough to the plot that it needed to be explained.  I kept reading thinking the author would get around to explaining it, but as I neared the end I understood she was expecting me to take it at face-value, which I didn’t appreciate.

Another issue I have is the conflicted messaging.  There are themes in this book pertaining to slavery, and the more I reflect the more issues I have with it.  I just don’t think the overall message was clear.  We know where Miles stands on the issue, but one of the antagonists in the book isn’t clearly an antagonist (she feels more like an annoyance), and their stance on the issue is very murky.  They say they want to help, but they have extremely misguided ideas on how they should help.  It just made me feel a little icky inside.

The romance was sweet, but definitely not as major a factor as I had expected. I enjoyed it, but wished there was more.  Additionally, the ending was super abrupt and a lot of the end scenes confused me.  One minute I thought we were in one setting, the next I was in a different place.  I had to reread a few times to see where the scene transition was and still couldn’t find it.  It could have used just a few more pages.

But overall, the entertainment value is always the most important factor for me, and it delivered in that regard. I found it hard to put down, and the writing was decent.  Polk did a good job of keeping me in suspense regarding the murder mystery and some of the strange happenings around Kingston.  There are pretty high stakes.  I’m currently undecided about whether I’ll continue with the series or not.

Witchmark can be found on GoodReads and Amazon.

 

Book Review: Time Was by Ian McDonald

I’m in the process of job hunting right now, and life has been super hectic, so forgive me for not being present.  I’ve done almost no reading this week.  I’m still trying to keep up with all of your blogs though so forgive me if I miss a post or two!

Time Was Ian McDonald

Rating:  ★★★

From GoodReads: A love story stitched across time and war, shaped by the power of books, and ultimately destroyed by it.

In the heart of World War II, Tom and Ben became lovers…[Then] Tom and Ben vanished into nothingness, presumed dead. Their bodies were never found.

Now the two are lost in time, hunting each other across decades, leaving clues in books of poetry and trying to make their disparate timelines overlap.

Time Was is a quick little novella.  I feel that the blurb is really misleading though, and the actual blurb on GoodReads contains a spoiler, so I’ve left it out here.  While this is in part Tom and Ben’s story, it’s actually more about a bookseller, Emmett, who stumbles onto their secret and becomes obsessed with finding them.

Much less exciting right?  The buddies I was reading this with all agreed- we wanted more about Tom and Ben!  The romance was lovely, but it was maybe 25% of the whole book.

The writing was sharp, concise, and atmospheric, as is typical of McDonald.  He’s very good at forcing you to read between the lines, so at times I became a little lost.  Especially the opening, which talks about digging around in a dumpster in LeBoutins for books, because I was still under the impression we were in WWII… and some of the POV/setting shifts weren’t incredibly obvious to me in those first couple chapters.

Both the buddies I read with guessed the ending (I did not) and were disappointed with that.  There’s also the time travel aspect, which was not explained at all, highly unscientific, and left a lot of us confused.

In the end, the writing was great, and romance was wonderful, but we were all left wanting more.  We had questions we wanted answered, and were sometimes bored with the main narrative.  If you’re interested in reading McDonald, while this won’t take too much of your time, I’d still recommend starting with New Moon.  I appreciate McDonald’s versatility, but this didn’t feel like a great representation of his ability.

Time Was can be purchased on Amazon here.

Top Ten Tuesday: My First Ten Reviews

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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.

This was an interesting trip down memory lane for me.  Apparently 2016 was the year of the kindle freebie and bad romance.  On the upside- I realized my reviews have come pretty far!  I’ve gotten better at discussing elements I liked or didn’t like without necessarily talking about plot (although I still do that sometimes).  I’m significantly more aware of spoilers and content warnings and try to leave information that is actually helpful to others whether it’s positive or negative.

Most of these books are not relevant to my blog, so instead of talking about them I’m linking to their GoodReads page and reviewing them in stars and gifs.

The Warrior’s Wife by Denise Domning – Feb 27, 2015 – 3 stars

November 9 by Colleen Hoover – January 1, 2016 – 4 stars

Fifty Shades of Gray by E.L. James – May 1, 2016 – 1 star

The King’s Curse by Phillippa Gregory – May 7, 2016 – 3 stars

NOS4A2 by Joe Hill – May 15, 2016 – 5 stars

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins – May 16, 2016 – 3 stars

Burns So Bad by Anne Marsh – May 26, 2016 – 2 stars

Deja Dead by Kathy Reichs – June 6, 2016 – 4 stars

Ash by Jason Brant – June 7, 2016 – 4 stars

Dolores Claiborne by Stephen King – June 9, 2016 – 4 stars

What about you?  Which ten books did you review first?  Leave a link in the comments below!

Top Ten Tuesday: Books on my Spring 2019 TBR

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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.

This week’s topic is pretty straight forward.  I’m pulling most of these from a list of buddy reads I’ve already agreed to join.  I swore this year I wasn’t going to do this to myself… but my March reading is already behind and April is pretty much booked solid.  You see the trouble is I commit to buddy reads and then I find all this other great stuff to read along the way.  So while three or four buddy reads is totally reasonable in a month- I’ll probably end up reading twice that and cramming eight or nine reads into a month.  #INeedToPlanBetter.

Luna Moon Rising Ian McDonald

Moon Rising, Luna #3 by Ian McDonald – I am SO EXCITED for this book.  It releases today!!  Plus I learned that CBS has picked up the TV rights on it.  I’m not sure they can do it justice (probably not like HBO could anyway) but I’ll give it a try if it ever manifests.  I’m so in love with this world and all it’s drama.

Beowulf Seamus Heaney

Beowulf, Seamus Heaney translation – So this is super embarrassing to admit, lover of vikings that I am, but I’ve never read this.  And I need more classics on my roster this year because last year I read none.

The Mere Wife Maria Dahvana Headley

The Mere Wife by Maria Dahvana Headley – If you aren’t familiar with this one, it’s a modern, suburban house wife, retelling of Beowulf.  To me there’s something contemporarily vicious about modern housewives and keeping up with the Joneses, so as odd as it sounds I think the setting will fit a Beowulf retelling perfectly.

Servant of the Underworld Aliette de Bodard

Servant of the Underworld by Aliette de Bodard – I actually have no idea who Aliette de Bodard is, I just know her name keeps coming up everywhere.  Tenochtitlan, Aztecs, high priests and priestesses… No idea what it’s about, but I’m sold.

Time Was Ian McDonald

Time Was by Ian McDonald – I’m pretty convinced at this point that Ian McDonald is one of the more underrated science fiction authors out there right now.  Again- no idea what this one is about, but for some authors, it really doesn’t matter.  I’m hoping for a sweeping science fictional LGBT+ love story.  And that cover is gorgeous.

avld_amo

Alien Virus Love Disaster by Abbey Mei Otis – This book, along with Time Was (above) is nominated for the Phillip K. Dick award.  I fell in love with this book based on the title alone (you know, because 400 years in the future, I am totally a walking Alien Virus Love Disaster).  It’s a collection of short stories and looks like it will be pretty quick.

Wicked Saints Emily Duncan

Wicked Saints by Emily Duncan – Somehow I was lucky enough to be approved for an ARC on this one (St. Martin’s Press has always been kind to me).  To be honest, early reviews have me a little nervous, but with a title like: Wicked Saints and a series called: Something Dark and Holy… what’s not to love?! (Please be good.)

City of Stairs Robert Jackson Bennett

City of Stairs by Robert Jackson Bennett – The number of books this man has on my TBR list is seriously out of control.  Everything he puts out I feel like I need to read and I’ve yet to actually read any of them.  Worse still- the omnibus for The Divine Cities was on sale for $2.99 a couple months back (a steal) so I own all three and still haven’t read them.  Spring 2019, it is time.

TheStand_SK

The Stand by Stephen King – I have to work really hard not to read Stephen King all the time.  Even on his worst days, he still offers me more than a lot of what I feel like I’ve been reading lately.  And I still have SO MANY of his books on my TBR.  Lately I’ve been wanting to read the stand, because I feel like it will be epic on the scale of Under the Dome.  (At least that’s what I’m hoping for.  Please don’t let me down.)

Witchmark C.L. Polk

Witchmark by C.L. Polk – I realize this is a bizarre follow up to The Stand, but reading The Wolf in the Whale last month, I was reminded that romance really is a favorite genre of mine, when it’s done well.  So I suppose it’s not a coincidence that both Time Was and Witchmark landed on my Spring TBR.  It’s nominated for the Lambda award and seems to have great reviews so I’m very excited for it.

That’s it!  I probably will end up reading ten totally different things, but I’m hopeful I’ll at least make it through the six buddy reads I have planned.  What about you?  What’s on your Spring TBR?