Book Review · Uncategorized

Book Review: Dread Nation by Justina Ireland

4 out of 5 stars for Dread Nation by Justina Ireland
Dread Nation

I wasn’t prepared to like this book as much as I did but the story concept and cover art definitely hooked me in the bookstore. I decided to give it a try. I am a big fan of Pride, Prejudice, and Zombies so I had high hopes for the Civil War undead and I was not disappointed, although the story had a few issues (as all zombie stories seem to have). The book is set in an alternate reality in which zombies rise up from the ground at Gettysburg and the United States is changed forever. Our protagonist, Jane McKeene, is finishing her schooling in combat and manners Miss Preston’s School of Combat.

Per the book description:

Jane McKeene was born two days before the dead began to walk the battlefields of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania—derailing the War Between the States and changing the nation forever.
In this new America, safety for all depends on the work of a few, and laws like the Native and Negro Education Act require certain children attend combat schools to learn to put down the dead.
But there are also opportunities—and Jane is studying to become an Attendant, trained in both weaponry and etiquette to protect the well-to-do. It’s a chance for a better life for Negro girls like Jane. After all, not even being the daughter of a wealthy white Southern woman could save her from society’s expectations.
But that’s not a life Jane wants. Almost finished with her education at Miss Preston’s School of Combat in Baltimore, Jane is set on returning to her Kentucky home and doesn’t pay much mind to the politics of the eastern cities, with their talk of returning America to the glory of its days before the dead rose.
But when families around Baltimore County begin to go missing, Jane is caught in the middle of a conspiracy, one that finds her in a desperate fight for her life against some powerful enemies.
And the restless dead, it would seem, are the least of her problems.

I like to have a character to root for in my stories and Dread Nation gave me several, including Jane and her rival-turned-friend Katherine. In addition, the author makes some timely social and political points within a story set during the Civil War. She hits on racism, both systematic and overt, as well as laws that on the surface are for the good of society as a whole but really bad for the disenfranchised.

My issue, as mentioned above, is as always why clumsy, slow-moving brainless dead can only be killed by certain characters, while everyone else is helpless zombie/story fodder.  It’s nitpicky but I’m gonna keep picking at it. The author does try to address this later in the story, hinting at a deeper plot but it was an unsatisfying explanation. It didn’t keep me from devouring this book though.

I highly recommend this book to anyone who loved Pride, Prejudice, and Zombies. Dread Nation was fresh enough to keep me engaged. With violence and mild sexual references, I feel this book is suitable for teens and older.

I apologize for the long delay between blog posts. As always, I’ll try to do better. Thanks for sticking with me.

Kind regards,

Anne

 

 

 

 

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Book Review · Uncategorized

Book Review: Uprooted by Naomi Novik

3 1/2 out of 5 stars for Uprooted by Naomi Novik

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As everyone knows, I loves me a reimagined fairy tale, and that’s just what Naomi Novik has given us with Uprooted. However, I wouldn’t go so far as to say that I loved this particular fairy tale but there was enough to like about it that I have gone on to buy her second book set in her magical world, Spinning Silver. The protagonist of Uprooted is a village girl named Agnieszka, who grows up on the outskirts of a deadly magical wood and the tower of the realm’s protector, a wizard everyone calls “The Dragon.”

Per the book description:

“Our Dragon doesn’t eat the girls he takes, no matter what stories they tell outside our valley. We hear them sometimes, from travelers passing through. They talk as though we were doing human sacrifice, and he were a real dragon. Of course that’s not true: he may be a wizard and immortal, but he’s still a man, and our fathers would band together and kill him if he wanted to eat one of us every ten years. He protects us against the Wood, and we’re grateful, but not that grateful.”

Agnieszka loves her valley home, her quiet village, the forests and the bright shining river. But the corrupted Wood stands on the border, full of malevolent power, and its shadow lies over her life.

Her people rely on the cold, driven wizard known only as the Dragon to keep its powers at bay. But he demands a terrible price for his help: one young woman handed over to serve him for ten years, a fate almost as terrible as falling to the Wood.

The next choosing is fast approaching, and Agnieszka is afraid. She knows—everyone knows—that the Dragon will take Kasia: beautiful, graceful, brave Kasia, all the things Agnieszka isn’t, and her dearest friend in the world. And there is no way to save her.

But Agnieszka fears the wrong things. For when the Dragon comes, it is not Kasia he will choose.

I didn’t love this book, mainly because it would bog down in repetitive descriptions of Agnieszka’s torn and messy clothes and her country bumpkin upbringing. She didn’t really solidify as a coherent character for me until well past the half-way mark of the narrative. What saved this book for me? Well, the story kept giving me surprises just when it was feeling a bit predictable. The author then managed to pull out a hat trick for a very satisfying ending. I don’t want to spoil it for you.

As Uprooted was the first book set in this world, I think the author struggled a bit in the beginning with character development but I have high hopes that the next book. I would recommend Uprooted for a late teen to older reader as it does contain a few sexual situations.

It is back-to-school week here in my hometown and that means more time for my personal pursuits. Happy pumpkin spice to you all!

Kind regards,

Anne

Book Review · Uncategorized

Book Review: A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab

4 out of 5 starsA Darker

Contrary to what my lack of posting implies, I’ve actually been reading books and watching movies these last few weeks. What I haven’t been doing is sitting my butt down at the computer and getting my reviews written down.  I promise to do better. And so this week, I present to you the fantasy novel, A Darker Shade of Magic, by V.E. Schwab. This book is the first in her Shades of Magic series, and it introduces us to a world in which four alternate Londons exist in separate magical realities. Travelling between these realities is a skill only possessed by people born with special magical abilities, and Kell is one such person. Kell is a messenger and ambassador for Red London and he moves between three of the four Londons.

Per the book description:

Kell is one of the last Antari―magicians with a rare, coveted ability to travel between parallel Londons; Red, Grey, White, and, once upon a time, Black.
Kell was raised in Arnes―Red London―and officially serves the Maresh Empire as an ambassador, traveling between the frequent bloody regime changes in White London and the court of George III in the dullest of Londons, the one without any magic left to see.
Unofficially, Kell is a smuggler, servicing people willing to pay for even the smallest glimpses of a world they’ll never see. It’s a defiant hobby with dangerous consequences, which Kell is now seeing firsthand.
After an exchange goes awry, Kell escapes to Grey London and runs into Delilah Bard, a cut-purse with lofty aspirations. She first robs him, then saves him from a deadly enemy, and finally forces Kell to spirit her to another world for a proper adventure.
Now perilous magic is afoot, and treachery lurks at every turn. To save all of the worlds, they’ll first need to stay alive.

I really enjoyed this book and I definitely have the next book in the series on my to-read list. I think Schwab does a decent job of world building but, as the story revolves more around the magic systems in each London, as opposed to the locales, I didn’t feel fully invested in the Londons. She does, however, present the reader with a fully fleshed and well-thought out magic system, that varies with each one of the Londons and with the people wielding them. It looks as if the next book in the series will delve more deeply into the actual worlds outside of the Londons and will focus on the character of Delilah Bard.

I’m looking forward to the next installment. This week, I’m reading Mr. Flood’s Last Resort by Jess Kidd. I hope you all are having a good summer. It’s been busy around here, what with a family camping trip and a new puppy, but I hope to be more active online in the coming weeks.

Kind regards,

Anne

Book Review · Uncategorized

Book Review: The Forbidden City by Deborah A. Wolf

The Forbidden City

5 out of 5 Stars!

I just finished The Forbidden City by Deborah A. Wolf, the second book in her Dragon’s Legacy series. This book marks a glorious return to world she introduced us to in The Dragon’s Legacy. The prose is as elegant and artful as the story is raw and bloody. Wolf shows no mercy to her cast of characters, killing them off with abandon (although, spoiler alert, in a land full of dark magic, not all the dead stay that way.) This book will leave you ready for more.

From the book jacket description:

Sulema Ja’Akari is an elite warrior, one of the desert people known as the Zeeranim. She is also the daughter of the Dragon King of Atualon, whose magic is the only thing that prevents the earth dragon from waking. Should the dragon end her sleep, their world will be destroyed.

The Dragon King is dying. As heir to his throne Sulema must be trained to take his place, yet the more she learns, the less she trusts the sinister agendas that surround her. Knowing that her life hangs in the balance, Sulema seeks to return to the Zeera.

Salvation may lie with her mother, Hafsa Azeina, who walks the dark and deadly pathways of the Dreaming Lands. To save her daughter, the dreamshifter will be forced to strike a pact with her greatest enemy, a huntress who would rather kill her than assist her.

Upheaval stretches far beyond Atualon–to the forbidden city of Khanbul where the emperor rules with an iron hand. An elite cadre of rebel conspirators chafes beneath his rule and plots to overthrow him.

Among them is Jian de Allyr, the half-dae prince born of a human mother and a twilight lord. If they are to challenge the emperor in his stronghold, however, Jian and his co-conspirators must secretly raise an army…

If I have one complaint, it would be that I wished I had discovered this series after it had been completely written. The plot is complex and includes multiple story arcs. I had forgotten a lot of the details from the first book, which made for some moments of confusion on my part. Wolf helpfully includes a map, and appendixes to help you along. Not to mention, just as she did in the last book, she leaves you with many unanswered questions.

I can’t wait for the next book, scheduled for release in May of 2019.  This was a great read, and I highly recommend it.

Kind regards,

Anne

Book Review · Uncategorized

Book Review: Eve of a Hundred Midnights by Bill Lascher

3 1/2 out of 5 starsEve of a hundred midnights

In Eve of a Hundred Midnights: The Star-Crossed Love Story of Two WWII Correspondents and Their Epic Escape Across the Pacific, Bill Lascher chronicles the lives of journalists Mel and Annalee Jacoby and their first-hand coverage of WWII in the Pacific Theater and subsequent escape using letters, articles, books, photos, and recollections from their families. I struggled with this book which is why I gave it 3 1/2 stars.

From the back cover description:

“The unforgettable true story of two married journalists on an island-hopping run for their lives across the Pacific after the Fall of Manila during World War II—a saga of love, adventure, and danger.

On New Year’s Eve, 1941, just three weeks after the attack on Pearl Harbor, the Japanese were bombing the Philippine capital of Manila, where journalists Mel and Annalee Jacoby had married just a month earlier. The couple had worked in China as members of a tight community of foreign correspondents with close ties to Chinese leaders; if captured by invading Japanese troops, they were certain to be executed. Racing to the docks just before midnight, they barely escaped on a freighter—the beginning of a tumultuous journey that would take them from one island outpost to another. While keeping ahead of the approaching Japanese, Mel and Annalee covered the harrowing war in the Pacific Theater—two of only a handful of valiant and dedicated journalists reporting from the region.

Supported by deep historical research, extensive interviews, and the Jacobys’ personal letters, Bill Lascher recreates the Jacobys’ thrilling odyssey and their love affair with the Far East and one another. Bringing to light their compelling personal stories and their professional life together, Eve of a Hundred Midnights is a tale of an unquenchable thirst for adventure, of daring reportage at great personal risk, and of an enduring romance that blossomed in the shadow of war.”

I have to admit that I have a love-hate relationship with Bill Lascher’s book. I loved the story of Mel and Annalee but for large portions of the book, it felt like an information dump and I prefer more of a storyteller approach to my reading. It might have been easier to parse the information if the book had included a dramatis personae (to keep all the key players straight) and a map. The sheer number of names, both foreign and English, and their nicknames, kept me thumbing back and forth to see who the author was referring to again and again. I wanted to love it but I just couldn’t fall into the story for any length of time. My father, on the other hand, loved this book. He was the one who recommended it to me in the first place. So, I’ll pass on his high recommendation in place of my own tepid review.

Thanks for stopping by!

Kind regards,

Anne

Book Review

Book Series Review: The Flavia de Luce novels by Alan Bradley

I give this series Four out of Five Stars.

flavia books.jpg

I’ve just finished the fourth book in Alan Bradley’s Flavia de Luce mystery series and I’ve already put in my order for the fifth book. This is a delightful series, full of eccentric characters and intricate plots. It’s funny, too!

Alan Bradley’s main character is a brilliant 11 year old chemist and amateur detective growing up in post-WWII Britain. Flavia has an unhealthy fascination with poisons and death, a fascination that puts her squarely in the middle of a various murder investigations. She lives with her father, her two older sisters, and her father’s handyman (but so much more) Dogger, in their crumbling mansion called Buckshaw.

In the first book, The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, Flavia finds a dead body in the kitchen garden at Buckshaw. Not rattled in the least and wanting to solve the murder herself, she embarks on her own investigation into the death. The local police aren’t too keen on her involvement but her discoveries turn out to be invaluable in the end.

The fact that Flavia is a child does nothing to detract from the books, and in fact, allows for a bit of ridiculousness that you wouldn’t believe if it came from an adult. I have to admit that I do tend to glaze over a bit when she gets into the detailed chemistry bits but that is due to my own lack of knowledge and not any failing on the author’s part.

If you enjoy a light-hearted, intellectual mystery then the Flavia de Luce books are for you.

This weekend, I’m off to a glass mosaic workshop to get my art on. I’ll be learning the techniques and creating my own masterpiece to take home at the end of the workshop. I’ll keep you posted. Wish me luck!

Kind regards,

Anne

 

Book Review · Uncategorized

Book Review: The Dragon’s Legacy by Deborah Wolf

Dragon's Legacy BookThe Dragon’s Legacy

I am very excited for Deborah Wolf, an Army buddy of mine from way back, on the imminent release of the second book in her epic fantasy series, The Forbidden City. The first book in the series, The Dragon’s Legacy, came out this time last year. And man, is it good! Here is my review I posted to Barnes and Noble and Goodreads after reading it.

“This is a fantastic debut from a new author! Her world building is both detailed and lyrical and her characters come to life on the page. True, this book is definitely the setup for later books, but if the promise stays true, it will be a kick-ass series.”

From the back cover of The Dragon’s Legacy:

“In the heart of the singing desert, the people are fading from the world. Mothers bear few live children, the warriors and wardens are hard-pressed to protect those who remain, and the vash’ai—the great cats who have called the people kithren for as long as there have been stories—bond with fewer humans each year. High above, the Sun Dragon sings a song of life and love while far below, the Earth Dragon slumbers as she has since the beginning of time. Her sleep is fitful, and from the darkness of her dreams come whispers of war… and death. 
Sulema is a newly minted warrior of the people and a true Ja’Akari—a daughter of the unforgiving desert. When a mysterious young man appears in her home of Aish Kalumm, she learns that the Dragon King is dying in distant Atualon. As the king fades, so does the magic that sings the Earth Dragon to sleep.
There are those who wish to keep the dragon trapped in endless slumber. Others would tap her power to claim it for their own. And there are those who would have her wake, so they might laugh as the world burns.”

Her new book, The Forbidden City, drops next week on May 15th. Needless to say, I am eagerly awaiting my preordered copy.

From the back cover of The Forbidden City:

“Sulema Ja’Akari is an elite warrior, one of the desert people known as the Zeeranim. She is also the daughter of the Dragon King of Atualon, whose magic is the only thing that prevents the earth dragon from waking. Should the dragon end her sleep, their world will be destroyed.

The Dragon King is dying. As heir to his throne Sulema must be trained to take his place, yet the more she learns, the less she trusts the sinister agendas that surround her. Knowing that her life hangs in the balance, Sulema seeks to return to the Zeera.

Salvation may lie with her mother, Hafsa Azeina, who walks the dark and deadly pathways of the Dreaming Lands. To save her daughter, the dreamshifter will be forced to strike a pact with her greatest enemy, a huntress who would rather kill her than assist her.

Upheaval stretches far beyond Atualon–to the forbidden city of Khanbul where the emperor rules with an iron hand. An elite cadre of rebel conspirators chafes beneath his rule and plots to overthrow him.

Among them is Jian de Allyr, the half-dae prince born of a human mother and a twilight lord. If they are to challenge the emperor in his stronghold, however, Jian and his co-conspirators must secretly raise an army…”

I cannot recommend these books enough, and not just because Deb is a friend. If you are interested in getting your hands on your own copies, you can find her books at most major book retailers, both brick and mortar and online.

I hope you’ll take the time to check out her books, she also has the first book of an urban fantasy series out that is set in the Alaskan outback, called Split Feather, Daughter of the Midnight Sun.  I’ll post a review of Split Feather next time.

Thanks for stopping by the blog. I appreciate the support.

Kind regards,

Anne