Books

Review: The Book Of M by Peng Shepherd

The Book Of M
by Peng Shepherd

One afternoon at an outdoor market in India, a man’s shadow disappears—an occurrence science cannot explain. He is only the first. The phenomenon spreads like a plague, and while those afflicted gain a strange new power, it comes at a horrible price: the loss of all their memories.

Ory and his wife Max have escaped the Forgetting so far by hiding in an abandoned hotel deep in the woods. Their new life feels almost normal, until one day Max’s shadow disappears too.

Knowing that the more she forgets, the more dangerous she will become to Ory, Max runs away. But Ory refuses to give up the time they have left together. Desperate to find Max before her memory disappears completely, he follows her trail across a perilous, unrecognizable world, braving the threat of roaming bandits, the call to a new war being waged on the ruins of the capital, and the rise of a sinister cult that worships the shadowless.

As they journey, each searches for answers: for Ory, about love, about survival, about hope; and for Max, about a new force growing in the south that may hold the cure.

My Review:

I thought The Book of M sounded intriguing – people losing shadows and gaining strange powers – and it didn’t disappoint! We follow the story from three viewpoints: Ory, Max, and Naz. I found Naz the most personable of the three, but enjoyed reading the story from all of the vantage points.

Peng Shepherd has a really good writing style, in my opinion. The descriptions felt like I was there, and the build up to tense, happy, or devastating moments was done really well – I can’t give specifics because of spoilers, but there are several scenes that made me clench my fists, or feel such hatred towards characters who until that moment I had thought of very differently. Everyone in the book has depth, and I found myself often asking “What would I have done in this situation?” or “Would I have done things differently?” whenever decisions came up.

The world building is immense – we follow the story across several states in America, being shown different land marks, and general travel sights that are normally familiar but subtly changed to immerse us with fantastical discoveries as the characters themselves are discovering them. It gave me a feeling of “We’re all in this together” no matter where the story led.

I really enjoyed learning about what was happening to the people who were inflicted with the loss of their shadow, and how it was affecting not only the people they knew but the world as a whole. It felt very realistic in how everyone reacted at different times through the news cycle/timeline.

SPOILERS BELOW! Don’t read the following two paragraphs if you want to avoid spoilers!

I did feel the book was lacking in one respect though – it relied too heavily on the “it’s magic” defense for why everything happened, and felt like it was trying to distract the reader from wanting to know reasons by making the characters ultimately not care about reasons either. Even the scientists and research that was mentioned throughout the book was brushed aside by the end for a heavy push of “We don’t really need to know why, it’s just magic!” and that was disappointing and felt a little like a cop out.

Also by the end I felt like everyone forgot that paper journals were a thing (I doubt stationary stores had been raided much and were likely fully stocked and ready to go).

(No more spoilers from this point on).

But that said, I still really enjoyed the book and have already been recommending it to friends.

Rating: 4/5

If you want to check it out, here are some links!

Amazon *
Book Depository *
Goodreads

I purchased this book with my own money, and received no compensation for my honest review.
* I am an Amazon associate, and Book Depository associate, which means if you purchase the book through my link, Amazon/BD will give me a small commission (it does NOT affect the price of the book).

Books

Review: City Of Brass by S A Chakraborty

City of Brass
by S. A. Chakraborty

Nahri has never believed in magic. Certainly, she has power; on the streets of eighteenth-century Cairo, she’s a con woman of unsurpassed talent. But she knows better than anyone that the trades she uses to get by—palm readings, zars, and a mysterious gift for healing—are all tricks, both the means to the delightful end of swindling Ottoman nobles and a reliable way to survive.

But when Nahri accidentally summons Dara, an equally sly, darkly mysterious djinn warrior, to her side during one of her cons, she’s forced to reconsider her beliefs. For Dara tells Nahri an extraordinary tale: across hot, windswept sands teeming with creatures of fire and rivers where the mythical marid sleep, past ruins of once-magnificent human metropolises and mountains where the circling birds of prey are more than what they seem, lies Daevabad, the legendary city of brass—a city to which Nahri is irrevocably bound.

In Daevabad, within gilded brass walls laced with enchantments and behind the six gates of the six djinn tribes, old resentments run deep. And when Nahri decides to enter this world, her arrival threatens to ignite a war that has been simmering for centuries.

Spurning Dara’s warning of the treachery surrounding her, she embarks on a hesitant friendship with Alizayd, an idealistic prince who dreams of revolutionizing his father’s corrupt regime. All too soon, Nahri learns that true power is fierce and brutal. That magic cannot shield her from the dangerous web of court politics. That even the cleverest of schemes can have deadly consequences.

After all, there is a reason they say to be careful what you wish for.

My Review:

There are only three words you need to know: read this book!

The first few pages drew me in so well that I quickly knew City Of Brass wouldn’t be long enough; that I’d want even more time in this world and with these characters. (Yay for 2 more books planned in the series!)

For a while I did wonder if the pacing was too slow, even though I felt pulled along and eager to find out more of what would happen. And then I realised – this isn’t a book to binge read and rush through. For this book you need to think of yourself sitting around a fire with friends, sharing food and tea, when someone starts telling the tale of Nahri – of magic, djinn, and a mystical city – weaved together with details that make you feel as though you’re there. It’s a story you need to take your time with, to let it guide, entertain and enthrall you as the tale unfolds.

I reached a point about half way through where I wanted to slow my pace even more, to make it last longer because it’s such a great book! But, even with taking my time and enjoying every moment in this world, I did reach the end and I can’t wait for the next book to come out! Chakraborty’s writing is just fantastic, and I’m really excited to see where she takes us next.

Rating: 5/5

If you want to check it out, here are some links!

Amazon *
Book Depository *
Goodreads

I purchased this book with my own money, and received no compensation for my honest review.
* I am an Amazon associate, and Book Depository associate, which means if you purchase the book through my link, Amazon/BD will give me a small commission (it does NOT affect the price of the book).

Books

Review: Blackwing by Ed McDonald

Blackwing
by Ed McDonald

Hope, reason, humanity: the Misery breaks them all.

Under its cracked and wailing sky, the Misery is a vast and blighted expanse, the arcane remnant of a devastating war with the immortals known as the Deep Kings. The war ended nearly a century ago, and the enemy is kept at bay only by the existence of the Engine, a terrible weapon that protects the Misery’s border. Across the corrupted no-man’s-land teeming with twisted magic and malevolent wraiths, the Deep Kings and their armies bide their time. Watching. Waiting.

Bounty hunter Ryhalt Galharrow has breathed Misery dust for twenty bitter years. When he’s ordered to locate a masked noblewoman at a frontier outpost, he finds himself caught in the middle of an attack by the Deep Kings, one that signifies they may no longer fear the Engine. Only a formidable show of power from the very woman he is seeking, Lady Ezabeth Tanza, repels the assault.

Ezabeth is a shadow from Galharrow’s grim past, and together they stumble onto a web of conspiracy that threatens to end the fragile peace the Engine has provided. Galharrow is not ready for the truth about the blood he’s spilled or the gods he’s supposed to serve.

My Review:

This was my first dive into the “grimdark” genre, so I don’t have others to compare it to but I did really enjoy it!

That said, the first part of the book felt slow and I wasn’t really interested or invested in any of the characters. But around page 60-70 things started to pick up, and from there the momentum built really well. I’m not sure if I ever really cared about any of the characters, but I was definitely interested in them – to know their story and see how they develop – which made me invested and helped pull me into the story more.

This is not a happy world. It’s grim, and dark (as you would expect), and has an air of hopelessness, but also strong, driven characters who are that way because of the world they’re in. I liked that everything was matter of fact, pragmatic, with no sugar coating. And also that you were shown the world and characters gradually – to make your own observations along the way – and not just told what you needed to know as an info dump.

Some of the station locations, and distances/time in general, were a bit confusing to keep track of but it didn’t detract from the story. A map might be helpful for the front of the book though, to get a better idea of where everything is in relation to everything else.

I really liked that there were 2 things at the end which I didn’t see coming (2 others that I did, not because they were cliche, but because the story built up to them well), and I like having surprises.

I’ll definitely be reading book two!

Rating: 4/5

If you want to check it out, here are some links!

Amazon *
Book Depository *
Goodreads

I purchased this book with my own money, and received no compensation for my honest review.
* I am an Amazon associate, and Book Depository associate, which means if you purchase the book through my link, Amazon/BD will give me a small commission (it does NOT affect the price of the book).

Books

Review: The Edge of Nowhere by C. H. Armstrong

EdgeofNowhereThe Edge of Nowhere by C. H. Armstrong
Amazon

The year is 1992 and Victoria Hastings Harrison Greene—reviled matriarch of a sprawling family—is dying.

After surviving the Oklahoma Dust Bowl and the Great Depression, Victoria refuses to leave this earth before revealing the secrets she’s carried for decades.

Once the child of a loving family during peaceful times, a shocking death shattered her life. Victoria came face to face with the harshness of the world. As the warm days of childhood receded to distant memory, Victoria learns to survive.

No matter what it takes.

To keep her family alive in an Oklahoma blighted by dust storms and poverty, Victoria makes choices—harsh ones, desperate ones. Ones that eventually made her into the woman her grandchildren fear and whisper about. Ones that kept them all alive. Hers is a tale of tragedy, love, murder, and above all, the conviction to never stop fighting.

I received an e-copy of this book via NetGalley. My views and opinions of the book are my own, and I received no compensation for my honest review.

A friend on twitter recommended this book to NetGalley users, and the description sounded interesting so I requested it. It was labelled as “women’s fiction” but really I think it’s historical fiction foremost. I wish I’d realised that before requesting it, as I’m not a big fan of historical fiction. The description made it sound as though the story was set in 1992, but in reality it’s all set in the past – from 1913 to 1939.

The Edge of Nowhere is a narration of the protagonist, Victoria’s, life. What I mean by narration is that the whole book read very much as telling instead of showing – which is a big no-no in the writing world – and I felt more like I was reading a padded out list of events. There wasn’t any “showing” to help me become immersed in the story, and each character and situation felt flat because of it.

The story starts with the protagonist saying this is a letter to her family so they can understand what she went through, and it ends in much the same way. But at 358 pages I think it could have been better executed as a brief letter at the start saying something like “the following is a book about my life, for my grandchildren” and then show us her life instead of just telling us a series of events. (It’s pretty unbelievable that she wrote a 358 page letter lol!)

On top of the “telling instead of showing” issue, the dialogue wasn’t very good, in my opinion. Every character sounded the same as the rest (you could make a drinking game for whenever anyone said “I don’t have much but I can share”). And confusingly, at the start of the book Victoria (and her family) seemed to speak with a mostly “proper” accent, but as the book went on the author changed the way Victoria and everyone around her spoke, giving them more of a drawl including missing letters from words. This change seems to be trying to drive home that Victoria wasn’t from an affluent family, but it was inconsistent with how the story started.

Which also caused some confusion for me because at the start of the story I thought she was living in a Victorian affluent setting, due to the names and how everyone was speaking and interacting, but also the way certain characters finances were talked about. Will, in particular, was made to sound like a very wealthy gentleman at first, but within a couple of chapters they were talking about how much of a hard working farmer he is and about what little money they made from even great farming years.

The writing style as a whole made it a struggle to get through the book, which is a shame because the idea for the story is a good one and the topics covered are important things that should be discussed – not just from history but in modern day too. Topics such as starvation, misogyny, sex work (the book briefly touches on this), survival, infant death, and grief.

Victoria goes through a vast list of trials and suffering. I felt angry at everything she had to endure, but at the same time I didn’t actually care about Victoria at all. Her character – even though her demeanor changed through the book – fell flat for me. I like to see character development that actually develops the character in a way that shows us the changes, and doesn’t just write the character telling us how they changed.

I wouldn’t recommend The Edge of Nowhere to anyone but, as I hadn’t ever heard of the Oklahoma Dust Bowl before, I have learned something from reading this book. And even though the “telling” and dialogue were a struggle to get through, I do feel as though I’ve learned a little about what it was like for some families during that time.

Due to learning something new, my rating isn’t as low as it would have been.

Rating: 2.5/5

I received this ebook via NetGalley. The opinions are my own and I received no compensation for my honest review.
I am an Amazon Associate: they pay me a small commission if you use my link.

Books

Review: Night Shift by Charlaine Harris

NightShiftNight Shift by Charlaine Harris
Amazon

At Midnight’s local pawnshop, weapons are flying off the shelves—only to be used in sudden and dramatic suicides right at the main crossroads in town.

Who better to figure out why blood is being spilled than the vampire Lemuel, who, while translating mysterious texts, discovers what makes Midnight the town it is. There’s a reason why witches and werewolves, killers and psychics, have been drawn to this place.

And now they must come together to stop the bloodshed in the heart of Midnight. For if all hell breaks loose—which just might happen—it will put the secretive town on the map, where no one wants it to be.

I received an e-copy of this book via NetGalley. My views and opinions of the book are my own, and I received no compensation for my honest review.

When I requested Night Shift I didn’t realise it was book 3 in the “Midnight Texas” series. But that didn’t cause any issues, it worked as a stand alone novel – I only realised it wasn’t book one after I’d finished reading it.

I read quite a few of the Sookie Stackhouse series when it first came out, and I’ve read (and loved!) the Harper Connelly series, so I was really looking forward to reading Night Shift!

In Night Shift there are a couple of crossover characters from both of those series – one I didn’t recognize (from later in the Sookie series that I hadn’t reached yet), and one from the Harper Connelly series.  It was a fun twist to have this kind of crossover but I don’t remember vampires being around in Harper’s world, so the crossover of them living in the same town was a little strange.

Night Shift focuses on several different characters, all with their own unique skills: Fiji is a witch, Lemuel is a vampire, Manfred is a psychic/medium, Quinn is a weretiger…the list goes on.

The main plot is about the town needing to come together to stop strange suicides that have been happening, and to put an end to what has been causing that to happen. I was interested enough to keep reading, and wanted to know more about the sub plots that take place through the book. Manfred, Lemuel and Olivier were my favourite characters, and they seemed the most developed. The other characters weren’t underdeveloped, they just didn’t feel as substantial to me.

I liked that Manfred has a great psychic ability which is triggered by touch, and that he saw a lot more into people’s lives than they probably realised. Just a simple friendly gesture from someone (a pat on the arm) could end up with Manfred seeing everything they were hiding from the outside world. Seeing him here made me want to re-read the Harper Connelly series.

Fiji is a witch who is more powerful than she realises, and I really enjoyed the portrayal of witches in Night Shift (or at least the way Fiji’s magic was shown). She has a draw of “trinkets” which I loved seeing, and the reason for them (no spoilers, so I won’t go into more detail), and I love the way she casts spells and channels her power.

Mr. Snuggly is just fab 😀

As for negatives, a lot of the backstory for each character was “told” to us, almost just listing out what had happened, and sometimes felt more like padding as it didn’t add anything to the current story.

In fact, a lot of the book felt like padding. One character is in town throughout the entire book and gives a very vague “warning” at the start, then at the very end says (I’m paraphrasing) “So I’ve always known what’s happening, I came here for the sole purpose of telling you how to deal with it…but I just didn’t tell you since I’ve been here, even though it could have saved lives and given you all a head start on fixing things”. It was the most “wtf” moment in the book for me. Their whole purpose was to be the character who knew what was going on…yet they waited until literally the last moment (after Lemuel had already finished his decoding) to tell anyone. Basically if this character had said what he knew at the start, there would have been no book.

And then the whole thing felt like such a forced plot – just pushing us along toward what was ultimately a very disappointing ending. After a build up through the whole book, the finale is 2 pages of basically nothing exciting. Just a totally fizzled out ending.

Then in the final few pages of “and they all lived happily ever after” summaries there is a very homophobic comment (said as though it’s a positive thing), and a conversation that’s very degrading to women. I don’t know if those will be edited out before the final release but I certainly hope so! It left me with a bit of a sour taste in my mouth.

I will say that because I was given an advanced copy of the book there were quite a few things I think (I hope!) will be edited out. From small things like typos, to bigger things like character A telling character B that they hear voices in their mind and character B saying “I think I know what that is! I’ll go check something and let you know!”, then a couple of chapters later character A tells character B again as though it’s the first time talking about it and character B wonders why character A didn’t say something sooner.

The interaction between all of the characters was interesting, and because of that the sub plots drew me along through the story (perhaps more so than the “main” plot). Olivier is someone I would really love to read more about – she could have her own series and I’d jump at reading it!

But for Night Shift… Overall I didn’t dislike this book, but I didn’t love it either. It’s just an average book, nothing special. I don’t feel like checking out the previous two in the series because it didn’t pique my interest enough, and I doubt I’ll be reaching for any future books in the series unless I’m really stuck for something to read.

I feel this book is closer to a 2.5 rating, but I’m feeling generous because I did enjoy Manfred, Lemuel and Olivier’s characters.

Rating: 3/5

I received this ebook via NetGalley. The opinions are my own and I received no compensation for my honest review.
I am an Amazon Associate: they pay me a small commission if you use my link.

Books

Libraries, GISHWHES, and NetGalley – Oh My!

I was almost tempted to say the past week had been uneventful, but that’s not really true. It’s just been a more chilled out kind of event filled week, instead of the manic weeks I seem to have had a lot of lately!

It started off great when I found out The Library Project wanted my face. Ok let me back up a bit here lol! I recently wrote a blog about my favourite childhood book to help promote The Library Project – an organisation which donates books and libraries to children in under-financed rural schools and orphanages in Asia. When they first reached out to bloggers to help promote their organisation I jumped at the chance!

Well now they want to grow that into even more bloggers being part of it and have set up a specific section of their website…which now has my face (and the other bloggers who took part in the original blog posts) on it! 🙂

LibraryFace

For any bloggers interested in joining in the fun and helping to spread the word about the organisation, there are full details on The Library Project website on how to take part.

TBR07

I also got a few of ebooks from NetGalley – my first time ever requesting from them! I was rejected for several, which I expected, but I got approved for a handful of titles so now I’m working my way through them. I’ve written a review for Henchgirl already, and am about 75% of the way through Night Shift.

Henchgirl by Rita Stradling  Amazon | My Review

Night Shift by Charlaine Harris  Amazon

gishwhes2016

Then some online friends told me about something called GISHWHES. I’d never heard of it before! It’s an annual “scavenger hunt” run by Misha Collins (who plays Castiel on Supernatural), where teams work to complete fun and creative challenges. You don’t have to live local to anyone on your team (I don’t!) and you can create your own team or join a team of random people to get to meet new friends.

From what I can tell, there are a LOT of different challenges and you just do as many as you can – they vary from something simple (like taking a photo with a stormtrooper) to something really hard (like writing GISHWHES in space!). The aim of the hunt isn’t just a creative outlet though, it’s also to help and inspire others in your community.  It sounded like way too much fun to pass up so I’ve registered 😀 The hunt starts in July – I’m a bit nervous but definitely excited!

Finally, it was Penny’s “birthday” yesterday! She turned 2-ish. It’s been a year since we took her in and I can’t believe it’s been so long already. She definitely feels like she’s been part of the family for way longer than that!

penny2ndBirthday

I made a vlog about some of these things (and other bits going on in my life) while the dog and cat are crazy in the background lol!

As usual I’ll be taking part in Stacking The Shelves, and The Sunday Post – check out some of the other posts to find great reads 🙂

I received the ebooks via NetGalley, and received no compensation for my honest opinion.
I am an Amazon Associate: they pay me a small commission if you use my link.