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: Not So Much, Said The Cat by Michael Swanwick

Not So Much, Said The Cat by Michael Swanwick
Amazon

Michael Swanwick takes us on a whirlwind journey across the globe and across time and space, where magic and science exist in possibilities that are not of this world. These tales are intimate in their telling, galactic in their scope, and delightfully sesquipedalian in their verbiage.

Join the caravan through Swanwick’s worlds and into the playground of his mind. Discover a calculus problem that rocks the ages and robots who both nurture and kill. Meet a magical horse who protects the innocent, a confused but semi-repentant troll, a savvy teenager who takes on the Devil, and time travelers from the Mesozoic who party till the end of time…

I requested this book via NetGalley to review because the title and description sounded intriguing. When I started the book, however, the intrigue fell away a little.

Not So Much, Said The Cat starts with an introduction from the author, talking about his writing journey and how this collection of short fiction came to be. Unfortunately, the introduction read very self-aggrandizing and I’m still not sure if it was intended that way or just came across that way by accident.

But I put that aside and jumped into the world of the first story, and enjoyed it very much! I’ve seen other reviewers all say the same – the first story is a great start to this collection and definitely makes you want to read more.

However, the book is only 288 pages, which should be a very quick read, but it actually took me over 2 months to get through it. Which is a downside for me, but for anthology lovers maybe that would be a positive? Each story was a different genre to the last, jumping around between fantasy, sci-fi, fable-type fiction and more, to the point that I could only read one story at a time and needed several days (sometimes a week or more) between them to get my brain ready for the next genre switch.

I’m not sure why the author (or publisher) planned the stories in this way. There were several of each genre in the book and I think it would have been a more enjoyable read to have more fluid genre transitions, from fantasy through to sci-fi crossovers, then pure sci-fi through to the fable-style stories, etc. The way they were all intermixed felt very “bitty”, and frustrated me a few times that I couldn’t just relax and read several at once.

For example, “The Dala Horse” was such a swift change in genre and setting that it pulled me out of the story too much at first – I found myself thinking “wait, where am I? What setting/world is this?” instead of just enjoying the story. And “3am In The Mesozoic Bar” was a flop for me because it took too long for the story to show you what was going on. I think it (and many others) would have read differently if I’d known upfront which genre I should be expecting.

You could definitely tell the same author wrote each story, even with the different settings and protagonists the language and writing style was much the same. But that alone wasn’t enough to tie the collection together for me to read more than one at a time.

The stories themselves are mostly good – a couple are very good, then they become “ok” the further into the collection you go, with one or two not grabbing me at all. But you have to expect a mixed bag with a short fiction collection that crosses so many different worlds, genres and characters.

The ones I enjoyed (such as “The Man In Grey”, and “The Woman Who Shook The World Tree”) had strong plots, characters, and I mostly enjoyed the author’s writing style – very accurately described in the book blurb as sesquipedalian.

“An Empty House With Many Doors” was a surprising treat later in the collection. The worldbuilding was interesting and it was great to have an emotional rollercoaster through such a short story.

Overall I think the collection is an OK read, very middle of the road. I don’t think I’d recommend it to anyone personally, but if you enjoy mixed-genre anthologies you might feel differently about it than I did.

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

Review: Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard

redQueen

I’ve been looking forward to reading Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard. All of the book bloggers, and booktubers, have been talking about it so highly, and as I picked it up to read I began to worry it wouldn’t live up to my expectations. I needn’t have worried.

I really enjoyed this book! The world building is great, the characters are interesting, and the story moves with a great balance of fast and slow pacing. Not everything is perfect – the science behind some things made the logical part of my brain shudder, but it’s a fantasy book and nothing was so outlandish to shock me out of the story.

The main character, Mare, is part of the lower level of society – the red bloods. They are normal humans without any powers. The higher society – the overlords, really – are silver bloods (literally) and the elite classes of the world. They each have different powers, such as being able to manipulate fire, water, or turn invisible.

Mare’s world is turned upside down when she finds out she, a normal red blood girl, has a power of her own. The book delves into what this means for society and how it would shake up the current class dynamics. It made me think “what would I do in that situation?” a lot, and the plot develops in a very real-world way.

I liked Mare as a character, though she did frustrate me at times. But I kept reminding myself that she is only 17, and the book shows us that she hasn’t had much of an education. The other main characters include Maven and Cal, two of the silver elite class who are half-brothers. They stand alone well as different characters (not just one brother repeated twice) and I enjoyed the interactions between them and with Mare.

There were a couple of frustrations that seem to pop up in a few books lately. Such as someone being charged with something they didn’t do, and when everyone turns against them they don’t just say a simple one line to clear their name (I won’t say what sentence they could be here, because of spoilers). They just stay quiet and internally wonder “if only I could do something”. In this book their silence moves the story along to the next big scene, but it felt more like we were being forced to the next big scene when one sentence could have so easily changed things. It felt as though the character was suddenly being very slow in their thinking, which didn’t mesh with the way the character had been developed so far.

There were a couple of inconsistencies…or at least they read as inconsistencies but one of them could possibly be developed/answered in further world building in other books. The first inconsistency was that Mare talks about being quick on her feet and able to move around people well without bumping into them, but she slips on a stone floor (and says something about not having good feet for that), and later struggles to dance because her feet aren’t suited to it. The other inconsistency, which I think might be expanded upon later, was that powers are an ability to manipulate external things, not to come from within – which makes sense but got me wondering about the people who could heal themselves (but not others), the ones who can turn invisible, or the person who turned themselves to stone – those all read as internal manipulation, which goes against what the author had already taught us about powers. I hope these get answered or expanded upon in later books as I’d love to see more of that development! 🙂

Minor frustrations aside, I thought the characters were well rounded and the story was very interesting. I liked that there wasn’t such a clear line between good and evil in each person – the good characters weren’t always good, for example. It made the world feel very believable because of that, as people aren’t just one clear cut thing in real life.

There are a few plot twists and turns. The “big one” I figured out very early on in the book, but even knowing what was coming I really enjoyed this book! I loved the world building and definitely want to read more – I’ll be picking up the next book as soon as I can.

Rating: 4/5

Amazon | Book Depository

I purchased this book with my own money, and received no compensation for my honest review.
I am a Book Depository and Amazon affiliate, and I receive a small commission if you use my link.

Books

Book Review: The Light Between Oceans by M. L. Stedman

LightBetweenOceans

The Light Between Oceans
by M. L. Stedman
Published: April 2013
Amazon
Book Depository

Back of the book blurb:
After four harrowing years on the Western Front, Tom Sherbourne returns to Australia and takes a job as the lighthouse keeper on Janus Rock, nearly half a day’s journey from the coast. To this isolated island, where the supply boat comes once a season, Tom brings a young, bold, and loving wife, Isabel. Years later, after two miscarriages and one stillbirth, the grieving Isabel hears a baby’s cries on the wind. A boat has washed up onshore carrying a dead man and a living baby.

Tom, who keeps meticulous records and whose moral principles have withstood a horrific war, wants to report the man and infant immediately. But Isabel insists the baby is a “gift from God,” and against Tom’s judgment, they claim her as their own and name her Lucy. When she is two, Tom and Isabel return to the mainland and are reminded that there are other people in the world. Their choice has devastated one of them.

My review:
I was intrigued by this book as soon as I read the blurb. It sounded as though it would tackle some hard choices and also the fallout that those choices can cause. I wasn’t disappointed.

The author has a wonderful writing style (for the most part) – I felt drawn into the story straight away, but the large chunks of “this is how a lighthouse works” did jar a little and I skipped a few. The period and location of the story were new to me, but it didn’t feel like an unknown. Stedman wrote descriptions beautifully and kept the pacing just right to move the reader along.

The story itself felt as though it is something that could have happened, even though I know this is a book of fiction. We meet Tom Sherbourne, who was happy spending his post-war years alone on a lighthouse until he meets Isabel – a vibrant and energetic girl who Tom falls in love with very quickly. Their story soon becomes one of sadness, and then deceit. But I loved that the story was told “as is” without trying to make the reader feel one way or another. You’re left to your own devices to decide how you feel about each decision, action or inaction. And it really makes you think “what would I do if…” a lot of times through the book.

I was anticipating a very sad ending filled with a lot of death – thankfully that didn’t happen – and I have to admit I ended up hating Isabel. But that hate also held sadness and some compassion (though not a lot, I must admit) because of what had driven her to the decisions she made. The book made me question if someone’s actions can or should be forgiven because of what drove them to that point, and to also think about the loved ones surrounding them who have to deal with the fallout by association.

This is a book which will keep you thinking long after you’ve finished. At first I wasn’t sure if I liked, or agreed, with the way things progressed and then ended. But it stayed in my mind for a few days, with me thinking of other endings or how I thought people would react in different situations. Which to me is a great book – something that makes you think about not only the book itself, but about the world you live in and the way people interact.

Rating: 4/5

Amazon | Book Depository

I purchased this book with my own money, and received no compensation for my honest review.
I am a Book Depository and Amazon affiliate, and I receive a small commission if you use my link.