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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

Micro Brew: Favourite Urban Fantasy

Allie over at Hexen Librarian has started a fun blogging prompt called Micro Brew. What is it? Well, here’s the information direct from Hexen Librarian’s website:

This was created by my friend Melanie / The Library of Mars. We would do this on Tumblr, back when that was my only reviewing platform. I’ve been wanting to do something more on my blog because my reviews are as unpredictable as my reading habits. I thought this would be a fun way to promote something that you love. It’s also been re-branded from “Micro Review” to “Micro Brew” because of some confusion and to fit with my blogs overall theme.

I will be posting the prompts on the first day of the month and answering them on the first and third Mondays of the month (anytime in between will be good times to post as well).

I’m a bit late doing the first prompt she posted, but better late than never! This month’s theme is “Favourites”, and the February 4th prompt is:

What is your favourite Urban Fantasy novel?

For me that has to be Magic Bites by Ilona Andrews. It’s book one of a series, and I love it so much because the world building is so in depth! And she writes in a way that you get shown the world a bit at a time, as though you already live there, and not told a list of things as an outsider.

The protagonist is Kate Daniels. She’s a strong person, but also has some flaws which make her seem more real and relatable. She finds out about different aspects of herself at the same time as the reader does, so you’re along for the journey with her for each discovery and adventure.

The setting is an alternative Atlanta, which is in a state of constant magical fluctuation – sometimes magic is in full effect, other times only technology will work. It swings back and forth between the two like a pendulum, with little or no warning when a change is coming. There are different magical and mythical beings that live in the world, along with humans who have adapted to the new way of life as best they can, or taking part in minor and epic battles.

There is a romance element to the series, and Ilona Andrews’s husband, Gordon, has actually written books from the romantic partner’s point of view – which adds an extra layer of immersion.

It’s hard to talk about Magic Bites, and the series as a whole, without giving away spoilers! There are so many things to discover along the way! But it’s definitely my favourite Urban Fantasy, and I recommend it to people often.

Magic Bites
by Ilona Andrews

When the magic is up, rogue mages cast their spells and monsters appear, while guns refuse to fire and cars fail to start. But then technology returns, and the magic recedes as unpredictably as it arose, leaving all kinds of paranormal problems in its wake.

Kate Daniels is a down-on-her-luck mercenary who makes her living cleaning up magical problems. But when Kate’s guardian is murdered, her quest for justice draws her into a power struggle between two strong factions within Atlanta’s magic circles. Pressured by both sides to find the killer, Kate realizes she’s way out of her league—but she wouldn’t want it any other way…

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

Amazon*
Book Depository*
Goodreads

* 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.

Fashion

Party Season: Fall Fashions

I’m not sure how we’re already in October, but we are! And that means the party season is soon upon us – Halloween parties, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year parties (and somewhere in the middle a birthday party, for me)!

This season I’m loving earthy, muted colours but also pops of colour with patterns that fade into block colour. I think the latter is one of my favourite current fashion trends. 🙂

I haven’t bought any “party” clothes for a while, but Modcloth has added some great dresses to their Fall/Winter section, so here are a few of my favourites. (I foresee a lot of green in my wardrobe!)

modclothfeteonit

You Can Fete On It Dress: I love the colours in this dress! It would be great to wear in the day with flats, or in the evening you could pair it with heels and jewelry. I think this will work well during the Spring too.

modclothexquisiteelegancebig

Exquisite Elegance Dress: The gorgeous muted, mossy green of this dress is so delicate it works perfectly with the lace! I love the off-the-shoulder style too – it’s a really great dress. I’d wear it with pearls to keep the vintage look.

modclothnostalgicallynuancedbig

Nostalgically Nuanced Dress: I love the button detail at the neckline, and the sleeves, and eveything about it really! This is something I know I’d wear a lot…but it’s out of stock. I’m keeping my fingers crossed they’ll get it back in stock soon.

So those are my top three picks from the Modcloth Fall/Winter collection. What styles are you looking forward to this season? Have you found any great fall fashion bargains?

I’m taking part in Style Sessions and What I Wore – be sure to check out some other posts for great fashion finds. 🙂