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Review: The Shadow Of The Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

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*****

5/5 Stars

I found myself melancholic and weighed down by a strange heaviness once I got to page 100 in this intense, darkly seductive novel.

This is, by far, the strangest, most painfully romantic read I’ve experienced. The pieces of me entirely devoted to books and reading sighed in both approval and heartache the further I ventured into this story. It is a clear masterpiece, honed to a deadly point that’s meant to mark you forever.

I’m not sure if that makes sense, but perhaps, once you’ve read this stunning book, you’d understand what I’m trying to say.

This read was many things. Thoroughly intriguing, masterfully Gothic, and utterly astounding. It slowly feeds you hope, only to dash it to the ground in a fit of harsh reality.

The author gives you bits of information slowly enough to make you assume one thing, guess another, and find out with cold shock that you were so very wrong on both counts.

I’m a notorious re-reader, but this is the kind of story that flourishes in the mind of someone who has no idea what they’re getting into. I may never pick this book up again, but only because I don’t ever want to tarnish the grim, oddly satisfying memory I have of it.

 

Review: Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi

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***

3.5 Stars

Okay. Ooookay. I give this 3.5 stars.

First things first – the premise of this book is outstanding. The magic, the culture, the themes that are so painfully relevant to today…all of this is utterly astonishing.

There were snippets throughout the book that gave me chills. Made my heart race. Made me wish I had the ability to soothe all of the very real pain that gave this story its life.

Now…the bad. Adeyemi definitely has some strength to her writing. However, the plot felt jumbled, rushed, and a little like she tore through the story in her mind and never reeeaally went back to give it some much needed fattening up.

The amount of times I had to read “ugh!” and “agh!” made me wince a bit. As a fellow writer, I sympathize. One of my lovely professors pointed out to me that my characters tend to bite their lips a lot. He was shocked that they even had lips left (heh). Needless to say, I tore through my drafts and eradicated the offending phrase. I think Adeyemi’s go-to ugh’s and agh’s could have received the same treatment.

There is SO MUCH potential within this world. The characters deserve to be fully fleshed out more. I craved more languorous building – in both the world and the characters.

Overall, I struggled to keep up with the wild pace. Don’t misunderstand me – I love a hefty, fast-paced plot. But when it’s organized and solid. This book felt like it was missing some crucial pieces, like it was a train steaming down a mountain on broken tracks.

Again, the culture behind the world and the themes the author embedded within her work are excellent. Literature needs more of this kind of story. I think Adeyemi’s just figuring out her stride in her writing, in my unimportant opinion! I will definitely give book two a read one day.

Review: The Bird and the Blade by Megan Bannen

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****

4 Stars

Ooof.

Just, oof. My poor, unsuspecting heart.

I say unsuspecting because I wasn’t particularly enamored of the love development. I mean, I was…but sometimes it was just too much, too soon. I love me some sap, but it has to come with proper build-up. Yet I still felt all the things the author wanted me to feel. Frustration, confusion, shock, annoyance, sorrow, heartbreak, disgust….and not in that order.

Jinghua is a character that fits into her story exactly the way she’s meant to, but it doesn’t mean I like it. Bits and pieces I found myself thinking, “YES. That’s better.” But not as often as, “ugh. ”

I definitely ached for something happier after I turned the last page. I had a few tears rollin’ down my cheeks. After my initial reaction of, “I hate this,” the emotions consumed me.

Let me clarify: I didn’t hate the book. I hate the sorrow it made me feel. Books that end this way tend to knock me to the ground for a solid day or two. When I was younger, I used to mope for WEEKS if I read a book that made me sad (Firewing, I’m looking at you). I generally avoid any sort of entertainment that sends me into heartbreak-land.

But a historical romance set in the Mongol Empire? I couldn’t pass it up even though I knew it was going to shred my sensitive soul.

Overall, The Bird and the Blade was stunning. The careful construction of Jinghua’s relationship with her old goat was flawless. The meticulously researched setting and time was a joy to read (although, as the author does openly say, there were some liberties taken with historical accuracy). While I’m feeling slightly tired of first-person narrative right now, Megan Bannen’s ability to plug her reader into her character’s mind was excellent. This novel is a solid 4 stars.

Review: Starless by Jacqueline Carey

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****

4 Stars

This book taught me some things I didn’t fully realize I needed to learn.

I’ve always been a full ally for the LGBTQ community. I’ve always viewed love and attraction and identity as something that is wholly up to the individual.

I just never fully understood the complexity behind such matters. I will never know what it’s like to be attracted to the same sex, or what it’s like to not know what gender I feel most comfortable identifying with.

But! This book intensified the empathy and support that’s always been ingrained in me. Through the eyes of Khai, I felt confusion, betrayal, heartbreak, wonder, and delicate passion. He (sometimes, briefly, she, or the Elehuddin word for both), is a strong, tightly woven character who I connected with almost instantly.

What does it feel like to think you’re a boy, but then find out you’re a girl? What does it feel like to want to be both? To feel shame over such confusing thoughts? Again, I’ll never be able to say that I fully understand such pain and emotion – but this book illustrated to me just how intricate and, at times, wonderful such personal journeys and discoveries are.

Why only 4 stars? This tale is a sweeping story set in a gorgeous world fraught with exiled gods and clashing cultures. My favourite part of the book was the beginning – Khai’s slow development in the desert. The lush and languorous pace, the keen intensity of fate and looming destiny.

The middle of the book was also lovely, though some of its strength was lost. The third and final part was fast-paced and intriguing – it just felt a little flat and a little rushed. Not by much, but enough that I was unsure how I felt about the ending.

Overall, this was a stunning read that I am so, so happy I experienced and learned from.

Review: Dating In The Apocalypse – Sarah “The One” by Christopher John Carter

***

3/5 Stars

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review

This review is going to be short and a little sweet.

Overall, this book was some fluffy fun. I personally wasn’t glued to the page, but the antics of the main character had me chuckle a couple times.

The concept overall is a funny and unique one. There’s a nice lightness to the story that’s rare to find in this genre.

The author has a strong wit, and his dialogue is sharp and naturally flowing.

The story just wasn’t my kind of story. It was too comedic. I had some fun with it, but I feel like I’ll forget the majority of the plot after a few days.

This doesn’t mean it’s a bad book – far from it. It’s great for people who want something easy to read, something that is almost like a guilty pleasure. Heck, this kind of book tends to fly off shelves!

That’s all I have to say, anyway.

Review: Dragon Springs Road by Janie Chang

****

4/5 Stars

Ah, I just love historical fiction. Digging into a culture and time so far from my own is intoxicating. Cheng’s novel is no different.

Her simple map through such a tumultuous time in China was a treat to read. Her frank approach to the prejudice and disgust Eurasian people experienced was well done and explorative. I felt deeply for the ‘zazhong’ characters, most notably the protagonist, whenever they were given lackluster and sometimes abusive treatment simply because they weren’t born fully Asian or fully European.

Cheng’s keen build of the character Fox was beautiful. It made me think wistfully of bounding through fields and rolling hills, forests and prairies, unfettered by human shackles. The concept and mythology of the Fox spirit was new to me, and I loved learning about it through this novel.

Jialing was a firm protagonist who wasn’t given a easy go. First abandoned by her mother, then turned into a bond servant, and then awakened to the horrors of class and race distinction while dealing with the pain of puberty, Jialing traverses her difficult story with poise.

Overall, this was a lovely read that I’m glad I found in a random bookshop.

Review: Sutton by J.R Moehringer

****

4/5 Stars

This book didn’t keep me completely hooked the whole time, but it was still a decent foray into the gritty backbone of New York and other bits of America.

Based on true events and loosely put together by snippets of known fact, I was fairly intrigued by Willie “The Actor” and his life.

The tumultuous events that take place are heart breaking, staggering, and astonishing. I was entertained the whole read, just not wholly engrossed, and I believe it’s because this vein of historical fiction isn’t really my kind of read.

However, the development of this monumental bank robber was well established by Moehringer. The author’s clipped tone throughout the narrative is one that describes without any bull. He’s too the point and very easy to believe.

Overall, a nice read.

Review: Repentance by Andrew Lam

*****

5/5 Stars

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review

Historical fiction is slowly gaining ground as my favorite genre to read. It’s such a complex genre no matter the era, and this novel is no exception.

Lam wrote a beautiful, heart wrenching story about World War II Japanese Americans. His clever twists through time and his expertise with dangling juuust the right amount of information really pulled me through the book. I learned a lot more about the war, and about a group of soldiers whose bravery saved so many.

Even the love stories throughout the book were well crafted. There were moments that they teetered towards feeling stale, but as a whole they were dynamic and bluntly realistic.

Lam’s narrative is commanding and clearly well-informed. He did his research and he portrayed everything thoroughly, from character mind sets to the interiors of homes, both things that shift according to cultural traditions.

The emotions that grow and develop through the story are the true protagonists. Readers are led through bitter distrust, confusion, betrayal, shame, and ultimately, regained confidence and love. Lam does a superb job developing each character’s changing points of view.

If you’re a fan of historical fiction that touches on World War II and the astonishing bravery of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, be sure to give this book a read. A solid 5 stars from me.

Review: Door To Altharia by Martyn McGrath

***

3/5 Stars

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review

I’m going to keep this review short and sweet, as it best reflects this story.

McGrath has a clear narrative voice that greatly supports his book. It’s a perfect book for young readers, and carries that magical essence that classics such as Narnia by C.S Lewis and Into The Land Of Unicorns by Bruce Coville have.

However, it felt like it was a bit shallow and a bit too cheesy for me. I found myself wanting more from the story, and I believe that’s only because it’s a bit too young for my taste (the only children’s novels I can happily get through are the ones that made up my childhood and are deeply imbued in nostalgia).

Overall, a lovely start to a young fantasy series. It wasn’t difficult to read, and it’s world was just what it needed to be: magical.

Review: The Tiger And The Wolf by Adrian Tchaikovsky

****

4/5 Stars

This review is a tad late because I needed time to process this book.

Which is a good thing, for the most part. I needed a moment to digest the depth of Tchaikovsky’s world, to allow my mind to rest after delving so deeply into spiritual concepts. The read was enjoyable, though a tad heavy.

I trudged through the first half of the story. It was interesting, yet dense and slow. I enjoyed learning about the world and its people, and I appreciated the desperation of the protagonist. However, there were plenty of sections that felt long winded and unnecessary. The author repeated himself quite a bit, on purpose, yet it did nothing for me. That’s the only reason why I gave the book 4 stars instead of 5 – the narrative was bogged down and made some of the read tiring.

Moving on from that, though, this book is a gem. The last half was fast paced, rich, and kept me hooked page after page. The battle scenes were breath taking – I LOVE how Tchaikovsky blends the different fight styles, and how he describes the shape shifters seamlessly Stepping (changing shape) during each battle. Flashes of human and animal brutality in each fight was wicked.

Though it took some time overall, I grew very attached to the characters. They live in such a hard, merciless world. The strength of each character is immense, and the author does a solid job developing them.

I have a weak spot for shape shifters, and overall, this story is one of my favorites.

I’m looking forward to the next book in the series!