Showing posts with label four birdcages. Show all posts
Showing posts with label four birdcages. Show all posts

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Review: The Case Study of Vanitas volume 4 by Jun Mochizuki

38235490Title: The Case Study of Vanitas
Series: The Case Study of Vanitas volume #4
Author: Jun Mochizuki
Source/Format: Gift; Paperback
More Details: Fantasy; Alternative History; Manga
Publisher/Publication Date: Yen Press; November 22, 2017

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Synopsis from Goodreads...
Deep within the bowels of Paris, Noé and Vanitas race through the catacombs with an elite team of chasseurs, the Church's anti-vampire unit, in hot pursuit. Their search for the missing vampires takes the pair down a path all too familiar to Vanitas, bringing them face-to-face with not only an overwhelming curse-bearer, but also with Vanitas's past. Confronted by the horrific menace, what will Noé and Vanitas fight for, and whom will they save...?
I had some arcs to get through last month, so I didn’t have as much time to read anything else. It wasn’t until recently that I finally got around to reading volume 4 of The Case Study of Vanitas. This series is so good so far.

I’m enjoying the story, as well as the way Mochizuki created this alternative version of Paris. The illustration of the setting is just perfection, and the way the various locations are used to set the tone of a scene creates a very atmospheric reading experience. I liked all the real-world details and history incorporated into the story. It seamlessly fit with the fantastical elements—like vampires and Astermite (a type of stone that also went through rewriting during the “Babel incident”)—and there are layers of complexity to the series, which is only just beginning to be explored in-depth.

This volume was action-packed and further expanded the world with the continued conflict between the protagonists and the church’s anti-vampire Chasseurs. I have to admit that I like the Chasseurs. They’re a tough group, and I liked the way they were portrayed. Roland, in particular, was an entertaining character. He provided a few comical moments, which broke up the tension a little. This volume also explored more of Vanitas’s past, and it was as forlorn as I thought it would be. It only raised more questions about his connection to the Vampire of the Blue Moon as well as how he ended up with The Book. The witty banter between Vanitas and Noé is one my favorite parts of the dialogue. As I’ve mentioned before, their personalities are polar opposites, and that means that they often clash. However some of the best moments were when Noé and Vanitas got along enough to work together, and their dynamic during combat was one of my favorite aspects about volume 4.

A few familiar faces also appeared in volume 4 too. The chapters with Jeanne were kind of cute, before they got serious. Generally speaking, I hope there’ll be more about her character sometime soon.

Volume 4 was fantastic, and I’m looking forward to where the story goes next.

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Review: Silver In The Wood by Emily Tesh

43459657Title: Silver In The Wood
Series: The Greenhollow Duology #1
Author: Emily Tesh
Source/Format: Tor E-book club; eBook
More Details: Fantasy; Novella
Publisher/Publication Date:; June 18, 2019

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Synopsis from Goodreads...
There is a Wild Man who lives in the deep quiet of Greenhollow, and he listens to the wood. Tobias, tethered to the forest, does not dwell on his past life, but he lives a perfectly unremarkable existence with his cottage, his cat, and his dryads. When Greenhollow Hall acquires a handsome, intensely curious new owner in Henry Silver, everything changes. Old secrets better left buried are dug up, and Tobias is forced to reckon with his troubled past—both the green magic of the woods, and the dark things that rest in its heart.
Recently, I’ve been reading a few articles about Emily Tesh’s writing, and they renewed my interest enough for Silver In The Wood that I finally gave it a read. I liked this story a lot. It had the kind of fairy-tale atmosphere and deftly spun folklore that I’ve enjoyed in the past—in books like Spinning Silver and The Bear and the Nightingale. Tobias Finch’s story was well-done, and I was quickly engrossed in the mysterious nature of his prolonged stay in the woods around Greenhollow Hall. His care for the wood spoke volumes about his character, despite his sometimes gruff demeanor. I also liked Henry Silver, for the nature of his characteristics—sometimes inquisitive, charming, and determined—and his time with Tobias. Separately, they were great characters, but their interactions were some of the best parts of Silver In The Wood. What I also liked was how the past clashed with the present, and the themes of age and reconstruction, the cycle of a forest—and the play on the story of the Green Man. As such, the magical elements of the story had a very lush and earthy feel to them—as did the writing, which I consider to be atmospheric—and all around it was pretty great.

I could keep going, but I don’t want to spoil this story for anyone who hasn’t read it. What I will say—and leave off at—is that there was much that I enjoyed about Silver in the Wood. I know there is a sequel for it, and it’s on my TBR list.   

Friday, September 4, 2020

ARC Review: Unbirthday by Liz Braswell

50358479Title: Unbirthday
Series: A Twisted Tale
Author: Liz Braswell
Source/Format: Netgalley; eARC
More Details: Fantasy; Retelling; Young Adult
Publisher/Publication Date: Disney-Hyperion; September 1, 2020

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Synopsis from Goodreads...
What if Wonderland was in peril and Alice was very, very late?
Alice is different than other eighteen-year-old ladies in Kexford, which is perfectly fine with her. She'd rather spend golden afternoons with her trusty camera or in her aunt Vivian's lively salon, ignoring her sister's wishes that she stop all that "nonsense" and become a "respectable" member of society. Alice is happy to meander to Miss. Yao's teashop or to visit the children playing in the Square. She's also interested in learning more about the young lawyer she met there, but just because she's curious, of course, not because he was sweet and charming. But when Alice develops photographs she has recently taken about town, familiar faces of old suddenly appear in the place of her actual subjects-the Queen of Hearts, the Mad Hatter, the Caterpillar. There's something eerily off about them, even for Wonderland creatures. And as Alice develops a self-portrait, she finds the most disturbing image of all-a badly-injured dark-haired girl asking for Alice's help. Mary Ann.
Returning to the place of nonsense from her childhood, Alice finds herself on a mission to stop the Queen of Hearts' tyrannical rule and to find her place in both worlds. But will she able to do so . . . before the End of Time?
I’m always on the lookout for a good retelling, especially for Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland, which is one of my favorite classic stories. I’ve enjoyed a few retellings for it in the past—like L.L. McKinney’s Nightmare-verse series. So I had high expectations for Unbirthday. Unbirthday feels very much like a continuation of Disney’s 1951 film, Alice in Wonderland. The characters—Mad Hatter, Dormouse, and Dodo—have many similar characteristic (namely in appearance and behavior) to the characters of the movie or they could also more closely resemble those from the original story. With the story being set 11 years after Alice’s initial adventures in Wonderland, so there were differences, namely in the contents of the story. And overall I enjoyed Braswell’s take on an older Alice.

Alice is eighteen in this story, remembers Wonderland fondly as a dream, and looks for magic in her every-day surroundings. Overall, I enjoyed Alice’s perspective here. There was a blend between her regular life as well as her fantastical adventures once she returns to Wonderland. The transition between the two settings was done quite well, and I enjoyed many of the new characters introduced early in the story. Wonderland was full of nonsense and whimsy, and it was all-around pretty fun to read about. Due to the story, however, there was a much darker tone to Wonderland as a whole—in fact, it was downright sinister.

There was a part of the story that dealt a lot with politics—elections, rallies, the candidate, and social injustice—and many of those aspects mirrored real issues that are currently happening. In Unbirthday, Alice was involved with it, and it did take over much of the story outside of Wonderland. However, I did enjoy the complicated connections Alice formed with those around her, and some of my favorite characters included her aunt, Vivian, as well as Katz.

Unbirthday was a great Alice retelling. It had the whimsy and the wonder—and the randomness that’s a hallmark of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland—but it also didn’t shy away from the more serious aspects of its story.

About the author...

After the sort of introverted childhood you would expect from a writer, Liz earned a degree in Egyptology at Brown University and then promptly spent the next ten years producing video games. Finally she caved into fate and wrote Snow and Rx under the name Tracy Lynn, followed by The Nine Lives of Chloe King series under her real name, because by then the assassins hunting her were all dead. She also has short stories in Geektastic and Who Done It and a new series of reimagined fairy tales coming out, starting with A Whole New World—a retelling of Aladdin. She lives in Brooklyn with a husband, two children, a cat, a part-time dog, three fish and five coffee trees she insists will start producing beans any day. You can email her at

Disclaimer: this copy of the book was provided by the publisher (Disney-Hyperion) via Netgalley for this review, thank you!

Tuesday, September 1, 2020

ARC Review: Fangs by Sarah Andersen

50898148. sx318Title: Fangs
Series: n/a
Author: Sarah Andersen
Source/Format: Publisher; eARC
More Details: Fantasy; Comic
Publisher/Publication Date: Andrews McMeel Publishing; September 1, 2020

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Synopsis from Goodreads...
A new gothic romance story from the creator of the enormously popular Sarah's Scribbles comics. 
Vamp is three hundred years old but in all that time, she has never met her match. This all changes one night in a bar when she meets a charming werewolf. FANGS chronicles the humor, sweetness, and awkwardness of meeting someone perfectly suited to you but also vastly different.
Fangs is short collection of slice-of-life style comics by Sarah Andersen. I know Andersen through her other series, Sarah’s Scribbles. I was particularly excited to give this one a read because of the paranormal elements—like vampires and werewolves—which are some of my favorite types of characters to read about. I have to say that I enjoyed reading Fangs. I had a lot of fun with this one, and it had a lot of the hallmarks of a good paranormal romance. By that I mean it was quite literally a romance between a vampire and a werewolf. The kind of jokes that came from that set up sometimes had me laughing out loud. So really, what’s not to like?

Fangs was a quick read. Each page was set up in an episodic format, where it had individual stories connected by a common subject to the rest of the collection. The relationship was the focus here. So it was good that I liked the main characters too. Jimmy and Elsie were both fun to read about, and I liked the design of their characters.

What was so great about Fangs was its delivery on characters and themes. It was done with the kind of wit, charm, and humor common to Andersen’s comics. And if you’ve read any of them before—like Sarah’s Scribbles—then you’ll likely like Fangs too.

About the author...

Hello! I’m Sarah and I’m a cartoonist and illustrator. I graduated from the Maryland Institute College of Art in 2014 and currently live in Brooklyn. My comics are semi-autobiographical and follow the adventures of myself, my friends, and my beloved pets.

Disclaimer: this copy of the book was provided by the publisher (Andrews McMeel Publishing) via netgalley for this review, thank you!

Tuesday, August 18, 2020

ARC Review: The Hidden Life of Ice by Marco Tedesco with Alberto Flores D'Arcais; forward by Elizabeth Kolbert

49150932. sy475 Title:The Hidden Life of Ice: Dispatches From A Disappearing World
Series: n/a
Author: Marco Tedesco with Alberto Flores D'Arcais; forward by Elizabeth Kolbert
Source/Format: Netgalley (publisher); eARC
More Details: Nonfiction; Science
Publisher/Publication Date: The Experiment; August 18, 2020

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Synopsis from Goodreads...
One of the least known and least inhabited parts of the world, Greenland is a singular place on Earth from which to look for the future of our planet and question its history. Glaciologist Marco Tedesco, a world-leading expert on ice and on climate change, takes us along as he and his fellow researchers conduct all-important measurements to understand the dramatic changes afoot on the immense polar ice cap. Following the arc of a typical day as a working scientist, Tedesco tells us about improbable “polar camels,” cryoconite holes (the only place where life grows in the icy expanse), and gigantic meteorite debris. We also learn of the epic deeds of the great Arctic explorers (both men and, perhaps surprisingly, women) and about legends of the rare local populations. A Day at the Top of the World offers a vantage point on the future from a place in which temperatures are rising at double the average rate of the rest of the planet.
The Hidden Life of Ice is a short and fascinating—and cautionary—look at, well, ice. Specifically Greenland’s ice sheets and how the changes to it can be applied to the situation happening to the other, coldest parts of Earth, like the Artic. The book was more of the author’s personal experience of his time spent studying the ice. It was interspersed with historical facts, some mythology from Greenland, and the science behind the ice and the changes happening to it—caused by global warming and other natural climate changes and factors.

There are so many different parts of The Hidden Life of Ice that interested me. As a whole, I liked it. What I greatly enjoyed was the parts of the book when Tedesco dug his heels into the topic and really got into the science about ice. His enthusiasm about this subject was easy to read. It was present on the page, especially in the way he talked about his and others work in the field. There were also photos in the book, and it was pretty cool getting a look at some of the locations described by Tedesco.

Among my favorite chapters in the book, was the one on the color of ice. I already knew about the general concept of white surfaces being more reflective, due to personal experience with walking on a ground paved with white stones—it was extremely bright in comparison to, say, grass or concrete sidewalks. I can imagine what it was like to be surrounded by ice and snow. So it was interesting to learn about the way they studied the light (“spectral fingerprint”). I also enjoyed the chapters about the microscopic organisms, the polar camels, ice abyss, and the one about the lakes as well.

Given how timely the topic of climate change is, this book was well worth the read. It offered a direct look at the changes happening to ice, and what could result from it. While also taking a look at how these environments are studied. Overall, The Hidden Life of Ice was a fantastic read.

About the author...

Marco Tedesco is a research professor of Marine Geology and Geophysics at Columbia's Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, located in Palisades, NY. Originally from Italy, he received his Laurea degree and PhD in Italy from the University of Naples and the Italian National Research Council. He went on to join the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center as a postdoc and later a professor and became the founder and director of the Cryosphere Processes Laboratory. Tedesco has been featured in Science and has spoken as a climate change expert for The New York Times, The Washington Post, NPR, Wired, and others.

About the author...

Alberto Flores d'Arcais was born in Rome and graduated from the University of Rome with a degree in philosophy. He wrote for newspapers and magazines during the 1970s and became editor-in-chief of Frigidaire in 1980. He has reported on topics like civil wars, drug trafficking, the Arab spring, wars in the Balkans, and collapses of dictatorships since the 1980s; he is also well known for his interviews with world leaders and culture icons. In 2002, Alberto Flores d'Arcais earned the John S. Knight Fellowship for Journalism from Stanford University, and authored New York in 2007. He now spends his time between New York and Rome.

About the author....

Elizabeth Kolbert has been a staff writer at The New Yorker since 1999. Her journalism has garnered multiple awards, including a 2006 National Academies Communication Award for her three-part series "The Climate of Man," which investigated the consequences of disappearing ice on the planet. She is author of The Prophet of Love, Field Notes from a Catastrophe, and The Sixth Extinction, for which she won the Pulitzer Prize for general nonfiction in 2015. She received the Blake-Dodd Prize, from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, in 2017.

Disclaimer: this copy of the book was provided by the publisher (The Experiment) via Netgalley for this review, thank you!

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Review: Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

53152636. sx318 sy475 Title: Mexican Gothic
Series: n/a
Author: Silvia Moreno-Garcia
Source/Format: Purchased; Hardcover
More Details: Historical Fiction; Gothic Horror; Fantasy
Publisher/Publication Date: Del Rey; June 30, 2020

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Synopsis from Goodreads...
NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER; An isolated mansion. A chillingly charismatic aristocrat. And a brave socialite drawn to expose their treacherous secrets... 
After receiving a frantic letter from her newlywed cousin begging for someone to save her from a mysterious doom, Noemí Taboada heads to High Place, a distant house in the Mexican countryside. She’s not sure what she will find - her cousin’s husband, a handsome Englishman, is a stranger, and Noemí knows little about the region. Noemí is also an unlikely rescuer: She’s a glamorous debutante, and her chic gowns and perfect red lipstick are more suited for cocktail parties than amateur sleuthing. But she’s also tough and smart, with an indomitable will, and she is not afraid: not of her cousin’s new husband, who is both menacing and alluring; not of his father, the ancient patriarch who seems to be fascinated by Noemí; and not even of the house itself, which begins to invade Noemi’s dreams with visions of blood and doom. Her only ally in this inhospitable abode is the family’s youngest son. Shy and gentle, he seems to want to help Noemí but might also be hiding dark knowledge of his family’s past. For there are many secrets behind the walls of High Place. The family’s once colossal wealth and faded mining empire kept them from prying eyes, but as Noemí digs deeper she unearths stories of violence and madness. And Noemí, mesmerized by the terrifying yet seductive world of High Place, may soon find it impossible to ever leave this enigmatic house behind.
Mexican Gothic is one of my most anticipated book releases of 2020. After reading Gods of Jade and Shadow, my expectations for it were pretty high. Mexican Gothic is an unsettling story about a socialite who goes to save her cousin from what is at first thought to simply be a bad marriage. With the isolated and mist-shrouded setting, the horror steadily built up as the story unfolded. Moreno-Garcia’s writing was positively atmospheric, and there was a lot I liked about Mexican Gothic.

The first part of the book was spent laying the groundwork for the rest of the story. The tone of it shifted once Noemi traveled to High Place, which was a somewhat strange and brooding house on top of a hill. There were plenty of descriptions about it and its history, as well as the people who lived in it. Right away, I enjoyed Noemi’s perspective. Her character was refreshing, and her attitude was one of defiance throughout much of the story. She enjoyed spending her time on music, parties, and dates among other things—so she preferred fun and vibrant things. It was in stark contrast to the dreary silence and danger of High Place. Virgil Doyle, Catalina’s husband, seemed fine on paper. So did the house. However High Place was a house ruled by rules and secrets, and the Doyle family seemed beholden to its strict traditions. There were few characters to like from High Place, and they were among some of the most unsettling parts of Mexican Gothic.

Overall, I liked the story. It was a little slow in the beginning, but I think it was necessary to really set up the atmosphere that would come into play later on. I did like the more mysterious parts of the story. Everything seemed to have some kind of hidden meaning, so nothing was quite as it seemed and I mean that quite literally. The story is best described as a puzzle. All the pieces were there, it just took time to put it all together. Along with what I liked about the book, I do have to talk about some of the other elements in the story. Mexican Gothic is very dark. The horror outweighed any romantic notions that Noemi and Catalina might have had, and that’s pretty much conveyed on page. What romance there was seemed second to the rest of the story; although, I did like the way it was gradually developed. There was also no shortage of family drama and distorted relationships here, and the threat of harm to Noemi was near constant. It also featured a lot of gothic horror conventions in the same vein as Crimson Peak, with body horror imagery that had a similar gross-out factor to some parts of Dracula and Kameron Hurley’s The Stars Are Legion.

Mexican Gothic was the kind of story with a gradual build toward the end. What made it scary was the kind of close-quarters, claustrophobic, feeling it evoked. Needless to say, I will definitely read more work by Silvia Moreno-Garcia.

Friday, July 24, 2020

ARC Review: Deal with the Devil by Kit Rocha

40078832. sy475 Title: Deal With The Devil
Series: Mercenary Librarians #1
Author: Kit Rocha
Source/Format: Bookish First; Bound ARC
More Details: Science Fiction; Romance
Publisher/Publication Date: Tor Books; July 27, 2020

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Synopsis from Goodreads...
Orphan Black meets the post-apocalyptic Avengers in the vein of Ilona Andrews’ Hidden Legacy series by USA Today and New York Times bestselling author duo Kit Rocha 
The United States went belly up 45 years ago when our power grid was wiped out. Too few live in well-protected isolation while the rest of us scrape by on the margins. The only thing that matters is survival. By any means. At any cost. Nina is an information broker with a mission: to bring hope to the darkest corners of Atlanta. She and her team of mercenary librarians use their knowledge to help those in need. But altruism doesn’t pay the bills—raiding vaults and collecting sensitive data is where the real money is. Knox is a bitter, battle-weary supersoldier who leads the Silver Devils, an elite strike squad that chose to go AWOL rather than slaughter innocents. Before the Devils leave town for good, they need a biochem hacker to stabilize the experimental implants that grant their superhuman abilities. The problem? Their hacker’s been kidnapped. And the ransom for her return is Nina. Knox has the perfect bait for a perfect trap: a lost Library of Congress server. The data could set Nina and her team up for years... If they live that long.
Deal With The Devil is the first book I’ve read by Kit Rocha. It was one of my most anticipated books of the year, and it was a wild, action-packed dystopian novel. There were plenty of science fiction nuggets packed into this book too, including enhanced super soldiers, clones, and corporations that were up to some not so good things. It was dark and gritty story with hints of romance, set against the backdrop of a devastated and crumbling version of the US.

For starters, I enjoyed the world building in this story. Rocha did an excellent job of quickly establishing the rules of the world, while also maintaining a consistent level of ruin and corruption scattered throughout every part of the setting. Even the first chapter established how cutthroat and unforgiving society had become since an incident called the Flares, and the details about how certain areas were rebuilt and governed were also quite interesting.

In general, the story was a good one. There was a good deal of travel going on. That being said, the action started basically immediately, and there was a bit of a mystery about who had kidnapped the Silver Devils’ hacker. Needless to say, I was hooked from start to finish.

Another part of the reason why I enjoyed Deal With The Devil so much was because of the characters. The characters were personable. Nina was a standout in the story. I enjoyed the chapters from her perspective, and a highlight of the story was the dynamic between Nina, Maya, and Dani. They each brought a skill to the table, and honestly I just liked the friendship and camaraderie between the three of them. I also enjoyed the chapters from the POVs of the secondary characters. It offered a different perspective to the events of the story, and gave those characters a moment of much needed development outside of Nina and Knox’s perspectives.

Deal With The Devil proved to be an excellent start to the Mercenary Librarians series. I’m excited to see what Kit Rocha has in-store for the next book.

About the author...

Kit Rocha is the pseudonym if author duo/cowriting team Donna Herren (@totallydonna) and Bree Bridges (@mostlybree). They are best known for their gritty and sexy dystopian Beyond series. Bree and Donna met while writing X-Men fanfic in 200, which is the best meet-cute in history for writing BFFs and coauthors, and have been penning original work since 2007. They currently live three miles apart in Alabama and spend their nonwriting time caring for a menagerie of animals and crafting handmade jewelry, all of which is chronicled on their various social media accounts....

Disclaimer: this copy of the book was provided by the publisher (Tor Books) via BookishFirst for this review, thank you!

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

ARC Review: Axiom's End by Lindsay Ellis

51171377Title: Axiom's End
Series: n/a
Author: Lindsay Ellis
Source/Format: Publisher via Netgalley; eARC 
More Details: Science Fiction
Publisher/Publication Date: St. Martin's Press; July 21, 2020

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Synopsis from Goodreads...
An extraordinary debut from Hugo finalist and video essayist Lindsay Ellis... 
Truth is a human right... 
It’s fall 2007. A well-timed leak has revealed that the US government might have engaged in first contact. Cora Sabino is doing everything she can to avoid the whole mess, since the force driving the controversy is her whistleblower father. Even though Cora hasn’t spoken to him in years, his celebrity has caught the attention of the press, the Internet, the paparazzi, and the government—and with him in hiding, that attention is on her. She neither knows nor cares whether her father’s leaks are a hoax, and wants nothing to do with him—until she learns just how deeply entrenched her family is in the cover-up, and that an extraterrestrial presence has been on Earth for decades. Realizing the extent to which both she and the public have been lied to, she sets out to gather as much information as she can, and finds that the best way for her to uncover the truth is not as a whistleblower, but as an intermediary. The alien presence has been completely uncommunicative until she convinces one of them that she can act as their interpreter, becoming the first and only human vessel of communication. Their otherworldly connection will change everything she thought she knew about being human—and could unleash a force more sinister than she ever imagined.
Axiom’s End is not the first book about first-contact that I’ve read, and it won’t be the last. It was one of my most anticipated releases of 2020—so my expectations were on the higher side. The story had a lot of promise in its premise from the beginning, and I ended up having an inordinate amount of fun reading this novel. Plus I thoroughly liked Ellis's take on first-contact.

Axiom’s End was good. It deals with first contact alongside an alternative and politically tumultuous version of 2007, where a memo about aliens gets leaked to the public. During the ensuing fallout is where the story begins and where the main character, Cora was introduced. From the start, the premise was a pretty exciting one, and I thought the author did a good job with developing the different parts of the story. In particular, I liked the details about Cora’s connection to the memo—through her estranged father—because it added tension to the earlier parts of the story even before aliens got involved. It also added a personal edge to the conflict, and I thought it presented an interesting contrast between Cora and other characters in the story—particularly for those who weren’t her family members—and how different their reactions to the memo were.

I also enjoyed Ellis’s take on aliens. The ones features in the story were kind of cool to say the least, and they were by far one of my favorite aspects about Axiom’s End. Since Cora becomes an interpreter for one of the aliens, there were plenty of details about them—such as how they looked, some of their societal norms, the reason why they were there, and their technological advancements. It was an interesting bit of world building that fleshed-out the aliens.

Cora was a pretty entertaining protagonist, and I enjoyed reading from her perspective. I liked how the author approached her character, including her conflicted feelings about the aliens as well as her father. It grounded her character amongst the extraordinary circumstances of the story. It was also an interesting emotional contrast, with the fear, confusion, and determination she experienced throughout much of the story. I did enjoy the few scenes Cora had with her other family members though, particularly with her aunt. Cora’s father was a different story. Some of his tactics and writings leaned more towards manipulative, and it was clear where his concern was focused.

Overall, I enjoyed Axiom’s End. There was a lot to like about the story, and the end wrapped up the plot in a satisfying way. I will definitely check out more work by this author in the future. Have you read Axiom’s End? Do you plan on reading it?

About the author...

LINDSAY ELLIS is an author, Hugo finalist and video essayist who creates online content about media, narrative, and film theory. After earning her bachelor's in Cinema Studies from NYU's Tisch School of the Arts, she earned her MFA in Film and Television Production from USC's School of Cinematic Arts with a focus in documentary and screenwriting. She lives in Long Beach, California, and Axiom's End is her debut novel.

Disclaimer: this copy of the book was provided by St. Martin's Press (publisher) via netgalley for this review, thank you!

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Review: Ghost Squad by Claribel A. Ortega

43319573Title: Ghost Squad
Series: n/a
Author: Claribel A. Ortega
Source/Format: Purchased; Hardcover
More Details: Middle Grade; Fantasy; Supernatural
Publisher/Publication Date: Scholastic Press; April 7, 2020

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Synopsis from Goodreads...
Coco meets Stranger Things with a hint of Ghostbusters in this action-packed supernatural fantasy.... For Lucely Luna, ghosts are more than just the family business. 
Shortly before Halloween, Lucely and her best friend, Syd, cast a spell that accidentally awakens malicious spirits, wreaking havoc throughout St. Augustine. Together, they must join forces with Syd's witch grandmother, Babette, and her tubby tabby, Chunk, to fight the haunting head-on and reverse the curse to save the town and Lucely's firefly spirits before it's too late. With the family dynamics of Coco and action-packed adventure of Ghostbusters, Claribel A. Ortega delivers both a thrillingly spooky and delightfully sweet debut novel.
I don’t know what it is with this trend of middle grade ghost stories, but I’ll take it. Ghost Squad, is just the latest book I’ve read that falls in line with this pattern, and I had a lot of fun reading this story.

Ghost Squad had a lot going for it. I like ghost stories, especially ones that are set during October, which is one of my favorite times of the year. From the start, I enjoyed Ortega’s take on ghosts and magic. There were a number of spooky and heartwarming moments in the story. The latter was particularly evident at the beginning with instances between the main character, Lucely Luna, her father, and the ghost (fireflies) of past relatives. The ghosts were fantastic. Their portrayal is one of the best I’ve read in middle grade fiction. I liked how there was a mixture of them with some of them being spooky/creepy while others were seemingly made of light. So Ortega did an excellent job of developing the magical aspects of the story.

I also enjoyed how the message and themes were explored in the book. Part of that was through Lucely’s connection to her family and friends. The portrayal of the platonic and familial bonds in Ghost Squad was not only excellent but they were also one of the highlights of the story. The same could be said about the rest of the colorful cast of characters. I really loved the friendship between Lucely and Syd. And among my top-favorite characters was Babette, Syd’s grandmother. She was such a fantastic character. She was stylish, and her personality was great. She and her cats—all named after characters from the Goonies—were entertaining. I also loved Lucely’s ghost relatives. They were wonderful characters.

As for the story, I liked it. There were a number of pop culture references, such as mention of characters from the Goonies.

I really enjoyed the book, and I will be looking forward to what Ortega writes next. As for recommendations, Ghost Squad is perfect for fans of The Forgotten Girl by India Hill Brown as well as Small Spaces and Dead Voices by Katherine Arden. But really, if you’re looking for a ghost story, then I’d recommend giving this one a try anyway.

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Review: All Systems Red by Martha Wells

32758901. sy475 Title: All Systems Red
Series: The Murderbot Diaries #1
Author: Martha Wells
Source/Format: Tor ebook club freebie; ebook
More Details: Science Fiction
Publisher/Publication Date:; May 2, 2017

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Synopsis from Goodreads...
In a corporate-dominated spacefaring future, planetary missions must be approved and supplied by the Company. Exploratory teams are accompanied by Company-supplied security androids, for their own safety. But in a society where contracts are awarded to the lowest bidder, safety isn’t a primary concern. On a distant planet, a team of scientists are conducting surface tests, shadowed by their Company-supplied ‘droid — a self-aware SecUnit that has hacked its own governor module, and refers to itself (though never out loud) as “Murderbot.” Scornful of humans, all it really wants is to be left alone long enough to figure out who it is. But when a neighboring mission goes dark, it's up to the scientists and their Murderbot to get to the truth...
All Systems Red is a novella I’ve been hearing about for a while, and it’s been on my TBR list for just as long. I finally decided to pick it up again. All Systems Red is the first book I’ve read by Martha Wells, and in general I enjoyed my initial introduction to the Murderbot Diaries. The story was good, and due to its length it was very fast paced with plenty of action and even a hint of mystery. The Murderbot’s perspective was fun to read from, due in part to its personality quirks—such as its habit of preferring entertainment to doing its job. Considering that it was a SecUnit—and thus a standard part of planetary missions in All Systems Red—its commentary about itself and the corporate-domination of exploration was one of my favorite aspects about the story. The setting was also interesting. Given that Murderbot plus its clients were on a remote planet to study it, the different environments—and the flora and fauna found there—were described in detail. Wells has created a highly entertaining story and world in All Systems Red. The ending left off in a place that was satisfying. However, it also left room for more stories. So I’m going to eventually get around to the next books in the series.      

Wednesday, May 6, 2020

Review: The Night Country by Melissa Albert

43565384Title: The Night Country
Series: The Hazel Wood #2
Author: Melissa Albert
Source/Format: Borrowed from the library; Hardcover
More Details: Fantasy; Young Adult
Publisher/Publication Date: Flatiron Books; January 7, 2020

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Synopsis from Goodreads...
The highly anticipated sequel to Melissa Albert’s beloved, New York Times bestselling debut The Hazel Wood! 
In The Night Country, Alice Proserpine dives back into a menacing, mesmerizing world of dark fairy tales and hidden doors. Follow her and Ellery Finch as they learn The Hazel Wood was just the beginning, and that worlds die not with a whimper, but a bang. With Finch’s help, Alice escaped the Hinterland and her reclusive grandmother’s dark legacy. Now she and the rest of the dregs of the fairy tale world have washed up in New York City, where Alice is trying to make a new, unmagical life. But something is stalking the Hinterland’s survivors―and she suspects their deaths may have a darker purpose. Meanwhile, in the winking out world of the Hinterland, Finch seeks his own adventure, and―if he can find it―a way back home...
Earlier this year, I finally finished reading The Hazel Wood. Since then, The Night Country was one of the 2020 sequels I was excited to pick up. The Night Country was an excellent sequel. I enjoyed it more than the first book. I loved the development the characters went through as well as the return to the colorful, strange, and terrifying world of the Hinterland.

From here on out, there may be spoilers for The Hazel Wood. So if you haven’t read it, click away from this post. You have been warned. :-)

Alice Proserpine thought she was done with the Hazel Wood and the Hinterland since she escaped her story at the end of the first book. However nothing was as it seemed, and the mystery of the ultimate fate of the Hinterland and the enigmatic and malevolent Spinner brought trouble right back into Alice’s life. Alice’s character arc was great. It was one of my favorite aspects about The Night Country. I liked how Albert dealt with Alice’s transition from story to ex-story and addressed her conflicting emotions about everything that had happened to her while also exploring the platonic and romantic relationships in her life.

Most of the story was told by Alice, but I didn’t mind the dual perspectives. It was interesting to see what was going on from Ellery Finch’s perspective. Since he had stayed in the Hinterland, his side of the story was filled with magic. It was a nice temporary break from the urban setting, and it bridged the two halves of the story before they were ultimately brought together. I was all for the trippy-magical landscapes, and all the dangers they presented.

The Night Country was pretty dark at times, just like most of the fairy tale themes common throughout this series. There’s no better example of that than the stories that made up the Hinterland.

Another great part of the book was the mystery surrounding the deaths of the people from the Hinterland. It was a solid mystery, and there were plenty of twists to keep the story moving.

The Night Country was an atmospheric read, and I was drawn in by the story from the beginning. The ending was full of possibilities, and it left Alice and Ellery’s story in a much more satisfying place. Plus I liked how everything that happened to places and people who weren’t the main characters wasn’t magically fixed in the end. It drove-home how the magic in the book had consequences.

Ultimately, The Night Country turned out to be an excellent sequel that answered most of the questions I had about the end of The Hazel Wood. Now, I just have to wait for Tales of the Hinterland to be released.

Have you read The Hazel Wood or The Night Country?

Friday, April 24, 2020

ARC Review: Heiress for Hire by Madeline Hunter

51054407. sx318 sy475 Title: Heiress for Hire
Series: Duke's Heiresses #1
Author: Madeline Hunter
Source/Format: Netgalley (publisher); eARC
More Details: Historical Romance
Publisher/Publication Date: Zebra Books; April 28, 2020

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Synopsis from Goodreads...
In this stunning series debut from New York Times bestselling author Madeline Hunter, a duke's mysterious bequest brings fortune—and passion—to three young women... 
Minerva Hepplewhite has learned the hard way how to take care of herself. When an intruder breaks into her home, she doesn't swoon or simper. Instead, she wallops the rogue over the head and ties him up—only to realize he is Chase Radnor, the man who nearly got her convicted of her late husband's murder. Now, he's insisting that Minerva has inherited a fortune from his uncle, a wealthy Duke. Only one thing could surprise her more: her sudden attraction to this exasperating man. Chase can't decide whether Minerva is a wronged woman or a femme fatale. Either way, he's intrigued. Since the scandal surrounding her husband's death, she has set up a discreet detective business to rival Chase's own. She may be the perfect person to help him uncover the truth about his uncle's demise. But as proximity gives way to mutual seduction, Chase realizes he craves a much deeper alliance...
It has been some time since I last picked up a historical romance. I read an excerpt for Heiress for Hire and was immediately intrigued. The dynamic between the two main characters, Chase Radnor and Minerva Hepplewhite, was as interesting as the circumstances that brought them together in the first place. With romance and hints of mystery, Heiress for Hire was a very entertaining read.

In general, I liked the story. I know Heiress for Hire is a historical romance—so the development of the relationship comes before all—and that aspect of the story was good. However, I was also here for the mystery. So many different possibilities were presented within the first couple of pages. Such as the mystery surrounding just why Minerva received a fortune from a person she never met and what really happened to said person. I enjoyed all of the investigative parts. Plus the mystery was a great way to get the characters together on page, and it kept a consistent pattern of interaction between them throughout the entire story. It was pretty great.

The characters were all great. In particular, Chase’s family was a definite highlight. They were a bickering bunch, but very entertaining to read about.

As for the romance, I thought it was good. I liked it because of the conversations between Minerva and Chase, and I liked how good of a team they made—even though they were reluctant to share information at times. They were a great duo, and the moments when they put their heads together were some of my favorites from the book.

I enjoyed Heiress for Hire. The ending, while satisfying, left several parts of the plot mostly unresolved. So, I’m looking forward to what Hunter has in store for this series.
About the Author...

Madeline Hunter is a nationally bestselling author of historical romances who lives in Pennsylvania with her husband and two sons. Her books have won two RITA awards and seven nominations, and have had three starred reviews in Publishers Weekly. In a parallel existence to the one she enjoys as a novelist, Madeline has a Ph.D. in art history and teaches at an East Coast university.

Disclaimer: This copy of the book was provided by the publisher (Zebra Books) via Netgalley, thank you!

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Review: The Forgotten Girl by India Hill Brown:

40110093. sy475 Title: The Forgotten Girl
Series: n/a
Author: India Hill Brown
Source/Format: Borrowed from the library; Hardcover
More Details: Middle Grade; Fantasy
Publisher/Publication Date: Scholastic; November 5, 2019

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Synopsis from Goodreads...
"Do you know what it feels like to be forgotten?" 
On a cold winter night, Iris and her best friend, Daniel, sneak into a clearing in the woods to play in the freshly fallen snow. There, Iris carefully makes a perfect snow angel - only to find the crumbling gravestone of a young girl, Avery Moore, right beneath her. Immediately, strange things start to happen to Iris: She begins having vivid nightmares. She wakes up to find her bedroom window wide open, letting in the snow. She thinks she sees the shadow of a girl lurking in the woods. And she feels the pull of the abandoned grave, calling her back to the clearing... Obsessed with figuring out what's going on, Iris and Daniel start to research the area for a school project. They discover that Avery's grave is actually part of a neglected and forgotten Black cemetery, dating back to a time when White and Black people were kept separate in life - and in death. As Iris and Daniel learn more about their town's past, they become determined to restore Avery's grave and finally have proper respect paid to Avery and the others buried there. But they have awakened a jealous and demanding ghost, one that's not satisfied with their plans for getting recognition. One that is searching for a best friend forever - no matter what the cost. The Forgotten Girl is both a spooky original ghost story and a timely and important storyline about reclaiming an abandoned segregated cemetery....
The Forgotten Girl is another one of the 2019 books I was looking forward to the most, and I have finally read it.

“Iris’s nightmares terrified her. Especially the ones when she couldn’t tell if she was dreaming or not.”—pg.1

The Forgotten Girl is a ghost story, a serious one that had just the right amount of horror (the ghost) where it was needed. It took the otherwise ordinary wintery setting and added a heightened sense of tension to the story. The supernatural elements were suitably creepy, and Iris’s fear was paramount in the later part of the story. Brown excels at writing compelling characters who would appeal to a wide audience. In that way, it reminded me of the Small Spaces series by Katherine Arden. In both stories, the issues in the plot felt local—especially how personal it was to the respective casts of characters. It was literally close-to-home. Plus the ghosts were written in such a vivid way that there were a number of truly terrifying instances.

The Forgotten Girl also drew upon the real history of segregated cemeteries, which is something I haven’t seen very often in a fictional story. So I liked the fact that it was incorporated into the story—there’s also an author’s note in the back of the book that further explains the inspiration behind The Forgotten Girl.

Overall, The Forgotten Girl was a quick read and an excellent ghost story. On a side note: I would definitely take a story about Iris’s mother, because that one offhanded comment got my interest.

Have you read The Forgotten Girl? Or what are some of your favorite ghost stories?
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