Audiobook Review: The Bees by Laline Paull

The BeesGenre: Dystopia, Science Fiction, Science Fantasy

Series: Standalone

Publisher: Ecco (May 6, 2014)

Information: Twitter | Goodreads

Tiara’s Rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

 

 

 

Narrator: Orlagh Cassidy | Length: 14 hrs and 12 mins | Audiobook Publisher: HarperAudio (May 6, 2014) | Whispersync Ready: Yes

“The Queen is dead! Long live the Queen!”

In simplest terms, The Bees is a novel that explores the phenomena of colony collapse in bees with a speculative slant. In more complex terms, this is a dystopian novel that takes issues ranging from racism to self-acceptance and investigates them in this structured “society,” entwining science and myth to present a story that is both analytical and dreamy. It’s a little strange to call this a dystopian story when you have the bee world under a human world that operates “normally.” In fact, readers only see humans briefly a total of four times during this story. We do get to witness the affect that humans have on the bee world, though. And even later, we find out that this story runs concurrent to a human story that we don’t witness, but readers learn is represented symbolically through the bees story.

The hero of the story is Flora 717. We start at her birth where she narrowly escapes the Fertilization Police whose job consists of eradicating anything that doesn’t fall within the hives standards of normalcy. Flora is born too large, too dark, and she’s born into the lowest caste in the hive–sanitation. However, she’s born able to speak unlike other members in Flora. She also has the special ability to make Flow, a substance used to feed the Queen’s offspring. One of the hive’s Sages has mercy on Flora to sedate a curiosity. Flora overcomes many insurmountable odds to reinvent herself many times while in the hive, moving from the nursery to sanitation to foraging. Her actions decide the fate of her hive.

Flora lives in a world that subsists on rules, duty, Mother’s Love (a ritual involving the Queen giving off a scent that reminds the hive of her “love”), and appreciating Maleness (represented by spoiled, lazy male bees with names like “Sir Linden” who use crude language while speaking like they’re Victorian transplants). This world reminds her that she falls short of perfection repeatedly while demanding her loyalty, obedience, and her sweat. These are things that Flora is willing to give to her hive regardless of being an anomaly until she encounters the strongest emotion of all.

Orlagh Cassidy (great name!) narrates Flora’s story from the days she spends sheltered in the hive to her feeling of freedom as a forager. Some of her voices can sound similar, but I sort of wrote this off because the bees are a hive unit. There’s not supposed to be much variance between them in their respective jobs, so it makes sense that many of them sound like the same bee. The voices she uses for the Sir Maleness bunch is hilarious. It may not be the most manly thing you’ll hear from a female narrator, but she captures the tone, the arrogance, the entitlement dead on. It’s really hard not to chuckle a little bit the males. Her voice for the Spiders, especially the Black Minerva, was notable as well. The Spiders, along with the bees’ cousins the Wasps, serve as one of many outside antagonists in this story. The Spiders are witch women, truth-filled villains who speak hard facts if their high price is met. However, Cassidy’s voicing of Flora is where she excels and manages to capture the most variance and emotional nuance.

Complaints? There are a few. This first complaint isn’t really the book’s fault. Again, who is writing these blurbs where they insist on comparing books to other pieces of existing literature? This is really starting to get ridiculous. Let’s just strike this book being like The Hunger Games and The Handmaid’s Tale. The only thing this book has in common with The Hunger Games is the fact that its “citizens” are divided up into different groups, which could be like any piece of media (or real life) that divides its people up. Now, it does share a similar sentiment and atmosphere as The Handmaid’s Tale, but comparing it to that book overlooks the unique angle that Paull takes with her story.

Second, the presentation of the social issues can sometimes seem a bit too abstract. While reading this, I wondered if the messages of things such as racism, sexism, and class issues might be lost on some readers. Despite what emotions this book may tug in readers, it’s easy to disconnect from the underlying message because BEES! I might’ve pondered this a bit too much while I was listening to this. Also, I applaud Paull for using science (while taking liberties, of course) and trying to combine it with myth, but there are some bits that can come off a little too dreamy and fairy tale-like such as the Melissae, which is what the Sages call their collective group.

Overall, Flora’s story is a compelling, emotional journey. She’s tough both physically and emotionally while being tempered with inquisitiveness, independence, and sensitivity. I’m still asking myself how I managed to be gut-punched in the feelings by bees.

Story:

3-5stars

Narrator:

4-5stars

Overall:

3-5stars

Waiting on Wednesday 02/10/16

Waiting on Wednesday Banner

“Waiting On Wednesday” is a weekly meme hosted by Breaking the Spine that lets us feature upcoming releases that we can’t wait to get our hands on!

Wendy’s Pick

The Obelisk Gate by N.K. Jemisin (Orbit: August 16th 2016)

I’m writing this WoW before even finishing the first book in the series, The Fifth Season, but I am so in love with Jemisin’s work (even the ones I don’t like so much) that I’m confident that I’ll be buying this one as soon as it’s available. In fact, I already have a space for it on my bookshelf. In fact in fact, let me just go place my pre-order now…

Obelisk Gate“THIS IS THE WAY THE WORLD ENDS… FOR THE LAST TIME.

The season of endings grows darker as civilization fades into the long cold night. Alabaster Tenring – madman, world-crusher, savior – has returned with a mission: to train his successor, Essun, and thus seal the fate of the Stillness forever.

It continues with a lost daughter, found by the enemy.

It continues with the obelisks, and an ancient mystery converging on answers at last.

The Stillness is the wall which stands against the flow of tradition, the spark of hope long buried under the thickening ashfall. And it will not be broken.”

Mogsy’s Pick:

Four Roads Cross by Max Gladstone: July 26, 2016 (Tor)

Speaking of making space on the shelf, I already have a spot ready and waiting on mine for the fifth book of The Craft Sequence. Though I have to say I am also with Wendy in pining for The Obelisk Gate. This summer is going to be great, I can’t wait.

Four Roads Cross“The great city of Alt Coulumb is in crisis. The moon goddess Seril, long thought dead, is back—and the people of Alt Coulumb aren’t happy. Protests rock the city, and Kos Everburning’s creditors attempt a hostile takeover of the fire god’s church. Tara Abernathy, the god’s in-house Craftswoman, must defend the church against the world’s fiercest necromantic firm—and against her old classmate, a rising star in the Craftwork world.

As if that weren’t enough, Cat and Raz, supporting characters from Three Parts Dead, are back too, fighting monster pirates; skeleton kings drink frozen cocktails, defying several principles of anatomy; jails, hospitals, and temples are broken into and out of; choirs of flame sing over Alt Coulumb; demons pose significant problems; a farmers’ market proves more important to world affairs than seems likely; doctors of theology strike back; Monk-Technician Abelard performs several miracles; The Rats! play Walsh’s Place; and dragons give almost-helpful counsel.”

Book Review: The Damned by Andrew Pyper

A review copy was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

The Damned paperbackThe Damned by Andrew Pyper

Mogsy’s Rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

Genre: Horror

Series: Stand Alone

Publisher: Simon & Schuster (Paperback release: February 9, 2016)

Length: 308 pages

Author Information: Website | Twitter

The Damned somehow missed my radar when it was first released, but I’ve wanted to read it ever since I found out about it last summer. So when a review copy from the publisher showed up on my doorstep in advance of its paperback release complete with a brand new cover, I dropped everything else and jumped into it that very same day.

I ended up devouring the book. Partly, it was because of its quick-pacing and slickly written style, but also, it simply might have been the fact I was really hungering for a good horror novel. It’s been quite a while since I’ve revisited this genre, and by that I mean pure, psychological paranormal Horror with a capital H—the kind designed to chill you to your bones. The Damned fit the bill perfectly, delivering in spades what I needed.

The story held promise from the very start. It introduces us to our protagonist Danny Orchard, who is no stranger to death. It’s even the topic of his bestselling book, a memoir about his trip to the “other side” after almost dying in a fire that claimed the life of his twin sister Ashleigh when they were both sixteen. His writings have made him a celebrity in certain circles, and Danny often finds himself on the road signing books or giving talks at near-death experience groups all over the country, meeting others who have had their brushes with the afterlife and survived to tell the tale. Often, their accounts are of hope and filled with a sense of peace, with most grateful to be given a second chance at life.

Danny’s own experience, however, was a lot different. His sister has been dead for twenty years, but her presence haunts him still. In life, Ash was the picture of perfection—smart, beautiful, popular—eclipsing her twin brother in every way. But behind that façade, she was pure evil, as the Orchard family have always known even before she started outwardly exhibiting her psychopathic tendencies. Ash reveled in hurting others, manipulating their emotions and destroying their lives. And unfortunately for Danny, death hasn’t changed her one bit. For so long, he has remained alone and detached, afraid to truly live his life again lest the ghost of his vengeful sister decides to take it out on those he cares for. But a twist of fate leads him to fall in love with a woman named Willa and grow close to her young son Eddie, and now just as Danny had feared, Ash is out to take his happiness away from him.

The DamnedThis was truly a nail-bitingly intense story, expertly structured and paced to give the reader the full effect of the horror that has plagued Danny his entire life. Pyper knows it’s no fun when the author shows his hand too early, so he teases us, doling out the details one agonizing morsel at a time, and I couldn’t help but eat it all up. Danny’s past is gradually revealed, starting from the beginning when he and Ash were almost declared stillborn in the delivery room—until miraculously, both babies managed to pull through with strong, steady heartbeats. But was it really a miracle? Or was it something more sinister? These are the kind of surprises waiting for you when you read this book.

Hands down, my favorite thing about this book was Danny’s relationship with his sister, especially before she died. As a ghost, Ash is terrifying—but she was also a lot more complex and interesting when she was alive, her personality and misdeeds recounted in Danny’s memories. Ash is as evil as our protagonist is not, but in spite of this, there’s a bond between the two siblings that can never be severed, which puts a knotty twist into the dynamics of their relationship. As Danny searches for a way to free himself from Ash, the story even takes a mysterious turn, leading readers on a hunt for clues to discover the truth behind the circumstances of the fatal fire that one twin came back from but the other did not. As it turns out, there was a lot more to Ash’s life that was hidden even from Danny, and I do enjoy a good mystery with my horror.

The phenomenon of near-death experiences is also an ideal topic for a book like this. It’s a subject rife for speculation about what lies beyond, and Pyper uses our natural fear of the unknown to make The Damned even more psychologically nerve-wracking. The best part about this novel is what it doesn’t tell you, allowing your imagination to fill in what is implied so you can draw your own disturbing conclusions.

I am immediately adding Andrew Pyper on my list of must-read authors. It’s not often that I come across a horror novelist whose style I enjoy so much, whose prose includes more than just the stark display of frightening elements, because it’s clear that he takes the time to infuse his writing with a poignant, artful quality as well. Plus, I love supporting Canadian talent. I highly recommend The Damned if you’re looking for your next spine-chilling read.

4-5stars

Mogsy 2

Top Ten Tuesday: Valentine Themed Freebie

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Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created by The Broke and the Bookish. They created the meme because they love lists. Who doesn’t love lists? They wanted to share these list with fellow book lovers and ask that we share in return to connect with our fellow book lovers. To learn more about participating in the challenge, stop by their page dedicated to it and dive in!

This week’s topic: Valentine Themed Freebie

For this freebie theme, I thought I’d list a few of my favorite speculative couples. My own geeky Valentine plans include soft cosplaying Deadpool while seeing the Deadpool movie with Mr. DT and whatever other geeky things come up over the night! Naturally, my all-time favorite speculative couple is Mr. DT and myself. I ship myself with him.

CloudRoadsMoon and Jade (Books of the Raksura by Martha Wells) – Not only did Wells give me a great, fresh story about non-human shifters, but she also gave me a great romance between two of the main characters–Jade, the sister queen to the Indigo Cloud colony, and Moon, Jade’s male consort. The Raksura are largely matriarchal, but not so much that males are treated as second class citizens. Wells’ depiction of such a culture and the rules that would exist are fascinating. Also, all the heart eyes at Jade and Moon cuddling.

Saga1Marko and Alana (Saga by Brian K. Vaughan) – Saga is a space opera that covers many angles. Important among these is the relationship between Marko and Alana whose people hate each other. Alana develops a relationship with Marko (who is a prisoner that she guards when they meet). Forbidden love stories are a weakness of mine. Also, secret book club.

Secret Book Club

latheGeorge and Heather (The Lathe of Heaven by Ursula K. Le Guin) – This was one of those romances that I was afraid was going to go horribly wrong. I should have had more faith in UKLG. The romance didn’t detract from the story. In fact, it was more a carefully crafted dance between the characters than a full-blown romance (except for one brief portion of the book).

Chew v1

Tony Chu and Amelia Mintz (Chew by John Layman) – Tony is a cibopath (a person who gets psychic impressions from what they’ve eaten) and Amelia is a saboscrivner (a person who writes about food so believably that others can taste it). Tony rarely eats anything outside of beets when he’s not working. Amelia’s writing allows him to “taste” food without all the visions. Together, they make an interesting pair.

Chew

EarthriseHirianthial and Reese (Her Instruments by M.C.A. Hogarth) – What happens when you mix a space elf who is adverse to touch and a prickly space captain in a room together? Well, romance… eventually… I haven’t cried enough about this series or the delicious slow burn that is this relationship enough.

 

CereusNurse Tyler and Otoh Mohanty  (Cereus Blooms at Night by Shani Mootoo) – This is more a magical realism story than a heavy fantasy or science fiction story, and that magical realism really shows during Otoh’s story. Nurse Tyler, who is the only male nurse at a home for the elderly, and Otoh are both characters who are trying to be true to themselves and lead their best life. Otoh has largely learned to do this. Nurse Tyler, on the other hand, is floundering in a world that hates effeminate men. Together, though, they’re magical.

Y The Last ManAllison Mann and Agent 355 (Y: The Last Man by Brian K. Vaughan) – All of my feelings everywhere. Allison Mann went from thinking that love is a biological imperative to finding it a couple of times within the series. Her devotion and love for Agent 355 makes me want to cry all over everything.

Mann355

The Curse of ChalionCazaril and Beatriz (World of the Five Gods by Lois Bujold McMaster) – The romance was simple, understated, and very sweet in my opinion. I was glad that Iselle wasn’t the object of Caz’s quiet affection, but Beatriz–an affection that she obviously was returning, but he was oblivious, thinking himself too old, too poor, too broken, for someone like her. I thought the simplicity in that was very well done.

6a9a5-libriomancerIssac and Lena (Libriomancer by Jim C. Hines) – This is actually a triangle polyamorous relationship with Lena serving as the point. Lena is dating a female psychologist before she starts a relationship with Issac. Instead of them freaking out or everyone falling in bed together, it’s agreed that she’ll date both of them and they’ll navigate the uncharted waters as they move forward. I’ve only read the first book, so I don’t know if this breaks down or not. However, it was nice to see a moresome that wasn’t all a jealous love triangle or an agreement to just screw all together.

Wall-EWall-E and Eve (Wall-E by Pixar) – Just to prove that I can get emotional about anything. I wrap up with two robots that fell in love in the movie Wall-E, a trash compactor bot, and Eve, a vegetation bot. I swear this movie makes me vomit rainbows.

walleve

Tiara

Audiobook Review: Star Wars: The Perfect Weapon by Delilah S. Dawson

The Perfect WeaponGenre: Science Fiction, Space Opera, Science-Fantasy

Series: Star Wars Canon

Publisher: Del Ray (November 24, 2015)

Information: Website | Goodreads

Tiara’s Rating: 3 of  5 Stars

 

 

 

Narrator: January LaVoy | Length: 1 hrs and 57 mins | Audiobook Publisher: Random House Audio (November 24, 2015) | Whispersync Ready: No

Very slight spoilers, but you’ve been warned. 

I’m one of those people who is easily distracted by secondary characters to the point of joining their cult followings, and I’m not sorry. My most recent secondary character obsession is, Benzine Netal, a character from Star Wars: The Force Awakens the latest installment in the Star Wars universe. In one particular scene we are briefly scan to this intriguing looking woman dressed in  Harlequin-esque attire, and in the next we’re learning  the bounds of her treachery. She wasn’t in the movie long, but she had the potential to be more than a bit player in the movie, as many characters did, in my mind. There was something interesting and exciting about her character. She offered a plausible counter to Rey’s “moral excellence,”a  woman who seemed cold and whose allegiances were shifty unlike the Imperial dedication from Phasma. Bezine carried herself as if she’s not someone to be trifled with, and I was excited to hear there would be a story to explore her background. I wish I could say that I loved what I learned about her. Unfortunately, they did nothing of importance with the character.

Netal

Bazine is The Perfect Weapon. trained from childhood to become a formidable foe and fulfill one ultimate goal (unbeknownst to her) that her teacher wanted, which really didn’t make much sense since he had years to complete this objective. There seems to be no mention of her parents because she was adopted from an orphanage by her mentor. Years later, she’s given a mission that requires she turn to him for help because she needs a ship. Why do all spy types need a ship? Do they not save the credits they get to buy one of their own? Her mentor agrees to give her a ship as long as she take his Pantoran techie, a rookie who needs to complete an off-world mission and could use her help. The only problem with this Pantoran is that he was absolutely the most unnecessary character I’ve ever encountered in a book. In fact, the whole premise for the story was weak, and a part near the end had me like, “HOW CONVENIENT!” You really don’t see Bazine being “The Perfect Weapon” much, which is okay. I’m getting to that.

pantoran

Pantorans, in case you’re curious.

So, why did rate it more than 1-star? Well, because I liked what I did learn about Bazine outside this missions’s premise. How her whole life has been manipulated to be this cold woman when she could’ve been anyone she wanted instead of a woman who wears eel ink on her finger tips or wears poisoned black lipstick to come in for a close kill. She’s not only emotionally scarred, but she’s physically scarred. Her face is a mask to hide the horror of a mission gone bad, and that’s something I would’ve loved to have heard more about. I’m sure seeing her in that moment of both emotional vulnerability and rage would’ve been an excellent story.  I would have loved to explore these aspects of Bazine more, the slip of being a woman who does care but at the same time she does what is necessary. It’s not assumed she doesn’t care because she’s just a cold woman. She stops caring because everything she cares about is taken from her to make her the spy she is. It’s dangerous for her to care.

A couple of things other than the plot annoyed me. The constant reminder that she’s a sexy woman and what she’s wearing can get old in the story. We understand this, and even Bazine acknowledges she is beautiful, but beauty isn’t always worth its merits that people place on it in her opinion. We didn’t need constant words being taken up with drunk men hitting on her. Loss potential wasted on words about men too disgusting to be in her presence, according to her, which is another thing that annoyed me. You are a spy. You’ve admitted that you’ve had to go to some awful places, but still have to continuously harp on how gross something is instead of being the focused machine you are. I’m not saying she should’ve ignored it, but we get it! She thinks what she’s doing is gross. There are way better ways to convey disgust other than having what amounts to “OMG YUCK!” every couple pages. And what’s the point of having a million weapons on your person if you’re not actually going to use them. Inquiring minds want to know.

Anyhow, in Bazine, you do see a loss for what she could’ve been, how tired she is, how she feeds off the adrenaline she feels during a mission despite this. January LaVoy did an excellent job with the voices. I loved her Bazine. Just like with almost all  Star Wars books I’ve listened to, this has sound effects, but thankfully, they don’t ever overtake the narration. I’m really impressed they added production to such a short story. Just like with The Force Awakens, I don’t think this is a necessary read, but it’s fun to learn a little more about that interesting lady from the cantina (who I hope to see more of… please…).

Story:

2-5stars

 Performance:
4-stars

Overall:
3stars

Book Review: Chains of the Heretic by Jeff Salyards

A review copy was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

Chains of the HereticChains of the Heretic by Jeff Salyards

Mogsy’s Rating: 5 of 5 stars

Genre: Fantasy

Series: Book 3 of The Bloodsounder’s Arc

Publisher: Night Shade Books (February 16, 2016)

Length: 524 pages

Author Information: Website | Twitter

I am stunned on so many levels. To call Chains of the Heretic one of the finest pieces of dark fantasy I have ever read would be a gross understatement. It is simply phenomenal, an incredible masterpiece and outstanding achievement for Jeff Salyards. There’s also no doubt about it, this series has come a long way since the author’s debut novel Scourge of the Betrayer, the first Bloodsounder’s Arc book that started us on this epic journey.

Just like the series’ protagonist and narrator Arkamandos (Arki for short), it amazes me to think back to the beginning and see how far things have come. If you’ve read my review of the first book, you’ll know that I liked it plenty. But it was the sequel that really opened up the world for me. Veil of the Deserters drove home for me what Salyards was trying to achieve and made me a diehard fan of the series, and then to have this third book come in and shatter all my already sky-high expectations? It was an unparalleled surprise, to say the least. It goes without saying that these are my favorite kinds of trilogies, the ones where each book just gets better and better.

Not to sound deliberately cryptic, but this series has always been about being secretive and extremely cautious about revealing its intentions. If you haven’t read the first two books, almost everything I say about the story of Chains of the Heretic could be regarded as a spoiler, so I’ll keep my descriptions of it brief. This book picks up right where the last one left off, following Captain Braylar Killcoin and his band of Jackals after their narrow escape from the Syldoon capital, with the shaken Arki in tow. Trapped between the Godveil and the Imperial forces on their tail, the company is forced to make a desperate gambit. All they have to go on are Arki’s incomplete translations of some ancient and obscure texts, which are spotty at best, but the choice is simple: pass through the mysterious Veil and maybe die, or stay to be cut down by Emperor Cynead’s far bigger army and die for sure.

Putting his trust in Arki’s findings, Braylar decides to take a chance on the crazy plan, using his magical flail Bloodsounder to lead his men and women into the unknown. But though this move takes them beyond the reach of their enemies, what awaits them on the other side of the Veil is arguably even more terrible. What they find will shake the foundations of life, religion and history for everyone living in the Empire.

Yes, you heard correctly. At long last, we get to cross the inscrutable Godveil, that ominous piece of the puzzle that has been teasing me from day one. I can practically picture Salyards sitting behind his keyboard as he wrote this book, rubbing his hands together in a villainous fashion while chortling with maniacal glee as he finally unleashed all the secrets he has been sitting on since he first started writing this series. I have to hand it to him though, the wait was well worth it. Plague me, but I was riveted by all the strange things our characters discovered on the other side.

As ever though, what I loved most were the characters. I am and will always be a “character first” kind of reader. Of course in an ideal situation, characters, world-building, story, and writing will all be perfectly balanced, but without the first, it’s generally more difficult for me to get into the rest. That’s why I was really thrilled when Chains of the Heretic delivered splendidly on all fronts, with characters scoring a perfect ten. The choice of Arki as the narrator has always struck me as a brilliant choice—he is the Jackals’ scribe, an outsider hired on to translate documents for Captain Killcoin, but this also puts him in the perfect position to be the company’s Chronicler, both for the Syldoon and us as the readers. His role gives him a reasonable excuse to question everything and everyone, which is how most of the other characters’ motivations and the ways of this world are revealed to us. In this book, we also get to see how Arki’s experience with the Syldoon has changed him irrevocably. He’ll always stick out as the bookish scribe among a group of hardened warriors, but it moved me how the Jackals have gradually come to see him as one of their own.

But while entire series is told through Arki’s eyes, it’s interesting to me how the Bloodsounder’s Arc has always been the about the saga of Braylar Killcoin and his relationship with the eponymous cursed flail. Be that as it may though, the truth is that I would be hard pressed to name my favorite characters. Placing duty above everything else, Captain Braylar is the consummate soldier who will lay down his life for his Tower and commander, but aside from Arki, Braylar’s colorful cast of lieutenants also provide him counsel (or attempt to, anyway). From the seasoned Hewspear to the hulking Azmorgon, from the always-live-in-the-present Vendurro to the foulmouthed Muldoos (who is as eloquently offensive as ever), I literally love them all. And last but not least, there is the good captain’s sister Soffjian, the scary Memoridon who can take down a squad of Syldoon with no more than a single thought if she wanted to. I’ve become so attached to these characters that I’d already braced myself knowing the loss of any one of them would strike a devastating blow.

Furthermore, Jeff Salyards proves himself a skilled wordsmith by the way constructs his prose, especially when he really lets loose in his characters’ dialogue. There’s a lot of humor, and depending on who’s delivering it, you get everything from Braylar’s deadpan, matter-of-fact sarcasm to Muldoos’ creatively crass brand of profanity, plus even some of Arki’s own ironic observances thrown in. This final volume also underscores the superb storytelling, drawing together three books’ worth of intricate plot threads to bring the trilogy to a seamless conclusion. It’s true there are some predictable outcomes, especially if you’ve been following the character dynamics closely, but the overall cohesiveness of the series is a testament to excellent plotting and pacing. I’ve always said that bittersweet endings can be a tricky thing, but Salyards nails it.

The Bloodsounder’s Arc is now in the top spot for my favorite grimdark fantasy series. In case all the frantic gushing I’ve been doing hasn’t driven the fact home already, that’s how much I loved this book. If this is what Jeff Salyards can do with his debut trilogy, I can’t wait to see more of his future writing endeavors.

5stars

Mogsy 2

More at the BiblioSanctum:
Review of Scourge of the Betrayer (Book 1)
Review of Veil of the Deserters (Book 2)

Sunday Musings: Back to the Library

I did it. I finally did it. I went to the library and renewed my library card after months of delinquency. I’m ashamed really. How could I let my library card expire? For shame indeed. Not that I haven’t visited lately. Our local library has many great programs for kids and my seven-year-old has been participating in the science activities that teach her about things like clouds and magnets. She doesn’t need me during these sessions, so I usually hang out reading a book–but not one I’ve actually borrowed from the library. I also moved recently and purged several books with a donation to the library’s box.

But I haven’t been to the library to borrow any books for a long time. This makes me sad because libraries and the whole process of borrowing books is such a sacred ritual. My daughters have library cards and they take out books, but it’s been so long since I have participated in this ritual. I missed it. So when I went to the library to renew my card, I took the time to walk the aisles. To slowly peruse the shelves and check out what was new and what the librarians were promoting as their favourite reads. To smell that wonderful scent of paper with words and images and hearts and souls burned into each page.

I have a large collection of digital and audiobooks, but there will always be something special about real books. Which is why my own bookshelf is such a personal treasure.

book shelf

We recently moved into a new house and my pride and joy is my new library office. My bookshelf is loaded with books, magazines, and my obsessive Funko Pop! collection. There’s not enough room for it all, so the next step is the design and building of another set of shelves that will go behind my desk. It’s not exactly my dream library, because obviously, in my dream library, I’d be able to do this:

belle library slide

But it’s pretty damn close.

As for the public library, I’ve dived back into the borrowing process, though I’d focused mostly on audiobooks for the moment. I have a few books on hold though and I eagerly await that email or phone call to let me know I can come in and pick them up. I’ll hop into the car and rush over and smile at the librarian as she hands over my prize. I might rush back to the house to read it, or I might just hang out at the library a little longer, cozying up beside that creepy statue of an elderly man sitting in a chair, reading a book of his own.Wendy

YA Weekend: Revenge and the Wild by Michelle Modesto

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A review copy was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

Revenge and the WildRevenge and the Wild by Michelle Modesto

Mogsy’s Rating: 2.5 of 5 stars

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy

Series: Stand Alone

Publisher: Balzer + Bray (February 2, 2016)

Length: 384 pages

Author Information: Website | Twitter

It’s a real shame this book and I didn’t hit it off, because I feel it had the potential to be something much greater. I doubt I can pinpoint any one reason why it didn’t work for me either, because in actuality it was a series of smaller issues that compounded together to give me a feeling of “offness”.

When details about Revenge and the Wild first came out, it was billed as a Young Adult fantasy western taking place in a lawless world of “dark magic and saloon brawls, monsters and six-shooters.” The protagonist is Westie, a seventeen-year-old who lost her arm to cannibals as a child while she and her family were on the wagon trail to California. The lone survivor, Westie was rescued by a tribe of Wintu and taken to Rogue City where she was subsequently adopted by Nigel Butler, the eccentric local inventor. The cannibals responsible were never captured or brought to justice.

Armed with a new—well, arm made of metal, Westie has taken it upon herself to hunt the family of cannibals who killed hers, and she’s not going to rest until vengeance is served. Then one day, at long last, Westie believes she has found her targets—except there’s one huge problem. The cannibal family are the Fairfields, wealthy friends of the mayor, and they’re all in Rogue City now looking to make a deal with Nigel, who desperately need the funds to finance his newest invention: a machine with the potential to improve the lives of magical creatures everywhere.

With a buzz term like “fantasy western” (which happens to be a growing sub-genre I’m crazy about), I should have been all over this book. Unfortunately though, the “westerness” ends up getting lost in all the noise. I’m a big proponent of the “less is more” principle, and I have been perfectly happy in the past with fantasy western settings that have just a touch of magic. In contrast, Revenge and the Wild was the prime example of having too much of a good thing. Magic, werewolves, vampires, zombies, elves, dwarves, trolls, leprechauns—it felt like the author threw in everything but the kitchen sink. And then there was the steampunk. In a world already over-encumbered with all manner of paranormal creatures, throwing in more things like airships, robot limbs, and mechanical gadgetry felt like overkill. Greedy. Attempting to cram so much into one book results in not being able to develop any one aspect, so in the end they feel tacked on.

Then there’s Westie, who is just one hot mess. This girl is a walking disaster who can’t seem to do anything right, breaking promises, telling brazen lies, going off on half-baked plans, and making the same impulsive mistakes again and again. Poor Nigel. I’m amazed he hasn’t dropped dead from anxiety caused by Westie-related stress. It would be comical if this were aimed at younger readers—which I originally thought, given the overly simplistic prose, but the strong language, violence and sexual undertones ended up dispelling that theory.

To be fair, this book had some strong points. Westie’s flashback and run-ins with the cannibal family were creepy as hell—like I’m talking Texas Chainsaw Massacre meets Children of the Corn creepy. I also really liked Bena and her Wintu tribe, and I can’t help but feel the story might have been stronger if more attention had been given to the Native Americans rather than the paranormal creatures. Lastly, there were a few great twists at the end, including one that I never would have seen coming IN A MILLION YEARS.

All told, Revenge and the Wild was a fun but rather shallow and disorganized story on account of it trying to do too many things at once. It is okay for a debut novel and great for a light read, but overall I feel it needs more streamlining and polish. If you’re looking for a book with teen appeal that also has a fantasy setting with a stronger western vibe, you might want to also take a look at Lila Bowen/Delilah S. Dawson’s Wake of Vultures. It also has magic, Native American mythology, and paranormal creatures, but I feel it better integrates those elements.

2-5stars

Mogsy 2

Book Review: Star Wars: Before the Awakening by Greg Rucka, Phil Noto

Star Wars Before the AwakeningStar Wars: Before the Awakening by Greg Rucka, Phil Noto

Genre: Space Opera

Series: Star Wars

Publisher: Disney Lucasfilm Press (December 2015)

Author Infogregrucka.com

Artist Infophilnoto.tumblr.com

Wendy’s Rating: 4 of 5 stars

“Poe Dameron’s first ship was
his mother’s RZ-1 A-wing.”

black line 2

This book had a lot of things going for it when I saw it at the book store:

(1) My deep love of Star Wars: The Force Awakens and all its wondrous flaws
(2) My love of expanded universes and a desire to return to the first expanded universe I’ve ever loved.
(3) Greg Rucka
(4) Poe Dameron
(5) Gorgeous art by Phil Noto, who is now my new favourite artist because he draws amazing stuff like this:

"Space Bros" by Phil Noto

“Space Bros” by Phil Noto

So, I bought it. Unquestioningly. And read it all while my artist completed my new tattoo. It is a quick read, with large print and young protagonists that drop this book into the young adult category, but it can, of course, be appreciated by anyone, especially people like me who are looking to fill in some of the many blanks the fast-moving film left behind.

The book follows Finn, Rey, and Poe, in that order, in respective short stories that lead up to the film. While all of the stories are good, Finn’s was the most disappointing simply because it was predictable. It adds a layer to Finn that doesn’t quite jive with what we see of him in the film and even feels forced in certain aspects. We already know that he is the kind-hearted, loyal stormtrooper who did not care so much for the ways of the First Order, so other than getting to see more Captain Phasma, this story does not add a whole lot more to Finn’s story. I had hoped to learn more about his fun times in the sanitation department, but alas.

Rey’s story strengthens her character by not letting all of her formidable skills be entirely attributable to the Force. Her ingenuity, her self-reliance, and her determination are at the forefront, which is to be expected, but the story that wraps around her gives us a little bit more, especially when it comes to her skills as a pilot and a mechanic.

Finally, my favourite story about my favourite character: Poe is introduced through his recollections of being a young boy flying with his mother from whom he gained his passion, and from his father, from whom he learned to question the meaning and goals of war. Both Kes Dameron and Shara Bey feature prominently in the Greg Rucka comic, Star Wars: Shattered Empire, but the book does not dwell on their exploits there. The story carries a sense of sadness that teeters on the edge of hopelessness that the wars that were fought and won, ultimately are meaningless if nothing truly changes. One of the things missing from the movie was a deeper understanding of the political tides and machinations of the Republic, the First Order, and the Resistance. Poe’s story provides a bit more insight into that aspect.

 

4-stars

Short & Sweet Review: Laisrathera by M.C.A. Hogarth

ShortReview

LaisratheraLaisrathera by M.C.A. HogarthM.C.A. Hogarth
Series: Her Instruments #3
Publisher: Studio MCAH (May 12, 2014)
Memorable Quote: “It is not humility to assume every responsibility is yours to bear. It is not wise. And it is not just, nor kind. You must let go of your need to feel that everything that befalls you is yours to mend, for at the root of that assumption is a great flaw…”

TL;DR Review:

Crying 3

Tiara’s Rating: 4 of 5 stars. I HAVE BEEN EMOTIONALLY COMPROMISED. Why did it have to end? I never wanted it to end. I don’t know what to do with myself now. *cries more*

Short Sweet

The second book ended on a such a bang, making it impossible for me to not start this book, the last book, immediately. Laisrathera, which means Earthrise in Hirianthial’s native tongue, brings about a satisfying conclusion this series. The second book introduced us to Hirianthial’s home planet after Hirianthial starts exhibiting psi-abilities that are abnormal even for his people. This is when the crew learns the reality of Hirianthial’s people and what caused him to leave his homeworld in the first place, realizing that it’s not quite the idyllic planet that many believe it to be. What started as a simple mission to get their Eldritch home turns into a plot of political intrigue and treachery that puts plucky Captain Reese Eddings and her merry band of misfits right in the middle of the drama.

Her Instruments turned into one of those series that I hated to see end because I enjoyed it so much while proving its a series that I’ll revisit in the future. I’ll be the first to admit that I love my smut, the smuttiest of smut, because I’m trash like that (I read Gargoyle/Witch super smut while passing out Halloween candy; you can’t even begin to comprehend the depths of my trashiness), but there’s nothing like a really well-written, sweet romance that doesn’t thrust the characters at one another the minute they see one another. For all my smut-loving ways, I am a sucker for romantic plots that burn slowly and allow the characters to grow into the people they want to be personally while they forge a stronger bond with one another. I’m a total sap like that. This was a fun adventure across the universe with a great cast of characters. Hogarth explored ideas of humans who expanded beyond Earth, becoming huge catalysts for how the universe was shaped but finding themselves outpaced by their own “creations,” if you will. She gave us these new races that drew inspiration from their real world counterparts, such as felines, while giving them culture that was unique to them. (I’m going to have to read her other books to get more details on some of these races, I believe.) We followed the crew from a simple cargo run to a momentous conclusion. I consider this series one of my gem finds of 2015.

Yays
– Latched on to its preceding book’s high tension ending well and worked that for what it was worth without feeling anticlimactic
– The romantic conclusion
– All the things I said about these books before–diverse, fun, etc.

Nays
– Some plot points can seem to kind of blindside a reader (WHERE THE F*!$ DID YOU COME FROM? LOL! WHAT?! moments)
– The romantic conclusion (Yes, I realize I listed it as a Yay! and a Nay! because your mileage may vary)
– Just as with the last book, trigger warning for abuse/rape survivors with a bit stronger warning here because, while still not overly graphic, insensitive, or gratuitous, it is a bit more frequent for a bit there and does have more details

4-stars

Other Reviews of This Series: Earthrise, Rose Point

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