Dragon’s Reach

Dragon’s Reach

By: J.A. Andrews
Published: 2020
# of pages: 614
Series: The Keeper Origins (#1)
Challenge: What’s in a Name? (Possessive Noun)
Quote: “’That is the curse of life. Judging your past actions in the light of what you know now.’ She tilted her head. ‘Give your past self grace, my child. She did the best she could.’”

Goodreads description:

Sable, a reluctant thief from the slums, can feel truth when people speak. For years she’s been using that skill to try to break free from the vicious gang boss she’s indebted to.

Escape comes in the form of an odd set of companions:
-a dwarf running from the past,
-an actor with a magical, glowing tree
-a too-helpful kobold,
-a playwright with a knack for getting stories out of people, and
-a man and woman with suspicious, magical powers.

But Sable’s freedom is short lived.

On the edges of civilization, they discover hidden, terrifying lies in the offers of peace from the brutal Kalesh Empire.

Now, she must return to the city she fled, and along with her companions, attempt an impossible task—convince everyone, including the powerful Dragon Prioress, of the truth.

Except the Kalesh web of lies has ensnared everyone.
With her land, her people, and everything she loves hanging in the balance, Sable is the only one standing between freedom, and certain death.

Review:

Don’t ask me how I found this book, but it’s been on my TBR list for a while. I was picking out a book to match the What’s in a Name possessive noun category and here we are: a possessive noun in the word “Dragon’s.”

I was very pleasantly surprised by this first book in a series! Yes, it’s a typical fantasy, but I still found it refreshing and interesting. I enjoyed the author’s take on “common” fantasy species like elves, dwarves, magicians, but I also liked the inclusion of a kobold (basically a house elf from the Harry Potter series!)

Sable is living a life of crime to protect her sister, but she’s been waiting for a way to remove herself from the crime boss she works for in her part of the city and move to another neighborhood to live an honest life. Soon her big chance arrives, but of course nothing can go the way she planned. Before she knows it, she’s on the road with a traveling troupe and soon discovers that nothing about her country and its religious and political structure is what she belives to be true.

The characters are likeable and relateable, the backstories and world building aren’t overwhelming or boring, and the plot is interesting. I recommend this to both young adults and adults who enjoy fantasy.

My Sister, the Serial Killer

My Sister, the Serial Killer

By: Oyinkan Braithwaite
Published: 2018
# of pages: 226

Goodreads description:

When Korede’s dinner is interrupted one night by a distress call from her sister, Ayoola, she knows what’s expected of her: bleach, rubber gloves, nerves of steel and a strong stomach. This’ll be the third boyfriend Ayoola’s dispatched in, quote, self-defence and the third mess that her lethal little sibling has left Korede to clear away. She should probably go to the police for the good of the menfolk of Nigeria, but she loves her sister and, as they say, family always comes first. Until, that is, Ayoola starts dating the doctor where Korede works as a nurse. Korede’s long been in love with him, and isn’t prepared to see him wind up with a knife in his back: but to save one would mean sacrificing the other…

Review:

I bet there are a lot of us out there who have younger sisters who are so favored (and spoiled) they could “get away with murder.” So what if someone took that concept literally and wrote a novel about the subject? Then you would have My Sister, the Serial Killer.

I haven’t done so yet, but I’d like to see if there’s any blog posts or interviews by the author that discuss her inspiration for this story. I have to say, as someone who is at this moment having some sister drama, I was reading it I was thinking, huh. Yeah, I could see this. I mean, not REALLY, but you know.

The unconcerned, impulsive, act first think (maybe) later, expecting others to clean up after them… And no one would ever suspect after seeing the smile, the bubbly personality. Especially compared to the not so fun older sister’s all business personality.

There’s not much else to say without spoilers, so you should just check it out yourself if you know what I’m talking about! I thoroughly enjoyed this, I just wish it had been a little longer and perhaps moved a little slower towards the end.

I recommend this to lovers of crime fiction along with some family drama. Content warning: domestic abuse.

Project Hail Mary

Project Hail Mary

By: Andy Weir
Published: 2021
# of pages: 481
Quote: “I feel like Sherlock Holmes. All I saw was ‘nothing,’ and I drew a bunch of conclusions!”

Goodreads description:

A lone astronaut must save the earth from disaster.

Ryland Grace is the sole survivor on a desperate, last-chance mission–and if he fails, humanity and the earth itself will perish.

Except that right now, he doesn’t know that. He can’t even remember his own name, let alone the nature of his assignment or how to complete it.

All he knows is that he’s been asleep for a very, very long time. And he’s just been awakened to find himself millions of miles from home, with nothing but two corpses for company.

His crew mates dead, his memories fuzzily returning, he realizes that an impossible task now confronts him. Alone on this tiny ship that’s been cobbled together by every government and space agency on the planet and hurled into the depths of space, it’s up to him to conquer an extinction-level threat to our species.

And thanks to an unexpected ally, he just might have a chance.

Review:

I shouldn’t have even picked this book to review because it’s hard to describe how much I enjoyed the story and characters! Was it the most amazingly well written book? No. Was it super realistic (in spite of the detailed scientific descriptions)? No. Usually these things will annoy me or hold me back from fully enjoying a book, but in this case it didn’t. It was a refreshing read and I must not be the only person who loved it based on its Goodreads rating of 4.57 stars.

If you’ve read (or watched the movie) The Martian, you’re familiar with the author, Andy Weir. He also wrote Artemis a few years ago, but I didn’t think that story was as good as his first and third novels. Similar to The Martian, this story follows a man alone in space who is struggling to survive a situation that has spiraled out of control.

Ryland Grace wakes up alone on a space ship but doesn’t know why he’s there or how he got there. Over the course of the story his memories slowly return. He realizes he has an important job to do fairly quickly, but how? He has no way to communicate with anyone to ask questions.

I recommend this book to all sci-fi fans. Similar to The Martian, there’s a lot of science details that I don’t truly understand, but Weir does a great job of dumbing it down and not overwhelming the reader.

The November Girl

The November Girl

By: Lydia Kang
Published: 2017
# of pages: 340
Challenges: Alphabet Soup
Quote: “‘I’m Hector,’ he blurts out. His name is centuries old. I like this. It makes me feel like we’ve met before, that maybe our histories have a more distinct beginning.”

Goodreads description:

I am Anda, and the lake is my mother. I am the November storms that terrify sailors and sink ships. With their deaths, I keep my little island on Lake Superior alive.

Hector has come here to hide from his family until he turns eighteen. Isle Royale is shut down for the winter, and there’s no one here but me. And now him.

Hector is running from the violence in his life, but violence runs through my veins. I should send him away, to keep him safe. But I’m half human, too, and Hector makes me want to listen to my foolish, half-human heart. And if I do, I can’t protect him from the storms coming for us.

Review:

This has been on my TBR list for a while. I was born in November and the main character’s name is Anda, which is similar to mine. I felt like it was meant to be, but then the author shares a name with someone else very special in my life who also has a November birthday! So it’s even more meant to be.

This young adult fantasy follows teenaged Anda, who lives on an island in Lake Superior. During the warm months she shares the island with tourists and during most of the cold months she lives with her father, but there’s one month she spends alone: November. That is, until Hector shows up just as November is about to begin. He’s also alone, fleeing an abusive family situation. Anda knows she should leave him alone, but she’s drawn to him, and not just because he can see her when so many others don’t.

My description sounds like a sappy teenaged love story, but it’s much more than that. It was very deep and poetic at times. While I was reading it I was reminded of another story called The Tempest. I was thinking, the author should have named this character Miranda. Ooohhhh, duh, Anda! Probably other readers would have picked up on that faster, but at least I got it eventually!

Content Warning: Abuse and self harm. I recommend for people looking for a well written magical realism young adult novel. This is something adults and young adults alike will enjoy, but it is very “atmospheric” and a little heavy at times, so not a lighthearted read.

Behind Her Eyes


Behind Her Eyes

By: Sarah Pinborough
Published: 2017
Pages:
318
Quote:
“Sharing a secret always feels great in the moment, but then becomes a burden in itself. That gnawing in the pit of your stomach that something has been set free and you can’t call it back and now someone else has that power over your future.”

Goodreads description:

Louise is a single mom, a secretary, stuck in a modern-day rut. On a rare night out, she meets a man in a bar and sparks fly. Though he leaves after they kiss, she’s thrilled she finally connected with someone.

When Louise arrives at work on Monday, she meets her new boss, David. The man from the bar. The very married man from the bar…who says the kiss was a terrible mistake, but who still can’t keep his eyes off Louise.

And then Louise bumps into Adele, who’s new to town and in need of a friend. But she also just happens to be married to David. And if you think you know where this story is going, think again, because Behind Her Eyes is like no other book you’ve read before.

David and Adele look like the picture-perfect husband and wife. But then why is David so controlling? And why is Adele so scared of him?

As Louise is drawn into David and Adele’s orbit, she uncovers more puzzling questions than answers. The only thing that is crystal clear is that something in this marriage is very, very wrong. But Louise can’t guess how wrong—and how far a person might go to protect their marriage’s secrets.

Review:

I watched the Netflix mini series a couple of months ago and enjoyed it, so I decided to check out the book. I was pleasantly surprised by how true to the book the series ended up being.

Louise is a single mom who works part time and is slightly dissatisfied with her mundane life. Little does she know, her life won’t be mundane for long. On a rare night out, her friend doesn’t show up. Instead of heading back to her apartment, Louise decides to take advantage of having a babysitter and enjoy some time alone. But then she meets a man. It’s not like her to flirt and even kiss without even knowing his name, but that’s what she does.

A few days later she finds out her new boss is none other than the mystery man. She’s embarrassed, but this is something she will laugh about later, right? But then she meets his wife and before she knows it, she’s enmeshed in more secrets than she can handle.

This book is a little hard to classify. At first glance it seems like a phychological thriller, but it’s more than just that, so keep an open mind while reading. It’s very original and creative. Louise is an easy character to understand and sympathize with, although at times I wanted to slap some sense into her.

After you read the book check out the show! If you’ve read or watched Behind Her Eyes, what did you think?

Dune

Dune

By: Frank Herbert
Published: 1965
Pages: 890
Series: Dune (#1)
Quote: “And the price we paid was the price men have always paid for achieving a paradise in this life—we went soft, we lost our edge.”

Goodreads description:

Set on the desert planet Arrakis, Dune is the story of the boy Paul Atreides, heir to a noble family tasked with ruling an inhospitable world where the only thing of value is the “spice” melange, a drug capable of extending life and enhancing consciousness. Coveted across the known universe, melange is a prize worth killing for….

When House Atreides is betrayed, the destruction of Paul’s family will set the boy on a journey toward a destiny greater than he could ever have imagined. And as he evolves into the mysterious man known as Muad’Dib, he will bring to fruition humankind’s most ancient and unattainable dream.

Review:

Dune has been on my TBR list for many, many years. I heard there is a new movie based on the book coming out so I decided now is finally the time to read it. I haven’t seen the old movie yet either.

I have some tips if you read the book. So without any spoilers…..if you want to read Dune, and I recommend you do if you enjoy sci-fi, here’s some pointers:

  • You won’t understand half of the things being discussed right away. It’s okay, keep reading, you didn’t miss anything. Herbert doesn’t go into the backstory of every little thing. This is actually refreshing even if I did initially keep skipping back thinking I must have missed the backstory somehow.
  • The POV is constantly changing, even from paragraph to paragraph. Once again, you aren’t missing anything. Just go slow and accept it.
  • There’s an appendix in the back that I didn’t read (my library ebook had expired and disappeared before I got to it!) but from what I’ve read online, you shouldn’t read it first. Read the story, then you can be filled in with the appendix afterward that apparently goes into more of the backstory.

I’m not going to lie, it took me about a month to read this book. I was interested in the story, but not necessarily the characters. How can a book be so long and detailed but the characters not be detailed? I don’t know, but that’s how it seemed to me, and if I’m not super invested in the characters I tend to take longer to read the book. But it was worth taking so long and I did enjoy the story. I plan to continue with the series and watch the movies.

Blood & Honey

Blood & Honey

By: Shelby Mahurin
Published: 2020
Pages: 528
Series: Serpent & Dove #2
Challenge: Alphabet Soup

Goodreads description:

After narrowly escaping death at the hands of the Dames Blanches, Lou, Reid, Coco, and Ansel are on the run from coven, kingdom, and church—fugitives with nowhere to hide.

To elude the scores of witches and throngs of chasseurs at their heels, Lou and Reid need allies. Strong ones. But protection comes at a price, and the group is forced to embark on separate quests to build their forces. As Lou and Reid try to close the widening rift between them, the dastardly Morgane baits them in a lethal game of cat and mouse that threatens to destroy something worth more than any coven.


Review:

I try not to review books that aren’t the first in a series, especially if I didn’t review the first. But I’m determined to stay on top of reviews. Also, Serpent & Dove, the first in the series, was mentioned in my 2020 End of Year Review with Lou and Reid being the One True Pairing of the Year. I don’t take my OTP lightly and I’ll be honest, I was so disappointed in Blood & Honey that I’m taking back my OTP! Lou and Reid are definitely not going to make that category in 2021.

I was pleasantly surprised with the first book and awfully disappointed in the second. There was so much angst, so much of the same mistake being repeated over and over, so much stupidity and things that didn’t make sense. This was a book that could easily have been half the size. I feel like the author was dragging it out just to be able to make a third in the series.

Have you read these two books? If so, what did you think?

The Rook

The Rook

By: Daniel O’Malley
Published: 2012
Pages: 504
Series: The Checquy Files
Challenges: Alphabet Soup

Goodreads description:

Myfanwy Thomas awakens in a London park surrounded by dead bodies. With her memory gone, she must trust the instructions left by her former in order to survive. She quickly learns that she is a Rook, a high-level operative in a secret agency that protects the world from supernatural threats. But there is a mole inside the organization, and this person wants her dead.

Battling to save herself, Myfanwy will encounter a person with four bodies, a woman who can enter her dreams, children transformed into deadly fighters, and a terrifyingly vast conspiracy.

Suspenseful and hilarious, The Rook is an outrageously imaginative thriller for readers who like their espionage with a dollop of purple slime.

Review:

A friend loaned me this book a few months ago and recently gave me the next book in the series so I figured I’d better get a move on and read the first one! I’m glad I did because this fantasy mystery was funny, fascinating, and fast paced. I’m not into spy novels or criminal thrillers, but the fantasy aspects made all the difference and made me really interested in the main character and her job in a government-like agency.

Myfanwy (pronounced Miffany, rhymes with Tiffany) only knows her name because it’s in a note she finds in her coat pocket one evening when she wakes up in a park surrounded by dead bodies. The note also gives her a choice – face the dangers that will inevitably follow her or flee the country to live in luxury somewhere else. That doesn’t seem like much of a choice, but Myfanwy takes the road less traveled. She merges right into the real Myfanwy’s life, but spices things up a little.

In the supernatural agency she finds herself working for, nothing really needs spicing up, but Myfanwy manages to do just that in the midst of superhero-like characters and situations like sentient fungus houses and evil flesh cubes.

Basically, this is the kind of book I normally wouldn’t enjoy except for the fact that it’s filled with fantasy elements. Government agencies, spies, espionage, politics aren’t normally something I want in a book, but The Rook has lots of fun extras plus it’s well-written and super funny in parts. I laughed out loud once, which is very rare for me!

Overall, it was a fun read and I’m looking forward to reading the second in the series, Stiletto. It looks like a third in the series will be published this year, according to Goodreads. I recommend this to adults who enjoy fantasy, especially when it’s mixed with the modern world.