Mini Review – A Time of Prophecy

In the years since Kitty, Nate and Thom escaped the Kingdom, the Plague has ravaged the population and the rebels have seized two of the northern countries. In an attempt to bring order to the chaos, the leader of the rebels, Nate’s old friend James, has agreed to hold trials for those responsible for intentionally leaking the Plague.

Unfortunately, the rumour in the Kingdom is that Kitty is responsible. To make matters worse, Blaise tells Kitty that the Council, who still count her father as one of their own, are once again experimenting on Radiants. It’s a horrifying realisation that hits too close to home, and for the first time in her life, Kitty thirsts for vengeance. It’s a thirst that’s matched by the one person who has always been her mirror — her Complement, Thom.

On the other side of the Wall in the Outlands, desperate to bring Kitty home and finish the Council once and for all, Thom begins plotting, using the skills he’s long honed to outsmart those with more power. But outsmarting his enemies might turn Thom into the very thing he’s always feared becoming, and war soon seems the only possible solution to stopping the Council and the Hangman. But with more than a few looking to the ancient prophecy of peace, Thom searches desperately for a way to circumvent more bloodshed.

Yet the weight of the years have taken their toll, and as Thom’s physical and mental health deteriorate, Nate struggles with the fallout of past crimes, both the ones he did commit, and the ones he didn’t …

This is a hard book to review because it is difficult to separate my feelings about this installment from my feelings of the series overall. I love this series and these characters so much. It has become one of my favorite dystopian reads of all time. Overall, I enjoyed this book a lot and liked where all the characters ended up. They each showed a lot of growth over the course of the series and that was brought to its logical end point here. I particularly love Thom and enjoyed reading his perspective here. He changed a lot over the course of the novel, and I liked who he ended up with romantically because it really showed how much he had changed. Although, I didn’t like that his growth was nonlinear. He made a big decision in this book that felt quite regressive for the character, and I kind of wish he had insisted on finding some other way to accomplish the goal. It just felt a bit expedient and made all the growth up to that point in the novel feel less impactful. As with all the books before, this book tackled trauma, relationships, and the interaction of the two in a brilliant, unflinchingly honest way. I also really enjoyed the continued world-building and the inclusion of many characters from previous books. It made this send off feel quite grand in scope. My only other major complaint would be that the story felt rushed. I think this would have worked better as two books as there was lot to unpack with the formation of the rebel government, rescuing Kitty, the new plague, and overthrowing crown and council (plus all the character/relationship stuff going on). Despite the fast pace, the book did a good job of tidying up all the loose ends and providing a satisfying conclusion to all the character arcs. Therefore, I rate this book 4 out of 5 stars.

Blog Tour: ARC Review – Reality Testing

Hello, everyone! Today is my stop on the blog tour for Reality Testing by Grant Price, an interesting cyberpunk science fiction novel that asks a lot of important philosophical questions. Thank you to Blackthorn Book Tours for allowing me to participate in this tour!

Author: Grant Price

Publication Date: January 6, 2021

Length: 289 pages

Purchase linkhttps://www.amazon.com/Reality-Testing-Sundown-Book-1-ebook/dp/B08SNP5F34

Read Date(s): May 17, 2021 – May 19, 2021

⭐⭐⭐⭐

Synopsis

Welcome to Berlin. Population: desperate. In the throes of the climate crisis the green tech pioneers are king, and if you aren’t willing to be their serf then you’re surplus to requirements.

Carbon credit for sleeping on the job. That’s the offer a dreamtech puts to Mara Kinzig, and she jumps on it. After all, the city ain’t getting any cheaper.

Then somebody changes the deal while she’s dreaming in the tank.

Now Mara has a body on her hands, an extra voice in her head, and the law on her tail. Only the Vanguard, a Foreign Legion of outcasts seeking an alternative path in the dust between the city states, might be able to help her figure out what went wrong. First, though, she’ll have to escape the seething streets of Berlin alive.

My Review

This was a really good book. The pacing was great. There was always something happening or a new bit of interesting information being dropped to keep the reader engaged. The world was captivating and believable as a potential future for the human race on Earth, which was terrifying because it seemed to be the last horrific gasp of humanity before extinction. The author did an excellent job of unveiling details about the world and characters as the story progressed rather than dumping a lot of information at once. However, this approach did make the reading experience somewhat jarring at first with all of the unexplained concepts and terminology. I still really liked it, though, because it became like a puzzle throughout the book to figure out what all the jargon meant. I was especially proud of myself once I learned how to interpret the number system used in the book since I had no idea what it meant at first.

The main characters were fascinating and well-developed. Mara was a mystery with a riveting backstory, and the chapters from her POV were my favorite. The struggle she faced in figuring out her identity after the events she faced was incredibly compelling and kept me hooked until the very end. I also enjoyed the other characters, especially Daniel. It was interesting to see him go from someone always running from the things he did in the past to an individual who overcame his self-blame, took responsibility, and fought back. The freakish way technology was integrated into most of the characters’ lives, and bodies, made each character unique, and seeing the different ways they each related to the tech, especially Mantis and the other underground individuals, was intriguing.

The world and characters were fantastic, but my favorite thing about this book was its ability to make me think about some pretty powerful issues that are facing mankind. It is one of the things I love about this entire genre, and this book pulls it off well. The story posed so many thought-provoking questions wrapped in the guise of the engrossing narrative. What are the potential impacts of a widespread environmental crisis? What is the endpoint of a society/economy that treats people as commodities with value based only what they can produce? How will the continued enmeshment of technology in every aspect of life impact humanity? And most fascinating, what is consciousness, and how does it relate to what it means to be human? This book attempts to tackle them all while also exploring the line between what we can do and what we should do in relation to scientific advancement.

Overall, this book was a thought-provoking, fun ride into a fascinating, yet horrifying, vision of humanity’s future. The characters, technology, and imaginative, well-paced world-building were excellent vehicles for considering important questions about the direction of society. I recommend it to anyone who enjoys science fiction about dystopian futures.

About the Author

Grant Price (b. 1987) is a British-German author currently living in Berlin, Germany. His first novel, Static Age, appeared in 2016. His second novel, By the Feet of Men, was published by Cosmic Egg Books in 2019. His third novel, Reality Testing, was released by Down By Law Books in 2021. His work has appeared in The Daily Telegraph and a number of magazines and journals, and he has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. He has taught writing at the University of Gießen in Germany.

ARC Review – REPLAY: Undoing the Apocalypse

Author: Trevor Morris

Publication Date: December 2, 2020

Length: 157 pages

Read Date(s): May 5, 2021 – May 7, 2021

⭐⭐

NetGalley Description

Alex is a graphic genius who can create a superhero but does he have the courage to become one? Apple is the warrior princess who will fight to the death, but can she learn to listen to her heart?

They live in different worlds but are thrust together on the same quest. A quest to undo the Apocalypse. If they fail, life on Earth as we know it will end.

When Moon, a mysterious stranger gives Alex extraordinary powers, then drags him into her post-Apocalyptic world, he doesn’t know whether he’s dreaming or drugged. But, by the time he falls back into his own world, only he knows about the terror attack that’s about to trigger a global nuclear war. And in spite of the clock ticking down, no-one he turns to believes a word he says…

If you like epic adventure, featuring time-travel, action and romance, then you’ll love this new book by Trevor Morris.

My Review

***Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for providing a copy of the book. The following review is composed of my honest thoughts and reactions to this book.***

NOTE: This review does contain some vague, minor spoilers.

I thought this book would be a great fit for me. The description included adventure, time-travel, action, and romance, which are all things I love to read. Unfortunately, it was a bit of a dud.

The premise of the book is very intriguing. I liked the idea of using art to travel through time, and the plot of needing to stop the apocalypse before it occurs was interesting enough. However, the book was not executed well. The story was confusing and almost nothing was explained. I really wanted to learn more about how the time travel was possible, but the explanations in the book were weak and vague and made it seem as though the author never really thought out the mechanisms for how it was supposed to work. The plot was also confusing and somewhat nonsensical. I had a difficult time following what was happening at many points in the book, and there were alternate plans and other plot points that seemed important but ended up going nowhere.

The pacing of the book was also a large problem, which I think contributed to the confusing nature of the story. The book is constantly jumping between different perspectives at a very frenetic pace. It seemed there was a different POV every couple of paragraphs. The story also often jumped abruptly in time and location, as well, and gave very few details to fill in the gaps. The pace and writing style contributed to a tense atmosphere within the novel, which I expected given the story is about rushing to save the world, but I think this could have been accomplished without the jumpiness and confusion it created.

The characters were not well-developed. I honestly felt that I knew just as much about the characters after the book as I did before I started reading it. Due to the book’s short length and quick pace, there was little room for delving into any of the characters with any depth. The focus was largely on the plot, which was the driving factor in this novel despite how confusing it was. I really wanted to see more internal reactions of the characters to get to know them more intimately. It didn’t help that many of them died shortly after they were introduced. I think I was supposed to care about their deaths, but I really didn’t care at all. By the end, I felt as though I wouldn’t have cared if they all died because I just did not feel connected to any of the characters. Also, as a side note, the romance in the book was sparse and extremely shallow and wooden, which is probably also a side effect of not feeling anything about the characters involved.

Despite the flaws of the book, there were parts that stood out to me as being pretty great. The author was very good at writing descriptive deaths. His description of someone being eaten alive by a pack of dogs left me with chills because of the imagery it had evoked in my head. I also really enjoyed the flight battle sequence and found it to be really engaging.

Overall, I didn’t really enjoy this book. It was confusing, jumpy, and lacking in compelling characters. However, people who enjoy a quick read filled with fast-paced action and can overlook the flaws and lack of explanations may enjoy it more than I did. Therefore, I rate the book 2 out of 5 stars.

ARC Review: The Other Side of Magic

Author: Ester Manzini

Publication Date: April 6, 2021

Length: 362 pages

Read Date(s): May 1, 2021 – May 5, 2021

⭐⭐

Goodreads Synopsis

A revolution is brewing.

Everyone within the realms of Epidalio and Zafiria is born with magic. However, it is also true that for every spell each and every magic-user casts, their innate abilities begin to slowly wane until their power is feeble and depleted.

True, that is, for almost everyone.

Princess Gaiane Asares of Zafiria is the result of a nearly perfect genetic union. Harnessing royal and magical lineage in her conception, the princess was born infinitely powerful and with no limits upon her magic. Sequestered in a lonesome tower as her strength is used against her will to conquer the land of Epidalio, she must find a way to fight against her captors.

Elsewhere within the realms, Leo—a commoner—was born with no magic at all. Except for her brain, wits, and her own anger, she must confront the circumstances thrown at her without the magical gifts that so many take for granted.

THE OTHER SIDE OF MAGIC is a diverse fantasy filled with action and adventure that is sure to pull you in and hold you fast through each twist and turn!

My Review

***Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for providing a copy of the book. All thoughts and opinions are my honest assessment of the book.***

The premise of this book sounded so fascinating. The magic system had me intrigued and the story of a princess designed as a weapon who escapes and turns on her captors, who also happen to be her parents, seemed really cool. But I did NOT like this book. It actually put me in somewhat of a reading slump because I dreaded having to read more of it. I hate DNFing books, but the only reason I finished this one is I wanted to give feedback via NetGalley to help improve my percentage there. If I had gotten this book from anywhere else, I would not have finished it.

As mentioned earlier, the idea for the story is a really good one, and the first chapter was gripping and set the stage well for a good novel. I did like the magic system, and the author described the use of the magic really well. However, one of the main problems with the book was the limited prevalence of magic throughout and a lack of depth regarding how magic functioned in this world. I really wanted more info about it and to see it used more often throughout the book. The story also took a quick downhill turn after the first chapter. The plot was rather predictable and not very interesting. Perhaps the most frustrating part for me is that even after reading I still don’t know why they created the super-powerful princess other than the nebulous need for more power and domination, which fell flat to me as a rationale.

The characters were also pretty flat, and some of them were so bad they made me want to quit reading. The princess, in particular, was annoying and whiny throughout the book. She was entitled and cried at the drop of a hat, which I wasn’t expecting since she was supposedly the most powerful person in the kingdom and a captive her entire life. Her character became marginally less awful as the book progressed but not much. I found the relationship between her and the other girl, Leo, to be rushed and not very believable. I love queer representation in books, but I like it to be done well. That being said, I did like the diversity in queer representation in this book; I just wish their relationship had been more believable. My favorite character in this book was Evandro. He was the most well-rounded and exhibited the most character development. I enjoyed his redemption story from fallen knight to hero, and his budding relationship with the fun Ampelio was also a highlight.

The story really had an opportunity to explore some very powerful themes, especially grief, the aftermath of trauma, and taking back power after being manipulated and abused. However, none of this was covered very well, with the exception of Evandro’s part of the story.

The worst thing about this book was the writing. It was choppy and clunky. The ARC I received is also the worst-edited copy of a book I have read in my life. It seemed like there were grammar or spelling errors in almost every other sentence. These problems made the book very difficult to read and repeatedly pulled me out of the story to try to figure out what the author was trying to say. I hope the final version of the book received several more rounds of edits beyond the copy I received because it desperately needed it.

Overall, this book was not an enjoyable experience. The unique magic system, diverse queer rep, and Evandro are the only things that keep it from being a one star book for me. Therefore, I rate it 2 out of 5 stars.

Book Review – Shadow and Bone

Author: Leigh Bardugo

Publication Date: June 5, 2012

Length: 358 pages

Read Date(s): April 24, 2021 – April 26, 2021

⭐⭐⭐

Goodreads Synopsis

Surrounded by enemies, the once-great nation of Ravka has been torn in two by the Shadow Fold, a swath of near impenetrable darkness crawling with monsters who feast on human flesh. Now its fate may rest on the shoulders of one lonely refugee.

Alina Starkov has never been good at anything. But when her regiment is attacked on the Fold and her best friend is brutally injured, Alina reveals a dormant power that saves his life—a power that could be the key to setting her war-ravaged country free. Wrenched from everything she knows, Alina is whisked away to the royal court to be trained as a member of the Grisha, the magical elite led by the mysterious Darkling.

Yet nothing in this lavish world is what it seems. With darkness looming and an entire kingdom depending on her untamed power, Alina will have to confront the secrets of the Grisha . . . and the secrets of her heart.

My Review

I decided to finally read this book because I wanted to watch the Netflix series. I had been contemplating it for a while, but I stayed away from it because of the mixed reviews it has gotten. I knew I would feel guilty about watching the show without reading the book first. So, I took the plunge and got the book from the library. It was a mixed bag for me; there were things I really enjoyed and others that annoyed me a lot.

For the most part, I enjoyed the plot and the world the author created for this story. It started out a bit slow, but the second half of the book was much more intense and fast-paced. There were some twists I didn’t see coming, which is always nice, and others I picked up on pretty quickly. The plot involving the amplifiers was somewhat confusing to me and left me with quite a few questions that I hope will be answered later in the series. The magic system in this world was a lot to digest at first with so many different groupings, but I found the various powers, and the order built around them, interesting. If anything, the book could have used more time spent on exploring the different factions and court intrigue because I found the world fascinating. However, I enjoyed the world-building style of slowly introducing different concepts throughout the story rather than doing a ton of huge info dumps.

The characters were hit or miss for me. I didn’t really care for Alina at first. She was annoying and constantly seemed obsessed with her looks and those of everyone else. She also acted helpless and did not want to accept her power, which I found frustrating. As her journey through the book progressed, I came to like her character more and more. I enjoyed the character progression quite a bit and am interested to see where her character goes next given how the book ended. I did not like Mal or the way he treated Alina for most of the book. I do not want them to end up together in the end. He came across as jealous and possessive, especially whenever he first interacted with Alina after she learned to use her powers. My favorite character was the Darkling. He was mysterious, dark (as implied by the name), and dangerous. I thought his relationship with Alina was one of the highlights of the book, even if it represented everything a healthy relationship should not be. I am curious to see if any of the feelings he had for her and the background he discussed early in the book were real or just a ploy to use her.

I enjoyed many of the themes the book portrayed. I especially liked how the book showed the detriments of hiding one’s true self for the sake of others. It can leave someone a husk of themselves, which this book showed well. I also loved the emphasis on how the power of mercy is stronger than that of death and destruction.

Overall, I enjoyed a lot about this book and thought it was a good book. I’m glad I read it. The world and themes were intriguing and engaging even if the plot and characters weren’t always that interesting. I recommend it for anyone who likes YA fantasy and doesn’t mind the usual tropes for that genre. Therefore, I rate the book 3 out of 5 stars.

Have you read Shadow and Bone? What did you think? Just don’t spoil the next two books for me. 🙂

Why I Read: Part 3

I am excited to reflect on my third motivation for reading: relaxation/escape/coping. Although, I don’t think any of those words adequately describes the peace that reading brings me. Before delving in to this week’s reflection, be sure to read parts one and two of this series, as well.

For as long as I can remember, I have experienced anxiety and cycles of depressive episodes. My mind constantly worries about everything and will not turn off. This then leads to exhaustion and the onset of depression to the point of being unable to get out of bed or do basic daily activities. Luckily, with therapy and years of honing coping skills, I have learned how to better deal with both of these disorders. I have even been able to successfully help others by becoming a therapist myself. So, I am living proof that things can get better.

One of the ways I cope with my anxiety and depression is reading. It is one of the things that allows me to focus and quiet my mind whenever I’m feeling anxious. The practice of intentionally bringing my thoughts back to the book at hand rather than going down the random rabbit hole of worry my brain tries to create helps me stay grounded in the moment with the story. I enjoy being absorbed in a good story, and it allows me to escape my thoughts or whatever situation I may be worrying about, even if only for a time. The distance created by this distraction very often helps me return to a stressful situation refreshed or with a different perspective.

Reading has also helped me cope with depression. When I get depressed, I typically don’t have the energy to do much. This often leads to thoughts of me being worthless, useless, or guilty for being lazy. These thoughts then further fuel and deepen my depression. I’ve found that reading is something I can do without the need to use up a great deal of energy. Finishing a few pages or a chapter gives me a sense of accomplishment that helps decrease my negative feelings toward myself and assists in stopping the negative spiral of becoming more and more depressed. It allows me an avenue to feel I am doing something worthwhile without overwhelming the small reserves of energy I have during a depressive state. As with the anxiety, the distraction of reading also helps me cope during times I’m feeling overwhelmingly sad because it sometimes provides at least a small break from the oppressive darkness. Additionally, it allows me an outlet to express some of the sadness that is often bottled up. For example, reading something sad may help me cry or get in touch with that emotion, which allows me to release some of it and feel a little better. So often, I feel a sense of apathy when depressed, and reading can assist in overcoming the apathy and help me feel again.

Does reading solve all of my problems? Definitely not. There are plenty of times when I am too anxious to control my mind enough to read or too depressed to be able to focus for even a couple of pages. There are also numerous situations where avoidance and distraction can do more harm than good in the long term. So, I’m not advocating that reading can cure mental illness or make someone, or myself, feel better all the time. It is one of many tools I use to relax and distract myself when things get to be too much. However, I do think it is one of the things I find most relaxing and most useful in many cases to help cope with my anxiety and depression. I have found that reading regularly when I’m not anxious or depressed also helps me prevent extreme cases of worry or depression because I am spending more time mindful of my reading rather than letting the negative thoughts consume my mind. Therefore, maintenance of my mental health is huge motivation for why I read consistently.

Do you use reading to relax, escape for a bit, or cope with depression or anxiety? Let me know in the comments.