Book Review: Every Mountain Made Low by Alex White

29430524Genre: Horror/Fantasy/Dystopian

Publisher: Solaris

Length: 416 pages

Format: eARC

Rating: 3 stars

Publication Date: October 25th 2016

 

 

 

 

Publisher’s description

“Loxley Fiddleback can see the dead, but the problem is… the dead can see her.

Ghosts have always been cruel to Loxley Fiddleback – but none more than the spirit of her only friend, alive only hours earlier. Loxley isn’t equipped to solve a murder: she lives near the bottom of a cutthroat, strip-mined metropolis known as “The Hole,” suffers from crippling anxiety and can’t cope with strangers. Worse still, she’s haunted.
 
She inherited her ability to see spirits from the women of her family, but the dead see her, too. Ghosts are drawn to her, and their lightest touch leaves her with painful wounds.

Loxley swears to take blood for blood and find her friend’s killer. In doing so, she uncovers a conspiracy that rises all the way to the top of The Hole. As her enemies grow wise to her existence, she becomes the quarry, hunted by a brutal enforcer named Hiram McClintock. In sore need of confederates, Loxley must descend into the strangest depths of the city in order to have the revenge she seeks and, ultimately, her own salvation.”

 

Review

 

Well I am usually bad at writing book synopsis but this book isn’t making the process easier. I don’t even know the genre of this story, it is dealing with issues like disablity and Down syndrome, it has elements of horror (the main characters sees ghosts and can host their spirit), it’s also dealing with dystopian society (a huge corporation is managing the country and people are put in extremely rigid class system)

. The plot is also pretty odd because in the first third of the book, we only follow the daily life of Loxley, the main character who seems to be autistic, and her interaction with the world. Because of her condition, Loxley is a pretty unreliable narrator and she has issues dealing with other people and that can make her interactions with other people fairly cringy. Almost everyone is a douche with her, calling her « retarted » and « dumb » all the time and it was really hard for me to read about because I wanted to punch them or just take Loxley away so that she could be left alone. I know this type of behaviour exists in real life against people with disability, poor people, refugees or just people who are different but it’s still hard for me to read about bullies like this.

If people being douche to other people is something that you don’t like reading about, this is going to upset you.

The plot is thin, it’s not uninteresting but it’s not particularly amazing in anyway. Basically, the only adult in Loxley’s life that isn’t a complete asshole to her, Nora, is murdered and Loxley wants to find the culprit and kill him. As much as the plot wasn’t anything new, I was intrigued enough by the characters and the world to continue on. I would have liked the book more if the worldbuilding was a little more coherent and explained. That might have been because the story was narrated by Loxley but I didn’t feel that the world felt real. It felt like we only knew a small portion of the world and that the other part just didn’t matter. Then again, I think that it was explained by Loxley POV. She didn’t care about the rest of the world so she couldn’t bring herself to talk about it and she only threw some hints on what was happening out there. It was the author bias but still, I wanted more.

The writing was quite straightforward, it didn’t blew me away but it fitted the tone of the story perfectly which was a good thing.

Overall, I can’t say that I enjoyed the book but, I really don’t think that it’s meant to be enjoyed if that makes any senses. I was intrigued by it but it left me a bit confused. I never really grasped what the author was trying to do (if anything) and I can’t really find any « targeted public ». I mean usually when I don’t like a book, I can at least see who could appreciate it or for which public it was written but, with this book, I have no clue! I wouldn’t especially recommend it to anyone, if you want to give a try, please do but otherwise, I don’t see myself pushing this in any hands !

I received an e-copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own. My thanks to the publisher and Netgalley.

Book Review: The Last Mortal Bond by Brian Staveley (Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne #3) (Spoiler-Free)

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Genre: Epic/Grimdark Fantasy

Publisher: Tor

Length: 640 pages

Format: Ebook

Rating: 3.5 stars

Publication Date: March 15th 2016

Publisher’s description

The ancient Csestriim are back to finish their purge of humanity; armies march against the capital; leaches, solitary beings who draw power from the natural world to fuel their extraordinary abilities, maneuver on all sides to affect the outcome of the war; and capricious gods walk the earth in human guise with agendas of their own.

But the three imperial siblings at the heart of it all–Valyn, Adare, and Kaden–come to understand that even if they survive the holocaust unleashed on their world, there may be no reconciling their conflicting visions of the future.

Review

Well, this book was epic.

The Last Mortal Bond was one, if not my most, anticipated releases of the year. I loved the previous installements in this trilogy: The Emperor’s Blades was a great introduction to the the three imperial siblings Kaden, Valyn and Adare and The Providence of Fire really managed to expand the universe and the story to an another level.

I tend to be very picky with trilogies ending especially when they concern my favorite series (like the Red Rising trilogy, Hunger Games etc.) and I have to say that I didn’t really think that The Last Mortal Bond managed to accomplish what I was expecting. I am overall pretty happy with the ending ( even if it was way more dark than what I expected!) but I had some issues with the pacing.

Indeed, this book was more than 600pages long and I felt like almost nothing really happened in the first third and then that the second third was still incredibly slow. I like slow paced books but not that much when in it’s the last book in a series. I prefer when authors start tying up loose end before the last chapter otherwise, I usually feels way too rushed and almost messy.

Basically, up until the 90 %, it was total chaos and for me, only the last 20 pages really did something for the plot and the characters. Because of that, I felt like the whole action/resolution was done a little too fast which was a bit underwhelming. I am not going to spoil anything but I wasn’t pleased whith the whole Balendin storyline and I found the last action too easy, almost Tolkien’s eagles-like if you know what I mean.

Don’t get me wrong, I loved being back in this word and I’m glad that Staveley is going to write other book in this exciting universe he created (I can’t wait for Skullsworn!). I really liked reading about Valyn (which is totally my favorite character in this trilogy) and Gwenna which is probably my second favorite one. Kaden’s character development was very strong and I especially liked to see him at the end of the book. He’s the strongest character of the series in my opinion. I didn’t like reading Adare’s chapter that much but that’s not new because, since what happened at the end of The Providence of Fire I really couldn’t bear her but I had to admit that she grew a lot during this and I can actually understand why she did some of the things I can’t forgive her about.:P

Even if The Last Mortal Bond wasn’t as good as the other books in the trilogy in my opinion, I would still recommend the Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne. It has some very unique elements, it’s very addictive and since my expectations were so high, I guess that it was very hard to meet them !

Recommended.

Top 5 Wednesday: Favorite Spooky Settings

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Top 5 Wednesday was created by gingerreadslainey and  is now hosted by Sam fromThoughts on Tomes if you want to know a little bit more about them you can check the Goodreads group here.


Topic

“These can be settings that exist in books or ones you’d like to see in books. You don’t have to make this about horror or scary settings. You can also use eerie, atmospheric settings. Macabre settings, eclectic settings etc..”

 

This was a hard topic for me, I’m scared easily and I don’t particularly like to be. I don’t read a lot of of horror so I don’t have a ton of “favorite” spooky settings. However, I did manage to find five so here they are:

 

  • Space

Space is place that both fascinate me and scare me. I love to read stories taking place there but I couldn’t be an astronaut, I just don’t know how I would react if I was alone in this immensity. Not gonna lie, I would probably die within seconds because I’m so clumsy I would probably be unable to put on a spacesuit correctly. 😛 I like to read about missions that take place in space (like Seveneves by Neal Stephenson) but at the same time, they make me incredibly anxious.

  • Foreign Planet

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I was thinking of Children of Time by Adrian Tchaikovski when I chose this setting. Children of Time is one of my favorite book of 2016 and even though it’s not an horror book, it featured some scenes that were pretty scary to me, the first one being the first time the humans reached Kern, the foreign planet at the center of the whole book and encountered its inhabitants. Fortunately the scary scenes were pretty short because they were intense and I don’t think I would have appreciate the book as much if it had more of those. However, I really enjoyed the setting and even though I know its a recurrent trope in SF, I found it fascinating!

  • Spaceship

Yes, space and space travel is a recurring theme here but you have to admit that a spaceship is a spooky place, I mean if something weird happens when you’re in one, you’re trapped. I am not claustrophic but I think that I could be if I had to stay in a spaceship for a long period of times and it would probably drive me nuts. As you may have guessed by now, I wouldn’t be a great astronaut. 😛

  • Woods

Traditionally, Aokigahara has been associated with demons in Japanese mythology.

That’s a cliché answers but when I mean woods, I don’t mean the foggy woods we always see in I don’t how many horror films.Those ones are creepy as hell but I don’t enjoy reading about them at all, however, I love reading about woods filled with fantastical creatures. I think that they can be a bit spooky like in Harry Potter or Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell but I always like to read stories taking place in this setting!

  • Circus/Amusement park

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I’m thinking about this one because I recently saw the Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children movie and I loved the section at the end taking place in an musement park. It’s not a very original settings but it’s fun and it can easily be spooky!

 

What about you ? 🙂

 

Book Review: The Book of Strange New Things by Michael Faber

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Genre: Science Fiction, Literary Fiction

Publisher: Canongate

Length: 585 pages

Format: Physical copy/Audiobook

Rating: 3.5 stars

Publication Date: October 6th 2014

 

 

 

Publisher’s description

“It begins with Peter, a devoted man of faith, as he is called to the mission of a lifetime, one that takes him galaxies away from his wife, Bea. Peter becomes immersed in the mysteries of an astonishing new environment, overseen by an enigmatic corporation known only as USIC. His work introduces him to a seemingly friendly native population struggling with a dangerous illness and hungry for Peter’s teachings—his Bible is their “book of strange new things.” But Peter is rattled when Bea’s letters from home become increasingly desperate: typhoons and earthquakes are devastating whole countries, and governments are crumbling. Bea’s faith, once the guiding light of their lives, begins to falter.

Suddenly, a separation measured by an otherworldly distance, and defined both by one newly discovered world and another in a state of collapse, is threatened by an ever-widening gulf that is much less quantifiable. While Peter is reconciling the needs of his congregation with the desires of his strange employer, Bea is struggling for survival. Their trials lay bare a profound meditation on faith, love tested beyond endurance, and our responsibility to those closest to us.

Marked by the same bravura storytelling and precise language that made The Crimson Petal and the White such an international success, The Book of Strange New Things is extraordinary, mesmerizing, and replete with emotional complexity and genuine pathos.”

 

Review

 

The Book of Strange New Things is a book I could easily reread : it is beautifully written, the story is unique, the characters are very human (which means that they are flawed as hell) and it is clever. It ticks all my kind of boxes. However it never reach the point where I was 100 % amazed and could say without a doubt that I was enjoying it. Some parts of it I found awesome, in other I was bored, sometimes I really connected with Peter, the main character and sometimes, I wanted to shout at him.

It took me almost two months to read which is a lot for me. It might not have been arranged by the fact that I mostly listening to it on audio (I’m not an audiobook person, I think that they tend to exagerate issues in books because since it’s slower, you have more time to notice them). Anyway, it took me a long time to read. When you spend that long with a book, it’s hard to judge it the way you do with « normal » reads. Indeed, I think that since you experience the book way longer, some of its defaults and/or interesting ideas don’t really affect you the same way.

This book has quite an interesting premise, it follows Peter Leigh, a preacher, in his mission to teach the word of God to an alien species. Indeed, it appears that the native of Oasis, the first extraterrestrial world discovered by humans are fascinating by what they called the Book of Strange New Things which is, of course, the Bible. We follow Peter’s journey to Oasis, his discovery of the Oasians and his contacts with them. Of course, his mission brings up a lot of questions. Why does USIC, the corporation working on Oasis need him so much ? Why does the Oasians are fascinated by religion ? Why the former preachers disappeared ?

If you think that you might find this book preachy, don’t be afraid by that. I am not a religious person at all and I never found the book to be pushy or to focused on Christianity. On the contrary, I found that it focuseon what it is the best in religion in general which is mostly : be kind to others and I don’t think that you need to be a religious person to appreciate that.

Even if this book is set in an extraterrestrial world, it doesn’t really feel like speculative fiction as much as straight up literary fiction. Yes the setting is different but for me, it was more a device used by Faber to do what he wanted with the characters more than anything else. The books is much more centered on character relationship than on the actual plot.

Indeed, when Peter left Earth, he also left Bea, his wife. His only way to communicate with her is the Shoot, a device that allows him to send emails that she receives almost immediately (even if they are light years away from each other). Thanks to the Shoot, Peter soon learns that things on Earth might be completely falling appart and that while he is living a pleasant life on Oasis, it’s not the case of Bea.

One of the main theme of this book is how people deal with distance and how it can affect their feelings and views on others. Even if Peter is concerned for his wife, he feels extremely distant to what his happening to his home. How could he care for an earthquake if it’s not even in his country, or his planet ?

It was fascinating to see how Peter reacted to the events on Earth and on Oasis differently and how it affected him. I can’t say that he is selfish exactly, he’s actually extremely caring to everyone around him but he still struggle to reassure the ones he loves the most.

 

“The world changes too fast. You take your eyes off something that’s always been there, and the next minute it’s just a memory.”

 

If you want to read The Book of Strange New Things for the plot, you might be a little disappointed. I didn’t go in this book with a ton of expactations because I knew that it received a good number of mixed reviews that mentionned that it was a bit dry. I personally don’t think so, but it’s true that if you expect this book to be filled with actions, I wouldn’t recommend it. It is a great adventure in its own way and if you want to read something a little slower that focuses mostly on relationships with really interesting discussions about religion and how scientist can see it, you should should probably read the first few pages and if you like the style of it, you should give it a try!

Book Review: A Taste of Honey by Kai Ashante Wilson

 

30197853Genre: Science Fiction, Fantasy

Publisher: Tor.Com

Length: 160 pages

Format: eARC

Rating: 4.5 stars

Release Date: October 25th 2016

 

 

 

 

 

Publisher’s description

“Long after the Towers left the world but before the dragons came to Daluça, the emperor brought his delegation of gods and diplomats to Olorum. As the royalty negotiates over trade routes and public services, the divinity seeks arcane assistance among the local gods.

Aqib bgm Sadiqi, fourth-cousin to the royal family and son of the Master of Beasts, has more mortal and pressing concerns. His heart has been captured for the first time by a handsome Daluçan soldier named Lucrio. in defiance of Saintly Canon, gossiping servants, and the furious disapproval of his father and brother, Aqib finds himself swept up in a whirlwind romance. But neither Aqib nor Lucrio know whether their love can survive all the hardships the world has to throw at them.”

 

Review

A Taste of Honey was one of my most anticipated releases of this year and as with all Wilson’s works, it didn’t disappoint. I discovered Kai’s fiction this year with Kaiju maximus®: “So Various, So Beautiful, So New” that I really enjoyed because how different it presented the trope of the hero protecting a vulnerable family. I then inhale read The Sorcerer of the Wildeeps that I since re-read (because it’s amazing). There again, the force of Kai Ashante Wilson is that he uses well-known tropes but turn them upside down to write what matters to him, which is, in The Sorcerer , the representation of a queer couple and their difficulties living in a world that doesn’t accept them. It’s also the recurring theme of A Taste of Honey.  A couple of months ago, I read The Devil in America and this is one of my all time favorite short story, if fighting against discrimation and racism is important to you (and I hope it is!), this will move you. The ending of this story is phenomenal and it left me in tears. You can read it for free here and please do!

All this to say, that when I learnt that Wilson was publishing another work, I was pumped. I had very high expectations and I was bit scared to be disappointed but I really, really enjoyed A Taste of Honey. It is set in the same world as The Sorcerer but the stories aren’t linked in any way (or at least, I didn’t see any connection between the two), I really liked going back into this world that is an amazing blend of science fiction and fantasy. I enjoyed it so much in fact that I read this in one sitting and that’s extremely rare for me because I don’t like to read for more than one hour straight.

Kai’s prose is very straightforward yet beautiful. It punches you in the feels very regularly and doesn’t let you go. I couldn’t put my Kindle down because I HAD to know what was going to happen. As usual, Wilson doesn’t write in a linear way at all, but, if this is something that tends to annoy you, I would still recommend it. I am not a big fan of let’s jump back and forth between years but it works well here.

I mentionned before that Wilson tends to use well known tropes in his stories and that’s also the case in this. It follows a forbidden love story between Aqib, a member of the Olurum family, and Lucreo, a Daluçan soldier and its consequences on both of them. That’s not a particularly new idea, however, of course, it’s so much more here. I won’t tell you why because you do need read it and discover this story for yourself !;)

I realize that this review is pretty fangirly but, what can I say, I love this author, so far he didn’t manage to disappoint me (which is a hard thing to do) and I really can’t wait to read everything he has (and will) ever write !

Do I recommend this ? Of course !

 

I received this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions above are mine.

Book Review: Children of Earth and Sky by Guy Gavriel Kay

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Genre: Fantasy, Historical Fiction

Publisher: NAL

Length: 560 pages

Format: eARC

Rating: 4.5 stars

Release Date: May 10th 2016

 

 

 

 

 

Publisher’s description

From the small coastal town of Senjan, notorious for its pirates, a young woman sets out to find vengeance for her lost family. That same spring, from the wealthy city-state of Seressa, famous for its canals and lagoon, come two very different people: a young artist traveling to the dangerous east to paint the grand khalif at his request—and possibly to do more—and a fiercely intelligent, angry woman, posing as a doctor’s wife, but sent by Seressa as a spy.
 
The trading ship that carries them is commanded by the accomplished younger son of a merchant family, ambivalent about the life he’s been born to live. And farther east a boy trains to become a soldier in the elite infantry of the khalif—to win glory in the war everyone knows is coming.
 
As these lives entwine, their fates—and those of many others—will hang in the balance, when the khalif sends out his massive army to take the great fortress that is the gateway to the western world…

 

Review

Is it even possible to make a synopsis of this book without spoiling everything? I am usually terrible at synopsis but Children of Earth and Sky doesn’t make it easier.  Since it’s a character driven story that moved pretty slowly, some important events mentionned in a ton of reviews I tend to find a bit spoilery. I actually wouldn’t recommend the synopsis before reading it because I do think that it tells us a little too much about the plot. If you never heard about this book before, Children of Earth and Sky is a alternate fantasy-ish historical novel set in a world that is very similar from fiftheen century Earth. It is mostly set in alternates versions of Croatia, Venice and Constantinople.

The story follows about five main characters but it also features some other POVs that allows us to observe and learn about wider part of the world. I won’t talk about all of them because I think that it a great experience to meet them throughout the story so I’ll just mention my favorites: Danica, a woman form Senjan who lost almost her entire family to a Asharite raid when she was younger and who know wants to avenge herself and Pero Vilani,a painter engaged to paint a portrait of the Grand Khalif of Asharias while spying on him. I really enjoyed their perspective and I tended to like a little more their parts however, the other ones were interesting too, I never found myself bored or skim-reading  (which for a book following an important number of characters is a very good sign). I really liked the facts that all the characters were flawed in a very human way, they were all multidimensional and very unique and I really wished that I could spend a more time with them: I read the ending very slowly because I didn’t want to let them go!

 

  Children of Earth and Sky is my first Kay book and it won’t be the last, I envoyed it so much in fact that I added five other Kay books on my TBR while reading: Sailing to Sarantium, A Song for Arbonne, The Summer Tree, Tigana and Under Heaven. The writing in this book was gorgeous: very detailed and intricate yet not flowery. I found that sometimes with only one sentence, he managed to explain or show things way better and efficiently than most writers out there. You don’t need to use pages and pages to describe an action when a sentence can replace it: it’s not as powerful because it doesn’t affect you the same way and it can easily become boring.

Another thing that I very much enjoyed was how I could tell that Kay had done an unimaginable amount of research, the world felt real and I know that it might have been helped by the fact that this book (even if it is a standalone novel) is set in the same world as some of his other novels like Sailing to Sarantium, but we could tell that this world was surrounded by history. Some people might say that’s because Kay heavily inspire himself of real history. However, I don’t think that it is that much easier to rely on actual history that create your own since people do know the real one and you can’t really mess it up unnoticed.

 

Even though I enjoyed this book a great deal, I couldn’t give it a full five stars because I had a bit an issue with the pacing. I don’t know if it’s the case with every book by this author but the pacing was extremely weird. As I said before, the book followed a good number of characters, however, some of them that were very important for the story at the beginning then disappeared for most of the book to reappear just before the end. Also, sometimes, the same scenes were told first from one character perspective and then another character. I’m sure it’s to show how a sama event can affect people differently but I found it a bit odd when it happened. Furthermore, Kay could spent pages and pages talking about an event and then, only one paragraph to talk about the life of a character just after that which I found a bit jarring. They were small issues overall but still, they bothered me enough to make this book a really good read and not a great one.

If you’re intrigued by this book, you should definitely give it a try! I personally think that I need to be in the mood for those type of very intricate and detailed reads. Indeed, I really enjoy them but if you want to really take everything in, you have to slow down your reading to really get the full experience. I read this after Kushiel’s Mercy by Jacqueline Carey which is another (great) historical fantasy book. They are not written in the same style but they both have fascinating worldbuilding and great character. When I finished Carey’s work I looked at the books in my To Read Next collection on my Kindle and I remembered that I still haven’t read this book that I received probably back in April from the publisher and I happened to be in the right mindset for it. I think that I really read it at the right time, I don’t know about you but I am often like to read big historical fantasy books during fall and this one fitted my mood perfectly.

 

Highly recommended!

 

I received a copy from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.