Tag: Fiction

No Gods, No Monsters by Cadwell Turnbull

** This book was provided to me by NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review **

First and foremost, this is a book you have to pay attention to. Yes, it’s a casual read, but the subtext is almost its own character in this one. No Gods, No Monsters is the kind of book that almost demands a re-read upon reaching the final page. It’s just that powerful.

Most blurbs and reviews say that this books opens with Laina discovering the news that her brother, Lincoln, has been shot and killed by Boston police, but that’s not really where the book starts. No Gods, No Monsters starts with the introduction of two characters: Calvin and Tanya. As the story progresses, we discover that one of them could possibly be very very important.

Next comes the beginning of Laina’s lament and the big reveal that monsters are real and some of them are ready to go public.

I don’t really want to say much more about the characters or the plot of the book because I think it would steal a piece of the magic from potential readers. What I will say is that No Gods, No Monsters really pushes the boundaries of the classification, or lack thereof, of inclusion and acceptance. Never would I have ever thought it possible to braid together a tale of life, love, the constant struggle and non-Newtonian physics. Yeah, you didn’t read that wrong.

Seeing each section unfold with the inter-meshing of characters and situations is what really sells this story. Mr. Turnbull leverages science fiction and fantasy to show the rawest of “human” emotions in an incredibly deft way, and it doesn’t take long to be fully sucked in.

My single complaint is that it’s now over: I reached the end and that’s it. I do hope Mr. Turnbull revisits these characters and situations because what is not said, and what is not resolved, presents an incredible craving for this reader.

No Gods, No Monsters hits shelves in September 2021, and I guarantee it is going to make some waves. It would not surprise me in the slightest to see it on any number of book of the year lists. Do not sleep on this one.

Piranesi by Susanna Clarke

I’m not even sure where to start with this one. There are certain books that I have read that just resonate and sink in almost immediately. Piranesi is this type of book. What we learn in the beginning is that Piranesi lives in a house with infinite corridors and rooms, a lot with ornate marble statuary, and a trapped ocean with regular tides.

Piranesi spends his time exploring the rooms and corridors, keeping immaculate journals, and interacting with The Other: the only other living person in the house.

What unfolds is a highly intricate mystery about self-identity and semi-spirituality. As Piranesi begins to learn of his origins and the mystery of the house, The Other, and himself, more and more questions come up.

While a lot of the material is quite stressful and potentially triggering, I found the concept of Piranesi quite relaxing. Perhaps I find some resonance with the current “stay at home” experience that is going on in the world right now; or perhaps it’s just Piranesi’s blissful ignorance.

Either way, Ms. Clarke knocked it out of the park with this one. The simple world is both vast and tiny in factors that are very relatable and wonder inspiring. Piranesi is definitely a gem of 2020.

Star Wars: The High Republic Chapter Sampler by Justina Ireland & Claudia Gray

First off, thank you so much to NetGalley for giving me the opportunity to peruse these first few chapters of Star Wars: The High Republic lit. It is a tad hard to describe my fandom with Star Wars other than omnivorish. Over the last few decades, I have consumed any and all Star Wars novels, junior adaptations, comic books, etc., and I have been very excited to see how Disney Books was going to be approaching the new “High Republic” timeline.

First up was a few chapters from Justina Ireland’s A Test of Courage. This junior-aimed novel, set a couple of centuries before the events of The Phantom Menace, follows the young Mirialan Jedi Vernestra Rwoh (don’t call her Vern) as she escorts Senatorial daughter Avon Starros (a precocious inventor) to the unveiling of a new space station: the Starlight Beacon.

Being a junior novel, the fare is pretty lighthearted, but quite engaging just from the small sample that I was able to read. You definitely get a grasp of the primary characters’ personalities quite quickly, and I’m quite excited for the full release.

Next in the sampler was Into the Dark by Claudia Gray. Ms. Gray is no stranger to the Star Wars Universe having written such great story bridges as Bloodline, Lost Stars, and Master & Apprentice.

The start of Into the Dark is no different. The Reader definitely gets a feel for the tone right off the bat with the introduction of the primary character: Padawan Learner Reath Silas.

Reath is being sent off to the Starlight Beacon a part of a Jedi delegation for the unveiling of the space station. Tagging along are Jedi Orla Jareni and Jedi Cohmac Vitus who have previous experience in the area where Starlight Beacon is being built. At least a portion of the sample provided jumps into a flashback of them on a mission there twenty-five years before the current adventure takes place.

By far my favorite characters introduced in this short excerpt are the transport pilot, Leox Gyasi, and his apprentice/copilot Affie Hollow: both from the Outer Rim-situated Byrne Guild. Both of these characters, along with their navigator Geode, bring some fantastic levity and opportunity for some real mirth.

I think the true underlying “star” of the entire run of The High Republic releases is going to be the mysterious “Great Disaster.” There is some hinting to it in what we had to read from Into the Dark, but, like a good sampler, the reader is just left wanting more.

I, for one, cannot wait.

The Doomsday Book of Fairy Tales by Emily Brewes

This book was provided to me by NetGalley in return for a fair review

The Doomsday Book of Fairy Tales is the story of a boy and his talking dog in a post-apocalyptic world destroyed by the effects of humanity on the climate.

Sounds quaint, right?

The bigger aspect of the well-woven story is that our protagonist, Jesse Vanderchuck, is a very flawed individual and has let his life be swept by routine and happenstance until he does not.

At his breaking point, Jesse sets out to find the sister who ran away from him and his mother years ago as a way to possibly regain some sense of normalcy and stability in his life. With him, of course, is his talking dog, Doggo, who pretty much kick-starts Jesse into realizing that he has just been wasting away in the Underground waiting to age and die.

Along their voyage, Jesse spends some time crafting a series of fairy tales which he tells Doggo. These tales, typical in the standard format of child in distress or magical intervention, really were the highlight of this book for me. Some are very light while some are very not. As the book progresses, the reader begins to see how all the pieces fit together as reality and fable-dom become not too dissimilar.

I very much enjoyed the journey this book took me on. Yes, it’s definitely not a “rainbows and sunshine” story, but the aspects of true joy found throughout really do accentuate their intention.

In this tale, Ms. Brewes punctuates that there is no standard by which to live one’s life, and that obstacles are ever-present. Ultimately, it is how we choose to address and deal with said obstacles that defines who we are.

The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V. E. Schwab

I will start this review by saying that if you read only one book this entire year, please make it this one.

Victoria Schwab is an absolute powerhouse author who has built some pretty damn incredible worlds in her novels. It is by the grace of the gods that she is amazingly prolific, so there isn’t a lot of wait between devourings of her words.

The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue, however, is nothing short of her masterwork. This is a book whose end actually brought me to tears twice (I had to go back and read Part VII again), and I couldn’t be happier for it.

The long and the short of it is that The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue is a Faustian tale of a girl who makes a diabolical deal in order to be her own person. The side effect of said deal makes her totally unmemorable to those she comes in contact with, as soon as that contact is broken. Oh, here’s the kicker: she’s also immortal.

Addie spends a lot of time jumping back and forth through the timeline honing in on defining Addie’s personality, her voracious appetite for knowledge, and a slow build of strategy that the reader starts to uncover.

Then comes Henry.

This book is as much about Henry as is it about Addie, but I’m not really going to say much about him other than he works in a book store and he remembers who Addie is. That’s right, the forgettable girl finds someone who remembers.

Then there is Luc — the dark god who doled out Addie’s curse — and his lithe and infuriating interaction with Addie. Luc is a classic tormentor who slithers into the scene to trip up Addie just when she is starting to get into the swing of navigating her life. Like Henry, I just don’t want to say too much about Luc.

At the end of the day The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue is a story about the human condition, navigating the impossibilities of life, and about knowing just who you are to yourself. Like I said at the beginning, this is a book that should absolutely be picked up and never put down: a book to both be savored and devoured. Yes, it’s absolutely that good.

If you are on my Christmas list, chances are, I’ll be giving you a copy shortly.

The Dark Archive (The Invisible Library #7) by Genevieve Cogman

This book was provided to me by NetGalley in return for a fair review

So this one fell in my lap, and it sounded like a very interesting premise. I had no idea it was book 7 in a series, or I would not have requested it. I absolutely hate jumping into a series mid-stream, but I went ahead anyway.

By a seventh book, it is implied that there is going to be a lot of lore and backstory in a series, and this was different. I quite enjoyed the summary device at the beginning, but felt like there was going to be a lot I was going to miss. Oh well, now I have a new series to pick up.

Ms. Cogman does a remarkable job of character development, but, for me, the worldbuilding was a tad scattered. While Irene Winters is definitely the central character of this book, I felt that there were a variety of sub-stories that were not formed fully enough to my liking.

The Dark Archive was a quick read, but not the most satisfying of reads. I would have very much liked to see Vale’s story fleshed out a bit more in this book, and the antagonists did not seem to occupy a lot of the primary focus.

My thoughts may change after I read the other books in the series, but I can’t really recommend this particular tome as a standalone.

The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern

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Every so often I come across a book that is both incredibly enjoyable, and masterfully constructed. The Starless Sea is definitely one of those books.

I really enjoyed Ms. Morgenstern’s first book, The Night Circus, so I figured I’d give this one a go after it sat in my “to be read” pile for a good chunk of the year. I am both happy and sad that I sat on this one. Happy that it did not get to overshadow a lot of what I have read in 2020, and sad that I did not have the characters within in my life sooner.

The Starless Sea is the story of Zachary Ezra Rawlins, the son of a fortune teller and lover of books. Without giving too much away, the story really starts to progress when Zachary stumbles across a very particular and mysterious book with no apparent author or origin.

What ensues is a grand adventure involving deception, intrigue, secret societies, and, of course the Starless Sea.

To me, this story really captures a perfected world of fantastic fables and storytelling. Hold your hands together like you are packing a snowball. What lies within that sphere of space in your empty hands is how I imagine the world within The Starless Sea: it is compact, mysterious, yet perfectly contained.

I cannot wait to read what Ms. Morgenstern has in store for us next.