Book Review: Fireborn by Katie MacAlister

 

Title: Fireborn (Book 1 in the Born Prophecy series)

Author: Katie MacAlister

Publisher: Rebel Base Books/Kensignton Books

Publication Date: June 11, 2019

Genre: Fantasy

 

Summary: Twin goddesses Kiriah and Bellias created the Fireborn and Starborn, respectively, but the two have been at war with each other. A child has been fated to bring the Fireborn and Starborn together, but, before that can happen, the Harborym invade the home of the Starborn and the child, Deo, is sent to be raised by his Fireborn father. As the Fireborn fail to drive out the Harborym, Deo grows up and learns to wield the invaders’ chaos magic against his father’s wishes and sets out to free his Starborn mother. Allegria, a priestess Deo once met as an adolescent, carries a special magic that could be key to driving out the Harborym and believes in Deo’s mission so much that she falls in with him and becomes one of his Banesmen. Hallow was the apprentice to an archanist, one who can wield the power of the stars, and finds himself in Deo’s father’s company, likewise seeking to drive out the Harborym at the same time Deo and his men are trying to. A chance encounter between Allegria and Hallow brings him into Deo’s company. Together, the three are destined to fail or succeed.

Overall, this was an interesting fantasy book. It had all the standard characteristics including magic, a prophesied child, and a battle essentially between good and evil, or chaos magic and forms of light magic. I also loved the magic that was introduced, being able to shape animals from light and drawing power from the stars. But I also felt that this book added little to the genre as a whole. It was a fairly standard fantasy leaning towards epic fantasy, but, overall, doesn’t stand out.

The setting was interesting, but I felt it wasn’t fully developed. The book description mentioned the Fireborn and Starborn were at war with each other, so I pictured a world where half of it was bathed in sunlight and half bathed in moonlight. Of course, the rational part of me knows that’s absurd, but I was disappointed that there didn’t seem to be any difference between the two and their lands other than where they draw their magic from and what they look like. The worldbuilding was lacking and I have no clear idea of what much of it looks like and how it functions.

The story also felt a little disjointed. It flowed extremely well for the first two-thirds of the book. There was conflict and action and an exciting, if bloody, battle that really introduced the invading Harborym and put on display what Deo, Allegria, and Hallow were capable of. I fully enjoyed it, but, as the battle came to a close and I realized there was still a good third of the book left, I was a little dismayed. Turns out the last third felt more like a extended epilogue and simultaneous setup for a second book. It was far flatter than the first two-thirds and was not as interesting.

For the most part, I enjoyed the characters, especially Hallow. He was the most level-headed and offered some levity. In the last third, Deo also provided some amusing comic relief, but was otherwise more of an angry young man during the first two-thirds. That isn’t to say he wasn’t interesting, but I don’t enjoy overly angry and arrogant characters. The most problematic character for me was Allegria. Even though Deo and Hallow also served as narrators, she was the main one. I liked how fiery and stubborn she was, but, when Deo or Hallow were narrating, she somehow felt meeker with less fire in her. It seemed like her inner life was much richer than her outer life.

What really bothered me, though, was the romance. I don’t mind romance in fantasy as a rule. What I do often mind is the pacing. One of the primary reasons why I don’t read YA is because of the insta-love everyone who does read it talks about. Sure, it makes the romance clear-cut, but this book took insta-love and took it above and beyond straight into insta-fall-into-bed. It was a very sudden, very intense romance that didn’t seem to add much to the story. I could have done without, or to a much lesser degree.

What I did enjoy was that the story moved along at a good pace, even the last third of it. Something was almost always happening and the interactions between the characters kept the story moving. Nothing was superfluous and the writing was relatively tight. Conflicts peppered the book and forced the characters to evolve and learn new information.

While there were several things I didn’t enjoy, I still appreciate that this is a well-written book with a good pace, an interesting premise, a clear idea of what the second book will bring, and some interesting characters. Honestly, the bird character is my favorite, but Hallow was definitely worth reading about. For a standard fantasy, this wasn’t bad, but wasn’t exactly spectacular, either.

How many cups of tea will you need?

3 cups will do the trick

Get you copy (The Lily Cafe is NOT an Amazon Affiliate)

Thank you so much to NetGalley and the publisher for a free copy of this book. All opinions are my own.

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Book Review: If Only by Melanie Murphy

 

Title: If Only

Author: Melanie Murphy

Publisher: Hatchette Books Ireland

Publication date: June 6, 2019

Genre: Fiction, Women’s fiction

 

Summary: Erin has just broken up with her fiance, has a job she hates, and is jealous of her new flatmate who is basically everything she isn’t. On the bright side, she has a fantastic friend in Reid, has just discovered her childhood friend Finn has moved to the same building, and is about to celebrate her thirtieth birthday with her beloved grandmother in Ireland. But her granny has a surprise for her: a special pendant that can give her the opportunity to briefly live a life she could have had that will change how she sees her reality.

I love the premise of this book. Who hasn’t wondered what their life would have been like if they’d made a different decision? I wouldn’t mind my own pendant, though I think it would drive me as nuts as it did Erin when she first received it. It is eye opening, though, what a glimpse into another life can give you. At the same time, it can also help one see how right reality can be for one. I loved that Erin explored a few possibilities, but kept coming back to how different her life in them was from what she loved about her reality. As a reader, I will always wonder about the if onlys, but reading this also makes me appreciate where my choices have led me and makes me think this is where I’m supposed to be.

The majority of this book takes place in London, and the characters feel like regular people out walking on the streets. Their speech was sometimes a little hard to follow and figure out since it just felt so very British, but I was charmed by the authenticity and how the author didn’t try to clean up their speech to make it more clear. It felt like I was listening in on someone’s life, and I loved it. One thing that bothered me a little, though, was when other characters would point out how Irish Erin was at times. As an American who doesn’t know the fine differences between being Irish and British, I had no clue what the character was talking about. There was no way I could tell what was British and what was Irish.

One interesting thought that kept striking me while I read, though, was how much it kept making me think of the movie Love, Actually. I don’t know if it was the setting or how the characters spoke or how, in it’s own way, the story revolved around love and friendship, but it made me smile and want to keep reading.

I really loved how the structure was very different from what I had expected. When Erin was presented with the pendant and told she would only have seven views, I expected the chapters to, more or less, alternate between views and reality. Instead, I got an Erin who was torn between being terrified of using the pendant and wanting desperately to glimpse what different decisions would have brought. Most of the book was spent with her debating whether to use it and her living her life and moving forward, creating her own unique family and place in the world. What I didn’t like were the time jumps immediately after the chapters detailing her pendant use. I would have liked a bit about her digesting and unpacking what she saw and how it might impact her reality.

Overall, this was a delightful novel, one I would probably read over and over. The characters felt familiar in that they could be anyone with the same problems and questions and regrets. I loved the way Erin used the pendant and how it impacted the way she saw her reality, and I commend her lack of impulse to use all seven tries. I loved how this book highlighted the fact that we all have wondered “what if” or “if only” and suggested that perhaps the life we are currently living is the one meant for us anyways and that we must continually move forward.

How many cups of tea will you need?

4 cups will be perfect.

Get your copy (The Lily Cafe is NOT an Amazon Affiliate)

Thank you so much to Netgalley and Hatchette Books Ireland for a free copy. All opinions expressed here are my own.

Book Review: Split-Level by Sande Boritz Berger

 

Title: Split-Level

Author: Sande Boritz Berger

Publisher: She Writes Press

Publication Date: May 7, 2019

Genre: Fiction, Women’s Fiction

 

 

 

 

Summary: It’s the 1970s, post-Nixon, and Alex and Donny Pearl appear to have the typical marriage, complete with two darling little girls. Alex is a devoted wife and mother, but also feels stifled by society’s expectations of her in those roles. A friendship with another couple offers something new and different, but will test her marriage and her loyalties, while also giving her room to explore and develop who she is regardless of what society dictates.

Split-Level is set in 1970s New Jersey, but it also felt like it could be anywhere, any time. The words and phrases placed this book in the 1970s (though there’s almost no mention of Nixon or what life is like post his presidency) and the location is clearly stated as New Jersey. The societal ideals are also squarely in that time period, where women were more often teachers than doctors and their most likely place was married and at home with the kids. At the same time, it also felt like it stretched a little to encompass a wider time period and could take place anywhere in the country. Every point in time has its ideas of what women should and shouldn’t do, even our current one. And, at every point, there are women who struggle against it, who fight it and try to make their own way. While it might not necessarily be married with kids, the core struggle of woman against society’s standards is still present. This book presented an intriguing story of one woman struggling between conforming to society and being true to herself, something women across generations can identify with. It may be set in the 1970s, but it could be thought of as taking place at any point in time.

I appreciated the story the author was telling, could identify with Alex’s struggles, but really struggled with the characters. Alex really bothered me. She came off as naive, a little slow, and self-serving. She went with the flow and, when it came crashing down, just wanted to maintain her innocence in it all. As a mother, I was mostly irritated with her lack of responsibility for her daughters. Throughout the book, she maintained she was a devoted mother, but there were few interactions between her and her daughters and she was always willing to let someone else take care of them while she went traveling or just wanted to paint. The other characters, as seen through Alex’s eyes as she was the narrator, all fell incredibly flat. They were one note and served their purpose in the story and Alex’s narrative. I suppose she didn’t find any of them to be exceptionally interesting? I’m not sure, but the only character I really liked was Gussie, Alex’s in-laws’ housekeeper, who came off as both droll and caring.

As much as I disliked Alex, though, I also thought it was smart to see her in conflict with just about every other character. It served to highlight how she was and felt different from everyone else around her, especially the women, and most especially the women who seemed to have it all together. Her interactions helped her craft a sense of who she was and what society demanded she be, and, when we’re in her head, we get the collision between the two as she struggled to make her place in society while also longing for something more and different.

What I found most interesting was how the story was laid out. It takes place over about a year and each chapter explores, more or less, a particular segment of time. With each chapter, the story moves along and provides a new story within the greater story. It was almost episodic, and I was a little dissatisfied when it seemed to leave off on a cliffhanger, though it was resolved in the next few pages. But it was also nice that it was laid out this way. It prevented the story from becoming bogged down in any point in time and kept it moving at a nice clip.

Overall, this was both annoying and satisfying. There were parts of it that annoyed and frustrated me, but, given time to think about it, I also developed an appreciation for the story the author wove. At its heart, it’s about about a woman (any woman) who wants something other than what society dictates.

Get your copy (The Lily Cafe is NOT an Amazon Affiliate)

How many cups of tea will you need?

3 cups should be sufficient.

Thank you so much to NetGalley and the publisher for a free copy of this book. All opinions expressed are my own.

Book Review: Addict by Matt Doyle

Addict (The Cassie Tam Files Book 1) by [Doyle, Matt]

 

 

Title: Addict (The Cassie Tam Files #1)

Author: Matt Doyle

Publisher: Nine Star Press

Publication Date: May 8, 2017

Genre: Speculative/Science Fiction, Mystery, LGBT

 

 

 

Lori Redwood’s brother was found dead, and the police ruled it an accidental overdose. After all, VJ Addicts are not just addicted to the virtual world, but the synthetic drugs they rely on. But Lori isn’t convinced her brother wasn’t murdered since he always said he never used. To prove it, she goes to P.I. Cassandra Tam, who will either give her client closure and reveal a few unsettling truths about her beloved brother or prove Eddie Redwood was murdered.

As a mystery, Addict was a lot shorter than I’m used to. It followed a rather logical flow with one thing clearly leading to the next without many red herrings. Though I was impressed by how quickly Cassie was able to work. Addict isn’t a terribly long book, so the mystery is, likewise, not too complex and over relatively quickly.

At the same time, I’m kind of glad it wasn’t overly complex and long. Doyle is imagining a future world full of really different technology. This book felt like it was an introduction not just to the Cassie Tam series, but also to this new world. There are a lot of differences between the present and the author’s imagined future and, sometimes it was a little too much for my mind as I’m far from tech savvy, so I appreciated the simple mystery. Overall, it was a really nice balance between an introduction to the world and a mystery.

I loved Cassie. She’s tough, smart, a little rough around the edges, and very human. She isn’t afraid of asking questions, both professionally and personally, but is often aware of how they might be negatively construed. Also, I was thrilled to learn Cassie is Chinese Canadian. Being Chinese myself, I sometimes struggle to relate to the characters I read, especially since so few of them in my preferred genres are anything other than white or, once in a while, vaguely Oriental-inspired. While it wasn’t a strong aspect of her character, it added a nice touch and gave me a sense of identification I often don’t experience.

I also loved Lori and how she could be so strong despite her brother’s recent death. She was often amused by Cassie, but their relationship unfolded quite beautifully, and I loved their interactions. They were real and fun while moving the story along. But what I loved was seeing Cassie being so confident and self-assured while she worked, only to have it upended when in Lori’s presence. It made Cassie feel very human and helped reveal her flaws. It was also lovely to see how normal homosexual relationships are in this world.

What I had a harder time with were how fast the mystery moved and all the new technological advances being presented. Cassie seemed to make a lot of leaps and bounds that I wouldn’t have been able to, so I’m quite impressed by how she thinks. She manages to put things together in split seconds and can follow information faster than I can process. It was sometimes overwhelming when so much information was presented, but it all seemed to make sense. There are also a lot of terms like Tech Shifting and VJ Addicts and VJ Pros, which are the major ones. They’re well-described and I eventually got the hang of them, but, at first, it was a little overwhelming. Again, though, this was a good introduction to the world and I appreciated the simple mystery so I could have more brain power to figure out all the tech-related terms and how they functioned.

This was a fast paced book with interesting characters and an intriguing world I’d like to further explore. If you like science fiction and mysteries, definitely give this a try.

How many cups of tea will you need?

4 cups of tea will be perfect.

Thank you so much to the author, Matt Doyle, for a copy of this book. All opinions are my own.

Book Review: Oracle’s War by David Hair and Cath Mayo

Genre: Historical Fiction, Fantasy, Greek mythology

In the second book of the Olympus Series, Odysseus, one of Athena’s champions, finds himself caught between conflicting prophecies. What was supposed to be the happy wedding day of his sister to her beloved turns into a nightmare brought about by the hands of a meddling, powerful seer and sorcerer, Tiresias, who wants Odysseus to go after him for his own purposes. Ordered to go after the seer by his father and his patron goddess, Odysseus quickly finds himself on his way with the daemon Bria, Athena’s newest champion Diomedes, his faithful servant and friend Eurybates, and several Ithacan soldiers to the island Delos, where a novice had a spontaneous prophecy that suggests impregnable Thebes is not so impregnable, and the sons of the seven men who marched on Thebes only to be slaughtered stand a chance of recovering their family’s honor. Odysseus finds himself with no choice but to convince them to go to war, all while Tiresias will do everything in his power to destroy Odysseus and ensure the rogue prophecy fails to come to pass.

Oracle’s War is a nice follow up to Athena’s Champion. Like the first book, it strings together several stories of mythology and ancient Greece to present a coherent and well-reasoned out story. Indeed, it fleshes out the stories and makes them more interesting, and easier to follow as sometimes the stories become convoluted with too many names and places. I don’t know what ancient Greece might have been like, but Hair and Mayo present many possibilities that could have actually happened, especially when it comes to war.

Actually, that’s the one thing that I wasn’t fond of. Of course, I see the war as being a necessary and large part of the story, but the graphic detail of the battles and pointless pillaging was unsettling. I might wish there had been less of it or that it was glossed over, but it would have taken away from the feel of the book, the story the authors were telling, and made the historical fantasy part that much less authentic. Still, it is unsettling and comprises a good chunk of the book.

There were 3 things I wasn’t fond of in the first book: 1) I felt too many liberties had been taken with the stories, 2) the weird modern impression I got from it, and 3) the romance between Odysseus and Kyshanda. This time around, I don’t have the same complaints. Whether this is because it wasn’t as evident or because I knew what to expect and my mind could be more forgiving, I’m not sure. But I did enjoy this book much more than the first. I also am not as familiar with the Seven Against Thebes story, so it was interesting to read about as well as how the sons were able to avenge their fathers.

The characters were interesting. The setting was well-described. The plot moved along at a good pace. Nothing superfluous happened. This book has what I like to think of as internal validity (I don’t think it’s real outside of the sciences and this may not an accurate use of the term, but it makes perfect sense in my head), meaning everything made sense, everything fit together, everything that was present in the first half came full circle in the second half, and there was nothing pointless presented just to make the story longer or more interesting. I love books with internal validity (again, I probably just made this up). Actually, I got so excited to see something presented in the first half pop up in the second half that I had to put the book down for a little bit just so I would be able to fully enjoy the scene. It was glorious. And Odysseus is a genius.

Oracle’s War is as stunning as the first book. But, where I didn’t entirely enjoy the first book, I’m glad to say I loved the second book, and I look forward to the rest of the series. It’s set to be a trilogy, but I hope there will be more books beyond that.

How many cups of tea will you need?

Definitely 5 cups. I only put it down because my kids were demanding my attention.

Get your copy (The Lily Cafe is NOT an Amazon Affiliate, so I will make absolutely nothing if you choose to purchase the book through this link.)

My review of the first book, Athena’s Champion.

Thank you so much to NetGalley and the publisher, Canelo, for a free copy of this book. All opinions are my own. Oracle’s War is due to be published on April 29, 2019.

Book Review: The Perfect Assassin by K. A. Doore

Genre: Fantasy

By day, Amastan is an apprentice scribe. By night, he is one of the Basbowen family’s newest assassins. Serving as the knife of Ghadid, the assassins only kill when there is a contract. Fortunately for Amastan, who is unwilling to take a life, there are no contracts.  Thinking himself safe from having to kill someone, he continues to train with his cousins and unexpectedly comes across the hidden body of a Drum Chief, one of the leaders of Ghadid. The Drum Chiefs decide it will be the Basbowen family’s job to find out who killed him, and the job passes to Amastan. Keeping this task a secret, Amastan discovers someone is also killing assassins, leaving their bodies hidden so their jaan will run wild through the city and take more lives. It is up to Amastan to discover the killer and survive against increasingly powerful, angry jaan who would also have his blood.

I’m one of those fantasy readers who enjoys the typical magic, dragons, and Medieval setting. Of course, I read beyond that, but I’m always drawn to them. I was intrigued by this book’s description, but a little apprehensive about actually reading it. Once I started, though, I had a tough time putting it down.

Far from the Medieval setting, Ghadid is clearly in the desert where the rains come for a season and the water must then last until the next rain season. As a desert city, it’s culture was closely tied to the sands and water, but was richly imagined. It’s not the kind of place I’d like to visit, but reading the book made me feel like I was there. I loved how well the setting, culture, and story wove together seamlessly.

I loved that the story kept moving and something new was always being discovered. Instead of getting bogged down in the history and description of Ghadid, it was woven through the narrative without being too much or too little. Doore did a great job at dropping the reader into the story and letting them figure things out as the story unfolded without everything becoming too confusing. At the beginning, I would have appreciated some description of what jaan were. I was puzzled for a couple of chapters, but it became readily apparent what they are quite quickly, especially when Amastan came face to face with one. They’re an intriguing piece, and I did end up enjoying figuring them out on my own. The mystery of what they are adds to the feeling of fear of them. I completely understand Amastan’s fear of jaan.

My one complaint would be that I figured out who the assassin was about halfway through the book. During the first half, I had no clue even though it turned out we’d been introduced to the assassin early on. Something seemed to change during the second half, though, and it felt like it was clear as day, which made me feel like Amastan must be as a dense as a brick. Either that or blinded by his unsettling feelings towards this person. It was a little jarring and somewhat annoying. Looking past that, though, in the grand scheme, it really didn’t do too much to disrupt my enjoyment. After all, the best parts came after the revelation.

The whole book is wonderful. I tried to stretch out the reading as I really didn’t want to have to think about what to read next, but I couldn’t stop picking it back up. Fantasy and mystery mingled perfectly. The setting was breathtaking and, while the mystery eventually lost steam, it kept me guessing throughout the first half. But the best parts really are at the end. If the first two-thirds were great, that last third is just amazing. The story becomes action-packed and I had to remind myself to breathe.

The Perfect Assassin is the first book in the Chronicles of Ghadid series. I loved the first book so much I want to keep my eye on this series and see what Doore turns out next.

How many cups of tea will you need?

Definitely 5 cups of tea.

Thank you so much to NetGalley and the publisher for an advance copy. All opinions are my own.

Book Review: The Emerald Queen by J.W. Webb

The Emerald Queen: A Legends of Ansu fantasy by [Webb, J.W.]

Genre: Fantasy

Seven years after the gods have been destroyed, Queen Ariane has a Dream that has her sending Captain Garland after her cousin Lord Tamersane. Following the war, Tamersane and his wife Teret had vanished into a city in a distant land, but he is now the key to staving off a power hungry emperor, the only one who can use the mythical bow Kerasheva. Simple enough, but three ancient sister sorceresses have their own games to play with Garland, Tamersane, and Teret. Fortunately, it brings them all together in a race for the bow, but the question should be why these rival sisters want it.

Book descriptions are often a reader’s first introduction to a book. They give a taste of what you can expect and what the story is about. As a reader, I expect accuracy. With this book, I feel like I was duped, and that leads to a general feeling of resentment towards this book, so take my review with a grain of two or salt.

The description paints this as the story of a queen pitted against a power hungry emperor. As the description says:

Now she must conquer her own demons before she can face this new enemy head-on.

I can count on one hand how many times we actually see Queen Ariane, which is a shame because she seemed like the most fascinating character. I’d love to know more about her demons and actually meet the emperor as he’s only ever talked about.

Description aside, this book followed three main threads: war veteran Garland who will do as his queen bids, fallen and haunted man Tamersane who turned to drugs, and his ever-loyal wife Teret. Throughout the story, they are manipulated by the annoyingly cheerful and completely unhelpful Piper/Jynn and three sister sorceresses who are at odds with each other and do everything they can to play each character against the others as a means to an end.

Overall, I feel largely indifferent about this story. On one hand, it keeps moving and each move is logical. On the other, it wasn’t entirely compelling to me. It’s basically a really long journey into foreign lands and has the main characters on a quest while being manipulated by magical beings. Standard fantasy fare that adds little to the genre.

What I did find intriguing, and confusing at the same time, was the world. The wheel metaphor describing different times and dimensions was confusing until the end and, honestly, it felt like a stretch for much of the book, but it did create an interesting world of time and place converging. Of note, Rundali was quite fascinating with its movable forest (that I would never want to be caught in, but loved reading about). However, the world did feel a little out of focus. It was much easier to read about if I didn’t focus on trying to figure it out, especially those woods since each experience was similarly terrifying but altogether different. Described as a stand alone, it definitely can, but I wonder if I would have benefited if I had read the previous books. Maybe the world would be crisper.

I can’t not mention the writing. It kind of felt like I was reading a dialect of English. Considering the author is from England and currently lives in Georgia, that may very well be true! But it was annoying reading this book with a great deal of words like a, an, and the missing. Sure, I get what “go to table” means, but “go to the table” would have made for a smoother reading experience. There was also quite a bit of cursing and some very sex-hungry females that was a little off-putting to me, but nothing I couldn’t gloss over. Overall, the writing felt a bit coarse and rough. Unfortunately, it was annoying and impacted my reading enjoyment.

The bottom line: a typical fantasy storyline where you don’t have to read the previous books to understand it, but it might help.

How many cups of tea will you need?

Two should do the trick

Get your copy (note: The Lily Cafe is NOT an Amazon Affiliate. Should you choose to purchase a copy through this link, I will not receive any compensation.)

Thank you so much to NetGalley and the author for a free copy. All thoughts expressed here are entirely my own.

Book Review: The Psychology of Zelda edited by Dr. Anthony Bean

Genre: Nonfiction

I’m not a gamer and have never actually played a Zelda game. So, why on Earth did I request this book from NetGalley?

Growing up, I watched my younger brother and sister play Ocarina of Time, Twilight Princess, and Majora’s Mask. Later on, I watched videos of someone playing Skyward Sword so I could tell my husband what to do next. Since then, we’ve accumulated Link costumes for my husband and son, my husband’s Master Sword and Hylian shield, and at least a couple of Link figurines. My son picked out one of those figures as a present from us when his sister was born. My husband is very proud that our son is a fan of The Legend of Zelda series.

I’m not unfamiliar with the series, but have never played it myself. I’m almost as far from being a gamer as I could possibly get. But my background is in psychology. So, when I saw this book, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to request it. And maybe figure out why the people I love enjoy these games so much.

Unfortunately, not being a gamer and having never personally played the games, I struggled to connect with what the authors were saying about why the games are so popular and compelling. Having never played, I don’t have the ability to understand the connection the player is meant to create with Link, according to the various authors. I’ll have to leave it up to those who have played the game to say whether they actually formed a bond with Link or not. I like watching players solve the puzzles and my husband freely admits he loves the games for the puzzles, so I struggle with understanding how Link is actually relateable.

But I did love that almost all of the authors come from a psychology background and are actively engaged in research with video games and the people who play them. Even though I struggled with what they presented, I appreciated that they are experts in the field and it’s easier for me to accept that it must be true.

Many of the of the chapters are heavily focused on Carl Jung and his archetypes (Hero, Villan, etc.). I’m not unfamiliar with Jung, but he’s not someone I really studied as many of my professors actually considered him outdated, though that may also be because my studies were more clinical and talk about archetypes doesn’t seem to be commonly done with people with, say, schizophrenia and anger issues. While it was interesting to see how the authors linked the games with Jung’s ideas, it did get a little repetitive and, by the third chapter, I was ready to never, ever hear Jung again.

Fortunately, not all of the chapters focused on Jung. There was a particularly interesting one about the Hero’s Journey and another that focused on the masculine and feminine attributes. But the ones that made the most sense to me were the ones about Majora’s Mask. As a gamer, I think I probably would have been frustrated and, considering how easily frustrated my brother gets while playing, I’m glad I wasn’t home for much of his game play for that one. As a student of psychology, I was fascinated. How the game was created made complete sense, and I often wondered throughout my reading of this book if the game developers had psychology in mind when they created it.

Overall, I found this book quite interesting. There were several pieces that I can never fully understand and will have to leave it to someone who has actually played the games to see if it rings true or not. My husband is currently reading it and he is really enjoying it. So, maybe it is true. It was fascinating to see how the games have evolved over time to more closely reflect current society, but there is still a long way for them to go before it’s an accurate mirror.

So, how many cups of tea will you need?

Whether you’re a gamer or not, this book is interesting. I’ll have to go with 4 cups of tea despite my struggles.

Get your copy (The Lily Cafe is NOT an Amazon Affiliate, meaning I will make absolutely nothing if you choose to purchase through this link)

Thank you so much to NetGalley and the publisher for a free copy of this book. It was published on February 19, 2019. All opinions expressed here are my own and my husband’s.

Book Review: Here and Now and Then by Mike Chen

Genre: Fiction

Kin Stewart is a time traveling secret agent from 2142, except he becomes severely injured during a mission and gets stuck in the 1990s. Without proper medical intervention and no sign of help coming from the future, Kin slowly begins to forget his life in 2142 and starts a family. Eighteen years later, where only two weeks have passed in the future, Kin’s retriever agent comes for him, forcing him to return home and inevitably tearing him between his two families. When his attempts to keep both families are discovered, and his daughter from the past inadvertently threatens the future, he’ll risk anything and everything to save her and fix the future.

An intriguing light sci-fi with elements of romance, it was complex and sweet all at the same time. Honestly, though, the details of time travel and the inevitable paradoxes were a little over my head. I didn’t always understand how time functioned with years in the past passing by whereas only a few hours would go by in the future. The time travel element was confusing, but I don’t feel I needed to understand every detail of how it worked to enjoy the story. But the future didn’t feel too jarringly different and I could see it as a definite possible future. Overall, it was just a really sweet story about a family man who wants to do right by the people he loves and to make amends for mistakes he hadn’t even realized he had made.

The first half seemed to move at breakneck speed. Multiple events occurred where any number of them could have been a mid point or turning point, but only served to lead up to the mid point. There was so much happening, it kind of felt like the story was moving along a little too quickly, especially since it occurred over a relatively short amount of time. At the same time, Kin seemed a little frozen. His character felt static as he tried to keep his two lives separate. In the second half, the story seemed to slow down quite a bit as it was all downhill and involved a single overarching event. But this is also where we see Kin prove what he’s made of. While he spent the first half of the book projecting a certain air to everyone around him, he let all that down in the second half to prove he’s a loving man who will do anything to make things right.

I wouldn’t call this a romance, but there is a very strong romance element. Here we have a man who has a wife and daughter in the past and a fiancee in the future and we see him have relationships with both romantic partners. The one thing I found annoying was how opposite the two women are, almost as though Kin sought the exact opposite of what he had in the future when he was stuck in the past. It makes me question him and I wish the women had been a little more alike, but it was interesting to see how he interacted with such different women. In the end, it was a really sweet romance without any real drama.

Despite how quickly half of this book moved, it did feel like it dragged a bit. Either too much was going on or too little. There were times when I wanted to stop or just take a long break from it, but I was also reading it aloud to my kids at naptime and bedtime and didn’t have anything better to read, so I kept going. And I’m glad I did. The ending was totally worth it. The whole story came together beautifully and I have zero complaints.

Overall, I wouldn’t really call this sci-fi or romance though there are strong elements of both. Instead, I like to think of this as a nice story of a man struggling with mistakes he made and trying to atone for them. This is his story and he really is one of the good guys.

So, how many cups of tea will you need?

4 cups should do the trick

Thank you so much to NetGalley for an advance copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. It is set to be published January 29, 2019.

Book Review: All That Will Burn by Judd Mercer

All That Will Burn by [Mercer, Judd]

Genre: Fantasy, Dark Fantasy

Sofia washes ashore on a desolate beach with no memories other than her name. She soon stumbles upon a group of people just like her, but she’s the only one who knows her name. In the wake of their growing distrust of her because of this, she leaves the group to wander the unknown world. Before long, she comes across an angelic figure, falls back in with the group she had initially stumbled across, and discovers she is in the afterlife. But because she is one of the named few, there are many who call for her exile from the city. However, those who see the potential in her allow her to train for the chance to become a Sanguinir, an angelic being, only to be drawn into the middle of the battle between the angelic beings and the darker, more demonic immuertes who seek to destroy the light.

Initially, I was drawn to this book because it was listed as being an illustrated novel. I’ve never come across an illustrated novel before, so I was curious about what it would look like and how illustrated it would be. While the illustrations were beautiful and a nice touch to the book, I don’t feel they actually added anything to the story. There also weren’t that many; at least, not as many as I would have expected in a book billed as an illustrated novel. Honestly, I could have done without them and it wouldn’t have impacted my enjoyment or understanding of the novel.

This is a basic good vs. evil type of story that just happens to take place in the afterlife. Honestly, I think the idea was interesting, but the execution was a little lacking. It was absolutely an interesting take on what might happen after death, but any fantasy world could stand in for the afterlife in this book. Simply put, it was a unique idea, but I didn’t feel it was any different from any other world in any other fantasy book. Besides, outside of the angels and demons and mentions of limited immortality, I often forgot it took place in the afterlife. The world building was actually quite adequate, but I still only came away with hazy images. In a sense, the world is rich, detailed, and interesting, but descriptions felt a little lacking.

This is dark fantasy. It explores characters with a darker nature and the deformation of souls to form the monstrous immuertes. The beginning chapters were so graphic and horrific that I thought it was actually a horror book. However, as I read on, and definitely nowhere near nighttime as I scare very easily, the horror elements almost completely vanished and it turned into little more than a standard fantasy novel. By the end, even though the horror elements had returned, it was not quite as horrific as the beginning and I struggled to see this as dark fantasy.

During the last quarter, the story really came together and made sense. There were hints of Sofia’s life before death and her family throughout the story, but it never made a lot of sense until the end. I did find the family connections a little too convenient, and a little absurd that so much of the story hung on them when this was supposed to be a battle greater than Sofia. But it did tie the story together and the end was actually rather satisfying. The prologue (that I had completely forgotten about during most of the book) finally made sense. I hate when the prologues have little to do with the meat of the story, so was glad to be able to ruminate and realize it was a nice piece.

To be honest, this book took me weeks to finish. I was intrigued by the illustrated dark fantasy nature of this book, but it really turned into a slow read for me. It’s not that it was bad; it just wasn’t my cup of tea. I contemplated abandoning it several times, but am glad I finished it as I really enjoyed how it ended. Unfortunately, though it may have been explained somewhere, I still don’t understand why Sofia could not be burned.

So, how many cups of tea will you need?

3 cups should do the trick.

Get your copy (The Lily Cafe is NOT an Amazon affiliate, so I make zero if you purchase through this link.)

Thank you so much to NetGalley for a free copy in exchange for an honest review.