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.

Book Review: St. Paul’s Labyrinth by Jeroen Windmeijer

Genre: Fiction, Thriller

It starts innocently enough with a staged dig to launch an underground project in Leiden, Netherlands. But the discovery of a naked man covered in blood in a tunnel beneath the city is anything but. Then university professor Peter de Haan, who witnessed the cave-in and discovery of the man, discovers a cell phone in his pocket, mysterious messages on it that vanish as quickly and mysteriously as they come, and his good friend Judith missing. By some unknown hand, he is sent on a 24 hour mission through the city, discovering an underground society that struggles between wanting to be known and kept hidden. But all he cares about is finding and saving Judith.

I love a good thriller and am intrigued by secret societies. This is definitely a thriller, complete with assassination attempts and a man running to save his friend despite having no idea who is driving him forwards and having little idea what he is doing and where he is going. But it also felt a little bizarrely like a tour guide of Leiden. We followed Peter as he traveled down this street and turned a corner onto that one and returned to this street via that way, but I still have zero idea where in Leiden anything was. I appreciated the moments Peter took to reflect on a museum or monument and the familiarity with the city, but I was most definitely “lost” all the time and sometimes wondered if this was a guide book. If I could remove the city from the story, it was much less confusing, so, by the end, I had no clue where Peter was, but sure enjoyed the story.

I don’t think this book is for someone who has little familiarity or knowledge of Judeo-Christianity as it plays heavily in this book, to the point of majorly involving a secret Christian society called Mithraism. Bible verses were quoted everywhere and the stories of Christ and the disciples who spread his story were prevalent, but not always explained. Even though I was raised Lutheran and have a solid foundation despite not practicing anymore, I still had a hard time following the religious elements. I had never heard of Mithraism, so it was kind of like being reminded of what I was raised with and then someone coming in to say, “Well, actually, it should really go this way…” But the Mithraism was a little easier to follow as the story progressed along with the author’s telling of it. What was most confusing, though, was the repetition and continual re-interpretation of each Bible verse.

What really confused me for most of the book was where the prologue fit it. I hate prologues that barely tie into the story, so kept wondering how on Earth it fit. On one hand, it’s heavily religious, but it takes place in Spain whereas the main story is set in the Netherlands. Finally, I found it, but it was basically retold, much more succinctly, so I question whether or not the prologue was necessary.

The pacing was very quick (after all, Peter only has 24 hours) and definitely merits a slow read through. It’s simply too complex for a quick read. Honestly, I should have taken more time to read this and it would probably have boosted my understanding, but the quick pace made me want to keep going. I obviously made the wrong choice, but one day I’ll probably return to this book and take it a step or ten slower.

How many cups of tea will you need?

3 cups should do the trick, along with Google

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

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

Book Review: Elithius: The Red Captain by Dominic Sceski

Elithius, Book One: The Red Captain by [Sceski, Dominic]

Genre: Fantasy, YA

This is a review of the newest edition recently released on December 7, 2018. Thank you so much to the author for providing a free copy in exchange for an honest review.

After the abrupt disappearance of his parents a few years before, Fear is left in charge of his ungrateful younger brother and sister. Typical of a teenager, he doesn’t want the responsibility, but, when his siblings are kidnapped by creatures called the Volcryie, he sets out to rescue them. His search takes him and two companions across the Golden Lands, where there is no darkness and night, all the way to the portal of the Dark Lands.

In the author’s note that precedes the novel, Sceski clearly states this novel was heavily inspired by anime and follows the tradition of anime. Initially, I was a little apprehensive as I am not a fan of anime and have only watched a few, many years ago. I know the style is distinctive, but worried I wouldn’t understand this book or would find scenarios absolutely ridiculous because of my lack of understanding of anime. However, I was pleasantly surprised that it was easy to follow, definitely different from any other fantasy book I’ve ever read, and my memories of the anime I have seen (primarily Sailor Moon and Pokemon back in the ’90s and occasionally Dragon Ball Super with my husband who very patiently explains that one to me every time) helped me recognize what were likely anime elements and helped me enjoy the story. I could definitely envision this as an anime, complete with everything I liked and hated about the genre, which is why I don’t watch it.

This is a typical quest story with the main characters on a journey to save Fear’s siblings, along with a subplot of someone after Fear. Initially, the subplot didn’t make a lot of sense to me, but absolutely did by the end. The story moves along at a good, quick pace and is extremely action packed. There always seemed to be something happening, whether a battle or the characters coming to a realization about something important. I loved that it never stalled, but, by the second half, was kind of done with all the fighting scenes, especially as they seemed to lengthen the longer the story went on. I think one of the fights lasted 2-3 chapters. But I appreciated that the story and characters developed together and moved the story along in a way that made sense. My one problem with the story was the end. It was a little too convenient with the way their arrival in a city happened to prompt a complete change in attitude towards the invading Volcryie. It made the final scenes completely possible and enabled the characters to find a way to rescue Fear’s siblings without some utterly crazy plans and designs, but it was just too convenient. The end definitely felt plot driven, but the rest of the story was a nice balance between being plot and character driven.

Speaking of characters, there were just a handful of main characters and all of them were unique and generally consistent. Their behaviors and how they reacted to the story fit well and made sense. However, somewhere in the middle, Fear seemed to undergo an overnight transformation in the way he thought about and approached life. He went from angry teenager to a more thoughtful and decent human being very quickly, so the transformation was a bit jarring, especially when one considers Fear is just a teen and teens are often sullen and angry and this is a repeating pattern no matter how good they are. Which is also why I don’t enjoy most YA, but, even though it was a very quick change in personality, Fear did have an awakening of sorts and the change was consistent, so I can forgive this and maybe even believe the abrupt change. Perhaps this is common in anime?

As a fantasy book, I can’t not talk about the setting. The Golden Lands were definitely interesting and different. A world that never experiences true night and operates with no laws. My first thought is: how is that even possible? Actually, I’m still a little confused as world building was a little lacking, but at least it was consistent in how the world was presented. I just wish it had been developed a little more because I found it so interesting. One thing that really puzzled me was that there are no laws, but bandits are frowned on. Well, if there are no laws, then how can there be bandits? What they do isn’t illegal in this case. Honor clearly seems to be important, but how the lack of laws actually works is confusing to me. Also, everyone seems to know how to use a sword, but no one ever mentions how they’re taught and how they become so skilled (by growing up fighting each other, maybe?). I wonder if maybe they just have the instinct as the concept of a gado becoming affixed to a sword is known by just a few (the trained few?). I don’t understand how some know about it and others don’t.

Overall, the Golden Lands seem to be a very traditional sort of world. Men are referred to as Knights and women are called Beloved and are supposed to be protected. Though we clearly see one of the leading ladies fighting, the general reinforced idea is that the Knights are supposed to be revering them and protecting them. Homosexuality is also touched on in the context of this traditional world. As a liberal, it was a little hard to read, but it fits with the world. Though you have been warned. On a related note, I offer a trigger warning regarding rape and how it’s dealt with.

Regarding the writing, it generally lacked polish, but it was consistent throughout the entire book. It was a little redundant and there was an awful lot of grunting. Everyone was grunting, to the point where I started wondering if they were capable of making any other sound. The characters’ speech was also a little off, but, as with everything else, incredibly consistent. Old fashioned ways of speaking mixed with more modern speech patterns in a bit of a jarring way, but it was so consistent and every character was doing it that maybe it’s just part of the world building. At first, though, it was just strange, but, as time went on, it was just part of the story. One thing that did annoy me throughout, though, was the character switching. I’m used to books that use chapters as a means of switching the POV. This book had a Protagonist Switch: [Name] approach at the start of and within the chapters. Without the headings, it would have been difficult or impossible to know whose POV it was. It also made it a little confusing sometimes to pick the story back up when I had to stop in the middle of a scene. I wonder if this is just part of anime. If it is, then it’s just me. I don’t have to like it, but I do respect that anime comes with its own unique style and who am I to complain?

This is the first book in the Elithius series, so there are a lot of dangling threads. I debate whether I would read further. On one hand, it’s an interesting story and different from anything I’ve ever read. On the other, anime simply is not my cup of tea. It’s an action packed story that keeps moving, which is nice, and has very little romance, which is even nicer. Not every story has to have it and I like that this one embraced the lack of romance being necessary. I think this is a great book to pick up if you enjoy anime, even if you don’t enjoy fantasy. I also think this is a good book to pick up if you enjoy fantasy and are looking for something different.

How many cups of tea will you need?

4 cups of tea, because that action really keeps going and it’s hard to stop in the middle of a sequence!

Book Review: Not A Clue by Chloe Delaume

Not a Clue

Genre: Fiction, translated from French

Translated from the original French, Not a Clue is a life size game of Clue involving six psychiatric patients. Each character takes on the persona of one of the Clue pieces, is placed in one of the rooms on the board, and has possession of one weapon. Each are accused of killing Dr. Black.

As a fan of the game Clue, I was thrilled for the chance to review a copy of Not a Clue, which is set to be released December 1, 2018. I was expecting something fun and a little bizarre since the suspects are psychiatric patients. However, what I got was a dizzying compilation of six characters with various psychiatric problems, an interfering author who repeatedly states she is unwilling to interfere, an omniscient narrator who doesn’t actually do a good job of it, and Dr. Black who apparently speaks to us from beyond death.

On one hand, I was a bit in awe of this book. It’s unique and pushes boundaries. Back in college, I read House of Leaves, an experimental horror book by Mark Z. Danielewski. I was intrigued and delighted by the experimental quality of the writing and layout, but honestly have very little recollection of what the heck it was about. I was equally delighted by the writing in Not a Clue. Even though it was a little difficult to get into with the incredible dearth of punctuation, I was nevertheless interested in how this book was written. Psychological definitions and explanations were woven throughout. Even though it made the book feel a little choppy, I still appreciated it as a former psychology student, especially since it made complete sense when it was injected. The character sketches were amusing and somewhat thought-provoking and sometimes it was difficult to tell what was real and what was fictional in each person’s life.

On the other hand, this book also grated on my nerves. As the story went along, I was a little dismayed when I reached the halfway point and had only met two of the suspects. They were both well-thought out and very well developed, which made me wonder if this book was maybe incomplete or if the remaining four suspects were only going to be glossed over. In the end, I was disappointed at the treatment the last four characters received, confused by the officers that were occasionally interjected, annoyed with the omniscient narrator who didn’t seem well-liked, and started to wonder if the author either ran out of steam while writing and that’s why only the first two suspects were well-developed or if the novel was meant to go that way. After finishing the book, I’m still not sure.

I was much more invested in the first half of the book and just wanted the second half to pass as quickly as possible. I very much enjoyed how the first two characters were fleshed out, but the pattern was the same for all six of them. It became tiring and repetitive and, by the last one, I had little interest in getting to know them, not that they were very well developed, anyways. But with all the changing characters and the annoying omniscient narrator, I just wanted the book to end.

The idea for the book was interesting and was what drew me to it. The game of Clue and six psychiatric patients? Yes and yes. I was expecting a wild and bizarre ride. What I got was mostly just bizarre. I appreciated what the author was trying to do and greatly enjoyed her boundary pushing, but I was quite tired of it by the end and am still left wondering how the game actually played into the story. I get that the suspects, rooms, and weapons were involved and the characters more or less correlated with the game’s characters, but the game in the story never felt anything more than flimsy and I probably would have enjoyed it without the overlay of the game.

In the end, I have my doubts as to whether or not Dr. Black was actually killed. Actually, I still have no idea who Dr. Black is/was and why he might have been killed. Then again, the why has never really been a part of the game. And I really didn’t care that he might have been killed. I also, in my disgruntled moments, think the author’s character is the one who was killed. Gee, if I were one of the six patients and had to make do with how my story was told, I might be willing to off her myself.

Not a Clue isn’t a terrible book. It was intriguing and definitely different. It’s well worth a look, but be prepared for a strange ride that may or may not leave you feeling fulfilled.

How many cups of tea will you need?

3 cups should do.

Thank you so much to NetGalley and the publisher for a copy of this book in exchange for a review.

Book Review: Athena’s Champion by David Hair and Cath Mayo

Athena's Champion (Olympus Trilogy Book 1) by [Hair, David, Mayo, Cath]

Genre: Historical Fiction, Fantasy

Prince Odysseus of Ithaca travels with his family to Pythos to be anointed as his father’s successor. It was supposed to be simple and straightforward. However, the words that leave the Pythia’s mouth turn his world upside down, estrange his parents, and result in his expulsion from the family and his home. Now on the run to stay alive (as his line is destined for death), he ends up being blessed by Athena, becoming her newest champion and putting him in the middle of a brewing war between the gods and mankind. He becomes instrumental in one of Athena’s schemes that goes horribly wrong and only his wits and history as a youth in Sparta spare him. But it also takes him into Hades and puts him head to head with the legendary Theseus.

As a huge fan of Greek mythology, I couldn’t wait to read this one. While I love the traditional stories, I also enjoy modern takes. This book was certainly a twist on the  myths, but I can’t say I enjoyed it as much as I have other twists.

Athena’s Champion is basically a story about Odysseus’s youth. We see him as a young man, newly come of age and heir apparent. He has streaks of naivete and signs of the great tactician he becomes during the Trojan War. He is most definitely a thoughtful character in this book, and I was often put off by how much thinking he did during the first half. I almost felt like all he did was think, think, train, and then think some more. I get it; he is wise and analytical, but I feel like he thought a little too much.

If you’re looking for a story that aligns with the myths, this book doesn’t always do it. I appreciated the fact that it does follow some of the stories, puts them in a chronological order, and tells the story of a youthful Odysseus, but it was definitely not fully in line with the myths, taking certain liberties that had me frowning. Now, I love a good twist, but this felt like it went a little too far, especially since it’s supposed to be historical fiction. Yes, I know creative license is common and taken, but I’m too big of a fan of the originals to really appreciate it. Though I did absolutely love that the authors mentioned Heracles instead of the Roman equivalent Hercules that so many other writers use.

Since this book did put several events into a plausible order, I could forgive quite a bit. However, what was truly jarring to me was this weird modern impression I got. Some of Odysseus’s thoughts felt a little to modern and I’m not sure the Ancient Greeks would agree that that’s how they thought about people and the world back then. Again, historical fiction, so I do anticipate artistic license, but also expect some historical accuracy. Overall, this felt like it was a more modern Odysseus who was sent back in time, so he lived during the Ancient Greek times, but had modern day thoughts about the gods.

What I did absolutely love are that it was easy to follow, gave a great possible backstory for Odysseus and how he might have come to be the great leader he was during the Trojan War, and provided a most interesting theory for the gods. It certainly made me think and reevaluate the stories that I know, encouraging me to look at them in a different light. As a matter of fact, I feel like I should re-read The Illiad and The Odyssey right now.

What I absolutely did not love was the romance subplot. It was strong at the beginning, barely present in the middle, and weak at the end. By the time I reached the end of the book, it felt like it was there to serve as a plot device to get some action rolling and then the authors had to do something with it, so tried to reinforce it in a convincing way at the end. It just left me puzzled and disgruntled. Especially since the romantic interest was not Penelope, his eventual wife in the myths. Instead it’s Kyshanda (Cassandra, the doom prophetess, though this fact is never mentioned so maybe she has yet to become the doom prophetess?). It makes me wonder when and how the authors will bring in Penelope, or if they will, in subsequent books.

As I said, I’m a huge fan of Greek mythology and will take on just about any book I come across that uses it. I wanted to love this book, but I don’t think I do. I definitely enjoyed it, but it leaves me feeling dissatisfied and disgruntled. However, it is a stunning book full of possibilities and absolutely got me thinking. Whether or not I’ll pick up the subsequent books in this series, I’m not so sure, though I am curious to see how Odysseus’s new story will turn out.

How many cups of tea will you need?

I waver between 3 and 4, but I think I’ll go with 4 because it really is a beautiful book even though the handling of the myths was not to my complete satisfaction.

Thank you so much to NetGalley and the publisher, Canelo, for providing me with an advance copy in exchange for my honest review. It is set to be released on November 8, 2018.

Book Review: Ten Thousand Thunders by Brian Trent

Genre: Science Fiction

Gethin Bryce was killed in a mysterious space shuttle explosion en route from Mars to the moon. Thanks to scientific advancements in the far future, he is brought back to life and returns to his position as an investigator of anomalies with the InterPlanetary Council. During his investigation, he links up with Jack and Keiko who work for Prometheus Industries, a massive corporation that was also rocked by a lab explosion on the moon, and Celeste, a woman from the outlands that are wild, unpredictable, and ruled by savagery. Together, they travel across the Earth of the far future, revealing the history of Earth, from the very beginning to our present and beyond. In doing so, they also learn startling revelations about the history of the planet and that history is about to collide with their present.

Ten Thousand Thunders is a stunning science fiction book that takes place far into the future. The world is divided between those who live in the arcologies and have access to the technology that makes them superhuman and allows them to live forever and those who live in the wastelands where the people do what they can simply to survive. But this book was much more than a mere commentary on the division between the haves and the have nots. It’s also an incredible inquiry and investigation into how the past impacts the present and future.

I have to admit that, while I loved this book, it felt like it was far beyond my comprehension level. It seems to be greater than what I can fathom, but, while I sometimes felt overwhelmed, this didn’t detract from my overall enjoyment of the story. There was so much information, so many revelations, and so many things to sort through to understand the underlying science fiction part of it, but the story was beautiful and terrifying and everything was seamlessly woven together.

Fantasy is my true love, but the problem with the vast majority of fantasy novels is the info dumping and the massive amount of time spent world building, which either draws out the story to be too long or makes the story suffer. While this book is science fiction, it takes place so far in the future that very little of this world is recognizable. Which means the whole world needs to be built. Trent did an amazing job of just throwing the reader in and letting us figure it out on our own. There was always just enough information for the reader to puzzle it out without having to spend too much time on it and I don’t feel the story ever suffered because of it. Instead, I very much enjoyed it. The story could just continue to roll out and I felt free to be swept up in it. Actually, I enjoyed it so much and needed to find out what happened next that I probably should have given myself time to digest it, but didn’t.

I was most impressed by Trent’s writing style. It was crisp and succinct and did everything to keep the story going. The metaphors were always fitting, but never long. They painted the perfect pictures and I loved how they were descriptive while being stingy with the number of words. There was a great deal of information and a great deal of events going on and every word carried importance and weight. The reader is given everything they need and nothing they don’t. Most of all, I just really enjoyed his style. Short and sweet while being crisp and packing a punch.

Because I’m not a regular science fiction reader and science is not exactly my specialty, it took me a few chapters to really get into the book. I spent much of the early chapters trying to figure out what everything was and what was going on. But, once I sorted it out, I was swept away by the story. It never felt like it was dragged down by unnecessary scenes and actions. Everything was important and everything told the story of the Earth’s past and present colliding. The characters were unique, but tender to be static, though we occasionally learned something new about them as the story progressed. The relationships between Gethin, Jack, Keiko, and Celeste were interesting and intriguing and, while it did progress, there was still the initial atmosphere of distrust. It was kind of amazing how they managed to not kill each other and instead rely on each other.

My one complaint would be the revelation about the Earth’s beginning. It was definitely surprising and kind of knocked me out of the story. While it ended up making perfect sense, it always felt a little off. Though Trent did do an amazing job of incorporating this surprising part into the greater story and weaving it in so it made complete sense. By the end of the book, I was satisfied, but, when it was presented, I was left scratching my head a little.

I am very glad that Ten Thousand Thunders is the start of a series. The last 10-20% of the book made me a little angry because I didn’t want it to end. There was so much going on and, by the end of the book, much of it is wrapped up, but not everything. I did not want to leave this future Earth. I was mollified to learn there is going to be a second book and I look forward to it.

Overall, this is an incredible book. A little dense, but the writing, story, and pacing are all wonderful. There was definitely a little more violence in the middle than I could stomach and not everything made complete sense to me, but this was a very enjoyable read. I definitely recommend stopping once in a while to digest the story.


How many cups of tea will you need?

Four cups should do the trick

Note: Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for an advance reader copy of this book. It will be published by Flame Tree Press, a new fiction imprint of Flame Tree Publishing, on October 18, 2018.

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