Mini Reviews

Hello!

Another bunch of smaller reviews today, some are netgalley reads (marked with a disclaimer) and a couple that I’ve picked up elsewhere.

                                                                         ***** ***** *****

The Black God’s Drums – P. Djèlí Clark, Channie Waites (Narrator)

Genre: Audiobook, Fantasy

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Book Summary:

In an alternate New Orleans caught in the tangle of the American Civil War, the wall-scaling girl named Creeper yearns to escape the streets for the air–in particular, by earning a spot on-board the airship Midnight Robber. Creeper plans to earn Captain Ann-Marie’s trust with information she discovers about a Haitian scientist and a mysterious weapon he calls The Black God’s Drums.

But Creeper also has a secret herself: Oya, the African orisha of the wind and storms, speaks inside her head, and may have her own ulterior motivations.

Soon, Creeper, Oya, and the crew of the Midnight Robber are pulled into a perilous mission aimed to stop the Black God’s Drums from being unleashed and wiping out the entirety of New Orleans.

Review:
    I’d had this author recommended to me a couple of times, so I decided to give it a try and I am so glad I did and doubly glad that I went for the audiobook, because the narrator really brought it to life and I couldn’t stop listening. The story-telling/narrating was so immersive that at times it is hard to remember that this is a piece of fiction/fantasy. The world-building was fantastic, the alternate history and fantastical elements blended beautifully with reality, especially through the use of language with the use of dialects to create that depth. The plot was fast-paced, and flowed from start to finish, and the characters and plot were masterfully written, and I will certainly be checking out more of P. Djèlí Clark’s work in the future.
Rating: **** (4/5 Stars)
Purchase Links: Waterstones | Amazon UK | Amazon US
***** *****

In the Time of Foxes – Jo Lennon, Geraldine Hakewill (Narrator)

Genre: Literary, Short Stories, Audiobook
*Disclaimer: I received an e-arc of this book from netgalley in exchange for an honest review*
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Book Summary:
‘A fox could be a shape-shifter, a spirit being. It could appear in human form if this suited its purposes; it could come and go as it pleased, play tricks, lead men astray.’ An escapee from the Family in Japan; an animal activist with something to hide; a café-owner in Sydney reconnecting with her estranged husband; even a journalist on Mars, face-to-face with his fate. The world has taught these men and women how to change shape, to be cunning – but have they also learned to be wise? In the Time of Foxes is both compellingly readable and deeply insightful about the times in which we live, each narrative a compressed novel. With an exhilarating span of people and places, it shows the short story collection at its most entertaining and rewarding, and introduces Jo Lennan as an irresistible new storyteller.
Review:
This is a fantastic collection of short stories, and I don’t think there was a single story that I disliked. I enjoyed the variety of locations and plots, with the theme of the fox (which are such fascinating creatures) linking them all, with each story standing unique from the others.There was a somewhat melancholy feel to the collection, but it wasn’t overwhelming and the stories and some of the characters have stayed with me long after finishing this collection, and it is a book that I will dip into again and again. Much of that I think is because of the author’s writing style, which is almost minimalist so that the details have greater impact and linger long past the ending of the story

Rating: **** (4/5 Stars)
***** *****

The Only Good Indians – Stephen Graham Jones, Shaun Taylor-Corbett

Genre: Horror, Audiobook
*Disclaimer: I received an e-arc of this book from netgalley in exchange for an honest review*
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Book Summary:

Ten years ago, four men shot some elk and then went on with their lives. It happens every year; it’s been happening forever; it’s the way it’s always been. But this time it’s different.

Ten years after that fateful hunt, these men are being stalked themselves. Soaked with a powerful Gothic atmosphere, the endless expanses of the landscape press down on these men – and their children- as the ferocious spirit comes from them one at a time.

The Only Good Indians charts nature’s revenge on a lost generation that maybe never had a chance. Cleaved to their heritage, these men live on the fringes of a society that had rejected them, refusing to challenge their exile into limbo.

Review:
I had heard only good things about this one, and was delighted when I was approved for the audiobook and I wasn’t disappointed. I usually find horror can be a tricky genre for me to get into, but this book played it to perfection, from the set up to the moment everything went off the rails and beyond.This is not a fast-paced book, especially in the set-up but that works to its advantages, as combined with fantastic prose it draws you into the story and lulls you into a sense of security, that only heightens the horror aspect. It’s also the kind of writing that doesn’t let you go, and I found that I would tell myself I would listen to just a chapter, and then find myself still there three chapters later.

Honestly, it is hard to do justice to this fantastic book – and the narrator who really brought it to life – but one of the best horrors I have read in a long time, it was disturbing and horrifying in the best way and so beautifully written, and I would highly recommend.
Rating: ***** (5/5 Stars)
***** *****

Roadside Picnic – Arkady Strugatsky, Boris Strugatsky

Genre: Science-Fiction
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Book Summary:
Review:
This was a fascinating take on the idea of ‘first contact’, not the blazing of trumpets and open lines of communication, but something more questionable and subtler. The idea, that it might have been nothing more than a stopover, a ‘roadside picnic’ blown out of proportion by human curiosity, an abundance of questions and a lack of answers. It wasn’t a book that swept me away, but one that crept up on me, with it’s questions, it’s exploration of what it means to be human.
Rating: **** (4/5 Stars)
***** *****

Court of Lions (Mirage#2) – Somaiya Daud

Genre: YA, Fantasy

*Disclaimer: I received an e-arc of this book from netgalley in exchange for an honest review*

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Book Summary:

Two identical girls, one a princess, the other a rebel. Who will rule the empire?

After being swept up into the brutal Vathek court, Amani, the ordinary girl forced to serve as the half-Vathek princess’s body double, has been forced into complete isolation. The cruel but complex princess, Maram, with whom Amani had cultivated a tenuous friendship, discovered Amani’s connection to the rebellion and has forced her into silence, and if Amani crosses Maram once more, her identity – and her betrayal – will be revealed to everyone in the court.

Amani is desperate to continue helping the rebellion, to fight for her people’s freedom. But she must make a devastating decision: will she step aside, and watch her people suffer, or continue to aid them, and put herself and her family in mortal danger? And whatever she chooses, can she bear to remain separated, forever, from Maram’s fiancé, Idris?

Review:

I can’t start this review without talking about the cover, which is absolutely stunning and is what drew me to the book in the first place (I will admit that I hadn’t realised it was book 2 at the time, but that just gave me the excuse to read book one as well).

The Court of Lions has many positive aspects, firstly I love that this is Moroccan inspired as I am enjoying exploring fantasy from non-medieval European pov, and this book was a beautiful example of that. That it had LGBT rep is also a major plus point for me. I also thoroughly enjoyed the court intrigue and found it very well done for the most part and certainly my favourite parts of the story revolved around the intrigue. I also enjoyed the characters, and the development between book one and this one was clear. However, the aspect that I struggled most with was the relationships – one it felt as though they developed far too quickly for the most part, and could have done with taking a little longer to develop. I also found the pacing to be off in places, and unfortunately this one a little difficult to stick with in places

Rating: *** (3/5 Stars)

***** *****

All the Stars and Teeth (All the Stars and Teeth #1) – Adalyn Grace

Genre: YA, Fantasy
*Disclaimer: I received an e-arc of this book from netgalley in exchange for an honest review*

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Book Summary:

As princess of the island kingdom Visidia, Amora Montara has spent her entire life training to be High Animancer – the master of souls. The rest of the realm can choose their magic, but for Amora, it’s never been a choice. To secure her place as heir to the throne, she must prove her mastery of the monarchy’s dangerous soul magic.

When her demonstration goes awry, Amora is forced to flee. She strikes a deal with Bastian, a mysterious pirate: he’ll help her prove she’s fit to rule, if she’ll help him reclaim his stolen magic.

But sailing the kingdom holds more wonder – and more peril – than Amora anticipated. A destructive new magic is on the rise, and if Amora is to conquer it, she’ll need to face legendary monsters, cross paths with vengeful mermaids, and deal with a stow-away she never expected… or risk the fate of Visidia and lose the crown forever.

Review:

 

This was an enjoyable read, and a very solid start to a new YA series. I found that it was fairly standard in terms of tropes and the ending, although there were some twists that I didn’t see coming. It was also a book that hit its stride about the halfway point, but that was more due to it being the first in a series and having to do the legwork of establishing the world and magic system, but the pacing picked up after that.

The magic system was interesting, it had elements of other systems but had enough to it to make it unique and I particularly enjoyed the darker nature of Amora’s magic, as it added flavour to the story. I also enjoyed the world-building and prose, but I did feel as though the characters could have used a little more development – although this may occur more in the next book – and I will say that it took quite a while for me to warm to the main character.

Rating: *** (3/5 Stars)
***** *****

Dominion: An Anthology of Speculative Fiction from Africa and the African Diaspora – Zelda Knight & Ekpeki Oghenechovwe Donald (Editors)

Genre: Speculative Fiction, Fantasy, Sci-Fi, Short Stories
*Disclaimer: I received an e-arc of this book from netgalley in exchange for an honest review*

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Book Summary:

Dominion is the first anthology of speculative fiction and poetry by Africans and the African Diaspora. An old god rises up each fall to test his subjects. Once an old woman’s pet, a robot sent to mine an asteroid faces an existential crisis. A magician and his son time-travel to Ngoni country and try to change the course of history. A dead child returns to haunt his grieving mother with terrifying consequences. Candace, an ambitious middle manager, is handed a project that will force her to confront the ethical ramifications of her company’s latest project—the monetization of human memory. Osupa, a newborn village in pre-colonial Yorubaland populated by refugees of war, is recovering after a great storm when a young man and woman are struck by lightning, causing three priests to divine the coming intrusion of a titanic object from beyond the sky.

A magician teams up with a disgruntled civil servant to find his missing wand. A taboo error in a black market trade brings a man face-to-face with his deceased father—literally. The death of a King sets off a chain of events that ensnare a trickster, an insane killing machine, and a princess, threatening to upend their post-apocalyptic world. Africa is caught in the tug-of-war between two warring Chinas, and for Ibrahim torn between the lashings of his soul and the pain of the world around him, what will emerge? When the Goddess of Vengeance locates the souls of her stolen believers, she comes to a midwestern town with a terrible past, seeking the darkest reparations. In a post-apocalyptic world devastated by nuclear war, survivors gather in Ife-Iyoku, the spiritual capital of the ancient Oyo Empire, where they are altered in fantastic ways by its magic and power.

Review:
This is an outstanding anthology of speculative fiction from voices that aren’t heard often enough, and it was fascinating and enlightening to see how these very different stories were brought together by the author’s backgrounds and experiences, and it made for a cohesive yet expansive offering of fantasy/sci-fi and a touch of horror. It is a buffet of incredible stories, and each one had it’s own strengths. There were a couple that didn’t work as well for me, largely as it felt as though they were part of something bigger or needed a longer format to reach their full potential, but in any collection there will always be at least a couple of stories that don’t mesh so well with the reader, and it certainly didn’t detract from the impact of this collection.The overall tone of the collection is dark, and I would not necessarily recommend this to more sensitive readers as it explores many disturbing themes including but not limited to violence, sexual assault and racism in varying levels of detail. For me, while it was horrifying and disturbing in places, it didn’t alter the fact that this was a beautiful, thought-provoking anthology that I will be revisiting a few times to get the full impact from the stories.

My stand out story was ‘A Mastery of German’ which I just found engrossing from start to finish.

Rating: ***** (5/5 Stars)
Preorder Links (Release date: 17th August): Amazon UK | Amazon US

**

If you’ve read any of these, or read them in the future please feel free to shout at me about them.

Rowena

2 thoughts on “Mini Reviews

  1. Pingback: August Wrap-up and September Plans – Beneath A Thousand Skies

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