Mini Reviews: Vol II

Hello!

Continuing with my catch-up on netgalley with more mini reviews.

Disclaimer – I received an e-arc of these books via netgalley in exchange for an honest review, all thoughts are my own.

The End of Men – Christina Sweeney-Baird

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Book Summary:

Only men are affected by the virus; only women have the power to save us all.

The year is 2025, and a mysterious virus has broken out in Scotland–a lethal illness that seems to affect only men. When Dr. Amanda MacLean reports this phenomenon, she is dismissed as hysterical. By the time her warning is heeded, it is too late. The virus becomes a global pandemic–and a political one. The victims are all men. The world becomes alien–a women’s world.

What follows is the immersive account of the women who have been left to deal with the virus’s consequences, told through first-person narratives. Dr. MacLean; Catherine, a social historian determined to document the human stories behind the male plague; intelligence analyst Dawn, tasked with helping the government forge a new society; and Elizabeth, one of many scientists desperately working to develop a vaccine. Through these women and others, we see the uncountable ways the absence of men has changed society, from the personal–the loss of husbands and sons–to the political–the changes in the workforce, fertility and the meaning of family.

The Review:

I really liked the premise behind this – even with the situation around us – and there are aspects of it that I really enjoyed, like the inclusion of news reports and the way that the book approached a timeline of pre, during and post ‘plague’. However, there were just to many aspects of the plot that gave me pause – little details that maybe wouldn’t have been noticeable at another time, but with the news highlighting so many similair aspects they were highlighted, and maybe it was just bad time, but there was enough that it made it very hard for me to suspend my belief. I also wasn’t enamoured with the characters, and I felt like that there was a lot of potential that went unfulfilled.

Purchase Links:

Amazon UK | Amazon US | Bookshop.org | Topping & Company | Waterstones

***** *****

Threadneedle (The Language of Magic #1) – Cari Thomas

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Book Summary:

Within the boroughs of London, nestled among its streets, hides another city, filled with magic.

Magic is the first sin. It must be bound.

Ever since Anna can remember, her aunt has warned her of the dangers of magic. She has taught her to fear how it twists and knots and turns into something dark and deadly.

It was, after all, magic that killed her parents and left her in her aunt’s care. It’s why she has been protected from the magical world and, in one year’s time, what little magic she has will be bound. She will join her aunt alongside the other Binders who believe magic is a sin not to be used, but denied. Only one more year and she will be free of the curse of magic, her aunt’s teachings and the disappointment of the little she is capable of.

Nothing – and no one – could change her mind before then. Could it?

The Review:

This was a book I fell in love with at first sight – I mean just look at that cover. I also really enjoyed the worldbuilding and setting for this book, from the combination of magical realism with a contemporary London setting, to the magic and its various elements. The author really brought the world to life, and it had that touch of whimsy that enchants you without taking away from the more serious threads, such as the details of school life, and the fact that their were some stand out characters like Anna who felt very well-realised and human, with shades of grey to their personalities and choices. Also there is a magical library – that’s how you hook a bookworm! I did feel that the pacing let it down a little, and in the middle in particular progress felt a little disjointed, but the ending did largely make up for it, and I think part of it was that it quite predictable in places so you could forsee what lay ahead.

Purchase Links:

Amazon UK | Amazon US | Bookshop.org.uk | Topping & Company | Waterstones

***** *****

Never Greater Slaughter – Michael Livingston

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Book Summary:

Late in AD 937, four armies met in a place called Brunanburh. On one side stood the shield-wall of the expanding kingdom of the Anglo-Saxons. On the other side stood a remarkable alliance of rival kings – at least two from across the sea – who’d come together to destroy them once and for all. The stakes were no less than the survival of the dream that would become England. The armies were massive. The violence, when it began, was enough to shock a violent age. Brunanburh may not today have the fame of Hastings, Cr�cy or Agincourt, but those later battles, fought for England, would not exist were it not for the blood spilled this day. Generations later it was still called, quite simply, the ‘great battle’. But for centuries, its location has been lost.

Today, an extraordinary effort, uniting enthusiasts, historians, archaeologists, linguists, and other researchers – amateurs and professionals, experienced and inexperienced alike – may well have found the site of the long-lost battle of Brunanburh, over a thousand years after its bloodied fields witnessed history. This groundbreaking new book tells the story of this remarkable discovery and delves into why and how the battle happened. Most importantly, though, it is about the men who fought and died at Brunanburh, and how much this forgotten struggle can tell us about who we are and how we relate to our past.

The Review:

This was a riveting and engaging encount of a decisive battle that is often overlooked in comparison to other battles, and certainly one that does not seem to be covered enough in history class. I found the writing to be very engaging and approachable, opening the subject matter up to everyone, and I particularly liked how Livingston approached the topic. He looks at it as a puzzle, and is clearly aware of the limitation in the sources and potential bias, and the research here is clearly well done and then well translated for those with less knowledge. That this book deals with the time frame of the Cornwell books is just icing on the cake as far as I am concerned, and I will certainly be looking for more books by the author.

Purchase Links:

Amazon UK | Amazon US | Bookshop.org | Topping & Company | Waterstones

***** *****

The Tangleroot Palace – Majorie Liu

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Book Summary:

Briar, bodyguard for a body-stealing sorceress, discovers her love for Rose, whose true soul emerges only once a week. An apprentice witch seeks her freedom through betrayal, the bones of the innocent, and a meticulously-plotted spell. In a world powered by crystal skulls, a warrior returns to save China from invasion by her jealous ex. A princess runs away from an arranged marriage, finding family in a strange troupe of traveling actors at the border of the kingdom’s deep, dark woods.

Concluding with a gorgeous full-length novella, Marjorie Liu’s first short fiction collection is an unflinching sojourn into her thorny tales of love, revenge, and new beginnings.

The Review:

What a wonderful collection of stories. Usually in any collection, whether solo-authored or with multiple authors there will be some stories that you love, and others that don’t hit home, that was not the case here. I loved every story in this collection, and I love how Liu is able to capture the magic and make each story immersive, capturing your attention and emotions even between different focuses and settings. The titular story was undoubtedly my favourite, I just love the idea of sentinent forests and this story was just so atmospheric and deep that it pulled you in, and just a highlight of the collection. Other favourites included The Briar and the Rose and the Last Dignity of Man, but honestly there was nothing about this collection that I didn’t love, and I certainly can’t end this review without mentioning that stunning cover – again very atmospheric, and just absolutely beautiful.

Purchase Links:

Amazon UK | Amazon US |

***** *****

The Wood Bee Queen – Edward Cox

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Book Summary:

Somewhere in England, in a small town called Strange Ground by the Skea, Ebbie Wren is the last librarian and he’s about to lose his job. Estranged from his parents, unable to make connections with anyone except the old homeless lady who lives near the library, Ebbie isn’t quite sure what he’s supposed to do next. His only escape from reality is his deep interest in local folklore, but reality is far stranger than Ebbie can dream.

On the other side of the sky and the sea, the Queen of House Wood Bee has been murdered. Her sister has made the first move in a long game, one which will lead her to greatness, yet risk destruction for the entire Realm. She needs the two magical stones Foresight and Hindsight for her power to be complete, but no one knows where they are. Although the sword recently stolen by Bek Rana, small time thief and not very good at it, might hold a clue to their location . . . and to stopping the chaos. But all Bek wants is to sell the sword and buy herself a better life. She’s not interested in being a hero, and neither is Ebbie.

But someone is forcing their hand and playing for the heart of the Realm. Ebbie and Bek are destined to unite. They must find a way to stop the destruction of House Wood Bee, save the Realm, and just maybe save themselves in the process. All victories come at a price. The Oldungods are rising. And they are watching…

The Review:

Firstly I loved the title of this one and the play on words. I will admit I wasn’t quite sure what to expect this one, but I was intrigued by the premise. I found an enchanting story in a beautifully realised world, and I loved the originality in the worldbuilding and the use of the mythology – and when paired with the prose, which was accessible yet wonderfully descriptive, created a rich world. I liked the characters across the board, and the characterisation was great and well-rounded for the villains and heroes, with flaws and engaging personalities and I really liked Ebbie. Where this book did fall down a little bit for me was with the dialogue, which compared to the rest of the prose felt a little clunky in places and was used a few times to convey unessecary information. This was also a book that took a while to find it’s pace, and it felt as though it didn’t really get into it’s flow until about a third of the way through, although once it did it was difficult to put down.

Purchase Links:

Amazon UK | Amazon US | Bookshop.org | The Broken Binding | Topping & Company | Waterstones

***** *****

The Lights of Prague – Nicole Jarvis

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Book Summary:

In the quiet streets of Prague all manner of otherworldly creatures lurk in the shadows. Unbeknownst to its citizens, their only hope against the tide of predators are the dauntless lamplighters – a secret elite of monster hunters whose light staves off the darkness each night. Domek Myska leads a life teeming with fraught encounters with the worst kind of evil: pijavice, bloodthirsty and soulless vampiric creatures. Despite this, Domek find solace in his moments spent in the company of his friend, the clever and beautiful Lady Ora Fischerová– a widow with secrets of her own.

When Domek finds himself stalked by the spirit of the White Lady – a ghost who haunts the baroque halls of Prague castle – he stumbles across the sentient essence of a will-o’-the-wisp, a mischievous spirit known to lead lost travellers to their death, but who, once captured, are bound to serve the desires of their owners.

After discovering a conspiracy amongst the pijavice that could see them unleash terror on the daylight world, Domek finds himself in a race against those who aim to twist alchemical science for their own dangerous gain.

The Review:

The Lights of Prague was a fantastically atmospheric book, and Jarvis really brought the gaslight- era Prague to life. The setting was so vividly realised, that it felt as though you just had to close your eyes to find yourself bathed in that lamplight, and skirting the alleys that the light didn’t quite touch.  This was paired with an approach to vampires, and other critters that go bump in the night that felt unique and built upon the promise made by the setting and era, and I particularly enjoyed the use of will-o’-the-wisp, which are such underappreciated creatures. I wasn’t such a fan of the romanatic aspect- but that I suspect was just personal taste, as it was well written, and I enjoyed both Domek and Lady Ora as characters and their relationship before it is became a full blown relationship. All in all, this was an enjoyable read and to be honest I would revisit this book just for the setting and atmosphere, which were everything I could have asked for – and something I would love to see more of.

Purchase Links:

Amazon UK | Amazon US | Bookshop.org | The Broken Binding | Topping & Company | Waterstones

***** *****

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