Bookshelf Scavenger Hunt Tag

This is a tag I found somewhere on the Internet. I forgot to bookmark the page, so I can’t give credit to the person who created the tag. Anyway, this is a tag that only requires a bookshelf and some time.

1. Find and author name or title with a Z in it.

World War Z by Max Brooks

2. Find a classic.

First one I grabbed was Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen.

3. Find a book with a key on it.

I don’t have a book that fits this criteria.

4. Find something on your bookshelf that is not a book.

I have a little TARDIS that sits on my shelf.

5. Find the oldest book on your shelf.

I’m going to assume “oldest” means the book that’s been around the longest, not the one I’ve owned the longest. If we’re taking “old” to mean “been in existence for the longest”, it would be the Poetic Edda which was written in the 13th century.

6. Find a book with a girl on it.

This is most YA books that came out in the last 5 years. Let’s go with Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi.

7. Find a book that has an animal in it.

I Could Pee on This (And Other Poems Written by Cats).

8. Find a book with a male protagonist.

Paul Atredies from Dune.

9. Find a book with only words on the cover.

Is God a Mathematician by Mario Livio

10. Find a book with illustrations in it.

If You Give a Mouse a Cookie.

11. Find a book with gold lettering.

The Blood Heir by Amelie Wen Zhao

12. Find a diary, true or fictional.

The Princess Diaries by Meg Cabot

13. Find a book written by an author with a common name (like Smith).

The Eye of the World by Robert Jordan

14. Find a book with a close up of something on it.

Uglies by Scott Westerfield. The cover shows a close-up of someone’s face.

15. Find a book on your shelf that takes place in the earliest time period.

The Hobbit. Do time periods from fictional worlds count? If not, The Knight’s Daughter by S.H. Cooper, which has a medieval setting.

16. Find a hardcover book without a jacket.

My copy of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets is missing its jacket. so I’m counting that.

17. Find a teal/turquoise colored book.

The Dragon Republic by R.F. Kuang

18. Find a book with stars on it.

The Chaos of Stars by Kiersten White.

19. Find a non YA book.

The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin

I tag: Anyone interested in completing the tag.

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There Are No Saints

There Are No Saints is a 2021 urban fantasy novel by Stephen Kanicki. It was released in February 2021 and was published by Black Rose Writing. While I’d consider the novel to urban fantasy, the novel also takes place in the 19th century, making it a historical urban fantasy.

In the summer of 1857, the Devil visited Titusville, Pennsylvania and was greeted by an exorcist with a drinking problem and a bad attitude. This is his story. For the low price of five dollars, Dexter “Dex” James will exorcise your demons: the demon of lust, drink, and gluttony. Unfortunately, he’s new in town, and few people take him seriously. The ones that do, don’t have a dime to spare. Desperate for money, he elicits help from a boy named Boo and a beautiful woman, named Miss Leslie—she’s half his age and a prostitute, but Dex is smitten. After performing a supposed miracle, Dex becomes the talk of Titusville. His billfold and ego grow with each exorcism. Only Miss Leslie’s love could make him happier. However, when an evil entity threatens a young girl, Dex must make a choice: take the coward’s way out or stay and fight?

Dex is a character I feel very conflicted about. He’s very clearly meant to be a gray character. A character that reads as morally ambiguous and several scenes in the story make it clear that he’s performing exorcisms for the money, not to genuinely help people. At the same time, there are moments when he does things that are less self-serving. However, he was also a character that I liked less and less the further into the story I got. He has solid character development, but so much of his character seems inconsistent to me that it wasn’t very satisfying to read about his development. Miss Leslie and Boo were both fine as characters and their arcs made sense, but I didn’t see much growth from them.

One of the strengths of this story is the mystery. The narrative doesn’t confirm or deny whether the demons Dex is fighting are real or not for most of the book. When Dex first comes to town, and performs a few exorcisms, the author doesn’t make it clear if any of the people Dex helps are really possessed or not. It’s not until late in the book that the author answers the question of if demons even exist in this world. Two different readers could read the first half of the book and come to different conclusion as to whether there really are demons in Titusville and if Dex is just a conman. There are quite a few moments in the book that don’t get a full explanation in order to keep the mystery intact. This is a story where the question of “is this real or not” matters more than the answer. It’s about the discussion and making the reader think.

The writing style of this book wasn’t really my favorite. I understood why the author chose to write the story in the way that he did. The tone and voice served the story, however I didn’t like them. The author had a way of writing about and describing certain characters, particularly Miss Leslie, that I found very annoying past a point. I didn’t need to keep reading about how beautiful she was and how she had cures in all the right places and so on. It felt like every time she enters a scene, Dex had a thought commenting on her appearance. It was frustrating and repetitive and it took away from the flow of the story. Another issue I had with the writing is that it got anachronistic at times. The book takes place in the 1850s and sometimes modern slang got thrown in which just felt out of place.

The beginning of the novel is a bit slow. As a result, the first few chapters can be a struggle to get through, because they’re a bit boring. Once the plot truly starts, the mystery is enough to keep the reader engaged until the end of the book. I was disappointed by the end on two fronts. First, it felt like the last big moment of conflict in the story didn’t fit into the rest of the novel. It didn’t tie into early events, except in an incredibly minor way. It felt out of place, given the prior events, and while I could understand wanting to include an homage to other works, it just felt odd to read. The ending of the novel felt like it was written to give a clear “this is the end” feeling, rather than leave a more open-ended conclusion. I feel like an ambiguous ending would’ve served the story a little better, and fit within the style. I was also disappointed by the conclusion because there was potential for a big revelation, which wasn’t used. There were moments earlier in the story that hinted at a big secret or plot-twist, but they ended up not going anywhere. It’s a classic case of “expectation vs. reality” but those hints not being relevant to the story, or the conclusion felt like missed opportunities.

There Are No Saints is an entertaining book and a quick read. The narrative did an excellent job creating a sense of intrigue and leaving the reader with questions. At the same time, I wasn’t a fan of the writing and I found the conclusion a bit disappointing. I found the characters to be fine, but I wasn’t terribly impressed by the story. This is a book that I think is going to be incredibly hit or miss, depending on the reader. For me, it was more of a miss. I wouldn’t tell someone not to read it though. It just wasn’t for me.

Rating: 2.2 Stars

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5 Picture Books I Loved As A Kid

I’ve been doing a bit of spring cleaning lately, and since I never get rid of books that have sentimental value, I came across quite a few picture books from when I was a kid. As I’m sure many readers would say, picture books were the start of my love for reading. Or maybe, I’m just being a sentimental fool today.

Today, I’ve decided to share some of them with you. I’ve decided not to include any Dr. Seuss books, because otherwise, the whole list would be Dr. Seuss books.

Harold and the Purple Crayon (Harold, #1)

Harold and the Purple Crayon by Crockett Johnson

One night, after thinking it over for some time, Harold decided to go for a walk in the moonlight.” So begins this gentle story that shows just how far your imagination can take you. Armed only with an oversized purple crayon, young Harold draws himself a landscape full of beauty and excitement. But this is no hare-brained, impulsive flight of fantasy. Cherubic, round-headed Harold conducts his adventure with the utmost prudence, letting his imagination run free, but keeping his wits about him all the while. He takes the necessary purple-crayon precautions: drawing landmarks to ensure he won’t get lost; sketching a boat when he finds himself in deep water; and creating a purple pie picnic when he feels the first pangs of hunger.

Chicka Chicka Boom Boom

Chicka Chicka Boom Boom by Bill Martin Jr. and John Archambault

A told B
and B told C,
“I’ll meet you at the top
of the coconut tree.”
     When all the letters of the alphabet race one another up the coconut tree, will there be enough room?

Chrysanthemum

Chrysanthemum by Kevin Henkes

Chrysanthemum thinks her name is absolutely perfect—until her first day of school. “You’re named after a flower!” teases Victoria.
“Let’s smell her,” says Jo.
Chrysanthemum wilts. What will it take to make her blossom again?

Strega Nona

Strega Nona by Tomie dePaola

When Strega Nona leaves him alone with her magic pasta pot, Big Anthony is determined to show the townspeople how it works in this classic Caldecott Honor book from Tomie dePaola.
Strega Nona—”Grandma Witch”—is the source for potions, cures, magic, and comfort in her Calabrian town. Her magical everfull pasta pot is especially intriguing to hungry Big Anthony. He is supposed to look after her house and tend her garden but one day, when she goes over the mountain to visit Strega Amelia, Big Anthony recites the magic verse over the pasta pot, with disastrous results.

Miss Nelson Is Missing! (Miss Nelson, #1)

Miss Nelson is Missing! by James Marshall

The kids in Room 207 were misbehaving again. Spitballs stuck to the ceiling. Paper planes whizzing through the air. They were the worst-behaved class in the whole school.

So begins this quirky classic, first published in 1977 and still relevant today as a lighthearted reminder to show our appreciation to those we value. The students don’t proffer a shred of respect for their good-natured teacher Miss Nelson, but when the witchy substitute Miss Viola Swamp appears on the scene, they start to regret their own wicked ways. James Marshall’s scritchy, cartoonish full-color ink and wash illustrations are hilarious. A back-to-school perennial!

Have you read any of these books? What were your favorite picture books as a kid?

Dark Matter

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Dark Matter is a 2016 science fiction novel by Black Crouch. It was published in July 2016 by Ballantine Books, an imprint of Penguin Randomhouse. The novel was a Goodreads Choice Award nominee for science fiction in 2016. Dark Matter can be purchased here at Bookshop.org

Jason Dessen is walking home through the chilly Chicago streets one night, looking forward to a quiet evening in front of the fireplace with his wife, Daniela, and their son, Charlie—when his reality shatters. It starts with a man in a mask kidnapping him at gunpoint, for reasons Jason can’t begin to fathom—what would anyone want with an ordinary physics professor?—and grows even more terrifying from there, as Jason’s abductor injects him with some unknown drug and watches while he loses consciousness. When Jason awakes, he’s in a lab, strapped to a gurney—and a man he’s never seen before is cheerily telling him “welcome back!” Jason soon learns that in this world he’s woken up to, his house is not his house. His wife is not his wife. His son was never born. And someone is hunting him.

This novel is very character-driven and character-focused. With the exception of two chapters, the reader spends the entire story with Jason. While he’s not the only character, he’s the only character that reader really gets to know. The story spent in Jason’s head, trying to find answers and trying to find a way back home. You feel what he feels, you see what he sees and, given how wild the story gets, your mind gets blown as his gets blown. I’m normally not a fan of character-centric stories, but it worked phenomenally here.

One of the strengths of this book is that the author just throws you into the story. The reader is left to figure out what’s going on as Jason does. I think that tactic works perfectly, because it makes the story much more thrilling and compelling. Without the exposition and explanation the reader might expect, the plot is a lot harder to predict and the plot twists are much more satisfying. This is a story that doesn’t waste time, so the reader feels the thriller and excitement maybe not from page 1, but certainly by the end of the first chapter. I normally don’t read books in a single sitting, but I read this entire book in one afternoon because I couldn’t put it down and I needed to see what happened next and where the story was headed. I really can’t even hint at what Jason experiences or what makes the story so compelling because the novel is written in such a way that its so much more satisfying for the reader to discover it for themselves. This is a book that I outright refuse to spoil. At the same time, I can see why this book might not be right for some readers. Not everyone likes being thrown into the story from the start. As the narrative continues, revelations occur and the story gets more complicated. The story might become too complicated or confusing for some reader. I loved how insane and mind-bending the ride was, but I can understand some of the issues other readers have had with this book.

Dark Matter does an excellent job with its science fiction elements. Crouch really hit the “goldilocks zone” when it came to how he introduced and explained the elements within the story. The science, of the science fiction, wasn’t hand-waved away, but he also didn’t feel the need to go into so much detail that that reader gets too bogged down in the science to enjoy the story. There was enough detail to understand how it worked and enough mystery and wonder to keep the reader guessing.

Given how much I’ve already gushed about this story, it shouldn’t be surprising that I really enjoyed Crouch’s writing. He was able to paint an incredibly vivid world, but at the same time, the scene never distracted from the story itself or took attention away from the main focus. It took me a few chapters to get used to his writing style, but once I figured out the rhythm, I was able to lose myself in the book. There were a few moments where the writing felt a little bit “too much” but they were few and far between. The dialogue isn’t always great, but it works for the most part. The most impressive thing about the writing is that the author makes you think. This is a book that left me with a lot of questions, some of them incredibly existential in nature, and I’m still thinking about them. This is a book you can’t just finish, close and move on from. It sticks with you for a bit.

As previously mentioned, this book has quite a few twists, turns and mind-blowing moments. While for the most part, they took me by surprise, that wasn’t always the case. One of the big questions the reader is given right away is who the man who abducts Jason, and sends him on this journey, is. The reveal felt fairly obvious to me, as while reading the scene where Jason is abducted, I said “that’s probably [spoiler]”. It then felt like the author was dragging out the mystery, which annoyed me somewhat. I liked the ending of the novel, I think it fit the tone story very well, but the way it came about felt a little contrived. It was too easy, too clean, too convenient, for the story.

Dark Matter is a phenomenal book. The story is fantastically written. The novel is intense and exciting and keeps the reader guessing for almost the entire story. The science fiction aspects created such an interesting, and engaging narrative while at the same time telling a very person and human story. A few elements didn’t quite work, but for the most part, it absolutely blew me away. Every science fiction fan should read this book if they have a chance.

Rating: 4.7 Stars

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Top 3 Contemporary Fiction Recommendations

Most of the books I review on this blog are science fiction or fantasy. Those are my two favorite genres, and the two genres I feel the most comfortable giving feedback on. However, just because I read mostly science fiction and fantasy, that doesn’t mean they’re all I read. Today, I want to give some love to the contemporary fiction genre and give you my top 3 recommendations.

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The Truth Is by NoNieqa Ramos

I loved this book. Verdad, the main character, isn’t a perfect person, but she’s one of the most realistically written characters I’ve read in a long time. The book is about a teenager discovering who she is and confronting some of the prejudices she might have. Anyone in that situation is bound to make mistakes and struggle with themselves, and I’m glad the book displayed that. The story has a big focus on themes such as identity, processing trauma and racism and it does an excellent job giving each of those its own room to breathe and be discussed.

Where'd You Go, Bernadette

Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple

This book is one of the few that I had recommended to me multiple times that lived up to the hype everyone made about it. The story was funny, it was sad in parts, but it kept me invested and kept me guessing. The writing was clever and exciting. I like contemporary books with witty, abnormal characters and this one certainly delivered. Bernadette and her daughter Bee are hilarious and I want to read more stories about them. I wasn’t a huge fan of the book being told via emails, notes and other documents, but at no point did that style detract from the story.

And Every Morning the Way Home Gets Longer and Longer

And Every Morning, the Way Home Gets Longer and Longer by Fredrik Backman

I feel like this list wouldn’t be complete without a book by Fredrik Backman, and since I already have a long review of Anxious People, I went with my second favorite book by Backman. I was surprised by how deeply I started to care about these characters in such a short amount of time. This story was emotional and beautiful and the ending perfectly capped off the story. This is definitely a book that sticks with you for a while and might even make you cry. But in a good way.

So, those are my top 3 contemporary fiction recommendations. I know this wasn’t a terribly long list, but I wanted to restrict it to books I truly loved and think others would enjoy.

Have you read any of these books? What did you think of them? Any contemporary recommendations?

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The Lost Apothecary

The Lost Apothecary is a 2021 historical fantasy novel by Sarah Penner. The novel was released in March 2021 and was published by Park Row Books, an imprint of HarperCollins. The Lost Apothecary is the author’s debut novel.

One cold February evening in 1791, at the back of a dark London alley in a hidden apothecary shop, Nella awaits her newest customer. Once a respected healer, Nella now uses her knowledge for a darker purpose—selling well-disguised poisons to desperate women who would kill to be free of the men in their lives. But when her new patron turns out to be a precocious twelve-year-old named Eliza Fanning, an unexpected friendship sets in motion a string of events that jeopardizes Nella’s world and threatens to expose the many women whose names are written in her register. In present-day London, aspiring historian Caroline Parcewell spends her tenth wedding anniversary alone, reeling from the discovery of her husband’s infidelity. When she finds an old apothecary vial near the river Thames, she can’t resist investigating, only to realize she’s found a link to the unsolved “apothecary murders” that haunted London over two centuries ago. As she deepens her search, Caroline’s life collides with Nella’s and Eliza’s in a stunning twist of fate—and not everyone will survive.

As mentioned in the above blurb, the story has three main characters: Nella, the apothecary living in 1790s London, Eliza, a maid living in the same era who crosses paths with Nella, and Caroline, a woman living in the 21st century who discovers an old apothecary vial and begins researching the history behind the object. Of the three characters, Nella is by far the mostly strongly written. Her characterization was the most consistent, and while I was expecting a more morally ambiguous, conflicted character, she was a solid character. Eliza had the most personality as a character, and while her actions seemed out of character at times, I wouldn’t say she was badly written. She’s a good depiction of a 120year-old put into a difficult situation and having to cope with the part she played in serious crimes. Caroline was my least favorite character. Nothing about her stood out and she really didn’t add much to the story, despite being a main character, and the only modern POV character.

An issue I often have with stories that go back and forth between two different time periods is that it can be a struggle to make the story happening in both time periods equally interesting. This is perhaps one of the biggest issues with this novel. Nella and Eliza’s story in 1791 is far more exciting and compelling than Caroline’s story in the 21st century. The plot taking place in 1791 has a strong conflict, tangible stakes and the twists and turns that happen within the story are executed very well. I was a little underwhelmed by the way their storyline concluded, it felt like a deus ex machina moment, but each chapter kept me invested and I was intrigued by where the story was going. By contrast, Caroline’s attempts to learn more about the past is fairly mundane and the modern chapters shift focus away from the best parts of the story. Even when Caroline’s plotline becomes a little more serious, the stakes never quite feel as high as they’re meant to. Very little in her story was surprising. Moments in Caroline’s story are meant to parallel the events in 1791, but the execution didn’t really work. The author was a little heavy-handed in trying to draw those parallels. If Caroline’s storyline was exclusively about researching the vial, and she wasn’t a main character, I think the story would’ve flowed better and been more enjoyable. I called this book “historical fantasy” because that’s how it was categorized on the site where I bought it, but I wouldn’t say it’s truly fantasy. There’s a suggestion of fantasy elements, and mention of magic, but it doesn’t play a big part in the story. Overall, I was expecting the novel to be a little bit darker and more intense, given the blurb, but I wasn’t overly disappointed by the story I did end up reading.

As previously mentioned, this is the author’s debut novel. For a debut author, Sarah Penner did a commendable job in terms of the actual writing. Her descriptions were vivid and fluid. The language used when describing 1790s London was slightly poetic, to add an element of wonder to the historical setting. The prose wasn’t too flowery, though sometime the dialogue felt a bit off, particularly scenes in the 1790s. I don’t know much about that part of history, so I can’t say how historically accurate the novel is. I thought the writing style itself was fine. It didn’t really stand out to me, though the author is clearly still developing her style. The biggest flaw in the writing of this book is the way exposition is handled. Most of Nella’s backstory is told to the reader, usually through dialogue, which felt clunky and removed some of the emotional weight those revelations could’ve had. The same holds true, of a lesser extent, with Eliza and Caroline. It’s the age-old “show vs. tell” problem. The novel also had what I call a flow problem. The story taking place in the 1790s keeps being interrupted at exciting moments to cut back to Caroline’s story, which is less compelling and causes big moments to lose their momentum.

The Lost Apothecary is a good debut novel. I found the 1790s plot was incredibly compelling and I enjoyed the characters of Eliza and Nella. At the same time, the story as a whole suffers as a result of the dual timeline and the modern storyline wasn’t very engaging. The endings to both storylines were a bit weak, but they didn’t detract from my overall enjoyment of the book. The author clearly has a lot of passion for writing and I was impressed by the quality of her writing. I’d recommend this novel to historical fiction fans looking for a book with a slight feminist twist or readers who want a book that’s part historical fiction and part contemporary novel.

Rating: 2.6 Stars

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March Wrap-Up


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March is over. The old saying goes that March comes in like a lion and out like a lamb. It didn’t really feel that way this year, but then again, the last year has been very unusual. March wasn’t my best reading month, but I’m not too terribly disappointed in how much I read either. Time just kind of got away from me, I guess. Without further ado, let’s talk about the books I read this month.

Books I Read and Reviewed

Primordial Earth by Baileigh Higgins- 2.2 Stars

Woven by Moonlight* by Isabel Ibanez-3.2 Stars

A Touch of Darkness by Scarlett St. Claire- 3.7 Stars

Storm and Fury* by Jennifer L. Armentrout-3.9 Stars

The Fifth Season* by N.K. Jemisin- 5 Stars

Books I Read, Only Reviewed on Goodreads

Towers of Midnight* by Robert Jordan-4.5 Stars (Goodreads review)

Stowaway to the Stars by Graham Keeler- 2 Stars (Goodreads review)

Taking a Chance* by Becky Monson- 3 Stars (Goodreads review)

Someone Who Will Love You in All Your Damaged Glory* by Raphael Bob-Waksberg- 4 Stars (Goodreads review)

Exit Strategy* by Martha Wells- 4 Stars (Goodreads review)

The Prince and the Troll by Rainbow Rowell- 1.5 Stars (Goodreads review)

Genres Read

Fantasy: 5

Science Fiction: 4

Romance: 1

Humor: 1

Figures
Number of DNFs: 1

Total Books Read: 11

Pages Read: 3,449 (Please note: for audiobooks, I used the page count for the eBook version of the book)

Average Rating: 3.36 Stars

What did you read in March? Any recommendations? Did you read any of these books?

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The Fifth Season

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The Fifth Season is a 2015 science fiction novel by N.K. Jemisin.  The story also has fantasy elements, which is why some categorize it as science fantasy or “sci-fantasy”. It’s the first book in The Broken Earth trilogy and was published by Orbit in August 2015. After it’s publication, the novel was nominated for a number of awards such as the Nebula Award and won the 2016 Hugo Award for Best Novel. The novel can be purchased here from Bookshop.org

Three terrible things happen in a single day. Essun, masquerading as an ordinary schoolteacher in a quiet small town, comes home to find that her husband has brutally murdered their son and kidnapped their daughter. Mighty Sanze, the empire whose innovations have been civilization’s bedrock for a thousand years, collapses as its greatest city is destroyed by a madman’s vengeance. And worst of all, across the heartland of the world’s sole continent, a great red rift has been torn which spews ash enough to darken the sky for years. Or centuries. But this is the Stillness, a land long familiar with struggle, and where orogenes — those who wield the power of the earth as a weapon — are feared far more than the long cold night. Essun has remembered herself, and she will have her daughter back. She does not care if the world falls apart around her. Essun will break it herself, if she must, to save her daughter.

The novel unfolds from the perspective of three characters: Essun, Damaya and Syenite. All three women, or girl in the case of Damaya, were incredibly well-written. The characters were multi-faceted, they were compelling and most impressively, they were all distinct. At no point when reading did I forget who was the narrator of a particular chapter. The perspectives of the three characters had me constantly thinking and hypothesizing about how Damaya’s story would connect to Essun’s and Syenite’s and vice versa. The three perspectives also allowed the author to introduce different aspects of how the world works. Damaya is a child, Syenite is a woman in her 20s and Essun is middle-aged, so clearly how the world and society function will affect each of them differently.

Jemisin’s writing style is one of the most unique writing styles I’ve read for a long time. Two of the perspectives of the novel are written in third person, but Essun’s story is told through second-person point-of-view. The perspective takes a chapter or two to get used to, but once I got used to it, the second-person narrative never stood out to me as odd. It didn’t detract from my enjoyment or feel out of place when the POVs switched. The descriptions of the world were very immersive. The writing is very vivid when it comes to describing events and locations and nearly everything. I could very easily picture the world, falling apart as another Fifth Season does unknown amounts of damage and every scene jumped off the page to me. At the same time, the author knew when to avoid being too descriptive with things. The world that this story takes place in is rough and ruthless and cruel. Jemisin doesn’t shy away from depicting the cruelness of the world, but she also doesn’t dwell on them. She’ll mention or allude to something dark, but rather than focus in on it, she moves on once the reader understands the implication. By doing this, she managed to create a tone that was dark, but not too dark or making scenes of violence seem too gratuitous. There are some scenes that might hit readers very hard, there was one in particular for me that hit me a little too hard, but those scenes serve the characters and the story incredibly well. Everything in this book, even the terribly hard scenes, feel intentional.

One of my favorite things about this book is that, for both plot and world-building, everything the reader needs to understand is there, you just need to pay close enough attention to put the pieces together. The book does have a glossary of terms in the back of the book, giving the definition for terms used in the book such as orogenes, people with the ability to control earth, and the like. However, these definitions can also be gleaned by reading a few chapters of the book. The author allows the story itself and the behavior of characters to achieve the world-building rather than giving the reader that information up front or through info-dumps. In a way, the reader learns about the world by “living in it” through the eyes of the characters. That style of world-building might feel overwhelming to some readers, but if they stick with it, the tactic more than pays off. This is a book that has to be read slowly and carefully to get the full experience out of it. The same is true for the plot. All of the information needed to predict the “big twist” in the narrative are given to the reader quite clearly, but its up to the reader to put the pieces together. The author doesn’t try to hide the truth from the reader and, even if the reader can’t figure out the reveal ahead of time, it’s still fantastic to see the story progress. This is a character-focused story more than its plot-focused, but there is a good mix of the two driving the story and the way the author introduces little breadcrumbs was enjoyable for me. The ending in particular was very intriguing to me and it left me with so many questions. The last line in the book packed such a punch and I loved it.

The Fifth Season is the best book I’ve read so far this year. The writing, the character and the world were phenomenal. I can see how some readers might struggle with a few of the aspects of the book that I loved, but for me it was a complete hit. I can’t wait to read the rest of this series and I completely agree with all of the praise this book is getting. I’d recommend this book for any science fiction fan, any fantasy fan and any reader who loves beautiful writing.

Rating: 5 Stars

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Quarterly DNFs

The first quarter of 2021 is now (nearly) over, if you can believe it. I decided that, this year, rather than make one long post in December about all of my DNFs, aka books I didn’t finish, I’m going to talk about my DNFs quarterly. Not only does this make the end of the year slightly less negative, but the books are also fresher in my mind and I remember why I put a book down.

The first quarter of 2021 wasn’t too bad, as far as DNFs go. There are only 3 books I did not finish in the first 3 months of the year.

The Hero and the Crown (Damar, #1)

The Hero and the Crown by Robin McKinley

DNF’d at: 25%

I really didn’t connect at all with the writing style of this book. The way that the author chose to share some background information really annoyed me and it made the story harder for me to follow. The blurb itself made me interested in the book, but I was getting too frustrated with the writing style.

The Once and Future Witches

The Once and Future Witches by Alix E. Harrow

DNF’d at: 38%

This book has the opposite problem of the previous one I mentioned. I thought the writing style itself was phenomenal. I really loved Harrow’s writing. However, I wasn’t feeling terribly invested in the story. The plot didn’t appeal to me right away, but I wanted to give it a try. It turned out not to be the story for me.

The Frozen Crown (Warrior Witch, #1)

The Frozen Crown by Greta Kelly

DNF’d at 50%

The magic system in this book was interesting. The main character’s motivations were also very clear from the beginning and stayed consistent. I put the book down because past a point, it felt like nothing was happening in the story. The plot slowed down, the main conflict was forgotten and the story came to a stop to deal with political machinations and commentary about society.

Those are the three books I DNF’d between January and March of this year. The fact is, not every book is written for every kind of reader. These books just weren’t the right fit for me. I hope you’ll still give these books a try, if they appeal to you.

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Storm and Fury

Storm and Fury is a 2019 young adult urban fantasy novel by Jennifer L. Armentrout. It was published by HarperCollins in June 2019. The novel is the first book in the Harbinger trilogy. The series is also connected to the Dark Elements series. The novel can be purchased here from Bookshop.org

Eighteen-year-old Trinity Marrow may be going blind, but she can see and communicate with ghosts and spirits. Her unique gift is part of a secret so dangerous that she’s been in hiding for years in an isolated compound fiercely guarded by Wardens—gargoyle shape-shifters who protect humankind from demons. If the demons discover the truth about Trinity, they’ll devour her, flesh and bone, to enhance their own powers. When Wardens from another clan arrive with disturbing reports that something out there is killing both demons and Wardens, Trinity’s safe world implodes. Not the least because one of the outsiders is the most annoying and fascinating person she’s ever met. Zayne has secrets of his own that will upend her world yet again—but working together becomes imperative once demons breach the compound and Trinity’s secret comes to light. To save her family and maybe the world, she’ll have to put her trust in Zayne. But all bets are off as a supernatural war is unleashed.

The main character Trinity was a pretty good character. She was a fun character to follow and incredibly strong. I enjoyed her arc a lot and her personality overall. Even when she did things that seemed reckless or dumb, her reasons for doing so made perfect sense for her character and what her goals were. Zayne was a character I wasn’t as big of a fan of. At the start, I found him charming and mysterious, but the further into the book I read, the more he came off as the stereotypical brooding bad-boy type. My two favorite characters were Peanut, a ghost Trinity often sees, and Roth, an acquaintance of Zayne’s. They each brought some personality and humor into the story.

This series is connected to the author’s The Dark Elements series, however readers don’t need to have read that series in order to enjoy this book. The world-building in this novel was pretty great. The author clearly put a lot of time into thinking about how the existence of Wardens and demons would impact our world and created an explanation as to why things are the way that they are. I enjoyed reading about the different types of creatures and the powers they had. The action scenes in the novel are very exciting and fast-paced. I never felt bored during fight scenes. I appreciated the fact that this novel has a disabled main character. Trinity suffers from a degenerative disorder that’s causing her to slowly go blind. Trinity’s disability plays a significant role in the story and watching the plot unfold through a character like that was certainly compelling. I learned after reading the novel that the author suffers from the same disease as the character, so I was even more excited about the character because she was written by someone who knows what living with the disease is like. The author has a very strong and unique voice and while her style isn’t my favorite, it’s clear that she’s very talented. I enjoyed the way that the conclusion of this novel sets up the next one and the series as a whole. Storm and Fury tells a full story, but the resolution introduces a new conflict and hints at a new big bad.

The pacing of this book wasn’t great. It takes the main plot quite a while to get going. Most of the book follows a slow pace. At the same time, the ending happens at almost break-neck speed compared to the rest of the book. The final confrontation happens within only a few pages and it felt like a letdown after so much build-up. Related to the pacing issues, the big plot twist in the book, relating to the allegiance of a certain character, didn’t have much build-up or foreshadowing. Nothing that character did really hinted at the truth, even in hindsight, meaning the reveal felt like it was out of nowhere. If the character in question was shown to be a little more morally ambiguous or if there had been earlier moments where they did something “out of character” I feel like the twist would’ve worked better. The romance in this book was very insta-lovey, which I’m not a big fan of. While the story provided a later explanation was to why, it was still rather annoying to read. I couldn’t really see the chemistry in the pairing either. Overall, while I liked the characters, their romance felt very cringy.

Storm and Fury was an enjoyable read. The author showed readers an interesting world with plenty of enjoyable characters. The writing was strong and the action scenes were very exciting. The resolution perfectly sets up the rest of the series without making the conclusion of this book’s conflict feel unsatisfying. At the same time, the overall pacing of the book wasn’t great and the big plot twist didn’t really stick the landing. Overall, I’d say this is an entertaining urban fantasy story that most readers will enjoy. I’d recommend it to YA urban fantasy fans.

Rating: 3.9 Stars

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