Sin Eater by Megan Campisi: A Review

Thank you Netgalley and Simon and Schuster for the opportunity to read Sin Eater. While I ultimately gave Sin Eater a 3 out of 5 stars, I would like you to take that rating with a grain of salt. I read this galley in the midst of a global pandemic. The tone of the book is solemn and is often a heavy subject matter. I will be the first to admit that my mental state isn’t quite up to certain reads at the moment. I really wanted to finish this book as it is being published on April 7th, 2020, so I continued with it. I fully intend to reread Sin Eater when the times are brighter and I am more fit for reads such as this.

There’s been some debate on whether this is fantasty or historical fiction, and as I read both genres quite frequently, for me it firmly falls into historical fiction. I can see why people fit it under fantasy, as it expands on the idea of a traditional sin eater, but it doesn’t quite hit the mark of what I think of when I think of fantasy. A sin eater in tradition is someone that eats bread aside a coffin to absolve the deceased of their sins. Campisi took it a step further by assigning certain foods to certain sins, the worst of which usually involve eating an animal’s heart or head.

I found it interesting that our Sin Eaters are often treated cruelly. You’d think you’d want to treat the person that is absolving your sins kindly. Our main character, May, is a 14 year old girl that is made a Sin Eater after stealing some bread. She learns from an older Sin Eater and ultimately, watches as her mentor punished for not eating a deer heart left on a coffin, as it signified a sin that the deceased had not confessed. Our main character is swept up into a mystery, involving murders and bastard children. The way May is treated throughout the book is heart wrenching, she lives a very hard life especially when orphaned from her parents. Sin Eaters are essentially shunned from society until the moment a member of society needs them to absolve their sins.

Towards the middle of the book, it slowed down a lot. The beginning of the book easily draws you in. The ending of the book is fast paced. That middle really made it hard for me to return to the book. I think it was especially difficult because it was a bit slower all while you’re reading about May living this miserable life. I will say, even through the pain of the book, there was a good message: you can find yourself even when people are telling you who you are supposed to be. There’s always a way back to yourself. Throughout the hardships, May finds things and people to take comfort in. I think I’m always a bit awed by characters that repeatedly take beatings from life and still remain good at heart. I think that the way that this story made me uncomfortable, reading about May’s hard life, is important. Humanity proves again and again that through the worst, we have the ability to stay kind and good. As I’m writing this, I realize what a good lesson that is, especially at this time in the world. Thank you again to Netgalley and Simon and Schuster for the opportunity to read this galley!

Non-Book Related. Anxiety, Miscarriage, and Anger in the Midst of a Global Pandemic

Well, this is not my usual book related blog post. If you couldn’t tell from the title, there is talk about miscarriage, so if that’s a trigger for you, please feel free to skip this article. I hesitated on writing this because during this time, it almost feels like shouting into a void. Who wants to hear about miscarriage, anger, or anxiety during this time? Probably nobody, but as I’ve been prone to do in times of stress, I figured that writing about it may be therapeutic for me.

I have been angry for weeks now. Let me explain.

I found out a few weeks ago that my body was preparing to miscarry. I had suspected it for longer than that, as I had slight cramps and a bit of spotting. An appointment with my absolutely fantastic and caring OBGYN confirmed that my fear was true. A fear that had manifested since the moment I got pregnant. As secrets tend to do, the news of my pregnancy naturally spread to others. I have miscarried before in my life and the more people that know, the more people you personally have to tell if you do miscarry. Gentle reminder: do not spread news if it isn’t your news to spread. It can be painful to others in the long run, even if you had the best intentions. If you didn’t know I was pregnant, since I intended on sharing publicly at a later date, sorry that you found out this way. I decided to share this because there isn’t a shame in pregnancy or miscarriage and it’s MY decision to do so at this time. I feel a lot of women consider it taboo to talk about, especially when the pregnancy wasn’t entirely public, but there’s such a large percentage of us that experience one. I do not talk about my experience to garner sympathy, though that’s not to say I don’t appreciate the kind sentiments people have extended to me. I do this to shed some light on a few things, mostly, compassion for others during this pandemic.

Anyways, after the diagnosis, then began the waiting. In the midst of a global pandemic, I was waiting to lose my pregnancy. My fears mounted as two weeks passed. I started having moments of panic as I thought about the possibility of having to go to a hospital to “clear out” the pregnancy with a D&C. As a severe asthmatic and a mom, I’m already afraid of getting this virus and the worst happening. Going to the hospital was the last thing I wanted, I hoped every day that my body would proceed with the miscarriage naturally. The anxiety of a global pandemic, the loss of a wanted child, waiting for that loss, telling my son that he isn’t going to be a big brother for a bit all just CRASHED over me. Every news article pounded the anxiety deeper. Each joke about quarantine babies made me retreat into myself. I found it hard to breathe most days. Finally, the bleeding started. The relief that I felt has been mixed with the physical and mental pain of a miscarriage. It’s not pretty, it’s not neat. It’s grueling, messy, and painful. And as the emotions of this process subside, my anger builds.

Do you know why I am angry? It isn’t the loss of the pregnancy. That makes me sad and at times, depressed, but not angry. It’s the people that don’t put themselves in other people’s shoes. You see posts about people judging others for going to the grocery store, or even saying the stores should be shut down completely, because they SHOULD HAVE stocked up. Come on, a smart person knows that’s not always possible. There’s a large amount of people that live paycheck to paycheck. There’s unexpected moments where people need things they never thought they would: like say, pads, which they haven’t worn since they gave birth to their child but need for the mess that a miscarriage causes. Or maybe liquid stitches for cuts so they can avoid the germs a hospital may expose them to. The expensive formula for their baby that most young parents can’t avoid to stockpile. We should not blame people for surviving. Be compassionate and realize that every situation isn’t the same, realize that some people are dealing with more than just a pandemic at home. Blanket statements aren’t helpful during this time.

I’m angry because while the majority of people I hold dearly take this seriously, I have seen acquaintances posting on Snapchat and other social media saying things like “sorry not sorry, I’m not social distancing” while drinking with their friends. Yes, this is still effing happening. They really have to audacity to be such self-serving little twats that they’ll comfortably post about their jackassery. I can’t imagine the privilege they must have to not worry about anyone’s health or wellbeing around them. Then, those people are going out to the grocery stores that other people NEED to go to, or to places to get carry-out after they’ve been partying with their friends and potentially spreading this virus. The essential workers at these stores are put in more danger by these uncaring people. I’m angry because those people still let themselves loose on the world while my son is at home for weeks in a row wondering why he can’t go to my parent’s house like he does every Monday. I’m angry because my parents aren’t the pinnacle of health, and I wonder if one of these selfish idiots, that won’t stay away from other people, is going to pass them this virus. As my parents continue to work, with my mom working with the public, I can’t help but think about the worst case scenario of my son never getting to hug them again and having to explain to him why. I’m angry because my husband’s 85 year old great-grandparents that have kept themselves in amazing health are at risk simply because of their age and have to stay away from their beautiful and booming family because people would rather drink with their friends. I’m OUTRAGED that my husband’s great-grandmother will be spending her 86th birthday, when every year is precious, not surrounded by family. I’m sad that my pregnant and new parent friends have to distance themselves from their spouses, that they can’t rely on the support of their families in the new world that parenthood is. I’m pissed that nurses that I love are sacrificing their own health, reusing PPE to care for hoards of people that are exposed, many of those exposed from people not taking proper precautions. I won’t even get into how angry I am at our President for the way he’s handled this and treated our medical professionals, because we all have our opinions about him. I’m not going to change yours and you won’t change mine. I’m angry that I’m afraid to go to my important check-up with my OBGYN because of other people not taking proper precautions. I’m angry that my mother-in-law and sister-in-laws are worrying about their students with troubled home lives for a longer period of time… for an undetermined amount of time. That the summers of billions of families are up in the air because people won’t listen. My life and other people’s lives are at risk because you can’t fucking FaceTime your damn friends or *gasp* drink alone like the rest of us during this. You think I want to sit in my house and stare into a glass of wine while I’m dealing with a miscarriage? No. I would like to take comfort in friends and family. But I have been and I will continue to and I’ll do my damndest to get through this and stay healthy and keep other people healthy because I CARE AND IT ISN’T ALL ABOUT ME. People are dealing with shit on top of this pandemic. Stop thinking about yourself. We are all dealing with shitty circumstances but it’s a real bummer when people are doing everything right just to watch the selfish people do whatever they feel like. There’s people catching this and dealing with those WORST CASE SCENARIO consequences. I want our nurses to get a break, to have the proper supplies and enough beds, so they’re not fearing for their own lives and watching countless people suffer. I want our new moms in the next few months to have the opportunity to have their family around them. I want people to be able to go to important doctor’s appointments without fear. I want my naturally social son to be able to continue to his routine of being surrounded by our large and loving family. I want our teachers and students lives to regain normalcy and for these students to take shelter in the safety that a school system provides. I want our grandparents to celebrate their lives with their families. I want all of my friends in the service industry to be able to go back to their livelihood in a timely fashion, when it is safe for them to do so.

Make no mistake, I am not blaming the spread of this on people that are doing their part to stay safe and keep others safe. For those that didn’t take it seriously, now is the time to do your part. You can go for walks and get fresh air to keep the cabin fever away. You can go to the grocery store while still protecting yourself as best as possible. Keep your house isolated from people that don’t live in your household. Say hi to people from a distance when you pass them but follow social distancing rules. Don’t be around the public for longer than necessary. Play games over FaceTime and apps. Do your best for the people that are already doing their best. These are all things we have heard a million times, it’s sad that we have to reiterate this. You should care that there’s people out there desperately worried about their loved ones even if you don’t personally feel the stress of that. You can say that people are being dramatic, that the chance you or your loved ones will get it is low, but I’m sure there’s plenty of people out there that felt the same way that are now dealing with the consequences. I bet there’s plenty that took it seriously and are dealing with the consequences of others not.

If you got this far, thank you for letting me rant. I don’t want to be angry. There’s so much good that people are doing during this time. Be a part of that.

House of Salt and Sorrows: A Review

I recently finished House of Salt and Sorrows by Erin A. Craig. It was one of the books I read in the Love Your Shelf challenge, in which I aim to read books that have been sitting on my shelf for a while. After finishing the book, I would give it three stars, which is really unfortunate because the first half rated much higher.

House of Salt and Sorrows is a retelling of The Twelve Dancing Princesses. In this version, our main character Annaleigh is on a mission to discover why her family members keep dying. After her mother and three sisters die within a span of 6 years, there are whispers of a curse on the family. In the midst of this, the remaining sisters find a door that leads them to mesmerizing balls, where they dance all night, returning home with tattered shoes. From here, they try to connect all the dots as to what is happening to their family. All at once, Annaleigh meets mysterious strangers and reconnects with old friends, leading her to speculate on who she can trust.

The story started out so richly, with a kingdom that is well-spun and woven deeply with its own culture and gods of worship. This lush fairytale setting was threaded with wisps of fantastical horrors and illusions. The story builds up so easily and at about the halfway point, starts to meld into something slightly confusing as illusions become more common in the story. This was fine, as I was sure it would be explained later. It was explained and reasonable enough, but the last quarter of the book felt like the author just threw more and more outlandish things together to try to explain the web she weaved. It was overkill at a certain point. The parts that did make sense were overshadowed by the ridiculousness of certain plot lines. A few of our characters were supposed to ride the line of moral ambiguity and the way they were portrayed was so unconvincing. They were not redeemed as the author intended, in my eyes. I did like Annaleigh’s romance, though that took a weird turn towards the end as well. The one thing I will say, is that you do expect a bit of the bizarre and unbelievable with a fairytale style of storytelling, so my bewilderment might not be the case for the average reader of this book.

Through all the weird or plain bad, this book took my mind off all the craziness in the world, so even if it wasn’t a five stars, I don’t regret reading it.

Ruin by John Gwynne: A Review

TRUTH AND COURAGE! I had to shout that to even start writing this review. Oof, my heart. What a wild ride. 4.5 stars from me.

In Ruin, we get to see our characters really solidify in their roles. Nathair has finally accepted that he’s not who he thought he was. Corban is accepting that he’s more than who he ever thought he was. Our Black Sun and our Bright Star. Nathair is determined to be a leader and he will be that for whichever side will have him. He has lied and killed his way to the top. The power behind him is terrifying. Corban truly becomes a man in Ruin. He has experienced heartache and devastation and manages to go on, amassing an army that follows him out of pure respect and love. The pure of heart are in a desperate battle to escape the clutches of Asroth’s servants. They’re deceived, many times over. Our story and the various scattered characters really start to come together in Ruin.

Lemme tell ya, the title is spot on. Major things that we THOUGHT we knew in this book are dismantled. Families are destroyed. Loyalties are broken. Friends are lost. A lot of progress is made, though. Our good guys get a short reprieve from tragedy, finally. Gwynne continues his spectacular writing of characters that keep us engaged. It takes a special talent to keep your audience hanging on while simultaneously kicking the asses of the best characters. He also starts to introduce personal relationships between characters, which proves to be a bright spot between the tragedies.

‘Three reasons. Three people. Jael. Lykos. You.’ He paused and looked up into her eyes. ‘Two for vengeance. One for love.’

Ruin had a lot of really great moments, we see a lot more triumph in this novel. The tone for much of the novel is hopeful even during the tremulous moments. Reversely, the battles are heavier and more descriptive than the past novels. The losses weigh heavier. The ending was the most powerful and earth-shaking thus far. The only reason I knocked off a half a star was for the revelation at the end which I don’t fully understand yet. I don’t get the specifics of why certain people were chosen or affected by this revelation, or how some of the themes conveniently lined up to what was foretold. There’s not much more I can say without spoiling, but what I’ve already emphasized still stands: John Gwynne is a superior voice in the fantasy world.

Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo: A Review

Hmmmmmmm. Shadow and Bone earned a 3 stars from me. I was truly enjoying the book but when it ended, it felt like a book that had cut bits and pieces of a book and pasted it together for a shortened version. Things happened quickly and the story kept taking turns very fast. I didn’t feel as connected with the characters because they didn’t have time to even connect to each other. I think the surprising part for me was reading it on kindle, there was a large excerpt for the next book so it showed that I had a huge percentage of book left when the end came. I honestly clicked back and forward to make sure my ebook wasn’t messed up and checked the ending on Wiki. The ending was SO abrupt. There was no actual climax to the story, in my opinion. Where it ended seemed as if it should have been the climax of the book. I felt as if we were just starting to get a feel for our characters’ situations when it ended.

Our main character Alina is dramatically swept up into the lifestyle of a Grisha, which are people with powers beyond the ordinary. I feel like my background of having read Six of Crows made this world make a lot more sense (which is funny because Shadow and Bone came first). You can tell that Leigh Bardugo strengthens in her writing as time goes on, and it does me good to remember that this WAS her first book and hiccups are okay. Anyway, Alina grew up as an orphan with her best friend Mal, that she’s secretly in love with. They are in the midst of a war and they are the common foot soldiers for it when Alina’s powers are discovered. Now, if you’ve heard anything about this series, you’ll have heard about the love triangle. If you want to skip ahead, I’ll be talking about this love triangle here, and that might be spoilery. I’ll try to avoid actually going into WHAT happens.

Okay, so Alina basically has to choose between The Darkling —whose power is unmatched until Alina comes into her power— and Mal. This is your typical choice between the bad boy and the good guy. I’ve seen quite the few heated argument between “shippers” on bookstagram; certain people love The Darkling in spite of his goals, and certain people think that it’s a toxic relationship and that Mal is the better choice. Here’s the thing… they both have their faults and their redemption. The Darkling immediately sees Alina for who she is and relishes in it. On the flip side, he’s also used to controlling a situation and will use his power to his advantage, which leads to the toxic aspect of their relationship. I won’t go into what actually happens THERE, because it would be a major spoiler, and I haven’t read past this book so I don’t know how that storyline evolves to comment on my thoughts about it.

“Alina, the Darkling doesn’t notice most of us. We’re moments he’ll forget in his long life. And I’m not sure that’s such a bad thing. Just… be careful.”

I stared at her, baffled. “Of what?”

“Of powerful men.”

On the other hand, Mal is the sweet and comforting boy that Alina grew up with. He’s reliable and she feels safe with him. Here’s the thing though… Mal doesn’t have feelings for Alina until she’s gone. It’s made clear that he’s exceedingly handsome and he goes to Alina for advice on how to hook up with other girls. When Alina comes into her powers and sees a Grisha that “enhances” her beauty, Mal is like “wow, I realize that you’re pretty awesome.” That’s not encouraging to me? It took your best friend gaining power and beauty to realize she’s someone you could fall for? Eh. Kinda lame, buddy. I’m not swooning.

“I’m sorry it took me so long to see you, Alina. But I see you now.”

We are left in the midst of a major choice between “right” or “wrong.” I’m curious to see if everything is how it seems or if we are going to be thrown through a loop from what Bardugo originally wants us to believe. Despite all of the issues I’ve seen in this book, I AM invested and will continue. Like I said, having read Leigh Bardugo’s Six of Crows, I know she becomes a stronger writer. Her characters are interesting and I feel like her leaving us in the dark about a lot of stuff in the first novel will play into the rest of the series. Her Grishaverse is a rich world brimming with endless potential and her straightforward writing style is something that can be very refreshing as a reader.

Grown Ups by Emma Jane Unsworth: A Review

I was given an advanced reader’s copy of Grown Ups by Emma Jane Unsworth in exchange for an honest review. I struggled between 3 and 4 stars with this book and ultimately decided to round up to 4. At first, I found Jenny to be a bit over the top and thus, quite annoying, but I think that’s the point of the story.

Jenny’s life falls apart all at once: her boyfriend leaves, her ultra feminist magazine dumps her for not being hardcore enough, her roommates move out on her, her friends become agitated with her, and worst of all, Suzy Brambles has unfollowed her on Instagram. That last problem sounds absurd, right? Emma Jane Unsworth hilariously and honestly catches the absolute absurdity that IS social media. MOST of Jenny’s issues comes from her frenzied use of social platforms. She has become less interested in authentic experiences and more interested in the likes that she can accumulate from a perfectly captured croissant. She is utterly entranced by the likes of Suzy Brambles, people that frame their lives and self promote on the internet. She buys into their picture perfect lives and is in a constant competition with herself to keep up. Her job at the magazine makes her doubt herself even more. With every article she posts, the world has their comments. She should be MORE of a feminist, she should be writing about this or that topic, and all the other mean drivel that internet users spew safely from behind a screen, never having to see the impact they have on others lives.

Part of what made Jenny “annoying” to me at first was this constant need for attention. She would revolve whole parts of her life around social media. But then I realized… most of us do this to an extent. We don’t always stop to appreciate, we take a picture first and appreciate later. We want other people to validate our experience before we totally enjoy it. Social media makes us ALL a bit of a nut case at times, whether it’s creating perfect posts or dealing with the cruelties of the internet. Jenny isn’t dumb, by any means. She shows complete moments of self-awareness and is surprisingly accurate when analyzing others. Her addiction to the internet has quite literally become a sickness in her life, tearing her attention away from her friends, family, and love life.

Eventually, Jenny is very much made aware of her issues and begins to work towards a healthier life with the help of her friends and mother. Grown Ups was a quick read that made me alternatively laugh and cringe at the accuracies of social media usage. It comes out in the US on May 12th, 2020. It has already been released under the title Adults in the UK!

Valor by John Gwynne: A Review

‘Foe,’ Corban whispered in Storm’s ear and in a blur of fur and muscle she lept at the startled man.

AhhhhhhhhhhHhhhhhhhhhHhh! Does that count for a review? No? Okay, here we go.

Valor by John Gwynne is Book Two from The Faithful and the Fallen. It rates a 5/5 stars from me. The pacing was a bit slower the first half of the book than Malice but not enough to dock any stars. The second half of the book kept a rollicking pace and I couldn’t read it fast enough.

The Faithful and the Fallen is one of those series that reminds me of WHY I fell in love with the fantasy genre. Fantasy readers tend to love the plot building up to a resounding crescendo that crashes over us, fully encompassing. We love worlds that need steady building, characters that reveal their complexities over time. We like stories that need multiple volumes to be told. We like taking characteristics from the real world and mixing them with the endless possibilities of fantastical storytelling. John Gwynne’s series is all that I love about fantasy. I’ve said before that I immediately include him in the ranks of my favorite authors, and like those authors (Hobb, Martin, Rothfuss, Lawrence, Sanderson, Abercrombie), Gwynne has all the elements we love about fantasy but it still reads like his OWN work and ideas. It stands apart even in its similarities to other fantasy series.

Yet, if he has chosen right, why did he feel wrong, somehow, somewhere deep down, and why when he closed his eyes, did he see (name hidden for spoiler free review)’s face, his dead eyes accusing him.

In Valor, we have the usual good vs bad dilemma. We also have the bad-that-truly-thinks-it’s-good vs the good. We have purposely misled characters. Accidentally misguided characters. Betrayed characters. Straight up good or evil characters. Characters that have no choice, that despise themselves for their actions. I think what is interesting about this story is we have two characters that have been told THEY’RE the chosen savior of the world. There can only be one, though, so what happens to the person that was actually chosen for evil instead of good? How do they react to that? This book is about that journey, about the build up to that shattering realization. There are characters are in league with the obviously “evil” side that I have truly come to care for. That’s what a good author does. In life, we can find good and bad in (almost) everyone. The scale might tip us one way or the other, but most people have goodness in them if you look. This goodness makes it hard for us to write a character off completely. It gives us hope for a better outcome.

‘Before the battle you warned us about what side we were choosing.’

‘Yes,’ Veradis said. ‘I did.’

‘I would give you the same advice,’ Maquin said, then disappeared into the forest.

One thing I would like to praise Gwynne for, is his writing of women. There’s some subtle attraction, occasionally, between characters, but it’s never unintentionally sexist or inappropriate. Rather, it’s a natural progression of potential relationships. What do I mean by this? Women in his stories are strong. They’re purposeful. They’re not there for the amusement of men or for men to look at. They serve the plots, and are not background characters. Gwynne doesn’t focus on their looks above all, in fact, he rarely comments on their looks. There is ONE case of intentional harassment that might be triggering to some and that is used to advance the plot to some degree. It incites hatred and the motivation to break control from a certain leader. You might think this is all odd to mention, like, “Oh, John Gwynne DOESN’T sexualize women?? Cool?” But it IS worth mentioning that Gwynne writes women like a respected WOMAN author would (thus far, at least). I’ve seen some women authors write women characters pretty shamefully as well, which may be a conditioned behavior, and I think in recent years, the public has grown more conscience of the way women are written. I certainly have. I recently read a male-written fantasy series that put a bad taste in my mouth when it came to how it approached writing women, despite liking the series otherwise. The worst part is that I don’t think the author even realizes he was being sexist *cringe*. It might just be me following up that series with this one that makes me appreciate Gwynne’s writing. He writes like he respects PEOPLE, it isn’t some facade, it isn’t forced. It’s natural, as it should be.

‘All right,’ she muttered. ‘I can always kill you another time.’

‘It’s only because I’m too tired to bury your corpse,’ she said as she strode up to him.

He took a step back and placed a hand protectively over his groin. ‘Not too close,’ he said. ‘I saw what you did to Helfach’s boy in the hall the other day. Me, I’m very fond of my stones.’

Do I want to spoil this whole book and tell you all of the parts I loved? Yes. Will I do that? I GUESS not. I will tell you that there’s loss. There’s adventure. There’s battles. There’s scheming. And most importantly, there’s HEART. This story has a lot of it. I love these characters more than ever. I love the respect for animals in this story. I love that through the tragedy, there are moments of beauty. The good fight and sometimes the bad win, but the good never give up. They don’t take the easy path. It imitates what I most admire about people in modern times. A lot of us feel like the world has gone to SHIT, but it gives us more motivation to fight for what we believe is right. It’s perfect.

Such friends. Following me through the mountains… Just looking at this, he felt pressure building in his chest. This world may be full of greed and tragedy and darkness, but I am fortunate beyond measure to have such people about me.

Parasites: A Review

“I’m so sick of this. Sick of scavenging and proves and scouting and caution and harvesting. I don’t care that we’re amazing at it. I don’t care that we can just dampen down every part of our curiousity which make us human. I’m sick of just wandering around and taking what we can find. I’m sick of being parasites.”

I started this book this morning and I easily finished in a couple of hours. Parasites by Matthew Samuels is an easily devourable YA science fiction and space odyssey novel. Our home-world is Lyra, which is rapidly declining. Our main characters, Alessia and Kael are best friends that explore other worlds to scavenge objects, food, and other means to keep their home and people from crumbling at an even faster rate. Alessia sets out on a mission with Kael and their friend/bodyguard/father figure, Basteel, to find a solution to the imminent danger to their planet. It happens to be that this is the same mission her father was on when he disappeared.

What I loved most about this book was the friendship between Lessie and Kael. I think it makes it easier to face dangers over and over when you have someone to trust. Eventually, they acquire a good little group of trusted individuals that make their mission easier. Also, Alessia was conflicted about her feelings towards her father when he disappeared and I think Samuels was very wise in doing that. I think it made her more human and relatable. Sometimes people die and you have unresolved feelings or you feel bad about the conflicted feelings you had. Part of this story was about finding peace within herself after her father disappeared.

I think that this is an especially fabulous introduction to the majesty that is science fiction and solar punk for YA. I felt like I was learning new things while reading an entertaining story and this is the type of story that you feel smarter after reading. At the same time, it’s completely marketable to readers of all ages. If you’re looking for an indie author to support, give Samuels a try. You’ll hardly believe this is an independent publication. Thank you, Matthew for sending me this delightful story.

Malice (The Faithful and the Fallen #1): A Review

“Two born of blood, dust and ashes shall champion the Choices, the Darkness and Light.”

Wow. First, I wanna thank Petrik for recommending this book to me. Malice by John Gwynne lives up to the recommendation. On goodreads, I rated it a 5/5 stars without a second thought. This first book revolves around a prophecy that the world will be divide into two sides, basically your classic fight between good and evil.

“Black Sun will drown the earth in bloodshed, Bright Star with the Treasures must unite.’ Again he stopped, carefully turned more pages, eventually continued his halting reading: ‘By their names you shall know them – Kin-Slayer, Kin-Avenger, Giant-Friend, Draig-Rider, Dark Power ’gainst Lightbringer.’ And so he went on: read, pause, search. Read again. ‘One shall be the Tide, one the Rock in the swirling sea. Before one, storm and shield shall stand; before the other, True-Heart and Black-Heart. Beside one rides the Beloved, beside the other, the Avenging Hand. Behind one, the Sons of the Mighty, the fair Ben-Elim, gathered ’neath the Great Tree. Behind the other, the Unholy, dread Kadoshim, who seek to cross the bridge, force the world to bended knee.”

What I found interesting about this book, is that while the characters are pretty easily distinguishable between good and bad, the concept of good and evil itself rides the grey line. I can only assume that this line will keep getting thinner. We have characters that we see committing heinous acts while truly believing they are doing things for the greater good. There’s supposed to be certain races of people/creatures that are servants of the sides of good and evil, but these aren’t always as they seem. There’s a lot of politicking going on in Malice and truly nobody is safe. I love that we get multiple POVs and most of the chapters are short because it keeps the story really fresh and fast moving. The way this book is written, it TRULY reminds me of A Song of Ice and Fire. What sets it apart is that John Gwynne is MUCH more straightforward in his writing. We don’t see long-winded passages filled with descriptions that don’t serve to advance the plot. It is much more palatable to the average fantasy reader, and this is coming from someone that loves ASOIAF with a passion. That being said, EVERY moment of this book served the greater objective. I raced through each chapter to get to the next POV because they were all interesting, though I will claim Corban’s as a favorite.

Speaking of, here’s a brief introduction to our POV characters:

•Corban: a wolven-raising, colt-loving boy with immense talent in the training field. He deals with bullying from another boy with kindness and grace. Okay, if you know me, you know I’m a sucker for a wolf-human bond in a story. This satisfies that craving for me. Corban loves animals and they love him.

“Your colt, Ban. He just raced past us, from nowhere, threw himself into the hound. He killed it, Ban, defending you. I’ve never seen the like before.”

•Cywen: a smart and hardworking girl, sister to Corban. She’s often found embarrassing him by protecting him (aka beating up) the bullies. Strong and capable, her mother taught her knife throwing at a young age.

“Cywen remembered her knives suddenly, fumbling one from her belt and hurled it at a face in a red cloak — saw him fall backwards, clutching at his throat.”

•Evnis: I don’t know much about this guy yet. From his first chapter, it makes it clear that he’s a two-faced, self-serving weasel. I’m not sure his motives yet for acting the way he does, but he’s one of the few that are easily put in the EVIL pile. He’s a mentor to King Brenin.

“You hide your greed behind a cloak of revenge, Evnis. Power is what you seek, and will grasp it where you can.”

•Nathair: the son of High King Aquilis. A warrior with a penchant for battle strategy. Fiercely ambitious and capable of charming leagues, he believes he is destined for greatness that even his father can not comprehend.

“I know who you are, what you will become. That is why I serve you.”

•Veradis: eager to prove himself as capable as his older brother, Veradis quickly becomes Nathair’s first-sword and best friend. Veradis believes that Nathair is the key to saving their realm and protects him at all costs.

“Then stand, brother, for that is what you are to me now, and let us seal this oath with our blood.”

•Kastell: orphaned from his immediate family, and caught in feud with his jealous cousin, Kastell is torn between serving his uncle or joining the Gadair, a group of prestigious sword-brothers. He is mentored and protected by his family friend, Maquin. Kastell is pure of heart and motive.

“You are like a son to me and I fear for you. Let me make one thing clear. The only thing that will part me from you is death.”

•Camlin: a brigand with morals, he refuses to harm women or children. He will play a major part on both sides of the war at certain points.

“No more innocent blood…

I am thankful for your coming, more than I can ever show, but I’d rather walk right back into my cell and face the headsman on the morrow than see their blood spilt.”

And that’s it for POVs. We truly have a wonderful cast of characters, good and bad. no one character‘s chapters are so lingering that you get bored of them. Before you know it, you’re reading the next character’s chapter and wanting to get back to the previous… IN A NEVER-ENDING, GLORIOUS CYCLE. I can say that the last 25 percent of the book gave me heart palpitations and probably more than a few gray hairs. Nobody is safe here. John Gwynne is good at making your heart tender towards his characters and then stabbing you in your perfectly primed, tender heart. If you like getting stabbed in the heart repeatedly because you’re a book masochist, like me, this is for you. I can only see the series getting better –and more heartbreaking– from here. Dare I say, this book/series is already primed to be in my top ten favorite fantasy books ever. By the end of this series, I won’t be surprised if John Gwynne joins the ranks of Rothfuss, Hobb, Martin, Sanderson, Abercrombie, and Lawrence in my favorite authors.

“Both the brave man and the coward feel the same. The only difference between them is the brave man faces his fear, does not run.”

The Blood Mirror: A Review

“Look at your mistakes long enough to learn from them, then put them behind you.”

I finished listening to The Blood Mirror by Brent Weeks last week but just now got around to reviewing it. It was a 3.75 stars for me, which I rounded up to a 4 on goodreads.

Honestly, there’s not much to say about this one. Altogether pleasant storytelling and while we learned quite a few new things, I feel like the plot was a bit stagnant. Don’t get me wrong, I fully enjoy being immersed in this world. I just don’t feel like much was accomplished in this installment.

That being said, I don’t have much BAD to say about it. Kip is fully coming into his own and though he’s always going to have that shred of modesty and self-deprecation, he’s harnessing his power and fully taking on his leadership role. His marriage might not have been his initial choice, but in true Kip fashion, he’s making the best of it. Heck, by the end, he’s starting to thrive in it. No lingering in a wallowing state for him. I think it’s good that Kip has realized that he has an incredible woman in front of him and that his bond with Teia was something that would probably never have came fully to fruition.

To realize in an instant that you aren’t going to have the life you’d hoped for, but not waste a moment complaining, instead acting instantly to save what good you can? That’s more guts than I’d have had.

Gavin Guile is still as low as we have ever seen him and we start to learn some important and revealing things about him. He is looking at himself in the mirror and for the first time, really disliking what he sees. He’s always had an undercurrent of distaste for himself but with these revelations, he’s disgusted with himself. Yet, to the rest of the world, he’s still a god. He is the reason so many people keep fighting.

“With no small amount of swagger, Gavin Greyling said, “I remember Gavin fucking Guile, who won the False Prism’s War, who outwitted the Thorn Conspirators and ended the Red Cliff Uprising. Gavin Guile, who brought low pirate kings and bandit lords, who ended the Blood Wars with wits and one deadly wave of his hand, who brought justice to the Seven Satrapies. Gavin Guile, who hunted wights and criminals, who built Brightwater Wall in less than a week, who aborted the birth of gods, destroyed at least two bane, and killed a god full fledged at Ruic Head. Gavin Guile, who faced a sea demon and lived, saving all the people of Garriston and the Blackguard, too. Gavin Guile, who sank Pash vecchio’s great ship Gargantua with a rat. Gavin Guile, who armed us for war and gave the Blackguard the seas entire with our sea chariots and hull wreckers. Gavin Guile, heart of our heart, our Promachos, the one who goes before us in war, who came and conquered and will come again.”

That moment gave me chills and brought a tear to my eye. I love the goodness in Gavin Greyling and I don’t think Gavin Guile even realizes the positive effect he’s had on people. I think he knows people idolize him but he doesn’t know that he makes people want to be GOOD and strive for better. Brent Weeks definitely knows how to pull a heartstring here and there.

I don’t have much more to say about this story, but I can say that I hope it sets us up for a great finale. I’m ready to see the conclusion of this all!