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Photo Review – The Fifth Season (The Broken Earth #1)by NK Jemisin

The Fifth Season (The Broken Earth #1)

By NK Jemisin

Summary: This is the way the world ends. Again.

Three terrible things happen in a single day. Essun, a woman living an ordinary life in a small town, comes home to find that her husband has brutally murdered their son and kidnapped their daughter. Meanwhile, mighty Sanze — the world-spanning empire whose innovations have been civilization’s bedrock for a thousand years — collapses as most of its citizens are murdered to serve a madman’s vengeance. And worst of all, across the heart of the vast continent known as the Stillness, a great red rift has been torn into the heart of the earth, spewing ash enough to darken the sky for years. Or centuries.

Now Essun must pursue the wreckage of her family through a deadly, dying land. Without sunlight, clean water, or arable land, and with limited stockpiles of supplies, there will be war all across the Stillness: a battle royale of nations not for power or territory, but simply for the basic resources necessary to get through the long dark night. Essun does not care if the world falls apart around her. She’ll break it herself, if she must, to save her daughter.

Source: I purchased a kindle copy.

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Review:

The Fifth Season was an amazing fantasy with rich detail and a unique society and premise. I read the book for the 2018 POPSUGAR Reading Challenge for an allegory, as the author has stated that is what her series is.

Everything about the world was clever and well thought out and I could see a lot of symbolism and I appreciated it. I enjoyed the setting and premise and wanted to get to know the world and the people in it.

My biggest issue with the book was how slow it was. Parts of it dragged, literally through a span of years, with characters I had a hard time connecting with. I wanted to know more, yet was given minute details that didn’t seem necessary and few parts made me feel like I knew the characters. Parts of the book spanned forever, other sections highlighted a few minutes of time and I felt like parts of the book seemed to drag on forever.

I also disliked the twist. I thought about halfway through that the twist might be a thing and it also served to confuse my previous understanding of the timeline and it was an unnecessary and kind of lame connection between the otherwise completely different characters.

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Photo Review – In Cold Blood by Truman Capote

In Cold Blood

By Truman Capote

Summary: On November 15, 1959, in the small town of Holcomb, Kansas, four members of the Clutter family were savagely murdered by blasts from a shotgun held a few inches from their faces. There was no apparent motive for the crime, and there were almost no clues.

As Truman Capote reconstructs the murder and the investigation that led to the capture, trial, and execution of the killers, he generates both mesmerizing suspense and astonishing empathy. In Cold Blood is a work that transcends its moment, yielding poignant insights into the nature of American violence.

Source: I purchased a paperback

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Review:

I read this to complete the True Crime prompt in the 2018 POPSUGAR Reading Challenge and because it has always seemed like an interesting book.

I had no knowledge of the crime and I liked that it was written in a way that set the scene and tone. It felt like reading a fiction novel, which is always how I prefer my nonfiction to be.

It was shocking and interesting without the normal sensationalized sort of true crime style. I definitely recommend it!

Photo Review – Blood for Blood (Wolf by Wolf #2) by Ryan Graudini

Blood for Blood (Wolf by Wolf #2)

By Ryan Graudin

Summary: There would be blood. Blood for blood. Blood to pay. An entire world of it.For the resistance in the Third Reich, the war may be over, but the fight has just begun. Death camp survivor Yael, who has the power to skinshift, is on the run: the world has just seen her shoot and kill Hitler. But the truth of what happened is far more complicated, and its consequences are deadly. Yael and her unlikely comrades dive into enemy territory to try to turn the tide against Hitler’s army, and there is no alternative but to see their mission through to the end, whatever the cost.But in the midst of the chaos, Yael’s past and future collide when she comes face to face with a ghost from her past, and a spark with a fellow rider begins to grow into something more. Dark secrets reveal dark truths and one question hangs over them all—how far can you go for the ones you love?

Source: I purchased a hardcover

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Review – Sleeping Beauties by Owen King and Stephen King

 

Sleeping Beauties

By Owen King and Stephen King

SummaryIn a future so real and near it might be now, something happens when women go to sleep; they become shrouded in a cocoon-like gauze. If they are awakened, if the gauze wrapping their bodies is disturbed or violated, the women become feral and spectacularly violent; and while they sleep they go to another place. The men of our world are abandoned, left to their increasingly primal devices. One woman, however, the mysterious Evie, is immune to the blessing or curse of the sleeping disease. Is Evie a medical anomaly to be studied, or is she a demon who must be slain? 

Source: I purchased a hardcover.

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Review:

Sleeping Beauties had a strange and interesting premise. What if women went to sleep and didn’t wake up? 

I mostly feel that I enjoyed the book, but I have to admit, it felt a bit repetitive and long. 

I read in an interview that the idea for the novel came from Owen King, pitched as a story idea Stephen King could write. Instead, Stephen King told his son to write it. I feel that when presented with the idea (or at least the direction of the book as a whole), Stephen King could have gestured to his shelves of authored books and said “I already did write this story.”

Because while the reason/weirdness element of the story is different, the rest of the book feels like it’s been done before. It’s not exactly Under the Dome, but it seems to share similarities with the ignorant townsfolk, forceful personalties that seem to take over in times of crisis, lack of communication with the outside world, etc. Sure, the cocoons aren’t a giant dome over a town, nor is Evie the same magical prisoner as John Coffey, nor is she exactly Randall Flagg, but it’s still so much of the same kind of story. In the end, it is a book about the personalities of people and their own biases in a good vs evil sort of way. 

I forgive Stephen King for a lot and I love his books. I know he’s gotta be proud of his son and they both put forth a lot of effort, but this would never ever work without Stephen King’s name on the cover. It needed a heavy edit, a huge trim, and something to separate it from everything else King has done. The thing with the other son is that he has found his own voice, where I’m not certain who Owen is as an author from this book. It certainly hasn’t shown me that his son can end a book or tell a different story…

If you haven’t read Under the Dome and want a story that touches on how women are treated, Sleeping Beauties is a decent story that is just as long and convoluted with a strange ending, so you might as well read it if you’re torn between the two. I’m giving it  stars only because I know deep down I would forgive it all if it was just Stephen King and I didn’t know the difference and because I completely expected to be wowed like I was reading King’s other son’s work.

Star 3

 

Review – The Good Neighbor by A.J. Banner

 

The Good Neighbor

By A.J. Banner

SummaryFrom a phenomenal new voice in suspense fiction comes a book that will forever change the way you look at the people closest to you…

Shadow Cove, Washington, is the kind of town everyone dreams about—quaint streets, lush forests, good neighbors. That’s what Sarah thinks as she settles into life with her new husband, Dr. Johnny McDonald. But all too soon she discovers an undercurrent of deception. And one October evening when Johnny is away, sudden tragedy destroys Sarah’s happiness.

Dazed and stricken with grief, she and Johnny begin to rebuild their shattered lives. As she picks up the pieces of her broken home, Sarah discovers a shocking secret that forces her to doubt everything she thought was true—about her neighbors, her friends, and even her marriage. With each stunning revelation, Sarah must ask herself, Can we ever really know the ones we love.

Source: I purchased a paperback

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Review:

The Good Neighbor had a lot of potential to be pretty good. There are plenty of Is-My-Marriage-What-I-Think-It-Is type of thrillers and this one was all about whether her friends and/or husband was lying to her.

As a whole, the book was pretty decent with a few twists and turns, but I think it needed a few rounds with more editors to make it really pop. The structure/skeleton of the story was there, but the writing was a bit mediocre with the cliches and repetitive phrases. The characters were where the story was really lacking. I didn’t feel like anyone was truly well developed and I knew that someone in her inner circle would be the bad guy, but I didn’t connect with anyone, even the main character. I could’ve forgiven the writing more if the characters were better developed and I connected with them more.

If you’re looking for a mystery/thriller that is quick and has a few twists and turns going on, The Good Neighbor is decent, but if you need or want more of a connection to characters in order to fully invest yourself, or are looking for something more hard hitting, it’s best to skip this one.

Star 3

Review – Warcross (Warcross #1) by Marie Lu

Warcross (Warcross #1)

By Marie Lu

SummaryFor the millions who log in every day, Warcross isn’t just a game—it’s a way of life. The obsession started ten years ago and its fan base now spans the globe, some eager to escape from reality and others hoping to make a profit. Struggling to make ends meet, teenage hacker Emika Chen works as a bounty hunter, tracking down players who bet on the game illegally. But the bounty hunting world is a competitive one, and survival has not been easy. Needing to make some quick cash, Emika takes a risk and hacks into the opening game of the international Warcross Championships—only to accidentally glitch herself into the action and become an overnight sensation.

Convinced she’s going to be arrested, Emika is shocked when instead she gets a call from the game’s creator, the elusive young billionaire Hideo Tanaka, with an irresistible offer. He needs a spy on the inside of this year’s tournament in order to uncover a security problem . . . and he wants Emika for the job. With no time to lose, Emika’s whisked off to Tokyo and thrust into a world of fame and fortune that she’s only dreamed of. But soon her investigation uncovers a sinister plot, with major consequences for the entire Warcross empire.

Source: I received a signed hardcover from an Uppercase subscription

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Review:

Warcross was great!

Side note: If you’re expecting Ready Player One, it’s not the same thing, though similar, and it’s probably not as good because it doesn’t drawn on the nostalgia of the 80’s. I liked Ready Player One for different reasons than I like Warcross. 

Warcross was set in the future with a large virtual game for millions of people. There are glasses that connect people to Warcross and combine the real world with the virtual. Emika was a struggling poor bounty hunter who also knew a good bit of code and frequently hacked into various aspects of Warcross. As her situation became more serious, she made a judgement call that brought her to the attention of millions of people watching the Warcross Opening Ceremony.. and the game’s creator.

She had a new target straight from the game’s creator: find Zero, the hacker messing with security measures.

Warcross was fun and adventurous. I loved Emika’s personality and her desire to do the right thing despite all consequences. She seemed like a truly loyal person. She was a bright and unique person who defied stereotypes and it made her a strong character. I liked Hideo, the tortured and private billionaire and creator. I felt like I wanted to know more about him and was intrigued by the mystery of him. 

My only real issue was with the other characters. I felt like the world building was great along with Emika and her feelings, motivations, surroundings, purpose, job, abilities, etc. Even Hideo, as mysterious as he was, seemed to be fleshed out rather well. The rest of the cast was not nearly as well developed and I wished the book focused more on the members of Emika’s team in the game and their banter. Some of the training was highlighted, but I felt like it was just a small slice and I would’ve preferred a longer book that featured the side characters a bit more. Because of this, when Emika really needed to trust them and needed their help, the fact that they jumped in and helped her seemed kind of weird, as their relationship was a bit strained due to her skipping out after trainings completed. 

Warcross was a diverse book, which added to the world-building because I’d hope a futuristic society would be a bit more open minded. There was a bit of a romance in Warcross, which was surprising and welcome. I did not expect it for some reason. I loved the adventure and Emika’s ability to bounce back, figure things out, and maintain a positive attitude.

I definitely recommend Warcross. I didn’t read a lot of reviews and had no real expectations, so I think that helped. It’s hard to top Ready Player One in the cyberpunk genre, but I didn’t expect Warcross to do that for me, so I’m not upset that it didn’t. I think many negative reviews are simply from those who were super hyped up and expected something else.

Another Side Note: The author does use the “I let out a breath I didn’t realize I’d been holding” a few times. If this is a deal breaker, don’t read it. Other than that, the writing was pretty engaging. 

Star 4

 

Review – Crooked Kingdom (Six of Crows #2) by Leigh Bardugo

Crooked Kingdom (Six of Crows #2)

By Leigh Bardugo

SummaryWhen you can’t beat the odds, change the game.

Kaz Brekker and his crew have just pulled off a heist so daring even they didn’t think they’d survive. But instead of divvying up a fat reward, they’re right back to fighting for their lives. Double-crossed and badly weakened, the crew is low on resources, allies, and hope. As powerful forces from around the world descend on Ketterdam to root out the secrets of the dangerous drug known as jurda parem, old rivals and new enemies emerge to challenge Kaz’s cunning and test the team’s fragile loyalties. A war will be waged on the city’s dark and twisting streets―a battle for revenge and redemption that will decide the fate of the Grisha world.

Source: I purchased a hardcover

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Review:

Crooked Kingdom was a great sequel/finale to the Six of Crows duology. I was emotionally invested in the fate of the characters and everything seemed to go wrong at the end of Six of Crows. I had no idea what the characters would have to do to fix their fate and change the game to go in their favor. My favorite part of the sequel was watching the characters admit their own feelings to themselves, whatever those feelings might have been. I felt like book 1 was them showing off with this extravagant heist and because things went so badly for them, some of their internal reflections were more personal in this installment.

Crooked Kingdom was well written and fairly well executed. The fates of everyone hung in the balance and they weren’t the top dogs on the streets of Ketterdam anymore. There were political issues, merchants gunning for them, and street gangs to contend with. Each person was personally tested as their weaknesses were made apparent.

My only real issue was the length, but more-so the amount of various plans/heists/jobs the book went through. I knew so much had to happen and that not all of their schemes would go well. I knew that Kaz made some backup plans and some of them rested upon the first plan failing, but also some plans just failed. It was exhausting as the reader in some situations trying to figure out if the plan failed, if what just happened actually happened, or if I should just wait to see what happens next. Book 1 did a great job of showing just how great Kaz was at contingency plans and not communicating plans to his crew so that when his crew thinks a plan failed, it all actually went according to Kaz’s plan. I didn’t need more of it in book 2 when I’m also watching Kaz lick his wounds and admit he can’t be the best at everything and also trying to place more trust in his crew. I feel like almost every heist/plan was like “BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE” to the point where I didn’t get emotionally invested in a plan, didn’t believe that someone cracked or fell or failed, so the big reveals were actually just sort of mild. Basically, I just got tired of the push and pull and didn’t think it was always necessary. It made me sort of disconnect a bit because it was always a false alarm that someone was in real trouble, so when someone actually was, I didn’t know how to feel about it or whether I believed it was true. 

Aside from the constant surprises, Crooked Kingdom was an adventure that I was happy to be on. I also enjoyed that book two connected a bit more with the events of The Grisha Trilogy and can now see why/how the books are connected other than the setting. In the end, I was emotionally invested and I grew to love each and every one of the characters. I definitely recommend the duology.

Star 4