Review: Planting Gardens in Graves by r.h. Sin

plantinggardensingravesPlanting Gardens in Graves by r.h. Sin

My Rating: 2/5 TARDISes

Series: Standalone

Date Published: February 6th, 2018

Publisher: Andrews McMeel Publishing

Pages: 272 pages

Source: Netgalley

Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

Synopsis: From the beloved author of Whiskey, Words, and a Shovel comes the first volume in an all new series.

r.h. Sin returns with a force in Planting Gardens in Gravesa powerful collection of poetry that hones in on the themes dearest to his readers. This original volume celebrates connection, mourns heartbreak, and above all, empowers its readers to seek the love they deserve.


*I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review*

My r.h. Sin saga continues. After reading A Beautiful Composition of Broken, things went even more downhill when it came to this particular collection. It started off well enough, with short but sweet, impactful poetry. Each poem had the nice flow and depth that he has always showed, and the way he words everything is beautiful. There were even a few poems that touched on very different topics than the rest—some of the most powerful ones being about his own experiences with other types of love than romantic. However, every other poem was exactly the same as what he usually writes, thus making it feel like all of his collections are identical.

This time around, the style of short but powerful lines did not work in his favor. Many of the poems felt incredibly choppy and forced, like he had cut off each line at random rather than with a specific purpose. There was a sizable loss of depth due to the way that was carried out. Another strike against the collection for me that ties into this was how much subtlety he lacked when it came to conveying the messages in certain parts of his work. This stripped away anything poetic about those poems and, therefore, they lost their emotional impact. This is entirely personal, but some even felt rather crude to me.

Once again, he remains stuck on pretty much the same topic for the entire collection, each poem feeling like a differently worded version of the others. And while his focus on the strength of women is nice to see in literature, he simultaneously portrays men as being horrible and himself as being the only one worthy of being with a woman. I appreciate the feminism he is trying for and, of course, love the fact that it is becoming more prevalent in the literary world. But what I in general will never appreciate is anything that lifts any group of people higher than another—that is not what feminism is about or how equality is achieved.

Overall, the majority of this collection unfortunately failed to accomplish what I believe he was trying to. Speaking as a woman, sometimes his poems are affirming, but after awhile, I began to feel like he was treating us like we are possessions rather than humans. I believe Sin has a talent for writing beautiful poetry, but that does not come across as well when he refuses to diversify his subject matter. The few poems that touched on love that isn’t romantic were wonderful and refreshing. In the future, it would be great to see him focus more on that, even aspects of his life and more personal experiences.

2.0 TARDISes


Review: The Disturbed Girl’s Dictionary by NoNieqa Ramos

thedisturbedgirlsdictionaryThe Disturbed Girl’s Dictionary by NoNieqa Ramos

My Rating: 3.5/5 TARDISes

Series: Standalone

Date Published: February 1st, 2018

Publisher: Carolrhoda Books

Pages: 344 pages

Source: Netgalley

Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

Synopsis: Macy’s school officially classifies her as “disturbed,” but Macy isn’t interested in how others define her. She’s got more pressing problems: her mom can’t move off the couch, her dad’s in prison, her brother’s been kidnapped by Child Protective Services, and now her best friend isn’t speaking to her. Writing in a dictionary format, Macy explains the world in her own terms—complete with gritty characters and outrageous endeavors. With an honesty that’s both hilarious and fearsome, slowly Macy reveals why she acts out, why she can’t tell her incarcerated father that her mom’s cheating on him, and why her best friend needs protection . . . the kind of protection that involves Macy’s machete.


*I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review*

I have so many feelings about this book—some that are conflicting—but let me start out by saying that this is a wonderfully diverse novel. It focuses on many topics that I personally have not seen much, particularly in the world of young adult fiction. I found it very hard to collect my thoughts both during and after reading this story because of the quantity of thought-provoking material that is present. While my overall opinions on and experience with this novel were somewhat mixed, that in no way means that I did not truly enjoy reading it.

In this novel, we follow a fifteen-year-old girl named Macy, who is chronicling her life through entries in her own personal dictionary. Macy has been classified as “disturbed” by everyone—including herself—but really, she is just a teenager trying to survive in a horrible situation. Her father’s in prison, her mother treats her terribly and is too busy having multiple affairs to think about the welfare of her children. Macy has little to no food to eat and only a couch to sleep on, and on top of everything, she has just lost her little brother to Child Protective Services. However, Macy is not going down without a fight, and she will do everything she can to prove that she can beat the odds, as well as protect the people she loves the most.

The plot was not at all what I had been expecting going into the novel. Personally, I thought this sounded as if it would be sort of a dark mystery/thriller type story. It is definitely on the dark side, given the nature of the subjects it addresses, but that’s about all that it has in common with what I predicted—it is more of a heartbreakingly realistic, fictional recounting of a person’s life and hardships. This came as a huge surprise, though a good one, as I thoroughly enjoyed the powerful and impactful story that I found within these pages. It took me quite a while to wrap my head around everything that occurred—in a good way.

My absolute favorite part of this novel are the characters—they are beautifully crafted. Whether lovable or despicable, there is absolutely no denying that each and every one is multi-dimensional and highly memorable. Macy is such a wonderful main character and narrator. Her personality is so distinctive and vibrant, and she is someone who is very easy to care about and root for—she is strong, badass, and just plain awesome. Also, out of all the other characters, George is the one that I adored the most.

Ramos uses a writing style that is both very unique and not commonly seen in literature. The uniqueness comes from Macy herself and her personal way of voicing her thoughts. She relates her story using very choppy sentences filled with grammatical errors. This fits her absolutely perfectly, and truly adds a great deal to the way Ramos depicts her. Macy’s views on life have a distinct peculiarity of their own, which also contributes to both the realism and charm of her character.

On a technical level, the style used is most like a stream-of-consciousness narrative, as we follow the events of Macy’s life as they happen. Since Macy is narrating through entries in her dictionary, she is essentially writing out her train of thought. There is a very diary-esque feel to it, and her internal monologue is all over the place, another factor I found added depth and relatability to her as a character.

I will acknowledge, the format in which this novel is presented—stream-of-consciousness coupled with grammatical inaccuracies—may not be the easiest to read. However, Ramos does a fantastic job with it, and the more you read, the better it flows. I thought this stylistic choice suited the novel extremely well—I loved it, and I cannot see any other type of narration relaying Macy’s story as perfectly as this does.

I’m still trying to collect all of my thoughts, partially due to the fact that some of the issues I had with the novel conflict with aspects that a loved. I believe that many of my complaints stem from the style of narration that is used. However, as I said before, that style was absolutely perfect and really brought Macy’s story to life in a way no other type of narrative could have. As you can imagine, this is causing me a lot of difficulty when it comes to reviewing the novel—but I will try my best to explain things as clearly as I can.

Let me preface this by saying that I have absolutely no personal experience with the types of trials and horrors that the characters in this novel have to face on a daily basis. And while I feel as though I learned a lot from reading this, I will never say that I can even begin to understand the pain of being in these situations. The fact that any person, especially a child, should have to deal with these struggles upsets me to no end, and I have the utmost respect for the strength and bravery people have even during the of darkest times.

There were a few times where I struggled to understand certain events in the narrative. Admittedly there were some occasions where it was extremely obvious that the problem was simply my lack of knowledge on certain topics and not at all the actual writing itself. But there were also a number of instances where I felt as though more detail needed to be used in order to clarify what had taken place. This could be explained by the narration style, since a person writing entries in a journalistic way is bound to be less descriptive. Nevertheless, there were times when I wasn’t able to explain what had just happened.

On the other hand, even when I felt unsure of what exactly was happening in a scene, Ramos did such a wonderful job of crafting her characters that it never fully detached me from the narrative. She conveys the emotions so clearly, I could always relate and comprehend on that level, thus allowing me to remain closely connected to everyone. So, while I wish I could have some clarity about those particular events, it was less of a detriment to the plot as a whole than it would have been in most situations.

I also understand that this narrative can be a bit hard to follow and therefore might be a slow read. That is due to both the stream-of-consciousness format—which can make everything feel jumbled and random—and the obvious grammatical errors in Macy’s writing. The main plotline can be a bit tough to find because, having that diary style, the plot is not going to be as linear. Personally, while I did read through this a bit slower that I normally might, I found all of these qualities to be incredibly fitting to the story and Macy’s voice.

One very minor detail—and by minor, I mean I’m just putting far too much thought into things like always—that confused me a bit was the timeline of the novel. It comes across as though Macy is writing each entry in alphabetical order as it happens, since we do follow somewhat of a connected storyline. However, she frequently references other entries in the dictionary, many of which haven’t happened yet. Like I said, this isn’t a huge issue by any means, it just made it a bit unclear to me how exactly events were progressing.

The Disturbed Girl’s Dictionary is a book that I know is going to stick with me for quite a long time. It is an extremely eye-opening and powerful read that addresses many dark but incredibly important topics—ones that are hard to hear about but desperately need to be discussed. The realistic characters and vivid emotions really brought the events to life, and make this story an even more educational experience. I am so glad that I picked this up, and I very highly recommend giving this novel a read.

3.5 TARDISes


Review: The Splendid Baron Submarine by Eric Bower

thesplendidbaronsubmarineThe Splendid Baron Submarine by Eric Bower

My Rating: 4.5/5 TARDISes

Series: The Bizarre Baron Inventions

Date Published: November 7th, 2017

Publisher: Amberjack Publishing

Pages: 244 pages

Source: Publisher

Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

Synopsis:Waldo “W.B.” Baron is back with another amazing adventure in another incredible invention! Pirate treasure? A clandestine meeting? A terribly rude monkey with personal boundary and hygiene issues? Two of those things sound like a dream come true to W.B, whose clever inventor parents are hired―by the Vice President!―to go on a super secret and intensely important treasure hunt to repay a national debt. If only it weren’t for that lousy, rude monkey, it would be the beginning of a perfect adventure. But at least it isn’t squirrels…

The treasure hunt gives the Baron family the opportunity to use their exceptional steam-powered submarine, freshly biggened and ready for adventure! But things are seldom straightforward for the eccentric Baron family, and this treasure hunt is no exception. W.B.’s trademark bad luck has him suffering monstrous marine misfortune and marauding monkey misery.

Can the Baron family embark on their newest adventure without the eggy and depressing Aunt Dorcas? Will the Barons find the treasure they seek? Will they save the country from financial ruin? Where does the monkey fit in, anyway? Do we like asking questions? Not really, but inside you’ll meet someone who likes asking questions and then answering them (despite his claims to the contrary, he really does like it).

Oh, did we mention the pirate’s curse?


*I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review*

This is a spoiler-free review.

After reading and thoroughly enjoy the previous novel, I had no idea that there were going to be any other books following it. So I’m sure you can imagine just how excited I was when this randomly showed up on my doorstep one day. And this new installment did not disappoint—it was equally as hilarious and entertaining as the first Baron adventure. In fact, this plotline is my favorite of the two. Just like the first one, this story is a madcap adventure with the significance of family, friendship, and love at its core.

I fell even more in love with the characters Bower has created for these stories. It is so wonderful to see the new dynamic between them—building on that of the first novel. Even with the many misunderstandings that happen between the members of the Baron family throughout the course of the novel, they still remain tightknit and incredibly loving. This creates an appealing warmth in the tone and atmosphere.

In this novel, the Baron family is approached by the Vice President of the United States, who sends them off on a new adventure—this time at the bottom of the ocean. They have been given the task of tracking down a lost pirate treasure, which will be used to help the government repay a national debt.

Traveling in their steam-powered submarine, W.B. and his family go through another overly complicated journey. We follow them as they run into an enormous amount of outlandish obstacles, many involving W.B.’s usual clumsiness and his feud with a rather mischievous little monkey. However, not all is as it seems. Unsavory forces are at work, and maybe the troubles of their nautical excursion are the least of their problems.

While this is obviously not a deep and thought-provoking read and the target audience is fairly young, it is still so much fun. The characters’ wacky antics and escapades will have you laughing out loud. It is absolutely impossible to read these stories without a smile on your face. I will admit, the humor is not for everyone—older readers may not be as captivated by the childlike nature of it. In addition to that, the events of the story are quite random and jumbled, which does not negatively impact the narrative by any means—it is very fitting for the plot. However, this format is not going to be everyone’s cup of tea.

On the other hand, it is perfect for children—and for some adults, it will entertain the inner child we all have. This is one of those stories that had me wishing it had been around when I was younger. The outlandish nature of the events of the plot is what makes this story so great. One must suspend their disbelief and go along with the far-fetched and preposterous aspects of Bower’s unique version of the past.

The actual text of the novel itself is very easy to fall into and flows extremely well. Bower’s style is unquestionably a style that is appropriately accessible for the intended audience. He does a fantastic job of making the unbelievable believable—an essential part of this narrative. And at no point does it feel like it would be difficult for a child to understand or that it might make them lose interest. This book can be read as a standalone, though I personally feel that reading the series in order works a bit better.

Overall, this novel was equally as entertaining as the previous one, if not even more so. The Splendid Baron Submarine is a fast-paced and universally enjoyable read. Filled with hysterical surprises and humor that is just plain silly, this quirky tale is perfect for people of any age. This is a light and incredibly big-hearted series as a whole, and will undoubtedly pick up your spirits. I highly recommend this series to anyone looking for a warm and cheerful story or something amusing and wholesome for your child to read.

4.5 TARDISes


March 2018 TBR


I’ve realized that I’ve been doing quite a bit of reading lately but I haven’t updated you guys with TBRs or wrap-ups in quite some time! For the first time in ages, I’ve actually been sticking pretty closely to the TBRs I set for myself. And though it’s a bit on the ambitious side, I’m feeling confident about completing most of this one as well. My Goodreads challenge goal for the year is 100 books, and I’m trying for at least ten each month to give myself a little extra wiggle room. So, without further ado, here is my insanely long TBR for the month! 🙂

The Disturbed Girl’s Dictionary by NoNieqa Ramos


Macy’s school officially classifies her as “disturbed,” but Macy isn’t interested in how others define her. She’s got more pressing problems: her mom can’t move off the couch, her dad’s in prison, her brother’s been kidnapped by Child Protective Services, and now her best friend isn’t speaking to her. Writing in a dictionary format, Macy explains the world in her own terms—complete with gritty characters and outrageous endeavors. With an honesty that’s both hilarious and fearsome, slowly Macy reveals why she acts out, why she can’t tell her incarcerated father that her mom’s cheating on him, and why her best friend needs protection . . . the kind of protection that involves Macy’s machete.

The Crooked Castle by Sarah Jean Horwitz


Shortly after saving the faeries of Skemantis, magician’s apprentice Felix Carmer III and his faerie companion, Grit, head out to see the world. They soon come across a mysteriously magical flying circus. As they get to know the outlandish world of Rinka Tinka’s Roving Wonder Show, it becomes clear there’s something not quite normal about this circus or its inventor—and that recent airship disasters plaguing nearby Driftside City may have a sinister explanation. 
Fans of the Wildwood trilogy and Lockwood & Co. series will love the thrills and chills of The Crooked Castle as it takes readers up in the air with a flying circus, under the sea to the evil Unseelie kingdom, through a terrifying magical snowstorm, and on a chase with the menacing Wild Hunt.

If I Live by Terri Blackstock


Casey is hiding again—in Memphis this time—but it’s different now. She knows without a doubt that Dylan believes her and is doing all he can to help bring Brent’s killer to justice. He’s become an unexpected friend . . . and even, maybe, something more. Hope makes everything more bearable.
Casey makes a deal with the DA to turn over all the evidence she and Dylan have gathered against Keegan and Rollins—only to discover that the DA is in league with them too. After a desperate escape, who can they possibly turn to now?
Time is running out for Casey, but master suspense writer Terri Blackstock will keep readers on the edge of their seats until the last, utterly satisfying page.

The Mad Wolf’s Daughter by Diane Magras


A Scottish medieval adventure about the youngest in a war-band who must free her family from a castle prison after knights attack her home. 
One dark night, Drest’s sheltered life on a remote Scottish headland is shattered when invading knights capture her family, but leave Drest behind. Her father, the Mad Wolf of the North, and her beloved brothers are a fearsome war-band, but now Drest is the only one who can save them. So she starts off on a wild rescue attempt, taking a wounded invader along as a hostage. 
Hunted by a bandit with a dark link to her family’s past, aided by a witch whom she rescues from the stake, Drest travels through unwelcoming villages, desolate forests, and haunted towns. Every time she faces a challenge, her five brothers speak to her in her mind about courage and her role in the war-band. But on her journey, Drest learns that the war-band is legendary for terrorizing the land. If she frees them, they’ll not hesitate to hurt the gentle knight who’s become her friend.
Drest thought that all she wanted was her family back; now she has to wonder what their freedom would really mean. Is she her father’s daughter or is it time to become her own legend?

Assassin’s Apprentice by Robin Hobb


In a faraway land where members of the royal family are named for the virtues they embody, one young boy will become a walking enigma.
Born on the wrong side of the sheets, Fitz, son of Chivalry Farseer, is a royal bastard, cast out into the world, friendless and lonely. Only his magical link with animals – the old art known as the Wit – gives him solace and companionship. But the Wit, if used too often, is a perilous magic, and one abhorred by the nobility. 
So when Fitz is finally adopted into the royal household, he must give up his old ways and embrace a new life of weaponry, scribing, courtly manners; and how to kill a man secretly, as he trains to become a royal assassin.

A Gathering of Shadows by V.E. Schwab


It has been four months since a mysterious obsidian stone fell into Kell’s possession. Four months since his path crossed with Delilah Bard. Four months since Prince Rhy was wounded, and since the nefarious Dane twins of White London fell, and four months since the stone was cast with Holland’s dying body through the rift–back into Black London. 
Now, restless after having given up his smuggling habit, Kell is visited by dreams of ominous magical events, waking only to think of Lila, who disappeared from the docks as she always meant to do. As Red London finalizes preparations for the Element Games–an extravagant international competition of magic meant to entertain and keep healthy the ties between neighboring countries–a certain pirate ship draws closer, carrying old friends back into port.
And while Red London is caught up in the pageantry and thrills of the Games, another London is coming back to life. After all, a shadow that was gone in the night will reappear in the morning. But the balance of magic is ever perilous, and for one city to flourish, another London must fall.

Scarlet by Marissa Meyer


Cinder, the cyborg mechanic, returns in the second thrilling installment of the bestselling Lunar Chronicles. She’s trying to break out of prison—even though if she succeeds, she’ll be the Commonwealth’s most wanted fugitive. 
Halfway around the world, Scarlet Benoit’s grandmother is missing. When Scarlet encounters Wolf, a street fighter who may have information as to her grandmother’s whereabouts, she is loath to trust this stranger, but is inexplicably drawn to him, and he to her. As Scarlet and Wolf unravel one mystery, they encounter another when they meet Cinder. Now, all of them must stay one step ahead of the vicious Lunar Queen Levana, who will do anything for the handsome Prince Kai to become her husband, her king, her prisoner.

Scythe by Neal Shusterman


Thou shalt kill. 
A world with no hunger, no disease, no war, no misery. Humanity has conquered all those things, and has even conquered death. Now scythes are the only ones who can end life—and they are commanded to do so, in order to keep the size of the population under control. 
Citra and Rowan are chosen to apprentice to a scythe—a role that neither wants. These teens must master the “art” of taking life, knowing that the consequence of failure could mean losing their own.

Caraval by Stephanie Garber


Remember, it’s only a game… 
Scarlett Dragna has never left the tiny island where she and her sister, Tella, live with their powerful, and cruel, father. Now Scarlett’s father has arranged a marriage for her, and Scarlett thinks her dreams of seeing Caraval—the faraway, once-a-year performance where the audience participates in the show—are over. 
But this year, Scarlett’s long-dreamt-of invitation finally arrives. With the help of a mysterious sailor, Tella whisks Scarlett away to the show. Only, as soon as they arrive, Tella is kidnapped by Caraval’s mastermind organizer, Legend. It turns out that this season’s Caraval revolves around Tella, and whoever finds her first is the winner. 
Scarlett has been told that everything that happens during Caraval is only an elaborate performance. Nevertheless she becomes enmeshed in a game of love, heartbreak, and magic. And whether Caraval is real or not, Scarlett must find Tella before the five nights of the game are over or a dangerous domino effect of consequences will be set off, and her beloved sister will disappear forever.
Welcome, welcome to Caraval…beware of getting swept too far away.

City of Bones by Cassandra Clare


When fifteen-year-old Clary Fray heads out to the Pandemonium Club in New York City, she hardly expects to witness a murder― much less a murder committed by three teenagers covered with strange tattoos and brandishing bizarre weapons. Then the body disappears into thin air. It’s hard to call the police when the murderers are invisible to everyone else and when there is nothing―not even a smear of blood―to show that a boy has died. Or was he a boy? 
This is Clary’s first meeting with the Shadowhunters, warriors dedicated to ridding the earth of demons. It’s also her first encounter with Jace, a Shadowhunter who looks a little like an angel and acts a lot like a jerk. Within twenty-four hours Clary is pulled into Jace’s world with a vengeance, when her mother disappears and Clary herself is attacked by a demon. But why would demons be interested in ordinary mundanes like Clary and her mother? And how did Clary suddenly get the Sight? The Shadowhunters would like to know…
Exotic and gritty, exhilarating and utterly gripping, Cassandra Clare’s ferociously entertaining fantasy takes readers on a wild ride that they will never want to end.

Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake


When kingdom come, there will be one. 
In every generation on the island of Fennbirn, a set of triplets is born—three queens, all equal heirs to the crown and each possessor of a coveted magic. Mirabella is a fierce elemental, able to spark hungry flames or vicious storms at the snap of her fingers. Katharine is a poisoner, one who can ingest the deadliest poisons without so much as a stomachache. Arsinoe, a naturalist, is said to have the ability to bloom the reddest rose and control the fiercest of lions. 
But becoming the Queen Crowned isn’t solely a matter of royal birth. Each sister has to fight for it. And it’s not just a game of win or lose…it’s life or death. The night the sisters turn sixteen, the battle begins. 
The last queen standing gets the crown.

Megge of Bury Down by Rebecca Kightlinger



When six-year-old Megge first touches the ancient Book of Seasons, a mysterious voice accuses her of an ugly crime. Although the book is her legacy, she refuses to touch it again. If she does, she is certain she will be the death of those she loves. 
But seven years later, events conspire to force her to once again to accept her responsibility. If she refuses to take up the task, who will ensure the Book’s ancient wisdom survives, safe from the hands of those who would use it for evil?

The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee


Henry “Monty” Montague was born and bred to be a gentleman, but he was never one to be tamed. The finest boarding schools in England and the constant disapproval of his father haven’t been able to curb any of his roguish passions—not for gambling halls, late nights spent with a bottle of spirits, or waking up in the arms of women or men. 
But as Monty embarks on his Grand Tour of Europe, his quest for a life filled with pleasure and vice is in danger of coming to an end. Not only does his father expect him to take over the family’s estate upon his return, but Monty is also nursing an impossible crush on his best friend and traveling companion, Percy. 
Still it isn’t in Monty’s nature to give up. Even with his younger sister, Felicity, in tow, he vows to make this yearlong escapade one last hedonistic hurrah and flirt with Percy from Paris to Rome. But when one of Monty’s reckless decisions turns their trip abroad into a harrowing manhunt that spans across Europe, it calls into question everything he knows, including his relationship with the boy he adores.

The Jubilee Problem by Charles Veley and Anna Elliot


The year is 1897. Sherlock Holmes and Lucy James, his lovely young American daughter, must finally unmask the traitor who has crossed swords with them in their three previous adventures. Their secret adversary is now masterminding a well-orchestrated conspiracy to destroy the most glamorous event of the Century: Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee Celebration. Lucy’s growing relationship with Detective Constable Jack Kelly will be seriously tested as she and Jack work with Sherlock and Watson to defeat their murderous enemy. If they fail, the Queen and thousands of innocent people will die, and the British Empire will fall into chaos.

So, let’s see how I do! What are some books that you have on your March TBR? What books have you been reading lately? Let me know in the comments!




Review: Valley of Time by Jeremy D. Holden

valleyoftimeValley of Time: The Greatest Journey Ever Taken by Jeremy D. Holden

My Rating: 4/5 TARDISes

Series: Mal Thomas Mystery Series

Date Published: November 5th, 2017

Publisher: Clean Publishing

Pages: 262 pages

Source: Publisher

Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

Synopsis: Fast-paced, full of wit and humor, and sure to delight fans of authors like Carl Hiassen and Nick Hornby, “Valley of Time: The Greatest Journey Ever Taken” is a truly original novel from one of contemporary fiction’s most thrilling new voices. 

Mal Thomas only escaped with his life through a mixture of good fortune and divine intervention, after he and his eclectic team of cynical mad men and women were charged with promoting the alleged second coming of the Messiah, by Alfredo Baptiste, the world’s most powerful industrialist. 

Having subsequently become famous as a best-selling author—as well as an unlikely spiritual leader—after having written and promoted a book about those experiences, Mal is now approached by another enigmatic billionaire with an equally incredible proposition.

Huw Hudson, the man often described as a modern-day Howard Hughes, wants to position his company, Space Rider, as the leader in commercial space tourism. He tries to enlist Mal and his team to help promote it, with one extraordinary twist: Hudson has evidence of an alleged UFO encounter, which he thinks could damage his business plans, and he asks Mal to investigate and manage the breaking news story.

Mal discovers a deeper purpose at work, as he crisscrosses Brazil, Miami, London, and Dubai in furtherance of Hudson’s audacious ambition, while being forced to keep an unbelievable secret from the FBI and even his closest friends. In confronting his deepest fears, Mal takes us on a journey that challenges the very core of our beliefs about space and time.  

In a fast-moving and often sardonic narrative, author Jeremy Holden will have you fascinated by the extraordinary nature of the challenges that Mal and his team find themselves confronted with, as they launch a massive global campaign to promote one of the most seismic events in human history.

“Valley of Time” provides a window into the modern world of digital and social media-driven mass persuasion, while posing this pivotal question: What if you could go back to the pivotal moment in time that shaped your life. Would you try to alter your fate?


*I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review*

This is a spoiler-free review.

Given how much I enjoyed Sea of Doubt, I eagerly jumped into this novel as soon as I had finished, excited for more adventures with Holden’s very loveable characters. And I was not disappointed in the least—this is a wonderful follow up to the first story. Though I think that I slightly preferred the first story, this one is another fast and extremely entertaining read. And the comedy is superb. Holden knows how to captivate his readers and hold them all the way through the final page. I just have so much fun with his work—I’ve completely fallen in love with it.

In Valley of Time, we are back again to witness another crazy situation Mal finds himself in, as well as to see further examples of the incredible skills he and his entire CREATIF team possess when it comes to advertising outrageous subjects. And this time around, they are presenting an astonishingly major scientific development that will forever change humankind—space tourism.

Huw Hudson, the creator of a company called Space Rider, reaches out to Mal for help promoting his offered space tourism, with the goal of establishing Space Rider as the top company in the world. He also tips Mal off about some alleged evidence of extraterrestrial life popping up around the world. Sworn to secrecy, Mal is put in charge of investigating these reports as well as controlling the portrayal of these stories—and Space Rider’s accomplishments—in the media. As things progress, Mal uncovers a hidden purpose in the background of these events, one that challenges what the world knows about space and time.

At the start of the novel, I was feeling a little bit apprehensive due to the fact that it begins very similarly to the previous story in this series. However, it becomes obvious fairly quickly that the plot is going in a completely unique direction. Once again, Holden’s character depiction and development is top-notch and still my absolute favorite part of these novels. I cannot talk enough about how much I love everyone and how he involves them in the events of the plot. This is a very character driven novel, and those characters are some of the strongest I’ve seen.

Holden’s writing continues to be quite easy to fall in to, and his style of storytelling is highly engaging. He weaves very fascinating and extremely unique plotlines full of adventure and excitement. Just like the previous one, I found this story to be full of surprises, and I never really guessed what was coming next or how things would resolve. Holden manages to turn the very fictional elements into something that feels believable—it’s easy to imagine Mal going through these experiences.

Again, one of the only complaints I have in regards to the writing itself is that there is far more telling rather than showing in this novel. With this particular plot, as opposed to the first novel, that style of narrative slows things down quite a bit more. There is a lot of talk about science and technology, so the story is very description heavy. The balance between this and the action is a bit unequal, and even though I am a huge fan of science fiction and, in particular, anything to do with time travel, even I felt like the narrative got slightly bogged down a few times.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed Valley of Time, and continue to love Holden’s plotlines and characters. I’ve heard numerous people say that this novel works as a standalone, and while the plot is unique in itself and does not give away much information about the first book, there are still enough important, potentially vague references made that these stories should really be read in order—I personally feel this would make for the most enjoyable reading experience. As with the first novel, I am extremely glad that I got the chance to read this, and I am very much hoping there will be plenty more installments in this series in the future. I very highly recommend giving these novels a read.

4.0 TARDISes


Mini Review: Smoke & Mirrors by Michael Faudet

smokeandmirrorsSmoke & Mirrors by Michael Faudet

My Rating: 2.5/5 TARDISes

Series: Standalone

Date Published: November 14th, 2017

Publisher: Andrews McMeel Publishing

Pages: 240 pages

Source: Netgalley

Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

Synopsis: Smoke & Mirrors is the third book from internationally bestselling poet Michael Faudet, author of Bitter Sweet Love and Dirty Pretty Things—both finalists in the 2016 and 2015 Goodreads Readers Choice Awards.

Michael Faudet’s latest book takes the reader on an emotionally charged journey, exploring the joys of falling madly in love and the melancholy world of the brokenhearted. Beautifully captured in poetry, prose, and short stories, Faudet’s whimsical and sometimes erotic writing has captured the hearts and minds of thousands of readers from around the world.


*I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review*

Smoke & Mirrors was just one of those collections that did not click with me. The quality of writing and the messages being conveyed were not completely lost on me. The poems were generally comprehendible, and I was able to immerse myself in the work enough to get through to the end—but that was about it. At times, Faudet’s style was quite off-putting, and that caused a massive disconnect for me and blocked out any important ideas and themes. I found nothing really stood out, nothing touched me or had the impact that the author clearly intended his writing to have.

This collection as a whole does not seem like it would be easily accessible to a wide variety of readers. To me, these poems were not very poetic. The poems that had more of that proclaimed “whimsy” to them were the ones that I enjoyed the most. There were displays of love, heartbreak, happiness, and loss. These poems spoke to me—they were subjects I could connect to—and he phrased these topics in a beautiful way. Through the very beginning of this collected work, I felt much more engaged.

But then, many of the other poems in the next two thirds or so seemed very rough and graphic, taking away any lyrical aspects of the writing. Part way through the collection, the subject matter shifts abruptly into much more mature topics, which in itself is not an issue at all—poetry deals with all sorts of topics, from basic emotions to the more intimate aspects of life. The trouble I had was with the way he worded these things. I just found myself feeling uncomfortable, sometimes verging on disgusted. Again though, this is my personal opinion—definitely not a reflection of how everything comes across to every reader.

I read many positive reviews of Faudet’s work prior to picking this collection up, and I can see how his subject matter and use of language would appeal to some people. His subject matter and voice are, like most poets, very singular and attract different types of readers. This particularly came across as a very niche style—the way he portrays his thoughts and feelings is very unique and very direct. However, his writing was just not for me, and I don’t think I will be picking up any of his other collections in the future.

2.5 TARDISes


Review: The Crown Jewel Mystery by Anna Elliot

thecrownjewelmysteryThe Crown Jewel Mystery by Anna Elliot

My Rating: 4/5 TARDISes

Series: Sherlock Holmes and Lucy James Mysteries

Date Published: June 1st, 2017

Publisher: Charles Veley

Pages: 100 pages

Source: Netgalley

Links: Goodreads | Amazon

Synopsis: A young American actress arrives in London hoping to learn her identity, just as Sherlock Holmes is closing in on a master criminal. Their worlds collide, and not even Holmes could have foreseen the impact!

This novella is the prequel to The Sherlock Holmes and Lucy James Mystery series. It takes place three days before the opening of The Last Moriarty.


*I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review*

This is a spoiler-free review.

Again, I have been pleasantly surprised by another installment of this series. This is only a short novella—a prequel to the main series—but it is just as thrilling and suspenseful as the full length novels. In fact, I think this is my favorite story so far; it is incredibly captivating and full of surprises that will keep readers on their toes. We are able to go back and take a look at the origins of our characters and what eventually brings them together. It does a wonderful job of further developing backstories and fleshing out many basic aspects of the general series plotline.

In this novella, we primarily follow the perspective of Lucy James, the intelligent, brave, and witty young woman who serves as the main character in the previous novel. Lucy and her friend, Johnny Rockefeller, have just arrived in London in pursuit of the answers that have been hidden from Lucy all her life—who her family is and who has been financially supporting her all through her early years. While following a major lead, the pair suddenly find themselves embroiled in a dangerous con, one with far more twists and turns than anyone can imagine.

I had such a great time reading this story. Though they do not actually meet at this point, it is interesting to see how close Lucy comes to meeting Sherlock. They each play a crucial part in solving this mystery and bringing about justice without even knowing the other’s involvement.

Once again, we get a vivid picture of what an incredibly clever and strong heroine Lucy is. She fits in fairly easily among these other well-known characters, which adds to the plausibility of the narrative when compared against the original stories. Lucy is a very well-developed, multi-dimensional character, who holds her own and makes a solid protagonist for these novels.

Occasionally, Lucy comes across as being just a little too perfect. I always feel that one of the main elements that makes Holmes so incredible is the portrayal of his flaws that remind you he is human. This is an extremely minor complaint though—one that does not negatively affect this novella at all. It is only a point that would add even more dimension to Lucy if used.

Really the main issue that I had is essentially the same one that I had with the previous novel—I still struggle with Lucy’s familial connection to Holmes. This is absolutely nothing that Elliot did wrong; I think she does a fantastic job of making the idea of their relationship realistic and believable. However, I personally am overly picky when it comes to adding elements that really stray far from the original story to a generally faithful retelling. And I admit, the more I read from this series, the more that aspect of the plot grows on me, which is a testament to how well Elliot weaves her characters into the world of these classic tales.

Overall, this novella is a fantastic addition to the Sherlock Holmes and Lucy James Mysteries series. It is a very fun, fast-paced read that also adds more dimension to the series as a whole. We are able to see what finally brought Lucy into the paths of Holmes and Watson, as well as an early picture of her astounding powers of deduction. Though I still do have a few personal issues reconciling the details of her link to the great detective, she is a skillfully crafted mirror of him, while also retaining those things that make her a unique character in her own right. I am loving this series so far and I cannot wait to continue on with it.

4.0 TARDISes