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.

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*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

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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.

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*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

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Review: Robin Hood’s Dawn by Olivia Longueville and J.C. Plummer + Giveaway

Giveaway Open: If you would like to receive an e-book copy of Robin Hood’s Dawn, leave a comment below, let me know what your favorite retelling is if you have one, and provide a link to your Goodreads, Twitter, or an email address I can use to contact you!

Robins Hood's Dawn Book CoverRobin Hood’s Dawn by Olivia Longueville and J.C. Plummer

My Rating: 3.5/5 TARDISes

Series: The Robin Hood Trilogy

Date Published: January 16th, 2018

Publisher: Angevin World Publishing

Pages: 432 pages

Source: Publisher

Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

Synopsis: England, 1154-1194

A kingdom under assault.

A conspiracy born of anarchy.

A hero standing against tyranny.

Falsely convicted of a shocking crime, Robin Fitzooth, the Earl of Huntingdon, finds refuge in Sherwood Forest and becomes Robin Hood. 

Leading a band of men against the injustices of a malevolent sheriff and his henchmen, Robin begins to unravel a web of treachery threatening the English royal family.

As shadowy forces gather to destroy the future of a nation, Robin faces deceit, betrayal, and the ravages of war as he defends his king, his country, his people, and the woman he loves from a conspiracy so diabolical, so unexpected, that the course of history hangs in the balance. 

From the mists of an ancient woodland, to lavish royal courts teeming with intrigue, to the exotic shores of the Holy Land – Robin Hood leads the fight in a battle between good and evil, justice and tyranny, the future and the past.

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

This is a spoiler-free review.

Though I am a massive fan of any and all retellings, this reading experience was a bit different than usual. I have not actually read any Robin Hood stories yet, so I went into this knowing far less about the original source material. Typically, I don’t read retellings when I have such a small amount of knowledge of the story it’s trying to retell. However, after reading the synopsis of this novel, I absolutely could not pass it up—and I am extremely glad that I didn’t, for multiple reasons.

First and foremost, I thoroughly enjoyed my general reading experience. This exciting story and its memorable cast of characters, this fictional adventure embedded in historical fact—it all works together beautifully to create a riveting and witty narrative. Second, it was interesting for me to essentially go in blind, not having any substantial frame of reference. While I have little to no ability to compare and contrast this retelling to anything else, I feel that I have a handle on the way it comes across on its own, without any preconceived ideas of how things should be. That gave me a personally unique perspective compared to what I’m used to when it comes to retellings.

In this novel, we follow Robin Fitzooth—Earl of Huntingdon and an experienced swordsman and archer—during the events leading up to and immediately follow his transformation into the Robin Hood we all know and love. A false murder conviction sends him to Sherwood Forest and into the role of a hero, fighting for justice over a corrupt force within a country at war, all while retaining his loyalty to the king and his own integrity. He risks everything to right the wrongs inflicted on the poor and innocent, and to combat an immoral group of men who are conspiring to destroy a kingdom and threaten to harm those closest to him.

I will go ahead and say now that being unfamiliar with the original stories did not dampen my enjoyment of this novel in any way whatsoever. In fact, I am now even more eager to read those classic tales. Longueville and Plummer give us a well-rounded view of the lives as well as the familial histories of our main characters. We not only experience the adventures of Robin Hood and his men, but also witness the events that brought them together, even reaching back through multiple generations. The comprehensive rendering of fictional events woven into historical ones allows for a deeper understanding of the time period, and subsequently a multi-dimensional narrative.

I have to admit, this ended up being a bit of a slow read for me. This was not at all a reflection of the writing or story quality—rather, it was just my own ability to immerse myself in the world and plot. The text itself flows very nicely and is consistently absorbing, particularly as the action picks up a few chapters into the novel. The world-building is vivid and captures the time period well. Longueville and Plummer clearly put a lot of time and effort into researching the history that sets the stage for this adventure to play out on, and their knowledge causes the story to be even more tangible.

One thing I am unsure of is how exactly Longueville and Plummer split up the task of writing, but nonetheless, I was very impressed with the seamlessness of the text. I didn’t notice any major shifts in the writing or storytelling style, which is no small feat in a dual author narrative. The pair demonstrate a great deal of skill and knowledge in both prose and history, and make for a strong literary duo.

Longueville and Plummer do a fantastic job building three-dimensional characters who are easy to either root for or hate, and are always memorable. The relationships between the characters are beautifully depicted as well, the love story between Robin and Marian being an outstanding example. I am particularly pleased with how they portrayed Marian—while Robin is very protective of her and desperate to save her, she remains very independent, strong, and brave in a horrible situation. Robin’s relationships with the members of his band are another major highlight of this novel.

Overall, I found this to be a solid and well-crafted fantasy. Though it took me a bit longer to get through, I did feel very engaged and invested all the way to the end. Both fans of Robin Hood’s adventures as well as readers new to these characters can easily find enjoyment in this novel. While things do not end in any sort of cliffhanger, I was still left wanting more. I’m eager to see where the story goes, so I will definitely be picking up the next two installments as they come out.

3.5 TARDISes

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Review: Reign of the Fallen by Sarah Glenn Marsh

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reignofthefallenReign of the Fallen by Sarah Glenn Marsh

My Rating: 4/5 TARDISes

Series: Reign of the Fallen

Date Published: January 23rd, 2018

Publisher: Razorbill

Pages: 384 pages

Source: Publisher

Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

Synopsis: Without the dead, she’d be no one.

Odessa is one of Karthia’s master necromancers, catering to the kingdom’s ruling Dead. Whenever a noble dies, it’s Odessa’s job to raise them by retrieving their soul from a dreamy and dangerous shadow world called the Deadlands. But there is a cost to being raised: the Dead must remain shrouded. If even a hint of flesh is exposed, a grotesque transformation begins, turning the Dead into terrifying, bloodthirsty Shades.

A dramatic uptick in Shade attacks raises suspicions and fears around the kingdom. Soon, a crushing loss of one of her closest companions leaves Odessa shattered, and reveals a disturbing conspiracy in Karthia: Someone is intentionally creating Shades by tearing shrouds from the Dead–and training them to attack. Odessa is forced to contemplate a terrifying question: What if her magic is the weapon that brings the kingdom to its knees? 

Fighting alongside her fellow mages–and a powerful girl as enthralling as she is infuriating–Odessa must untangle the gruesome plot to destroy Karthia before the Shades take everything she loves.

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

This is a spoiler-free review.

I was incredibly impressed and pleasantly surprised by this novel. It can be difficult to find young adult fantasy novels that are noticeably distinct from many of the others out there. And for me, this was one of those fantasy novels that separated itself from all the rest. A truly unique and diverse narrative of strength and courage plays out against a glittering and exquisitely depicted backdrop of a kingdom falling into the hands of deception. Reign of the Fallen is one of those novels that captivates you from page one, and sweeps you into a darkly alluring world of magic and intrigue, where nothing is as it seems and friendship, family, and love are victorious.

In this novel, we follow Odessa, a young master necromancer who attends to the Dead that rule the kingdom of Karthia. With her rare abilities of sight and sense, she has served in a key role of her society, traveling into an enchanting and treacherous world called the Deadlands. Here, the spirts of those who have recently died roam until they pass on to their final resting place. Odessa and her partner carry out the ritual of returning spirits from the Deadlands back to their bodies, and their families.

However, those who are raised have a dangerous price to pay—they must remain entirely shrouded, hidden from the eyes of the living, or risk turning into a deadly creature called a Shade. Shade’s stalk the shadows of the Deadlands, feeding on both spirits—and any humans who enter this world—in order to gain size and power. Through a series of devastating losses, Odessa and the other necromancers in her community realize that something about their two worlds has shifted. Shrouded people are disappearing, Shades are materializing in Karthia, and these Shades seem to be trained to attack.

This is Sarah Glenn Marsh’s second published work, and she is already clearly displaying a remarkable amount of talent and creativity. She skillfully paints a picture of this mysterious and sinisterly magical world and the people that dwell within it. Her world building is top-notch and her character creation is solid. While not wholly unpredictable, the plot is exciting and original, and it travels at a fast pace that captures the reader’s attention. The tone of the narrative, the evolution of the characters, and the textual illustration of the setting seamlessly work together to give this story a realistic and almost tangible quality.

Both love and death have a crucial role in the way this novel’s plot unfolds. Death is a theme that shapes the society and lives of the Karthians, and is what kicks off the actions of our main characters. However, the strong love that resides in the connections between both lovers and friends is shown to contain the most power. Through pain, tragedy, and hopelessness, this is where the true strength can be found. No matter how hard death tries to reign supreme, love will always triumph. This is the message that resounds throughout the novel, and this is the true beauty that emanates from every page.

Marsh’s characters are, by far, my favorite part of this novel. She did a brilliant job of making each and every one of them memorable and three-dimensional—easy to imagine and to connect with. I became invested in these characters from the page that they entered the narrative on, and they have stuck with me long after finishing the novel. This is also where much of the diversity of this novel lies. No one is judged on appearance or gender; sexuality is not a point of contention. These topics are not dwelled on, they just are. Aside from some barriers due to position in the society of the kingdom, everyone is generally free to love and live in the way they wish.

I completely and utterly adore Odessa. In short, she is one of the most badass heroines I’ve come across in a while. She is a fighter in every sense of the word. One of my favorite parts of the way Marsh depicts Odessa is that she does not shy away from displaying Odessa’s flaws. This makes Odessa even more realistic and relatable; she is not at all a perfect heroine. She makes many mistakes and bad choices. She goes through extreme struggles and trials, fighting both outer and inner demons such as addiction as a source of mental pain relief—and yet, nothing manages to stop her. Odessa’s strength always pushes her to do the right thing, to save the people she cares about as well as herself.

The biggest surprise of this novel for me was how much I actually liked the romantic aspects of the plot. I’m not someone who often tends to enjoy stories that focus too heavily on romance, and romance is a massive part of this particular book. However, it has an incredibly pivotal role in the direction of the narrative, and therefore is very necessary for many of the events that play out.

Romance is by no means a trivial aspect of the plot or a distraction from the most important events. This is what brings our main characters together and gives them the courage and determination to fight back and protect the people of Karthia. Marsh creates very sweet and beautiful romances, as tangible as her characters themselves, and very fitting to the plot.

Overall, I found this novel to be refreshingly unique and compelling. There is so much creativity and detail put into the creation of both Karthia and the Deadlands, making it exceptionally easy to enter in your mind. The main characters are lovable, and Marsh crafts them in a way that makes the reader come to be deeply invested in their lives and their fates. Very well-written, carefully crafted and paced, this story has remained with me and grown on me more and more as I’ve thought about it. Though this could easily be a perfectly satisfying standalone, I have very high hopes for the future novels of this series, and I’m looking forward to seeing where it goes in further installments.

4.0 TARDISes

Author Bio:

sarahglennmarshSarah Glenn Marsh has been an avid fantasy reader from the day her dad handed her a copy of The Hobbit and promised it would change her life; she’s been making up words and worlds ever since. When she’s not writing, Sarah enjoys painting, ghost hunting, traveling, and all things nerdy.

She lives in Richmond, Virginia, with her husband and their menagerie: four rescued greyhounds, a bird, and many fish. She is the author of Fear the Drowning Deep and Reign of the Fallen.

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Top Ten Tuesday – December 19th, 2017

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Happy Tuesday, everyone! It’s time for another Top 10 Tuesday list. This is an original weekly blog meme created over at The Broke and the Bookish. Each week, there is a new bookish topic for bloggers to create a list about. If you want to know more about Top 10 Tuesday, click here!

This week’s Top 10 Tuesday topic is the top ten books you hope Santa brings! This is, by far, the easiest possible list that I can ever put together. These days, I never really want much when it comes time for a gift giving occasion—I much prefer giving gifts, and having people donate to charities in my name instead of giving me something. But when Christmas or my birthday comes around and I am forced to decide on at least a few things I want, I only ever have one answer—BOOKS! Um…do you want something other than books? …MORE BOOKS!

The Adventurers Guild by Zack Loran Clark and Nick Eliopulos

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Few ever asked to join the Adventurers Guild. . . . Their members often died young.
In one of the last cities standing after the world fell to monsters, best friends Zed Kagari and Brock Dunderfel have high hopes for the future. Zed desperately wishes to join the ranks of the Mages Guild, where his status as Freestone’s only half elf might finally be an asset. Brock, the roguishly handsome son of merchants, is confident he’ll be welcomed into the ranks of the Merchants Guild.
But just as it seems the boys’ dreams have come true, their lives take a startling turn . . . and they find themselves members of the perilous Adventurers Guild.
Led by the fearsome Alabasel Frond, the guild acts as the last line of defense against the Dangers-hungry, unnatural beasts from otherworldly planes. And when the boys uncover a conspiracy that threatens all of Freestone, Zed, Brock, and their new allies-Liza, a fierce noble, and Jett, a brave dwarf-must prove their worth once and for all.
This start of a thrilling new series is sure to be a hit with readers who like their fantasies clever and action-packed, with tons of humor and heart.

A List of Cages by Robin Roe

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When Adam Blake lands the best elective ever in his senior year, serving as an aide to the school psychologist, he thinks he’s got it made. Sure, it means a lot of sitting around, which isn’t easy for a guy with ADHD, but he can’t complain, since he gets to spend the period texting all his friends. Then the doctor asks him to track down the troubled freshman who keeps dodging her, and Adam discovers that the boy is Julian—the foster brother he hasn’t seen in five years.
Adam is ecstatic to be reunited. At first, Julian seems like the boy he once knew. He’s still kindhearted. He still writes stories and loves picture books meant for little kids. But as they spend more time together, Adam realizes that Julian is keeping secrets, like where he hides during the middle of the day, and what’s really going on inside his house. Adam is determined to help him, but his involvement could cost both boys their lives…

An Enchantment of Ravens by Margaret Rogerson

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A skilled painter must stand up to the ancient power of the faerie courts—even as she falls in love with a faerie prince—in this gorgeous debut novel.
Isobel is a prodigy portrait artist with a dangerous set of clients: the sinister fair folk, immortal creatures who cannot bake bread, weave cloth, or put a pen to paper without crumbling to dust. They crave human Craft with a terrible thirst, and Isobel’s paintings are highly prized. But when she receives her first royal patron—Rook, the autumn prince—she makes a terrible mistake. She paints mortal sorrow in his eyes—a weakness that could cost him his life.
Furious and devastated, Rook spirits her away to the autumnlands to stand trial for her crime. Waylaid by the Wild Hunt’s ghostly hounds, the tainted influence of the Alder King, and hideous monsters risen from barrow mounds, Isobel and Rook depend on one another for survival. Their alliance blossoms into trust, then love—and that love violates the fair folks’ ruthless laws. Now both of their lives are forfeit, unless Isobel can use her skill as an artist to fight the fairy courts. Because secretly, her Craft represents a threat the fair folk have never faced in all the millennia of their unchanging lives: for the first time, her portraits have the power to make them feel.

The Darkest Corners by Kara Thomas

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The Darkest Corners is a psychological thriller about the lies little girls tell, and the deadly truths those lies become.
There are ghosts around every corner in Fayette, Pennsylvania. Tessa left when she was nine and has been trying ever since not to think about it after what happened there that last summer. Memories of things so dark will burn themselves into your mind if you let them. 
Callie never left. She moved to another house, so she doesn’t have to walk those same halls, but then Callie always was the stronger one. She can handle staring into the faces of her demons—and if she parties hard enough, maybe one day they’ll disappear for good.
Tessa and Callie have never talked about what they saw that night. After the trial, Callie drifted and Tessa moved, and childhood friends just have a way of losing touch.
But ever since she left, Tessa has had questions. Things have never quite added up. And now she has to go back to Fayette—to Wyatt Stokes, sitting on death row; to Lori Cawley, Callie’s dead cousin; and to the one other person who may be hiding the truth.
Only the closer Tessa gets to the truth, the closer she gets to a killer—and this time, it won’t be so easy to run away.

Nevermoor: The Trials of Morrigan Crow by Jessica Townsend

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A breathtaking, enchanting new series by debut author Jessica Townsend, about a cursed girl who escapes death and finds herself in a magical world–but is then tested beyond her wildest imagination
Morrigan Crow is cursed. Having been born on Eventide, the unluckiest day for any child to be born, she’s blamed for all local misfortunes, from hailstorms to heart attacks–and, worst of all, the curse means that Morrigan is doomed to die at midnight on her eleventh birthday.
But as Morrigan awaits her fate, a strange and remarkable man named Jupiter North appears. Chased by black-smoke hounds and shadowy hunters on horseback, he whisks her away into the safety of a secret, magical city called Nevermoor.
It’s then that Morrigan discovers Jupiter has chosen her to contend for a place in the city’s most prestigious organization: the Wundrous Society. In order to join, she must compete in four difficult and dangerous trials against hundreds of other children, each boasting an extraordinary talent that sets them apart–an extraordinary talent that Morrigan insists she does not have. To stay in the safety of Nevermoor for good, Morrigan will need to find a way to pass the tests–or she’ll have to leave the city to confront her deadly fate.

The Nethergrim by Matthew Jobin

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According to legend, the knight Tristan and the wizard Vithric had once defeated an ancient evil in an epic battle. Yet now something dark has crept over the village. First animals disappear, then children. 
Edmund’s brother is among the missing. Now Edmund, with his mediocre skills in spellcraft, must find a way to save his brother’s life. He and his friends set out to battle the monstrous evil and discover their destinies. But what happens when the dark secrets of the past are unveiled?

The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin

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

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

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An audacious, darkly glittering novel set in the eerie days of civilization’s collapse, Station Eleven tells the spellbinding story of a Hollywood star, his would-be savior, and a nomadic group of actors roaming the scattered outposts of the Great Lakes region, risking everything for art and humanity.
One snowy night a famous Hollywood actor slumps over and dies onstage during a production of King Lear. Hours later, the world as we know it begins to dissolve. Moving back and forth in time-from the actor’s early days as a film star to fifteen years in the future, when a theater troupe known as the Traveling Symphony roams the wasteland of what remains – this suspenseful, elegiac, spellbinding novel charts the strange twists of fate that connect five people: the actor, the man who tried to save him, the actor’s first wife, his oldest friend, and a young actress with the Traveling Symphony, caught in the crosshairs of a dangerous self-proclaimed prophet.  
Sometimes terrifying, sometimes tender, Station Eleven tells a story about the relationships that sustain us, the ephemeral nature of fame, and the beauty of the world as we know it.

The Looking Glass Wars by Frank Beddor

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Alyss of Wonderland?
When Alyss Heart, heir to the Wonderland throne, must flee through the Pool of Tears to escape the murderous aunt Redd, she finds herself lost and alone in Victorian London. Befriended by an aspiring author named Lewis Carrol, Alyss tells the violent, heartbreaking story of her young life. Alyss trusts this author to tell the truth so that someone, somewhere will find her and bring her home. But he gets the story all wrong. He even spells her name incorrectly!
Fortunately, Royal Bodyguard Hatter Madigan knows all too well the awful truth of Alyss’ story and he is searching every corner of our world to find the lost princess and return her to Wonderland so she may eventually battle Redd for her rightful place as the Queen of Hearts.
The Looking Glass Wars unabashedly challenges our Wonderland assumptions surrounding mad tea parties, grinning Cheshire cats, and a curious little blond girl to reveal an epic battle in the endless war for Imagination.

The Chaos of Standing Still by Jessica Brody

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Over the course of one chaotic night stranded at the Denver airport, Ryn confronts her shattered past thanks to the charm of romance, the uniqueness of strangers, and the magic of ordinary places in this stunning novel from the author of Boys of Summer.
Ryn has one unread text message on her phone. And it’s been there for almost a year.
She hasn’t tried to read it. She can’t. She won’t. Because that one message is the last thing her best friend ever said to her before she died. 
But as Ryn finds herself trapped in the Denver International Airport on New Year’s Eve thanks to a never-ending blizzard on the one-year anniversary of her best friend’s death, fate literally runs into her.
And his name is Xander.
When the two accidentally swap phones, Ryn and Xander are thrust into the chaos of an unforgettable all-night adventure, filled with charming and mysterious strangers, a secret New Year’s Eve bash, and a possible Illuminati conspiracy hidden within the Denver airport. But as the bizarre night continues, all Ryn can think about is that one unread text message. It follows her wherever she goes, because Ryn can’t get her brialliantly wild and free-spirited best friend out of her head.
Ryn can’t move on. 
But tonight, for the first time ever, she’s trying. And maybe that’s a start.
As moving as it is funny, The Chaos of Standing Still is a heartwarming story about the earth-shattering challenges life throws at us—and the unexpected strangers who help us along the way.

Bonus: Any of the Harry Potter Illustrated Editions!

What books are you guys hoping to get for the holidays, or what books are currently on your general wishlist? Let me know in the comments!

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Review: Sea of Doubt by Jeremy D. Holden

seaofdoubtSea of Doubt: The Greatest Story Ever Sold by Jeremy D. Holden

My Rating: 4/5 TARDISes

Series: Mal Thomas Mystery Series

Date Published: October 2nd, 2016

Publisher: Clean Publishing

Pages: 252 pages

Source: Publisher

Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

Synopsis: After leaving behind a brilliant, but emotionally exhausting career in advertising, Mal Thomas wants nothing more than to enjoy the peace and serenity of the home he and his wife share in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina. That serenity is interrupted when, seemingly out of nowhere, Mal gets a call that pulls him back into his old world, and on a path to undertaking an extraordinary assignment: Alfredo Baptiste, the world’s most powerful and mysterious industrialist wants Mal to promote the alleged second coming of the Messiah.  

As Mal and his team of cynical “Mad” men and women confront their own doubts about the validity of Baptiste’s seemingly ridiculous claim that his adopted son Sebastian is this new Messiah, they can’t resist the challenge, and find themselves thrust into a world of greed and revenge.

In a fast moving and often sardonic narrative that crisscrosses New York, North Carolina, Miami, and Buenos Aires, Sea of Doubt has its roots in our endless obsession with fame and pop-culture. As Mal’s team develops an unstoppable global campaign, a worldwide media feeding frenzy ensues, causing people to set aside all logic and reason, leading to tragic consequences.

Baptiste’s motivation is ultimately revealed in a twisted and unexpected ending as parallel worlds and a seismic conspiracy explode in an ending that will make you wonder how you didn’t see it coming earlier.

Sea of Doubt provides a window into human nature and media driven mass persuasion, forcing us to look at consequences of the choices we make. You will laugh out loud at the absurdity of the challenges that Mal and his team find themselves confronted with, while at the same time being forced to examine the role we all play in enabling the media to shape our thinking, and dictate our lives.

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

This is a spoiler-free review.

I had some hesitations going into this novel, as I was not sure it was quite the type of story that would really interest me. The idea of looking at advertising from a psychological perspective very much piqued my curiosity—I find it fascinating to see how certain media tactics are designed to affect us all both individually and as a society. On the other side of things, I am not typically a huge fan of novels that delve too deeply into the topic of religion, and I didn’t know what to expect in that area. It’s not that I am disinterested and much more that I feel religion is a very private subject, so I hoped it would not put me off.

However, I absolutely could not have predicted how much I would end up truly enjoying this novel. The synopsis does not even begin to cover all the unique aspects of this engrossing and fast-paced narrative. And with an incredibly unexpected twist in the final chapters, even though it felt a bit rushed into the plot, I was kept on the edge of my seat all the way through.

In this novel, we follow Mal Thomas—a retired advertising agent who gets roped back in to work on his craziest assignment yet. He is called in to collaborate with his former advertising company, CREATIF, by one of the world’s most powerful men, Alfredo Baptiste. Baptiste claims that his adopted son, Sebastian, is the Messiah, and requests Mal and his former CREATIF team’s help in introducing this topic to the world. Despite his personal doubts, Mal is taken by Baptiste’s sincerity and agrees to assist him, but not all is as it seems. Some people’s true motives are not clear, and this entire process leads to shocking and devastating consequences that no one saw coming.

Following a short initial hook, the novel starts out at a bit of a slow pace as Holden introduces us to the main characters and their backstories. This could have easily made it a bit harder to get into, but I felt he did a good job of not only carefully constructing and acquainting us with the characters, but also of immediately bringing them to life. And very briefly, after the introduction of the main plot line, the speed ramps up exponentially.

We are quickly swept up into the life of Mal Thomas and his colleagues as they tackle this controversial and seemingly impossible task of convincing the world that the second coming of the Messiah is indeed happening. Figuring out the psychology of marketing something as stunning as this is going to be the biggest challenge they have ever faced. Not only do they have to contend with the resistance and backlash that is sure to come from the public, they have to wrestle with their own personal doubts and skepticism.

I really enjoyed this peek at the behind-the-scenes workings of mass media and advertising, and the planning that goes into campaigns that are effective on the public. We get to see the sort of power these images have over all of us—whether we realize it or not—as well as the underlying purposes that these promotions and movements can have. As shown here in this story, there are both good and bad intentions floating around in this aspect of society. Sometimes, these movements can spark wonderful things, bringing people together as a community. At other times however, there are darker schemes at work, many times revolving around greed.

The best part of this novel, by far, are the characters—Holden does an absolutely brilliant job of creating interesting, three-dimensional characters that carry the story to new levels. As I mentioned before, he takes a good amount of time crafting the personalities and backstories of every single person, not allowing any of them to come across as insignificant or not fully fleshed out. And Mal is the most fantastic narrator—one of my new favorites. He is humorous, intelligent, and kind-hearted, such an easy character to fall in love with. Reading from his perspective is a joy.

As for the writing itself, I found Holden’s work to be very easy to fall into, and it flowed nicely from beginning to end. His talent in every aspect of storytelling is abundantly clear, as well as his background knowledge of advertising and the persuasiveness of media. He manages to produce an entertaining and at many times hilarious narrative, while also inserting information and serious circumstances that are very relevant in today’s world.

It is a quick and extremely fun read, while also having quite a surprising amount of depth to it. The only real complaint that I had was that there was far more telling than showing, which was not a huge detriment, but definitely slowed down the pace just a bit.

Overall, I am so glad that I took the chance and decided to give this book a try—it ended up being even better than I had hoped. Though it wasn’t absolutely perfect, it was certainly a page-turner, and one of the most unique plotlines I’ve come across recently. Skillfully plotted and unraveled at a fitting pace, Mal Thomas and his quirky personality will captivate readers from page one. I enjoyed experiencing all the twists and turns this story took, as well as spending time with some of my new favorite literary characters. I’ve already gone on and read the sequel, and I am looking forward to talking about that one soon as well.

4.0 TARDISes

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Mini Review: Vertigo: Of Love & Letting Go by Analog De Leon

vertigoVertigo: Of Love & Letting Go by Analog De Leon

My Rating: 4/5 TARDISes

Series: Standalone

Date Published: November 21st, 2017

Publisher: Andrews McMeel Publishing

Pages: 176 pages

Source: Netgalley

Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

Synopsis: In this modern epic poem, poet Analog de Leon (Chris Purifoy) offers an empowering message to anyone who has loved, lost, or yearned for freedom. 

Inspired by the life of Syrian Saint Simeon Stylites, a 4th-century Monk who lived for many years on a small platform atop a pillar, Vertigo encourages introspection, contemplation, and self-love.

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

I was intrigued by the description of this work when I first discovered it, but I also was not quite sure what to expect from it going in. The whole concept of a modern epic poem sounded very unique, and I was eager to see what a present day take on this classic form of literature would be like. I assumed I might end up being sort of skeptical and critical given not only my general pickiness when it comes to poetry, but also because of the unconventional nature of this particular work. However, I ended up enjoying every aspect of this far more than I could have anticipated—it definitely exceeded my expectations.

As this is an epic poem, it is all one connected story rather than a collection of individual poems. Because of this style, it is broken up into small, simple sections of text, punctuated by beautiful and surreal illustrations that work to enhance the overall atmosphere the poem gives off. Everything comes together to radiate the enormity of the world of human emotion, as well as the vast expanse of universe itself compared to us as humans. Each little piece is quite straightforward, and they slowly build on each other to create the journey of the narrator as he acknowledges the pain of loss and the great power of love. As a whole, there is so much depth and positivity to be found within the full message that this work conveys. Personally, the strength in the text and the accompanying imagery really made quite an impact on me.

One other extremely interesting and unique aspect of this poem is the online media that can be viewed in connection with it. The book provides links to a website that takes you on a virtual tour through the same emotions and message that the actual text does. With animations in the style of the illustrations in the poem and atmospheric music to listen to as you read, this becomes a very distinctive reading experience. Overall, this is the type of modern poetry that I have come to love—poetry that uses fairly simple and easily accessible language to express much deeper emotions and cause significant personal introspection. Everyone will have a truly personal journey with this poem.

4.0 TARDISes

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