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ARCs Book Reviews Books Fantasy Featured Fiction Romance

Midnight at the Blackbird Café by Heather Webber

Heather Webber’s Midnight at the Blackbird Cafe is a captivating blend of magical realism, heartwarming romance, and small-town Southern charm.

Midnight at the Blackbird CaféMidnight at the Blackbird Café by Heather Webber

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

FTC disclosure: I would like to thank Macmillan/Forge Books for providing me with an advance reader copy via Wunderkind PR.

This was a heartwarming read and I’d recommend it to anyone, especially for who enjoy books that you want to take your time with and ponder, those who enjoy a bit of magical realism, a plot taking place around a charming cafe set in the American south, and those who enjoy reads by Sarah Addison Allen.

It would also make an excellent book club read.

If you are drawn to the lovely title, the lovely cover, and are expecting a sweet and meaningful story to match, you won’t be disappointed. This one lingered with me, especially the quote “There were times, like right now, when it felt as though I’d been grieving my whole life long. Probably because I had been.”

I really enjoyed the author, Heather Webber’s writing style as it drew out the beautiful atmosphere and real emotion of the characters. There was great insight into each character’s emotion as they dealt with loss, their life choices, and each other’s outcome.

There was a middle-fourth to fifth of the book where the premise started to be a bit drawn out and being much much more descriptive in style. Not meandering in the sense because the focus remained, but sort of caught up in descriptive details rather than more about the depth of what was to come and sort of double-backed in that which was already established. However it certainly picked up again and soon I was even more intrigued by the level of mystery and connectivity among the characters as events led up to find the truth.

Discussion of life including business, penmanship, southern cooking, gossip, tragedy, building of friendship and family bonds, and just enjoying conversation and each other’s company as well as the precious things in life helped to keep the story grounded, while the birds brought a certain depth and validity to humanistic expression. The quote, for example “We survive on sweet tea and complaining, plain and simple. Mostly the sweet tea, if I’m tellin’ it to you straight.”

There were excerpts to guide the story along as well which I thought was helpful and confirming.

Also the perfect read for this summer!

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Book Reviews Books Fantasy Featured

Ragnarok Unwound by Kristin Jacques

Prophecies don’t untangle themselves.

Just ask Ikepela Ives, whose estranged mother left her with the power to unravel the binding threads of fate. Stuck with immortal power in a mortal body, Ives has turned her back on the duty she never wanted.

But it turns out she can’t run from her fate forever, not now that Ragnarok has been set in motion and the god at the center of that tangled mess has gone missing. With a ragtag group of companions—including a brownie, a Valkyrie, and the goddess of death herself—Ives embarks on her first official mission as Fate Cipher—to save the world from doomsday.

Ragnarok UnwoundRagnarok Unwound by Kristin Jacques

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Edit: Apparently I didn’t understand it as well as I thought I did. I was discussing the book with another reader and I guess I was a little more confused than I thought I initially was. I feel that has changed what I knew to be significant in moving the plot forward as well as character development… I thought two of the main characters were sisters? I thought they shared the same dad? And the titles everyone held?

I still adored the writing style which was playful and compelling, reflecting the adventurous nature of the plot. With a spin on mythological characters consisting of both a mesh of creative and original thought, I enjoyed the introduction and intermingling of each role and the pacing throughout the book.

And the bits of humor, many of which were relative to my childhood, along with modern day perspective, added a unique freshness to legendary aspects of tales that are fun to be told. I spent quite some time cross-checking and appreciating the glossary, which led me into several fascinating Wikipedia spirals, adding to my excitement for the next book.

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Audiobooks Book Clubs Book Reviews Books Classics Fantasy Featured Fiction Historical Fiction

The House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende

In one of the most important and beloved Latin American works of the twentieth century, Isabel Allende weaves a luminous tapestry of three generations of the Trueba family, revealing both triumphs and tragedies.

Here is patriarch Esteban, whose wild desires and political machinations are tempered only by his love for his ethereal wife, Clara, a woman touched by an otherworldly hand. Their daughter, Blanca, whose forbidden love for a man Esteban has deemed unworthy infuriates her father, yet will produce his greatest joy: his granddaughter Alba, a beautiful, ambitious girl who will lead the family and their country into a revolutionary future.

The House of the Spirits is an enthralling saga that spans decades and lives, twining the personal and the political into an epic novel of love, magic, and fate.

The House of the SpiritsThe House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende

My rating: 1 of 5 stars

This one just wasn’t for me. It was too fanciful, wordy, and just plain weird for my taste. I read this for Life’s Library Book Club. It was not likely one I would pick up on my own though, but I did give it a good try and I know other people will love it.

I converted my reading experience to audiobook about half way through to see if it would help bring me into the more positively popular perspective about this book, but I just couldn’t get into it. I don’t want to discourage anyone from reading it though as other people would probably relate to it more than me and might find themselves better immersed in the story.

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Categories
Adventure Book Reviews Books Childrens Classics Fantasy Featured Fiction

Watership Down by Richard Adams

Set in England’s Downs, a once idyllic rural landscape, this stirring tale of adventure, courage and survival follows a band of very special creatures on their flight from the intrusion of man and the certain destruction of their home. Led by a stouthearted pair of friends, they journey forth from their native Sandleford Warren through the harrowing trials posed by predators and adversaries, to a mysterious promised land and a more perfect society.

Watership Down (Watership Down, #1)Watership Down by Richard Adams

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I really enjoyed this book. I’d recommend it to anyone, adults and children alike.

The stories were exciting, fun, and adventurous. It really dove into the life, activities, and perspective of rabbits. With moments of satisfaction, adversity, and the ever presence of potential danger, there were precious and sad parts coupled with elements of moral value in the overall theme. Some bits did drone on a bit, but I appreciated the level of detail in which the writing brought the characters to life, capturing both the docile spirit yet swift and protective nature of these animals.

Because of the greater amount of characters, I’d really be curious as to how this might be in audio format.

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Categories
Book Reviews Books Fantasy Featured Fiction Romance

Lost Lake by Sarah Addison Allen

From the author of the beloved bestseller Garden Spells comes a beautiful, haunting story of old loves and new, and the power of the connections that bind us forever…

Lost Lake (Lost Lake, #1)Lost Lake by Sarah Addison Allen

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I was drawn in by the beautiful cover and it was everything I hoped it would be! I would recommend it to anyone who is looking for a woodsy, magical, yet emotionally realistic story shrouded in mystery and intrigue, basically a read that looks like the book cover.

I loved the author, Sarah Addison Allen’s writing style and character development. It was thought-provoking and not a bunch of filler. The storyline was well-supported with an interwoven depth of ideas that were built along, but not revealed too soon or too late. It was an emotionally touching, yet refreshing and a satisfying read.

The photo postcards in the book were a nice touch.

I believe it’s a series and I’ll be looking forward to reading the next one.

MY FAVORITE LINES:

“When your cup is empty, you do not mourn what is gone.”

“Selma, if you keep acting like you don’t care, pretty soon everyone is going to believe you.”

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Audiobooks Book Reviews Books Fantasy Featured Fiction Historical Fiction

Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders

In his long-awaited first novel, American master George Saunders delivers his most original, transcendent, and moving work yet. Unfolding in a graveyard over the course of a single night, narrated by a dazzling chorus of voices, Lincoln in the Bardo is a literary experience unlike any other—for no one but Saunders could conceive it.

Lincoln in the BardoLincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was such an unusual yet interesting read. I listened to it via audiobook which I would recommend. The format was confusing and difficult to follow, even to the point that I initially thought there was an issue with the audio recording. However after going back and reading reviews, I realized that this was intentional. Anyway the audio narration made all the difference and helped to better define each perspective being told especially since it was told like a documentary but without any context or connection between scenes.

I’d recommend it to anyone who is looking for something totally different and refreshing from a writing style point of view. I appreciated the language and candor brought into each topic. It was more about expression in the here and now than the actual direction and flow of a cohesive story which somehow added an element of intrigue.

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Categories
Audiobooks Book Reviews Books Fantasy Featured Fiction Humor

Island of the Sequined Love Nun by Christopher Moore

Take a wonderfully crazed excursion into the demented heart of a tropical paradise—a world of cargo cults, cannibals, mad scientists, ninjas, and talking fruit bats. Our bumbling hero is Tucker Case, a hopeless geek trapped in a cool guy’s body, who makes a living as a pilot for the Mary Jean Cosmetics Corporation. But when he demolishes his boss’s pink plane during a drunken airborne liaison, Tuck must run for his life from Mary Jean’s goons. Now there’s only one employment opportunity left for him: piloting shady secret missions for an unscrupulous medical missionary and a sexy blond high priestess on the remotest of Micronesian hells. Here is a brazen, ingenious, irreverent, and wickedly funny novel from a modern master of the outrageous.

Island of the Sequined Love NunIsland of the Sequined Love Nun by Christopher Moore

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This was absolutely hilarious. I listened to it via audiobook which was narrated by Oliver Wyman who was incredible at diversifying characters. I’d recommend it to anyone who is looking for an entertaining story and anyone who enjoys humor and satyr.

The writing, characters, and storyline were all well thought out and executed in a fun way with plot twists and concepts that definitely kept me amused and laughing the entire time.

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Book Clubs Book Reviews Books Fantasy Featured Fiction Science Fiction

The Giver by Lois Lowry

Twelve-year-old Jonas lives in a seemingly ideal world. Not until he is given his life assignment as the Receiver does he begin to understand the dark secrets behind this fragile community.

The GiverThe Giver by Lois Lowry

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I read it for SunBeamsJess Book Club. I’d recommend it to people who are looking for a read that explores ideas of extreme societal concepts.

I enjoyed reading about the main character’s overall life and behavior that gave rise to setting up the plot in which there was a society that boasted about its ability to achieve perfection through sameness and oppression. I thought most of these parts were well-written and that this initial idea was going to take off to help build up to an eye-opening message. I found myself a tad disappointed when it built up to a climax that that ended up pivoting its strength on pure fantasy.

The writing started out with choppy sentences that read like an overworked attempt to not start sentences with the same word. The story moved incredibly slow for about the first half of the book and some parts felt a bit repetitive when attempting to set up the scene. However the second half got significantly better once everything started to happen in present tense.

I found it a tad difficult to fully embrace the direction the writer was trying to take me and what I was already supposed to know. Perhaps it was because the storyline developed into strange separations of function and dysfunction without much definition or distinction of either.

It presented a family unit that pretty much only lived on only concrete thinking and the main character, Jonas, was eventually introduced to abstract thinking, but it’s only through the supernatural transposition of memories that he was able to do this. So it left me wondering, what was the point of having forbidden books? In a way, the abstract concept of feelings existed the whole time (even when they weren’t exactly referenced that way). But why would books be forbidden for citizens to read when they wouldn’t be able to conceptualize them through memories which they supposedly never had in the first place?

It was an interesting idea but there were many humanistic qualities that were put into boxes of black and white thinking that were ill-defined from the beginning which threw off the whole concept of co-existing societies with extreme contrasting norms. This resulted in plot holes that were filled in with fantasy. Then it ended.

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Categories
Book Reviews Books Fantasy Featured Fiction Humor Science Fiction

Off to Be the Wizard by Scott Meyer

Martin Banks is just a normal guy who has made an abnormal discovery: he can manipulate reality, thanks to reality being nothing more than a computer program. With every use of this ability, though, Martin finds his little “tweaks” have not escaped notice. Rather than face prosecution, he decides instead to travel back in time to the Middle Ages and pose as a wizard.

What could possibly go wrong?

An American hacker in King Arthur’s court, Martin must now train to become a full-fledged master of his powers, discover the truth behind the ancient wizard Merlin… and not, y’know, die or anything.

Off to Be the Wizard (Magic 2.0, #1)Off to Be the Wizard by Scott Meyer

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Loved this book, it was awesome! I would highly recommend it to anyone who is looking for a fun, adventurous, light-hearted, entertaining read. It’s a fantasy tale with an underlying theme of computer science so anyone who can relate to those skills as a profession or has insight into computer literacy from a generational standpoint will defintely appreciate its premise.

The author, Scott Meyer, wrote the book in a straightforward, easily guided, yet discoverable manner. The protagonist struggled with internal and external influences over his feelings, primarily those of doubt, accomplishment, and ambiguous sentiments that made for a relatable theme. There were a few moments that read a little slower and parts of detail-ridden dialogue that could have probably been better summed up, but they did make for an interesting addition to the narrative nonetheless. I loved the plot with running parallels of modern and ancient age, wizardry legend, and time travel. They were all connected by hacking activity with creative interjections of generational and technological humor which made for a book that I couldn’t put down and ended up reading it in one sitting.

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ARCs Book Reviews Books Fantasy Featured Fiction Historical Fiction Horror

Dracul by J.D. Barker, Dacre Stoker

The prequel to Dracula, inspired by notes and texts left behind by the author of the classic novel, Dracul is a riveting novel of gothic suspense that reveals not only Dracula’s true origins but Bram Stoker’s — and the tale of the enigmatic woman who connects them.

DraculDracul by J.D. Barker

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

FTC disclosure: I would like to thank Penguin Random House for providing me with an advance reader copy via access to the galley for free through the First to Read program. All opinions are my own. Not sponsored.

Loved this! The writing was beautiful. I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys historical fiction, suspense, supernatural thrillers, gothic literature, or horror genres and also to anyone interested in the backstory of Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Stoker’s early life, and his inspiration for authorship.

The authors, Dacre Stoker and J.D. Barker, did an amazing job with the preservation of the characteristic epistolary relationship to the narrative and changing of multiple points of view, dialogues, voices, tenses, settings, and time. The original thought was upheld and intention of the story and presentation was well executed in a way that I think brought proud justice to the works of Bram Stoker, as well as his writing process and personal life.

The tone was one of discovery and intrigue as it depicted feats beyond human strength within an allegorical context. This included revelations of Bram Stoker in life and story, which was further explained in the authors’ note and was fascinating to read. The language, syntax, and decision-making within the plot, though written in a retrospective manner, this being a prequel, maintained authenticity of the time it was written and complimented the original novel and original journal entries and letters perfectly. I loved the language, expression, and descriptions used, being from the 19th century timeframe, which showcased both the talents of the authors as writers and the essence of classic gothic literature. The characters, both protagonists and antagonists alike, had individual qualities with depth, passion, and a moral code to each their own that shed light into the driving theme of vampirism and offered an understanding of all its attributes and rationales.

As far as the plot itself, it was a real page-turner and I thoroughly enjoyed the way it was organized chronologically as it unfolded into a deeper interconnection of subplots. The shaping of the story was compelling as was the climax and epilogue. It followed a gripping timeline of events that captured the themes, imagination, drama, and emotion of the original Dracula novel, in addition to having a complete set of characteristics for a stand alone novel in its own right as well.

MY FAVORITE LINES: To be revealed upon final publication.

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Audiobooks Book Reviews Books Classics Fantasy Featured Fiction Science Fiction

1984 by George Orwell

The year 1984 has come and gone, but George Orwell’s prophetic, nightmarish vision in 1949 of the world we were becoming is timelier than ever. 1984 is still the great modern classic of “negative utopia”—a startlingly original and haunting novel that creates an imaginary world that is completely convincing, from the first sentence to the last four words. No one can deny the novel’s hold on the imaginations of whole generations, or the power of its admonitions—a power that seems to grow, not lessen, with the passage of time.

19841984 by George Orwell

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Excellent book! This was a reread for me, having initially read it in high school and it was amazing to think how relevant the concepts are to today. I actually listened to it this time around as an audiobook, narrated by Simon Prebble which was excellent. I would recommend it to everyone.

The author, George Orwell, was a genius at conveying terrifying, yet fascinating hypothetical scenarios that were engaging and relevant from concept to implementation. Only thing is, is that the concepts and unfolding of scenes really weren’t far off from truth and the tone remained insistent of the consequence of those truths. The characters each had a specific supportive role that helped to depict intellectual and emotional response that drove the storyline. This made for a chilling, yet sound plot that developed into fearful characteristics that come with a society that experiences corruption, deception, and ultimately dehumanization.

FAVORITE LINES:

“War is peace.
Freedom is slavery.
Ignorance is strength.”

“The best books… are those that tell you what you know already.”

“If you want to keep a secret, you must also hide it from yourself.”

“It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.”

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Categories
Book Reviews Books Fantasy Featured Fiction Horror Science Fiction

Zombies vs Aliens by Kristin Jacques

The zombie apocalypse has come and gone, the world has ended, and humanity has crumbled.

But nobody told the aliens.

And it seems that alien brains have some interesting side effects on the ravenous undead. Just ask zombie Li, who “wakes up” after a quick bite. The world is a wasteland, she’s a walking corpse, and her “snack” has just melted into a noxious puddle of goo.

She’s had better days.

But she won’t go through the rest of her undead life alone. As Li hits the road to figure out what happened, the end of the world brings her strange company, and even stranger enemies. The aliens are coming back, and it’s going to take more than a handful of quirky zombies to stop them. She’s going to need some serious fire power—like the remnants of the human race.

If she can find them.
Zombies vs Aliens (Z vs A #1)Zombies vs Aliens by Kristin Jacques

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

What did I just read?? This type of read is so outside of my element, but it was certainly an excellent book! I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys reading about zombies, aliens, especially them in combination, and those who like post-apocalyptic fiction with a bit of a humorous twist. Also to anyone on the fence about reading it will likely find it quite entertaining.

The author Kristin Jacques is an excellent writer. The characters were simple and straightforward but the scene and character descriptions were colorful and exciting. Though it was written in the first person point of view, I was pleasantly surprised how much I liked it. The prose was casual and contained subtle references to pop culture, which made it fun and relevant.

The plot was well-though-out and the sequence of events made plenty of sense out of nonsense as the story unfolded into a tale of suspenseful twists and hilarious subplots. There were a few parts that were a bit much for my sensitive soul, but with the action, anticipation, and drama, it’s one that I didn’t want to put down.

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