Title: A Blade So Black
Author: L.L. McKinney
Performer: Jeanette Illidge
Length: 11 hr, 24 min, 1 sec
Series: A Blade So Black, Book 1
Publishing Date/Publisher: 2018 by MacMillan Audio
Review: This book wasn’t terrible, but it wasn’t really my cup of tea. It was sort of Alice in Wonderland meets The Mortal Instruments meets Social Justice Warrior.
The author was clever in how she wove the aspects of the original tale into her adaptation, which is why I thought it was an OK read. Unfortunately, many of the hot button issues that were addressed in the story such as race relations and violence were not fully fleshed out and I was bothered by the occasionally prejudiced dialogue, the selfish characters, and the anti-law enforcement undertones.
I will, however, note that many of the elements I found to be problematic are mostly in the first half of the book. The second half of the book is, in my opinion, a much more enjoyable read than the first half. I initially thought I would be rating this book with two stars, but it went up to three as I neared the end of the book. I believe this is McKinney’s debut novel, so I imagine her character/plot development and pacing will continue to improve in any subsequent books in this series.
I did listen to this book in audiobook format, and although I thought that the various voices chosen by the performer worked for the characters, I thought that she had some difficulty with transitioning between those voices. At times this was confusing, but overall I liked the cadence of her voice and thought she did a good job.
Title: The Hazel Wood
Author: Melissa Albert
Performer: Rebecca Soler
Length: 10 hr, 35 min, 25 sec
Series: The Hazel Wood, Book 1
Publishing Date/Publisher: 2018 by MacMillan Audio
Review: This is an example of a fairytale done right. In the same fashion as the Brothers Grimm, Albert weaves together a series of dark and twisted tales with no morals and a whole lot of death. I can honestly say that I never knew what to expect with this story, because it is not an adaptation of anything I am familiar with. It does have echoes of Alice in Wonderland in the sense that a character named Alice portals into a fantasy world; however, that seems to be where the similarities end. I enjoyed the characters, and the dialogue, and the way the author wove together a modern day setting with a more fantastical one. I am also a sucker for stories within a story, and I was very pleased to find out that although this could easily have been a standalone, there will be a continuation of this story in another book. There were a number of story titles mentioned that were not told, and I am hopeful that those stories might be revealed in the next installment. I also hope that there is more to the story of Alice and Finch. Fingers crossed!
As always, Rebecca Soler was a perfect performer in this story. Loved it in audiobook format!
Title: The Butterfly Garden
Author: Dot Hutchison
Page Count: 288
Series: The Collector, Book 1
Publishing Date/Publisher: June 1, 2016 by Thomas & Mercer
Review: Holy. Freaking. Wow…..There are some books that really stick with you, and this is one of them. From page one I was so completely engrossed that I would find myself staring longingly at the book during work, anxiously waiting for my next break. I so desperately wanted to know what would happen to the women in the story that I would be thinking about it constantly, even as I drifted off to sleep at night. The narrative is very well written, and the narrator of the story is so easy to trust and to like. The only reason I am not giving this story five stars is because there were a couple elements of the story that bothered me. For one, the FBI agents that were questioning the narrator kept insisting that she was not being forthcoming and that she was keeping secrets. I did not get this feeling at all from the narrator, and I think in a situation such as this, the victim would need to be allowed to tell the story in the way that is most comfortable to them. Secondly, they kept alluding to the fact that the narrator was hiding something, but when they had the big “reveal” at the end, it did not truly seem to fit with the rest of the narrative. To be honest I am not entirely sure why it was included in the story at all, as it didn’t really seem to add anything revelatory to the plot.
This book is what I like to call a “thinker” because it makes you reflect upon yourself and how you would respond if you were trapped in this type of situation. I would like to think that I would have the compassion of nurturing Lyonette and the strength of straightforward Maya, but to be honest I really don’t know who I would be. What really made this story intriguing was the women, and how each of them coped with the extreme trauma while still managing to carve out meaningful relationships with one another. In this sense, the story was as beautiful as it was terrifying. I highly recommend reading it.
Title: Lovely War
Author: Julie Berry
Page Count: 480
Publishing Date/Publisher: March 5, 2019 by Viking Books for Young Readers
Review: In the past I have enjoyed both books relating to Greek mythology and World War I/II. Never before have a read a book that combines both themes. It is an interesting concept, and I gave the book an extra half star in my rating for originality.
There were parts of the story I really enjoyed, however, there were also parts that I felt fell short of my expectations. This story is meant to be a sweeping romance, intertwining three sets of lovers, but I did not feel swept away by any of the couples. It is a very sweet story, and I greatly enjoyed the historical aspects. The two mortal lovers are struggling through a very dark point in history, World War I. This is a less common setting than the more commonly discussed World War II.
Trench warfare is truly heinous, and I think the author did a good job of depicting how wretched and traumatizing fighting in this war was. I was less of a fan of the insta-love that sprang up between the two mortal couples. I know that war has a tendency to heighten emotion, but the complete and utter devotion that the couples felt towards each other upon meeting was a bit difficult for me to wrap my head around.
I was not at all a fan of how the author incorporated the mythological aspect of the Greek gods into the story. To be honest, it didn’t really seem as well constructed as the rest of the story, and it did not really add much to the plot other than an introduction of the mortal characters. I think the story would have read equally well if this portion of the story had been eliminated entirely.
In the end, I can safely say that I liked the story but did not love it.
Title: The Godfather
Author: Mario Puzo
Page Count: 448
Series: Mario Puzo’s Mafia, Book 1
Publishing Date/Publisher: March 1, 2002 by NAL (first published March 10, 1969)
Review: The Godfather is my best friend’s favorite movie, and she was adamant that we should read the book together. I must preface this review by stating that this is not my usual type of read, but from time to time I like to try something new, and a classic seemed like just the ticket.
After reading this book, I understand why it is so revered. Puzo is an excellent writer, and the world of violence, loyalty, and cunning he describes is positively fascinating. I found myself thoroughly engrossed while reading on my lunch breaks, and was always eager to find out what was going to happen next.
There is a lot of bloodshed in this book, yet at the heart of it, it is a tale of family, morality, and strength of character. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that this book glamorized crime, but it certainly put organized crime in a new light for me. What I found most intriguing about the character of the Godfather was that he was so well esteemed because of his reasonableness and respectfulness. He was exceptionally generous, and expected generosity in return, but he never asked for more than people could give. I found myself liking him immensely and I thought the author did an excellent job of crafting his character.
I highly recommend this book. As I said before, I do not usually read books in this genre, yet I cannot say enough good things about it! The edition I read had a foreword written by the author’s son, and I really enjoy the fact that the character of the Godfather is actually based off of Puzo’s mother. I would have loved to meet her, as she sounds like she was a true tour de force of a woman.
Title: Tempests and Slaughter
Author: Tamora Pierce
Performer: Ariadne Meyers
Length: 16 hrs, 1 min, 21 sec
Series: The Numair Chronicles
Publishing Date/Publisher: 2018 by Listening Library
Review: There is no disputing that Tamora Pierce is an excellent writer, but this, in my opinion, is not her most enthralling book. For fans who are interested in the origin story of the great mage Numair, this will probably have more appeal. I am not as familiar with his character because it has been many years since I read Pierce’s other series.
This is a very strong read-alike to the Harry Potter series. It is about a young mage of extraordinary power who has a penchant for getting himself and his friends in trouble. There is no clearly defined conflict in this book, and I would say it is more like vignettes of various things that happen to young Arram over the course of his years in mage school. The pacing is very slow, and I often found my mind drifting away during the reading. On several occasions I had to rewind the audiobook, so that I could re-listen to the parts I missed. The dramatic title, Tempests and Slaughter, implies that this is going to be an action-packed book, but that is not at all the case.
The performer has a very soothing voice, and I thought she did a great job voicing the various characters; however, I was a little surprised that they chose a female reader for this story because it is told primarily from the perspective of a male character. The voice worked fine when he was a young boy, but it didn’t work quite so well once he became a young man.
Author: Alexa Martin
Page Count: 320
Series: Playbook, Book 2
Publishing Date/Publisher: April 23, 2019 by Berkley
Review: This was one of those books that teetered between a 3 and 4 star rating for me. The story is very cute, and there were certain aspects that I thought were worthy of note, but there were also a few places it fell short for me.
The main character, Poppy, was great and I loved how down to earth she was. However, I personally did not think that there was enough build up leading to her rekindled romance with TK. He did not have to work very hard to be back in her life, and the attraction between them seemed mostly sexual. I would have loved to see them connect on a deeper level beyond their shared child. I did, however, really like that TK idolized her post-pregnancy body. This really spoke to me, because I have struggled with accepting the permanent changes in my body post-pregnancy, and it made me feel good to see stretch marks, saggy boobs, and a few extra pounds portrayed as desirable and beautiful.
I also don’t think that the author ever really provided an explanation as to how TK missed out on the news regarding Poppy’s pregnancy. It is implied that this was a machination of his meddling mother, but it was not explained how she got to his text messages before he did. And who was the girl that answered his phone? I suppose we may never know.
This is actually the second book in a series, and I like how the author incorporated characters and storylines from her first book into this one. From early on, it seemed pretty obvious that her next book will focus on a romance between two supporting characters, Maxwell and Brynn, and I think that will be fun.
It should also be noted that the author spent 8 years as an NFL wife, so I assume that her depiction of what life is like for the wives and girlfriends of players is pretty accurate.