Book Review: The Spinner’s Child

Those of you active in the Writing WordPress circle have probably seen the announcements about Crispina Kemp’s quintet of books. The Spinner’s Game quintet begins with The Spinner’s Child and I bring you now (at long last) my review of this first book in the series.

The Book

The Spinner's Child Spinner's game read 2020

The Spinner’s Child
Author: Crispina Kemp
2020
Amazon Link

I pre-ordered The Spinner’s Child because I’d enjoyed Crispina’s build-up posts throughout the phases of editing and getting the book all polished. This book has been highly anticipated on blog world for quite some time now, and I’m thrilled to finally be posting this review on my blog.

Also, I was convinced I wanted to read this book when I found out the main character’s name was Kerrid: what a fantastic fantasy name!

Non-Spoiler Review

Just so it’s out of the way: 100%, definitely worth the read. There aren’t many books set in an ancient world, and I’ve never read a created universe with such a detailed set of religious, spiritual, and cultural nuances. The small bits of world info are delivered at such a pace that it never feels bloated, and the information gained can allow the reader to make their own decisions.

That’s what made the twist so delightful – I could see it looking back, once it was revealed, but I didn’t see it coming. Any book that can pull off such a twist is going to get a 5/5 rating from me.

Also, despite being the first in a 5-book series published at once, this book does wrap up a significant plot element and gives a nice, satisfying ending. It doesn’t leave you hanging, doesn’t make you mad for it being unfinished. There are unfinished elements that need tying up, but they feel like part of a larger story that could not have been finished within just this one book.

Now, for some minimal critiques: this book does have a rather gloomy outlook, and the main character suffers from a rare form of loneliness throughout. Literally everyone hates her (for reasons explained, so don’t worry about that), and it’s so pervasive that at times I found it hard to believe. The logic of when/why the clan(s) would kick her out didn’t always feel right to me. Getting past the twist helped significantly, but for a good portion of the book, it felt like there wasn’t a light at the end of the tunnel.

5/5 Discoball Snowcones

5 Discoball Snowcones

SPOILERS REVIEW

As this book is pretty new, I’m not going to have a big spoilers section. I don’t feel right giving too much away about this book.

However, because the twist showed up about 60% of the way through, I will say things that lead up to that point.

Kerrid’s adventures with Bargli and Sarat were very calming, and I felt like they should have been able to help Kerrid or fight for her more. Kemp did weave in enough honor into the societies to make it reasonable that Kerrid had to leave for Dvar-Usas, but the constant downward trend of Kerrid’s life was very sad. A lot of the feminist messages about the fate of Kerrid depended on her inability to make her own decisions, and this did frustrate me a lot. However, the tone of the book was well-done, and the good messages behind it were clear.

There was a character named Paddlo who I’m sure will show up again later – he’s too terrible not to! I really disliked Paddlo as a person, and I sincerely hope he one day gets his wish to die.

Next week:

I’ll be reading Her Name was Abby, a book I got a review request for! It’s the last indie book of the year for me, too, so make sure to stick around for it!

Book Review: Soul’s Choice

I’ve been on Twitter for a while, and an enterprising woman from Canada caught my eye early on. Funny, nice, and infinitely helpful, Kerri Davidson wrote a words-only novel following three volumes of graphic novels. She doesn’t go through Amazon, either, which was interesting, and also what probably kept me from downloading earlier.

But, seeing as my computer and Kindle are still operable, I can claim I went through her site with zero issues. So, without further adieu…

The Book

52265195._sx318_sy475_Soul’s Choice
Author: Kerri Davidson
2019
Purchase Link

Quick warning before you start: this book can be emotionally intense. If you aren’t in a good place mentally and/or emotionally, you might want to put this off. Kerri is pretty available on twitter, so I’m sure you can get a list of trigger warnings if you want.

I was a little shook, myself.

Non-Spoiler Review

Holy mother of God (or of atheism, if that’s your thing) – this book was an absolute whirlwind. Roller coaster. Emotional disastrophe.

And I mean that in a good way.

From the very beginning, Davidson’s book grips you with a family situation that is difficult to watch. With her mother, Amelia, dead and watching from “heaven”, Amy Clarke must find her own path through the world. Her dad, Jason, is a cop who’s trying his best to make it through. But with Amelia’s death, the two are facing down monumental levels of depression, lack of self-confidence, and other health issues.

The side characters in this book are phenomenal. People like Stacey, who only shows up intermittently as a foil, are still so vivid even without much description. The way everything leads down its path to the end just amazed me.

Small spoiler, though: the end was a cliffhanger, but it was actually something I found not-too-bad. I’m not a fan of cliffhanger endings, but the book did wrap up several plot lines and had left off at a point where it was almost complete. The cliffhanger was more one of those little additions to the end where you’re like “Oh snap! There’s got to be another book after this.” So take that into consideration.

But, like I said in the intro, this book is not for the faint of heart. I didn’t quite realize that going in, and not realizing how intense it was is probably my biggest complaint. Perhaps it’s just because I expected something different because Davidson had previously published humorous graphic novels, but I should have known.

5/5 Discoball Snowcones

5 Discoball Snowcones

SPOILERS REVIEW

Oh man. This is a big spoiler, so really hold onto your butts:

This is a bad ending.

Not for the reader – for the characters.

The book is truly a tragedy on the order of Death of a Salesman or some such thing. Just when you think things may be looking up, just when someone picks Amy Clarke up from the depths and it seems things will be ok, they get so, so much worse.

For most of the book, I couldn’t relate with the characters on an experience level. I was never rich growing up, never had rich grandparents, and have very long-lived relatives. At the same time, I’m not used to making such terrible decisions as the characters in this book did. I am familiar, however, with the crippling levels of self-compassion, and I can’t help but feel for Amy as she struggles through things like body image issues and (big spoiler) her dad’s death.

Don’t expect any uppers in this book to last. If you’re like me, you’ll be eagerly awaiting book 2 just to see if these characters get a break.

Next week:

I’ll be reading Crispina Kemp’s The Spinner’s Child!

 

Reading List – October 2020

This is my final indie book month of 2020!

Soul’s Choice – Kerri Davidson

soul's choice reading 2020I’ve followed Kerri Davidson on Twitter for a while – partly because she’s a social media genius, and partly because she’s very, very funny. She’s long had a few graphic novels (about drunken chickens) for sale, but she recently came up with the first novel for a debut series. A paranormal novel about souls? Death and life? It seems really interesting! For better or worse, Davidson’s book is not available through Amazon, but I did buy it myself and have not yet been a victim of credit card fraud.

Bag of Lettuce Books – Have checked, is legit, but prices are in Canadian dollars

The Spinner’s Child – Crispina Kemp

The Spinner's Child Spinner's game read 2020Crispina Kemp has been updating her blog to give snippits and hints about her 5-book series, The Spinner’s Game. I’ve thus been excited about this one for quite some time! Just a few months ago, she announced her series’ debut. Unfortunately, I just have the first volume in the set ready for review, but perhaps more reviews will be in stock later!

Amazon Link 

Her Name was Abby – Peter Martenuac

31nlju7qpylI have a review request form on my page (which you can check out if you’ve published a book), and Martenuac made use of it. I thought a zombie apocalypse book was right up my alley. I’m a little wary that this is the second book in a series, but you know what? I’ll give a ton of respect to any second book that can hold its own.

Amazon Link

The Leftovers: Something from YOU?

Do you have a published book and a method of purchasing it that isn’t sketch as hell? I’m always willing to entertain indie books for review. I’ll leave reviews on Goodreads and Amazon pretty reliably, and you might even see a review on this blog! Go to my request page here for more.

See my old reviews here

Book Review: Outlander

Way back in 2018, back when I was young and fresh, I read The Time Traveler’s Wife. I was disappointed because Outlander had been checked out at my library by other people and the wait list was so long that I was convinced I’d never get it.

Well, it finally became available, at long last!

And then it turned into the first book I’ve absolutely refused to finish since Thoreau’s Walden in high school.

The Book

51prw27sxwl-_sy346_Outlander
Author: Diana Gabaldon
1991
Amazon Link

Before you wonder why I even started this novel, I want you to realize that I thought it was about a time traveling WWII nurse who went back to 18th century Scotland and re-invented and produced antibiotics. I was excited for a novel to include details about bioprocessing and medical knowledge.

lol

A Crappy Review

The book started alright. I thought it was a little weird that there was a sex scene with Frank, husband of Claire, but that wasn’t too bad. I knew there was a significant romance portion of this book.

But then she went back in time and got humped by Frank’s ancestor. There were lots of times when Claire was threatened, nearly killed, imprisoned, etc. because she was a single woman in a terrible situation, but the juxtaposed insistence that she was “strong and independent” and her absolute melting whenever anything she wanted crossed paths with a man just felt so wrong. It made me wonder what the point of the novel was.

Then Claire was forced to suddenly marry the main love interest, Jamie, and it just turned into a massive pile of smut. I kept going, thinking maybe it would be done soon, but then the love interest raped her while they were at a camp with other men. I was like “WAAAT” because I get furious at rape scenes. But I was like, “Well, perhaps this was a one-off thing, and she did start saying she liked it after he went too far. Let’s give it some… fuck, 1990’s slack? It’s just an awful book. Push through it.”

Then the next scene, Jamie punishes Claire for “making him look bad,” when what actually happened was she saved his life. He spanks and rapes her, definitely against her will. At this point I thought, “Maybe he wasn’t the main love interest, and in the next chapter she kills him.”

When the next chapter had Claire melt into thinking it was her fault and she had to do what Jamie and the other men said, I was like, “No. No, if you don’t slice him to pieces and run back to the standing stones, this book is stupid and I refuse to read further.”

And so I quit. I have no idea who this book is written for, and I can’t make any suggestions. I think the messages contained within the book are terrible for anyone, male or female, and it was definitely not about producing sulfa drugs like I’d wanted it to be.

1/5 Discoball Snowcones, But only because 0 isn’t an option

1 Discoball Snowcones

SPOILERS AHOY

I didn’t finish the book, so I can’t really give spoilers. However, I looked up the rest of the plot before I finally decided that I could never finish it.

After the aforementioned rape and beating scene, I looked through the plot and found out there was definitely a male-male rape scene. I was like, “What the eff, this book is straight up erotica and smut the whole way through.”

How didn’t I know this beforehand? How did I get led so astray?

Next week:

First, in about an hour another book review will be popping up on my site: Where the Crawdads Sing. Stay tuned for that – it’s fantastic!

Book Review: From Ashes to Magic

I found this book because a person I follow, Ari Meghlen, is included in this book as an author. It seems like several Twitter-famous people were involved with this sucker, so let’s see if the most vehemently political and nonsense social media platform knows its stuff!

The Book

48430321._sy475_From Ashes to Magic
Author: Various
2019
Amazon Link

This book is a short story compilation about supernatural beings. I don’t know what it will actually contain from the beginning, but there are 10 stories and/or poems by 10 different authors. I follow Ari Meghlen, but I’ve never read her work before and so was excited.

Non-Spoiler Review

This collection was an absolute mixed bag. Some of the stories I found incredibly creative or gorgeous, but with others I was very confused about and didn’t like at all. There were a few I didn’t feel strongly about.

However, the two stories I liked the most made me feel like the purchase was worth it. I really enjoyed the delicious writing and mythological feel of N. Pan’s “Life and Death,” and the creativity of “The Locksmith” was superb. Those two stories alone made me feel like the book was worth reading, but those two stories weren’t all that made up the selection.

Several of the stories felt incomplete, or more like the first chapter of a longer narrative than something created for a short story collection. I think people did things like this back in the Golden Age of sci-fi and short story compilations, but it irks me and I dislike unfinished shorts.

Something else I found odd was that this compilation may just as well have been about witches (or witches with a different title). A full half the stories either had witches or closely involved witches within their storylines, and two of the remaining five involved half-demons/devils. The other three beings were gods, a vampire, and a ghost. The book is billed as an array of magical creatures, but the variety was limited and all were humanoid.

Lastly, some editing could have helped. There were several immersion-breaking mistakes that another once-over by the editor should have caught.

3/5 Discoball Snowcones

3 Discoball Snowcones

SPOILERS REVIEW

For compilations and chapbooks, I like to talk about a selection of 3 stories: my favorite, a standout, and my least favorite.

Favorite: Life and Death, N. Pan
Beautifully written poem about the birth, experiences, and strifes between siblings Life and Death. The entire thing flows with a gorgeous cadence, and a sad, longing ballad builds to a religiously-tinged story of two gods’ fall.

Standout: The Locksmith, A. Meghlen
One of the most creative stories in the book, The Locksmith’s magical creature was actually a non-magical person in a highly magical world. Though there were wizards and sorcerers and the like in this story, all the tropes were turned on their heads in a tale with a great plot.

Least Favorite: Broken Promises, E. Chartres
The vast majority of this story was descriptions of running through different scenes and two people saying “You promised,” “I promised.” Then, right at the end, the main character suddenly eats two people, reveals she’s a vampire, and becomes evil. I found the story clunky from a plot perspective, the characters impossible to parse, and the prose difficult to read.

Next week:

I’ll be reviewing another Twitter-found story, The Gate, which is part of a series and published by an indie publisher (I think). Stay tuned!

Book Review: Through the Nethergate

I was eagerly awaiting this novel’s arrival since Cheadle announced it on her blog. Then, one day, I saw the announcement – it was on Amazon, and thus I could get it! So I went and bought it.

The Book

41umochifzlThrough the Nethergate
Author: Roberta Eaton Cheadle
2019
Amazon Link

This novel was billed as a paranormal horror about a young girl – Margaret – who is flung into a horrifying experience with ghosts, monsters, and historical people. By the existence of Heaven and Hell as mentioned in the blurb, I expect there’s some Christian mythology involved, but that doesn’t bother me! Tally ho!

Non-Spoiler Review

Fantastically researched. Spooky as hell. I’ve never had to put a book down because I was too freaked out, but now I have. If you want to know more about some really horrible people and horrible circumstances, this book is full of them.

Something strange about this book that I rather enjoyed but which might not appeal to everyone was the piles of stories about the ghosts and “incarnates”. Many ghosts or groups of ghosts had a story behind them, and Cheadle put together a well-researched summary of their lives and why their souls were trapped on Earth or in Hell. In effect, this book often felt like a compilation of historical stories, but that was right up my alley. There was also not as much dialogue as you might expect in a novel, but a lot of it was tied into this historicity.

That’s not saying that the overall plot wasn’t good – it was definitely good – but it wove more like a thread into and between all these other stories. It held everything else together like a glue. The main premise – that ghosts gained bodies when they were around Margaret – was also a lot of fun. Margaret wasn’t overpowered, so the stress you feel at failures and difficulties was very worthwhile.

5/5 Discoball Snowcones

5 Discoball Snowcones

SPOILERS REVIEW

The main thing I’d like to talk about in the spoilers review is the role of Margaret. Though she was a main character who has things happen to her rather than drive the story on her own, and though I usually rip a book and take off a snowcone for it, Cheadle did a good job with it. Though Margaret was the focal point, other characters’ points of view were used well. The changing protagonists gave a good view of the overall problems and challenges, and it didn’t feel like Margaret had to be the main character. I thought it worked.

I was, however, a little confused why Lucifer became the main villain about halfway through. The ghost Hugh Bigod was a great villain, and I was into it. Though Lucifer was also a good villain and was definitely a more difficult foe, I wasn’t sure I liked that switch. It worked out, but my investment in Bigod’s story felt like it just kind of evaporated.

Still, that opened up to awful, awful (and spooky!) things like the story of Amelia Dyer. That was freaky stuff, and I’ll never forget that part.

Next week:

Next week, I’ll be reading the short story compilation, Ashes to Magic! It’s got a lot of Twitter-Famous people in it, so stay tuned!

Reading List – July 2020

This is my third of four Indie Book Months in 2020!

Through the Nethergate – Roberta Cheadle

41umochifzlRoberta Cheadle announced the publication of her paranormal novel on her blog, and I was instantly stoked. I like a lot of what she posts on her blog, and I know her research is spot-on fantastic. I have been looking forward to reading this for quite a while now, so let’s hop in!

Amazon LinkThough Cheadle has made other purchase options available

From Ashes to Magic – Various, Edited by Mikki Noble

48430321._sy475_

I follow Ari Meghlen on Twitter and WordPress, and she announced that she was taking part of this series. It’s about various magical creatures and creative interpretations of their lives, struggles, existences, and relationships, and I thought that would be a great way to get introduced to a lot of authors! Haven’t tried a “various authors” short story collection yet!

Amazon Link

The Gate – D.L. Cross

45946171Sometimes, I’ll surf around Twitter and look at books people have up for sale. This one attracted my attention because it’s a science fiction novel that contains archaeology, promises twists, and seems like it will probably have a humorous element to it. I’m excited to see if I chose something well!

Amazon Link

The Leftovers: Something from YOU?

Do you have a published book and a method of purchasing it that isn’t sketch as hell?  I filled my slots this year using Twitter, but I’m always looking for new indie books to review. I buy books I review because I don’t want to be beholden to anyone.

See my old reviews here

Book Review: Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

I made a post about a list of books that Amazon thinks everyone should read. A low-hanging fruit on that list was Alice in Wonderland, so I rented the audiobook from the library and took the opportunity to listen.

The Book

alice_in_wonderland2c_cover_1865

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland
Author: Lewis Carroll
1865
Gutenberg Project Link (Versions on Amazon are ok because they have illustrations, but if you just want the book, don’t support useless moneymongering of public domain works)

I’m not very good with absurdist or surrealist anything, so I don’t have high hopes. However, this book is pretty short and I don’t think there’s much potential waste of time involved.

Non-Spoiler Review

I wasn’t a huge fan of this book. It felt childish – as it was intended – and a bit nonsensical. The chapters didn’t flow from one to the next, and it never felt like anything built on itself. Much like the Disney movie indicated it would, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland was a series of short events that were random and, while pretty and fantastical, meaningless.

I gather a lot of people see allegories in Alice, and that’s fine. I dig. But it was just weird to me. Perhaps I haven’t taken enough drugs. Perhaps I just thought the queen much flatter than I remember her in the movie.

One thing I found pleasant about the book, something I may have forgotten from the movie, was how intelligent and brave Alice was. I was surprised and rather pleased with how well she drove the story forward. Good on Carroll for doing that with a young female character in the 1860’s.

2/5 Discoball Snowcones

2 Discoball Snowcones

SPOILERS REVIEW

I think a lot of people know the story of Alice – she follows a rabbit down the hole and gets really high and low. She runs about with the Cheshire Cat, the Mad Hatter, the hookah-smoking caterpillar, etc.

And that’s really all it is. If you watch the Disney version and expect something similar, you’ll be disappointed to find the climax is… absent. Disney does a great job with the excitement of the Queen, and they made an even better decision to add the Walrus and the Carpenter beforehand.

The part I don’t remember from the movie was the Mock Turtle portion. WT ever loving F was that mess? It was depressing, weird, and had a stupid song about beautiful soup. I don’t understand.

Next week:

Next week I’ll be reading Pride and Prejudice! Out of all the classics I’ve not read before, I think that one’s the BIG surprise. So stay tuned!

Reading List – May 2020

Classics seem to have passed me by. For a long time after high school, I refused to read classics, probably because being required to read some of the more terrible books was so distasteful. At the same time, now that the internet makes things so easy to get, these books long out of copyright protection are freely available. In my individual reviews, I’ll link the free Project Gutenberg files.

Now, though, I don’t have to forge through crappiness if I don’t want to. Here’s a few classics, thus, that I think have some elements that make them appealing to pick up.

The Count of Monte Cristo – Alexandre Dumas

800px-louis_franc3a7ais-dantc3a8s_sur_son_rocherThis is supposed to be a definitively top-notch classic. Originally written in French, this novel has seemed daunting to me in the past due to its sheer mass, but I think I can handle it for now.  I’m usually a fan of adventure, and thrillers can be great. From what I can tell, as well, this book looks very complex and filled with enormous plans.

Alice in Wonderland – Lewis Carroll

alice_in_wonderland2c_cover_1865Like almost any good American, I’ve seen the Disney version of this story many times. At the same time, I’ve never read the book that inspired the cartoon phenomenon, and that’s kind of a shame. It’s also astonishingly short, which is something I think I’ll require given the other two monsters I’m reading this month…

Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen

prideprejudice423x630My partner read this book in high school. My high school didn’t read the usual books, and this one was left out of our reading list. I was going over books I could read, and my spouse said, “Pride and Prejudice? That’s a good book.”

“But it’s romance,” I complained.

“Read it.”

And so I put it on the list.

The Leftovers: Something from YOU?

Do you have a published book and a method of purchasing it that isn’t sketch as hell?  I need indie books to read!  Let me know if you have something you’d like me to peruse!

See my old reviews here

Book Review: Laevatein’s Choice

I read E. Kathryn’s first installation in The Shadows series because I beta read the book. You can find that review here. I also beta’d this one, so I can go ahead and tell you that this one is gonna be straight-up great. I’m excited to see the changes between the beta version and the final version!

The Book

51wxlvkpovlThe Shadows: Laevatein’s Choice
Author: E. Kathryn
2018
Amazon Link

This is a YA book about kids with superpowers. The source of these powers, when we left off at the end of Fire’s Hope, was mysterious. There seemed to be a lot more to what it meant to be one of these people, and it had that air of mystery even though there was a definitive end to it.

And, like I said, I beta read this book. I put that up front on my blog reviews because it could be considered a conflict of interest. However, I’ve never asked E. Kathryn anything in return for my beta reading, and I bought the book with my own money.

Non-Spoiler Review

Ok, so, the good thing is I can confirm this book is great. There’s a powerful sense of plot here, and Mark as a character can be related to. The book gets into some pretty dark themes of abuse, neglect, mental illness, and adult manipulation of teens, but it’s done in such a wonderful manner that I think teens not only can read this book on their own, but should.

I grew up in a less-than-ideal household, one perhaps most similar to the one presented as Emilie’s in Laevatein’s Choice. (Mild spoiler for the rest of the paragraph, maybe?) In Emilie’s plotline, she struggles to convince anyone else that her mother and father aren’t great for her or each other. The way adults and other kids downplay her concerns is so awful, but also terrifyingly realistic. The struggles within Mark’s family after Mark goes through the massive changes in Book 1, Fire’s Hope, are also very interesting.

Something plot-related but not spoilerific is that what I consider the climax happens pretty early. Even so, the rest of the book leaves this ever-present air of tension that doesn’t let up until right when it needs to. Also, good hint: read this book while you work out. I read the final version of this as my “workout read”, and I definitely suggest doing that with this book. The physical oomph of this book makes it perfect for that cause.

Issues with the book are some that I tend to have with many indie books and many series. The first is that you’ll have to read Fire’s Hope in order to understand Laevatein’s Choice. While Fire’s Hope is good, it definitely feels like an author’s first book and like one written by a young author. It also doesn’t have a similar feel or gravity to Laevatein’s Choice, which could be disconcerting to people unprepared for the shift. The second is that you’ll run upon a few sentences that feel awkward or contain typos, but Kathryn’s writing has improved between the two books and I was interested enough in the plot and characters to forgive these few mistakes.

5/5 Discoball Snowcones

5 Discoball Snowcones

SPOILERS REVIEW

I know, I know; you’re going to say, “H.R.R., you scoundrel of a human being, you like plot-centered books.”

Guilty. As. Charged.

In this book, we meet up with some of the characters from Fire’s Hope and see how they’re coping with newfound freedom after escaping Superhero School/Prison. Some, like Sil, are faring well, while others, like Emilie, are going through some deep sh*t. The secondary characters’ plots are fantastic, and I thought the changes in Emilie’s situation were well-done.

However, Mark’s story is fantastic. His desire to be a winner, his desire to finally best Sil at something, and his need to feel welcomed draw him into a toxic relationship with a sensei. No, it’s not sexy or anything untoward in a manner you wouldn’t let your kid read it – it’s toxic in that Geoffery sensei belittles Mark, pushes him too far, delights in athletic injuries. Oh man, all the hints were there, but somehow I didn’t expect it on first read when Geoffery freaking turns on Mark and just destroys him with the sword Morglay. Geoffery, who reveals himself to be a quarter of the evil Shadow Strength, has made Mark into another vessel of Strength for reasons unknown.

The back 40% of the book examines the changes and struggles between Mark’s friends and family as they rush to save him. Secrets about his father’s origins and amnesia are revealed, Shadow magic is done, and much is explained about the universe. Though Laevatein’s Choice ends with a satisfying conclusion to the main story, it has set up for Book 3 very well.

Next week:

I’m moving on to a new month, so stay tuned to see what I read next!