Book Reviews, Fantasy, Historical Fiction

Mini Book Reviews: January 2019 – Part 1

being continents away is exciting, but come with me next time! (7)

One of my bookish goals for 2019 was to start writing mini-reviews for all the books I read this year, and leave full reviews for ARCs and review copy books.   This is my first batch of 2019 books!  I did notice that my “mini-reviews” turned out longer than I expected… I guess that’s what happens when you sit down & work on a review right after you finish the book…  Who knew?

*Books included in this mini review batch: The Stone Sky (Broken Earth #3),  The Thief (The Queen’s Theif #1), The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey, and Every Heart a Doorway (Wayward Children #1) by Seanan McGuire

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» The Stone Sky (The Broken Earth #3) by N.K. Jemisin

*No spoilers for the 3rd book, but possible mild spoilers for previous books in the series*
TheStoneSky

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THIS IS THE WAY THE WORLD ENDS… FOR THE LAST TIME.
The Moon will soon return. Whether this heralds the destruction of humankind or something worse will depend on two women.
Essun has inherited the power of Alabaster Tenring. With it, she hopes to find her daughter Nassun and forge a world in which every orogene child can grow up safe.
For Nassun, her mother’s mastery of the Obelisk Gate comes too late. She has seen the evil of the world, and accepted what her mother will not admit: that sometimes what is corrupt cannot be cleansed, only destroyed.
The remarkable conclusion to the post-apocalyptic and highly acclaimed trilogy that began with the multi-award-nominated The Fifth Season.

The Stone Sky was the perfect & heartbreaking conclusion to a series that quickly has become a new favorite.  If you have not started The Broken Earth series, you do not know what you are missing!   Jemisin’s writing is unlike any I’ve ever read.  I mean, she writes part of these books in second person and it works.  How?  No idea.  The series is also very cleverly constructed.

The Broken Earth series is a very unique take on post apocalyptic fiction.  The basic premise is that in the distant future, the earth is prone to environmental collapses which can last months or even years.  During these “seasons” the people on earth are in survival mode.  During this particular season, the earth has split the land causing ash to project into the sky & block out the sun.  Obviously this causes some major issues.  There are beings called orogenes that can manipulate energy & prevent or lessen seismic activity.  While you would think that orogenes would be revered for their abilities, they are in fact feared & hated among most people.  Basically orogenes are powerful beings that can both help humans, but also harm them very easily.  While humans and orogenes struggle to coexist, they are often forced together during seasons for survival needs.

In the first two books, we follow two orogenes,  Essun & her daughter Nassun, along their separate story lines over the course of 2 years.  In The Stone Sky, they will finally reunite.   Both mother and daughter have an agenda, but do they align?  Who will win the battle between these two strong women?  I really enjoyed how Jemisin wrapped up this series.  As a parent, the ending definitely tugged at my heart strings for many reasons.  I like that things were left a bit open-ended and some things were left to the readers imagination.

This series is very dense and I would consider them more challenging reads.  I am not ashamed to admit that aspects about this world were sometimes hard for me to wrap my mind around.  Also, since it is constructed in a very unique way, the story is not exactly linear.  You weave between past and present, and oftentimes this doesn’t exactly become clear until later.  Because of all this, these books took me longer than normal to get through, but the pay off was totally worth it.

I definitely want to read more of N.K. Jeminsin’s works.  Anyone have any recommendations?


» The Thief (The Queen’s Thief #1) by Megan Whalen Turner

thethief

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The king’s scholar, the magus, believes he knows the site of an ancient treasure. To attain it for his king, he needs a skillful thief, and he selects Gen from the king’s prison. The magus is interested only in the thief’s abilities.
What Gen is interested in is anyone’s guess. Their journey toward the treasure is both dangerous and difficult, lightened only imperceptibly by the tales they tell of the old gods and goddesses.

I was browsing books to see what my next audiobook would be, I came across The Thief.  I had heard good things about this series as a whole.  One of the things that I consistently hear is that the all the sequels are way better than The Thief.  

The premise behind this one is when a king’s adviser enlists the help from a gifted thief to help him steal an ancient artifact.  The Thief is the journey a small group of men take to retrieve this artifact.  Along the way the author begins building the world through the mythology & stories of the gods shared between these men.

What I really enjoyed about this book was the cast of characters.  Gen is not your typical protagonist.  He is proud, ill tempered, and a bit of a putz at times, BUT he is also clever and witty.  I highly enjoyed Gen’s character and his interactions with the others in his travel party.

I would consider The Thief to be “low fantasy,” with very few fantasy elements.   It is also a very slow paced novel.  While it is a journey story, not a lot of action takes place for the majority of the book.  Actually, I was all set to give this book a 3 star rating, but then the ending happened and totally took me by surprise.  The Thief probably has one of the best endings in a book that I’ve read in a while.

I am really looking forward to continuing on with this series.  If this first book is the weakest in the series, I cannot wait to see what the next book has in store for me.


» The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey

TheSnowChild

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Alaska, 1920: a brutal place to homestead, and especially tough for recent arrivals Jack and Mabel. Childless, they are drifting apart–he breaking under the weight of the work of the farm; she crumbling from loneliness and despair. In a moment of levity during the season’s first snowfall, they build a child out of snow. The next morning the snow child is gone–but they glimpse a young, blonde-haired girl running through the trees. This little girl, who calls herself Faina, seems to be a child of the woods. She hunts with a red fox at her side, skims lightly across the snow, and somehow survives alone in the Alaskan wilderness. As Jack and Mabel struggle to understand this child who could have stepped from the pages of a fairy tale, they come to love her as their own daughter. But in this beautiful, violent place things are rarely as they appear, and what they eventually learn about Faina will transform all of them.

While researching “winter books” for a book to suggest for one of my book clubs, I came across The Snow ChildI felt oddly drawn to this book after reading the book description.  Something was telling me that I needed to read this book.  I am 100% confident that you will see The Snow Child in my top books of 2019 post at the end of the year.

There was so much that I adored about this book: the beautiful writing, the characters, the plot inspired by Russian folklore, the magic realism elements, the frontier setting of 1920s Alaska…

The characters were wonderful.  They each had flaws, but they all felt very real.  It has been a while since I’ve felt this invested in fictional characters.  My heart ached for Jack & Mabel during their struggles, but also rejoiced in their triumphs.   The ups & downs of their relationship & marriage due to the heartache of infertility felt very realistic.  I also adored Esther’s character, she is definitely a new favorite side character.  Esther is one of those characters that is unapologetically herself, and will worm her way into your heart whether you want her there or not..  I enjoyed watching Mabel & Esther’s friendship develop and blossom over the years.

Of course I also have to mention Faina.  If you didn’t know, The Snow Child is inspired by the Russian folktale, Snegurochka.   There are many versions of this folktale, but in the most well known, a elderly couple build a child out of snow and the child comes to life.  Even though Faina is very much a mysterious character throughout The Snow Child, we learn to love her through those that love her best: Jack & Mabel.   Faina’s character & her character arc are absolutely brilliant.

With the 1920s Alaska setting, The Snow Child really is the perfect book to curl up with during the winter months.   Ivey painted a beautiful picture of the harsh & unforgiving terrain.  The Alaskan frontier setting was so well done, that I even enjoyed reading about the monotonous daily living tasks.  I enjoyed reading about the farming, hunting/trapping, and even the food preparations.  Historical context was definitely on point!

Since there is plenty of heartbreak in The Snow Child the overall tone is a bit melancholy.  If you are wanting a uplifting or joyous read, this is not it.  I would put a few content/trigger warnings on this one for infertility, depression, and suicide.

This book would make for the PERFECT winter book club selectionOne of the best aspects of this book, is that two people could read this book, but walk away with two completely different stories… one person could read this book as magic realism, while the other could read it as historical fiction. What do I mean by this?  You are just going to have to read it for yourself 🙂


» Every Heart a Doorway (Wayward Children #1) by Seanan McGuire

EveryHeartaDoorway

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Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children
No Solicitations
No Visitors
No Quests
Children have always disappeared under the right conditions; slipping through the shadows under a bed or at the back of a wardrobe, tumbling down rabbit holes and into old wells, and emerging somewhere… else.
But magical lands have little need for used-up miracle children.
Nancy tumbled once, but now she’s back. The things she’s experienced… they change a person. The children under Miss West’s care understand all too well. And each of them is seeking a way back to their own fantasy world.
But Nancy’s arrival marks a change at the Home. There’s a darkness just around each corner, and when tragedy strikes, it’s up to Nancy and her new-found schoolmates to get to the heart of the matter.
No matter the cost.

I know I am in the minority here, but Every Heart a Doorway was just okay for me.  While the concept is brilliant: exploring what happens to the children that come back from their journeys into other worlds, I just could not fully connect to the story or the characters.   I know this book is a novella, coming in at 170 pages, but it was far too short to serve this story.  It made the story seem underdeveloped and abrupt both in regards to the character development and the plot.  Really the author could have added 75 to 100 pages and probably solved this.

A few things I appreciated about Every Heart a DoorwayI thought the overall concept was brilliant!  I really enjoyed meeting the “children” and learning about what worlds they traveled to.  The logic vs nonsense, and virtue vs. wicked scales was a very interesting concept to me.  I also appreciated that this book included an asexual main character and a transgender secondary character.

This book was definitely on the morbid side and even felt a bit macabre.  Every Heart a Doorway includes a few graphic scenes.  I wouldn’t say it is excessive unless you are sensitive to violence in books.  This was not an issue for me, but it could put off some readers.

My biggest hangup with this book would be *highlight the area between arrows to see spoilers ⇒ the reaction of the students to the murders.  No one really seemed too upset that their classmate was brutally murdered.  Once Sumi was murdered, they all immediately box up her belongings after finding the body?   Also, students are dropping dead, but all they are told is to buddy up & not go anywhere alone?

Every Heart a Doorway gave me Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children vibes.   If you are a fan of that series, you might want to give this one a go.

Despite the fact that I didn’t LOVE this book & it didn’t exactly live up to the hype, I will be giving the second book in the series a go.  Why?  Because these characters & the worlds they’ve traveled to are interesting enough to have piqued my interest.  The next book, Down Among the Sticks and Bones, follows two of the characters from this book BEFORE they came to the home for wayward children.

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LetsChat

Have you read any of these books?  If so, what did you think?

Comment below & let me know 🙂

10 thoughts on “Mini Book Reviews: January 2019 – Part 1”

  1. I’m only 5 chaps into Snow Child but I agree that’s it’s a winter read. Yesterday was freezing in my part of the country and curling up with this book and a mug of tea was wonderful.

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  2. Lovely reviews, Amanda! I felt the same way about Every Heart A Doorway, I couldn’t fully connect with the story and characters overall and it made me a bit sad, because the concept was really good! I’ll be looking forward to your thoughts on the second book though 🙂

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  3. I’m sorry to hear you weren’t able to enjoy Every Heart A Doorway better! Although I do understand your point. And I can’t wait to read The Snow Child!

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