Wednesday, June 12, 2024

Book Review | MIRRORED HEAVENS by Rebecca Roanhorse

Between Earth and Sky, Vol. 3
BY REBECCA ROANHORSE
PUBLICATION: JUNE 4, 2024 | SAGA PRESS
GENRE: EPIC FANTASY | RATING: ★★★★★

Even the sea cannot stay calm before the storm. —Teek saying

Serapio, avatar of the Crow God Reborn and the newly crowned Carrion King, rules Tova. But his enemies gather both on distant shores and within his own city as the matrons of the clans scheme to destroy him. And deep in the alleys of the Maw, a new prophecy is whispered, this one from the Coyote God. It promises Serapio certain doom if its terrible dictates are not fulfilled.

Meanwhile, Xiala is thrust back amongst her people as war comes first to the island of Teek. With their way of life and their magic under threat, she is their last best hope. But the sea won’t talk to her the way it used to, and doubts riddle her mind. She will have to sacrifice the things that matter most to unleash her powers and become the queen they were promised.

And in the far northern wastelands, Naranpa, avatar of the Sun God, seeks a way to save Tova from the visions of fire that engulf her dreams. But another presence has begun stalking her nightmares, and the Jaguar God is on the hunt.

...

PROPHECY AND DESTINY

In the realm of fantasy literature, few things captivate the imagination like the intricate tapestries of gods, magic, and the struggles for power. Rebecca Roanhorse's Between Earth and Sky is a testament to this genre's enduring allure, offering readers a richly woven narrative that explores the destinies of its characters with depth and nuance. I don't think I have enough words to describe the wonders within this series.

The MIRRORED HEAVENS unfolds in the world of Meridian, where Serapio, the avatar of the Crow God Reborn, ascends as the Carrion King of Tova. His rule, however, is far from secure, as enemies conspire against him both from afar and within the city's walls. The matrons of the clans, with their own intricate webs of power and influence, see Serapio as a threat to be eliminated. This political intrigue is a hallmark of Roanhorse's storytelling, as she deftly navigates the complexities of leadership and the burdens it carries.

Amidst the turmoil, a new prophecy emerges from the Coyote God, foretelling Serapio's downfall unless he adheres to its ominous demands. Prophecy and fate are recurring themes in this installment, echoing the ancient struggle between free will and destiny.

Xiala, a character caught between worlds, faces her own trials as she returns to the island of Teek. Once estranged from sea's voice, she now finds herself in tune with the its whispers. Her journey is one of self-discovery and sacrifice, emblematic of the personal transformations that often accompany epic quests.

In the desolate northern wastelands, Naranpa, the avatar of the Sun God, grapples with visions of destruction that plague her sleep. Pursued by the Jaguar God, her narrative adds a layer of supernatural suspense, reminding readers that the gods themselves are players in Roanhorse's richly imagined world.

MIRRORED HEAVENS is the third installment in the Between Earth and Sky trilogy, a series that has garnered critical acclaim for its innovative blend of mythology and vibrant world-building. Roanhorse's work is a celebration of Indigenous storytelling, infusing traditional narratives with a modern sensibility that resonates with a wide audience.

For those who have followed the series, MIRRORED HEAVENS promises a conclusion that is heartbreaking, yet truly satisfying. Newcomers will find themselves enthralled by the complex characters and the vivid settings that Roanhorse masterfully creates. As the fates of Serapio, Xiala, and Naranpa intertwine, readers are invited to ponder the nature of power, the weight of prophecy, and the indomitable spirit of those who seek to forge their own destinies.

MIRRORED HEAVENS is available for readers seeking an escape into a world where the divine and the mortal coil around one another in an eternal dance of wills. I highly recommend this series.

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About the Author:
Rebecca Roanhorse is a New York Times bestselling and Nebula, Hugo, and Locus Award-winning speculative fiction writer. She has published multiple award-winning short stories and novels, including two novels in The Sixth World Series, Star Wars: Resistance Reborn, Race to the Sun for the Rick Riordan imprint, and the epic fantasy trilogy Between Earth and Sky. She has also written for Marvel Comics and games (Echo, She-Hulk, Werewolf By Night, MoonKnight, and Chee’ilth) and for television, including FX’s A Murder at the End of the World, and the Marvel series Echo for Disney+. She has had her own work optioned by Amazon Studios, Netflix, and AMC Studios.
She lives in Northern New Mexico with her husband, daughter, and pup. She drinks a lot of black coffee.

Find more at https://rebeccaroanhorse.com/ and on Instagram at @RebeccaRoanhorse. Photograph by Emily Blasquez


*Thanks to Simon & Schuster CA / Saga Press for the printed ARC in exchange for this unbiased review.



Blog Tour | BELLY WOMAN by Benjamin Black

About the Book:

Belly Women
by Benjamin Black
Publication: October 2022
Genre: Non-Fiction


Hailed as "a must-read for our times" (Aminatta Forna) and "eye-opening, kind, and inspirational" (Adam Kay), Belly Woman tells the story of what happens to pregnant women when a humanitarian catastrophe strikes.

May 2014. Sierra Leone is ranked the country with the highest death rate of pregnant women in the world. The same month, Ebola crosses in from neighbouring Guinea. Arriving a few weeks later, Dr Benjamin Black finds himself at the centre of an exponential Ebola outbreak. From impossible decisions on the maternity ward to moral dilemmas at the Ebola Treatment Centres: one mistake, one error of judgment, could spell disaster.

An eye-opening work of reportage and advocacy, Belly Woman chronicles the inside journey through an unfolding global health crisis and the struggle to save the lives of young mothers. As Black reckons with the demons of the past, he must try to learn the lessons for a different, more resilient, future.

Amazon
Goodreads
"It’s moving, thought-provoking, and genuinely unforgettable. It shows the best and worst of what people can do in times of crisis."
-The Book Marketing Nook
"It’s an incredible recount of hundreds of selfless medical personnel who devoted their time and expertise during an ebola epidemic. "
-A Literary Escape



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About the Author:

Dr. Benjamin Black is a consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist and a specialist advisor to international aid organisations - including Médecins Sans Frontières. His focus on sexual, reproductive and maternal healthcare for populations in times of crisis has taken him to many countries working with humanitarian organisations, UN bodies and government departments. Throughout the Covid-19 pandemic he provided frontline healthcare to pregnant women and developed international guidelines. Benjamin was a member of the expert panel for the inquiry into racial injustice in UK maternity care.



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Wednesday, May 1, 2024

Blog Tour | TAKEOUT SUSHI by Christopher Green


About the Book:

TAKEOUT SUSHI
by Christopher Green
Publication: May 2024
Publisher: Neem Tree Press
Genre: Contemporary Short Stories

Takeout Sushi is a collection of 17 illustrated short stories set mostly in contemporary Japan that explore feelings of belonging, displacement, and the strangeness of everyday human interaction.

In an innovative, fast-paced company, a man’s job comes under threat when a team of robots are brought in to replace the HR department. A husband’s search for shortcuts to his domestic tasks goes painfully wrong. Overwhelmed by the hustle and bustle of Tokyo, a foreigner takes a weekend break and discovers something other than solitude in the mountains.

Marking Christopher Green’s debut adult fiction and inspired by his own experiences, these whimsical slice-of-life tales are full of heart and humour—perfect for fans of Convenience Store Woman and Before the Coffee Gets Cold.

Amazon
Goodreads

"With humour, nostalgy and heartwarming approach, Green put into motion characters and situations that you may rather ignore in the everyday life."
-WildWritingLife
"The stories thus evoke a variety of emotions, ranging from hope to panic to fear to laughter."
-Rosh's Reviews
"This collection is engaging and keeps your interest within each narrative."
-Ryan Yarber


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About the Author:

A long-time resident of Japan, Christopher lives near Tokyo with his wife and daughter. Christopher writes short stories and children's stories. His first collection of short stories Takeout Sushi is due for publication by Neem Tree Press in May 2024.

For a little more about Christopher and his books, please visit www.greeninjapan.com.




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Monday, April 29, 2024

Blog Tour | TIME MARKED WARLOCK by Shami Stovall


About the Book:

TIME MARKED WARLOCK
by Shami Stovall
Publication: August 1, 2024
Publisher: Capital Station Books
Genre: Urban Fantasy

Adair Finch is the most powerful warlock Urban Fantasy in the world, and one of the best private investigators for hire. He has dealt with corporate vampires, murderous werewolves, and even fae royalty. Everything was perfect until he lost one case—the case where he also lost his brother.

So Finch retired. From magic. From PI work. From everything.

Bree Blackstone, a twelve-year-old witch, doesn’t know or care about any of that except Finch’s reputation. In the middle of the night, she bangs on Finch’s door. Her mother has been murdered, and now the assassin is after Bree as well.

Reluctantly, Finch agrees to help, only to discover something sinister has been brewing in town while he ignored the world… He’ll need to dust off all his old skills and magic before it’s too late.

Goodreads

"The villain(s) were believable, had compelling motivations, and were enough of a threat to all involved to keep the reader’s interest."
-HC Newton, The Irresponsible Reader
"Wow. Totally blown away with how fast paced this is."
-Beth's Bookcase
"If you haven't read this beauty then please pick it up!
It deserves to be read by many!"

-Kealyn_Reads_LP


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About the Author:

Shami Stovall is a multi-award-winning author of fantasy and science fiction. Before that, she taught history and criminal law at the college level, and loved every second. When she’s not reading fascinating articles and books about ancient China or the Byzantine Empire, Stovall can be found playing way too many video games, especially RPGs and tactics simulators.

If you want to contact her, you can do so at the following locations:

Website: https://sastovallauthor.com/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/GameOverStation/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/SAStovall/
Email: s.adelle.s@gmail.com




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Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Blog Tour | CLYTEMNESTRA'S BIND by Susan C Wilson

Clytemnestra's Bind
by Susan C Wilson
Publication: June 2023
Publisher: Neem Tree Press
Genre: Mythology
Rating: ★★★★★

Queen Clytemnestra's world shatters when Agamemnon, a rival to the throne of Mycenae, storms her palace, destroys her family and claims not only the throne but Clytemnestra herself.

Tormented by her loss, she vows to do all she can to protect the children born from her unhappy marriage to Agamemnon. But when her husband casts his ruthless gaze towards the wealthy citadel of Troy, his ambitions threaten, once more, to destroy the family Clytemnestra loves.

From one of Greek mythology's most reviled characters—a woman who challenged the absolute power of men—comes this fiery tale of power, family rivalry and a mother's burning love.

...

The House of Atreus #1

Susan C Wilson's CLYTEMNESTRA'S BIND emerges as a formidable entry into the realm of mythological retellings, offering readers a fresh perspective on the ancient tale of Clytemnestra. The novel, which is the first in a trilogy, promises to delve deeper into the lives of Clytemnestra's twin sister Helen and daughter Electra in subsequent books, setting the stage for an expansive exploration of these intertwined destinies.

The narrative unfolds through the bitter and poignant first-person account of Clytemnestra, the queen of Mycenae, whose life is marred by tragedy. Wilson's portrayal of Clytemnestra is complex and multifaceted, presenting her not just as Agamemnon's wife but as a mother fiercely devoted to her children. Her narrative voice is compelling, drawing readers into her inner world as she navigates the treacherous waters of love, loss, and vengeance.

At the heart of the story is Clytemnestra's unwavering love for her children, which becomes her driving force. The loss of her firstborn ignites a chilling resolve to shield her remaining offspring from the cruel whims of fate and the machinations of those who would use them as mere tools. Wilson adeptly captures the perilous tightrope walk between maternal instinct and the societal roles imposed upon women, highlighting the timeless struggle for autonomy and respect.

The novel does not shy away from the brutality inherent in its mythological roots. Wilson's writing is raw and unflinching, laying bare the violence that pervades the lives of her characters. Yet, it is this very savagery that lends authenticity to the narrative, grounding the fantastical elements in a reality that is as unforgiving as it is captivating.

Wilson's vivid descriptions transport readers to the ancient world of Mycenae, with its grand banquets, sacred rituals, and the ever-present glow of hearth fires. The attention to detail in the depiction of the citadel's domestic life adds a rich layer of texture to the story, making the setting an integral character in its own right.

CLYTEMNESTRA'S BIND is a reclamation of a voice that has often been overshadowed by the more famous figures of Greek mythology. Wilson breathes life into Clytemnestra, transforming her from a character in a well-worn tale to a living, breathing individual with a story that demands to be heard. It is a testament to the enduring power of myth and the ways in which it can be reinterpreted to resonate with contemporary audiences.

In conclusion, Susan C Wilson's debut novel is a triumph of storytelling, weaving together the threads of ancient myth with the emotional depth of human experience. It is a book that both devastates and uplifts, leaving this reader eager for the next chapter in this evocative trilogy. For those who have yet to experience CLYTEMNESTRA'S BIND, it is a journey well worth taking, one that will linger in the mind long after the final page is turned.

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About the Author:
Susan C. Wilson is a working-class Scottish writer. Her lifelong passion for ancient Greece was ignited as a child by stumbling across stories of gods and heroes in the dictionary. She loves to explore what makes us human: the eternal motivations, desires and instincts that cross time and place.

She has a degree in journalism from Napier University and, in preparation for writing her novels, gained a diploma in classical studies from the Open University. Clytemnestra’s Bind, her debut novel, was long-listed for the Mslexia Novel Competition 2019. It is the first in The House of Atreus trilogy and will be published by Neem Tree Press in June 2023.  Photo curtesy of Neem Tree Press.



*Thanks to Neem Tree Press and @TheWriteReads for the ebook access in exchange for this unbiased review.




Wednesday, March 27, 2024

Book Review | THE EMPEROR AND THE ENDLESS PALACE by Justinian Huang

The Emperor and the Endless Palace
by Justinian Huang
Publication: March 26, 2024
Publisher: HarperCollins / MIRA
Genre: Romantasy
Rating: ★★★★★

“What if I told you that the feeling we call love is actually the feeling of metaphysical recognition, when your soul remembers someone from a previous life?”

In the year 4 BCE, an ambitious courtier is called upon to seduce the young emperor—but quickly discovers they are both ruled by blood, sex and intrigue.

In 1740, a lonely innkeeper agrees to help a mysterious visitor procure a rare medicine, only to unleash an otherworldly terror instead.

And in present-day Los Angeles, a college student meets a beautiful stranger and cannot shake the feeling they’ve met before.

Across these seemingly unrelated timelines woven together only by the twists and turns of fate, two men are reborn, lifetime after lifetime. Within the treacherous walls of an ancient palace and the boundless forests of the Asian wilderness to the heart-pounding cement floors of underground rave scenes, our lovers are inexplicably drawn to each other, constantly tested by the worlds around them.

As their many lives intertwine, they begin to realize the power of their undying love—a power that transcends time itself…but one that might consume them both.

An unpredictable roller coaster of a debut novel, The Emperor and the Endless Palace is a genre-bending romantasy that challenges everything we think we know about true love.

...

Exploring the Depths of Love Across Time.

Justinian Huang's debut novel is a masterful tapestry of love's endurance through the ages. The narrative takes us on a journey across different timelines, from ancient China to modern-day Los Angeles, weaving a complex story of romance, betrayal, and destiny.


In 4 BCE China, we meet a low-ranking clerk whose life takes a dramatic turn when he is chosen to capture the young emperor's attention. This marks the beginning of an epic saga that traverses centuries, highlighting the immutable force of love. Huang's portrayal of this era is rich with historical detail, immersing readers in a world where duty and desire collide. A favorite trope, I must admit.

The story then shifts to 1740 China, where an innkeeper's mundane existence is disrupted by the arrival of a mysterious young man and his grandmother. The ensuing events draw the innkeeper into a web of intrigue, requiring the aid of a past lover. A tribute to Pu Songling, of course. Huang skillfully uses this narrative strand to explore themes of isolation and the human yearning for connection.

In present-day Los Angeles, a college student's life is forever changed when he encounters a mysterious artist who seems to have captured his likeness across time. This strand of the story delves into the complexities of identity and the search for belonging in a world that often feels alienating.

Huang's ability to toggle between these periods with ease is a testament to his storytelling prowess. The characters' struggles and triumphs resonate deeply, as they are reborn and rediscovered in each other's arms, lifetime after lifetime. Every interaction is like a mirage, at once familiar, and yet, unique. The novel is a celebration of queer love, transcending the boundaries of time and space.

Drawing from Chinese history and mythology, Huang creates a central couple that embodies the power and beauty of love. The novel's scope is ambitious, yet Huang manages to deliver a narrative that is lyrical, intimate, and grand. I was enthralled.

THE EMPEROR AND THE ENDLESS PALACE has been praised for its genre-bending elements, combining fantasy, romance, and historical fiction to create a romantasy that challenges conventional notions of love. It is a novel that promises to leave readers both enchanted and contemplative, pondering the enduring nature of love and the ways in which it can define our lives.

With this stunning debut, Justinian Huang has established himself as a formidable voice in contemporary literature. His novel is not just a story; it is an experience that celebrates the timeless and transformative power of love. For those who are drawn to tales that span lifetimes and challenge fate, THE EMPEROR AND THE ENDLESS PALACE is a must-read.


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About the Author:

Born to immigrants in Monterey Park, California, Justinian Huang studied English at Pomona College and screenwriting at the University of Oxford. He is now based in Los Angeles with Swagger, a Shanghainese rescue dog he adopted during his five years living in China. THE EMPEROR AND THE ENDLESS PALACE is his debut novel.
 Photo curtesy of HarperCollins.


*Thanks to HarperCollinsCA for the ARC, via Netgalley, in exchange for this unbiased review.



Monday, March 18, 2024

Blog Tour | A SWIFT RETURN by Fiona Barker

A SWIFT RETURN
by Fiona Barker
Illustrator: Howard Gray
Arabic Text: Maysoon AbuBlan
Publication: February 2024
Publisher: Tiny Tree Books
Genre: Children’s Picture Book
Rating: ★★★★

Aria has her head in the clouds. Yusuf keeps his feet on the ground. But when they work together to save a bird who has lost her way, something magical happens. When Swift loses her way on her epic migration. Aria and Yusuf come to her rescue and are inspired to think big about looking after the sky above their city. Inspired by Fiona and Howard’s love for wildlife of all kinds, A Swift Return is the follow-up to Setsuko and the Song of the Sea. Howard’s beautiful illustrations evoke a strong sense of place, strengthened by the beautiful Arabic text distilled by Maysoon AbuBlan.


...

This is such a wonderful book.

In a world where pollution threatens the beauty and balance of nature, 'A Swift Return' stands as a poignant reminder of our collective responsibility. This story, through its serene illustrations and succinct language, underscores the urgent message that we must all contribute to reducing our carbon footprints. It's a call to action for each of us to aid those who suffer the consequences of environmental damage. Aria and Yusuf, despite their tender age and differing passions, unite for a noble cause: rescuing an injured bird. Their journey is a testament to the power of collaboration in the face of adversity and highlights the imperative to recognize and act upon the duties we owe to our planet.

This book is an essential read for parents eager to inspire environmental stewardship in their young children. I recommend.


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About the Author:
Fiona is a middle-aged, married mum of one. She is positively potty about picturebooks; reading them and writing them. When writing, she longs for alliterative loveliness but is reluctant to rhyme. When reading, she looks for a marriage of words and artwork and loves anything that is fun to read aloud.
Fiona loves doing school author visits and speaking to adults about picture books and children's publishing.

Visit www.fionabarker.co.uk for details of forthcoming events.


*Thanks to Tiny Tree Books and @TheWriteReads for the finished copy in exhange for this unbiased review.