The Vanishing Half- A Book Review

For this months book club we read The Vanishing Half by Britt Bennett.

The Vignes twin sisters will always be identical. But after growing up together in a small, southern black community and running away at age sixteen, it’s not just the shape of their daily lives that is different as adults, it’s everything: their families, their communities, their racial identities. Many years later, one sister lives with her black daughter in the same southern town she once tried to escape. The other secretly passes for white, and her white husband knows nothing of her past. Still, even separated by so many miles and just as many lies, the fates of the twins remain intertwined. What will happen to the next generation, when their own daughters’ storylines intersect?

So let’s talk about this.

I had heard great things about this book before it came up as a book club book. So, I must admit, I might have had high expectations for actually reading it myself. I’m happy to admit this book mostly lived up to those expectations.

It did have it’s drawbacks for me. Spoilers ahead (sort of) so be prepared for those.

The first 47% of this book is told from one sister’s perspective. I know because I was reading it on my kindle. And that’s before it jumps into her daughter’s perspective. But then it jumps into the other sister’s perspective and then into HER daughter’s perspective.

We don’t see a lot from the one sister’s POV. We do see what happened to her and what she went thru for her life. It takes up a lot of emotional space if not physical.

And when I say emotional space, I mean emotional space. The sisters went thru some stuff. They would probably benefit from some therapy, if therapy was something that they did back in the day.

They would also benefit from some better communication skills with each other.

Just sayin.

I was also waiting for one thing to happen that never actually did. Which was annoying. But that was more me wanting there to be something more to the book.

I did find myself internally cringing at some points. Mostly at the horrific racism of the south in the 50’s. People were terrible. And that was part of the point I imagine.

Pacing was good. The flow never felt slow or forced.

Plot was fantastic. Really, A+ plot.

World Building was great. Britt Bennett paints a vivid picture of the past.

Character development was great. I did have some problems with one of the daughters. She never felt fully fleshed out, despite the book giving her a full life. It could also be that I just didn’t like her.

That may be it.

When all is said and done I gave this book 4.5 out of 5 stars.

Legendborn-A Book Review

Legendborn is written by Tracy Deonn

After her mother dies in an accident, sixteen-year-old Bree Matthews wants nothing to do with her family memories or childhood home. A residential program for bright high schoolers at UNC–Chapel Hill seems like the perfect escape—until Bree witnesses a magical attack her very first night on campus.

A flying demon feeding on human energies.

A secret society of so called “Legendborn” students that hunt the creatures down.

And a mysterious teenage mage who calls himself a “Merlin” and who attempts—and fails—to wipe Bree’s memory of everything she saw.

The mage’s failure unlocks Bree’s own unique magic and a buried memory with a hidden connection: the night her mother died, another Merlin was at the hospital. Now that Bree knows there’s more to her mother’s death than what’s on the police report, she’ll do whatever it takes to find out the truth, even if that means infiltrating the Legendborn as one of their initiates.

She recruits Nick, a self-exiled Legendborn with his own grudge against the group, and their reluctant partnership pulls them deeper into the society’s secrets—and closer to each other. But when the Legendborn reveal themselves as the descendants of King Arthur’s knights and explain that a magical war is coming, Bree has to decide how far she’ll go for the truth and whether she should use her magic to take the society down—or join the fight.

Well, I said I wasn’t going to do it, but I did it. I bought Legendborn.

I don’t regret it. Do I have questions, yes. Absolutely.

Do YA books always move the plot along so quickly? Especially at the beginning? I don’t read a lot of YA fantasy so I don’t know.

These are the questions that the internet is good for!

So let’s get on to the actual review.

I’m not gonna lie, I had some misgivings about this. I haven’t read a YA book in years. I had, in fact, written off the genre about 7 years ago because the books I was reading just weren’t all that good to me. I don’t even remember them, that’s how memorable they were.

But this book had an interesting enough premise that I couldn’t resist it.

See, I’m a sucker for a good King Arthur story. They just, well, make me happy. This is even though I haven’t read all of Le Morte D’Arthur. I have it, I just haven’t read the whole thing. That’s a big, dense, book.

But this book isn’t a retelling, it’s an expansion of the myth. It’s what happens if the descendants of Arthur and his Knights survived to modern times.

I’m not gonna say I went nuts over it, cause I didn’t, but I did enjoy it enough that I would pick up book two. Because cliffhanger!!!

The plot for the story was great. I enjoyed the way it twisted and turned as it went. And followed it to its, for me anyway, unsurprising conclusion. Maybe it’s because I’m not the target audience and have been reading fantasy books for over 25 years? Maybe? And I did have a problem with how our main character just walked up to a door and was like, “hello, I’m here for the thing”.

And they let her in! She didn’t even know what the thing was!!!

The world building was really great. I thoroughly enjoyed the painting the author created with her story. It is magical realism, given that it is set in modern day North Carolina, and I sometimes have a problem like that, but not here.

Characters were good too. There were sometimes where people just accepted things a little too easily, or got angered for no reason other than “oh look, she’s here”.

Pacing was a bit frantic as the author tried to fit as much in the beginning as she possibly could, but it did level out into smoother waters as the book went on.

All in all I’d say this book has earned a good 3.75 out of 5 stars from me!

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Faith – A Trade Paperback Review

So this is a review of a trade paperback of Faith from Valiant Comics and written by Jody Hauser.

The Premise: Faith has recently left her old superhero team to go solo. Secret identity and all. By day, mild mannered blogger, by night, high flying Zephyr! But psionts all over town have started going missing, and it’s up to Faith to find out why.

I should say I went into this with a lot of hope. A plus sized super hero? What’s not to love? We love some good body positive representation around these parts.

That being said, this book felt like I was coming into the middle of the story. And it’s because I was. This book makes up Comics 1-5 of Faith’s first stand alone book. Which means she has had her backstory already explained in someone else’s book. She has had other adventures that I haven’t gotten to read about.

Now this book did try and explain a few things about her past with her previous team, but it felt less like exposition and more like someone singing their “shoulda coulda woulda’s” out at times. Which, to be fair, I guess was the point. I just kinda hate whiney characters right now in my life I guess.

Maybe it’s the pandemic?

The overall story for this opening salvo of books was good. I liked how they used Hollywood and comic stereotypes and the nice twist was just that, nice. Not terribly exciting if you’ve read a lot of comics, but still a fun twist.

The art by Francis Portela, Terry Pallot, Andrew Dalhouse, and Marguerite Savage was perfectly fine. The cover art by Jelana Kevic-Djurdjevic and Stephanie Hans was lovely.

Overall I’d say I give the book a solid 3 out of 5 stars.

Thin Air-A Book Review

In August the book club I am a member of picked Thin Air by Lisa Gray to read. I decided to listen to the audio book.

Why did I decide that?

Narrated by Amy Landon, I found her voice to be a tad too soothing to fit a thriller style book. I wish to be tense when finding out who the killer is, not relaxed!

In fact, I had so much of a wish to be tense that I switched to the e-book version of the book for the last few chapters.

As for the book itself, I found the character development to be well done, though some of the twisty character bits I saw coming. The plot was very well done and the ending was satisfying. And although I enjoyed the book, I’m not running off to read the rest. I think my experience of the book was colored by the bad narration, so I didn’t get as much enjoyment out of it as I hoped to.

I think I may give this book another try in about a year and see how I enjoy it then as an actual book, not an audio book, when it’s not so fresh on my mind. Maybe then I will like it better.

To make a blog post short, don’t listen to the audio book on this one, stick to the book you actually lay eyes on. You might enjoy it more.

Spy, Spy Again-A Book Review

So I should mention before I start this review that I am a huge Heralds of Valdemar fan. From way back in the day. Been reading them for years. Also I’m doing a reading challenge with the books this month.

That being said I have felt like, in the last five books or so, the writing had started to suffer from the dreaded series fatigue. You know. The thing that happens when a writer has been writing the same universe or characters for so long.

That being said, this book gave a much needed breath of new life into the series.

That was quite a nice surprise.

The basic premise of the book is a prince and his best friend (who are both spies in training) are called upon to go rescue a skilled assassin from the clutches of a evil neighboring nation. Of course, this being a Valdemar book means there is magic and demons and a whole host of other fantastical things you might not otherwise see in a book with that plot.

The book does start out off a little slow, but not so slow that you loose interest. For me it picked up speed and had me excited to see how it would end.

If you haven’t read from Foundation onwards, a few things won’t make sense. And yes, that is a lot of books to read (at least ten). This book does, however, provide a brief synopsis of the backstory and why it’s important, so you can skip all that extra reading if you want to. But why would you want to?

All in all, it’s a good book. I was pleasantly surprised by how it turned out. It’s a good lazy afternoon’s (and evenings) read!

Gods Behaving Badly-A Book Review

This book came out in 2007, so I’m a little late to the book reviewing game on this one.

See, I’m a big fan of Greek myth stories. I just found out about Song of Achilles, like, two months ago, and I need to read it now!

Back to this book. My main problems were with the characters and the plot. The world building was perfectly fine, and since it was our world it wasn’t a hard sell.

The characters, however, were rather flat. Our female protagonists are polar opposites of each other, which normally isn’t a bad thing. You look for that opposition to bring out the characters strengths and/or weaknesses. But in the case of Alice, it did nothing but make her look weak. No redeeming qualities at all. Poor Alice.

The premise of the book held great promise, but when you got into the actual meat of the book, the plot fell flat. Until that twisty bit with, well, to say its name would give away part of the twist now, wouldn’t it?

After that twisty bit it did get pretty good. Not great, mind you, but good. I did like the bit with Hades and Persephone.

At the end of the day this book was just okay. I didn’t hate reading it. I also didn’t love reading it either. I give it a solid “meh”.

Gods Behaving Badly was written by Marie Phillips and was chosen as my book club’s book of the month.

The Affair of the Mysterious Letter-A Book Review

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You know that feeling you get when you stumble across a truly great find in a bookstore?

Yeah, you know that one.

Of course, you don’t realize it’s a great find until you’ve finished with it.  Which is problematic.  Because then you want more of it.  But what if there isn’t more of it?  Then you are left with despair!

That’s how I feel right now.

Despair.

Because my book is over.  And it’s not (currently) a series.

Now, what is this book about that you so distraught, you might ask?  Well, it’s a retelling of Sherlock Holmes if Holmes was a woman…and a sorceress. Her name is Shaharazad Hass.

The plot of the story is written from the perspective of her roommate, Mr. Whyndham. He writes the story as if he is writing a serial for a paper or a magazine.  Which does mean the chapters are short.  Some of them are very short, maybe two full pages at most.

The world-building and character development are delightfully zany.   The plot is very intriguing (I mean, really, it’s great and twisty!) but it’s all the little things that drew me in.  The minor characters are just as intriguing as the major ones.

I just want more of this world.

Can I have more, please?

 

The Poppy War-A Book Review

The Poppy War by R.F. Kuang

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There I was, minding my own business when a book showed up on my Amazon Recommend list.  Now I normally ignore these things as they are very often wrong because of books I have purchased for others in the past.  Or I’m just not into that author anymore Amazon.  You don’t know me!

Anyway.  The cover caught my eye. This is funny because I bought the ebook version so I can’t even look at said cover now.  I have since picked up a hard copy.

It’s a thing.

I read over the description and thought, yeah okay, it’s on sale, why not?

Thank goodness we sometimes stop and look at those lists, huh?  I loved this book from page one.

Now let’s be honest, this thoroughly amazing book does have some issues.  It’s a slower start then I would have liked, but that gives more time to some important character development. It also has some pacing issues, places where it felt the writer was just hurrying their way through, but I didn’t mind those parts which I feel is saying a lot.

There are a few trigger warnings for this book, so be prepared.  Our heroine is put through some stuff.  She also reacts very viscerally to what she sees and feels in the world around her.

All in all, I gave this book a solid 4 out of 5 stars on Goodreads.  Go check it out.