book review, fantasy, reading recommendations

Book Tour: Corruption

Author: Adam Vine

Narrator: Kevin Meyer

Series: Corruption Cycle, Book One

Length: 13 hours 57 minutes

Publisher: Lilydog Books

Released: July 18, 2017

Genre: Dark Fantasy

A dishonored swordsman running from his past.

A city shrouded in dark magic.

An antihero born.

Daniel Harper was champion, until a single mistake destroyed his fencing career forever. With nothing left to lose, he flees to Eastern Europe, where he can start over… where he can be someone else.

In the exotic, lantern-lit crevices of a nameless city, Daniel meets two people who open very different kinds of doors than the ones he is searching for: the troubled flower girl Kashka, who holds the key to a nightmarish otherworld; and the enigmatic street magician and self-professed love tourist Ink, who has the power to bend others to his will.

As Daniel plummets into a downward spiral of hedonism and dereliction, he is tormented by macabre visions of a frozen world in endless darkness where an evil tyrant has stolen the sun, where humanity’s remnants fight to scrape out a cruel existence underground, and wandering spirits inhabit the bodies of the recently deceased. Daniel is doomed to return to this Night Country every time he falls into a deep sleep. But the longer he spends there, the more Daniel realizes his curse is anything but an accident….

Adam Vine was born in Northern California. By day, he is a game writer and designer. He has lived in four countries and visited thirty. He is the author of two novels and many short stories. When he is not writing, he is traveling, reading something icky, or teaching himself to play his mandolin. He currently lives in Germany.

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Narrator Bio

Kevin Meyer is a devoted Midwesterner, raised in rural Wisconsin and transplanted to Tulsa, Oklahoma over three decades ago. A career-long voice-over and music radio guy, his iPhone playlist ranges from Alice Cooper and Waylon Jennings to Twenty One Pilots and The Zac Brown Band. Favorite reads are dominated by political biographies (Lincoln, Truman, Kennedy)… and Stephen King.

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I received this audiobook as part of my participation in a blog tour with Audiobookworm Promotions. The tour is being sponsored by Adam Vine. The gifting of this audiobook did not affect my opinion of it.

RATING:

4/5 stars

THOUGHTS:

Kevin Meyer, as narrator, did a terrific job as a voice actor. There was enough distinction between actors to make it clear which character was speaking (and there were a lot of characters) and his tone varied appropriately so that I listened intently for every plot point. There were times throughout the audiobook that I felt as though I was listening to a radio drama rather than being read a story. This kept the story engaging and entertaining, although the plot on its own was already pulling, the voice acting added an extra dimension to it and made it easier to digest as I said before, there are a lot of characters and complexities in the plot. I felt as though if I read a physical copy of this book instead, I’d have a less clear perception of the whole story.

The production overall was of good quality; the sound was clear, which of course, is the most important quality of an audiobook for me. The audio progressed nicely, so that pauses were of the appropriate length.

Like I said, I enjoyed listening to this book and I think I got more out of the story by listening to it rather than reading it. I would definitely recommend it for those audiobook aficionados out there.

Not to mention, the plot of this book and the overall skill displayed by the author Adam Vine were phenomenal. The world building that Vine engaged in and the imagery that so often accompanies fantasy books were exceptionally well thought out. One of the best things I liked about this book is that it was ambiguous- the villains were given humanity, the so-called good rebels succumbed to the uglier parts of humanity, and our protagonist struggles between defining himself as a good person or a bad person. I also appreciated reading from the perspective of an insecure, average, middle-aged man who deals with issues of masculinity, love, and career. I think that is a perspective that is often hard to come by in literature and I really appreciated seeing that it got its voice in Corruption.

Guys, if you like fantasy, you have to step inside the world that Vine has created. It is so complex, and riddled with things like technology, religion, politics, astrophysics, sexually transmitted diseases/memories, genocide, cultural clashes, cultish followings, and the like. There was so much thought put into the creation of this alternate reality and it was a joy being plunged into the complexities, beauties, and issues of a world that exists in another place and time. If you enjoy fantasy, this is a MUST READ for you.

One of the biggest compliments that I can offer a series is that I desire to and cannot wait for the next installment. I can say this for the next installment in the Corruption cycle, and that’s possibly the best recommendation I can give you to read this book!

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Sep. 13th:
Notes from ‘Round the Bend

The Literary Apothecary

Sep. 14th:

Dab of Darkness Audiobook Reviews

It’s Novel to Me

Sep. 15th:

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Blogger Nicole Reviews

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Sep. 17th:

Wonder Struck

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Sep. 18th:

The Bookworm Lodge

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Sep. 19th:

The Book Addict’s Reviews

My Creatively Random Life

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miscellaneous, reading recommendations

My BEST Assigned Reads

Assigned reading, you either love it or you hate it, right? I have been lucky enough to encounter some of the best books that I’ve ever read through school. Here are my absolute top five favorite books that I had to read for school (in no particular order):

  • Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood

persepolis

I read this one for school last year and it absolutely blew my mind. Persepolis is an illustrated memoir by Marjane Satrapi detailing her childhood during the Iranian Revolution. It is full of topics such asdialectical materialism, as well as the horrors that accompanied such a drastic political change. It forever altered my perception of modern Iranian society and I would highly recommend it to anyone and everyone.

  • Jane Eyre


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This is one of my absolute favorite classics. I related to Jane and her tragic, heartbreaking story and I adored the darker elements of this novel as well. All in all, it has a strong female protagonist that manages to defy and conform to many of the expectations set for her in Victorian society and a romance with a tall and dark man with a mysterious background…what more could you want?

  • To Kill a Mockingbird

to-kill-a-mockingbird

Although I don’t have one true favorite book, if I had to name one, it would be this novel. I read this my freshman year of high school, but if I were to reread it now I am sure it would have the same pull and effect that it had on me several years ago. Most of you probably have read this book so I won’t go into it that much, but I adored it absolutely.

  • Middlesex

middlesex

If you have not read this book, drop what you’re doing and go read it now. This is a book by Jeffrey Eugenides, the same guy that wrote The Virgin Suicides. It is so complicated that it is hard to think of a good synopsis. There are elements of legacy, immigration, family, gender identity (or mis-identity) and the story spans three different generations of a Greek family in America. The main character is Cal, who was brought up as a girl but is neither entirely female nor entirely male because of his familial history and his complicated genetics. It’s a longer read, but it is absolutely worth it.

  • Macbeth

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I could talk about this play f o r  h o u r s on end. It is my favorite Shakespeare (so far) for so many reasons. I had the absolute joy of getting to study it twice- once in my senior year of high school and once last year for a Shakespeare class that I took. I am sure many of you had to read this in school as well and while I think Shakespeare is a genius in general, I feel as if this play is so much more complex and has so much more to offer than some of his other plays (I am really only throwing shade at Taming of the Shrew tbh. I really like Shakespeare but I cannot like Taming of the Shrew even if I tried).

What are some of your favorite assigned readings?

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book review, reading recommendations, young adult

Review: Two Boys Kissing

Ignorance is not bliss. Bliss is knowing the full meaning of what you have been given.

Two Boys Kissing; David Levithan

I ticked another book off my extremely long TBR list…and managed to pick this delight of a book. I am making an effort to read more LGBTQA books or books about the LGBTQA experience.

AUTHOR: David Levithan

GENRE: Young Adult Fiction

WHERE DID I GET THIS BOOK / WHAT FORMAT: local library / audiobook

RATING: 5/5 stars

SUMMARY: The novel is narrated by the general gay man that died during the height of the AIDS crisis, and in this novel, the gay men of the past narrating observe the gay boys of today. The novel follows seven different gay boys: one (Cooper) that is dealing with the depths of despair and feels unaccepted by the community around him, two  (Avery and Ryan) that are trying to navigate a new relationship, two (Peter and Neil) that are trying to navigate an older relationship, and two (Craig and Henry) that are trying to break the world record for the world’s longest kiss. In doing so, Craig and Henry are trying to make a statement to the world: that two boys kissing is not scary, that two boys kissing is normal and acceptable. Their feat touches on the lives of the rest of the boys in the novel in some way, whether in a minuscule way or in a way that is meaningful and lasting. Ultimately, this novel maps out the past, the present, and speculates on the future of the American gay experience.

Trigger warnings: There is an outing scene, and talk of suicide.

THOUGHTS: Okay so I absolutely adored this take on the contemporary gay generation. I am familiar with the AIDS crisis and its victims through fiction and theatre only – the men that were wracked with disease are only those that I have seen on stage, on screen, and in cherished books. This approach to the perspective of those men was unique and gave their story more hope than others would have by allowing those men to see how radically the gay experience has changed in America from the realities that they had known. At first I was a little hesitant about how this approach would work out but it played itself out beautifully.

This was my first novel by David Levithan, and I will definitely be reading more of his work because his writing was sublime. This novel had a tone of breathy wonder, of saddened acknowledgement, of weary resignation, and of renewed hope. I honestly just want to brew tea with Levithan’s prose and drink it all day long, it is that good. This book is so well written that even if I had not liked the storyline or the characters (and to be clear, I LOVED both), I still would have enjoyed the experience of reading it. The prose is heart and tear jerking, full of universal truths and general musings on life and existence itself, and the narration was so wonderfully done that even though this book is Young Adult, it lacks the immaturity that other Young Adult books are subject to because they are narrated by teenagers.

I also think Levithan did a good job of captivating the general contemporary gay experience- some of the minor prejudices approached in everyday life, what it means to be a person of color as well as a gay boy, what it means to have a supportive or unsupportive family, what it means to hate your sexuality or love it, etc. All of these gay characters are approaching their sexuality from a completely different background and mindset, which makes the novel that much more honest. Of course, I can only talk about this with the authority that a straight, not-gay-boy, person can have so please keep that in mind.

I adore how this is an own-voices novel, as Levithan himself is a gay man that was born in between the generations that he writes about, so he is in the perfect place to discuss each different and separate experience while still having a degree of separation from each generation as well. It is a lot more powerful to know that an author is drawing from his own experiences and his own interactions to draw inspiration for a book, especially for a book as relevant and significant as this one is.

I would absolutely recommend this book for anyone and everyone, no matter your reading preferences. It is a short read, and I’d be surprised if you managed to make your whole way through without feeling the prick of tears at least once.

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book review, reading recommendations, short story sunday

Short Story Sunday: A Good Man is Hard to Find

For those of you who find it hard to set time aside to read, but still love the pull of a good novel, I introduce to you Short Story Sundays! Basically, I will review a short story or even an essay that I loved each Sunday (most of them will be recommendations) instead of a full length novel or play that you can easily pick up, read, and digest in the span of an hour.

This week’s story comes from the brilliant writer who is a masterful commentator on American life: Flannery O’Connor.

SUMMARY: The narrator of this story comes in the form of a Southern grandmother who would rather vacation in Tennessee, rather than in Florida, where her daughter and her grandson are dragging her along to. This is the kind of woman who is stuck in the past, and stuck in the idea that she was part of a Southern aristocracy, and stuck in an idealized American past that no longer exists in a modern world. She points out an article concerning “The Misfit”, or a serial killer who is out on the road. She finds herself at odds with her family, and she has antiquated values, but this story is still a thriller and the plot twist at the end may have revealed that this grandmother was right about something that she may or may not live to regret.

REVIEW: I was introduced to this chilling story in school, and I am eternally grateful for this introduction because it prompted me to pick up Flannery O’Connor’s collection Everything that Rises Must Converge which I absolutely adored.

O’Connor is great at capturing the feelings of those who are stuck in a different kind of American South, where the wealthy, white plantation owners reigned supreme and in which all of society catered to them. This story proves no exception, and O’Connor manages to concurrently validate those stuck-in-the-past feelings as well as satirizing them.

I also loved the plot and the twist it has at the end, and how it was treated. Yes, it is not the happiest of endings, but that’s O’Connor for you- her stories will leave you somewhat terrified and somewhat in awe. The characterization in this story is particularly some of O’Connor’s best as well; even though you do not know a lot about these characters, they are easily identifiable to any reader. Even the one character in the restaurant that is only briefly mentioned is fleshed out enough for the reader to have an idea of who he is. Additionally, the diction and symbolism is simply enthralling.

If you like a story with excitement, suspension, and an ending that will leave you feeling queasy, (as well with some colorful insights into American generation gaps and American psyches), this story is for you.

RATING: 4.5/5 stars

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book review, historical fiction, reading recommendations, young adult

Review: The Book Thief

I have hated words and I have loved them, and I hope I have made them right.

The Book Thief, Markus Zusak

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Click on the image to purchase on Amazon.

I don’t know what took me so long to pick up this book but I am so glad I did. 

AUTHOR: Markus Zusak

GENRE: Historical Fiction, Young Adult

WHERE DID I GET THIS BOOK/ WHAT FORMAT: local library / ebook

RATING: 5/5 stars

SUMMARY: The Book Thief tells the story of a German girl named Liesel who has just watched her brother die and has been given away to foster parents by her mother. She grows up in Nazi Germany, and her story is narrated by the personification of Death. Even though she initially struggles to adjust to life on Himmel Street, it is made slightly easier because she has befriended her neighbor Rudy and because her Papa is a man with a heart as deep as well and is skilled at playing a soothing accordion. One of the only ways that she and her friend Rudy can deal with the horrors of life in Nazi Germany is to steal; Liesel especially liked to steal books for her own consumption, since she was too poor to buy them for herself. The rest of the story describes how Liesel’s relationship with words evolves and warps because of the beautiful escape they can provide her and because of the horrors that Hitler’s words inflicted upon his people and upon those Liesel hold dearest to herself.

THOUGHTS: I absolutely adored this book, where to even begin? Zusak took a major risk by letting Death narrate this story, but it worked even better than letting Liesel narrate her own story. Death was able to capture the different and more encompassing perspective of the general events of World War 2, in a way that Liesel never would have been able to. Additionally, this gave the story a more mature perspective, and Liesel’s narration would have undoubtedly been more immature because she is only a young teenager. The way that Zusak outlined each part of his book, the way that he named his chapters, and the “notes” that Death left in the middle of blocks of text all added to the eccentricity and genius of the story.

This cast of characters is so lovable, and each of these Germans, even though they were part of the Nazi Party and were complicit in, if not directly responsible for, the pain that Germany inflicted during the Holocaust and the damage waged against the Allied forces. However, each character was humanized; there were so many beautiful paradoxes, such as the boy that was most sought out by Hitler Youth scouts was also the boy that risked his life to leave pieces of bread out for the Jews marching towards concentration camps.

I would have ugly-cried through many parts of this book if I had not been in public during those times. I was so in love with the world created here and the characters that populated it that I could barely stop reading. This book puts the best and the worst of humanity on display, but does so in a way that keeps you on your toes throughout the entire journey. In other words, I am saying that this book is a must read.

 

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book review, fiction, reading recommendations

Review: Leaving Time

Just because you leave someone doesn’t mean you let them go.

Leaving Time, Jodi Picoult

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Click on the image above to purchase the book on Amazon.

This was my introduction to Jodi Picoult, who many acclaim, and I must say that it was far from a disappointment.

AUTHOR: Jodi Picoult

GENRE: Fiction

WHERE DID I GET THIS BOOK: local library

RATING: 4/5 stars

SUMMARY: Jenna Metcalf is a thirteen-year-old girl whose every waking moment is consumed by missing and searching for her mother who has been missing for over a decade, Alice Metcalf. Her father, a patient in a psychiatric ward, proves unhelpful. The missing persons case for Alice Metcalf was never reported either. Jenna enlists the help of a washed-up psychic, Serenity, and the detective that was originally assigned to her mother’s case, Virgil, in the search for her mother. As these three form the pseudo-family that Jenna never really had, details about the case reveal themselves and raises more confusion. However, Jenna is not about to give up, not after ten years of missing her mom.

THOUGHTS: I adored this story- it has everything an avid reader could want: paranormal beings, a psychic who is faking it, an angsty, witty teenage girl, an alcoholic detective, a missing person, and elephants. I am the kind that loves to read nonfiction and especially about animal emotions and the depth to which they feel it- so I really enjoyed the elephants aspect of this story. There is a lot of research about elephants in this book, so if that is not the kind of thing that will pique your interest, then this book may not be for you.

I like the characterization overall in this novel- the main characters, Jenna and Alice, are beautifully written. They are both complicated, and Jenna’s teenage voice is clear and realistic and relatable. Alice is just as complex, and she is not romanticized at all by Picoult- she has some angry moments, some bossy moments, and some mean moments. But she is still a sympathetic character, and one that you root for- it just she comes closer to real women in real life- she’s dark, she’s complex, and she’s emotional, unapologetically. Additionally, Serenity and Vergil, though most of us would classify them as losers or outsiders, are not entirely lovable, but just relatable enough so that you can relate to the issues that they are facing and the questions they have to answer. Also, the relationships that they develop with Jenna are nicely arced and anything but linear, which I feel is important for parent-child like relationships.

The plot twist at the end was something that I bought and enjoyed, even though many of the book reviews that I read on Goodreads did not. The main criticism I drew from reading those reviews is that it is a far cry from what Jodi Picoult usually does, but this was my introduction to the author, so I am able to speak on the plot twist without being influenced by Picoult’s other works. I thought it was a well-timed twist, believable, and made the story that much more enriching and challenging to my own world view.

If you enjoy realistic fiction with plenty of drama, suspense, and some of the paranormal, then this is a book for you!

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book review, nonfiction, reading recommendations

Review: Hidden Figures

Their dark skin, their gender, their economic status–none of those were acceptable excuses for not giving the fullest rein to their imaginations and ambitions.

Hidden Figures, Margot Lee Shetterly

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Click on the image above to purchase on Amazon.

So as soon as I saw that this audiobook was available to loan with no wait from my local library, I immediately borrowed it because I loved the movie!

AUTHOR: Margot Lee Shetterly

GENRE: Nonfiction

WHERE DID I GET THIS BOOK: local library

RATING: 5/5 stars

SUMMARY: Hidden Figures follows the journey of mostly black women (some white women and black men and their struggles are also touched on) that worked as those who specialized in math and/or science for NASA or NACA, as it was named before the space race. The women in this book include Dorothy Vaughn, Katherine Johnson, Christine Darden, and Mary Jackson, among other amazing black, female minds that are also mentioned. The story does discuss the racial or gender based barriers that the women face when trying to advance themselves and their careers at Langley Institute on the Virginian Peninsula, but more importantly, it details the achievements of these women that would otherwise have been lost to history, and how these women tie into and contributed to American history, as well as the American narrative.

THOUGHTS: I gave this book the highest rating possible because I cannot honestly think of something I would change about it. The writing was clear and precise, and the author did a good job of navigating the material- she neither underplayed nor overplayed the role of racism or discrimination in the story, but she also did not idolize the women described nor did she downplay their characteristics or achievements. Instead, she did what a good nonfiction writer does- stick to the facts, but also adding humanizing elements to the story because it is a story with a uniquely humanistic value.

The story of success against all odds, of how hard work and dedication and ingenuity can lead to achievement otherwise impossible for black females to even dream about, is a story that I’m sure all Americans with a belief in the ideals of this country and the American Dream can enjoy and sympathize with. However, the recognition that the racial discrimination of the 1950s and the 1960s is only in the near past and the acknowledgement that black women still have a gigantic hill to climb are important aspects of this story to, and more importantly, Shetterly knows this keenly and tells her readers as well.

I am sure some people will be disappointed that this is not the same story that was eloquently fictionalized in the film, but I believe that the film took the necessary creative license to dramatize the work and to embody the same message and sentiment as the book. However, if you are not the kind that enjoys nonfiction persay, but would prefer a clear-cut story, then this book is probably not for you. (Go watch the movie instead! It’s still amazing and inspiring and Shetterly was very involved in its production.)

Ultimately, I am grateful that this book exists to enrich the minds of both Americans and international readers- the achievements of Dorothy Vaughn, Katherine Johnson, Mary Jackson, and Christine Darden are a reminder of what is possible in America, despite someone’s gender or despite someone’s skin tone, as well as a reminder of how far we still need to go as an American society. The bits about how black men fared at Langely Institute are also important and of the also-forgotten white, female mathematicians that worked at Langely reveal that black women were not the only “hidden figures” in this story. (Quick note: the subplots of white and black female friendships are SUBLIME). Therefore, this story is not just one about race, or about gender…it’s about the fact that only those of a certain, preferred demographic are sometimes the only ones that get noticed and how all of us could best help everyone reach their full potential, so that there are no more hidden figures.

 

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