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Category: Celeste’s Reviews

My Familiar Stranger (Knights of Black Swan, #1)

My Familiar Stranger (Knights of Black Swan, #1)

My Familiar Stranger by Victoria Danann
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is not a book I would have ever picked up on my own. First of all, the cover just was not appealing to me. It’s a chick’s face. There is wind coming from somewhere, blowing said chick’s hair across her face. She would probably benefit from a hair tie or a headband. And that’s all there is to the cover. Bland, right? Also, it sounded like a really weird blend of commonly used tropes, such as the combination of vampire hunters and inter-dimensional travel. Furthermore, it involves one of my least favorite tropes: the dreaded love triangle, or in this case, a love square.

So, if I was so opposed to various aspects of this book, why on earth did I pick it up? Because my mom told me to.

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Daisy Jones and the Six

Daisy Jones and the Six

Daisy Jones & The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I didn’t think this book was going to work for me. I read the first 40 or so pages and just couldn’t get past the awkward formatting. Which made me incredibly sad, because music means the world to me and I was raised on classic rock. Before I wrote it off, I decided to give the audiobook a try. I’m so glad I did, because it’s now among my favorite audiobooks I’ve ever experienced. Because it definitely was an experience. It blows my mind that Daisy Jones isn’t a real icon of the Seventies, that The Six isn’t a real band whose back catalogue I can dig into now that I’ve gotten to know them. How Reid was able to create characters and a band dynamic that felt so real blows my mind. This is a book that was meant to be heard, with an amazingly talented and talented vocal cast.

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The Eye of the World (The Wheel of Time, #1)

The Eye of the World (The Wheel of Time, #1)

The Eye of the World by Robert Jordan
Petrik’s rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

Here it is, I’m riding the winds of time! Wheeeeeeeeeee!

Another massive fantasy series to finish, a new epic adventure to undertake. Like many modern fantasy readers, the last three books finished by Brandon Sanderson played a huge motivational drive in my attempt to start and finish The Wheel of Time. I honestly find this series to be even more intimidating than Malazan Book of the Fallen due to the sheer number of word counts in it. To give a bit of information on how intimidating this series is, the last two massive series I began and finished last year was The Realm of Elderlings (4.1 million words) by Robin Hobb and Malazan Book of the Fallen (3.3 million words) by Steven Erikson; the entirety of The Wheel of Time consists of 4.4 million words. That’s how gigantic this series is. If it weren’t because Sanderson is one of my top favorite authors of all time and the fact that I’ve completely run out of his adult fantasy books to read, I probably wouldn’t have started this series at all. That being said, no matter what the initial reason is, I’m really glad that I’ve taken the important first step towards conquering The Wheel of Time.

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A Boy and His Dog at the End of the World

A Boy and His Dog at the End of the World

A Boy and His Dog at the End of the World by C.A. Fletcher
My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

I received a copy of this book from the publisher (Orbit) in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

“Solitude is its own kind of madness. Like hope itself.”

I wasn’t really sure what to expect from this book. I knew it was going to be post-apocalyptic and involve a dog, but that’s really all I knew. And I’m incredibly glad I went in so blind.

“Hope can keep you afloat in troubled times. It can also drown you if you let it distract you at the wrong moment.”

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A Time of Blood (Of Blood and Bone, #2)

A Time of Blood (Of Blood and Bone, #2)

A Time Of Blood by John Gwynne
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I received an advance copy of this book from the publisher (Orbit) in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

Oh man. I wish time travel was a thing so I could dart into the future and get my hands on the last book of this trilogy. I need the final installment immediately.

“We live our lives by Truth and Courage. Love and loyalty, friendship and honour are our guiding lights.”

I absolutely adored The Faithful and the Fallen. The entire quartet was insanely epic, and each book was better than the last. I was crazy excited to get my hands on A Time of Dread, the first book of Gwynne’s followup series Of Blood and Bone. As much as I enjoyed it, that book had more of a grimdark feel to it than the original series, which saddened me and kept me from loving it to quite the same extent, though I see now that it was a necessary writing decision. A Time of Blood more than made up for that. While still dark and definitely bloody, this second installment had more of the optimism that made TFatF so wonderful, shining a light into the darkness and fighting to overcome it. I was ecstatic to feel the return of that hopefulness even in the midst of dark and terrible times. Something that Gwynne does wonderfully well is balance sorrow with hope. We should mourn and avenge our fallen, but we should also preserve our memories of them and honor them by living life to the fullest.

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A Time of Dread (Of Blood and Bone, #1)

A Time of Dread (Of Blood and Bone, #1)

A Time of Dread by John Gwynne
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

“Sometimes the only answer is blood and steel.”

I have very mixed feelings about this book. On the one hand, I loved getting to revisit the Banished Lands, which is among by favorite fantasy worlds. On the other, seeing the way this world has changed in the over a century since the events of The Faithful and the Fallen (TFatF) was painful. But that’s part of the point.

While Gwynne’s original series set in the Banished Land had a lot of warring and sadness and character deaths, I wouldn’t call it grimdark. There was a hopefulness to the story that in my opinion negated that genre. However, I would say that this first book of the followup series is undoubtedly grimdark. The brightness that managed to shine through in the first series isn’t present here, which made me sad. That said, I get the reasoning behind it. The world that the cast of TFatF fought for has been preserved, but at a high price. It has been undeniably altered, and not for the better. Looking back on the events of the first four books, this alteration saddens me because it makes the fight feel like it wasn’t worth the cost. But that’s not true, and I’m hoping that in the second installment of this followup series, we’ll see a bit more of the hope that defined TFatF.

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Tilly and the Bookwanderers (Pages & Co., #1)

Tilly and the Bookwanderers (Pages & Co., #1)

Tilly and the Bookwanderers by Anna James
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

“Be brave, be curious, be kind.”

I have the most wonderful friends. And those I talk to the most, I’ve never even met in person. There’s a group of us (most of whom now write for the blog we built together, Novel Notions) who talk almost every single day. For the past three years, we’ve sent each other birthday presents and Secret Santa gifts for Christmas. Almost always books, of course. We’ve been there for each other through both extreme hardship and profound joy. Even though I can’t give them a physical shoulder to cry on because of the distance, I know they’re always there for me, and I’m certain they feel the same about me. We love each other, and we share a common passion, the combination of which spawned our wonderful blog. Book friends are the best friends.

“I love thinking about other people reading the books I love, or why someone gave that book as a present – those names and messages are like tiny moments of time travel linking readers from different eras and families and even countries.”

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Little Fires Everywhere

Little Fires Everywhere

Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

Little Fires Everywhere is a powerful story that I never would have read had I known what it was actually about. I’m glad that I read it, and I applaud Ng’s astute and canny characterizations. However, this book is the closest I’ve ever come to actually being triggered by something, which I’ll explain further below. I’ve read books in the past that were very dark or depressing, but I could recognize those elements and finish the book, knowing that the book wasn’t really for me but no worse off for having read it. But this book messed with my head and brought back to the forefront of my mind feelings I thought had been laid to rest.

“Sometimes you need to scorch everything to the ground, and start over. After the burning the soil is richer, and new things can grow. People are like that, too. They start over. They find a way.”

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The Priory of the Orange Tree

The Priory of the Orange Tree

The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon
My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

The Priory of the Orange Tree is among the most beautiful works of literature I’ve ever read. In an age of fantasy where grimdark is by and large the king of the genre, Priory breaks the mold by showcasing breathtaking beauty in its prose.

”We mean to reforge with love what greed has broken.”

If grimdark views the world through a filter of ashy sepia, Priory instead views the world through a filter that oversaturated each and every color, giving every inch of itself an otherworldly brightness that I’ve found in very few fantasy tales. The best comparisons I can think of in tone would be The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle and Tigana by Guy Gavriel Kay. In both of these books, as well as in Priory, there are terrible, nigh-apocalyptic happenings, as are found in nearly every fantasy novel that has captured the imaginations of their readers. The difference is that if you took a deep breath inside the worlds of these three books, you would fill your lungs with the heady scent of orange blossoms and lavender and life, as opposed to the heavy ashen air that would clog your throat in the worlds of their grimdark counterparts. I feel that the beauty of these worlds only increases the tension and the stakes if our heroes cannot find a way to save the day. It’s far sadder to me to watch something heartbreakingly lovely go up in smoke than it is something weathered and grimy. That’s my opinion, at least.

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Sing, Unburied, Sing

Sing, Unburied, Sing

Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Literary fiction is very hit or miss for me. I’ve read quite a few that I desperately wanted to like, but I just couldn’t. There’s this level of pretension found in the writing of many such titles that I find difficult to stomach. However, I have been fortunate to find some absolutely gorgeous books in the genre, a handful of which are now among my very favorite books on the planet.

“Sometimes the world don’t give you what you need, no matter how hard you look. Sometimes it withholds.”

So where did Sing, Unburied, Sing fall in this mixed bag of a genre? While it doesn’t rank among my favorite books ever, I did very much enjoy it. There’s something about reading a novel that shares your life in some way, whether that entails a shared heritage or setting or lifestyle, that just speaks so deeply to readers. For me, that comes in the form of novels set in the American South. Ward writes stories firmly rooted in the South, and though this was the first of her novels I’ve read, it won’t be the last, because she does a phenomenal job of capturing both the beauty and the repugnance of the rural South.

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