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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Age of War (The Legends of the First Empire, #3)

Age of War (The Legends of the First Empire, #3)

I received an advanced reading copy from the author in exchange for an honest review.

Age of War by Michael J. Sullivan
My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

Age of War marks a fine conclusion to the first act of the series, revealing the true story behind the legends spoken of in Riyria Revelations which was not all fairy tales, rainbows and butterflies.

Before I start, let us take a moment to admire the stunning cover for Age of War by the one and only, Marc Simonetti. In my opinion, this is the best cover he has produced for any of Sullivan’s books to date, and it is most fitting that the book dedication is made in his honour.

This book is dedicated to the artist Marc Simonetti. People are told not to judge a book by its cover, but so long as Marc is creating them, judge away.

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A Book Review That Became An Essay

A Book Review That Became An Essay

A prelude to a possible series of essays on books and reading. 

I usually have bookmail delivered to my workplace, for there is no better way to break the dreariness of work, and it is always a delight when I see an email from the office mailroom titled “1 Package For You”. One afternoon, I saw one such email popping up in my Inbox and was most perplexed since I was not expecting any packages at all (it was nowhere close to my birthday or Christmas either). As I picked up the ubiquitous Amazon package from the mailroom, I was still trying very hard to remember if I ordered anything lately that I might have forgotten about. To my utter surprise and delight, I opened the package and saw this lovely bound hardback copy of I’d Rather Be Reading: The Delights and Dilemmas of the Reading Life by Anne Bogel. The book’s cover featured a beautiful rendition of a cosy reading spot, which I later discovered is a watercolour painting of Anne Bogel’s home library. Ah, so envious!

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Solace Lost (Pandemonium Rising, #1)

Solace Lost (Pandemonium Rising, #1)

Review copy provided by the author in exchange for an honest review.

Solace Lost by Michael Sliter
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A brutally gripping story tinged with despair; Solace Lost is a character-driven grimdark fantasy debut that earned its title mercilessly.

Solace Lost is Michael Sliter’s debut; the first book out of five in the Pandemonium Rising series. Before I begin my review, I strongly urge that you read this novel only IF you’re a grimdark fantasy enthusiast. I don’t usually include content warnings in my review but I feel like this book truly warranted one; as it involved a minor spoiler, I’ll mention it at the end of my review.

The main story in Solace Lost follows four main characters: Fenrir, Merigold, Hafgan, and Emma. Ardia is on the brink of a civil war and these four distinctive characters will have their fates intertwined, for better or worse. As I mentioned before, this is utterly a character-driven story and its main strength lies mostly within the characterizations. Each main character has different personality traits, and the inner voices given by the author to these characters made them feel real. Living up to the grimdark genre, none of the main characters can simply be defined as good or bad. The only character that started out as good and kind-hearted was Merigold. That too, for only a while before atrocious things happened to her and she found her life completely turned upside down. I won’t go as far as saying that I loved these characters but I did find myself totally invested in knowing about their journeys. This was especially true for Fenrir and Merigold’s POVs; they dominated the plot of this book and I found their storyline to be the most engaging out of all the characters.

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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 Hero Born (Legends of the Condors Heroes, #1)

A Hero Born (Legends of the Condors Heroes, #1)

ARC provided by the publisher—St. Martin’s Press—in exchange for an honest review.

A Hero Born by Jin Yong
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

A Hero Born is the start to Jin Yong’s highly praised classic series but a lot of the promising quality of the book seems to get lost in translation.

I’m genuinely sad with my ratings for this one, but I have to be honest that I have mixed feelings towards this novel. When I was around 5 years old, I used to watch The Legends of the Condor Heroes a lot with my parents. When I missed an episode, my parents would tell me the story in detail; teaching me the meaning behind the actions of each character. This series, even though I’ve never read it until now, has a spot of nostalgia for me. That being said, it’s been more than 20 years and I honestly remember extremely little about it. What I do remember is that the story eventually grew significantly larger in scope and complexity than the coming-of-age tale we have in A Hero Born. I’ll divide this review strictly into what worked and what didn’t; let’s start with the parts that worked first.

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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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The Dragon Republic (The Poppy War, #2)

The Dragon Republic (The Poppy War, #2)

ARC provided by the publisher—Harper Voyager—in exchange for an honest review.

The Dragon Republic by R.F. Kuang
My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

The newest rising queen of fantasy is back with her newest book, The Dragon Republic, and it managed to live up to my super high expectations.

Can we first appreciate just how damn gorgeous the cover of this book is? JungShan has created another spectacular cover-selling ink illustration and I’m confident that many readers will pick up the book/series even if they don’t know anything about it. The same situation as its predecessor, the quality of the content of the book did justice to the beautiful cover art and vice versa. I’m pretty sure practically everyone who knows me on bookish social media knows how much I loved The Poppy War. I even created a Twitter account just to wish the author a congratulatory message on her debut’s publication day. If you don’t know/remember, here’s a short snippet of what I said about the first book:

“I have no doubt this will end up being the best fantasy debut of the year… a book that will go down as one of the best grimdark/military fantasy debuts of all time. […] I have absolutely no doubt that [Kuang’s] name will be up there with the likes of Robin Hobb and N.K. Jemisin.”

Yeah… suffice to say that I highly loved the first book. Since then, The Poppy War has also garnered well-deserved praises, nominations, and awards; my high expectations towards its sequel were inevitable and I’m glad to say that after reading this book, my worry was unfounded and Kuang entranced me once again with her newest installment.

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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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The Procurement of Souls

The Procurement of Souls

I received a copy of the book from the author in exchange for an honest review.

The Procurement of Souls by Benjamin Hope
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars.

A commendable debut, The Procurement of Souls is a dark and fantastical tale that will satisfy gothic fans.

Right from the very start, there was a disturbing scene of a man trapped and strapped down on a chair by a mad scientist, Dr Weimer, who duly inserted a long tube with a metal barb at its end down his victim’s mouth, throat and even further to extract something out of that poor man. And that something is where the book got its title.

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