Monday, January 27, 2020

Review: The Truants by Kate Weinberg

The Truants
The Truants by Kate Weinberg
G.P. Putnam's Sons
Publication Date: January 28th, 2020
Hardcover. 320 pages

About The Truants:

"People disappear when they most want to be seen.

Jess Walker has come to a concrete campus under the flat grey skies of East Anglia for one reason: To be taught by the mesmerizing and rebellious Dr Lorna Clay, whose seminars soon transform Jess's thinking on life, love, and Agatha Christie. Swept up in Lorna's thrall, Jess falls in with a tightly-knit group of rule-breakers--Alec, a courageous South African journalist with a nihilistic streak; Georgie, a seductive, pill-popping aristocrat; and Nick, a handsome geologist with layers of his own. 

But when tragedy strikes the group, Jess turns to Lorna. Together, the two seek refuge on a remote Italian island, where Jess tastes the life she's long dreamed of--and uncovers a shocking secret that will challenge everything she's learned."

This book was honestly a huge disappointment for me. I read this book back in August, which is when I wrote down the majority of this review so as not to forget anything by the time I post it, but it remains fairly unmemorable to me and I can't say that I have extraordinarily strong feelings for it one way or another.

The Truants follows Jess, a rather uninteresting woman who also happens to be obsessed with her future professor, Dr. Lorna Clay, a scholar whose my recent book about Agatha Christie has contributed to her class being one of the most sought after at her university. Jess is one of those characters who I never really cared about or found myself attached to in any way. Her personality was inconsistent throughout and I struggled to really understand who she was. She meets three other enigmatic people and the four quickly form a tight, tenuous friendship, which forms the basis for many of the events that occur throughout the story. This book is very much about the characters and their secrets and relationships with one another, much of which tends to eventually overlap with that of Dr. Clay's.

One of my biggest issues with The Truants was its insistence on trying to create a 'dark academia' sort of vibe, an effort with seemed to fail in execution and instead left this book feeling empty and lacking in major plot and substance There were a few moments where Weinberg's prose was elevated in ways that made me enjoy her writing, for the majority of the book it felt rather flat and uninteresting.

Because of how lackluster this book was, the many "shocking" secrets that came out weren't really that shocking and I didn't really care when they did happen. The first half of the book takes place mostly at the university, whereas the second half takes some new directions and introduces more involvements with Dr. Clay that I didn't particularly enjoy and that I felt were a bit too predictable. I don't mind a little bit of predictability in books, but this just felt like such a tired and cliche'd storyline--the main difference was the second main setting and the mystery attached--and I found myself trying to speed through this book a lot to finish it.

Despite how I've made it sound, this isn't a bad book and I can understand how plenty of people could enjoy the dark-ish academia vibes and the influence and incorporation of Agatha Christie's role and mysteries, but I just didn't enjoy it. It seemed to try too hard to fit into the mold dark academia mixed with enigmatic professor and unhealthy friendships. Overall, it's a 2.5 stars from me!

*I received an ARC of The Truants courtesy of the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This has no effect on my rating of the novel.*

Friday, January 24, 2020

Anticipated February 2020 Releases!

And it's time for a month of new releases! January has actually been a really slow month and I'm honestly one hundred percent okay with that because I feel like I've had time to catch up on some books....just in time to fall behind again with all the new February releases. ;) (Although let's be honest, I never caught up in the first place!) I'm really looking forward to these and I've been fortunate enough to already read quite a few--I can't wait to see these all officially release!

What books are you most looking forward to? Have you read any of these already!? Let me know!

Daughter from the DarkThe Boatman's DaughterSword of FireThe Unspoken Name (The Serpent Gates, #1)The King of Crows (The Diviners, #4)Things in JarsRed HoodThe Last Smile in Sunder CityThe Unwilling: A NovelThe Glass HotelThe MerciesApeirogonThe Wolf of Oren-YaroThe Queen's Assassin (Queen's Secret, #1)All the Stars and Teeth (All the Stars and Teeth, #1)Night Spinner (Night Spinner, #1)The Magnificent Monsters of Cedar StreetThe Shadows Between UsDeath in the Family (Shana Merchant, #1)Mercy HouseThe Adventurer's SonHere in the Real WorldA Witch in TimeThe Queen's Fortune: A Novel of Desiree, Napoleon, and the Dynasty That Outlasted the Empire

Daughter from the Dark by Marina & Sergey Dyachenko || February 11th -- Amazon | Book Depository | IndieBound
(review to come!)

The Boatman's Daughter by Andy Davidson || February 11th -- Amazon | Book Depository | IndieBound

Sword of Fire by Katharine Kerr || February 18th -- Amazon | Book Depository | IndieBound

The Unspoken Name by A.K. Larkwood || February 11th -- Amazon | Book Depository | IndieBound
(review to come!)

The King of Crows by Libba Bray || February 4th -- Amazon | Book Depository | IndieBound

Things in Jars by Jess Kid || February 4th -- Amazon | Book Depository | IndieBound

Red Hood by Elana K. Arnold || February 25th -- Amazon | Book Depository | IndieBound

The Last Smile in Sunder City by Luke Arnold || February 25th -- Amazon | Book Depository | IndieBound

The Unwilling by Kelly Braffet || February 11th -- Amazon | Book Depository | IndieBound

The Glass Hotel by Emily St. John Mandel || February 15th -- Amazon | BookDepository | IndieBound

The Mercies by Kiran Millwood Hargrave || February 11th -- Amazon | Book Depository | IndieBound

Apeirogon by Colum McCann || February 25th -- Amazon | Book Depository | IndieBound
(review to come!)

The Wolf of Oren-Yaro by K.S. Villoso || February 18th-- Amazon | Book Depository | IndieBound

The Queen's Assassin by Melissa de la Cruz || February 4th -- Amazon | Book 
 Depository | IndieBound

All the Stars and Teeth by Adalyn Grace || February 4th -- Amazon | Book Depository | IndieBound

Night Spinner by Addie Thorley || February 11th -- Amazon | Book Depository | IndieBound

The Magnificent Monsters of Cedar Street by Lauren Oliver || February 11th -- Amazon | Book Depository | IndieBound

The Shadows Between Us by Tricia Levenseller || February 25th -- Amazon | Book Depository | IndieBound

Death in the Family by Tessa Wegert || February 18th -- Amazon | Book Depository | IndieBound
(review to come!)

Mercy House by Alena Dillon || February 11th -- Amazon | Book Depository | IndieBound

The Adventurer's Son by Roman Dial || February 18th -- Amazon | Book Depository | IndieBound

Here in the Real World by Sara Pennypacker || February 4th -- Amazon | Book Depository | IndieBound

A Witch in Time by Constance Sayers || February 11th -- Amazon | Book Depository | IndieBound

The Queen's Fortune by Allison Pataki || February 11th -- Amazon | Book Depository | IndieBound

What are your anticipated February releases?

Thursday, January 23, 2020

Review: Prosper's Demon by K.J. Parker

Prosper's Demon
Prosper's Demon by K.J. Parker
Publication Date: January 28th, 2020
Paperback. 112 pages

About Prosper's Demon:

"In a botched demonic extraction, they say the demon feels it ten times worse than the man. But they don’t die, and we do. Equilibrium.

The unnamed and morally questionable narrator is an exorcist with great follow-through and few doubts. His methods aren’t delicate but they’re undeniably effective: he’ll get the demon out—he just doesn’t particularly care what happens to the person. 

Prosper of Schanz is a man of science, determined to raise the world’s first philosopher-king, reared according to the purest principles. Too bad he’s demonically possessed."

This is going to be a very short review solely because this book is only a little over a hundred pages and there's only so much I can say without giving things away because this book was so fun to explore.

K.J. Parker is truly a master of creating distinct, sharp narrative voices. Our unnamed narrator is, as the synopsis mentions, a delightfully morally questionable man who exorcises demons from those who happen to find themselves possessed by a demon. I loved listening to the narrator's personality and his opinions and takes on what he does and the world around him.

I also actually really liked the the concept of the demons as well as the methods in which they both possess people and can be exorcised. It was a really unique and somewhat fun take on an idea (demon possession) that's been around for centuries. It's clever and inventive and really made me wish that this novella could be turned into a full length novel. Although the plot of this book was interesting, I was really much more interested in the concepts and the narrative style than a lot of the main story points, which is the main area where this works better as a novella.

My favorite part of this novella remains the incredible and witty prose. It's beautiful in a very specific way and had me laughing out loud more than a few times. Parker truly has wonderful writing skills and I'm so impressed by the sheer cleverness and writing style of each book I've read by him, including Prosper's Demon.

Overall, it's 4.25 stars for me! This was such a delight in a morbid way and I had a great time reading it. Highly recommended to anyone who loves a unique narrative voice.

*I received a copy of Prosper's Demon courtesy of NetGalley and the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This has no effect on my rating of the novel.*

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Can't-Wait Wednesday: A Witch in Time by Constance Sayers & The Adventurer's Son by Roman Dial

Can't-Wait is a weekly meme hosted by Wishful Endings that spotlights exciting upcoming releases that we can't wait to be released! This meme is based off of Jill @ Breaking the Spine's Waiting on Wednesday meme.

This week's upcoming book spotlights are: 

A Witch in Time
A Witch in Time by Constance Sayers
Publication: February 11th, 2020
Hardcover. 448 pages.

"A young witch is cursed to relive a doomed love affair through many lifetimes, as both troubled muse and frustrated artist, in this haunting debut novel. 

In 1895, sixteen-year-old Juliet LaCompte has a passionate, doomed romance with the married Parisian painter Auguste Marchant. When her mother -- a witch -- attempts to cast a curse on Marchant, she unwittingly summons a demon, binding her daughter to both the artist and this supernatural being for all time. Juliet is fated to re-live her affair and die tragically young lifetime after lifetime as the star-crossed lovers reincarnate through history. 

The demon -- who appears to Juliet in all her reincarnations as a mysterious, handsome, and worldly benefactor -- has been helplessly in love with her since 19th century France, even though she forgets him each time she dies. He falls for her in 1930s Hollywood, in 1970s Los Angeles, and finally in present-day Washington D.C. -- where she begins to develop powers of her own. 

In this life, she starts to remember her tragic past lives. But this time, she might have the power to break the cycle..."
I am always ready for some witches!

The Adventurer's Son
The Adventurer's Son by Roman Dial
Publication: February 18th, 2020
William Morrow
Hardcover. 368 pages.

"In the predawn hours of July 10, 2014, twenty-seven-year-old Cody Roman Dial, the son of preeminent Alaskan scientist and National Geographic Explorer Roman Dial, walked alone into Corcovado National Park, an untracked rainforest along Costa Rica’s remote Pacific Coast that shelters miners, poachers, and drug smugglers. He carried a light backpack and machete. Before he left, he emailed his father: "I am not sure how long it will take me, but I’m planning on doing 4 days in the jungle and a day to walk out. I’ll be bounded by a trail to the west and the coast everywhere else, so it should be difficult to get lost forever.

They were the last words Dial received from his son. 

The Adventurer’s Son recreates the author’s two-year quest to learn the truth about his child’s disappearance. Immediately after Cody Roman’s planned departure date passed without a word from him, Dial set off for Costa Rica. As he trekked through the dense jungle, interviewing locals and searching for clues—the authorities suspected murder—the desperate father was forced to confront the deepest questions about his own life. Roman had raised his son to be fearless, to seek out adventure amid earth’s wildest places. Was he ultimately responsible for his son’s fate? 

A harrowing story of drama, adventure, and a father’s love for his son, set in the most beautiful and dangerous reaches of the planet, The Adventurer’s Son is a mystery, the memoir of a father and his son, and an unforgettable story of love and profound loss."
This just sounds like a really interesting true life adventure story that I would really enjoy based on other books I’ve in this realm. Hopefully I’ll have a chance to check it out!

What do you think about these upcoming releases? What are your anticipated upcoming releases?

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Top Ten Tuesday: Recent Additions to My Bookshelf!

This week's topic is: Top Ten Most Recent Additions to My Bookshelf

I honestly couldn't tell you what the ten most recent additions to my bookshelf are. A lot of what I read are ARCs and library books and frankly I don't keep them in any sort of order based on when I received them, and I haven't purchased too many books in the past couple months or so. For this post, I basically just went into my room, looked around at the various piles of books littered around, and tried to guess at the somewhat more recent books to come in? Maybe? A few I actually know I got recently, but others are just recent books I'm really excited to own! I'm probably skipping over a bunch of random books I've acquired recently, but who cares, let's dive in!

The Only Good IndiansThe Shadow Saint (The Black Iron Legacy, #2)Never Come MorningCrossingsThe Mother Code

The Only Good Indians by Stephen Graham Jones: I was so thrilled to win this book in a giveaway recently and I cannot wait to check it out. It's a horror novel "of revenge, cultural identity, and the cost of breaking from tradition," which sounds absolutely incredible. It's out in April and I'm hoping to dive in soon!

The Shadow Saint by Gareth Hanrahan: This is such a highly anticipated release in the fantasy world--and with good reason! My review copy from Orbit just recently showed up and I'm diving into it, well, today! I'm really intrigued to see where Hanrahan goes in this inventive world. 

Never Come Morning by Nelson Algren: So this book has a weird backstory. It was an extremely random and unplanned acquisition and I really know very little about it, other than the fact that apparently it's a very highly praised yet unknown book? The reason I got it is because there's a song that I really like off a recent album of a band that I also really like and apparently this book was the inspiration for the song. In an interview, they stated that the only way to really get the full meaning out of it was to have read the book, and well, who am I to pass up such an obvious recommendation for a book I've never heard of? I'm pretty excited to check it out, so fingers crossed! It also seems to be out of print, but fortunately Ebay had some cheap copies so I managed to snag one.

Crossings by Alex Landragin: I recently received this ARC in the mail and I really don't know a lot about this book either, but it sounds so interesting! The descriptions states that it is "a novel in three parts, designed to be read in two different directions, spanning a hundred and fifty years and seven lifetimes." How interesting does that sound!? Out in July! (or if you're in Austraia, I think it's already out!)

The Mother Code by Carole Stivers: This is a futuristic sci-fi that I'm finally starting to see being talked about in a few places, so I'm looking forward to checking it out.

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland & Through the Looking-GlassThe History of Rome, Books 1-5: The Rise of RomeSextus PompeiusMaster and Commander (Aubrey/Maturin, #1)

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll--MinaLima edition: I am in love with these MinaLima editions! They are some of the most gorgeous versions of these classics that I've ever seen. They have stunning and vibrant illustrations, interactive elements like maps that pull out and illustrations that you can sort of move around--it's far better than I'm making it sound. I received this as a Christmas gift and since Alice is one of my favorites, I was beyond thrilled. I already have the Peter Pan and The Little Mermaid editions and I recommend them so much!

Tsarina by Ellen Alpsten: I am so intrigued by this upcoming historical ficiton release. The cover featured is a pictur eof the ARC I have since there isn't an official cover out yet that I'm aware of. In case you can't read the tiny cover, all if says are "Serf. Murderer. Empress" and I am so very here for that. It's about "Catherine Alexeyevna: the first woman to rule Russia in her own right" and I'm really looking forward to reading this, though it's not out until fall so I'm not sure if I'll prioritize it yet or not since I have so many other books to focus on right now.

The Rise of Rome by Livy: Since I haven't actually personally purchased a lot of books recently (mainly ARCs and library books!), I figured I'd include a couple books I bought for this semester of grad school. The first one if books 1-5 of Livy's history of Rome for a class I'm taking on Livy! Somehow throughut my career as a Classics student I still haven't managed to acquire any copies of Livy;s work to personally own, so I had to finally pick up a copy. My focus tends to be more on the Hellenistic side of things, so jumping into solely Roman/Latin-based courses is somewhat new for me!

Sextus Pompeius by Anton Powell & Kathryn Welch: Another book for this semester is this book on Sextus Pompeius, which I may or may not be fully reading for a potential paper for another class! I've not yet decided on a topic for my paper, but I'm planning on reading up on Sextus Pompey a bit to see if there is an angle in there I actually want to go with. We'll see! Nonetheless, it's still be really interesting so far to explore more about him and his role since he isn't mentioned overmuch and is often portrayed negatively in ancient sources.

Master and Commander by Patrick O'Brien: I reaize that this is also a very random book, but I saw it at a library sale a few weeks back and I thought, "well I like naval endeavors and maritime-based stories, so why not?" I've never seen the movie and honestly don't know much about this book/movie, either, but life's all about trying new things, right?

Have you read any of these/are you planning to read any of these? Let me know!

Monday, January 20, 2020

Review: Dreamland by Nick Clausen

Dreamland: A Ghost Story
Dreamland by Nick Clausen
Publication Date: March, 2019
Ebook. 162 pages

About Dreamland:

"Some nightmares never end 

In his sleep, Louie starts visiting a magical world where he meets his father, who died when Louie was still a baby. But nothing turns out to be what it seems, and great horrors loom very close by ... 

Welcome to Dreamland 

A mysterious teen ghost story about fear and loss and losing yourself in dreams, Dreamland was originally published in Danish to great reviews, and is now available in English."

Dreamland is a fantasy/horror novella that packs a huge punch and explores a number of imaginative and surprising elements in under two hundred pages. This was such a unique story blend of bittersweet, paranormal, and unpredictable elements that worked together to create an incredibly memorable story.

Dreamland itself is a place for Louie to escape to at night from the grief and everyday struggles of his everyday reality. This escape is something that I think a lot of us can easily relate to and that Clausen expands upon really well. While in Dreamland, Louie is able to talk to his father who died when he was a baby an experience that Louie is hooked by and makes him want to continue visiting Dreamland.

Unfortunately, as seems to be the case with  lot of things that are possibly too good to be true, there's a big downside to Dreamland the Louie slowly starts to discover and things slow turn darker and darker in Drealmand. I think Clausen did a spectacular job of conveying the atmosphere of this change and in creating a setting that felt very vivid and believable. The physical changes that Louie begins to experience after visiting Dreamland at night--such as being tired rather than refreshed upon waking--contribute to this so much and really add an extra layer to the discomfort of Dreamland. There wasn't every anything overly terrifying, but the creepiness permeated the story extremely well.

There is a great exploration of grief and all of the surrounding struggles that come with grief that I really appreciated. The characters were all complex and well-developed and provided a great backdrop for the rest of the plot to unfold. I really enjoyed following Louie on this journey and experiencing all the crazy, unpredictable changes that made this such an interesting story.

I found the pacing of Dreamland to be really well done. It has a great balance of moments that slow things down in order to fully explore an important scene or element. I also really enjoyed the fact that I couldn't ever predict where the story was going. Clausen includes a couple big twists, but the entire storyline is so interesting and unique which allowed me to fully enjoy it and the discovery of each point to its fullest extent. There is a very bittersweet ending, which is how I tend to like my endings.

One last note I'd like to make about Dreamland is that although it's technically a YA story, it seems as though it has some great appeal for all ages. I found a lot of the themes highly relatable and I can see different areas meaning something different to each person, no matter the age.

Overall, I've given Dreamland four stars! This was a really enjoyable and quick novella that I definitely recommend to anyone looking for a little bit of spooky with their fantasy.

*I received a copy of Dreamland courtesy of the author in exchange for an honest review. This has no effect on my rating of the novel.*

Friday, January 17, 2020

The Friday Face-Face: Horizon

Friday Face Off New
Welcome to The Friday Face-Off, a weekly meme at Books by Proxy. Join us every Friday as we pit cover against cover, and publisher against publisher, to find the best artwork in our literary universe. You can find a list of upcoming topics at Lynn's Books.

This week's topic is:
Horizon – “Your “beautiful” ship killed its crew, Doctor.”

Horizon was a fun topic to try to track down and I ended up deciding on The Red Wolf Conspiracy by Robert V.S. Redick because I think the U.S. edition that I read has a fantastic example of an ocean-based horizon. The rest of these covers vary a decent bit, but I love the theme that inhabits all of them! There weren't a lot of different covers to showcase, but I still think it's a good variety.

The Red Wolf Conspiracy (Chathrand Voyages, #1)The Red Wolf Conspiracy (The Chathrand Voyage, #1)The Red Wolf Conspiracy (The Chathrand Voyage #1)
2009 US Hardcover | 2008 UK Hardcover | 2010 US Mass Market

La Conspiration du loup rouge (The Chathrand Voyage, #1)Spiknutí Ryšavého vlkaThe Red Wolf Conspiracy (The Chathrand Voyage, #1)
2009 French | 2010 Czech | 2009 Audiobook

My choice(s):
The Red Wolf Conspiracy (Chathrand Voyages, #1)The Red Wolf Conspiracy (The Chathrand Voyage, #1)
I'm more drawn to the UK Hardcover on the right, but I do think the US one reflects the slightly more adventurous spirit of the story and the inclusion of the sword makes it more fun. But I seriously still love the blues and the ships in the UK one!

What cover(s) do you like the most!?