Monday, July 13, 2020

Review: Chronicles of a Nuclear World First Post-Apocalyptic Journal: “ Under the Ground” by Radislav Borr

Chronicles of a Nuclear World First Post-Apocalyptic Journal: “ Under the Ground”
Chronicles of a Nuclear World FIrst Post-Apocalyptic Journal: Under the Ground by Radislav Borr
Publication Date: July 12th, 2020
Ebook. 503 pages

About The Sin in the Steel:

"International tensions are greater than ever. For the first time since the Cuban Missile Crisis, leaders of major military powers are talking about the possibility of using nuclear weapons. This is made more dangerous by the absence of constructive dialogue between the United States and Russia, the war in Syria, disruptions of agreements with North Korea, Venezuela, Pakistan, and India, China’s growing military power, etc., etc., etc. 

The world is close to a full-scale nuclear war that might well destroy civilization. Yet, unlike the environmental crisis, no one is talking about it. This should be shouted from the rooftops! In this book, the author shows the horror of life after a nuclear war. 

Under the Ground is the journal of a teenager growing to adulthood in an underground military shelter during the unending winter following a nuclear war. Over the course of the novel, he grows to become first a rebel, then a leader, and finally the potential savior of his people."

Chronicles of a Nuclear World is a compulsive post-apocalyptic tale written from the perspective of fourteen year-old Robert Williams' journals during the start of the momentous World War III. Although this is a bit of a longer book, I've decided to keep it as a shorter review because I feel like so much of this book is better experienced from reading Robert's story firsthand. There are some important twists throughout the plot that I definitely don't want to give anything away from, and.

Robert is one of the few who has survived, hiding out in a bunker as the world is ravaged around him and the others fortunate enough to be surviving in the bunker with him. I enjoyed following along with Robert and meeting the others that are a part of this story, especially in consideration of viewing how everyone uniquely responds to the situations that they are currently stuck in. There are a lot of books out there that deal with post-apocalyptic worlds, WWIII stories, and nuclear wars, and I think Borr's own addition has added great things to the genre because of the vibrant world and character he includes.

One of my favorite things about this book that I want to make sure to comment on are the beautiful illustrations! Borr has included twelve unique illustrations within the book that I thought were incredibly well-done and really helped to bring everything to life, including characters, settings, and other details that I think really did a great job of adding more dimension to the story. I'm always a fan of illustrations in books, so that really helped to set this book apart.

This book is much more on the slower paced side for a post-apocalyptic/dystopian-esque story, which is understandable since the majority of the events takes place while Robert is living underground in a bunker. I can understand that this might not be an overly compelling draw for people that prefer a faster-paced story, but I didn't think the story dragged because of it and, in fact, I felt that the story kept me pretty evenly engaged throughout its entirety.

The main drawbacks I had with Chronicles of a Nuclear World were that I  found some of the writing and dialogue a little awkward at times, which occasionally drew me out of the story. This is likely due to the English version being a translation so it didn't affect my enjoyment overmuch knowing that, but it is still something that broke things up a little.

Overall, I've given Chronicles of a Nuclear World four stars! Awkward structure and dialogue aside, I really loved the overall premise of this book and all of the careful detail that Borr put into it. It was fully engaging and I look forward to reading more one day. If this genre is one you enjoy, then definitely give this book a read!

Friday, July 10, 2020

The Friday Face-Off: Tunnel

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:
Tunnel – ‘At the end of every light, is a tunnel of darkness.’

Tunnels on covers were scarcer than I anticipated! I ended up deciding between Merchant of Death (Pendragon series) by D.J. MacHale and Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets since the tunnels with the basilisk were one of the first things I thought of with 'tunnel,' and in the end I decided to go with the latter! I know there was a basilisk living there, but I would still absolutely love to explore those underground chambers/tunnels!

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (Harry Potter, #2)Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (Harry Potter, #2)Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (Harry Potter, #2)
1999 US Hardcover | 2015 Pottermore Kindle | 2014 UK Paperback

Harry Potter et la Chambre des Secrets (Harry Potter, #2)Harry Potter e la Camera dei Segreti (Harry Potter, #2)Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (Harry Potter, #2)
2007 French | 1999 Italian | 2002 US Mass Market Paperback

Harry Potter y la cámara secreta (Harry Potter, #2)Harry Potter och hemligheternas kammare (Harry Potter, #2)Harry Potter und die Kammer des Schreckens (Harry Potter, #2)
2015 Spanish | 2000 Swedish |  1999 German

ハリー・ポッターと秘密の部屋 (ハリー・ポッターシリーズ #2)Harry Potter dan Kamar Rahasia (Harry Potter, #2)Harry Potter ja salaisuuksien kammio (Harry Potter, #2)
2000 Japanese | 2017 Indonesian | 1999 Finnish

My choice(s):
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (Harry Potter, #2)
I really like a lot of these (and there are so many more that I didn't include), but I guess I'll always be partial to the original US Hardcovers. I love the UK original covers as well! I think the Indonesian cover is stunning, though, and I love how completely different its art style is from the others I've seen. I'm also a big fan of the vibrancy of the colors in the 2014 UK paperback as well.

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

Thursday, July 9, 2020

Review: The Sin in the Steel by Ryan Van Loan

The Sin in the Steel (The Fall of the Gods, #1)
The Sin in the Steel by Ryan Van Loan
Tor Books
Publication Date: July 21st, 2020
Hardcover. 432 pages

About The Sin in the Steel:

"Heroes for hire. If you can pay. 

Brilliant street-rat 
Her mind leaps from clues to conclusions in the blink of an eye. 

Buc's partner-in-crime. 

No. Not in crime--in crime-solving. 

They've been hired for their biggest job yet--one that will set them up for a life of ease. 

If they survive. 

Buc and Eld are the first private detectives in a world where pirates roam the seas, mages speak to each other across oceans, mechanical devices change the tide of battle, and earthly wealth is concentrated in the hands of a powerful few. 

It's been weeks since ships last returned to the magnificent city of Servenza with bounty from the Shattered Coast. Disaster threatens not just the city's trading companies but the empire itself. When Buc and Eld are hired to investigate, Buc swiftly discovers that the trade routes have become the domain of a sharp-eyed pirate queen who sinks all who defy her. 

Now all Buc and Eld have to do is sink the Widowmaker's ship.... 

Unfortunately for Buc, the gods have other plans. 

Unfortunately for the gods, so does Buc."

If you're looking for a quick-witted, action-packed, ship and pirate-filled adventure, then step right up because The Sin the Steel is exactly what you're looking for! This book is escapism at its best, full of sarcasm and snark, a compelling duo of characters, and--once again-- pirates, of course, while also maintaining high quality writing with a fantastic story at its heart.

The world-building in The Sin in the Steel was particularly vibrant and well-constructed, and I could tell that the author took care in creating an elaborate backdrop for both the world and the story. There were a few small areas where I felt I didn't quite understand certain things as thoroughly as I might like to, but I didn't find this to be a very big issue overall. The only downside I really have is that I wish we could just have more and more of it (which I'm sort of hoping we'll get to explore in the next book), as there were plenty of locations visited and elements discussed, but there just seemed to be more time that could be spent on some of them or explored in general.

From first glance, Buc appears to be the rather stereotypical character who is a bit of a genius in certain ways, grew up in a hard life, and has a rebellious attitude that is hard  to keep quiet and even often gets her into trouble. However, Buc has a lot more to her than just those elements and it was such a delight to watch her navigate the chaos that occurs in this book, learning to trust both herself and others, and figuring out what exactly her goals are. Buc is also a bit impulsive and makes some decisions that aren't always the brightest, which does make her a bit unlikable, but there's still something oddly charismatic and compelling about her that kept me hooked.

We also have Eld, the more logical and even-minded of the two who sort of keeps Buc in line--though, I don't think there's too much Eld could do to actually control Buc, rather he just makes sure nothing too horrendous happens as a result of her often poor decisions. Eld is one with a slightly more mysterious background, all we know initially is that he was a soldier who was dishonorably discharged and has some rather strong feelings about certain topics, such as magic.

Ryan Van Loan has some strong pacing in this book and creates what seemed to me to be a pretty balanced pacing that vacillated perfectly between faster-paced moments and some moments where readers (and characters!) can take a breath and figure out what is even going on in the plot. There are so many different twists and turns, some that impact the plot in major ways and some that are more minor, but still prove important to the plot and individual character development. I can easily say that I was never given the opportunity to become bored while reading this book!

Overall, I've easily given The Sin in the Steel four stars! I wholeheartedly recommend this to anyone looking for a fast-paced adventure story with an exceptionally dynamic duo that make it hard not to connect with and desire to follow them on their journey. This is the perfect escapist read for summer and/or these rather, er, stressful (?) times for everyone and I cannot wait for the sequel!

Wednesday, July 8, 2020

Can't-Wait Wednesday: Ink and Sigil by Kevin Hearne & The Exiles by Christina Baker Kline

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: 

Ink & Sigil (Ink & Sigil, #1)
Ink and Sigil by Kevin Hearne
Publication: August 25th, 2020
Del Rey Books
Hardcover. 336 pages.

"Al MacBharrais is both blessed and cursed. He is blessed with an extraordinary white moustache, an appreciation for craft cocktails – and a most unique magical talent. He can cast spells with magically enchanted ink and he uses his gifts to protect our world from rogue minions of various pantheons, especially the Fae. 

But he is also cursed. Anyone who hears his voice will begin to feel an inexplicable hatred for Al, so he can only communicate through the written word or speech apps. And his apprentices keep dying in peculiar freak accidents. As his personal life crumbles around him, he devotes his life to his work, all the while trying to crack the secret of his curse. 

But when his latest apprentice, Gordie, turns up dead in his Glasgow flat, Al discovers evidence that Gordie was living a secret life of crime. Now Al is forced to play detective – while avoiding actual detectives who are wondering why death seems to always follow Al. Investigating his apprentice’s death will take him through Scotland’s magical underworld, and he’ll need the help of a mischievous hobgoblin if he’s to survive."
This has so many different small components to it that I just don't know what to expect! I get some urban fantasy vibes which are hit and miss for me, but I don't actually know if that's what it is. What I do know is that the idea of magical ink, various magical creatures, the weird thing going on with his voice, and the idea of a magical underworld of Scotland all have me ready to check this one out!

The Exiles
The Exiles by Christina Baker Kline
Publication: August 25th, 2020
William Morrow
Hardcover. 348 pages.

"Seduced by her employer’s son, Evangeline, a naïve young governess in early nineteenth-century London, is discharged when her pregnancy is discovered and sent to the notorious Newgate Prison. After months in the fetid, overcrowded jail, she learns she is sentenced to “the land beyond the seas,” Van Diemen’s Land, a penal colony in Australia. Though uncertain of what awaits, Evangeline knows one thing: the child she carries will be born on the months-long voyage to this distant land. 

During the journey on a repurposed slave ship, the Medea, Evangeline strikes up a friendship with Hazel, a girl little older than her former pupils who was sentenced to seven years transport for stealing a silver spoon. Canny where Evangeline is guileless, Hazel -- a skilled midwife and herbalist – is soon offering home remedies to both prisoners and sailors in return for a variety of favors. 

Though Australia has been home to Aboriginal people for more than 50,000 years, the British government in the 1840s considers its fledgling colony uninhabited and unsettled, and views the natives as an unpleasant nuisance. By the time the Medea arrives, many of them have been forcibly relocated, their land seized by white colonists. One of these relocated people is Mathinna, the orphaned daughter of the Chief of the Lowreenne tribe, who has been adopted by the new governor of Van Diemen’s Land."
I actually semi-recently received an ARC of this in the mail (which was such a delight since physical ARC mail has been rare lately!) and am so excited to dive into it (hopefully) soon! Historical Australia, its Aboriginal inhabitants, and its initial history are topics that I so rarely see as settings or premises for fiction and I am extremely excited about that.

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

Tuesday, July 7, 2020

Review: Girl, Serpent, Thorn by Melissa Bashardoust

Girl, Serpent, Thorn
Girl, Serpent, Thorn by Melissa Bashardoust 
Flatiron Books
Publication Date: July 7th, 2020
Hardcover. 336 pages

About Girl, Serpent, Thorn:

"There was and there was not, as all stories begin, a princess cursed to be poisonous to the touch. But for Soraya, who has lived her life hidden away, apart from her family, safe only in her gardens, it’s not just a story. 

As the day of her twin brother’s wedding approaches, Soraya must decide if she’s willing to step outside of the shadows for the first time. Below in the dungeon is a demon who holds knowledge that she craves, the answer to her freedom. And above is a young man who isn’t afraid of her, whose eyes linger not with fear, but with an understanding of who she is beneath the poison. 

Soraya thought she knew her place in the world, but when her choices lead to consequences she never imagined, she begins to question who she is and who she is becoming...human or demon. Princess or monster.."

Girl, Serpent, Thorn has a compelling premise with some beautiful storytelling, but unfortunately as the story progresses the plot loses more and more of its compelling nature devolved into a story that I eventually found myself wanting to rush through to finish. 

Soraya suffers from a curse that renders her touch deadly to living beings, which results in her living secluded from her family and friends in a life of loneliness and solitude in the city of Golvahar. Her curse is also kept strictly secret to the public and anyone outside of her immediate family, as her family holds a position, her being the sister to the shah of Atashar himself. Soraya would do anything to get rid of this curse, even if that means meeting secretly with a demon whom her mother has forbidden her from talking to. Around this time, Soraya also happens to meet a young man who, surprisingly (surprisingly to anyone but us readers, of course), does not appear to be afraid of her curse and instead wants to spend time with her and help her pursue a cure.

The story is told from Soraya's third person POV, which allows us to dive into the mind of Soraya and experience her woes. I appreciated the bisexual representation in this book from Soraya, though on a personal basis I do wish the romances had been explored a bit different. I liked her romance with one character, but the other felt far too rushed and implausible for my liking. I've seen some reviews complain about Soraya's incessant moping about as well, and I have to agree that I found it a bit annoying, though I will say that I also think it comes from an understandable place from living such a frustrating life. That being said, some of the other struggles that Soraya deals with felt as though they were explored really carefully and I appreciated the time and thoughtfulness Bashardourst put into conveying such authentic experiences.

I loved the fairytale-like quality of this story and the Persian mythology and folklore that was explored! I love when I get to read books inspired by different cultures' mythologies and although I can't speak from firsthand experience, I felt that Bashardourst executed this aspect beautifully. This content also contributed to the strong atmosphere of the story that really helped to keep everything feel cohesive when the plot seemed to fail to do so.

One of my biggest issues with this book, however, had to do with the somewhat messy pacing. When I think about the pacing of this book, half of me thinks it was too fast, and half of me thinks it was too slow. It covered a lot of ground really quickly, but at the same time I often feel like I'm not entirely sure what happened or why it escalated in the way that it did. It's not there is a lot of downtime in this book, but rather there seemed to be a decent amount of info-dumping and descriptions or explanations that I think tugged down the pace... but at the same time when there was action or more events occurring, they just seemed to be thrown together quickly. Similarly, I felt Soraya's relationship with some characters seemed to develop at a good pace, but others were rushed, and her character development improved a lot over the novel in some respects, but not in others. I know all of that probably sounds confusing, but that's how it felt reading the book as well for me.

Overall, I've given Girl, Serpent, Thorn three stars! I really struggled with whether or not to give this more or less than three stars, but I do think that there were some very promising aspects of this story that really boosted it up to three stars. I highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys YA fantasy and/or stories with some strong cultural elements and non-Western mythology.

Sunday, July 5, 2020

Month in Review: June 2020

So I learned something about myself in June--or rather, confirmed something I wondered about--and that is that my "comfort books" are, undoubtedly, historical fiction books. My anxiety was on high alert pretty much through all of June because of this huge move that I'm in the middle of (as I'm writing this, I'm almost done packing and my husband and I will be driving back down to Southern CA for good-yay!) and we're moving into a new apartment on Sunday (which is the day I'm posting this now!). Also, I'm sure most of you already know this, but moving is exhausting. I thought I had it under control, but yeah... no, this has been not fun--but since it's my first 'big' move, I now know a lot more that will make it easier in the future. 
So all in all, there are a lot of reasons for my anxiety around this move (one of them being that I'll be about an hour from my mom, which isn't that long, but considering how close I am to her and the dog, it's hard!), but I won't go into them all and will leave it at saying that this month I leaned heavily on books that kept my anxiety at bay and allowed me to just relax and feel warm and comforted reading them--which happened to be historical fiction this month!

In reading news, this month was really pretty uneventful. I know ten books is a lot, but I'm still pretty disappointed because I planned to read quite a few more, but unfortunately stress and anxiety kept me from being able to focus on things. Still, I managed a re-reading of The Secret History, one of my favorite books, and I had so much fun with Beatriz William's and Melanie Benjamin's books--they always seem to deliver great historical fiction. I'm hoping to pick back up with my reading next month, but... we'll see. I really want to push myself, but I also know that I shouldn't push myself. 

On another note, besides just missing libraries in general, has anyone started missing library sales yet?? The library near us usually had a 'Second Saturday' sale every second Saturday of the month with twenty-five cent books and I'm really missing the opportunity to buy some cheap books! Anyway, all my woes aside, haha, I hope you're all doing well, staying safe, and having a great summer so far! 

How was your reading month? Did you read any great books? Have you read any of the books I read? Let me know, I'd love to chat about any and all the books!

# books read: 10

The Secret HistoryThe Lost Queen (The Lost Queen Trilogy, #1)The AncestorThe Library of Legends
The Secret History by Donna Tartt  (re-read)
Source: Owned | Format: Hardcover

The Lost Queen by Signe Pike 
Source: Publisher | Format: Physical ARC

The Ancestor by Danielle Trussoni 
Source: NetGalley | Format: eARC

The Library of Legends by Janie Chang 
Source: NetGalley | Format: eARC

The Secret Life of Violet GrantVictoriaThe Aviator's WifeThe Latecomers
The Secret Life of Violet Grant by Beatriz Williams 
Source: Owned (Library Sale) | Format: Paperback

Victoria by Daisy Goodwin 
Source: Owned (Library Sale) | Format: Paperback

The Aviator's Wife by Melanie Benjamin 
Source: Owned (Library Sale) | Format: Paperback

The Latecomers by Helen Klein Ross
Source: Publisher | Format: Physical ARC

Girl, Serpent, ThornThe Westing Game
Girl, Serpent, Thorn by Melissa Bashardoust 
Source: NetGalley | Format: eARC

The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin  
Source: Owned (Library Sale) | Format: Paperback

The Obsidian Tower (Rooks and Ruin, #1)Trouble the SaintsWonderlandRule (The Unraveled Kingdom, #3)The AncestorThe Library of LegendsMexican GothicNight (North, #2)
The Obsidian Tower by Melissa Caruso 
Trouble the Saints by Alaya Dawn Johnson  
Wonderland by Zoje Stage 
Rule (The Unraveled Kingdom #3) by Rowenna Miller 
The Ancestor by Danielle Trussoni 
The Library of Legends by Janie Chang 
Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia 
Night by Alexandria Warwick 

(other than reviews)

The Friday Face-Off:

Have you read any of these? What books did you read this month? I hope you all had a great month-- comment below and let me know!

Thursday, July 2, 2020

Review: The Only Good Indians by Stephen Graham Jones

The Only Good Indians
The Only Good Indians by Stephen Graham Jones
Gallery/Saga Press
Publication Date: July 14th, 2020
Hardcover. 320 pages

About The Only Good Indians:

"The creeping horror of Paul Tremblay meets Tommy Orange’s There There in a dark novel of revenge, cultural identity, and the cost of breaking from tradition in this latest novel from the Jordan Peele of horror literature, Stephen Graham Jones. 

Seamlessly blending classic horror and a dramatic narrative with sharp social commentary, The Only Good Indians follows four American Indian men after a disturbing event from their youth puts them in a desperate struggle for their lives. Tracked by an entity bent on revenge, these childhood friends are helpless as the culture and traditions they left behind catch up to them in a violent, vengeful way."

The Only Good Indians was one of the most pleasantly surprising and hard-hitting books that I've read so far this year. This book was a huge gut punch at times, incredible raw and haunting, but also stunning and I genuinely loved it. This was a tough read at times (especially pertaining to animals), but absolutely worth it.

This story centers around a traumatic event that four Blackfeet Indian men, Lewis, Gabe, Cass, and Ricky were a part of about ten years ago involving some elk--an event that has stayed with the four men and has begun to follow them around in different ways, haunting each. The Only Good Indians is divided into three main sections, each following a different POV. The first follows Lewis as he finds himself being haunted by the image of the dead elk that he hunted and killed years ago with his friends. The second follows an unnamed woman that I don't want to say too much about, and the third section follows Gabe's daughter, Denorah. When I first realized that the book was going to have such drastic changes between sections, I was a little unsure if it would feel like a smooth transition or not, but I regret doubting Jones because it turned out to be so carefully done and effortless in transitioning from one perspective to the next, all while maintaining the same overall tone and atmosphere of some darkness and unease that seeps into the story from page one.

One of the things that stood out to me the most about The Only Good Indians and Stephen Graham Jones' writing was his strong attention to detail. Nothing mentioned was ever extraneous, but always served a purpose in the either the plot, in creating atmosphere, or in exploring themes and ideas. Lewis' sort of slow descent in paranoia was a particularly striking and compelling section for all the small details that Jones litters throughout that stick in your mind in the creepiest and best way possible. As an added plus, this book really was an unpredictable journey that had me verbally exclaiming at different unexpected or shocking moments, which made this an even better and more entertaining experience than it already was.

Jones has created something really special with this book. This is a book that will make you feel uncomfortable, possibly anxious, uncertain, and he does it all in such a deft and meaningful way that makes it hard not to fall into the story and become a part of everything the characters struggle with. This isn't just a story about revenge, but rather one that focuses on the cultural identity of the Native Blackfeet and everything that comes with that identity in this world.

As a word of caution to anyone who is sensitive to violence and/or violence involving animals, this book does have a few more disturbing moments that you should be aware of going into it.

Overall, it's an easy five stars from me. This book has stayed with me ever since I first picked it up, as it is a truly masterful work of heartbreak, horror, and devastation, as well as a breathtakingly haunting piece of fiction that will grab you and not let you go. I am already planning to dive into more of Stephen Graham's Jones work!