Thursday, February 27, 2020

Review: Hannah's War by Jan Eliasberg

Hannah's War
Hannah's War by Jan Eliasberg
Little, Brown and Company
Publication Date: March 3rd, 2020
Paperback. 320 pages

About Hannah's War:

"Berlin, 1938. Groundbreaking physicist Dr. Hannah Weiss is on the verge of the greatest discovery of the 20th century: splitting the atom. She understands that the energy released by her discovery can power entire cities or destroy them. Hannah believes the weapon's creation will secure an end to future wars, but as a Jewish woman living under the harsh rule of the Third Reich, her research is belittled, overlooked, and eventually stolen by her German colleagues. Faced with an impossible choice, Hannah must decide what she is willing to sacrifice in pursuit of science's greatest achievement. 

New Mexico, 1945. Returning wounded and battered from the liberation of Paris, Major Jack Delaney arrives in the New Mexican desert with a mission: to catch a spy. Someone in the top-secret nuclear lab at Los Alamos has been leaking encoded equations to Hitler's scientists. Chief among Jack's suspects is the brilliant and mysterious Hannah Weiss, an exiled physicist lending her talent to J. Robert Oppenheimer's mission. All signs point to Hannah as the traitor, but over three days of interrogation that separate her lies from the truth, Jack will realize they have more in common than either one bargained for."

I know I'm a broken record here, but I really mean it this time when I saw that this book, Hannah's War, is probably going to be the last World War II-era book that I read for a good long while because they are just too common. I keep getting sucked into reading them because of an interesting plot even though I'm tired of them, and this book was one of those with such a fascinating storyline and I received an ARC of it so I thought...why not?

Hannah's War follows two main characters: a Jewish physicist Hannah Weiss, who plays a vital role in the development of the atom bomb; and Major Jack Delaney, whose duty is to catch a spy who is sending classified information to scientists working for Hitler. This premise is where our story takes off, with Jack arriving in New Mexico to investigate all of the scientists working at the lab and where Hannah becomes his prime suspect. I thought this entire premise was fascinating, especially since we got to explore the figure of Hannah, based off of a real woman in history who played a similar vital role, and I was really excited about seeing her actions in this story. Similarly, I was excited to see how Jack planned to figure out who the spy was and to figure out why they were leaking information and how that tied together with Hannah's role. Unfortunately, I found that this story seemed to be lacking something that would make it compelling and live up to the epic story it sounded like it would be.

My main issues with this book lie in my lack of connection to the characters or the plot. The characters were lacking in development and personality and weren't presented in a way that really made me care that much about them or become invested in their role. This story is told mainly in the present 1945 timeline, but it contains intermittent flashbacks to 1938 when Hannah was still in Germany, and in what is a rare bookish event for me, I actually enjoyed the flashback portions of Hannah's life in 1938 far more interesting than the present day timeline. I think that this is partially because I felt like we were able to get a little closer to Hannah and her true personality and motivations in the flashbacks, whereas int he present day I couldn't quite figure out her motivations or why she acted the way that she did a t certain times.

The other major issue I had with this book was the writing style. The individual sentences of prose were lovely and well-written with a nice philosophical edge at times, but the story as a whole suffered from what seemed ot be a lot of content gaps. Some of my frustrations centered around the fact that I would often start a new chapter or scene and feel like I had to have somehow missed some vital part of the story because I felt really confused about whatever was happening. There was a decent bit of missing information that frustrated me, partially because I"m not sure if it's supposed to be missing or if it was just an oversight in the book. For instance, I don't think it was ever mentioned how Hannah actually made it to the United States from Germany in the first place, especially since she was Jewish and therefore it was incredibly difficult to get out of Germany--they even had to essentially attempt to smuggle another Jewish character out before she left.

Despite my frustrations, this really wasn't a bad book The concept and themes of scientific achievements and other larger ideas were really interesting to explore and I think those are what really carry this book. I'm not sure if this book just wasn't for me since it seems to be getting fairly positive reviews otherwise. Regardless, it just didn't click with me. Overall, I've decided to give Hannah's War 2.75 stars. If the premise sounds interesting, then I'd encourage you to maybe pick it up from your library or read and sample and see if you like the style--if so, then definitely check it out! It didn't work for me, but I have no doubt it could click for others.

*I received a copy of Hannah's War courtesy of Little, Brown in exchange for an honest review. This has no effect on my rating of the novel.*

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Can't-Wait Wednesday: Docile by K.M. Szpara & Cries from the Lost Island by Kathleen O'Neal Gear

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: 

Docile K.M. Szpara
Publication: March 3rd, 2020
Hardcover. 480 pages.

"To be a Docile is to be kept, body and soul, for the uses of the owner of your contract. 

To be a Docile is to forget, to disappear, to hide inside your body from the horrors of your service. To be a Docile is to sell yourself to pay your parents' debts and buy your children's future. 

Elisha Wilder’s family has been ruined by debt, handed down to them from previous generations. His mother never recovered from the Dociline she took during her term as a Docile, so when Elisha decides to try and erase the family’s debt himself, he swears he will never take the drug that took his mother from him. Too bad his contract has been purchased by Alexander Bishop III, whose ultra-rich family is the brains (and money) behind Dociline and the entire Office of Debt Resolution. When Elisha refuses Dociline, Alex refuses to believe that his family’s crowning achievement could have any negative side effects—and is determined to turn Elisha into the perfect Docile without it."
I really have no idea what to expect from this book, but it sounds intriguing enough and I'm starting to notice some strong buzz about it, which is making me even more interested!

Cries from the Lost Island
Cries from the Lost Island by Kathleen O'Neal Gear
Publication: March 10th, 2020
DAW Books
Hardcover. 320 pages.

"Set against the glory and tragedy of ancient Roman Egypt, this novel brings to bring to life the greatest love story of all time. 

Sixteen-year-old Hal Stevens is a budding historical scholar from a small town in Colorado. A virtual outcast at high school, he has only two friends: Roberto the Biker Witch and Cleo Mallawi. Cleo claims to be the reincarnation of Queen Cleopatra. She also believes she's being stalked by an ancient Egyptian demon, Ammut, the Devourer of the Dead. 

But when Hal and Roberto find Cleo murdered in the forest near her home, it appears she may have been telling the truth. Her last request sends them journeying to Egypt with famed archaeologist Dr. James Moriarity, where it quickly becomes clear that Cleo has set them on the search of a lifetime: the search for the lost graves of Marc Antony and Cleopatra. 

But they are not alone in their search. Cleo's murderers are watching their every move. And not all of them are human..."
This sounds weird, but I do love ancient Roman Egypt and I love the archaeological-quest-style vibes I'm getting from it, so I'm hoping to get a chance to check it out!

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

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Top Ten Tuesday: A Few Book Characters I'd Follow on Social Media

This week's topic is: Book Characters I'd Follow on Social Media

I thought this topic would be a lot harder than it was! Once I got started, I couldn't stop finding characters I'd love to follow based upon the social media presence that I have imagined for them and it was a ton of fun. Maybe I'll expand this post sometime since I only made it through so many books before I'd used up all ten. 

Brightstorm (Sky-Ship Adventure, #1)DreamlandWanderers

1. Arthur Brightstorm & 2. Maddie Brightstorm from Brightstorm by Vashti Hardy.
I chose both Brightstorm siblings because I feel like Arthur would be constantly posting awesome stories and photos from his various travels, while Maddie would be posting similar content, but also more relating to whatever she is researching at the moment or more factual information abut the places they visit and adventures they embark on! It'd be a perfect combo with incredible content.

2. Peggy Batternberg from Dreamland by Nancy Bilyeau
 I have a feeling that after all of Peggy's, er, 'adventures,' from her summer on Coney Island she would be posting a lot about social justice and sharing stories and experiences of immigrants who have made their way to America. Plus, I think her commentary on the goings-on of the world around her would be highly entertaining.

3. Shana from Wanderers by Chuck Wendig
Shana already wants to be a reporter of sorts and I think she'd be the perfect person to follow if you want uncensored news that covers everything from all sides and doesn't ever hide anything from her readers.

The Diviners (The Diviners, #1)The Shadow of What Was Lost (The Licanius Trilogy, #1)

4. Evie O'Neill5. Sam Lloyd6. Mabel Rose, & 7. Memphis Campbell from The Diviners by Libba Bray
Honestly, I'd follow all of the members of this book's gang on social media, but I particularly feel like these four would be awesome to follow. Evie would just be a lot of fun, sharing gossip and keeping things upbeat; Sam would offer wit and jokes while also being able to know when to keep it real; Mabel would be posting about people from all walks of life, sharing a lot about charity work, and just in general share more wholesome content with a focus on helping the less fortunate; and lastly, since Campbell is a budding poet, I'd definitely follow him for all of the poetry snippets he'd post and for his poetic way of describing the world around him!

8. Asha from The Shadow of What Was Lost by James Islington
I feel like Asha would post a lot about cutting-edge research and a lot really interesting topics that might vary in content, but would also be fascinating to read about. I also feel like she'd share book recommendations, but that could just be a sense I get from her.

Nevernight (The Nevernight Chronicle, #1)Winterhouse (Winterhouse, #1)

9. Mr. Kindly from Nevernight by Jay Kristoff
So Mr. Kindle would never have a social media account, but since this post isn't about things that are real, I'm going to say that I would absolutely follow Mr. Kindly. He would offer the most dry, often-times scathing, and sarcastic comments about people and things going on in the world and I am one hundred percent here for it.

10. Elizabeth Somers from Winterhouse by Ben Guterson
Elizabeth is a girl who loves puzzles of all kinds, from jigsaw to word puzzles, and I think she'd post a lot of fun puzzles for her followers to solve or would just post about any puzzling thing she comes across in the world (and pun jokes!). She also loves to read, so I have no doubt she'd post about her books and reading a lot, which I'm obviously here for.

What book characters would you like to follow on social media? Would you follow any of these characters?

Monday, February 24, 2020

Review: The Last Smile in Sunder City by Luke Arnold

The Last Smile in Sunder City
The Last Smile in Sunder City by Luke Arnold
Publication Date: February 6th, 2020
Paperback. 352 pages

About The Last Smile in Sunder City:

"A former soldier turned PI tries to help the fantasy creatures whose lives he ruined in a world that's lost its magic in a compelling debut fantasy by Black Sails actor Luke Arnold. Welcome to Sunder City. The magic is gone but the monsters remain.I'm Fetch Phillips, just like it says on the window. There are a few things you should know before you hire me:1. Sobriety costs extra.2. My services are confidential.3. I don't work for humans. It's nothing personal--I'm human myself. But after what happened, to the magic, it's not the humans who need my help. Walk the streets of Sunder City and meet Fetch, his magical clients, and a darkly imagined world perfect for readers of Ben Aaronovitch and Jim Butcher."

The Last Smile in Sunder City is an urban fantasy that really took me by surprise. It takes place in a world in which the magic that once inhabited the land and allowed various magical creatures to thrive has essentially "run out" and the creatures are left without magic, something with various physical forms that denote their once magic selves, while others, such as the Vampires, slowly begin to die since the magic that once kept them alive is now gone as well.

Urban fantasy and its similar genres/styles aren't usually my go-to, but I really loved the sound of this one and the unique premise that it contained, and I'm glad I did since it turned out to have a really interesting world and concepts that kept me hooked. Arnold also has a really pleasing writing style that made this book easy to fall into--in fact, when I first picked it up I had only been planning to check out the first chapter and before I knew it I had already read through more than a few of them. There's something very smooth and welcoming about his writing that makes it accessible and easy to fall into.

I found Fetch Phillips to be such an oddly endearing character, though not one that feels particularly unique. He's one of those that comes across as a bit gruff, doesn't really take himself--or much of anything--very seriously, and has far too much confidence for his own good and safety, but still manages to make you enjoy him and eager to see what he plans to do next. The book is told solely from Fetch's POV, but it does alternate occasionally between the present day timeline and some flashbacks from Fetch's life that provide some needed background to his life.

This is a world in which humans are generally hated by most magical creatures for being the cause of the magic going away (which isn't without good reason), so there are a lot of themes relating to that at play, such as dealing with those who are oppressed and their reactions towards humans. Fetch has to navigate a world in which he, a human, is unwelcome, but still wants to do things for magical creatures while essentially ignoring the humans and refusing to work for them. I really loved the way Arnold navigated all of these topics and the different lessons and sentiments he explores.

Overall, I've given The Last Smile in Sunder City four stars! I really had a fun time with this and would absolutely recommend it to any fantasy reader, especially those who love urban fantasy.

*I received a copy of The Last Smile in Sunder City courtesy of Orbit in exchange for an honest review. This has no effect on my rating of the novel.*

Amazon | Book Depository  | IndieBound

Thursday, February 20, 2020

Review: A Touch of Death by Rebecca Crunden

A Touch of Death (The Outlands Pentalogy #1)
A Touch of Death by Rebecca Crunden
Publication Date: February 24th, 2017
Ebook. 306 pages

About A Touch of Death:

"A thousand years in the future, the last of humanity live inside the walls of the totalitarian Kingdom of Cutta. The rich live in Anais, the capital city of Cutta, sheltered from the famine and disease which ravage the rest of the Kingdom. Yet riches and power only go so far, and even Anaitians can be executed. It is only by the will of the King that Nate Anteros, son of the King’s favourite, is spared from the gallows after openly dissenting. But when he’s released from prison, Nate disappears. 

A stark contrast, Catherine Taenia has spent her entire life comfortable and content. The daughter of the King’s Hangman and in love with Thom, Nate’s younger brother, her life has always been easy, ordered and comfortable. That is, where it doesn’t concern Nate. His actions sullied not only his future, but theirs. And unlike Thom, Catherine has never forgiven him. 

Two years pass without a word, and then one night Nate returns. But things with Nate are never simple, and when one wrong move turns their lives upside down, the only thing left to do is run where the King’s guards cannot find them – the Outlands. Those wild, untamed lands which stretch around the great walls of the Kingdom, filled with mutants and rabids."

A Touch of Death combines elements of dystopia, sci-fi, a few post-apocalyptic vibes, and a touch of romance thrown in, all of which result in an unpredictable adventure following a few characters on a journey to not only save their lives, but to find some answers about the world they inhabit.

This story takes place in a world that seems similar to our own, but that is much more dystopian in style and lives under the rule of a rather brutal monarchical reign. I found the world-building to be one of the most intriguing components of this book and I felt Crunden did a great job at both developing its realism and also building up a strong atmosphere that really sets the somewhat bleak and cruel tone of both the world and the story. There is a huge privileged vs. poor struggle at the core of this world that added so much to the compelling nature of the story and that also contributed to many of the strong themes. My only sort of 'complaint' (which isn't really a complaint at all) is that I'd love to just learn even more about this world; Crunden lays everything out well, but I'm just so intrigued by how this world developed and all the components that I'm completely open to learning even more and wish I could more.

The two main characters we follow are Catherine and Nathaniel (aka Nate). Catherine was 'matched' and in a relationship with Nate's brother, Thom, and isn't Nate's biggest fan at the start of this story (or for much of it as it continues, either), but the intense and unpredictable events that occur in this story force them to spend more time together than they could have ever expected. Catherine was a surprisingly strong character who experienced some important explorations in finding her own strength to persevere in this story. I found her choices a little confusing at times, but for the most part I really enjoyed following her on this journey and seeing how she adapted to the crazy situations thrown at her.

Nate is a pretty good foil to Catherine in most aspects. He is more of a troublemaker and has a tumultuous and somewhat dodgy past, some of which is why Catherine isn't his biggest fan. He has a mysterious air to him and I really would love to learn more about him and specifics of his past. The beginning of this book has a brief bit that touches on one major event from his past, but I would even love to read some sort of prequel or short story that explores more of his character, as he really was a compelling figure. There are a number of secondary characters that appear in A Touch of Death that I thought were all developed well and that I thought only added good things to this story.

A Touch of Death has strong pacing that wasn't ever too fast or too slow, but rather had a nice balance of moments that slowed down when necessary, but still kept the pace and created a smooth reading experience. Crunden has a lovely writing style that balances eloquent descriptions of setting and emotion with a readable prose that makes it easy to follow the story in the best way.

I don't really have many issues with this story, I'm happy to say! My only minor issues would be that I would have appreciated a bit more background to a few of the main events that happens and information about the world, especially some about the "mutants" that exist and the various places mentioned in this world. There were a few moments where the intensity of the stakes seemed uncertain or confusing, but this really didn't affect my enjoyment and were mostly minimal.

Overall, I've given A Touch of Death 4.25 stars! I really had a highly enjoyable time reading this book and I sincerely look forward to seeing what's next. I wouldn't necessarily call the ending a firm cliffhanger, but it absolutely left me wanting to know what was going to happen next in this story since it is far from over.

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

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Can't-Wait Wednesday: The House in the Cerulean Sea by T.J. Klune & Havenfall by Sara Holland

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: 

The House in the Cerulean Sea
The House in the Cerulean Sea by T.J. Klune
Publication: March 17th, 2020
Hardcover. 400 pages.

"A magical island. A dangerous task. A burning secret. 

Linus Baker leads a quiet, solitary life. At forty, he lives in a tiny house with a devious cat and his old records. As a Case Worker at the Department in Charge Of Magical Youth, he spends his days overseeing the well-being of children in government-sanctioned orphanages. 

When Linus is unexpectedly summoned by Extremely Upper Management he's given a curious and highly classified assignment: travel to Marsyas Island Orphanage, where six dangerous children reside: a gnome, a sprite, a wyvern, an unidentifiable green blob, a were-Pomeranian, and the Antichrist. Linus must set aside his fears and determine whether or not they’re likely to bring about the end of days. 

But the children aren’t the only secret the island keeps. Their caretaker is the charming and enigmatic Arthur Parnassus, who will do anything to keep his wards safe. As Arthur and Linus grow closer, long-held secrets are exposed, and Linus must make a choice: destroy a home or watch the world burn."
I absolutely love how delightful and colorful this cover is! I first saw this book one of Tammy at Books, Bones & Buffy's "Future Fiction" posts way back in October and I'm so glad it's finally getting close to its release. I'm actually reading an ARC right now, but I know that I'm going to be purchasing the physical copy once it's out--I am so in love with it already!

Havenfall (Havenfall, #1)
 Havenfall by Sara Holland
Publication: March 3rd, 2020
Hardcover. 320 pages.

"Hidden deep in the mountains of Colorado lies the Inn at Havenfall, a sanctuary that connects ancient worlds--each with their own magic--together. For generations, the inn has protected all who seek refuge within its walls, and any who disrupt the peace can never return. 

For Maddie Morrow, summers at the inn are more than a chance to experience this magic first-hand. Havenfall is an escape from reality, where her mother sits on death row accused of murdering Maddie's brother. It's where Maddie fell in love with handsome Fiorden soldier Brekken. And it's where one day she hopes to inherit the role of Innkeeper from her beloved uncle. 

But this summer, the impossible happens--a dead body is found, shattering everything the inn stands for. With Brekken missing, her uncle gravely injured, and a dangerous creature on the loose, Maddie suddenly finds herself responsible for the safety of everyone in Havenfall. She'll do anything to uncover the truth, even if it means working together with an alluring new staffer Taya, who seems to know more than she's letting on. As dark secrets are revealed about the inn itself, one thing becomes clear to Maddie--no one can be trusted, and no one is safe . . ."
I mean, all I really needed to see what that this is about an inn that connects ancient worlds together and I was hooked! I'm not sure how I'll feel about the contemporary time period that's also in this, but I'm so intrigued that I'm more than happy to give it a chance and check it out!

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

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Top Ten Tuesday: Recent Book Hangovers

This week's topic is: Recent Book Hangovers

I tend to get book hangovers from books that I either fall deeply in love with or books that just pull me into the story so deeply and with such amazing characters that it makes it extremely difficult for me to leave. For the 'most recent' portion of this prompt, I tried to look at it as being between the beginning of 2019 and now, since I'm trying to pick out books that left me with pretty decent book hangovers and/or made it difficult for me to figure out what to read next. And rather than leave lacking descriptions of why these books gave me a book hangover, I'm just going to link most of them to reviews that explain my feelings a little bit better!

The Obsidian Tower (Rooks and Ruin, #1)The Light of All That Falls (The Licanius Trilogy, #3)

The Obsidian Tower by Melissa Caruso
(review coming closer to publication June 2nd!) This is the start to a brand new series from Melissa Caruso after the Sword and Fire trilogy and it was beautiful and intense and perfect! Go read her first trilogy (it starts with The Tethered Mage) and get excited for this release!

The Light of All That Falls by James Islington

The Wolf in the WhaleThe Winter of the Witch (Winternight Trilogy, #3)

The Wolf in the Whale by Jordanna Max Brodsky

The Winter of the Witch by Katherine Arden

Darkdawn (The Nevernight Chronicle, #3)Night Film

Darkdawn by Jay Kristoff
The end of one of my absolute favorite trilogies of all time. I was devastated when this was over.

Night Film by Marisha Pessl

A Fortress of Grey Ice (Sword of Shadows, #2)The Unlikely Escape of Uriah Heep

A Fortress of Grey Ice by J.V. Jones
Something about Jones' settings and characters and plotting makes it so hard for me to pick up anything else after reading! They are so intense and detailed and stunning that everything else feels inferior immediately after reading her books!

The Unlikely Escape of Uriah Heep by H.G. Parry

Realm of Ash (The Books of Ambha, #2)Down Among the Sticks and Bones (Wayward Children, #2)Fray (The Unraveled Kingdom, #2)

Realm of Ash by Tasha Suri

Down Among the Sticks and Bones by Seanan McGuire
This book was perfect and everything I've wanted out of the Wayward Children series. It was so beautiful and meant so much to me!

(Bonus) Fray by Rowenna Miller

What were some of your most recent book hangovers? Have you read any of these books?