Thursday, August 22, 2019

Review: Our War by Craig DiLouie

Our War
Our War by Craig DiLouie
Publication Date: August 20th, 2019
Hardcover. 400 pages

About Our War:

"When the president of the United States is impeached, but refuses to leave office, the country erupts into civil war. 

10-year-old Hannah Miller, an orphan living in besieged Indianapolis, has joined a citizen's militia. She had nowhere else to go. And after seeing the firsthand horrors of war, she's determined to fight with the Free Women militia. 

Hannah's older brother, Alex, is a soldier too. But he's loyal to the other side. After being separated from Hannah, he finds a home in a group calling themselves The Liberty Tree militia. 

When a UNICEF worker and a reporter discover that both sides are using child soldiers, they set out to shine a light on something they thought could never happen in the United States. But it may be too late because even the most gentle children can find that they're capable of horrific acts."

I finished this book about a week ago and I am still conflicted on how I feel about it and how to rate it. On the one hand, there are elements that make this a really great book with incredible depth and meaning, but on the other hand, there are more than a few elements that simply didn't work for me and left me feeling uncertain. However, I did read through this book in only about two days, so that says something about just how compelling this book ws and how much it dragged me in overall. I've not seen any less than glowing reviews for Our War, though, which leads me to believe that any issues I had might just be very much my own personal opinion.

Our War is not a book for the fainthearted, but it is a book for anyone interested in timely themes, compelling narratives, and characters from a variety of unique backgrounds. The first word that comes to mind when I think about the civil war depicted in this book is 'chaos,' as there is seemingly no end to the unpredictability of this war and the disarray that surrounds it on all fronts. While the lawlessness of the war felt realistic, I felt that the telling of this chaotic war didn't necessarily work well for the reader to follow along with. I had a hard time following along at time and deciphering between all of the different sides and who was who. There's more than just two sides in this war and it's the grey areas among all of them that added depth and realism, but that also left me somewhat confused.

Despite my confusion over the sides in this horrendous civil war, I was impressed by the sheer world-building of it all. DiLouie does a great job creating an America that is nearly unrecognizable, mired in the depths of war and death and violence that go along with it. Everything is in chaos. The cities that we know so well have been turned into battle sites filled with hatred and desperation. There are IEDs everywhere and snipers waiting in the wings making it a life-risking move to stop and stand still for even a second on the street--it's a true, dangerous war space

DiLouie's writing style is intense fast-paced. The story switches POV between five characters among a myriad of short chapters. Having so many chapters didn't really allow me to fully invest myself in any given character's situation, but I did still appreciate how this gave such a comprehensive look at this war from a variety of different angles and perspectives. One of the things that DiLouie did best with his writing was to provide this multi-faceted view of the war that really allows the reader to get into the heads of people on all sides and explore those grey areas. Of the five characters we follow, two are child soldiers, one is a lieutenant, one is a reporter, and the last is a UNICEF worker from Canada whose mission is to provide aid to the children of the war. As I mentioned earlier, having these multiple perspectives, though I do wish they hadn't all been quite so rushed. I was most interested in Hannah, a child soldier, and reporter Aubrey's POV and most enjoyed seeing their role in this war.

My only other issue with Our War is that the ending seemed to wrap up a bit too quickly for my liking. I felt as though DiLouie was really building up to something, but unfortunately I felt as though the action and impact sort of tapered off in a disappointing way. I'm not sure if perhaps DiLouie was attempting to imitate how disappointing and anticlimactically war itself can be, but for me I was just left wanting a little more. This is similar to how I felt about the chaos of the book--it fit the story well, but it also made it difficult for me to follow along at times.

Overall, I've given Our War 3.75 stars. This rating may move up or down depending on how I feel about it in the future, but for right now I just have too many mixed emotions to give it a firm higher rating. This is still a book I highly recommend to anyone interested in the premise--it's intense, thought-provoking, and a compelling read.

*I received an ARC of Our War courtesy of Orbit books in exchange for an honest review. This has no effect on my rating or enjoyment of the novel.*

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Can't-Wait Wednesday: Sword and Pen by Rachel Caine & A Song for a New Day by Sarah Pinsker

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.

I have more than a few August releases I still want to feature this month for CWW, so this week I'm sharing three instead of only two because it's hard to narrow it down!

This week's upcoming book spotlights are: 

Sword and Pen (The Great Library, #5)
Sword and Pen (The Great Library #5) by Rachel Caine
Publication: September 3rd, 2019
Berkley Books
Paperback. 368 pages.

"With the future of the Great Library in doubt, the unforgettable characters from Ink and Bone must decide if it's worth saving in this thrilling adventure in the New York Times bestselling series. 

The corrupt leadership of the Great Library has fallen. But with the Archivist plotting his return to power, and the Library under siege from outside empires and kingdoms, its future is uncertain. Jess Brightwell and his friends must come together as never before, to forge a new future for the Great Library . . . or see everything it stood for crumble."
This series has gotten so good and I have been dying for this finale! I can't wait to see how Caine concludes this incredible series.

A Song for a New Day
A Song for a New Day by Sarah Pinsker
Publication: September 10th, 2019
Paperback. 384 pages.

"In the Before, when the government didn't prohibit large public gatherings, Luce Cannon was on top of the world. One of her songs had just taken off and she was on her way to becoming a star. Now, in the After, terror attacks and deadly viruses have led the government to ban concerts, and Luce's connection to the world--her music, her purpose--is closed off forever. She does what she has to do: she performs in illegal concerts to a small but passionate community, always evading the law. 

Rosemary Laws barely remembers the Before times. She spends her days in Hoodspace, helping customers order all of their goods online for drone delivery--no physical contact with humans needed. By lucky chance, she finds a new job and a new calling: discover amazing musicians and bring their concerts to everyone via virtual reality. The only catch is that she'll have to do something she's never done before and go out in public. Find the illegal concerts and bring musicians into the limelight they deserve. But when she sees how the world could actually be, that won't be enough."
This sounds like a really interesting premise that I'd love to explore. These futuristic scenario books seem to be really popular lately and I've been really enjoying them, so I look forward to seeing what this is like!

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

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Top Ten Tuesday: Favorite Tropes

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly book blog meme now hosted by Jana over at The Artsy Reader Girl!

This week's topic is: Favorite Tropes

Many of us in the book community often like to talk about the tropes that we can't stand, but sometimes it's nice to talk about the fact that there are tropes that we actually do like to see. Personally, although there are many tropes I don't particularly care for I can typically handle almost any trope as long as it's handled well. Books are largely built off of tropes, so we can't fully exclude them. There are some tropes that I do enjoy seeing more than others, though, so here's my life of favorite tropes! Of course, I'm sure I left out some great ones and some of these are rather small in plot impact, but they still stand out to me.

1. Extended Disarming
You know those scenes where a character (usually the protagonist) is entering a location where they have to remove all of their weapons and they just...keep removing them? And then just when you think they can't possibly have another weapon on them, they somehow pull out one last weapon from seemingly nowhere. It's such a small trope, but I love it every time I see it and am repeatedly amused by it.

2. Long fantasy journeys
I know a lot of people seem to get tired of long, excessive journeys from one destination to another in fantasy, but... I live for those. Nothing feels as classic as a long, unpredictable, and occasionally grueling journey to a far-off destination with a group of people that bickers and has to deal with spending every moment together. Lord of the Rings, Master Assassins, The Wheel of Time, etc.--they're all so much fun for me. Also these usually includes stops at inns and I love a good fantasy inn!

3. The gruff older 'mentor' who eventually helps out the protagonist
Who doesn't love that grumpy older character who either acts as a mentor or plays some other important role in our protagonists' story? They act rude and seem to be constantly unhappy with life itself, but at the end of the day they always seem to pull through and help our protagonists out and make sure they are safe... even if it is done begrudgingly.

4. Characters stuck together in close quarters
This is usually a romantic-related trope, but it's also one I've seen done for friends and family members and I love it just the same. Nothing is more enjoyable than when two (or more) characters are stuck in one limited area with one another and have to not end up killing each other out of irritation. Bonus points if they start out as enemies and end up not-quite-enemies (they don't have to end up friends or lovers, but that's another bonus!). I've also enjoyed observing people and how the react in different situations, so these always feel like experiments in social actions that are a blast to read about.

5. Villain redemption
I hate one dimensional, cookie-cutter villains. I like my villains to have a backstory that explains to some extent how they got to where they are. Even if they are legitimately just a psychopathic, hateful person, I'd like to see if they were always like that and/or how it contributed to whatever their current motivations are. It adds so much depth to the story and makes me even more invested in the overall book.

6. Antagonists turned allies
There are few things I enjoy more than watching a heated antagonist turn into one of the protagonist's most trusted (or...tolerated) allies. I don't care when it happens and I don't usually care why, but if it's done well then I am always here it.

7. Working undercover as a servant in a royal household/becoming a servant in a royal household
I love seeing characters adapt to a new situation such as this one and essentially become a fly on the wall to the inner workings and opinions of the royals while also spending time 'downstairs' learning about the secrets and inner workings there as well. I love underground networks and seeing how every area has its own hierarchy, even when it doesn't seem that way from the outside.

8. Mind-blowing libraries
I'm not sure how much of a trope this is, but I love nothing more than when the main character comes across some intense, unbelievable library that leaves the reader thinking about it long after reading about it. Examples that immediately come to mind include the library in Nevernight, The Name of the Wind, and so many more.

What are some of your favorite tropes? Do you like any of these too? Let me know!

Monday, August 19, 2019

Review: Tidelands by Philippa Gregory

Tidelands (Fairmile #1)
Tidelands (Fairmile #1) by Philippa Gregory
Atria Books
Publication Date: August 20th, 2019
Hardcover. 464 pages

About Tidelands:

"Midsummer’s Eve, 1648, England is in the grip of a civil war between renegade king and rebellious parliament. The struggle reaches every corner of the kingdom, even the remote tidelands —the marshy landscape of the south coast. 

Alinor, a descendant of wisewomen, trapped in poverty and superstition, waits in the graveyard under the full moon for a ghost who will declare her free from her abusive husband. Instead, she meets James, a young man on the run, and shows him the secret ways across the treacherous marsh, not knowing that she is leading disaster into the heart of her life. 

Suspected of possessing dark secrets in superstitious times, Alinor’s ambition and determination mark her out from her neighbors. This is the time of witch mania, and Alinor, a woman without a husband, skilled with herbs, suddenly enriched, arouses envy in her rivals and fear among the villagers, who are ready to take lethal action into their own hands. 

It is dangerous for a woman to be different."

Tidelands is probably one of the oddest Philippa Gregory books I've read. Not that the content itself is odd, but rather that it took me quite a while to fully immerse myself in the story and gauge whether it would be worth the read--usually falling right into Gregory's stories is no problem for me whatsoever. The setting was entirely different from anything I've read from her and there was hardly any royalty in this book, either. In truth, this ended up feeling like a bit of a breath of fresh air and I'm incredibly glad I had the opportunity to read it. In a note in the front of my ARC, Gregory also comments on the fact that she often writes about people already in royalty or who have already gained power, but this time she wanted to write a series that captures how the generations rose from nothing to become something, and that idea makes me incredibly excited for the rest of this series.

Tidelands predominantly follows Alinor and her children as the eke out a rather meager existence in the marshy Tidelands of the southern coast of England. Life is difficult since her husband has left, though in some ways she doesn't entirely miss her husband's absense. As the synopsis states, Alinor is the descendant of wisewomen, which leads many people in her town to be suspicious of her and suspect that she deals in withcraft and related arts, a crime and accusation which I'm sure we all know has dangerous consequences. Struggles between the King and parliament, which includes a change among the religion of the period and how people are allowed to worship, are center stage and the cause of much strife and fear among people for their behavior. I always love how much research Gregory puts into her novels, and Tidelands is no exception tot that.

This book had a rather slow start for me. It has an interesting premise and setup that overall I liked, but it just didn't grab me and make me excited to read it from the begnning--it took me a little while to get acquainted with these characters. The character of Alinor, however, has a uniquely compelling aspect about her that made me the most curious to find out where the story was going. I was intrigued by this weird marshy landscape that gave a dreary and bleak atmosphere to the entire story. If you're looking for magic, however, then be aware that that's not quite what you'll find in this book--at least, not the sort of magic that includes spellcraft.

There are two main POVs that the story follows, that of Alinor's and that of a priest named James who is working with the rebellious king, which makes him a bit of  dangerous and at-risk man. Alinor is one of those women who you can't help but admire for her veracity, strength, and determination to take care of her children at all costs and never slack on getting things done for them. She is a woman in poverty who takes pride in her abilities and always manages to hold her own up against fellow townsfolk who look down on her or are skeptical of her 'abilities' as a supposed wisewomen (a title she vehementy refuses).

James is sort of a man on the run as he attempts to help the old king and old religion maintain their place in power, though this often puts him in dangerous situations and requires him to lay low and accept the help of others to aide him. This, of course, is how he runs into Alinor, who helps when she can while both develop strong feelings for one another. James is a character that I often vascillated between liking and disliking and I'm honestly still not sure how I feel about him, but I do apprecite his role in this book and how he is able to adapt to a variety of different roles. I also really liked his role in Alinor's son's life and how he assists him in getting a leg up in the world--I'm excited to see where everything goes in future installments.

The conflicts that arise between Alinor and her townspeople create much of the central conflict in this story (other than the overarching political strife), as they cover everything from how Alinor excels at being a midwife to other issues dealing with her daughter and her lack of a husband. I appreciated how much time Gregory spent exploring many of these issues and creating a realistic look at the struggle of being a woman abandoned by her husband with children at this period of time. It's a difficult life that is made no easier be even being a woman and without Alinor's brother being there to aide her and act as the 'man in charge' of her, things might be even more different and difficult.

As mentioned, the first half or so of this book might seem a little slow, but for me it was worth it for the events of the latter portion of the novel. Things really take off, the pace speeds up, and the stakes rise even higher. The ending is far better than I could have imagined and has left me highly anticipating what the next steps in Alinor and her children's lives will be and where this story will take them.

Overall, I truly enjoyed Tidelands and am anxiously awaiting the next installment. I've given it four stars!

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

Friday, August 16, 2019

The Friday Face-Off: Feathers

Friday Face Off New
Welcome to The Friday Face-Off, a weekly meme here 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:
“The haft of the arrow had been feathered with one of the eagles own plumes” – a cover featuring feathers

I had more than a few book covers pop up in my head for this topic, but the cover for the edition I own of The Taxidermist's Daughter by Kate Mosse stood out to me the most. I do wish more of the covers kept the feather theme prominent, but nonetheless I still had a great time looking at all of these covers.

  The Taxidermist's DaughterDe nacht van de vogelsΗ κόρη του ταριχευτή
2014 UK | 2015 Dutch | 2016 Greek

Der Kreis der RabenvögelThe Taxidermist's DaughterThe Taxidermist's Daughter
2017 German | 2016 US |  2014 US Kindle

The Taxidermist's DaughterLa fille du taxidermisteLa fille de Melisande
2016 US Large Print | 2017 French | 2013 Dutch

My choice:
De nacht van de vogels
I love a lot of these choices, including the UK, German,Greek,  and Large Print! (And, well, the others are pretty good, too.) I picked this as my favorite because this cover absolutely grips me and I know if I saw this in a store I would immediately gravitate towards it and want to buy it--it's just so dark and ominous!

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

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Review: The Warehouse by Rob Hart

The Warehouse
The Warehouse by Rob Hart
Publication Date: August 20th, 2019
Hardcover. 368 pages

About The Warehouse:

"Cloud isn’t just a place to work. It’s a place to live. And when you’re here, you’ll never want to leave.  

Paxton never thought he’d be working for Cloud, the giant tech company that’s eaten much of the American economy. Much less that he’d be moving into one of the company’s sprawling live-work facilities. 

But compared to what’s left outside, Cloud’s bland chainstore life of gleaming entertainment halls, open-plan offices, and vast warehouses…well, it doesn’t seem so bad. It’s more than anyone else is offering. 

Zinnia never thought she’d be infiltrating Cloud. But now she’s undercover, inside the walls, risking it all to ferret out the company’s darkest secrets. And Paxton, with his ordinary little hopes and fears? He just might make the perfect pawn. If she can bear to sacrifice him. 

As the truth about Cloud unfolds, Zinnia must gamble everything on a desperate scheme—one that risks both their lives, even as it forces Paxton to question everything about the world he’s so carefully assembled here. 

Together, they’ll learn just how far the company will go…to make the world a better place. 

Set in the confines of a corporate panopticon that’s at once brilliantly imagined and terrifyingly real, The Warehouse is a near-future thriller about what happens when Big Brother meets Big Business--and who will pay the ultimate price."

The Warehouse is a somewhat foreboding and unexpected look at what could happen if a large e-commerce company were to become the leading--nearly sole--provider of products in the country.

The world-building in The Warehouse is crucial to this story and overall I think Hart really excelled in this area. His creation of Cloud and all that inhabits it was vivid and done in such a way that it felt extremely realistic. There is immense detail given in relation to how the company works, including surveillance, the divisions among employees, the places they are and are not allowed to visit, the tracking, the day-to-day monotony of each area of work life, and so much more. I loved all the little details that Hart included in order to make Cloud feel like an authentic corporation, such as the inclusion of the initial welcome and training information that the employees get upon starting (looking to set up for retirement at Cloud? you'll find out how!) to the rating system in place among employees to keep them working diligently. It brings everything to life.

The world outside of Cloud is also a rather important point of interest for the story and is something I won't go into much detail about, but I do wish that there had a been a bit more background given on the events of the outside world and how they led to Cloud being what it is. There's a general overview given so it's not a mystery per se, but it is still something that I would've liked to know more about, including how people outside of Cloud survive. We get so much about how so many people live in Cloud, but I'm curious about the people outside of Cloud who are constantly ordering from them.

The two main characters we follow are Paxton and Zinnia, each coming to work at Cloud for vastly different reasons, but both falling prey to its greedy, soul-consuming environment. I can't say I ever really felt connected to either character or felt exceptionally attached to them, but I was still invested enough to where I had motivation to keep reading this story and find out what would befall them. I related to various sentiments and situations that each found them in at various times, but as characters overall I just never really liked either one, though Paxton himself seemed rather harmless. All that being said, I don't mind if I don't really like characters as long as they are still interesting and the story is still strong, and both of those were true of The Warehouse. They both had well-developed character arcs that were handled with a deft hand and accurately depicted how an environment like Cloud can affect one's mindset.

The pacing of The Warehouse matches the tone and plot of the story extremely well. It's a steady pace at all times, even if it's a period of time when there isn't a lot technically happening and it doesn't seem as though the action is moving the plot forward. There are plenty of moments of monotony and repetition that Hart adopts in order to convey what life is really like at Cloud, and because of that these areas feel a bit slower at times even though things are still moving at the same pace. I can see this being hit or miss with people, but I didn't personally mind it all that much. The ending is also a bit abrupt and left me with mixed feelings. Part of me really likes the note that Hart ended this book on, but there's also a part of me that wanted a little more from our characters. In the end, though, it just ends up feeling like something that might happen in real life, which we all know isn't always that exciting and thus felt fitting.

The Warehouse is not technically a horror novel. There's nothing overtly 'scary'--there's no ghosts jumping out at people--but there are plenty of things that are inherently frightening and are a deep cause for worry. This takes on a lot of topics about consumerism, corporate greed, climate change, acceptance/standing by, and many other topics that are relevant to our lives today. It's scary because a lot of the elements at play feel eerily plausible and it creates a great reason to step back and reevaluate our role in our world.

Overall, I've given The Warehouse four stars! This is a solid book with dystopian vibes that will really make you think about things while keeping you hooked on every page. 

*I received an ARC of The Warehouse courtesy of the publisher, Crown. This has no effect on my rating or enjoyment of the novel.*

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Can't-Wait Wednesday: The Nightjar by Deborah Hewitt & Cold Storage by David Koepp

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 Nightjar
The Nightjar by Deborah Hewitt
Publication: September 3rd, 2019
Paperback. 480 pages.

"Alice Wyndham has been plagued by visions of birds her whole life...until the mysterious Crowley reveals that Alice is an 'aviarist' capable of seeing nightjars, magical birds that guard human souls. When her best friend is hit by a car, only Alice can find and save her nightjar. 

With Crowley's help, Alice travels to the Rookery, a hidden, magical alternate London to hone her newfound talents. But a faction intent on annihilating magic users will stop at nothing to destroy the new aviarist. And is Crowley really working with her, or against her? Alice must risk everything to save her best friend--and uncover the strange truth about herself."
Uhm, magical birds? And an alternate London? Please sign me up immediately!

Cold Storage
Cold Storage by David Koepp
Publication: September 3rd, 2019
Hardcover. 320 pages.

"When Pentagon bioterror operative Roberto Diaz was sent to investigate a suspected biochemical attack, he found something far worse: a highly mutative organism capable of extinction-level destruction. He contained it and buried it in cold storage deep beneath a little-used military repository. 

Now, after decades of festering in a forgotten sub-basement, the specimen has found its way out and is on a lethal feeding frenzy. Only Diaz knows how to stop it. 

He races across the country to help two unwitting security guards—one an ex-con, the other a single mother. Over one harrowing night, the unlikely trio must figure out how to quarantine this horror again. All they have is luck, fearlessness, and a mordant sense of humor. Will that be enough to save all of humanity?"
I love a good thriller featuring horrifying viruses/etc. that can quickly kill everyone. What better to keep you up at night? I have an ARC of this that I'm planning to start soon and cannot wait!

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