Monday, September 16, 2019

Review: Black Creek by Dan Kemp

Black Creek
Black Creek by Dan Kemp 
Publication Date: June 11th, 2018
Ebook. 459 pages

About Black Creek:

"The year is 1890, and a small town mayor is trying to hold his community together, while seeking revenge for his wife's recent murder. 

The year is 1972, and a small time crook is in way over her head as a deal goes very wrong. 

The year is 2020, and a homicide detective is on the trail of a serial-killing vigilante. 

On the eve of the 2020 presidential election, these characters, their stories, and more collide in cataclysmic fashion. 

The world will never be the same again, in an often grim, sometimes hopeful, modern fantasy that spans across the ages."

Black Creek is an ambitious and unpredictable fantasy quite unlike anything I've ever read.

The most important thing to know going into this book is that you might be a little confused at various times, but just hold on because I promise everything rights its eventually in some of the most creative ways. As you can see in the synopsis, the story switches between multiple timelines and casts of characters, but maintains a very important tie throughout all them that works to bring the story together.

After a rather life-altering event occurs in the 2020 storyline, the world is sort of thrown into a survival state that reminded me a bit of some post-apocalyptic books I've read in the past. The cause of this 'crisis' is is due to the fallout of a monumental conflict that occurs and also one that I found myself immediately drawn into. As a result, things start to get a bit dangerous and unpredictable for people on their own in this world and it was particularly interesting to see how all of these components played out for different people: for instance, some fall into a sort of cult following of a man they think is all-powerful, James, some create their own safe haven, and some just try to live where they can. I loved how Kemp explored these ideas and developed such an interesting world with so many different types of people.

The characters are all compelling in their own right and have some interesting storylines that all work together to explore more aspects of this world. I'm not sure how much I can say about each of them without getting too deep into plot details, but the main characters seem be Dorian, Jess, Skye, and James. James is easily one of the more fascinating characters I've read lately and I was entranced by his entire life story as portrayed in the book. Dorian, Jess, and Skye all come from vastly--and I mean vastly--different situations in this novel and I enjoyed seeing how they handled each situation that was thrown at them. My only sort of 'negative' is that I do think they could have been developed a little more, as their characters felt slightly stilted and similar at times.

This book is hard to sort of succinctly 'sum up' in a review because there are so many different ideas and experiences that occur within it. It's a wild ride that I thoroughly enjoyed and sped through much quicker than I expected to, which I think speaks well of Kemp's pacing. This story does have its slower moments, but nothing ever really dragged and I found all aspects and plot points equally compelling due to a steady pacing and consistent prose style. There is a constant sense of unpredictability and the knowledge that anything could happen at any moment that makes this is a book that's hard to put down.

Overall, I've given Black Creek 4.25 stars! This was such a fascinating and unexpected surprise and I am so glad that I was given the opportunity to read it. If you're looking for something new, I implore you to check out Black Creek!

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

Saturday, September 14, 2019

Review: This Tender Land by William Kent Krueger

This Tender Land
This Tender Land by William Kent Krueger 
Atria Books
Publication Date: September 3rd,  2019
Hardcover. 464 pages

About This Tender Land:

"For fans of Before We Were Yours and Where the Crawdads Sing, a magnificent novel about four orphans on a life-changing odyssey during the Great Depression, from the New York Times bestselling author of Ordinary Grace. 

1932, Minnesota—the Lincoln School is a pitiless place where hundreds of Native American children, forcibly separated from their parents, are sent to be educated. It is also home to an orphan named Odie O’Banion, a lively boy whose exploits earn him the superintendent’s wrath. Forced to flee, he and his brother Albert, their best friend Mose, and a brokenhearted little girl named Emmy steal away in a canoe, heading for the mighty Mississippi and a place to call their own. 

Over the course of one unforgettable summer, these four orphans will journey into the unknown and cross paths with others who are adrift, from struggling farmers and traveling faith healers to displaced families and lost souls of all kinds. With the feel of a modern classic, This Tender Land is an en­thralling, big-hearted epic that shows how the magnificent American landscape connects us all, haunts our dreams, and makes us whole."

This Tender Land was an unexpectedly beautiful and moving story about a group of orphans as they embark upon a truly unforgettable adventure in hopes of attaining a better life for themselves. I genuinely didn't expect this book to affect me half as much as it did and I'm endlessly thankful that I decided to take a chance on a book I hadn't heard of.

I have genuinely been having the hardest time writing this review because I'm not entirely sure where to start. I know I say in a lot of reviews how "refreshing" a book might be, but This Tender Land truly was the epitome of refreshing. It has such a mix of innocence and wonder coupled with the harsh reality of life and cruelties that humans can cast upon one another--while also showing the power and impact that kindness and compassion can also have.

We follow four Native American children as they travel on their own down the Mississippi with the goal of reaching St. Louis. Odie O'Banion, younger brother to Albert, is our narrator for the journey and has such a gifted and eloquent method of storytelling. He's only twelve when he embarks on this journey, but the way he tells his story is timeless and far more mature than his age implies--a maturity that is both admirable and unfortunate from having been exposed to so many cruel actions starting from such a young age. Odie is a bit of a troublemaker, whereas his brother is much more dutiful and willing to follow directions. Odie's penchant for trouble causes a myriad of problems for both himself and others at times, but his steadfast loyalty and desire to help others and do good in the world overshadows his mistakes and makes him an incredibly well-developed and well-rounded character to follow. I felt so much for and with Odie on this journey and easily empathized with his internal struggles throughout.

In addition to Odie and his older brother Albert are Moses (or Mose) and Emmy. Mose is Odie's best friend who does not speak verbally and instead communicates through sign language and Emmy is a little girl who has recently lost everything and yet still manages to be the optimistic ray of sunshine that little girls tend to be. The friendship between these four characters is so well-done and truly portrays the realistic ups and downs that would accompany a long journey with people you love. There are arguments both big and small and tensions that rise to dangerous levels, but at the end of the day everyone has a deep love and caring heart for one another and never wants anyone to be hurt or forgotten.

Krueger does a great job of showcasing the time period of 1930s Minnesota. Elements of the Depression are abundant and I felt as if he captured the setting extremely well. In the afterword, Krueger explains the various research he performed on both the setting and the Native American elements that are so crucial to the story and it is readily apparent in this story.

Words are powerful and I always know the sign of a good book and author is when I am able to feel deeply for the characters and the events of a book, which is exactly what This Tender Land did. This book made me feel angry, it has made me want to cry, it's made me laugh, and overall it made me feel to the fullest extent the struggles that each character endured.

It is a beautifully written story of hope, endurance, and friendship. Overall, I can't give This Tender Land anything other than five stars.

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

Friday, September 13, 2019

The Friday Face-Off: Friday the 13th

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:
Friday the 13th – unlucky for some!--A cover with ‘curse’ in the title

This week's topic ended up being slightly trickier than I expected it to be because all the books I thought had the word curse somewhere in the title or series didn't end up having it. Go figure. My next thought was Lois McMaster Bujold's The Curse of the Chalion, but I haven't actually read that one yet and I always try to pick books I've already then. Fortunately, I then remembered Tiger's Curse by Colleen Houck and we had this week's cover pick! Is anyone else in love with this badass-looking tiger?

  Tiger's Curse (The Tiger Saga, #1)Tiger's Curse (The Tiger Saga, #1)Tiger's Curse (The Tiger Saga, #1)
2011 US Hardcover | 2011 US Paperback | 2013 Indonesian

A Maldição do Tigre (The Tiger Saga, #1)A tigris átka (The Tiger Saga, #1)La malédiction du tigre (The Tiger Saga, #1)
2011 Portuguese | 2012 Hungarian | 2014 French

Tiger's Curse (The Tiger Saga, #1)預言中的少女 (白虎之咒, #1)Kuss des Tigers - Eine unsterbliche Liebe (The Tiger Saga, #1)
2015 Italian | 2012 Chinese | 2012 German

My choice:
Tiger's Curse (The Tiger Saga, #1)
Honestly, I just love the original US hardcover. I remember back when I very first saw this book because I knew that whether I liked Tiger's Curse or not, I absolutely needed to check it out based off of that cover. I am still in love with it today!

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

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Can't-Wait Wednesday: Angel Mage by Garth Nix, Queens of Animation by Nathalie Holt, & The Light at the Bottom of the World by London Shah

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.

Fall is always oversatured with new releases, which means this month I might have to be squeezing in three upcoming releases into my CWW rather than my usual two. The more books the better, right? :)

This week's upcoming book spotlights are: 

Angel Mage
Angel Mage by Garth Nix
Publication: September 24th, 2019
Viking Books
Hardcover. 416 pages.

"More than a century has passed since Liliath crept into the empty sarcophagus of Saint Marguerite, fleeing the Fall of Ystara. But she emerges from her magical sleep still beautiful, looking no more than nineteen, and once again renews her single-minded quest to be united with her lover, Palleniel, the archangel of Ystara. 

A seemingly impossible quest, but Liliath is one of the greatest practitioners of angelic magic to have ever lived, summoning angels and forcing them to do her bidding. 

Liliath knew that most of the inhabitants of Ystara died from the Ash Blood plague or were transformed into beastlings, and she herself led the survivors who fled into neighboring Sarance. Now she learns that angels shun the Ystaran’s descendants. If they are touched by angelic magic, their blood will turn to ash. They are known as Refusers, and can only live the most lowly lives. 

But Liliath cares nothing for the descendants of her people, save how they can serve her. It is four young Sarancians who hold her interest: Simeon, a studious doctor-in-training; Henri, a dedicated fortune hunter; Agnez, an adventurous musketeer cadet; and Dorotea, an icon-maker and scholar of angelic magic. They are the key to her quest. 

The four feel a strange kinship from the moment they meet, but do not know why, or suspect their importance. All become pawns in Liliath’s grand scheme to fulfill her destiny and be united with the love of her life. No matter the cost to everyone else. . ."
My sister and I loved Garth Nix growing up, so when I saw that he was writing a new book--and an adult fantasy at that--I was thrilled and knew I'd absolutely be reading it! I loved his Seven Towers series and Keys to the Kingdom (weirdly I never got into Sabriel or the rest of those books that much for some reason), so I'm curious to see what this book will be like.

The Queens of Animation
Queens of Animation by Nathalia Holt
Publication: October 1st, 2019
Grand Central Publishing
Hardcover. 720 pages.

"In The Queens of Animation, bestselling author Nathalia Holt recounts the dramatic stories of an incredibly influential group of women who have slipped under the radar for decades but have touched all our lives. These women infiltrated the all-male domain of Disney Studios and used early technologies to create the rich artwork and iconic storylines that would reach millions of viewers across generations. Over the decades–while battling sexism, domestic abuse, and workplace harassment–these women also fought to influence the way female characters are depicted to young audiences. 

Based on extensive interviews and exclusive access to archival and personal documents, The Queens of Animation tells the story of their vital contribution to Disney’s golden age and their continued impact on animated filmmaking, culminating in the record-shattering Frozen, Disney’s first female-directed full-length feature film"
I've heard a few things about the female animators at Disney and how vital their work has been so I've been really interested in finding out more about them!

The Light at the Bottom of the World (Light the Abyss, #1)
The Light at the Bottom of the World by London Shah
Publication: September 24th, 2019
Viking Books
Hardcover. 416 pages.
Pre-order: Amazon | Book Depository | IndieBound

"Hope had abandoned them to the wrath of all the waters.

At the end of the twenty-first century, the world has changed dramatically, but life continues one thousand feet below the ocean's surface. In Great Britain, sea creatures swim among the ruins of Big Ben and the Tower of London, and citizens waver between fear and hope; fear of what lurks in the abyss, and hope that humanity will soon discover a way to reclaim the Earth. 

Meanwhile, sixteen-year-old Leyla McQueen has her own problems to deal with. Her father's been arrested, accused of taking advantage of victims of the Seasickness-a debilitating malaise that consumes people,often claiming their lives. But Leyla knows he's innocent, and all she's interested in is getting him back so that their lives can return to normal. 

When she's picked to race in the action-packed London Submersible Marathon, Leyla gets the chance to secure his freedom; the Prime Minister promises the champion whatever their heart desires. The race takes an unexpected turn, though, and presents her with an opportunity she never wanted: Leyla must venture outside of London for the first time in her life, to find and rescue her father herself. 

Now, she'll have to brave the unfathomable waters and defy a corrupt government determined to keep its secrets, all the while dealing with a secretive, hotheaded companion she never asked for in the first place. If she fails, or falls prey to her own fears, she risks capture-and her father might be lost forever."
This sounds so inventive and I'm obsessed with the sound of this setting.

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

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Top 5 Tuesday: Top Covers of 2019 (thus far!)

This week I decided to switch back over and participate in Top 5 Tuesday, hosted by BionicBookworm!

This week's topic is: Top 5 covers of 2019

This is a particularly difficult task since I've read a hundred books already this year and a lot of them have had some truly beautiful covers! I wasn't sure if I should go off of 2019 releases or all books I've read this year, so to make it easier I decided to go with only 2019 releases (and of course I'm only sticking to books I've already read because if I opened this up to unread also, well...chaos would like y ensure.)

A few of my favorites (in no particular order):

The Grand Dark
The Grand Dark by Richard Kadrey

The House of Sacrifice (Empires of Dust #3)
House of Sacrifice by Anna Smith Spark

Darkdawn (The Nevernight Chronicle, #3)
Darkdawn by Jay Kristoff

Wilder Girls
Wilder Girls by Rory Power

The Hod King by Josiah Bancroft

The runner-ups (which are really just as beautiful)!
The Unlikely Escape of Uriah HeepGods of Jade and Shadow
The Unlikely Escape of Uriah Heep by H.G. Parry
Gods of Jade and Shadow by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
Sword and Pen by Rachel Caine

And a sneak peak to a beautiful 2020 release cover....

The Truants
The Truants by Kate Weinberg

What do you think of these books and their covers? What are some of your favorite covers from 2019 releases this year?

Monday, September 9, 2019

Review: The Magnolia Sword by Sherry Thomas

The Magnolia Sword: A Ballad of Mulan
The Magnolia Sword: A Ballad of Mulan by Sherry Thomas
Tu Books
Publication Date: September 10th, 2019
Hardcover. 352 pages

About The Magnolia Sword:

"A Warrior in Disguise 
All her life, Mulan has trained for one purpose: to win the duel that every generation in her family must fight. If she prevails, she can reunite a pair of priceless heirloom swords separated decades earlier, and avenge her father, who was paralyzed in his own duel. 

Then a messenger from the Emperor arrives, demanding that all families send one soldier to fight the Rouran invaders in the north. Mulan’s father cannot go. Her brother is just a child. So she ties up her hair, takes up her sword, and joins the army as a man. 

A War for a Dynasty 
Thanks to her martial arts skills, Mulan is chosen for an elite team under the command of the princeling—the royal duke’s son, who is also the handsomest man she’s ever seen. But the princeling has secrets of his own, which explode into Mulan’s life and shake up everything she knows. As they cross the Great Wall to face the enemy beyond, Mulan and the princeling must find a way to unwind their past, unmask a traitor, and uncover the plans for the Rouran invasion . . . before it’s too late."

Disney's Mulan has been one of my favorites since I was a kid. Once older, I discovered that the story of Hua Mulan was based on an ancient ballad, The Ballad of Hua Mulan. Whether Mulan was a real figure in history or not is unproven, but I have loved the story and all the many retellings of it since, so I was enormously thrilled when I received an ARC of The Magnolia Sword.

The Magnolia Sword is a beautiful retelling of the classic story with incredible world-building and a cast of charismatic characters that make it easy to fall into the story. This Mulan story is about a girl who's trying to find out exactly who she is and how she fits into this world, compelling family drama, and so much more. Mulan herself is a relatable and engaging figure whose story was one I loved following. She starts out relatively unsure of herself, but her devotion to her family and honor is strong enough to leave her with an undercurrent of confidence that encourages her to do what she must for her family. It was a wonderful experience to watch both her confidence and her courage grow throughout her journey and to see her discover more about herself and the peoples and lands surrounding her.

I genuinely enjoyed other members of the cast as well and found myself immersed in their own journeys and relationships with one another. There is a charisma that surrounds almost all of them that makes them the type of characters that make the journey and adventure that much more exciting. I also liked seeing all of them interact with one another and develop varying forms of bonds out of loyalty and friendship--or out of dislike for some.

One of the things that I loved most about The Magnolia Sword was how apparent it was that Thomas put so much research and love into it. There's a clear voice in the narrative and a penchant for authenticity and historical detail that really made this book stand out. Some may call learning of all the history surrounding the places Mulan visits info-dumping, but I found it endlessly fascinating and I genuinely enjoyed how much effort Thomas put into the world-building and made this story her own. I was also really impressed with her fight scenes. I'm no expert on fighting, but I found them compelling, easy to follow, and similarly well-researched.

The pacing is the only part of this book that feels a bit off. A majority of the book runs at a steady pace that's neither too fast nor too slow, but there are many places throughout the middle of the book that slow considerably. There weren't any moments where I wanted to put down this book because of it, but it did make it slightly harder to get through those times and stay engaged.

Overall, I've given The Magnolia Sword four stars and would highly recommend it to any Mulan fan--or someone who just loves a bit of adventure and an incredible Chinese setting!

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

Friday, September 6, 2019

Month in Review: August 2019

Despite August having been one of the busiest months, I somehow read...more than usual? I really don't how that happened, other than maybe because some of these books were just so good that I sped through them really quickly? Regardless, I'm certainly not complaining and I'm more than satisfied with what I read this month. A few of my most highly anticipated releases came out last month--Jade War and The House of Sacrifice--and they were both fantastic, and I also had an unexpected surprise with This Tender Land by William Krueger! I didn't know anything about it when I first picked it up and it ended up blowing me away completely because of how much I loved it, it definitely has poetntial to be another new favorite. The Unlikely Escape of Uriah Heep was another book that I fell hard for and really can't recommend enough; if you like books featuring classic literary characters (acting as themselves, of course), then you need to read this one and watch the literary world come to life (quite literally). 

In more personal news, my sister is coming up on her due date for her baby (October) and I'm so excited/anxious about being a first-time aunt!  I've never been much of a kid person, but I have a feeling I'll feel very differently about this child. ;) I do have to be the best aunt, ever, of course---and supply books! 

I also started grad school during the last week of August and honestly, I'm still questioning why I decided to do this to myself, haha, but I just love Classics so much that I thought I'd give it a shot. I've been keeping it quiet among family and friends because I'm not honestly sure how it will go and I'm not sure how many more incredulous "what are you possibly going to do with a Masters degree in Classical Studies!?" to give me even more anxiety than I've already given myself. So far, it's a lot of work (which is why I'm so behind on responding to comments lately--sorry!), but I am also loving the content and really surprised at how happy it's making me. With my depression, happiness has been in short supply! 

Anyway, that about wraps up my August--how was August for you guys!? I hope whereever you are that it hasn't been as hot as it has been here, and if it has been I hope you've been staying cool and safe!
 How was your reading month? Did you read any great books? Have you read any of the books I read? Let me know!

# books read: 16 (!?)

The House of Sacrifice (Empires of Dust #3)The Harp of Kings (Warrior Bards #1)Jade War (The Green Bone Saga, #2)This Tender Land
The House of Sacrifice by Anna Smith Spark 
Source: Publisher (Orbit) | Format: Paperback

The Harp of Kings by Juliet Marillier 
Source: eARC (NetGalley)

Jade War by Fonda Lee 
Source: Publisher (Orbit) | Format: Hardcover

This Tender Land by William Kent Krueger 
Source: ARC

The Last AstronautBlack CreekMemento MortaleOur War
The Last Astronaut by David Wellington 
Source: Publisher (Orbit) | Format: Paperback

Black Creek by Dan Kemp 
Source: Review Request | Format: ebook

Memento Mortale by Angeline Walsh 
Source: Giveaway | Format: Paperback

Our War by Craig DiLouie 
Source: Publisher (Orbit) | Format: Hardcover

The Great Hunt (The Wheel of Time, #2)Godsgrave (The Nevernight Chronicle, #2)Emily EternalThe Truants
The Great Hunt by Robert Jordan 
Source: Owned | Format: Mass Market Paperback

Godsgrave by Jay Kristoff (re-read) 
Source: Owned | Format: Hardcover

Emily Eternal by M.C. Wheaton 
Source: Owned | Format: ebook

The Truants by Kate Weinberg 
Source: ARC

The Ten Thousand Doors of JanuaryThe Unlikely Escape of Uriah HeepSword and Pen (The Great Library, #5)The Symposium
The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow 
Source: Publisher (Orbit) | Format: Hardcover

The Unlikely Escape of Uriah Heep by H.G. Parry ★+
Source: Publisher (Orbit) | Format: Hardcover

Sword and Pen by Rachel Caine 
Source: eARC (NetGalley)

Symposium by Plato (re-read)
Source: Owned | Format: Paperback


Ever AliceThe House of Sacrifice (Empires of Dust #3)Jade War (The Green Bone Saga, #2)The WarehouseTidelands (Fairmile #1)Our WarThe PassengersAfter the Flood
Ever Alice by H.J. Ramsay 
The House of Sacrifice by Anna Smith Spark 
Jade War by Fonda Lee 
The Warehouse by Rob Hart 
Tidelands by Philippa Gregory 
Our War by Craig DiLouie 
The Passengers by John Marrs 
After the Flood by Kassandra Montag 

(other than reviews)
The Friday Face-Off:
Movie Tie-In Edition

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!