#SeriesReview: The Nevernight Chronicle by Jay Kristoff #Fantasy #Nevernight #Godsgrave #Darkdawn

Thank you, my lovely book community, for pointing me towards the Nevernight Chronicles by the amazing Jay Kristoff. It is, by far, the BEST fantasy recommendation I have ever received. I was only half-way through Nevernight when I knew without a question that I would be buying Godsgrave and Darkdawn in short order. And it was not much longer after that I was getting quotes from the books tattooed on my arm. Talk about immediate impact. Wowza!

The whole series is imaginative, intense, and utterly gripping. Kristoff’s writing is witty, engaged, and hilariously self-deprecating as the series progresses. If you crave fantasy that is free from the eight-instalment world building slog and is most definitely written for an audience other than teens, then The Nevernight Chronicle is like winning the freaking lottery. I can’t recommend these books highly enough.


Untitled designSeries Title: The Nevernight Chronicle

Author: Jay Kristoff

Publisher: St. Martin’s Press

Books: Nevernight (2016), Godsgrave (2017), Darkdawn (2019)

Genre: Fantasy, High Fantasy

Themes: Revenge, Murder, Assassins, Family, Love, Loyalty


My Rating: 5+/ 5


Synopsis

Taken from the publisher’s website:

In a land where three suns almost never set, a fledgling killer joins a school of assassins, seeking vengeance against the powers who destroyed her family.

Daughter of an executed traitor, Mia Corvere is barely able to escape her father’s failed rebellion with her life. Alone and friendless, she hides in a city built from the bones of a dead god, hunted by the Senate and her father’s former comrades. But her gift for speaking with the shadows leads her to the door of a retired killer, and a future she never imagined.

Now, a sixteen year old Mia is apprenticed to the deadliest flock of assassins in the entire Republic — the Red Church. Treachery and trials await her with the Church’s halls, and to fail is to die. But if she survives to initiation, Mia will be inducted among the chosen of the Lady of Blessed Murder, and one step closer to the only thing she desires.

Revenge.


My Review

Pardon me while I try to articulate my feelings to towards as series that has legitimately left me speechless and sobbing on so many occasions.

OH. MY. GODS.

So much love.

The whole series is high-impact, meticulously wrought, and utterly irreverent. And it has footnotes. No, seriously, it has lots of them. At first I was all WTF am I doing reading something loaded with footnotes that isn’t an academic monograph, couldn’t Mr. Kristoff just include these little tidbits into the story like any normal human being? But then I came to realize that these asides were 1) hilarious and often the highlight of the page and 2) the most ingenious method I have ever seen for bridging the narrator’s voice between the prologue and epilogue. I ended up loving them, and often found myself skipping ahead to see what delights these sarcastic, self-reflexive, and self-deprecating asides had to offer.

Footnotes aside, the world Mr. Kristoff creates is a beautiful and terrifying blend of realistic details and exceptionally imagined monsters and magic. Each and every element has meaning, purpose, and and comes together into the best damned finale that us mere mortals could ever image. The series takes the reader on a journey of growth, not just as Mia progresses through the Red Church, but also as a person. We see meaningful change in every sustained character that is in line with the events and circumstances taking place. The result is a plot-driven (sex enhanced) extravaganza with well-rounded characters that are dangerously easy to get attached to. I say dangerous because neither working as an assassin or partaking in a supernatural war has a particularly long life span attached. So guard your hearts my friends… and keep the tissues nearby.

Take Mia for example, despite the fact that she is a chain smoking, ever-cussing, master murderess she is one of the most interesting and likeable heroines I have come across in a good long time. She is bitter, vengeful, and terribly flawed but she is also human, real, and plagued by a tenderness that gets her into more trouble than it’s worth. I loved her sass, her unwavering determination, and the extreme loyalty that she shows towards those she’s come to love. And then there’s the absolutely ace set of supporting characters including Tric, Ash, Mercurio, and so many more. Each and every one them is clearly defined with their own story, quirks and personalities. And we can’t forget Aelius, our delightfully dead librarian, who has given me new aspirations in my own career – to live forever, tied by dark magic to the lives of my books and herder ravenous book worms.

Sec and blood and swearing aside though, this series tackles some pretty big issues like hypocrisy, the abuse of power, the lasting impact of colonial empires, slavery, gender fluidity, and the value/ power of libraries and librarians. That last one may not seem like much, but in a world where access to knowledge and information is becoming increasingly controlled, it was refreshing to see a librarian represented as a centre of rebellion and resistance rather than as nothing more than an aged, bespectacled, keeper of books. Mr. Kristoff’s style is such that you can read it face value for an exhilarating experience, or take your time and unpack some seriously deep layers of meaning. They’re the kind of books that you can read over and over again and find something new in them each and every time.

I strongly encourage anyone with an interest in badass heroines to read this series. You won’t regret following Mia on journey from the Godsgrave to the Silent Mountain, and from the fighting pits to Old Ashkahi and back again. Mr. Kristoff’s quirky and irreverent style will draw you in, and the characters will you trapped until the very end (and maybe even for a while after).

Ace tip: Read all three back to back… and then plan for some recovery time afterwards.

Nevernight, Godsgrave, and Darkdawn are my tops reads of 2019, and if you’re up for it, they can be yours too!


I purchased these books as a result of blogger reviews and recommendations. All opinions are my own.

#BlogTour #Review: David Mogo: God Hunter by Suyi Davies Okungbowa @IAmSuyiDavies @Tr4cyF3nt0n

DAVID MOGO BLOG TOUR Landscape.jpg

Today I have the pleasure of participating in the blog tour for David Mogo: Goodhunter by Suyi Davies Okungbowa. I have to admit that I was a little apprehensive coming into this one as God Punk is not a genre that I have ever explored in the past. But I’m delighted to say that the world building and own voice narration quickly won me over. If you have any interest in YA urban fantasy or even fantasy set away from the common western conventions then this one definitely worth a read.


mogoTitle: David Mogo: Godhunter

Author:  Suyi Davies Okungbowa

Publisher: Abbadon

Publication Date: July 9, 2019

Genre: Urban Fantasy, YA Fantasy, Nigerian God Punk

Themes: Family, Loyalty, Mythology

Features: N/A


Synopsis

Since the Orisha War that rained thousands of deities down on the streets of Lagos, David Mogo, demigod, scours Eko’s dank underbelly for a living wage as a freelance Godhunter. Despite pulling his biggest feat yet by capturing a high god for a renowned Eko wizard, David knows his job’s bad luck. He’s proved right when the wizard conjures a legion of Taboos—feral godling-child hybrids—to seize Lagos for himself. To fix his mistake and keep Lagos standing, David teams up with his foster wizard, the high god’s twin sister and a speech-impaired Muslim teenage girl to defeat the wizard.


My Review

This isn’t an easy read full of familiar places, soft language, and common tropes. But rather, it’s diverse, challenging, and wholly fantastic. The dialect takes some time to adjust to, especially as a North American reader, but if you give it some time and put some effort into paying attention it quickly becomes second nature. The premise is unique, with a set of gods that have been cats out of their own world and since taken over Lagos, along with a whole hoard of godlings and taboos. The desolation and reorganization of society gave a very different feel to the standard post-apocalyptic narrative and injected a healthy dose of culture.

That’s not to say that there isn’t any magic, because it’s present in wild abundance. The wizards and gods are both exceptionally well written with unique and distinctive qualities. I appreciated the differences between the two types of abilities with the magic of the wizards being tied to real and tangible things while the power of the gods were entirely intangible and otherworldly. All of the gods powers and personalities were deeply varied, creating landscape that is both exciting and difficult to navigate.

There are some uncomfortable moments, especially when it comes to Fati and the implied acts against her. But as uncomfortable as these moments were, I am glad that they were included as this is not the kind of books that skates around the darker side of life – especially when the societal structure favours a few with power and the masses subservient and impoverished. Now add in an ambivalent government that only cares about the upper echelons and would prefer to live in denial of reality and you have a pretty wicked storm.

I didn’t mind that the whole of the work is actually three novellas packaged together as a single unit. Each instalment had a clearly defined arc, villain, and objective and played extremely well off of the previous sections. They helped to clearly delineate the evolution of David’s development as both a character and powerful demigod. Plus, they facilitated some pretty serious jumps in time without injecting any tedious and extraneous text for plot advancement. My only really complaint is that the dispersal of the world building information throughout at times took on the feeling of massive info dumps. And while this may work better in a. novella setting where you need to pack a whole lot of information in a tiny space, but with the novel format I felt that there was more latitude to spread the spread the information out for a smoother presentation. But, and this is a big but, I am aware that my storytelling preferences are defined by the traditions that I have been brought up in and aware that this criticism might be based entirely on personal preferences and cultural constructs.

David himself is a complex and interesting character. He lives between two worlds in more ways than one – half god and half human he constantly walks a fine line between humanity and hypocrisy in his god hunting. He is also further divided between mainstream culture and the world of wizardry having been raised by Papa Udi, and again by the sleeping and waking worlds as he shifts between planes. These divisions are further emphasized by David’s constant code switching between the normalized western speech that he uses for business and the local dialect that he uses in the comfort of home. Don’t get me wrong, we all do this to some degree, utilizing different speech patterns at home than we do at work, it’s just much more evident in David and Papa Udi’s speech.

Finally, I enjoyed the variety present in the supporting characters. I loved Papa Udi’s unwavering support and complicated past, the complexity if the High Gods personalities and powers, and the depravity of the villains throughout. I would have loved to see some of these supporting characters developed a little more, but that’s just because they were so interesting! If Okungbowa were to put out a collection of short stories or novellas focusing on everyone else I’d be chomping at the bit to read it.

All together I really enjoyed David Mogo: Godhunter. It was a welcome introduction into the world of god punk and Nigerian urban fantasy as well as being a fabulous own voices read.It’s complex, imaginative, and full of action. If you want tottery something that’s both fantastical and far from the typical westernized conventions, this book is sure to please. Give the code switching and dialogue a chance to settle in and Okungbowa will take you on a fantastical ride.


About The Author

Suyi Davies Okungbowa is a Nigerian writer of science fiction, contemporary and dark fantasy, and crime fiction. His work has appeared in Lightspeed, Fireside, Podcastle, The Dark, Mothership Zeta,

Omenana, Ozy, Brick Moon Fiction; amongst other magazines and anthologies. He is an MFA candidate in Creative Writing at the University of Arizona, and has worked in editorial at Podcastle and Sonora Review. He lives online on Facebook, tweets at @IAmSuyiDavies, and blogs at suyidavies.com. His urban fantasy novel about gods in Lagos is forthcoming in 2019.


Many thanks to Tracy Fenton at Compulsive Readers for inviting me to join this tour and providing a copy in exchange for an honest review.

 

#Review: Within These Lines by Stephanie Morrill #WWIIFiction #HistoricalFiction

I seem to be reading more WWII fiction than normal these days, and I always try to read a variety of experiences and perspectives. So you can imagine my joy when when I came across Within These Lines which features the internment of Japanese Americans in the San Fransisco area. It’s brutal without shedding a drop of blood, cruel without employing force to gain complaisance, and utterly heartbreaking despite the prevalence of endearing love. Get ready for a gut punch, Morrill will leave you absolutely devastated.


lines.jpgTitle: Within These Lines

Author: Stephanie Morrill

Publisher: Blink

Publication Date: March 5, 2019

Genre: WWII Fiction, Historical Fiction

Themes: WWII, Romance, Japanese Internment in America


My Rating: 4/ 5


Synopsis

From Goodreads…

Evalina Cassano’s life in an Italian-American family in 1941 is everything it “should be” until she falls in love with Taichi Hamasaki, the son of Japanese immigrants. Despite the scandal it would cause and that inter-racial marriage is illegal in California, Evalina and Taichi vow they will find a way to be together. But anti-Japanese feelings erupt across the country after the attack on Pearl Harbor, and Taichi and his family are forced to give up their farm and move to an internment camp.

Degrading treatment make life at Manzanar Relocation Center difficult. Taichi’s only connection to the outside world are treasured letters from Evalina. Feeling that the only action she can take to help Taichi is to speak out on behalf of all Japanese Americans, Evalina becomes increasingly vocal at school and at home. Meanwhile, inside Manzanar, fighting between different Japanese-American factions arises. Taichi begins to doubt he will ever leave the camp alive.

With tensions running high and their freedom on the line, Evalina and Taichi must hold true to their values and believe in their love to make a way back to each other against unbelievable odds.


My Review

Being a Canadian, especially one who lives rather proximal to the Canadian internment camps in the prairies and the rockies, I’ve always had an interest in the internment of Canadian (and American) citizens, emigres, and foreign nationals during WWII. In large part, this interest is born out of the fact that our capital ‘H’ History tries so hard to erase these deplorable actions from the record. I live just 45 minutes from where the Kananaskis internment camp once stood, and I can tell you first hand that the history of this place is overshadowed by a nearby national park, the ’88 Olympics, and a booming tourist industry. The history from 1942 – 1949 is marked with nothing more than a few lines on a hard to find plaque, a fading memory of injustice, and the power of shame and willful ignorance.

And so, when Within These Lines – the riveting love story of Evelina and Taichi  set in 1941 San Fransisco and later the Manzanar Relocation Centre – became available on NetGalley I simply couldn’t resist. It’s equal parts hopeful and horrifying, which made it impossible not to feel deeply as our two narrators undertook their journeys through the societal landscape of California following the bombing of Pearl Harbour.

Told in split narrative, we’re able to catch glimpses of two sides of the dividing lines. This hard hitting topic was carried tactfully by a sweet and passionate love story of two teens caught in the thick of it all. It helped that Evalina came from an Italian family, and that she was not completely free from the stigma and prejudice that was rampant at the time, as this helped to bridge the chasm between her and Taichi. And the fact that Evalina stayed committed to Taichi even when she had other options or when it would have been easier to walk away makes this story just that much better.

It was painful to see the quiet acquiescence with which many families went to the Manzanar camp simply because they were asked to, the cruelness with which the Japanese were treated even when they were clearly causing no harm, and the ways in which the citizens who were willing to speak out against these injustices were treated in turn. It made perfect sense that Evalina connected with the church group, that she decided to take up a male-dominated field of study at university, and that her advocacy efforts continued on campus.

Taichi showed a different kind of strength and offered the perfect balance to Evalina’s stubborn and headstrong ways. He is quiet and contemplative, worried about disappointing his family, and always careful not to make waves. And though it broke my heart to read, I appreciated how he tried to protect Evalina from the reality of what he and his family were enduring. Also, I was completely undone by lengths he went through to protect and support his sister, provide for his mother, and eventually the steps that he took to keep the peace within the camp when tensions began to rise.

While there is a small amount of action, Within These Lines is driven by string characters, flawless research, and an exquisite attention to detail which brings all of the pieces together. Not only are Taichi and Evelina sweet and relatable, they are supported by a cast of excellent secondary characters. It’s beautifully written, highly emotive, and absolutely breathtaking.

Would I recommend this book? Absolutely!

But be warned, this one will require a box of tissues close at hand.


Many thanks to NetGalley for providing a copy in exchange for an honest review.

#Review: Conspiracy of Lies by Kathryn Gauci #WWIIFiction #HistoricalFiction

Today I’m over the moon to share my 5 star review for Conspiracy of Lies by Katheryn Gauci. Part saucy romance part gripping WWII fiction, I simply couldn’t tear my eyes away from the pages – it was absolutely amazing!


conspiracyTitle: Conspiracy of Lies

Author: Kathryn Gauci

Publisher: Kathryn Gauci

Expected Publication Date: July 12, 2017

Genre: WWII Fiction, Historical Fiction, Women’s Fiction

Themes: WWII, SOE, Romance, the French Resistance

Features: Book Club reading guide and questions.


My Rating: 5/ 5


Synopsis

From Goodreads…

From the author of The Embroiderer comes a powerful account of one woman’s struggle to balance her duty to her country and a love she knows will ultimately end in tragedy.

1940. With the Germans about to enter Paris, Claire Bouchard flees France for England. Two years later she is recruited by the Special Operations Executive and sent back into occupied France to work alongside the Resistance.

Working undercover as a teacher in Brittany, Claire accidentally befriends the wife of the German Commandant of Rennes and the blossoming friendship is about to become a dangerous mission.

Knowing that thousands of lives depended on her actions, Claire begins a double life as a Gestapo Commandant’s mistress in order to retrieve vital information for the Allied invasion of France, but ghosts from her past make the deception more painful than she could have imagined.

Part historical, part romance and part thriller, Conspiracy of Lies takes us on a journey through occupied France, from the picturesque villages of rural Brittany to the glittering dinner parties of the Nazi elite, in a story of courage, heartbreak and secrecy.


My Review

I’ve given up on thinking that I don’t like romance, because clearly I have been loving it lately – and Conspiracy of Lies was no exception. It starts of with a whirlwind romance in Paris (um hello, beautiful daydream much?) and is followed dramatically by a complete immersion in the SOE and a deployment to occupied France. I mean, oooft! Does it get any better?

I loved the tenacity of Claire Bouchard, and especially the retrospective introduction to the story. We see Claire at the end of her journey sharing moments with her daughter, so we know that she survives. Yet despite this, the events that Claire endures in 1943 had me on the edge of my seat wondering how she makes it through. I seriously doubted that Claire was going to survive her landing in Brittany, ad certainly not her unexpected infiltration of the Nazi elite as she fell into the bed of a Gestapo Commandant.

I enjoyed too, how Claire’s past and present were interspersed throughout the book. Her return to Brittany and reconnection with her daughter cut the tension of Claire’s mission at the best possible moment. Not only did they provided glimpses of insight into Claire’s character, but they also dolled out key clues into the history of the geography in which the story takes place. I found that it really helped to root the narrative in reality, and to make it feel like the past isn’t so far away.

And the scenario with the Gestapo Commandant was an absolute trip as well. It really brought to light the degree of subterfuge and infiltration undertaken by members of the SOE and the complicated situations that had to be navigated in the aftermath of the war. And keeping in mind the secrecy to which SOE agents were sworn, I can only imagine how shocking discovering the truth of a parent or grandparent’s real past might have been.

Yet, the magnitude of this drama was subtly balanced by the opulence of the Nazi elite. The dresses, the hotels, the parties and the food in the face of such drastic austerity was almost overwhelming. And once Claire was embedded in this world, I couldn’t shake the feeling of Stockholm Syndrome despite Claire’s obvious commitment to the SOE. The depth of detail provided a sense a grounding and realism that made every scenario believable, and solid foundation on which some extreme events can take place. And the best part was that despite having some knowledge of the French Resistance and the events leading up to the liberation of France, I never once felt that I could guess what was coming around the corner or that I knew an outcome before it came to pass.

This baby is truly the best of both worlds with enough pulling at the heartstrings to give you a flutter, and a riveting game of SOE cat-and-mouse espionage to keep those pages turing. It’s detailed, dramatic, and incredibly well written.

Read it book lovers, you won’t be disappointed!


Many thanks to NetGalley for providing a copy in exchange for an honest review.

#Review: The Lost Girls of Paris by Pam Jenoff #WWIIFiction #HistoricalFiction @PamJenoff

I first fell in love with Pam Jenoff’s writing almost two years ago, when I read and reviewed The Orphan’s Tale. So today I am absolutely over the moon to be offering a 5* review for The Lost Girls of Paris. An intricate braid of three riveting stories, Jenoff transports you back to WWII in Paris, London, and New York and to a time of immeasurable sacrifice, incalculable strength, and determination in the face of overwhelming odds. This book is an absolute beauty and a must read for lovers of historical and WWII fiction.


lost girlsTitle: The Lost Girls of Paris

Author: Pam Jenoff

Publisher: Park Row

Expected Publication Date: January 29, 2019

Genre: WWII Fiction, Historical Fiction, Women’s Fiction

Themes: WWII, SOE, Romance, the French Resistance

Features: Book Club reading guide and questions.


My Rating: 5/ 5


Synopsis

From Goodreads…

From the author of the runaway bestseller The Orphan’s Talecomes a remarkable story of friendship and courage centered around three women and a ring of female spies during World War II.

1946, Manhattan

Grace Healey is rebuilding her life after losing her husband during the war. One morning while passing through Grand Central Terminal on her way to work, she finds an abandoned suitcase tucked beneath a bench. Unable to resist her own curiosity, Grace opens the suitcase, where she discovers a dozen photographs—each of a different woman. In a moment of impulse, Grace takes the photographs and quickly leaves the station.

Grace soon learns that the suitcase belonged to a woman named Eleanor Trigg, leader of a ring of female secret agents who were deployed out of London during the war. Twelve of these women were sent to Occupied Europe as couriers and radio operators to aid the resistance, but they never returned home, their fates a mystery. Setting out to learn the truth behind the women in the photographs, Grace finds herself drawn to a young mother turned agent named Marie, whose daring mission overseas reveals a remarkable story of friendship, valor and betrayal.

Vividly rendered and inspired by true events, New York Times bestselling author Pam Jenoff shines a light on the incredible heroics of the brave women of the war, and weaves a mesmerizing tale of courage, sisterhood and the great strength of women to survive in the hardest of circumstances.


My Review

I’m biased, I know, but I love Jenoff’s writing. So I simply couldn’t resist when The Lost Girls of Paris are out, bought a copy on publication day, and then made myself wait until we went on holidays to read it. I’m seriously mad that I didn’t cave and let myself read it sooner, but it was absolutely worth the wait, and one of the best rides I’ve ever been on!

Let’s start with my favourite thing apparent in Jenoff’s writing – the obvious presence of research! It’s clear that no detail is haphazard or half-assed, and that no stone has been left unturned. Everything from the locales to the clothing breathes authenticity and and make the characters and their lives feel ever-so real. But what I appreciated more than the reliance on fact to craft the tales of Marie, Eleanor, and Grace was that all of the characters and events were entirely fictional. As a lover of WWII fiction I have read enough fictional versions of Himmler to last a lifetime, so having new and exciting characters in this setting was a breath of fresh air. It gave the freedom for an immersive read without inspiring an irrational need to fact check, and for that I am eternally grateful.

The split storylines of our ladies were beautiful complements to one another. I think in some cases that if the book had been about just one or the others of the women, that the sadness of their stories would have been overwhelming. However, the balance of Grace rebuilding her life after the loss of her husband served as the perfect complement to the hopelessness of Marie & Eleanor’s positions.

Of all the girls, I found Eleanor’s lot the most precarious and nerve wracking to read. Sure, she was our of the action and running things from the SOE, as it was clear early on that her superiors were setting her up to take the fall if her F Section agents failed and the credit if they succeeded. And because the women of F Section were never given official ranks or any sort of recognition, they too became easy to sweep under the rug when things got difficult. I can only imagine how painfully aware of this situation Eleanor was, which is why she was so invested in the recruiting, training deployment, and monitoring of her agents.

Garce was hard to read too, but in the best possible way. She bucked against the expectations of both her family and society in order to find herself doling her husband’s death, and in that had to grapple with an almost overwhelming amount of grief and guilt. Finding Eleanor’s suitcase was the perfect act of deflection to find closure for both the victim on the car crash and herself. I found her romance with Mark both sweet and timely, and adored how Mark pursued Grace through kindness and assistance rather than machismo and pressure. It was nice to see his empathy and understanding of Grace’s grief and other needs, as well as his respect and appreciation for her choice in having a career.

Marie was an absolute breath of fresh air. As much as I pitied her back story with such a users husband who ran off her fortune after their daughter was born I liked her grit, tenacity, and determination to maintain her home, even with Tess living safely in the country. I loved how she stuck it out against the odds when everyone expected her to fail in her training, and even when she expected failure from herself. I found her easy to relate to and exciting to read – especially after she was dropped for her mission in France.

The interplay between the three plots was perfectly balanced and made for an absolutely outstanding read. The push and pull between hope and grief, loss and love, war and recovery made for a dynamic and enjoyable experience. Like I said, I know I’m biased, being a Jenoff groupie and all, but I would recommend this baby to anyone. It’s the perfect blend of history and fiction, and it hits you in the heartstrings over and over again. It’s absolute perfection.


I purchased and reviewed this title independently, all opinions are my own.