The Wandering Land: A Review

I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review. My opinions remain my own.

40003673 The Wandering Land by Jamie Killen

Book Description:

The Maze House. The Fox Woman’s Garden. The Caverns of the Queen. These are the things that await you in the wandering land. 

On a summer night in a sunbaked desert city, the wandering land appears. A fairytale village nestled in dense forest, it is a place of ruined castles, abandoned treasures, and strange creatures living in the shadows. Brought together by this impossible place are five visitors: failed painter Eli; art professor Amal; young lovers Darcy and Wes; and mysterious, haunted Coyote. Together they explore their own secret village, an entire world hidden in plain sight. 

But there is darkness beneath the magic, a force pulling the visitors deeper and deeper into the place’s mysteries. As the boundaries between the secret land and the outside world begin to collapse, each of the visitors is confronted with visions of an otherworldly child, a child whose existence holds the key to understanding everything about the place that has drawn them together. 

Who is this child? Why did she choose them? And will she ever let them go?

I love a good, creepy story. My idea of great horror is something that takes the familiar and makes it slightly but definitely other, then taking the story and letting the otherness grow until the whole story is just horrifying. It doesn’t even have to have supernatural stuff in it – a creepy, suspenseful story is always immensely satisfying. One example would be We Have Always Lived in the Castle. I loved the book description on The Wandering Land, and I was really hoping the story was just as good.

I was right. Killen delivers a very satisfying story with a truly creepy payoff. The story starts with five different people who all discover a way into a hidden world. Each of the five is creative in a different way – an artist, a writer, a cartoonist, an editor, and a musician – and they discover that through their art they can create new and sometimes unsettling changes to this hidden world.

As they redesign the world, they are given tasks to complete, all at the direction of a hidden queen. The further they progress in their tasks, the more the world begins taking hold of their every day life as well. Soon it becomes almost impossible to separate the two. They have to dive deep to uncover the history of this wandering land if they are all going to be able to free themselves from its spell.

There was so much to enjoy about this book. First, I loved the concept of a hidden world that chooses its new residents. It’s set in Tuscon, and I think that’s a great place to imagine a portal to a hidden world. The desert is definitely a landscape where you feel like anything could happen.

But my favorite part of this book was the characters. While the story was great, well-imagined and original, the characters were the part that really made this story shine for me. I loved that the author was able to get such diverse group of characters  without making it seem like she was just checking off boxes for the sake of diversity. Lovers Darcy and Wes work together on a comic, but they have to work hard to overcome the differences in their upbringing. Eli has a family to support but he can’t help feeling this connection to the wandering land that threatens to overshadow his responsibilities. Amal is a professor who has just moved in with her girlfriend. And Coyote has no family, only one friend, and lives only for her music. Each character has a compelling back story and a unique voice.

In short, I’m really glad I had a chance to read this one. I haven’t read any other books from this author, but I would definitely recommend this one.

 

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Blog Tour! Happily by Chauncey Rogers

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Hey bookies! I’m so excited today to tell you about this book that I really enjoyed, Happily by Chauncey Rogers. Today I’m just doing a book review, but I’ll be back tomorrow with a fun Q&A with one of the main characters!

No Fairy Godmother

No Magic Pumpkin.

Just One Grumpy Girl

And a Glass Slipper.

C’mon, how can you resist a tag line like that? I’m such a sucker for fairy tale retellings (In fact, I’m writing one myself!) that I knew this one was going to be fun. Cinderella without the magic? Yes, please!

Only this one is not about Cinderella. It’s about Laure, a street urchin who’s been hustling to survive on the streets of the capital. Laure is trying to make a big score, one that will get her out this miserable town and her rotten life and onto something better. But the day of her big score, everything goes wrong and she winds up in the company of a wannabe merchant named Luc. Luc is completely the opposite of Laure in terms of personality and outlook. He’s sure things will get better, but he needs Laure’s help. She comes up with a scheme, and here’s a hint – it involves a glass slipper.

I enjoyed this one so much! Laure is a brat in the beginning of the book, but I did come to like her and Luc is just great all the way through. I loved the way the writer took a familiar tale and added his own twist, by creating new characters and a fresh plot. Laure and Luc’s dynamic is well done, with the way they have to team up in the beginning, but slowly coming to trust each other as the book progresses. I just heard that a sequel may be in the future. This one does have room for more developments, but it’s not a cliffhanger, so if you hate those, don’t worry about that. Also, it’s available for free right now through Kindle Unlimited.

In short, if you like fantasy or fairy tales, give this one a try.

Reread: The Eyre Affair

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I have no idea how to describe this book. It’s really weird. It’s definitely not for everyone. There are those who just love it and those who don’t get it at all. I think if you like The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, you would probably like this one, but not because they are anything alike. They’re just both really weird.

Synopsis:

Great Britain circa 1985: time travel is routine, cloning is a reality (dodos are the resurrected pet of choice), and literature is taken very, very seriously. Baconians are trying to convince the world that Francis Bacon really wrote Shakespeare, there are riots between the Surrealists and Impressionists, and thousands of men are named John Milton, an homage to the real Milton and a very confusing situation for the police. Amidst all this, Acheron Hades, Third Most Wanted Man In the World, steals the original manuscript of Martin Chuzzlewit and kills a minor character, who then disappears from every volume of the novel ever printed! But that’s just a prelude . . .

Things get much stranger after that. Only LiteraTec SpecOp Thursday Next has the training and the knowledge to track down Acheron Hades and save literature. She’s got some strange hidden skills and a unique family pedigree that can help with this. In the meantime, her return to her home town has caused her to cross paths with her former fiance, her some what half daft brother, a group of John Miltons, and a werewolf-hunting operative who calls himself Spike. This is NOTHING like anything you’ve ever read before.

I love these books. I read the whole series, at one point, then put them up. Now I find that the writer has released new books, so I’m going back to start at the beginning and I can’t wait! I think the next book, Lost in a Good Book, is my favorite in the series.

November Wrap Up

November is over, which to me means time to gear up for the Christmas holiday, take a break from NaNoWriMo and enjoy a little more balance in my life. Oh, who am I kidding. It means time to stress about presents!

But first, let me go over what I read this month!

Top Read of the Month!

I’m so excited about this one I can’t even hide it. I was trying to find something for my Book Riot Read Harder Challenge – more about that another day – and I found this one at my library.

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The Last Days of Ptolemy Gray by Walter Mosley. It was AMAZING. It’s about an old man living alone who meets someone who changes the end of his life. This is the first book I’ve read by Mosley, who’s mostly known for his mysteries featuring sleuth Easy Rawlins. This is not a mystery, just fiction and I’m giving it 5 stars, no questions.

The Case of the Deadly Doppelganger: A Review

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Title: The Case of the Deadly Doppelganger (Dr. Ribero’s Agency of the Supernatural #2)

Author: Lucy Banks

It’s only been a couple of months since his mother died and he discovered that ghosts and spirits are real, but Kester is part of a whole new life now. One with friends, sort of, and a father, albeit an odd one, and maybe even a girlfriend. He’s got a purpose too, working at a supernatural agency that deals with ghosts. Kester can open a door into the spirit world that lets the departed pass over. At least, he did it once. Now he’ll have to do it again – before anyone else is killed.

A malicious spirit is hunting down the residents of Lyme Regis and killing them in their homes. Kester and his friends will have to move fast and overcome some personal rivalries if they want to succeed.

I really liked this series when I discovered it last year and I was so excited to win an ARC from NetGalley for the second book. If you like funny mysteries or mysteries with a little supernatural aspect thrown in, you will totally love these!

Thanks to NetGalley for the chance to read this one for free. My opinions are all my own.

Monsters I Have Known: Review

I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

35534791 Title: Monsters I Have Known: A Collection of Short Stories

Author: Jess Hartley

Genre: paranormal, thriller, and horror short stories

Synopsis:

Come take a walk in the shadows alongside award-winning writer/editor/novelist, Jess Hartley, as she leads you through 13 intriguing tales of monstrous beings – supernatural or otherwise. In this, Hartley’s first solo anthology, readers will find a broad offering of genres – horror, romance, steampunk, fantasy and more – including her never-before-published murder mystery novella – Love Never Dies. Monsters I Have Known collects both well-loved favorites from previously published anthologies and never-before-seen fiction, presenting them with insightful introductions to share with readers some of the circumstances surrounding each story’s creation. A must-have introduction for those new to Hartley’s work.

My review:

Wow, what a great collection of stories. I’m not normally a fan of horror, but I love a good spooky ghost story. When I was approached to review this book, I wasn’t sure I would like it. I’m glad I took a chance.

It’s hard to pick which story I liked best, but the first one, Love Never Dies, was the longest. In this one, the main character finds herself walking up the beach to her house. Nothing feels right, but it’s only her and her husband. What could be wrong?

My favorite story was Immaterial Witness. Liz gives tours in Bisbee, Arizona, the most haunted town in America. She gets a chance to be on a podcast, but the slimy host has plans of his own. He wants all the dirt, but Liz has a big secret. She can see ghosts, and she’s not about to expose them to a third-rate journalist looking to exploit the dead. Really good story.

This month is a perfect time for this collection. You should totally check this one out. It’s available on Amazon.

Artemis: Book Review

I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review. All opinions, however, remain my own. 

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Title: Artemis

Author: Andy Weir

Think Ocean’s 11 on the moon!

Themes: crime, loyalty, love, trust, SUPER COOL SPACE STUFF

Official synopsis:

Jazz Bashara is a criminal.

Well, sort of. Life on Artemis, the first and only city on the moon, is tough if you’re not a rich tourist or an eccentric billionaire. So smuggling in the occasional harmless bit of contraband barely counts, right? Not when you’ve got debts to pay and your job as a porter barely covers the rent.

Everything changes when Jazz sees the chance to commit the perfect crime, with a reward too lucrative to turn down. But pulling off the impossible is just the start of her problems, as she learns that she’s stepped square into a conspiracy for control of Artemis itself—and that now, her only chance at survival lies in a gambit even riskier than the first.

My review:

In the future, humans have figured out that the moon is full of stuff we need, like aluminum and other minerals, and that people will pay good money for that and for tourism. So a little community of craftsman, engineers, sex workers, millionaires, and hospitality workers have set up shop there.

Jazz is an Artemisian. She’s lived there for 20 years, in the only city on the moon. It’s a small city, but still, it’s a permanent colony up there in space. Just don’t say “in space.” She’s also a porter. At least, that’s her official title. In reality, she’s a smuggler. She operates under the noses of the official law there because she doesn’t break the laws badly enough that they elect to take notice. One of her best clients comes to her with a truly big job, a job that will set Jazz up in a solid middle class lifestyle. Unfortunately for Jazz, things don’t go as smoothly as she’s hoped.

I like Jazz as a character. She’s stubborn as hell, and doesn’t always think things through, but she’s scrappy and smart and funny. I liked the other characters too, Svoboda the engineer, Dale her former friends, her conservative dad, the “town sheriff” – Weir does a great job building characters you honestly care about. Jazz has made some major mistakes and is trying to use this big job to fix things. I like the way the writer uses these mistakes to flesh out the characters, so you can really see how Jazz has changed from her youth. She becomes a smarter, more responsible adult. Of course, she’s still a hustler, though, and I like that too.

But it’s the worldbuilding that shines here. It’s a story ON THE MOON! Like, how cool is that? My son was asking me how it compares to The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, and I have to say that it holds up really well. That book was a five star read for me, just amazing and mindblowing and everything else. Well, this one is just as good. I couldn’t pick a favorite, but it’s definitely one that I’m going to be reading again.

There was some technical stuff in there that I didn’t follow, but I don’t know that it’s because it was badly written. I just have a hard time picturing things in my head sometimes. But that didn’t slow my enjoyment of the book.

Andy Weir is well on his way to being sci-fi writer of the generation.

Stand Alone Sunday

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Standalone Sunday is a feature created by Megan over at BookSlayerReads where each Sunday she features a standalone book (not part of a series)! There’s tons of focus on books that are part of a series… It’s nice to focus on some standalone novels, too!

Title: The Master of Ballantrae

Author: Robert Louis Stevenson

Setting: 1740s Scotland

After a couple of dud books that I had been looking forward to, I was really relieved when I picked this one up and was hooked almost from the first page. Maybe it helped that I skipped the long introduction and got right into the story.

This is a retelling of the Biblical story of Jacob and Esau set during the 1745 Jacobite Revolution. Two Scottish brothers, James and Henry Durie, reprise the roles of those scriptural brothers and the conflict could not be more exciting. After a coin toss, James heads off after Bonnie Prince Charlie while Henry fights for the king. James is presumed dead after the Battle of Culloden and Henry marries the girl intended for James. But James is not as dead as all that, and returns to make trouble for his family.

In some ways, this reads like a soap opera. Just when you think things are settled, up pops something horrible. Pirates, duels, a daring escape, buried treasure — it has it all. The only thing that might discourage a modern reader is occasional use of dialect, but it is rare and there are footnotes in case you are really lost. Totally recommended as a great story sure to keep you turning pages.