Silence becomes a woman…: Reviewing The Silence of the Girls by Pat Barker

Hi everyone! I hope everything is going well for you all. I have no vague life updates to give you, but I am doing my best to exercise the power of manifestation. I am also coming to you again with another retelling of The Iliad. By the way, if you haven’t actually read The Iliad or The Odyssey yet, then you absolutely should. The epic poem format can be intimidating, but I promise it is easy to read and understand. It can just be long-winded at times. I might make a list of classics that I highly recommend anyone read if you want to delve into the classics. In the meanwhile, let’s talk about The Silence of the Girls.

Content Warning: Discussions and Depictions of Graphic Violence, Discussions and Depictions of Sexual Assault, Offensive Language

Briseis was once a queen in her own right. Though her life was far from perfect, she was duty-bound to protect her people from the Greek armies. Her kingdom is invaded by Agamemnon’s forces, led by the famous Achilles. She is taken by Achilles as a war prize and forced to serve him. In the Greek camps, she does her best to forge bonds with the other captive women who are just trying to survive. As the Trojan war drags on, Briseis makes it her mission to save as many women and the memories of those who were claimed by a war fought over a woman.

I’m going to be honest right away: I was kind of disappointed by this book. The first part of the book is indeed about Briseis and the other women caught in the Trojan War. The second part is when it kind of falls apart as it randomly switches between Briseis’ story and Achilles’ story. It then eventually just becomes about Achilles for far too long. It kind of defeated the purpose of the entire book, in my opinion. I also can’t tell you exactly why but the book felt just weirdly misogynistic at times. Not in the sense that it was pointing out misogyny, but even in Briseis’ story the book was just kind of mean when discussing the other female characters and wasn’t sympathetic at times. I also just didn’t like the way the book ended at all. This is the first book in the series but I won’t be continuing it. Here is what I’m going to suggest instead: if you want a book about the women of The Iliad, read A Thousand Ships by Natalie Haynes. If you want a book about Achilles and/or his relationship with Patroclus, then read The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller.

If there’s a way into hell, someone will always find it: Reviewing The Hollow Places by T. Kingfisher

Hi everyone! I hope everything is going well for all of you. I’m still trudging along with books and music to keep me entertained in the meantime. In case you haven’t noticed, this is now the third book I am reviewing by T. Kingfisher so it is safe to say I’m a fan now. Feel free to check out my two previous reviews, both of which are novellas, if you are so interested. Now, let’s talk about The Hollow Places.

Kara has hit a low point. After a messy divorce, she is dreading having to move back in with her overbearing mother. She is released when her Uncle Earl calls and offers her a place to stay. Uncle Earl is a lovable eccentric who operates the Glory to God Museum of Natural Wonders, Curiosities, and Taxidermy in a quaint little town. Having spent many summers working there in her childhood, Kara decides to help her aging uncle. One night while she is closing, Kara finds a strange and impossible hole in the wall that leads to an entirely different world. She and her friend Simon decide to venture there and discover a horror with an insatiable appetite for the living.

Compared to the last horror novel I read (American Psycho), this one was genuinely fun and not too upsettingly creepy. T. Kingfisher does an excellent job creating atmospheric horror by utilizing natural settings, like a forest, to make a wonderfully creepy experience. I enjoyed Kara as she was a relatable narrator with a sense of self-awareness that made the reading experience all the more enjoyable. I would also argue that this novel had a sense of magical realism to it that added to the mystery at the heart of the plot. Overall, this was yet another great novel by T. Kingfisher. If you want a horror novel that is a little more PG-13 or is just looking for a good place to start in the genre, go ahead and start here then go read What Moves the Dead, a horror novella by T. Kingfisher.

True gods have no beginning. True gods have no end: Reviewing Hall of Smoke by H.M. Long

Hi everyone! I hope you are all cozy and warm while the snow piles upon us. I know it has been a while since I posted last. I’ve been dealing with some things and my health has been a little wonky. It’s nothing that can’t be dealt with, but it’s just inconvenient. I want to feel good so I can continue reading, you know? Anyways, there’s nothing like a good book to make you feel better. Let’s talk about Hall of Smoke.

Content Warning: Graphic Depictions of Violence, Blood and Gore, Graphic Descriptions of Bodily Injury

Hessa prides herself on being an Eangi, a priestess of the Goddess of War. She is sent into exile by her goddess after refusing to kill a stranger. Upon returning to her village, Hessa discovers that raiders have destroyed her entire world and everyone she loved. She takes it upon herself to hunt down the stranger she failed to kill in the hope that her goddess might forgive her. On her journey, Hessa finds herself in the middle of a war between clans and gods. As everything Hessa once believed begins to fall apart around her, she must face a fate worse than death and battle against an ancient power coming to destroy everything.

Heavily inspired by Norse mythology and sagas, Hall of Smoke is an epic tale of revenge and war. I enjoyed the intricate mythology that H.M. Long creates and utilizes to drive the story. I don’t want to call Hessa a “strong female lead” because I know people tend to roll their eyes at that description but I do genuinely mean that she is a strong female lead as a compliment. I also appreciate when fantasy novels like this are still somewhat realistic when it comes to characters being tired while journeying or getting injured and having to recover. The pacing is steady and the plot has a great buildup. This is a perfect adventure fantasy for winter, so I would recommend Hall of Smoke.

And he paused, in the space between inhalation and exhalation, and invited the magic in: Reviewing A Marvelous Light (Book One in The Last Binding Trilogy) by Freya Marske

Hi there everyone! January is still drab and dull as anything, but I am managing. I don’t think anyone really enjoys January anyways. I did just get my copy of Hellbent so that review will be coming in the near future. Other than that, I don’t have much else to say. Let’s talk about A Marvelous Light.

18+ Readers Only! Adult content! Separate content warning for violence and strong language

Sir Robin Blyth is doing his best to manage his parents’ estate, support his sister, and be a good businessman. A clerical error, however, put him in the position of liaison to a secret magical society. With this new world comes new dangers. Robin becomes a target for dangerous people and receives a curse for his trouble. The only person who can help him is Edwin Courcey, Robin’s reluctant counterpart. The two men delve into mystery that throws into question everything they know. As Edwin and Robin find themselves caught up in a deadly plot, more secrets are unearthed that people died to keep.

I absolutely did not think I would like this book as much as I did but this was just about everything I look for in a novel. I loved Freya Marske’s writing and there were certain lines I re-read a few times because I was just so taken aback. The narration was just so lovely at times. The magic system is interesting and I wanted to know more about the lore that Marske introduced. Also, wow, this book was so spicy! I was not expecting that but I was pleasantly surprised by how well the relationship between Robin and Edwin developed over the course of the book. (Also the spicy scenes were so good!) This book also gets major bonus points from me for being historical fiction. I feel like this review isn’t super coherent but you all know what I am getting at. You should definitely check this one out if you want a unique fantasy with a great romance.

The king! In the form of man: Reviewing Birds of Paradise by Oliver K. Langmead

Hi everyone! January may be as dreary as ever, but I hope you are still doing all right. I have been on the lookout for this book for a while and finally managed to find a copy in Barnes and Noble’s. It seems like a lot of the books I want aren’t available in mainstream book stores. I have to turn to Amazon and I’d really rather not contribute to Amazon any more. I don’t about the rest of you, but I am looking into buying books from alternative places. If you have any online book retailers that deliver relatively quickly, I (and I’m sure others) would love to know. I did preorder Hellbent, the sequel to Ninth House, and will review that one in the near future. Now, let’s discuss Birds of Paradise.

Content Warning: Violence, Gore, Some depictions of racism, Some graphic descriptions of death, Loss/Grief

Adam, the first man, has been wandering the Earth for centuries up on centuries. He is tired and just biding him time with random jobs, among other distractions. He has seemingly found peace until another former resident of Eden, Rook, sends him on an investigation to find his brother, Magpie. When Adam finds Magpie, he also finds out that remnants of Eden are turning up all over the world and Magpie asks for help recreating the Garden. Thrilled at the thought of rebuilding his beloved home, Adam is thrilled at the opportunity. As he journeys across America and the British Isles, he, with the help of other animals, must work quickly to gather the last pieces of Eden before they fall into the wrong hands.

I honestly couldn’t think of what this book reminded me of until I found a blurb comparing it to American Gods, and that is when I realized why I enjoyed this book so much. Birds of Paradise has a surreal, dreamlike plot with plenty of poignant moments. Oliver K. Langmead introduces interesting philosophical quandaries throughout Adam’s journey. If you are a little concerned about whether this book is religious or not, it is not necessarily religious nor does it preach any particular message. Langmead focuses on an important, but often forgotten, figures in Biblical lore in a way that draws you and doesn’t let you go. I loved how wild this book was, while still having a well – structured narrative. This is a book made me wish I had some book club I could talk about this to. What I’m really trying to say is: absolutely give this book a read. It is unique, thoughtful, and profound in all the best ways.

Despite everything, there was hope: Reviewing Star Wars: Shadow of the Sith by Adam Christopher

Hello everyone! I know we are only a week into the new year, but I still hope that the new year is treating you well. I have definitely been in the mood for more Star Wars content lately. I will definitely do some research on which Star Wars novels I should read in the future. In the meanwhile, let’s go to a galaxy far, far away and talk about Shadow of the Sith.

It’s been twenty years since the Empire fell. Luke Skywalker is working tirelessly to build a future for the New Republic. The past, however, not far behind. Luke begins having visions of a terrifying and ancient on a lost world called Exegol. His fears are only confirmed when an old friend, Lando Calrissian, comes to him with news of a sinister plot by a new Sith Lord. Lando, having lost his daughter, believes her disappearance is tied to a plot to kidnap a young girl named Rey, led by Ochi of Bestoon, a Sith assassin. The two old friends team up on a dangerous journey across the galaxy to stop this deadly new force and save the galaxy.

Although I am not sure if this book is considered canon in the Star Wars universe, it very well should be. Adam Christopher does a great job filling in some of the blanks between Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens. I am not Star Wars lore expert by any means, but I certainly enjoyed the lore that he incorporates in this novel. Luke and Lando make for a great pairing who were enjoyable to follow throughout this story. Though this novel is on the longer side, it is fast paced and has plenty of action. What is Star Wars without a great fight scene? This may be my new favorite Star Wars novel, next to Brotherhood. I would definitely add this to your list of must reads if you are interested in delving into the literary side of a galaxy far, far away.

Sister. Lover. Traitor. Hero: Reviewing Ariadne by Jennifer Saint

Hello and Happy New Years, everyone! May 2023 be the best year ever! I was not expecting to post a review so soon, but I’m trying not to let my TBR pile get out of hand. At this point, I just can’t bring myself to put down a book for anything. I also decided I wanted to commit to listening to more audiobooks this year. Though I don’t really believe in New Year’s resolutions, I do want to do more writing this year. Now, enough of my rambling. Let’s review Ariadne.

Ariadne is a princess of Crete, the eldest daughter of King Minos. Growing up, she had to deal with the curse that the god Poseidon had brought upon her family. Her brother, the Minotaur, is a blood-thirsty beast who Minos uses to terrorize Athens. When an Athenian prince, Theseus, comes to slay the beast, Ariadne decides to help him in his mission. Her decision will impact not only her future but the future of her younger sister, Phaedra. Time will only tell and the Fates have their own plans.

I am really loving this genre of mythology retellings, particularly Greek mythology. Jennifer Saint does an excellent job adding depth to this fairly extensive myth. My favorite aspects of this story are the way that Saint highlights the difficulties of motherhood and sisterhood. This novel has a strong feminist tone that really highlighted the way women in Greek myths were often portrayed unfairly. Ariadne was the perfect subject for such a tale. If you love Greek mythology then you will absolutely love Ariadne.

A glorious future beckoned on the horizon: Reviewing Daughter of the Moon Goddess (Book One in the Celestial Kingdom Duology) by Sue Lynn Tan

Hello everyone! I hope you all enjoyed your holidays and are still enjoying your time off. I guess I have one more book review before the end of the year. I was really not expecting to finish this one but I had pretty good momentum. I do plan on posting my annual favorites list before the end of this week, though. For this upcoming year, my goal is to re-read more of my past favorites books so I might not be posting that frequently as I would like a more manageable TBR pile. Now, let’s talk about Sue Lynn Tan’s debut novel, Daughter of the Moon Goddess.

Xingyin has lived a peaceful, idyllic life with her mother on the moon. As she grows older, Xingyin begins to question why she must live in such solitude and finds out that her mother was exiled by the Celestial Emperor, who does not know of Xingyin’s existence. When Xingyin’s magic grows too powerful, she is forced to flee the only life she has ever known. Alone, scared and desperate, she hides her identity and does her best to survive. When the opportunity to become the attendant of the emperor’s son come up, Xingyin seizes the chance. She trains alongside him, learning and growing her powers. She also finds herself falling in love with the prince. In order to free her mother, Xingyin must embark on a dangerous journey full of monsters and forbidden magic. As the threat of war looms over the Celestial Kingdom, Xingyin must complete an impossible task for the Celestial Emperor or lose everything she has fought for.

Since this is a debut novel, I am going to begin out with a few compliments. First of all, I did genuinely enjoy the writing itself. The descriptions were gorgeous and it read like a fairy tale or myth at times. Secondly, the world building was well thought out and the magic elements were really interesting. Lastly, I thought the action sequences were actually quite exciting. Now, let’s get to what I didn’t like. I did see this book pop up on a lot of people’s most disappointing books of this year and, I hate to admit it, but I understand. I normally try to not let other reviews cloud my opinion too much. In this case, it was hard to avoid. I have to begin by saying that I don’t understand why the novel was classified as “adult fiction.” This is very much a YA novel and not just because the main protagonist is a teenager. There is some violence but the novel doesn’t address any heavy or mature topics, if you will. Many people who gave this a low rating also mentioned the pacing and I would have to agree. This book is somehow too fast and too slow at the same time. You aren’t given an opportunity to sit with any of these important events or enjoy any character development. Xingyin is a perfectly fine protagonist and I certainly didn’t mind following her journey. She doesn’t get the necessary character development, in my opinion. I do have a few more opinions on this book but that would involve having to divulge the plot and I don’t want to spoil it too much. I really didn’t dislike this novel as it had a lot of potential, but it simply didn’t reach it for me. I will try to deter you from reading Daughter of the Moon Goddess as I still found enjoyment in it, but I feel as though there might be a better alternative if you want a mythology- inspired fantasy novel.

Battle not monsters, lest ye become a monster: Reviewing Season of Storms (A Standalone Adventure in The Witcher series) by Adrzej Sapkowski

Hello everyone! I managed to squeeze in one more book before the end of the year! I also want to clear something up. I was under the impression that this book was the last in The Witcher series. I now have to rethink my review of the actual last book in the series I previously reviewed. Regardless, I am now truly and officially finished with this series. Now, for all of you fantasy fans, let’s talk about this standalone adventure in The Witcher series.

Content Warning: Violence, Gore, Offensive Language, Some Sexual Content, Torture

After an unfortunate incident, the Witcher Geralt of Rivia is left without his weapons. His swords are crucial in his hunt for monsters. To get his swords back, Geralt accepts a contract to hunt a demon in exchange for his treasured weapons. The contract soon goes very wrong and, with the help of unexpected allies, Geralt must face down a whole host of dangerous characters and deadly force that he might not be able to stop.

I truly love a good, old-fashioned fantasy adventure and Sapkowski continues to prove himself to be a great storyteller. Out of all of the books in the series, this one actually had the best pacing in my opinion. I also particularly enjoyed how much action is packed into this novel, without it being overwhelming. (It can be a little gratuitous at times, though). If you find high fantasy to be an intimidating genre, The Witcher series would be the best choice for you. It isn’t so packed with information and characters that you can’t keep up, but it still has a thoroughly crafted world with interesting characters. There is plenty of action that keeps each story at a pretty good pace. Geralt is a great protagonist, particularly if you like a reluctant hero-type character. Now that I have read the whole series, I can confidently say that I am a fan of The Witcher series. (Note: I am pretty sure if you want to read the series in the correct order then you would read this one before The Last Wish.)

The more languages you speak, the more men you are worth: Reviewing Babel: An Arcane History by R.F. Kuang

Hello everyone! Finally, I am bringing you this review! I realize that I am very late to the “hype train” with this book, but I would say better late than never. If you are active on any social media platform with a book-centric forum, then you have definitely heard of Babel and all of its praise. The premise is so unique that I really couldn’t say no to this one. There are some heavy topics covered in the book so I will offer a content warning after this introduction. Colonialism is not an unavoidable topic by any means and I think it is important to confront that rather large portion of history in some manner. Now, let’s discuss R.F. Kuang’s Babel.

Major Trigger Warnings: Violence and Gore, Abuse, Discussions and Depictions of Racism, Discussions and Depictions of Sexism, Depictions of Drug and Alcohol Abuse

In 1828, Robin Swift is orphaned in Canton after a disease takes his family. He is soon adopted by the mysterious Professor Lovell, who begins to train Robin in various languages, such as Latin and Greek. These rigorous lessons are to prepare Robin for Oxford’s most prestigious Royal Institute of Translation – also known as Babel. There, students are trained in, not just translation, but silver – working. Silver working involves magic that can only be achieved through the power of words. This silver is what is ultimately used by Britain in its vast colonization efforts. Robin is initially enchanted by Oxford and its seemingly endless supply of knowledge. Soon, however, Robin begins to realize that his serving Oxford is an act of betrayal against his motherland. A shadowy organization, the Hermes Society, recruits Robin to stop Britain’s exploitation of colonized nations. When Britain plans to declare war on China, Robin must decided if he can change Babel or if Babel is even worth saving.

Wow. I just have to say wow. I was so afraid that this book would not live up to the hype, but it certainly did. I am no expert in colonial literary studies, but I know enough to appreciate Kuang’s beautifully crafted, yet painfully real, novel. Kuang seamlessly blends together her unique world-building with historical realities. Robin Swift is a complex and sympathetic protagonist, as are his friends. Kuang at no point tries to simplify the history of British colonialism but points out how deeply entwined it is in the lives of everyone it touches and who ultimately benefits. Her use of the power of language is incredibly profound and points out just how integral language is in the building and shaping of societies. Babel really is a carefully thought-out and exhilarating novel that you should definitely experience for yourself.