Review: Gray Widow’s Web

Hey all.

I know it’s technically Summer Reading 2017, but I’ve got something exciting to share before I dive into reviews of the amazing books I’ve been reading from that list.

Today, I get the absolute privilege of helping kick off Dan Jolley’s blog tour for his newest release, Gray Widow’s Web.  You guys might remember last summer when I had the joy of sharing Gray Widow’s Walk with you.  Well, let me just start out this review by saying the sequel is amazing and somehow better than the first book.

If you’ve been around the blog for a while, you know I’m pretty skeptical of sequels.  Ever since I started the Gray Widow series, I’ve been eager and patiently (most of the time) waiting for the next book – and it did not disappoint.

[Also, I feel obliged to say that there will be some SPOILERS in this review.  I’ll keep them to a minimum, but I get really sensitive of the fact that even mentioning a character’s name from a sequel means they didn’t die in the first book…  So if you haven’t read Gray Widow’s Walk, and you want to read it completely cold, stop reading this review RIGHT. NOW.]

Ok, now that that’s out of the way:

Grey Widow's Web_Final_1200X800

Gray Widow’s Web takes the world and foundation that Jolley built in book one and wonderfully expands it.  We get to meet some new characters – most of whom I love – and we get to learn much more about Janey and other familiar faces.  Which mostly involved me rolling my eyes at Nathan and swooning over Tim.  Oh, Tim.  So swoon-worthy in a guy-next-door kind of way (the best kind).  (Also, I was just going to type an apology to my husband for the swooning and realized that Tim kind of reminds me of my husband… a lot… that’s too weird to think about right now.  Moving on.)

In this sequel, Mr. Jolley REALLY ups the ante.  Book one dealt with a fairly small cast, and events had relatively small consequences.  Not so for book two.  At all.  Things got really big, really quickly, and it was amazing.  He zooms out, giving an exciting view of the bigger picture, paving the way for what I’m sure will be an awesome book three.  Not only that, Jolley somehow managed to out-creep the ultra-creepy Simon Grove from book one with a new villain who is somehow even more horrible and fear-inducing.  Aphrodite Lupo, you are the stuff of nightmares.

Side note: there was also a scene where I felt like my heart was ripped out of my chest.  After finishing the book, I’m sad to report that my heart is not mended and apparently won’t be until book three because certain things between certain people that I care a lot about are not neatly wrapped up in a nice little package.  I’m not bitter; I promise.

While I obviously am quite attached to the characters of Gray Widow’s Web, the thing that really struck me while reading this book was the story.  The plot is fast and tight and kept me on the edge of my seat.  There was no fluff, no wasted words, no unnecessary scenes.  It was clean, cohesive, easy, and enjoyable to read.

Bottom line, friends: Dan Jolley can freaking write.

And the best part?  He writes the kind of stuff that I absolutely love to read.

If you haven’t had a chance to read Gray Widow’s Walk, do it.  Book one is amazing, and book two is even more so.  You’ll be rooting for the hero, hissing at the villain, and slightly drawn to but also afraid to look up at the stars.  Don’t worry – you won’t regret it.

 

Here’s a little more info about Dan if you’re interested:

DanJolleyPhoto

Dan Jolley started writing professionally at age nineteen. Beginning in comic books, he soon branched out into original novels, licensed-property novels, children’s books, and video games. His twenty-six-year career includes the YA sci-fi/espionage trilogy Alex Unlimited; the award-winning comic book mini-series Obergeist; the Eisner Award-nominated comic book mini-series JSA: The Liberty Files; and the Transformers video games War for Cybertron and Fall of Cybertron. Dan was co-writer of the world-wide-bestselling zombie/parkour game Dying Light, and is the author of the Middle Grade Urban Fantasy novel series Five Elements. Dan lives somewhere in the northwest Georgia foothills with his wife Tracy and a handful of largely inert cats.

Learn more about Dan by visiting his website, http://www.danjolley.com, and follow him on Twitter @_DanJolley.

 

Want to check out more stops on the blog tour:

7/19/17            I Smell Sheep – Top Ten’s List

7/20/17            SpecMusicMuse – Author’s Interview

7/21/17            Sapphyria’s Book Reviews – Top Ten’s List

7/22/17            http://bookishlyme.blogspot.com/ – Review

7/22/17            The Seventh Star Blog  – Author’s Interview

7/22/17            StoreyBook Reviews  – Guest Post

7/23/17            Sheila’s Guests and Reviews – Guest Post

7/24/17            Infamous Scribbler  – Author’s Interview

7/25/17            Beauty in Ruins  – Guest Post

7/26/17            Paranormal, Urban Fantasy, Mystery and More! –  Author Interview

7/26/17            Jeni’s Bookshelf, Reviews, Swag, and More! – Review

 

**This eBook was provided to me in exchange for an honest review; no compensation was provided.

Happy 100!

Oh my word.

Something amazing is happening as we (I) speak (type).

This is my 100th blog post!

Friends, I wasn’t sure that I’d ever make it here, but I did.  It took a while due to blogging less in 2017 to focus on other writing endeavors.  But here we are!

To celebrate, I’d love to look back at some big milestones that have happened in this blog.  Let the nostalgia begin:

Book Review Highlights

  • Speaker for the Dead
    • Where I discovered my new favorite book of all time.
  • The Warrior’s Apprentice
    • My first Vorkosigan experience.  Seriously, I’m still head over heels for these books.
  • A Monster Calls
    • Where I ugly cried the hardest and had a heart-breaking and healing read.
  • Eight Skilled Gentlemen
    • The biggest surprise.  Who knew I would love this so much that I’d write my first ever fan letter? (My friend, Stella, knew.  That’s who.)

 

Book Tours

 

Writing

 

Life Stuff

Since starting this blog I’ve:

  • Gotten married
  • Moved
  • Lost 3 loved ones
  • Gained 2 new nieces and 1 new nephew

 

That’s crazy if you ask me.  So much life has been lived since in my first 100 posts, and I’m excited to see what happens to in the next 100!

 

 

Review: Within the Sanctuary of Wings

Hey, friends!

So you know how I was planning on being all caught up and posting regularly again?  Welp, I obviously haven’t been.  But there’s exciting reason for that:

I’M WRITING AGAIN.

As you might remember, I’ve been in a bit of a slump since November, but I’ve suddenly got ideas and motivation galore.  But more on that in my next post…

Because right now, we’re here to talk about the fifth and last book in the Natural History of Dragons series by Marie Brennan.

If you remember from a previous post, I’ve been looking forward to this book FOR A LONG TIME.  I fell hard for the series a few years ago when a friend lent me book one, and with much sadness, the series is now over for me.

But let me tell you about book 5.

Within the Sanctuary of Wings starts out similarly to books 1-4.  Lady Trent hears of a new dragon-related thing to investigate and has to figure out how to do so.  After a few chapters, I was settling in nice and cozy for another adventure.

And then, things got crazy.  I was sitting in bed reading, looked over to my husband, and said, “I did not see that coming.  At all.”  For real.

Obviously, this is the last book in the series, so something big had to happen.  But still.  THIS.  WAS.  BIG.

Anyway, the rest of the book is kind of typical style-wise, with Lady Trent doing her naturalist thing in the awesomest of ways.  The writing is engaging and consistent, the characters are lovable and diverse, the pace is REALLY good (which I couldn’t say for the… second book, I think it was?), and the dragons are cool – this coming from a person who doesn’t really like dragons all that much…  I know, I know, they ARE cool, but I’m more of a science person than a fantasy person…  whatever.  I like the dragons in these books.  A lot.

When I finished the last chapter, I gotta admit: I cried.  I was so sad that the series was over.  This unexpected wonderful thing in my life, this series full of science and feminism and relationships and growth.  It’s over, and I’m sad that there aren’t more stories to tell.

However, the ending is satisfying.  The story is over, and Brennan did a great job of wrapping it, of not stringing things out, of ending it where it should be ended.  I appreciate that so much.

So… A Natural History of Dragons series is over for me.  But I really, REALLY hope that it isn’t for you yet.  Go check out book one!  It’s fun, accessible, light fantasy that will make you laugh and cry and want to go out and observe every living creature you come across.  And maybe look for dragons while you’re at it.

Summer Reading 2017

Hey all!

I’m back after a two-week hiatus that was full of long walks, lots of non-fiction, and lots of family stuff (a new nephew, a funeral, and a surgery… phfewwww).  But I’m back now, and I’m so excited to introduce Summer Reading 2017!

If you’re not familiar with my Summer Reading Lists, you can check out this post.  Essentially, in order to further the joy that was free reading time during childhood summers (as opposed to more structured reading and class-related reading during the school year), every summer I set aside 3ish months and follow a themed reading list.  It sets apart the time as special, and it pushes me to read things I might not normally read.

Examples of past lists include:

  • Star Trek books
  • Fantasy books
  • Book I Own but Have Never Read
  • Hugo Award Winners

I’m excited to announce that from June 20-September 22, my theme is:

Books Written by People of Color

This theme came from wanting to support diverse authors and realizing there was a long stretch of my reading list where I read almost exclusively books by white women.  (Not on purpose, by any means.  But you know about my love for Bujold’s Vorkosigan Saga…)

I can’t wait see what I discover this summer; I’m particularly looking forward to exploring different authors in genres that I typically read (science fiction, fantasy, Christian non-fiction, health).

For a bit of teaser, here are the first few books on my list:

  • Kindred by Octavia Butler
  • The Fifth Season by N.K Jemisin
  • Rescuing the Gospel from the Cowboys by Richard Twiss

I will say, I have one more review to share with you before Summer Reading officially kicks off.  I’m also going to continue reading my daily devotional by Shauna Niequist.  And in early July, I’ll be reading a book by a white man because I already signed up for his blog tour.  But other than that, for the next 3 months, it’s only books by people of color.  Here we go!

Review: Shards of Honor

It’s another Vorkosigan review (and sadly, the last one till the fall)!  I went back in time a bit after finishing the short stories in Borders of Infinityand checked out where it all began – or at least where Miles began.  I’ll get to Falling Free (which takes place about 200 years before Miles was born) eventually.

Anyway, Shards of Honor by Lois McMaster Bujold was an absolute gem.  It tells the story of how Cordelia Naismith and Aral Vorkosigan (Miles’ parents) met and eventually got married.  I don’t know if I’ve told you this, but I’m absolutely a helpless romantic.  So I loved that aspect of the book.  But there was so much more to love than that.

Getting to know Cordelia and Aral more deeply was so much more than I was hoping for.  I love Cordelia in the books that I’ve read, but she’s been a very minor character so far.  It was fun to get to know her better; I like her even more now.  Miles’ father, Aral, was such a joy to get better acquainted with, too.  And we got to see more backstory on Bothari, who I’ve both loved and despised.  All of this puts so much of what happens in later books in perspective – or at least gives more depth to future events.

Apart from getting more history on these characters, the plot was fun – as if I’d expect anything less from Bujold.  I wasn’t expecting the story to take place over months, but Bujold pulled that off well.

Overall, this was another great Vorkosigan book.  Not my favorite, but not my least favorite either.  It drew me in and kept me invested the entire time.  Check it out if you’re looking for really great yet accessible science fiction.  And if you’ve never read any Vorkosigan works, Shards of Honor is one of the great places to start!

Review: Across the Wall

Hey all!  Let me tell you about Across the Wall by Garth Nix, please.  I initially picked up this collection of short stories just for the Old Kingdom story, but then I ended up reading the whole thing.  It was a good decision.

Across the Wall contains one Old Kingdom work (think Sabriel, Lirael, Abhorsen, and Clariel) – “Nicholas Sayre and the Creature in the Case”.  It takes place between Abhorsen and Goldenhand (which I haven’t read yet and have to put on pause due to Summer Reading 2017) and features Nicholas Sayre, who we met in Lirael.  The story may be short, but it’s full of tension, deception, and a creepy, blood-drinking creature.  I enjoyed it, and it made me even more excited to finish the series soon.

As for the rest of the stories in the volume, there were some hits and misses, and there was a ton of variety as far as subject material, genre, etc.  Here are some of my favorites:

  • “Charlie Rabbit” – a story about two young brothers and a stuffed animal trying to survive an air raid and the ramifications of war
  • “Heart’s Desire” – a twist on the traditional Merlin and Nimue relationship
  • “Hope Chest” – a western with a touch of magical realism.  So good.
  • “Endings” – a poetic, very short story that explores sorrow and joy.  I LOVED this one.

I also particularly liked how each story had a brief introduction by Garth Nix about how he’d come to write it – those were funny and insightful.  Overall, this was a very good read, and I’m looking forward to reading more by Nix in the future.

Check it out if you’re looking for variety, if you like fantasy, or if you enjoy reading the story behind the story.

Review: Borders of Infinity

Well, well, well.  Look who’s behind on the blog posts she promised y’all.  I’m not going to apologize yet again.  But I am going to get caught up.  Mostly because I’ll be on vacation next week…  So it’s now or never, folks.

Anyway, I just finished Borders of Infinity, a collection of Vorkosigan short stories/novellas (I never remember the difference, and I don’t care enough to look it up right now). Technically, this is kind of a review x 4 since I plan on sharing my thoughts on each of the stories in the book, but that seemed silly to put in the blog title… I don’t even know why, but I made that choice, and I’m sticking to it.

So without further adieu, I give you my reviews of the stories found in Borders of Infinity by Lois McMaster Bujold.

“The Mountains of Mourning”

  • I read this last year, so you can check out the link above for that review.

 

“Labyrinth”

  • This short work was really enjoyable for me.  I was skeptical when I saw the cover and during the first few pages (A soldier created using human and animal DNA?  F’real?), but it turned out to be really good.  Bujold has a way of weaving action and heart-breaking moments together seamlessly.  We get to meet a new character (who I hope returns!), and we get to see a side of Miles that we haven’t seen before.  I don’t want to spoil it, so I won’t say in what way 🙂  Overall, this was a great short story – the plot was good, the characters were developed, and it fits well in the overall Vorkosigan timeline.

 

“The Borders of Infinity”

  • My friend (surprisingly not the friend who introduced me to Bujold’s books but who has shared SO MANY other great authors with me!) says that Bujold really hits her stride at the novella length, and after reading “Mountains of Mourning” and “Labyrinth”, I agreed.  And then I read “The Borders of Infinity”, and HOLY CRAP, YES SHE DOES.  This story wrecked me.  Seriously.  It was essentially a bottle episode, but there was so much depth to each of the characters and so much tension in their situation that I didn’t really notice at first.  Miles has gone through some difficult things thus far, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the things that happen in “The Borders of Infinity” affect him deeply for the rest of his life.  The last few pages have been haunting me since I finished.  Seriously, this is one of my absolute favorites.

 

Borders of Infinity

  • There are 4 very brief chapters that seek to frame the three short stories in the volume.  Not much to say about them – they don’t really do much other than give a platform for Miles to tell his adventures and give us a little update on what he’s doing between Cetaganda and Brothers in Arms.  But we do get some more screen time with Simon Illyan, and you all (might) know that I really like him.  So I’m a fan.  I’m enjoyed the frame story, but it’s definitely not necessary.

 

Now that I’ve wrapped up those stories, I’m excited to step back in time a bit and check out Shards of Honor and Barrayar.  I’ll let you know what I think of those soon!