Book Review: The Narrows by Travis M. Riddle

Title: The Narrows
Author: Travis M. Riddle
Genre: Adult Sci-Fi / Horror
Publication Date: October 23rd, 2018
Publisher: Self-Published

“I can show you how to enter the Narrows to find what you seek.”

Oliver and his friends have returned to their hometown of Shumard, Texas for the funeral of their close friend Noah. They each grapple with the loss in their own ways, trying to understand the strange circumstances of their friend’s unexpected death.

While visiting the site where the body was found, Oliver stumbles across a chilling discovery that he knows must be related to what happened to Noah. Wanting to protect his friends from these newfound horrors, Oliver takes it upon himself to venture into the grotesque otherworld known as the Narrows to learn what happened to his friend and find a way to bring him back.

Entering the Narrows is one thing, but will whatever he finds there allow him to leave?” (Goodreads)

I was looking forward to this one because of the cover and the blurb. From other things I read, it talked about being similar to Stranger Things, which I have never seen. I went in with a few expectations but still had an open mind about this book.

After reading this book, it isn’t what I expected. I figured there would be more when it came to horror and even the otherworld aka the Narrows. The thing is, both of those parts were very minimal. The Narrow didn’t have a major role until over 50% through the book. I also didn’t find anything scary about this book and I am quite the chicken.

The plot is mostly about the friendships that Oliver has with friends from high school even though they have been out for awhile now. I’m all for developing the characters but I just wanted more from the Narrow. Even after the development, I still didn’t understand why he would want to risk his life for someone like Noah. It didn’t seem like they were really good friends.

Even with all of the struggles, I did at least enjoy the writing. It is well written but the plot and the characters just didn’t work for me.

Overall, this was okay. I’m glad I still gave it a shot even if it wasn’t for me in the end.

E-Arc Review: The Pearl in the Darkness by Santana Saunders

Title: The Pearl in the Darkness
Author: Santana Saunders
Genre: Sci-fi / Fantasy / Religion
Publication Date: November 10th, 2020
Publisher: Hummingbird & Tree Publishing, LLC

Thank you to the author for reaching out and giving me a free copy in exchange for a review!




“In a not-so-distant future, recurring acts of terrorism lead to the abolishment of all religions. Believers taking a stand against the ruling are placed in institutions. All existing Bibles, Qurans, and Vedas are destroyed—or so they thought.

Leora Smith, a witty, thirty-year-old medical transcriptionist, lives a quiet life due to a debilitating disorder and unwavering faith that must be kept hidden. Her world is turned upside down when a celestial being informs her of the forthcoming apocalypse and assigns her to recruit experts imperative to the subsistence of the society that will remain when the dust settles.

Each recruit has a story that can only be seen behind closed doors. Leora’s childhood friend and numerous enlightened allies band together in an effort to persuade the best and brightest.

As nature bends in accordance to the plan, Leora’s preconceived notions of everything good and evil are about to be tested.” (Goodreads)

Since learning about this book, I have been intrigued. The cover is fantastic and the blurb just really had me curious. I haven’t read many dystopian/apocalyptic books and am always open to them. When the author contacted me and asked if I would be interested in reviewing I figured why not!

Not every book is going to be for every reader and this was the case for this one. I enjoyed the author’s writing style and the characters she created had interesting backgrounds but I had a hard time fully connecting to the story due to the religious aspects of it.

When it comes to personal preference, I just have a hard time with books that discuss the devil, end-times, and angels. I did know going into the book that religions would be banned but I didn’t know exactly what the rest of the plot would entail. Again, this is just personal preference. There were just certain things I couldn’t get behind due to my own beliefs.

I do think that others will like this book, whether they are religious or not. The author does give a unique take on her apocalyptic world and the characters in it.

Overall, this wasn’t a book for me but I do think it will be a book for others. If you enjoy dystopians/apocalyptic books, go ahead and give this one a try.

E-Arc Review: To Sleep in a Sea of Stars by Christopher Paolini

48829708Title: To Sleep in a Sea of Stars
Author: Christopher Paolini
Genre: Adult Sci-fi / Fantasy
Publication Date: September 15th, 2020
Publisher: Tor Books

Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for an e-copy to review. All opinions are my own.

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“It was supposed to be a routine research mission on an uncolonized planet. But when xenobiologist Kira Navárez finds an alien relic beneath the surface of the world, the outcome transforms her forever and will alter the course of human history.

Her journey to discover the truth about the alien civilization will thrust her into the wonders and nightmares of first contact, epic space battles for the fate of humankind, and the farthest reaches of the galaxy.” (Goodreads)

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I remember enjoying Eragon when I read it for the first time as a teen. I even liked the movie *gasp*. I know, that’s a pretty unpopular opinion, haha. Sure, it wasn’t as good as the book but I still liked it.

Anyways, when I saw that the same author was going to be writing a new book, but in space, I definitely knew I needed to check it out.

The book starts out like any movie I’ve seen where everything is perfect and then something goes terribly wrong. The action does begin pretty quickly but for that reason I just didn’t feel anything towards the characters that the things were happening too. This was all in the first 5% and so it’s hard to be shocked/sad or whatever because you had no time to really form any bond.

I kept going with this book because you can’t judge a book within that little amount. I will say that I never formed any connections to any of the characters.

There is definitely a lot of infodump and at times there were clunky parts that just left me bored. I feel like the book could have been shrunk a bit and it would still have the same effect.

I did find some of the plot to be good. The aliens were interesting and I like how he executed their communication. The memories/dreams was another nice touch and gave us more information. The romance part of the plot was definitely a letdown. It really could have been taken out and made no difference.

Where the book shines is the technology and descriptions that comes with it. Learning about the ship minds was my favorite part. Gregorovich was very interesting. I can’t remember reading anything like that before.

Overall, I think the negative outweighed the positive. It had its moments but it was still hard to connect with the story as a whole.

-Joanna TheGeekishBrunette (1)

Blog Tour: Road Out of Winter by Alison Stine (Review + Excerpt)

42599479._SY475_Title: Road Out of Winter
Author: Alison Stine
Genre: Sci-fi / Dystopian
Publication Date: September 1st, 2020
Publisher: Mira Books

Thank you to the publisher for reaching out/ giving me an e-copy to be a part of this blog tour! All opinions are my own.

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In an endless winter, she carries seeds of hope

Wylodine comes from a world of paranoia and poverty—her family grows marijuana illegally, and life has always been a battle. Now she’s been left behind to tend the crop alone. Then spring doesn’t return for the second year in a row, bringing unprecedented extreme winter.

With grow lights stashed in her truck and a pouch of precious seeds, she begins a journey, determined to start over away from Appalachian Ohio. But the icy roads and strangers hidden in the hills are treacherous. After a harrowing encounter with a violent cult, Wylodine and her small group of exiles become a target for its volatile leader. Because she has the most valuable skill in the climate chaos: she can make things grow.

Urgent and poignant, Road Out of Winter is a glimpse of an all-too-possible near future, with a chosen family forged in the face of dystopian collapse. With the gripping suspense of The Road and the lyricism of Station Eleven, Stine’s vision is of a changing world where an unexpected hero searches for a place hope might take root.” (Goodreads)

Harlequin / B & N / Amazon / Books-A-Million / Powell’s

authorbio

AlisonStineAuthorPhotoALISON STINE lives in the rural Appalachian foothills. A recipient of an Individual Artist Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), she was a Stegner Fellow at Stanford University. She has written for The Atlantic, The Nation, The Guardian, and many others. She is a contributing editor with the Economic Hardship Reporting Project.

Website / Twitter / Instagram / Goodreads

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Chapter One

I used to have dreams that Lobo would be arrested. The sheriff and his deputies would roll up the drive, bouncing on the gravel, but coming fast, too fast to be stopped, too fast for Lobo to get away through the fields. Or maybe Lobo would be asleep, and they would surprise him, his eyes red, slit like taillights. My mama and I would weep with joy as they led him off. The deputies would wrap us in blankets, swept in their blue lights. We were innocent, weren’t we? Just at the wrong place at the wrong time, all the time, involved with the wrong man—and we didn’t know, my mama didn’t know, the extent. 

But that wasn’t true, not even close. 

I sold the weed at a gas station called Crossroads to a boy who delivered meals for shut-ins. Brown paper bags filled the back of his station wagon, the tops rolled over like his mama made him lunch. I supposed he could keep the bags straight. That was the arrangement Lobo had made years ago, that was the arrangement I kept. I left things uncomplicated. I didn’t know where the drugs went after the boy with the station wagon, where the boy sold them or for how much. I took the money he gave me and buried most of it in the yard.

After his station wagon bumped back onto the rural route, I went inside the store. There was a counter in the back, a row of cracked plastic tables and chairs that smelled like ketchup: a full menu, breakfast through dinner. They sold a lot of egg sandwiches at Crossroads to frackers, men on their way out to work sites. It was a good place to meet; Lisbeth would come this far. I ordered three cheeseburgers and fries, and sat down.

She was on time. She wore gray sweatpants under her long denim skirt, and not just because of the cold. “You reek, Wil,” she said, sliding onto the chair across from me.

“Lobo says that’s the smell of money,” I said.

“My mama says money smells like dirty hands.”

            The food arrived, delivered by a waitress I didn’t know. Crinkling red and white paper in baskets. I slid two of the burgers over to Lisbeth. The Church forbade pants on women, and short hair, and alcohol. But meat was okay. Lisbeth hunched over a burger, eating with both hands, her braid slipping over her shoulder.

“Heard from them at all?” she asked.

“Not lately.”

“You think he would let her write you? Call?”

“She doesn’t have her own phone,” I said.

            Lisbeth licked ketchup off her thumb. The fries were already getting cold. How about somethin’ home made? read the chalkboard below the menu. I watched the waitress write the dinner specials in handwriting small and careful as my mama’s.

“Hot chocolate?” I read to Lisbeth. “It’s June.”

“It’s freezing,” she said. 

And it was, still. Steam webbed the windows. There was no sign of spring in the lung-colored fields, bordered by trees as spindly as men in a bread line. We were past forsythia time, past when the squirrels should have been rooting around in the trees for sap. 

“What time is it now?” Lisbeth asked.

I showed her my phone, and she swallowed the last of her burger.

“I’ve got to go.”

“Already?”

“Choir rehearsal.” She took a gulp of Coke. Caffeine was frowned upon by The Church, though not, I thought, exclusively forbidden. “I gave all the seniors solos, and they’re terrified. They need help. Don’t forget. Noon tomorrow.”

The Church was strange—strange enough to whisper about. But The Church had a great choir; she had learned so much. They had helped her get her job at the high school, directing the chorus, not easy for a woman without a degree. Also, her folks loved The Church. She couldn’t leave, she said.

“What’s at noon?” I asked.

           She paused long enough to tilt her head at me. “Wylodine, really? Graduation, remember? The kids are singing?”

“I don’t want to go back there.”

“You promised. Take a shower if you been working so my folks don’t lose their 

minds.”  

“If they haven’t figured it out by now, they’re never going to know,” I said, but Lisbeth 

was already shrugging on her coat. Then she was gone, through the jangling door, long braid and layers flapping. In the parking lot, a truck refused to start, balking in the cold.  

I ordered hot chocolate. I was careful to take small bills from my wallet when I went up to the counter. Most of the roll of cash from the paper bag boy was stuffed in a Pepsi can back on the floor of the truck. Lobo, who owned the truck, had never been neat, and drink cans, leaves, and empty Copenhagen tins littered the cab. Though the mud on the floor mats had hardened and caked like makeup, though Lobo and Mama had been gone a year now, I hadn’t bothered cleaning out the truck. Not yet.

The top of the Pepsi can was ripped partially off, and it was dry inside: plenty of room for a wad of cash. I had pushed down the top to hide the money, avoiding the razor-sharp edge. Lobo had taught me well.

I took the hot chocolate to go.

In the morning, I rose early and alone, got the stove going, pulled on my boots to hike up the hill to the big house. I swept the basement room. I checked the supplies. I checked the cistern for clogs. The creek rode up the sides of the driveway. Ice floated in the water, brown as tea. 

No green leaves had appeared on the trees. No buds. My breath hung in the air, a web I walked through. My boots didn’t sink in the mud back to my own house in the lower field; my footprints were still frozen from a year ago. Last year’s walking had made ridges as stiff as craters on the moon. At the door to my tiny house, I knocked the frost from my boots, and yanked them off, but kept my warm coveralls on. I lit the small stove, listening to the whoosh of the flame. The water for coffee ticked in the pot.

I checked the time on the clock above the sink, a freebie from Radiator Palace. 

“Fuck,” I said aloud to no one.

Excerpted from Road Out of Winter by Alison Stine, Copyright © 2020 by Alison Stine. 

Published by MIRA Books

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There is something about dystopians that draw me in. Maybe it’s the way humans react to hard times. How they become animalistic. All I know is that because of the plot, this book was hard to put down!

Wylodine has been on her own for awhile so when the world starts taking a turn she is basically in her element. It’s easy for her to think rationally, which is very important when its dooms day everywhere you go.

She was an easy character to feel sorry for when it came to her circumstances. The book covers the present but there is also flashbacks to better times with her friend Lisbeth and what it was like growing up with her mom and Lobo. The flashbacks did help to bridge gaps, especially when it came to her relationships with people.

There are other characters I did like reading about like Grayson and Jamey. None of the characters in the book have had an easy time since the start of the long winter. It can get very dark real quick. One scene I was not ready for!

Although I liked the characters, the book leans towards plot driven which was fine. The character development isn’t much.

When it comes to the plot, it’s better to be surprised! I didn’t know where it would lead but it’s easy to get hooked.

I only had one issue and that was the ending. This is probably just a personal opinion but I am one that wants more closure. I want to know that everything works out and everyone is fine. This book has an open ending, which I know some enjoy, but they aren’t for me.

Overall, this is a tense book filled with the realities of human actions when it comes to survival. It’s a good book and if you enjoy dystopians I’d recommend you check this one out.

-Joanna TheGeekishBrunette (1)

The Cruel Stars: NetGalley Review

NetGalley Review

 

43093526Title: The Cruel Stars
Author: John Birmingham
Genre: Sci-Fi
Publication Date: Aug. 20th, 2019

eARC provided by publisher through NetGalley. All opinions are my own.

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Synopsis: “The galaxy was once terrorized by the Sturm, a group of “species purists” intent on destroying any human with genetic or cybernetic enhancements. Fashioning themselves as the one true “Human Republic,” the Sturm cut a bloody swath across the stars, killing billions before finally being defeated and driven into the far reaches of Dark Space. Centuries of peace bred complacency. Everyone believed the Sturm had died out in the Dark. They were wrong.

The enemy has returned and, with a brutal and decisive attack, knocks out almost all of humanity’s defenses. Now on the brink of annihilation, humankind’s only hope is a few brave souls who survived the initial attack: Commander Lucinda Hardy, thrust into uncertain command of the Royal Armadalen Navy’s only surviving warship. Booker3, a soldier of Earth, sentenced to die for treason, whose time on death row is cut short when the Sturm attack his prison compound. Princess Alessia, a young royal of the Montanblanc Corporation, forced to flee when her home planet is overrun and her entire family executed. Sephina L’trel, the leader of an outlaw band who must call on all of her criminal skills to resist the invasion. And, finally, Admiral Frazer McLennan, the infamous hero of the first war with the Sturm hundreds of years ago, who hopes to rout his old foes once and for all–or die trying.

These five flawed, reluctant heroes must band together to prevail against a relentless enemy and near-impossible odds. For if they fail, the future itself is doomed.”

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My Review:

Here’s the thing, I don’t know if it was just me but I just couldn’t get into this book like I wanted. The synopsis sounded fantastic and the cover is amazing but it just didn’t live up to the ideals in my head.

I am usually one that loves multiple point of views but it was hard to follow along in this particular book. I didn’t find myself connecting with the characters or feeling interested in their lives or their quest to save earth. It didn’t feel like they had much character development. The characters were just thrown at us from the beginning with not a lot to go off of.

The plot was interesting for the most part and had a few surprises I wasn’t expecting. That is always a plus. We get to glimpse at the invaders ideology and what drives them. To them, they are just doing what they think is right. Although there is quite a bit of action packed scenes, at times the pacing slowed down. This also happens more often in the later part of the book as well.

One thing I did enjoy was the comic relief. Even though things are going wrong and there is a lot of gore to be seen, the characters find time to joke or mention Lord of the Rings. It adds a nice touch and makes the story a bit lighter at times.

Overall, I wish I had liked it more but I know that others will enjoy this book even if I didn’t.