Review: The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue

Invisible LifeTitle: The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue (2020)
Author: V.E. Schwab
Pages: 448


Addie LaRue makes a deal with the devil to be free, but at the price of being forgotten. We follow her over the next 300 years dealing with the repercussions of her Faustian bargain. 

While initially engrossing, I never quite fell in love with this book. In fact, my feelings matched how I felt after reading A Darker Shade of Magic, Schwab’s most popular novel – well-written, intriguing premise, but it could never quite win me over. I felt every one of LaRue’s 300 years and I was exhausted by the end, which I suppose was the point, but in the end, the ultimate destination did not make the journey worthwhile. Schwab may not be the right author for me, but judging by the exuberant reaction to this book by critics and readers alike, it seems I’m in the minority here.

★★★ out of 5

Review: Call of the Bone Ships

The-Call-of-The-Bone-ShipsTitle: Call of the Bone Ships (November 24, 2020)
Author: R.J. Barker
Pages: 512
Series: The Tide Child #2 (Series Tracker)


Despite its massive storms, brutal battles, and monstrous fauna, R.J. Barker keeps the characters at the forefront of his world. The ever-evolving relationships between Joron, Lucky Meas, and the Tide Child crew are really wonderful. Specific attention was paid to flesh out the backstories of several background crew members, which allows them to carry the narrative when Joron or Lucky Meas are sidelined. That said, Gullaime the windtalker remains the standout character of the series and it was exciting to see it again and learn more about its species.

Barker absolutely stuck the landing with this second book of the Tide Child trilogy. The Bone Ships was my favorite book of 2019 and this sequel will surely vie for a top spot in 2020. Every moment spent voyaging through Barker’s Scattered Archipelago is incredibly satisfying. I highly recommend this series.

★★★★¼ out of 5

My thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for an advanced reader copy in exchange for an honest review.

Review: Piranesi

PiranesiTitle: Piranesi (2020)
Author: Susanna Clarke
Pages: 272


It was a real delight to be lost in the labyrinthian walls of Susanna Clarke’s Piranesi. Clarke’s dizzying descriptions of endless hallways, vestibules, and staircases was disorienting but also mesmerizing.

Piranesi, our kindhearted and peculiar main character, is a wonderful window into this world. There are many mysteries that surround him and the maze he finds himself in. Clarke answers more of these riddles than felt necessary, but ultimately, this is a cracking good read that I’d recommend to anyone looking for a brief escape to a more hopeful world.

★★★★¼ out of 5

Review: The Empire of Gold

EmpireOfGoldTitle: The Empire of Gold (2020)
Author: S.A. Chakraborty
Pages: 736
Series: 
The Daevabad Trilogy #3 (Series Tracker)


It took me longer than I’d care to admit to make my way through this hefty tome, but I come away satisfied and content with the way everything is brought to a close. The Empire of Gold brings this expansive trilogy to a rousing conclusion. 

The journeys of our three main characters are given plenty of time to breath, while being really well-balanced against each other. Chakraborty’s writing continues to impress and it flows beautifully once again in this book. I’m excited to see what Chakraborty writes next, as this trilogy is such an impressive achievement, especially as a debut.

★★★¾ out of 5

My thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for an advanced reader copy in exchange for an honest review.

Review: Black Sun

Black SunTitle: Black Sun (October 13, 2020)
Author: Rebecca Roanhorse
Pages: 464
Series: Between Earth and Sky #1 (Series Tracker)


This is pitch perfect epic fantasy. Everything works so well together — propulsive pacing, exceptional characters, excellent world-building, and a fascinating mix of cultures, politics, religion, and lore.

The story builds and builds as each chapter moves us closer to the ill-omened “Convergence” (a solar eclipse). I could not stop turning the pages until the explosive finale, which does not disappoint. It also leaves a tremendous amount open-ended, which makes me excited for the future of this series, as it feels like Roanhorse has barely scratched the surface of where to go with these characters and this world. Altogether, this is one of the best books of 2020.

★★★★½ out of 5

My thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for an advanced reader copy in exchange for an honest review.

Review: The Obsidian Tower

The-Obsidian-Tower-cover-July-24Title: The Obsidian Tower (2020)
Author: Melissa Caruso
Pages: 448
Series: Rooks and Ruin #1 (Series Tracker)


The mages of Vaskandar have the power to give life to their land and to their kingdoms. Ryxander of Gloamingard is cursed with broken magic that takes life and destroys all that she touches. In order to save her kingdom from an unfathomable threat, Ryx must use her weakness to her advantage whilst holding off a cavalcade of determined interlopers.

I had a really fun time with this book. Each page crackles with magic. Caruso’s writing flows well and moves the narrative forward at a swift pace with a steady stream of action and court intrigue throughout. The world of Eruvia is nicely fleshed out, as well. It helps that Caruso has already written a trilogy in this setting, but she lays out the conflicts, local histories, and magic systems in a clear and digestible way for a new reader.

Ryx is a worthy protagonist with very obvious flaws to overcome. Her humanity and search for connection keep her relatable and easy to root for. While the book’s ending does not offer much closure, there’s enough magic in the pages of The Obsidian Tower to bring me back for book number two.

★★★★ out of 5

My thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for an advanced reader copy in exchange for an honest review.

Review: Tales from the Loop

Tales from the LoopTitle: Tales from the Loop (2020; first published 2014)
Author: Simon Stålenhag
Pages: 128


This book showcases some truly spectacular science fiction artwork from Swedish artist Simon Stålenhag. The undeniably cool retrofuturistic aesthetic is juxtaposed against the seemingly mundane goings on of small town life in 1980s Sweden. The accompanying text is sometimes just window dressing to fill in the backstory behind the images, which stand on their own just fine.

If this sounds intriguing, I’d also highly recommend the Amazon show of the same name, which is loosely based on this source material. Each episode tells a self-contained story about a rural Ohio town and how The Loop that runs beneath it all fuels technological marvels that coexist amongst the townsfolk.

Review: Shorefall

shorefall-2Title: Shorefall (2020)
Author: Robert Jackson Bennett
Pages: 496
Series: The Founders Trilogy #2 (Series Tracker)


Foundryside, the first book in this trilogy, was really well-balanced. It told an engaging story, was populated with unique characters, and took place in a vibrant setting. While I’m still taken with this world and the city of Tevanne, most of what I enjoyed about the first book was left behind.

I had been intrigued (and somewhat confused) by scriving, the reality-altering magic system introduced in Foundryside. Because of its complexity, each act of scriving requires considerable explanation and exposition. Shorefall doubles down on scriving and this magic is so integral to the plot that if you’re not on board with it you’ll be left searching for other things to enjoy.

Unfortunately, the characters seem stagnant and there’s no room for them to breathe amongst the massive set pieces and high stakes of the story. In many ways, this felt like a trilogy capping novel instead of a middle book, so it’s unclear how the momentum will carry over for another book and I’m unsure if I’ll be along for the ride.

★★¾ out of 5

My thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for an advanced reader copy in exchange for an honest review.

Review: Network Effect

Network EffectTitle: Network Effect (2020)
Author: Martha Wells
Pages: 350
Series: The Murderbot Diaries #5 (Series Tracker)


In its first full-length novel adventure, Murderbot is thrust right back into the fire on a rescue mission that immediately goes awry. Expanding from the usual novella length of previous installments, this was a bit all over the place for me and I can’t say that it benefits from the extra room. The story is similar to previous, tighter Murderbot tales, but the proceedings get so bogged down by technical mumbo jumbo that I had a difficult time following the action. 

Murderbot is at its best when the characters and their complicated relationships are at the forefront. In that respect, I really enjoyed the return of my favorite character, ART, Murderbot’s snarky sparring partner from a previous novella. This relationship, coupled with Murderbot’s dealings with some new (but familiar) allies makes for a compelling new wrinkle. Qualms aside, I’ll happily join up on Murderbot’s next mission, setting sail next year with a new novella.

★★★ out of 5

My thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for an advanced reader copy in exchange for an honest review.