Category Archives: book review

Review of The Calling Tree: A Tale of Immortality, by C.F. Waller

I received an Audible copy of C. F. Waller‘s The Calling Tree through AudioBookBoom.

Description from Goodreads:
Dominick Dunn is in people acquisition. When the phone rings he shuffles off to the far corners of the globe to retrieve the captured, then turns them over to his employer. He doesn’t actually believe these people are immortal, but the pay is good and he likes to travel. Despite rumors that his quarry meets an unthinkable fate at the hands of his employer, he’s content with his lot in life. 

Aaron Wessker is miserable. His life has not gone according to plan. Trapped in a dead end job bartending in Vegas, he longs for a family he lacks, or at least the possibility of a girlfriend. 

Their lives are about to intersect, causing them both to rethink their place in the world. More importantly they will have to change their opinions of the possibility of immortality. 

Unfortunately for both of them they will have to do this very quickly. Dunn’s quarry is also being pursued by something much more deadly than his employers. 

Dominick Dunn is about to become the hunted and Aaron’s world is about to be turned on its side. 

Review:
A solid three stars. Awesome cover and I enjoyed the story and the characters a lot, but there is a formalness to the writing that never let me wholly sink into it. And as I listened (I had the audio version) I finally figured out what created this terseness. Two things: there is s decided lack of contractions and the speech tags are too often not simply ‘said.’ I’m not one who claims a writer should never use anything other than “”bla, bla, bla,” she said.” But it sure is hard to make “”bla, bla, bla,” she reiterated” as inconspicuous. None of this is helped by Baker‘s narration, which, though smooth, is additionally stiff in places, with a couple oddly pronounced or emphasized words. As an aside on the narration, I greatly disliked the echoing effect used to show internal thoughts.

There were one or two possible consistency issues that I raised my eyebrows at. For example, at one point a waitress walked by after I was sure the characters had left her bar and gone to a different restaurant. Maybe I misunderstood something, but…

Lastly, there were a few aspects of the story that irked me a little, though these are personal pet peeves and might not bother others. Most of them are men relating to women issues that I figure are symptoms of a male author, as there is a decided male gaze.

One, every waitress in the book is hit on by someone. The vast majority of female background characters, in fact, only seem to be there for a man to comment on. Two, the ‘hero’ gets the girl for no apparent reason at the end. I suppose just because that’s what is supposed to happen. There is nothing up to that moment to suggest there is a romance in play or even that she is a woman interested in romance. Three, (sorry to be vague, but I’m trying to avoid a whole spoiler) the very last little twist isn’t possible without the ‘wife’s’ death. And since they all know that would be inevitable in order for that twist to occur, that means they threw her life away in the end. This seems unlikely if he loved her so much, but also and more importantly, makes her feel like a substance-less prop, as female characters so often are.

All in all, not bad at all, but maybe not my favorite of the year.

Review of The Dragons of Nova (Loom Saga #2) by Elise Kova

I’ve spent the last couple days roughing it….in a tent…in 100+ degree weather. I’ve been wholly without internet and, honestly, didn’t get much time to read. Too busy floating the river, staying hydrated by any means and generally engaging with nature. Despite all that, I did finally finish Elise Kova‘s The Dragon’s of Nova. I reviewed the first in the series, The Alchemists Loom, last year. I got both through Netgalley.

Description from Goodreads:
Cvareh returns home to his sky world of Nova with the genius crafter Arianna as his temperamental guest. The mercurial inventor possesses all the Xin family needs to turn the tides of a centuries-old power struggle, but the secrets she harbors must be earned with trust — hard to come by for Ari, especially when it comes to Dragons. On Nova, Ari finds herself closer to exacting vengeance against the traitor who killed everything — and everyone – she once loved. But before Ari can complete her campaign of revenge, the Crimson Court exposes her shadowed past and reveals something even more dangerous sparking between her and Cvareh.

While Nova is embroiled in blood sport and political games, the rebels on Loom prepare for an all-out assault on their Dragon oppressors. Florence unexpectedly finds herself at the forefront of change, as her unique blend of skills — and quick-shooting accuracy — makes her a force to be reckoned with. For the future of her world, she vows vengeance against the Dragons.

Before the rebellion can rise, though, the Guilds must fall. 

Review:
To start with, can I just note that Kova’s book always seem to have the most beautiful covers? Seriously, I love them all, this one included.

I have to admit, I didn’t like this one quite as much as The Alchemists Loom. It was set at a faster pace, which was a relief and I understood the world coming in, which was also beneficial. I even loved Cvareh. I appreciate a male who knows what (who) he wants and is willing to do what is needed to win them. In this case, take a back seat to her needs and play support. And a whole culture that makes no distinction on the gender of romantic partners was a bonus.

Unfortunately, as much as I liked Cvareh, I didn’t so much connect with Arianna. I felt like half of the attention that would otherwise have been focused on her was given to Florence. And of the time given to Arianna’s POV, I didn’t much care for her gruff persona and dishonesty with her own emotions. I did like Florence, however. There is a character that grew into herself.

Like book one, this one comes to a natural stopping point. But it’s a stopping point, not an ending and certainly not a conclusion. I don’t know how many books are planned for the series, but this isn’t the last one.

Review of The Covens of Elmeeria, by Miguel Lopez de Leon

I won a copy of Miguel Lopez de Leon‘s The Coven’s of Elmeeria through Goodreads.

Description:
Princess Nia and her people have always publicly hated all witches. Witches are evil. Witches are cruel. But in one night, Nia must convince a deadly coven of sorceresses to help her defeat an army, or her family will be executed. Nia has always been adored by the masses. She is beyond reproach. Her one secret is that she was born a witch. 

The Covens of Elmeeria centers on Crown Princess Nia and the beautiful garden kingdom of Elmeeria. Nia and her parents, King Roo and Queen Bloom, are loved and celebrated by their people, but are also guarding a grave secret. Both Queen Bloom and Princess Nia are witches, and are terrified that the people of their kingdom will find out about them. What makes matters worse is that outside the great wall that surrounds Elmeeria is a banished coven of sorceresses, despised and ridiculed by the populace for their strange, dark powers. The popular royals want no association with the isolated enchantresses, but after their realm is invaded, Nia must travel through forbidden and treacherous lands to find the coven’s lair and beg them for their help. 

Nia desperately wants to prove that she can be a strong, capable leader, but what she doesn’t realize is that all power comes with sacrifice, and that to save the lives of her family she might have to lose the love of her people.

Review:
I won this through Goodreads and thought it looked like something my oldest daughter might like. But it’s categorized as Young Adult and the YA genre covers a lot of ground. I opted to read it before giving it to her, to be sure it falls on the Middle Grade side of YA , instead of the New Adult side.

I’m happy to say, for anyone wondering, I figure my 9yo will be fine reading it. But I’m still reluctant to give it to her. It’s simply not very good. (For the record though, the Annie B’s sea salt caramels I ate while reading it were excellent.)

I found this book to be  littered with what I consider problematic gender stereotypes. I cannot tell you how many times I rolled my eyes and huffed in irritation. It was like a man’s idea of what a woman’s life was like, based entirely on the ill-informed media stereotypes perpetrated by other men. Seriously, no depth at all! Plus, when I hit the 50 page mark and was still reading about Nia’s mother trying to marry her off and meeting princes and what beauty treatment or too tight dress they were wearing I almost just threw in the towel. Yes, I know some of this was part of the later duplicity, but I was still bothered by it. As I was by the surprise villain whose motivation weren’t touched on in the least.

Then there was the writing, which was largely telling. Worse still, I thought at one point that  if I had to read the words, ‘very,’ ‘Nia knew,’ or any more adjectives I might have to give this book up.

The thing is, if I do give it to my 9yo, she’s not going to notice a lot of these things. Despite my best efforts, she’s been inculcated with the girls, i.e. princesses wear pretty dresses and swoon over boys message since birth. My voice is just one dissension in the title wave that is the rest of the world. So, I have a decision to make. Do I bite my tongue and let her just enjoy it or do I toss it as something I’d prefer she not read and reinforce the message that all girls are pretty, but don’t relate to other women and the best they can hope for is to persuade someone to come fight for them?