Tag Archives: fantasy

a trail of pearls title

Book Review: A Trail of Pearls, by D.M. George

I won a copy of A Trail of Pearls in an Instagram giveaway run by the author, D. M. George.

a trail of pearls

It was actually kind of perfect. My mom had a total knee replacement and I’d spent the week at her house helping her post-surgery. Her house is on a bit of a bay in Florida. She doesn’t live ‘on the water’ as in ocean views and million dollar price tags. But she does live on water. So, I’d spent a week smelling salty air and feeling sea breezes. Then I got home to a mermaid themed book and prize pack.

about the book

Fifty-five, frumpy, and flung to the curb like an old floral sofa…

Losing her Silicon Valley job to a younger woman was bad enough. Catching her husband in the arms of one is the final straw. Something’s gotta give, like the last threads of Perla Palazzo’s sanity.

Then, a plan so wild and reckless it’s just an inch to the left of self-destruction.

With a bank foreclosure hanging over her head and staring at the last of her savings, Perla books a trip to the Amalfi Coast in the hope of fulfilling her dreams to become a travel writer. But Capri’s deep azure waters are home to more than old wrecks and lost sailors, like Parthenope, an embittered, hard-drinking mermaid who believes the only way to enjoy men is crudo, with a sprinkle of salt and a generous squeeze of lemon.

When Parthenope gives Perla an enchanted cameo just days before she meets a dashing Italian tour guide, it seems the divorcée’s fortunes have turned. Timeless beauty, self-confidence—perhaps even love—are suddenly within tantalizing reach. But the siren’s song is both seductive and deadly, and a moment of weakness will leave Perla facing unthinkable consequences.

I really wanted to liked this book and really expected to. A frumpy 55yo is someone I thought I could relate to. But it became evident very early on that this wasn’t going to be the case. Which disappointed me, because the author sent me a copy along with a really lovely prize package. Look, I’m even using the coaster that came with it as I sit her writing this. And I hate to repay that with a shitty review. But, the honest truth is that I had to finish this by gritting my teeth. Though a lot of the reasons might not irritate others as much as me.

When I started writing this review, I was composing in my head and thought, “I could have liked it, except for one big issue.” Then I thought, “Well, two issues…um, maybe three…” This reluctant realization is what finally made me admit that I didn’t find a lot to actually like.

That first big issue to come to mind was that I simply did not like Perla. She’s self-absorbed, whiny, and shallow. And while I know this is the area she was meant to have personal growth in, she is like this all the way until almost the end. And, if I’m honest, I don’t see that she would have made the self improvements if not forced to. For most of the book she just feels like someone with…pretensions of Karen, I think is how I want to phrase it.

I was also annoyed that she was constantly moaning about being broke, but flew to Italy, booked a hotel, eats out, travels and shops constantly. If that’s what it feels like to be broke, maybe sign me up.

The second big thing for me (which could honestly top the first, except that it did tapper off past the halfway mark) is how often men are presented as predators. When I was on page 80 I made this comment on Goodreads:

I’m not sure I’ll b able to finish this.

I try hard to avoid abuse of women in my books. I’m on page 80 and already there has been an attempted rape, encounter with two men who were inferred to be potentially sexually violent, a groping, a woman murdered, reference to multiple child rapes, and a 14yo forced into fellatio followed by probable murder.

I’m constantly having to read braced for the next indignity.

This easy use of rape and the pervasive idea that women are constantly in danger as mere plot devices is one of my biggest pet peeves. And once I’d encountered references to it several times before even the 100 page mark I literally read the whole rest of the book tensed for the next slap in the face. It gets hard to enjoy anything around that.

Third, there are some heavy themes addressed in this book. But in the end George solved everyone’s problem with a boyfriend. So, you have this book ostensibly about finding your own self-confidence and being strong older women, but the solution is to….*checks notes* find a man. Talk about taking the easy, cliched out. And that without addressing how fast these guarded,  jaded people fell in love.

The writing is on the pedestrian side , but there’s nothing wrong with it. It’s quite readable and the editing is clean. Plus, look at that cover; it’s gorgeous! I also appreciate the moral of the story and really liked the descriptions of Sorrento. I’ve been there, it felt very true to my memory. So, I think this is a serious case of ‘you’re mileage may vary.’ Give it a try instead of just taking my word for it.

a trial of pearls prize pack


Other Review:

Review: A Trail of Pearls (ARC)

A Trail of Pearls

Singing Hills Cycle titles

Book Reviews: The Empress of Salt and Fortune & When the Tiger Came Down the Mountain, by Nghi Vo

It’s become my habit to listen to audio books whenever I have chores to do or a tedious online task to perform. Today I borrowed copies of Nghi Vo’s The Empress of Salt and Fortune and When the Tiger Came Down the Mountain from my local library.

the empress of salt and Fortune

A young royal from the far north is sent south for a political marriage in an empire reminiscent of imperial China. Her brothers are dead, her armies and their war mammoths long defeated and caged behind their borders. Alone and sometimes reviled, she must choose her allies carefully.

Rabbit, a handmaiden, sold by her parents to the palace for the lack of five baskets of dye, befriends the emperor’s lonely new wife and gets more than she bargained for.

At once feminist high fantasy and an indictment of monarchy, this evocative debut follows the rise of the empress In-yo, who has few resources and fewer friends. She’s a northern daughter in a mage-made summer exile, but she will bend history to her will and bring down her enemies, piece by piece.

my review

Oh, I loved this. It starts out slow and the reader is left wondering why they’re being told the seemingly random story. But it all comes together marvelously in the end. While it’s true that women in aristocracies were often denied open power, to assume and accept that they were therefore powerless is to uncritically accept a falsehood simply by virtue of how often it’s been repeated. I love how Vo plays with that here. I love how In-yo plays with it, for that matter.

I did sometime miss the transition from the current time of the story, where Rabbit is telling her story, to the past or the story she’s telling (or if we’re being given the writings she referenced at one point). But that is a small matter in the larger scheme of things.

Lastly, the narrator did a marvelous job.


When the Tiger Came Down the Mountain

The cleric Chih finds themself and their companions at the mercy of a band of fierce tigers who ache with hunger. To stay alive until the mammoths can save them, Chih must unwind the intricate, layered story of the tiger and her scholar lover—a woman of courage, intelligence, and beauty—and discover how truth can survive becoming history.

my review

I admit I didn’t love this book quite as much as I did The Empress of Salt and Fortune, but it is still a marvelously well done story. I love the way Vo tells the same story from two perspectives, each fundamentally anchored in ostensibly the same events but interpreted in drastically different ways. But you also never lose sight of the fact that they’re discussing what might be a myth, something has certainly moved into the realm of the mythological. This along side the heightened tension of the current danger to the cleric from the tigers countered well. All in all, I’ll be looking for more of Vo’s work and would happily listen to another book narrated by Kay.

Singing Hills Cycle


Other Reviews:

[Book Review] The Singing Hills Cycle Series (2)

Mini Reviews: The Singing Hills Cycle by Nghi Vo // Stunning Novellas that Contain Stories Within Stories

The Singing Hills Cycle 1 & 2

The-Theurgy-of-Gods-Twitter3-01

Book Review: A Flight in the Heavens, by Gabrielle Gagne-Cyr

I accepted a review copy of A Flight in the Heavens (The Theurgy of the Gods, #1) from the author, Gabrielle Gagne-Cyr. (Though I noticed it was free on Amazon at the time of posting.) It was also promoed on Sadie’s Spotlight.

the-theurgy-of-the-gods

I see you my little moppets.

The king is dead, long live his murderer. After fifteen years of passive torment, Farrah and her implacable group of renegades endeavour to alter their fates by attempting to assassinate the man who stole everything from them, Daemon Daromas. Alas, he who wields the theurgy of the gods has no rivals in the lands of Iscar but those foolish enough to challenge their wrath.

When confronted by this ancient and destructive force, the renegades have no choice but to flee the capital and embark on the airship of Iscar’s most notorious sky corsair Captain Feras Sadahl, daughter of the late pirate sovereign. Their meeting with the corsair, however, might not have been as welcome as they would have hoped.

As Farrah and her allies set out on a journey to find the means to challenge their oppressor, they soon discover that the price of power is steep and the road to get one’s hands on it, perilous.

my review

It took me forever and a day to finish this book. Granted, it’s a long book. But I’m a really fast, obsessive reader and generally prefer to read one book at a time. But if I’m not particularly grabbed by one, I sometimes let myself take a break and read something else between chapters. How many books I splice in while reading one can be taken as a signifier of how much I’m enjoying a book (or not). In the case of A Flight in the Heavens I read something like 16! Well, I listened to most of them (but that’s mostly because it’s the format that was available to me). There are a myriad of reason, none of which are that the book is horrible.

But before I get into the criticisms, let me drop some positives. A Flight in the Heavens is epic in scope. Both because it’s 509 pages long and because at the end of 509 pages, the over-arching plot has barely started (though it comes to a natural stopping point). It’s a big world, with some interesting characters. I truly liked Faras and Farrah and wanted them to accomplish their goal. And every once in a while Gagne-Cyr would give us some fabulously vivid imagery, like, “Essan and Thorick had been going at each other’s throats in a peculiar duel resembling the portrait of a lethal insect attempting to sting a bear.” But none of that was enough to keep me interested.

The problem is that the book is about 200 pages longer than it needs to be. It too wordy. (See the insect and bear line above. I love the analogy, but the sentence if wordier than it needs to be.) It’s too repetitive (we’re told the same information multiple times), too dependent on exposition, and too FULL of awkward word usages. For me, this last was the biggest challenge. I almost always knew what Gagne-Cyr meant, but the language is jarringly inaccurate.

Here are a few of the last ones I remember, “…trying not to make eye contact with the soaring utensil…” How do you make eye contact with a spoon that has no eyes? Or, “he snarled in a delighted tone of voice…” I mean, I suppose it’s possible, but a snarl usually accompanies anger or hatred. “…shattered the skin of his midsection.” The verb shatter infers something brittle or crystalline breaking, skin is supple. I can’t imagine it shattering. Again, I know what all of these sentences meant and they might not even be technically wrong, but every single one pulled me from the narrative. And there was one on most pages, which meant I never could just sink into the story and coast along. I was always restarting and loosing gumption.

Though I think an additional editor could have helped tighten the narrative and help Gagne-Cyr with the awkward word choices, I have to admit the book seems really clean in terms of mechanical edits. I don’t really remember any typo or missing word sort of errors. So, in the end, I think this is just going to be a matter of taste. Either you like Gagne-Cyr’s creative use of language or it distracts you from the reading (as it did me). Only one way to find out, really, give it a try.

a flight in the heavens


Other Reviews:

w.a. stanley

c.e. clayton

The Lesbian Review