Review: The Raven’s Tale by Cat Winters

Sorry, no cool header for this one! Also, I wrote this at like 2 am this morning, so it’s definitely honest. The main gist is that I loved this book.

Quoth the raven, indeed.

I was given an ARC of The Raven’s Tale in exchange for a fair and honest review, and I can honestly say that I am privileged to have been able to read it.

The Raven’s Tale is an interesting look at what life could have been like for Edgar Allan Poe as a young man on the edge of adulthood, with a very cool twist – muses, like Edgar’s macabre, twisted look at life, can come to life, and his does in the form of a terrifying, macabre young lady. I was intrigued by this book when I saw it, because the cover is so very striking, and the synopsis had me hooked. I personally really enjoy Edgar Allan Poe, though I hadn’t read one of his works in years, and one thing I wish I had done before reading was refresh. It’s also important, I think, to point out how much reading this book made me want to go read an Edgar Allan Poe work.

About halfway through, I began to feel like the plot was moving in circles: Lenore the muse appears in Edgar’s life and he rejects her. At this point I was hungry to start seeing them work together, but the plot picked up after that so I was satisfied. Overall, it’s a very good read – I was hooked, I wanted to know what happens, I was invested in the characters. The writing style and worldbuilding was entertaining and I just wish there were more of it, but that may take it from a YA novel up a  notch to adult fiction. I also wish that it were written in a darker tone, just to enhance the morbidity and macabre sense of the muse, but again, that would take it up from a YA novel. And it’s important to note that I’m not knocking The Raven’s Tale with these comments – I’m just saying that it leaves me craving another novel about Edgar Allan Poe and his muse, one suited a little more to my own tastes.

That said, a very good book. I like the disconnect between who Edgar wants to be as a writer, who Lenore wants him to be as a writer, and who society wants him to be overall (I’m looking at you, John Allan). I really like the character writing – no one feels like a cardboard character unless they’re meant to be that way (like some of the boys at the University or characters in passing). Everyone who matters is well-rounded and well-written – even the characters you’re not meant to like.

If you’re looking for a cool twist on a classic figure, then this is the book for you.

Make sure to look for The Raven’s Tale from Cat Winters this April! I personally highly recommend it – it’s my first ARC I’ve had, and I was lucky to get such a good one.

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Review: The Storyteller’s Secret

When I picked up this book, it was because I was interested in learning more about another culture, and someone had described it as “Amy Tan-esque”. I secretly love Amy Tan, so I thought, “Hey, this book is on Kindle Unlimited, I’ll give it a try.”

“With every step away from the terminal gate and deeper into the heart of India, I search the faces around me. I recognize no one, and yet I know that, in this place I have never visited, I am a reflection of each one. “

I won’t go so far as to say that I wish I hadn’t picked it up, because the fact of the matter is that The Storyteller’s Secret by Sejal Bedani tries to be a good book. In some ways it succeeds – I have a ton of quotes and highlights on my Kindle that just clicked with me. Honestly, what I think was lacking was the story. Everything is very “tell” not “show” and that bothers me as a writer.

Is it a good book? I mean, it kind of reads like cardboard, in that it’s a little flat, it’s definitely not tasty, but you can eat it if you want to. For me, it’s not a good book, I didn’t particularly enjoy it, it didn’t sing to me. However, I’ll give it three stars because the writing is very good, even if the story is lacking.

So, do I recommend it? No, there are better books out there. Would I read it again? Probably not, no. Did I tell my mother to take it off of her TBR pile because it’s the kind of book she’d hate? Yes, I did.

This entry is short because there really wasn’t a lot to talk about with this one.

Review: The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

This may shock a few people, but I actually haven’t read a Neil Gaiman book before this one. And I’ll tell you, after reading this one, I can’t wait to remedy this situation – I have American Gods on my TBR pile (somewhere near the bottom, it’s been there awhile) and I’m tempted to start it now, at one o’clock in the morning. The Ocean at the End of the Lane was just that good!

“I do not miss childhood, but I miss the way I took pleasure in small things, even as greater things crumbled.”

This book made me homesick. Listen, I live at home, but it made me wish for being 8 years old again, running through the grass and pretending that I was a squirrel from Redwall. I admit I was reluctant to read this book at first – I picked it up to serve as a quick read for the end of the year to reach my Goodreads goal of 12 books read in 2018 (I just made the goal last week, this will be my 5th book – I don’t think I’m going to make it).

Gaiman writes in such a lyrical way to draw you in, that I’m a little worried that I was bewitched to read The Ocean. It’s just on the right side of descriptive – not so long that I get bored, but long enough that I know what it is I’m supposed to be in the middle of. The farmhouses, the moon, the creatures, all of it described in such a way that I feel as though I’m right there, but it’s not stressful. Honestly, the whole book, story and all, is a little reminiscent to A Wrinkle In Time – it’s almost like a love song to one of my favorite books of all time.

I did click instantly with The Ocean which is not what I was expecting. I was rather expecting to have to put the book down, or finish it out of duty, but I didn’t have to do that at all. The supernatural element was refreshing and I was pleasantly surprised to discover it.

The whole book is about a childhood adventure, and about outgrowing those adventures and the memories that accompany them. It gave me a sense of longing for adventures that I don’t remember – things that got remembered differently, things that I don’t remember at all. It also jogged my memory, of building forts in the woods, of friends I haven’t spoken to in years, of my own “oceans.”

Do I recommend this book? Yes, I do. Am I immediately going to abandon my other books to pick up another Neil Gaiman? Yep, I probably am.

Did I just remember that Good Omens exists and also involves Terry Pratchett (who is on my list of top 5 authors – oh wait, I haven’t written that post yet)? Oh heck yes.

Review: At the Water’s Edge by Sara Gruen

Monsters all around.

So I went into At the Water’s Edge blind, in that I knew the author’s name, but not a thing about the book. I had read Water for Elephants when it first came out years ago, and loved it, so I was pumped to pick up At the Water’s Edge and find Gruen’s style similar to her debut novel – lyrical and surprisingly contemporary for a historical fiction.

In the book, Maddie is married to Ellis, who is dependent on his family’s wealth. When they lose everything, Maddie goes to Scotland with Ellis and their wealthy friend Hank, in an effort to regain Ellis’ dignity back by finding the Loch Ness monster (though his father had fakes the pictures years before). While there, in a little inn in Scotland with the backdrop of the Great War, Maddie learns about herself, about her husband, about monsters, and about love – there are monsters all around her.

Warning: Spoilers for the book from this point on.

One thing I love about Sara Gruen’s writing is the way that she handles abuse and manipulation. You don’t see Ellis for the monster he truly is right away – it’s a gradual realization that comes along as Maddie sees it. And on the other hand, you don’t see Angus as the gentle protector or love interest until Maddie sees him that way. Sara makes sure that you see the world as Maddie sees it – when her naive bubble bursts, yours does as well, due to masterful writing.

My only complaint is that it felt like the story got overly long about three quarters of the way in. It could have been that I was just excited to read what would happen, it could be that I just wanted to see Maddie with Angus and not Ellis. I may never know.

What I do know, though, is that I’ll be looking for more by Sara Gruen. This read was amazing, and surprisingly quick!

Review: Depth of Winter (Longmire #15) by Craig Johnson

Bonus second post today because hoo boy, I just finished Depth of Winter.

Do you know that feeling you get, when you finish a good book and you feel like you should be shaking? You’re a little like you just got a fix, riding a high of some kind, and you’re sad that the book ended, you’re sad that the last page turned, and you honestly feel just a tad empty for it.

Depth of Winter did that to me. I literally just put my Kindle down, and I feel like I want to go back and read more and there is no more left to read. That’s actually kind of hard to deal with right now.

But onto the actual review.

As I mentioned in my previous Longmire post, Walt Longmire represents the Last Good Man, and we’ve never seen that tested quite like it is in Depth of Winter. Longmire’s longstanding enemy has kidnapped Cady and hidden her away in Mexico, knowing that Longmire is bound to follow. Now, we get to see what happens when a man comes face to face with what almost seems like destiny.

First let’s talk pros of the book. It’s gripping, it’s clearly a page-turner, there’s so much action that I had to physically put down my Kindle and walk away at times. Craig Johnson is a master of creating characters that I like, that I want to survive, and then pulling my heart out when they don’t. He creates a narrative that makes it easy to quote, creates something that I want to live – hell, I drove through Wyoming this past November and geeked out because it looked like Longmire. Who geeks out about Wyoming? Longmire shines as the main character, we see him tested and then tested again, we see his struggle to survive, his willingness to go until he physically can’t anymore, all to save Cady. It’s like Taken, Longmire style.

“Kindness to a killer builds coffins,” Walt is advised, and this is proven time and again – his moral compass means almost nothing in Mexico, and almost dooms him a few times.

Now the cons: I personally don’t like that the familiar cast of characters I was used to were scarce, and that will turn people off. However, I think this was necessary, because had Henry Standing Bear been there to talk some good sense into Walt and take over the tactics of the situation, there would have only been 4 chapters and then we would have missed out on Walt’s bat-crazy, vigilante style justice that he delivers down in Mexico.

So, long story short, did I like it? Hell yes. Would I recommend it? Absolutely. Is it my favorite in the series? It’s running a pretty close call with Another Man’s Moccasins for me.

Review: Lethal White by Robert Galbraith

I’ll start this off by saying that I am a huge fan of this series, and I was hugely excited to read this novel. I loved The Cuckoo’s Calling, I lived for The Silkworm, and I got Career of Evil as soon as it hit the shelves. That said, Lethal White, for me, is not a winner.

The thing about the first three was that I was just as interested in the mystery as I was the characters’ relationships. My distaste for Matthew grew with every book, I could see myself in Robin, and Cormoran Strike represents a deeply flawed, but equally as deeply moral character similar to that of an old noir detective. He has his vices and his crutches, just as we all do.

The problem with Lethal White, I thought, was the pacing. There is a heavy emphasis places on the character relationships at first, and then that pacing starts and stops like a particularly bad motor as it is interjected by a mystery that is honestly more yapping than investigating. Maybe it’s because I’m not a fan of political intrigue. Maybe it’s because the book was slow to introduce the mystery in the first place.

3/5 Stars

My point is that I had to work to finish Lethal White, where I didn’t have to work to finish the first three in the series. I would say that perhaps, something new was tried here with the political setting in the first half of the book, and the mystery overtaking the second half was a little “too little too late” in my opinion.

Some positives of the book were the realistic way that Galbraith portrayed PTSD (as a sufferer myself, this was very realistic, and that was relieving), the focus on relationships (Cormoran and Robin have a few moments that make me very happy as a fan), and the climax (if you can make sense of the actual mystery in the first place).

Would I recommend Lethal White to a casual reader? No. Would I recommend it to a fan of the series? Yes. Am I disappointed? Yes.

I’d say 3 out of 5 Stars.