Monthly Archives: February 2018

Tarnished City

The problem with reading series as they come out, for me, is that I forget what’s gone on in the previous book.

When I sat down to read Vic James’ Tarnished City, sequel to The Gilded Cage, I had to put it on hold until I could dig out the first book to refresh myself in what happened.

In Tarnished City, we pick right back up with Abi Hadley and her brother Luke. Unskilled (non-magical) people in a work ruled by the Equals (who have magic), Abi and her whole family, except Luke, were serving their mandatory slave days in an Equal household when everything blew up (literally). Luke, in a slavetown, got caught up with some radicals looking to end the slave days and the tyrannical rule of the Equals.

Now, Luke has been given to Lord Crovan, a sadistic Equal known for punishing the Unskilled in cruel ways. Abi is on the run, herself and the family being removed from the Equal house and taken to a slavetown for the remainder of their days. Abi sets out with Luke’s rescue in mind, but finds herself caught up with some of Luke’s old friends, and she finds that revolution and rescue may end up being the same thing.

The Gilded Cage ends leaving you wondering what various characters are up to. Throughout Tarnished City, not only do we not get answers, but we’re left wondering about even more characters. I don’t mean that in a bad way, it’s intrigue that keeps you guessing and keeps you engaged in the story.

I’m still not completely sold on the writing style, the language still reads a little childish for me, but obviously that didn’t stop me from reading the second book, and it won’t stop me from reading the third.

But, for someone maybe looking to dip a toe into fantasy and/or dystopian worlds, it’s not a bad series to start on. And if nothing else, once you start, you’re bound to want to finish, just so you know who’s playing for what.

Alias Grace

When the holiday dust settled and I calculated how much I had in Barnes and Noble gift cards, I knew two things: first, I was going to finally buy and finish the Outlander series, and second, that I was going to buy Alias Grace.

After watching the Netflix adaptation, I knew Margaret Atwood’s book was one that I needed to read and that I would really enjoy. I was right on both counts.

Grace Marks is a condemned murderess and has been in a penitentiary since she was 16 years old. She’s also spent some time in insane asylums. Psychologist Simeon Jordan is intrigued by her case, presented to her by a committee that is constantly petitioning for Grace’s release, believing her innocent. Grace herself says she can’t remember what happened that fateful day when her employer and his housekeeper were murdered. A scientist through and through, Jordan arranges a series of interviews with Grace to try to coax the truth out of her, but what he discovers will push his scientific mind to the limits and challenge what he is able to believe.

The bulk of the book is written in first person as Grace relating her life story to Jordan, thus, it’s written in a very casual and conversational tone, which makes the reading fast, as does the desire to know, is Grace insane, guilty, or innocent?

As I was reading this book, I was reminded of Cat Winters’ Yesternight (though, of course, this was written first), in that, despite being a fictional work, it challenges what you’re willing to believe, and leaves a degree of ambiguity at the conclusion.

And though it is a work of fiction, it is based on real people and a real case, which I find quite interesting as well. Atwood’s author’s note at the end provides clarification for what she drew from historical records (however conflicting and confusing) and what is creative liberties (mostly where records and facts were missing).

Atwood’s characters, and probably the real people behind them, are complex, and the reader gets the opportunity to puzzle things out herself, which makes for an engaging story. So for those who enjoy psychology, brain-teaser books, and just plain interesting stories, Alias Grace should move up to the top of your list. You won’t be disappointed.

Blood Sisters

I snagged an early copy of Jane Corry’s new book, Blood Sisters, and let me say, I was not disappointed. I read the whole book in one day.

Blood Sisters, obviously, focuses mostly on two sisters, dealing with the aftermath of an awful childhood accident that left younger sister Kitty unable to speak or remember, and elder sister Alison riddled with guilt and anxiety. Alison is trying to make a life for herself, and takes a job teaching art in a prison. But soon she starts receiving anonymous, and ominous, notes, and she starts to realize the past may be coming to get her.

Only three people know what happened that fateful morning. Two of them have slightly but significantly different versions of the events. The third can’t remember, even though the closure everyone needs depends on her.

Blood Sisters ends up having four points of narration: one from Alison’s point of view in first person, one from Kitty’s point of view in third person, some diary entries, and, later, flashbacks from Alison’s point of view. But the narration works for the story, and it’s easy to follow the threads as they weave their way into a final picture.

Corry’s book was easy to read. It gave enough so you have a general idea of what happened, but enough misleading hints to keep you guessing about all the fine but crucial details. And just when you think you’ve figured it out and uncovered the secret, Corry reveals that there’s still more. But she does it in a way that keeps you engaged, not tiring you out from gratuitous word padding or layers of “suspense.”

Corry’s book is my latest go-to recommendation and, of course, it means her first book will have to go on my never-ending list of books to read.

So if you’re looking for an easy suspense read, be sure to check her out.

Tempests and Slaughter

When I was a teen, Tamora Pierce was my favorite. I remember reading everything she had, waiting anxiously for the library to have what I get wanted next. So when she finally decided to write the back story of Numair, a well-known figure in the Tortall realm, I was excited. And when we got the advanced reader in at work, I and as even more so.

Tempests and Slaughter starts when Numair is a child, still going by his given name, Arram Draper, only 11 years old, and follows four years of his schooling with his best friends, a smart girl called Varice, and one of the royal heirs, Ozorne.

Arram faces trials and finds that mages sometimes must do things they don’t want to do for the sake of learning, and for helping others. Arram realizes that the future he’s planned with his friends may not be possible, if he can’t reconcile himself to certain social injustices the Carthak society praises.

This book is very much a character building platform. It’s all about setting up the character, identifying certain character traits, and preparing for more action to come in following books. That said, I honestly felt that it lacked drive. The story meandered on, and I think it would have benefitted from being shortened. Even the moments of tension just fizzled out without anything really coming from it.

Additionally, at least in the very beginning, the writing style felt very childish, and that made it difficult to press on.

While I’m not writing off the series just yet, this first book was a little disappointing to me. I’m not sure if it’s because I’ve grown out of Tortall, or if it truly isn’t quite the same as before. But, I’m hopeful that the next book in the series will take off and reestablish Pierce as one of my childhood favorites.