Womb: A Novel in Utero

I was given a copy of this book for an honest review*Please note I very rarely review unsolicited manuscripts*

Womb: A Novel in Utero by Eric D. Goodman is an adult fiction book told from the perspective of an unborn child. Penny wasn’t ready to be a mother. Her life wasn’t where she expected it to be and the circumstances of her pregnancy were also unplanned and completely unexpected. Ignoring the life growing inside her and terrified of confessing the truth of her pregnancy to her husband Jack, Penny’s guilt and anxiety writhe inside her as does the fetus within.

Our narrator feels every bump in the road, every twist and turn. He can feel his mother’s emotions and intuit the world around her. Memories are passed between mother and son and access to the collective unconsciousness allows our narrator to ruminate about life and all it’s hurdles.

Will Jack and Penny be able to overcome their differences and embrace an unexpected future? And what can a fetus do when it’s very existence is threatened?

This is the second book I’ve read by Goodman,  Tracks: A Novel in Stories being the first. Goodman has a knack for pace and writing that is readable and relatable. His books are a breeze to get through and something about the writing just sucks you in.

When I first picked up Womb, I was a bit skeptical because where can a story go when it’s narrator is literally in a void–unable to communicate, let alone act upon the world it inhabits. But the way Goodman sets up our narrator, he can do just that. Yes, he is an outside observer but sometimes those are the best narrators. Through the baby’s eyes we get to see an everyday couple go through ups and downs.

I just happen to be pregnant while reading this book, which I think gave me a whole different perspective on it. I know how my baby is growing and what is happening, so it was interesting to see the narrator grow in these same stages throughout. It also makes you think about the bond a mother and child form, even before the baby is born.

I will say, that I was more wrapped into the story itself rather than the narrators musings about life. At times our fetus was a little too philosophical for me, which was a little hard to believe. Don’t get me wrong, some very poignant thoughts and ideas but from the perspective of a fetus is was sometimes hard to get my head around.

Overall, this was a quick read with a unique narration that kept me interested throughout. This one gets 4 stars from me.

That’s all for now!

-M-

Red Sister

Little lag in my posting. Got caught up with a few projects. Preparing for Summer Reading is really getting in the way of my reading. Anyway…

Red Sister by Mark Lawrence is the first book in a new adult fantasy series that seriously kicks butt. At eight years old Nona Grey is saved from hanging by the Abbess of the Convent of Sweet Mercy. Now young Nona, sold as child labor and accused murderer, is to become a novice at a convent even as her past chases after her.

But this is no ordinary convent. The Sisters of Sweet Mercy are trained in blade and fist, in the way of the path and yes, even as holy sisters. Nona has her sights set on becoming a Red Sister, the fiercest of warriors for:

It is important, when killing a nun, to ensure that you bring an army of sufficient size. For Sister Thorn of the Sweet Mercy Convent, Lano Tacsis brought two hundred men.

But more than Nona’s training is at stake. An ancient prophecy has brought it’s own troubles down on the convent and war is brewing even as the sun dies and ice engulfs all but a slim corridor of land.

First, let me start off by saying that this book is so much more than just warrior nuns. I keep fumbling when explaining it to colleagues because hearing that a book is about a school for kick ass nuns… doesn’t necessarily say “read me.” But don’t let the sisters fool you, this is a fantasy world with a lot going on; it is character driven and a lot is happening behind the scenes.

The set up of the narration in this book, with a few peeks into the present, reminds me a little of Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss. And just like Rothfuss, I wonder when the story-lines are going to meet and then what. Sometimes I really like knowing what is going to happen, the journey is the real sweet zone, but depending on how it is handled, it can be off-putting. We’ll have to wait for the next book to see how this one is going to go.

Holy cow did this book bring the tension. Talk about some intense action scenes! I mean, this book did have some flaws but the dramatic intensity of the writing in these scenes makes up for it. Lawrence really has a knack for filling his action scenes with suspense and drama. Really well done.

Finally, this book is all about the strong female character. It’s a book full of individual women/girls who are confident, strong both mentally and physically, and so much more. I also feel some LGBT relationships coming, on top of the few that are mentioned, which is great. By the end of the book Nona is finally getting a little more interesting… there is just something about a destructive, violent, yet ultimately good character that tugs at me.

On a gut reaction I gave this one four stars and I am going to stick with it. A good fantasy but if you don’t like serious cliffhangers, maybe wait until the next book is out.

That’s all for now!

-M-

Waking Gods

Waking Gods by Sylvain Neuvel is the second book in the Themis Files. We pick up somewhere around ten years after Sleeping Giants. The alien weapon Themis is now a part of the EDC, Earth Defense Corps, and is mostly used as a peace prop, visiting schools and “marching” in parades. Research into Themis is at a standstill and no real discoveries have been made into its origins.

Dr. Rose Franklin is back from the dead and on the verge of a breakdown, not knowing who or what she may be. Everything comes to a halt when a second robot appears in London and decimates thousands. Mankind is at the brink of extinction and only the EDC can come to it’s rescue.

Who sent these giant terminators? What do they want from us? Will Themis and Dr. Franklin find a way to halt the invasion and save mankind?

This series is fantastic! Like nothing I’ve ever read before. We see a global conflict unfolding before our eyes. The style of narration reveals itself through journal entries, interviews and transcripts. And of course our mysterious narrator of Sleeping Giants is back! You just sort of feel like this book is a stab at the what if. What would happen if we found alien technology? What would happen if we were attacked? And reading the book as if you are going through actual documents only makes it feel more real.

This is one of those books that makes you want to meet the author because you cannot imagine one person putting all these elements together in one book. And this is a debut series! I mean seriously, don’t discount the newbie publishers–take a chance!

There were a lot of unexpected twists and turns in this sequel that kept me on my toes. Every time I thought I had this book nailed down, it did something to completely throw me for a loop.  I really hope there is more to come but if there isn’t, I will still be completely satisfied.

This book is fast paced and full of possibilities. I would recommend this series to just about anyone. This one gets a shining five stars from me. Go read it!

That’s all for now!

-M-

The Motion of Puppets

The Motion of Puppets by Keith Donohue is an adult fiction novel with just a little bit of magic coloring it’s pages. Newlyweds Kay and Theo are spending their summer in Québec; Theo working on his translations and Kay working as a background acrobat in the circus.

While walking the streets of Québec, Kay falls in love with an old puppet in an abandoned toy store. Almost every day she would stop and admire the puppet, wishing he was hers. While walking home from work one night Kay fears she is being followed and surprisingly, the lights are on in the toy store. Kay ducks in and her life is changed forever.

When Kay doesn’t come home, Theo looks for her everywhere and finally calls the police. With no clues and no suspects, Kay is truly missing without a trace. Theo begins to question their relationship and wonders if he ever truly knew his young wife. Regardless of his misgivings, Theo is unable to give Kay up and his search almost becomes obsession.

What happened to Kay? Will Theo be able to look past the ordinary and search for clues in unlikely places? Will there be an happily ever after for this separated couple?

I originally picked this one up because I’d read Donohue’s The Boy Who Drew Monsters and although it wasn’t one of my favorite reads, it was one that stayed with me for a long time.

The Motion of Puppets hit me in the same way as Donohue’s other novels. This book had a pretty slow start… and a pretty slow middle if I am being honest. This 250+ page book took me almost two weeks to read, which should tell you something. I was really intrigued by this world of puppets and was really looking forward to getting a peak behind the curtain. But until the end, I was sort of disappointed.

I felt the same way about Theo’s side of the story. His search for Kay, while heartfelt, was colored by his obsession with Muybridge. Yes, this probably has some deeper meaning/parallel to the life of a puppet, what with the focus on motion, but it just didn’t do much for me.

That being said the last 75 pages of this book was fantastic. Just like The Boy Who Drew Monsters the ending was a shock and extremely well done. The world of the puppets at the end was exactly what I wanted to see throughout the book. This dark, chaotic secret world was a feast for the mind.

Overall, this was a boring read with an interesting ending. This one gets a grudging three stars from me.

That’s all for now!

-M-

The Fate of the Tearling

Sorry guys, took a few days off. Reading with a sinus infection pretty much makes me fall asleep about two pages in.

The Fate of the Tearling by Erika Johansen is the final book in the Queen of the Tearling series. We pick up with Queen Kelsea a captive of the Red Queen in return for sparing her city from war for three years. Kelsea is now without her sapphires and at the mercy of a ruler who is slowly losing her grip on her country.

While the queen is gone, the Mace and the Tearling must overcome hunger, overcrowding, threats from the church and an evil beyond imagining. But can they do it without their queen?

The final chapter has begun and the fate of the Tearling is looking grimmer with each passing moment. Can Kelsea save her country and can she ever hope to find the better world William Tear imagined all those years ago?

Man guys, this one was long! It was long and a lot happens. So be prepared when you go into it. I don’t really have a lot of comments for this one. I do have one gripe that will probably not be popular, so get ready for a rant.

Unlike the first book, this one has a lot of different narrators. We see quite a few perspectives and we get several different storylines running at the same time. We get so much–so much story, so much action and so many loose ends and yet, the way the story ends… it is almost like all these stories you’ve got so invested in don’t even matter. I’ve never read anything like this before. The author was able to tie up the story with a fairly satisfying ending and yet not address a single one of the loose ends from any of the narrators other than Kelsea.

By the end of the book none of the other storylines matter because they basically don’t exist. Don’t get me wrong, I was surprised by the ending and I can see how it comes full circle… in fact, I am not sure it could have ended any other way. But I also felt like I invested a lot of time in the characters and not getting to finish their stories was somewhat of a disappointment.

One thing this book does well is address larger themes of society and makes you question what a society should look like. It makes you think about what could be done differently to make a better world and it makes me question whether or not such a society could ever be achieved. This book asks the question and that isn’t a bad thing.

Overall, this was a really interesting series. It was built layer upon layer and the fact that Johansen could keep this world straight without getting his readers caught in a convoluted web of detail and politics, was successfully done. This one gets 3.5 stars from me and the series as a whole would land somewhere between 3.5-4 stars.

That’s all for now!

-M-

The Song Rising

The Song Rising by Samantha Shannon is the third book in The Bone Season series. In this one we pick up right where we left off in The Mime Order. Following the bloody battle for dominion of the London Clairvoyant underground, Paige has risen to the position of Underqueen–high ruler of the most powerful criminals in Scion, London.

This is a position that comes with both power and extreme danger. Now Paige must unite her army of clairvoyants and overcome Scion and it’s supernatural backbone. But a terrible technology threatens them all. Senshield has become portable and with it Scion can hunt down almost all of the clairvoyants.

Now Paige and the Mime Order have literally been forced underground and the rebellion has all but been stopped in it’s tracks. The Mime Order is fractured and hostility within it’s ranks threatens to tear them apart.

Can Paige and her small group of devoted followers stop Senshield and get the rebellion back on track?

So far, this is probably my least favorite book of the series. It wasn’t a bad read but it felt like one of those middle of the series books that has to happen to build up the rest of the series. This is, I believe, going to be a 7 book series after all. The Bone Season and The Mime Order had these epic battle scenes and had really fast paced, gotta save the world moments. Whereas The Song Rising was a bit more political, dotted with mini battles that lead to this moment of separation at the end. Again, this all had to happen but I just wasn’t as captivated as I was with the first two books.

Ever since I’ve read Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere, I’ve been sort of captivated by the idea of what’s below London and Shannon sort of gives us another glimpse of this with the Beneath. But I sort of felt like this was a missed opportunity. We don’t really get a big enough peak into what’s there or what could be there. Still it was neat to see the Mime Order be forced underground.

There are things I missed in this book: Warden and Paige, Nick and Zeek (I can’t remember how his name is spelled), more of the Emite, and the development of Paige’s powers. Paige felt like she really took a step back in this one, I missed her training to become more badass.

Okay, so this review feels really negative. This was by no means a bad read but it did feel a little like a filler. It does prepare you for more to come, that’s for sure. I can see all the little forks this book affords us and it’ll be interesting to see when and how all these little plot twists meet up again.

On a gut instinct I gave this one 3.5 stars and I am going to stick with it.

That’s all for now!

-M-

Lilac Girls

Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Relly is an adult, historical fiction novel that takes place throughout WWII and follows three women with very different background.

Caroline is a 37 year old New York Socialite, who works at the French consulate and along with her mother is always looking for a new cause to fight for. Caroline had all but given up on love until she meets an unhappily married Frenchman, Paul. But when Hitler invades Poland in September 1939, Paul must return to France and Caroline’s life is changed forever.

Kasia is a 16 year old Polish girl, living in one of the first cities invaded by the Germans. Rules are strict and people are disappearing left and right. In her own act of rebellion, Kasia joins the Polish Underground and is soon caught and arrested.  She is forced onto a train, along with her mother, sister, and the boy she loves sister, and is sent to a concentration camp.

Herta is a newly graduated German doctor, looking to prove her worth to the Mother County and find a place in a male dominated profession. Herta sees an ad for a government medical facility and soon finds herself in a role she wasn’t prepared for.

The lives of these three women intersect in various ways… across countries, continents and through cultural barriers.

Lilac Girls is not my normal genre. I usually only read a few historical fiction novels a year but I decided to join a local book club and this is the book they chose for the first meeting. I’ve got to admit, I have a TBR pile of new releases that I am dying to read, so it was really hard to get myself excited about this one. It wasn’t a bad read but it took me a while to get into it.

I have to say, one thing this book does right is to highlight historical aspects of WWII I haven’t read about before. I knew the Nazi’s did experiments at the camps but I wasn’t aware of the “rabbits” and the ways the camps rebelled in whatever small ways they could. I also really enjoyed Caroline’s story and was interested to find out that Caroline Ferriday was a real person.

One problem I had with this book, is that there were quite a few loose ends. For an almost 500 page book, I was looking for a bit more resolution. The only story that really tied up nicely was Kasia’s, whereas we are left to write our own ending to Caroline’s and Herta’s using a few bits and pieces. There was such a big build up to each of the girls’ stories, that the endings seemed somewhat unfinished.

The stories also felt massively disproportional. If I wasn’t so lazy, I would calculate how much book time each of the girls had. The intro to the girls focused mostly on Caroline; the middle on Kasia; and the end on a mix of Caroline and Kasia. Did anyone else notice this?

Overall, this wasn’t a bad read but I’ve read other historical fiction novels that called to me more. This one gets 3 stars from me.

That’s all for now!

-M-