Tuesday 1 August 2023

Review for "Enden" by David Kummer


Review for "Enden" by David Kummer

Alright my book lovers, strap yourselves in because after reading this book I. Have. Thoughts.

Ended is a fantasy novel centered around a singular boy (and make no mistake he is very much a kid) Jonathan, a seemingly unremarkable young fella living in a tiny, unremarkable village, spending his days doing unremarkable things. Now of course that’s not the whole story, otherwise this would be a very dull book, so of course he gets thrown into chaotic battles and political intrigue. It is him, yes the little peasant boy, who must save his kingdom and his friends from the evil that threatens the land. I’m obviously not going to spoil it, so you will all have to read the book to find out how that goes.
There are elves, there are swords and bows, and there are epic battles, and just enough hints of romance to add a more fulsome picture of a young man navigating a harsh and hostile world around him.
I hate to use the term “formulaic” especially since Krumner throws in a good amount of curveballs and plot devices, but ultimately the overall story is reminiscent of a lot of fantasy books that have come before it. Don’t get me wrong, I liked the book, and I am very much looking forward to reading the rest in the series (keep your eyes peeled for those reviews) but I felt like Krumner has the writing chops to have done more exciting things with this book. Additionally he spent a lot of time fleshing out certain parts of this literary world, and very little time spent on others, which left me feeling like I had half a story.
That being said, my biggest gripe is about the main character, Jonathan. I have never wanted to slap a character from a book more than this kid. He is the whiniest person you could imagine, but people are somehow drawn to him, desperate to help him. Now of course if I ever was in the position to be able to slap him, he would expertly and deftly avoid it and give me a thrashing. How would he be able to do that? Well for reasons….like being chosen perhaps? It’s not clear how he becomes an expert fighter, but he does.
But you know what, I’m not mad at this book, because there are some real gems in here, namely the other side main characters. They are interesting, flawed and compelling, and are a very big reason I’m looking forward to reading the rest of the books in this series. Also if we get some Star Wars level revelation as to why Jonathan is the super kid he is, then you will all get to read about me eating my words!

To learn more about David Kummer go to his website here.

To purchase "Enden" go here.

Thursday 5 March 2020

Review for "Triangle: A Memoir of Black Caesar" by B. James Wilson

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Review for Triangle: A Memoir of Black Caesar by B. James Wilson

Triangle: A Memoir of Black Caesar is the story of a young black man named Nwoye and his rise to become the man known as Black Caesar. Taken captive from West Africa as a child, he navigates his new reality as a slave. His story is intertwined with that of young British Colin Aldworth, the son of a wealthy merchant rising to new heights with the slave trade. He sets his son on one of these slave trading ships to learn the family business, and this sets him on a complex and difficult journey, hand in hand with Black Caesar. We get to see what the world looked like during the apex of the slave trade and see its deep connections with piracy, and Wilson does not hold back in making sure the realities of that time in the world are front and center.

Though I do not have a huge amount of knowledge in the history of slavery I do think the book did a great job in describing the social and economical impacts of the practice. I also have to give Wilson a shout of for his great portrayal of the realities of piracy; one minute you have dispensation from your ruler that you can pillage enemy ships, another minute that enemy is now your friend and you are a criminal, aka pirate. The fluidity of political situations between European powers meant that legitimate merchants or privateers would find themselves suddenly pirates at a moments notice, simply because two powers decided to end a war between themselves. As an extra layer the wealth that became associated with the slave trade fueled most of these hostilities. Its essentially chaos and I think he captured the absurdity of it all fairly well.

However the meat and potatoes of this book is slavery, specifically the fictional story of the potentially real person who was Black Caesar, famed African pirate operating in the Florida Keys in the late 1600's. The Black Caesar of Wilson's imagining is very similar to the supposedly real one; a large imposing man, intent on staying free and creating his own fortunes, but there was more than a splash of a white savior complex when it came to Colin's character. Despite this however I do think Wilson did an excellent job with Black Caesar as a character, fully developing his character and fully realizing the world and context he lived in. The character of Colin too was a delight, and the relationship he had with Black Caesar equal parts heart warming and frustrating; perfect for this book and the mood Wilson sets.

With action, drama and romance, Triangle was a fantastic read from start to finish, and I can't wait to dig into B. James Wilson's other books.

To learn more about B. James Wilson go here.

To purchase 'Triangle: A Memoir of Black Caesar', go here.

Wednesday 17 July 2019

Book review: Today We Go Home by Kelli Estes


Today We Go Home, by Kelli Estes, tells the powerful story of two women separated by two hundred years but connected by their experiences. Emily Wilson lives during the time of the American Civil War. After losing her father and eldest brother to the Confederate guns, she and her younger brother enlist in the same regiment. But Emily must hide her womanhood in order to serve her country and follow in her father's footsteps. In the present time, Larkin Bennet has returned home from her second deployment in Afghanistan, bruised in both mind and body. After losing her best friend to a suicide bomber, Larkin must find something to live for. She finds it in Emily’s diary. The two women discover their strength and purpose as they wade their way through war, loss, trauma, and life in a man’s world.

I knew I was going to love this novel when very quickly tears were brought to my eyes. Estes’ writing is powerful, moving, and incredibly real. While I don’t have PTSD, Larkin’s struggles were written so well I forgot for the majority of the novel she wasn’t a real person. But of course, she is real, in a sense. She, and Emily, are representatives of all the women who have served their country. I thought the description of Emily’s trauma was well done and suited the time period. As Larkin discovers, PTSD was not diagnosed as such back then and there was little support for it. But in both cases, the women are able to find a purpose to focus on and get the help they needed.

The flip between the 1800s and present time was flawless. I loved the way Larkin would read a diary entry, and the following chapter would typically be Emily’s point of view version of the entry or just leading up to it. I have read some novels where the flip is quite clunky, but am happy to say this is not one of those novels.

Overall, I must say I’ve read few novels as powerful as Today We Go Home. I don’t think it’s too “feminist” for anyone to enjoy, as I worry some may think the theme is pandering to recent events. Regardless of whether Larkin is a man or woman, or if we focus on Emily or Jesse, the story is about two soldiers who find their strength in an extremely volatile time and place. I applaud Estes’ research and her way of making sure that no one woman’s story was left unsaid through her encouragement to the reader. With flawless writing, relatable characters, and an important message, Today We Go Home is a must read.

And I feel it necessary to thank those who serve their country, both men and women. But especially those who often get overlooked. As Estes says in her parting words: “See her. Hear her. Thank her.”

Wednesday 5 June 2019

Book review: Million Dollar Question by Ellie Campbell


Million Dollar Question by Ellie Campbell brings us on the journey of Rosie and Olivia, two very different people from very different backgrounds, yet somehow their lives continue to cross paths during a very crucial time. Olivia has just fallen prey to a very large financial scheme and lost everything she owned. On the other hand, Rosie, a single mom, has just won a million pounds. As they both learn to live within their new realities, they end up learning far more about themselves than they thought possible.

This novel is definitely a chick lit, but not as chick-litty as others I’ve read. Hopefully that makes sense. Honestly, the novel was just okay. It was a nice piece of fluff, but I found it a touch drawn out for my liking. And I really didn’t care for the writing style, either. The cuts and breakaways made it seems as though when Campbell was writing, she pictured it as a TV show or movie and how they do the dramatic scene cuts to show pivotal plot points. Some people may enjoy that style. I did not.

The characters weren’t too endearing, either. In fact, I may have liked Charlie the most and he was supposed to be the no-good cheating husband. He was the only one who seemed to think and act logically, or like an ordinary person at all. The novel tried to get into deep and thought-provoking ideas with the character of Marcus and his documentary, but it didn’t really work to bring depth to the novel unfortunately. That being said, the twist that connects the two characters was interesting, if not a bit contrived. We often forget, or don’t realize at all, how our lives can connect to so many other people but we just miss each other by mere moments.

Overall, if you want to read a fluff piece, Million Dollar Question is your next novel.

Wednesday 29 May 2019

Book review: The Things We Cannot Say by Kelly Rimmer


The Things We Cannot Say by Kelly Rimmer tells the story of two women. Alina lives in occupied Poland. Newly engaged, her family shelters her from the horrors of the war for as long as they can. But when it comes down to it, does she have the strength it will take to keep herself and her friend alive? Alice lives in present day America. Her Polish grandmother has had a stroke and so cannot communicate properly. But she gets out a message for Alice. Go to Poland. Tomasz. On her journey, Alice discovers the amazing lengths Alina went to in order to survive, simply based on all the things she couldn’t say.

I’ve said this before with war books. This is a book that needed to be written. I love that Rimmer used her family’s experience as a starting point for Alina’s story. But it wasn’t just a war story. Alice’s struggles are of a different sort, but still an important one to tell. With her son on the artistic spectrum, Alice has her own way of living that has no flexibility, but she learns what the human mind is able to do when given the opportunity. That’s a huge understatement and of course in no way meant to lessen the challenges that diagnosis can bring. But I think Alice handles it with grace.

At first I was a bit annoyed with Alina’s character. She seemed weak, and complained all the time about being treated as a child. But of course, there was so much strength in her. I think, after all, it was important to show her as a normal girl and not an extraordinary one. The war affected everyone, and the thing is that not everyone became a hero or had a heroic arc. Alina did, but in a much different way.

The description of how they wouldn’t talk about the war afterwards, not even speaking Polish at home is very much the story of my own grandparents. And I think the story in general. I understand why, but there are so many stories lost to time because of it. These are stories the younger generations need to hear. I hope there are enough. This is one of them, at least.

Overal, this is a wonderful story of survival, love, and familial sacrifice. It’s well worth the read, keeping in mind things may not be as it seems. And please remember to keep telling these stories. And keep reading them.

Wednesday 22 May 2019

Book review: Sanctuary by Kris Kramer


Sanctuary by Kris Kramer tells the story of Daniel, an Anglo living in early Medieval England (Wessex) who lived as a priest. He had run away from his learning in Rome, having questions the other priests couldn’t answer or didn’t want to hear. But when a raid destroyed his village, he found some of those answers in the man named Arkael. Or so he thought. Following this man of God, Daniel travelled across the different kingdoms to find God’s calling for his life. It would all come down to the war Arkael warned him of, the one between the angels and demons. And it would be up to Daniel to find God’s path for him in the war and where he could find his own sanctuary.

I’m often quite critical of historical fiction. I like to make sure the authors have done their research, and I have to say I was pleasantly surprised with Sanctuary. I didn’t fact-check everything, but honestly that’s the best praise I could give. Kramer completely immersed me into the story that I didn’t feel the need to check city names, or the other fine details I usually get caught up in with historical fiction. Despite having a Medieval Studies degree, I found myself enjoying the story for what it was which honestly surprised me. It was a nice reminder back to my university days learning about the Early Medieval period, although I am glad to be done with Old English.

What I found to be flaws at the beginning, ended up aiding in Daniel’s character development so they weren’t truly flaws at all. He was lost, empty, and perhaps a bit naive but after watching the destruction of his village, that only made sense. His determination to follow Arkael only further showed his faith in God and His plan for his life. Arkael had been sent as a sign, and Daniel had to find out what it all meant.

I’m glad that Daniel was able to find what he was looking for, and I think even though I wouldn’t necessarily consider this Christian fiction (but perhaps it is! It’s all in your definition) it has a very strong theme of faith. It’s Daniel’s quest to discover who he is, and how he fits into the world that is so very relatable to both believers and non-believers.

Although I found it a tiny bit slow to get into, I honestly really enjoyed reading Sanctuary and it was a nice change of pace from other historical fiction novels I’ve read. There aren’t many written in this time period, and although there was of course fighting and death, it wasn’t the main plot of the story which goes against much of what people think of this time period (the so-called “Dark Ages” as I shudder to type). I highly recommend this novel to anyone with an interest in the early Medieval period, the early church in Briton, or are simply on their own quest like Daniel. We are all a piece to the same puzzle, and in the end, like Daniel, it’s our hope we can discover where we fit and maybe in that moment we find our own peace, our sanctuary.

Wednesday 15 May 2019

Book review: Her Sister's Shoes by Ashley Farley


Her Sister’s Shoes by Ashley Farley tells the story of three very different sisters. Their only similarities are their workplace: their family seafood market, and their birthdays all land in the same week but in different years. Each live completely different lives, each envying the lives of the other two. It’s not until they each learn to walk in her sister’s shoes are they able to fully appreciate the bond of sisterhood and their own inner strength.

Farley has written quite a lovely story that will appeal to a very wide audience. Each one of the sisters has a different struggle (or struggles) that someone can find at least something relateable. And on top of their own personal issues, they must deal with their mother who begins to show signs of Alzheimer’s. It’s not one of those novels where the plot is apparent and really, that’s okay. It was nice to just read the story of these sisters and see where it ended up without wondering the point of the little things.

I honestly hated the character of Jackie. Yes, she eventually had her own redeeming qualities but even then I still didn’t like her. And that’s fine. We’re not always meant to like all of the characters in a novel. I also wasn’t really a fan of how everyone ended up. Spoilers ahead! It felt like everyone just paired off romantically just to add some romance into the story. I don’t think it added anything, and probably would have been a little stronger without it. But that’s just me. And I love a good romance novel. Spoilers ended!

Overall, Her Sister’s Shoes is a vivid, and realistic story of three sisters who finally learn to see the good in their own lives, and appreciate the struggles they each go through daily.