The Obsidian Tower – Book Review

Rooks and Ruin #1 By: Melissa Caruso
Published On: June 2, 2020

Can things be any more chaotic for Ryx as she attempts to negotiate peace between two lands, de-escalate a Shrike Lord’s desire for vengeance, learn how to bring her own broken magic under control, and deal with the aftermath of unexpected guests, all the while trying to identify what danger a secret artifact possesses and identify a solution to fix it without anyone finding out and starting all-out war? That’s not to mention what I am intentionally leaving out of this list just to keep from spoiling anything.

Gloamingard was really several castles caught in the act of devouring each other.

– Melissa Caruso, The Obsidian Tower

It all begins when the Shrike Lord’s fiancee, Lamiel, unexpectedly arrives at Gloamingard Castle one day before diplomats are scheduled to arrive to negotiate a treaty. Eager to secretly discover what Gloamingard protects and keeps hidden, Lamiel trespasses where she shouldn’t and starts a chain of events with consequential outcomes.

Set in the same world as Melissa Caruso’s Sword’s and Fire series, we are introduced to Ryx who is the Warden of Gloamingard. Ryx’s bloodline is one of vivomancers, but due to an illness when she was young Ryx’s magic is broken and instead of life and creation, her magic brings death. She is the family embarrassment, except to her grandmother who believes in her.

Around 20-30%, I almost stopped reading the book. Something about where the story was at the moment wasn’t keeping me interested. Eventually, what I came to realize is that the story centers around us watching Ryx juggling all the different chaotic events going on around her and that’s when I settled in. It’s not necessarily action-packed all the time and that’s ok.

As much as I enjoyed all the disastrous events exploding around Ryx it did at times become a little overwhelming. This was especially true in the latter part of the story when I would pick the book back up after being away from it and had to remember all that was going on. Don’t get me wrong – I liked that there was a lot of moving parts, but it still took time to remember. I also suspect there are some thinner plot moments in how some of the political maneuvering and decisions get resolved, but because it could be a little dizzying I haven’t had a chance to work through all that yet.

Description:

The mage-marked granddaughter of a ruler of Vaskandar, Ryx was destined for power and prestige at the top of Vaskandran society. But her magic is broken; all she can do is uncontrollably drain the life from everything she touches, and Vaskandar has no place for a mage with unusable powers.

Then, one night, two terrible accidents befall her: Ryx accidentally kills a visiting dignitary in self-defense, activating a mysterious magical artifact sealed in an ancient tower in the heart of her family’s castle.

Ryx flees, seeking a solution to her deadly magic. She falls in with a group of unlikely magical experts investigating the disturbance in Vaskandar—and Ryx realizes that her family is in danger and her domain is at stake. She and her new colleagues must return to the family stronghold to take control of the artifact that everyone wants to claim—before it destroys the world. 

When the Storm Comes – Picture Book Review

By: Linda Ashman
Illustrated By: Taeeun Yoo
Published On: May 26, 2020

A rhyming picture book asking the reader what do they do when a storm comes rolling in. The story is set against a seaside village and shows us how people and animals such as birds, rabbits, whales and others protect themselves from thunderstorms.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

The images are created used digital and pencil drawings in sea-tone and storm-tone colors: blue-grey to show an overcast day threatening to become even darker along with green and team to complete the look of a seaside town. Yellows illuminating from the window of home. A vivid white also makes a splash in the crest of breaking waves, but is also the predominant color of the sheets of rain pouring from the skies.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Even though the narrative is about what creatures of all types do to protect themselves when a storm comes in, the colors, rhyme and peaceful village together present a lovely, calming story that makes you feel safe and secure from wherever you read from.

Thanks to Edelweiss and Nancy Paulsen Books for the advanced reader copy and opportunity to provide an honest review.

Description:

A storm and its sunny aftermath come to life through gorgeous art and lyrical text.

What do you do when the clouds roll in,
When the wind chimes clang and the weather vanes spin?


When stormy skies threaten, people stock up on supplies, bring in their outside toys, and check the news for updates. And during the storm, if the power goes out, they can play games and tell stories by candlelight. But what do animals do? They watch and listen, look for a cozy den or some other sheltered spot, and hunker down to wait. After the storm, while the people are cleaning up their yards, making repairs, and checking on the neighbors, the animals emerge from their hiding places and shake off the rain. And everyone is happy to be out in the sunshine again, grateful for better weather and the company of friends. 

Nexus Necrominder – Book Review

Smith & W’Sin Adventures Book 2 By: Matthew McCray
Published On: March 30, 2020

Here we go – Another fun science fiction adventure with Smith and W’Sin. Just like the first book in the adventure series, The Apoidean Affair, our two main characters are starting out in the midst of a lot of trouble. But unlike the first time the trouble they are starting out with is not of their own making. Small steps of progress is important with these two.

It all starts at the Nexus, the space station they call home. They are attempting to enjoy a hot meal when the Nexus becomes invaded with what I can only describe as zombie-ish formicidae. I usually call ants “ants” so in case you’re like me and needed to double check on that term – that is what a formicidae is. Except these might be just a tad larger…

While fighting, Regi, – a formic engineer drone who is also a friend of Smith and W’Sin’s from a different group/family of formicidae – helps them fight against the invaders until she realizes something she is watching over may be at risk. She, of course, is right – the object that had been her personal responsibility has been taken. After the invasion at the Nexus is all over Regi begs Smith and W’Sin to help her find it and get it back. Who could ever say no to an ant with “bulging compound eyes” and sad-looking antennae?

There is a lot to like with this series. First – there is a lot of fun banter and action/adventure. If you are looking for a slow-paced science fiction read then this isn’t it. Also, my knowledge in the “science” part of science fiction is a bit lacking, so I can’t guarantee any scientific accuracy on anything that occurs during the action scenes. Second – the universe created is one full of aliens that have more animal-like features and Smith is the only human (that I can tell). For example, W’Sin has avian features: feathers and a beak. Regi is ant-like individual who is about a meter in height with antennae.

Like the previous story, this novella is a stand-alone although it does carry over parts of the previous story. I do like how both in the series are stand-alones, but wouldn’t mind an over-arching story too binding all the short stories/novellas together even if it isn’t the main focal point of each book in the series.

All in all a fun read.

Rating: 4 stars

Description:

Privateers Smith and W’sin return home from a job gone wrong in dire need of a hot meal and some downtime. Instead, they’re pressed into action defending the space station from invaders and clearing an old friend from grievous charges.

Will they save the space station?

Will they clear their friend?

Will they finally get that hot meal? 


Tuesdays at the Castle – Book Review

Castle Glower #1 By: Jessica Day George
Published On: October 25, 2011

Oh! Who wouldn’t want to live in a magical castle, especially one that rearranges its floor plan or creates new rooms whenever it gets bored. Need a slide to get you from one room to another quickly? Castle Glower is for you, especially if the day is Tuesday.

Continue reading “Tuesdays at the Castle – Book Review”

An Unequal Defense – Book Review

David Adams #2
By: Chad Zunker
Pages: 247
Published On: May 19, 2020

What a delightful read to run across. It’s been a while since I’ve picked up a conspiracy thriller and boy have I missed them. I had almost forgotten how fun they can be and how sucked in I can get as pages furiously fly by as I get caught up in all the twists and turns. This is also my first novel to read by Chad Zunker.

Continue reading “An Unequal Defense – Book Review”

The Raven: A Modern Retelling – Book Review

By: Elise Wallace
Illustrated By: Linda Silvestri
Published On: October 15, 2019

And the Raven, never flitting, still is sitting, still is sitting

– The Raven, Edgar Allan Poe

My memory of first learning about Edgar Allan Poe’s The Raven is sketchy. What I do remember are two things: 1) The poem was rather spooky to me. After all, it has a raven saying over and over again one single word -“Nevermore.” Yes, I think it is safe to say that a raven tapping at your chamber door definitely falls into the creepy category. Yet the use of this raven also enhances the overall otherworldly and melancholy atmosphere the poem presents. At the time, I suspect I found it spookier because I didn’t think raven’s could talk at all. Now that I am older and wiser I know that raven’s can speak even better than parrots since they can mimic the pitch of a woman’s voice vs a man’s. There are many examples on Youtube of talking ravens that are quite fun to listen to.

The second memory is that no matter how much time my teacher took explaining either the themes within it or allegorical parts or whatever else scholars say something is in order to make a story or poem sound important, the poem still never made 100% sense. Apparently, I must not be alone in this.

In The Raven: A Modern Retelling, the authors set out on a quest to help younger children understand the poem’s meaning. The story opens with Heath arriving at his new house. It’s an old house built in the 1800s and he definitely doesn’t like it. His family has moved across the country away from his old school and friend Lenore. He’s sad about leaving behind his friend, when he begins to have dreams about a raven outside his window saying “Nevermore!”.

Although the original poem by Edgar Allan Poe still has some sections to it that can be a little more difficult to follow, I found the retelling to be a decent introduction to the poem as it shows a main character going into a slow madness as he becomes more and more distraught about all these changes that are out of his control. Using an example of a young boy moving away and leaving friends is something just about all of us can understand. The good news is that this book is for younger middle-grade age kids, so there is a happy-ish ending.

The Raven is actually really short at only 32 pages and contains a few colorful pictures. Also included in the story are some book club questions to help guide the discussion surrounding the main points or themes of the story, such as asking them how the tone changes throughout the book or about the raven.

Description:

“Heath and his family have moved from the West Coast to New York. It’s a total culture shock. Everything feels wrong: the cold weather, the new house, even his dreams. But the worst part of the move is Heath is away from his best friend Lenore”–