Book Reviews

The Crimson Skew (The Mapmakers Trilogy, #3) by S.E. Grove

The Crimson Skew (The Mapmakers Trilogy, #3) by S.E. GroveRating: 🍁🍁

This is the last book in the Mapmakers Trilogy, a middle grade fantasy about a world where time was disrupted all over the planet and each geographical region now corresponds to a different age of human history. For example: New England is stuck in the late 1800’s, and South America is in a mysterious glacial age far in a future that is unknown to us.

While the style of writing remains pleasantly fluid, and the characters are all virtuous people, for the last book in a trilogy, this didn’t blow me away, and by the last third of the book, I wasn’t interested anymore.

Even though Sophia (the main character) is highly motivated and intelligent, every step of her quest is literally spelled out for her, either by the maps, or by the people around her. She seemed more of a reactionary character, rather than one who pulls the plot forward with her actions; and even if she did, conflicts just seemed to resolve themselves just at the most opportune moment. The previous two books didn’t have so much of this, and their plots seemed much more pressing and intriguing.

In this book, she’s just following a map that she received in book 2, plus an additional one she receives at the start of this one, and neither one of those has any Big Target in the horizon except an ambiguous fortune teller’s advice, which is: “you’ll know what to do”.

The climax, which finally explains the cause of the Disruption, was intellectually ambitious and it is clear that the author put her heart into it as an idealistic way to imagine a better world… but in terms of storytelling it just fell flat for me, I’m sorry, I honestly wish I could have appreciated it more, but I feel like the buildup and world-building just wasn’t there.

Side note: I also feel like there wasn’t enough of an effort to make it absolutely clear to contemporary readers, children especially, that when referring to the indigenous nations of the Americas, the word “Indian” is… not nice. Even though the antagonist is the only one who uses it and it’s clear that he’s evil, it’s still spelled out on the maps at the beginning of the book and I kept waiting for a clarification but there never was one.

I’m still glad I read this series because it’s an interesting world that gives you a lot of food for thought and I would still recommend it, only with the understanding that book 3 just isn’t as exciting as the other two.

Would recommend to: people who want to read the gentler cousin of the His Dark Materials trilogy by Philip Pullman.

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Book Reviews

Silver in the Wood by Emily Tesh

Silver in the Wood by Emily Tesh.jpgRating: 🍁🍁🍁🍁

At 105 pages, Silver in the Wood is a pleasant little quick read, specially suitable for a train ride or a flight where you’re too anxious to pay attention to a longer book.

Even though the story spans at least a year or so, it has that quiet autumnal feel of the deep forest. So it’d be a great book to pick up during those months when you want your reading to feel a bit more mysterious and subdued.

The story centers around Tobias, a man of the woods, who by chance happens to meet his new landlord, Henry Silver.

There’s a romantic nudging between the two all throughout the book and I only wish it had been a little more satisfyingly fleshed out. (But if you’re the kind of reader who enjoys writing (or reading) fan fiction, there’s tons of material to start off with in here!)

Besides them, you’ll meet dryads and experience other folkloric elements in these woods.

Even though I would love to read more stories set in this area, or with these characters, I don’t necessarily see Silver in the Wood stemming out into future sequels. It just seems like the kind of elegant, concise story that sees the beauty in leaving a lot unsaid.

Recommended if you want: a quick read, something autumnal, and something with the beginning insinuations of a romance.

Book Reviews

Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor

Strange the Dreamer (Strange the Dreamer #1) by Laini TaylorRating: 🍁🍁🍁🍁🍁

You know when the characters in a movie discover a fictional book, with a plot so wondrous that you wish it existed in real life (so that you could read that instead of watching the movie)? Or maybe you’re the kind of reader who enjoys searching for the Really Special Book that you wish more books were like (but you know that if they were, it would spoil how rare they are)?

Strange the Dreamer is that book. 

It contains every magical-sounding facet you might have imagined in that fictional book in that movie: a main character with a unique name befitting his mysterious origins, a crazy (?) monk who blabbers about an ancient lost city across a desert, an alchemist, a grand library in a prosperous city, forbidden romances, moths in the night and symbolic tattoos. 

I loved this book in its entirety and I can’t recommend it highly enough.

The language that Laini Taylor uses is also very poetic and just so beautiful that you’ll likely stop and re-read many sentences just to simmer in their beauty once more. 

Would recommend it to: fantasy lovers, someone looking for That Book You Just Can’t Put Down, a book with romance that isn’t in the romance section. 

Book Reviews

Prisoners of Geography: Ten Maps That Explain Everything About the World by Tim Marshall

Prisoners of Geography- Ten Maps That Explain Everything About the World by Tim MarshallRating: 🍁🍁🍁🍁🍁

Prisoners of Geography is a great paperback-sized textbook to make up for whatever History and Geography lessons didn’t do for you in school. 

Out of the 10 geographical areas it covers, it is very thorough yet concise and will help you understand current events under a new perspective you may have never considered before, or were simply never taught about in school (I sure wasn’t! For example, I never knew that: Africa doesn’t have a lot of natural harbors, which posed a challenge for colonizers, Russia has tons of shore but very little of it is usable as ports because they remain frozen for a large part of the year, and the gross advantage that navigable rivers give areas like Europe and the U.S.A, whereas Africa doesn’t have that luxury. Rivers aren’t just rivers aren’t just rivers.) 

In short, this book teaches you everything about how geography shaped the world as we know it. It doesn’t matter how hard some countries work to become superpowers or what-have-you, if geography is working against them, there’s little they can do against their competitors who have more favorable geography. 

I briefly knocked this book down a star because it leaves out a couple of geographical areas (Australia, the Caribbean, and Antarctica, can’t remember if I missed any others) and I’m really curious to see what insight the author would have about these places. But the 10 areas that he does cover are top-notch, and I’m really grateful for all I learned, so 5 stars it is!

I also suggest that if you want to read this book, that you do it sooner rather than wait until it becomes outdated (though hopefully the publisher and the author will issue revised editions as the years go by!).  

Would recommend to: people who would like to understand current events a little better, history buffs, people whose high school education failed them. 

Book Reviews

Purple Hearts (Front Lines, #3) by Michael Grant

Purple Hearts (Front Lines, #3) by Michael Grant

Rating: 🍁🍁🍁🍁🍁

Purple Hearts is the last in the trilogy of an alternate history where women were allowed to become soldiers in the U.S. Army during WWII. Besides that, everything else is 100% historically accurate. I even ended up learning some new details I had never heard about before. 

I have loved this series since the first book, and this finale is exactly as excellent as I imagined Michael Grant would deliver. He answered every question I had, in a more-than satisfying manner. 

But most importantly (and he probably couldn’t have foreseen this back when Front Lines came out), this book was published at an auspicious time during our history. Racism, xenophobia, discrimination, privilege, every one of these subjects is discussed here, clear as day, and it is a bold reminder of why we must put our feet down and say: never again. 

I highly, HIGHLY recommend this series. It is so, SO good that it’ll make you wish these characters had actually existed in real life. 

Would recommend this to: feminists, history buffs, and teenagers. 

p.s. The very first chapter opens with a Hispanic character named “Guadalupé” (with an accent on the e), during a scene where her superior is mispronouncing her name, which made me stupid angry because if the point of the scene is the disrespect toward her name, and if her name is supposed to be in Spanish, then in that case it is NEVER supposed to have an accent (not by any rule of Spanish accentuation) and it honestly just looks ludicrous with it on. I originally went to Twitter to bitch about it but I have since deleted the tweets because it’s nothing that an e-mail to the publisher can’t fix; not everything has to be an outrage aired on social media. Sorry about that. 

Book Reviews

The Tea Dragon Society by Katie O’Neill

The Tea Dragon Society by Katie O'Neill

Rating: 🍁🍁🍁🍁🍁

The Tea Dragon Society is a lovely example of universal literature. Even though the style of illustration is made with children in mind, I can easily see a grandparent reading this story with their grandchild and enjoying it just as much, or a teenager whose life has turned grim being able to recede into this book without feeling like they’re reading baby books.

The story is set in a fantasy universe where people have certain animalistic body parts (as you can see from the cover), where diverse people from different walks of life come together and form connections with their mutual love for tea dragons.

Before reading this book, I didn’t realize they meant tea dragon as in dragons associated with different types of tea (I thought the society included both interests separately, or that it was just a sham name like the Potato Peel Pie Society). So at the end of the book there’s a cute little bestiary for each tea dragon (Chamomile Tea Dragon, Jasmine Tea Dragon, etc).

The book itself is lovingly designed with tea-themed end papers and delicate floral decorations throughout.

I loved it so much I only wish it had been longer, but thankfully a sequel is coming out later this year!

If you like this book, you’ll also like the author’s other book: Aquicorn Cove.

Highly recommended if you want: something short and sweet yet meaningful, a book that everyone in your family can enjoy, a story with diverse characters, and pretty pretty pictures.

Book Reviews

The Queen of Crows by Myke Cole

The Queen of Crows by Myke ColeRating: 🍁🍁🍁🍁

The Queen of Crows is book two in the Sacred Throne trilogy. The last book is coming out later this year and I have already pre-ordered it because I’m really invested in this story!

Not gonna lie though, The Queen of Crows was a bit harder for me to get into than The Armored Saint because I just wish it had more fantasy (more demons!! more creepy eye magics and sneaky woodland wizards). 

However, it is packed with more tough life lessons that Heloise is obligated to learn all too quickly, which is the main reason the series hooked me from the start (Myke Cole is a very intelligent man and you can definitely feel the weight of his experiences setting the foundation for the story). 

In this volume, a new romance springs up in Heloise’s life, which is immensely satisfying for cutting through all that emotional murk and gore she is exposed to. 

Recommended for readers who want: a badass warrior leading lady, a military story in a fantasy setting, a story about fighting for what you believe in in a world that has gone mad, and a smidge of LGBTQ romance.