Sixteen Ways to Defend A Walled City by K.J Parker – Review

Cover- Sixteen Ways to Defend a Walled City

Published: April 9, 2019

Publisher: Orbit Books

Series: Standalone

Genre: Fantasy

Pages: 384 (Paperback)

My Rating: 4.5/5.0

A copy of this book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Synopsis:

A siege is approaching, and the City has little time left to prepare. The people have no food and no weapons, and the enemy has sworn to slaughter them all.

Their only chance rests with a colonel of engineers – a despised outsider, a genius, a master of military and political strategy with the wrong color skin. He is the City’s only hope.

But nobody, rich or poor, wants to take orders from a jumped-up Milkface. Saving the City from itself might be more difficult than surviving the coming siege.


I’d never read a K.J. Parker book prior to this one so I had no idea what to expect other than what little the synopsis gave me. What I got was a wildly entertaining book with a narrator that both kept me on my toes and in stitches from laughter.

Orhan, Colonel of the Engineers, is one of the first to realize something dreadfully wrong is going on in the Empire and by the time anyone listens to him, the city he’s in is under siege and no one can save them. Orhan is the ranking military man in the city and is in charge of the defenses when an army shows up on the doorstep. No need for excessvie detail here – if you’ve been reading fantasy (or history for that matter) you know how things work in a city under siege. The book is basically his firsthand account of how things went down and as such it’s heavily influenced by his personality and humor. I loved every page of it and thought it was downright hilarious at times without lessening the severity of the situation.

I don’t have a whole lot to say about this book other than to highly recommend it to fantasy readers who want a good Roman influenced siege book that doesn’t have a fusty old narrator. There were a few delightful plot reveals that I won’t dare discuss further in order to avoid spoilers. This has left me with a great impression of K.J. Parker’s writing and I look forward to checking out some of his other books – recommendations would be appreciated!

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Currently Reading: 4/15/19

cover- age of legend

Age of Legend by Michael J. Sullivan

I’m pushing back some other books in my TBR so I can read this RIGHT NOW! Where will this book take us after the shocking events in Age of War? I don’t know (well, I have a vague idea) but I can’t wait to find out.

 

 

 

Cover- City of Lies

City of Lies by Sam Hawke

This has been such an excellent audiobook! I’m about half way through and it’s made commutes to my field work locations feel so much shorter. This book has really kept me on my toes throughout and I’m already planning on reading the sequel whenever it comes out!

Stacking the Shelves: 4/13/19

Stacking The Shelves is a weekly (or in my case monthly) meme hosted by Tynga’s Reviews and it’s all about sharing the books you are adding to your shelves, may it be physical or virtual. You can include books you buy in physical store or online, books you borrow from friends or the library, review books, gifts and of course ebooks!


Received for Review:

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A Time of Blood by John Gwynne

I’m pretty excited to see where this goes. Honestly, I need a little refresher on the events of the previous book (I have vague rememberances) before I really dive into the sequel. Many thanks to Orbit for the finished copy.

The Unbound Empire by Melissa Caruso

I had to have a finished copy of the first book I was ever quoted in! Thanks to Orbit for the finished copy. Also, I’ve already read this and I loved it!!

Knight by Timothy Zahn

This was a surprise arrival from Tor that I hadn’t heard of before. It looks like it’s actually the second book in a series, so I’ll probably end up donating this one.

Rotherweird by Andrew Caldecott

This sounds REALLY COOL! If I’m looking at things correctly this is actually already out in the UK (2017) but will be making it’s US debut in June. Many thanks to Jo Fletcher Books for the epic black stained pages copy!

Beneath the Twisted Trees by Bradley P. Beaulieu

I can’t believe this is the fourth installment of the Song of the Shattered Sands series already! What drama will unfold and which of the kings will survive this round? Thanks to DAW for the eARC.

Priest of Lies by Peter McLean

Another really awesome new sequel arrived in my approval emails recently. I could hardly put the first book down and I expect this to be equally epic. Thanks to Ace for the eARC.

Crowfall by Ed McDonald

And to round out the cool new books I get to read, we have this one! I can’t wait to see how this series ends – the synopsis promises more Misery than we’ve ever seen. Thanks to Ace for the eARC.

My Purchases:

Age of Legend by Michael J. Sullivan

I backed the Kickstarter for this so I could get a hardcover book this summer, but the biggest perk may have been that I got the eBook earlier this week! I’ll be making time to read this VERY soon.

One Word Kill by Mark Lawrence

I’ve been wanting to read this because it’s so very unlike Mark’s other books and best of all? It was FREE on Amazon!

Vicious by V.E. Schwab

I finally made time to listen to this book on audio and it was sooooo good! Can’t wait to share my review.

City of Lies by Sam Hawke

I saw some great reviews of this when it was released and decided to go ahead and check it out. I’m very glad I picked this up!

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And the true gem of this haul is my Subterranean Press edition of Morningstar by Pierce Brown! It’s truly lovely and I have all the matchy-matchy numbered editions of the first three books now.

Waiting on Wednesday: The Monstrous Citadel by Mirah Bolender

“Waiting On Wednesday” is a weekly meme originally hosted on Breaking the Spine but has since linked up with “Can’t Wait Wednesday” at Wishful Endings now that the original creator is unable to host it anymore. This is a great way to share upcoming released you’re excited about!


Cover- The Monstrous Citadel

So, last year I came across a book that I ended up absolutely loving… and yes, it was The City of Broken Magic, first installment in the Chronicles of Amicae series. The characters are members of the city’s magical bomb squad and they diffuse deadly situations on a regular basis. The synopsis of The Monstrous Citadel implies much adventure, peril, and a trip to the city of Rex which sounds like a major turning point. I am greatly looking forward to the November 5, 2019 release date so I can find out what happens next!

The Food Explorer: The True Adventures of the Globe-Trotting Botanist Who Transformed What America Eats by Daniel Stone – Review

Cover- The Food Explorer

Published: February 20, 2018

Publisher: Dutton Books

Series: Stand alone

Genre: Non-Fiction, Biography

Pages: 397 (Hardcover)

My Rating: 4.0/5.0

Synopsis:

The true adventures of David Fairchild, a late-nineteenth-century food explorer who traveled the globe and introduced diverse crops like avocados, mangoes, seedless grapes–and thousands more–to the American plate.

In the nineteenth century, American meals were about subsistence, not enjoyment. But as a new century approached, appetites broadened, and David Fairchild, a young botanist with an insatiable lust to explore and experience the world, set out in search of foods that would enrich the American farmer and enchant the American eater.

Kale from Croatia, mangoes from India, and hops from Bavaria. Peaches from China, avocados from Chile, and pomegranates from Malta. Fairchild’s finds weren’t just limited to food: From Egypt he sent back a variety of cotton that revolutionized an industry, and via Japan he introduced the cherry blossom tree, forever brightening America’s capital. Along the way, he was arrested, caught diseases, and bargained with island tribes. But his culinary ambition came during a formative era, and through him, America transformed into the most diverse food system ever created.


LOOK AT ME, I’M READING NON-FICTION! I picked up a couple food-related non-fiction books during an Audible sale last month and I was pretty excited to read this one. This is the story of David Fairchild, a young up and coming botanist that went to travel the world searching for plants to send back to the United States. This man lived an absolutely fascinating life and his travels resulted in SO MANY DELICIOUS FOODS being popularized in the United States.

I can’t imagine how bland the culinary arts were before the introduction and hybridization of many of the foods mentioned in this book. While the food is fascinating, Fairchild’s travels, acquaintances, and the political nightmare of the USDA were the real showstoppers. Originally from Kansas, Fairchild moved to the east coast to live with family and hopefully start a successful career. He ends up crossing the Atlantic, meeting the wealthy Barbour Lathrop, and beginning his career of plant piracy (it wasn’t always theft). Fairchild and Lathrop became fast friends and ended up travelling together for years, circumnavigating the globe several times and sending back thousands upon thousands of plants to the Department of Agriculture. The USDA would cultivate the plants and distribute them to farmers across the country in hopes of having successful money-making crops. Mangos, avocados, dates, new varieties of cotton, and superior hops from around the world drastically changed agriculture and diet in the US.

This was a fascinating (if not always thrilling) book documenting Fairchild’s work and I’m really glad I picked it up. I honestly couldn’t stand Barbour Lathrop for much of the book because good grief, he was bossy and self-centered. As Fairchild grew more confident during his travels and experiences the interactions between the two became more of a peer to peer thing rather than a student and mentor relationship. Fairchild eventually has mentees of his own and they were even more adventurous than he was. One guy spent years travelling around China during severe political unrest and he was robbed and beaten on SO many occasions. Wild times, man, wild times.

If you’re looking for an interesting non-fiction book to check and you like botany/science/knowing where your food comes from or are just interested in American history, you may want to check this out. The audiobook was a solid performance and helped to maintain my attention, whereas I think as a print book this may have been a little less attention grabbing.

Seven Blades in Black by Sam Sykes – Review

Cover- Seven Blades in Black

Published: April 9, 2019

Publisher: Orbit Books

Series: The Grave of Empires #1

Genre: Fantasy

Pages: 608 (Paperback)

My Rating: 4.0/5.0

A copy of this book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Synopsis:

Sam Sykes returns with a new fantasy that introduces to an unforgettable outcast magician caught between two warring empires.

Among humans, none have power like mages. And among mages, none have will like Sal the Cacophony. Once revered, now vagrant, she walks a wasteland scarred by generations of magical warfare. The Scar, a land torn between powerful empires, is where rogue mages go to disappear, disgraced soldiers go to die and Sal went with a blade, a gun and a list of names she intended to use both on. But vengeance is a flame swift extinguished. Betrayed by those she trusted most, her magic torn from her and awaiting execution, Sal the Cacophony has one last tale to tell before they take her head. All she has left is her name, her story and the weapon she used to carved both.

Vengeance is its own reward.


If you’re looking for a fantasy vengeance story with a dash of Clint Eastwood thrown in, this might just be the book you’re looking for. This is a gritty world both literally and figuratively and the characters are a wild and dangerous bunch. I was intrigued by the synopsis, appalled by the cover, and remain curious about Sam Sykes’s other books so overall, I have a good impression.

Sal the Cacophony is a vagrant mage and bounty hunter. She takes on jobs that involve killing other vagrant mages hailing from the empire she used to call home and trust me, these are the most dangerous of jobs. Stripped of her magic and out for revenge, Sal totes her trusty sword named Jeff (not kidding) and the Cacophony, a massive and ancient gun with a mind of its own. Sal has a list of names, those who wronged her most directly, and she has her sights set on ridding the world of them at any cost… thus is the gist of this tale.

Sal is a mouthy, angry woman narrating the path that led her to be sitting in a cell at the very beginning of the story. You end up wondering things like, did she get her vengeance? Is she giving up? Is this where the story ends, with a firing squad?  Well, if I answered any of those it would spoil all the joy of reading a 600 page book. WORK YOUR WAY THROUGH THAT TOME AND GET THOSE ANSWERS! I liked Sal well enough, though her flaws were frustrating at times. Liette was a masterpiece and in my opinion her talents were a far sight more interesting than those of the traditional mages. Don’t get me wrong, the mages were pretty darn cool as well – the whole trade of power was an excellent touch, but this bookish yet tough woman makes excellent explosives and uses freaky healing potions made out of dead mage dust. WAYYYY COOLER. Did I mention the birds? Sal basically rides a dirty, furious, meat eating chocobo.

There is so much epic darkness from this book and I could see this working as a dark fantasy (with a dash of western) movie. Saloon doors slamming open, Sal stalking in with her luck scarf and the Cacophony whispering for blood at her hip…. Yeah I can see that working. Do yourself a favor and check this out.

Waiting on Wednesday: The Night Country by Melissa Albert

“Waiting On Wednesday” is a weekly meme originally hosted on Breaking the Spine but has since linked up with “Can’t Wait Wednesday” at Wishful Endings now that the original creator is unable to host it anymore. This is a great way to share upcoming released you’re excited about!


Cover- The Night Country

I’m honestly pretty early in featuring The Night Country since it won’t be released until January 2020, but I thought it was pretty exciting news. I wasn’t sure what a sequel to The Hazel Wood would entail, so even the little nugget of detail given in the synopsis gives me something to ponder. Other worlds beside and beyond the dark hazel wood? Alice Proserpine and Ellery Finch will once again headline the show and I look forward to seeing where Melissa Albert will take readers next.

The Naturalist by Andrew Mayne – Review

Cover- The Naturalist

Published: October 1, 2017

Publisher: Thomas & Mercer

Series: The Naturalist #1

Genre: Mystery

Pages: 380 (Paperback)

My Rating: 4.0/5.0

Synopsis:

Professor Theo Cray is trained to see patterns where others see chaos. So when mutilated bodies found deep in the Montana woods leave the cops searching blindly for clues, Theo sees something they missed. Something unnatural. Something only he can stop.

As a computational biologist, Theo is more familiar with digital code and microbes than the dark arts of forensic sleuthing. But a field trip to Montana suddenly lands him in the middle of an investigation into the bloody killing of one of his former students. As more details, and bodies, come to light, the local cops determine that the killer is either a grizzly gone rogue… or Theo himself. Racing to stay one step ahead of the police, Theo must use his scientific acumen to uncover the killer. Will he be able to become as cunning as the predator he hunts—before he becomes its prey?


I SPENT SO LONG GOING “GET A LAWYER IDIOT AND STOP TALKING” throughout the entire book and the whole thing was rather harrowing and I just couldn’t stop listening, so that was definitely a plus. This was also a delightful departure from my usual fantasy or scifi reads. I find it refreshing to stray into different genres from time to time and always enjoy these new finds.

Theo Cray is a computational biologist working on research in Montana, minding his own business when he gets pulled into a murder investigation as a prime suspect. A former student of his, one Juniper Parsons, was found dead in the woods and while Theo is initially suspected it turns out to have been an unfortunate bear attack. OR WAS IT? Theo has reason to believe that there’s actually a sadistic and clever serial killer in the area who’s been active for decades and he’s determined to prove that Juniper’s death was not the work of a killer grizzly.

This was an intense story and man, Theo Cray stressed me out. He was CONSTANTLY on the brink of getting himself arrested or looking like a lunatic in front of important people. Heck, I thought he was crazy for a while myself. Theo and even the side characters were really well written. Everything about them was plausible, from motive to character flaws to dialogue.

Like I said, this was a thrilling read and I liked the characters and the overall mystery quite a lot. I plan on continuing on with the series this year though perhaps not quite immediately. I admit, I was almost expecting a supernatural element to this book because the synopsis made it sound as if the murderer could have been a not entirely human monster. Rest assured it was not supernatural, just a good old fashioned murder thriller.

Kellanved’s Reach by Ian C. Esslemont – Review

Cover- Kellanved's Reach

Published: April 2, 2019

Publisher: Tor Books

Series: Path to Ascendancy #3

Genre: Fantasy

Pages: 352 (Hardcover)

My Rating: 3.5/5.0

A copy of this book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Synopsis:

The conclusion to Ian C. Esslemont’s epic fantasy Path to Ascendancy trilogy–a prequel story set in the New York Timesbestselling Malazan Empire series–co-created by Steven Erikson.

The incessant war between the bickering city states of Quon Tali rages. So engrossed are the warring lords and princes in their own petty feuds that few notice that an upstart mage from Dal Hon has gained control of the southern seas.

Kellanved could not care less about any of this petty politicking or strategy or war. Something other and altogether more mysterious has caught his attention and he – together with a reluctant and his decidedly skeptical friend Dancer – traverse continents and journey through the Realms. But this ancient mystery that has so captivated Kellanved is neither esoteric nor ephemeral. It involves the Elder races themselves, and more alarmingly, the semi-mythic Army of Dust and Bone.

Surely no one in their right mind would be so foolish as to embark on a journey from which none have returned? Well, no one except Kellanved.


I’m going to be blunt here – I was expecting more out of this book than I received. I’m a huge fan of the Malazan universe and I think the Path to Ascendancy series has been Esslemont’s strongest performance yet. I absolutely loved the first two book, but for some reason this one didn’t resonate as strongly with me.

It felt rushed and I didn’t properly care about the new POVs. Even Kellanved and Dancer’s chapters didn’t give me the satisfaction I expected. This being said, it was still a pretty good book with a cool plot. For those familiar with the Malazan world, the cover gave it away – the wily duo were out searching for the T’lan Imass and the means to control them through the First Throne. An undead army would provide the newly formed Malazan throne the means to become the conquering empire it’s seen as in the Book of the Fallen. A good chunk of this book focuses on the warring Quon Talian city states which I found mostly pretty dull, though the characters were slightly less dull.

Overall, I wasn’t crazy about this book and I wish it were longer so perhaps things wouldn’t have felt so rushed. Some of what considered to be the “main showdowns” resolved incredibly quickly and with minimal fuss. Kellanved’s Reach fell somewhat short of what I had expected after the resounding success of the previous two books.