The Power by Naomi Alderman

The Power shakes with such ferocious intensity that it is impossible to put down once you’ve started.

Women around the world are having an electrical power woken up inside of them. Times are quickly changing and a mass reversal of power is capturing the world by storm. Women can inflict terrifying pain with just a twist of their wrists, how will this change the world?

This book has a very intense and scary message about power. We as people have this horrible ability ot be corrupted by an increase of power and Alderman illustrates that perfectly. We see it all throughout the novel but the first instance that was really intense and visceral for me happened on page 64 during the first occurence of a womens riot,

“They are going car to car, setting the motors revving and the engine blocks burning into molten heat. Some of them can do it without touching the cars; they send their lines of power out from their bodies and they are laughing.”

I thought this was an excellent scene because it is very remniscient of real riots and crowd mentality. When a group recognizes that they have the high ground they are more likely to commit mass demonstrations of power if the group deems it necessary. But, Alderman doesn’t just show group corruption, she shows how the individual can be corrupted. This is specifically shown through Margot, the mayor of a major city. Margot has the power woken up in her through her daughter and it quickly seeps into her political life. She uses it to become the governor of her state and even uses it to further her military desires. A moment that stood out to me in particular happens on page 78, when she is in a meeting with her adversary.

“She could kill them. That is the profound truth of it. She lets the power tickle at her fingers, scorching the varnish on the underside of the table. She can smell its sweet chemical aroma. Nothing either of these men says is really of any great significance, because she could kill them in three moves before they stirred in their comfortably padded chairs.”

This feels so true to me. People are quick to use their power against those they deem less than them, and I could see this really happening. Alderman’s writing feels so authentic it’s scary.

The religious aspect of this story is intriguing because at first I thought that the new challenge to religion wasn’t inherently bad. The quote that warmed me up to it was this,

“They have said to you that man and woman should live together as husband and wife. But I say unto you that is more blessed for women to live together, to help one another, to band together and be a comfort one to the next.”

I thought this was interesting and it gave me the hope that maybe this religious sect wouldn’t become driven by power and lose control, that it was about comfort and an alternate lifestyle Well, I was wrong as you would expect and it was a powerful blow. This novel is a constant wave of it can’t get worse but then it does. You can feel each blow and it makes the novel powerful.

It is really surreal to read this novel because it does a complete flip from men in places of power to women, and the women will often say phrases that are stereotypically associated with men. It is odd to watch the reversal of rolls and it will leave a strange taste in your mouth, an unreal taste. I first got this feeling really intensely on page 256 when the leader of the female led nation, Besspara, is talking to one of her inferiors. She says to him,

“Just like a man,” she says. “Does not know how to be silent, thinks we always want to hear what he has to say, always talking talking talking, interrupting his betters.”

I was like whoa, I’ve heard variations of phrases like this but with the “gender rolls” reversed. It was kind of like a lightbulb moment for me and Alderman’s message was shining through. It added even more intensity to her writing. it threw me for a loop but in a good way. This happens quickly again on page 261 and it blew my mind,

“Sometimes a bloke is better at that than a woman–less threatening; they’re better at diplomacy.”

I swear I have heard this exact quote but a male talking about a female. It’s at this point that this alternate world really falls into place. A full picture is created and you can see how Alderman really has created this opposite history, the world is flipped in way that is both unbelievable and believable.

I have a few more quotes written down but I am afraid that I will give too much away. I’ll make it simple and just say that Alderman sets laws in place in her novel that are completely believable and scary. I feel like if something like this were to really happen Alderman’s commentary could end up a reality. It’s frightening.

This novel feels so real. Every aspect of society is touched on. It covers religious corruption, government, crime, education, and the military. Alderman knew that she had to incorporate all of these pieces to properly create an alternate history where women have the upperhand in strength. She does it like a master of the craft and blew me away. I can’t come up with any complaints because it is done so well. Every piece of this puzzle fits into place and took my breath away.

The Power earns an easy 5/5 stars.

Interested in picking up a copy of The Power? Click the image above to purchase, but also to help me fund my blog. Thank you and I’d love to hear what you think of this novel.

Day Zero by Kelly DeVos

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to have a doomsday prepper as a dad? How about a technological genius? Well in Kelly DeVos’ book Day Zero we get to find out exactly what it would be like. When society begins collapsing around Jinx and her family she is left to save herself and her siblings using the knowledge instilled in her by her father.

Jinx is an introverted gamer with a serious knack for technology. Her father, Dr. Doomsday, is a prepper/technology extraordinaire, her mother a teacher, and her 8 year old brother named Charles who is a serious green thumb. We come into Jinx’s life in a time of massive change. Her mother has left her father for a man named Jay who works as a security guard at a massive bank owned by the new president. Jay has a daughter in high school, like Jinx, named MacKenna and a son in college named Toby. Their world has recently been rocked by an upset election taken by ‘The Opposition’, a seemingly shady political party opposing the people’s choice, ‘The Spark’. Well when the freshly inaugurated president Ammon Carver’s banks are blown up in a terrorist attack ‘The Opposition’ is quick to blame ‘The Spark’. In the midst of this MacKenna’s dad Jay is being framed for executing the terrorist attack. As the country descends into chaos and the two party system collapses, Jinx’s mom orders her to find her father and help them prove Jay’s innocence.

I have a lot of opinions about this book, some good and some bad. I feel like the politics in this book are very heavy handed and sometimes it ripped me out of the adventurous nature of this story. It would be borderline boring when MacKenna would argue politics with everyone and anyone. This book is definitely a commentary on the current political climate and doesn’t try and mask it in any way. Every turn we take ‘The Opposition’ is there to glare at us and the authors political stances are quite clear. She writes this early on in the book while Jinx is in class,

“I scroll to page 187 and stare at a picture of a nearly abandoned suburban neighborhood below a headline that reads “The Dangers of a Two-Party Political System.”

While I enjoy an interesting or unique political message I found this to be very heavy and made me feel anxious. I understand that many people believe that this could be the future of the U.S.A but to me it just caused anxiety and made me want to put the book down. I want to reiterate that I don’t hate a political stance in literature because some of the greatest works in history have underlying political messages, but this felt like it was being force fed down my throat. It’s already a discussion we are having, this is not the spark that will cause a forest fire of discussion.

One aspect of the ‘Hidden Message’ in this book that I do enjoy is the difference in generations. Like the modern world we see a distinct difference between who we could envision as the Baby Boomers and who we could view as the Millennials. One of the antagonists, an old motel owner, feels like a clear representation of the Boomers. He says to the kids,

Don’t you talk about things you don’t understand. You. You. Kids like you in your copper houses. Sitting in coffee shops drinking ten-dollar, almond-milk-caramel-mocha-whatevers. Talkin’ about whether monkeys have rights and how we all need self-driving cars. And we’re out here…

Does this not sound exactly like a Facebook argument between a Baby Boomer and a Millennial? I really liked that subtle detail. There is such a massive divide in this book, between political parties, families, and generations. I felt like DeVos did a good job of acknowledging this dynamic without cramming it in our faces.

This books is full of useful survival knowledge like, “Breathe. Because the calm survive” and “Trust no one”. The common sense approach to survival in this book is something I enjoyed and the use of Dr. Doomsday’s rules of survival were very reminiscent of the movie Zombieland. I hate when dystopian or apocalypse novels use overly complicated or long winded explanations for survival. Keep it simple and you’ll survive.

I have one last bone to pick and it is with the character MacKenna and Jinx’s mother. MacKenna is so unlikable and has zero sense of survival. It feels like she’s just flopping around screwing things up for Jinx and almost killing one of the other protagonists. When she goes on her eventual redemption arc, it doesn’t feel like enough. Jinx’s mother is a whole different issue. Their mother seems to have no regard for her children’s lives. She abandons them to be with her detained husband and then tells Jinx,

“Don’t get caught by the police. They’ll want to hold you. Perhaps use you as leverage to force Jay to take a plea. Find your father,”

To me, it came off as if Jay was more important than both her children and Jay’s children. I don’t know a single responsible mother who would choose being unnecessarily detained over helping her children survive the collapse of society. It seemed silly and out of character for a mom who has been previously portrayed as both intelligent and caring.

Enough of my complaining.

This book is very well written and has an interesting plot to drive through the parts I didn’t enjoy. When you read Day Zero you will find yourself in every scene and you will catch yourself holding your breath during action sequences. I felt very engaged with what was happening inside the book. I was invested in what would happen next and whether Jay would be executed or exonerated.

This book is gritty and sometimes a little bit dense to read through but it is all worth it in the end. The plot and vivid scenery really make this book a winner. It’s fast-paced for the majority and will keep you asking questions. Who will win? ‘The Opposition’ or ‘The Spark’?

A huge thank you to Harlequin Trade Publishing and Inkyard Press for allowing me to take part in this book blog tour! I thoroughly enjoyed working with them and reading Day Zero. I give this book a 4/5 stars and look forward to what happens next.

Lost And Found by Orson Scott Card

I don’t even know where to start with this one… this book crept up on me and will probably stick with me for the rest of my life. There is such intense emotions at play here that it caught me off guard. Lost And Found is phenomenal.

It all starts with the unlikely friendship of Ezekiel and Beth, and I think a quote from Ezekiel best sums it up. He says,

Beth Sorenson, I’m the thief you chose to walk to school with. And you’re the proportionate dwarf that I choose to walk to school with.

Ezekiel is 14 and has what they call in the book a “micropower”. Ezekiel has the unique ability to be able to return lost items to their owners. This has gotten him in a lot of trouble in the past because people tend to think he has stolen the object he is returning. Ezekiel is kind of forced into this friendship with Beth, who as previously mentioned is a proportionate dwarf, because she knows that if she stands within his “shunning bubble” and walks with him to “Downy Soft” High School no one will be able to pick on her. Beth helps Ezekiel to expand his “micropower” by helping him discover what he is capable of. Through his discoveries about his power he embarks on a journey to find a missing little girl and uncover a human trafficking ring with the help of a slightly overbearing detective named Shank.

I’ll be honest this book took me a while and it really won me over when Ezekiel made a reference to The Lord of The Rings. Silly, I know. But this movie is about far more than a kid with a silly power, it about loss and growth. Ezekiel loses his mother when he is a young boy. He watches her get hit by a car and she dies in the hospital. Ezekiel is kind of a jerk because of a lot of deeply ingrained hurt. From his trouble with the cops to his sadness about his mother he is a hurt 14 year old boy. His father describes his hurt like this,

Your body showed no injury that the doctors could treat, but I knew it was there, I knew that it shattered you, you were maimed, you were crippled that day, and there was nothing I could do, I couldn’t replace her, I couldn’t change my whole character and become that vibrant, happy, loving, chattering, kind and generous person in whose circle of light you had spent your entire life.

So through this hurt we understand why Ezekiel is the way he is. But he does not stay his guarded smart ass self all through the novel. The character grows in a way that made me, as a reader, really fond of him. He starts off as almost an anti-hero and by the end he is a no strings attached hero through and through. Card wrote Ezekiel masterfully.

On top of the meaningfulness of the characters there is a great sense of humor. The characters are witty and smart. Sometimes they come off as a little over the top smart but I think it works because you are supposed to realize that Ezekiel and Beth aren’t normal kids. They are special. My favorite quote from Beth is this,

I don’t make up words,” said Beth. “I coin them when I need them, and then they’re real.

Each character has their quirks. Ezekiel is kind of a jerk but really a softie on the inside, and Beth is a quick witted girl who always knows the right thing to say.

The one thing about this story that was a little irritating to me was the dad, and I think it had more to do with the way his personality was written than anything. He is an extremely intelligent man but is ridiculously baffled by a smart phone. I understand that this is to illustrate that he isn’t very wealthy and that he is old-school, but this man has to be in his forties and literally has zero knowledge about electronics. It’s unbelievable and it proves to be an obstacle in a tense situation. I guess my point is that I grew up in a town with a lot of poverty and 99% of 40 year olds that I know can operate a smart phone. The writing wasn’t convincing. Plus the dad also has this to say about Ezekiel trick or treating,

“Totally your call,” said Dad. “Till you’re sixteen, and then it’s just disgusting to go begging for candy.

I don’t know I guess that idea rubbed me the wrong way because I’d rather a 16 year old be out trick or treating than causing trouble.

But with problematic dads aside this book is about coping and there is an analogy that Beth uses that perfectly sums up grief and the grieving process. It really hit me in the heart and gave me a deeper understanding of he underlying issues. She says,

Look, Ezekiel Blast, the past is like gum stuck to the bottom of your shoe. When bad stuff first happens, it’s like when the gum is sticking to everything—the road, the sidewalk. And you can’t wear that shoe into the house because it will get all involved in the carpet and the bathroom rug, but when you try to scrape it off on the edge of the sidewalk or the edge of the porch, or you try to rub it off in the grass, it won’t come off. So you have to just live with it. You walk along, your foot trying to stick with every step, but gradually as the gum gets dirtier and dries out more and more, it loses its stickiness. And eventually, without ever actually removing it, you forget the gum is there. Except maybe on a hot day the gum gets soft and a little sticky again, and you think, Oh, yeah, gum on my shoe.

I thought this was so beautifully worded and it is so easy to digest. Everyone knows what it is like to have gum stuck to the bottom of their shoes. Everyone knows what hurt feels like and for Orson Scott Card to put it together so nicely really impressed me.

This book also has a lot to say about people as individuals. The insinuation can be made that everyone has some kind of “micropower”, I won’t spoil some of the others for you because I think they add to the story. I felt Orson Scott Card was saying that everyone is special, everyone is unique, and everyone is useful in their own way. The message is beautiful and Ezekiel’s power proves to be way bigger and way more useful than he could ever imagine. Even the “dumbest” of powers prove to be valuable in the right situation.

I’m going to use one more quote from Beth, she says to Ezekiel,

You said no person is ever really lost because you always know how to find yourself, because you’re always right there.

I think this rings true for more than just Ezekiel’s power. If you ever feel lost remember that you aren’t because you know where you are and that is where you are supposed to be at the time. Ezekiel can only find lost things, but a person is never really lost just in a different space than where they wish to be. It felt good to read those words and apply them to my life, and I believe that is what Orson Scott Card intended.

It was hard for me to rate this one because for a long time I didn’t know what to say. Now that it is all written down and I see how many quotes I pulled from the text I think it would be dishonest to give it anything less than 5 stars. So 5/5, this book was a real treat and a surprise.

Thank you to NetGalley and Blackstone Publishing for allowing me access to this title.

My favorite books from my childhood

As a kid I spent a lot of time reading to escape how boring reality was. For me, every book was a new adventure and as a kid living in a small town that was all I needed.

The very first chapter book that I read was “Because of Winn-Dixie” by Kate DiCamillo. I actually found this book while I was camping with my family at Moonshine park here on the Oregon coast. The book was down by the river, I picked it up and read the back. I was intrigued but afraid to take it because I didn’t want to steal it. So I left it there and when we went back the next day I picked it up and read a little bit. I repeated that process every day until we left. I then decided that the owner probably wasn’t coming back for it, so, I brought it home with me and finished it. To this day I am extremely fond of that book. I’ve always loved dogs and something about Winn-Dixie and his little smile won me over.

As a kid I also loved “The Hobbit” by the great J.R.R. Tolkien. I didn’t so much read this book but had it read to me. My grandmother read this book to my dad, then he read it to my brother and I, and I have every intention of reading it to Finn. It’s a family tradition at this point and it’s such a magical book, I feel like it really opened my mind to the fantasy genre. “The Hobbit” is like a really long and intense fairy-tale that embodies friendship, family, and adventure. I think it is an excellent novel to read to a child or read to yourself. I reread this book about once a year.

This next one is a little bit different, but I absolutely adored the “Young James Bond” series by Charlie Higson. I have always loved James Bond, my dad and I go see all of the Bond movies together. Higson wrote young Bond in a way that doesn’t come off as a cheesy, but very believable for the beloved spy. I honestly read those books so frequently that my copy of Silverfin, book one in the series, is absolutely wrecked. I actually got my copy of Silverfin on a whim while visiting the spy museum in Washington D.C., best souvenir I ever bought.

I couldn’t possibly leave out the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling. I actually struggled with these books growing up. I had a hard time finishing The Order of The Phoenix because it was so long, it took three tries before I finished it. I read the last two books later in life mostly because I was tired of the bullying I received for reading Harry Potter at school. Luckily, times are a bit different and kids can like stuff like Harry Potter, Pokémon, and Star Wars without being bullied. Harry Potter will forever be my favorite kids series.

These are my all-time faves without a doubt in my mind. What did you read as a kid? Do you reread them often like I do? Let me know in the comments!

Get To Know Me: My Favorite Author

My all-time favorite author is J.R.R. Tolkien. I consider him the grandfather of the fantasy genre and his fantasy writing is something that can’t be copied.

Tolkien is a master at world building. Middle Earth has an extensive history including multiple ages, several languages, and various races of beings. Tolkien is able to juggle the world of Middle-Earth in a way that I haven’t seen done before or since. Tolkien was a linguist and knew at least 16 languages, and created about 15. He takes these languages and imbues the races of Middle Earth with them. He created the beautiful rolling Elvish language and the harsh and terrifying Black Speech. Tolkien’s ability to dedicate himself to one world and add the depth that he did is something to be admired.

Tolkien also creates characters you want to root for. My favorite of his characters being Samwise Gamgee, the stubborn and loving sidekick to Frodo Baggins. There is something fascinating to me about an author who can create characters as terrifying as the Uruk-hai and then some as lovable as the Hobbits. He also manages to touch the depths of evil without making his story gory or explicit.

Tolkien’s writing style is wholesome but not silly. When you enter Middle-Earth you aren’t entering a world of sex and murder like a lot of fantasy novels. You are entering a world held together by friendship and the struggle between good and evil. I enjoy this because it allows Tolkien to focus entirely on the adventure and the bonds a fellowship creates, without worrying about how the violence or sex scenes will sound to the reader.

Tolkien also does a great job of expressing love between his characters. We have the love between the fellowship in The Lord of The Rings, which prompts a massive search and rescue mission for Merry and Pippin, we also have the love between Aragorn and Arwen which has spanned such a long time. Setting The Lord of The Rings aside we can also see Tolkien’s great care for love in The Hobbit between Bilbo and his new Dwarf friends, or in the tale of Beren and Lúthien. In fact, Tolkien compared his wife to Lúthien and on their gravestones they are respectively named Beren and Lúthien.

I hold Tolkien’s writing dear to my heart. He is my inspiration to read and write. Thanks to his books I chose to pursue English/Writing in college.

Who is your favorite author? Do you also like Tolkien? Let me know in the comments!

The Lure of The Ring by Alan James Strachen and Janet Coster

This book is different than what I usually review, but as a Tolkien fan I was drawn into the exploration of who Tom Bombadil truly is.

This book is a theoretical idea speculating about who Tom Bombadil is and how Sauron’s desire for the ring was like an addiction. I can tell that a lot of research went into this publication and I found it fascinating.

The first point that I found interesting was their comparison of Sauron to a Hungry Ghost in Bhuddism. He is like an emaciated creature who’s only desire is possession of the ring but his appetite can never be quenched. I found this to be a good comparison because it really delves into who Sauron is at the core. Tolkien leaves a lot to speculation and I think it is important for Tolkien enthusiasts to dig into the motivations and habits of each character. It gave me a different view of Sauron and sort of makes me pity him.

Creeping past Sauron we entered what I was truly curious about, Tom Bombadil. If you don’t know who he is it’s probably because he isn’t in the Peter Jackson movie. He is a mysterious being in the books, and no one can really define who he is. But this book speculates, and the hypothesis makes a lot of sense. The authors wrote that we can envision Tom Bombadil as the antithesis to Sauron, and I thought that was clever.

They also offer up two different definitions for who Tom Bombadil could be. They state,

“Tom has answered Frodo’s “Who are you?” question in two ways: In terms of identity, Tom’s true name is silence. Simultaneously, in relationship to Frodo – and , indeed , to all others – we shall see that he is called Eldest.”

This is a good representation of his character because it is not an easy answer, if that makes sense. Tom Bombadil is complex and one answer would never work. He is the silence you experience when you are just being, and he is the Eldest because he watched Middle Earth become what it is. He takes two forms and only one being corporeal. We can’t fathom who he is because he is unfathomable.

My issue with this particular book is that it is extremely repetitive and unnecessarily wordy. It’s already a short read but could be quite shorter. Old points are brought up again and again, then sentences are reworded three different ways. Not only was that kind of annoying but it caused me to lose interest. It took me a little over an hour to read and probably could take less if points weren’t constantly reiterated.

All in all, the speculation is great, but the execution could be better. I give The Lure of The Ring 3/5 stars.

Thank you to NetGalley and BooksGoSocial for allowing me to access this content. An extra thank you to BooksGoSocial for giving me my first Auto Approval!

Crown Of Coral And Pearl by Mara Rutherford

In Varenia beauty is everything. Beauty is honor, esteem, and escape. Or at least Nor believed it was for her entire childhood, until a series of unexpected events lead her to the land of Ilara to marry Prince Ceren.

In Crown of Coral and Pearl we are introduced to twin sisters Zadie and Nor, their entire lives have revolved around an archaic ceremony where the most beautiful girl in Varenia is chosen to be the wife of the Prince of Ilara. Nor, the main character, was left with a scar on her cheek due to an accident when she was younger leaving her identical twin sister to be chosen as the next Ilarean Princess, but tragedy strikes and Nor is forced to take Zadie’s place in secret. But, there are secrets lurking below the surface of the Ilarean castle and Nor is determined to uncover them for the sake of the starving Varenian people.

Crown of Coral and Pearl nails its characters. The good guys are people you want to root for and the bad guys will fill you with rage. I was particularly intrigued by the antagonists, specifically Nor’s mother and Prince Ceren. Nor’s mother hurt me to my core, her mother is so obsessed with the idea of her daughters being chosen that she dictates their entire lives and even goes so far as to call Nor damaged. One quote really got me, her mother tells her, “Without your beauty, you are nothing.” I found that line to be so unforgivable that I just wanted the mom to die. Such a terrible thing to say to your own child. Mara Rutherford’s character building is so convincing, I really hated the antagonists. Prince Ceren is also just the worst. He gets off on making people uncomfortable and is abusive in every way imaginable. I couldn’t stand the idea of a character like him existing.

The world building is also enjoyable while relatively small scale. This is not Westeros, so it does not contain the overly complex map that you never want to look at, it’s easy to follow and I liked that. While simple, it does not come off as under developed. The land is rich with a history to follow. The contrast of tropical Varenia and the Ilarean castle embedded in the mountain makes an interesting plot point. Nor’s constant yearning to be by the ocean and in the sun really makes you feel for her. Watching her descent into an entirely different landscape is suffocating and you suffer alongside her.

The magical elements in this book are subtle. You will find magic used in very strategic ways, for me it was a pleasant surprise. Traditional aspects of fantasy are buried in this novel, such as monsters and special gifts, but they don’t steal the spotlight from the storyline. The backseat approach to magic was a refreshing change in my opinion.

The book has a lot of good lessons to teach. It focuses on the beauty within and one section really embraces that idea, “I felt the eyes of every woman as I passed, and I reminded myself that I was doing this for them, and for every young girl in Varenia who would spend her life wondering if she was beautiful enough.” This quote stuck with me, most girls go through a self conscious phase wondering if they are beautiful enough to be loved. This idea really added a layer to Nor that made her relatable, she is so different from the girls in our world, but still very much the same. Nor is tough and she fights for those who have been stepped all over, I love that about this character. She is rough in all the right places but she isn’t annoyingly tough. She knows her strengths and limitation and will use them to make a difference in the world.

Another point that really hit home is that, above all else, family and love are what matter most in this world. “Home was not a house, or a village, or a sea. It was family, and love, and the space where your soul could roost, like a seabird safe from a storm.”

If you ask me this book has a well rounded story and complexities to make it unique within th YA genre. It truly stood out to me and I think Crown of Coral and Pearl will make an impact on its readers. 5/5 stars for this one.

Crown of Coral and Pearl will be released on August 27th, 2019. Thank you to NetGalley and Harlequin Teen for allowing me access to this book.

Kingdom Cold by Brittni Chenelle

Love, war, and tragedy are the three words that come to mind when I think about Kingdom Cold. I felt so much while reading this book and I was surprised by its ability to captivate me. I’m a sucker for a good romance and I was not disappointed, Chenelle crafts a reluctant but beautiful love story that had me on the edge of my seat the entire time.

It starts with a simple desire: freedom to choose. ““I won’t say ‘I do’,” I said, locking my knees to keep them from shaking . Marriage? Even the word repulsed me. It sat at the back of my throat and I choked on it.” Charlotte, the princess of Besmium and main protagonist, is a rebellious girl with the simple wish to get married on her own terms. Besmium is facing a brutal war and the promise of a marriage between Princess Charlotte and Prince Young could unite the East and West to save the kingdom of Besmium. But through tangle after tangle the love story deepens winding in and out of characters until they must face an even more powerful enemy than they ever imagined. Death lurks at their doorstep and they must think quickly to save everything they love.

What I love about this book is the depth of each character. Everyone has wants and their own motives that make them unique. There is a rich history, that while it doesn’t delve super deep it feels well rounded and complete. Every single character down to the smallest of servant has their own special personality, there are no cardboard cutout characters. My all-time favorite is Charlotte herself, she reminds me of Celaena from Throne of Glass. She takes her fate into her own hands and makes the absolute best of each situation. She’s analytical and blossoms into a full blown badass who isn’t afraid to get blood on her royal hands. She is not a damsel, she is a warrior in her own rite. She is not afraid to speak her mind and no man is her master. Her fate is her fate alone.

The antagonists are done so authentically, even minor antagonists like Charlotte’s mother. While not intending to be evil and cruel, the queen is brutal and horrible to her daughter. Charlotte’s hatred for her mother feels real and justified. Charlotte is not just a silly teen girl that is irritated with her mother, she is full on verbally abused by the queen. It’s so satisfying watching Charlotte defy her mother at every turn. While the queen isn’t the main antagonist, I felt so empowered everytime her plans were foiled.

This story has so many layers and felt like a roller coaster ride. My only quarrel with this book is that it felt like it was written as a standalone and changed towards the end to make it span a few more books. The plot would heighten and dip making me feel like it had three different stopping points. I will say that I am glad that this series is going to be three parts because I really enjoyed the story and characters. I was angry when I read the ending but with a promise of continuation in the acknowledgements my anger was quelled. I need to know more and I refuse to be left with the ending presented.

I give Kingdom Cold a 4/5 stars. This book surprised me and has a love story that I won’t soon forget. I will be looking forward to reading the next installment.

The Hunger by Alma Katsu

One of the greatest elements in horror is making you question whether the greatest evil of all comes from within. In Katsu’s The Hunger we are posed with evil from all angles, external and internal. This novel does not make its monsters a secret, we get our fill of bloodthirsty creatures stalking the night, but what it does hide beneath the surface is the secrets and atrocities that the people next to you are capable of committing.

In The Hunger we get to see the Donner Party re imagined as they make their great western trek across America. While most people already know how this story ends, Katsu offers up a different explanation for the Donner’s cannibalistic demise by throwing monsters into the picture. But, this is not your typical hack and slash monster story, it has a depth that was unexpected and truly impressed me. I was left more curious about the evil that lies within human beings than anything.

We follow the party along their journey viewing the events through the lens of many different travelers. The most prominent being Charles Stanton, a lone traveler with a secret, Tamsen Donner the wife to the patriarch and leader George Donner, and James Reed a family man with a fatal flaw. The wagon train is going well until George Donner makes the irrational decision, influenced by the hack Lansford Hastings, to turn away from the Oregon trail and set course through the mostly untamed trail heading toward Weber Canyon with the expectation to take an easier trail through the Wasatch mountains. No such trail existed. Instead they faced hardship after hardship through the Great Salt Lake and meeting their eventual demise in Sierra Nevada Mountains. The unexpected twist is that the party is under near constant surveillance from creature lurking in the trees, the party starts questioning who or what the creatures are and as more of the pioneers disappear or go mad the panic begins.

I have a, probably, unhealthy fascination with the way gore is described in novels, and Katsu does this very well. Nauseatingly well. I have always had an admiration for people who can make my stomach turn just through description, Katsu truly did not let me down. Here’s an example that gave me the creeps, “The head was intact. In fact, if you only looked at the face you wouldn’t think anything was wrong. The boy’s eyes were closed, long brown eyelashes stark against chalk white cheeks. His fine blond hair was plastered against his skull, his tiny mouth closed. He looked peaceful, as though he were sleeping. But from the neck down…” This description is just so fitting of the novel altogether. At first glance it seems like it will be a normal story about pioneers, but underneath it festers with something evil. Another of Katsu’s abilities, is the ability to instill fear. One of her descriptions of the monsters sent a shiver down my spine, she wrote, “His fingers grazed the very end of the rifle stock. Slipped. But the thing had him now, had a mouth around his ankle- Stanton gasped in terror as he saw human eyes, a human nose…” Something about this imagery just paralyzed me. As much as I would like to include a few more sentences from that section I can’t because it would give too much away. Just trust me when I say that this book is freaky.

It is very clear that Katsu dedicated a lot of her time to researching the history for the Donner party so that she could perfectly execute an adjacent story line. She has a familiarity with the history that creates an intimacy between you and the party. It feels like you are peeping in on the hidden lives of the Donner party, non of her creative liberties feels disingenuous or implausible. It inspired me to read up on the historical background of the Donner Party and it is crazy for me to think about the sheer amount of research that she must have put in. A lot the history and people are accurate, it takes the term historical fiction to a new and impressive level. Katsu didn’t just take a moment in history and use it to loosely base a story on, she embedded herself in the history and based her fiction as closely on reality as possible.

I’m a sucker for horror, but I do not believe this made me biased towards this novel. This novel truly deserves any praise that is receives, and for me it is an easy 5/5 stars. I was entertained throughout and had such a hard time putting the book down. Horror novels have a tendency to speed up and slow down as suspense intensifies and wanes, but not The Hunger. The internal and external conflicts are so intense and well written that it is hard to lose interest for even a second.