Book Review: Metropolis by Monte Schulz

Outside of having a tour or BBNYA deadline to motivate me in picking up a book, I haven’t really been able to read anything in a long time, let alone a mammoth of a tome like Metropolis. I figured, the website was fascinating already, I have barely read anything in the last couple of weeks, and 2022 was coming to a quick end. Why not end it with Metropolis? I’m so glad I got the opportunity to. Shout out to Monte for the copy and for Adrienne from Finn Partners for reaching out to me. What an amazing way to end the year!

Hello, my lovely peeps🐥! In the final review and post of the year, and my 100th book review (!!!) today’s post will be my thoughts on Metropolis by Monte Schulz!

Book Title: Metropolis
Author: Monte Schulz
Length: 668 Pages
Edition: Physical > Hardcover
Published: 23 August 2022
Publisher: Fantagraphics Books
Genres: Fiction, Science Fiction > Steampunk, Dystopia, Romance, Literary Fiction

Disclaimer: A huge thank you to the author, Monte Schulz, for providing me with a physical copy for review! All opinions are of my own.

Goodreads: >LINK<
Publisher’s Page: >LINK<
Book’s Website*: >LINK<
Amazon: >LINK<

*I highly suggest checking out the book’s website, as it’s incredibly detailed and a cool read all in itself.

Regency College senior Julian Brehm’s uneventful student life is derailed when he falls for Nina Rinaldi, a beautiful young revolutionary engaged in political activism against the authoritarian regime that rules the country and wages a deceitful, distracting war. Julian’s love for — and moral alliance to — Nina eventually leads him into a vast undercity beneath the metropolis. Then, east by train and into the war zone itself, where mortal danger in that expanding cemetery of millions threatens Julian’s life; what he witnesses will alter how he perceives the Republic and ultimately his fate within it.

Julian’s adventure can be seen as our own, a world of vacillating morality and unceasing violence. Apathy and passion. Fear and courage of purpose. Julian’s is a hero’s journey into the dark unknown. A love story, which extends in many directions. A war novel of incredible scope and horror. A suspenseful mystery novel with a moral puzzle at its core. And a coming-of-age tale of a young man seeing the world he was born into, more dangerous and more beautiful than he could have ever imagined. Metropolis is a meditation on the meaning of virtue and goodness in the face of the most monstrous crimes. It could just as easily be the story of us.

Wow! I’m going to be talking about this one to friends and family for the next couple of weeks!
For a second, I thought that I had forgotten how to write a review because I was so lost for words. It was a beautiful journey and a rollercoaster of a ride; emotions of all kinds and tears of all sorts flowing. 

The writing of this book was the first thing that I picked up. Atmospheric and memorizing, the writing was charming to boot and was a pleasure to read. I fell in love with every sentence, and the dialogue was not forgotten and left behind. I loved the way the world was built. I loved the way things were described. I loved the characters and I loved how they spoke and interacted with one another. I’d be happy to read this over and over if for no reason other than to get lost in the sentences and wording over and over. 

The world was suffocating, although, as a dystopian, I didn’t expect anything less. The last time I read a dystopian book, it was Perdido Street Station and I could almost feel the tinge of the smog on my tongue. Here, I could almost see everything, feel everything, and it was absolutely horrifying. Between the level of death in certain parts of the book, the tens of thousands of children in danger, the “law enforcement” that patrolled the street to take you to the Mendel building where one might never be seen again, nowhere did life truly felt safe; something that Julian, a student of the college, will soon bear witness to. 

“‘We do survive, Julian. We survive the most despicable cruelties and heinous acts by our fellow human beings because we have no other choice if we choose to live in this blighted world of ours. I think the Desolation must be a mirror of who we are as a race and species, an example to the gods and universe of man in his most inventive and prolific self. We thrive and celebrate our debauchery, all the while defending what we do as both accidental and necessary. I truly believe we are insane.'”

There was a particular section of the book where Julian left the safety of his old life to deliver a specific item and brings him to where the war sits. The horrors that he both experiences and witnesses is enough to give nightmares and plenty of moments that he goes through is forever seared in my mind; the death, the bodies, and blood, the brutality, so vivid in my mind then and now still. All atrocities that many back home, including Julian had he not travelled so far, was so ignorant of. From there on, the horrors doesn’t stop. 

I adored the characters of the book and the cast was filled with such brightly colored personalities including sane but maybe most likely probably insane, Marco. There’s  our main character, Julian, and his deep love for Nina as well as his care for the energetic and lovely Delia (Nina’s sister). There’s the brilliant (when it matters) drunkard of a roommate, Freddy. The puzzle master, Peter Draxler, was the cherry on top of all this chaos. 

“‘Love is a most powerful inducement. Nothing in our world surpasses it. Without love, perhaps none of this has any meaning but storm and fire. Not enough to suffer for. Loyalty itself derives from the heart in terms of faithfulness which can only evolve from love.'”

The plot was gripping and so interesting. From the very beginning, Julian finds himself wrapped in a giant puzzle that carries him all over the place. It’s like a scavenger hunt mixed with hide-and-seek, except arrest and death was on the losing wager. With Freddy’s help, he’s able to unwind piece after piece of one of the most insane game of hide and seek ever played, clues in books locked behind another language, a lost dog, and running around the underground world… The entire part of the book revolves around this puzzle and I was constantly at the edge of my seat awaiting the next clue and answer. 

I really enjoyed this book and ending the year with this read is an amazing feeling; both because it was quite a chunky book and also because of how much I enjoyed pretty much every aspect of the book. A good book that I’d recommend if you enjoy a good puzzle, steampunk vibes, and dystopian government that revolve around some majorly harsh scenes and topics. One of those books I’d happily pick up to reread again and again. 

Monte Schulz published his first novel, Down By The River, in 1990, and spent the next two decades writing Crossing Eden, an epic novel of the Jazz Age. He has taught writing and literature in the College of Creative Studies at UCSB, where he earned his M.A. in American Studies. He lives in California and Hawaii.


Blog Tour Book Review: The Urban Boys: The Discovery of the Five Senses by K. N. Smith

Oooh, guess who’s back to bring you her first post in a long time!
Today is my stop on TheWriteReads blog tour for The Urban Boys: Discovery of the Five Senses by K.N. Smith and I’ll be sharing my thoughts and a review of the book!

Book Description

Title: The Urban Boys: Discovery of the Five Senses
Author: K.N. Smith
Genre: YA Urban Fantasy/Thriller
Length: 292 Pages
Publishing: 29th September 2015

Book Blurb

Welcome or unwelcome. Fate has arrived.

“A captivating and poetic tale of mystery, fantasy, and reality tied together by action!” 5-stars, Lars Jackson, Amazon Customer

A suspenseful incident in a forbidden preserve heightens the senses of five friends. Sight, sound, touch, taste, and smell become super-gifts that forever change the world. But furious battles confront the boys as they try to understand their sensory super powers in a race to save mankind. With light beings and mysterious strangers complicating their plight, can the boys defeat the evil Druth before it’s too late? Get prepared for the twisting and grinding of this award-winning, action-adventure story — an edge-of-your-seat narrative for young and mature readers alike.

Disclaimer: A physical copy of this book was provided to me in exchange for a fair and honest review. A huge thank you to TheWriteReads and the author for this copy! All opinions are my own.

Book Review

The story begins with a pretty good hook. Nothing’s more gripping and grabs your attention like two teenagers happening across a murder happening right in front of them. It almost seems like the act comes from nowhere and many years later, the very villain reappears to wreck havoc; destruction ensues and heroes are needed to stop him. The original team failed, but can these boys successed in what the original gang could not do?

The writing is an odd mix; It was the only thing I really couldn’t get over. It’s very poetic and flowery on the edge of purple, but only sometimes. The main characters of this book are teenagers, but there are times that it felt like they were a bit younger, like middle school superheroes, the kind that are 10 and mom waves you off to take on the world (*squints in Pokemon*). So it was a strange mix between YA-aged characters with the occasional middle-grade feel but with literary proses that felt like what I’d read in English class in college. There ARE times when it’s fantastic though. There were a few moments where nothing but purple could be used to describe a scene, lest you do it and the emotions injustice. I’ve seen some people describe the prose as lyrical and I can’t agree more. I swear I shed at least a few tears myself.

Like large almonds, captivating in their shape and color, Jordan and Mason’s eyes beautifully expressed their mixed heritage, showcasing a mash of brown, green, and blue. Reminiscent of a seascape, their dark eyelids and thick eyebrows perfectly framed their bluehazel features.

The parts that were really hard to read were the awkward pacing and descriptions. Sometimes things are overly descriptive and sometimes you lose chunks of time because of the utter lack of descriptions. Things that don’t need any more description have it in abundance. Things that do need more text don’t have it. The writing can be kind of tell-y vs showy.

It is a fast read though. The writing, despite all the flowers, is actually very easy to read. I’ve never had a book so “lyrical” and still so easy to digest. Gone are the days where I reread the same page 10 times because one paragraph lost me completely. Turns out, it really is possible to have fancy sentences that are still readable by my very slow-to-digest brain. I can’t tell you how refreshing that is. Combined with relatively short chapters, this was one of the easier-to-read books I’ve gone through all year! I practically inhaled it and it’s very easy to read in a single sitting. 

Magic and worldbuilding-wise, working around a plot related to the heightened five senses was a neat concept. I know super vision, super hearing, and maybe super smelling abilities are part of the widely used superpowers out there, but super taste and super touch are new and creative. The five senses are important and strong when together and that was a major theme in the book; being together. Alone, the boys were weak. What good is super-smelling abilities without the others backing you up? But when the boys work together, that very power can help the group track the villain down and the others can still back him up in terms of manpower and senses. Further in the story, this sense of sticking together becomes even more important.

The characters are interesting. We have a group of teenage boys all with interesting families. There’s a character where his mother had passed after an accident, another whose parents are together, and another who is being looked after by his very hard working older sister. All of their families are very supportive of the boys and are constantly doing their best to look after the boys. In turn, the boys do their best not to stress them out, even if this means hiding their powers and abilities (and the fact that they’re kids trying to save the world; but also let’s face it, tell your pops you have superpowers and see if he believes you).

As for the boys themselves, they’re pretty fleshed-out characters. The five boys claim a sense each and it was interesting getting to see how each of them adjusts to their powers, how they use them to both fight and support each other. They have individual lives outside of kicking butt, they have their own problems at home or with girlfriends, and all of them come from different circumstances. Despite the differences, they still do their best to mold their newfound powers to be inclusive of the others in the group and come to the aid when it’s needed.

Overall, this was a good book that I would recommend to YA readers. The writing is flowery and lyrical, is heavy on metaphors sometimes and quite poetic, but it’s also very easy to read, easy to digest, and with shortish chapters, I was able to fly through this book. The pacing and occasional awkward time skips made things feel a little off when reading, but that’s my only gripe with the book. The cast of characters are some pretty good and decent kids with their families just as good of people. All in all, a good book with a neat concept. 

About the Author

K.N. Smith is an award-winning author. She is a passionate advocate of arts and literacy programs throughout the world. Her lyrical flair sweeps across pages that twist and grind through action-adventure and urban fantasy in edge-of-your-seat narratives. K.N. has over twenty-five years’ experience in communications and creative design as an award-winning consultant. Reading is still her foremost hobby. She is also the founder of Mental Health California™, and creator and director of Brother Be Well, her signature nonprofit community initiative. Discovery of the Five Senses was awarded “Best of” in the category “Outstanding Young Adult Novel” at the Jessie Redmon Fauset Book Awards at the 10th Annual Leimert Park Village Book Fair. The event, voted one of LA’s best annual book festivals, attracts over 200 authors, poets, spoken word artists, storytellers, performers, and literary/ educational exhibitor participants, and boasts an audience of over 5,000. She is also a Readers’ Favorite “Gold Medal” honoree for “Young Adult – Mystery”.

E.R. Nurses: Walk My Rounds with Me by James Patterson, Matt Eversmann, and Chris Mooney

Hello, my lovely peeps🐥!
I skipped last Thursday’s review as I had a major appointment/meeting over in midtown and had spent the previous night (most of the week, actually) preparing for it. But hey, none of that this week, so here we are! Back again with a Thursday review and today, I’m featuring another Grand Central Publishing book, E.R. Nurses: Walk My Rounds with Me: True Stories from America’s Greatest Unsung Heroes by James Patterson, Matt Eversmann, and Chris Mooney!

Book Title: E.R. Nurses: Walk My Rounds with Me: True Stories from America’s Greatest Unsung Heroes
Author: James Patterson, Matt Eversmann, and Chris Mooney
Length: 292 Pages
Publication Date: 6 Sept 2022
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Edition: Paperback
Genres: Nonfiction, Medicine, Biography, Autobiography, Science, Short Stories

Goodreads: >LINK<
Amazon: >LINK<
Grand Central Publishing: >LINK<

Disclaimer: Thank you to Grand Central Publishing for this gifted copy! All opinions are of my own.

They save our lives every day, and we’ve never heard their stories.  The life-or-death intensity of working on the front lines, from America’s greatest unsung heroes.

“The compassion, the work ethic, and the selflessness of nurses … are given the respect they deserve and captured beautifully here.”
–Sanjay Gupta, MD, neurosurgeon and chief medical correspondent, CNN

“James Patterson’s account of the twilight world between life and death that nurses inhabit is one of the most moving things I have ever read.”
–Sebastian Junger, author of Freedom and The Perfect Storm 

Around the clock, across the country, these highly skilled and compassionate men and women sacrifice and struggle for us and our families. 

You have never heard their true stories. Not like this. From big-city and small-town hospitals. From behind the scenes. From the heart.  

This book will make you laugh, make you cry, make you understand. 

When we’re at our worst, E.R. nurses are at their best.

A tribute to those who fight on the front lines of the E.R., this was a lovely read that I thoroughly enjoyed. It’s formatted in a way that reminds me of the old Chicken Soup for the Soul books where you have true short stories taken as snippets from the lives of ordinary people, aiming to inspire you in some way or show you life through someone else’s eyes for a burst of a moment. These snippets are very short and some are only a mere two pages long, while others are only a little more. I always feel like short stories, especially micro-stories, are too short for my taste, but not here. Each are pieces that are just enough. Here, in Walk My Rounds With Me, we are seeing through the eyes of E.R. Nurses.

This book is separated into four different sections: Day Shift, Night Shift, Flight Shift, and a Thank You section in the end. Instead of chapters separating the book up, the names of nurses are there instead. Every chapter starts off with a short introduction paragraph and background of a nurse following by a story/moments they recounted during their day, night, or flight shifts and how it’s always something they’ll remember or how it’s changed them since experiencing it.

Many of these stories are powerful pieces, and there are some stories that I didn’t expect at all. Nurses are heroes that often go unappreciated, and this book is a way for the authors to show a glimpse of the work they do to the world.

There are many very interesting moments and stories throughout this book. There are some that brings me to tears, in laughter and saddness. There are plenty of life lessons that lies in these pages that I know I will carry with me. Some of the moments that I will always remember: just how hard nurses advocate for their patients, breaking hospital policies to give their patients one final humane moment, how nurses must put on a strong face to deal with an angry person who “has been waiting for a long time” after coming right out of a room for a child that has just passed, how important it is to be allowed to express your emotions and sorrows, the countless miracles next to small incidents that could take away lives (a small bump to the head), and how there’s nothing that’s totally predictable.

I used to really enjoy the Chicken Soup for the Soul books, and for all the short stories I’ve read recently, this one especially touched a nostalgic part of me. The stories are simple but profound, the writing is done well, and I’ve gained a great deal of respect for nurses of all sorts. They put so much work into getting nursing degrees and come out to deal with some of the most awful things and nasty people. They sit with us through some of the worst days of our lives. They bring small joys to us when it feels like there are none left. Truly a wonderful collection of admirable people and stories that I loved.

Book Review: Righteous Prey by John Sandford

Happy Thursday, my lovely peeps🐥!
This week’s book review: Righteous Prey by John Sandford!

This was my most anticipated read of the year and I kept pushing it off as if to make the read even more rewarding the longer I wait for it. I finally got around to it, and I absolutely loved it!

Book Title: Righteous Prey
Series: Prey Series / Virgil Flowers
Book # 32 (Prey) / 14 (Virgil Flowers)
Author: John Sandford
Length: ~412 Pages (Based on Kindle Pages)
Publication Date: 4 Oct 2022
Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons
Edition: eARC (NetGalley)
Genres: Fiction, Mystery, Mystery > Crime, Thriller, Thriller > Mystery Thriller, Suspense, Police Procedural, Action

Goodreads: >LINK<
Amazon: >LINK<
Author Website: >LINK<

Disclaimer: A big thank you to the author, publisher, and NetGalley. An ebook copy was provided to me in exchange for a fair and honest review. This does not affect my review in any way, and all opinions are my own.

Beloved heroes Lucas Davenport and Virgil Flowers are up against a powerful vigilante group with an eye on vengeance in a stunning new novel from #1 New York Times-bestselling author John Sandford.

“We’re going to murder people who need to be murdered.” So begins a press release from a mysterious group known only as “The Five,” shortly after a vicious predator is murdered in San Francisco. The Five is believed to be made up of vigilante killers who are very bored…and very rich. They target the worst of society—rapists, murderers, and thieves—and then use their unlimited resources to offset the damage done by those who they’ve killed, donating untraceable bitcoin to charities and victims via the dark net. The Five soon become the most popular figures on social media, a modern-day Batman…though their motives may not be entirely pure.

After a woman is murdered in the Twin Cities, Virgil Flowers and Lucas Davenport are sent in to investigate. And they soon have their hands full–the killings are smart and carefully choreographed, and with no apparent direct connection to the victims, the Five are virtually untraceable. But if anyone can destroy this group, it will be the dynamic team of Davenport and Flowers.

5 bitcoin traders, immensely wealthy, and absolutely nuts in the head, conspire along with another individual to commit crimes “for the better of the world.” They kill those they deem worthy of death, post their crimes out as press releases along with the reasons that the individuals were killed, and a hefty amount in bitcoin is donated to a charity afterwards, a test to see if these non-profits would accept the money if they were to come out of these crimes; blood money. Lucas and Virgil aren’t called on, at least not until one of the killings happens on Minnesota soil and the BCA and US Marshal become involved.

Though I’ve seen books revolving around an individual or groups of people going after people who deserve justice, it was still a pretty good book and I enjoyed the plot. Beginning with weeks of staking out their victims, following their every move and tracking all of their personal securities, these five million/billionaire, along with their leader, come up with extremely detailed and well-thought-out plans that fully cover their tracks behind them. It’s nearly impossible to link the crime back to the perpetrator, at least, of course, until the killer in Minnesota slips up and it’s just enough of a clue for Lucas and Virgil to work off of. From there, the plot takes off and it doesn’t take long for the duo to identify some of the members of the Five and begin their pursuit. When The Five’s plans begins to crumble beneath them, people start to get really desperate. And desperate people are dangerous people.

In the first book where Lucas and Virgil worked together, Ocean Prey, Virgil actually worked mostly with Rae and Lucas with another team, covering background. Both having a criminal mind, nabbing clues in not so legal ways (like breaking into a house to investigate with a copy of a key made by pressing clay on it?), they have vastly different personalities when it comes to crime. Lucas sees things like a puzzle while Virgil’s more emotional (not that deaths don’t affect Lucas), but there’s an interesting dynamic between the two of them.

Lucas and Virgil were each other’s closest male friends, in the way men form friendships around shared traumatic stress and a predilection for jockstraps. Though they were friends, they were not alike.

Lucas could look at a body and become immediately absorbed in the technical details of the death: how the killing had been done, possible motives, who had the opportunity. He saw murder as a puzzle. The body was a detail, but not the only one. Murder signaled a competition that he was determined to win.

Virgil sought balance, rather than a victory. He wanted to wrench his world back into what it should be, a peaceful place where people cooperated to create a civilization. He disliked violence and rarely resorted to it. Murder was always a shock to his system.

In Righteous Prey, this time the duo really does work together, starting by visiting the scene of the Minnesota death, and “walking and knocking” on doors. Lucas being Virgil’s old boss, they’re best friends and their conversations can be pretty golden at times. There’s a hilarious supermarket scene with the most cliché undercover cop “quick pretend we’re a cute couple to avoid attention” trope that was the comedic highlight of my read. They’re funny and witty, and fantastic at bouncing ideas off each other. The bicker and banter between them reminds me of siblings and their interaction lightens the tenser parts of the book.

The woman called, “What’d you do? Did he see you?”

A male agent, also inside the store, who’d been looking at tomatoes, said, “They walked by him holding hands. [killer] wouldn’t look at them. He’s a homophobe and thought they were gay.”

Lucas, not transmitting, said to Virgil, “I won’t live this down. You will, of course, being an ambisexual hippie.”

The woman agent said, “That’s so cool. That’s really so cool.”

Lucas: “Ah, Jesus.”

There’s a lot of character development over the course of multiple books, for both Lucas and Virgil. Virgil has been writing as a side gig since the earliest books, more so as a magazine column writer, though. Soon, taking nature photographs and writing for magazines became writing fiction books for publishing deals and he’s in the middle of his third novel when Righteous Prey is taking place, with Lucas, a game maker himself, encouraging him. Because cops burn out hard and fast. Lucas, already rich off his games and only picking up the most interesting of cases can only hope that Virgil will follow because neither of them can see the latter continue to run around Minnesota for much longer. They’re getting older and their lives have been constantly at stake. They barely make it through this book (though I’ve definitely said this earlier in a few other books too, so…)

There were some places that were slow, you can’t have promising leads forever, and there are multiple times the duo run into walls. Still, the thrill is always present and there’s always some form of a chase, but the killers are just as slippery as they are elusive. Along with cash to back them up, clever alibis, and this case taking place across multiple stakes, Virgil and Lucas are just running all over the place. In fact, if The Five had kept all of this on the down low, and not going about publishing every hit to the public, they probably could’ve easily gotten away with these killings for a long time!

All in all, I had a wonderful time with it and I’m definitely going to get the physical copy when it comes out next month. My only worry is, with Lucas and Virgil growing older, having promising new careers on their horizon, family, and with Lucas’ adoptive daughter, Letty, having her own spin-off series now, we may very well be nearing the end of both Lucas and Virgil’s adventures. The book ends pretty well though, especially given the scary events that took place in the climax. It has a very open end feel to it, with plenty of possibilities to come. Another gripping and solid book from Sandford. I could not put this one down!

Book Review: Glittering a Turd by Kris Hallenga

Book Title: Glittering a Turd: How surviving the unsurvivable taught me to live
Series: [Standalone]
Author: Kris Hallenga
Length: 7 hours & 8 minutes
Publication Date: August 19, 2022
Publisher: W. F. Howes Ltd
Genres: Audiobook, Nonfiction, Nonfiction > Memoir, Medicine, Family

Goodreads: >LINK<
Amazon: >LINK<

Disclaimer: A big thank you to the author, publisher, and NetGalley. An ebook copy was provided to me in exchange for a fair and honest review. This does not affect my review in any way and all opinions are my own.

Kris was living a totally normal life as a twenty-three-year-old: travelling the world, falling in love, making plans.

However, when she found a lump in her boob and was told that it was not only cancer, but also incurable, life took on a completely new meaning. She was diagnosed at an age when life wasn’t something to be grateful for, but a goddamn right.

Little did Kris know it was cancer that would lead her to a life she had never considered: a happy one. From founding a charity to visiting Downing Street, campaigning at festivals to appearing on TV, and being present at the birth of her nephew; in the face of all the possible prognoses, Kris is surviving, thriving, and resolutely living.

Glittering a Turd is more than just another cancer memoir; it’s a handbook for living life to the fullest, shining a new perspective on survival and learning to glitter your own tu*d, whatever it might be. Kris has survived the unsurvivable for twelve years. Here, she begins to discover why.

This was a wonderful and informative book with all the right levels of humor in it. I surely did give my girls a little feel up after the first few chapters. The writing was nice, things always moved along easily and smoothly, and it was easy to understand. One thing stood out the most, and not just because it was important, but rather the memories it brought up for me. Too often, people go to the doctor for concerns, only to be met with a hefty bill and “It’s just anxiety.” This is a huge killer, causing minor symptoms to progress into something far more serious and deadly.

Kris shows us her cancer journey from the day she was diagnosed, over a decade ago, and how life has changed for her since then. She’s started a charity called CoppaFeel!, aiming to educate and spread awareness about breast cancer, such as knowing the signs that could save your life and reminding you to check your breasts often. She’s appeared on television, was able to live a thriving life, being there with her sister at her nephew’s birth, and even started a food truck business with her twin sister, Meron.

Beautifully written, Kris spoke to us in a way that was like as if she were a friend updating us on her condition, a mix of humor and seriousness that taught me many different lessons from making sure to check your boobs often to speaking up for yourself when you want a second opinion. She doesn’t mince words and is honest and open about her life and journey with us. The highs and lows, the joy, laughter, and tears, they’re all there and I felt every emotion. This was an incredibly inspirational read that I would recommend to anyone.

Book Review: The Frederick Sisters Are Living The Dream by Jeannie Zusy

Happy Thursdays!
Did anyone watch the Nintendo Direct from earlier this week? I actually cried at the announcement of the Story of Seasons: A Wonderful Life remake. A childhood favorite brought to the present, sure makes the swellest present! Unfortunately, Alear’s god awful design in the newest Fire Emblem: Engage announcement, from the same Direct, has ruined the presentation for me. It’s just…that Colgate, Nintendo Switch colored hair. Just…why?? Fantastic art otherwise, not too sure about the animations, and not too keen on the unoriginal “yet another revived Fell Dragon in need of slaying” plot. Am I still getting it? For sure!

This week’s book that’s up for review: The Frederick Sisters Are Living The Dream by Jeannie Zusy. Thought to have been long overdue for a review, now that I have checked the publishing date, I actually made it on time for release! Phew!

Book Title: The Frederick Sisters Are Living the Dream: A Novel
Series: [Standalone]
Author: Jeannie Zusy
Length: 306 Pages (Paper) > Paperback ARC Edition
Publication Date: September 20th 2022
Publisher: Atria Books
Genres: Fiction, Contemporary, Family, Humor, Literary Fiction, Womens Fiction

Goodreads: >LINK<
Amazon: >LINK<

Disclaimer: A copy of this book was provided to me, via a Goodreads Giveaway, in exchange for a fair and honest review. A huge thank you to Goodreads, the author, and Atria books for this copy! All opinions are my own.

Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine meets Early Morning Riser with a dash of Where’d You Go, Bernadette in this very funny, occasionally romantic, and surprisingly moving novel about how one woman’s life is turned upside down when she becomes caregiver to her sister with special needs.

Every family has its fault lines, and when Maggie gets a call from the ER in Maryland where her older sister lives, the cracks start to appear. Ginny, her sugar-loving and diabetic older sister with intellectual disabilities, has overdosed on strawberry Jell-O.

Maggie knows Ginny really can’t live on her own, so she brings her sister and her occasionally vicious dog to live near her in upstate New York. Their other sister, Betsy, is against the idea but as a professional surfer, she is conveniently thousands of miles away.

Thus, Maggie’s life as a caretaker begins. It will take all of her dark humor and patience, already spread thin after a separation, raising two boys, freelancing, and starting a dating life, to deal with Ginny’s diapers, sugar addiction, porn habit, and refusal to cooperate. Add two devoted but feuding immigrant aides and a soon-to-be ex-husband who just won’t go away, and you’ve got a story that will leave you laughing through your tears as you wonder who is actually taking care of whom.

Oh, this was such a refreshing read that I thoroughly enjoyed!
Three sisters and all of the worries, self-doubts, and struggles between them. What’s on the surface is never “just the only things” that’s going on.

I struggled to get into and start the book because every time I cracked it open, there are no chapters but rather, four long parts. Stopping in the middle of a reading session was always awkward, but it wasn’t that much of a problem when you finally get into the book. Even if I didn’t like the way the book was divided, I fell in love with the intensity of the writing and the realism from every character. It felt like reading right off Maggie’s private journals, like listening to a friend tell me about her day, like being in her head and hearing and experiencing all of her worries. The writing is choppy in places but I loved most of everything else; the tension, the frustration, the thoughts of both Maggie and those around her, and of course all of their joys and mini celebrations too.

The story begins with Maggie driving Ginny back to live in New York, to be closer to her. It’s a trip from Maryland, somewhere Ginny will never see again and she doesn’t even know that yet. Virginia (Ginny) has an intellectual disability and despite living just fine on her own and away from her siblings, ever since she’s retired from her job, her life has gone downhill, her health in decline. She’s no longer able to take care of herself and her diabetes is not being properly managed, causing her to end up with sepsis and nearly dying. She doesn’t want to move, and oldest sister, Betsy (Bets), says that Maggie should just be allowed to live how she wants to live. If that means leaving her to her own devices and she dies from it…well…

So, against both her sisters’ wishes, Maggie brings Ginny closer to her, in upstate New York. Because what does Bets know? She’s off in California, surfing up her dream life and appearing on television!

This was a heartwarming read. I know it’s listed as humorous, but I felt kind of sad through the book. Sad for Ginny’s loss of freedom and loss of independence, something she’s had for decades. Sad for Bets and sad for Maggie and Ginny who know that something’s up with Bets to act so aloof and distant (physically and mentally), but we never know what and why. Sad for Maggie who is a bit neurotic and lonely but means well with all her heart. Sad for the kids and how the “divorce” affected them. But it was also refreshing because it shows the complex emotions and issues that make up a family: the relationship between the sisters, loneliness of the husband living separately but the kids also never being home, coming to terms about past mistakes and the growth, the bickering that stems from misunderstandings, the burnout, the drinking, the “am I really doing this for Ginny’s health or my own selfishness?”, the “When is it Maggie’s turn to be taken cared of?” Emotions are very strong here and I know I’ve cried a few times.

The characters here are wonderful, so well-developed, and again, as real as it gets. Bets is far away and acts like she doesn’t care that Ginny is no longer able to care for herself or the fact that she nearly died. She acts aloof, but from the beginning you know, through her brief encounters and calls, that something’s wrong on her end and nobody knows what until the end. Just as much as it affects Maggie, it too lingered in my mind from the very beginning, “What’s wrong with Bets? It’s bad, but we don’t know what and she won’t say anything.” Maggie always means the best, but at times she can be controlling and even intimidating in her “never wrong” attitude. She means well, but her work goes unappreciated on all ends. She knows that she can be controlling, but she also knows that the alternative is that the world falls apart: Bets will grow farther and farther away, Ginny could die, her sons could leave her for good.

Ginny struggles with her many losses too, from nearly dying to being torn from her own home, in Maryland, to first being put in a nursing home and then, against her will, put in a house that Maggie helped her find only to have a home-aide follow her everywhere and not let her do the things she enjoys (such as cutting back on a lot of sweets). She can’t even hold her own dog anymore and she loves Rascal!

Still, it’s not all sad and there are sprinkles here and there. I wouldn’t call it a depressing read nor would I call it a comedic one either. The best description may be, bittersweet with a hint of warm cinnamon. Life is hard with a rare treat in the middle. It’s a dark chocolate cupcake kind of bittersweet humor. Every character has their ups and good sides and their downs and flaws. As hard as things are, and as distant as the three sisters have become, the ending was relieving and as everyone comes back to some form of connection and a mutual understanding is made, you could almost feel the weights lifted from everyone’s shoulders, main and side characters alike. Bets tells Maggie of her own struggles, in both past and her current life, and Maggie sees Bets off on a warmer ground. Ginny begins to love New York and Maggie has something great to look forward to again.

It’s a hard read for sure, the tone, even with all the bits of humor thrown in, is still serious. Oftentimes, my heart clenches after an argument because I understand how hard the situation can be. It was a wonderful read and I enjoyed it enough to add it to my very small pile of books I would reread when I get a chance to.

Heart touching, heartwarming, heartbreaking. Special and loving.

Book Review: Winter Prey by John Sandford

Last week, I shared my review for Silent Prey, the sequel to Eyes of Prey. That was the first time I’d seen a repeating villain in any of Sandford’s books, but in this fifth book of the series, Davenport has moved on. This time, we’re going to experience the bitter cold of rural Wisconsin and this time, his foes may endanger his life in ways even the bloody Bekker didn’t…

For this week’s review, we’re featuring Winter Prey by John Sandford! Stay tuned!

Book Title: Winter Prey
SeriesPrey/Lucas Davenport Series Book No. 5
Author: John Sandford
Length: 336 Pages (Paperback)
Published: 1 March 1994
Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons
Genres: Fiction, Mystery, Mystery > Crime, Thriller, Thriller > Mystery Thriller, Suspense, Police Procedural, Action

Goodreads: >LINK<
Amazon: >LINK<

CW/TW: Blood, death, murder, arson & fire, mentions of torture, graphic violence, sexual abuse of minors, pedophilia, death of a child, alcohol abuse, attempted murder, hostage situation

The Iceman is Lucas Davenport’s most determined foe – a serial killer driven to cover his brutal tracks with blood.  Sandford again creates almost unbearable suspense as we wait for the Iceman’s razor-sharp corn knife to strike again.

“Winter Prey” unfolds in the cold and driving snow of the north country. The wilds of rural Wisconsin are the perfect setting for the chilling terror caused by the Iceman, a killer who knows Lucas’ every move – a coldly brilliant madman who can’t be stopped.  Turn up the heat and listen as Lucas Davenport faces his most dangerous challenge.

The fifth book in the Prey/Lucas Davenport series by John Sandford, this time, Lucas Davenport is taking a break from the Minneapolis police department, something he’d already done in the previous book, though he had been called over to New York as a consultant on a case instead. Here, we begin the book with a blistering and brutal winter, the coldest of blizzards, whipping through the pages, and you can almost feel the winter come alive, even as I sit here reading in the sweltering heat of August. This time, there’s no case to help in. This time, Davenport is just relaxing in his Wisconsin cabin and…he’s pretty bored. That is, until the local law enforcement hears about him staying up here and asks for his help on a homicide and arson case. Davenport is almost gleeful. Almost. Because this case gets disgusting pretty quick at the discovery of a photo of a man and an underage kid.

“‘Yeah. And now I’ve started writing simulation software for police crisis management, for training dispatch people. Most of that’s computers, dispatch is. And you get in a crisis situation, the dispatchers are virtually running things for a while. This software lets them simulate it, and scores them. It’s kind of taking off.’

‘If you’re not careful, you could get rich,’ Weather said.

‘I kind of am,’ Lucas said gloomily. ‘But goddamn, I’m bored. I don’t miss the bullshit part of PD, but I miss the movement.’

Like all of Sandford’s books, I adore his writing, especially the ease with which he could portray a scene with just a few simple, but nicely picked sentences. The scenes are crisp in my mind and the action is never ending. The thrill and fears are always jolting, and some (deserving deaths) make the endings just so darn satisfying. I love the way Sandford writes, scenes and dialogue, but I love his characters more. In fact, I think I live for his characters more than the plot, even if there’s equal attention to both.

In Winter Prey, we are introduced to a new recurrent character, Weather Karkinnen, someone who became and remains a very important person in Davenport’s life as she shows up again and again, and even cross series. My first introduction to her was in the spin-off/parallel series, Virgil Flowers, and there, I don’t know much about Weather other than her relationship with Davenport. It’s so fleeting and impersonal, small mentions here and there, a drop in on their home now and again, and so on. Getting to know Weather more (and yes, that’s her actual name), was just as fun as getting to know younger Davenport. Both are so much more wild in their earlier days, and that, of course, makes sense since this is the main series and Weather is more involved with Davenport here rather than just giving off the “a friend of a friend” vibes like in Virgil’s story. I rather enjoyed her character and interaction with Davenport.

As we often see in the other Virgil Flowers and Prey books, we get to see the story from the perspective of the villains in the book, and they are absolutely awful people; rotten to the core. This was a hard book to read because of the disturbing series of events, though it’s not the first time I’ve read a Sandford book with criminals involved in sexual abuse against minors. That would be Bad Blood over in the Virgil Flowers series as he investigates a sex cult (and it was just as bad…). Just as the antagonists in that book were dirtbag levels of vile, so are the group in this book, particularly the main antagonist, who seemed to be the leader of the sex ring, the “Iceman.” They lack all signs of empathy and humanity. There are plenty of sad folks between both series, some bad guys I even feel kind of sorry for, but here, I felt none of that. I hated them from the moment I got to know them, and cheered at every success that Davenport came across.

The book begins with the Iceman and though, through his perspective, we know who the other people in the ring are, we don’t ever know who the Iceman is and what his true identity is until nearly the end when things take off with insane speed and this time, Lucas may end up in more danger than he’s ever been so far, and that’s including his two encounters with a serial killer that has a thing for poking out eyes as his signature.

I thought this was a pretty good read. It started somewhere medium paced with Davenport and his team just finding clues only to meet with wall after walls as their leads either turn up empty or evidence and clues unusable due to damage. Things eventually work out and I kind of liked how it ended (minus the several terrible deaths). Another wonderful and gripping thriller. I can’t wait for the next Davenport adventure.

Book Review: Silent Prey by John Sandford

Hello, my lovely peeps🐥!

It’s been a long week, especially Tuesday!
But, we’re nearing the weekend and that’s always a cause for celebration.
For this week’s review, I’ll be talking about Silent Prey by John Sandford!

Book Title: Silent Prey
Series: Prey/Lucas Davenport Series Book # 4
Author: John Sandford
Length: 338 Pages (Paperback)
Published: 1 March 1993
Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons
Genres: Fiction, Mystery, Mystery > Crime, Thriller, Thriller > Mystery Thriller, Suspense, Police Procedural, Action

Goodreads: >LINK<
Amazon: >LINK<

Dr. Mike Bekker, a psychotic pathologist, is back on the streets, doing what he does best-murdering one helpless victim after another. Lucas Davenport knows he should have killed Bekker when he had the chance. Now he has a second opportunity and the time to hesitate is through. 

***Spoilers for the previous book: Eyes of Prey
Usually each Prey or Virgil Flowers book can be read as a standalone (for certain with Virgil’s stories, now that I’m through with all current publications on that end, but I’m not sure with the further Davenport ones) with the only thing you miss being maybe references and character development through the series, but Silent Prey is different. There are things here that are major spoilers for the previous book, Eyes of Prey, especially the ending of that last book.

After about 16 Sandford books, split between the Virgil Flowers and the Lucas Davenport/Prey series, I think I’ve finally come across one that was lukewarm for me. It’s not quite as interesting as the first few in the Prey series and I think part of that comes down to how there’s a repeating antagonist, Bekker. Yep. Nuttier than a squirrel’s pre-hiberation meal, after his capture in Eyes of Prey, Bekker manages to escape and hides away in NYC where he continues to kill for his sick and twisted “research.” Serial killers will be serial killers and with his obsession with eyes being a signature of his, it’s not hard to track him down. Except, he’s a little different here. A genius will remain a genius, but while Silent Prey Bekker is just as smart, frustratingly elusive, and dangerous as Eyes of Prey Bekker, this Bekker continues the inevitable downward spiral that the previous Bekker started. Drugs. Don’t do them, kids.

He missed it. He didn’t miss the police department, with its meetings and its brutal politics. Just the hunt. And the pressure.

In this fourth installation of the series, Davenport is back at it again, but he’s no longer a cop. Instead, he’s loaning his skills and talents over in New York and helping the NYPD with tracking down Bekker, the serial killer having taken refuge in NYC, and people are getting pretty desperate with bringing him in, or down. The body count is starting to ramp up, the media chewing people up, and they need to put a stop to this ASAP! As if Davenport needs to be told twice. His vengeance against Bekker is personal. Somewhere in between this whole interstate insanity with the “Damn, should’ve killed him back when you got the chance, and now he’s here causing this mess” NYPD has a problem of their own with a vigilante taking people down; professional hits too clean for just a normal crime. They dub him, “Robin Hood” with just about as little detail as you can spare for leads. Something is fishy, and too many people seem to be hiding things to trust the police to handle this case.

Bekker is the most interesting person here. His gruesome crimes have moved states, but he’s still him and his obsession (and profound fear) of eyes remains the same. The only difference is, he’s so far gone with drugs that it’s like two different people. I thought he was downright nuts in Eyes of Prey already, but you haven’t seen him here. Completely desperate for escape and staying out of prison (where he would have no access to drugs) and still obsessively researching eyes and death, he’s nothing but a lunatic here. In Eyes of Prey he was the head of operations on a two-man team, the brains and the beauty to the “beast” (his acquaintance). Now, he’s flying solo, not trusting even his own shadow and unable to survive seconds without his drugs, and he’s got quite the rainbow running through his veins. At this point, even if he’s taken in, alive, he wouldn’t be going back to prison.

Bekker could count the drops, each and every one, as the shower played off his body. The ecstasy did that: two tiny pills. Gave him the power to imagine and count, to multiply outrageous feelings by ineffable emotions and come up with numbers . . .

The writing is something I’ve always loved in Sandford’s books. It’s wonderfully thrilling, but kept simple and to the point. You can occasionally find the most beautiful sentences with his prose. There’s no need for strings of text to describe the emotions just one of his sentences can provide. Here, though, the writing felt a little different from the previous book and I just can’t seem to place a finger on it. Now that Davenport’s no longer a cop, his old buddies and even street connections are gone. There are a few mentions here and there, not to mention him being in a different state, but the difference in writing and tone could be just the overhaul of characters and background support. It could also be character growth (Poor Davenport’s gone through the wringer in the last four books!) and development, or even just the new setting (NYC vs Minnesota).

Silent Prey is also quite dialogue heavy. However, I have no complaints on this end. Sandford’s characters, dialogues, and character interactions are my favorite and, for me, there’s no such thing as “too much dialogue” if it comes from him. Still, there’s way more of back and forth dialogue in this one book than I’ve ever seen before…in the 16 Sandford books I’ve read so far!

I really enjoyed the change of scenery, but I could be biased here because it takes place in a city I’m very familiar with. It’s fun to be able to recognize streets and neighborhoods as you come across them in the book, especially if it comes from the eyes of someone not from NYC. Davenport did originally feel like a bit of a misfit, a square squeezing through a round hole, this middle-of-nowhere hick from Minnesota lost in the big cities. People underestimated him until they realize he’s got the skills to back up all the stories. As much as I really missed Sloan and Del, it was fun to see him with this new band of characters, even if it’s temporary. The way the cops do things in NYC and even their criminals, compared to those in Minnesota, are so different, and I think even Davenport was overwhelmed at this change.

“The main thing is, there’s an infinite number of assholes. You never know where the shit is coming from. You can’t get an edge on anything. You can’t know about the place. Here, if somebody hijacks a goddamn Best Buy truck and takes off fifty Sonys, we got an idea where they’re going. Out there . . . Shit, you could make a list of suspects longer than your dick, and that’d only be the guys that you personally know might handle it. And then there are probably a hundred times that many guys that you don’t know. I mean, a list longer than my dick.”

Overall, this was a good book. I didn’t like (but didn’t dislike) that there was a repeating antagonist, but Bekker has spiraled so far into the depths of hell that he’s practically a different person and this did help slightly. His signatures have changed (just a bit), but he’s mad and nuttier than ever now. The side plot, of the Robin Hood case, felt like it was just there as a background thing to keep the story fresh. I did not care for it in the slightest, though the ending and how things connected and linked up did give me a jolt of joy. I do looove my twists and turns!

Book Review: The 6:20 Man by David Baldacci

Hello, my lovely peeps🐥! Allergies are getting the better of me this morning, but I’m hyped because there’s going to be a Nintendo Treehouse Live Presentation in a few hours! I’ve never played Splatoon, but I am very excited for Harvestella (though I’m a little surprised at this random appearance in the direct). Only 67 more days until November! My wallet is ready!!

(No, not really)💸

This week’s review is for The 6:20 Man by David Baldacci! Exciting, riveting and gripping. An unputdownable book!

Book Title: The 6:20 Man
Author: David Baldacci
Length: 417 Pages
Published: 12 July 2022
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Genres: Fiction, Mystery, Thriller > Mystery Thriller, Mystery > Crime, Contemporary, Action

Disclaimer: Thank you to Grand Central Publishing for this gifted copy! All opinions are of my own.

Goodreads: >LINK<
Grand Central Publishing: >LINK<
Amazon: >LINK<

Every day without fail, Travis Devine puts on a cheap suit, grabs his faux-leather briefcase, and boards the 6:20 commuter train to Manhattan, where he works as an entry-level analyst at the city’s most prestigious investment firm. In the mornings, he gazes out the train window at the lavish homes of the uberwealthy, dreaming about joining their ranks. In the evenings, he listens to the fiscal news on his phone, already preparing for the next grueling day in the cutthroat realm of finance.

Then one morning Devine’s tedious routine is shattered by an anonymous email: She is dead.

Sara Ewes, Devine’s coworker and former girlfriend, has been found hanging in a storage room of his office building—presumably a suicide, prompting the NYPD to come calling on him. If that wasn’t enough, Devine receives another ominous visit, a confrontation that threatens to dredge up grim secrets from his past in the Army unless he participates in a clandestine investigation into his firm.

This treacherous role will take Travis from the impossibly glittering lives he once saw only through a train window, to the darkest corners of the country’s economic halls of power…where something rotten lurks. And apart from this high-stakes conspiracy, there’s a killer out there with their own agenda, and Devine is the bullseye.

I’ve never read a David Baldacci book before, despite seeming them everywhere, and I can see why he’s so popular! Right off the bat, his writing has me amazed, the characters intriguing, and the first chapter had me already hooked! The mystery behind the guilt the fuels our protagonist’s every day struggle to work in a place that makes him loath his life had me fully invested in his life in just the first 5 pages.

The book is 84 chapters long, but at only 417 pages long, this means that each chapter is relatively short. Most are less than 10 pages, and some are less than 5. I love books that break things into tiny little chapters because I feel like I’m flying through the book, especially whenever chapters end on a cliffhanger. Besides the formatting, the pacing and the prose itself was wonderfully done. It’s fast and every time I open the book, I find myself lost in the story; there’s never a not exciting moment.

Our protagonist here is Travis Devine. From the very start of the book, we know that Devine had been a ranger before he randomly just left the services. But “leave and never look back” was not something he did. Devine left due to the guilt of having gotten away with a crime that he has not ever forgiven himself for and so, he punishes himself by getting up at 4 in the morning to work out before begrudgingly heading off on the 6:20 train to work in a place that he hates with a passion, grinding away with all of the other “burners” making money for people who don’t need more money. If he hates his life, good. It’s working.

The train started to fill, station after station, with the young gladiators in their suits and skirts, their laptops and clouds fired up and gestating future wealth for those with already too much of it. Later, the train climbed the little knoll, slowed, and then stopped, like a thirsty animal does at creekside for a drink.

I liked Devine. He’s smart, careful, stoic, analytical and observant. The first few chapters, I had thought he was going to be some one-worded or short sentenced, near silent protagonist, kind of character. He kind of does. He speaks in ways that feel like an interrogation and when he’s done with you, he leaves. There’s no need to rile people up more than needed and generally gives people more chances than they deserve (such as the time he beat up a few dudes, who followed him, after giving them MULTIPLE warnings, before asking a woman to call the ambulance rather than leave them in the alley). He’s intimidating and looking to punish himself for his past crimes, but, as another character points out, he’s kinder than he lets on and deeply cares about those close to him.

Devine thinks things through and often has some plan to get out of trouble, but if he didn’t have one, he’d be quick on his feet to think one up just as well. If that didn’t work, his ranger training never left him, and he’s able to get himself out of a tough situation, though he’s no invincible man and doesn’t always walk out without some injury.

When he does find himself cornered with no way out, he has people looking out for him, including some badass female characters. Devine lives with three other roommates, a woman who is studying to be a lawyer, Helen Speers, another the CEO of her own online dating company named Hummingbird, Jill Tapshaw, and then there’s Will Valentine, the hacker from Russia. All brilliant people with their own important roles in this book. They all assist him in some way, or another, as Devine investigates the murder of a woman he’s once dated, Sara Ewes. Then, there’s Montgomery, a very important character who sells herself short in being just a trophy girlfriend when she’s anything but; accompanying Devine even when she’s probably terrified for her life. She strikes me the most and is probably my favorite character, having helped Devine on so many levels.

The plot was fantastic; I could barely put the book down. When I was reading, I found myself flying through the book, and the short chapters aren’t the only reasons why, either. The plot and story, the interesting characters and dialogue, the mystery and suspense behind all of the crimes, the need to find out how things all tie up in the end, the adrenaline rushes, the plot twists, the writing in general, all of it made for a wonderful and explosive read.

Devine starts off trying to get to the bottom of a single “suicide” only for it to turn all the weird corners and suddenly, he finds himself in deep muck. A deal is proposed in which choice is just an illusion. Declining the deal means his past can get him in a great load of trouble so the only thing left is to agree, accept, and move forward. The more he uncovers things about Sara, the more things begin to surface, and they’re not good things either. Some things, even when discovered, are far too great for a single individual, or even a whole organization, to handle. Because money means power, and power can get you just about anywhere, so long as you don’t step in one of the dozens of minefields.

“But if you have enough money, the laws don’t apply to you.”

The ending was great as well, just short of mind-blowing. I was wrong in so many different ways, and Devine was actually not far off from me either. There’s a whole reveal chapter that ties all of the events together, from the first death to the last. That was the only slightly jarring chapter (I can’t say it was a bad chapter either, especially as my eyes widened, and my jaws dropped at every consecutive sentence that came out of the antagonist’s mouth) as it was essentially a whole confession chapter, on a nearly info dumping level and mostly dialogue. Devine was always so close to the truth, but was never able to finish the puzzle; having laid the connected clues in chunks to the side. The antagonist gave us (and Devine) that connection and closure that ended things neatly, with no pieces left over for us to question and guess on about. The last chapter was bittersweet, but I liked it. I think even Devine felt just a bit lighter as he, once more, rides the 6:20 train.

Book Review: Song of Kitaba by Mark Everglade

Book Title: Song of Kitaba
Author: Mark Everglade
Length: 252 Pages
Published: June 13th, 2022
Publisher: All Things That Matter Press
Genres: Fiction, Science Fiction > Dystopia, Science Fiction > Cyberpunk

Disclaimer: A huge thank you to the author, Mark Everglade, for providing me with a physical copy for review! All opinions are of my own.

Goodreads: >LINK<
Author’s Page: >LINK<
Amazon: >LINK<

What if the world knew your deepest secrets? What if the government had a monopoly on your thoughts?

In the City of Catonis, everything you think is written across giant screens for public scrutiny, and revolution can only be cloaked with meditation.

Things are the opposite in the Hollow Forest, where people are executed for writing, and ink is rationed for only the tribal council’s use. When the love of her life is killed, Kitaba Mahahara must leave her village and launch a cultural war for human freedom, but she’ll need help. Cybermonks, hactivists, and tech gurus will unite as tradition runs face to face with the oppression that passes for progress.

Two civilizations, one without self-expression, and one forced to reveal everything, will pave a new way for humanity, if they don’t destroy it first.

The book starts off with Kitara making her escape from the Hollow Forest, the only place she’s ever called home. Whereas in the City of Catonis, where your every thought is displayed for the public to see, your life and privacy hold no rights here, with the only escape being meditation to learn and shut your brain off from the constant and unconscious streams of information and words it generates, things are very different in the outer villages.

Life is the complete in the villages; opposite to the big cities. Electricity exists as a basic aid, but otherwise, there’s nothing else: no computers, no drones, and certainly no implants in your brain and sentiscreens displaying your every thought to the world. But, what there IS is the (near) complete silencing of their citizens. Unless you were of upper class, everything from ink and crayons, to even carving messages into rocks, is forbidden. One is of a city that oppresses its people by displaying it all to the world, and the other is one that prevents such expressions. In both, the reasons are the same. If you monitory your people, with or without words, there will be no wars, revolutions, and rebellions. Two extremes and people seem to just…live with it. Some are even happy, because control means safety.

But for Kitaba, things are about to change and she will be the change. She will expose anbd show the world the oppression that hides behind the trees of her home. The only thing is, she’s not the only one with a goal.

This was a pretty enjoyable read. Right from the start, we have an adrenaline pumping scene as Kitaba escapes her village, and it’s not without obstacles. She’s left the village after having stolen illegal goods, not meant for the common folk and poor of Hollow Forest, and the guards after her. Dead or alive, it doesn’t matter, and there are a handful of times they’re so close that she can feel their breath. If you think this kind of action diminishes as she’s safely in Catonis, think again. Regardless of where she goes, Kit manages to attract trouble in every nook, cranny, and corner. Throughout the book, she’s always on the run from something or someone, and the only constant in her life is that she now has allies by her side.

The characters are fun to read, and the world building is fantastic, fascinating, and neither worlds that Kit experiences sounds like a fun place to live. The contrast between the different characters, particularly any tech-saavy individuals placed next to the “girl from the outer villages” was definitely interesting to read especially when she uses her own terms for things (like “complanter”). I really enjoyed reading Kitaba and some other characters like Gaines, the hacker, and his girlfriend Nova, as well as Ciro who is fiercely protective of Kitaba. The characters all have their own set of flaws and some of them are addressed by the end of the book.

Description and world wise, it was pretty neat to read both the technologically advanced Catonis and Hollow Forest. Each has their own distinct government, laws, and both are oppressed in their own extreme ways (show all words or none at all!). I love the description of Catonis, the different technology and lifestyles already dependent on such equipment and implants, though the culture of songs and sea-shell homes of Hollow Forest is nothing short of impressive on their own.

I also really liked the writing and the prose was one of the first things I noted down as soon as I began to read. Descriptions are not over the top, though some occasional world building scenes, whether it was dialogue or descriptive text, felt a little like reading a textbook. There are also some scenes that are dialogue heavy, but the whole thing reads like an impressive movie and I find myself lost in the banters and arguments as well as the philosophy that comes out of Ciro or Kitaba.

Overall: The characters are fleshed out with some fine set of traits, personalities, and (as expected) we get pretty deep with Kitaba’s personal history, but we also get some nice background wit Ciro and even the two supporting characters, Gaine and Nova get their own little chapter, an entire POV from each of them, dedicated to tell their stories to Kit (and thus the audience). The world building is neat, the concept that ink is illegal is pretty interesting, but the most fascinating thing were the cog implants, sentiscreens, and their ability to project your inner and most private thoughts to the world. Social media (essentially the volunterry versions of the involuntarily display of private information to the world) is mentioned in here as well and that was one interesting point of this book. Song of Kitaba really does make you sit down and think about inner thoughts, monitoring, secrecy, and privacy.

A great read of a scary world.