Saturday, April 22, 2017

Eleanor





1985. The death of Eleanor's twin sister tears her family apart. Her father blames her mother for the accident. When Eleanor's mother looks at her, she sees only the daughter she lost. Their wounded family crumbles under the weight of their shared grief. 

1993. Eleanor is fourteen years old when it happens for the first time... when she walks through an ordinary door at school and finds herself in another world. It happens again and again, but it's only a curiosity until that day at the cliffs. The day when Eleanor dives... and something rips her out of time itself. 

And on the other side, someone is waiting for her.




When I first saw Eleanor on Blogging for Books over a year ago, I was dying to read it. As you can guess with this late review, Eleanor ended up on my extended TBR list while the first copy I requested to review was cancelled (Blogging for Books offered the book months in advance before they received copies to disburse, so in order to review other books in that time, they had to cancel my order), so they cancelled my request, put me on a waiting list, then subsequently forgot to send a copy when they finally arrived. Several emails, many months, and quite a few book requests later, my copy was on its way. 

And it got lost in the mail. 

Basically, it took an entire year to get my hands on this book and this is my excuse for just now reading and reviewing Jason Gurley's not-so-new-release, Eleanor.

*As a side note, the cover photo I chose to use in this post is the UK cover version and is not the cover I have on my copy. It's just too gorgeous a cover not to use.*

There are so few fictional characters I truly connect with, only a small handful have arrived just when I needed them and stuck with me through the years, growing and learning together as we pass through similar phases and face what our lives have become. Marie Brennan's Isabella Camherst in her Lady Trent series is one of the few. Her sudden loss of the husband she depended on, her isolation from society for her ideals and ambition, and then suddenly discovering she would be facing motherhood alone-it was exactly the place I was in my life, and her thoughts and struggles to connect with her son and hope she wasn't a complete failure at being a mother reflected my own troubles and worries so perfectly.

I have a deep appreciation for Marie Brennan and her honesty with discussing her characters lack of connection and bluntness toward motherhood.  (The final book of this series, Within the Sanctuary of Wings releases this month btw)

I've spent years reading and reviewing books and hadn't found anything close to the closeness I've felt with Isabella, until I read Eleanor.

Eleanor, our main character, shares her name with her grandmother on her mother's side. It was her grandmother who first touched me in this book. Her grandmother could have been a champion. She could have followed her dreams all the way to the top and had everything she ever wanted. But she fell in love. And then came Agnes.

Her story is heartbreaking and all too familiar to me and I couldn't have understood better what she was feeling. You love your little one, but that dream of the life you could have had if they hadn't come so soon never fades, it never stops haunting you, and when you think you finally have this motherhood thing under control, you start to think you can have both. That you can go back and reach those goals you spent your life trying to achieve.

The emotional struggles of Eleanor are so real, so true to the struggles I've faced. Jason did an absolutely outstanding job at revealing the depth of depression and hopelessness someone with a mental illness faces every day and what can happen when life throws a curveball into the false contentment you'd settled into. Emotions amplify, hopelessness overtakes you, you need to find the quickest way out.

Then there's Agnes. Struggling with the loss of her mother and being raised by a father who's entire life remained about Eleanor. Agnes's childhood was ruined by the memory of her absent mother, and has made her own attempt at motherhood impossible. She struggles with the idea that she can never be good enough to raise young girls. She never had a mother, how could she ever be one to them? She resents them for having a mother when she didn't, even though she herself believes she's a terrible mother figure, and then the loss of one of her girls sends her to that place we all fear to go. The pain and the anger and the complete loss of self because a piece of you will never return. Every parent fears losing a child and this is a very terrifying look into what awaits those who can't overcome the pain.

I know half this review doesn't even include our main character, but this is important.

Eleanor is a great piece to understanding loss and mental illness. Seeing my own struggles and fears unfold before me, watching Agnes sink into the darkness and lose her life to pain and anguish, it's what all of us struggle with depression and anxiety and any mental illness fight against every day. It's what we all fear, it's what we all run from.

The inner worlds Jason has created, and when you read the book you'll understand what I'm talking about, are so perfectly imagined. The inner workings of this book unfold into something beautiful and inspiring and though we can't go back and change our pasts, we can still look to the future.

Eleanor is so well done and so well laid out. It's a beautifully heartbreaking read. I am so thankful to authors like Jason that don't hold back and show the real struggles of mental illness.

Monday, April 3, 2017

Red Sister

I was born for killing – the gods made me to ruin.

At the Convent of Sweet Mercy young girls are raised to be killers. In a few the old bloods show, gifting talents rarely seen since the tribes beached their ships on Abeth. Sweet Mercy hones its novices’ skills to deadly effect: it takes ten years to educate a Red Sister in the ways of blade and fist.

But even the mistresses of sword and shadow don’t truly understand what they have purchased when Nona Grey is brought to their halls as a bloodstained child of eight, falsely accused of murder: guilty of worse.

Stolen from the shadow of the noose, Nona is sought by powerful enemies, and for good reason. Despite the security and isolation of the convent her secret and violent past will find her out. Beneath a dying sun that shines upon a crumbling empire, Nona Grey must come to terms with her demons and learn to become a deadly assassin if she is to survive…
 





Alright. So I've been gone for awhile.

I said I was taking the month of December off... and just kind of extended it through March. Nice, quiet little vaca from blogging, right?...

Right, anyway, I read Red Sister months ago, in February of this year to be precise, as soon as Netgalley finally allowed me to download a copy after the 5000th time trying to send it to my kindle. 

I don't blame them, but I will hold a grudge against their sharing system for the rest of my life.

While I was reading Mark Lawrence's newest work, I'll admit I was tired. I was in a slump (that's what we'll call it) and I hadn't picked up a book since this one until a couple days ago. So I haven't been secretly reading soon to be released, popular novels and stowing away my opinion just to spite all the readers anxiously awaiting release day (which is tomorrow btw), I simply haven't had any opinions to share. My brain quit working, I'm still not quite back yet, and that has made writing this review incredibly difficult.

I was actually, really, really excited to read Red Sister. I love Mark Lawrence's other works and I was really hoping to be a great reader and spread the word on his soon to be released novel Red Sister (again, releasing tomorrow), but I've failed miserably and I didn't even take all these months gloat about my ARC like my usual selfish self.

Let me say, first and foremost, this is a really good book. Mark has created a solid concept with a new, refreshing take on fantasy, and it's a strong piece of feminine heroism. And what more could this Trump ruled world need than a good old ass kicking heroin to look up to? These girls work their asses off, and then they fight their asses off and it is epic.

I enjoyed seeing the world through a non-chosen-one perspective. Nona isn't anyone special, she's a normal girl with a terrible past and a hard life to look forward to, but she takes the opportunity she's given to learn and to grow and to become something more than the simple farm girl she would have been had she not been thrown into the convent with the other sisters. This book isn't about being special, it's about becoming special, about becoming empowered and confident in your abilities and it's really a fantastic look at the world.

Everyone who has been fretting, waiting, biding their time, kicking themselves for not being a blogger to get their hands on an advanced copy and cheating the system... Trust me, it is worth the wait. It may start off a bit slow, but I know Mark will grow this world into the epic tale he intends it to be.



About the Author

Mark Lawrence was born in Champagne-Urbanan, Illinois, to British parents but moved to the UK at the age of one. He went back to the US after taking a PhD in mathematics at Imperial College to work on a variety of research projects including the ‘Star Wars’ missile defence programme. Returning to the UK, he has worked mainly on image processing and decision/reasoning theory. He says he never had any ambition to be a writer so was very surprised when a half-hearted attempt to find an agent turned into a global publishing deal overnight. His first trilogy, THE BROKEN EMPIRE, has been universally acclaimed as a ground-breaking work of fantasy. Following The Broken Empire comes the bestselling RED QUEEN’S WAR trilogy. The BOOK OF THE ANCESTOR trilogy, in an entirely new setting, commences with RED SISTER in 2017. Mark is married, with four children, and lives in Bristol.

Buy the Book



Friday, January 20, 2017

Not Your Typical Dragon

This is not your typical review you'd find on my blog ( <--- See what I did there), I don't typically review young children's books, but this one deserves a bit of attention.

My son receives books from the Dolly Parton Imagination Library and this month's book was Not Your Typical Dragon by Dan Bar-el.

I've not had great luck with the Imagination Library, they're book choices are... odd... usually overly wordy and lacking in, dare I say it, imagination. They're not the greatest books. But, they're free entertainment, plus they come in braille for my son who will always need large print if they decide not to teach him braille skills.

We both took one look at the cover and decided we loved this book, we read it right away, and what's more exciting is after reading it we love it even more!

There's such a powerful underlying message to this story. My son sees a dragon breathing out funny things and giggles wildly at his misfortune and I have to admit it's incredibly adorable, but beneath the sillyness is a message of acceptance and love that's just so beautiful.

Yes, Crispin is different, and maybe his family was disappointed at first with having an abnormal family member, but all that dragon-societal pressure to conform to match the perfect, fire breathing dragon code of normality means nothing in the end because Crispin's family loves him just the same.

There are thought provoking questions for kids at the end, which my son is too young for, but this is a fantastic book to share with your kids. It may not be the best writing I've seen, but definitely a 5 star read for kids.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Cooking for Picasso

Look at me! I'm back!

I took a nice winter break and now I'm here for a (very) short review before diving back into Red Sister.

And I know, there's no photo this time, but I'll explain why... I'm using my phone and can't get to a computer at the moment. Why wait for the convenience of internet when I've got words to say!

Anyway, Cooking for Picasso isn't my typical read, but it sounded promising. Girl With the Pearl Earring is in my top favorite books. I love art, I love romanticizing artists, so I figured I'd give this one a try. There's no harm in hoping...

It didn't quite hit the spot, but it's a great book (4 stars) I'm racking up my audiobook count and I'm glad I gave this one a go.

See? Short and sweet. Blogging for Books gave me this copy, but I have Red Sister waiting on me from netgalley so I will be reviewing that one next. And I promise that review will be much longer 😉

Saturday, December 17, 2016

A New Classic Christmas Tale

Before there was Santa Claus, there was a young boy who believed in the impossible. . . . Lemony Snicket meets Elf in this warmhearted Christmas caper.
 
Eleven-year-old Nikolas—nicknamed “Christmas”—has received only one toy in his life: a doll carved out of a turnip. But he’s happy with his turnip doll, because it came from his parents, who love him. Then one day his father goes missing, and Nikolas must travel to the North Pole to save him. 
 
Along the way, Nikolas befriends a surly reindeer, bests a troublesome troll, and discovers a hidden world of enchantment in the frozen village of Elfhelm. But the elves of Elfhelm have troubles of their own: Christmas spirit and goodwill are at an all-time low, and Nikolas may be the only person who can fix things—if only he can reach his father before it’s too late. . . .
 
Sparkling with wit and warmth, A Boy Called Christmas is a cheeky new Christmas classic-in-the-making from acclaimed author Matt Haig and illustrator Chris Mould.

I promised to do two things before the end of the year; I said I would post the list of top 2016 reads (which I have yet to do) and I said if A Boy Called Christmas arrived in time to review before Christmas Day, I would review it.

Well I'll be damned if RandomHouse didn't expedite shipping and get me the audiobook in record time. It arrived late last night and for the first time since I was a child, I have an audio Christmas story to listen to just before Christmas.

My first thought upon popping in disc one was-My god, I never knew I needed Stephen Fry to read me a Christmas tale. I absolutely love his story telling abilities and he has done a marvelous job with A Boy Called Christmas. I'm practically swooning over here.

Matt Haig's Christmas tale is simply wonderful. It's heart-wrenchingly sweet and for the first time in years I find myself wishing I still believed. Christmas just loses its magic over the years and now that I have a child of my own I've done my best to bring some holiday cheer into our home while secretly wishing it would be over already. 

Matt Haig's story has truly put me in the mood for the holidays. It's a new twist on an old tale with unexpected characters and a story that will stay with you every Christmas season.

I'm slightly sad I don't have a printed version as well to see the artwork I've heard so much about. I may pick up a copy just to have a look and save it for when my son is older. 

We sat by our artificial fireplace all morning, eating Christmas cookies and listening to Nicholas's adventure and it was a fantastic way to spend the day. I believe we'll listen again the closer it gets to Christmas and I will definitely be sharing this audiobook with his grandparents.

A Boy Called Christmas is a must read/listen this Christmas season and it will certainly become a yearly tradition in our home.

Monday, December 12, 2016

The Year in Review-2016 Best of Macro


Happy Macro Monday!

I'm winding down for the year so this will be the last Macro Monday of 2016.
I will still be uploading photos to Instagram *ChasingtheWindPhoto
but my blog will be a bit bare for a few weeks.

To celebrate the upcoming year (hopefully a better year than this...) I've compiled the top picks from my Instagram page, the photos most liked and chosen by you!

Thank you so much for following and I'll see you next year.

Your #1 top pick of 2016!









Saturday, December 10, 2016

Arm of the Sphinx




Forced by necessity into a life of piracy, Senlin and his crew struggle to survive aboard their stolen airship. Senlin’s search for his lost wife continues, even as her ghost hounds his every step. But the Tower of Babel proves to be as difficult to reenter as it was to escape.

While searching for an unguarded port, Senlin encounters the camp of Luc Marat, who seems equal parts bandit and humanitarian. One thing is for certain: his asylum for the downtrodden hods is not as peaceful as it appears.


In desperation, Senlin turns to the mysterious and dangerous Sphinx, with whom Edith shares a terrible bond. They discover the Sphinx’s help does not come cheaply. Senlin must choose between his friends, his freedom, and his wife.





'A crew could never be sure what sort of welcome the tower would offer them.'

I have decided that I do not have the talent to give this book the review it deserves, so I'll give it the best I can. 

I had no idea what to expect from Arm of the Sphinx. Senlin Ascends was so fantastic and ended on such a cliffhanger that Book 2 could have gone in any direction and I couldn't even imagine what Josiah had in store for these characters.

If you've read Book 1 and have yet to dive into Book 2, I will do my absolute best not to spoil anything. If you haven't read either book, you're probably best checking out my review of Senlin Ascends and going from there because there are quite a few changes in Arm of the Sphinx and discussing them here could potentially spoil Book 1.

If you've read both books, I love you and move right along from here.

With that in mind, here we go.

Everything has changed. Nothing is as it was and things will never, ever be the same again. The Tower continues to take everything from its inhabitants that which it demands and Thomas Senlin finds he can either become the thieving pirate he needs to be, or face the ruin of his crew and the ultimate failure at recovering Marya.

I mentioned in my review of Senlin Ascends that Senlin changes throughout the book and as he changes so does the depth and complexity of the story. He transforms from cringe-worthy naivety to a more a conscientious, worldly man, shedding his shy, childlike views and growing to adapt to his situation. The same can be said of the story itself, evolving from simplicity to a wonderful complexity.

With Arm of the Sphinx, it's all brand new. My first impression was-I don't recognize these people! Not only has Senlin taken command of his ship, he's taken control of his destiny. He continues to evolve and adapt and it's absolutely fantastic to witness. 

Beneath that shy exterior he began with, Thomas Senlin is hilariously cunning. He is the ultimate pirate, an even better Jack Sparrow as he knows how to get exactly what he needs and what he wants while continuing to be grossly underestimated despite his growing reputation. He is an absolute joy to read about and he isn't the only one going through these fascinating changes. The entire crew has to face their new life and their new roles in the tower and what's more is they now have to learn to trust and rely on each other, something none of them had ever done before.

But how far will they trust their captain and his continuing need to find someone they all believe to be lost forever? His obsession may just lead to his ruin.

Marya takes a backstage in this book, at least the real Marya does, as for the other... You're in for a treat. She's deviously haunting Senlin and her presence is a bit more than he'll admit he can handle.

There are so may answers in Arm of the Sphinx and yet so many more questions arise. The Tower is not what it seems, it's definitely not what I had guessed, and I have no idea what will happen from here. 

Arm of the Sphinx definitely tops Senlin Ascends, it's a fantastic sequel and I'm wringing my hands trying to find some way to distract myself until The Hod King arrives sometime next year. We haven't even seen a fraction of what the Tower conceals within it's walls and I'm freaking dying with anticipation.

This series is an absolute must read, Bancroft has absolutely blown me away with his work and he's only just begun.


If you're interested in checking out my review of The Books of Babel book 1 - Senlin Ascends, you can read that Here

About the Author
Josiah is a freelance writer, poet, and musician. His work has appeared in dozens of journals and magazines, including Slice Magazine, BOMB Magazine’s: Word Choice, Rattle, the Cimarron Review, the Cincinnati Review, and Gulf Coast. In 2010, Josiah's book of poems was a finalist for AWP’s Donald Hall Prize in Poetry. The poet Alberto Rios had this to say about his collection of poems, The Death of Giants:
"These are poems of constantly surprising adventures for the reader. The title poem sets the tone, marvelous in its pragmatism and equanimity, and the poems benefit from this start. Things happen, and things get done because of that, but what is so easily said is the precise source of wonder in these pieces, in that even the most complex and strange occurrences are simply dealt with."
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