“Witch King” by Martha Wells | Book Review

“A demon is not afraid of a beast, no matter how big. What are you afraid of, Kai?”

Witch King by Martha Wells

Witch King by Martha Wells

LENGTH: 426 pages

GENRES: Fantasy, Fiction

PUBLISHER: Tordotcom

RELEASE DATE: 30 May 2023


From the breakout SFF superstar author of Murderbot comes a remarkable story of power and friendship, of trust and betrayal, and of the families we choose.

“I didn’t know you were a… demon.”
“You idiot. I’m the demon.”
Kai’s having a long day in Martha Wells’ WITCH KING….

After being murdered, his consciousness dormant and unaware of the passing of time while confined in an elaborate water trap, Kai wakes to find a lesser mage attempting to harness Kai’s magic to his own advantage. That was never going to go well.

But why was Kai imprisoned in the first place? What has changed in the world since his assassination? And why does the Rising World Coalition appear to be growing in influence?

Kai will need to pull his allies close and draw on all his pain magic if he is to answer even the least of these questions.

He’s not going to like the answers.

WITCH KING is Martha Wells’s first new fantasy in over a decade, drawing together her signature ability to create characters we adore and identify with, alongside breathtaking action and adventure, and the wit and charm we’ve come to expect from one of the leading writers of her generation.

My Review

When Kai returned, Sanja was explaining about Menlas and tell- ing Ziede what had happened in the tomb below. “He said he was going to enslave a great demon, make him a familiar.”

“Yes, that’s what all the idiots think,” Ziede told her.

So like, I was uber excited for this book. Like, when Witch King was announced last May, I was here for it. I absolutely couldn’t wait. I loved The Murderbot Diaries, and I really wanted to see what else Martha Wells was capable of with her writing.

And then I read The Cloud Roads. And I… didn’t like it all that much. But! I was still excited to read this book when it came out!

But I found that Witch King fell short of expectations as well. I dunno if I just don’t like the way Wells writes fantasy, or if it’s her style in third person, but I haven’t liked any of the fantasy books that I’ve read by her. Yet.

(And yes, this is why the Witch King by Martha Wells book review took so long.)

The Stuff I Liked

Ziede’s turned inward. “How did it come to this, Kai? I remember how we started. Now you’re all razor barbs and I’m an angry shrew.”

“No,” he said, stung by that description of herself. “You’re righteously furious. You’ve always had the high ground, Ziede. Don’t let them say you don’t.” She was still looking away into the dark. “You’re right about me and the razors, though.” Most of the time Kai felt like he was made of razors, bleeding from the inside.

She reached over and squeezed his hand. “I’ve always liked your razors, Kai. They’ve cut us out of a number of tangles. But it would be good if one day you could stop bleeding.”

I’ll definitely give her credit where credit is due though. Her characters are once again, fantastic. I love Kai, and I love his little team. They’ve all just got an instantly likeable dynamic, and you can just tell what kind of people everyone is in just a couple of sentences. Martha Wells writes characters extremely well. And the dialogue was once again *chef’s kiss.*

Also, I really liked the magic system in this book. Magic drawn through pain? So cool.

All the Stuff I Didn’t Like

Expositors didn’t draw power from pain in their own body, like Kai did, or by forming relationships with the spirits inherent in the different levels of the world, both living and otherwise, like Witches. Expositors drew their power from life: new life, stolen life, life on the point of death. It was why they were so dangerous, why greed was their driving force. It was why their power was so susceptible to a true demon’s ability to steal life from anything living or once living. But that was something the Saredi hadn’t realized until it was too late.

But other than that, I didn’t really care for pretty much everything else about the novel. Yes, it has a strong start; but I don’t feel that it kept up the momentum.

Part of this is because the book pretty much constantly switches back and forth between Then and Now type chapters. Yes people, this is one of those kinds of books. It’s a 2-in-1 story. And yeah, I sometimes like those, but that’s only when the past chapter ratio is very low compared to the rest of the story. I’m sure that this is a personal preference thing on my part, but I just couldn’t get past the storytelling here.

Another thing about this book was that I found it to be somehow boring. Like, stuff is constantly happening, there’s really never a dull moment. But at the same time, it’s boring?!? I don’t really know how to describe it, honestly.

I also normally would’ve DNF-ed a book like this, but since I was anticipating it for so long… I wanted to know how it ended.

Kai stepped close, circled to face his prey, and wrapped his hand around the ghoul’s throat. “Do mortals just walk into your charnel house all the time? Am I one? Am I stupid?”

The ghoul choked out. “I didn’t know you were a…”

“Say it,” Kai smiled.

“…a demon.”

“You idiot,” Kai leaned closer to whisper, “I’m the demon.”

And one last thing: I found the plot summary to be extremely misleading. And the quote from Witch King included with it is in the book a completely different way in which it’s presented there. It’s also, like, halfway through the novel, which is someplace that I didn’t expect it.

Final Thoughts

But yeah, that’s my book review for Witch King by Martha Wells. I really wanted to like it, but I just couldn’t. Heck, it only gets another half star than it otherwise would’ve gotten because Martha Wells wrote it. (Otherwise I would have rated it two and a half stars.) And yeah, I don’t really know if I can recommend it because of that.

Anyway, thank you so much for reading, and have an awesome day/night!

See ya ~Mar


The Murderbot Diaries Review

“The Stardust Thief” by Chelsea Abdullah | Book Review

“The stars, they burn the night

And guide the sheikh’s way…”

The Stardust Thief by Chelsea Abdullah

The Stardust Thief by Chelsea Abdullah

SERIES: The Sandsea Trilogy (Book #1)

LENGTH: 467 pages

GENRES: Fantasy, Fiction

PUBLISHER: Orbit Books

RELEASE DATE: 17 May 2022


Inspired by stories from One Thousand and One NightsThe Stardust Thief weaves the gripping tale of a legendary smuggler, a cowardly prince, and a dangerous quest across the desert to find a legendary, magical lamp.

Neither here nor there, but long ago…

Loulie al-Nazari is the Midnight Merchant: a criminal who, with the help of her jinn bodyguard, hunts and sells illegal magic. When she saves the life of a cowardly prince, she draws the attention of his powerful father, the sultan, who blackmails her into finding an ancient lamp that has the power to revive the barren land—at the cost of sacrificing all jinn.

With no choice but to obey or be executed, Loulie journeys with the sultan’s oldest son to find the artifact. Aided by her bodyguard, who has secrets of his own, they must survive ghoul attacks, outwit a vengeful jinn queen, and confront a malicious killer from Loulie’s past. And, in a world where story is reality and illusion is truth, Loulie will discover that everything—her enemy, her magic, even her own past—is not what it seems, and she must decide who she will become in this new reality.

My Review

“Go to her, go to her, they say,

The star of your eye.

Go to her, go to her,

The compass of your heart.”

Haha, so it’s been a few weeks since my last book review. Whoops. Honestly though, there was a ton of stuff going on last week and the week before, and I seriously had no time to read.

But I’m finally back with another! And what an absolutely stunning book to come back with!

Though it had a bit of a slow start, I ended up absolutely loving The Stardust Thief. The story and the characters were so compelling and interesting. By the halfway point of the book, it was difficult to tear my eyes away from the pages.

Anyway, let’s get into what I liked and didn’t like as much about the novel.

Stuff I Liked

Loulie had buried many things since her mother last told her that story.

Her name. Her past. Her parents.

But the story, she had never forgotten.

The characters were definitely my absolute favorite thing about the book. Loulie al-Nazari was a very interesting and compelling protagonist. I really liked her – she wasn’t like other MC girls that I’ve followed in the best way. She’s rough and jaded, with a tragic past (like several of my least favorite MC girls), but she’s also vulnerable and can’t do everything on her own. And this was a really big part of her character arc, which is something that I really enjoyed following.

Mazen bin Malik was a great deuteragonist, a great foil to Loulie, and had a fun personality. I really liked his character, and he was the first one that I connected with, even before Loulie. His insecurities and desire to break free from his isolation was very relatable to me.

Qadir was excellent, and I loved, loved, loved his and Loulie’s relationship. It was an entirely platonic, wonderfully written found family. I loved how he acted as another foil to Loulie – but in a different way that Mazen was. He was calmer and more contemplative than Loulie was, and it really balanced out their partnership, and helped them work seamlessly as a team.

He curled her fingers around the coin. “Not alone,” he said. “Not anymore.”

Aisha bint Louas was probably my least favorite of the protagonists, but I still really enjoyed her. Most of my character moment and character development tabs went to her, and for good reason. Out of all of the characters here, I feel that she had the most growth.

The thing I liked the most after the characters was definitely the short stories inserted throughout The Stardust Thief. They were told in a very engaging way, and were also expertly woven in to embellish on the actual plot.

The plot itself was also excellent. I loved all of the nods to A Thousand and One Nights, and Abdullah’s writing style. The whole thing was a super engaging adventure story.

Stuff I Didn’t Like

“We all start as cowards. We’re all afraid, Prince. The only difference between a hero and a coward is that one forgets their fear and fights, while the other succumbs to it and flees. Your fear of death does not make you weak. Only human.”

There were only a couple of things that I didn’t care for in the novel. First off – and this is more of an issue with a choice that the publisher made – the pages with the short stories were almost too dark to read the text off of. And as someone who already has some vision issues, it was extremely annoying. If these pages had just been a little bit lighter, it would’ve been fine.

The other thing I didn’t like was how whipped Loulie was about a particular character. Like, she was constantly simping over this man, particularly when they were in the room together. It was all just so awkward and annoying to me, mostly because I don’t feel like we saw enough of them together to justify all of the simping. But yeah, that was really the only other thing that I didn’t care for.

I did find some twists a little predictable (particularly those concerning Qadir), and I figured out most of them before they happened, but I didn’t mind that. It always feels good to get to these parts and find out that I was right. Also, I loved the twist on the title. I feel like you’re led to believe that Loulie is the eponymous Stardust Thief, but it ends up being someone else.

Final Thoughts

“The sun, it warms the sand

And set the sheikh’s heart aflame.

She waits in the shade, the sun says,

The beloved of your dreams.

She waits in the shade. The shade.”

So yeah, I really enjoyed The Stardust Thief and I absolutely recommend it to any and all fantasy fans. It’s so well written, with great characters and a great story. Just read it. Please.

As always, thank you so much for reading, and have an amazing day/night!

See ya ~Mar


“The Frugal Wizard’s Handbook for Surviving Medieval England” by Brandon Sanderson | Book Review

“There is no only when it comes to goodness and joy. The smallest amount is as large as the universe, and one boy saved from a pit is a precious work beyond that of any king’s treasury.”

The Frugal Wizard's Handbook for Surviving Medieval England by Brandon Sanderson

The Frugal Wizard’s Handbook for Surviving Medieval England by Brandon Sanderson


SERIES: Secret Projects #2 / Standalone Book

LENGTH: 400 pages

GENRES: Fantasy, Science Fiction, Fiction

PUBLISHER: Dragonsteel Books

RELEASE DATE: 11 April 2023


A man awakens in a clearing in what appears to be medieval England with no memory of who he is, where he came from, or why he is there. Chased by a group from his own time, his sole hope for survival lies in regaining his missing memories, making allies among the locals, and perhaps even trusting in their superstitious boasts. His only help from the “real world” should have been a guidebook entitled The Frugal Wizard’s Handbook for Surviving Medieval England, except his copy exploded during transit. The few fragments he managed to save provide clues to his situation, but can he figure them out in time to survive?

Note from Brandon:

Sometimes an idea just won’t let go of you for years. The initial seed of this novel was the title that eventually turned into The Frugal Wizard’s Handbook for Surviving Medieval England. At first there was no story go to with that title, but I wrote it down and kept coming back to it, wondering what that book could possibly be about. Something else I thought about off and on for years was the classic concept of a man waking up in another time and another place, with no idea how he got there. It was when those two ideas came together, and I placed a book with that title into that man’s hands, that this novel was born. I hope you’ll have as much fun with it as I did!

My Review

“So where did the first god come from?” I asked Ealstan.

“Licked from a rock by a cow,” Ealstan said with a perfectly straight face.


“It was a very special cow.”

So, real talk – I’ve never actually read a Brando Sando book before. His books combined with his series are just too long. (Except for Steelheart, but I wasn’t able to get into that one at the time I tried to read it.) I just don’t feel comfortable committing to that, especially after my failed attempt to read A Song of Ice and Fire (I gave up a third of the way through A Clash of Kings.)

But then I heard about this book last week, and it was a standalone and it sounded fun. So, I decided to pick it up and give it a shot.

As far as first Sanderson books go, I give this one four stars. (I know I already said that above, but it’s a joke cuz the book has a bunch of star ratings in it.)

Speaking of the novel, let’s get into it.

I patted the tree I’d been hiding behind. “Thanks for the cover,” I whispered. “You’re a good tree. Tall, thick—and most importantly—wooden. Four and a half stars. Would hide behind you again. Half a point off for lack of refreshments.”

Our main character wakes up in a place he doesn’t recognize, and soon discovers that he has amnesia. And so begins his quest to figure out who he is, as well as what’s going on.

The MC, who introduces himself as Runian to the denizens of the medieval world he’s found himself in, is pretty entertaining to follow. I really liked his voice and how he rated different stuff about his adventure an allotment of stars. It’s an amusing little quirk of his. I also enjoyed his dynamic with the cast of characters that he teams up with.

These characters include Sefawynn, a skop – one who can speak the Wyrd. She’s smart and feisty, but she’s not a girlboss or a Mary Sue, which I very much appreciated. Her romance with Runian was also cute, even if I would’ve liked a little more development.

I also really liked Ealston. He’s loyal and brave, and he’s willing to give his life for his friends and loved ones. He also has his entertaining moments as well. Like when it’s revealed that he named his axe.

“Fine then. I’ll tell Ealstan how great bows are,” I said, “and how axes are mundane and lack finesse.”

“Here, now,” he said from the other side of my horse. “Don’t involve me in this. Heresy is one thing, but insulting Rowena is something else.”

“Wait,” Sefawynn said. “You named your axe?”

“Um, yes,” Ealstan said, looking away.

Sefawynn giggled.

Thokk was the best character though, hands down. I just like spicy old women who don’t take crap from anyone, okay? She was hilarious, and I loved how she kept following everyone around. She was a total gem.

“So…” Thokk whispered. “Why are we sneaking about again?”

“Again, elder,” Ealstan said. “This is dangerous. Perhaps you should—”

“Why should I care if it’s dangerous?” Thokk said. “Do you know how old I am? I probably only have a few months left. Not much to risk here! So what are we doing?”

Though the characterization was obviously the star of The Frugal Wizard’s Handbook, the story was pretty good too. A man trying to find his identity in an epic fantasy world? Awesome. Where can I read it?

The chapters from the “Frugal Wizard’s Handbook™” were also hilarious. Probably my favorite part of the book. This one in particular is my personal favorite:

The Frugal Wizard's Handbook

The art was also really good. I loved how cute The Frugal Wizard’s Handbook™ stuff was. The artwork really adds to the novel, and it definitely wouldn’t have been the same without it.

So yeah, I thought that this novel was really fun. It was a change of pace from some of the SFF that I usually read, which I liked. And yes, Sanderson actually technically wrote an isekai/portal fantasy.

I don’t really know who to recommend this book to. I guess Brando Sando fans will probably enjoy it to some degree, but I also think those who like their humorous fantasy books will like it too.

Anyway, thank you so much for reading, and have an excellent day/night!

See ya ~Mar

“I’m Glad My Mom Died” by Jeanette McCurdy | Book Review

Why do we romanticize the dead? Why can’t we be honest about them? Especially moms. They’re the most romanticized of anyone.

I'm Glad My Mom Died by Jeanette McCurdy

I’m Glad My Mom Died by Jeanette McCurdy

LENGTH: 304 pages

GENRES: Memoir, Nonfiction

PUBLISHER: Simon & Schuster

RELEASE DATE: 9 August 2022


A heartbreaking and hilarious memoir by iCarly and Sam & Cat star Jennette McCurdy about her struggles as a former child actor—including eating disorders, addiction, and a complicated relationship with her overbearing mother—and how she retook control of her life.

Jennette McCurdy was six years old when she had her first acting audition. Her mother’s dream was for her only daughter to become a star, and Jennette would do anything to make her mother happy. So she went along with what Mom called “calorie restriction,” eating little and weighing herself five times a day. She endured extensive at-home makeovers while Mom chided, “Your eyelashes are invisible, okay? You think Dakota Fanning doesn’t tint hers?” She was even showered by Mom until age sixteen while sharing her diaries, email, and all her income.

In I’m Glad My Mom Died, Jennette recounts all this in unflinching detail—just as she chronicles what happens when the dream finally comes true. Cast in a new Nickelodeon series called iCarly, she is thrust into fame. Though Mom is ecstatic, emailing fan club moderators and getting on a first-name basis with the paparazzi (“Hi Gale!”), Jennette is riddled with anxiety, shame, and self-loathing, which manifest into eating disorders, addiction, and a series of unhealthy relationships.

These issues only get worse when, soon after taking the lead in the iCarly spinoff Sam & Cat alongside Ariana Grande, her mother dies of cancer. Finally, after discovering therapy and quitting acting, Jennette embarks on recovery and decides for the first time in her life what she really wants. Told with refreshing candor and dark humor, I’m Glad My Mom Died is an inspiring story of resilience, independence, and the joy of shampooing your own hair.

My Review

[Mom] wanted this. And I wanted her to have it. I wanted her to be happy. But now that I have it, I realize that she’s happy and I’m not. Her happiness came at the cost of mine. I feel robbed and exploited.

I’m Glad My Mom Died was something that I wanted to read for awhile, since I first heard about it last September. And it didn’t disappoint. Jeanette McCurdy is a very gifted writer, and made me feel so many emotions during my read.

And yes, I realize that it is now May. AKA: Mom Month. And no, I forgot it was the month that has Mother’s Day, until I was already a bit of the way into the novel. So, at that point I didn’t really feel like stopping for a month.

But maybe it was appropriate to read it during May. I’m not sure. Either way, it’s definitely a good book, but maybe wait until after Mother’s Day unless you want to cry.

Loving someone is vulnerable. It’s sensitive. It’s tender. And I get lost in them. If I love someone, I start to disappear. It’s so much easier to just do googly eyes and fond memories and inside jokes for a few months, run the second things start to get real, then repeat the cycle with someone new.

This book was hard to get through at times, even though I enjoyed it. The thing was, McCurdy wrote in such a way that I was able to feel the emotions the novel was putting out so raw and viscerally. And sometimes it was just… rough, to read.

Though I never had any problems with it, I’m Glad My Mom Died is full of potential triggering material. So if reading about EDs, death, abuse, gaslighting and manipulation, controlling behavior, and alcoholism and addiction is upsetting to you, maybe keep away for your health.

I’m honestly not sure what more to say. I’ve never reviewed a memoir (let alone nonfiction) before, but I’m now finding that it’s a bit difficult to do. Because with memoirs, it isn’t just a story that someone used their imagination to create and then put on paper. This is someone’s life, and all the highs and lows that come with it. And it was a very moving and emotional journey.

I will mention that it made me look back on my early teen days differently now. iCarly is forever going to hit differently.

I feel like the world is divided into two types of people: people who know loss and people who don’t.

So yeah, I highly recommend this book, but only for those who think they can handle the material. It’s very well written, and the way that McCurdy tells her story feels very natural.

Like I said though, it is a bit rough to read at points, so I think that I’ll be taking a break where nonfiction books and memoirs are concerned. I don’t know when I’ll next read one of these books, honestly, as nonfiction isn’t usually my cup of tea.

Anyway, thank you so much for reading, and have a beautiful day/night!

See ya ~Mar

“Arch-Conspirator” by Veronica Roth | Book Review

“Sometimes you stare into the future, and you don’t like anything you see.”

Arch-Conspirator by Veronica Roth

Arch-Conspirator by Veronica Roth

LENGTH: 112 pages

GENRES: Dystopian, Science Fiction, Fiction


RELEASE DATE: 21 February 2023


“I’m cursed, haven’t you heard?”

Outside the last city on Earth, the planet is a wasteland. Without the Archive, where the genes of the dead are stored, humanity will end. 

Antigone’s parents – Oedipus and Jocasta – are dead. Passing into the Archive should be cause for celebration, but with her militant uncle Kreon rising to claim her father’s vacant throne, all Antigone feels is rage. 

When he welcomes her and her siblings into his mansion, Antigone sees it for what it really is: a gilded cage, where she is a captive as well as a guest. 

But her uncle will soon learn that no cage is unbreakable. And neither is he. 

My Review

Everything felt empty and strange, like the world had ended and we had slept through it.

I’m not gonna lie; part of the reason that I read this novella was to see if Veronica Roth grew at all as a writer in the past ten or so years.

It appeared not. I was disappointed.

I also wanted to read this because I wanted to read this. It just sounded so interesting. I’m a sucker for retellings. I’m also a sucker for a well-written, post apocalyptic, science fiction story. And Arch-Conspirator sounded like the best of both worlds. I was genuinely excited to read it.

Alas, it fell short for me in several regards.

I’m very aware that this is inspired by Antigone, a Greek play written by Sophocles around 441 B.C. I’m also somewhat familiar with it, and I brushed up a little on it after reading Roth’s novella. And I will concede that she does… something with her retelling. Just not as much as she could have.

WARNING: This review is not necessarily “spoiler-free.”

First off, I have to talk about the thing that I hated the most about this: the first person perspectives. They weren’t unique enough, and they felt like the same narrator. If every new chapter hadn’t come with a new POV identifier, I’m not sure how long it would’ve taken me to figure out whose point of view said chapter was from. They were that indistinct.

(Except for Polyneikes, but he only has one POV chapter before he dies. And no, that isn’t a spoiler, considering how he’s dead before the play this is based on, Antigone, even starts. And even then, his chapter hardly feels that different from the other characters.)

But not all things are guaranteed for all people. That is the way of things.

Secondly, I also didn’t like how quickly Polyneikes and Eteocles are fridged. Yes, they die in the original, but if you’re choosing to add them to your narrative, you can at least try to make them into actual characters. Eteocles doesn’t even get a POV chapter! We never learn his motives and opinions about his choice to “betray” his siblings first-hand. And this is a book full of different first person perspectives! Why then wouldn’t you even bother to give him one!?! Instead we hear about what he probably thought from his siblings, none of whom seemed to be all that close to him.

Anyway, I have to stop it there before it becomes a bigger rant than it already is. (And it doesn’t even compare to the rant I went on to my partner last night, lol.)

Lastly, the world building. To put it frankly: it kind of sucked. I know what you’re going to say. This is a novella and It’s too short for real world building. So, I say to you: No. No it’s not. You can put at least the barest minimum into it.

I asked my father, once, why he chose to curse us before we were born.

Let me clarify a few things though. The setting is fine. It’s the other aspects of Roth’s world building that my problem resides.

My problem is: I don’t believe what Arch-Conspirator is selling. I don’t believe that Antigone is angry, even though the text tells me that she is, because it never shows it. I don’t believe the reasons put out about why this society believes that Antigone and her siblings don’t have souls, but that stored DNA and genes do, because it’s not shown enough. This is also a huge problem with Roth’s other work, Divergent, and it is very prevalent here as well. Show don’t tell please!

Anyway, that’s it for this review. Arch-Conspirator wasn’t necessarily better written than the Divergent series, but at least it was short. People who like Veronica Roth’s stuff will probably like it though.

As always, thank you so much for reading, and have a great day/night!

See ya ~Mar

“In the Lives of Puppets” by TJ Klune | Book Review

The boy – Victor Lawson, son of Giovanni Lawson – said. “You.” He pointed toward the bigger stick figure. “Me.” The smaller stick figure.

“Yes,” Giovanni said quietly. “You and me. Always.”

In the Lives of Puppets by TJ Klune

In the Lives of Puppets by TJ Klune

LENGTH: 420 pages

GENRES: Fantasy, Science Fiction, LGBTQIA+, Fiction


RELEASE DATE: 25 April 2023


In a strange little home built into the branches of a grove of trees, live three robots—fatherly inventor android Giovanni Lawson, a pleasantly sadistic nurse machine, and a small vacuum desperate for love and attention. Victor Lawson, a human, lives there too. They’re a family, hidden and safe.

The day Vic salvages and repairs an unfamiliar android labelled “HAP,” he learns of a shared dark past between Hap and Gio–a past spent hunting humans.

When Hap unwittingly alerts robots from Gio’s former life to their whereabouts, the family is no longer hidden and safe. Gio is captured and taken back to his old laboratory in the City of Electric Dreams. So together, the rest of Vic’s assembled family must journey across an unforgiving and otherworldly country to rescue Gio from decommission, or worse, reprogramming.

Along the way to save Gio, amid conflicted feelings of betrayal and affection for Hap, Vic must decide for himself: Can he accept love with strings attached?

My Review

In an old and lonely forest, far away from almost everything, sat a curious dwelling.

This book. This book. This right here was the reason that I finally decided to read The House in the Cerulean Sea. It’s because the premise of In the Lives of Puppets seemed so amazing and intriguing, and right up my alley.

I read some very well written and thoughtful reviews a couple of weeks ago, in my anticipation to read this novel. And they were a bit lower, which made me nervous, but I resolved to be undeterred. Especially after I read The House in the Cerulean Sea.

And I’m glad I did. Because this book was wonderful.

“How does one arrive at the decision to kill God?” It’s easier than you might expect.”

Sure, this book had its flaws, as all of them do. But it took absolutely nothing away from my enjoyment while reading. In the Lives of Puppets is a tale both sad and beautiful, and it almost made me cry. And books that are able to do that to me – to make me feel things that much – are almost always guaranteed to get at least four stars. And this novel was better yet.

The characters are the glue that holds this book together. 21 year-old Victor “Vic” Lawson was probably the most cookie cutter of all of them – and gave me some serious Disney princess vibes at times – but he was still very realistic and relatable, and he felt so, so human.

Giovanni Lawson was a wonderfully complex man that brought our lovely cast of characters together. At times, he felt even more human to read about than Vic, which is quite a feat for an android. I loved he and Vic’s father-son bond, and how it was always the driving force of the novel. So many books are quick to forget the loved ones of the protagonist, and I’m so happy to have found another one that is not that kind of story.

“Fine,” she said with a rude beep. “I would consider feeling slightly despondent at your forced absence, and then do everything in my power to ensure you returned with most – if not all – of your limbs intact.”

“Why?” Vic asked.

“You know why,” Nurse Ratched said.

“Because I’m yours,” he said. “Like you’re mine.”

Nurse Ratched was, hands down, the absolute best character from the book. Rude, sassy, and borderline sociopathic, she was perhaps the most human of the entire cast. Both a great source of the comic relief, as well as a fierce Mother Hen. And you’d do your best not to harm her chicks.

Rambo the Roomba was a hilarious and wholesome addition to the group. While not as apparently useful as the rest of the characters, he brought levity and hope to the scenes that needed it most.

Hap was probably the character I enjoyed the least, despite him being the inciting incident. But I still liked him, and his banter with the other main characters was something that I really grew to love as the novel continued. He made a fine addition to the group.

I liked a lot of the other characters too. I also really liked all the Pinocchio references and quotes that I caught though, as well as the Wall-E vibes throughout. There were also other references and things that flew over my head, as Klune was clearly inspired by a lot. That, and I’ve never read Pinocchio and it’s been a very long time since I’ve seen any adaptations.

The plot itself was also extremely wholesome and engaging. I found it difficult to put down, honestly. There was never really a dull moment here, and I also really enjoyed the world building.

Now, let me be clear, before I finish off this review: there were a couple of things I didn’t like. But they were very, very small things – almost negligible – and mostly had to do with Klune’s style. Stuff like saying Victor’s or Giovanni’s full names several different times throughout the text.

“There is nothing more powerful than a heart. I wish I knew what it’s like. It appears to be more transformative than I ever thought possible. Hold on to it, the pair of you. Never forget what beats in your chest. It will be your guide, and with a little luck, you’ll find what you’re looking for.”

So yeah. In the Lives of Puppets by TJ Klune is an amazing story. Any fan of Klune’s other stuff should definitely read it, as I think it’s his best yet (out of the two books of his I’ve read). I also think that fans of sci-fi and fantasy that like good prose and humor will really like it too.

Thank you so much for reading, and have a wonderful day/night!

See ya ~Mar

My review of The House in the Cerulean Sea

“Chance” by Matthew FitzSimmons | Book Review

“So, who’s ready to see me do something crazy?”

Chance by Matthew FitzSimmons

Chance by Matthew FitzSimmons

SERIES: Constance (Book #2)

LENGTH: 313 pages

GENRES: Science Fiction, Fiction

PUBLISHER: Thomas & Mercer

RELEASE DATE: 14 February 2023


A clone plays a dangerous game of life, death, memory, and murder in a twisting thriller by Wall Street Journal bestselling author Matthew FitzSimmons.

Cloning is a luxury for the wealthy. For Chance Harker, it’s a way of getting on with his lives. Five years ago, when he was sixteen, he and his brother, Marley, were murdered in a kidnapping gone wrong. Chance was revived—and his grieving parents met his existence with anger, neglect, and aversion. The public, though? They can’t get enough of the death-defying stunts he has parlayed into a social media spectacle.

But after Chance’s latest “refresh,” he awakens to accusations that he’s killed Lee Conway, a stranger Chance has never met. Has one of his clones? With no memory of his previous selves, and working fast before he’s arrested, Chance digs into Conway’s background, the mysteries of his own life—and death—and the tragic abduction that tore his family apart.

All Chance has to do is stay ahead of the LAPD; his kidnappers, who are back on the hunt; and a growing mob of incensed protesters outraged that a rich clone appears to be getting away with murder.

My Review

There’d been a purpose behind all this once, back at the beginning. Back when he’d stopped being a person and had become “the victim of a terrible crime.” Or, to put it more accurately, the clone of a victim of a terrible crime.

So, before I get into my review, I should probably mention that I jumped right into this series via this book. The second book. But I should also mention that the books in this series were written in such a way, to be also accessible as standalones.

But yeah, I kind of read it out of order. So what?

Anyway, let’s just let the cat out of the bag: I didn’t like this book as much as I’d hoped to. I really thought this was gonna be an easy five star read for me, but it wasn’t. Like, it definitely wasn’t that bad of a book – I did give it three stars. It just wasn’t as good as I was hoping it would be.

Let’s start with the stuff I liked. I really liked our protagonist, Chance. He was a bit of an idiot, especially at first, but he was attempting to deal with his trauma, even if it wasn’t in a good way. But his development as a character is nice to follow, and I loved watching him grow and change.

Chance tried to remember the last time his father had hugged him and came up blank.

His complex and strained relationships with his family were also very interesting to read about. These were the most compelling aspects of the novel, in my opinion, and these moments were the primary reason I wanted to see how it all ended.

Other than that, the plot was pretty interesting, and I liked all the science-y world building around the clones and the other futuristic tech.

But yeah, that’s kind of it for the stuff I enjoyed. I didn’t really care about the rest of the characters, or find them interesting. I didn’t even care for the antagonists.

Also, and this might be because I didn’t read the first book, but I didn’t really like Con D’Arcy either. I know that she was the protagonist of the Constance, and that a lot of people seemed to like her, but I just kind of found her annoying. Sorry.

The POV and voice also didn’t feel like it was coming from a 21 year-old guy. You should be able to discern a character’s voice regardless of what POV it’s in. Their personality should shine through more than it does in this book.

Oh and also, Mickey7 did the whole Ship of Theseus clone meditation thing way better.

She looked at him sadly. “Did you know that the more money a person has, the harder it is for them to identify facial expressions in others?

Chance also felt exceedingly preachy at times, and this is the biggest reason why I felt turned off by it. I hate it when the characters appear to be mouthpieces for the author to launch into their opinions and grievances about the world. Don’t get me wrong, it isn’t necessarily a bad thing, I just appreciate it with a lot more subtlety. Which is something that this novel didn’t have. At all.

Other minor criticisms include: reiterating the same thing a character said or came to a conclusion about less than a page ago multiple different times; unnatural dialogue; and weird descriptions. I don’t care about what this same-y area looks like describe the goddam characters.

Guys, I just want to enjoy a story. Is that so much to ask?

But nothing stayed hidden forever, did it?

Chance by Matthew FitzSimmons was a very mid, very preachy, sci-fi story set in the near future. I liked a few things about it, but so many things about it irritated me at the same time.

I recommend you definitely read it if you read and enjoyed Constance, and I think you should give it a shot if you like science fiction stuff set in the next few decades.

As always, thank you so much for reading, and have a great day/night!

See ya ~Mar

“Antimatter Blues” by Edward Ashton | Book Review

“Look, there is a very good chance that this is going to end badly, okay? You can’t come with me. You’re not an Expendable.”

“Neither are you,” she says. “Remember?”

Antimatter Blues by Edward Ashton

Antimatter Blues by Edward Ashton

SERIES: Mickey7 (Book #2)

LENGTH: 304 pages

GENRES: Science Fiction, Fiction

PUBLISHER: St. Martin’s Press

RELEASE DATE: 14 March 2023


Edward Ashton’s Antimatter Blues is the thrilling follow up to Mickey7 in which an expendable heads out to explore new terrain for human habitation.

Summer has come to Niflheim. The lichens are growing, the six-winged bat-things are chirping, and much to his own surprise, Mickey Barnes is still alive—that last part thanks almost entirely to the fact that Commander Marshall believes that the colony’s creeper neighbors are holding an antimatter bomb, and that Mickey is the only one who’s keeping them from using it. Mickey’s just another colonist now. Instead of cleaning out the reactor core, he spends his time these days cleaning out the rabbit hutches. It’s not a bad life.

It’s not going to last.

It may be sunny now, but winter is coming. The antimatter that fuels the colony is running low, and Marshall wants his bomb back. If Mickey agrees to retrieve it, he’ll be giving up the only thing that’s kept his head off of the chopping block. If he refuses, he might doom the entire colony. Meanwhile, the creepers have their own worries, and they’re not going to surrender the bomb without getting something in return. Once again, Mickey finds the fate of two species resting in his hands. If something goes wrong this time, though, he won’t be coming back.

My Review

“You’re not an Expendable, babe. You’re just Mickey Barnes now. That means you don’t have to die for me anymore.” She puts one hand behind my neck and pulls me to her until our foreheads touch. “That means you don’t get to die for me anymore.”

So, even though I didn’t find it as good as the first book, I still really liked Antimatter Blues. It was still sassy, and it still had the characters I loved from Mickey7 (for the most part – we’ll get to that).

This book begins two years after the first one ends. And it immediately starts off with a banger line that you’d expect out of our MC, Mickey Barnes.

Mickey is just as sassy as he was in book one, and I loved that. But his character doesn’t really change in this book. Like, it seemed like he went and finished his entire character arc in the last novel.

In AB, Mickey honestly seems to regress a little bit as a character and redoes part of his arc from Mickey7 a second time. The sequel even goes out of its way to discuss the Ship of Theseus again.

“Oh no,” he says. “Don’t start with that shit. I gave you up for dead once, remember? It didn’t work out. This time, I’m assuming you’re gonna find a way to weasel out of this right up until I actually see your mangled corpse-and even then, I’m checking for a pulse.”

Berto is definitely someone who’s grown as a character here though. He’s changed from someone who’d abandon his friends during the very rare times that he feels fear, into someone who’d always return for them. With more firepower.

Nasha, one of the best characters of the first book, however, is one of the worst characters here. Mostly because for most of the novel she kept complaining about how they were all going to die, and it became incredibly annoying very quickly. It also seems quite out of character for her, being the independent, badass woman she was.

“Greetings,” it says when it reaches me. “What is pervert? We do not have this word.”

That surprises me a little, considering that they’ve been monitoring my conversations with Berto for two years, but okay.

“It’s a term of affection,” I say. “Have you reached a decision about our request?”

I rather liked Speaker though – the liaison sent by the worm aliens to help Mickey retrieve the antimatter bomb from his “friends in the south.” He was strangely endearing, and I honestly cared more about him over most of the human characters.

Concerning Marshall, our resident a-hole from the first book, I liked him less here. Mostly because he didn’t get as much page time as before, but also because his interactions with Mickey, one of the highlights of book one, were cut down in Antimatter Blues. There’s also the matter of the thing that happens at the end – there wasn’t enough buildup to it, and I felt that it cheapened it significantly.

Speaking of that thing.


Marshall sacrificing himself was nice and all, and was an okay end to his character, but it bothers me that he didn’t interact with Mickey a final time before it happened. We, the reader, find out about it after he does it, and through an exposition dump he left behind. Ugh. I absolutely hated that.

And then the book just kinda ends. Right there. Sure there’s a little epilogue after it, but it’s literally like two pages. And then it ends. It just felt very abrupt and I didn’t like that.


Aside from the thing, and Nasha suddenly acting out of character, the rest of the novel was pretty much fine. All the plot threads were tied up, but it was left slightly open-ended in case Ashton would want to return to this universe someday.

And the hell of it is, I actually hadn’t remembered, not until she said it. I haven’t uploaded in over two years now. Even if Marshall winds up pulling another Mickey Barnes out of the tank when I’m dead, it won’t be me.

All in all, I really liked Antimatter Blues. Though not as good as its predecessor, I thought it was a good follow-up.

I definitely recommend this to fans of Mickey7, but also others who like sci-fi in space. People who enjoy The Murderbot Diaries would also probably like this duology.

Anyway, thanks as always for reading, and have a fabulous day/night!

See ya ~Mar

My review of Mickey7

“Blood & Honey” by Shelby Mahurin | Book Review

It’s been about a month or so, so I’ve decided that it was more than time for another retrospective book review.

Retrospective Book Reviews (previously Reading Retrospectives), for those who don’t know, are basically book reviews, but they’re on books that I read before I started this blog. So, in order for them to get their day in the sun, I go back through them and see if my opinion when I originally read them holds up.

This week, I’m re-reviewing a book I read a couple of years ago. it’s Blood & Honey by Shelby Mahurin.

Blood & Homey by Shelby Mahurin

Blood & Honey by Shelby Mahurin

SERIES: Serpent & Dove (Book #2)

LENGTH: 544 pages

GENRES: Fantasy, Romance, YA, Fiction


RELEASE DATE: 1 September 2020


After narrowly escaping death at the hands of the Dames Blanches, Lou, Reid, Coco, and Ansel are on the run from coven, kingdom, and church—fugitives with nowhere to hide.

To elude the scores of witches and throngs of chasseurs at their heels, Lou and Reid need allies. Strong ones. But protection comes at a price, and the group is forced to embark on separate quests to build their forces. As Lou and Reid try to close the widening rift between them, the dastardly Morgane baits them in a lethal game of cat and mouse that threatens to destroy something worth more than any coven.

My Review

The world didn’t end in a scream.

It ended in a gasp.

A single, startled exhalation.

And then— Nothing.

Nothing but silence.

This book continues to disappoint me. I didn’t like it when I first read it, soon after it came out in 2020, and I like it even less now. Or is it that I’m willing to be a little less nice in my reviews now? I’m not quite sure. All I know is that I hated this book.

Serpent & Dove was what I knew it would be: it was decent, yet it was (in my opinion at least) romantasy trash, very much like ACOTAR. But it was trash that I treasured – you might call it my guilty pleasure. I could tell it was kind of bad, but I had fun with it anyway.

Blood & Honey, on the other hand, is actual trash. It has a facsimile of a plot, and the characters really don’t do anything throughout the book. It’s a complete and utter slog to get through.

With an exasperated sigh, he turned his head to kiss my fingers. “You’re impossible.”

“I’m impractical, improbable, but never impossible.

Lou was even more annoying here than she was in the first book. Everything that she did irritated me, and I had considerable trouble sympathizing with her character on anything. And I still don’t buy her and Reid’s romance. At. All.

Reid was somewhat more tolerable, especially compared to Lou. I really liked that he was working through his feelings on the arch bishop/his father figure’s death (though he shouldn’t have had to in the first place because it doesn’t make any sense that he chose to save a girl he knew barely a month over his dad!!). I felt like he had the most of what could be considered a character arc out of everybody here.

Oh, and I’m sure you all were wondering, but Big Titty Liddy is back. And she was apparently a real person in S&D canon. Fan-freaking-tastic. Ugh.

It’s a real pity,” Beau finally muttered, shaking his head and looking at each of us in turn. His eyes shone with disappointment. “I know you’re all too preoccupied with your pining to notice, but I just caught my reflection in that last puddle—and damn, I look good.

Beau was honestly the best character here (besides Ansel, who was a cinnamon roll that Mahurin absolutely did not protect), which is something that I was happily surprised by. But that’s just because he’s a sassy a-hole, who secretly has a secret heart of gold, which happens to be one of my favorite character tropes. He was an entertaining beacon in the sludge that was this novel.

The climax was very… anticlimactic. Which is the opposite of what you want for a piece of your book specifically designated the climax. It was so effing boring – the most boring part of Blood & Honey, if I’m being honest. Which I am. The ending sucked too, even though it attempted a Hail Mary cliffhanger. (Which I wasn’t interested in in the slightest.)

So yeah, I have absolutely no desire or any kind of motivation to finish off this trilogy with Gods & Monsters. That’s just how far off the mountain this series tumbled for me.

When a person brings you more hurt than happiness, you’re allowed to let them go.

In conclusion, I hated Blood & Honey. It was a poorly written, slow and inconsistent mess, that was absolutely not fun to read. This book has some of the worst Middle Book Syndrome that I’ve ever read. I haven’t read the third book – and I never plan to – but I’m almost positive that this novel wasn’t necessarily. I think that this trilogy could have managed as a duology just fine.

Sorry, but I can’t really bring myself to recommend this one to anyone. I just despised it that much. This series is Walmart ACOTAR to the max, particularly in B&H.

If you’ve gotten here, congratulations and thank you for reading my lengthy tirade. I really hope you have a wonderful day/night.

See ya ~Mar

My review of Serpent & Dove

“The Cloud Roads” by Martha Wells | Book Review

His heart sank and he wondered if this is what Sorrow had felt, this need to have companionship so intense that it made you willing to do anything.

The Cloud Roads by Martha Wells

The Cloud Roads by Martha Wells

SERIES: The Books of the Raksura (Book #1)

LENGTH: 278 pages

GENRES: Fantasy, Romance, Fiction

PUBLISHER: Night Shade Books

RELEASE DATE: 1 March 2011


Moon has spent his life hiding what he is — a shape-shifter able to transform himself into a winged creature of flight. 

An orphan with only vague memories of his own kind, Moon tries to fit in among the tribes of his river valley, with mixed success. Just as Moon is once again cast out by his adopted tribe, he discovers a shape-shifter like himself… someone who seems to know exactly what he is, who promises that Moon will be welcomed into his community.

What this stranger doesn’t tell Moon is that his presence will tip the balance of power… that his extraordinary lineage is crucial to the colony’s survival… and that his people face extinction at the hands of the dreaded Fell. Now Moon must overcome a lifetime of conditioning in order to save himself… and his newfound kin. 

My Verdict

She was giving him that look again; he couldn’t tell if she believed him or not. She said, “So if you don’t think about it, it’s as if it never happened?”

Moon shrugged helplessly.  “It worked until now.”

So like, I really, really adored The Murderbot Diaries. Like, so much so, that I pre-ordered Martha Wells’ new fantasy novel Witch King when it was announced last spring. And I wanted to get acquainted with some of her other work, in preparation for Witch King’s release in a month and a half.

So, I decided to try reading The Books of the Raksura series, as I’d heard good stuff about it. And I read The Cloud Roads.

And it was a perfectly fine book.

Don’t get me wrong – I absolutely adored Wells’ world building here, and her descriptions, and all of the different species of flora and fauna she created. I just don’t think it was a book for me, is all.

To me, the story beats felt slightly off. I dunno, some stuff felt like it dragged on slightly too long, whilst the opposite was also true. (It feels odd to say, as this is a relatively short novel.) This was pretty much only in the middle though; the beginning and end were fine.

The romance kinda sucked. Moon and Jade definitely had some chemistry, but this is another case where the beats were off, and the relationship felt like it was progressing too fast. (Especially with what happened with Moon’s last relationship.)

The platonic relationships, however, completely soared. I think that this is the type of thing that Martha Wells excels at – as the platonic relationships in Murderbot were also amazing.

It’s interesting to read an earlier work by an author you love, too. I noticed a lot of similar dialogue to TMD, and Moon is essentially a Diet SecUnit in terms of levels of sassiness. Also, the dialogue and quips between characters absolutely rocked. A lot of it was just as shameless as TMD.

Moon didn’t move. He still found Stone nearly impossible to read. Not that he had been able to read Ilane, either. “I’m not sleeping with you.” If this was going to be a problem, he wanted to find out now, before he spent any more long, miserable days fighting headwinds.

Stone lifted a brow, deeply amused. “I have great-grandchildren older than you.” He pointed to a white seam on his elbow. “You see this scar? That’s older than you.”

Moon’s eyes narrowed in annoyance, but he wondered if that was true. He hadn’t been keeping close track, but he knew roughly that it had been around thirty-five turns of the seasonal cycle since his family had been killed. That made him old for some groundling races and young for others. If Stone was really that old, and Moon was really the same species…If this doesn’t work out, you’re going to be spending a lot of time alone.

He edged over and eased down next to Stone. The blanket looked shabby but it was thick and well made; it didn’t soften the rock but it kept the cold at bay. Rolling on his side, facing away from Moon, Stone said, “I’ll try not to molest you in my sleep.”

All in all, I thought this book was just fine. Maaayybe slightly above “fine” and edging into “pretty good” levels of star ratingdom, but not any higher. Like I said: well written and interesting but probably not for me. I’m unsure at this time if I’ll continue the rest of the series, so the answer to that is a definite maybe at the moment.

I think that fans of interesting and inventive fantasy books might enjoy The Cloud Roads, especially fans of nonhuman POV characters. I’d also encourage fans of Martha Wells other works to give it a shot, too.

Thank you for reading, and have a great day/night!

See ya ~Mar

My review of The Murderbot Diaries