If you enjoy literary fiction with strong moral themes and a bit of satire and dark humor, Mark Lages is the guy for you. He also writes science fiction, so if you’re like me, you’ll probably be tempted to choose Mr. Booker’s Summer Vacation. I received this book for free as a subscriber to his newsletter. If you’d like to receive a free book from Lages, sign up for his newsletter and he’ll ship one out to you—of your choice. And he’s got quite a list! The images are only of those books that I have. He’s not paying me to share this information. I just think he’s a great writer with beautiful pros and thought provoking messages. You can drop by his website at https://marklages.com/ to subscribe. His offer ends October 15, 2021. Let me know how you like his stories. I’d be interested to hear your thoughts.
Title: Gold Spun
Author: Brandie June
Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult
Published: June 8th, 2021
Date finished: September 17, 2021
Gold Spun by Brandie June is a Rumpelstiltskin retell about a 17-year-old girl named Nora who finds herself in a mess after rescuing a fae. The fae gifts her with a golden thread and promises to return to her every time she calls upon him. Excited about this golden thread, in her haste, Nora comes up with a plan to make money using it. This captures the attention of the prince who tells her if she could spin a room full of straw into gold, he’ll marry her. If not, she’ll pay a heavy price.
It’s been a long time since I read Rumpelstiltskin, so I had to search it up and brief through it. Gold Spun follows the storyline somewhat but with slightly different characters. I like the idea of the fae and the way he was portrayed. He felt likeable, yet you couldn’t really tell if he was trustworthy, so there was a mysterious edge to him. The prince at first seemed cocky and full of himself, but he turned out likeable. His affection for Nora made him protective and supportive and a real gentleman. As for Nora, I liked that she was always quick on her toes. She doesn’t give up and she has so much love in her for her family and the villagers. However, I also found her a bit childlike. I think she was meant to be intelligent and brave and was supposed to play it down, but I didn’t get that. I wanted her to be a little more mature for someone who was responsible for a lot of things.
The overall story was enjoyable. I love retells and Gold Spun did an excellent job with it. I found the love triangle just so cute. Also, Ms. June’s writing style is flowy and smooth and makes you want to keep reading.
Who should read this book: All lovers of retells, love triangles, and fairytales. This was a truly fun read with magic, faeries, royalty, and everything you could ever ask for in a fast-paced young adult fantasy romance story.
Note: I was given this book to read and review but the opinion is purely my own.
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Title: The Lost Queen
Author: Signe Pike
Year Published: 2018
The Lost Queen by Signe Pike is a novel written through the eyes of Languoreth, the daughter of Morken, a high chieftain in the Kingdom of Strathclyde. We follow Languoreth from ten-years-old until her mid-thirties.
The story takes place in 550 AD (6th century) in what is now Scotland. It is basically a different version and angle of the legend of King Arthur (Uther Pendragon). The focus isn’t on the legend that we are familiar with, instead it is about the family who took in the young Uther. In the book Uther is known as Gwenddolau and we only get glimpses of him. The focus is on Languoreth and her struggle between desperately wanting to help her brother, Lailoken (who is a warrior as well as the spiritual advisor to Gwenddalau out in the Borderlands), and her family in Strathclyde.
I found the first half of the story a little slow. It didn’t pick up until halfway, but when it did pick up, it was amazing. I loved it. I’m a die-hard King Arthur/Merlin fan and anything having to do with this legend, I pretty much eat it up. I really enjoyed this angle from a queen who played a huge part in the lives of those warriors.
To me, Languoreth is a little bit of Catelyn Stark from A Song of Ice and Fire and Aelswith from The Last Kingdom. What makes her different is that she’s not so strong mentally when it comes to relationships. She has a hard time letting go. She has this ideal image of what love is and for some reason it creates unnecessary conflict. I can’t relate to her in that sense, but I do love her character.
The book is well written with flowy and beautifully orchestrated words. It’s like a magical piece of artwork. It’s just brilliant.
Title: Selected Stories of Philip K. Dick
Author: Philip K. Dick
Genre: Fiction, Sci-fi, Fantasy
Year Published: 2013
Selected Stories of Philip K. Dick is a collection of short stories in sci-fi and fantasy by Philip K. Dick. I would say it’s some of his best works. There are 21 stories and they were all enjoyable, but my favorites were:
“Beyond Lies the Wub”
“The King of the Elves”
“The Minority Report”
“The Days of Perky Pat”
“We Can Remember It for You Wholesale”
“Faith of Our Fathers”
“The Exit Door Leads in”
“I Hope I Shall Arrive Soon”
PKD has had quite a few of his short stories and novels made into movies and TV series/episodes. Since this post is about his short stories from Selected Stories of Philip K. Dick, I’ll only be mentioning the movie adaptations from these stories. I should also mention that if you have time, read the stories first. However, if you don’t have time because you have a long list of TBRs like I do, then watch the movies.
Adaptations (those marked in red are what I’ve seen):
“Second Variety” – Screamers (1995); Screamers: The Hunting (2009)
“Paycheck” – Paycheck (2003)
“Adjustment Team” – The Adjustment Bureau (2011)
“Autofac” – Philip K. Dick’s Electric Dreams episode (2017)
“The Minority Report” – Minority Report (2002); Minority Report TV sequel adaptation (2015)
“We Can Remember It for You Wholesale” – Total Recall (1990); Total Recall (2012); Total Recall 2070 TV series (1999)
Looks like I have a lot of watching to do. If you’ve seen any of these shows, let me know what you thought and if they are worth watching. I didn’t realize PKD had so many of his stories adapted. I think it’s crazy awesome because now I don’t have any excuse not watch TV when I have nothing else to do (non-existent, really) or need a break.
Title: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes
Author: Suzanne Collins
Genre: Sci-fi, YA, Dystopian
Year Published: 2020
The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins is a dystopian sci-fi about a young Coriolanus Snow before he became President Snow. The story takes place many years earlier, before The Hunger Games trilogy, when Coriolanus was seventeen and climbing his way up in the Capitol in Panem.
We follow Coriolanus through the 10th Hunger Games in which he is a mentor to a tribute named Lucy Gray Baird from District 12. It’s tough in the arena and Coriolanus does whatever he can to help Lucy Gray win. Outside of the Games, Coriolanus begins to fall for Lucy Gray and starts showing his attraction for her. She notices and reciprocates.
After the Games, it was revealed to a higher up that Coriolanus assisted Lucy Gray in unethical ways so that she would win. He was forced to become a Peacekeeper but was allowed to choose which district to work in. He chose District 12 to be closer to Lucy Gray.
In District 12, Coriolanus learns that Lucy Gray, along with a few others, including Lucy Gray’s ex-boyfriend, were planning an escape. One of the other members in the plan was Sejanus Plinth. Sejanus was originally from District 2 but moved to the Capitol as a young kid and became good friends with Coriolanus. Sejanus was also a Peacekeeper in District 12. After having seen how poorly the District people were being treated, he vowed to help the small group escape. A crime occurs during the planning in which Coriolanus took part in, thus causing the escape to terminate.
Lucy Gray still wants to run away so Coriolanus agrees to go with her. He was also afraid the crime would catch up to him and didn’t want to be hanged. On the day he was to sneak out to run away with Lucy Gray, he gets a promotion and is required to head to District 2 the next morning. He has to choose between his future and the girl he loves. He chose love, but while they were out of District 12 in an area where the Peacekeepers were not monitoring, he finds the weapon he used during the murder and attempts to discard it. He also learns that Lucy Gray had betrayed him and goes after her to kill her, but he couldn’t find her. He returns to District 12 and leaves for training the next day.
During the flight to District 2, they made a stop at the Capitol. It turns out that the Head Gamemaker, Dr. Gaul, wanted to train Coriolanus at the university because Dr. Gaul found Coriolanus brilliant with his Games ideas.
In The Hunger Games trilogy, Coriolanus is the antagonist and someone we detest because of his cold-heartedness and brutal ruling. In The Ballad, he is the protagonist and someone we are supposed to like and feel sorry for. He does come across as a decent person in Ballad. His love for Lucy Gray was real. He went out of his way to help her win, even doing things he shouldn’t be doing. It felt as though he wanted her alive because she meant so much to him. Even if he never saw her again, at least she’d be able to live her life in the District. However, because he was found out, he got the opportunity to be with her and to really know her. She was all that she said she was: a singer and song writer; a free spirit. She was also very clever. In the Games, her cleverness helped her survive and it also, at one point, helped save his life.
The story goes much deeper than a dystopian story about a young adult falling in love and learning about who he is. I read the QA, which included the idea behind the story, and was completely surprised. I did get the sense of a struggle between an authoritarian world and a romanticism or “freedom” ideal. It wasn’t about which character I liked better or who I should like more than the other. It was more about understanding people’s behavior based not only on their upbringing but also the environment they’re exposed to. It was a very powerful book with so many hidden messages and meanings.
I wasn’t expecting to say this, but I’m totally shocked by how great this book was.
Author: Marko Kloos
Genre: Sci-fi, Military Sci-fi, Space Opera
Year Published: 2019
Aftershocks by Marko Kloos is a military sci-fi novel following four characters. The main character, Aden, a POW on a foreign planet, is freed and makes his trek to a new home. Things don’t go as planned and he ends up working for another group of people under a fake identity.
The other characters are minor to Aden, but they equally share their stories: Solvieg, a young vice president of her father’s business has just started her position when terrorists attack her city. She’s also Aden’s younger sister; Idina, a ground soldier whose team was destroyed in an ambush; and, Dunstan, a fleet captain whose cargo ship also comes under attack.
The story is about interplanetary treaties and things going awry when one or more groups choose not to keep their word. Those on the planets agreed to work together due to limited resources, but due to power control, the planets with the most resources have the upper hand and those in charge then manipulate the others, leading to confusion as to who started what and who to trust.
This is book one of The Palladium Wars. The ending was a cliffhanger which makes sense being that it will continue in future books.
I enjoyed the military and space opera writing. Kloos is an amazing in-depth military storyteller. I loved all the details and space/military terms. It was well done. I thought Aden was put together well. I like how his story started and where it ended. Dunstan wasn’t so bad either. He didn’t have a lot of chapters but I’m guessing there will be more of him in the following books. What I didn’t enjoy so much were the two female characters. Idina was tough at the beginning but then her character changed. I wasn’t sure what role she played after the ambush. And, Solvieg seemed way too young to be vice president of a large company. She’s 23 and came aross clueless. Initially, it came across as though she worked hard for the position but then as her story grew, it felt more like she was handed the position. I wasn’t sure if that was the point or if she was meant to be a strong, intelligent character.
Overall, it was a good read.
Title: The Burning White
Author: Brent Weeks
Genre: Fantasy, High Fantasy
Year Published: 2019
The Burning White by Brent Weeks is the fifth and final book in the Lightbringer series. I’m not sure how to review this book because it was a whole lot of everything. The plot basically was to defeat the enemy but there were assassins and spies and people you don’t know if you should trust that it created this huge organized mess of a story. In this story, we learn a little more about Gavin Guile’s father, Andross. We also learn that this story is pretty much all about the Guiles, including Kip and Zymun.
‘I’m not the man you think I am,’ he’d told Ironfist. Ironfist had replied, ‘Are you not the man I’ve served these past ten years?’ ‘I am.’ ‘Then perhaps, my lord, you’re not the man you think you are.’
Gavin himself overcomes the struggles he’s had with himself since the first book, The Black Prism. In The Burning White, he spends pretty much all his time finding himself. That wasn’t what he had set out to do, but it became so.
Kip, always being the hero, continued to do what he knew best: save the people; save his friends. He is so much like his father, Gavin.
Andross in this book was interesting. Throughout the first four books, he came across sort of like the enemy. You couldn’t tell whose side he was on. He never favored the White King (Koios, aka the Color Prince), but he never gave the impression that he was good. This made for a really intriguing ending.
“We keep secret what we fear makes us weak, not realizing in our fear that it is the keeping of secrets itself that weakens us.”
And Zymun. He was a very obvious character.
There were minor main characters such as Teia who showed what she was truly capable of; Liv who stood her ground. She really broke my heart; and Karris, who never seemed to give up. I loved how she finally showed her love toward Kip.
The fight/war scenes are always impeccable. They are semi-gory but they are my favorite action scenes. I was beyond happy to finally see black Luxin at work.
There was one thing I wanted more and that was Liv’s pov. I felt she had a lot to give and deserved more story time. She sacrificed so much to save her friends and nothing became of her. Near the end when she crossed path with her father, I bawled. I loved what she did for him, but I was sad for her. I so wanted her to see Kip face-to-face (it was mostly Kip whom she protected by surrendering herself to the White King), to see how he would react (from the damage of drafting superviolet to the extreme), or what he would say to her. Maybe it was left out because it would have been too sad?
Overall, it was a great read.
A hug didn’t fix everything. Perhaps it didn’t fix anything at all. But it did feel good.
Title: The Pale Dreamer
Author: Samantha Shannon
Genre: Sci-fi, paranormal, new adult
Year Published: 2016
The Pale Dreamer by Samantha Shannon is a prequel novella to The Bone Season series. It gives us a taste of Paige Mahoney’s first job with mime-lord, Jaxon Hall. The story takes place when Paige is sixteen, three years before The Bone Season.
In this story, Paige is given the opportunity to use her ability as a dreamwalker to prove to the mime-lord and her cohorts that she is worthy of working with them. The job was to track down a poltergeist as a team. It turns out, Paige did a lot more than what she thought she could do and what the others thought she was capable of. This gets Jaxon’s attention and he makes her an offer she can’t refuse.
I read The Bone Season series up to book three (The Song Rising). Book four is not out yet but should be later this year. The Pale Dreamer was a free download from the publisher on Instagram. I had plans to read this novella but kept forgetting and new books kept being added to my TBR list pushing this one even further back. I’m glad that I came across the ad. It was worth it to know how Paige joined Jaxon’s team of clairvoyants and how she became his most important member.
Robinson’s Dream is about a couple who thought they did everything right raising their teenage son only to find out that their efforts really didn’t pay off as expected. Their son found himself in a mess and they weren’t sure how to approach the situation. The husband (Robinson) and wife decide to sleep on it, and while doing so, Robinson falls into a dream and dreams within dreams of strange events having to do with his fears, anxieties, his son, family members, friends, and a kaleidoscope of other things.
Like Lages’s other book, King Clown, this book has a similar style, however, the pacing was much better in this one. From start to finish, I was immersed. There’s really not a huge plot or rising actions. It is a story of situations that take place without an obvious climax but still gets the message across. The humor is excellent. A lot of it is dark but well done. I laughed my heart out. The story itself is not very serious but the messages are. It’s just a wonderful read and I’d recommend it to anyone who wants to laugh and cry and think deep about life.