Tag Archives: pirates

Late to the Party ARC Review – Salt by Hannah Moskowitz

Title: Salt

Author: Hannah Moskowitz

Rating: ★★★ 1/2

Synopsis: Even though their parents disappeared during a hunt three months ago, seventeen-year-old Indi and his siblings, Beleza, Oscar, and Zulu, continue to roam the Mediterranean on their sailboat and hunt down monsters–but Indi yearns for a more settled life for his family, and he hopes that his parents’ journal with its tantalizing hints of a treasure, will provide them all with the means of escape from their nomadic and dangerous life before it is too late.

Huge thank you to Raincoast for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

This was a fun read. There’s not a lot of pirate stories out there, let alone one with a more modernized twist to it. Salt takes a look at a group of siblings who have a strong desire for adventure, as they hit the high seas.

Salt has a fantastic ensemble cast. Each of the siblings has a distinctive voice, each with memorable quirks and personalities. I think the book captures the good aspects of a pirate novel — there’s plundering, adventure, and a desire for independence. I think what also makes this book interesting is that there’s definitely a sense of existential dread that looms over the characters as well. I think what I struggled with though, is that while the characters felt well developed, the story just plodded along and it didn’t feel like a lot happened. I suppose in a way I thought this would be a more plot intensive book, given that most pirate stories are. Perhaps that was the wrong assumption to go into with this book.

I generally have a mixed relationship to Hannah Moskowitz’s books. I either love them to the ends of the earth, or they are just pretty good. Generally, I find I love her contemporary books over her fantasy novels, and that it true of Salt. This book has fantastic characters, but if you’re looking for a plot intensive book, that isn’t what Salt is about. Sadly for me, as much as I loved the characters and found it to be a quick read, ultimately, it’s going to be a forgettable one as time passes.

Advertisements

Book Review – The Accidental Highwayman by Ben Tripp

20519011Title: The Accidental Highwayman

Author: Ben Tripp

Rating: ★ 1/2

Synopsis: In eighteenth-century England, young Christopher “Kit” Bristol is the unwitting servant of notorious highwayman Whistling Jack. One dark night, Kit finds his master bleeding from a mortal wound, dons the man’s riding cloak to seek help, and changes the course of his life forever. Mistaken for Whistling Jack and on the run from redcoats, Kit is catapulted into a world of magic and wonders he thought the stuff of fairy tales.  Bound by magical law, Kit takes up his master’s quest to rescue a rebellious fairy princess from an arranged marriage to King George III of England. But his task is not an easy one, for Kit must contend with the feisty Princess Morgana, gobling attacks, and a magical map that portends his destiny: as a hanged man upon the gallows….

Huge thank you to Raincoast for this finished copy!

Sam’s Review:

I wanted to love this book so badly. I love stories of highwaymen, swashbuckling, and being a servant who dons a hero’s mantle. However, a lot of this book just didn’t work for me personally.

Frankly, for all those things I mentioned above, this book is very dull. More problematic is the fact that the language feels almost too challenging for the audience is it being geared towards. Tripp borrow’s Pratchett’s signature, using footnotes to convey more pieces of the story while also using it to define words being used and its context, but even that feels very bogged down and boring. The footnotes are not interesting to read at all, and while I enjoyed the additional words I could add to my vocabulary, it added nothing to the story for me on a whole.

The Accidental Highwayman is also bogged down by the story’s romance. The romance is boring. Boring, boring, boring. It’s also so cliched and uninspired and if I’m being frank, I kind of found it a little on the suffoicating side. Everyone in the story outside of Kit feels too one-dimensial (the women, omg the women are painful), and there’s too much info-dumping at times to keep the story interesting. If anything, the story parts are bogged down by so much unnecessary information that it made me cry “get on with it!”

If I am saying that, there’s a problem.

For a middle grade swashbuckling adventure, there is way better out there. If you don’t mind being bogged down by tons of information or the flat characters, you could find some enjoyment here. While the adventure had it’s moments, they felt few and far between, making The Accidental Highwayman a tough book to recommend in the end.

Blog Tour – A Daughter of No Nation (Hidden Sea Tales #2) by A.M. Dellamonica (Review and Q&A)

A.M Dellamoncia is an author I’ve actually had the pleasure of meeting a few years back. During Fan Expo (?), we bonded over being Italo-Scotches, people who are half Italian, half Scottish. I had purchased a copy of Indigo Springs, which I’ve since read and enjoyed (really nifty stuff there!). She’s a very funny individual with a good sense of humour, and if you live in the Toronto area when she’s doing an event, I urge you to go and see her — she’s a great person. Her latest series Hidden Sea Tales, is a series I became smitten with last year, so when Raincoast approached me to be a part of the blog tour for the second book, how could I resist?

Below you will find my review of the second book and a short Q&A with A.M Dellamonica, where she discusses Bram (aka my gay book boyfriend) and her inspiration for this series. Enjoy! And make sure to check out A Child of the Hidden Sea (out in both hardcover and paperback) and then the sequel, A Daughter of No Nation which released in hardcover on December 1st.


25543928Title:  A Daughter of No Nation (Hidden Sea Tales #2)

Author: A.M. Dellamonica

Rating:  ★★★ 1/2

Synopsis: As soon as Sophie Hansa returned to our world, she is anxious to once again go back to Stormwrack. Unable to discuss the wondrous sights she has seen, and unable to tell anyone what happened to her in her time away, Sophie is in a holding pattern, focused entirely on her eventual chance to return.

With the sudden arrival of Garland Parrish, Sophie is once again gone. This time, she has been called back to Stormwrack in order to spend time with her father, a Duelist-Adjudicator, who is an unrivaled combatant and fearsome negotiator. But is he driven by his commitment to seeing justice prevail, or is he a sociopath? Soon, she discovers something repellent about him that makes her reject him, and everything he is offering. Adrift again, she discovers that her time spent with her father is not without advantages, however, for Sophie has discovered there is nothing to stop her from setting up a forensic institute in Stormwrack, investigating cases that have been bogged down in the courts, sometimes for years. Her fresh look into a long-standing case between two of the islands turns up new information that could get her, and her friends, pulled into something bold and daring, which changes the entire way she approaches this strange new world. 

Huge thank you to Raincoast Books/Tor for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

Let me preface this review by stating how much I adored Child of the Hidden Sea. I WAS IN LOVE WITH IT! I found it just a unique and refreshing take on both time slip fantasy and pirates. Just the fact alone that pirates are such a dying breed in literature make me depressed considering how much fun and roguish they can be.

And here’s the kicker: I was so excited about a sequel for Child of the Hidden Sea because I loved the world, I thought the characters were a ton of fun (BRAM!) and because at the end of the day, I liked how Dellamonica gave the reader a lot to think about. Sophie is wonderful as a heroine who is delectably flawed, but charming nonetheless. Something about A Daughter of No Nation did not grip me right away the way the first book did. I struggled with the majority of this book, and if I’m being honest, I can’t really explain why given that everything I liked about the first book was definitely still here and if anything there was moreof it.

But I struggled, and realized it wasn’t the book: it was me. I was trying to force myself to read this book when I wasn’t in the mood, and as a result my enjoyment suffered. This is not a bad sequel by any stretch of the imagination, but rather it didn’t hook me the way the first book did. The writing is still quite stellar and vivid, and while I enjoyed it, I felt a bit more lost considering I hadn’t reread A Child of the Hidden Sea, and I think I should have.

What I will say, however, is the last hundred pages are what did it for me. I was completely glued the story, turning the pages and demanding the need for more. All of a sudden the book had this grip on me that refused to let go until I had gotten to end. I won’t spoil this book, but for those who loved the first one, those last hundred pages will keep you so invested and remind you of why the first book worked so well.

So while this sequel was a bit slow for me and didn’t really work for me mood-wise, I still plan on reading book three when it releases. I think sometimes a second book can suffer from a middle book syndrome and sometimes that is okay too. I just admit, I wish there had been more Bram. Any time Bram was around, the book had my fullest attention because darn it, he’s just so damn delightful.

A. M. DELLAMONICA is the author of Indigo Springs, winner of the
Sunburst Award for Canadian Literature of the Fantastic, and its concluding sequel, Blue
Magic. Her short stories have appeared in a number of fantasy and science fiction
magazines and anthologies, and on Tor.com.

1111


Q&A on A Daughter of No Nation (and why you should join the Bram train!)

The amazing folks at Raincoast gave me the chance to ask A.M Dellamoncia a few questions about the Hidden Sea Tales, and she was awesome enough to answer them! Here’s the results:

Bram is my favourite character in the series. He’s delightfully sassy. Where did the inspiration for his character come from?

I don’t think there was ever a point where I didn’t know Sophie would have a brother.My siblings (a category that includes inlaws who’ve been part of my life for almost
thirty years as well as my sister and stepsibs) are a crucial thread within the fabric of
my life.

The Hidden Sea Tales are about microclimates, as well as a hundred other things, and I
believe that families are social microclimates. By this I mean that the only person whose
experience of growing up can ever be remotely like your own is that of a kid who’s grown
up in the same household. Even then, of course, two different children can come away with
completely different perspectives on what happened in their shared past, and this is
pretty much true of Sophie and Bram. They have very different takes on their dad in
particular. Even so, they are close–there’s a scene in A Daughter of No Nation where
they’re each so determined to protect the other from physical harm that they’re
practically stumbling into each other, and thereby putting themselves in more danger
rather than less.

As someone who is queer, I also have some familiarity with the experience of building
your own family from the close-knit circle of people with whom you share many experiences
but no actual DNA. Bram is definitely inspired by many of the smart and thoroughly
wonderful gay men I have come to know over the years.

One aspect I love about this series is the time-slip nautical/pirate theme that you have   working through the story. What made you decide to blend so many different genres to craft this series?

I am very proud of my first two books, Indigo Springs and Blue Magic, but they are
somewhat somber and the latter, in particular, has a shockingly high body count. When I
set out to write a Child of A Hidden Sea, I wanted to have fun. I started by making a
list of everything I love: sailing ships, Sherlock Holmes, biodiversity, portal fantasy,
sea monsters, wildlife biologists, crime procedurals, nature documentaries, photography,
pirates, magic, volcanoes… okay, I admit it was something of a nerdy list.

The sensible thing at that point would have been to pare down that initial brainstorming
session, choosing a few absolute favourites and saving the rest for the next book. But I
wanted to go at it like a kid attacking a pile of birthday gifts, by keeping everything
on the list that I possibly could. I had a lot of fun writing these novels, and I think
it shows.


Huge thank you again to both A.M Dellamonica and Raincoast for all their time and effort in this blog tour. Both Child of the Hidden Sea and Daughter of No Nation are out NOW!

Wanna see where the tour is heading next? Check out the tour stops below!

index1111

ARC Review – Child of a Hidden Sea by A.M. Dellamonica

18490629Title:  Child of a Hidden Sea

Author: A.M. Dellamonica

Rating: ★★★★

Synopsis: One minute, twenty-four-year-old Sophie Hansa is in a San Francisco alley trying to save the life of the aunt she has never known. The next, she finds herself flung into the warm and salty waters of an unfamiliar world. Glowing moths fall to the waves around her, and the sleek bodies of unseen fish glide against her submerged ankles. The world is Stormwrack, a series of island nations with a variety of cultures and economies—and a language different from any Sophie has heard.

Sophie doesn’t know it yet, but she has just stepped into the middle of a political firestorm, and a conspiracy that could destroy a world she has just discovered… her world, where everyone seems to know who she is, and where she is forbidden to stay.

But Sophie is stubborn, and smart, and refuses to be cast adrift by people who don’t know her and yet wish her gone. With the help of a sister she has never known, and a ship captain who would rather she had never arrived, she must navigate the shoals of the highly charged politics of Stormwrack, and win the right to decide for herself whether she stays in this wondrous world . . . or is doomed to exile.

Huge thank you to Tor and Netgalley for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

Huge thank you to Tor and Netgalley for this ARC!

I’ve been having trouble trying to put into words why I enjoyed Child of a Hidden Sea. Timeslip novels are so difficult to do because they need to have some believability, but we all know how incredibly unrealistic they are as well. Usually what I factor is into is “do I want to timeslip back into this world again” and in the case of A.M Dellamoncia’s Stormwrack, the yes is unabashedly yes.

A.M Dellamoncia creates a strong and rich world in this novel, and one that is easy to visualize and sensationalize as well. You get a sense of how the water may smell, how the air is, how vivid towns and cities are, and she immerses the reader in all of this without much difficultly. Furthermore, she fleshes out the characters so well, as it’s easy to enjoy Sophie’s antics, or the mysteries surrounding the various deaths within Stormwrack. There’s a surprisingly number of them!

I like stories they do a great job of making the reader feel included. The only downside to this book I found was that sometimes the writing was a bit vague or confusing, and I know I had to reread bits to ensure I understood what was happening. There’s also a lot of telling in sections where I feel more showing would have benefited. The balance is not the best, but I don’t feel it makes the book so weak that it’s unreadable.

Overall, I can say that I had a lot of fun reading Child of a Hidden Sea. The mystery elements with the added layer of fantasy and magic just made for such a fun voyage. Also sailing! Politics! And Bram. Bram is a fantastic character, and easily my favourite. This is a great adventure, and if you want something that will whisk you away, check this book out when it releases.

ARC Review – The Wizard’s Promise by Cassandra Rose Clarke

17790234Title: The Wizard’s Promise

Author: Cassandra Rose Clarke

Rating: ★★★ 1/2

Synopsis: All Hanna Euli wants is to become a proper witch – but unfortunately, she’s stuck as an apprentice to a grumpy fisherman. When their boat gets caught up in a mysterious storm and blown wildly off course, Hanna finds herself further away from home than she’s ever been before.

As she tries to get back, she learns there may be more to her apprentice master than she realized, especially when a mysterious, beautiful, and very non-human boy begins following her through the ocean, claiming that he needs Hanna’s help.

Huge thank you to Strange Chemistry and Netgalley for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

I really enjoyed Clarke’s The Assassin’s Curse duology. It had a lot of my favourite, excluded elements in fantasy, particularly pirates, sailing the high seas AS a pirate, and a kick butt heroine who becomes a pirate-assassin. The Wizard’s Promise definitely shares quite a number of elements with its big sister, and while I wasn’t sold immediately, Clarke really has a way of building a story.

The Wizard’s Promise is slow. In fact, it took me about 30% for I found myself really engaging with the story. It has a lot it has to establish right away, something that will break even the most patient reader, but implore you — it’s worth sticking with to see how Clarke builds the world, crafts her characters, and the last 25% percent of this book, where hell really breaks lose, it’s quite the delightful, if eerie romp.

I feel like I’m not doing a the best job of representing this book, but it really is going to be one of those novels that will have a very polarizing affect. In one sense, how do you keep reader’s going when your beginning is molasses slow? How do I compel people to get to that last 25% which really makes the story shine? You can’t ask that of every reader.

Clark’e prose is stunning. She has this way of articulating her descriptions that just makes me shiver. Everything is vivid, so easy to visualize, and I feel like since a good chunk of this novel takes place on the high seas, that she’s trying to play to our inner-pirate’s again, which is fine by me. I wasn’t entirely sold on the characters right away, but Hanna grew on me. She wants to be a full-fledged wind witch, and she has so much persistence in what she wants. She never gives up, never lets people tell her she can’t — we need more of this in YA. She’s definitely hard-headed, but her supporting cast really helps keep her in check for most of the story.
However, she is entitled, a bit bratty, but it worked for me because when she had her ass handed to her, it was handed hard. Really, it was the supporting cast and their issues that kept a lot of the novel fresh for me. No love triangle, though the male cast was quite entertaining in how they handled Hanna’s behavior at times.

Admittedly, there were times where the book took it’s dear sweet time to where it was going, and sometimes I found myself engaged, other times I was screaming to get one with it. The best way to approach The Wizard’s Promise is to have patience, because isn’t the most smooth of sailing from start to finish. However, the events that do transpire are both scary and clever that I have to handle it to Cassandra Rose Clarke for including those moments, in what mostly felt like a long introduction. I do hope the pacing issues get ironed out for book two, because I am interested in seeing where Hanna’s adventure will take her next.