The Hollow Tree

The Nitty-Gritty Details 

Title: The Hollow Tree
Author: James Brogden
Publisher: Titan, March 2018
Blurb: Who Danced With Mary Before She Died?

After losing her hand in a tragic accident, Rachel is plagued by vivid nightmares of a hollow tree, and a hand reaching from it, begging her for help. Terrified that she is going mad, Rachel experiences phantom sensations of leaves, trees, and finally a hand that grasps hers and pulls a young woman into Rachel’s world. She has no idea of who she is, but Rachel can’t help but think of the local legend of Oak Mary, the corpse of a woman found hidden in a hollow tree, and who was never identified. Three myths have grown up around the body; was she a spy, a prostitute or a murdered gypsy? Rachel is desperate to learn the truth, but darker forces are at work. For a rule has been broken, and Mary is in a world where she doesn’t belong…

The Experience
(ARC copy given by Titan in exchange for an honest review)

So, um, whoa.

First off, when I got the email asking if I’d be interested in this ARC (which, can I also say, is still one of the freaking coolest things EVER?!), I was a little bit hesitant.

Mostly because I’m a wimp.

It’s a horror novel. A horror thriller. I’m the type of person who watches horror films, if people force me (or if he is really attractive, as I used to claim), between fingers while trying to drown out the sounds. Who, friends have learned, has to hide behind their shoulder when unexpected horror trailers come on at the theatres. Avoids films and video games in this genre like the plague. Will read King (because, duh) but otherwise?

Yeah, no, I like my sleep, thank you very much.

Yet for some reason, when I was asked if I was interested in The Hollow Tree by James Brodgen, I responded with, “Sure, why the devil not?”

(Except, you know, much more professionally.)

I got the book on a…Monday, I believe. Started reading it the following Tuesday and read the first 250 pages. Continued reading it Wednesday night and finished it in two days.36187753

So did I enjoy the book?

Yeah, absolutely.

Did I have nightmares on Tuesday night about a woman with multiple identities asking me to help her figure out who she was as she also tried to kill me as she kept reaching out with her hand, thus waking me up and forcing me to turn on the Skyrim Atmospheres track so I could get back to sleep?

Also valid.

(I wasn’t lying when I made the claim above.)

And yet, I seriously enjoyed this book. It was a good change of pace than my typical fantasy and science fiction, yet it had more fantasy-esque elements than I was expecting. I expected more “jump scare” type scenes when I got more intrigue, instead, with a little more magic and a helluva lot more creativity (not that horror writers aren’t creative; just, the level of creativity within the plot here, I was just pleasantly surprised with, which I guess isn’t saying too much, considering I knew nothing about this book or author before I received said email?).

I really loved our main protagonist, Rachel. I especially loved her relationship with Tom. I’m a sucker when it comes to relationships and I’m always rooting for them and theirs was one that I kept assuming I knew how it was going to go down, yet I was constantly surprised by it (which I think speaks volumes to how Tom was written as a character). I thought the entire thing was well written, terribly clever and definitely had me wanting to continue reading it, to find out what happened next (I mean, I did finish the thing in two days). So I’m really glad I stumbled upon it and took a chance on it, even if I woke up panicked from nightmares because of it. 😉

Read on!


Blood of Assassins

The Nitty-Gritty Details 

Title: Blood of Assassins
Author: RJ Barker
Publisher: Orbit, Feb. 2018

The assassin Girton Club-foot and his master have returned to Maniyadoc in hope of finding sanctuary, but death, as always, dogs Girton’s heels. The place he knew no longer exists.

War rages across Maniyadoc, with three kings claiming the same crown – and one of them is Girton’s old friend Rufra. Girton finds himself hurrying to uncover a plot to murder Rufra on what should be the day of the king’s greatest victory. But while Girton deals with threats inside and outside Rufra’s war encampment, he can’t help wondering if his greatest enemy hides beneath his own skin

The Experience

You know, I kept reading reviews over Blood of Assassins and how it was better than the first book in so many ways (some arguing in every way). And you know what?

They were right.

Don’t get me wrong: the first book, Age of Assassins, was absolutely stellar. It has such a unique voice with so much intrigue and worldbuilding, that it became hard to do anything but not just enjoy the hell out of it. I expected much of the same with the sequel and yet I found every element that I enjoyed about the first book was not only present, but also heightened.

Most notably, to me?

The characters.


We had a nice range of characters present in the first book and new ones to add to the mix. I hadn’t expected five years to pass between the events of book one and two, but obviously that is a significant amount of time. As such, you’d expect these characters to grow and change. And boy howdy, did they. Girton in particular, our protagonist, experienced a whirlwind of development from the first book to the second, but not only that, we got to see his character continue to shift and grow and evolve within the narrative itself. While I spent the first half the book wanting to scream at him, “Seriously, what are you doing?“, the second half of the book, I could feel nothing but pride over the choices he made and the growth he experienced. This type of development doesn’t usually feel so potent (or maybe that’s just me), but here, it felt like the center of the book and I was totally okay with that.

The writing itself, as always, was completely lovely. I found myself getting lost pages upon pages at a time and it was so easy to slip back into this world and completely block out all of my surroundings. The second half of the book, I started reading during my dinner break, only to sneak in more during the last hour of my work shift and then I stayed up another hour after my bedtime to finish it as soon as I got home.

And I was not disappointed.

Terrified by what’s going to have in King of Assassins, based on that epilogue (and that teaser chapter!? *dies*)?

Oh, you betcha.

But positively stoked, as well.

If you haven’t read Barker, I recommend you check him out, if for nothing else aside from the beautiful writing, unique POV and killer (literally) plot. But once you read this trilogy, you’ll also discover fantastic, real characters with depth and evolution, a premise that you will leave guessing and surprise you just when you thought you’d figured it out, a world that is as dark as it is intricate and yawning more than you usually do, because, you know, who needs sleep when you have another chapter left to read?

Read on!

Kings of the Wyld

The Nitty-Gritty Details 

Title: Kings of the Wyld
Author: Nicholas Eames
Publisher: Orbit, Feb. 2017
Blurb: Clay Cooper and his band were once the best of the best — the meanest, dirtiest, most feared crew of mercenaries this side of the Heartwyld.

Their glory days long past, the mercs have grown apart and grown old, fat, drunk – or a combination of the three. Then an ex-bandmate turns up at Clay’s door with a plea for help. His daughter Rose is trapped in a city besieged by an enemy one hundred thousand strong and hungry for blood. Rescuing Rose is the kind of mission that only the very brave or the very stupid would sign up for.

It’s time to get the band back together for one last tour across the Wyld.

The Experience

First off, before I write anything further, I need to apologize to Terry (Hi there! *waves*), Kings of the Wyld author Nicholas Eames’s dad. He reads these reviews when they pop up and this one…well, it’s going to go a lot of different directions at once, I’m afraid. So, if you want the quick version without attempting to follow my brain through this one, dear readers (and Terry!), here’s a review of Kings of the Wyld in one sentence.

It has been, hands down, the best book I’ve read in 2018.

(I might even be so bold as to say of 2017, too. Top five of 2017, easily.)

Now, if you want to know why, sit back, make some popcorn and try and multitask while you read this review, so you can simultaneously also purchase this book wherever books are sold (or, get it from the library, like I did, which will then result in you turning it back in, only so you can go and purchase a copy to own yourself from wherever books are sold).


So, where do I start?30841984

I had only read the first chapter before falling in love with this book. Like, heads over heels in love with this book.

Perhaps it has something to do with the premise, with taking a band of heroes so amazing, they became legendary, and looking at them now that they are old and tired and had moved on in their separate paths, only to see them come back together again and try to not live up, but I’d daresay surpass, their own legend on a quest to save the daughter of one of their own. That premise alone was just so darn neat and I loved every second of it.

Perhaps it was the characters themselves. Each of the five members of Saga–Clay Slowhand Cooper, Gabriel, Arcandius Moog, Mattrick Skulldrummer and Ganelon–has a distinct personality that makes them very hard not to root for and completely adore. Their friendship is one of the most real things I feel I’ve ever read, which I think is what drew me into the story so much to begin with. I would read books (yes, plural) about Saga’s adventures alone. BOOKS. (Terry, sir, if you do decide to pass this review along to your son, if you wouldn’t mind letting him know there is at least a market of one for every Saga book he can think of, you would have my gratitude). Yet that’s just our main cast. Bring in characters like Jain and the Silk Arrows (man, I loved them), Larkspur (um, talk about badass awesomeness), Kit the Unkillable (yeah, loved him too), The Ettin, Gregor and Dane (I mean, I didn’t really need a heart, so go ahead and break it, please), and the entire crew of the Vanguard…I mean, these characters carried the plot and made this book such a joy to read in every capacity, it floored me.

Perhaps it was the worldbuilding. And let me tell you, what a completely, totally and utterly rich world this is. From the wide range of creatures and horrors that Saga have to face from the really neat progression of culture, i.e., what touring was like when Saga was in full glory compared to how bands are treated and what expectations they have now, there was nothing that drew me out of this book and I was completely convinced it was real. Part of me wishes it was.

Perhaps it was the humor. And goodness me, did I absolutely love the humor within this novel. I was laughing even just pages in and I laughed more than I have in while. I laughed often enough–from giggling to full-annoying-belly-laughs–that my coworkers at work continually asked me what was so funny (or gave me really dirty looks, which I pretended not to notice). I turned to them and asked, “How long do you have?”, but before they could respond, I basically just shoved the books in their faces and told them to read it.

Perhaps it was the heart. Because don’t let the amount of laughter fool you, this book is chalk full of it. For as many times as I suppressed (and failed) a giggle, I felt my heartstrings tug and twist (and occasionally rip), oftentimes with just a single sentence to do me in. It got to the point where I had two chapters left, including the epilogue, and I both didn’t understand how it could end already and I absolutely dreaded the fact it was going to do so, because I was not ready to leave this world. Not ready at all. I came to care about Saga too much to want to leave the world where they existed.

Perhaps it was the mixture of awe and I won’t lie, a little bit of jealousy that I felt, writer to writer. I hadn’t even read half of the book when I was already so enamored, so entranced, that I actually sat back, during my dinner break, in complete awe. Kings of the Wyld is everything I could want in a book. It has everything I want to write within a novel. Yet I don’t believe I could ever write something so fulfilling, so fantastic, as what Eames did here. If writers were placed in bands in reality, I feel like Pip, while Eames is Clay Cooper.

I want to be Clay Cooper.

I guess, when it comes down to it, when asking why Kings of the Wyld has been my favorite book of 2018 to read, saying “everything” would have been a lot simpler (and shorter) to write. Or just shoving a copy of the book in your face and saying, “Read it. See for yourself.”

Personally, I hope you choose the latter option, because this book isn’t a book you don’t want to miss. This is a book you can’t.

Read on!


Embers of War

The Nitty-Gritty Details 

Title: Embers of War
Author: Gareth L. Powell
Publisher: Titan Books, Feb. 2018
Blurb: The warship Trouble Dog was built and bred for calculating violence, yet following a brutal war, she finds herself disgusted by conflict and her role in a possible war crime. Seeking to atone, she joins the House of Reclamation, an organisation dedicated to rescuing ships in distress.

But, stripped of her weaponry and emptied of her officers, she struggles in the new role she’s chosen for herself. When a ship goes missing in a disputed system, Trouble Dog and her new crew of misfits and loners, captained by Sal Konstanz, an ex-captain of a medical frigate who once fought against Trouble Dog, are assigned to investigate and save whoever they can.

Meanwhile, light years away, intelligence officer Ashton Childe is tasked with locating and saving the poet, Ona Sudak, who was aboard the missing ship, whatever the cost. In order to do this, he must reach out to the only person he considers a friend, even if he’s not sure she can be trusted. What Childe doesn’t know is that Sudak is not the person she appears to be.

Quickly, what appears to be a straightforward rescue mission turns into something far more dangerous, as Trouble Dog, Konstanz and Childe, find themselves at the centre of a potential new conflict that could engulf not just mankind but the entire galaxy.

If she is to survive and save her crew, Trouble Dog is going to have to remember how to fight.

The Experience
(This ARC was given to me by Titan Books in exchange for an honest review.)

Happy Publication Day to Embers of War by Gareth L. Powell, if you’re reading this review on the 20th of February, 2018. If you aren’t, at least now you know the day it was published, so…hey, the more you know, right?

This book was such a different read for me, but I absolutely, thoroughly enjoyed it.

I have been slowly reading more and more science fiction, though I don’t think I’ve ever read something so in-depth and so mind-stretching (for me, personally) as Embers of War. I’m still wrapping my head around some of the finer details and grander concepts, but I think someone who loves science fiction or who is an avid reader within the genre will fly through this book like they are lacking oxygen and Embers of War is their own personal bubble of breathable air. It’s fast paced, it’s intricate and it’s complex.

My brain could use reading a few more books as challenging, enjoyable and rewarding as this one.


I think my favorite bit was how it was written. They was just a…I’m not even sure how to describe it, a higher quality of style, in the way it was written. There was an eloquence that I don’t always find in books, yet I found within these pages, that I appreciated and admired. I would have enjoyed the book for the writing alone (but lucky for me, the story was pretty fantastic, too).

I also was a huge fan of the multiple POVs it was told from (though I won’t like, at the beginning, I did get a bit lost as to who was who, though I quickly got that sorted) and how quickly you could fly through the chapters. Once again, I found myself reading a book in 100+ page increments, pushing past my bed time or rushing to return to work after my dinner break because I almost missed going back on time (again). I especially enjoyed that we got some POVs I wasn’t expecting (though I won’t tell you who, because I want you to be surprised, too). Her POV might even have been my favorite. I was also impressed by how distinct some of the voices sounded within their POVs, especially once I got everyone straight in my head.

Plus, those last 100 pages were pretty bomb and the last two chapters have me itching for the next book (because there is going to be another book, right?).

I’d say if you like science fiction, characters with dark pasts and demons that still haunt them, space battles, first person POV told through multi-POVs, shaky military alliances, tough choices and the sudden desire to worship the World Tree, this book will not disappoint you. Me, I’m really glad I stumbled upon this book, am thankful to Titan for providing an advanced review copy and stoked to continue reading more by this author!

Read on!


Time Shards

The Nitty-Gritty Details 

Title: Time Shards
Author: Dana Fredsti and David Fitzgerald
Publisher: Titan Books, Jan. 2018
Blurb: It’s called “the Event.” An unimaginable cataclysm in the 23rd century shatters 600 years of the Earth’s timeline into jumbled fragments. Our world is gone: instantly replaced by a new one made of shattered remnants of the past, present and future, all existing alongside one another in a nightmare patchwork of different time “shards”—some hundreds of miles long and others no more than a few feet across.

San Diego native Amber Richardson is stranded on a tiny fragment of 21st century Britain surrounded by a Pleistocene wilderness. She crosses paths with Cam, a young warrior of a tribe from Roman Brittania, and together they struggle to survive—only to be imprisoned by Cromwellian soldiers. One of their captives is a man who Amber calls Merlin, who may know more about what caused the Event. Together, they learn they must escape before the damage to the timeline is irreparable.

The Experience

So, before I gush about the book itself–and there is a lot of gushing to be had over Times Shards–I gotta talk about the neat way I got a copy. I stumbled upon a tweet from Titan Books, searching for US bloggers to receive copies of new releases from this year and write honest reviews over those books. I sent them an email and was surprised to be added to their list of bloggers, despite how small Erlebnisse still is. I received two books, based on my interests.

One of them was Time Shards by Dana Fredsti and David Fitzgerald.

So, here’s my honest review, in one sentence:

I didn’t even get halfway through this book before I started telling my friends they need to read it.

Now, here’s the gushing.

First of all, that premise. It’s one that makes your head hurt (in a good, challenging way) and makes you desperate to find out more, because you just want to know what’s happening, how it happened and what they are going to do to fix it. Then, you pair it with the way the book was written, through multiple POVs throughout multiple points in time, jumping back and forth between life before the Event and just after the Event occurred, creating the time shards everyone is stuck in.

I loved how we got a section featuring famous figures in history and what they were doing during the Event and how the Event completely shattered (heh) their world. I loved following the characters around as they struggled to piece together (and come to terms with) what happened and struggled to survive terrors from the past and the future, depending on where they themselves were from in the timeline.35082019

Throughout the entire book, I couldn’t stop thinking about how clever it was (in every sense a compliment). Most notably, I loved that Amber was at a Con and cosplaying before the Event and how her outfit had real world consequences after the fact. I also really enjoyed the attention to detail, especially the more gritty or uncomfortable ones. There were multiple times when I squirmed in my seat and a very distinct moment–when we learn the truth behind a character’s background–where I said, “No fucking shit,” as I was reading, literally bouncing up out of my seat in a mixture of horror and shock, before I continued.

Honestly, my only complaint?

The book ended.

Trust me, the way it was set up was absolutely necessary. Like I said, I loved getting all the flashes from different times and perspectives as the Event happened (particularly Neil Armstrong). I loved getting to know our main group of survivors and seeing things from their POV (also, Cam? Favorite character, absolutely hands down). Yet I felt like we were just getting into the true meat of the story, really figuring out what the Event actually was and what they were going to do to fix it, and then the story ended.

Killer last line, though.

And now, I’m left with a predicament I’m not entirely used to, considering Time Shards was published, eh, a week ago, yet I’ve already started searching for information when the sequel is coming out (hint: there is no information, because the book came out a week ago). Because I really don’t want to leave this world and the wonderful way it was written, the characters I became very much invested in and experiencing all the clever ways in which the Event shattered time and how everyone is responding to it. And to think, if I hadn’t stumbled upon Titan’s tweet and reached out to them, I might not have discovered the book that I read in 100+ page increments for the past few dinner breaks.

Best email I’ve ever sent.




The Nitty-Gritty Details 

Title: Silverlock
Author: John Myers Myers
Publisher: Ace Trade Paperbacks, 1949
Blurb: In this classic of fantasy fiction, John Myers transports readers to a world as limitless as the human imagination, where a shipwrecked American meets up with Robin Hood, Beowulf, Huck Finn, and countless others on the adventure of a lifetime.

The Experience

This might be the first negative review I’ve written on here. It’s definitely the first DNF (did not finish) book that I can remember in…well, a really freakin’ long time. And that’s really disappointing to me, because I was really excited about this book.

I can’t remember how I discovered it, but when I read it’s initial premise, I was really excited about it. It was a book I thought, potentially, could be considered a comparative title to the series I’m currently writing. Of course, I needed to read it to see if it worked as a comp, but I’ve never really been able to find any comparative titles, so I was really excited about the prospect. Even if it didn’t work (and it didn’t), the premise definitely seemed really interesting. I was excited to see all of these other, familiar stories interwoven and how the main character, who was unfamiliar with those worlds existing except in fiction, would respond.

But I only got halfway through before I put it down in exchange for an ARC.

Here were my issues with it.

One, I could not connect with the main character. Sure, in the forward, it mentioned how he starts off as an ass (okay, they wrote it much more poetically than that) before he grows on you, but he never did. I didn’t like his cocky attitude or how he always assumed he was better than everyone else, though I was impressed that he admitted it aloud, from time to time, and he was aware of his own shortcomings and embraced them. I’ve fallen in love with cocky characters before and connected with characters I have nothing in common with, but not with Shandon Silverlock. 104069

Secondly, I just wanted the book to…go somewhere. Shandon gets shipwrecked and then finds himself in the Commonwealth and you’d assume his main goal would be to return home. Instead, he simply pops between character and adventure, helping when he’s able, before moving onto the next group or problem. Perhaps if this was all moving towards something bigger or tied into a larger plot, I could get behind it. Like in The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch. There are a lot of subplots going on, smaller heists and things that need to be accomplished alongside the main storyline. Yet I enjoyed going off of those side quests, if you will. They added, not subtracted, from the main quest. With Silverlock, I just got annoyed. I wanted to know what the main quest was, yet could never figure that out. Instead, these characters would just randomly show up while Shandon was adventuring, make an appearance and fulfill whatever joke or special appearance they were meant to, and then go along their way. It just irked me. Everything felt…random. Unfocused.

I also was a bit confused as to Shandon’s reaction. I was totally okay that he didn’t have the, “Holy shit, how did these characters come to life?!” reaction that was expected. But he didn’t even acknowledge that he was living in works of fiction made real, whether he believed it or not. He just had no opinion whatsoever, just accepting things as reality and moving forward with it. Which I guess is a response, but I didn’t really understand how that was his response. He was college educated, as he liked to point out. Surely he would have recognized some of them and that would have drawn out an emotional response?

I’ve read my fair share, but I know I missed a lot of the references. In some ways, I enjoyed hunting for the next reference or waiting to see what new character would make an appearance–and become stoked when I guessed the clues correctly before their identity was revealed, as I did with Beowulf and Don Quixote. Yet at the same time, I think I was frustrated just enough, wondering what the main conflict was, that I found the onslaught of references annoying, instead of pleasurable, like each discovery is in say, James A. Owen’s The Chronicles of the Imaginarium Geographica, for instance.

So…yeah. After some encouragement by my boyfriend (because I really don’t like to DNF a book), I put Silverlock down. Disappointed, definitely, but honestly? The book I’m currently reading is so good, I haven’t given the decision too much reflection.

Read on!


The Guns Above

The Nitty-Gritty Details 

Title: The Guns Above 
Author: Robyn Bennis
Publisher: May, 2017, Tor
Blurb: The nation of Garnia has been at war for as long as Auxiliary Lieutenant Josette Dupre can remember – this time against neighboring Vinzhalia. Garnia’s Air Signal Corp stands out as the favored martial child of the King. But though it’s co-ed, women on-board are only allowed “auxiliary” crew positions and are banned from combat. In extenuating circumstances, Josette saves her airship in the heat of battle. She is rewarded with the Mistral, becoming Garnia’s first female captain.

She wants the job – just not the political flak attached. On top of patrolling the front lines, she must also contend with a crew who doubts her expertise, a new airship that is an untested deathtrap, and the foppish aristocrat Lord Bernat – a gambler and shameless flirt with the military know-how of a thimble. He’s also been assigned to her ship to catalog her every moment of weakness and indecision. When the Vins make an unprecedented military move that could turn the tide of the war, can Josette deal with Bernat, rally her crew, and survive long enough to prove herself to the top brass?

The Experience 

So, I’m actually pissed at myself for this one, because I think I messed up my own experience with it.

This book intrigued me. I didn’t know too much about it, just sorta stumbled upon it on Twitter one day, but I was intrigued enough to add it to the list of books I wanted for Christmas and was lucky enough to get it. And I actually read it pretty soon after I got it, unlike a lot of other books on my To-Read list this year, which I’ve owned for years a while and haven’t gotten around to, yet. Yet as I was changing the status on Goodreads, I noticed some of the reviews at the bottom.

And they weren’t all exactly positive.

Usually, I don’t even look at reviews, let alone let my opinion be based off of them–especially because every book will have a range of reviews, naturally (which I know is ironic, because I write reviews myself and you’re probably asking, Well then, what’s the point of these reviews?, to which I’d respond in kind: I usually don’t read many books I don’t like ((not sure how that happens, but look at my reviews and you’ll see I just fall in love with the books I read, ninety percent of the time)) so my reviews, personally, are for two purposes: one, to gush about a book I just loved yet have no one else to rant talk about it with and two, help the author out a little bit, even if I have a pretty small audience here. I like to read reviews of books I’ve already read, in hopes of finding someone else to gush with. I usually don’t read them to ascertain if a book is my fancy or not. I’m weird, I know).

((Sorry about that tangent, there. Oops.))26123536

But, I caught myself reading some of these reviews and getting discouraged. For one reason or another, I just assumed this book was going to be awesome. It was a military fantasy with steampunk influences about a woman trying to make her place in a world where women are undervalued. How could it not be awesome?

Yet I think those reviews did taint my reading, because while I did enjoy the book, I didn’t like it as much as I imagined I would.

Don’t get me wrong: it’s a good book. The details were great, I could easily picture what was going on and I loved the battle-focus, even if I felt some of the battle scenes went on a bit longer than necessary. I think I had two main hang ups, that kept me from absolutely falling in love.

First, I was really irked by the treatment of women in the story. I get that is part of the culture and the world, but it was just…really hard to read about a world where women were looked at in such low regard in many ways. I don’t think that can really count against the book, but it did influence my opinion of it, so…take that as you will. Second, I would have liked to get to know Josette and Lord Bernat a little bit better. They were both very interesting characters and they contrasted wonderfully, but I didn’t always feel like I understood where they were coming from/their motivations and I wanted to be inside their heads a little bit more.

That said, it was still a good read and I’m looking forward to continuing the series (By Fires Above comes out this May). And this time, I’ll avoid looking at any reviews (regardless of whether they actually tainted my reading or if I would have had that opinion anyway).

Read on!