Book Review | Food of the Gods by Cassandra Khaw

Food of the Gods (Gods and Monsters: Rupert Wong #1-2)
By Cassandra Khaw | Published by Abaddon, 2017 | 240 pages | ISBN: 9781781085196

Food of the Gods (Gods and Monsters: Rupert Wong #1-2)Synopsis:
Paying off a debt to the gods is never easy.
It’s not unusual to work two jobs in this day and age, but sorcerer and former triad soldier Rupert Wong’s life is more complicated than most. By day, he makes human hors d’oeuvres for a dynasty of ghouls; by night, he pushes pencils for the Ten Chinese Hells. Of course, it never seems to be enough to buy him a new car—or his restless, flesh-eating-ghost girlfriend passage from the reincarnation cycle—until opportunity comes smashing through his window.
In Kuala Lumpur, where deities from a handful of major faiths tip-toe around each other and damned souls number in the millions, it’s important to tread carefully. Now the Dragon King of the South wants to throw Rupert right in it. The ocean god’s daughter and her once-mortal husband have been murdered, leaving a single clue: bloodied feathers from the Greek furies. It’s a clue that could start a war between pantheons, and Rupert’s stuck in the middle. Success promises wealth, power and freedom, and failure… doesn’t.

Why I Picked This Up

I honestly do not remember how I came across this book. I want to say it was via Goodreads, buuuuut I really don’t know. However, I definitely found the premise to be super interesting, the little dedication in the front made me smile and it just sounded like a good read overall.IMG_2521

Review

★★★★
Writing Style ★  | Character Development  | Plot | World Building / Setting ★ | Uniqueness ★

The Super Good

First off, this book was definitely unique and I really can’t think of anything I can personally compare it to. The whole “chief of human flesh” and “pencil pusher for the Ten Chinese Hells” was an interesting background for Rupert to have and just the whole way how his character is structured is unique. He’s not exactly a bad dude but he’s also definitely not a good dude, he’s a bit of a chaotic neutral which I loved. Also, the idea of warring pantheons (Chinese and Greek) was something that I haven’t read too often and I loved how it played out.

Khaw has an awesome writing style. This novel was super quick paced, filled with witticisms, and just had an excellent flow to it that I absolutely devoured. The world that Rupert inhabits is filled with ghouls, demons, magical folk and various gods and goddess from multiple pantheons and Khaw does an excellent job at defining what their role is within the “real” world and where they fit in their own sphere of existence. Khaw’s descriptions of settings in the real world was also beautifully done. She spent just enough time describing sounds, colors, and the overall feel of places that my desire for wordy descriptions was well satisfied.

The “I’m Not Exactly Sure” Stuff

As much as I loved the story of this book, there was just something that felt off about the plot. I wanted to love it, but there were just some plotlines that were either never addressed, flat out didn’t make any sense, or just left me hanging. However, I did enjoy the pacing and the overall resolution of the story.

The same feeling of something being off also goes towards character development. The characters definitely change in response to their situations, but sometimes it was just really confusing trying to figure out the why and how the change came about. However, as with the plot, I enjoyed the overall end result and felt that everything made sense by the time I hit the end of the novel.

Final Thoughts & Recommendations

I really, really, really enjoyed this book. It was super funny and I’m definitely going to hunt down some more of Cassandra Khaw’s work.

I would recommend this book to people who are;

  • fans of horror
  • interested in urban fantasy
    &
  • trying to read more diversely

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Graphic Novel Review | The Untamed

The Untamed| Story by Sebastian Jones | Art by Peter Bergting | Publisher: Stranger Comics, 2015 | 248 pages

asunda-untamed-graphicSynopsis:
A cloaked Stranger slips into the rustic Town of Oasis changing things forever. Ten years it had been since he ran this town with malice and harshness. Even then there was hope for his soul. His wife and daughter were on the verge of turning him from wickedness. But they were murdered, and so was he. He is granted seven days to reap seven souls and gain a chance at revenge. Conflict arises as a young girl (Niobe Ayutami) reminds him of his murdered daughter. She acts as his conscience and become his only hope for salvation.

Why I Picked This Up

I grabbed this at the Black Comix Arts Festival that I went to on MLK Day. The author’s table was set up in the middle of the room and had this half-naked beautiful subject of a man standing there which definitely sparked my interest. Legit half-assedly ran over & was just like “I’m buying whatever it is that you’re selling.”

BUT! The author, Sebastian, was also at the table and he gave such an amazing mini-speech of what the series was about, what the characters meant to him, and just what inspired him to write this graphic novel that I couldn’t help but be swayed into buying it (along with two other volumes which I’ll get around to reviewing at a later date).

Review

★★★★
★ Writing Style |★ Plot|★ Art |★ Character Development |✮ Uniqueness
(in case you’re wondering: ✮ = 1/2 star)

I do believe this is my first time actually reviewing a graphic novel so my rating system might change at some point in time when I become more comfortable reviewing this form and genre of literature.

The “OMGOODNESS THIS IS AWESOME” Stuff

★★★★

First off, I absolutely loved Jones’ writing style. I loved how the dialogue between characters felt so incredibly real and I loved how the story unfolded.  The plotline was incredibly well done and I enjoyed that each issue had it’s own climactic point and it’s own falling action point. Along with an excellent plotline, the character development within this graphic novel is something also that I found to be incredibly well done. Each issue features a different aspect of the main character’s past life and smoothly introduces new characters and their role in the overall story.

And oh my goodness, the art. The art in this graphic novel is stunning. The colors and details are absolutely amazing and go so insanely perfect with the story. I found myself just fawning over particular images and pages. One of the great things about this hardcover edition is that there’s a section that talks about the process of making the art match the story; which I absolutely loved. There’s also just a huge chunk of pages that feature different character designs and alternative covers. I’m definitely a Peter Bergting fan now.

The “Dangit We Were Sooooooo Close to 5 Stars” Holdback

The only, and I mean only, downside of this story to me is that I couldn’t shake that it felt slightly similar to the Playstation game “God of War”. Along with that, the whole “main character makes a deal with the devil/evil entity” trope is also something that I feel like I’ve encountered numerous times in numerous stories.

Howeverthe way in which this story is told makes it unique enough to earn half-a-star in my book. Also, there’s a theme song in the beginning of this GN that I asked my Dad to play for me (perks of having a music teacher as a parent) and it matched the tone of the story excellently.  So there were definitely tibits of uniqueness scattered throughout the book.

Final Thoughts & Recommendations

If you do plan on reading this I would recommend reading it in a well-lit room or area so you can really see the detail in the artwork. I made the mistake of trying to read a chapter with just the light from my Himalayan salt lamp (yes, I felt like it was necessary for me to say that) and it was such a different and difficult reading experience.

I would recommend this book to people who;

  • enjoy light fantasy graphic novels
  • enjoy reading revenge sagas (I think that’s a thing right?)
  • enjoy reading medieval era-themed sword / magic works

Let me know if you plan on giving this a read, and if you’ve already read it, let me know what you thought of it!

Also! I’m trying out a new thing on my channel were I vlog my reading experience and then couple it with my actual book review! So, if you’re interested in hearing my “at that very moment” thoughts and catching a snippet of my Dad playing the Strangers Theme check it out!

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Book Review | Decanting a Murder by Nadine Nettmann

Decanting a MurderDecanting a Murder (Sommelier Mystery #1) | by Nadine Nettmann | Publisher: Midnight Ink, 2016 | 230 pages | ISBN  9780738756400

Synopsis:
Katie Stillwell focuses on two things in her life: work and practicing for her Sommelier Certification with her blind tasting group. The exam was supposed to be the hardest part of her week, but that was before a body was found at an exclusive Napa Valley winery party.
When all the evidence points to Katie’s best friend, the outspoken and independent Tessa, Katie drops everything to clear Tessa’s name. Using her deductive wine skills, she tries to track down the real killer. But when repeated attempts are made on her life, Katie discovers that everyone’s secrets must be uncorked—including her own.

Why I Picked This Up

I actually encountered the second book in this series “Uncorking A Lie while at work (basically the story of every book I come across) and once I realized it was part of a series I was slightly hellbent on finding the first one. Needless to say, this was indeed a cover/title grab.

A Bit of a Preface

I shall preface this review by stating that I am not a huge mystery fan so my standards for most mystery books, especially murder mysteries, are rather low. I usually end up guessing “who done it” (correctly more often than not) within the first chunk and after that the whole plot-line just feels pointless and rather meh to me. However, I do find myself enjoying how most mystery authors write since I am a sucker for a well described setting. Now, on to the review!

Review

★★★★☆
★Writing Style |✮Plot | ✮Character Development | ★Setting |★Uniqueness
(in case you’re wondering: ✮ = 1/2 star)

The Good
Even though I did manage to guess who the guilty party was in this murder mystery very early on I didn’t instantly lose interest. Nettmann has a very, very, lovely writing style and I deeply enjoyed her description of settings, aromas, and emotions. I chuckled reading about the Katie’s parking struggle in the Sunset district of San Francisco and could heavily relate to her drive to figure out who was setting up her best friend to take the fall for a murder she potentially did not commit. Even more, I also felt Katie’s pain at failing her Sommelier Certification exam (seriously, this happens in the first few pages so I don’t count it as a spoiler) and how that throws her into a spiral of self-doubt. I’m also incredibly guilty of falling into spirals of self-doubt when I fail at something I’m incredibly passionate about.

I had fun learning about the wine industry and the winemaking process through Katie’s experiences and interactions with the other characters. It was definitely a very unique approach to a subject that I never really gave much thought to beyond tourism (growing up in SF whenever someone mentions wine you instantly think: Napa/wine train/wine tasting/I really should plan a day trip up there). I also found it very unique that each chapter starts off with a wine-pairing. I feel as if the older I get the more I should start investing in fancy, or at least semi-fancy, wine and I did jot down a few of the ones I’d like to try out.

The Meh
Now, this potentially has to do with me guessing who the guilty party was early on in the novel, but I felt as if the plot was just a little bit too cookie-cutter for me. I felt as if the usual “this will throw the reader off the trail” pieces were too apparent and as a result, I started to feel my attention wavering. There were certain events that just felt a little bit out of place or slightly unbelievable – the majority of which involve a certain detective and potential love interest. There was also the big reveal of Katie’s ~huge secret~ which fell incredibly flat and honestly, felt incredibly pointless in comparison with the rest of the story.

I also wish Nettmann had spent a tad bit more time developing some of the supporting characters. I absolutely loved the amount of time Nettmann spent on Katie and Tessa’s friendship and on each of them as individuals. It’s apparent that Tessa is a very pivotal figure in Katie’s life. However, there are other pivotal figures in Katie’s life that I wish had received some more page time; such as the members of her blind tasting group. I’m going to keep my fingers crossed that the reason as to why they didn’t make as many appearances, except for toward the very end, is because they are more prominently featured in the next book in this series. There’s also the mention of a past relationship between Katie and one of her group members that I really wish had either been introduced sooner or not at all. The whole moment felt like it was going to go somewhere and then *bam* book ends. Ugh.

Final Thoughts & Recommendations

Despite the ~meh~ stuff of this book I did find it to be a very cozy/quaint mystery that showcases some rather interesting aspects of the wine industry.

I would definitely recommend this book to people who;

  • are fans of cozy mysteries
  • like fiction books that center around wine
    &
  • are looking to get into lightweight mystery/thriller novels

Let me know if you’ve read this book before and what your thoughts on it where!

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Book Review || Alice: Memoirs of a Barbary Coast Prostitute

Why I Picked This Book Up:

Alice: Memoirs of a Barbary Coast Prostitute

I’ve always been interested in how prostitution has evolved and developed over time and how prostitutes view themselves and are viewed by others. I’ve also always been interested in San Francisco / Bay Area history during the Gold Rush and up until the end of World War II. Essentially, this book sounded like (and was!) an amazing combination of both of those interests which is exactly why I checked it out.

SYNOPSIS

In 1913 the San Francisco Bulletin published a serialized, ghostwritten memoir of a prostitute who went by the moniker Alice Smith. “A Voice from the Underworld” detailed Alice’s humble Midwestern upbringing and her struggle to find aboveboard work, and candidly related the harrowing events she endured after entering “the life.” While prostitute narratives had been published before, never had they been as frank in their discussion of the underworld, including topics such as abortion, police corruption, and the unwritten laws of the brothel. Throughout the series, Alice strongly criticized the society that failed her and so many other women, but, just as acutely, she longed to be welcomed back from the margins. The response to Alice’s story was unprecedented: four thousand letters poured into the Bulletin, many of which were written by other prostitutes ready to share their own stories; and it inspired what may have been the first sex worker rights protest in modern history.

For the first time in print since 1913, Alice: Memoirs of a Barbary Coast Prostitute presents the memoirs of Alice Smith and a selection of letters responding to her story. An introduction contextualizes “A Voice from the Underworld” amid Progressive Era sensationalistic journalism and shifting ideas of gender roles, and reveals themes in Alice’s story that extend to issues facing sex workers today.

REVIEW

★★Research | ★★Writing Style |★Format
(in case you’re wondering: ✮ = 1/2 star)

THE FANTASTIC

Lemme just start by saying that this book was absolutely amazing. I honestly do not have a single complaint at all!

The research was nicely done. Anderson and Angus definitely did some diving into the history of San Francisco’s Barbary Coast district, the San Francisco Bulletin, and the role that editor Fremont Older played in the exposure of criminal activity, political corruption, and prostitution in post-Gold Rush era San Francisco. I enjoyed that the editors also briefly discussed how and where they found their sources. There was a lot of utilization of San Francisco Public Library’s microfilm collection along with the History Center and it was nice reading about how they pieced everything together. An even bigger bonus was the wonderfully formatted bibliography – I’m a sucker for a nicely formatted bibliography.

Rating the writing style of this book was slightly tricky for me. I didn’t know if I should rate Anderson and Angus’ writing separately from Alice’s or if I should rate them together. In the long run, I decided that I should just rate them together. The introduction is of course written by the editors and they did a fantastic job. They introduced new ideas and the history of the era with fluidity and everything was explained clearly and concisely. The rest of the book was written by Alice Smith, or at least Alice Smith telling her story to an unknown ghostwriter. I will say that for or a serialized memoir published in 1913, Alice’s life story is told with amazing emotional depth. I don’t know how much was the work of the editors, but her memoir reads as if it could have been written in recent years. It’s absolutely amazing and the themes Alice discusses are still relevant to this day.

And lastly, the formatting of this book was very well done. I tip my imaginary hat off to Anderson and Angus for the way in which they chose to present this book. The introduction provides context for Alice’s memoir which is broken up into four parts and between each part there are a few of the letters written to the editor. It all just flowed very nicely and created a very smooth reading experience.

Final Thoughts & Recommendations

Obviously, I really enjoyed reading this book. I have an incredibly soft spot in my heart for sex-workers and for the people who choose to pursue that line of work. It’s something that I’ve had experience with and, for me, there’s a very therapeutic quality to reading about how other women maintained or coped with the lifestyle.

I would recommend this book to people are who are;

  • interested in San Francisco history; specifically the Barbary Coast district
  • fans of memoirs
    &
  • interested in the lives of sex workers

It really is a fantastic read!

Hope you have a wonderful day & read a wonderful book,
Rae

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Book Review | Talon of God by Wesley Snipes

Reason Why I Picked This Book Up:

I honestly walked by this book maybe two or three times at work before my curiosity finally won out. At first I was like “Nah, can’t be that Wesley Snipes.” and then I was like “YOOOOOO, Wesley Snipes wrote a book y’all!” After reading the synopsis I thought that it sounded interesting enough to warrant a read.

SYNOPSIS

Synopsis (from inner flap):
Imagine that everyone you have ever known or loved was forced against their will into a state of demonic possession and spiritual slavery. Imagine an unholy cabal of the world’s richest and most powerful men directing this sinister plan in order to cement their unbridled control of the planet.
Imagine two heroes emerging from that darkness to do battle with the forces of evil.
Set in the mean streets of Chicago, Talon of God is the action-packed adventure centered around the Lauryn Jefferson, a beautiful young doctor who is dragged into a seemingly impossible battle against the invisible forces of Satan’s army and their human agents that are bent on enslaving humanity in a mission to establish the kingdom of hell on Earth.
But Lauryn is a skeptic, and it’s only as she sees a diabolical drug sweep her city and begins to train in the ways of a spirit warrior by the legendary man of God, Talon Hunter, that she discovers her true nature and inner strength. Facing dangerous trials and tests, it’s a true baptism by fire. And if they fail, millions could die. And rivers of blood would flow throughout the land.
Imagine such horror. Such pain. And imagine what it would take to fight against it. For only the strongest and most faithful will survive…
Get ready. Armageddon approaches quickly.

REVIEW

★★★☆☆
✮Writing Style |✮Plot | ☆Character Development | ★Setting |★Uniqueness
(in case you’re wondering: ✮ = 1/2 star)

THE GOOD

First off, I really enjoyed that this book was set in inner city Chicago. It felt like an excellent urban setting for Armageddon. I couldn’t imagine any other city (well, maybe New York but it would have felt very cliche) as the setting for this novel.  I also appreciated that Snipes and Norman drew attention to the way in which drug addicts can potentially be viewed by police officers, medics, and society in general. I thought it was very unique that the authors chose to use drug addiction, along with addiction in general, as a catalyst for demonic possession.  It was a very interesting element of the story and it worked excellently with the theme and setting.

As a slight warning for my non-religious/non Christian readers; Yes, this book does lean heavily on Christianity. However, there is no call for the reader to become a Christian and there is no belittling of other religions. I will say there is a lot of talk of God, quoting of biblical verses, and the typical “Christ saves” spiel but for the most part, I found the religious tones to be rather well done and not too preachy.

THE SHOULDER SHRUG
For the things that were kinda ~meh~.

The writing style was a bit hit or miss. You can tell that certain parts were written by either Snipes or Norman and as a result the story tended to have some hitches and hangups. There were also moments where the dialogue felt incredibly stilted or unrealistic, which really didn’t help with the overall flow of the novel. However, the way in which the character’s emotions and the settings were described was pretty well done; enough to earn half a star in terms of writing style. In terms of the plot, I really enjoyed the pacing for the first 3/4 of this novel. I enjoyed how different characters were introduced and how their introductions served to move the plot line forward. Yet, by the time I hit the last fourth I was struggling to not skim read the rest. The last chunk could have been tied up a lot quicker, especially in regards to how the book ended; there was absolutely no need to drag out the last chunk.  Honestly, the last chunk could have been condensed into 10, maybe 15, pages max and a few characters really didn’t need the amount of page time they received.

THE FACE PALM
For the thing/s that kinda sucked.

There is almost zero character development in this novel. I would describe it as if Snipes and Norman wrote one version of the character, sat down and wrote an ~updated~ version and then just decided to yell out “through the power of Christ these characters have been changed!” and bam – updated version enters the story. Not denying that the power of Christ can indeed change a person, but dang, I need something about how the character feels about their changes and what their thought process was; not just a sudden “This is me now” type of development.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

I don’t tend to read a lot of Urban Fantasy, but this was definitely a pretty cool approach to the genre. Now, before you go and assume that it’s Urban Fantasy because it’s written by two black men let me just tell you that Urban Fantasy refers to fantasy novels set in an urban setting – i.e. a city and not an imaginary place. I had to check a patron on that when they complained that calling it “urban fantasy” was racist. I would also argue that this book could also be considered Christian Fiction/Fantasy because the religious tone of the novel is that strong.

NOW, in terms of who I would recommend this book to;

  • People transiting from YA -> Adult fantasy/fiction
  • People who read Urban Fiction and want to try a different genre
  • Readers of Christian Fiction who want to read something grittier
    &
  • Fans of Wesley Snipes – because this is a very Wesley Snipes type of story.

Let me know if you’ve read this book before and what your thoughts were! Also let me know if you think this a book that you might read at some point in time!

Hope you have a wonderful day & read a wonderful book!
Rae

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