Review: God is Dead, Long Live the Gods by Gus diZerega

God is Dead, Long Live the Gods by Gus diZerega

Published: June 8, 2020 by Llewellyn Publications

Buy this book: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository

Rating:

Synopsis: God is Dead, Long Live the Gods shows how polytheism–unlike monotheism–fits with the revolutionary ideas found in quantum physics, biology, and ecology. Beginning with the Enlightenment and the roots of what we now know as science, Western thought has generally turned away from religious belief. But what if the incompatibility of science and religion only applies to monotheism?

Gus diZerega explores contemporary science to show why consciousness is a fundamental aspect of reality, why the universe is alive at all levels, and why polytheistic experiences are as varied as the enormous array of life forms that enrich our world. This fascinating work develops a bold new vision for polytheism’s evolving role in our society and in our individual and collective spiritual experiences.

Review: ***Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Thank you NetGalley and Llewellyn Publications!***

I found this book utterly fascinating. I was not quite sure what to expect when I picked it up, but as a long time practicing polytheist I was interested in what the author had to say. The message was insightful, logical and very respectful. Sometimes books like this can come across as demonizing or ridiculing faiths that are traditionally considered monotheistic. But I didn’t get that vibe from this one at all.

The research that the author did on this was immense. Literally every paragraph has some quotation from a scholarly source. He looks at the vicious debates that Christianity has had with itself over its 2,000 year history as well as similar vicious theology debates that have happened in Islam and Judaism also. But rather than come to the conclusion that this means the faith is inherently flawed (as other authors have) diZerega instead focused on the why those theological debates are happening. They happen because of a logical fallacy in the theology, so in an effort to “close the gap” a new branch of the religion is formed on a similar but often very different theology. Leading to an entirely different idea of God.

At the end of the day, diZerega came away with a conclusion similar to the one that led me to polytheism all those years ago….religion is inherently polytheistic, even if it doesn’t recognize that fact itself. That no religion is inherently right or wrong, good or evil. He comes away with a vicious respect for the right to religious freedom and details a long history of religious totalitarianism from all branches of religion over human history. Acknowledging that when that control over faith is removed all of these theology debates crop up, which turns out to be a beautiful thing.

Ultimately all humans are looking for answers to how the universe works and the path that we take to get those answers is different for everyone. But ultimately we all might be a little happier if we recognize that following the logic is easier than living with the cognitive dissonance required by monotheism. I think this one will be making a space in my permanent library.

Review: Hunted by Darcy Coates

Hunted by Darcy Coates

Published: May 1, 2020 by Poisoned Pen Press

Buy this book: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository

Rating:

Synopsis: She only went off the trail for a moment…

22-year-old Eileen goes missing while hiking in the remote Ashlough Forest. Five days later, her camera is discovered washed downriver, containing bizarre photos taken after her disappearance.

Chris wants to believe Eileen is still alive. When the police search is abandoned, he and four of his friends create their own search party to scour the mountain range. As they stray further from the hiking trails and the unsettling discoveries mount, they begin to believe they’re not alone in the forest… and that Eileen’s disappearance wasn’t an accident.

By that point, it’s too late to escape. 

Review: ***Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Thank you NetGalley and Poisoned Pen Press!!

This book scared the daylights out of me at a few points. I really need to stop reading at night with only a bedside light on and when everyone else in my house is asleep. I wasn’t expecting this book to get to me but it did. The author had a really interesting way of making you feel as alone and isolated as the lost characters. So it wasn’t really a horror book but it was certainly frightening.

I went back and forth in my head through the entire book, is it a monstrous creature or a person? Serial killer or Bigfoot? Demon or cult? I found evidence for any of these possibilities all along the way. It was such a thrilling ride. And frankly, I think I would have been happy with any outcome. To me, this tells me it is a very well put together story.

My only complaint is that I felt the characters were a bit one dimensional at first. Though they did create some depth and layers to them as the story went on, so this didn’t actually impact the story too much. Chris was wonderful and ultimately I found him to be the most complex and compelling character out of the whole book.

I also appreciate an author who can make me honestly believe that they might kill off any of their characters at any moment. Lots of author can’t do that and I always seem to be able to point out “well, this guy can’t die or the whole book is over.” This book was not like that at all. At any point anyone could have been killed and the story would have carried on without them. In the end not all of them make it. I recommend this book highly. I’ve been disappointed by thrillers lately but this was a fun ride.

Review: The Law of Lines by Hye-Young Pyun

The Law of Lines by Hye-Young Pyun

Published: April 7, 2020 by Arcade

Buy this book: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository

Rating:

Synopsis: From the Prize-Winning Author of The Hole, a Slow-Burning Thriller about Unseen Forces that Shape Us and Debts We Accumulate, in Life, in Death.

Winner of several of Korea’s top literary awards, The Law of Lines follows the parallel stories of two young women whose lives are upended by sudden loss. When Se-oh, a recluse still living with her father, returns from an errand to find their house in flames, wrecked by a gas explosion, she is forced back into the world she had tried to escape. The detective investigating the incident tells her that her father caused the explosion to kill himself because of overwhelming debt she knew nothing about, but Se-oh suspects foul play by an aggressive debt collector and sets out on her own investigation, seeking vengeance.

Ki-jeong, a beleaguered high school teacher, receives a phone call that the body of her younger half-sister has just been found. Her sister was a college student she had grown distant from. Though her death, by drowning, is considered a suicide by the police, that doesn’t satisfy Ki-jeong, and she goes to her sister’s university to find out what happened. Her sister’s cell phone reveals a thicket of lies and links to a company that lures students into a virtual pyramid scheme, preying on them and their relationships. One of the contacts in the call log is Se-oh.

Like Hye-young Pyun’s Shirley Jackson Award–winning novel The Hole, an immersive thriller that explores the edges of criminality, the unseen forces in our most intimate lives, and grief and debt. 

Review: ***Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Thank you NetGalley and Arcade!***

This book took a little while for me to buy in. The synopsis says this is a slow burn and that is entirely accurate. This is the kind of story that is all about the characters. If the author cannot make you care about their characters then the story is lost. I cared.

This is a story about grief. Both Se-oh and Ki-jeong have been struck with grief. For Soe-oh it is the death of her father. Her grief is enhanced by events from her past that may have contributed to her father’s death in ways she never anticipated. For Ki-jeong it is the death of her estranged sister. She isn’t willing to accept that her sister died and she ultimately knew nothing about her, or her life. This sets the two of them on a quest.

But this book is also about more than that. It’s about poverty and the cycle of poverty that is seen all around the world. Along with the devastation and desperation that comes with it. It affected everyone in this story but all of the characters were too far into their own cycles of grief and poverty to see it, let alone offer any compassion or empathy to anyone else.

I enjoyed this story very much. It was highly literary and an excellent character piece. I do think it is being marketing poorly as a mystery or a thriller. It is neither of those things. It’s a story about two women and the unpredictable ways that their lives intersect while searching for their respective answers.

Review: Be Not Far From Me by Mindy McGinnis

Be Not Far From Me by Mindy McGinnis

Published: March 3, 2020 by Katherine Tegen Books

Buy this book at: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository

Rating:

Synopsis:

The world is not tame.

Ashley knows this truth deep in her bones, more at home with trees overhead than a roof. So when she goes hiking in the Smokies with her friends for a night of partying, the falling dark and creaking trees are second nature to her. But people are not tame either. And when Ashley catches her boyfriend with another girl, drunken rage sends her running into the night, stopped only by a nasty fall into a ravine. Morning brings the realization that she’s alone – and far off trail. Lost in undisturbed forest and with nothing but the clothes on her back, Ashley must figure out how to survive despite the red streak of infection creeping up her leg.

Review:

I have never read a Mindy McGinnis book before this one but from reading reviews she seems to be a love it or hate it author, often from the same reader. A huge fan might love one of her books and hate the next. I looked forward to reading it based on the synopsis but I didn’t know quite what to expect.

Most of this book is narrated in Ashley’s head, because she’s alone in the woods for most of it. I worried that this might be a bit overplayed and turn out boring. Girl alone in the woods, we’ve all read it and seen it plenty of times. But I liked Ashley. We had some tropey “I’m not like all the other girls” going on. She doesn’t care about makeup or her hair, she hunts, she lives in a trailer, she drinks beer. But apart from the tropes, I liked her. She was funny and very frank, even in her own head. There was no sugarcoating going on from herself or anyone else. That was great, it make the novel feel very gritty. Although I do have to note that Ashley made some pretty rookie mistakes. Anyone who has gone camping knows that if you get lost the first thing you do is stay still, because people coming to look for you are going to start at the last place you were seen. And Ashley is a very experienced woodsman. But no, Ashley chooses to wander off, thinking she’ll find her own way. Rookie mistake. But without that mistake, we wouldn’t have had a book so I can forgive that.

The pacing of the book was just right for me. We had a lot of flashbacks and Ashley going over her life in her head, and I liked that. It took me away from the gritty grossness long enough to see another side of her and then get plunged back into the grossness. I can also honestly say that the author left me wondering if Ashley would make it out of this alive. Most of the time you can intuit that the single narrating character must live to the end because without that character then the narrative is over. But the way it was written, I could imagine Ashley giving us a posthumous play by play of her final days. That left me not knowing what to expect for the end of her journey.

This was a good book, I enjoyed it. And I will likely pick up the author again in the future. My only complaints is the minor tropes and some rookie mistakes that didn’t make sense from the character.

Review: The Making of a Marquess by Lynne Connolly

The Making of a Marquess by Lynne Connolly

Published: March 31, 2020 by Kensington Books

Buy this book at: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository

Rating:

Synopsis:

The Society for Single Ladies is a crime-solving club founded by the wealthiest woman in London. Yet even Miss Angela Childers’ charming detectives are not immune to the forces of love…

Dorothea Rowland attends a country house party to investigate a long-lost heir—not to find a husband. But when the dashing American claimant discovers her prowling for clues, she is startled—and then seduced—by his provocative kiss. It’s all Dorothea can do to remember her mission. Especially when a series of accidents adds up to something far more dangerous…

Benedict only meant to silence lovely Dorothea—not find himself enamored. What’s a gentleman to do but join forces—and propose to the clever beauty? Yet as Ben and Dorothea pursue the truth about his inheritance, their faux betrothal threatens to become the real thing. Soon, Ben’s plan to return to his life in America is upended—not only by his deepening bond with his bride, but by someone who wants his fortune badly enough to jeopardize his future—even end it. And Dorothea can’t let that happen. Not for the title, but for Ben…

Review:

***Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Thank you NetGalley and Kensington Books!***

This book was a fun ride and Dorothea was a delightful leading lady. Ben was an interesting bloke too but he was often times too serious and seemed to be blind to obvious things. Dorothea was sharp and didn’t miss a beat in contrast. I liked the fact that Dorothea being present when her former betrothed comes home is incidental. She was there on behalf of his cousin’s banker who wanted her to find out if he was good for the loans that had been given to him or not. The fact that Ben showed up was entirely unexpected and naturally throws her emotions through a loop.

I enjoyed the mystery that surrounded the pair, but honestly it felt like it took a long time to get going. I enjoyed all the slow burning romance that we had in the meantime, because Dorothea and Ben are fabulous together, but it seemed like we went from one incident that could have been an accident to murder all of a sudden. And there was not too much that happened in between. I did fall for the red herring though. I admit it, I did not suss out who was the real culprit.

The only drawback to the book was that I have no idea what the connection was to the Society for Single Ladies. I mean, that sounds fantastic. A group of society women who use their status as single women to investigate mysteries. And Dorothea was on assignment for the SSL. But all of that got sidetracked by an attack and romance. So, in the end, it didn’t seem to have much connection at all. I was rather looking forward to that part and it was more of an afterthought by the end. I might pick up the first book though and see if that quenches my desire for single society ladies solving crimes.

Overall this was a great romance and a decent mystery, but I wished for a bit more.

Review: The Return by Rachel Harrison

49878129._SX318_SY475_The Return by Rachel Harrison

Published: March 24, 2020 by Berkley

Buy this book at Amazon | B&N | Book Depository

Synopsis: An edgy and haunting debut novel about a group of friends who reunite after one of them has returned from a mysterious two-year disappearance.

Julie is missing, and the missing don’t often return. But Elise knows Julie better than anyone, and she feels in her bones that her best friend is out there, and that one day she’ll come back. She’s right. Two years to the day that Julie went missing, she reappears with no memory of where she’s been or what happened to her.

Rating: 4 star

Review: The synopsis of this book was just intriguing enough to make me pick up this book without actually giving me any idea what it would entail. I liked the idea of a girls trip that uncovers something sinister about what happened to their friend. I did not realize before I was reading it that there would be some horror aspects in this one. I figured that out while I was reading in bed at midnight, everyone else in the house sleeping soundly. Needless to say I did not sleep much and devoured this book in about 48 hours.

This book focuses on the friendship between four women; Mae, Molly, Elise and Julie. Two years ago, Julie went hiking and vanished. Mae and Molly presumed that Julie was dead when she had not surfaced after a year, but Elise never let go of the feeling that their friend was alive. On the second anniversary of when Julie disappeared, she is found by her husband sitting on their porch with no recollection of the last two years. Her friends all go out for a weekend getaway to reconnect. Everything is going fine, Julie is back and she’s acting just like herself. Except when she isn’t acting like herself. Elise is uneasy about her friend but also about the hotel itself, everything is setting her on edge. But it’s just her imagination right? Julie is still Julie, isn’t she?

Elise was the perfect narrating character. She was the closest to Julie and has felt left behind by her friends. She views herself as the hanger-on of the group. Her friends are all successful while she works a pathetic job and still lives in a studio apartment. She is sure they do not approve of her choices and probably talk about it amongst themselves when she leaves the room. She was so relieved when Julie was found because now the dynamic between the friends would be restored. I empathized with her and identified with a lot of her feelings of unworthiness and anxiety.

The plot was super creepy. It was set in a mismatched hotel that sets Elise on edge, and set me on edge too. The author did a very good job at playing on the fears and anxieties that plague all of us. How many times have we sworn that we saw a shadow moving in our peripheral vision? But then we look and nothing is there and we chide ourselves for being scared, we’re adults after all! Or how many times have we averted our eyes at the gap in the curtains, convinced that if we look someone will be standing there? No one ever is, but we all feel the thrill of fear in our gut just the same. That is the type of horror at play in this novel. I recommend reading it in daylight only.

 

Review: Darling Rose Gold by Stephanie Wrobel

49223060._SY475_Darling Rose Gold by Stephanie Wrobel

Published: March 17, 2020 by Berkley

Buy this book at: Amazon | B&N | Book Depository

Synopsis: Sharp Objects meets My Lovely Wife in this tightly drawn debut that peels back the layers of the most complicated of mother-daughter relationships…

For the first eighteen years of her life, Rose Gold Watts believed she was seriously ill. She was allergic to everything, used a wheelchair and practically lived at the hospital. Neighbors did all they could, holding fundraisers and offering shoulders to cry on, but no matter how many doctors, tests, or surgeries, no one could figure out what was wrong with Rose Gold.

Turns out her mom, Patty Watts, was just a really good liar.

After serving five years in prison, Patty gets out with nowhere to go and begs her daughter to take her in. The entire community is shocked when Rose Gold says yes.

Patty insists all she wants is to reconcile their differences. She says she’s forgiven Rose Gold for turning her in and testifying against her. But Rose Gold knows her mother. Patty Watts always settles a score.

Unfortunately for Patty, Rose Gold is no longer her weak little darling…

And she’s waited such a long time for her mother to come home.

Rating: 4 star

Review: Now this is the kind of debut novel I have been wanting to read lately! It seems that a lot of the books I’ve read have been hit or miss. Either very good or very bad. But this was absolutely wonderful! It made me deeply uncomfortable, which was the point. I compare it to watching a slow motion car crash, you know that only bad things are coming but you can’t bear to look away either.

I truly love a book that has a flawed narrator, not being able to fully trust the story they are telling you adds an interesting element to the story. But what happens when you can’t trust any of the narrators? That makes for a fascinating story.

Reading Patty’s narration was sort of like rolling around in mud. It sticks to you and makes you feel gross. Even though you tried to shower it all away, there’s still the odd smudge of grossness here or there that makes you feel disgusting all over again when you discover it. You know that she isn’t telling the truth. You know in your heart that she did all the horrible things that Rose Gold says she did. Part of you really wants to see her punished for it. As a mother, I was thoroughly rooting for her demise.

Then we have Rose Gold. Her anger and need for revenge is entirely justified. She found out that her mother permanently ruined her life. Her teeth are rotting out of her head, everyone knows too many details about her childhood, and she will forever be the girl that her mother created. I really rooted for her, but as the book went on I found it harder and harder to do that. More and more she was reminding me of her mother instead of her mother’s victim.

I did not see the ending coming. Parts of it yes, but the thorough depravity of it surprised me. And it was wonderful to see how all the pieces played out. But this is also where the book lost a star for her. I found it hard to believe that the police would buy that Patty had forced Rose Gold to take a specific action a full month before she got released from prison. Surely they would have been ever slightly suspicious of the timing on that right? But apart from that, it was a wonderful book. I will be keeping an eye out for this author in the future.

Review: Deeplight by Frances Hardinge

50157754Deeplight by Frances Hardinge

Published: April 14, 2020 by Amulet Books

Buy this book at: Amazon | B&N | Book Depository

Synopsis: The gods are dead. Decades ago, they turned on one another and tore each other apart. Nobody knows why. But are they really gone forever? When 15-year-old Hark finds the still-beating heart of a terrifying deity, he risks everything to keep it out of the hands of smugglers, military scientists, and a secret fanatical cult so that he can use it to save the life of his best friend, Jelt. But with the heart, Jelt gradually and eerily transforms. How long should Hark stay loyal to his friend when he’s becoming a monster—and what is Hark willing to sacrifice to save him?

Rating: 4 star

Review: This book drew me in with its cover, as is often the case. I was intrigued by the synopsis. And several reviews of it called it a merging of Frakenstein, Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea and Dr. Jeykll and Mr. Hyde, and that left me even more interested. Normally with that much hype surrounding a book it is bound to disappoint, at least a little bit, but this book was fantastic.

Hark was a fabulous character. He was uncertain and timid but trying to find a foothold in the world. He could see that his friendship with Jelt was changing but admitting it to himself meant that nothing would be the same. He broke my heart and left me cheering him on. He had a great story arc. Through the course of the story he was forced from being a little boy running a small time con to a man who takes responsibility for his own story.

I had a hard time feeling too much sympathy for Jelt because he was pretty mean to Hark from the moment we met him. But, despite that, I felt tremendous sympathy for how Hark dealt with the changes in his friend.

The gods were presented as monsters first, deities almost by accident, and I liked that approach. The idea of monster gods is appealing to me and this was the perfect blend of monster and majesty to suit me. The world this book was set in was also beautifully detailed. I could feel the undulating waves of the Undersea. The permeating fear of it that fed the gods for thousands of years. It was a beautifully written story. My only complaint was that the ending when Hark is going after the heart dragged on for a bit too long. After about 50 pages my mind started to wander and I wished we could stop describing everything so thoroughly and move on with the action a bit quicker. But the ending was compelling, as was the epilogue. I read the last thirty pages or so with tears streaming down my face, my heart breaking and cheering for Hark all at the same time. In the end this was a story about the power of stories, and it had a profound power all its own.

Review: The Silent House by Nell Pattison

49943005._SX318_SY475_The Silent House by Nell Pattison

Published: March 5, 2020 by Avon Books

Buy this book at: Amazon | B&N | Book Depository

Synopsis: If someone was in your house, you’d know … Wouldn’t you?
But the Hunter family are deaf, and don’t hear a thing when a shocking crime takes place in the middle of the night. Instead, they wake up to their worst nightmare: the murder of their daughter.

The police call Paige Northwood to the scene to interpret for the witnesses. They’re in shock, but Paige senses the Hunters are hiding something.

One by one, people from Paige’s community start to fall under suspicion. But who would kill a little girl?

Was it an intruder?

Or was the murderer closer to home?

Rating: 4 star

Review: ***I received a free copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Thank you NetGalley and Avon Books!***

There are not many books out there that feature main characters who are deaf or hearing impaired. That is what initially drew me to this book. I took a few years of American Sign Language in my younger years and had interest in becoming an interpreter at one point, so I spent a lot of time within the community. It’s a completely unique perspective on the world so I was interested to see a murder mystery done from this viewpoint.

The author did not disappoint. It was very apparent that she is highly familiar with the deaf and hearing impaired community. She is aware of how the community is viewed in society and the ways that people believe they might be helping butthey are actually hindering communication. I was very impressed with how well the author translated those ideas into the book..

The story was also very well told and nicely paced. I enjoyed the alternate viewpoints of various suspects prior to the murder followed by some chapters in the present with the investigation. This helped me to start coming to some conclusions about what I thought happened, while progressing with the investigation too. All of the suspects were given plausible reasons for why they could have been the murderer. Frankly, even though I had my own idea about who it was, I would have found any of the suspects believable if I had been wrong. I did end up guessing the murderer correctly, but not the twist. That shook me. I was stunned. I stayed up far later than my bedtime to finish the book because I had to know the rest. That’s how much it shocked me.

The only flaw with the story is that I felt we paid too much attention to Paige personally. Following her difficulties with men and her personal struggles with the investigation hindered the rest of the story at certain points.

Overall it was an engaging story that is told from a unique perspective. I loved it.

Review: The Shadows Between Us by Tricia Levenseller

35702241The Shadows Between Us by Tricia Levenseller

Published on February 25, 2020 by Feiwel & Friends

Buy this book at: Amazon | B&N | Book Depository

Synopsis: Alessandra is tired of being overlooked, but she has a plan to gain power:

1) Woo the Shadow King.
2) Marry him.
3) Kill him and take his kingdom for herself.

No one knows the extent of the freshly crowned Shadow King’s power. Some say he can command the shadows that swirl around him to do his bidding. Others say they speak to him, whispering the thoughts of his enemies. Regardless, Alessandra knows what she deserves, and she’s going to do everything within her power to get it.

But Alessandra’s not the only one trying to kill the king. As attempts on his life are made, she finds herself trying to keep him alive long enough for him to make her his queen—all while struggling not to lose her heart. After all, who better for a Shadow King than a cunning, villainous queen?

Rating: 4 star

Review: This book was so much fun! I have never read the author before but I enjoyed her style very much, so I think I might pick up some of her other books after this one. This one had a bit more romance than I expected but it had a lot of adventure and twists and turns that kept me entertained.

Alessandra is delightfully scandalous. She is witty and funny but also slightly sociopathic. She delights in using men and bucking the patriarchal system she lives in. She figures that if men can have a thousand lovers then the women must not be being very chaste either so why not. She killed the first boy who broke her heart and is determined to not make herself vulnerable ever again. Instead she has a mission to seduce the king and then kill him and take over his kingdom. She finally sees her opportunity with the engagement of her older sister, since she was not allowed to attend court until that time. She catches the Shadow King’s eye immediately and away we go.

I fully expected for the plot of the story to be a romance. I knew going in that Alessandra would fall in love with the king, and he with her, and she would no longer want to go through with her plan. So, I didn’t really mind when the story started taking me that way. Especially since the romance was handled with a lot of snark and lots of nefarious plotting and teasing. There was so much sexual tension in this book and it was delicious. Kallias set my heart pitter pattering and I hoped beyond hope that he was getting through to Alessandra too. He’s just so delightfully bad!

The only downside I had with this book was that I found the rules of the world building to be a tad inconsistent. We are told from the outset that this is a very Victorian world. Women are expected to be demure, chaste, and never be found in a compromising situation that could ruin their opportunities for a good marriage. Women cannot go to court to attempt to woo a husband until all of their older sisters are married off. The males of the family make the marriage arrangements. All of this is extremely typical. But then, it’s also okay for the nobles to be engaged in homosexual or bisexual relationships. Openly and at court. That certainly does not fit with the world you have built. At all. I am okay with either world. I am okay with a very straitlaced Victorian world. And I am okay with a slightly more liberal world encompassing people of all sexualities. But the two things don’t work well together.

This small gripe aside, I loved this book. It was wonderfully wicked and very sexy. I was sad it was over.