When you have twenty-five books to review, you cry uncle and resort to short reviews. Plus, after all this time, I’m not certain I remember enough about any of them to write a full-length review. We will be breaking these into five parts. This is part two. Only fifteen more left to write!
Chris Bohjalian is an excellent writer. His dedication to research shows in his meticulously detailed stories. Unfortunately, Hour of the Witch is not what I would consider one of his better novels. I appreciate the use of “original” court documents to pique interest and throw a reader’s suspicion off the main plot. Unfortunately, the story itself is yet one more about a strong, independent woman stuck in an abusive relationship and out of sync with the society in which she lives. There are some fascinating historical details, but I feel the ending is a bit too pat for the reality of the times. That being said, I do love the term “devil’s tines” and try to incorporate it into everyday conversation.
I love a good science fiction novel, and J. S. Dewes’ The Last Watch does not disappoint. It is a fabulous story about a group on the very edge of the universe faced with a surprise enemy. There is a great balance between action, science, humor, and adventure with a hint of romance and fantastic conspiracy the crew must discover. The Last Watch hits all the right notes, and the charismatic cast of characters left me wanting more.
Blade of Secrets by Tricia Levenseller is the type of novel I wish existed when I was an actual young adult. Not only does Ziva have cool powers, but she also has severe social anxiety. It is so refreshing to have a heroine who doesn’t doubt herself so much as she understands that her fears while irrational are still very real for her. Even better, we see her succumbing to those fears time and again, making it one of the few novels to show that it is okay for our heroes to fail. As if that isn’t amazing enough, we also get to see how her sister and friends accept her neurodivergence, protect her where possible, and accommodate her at all times. Plus, it is just a really good story.
Goddess knows I wanted to like Realm Breaker by Victoria Aveyard. After all, there are few fantasy novels I don’t like. Maybe because it came on the heels of two outstanding SFF novels, but I could not get into it. While I know that its similarities to The Lord of the Rings trilogy are intentional – because Ms. Aveyard tells us so in her author’s notes – I found it difficult to not compare the two. Of course, Realm Breaker can not compare. Not only does it take too long to build the merry band of adventurers, but there is also no real enemy to unite them. Plus, they don’t have nearly the same charm and magic as the Fellowship. To make things worse, I find the worldbuilding lacking and struggled in general with the fact that the Frodo of the group just so happens to instinctively know what to do when it comes time for her to do her thing, especially after she spends most of the novel before that point worrying about the fact that she had no clue about any of it. While I came around as the story drew to a close, I can’t say that I am vested enough in the story or the characters to want to continue with the sequel.
The Last Thing He Told Me by Laura Dave is an outstanding missing person story that has an ending I did not expect but which I love. Because the suspense element is not enough, it is a bittersweet story about family, love, and sacrifice. Hannah’s attempts to befriend Bailey are perfect, as are Bailey’s snubs. Ms. Dave must have a sixteen-year-old at home because I found Bailey way too similar to my own daughter at times. Their tentative bond is poignant, as is Hannah’s protection of Bailey at all costs. I was already a huge fan of Ms. Dave, but The Last Thing He Told Me convinced me I need to go back and read everything of hers I missed.