logo
Wrong email address or username
Wrong email address or username
Incorrect verification code
back to top
Search tags: race
Load new posts () and activity
Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
text 2020-05-03 07:29
REVIEW⇢ RACE THE SANDS BY SARAH BETH DURST

 

 

SYNOPSIS FROM AUTHORS WEBSITE⇣
In this epic standalone fantasy, Sarah Beth Durst introduces an imaginative new world in which a pair of strong and determined women risk their lives battling injustice, corruption, and deadly enemies in their quest to become monster racing champions.
Life, death, and rebirth - in Becar, who you are in this life will determine your next life. Yet there is hope - you can change your destiny with the choices you make. But for the darkest individuals, there is no redemption: you come back as a kehok, a monster, and are doomed to be a kehok for the rest of time.
Unless you can win the Races.
After a celebrated career as an elite kehok rider, Tamra became a professional trainer. Then a tragic accident shattered her confidence, damaged her reputation, and left her nearly broke. Now, she needs the prize money to prevent the local temple from taking her daughter away from her, and that means she must once again find a winning kehok...and a rider willing to trust her.
Raia is desperate to get away from her domineering family and cruel fiancé. As a kehok rider, she could earn enough to buy her freedom. But she needs a first-rate trainer.
Impressed by the inexperienced young woman’s determination, Tamra hires Raia and pairs her with a strange new kehok with the potential to win - if he can be tamed.
But in this sport, if you forget you’re riding on the back of a monster, you die. Tamra and Raia will work harder than they ever thought possible to win the deadly Becaran Races - and in the process, discover what makes this particular kehok so special.
 
 

BOOK TAGS

 FANTASY-WORLD
 BASED IN AND AROUND REINCARNATION
 WITH RACING MONSTER-COMBINATIONS (KEHOKS)
 LIES & BETRAYALS
⤏ SOME COURTLY INTRIGUE
⤏ STAND-ALONE
 

BOOK DETAILS⇣

AUDIO PERFORMED BY EMILY ELLET
SOURCE LIBBY AUDIOBOOK (LIBRARY)
AUDIOBOOK LENGTH 15 HOURS, 45 MINUTES

 

 

MY THOUGHTS⇣

 
This book will be in my top 5 books of the year...I'm sure of it.  There is absolutely nothing that I can fault about this book.  I loved it.  It didn't even feel like it was over 500 pages, I flew through it...most of it one day. Which is crazy because it's almost 16 hours long.  I can't even say anything bad about the narration...which really should have had more narrators for all the different POV's, but it only had one, and she freaking nailed it.

Race the Sands has a phenomenal world, that is completely unique, and unlike anything I ever read/listened to.  With inspiring characters that shine bright, insane action and moments that are heartfelt and uplifting.  It's labeled as Adult on the Author's website...but I'm not sure why...it has almost no romance at all...there are relationships that are cultivated, from friendship to familial, but it really only hints at something like romance.   There are some deaths brought on by murder...that's the only element that would hint at this being strictly adult.  I personally believe it's suitable for anyone above the age of 13 or so...both the young-ish and the young at heart
 

BREAKDOWN⇣

 
 
Plot 5/5
Characters 5/5
The Feels 5+/5
Pacing 5/5
Addictiveness 5/5
Theme, Tone or Intensity 5/5
Flow (Writing Style) 5/5
World-Building 5+/5
Originality 5/5
Ending 5/5
 

 

 

 

 

 

 
Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
review 2020-05-01 15:28
Recommended to lovers of Southern literature and beautiful writing
Little Tea - Claire Fullerton

I received an ARC copy of this novel, pre-release, from the author, which I freely chose to review. This has in no way affected my opinion.

I have never read any of the author’s previous books, but I’ve read many positive reviews, and I couldn’t let the opportunity of reading this novel pass me by, especially because of the setting of the story in the American South, as I’m a fan of Southern literature.

The story centres on Celia Wakefield from old Southern Mississippi stock whose family has a cotton farm (no longer called cotton plantations) although now they spend most of their time in the city, Memphis. She is the narrator of the story (in the first person), and a phone call from one of her best friends (Renny, Ava and her became friends in college and have remained in touch through the years, even though now they all live far away and don’t see each other as much as they’d like) sets the action in motion. The three friends reunite to help Ava, who is facing a family crisis. At Renny’s lake house, in Arkansas, they renew their friendship, talk about life, and can’t help but remember the past. As a consequence, the chapters alternate, some set in the present and others in the 1980s when Celia was a young girl. We learn about Little Tea, Celia’s friend, the daughter of an African-American family who’d always lived in the Wakefield’s farm and worked there. She is determined, a great runner, and one of Celia’s brothers becomes her trainer and encourages her to explore her opportunities. But this is the Deep South, and old social rules and mores still apply, especially when it comes to race. The story builds up slowly, and the present struggles Ava is going through in her relationship highlight not only the different approaches and personalities of the three women, but also how the past influences our decisions and our take on life.

The novel deals with many themes: friendship (and the relationship between the three women feels genuine. There are the shared jokes, the strong bonds, the understanding without saying a word, and also the willingness to leave everything and do an intervention to help a friend in need, even if the other women might not agree with her behaviour), first love, family relationships, memory and the past (can we truly run away from it?), identity and family tradition (how much should we sacrifice to keep the family’s reputation intact? Can we choose who we are and break complete free from our family roots?), race relations, tragedy and mourning among others. Although we see all of this through Celia’s eyes and reflections, the separate timelines and her own hindsight allows us to read between the lines and to perceive things than young Celia wasn’t aware of (or tried not to see). This is achieved in very subtle ways, and although the sphere of the story feels quite intimate and domestic, some the themes it discusses are neither lightweight not easy.

Fullerton creates a varied palette of characters, and I think most readers are likely to identify with one of the three friends (personally, I think I’d get on with Renny best of all, the determined and practical one), who fit in well together because they are quite different but compatible. Little Tea and her family (to a lesser extent) are wonderful characters, and Celia’s family is made up of a variety of personalities and individuals, some likeable and some not, some larger than life, and others quite nasty, but they all are fully achieved and, like them or not, come to life in the story. There are others (Tate, Mark, and some of the other young men in the story, relatives…), and although we learn less about them, we still get to see them from Celia’s perspective, and they play their part, both in the past and in the present. I kept thinking about Tennessee Williams and some of his more memorable characters as I read this novel. His mastery at depicting Southern family life and stripping it back to the bone in his plays is something Fullerton also excels at, although her approach is a more understated.

I know some readers don’t appreciate stories written in the first-person, and I seem to be reading plenty of these at the moment, but the writing is beautiful, lyrical, and it makes readers experience everything, from the heat to the excitement of the first love, and from the smell of the food to the disappointment and pain when life takes an unexpected and cruel turn. The story is preciously observed and told, and it will not suit impatient readers who prefer matter-of-fact writing, with only the most basic descriptions strictly necessary to help move the story forward and short sentences that rarely meander along. There are also plenty of airy and fun moments, especially when the friends are joking and having fun, and those allow readers to have a bit of a break from the most intense and soul-searching parts of the story. The author also uses Southern expressions and vernacular to good effect and this adds to the atmosphere of the novel. I have highlighted plenty of the text, and it’s difficult to choose a sample, but I’ll try (remember that I had access to an ARC copy and the final text might have undergone some minor changes):

Nostalgia has selective memory; it softens the heart and strips the details to leave you with what should have been instead of what was.

Combined, we were a girl complete. Separately, we were inchoate and in need of each other, like solitary pieces of a clock that were useless until assembled, but once assembled, kept perfect time.

Happiness seemed to me to be little more than intermittent highlights that faded to memory like the light of a burned-out star. And what’s more, in the times I thought I had happiness by the handle, I discovered that, all along, there were subterranean forces plotting to tell the rest of the story.

I don’t want to discuss the ending in detail, because I want to avoid spoilers, although there is a big twist at the end. I saw it coming, and I wasn’t particularly convinced by it (in my opinion it would have worked fine for a short story but not so much here), but many readers have liked it and it does not detract from the rest of the novel.

In summary, this is a novel beautifully written and observed, and I’d recommend it to readers who are looking for stories with complex female characters, especially those who love stories set in the South, and to fans of Southern writers such as William Faulkner and Tennessee Williams, although Fullerton has a lightness of touch that is all her own. A great author to follow, and one I hope to read again in the future.

Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
review 2020-04-09 14:10
How the West was won, but not as we know it.
How Much of These Hills is Gold - Wei Zhang

Thanks to Virago and to NetGalley for providing me an ARC copy of this novel, which I freely chose to review.

My father was a fan of Westerns, and although as a child I was tired of always having to watch old Westerns (as a young man, my father used to read the Spanish equivalent of the Western dime novels as well), I must confess that that world, its mythology, and its true history, captivate me as well. And never more so than when the stories chronicle the people who hardly ever make it into the history books (although there has been a move towards redressing that in recent years). So this novel had all the elements to intrigue me, and it is a debut novel as well. And one I won’t forget in a hurry.

This new author has been compared to Cormac McCarthy (but I’ve only read one of his novels, so I don’t feel I can comment), and her choice of characters reminded me of recent books I’ve read and reviewed by Sebastian Barry. I know it is common place to write that you’re surprised a novel has been written by a debut writer, or it is their first novel, but it is the case here, and it’s clear that the author has a talent for writing (and I don’t doubt she has worked very hard at it as well).

The novel, set around the time of the Gold Rush, is divided into four parts, covering a period of around a decade in the life of Lucy (and her sister/brother Sam). The first three parts tell the story of how they got to the situation we find them in at the beginning of the novel, in reverse chronological order (sort of). The fourth part moves forward and we see what happened to Lucy afterwards, and we meet Sam again, albeit briefly. We meet the two sisters when they lose their father (they had lost their mother a few years earlier), see them struggle to try to bury him in the appropriate way (their mother had come from China and had taught them plenty of stories and traditions that they try to follow and live by), and eventually split up. The second part chronicles the events that had happened before, providing a background story of the family and also explaining how they lost their mother. Part three is hauntingly beautiful, and rather than the third person narration from Lucy’s point of view (that grows more insightful and elaborate as the novel advances) we get a narration from Ba, her father’s point of view. It’s not clear if this is his ghost telling the story or some memory that lives on, but it is addressed to Lucy, and it explains things that she does not know, some tragic and terrific, and some beautiful and lyrical. In part four we catch up with the siblings, years later, and learn what happened next. This is historical fiction gold, a revisionist story/history of the West, and a look at some of the forgotten figures and peoples in history.

Many themes are touched upon on this novel. I’ve mentioned history, but this is history from the point of view of outsiders, who although born in the country will never be accepted, and people will always look at them as if they were an exotic plant or animal (the tiger is a symbol hovering over much of the novel), either heaping abuse at them, exploiting them for entertainment or enjoyment, or trying to turn them into object of curio and study. Race and gender are at the forefront of the novel but remain somewhat ungraspable and ambiguous (is Sam a boy in a girl’s body, or a girl whose father’s wish for a son she internalised to the point where she no longer has a will of her own, or something entirely different?). Ultimately, there are myths, lies, pretences, stories we tell others and ourselves, gold prospecting, mining, the building of the railroads, migration, different models of womanhood, of culture, of family… It’s a novel about identity and how we build ours, and how others also cast upon us their own labels and prejudices. It’s a novel about survival and about much more.

Lucy, Sam, and their parents are unforgettable characters. If Lucy is the girly-girl, studious, and prim and proper, and Sam is the tomboy/boy, always following his father, they all play specific roles in their family, and when the family breaks, it’s difficult to keep going. The young sibling is far less naïve and weak than Lucy thinks, and they are both the children of their parents in more ways than they realise. It’s impossible not to feel for these orphans and their terrible circumstances, and the author does a great job of making us share in and understand why they are how they are. The story is at times breathtakingly beautiful and at others horrifyingly ugly, true to life. Although perhaps the style of the writing and the narration might not suit all tastes, I think most readers will connect at an emotional level with the characters, empathise and suffer with them.

The writing style changes throughout the novel, growing with the main character, and becoming more articulate and less impressionistic. The beginning of the novel reminded me of Sebastian Barry’s recent book A Thousand Moons, which also has a young girl as the protagonist, and there is a strong focus on description, not only of the physical world, but also of the emotions and the feelings the character experiences as she is confronted with her personal tragedy. For all her fascination with books and the intelligence that’s supposed to be her strong point, she can be naïve at times, and places too much trust in appearances. Later in the novel she is more insightful and the writing also reflects her progressive enlightenment and what it truly means. I’ve talked about the third part of the book, which is the jewel of the crown for me, but I truly enjoyed it all, although, as usual, I’d recommend prospective readers to check a sample first.

A couple of examples from the book (although I must remind you that I read an ARC copy, so there might be changes in the final version of the book):

And Lucy is reminded that what makes Ma most beautiful is the contradiction of her. Rough voice over smooth skin. Smile stretched over sadness —this queer ache that makes Ma’s eyes look miles and miles away. Brimming with an ocean’s worth of wet.’

A land stripped of its gold, its rivers, its buffalo, its Indians, its tigers, its jackals, its birds and its green and its living. To move through this land and believe Ba’s tales is to see each hill as a burial mound with its own crown of bones. Who could believe that and survive? Who could believe that and keep from looking, as Ba and Sam do, always toward the past? Letting it drag behind them. Letting it make them into fools.’

The ending might not satisfy readers who prefer everything to be tied up and a clear conclusion, but for me, I couldn’t think of a more fitting ending. I won’t go into details and leave readers to decide.

In sum, this is a book that has a distinct style of writing, tells a fascinating story, full of myths, tales, imagination, and also some truly awful realities of a historical period that has often been written about and represented in films and popular culture, but the official depiction glosses over many of the events and ignores a lot of the people that were there as well, just because their race, gender, lifestyle choices, or a combination of those, does not fit into the traditional history books. Its characters are unforgettable, and I recommend it to readers who enjoy a different perspective on historical events and who don’t mind taking up a narrative whose style might be challenging at times but it’s ultimately rewarding. A great novel.

Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
review 2020-03-22 11:17
Sometimes it's hard to be a Lakota woman
A thousand moons - Sebastian Barry

Thanks to Faber and Faber and to NetGalley for offering me an ARC copy of this book, which I freely chose to review.

I read Barry’s Days Without End, loved it (you can read my review here) and couldn’t resist when I saw his next novel was available. This story follows on from the previous one, and it shares quite a few characteristics with that one. Although I’ve read some reviews by people who hadn’t read the previous novel and said that they felt this one could be read on its own, I wouldn’t dare to comment on that. Personally, because the story follows closely on from Days Without End, and it refers to many of the characters we had got to know there, I’d recommend readers thinking about taking up this series to start by reading the previous novel.

This story, like Barry’s previous book, is a historical novel, in this case set in Tennessee shortly after the American Civil War. In the previous novel we followed two characters, Thomas McNulty (the first person narrator) and John Cole, through their adventures as actors, Indian hunters and soldiers, and learned that they had adopted a young Lakota girl, Ojinjintka, renamed Winona; in this second book we hear the story from Winona’s point of view. The couple of men have settled down now, and the fact that this is not only a woman’s story, but the story of a Native-American woman, means that her ambit of action is much more restricted and despite her efforts to take control of her own life, she’s often at the mercy of laws and circumstances that consider her less than a human being. Although she is loved by her adoptive parents and the rest of the extended family she lives with, that is not a general state of affairs, and if life had treated her badly as a child, she also suffers a major traumatic event here, as a young woman. No matter that she is educated (she keeps the books for a lawyer in town), strong-willed, and determined. She is either invisible (just an Indian girl) or a creature to be abused, vilified, and made to take the blame for other’s crimes. That does not mean what happens to her does not reflect the events in the larger society (we do hear about racism, about lynching, about corruption of the law, about Southern resistance…), but we get to see them from an “other” point of view, and it creates a sense of estrangement, which I suspect is intended by the author. While Thomas and John were outsiders themselves and always lived in the fringes of society, Winona’s position is more precarious still.

I have mentioned some of the themes of the novel, and others, like family relationships, race, gender, identity (Winona remembers a lot about her life as a Lakota, and the memories of her mother in particular bring her much comfort and strength), and the lot of women also play an important part in the novel. There is also something of a mystery running through it, as there are a couple of crimes committed early on (one a severe beating of an ex-slave living with Winona’s family in the farm, and the other one her assault) and Winona spends much of the novel trying to clarify what happened and to get justice, one way or another, as the authorities are not going to intervene because neither of them are important enough. Although she turns into something of an amateur detective, this is no cozy mystery or a light adventure novel, and there are plenty of harrowing moments in it, so I wouldn’t recommend it to people who are looking for cheerful entertainment.

The characters are as fascinating as those from the previous novel, although we get to see them from a totally different point of view. It Thomas was the guiding consciousness of Days Without End, Winona’s voice (in the first person) narrates this fragment of the story. We get to see things from her perspective, and that also offers us an opportunity to reevaluate our opinion of the characters we already knew. We also meet some new characters, but because of Winona’s status (or lack of it), we are put in a difficult position, always feeling suspicious and expecting the worst from those we meet, because she has no rights, both because she is a woman and because she is an Indian woman. Her voice takes some time to get used to. She has been educated, but a bit like happened with Thomas in the previous novel, her speech and thoughts are a mixture of vernacular expressions and lyrical images. She is sometimes confused and can’t make sense of what is happening around her, and at others can show a great deal of insight. When she reports the dialogue and words of others —although she is quite an astute observer of others’ behaviour —, all the people she mentions talk pretty much the same, no matter how educated they are, and farm-hands and judges cannot be told apart from the way they speak. Although I felt for Winona at an intellectual level and was horrified by the things she had to go through, perhaps because of the estrangement I mentioned and of the style of the narrative, I didn’t find it as easy to connect at an emotional level. I liked her and I loved her insights and some of her comments, but I didn’t feel as close to her as I did to Thomas in the first book.

The writing is beautiful and poetic at times, while at others it can be difficult to understand due to the mental state of the character and to her peculiar style. It reminded me of the stream-of-consciousness narration typical of modernist writers in the early years of the XX century. Winona’s thoughts jump from one subject to the next, and although the story is told in chronological order, memories of her time with the Lakotas and flashbacks from her trauma keep interfering in the narrative. This is not a particularly fast novel or a page turner in the traditional sense, as it meanders along, with exciting and horrifying scenes intermixed with scenes of domesticity and everyday life. I confess to having to go back and forth at times to make sure I hadn’t missed anything, but it was worth it.

I highlighted many parts of the novel, but I’ll share a few samples (note that this is an ARC copy, so there might be some changes in the published version):

I wonder what does it mean when another people judge you to be worth so little you were only to be killed? How our pride in everything was crushed so small it disappeared until it was just specks of things floating away on the wind.

You can’t be a geyser of tears all your life.

‘She got to have some recompense in law,’ said Lige Magan. ‘An Indian ain’t a citizen and the law don’t apply in the same way,’ said the lawyer Briscoe.

Only a woman knows how to live I believe because a man is too hasty, too half-cocked, mostly. That half-cocked gun hurts at random. But in my men I found fierce womanliness living. What a forturne. What a great heap of proper riches.

I’ve seen some reviews who felt the ending was disappointing or unbelievable. I’d have to agree that there is something of the Deus ex machina about the ending, but overall I liked where the story ended and would like to know what happens next to Winona, to Peg (one of my favourite new characters), and to the rest of the characters.

Would I recommend the novel? It is a fascinating book, and one lovers of Barry will enjoy. I advise anybody interested in this historical period and eager to read this author’s work  to start with the previous novel, as I found the style of this one more challenging and more difficult to follow, and having an understanding of the background of the characters helps put it into perspective. As I usually do, I’d recommend readers to check a sample of the novel before deciding to purchase it, but give it a good chance, as it does take some time to get used to the style, and the story is well-worth reading and persevering with. I will definitely be looking forward to the next novel.

 

Like Reblog Comment
url 2020-02-21 17:00
Sayani - The Naiad | Teaser release

SAYANI | জলপরী - The Naiad | #Teaser RELEASE
https://youtu.be/NNC0910JQ6s
Subscribe #snfilms channel to stay tuned with us. Coming up soon with her #struggle#journey and the inside story!

Directed by Sanjib Nath, Featuring Sayani Das Sayani Das - The Open Water Swimmer, Production support Debasmita Chatterjee, Radhashyam Das, Sandip Ghosh
https://www.snfilms.in/promos

More posts
Your Dashboard view:
Need help?