Thursday, July 6, 2017

5 Mini Reviews: My Last Continent, The Queen of Blood, The Likeness, News of the World & Bring Back the King: The New Science of De-Extinction

June was a topsy-turvy month and I didn't get a whole lot of reading done, much less get around to writing up reviews. I read a slew of 4-star books and I wanted to make sure they got mentioned here on the blog, so I decided to combine them into a mini-review post. The books below run the gamut of genres from fiction to mystery to fantasy to non-fiction, and they're all ones I'd recommend.

My Last Continent by Midge Raymond
First published in 2016
306 pages
My rating: 4 out of 5

Penguins, icebergs and complicated love story, oh my!

I've got a major soft spot for books that take place in cold, rugged places, so a novel set in Antarctica -- with a penguin researcher as the protagonist -- was a must-read for me.

This is definitely a character- and setting-driven novel, and I enjoyed getting to know naturalist Deb and learn more about research in Antarctica. (There are plenty of penguins in this book, by the way.) But there is some action in the form of a shipwreck, which we know is coming from the very first chapter, and the anticipation will keep readers turning pages.

"My Last Continent" is an intriguing story of a woman who escapes to the ends of the earth for several months of the year, and it'll satiate all your cold-book-setting cravings!

The Queen of Blood by Sarah Beth Durst
Queens of Renthia #1
First published in 2016
350 pages
My rating: 4 out of 5

"The Queen of Blood" is a solid start to a new adult fantasy series that would appeal to fans of Naomi Novki's fantastic novel, "Uprooted."

As in "Uprooted," there's a strong tie to nature, the protagaonist (in this case, Daleina) is sent off to learn to use her powers, and there's an epic battle brewing that'll pit the spirits of the natural world against humankind.

For the most part I liked Daleina, and I really enjoyed Durst's worldbuilding. I'm excited to continue the adventure and learn more about the world of Renthia in book 2, which was just released.

The Likeness by Tana French
Dublin Murder Squad #2
First published in 2008
466 pages
My rating: 4 out of 5

If you enjoyed the first book in Tana French's Dublin Murder Squad series, "In the Woods," you'll be happy to learn that Cassie, the secondary character from that book, is the star of "The Likeness."

Cassie draws on her skills as a former undercover officer after the dead body of her doppelganger -- who also happens to be using the alias Cassie had while undercover -- is discovered in the Irish countryside. Lexie lived in a grand old mansion with four other university graduate students and it's quite possible one of them might be her murderer. Up against a severe lack of leads, Cassie's old boss convinces her to go in undercover as Lexie in hopes of getting one of the (most peculiar) group of housemates to spill. Cassie resists at first, but once she's inside it doesn't take long for her to grow all too comfortable with her alter ego and her newfound BFFs.

It seems to be almost unanimous that "The Likeness" is the best book of the series, but I don't think I liked it quite as well as "Into the Woods," which really kept me on the edge of my seat. I felt the set-up of "The Likeness" took too long -- it was 100 pages before Cassie even went into the house as Lexie. Things picked up for a while, but then I actually ended up skimming the last bit. And French's writing can be rambly and choppy at times, which I noticed moreso in book 2. Still, it was overall a good read and I'll definitely continue the series. 

"News of the World" by Paulette Jiles
First published in 2016
209 pages
My rating: 4 out of 5

This charming little Western is going to be made into a movie starring Tom Hanks, and I think it'll be a fabulous film. The book is a slim 200 pages, but it'll be stunning visually and viewers -- and readers, of course! -- are sure to fall in love with kind, wise and slightly cantankerous 71-year-old Captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd and his charge, bold, stubborn 10-year-old Johanna.

Just after the Civil War, Johanna's family was slaughtered by Kiowa Indians and she was taken captive. Four years later, she found herself ripped away from her Indian parents and thrust into the hands of Captain Kidd, who was persuaded to take on the task of returning her from North Texas to her aunt and uncle in San Antonio.

The journey turns into quite the adventure, the characters are impossible to dislike and the setting is richly described. Plus, you can read the book in just a day or two!

Bring Back the King: The New Science of De-Extinction by Helen Pilcher
First published in 2016
280 pages plus sources
My rating: 4 out of 5

"Bring Back the King" is one of those rare gems that's both a fun read and a non-fiction fount of information. You'll chuckle, and you'll learn an awful lot about DNA, cloning and extinct animals ranging from the t-rex to the fascinating gastric-brooding frog (which actually nurtures tadpoles inside it's own belly, then belches them out). And did you know a company in South Korea will actually clone your pet for you?!

This was a readable, fascinating, quick book that taught me quite a bit and it's a good choice for those craving interesting non-fiction.


  1. Five 4 star reads is a great reading month and I enjoyed this review round up.

  2. Bring Back the King looks great! I'll have to remember that one. And of course My Last Continent looks fantastic - right up my alley!

  3. I'm really looking forward to 'My Last Continent' so I'm glad to see you rate it so highly!


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