Book Review – Baptism of Fire

Next up for review is Baptism of Fire, the 5th book (publication order) in The Witcher Saga by Andrzej Sapkowski. I listened to this as an audiobook, narrated by Peter Kenny.

You can find my reviews for the other books in this series here:

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Here is the blurb:

The Wizards Guild has been shattered by a coup and, in the uproar, Geralt was seriously injured. The Witcher is supposed to be a guardian of the innocent, a protector of those in need, a defender against powerful and dangerous monsters that prey on men in dark times.

But now that dark times have fallen upon the world, Geralt is helpless until he has recovered from his injuries.

While war rages across all of the lands, the future of magic is under threat and those sorcerers who survive are determined to protect it. It’s an impossible situation in which to find one girl – Ciri, the heiress to the throne of Cintra, has vanished – until a rumor places her in the Nilfgaard court, preparing to marry the Emperor.

Injured or not, Geralt has a rescue mission on his hands.


Geralt begins this book recovering from his injuries, yet he is desperate to discover the fate of Ciri and Yennefer after the events at the conclusion of the previous volume. Finally he sets out from his refuge and follows rumor in an attempt to track down Ciri in Nilfgaard.

This book isn’t about reaching Ciri, but rather about the relationships that form on the journey, and how a war that spreads over a continent affects the everyday people trying to live there. Geralt slowly changes as a character and even though he is a Witcher, he is propelled more by his drive to see Ciri safe than his former mercenary lifestyle of monster-slaying.

Several characters are introduced in this book who will feature through the end of the series: Milva the archer, Cahir the outcast Nilfgaardian knight, and Regis – an aloof hermit with valuable medical skills. Geralt has always tried to handle danger alone, but through this story we can see how he starts to accept help from others, a theme that continues through the finale of the books.

Ciri and Yennefer take more minor roles in this book, so it came as a surprise that Sapkowski brings in issues of reproductive rights and pregnancy loss in this story. This topic becomes relevant in later books in a more indirect sense, so I can see why he has a direct conversation between the characters in this one.

Despite being an epic fantasy tale, this series uses stories to also make fun of fantasy in a very self-aware sense. Is Geralt of Rivia from Rivia? This book will finally explain his title.

While most of this book moves slowly in terms of plot, the characters are the high point here. Yet, action lovers can be satisfied with a fantastic scene near the end of the book in The Battle for the Bridge. I enjoyed this book and thought it was a solid installment in the series as it continues to add complexity and higher stakes.

Have you read any books in The Witcher Saga? What did you think? Let me know in the comments (above).

Find more of my reviews here.

Book Review – The Time of Contempt

I finished the last book in the Witcher Saga by Andrzej Sapkowski a few days ago and I wanted to get back to writing out my thoughts and reviewing the rest of this series. The next up is The Time of Contempt, the 4th book in publication order, coming after the two short story collections (The Last Wish, Sword of Destiny) and the first novel (Blood of Elves). I listened to this as an audiobook, narrated by Peter Kenny.

You can find my reviews for the other books in this series here:

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The blurb for this book was not very useful, so I pieced together a couple of them to come up with something better:

Geralt is a Witcher: guardian of the innocent; protector of those in need; a defender in dark times against some of the most frightening creatures of myth and legend.

His task now is to protect Ciri. A child of prophecy, she will have the power to change the world for good or for ill—but only if she lives to use it.

To protect his ward Ciri, Geralt of Rivia sends her to train with the sorceress Yennefer. But all is not well across the lands as a coup threatens the Wizard’s Guild, war breaks out across the lands, and a serious injury leaves Geralt fighting for his life. And Ciri – in whose hands the world’s fate rests – has vanished…


This book starts off with Ciri finally being able to show off some Witcher skills as she ventures out from the Temple School and is more on her own. However, her escapades are eventually interrupted as the sorceresses want to have her train at their magic school in Aretuza.

One huge theme in this entire series is that everyone is trying to control Ciri, presumably to help her fulfill a prophecy or whatever her destiny entails. But in the course of this, no one ever asks Ciri what she wants. Is she a pawn of her destiny or should she have a say in her own fate? Could it change anything if she does?

The events that occur in Thanedd were confusing to me as a reader, but I think that accurately reflected how things happened for those involved. From that point onward, I feel like these novels took a darker and more pessimistic turn, but one that sort of allows Ciri some new freedoms. This book sets the stage for the later events in the series in ways that are not immediately obvious.

The politics of this world becomes more important and the worldbuilding broader and more impactful as Ciri and Geralt’s fates unfold. I enjoyed reading this book, but it was one of those where I have to wonder what might stand out to me on a second read-through of the series, now that I know how it ends. Overall, this was a solid installment and moves the story along in an unforeseen way.

The narrator is wonderful and I was able to tell which characters were speaking without being told: Geralt is suitably gruff, while Dandelion is a frivolous dandy. This only adds to the superb characterization in this series, and I appreciate when the same narrator voices an entire series (as in this case).

Have you read any books in this series? Which was your favorite? Let me know in the comments (above).

Find more of my reviews here.

January Reading Update

Since I set my reading goals pretty high for 2023, I thought it might be interesting to check in at the end of each month to see how I did. For January, I had hoped to read these 9 books (which was also a completely unrealistic goal for me):

So – how did I do? I finished reading and reviewed 4 of these:

As for the others, I have literally 49 minutes left in the audiobook for The Lady of the Lake, the final book in The Witcher Saga, so I should finish that one today. I’m really curious but also anxious and a little scared to see how the series ends because of lines like this:

Because a story where the decent ones die and the scoundrels live and carry on doing what they want is full of shit.

– Geralt of Rivia

I have also started volume 2 of The Sandman graphic novel by Neil Gaiman. I had expected this to be a faster read, but the second installment is significantly longer than the first one.

I also started The Shadow Rising by Robert Jordan, but I don’t expect to have time to finish that one until at least next week. I have to say that it was nice to jump back into The Wheel of Time and refresh my mind about where the story left off with all the characters.

I did not have time to start Tolkien’s Unfinished Tales or the audiobook of Season of Storms (a Witcher series prequel), but those will be my next reads as I start off February.

What else is on my list for Februrary? Nine more books!

I’m planning to get back to reading all of the Dune series written by Frank Herbert with God Emperor of Dune. I have two books on my list for book clubs: The Forgotten Beasts of Eld by Patricia A. McKillip and The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires by Grady Hendrix (an author new to me).

Perilous Times by Thomas D. Lee is a new release that I obtained courtesy of NetGalley, while The Middling Affliction by Alex Shvartsman is a novel that I helped support via Kickstarter, written by a local author friend of mine. I have previously reviewed his earlier novel, Eridani’s Crown (review here).

I enjoyed the first book in Naomi Novik’s Scholomance series (A Deadly Education) so much that I need to finish that series with The Last Graduate and The Golden Enclaves. And lastly, I’m planning to read Six of Crows and Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo in audiobook format because I need to expand my knowledge of the Grishaverse.

Otherwise, my computer is limping along but takes about 10 minutes to start up. I should probably start shopping for a new system. And… I have just started a fitness challenge (week 1) and I have a fencing competition in Manhattan this weekend so I’m staying busy!

How are your reading goals going for 2023 so far? Have you read anything really good yet? Let me know in the comments (above).

Book Review – Fairy Tale

I started to read Stephen King’s books at least 15 years ago when I picked up The Dark Tower series. I guess that after delving into many more of his works, I now consider myself a fan, although I still don’t read everything that he writes. When I saw that he had a book titled Fairy Tale, though, I knew that this was one I’d need to read.

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Here is the blurb:

Charlie Reade looks like a regular high school kid, great at baseball and football, a decent student. But he carries a heavy load. His mom was killed in a hit-and-run accident when he was ten, and grief drove his dad to drink. Charlie learned how to take care of himself—and his dad. Then, when Charlie is seventeen, he meets Howard Bowditch, a recluse with a big dog in a big house at the top of a big hill. In the backyard is a locked shed from which strange sounds emerge, as if some creature is trying to escape. When Mr. Bowditch dies, he leaves Charlie the house, a massive amount of gold, a cassette tape telling a story that is impossible to believe, and a responsibility far too massive for a boy to shoulder.

Because within the shed is a portal to another world—one whose denizens are in peril and whose monstrous leaders may destroy their own world, and ours. In this parallel universe, where two moons race across the sky, and the grand towers of a sprawling palace pierce the clouds, there are exiled princesses and princes who suffer horrific punishments; there are dungeons; there are games in which men and women must fight each other to the death for the amusement of the “Fair One.” And there is a magic sundial that can turn back time.

A story as old as myth, and as startling and iconic as the rest of King’s work, Fairy Tale is about an ordinary guy forced into the hero’s role by circumstance, and it is both spectacularly suspenseful and satisfying.


I truly enjoyed this book! The opening is very relatable and takes place in our world. There’s a mysterious old man with secrets, a sympathetic protagonist in Charlie, and a wonderful dog. You KNOW that this story is going to go somewhere fantastical though from the title.

The first half provides a lot of character background and is essentially about saving a dog. The focus then shifts to an unpredictable story about heroes, quests, and doing the right thing. King references traditional fairy tales that you know, but in a way that isn’t obvious at first. But he also brings in more modern stories that have developed their own cultural following: everything from Cthulhu and Disney characters, to his own lines from The Dark Tower series. He even trolls George R. R. Martin with his own take on “the prince who was promised.”

Like the original versions of classic fairy tales, this story has its dark aspects. However, it is much more of a fantasy story than something from the horror genre. The ending was satisfying and I might even have shed a tear on the final page. I expect that Fairy Tale will end up being one of my top books of 2023 and I’m finding it hard to even offer any criticism of it right now, so go read it!

Find more of my reviews here.

Computer Woes

I had hoped to get another book review up earlier this week, but unfortunately my PC decided it wasn’t going to cooperate. My system is an MSI laptop, and it is several years old. I returned home from a trip late on Sunday night and then when I had a chance to sit at my computer last night, there were problems.

First, the Wi-Fi didn’t work. And since my desk is in a room with no Ethernet cable, I usually run on the Wi-Fi. I tried to fix this, but then when I attempted to reinstall drivers, there were bigger problems.

Bear with me, as I’m not good at computer hardware/software issues, but something happened where the system would no longer boot and also couldn’t repair. Eventually my husband (the computer person) stepped in and was able to boot the computer from a USB drive and then reinstall Windows. Five hours later, he sort of had it running.

Today, many hours were spent installing stuff and continuing to troubleshoot. But in the end, I’m only sitting back down to survey the extent of the damage just now. I expect it is time to buy a new system, but this temporary solution will at least let me carry on in some capacity.

Hopefully by Friday I’ll have a review for Fairy Tale by Stephen King.

Book Review – In a Garden Burning Gold

When this book was released, I was immediately attracted to it by the gorgeous cover, but I wasn’t familiar with the author, Rory Power, at all. This isn’t her first novel, but she is a relatively new author, so I thought I’d take a chance and pick up In a Garden Burning Gold.

This is the first book of The Wind-Up Garden series, which appears to be a duology. I read this book in 2022 and this is one of my back log of books to review. I also want to thank Net Galley for providing this copy in exchange for an honest review.

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Here is the blurb:

Rhea and her twin brother, Lexos, have spent an eternity helping their father rule their small, unstable country, using their control over the seasons, tides, and stars to keep the people in line. For a hundred years, they’ve been each other’s only ally, defending each other and their younger siblings against their father’s increasingly unpredictable anger.

Now, with an independence movement gaining ground and their father’s rule weakening, the twins must take matters into their own hands to keep their family—and their entire world—from crashing down around them. But other nations are jockeying for power, ready to cross and double cross, and if Rhea and Lexos aren’t careful, they’ll end up facing each other across the battlefield.


The world found in this novel contained some fascinating magic, where certain rulers have magically enhanced lifespans and gain powers in a very specific sphere that help to run their world. Rhea’s power is that she helps to bring on the change of seasons by choosing a consort for a short time, then eventually murdering them. While it is supposedly an honor to be chosen as her consort, politics also plays a huge role in this system.

I enjoyed seeing how this story unfolded, and the plot took some surprising twists. However, I felt like these long-lived nobles (especially Rhea) acted far more naive than I would have expected for people with so much worldly experience. I probably won’t read the next book.

Have you read this book or any of the author’s other works? Let me know in the comments (above).

Find more of my reviews here.

Book Review – Never Say You Can’t Survive

This was a book that I had picked up at New York Comic-Con in… probably 2021. The full title of this how-to book on writing by Charlie Jane Anders is Never Say You Can’t Survive: How to Get Through Hard Times by Making Up Stories. It has been some time since I’ve read this type of book, so I thought that this would be a good time to delve back in to learning how to improve my writing process.

This book also won the 2022 Hugo Award for Best Related Work.

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Here is the blurb:

Things are scary right now. We’re all being swept along by a tidal wave of history, and it’s easy to feel helpless. But we’re not helpless: we have minds, and imaginations, and the ability to visualize other worlds and valiant struggles. And writing can be an act of resistance that reminds us that other futures and other ways of living are possible.

Full of memoir, personal anecdote, and insight about how to flourish during the present emergency, Never Say You Can’t Survive is the perfect manual for creativity in unprecedented times.


I did enjoy this book and I felt like I learned some useful tips. It has found a space on the back portion of my desk where I keep books about writing for easy reference. I have also read two of this author’s novels, so I was able to understand the given examples when she references those stories. One of them (All the Birds in the Sky), was one of my favorite books I read in 2019, review here.

Never Say You Can’t Survive is divided into 5 sections, roughly on these topics:

  1. Getting Started – this deals with creating characters.
  2. What’s a Story and How Do You Find One? – this is about how to take a premise and turn it into a story.
  3. Your Feelings Are Valid – And Powerful – this is about using emotions to write effectively.
  4. What We Write About When We Write About Spaceships – this section tackles using your political and social outlook to say something in your writing.
  5. How to Use Writerly Tricks to Gain Unstoppable Powers – this contains some specific tips on the mechanics of writing: point-of-view, structure, tone, etc.

If you are just getting started as a writer, this book isn’t the place to start, as it doesn’t deal with the basics. But if you have some writing experience already and want to look at some finer points in how to craft stories, I think this volume may be helpful.

Have you read this book? Do you think it will be helpful to your writing? Let me know in the comments (above).

Find more of my reviews here.

Story Available in Podcast

I wanted to take a short break from book reviews to mention that my latest published story has been produced as a podcast from Utopia Science Fiction Magazine. You can find the episode on You Tube here.

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This story is called Selection Error and was inspired by an article on human error that I read in an aviation magazine. I took the different types of errors mentioned in the article, put them into an autonomous rover, and set the story on the Jovian moon Io.

My initial version of the story had some experimental sections written in second person, but that point-of-view didn’t fit well in the final version. The story is short (about 6:30) and is followed by an episode about exploring art in science fiction.

The entire podcast is worth a listen and covers topics from Salvador Dali, to AI art creation, to making art in a VR space. If you enjoy it, check out the Utopia Science Fiction Magazine patreon here. All of the podcast episodes are on their You Tube channel here.

Did you take a listen? Let me know what you think in the comments (above).

Graphic Novel Review – Demon in the Wood

I received Demon in the Wood for Christmas and decided it would be a nice short read before I jumped into the next Wheel of Time book. This story is set in Leigh Bardugo’s Grishaverse that is the setting for her Shadow and Bone series that I reviewed here: (book 1, book 2, book 3). The graphic novel is illustrated by Dani Pendergast.

Haven’t read any of the Grishaverse yet? Looks like you can pick up the first 5 chapters of Shadow and Bone for free on Kindle here.

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Here is the blurb:

Before he led Ravka’s Second Army, before he created the Fold, and long before he became the Darkling, he was just a lonely boy burdened by an extraordinary power.

Eryk and his mother, Lena, have spent their lives on the run. But they will never find a safe haven. They are not only Grisha—they are the deadliest and rarest of their kind. Feared by those who wish to destroy them and hunted by those who would exploit their gifts, they must hide their true abilities wherever they go. But sometimes deadly secrets have a way of revealing themselves…


This is a prequel and origin story for the Darkling – the antagonist in the Shadow and Bone series – so I don’t think it would be a good place for someone new to this world to jump in. The grisha (magic-users) feature in this tale and very little explanation of their powers are given.

Going by the name of Eryk during this story, we find him traveling with his mother as they arrive at a grisha village. Their unique power and its secrets has forced them into a nomadic existence which has never allowed Eryk to have more than brief friendships. He tries to fit in with the other grisha teenagers while a village of non-grisha exists nearby.

I didn’t expect the turn that this tale took, and it showed how harsh the life of the grisha must be. Eryk garners sympathy, but I was also able to loosely see how the trauma he went through in this story led to later events in his life.

The art throughout this graphic novel created a beautiful depiction of Leigh Bardugo’s world. I liked how there was relatively more artwork than words, and the illustrations clearly displayed the story.

My only negative comment about this book was that it was too short, really no more than a short story. I would have liked to see what happened after the events in this book. While I can see how this affected the Darkling to some extent, surely there’s more that happened to lead him down his isolated path.

Are you a fan of the Grishaverse? Which book is your favorite? Did you watch the television adaptation? Let me know in the comments (above).

Find more of my reviews here.

Book Review – Noor

This is my first book review of 2023! I’m going to prioritize reviewing the books I have most recently read and then backfill with reviews of books read in 2022 when I don’t have anything else ready to go.

This review is for Noor by Nnedi Okorafor and is the second book that I’ve read by this author. I previously reviewed Binti here. Unlike Binti, which is a collection of shorter linked stories, Noor is a full novel.

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Here is the blurb:

Anwuli Okwudili prefers to be called AO. To her, these initials have always stood for Artificial Organism. AO has never really felt…natural, and that’s putting it lightly. Her parents spent most of the days before she was born praying for her peaceful passing because even in-utero she was wrong. But she lived. Then came the car accident years later that disabled her even further. Yet instead of viewing her strange body the way the world views it, as freakish, unnatural, even the work of the devil, AO embraces all that she is: A woman with a ton of major and necessary body augmentations. And then one day she goes to her local market and everything goes wrong.

Once on the run, she meets a Fulani herdsman named DNA and the race against time across the deserts of Northern Nigeria begins. In a world where all things are streamed, everyone is watching the reckoning of the murderess and the terrorist and the saga of the wicked woman and mad man unfold. This fast-paced, relentless journey of tribe, destiny, body, and the wonderland of technology revels in the fact that the future sometimes isn’t so predictable. Expect the unaccepted.


I liked this novel, but I think I was more engaged overall by the story in Binti. Our protagonist in this tale, AO, has her world changed after a sudden violent event sends her on the run. Yet she is far from helpless since she has been equipped with three cybernetic limbs and other internal modifications as a result of birth defects and additional trauma earlier in her life. She meets DNA, a nomadic shepherd, in the northern desert and recognizes him as a a fellow outsider. Their efforts to escape additional persecution are thwarted and they must keep fleeing the authorities in a world overseen by nearly omniscient corporations.

One reason why I wanted to read this book was because I knew that it was set in Africa and that the author was also of Nigerian descent and I try to read books with a variety of cultural influences. I just read more about the author before writing this and discovered that she was also paralyzed due to medical complications when she was a teenager, but eventually regained the ability to walk, which makes her choice to have AO disabled in a similar fashion in her backstory more personal.

The opening of this book grabbed my attention right away and the protagonists are easily made sympathetic as the victims of terrible situations. The near future technology was well-imagined and integral to the plot. The themes of corporate greed, privacy, and climate change are also laced into the story.

One small aspect of this story that I really enjoyed was how much DNA valued his remaining cattle, taking his steer along with them on the entire journey. They are so much a part of his way of life that he would never consider leaving them behind.

I did think that the ending of the book was a little rushed, but I also don’t want to give spoilers here so I’m not going to go into detail on that. But it was an overall enjoyable and pretty quick read and I’ll probably pick up something else by the author in the future.

Have you read Noor or any other book by Nnedi Okorafor? Did the setting entrance you or put you off? Let me know in the comments (above).

Find more of my reviews here.

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