The Emperor’s Railroad by Guy Haley – A Review

The Emperor's Railroad - Guy Haley

The Emperor’s Railroad (Dreaming Cities #1) by Guy Haley
Post-Apocalyptic | Fantasy
Published by St. Martin’s Press
Released April 19, 2016
Goodreads | Amazon
Rating: 5_Star_Rating_System_4_stars

My boyfriend often gets bored when we’re at the library. He’s not really a reader, so while I’m spending an exorbitant amount of time walking between the shelves, piling up books until I reach my maximum checkout limit, he gets a bit antsy. Last time we went together, he decided to help me pick out some short books to read because I’m way behind on my Goodreads challenge.

Guy Haley.jpg
Author Guy Haley

Fortunately for me, he came back with The Emperor’s Railroad, a book I had never heard of but wanted to read as soon as I saw the first paragraph of the synopsis on the back cover:

“Global war devastated the environment, a zombie-like plague wiped out much of humanity, and civilization as we once understood it came to a standstill. But that was a thousand years ago, and the world is now a very different place.”

That is everything I need in a book. Post-apocalyptic fiction has long been my favorite genre, so I started reading it that same night.

This book is very short – just 176 pages – and I was able to finish it in a single day. I enjoyed the setting right away. Most post-apocalyptic fiction is mixed with elements of science, such as nuclear war, bioengineered viruses, EMP attacks, death from the cosmos, that sort of thing. In this book, however, author Guy Haley has written a post-apocalyptic fantasy book, complete with knights and talking dragons.


I can’t recall ever reading a book that featured both zombies and dragons, so that was an aspect of the book that I really loved.

The story (at least in book one of the series) is told from the point-of-view of a twelve-year-old boy named Abney. He and his mother meet up with a Knight named Quinn on the road, and he agrees to help them travel the dangerous roads to a village in the north where they have a relative.

The first twenty or so pages, the way the story was told annoyed me a little, but I got used to it. Abney’s voice is undeniably young and imperfect, especially since there’s not much education left in this world. Abney grew on me a lot though, and by the end, I was glad that the story was told from his perspective.

The most fascinating character in the book is definitely Quinn. He’s a Knight, appointed by Angels, although he chooses not to wear his badge showing which city he is from. Quinn is quiet and mysterious, and by the end of The Emperor’s Railroad, I found myself both intrigued and a little confused. In a good way, though – I’ve already reserved the second book in this duology from the library.


As this is a fantasy story, there’s some world-building, but I’m still a little unsure of the specifics of it. We learn quite a bit in The Emperor’s Railroad, but I hope it’s heavily expanded upon in book two. There were several times in the book where I wasn’t sure if the characters were referring to something literal or figurative; for example, the Angels that are frequently discussed are never shown in this book, and I feel there’s an equal chance that they’re either actual Angels or that they’re just people posing as angelic beings. I also found myself wanting to learn more about the politics of this world and the hierarchy of the rulers.

There are very few authors who can pull off something like combining zombies with dragons in a post-apocalyptic world, but Guy Haley definitely succeeded.

I’m thrilled to have discovered this duology via my bored boyfriend randomly pulling books from our library’s shelves. I can’t wait to read book two, The Ghoul King. If you enjoy genre-bending fantasy stories with mysterious characters and good suspense, do yourself a favor and pick this series up.

Have you read Guy Haley’s Dreaming Cities duology? If so, let me know what you thought!

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The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman – A Review


The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman
Magical Realism
Published by William Morrow Books
Released June 18, 2013
Goodreads | Amazon
Rating: 5_Star_Rating_System_4_stars

I re-read Neil Gaiman’s The Ocean at the End of the Lane during the 2019 Reading Rush as my selection for the “Read a book with five or more words in the title” prompt.

Neil Gaiman has been one of my favorite authors for years, and this was my third re-read of this particular book. It’s quite short (just 181 pages), so I was able to finish it in a single afternoon. It’s a magical realism story that deals with memories, sacrifice, and friendship, and has a very melancholy yet hopeful atmosphere.

Our main character returns to his hometown for a funeral and ends up at an old house at the end of the lane where he grew up. He sets down at the pond and remembers his childhood, especially his friend Lettie Hempstock, and all of the unusual and magical events that took place when he was a child.

There are monsters, magical lands, an adorable kitten that’s pulled from the ground, and so much more. Lettie, her mother, and her grandmother are all amazing characters, and they’re the real stars of this novel.

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You’re left wondering if these events really happened, and that’s part of the magic of The Ocean at the End of the Lane, along with some of Gaiman’s other books. There are questions that you’ll think of while reading this book that are never explicitly answered, but it does not at all take away from the story. In fact, it makes it more enchanting.

The reason Gaiman is one of my favorite authors is his ability to write fantastical, dark, and whimsical narratives, and this novel is an absolutely perfect example of that.

This book features a child as the main character, but it’s typically found in the adult section of bookstores. I think this is a book that people of all age ranges can enjoy. There are a few scenes that feature suicide and sex, although none of these scenes are particularly graphic, so I feel that it’s definitely okay for the young adult audience.

I’m not going to lie – this is a very difficult book to review, especially when I’m not trying to spoil anything. I really believe that this is a book that you should go into blind. While I understand that Neil Gaiman’s writing isn’t for everyone, if you have enjoyed any of his other novels, please give this one on a shot! I hope you’ll love it as much as I do.

Have you read The Ocean at the End of the Lane? What did you think of it? Let me know in the comments!

Want more Neil Gaiman? Here are a few reviews of his other books:

Good Omens The Graveyard Book The Facts in the Case of the Departure of Miss Finch

Check out these other books you might enjoy:

Summer of Salt Furthermore | The Night Circus | White is for Witching | City of Ghosts | The Price Guide to the Occult | The Light Between Worlds

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The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald – A Review

The Great Gatsby - F. Scott FItzgerald

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Classic Literature | Fiction
Published by Scribner
Released April 10, 1925
Goodreads | Amazon
Rating: 5_Star_Rating_System_5_stars

The first time I read F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby I was in the tenth grade. It was assigned reading for my AP English class. I absolutely hated it. Looking back on that time, I feel that fifteen is too young an age to read this novel. You really need more life experience in order to appreciate it.

In my early-to-mid twenties (I can’t remember exactly), I decided to give this classic American novel a second chance, and I’m so glad that I did. The second time around, I adored it, and I’ve read it multiple times since then. It has become one of my all-time favorite novels.

If you aren’t familiar with the plot of The Great Gatsby, it takes place in the mid-1920s, so it was a contemporary novel when it was released. It deals with a number of important themes, such as the excess of the “roaring twenties,” idealism, and obsession.

F. Scott Fitzgerald, Zelda Fitzgerald, and “Scottie” Fitzgerald

The story takes place in a fictional part of Long Island, NY. There are two neighborhoods, called West Egg and East Egg, and both are filled with rich, successful people. Our narrator, Nick Carraway, moves to a small cottage on West Egg, next door to a huge, extravagant mansion owned by the mysterious Jay Gatsby.

Jay Gatsby’s past is a topic of much gossip, as his true identity is murky at best. However, this does little to hurt his reputation. He’s a favorite among the higher classes as he throws huge parties frequently at his mansion, and all sorts of rich and famous people flock there every week.

Nick and Gatsby get to know one another throughout the novel, and we discover that Gatsby is in love with Nick’s cousin, Daisy Buchanan. Saying that Gatsby is in love with Daisy is a pretty significant understatement – he’s not in love as much as he’s obsessed with the thought of her. They knew one another years before, and Gatsby has built his life around the idea of her, going so far as to build his enormous mansion directly across the bay from her and her husband’s home on East Egg. The rest of the novel involves Gatsby and Daisy finally encountering one another after many years.

Let’s talk about the themes that I mentioned earlier – excess, idealism, and obsession. These all go hand-in-hand with one another. The 1920s in America was a time of extravagance for the wealthy who could afford it, and we see that in The Great Gatsby. Huge mansions, fancy cars, luxurious clothes – the characters in the novel (excepting Nick) are all obsessed with these things, and use them as status symbols amongst their peers. Gatsby, especially, uses his wealth to try to impress Daisy, as that’s really the only thing that matters to him.

The last bit, about Daisy being the only important thing in his life, leads us to the second and third themes of idealism and obsession. Jay Gatsby has literally spent the last five years of his life trying to build himself up to be something that Daisy would fall in love with. It’s his drive in life and nothing else seems to matter to him. He has put Daisy on such a high pedestal that she cannot possibly live up to his idealized version of her. This leads to feelings of Gatsby’s disillusionment and disappointment in the latter half of the novel.

I’m not going to discuss how the story ends despite its being a classic, because I feel that everyone should read this short, important novel. Now that I’ve read this novel as an adult, and have a few unhealthy relationships in my past, I can appreciate this book more than I could have when I was fifteen.

I recommend this novel to literally everyone. I’m convinced that everyone can read this book and take something away from it. If you haven’t read it, please do so.

Have you read The Great Gatsby? What did you think? Let me know in the comments!

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Elevation by Stephen King – A Review


Elevation by Stephen King
Published by Scribner
Released October 30, 2018
Goodreads | Amazon
Rating: 5_Star_Rating_System_1_star

First of all, Elevation won the 2018 Goodreads Choice Awards in the horror category, and I have no idea how. This is most definitely not a horror book.

Second, this book is godawful.

I grew up reading Stephen King’s books, as my parents had plenty of his novels on our living room bookshelf for me to choose from. As I got older, King’s earlier novels, such as The Shining, Tommyknockers, Pet Semetaryand others became easy favorites for me.

King’s post-apocalyptic novel, The Standis one of my favorite books of all time.

Suffice it to say, I’m a Stephen King fan. Usually.

Elevation is a very short book, and I finished it in a single day. The hardcover edition has just 146 pages. Its shortness is the only reason I finished reading it.

This novel has four characters: Scott Carey, a single, middle-aged web-developer; Dr. Bob Ellis, Scott’s friend, and a retired physician; and a lesbian couple new to town who own a vegetarian restaurant, Deirdre McComb and Missy Donaldson.

Scott has a mysterious infliction. He’s losing weight at a rate of a couple of pounds each day, but he doesn’t get any thinner. Also, he weighs the same on a scale with and without his clothes on. Seeing as this is a little bit strange, he seeks out the advice of Dr. Bob, although Scott also decides not to go to an actual hospital.

While Scott and Dr. Bob are watching the numbers on Scott’s scale dwindle away to nothing, Scott becomes obsessed with befriending his lesbian neighbors, who don’t want anything to do with him.

That’s the whole book. The end.

Literally, that’s it. It’s a very shallow novel.

I suppose the theme of the novel is getting along with people who have different lifestyles from you. Maybe? Most of the plot revolves around Scott trying to befriend and stick up for the lesbian couple while the rest of the townspeople shun them. Which is all well and good – it’s a great message in theory.

Then again, I didn’t enjoy the fact that the couple needed the white, middle-aged man to help them to succeed. Scott was the predictable and unwelcome hero of the story.

The characters were stereotypes, the story was bland, the plot was light, and the ending was ridiculous.

I will not be rereading this novel.

Have you read Elevation? What were your thoughts? Let me know in the comments.

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10 Short Books to Help You Get to Your Reading Goal


If you’re trying to meet your yearly Goodreads or reading goal during the final week of 2018, no worries: there are plenty of short books, novellas, and graphic novels that you can finish in under a day! Here are ten of my favorites.

The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway


128 pages

I read this entire book in less than three hours. It’s short, wonderful, and an easy read. The story is simple, as it follows a fisherman out on the ocean on a quest to catch a great fish. Its simplicity doesn’t make it less enjoyable – in fact, that simplicity makes the novel worth reading. The Old Man and the Sea is a great place to start if you’re new to reading Hemingway. If you want to know more, here’s my full review.

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A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens


112 Pages

What could be more perfect to read during the holidays than this classic? This is one of those books that you can definitely finish in one sitting. If you don’t know what the story is about, it follows Ebenezer Scrooge, a greedy old man who values money more than anything else in the world. Things change when he’s visited by the ghosts of Christmases past, present, and future. Plus, if you would rather listen to it, there are plenty of audiobook performances, including readings by Neil Gaiman and Tim Curry.

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Marvel 1602 by Neil Gaiman


248 Pages

This comic book is a unique take on the Marvel universe that you’re used to. Written by the incredible Neil Gaiman, this story takes place 400 years in the past and reimagines favorite characters such as Doctor Strange, the X-Men, Daredevil, and more. I also love the art in this comic book, which is done by Andy Kubert. There are other books in this series, but this is the first and collects issues 1-8.

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Black Bolt, Vol 1: Hard Time and Vol 2: Home Free by Saladin Ahmed


272 Pages

For another comic book option, these two volumes by Saladin Ahmed are wonderful, plus you get to look at the colorful, trippy art of the best modern comic book artist, Christian Ward. I did a review of this series a while back, so check that out for a full review. This series follows Black Bolt as he tries to escape from an inescapable prison.

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Fantastic Mr. Fox by Roald Dahl


96 Pages

Honestly, any of Roald Dahl’s books would work for this, but Fantastic Mr. Fox is my favorite. It’s so short that you can finish it in a couple of hours, and it’s such an adorably fun story. Mr. Fox, along with a few other underground friends, works to outsmart a few nasty farmers so that he can feed his friends and family.

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Binti by Nnedi Okorafor


96 Pages

This is one that I’ll probably read myself during this last week. Binti is the first book in a series of fantasy novellas by acclaimed author Nnedi Okorafor. Binti is the first of her people to be accepted into a renowned galactic university, and the journey is a difficult one. She leaves behind her family and enters a world of warfare.

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Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur


204 Pages

Poetry is a great way to up your count of finished books, and it’s hard to think of a poetry collection better than Rupi Kaur’s milk and honey. There’s also an audiobook version narrated by the writer herself, and she puts so much passion into her words that it’s hard not to get sucked in completely.

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The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein


64 Pages

Shel Silverstein was one of my favorite writers as a child, and I read and reread his books constantly. The Giving Tree is undoubtedly one of his best, and the lesson taught in the book is one that everyone should learn. If you never read this book as a child or if it’s been too long and you’ve forgotten, it’s never too late to relearn.

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Coraline by Neil Gaiman


162 Pages

Neil Gaiman’s Coraline is much beloved for a reason. It’s a great story as well as being fantastical and ridiculous all at the same time. Coraline goes exploring in her family’s new home, and discovers a door that opens onto a parallel universe where she’s in a house just like her own, only things are… quite different.

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Speak: The Graphic Novel by Laurie Halse Anderson


374 Pages

Don’t be scared off by the page count on this one. First of all, it’s a graphic novel, so it takes only a fraction of the time to get through the story. Second, it’s 100% worth reading. This is the graphic novel adaptation of Anderson’s famous novel Speak, and Emily Carroll does an amazing job with the illustrations. The story follows Melinda, a high school student who is raped and struggles with it during her freshman year of high school. It is a deeply upsetting book, but one that is all the more important because of it. If you want to know more I did a full review a couple months ago.

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What books are you reading to complete your reading challenge? Let me know in the comments.