Categories
Dystopian Horror Young Adult

Book Review: The Grace Year by Kim Liggett

  • Title: The Grace Year
  • Series: No, Standalone
  • Author: Kim Liggett
  • Publisher & Release: Wednesday Books (October, 2019)
  • Length: 407 pages
  • Rating & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ yes

Here is the description from GoodReads:

No one speaks of the grace year. It’s forbidden.

In Garner County, girls are told they have the power to lure grown men from their beds, to drive women mad with jealousy. They believe their very skin emits a powerful aphrodisiac, the potent essence of youth, of a girl on the edge of womanhood. That’s why they’re banished for their sixteenth year, to release their magic into the wild so they can return purified and ready for marriage. But not all of them will make it home alive.

Sixteen-year-old Tierney James dreams of a better life—a society that doesn’t pit friend against friend or woman against woman, but as her own grace year draws near, she quickly realizes that it’s not just the brutal elements they must fear. It’s not even the poachers in the woods, men who are waiting for a chance to grab one of the girls in order to make a fortune on the black market. Their greatest threat may very well be each other.

Thankfully I finally picked this one up! It was a buddy read with two Instagram friends and we had a great time talking about the book. There are a ton of good points for Book Club discussions and a lot of aspects left open to interpretation/imagination, which makes The Grace Year an ideal buddy read pick.

The plot is absolutely unique to me.  16 year old girls are sent out during their “Grace Year” to lose the magic that they are allegedly born with.  There is a definite Salem Witch Trials vibe as the men have total control of the society and can accuse women of magic at any time, resulting in hanging.

The book is definitely a bit violent at times, everything from bullying to hanging to men harvesting girls for body parts. There is scalping, missing fingers, and more than a few bloody crazy people to deal with.  I didn’t find it terribly graphic though, the grade 9+ (high school and onwards) actually seems appropriate.

Tierney is the main character and a black sheep of sorts among the other Grace Year girls.  She has survival skills and finds a nemesis in Kiersten, the leader of the pack of girls and….. I’ll argue that she’s the main antagonist too.  I didn’t really love the characters though and found the plot/story itself to be my main point of enjoyment.

The pacing is fantastic as well. I read the first half steadily and the second half in one sitting.  It just got too good to put down, even if I wasn’t connecting with the girls.  The little mysteries and end of exile, building team work, then the conclusion were all pretty engrossing.

I had a LOT of questions though, which again all make great book club discussions.   Where is this isolated town with such a Handmaid’s Tale type society? One main and lovely recurring theme is the use of flowers for language, since apparently a bunch of immigrants converged at some point, so where did they come from? Was this a planned, constructed society and how did it evolve? Also what time period is the book taking place in? Is the recurring life from death theme enough to explain the ending?  Did the love story really make any sense at all?

I liked the grim outlook of the book. A lot of young adult books aren’t written to be so desolate with only little shoots of hope poking through. I liked the grim realizations that the women and girls were too busy clawing for standing to help each other and have unity.  It is a very good but not very happy book and I think it’s absolutely great.

I guess the biggest question is – is the magic real?

I totally recommend for anyone 16+. I think it’s a little too much for younger readers but teens, definitely, and adults alike can enjoy this.  Be warned away now though if you hate open endings.

Thank you as always for reading! Have you read The Grace Year? Want to discuss it? Drop a comment!

Categories
Fantasy Young Adult

Book Review: Warrior of the Wild by Tricia Levenseller

  • Title: Warrior of the Wild
  • Series: no
  • Author: Tricia Levenseller
  • Publisher & Release: Feiwel & Friends, February 26, 2019
  • Length: 328 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐⚡ yes for YA readers

Tricia Levenseller is a huge “Bookstagram made me do it” author for me. I saw her books all over Bookstagram and then was pretty psyched when Shelf Love Crate included this book, what about a year ago? I finally read it though!

Here is the description from Goodreads:

As her father’s chosen heir, eighteen-year-old Rasmira has trained her whole life to become a warrior and lead her village. But when her coming-of-age trial is sabotaged and she fails the test, her father banishes her to the monster-filled wilderness with an impossible quest: To win back her honor, she must kill the oppressive god who claims tribute from the villages each year—or die trying.

The premise is right up my alley and I was excited to read it based off the initial question posed: How do you kill a god?

Rasmira hilariously failed the test required to become an adult and join a profession in her village.  I know it wasn’t supposed to be funny, but it really was.  She is a rather naive 18 year old who is slated to become the next village ruler, but she has a lot to learn about leadership.

After being banished to the Wild, she meets two exiled boys and they start a whole adventure together after gaining each other’s trust.  Rasmira learns a lot of hard lessons about trust and leadership and…. Well… Nothing says that the impossible tasks can’t be accomplished with a little help.

I think there are a lot of really good lessons in the book for YA readers. Trust and teamwork and leadership skills, fairness and humility and family.  There is a lot of witty banter as well which is always something I enjoy.

The world building was pretty intensive for a standalone.  A lot of animal names and plant descriptions were thrown out right at the beginning, as well as village customs and building models.  I had a solid image of the area even if there were a LOT of names tossed out in the first chapter or two.

Plotwise, there are a lot of individually good or cute or action packed scenes –  but the plot itself fell a little flat for me by the end.  The whole concept was well done and fairly unique as far as I can tell, but it just felt too easy at times.  Someone was grievously injured but there happened to be a magic regenerative salve handy? I guess everyone gets a mulligan.  There was one other scene where at the heat of battle, they stop to smirk and dust off their hands and I felt like it got a bit cartoon-ish.  Of they would be joking around while fighting off vicious, poisonous attackers.  That said, there were a lot of good monster fighting and god-challenging bits too and I did enjoy reading the mystery come unglued.

I am also now wondering if it was just my mood at the time of reading, but I think young adults will like this one more than adult readers.  Some YA I can really get into, but this, while a very solid book, was just not making my pulse race.  The pacing was very even though, I never felt bored for any long stretch and appreciated how the action was spread out evenly.

I don’t have a ton to say about the characters.  I was definitely rooting for them and I think a lot of readers might be able to relate to some of Rasmira’s struggles, such as trying to please parents or learning about bullies and how to trust at your own discretion.

Overall this is a very solid book and I would definitely recommend it for young adult fantasy readers, or those who enjoy survival stories. Another good woman-warrior-esque book is Sky In the Deep by Adrienne Young, which I think I enjoyed a bit more.

I do want to read more of Levenseller’s books and will be moderating a Shadows Between us buddy read on the Addicted to YA goodreads forum in July if anyone is interested, feel free to ask more for info if interested.

Thank you as always for reading! Have you read the book? Want to discuss it? Drop a comment!

Categories
Fantasy Middle Grade Young Adult

ARC Review: The Words of the Wandering by D.E. Night

  • Title: The Words of the Wandering
  • Series: The Crowns of Croswald #3. Will not read as a standalone.
  • Author: D.E. Night
  • Publisher and Release: Stories Untold Press, May 30, 2020
  • Length: 304 pages
  • Rate and Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐⭐ YES read the series

Thank you so much to D.E. Night and Stories Untold Press for the e-ARC in exchange for an honest review! All opinions are my own.

Here is the description from GoodReads:

Ivy Lovely needs to look to the future but keeps being pulled back into the past…

As Ivy’s power grows, so does the Dark Queen’s intent to destroy her. Ivy has no idea where to find the third segment of the Kindred Stone, the stone which will restore all her queenly power. A circus ends in chaos, an enemy turns over a new leaf, a protector can’t be trusted. Can Ivy work with friends––new and old––to recover what was lost?

The stakes have never been higher.

It’s hard to talk about a third book in a series without giving away spoilers for the rest, so a I will just talk about this book’s unique aspects with no spoilers!

There is more world building from a historical standpoint in this third novel, as Ivy is teledetecting through a book sketched by her family’s scrivenists. I think it’s cool how art comes to life more too, sketching is a huge part of scrivenry but it takes on a new meaning with teledetecting, or interacting with the scene. The circus was a treat too and definitely one of my favorite scenes, but my top favorite favorite were the parts about coming home.

There are more magical creatures too, dragons play a larger role and some truly terrifying monsters. The invisitaurs come back too in a big way.

The pace is so much slower though than the prior novela, we see a lot of Quality Quills Club team building and new friendships forming. No quogo this time.

A lot of time is spent kind of growing Ivy up and making her stronger. The pacing took it’s time until the last 14% when the plot took off running and dropped an unbelievable cliffhanger. I neither love nor hate cliffhangers but feel like one or two more chapters would have been ideal?

My only other issue was the total lack of Fyn in this book, I am honestly shipping Glistle and Ivy at this point. ((((And seriously how did Fyn not know the thing…or does he? How did he show up right then unless he….??))))

I do like that this is a very clean read, there in one quick peckish kiss between characters and that’s about it!

Definitely 100% recommend this series to any fans of magic worlds. Totally appropriate for middle grade readers as well, I would happily hand this over to kids everywhere.

On a side note I will bring over my reviews for books 1 and 2 soon too, I just realized they never made it to the blog!

Categories
Fiction Paranormal

Book Review (and tour stop!): Gisela’s Passion by Astrid V.J.

  • Title: Gisela’s Passion
  • Series: Elisabeth and Edvard – prequel. Reads fine as a standalone.
  • Author: Astrid V.J.
  • Publisher & release: New Wings Press, November 2019
  • Length: 312 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐⭐ more than likely

Today is my Instagram tour stop!! Thank you to the author and BookFox tours for the electronic copy to share with you guys!  If you head on over to http://www.instagram.con/onereadingnurse you can find my entry point to the giveaway for a signed copy.

Here is the synopsis from GoodReads:

Ever since she can remember, 18-year-old Gisela Winry has wanted to dance. Her strict father sees dancing as the path to immorality, licentiousness and debauchery. Devastated at his wrath after she secretly auditions and wins the title harvest queen of Ylvaton, Gisela turns to her best friend, Hilarion, who proposes a path she cannot take. With their friendship broken, Hilarion retreats to the solace of the forest where he lets his hatred and jealousy fester.

Meanwhile, Gisela meets Vincent, a young nobleman seeking to escape his dead brother’s shadow. Will Gisela be able to uphold her family honour and get to do the one thing she’s always been passionate about? Will Vincent’s chance encounter with the lovely harvest queen from a tiny village become more meaningful than earning his father’s approval? And will Hilarion fight for the love of his life or give in to the darkness within him.

Immerse yourself in the life of the common people of Vendale in this prequel to the Siblings’ Tale. Gisela’s Passion is the retelling of a lesser-known Slavic folk tale which is better known in its incarnation as a French ballet.

Romances in any form are usually not my go-to reads, but Giselle (the folktale and ballet) is a tragedy above all else. I’m glad that I gave it a shot!

Gisela loves to dance and is otherworldly in her talent. All she wants is to be the harvest queen at the festival, to have one chance to do something of her own before settling into domestic life.  Her father has a hatred of debauchery though and is more concerned about choosing her husband and having the vineyard tended.  Women were property in that era and not much more.

The writing felt like a stage play at times. It is vividly descriptive of the sun and sights and scenery, as well as people’s actions.  I am sure this was intentional and very well done.  Other than one (pretty cringey) sex scene the book is clean and pretty straightforward.

If you have read the Elisabeth and Edvard books and read this as a prequel, the ending makes sense I think.  I hadn’t read them and found myself confused at the sudden mention of elves, mages and magic at all at the end of the book.  I knew there were spirits involved but the magic hadn’t been mentioned prior to the ending and it came as a shock.

At the end I wish Gisela would have quit making excuses for the men, even in the old world I think women deserved a LOT better.  This is a gorgeous retelling of the ballet / folk tale.  Whether you like romance, tragedy, theatre or ghosts, I would recommend this to pretty much anyone.

Here is the link to the book on Amazon:

Categories
Fantasy Young Adult

ARC Review: Dark Skies by Danielle Jensen

  • Title: Dark Skies
  • Series: Dark Shores #2 (can be read first)
  • Author: Danielle Jensen
  • Length: 480 pages
  • Publisher: Tor Teen
  • Release: May 5th 2020
  • Rate & recommend: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ yes

Thank you so much to Tor Teen for the advanced copy via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review! All opinions are my own.

Here is the description from Amazon:

A RUNAWAY WITH A HIDDEN PAST
Lydia is a scholar, but books are her downfall when she meddles in the plots of the most powerful man in the Celendor Empire. Her life in danger, she flees west to the far side of the Endless Seas and finds herself entangled in a foreign war where her burgeoning powers are sought by both sides.

A COMMANDER IN DISGRACE
Killian is Marked by the God of War, but his gifts fail him when the realm under the dominion of the Corrupter invades Mudamora. Disgraced, he swears his sword to the kingdom’s only hope: the crown princess. But the choice sees him caught up in a web of political intrigue that will put his oath – and his heart – to the test.

A KINGDOM UNDER SIEGE
With Mudamora falling beneath the armies of the Corrupter, Lydia and Killian strike a bargain to save those they love most—but it is a bargain with unintended and disastrous consequences. Truths are revealed, birthrights claimed, and loyalties questioned—all while a menace deadlier and more far-reaching than they realize sweeps across the world.

I will have to find my review of Dark Shores and post that too.  The two books occur at the same time and can be read in either order, although I enjoyed publication order. Here is a quick spoiler-free recap:  In Shores we read about Teriana and the Maarin traders, Marcus and the Cel legion, and the initial exploration and conquer of the Dark Shores.  Remember the puppet king of the Raiders and some larger threat that is revealed at the end? In Dark Skies, we follow Teriana’s friend Lydia who we briefly met before.  We learn the truth of the betrayal, see Lydia take another route to Mudamora, and meet Killian who leads the King’s forces.  This book starts in Cel but we learn a lot more about the Gods, the mystical forces, and the people of the Dark Shores.  The third book is going to be an amazing meeting of the two plot lines.

The pace is incredible. I read the first 300 pages kind of slowly but ended up taking the last half in a crazed four hour sitting where I don’t think I breathed or blinked.  The intrigue, assassinations, BLIGHT ZOMBIES, reckless chases, magical evil army leaders, more scheming, and a race against a huge deadly clock just made it impossible to stop.

The magic of the world was hinted at in Shores, but in Skies we learn all about it.  The God-Marked people each have an ability like strength, healing, growing/restoring, water breathing, and it seems they were meant to create teams of people.  A great theme this is, and I appreciate the idea that healing is a drain on someones life force.  The triage they use is so interesting.  The seventh god’s power is just terrifying and that will continue in book 3.

All I will say about the additional world building is that the desperation and fear are  real, the hurt is real, and the darkness is real.  The feelings of the people and the world seeping through the pages into the reader is what separates exquisite world building from the rest.

I 100% liked Lydia and Killian both a LOT more than Marcus and Teriana.  They have flawed but endlessly brave personalities, are good problem solvers, and are both loyal to no end.  I even liked princess Malahi for the most part, she had some admirable moments and the banter was hilarious between her and Killian and the female guards.  It’s hard not to root for every single character in the book, including Killian’s mother who is a rare gem.

The combination of great characters, more shippable romantic pairings, breakneck pace,  magic, and the intrigue of plots to end all plots make Dark Skies (and Dark Shores) a series that I absolutely 100% recommend to anyone with even the slightest interest in fantasy. Thank you so much again to Tor Teen for the advanced copy

 

Categories
Fantasy Science Fiction Young Adult

ARC Review: Sisters of the Perilous Heart by Sandra L. Vasher

  • Title: Sisters of the Perilous Heart
  • Series: Mortal Inheritance #1
  • Author: Sandra L. Vasher
  • Length: 414 pages
  • Publisher: Mortal Ink Press, LLC
  • Release: May 5th, 2020
  • Rate & Recommend: 🌟🌟🌟✨ likely

Thank you so much to Xpresso Book Tours via NetGalley for the digital ARC in exchange for an honest review! All opinions are my own!  Sisters of the Perilous Heart is a unique sci-fi / fantasy crossover novel that got delightfully deadly for the genre.  There is a tad bit of romance too, half of which is actually…cute.

Here is the description from Goodreads:

What would you do to save a sister?

As the last mortal kingdom of Kepler resists the Immortal Empire, its young queen faces a devastating attack. Queen Vivian is two minutes into her reign when an arrow pierces her heart and infects her with the Immortality Virus. But she has too much magic to become immortal and not enough to survive. She must find more magic fast, or she’ll die.

Meanwhile, another young mortal faces an uncertain future of her own. Carina is fleeing for her life, but her magic is a tracking beam for immortals. She must learn to harness and control it, or she’ll be captured and killed. Then she meets the queen of South Kepler.

Vivian needs Carina’s magic, and she can offer safe haven in exchange. But can Vivian trust this common girl? Carina isn’t on the kingdom’s registry of magicians. What if she’s a Northern rebel? A spy for the Immortal Empire? And will the truth be revealed in time to save them both?

Immortality is engineered by a virus strain in a future Earth.  Ships with Immortals are sent out to colonize other planets, and the events of the novel take place some 4000 years later.  Once we read through some boring-ish but important epidemiology stuff, this book became truly enjoyable. I will not say spoilers but the end of the book was BRAVE on the author’s part!

The world-building and history is extremely well done.  It comes in bits and pieces.  In the beginning things are a bit confusing, but by the end of the book the various Strains of Immortals and Mortals and mostly everything else makes sense.  The world itself is very well constructed with terrain, geography, architecture, food and dress that is very Earthlike at times.  We even get a glimpse into the Royal family, succession, and political maneuvering but the novel never felt info dumpy in the present-day chapters.  My favorite bit was to see the native citizens and some animals too.

The two main characters are both sweet and pretty relatable. Carina the girl from the brewery and Vivian, the Queen, poisoned two minutes into her rule. I liked these two, and the funny thing was that every single side character was a huge wildcard while the main characters stayed their courses.  The princes obviously have their own agendas, and who knows what’s going on with Carina’s travelling buddies.  A lot of character development was built around angst and hiding things, but teens in books rarely have open communication and that would make it too easy, right?  Poor Queen Vivian though I really liked her and everyone thinks she’s a monster because of her god-terrible mother.  I did like the dynamic between the trio of siblings – ha ha usually.  I repeat: pay attention to the side characters while reading!

The magic was pretty straightforward.  Certain Mortals in the Cardinal families have strong abilities in telekinesis and either heat or cold, while most people have some mild telekinetic skill.  They vary from the interpersonal threads similar to Truthwitch to moving objects, healing, sensing people’s where abouts, to being able to tear a building apart.

Quick note: once it got going the pacing is perfect.  I promise the plot and character twists toward the end are worth the reader’s time. Some is foreshadowed, some really isn’t.

Last but not least, the OneReadingNurse medical rant©! As a medical professional I am not sure how I feel about HIV+Flu mixing to cause the Immortality virus.  I feel like it would just … kill people.  I did like how much thought Vasher put into the etiology and epidemiology of the virus, but caution readers not to take it as advice on any specific modern day viruses.  I also think her magical healing makes sense – Danielle Jensen and Kristin Britain in the past have written similar magical healing elements – it takes ENERGY to heal! It would likely wipe out the healer, and I like how the energy transfer is acknowledged and realistic here!

Anyway! In summary: Miscommunication as a  plot device is not always a bad thing.  There is political intrigue, sibling banter, and a whole lot of ‘why murder me when you could have just asked’?  I liked the mix of modern, medical, and fantastic elements. I definitely recommend this book to both sci-fi and fantasy readers.  I rated 3.5 stars for the learning curve at the beginning and amount of time it took to clear up the different factions, and I didn’t like Carina’s group’s dynamic.  I definitely have 100% respect for the author for doing what she did at the end of the book 😉 and definitely need to read the next installment!

Categories
Dystopian Fantasy

Book Review: Tears of Alphega by W.N. Cleckler

  • Title: Tears of Alphega
  • Series: The Wisprian World, #1
  • Author: W.N. Cleckler
  • Release date & Publisher: July 2018 from Whisper Press
  • Length: 354 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐⭐💫 yes

Hi everyone! I have no excuse for taking so long so post this particular review on the blog! The author sent me the gorgeous foil edition a while back in exchange for an Instagram feature and review.  Anyway, with my apologies, here we go!  Let me first say that even though I read this weeks ago, I remember is fairly vividly which is saying a LOT already!

Here is the longer description from Goodreads, which helps summarize a book that is quite difficult to summarize:

The Wisprian World is set in the era before the Ice and Stone Age, before the fall of Adam, before “the beginning”. The earth became formless and empty…meaning it previously had form and wasn’t empty. Before Eden was spoken into existence, Wispria was whispered into being. This series is certain to make it’s mark and impact on your life- whether you love daring adventure, alternative-histories, theological viewpoints, stories of hope, new heroes & villains, or tales of redemption, The Wisprian World book series is for you. With intriguing characters that are sure to touch your heart and challenge your spirit, also locations and insights of a world forgotten that’s paving the way for an entirely new viewpoint and theory as to whom may have preceded us, then you are in for an other-worldly gift.

Meet people who are just like us, the likes of whom may have lived long before us, who had extraordinary circumstances arrive at their doorstep while living out their simple, daily activities. Read about the sixteen year-old Cantiq sisters, Harmody and Melony, who are fishing for their dinner when a mysterious solar eclipse-like event changes the very nature of their existence. Join a young man, Sage, grieving the loss of a father he accidentally murdered who meets that strangest pair of travelers who will in turn save his life from himself and those who oppose him. All of this is seen and told from the viewpoint of Alphega watching over his beloved creation and crying tears of divine empowerment to sustain his people against overwhelming and grave dangers and foul creatures out to obliterate them.

This book really does truly have a little bit of something for everyone.  Yes it is alternate theology but it is also an epic fantasy.  Good vs evil prototypes and a false idol starting a war against Alphega/heaven.  This book is the start of that adventure – what caused that eclipse? A group of highly unique characters come together under extreme circumstances to learn about the imposter, rally a group of seven blessed adventurers, and hopefully book two will start the war.

What I liked the most is how much Cleckler obviously loves these characters.  He puts them through hell, their villages  pillaged by violent rapey demons, death of family in front of their eyes, devastation of forces, and other very dark things, but also gives them courage, the will to fight, interesting back stories, help from the animal world, and the support structure they need to move forward.  There is a magical horse turned unicorn, a bear who’s loyalty knows no bounds, and then Alphega who sees the pain of the characters and grants them a tear, or they find a piece of the magical stone gate that shattered that gives them an additional ability.  Each character has carefully drawn artwork as well and it’s obvious that each one was written with great thought.  They aren’t perfect characters, they are flawed but learn from their mistakes and are also given time to grieve appropriately for said mistakes, and tend to go forward stronger.

Speaking of the art, it is absolutely lovely.  The map, chapter head letters, and character artwork is all exquisitely well done.  Here is a direct link to the authors Instagram for an example of the character art!  https://www.instagram.com/p/B9j3GVzgTEy/?utm_source=ig_web_copy_link

At first it was a bit hard to tell where the book was heading, and then I realized that we were meeting the characters.  I wasn’t sure if it was more a collection of short stories or what, as the opening chapters lacked a tad bit of cohesion, and that is where my star rating came in.  Once the characters some together the quest is quite awesome and I love how they all have to do their part and keep pulling for each other.

Potential Easter Eggs: There may be a nod to Star Trek: TNG, because Lore is Data’s evil archetype.  I didn’t see any specific references but when I hear “Lore” in an archetypal sense, I think of the androids, especially when he was trying to play the real Data.  Also a potential nod to a book in Skyrim (my character has a library) where tears formed an artifact, but I will never find it or recall the name.   Lastly there is some secret message hidden in the pages but I have NO idea where it is or what I’m looking for, if anyone reads this and finds it, please tell me!!

I do definitely recommend this to fans of anything from theology to epic fantasy, you will LOVE the magic and lore and I definitely prefer the religious over/undertones to some of the other messages I get these days!

Thank you so much again to the author for the book, I am anxiously awaiting the next installment!

Categories
Fantasy Young Adult

Book Tour! Review: Trial by Obsidian by Naomi Kelly

  • Title: Trial by Obsidian
  • Author: Naomi Kelley
  • Length: 242 pages
  • Pub date: August 2019
  • Publisher: Independent
  • Rate & Rec ⭐⭐ – hear me out though

Today is my stop on the Instagram book tour for Trial by Obsidian, and here as well is my full review! Despite my rating just hear me out on this one and make your own decision.

Here is the description from Amazon:

The poverty-stricken southern lands of Deshure have kept Juniper Obsidian hidden all her life. Her concealed identity kept her safe. Until now. The northern lands of Sinlara are home to the Chambers. Here rules are enforced and wars are waged, but since the end of the War fifteen years ago things have been quiet. That is until they get their hands on Juniper.

When an enemy who has an uncertain a past as she does a future offers her help, Juniper must question what really makes us who we are? Can she trust the man before her? Is there more to loyalty than a boarder? More to family than a blood-line? The time has come where she must learn to stand and fight.

Hiding is no longer an option.

In brief, the summary of the story is that the Sinlaran faction systematically eradicated the mage clans, of which a few individuals remain. One of them, the main character Juniper, is captured. A handsome defector from the “bad guys” helps her escape and then the plotting begins.

It really isn’t a bad story. I will bluntly say that my rating is because I have a hard time with books that have poor editing; even a friend proofreading would have made this much more readable. It had missing words, wrong words, punctuation, mixed tenses, a few spelling errors, it was not one small thing but a vastly unedited book. As a disclaimer: I read the Kindle Unlimited version, and there may be editions out with further editing as I haven’t seen this mentioned in many other reviews.

Putting the editing aside, the world building had a good start but was underdeveloped. I now think this is a standalone?  Still, aspects of the political structure, history of the clans, mood of the citizenry, even architecture, a little more fleshing of certain events at the beginning would have helped. While reading, I could kind of figure out the political structure as I went, but if this is geared towards young readers will they know the basic Greek alphabet? What about Sinlaran geography? Are we in the mountains or forest or plains? I just like a little more general world immersion in a novel where this was mostly character and action based.  Also on the immersion note, in a high fantasy world it’s not quite appropriate to bring in popular mythology, in this case Greek – lots of Greek themes but still, this is a made up fantasy world and they won’t believe in our myths.

About the pacing, this is a short book and the action did keep coming. It kept a decent pace once I pieced the world together from the choppy beginning, and never felt bored reading. The magic system is fairly basic, each clan had a specific gem or rock (Obsidian, garnet, etc) that they drew their powers from. The abilities varied as some could be healers, garnets had fire affinity, one clan seemed to be metal workers/crafters, and together they could feed off each other and be stronger which was a concept that I liked – bloodline vs element being present

As a romance heavy novel, the two main characters did a rather quick enemies to lovers. They bonded over proximity and shared experiences, which is great but why did Reuben practically worship Juniper? I did appreciate the aspect of feeling SEEN, and liked Reuben because his matter-of-fact-isms almost felt like a nod to Star Trek’s android Data, but it could be total coincidence. He was the only character who spoke like that so I wondered.

Reuben had a heck of a betrayal pulled over on him though, which was a curious and rude choice on the Alpha’s part. (The political structure looked like Brave New World, with alpha through delta in descending rank). The characters were definitely individually the best and most developed part of the book. Their motivations made sense if nothing else and I liked Juniper well enough too as the main character.

Long story short: if you are able to just read and let your mind wander over the editing mishaps and fill in a few plot points, this is a quick romp into a light fantasy world. I would compare the reading experience to early Morgan Rice (she got an editor at some point, I think) or Melissa de la Cruz (romance heavy with questionable development.) There is lots of kissing and off page sex but nothing too intense. There is again a chance that I managed to read an early version, as other reviews are stating that the book has great development so I might have missed something.

I would probably recommend for fantasy romance readers that are not hardcore fantasy buffs.

The author can be found on Instagram @NaomiKellyWriting

Here is the link to the book on Amazon: 

Categories
Fantasy

ARC Review: Kingdom of Liars by Nick Martell

  • Title: Kingdom of Liars
  • Author: Nick Martell
  • Pub: Simon & Schuster
  • Length: 608p
  • Release: July 23rd 2020 (new date)
  • Rating & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐ maybe

Thank you to Bookish First and Simon & Schuster for my ARC of The Kingdom of Liars by Nick Martell.  Book was claimed in exchange for an honest review and all opinions are my own!

Here is the description from GoodReads:

In this brilliant debut fantasy, a story of secrets, rebellion, and murder are shattering the Hollows, where magic costs memory to use, and only the son of the kingdom’s despised traitor holds the truth.

Michael is branded a traitor as a child because of the murder of the king’s nine-year-old son, by his father David Kingman. Ten years later on Michael lives a hardscrabble life, with his sister Gwen, performing crimes with his friends against minor royals in a weak attempt at striking back at the world that rejects him and his family.

In a world where memory is the coin that pays for magic, Michael knows something is there in the hot white emptiness of his mind. So when the opportunity arrives to get folded back into court, via the most politically dangerous member of the kingdom’s royal council, Michael takes it, desperate to find a way back to his past. He discovers a royal family that is spiraling into a self-serving dictatorship as gun-wielding rebels clash against magically trained militia.

What the truth holds is a set of shocking revelations that will completely change the Hollows, if Michael and his friends and family can survive long enough to see it.

(If you’re here for the Sanderson commentary, it’s towards the bottom)

So there is obviously a lot going on in the book, and it is a whopper at 608 pages.  The book is told in first person, as Michael relates his story to a certain Archivist before his execution.

This is fantasy, so lets start with the world building.  My biggest gripe with the book was a certain lack thereof, despite the length.  Words like Tweeker, Skeleton, Sacrifice, the entire political and military structure, religion, and even the purpose of the Kingmans are thrown out in name or title but never elaborated on.  It makes sense to a certain point since Michael wouldn’t have explained things to the Archivist that he already knew, but I don’t think these explanations would have hurt the story.

The action and pacing is decent. The plot starts out a little slowly then picks up around the half way point, holding my attention until the end.  There was enough action throughout to keep me fairly interested – immersion is where the book struggles.  Guns are a big controversy in fantasy novels but I can understand how the non magical countries developed firearms to level battle fields against the fabricators REAL quick, although foreign wars weren’t the focus. In fact the entire plot only takes place over a few days. I like a good bit of political maneuvering in the plot too but readers didn’t see it; another character was facilitating things off page.

Besides the guns, the language and names hurt immersion a LOT.  Come on, Treyvon and Jamal, dark colored guys from the wrong side of the river turning into disillusioned villains? I feel like he took a bit from Batman or Mistborn and an American political commentary.  Bring down the nobility! Also most of the character names were decidedly American.  In a world with magic wielders and broken, prophetic moons, the swearing is an issue too – a great fantasy world will invent it’s own slang, but Martell settled for the nine thousand uses of the word Fuck.  The only swear/curse in Hollow is apparently Fuck, and that’s just not good in high fantasy. The lack of world building specifics also hurt immersion, as described above it just hurts the story when I don’t know what is being talked about and have to try to guess.

The most well described bit of the world was probably the Royals vs high vs low nobles vs those in poverty, but only in the sense of rich vs poor and poverty.  Actually that might be a lie too because no one seemed to really support or care about the rebels, so I don’t know what’s going on with the mood of the city other than that the poor are poor and the rich are rich, and most not rich people are afraid.

Speaking of nobles with power and rich vs poor pit workers … The big elephant in the room is that Sanderson blurbed the book.  I am not a fan of his writing after reading Mistborn but I see similarities especially in the magic system – mostly that it’s lazy.  Everyone gets one specialty (or rarely two) and they range from “light” to “dark” to “nullify” to “lightning” fabrications … You get the idea.  The magic just happens too, it’s innate and the nobles have to train to use it or they can destroy their memories.  Maybe Sanderson saw some of himself and his early writing in the book but I also wonder if he actually read it.

Most of the characters are not excellent at all.  Michael is so caught up in his family legacy that he’s just stupid, getting himself nearly killed frequently. He is near sighted and seems to have no concept of thinking things through or finishing any plans that he starts.  He whines, changes his mind frequently, hurts people because he never thinks, and I thought it was great when the Mercenary called him out on being spineless. Even at the end Michael couldn’t stop repeating the family broken legacy record.  Oh yeah I hate books that repeat themselves and he spent way too much time pining over his father and the legacy, we got it already.  No one wants to be forgotten/Forgotten but this is an adult fantasy, we don’t need the repetition.

Kai (blind) was my favorite character other than Dark, the badass mercenary.  I also liked Gwen, Michael’s sister, for unexplained spoilery reasons, and Dawn. The title of the series, “The Legacy of the Mercenary Kings,” makes sense only at the end when we have an idea where the series might go.  Really though if Kingdom of Liars is just a long introduction and exposition to Michael’s story going forward, the world-building needed to be there.

Random bits: I thought I spotted a nod to Glen Cook’s The Black Company, which is great if it wasn’t coincidental.  I also like when Hanging Gardens hang people, not just flowers.

Honestly I will probably at least try to read the second book.  The new set of characters might be more interesting going forward and events should be taking place in the present.  I am at a solid ⭐⭐⭐ for this one, for poor immersion and lazy magic with enough action to keep me reading.  Would recommend for fans of Sanderson and lower/middle fantasy.

Categories
Fiction Suspense Thrillers

ARC Review: The New Husband by D.J. Palmer

  • Title: The New Husband
  • Author: D.J Palmer
  • Publisher: St Martin’s Press
  • Length: 384 pages
  • Release date: 4/14/20
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐ maybe

Happy slightly late book birthday to The New Husband!  My advanced copy came through a giveaway not associated with the publisher, but all opinions are my own, as always.

Here is the description from GoodReads:

Nina Garrity learned the hard way that her missing husband, Glen, had been leading a double life with another woman. But with Glen gone―presumably drowned while fishing on his boat―she couldn’t confront him about the affair or find closure to the life he blew apart.

Now, a year and a half later, Nina has found love again and hopes she can put her shattered world back together. Simon, a widower still grieving the death of his first wife, thinks he has found his dream girl in Nina, and his charm and affections help break through to a heart hardened by betrayal. Nina’s teenage son, Connor, embraces Simon as the father he wishes his dad could have been, while her friends see a different side to him, and they aren’t afraid to use the word obsession.

Nina works hard to bridge the divide that’s come between her daughter and Simon. She wants so badly to believe her life is finally getting back on track, but she’ll soon discover that the greatest danger to herself and her children are the lies people tell themselves.

So yes – the book opens with Glen vanishing off his boat, the family dog adrift alone on the lake and blood everywhere.  Then we have a very slow approximately 175 pages to learn all about Nina, Simon, and the kids Maggie and Connor.  I don’t even remember those pages and I read them yesterday, if that says anything.  The last 200 pages though were absolutely blisteringly fast – and even though, even my HISTORICALLY TERRIBLE at guessing the plot actually guessed EVERYTHING way ahead of time… It was an interesting ride.

One of my biggest shockers was to find out that the author, D.J. Palmer, was a man.  I honestly thought it was a woman because he does a pretty good job at writing in a teenage girl’s head.  Maggie, the 13 year old daughter, carries the first person POV in her chapters and they were my favorite part.  Nina, the mother, might be blind and making questionable if not outright stupid life decisions, but that girl is smart, trusts her gut, and handles herself remarkably well for someone that age.  She was bullied by just about everyone and not only handled it with grace, but turned out quite alright.

The narrative/plot goes from a small amount of gaslighting to murderous psycho level pretty quickly.  I love my psychos as much as the next person and Simon was definitely certifiable.  I am relatively new to domestic thrillers but getting the hang of them, and this one falls in the predictable range.  If I can predict it, it’s predictable, trust me.  I was still interested in finding out how things happened but every single gaslighter box was checked.  Isolation, manipulation, kids targeted, and then where does Glen (the ex husband) fit into things?

You’ll have to read it to find out.  Other than the boring and forgettable start, my other issue was that it was hard to tell how much time was passing between chapters sometimes.  The whole span of the book is only a few months but things seemed to spiral RATHER quickly.

The last voice we hear in the novel is Maggie’s, and among other things she tells us not to judge people unless we are in their shoes and faced with their decisions.  After spending almost 400 pages judging Nina and everyone else, I had to laugh.  Nina was tough and brave at times, I’ll give her that.

I think the newer you are to domestic psychological thrillers, the more you’ll enjoy this.  If you like very good doggies there is one of those too. That said… A ⭐⭐⭐ for me.

Thanks for tuning in!