Categories
General Posts, Non Reviews

Welcome to MY New Domain!!

The title says it all, welcome to the new OneReadingNurse.com!! My most excellent web builder crafted this site AND brought over all of my old reviews from Wix!! I am still fixing categories and book related content while he tweaks display and site issues, so bear with us if things are rough at first!!

I want to thank all the publishers and publicists who have continued to send me review copies while my blog was down! I will continue to bring over recent reviews and let you guys know when they are posted! Thank you also to all the bloggers who helped me with platform ideas, examples, advice and more. Stay tuned for upcoming reviews, giveaways, guest posts and more as the new site takes off!!

Thank you Thank you Thank you!

Categories
Contemporary Paranormal Science Fiction Young Adult

Book Review: Mortal Remains by Mary Ann Fraser

Thank you so much to Sterling Teen for the giveaway win! I won a finished copy of Mortal Remains and found it to be a quick and entertaining YA contemporary / paranormal read.

Quick Facts:

  • Title: Mortal Remains
  • Series: N/A
  • Author: Mary Ann Fraser
  • Publisher & Release: Sterling Teen, 2/2/20
  • Length: 360pg
  • Rate & Recommend:  🌟🌟🌟🌟⚡ for Young Adult Readers and fans of YA

Here is the synopsis from GoodReads:

Morticia. Ghoul Girl. Freak. Eighteen-year-old Lily McCrae has heard it all. But despite what the bullies say, she loves her job doing makeup for the dead for her family’s failing funeral home business. Lately, though, Lily’s best friend Mallory is too busy reinventing herself to hang out, her stepbrother Evan is preoccupied with college applications, and her father is pushing her into taking over the family business without even asking her opinion, so she feels lonelier than ever. She finds herself spending all her time in the prep room talking to her “clients.” After all, the dead are the only ones who really listen.

Then the neighboring house is leveled in an explosion, dredging up memories of Adam, the boy who lived there and saved her life the day of the accident that left her scarred and disabled, and of the things she saw there that she just wanted to forget. When she, Mallory, and Evan go exploring and find a mysterious hatch in the rubble, they discover that someone’s been trapped inside. Someone who says his name is Adam. Trouble is, Adam has been missing for four years. And this Adam doesn’t have any memory of her and seems to be keeping a lot of secrets. As she spends more time with him, she can’t help her growing feelings even as his unwillingness to be open leaves her troubled.

Lily is forced to reconcile her feelings for Adam as together they delve into his mysterious past while she also struggles to figure out what she wants out of life and tries to fix her rocky relationships with Mallory and her parents. Will Lily ever decide who she wants to be? And is love enough to overcome truth?

Wow, for once I am actually in the minority of favorable opinions on this one.  GoodReads seems split but hey, I enjoyed it.

Lily works in her family’s funeral home.  She is extremely talented at the makeup and fixing required to make bodies presentable for open casket funerals, although this profession earns her quite a bit of bullying and teasing from peers.  Lily had an accident as a child as well that left her slightly crippled, and now she finds her solace talking to bodies and honoring their lives.

Measure twice, box once

Adam was the neighbor kid that Lily used to hang out with until his father chased her off.  Did she see a body one night??  When Adam’s house is blown up and he is found weeks later in an underground laboratory, with none of his old memories, all weirdness breaks loose.

Tread lightly on hallowed ground

I think the relationship arcs in this book are great.  Finding Adam starts to slowly bring  out the self confidence and self acceptance that Lily needs to find her own path.  The father wants her to take over the mortuary  business, the step mom is kind of just mean, actually they both are.  Lily needed an external source to start seeing her actual worth.  Watching her gain the confidence to deal with the bullies AND her family was nice. Both teens have a great character arc.

Each death helps us to become more human

The supernatural part includes Adam and whatever his father was doing down in that underground lab.  No spoilers here but the mystery involved kept the story moving as they searched for answers about his life.

Don’t lose yourself in the narrative of death and dying

There was a bit of teen partying too, Lily had one friend that still tried to bring her out into the social world of her peers, with mixed results.  There are not so subtle hints at party safety and drunk driving included.  These parts were good to round out the lives of the characters and give them that real teenager aspect.

Leather has no place in a mortician’s wardrobe

So yes – a cute budding romance (only to kissing, nothing more), a paranormal mystery, also a murder mystery, mortuary science, a girl overcoming her fears and her bullies, and friends sticking together.  No language or sex or anything else that kids really don’t need to be seeing either.

I would happily recommend this one to teens and fans of YA!

Categories
audiobooks Fantasy Fiction Mysteries Science Fiction

Audio/Book Review: The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter

In an effort to read more books that are already on my shelves this year, I finally picked up The Strange Case of the Alchemists Daughter by Theodora Goss! I read a short fairytale retellings collection of hers last year, and between that and the book featuring an Athena Club, (added bonus because I like things with my name in it), this seemed like a good pick right now!

Quick Facts:

  • Title: The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s daughter
  • Series: The Extraordinary Adventures of the Athena Club, #1
  • Author: Theodora Goss
  • Publisher & Release: Gallery / Saga Press, June 2017
  • Length: 417 pg
  • Rate & Recommend: 🌟🌟🌟🌟 for fans of mysteries and retellings!

Here is the synopsis from GoodReads:

Mary Jekyll, alone and penniless following her parents’ death, is curious about the secrets of her father’s mysterious past. One clue in particular hints that Edward Hyde, her father’s former friend and a murderer, may be nearby, and there is a reward for information leading to his capture…a reward that would solve all of her immediate financial woes.

But her hunt leads her to Hyde’s daughter, Diana, a feral child left to be raised by nuns. With the assistance of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson, Mary continues her search for the elusive Hyde, and soon befriends more women, all of whom have been created through terrifying experimentation: Beatrice Rappaccini, Catherin Moreau, and Justine Frankenstein.

When their investigations lead them to the discovery of a secret society of immoral and power-crazed scientists, the horrors of their past return. Now it is up to the monsters to finally triumph over the monstrous.

Audio:  I did listen to some of this on audio, and omg.  From Simon & Schuster audio, narrated by Kate Reading, she won an Audie in 2018 for best fantasy. Kate was just perfect. Every character has a unique voice, she speaks clearly and enunciates everything beautifully. I would absolutely 100% recommend this as an audiobook

The Story/Plot:  I think the synopsis tells you everything that you need to know about the plot!  This is a fantastically fast-paced book, starting with Mary Jekyll and gradually expanding to the full cast of characters as the women find each other. Along with each woman’s individual story, each of which were some of my favorite parts of the book, the crew is attempting to solve the Whitechapel murders.  These murders are re-written and worked in as part of the mad scientist plot!

The Characters: most of these characters are either completely new or Rewritten with their own personalities, but any fan of classic literature will hopefully appreciate them.  Characters worked from Jekyll & Hyde, Frankenstein, The Island of Dr. Moreau, Dracula, Jane Eyre, and more are here, but it’s not necessary to know the original stories to read this at all.

The characters really are an interesting group, from poisonous Beatrice to super strong Justine to catwoman Catherine, and Hyde’s daughter is absolutely hilarious.   They refuse to be limited by being women in Victorian London.  Holmes and Watson take on new personalities too!

The Mystery:  no spoilers, but since I’ve never been a big Sherlock Holmes reader it was interesting to see how his murder investigation unfolded. The women were also running investigations and although the why shortly became apparent, the who and big picture- not so much. I just think it’s really cool how Goes pulled all of these characters into one coherent novel

Content: I got nothing for ya here.  Someone pees in holy water and they inspect a few dead bodies

Overall:  I can definitely recommend this one for fans of classical retellings and Mysteries!

Categories
Adventure Fantasy

Book Review: To Unite A Realm by Mary Beesley

Thank you so much to Mary Beesley for the finished Kindle copy of her newest book, To Unite A Realm!  This is an enemies to lovers story set in a very low fantasy world, so if you like adult fantasy romance… Check it out!  I read the book in two sittings and have no regrets at all.

My main point to keep in mind: the plot and characters totally carry this book, so if those are your preferred elements, read on!

Quick Facts:

  • Title: To Unite A Realm
  • Series: ?
  • Author: Mary Beesley
  • Publisher & Release: Boroughs Publishing Group, November 2020
  • Length: 252 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: 🌟🌟🌟⚡ for those looking for a quick read!

Here is the synopsis from GoodReads:

Through a prism of lies…

Vera Wilson, youngest daughter to the leader of her country – a county conquered by the tyrannical Grays – agrees to marry Angus Gray, heir to the throne of The United Realm. She hates him and everything his clan represents. But she has to protect her family and believes this marriage will keep them alive – unlike the friends the Grays have already murdered, one right in front of Vera. After a hasty ceremony and an awful wedding night, Vera travels to Alta Glenn, home to the Grays.

At first, life there is excruciating, but over time she learns that everything she’s been taught, everything she believes about the Grays and their clan is nothing more than a web of well-constructed lies. Almost too late, Vera protects Alta Glenn from impending disaster and realizes her husband is the exact opposite of what she expected him to be. Now, she doesn’t know if it’s possible for him to ever love her

The Story: I think the plot/story itself is a great idea.   A marriage to promote a peace between the rulers of a realm and a conquered landholding, the only catch being that the Grays are murderous, terrible people.

We follow Vera very quickly through her  meeting, marriage, and travel to her new husband’s homeland.  Once there, she starts learning the truth about how things really are in the Realm…and surprisingly the Grays aren’t the bad guys.  Well. Not the worst anyway.  The levels of betrayal and intrigue keep the story moving.  There is a side plot of a disease being used as biological warfare, to which a vaccine is available but controlled by Vera’s father.

The book progresses them rapidly from enemies to… well, you’ll have to read to find out if they become lovers.

The World: honestly the world just makes no sense whatsoever, but the plot is moving too rapidly to need that information.   The Realm apparently consists of multiple countries or landholdings.  One has colleges and labs and science and trains, another had an army and weapons stockpile, one seemed to have marshland and maybe boats, and the leading one, Alta Glenn, seemed to be a Scottish highland retreat community with only horses for transportation and the occasional revolver, although they did have electricity.   I don’t know how the heck those people obtained or stayed in power!

The only magic in the book consists of Euns, magic birds that are probably my favorite thing in the book.  They are sarcastic, murdery, able to talk, and act as lie detectors.  They are essentially giant murder parrots.  Although this isn’t enough for me to label the book an epic fantasy at all, I’ll give it low fantasy.

The mix of modern and old just doesn’t always make sense, even if the geography is fairly well described and gorgeous.  What were the streets of Alta Glenn even made out of, and how big is the place? I kept picturing a village vs a large town with a main shopping street… I loved the views out the windows though and the journey through the mountain passes.

…and a horse pops out a baby and weans it in a 3 month time period.  The other thing I REALLY needed more info on was the disease and bio warfare aspect, what was this thing? Manmade? Lab made? Where did it come from? It’s way too big not to elaborate!

Like I said – just don’t think about the world and enjoy the story.  If I hadn’t started thinking this would have been an easy 5 star book for how quickly I devoured it.  The characters and story are meant to just carry the book

The characters: Vera is the daughter of the ruler of the scientific country.  She has a huge character arc, showing strength and wisdom way beyond her upbringing.  Watching her get stronger and meld into the Gray family was lovely.

Angus… I mean he’s a man, but he means well I think.  Once the miscommunications are cleared up he gets SO much nicer.

Bear! Bear and Naira are supposed to be evil and terrifying but I really just need y’all to read the book and meet them yourselves.  There are a whole host of amazing Alta Glenn side characters that give the book a found family feel.

Content: the book is fairly low on content.  There is sex, between a faithful married couple, that is mostly closed door. It’s not entirely consensual at the start but they agree that they made their choices.  Otherwise there is some bloodshed, poison, a burned animal, and miscarriage.

Overall: I read the book in one day, so what can I say.  Great characters and plot are 100% enough to carry the book through the world that it exists in. 

Categories
Fiction Thrillers

ARC Review: Judas Horse by Lynda La Plante

Hello thriller fans, there’s a new (to me) detective in town! Thank you so much to Zaffre Books & Bookish First for my early copy of Judas Horse, in exchange for an honest review! All opinions are my own!

Quick Facts:

  • Title: Judas Horse
  • Series: DC Jack Warr #2
  • Author: Lynda La Plante
  • Publisher & Release: Zaffre, 3/9/21
  • Length: 320 pg
  • Rate & Recommend: 5🌟 and yes for fans of the genre!!

Here is the synopsis from Amazon:

Not all killers can be tamed… The thrilling second book in the Sunday Times bestselling Detective Jack Warr crime series.

Wild mustangs are difficult to rope, their lead stallion wary and protective of his herd. To capture that special stallion takes time. He is separated, roped, and lead back to the ranch. Once tamed, he is sent back into the wild. And before long, he will lead the entire herd back to the ranch. He is given the name ‘Judas Horse’. When Detective Jack Warr identifies an informer, the terrified man begins to give details of a massive robbery planned by a team of unscrupulous and dangerous men. These men have already orchestrated many audacious robberies, leaving terrified victims in their wake. And they have already killed to get what they want. Detective Jack Warr and his team must use their informant as a ‘Judas Horse’ to draw in the unsuspecting robbers, so that they go ahead with the planned robbery. However, one false move, and more blood will be spilled . . .

This is my introduction to Jack Warr, and I like him!  I think in every new thriller/detective series we should look at the main character first!  Jack is a no nonsense, f*ck-all attitude kind of detective, and also a good guy.  He just has a big personality at times.  He has such a soft spot for his fiancee and daughter, some scenes were so cute!  I like Jack as a cop and as a family man, and he has a good potential character arc going forwards in the series so I will be excited to keep reading forward!

There is a group of robbers targeting rich houses in the Cotswalds, and they are GOOD.   They are violent, smart, and have an informant pointing out targetable houses. The local police reach out to London, and recruit Jack Warr to help with the case.  Jack is great with people as long as they aren’t trying to give him instructions, and quickly gets everyone on the same page to catch these guys.  The banter, lingo, and practical jokers in the bunch really add to the book too.  The group of officers reminded me of the average Sandford novel! I think one reason I liked the book so much is because Warr and Davenport are kind of similar.

This was really quite good, I finished it in about three sittings and usually found myself bummed when I had to put it down.  La Plante kept the story moving forward with a mix of action, home life, and character/group building.  The action and atmosphere made this a real thriller for me, especially towards the end! I felt the danger, was worried for the characters, and cheered that civilian pilot during the helicopter chase.

As an American too I really found the European English slang hilarious at times!

I also want a whole series about Oaks including many, many practical jokes and humor.

I was never bored, loved the characters, and found the buildup to the big bust exciting and well executed. No anti climax here! I am 100% definitely interested in more La Plante books, including Jack Warr #1.

What noise does an octopus make?  Check out the book to find out 😁

Thank you again to Zaffre and Bookish First  for my copy!!

Categories
Biographies, Memoirs, Nonfiction Crime

ARC Review — Last Call: A True Story of Love, Lust, and Murder in Queer New York by Elon Green

Thank you so much to Celadon Books for the free advanced copy of Last Call in exchange for a. Honest review! All opinions are my own!

I am coming to love the true crime genre, except this book reads more like a history/biography.  The author focuses on the victims and the history of, and violence in queer New York City, paying little eventual attention to the trial and investigation of the murderer himself.  On that front I am staying neutral on rating and recommending as a true crime!

Quick Facts:

  • Title: Last Call
  • Author: Elon Green
  • Publisher & Release: Celadon Books, 3/9/12
  • Genre: true crime, history
  • Length: 260 pg
  • Rate & Recommend: 🌟🌟🌟 & neutral, check it out if the content sparks interest

Here is the synopsis from GoodReads:

The Townhouse Bar, midtown, July 1992: The piano player seems to know every song ever written, the crowd belts out the lyrics to their favorites, and a man standing nearby is drinking a Scotch and water. The man strikes the piano player as forgettable.

He looks bland and inconspicuous. Not at all what you think a serial killer looks like. But that’s what he is, and tonight, he has his sights set on a gray haired man. He will not be his first victim.

Nor will he be his last.

The Last Call Killer preyed upon gay men in New York in the ‘80s and ‘90s and had all the hallmarks of the most notorious serial killers. Yet because of the sexuality of his victims, the skyhigh murder rates, and the AIDS epidemic, his murders have been almost entirely forgotten.

This gripping true-crime narrative tells the story of the Last Call Killer and the decades-long chase to find him. And at the same time, it paints a portrait of his victims and a vibrant community navigating threat and resilience.

Overall this is not a bad read at all.  I am left to assume that there’s either not a ton of info available on the trial and murderer, his motives or interviews, or that’s just not what the author was primarily getting at. I think the murders themselves were well described and covered as well as the investigation, but the trial and post apprehension of the killer was practically nonexistent so my curiosity is only amplified now.

The odd part is that the book was SO painfully detailed up to that point that the ending felt bizarre.  There are pages and pages on unrelated things like where the victims’ parents’ went to high school, and a whole chapter on a piano player who was not even involved in the killings except as someone that played in the bars and spotted the killer once. I just frankly don’t care about that guy’s time on a cruise ship or where the murder victims parents grew up.  For all those minute details, the trial consisted of about… Heck I don’t know, one or two pages?

The book offers a fairly comprehensive history of certain gay bars and queer violence in New York City, among other towns, but the majority of the book is about the victims more than the crimes.  Some parts of their lives were actually interesting, and other parts, like sex life details and queer metro life such as “subway sammies” made me cringe a little bit as a healthcare worker.

Tracking the history of law enforcement and queer violence was probably where the book shined most.  Some parts seemed to have some organizational issues (for example, one random paragraph mentions another serial killer spotted in a bar, and he was never mentioned again), but the history of the bars and violence, right up through Cuomo Sr and Giuliani were well organized and presented in interesting ways.

The killer was portrayed in the final section of the book with a brief look at his college years and professional career, not in any kind of chronological order.  It doesn’t seem like a huge effort was made to find where he did the killings or even why, as no true motive was established. The only part of the trial consisted of one family member’s statement so I guess it was all based on the victims families?  Where is the detail for this part of the story? I’m guessing sealed court documents or something but this is just not mentioned.

Overall: I know the author wasn’t focused on the killer, but he could have trimmed some of the inane details and had plenty of page space to at least talk about the post apprehension and trial period.

Last but not least: I think it’s time for a good old fashioned @OneReadingNurse medical digression! Right at the end, an interviewee mentions PReP on the last page of the book.  I guess I don’t think about AIDS much in healthcare these days unless it is noted that a patient is HIV or AIDS+, but the piano player from above asserts that the Queer community  assumes undetected HIV is the same thing as uninfected, which seems scary to me. PReP is covered by most insurances and asserts between 74-99% effectiveness based on the goal of use, according to the CDC.   https://www.cdc.gov/hiv/basics/prep.html It seems affordable and/but I didn’t realize people even in 2020 are just turning to drugs vs safe sex practices? What about other STDs? I guess that guy’s statement would require more research but it seems like the last thing the author wants readers to think about is how there are still extremely unsafe sexual practices occuring, which is something these people definitely need to be aware of.  I didn’t know it, anyway.

Thank you again to Celadon Books for my copy!!  I am stating neutral on the rating and again say check it out, releasing 3/9, if it sounds up your alley!

Categories
Fiction Science Fiction Suspense Thrillers

ARC Review: The Echo Wife by Sarah Gailey

I was so incredibly shocked and thrilled to receive an ARC box from Tor Books for The Echo Wife!! After a great giveaway on Instagram, I dug into the book and finally collected my thoughts on it!

One part science/medical fiction, one part domestic thriller, with some psychological and ethical thriller aspects too, I can safely recommend The Echo Wife for just about anyone!

Quick Facts:

  • Title: The Echo Wife
  • Series: N/A
  • Author: Sarah Gailey
  • Publisher & Release: Tor Books, 2/16/21
  • Length: 253 pg
  • Rate & Recommend: 🌟🌟🌟🌟⚡ for pretty much anyone!

Here is the synopsis from GoodReads:

The Echo Wife is a non-stop thrill ride, perfect for readers of Big Little Lies and enthusiasts of “Killing Eve” and “Westworld­”

Martine is a genetically cloned replica made from Evelyn Caldwell’s award-winning research. She’s patient and gentle and obedient. She’s everything Evelyn swore she’d never be. And she’s having an affair with Evelyn’s husband.

Now, the cheating bastard is dead, and the Caldwell wives have a mess to clean up. Good thing Evelyn Caldwell is used to getting her hands dirty…

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This book truly has so many interesting aspects, including clones, ethics, life falling apart, and obviously murder. It had me in a Black Mirror style mind kerfuffle, especially at the end, and it was great.

The Echo Wife is what you get when a cheating husband steals research and clones his wife, then makes a life with the clone.  How far outside of regular scientific ethics did he go?  Do ethics even apply to clones?

Martine, the “new wife,” eventually snaps and murders the husband in self defense, at which point Evelyn has to get involved to protect her research and her own skin.

This is so much more than a sci-fi murder fest though. Evelyn’s research is mostly about making cloned body doubles for politicians and then she exterminating the specimens. While the clone conditioning process comes across as brutal, in theory it make sense to create realistic doubles. Martine forces Evelyn to take a deep look at cloning ethics and whether or not they might be people.

There is also a look back at Evelyn’s childhood where abuse or at least fear of it is implied, and a sobering look at how marriages fall apart.  Why were they so silent in her childhood home? How does love turn to hate? These parts read a bit slowly but it felt very real, eerie at times, and it was interesting to see how Evelyn’s behavior is influenced by her upbringing, and maybe why she can see “murder” from such a detached standpoint.

Is Evelyn turning into her mother or her father, or parts of both?  Which would even be worse? This is a shorter book and while slower moving at times, gave me many scientific “what ifs” to ponder. The end is just 😳 omg, straight out of Black Mirror.

The Echo Wife is definitely a book that I can recommend for a wide range of genre fans!  Actual science fiction, medical fiction, domestic thriller fans, even some general fiction and literary readers might enjoy the perusal of human nature found here.

Thank you so much again to Tor Books for my early copy!!! The book is out 2/16 so preorder now if it sounds up your alley!!

Categories
Fantasy Young Adult

ARC Review: House of Dragons by Jessica Cluess

Wow, thank you so much to Random House  for the free advanced copy of House of Dragons in exchange for an honest review! This book was published in 2020 so it’s out there for anyone interested! I see the sequel is coming soon so maybe they still had a few arcs lying around to send out, but I’m happy to help generate buzz!

Quick Facts:

  • Title: House of Dragons
  • Series: House of Dragons, #1
  • Author: Jessica Cluess
  • Publisher & Release: Random House Books for Young Readers, May 2020
  • Length: 438 pg (arc was longer, not sure where the changes occurred)
  • Rate & Recommend: 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟 yes for all YA, fantasy fans

Here is the synopsis from Amazon:

Five royal houses will hear the call to compete in the Trial for the dragon throne. A liar, a soldier, a servant, a thief, and a murderer will answer it. Who will win? Three Dark Crowns meets The Breakfast Club with DRAGONS.

When the Emperor dies, the five royal houses of Etrusia attend the Call, where one of their own will be selected to compete for the throne. It is always the oldest child, the one who has been preparing for years to compete in the Trial. But this year is different. This year these five outcasts will answer the call…

THE LIAR: Emilia must hide her dark magic or be put to death.

THE SOLDIER: Lucian is a warrior who has sworn to never lift a sword again.

THE SERVANT: Vespir is a dragon trainer whose skills alone will keep her in the game.

THE THIEF: Ajax knows that nothing is free–he must take what he wants.

THE MURDERER: Hyperia was born to rule and will stop at nothing to take her throne.

I finally found something to fill that Green Rider sized hole in my heart. This book is everything I wanted Crown of Feathers to be, except those books were terrible. Sentient dragon mounts!!

Lets start with…

The Characters: I was in love from the start with these characters. I thought it would be hard to keep track of five different points of view, but each competitor has such an extremely distinct voice and personality that it was quite easy.

From murderous, bloody Hyperia to dorky Ajax, smart and bookish but also incidentally deadly Emilia, conflicted Lucian, and brave Vespir, I just can’t get over what a random but amazing group they made.  They each excelled in certain challenges and it was interesting to watch them form tentative alliances, or not.  I felt like this was a pretty legit feeling group of teens put together.

Dragons are a huge part of the empire as well and each mount is a character in itself.  One of my favorite fantasy themes is sentient, bound mounts! The dragons are like big dogs and so friendly and funny, but also cunning when they need to be, and they hold some of the coolest moments of the book.

Imagery, setting, world building: Ever wonder what a huge golden hydra looks like, flying with the sun rising behind it and fire rumbling in it’s gullet? Let Cluess show you!  She has a knack for vivid imagery, including sights, smells, noise even.

There was a LOT of world building to cover but Cluess gives us what we need.  The reader learns why the Emperor Trial exists, the reason for it’s structure, the main characteristics of each kingdom, politics and the main alliances, and where the Priests and magic orders fit in.  The magic itself had a great backstory too, but in current practice it came out under developed.

Besides vivid images and background, we see architecture, food, a few little tribal customs and lore, history and more, enough to give the world those little personal touches that shows me the author cares.

The Plot/Story: The selection of the competitors seemed like a huge fluke, or was it? I liked the plot from the get-go, watching each character be summoned and then the book just never slowed down.  I liked the Trials too, each test had thoughtful elements and catered to the strength of one competitor or another. Each was interesting and showcased the various strengths and weaknesses of the individuals.  The characters weren’t perfect either, I loved seeing the flaws and cracks come out.

The story had a subplot of betrayal and scheming which is always a bonus.  I would love to share some quotes from the characters and images but I have no idea what made it into the final copy.

My literal only qualm:  Some of the language – mostly spoken by Ajax – brought in modern slang and expressions with threw off immersion, but only slightly. Not enough to dock a star because it was funny and made Ajax relatable where he wouldn’t be otherwise.  Speaking of Ajax, I liked that the book nodded to boy problems (sticky balls anyone?) too, to give the guys something to read.  I love when I can recommend YA books to everyone!

Gosh what a fast paced and great story though, plenty of scheming, brutality, friendships, laughs, and stabbings to keep me rapt for the entire 500+ pages.

That cover too, omg that cover.

Absolutely can NOT wait for the sequel, I requested it and have my fingers crossed!

Categories
Fiction General Fiction Suspense

ARC Review: Dead on the Delta by Sherry Knowlton

Thank you so much to Milford House Press for the digital ARC of Dead on the Delta!  Seeing as I live in frozen western NY, this armchair safari to Botswana was a good pick for me right now

Quick Facts:

  • Title: Dead on the Delta
  • Series: Alexa Williams, #5
  • Author: Sherry Knowlton
  • Publisher & Release: Milford House Press, 2/16/21
  • Length:254 pg
  • Rate & Recommend: 🌟🌟🌟⚡ for fans of the genre!

Here is the synopsis from Amazon:

Alexa Williams is about to spend four months doing lion research in the African bush with her boyfriend Reese. She looks forward to witnessing the elemental life and death struggle of the wild, but she never imagines she’ll become one of the hunted on the remote Okavango Delta.

Botswana protects its wildlife with strict policies and an entire army deployed to combat poaching. So Alexa and Reese are shocked when poachers wipe out an entire herd of elephants. At the site of the mass slaughter near their lion project, they promise authorities that they’ll watch for suspicious activity as they travel the Delta.

When the country’s strict wildlife conservation policies come under debate in the capital, tensions flare and Alexa begins to suspect the ongoing poaching incidents may be about even more than the illicit ivory trade. Especially when a close friend dies when caught in the crossfire.

After an alarming series of near escapes, gunmen attack the safari camp where she and Reese are staying, and Alexa must brave wild animals and the dangerous labyrinth of Delta channels in a desperate attempt to save the hostages, including the man she loves.

The book definitely has two strong points: setting and atmosphere.  I never had trouble picturing the sights, smells, and animals of Botswana.  Whether they were bouncing along in the camp vehicle or hanging out on the deck at the lagoon, Knowlton exceeds at providing even the sounds of the environment.  The prevailing mood was always apparent as well which was a great way to keep me immersed in most of the scenes.

Alexa, Reese, and the other characters are a good bunch and they seemed to have realistic relationships.   I liked that none of them were perfect and they all had real life issues to work through as well.  The romance is pretty cute too, I can tell they care deeply for each other.

This is Alexa Williams book #5, and my first read of the series.  That said, I don’t expect an info dump but I spent the first few chapters not knowing if Alexa was a researcher, tourist, detective, Interpol or what the heck. Come to find she is a lawyer.  A very brief introduction to Alexa and Reece was definitely needed, I felt like the characters were moving shadows in the environment as everyone except Handsome Harry lacked physical descriptions as well.

The book had plenty of harrowing danger and political intrigue, although Alexa was only involved peripherally in the poaching investigation.  She stumbled upon them by accident at every encounter and we never really knew if the Defense Force was making any progress with the poachers.

I also tuned out a bit when the commission was discussing conservation policies.  It was interesting to learn about poaching and some of the wildlife conservation issues though, I think more detecting, poking around by Alexa, and overall suspense would have made it a better read for me.  It seemed like either total disaster mode or everyday life with little between mood wise.

Overall – I totally enjoyed the reading experience.  I might have even googled safaris to see what was involved in booking one.  I would like to go back and read the first Alexa novel to learn a little more about her, but I can definitely safely recommend the book for fans of good characters, strong settings, lawyers, animals, and conservation efforts!  

Free book received in exchange for an honest review, all opinions are my own

Here are some links for the book and author!

Categories
Fantasy Young Adult

ARC Review: The Gilded Ones by Namina Forna

Thank you so much to the publisher for my ARC of The Gilded Ones in exchange for an honest review! All opinions are my own

Quick Facts:

  • Title: The Gilded Ones
  • Series: Deathless, #1
  • Author: Namina Forna
  • Publisher & Release: Delacorte Press, 2/9,/21
  • Length: 422 pg
  • Rate & Recommend: 🌟🌟🌟⚡ probably for YA readers who don’t get too hung up on details

Here is the synopsis from Goodreads:

Sixteen-year-old Deka lives in fear and anticipation of the blood ceremony that will determine whether she will become a member of her village. Already different from everyone else because of her unnatural intuition, Deka prays for red blood so she can finally feel like she belongs.

But on the day of the ceremony, her blood runs gold, the color of impurity–and Deka knows she will face a consequence worse than death.

Then a mysterious woman comes to her with a choice: stay in the village and submit to her fate, or leave to fight for the emperor in an army of girls just like her. They are called alaki–near-immortals with rare gifts. And they are the only ones who can stop the empire’s greatest threat.

Knowing the dangers that lie ahead yet yearning for acceptance, Deka decides to leave the only life she’s ever known. But as she journeys to the capital to train for the biggest battle of her life, she will discover that the great walled city holds many surprises. Nothing and no one are quite what they seem to be–not even Deka herself.

So… This is a nicely brutal tale about girls with demon heritage being tortured and bled for their Golden blood, then eventually murdered via the religious Death Mandate for their kind.  I was really excited to see religious purity in a book until I quickly realized it was an oppressive, not pious set of laws.

The women are relegated to male servants per the Infinite Wisdoms, until Deka is brought to the Capitol city to train in the emperor’s army of demons, alaki, which will defeat these Deathshrieks.  There is a huge reverse info dump at the end of the book but we don’t learn much about them, or the history of the empire until that time.

Quickly about the writing: anyone wanting to write first person present tense needs to read this book, she is one of the rare authors ( or has a beast editor) that doesn’t cross tenses!

Here is an itemized list of the issues I had with the world building, in no particular order:

1) The book started in a cold weather climate, but everyone is wearing delicate ceremonial dresses. Finally on the journey to the capitol the author remembers that it’s cold and they need furs

2)once the girls are brought to the Warthu Beta (training house) – things happen SUPER fast in the weapons and martial arts training. I’m supposed to believe that in two weeks they go from clueless to clever swordsmasters? Come on, show us some of that training. It’s like a ridiculous fast forward and magically they are all warriors.

3) so the Jatu recruits and female Alaki are supposed to pair up and be battle/life buddies. The whole book focuses on male to female/demon animosity – but- there is really no bonding at all shown between the pair, they just kind of become trusting fireside bffs one night after those mysterious training weeks pass

4) instalove – oh my gosh the kid back home called her pretty, ONE TIME, and later looking back she said she loved him 😂😂 I can almost ship Keita and Deka but we needed that bonding time that wasn’t shown

5) the plot and twists read VERY closely to Skyhunter which came out earlier this year – oh yes very monstrous monster bad guys, very inhuman indeed

6) dumb animal names – Ex: leopardan – it’s a fantasy world, either come up with fantasy names or call it a stupid blue leopard. I did like Ixa the shapeshifting not-cat though

7) if the One Nation is literally an entire hemisphere (I’m guessing Russia, Asia, irish&etc, and Africa), why so much land grabbing? The scale of land required to produce four separate races like that is essentially an entire hemisphere, now within one nation, and that should be shown on the map.

8) feeding off #7 – I would have liked a brief explanation of life during the rule of The Gilded Ones – is Forna omitting it because the entire history is a lie and life was terrible back then? Or are we supposed to just believe that they were fair/awesome rulers and take it at face value? The jatu did manage to unite an entire hemisphere though, the goddesses might have created a women’s world with oppressed men for all we know, and they could have been right to fight back. Either way, uniting a whole hemisphere under one nation is pretty impressive and not addressing this is a huge plot hole.

9) lack of setting – I get that describing sand dunes is stupid but most of the descriptions were of people and animals. What about the jungle, the common areas, even the food? Some scenes had scents described. Setting is what connects to the atmosphere…of which there wasn’t much of one.

I mean it’s not even a bad story, or a story you read every day. I like the idea of torturing someone to death nine times and teaching them to survive, but these YA authors aren’t thinking their worlds through very well and I don’t think that ‘character driven’ OR that it’s a Young Adult book is a good excuse not to at least cover world building basics. Everything I addressed up there could have been fixed without much extra page space.

The good things included female friendships, teachers (whose potential were mostly wasted as no lessons were really shown), shapeshifting pets, snarky horse-people, and… A not really happy ending. It’s an ending fitting for the story even though it got a little sappy for the tone leading up to it.

I did like the main group of girls too, Britta and Belcalis were about as different as two people can get and they still made a fast group of allies, friends with Deka. There’s an unconventional amount of grimdark suffering and it’s kind of terrific.

Overall? Honestly not a bad read just poorly executed at times. Could be a standalone but there’s at least one more book coming. It releases 2/9, and I am pretty neutral on recommending it as the good story and the lack of world building make it a wash. I’ll read the next one though.

Categories
Fiction Literary Fiction

ARC Review: Sophomores by Sean Desmond

Thank you so much to the publisher for my giveaway digital ARC of Sophomores!  I don,’t always gravitate towards general / literary fiction but read the last 50% of this one in one night and have no regrets!

Quick Facts:

  • Title: Sophomores
  • Series: N/A
  • Author: Sean Desmond
  • Publisher & Release: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1/26/21
  • Length: 384 pg
  • Rate & Recommend: 🌟🌟🌟🌟 for fans of fiction, nostalgia, and literary discourse!

Here is the synopsis from Amazon:

The late 1980s come alive in this moving and keenly observed story of one boy’s unforgettable sophomore year, and his parents’ surprising journey alongside him.

It’s fall 1987 and life as normal is ending for the Malone family. With their sterile Dallas community a far cry from the Irish-American Bronx of their youth, Pat and Anne Malone have reached a breaking point. Pat, faced with a debilitating MS diagnosis, has fallen into his drinking. Anne, his devoutly Catholic wife, is selected as a juror for a highly publicized attempted murder trial, one that raises questions–about God, and about men in power–she has buried her entire life. Together, they try to raise their only son, Daniel, a bright but unmotivated student who is shocked into actual learning by an enigmatic English teacher. For once, Dan is unable to fly under the radar, and is finally asked to consider what he might want to make of his life.

With humor and tenderness, Sophomores brilliantly captures the enduring poignancy of coming of age, teenage epiphanies and heartbreak, and family redemption.

Such a great premise.  I latched onto “enigmatic English teacher” and decided to give the book a shot! The book follows each member of the Malone family for about a year, and I think the easiest way to review this one is to give each character/storyline a paragraph!

Let’s start with Dan: he is a sophomore in a private high school for boys, smart but not drawing attention to it. His absolutely brilliant honors English teacher sparks a sense of Give-A-Shit into Dan when Mr. Oglesby challenges the class to not be regular rats, but Norwegian rats! It’s just something you have to read.  Dan deals with his father’s alcoholism and sickness, and the family’s overall dysfunction, while navigating sophomore year amongst a group of realistically loveable and ridiculous friends.  I liked having glimpses into their shenanigans and family troubles, and they were funny!

It’s not a party til someone shoots a firework out of their ass, right? 😂😂

Anne, the mother, is selected to be a juror in a local high profile attempted murder trial, where a Reverend tried to (allegedly) murder his wife .  I think Anne sees herself and her own suffocation in the victim.  What a life, I can’t imagine having a blithering alcoholic husband who loses his job and keeps spending money on alcohol! I would be screaming and picking fights too, but I have to hand it to her for staying in the house.  Anne’s unravelling is pretty sad to see

Pat, the father, is an alcoholic like his own father.  He loses his job at the airline after enough people catch him drinking when he should probably be working or available for work.  He knows he’s sick, with both MS and Alcoholism, and has an epiphany in the hospital at one point where he and this other alcoholic are just taking up beds for people who might be having real emergencies. Yep, that happens.  I really disliked Pat, I’m kind of surprised he wasn’t scared of alcohol after his own childhood.  His point of view served to show the family’s history a bit too though and then he became the broken head of a broken  household, trying to break the cycle he was stuck in.

Would Oglesby like that analysis? I wish my AP English teacher cared so much!

Anyway – all of the storylines form well rounded, thoughtful characters.  Dan’s hilarious friends and high school life offset some of the tougher themes like faith and broken families.  It is a very real story that spares no feelings whatsoever, and I did read the last 50% in one sitting 😳

My only thing was the absolute number of words I had to look up! I consider my vocabulary pretty well rounded and I was still thankful to be reading on Kindle so I could just click words! So many words.

I would totally recommend for anyone interested in high school nostalgia, literary discourse, football, Irish American slice of life, fiction in general, and family stories!