Categories
Fantasy Mysteries Young Adult

Blog Tour Post! Where Dreams Descend by Janella Angeles

Where Dreams Descend_Cover

  • Title: Where Dreams Descend
  • Series: Kingdom of Cards #1
  • Author: Janella Angeles
  • Publisher & Release: Wednesday Books, 8/25/2020
  • Length: 451 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⚡ Maybe

Here is the description from GoodReads:

In a city covered in ice and ruin, a group of magicians face off in a daring game of magical feats to find the next headliner of the Conquering Circus, only to find themselves under the threat of an unseen danger striking behind the scenes.

As each act becomes more and more risky and the number of missing magicians piles up, three are forced to reckon with their secrets before the darkness comes for them next.

The Star: Kallia, a powerful showgirl out to prove she’s the best no matter the cost

The Master: Jack, the enigmatic keeper of the club, and more than one lie told

The Magician: Demarco, the brooding judge with a dark past he can no longer hide

Thank you so much to Wednesday Books for inviting me to participate in the blog tour for Where Dreams Descend by Janella Angeles.  They provided a free e-ARC for review purposes.

First off, the description of this book sounded entirely amazing and I knew I had to read it.  A murdery magic mystery set against an icy world and a circus? Ok sign me up.

Lets start with the world building and atmosphere: I didn’t understand the world. There were a handful of repetitive questions being asked, over and over, about the history of the town, with absolutely no answers given. The air of mystery surrounding the world was extremely shallow because only the surface of the Town’s history was ever scratched.  The physical description of the buildings, districts, and weather were good, with literally no other world building outside of the immediate setting.  The town is described as a cold and icy place, but is it supposed to mirror the rest of the island or continent?  For all we know the island is an isolated incident of magic. 

I can’t deal when authors expect the reader to be psychic – if the characters *KNOW* something, maybe we should be told that information? Jack kept saying “they” and we never know who “they” are and no one ever says what’s going on. It happened between the women at the circus a few times too. I really wanted to DNF the book at times because I think it’s just bad writing that all this mustery became boring.

The characters were not much more interesting.  Kailla wants to get out of her life as a club performer, and is determined to ruin herself in order to impress a small group of magicians in the Town in order to have an opportunity to perform.  Yes, fine, prove yourself to the boy’s club.  Her motivation seemed lackluster and overdone in such a tiny setting. Also it didn’t make sense that if women weren’t really allowed to do show magic, only work magic, why was a women in charge of the magic police? Next up, what the heck is even going on with Demarco? We read over 400 pages and literally learned nothing of substance about him until the end, and then it’s just more mystery.  Another brooding dark character who repeats his own inner monologue 500 times. I don’t love the recent YA trend of using repetition to make books longer.  Jack was another evasive twit and supposedly the villain of the piece.  The only characters I even remotely liked were the circus women, and Kailla’s assistant there who was nice and straightforward and a good friend.  

I understand that the author’s goal was to create a huge mystery but if all we get is repetition and angst with no substance, it is just boring.  I also didn’t get the little bit of romance very much, it’s hard to ship two characters who are both so evasive and I didn’t really understand why brave and fearless Kailla was suddenly so afraid of Jack during the middle chapters.

The plot had a few action points but the author dropped them pretty quickly in favor of the characters just angst-ing at each other some more. I won’t lie that I ended up skimming, a lot.

If you liked the Night Circus – lots of words amid a tiny bit of action action and a little playing hard to get – you’ll probably love this.

I believe the duology is redeemable in book 2 which is why even though this is a harsh review, I believe it is appropriate for the tour.  

Thank you again for allowing me to participate in the tour and bring you this book which releases on 8/25!

Mei Lin Barral Photography_Janella Angeles

About the author:

JANELLA ANGELES is a Filipino-American author who got her start in writing through consuming glorious amounts of fanfiction at a young age—which eventually led to penning a few of her own, and later on, creating original stories from her imagination. A lifelong lover of books, she’s lucky enough to be working in the business of publishing them on top of writing them. She currently resides in Massachusetts, where she’s most likely to be found listening to musicals on repeat and daydreaming too much for her own good. Where Dreams Descend is her first book.

Buy Link:https://read.macmillan.com/lp/where-dreams-descend/

Social LinksTwitter: @Janella_Angeles // Instagram: @Janella_Angeles

Categories
Crime Suspense Thrillers

ARC Review: Sweet Dreams by Peter Leonard

Quickfacts:

  • Title: Sweet Dreams
  • Series: not listed
  • Author: Peter Leonard
  • Publisher: Rare Bird Books
  • Release: Sept 8th, 2020
  • Length: 287 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⚡ Maybe

Thank you so much to Rare Bird Books for the advanced copy of Sweet Dreams by Peter Leonard.  The book was provided in exchange for an honest review, all opinions are my own.  A quick disclaimer that the synopsis on the back varies slightly from the Amazon description and both are subject to change before the final edition.

Here is the synopsis from Amazon:

Kate McGraw, the lone female on the US Marshals fugitive task force, is on the trail of homicidal bank robber when she is shot by a drugged-up ex-con. While she is in the hospital recuperating, a mysterious stranger leaves a bouquet of flowers in her room. Days later Kate is discharged. Still recuperating, she sees a man in a car parked on the street watching her apartment. This is the third time she has seen him. Kate gets the license number, follows and confronts him and discovers he’s her estranged father, Frank Galvin who disappeared when she was six. Frank tells her he’s been in prison for the last eighteen years, arrested for armed robbery. He tells her he can help her catch the bank robber.

As Kate and Frank try to rekindle their relationship, Frank helps Kate and her team zero in on Ray Skinner, the dangerous sociopath who has now robbed seven banks and murdered two people. Feeling the heat of law enforcement breathing down his neck, Skinner discovers the identities of the US Marshals who are pursuing him and goes after Kate.

Filled with real-life characters and pitch-perfect dialogue, Sweet Dreams will have you on the edge of your seat until the climatic final scene.

When the synopsis gives away every single plot twist, the goal of the book becomes fleshing out these points in a way that keeps the reader interested. In this case there should be action, drama, banter, relationship building, and mystery involved in the chase.  When the bad guy is given we need something else to keep us reading, the how and the why and the danger.  I honestly would re-write the synopsis due to the book needing to pack a few more punches.

The characters are a mixed bag but I like them so far.  Kate is the first US Marshal I have read about other than John Sandford’s Davenport, which is what drew me to the book.  The marshals have a level of jurisdiction and bad-***ery that can make for pretty interesting reads.  Kate is sassy and young and holding her own on a task force that is essentially a boy’s club.  The other marshals look out for her and I enjoyed their banter quite a bit.

While I enjoyed the banter, the lingo had me scratching my head.  I think people familiar with crime/cop/taskforce lingo will enjoy this more.  The book is filled with terms like “G-ride” and “primary” and “beat” and while I just went with the flow, I think I didn’t really grasp a lot of what I read at first.

I am also absolutely not believing how quickly Kate and Frank reconciled, their meeting was way too easy and while she needed him, it didn’t feel authentic or half as incredulous as I could imagine anyone would have felt.

The action keeps moving at a steady pace, and I definitely was able to read it pretty quickly.  I was never bored, but with the synopsis giving away so much, the questions became: How will they catch Skinner? Will he hurt anyone important? What motivates him?  These questions were all answered but it felt extremely anticlimactic at the end.  There was a good build up so I was expecting a grand show-down and it just didn’t happen. Then the book seemed to just end without very much resolution.  There was a second plot line involving a judge that was threatened and I honestly found that more interesting than the robber plot line.

The bad guy himself had a few chapters from his point of view that helped flesh out his background, but I never felt as threatened or as impressed by him as I should have, except for the part where the title of the book comes into play.  That was pretty good, pretty creepy for sure.

I just think with fewer spoilers the book would have been a lot more interesting.  I recommend to fans of Elmore’s writing, Peter seems to be following in his style. I might read a second book featuring Kate and the Marshals. If you are a fan of crime sprees and federal agents and books where the chase is the biggest component, give it a try!

Categories
Historical Fiction Paranormal Suspense Thrillers

ARC Review: The Hollow Ones by Guillermo Del Toro & Chuck Hogan

QuickFacts:

  • Title: The Hollow Ones
  • Series: The Blackwood Tapes #1
  • Author: GDT & Chuck Hogan
  • Publisher & Release: Grand Central Publishing 8/4/2020
  • Length: 305pg
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⚡yes!

A huge thank you to Grand Central Publishing for the giveaway win! I received an early copy of The Hollow Ones by Guillermo Del Toro and Chuck Hogan, and while I slightly missed the publication date I read it as soon as I could!

Here is the synopsis from Amazon:

A horrific crime that defies explanation, a rookie FBI agent in uncharted territory, and an extraordinary hero for the ages: an investigation spirals out of control in this heart-pounding thriller.

Odessa Hardwicke’s life is derailed when she’s forced to turn her gun on her partner, Walt Leppo, a decorated FBI agent who turns suddenly, inexplicably violent while apprehending a rampaging murderer. The shooting, justified by self-defense, shakes the young FBI agent to her core. Devastated, Odessa is placed on desk leave pending a full investigation. What most troubles Odessa isn’t the tragedy itself — it’s the shadowy presence she thought she saw fleeing the deceased agent’s body after his death.

Questioning her future with the FBI and her sanity, Hardwicke accepts a low-level assignment to clear out the belongings of a retired agent in the New York office. What she finds there will put her on the trail of a mysterious figure named Hugo Blackwood, a man of enormous means who claims to have been alive for centuries, and who is either an unhinged lunatic, or humanity’s best and only defense against unspeakable evil.

This book is everything I could ever want in a crime / thriller /paranormal / FBI / supernatural bundle of amazing ness. Maybe I have just been away from thrillers for too long but I read this in three sittings and have no regrets. From a modern day FBI agent who has to shoot her suddenly violent partner, to insane rampage killings across NY and NJ, to the 1960s bayou where one of the first black FBI agents is sent to help sooth tensions involving a racially charged series of crimes, all the way back to the release of The Hollow Ones… Then there is one mystical man who is summoned via a forgotten mailbox near Wall St.

I can’t speak for the editing in the final version but I can definitely speak for the action.  Told mostly in the present day, with a few flashbacks, from start to finish the action never stopped in this book.  I think there is a detachment from the characters which I really liked, that allows us to focus on the plot and evil at hand without really getting too involved in their personal lives.  We get enough background to empathize with them though, and I really did like ALL of the characters which is rare for me.  Odessa is in an impossible spot after having to shoot her partner.  Blackwood is a British tea drinker with an appreciation for old books, disdain for microwaves, and a sad task in life – or is it a curse? and Solomon… Oh Solomon I had so much respect for the way he handled the KKK and the situation involving the church.  There are a few racially sensitive themes in the book and I thought they were handled well by the authors. Solomon is just such a great character and commanded respect while dealing with both sides of the problem with grace. I also am now very interested in the early black FBI agents if anyone can recommend any reading, fiction or non?

There are some intense spots that made me cringe, because the Hollow Ones thrive on violence there are some pretty brutal killing sprees.  It throws a baby out a fifth story window and watches it splat, for example.  Other than that there is no language or sexual content involved, just violence and possession and talk of ritualistic religious practices.

There is something for everyone in this.  I definitely 100% recommend for fans of FBI thrillers, occult detectives, the supernatural, demon and spirit hunters, rogue agents, and some chilling themes typical of GDT.   Thanks you again to Grand Central Publishing for the giveaway win!

Have you read it? Want to discuss it? Drop a comment below!

Categories
Fantasy Young Adult

ARC Review: Firefrost by Camille Longley

  • Title: Firefrost
  • Series: Flameskin Chronicles #0
  • Author: Camille Longley
  • Publisher & Release: self published? Sept 21st 2020
  • Length: 340 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐⚡ for fantasy fans

Thank you so much to BooksGoSocial via NetGalley for the eARC in exchange for an honest review! All opinions are my own.

So we have a classic enemies to lovers story, set against the snowy and magical Ulve Mountains.  The Flameskins are a race of people who coexist with a demon called a pyra, and once their soul is fully consumed they essentially turn into demons.  The nonmagical people and army of Tokkedal are attempting to eradicate this army of fire demons, a war which was been ongoing.  With atrocities like cutting out the hearts of, and then burning flameskins being commonplace, the hatred and prejudice and fear of the nonmagical citizens runs deep.

The world building was really quite well done.  We learn all about the snowy and inhospitable mountains, their legends, and the people who inhabit them.  How they live, what they eat, how they feel in regards to the ongoing war.  The political aspects got a bit confusing because even though a Tokken King was mentioned several times, a queen ended up being in power?  Other than that I enjoyed the world quite a bit, especially the place at the end.  Cough no spoilers.

The magic includes the Flameskins who have their demons, or mages that have similar skills but must use a stone to achieve them.  There is so much intricate detail about the pyras and mages and their respective curses, that I was pretty impressed for the first 40% of the book.  Even the history and prejudices and course of the wars were pretty interesting, as were all the ways in which the fire could be used.  From firesharing to Saint Katerine and her powers, there were a very wide range.

The characters are a bit of another story. Sol is her village’s huntress, and ends up on a confusing journey of survival with a Flameskin commander named Kelan.   They have to rely on each other for guidance, food, warmth, and emotional support while more or less having to escape both armies and everyone else they meet.  Their goals change as they go, but safety is hard to find in a world where there is no place to be together.

Can they trust each other? Should they hate each other or jump into a bedroll? Can Kelan fight off his Pyra and stay human despite the fact that Sol is a bit of a moron and forces him to use it all the time?  The relationship and inner monologue between them got so repetitive during the 35-70% part of the book that I just had to skim at times.  There were no new revelations and yet every few pages I had to read about their very repetitive feelings and confusion towards each other.  1.5 stars docked right there, I would have just preferred a shorter book or to spend those pages maybe hearing more stories about the mountains, the Saints for sure, or literally anything else.

Kelan was a pretty interesting and complex  character, while Sol just drove me nuts until she got her sh!t together and figured out which side to be on.   I get that watching your pa cut out a Flameskin’s heart would have lasting effects, but it took her a very long time to come off her high horse and work cooperatively with him to survive.

I was on an easy 5⭐ course until I hit the middle of the book doldrums that some of the early reviews mentioned.  There was still action going on but just so much repetition. This looks to be a prequel book to the rest of the series, taking place 100ish years before the next book occurs, so there was just no reason for it.  I once again encourage YA authors to give their readers some credit and back off the repetition.

Fans of enemies to lovers, found families, adopted families, fire magic, superstition and lore, keep an eye out for this one!  It releases September 21st!

Have you read this one? Want to discuss it? Leave a comment below!

Categories
Fantasy Young Adult

Book Review: Divine Blood by Beck Michaels

  • Title: Divine Blood
  • Series: Guardians of the Maiden #1
  • Author: Beck Michaels
  • Publisher & Release: Pluma Press, June 2020
  • Length: 384 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐⚡ yes for fans of the genre

Thank you so much to Beck Michaels for sending me a copy of Divine Blood to read and review! This gorgeous book had me in some serious cover love when she advertised for readers!

Here is the description from Goodreads:

The Shadow demon nearly took everything from Dynalya Astron, and it would soon return for more. When she discovers a way to fight back, she must go on a perilous journey and risk it all for those she holds dear.

Along the way, she meets Cassiel, a Celestial Prince with magic blood and wings as black as his heart. He wants nothing to do with Dyna until he learns she could lead him to a place he has been searching for all his life.

But reaching their destination is not as easy as they thought, nor are they the only ones who search for it. With danger at every turn and harrowing secrets between them, the quest will require much more than determination. They must fight for what they desire—or die trying.

For fans of Throne of Glass, The Cruel Prince, and The Lord of the Rings comes Beck Michael’s debut novel with remarkable characters, a budding romance, and gripping action. Divine Blood is the first book of an Epic Dark Fantasy series that explores the depths of loss, acceptance, and the true meaning of courage.

I enjoyed my time spent in the world of Urn.  The world building is extremely well done. The book has both the map of the kingdom AND of the entire continent! It is hard to write books that contain epic journeys, with towns 90+ miles apart, and maintain a proper time and distance and bonding between characters and events, and I think this is a uniquely strong writing element in fantasy that she handled very well.  Between the length of the journey and the motley group, I was getting Lord of the Rings vibes.  She also describes beautiful trees and fauna, mountains and scenery.  In the towns we get a good idea for the general feel of things, the individual political scenarios, and small details like foods and currency even.  There are only local swears like “God of Urn!” and nothing that detracts from the immersion.  Like I said, I really appreciate the world building so far.

The description should really say for fans of ACOTaR, Cassiel is perfect to fill that Rhysand shaped hole in everyone’s heart.  The characters are the central aspect of the book, and make up a motley crew for sure.  Dynalya is the foreseen maiden of mage descent, trying to save her family and village from a demon that takes children.  Also she is a magical healer so YAY! Zev, her cousin, is a lycan with a temper.  Cassiel is a handsome prince.  Each has their own struggles and feelings of inadequacy and lack of acceptance to overcome.  The book spans quite a number of miles travelled and the characters grow on each other at a seemingly appropriate rate.  The only thing that bugged me was how Dynalya changes between the points of view – she is portrayed as super brave in her chapters but in the other POVs she is treated like a 6 year old precious flower with no self preservatio.  I have to agree more on the stupid human that can’t be alone in the dark at age 19 portrayal, than the brave woman one, it just seems like a huge change.

The other characters include an elf with some seriously amazing magic, a torn commander who is working for an evil mage (p.s. these 2 are my favorite characters, Rawn and Von), and a sassy sorceress who also has some awesome magic.  All sorts of magical races from minotaurs to elves to werewolves are in this book, and Dynalya ends up with six guardians so I can’t wait to see who else pops up in book 2.

My only real qualm with the book is a few (maybe 5 total) blatant editing mishaps, they are few and far in between though and I hate to bring it up but it distracts me so much from the pace of things.  The other enjoyment issue for me was the pacing – the plot pulls back and meanders in the middle half to build the characters and world while they travel.  I do enjoy these things and there was plenty of action thrown in too, but it wasn’t a compulsive read until the last quarter.  I guess to summarize: this is more of a classic fantasy and I’m only truly docking a star for Dyna’s bipolar portrayal, none of these other reasons.

As far as content: The romance was kept clean and slow burning, there is a brush of lips and some light hand holding only.  Only local swearing and nothing vulgar.  Some violence and gore mostly including werewolf attacks and stabby battles or magical murders.  I would put this in the ‘clean reads’ category!

So yes – I do fully recommend this for fantasy readers who enjoy a romantic twist in a well built world.  It is one of those rare ones that really truly has something for everyone.

 

Beck Michaels can be found online at:

https://beckmichaels.com/

https://www.instagram.com/beckmichaels_writes/

Categories
Fantasy Young Adult

ARC Review: Down Comes the Night by Allison Saft

  • Title: Down Comes the Night
  • Series: Standalone?
  • Author: Allison Saft
  • Publisher & Release: Wednesday Books, 3/2/2021
  • Length: 400 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐⚡ for YA

Thank you to Wednesday Books via NetGalley for the wish-granted early read of Down Comes the Night by Allison Saft.

Here is the description from GoodReads:

A gorgeously gothic, deeply romantic YA debut fantasy about two enemies trapped inside a crumbling mansion, with no escape from the monsters within.

Honor your oath, destroy your country.

Wren Southerland is the most talented healer in the Queen’s Guard, but her reckless actions have repeatedly put her on thin ice with her superiors. So when a letter arrives from a reclusive lord, asking Wren to come to his estate to cure his servant from a mysterious disease, she seizes the chance to prove herself.

When she arrives at Colwick Hall, Wren realizes that nothing is what it seems. Particularly when she discovers her patient is actually Hal Cavendish, the sworn enemy of her kingdom.

As the snowy mountains make it impossible to leave the estate, Wren and Hal grow closer as they uncover a sinister plot that could destroy everything they hold dear. But choosing love could doom both their kingdoms

Overall this is a decent standalone? fantasy/romance, and seems to be pretty YA appropriate. The advertised age range is 13-18 on Amazon and I can see that.  The description gives away the first couple huge plot twists though, so there’s that.

Let’s start with the world building. The religious and political bits are pretty well explained, even the military structure, but the humanitarian bits are totally missing. Saft mentioned pollution and a black river multiple times but hardly mentions the industry causing it at all. (A train and steamboat are mentioned). What’s causing all that pollution? Factories? When asked about what Danu holds over Cernos (strong with technology), all they ever say is Magic. Is the industry stronger? Steam or iron? Why neglect this and just say “magic”? Also how do the people feel in the city? What do they eat even? The world was flat.  Vesria and Cernos were both better described than Danu. On a micro level though, the Colwick house was described excellently, ominous and dark and huge, and so was the North Tower.  I thought all those clocks were a pretty chilling touch!

The plot is fairly well done with a war between two countries that seems mostly based on lies and a generations old power struggle. Why are they really fighting though? I couldn’t find any real good reason except religious differences and some contested land of which the value was never mentioned. It just seemed like needless killing. The plot kept moving at a solid pace. I did skim quite a bit where the main character was just endlessly pining over another character.

As far as content, the most they ever actually do is kiss and make out and I THINK there was off page intercourse, but I wasn’t sure. Either way there is so. Much. Pining.

The actual action and plot kept moving along pretty quickly though. The action was fairly steady, with plenty of suspense and even a murder mystery involved. Lots of close calls, narrow escapes, murders and poisoners, even a dastardly political plot. The book reminded me of Stalking Jack the Ripper…. Just a little bit.

As far as the characters, I do like Wren and Hal. I think if Saft was going to leave those two together there wasn’t much point in doing the whole Una thing, but it did give Wren something to keep working towards even if the relationship was horrible. I didn’t like how Una kept belittling her, like right or wrong she was just being mean. I don’t understand the collarbones thing either, I guess we will soon find out how many fans have collarbone fixations. Wren is wishy washy and kind of an idiot but it was interesting watching her grow as a character. Hal was just sad but seemed to have a much older view of the world than his age.

I loved all the medical bits, I think the author almost has to be somewhere in the medical field. Some of the medical analogies were a stretch or just weird, but I enjoyed it all the same. This is where the SJtR comparison came from. My only real issue was ….. If a corpse has been expired, you really cant draw blood from it. That was the only thing that didn’t make sense. Magical healers are one of my favorite fantasy things though.

Anyway: yes I would recommend this to those who enjoy fantasy romance, enemies to lovers, and aren’t bothered by some light homosexual content. I am kind of hoping this ends up being a duology or trilogy. When not picking it apart it’s a solid read, although I hope a few of the plot holes get shored up in the final version. 3.5 rounded up to four stars.  The book comes out in March so there’s plenty of time to preorder or request on NetGalley if anyone wants to read it sooner!

Thank you again to Wednesday Books for my early copy! All opinions are my own

 

 

 

******below this line is a LIGHT spoiler that is the biggest plot hole in the book! So only read if you want to discuss it******

 

 

Final warning!!! Turn back now!!!

 

 

 

 

******ok******

 

 
Here it is the biggest plot hole: when Wren was talking to the queen and Una about Lowry, and the queen didn’t believe he had attacked Danu troops… WTF Byers’ corpse was sitting in the basement. Why not just walk them down there? Why not show Una? For all the bitching and needling and complaining and self loath she has over Byers, they totally neglected his corpse once Wren found him. Huge oversight IMO.

Categories
Biographies, Memoirs, Nonfiction Crime

ARC Review: Magnetized – Conversations With A Serial Killer by Carlos Busqued

  • Title: Magnetized
  • Author: Carlos Busqued
  • Translator: Samuel Rutter
  • Publisher & Release: Catapult- June 2020
  • Length: 192 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ for true crime fans
Here is the description from GoodReads:

A riveting psychological portrait for readers of true crime classics such as My Dark Places, The Stranger Beside Me, and I’ll Be Gone In the Dark, one of Argentina’s most innovative writers brings to life the story of a serial killer who, in 1982, murdered four taxi drivers without any apparent motive.

Over the course of one ghastly week in September 1982, the bodies of four taxi drivers were found in Buenos Aires, each murder carried out with the same cold precision. The assailant: a nineteen-year-old boy, odd and taciturn, who gave the impression of being completely sane. But the crimes themselves were not: four murders, as exact as they were senseless.

More than thirty years later, Argentine author Carlos Busqued began visiting Ricardo Melogno, the serial killer, in prison. Their conversations return to the nebulous era of the crimes and a story full of missing pieces. The result is a book at once hypnotic and unnerving, constructed from forensic documents, newspaper clippings, and interviews with Melogno himself. Without imposing judgment, Busqued allows for the killer to describe his way of retreating from the world and to explain his crimes as best he can. In his own words, Melogno recalls a visit from Pope Francis, grim depictions of daily life in prison, and childhood remembrances of an unloving mother who drove her son to Brazil to study witchcraft. As these conversations progress, the focus slowly shifts from the crimes themselves, to Melogno’s mistreatment and mis-diagnosis while in prison, to his current fate: incarcerated in perpetuity despite having served his full sentence.

Using these personal interviews, alongside forensic documents and newspaper clippings, Busqued crafted Magnetized, a captivating story about one man’s crimes, and a meditation on how one chooses to inhabit the world, or to become absent from it.

Magnetized is one of my first forays into the true crime genre. I love fictional serial killers and thought it would be fascinating to read into the mind of a real one!

I was right. I read this in two sittings and have no regrets. Melogno recounted his early life, what he remembered of the crimes, and about his life in prison in as much concrete detail as he can. One psychiatrist noted that his answers were so concrete that he was probably somewhere on the autism spectrum.

From a terrible early life where he learned no coping skills, to a dysfunctional post-military life, it was pretty fascinating to hear Melognos’s accounts. The utter lack of emotion i:n the book is also a factor because it was noted multiple times that the killer essentially didn’t have emotions. He seemed logical enough though and had some funny anecdotes, my favorite being about Pope Francis and the Satan worshipping chalice.

My favorite part as a nurse was seeing how absolutely terrible some of the psychiatric treatments are. I was totally horrified by the sleep therapy, quantity of drugs used, and general conditions of the hospitals described.

Overall i would totally recommend this to any fan of true crime and serial killer related novels.

Possible upsetting content involving animal abuse and child abuse, also murders being described.

Thank you so much to the publisher for my free copy in exchange for an honest review, all opinions are my own

Do you read true crime? Recommend me some good ones below!!

Categories
audiobooks Fantasy Middle Grade Paranormal

Audiobook Review: Star Stable – Jorvik Calling by Helena Dahlgren

  • Title: Jorvik Calling
  • Series: Soul Riders #1
  • Author: Helena Dahlgren (Star Stable Entertainment AB)
  • Narrator: Jennifer Jill Araya
  • Length: 5 hours 38 min (192 pages)
  • Publisher & Release: May 2020
  • Rate & Recommend: YES for the middle grade age group

Thank you so much to Andrews McMeel Audio via NetGalley for the free audiobook in exchange for an honest review!  I love audiobooks and have listened to a ton of them but have yet to actually review one, so bear with me! Feedback is appreciated!

First off here is the description of the story from GoodReads:

Step into the universe of the massively popular online MMORPG game Star Stable, and follow four friends who discover their magic powers and learn that every girl can be a hero in this fantasy trilogy.

Soul Riders tells the heroic tale of four young girls who have been chosen by destiny to save the world from the ancient demon: Garnok and his band of dangerous Dark Riders. Lisa is a teenage girl who is still coming to terms with the tragic loss of her mother in a riding accident and has sworn never to go near a horse again until she met Starshine, a mysterious blue-maned steed who comes to her in dreams. New on the island of Jorvik, Lisa befriends Alex, Linda, and Anne. Under the guidance of mystical druids, they discover they each have a special bond to their horses that gives them magical powers. While trying to balance school, family, and friendships they have to figure out what it means to be a Soul Rider. They are attacked by the Dark Riders and the mysterious Mr. Sands, discovering that their horses are in danger. Instead of relying on their combined strength, they decide to split up on their quest to find answers and learn to fight back against their enemies. However, will it be too late before they realize their mistake?

Jorvik Calling is the first installment in the epic, fantasy trilogy, Soul Riders, about magic, friendship, and horses bound to thrill all young equestrian fans

I have not played nor even heard of Star Stable before, and I don’t think that affected my enjoyment of this book at all.   As a lifelong rider I definitely connected a bit with the young girls, especially Alex, who likes to ride super fast on trails and seems fearless.  The other characters and their horses each have interesting stories that I think will be thrilling to girls in the target age range for the books.  Speaking of, do you even see this cover?? It radiates magic!

Jennifer Jill Araya seems like the perfect narrator for the book as well.  She clearly differentiates between the girls’ voices, and does a decent job with the male voices as well.  She portrays excitement and fear and sadness through her voice and I enjoyed listening to her.  The music seemed super cringey for someone my age but was honestly really well done, with full songs composed and included within the story and as bonus content at the end.  It definitely will add to young listener’s experience.

I also feel like the book is entirely appropriate for young girls.  There is no profanity, no romance, and the scary parts are suspenseful but not overly terrifying.  I would have NO problem handing this to any child capable of the reading and listening level.  The emphasis on friendships,  building trust, and self confidence are great themes for young readers.  There is the theme of grief related to parental loss but nothing else too strong.  My only qualm is that Lisa probably should have been more worried when her father didn’t return her text messages in a reasonable time frame.  He just literally stays gone forever and I found that a little odd.

I was also surprised to find that this ended on a bit of a cliffhanger, I was expecting each book to wrap itself up like, for example, Saddle Club but with a fantasy twist.  Man do I love reading about horses though, especially magic ones.  Even as an adult.  This is a really good building block for girls trying to get into fantasy as well, such as the Green Rider books for young adults.

Again I would fully recommend this to any age level of listener or reader.  I thank the publisher and NetGalley again for allowing me to review the audiobook! All opinions are my own.

Have you read or listened to this book? Want to discuss what makes a good audiobook review? Drop a comment below!

 

Categories
Fantasy Paranormal Suspense

ARC Review: The Hollow Gods by A.J. Vrana

  • Title: The Hollow Gods
  • Series: The Chaos Cycle Duology, #1
  • Author: A.J. Vrana
  • Publisher & Release: The Parliament House, 7/28/2020
  • Length: 384 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐⚡ most likely

Thank you so much to BooksGoSocial via NetGalley for the eARC of The Hollow Gods in exchange for an honest review! All opinions are my own!

Here is the description from GoodReads:

A perfect story for contemporary fantasy readers who love their narratives razor-sharp and their secrets dark and deadly.

Black Hollow is a town with a dark secret.

For centuries, residents have foretold the return of the Dreamwalker—an ominous figure from local folklore said to lure young women into the woods and possess them. Yet the boundary between fact and fable is blurred by a troubling statistic: occasionally, women do go missing. And after they return, they almost always end up dead.

When Kai wakes up next to the lifeless body of a recently missing girl, his memory blank, he struggles to clear his already threadbare conscience.

Miya, a floundering university student, experiences signs that she may be the Dreamwalker’s next victim. Can she trust Kai as their paths collide, or does he herald her demise?

And after losing a young patient, crestfallen oncologist, Mason, embarks on a quest to debunk the town’s superstitions, only to find his sanity tested.

A maelstrom of ancient grudges, forgotten traumas, and deadly secrets loom in the foggy forests of Black Hollow. Can three unlikely heroes put aside their fears and unite to confront a centuries-old evil? Will they uncover the truth behind the fable, or will the cycle repeat?

The Hollow Gods is a solid debut from author A.J. Vrana.  I feel like the mood of this book is the most important aspect.  It is a dark, atmospheric read, and fits right in to the block of literature that tackles ancient legends in small towns, superstition, possession, and dreamscapes.

The book tackles three unique points of view.   Kai is definitely my favorite, the man who is a wolf, because his moods and foul mouth are just so memorable.  He has a lot of reasons to be angry, not even to mention an ancient spirit that likes to run him in front of buses and the like.  I did not like Mason at all, honestly if you can’t handle death don’t be a doctor, especially an oncologist.  All I heard was WHINE whine WHINE and I wanted to smack him.  It must be different in Canada because in the United States, a resident doctor wouldn’t be left in sole custody of a patient like that.  It might have also been an artistic stretch but I spent the entire book wanting to smack him.

The legend of the Dreamwalker was brought out in small bits and pieces throughout the story.  I think the townspeople are definitely crazy but what can you do when an evil entity is influencing mass hysteria?  Miya is the third character and she grew on me, especially once she truly became a main character and began interacting with Kai.  I hope that the second novel talks more about how Kai and Ama (the other wolf) even exist, they definitely aren’t werewolves … they are just what they are.  The raven was an interesting character too, there is a lot of ground that could be potentially covered in the next book.

Vrana’s writing is perfect though, she spent the entire novel capturing the dark atmosphere required for a book like this.  It was never creepy, and I was never scared, but still managed to capture that ancient wisdom and brash moody feel.   I think it is super interesting too that the author studied supernatural literature related to violence for her doctorate –  the interest and accuracy and thoughtfulness for which this is captured throughout the pages is quite evident.

Additionally, all of the characters have to deal with their own tough issues of personal inadequacy, grief, and discovering their places in the world.  If they like it or not, they are tied together and I did enjoy watching them all work through their issues.

So why am I only giving it 3.5 stars? I can’t explain it but I tuned out a few too many times.  There was a lot of dreamscape action before I figured out what was going on that made me lose interest, and I felt like she took a long slow approach to get there.  I am 100% definitely going to read the next book though and have no problem recommending this to fans of legends, supernatural, witch hunts, and animals in folklore.  It releases July 28th so add it to your TBR now if it sounds up your alley!

Have you read it? Want to discuss it? Drop a comment below!

Categories
Fantasy Young Adult

Book Review: The Shadows Between Us by Tricia Levenseller

  • Title: The Shadows Between Us
  • Series: no
  • Author: Tricia Levenseller
  • Publisher & Release: Feiwel & Friends – February 2020
  • Length: 333 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐⚡ yes but not for the advertised age group

Thank you to Shelf Love Crate for featuring this book in the monthly box. I am loving the alternate cover.

Here is the description from GoodReads:

Alessandra is tired of being overlooked, but she has a plan to gain power:

1) Woo the Shadow King.
2) Marry him.
3) Kill him and take his kingdom for herself.

No one knows the extent of the freshly crowned Shadow King’s power. Some say he can command the shadows that swirl around him to do his bidding. Others say they speak to him, whispering the thoughts of his enemies. Regardless, Alessandra knows what she deserves, and she’s going to do everything within her power to get it.

But Alessandra’s not the only one trying to kill the king. As attempts on his life are made, she finds herself trying to keep him alive long enough for him to make her his queen—all while struggling not to lose her heart. After all, who better for a Shadow King than a cunning, villainous queen?

So here we are with my second Levenseller book.  Let’s start with the age recommendation: Amazon states that 13-18 is the reading level, but do we really want to show 13 year olds a promiscuous character that doesn’t care if she sleeps with 1 or 100 men?  I believe Alessandra is only 18 as well, and it started when she was 15.  I know that kids see and hear a lot worse online but is this really the message that high school girls need to see?

So Levenseller’s main takeaway from the book is that she wants to empower women.  Alessandra is a cunning character, definitely a Slytherin, who has no problem lying, deceiving, murdering, and using her feminine wiles to seduce, marry, then murder the king.  She definitely empowers the other women at court to be their own people, and learns about the power of friendship.  I just don’t love the message of using men for their money and trinkets and power, and a 13 year old isn’t going to be able to think through the “sexually empowered” vs “trollop” argument that is made.  So parents – be warned.

For an adult, I can totally get behind the morally gray, Slytherin romance.  I did enjoy watching them get closer.  Kallias and his dog are everything in the whole book, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a bookish King let his dog sleep in the bed before.  100% love this guy even if I am kind of blanking on what to make of his shadow magic. I expected it to be a dark magic but it was more regenerative than anything.

Also nothing else about the entire book was magical, and I’m not sure how I feel about only one person having magic when the rest of the world is entirely benign.  No one really seems to covet the magic either except those in the line of ascension – plus the king is kind of a (very nice but also brutal) tyrant.

Plot wise, I was never unable to put the book down but it did keep a steady pace.  I wasn’t bored but wasn’t 100% engaged either. Just like with Warrior of the Wild, I never felt like anyone was ever in real danger and Levenseller loves convenient and magical healing abilities. I enjoyed a good morally gray slow burn on the court proceedings.  The intrigue level was appropriate for a stand alone.  I didn’t really like how she threw guns and electricity into an otherwise obviously historical fantasy with kings, carriages, peasants and the like.

Overall … I don’t know.  I give it a three point five and am tempted to round down for GoodReads.  It’s rather unique for a young adult book.  I would recommend for teens and adults alike as long as they’re aware of the content, it could be a good conversation starter.

Have you read it? Want to discuss it? I kind of do! Drop a comment below