Categories
Fantasy Paranormal

A Pack of Blood and Lies by Olivia Wildenstein

Title: A Pack of Blood and Lies

Author: Olivia Wildenstein

Publisher: Twig Publishing

Rating: 4/5 ****

Release Date: April 30th 2019

Thank you to NetGalley and Twig Publishing for the eARC in exchange for an honest review! This book isn’t coming out until the end of April but if it is up your alley, check it out and consider pre-ordering!

Summary:

Ness is a teenage werewolf living in LA. After her mother dies of cancer, her aunt and uncle decide that she should come back to the rest of the family (and the pack) in Colorado. Ness, as the only female born to the pack in generations, was originally not allowed to join. They are definitely sexist and manly-men, and the warning excerpt states that the book contains Alpha males. Anyway, Ness is understandably frustrated and unwilling to return.

Once there, she is thrown into life at the family inn, which is also pack headquarters. The old pack alpha, Heath Kolane, was a truly terrible man who is now dead. His son, Liam, is in line to become the new Alpha until Ness decides to challenge him, assuming that he is also a terror like his father.

Enter a slightly favored competition for alpha, angsty romance, bromance, and lies upon layers of lies (and misunderstandings) as Ness fights for her place among the men.

The world and story:

The world is modern day Colorado and Wildenstein did a good job describing pack history throughout the book. This is my first werewolf/changeling book and I still had some questions about their motivations, but I was satisfied with the amount of “world-building” for now. I read the whole thing in about two sittings, the story definitely kept me going. The little murder mystery aspect was as interesting as the competition, but I also had no problem staying involved when she was describing the friend outings or building relationships.

The writing:

Solid writing! The book flows well in first person and is well edited. Even when writing text messages from phones, it flows smoothly enough and I can always tell who is talking. There are a lot of flowery examples at first but I like the point of view when I feel like I am there.

The characters:

I really liked Ness. Main characters that are passive drive me nuts. She doesn’t let the boys intimidate her, doesn’t back down from the competition despite being taunted, waylaid, and eventually blackmailed. A true strong female lead! Liam is everything an alpha should be, and has a soft spot for Ness. He doesn’t let her preconceived notions of him stop him from being a decent guy, and he saves her life at least twice. These two have a slightly cringe worthy hate – to – love relationship, for half of the book I was saying “just get together already!” Typical young adult angsty miscommunication nonsense!

The other main characters are Liam’s friends in the pack, a generally decent group of guys even though they come across as pigs sometimes. I liked the “bromance” element. Sarah was a wildcard, as were some of the other characters mentioned, but most of them ended up being pretty generally good people. A few of them seemed to act out of character at times, like Matt towards the end, it all worked out though.

Overall:

I cringed a few times during the relationship parts, but it was overally clean and appropriate for young adult. I would probably let 16+ read it if it were my kid, but the warning states 14+. It really was hard to put down, kept me interested, and makes me want to read more books by Olivia Wildenstein, because this is my first by her and I like her style! Recommended for fans of YA, werewolves, with a romance bit. There may be more in the next books. 4/5 stars and looking forward to the next release!

Categories
Fantasy Young Adult

The Gilded Wolves by Roshani Chokshi

Title: The Gilded Wolves

Author: Roshani Chokshi

Publisher: Wednesday Books

Release date: Jan 15th 2019

Rating: 4/5 🌟🌟🌟🌟

Would I let my kid read this? 100%

I was lucky enough to receive a digital ARC from NetGalley and St. Martin’s Press in exchange for an honest review, thank you!!!

The summary from Goodreads

Paris, 1889: The world is on the cusp of industry and power, and the Exposition Universelle has breathed new life into the streets and dredged up ancient secrets. In this city, no one keeps tabs on secrets better than treasure-hunter and wealthy hotelier, Séverin Montagnet-Alarie. But when the all-powerful society, the Order of Babel, seeks him out for help, Séverin is offered a treasure that he never imagined: his true inheritance.

To find the ancient artifact the Order seeks, Séverin will need help from a band of experts: An engineer with a debt to pay. A historian who can’t yet go home. A dancer with a sinister past. And a brother in all but blood, who might care too much.

Together, they’ll have to use their wits and knowledge to hunt the artifact through the dark and glittering heart of Paris. What they find might change the world, but only if they can stay alive.

The Plot

In short – this is a heist story. It is also a story of magic, friendship, puzzles, and history. There are a lot of themes packed into this book and it moved along at a steady pace. By the end I wished that it was the second book about to be released, not the first! I was so wrapped up when it ended that I just wanted the book to keep going, probably in part due to the baby cliff hanger. where no one was dying or in imminent danger, nothing crazy happening, but a firm hook is set and you know you are going to be eagerly awaiting the next installment!

The Characters

The Gilded Wolves had me wanting to crush on half of the characters before I realized they were all teenagers. I am not going to go into individual characters here but they are a band of misfits. They are a pretty typical group on the surface – awkward girl, fake girl, braniac, the immature one, the moody leader…but under the surface and throughout the book their secrets are told and they become dear to the reader, or at least to me they did. The point of view switches between four of them – I think – throughout the book, with one exception that made sense at the end. I had noticed his missing voice before the end and was going to bring it up, but now….well, what would it say?

The Writing

Chokshi has an unbelievably poetic writing style. My favorite passage was this:

Kisses were to be witnessed by stars, not held in the presence of stale death. But as the bones rose up around them, Laila saw fractals of white. Pale constellations of bone. And she thought that, perhaps, for a kiss like this , even hell would put forth its stars

The descriptions throughout the book were flowery almost to the point of excess, but not quite. Her world is full of magic and she did an amazing job bringing it to life. This book is meant to be savored, not skimmed. I only skimmed when the one character started rambling about math and puzzles, those descriptions were not my brain’s favorite. I also didn’t mind the multiple points of views as it was not repetitive and kept the story moving.

Overall Impression:

As I write this I feel like I should have given it five stars, but it was a little drawn out at times and I was jarred by the last few chapters. You all know how I LOVE endings that just wreck your life…you might have to read the last few chapters a couple times and contain your meltdown, but that’s OK❤ The book mainly has positive relationships, clean language, and is lgbq+, but it doesn’t really read like a young adult book and I know adults can get into it too. In that spirit I would say yes, let your young adults read this (then read it after). Anyway, I give it a solid 4/5 stars and would recommend to anyone who likes heists, fantasy, magic, young adult, fiction, or a good book in general!

Categories
Fantasy General Fiction

Snow White Learns Witchcraft by Theodora Goss

Thank you to NetGalley and Mythic Delirium Books for the eARC in exchange for an honest review!

This fairy tale filled collection of eight stories and 23 poems doesn’t release until Feb 5th 2019, but it is available for pre-order.

Theodora Goss definitely takes a unique approach to fairy tale tellings! This collection of poems and short stories takes on many well known tales like Snow White, Thumbellina, Sleeping Beauty, and others that I can’t place. Goss completely recreates or adds to the tales, imagines new endings, and makes them her own.

I personally liked Blanchefleur because even though I didn’t know the original tale, it was a good story! Rose Child was a wonderfully written shorter poem. I giggled when Sleeping Beauty’s “prince” fell into a fairy hole instead, and the author gave that old hound a happy ending!

Not what I was expecting but pretty unique and I liked these tales a lot. 4/5 stars!

Categories
Fantasy Fiction Literary Fiction

In the Night Wood by Dale Bailey

Title: In the Night Wood

Author: Dale Bailey

Length: 224 pages

Release Date: 10/8/18 (get a copy)!!!

Rating: 4/5 ****

Thank you to NetGalley and John Joseph Adams/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt publishing for the free eARC in exchange for an honest review!

My little summary: “Once upon a time…” a man living near an enchanted wood starts having delusions and writes a book. Many years later, an English scholar bumps into that book and his fate appears to be linked to the Story from that point on. It is a Story (capital Story) within a story… Something I wish the author had pursued more!

The book is more about grief than folklore, but there is a healthy mix of both. Charles and Erin are still reeling from the death of their child and his infidelity. Their marriage is disintegrating and they move to Hollow House trying to start over. When the visions and nightmares and story parallels start…!

In the middle of the book the grief exposition got a bit repetative, but I had no urge to skim pages. My biggest issue was that neither main character showed a tad of growth. Can their relationship change despite ?

I enjoyed learning a lot of new words but some parts seemed unnecessarily complex. It fit with the atmosphere but the writing took a bit of work and a dictionary at times.

Long story short: awesome story! Would recommend to anyone that likes a good fairy tale, atmospheric fiction, folk lore, or a good story in general!

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Categories
Fantasy Science Fiction

The Queen’s Wing by Jessica Thorne

Title: The Queen’s Wing

Author: Jessica Thorne

Publisher: Bookouture

Length: 353

Release Date: 11/21/18

Thank you to NetGalley and Bookouture for the free eARC in exchange for an honest review!

In The Queen’s Wing, a young noble named Belengaria is thrown into royalty and then a political marriage after an attack on her home world. Her dream was to become a fighter pilot? And now she must adapt to life on a new planet with the leader of said planet as her future . When war and destruction ensue from the same attackers of her home world, Bel must assume a leadership role and become a true queen…

Ok, enough summary. I did enjoy the story quite a bit, but was also confused mostly in the beginning of the book. The author took evident inspiration from Star Wars and the book had more of a sci-fi feel than fantasy or romance. There are elements of all three, including mythical old creatures left to defend(?) their home planet, and a sort of love triangle that didn’t add much to the story.

I did appreciate the relationship building between Bel and Conleith, and feel like the characters are the strong point of the novel. Bel had a lot of personal development and Petra was another strong female character. I never got into the Shae character or some of the others. There was a great LGBQ reference with Jondar and… No spoilers but it was a cool addition.

Overall I am going to go with 3 stars. Some parts were just not believable and others didn’t make a lot of sense, but I still enjoyed it as a well-edited read with strong character building. It is definitely appropriate for YA, and I would recommend to anyone who likes a sci fi read and strong female leads!

Categories
Fantasy Fiction Historical Fiction

Athena’s Champion by David Hair and Cath Mayo

Title: Athena’s Champion

Authors: David Hair and Cath Mayo

Release date: 11/08/18

Rating: 4/5 ****

Thank you to NetGalley and Canelo for the eARC in exchange for an honest review!

I absolutely loved reading this book! I may be biased because my name is Athena and I love anything related to mythology and Greece, but this was also a great story.

The description briefly states that the book is “The first in a thrilling new historical fantasy series; Odysseus must embrace his secret heritage and outwit the vengeful Gods who would control or destroy him… “

Enter a snarky version of Odysseus, Theseus, the Gods and Goddesses in the authors’ unique interpretations, and a host of other characters and you have quite an interesting story. I especially loved how they portrayed Athena and Hades.

I had to suspend known mythology/history and take the story for what it was at times, but it was still terribly entertaining for me. I liked the splashes of Greek words and insults thrown into the dialogue, but wish they had kept to traditional insults vs bringing in so much modern day slang.

This book earns a solid 4/5 stars, and I would not hesitate to recommend it to anyone who likes a good history, mythology, or fantasy based read!

Categories
Fantasy

The Fifth Knight by Claire Luana and Jesikah Sundin

Title: The Fifth Knight

Authors: Claire Luana and Jesikah Sundin

Publisher: Forest Tales Publishing

Release date: 10/15/18

Rating: 4/5 stars

Thank you to NetGalley and Forest Tales Publishing for an eARC of The Fifth Knight, in exchange for an honest review!

The story: I did enjoy the plot. The action was steady and kept me fully engaged throughout the whole book. This is a unique take on the King Arthur story, told with a woman as the fifth knight. They are seeking the blessed grail, a fae relic, in order to save the kingdom from a dark fae curse.

The characters: There is a very likeable group of people in the story. The knights are playful and handsome and fun to read about. Princess/Sir Fionna is a butt-kicking heroine with a double mission, battling all sorts of conflicting feelings about the knights. The dark fae sound like a nasty bunch, especially Morgana who is the central villian to this story. The book is a reverse harem story, so along with the camaraderie of the knights, there is also a healthy but not too intense amount of romance between them.

The editing: I know we are reviewing an advanced copy, so I can’t speak for the editing of the final copy but there was a lot of proofreading needed in this version. I am slightly guilty but willing to admit that I enjoyed this book a lot, I am happy to volunteer proofreading for the next one😊

I would recommend this for 18+ readers that enjoy King Arthur retellings, knights, strong female characters, and fantasy/romance.

Categories
Fantasy

They Mostly Come Out At Night by Benedict Patrick

Title: They Mostly Come Out At Night

Author: Benedict Patrick

Length – 200 pages

Rating – 4.5 stars

I think I found this book through BookBub and am SO GLAD that they featured it! The story has all the elements of a good dark fairy tale, fantasy with some light gore and a healthy dose of folklore. I highly recommend this to anyone looking for a good folk tale!

It isn’t a happy story – but a very good one; it is well edited and reads smoothly. If you are a person judging books by their covers you won’t be disappointed either – the cover art is stunning.

In brief summary: think of the perfect dark fairy tale. A lower and elite class, animal races, the villager hero willing to sacrifice everything for his loved one{s}. A Magpie King and an Owl queen, a pale lady….all mixed with the past and present folklore of Yarnsworld. Patrick has a solid start on the world building as well, and I can’t wait to see how he develops it.

The writing is a little basic and most of the dialogue doesn’t flatter the characters, but the art is in the storytelling here. I was blessedly able to just read the story. I stayed hooked for the four hours it took me to devour the book!

I think the author will develop his groove and make this into a great series, four books and some short stories are available and they are on my short list right now!

As always, thank you for reading! All it takes to like this post or leave feedback is an email and password, no lengthy registration process, and I encourage people to do so! Happy weekend everyone

Categories
Fantasy

The Legends of Muirwood Trilogy by Jeff Wheeler

Good afternoon and happy October! I am covering the first Muirwood trilogy today by Jeff Wheeler. I read it in pieces over the past month and hope that any fan of young adult/fantasy, or those with a young reader in the house hold will read this review! I apologize for the length but it is a very involved series!

The trilogy opens with The Wretched of Muirwood. All three books were published in January of 2013 through 47North, a division of Amazon. The first important thing to note is that Mr. Wheeler takes most of his writing motivation in this series from religious context and ritual, so one could either relate to the history of, or learn quite a bit from his writing if they cared to investigate his references. The author is very blunt about this and until the third book…we will get there.

In this first book we meet Lia, a young girl with no Family and no parentage (a wretched is even lower than an orphan). She is abandoned at Muirwood Abbey where the wretcheds work as cooks, launderers, gardeners, etc. Lia is a mischievous girl and very likeable from the start. Her adventures begin when a Maston named Colvin is delivered injured to her kitchen, pursued by the evil sheriff of the region and who knows what else.

What we learn is that Lia has some connection to the Medium, which seems to me like powers granted through a supreme being in religious context. Either they open themselves up willingly and entirely to the Medium and are granted power, or some can control it through force. The gist is that the king is opposed by the Mastons and a war is brewing, I got a very Crusades vibe from this story arc. Lia rides off with Colvin to join the battle. Are you hooked yet, because I was!

I don’t need to continue with the plot summary to say that the character development in these books was my favorite part. I loved that learning to read and write was Lia’s goal, and the power that was given to the written word in these books. Lia was a stubborn girl from the start but she had to take a lot of risks and be brave, trusting, and develop a rapport with a difficult Colvin to make her journey succeed.

The downside of the first two books is that they are fairly predictable, the idea of a heroine rising from nothing to (insert plot spoiler here) is not unique, and at times the editing and grammar and typos were terrible. I would have gladly read a much longer book to learn more about the area of Muirwood, the geography, the battle at the end…the book was a little bit cut and paste. There are a lot of unique and interesting elements though, mostly in the characters,

The second book is The Blight of Muirwood, centered on the idea of a plague coming due to the sinful ways of the populace, rejecting the medium. Enter another journey with Lia and Colvin and a host of great characters along the way. There are so many that I can’t start to list them all, but wow does Wheeler write them well. We are starting to get hints of who Lia is, and her struggles just seem to grow. A lot of the story happens through dialogue and description that is fantastic world building, I just would have liked more in some places. The Colvin and Lia friendship – I love it.

Now the third and final book is The Scourge of Muirwood, and I have to write spoilers to adequately express my mixed feelings here. The first two books were more of the same, then the third takes a wild turn into left field and keeps running until it crashes into a brick wall. I love the idea of unborn evil souls inhabiting people’s bodies, and the Queen Dowager is a lovely villain, but I just can NOT get behind the plague being a gentrified STD (passed through a kiss), brought on by women in entirety being the scourge of civilization. The Hetaera are the evil to the Maston’s good, except women can also be Mastons. The overlying story arc went from believable within the world, to entirely not with Lia’s final adventures. Again I would have read a much longer book to learn more about so many things here, including how Colvin located and made use of THAT one specific book.

The other huge overlying issue was that the writing and language turned into that of an excited teenager towards the end of the book, with gross typos, half sentences, and a general lack of editing that killed me. I want to stay lost in your story, not keep coming up for air every other page because the proof reader went to sleep! I also really appreciate the fact that Wheeler loves the national parks, but for a man that substitutes words for “city” or “region” with words like “hundred”, I don’t feel like vividly describing the Redwoods fit in context.

The whole series ended in general impending apocalypse that reminisced of Noah’s ark and a new Adam and Eve story, It wrapped up so neatly for the remaining characters that I felt glad and sad and still disbelieving of the book in general, if not for the typos I would have read it twice just to make sure I absorbed all of it. Then the preview to the second trilogy…….. 🙂

I apologize again for the long review, and would definitely recommend this for young adult. The language stayed clean and the worst they did was kiss, although I wouldn’t be afraid to discuss some of the overlying themes and biblical views towards women with my kid if I had one. I would also mention that the level of proofreading is entirely unacceptable.

Overall I give the series 3/5 stars, I would give it 5 if he had proofread and not given me a week long book hangover with the ending. It was impossible to talk about all the things I want to here, if anyone has read it I would love to hear your thoughts!