Categories
Fantasy Science Fiction

In the Orbit of Sirens : Book Tour Review & Giveaway!

Thank you so much to Storytellers On Tour for having me on the book tour for In the Orbit of Sirens by T.A. Bruno! This is a sci-fi adventure novel with excellent plot and world building, plenty of action, and a classic sci-fi feel. 

Quick Facts:

  • Title: In the Orbit of Sirens
  • Series: The Song of Kamaria, #1
  • Author: T.A. Bruno
  • Publisher & Release: Indie, October, 2020
  • Length: 502 pg
  • Rate & Recommend:  5 ^ and yes to anyone with even the vaguest interest in sci-fi! 

Here is the synopsis:

THE LAST FRAGMENTS OF THE HUMAN RACE ARE FORCED TO ADAPT TO A DANGEROUS NEW WORLD OR FACE EXTINCTION.
 
When starship mechanic Denton Castus is caught in the destructive path of a devastating war, he abandons his home and seeks refuge on a distant planet. However, this new safe haven has undiscovered threats of its own.
 
Eliana Veston, a scout preparing the planet for the refugees, struggles with a deadly pandemic that is killing off colonists. The hunt for a cure unleashes a new threat to humanity-the Sirens-mysterious beings with incredible powers and a deep hatred for invaders.

This is one of those independently published gems that I think deserves all the exposure in the world! From the cover to the internal illustrations, section titles, dual timelines, and storylines for days, this is definitely one to check out

The Plot & Story: There is a lot going on in this book, causing the pages to just fly by. One storyline is happening on the new planet, where the scientists and settlers are trying to ready the settlement for the rest of the refugees from our current solar system. An invading race is chasing humanity away from Sol, and the second storyline picks up at the end of this war where the very last humans are making their escape.

The new planet is not all fun and game; the air is breathable but causes humans; lungs to lock up, and not all of the planetary natives are friendly. These two plot lines marge fairly quickly and a third develops, but you’ll just have to read it to learn why an army veteran wreaks havoc and then disappears

First contact, exploration, tons of danger, plus a romantic subplot as well….. for a 500 page novel it’s an achievement to say that I was never once bored!

The World Building & Setting: This is a world build that I could truly get lost in. There is just enough history given of the expansion and war in Sol to know what is going on, and then that element was closed in a most satisfying way. The settlers’ new planet, Kamaria, is so rich in wildlife and fauna and Bruno’s descriptions made me feel like I was there! The descriptions of the white trees, purple grass, lazily grazing animals, and the bird-like natives, gave everything a lovely alien feel. Other regions have different fauna and it always made me want to see what the scouts and scientists would discover next. There is slang and local tradition and everything you need to make a solidly immersive world.

There is lots of lore and storytelling from the two main native species. The story of the sirens and the Auk’nai are kind of heart breaking. I did have a few questions about the choice of planet and spaceship technology, and funny enough the Author then said he had written these answers into an earlier draft but cut it out for length, so I felt better knowing that he had thought the holes through!

The Characters: Lets just say the characters are real people with tons of resilience. There is death and murder, an inhospitable new world, and a war against a crazed Siren, but Eliana and Denton and the others just keep striding forward. I enjoyed watching them overcome so many obstacles and discover where they really fit into life in the colony. Sometimes I find a lot of character building boring, but absolutely not here. It helped to know everyones strengths, weaknesses, and personalities before the battles at the end of the book. These people have suffered and I think Bruno really makes a statement about the resilience of humanity. There are tons of good and funny side characters as well, some with surprising character arcs of their own! Maybe don’t get too attached to anyone though *wink*

Overall: This is one of those reviews where I could talk about a book forever and point out so many cool things, but I think it’s best to just read the book yourself. Go hike through those forests, meet those natives, and fly into battle with the characters. Go be a part of their banter, sit in on the memorial services. This is an immersive, page flying sci-fi adventure that you won’t regret picking up! I mean honestly it’s one of my favorite modern scifi reads!

If you are more of an audiobook fan, this was recently released as well! Check it out at


So yes first off, here is the link to the giveaway! Click here!

Next up, I really enjoyed reading what everyone else thought of the book, so make sure to check out the rest of the tour!

Tour page link here!


Meet the author!

T. A. BRUNO grew up in Chicago and moved to Los Angeles to pursue a career in the film industry. Since then, he has brought stories to life for over a decade as a previsualization artist. At home, he is a proud father of two boys and a husband to a wonderful wife. IN THE ORBIT OF SIRENS is his debut science fiction novel

Author Links:
Website: http://tabruno.com/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/TABrunoAuthor
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/TABrunoAuthor/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/TABrunoAuthor
Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/T.-A.-Bruno/e/B08FW4T3VF
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/tabrunoauthor

Categories
Adventure Suspense Thrillers

ARC Review ÷ SAS: Red Notice by Andy McNab

Thank you so much to the publisher, via Bookish First, for the advanced copy of SAS: Red Notice in exchange for an honest review!

I have been hit or miss on military themed thrillers but overally enjoyed this one for the characters, plot line, and action!

Quick Facts:

  • Title: SAS: Red Notice
  • Series: SAS (Tom Buckingham)#1
  • Author: Andy McNab
  • Publisher & Release: Welbeck Publishing, 4/06/21 re-release
  • Length: 400 pg
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐✨ for fans of military ops and thrillers

Here is the synopsis:

Soon to be a major motion picture.

Deep beneath the English Channel, a small army of vicious terrorists has seized control of the Eurostar to Paris, taken 400 hostages at gunpoint – and declared war on a government that has more than its own fair share of secrets to keep.

One man stands in their way. An off-duty SAS soldier is hiding somewhere inside the train. Alone and injured, he’s the only chance the passengers and crew have of getting out alive. Meet Andy McNab’s explosive new creation, Sergeant Tom Buckingham, as he unleashes a whirlwind of intrigue and retribution in his attempt to stop the terrorists and save everyone on board – including Delphine, the beautiful woman he loves.

Hurtling us at breakneck speed between the Regiment’s crack assault teams, Whitehall’s corridors of power and the heart of the Eurotunnel action, RED NOTICE is McNab at his devastatingly authentic, pulse pounding best.

Plot & action:  The book opens with the terrorists using a flame thrower on a small village, so I can definitely say that the book started – and stayed fairly exciting throughout.  Tom Buckingham and the SAS are chasing a terrorist cell with an enigmatic leader and a devastating plan.

There is action throughout as they run multiple ops against this group, and the book got even more exciting once the train was hijacked.  Some of the intricacies of the international intrigue were lost on me as we learn who the terrorists are and why they were acting, but it created an interesting race against time.  There is an inside man at SAS helping the terrorists as well, so the book definitely wasn’t boring

The Characters: Tom Buckingham is the main character, the SAS agent, and I liked him.  He’s a bit career/boys club oriented but I think most soldiers are.  His girlfriend, Delphine, incidentally ends up on the train with the terrorists which is why Tom was also on the train.  When not in action, the book spends time developing Delphine’s character and her struggles building a life with a soldier who obviously prioritizes his job and buddies over her.

I liked the other soldiers too though and even the head terrorist is an interesting character!  One thing I didn’t like though was all the names and extras thrown into the COBRA meetings, I ended up confusing names and departments.

Others: McNab spent his career with the military and I think there’s a lot of authenticity there.  The operations were well described and fairly interesting, although sometimes the military lingo and abbreviations lost me.  Most were explained and not terribly relevant to the story to understand the action.  One thing I did like was all the technology used, like the sniper coordinator!

Overall: definitely recommend for military ops and thriller fans.  Plenty of explosions and gunfire and daring escapes for all readers, and short chapters keep the pages flipping.

I am interested in the movie adaptation!

Do you like military op books/movies?

Categories
Fiction General Fiction Paranormal Romance

Book Review: River Magic by M.A. Philips (local author alert)!

I am glad this month to have some to read books from my own backlogged TBR!  One book that I have been meaning to get to is River Magic, because I try hard to support local authors!

The book is a new adult coming of age/romance, and takes place in the area my mom’s side of the family is from. The tippy top corner of Northern NY, St Lawrence / Alexandria Bay / Watertown region.  It was so cool to read a book featuring places I’ve been, a hospital I’ve worked at, etc! I’m just picturing the highway scenery as the characters drive along!

Quick Facts:

  • Title: River Magic
  • Series: Rituals of Rock Bay, #1
  • Author: M.A. Philips
  • Publisher & Release: Shadow Spark Publishing, October 2020
  • Length: 366 pg
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐⚡ yes but be aware of mature romantic content

Here is the synopsis from GoodReads:

Budding clairvoyant Lacey Moran seeks to understand her dreams and find her life’s purpose along the St. Lawrence River. If only her visions of silver arms and Cian O’Connor’s blue eyes were easier to understand! The pieces begin coming together when she encounters a mermaid in the river, joins a group of Druids, and opens herself to romance with an old friend.

Can Lacey overcome her doubts, or is she in over her head?

I was so thrilled to see a book set in the Alexandria Bay and Watertown area!  A story of finding oneself as an adult, embracing life choices, finding one’s faith, and reconciling adult friendships. I loved how everyone worked together and supported one another.

This is a romance (low steam level but it’s there), and coming of age story. I wasn’t expecting bedroom content so it threw me a bit, but it’s easily skimmable without missing storyline.

The main character, Lacey, is a sort of pagan who discovers Druidism and feels like she found a new home. It was interesting to learn about the rituals as Lacey did, and some of the Irish Mythology attached. Her eventual boyfriend, Cian, is trying to find his own way as well. His family is traditionally Catholic but it doesn’t seem like the right road for him. Man the struggle was real for his parents too, I felt for them. The relationships were level headed and real, with the characters talking through things instead of losing their minds.  Very refreshing to not have conflict without undue drama. The other characters were supportive and interesting as well.

One other theme I appreciated was how hard it can be to change and accept new viewpoints and changing culture, especially from a religious standpoint. The Catholicism vs Pagan interactions were handled realistically, I think, and a lot of the novel is about embracing instinct and one’s own path in life.  Trust me that Catholics know it’s 2020, they don’t need to be reminded in argument.  Changing times are a little bit much sometimes but I think Cian’s parents handled things well for how much was thrown at them at once.

It was interesting to learn a little about Druidism and rituals too, and all the other mystic elements in the book. I thought the mermaid was going to be one of the lost island residents but that storyline surprised me! A twist of mystery and danger was fun to read as someone is threatening a local endangered species.

All in all, a great new adult aged novel about finding your own paths, adult friendships and relationships, community and conservation. All set along the gorgeous St Lawrence River!

Will be reading book two!

Categories
Fiction Middle Grade Paranormal

ARC Review: Asha and the Spirit Bird by Jasbinder Bilan

Here is another great feature for #MiddleGradeMarch !!

Thank you so much to Chicken House for the early copy of Asha and the Spirit Bird in exchange for an honest review! All opinions are my own!  This is a fast paced adventure by an Indian author, set in the Himalayas. An interesting and appropriate for ages 8+!

Quick Facts:

  • Title: Asha and the Spirit Bird
  • Series: N/A
  • Author: Jasbinder Bilan
  • Publisher & Release: Chicken House, February 2019
  • Length: 288 pg
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ sure for middle graders and fans of!

Here is the synopsis from GoodReads:

Asha lives on the family farm with her mother in rural India.

Her father is away working in the city, and when the money he sends stops suddenly, a wicked aunt arrives. She’s determined to seize the property – and the treasure rumoured to be hidden on the land. Guided by a majestic bird which Asha believes to be the spirit of her grandmother, she and her best friend Jeevan embark on a journey to the city, across the Himalayas, to find her father and save her home …

Asha and the Spirit Bird is a wonderful middle grade adventure story about a young girl on a journey to reunite her family.

I just thought this was a great story, focused on friendship, family, and Faith.  Little Asha is unshakeable in her beliefs and convictions.  It was touching watching her learn to trust herself, her friend Jeevan, and her spirit bird, as they journey across the Himalayasl together.

When debt collectors come crashing through their small Himalayan farmhouse, Asha knows her mama is in trouble. Her Papa left for the city months ago but stopped writing and sending money – where could he be? Is he alive?

With the help of her best friend, Jeevan, she runs away to find her father. Asha is a terrifically brave little girl, with the magic power to sense and be guided by her ancestors. I loved the Nanijee storyline, and how Asha learned to trust herself and her intuitions as well as embrace her family’s heritage.

There is plenty of danger and action in the plot too, from wolves to kidnappers.  I read the whole book in one sitting and think that kids will definitely enjoy this one from cover to cover.

The setting is well done too, with beautiful descriptions of the mountains, scenery, animals.  Weather and smells and sounds are also described.  I think my favorite parts were at the temple in the mountains, and how Asha’s little mango tree symbolized her faith and hope as well.

One HUGE thing that the book did well, and I think is absolutely essential in an ethnic book published in North America … is a glossary of foreign words and phrases. I hate feeling alienated when authors throw foreign terms and words in without translating.  Bilan not only translates but offers explanations, which is absolutely amazing and so much appreciated.

Overall: With clean content, no language and only one suggested hint as a possible future crush, this is a great story of friendship, faith, and family. Fully recommend for any young reader!

Categories
Mysteries Suspense Thrillers Young Adult

ARC Review: The Girl in Cell 49B by Dorian Box!

Thank you so much to Fiction Press via Bookish First for the digital ARC of The Girl in Cell 49B by Dorian Box! This is an amazing sequel to The Hiding Girl!  These are fast paced, intense books, with fun, hope, and an absolutely fierce young woman lead! For The Hiding Girl: Click to see that review here!

Quick Facts: 

  • Title: The Girl in Cell 49B
  • Series: Emily Calby, #2
  • Author: Dorian Box
  • Publisher & Release: Fiction Press, March 1st 2021
  • Length:  286 pg
  • Rate & Recommend: 5🌟 for entertainment value

Here is the synopsis from GoodReads:

Arrested for murder on her sixteenth birthday and extradited to a corrupt juvenile prison, Emily—“the missing Calby girl”—fights for her life against a vindictive prosecutor in an explosive trial as the dark secrets behind the prison walls close in.

Emily Calby disappeared at age twelve, the only survivor of a notorious home invasion. Three years after her terrifying odyssey in The Hiding Girl, she’s safe, living in anonymity with her mentor, ex-gang member Lucas Jackson—before life blows up again on her Sweet Sixteen birthday. Arrested for carrying her birthday gift—an illegal handgun from Lucas—a fingerprint scan shows her to be the missing Calby girl and worse: she’s wanted for murder in another state.

Extradited to a corrupt juvenile prison in the middle of nowhere, Emily struggles to adjust to a new code of survival while battling a vindictive prosecutor willing to resort to any means to convict her. As The Law thwarts her every move, she begins to appreciate its awesome power. She discovers an unused prison law library and buries herself in the books, casting her destiny.

As she fights for her life in court, the dark secrets behind the prison walls close in. Her cellmate, a spookily prescient drug addict, is in grave danger. So is her first love, a gentle boy sentenced to life without parole. Emily’s desperate to help them, but how can she, when her explosive trial brings one new disaster after another? A courtroom thriller like no other.

Emily Calby is facing the consequences of her actions from one book, even though it was definitely self defense. She is trying to learn about law and the legal system to help in her murder trial, where the prosecutor is an absolutely vile woman. I can just imagine how so many juvenile offenders are shafted by the legal system, but Emily is determined not to be a statistic.

I was getting Orange Is the New Black mixed with Legally Blond vibes from the time spent in the girls juvenile detention center, and liked how Emily reaches out to the other girls to try to help them … She is such a fierce young lady! The lawyers couldn’t have possibly been any different but I ended up really liking Paula, the public defender too.

Once again the book handles some dark topics though like rape, sexual assault, murder, drugs, and the broken legal system

Lucas had me cracking up again too, I wish we could have seen more from him. I seriously love him and all of these characters. Emily has a lot of personal growth in this one too, including her first crush and continuing to grapple with her PTSD and identity. She learns a lot about privilege too.

These books aren’t by any means fine literature but they are thrilling, fun, and Box’s legal background shines in this one. I devoured it and hope there are more Emily Calby books!

Categories
Fantasy Young Adult

ARC Review: The Stolen Kingdom by Jillian Boehme

Thank you so much to Tor Teen for the digital ARC of The Stolen Kingdom via NetGalley!  This is a great standalone YA fantasy, with everything from a king killer plot to just a twist of romance!

Quick Facts:

  • Title: The Stolen Kingdom
  • Series: N/A
  • Author: Jillian Boehme
  • Publisher & Release: Tor Teen, March 2nd 2021
  • Length: 332
  • Rate & Recommend: 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟 sure for fans of YA fantasy!

Here is the description from GoodReads:

For a hundred years, the once-prosperous kingdom of Perin Faye has suffered under the rule of the greedy and power-hungry Thungrave kings. Maralyth Graylaern, a vintner’s daughter, has no idea her hidden magical power is proof of a secret bloodline and claim to the throne. Alac Thungrave, the king’s second son, has always been uncomfortable with his position as the spare heir—and the dark, stolen magic that comes with ruling.

When Maralyth becomes embroiled in a plot to murder the royal family and seize the throne, a cat-and-mouse chase ensues in an adventure of dark magic, court intrigue, and forbidden love

This book to me is exceptionally well done as a stand alone fantasy.

The Magic: My favorite magic systems are the ones tied to the land, tied to a Kingdom, because they not only make sense to me but add so much to the richness of the world building.

A pure, healing magic, was given to the original King of Perin Faye by the land’s deity. Corrupted into dark and destructive magic when it was stolen, it twisted a king killer into something terrifying.  This is the legacy passed down through generations to the current king.

The plot/story: the plot ran at breakneck pace, again making it a great standalone.  A rebel lord has decided to replace a true descendent of the first king on the throne to seize power.  He finds a magic wielder and a plot to murder the ruling family is put into action.  Will the corrupted magic even allow this?  The current king is away while his sons entertain the heir’s wedding party.  The first son/heir is incredibly important as the stolen magic requires a vessel at all times.

Maybe a better question is, will Maralyth play along with this scheme of murder or will she fall for the prince?

The Characters: I liked the characters! A vintner’s daughter, Maralyth, has hidden her magic but doesn’t really know why it is considered illicit. The second prince, Alac,  who doesn’t want the throne OR the dark magic of his father, is the other point of view.  They are both drawn unwillingly into this insane queen maker plot.  There is instant attraction between them, but then it buds slowly over months.  I liked this tiny bit of romance.  Both characters had full arcs as they realized how tied to the kingdom they are, and the side characters were great too.  Why not throw in an insane and terrifying king, and funny guard? There is banter for days between them all.

The World: so much magic and lore. I wish she had discussed the religion more, although it only played a side role it would have added to the lore. There was more than enough world building for a standalone for sure. Food, wealth distribution, bit of history, economy, political structure, plus two sides of the same magic. Betrayal and a tiny bit of intrigue too.

Very low content as well, just a FEW kisses and a bit of poison and swordfighting.

I just can’t get over how the magic was tied to everything in the plot, I kind of feel like this is how fantasy magic should be! Plus strong, brave, funny characters, and plenty of action, this book was a huge win for me!

Check it out, again it publishes March 2nd!

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
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!