Categories
Fantasy

Obsidian (ARC Review) by Sarah J Daley

Thank you so much to Angry Robot for the free early digital copy of Obsidian by Sarah J Daley! All opinions are my own!

This is an adult (18+) fantasy novel set on a vaguely Italian feeling island; it is rich in world building and magic.  I read it fairly quickly and even though it can read as a standalone I definitely hope a second book is on the way

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: Obsidian
  • Series: N/A?
  • Author: Sarah J Daley
  • Publisher & Release:  Angry Robot, 01/25/22
  • Length: 400 pgs
  • Rate & Recommend: 🌟🌟🌟🌟 for fans of adult sword & sorcery fantasy

Here is the synopsis:

Shade Nox is the only witch in a land of wizards – a fiend, a rogue, a wanted criminal.

Defying those who think her an abomination, Shade wears her tattoos openly and carries obsidian blades at her hips. For years, she has protected the outcast clans who wander the blighted Wastes, but the land is growing more unstable and her blades are no longer enough.

To save her people, Shade vows to raise a Veil of protection – a feat not accomplished in over a hundred years. But the magical Veils are said to belong to the Brotherhood church; if she succeeds in raising one, it will expose their lies. They swear to see her obliterated first.

Treading a dangerous path where allies can be as deceitful as enemies, and where demons lurk in the shadows, Shade chases a vision which could lead to her people’s salvation… or her own destruction.

There is definitely a lot to unpack with this book and for my current purposes I am assuming it’s a standalone

Let’s talk about the world building first:  if this is a standalone I think it had a perfect amount of world building.  Daley went pretty deep into the history of  Malavita.  She told us what we need to know about the war between the native peoples, the history of magic use, and how certain rituals were learned and eventually corrupted.  I really appreciated this storyline.

On a micro level she also did a great job describing the mood of various areas, the culture in different small groups, food and drink, weather and architecture.

I liked that small things were included like a character’s ambivalence toward cats, because they were susceptible to the blighted magic.

What I wanted more of: the Brotherhood’s history and how the religion developed widely enough that the four faces, the hidden, and the wild are consistent across the island.

As part of the setting and atmosphere, I did feel like the tone for each area was set with lush descriptions, temperature, sights and smells, and these things were consistent.  My favorite area was the glass fields.

For all of that, the book maintains a fast pace with plenty of action too.

Character wise: The main character is Shade Nox, a blood magic user who wields obsidian blades. She reminded me a lot of Mia Corvere because she takes crap from no one and is terrified of horses.  She is able to touch a hidden element of magic.  Apparently it is not normal in this world for women to be magic users or have the tattoos so Shade was an anomaly, ostracized, and wanted for various crimes.  She was bad ass and super powerful but also vulnerable, and had a tendency to fall in love with and/or seduce like … everyone she is in intimate proximity with.

This created a weird dynamic at the end of the book and all felt very unnecessary, but it’s adult fantasy and properly advertised as such, so characters can do what they want.   

The other main character is Raiden, who was stuck somewhere between duty and having a good heart and I liked him a lot.  He definitely had some innate unnatural ability but it was never explored, just hinted at, so I definitely needed more of that and docked a star for it.  That said, that’s where I wonder if there will be a sequel.

The other characters are numerous but each contributes something meaningful.  Many have interesting stories, abilities, and snark for days.

The magic system: there’s an interesting back story for the magic.  Veils are used to protect cities from the wild and corrupted magic of the wastes, and obviously there are corrupt people too, almost like a magical mafia of priests and mages that tax and tithe the people into poverty

The blood wizards (and witch) use blades of different gemstones and materials to designate how powerful they are. Tattoo magic is also incorporated as they serve as healing wards after the mage has performed blood magic. I definitely think the magic was the book’s strongest element – it tended to be over the top at times but who doesn’t love a grandiose display of elemental magic?

I feel like I did a lot of summary so here are my thoughts: The magic, characters, history, and world building all tie together and make this an enjoyable read. These story elements combine for a consistent feel where I can understand the character’s motivations and root for them within the world. It moved along quickly.  I like the theme of women defying social boundaries (tattoos, clothing choices, etc), and love that ink is making it’s way into fantasy more now.

One totally random stylistic thing that I absolutely loved was that Daley used a pretty wide range of vocab words like ‘hummocky’ and ‘cerestory’, so I was able to learn something while reading!

Overall I definitely recommend this one for fans of adult fantasy with big magic and big personality!

Lastly: the author is doing a Sunday Brunch interview which should feature at the end of the month!

Categories
Contemporary Fantasy Fiction Horror Literary Fiction Paranormal Young Adult

Wake the bones (ARC Review) by Eilizabeth Kilcoyne

Thank you so much to Wednesday Books for the free early read of Wake the Bones in exchange for an honest review! All opinions are my own.

Honestly I liked this one quite a bit but struggled with it’s age group appropriateness, so it was hard for me to rate.  I would push it on the 18-25 age group and keep it off the YA imprint.

With walking bones, rising evil, death, abuse, and a terribly disillusioned drowned ghost among other eldritch things, this is definitely one to have on board for spooky season. It’s much more lyrical than a typical horror novel though and encompasses magical realism and literary fiction too.

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: Wake the Bones
  • Series: N/A
  • Author: Elizabeth Kilcoyne
  • Publisher & Release: Wednesday Books, July 12, 2022
  • Length: 320 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: *scratches head* I just don’t think it’s a YA, 16+ if I were really stretching it

Here’s the synopsis:

The sleepy little farm that Laurel Early grew up on has awakened. The woods are shifting, the soil is dead under her hands, and her bone pile just stood up and walked away.

After dropping out of college, all she wanted was to resume her life as a tobacco hand and taxidermist and try not to think about the boy she can’t help but love. Instead, a devil from her past has returned to court her, as he did her late mother years earlier. Now, Laurel must unravel her mother’s terrifying legacy and tap into her own innate magic before her future and the fate of everyone she loves is doomed.

Elizabeth Kilcoyne’s Wake the Bones is a dark, atmospheric debut about the complicated feelings that arise when the place you call home becomes hostile.

Ok here are my quick thoughts on the age thing: it’s marketed as YA (13-18) but I really truly strongly feel it should target an 18-20something age group. The characters are 18+, one was in college and dropped out, and all were struggling with loyalty to home, their  future, and generational bonds vs their own fate. Is their home down on the holler or where does fate lead them? Many of the conflicts and issues were not ones that 13-17 yr olds are going to face, although some will, plus the language includes at least one f*co per chapter, s*x scene at the penultimate moment AGAIN (please, YA authors, stop doing this – we assume a second couple shacked up that night too) … I just have a hard time with this on the YA imprint.

That said: let’s talk about this contemporary fantasy / horror / literary fiction

It takes place mostly on Kentucky farmland, where Laurel’s family tobacco farm has sat for generations.  The atmosphere it set from the start with a hunt for bones and trip to the graveyard, where we learn that Laurel has a penchant for death.  From there, things slowly start getting spookier and spookier.  It never gets to the splattering stage but there are dead animals, blood trails, dreams of the dead, her mother’s drowned ghost, lots of blood, someone is hanged, and the devil is downright creepy .. among other things.

The spooky parts are interspersed with a number of important themes to the New Adult (18- ?) age group, like generational chains.  Laurel’s family has been rooted on Kentucky for generations, and she tried leaving, failed, and came home to the farm and friends that needs her.  Another character is abused by his father, and wants to leave, but also struggles with loyalty to his friends and the area.  One doesn’t want to leave at all and is happy as is, and, the fourth has no idea what he wants.

So we see these scary parts mixed with chapters about love and mixed feelings.  Two male characters (Isaac and Garrett) have feelings for each other and that is a constant storyline, plus Laurel and Ricky feel fated towards each other but recognize fear and obligation as obstacles.

All this taking place in a muggy, hot summer, in the middle of a pretty severe haunting.  Each character, even a fifth that is brought in as a guide to Laurel, has different parental and generational issues that has shaped their experience growing up in this small town.

Can they all be friends like they were before, what needs to change, what will their futures hold? Will they even be alive to find out?

Coming home and self acceptance are huge themes.  I loved how the magic worked, as Laurel’s mother was tied to the land and so is she.  Land based magic is my favorite but I’ve never seen it in a contemporary fantasy before so that was interesting

I wish I could share quotes … I normally am not a fan of purple prose but Kilcoyne manages to write about death, life, and survival in such a way that I had SO many quote tabs on the pages.

OH, yeah, survival is a HUGE theme too.  Everyone has to survive their upbringing, life situation, and all the self destruction of those around them while taking hold of their own futures.

The real question is … Does everyone survive? Heh heh I actually did like what the author did at the end, but no spoilers

For me, 🌟🌟🌟🌟, but I’m 33 and would hold this one til my kid was at least 17.  I will not rate it for YA

Categories
audiobooks Science Fiction Young Adult

Winter (book thoughts) by Marissa Meyer

The Lunar Chronicles was a refreshing and binge worthy reading experience.  I am getting so sick of YA books with terrible language, dumb characters, s*x scenes that aren’t at all appropriate for the advertised age range…

Then I read this series! Whew. I binged all 5 books and also checked out the short story collection.  Zero swears that I recall, innocent romance that’s appropriate for both age and situation, and, even the gore was pretty well contained.  The battle scenes and fighting were exciting and delivered shocks without going to extreme.

So yes I 100% confidently recommend The Lunar Chronicles for both teens and adults looking for a fun, futuristic battle for Earth and beyond.

With that out of the way, let’s talk about the final book in the series – Winter

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: Winter
  • Series: The Lunar Chronicles, #4
  • Author: Marissa Meyer
  • Publisher & Release: Feiwel & Friends, November 2015
  • Length: 832 pgs
  • Rate & Recommend: 🌟🌟🌟🌟

Here is the summary:

Princess Winter is admired by the Lunar people for her grace and kindness, and despite the scars that mar her face, her beauty is said to be even more breathtaking than that of her stepmother, Queen Levana.

Winter despises her stepmother, and knows Levana won’t approve of her feelings for her childhood friend–the handsome palace guard, Jacin. But Winter isn’t as weak as Levana believes her to be and she’s been undermining her stepmother’s wishes for years. Together with the cyborg mechanic, Cinder, and her allies, Winter might even have the power to launch a revolution and win a war that’s been raging for far too long.

Can Cinder, Scarlet, Cress, and Winter defeat Levana and find their happily ever afters?

We got a glimpse of the title character, Princess Winter, at the end of Cress, and also got some of her back story in Fairest. At first I wasn’t sure about her, since she is frankly nuts, but once we start learning more about the lunar sickness and how Winter refused to be like the rest of the lunar court, aka fake and using their glamours for ill, she becomes a much more likeable character.  Yes she is flaky but also strong enough to defy Levana for so long, and she is definitely not stupid.  Her strength comes out pretty evenly with the crazy and it’s an endearing combination.

Winter was a well loved princess who was prettier than a bouquet of roses and crazier than a headless chicken.

Also for some reason I thought that, due to the pets and the palace guard, that this would be an Aladdin theme … but it was definitely, very loosely, Snow White.

But anyway, the gang is back and there is more banter, more adventure, more kidnappings of Kai, and thankfully some hard won victories for the Rampion crew.

I like that the war and occupation of Luna wasn’t easy.  There were tons of civilian casualties, injuries and near deaths for the crew, trauma and everything else you’d expect from a war.   Parts of it felt a little Hunger Games ish with the gang going to different sectors to recruit people to overwhelm the Capitol.  Also reminiscent were the questions of sanity and PTSD after the conflicts and terrible things that were both done and witnessed.

I also liked how the main points of Fairest were recapped incase anyone hadn’t read it, although I still think that book enhanced the overall reading experience.

Best side character award definitely goes to Konn Torin in this one.  He turned the tide and came through in huge but subtle ways.  Everything would have been lost without him.  Bonus points to Alpha Strom too, that whole sequence with the wolf soldiers was something else.

I still think Scarlet is the most useless of the group.  It was great to see Cress really come out of her shell (pun intended) and be a hero! I have had some Cress coasters forever and it’s good to know what they mean finally.  Iko was another superstar throughout this one.

Meyer didn’t shy away from emphasizing either how brutal the Lunar regime was in itself.  As she really showed how the elite kept the outer sectors in poverty and submission it was the perfect grounds for a revolution.  There were those individual instances too like with Maha Kesley.  Everyone in the crew lost someone precious to them during the series.

One last thing to hit on the setting – I thought it was great to finally see all of Luna.  A lot of the history was finally given too, or at least enough to provide a background without bogging the story down.

The spot where the setting hit me the hardest was when Cinder hit the edge of the dome in the middle of the lake – and the crater was hundreds of feet below on the other side.  From that imagery to that of the Lunar palace I think Winter really tied things together well.

In a nutshell: four (five because honestly, let’s count Iko) unique main characters.  Banter and snark for days.  Adventure, plotting, war, rebellion. Heroes and villains. Dashing captains (haha had to mention Thorne somewhere). Happy endings.  Age appropriate content!  What’s not to love about this series?

Quick notes on the audio: this is obviously a pretty long audio, around 24hours.  Rebecca Soler made her first obvious OOPS in this one but considering it was the first noticeable one in 5 books, I was very impressed overall!  I think she added a lot to the book by voicing and interpreting Winter and the others how she did.  Definitely 100% recommend

Categories
audiobooks Science Fiction Young Adult

Fairest (book & audio review) by Marissa Meyer

It’s been a rough week here, I keep looking around for or reaching over to pet the dog and she’s not there. The absolute worst

I haven’t gotten much reading done but have been listening to an audio while I can’t sleep. Eventually I will finish Winter. 

Fairest is the first book I read in 2022, the shorter Lunar Chronicles book that falls in between Cress and Winter.  I absolutely 100% recommend reading Fairest in that order with the rest of the series, as it gives a lot of background into Levana’s story, what happened to Cinder, the story with Winter and Jacin, the plague origins, and so many other things.

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: Fairest
  • Series: The Lunar Chronicles 3.5
  • Author: Marissa Meyer
  • Publisher & Release: Feiwel & Friends, January 2015
  • Length: 226 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: 🌟🌟🌟🌟 yes for anyone reading the series

Here is the synopsis:

Mirror, mirror, on the wall.
Who is the Fairest of them all?

Pure evil has a name, hides behind a mask of deceit, and uses her “glamour” to gain power. But who is Queen Levana? Long before she crossed paths with Cinder, Scarlet, and Cress in The Lunar Chronicles, Levana lived a very different story―a story that has never been told . . . until now.

New York Times –bestselling author Marissa Meyer reveals the story behind her fascinating villain in Fairest, an unforgettable tale about love and war, deceit and death

I think this provided a lot of the insight I was looking for into the Lunar world.  What is life like for the royalty, what are their expectations, what is society like, etc.

Levana iss more than a bit crazy as an adult and I liked her backstory. Sbe was influenced by early mind control and torture by her older sister, Cinder’s mother, which damages the mind of young children.  At least it was written that mind control is bad for the toddlers.  Also she was probably a little psychotic to begin with, AND just had terrible influence from Channary all along

That said – I don’t think this book was written to garner sympathy so much as tell the back story.  Other than the initial incident and bullying from her sister, Levana made her own choices and did a lot of really sick and questionable things

She’s a heck of a villain, kind of reminds of Joker in that she is just completely criminally insane by the time Winter occurs

Meyer also answered questions I had – like – how does the queen have a black step daughter? What was under the glamour? Who was Cinder’s mom? What about the plague origins? Heck even about Sybil Meara and the Lunar court.

I would love to know why Channary was as rotten as she was, but there were a few allusions to how the girls grew up fairly unsupervised and all of the Lunar royalty and their children tend to be absolutely terrible. As evidenced by the 8 year old boy torturing Scarlet at the end of Cinder

I definitely think this is good to read in between Cress and Winter, because now we know about the queen and even Jacin, and everything makes a little more sense to me

It’s definitely enhancing the reading experience for me in book 4.

Quick notes on the audio: Rebecca Soler definitely gives another awesome performance here.  She hasn’t missed a beat through 4 books now. From Macmillan audio, including the hour ish long preview of Winter, the length is 6h and 32 minutes.  I loved how creepy and murderous she made Channary sound saying “Come heeeeere baby sister” and in contrast, how Levana had to deal with things.  Definitely highly recommend as both a book or audio

Categories
Suspense Thrillers

Greenwich Park (ARC Review) by Katherine Faulkner

Thank you so much to Gallery Books for the ARC and merch for Greenwich Park! I just love the tote and the book is a decent, suspenseful read too

This is a domestic thriller, featuring a group of three siblings and their spouses or significant others. There is a wildcard character from the past that comes back and everything just gets bizarre and suspenseful real quick.

This is a great effort for a debut and I like Faulkner’s style. Read on to see my full thoughts!

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: Greenwich Park
  • Author: Katherine Faulkner
  • Publisher & Release: Gallery Books, 01/25/22
  • Length: 384 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: 🌟🌟🌟✨ for fans of domestic thrillers and suspense

Here’s the synopsis:

A twisty, whip-smart debut thriller, as electrifying as the #1 New York Times bestseller The Girl on the Train, about impending motherhood, unreliable friendship, and the high price of keeping secrets.

Helen’s idyllic life—handsome architect husband, gorgeous Victorian house, and cherished baby on the way (after years of trying)—begins to change the day she attends her first prenatal class and meets Rachel, an unpredictable single mother-to-be. Rachel doesn’t seem very maternal: she smokes, drinks, and professes little interest in parenthood. Still, Helen is drawn to her. Maybe Rachel just needs a friend. And to be honest, Helen’s a bit lonely herself. At least Rachel is fun to be with. She makes Helen laugh, invites her confidences, and distracts her from her fears.

But her increasingly erratic behavior is unsettling. And Helen’s not the only one who’s noticed. Her friends and family begin to suspect that her strange new friend may be linked to their shared history in unexpected ways. When Rachel threatens to expose a past crime that could destroy all of their lives, it becomes clear that there are more than a few secrets laying beneath the broad-leaved trees and warm lamplight of Greenwich Park.

Faulkner is a great writer, and has some investigative journalism experience to help flesh out the story. I would have liked to somehow see a little more of the police procedural, but some of that action was told through Katie’s point of view.

Pacing wise, the book certainly was never boring and moved at a steady pace. It wasn’t always exciting but there was plenty of mood setting and just enough history before things started dicey. I was able to guess some of the outcomes but missed the big reveals.

Helen, the main point of view, was just the most naïve, kind of dumb character ever. She was was practically gaslit at times by another character, but she also had the worst memory ever and let a harmful situation (Rachel) into her house and then just forgot how bad everything was? Frequently? One minute she was finding stolen items, the next she missed Rachel? I didn’t get that at all, but Helen just didn’t seem that bright. I did feel badly for her being taken advantage of

Rachel, the wildcard character, was terrible from start to finish. She was just insufferably terrible, stupid and selfish, not paying rent, being a pain in the ass, etc. Regardless of what happened to her in the past, she has a history of making stupid and destructive life decisions and honestly at no point did I ever feel sympathy for her. Not that I advocate for anyone being brutalized but I mean, we see how she conducts herself!

Katie, the journalist, was the second point of view, and I liked her the most. Serena, the final point of view, felt super fake and it was hard to tell where she would fit into everything at the end. It was fun to try to determine whether Helen or Serena or both were unreliable narrators.

There was a mystery, Greenwich Park, point of view, and yep I took the obvious choice and was wrong about who it was.

It was a good suspense novel though, I felt pretty concerned for one or more characters throughout. I also really liked the setting of Greenwich Park and Faulkner’s descriptions of sights, smells, scenery, even tastes, she is great at providing those visual aspects. I googled Greenwich Park and that also helped me form a visual of the big mansions. It’s a timeless setting and explained why there were so many people there during the day too.

My only issue with the style was that some of the chapters, towards the end, chopped off in odd spots. I knew it was to keep the reader engaged but felt super abrupt sometimes. At least though she did always explain what happened after the action cut off.

I would say this is a good read though, for fans of domestic type thrillers and suspense involving groups of friends, unreliable narrators, criminal cases.

….

Now this is spoiler free but if you haven’t read the book, I might suggest stopping here, even though I give no names or specific events away, I COULD NOT BUY ONE HALF OF THE PREMISE OF THE BOOK AT THE END!!

I just couldn’t! It’s a tiny spoiler to say why, even though I don’t use names or genders, so read it if you want.

.

.

.

.

.

Ok yeah So you are telling me that a passed out, stone cold drunk teenager under duress was able to identify some people hiding in a corner of a shadowy nighttime building…. Then recognize the people 10 years later on?? It just made no sense. Then everyone involved was batshit crazy to some degree. I was so annoyed with these characters that I understand why the eventual murder occured 😂

Heck what did the victim want, what did they think would happen?? The money seems like it should have been enough as far as the blackmail goes! It just seems insane that the Victim involved would go to those lengths to blackmail people she shouldn’t have even been able to recognize, when her original attackers were found not guilty in the first place. Tough crap, move on already?

I know I’m supposed to feel the opposite,that justice was terribly and unjustly not administered… but maybe don’t go crash a college party and drink to the blackout point?

I literally empathize more with the murderers. They should have given the victim nothing and could have easily high tailed away from the situation.

Anyway – shoot me for that but I stand by my feelings 😅😅 I hate manipulative people like what was happening to Helen!

I would say this is a good read though, for fans of domestic type thrillers and suspense involving groups of friends, unreliable narrators, criminal cases

Categories
Adventure audiobooks Crime Thrillers

Dark Horse (ALC Review) by Gregg Hurwitz

I have to say that as someone who can’t always read a lot of pages due to my eye problems and resulting headaches, that audiobooks are a lifesaver.

Thank you so much to Macmillan Audio for reaching out to offer my first Advanced Listening Copy! I thoroughly enjoyed listening to Scott Brick narrate Dark Horse by Gregg Hurwitz. I have not read or listened to anything else in this series of books, and while I didn’t feel lost at all, I do think a bit of knowledge of the background characters and events might add to overall enjoyment.

***on that note – I don’t know how long it is going to last but the first two books in the series are free to read/listen with kindle unlimited at the time that I wrote this post!!

AUDIO-Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: Dark Horse
  • Series: Orphan X, #7
  • Author: Gregg Hurwitz
  • Narrator: Scott Brick
  • Publisher & Release: Macmillan Audio (Minotaur Books) 02/08/22
  • Length: 14h30m (432 pages)
  • Rate & Recommend: 🌟🌟🌟🌟 yes for fans of vigilante justice, spy thrillers, action novels, and a bit of snarky banter

Here is the synopsis:

Gregg Hurwitz’s New York Times bestselling series returns when Orphan X faces his most challenging mission ever in Dark Horse.

Evan Smoak is a man with many identities and a challenging past. As Orphan X, he was a government assassin for the off-the-books Orphan Program. After he broke with the Program, he adopted a new name and a new mission–The Nowhere Man, helping the most desperate in their times of trouble. Having just survived an attack on his life and the complete devastation of his base of operations, as well as his complicated (and deepening) relationship with his neighbor Mia Hall, Evan isn’t interested in taking on a new mission. But one finds him anyway.

Aragon Urrea is a kingpin of a major drug-dealing operation in South Texas. He’s also the patron of the local area–supplying employment in legitimate operations, providing help to the helpless, rough justice to the downtrodden, and a future to a people normally with little hope. He’s complicated–a not completely good man, who does bad things for often good reasons. However, for all his money and power, he is helpless when one of the most vicious cartels kidnaps his innocent eighteen year old daughter, spiriting her away into the armored complex that is their headquarters in Mexico. With no other way to rescue his daughter, he turns to The Nowhere Man.

Now not only must Evan figure out how to get into the impregnable fortress of a heavily armed, deeply paranoid cartel leader, but he must decide if he should help a very bad man–no matter how just the cause.

So I want to focus more on the audio, since I am reviewing an ALC! Scott Brick is probably, as far as I know, one of the most prodigious narrators out there, I mean he read the Foundation universe by Asimov, Dune, at least some of the Lee Child books, some Erik Larsson, among other things.. and I think this is another amazing performance by him.

He has to voice cartel drug leaders, sicarios, Evan Smoak of course, teenage girls, and pretty much everything in between, and I don’t think he faltered once.  My favorite character was the weapon aficionado named Tommy –  the way Brick had him saying “MonGOlian CLLUSter-forNIcation” had he cracking up.  I think he’s a master, really.

About the book itself – so as I said I have not read any of the Orphan X books, but Hurwitz does a good job recapping who is who and bringing first time readers up on current events.  Obviously there is a bit of a storyline from book to book but it can be read as a standalone for sure.

There was good action throughout the book, good pacing, and a surprising amount of introspection from various characters as well.  I liked Smoak as a main character, the OCD was something a little different and I loved what he did at the end of the book.  Josephine was his little found-family-co-orphan and computer hacker. I liked her too. I want to go back and find the rest of her story, and that of her dog…named Dog!  It seemed like Tommy the weapons guy was featured in the prior book as well so I do definitely want to go back and read the series.

There are many things I could quote too to show the humor included throughout the book, but I will wait until a finished copy is out.  I did like the themes here of starting to trust people, self reflection, honesty with peers, and the whole debate of the morally gray, vs just evil drug lord.  The comparison of their parenting and values was actually pretty interesting and made Evan think about his own life quite a bit.

Anyway – I would definitely recommend this audiobook, the book itself, and potentially the series for fans of vigilante type novels, action books, with hints of romance and humor and found family elements as well.  It was overall good narration and good writing!

…and … there is a lion

 

Categories
General Posts, Non Reviews

So this is the new year (I don’t feel any different) – Reads & Recap

If you know that song, all the power to you.

It’s another wrap for the year and I feel like my sentiments are exactly the same.  I tend to read 52-55k pages per year, regardless the number of books, and this year was no different

The thing that interested me most was that my average rating moved up to 4.0 – either I’m getting soft in my old age 😂, read better books (maybe) , or was simply less critical this year.  Everyone else’s criticism wears on me.

I also have been going to journals and literary zines to find reviews and criticism, I just can’t with people on Goodreads who have nothing better to say than “oh this book wasn’t _____ enough, ONE STAR”

No thanks. That sentiment hasn’t changed from last year at all – stop telling me what to read and stop insinuating that people are X for reading Y book for Z reason, just stop

I lost track of my ARCs vs Backlist vs purchased reads, but think I read about 60%/40% new + gifted books vs backlist ones. Backlist Bingo helped a lot with that.

From the above screen shot, the Ransom books were a huge highlight this year. House of Dragons was a great standalone

In the Orbit of Sirens is one of the better indie books I read this year, the author featured on the Sunday Brunch Series as well. I was due for a Life of Pi reread and it did not disappoint on audio

I finally read (actually listened) to the first three Red Rising books. The audio, read by Tim Gerard Reynolds, was phenomenal and I can see that all the hype is real.

Shit escalates – Sevro

Dragon Mage was the longest book of my year, 986 pages, and also easily in my top 3 reads of the entire year

I also started the Wheel of Time series and managed to read the first three, plus 1/3 of The Shadow Rising. I’m not sure how much I really like the books, and the tv adaptation seems like a liberal media festival

Dreams of the Dying was another of my top three reads this year! Search that on my blog for review plus author interview! One of the first books that I have both mixed feelings and great love for

I also finally tried Janet Evanovich, fun reads, and Kendare Blake’s Three Dark Crowns series

Winterlight rounds out my top 3 books of the year.  Kristen Britain came back from two (IMO very weak books) and absolutely slayed Winterlight.

The Keeper of Night was one of the better YA books I read this year, as my other top three should be considered adult fantasy.

A Ritual of Flesh is an honorable mention for favorite books of the year.  Lee Conley also interviewed!

Lastly – I finally started reading some King books, and I think the Bill Hodges Trilogy was absolutely stellar.  Will Patton delivered an amazing narration.

I ended the year on a binge of the Lunar Chronicles series and have no regrets, Cinder is probably one of my top 5 favorite YA characters!


Well there you have it! I wish I had room and space to show all of the books (not all of the reads were shown) but I covered the highlights. That said, I read over 150 books and there are MANY more I would like to mention again – but reviews can mostly all be found on the blog here.

I think I was much more selective this year with arcs and book tours and it helped overall enjoyment.

My best advice for everyone in the coming year is to make sure you’re reading for YOU

Categories
Mysteries Suspense Thrillers

The Resting Place (ARC Review) by Camilla Sten

Thank you so much to Minotaur books for the free advanced copy, all opinions are my own!

I thought I was done with finishing books this year, but The Resting Place is such a quick, twisty thriller, that I started it at 8pm last night and finished this afternoon!  I read it in two sittings and have no regrets.

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: The Resting Place
  • Series: N/A
  • Author: Camilla Sten (tr. Alexandra Fleming)
  • Publisher & Release: Minotaur Books, 03/29/22
  • Pages: 336
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ for fans of twisty, cold weather, locked door type thrillers

Here’s the synopsis:

Deep rooted secrets.
A twisted family history.
And a house that will never let go.

Eleanor lives with prosopagnosia, the inability to recognize a familiar person’s face. It causes stress. Acute anxiety.

It can make you question what you think you know.

When Eleanor walked in on the scene of her capriciously cruel grandmother, Vivianne’s, murder, she came face to face with the killer―a maddening expression that means nothing to someone like her. With each passing day, the horror of having come so close to a murderer―and not knowing if they’d be back―overtakes both her dreams and her waking moments, thwarting her perception of reality.

Then a lawyer calls. Vivianne has left her a house―a looming estate tucked away in the Swedish woods. The place her grandfather died, suddenly. A place that has housed a chilling past for over fifty years.

Eleanor. Her steadfast boyfriend, Sebastian. Her reckless aunt, Veronika. The lawyer. All will go to this house of secrets, looking for answers. But as they get closer to uncovering the truth, they’ll wish they had never come to disturb what rests there.

I tend to really love thrillers by Swedish authors, they have the cold weather, creepy atmosphere, with intermittent violence thing down PAT! The synopsis reads a bit roughly to me but overall the book feels like a great translation.

This is a locked door thriller, taking place on the recently discovered family’s estate in the Swedish countryside. In the winter.  It has all the cliches like a creepy house, severe storm, power outage, cars not working … but there are also many parts that I didn’t see coming, including who the heck the antagonist was.

The book starts off by jumping around in time a lot, and it was almost off putting, except that it quickly splits into simply Eleanor in the present, and Anushka in the past.  I liked the dual storyline as it swaps between the thrilling events and unravelling mystery in the estate, and the past, where the old secrets slowly unwind.

Eleanor isn’t a particularly likeable character, but I liked the theme of standing up for yourself and overcoming trauma.  I was rooting for her to come out safely either way.  I really didn’t like Sebastien at all, it seemed like he should have been the rational one and kept his head, but it served to show Eleanor’s strength that she ended up holding everyone together.  That characterization did a lot for the story.  The aunt had a bit of an arc, mostly showing another coping mechanism and how trauma affects people differently.

Eventually all the secrets come out. It’s a bit of a sad story, about mental health and wealth and doing whatever it takes to maintain a certain image.  I had parts figured out or guessed before they happened, but the ultimate shocker had me stumped yet again.

Lastly: in typical Swedish fashion, there is a bit of gore and death and violence, but not very much really.  There are a few graphic descriptions of bodily injuries that added to the chilly overall atmosphere.

I’m not saying the book is perfect, but anything I read in two sittings gets 5 stars from me, I hope other thriller fans enjoy it equally!

Categories
audiobooks Paranormal Suspense Thrillers

End of Watch (book & audio thoughts) by Stephen King

I know there’s not much that I can add to the King review canon, but here are my thoughts on End of Watch! I fully recommend this series and book to anyone looking for unlikely heroes, great character arcs, and low-key creepy vibes that increase in this final book.

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: End of Watch
  • Series: Bill Hodges Trilogy, #3
  • Author: Stephen King
  • Publisher & Release: Scribner, June 2016
  • Pages: 448
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ yess for thriller and mystery, paranormal fans

Here’s the synopsis:

The spectacular finale to the New York Times best-selling trilogy that began with Mr. Mercedes (winner of the Edgar Award) and Finders Keepers

2017 Audie Award Finalist for Fiction and Best Male Narrator

In End of Watch, the diabolical “Mercedes Killer” drives his enemies to suicide, and if Bill Hodges and Holly Gibney don’t figure out a way to stop him, they’ll be victims themselves.

In Room 217 of the Lakes Region Traumatic Brain Injury Clinic, something has awakened. Something evil. Brady Hartsfield, perpetrator of the Mercedes Massacre, where eight people were killed and many more were badly injured, has been in the clinic for five years, in a vegetative state. According to his doctors, anything approaching a complete recovery is unlikely. But behind the drool and stare, Brady is awake and in possession of deadly new powers that allow him to wreak unimaginable havoc without ever leaving his hospital room.

Retired police detective Bill Hodges, the unlikely hero of Mr. Mercedes and Finders Keepers, now runs an investigation agency with his partner, Holly Gibney – the woman who delivered the blow to Hartsfield’s head that put him in the brain injury ward. When Bill and Holly are called to a suicide scene with ties to the Mercedes Massacre, they find themselves pulled into their most dangerous case yet, one that will put their lives at risk as well as those of Bill’s heroic young friend, Jerome Robinson, and his teenage sister, Barbara. Brady Hartsfield is back and planning revenge not just on Hodges and his friends but on an entire city.

In End of Watch, Stephen King brings the Hodges trilogy to a sublimely terrifying conclusion, combining the detective fiction of Mr. Mercedes and Finders Keepers with the heart-pounding supernatural suspense that has been his best-selling trademark. The result is an unnerving look at human vulnerability and chilling suspense. No one does it better than King.

This is a really satisfying end to the trilogy.  It can stand on it’s own but I highly recommend reading them all, and in order, or the audio books are absolutely phenomenal as well (but you all know I just LOVE Will Patton).

Brady Hartsfield is back, and King finally found a way to weave the supernatural / paranormal into this one.  He does so in an utterly creepy way too, with Brady developing telekinesis due to experimental drugs and using it to orchestrate mayhem and suicide through handheld game consuls.  Brady really isn’t as smart as he thinks he is though, some of his mishaps had me laughing.

The title tells the reader what’s coming at the end, and it’s revealed pretty early on. That storyline is definitely sad as hell but it also lets Holly and Jerome shine on a new level.  One of my favorite aspects of the trilogy has been these unlikely heroes with their unlikely friendship, and Bill Hodges being the elderly, unlikely hero that holds them together.  All three had the chance to shine in this King left us no doubt that Holly’s gonna be ok.

Exciting, tense, sad, hopeful, fast paced – are all good describing words for this one.  I liked the pacing and how it kept connecting back to prior books.  King wrote a lovely authors note at the end about suicide prevention too that would lift anyone’s spirits after the ending.  I have also enjoyed the picnic scenes at the end of each book and was glad that End of Watch included one as well.  It gave the characters some final emotional closure

What I really want is a Holly and Pete spinoff book or series – I know that If It Bleeds is at least a short story but I hope he writes more.

Here are a handful of my favorite quotes: 

Things can get better, and if you give them a chance, they usually do.

One foot in the grave, the other on a banana peel

It’s about how some people carelessly squander what others would sell their souls to have: a healthy, pain-free body. And why? Because they’re too blind, too emotionally scarred, or too self-involved to see past the earth’s dark curve to the next sunrise. Which always comes, if one continues to draw breath

And the funniest one …. “Darker than a woodchuck’s asshole”

I definitely highly recommend this series on both book or audio format if you are looking for a great detective, suspense, thriller series.  Will Patton, as always, adds something special to the narration and will creep you out even harder singing the fishing hole song!

Categories
Fantasy Romance Young Adult

A Far Wilder Magic (ARC Review) by Allison Saft

Thank you so much Wednesday Books for the free early digital read of A Far Wilder Magic by Allison Saft!  All opinions are my own!

This is a solid and enjoyable follow up to Down Comes the Night, Saft’s debut, although I found pretty similar issues in the two books. It makes me think that *breaking the action for yet MORE fairly repetitive inner monologue* is simply the author’s writing style and while I have thoroughly enjoyed both of her books, I don’t love being thrown out of the action as such. I also have a few content issues to be discussed below – although don’t worry, I’ll also mention all the good parts!

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: A Far Wilder Magic
  • Series: N/A
  • Author: Allison Saft
  • Publisher & Release: Wednesday Books, 03/08/22
  • Pages: 384
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐✨ yes for fans of slow burning, romantic books with low fantasy elements

Here is the synopsis:

A romantic YA fantasy perfect for fans of Erin A. Craig and Margaret Rogerson, about two people who find themselves competing for glory – and each other’s hearts – in a magical fox hunt.

When Margaret Welty spots the legendary hala, the last living mythical creature, she knows the Halfmoon Hunt will soon follow. Whoever is able to kill the hala will earn fame and riches, and unlock an ancient magical secret. While Margaret is the best sharpshooter in town, only teams of two can register, and she needs an alchemist.

Weston Winters isn’t an alchemist―yet. He’s been fired from every apprenticeship he’s landed, and his last chance hinges on Master Welty taking him in. But when Wes arrives at Welty Manor, he finds only Margaret. She begrudgingly allows him to stay, but on one condition: he must join the hunt with her.

Although they make an unlikely team, they soon find themselves drawn to each other. As the hunt looms closer and tensions rise, Margaret and Wes uncover dark magic that could be the key to winning the hunt―if they survive that long.

In A Far Wilder Magic, Allison Saft has written an achingly tender love story set against a deadly hunt in an atmospheric, rich fantasy world that will sweep you away.

A Far Wilder Magic is a solid, atmospheric story, set in a world with an interesting mix of modern and old fashioned elements. There is mystery, alchemy and magic, sexual tension out the wazoo, and a deadly fox hunt.

The time period confused me a bit, it wasn’t steampunk but the rich had cars.  There was alchemy but also electricity.  Guns were the weapon of choice, and there were tenements and factories in the cities.  One age of immigration and innovation maybe, where old and new tended to mix was what I pictured, in s place like Dublin.  It was clear that the racial and religious lines drawn were Catholic, vs Irish and Jewish (I’m 99% sure), although they had other names and different religious objectives

There was not a ton of actual magic, although the Hala causing destruction and mayhem was interesting.  I liked that the Hala didn’t shy away from people.  The other magic involved the alchemy, but more as a natural talent that could be honed through study.  An alchemist and sharpshooter had to enter the hunt together – and I again think she could have done more with the magic, but I liked what was there.

The characters are sweet and I liked them.  Wes was my favorite because he stood up to the bullies and found it within himself to become a great alchemists, despite his multiple failures and implied dyslexia.  He hid all his vulnerability behind a wall of good looks, and I liked his character arc.

Margaret took a bit longer to crack, and I questioned quite a few of her choices like to let a strange teenage boy live in the manor, despite how much she needed help.  Margaret also crumbled or stood down in the face of religious and racial bullying, where Wes stood up and was more fed up with taking it.  Both are fierce characters in their own way, and I guess when you put the opposite sides of a coin together … You get a coin.

The book had good themes like overcoming prejudice, standing up to bullies, as well as believing in yourself, trusting others, not giving up, found family, and living your own life vs. staying in a parent’s expectations or shadow.

**I really liked the book, I just wish that the author wouldn’t interrupt action scenes for two pages of inner monologue that we know already. Let the action end first or it’s a very jarring shift in momentum**.

She did it at one crucial point where an animal was injured – you’re telling me the characters paused assisting the animal to sit and debate monologue for so long? Or at the end of the fox hunt she broke a critical scene for … more monologue.  I will be honest that it took some skimming to get through those more repetitive parts.  I would have liked to see more from the fox hunt itself too.

There was quite a bit of action though, from sabotage to run ins with the Hala and training for the hunt.  There was also a snarky horse, which I can always appreciate!

Content wise: again this is young adult, and I will die on the hill that characters don’t need to go from first kiss to no clothes in one scene, ever. It’s not what I would want my kids reading.  Also PLEASE stop this trend of characters shacking up before the big end scene, it’s neither necessary nor something that all teens want to read in every fantasy.  There is some other content regarding touching oneself, a teen girl reading smut, condoms (I imagined the book takes place in the time when only the rich had cars, and modern technology was newer).  I already touched on the religious and racial bullying, which is a good theme to confront and seems well handled, and a bit of gore. Amazon says age 14-18 but I would STRONGLY say 16+ for parents, regarding sexual content.

All in all, again, I truly mostly enjoyed this one. It’s a good book for fans of atmospheric, slow burn romances with low fantasy elements.  I would recommend for 16+ and new adult readers