Categories
Adventure Dystopian Fantasy

Flame Riders (ARC) by Sean Grigsby

Thank you so much to Angry Robot for the early digital copy of Flame Riders by Sean Grigsby! This is a fast paced military fantasy, that is book 3 in a series but can be read as a standalone.  All opinions are my own!

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: Flame Riders
  • Series: Smoke Eaters, #3 
  • Author: Sean Grigsby
  • Publisher & Release: Angry Robot, 06/22/21
  • Length: 320 pgs
  • Rate & Recommend: 🌟🌟🌟 for fans of military fantasy and action stories

Here is the synopsis from GoodReads:

The third and final instalment in Sean’s rip-roaring ‘firefighters meet dragons’ fantasy series

In the final instalment of the Smoke Eaters series, the New United States Army has taken over and America has devolved into a full-on dragon apocalypse. Smoke eaters are banned and have gone into hiding to avoid being held prisoner by the soldiers.

Guiellermo Contreras is a private in the NUSA, and when he’s accused of potentially being a smoke eater upon pain of death, he escapes and sets out to find the heroes who disappeared years before. But what he discovers is that the NUSA has been working on something unthinkable, and it’s going to take more than a few smoke eaters to stop them.

First off I just want to say that I may increase my initial rating once I’ve read the first two books!

Additionally the cover art is absolutely stunning for all three books.

This is a fast paced novel that occurs after some kind of apocalypse brought on by dragons, and apparently a Phoenix had something to do with it as well.

There is a ton of action and many fun fighting scenes where sci-fi and fantasy cross paths for hi tech battles of smoke eaters vs dragons.  I would have liked more info on the experiments being done and technology used by the two forces.

I liked the team of characters and banter quite a bit. Brannigan and Happy were my two favorites, although I couldn’t really get behind Guillermo (the main character). He had a good start and end but lost me in the middle after he kept freezing up and putting his teammates in danger. Brannigan was absolutely hilarious and I kind of definitely want to go back and read his book.

One thing that Grigsby did well was create a lingo and sense of team for the smoke eaters, using terms like “scaly” to refer to a dragon and there is a definite sense of cohesion within the crew.

There was some pretty coarse language as well but not too much more than I’d expect in a military based book.

My main thing was that while the book definitely could work as a standalone, there is no background to know why there are dragons everywhere, how they got there, or who the heck all the returning characters are.  I would definitely recommend for anyone looking for a hi tech fantastical military adventure, but would probably recommend reading the trilogy to meet the full cast of  heroes first.

tforces.thank you again to Angry Robot for the early read!!

Categories
Contemporary Fiction General Fiction Literary Fiction Suspense

ARC Review: The Plot by Jean Hanff Korelitz (and a word on bullying)

Thank you so much to Celadon Books for the ARC of The Plot in exchange for an honest review! I participated in the Little Free Library drive and then requested on #NetGalley so I could finish reading! Here is my review, a little meet the author blurb at the bottom, and then my Real Talk on author bullying!

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: The Plot
  • Series: N/A
  • Author: Jean Hanff Korelitz
  • Publisher & Release: Celadon Books, May 11th 2021
  • Length: 336 pgs
  • Rate & Recommend: 🌟🌟🌟🌟 sure for fans of suspense, fiction, publishing!

Here is the synopsis from Amazon:

Hailed as “breathtakingly suspenseful,” Jean Hanff Korelitz’s The Plot is a propulsive read about a story too good not to steal, and the writer who steals it.

Jacob Finch Bonner was once a promising young novelist with a respectably published first book. Today, he’s teaching in a third-rate MFA program and struggling to maintain what’s left of his self-respect; he hasn’t written―let alone published―anything decent in years. When Evan Parker, his most arrogant student, announces he doesn’t need Jake’s help because the plot of his book in progress is a sure thing, Jake is prepared to dismiss the boast as typical amateur narcissism. But then . . . he hears the plot.

Jake returns to the downward trajectory of his own career and braces himself for the supernova publication of Evan Parker’s first novel: but it never comes. When he discovers that his former student has died, presumably without ever completing his book, Jake does what any self-respecting writer would do with a story like that―a story that absolutely needs to be told.

In a few short years, all of Evan Parker’s predictions have come true, but Jake is the author enjoying the wave. He is wealthy, famous, praised and read all over the world. But at the height of his glorious new life, an e-mail arrives, the first salvo in a terrifying, anonymous campaign: You are a thief, it says.

As Jake struggles to understand his antagonist and hide the truth from his readers and his publishers, he begins to learn more about his late student, and what he discovers both amazes and terrifies him. Who was Evan Parker, and how did he get the idea for his “sure thing” of a novel? What is the real story behind the plot, and who stole it from whom?

My Thoughts:

This is a slow burning story that starts out detailing Jacob Finch Bonner’s sad writing career, and his cynicism towards it. I think his ranting about student writers was hilarious and probably pretty accurate, I can’t even imagine.  Jake is a great character, a bit of a troll himself but he felt so real to me.

One cool thing I will say first is that as a Plattsburgh native who spent some time in the Cooperstown/Oneonta/Cobleskill area, I freaking love the setting in these towns 😂 Why Yes, I *have* been to the Price Chopper in that town, thank you!

As we start learning about “The Plot”, the mystery develops when Jacob loosely steals an idea from a now deceased former student. The book then took on a bit of a tribute aspect to the greatest plot ever written (cue Tenacious D music) *THIS IS JUST A TRIBUTE* heh heh.

But…then… An internet troll attacks Jacob. It seems pretty benign at first then gets more serious. Thus begins my favorite aspect of The Plot which is a mocking but also kind of true conversation about the publishing industry, reviewer culture, and people trolling authors. The damage it can do (even though it really shouldn’t), and how Jacob and the legal team handle the issue. I dropped the book and clapped when his publicist was ranting about GoodReads trolls and author morale, because someone finally said it.  What is the industry coming to??

Seriously though, who could possibly be this upset about the book? Who has access to Jacob’s house to leave threatening letters? What … Really … Happened… In the “fictional” plot? Read to find out, it’s a slow burn but I promise it’s worth it as Jacob starts tracking down the truth


Meet the Author: (from Amazon)

Jean Hanff Korelitz is the author of the novels YOU SHOULD HAVE KNOWN (adapted for HBO as “The Undoing” by David E. Kelley, and starring Nicole Kidman, Hugh Grant and Donald Sutherland), ADMISSION (adapted as the 2013 film starring Tina Fey), THE DEVIL AND WEBSTER, THE WHITE ROSE, THE SABBATHDAY RIVER and A JURY OF HER PEERS. A new novel, THE PLOT, will be published on May 11th 2021. Her company BOOKTHEWRITER hosts “Pop-Up Book Groups” in NYC, where small groups of readers can discuss new books with their authors. http://www.bookthewriter.com


I also wanted to just touch on GoodReads trolling and the bullying of authors.  This is fully and solely my opinion and does not reflect that of the author or publisher in any way.

I think the main thing I want to say here is that Korelitz is pretty timely in satirizing this issue. It is out of hand.  Jacob (in the book) did the right thing at first by “not feeding the trolls”, not engaging, and hoping the troll would peter itself out – then the publisher’s legal team got involved.  Honestly I encourage authors going through these things to first  consider letting it go away on it,s own without feeding the fuel, and if it doesn’t, consider  seeking cease and desist letters from a lawyer against people slandering and bullying on social media. I also encourage reviewers to … Well.. Just stop this mob behavior and state your opinion, then let others form their own.  What happened to literary criticism?  Everyone is entitled to an opinion but that doesn’t entitle anyone to bully or attack.  I also would go a step further and put out there that publicists, publishers, merch companies, and other businesses should stop working with these bullies and stop seeking them as reviewers, and we can all try to bring the book world back to an appropriate level of civility and conversation. 

That’s my Real Talk for the night, what do you think??

Categories
audiobooks Crime Thrillers

Book Review and Musings: The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson

This week I read another backlist TBR book!  I read The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo back in college but really didn’t remember it.  What I can remember is talking about the book with my dad and being in complete disbelief that two people can read a book so differently!

So that’s my muse of the day: how do people read books differently, notice different things, focus on totally opposite aspects?

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo
  • Series: Millennium, #1
  • Author: Stieg Larsson (trans- Reg Keeland
  • Publisher & Release: Vintage Crime/Black Lizard, September 2008
  • Length: 465 pg
  • Rate & recommend: 🌟🌟🌟🌟 yes but maybe on audio if the Swedish pronunciations throw you off!

Here is the synopsis:

Murder mystery, family saga, love story, and financial intrigue combine into one satisfyingly complex and entertainingly atmospheric novel, the first in Stieg Larsson’s thrilling Millenium series featuring Lisbeth Salander.

Harriet Vanger, a scion of one of Sweden’s wealthiest families disappeared over forty years ago. All these years later, her aged uncle continues to seek the truth. He hires Mikael Blomkvist, a crusading journalist recently trapped by a libel conviction, to investigate. He is aided by the pierced and tattooed punk prodigy Lisbeth Salander. Together they tap into a vein of unfathomable iniquity and astonishing corruption.

What a book and mystery!! I liked the format of having two separate storylines, one for Blomkvist and one for Salander – each storyline was vaguely connected, while not necessarily related. Salander’s storyline established her history, personality, and potential, while the other introduced the magazine, plot, characters. Once the storylines merged the book never slowed down!

As a younger person I was so interested in the action and kick-assery, that I couldn’t believe my dad read it and was focusing more on the characters. Throughout the years for some reason Salander was a favorite character study of his, and I can appreciate that a little more now.

After Salander wrapped up her…troubles …for the time being, she was able to progress as a person emotionally as well as professionally and I think she had a great storyline. I don’t think Blomkvist would have gotten the mystery and link about hating women without her. He was the more static character but multifaceted too at least. Henrik also haha I loved that old shark.

Anyway – I think the Swedes have a certain distinct style of writing thrillers and mysteries that also incorporates a little more horror and grotesque than most other cultures. I read The Wolf and the Watchman maybe last year and the absolute horror story involved reminded me of the hatred and violence in this book. Men that hate women would have been a good title to keep😳. This book wasn’t just about a disappearing heiress – there was a corrupt sadist acting as a guardian of state Wards, biblical justifications for brutal torturing and murders in the past, a few romantic subplots, it was really a thriller once it got going. I wasn’t sure if the book wanted to be an investigative thriller or a psychological drama but it can be all of it, right?

Overall: I totally loved it, and I also was really glad for some reason that – now bear with me – anytime a Nazi pops up they are usually the criminal, but while the Nazi in this book was obviously a shithead – he wasn’t one of the main antagonists, more like some crazy old guy.

I had no freaking idea who the real criminal(s) were.

I also listened to a few chapters on audio and think Simon Vance is a great narrator. He took the guesswork out of the pronunciations and did fantastic voices.

My only gripe was literally the last paragraph of the book, why end it on a Misunderstanding? When that device wasn’t used throughout the rest of the book? I can’t wait to read the rest of these books!

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 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
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
General Posts, Non Reviews

At least 2020 was a good year in books!

The healthcare world might be in a state of total trainwreck, but I managed to have a pretty great reading year in 2020!  I managed to read 150 books at 54,834 pages!  Roughly four thousand more pages than in 2019, and I think I credit the difference to audiobooks while driving so much for work this summer.

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I have always been a reader but 2020 was my second full year of reviewing and blogging.  At first, reviewer trends almost turned me off to the entire business, but I managed to find a core of sane reviewers and bloggers to surround myself with that lead me in a better, more focused direction in 2020.  That very small, very loud group of kids that do nothing except scream about content from their high horses….? No thanks.

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I found my best ratings this year in adult fantasy books, plus some older YA ones.  Newer YA, with the exception of The Silvered Serpents, and I had a huge falling out this year due to writing and publishing trends.  I feel like quality is out the window in exchange for repetitiveness, sexual expression, and political agenda, which I will die on the hill saying doesn’t belong in YA.  

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As far as certain books – I definitely (despite my YA falling out) enjoyed at least half of The Raven Boys books, but Will Patton as the audio narrator had a huge impact on that.  Will Patton literally changed books for me this year because he is such an amazing narrator.  I reread the Harry Potter books with my BF which was pretty special and highly enjoyable.  I also listened to The Golden Compass books again and really, really enjoyed the full cast audio’s phenomenal performance.  

Some other highlights were Jeff Wheeler’s conclusion to The Grave Kingdom series (Christian fantasy), Tears of Alphega by WN Cleckler, and Dragon Blood by Mary Beesley of the same genre.  Other great fantasies this year were Tuyo by Rachel Neidermayer and Ritual of Bone by Lee Conley. One of my last reads of the year, Open Heart by Gregory D Williams was probably my non-fantasy favorite of the year.Screenshot_20201231-133315

Reading some older thrillers was also a thrill – I started rereading my all time favorite Prey series by John Sandford, some early James Patterson, Narnia, and of all things reading the Star Trek: TNG books from the beginning.

The Love Your Shelf Challenge was a huge help in reading older books.  So was the Bookish First monthly Bingo, certain buddy reads, and my stubborn resistance to people trying to tell me what new books to read.

In 2020 I learned that the more that people scream at me to read certain content, the absolute less likely I am to read it.  Just stop, we all have preferences. 

It was also great to have the new blog designed and brought to life!  My own spooktober holiday bingo was a huge success.  Other great fun things were some buddy reads and group reads!

It is hard to talk about 2020 without mentioning my home library finally coming to fruition after four years of dreaming!

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Oh 2021, what will you bring? I signed on with a couple of amazing book tour companies and work with some amazing publishers that have my January fairly well booked, but then I want to go back and read my anticipated release books that I meant to read in 2020 😭

Chiefly those are: Igniting Darkness by Robin Lafevers, and Call of the Bone ships by RJ Barker. I have still yet to read Darkdawn, and need to finish up The Conqueror Saga finally. Maybe February will be my Valentine month with these books ❤

All the best and all the power if you are still reading this post, did you meet your 2020 reading goals!!?

🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟