Categories
Fiction Suspense Thrillers

ARC Review: The Wife Stalker by Liv Constantine

Thank you so much to Harper Books and GoodReads for the giveaway win of The Wife Stalker by Liv Constantine!

Here is the description from GoodReads:

Breezing into the tony seaside paradise of Westport, Connecticut, gorgeous thirtysomething Piper Reynard sets down roots, opening a rehab and wellness space and joining a local yacht club. When she meets Leo Drakos, a handsome, successful lawyer, the wedding ring on his finger is the only thing she doesn’t like about him. Yet as Piper well knows, no marriage is permanent.

Meanwhile, Joanna has been waiting patiently for Leo, the charismatic man she fell in love with all those years ago, to re-emerge from the severe depression that has engulfed him. Though she’s thankful when Leo returns to his charming, energetic self, paying attention again to Evie and Stelli, the children they both love beyond measure, Joanna is shocked to discover that it’s not her loving support that’s sparked his renewed happiness—it’s something else.

Piper. Leo has fallen head over heels for the flaky, New Age-y newcomer, and unrepentant and resolute, he’s more than willing to leave Joanna behind, along with everything they’ve built. Of course, he assures her, she can still see the children.

Joanna is devastated—and determined to find something, anything, to use against this woman who has stolen her life and her true love. As she digs deeper into Piper’s past, Joanna begins to unearth disturbing secrets . . . but when she confides to her therapist that she fears for the lives of her ex-husband and children, her concerns are dismissed as paranoia. Can she find the proof she needs in time to save them?

The Constantine sisters are back with another psychological thriller! Joanna is aggressively forced out of her family life by Leo’s new love interest, Piper, who has a shady if not murderous past. Joanna will do anything to protect her children from this monster, and the story unfolds.  I think the jacket description of the book is way too wordy, it would have thrown me off of the book if I wasn’t familiar with the author duo.  If it sounds flaky just give the book a chance anyway!

The characters are likeable enough.  I love big Greek families and it was fun to see Leo’s  interact a little bit.  Joanna seems like a dedicated enough parent, Piper seems crazy and entirely insensitive, and what is going on with Leo? He seems like a total ass with how he treats Joanna.  Leo’s kids are fun too, they seem realistic for their ages and I enjoyed reading Stelli’s antics.  Evie’s love for books and Nancy Drew is something I can all relate to!  Joanna carries the first person POV, which alternates with Piper’s chapters told in the third person.

Some parts of the book do feel like “too much” even after all the facts. There is no way someone would get a child abuse citation just for swatting a kid’s butt. People are so crazy (but that’s the point of the book)!  I found myself thinking back on the Joanna butt-swat  episode and I think it’s supposed to reflect back on Piper, who is the one supposedly hurting at least one of the kids.  The whole thing feels extremely unfair to Joanna.

This entire book lives for the twist. I was a little dumbfounded and confused until it hit me that … no spoilers but let me just scream UNRELIABLE NARRATORS at you!! They are my favorite psychological thriller trope and the last couple chapters, especially the last sentence of the book, had me shell shocked!

I read the entire book in two days then went back and re-read some parts to see if I missed any obvious clues.  The twist & reveal were sudden but well done, and the answers aren’t necessarily given so I got to make my own conclusions at the end.  I kept looking for redeeming characteristics for certain characters and really just…well… the character changes at the end were just too little too late for me. I’d love to discuss my conclusions with anyone that’s read it.  I appreciate the open ending though and wish those children the best!

There isn’t much to have a OneReadingNurse Medical Rant about.  The only bit that shocked me was… so the father is going to freak out over a slight fever (not really a fever) but not be concerned when everyone says Stelli looks pale?  When he’s constantly complaining of stomach aches?  Wouldn’t Leo start suspecting something?  It could have been a false lead in the book (I honestly don’t know) but I imagine Stelli’s complaints would have been taken more seriously especially since Leo knew Piper had started dosing him with something “natural,” and Leo said multiple times that the kid was a trouper and only complained when things got really bad.

Anyway anyway, I enjoyed the book quite a bit.  The Wife Stalker reads quickly and I think it is a great summertime novel for anyone who enjoys psychological thrillers.

Thank you again to Harper Books for the giveaway ARC in exchange for an honest review! All opinions are my own.

Categories
Fantasy Young Adult

ARC Review: Of Silver and Shadow by Jennifer Gruenke

Thank you so much to North Star Editions: Flux for the digital ARC via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review! All opinions are my own!

Quick Facts:

  • Title: Of Silver & Shadow
  • Series: …i think so
  • Author: Jennifer Gruenke
  • Publisher & Release; Flux Books, 2/16/21
  • Length: 480
  • Rate & Recommend: 🌟🌟🌟🌟 sure for fans of the genre!

Here is the description from GoodReads:

Ren Kolins is a silver wielder—a dangerous thing to be in the kingdom of Erdis, where magic has been outlawed for a century. Ren is just trying to survive, sticking to a life of petty thievery, card games, and pit fighting to get by. But when a wealthy rebel leader discovers her secret, he offers her a fortune to join his revolution. The caveat: she won’t see a single coin until they overthrow the King.

Behind the castle walls, a brutal group of warriors known as the King’s Children is engaged in a competition: the first to find the rebel leader will be made King’s Fang, the right hand of the King of Erdis. And Adley Farre is hunting down the rebels one by one, torturing her way to Ren and the rebel leader, and the coveted King’s Fang title.

But time is running out for all of them, including the youngest Prince of Erdis, who finds himself pulled into the rebellion. Political tensions have reached a boiling point, and Ren and the rebels must take the throne before war breaks out.

So yes!

The plot: Magic in the form of Silver has been outlawed in the country of Erdis for years.  The Kingdom’s bloody history includes a huge genocide of magic wielders and a systematic eradication of trade routes and immigration from areas where refugees fled.  The King is a murderous bastard, the crown prince is even worse, and the youngest prince is the snarky one that wants nothing to do with royalty.  He reminded me of Nikolai except he’s a pit lord, not a privateer.

The rebellion is seeking to overthrow the crown and has been planting seeds to do so since before Darek (this generation’s rebel  leader) and Ren were born.  The characters are pretty well described in the summary.  There is a lot of squabbling (or sexual tension) between a few of them, but the book has a lot of quite well done banter.  I just kept being reminded of Nikolai with the whole second prince syndrome.

The Magic: Silver is just an innate ability like fire wielding or any other mage ability.  It seems to be the only magical ability in the kingdom.  Silver can be used for anything from lockpicking to torture to making a giant silver animal appear – like an illusion with substance.  The king uses it to torture people while Ren picks locks and destroys things … I felt like we were deprived of a good mage fight.  I wanted to see silver vs silver in combat.  While it is a simple enough magic system, and a cool ability, it’s a bit underdeveloped.  Hopefully there will be more explanation in book two.

The world building: is really excellent in some places.  The descriptions of the city, buildings, river, mood, political structure, and tension in the city were real.  We even got to see the festival, some food, and see some music and entertainment.   The characters used English slang though, in high quantity.  It isn’t a bad thing but I forgot this was a YA book while reading. There actually isn’t a lot of magic since only the Royalty and Ren wield it now, and seeing as there wasn’t other magic described in the world…. This isn’t quite low fantasy but the fantastical aspect is limited to silver wielding.

Speaking of age appropriateness: the tortures used in the book aren’t for the fainthearted!  I enjoyed reading a book with some teeth, but kind of had it in my head that I was reading an adult fantasy.  I don’t know about the 13 to 17 age range, but older teens yeah I’m sure they see worse daily and adults can definitely enjoy it.  Flaying skin and muscle, blood and arrows stabbed and sliced in unconventional ways, courtesy of Adley and Lesa… Yikes but also yes, I love deadly women! As long as I’m talking about those two, they are a pair of women but the worst that they do is pine and kiss and pine some more.  Otherwise for romance, two characters hook up off page.  I kind of feel like if we get to read about Adley flaying off a guy’s skin, we could have read about Darek in bed … Ha ha but to each their own.

The pacing of the entire book was good, fast, and then the last maybe 100 pages were BREAKNECK!! I could not put it down!

All in all: I think older teens and young adults are a good audience for the book.  I actually enjoyed it as an adult. The most eye-rolling thing that happened was how often the two coupled pairs eyed each other before getting it over with, but some scenes definitely require a slightly more mature audience.

The Book is finally set to release 2/16/21!!

Categories
Paranormal Young Adult

ARC Review: Chain of Gold by Cassandra Clare

Thank you so much to Bookish First and Margaret K. McElderry Books for the ARC of Chain of Gold by Cassandra Clare! The book was won in a bookish raffle and given for free in exchange for an honest review.

Guys I apologize because this is one of my rare “more-rambly-and-less-literary” reviews. It is good to be back in the Shadowhunter world, especially Will & Tessa’s time.  The Infernal Devices is by far my favorite of Clare’s trilogies, so I was thrilled when I heard the next generation of Herondales and Lightwoods (and Carstairs and Blackthorns) were getting a series.

The Description from Goodreads:

“Welcome to Edwardian London, a time of electric lights and long shadows, the celebration of artistic beauty and the wild pursuit of pleasure, with demons waiting in the dark. For years there has been peace in the Shadowhunter world. James and Lucie Herondale, children of the famous Will and Tessa, have grown up in an idyll with their loving friends and family, listening to stories of good defeating evil and love conquering all. But everything changes when the Blackthorn and Carstairs families come to London…and so does a remorseless and inescapable plague.

James Herondale longs for a great love, and thinks he has found it in the beautiful, mysterious Grace Blackthorn. Cordelia Carstairs is desperate to become a hero, save her family from ruin, and keep her secret love for James hidden. When disaster strikes the Shadowhunters, James, Cordelia and their friends are plunged into a wild adventure which will reveal dark and incredible powers, and the true cruel price of being a hero…and falling in love”

Let me come up front with my biggest gripe about the book:  The first 150 pages held very little action at all.  Clare used the space to introduce the entire next generation – a TON of characters – their friendships, lives, and surface connections to each other.  We got to see what Will and Tessa and Charlotte and Sophie and Gideon and Cecily and Gabriel and their entire HOST of offspring have built in the peace following the clockwork war.  I was also happy to hear that Henry’s injuries didn’t affect his babymaking abilities. It took me most of the book to have the characters straight. I drew one but it would have been cool if she had included a family tree up front.

Anyway, once the action got going I really enjoyed the book.  The typical  Clare themes of strong young women, magical weapons, self discovery, friends with secrets, and a tangled web of romances present themselves per usual. It was different to have everyone on the same  page as a shadowhunter already, as in prior books someone is always having to discover their true identity and abilities.  There is a healthy amount of this in the Herondale children though, I mean, What kind of abilities would TESSA GRAY’s children have? My favorite part was finding out. James and his shadow travels and Lucie with her affinity for ghosts were both awesome story lines.   Cordelia with her Cortana are obviously going to be great heroes and I love her as well.  There is a full cast of other characters including Sophie and Cecily’s kids, Charlotte and Henry had a few too, and crazy old Tatiana Lightwood is even a main character with her stuffed bird hats and general lunacy. I won’t share ARC quotes but believe me, the banter continues to be most excellent.

As for the bad guy – the villain – First we had Valentine, then The Magister, and now… wow.  I can’t really go too much into the villains here without spoilers but there is a manticore demon and plenty of adversarial magic for the young friends to ward off.  Learning more about warlock magic and demons was cool, it was explored more in this book than in prior series.  I really enjoyed the build up to the reveal of the villain (and the world building) in this novel, Clare took her time but it worked.  The villain is definitely worthy of the series, and that’s all I’ll say on the matter.

Speaking of the ghosts, how about Jesse and Jessamine!  How about the warlocks? I was so excited to have Magnus Bane gone before he showed up. I am ready for a new warlock.  If nothing else, Clare does like to recycle her characters a bit.  I think she honestly needs to quit this universe after this trilogy, there are just so many repeating themes and fan fiction with those short stories now!

Yes yes yes, I am talking about Chain of Gold, not Clare’s formula.  I want to divert one more time and say that YES, these books are paranormal…romance.  Girls like boys, boys like girls, boys like boys, boys like both, and someone is a crossdresser.  None of these things are too heavy but be aware that it’s there in greater quantities than in previous books if those things bother you, although if you’re still around after Malec I’m assuming they don’t. The worst than anyone does is kiss anyway, with mentioned themes of seduction and spending the night.

I guess the most important question a lot of you will ask is: Can I read this book first?  If you have never read a shadowhunters novel, (I personally HATE The Mortal Instruments) and would start with The Infernal Devices, then back track to TMI, then you’re home free with either this series or the one with the LA shadowhunters.   You literally can’t read Chain of Gold first without a shit TON of spoilers that will ruin your reading of The Infernal Devices.  Clare’s writing is getting better as she goes though, I’ll give her that.

Thank you again to Bookish first and the publisher, All opinions are my own!

Categories
Horror Paranormal

ARC Review: The Return by Rachel Harrison

Thank you so much to Berkley Publishing for the ARC of The Return in exchange for an honest review! All opinions are my own.

I have honestly never read a horror novel before in my life, because I am a huge scaredy cat.  I didn’t even realize it was a scary book until one creepy thing happened…and then another … and then I looked up the book on GoodReads and said OH, wow, ok.  I turned all the lights in the house on and kept reading.

Here is the description from Amazon.com:

Julie is missing, and no one believes she will ever return—except Elise. Elise knows Julie better than anyone, and feels it in her bones that her best friend is out there and that one day Julie will come back. She’s right. Two years to the day that Julie went missing, she reappears with no memory of where she’s been or what happened to her.

Along with Molly and Mae, their two close friends from college, the women decide to reunite at a remote inn. But the second Elise sees Julie, she knows something is wrong—she’s emaciated, with sallow skin and odd appetites. And as the weekend unfurls, it becomes impossible to deny that the Julie who vanished two years ago is not the same Julie who came back. But then who—or what—is she?

The plot itself is an excellent idea: What happened to Julie? Is this weekend getaway going to turn into the house of horrors? In short: yes. The remaining three friends each  mourn Julie in their own way and are shocked when she comes back.  The women plan a getaway to an eccentric hotel in the Catskills, and from there start to unravel the mystery of what happened to Julie.

“Sallow skin and odd appetites” seems like a very nice way of describing Julie, per the back cover.  She looks like a corpse, her teeth are rotten, and the women become immediately concerned.  At the start of the book I found it hard to keep them apart in my mind – Molly and Mae and Elise, with Elise being the main character.  They all speak in very young sounding slang as well, using words such as ‘peace’ and ‘deuces’ and saying ‘love you’ at least 50 times.

I think too much time was spent with the women just gossiping behind Julie’s back about her.   I either was skimming gossip or feeling horrified after reading something with very little in between. There were a few long diversions from the main storyline that only contributed to the related character’s back story, but ultimately didn’t help the plot.  For example: one about Elise entering a married lover’s house helped show that she could be a little nuts, although it was pages long and  totally unrelated to the story in the hotel.

Speaking of length, I felt like 40 page long chapters couldn’t hold my attention very well for a novel that took place mainly over the course of a weekend.

I also feel like setting can be important in suspense and horror novels.  The hotel was definitely eccentric, isolated, and ran by an odd duck, but there was nothing inherently spooky or scary about the place. A lot of the horror portrayed was in Elise’s mind, at least until some real terror was brought into the place.   I think I would have been more scared by something inherently wrong with the hotel itself.

Finding out what happened to Julie does occur  at the end of the book. While reading I was definitely pretty observant of shadows and windows in my house (as I said, easily scared), but at the same time thought the climactic reveal at the end sounded a little corny.

I think I would recommend this as like an “intro to horror” novel.  It is perfect for people who want to be *a little* scared, although hardcore horror readers may not be as thrilled.  I would have no problem recommending the book to anyone curious though! The Return releases 3/24/20 and I once again want to thank Berkley for the book!!

Categories
Fantasy

ARC Review: Race the Sands

Thank you to Harper Collins Publishers – Harper Voyager for the eARC of Race the Sands by Sarah Beth Durst!  The book releases April 21st 2020 so add it to your TBR now if you are interested!

Here is a portion of the description from Goodreads:

In this epic standalone fantasy, the acclaimed author of the Queens of Renthia series introduces an imaginative new world in which a pair of strong and determined women risk their lives battling injustice, corruption, and deadly enemies in their quest to become monster racing champions.

Life, death, and rebirth — in Becar, everyone knows that who you are in this life will determine what you are in your next life. The augurs can read your fate in your aura: hawk, heron, tortoise, jackal, human. Armed with that knowledge, you can change your destiny with the choices you make, both in this life and your next. But for the darkest individuals, there is no redemption: you come back as a kehok, a monster, and you will always be a kehok for the rest of time.

Unless you can win the Races.

As a professional trainer, Tamra was an elite kehok rider. Then a tragic accident on the track shattered her confidence, damaged her career, and left her nearly broke. Now Tamra needs the prize money to prevent the local temple from taking her daughter away from her, and that means she must once again find a winning kehok . . . and a rider willing to trust her.

Raia is desperate to get away from her domineering family and cruel fiancé. As a kehok rider, she could earn enough to buy her freedom. But she can’t become good enough to compete without a first-rate trainer.

Impressed by the inexperienced young woman’s determination, Tamra hires Raia and pairs her with a strange new kehok with the potential to win — if he can be tamed.”

I feel like the description gives away a LOT of the plot.  We are following Trainer Tamra Verlas, who used to be a champion kehok racer and now is looking for a rider to be the next champion.  Tamra needs funds to pay for her daughter’s augur training and is working on a budget.  She meets Raia, a runaway, and together they have to train a very deadly, strangely intelligent kehok.

Does it sound a bit like The Scorpio Races? Yes, to the point where I almost put it down – but I encourage you to keep reading if you feel like DNFing at first.  The first few chapters as well as the rest of the book read very “young” to me in the writing style, but the political intrigue and maneuvering part of the plot take over after the races start and I really did enjoy the book overall.

I would have liked to see more of Raia training the kehok at first – it happened so quickly where she went from a total novice to being ready to race.  Not that they didn’t have enough hurdles to overcome as it was but the racing ended up not being the main storyline of the book at all, which is where it differed from TSR and other similar books.

I liked the main character cast but they all had very similar voices.  Raia can sound like a teenager because, well, she is one, and so can Dar, the emperor to be, but Tamra sounded like a kid and she had to be in her 30s at least.  Lady Evara and Yorbel sounded a bit alike too and they ended up being amazing ancillary characters.

As far as the world building, SBD did an amazing job for a standalone novel.  It is hard to build a world in one book and she described the architecture, art, food, religion, and social structure of Peron and the Heart of Becar in such a way that I felt like I knew not only the setting but the mood of the city.  I would have liked to know more about the strict divisions between rich and poor though; it seems like in a reincarnation based society that anyone reborn as a human would be considered…. honorable? So why go as far as to keep the poor out of sight?

The religion was one of the most interesting parts of the plot.  In order to crown a new emperor, the soul of the old emperor had to be found….and the augurs couldn’t find him!  I enjoyed the bits about reading souls and auras, worrying about what animal they would be reborn as, and the mental image of augurs canvassing every single ant hill looking for the emperor’s soul!  The downside of this is…. I called the major plot twist the second it was mentioned.

Also like I said, I found the races to be anticlimactic, even the championship race. This was a huge bummer for me but I understand that the races became a vessel for the rest of the book’s plot in the second part of the book.  It was a quick read and became impossible to put down in the last 150 pages or so.

I never feel like I do a good job describing books but if you are into strong female characters, monsters, racing, political intrigue and plotting, definitely pick up this book. I feel like it’s marketed for adults as Tamra is older, but this is definitely appropriate for young adult readers.   I went 4/5 stars just because of the lack of variation in character voices, but really the action and intrigue packed into this book is pretty impressive.  Thank you again for the eARC, all opinions are my own!