Categories
Fantasy

ARC Review: The Obsidian Tower by Melissa Caruso

  • Title: The Obsidian Tower
  • Series: Rooks and Ruin #1
  • Author: Melissa Caruso
  • Publisher & Release: Orbit Books, June 4th 2020
  • Length: 448 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ yes

Thank you so much to Orbit Books via NetGalley for my e ARC in exchange for an honest review! All opinions are my own!

Normally I would give the summary from Amazon here but I really don’t like the published summary. Here is my own that I wrote!

Mages rule all powerful in the land of Vaskandar.  The most powerful are the witch lords, exercising total control over their domains.  As the granddaughter of the witch lord of Morgrain, Ryx would normally be in a position of high power, esteem, and social standing.  The only problem is her magic is “broken”.  Born into a family of Vivomancers who restore life, Ryx’s magic only seems to drain life from, therefore killing, anything or anyone she touches.

As the warden of Gloamingard, Ryx is responsible for the safety of all within.  Her family has had one main responsibility throughout the generations: guarding the mysterious magical artifact within the Obsidian Tower at the center of the castle. All of the Gloaming Lore basically states to keep the door sealed.

Already at the brink of war with diplomatic tension ready to snap, it would be a total disaster if something pushed the neighboring nations over the edge. What happens if the gate is opened? Who are the spies in the castle? What happens when hell is unleashed? Ryx is about to find out. Can she find help in the most unlikely places?

I like my summary better than the published one😂

So to begin, it should be noted that these books take place in the same world as the author’s Swords and Fire trilogy, although one does not need to read that first.

I absolutely loved the world and world-building.  The witch lords all have vastly different domains and I think Gloamingard castle is exquisitely well done.  Each witch lord built a bit of castle into the mix, so the resulting architecture includes everything from a hall made of trees to an entry made of bones.  I could ramble about Caruso’s architectural descriptions forever but to summarize: it’s magical and everything I ever wanted from a fantasy world.  The political structure, mood, diplomatic relations, expectations, pertinent lore, and even the castle staff all fit into the story so perfectly that I give Caruso a solid A+ for world building.  She even tackles smell, texture, temperature, and weather as well as the vivid visual descriptions.

As far as the magic system, land magic is one of my favorite types. The trees and animals and castle and land itself all respond to the witch lord’s magic and the cohesion (or discord) is felt throughout the pages.  I like when a family’s magic is tied to their domain.  The magic is well thought out, explained, explored, and thoughtful explanations are provided for when magical aspects hitch or go wrong.

Part of the mystery of the Obsidian Tower is: What’s inside? What IS it even?  There is a neutral sect of magic specialists called the Rookery, who come in to help Ryx work through the disaster that fell upon the castle.  I never expected these guys to become the focus but the characters are funny, thoughtful, stabby, studious, and…assassin-y? Who ARE these people? I loved finding out, seriously they are an amazing found-family type of crew and accept Ryx for who she is.

Who IS Ryx? She is a great main character.  Smart, resourceful, careful not to touch anyone, and a little too trusting.  Unfortunately I spotted the main double-crosser/spy in the story from a mile away but it was cute to watch.  Ryx is trying to sooth diplomatic relations between neighboring countries and the entire Tower disaster sends the political intrigue and plotting through the ceiling, and everyone knows how I LOVE a good bit of intrigue.  I also loved the witch lord, the Lady of Owls – Ryx’s grandmother.  Caruso  describes the grandmotherly bond and trust so well throughout the book that I almost teared up at one point when Ryx was trying to describe her feelings.  There are also demon characters (!!!!!) and a snarky fox-cat-chimaera-magical familiar that reminded me of Mogget from the Old Kingdom series.  With no spoilers I also was thrilled to see a possible enemies to lovers bit developing.

One other note on some of the content: I do tend to avoid a lot of the “other” that most people love reading about, but I pushed through this one because the content is done pretty seamlessly and is well integrated, and not too heavy.  There is a bi character but all she does is think some women are cute before starting to form a bond with a male.  There is also a same sex couple but all they do is stroke each other’s hair and blush, and I think one of the pair was supposed to be A-sexual which is also I believe where the author identifies.  Additionally there is a “they” character which confuses the shit out of me because I always think it’s multiple people on the page.  I did like the character though, super funny and bluntly honest to the point of being the comedic relief during tense situations.  The point is that the content is there. I felt like a lot of boxes were being checked but as I said, it was done pretty seamlessly and not a big deal.

If you like a fantasy world with equal parts political intrigue and stabbing, banter and friendship, diverse casts, hell itself and a whole lot of cool magic – definitely pick up The Obsidian Tower. I ordered the hard copy already!  I can’t say enough good things about the book and really do encourage all fans of fantasy to grab this immediately!

Categories
Crime Thrillers

ARC Review: The Hiding Girl by Dorian Box

  • Title: The Hiding Girl
  • Series: Emily Calby, #1
  • Author: Dorian Box
  • Publisher & Release: Friction Press, 6/15/2020
  • Length: 304 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐⭐ yes for entertainment value

Thank you so much to BookishFirst and Friction Press for my advanced copy of The Hiding Girl by Dorian Box! All opinions are my own!

Here is the synopsis from GoodReads:

Twelve-year-old Emily Calby was a good girl from a religious family in rural Georgia. She loved softball, her little sister and looking up words to get her allowance. Then two men came and murdered her family. Somehow Emily escaped. Only the killers know she survived.

On the run in a fugue, she makes an unlikely ally in a ruthless ex-gang member who takes her in. Overwhelmed by guilt for failing her family, she persuades him to train her to kill before setting out alone on a terrifying journey for justice. Nothing will stop her—not cops or creeps, not even her own splintering mind.

Through it all, Emily fights to hold onto hope and the girl she once knew, kept buried deep inside. A testament to the boundless limits of love, sacrifice and the will to survive, The Hiding Girl is the first book in the Emily Calby Series.

While it is no literary masterpiece, all three hundred and four pages of The Hiding Girl had me hooked. Emily’s family is brutalized and murdered, although she manages to escape before the criminals set the house on fire.

Weeks later Emily meets Lucas, a giant of a man who sells her a masterpiece of a fake drivers license. Lucas might be a 6″5 ex-army turned murderer and etc, but he is a good person at heart and sees some of his sister in Emily. He takes her in off the street and teaches her how to defend herself, use a knife, and shoot a gun.

While I really don’t ever see this happening in real life, it made for a great story. Emily started working out with Lucas’ girlfriend, Kiona, and became at least a little more formidable if not still naive. Lucas doesn’t seem like a typical criminal, he even gets Emily a birthday present. Which is a gun. And Kiona smacked him. I really enjoyed their dynamic. Also found/mismatched families is one of my favorite tropes in any genre!

Emily just wants to find the two men who savaged her family and extract justice. Can she do it after only a month of training in Lucas’ house? The pacing just flies too – I think I read the whole book in two sittings.  Emily is resourceful and interesting while on the road too, the second half of the book takes her on a search for the bad guys.

I don’t think Lucas was supposed to be hilarious, but watching him try to deal with an annoying 12 year old white girl was pretty funny at times. She should have been terrified of him. I think this is a good race-transcending book for the current day and age too. There is also a psychological element involving repressed trauma, which I appreciate as a fan of psychological thrillers.

This is book one of a series and I definitely can’t wait to read the next.  A good series intro has to present the main character/s with an interesting background and a purpose going forward if nothing else.  Box definitely accomplished this. I 100% want to spend more time with these characters and hopefully see Emily grow up and into herself.

Recommended for people who can suspend disbelief long enough to watch a very brave, broken, and determined little girl learn the ways of life from a gun waving not-quite gangster. Some mature content involved.

Have you read it? Want to discuss it? Let me know!

Categories
Mysteries Suspense Thrillers

ARC Review: The Safe Place by Anna Downes

  • Title: The Safe Place
  • Author: Anna Downes
  • Series: no, standalone
  • Publisher & Release: Minotaur Books, 7/14/20
  • Length: 368 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: 🌞🌞🌞🌞 probably

Thank you so much to Minotaur Books for my free ARC in exchange for an honest review! All opinions are my own!

Here is the synopsis from Amazon:

Emily is a mess.

Emily Proudman just lost her acting agent, her job, and her apartment in one miserable day.

Emily is desperate.

Scott Denny, a successful and charismatic CEO, has a problem that neither his business acumen nor vast wealth can fix. Until he meets Emily.

Emily is perfect.

Scott offers Emily a summer job as a housekeeper on his remote, beautiful French estate. Enchanted by his lovely wife Nina, and his eccentric young daughter, Aurelia, Emily falls headlong into this oasis of wine-soaked days by the pool. But soon Emily realizes that Scott and Nina are hiding dangerous secrets, and if she doesn’t play along, the consequences could be deadly.

The Safe Place is a slow burning suspense novel, perfect for anyone itching to get out and visit the French countryside this summer.  Emily is a trainwreck and her new job offer seems too good to be true. Her boss, Scott, clearly has some issues of his own as well. We travel with Emily to his remote French estate and meet Scott’s wife and daughter. Everything looks normal as long as Emily doesn’t look too hard. What secrets lie in the house and why is the daughter, Aurelia, also such a trainwreck? Is it really just an illness or something more sinister?

I enjoyed this one. It is told from alternating perspectives, resulting in a fairly quick read.   I kept wanting to read more to get back to Nina’s chapters.  The book winds its way slowly through the women’s lives on the estate, through afternoons spent poolside and Saturdays in the local market.  The dark undertones are subtle and present throughout, and the end result wasn’t what I was guessing at all.

I felt like not enough truly suspenseful things happened though until the end, and a few great shock opportunities were passed by the author and never resolved at the end.  I mean that odor that Emily kept smelling…

Anyway – the book never dragged nor got boring. I definitely enjoyed meeting Emily and the others, she was a good character.  Naive but found her way in the end.  All of the perspectives were pretty easy to read although i did favor Nina’s the most.  I think lower level suspense fans who enjoy a twist of mystery will love the book!

Have you read it? Want to discuss it? Drop a comment below!

Categories
Author Interviews & Guest Posts Crime Thrillers

“Alone Under the Lights” – Guest Post by Author Alan Orloff!!

Alone Under the Lights

I grew up in a sheltered environment. Wasn’t exposed to much crime (thank goodness). So when I decided to write crime fiction, I quickly realized I needed to do some serious research. And not just book or internet research. I needed to get some hands-on experience (no, I didn’t rob a bank!). I took a Citizen’s Police Academy. 

Many jurisdictions offer these programs; if you’re interested, check with your local PD. Most require an application, but I don’t think the admission requirements were too stringent (I believe they conducted a background check—I got in anyway).

The academy was about twelve weeks long and consisted of a weekly meeting and several field trips. At each meeting, we’d learn about a different aspect of police business. The undercover gang cops told us what their jobs entailed. The drug unit showed us a display of all the illegal drugs available on the streets. We got a K9 demonstration. We got to use radar (LIDAR) guns on actual vehicles (alas, we couldn’t arrest anyone). We went to the shooting range (I put all my shots right in the center circle—don’t mess with me!). We toured the county jail, which was fascinating in a terribly depressing way.

And we got to go on a Saturday night ride-along.

At first, we handled a few routine incidents. A too-loud party. Some possible gang activity (nothing there). A DIP (drunk-in-public). Interesting and a little exciting.

Then we got a call over the radio. “We have a report of individuals running through the Community Center parking lot with rifles.”

Things just got a lot more interesting. And a lot more exciting.

The police officer flipped on the siren and we went screaming through the streets, then roared into the Community Center parking lot. Another cruiser was already there, it’s doors flung open, empty. My officer unstrapped the shotgun from between the seats and said, “Don’t go anywhere!”

“Don’t worry,” I croaked.

Then she jogged off across the neighboring ball fields. Leaving me. Alone. Under the bright lights of the parking lot. Did I mention I was alone?

With armed individuals running around?

I shimmied down in the seat until I could barely see out the window. And waited. Alone.

After what seemed like two hours (only about fifteen minutes, in retrospect), the officer came back with a few teenagers playing around with air rifles. 

Crisis averted. Luckily. But I often think what might have happened, and it still makes me shudder. Those kids could have been shot!

I prefer writing about crime over being involved with crime.

Alan Orloff’s thriller, PRAY FOR THE INNOCENT, won the 2019 ITW Thriller Award for Best E-Book Original. His debut mystery, DIAMONDS FOR THE DEAD, was an Agatha Award finalist; his story, “Dying in Dokesville,” won a 2019 Derringer Award (“Happy Birthday” was a 2018 finalist); and “Rule Number One” was selected for THE BEST AMERICAN MYSTERY STORIES 2018. His first PI novel, I KNOW WHERE YOU SLEEP, was released from Down & Out Books in February

Alan loves cake and arugula, but not together. Never together. http://www.alanorloff.com

A note from OneReadingNurse: I want to thank Ellen at Booksforward PR for making this guest post possible, and Alan Orloff for writing on his experience at the Citizen’s Police Academy!   My review of his most recent book, I Know Where You Sleep, can be found at https://onereadingnurse.com/2020/03/17/book-review-i-know-where-you-sleep-by-alan-orloff/ !  Thank you guys for checking out this guest post. Show your support by liking or dropping a comment so I can keep bringing you guys more great content!!