Categories
Fiction Suspense Thrillers

The Photographer (ARC Review) by Mary Dixie Carter

Another day in July, another great book!

Thank you so much to Minotaur Books for the advanced readers copy and press box for The Photographer by Mary Dixie Carter! I believe that I won this in a Shelf Awareness giveaway and am duly grateful and read it as soon as I could!

My favorite thing about ARCs is when there is an author or editor letter! In this case, even before reading the book, the executive editor had me excited for it! Her letter to the readers exuded genuine excitement and I really believe that every book deserves an editor to gush like so!

My main takeaway from the book is this question: in the theme of creating the images and digital content that we want to see, versus what we want others to see … What are we actually creating?

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: The Photographer
  • Series: N/a
  • Author: Mary Dixie Carter
  • Publisher: Minotaur Books, 05/25/21
  • Length: 304 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: 🌟🌟🌟🌟for psychological/suspense fans!

Here is the book blurb from Amazon:

Mary Dixie Carter’s The Photographer is a slyly observed, suspenseful story of envy and obsession, told in the mesmerizing, irresistible voice of a character who will make you doubt that seeing is ever believing.

WHEN PERFECT IMAGES

As a photographer, Delta Dawn observes the seemingly perfect lives of New York City’s elite: snapping photos of their children’s birthday parties, transforming images of stiff hugs and tearstained faces into visions of pure joy, and creating moments these parents long for.

ARE MADE OF BEAUTIFUL LIES

But when Delta is hired for Natalie Straub’s eleventh birthday, she finds herself wishing she wasn’t behind the lens but a part of the scene―in the Straub family’s gorgeous home and elegant life.

THE TRUTH WILL BE EXPOSED

That’s when Delta puts her plan in place, by babysitting for Natalie; befriending her mother, Amelia; finding chances to listen to her father, Fritz. Soon she’s bathing in the master bathtub, drinking their expensive wine, and eyeing the beautifully finished garden apartment in their townhouse. It seems she can never get close enough, until she discovers that photos aren’t all she can manipulate.

^ And oh WOW can Delta manipulate photos  I would definitely not want anyone with those skills taking pictures of me or my family!!  It was so interesting to read about the programs and ways that light and photography can be manipulated.  I am not sure how much is real but I’m sure there is similar technology out there.

This is just such a delightfully strange book.  It reminded me immensely of One Hour Photo – remember Robin Williams creeping out those parents but he was just a sort of creepy, really lonely old dude who was probably harmless?

In contrast, Delta Dawn is the high profile photographer of the elite and wealthy in this novel.  I don’t think she is intending harm but she is one of those memorable, strange, “just why” type of characters that makes me wonder what deep-rooted issues she has from her childhood.  There are hints about it, such as growing up in Disney housing with busy parents and living a very fictitious childhood, bur I really just wanted to know WHY!

A character remarks that Delta could in fact have a very wonderful and normal life, but that’s not what she wants.  (P.S. what actually happened to that character)?? She is pretty and smart and an absolutely elite photographer, but that wouldn’t make a good suspense novel now would it?

The complicated dynamic of the Straub family was interesting to see as well, there was a lot of dysfunction that allowed Delta to come in and start manipulating.  I liked how much detail was paid to the old dog in the house too, I just wanted to hug the poor dude.

Anyway- definitely recommend this one to lovers of psychological suspense, suspense in general, and anyone looking for a quick moving summer read.  The twist wasn’t huge but it did the trick for me to come to a solid 4!

Categories
Paranormal

Shadow Stained (Book Review) by Rachel Hobbs

Thank you so much to Rachel Hobbs for reaching out to respond to an open interview call for my blog! While that feature will be coming later this month, I also read and reviewed her debut novel Shadow Stained!

At least as we speak, the novel is available on Kindle Unlimited and I found it to be a well formatted and compatible copy!

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: Shadow Stained
  • Series: Stones of Power, #1
  • Author: Rachel Hobbs
  • Publisher & Release: Nielsen, 03/05/20
  • Length: 360 pages
  • Rate & recommend: 🌟🌟🌟 yes for fans of paranormal, demons, etc!

Here is the book blurb from Amazon:

For her, it’s her late grandma’s legacy. For him, the mother of all black arts spoils, granting one demon the power of a God. Immortality.

When occult-magnet Ruby falls victim to Demon Lord Drayvex’s viperous allure, she loses a sentient dark relic to his light fingers and appetite for power. Like calls to like. But when Drayvex himself loses the relic to a traitor to the throne, Ruby coerces him – the tyrant king with a soft spot for humanity – into helping her save her pokey old world village from becoming a ground zero of mass demonic carnage.

Both invested in reclaiming the relic, the one thing Ruby and Drayvex agree on is that it’s in the wrong hands. Co-existing in a precarious arrangement between predator and prey, to save the planet they both love for different reasons, they must become a formidable double-team in the face of an apocalyptic takeover. Now, the fate of both human and demon alike rests with a killer that walks between worlds, and a woman with a curse in her bloodline.

The Plot & Story: This is a paranormal adventure for adult readers, where a young woman and her stone of power inadvertently draw the attention of a demon lord. This escalates into a fullscale invasion of Earth and exciting battle of the most powerful demons in the realm. There is also this ongoing back and forth of whether or not the demon lord and girl will ever just get together already. I still am not sure on that point, I honestly thought it was going to be a paranormal romance (but it isn’t thankfully).

It’s an interesting and quickly moving story. I don’t read very much in this genre so it’s pretty new to me in general.

The characters: the demon, Drayvex, is everything. He is such a sociopath and total egomaniac but has a small amount of cinnamon-roll filling inside, and man does he HATE it! His dialogue and monologue, alongside the plot itself, carried the book for me.  It helps that he has a darkly attractive human form.

Ruby is not a bad character but she has no fighting prowess at all, no clue what’s going on, and can’t defend herself. She wants to stay and fight demons even though she’s almost died multiple times and Drayvex has to keep rescuing her.  I think I would have liked her more if she wasn’t so entirely helpless.  Ruby is some kind of witch or cursed, or something, but the most paranormal thing that happened to her before Drayvex is that she is drawn to occult objects at garage sales? I would have liked to know what this is all hinting at, since it is known to other characters that she is special but the reader gets no indication as to why.  Which means I’m reading book 2.

I really just want more Drayvex.

The side character demons created some funny moments as well. The lower level ones are not very smart, and sometimes created a three stooges feel.  I loved the little chef demon 😍

The Worldbuilding: The descriptions of the demon world were very well done. I loved the twinkling red stars and red sands, as well as the description of the throne.   With a new world like that I want to know what it sounds, smells, feels like.  I want to be standing at the foot of those black mountains! I got small European village vibes from the time on Earth, with plenty of rain.  

Misc: With a tad more to make me care for Ruby and one more round of edits, I would really enjoy this snarky duo.  One thing I want to say is that Drayvex reminded me of the Monty Python skit “The Many Uses of the Word Fuck” – it’s a noun, an adverb, lol.  In an adult novel this is fine and I did love his personality.

Overall I think it’s a solid debut, and I plan on reading the next in the series! Would recommend for fans of paranormal, demons, and snarky bad boy characters

Categories
Fiction General Fiction Literary Fiction

We Are the Brennans (ARC Review) by Tracey Lange

Thank you so much to my partner Celadon Books for the advanced copy of We Are the Brennans! This is a complicated family drama that explores life in a large Irish family, the effects of shame and secrets, poor decisions, and how much love holds everyone together at the end of the day.

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: We Are the Brennans
  • Series: N/A
  • Author: Tracey Lange
  • Publisher & Release: Celadon Books, 08/03/21
  • Length: 271 pgs
  • Rate & Recommend: 🍀🍀🍀🍀 Sure for fans of family dramas

Here is the Book Blurb from Amazon:

In the vein of Mary Beth Keane’s Ask Again, Yes and Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney’s The Nest, Tracey Lange’s We Are the Brennans explores the staying power of shame—and the redemptive power of love—in an Irish Catholic family torn apart by secrets.

When twenty-nine-year-old Sunday Brennan wakes up in a Los Angeles hospital, bruised and battered after a drunk driving accident she caused, she swallows her pride and goes home to her family in New York. But it’s not easy. She deserted them all—and her high school sweetheart—five years before with little explanation, and they’ve got questions.

Sunday is determined to rebuild her life back on the east coast, even if it does mean tiptoeing around resentful brothers and an ex-fiancé. The longer she stays, however, the more she realizes they need her just as much as she needs them. When a dangerous man from her past brings her family’s pub business to the brink of financial ruin, the only way to protect them is to upend all their secrets—secrets that have damaged the family for generations and will threaten everything they know about their lives. In the aftermath, the Brennan family is forced to confront painful mistakes—and ultimately find a way forward, together

The synopsis does a fantastic job of summarizing the story.  What happens after one generation’s morals and misgivings seeps down into the lives of their children?  Is running away the answer to a terrible event, and what will it take to bring everyone back together?  I think the author drew a lot on her own family experiences to make this story work, I don’t feel like it’s something that can be well written without growing up in a large Irish family yourself.

The characters are really everything in this novel.  Mickey is the father, suffering from early dementia, and it was always his job to take care of the family.  The mom is now deceased but I got the impression that she made up a lot of medical ailments for attention, to the point where it nearly ruined Sunday, the daughter’s, life.  Shane is the youngest child and has some kind of developmental disorder that took up even more of the siblings’ time and attention, but they all rallied around him as kids. 

Now as adults, Sunday took off to California in a hurry, and the two remaining middle brothers (5 siblings total) as well as Sunday’s ex, an adopted family member more or less, are left to shoulder the family responsibility.  They are also managing near financial ruin while expanding their pub business. Enter Sunday coming home in the midst of all of this after a drunk driving crash …. and you have the beginning of We Are the Brennans.

I think the staples of Irish family drama are secrets – check.  Shame – check.  Irish Catholics covering up bad decisions – check. Maybe some undercover or shady business – check.  What set this one apart to me was the strength of the characters, the sibling bonds, the size of the hearts capable of forgiving and moving forward together after the secrets are aired… and who inadvertently saves the day at the end.   The writing is also very smooth and flows well from chapter to chapter despite the different view points, and I do like how each character’s voice is so distinct.

The ending left a lot of things open to interpretation but the main storylines were wrapped up – and this may be added in the final copy but I think it could have used an epilogue.  Give us a glimpse of how everything settled 10 years down the road.  Did true love or duty win out? Did everything work out for better or for worse?  How did the one little boy make out with the family changes? I don’t mind having these questions at the end but I would have 5 starred it with an epilogue.

Celadon puts out some very distinctive literary fiction, I would recommend for fans of family dramas, general fiction, and literary fiction!

Categories
Fantasy

Vows of Gold and Laughter (Book Review) by Edith Pawlicki

Thank you so much to By the Book VBP for having me on the bookstagram tour for Vows of Gold and Laughter!  I recently read Edith Pawlicki’s debut novel called Minerva, and was extremely excited to see this second novel! I received a lovely finished paperback in exchange for a bookish feature and honest review!

This is an adult fantasy set in a rich world that focuses on Asian mythology, a whole lot of magic, and realizing one’s self worth despite what fate seems to have to store.

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: Vows of Gold and Laughter
  • Series: The Immortal Beings, #1
  • Author: Edith Pawlicki
  • Publisher & Release: Indie, 04/02/21
  • Length: 442 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: 🌟🌟🌟🌟 yes for adult fans of the genre!

Here is the book blurb from Amazon:

The meeting of four lonely immortals will change them – and the world.

High in the Heavens, an immortal court celebrates the betrothal of Jin, Goddess of Beauty, and Xiao, God of Pleasure. But as soon as the vows are made, the Sun Emperor collapses from a death curse.

Raised away from the Sun Court after her mother’s murder, Jin is called a useless goddess, but she is now the emperor’s only hope. The curse’s cure is locked in the Underworld, and even though the court dismisses him as a hopeless alcoholic, Xiao vows to help his betrothed find the lost key.

They hire a thief who is more interested in stealing the groom than recovering the key, and begin their search at the legendary grave of the Great Warrior – only it turns out he never died. Tens of millennia old, he is a master of everything but his own heart.

Their journey takes them from the icy peaks of the White Mountain and the lush banks of the Kuanbai River to the palace of the Sea Dragon and the halls of the Moon Deer, through court intrigue and bloody battles, power struggles and magical traps. Heaven, Earth, and the Underworld will forever celebrate their triumphs – and mourn their mistakes.

This is an indie novel that really deserves all the hype of a traditionally published piece of work.  Pawlicki takes us all over the fictional world, into various palaces and homes of the immortals from the Heavens to the Underworld, on a quest to save a despicable ruler, through two love stories and complicated friendships, as well as on a journey of self-discovery than can only be achieved through learning the truth about the past.

The Worldbuilding is richly described, with colorful palaces and equally colorful immortals.  Quite literally because the most powerful gods are colors.  We learn the physical lay of the land, the fauna, weather, food, music, and many local and court customs that help flesh out the world.  It was definitely a little overwhelming at times but there are diagrams to help remember what is where and who is who.

The Characters: The characters are very much part of the world, as Pawlicki realizes and brings to life a full pantheon of Gods and Goddesses, deities, and immortal beings.  There are four main characters who each have their own major flaws to work through, and it is a joy to watch them interact and learn how to work together.  The banter is pretty entertaining at times, and other times quite serious.  The thief, the warrior, the beauty, and…. well I guess the alcoholic, but he’s really a giant cinnamon roll and pretty powerful in his own right.  

I did get absolutely lost in the characters at times though, like without the diagram I would have been lost.  This is where I docked a star – I love all four of the main characters but it was kind of hard to figure out who else was going to be important and who to pay attention to.  The author absolutely did a stunning job bringing so many characters to life though.

The Magic: Is based on colors, and what colors or essences will respond to each deity.  This is pretty cool because it creates a lot of Earth-based magic, building, and transformative abilities which were cool too.  There is also darker and shadow magic which I imagine we will see a lot more of in book two.

Themes: I touched on themes up top, but the main one seemed to be realizing your own self value and embracing who you are.  Each character had to learn what they were capable of, and even the most accomplished ones still had lots of learning to do.  I also docked some points for a recurring ongoing of sexual repression vs expression, and I get it since Xiao was the god of pleasure but don’t really come to fantasy for that discussion.  I believe, as well as because of the ages of the characters, that this is why the book was targeted for adult readers.  There are also themes of found family, family ties, sacrifice, justice, betrayal, civil war, and everything else you would expect from bickering Gods and Goddesses that are full of personality.

Overall: I definitely recommend this one for anyone interested in mythology, fantasy, asian themes, and anyone that loves a gorgeous cover. Thanks again to By the Book VBP and the author for my copy, all opinions are my own!

Categories
Biographies, Memoirs, Nonfiction

Valcour (Book Review) by Jack Kelly

Happy 4th of July!  Thank you ENDLESSLY to my partner St. Martin’s Press for the finished copy of Valcour:  The 1776 Campaign That Saved the Cause of Liberty by Jack Kelly!

I grew up about 20 minutes from Valcour (town of Schuyler Falls) and am a sucker for both revolutionary and Lake Champlain history.  It was taught so extensively in our schools as kids, but is it funny that I care more as an adult?  I have never jumped on a title faster than this one, and although I have mentioned the book multiple times…. it’s time for this! 

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: Valcour: The 1776 Campaign That Saved the Cause of Liberty
  • Author: Jack Kelly
  • Publisher & Release: St. Martin’s Press, 04/06/21
  • Length: 304 pgs
  • Rate & Recommend: 🌟🌟🌟⚡ for history and revolutionary readers!

The synopsis from Amazon:

The wild and suspenseful story of one of the most crucial and least known campaigns of the Revolutionary War when America’s scrappy navy took on the full might of Britain’s sea power.

During the summer of 1776, a British incursion from Canada loomed. In response, citizen soldiers of the newly independent nation mounted a heroic defense. Patriots constructed a small fleet of gunboats on Lake Champlain in northern New York and confronted the Royal Navy in a desperate three-day battle near Valcour Island. Their effort surprised the arrogant British and forced the enemy to call off their invasion.

Jack Kelly’s Valcour is a story of people. The northern campaign of 1776 was led by the underrated general Philip Schuyler (Hamilton’s father-in-law), the ambitious former British officer Horatio Gates, and the notorious Benedict Arnold. An experienced sea captain, Arnold devised a brilliant strategy that confounded his slow-witted opponents.

America’s independence hung in the balance during 1776. Patriots endured one defeat after another. But two events turned the tide: Washington’s bold attack on Trenton and the equally audacious fight at Valcour Island. Together, they stunned the enemy and helped preserve the cause of liberty.

This is a great history of the early revolutionary conflict im the Champlain Valley.  It adequately describes and vividly depicts the hardships that were faced trying to build the American fleet in order to delay the British from coming down Lake Champlain.  The book begins at the American retreat from Montreal, touches on the smallpox epidemic, and goes on to describe the people involved, the building of the American fleet, Benedict Arnold’s struggles with various idiotic military and government personnel, and finally the battle and aftermath, ending before Washington crosses the Delaware.  A fascinating but not necessarily widely known time period and I think the book is interesting, informative, and readable for history buffs and those with casual interest alike.

I think a super broad overview of prior events would have been helpful at the beginning, but Kelly drops us right into the story with Arnold leaving Canada. The book got off to a tad of a rough start for me without that broader context. The smallpox epidemic and the American retreat were terrible in terms of casualties and defeated morale, and it would have been a perfect starting point within a broader context. 

Once the Americans regrouped and fielded their sick, building a fleet was the next challenge.  Finding sailors. Food and hygiene. Native American relations.  Court tribunals and Arnold’s famous temper.  There is so much to consider!

Arnold is a fascinating historical figure and I liked how both he and Carleton, the British general, were shown. Ever wonder what led up to Arnold turning sides? Ever wonder how men on the ships relieved themselves? I have to say I never thought of rags on a rope but Kelly really brings the soldiers and ships to life.  A good history book makes me feel submerged in the events!

((Personal opinion: It always shocks me how Arnold is mostly only taught as a traitor, he is really so freaking interesting and got shafted))

Other than the beginning, I also felt like the maps left out a few necessary landmarks, like île Aux Noix.  The island was a horror show during the American retreat and totally deserves to be on the map, but I don’t have many other qualms about this book.  One is that if Kelly is going to call Canada Canada in 1776, why not mention Plattsburgh since pretty much anyone can put Plattsburgh on a map?  Small things.

Generally I found this to be a very readable account of the early revolutionary struggles in the Champlain Valley.  It briefly ties in the Declaration of Independence, naming of the states, and some of George Washington’s struggles too, so that is fun, but there isn’t a ton of revolutionary information not related to the lake.

If you like nonfiction, read Valcour. If you prefer fiction with a lot more detail and intrigue – read Rabble in Arms and in larger part, The Arundel Chronicles by Kenneth Roberts. I felt like Kelly took the outline straight out of Arundel #3, and the historical accuracy of either is pretty legit.

Now I’m sad because I hope I wrote a coherent sounding review without dragging too much of my own knowledge and prior reading into it!

Categories
Fantasy Young Adult

Heartbreaker by V. Romas Burton (Book Review)

Two things prompted me to re-read Heartbreaker this month! The first is that I realized I never really adequately featured the book on bookish social media, the second is because I am SO SUPER LUCKY to have been chosen for an ARC box for book three, which will be out on September 7th!!

First off you should check out my review for book one, Heartmender, here, then proceed with this review if you’re interested!  I loved Heartmender for it’s lyrical mix of fantasy, adventure, clean content, and religious allegories that were not overpowering.  Heartbreaker sees the characters begin their journey in earnest, with all the growing pains of becoming a young hero.

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: Heartbreaker
  • Series: Heartmender, #2
  • Author: V Romas Burton
  • Publisher & Release: Monster Ivy Publishing, September 2020
  • Length: 338 pgs
  • Rate & Recommend: 🌟🌟🌟⚡ yes for YA, fans of Christian fantasy/fiction, clean content seekers!

Here is the description from Amazon:

After finding out she is the Bellata–the prophesized warrior meant to save Decim–Addie, along with James, returns to Barracks to unite the Twelve Magisters. But as she discovers her old home in ruin, Addie stumbles upon Silas and Nana, the only people left in Barracks.

As Silas explains what happened, Addie remembers the special gift Eman entrusted to her. She gives the gift to Silas, only to learn that he’s the young blacksmith who fought through the Seven Choices, making Addie unsure of how to react to her old friend.

Dodging an attack from Schism, and another deadly ally to Ophidian, the group finally makes their way to Ramni, where a familiar face joins them–one Addie never wanted to see again.

If Addie can’t learn to balance her new power, successfully unite the Twelve Magisters, and figure out what’s going on with a new voice in her head, Ophidian will destroy all the twelve lands …

And she’ll never know who is capable of betrayal amongst her friends.

The Plot/Story: this second novel sees Addie and company out on a quest to unite the Magisters of Decim, gain their allegiance in the fight against Ophidian.  The plot is once again fast moving, with obstacles being overcome fairly quickly in order to advance the storyline.  Now that Addie has newfound confidence, responsibility, and a crew of friends & family to fight alongside her, what will happen? There is plenty of action, lessons learned, good along with the bad, but man – this one ends on a cliffhanger!

Themes: While Heartmender was about choices and the seven sins, Heartbreaker is about sacrifice and trusting in Eman’s plan.  He isn’t with Addie but his voice is still heard, his plan is known, and there is a super cool magical book that I am pretty sure is an allegory for biblical guidance, although I am not positive.  Other wholesome themes include friendship, trust, finding family, self worth, and trusting that one is never alone.

Continuing worldbuilding: One of my favorite parts was learning the back story of the antagonist, and how all of this evil came to be! A lot of questions from book one were answered in this, including questions about Addie’s family.  The author did a great job expanding on the world of Decim to include the other realms, inhabitants, issues, and even geography to make the world richer.

The Characters: Addie has some serious “coming of age” challenges to overcome.  She is the Bellata, so she should be independent, in charge, and unruffleable – right?  It was nice watching her learn to work with a team, test out her feelings for Silas, and start to come into her responsibility.  She also drove me nuts sometimes jumping to conclusions and blaming others, but it’s part of learning to socialize 

Silas is a good character in this one too but I can’t really say why.  He is a great protector to Addie and tests the group.  James and Nana and Claire ❤ also Damien … It is a good group.  

I think the reason I scored this one a little lower is because of how easily the answers to the puzzles come to Addie.  She races through the first few magisters and while it works to further the allegories and storyline, I think I would have liked her to be tripped up a little more.  The book makes up for that at the end though, how in the world are they ever going to get out of that situation??

At heart this is a complex story and I think it would make a great buddy read for readers of any age.  That targeted 13-18 range is totally 100% appropriate too.  In the coming weeks I will be posting about book 3 so stay tuned for that!!


Meet the author:

V. Romas Burton grew up bouncing up and down the East Coast where she wrote her first story about magical ponies at age seven. Years later, after studying government and earning an M.A. in Theological Studies, V. Romas Burton realized something even bigger was calling out to her–stories that contained great adventures and encouraging messages. Her debut novel, Heartmender, has won several awards including: First Place in Young Adult for the 2020 Next Generation Indie Book Awards, Second Place in Juvenile/ Young Adult for the 2021 Illumination Book Awards and tied for Third Place for Young Adult Fiction- Fantasy/ Sci- Fi in the 2020 Moonbeam Children’s Awards. You can find future updates and news on her website: http://www.vromasburton.com

from Amazon
Categories
Contemporary Fiction General Fiction

Pulse by Judy G. Walters (Book Tour & Review)

Thank you so much to Kate Rock Book Tours and Judy Gaman for having me on the book tour for Pulse! I received a wonderful signed paperback in exchange for an honest review and feature, all opinions are my own!

This is a fast paced medical drama that reminds me of Scrubs mixed with Life in the ER.  I couldn’t put it down and ended up reading it in two sittings!

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: Pulse
  • Series: Vital Signs, #1
  • Author: Judy G. Walters
  • Publisher & Release: 64 Squares Publishing, 06/4/21
  • Length: 291pgs
  • Rate & Recommend: 🌟🌟🌟⚡for fans of medical and family dramas!

Here is the synopsis from Amazon:

The world has no shortage of moral ambiguity, especially in the emergency room. Dr. Jackson is the emergency room physician who seems to have the big house, beautiful wife, and an impeccable reputation as one of the most respected emergency physicians in Dallas. As the author peels back the layers, Dr. Jackson’s life isn’t so perfect after all. Filled with unique twists, complex medical cases and personal issues, Pulse proves that there is always more to the story! Pulse is the first book in the Vital Signs Series

Coming to you in between shifts to say that I totally flew through this book. I loved the bond that the ER staff have, whether they are joking about Dr Elohssa (😂😂😂) or kicking butt saving lives. Most of the patients and case studies are pretty realistic, the characters feel real, and there is more than a little moral ambiguity to go around.  

I could totally plug myself into that team and go to work with them any day!  The drama and teamwork, friendship and friendly rivalries, joking and tears, people just needing ten damn minutes to ourselves after a code … it’s real!

Dr Jackson is a leading emergency medicine physician but his home life is a mess. His wife is absolutely crazy and I loved his daughter.  The main characters are pretty complex, as in Dr Jackson and his daughter, while the rest are pretty shallow.  They’re nice, smart, a great team, and I’m rooting for them, but we don’t get too much into the rest of the team.  In future books maybe! I definitely want to see more of the other characters based off the glimpses in Pulse.

The home life vs work balance is the other thread in the book. No one is perfect but no one deserves a life of torture either, and there is little room for error and distraction in medicine.  I was really hoping Dr Jackson and BJ ( daughter) would be able to get away from the abusive wife. BJ is a strong young lady and I loved the father daughter parts.

I just love medical dramas. I was at 1000 stars until the big event – and in the vein of honestly I’m going to bluntly say that the big event didn’t work. It just did. Not. Work. Seriously ***** the terrorist, at a mall in Texas? Why? I found it hilarious but I guarantee someone is going to call it offensive.  I want a different catastrophe (Jacqueline could have caused a car accident trying to run Elizabeth off the road? Yeah? Literally anything else)!! so badly, but the results were the same, and I loved the ending anyway. I still totally recommend the book though! Thank you again for having me on the tour, all opinions are my own ❤

Categories
audiobooks Fantasy

The Great Hunt (Book/Audiobook Review) by Robert Jordan

If you guys read my chat about The Wheel of Time, book 1, The Eye of the World you know that I found it slow to get going and both under/over whelming in general, but ultimately worth the reading experience.  

I stuck with the #WoTAlong2021 and absolutely flew through book two, The Great Hunt.  The pacing was better, it was more interesting in general, and Robert Jordan spent more time giving the main characters personalities and making them into people I care about! I’m so glad I stuck with the read-along!

I have so many theories that I want to talk about, but the problem is spoilers.  Because THIS IS SPOILER FREE, I will mostly write this review to tell anyone that if you read The Eye of the World and are not sure about the series, GIVE IT ONE MORE BOOK!

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: The Great Hunt
  • Series: The Wheel of Time, #2
  • Author: Robert Jordan
  • Publisher & Release: Tor Books, November 1990
  • Pages: 705 (MMPB edition)
  • Rate & Recommend: 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟 I think fantasy fans should at least try the series

Here is the synopsis, with spoilers blocked out:

Robert Jordan’s #1 New York Times bestselling epic fantasy series, The Wheel of Time®, continues as Rand al’Thor and his companions set out to retrieve a powerful magical artifact from The Dark One’s Shadowspawn in The Great Hunt.

For centuries, gleemen have told the tales of The Great Hunt of the Horn. So many tales about each of the Hunters, and so many Hunters to tell of…

Now the Horn itself is found: the Horn of Valere long thought only legend, the Horn which will raise the dead heroes of the ages.

And it is stolen.

In pursuit of the thieves, Rand al’Thor is determined to keep the Horn out of the grasp of The Dark One. [[*Someone –  cough spoiler hidden*]] has also learned that he is The Dragon Reborn—the Champion of Light destined to stand against the Shadow time and again. It is a duty and a destiny that requires [[this person]] to uncover and master magical capabilities he never imagined he possessed.

The world magic is explained in more detail, the male vs female halves of the magic and we also learn a lot more about the Aes Sedai, the magic wielders.  I really liked meeting the Amyrlin Seat and learning that she is a real person, as well as how deep some of the treachery runs within the White Tower.

Another high point was watching Rand, Egwene, and Nynaeve all learn about their inherent magics.  The girl power in book two was real, and Nynaeve won me over.  Min and Elayne become real people as well and there are huge spoilers as far as who Rand will marry later on, which I kind of appreciated.

There is a lot more world building too – both macro and micro.  It doesn’t come in huge info dumps this time though, but much more spread out, so I think generally it was a much more readable novel.  The pacing was just SO much more even and I cared about all of the chapters.

RJ showed a bit of a darker side to his writing as well here, as evidenced by Egwene’s time with the damane, the seanchan, and everything about “the strangers”.  An interesting subplot and I’m sure it’ll come up again before the series is done.

Other cool things were meeting other ogiers, and EVERYTHING ABOUT THE END!! Everything!  I felt like I was riding right along with Hawkwing, cheering for Perrin carrying the battle standard, and watching the battle in the sky along with the townspeople.  Perrin probably had the quietest role in the book, but came through in a HUGE way when a brave face was needed.  Somehow I think he’s going to end up staying a quiet hero in the series.

A note on the audiobook: I had an exceptionally difficult time understanding Michael Kramer in book one, but this time it was much clearer.  Either he got feedback and enunciated a little more or they managed to increase the quality of the recording, but it was 100% much better. Kate Reading is phenomenal with the women’s chapters too.  Total running time is approx 25 hours, and I listened to the edition released in 2011 by Books On Tape.

Next month we will read Book Three, The Dragon Reborn, and I can’t wait!

Categories
Fantasy Horror

Book Tour and Giveaway! A Ritual of Bone by Lee C. Conley

     Thank you so much to Storytellers On Tour and Lee C. Conley for having me on this tour for A Ritual of Bone! I can not for the life of me picture a more perfect dark fantasy/horror novel for this time of year and I’m so glad to have read it.  Book two in the series, A Ritual of Flesh, was actually published earlier this month and I’ll tell you right now that I already bought it and can’t wait to start reading.

Anyway, here we go!

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Quick Facts:

  • Title: A Ritual of Bone
  • Series: The Dead Sagas, #1
  • Author: Lee C. Conley 
  • Publisher & Release: Wolves of Valour Publications – June, 2019
  • Length: 384 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ YES for all my dark fantasy, horror, warrior and Elder Scrolls loving friends

Here is the synopsis:

Only valour and steel can stand against the rising dead

Arnar is a land of warriors, its people as stalwart as the stones themselves. In a land of dark forests and ancient hill forts, a forgotten evil is awoken by curious minds.

The Great Histories and the Sagas say nothing of this evil, long passed from the memory of even the studious scholars of the College. For centuries, the scholars of Arnar have kept these records and preserved the knowledge and great deeds of a proud people. The story of these peoples forever chronicled in the Sagas of the Great Histories.

Now the evil spreads and the dead walk in its wake, terrible creatures roam the night and even the spirits are restless. The Dead Sagas could perhaps be the final chapters of these great records

Many threads entwine to tell this Saga, interweaving the tales of those who played their part in the search for answers and ultimately their fight for survival. Amid plague, invasion and terror, the inexorable rise of the dead sends a kingdom scrabbling to its knees.

     This book is just everything my Spooktober reading list needed to be complete, and so much more.  The country of Arnar is finally at a tentative peace with it’s neighbor, while all hell breaks loose within the kingdom itself.  

     A master scholar from the College brought back and modified a long forgotten ritual that seems to have awoken some old and ancient evil, unleashing plague and sickness and zombies.  YES, picture Skyrim-esque warriors with great axes, swords and shields and bows, discovering and battling the walking dead.  Cold mountain passes, savage cannibalistic tribes in the wilds, ancient stone ruins left over from long extinct peoples.

     The combined setting, atmosphere, and writing style in this book is incredible.  There are four or five distinct storylines being told that start with the evil being unleashed, and then tell of various characters in different parts of the country discovering and dealing with the early consequences.  Each of these storylines is going to converge in the second book and I am so excited.  Back to the atmosphere though – the permeation of evil, unsettled emotions, fear, dread, loss, and chills just are equally potent through each storyline so that each was interesting and my attention never drifted.  Whether the warrior Arnuld, the girl Nym, the Hunter Bjorn, or the apprentice, each story had me rapt between the character’s plight, flight, and loss.  I think the atmosphere is what really tied this book together.

     Of course there is plenty of gore and blood and grief as well… I mean there ARE zombies.  Partially self aware zombies at times.  It really was more than a little horrifying at times but also amazing.

     Even with a few slight editing mishaps, I happily give this book every star imaginable.  As a debut novel I honestly expected a lot worse and had an amazing surprise when I ended up hooked from page one, and rapt until the end. I recommend it fully to all adult fans of the genres!


Equally important are the links to the other blog tour stops and giveaway!! Please find the tour schedule here

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Here is the link to the Tour Wide Giveaway!

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Prize: A Ritual of Bone – Grand Prize: One (1) signed hardcover (international), Runners-Up: Five (5) winners, choice of audiobook codes (US/UK) or ebooks (international)


Lastly I hope that you will check out the author’s links!

Website: http://www.leeconleyauthor.com/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/LongswordLee
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/LeeConleyAuthor/
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/leeconleyauthor/
Reddit: https://www.reddit.com/user/LeeConleyAuthor
Newsletter: https://mailchi.mp/ec0e4d5c30e7/leeconleyauthlaningpage
Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/sho

Categories
Fantasy

Book Tour Stop!! Hidden Realm by T.R. Slauf

     Thank you so much to Literary Bound Tours for having me on the tour for Hidden Realm by T.R. Slauf!  Pay attention my fairytale and dark fantasy loving friends because you don’t want to miss this one!

Quick Facts:

  • Title: Hidden Realm
  • Series: Legends of Lightning, #1
  • Author: T.R. Slauf
  • Publisher & Release: self published, October 6th 2020
  • Length: 267 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: 🌟🌟🌟🌟 yes for not fainthearted fans of the genre who can take a few bawdy/lewd/crude exchanges and a house pet sacrificed

Here is the synopsis:

     “The next Realm Walker will bring with them a storm. Lightning must fight the Crimson Shadow, or the lands will be cast into eternal darkness.”

     When she was a child, Esther was plagued with vivid nightmares. Now they have returned to haunt her. Bloodthirsty monsters chase her through a forest of dead trees while a mysterious hooded figure stalks her. After waking with fresh wounds from her dreams, Esther searches for the truth about who she is and the Hidden Realm she is destined to save.

     Join Esther on her journey of self-discovery as she travels into a world long forgotten. Unsure if she can trust her hooded guide, she is hunted by unknown enemies and smothered by expectations of grandeur. Deciphering friend from foe she travels the lands, trying to unite kingdoms torn by pride. 

Esther is a resident of modern day Earth who finds herself literally torn between two realms. After performing a ritual to enter the Hidden Realm, which is a mashup of dark fairy tales based off of the brothers Grimm, she must unite the kingdom against the elusive (but actually pretty tragic and complicated) enemy called the Crimson Shadow.

I really enjoyed the story itself, and reading all the gritty details found in a proper dark fantasy. Evil wolves, humans talking to animals, the stereotypical man of all men character, bandits, magic, dragons that hoard books, and the fairy tale queens like you’ve never seen them before, Hidden Realm has something for every lover of stories. The second half and especially last quarter also moved significantly faster than the first half, which was a nice treat that made the book hard to put down.

I was not such a fan of the main character, Esther, mainly due to a lack of back story that enabled her to step into her role of heroine. She was a timid librarian that managed to step into a world of danger and then hardly ever looked back. She never even mentioned her father after he passed away, and let Oison off the hook way too easily for being evasive. I really love the side characters and banter though. Davon was the perfect innocent boy chatting with birds who grew right into hiself, I also loved Winston, and so much of the dialogue in the book was just perfect.

Not sure they would have had the word fuck in fairytale land though. On that note I think Slauf did a great job with atmosphere and mood setting between characters. I would have liked a little more description of the physical settings in some places.

All in all this book had me rapt, and I fully recommend it but not for the easily offended or faint of heart. Content includes everything from bandits laughing about female and male rape to a house pet being sacrificed, to swearing, gore, parental death, pairings of many gender combinations in both hook ups and marriage, talk of sibling loss, STDs, and others. As I said – a dark fantasy gem.

Thank you again so much to Literary Bound Tours for having me on the tour for Hidden Realm!


Here is the link so you can check out what the other hosts think!

Here is the author info and book links!

About T.R. Slauf

I have always been torn between two halves of myself; one half revels in all things scientific and longs to explore the secrets of the universe, while the other half finds solace and excitement within the arts. When it came time to choose a college degree, I put aside my creative hobbies and perused a career path in biochemistry. For me, college was an expensive privilege, thus I decided a degree within STEM was the most logical route for my costly investments. Through my years in college I still tried to enjoy the arts, reading novels and drawing in my sketchbooks when time permitted.

​Five long years later, I graduated from Michigan State University with a Bachelor of Science in biochemistry and molecular biology. I immediately began working full time in an academic research lab, it was miserable. I quickly grew weary and depressed in the toxic and hostile work environment created by our supervisor. I begun interviewing for other jobs and exploring my creative hobbies again when my congenital heart condition required me to have another open-heart surgery.

​In the months before my operation, I became determined to finish my first novel; I had started and abandoned several over the years. Once I was well enough, I continued writing during my recovery. Nine months after my operation, I left my job at the research lab and invested more of myself in my novel. It wasn’t an easy transition and it did not happen over-night, but I decided to start a new career as a novelist.  

​Now, almost three years later I am proud to share with you my debut novel Legends of Lightning, Hidden Realm. I hope you enjoy reading this story as much as I enjoyed bringing it to life. I am eager to hear your thoughts, please leave reviews or contact me directly. I look forward to sharing many more stories with you in the future.

Links:

Website: https://www.trslauf.com/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/t.r.slauf

Blog: http://trslauf.com/sneak-peeks

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