Categories
Adventure Fantasy

Book Review: To Unite A Realm by Mary Beesley

Thank you so much to Mary Beesley for the finished Kindle copy of her newest book, To Unite A Realm!  This is an enemies to lovers story set in a very low fantasy world, so if you like adult fantasy romance… Check it out!  I read the book in two sittings and have no regrets at all.

My main point to keep in mind: the plot and characters totally carry this book, so if those are your preferred elements, read on!

Quick Facts:

  • Title: To Unite A Realm
  • Series: ?
  • Author: Mary Beesley
  • Publisher & Release: Boroughs Publishing Group, November 2020
  • Length: 252 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: 🌟🌟🌟⚡ for those looking for a quick read!

Here is the synopsis from GoodReads:

Through a prism of lies…

Vera Wilson, youngest daughter to the leader of her country – a county conquered by the tyrannical Grays – agrees to marry Angus Gray, heir to the throne of The United Realm. She hates him and everything his clan represents. But she has to protect her family and believes this marriage will keep them alive – unlike the friends the Grays have already murdered, one right in front of Vera. After a hasty ceremony and an awful wedding night, Vera travels to Alta Glenn, home to the Grays.

At first, life there is excruciating, but over time she learns that everything she’s been taught, everything she believes about the Grays and their clan is nothing more than a web of well-constructed lies. Almost too late, Vera protects Alta Glenn from impending disaster and realizes her husband is the exact opposite of what she expected him to be. Now, she doesn’t know if it’s possible for him to ever love her

The Story: I think the plot/story itself is a great idea.   A marriage to promote a peace between the rulers of a realm and a conquered landholding, the only catch being that the Grays are murderous, terrible people.

We follow Vera very quickly through her  meeting, marriage, and travel to her new husband’s homeland.  Once there, she starts learning the truth about how things really are in the Realm…and surprisingly the Grays aren’t the bad guys.  Well. Not the worst anyway.  The levels of betrayal and intrigue keep the story moving.  There is a side plot of a disease being used as biological warfare, to which a vaccine is available but controlled by Vera’s father.

The book progresses them rapidly from enemies to… well, you’ll have to read to find out if they become lovers.

The World: honestly the world just makes no sense whatsoever, but the plot is moving too rapidly to need that information.   The Realm apparently consists of multiple countries or landholdings.  One has colleges and labs and science and trains, another had an army and weapons stockpile, one seemed to have marshland and maybe boats, and the leading one, Alta Glenn, seemed to be a Scottish highland retreat community with only horses for transportation and the occasional revolver, although they did have electricity.   I don’t know how the heck those people obtained or stayed in power!

The only magic in the book consists of Euns, magic birds that are probably my favorite thing in the book.  They are sarcastic, murdery, able to talk, and act as lie detectors.  They are essentially giant murder parrots.  Although this isn’t enough for me to label the book an epic fantasy at all, I’ll give it low fantasy.

The mix of modern and old just doesn’t always make sense, even if the geography is fairly well described and gorgeous.  What were the streets of Alta Glenn even made out of, and how big is the place? I kept picturing a village vs a large town with a main shopping street… I loved the views out the windows though and the journey through the mountain passes.

…and a horse pops out a baby and weans it in a 3 month time period.  The other thing I REALLY needed more info on was the disease and bio warfare aspect, what was this thing? Manmade? Lab made? Where did it come from? It’s way too big not to elaborate!

Like I said – just don’t think about the world and enjoy the story.  If I hadn’t started thinking this would have been an easy 5 star book for how quickly I devoured it.  The characters and story are meant to just carry the book

The characters: Vera is the daughter of the ruler of the scientific country.  She has a huge character arc, showing strength and wisdom way beyond her upbringing.  Watching her get stronger and meld into the Gray family was lovely.

Angus… I mean he’s a man, but he means well I think.  Once the miscommunications are cleared up he gets SO much nicer.

Bear! Bear and Naira are supposed to be evil and terrifying but I really just need y’all to read the book and meet them yourselves.  There are a whole host of amazing Alta Glenn side characters that give the book a found family feel.

Content: the book is fairly low on content.  There is sex, between a faithful married couple, that is mostly closed door. It’s not entirely consensual at the start but they agree that they made their choices.  Otherwise there is some bloodshed, poison, a burned animal, and miscarriage.

Overall: I read the book in one day, so what can I say.  Great characters and plot are 100% enough to carry the book through the world that it exists in. 

Categories
Fiction Thrillers

ARC Review: Judas Horse by Lynda La Plante

Hello thriller fans, there’s a new (to me) detective in town! Thank you so much to Zaffre Books & Bookish First for my early copy of Judas Horse, in exchange for an honest review! All opinions are my own!

Quick Facts:

  • Title: Judas Horse
  • Series: DC Jack Warr #2
  • Author: Lynda La Plante
  • Publisher & Release: Zaffre, 3/9/21
  • Length: 320 pg
  • Rate & Recommend: 5🌟 and yes for fans of the genre!!

Here is the synopsis from Amazon:

Not all killers can be tamed… The thrilling second book in the Sunday Times bestselling Detective Jack Warr crime series.

Wild mustangs are difficult to rope, their lead stallion wary and protective of his herd. To capture that special stallion takes time. He is separated, roped, and lead back to the ranch. Once tamed, he is sent back into the wild. And before long, he will lead the entire herd back to the ranch. He is given the name ‘Judas Horse’. When Detective Jack Warr identifies an informer, the terrified man begins to give details of a massive robbery planned by a team of unscrupulous and dangerous men. These men have already orchestrated many audacious robberies, leaving terrified victims in their wake. And they have already killed to get what they want. Detective Jack Warr and his team must use their informant as a ‘Judas Horse’ to draw in the unsuspecting robbers, so that they go ahead with the planned robbery. However, one false move, and more blood will be spilled . . .

This is my introduction to Jack Warr, and I like him!  I think in every new thriller/detective series we should look at the main character first!  Jack is a no nonsense, f*ck-all attitude kind of detective, and also a good guy.  He just has a big personality at times.  He has such a soft spot for his fiancee and daughter, some scenes were so cute!  I like Jack as a cop and as a family man, and he has a good potential character arc going forwards in the series so I will be excited to keep reading forward!

There is a group of robbers targeting rich houses in the Cotswalds, and they are GOOD.   They are violent, smart, and have an informant pointing out targetable houses. The local police reach out to London, and recruit Jack Warr to help with the case.  Jack is great with people as long as they aren’t trying to give him instructions, and quickly gets everyone on the same page to catch these guys.  The banter, lingo, and practical jokers in the bunch really add to the book too.  The group of officers reminded me of the average Sandford novel! I think one reason I liked the book so much is because Warr and Davenport are kind of similar.

This was really quite good, I finished it in about three sittings and usually found myself bummed when I had to put it down.  La Plante kept the story moving forward with a mix of action, home life, and character/group building.  The action and atmosphere made this a real thriller for me, especially towards the end! I felt the danger, was worried for the characters, and cheered that civilian pilot during the helicopter chase.

As an American too I really found the European English slang hilarious at times!

I also want a whole series about Oaks including many, many practical jokes and humor.

I was never bored, loved the characters, and found the buildup to the big bust exciting and well executed. No anti climax here! I am 100% definitely interested in more La Plante books, including Jack Warr #1.

What noise does an octopus make?  Check out the book to find out 😁

Thank you again to Zaffre and Bookish First  for my copy!!

Categories
Biographies, Memoirs, Nonfiction Crime

ARC Review — Last Call: A True Story of Love, Lust, and Murder in Queer New York by Elon Green

Thank you so much to Celadon Books for the free advanced copy of Last Call in exchange for a. Honest review! All opinions are my own!

I am coming to love the true crime genre, except this book reads more like a history/biography.  The author focuses on the victims and the history of, and violence in queer New York City, paying little eventual attention to the trial and investigation of the murderer himself.  On that front I am staying neutral on rating and recommending as a true crime!

Quick Facts:

  • Title: Last Call
  • Author: Elon Green
  • Publisher & Release: Celadon Books, 3/9/12
  • Genre: true crime, history
  • Length: 260 pg
  • Rate & Recommend: 🌟🌟🌟 & neutral, check it out if the content sparks interest

Here is the synopsis from GoodReads:

The Townhouse Bar, midtown, July 1992: The piano player seems to know every song ever written, the crowd belts out the lyrics to their favorites, and a man standing nearby is drinking a Scotch and water. The man strikes the piano player as forgettable.

He looks bland and inconspicuous. Not at all what you think a serial killer looks like. But that’s what he is, and tonight, he has his sights set on a gray haired man. He will not be his first victim.

Nor will he be his last.

The Last Call Killer preyed upon gay men in New York in the ‘80s and ‘90s and had all the hallmarks of the most notorious serial killers. Yet because of the sexuality of his victims, the skyhigh murder rates, and the AIDS epidemic, his murders have been almost entirely forgotten.

This gripping true-crime narrative tells the story of the Last Call Killer and the decades-long chase to find him. And at the same time, it paints a portrait of his victims and a vibrant community navigating threat and resilience.

Overall this is not a bad read at all.  I am left to assume that there’s either not a ton of info available on the trial and murderer, his motives or interviews, or that’s just not what the author was primarily getting at. I think the murders themselves were well described and covered as well as the investigation, but the trial and post apprehension of the killer was practically nonexistent so my curiosity is only amplified now.

The odd part is that the book was SO painfully detailed up to that point that the ending felt bizarre.  There are pages and pages on unrelated things like where the victims’ parents’ went to high school, and a whole chapter on a piano player who was not even involved in the killings except as someone that played in the bars and spotted the killer once. I just frankly don’t care about that guy’s time on a cruise ship or where the murder victims parents grew up.  For all those minute details, the trial consisted of about… Heck I don’t know, one or two pages?

The book offers a fairly comprehensive history of certain gay bars and queer violence in New York City, among other towns, but the majority of the book is about the victims more than the crimes.  Some parts of their lives were actually interesting, and other parts, like sex life details and queer metro life such as “subway sammies” made me cringe a little bit as a healthcare worker.

Tracking the history of law enforcement and queer violence was probably where the book shined most.  Some parts seemed to have some organizational issues (for example, one random paragraph mentions another serial killer spotted in a bar, and he was never mentioned again), but the history of the bars and violence, right up through Cuomo Sr and Giuliani were well organized and presented in interesting ways.

The killer was portrayed in the final section of the book with a brief look at his college years and professional career, not in any kind of chronological order.  It doesn’t seem like a huge effort was made to find where he did the killings or even why, as no true motive was established. The only part of the trial consisted of one family member’s statement so I guess it was all based on the victims families?  Where is the detail for this part of the story? I’m guessing sealed court documents or something but this is just not mentioned.

Overall: I know the author wasn’t focused on the killer, but he could have trimmed some of the inane details and had plenty of page space to at least talk about the post apprehension and trial period.

Last but not least: I think it’s time for a good old fashioned @OneReadingNurse medical digression! Right at the end, an interviewee mentions PReP on the last page of the book.  I guess I don’t think about AIDS much in healthcare these days unless it is noted that a patient is HIV or AIDS+, but the piano player from above asserts that the Queer community  assumes undetected HIV is the same thing as uninfected, which seems scary to me. PReP is covered by most insurances and asserts between 74-99% effectiveness based on the goal of use, according to the CDC.   https://www.cdc.gov/hiv/basics/prep.html It seems affordable and/but I didn’t realize people even in 2020 are just turning to drugs vs safe sex practices? What about other STDs? I guess that guy’s statement would require more research but it seems like the last thing the author wants readers to think about is how there are still extremely unsafe sexual practices occuring, which is something these people definitely need to be aware of.  I didn’t know it, anyway.

Thank you again to Celadon Books for my copy!!  I am stating neutral on the rating and again say check it out, releasing 3/9, if it sounds up your alley!

Categories
Fiction Science Fiction Suspense Thrillers

ARC Review: The Echo Wife by Sarah Gailey

I was so incredibly shocked and thrilled to receive an ARC box from Tor Books for The Echo Wife!! After a great giveaway on Instagram, I dug into the book and finally collected my thoughts on it!

One part science/medical fiction, one part domestic thriller, with some psychological and ethical thriller aspects too, I can safely recommend The Echo Wife for just about anyone!

Quick Facts:

  • Title: The Echo Wife
  • Series: N/A
  • Author: Sarah Gailey
  • Publisher & Release: Tor Books, 2/16/21
  • Length: 253 pg
  • Rate & Recommend: 🌟🌟🌟🌟⚡ for pretty much anyone!

Here is the synopsis from GoodReads:

The Echo Wife is a non-stop thrill ride, perfect for readers of Big Little Lies and enthusiasts of “Killing Eve” and “Westworld­”

Martine is a genetically cloned replica made from Evelyn Caldwell’s award-winning research. She’s patient and gentle and obedient. She’s everything Evelyn swore she’d never be. And she’s having an affair with Evelyn’s husband.

Now, the cheating bastard is dead, and the Caldwell wives have a mess to clean up. Good thing Evelyn Caldwell is used to getting her hands dirty…

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This book truly has so many interesting aspects, including clones, ethics, life falling apart, and obviously murder. It had me in a Black Mirror style mind kerfuffle, especially at the end, and it was great.

The Echo Wife is what you get when a cheating husband steals research and clones his wife, then makes a life with the clone.  How far outside of regular scientific ethics did he go?  Do ethics even apply to clones?

Martine, the “new wife,” eventually snaps and murders the husband in self defense, at which point Evelyn has to get involved to protect her research and her own skin.

This is so much more than a sci-fi murder fest though. Evelyn’s research is mostly about making cloned body doubles for politicians and then she exterminating the specimens. While the clone conditioning process comes across as brutal, in theory it make sense to create realistic doubles. Martine forces Evelyn to take a deep look at cloning ethics and whether or not they might be people.

There is also a look back at Evelyn’s childhood where abuse or at least fear of it is implied, and a sobering look at how marriages fall apart.  Why were they so silent in her childhood home? How does love turn to hate? These parts read a bit slowly but it felt very real, eerie at times, and it was interesting to see how Evelyn’s behavior is influenced by her upbringing, and maybe why she can see “murder” from such a detached standpoint.

Is Evelyn turning into her mother or her father, or parts of both?  Which would even be worse? This is a shorter book and while slower moving at times, gave me many scientific “what ifs” to ponder. The end is just 😳 omg, straight out of Black Mirror.

The Echo Wife is definitely a book that I can recommend for a wide range of genre fans!  Actual science fiction, medical fiction, domestic thriller fans, even some general fiction and literary readers might enjoy the perusal of human nature found here.

Thank you so much again to Tor Books for my early copy!!! The book is out 2/16 so preorder now if it sounds up your alley!!

Categories
Fiction General Fiction Suspense

ARC Review: Dead on the Delta by Sherry Knowlton

Thank you so much to Milford House Press for the digital ARC of Dead on the Delta!  Seeing as I live in frozen western NY, this armchair safari to Botswana was a good pick for me right now

Quick Facts:

  • Title: Dead on the Delta
  • Series: Alexa Williams, #5
  • Author: Sherry Knowlton
  • Publisher & Release: Milford House Press, 2/16/21
  • Length:254 pg
  • Rate & Recommend: 🌟🌟🌟⚡ for fans of the genre!

Here is the synopsis from Amazon:

Alexa Williams is about to spend four months doing lion research in the African bush with her boyfriend Reese. She looks forward to witnessing the elemental life and death struggle of the wild, but she never imagines she’ll become one of the hunted on the remote Okavango Delta.

Botswana protects its wildlife with strict policies and an entire army deployed to combat poaching. So Alexa and Reese are shocked when poachers wipe out an entire herd of elephants. At the site of the mass slaughter near their lion project, they promise authorities that they’ll watch for suspicious activity as they travel the Delta.

When the country’s strict wildlife conservation policies come under debate in the capital, tensions flare and Alexa begins to suspect the ongoing poaching incidents may be about even more than the illicit ivory trade. Especially when a close friend dies when caught in the crossfire.

After an alarming series of near escapes, gunmen attack the safari camp where she and Reese are staying, and Alexa must brave wild animals and the dangerous labyrinth of Delta channels in a desperate attempt to save the hostages, including the man she loves.

The book definitely has two strong points: setting and atmosphere.  I never had trouble picturing the sights, smells, and animals of Botswana.  Whether they were bouncing along in the camp vehicle or hanging out on the deck at the lagoon, Knowlton exceeds at providing even the sounds of the environment.  The prevailing mood was always apparent as well which was a great way to keep me immersed in most of the scenes.

Alexa, Reese, and the other characters are a good bunch and they seemed to have realistic relationships.   I liked that none of them were perfect and they all had real life issues to work through as well.  The romance is pretty cute too, I can tell they care deeply for each other.

This is Alexa Williams book #5, and my first read of the series.  That said, I don’t expect an info dump but I spent the first few chapters not knowing if Alexa was a researcher, tourist, detective, Interpol or what the heck. Come to find she is a lawyer.  A very brief introduction to Alexa and Reece was definitely needed, I felt like the characters were moving shadows in the environment as everyone except Handsome Harry lacked physical descriptions as well.

The book had plenty of harrowing danger and political intrigue, although Alexa was only involved peripherally in the poaching investigation.  She stumbled upon them by accident at every encounter and we never really knew if the Defense Force was making any progress with the poachers.

I also tuned out a bit when the commission was discussing conservation policies.  It was interesting to learn about poaching and some of the wildlife conservation issues though, I think more detecting, poking around by Alexa, and overall suspense would have made it a better read for me.  It seemed like either total disaster mode or everyday life with little between mood wise.

Overall – I totally enjoyed the reading experience.  I might have even googled safaris to see what was involved in booking one.  I would like to go back and read the first Alexa novel to learn a little more about her, but I can definitely safely recommend the book for fans of good characters, strong settings, lawyers, animals, and conservation efforts!  

Free book received in exchange for an honest review, all opinions are my own

Here are some links for the book and author!

Categories
Fantasy Young Adult

ARC Review: The Gilded Ones by Namina Forna

Thank you so much to the publisher for my ARC of The Gilded Ones in exchange for an honest review! All opinions are my own

Quick Facts:

  • Title: The Gilded Ones
  • Series: Deathless, #1
  • Author: Namina Forna
  • Publisher & Release: Delacorte Press, 2/9,/21
  • Length: 422 pg
  • Rate & Recommend: 🌟🌟🌟⚡ probably for YA readers who don’t get too hung up on details

Here is the synopsis from Goodreads:

Sixteen-year-old Deka lives in fear and anticipation of the blood ceremony that will determine whether she will become a member of her village. Already different from everyone else because of her unnatural intuition, Deka prays for red blood so she can finally feel like she belongs.

But on the day of the ceremony, her blood runs gold, the color of impurity–and Deka knows she will face a consequence worse than death.

Then a mysterious woman comes to her with a choice: stay in the village and submit to her fate, or leave to fight for the emperor in an army of girls just like her. They are called alaki–near-immortals with rare gifts. And they are the only ones who can stop the empire’s greatest threat.

Knowing the dangers that lie ahead yet yearning for acceptance, Deka decides to leave the only life she’s ever known. But as she journeys to the capital to train for the biggest battle of her life, she will discover that the great walled city holds many surprises. Nothing and no one are quite what they seem to be–not even Deka herself.

So… This is a nicely brutal tale about girls with demon heritage being tortured and bled for their Golden blood, then eventually murdered via the religious Death Mandate for their kind.  I was really excited to see religious purity in a book until I quickly realized it was an oppressive, not pious set of laws.

The women are relegated to male servants per the Infinite Wisdoms, until Deka is brought to the Capitol city to train in the emperor’s army of demons, alaki, which will defeat these Deathshrieks.  There is a huge reverse info dump at the end of the book but we don’t learn much about them, or the history of the empire until that time.

Quickly about the writing: anyone wanting to write first person present tense needs to read this book, she is one of the rare authors ( or has a beast editor) that doesn’t cross tenses!

Here is an itemized list of the issues I had with the world building, in no particular order:

1) The book started in a cold weather climate, but everyone is wearing delicate ceremonial dresses. Finally on the journey to the capitol the author remembers that it’s cold and they need furs

2)once the girls are brought to the Warthu Beta (training house) – things happen SUPER fast in the weapons and martial arts training. I’m supposed to believe that in two weeks they go from clueless to clever swordsmasters? Come on, show us some of that training. It’s like a ridiculous fast forward and magically they are all warriors.

3) so the Jatu recruits and female Alaki are supposed to pair up and be battle/life buddies. The whole book focuses on male to female/demon animosity – but- there is really no bonding at all shown between the pair, they just kind of become trusting fireside bffs one night after those mysterious training weeks pass

4) instalove – oh my gosh the kid back home called her pretty, ONE TIME, and later looking back she said she loved him 😂😂 I can almost ship Keita and Deka but we needed that bonding time that wasn’t shown

5) the plot and twists read VERY closely to Skyhunter which came out earlier this year – oh yes very monstrous monster bad guys, very inhuman indeed

6) dumb animal names – Ex: leopardan – it’s a fantasy world, either come up with fantasy names or call it a stupid blue leopard. I did like Ixa the shapeshifting not-cat though

7) if the One Nation is literally an entire hemisphere (I’m guessing Russia, Asia, irish&etc, and Africa), why so much land grabbing? The scale of land required to produce four separate races like that is essentially an entire hemisphere, now within one nation, and that should be shown on the map.

8) feeding off #7 – I would have liked a brief explanation of life during the rule of The Gilded Ones – is Forna omitting it because the entire history is a lie and life was terrible back then? Or are we supposed to just believe that they were fair/awesome rulers and take it at face value? The jatu did manage to unite an entire hemisphere though, the goddesses might have created a women’s world with oppressed men for all we know, and they could have been right to fight back. Either way, uniting a whole hemisphere under one nation is pretty impressive and not addressing this is a huge plot hole.

9) lack of setting – I get that describing sand dunes is stupid but most of the descriptions were of people and animals. What about the jungle, the common areas, even the food? Some scenes had scents described. Setting is what connects to the atmosphere…of which there wasn’t much of one.

I mean it’s not even a bad story, or a story you read every day. I like the idea of torturing someone to death nine times and teaching them to survive, but these YA authors aren’t thinking their worlds through very well and I don’t think that ‘character driven’ OR that it’s a Young Adult book is a good excuse not to at least cover world building basics. Everything I addressed up there could have been fixed without much extra page space.

The good things included female friendships, teachers (whose potential were mostly wasted as no lessons were really shown), shapeshifting pets, snarky horse-people, and… A not really happy ending. It’s an ending fitting for the story even though it got a little sappy for the tone leading up to it.

I did like the main group of girls too, Britta and Belcalis were about as different as two people can get and they still made a fast group of allies, friends with Deka. There’s an unconventional amount of grimdark suffering and it’s kind of terrific.

Overall? Honestly not a bad read just poorly executed at times. Could be a standalone but there’s at least one more book coming. It releases 2/9, and I am pretty neutral on recommending it as the good story and the lack of world building make it a wash. I’ll read the next one though.

Categories
Fiction Literary Fiction

ARC Review: Sophomores by Sean Desmond

Thank you so much to the publisher for my giveaway digital ARC of Sophomores!  I don,’t always gravitate towards general / literary fiction but read the last 50% of this one in one night and have no regrets!

Quick Facts:

  • Title: Sophomores
  • Series: N/A
  • Author: Sean Desmond
  • Publisher & Release: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1/26/21
  • Length: 384 pg
  • Rate & Recommend: 🌟🌟🌟🌟 for fans of fiction, nostalgia, and literary discourse!

Here is the synopsis from Amazon:

The late 1980s come alive in this moving and keenly observed story of one boy’s unforgettable sophomore year, and his parents’ surprising journey alongside him.

It’s fall 1987 and life as normal is ending for the Malone family. With their sterile Dallas community a far cry from the Irish-American Bronx of their youth, Pat and Anne Malone have reached a breaking point. Pat, faced with a debilitating MS diagnosis, has fallen into his drinking. Anne, his devoutly Catholic wife, is selected as a juror for a highly publicized attempted murder trial, one that raises questions–about God, and about men in power–she has buried her entire life. Together, they try to raise their only son, Daniel, a bright but unmotivated student who is shocked into actual learning by an enigmatic English teacher. For once, Dan is unable to fly under the radar, and is finally asked to consider what he might want to make of his life.

With humor and tenderness, Sophomores brilliantly captures the enduring poignancy of coming of age, teenage epiphanies and heartbreak, and family redemption.

Such a great premise.  I latched onto “enigmatic English teacher” and decided to give the book a shot! The book follows each member of the Malone family for about a year, and I think the easiest way to review this one is to give each character/storyline a paragraph!

Let’s start with Dan: he is a sophomore in a private high school for boys, smart but not drawing attention to it. His absolutely brilliant honors English teacher sparks a sense of Give-A-Shit into Dan when Mr. Oglesby challenges the class to not be regular rats, but Norwegian rats! It’s just something you have to read.  Dan deals with his father’s alcoholism and sickness, and the family’s overall dysfunction, while navigating sophomore year amongst a group of realistically loveable and ridiculous friends.  I liked having glimpses into their shenanigans and family troubles, and they were funny!

It’s not a party til someone shoots a firework out of their ass, right? 😂😂

Anne, the mother, is selected to be a juror in a local high profile attempted murder trial, where a Reverend tried to (allegedly) murder his wife .  I think Anne sees herself and her own suffocation in the victim.  What a life, I can’t imagine having a blithering alcoholic husband who loses his job and keeps spending money on alcohol! I would be screaming and picking fights too, but I have to hand it to her for staying in the house.  Anne’s unravelling is pretty sad to see

Pat, the father, is an alcoholic like his own father.  He loses his job at the airline after enough people catch him drinking when he should probably be working or available for work.  He knows he’s sick, with both MS and Alcoholism, and has an epiphany in the hospital at one point where he and this other alcoholic are just taking up beds for people who might be having real emergencies. Yep, that happens.  I really disliked Pat, I’m kind of surprised he wasn’t scared of alcohol after his own childhood.  His point of view served to show the family’s history a bit too though and then he became the broken head of a broken  household, trying to break the cycle he was stuck in.

Would Oglesby like that analysis? I wish my AP English teacher cared so much!

Anyway – all of the storylines form well rounded, thoughtful characters.  Dan’s hilarious friends and high school life offset some of the tougher themes like faith and broken families.  It is a very real story that spares no feelings whatsoever, and I did read the last 50% in one sitting 😳

My only thing was the absolute number of words I had to look up! I consider my vocabulary pretty well rounded and I was still thankful to be reading on Kindle so I could just click words! So many words.

I would totally recommend for anyone interested in high school nostalgia, literary discourse, football, Irish American slice of life, fiction in general, and family stories!

Categories
Adventure Paranormal Thrillers

My Stop on the *Kept From Cages* Book Blog Tour!!!

Thank you so much, as always, to Storytellers On Tour for having me on their book tour for Kept From Cages by Phil Williams!  Thank you as well to the author for my finished copy, all opinions are my own!

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Quick Facts:

  • Title: Kept From Cages
  • Series: Ikiri, #1
  • Author: Phil Williams
  • Publisher & Release: Rumian Publishing, September 2020
  • Length: 261pg
  • Rate & Recommend: 🌟🌟🌟🌟 yes for fans of urban paranormal, thrillers, and sass!

Here is the synopsis:

No one returns from Ikiri.

Reece’s gang of criminal jazz musicians have taken shelter in the wrong house. There’s a girl with red eyes bound to a chair. The locals call her a devil – but Reece sees a kid that needs protecting. He’s more right than he knows.

Chased by a shadowy swordsman and an unnatural beast, the gang flee across the Deep South with the kid in tow. She won’t say where she’s from or who exactly her scary father is, but she’s got powers they can’t understand. How much will Reece risk to save her?

On the other side of the world, Agent Sean Tasker’s asking similar questions. With an entire village massacred and no trace of the killers, he’s convinced Duvcorp’s esoteric experiments are responsible. His only ally is an unstable female assassin, and their only lead is Ikiri – a black-site in the Congo, which no one leaves alive. How far is Tasker prepared to go for answers?

Kept From Cages is the first part in an action-packed supernatural thriller duology, filled with eccentric characters and intricately woven mysteries

The plot/story: there is so much going on in this book that the action is literally almost nonstop, from the first page. There are two separate storylines that alternate chapters, one being the gang of musicians and the other is agent Tasker. Both storylines are packed with action and I found myself more drawn to the musicians and the little girl.

Bits and pieces of the overall puzzle are brought into the action slowly, so it took a while to start learning what was going on but I was well entertained in the process! Eventually the two storylines start to connect and it’s an absolute whirlwind when they finally do.

The Setting: deep Southern Louisiana is apparently a really great setting for a paranormal clash between criminal jazz musicians and a mysterious, evil man with a sword. The heck were those demons?? Agent Tasker’s story ends up in Ikiri, a village in the African Congo that the toughest men out there don’t return from. Is it civil war or a front for something darker that is leaving all those villages slaughtered? Williams doesn’t waste too much momentum on setting but I never had any problem picturing the layout, and my favorite setting was definitely the homemade town on stilts. For the biblical flood when it comes, obviously.

Somewhere in between the plot and the characters are the supernatural elements too. Power from…a spirit? An energy? Zombies! Unexplained mass murders. Women in trees and a whole pack of apparently undead assassins…. Omg so much packed in that it almost got confusing at times.

The characters: ah gosh the characters are amazing. The band is a sassy group, especially Leigh Ann. I loved their banter and found family-ness, it seems like most od them have lost quite a bit and then found each other! Zip is a cool character once she comes out of her shell, a literally red-eyed child that may or may not be some kind of devil spawn.

Tasker is an agent that investigates magical energy, and he’s trying to figure out what the heck this giant corporation unleashed in the Congo. Why did a village in Norway look like a rabid mob came through? He finds a sort of partner, a super unstable assassin with an imaginary friend, who if not likeable is at least interesting. Tasker’s team is a motley bunch and it’s interesting watching him unravel the international mysteries surrounding … The Source.

Overall takeaways: Anyway – yes, I am totally on board with this. Each chapter has a little cliffhanger that makes the book REALLY hard to put down. I wondered about an English author trying to write Southern American slang, but he does a really brilliant job with the linguistics, then come to find he writes language texts! I would totally recommend for fans of paranormal anything, and fans of thrillers. Kept From Cages is different but totally worth the read, I’m on board for book 2 when it’s ready!

Guys! If you follow this link you can find the other tour host’s reviews, and I highly encourage you to do to so!

Meet the author!

Phil Williams is an author of contemporary fantasy and dystopian fiction, including the Ordshaw urban fantasy thrillers and the post-apocalyptic Estalia series. He also writes reference books to help foreign learners master the nuances of English, two of which are regular best-sellers on Kindle. He lives with his wife by the coast in Sussex, UK, and spends a great deal of time walking his impossibly fluffy dog, Herbert.

Here are the author and book links!!

Book Links
• Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/55115499-kept-from-cages
• Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/dp/1913468097
— — —
Author Links!
Website: https://phil-williams.co.uk/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/fantasticphil
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/philwilliamsauthor
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/ordshawphil/
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6579274.Phil_Williams

Categories
Adventure Science Fiction

ARC Review: Doors of Sleep by Tim Pratt

Thank you so much to Angry Robot Books for the digital advanced copy of Doors of Sleep in exchange for an honest review! All opinions are my own!  If you are a fan of multiverse adventures and creative characters, check this out!

Quick Facts:

  • Title: Doors of Sleep
  • Series: Journals of Zaxony Delatree, #1
  • Author: Tim Pratt
  • Publisher & Release: Angry Robot Books, 1/12/21
  • Length: 272 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: 🌟🌟🌟⚡ yes for sci-fi, multiverse fans!

Here is the synopsis from Goodreads:

What would you do if you woke up and found yourself in a parallel universe under an alien sky? This is the question Zax Delatree must answer every time he closes his eyes.

Every time Zax Delatree falls asleep, he travels to a new reality. He has no control over his destination and never knows what he will see when he opens his eyes. Sometimes he wakes up in technological utopias, and other times in the bombed-out ruins of collapsed civilizations. All he has to live by are his wits and the small aides he has picked up along the way – technological advantages from techno-utopias, sedatives to escape dangerous worlds, and stimulants to extend his stay in pleasant ones.

Thankfully, Zax isn’t always alone. He can take people with him, if they’re unconscious in his arms when he falls asleep. But someone unwelcome is on his tail, and they are after something that Zax cannot spare – the blood running through his veins, the power to travel through worlds…

Wow, what a wild ride! I can only imagine how Zax feels since I was getting dizzy just travelling with him!  I think the book’s biggest strength is just the sheer number of creative ideas on the pages – I coined a term for it, like “word salad” but it’s “universe salad.”  One page might spit out six wildly different universes if Zax is travelling quickly.  Pratt’s well of ideas seems to be endless.

There are many pop culture nods that I enjoyed spotting too, like an Emerald City universe with a yellow brick road and all.  One thing the book accomplishes is making me feel soooo small, the possibility of endless universes and endless galaxies, planets, and he is only seeing a small portion…

nothing mattered against the span of the infinite, so if you wanted to care about anything at all, you had to care about the small things. There was nothing in the multiverse but small things

So Zaxony is travelling alone and it was hard for me to latch onto the story before he found a travelling companion, that is a super interesting plant/human hybrid.  They become great friends and Minna is able to perform many scientific tasks to make Zax’s life easier.  They also eventually pick up an analytic war crystal named Vicki who I think is the best character 😂

In the worst-case scenario, an insane chip of diamond was unlikely to cause harm to others at least, and, best case, perhaps I’d finally get some answers

– Zaxony, on Vicki

Once the antagonist shows up in truth and the book turns into a pursuit, giving Zax and company a purpose, I finally latched onto the story.  This happened maybe halfway through and is why I only gave Doors of Sleep 3.5 stars, I felt aimless before that point.  The Lector is a brilliant terrorist with the aim of conquering all the worlds, creating a moving empire, and it’s going to take mote than weapons and traps to stop him…. A really brilliant bad guy who is only limited by his inability to comprehend the true grandness of the multiverse.

I wondered why he didn’t just kill them, but then remembered: the dead do not suffer

–Zaxony, on the Lector

Did I mention that the Lector is more than a little bit brutal? How in the world are they going to take him and his army down?  I should mention Zax too as a character – he is thoughtful, a general good Samaritan with strong principles about helping people, but he is also flawed and sooo lonely before he meets Minna. I loved that they ended up just being partners and not pursuing anything romantic too.

Overall: clever but brief world building, strong friendships and interesting characters, many philosophies, and a twisty OMG ending, made me enjoy this book quite a bit.  I am definitely 100% on board for the next book and hope you guys will check this one out!  Just released on January 12th so grab your copy now!

Categories
Fiction Mysteries Suspense

Book Tour Stop & Review! The Perfect Guests by Emma Rous

Thank you so much to Berkley Publishing Group for the invite to read and feature The Perfect Guests by Emma Rous!  This is a twisty mystery/gothic suspense novel featuring a huge old manor house and I couldn’t put it down!

Quick Facts:

  • Title: The Perfect Guests
  • Series: N/A
  • Author: Emma Rous
  • Publisher & Release: Berkley 1/12/21
  • Length: 302 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟 yes for fans of the genre!

Here is the synopsis from Amazon:

The USA Today bestselling author of The Au Pair returns with another delicious, twisty novel—about a grand estate with many secrets, an orphan caught in a web of lies, and a young woman playing a sinister game.

1988. Beth Soames is fourteen years old when her aunt takes her to stay at Raven Hall, a rambling manor in the isolated East Anglian fens. The Averells, the family who lives there, are warm and welcoming, and Beth becomes fast friends with their daughter, Nina. At times, Beth even feels like she’s truly part of the family…until they ask her to help them with a harmless game—and nothing is ever the same.

2019. Sadie Langton is an actress struggling to make ends meet when she lands a well-paying gig to pretend to be a guest at a weekend party. She is sent a suitcase of clothing, a dossier outlining the role she is to play, and instructions. It’s strange, but she needs the money, and when she sees the stunning manor she’ll be staying at, she figures she’s got nothing to lose. 

In person, Raven Hall is even grander than she’d imagined—even with damage from a fire decades before—but the walls seem to have eyes. As day turns to night, Sadie starts to feel that there’s something off about the glamorous guests who arrive, and as the party begins, it becomes chillingly apparent their unseen host is playing games with everyone…including her.

Oh yes this book is so twisty. Beth and Sadie alternate chapters, telling the history and present of their time spent at Raven Hall until the timelines eventually converge. One of my favorite plot tools ever is used too, which is the mystery person point of view! I thought this one was a ghost and I am not even going to tell you if I was right or not, but eventually it becomes obvious who it is.

All three plot lines are equally strange and interesting. The gothic atmosphere of Raven Hall permeates the entire story and creates an excellent setting for a mystery. Rous describes the Fens well as part of the book setting, and also in an afterword about her time living in the region.

I read this one in two sittings and have no regrets, it’s one of those addictive mysteries that begs to be solved. I had it all wrong anyway, per usual, and didn’t find it all that predictable either. I mean I thought I did and was wrong…so.

Definitely pick this one up if you like gothic settings, twisty mysteries, games, secrets and lies, and a little bit of arson. The book is wrapped up fairly nicely too so you won’t be puzzling over loose ends

Have you read it yet? Do you like books set in other countries? I had to look up some words but enjoy reading about other regions and cultures!