Friday, December 15, 2017

Friday #Review - Blood and Tempest by Jon Skovron #Fantasy

Series: The Empire of Storms # 3
Format: Paperback, 464 pages
Release Date: November 28,2017
Publisher: Orbit
Source: Library
Genre: Fantasy

The thrilling conclusion to Jon Skovron's adventure fantasy series, two young people from a fracturing empire spread across savage seas must find a way to keep their nation together.

Still reeling from the events at Dawn's Light, Hope struggles to understand what it means to be a warrior who has vowed to never again take up a sword.

Red is enjoying his new role as imperial spy. Perhaps a bit too much. But his loyalties will be tested when his employer, Lady Hempist, relents and assigns him the one task he's been begging for all along: recruiting Hope and Brigga Lin to help rid the empire of biomancery once and for all.

Fate brought them together; it will tear their empire apart.

The Empire of Storms
Hope and Red
Bane and Shadow
Blood and Tempest

Blood and Tempest is the third and final installment in author Jon Skovron's Empire of Storms. Although this series has mostly focused on Bleak Hope and Red over the last two books, Skovron has added other characters and given them much broader narrative in this series than perhaps was absolutely necessary. As this story picks up, Red has taken control over his darker side; his shadow side that was put there by the biomancers who used him to kill off those who were causing trouble. 

Red has been working with Lady Merivale Hempist, who is the Kingdom's spy master. She is a brilliant tactician who is 5 moves ahead of anyone else. Merivale wants to disrupt the newly formed alliance between the Biomancers, and the Vinchen's who are now under the leadership of a real piece of work who has a prior relationship with Hope. She wants to save the Prince and heir from being eliminated. She wants an alliance with the people her kingdom is afraid of. And, she needs to find a way to bring Hope and Brigga Lin back into the fold since they have both been at the top of the Biomancers and Vinchen's list of those who need to be killed quickly. 

Merivale should be mentioned as one of the driving forces as to what happens in this book, and how the characters like Hope, Red, Jilly, Brigga Lin, and Nettie make their way back to each other in order to save a crumbling empire. At the same time, Hope isn't the same character we met in the first two novels. She's more introspective. She's searching for a way to find a new path for herself without having to once again pick up a sword which she has since left behind thanks to the events of Dawn's Light. For Hope, this is a long drawn out journey. 

A journey that will take her back to Bleak Hope for the first time since she was 8 years old and the biomancers killed everyone on her island. She's searching for answers about her own heritage which leads her to a strange boy named Uter who will become her ward and companion. There are other stops along the way as well including back to the place where she trained to become a Vinchen, and a reunion with Red's cousin Alash. Hope has regrets when it comes to Jilly and especially Brigga Lin after she left both of them behind to find her own way. 

Meanwhile, both Jilly and Brigga Lin are serving on the same pirate ship. For months, Brigga has felt as though she was drowning. She hasn't done much with her life since being left behind by Hope. She hasn't even bothered to try to train Jilly who both she and Hope promised to be mentors to guide Jilly into being a biomancer/Vinchen warrior. As you are reading this book, you are just waiting for the powder keg to explode. You know that certain characters are waging a war that will end up collecting all of your favorite and not so favorite characters.

The major problem I have had with this story was that it just wasn't as entertaining as the first two novels. There was a slow roll which included some new characters, some new twists, and some interesting turn of events when it came to how the author was going to wrap up this series. I don't believe that this book needed as many narrators that it had. I was truly and fully engaged into this being Hope and Red's series, but then it became much, much bigger and perhaps left something behind in its wake. I will say this. You definitely should read this series. You should read the books as they were released. You should take your time when you get to the ending where Hope, Red, Brigga Lin, Jilly, Uter, Alash, Vaderton, Nettie, Merivale, and their allies are forced to face a slew of bizarro creatures in order to save the Empire.  

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Thursday #Review - Wintersong by S. Jae-Jones #YALit #Fantasy

Series: Wintersong # 1
Format: Hardcover, 448 pages
Release Date: February 7, 2017
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Source: Library
Genre: Young Adult / Fairy Tales & Folklore

Dark, romantic and unforgettable, a fantastical coming-of-age story for fans of Labyrinth and The Darkest Part of the Forest. 

The last night of the year. Now the days of winter begin and the Goblin King rides abroad, searching for his bride…

All her life, Liesl has heard tales of the beautiful, dangerous Goblin King. They’ve enraptured her mind, her spirit, and inspired her musical compositions. Now eighteen and helping to run her family’s inn, Liesl can’t help but feel that her musical dreams and childhood fantasies are slipping away.

But when her own sister is taken by the Goblin King, Liesl has no choice but to journey to the Underground to save her. Drawn to the strange, captivating world she finds—and the mysterious man who rules it—she soon faces an impossible decision. And with time and the old laws working against her, Liesl must discover who she truly is before her fate is sealed.

Dark, romantic, and powerful, Wintersong will sweep you away into a world you won’t soon forget.

Wintersong is the first installment in author S. Jae-Jones' 
Wintersong series. Wintersong is apparently a retelling of Labyrinth with hints of Beauty and the Beast as well. The protagonist of this story is 18-year old Elizabeth Vogler, aka Liesl. The villain of the story is the Goblin King, aka the Deceiver, The Lord of Mischief, Ruler of the Underground. Once upon a time, there was a little girl who loved to go into the woods and play music for her friend who lived in the woods. 

But, Liesl forgot about the boy, but the boy never forgot about her. Meanwhile, she composed music not only for herself, but for her younger brother as well. While her younger brother was getting all the attention, Liesl was told she wasn't as talented as Josef. As we open the book, the boy who is now a man has set up plans for Liesl which means kidnapping her sister and forcing Liesl into playing a game that she can't win. One could say the first part of this story was the sibling rivalry between sisters, and ends with a twisted romance between a young woman with so much to offer musically being lured into a world that sees her as weak. 

Liesl is the oldest and more responsible one who has guided her brother, while Katharina, the middle sister, is described as wanton fruit begging to be plucked by the Goblin King. After her sister is taken by the Goblin King, Liesl finds herself playing a game with him. If she wins, Kathe goes free. If she loses, Kathe becomes the Goblin Kings next wife and Queen of the Underground. The most curious aspect of this story is that the writer makes it known that Liesl isn't the beautiful maid ready and willing to be taken away by the first handsome man that comes along.

No. In fact, I dare say that she is described as normal, short in stature, and plain as they come. It has been a very long time since I watched Labyrinth. But, I do remember David Bowie was Jareth the Goblin King, the ruler of the Goblins. Jennifer Connelly was Sarah Williams, a 15-year-old girl who journeys through the Labyrinth to find her baby brother. The obvious difference is that Liesl is closer to 19, and it is her sister Kathe she is trying to save from a very short life living in the Underground.

This is really two story's within a story. The first part is a fast paced, lyrical ride through Liesl and The Goblin King playing a game of keeps. A game that was set in motion thanks to Elizabeth forgetting about the boy who lived in the woods and who waited for her for years. By kidnapping the girls sister, the Goblin King forced Elisabeth to not only play a game of life and death with him, but to also remember the days when they were truly friends.  

The second part becomes something of a let down, but we do get to learn more about Liesl and how musically talented she really is. The first part is definitely more about Liesl's family and the upcoming journey that her younger brother is apparently going on without her. Then it becomes more of a romance novel which really dragged my review down a notch. I have much respect for the way that the author manages the Goblin King. He is an immortal figure bound by a fateful choice he made years and years ago. He is a bit of a villain and a hero. A sinner and a man who deserves better things that to be stuck in the Underground. A boy who loved a young girl, and a man who finds himself conflicted in keeping the woman in the Underground as his wife and Queen while she wastes away and loses her magical talents. 

I was given the sequel to this story recently and do plan on seeing how Jones resolves some issues that she has left hanging like chads during the 2000 election. I also want to see if there will be some further character growth when it comes to Liesl and her relationship with her family. 

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Wednesday #Review - Pretty Dead Girls by Monica Murphy #YALit #Mystery

Series: Standalone
Format: E-Book, 336 pages
Release Date: January 2, 2018
Publisher: Entangled Teen
Source: Publisher
Genre: Young Adult Fiction / Thrillers & Suspense

From New York Times bestselling author Monica Muprhy comes a chilling, intricate mystery perfect for fans of We Were Liars or the Pretty Little Liars series.

Beautiful. Perfect. Dead.

They're arranged in a particular way. Their faces turned at the most flattering angles, their designer clothes immaculate, as immaculate as their carefully made-up faces. Only the slash of blood across their necks mars the perfect surface. Only the vacant stare in their eyes indicates they're dead.

The most popular students in school are going down, and queen bee Penelope Malone is terrified she's next. So what's a girl to do? Conduct a little serial killer research, of course. Thanks to the help of the nerdy yet cute boy from English class who volunteers to help her, she becomes obsessed with all things related to murder. All while she’s trying to stay one step ahead of the brutal serial killer on the loose.

But this killer won't be satisfied until every beautiful, popular girl in the senior class is dead—especially Penelope. And the killer is closer than she thinks...

Author Monica Murphy's Pretty Dead Girls is a mixture of Scream Girls, Pretty Little Liars, and We Were Liars. Protagonist Penelope Malone is in her senior year at Cape Bonita Prep, a quiet community on the Northern California coast where nothing really happens. She's a member and President of a group called Larks who are at the top of their classes in all areas including athletics and academia. The group is made up of 5 seniors and 5 juniors per school year. 

It is a group that consists of the most popular girls at the school with Penelope striving to be the school's Queen Bee just like her older sister Peyton was. But, after one of their members is found dead at a local church, things start to take a dark twist. Then a second girl is found dead at the school. What do the girls have in common? They were both Larks. They were both Seniors. They were also mean girls who thought nothing of bullying other students. They are also characters readers don't really get a chance to get to know because of their abrupt departure from the story.

After losing her best friend, puzzled and on the brink of losing the Larks, Penelope becomes allied with a boy from her psychic's class, Cass Vincenti, who has a very interesting past which I will not spoil. I will say that Cass isn't like other boy lead characters whom I've read in this particular genre in the past. One could legitimately argue that none of these characters have any morality when it comes to striving to be the best, while walking over everyone else in order to get what they want. One could also say that every single one of these characters is morally bankrupt until Penelope finally understands what is happening and attempts to change her persona. 

Could her own actions be leading to the Larks being systematically killed off? Can Penelope actually trust the secretive Cass, or is he just trying to get close to her in order to lure her to her death? Murphy does something that I actually liked. There were chapters with the Killers POV. The author gets inside the killer and we, as readers, get a chance to understand how much of a sociopath this person really is. 
At no time was the killer's identity revealed to the reader. It wasn't until the final bell is about to be tolled that Murphy finally let's readers in on her secret. 

I was absolutely and totally wrong with my guess as to the killers identity and that's totally fine. Let me say this, I am a bit disappointed by the an editing error that happens later in the book. One of the characters actually thinks, OMG character ABC is the killer! The very next page, the same character is saying Holy Freaking Crap, it's not character ABC who's the killer but XYZ! So, let's call this a Young Adult Murder-Mystery with bad girls with pretty faces who you have to really dig to find things to like about each of them. 

This is my first attempt at reading and reviewing Monica Murphy's writing. One could say that the story is predictable, you can also say that there are more than enough similarities to the books I've mentioned above. Pretty Dead Girls is a fairly fast paced story with plenty of suspense and tension that you can cut with a knife. The relationship between Penelope and Cass is one that could be called a roller coaster ride from hell. There are so many moments that I wanted to slap both of them in the heads and tell them to calm down and stop treating each other as adversaries.

If you love stories that feature bad girls and boys, then this story is definitely for you.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Tuesday #Review - Night of the Victorian Dead by Amber Michelle Cook #SyFy #Gothic

Series: Night of the Victorian Dead # 1
Format: E-Book, 272 pages
Release Date: March 18th 2018
Publisher: Asset Creative House 
Source: Publisher
Genre: Science Fiction / Fantasy

The unwitting attendees of a country ball are all too busy striving to hide secrets and make matches to see what’s going on around them until it’s almost too late!

Among the green and rolling hills of Old England, the fields lie ripe for reaping under a blighted Harvest Moon.  While tenants and servants fear the eerie light, Mr. Dorchester invites several families of his acquaintance to his estate—for a visit culminating in a ball to celebrate his ward’s engagement to a most eligible neighbor.  Amid all the usual hopes and anticipation such an event inevitably excites. 

All the while, signs of the dead rising are increasing until the entire household wakes in the middle of the night to a gut-wrenching scream inside the house.

It's the first novel of a trilogy, in which Downton Abbey meets the undead.

Where imagination and suspense reign over splatter-gore, and the knowing modern reader can enjoy accompanying unsuspecting characters down the road to the inevitable, while themselves encountering mysteries and unexpected twists along the way.

Welcome to Romero Park, by author Amber Michelle Cook, is the first installment in what is being called Night of the Victorian Dead series. This story, set in 19th century England, is being marketed as Downton Abbey meets Night of the Living Dead. It is a tale of secrets, romance, and suspense delicately laced with sly humor. The author was inspired by works of literature from Charlotte Bronte, Charles Dickens and Jane Austen, and in tribute to the delightful terror of first encountering classic undead creatures in Night of the Living Dead. 

Cook tells her story through an assortment of characters:

-Edward Dorchester, the disillusioned owner of Romero Park, and possible suitor for Rosemary Helgram, who through machinations that the reader will slowly come to discover, has gathered a group of friends together for what is sure to be a monstrous occasion. Not only does he plan to have a ball for his ward, but perhaps a bit of revenge as well. 

-17-year old Sophie Dorchester, ward of Edward. Brought up in France, moved to England to become the so called Blushing English Rose along with her governess Anne Sommerset. Sophie is soon to be engaged to Blake Helgram, but there are things that could waylay that engagement if Edward has any say in the matter. The most reserved of all the characters. She doesn't want to upset the apple cart, or make her ward angry with her. So, stands in the background and watches as the rest of the cast foreshadows what is apparently coming in the next installment.

-Anne Sommerset, Sophie's governess who perhaps pins for her employer and seeks to free him from his misguided plans for those who have been invited to the ball of the year. Anne is perhaps the most fascinating character in this book outside of one who I will summarize shortly. She seems to know that there is something dark happening right under the surface. Yet, she doesn't try to make a scene to anyone, including Sophie. She tries hard to keep Sophie in check while also letting her express her desires.  

-William Poole, the reclusive apothecary, working at Romero Park under false pretenses. He is hiding so many secrets, it is hard to understand just who this man is, and what he and Edward are up to. Called out by Rosemary Helgram, Poole and his assistant are up to something very dark and nefarious. Poole is definitely up to no good, and one could say that he is Edward's partner in his machinations. 

-Rosemary Helgram, a local beauty raised to marry. Her hope is to marry Edward Dorchester, but she is also hiding some secrets. She also suspects that there is much more than meets the eyes when it comes to Mr. Poole, and what he is doing at Romero Park. Rosemary finds herself trying to protect Sophie knowing the girl has zero chance at making it on her own. She has one of the few encounters with an actual undead in this book. 

-George Bottlesworth, a young man who is Edward's man servant. He is finding great satisfaction at playing the indispensable manservant. But, as well learn later in the story, George is also hiding a secret that the author has gone through great pains to hide from readers until perhaps the sequel. George may be the only other character who actually peaked my curiosity wondering what will happen to him next. 

This is a story that really took me a long time to warm up to. It starts out slow, intersperses hints that something of the undead nature is making an appearance, while also tossing in a bit of intrigue, and twists. The romance really isn't heavily involved in this installment. One could say that the characters named above all have some sort of twist when it comes to whom they will actually end up with. I dare say that part three of this story is perhaps the most entertaining since some very interesting surprises wait the reader.

Meanwhile, we know that something hideous is happening. We know this because several of the characters are either attacked or encounter things that just urges the reader to continue further into the story. I recently watched the movie Pride, Prejudice and Zombies. It is a mashup combining Jane Austen's classic novel Pride and Prejudice (1813) with elements of modern zombie fiction, crediting Austen as co-author. Welcome to Romero Park tries hard to emulate that move but so far lacks the zombies and action. 

**I received this book from publisher in lieu of a review.**

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Monday #Review - McCall Company: Emboozlement by Rich Leder #Mystery #Comedy

Series: McCall & Company # 3
Format: E-Book, 394 pages
Release Date: September 8, 2017
Publisher: Laugh Riot Press
Source: Publisher
Genre: Humor / Mystery

PI Kate McCall was warned to stay home, stay put, and stay out of NYPD business. But someone is killing Lowry Lowe lawyers, and Kate is sure her father’s murderer is pulling the trigger. At the same time, former Major League relief pitcher Steve “Blue” Stark wants her to catch the crook embezzling big bucks from his West Side sports bar. 
Kate can’t help but get in the game.
The problem is the killer is cluing her in before murdering each lawyer and she’s falling for Blue as fast as he’s becoming her prime suspect. 
Can Kate and her crackpot crew catch her father’s killer before all the lawyers are dead? And will she find real love with dreamboat Blue? Or will she have to lock him up for stealing his own money?
If she comes through the kidnappings, she might beat the odds.

Emboozlement, by author Rich Leder, is the third installment in the author's McCall & Company series. As with the previous two installments, this book picks up right where the previous one left off. 45-year old Kate McCall is on a mission. 10 weeks ago, her father, Jimmy McCall, was brutally murdered by a corporate assassin, and she wants payback. Kate inherited Jimmy's business called McCall & Company Private Investigations which has come with some strange and bizarre cases; including a chain smoking lawyer named Mel Shovelson who appears literally out of nowhere every time Kate gets into trouble; which is to say a lot.

In typical Leder fashion, Kate has more than her hands full in this installment. She agrees to help former Major League Baseball player Steve "Blue" Stark find out who has been embezzling money from his sports bar called Blue's Sports Bar. Going undercover as a management specialist, Kate is up against the wall since anyone and everyone could be guilty, especially Blue. The former player has stirred up something in Kate, but when all is said and done, can they still maintain the fire and passion, or will it all go down in flames like Kate's previous lovers after she discovers the truth? 

If that weren't enough, she has also found herself in contact with the assassin who killed her father and a group of others. Kate has antagonized the assassin with text messages, and now he wants Kate to play a game with him. He is the cat, she the mouse. He has a job. A job that will eliminate Lowry Lowe lawyers one at a time unless Kate can figure out a way to get to the killer first. But, with NYPD Homicide Detective Lew Logan chomping at her ass trying to get Kate to say the hell away from his investigation, and her son Matthew, who just happens to be an Assistant District Attorney, belittling and scorning her every move, Kate will once again be forced to use the most comedic resources you can imagine. 

Kate assembles the eccentric tenants of her brownstone that she manages known as the House of Eccentric Ticks, and her histrionic acting troupe from the D-Cup Musicals to help her crack the cases. Meaning things get strange, and down right hysterical. Kate and Fu Chen are like the Abbott and Costello of this series. If you have no clue who Abbott and Costello are, please Google them. Fu has saved Kate's ass 4 or 5 times. He has been with her at the most dangerous points in this series. He is a badass who just happens to be Kate's maintenance man and co-star. Oh, yes, Kate and her Ticks are making a move this time out. You just have to imagine what a group of the most eccentric group of characters ever written is up to and go from there. 

Now the sad part of this review. Apparently, this is the final novel in the series. I am not at all happy with that. I am not happy because there is a HUGE plot hole that hasn't been resolved. I am not happy because the author leaves readers with hopes of yet another Kate and crew case when she accepts an even more curiouser case. However, as sad as I am regarding my negatives, I will encourage you to pick up this series and read it. Leder is an amazingly entertaining writer who has created the most creative, the most zany, the most interesting cast of characters in a long while. Kate is the most ambitious character I have read about. Not only does she manage a brownstone, but she boxes regularly, she acts in way off Broadway plays, and she does it all without bitching and moaning that she has no time for herself.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

#Stacking the Shelves #266 - Week ending 12/09/2017

Stacking The Shelves is all about sharing the books you are adding to your shelves, may it be physical or virtual. This means you can include books you buy in physical store or online, books you borrow from friends or the library, review books, gifts and of course ebooks!

Thanks for Shopping by!
This haul blew my mind. This is December! It's supposed to be slow! LOL
So happy that you stopped by! I hope you find something new to you!
Have a great weekend

This Weeks Reviews: 

Monday - UNSUB by Meg Gardiner (Thriller)

Tuesday - Thief's Cunning by Sarah Ahiers (YA, Fantasy)

Wednesday - Silent Creed by Alex Kava (Thriller)

Saturday - Midnight Thief by Livia Blackburne (YA, Fantasy)

*REC'D VIA Publisher, Library NETGALLEY *

Friday, December 8, 2017

Saturday #Review - Midnight Thief by Livia Blackburne #YALit #Fantasy

Series: Midnight Thief # 1
Format: Hardcover, 384 pages
Release Date: July 8, 2014
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
Source: Library
Genre: Young Adult / Fantasy

Growing up on Forge's streets has taught Kyra how to stretch a coin. And when that's not enough, her uncanny ability to scale walls and bypass guards helps her take what she needs.

But when the leader of the Assassins Guild offers Kyra a lucrative job, she hesitates. She knows how to get by on her own, and she's not sure she wants to play by his rules. But he is persistent-and darkly attractive-and Kyra can't quite resist his pull.

Tristam of Brancel is a young Palace knight on a mission. After his best friend is brutally murdered by the Demon Riders, a clan of vicious warriors who ride bloodthirsty wildcats, Tristam vows to take them down. But as his investigation deepens, he finds his efforts thwarted by a talented thief, one who sneaks past Palace defenses with uncanny ease.

When a fateful raid throws Kyra and Tristam together, the two enemies realize that their best chance at survival-and vengeance-might be to join forces. And as their loyalties are tested to the breaking point, they learn a startling secret about Kyra's past that threatens to reshape both their lives.

In her arresting debut novel, Livia Blackburne creates a captivating world where intrigue prowls around every corner-and danger is a way of life.

Midnight Thief, by author Livia Blackburne, is the first installment in the authors Midnight Thief  series. 17-year old Kyra has spent a lifetime living on the streets struggling to eke out a living. She has the uncanny ability of scaling walls and getting into places that other thief's wouldn't dare to tread. After being sought out by a man name James, who just happens to be the leader of the Assassin's Guild, Kyra finds an entirely different calling. She's told that she will never again have to struggle to find food, or lodging, or lack anything ever again.

Even though the Guild is filled with Assassins, Kyra finds herself mapping and breaking into the palace which allows the Guild to enter and steal items without worrying about being caught. But, things aren't as straight as one might think. James is using Kyra for nefarious reasons, and it isn't until after she accidentally kills someone, that her hopes of finding a true calling among the Guild are dashed. Inevitably, Tristam of Brancel and Kyra's worlds collide, and both are forced to re-examine their alliances.

It is a journey ripe with danger, intrigue, and hidden history. After she's captured by the Palace Guard, she soon realizes that her actions have helped the Guild's alliance with the Demon Riders, a group of rebel barbarians responsible for brutal attacks in the countryside. An uneasy alliance forms between Kyra and Tristam. One that will lead them to uncover some very revealing and shocking secrets. Secrets that will lead Kyra to an entirely different sort of character who really never knew who she really was, or what she is capable of being. 

For me, Kyra is an appealing heroine. She's confident in her physical prowess, but insecure in her identity. She helps care for Lettie and Idalee, sisters who attempt to eke out a living even further down Forge's economic strata. The romance between Kyra and Tristam unfolds like an aged wine. Slowly. When Kyra meets the Demon Riders-magical beings that enjoy the strength and protection of fierce, enormous cats-impels-her whole world turns into a desire to learn what she is capable of and a journey of self-discovery. 

Blackburne became known to me after reading Rosemarked earlier this year. I chose to request this book from my local library to see how the author's writing has evolved from this series to Rosemarked. Much of Blackburne's story is not new; however, it is well executed. Kyra and Tristam, as well as most of the essential secondary characters, are effectively drawn, if not terribly original. Blackburne's strong suit is her plotting, which moves along quickly. The book offers the clever wit, action, and true social awareness, but with a totally new premise, and an ending you won't see coming.

Twists and turns kept me satisfied. The plot is as conniving as the book's villain, James, the head of the Assassins' Guild. Relatable, kick-ass heroine with foibles and feats to her name will have readers falling in love with her empathy and in awe of her grace and skill. The story contains dual POV's between Kyra, and Tristam, a knight who keeps the intrigue and tensions high. I am pondering continuing this series as long as the next book is available via my library.