Monday, May 25, 2020

Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo

Title: Ninth House
Author: Leigh Bardugo
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Series: Alex Stern #1
Hardcover, 459 pages
Publication: October 8, 2019 by Berkley
Source: Personal Library

Galaxy “Alex” Stern is the most unlikely member of Yale’s freshman class. Raised in the Los Angeles hinterlands by a hippie mom, Alex dropped out of school early and into a world of shady drug dealer boyfriends, dead-end jobs, and much, much worse. By age twenty, in fact, she is the sole survivor of a horrific, unsolved multiple homicide. Some might say she’s thrown her life away. But at her hospital bed, Alex is offered a second chance: to attend one of the world’s most elite universities on a full ride. What’s the catch, and why her?

Still searching for answers to this herself, Alex arrives in New Haven tasked by her mysterious benefactors with monitoring the activities of Yale’s secret societies. These eight windowless “tombs” are well-known to be haunts of the future rich and powerful, from high-ranking politicos to Wall Street and Hollywood’s biggest players. But their occult activities are revealed to be more sinister and more extraordinary than any paranoid imagination might conceive.

Ninth House is my 2nd Bardugo novel, the 1st was Shadow and Bone. I was a bit hesitant starting Ninth House and had low expectations since I didn’t really like Shadow and Bone . After learning ‘Grisha’ translated to ‘Gregory’ I couldn’t take the series seriously or continue knowing how silly that was. However, I am a fan of secret societies, ghosts, and flawed protagonists/characters and Ninth House had it all.

I liked that Ninth House was an Urban Fantasy, full of supernatural magic and grounded in our world. Alex our main heroine was not your typical leading lady. Alex’s home life was anything but normal and stable; her mom was more familiar with the bottom of a bottle than her own daughter. Which wasn’t surprising that Alex went down the wrong path of dealing drugs and participating in other unsavory jobs. Which led to her arrest and jail time. But thanks to her ability to commune with spirits, Alex received a second chance at life.

Ninth House takes place in the past and present. Winter and Spring with alternating chapter narration of Alex and Darlington (her mentor). Like most novels, the premise revolved around a murder and finding the guilty party. With a second premise of the mysterious disappearance of Darlington. Readers follows Alex as she navigated uncharted waters of college life, ghosts, ghouls, secret societies and the powerful people backing them.

I like Alex. She unapologetic in who she is, gets shit done and ask for forgiveness after. She’s far from perfect and does a lot of questionable things, but I kinda like it that way…it’s more realistic and familiar. The magic system is pretty straightforward. Alex is descended from a line of witches (?) with the power to see ghosts and travel through dimensions. And many of the secret societies dabbled in the occult and alchemy, each with their own specialties.

Overall Ninth House was a solid introduction to a new series. Although I thought Ninth House was over hyped considering this is Bardugo’s foray into Adult territory. It was also stated that this is a horror novel, but I didn’t get that vibe. The book was good but nothing new or unique. I like it and am curious enough to read the sequel when it comes out. If you’re curious, like myself, I suggest borrowing from the library or friend.

Thursday, May 07, 2020

Wicked Hour by Chloe Neill

Title:Wicked Hour
Author: Chloe Neill
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Series: Heirs of Chicagoland # 2
Paperback, 341 pages
Publication: December 3, 2019 by Berkley
Source: Personal Library

Vampires were made, not born—until Elisa Sullivan came along. As the only vampire child in existence, she grew up with a heavy legacy, and tried to flee her past. Then circumstances drew her back to Chicago, and she stayed to keep it safe. With shifter Connor Keene, the only son of Pack Apex Gabriel Keene, at her side, she faced down a supernatural evil that threatened to destroy Chicago forever.

After the dust from the attack has settled, Elisa is surprised when Connor invites her to a usually private Pack event in the north woods of Minnesota, and by the warm welcome she receives from some of Connor’s family, even though she’s a vampire. But the peace doesn’t last. The shifters tell tales of a monster in the woods, and when the celebration is marred by death, Elisa and Connor find themselves in the middle of a struggle for control that forces Elisa to face her true self—fangs and all.

I am absolutely loving this spin-off series. Wicked Hour, is the second installment in the Heirs of Chicagoland series featuring Ethan and Merit’s daughter Elisa Sullivan as she navigates the world separate from the houses and her parents. In Wicked Hour we leave the city limits for the rustic mountains and delve deeper into pack politics and the uncharted territory of Elisa and Conner’s new relationship.

In the first book it was all about elementals and now shifters. I love that we got to see pack life outside of the Apex’s territory and a different perspective on clan life. I also appreciate the werewolf/vampire lore that were incorporated into the main plot. As you can always expect from Neill, there were plenty of drama and action to fill the pages. Never a dull moment when it comes to Elisa, especially when she the epitome of order and following rules.

The entire gang from the previous book were present, along with new characters. Although one character that I want to see more of is Alex, a chicagoland shifter. He was a pleasant surprise throughout the book and could I hope, is there a possible relationship there with our artsy Lulu? Their side banter were as enjoyable as Elisa and Connor. I’m a sucker for enemy/frenemy to lover tropes. Overall, another fun action-packed novel in the Heirs of Chicagoland series. I can’t wait to read the next book!

Thursday, April 30, 2020

The Sun Down Motel by Simone St. James

Title:The Sun Down Motel
Author: Simone St. James
Genre: Mystery, Thriller
Series: N/A
Publication: February 18, 2020 by Penguin Audio
Source: Personal Library

Upstate NY, 1982. Every small town like Fell, New York, has a place like the Sun Down Motel. Some customers are from out of town, passing through on their way to someplace better. Some are locals, trying to hide their secrets. Viv Delaney works as the night clerk to pay for her move to New York City. But something isn't right at the Sun Down, and before long she's determined to uncover all of the secrets hidden…

Damn, this book was good. Without a doubt better than any TV or movie running right now on Hulu or Netflix. In my continuous endeavor to read outside my genre I stumbled upon The Sun Down Motel on the internet and was immediately captivated by the synopsis. I’m all for creepy supernatural unsolved mystery thrillers.

The Sun Down Motel spans thirty-five years and two generations. The story is narrated by Viv Delany, a young adult working at The Sun Down Motel in 1982 and Carly Kirk, Viv’s niece in 2017. When Viv went missing in 1982 without a trace, it left an indelible mark on her family. Years later, her niece Carly looking for answers travels to Fell, New York hoping to learn more about the aunt she never met and her disappearance.

I’ve never been a fan of flashbacks/forwards, but St. James made it work flawlessly. I didn’t have any issue following the different timeline or narrator. Readers follow both protagonists in their search for truth. And the biggest enigma of all; What exactly happened to Viv Delany in November 1982? I loved that both narration was a self contained story as the novel began but as the story unfolded you couldn’t mistake the eerie similarity between the two women and how Carly’s path started to mirror her aunt’s. St. James sprinkled clues throughout the entire book from the past to present then eventually weaving both timeline together for an explosive and shocking ending that I didn’t see coming. It was satisfying and pure genius.

Without going into spoiler territory, The Sun Down Motel deals with triggering topics such as the sexual harassment/abuse, mistreatment and prejudice that constantly plague women. As a women myself, I’m well aware of the fears and concerns women have on a daily basis on just being out in the world alone. That any time and any place it can go left and become dangerous. This book shows us that. Despite the times, whether we’re in the early 80’s or late 2000s… not much has changed. The potential for danger is still there, lurking beneath the surface. St. James encapsulates those feeling perfectly.

As I mentioned before, there’s a supernatural element to the novel. However, it was subtle enough to not overwhelm the story nor categorize it as ‘paranormal fantasy’. It was a harmonious balance to the mystery. I had the pleasure of listening to this as an audio-book and the cast was fantastic. It delivered on the chill factor with goosebumps and spine-tinges. Caution if reading/listening a night.

All in all, The Sun Down Motel hit all the high notes and exceeded my expectations. One of my top reads so far this year. I highly, highly recommend checking out The Sun Down Motel, it won’t disappoint!

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Shades of Wicked by Jeaniene Frost

Title: Shades of Wicked
Author: Jeaniene Frost
Genre: Urban Fantasy/Paranormal Romance
Series: Night Rebel #1
Mass Market Paperback, 370 pages
Publication: October 30, 2018 by Avon
Source: Personal Library

The Rule Breaker

Master vampire Ian is unrepentant, shameless…and every shade of wicked. He’s made one too many enemies in his two centuries of existence, including Dagon, a demon who now lays claim to his soul. Ian’s only chance to escape Dagon is to join forces with a Law Guardian, but he’s never been able to abide by the rules for long.

The Law Maker

Veritas’ normal role is police, judge and jury to reprobates like Ian. But she has her own ax to grind with Dagon, so if she can use Ian as bait…well, all’s fair in law and war. As they scour supernatural hotspots to perfect their trap, Veritas soon realizes Ian’s devil-may-care, roguish image hides something much more powerful. And Ian discovers that Veritas has shocking secrets of her own. As they’re drawn to each other with a passion as intense as their peril, either love or justice will prevail. But each will have devastating consequences…

It feels like it’s been awhile since I’ve read an Urban Fantasy or Paranormal Romance, especially the staples of the genre; in which I mean Jeaniene Frost. When I first got into the genre, Frost, Briggs and Andrews were my automatic go-to, always. I never finished The Night Huntress series, but I absolutely enjoyed the series and spin-offs. Which was what prompted me to pick up Shades of Wicked, the first novel in the Night Rebel series featuring none other than bad boy favorite, Master vampire Ian.

I always liked Ian and am glad he finally has his own series. In The Night Huntress world, I think other fans like myself never took Ian seriously, he certainly didn’t. But we’re treated to a whole different side to Ian, a side that is much deeper than I expected. One that endured pain, loss and heartbreak. I also knew that Ian was loyal to his friends/family but seeing it from his perspective just made me love his character even more. Veritas (such a lovely name), is Ian’s leading lady, one whom you’ve met previously in TNH series, the vampire law guardian. I thought she was absolutely perfect for Ian, she met his snark and fortitude blow for blow. Her unique background and lineage are somewhat enigmatic and complex but I am excited to learn more about it and her untapped powers.

As with all spin-off, you can bet your books that other beloved characters made a cameo in Shades of Wicked. I was so freakin’ happy! Makes me want to go back to reread and finish TNH series. I might just do that. Always a sucker for vampire novels! And no one does vampires like Frost. Shades of Wicked was a whirlwind that ended with a major cliffhanger. I can’t wait to see what happens next in Wicked Bites. If you haven’t read any of Frost books yet, start with the TNH series first! It’s a must read!

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Killing November by Adriana Mather

Title: Killing November
Author: Adriana Mather
Genre: Thriller
Series: Killing November #1
Hardcover, 368 pages
Publication: March 26, 2019 by Knopf BFYR
Source: Personal Library

It’s a school completely off the grid, hidden by dense forest and surrounded by traps. There’s no electricity, no internet, and an eye-for-an-eye punishment system. Classes include everything from Knife-Throwing and Poisons to the Art of Deception and Historical Analysis. And all of the students are children of the world’s most elite strategists—training to become assassins, counselors, spies, and master impersonators. Into this world walks November Adley, who quickly discovers that friends are few in a school where personal revelations are discouraged and competition is everything. When another student is murdered, all eyes turn to November, who must figure out exactly how she fits into the school’s bizarre strategy games before she is found guilty of the crime…or becomes the killer’s next victim.

Killing November was a pleasant surprise when it popped up on my radar. I had no clue Mather had a new book out. I read Mather’s first book, How to Hang a Witch and enjoyed it immensely. Still keeping within the YA genre, Mather moved away from the paranormal to thriller with a boarding school full of assassins in the making. Our heroine, November ‘Ember’ woke up in a boarding school in the middle of nowhere, only to find herself with a target on her back. Students and faculties alike had a bone to pick with November and she didn’t have the slightest clue as to why. But things took a turn for the worst when students ended up dead and November was the only common denominator between the murders. With the help of her new roommate, Layla and her twin brother, Ash; they set out to find the murderer before they become the next casualty.

The book started out kind of shaky as the author sets up the characters, motive and stage. I was a couple of chapters in and was not a fan of November. Everyone has their quirks and November’s quirk was announcing aloud the etymology of everyone’s name and breaking down word meaning. Don’t get me wrong, I love etymology but when it was every other sentence or paragraph…it got old, real fast. I almost put the book down for that reason alone, but I trudged along because the overall synopsis was intriguing. And I’m glad I stuck it out because it was a pretty good and entertaining read. Luckily with more pressing concerns, like staying alive, November traded etymology for sleuthing about the campus and dodging flying knives. Small mercies. I also liked learning about the different families and her parent’s Romeo and Juliet-like relationship between the Lion faction and Bear faction.

It was refreshing going into Killing November with little knowledge of the story and no expectations for once. While the book didn’t start out strong it certainly ended strong. I enjoyed it more than I thought. And great news, Killing November is the beginning of a new series! I am excited to see where Mather takes the story next beyond the walls of the school. If you’re a fan of mafias, assassins and boarding schools then I highly recommend making Killing November your next read.

Tuesday, February 04, 2020

The Beast of Beswick by Amalie Howard

Title: The Beast of Beswick
Author: Amalie Howard
Genre: Historical Romance
Series: Everleigh Sisters #1
Mass Market Paperback, 380 pages
Publication: November 26, 2019 by Entangled: Amara
Source: Personal Library

Lord Nathaniel Harte, the disagreeable Duke of Beswick, spends his days smashing porcelain, antagonizing his servants, and snarling at anyone who gets too close. With a ruined face like his, it's hard to like much about the world. Especially smart-mouthed harpies—with lips better suited to kissing than speaking—who brave his castle with indecent proposals.

But Lady Astrid Everleigh will stop at nothing to see her younger sister safe from a notorious scoundrel, even if it means offering herself up on a silver platter to the forbidding Beast of Beswick himself. And by offer, she means what no highborn lady of sound and sensible mind would ever dream of—a tender of marriage with her as his bride.

Beauty and the Beast has been retold and reimagined many times in various types of media but as a fan of the story; I never tire from seeing others’ interpretation or spin. In its latest reincarnation, Howard brings the classic fairytale to historical romance readers with a headstrong heroine looking to protect her younger sister and a scarred war hero duke who feels too broken for love and society. In my pursuit to read more romance and novels outside my go-to genre; Beast of Beswick is my 2nd romance novel of 2020 and it was fabulous…and steamy!

The Regency era has always been a favorite time period of mine, so it isn’t a surprise that I found myself instantly immersed in the setting and the Everleigh sisters’ lives. Our heroine Astrid is incredibly brilliant, independent and beautiful with a heart of gold but due to an unfortunate coming out season at sixteen and a despicable Earl, Astrid’s reputation gets tarnish leaving her unwed and a ‘spinster’ at the young age of twenty-five. But with Astrid’s younger sister Isobel’s season fast approaching and her only living relatives eyeing their inheritance and dowry; Astrid is willing to do anything to keep her Uncle’s clutches off pawning Isobel off to the next rich Earl. Even it means marrying the Beast of Beswick.

If you’re a fan of Beauty and the Beast, then you have a pretty good idea at how the story goes/ends. Thane, our hero is very flawed; emotionally and mentally. Which I find as a good thing. It made him more realistic and relatable and more times than not I found myself feeling sympathetic with him. Although he is scarred on the outside physically, the real scars were within. The only beastly thing about Thane was his incorrigible nature and saying the first thing that came to mind. I loved Astrid and Thane as a couple and enjoyed their ever-entertaining banter. While their relationship began under less than ideal circumstances, I loved seeing their relationship grow from unbridled disdain/curiosity turn to friendship/love.

I adored The Beast of Beswick, it’s exactly everything I was hoping a fairytale retelling romance would be…and so much more. This is the start of the Everleigh Sisters series and I am so stoked for the sequel with of course features Astrid’s younger sister Isobel who is as much as a firecracker as her sister. If you’re looking for a well-written and engaging story with a fairytale twist, I recommend picking-up The Beast of Beswick!

Friday, January 31, 2020

Brightly Burning by Alexa Donne

Title: Brightly Burning
Author: Alexa Donne
Genre: YA, Sci-Fi
Series: N/A
Publication: May 1, 2018 by HMH Books for Young Readers
Source: Personal Library

Seventeen-year-old Stella Ainsley wants just one thing: to go somewhere—anywhere—else. Her home is a floundering spaceship that offers few prospects, having been orbiting an ice-encased Earth for two hundred years. When a private ship hires her as a governess, Stella jumps at the chance. The captain of the Rochester, nineteen-year-old Hugo Fairfax, is notorious throughout the fleet for being a moody recluse and a drunk. But with Stella he’s kind.

But the Rochester harbors secrets: Stella is certain someone is trying to kill Hugo, and the more she discovers, the more questions she has about his role in a conspiracy threatening the fleet.

Brightly Burning was another book that has been sitting on my TBR pile for forever. One of my goals this year was to read more from the TBR stash in addition to review books. Brightly Burning piqued my interest with the comparison to being ‘Jane Eyre in Space’. I love all things Austen and was looking forward to this sci-fi spin on Austen’s classic.

I certainly saw the similarities. In Brightly Burning, the creepy manor is now a creepy spaceship and ‘Rochester’ is a nineteen-year-old boy named Hugo, whom is shrouded in mystique and secrets. Our heroine, Stella is young, savvy and very inquisitive…very much like Austen’s Jane. Donne pretty much did a play by play of Austen’s novel but swapped adults for teens and a rural countryside setting for space. I felt like it was a good attempt for a YA Science Fiction novel but everything from the characters, plot to the world-building fell a bit short. In my opinion, I didn’t care much for the characters nor found them likeable. Stella was kind of annoying and Hugo was oddly off-putting…I just can’t exactly put my finger on the why. And the supporting characters were also underdeveloped and unmemorable. The plot as I said was a play by play, so it unfortunately made everything very predictable. I thought the world-building could’ve been better realized but Donne was more focused on the romance aspect of the novel. All the boys were oddly interested in Stella who was pretty much described as a plain Jane. Super cliché, special snowflake syndrome there. Not a fan.

I initially thought the voice activated technology/ A.I. Rory was cool but then I realized, it’s not so sci-fi because it’s something we have right now with Amazon Alexa or Google Home. But I do like that Donne used the depopulation idea which is relevant to what is happening today in the news. I had high hopes for Brightly burning but unfortunately it didn’t meet my expectations. If I can sum the novel up in one word, it’d be: underwhelming.