Thursday, November 07, 2019

Sweep of the Blade by Ilona Andrews


Title: Sweep of the Blade
Author: Ilona Andrews
Genre: Sci-Fi Fantasy/UF
Series: Innkeeper Chronicles # 4
Trade paperback, 320 pages/Audiobook

Publication: July 12, 2019 by Independent publishing
Source: Purchased. 

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Maud Demille is a daughter of Innkeepers—a special group who provide ‘lodging’ to other-planetary visitors—so she knows that a simple life isn't in the cards. But even Maud could never have anticipated what Fate would throw at her.

Once a wife to a powerful vampire knight, Maud and her young daughter, Helen, were exiled with him for his treachery to the desolate, savage planet of Karhari. Karhari killed her husband, and Maud—completely abandoned by his family—has spent over a year avenging his debts. Rescued by her sister Dina, she's sworn off all things vampire.

Except... In helping Dina save the world, she met Arland, the Marshal of House Krahr, one of the most powerful vampire houses. One thing led to another and he asked for her hand in marriage. She declined. Arland is not used to hearing the word ‘no;’ and try as she might, Maud can't just walk away from Arland. It doesn't help that being human is a lot harder for Maud than being a vampire.

To sort it all out, she accepts his invitation to visit his home planet. House Krahr is extremely influential and Maud knows that a woman—a human, with a very questionable past—who's turned down a proposal from its most beloved son won't get a warm reception. Maybe she’s not sure about marrying Arland, but House Krahr isn’t going to decide for her. Maud Demille has never run from a fight, and House Krahr will soon discover that there's a lot more to Maud than they’re expecting.

I was very excited when I heard IA were penning a novella for Maud, Dina’s sister. Like most IA fans, I too fell in love with Maud and her daughter Helen, whom we met in One Fell Sweep, book three of the Innkeeper. 

In the last installment Arland proposed to Maud but she declined. Hoping to change her mind Arland invites Maud and Helen to his home. To no one surprise, Maud immediately was given a poor reception since she was considered a disgraced and exiled human. 

Although I have the book, I decided to do the audiobook version of Sweep of the Blade. I believe the novella used a different narrator from the last three Innkeeper Chronicles novels because I wasn’t a fan of Natalie Naudus. I know no two narrators are the same, but I like how Maud was narrated in One Fell Sweep. Naudus, did a good job for the most part but I thought she made Maud sound too much like a valley girl, which we all know is the polar opposite of Maud. And occasionally during character transitions, Naudus forgot to change pitch/tone i.e going from Maud to Helen…it was jarring and weird which pulled me out from the story a couple of times.  Besides the narration, the plot/story were enjoyable. Again, we all know Maud is a total kick-ass and can hold her own in any battle but one thing I didn’t understand was how could Maud, a human be stronger than all the vampires? Vampires are natural predators with exemplary strength and speed, and yet all except Arland’s mother was easily cut down by Maud. It’s not realistic. 

 Despite Sweep in Blade being a novella, I thought it was a solid, just as good novel as the other Innkeeper Chronicles novels. I enjoyed seeing some of the secondary characters at the forefront and am excited to see where the series is headed next. And that ending! My jaws literally dropped…talk about an unexpected cliff hanger!



Friday, November 01, 2019

The Lady Rogue by Jenn Bennett


Title: The Lady Rogue
Author: Jenn Bennett
Genre: Urban Fantasy, YA
Series: N/A
Hardcover, 372 pages

Publication: September 3, 2019 by Simon Pulse
Source: I received a review copy from the publisher in exchange for a honest review.


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Some legends never die…

Traveling with her treasure-hunting father has always been a dream for Theodora. She’s read every book in his library, has an impressive knowledge of the world’s most sought-after relics, and has all the ambition in the world. What she doesn’t have is her father’s permission. That honor goes to her father’s nineteen-year-old protégé—and once-upon-a-time love of Theodora’s life—Huck Gallagher, while Theodora is left to sit alone in her hotel in Istanbul.

Until Huck arrives from an expedition without her father and enlists Theodora’s help in rescuing him. Armed with her father’s travel journal, the reluctant duo learns that her father had been digging up information on a legendary and magical ring that once belonged to Vlad the Impaler—more widely known as Dracula—and that it just might be the key to finding him.

Journeying into Romania, Theodora and Huck embark on a captivating adventure through Gothic villages and dark castles in the misty Carpathian Mountains to recover the notorious ring. But they aren’t the only ones who are searching for it. A secretive and dangerous occult society with a powerful link to Vlad the Impaler himself is hunting for it, too. And they will go to any lengths—including murder—to possess it.

Bennett returns to fantasy after a long hiatus and I couldn’t be more thrilled. I am a big fan of her Arcadia Bell series (if you haven’t read it yet, be sure to check it out!) and was excited to see her take within the Young Adult genre. In The Lady Rouge, Bennett tackles Romanian history and the infamous Vlad Țepeș, the inspiration for Dracula.

The Lady Rouge had a lot to love from the history, myths, the occult, to treasure hunting and adventure abroad. The novel is narrated by sixteen-year-old Theodora a.k.a ‘Little Empress', and I must say the nickname is befitting. The story started immediately, dropping readers in a bazaar in the middle of Istanbul with Theo being apprehended for stealing. From there the story kept an ascending trajectory with nonstop action as Theo and Huck, a childhood friend turned lover is chased across Turkey, Bulgaria and Romania in search of her father.


I loved how Bennett combined history with a subtle supernatural element. I thought the plot of a magical artifact and lineage was very clever and well-suited to the story. While the story was mainly about finding her father, it was also equally heavy on the romance aspect. I felt like Theo was pining over Huck every chance she got or begrudging him for leaving without notice a year prior in between being chase and at death’s door. But I understand young adolescent, they can be quite fickle.

In between the chapters, readers can also find Fox’s (Theo’s dad) journal entries which was a nice touch to Theo piecing the clues together. The ending wrapped up nicely and am not sure if this was intended for a series but either way, I found it satisfying. All in all, a good novel, if you’re looking for a book with a lot of action and romance with a touch of supernatural, then this book might be of interest!





Monday, October 07, 2019

Written in Red by Anne Bishop

Title: Written in Red
Author: Anne Bishop
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Series: The Others #1

Hardcover, 433 pages

Publication: March 5, 2013 by ROC
Source: Personal Library


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As a cassandra sangue, or blood prophet, Meg Corbyn can see the future when her skin is cut—a gift that feels more like a curse. Meg’s Controller keeps her enslaved so he can have full access to her visions. But when she escapes, the only safe place Meg can hide is at the Lakeside Courtyard—a business district operated by the Others.

Shape-shifter Simon Wolfgard is reluctant to hire the stranger who inquires about the Human Liaison job. First, he senses she’s keeping a secret, and second, she doesn’t smell like human prey. Yet a stronger instinct propels him to give Meg the job. And when he learns the truth about Meg and that she’s wanted by the government, he’ll have to decide if she’s worth the fight between humans and the Others that will surely follow.

Too many books, not enough time. We’ve all heard of this sentiment time and time again, amiright? Every time I look there’s a new series popping up left and right. But one series I consistently heard about over the years was The Others Series by Anne Bishop. It’s extremely popular, is compared, and said to be in the same vein as Andrews’s Kate Daniels series, which is my all-time favorite series and Brigg’s Mercy Thompson series, which comes in a close second in term of favorite Urban Fantasy series. After many, many years I finally picked up Written in Red and it certainly didn’t disappoint.

Written in Red follows Meg Corbyn, a blood prophet on the run. Meg ends up acquiring a job as Human Liaison to The Others, a sect of supernatural beings that comprises of shifters, vampires, and elementals. I very much enjoyed Written in Red but it was absolutely nothing like the other Urban Fantasies I’ve read. Meg is definitely no Kate, Mercy or October. The aforementioned ladies are what I’d described as your typical kick-ass heroines; they’re independent, strong-willed, smart and have no qualms about getting their hands dirty…or bloody. Meg on the other hand was the complete opposite. Grandpa Erebus, the head leader of the Sanguinetti refers to Meg as ‘The Sweet Blood’, blood that is both wonderous and deadly. But his meaning is that Meg is essentially childlike and innocent which is pretty spot on and accurate. Meg has been held a prisoner all her life and the outside world is foreign to her. Everything she knows about the world was through what her handlers showed her which were selective. I’m not a fan of plain Janes and was a bit confused why The Others took to Meg so quickly. In my opinion there was nothing remotely ‘special’ about Meg but she fell into the ‘special snowflakes’ category we’ve all encountered in other stories. It also didn’t help that Meg spoke and acted like a seven-year-old.

Despite it all, I found myself fully wrapped up into the story. Like The Others, I too was entertained and amused by Meg’s mundane tasks. Why? I'm not quite sure. Now that I’ve finished the novel, I must admit…the book was 80% full of long, detailed description of Meg’s tasks as a Human Liaison. From checking in deliveries from human drivers, delivering mail to the complexes or managing the front store to Howling Good Reads. I credit bishop’s masterful writing to make the most ordinary task exciting.

I like Written in Red, not as action-packed as I wanted but good nonetheless. The story was a bit slow for my liking but ultimately, it’s the characters that had me following through till the end. I enjoyed seeing Meg grow as she learned about herself, The Others and the world around her. Her naïve and childlike manner was a surprisingly breath of fresh air, teaching us that things don’t ever have to be overly complicated and that kindness does really go a long way.



 

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

The Unkindest Tide by Seanan McGuire

Title: The Unkindest Tide
Author: Seanan McGuire
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Series: October Daye #13

Hardcover, 368 pages

Publication: September 9, 2019 by DAW

Source: I received a review copy from the publisher in exchange for a honest review.

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Hundreds of years ago, the Selkies made a deal with the sea witch: they would have the sea for as long as she allowed it, and when the time came, she would call in all their debts at once. Many people assumed that day would never come. Those people were wrong.

When the Luidaeg—October "Toby" Daye's oldest and most dangerous ally—tells her the time has come for the Selkies to fulfill their side of the bargain, and that Toby must be a part of the process, Toby can't refuse. Literally. The Selkies aren't the only ones in debt to the Luidaeg, and Toby has to pay what she owes like anyone else. They will travel to the fabled Duchy of Ships and call a convocation of the Selkies, telling them to come and meet the Luidaeg's price...or face the consequences.

Of course, nothing is that simple. When Dianda Lorden's brother appears to arrest Dianda for treason against the Undersea, when a Selkie woman is stripped of her skin and then murdered, when everything is falling apart, that's when Toby will have to answer the real question of the hour.

Is she going to sink? Or is she going to swim?


Bringing back the Roane has been a long time coming. After hundreds of years The Luidaeg is finally fulfilling her promise and cashing in on Toby’s debts. With The Luidaeg, Toby, the gang and some tagalongs; the group travels to the Duchy of Ships for the Selkie Convocation as The Luidaeg determines the clans’ fate. But of course, this is Toby we’re talking about, nothing can ever be just as is. As the convocation begins, Toby finds herself in the middle of searching for a clan member’s murderer and rescuing Peter Lorden from Saltmist.
We’re thirteen books into the October Daye series and it is still going strong. The last couple of books were a hit and miss for me but the tides (pun intended) has changed with The Unkindest Tides. In the latest installment of the series, I begun to feel the same spark and enjoyment as I had when I first started the series ten years ago. In The Unkindest Tides, we find both The Luidaeg and Toby in a tough predicament. They are on the verge of righting a past wrong that will change all of Faerie.  By bring back the Roane, they’re bringing back not only an extinct race but also the power of seers/oracles and taking away the option for the Selkies to pass down their skins to their children. Which means those without skin will die as humans.
The Luidaeg has always been an enigmatic character; she’s a Firstborn, The Sea Witch, a legend and a monster to some. But we finally see the women beneath the mask; Antigone of Albany, a daughter, a mother, Cousin Annie and friend. I’ve always felt that The Luidaeg was wearing a mask and putting up walls, afraid of getting close to anyone. Thinking that she needed to uphold the image and expectations that people had of her. I could imagine how exhausting it was. I loved seeing this new unburdening and lighter version of The Luidaeg and learning more about her past and the Selkie/Roane.
I get pretty excited each and every time I see a new part of Faerie. In The Unkindest Tides, McGuire takes readers into an alternate dimension to the Duchy of Ships which is exactly like what you’d imagine. An island comprised out of shipwrecks and accumulated oddities from wine barrels, net, metal, barnacles and so much more. The duchy’s inhabitants are from all over the realms, most so unique even Toby can’t figure out their scent signature. And one of the last unexpected surprises was the island captain, which I won’t say much about except that Captain Jack Sparrow got nothin’ on Pete.
All in all, I thought The Unkindest Tides was a great addition to the series. Despite being thirteen books into the series, I still find myself excited to see all the mayhem and adventures the characters find themselves in. Crossing my fingers for a wedding in the next book!


Friday, September 20, 2019

The Rook by Daniel O'Malley

Title: The Rook
Author: Daniel O'Malley
Genre: Sci-fi/Fantasy
Series: The Checquy Files #1

Hardcover, 496 pages

Publication: January 11, 2012 by Ace

Source: Personal Library.

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"The body you are wearing used to be mine." So begins the letter Myfanwy Thomas is holding when she awakes in a London park surrounded by bodies all wearing latex gloves. With no recollection of who she is, Myfanwy must follow the instructions her former self left behind to discover her identity and track down the agents who want to destroy her.

She soon learns that she is a Rook, a high-ranking member of a secret organization called the Chequy that battles the many supernatural forces at work in Britain. She also discovers that she possesses a rare, potentially deadly supernatural ability of her own.

In her quest to uncover which member of the Chequy betrayed her and why, Myfanwy encounters a person with four bodies, an aristocratic woman who can enter her dreams, a secret training facility where children are transformed into deadly fighters, and a conspiracy more vast than she ever could have imagined.

The Rook has been on my TBR pile since 2012! The shame. I found out STARZ network was developing a series adaptation of the novel, which was released late last month. The trailer looked promising and rekindled my interest in starting the novel. The Rook takes place in modern-day London and follows a Rook agent named Myfanwy Thomas…except Myfanwy doesn’t know who she really is. When the book opens, readers finds Myfanwy sprawled out on the concreate covered in blood with the rain pouring down on her and dead bodies riddled around her. Turns out Myfanwy is part of the last paranormal agency in London, an agency sworn to protect citizens against things that go bump in the night. I love books that are centered around secret organization!

While trying to figure out who she is and who she needs to become, Myfanwy is caught between ghost-alien cases, political board meetings, Shady German shape-shifters and hitmen at every corner. She’s trying to fake her way through every obstacle while concealing the fact that she has amnesia and has zero recollection of her past life. The Rook cover looks quite official and the tone of the beginning of book was grim with a no-nonsense vibe to it. Which was why Myfanwy's light-hearted humorous attitude and approach to everything was a welcome surprised. It was the perfect balance to all the unlucky, disgusting and downright horrible things she had to endure. I really like Myfanwy, her comical nature made her oblivious sometimes but other than that she’s quite brilliant, like a modern-day supernatural Nancy Drew.
I enjoyed The Rook much more than I thought I would and am looking forward to seeing more of the chequy.
Has anyone checked out Starz’s The Rook? If so, please do let me know what you think! I’m interested in seeing Gestalt!
 
 
 

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Blood Song by Anthony Ryan

Title: Blood Song
Author: Anthony Ryan
Genre: Fantasy
Series: Raven's Shadow # 1

Audiobook
Publication: January 2, 2012 by Ace

Source: Borrowed from the library.

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Vaelin Al Sorna was only a child of ten when his father left him at the iron gate of the Sixth Order—a caste devoted to battle. Vaelin will be trained and hardened to the austere, celibate and dangerous life of a warrior of the Faith. He has no family now save the Order.

Vaelin’s father was Battle Lord to King Janus, ruler of the Unified Realm—and Vaelin’s rage at being deprived of his birthright knows no bounds. Even his cherished memories of his mother are soon challenged by what he learns within the Order. But one truth overpowers all the rest: Vaelin Al Sorna is destined for a future he has yet to comprehend. A future that will alter not only the Realm but the world.


The Raven’s Shadow series has many high praises and is known as one of the best fantasy series around. So, of course I wanted to know what the fuss was all about. I listened to the audiobook of Blood Song and it took me a couple of runs before I got into the story. The novel follows the journey of Vaelin Al Sorna, who was abandoned to The Sixth Order (monastery-like) at a young age to adulthood, where he began to acquire a notorious reputation throughout the entire realm as a skilled warrior.

The narrator of Vaelin Al Sorna did a wonderful job in bringing the character to life. I thought his voice was very pleasant and it suited the setting. A good portion of the novel took place in The Sixth Order, where Sorna and the other young men were trained and tested to become warriors of the realm. This by far was the most interesting part of the novel, seeing what the young men went through and how their relationship formed over the duration of their stay within the order. Then halfway through the novel, Sorna and a few of his brother departed the order, Sorna became the King’s hand…and that’s where things got messy, confusing, and slightly boring.

The story in my opinion morphed into another story that left me uninterested and withdrawn. Even as I write this review, I cannot recall much of what happened after Sorna left the order. I remember he was trying to find out who’s was trying to kill him and him trying to save Sister Clara (was that her name?). That’s pretty much it.

Blood Song was a hit and miss for me. I enjoyed the first portion of the novel, but the second half, not so much. The world building and characters could have been better developed in my opinion because as the story progressed, I felt as if the author spent more time on creating plot twists than anything else. I thought the writing was well-done, and everything flowed nicely but sadly everything else fell short in comparison. With that said, while I enjoyed some of it, I won’t be continuing with the series.




Monday, September 02, 2019

The Passengers by John Marrs

Title: The Passengers
Author: John Marrs
Genre: Fiction, Thriller
Series: N/A

Hardcover, 352 pages
Publication: August 27, 2019 by Berkley

Source: I received a review copy from the publisher in exchange for a honest review.

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Just as self-driving cars become the trusted, safer norm, eight people find themselves in this terrifying situation, including a faded TV star, a pregnant young woman, an abused wife fleeing her husband, an illegal immigrant, a husband and wife, and a suicidal man.

From cameras hidden in their cars, their panic is broadcast to millions of people around the world. But the public will show their true colors when they are asked, "Which of these people should we save?...And who should we kill first?"
I hope I’m not being too presumptuous by saying that driver-less vehicles are the future. We already see some aspect of it in the Google and Tesla cars. In Marrs’s latest thriller, The Passengers, Marrs paints a world where the emergence of autonomous vehicles are mandatory and the new norm. Say goodbye to human-error accident, traffic, and fuel consumption to name a few. Manufacturers and The Government assured the citizens that the driver-less cars are extremely safe and un-hackable. All good, right? Nope. The opening chapters shows eight hijacked autonomous vehicles with everything televised and broadcast all around the world. Giving the everyday citizens the right to be judge, jury and executioner on which passengers lives or dies.

The Passengers is my first Marrs novel and I must say, I am beyond impressed. While the concept and highly plausible potential of hacking technology isn’t quite new, Marrs took the idea and created an incredible and engaging plot that had me at the edge of my seat the entire time. I absolutely loved the writing and formatting of the book. Marrs timed and executed the chapters and passengers’ revelations perfectly. Marrs ended each chapter with just the right amount of information and detail to entice the reader guaranteeing that they’d continue along with the story. I know I was. I kept telling myself ‘just one more chapter…’. Readers were treated to various point-of-views, alternating chapters between the passengers and jury member, Libby. I’m usually not a big fan of multiple POVs but in this case, it worked well. I felt like I was getting to know each and every character intimately, their feelings and emotion so palpable they lept off the pages. Definitely a character driven novel, we delved deep into human behaviors.

On top of the driver-less vehicles, social media played a significant role in the story. In this day and age, the majority of the world is on some sort of social media platform or another. There isn’t a second that goes by when someone isnt’ sharing or exposing some part of theirs or others’ lives. Everyone has an opinion for everything, even if it’s unsolicited. What’s crazy and scary about Marr’s novel is that it’s all so freaking plausible. Most technology is indeed hackable but combine that with social media…and it’s an entirely different beast. In The passengers, strangers world-wide chimed on the fate of the passengers, making judgments, and deciding who lived or died based on basic thread thin facts. Sounds familiar right? Marrs did an excellent job at capturing that real world reality. 

All in all, I really enjoyed The Passengers. It is without a doubt a masterly well-written thriller. I call it now, The Passengers is going to get an adaptation some time in the near future! I highly recommend The Passengers, it was unputdownable! I can’t believe I haven’t read anything else by Marrs but I plan to remedy that soon.