Sunday, October 23, 2016

A Murder of Mages by Marshall Ryan Maresca

Title: A Murder of Mages
Author: Marshall Ryan Maresca
Genre: Fantasy-Mystery
Series: The Maradaine Constabulary #1

Mass Market Paperback, 352 Pages
Publication: July 7, 2015 by Daw

Source: Purchased

Satrine Rainey—former street rat, ex-spy, mother of two, and wife to a Constabulary Inspector who lies on the edge of death, injured in the line of duty—has been forced to fake her way into the post of Constabulary Inspector to support her family.

Minox Welling is a brilliant, unorthodox Inspector and an Uncircled mage—almost a crime in itself. Nicknamed “the jinx” because of the misfortunes that seem to befall anyone around him, Minox has been partnered with Satrine because no one else will work with either of them.

Their first case together—the ritual murder of a Circled mage— sends Satrine back to the streets she grew up on and brings Minox face-to-face with mage politics he’s desperate to avoid. As the body count rises, Satrine and Minox must race to catch the killer before their own secrets are exposed and they, too, become targets.

Last year I had the opportunity to read Maresca’s debut novel The Thorn of Dentonhill and I absolutely loved it. Maresca expands on the world of Maradaine with a companion series, set in new cities, with new characters. Maresca takes readers away from the pristine ground of Maradaine University to the grim, poverty, crime-ridden areas of Maradaine and introduces readers to the Constables that protect the streets. The book is centered on two of Inemar constables, Satrine Rainey and Minox Welling, but the truth of the matter is; only one of them is a constable and the other one a fake. Satrine was a former street rat and now, a stay-at-home mom of two but due a work related accident leaving her husband paralyzed and unable to care for himself, it’s up to Satrine to keep the household going. Concocting a haphazard plan to keep her family afloat, Satrine doctored fake credentials to get her a high paying position as a Third Class Inspector in the Ienmar Constabulary House. Satrine not thinking much of the job but a means to an end found herself plunged head first into a murder case involving dead mages, circle feuds; all while trying to watch her back and not blow her cover.

Now that I’ve read both of Maresca’s series, I have to say that I liked this series a bit more! A Murder of Mages like The Thorn of Dentonhill is exceptionally well written, with a solid and engaging plot and wonderful world building, but I am a sucker for mysteries and police procedural…and A Murder of Mages had both! I was immediately taken with Satrine and Minox, they made the perfect pair and complemented each other wonderfully like Sherlock and Watson! I especially adored Satrine, I found her to be an interesting and multifaceted character. Satrine used to be a scrappy street rat turned uncover spy turned stay at home mom; she was definitely full of surprises having lived and experienced a hard life. Then there’s Minox, a Third Class Inspector who was special in his own peculiar way. He’s what I’d call antisocial, who always worked alone because no one understood his personality and behavior. What made it even more difficult for Minox was being an un-circled mage, something that feared and frowned upon. It also didn’t help that he lives, breathes and consumes work (and a whole lot of food) making him an outcast not only from the other mages but also the constables. Though they couldn’t be more different, I really loved the dynamic between Minox and Satrine. They just brought out the best in each other. And while I don’t mind reading about partners whose relationship goes from work to intimate, I thought it was refreshing to see their relationship as nothing but platonic which was a nice unexpected change.

It’s rare to have an author write two brand new series alongside each other, in the same world and pull it off…it should be somewhat impossible but Maresca does it brilliantly and successfully. A Murder of Mages is a fantastic new series that expands on the world of Maradaine, with a clever murder mystery and realistic and relatable characters that will have readers coming back for more once they turn the last page. If you haven’t read any of Maresca’s books yet, do yourself a favor and put A Murder of Mages on your list ASAP!

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

[Blog Tour] Beast by Brie Spangler

Title: Beast
Author: Brie Spangler
Genre: Contemporary Fiction 
Series: Standalone

Hardcover, 305 Pages
Publication: October 11, 2016 by Knopf BFR

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

Tall, meaty, muscle-bound, and hairier than most throw rugs, Dylan doesn’t look like your average fifteen-year-old, so, naturally, high school has not been kind to him. To make matters worse, on the day his school bans hats (his preferred camouflage), Dylan goes up on his roof only to fall and wake up in the hospital with a broken leg—and a mandate to attend group therapy for self-harmers.

Dylan vows to say nothing and zones out at therapy—until he meets Jamie. She’s funny, smart, and so stunning, even his womanizing best friend, JP, would be jealous. She’s also the first person to ever call Dylan out on his self-pitying and superficiality. As Jamie’s humanity and wisdom begin to rub off on Dylan, they become more than just friends.

But there is something Dylan doesn’t know about Jamie, something she shared with the group the day he wasn’t listening. Something that shouldn’t change a thing. She is who she’s always been—an amazing photographer and devoted friend, who also happens to be transgender. But will Dylan see it that way?

What initially drew my attention to this book was the beautiful cover, I mean, just look at it! I was even more excited when I heard it was a new twist on Beauty and the Beast, one of my all-time favorite fairy tale. Beast being big and hairy 15-year-old Dylan, who’s beginning his sophomore year in high school and Beauty, a stunning transgender girl name Jamie whom Dylan meets in therapy.

Beast was beautiful as it was heartbreaking. It was an emotional roller-coaster; there were some great happy moments and scary and sad moments. Dylan our protagonist and narrator was known as ‘Beast’ at his school due to his size, almost 7 feet tall and his accelerated hair growth. The school is ruthless in their taunting and even his best friend JP uses the nickname freely and frequently. There is never a moment that goes by that Dylan isn’t reminded of his peculiarity. So one day Dylan thought the solution to his problem was getting injured, so he ‘accidentally’ fell off a roof, which landed him with a broken leg and an order to do group therapy. It was in therapy that he meets Jamie and thus began a relationship between the two. Except at the start of their relationship, Dylan is oblivious to Jamie being transgender and once he learned the truth things gets confusing, complicated and dangerous for them and everyone around them.

Dylan and Jamie were very realistic and relatable characters. Although I never had it as rough as they did in high school, I do know how cruel high school kids can be. All anyone ever wants to do is fit in, be normal and to be accepted but life is never easy or fair. I empathized with both Dylan and Jamie but there were times that I just wanted to shake Dylan for his remissness regarding Jamie and her feelings. Who knew smart people can be so dense? Jami e on the other hand was a breath of fresh air. She was always true to herself and was unapologetic about it. No matter how many times people tried to knock her down her or pretend that she didn’t exist, she never let them affect her…much. Yes, it was hard for Jamie but the bullies never won or had the satisfaction of seeing their words or action affect her.

Spangler’s Beast was thoughtful and well written and I enjoyed it so much more than I expected to. If you’re looking for a unique take on a beloved fairy tale, then I highly recommend reading Beast because you won’t be disappointed. It’s about overcoming physical and social norms and finding love in unexpected places…have a box of tissues ready, because you’re going to need it!


Author/illustrator of children's picture books and YA novels, Brie Spangler loves to draw and write stories and drink massive amounts of caffeine, but not quite Dave Grohl "Fresh Pot!"/require hospitalization levels. Writing down the ideas in her head was scary as a kid, so she turned to making pictures instead. Brie worked as an illustrator for several years before she began to write and immediately became a frothing addict. BEAST is her debut novel

Connect with Brie|Website|Twitter|Goodreads|

Sunday, October 16, 2016

[Spotlight] Holding Up the Universe by Jennifer Niven

Published October 4, 2016 by Knopf BFYR
Everyone thinks they know Libby Strout, the girl once dubbed “America’s Fattest Teen.” But no one’s taken the time to look past her weight to get to know who she really is. Following her mom’s death, she’s been picking up the pieces in the privacy of her home, dealing with her heartbroken father and her own grief. 

Now, Libby’s ready: for high school, for new friends, for love, and for every possibility life has to offer. In that moment, I know the part I want to play here at MVB High. I want to be the girl who can do anything. 

Everyone thinks they know Jack Masselin, too. Yes, he’s got swagger, but he’s also mastered the impossible art of giving people what they want, of fitting in. What no one knows is that Jack has a newly acquired secret: he can’t recognize faces. Even his own brothers are strangers to him. He’s the guy who can re-engineer and rebuild anything, but he can’t understand what’s going on with the inner workings of his brain. So he tells himself to play it cool: Be charming. Be hilarious. Don’t get too close to anyone. 

Until he meets Libby. When the two get tangled up in a cruel high school game—which lands them in group counseling and community service—Libby and Jack are both pissed, and then surprised. Because the more time they spend together, the less alone they feel. Because sometimes when you meet someone, it changes the world, theirs and yours. 


New York Times bestselling author Jennifer Niven has always wanted to be a Charlie's Angel, but her true passion is writing. Her most recent book, All the Bright Places, is her first novel for young adult readers and tells the story of a girl who learns to live from a boy who intends to die. All the Bright Places was the GoodReads Choice Award for Best Young Adult Fiction of 2015, and named a Best Book of the Year by Time Magazine, NPR, the Guardian, Publisher's Weekly, YALSA, Barnes & Noble, BuzzFeed, the New York Public Library, and others. It was also the #1 Kids' Indie Next Book for Winter '14-'15 and SCIBA's Young Adult Book of the Year, as well as being nominated for the Carnegie Medal and longlisted for the Guardian Children's Fiction Prize. As of today, the book has spent over thirty weeks as a New York Times bestseller, and foreign rights have sold to forty-one foreign territories. The movie rights have been optioned with Elle Fanning attached to star and Jennifer writing the script. As a companion to the book, Jennifer has created Germ, a web magazine for and run by girls (and boys) — high school and beyond — that celebrates beginnings, futures, and all the amazing and agonizing moments in between.*
*Via Author's Website
Connect with Jennifer|Website|Twitter|Goodreads|Facebook|

Monday, October 10, 2016

[Early Review] The Librarians and The Lost Lamp by Greg Cox

Title: The Librarians and The Lost Lamp
Author: Greg Cox
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Series: The Librarians #1

Paperback, 272 pages
Publication: October 11, 2016 by Tor Books

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


For thousands of years, the Librarians have secretly protected the world The Librarians from dangerous magical relics and knowledge, including everything from Pandora’s Box to King Arthur’s sword.

Ten years ago, Flynn Carson was the only living Librarian. When the ancient criminal organization known as the Forty steals the oldest known copy of The Arabian Nights by Scheherazade, Flynn is called in to investigate. Fearing that the Forty is after Aladdin's fabled Lamp, Flynn must race to find it before the Lamp's powerful and malevolent djinn is unleashed upon the world.

Today, a new team of inexperienced Librarians, along with Eve Baird, their tough-as-nails Guardian, is investigating an uncanny mystery in Las Vegas when the quest for the Lamp begins anew . . . and the fate of the world hangs in the balance.

The Librarians and The Lost Lamp is the first book in a planned trilogy based on TNT’s hit show, The Librarians; which follows a group of Librarians A.K.A protectors of humanity against magical artifacts such as Excalibur, The Golden Goose to The Spear of Destiny and Pandora ’s Box. I’m familiar with The Librarian films that aired back in the early 2000’s but I haven’t gotten around to seeing the show based on the movies. However, when I was asked if I wanted to review The Librarians and The Lost Lamp, I was immediately intrigued and jumped at the chance! I’m sure everyone is familiar with The Book of One Thousand and One Nights, ‘The Arabian Nights’ or at least heard of Aladdin and the magic lamp. It’s a very well known tale and one I enjoy hearing about so of course I wanted to read it. It sounded like a fun book…and I’m glad to say it absolutely was fun and so much more than I expected!

The book jumps back and forth between 2006 with Flynn, the sole librarian at the time and present day 2016 with a new group of librarian recruits as they search for the infamous lost lamp that belonged to Aladdin. Little did they know that their current case was a case that began 10 years ago when Flynn was in Baghdad in search of the Lamp and battling The Forty. This book was action packed right from the beginning and never let up once as readers jump back and forth between the past and present. Readers get to see Flynn and museum curator Sirin run for their lives in a bazaar in Baghdad to out flying a Roc on a magic carpet. But the action doesn’t stop there as we travel back to present day and find the newly minted librarians in Sin City investigating whether or not a man truly has Lady Luck on his side or some sort of magical advantage. This book was loads of fun and I loved how Cox weaved a wonderful adventure showcasing Aladdin’s Lamp and The Book of One Thousand and One Nights. Cox’s vivid imageries were so detailed that the book played out like a movie in my mind and has me curious and itching to start the TV show now!

All in all, The Librarians and The Lost Lamp was an excellent start to a brand new series and I can’t wait to see what’s in store for The Librarians. I highly recommend this book to everyone. There’s a little bit of everything for everyone such as: action, adventure, history, magic, a little romance and a whole lot of imagination. And in the meantime, I think I’m going to go check out the first season of The Librarians!

Monday, September 26, 2016

The Hike by Drew Magary

Title: The Hike
Author: Drew Magary
Genre: Fiction
Series: N/A

Hardcover, 288 pages
Publication: August 2, 2016 by Viking

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


When Ben, a suburban family man, takes a business trip to rural Pennsylvania, he decides to spend the afternoon before his dinner meeting on a short hike. Once he sets out into the woods behind his hotel, he quickly comes to realize that the path he has chosen cannot be given up easily. With no choice but to move forward, Ben finds himself falling deeper and deeper into a world of man-eating giants, bizarre demons, and colossal insects.

On a quest of epic, life-or-death proportions, Ben finds help comes in some of the most unexpected forms, including a profane crustacean and a variety of magical objects, tools, and potions. Desperate to return to his family, Ben is determined to track down the “Producer,” the creator of the world in which he is being held hostage and the only one who can free him from the path.

The Hike was an atypical novel. It was unlike anything I’ve ever read and I’ve read some pretty unique novels over the years. Imagine any other ordinary day, sun shining, birds chirping…it sounds like one of those nice days for a walk huh? Well, that’s exactly what our protagonist of The Hike did. Ben, away on a business trip had some spare time before his meeting so he decided to go for a walk. Little did he know that, that wasn’t any ordinary day. Because within a few minutes Ben lost sight of the hotel and found himself transported to another world/plane, like a bad dream; encountering maniacal men in dog mask, a talking crab, a cannibalistic giant…and magical beans.

After reading the synopsis, I knew The Hike was going to be unconventional, peculiar and not my usual read. But I like reading new things and I was intrigued. Most books have a plot/problem that is easily seen within the first couple of chapters. This in turn, enables readers to hypothesize what might happen next. I couldn’t do that here. When I began the book, I had no clue what was going on or where it was going. It was a pleasant surprise because I was basically experiencing what Ben was going through and it wasn’t like the usual, where the readers knew what was going to happen before the character. When Ben found something out, I found out at the same moment. I loved how unpredictable this book was, everything was pretty crazy-bizarre so I was constantly surprised at all the twist and turn. The crab and the ending…blew my mind. I had to read the last paragraph a couple of times, just to make sure I grasped the meaning correctly. The ending was just perfect. While I enjoyed most of the book, I wished the characters were more developed. There were moments that I had a hard time connecting and empathizing with Ben and the other characters. Readers did learn a lot about Ben, and Ben discovering what makes him, him. But I still felt that something was kind of missing.

Magary’s The Hike brought something to the literary scene that hasn’t been done before and I recommend this book to those looking for a fresh and unique read and are willing to read something out of their comfort zone; because this novel definitely gives a whole new meaning to being out-of-the-box and breaking the mold of how a novel should be.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Night Shift by Charlaine Harris

Title: Night Shift
Author: Charlaine Harris
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Series: Midnight, Texas #3 

Hardcover, 308 Pages
Publication: May 3, 2016 by Ace

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


At Midnight’s local pawnshop, weapons are flying off the shelves—only to be used in sudden and dramatic suicides right at the main crossroads in town.

Who better to figure out why blood is being spilled than the vampire Lemuel, who, while translating mysterious texts, discovers what makes Midnight the town it is. There’s a reason why witches and werewolves, killers and psychics, have been drawn to this place.And now they must come together to stop the bloodshed in the heart of Midnight. For if all hell breaks loose—which just might happen—it will put the secretive town on the map, where no one wants it to be...

Night Shift is the third and supposedly final book in the Midnight, Texas series. I hope this isn’t the last book because I enjoy the series too much to see it end! Anyone familiar with this series knows that the town of Midnight is a peculiar place and nothing is ever as it seems. What initially drew me to this series was the premise and plot but I stayed for the characters. Harris has created one of the most unique and fun cast I’ve ever read about.

Night Shift takes place approximately a few weeks after the events of Day Shift. The Town of Midnight gets a temporary relief as they plan for their annual Halloween-Samhain celebration at Fiji’s. However, the reprieve is abruptly cut short when the suicide rate sky rockets (before this, it was 0%), occurring right in the middle of Midnight in front of Bobo’s pawnshop. What’s even stranger is, the people committing suicide are ones that aren’t a fan of Fiji, Midnight’s resident witch. Once again it’s up to Fiji and the gang to figure out why the deaths are occurring and put a stop to it before it brings unwanted attention to their little town.

The main plot this time around isn’t as interesting as the first two books in the series. In my opinion, the multiple suicides and the big bad villain lurking underneath the town never really held my attention and the villain wasn't scary. The entire town was on a time sensitive mission but I never felt the urgency of it nor did they apparently. And then when the big showdown finally took place, it was solved so fast I thought I missed it. It was anticlimactic. It literally took two drops of blood and was summed up/solved in four sentences.­ I felt the author rushed the ending and 1-2 more pages could've helped the scene.

Even though the plot was somewhat of a letdown, the characters more than made up for it. As I said before, I’ve stuck around with series because of the wonderful characters. They may all be supes (except Olivia and the Reeds) and hiding secrets but at the core they’re just like everyone else. They want to try to make a decent living, live a happy life and care and protect their friends and families. That might sound boring but it isn’t the case. The people of Midnight make the most mundane of tasks fascinating and you’re never bored. And we finally learn the most in Night Shift about the characters. Prior to this book everyone was an enigma. Readers will learn more about Manfred and his family, what Olivia been hiding and running from, how the Reeds are keeping Madonna’s restaurant afloat and meet a relative of Fiji, other than the ghost of Aunt Mildred.

All in all this was a good conclusion to a wonderful series and everything tied up nicely. I am still crossing my fingers in hope that this isn’t really the end. There is still so much more to explore! In all honestly, I’m not ready to say goodbye to these characters. But if this is truly the end, I am glad that I’ll still get my dose of Midnight, Texas when the show based on the series is aired later this fall. Thank goodness for that. I highly recommend this series to everyone. It’s a light, fun read with the perfect balance of paranormal and mystery.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Vicarious by Paula Stokes

Title: Vicarious 
Author: Paula Stokes
Genre: Sci-Fi Thriller
Series: Vicarious #1

Hardcover, 336 pages
Publication: August 1 6, 2016 By Tor Books

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


Winter Kim and her sister, Rose, have always been inseparable. Together, the two of them survived growing up in a Korean orphanage and being trafficked into the United States.

Now they work as digital stunt girls for Rose’s ex-boyfriend, Gideon, engaging in dangerous and enticing activities while recording their neural impulses for his Vicarious Sensory Experiences, or ViSEs. Whether it’s bungee jumping, shark diving, or grinding up against celebrities at the city’s hottest dance clubs, Gideon can make it happen for you, for a price.

When Rose disappears and a ViSE recording of her murder is delivered to Gideon, Winter won’t rest until she finds her sister’s killer. But when the clues she uncovers conflict with the neural recordings her sister made, Winter isn’t sure what to believe. To find out what happened to Rose, she’ll have to untangle what’s real from what only seems real, risking her life in the process.

I must say, I am really impressed with the crop of Young Adults novels I’ve been reading lately. Zero complaints here. Vicarious had everything I looked for in a book: a strong heroine, interesting and engaging plot and great world building. Check, check and check. While Vicarious is a Young Adult novel, it tackled a lot of serious issues/mature content, grabbed straight from the real world news; all dark and disturbing….none of the usual stuff/fluff we see in most YA books these days. I requested this book from the publisher after reading the synopsis since it piqued my interest but it passed my expectations and wildest imagination. Vicarious took me completely by surprised and to me, those are the best kind of books.

Vicarious at its core is a murder mystery/whodunit type of story. Winter’s sister Rose went missing and the next day a vise of her supposed death appears. Vise stands for Vicarious Sensory Experience. It’s a high-tech video that enables those that view it to see from the recorder’s point-of-view and feel exactly what they felt in that exact moment. Winter and her sister Rose are stunt recorders. They do crazy outrageous things that people are too scared to do or can only dream of doing such as sky-diving, out running the police, dance with the hottest celebrities, walk a fashion runway or swimming with sharks. If you can dream/think it, then they can make it happen for you…for a price.

I thought Stokes world building was straightforward, it wasn’t overly complex but it wasn’t simplistic either. Everything was just enough to be and feel believable. My favorite part of the Vises is when Winter was going over Rose’s Vise memory chips. It was interesting to see Winter experience what’s it like to be in Rose’s shoes…since they were the complete opposite. Winter is a daredevil; she vises high-risk stunts that are life threatening while Rose vises what it’s like to be in the hottest night club/events or sleeping/hooking up with different people. Talk about polar opposites.

Winter had a horrible childhood, a nightmare really…she was one of the many girls that got kidnapped/sold into human trafficking. After much physical and mental abuse, she and her sister were saved by Gideon her current guardian and employer. Stokes did an amazing job incorporating real life problems within the story and her characters, without it being all in your face. Readers are able to enjoy the story itself but they're also being educated about a serious issue that is occurring everyday all over the world. Winter is a severely damaged victim of human trafficking and readers see how it affected every integral part of her being and how she socializes with people around her. Despite all that I thought Winter was a great character. She’s strong, raw and real. She has a no-nonsense attitude and will tell things like it is. What I like most about her is she always conquers her fear, always running straight at it rather than away. She’s as real as it gets.

As Winter got closer to solving her sister’s murder things got more crazy and complicated. The revelation toward the end was mind blowing! There were endless twist and turns; just one after another that turned everything you thought you knew on its head. Vicarious had the best twists I’ve read in a long time. Read this! I can't recommend this book enough, you will not be disappointed! All in all, Vicarious was one trippy rollercoaster that had me at the edge of my seat wondering who killed Rose Kim the entire time.  I'm super excited to hear that this is a duology, because  I can’t wait to read the next book and see what's in store for Winter!