Thursday, July 19, 2018

#Review - The Traitor's Ruin by Erin Beaty #YALIT #Fantasy

Series: The Traitor's Circle # 2
Format: E-Book, 384 pages
Release Date: July 10, 2018
Publisher: Imprint
Source: NetGalley
Genre: Young Adult / Fantasy

A captain with a secret.
A spy with a mission.
A kingdom on the verge of ruin.

In the sequel to The Traitor’s Kiss, war breaks out between nations and Sage Fowler must infiltrate enemy territory to reconnect with her first love, Captain Alex Quinn.

After proving her worth in book one as a deft spy and strategic matchmaker, Sage Fowler is now comfortably positioned in high society as the royal tutor. When she’s called upon to teach his majesty’s soldiers how to read and write, she jumps at the chance to serve her kingdom of Demora—and to be reunited with her fiancĂ©, Captain Alex Quinn.

During a skirmish, Sage and Alex are separated. She watches him die before he can deliver important military intel—or so she thinks. She escapes from the enemy and makes an unlikely alliance with a mysterious soldier from a third nation. As Sage tries to rally their support against a common foe, the important political alliance is plagued by secrets and betrayal.

Can Sage complete Alex’s mission and save her kingdom once more?

The Traitor's Ruin is the second installment in author Erin Beaty's The Traitor's Circle trilogy. Things have definitely changed for Sage Fowler, the girl once deemed too emotional to be eligible to marry and found herself working as a matchmaker and a spy which led her on an adventure of the dangerous variety. These days, Sage is happily engaged to marry Captain Alexander Quinn. She has a best friend in Lady Clare Holloway. She is a royal tutor to the youngest prince and princesses, and is someone who has the Queen's trust.

It you are looking for a time frame between The Traitor's Kiss and this story, it is approximately 9 months. 9 months since Sage last saw Alex who has been out putting out fires & dealing with the aftermath of the D'Amiran rebellion. It is also 644 days until Alex can legally marry Sage because of his rank in the military. But, when Sage hears about an important mission that Alex is involved in, she asks the Queen to suggest that she go along with Alex while continuing to be Nicholas's tudor. Queen agrees. 

The King has chosen to reinstate the Norsar battalion that was disbanded 24 years ago as part of the peace accords and disarmament condition with Tamsin. With Alex being offered command of the unit, it means that he will have to travel and leave Sage behind. Again. He will need time to train an elite unit while keeping an eye out for those suspected of crossing the border with Casmun. With Sage along for the ride, Alex spends a great deal of time worrying about her safety, and sees her as a burden. He also has the same nightmares over and over again which drives his protectiveness of Sage. 

Sage, meanwhile is busy trying to prove herself to everyone which seems silly considering all she's been through and all she's done. Then, after an enemy force attempts to kidnap Prince Nicholas while Alex is away, Sage fights with everything she has in her arsenal to protect his life, and ends up in a foreign land called Casmun. As there are quite a few new characters in this new country, I won't actually name them all. I will say that Sage becomes more of an ambassador between the kingdoms since the Casmin King wants an open dialogue with Sage's homeland. 

There are some positives and negatives about Sage. Sage has a tendency of getting the best out of everyone she meets. Her best role has been that of a teacher whose students love being around her because she brings excitement, but she's also a pretty good spy and researcher as shown when she is trying to understand two separate but similar languages. But, can you imagine having someone like Alex who admits that he would let everyone die if it came to saving Sage's life? What kind of burden must that place on a person's psyche let alone her own confidence in being able to stand toe to toe with any adversary? 

There is another character who is part and parcel of this story. His name is Captain Malin Huzar. Huzar is from Kimisara who chose to keep his unit behind in Demora after the D'Amiran rebellion where they blended into the scenery and made lives for themselves. Huzar believes that the only way to get home is to kidnap someone important and sue for peace. Unfortunately for Huzar, he never met anyone like Sage, and her determination to keep those she cares for out of harm's way.

In closing, the author tells her story via Sage and Alex, with breaks to allow readers to wonder what in the world is going to happen next and what role Huzar will play when all is said and done. I have no doubts that Alex and Sage love each other passionately. So profoundly when Sage believes Alex fell to the enemy. Even though they spend most of the book apart, and apparently even more challenges lie ahead, I am hopeful of a happy ending for the ages.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

#Review - A Reaper at the Gates by Sabaa Tahir #YALit #Fantasy

Format: Hardcover, 480 pages
Release Date: June 12, 2018
Publisher: Razorbill
Source: Library
Genre: Young Adult / Fantasy 

The highly anticipated third book in #1 New York Times bestselling author Sabaa Tahir’s EMBER QUARTET.

Beyond the Martial Empire and within it, the threat of war looms ever larger.

Helene Aquilla, the Blood Shrike, is desperate to protect her sister’s life and the lives of everyone in the Empire. But she knows that danger lurks on all sides: Emperor Marcus, haunted by his past, grows increasingly unstable and violent, while Keris Veturia, the ruthless Commandant, capitalizes on the Emperor’s volatility to grow her own power—regardless of the carnage she leaves in her path.

Far to the east, Laia of Serra knows the fate of the world lies not in the machinations of the Martial court, but in stopping the Nightbringer. But in the hunt to bring him down, Laia faces unexpected threats from those she hoped would help her, and is drawn into a battle she never thought she’d have to fight.

And in the land between the living and the dead, Elias Veturius has given up his freedom to serve as Soul Catcher. But in doing so, he has vowed himself to an ancient power that demands his complete surrender—even if that means abandoning the woman he loves.

A Reaper at the Gates is the third installment in author Sabaa Tahir's An Ember in the Ashes series. A Reaper at the Gates continues the story of Laia of SerraHelene (The Blood Shrike), and Elias Veturius that left us pretty much hanging at the end of A Torch Against the Night. There is a fourth character who readers will meet right out of the gate, but since this character is familiar to readers especially after he betrayed Laia, let's just summarize what happens in this book. 

Helene is intent on helping Markus kill Commandant Keris which in turn will help protect her sister Livia from being murdered by Markus. Her first step in doing that is to find Elias, who everyone believes dead, but Helene knows he's not. If she can prove he's alive that's one step in showing how incompetent Keri is. But, everything seems to be harder than she imagined, especially since Keri continues to push her narrative and her master plan by working with the Nightbringer. 

Elias isn't with Laia. He is in the Waiting Place struggling to adapt to his new Soul Catcher status. While Shaeva is trying to teach him what she can, he's wanting to be back with Laia more than anything else. Elias is surrounded by not only ghosts, but also jinn who have the ability to control your mind if you allow them to. They can also exploit any weakness. Elias hasn't fully accepted his role as of yet, nor his connection with Mauth who is the source of all the world's fey powers. His connection to Laia is holding him back, which could be a bad thing since his failure could end up with the world ending. 

Meanwhile, Laia is trying to do what she can to help the Scholars, tribesmen, and also stop the Nightbringer from freeing the jinn. Laia is still reeling from the betrayal that was Keenan, but she moves past her old feelings remarkably well. Though the anger of said betrayal is still there. Having broken her brother out of prison at the expense of the man she loves, Laia is now forced to live with the consequences of her journey to liberate her brother. This means living up to her own reputation as a leader and learning to make difficult choices in a difficult war. 

I will say one thing. This book definitely raises the bar on the level of action and suspense. One can't help to wonder what will come next since the author tosses our favorites into so many brutal and unyielding situations, and then pushes the envelope on our emotions so we are left drained by the time we reach the end of the story. I am going to follow the leader in this review. I think Helene and Laia's POV's are much more entertaining than Elias. While Elias deals with his issues, Laia and Helene are pretty much attempting to save their worlds from being taken over by Keris, the Nightbringer, and whole slew of new possibilities which I am hoping we don't have to wait another 2 years to see the outcome. 

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

#Review - The Book of Peril by Melissa McShane (Urban Fantasy)

Series: The Last Oracle # 2
Format: E-Book, 231 pages 
Release Date: July 2, 2018
Publisher: Curiosity Quills Press
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Genre: Urban Fantasy

As the custodian of the oracular bookstore Abernathy’s, Helena has faced any number of challenges in learning her new role. But when the store begins giving out false prophecies, Helena comes up against her greatest challenge yet: how can she fix Abernathy’s when she doesn’t truly know how it works?

Armed only with a few special talents and her desire to protect her magical charge, and with the assistance of her best friend Viv, her reluctant assistant Judy, and the enigmatic and handsome Malcolm Campbell, Helena must navigate the treacherous depths of the magical world, where secret enemies lurk behind illusions capable of fooling even the most powerful of magical entities. Helena is the only one who can see past those illusions, but will her abilities prove strong enough to save the oracle?

The Book of Peril is the second installment in author Melissa McShane's The Last Oracle series, and the follow-up to The Book of Secrets. The story takes place 5 months after protagonist Helena Davies became custodian of Abernathy's. Abernathy's is a magical place where prophecies (auguries) are given out for a price. Helena, along with her assistant Judy Rasmussen, have been trying to understand not only her role, but how the Oracle actually works. But, as the story opens, it appears as though the Oracle has gone wonky giving out the wrong auguries or auguries for those who never actually requested one.

As the story progresses, Helena must contend with origami-wielding bad guys, a stalker ex-boyfriend who thinks he deserves a second chance, an attractive ex-Navy SEAL who should be her love interest, as well as the tribunal after her co-worker is charged with being the cause of the Oracle's issues. As Helena fights to protect the oracle, clear her co-worker who she was actually enemies with in the first installment, she finds time to visit the spiritual successor to the Library of Alexandria, the Athenaeum, searching for clues in past custodian’s reports of strange behavior.

Helena is a curious character who I like. Helena has the unusual ability to see through illusions which is a fantastic thing to have when someone is trying to mess with your livelihood. Although she often puts her life on the line, and ends up in dangerous situations, she has a decent heart and means well. She could have just walked away from her co-worker and let her figure out how to get out of her troubles, but she knew in her heart that she wasn't responsible for what's happening with the Oracle.

Then there is the prickly Lucia Pontarelli aka the Custodian of the Neutrality known as the Gunther Node. In this world, she is the local law enforcement when it comes to keeping the various factions in line with the accord. She and Malcolm Campbell are what's standing between normals finding out about the ongoing battle that has ensnared both the Nicolliens, and the Ambrosites. Malcolm is also said love interest who Helena should be able to be with without all the stupid restrictions placed on both of them by the accords. I dare hope that the author finds a way to work around that instead of shoving either character with someone else. Even though they can't be together, I think Malcolm would charge into a burning house to save Helena with no regrets about being hurt or injured. I dare you not to call that love.

Monday, July 16, 2018

#Review - City of Bastards by Andrew Shvarts #YALIT #Fantasy

Series: Royal Bastards # 2
Format: Hardcover, 384 pages
Release Date: June 5, 2018
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
Source: Library
Genre: Young Adult / Fantasy

Tilla, bastard of House Kent, has it made. Safe from her murderous father in the dazzling capital of Lightspire, she lives a life of luxury under the protection of the Volaris King, alongside her boyfriend, Zell, and best friend, Princess Lyriana.

So why isn’t she happy? Maybe it’s the whispers and stares that follow her wherever she goes, as the daughter of the traitor waging war against Lightspire. Or maybe it’s the memories of her beloved brother, Jax, who lies cold in his grave even as she tries to settle into a life in the city’s prestigious University.

Then Tilla stumbles upon the body of a classmate—a friend. The authorities are quick to rule it a suicide and sweep it under the rug, but when Tilla herself is attacked by a mysterious man with terrifying powers, she’s convinced of a conspiracy. Her friends beg her to stay silent; what she’s suggesting is impossible . . . and treasonous.

But Tilla can’t—won’t—let it go. And the deeper she digs, the more questions she uncovers. How is the West beating the supposedly invincible Lightspire mages in battle? Is it connected to the shadowy cult wreaking havoc in Lightspire? Nothing is as it seems in the glorious capital, and Tilla’s presence might just be the spark that sets the Kingdom aflame.

City of Bastards is the second installment in author Andrew Shvarts' Royals Bastards trilogy. In this action-packed sequel to Royal Bastards, Tillandra, the illegitimate daughter of Lord Kent of the Western Province, has arrived in the city of Lightspire along with her love, Zell, a Zitochi warrior from the northPrincess Lyrianna, daughter of the King who rules over the lands, and her cousin Ellarion, the son of the former Archmagus Rolan whose death has kicked off a major rebellion against King Novaris. 

Tillandra has always wanted to visit the city, but now that she's here, and attending University, things aren't exactly easy for her. Yes, she does have a fantastic roommate
named Markiska, who is the daughter of a Baron, and yes, she is best friends with Princess Lyrianna, and it appears as though the King and Queen, as well as Lyrianna's younger sister have treated as though she is family. But, in reality, people just can't help themselves from linking Tilla to her father.

Tilla is still haunted by the lost of her brother Jax, and the betrayal of her former best friend, Miles Hampstedt, who is now a General in Lord Kent's army. Jax loss means so much more to Tilla because the duo often dreamed of what living in the city would be like, and now that Tilla is here, she's without him. As Tilla begins to explore the magnificent royal city of Lightspire, a shocking murder occurs that puts things into perspective. Especially since Tilla is the daughter of a man who is leading a rebellion against the King. 

After she uncovers a sinister conspiracy to take down the kingdom from within, it appears as though nobody will take her seriously. Not Zell. No Lyrianna. Not Ellarion. Especially not Inquisitor Harkness who truly believes that Tilla is a spy working for Kent. Until things really begin to pile up and things look bleak. There's some interesting dynamics between the four main characters. They've gravitated towards each other whether by circumstances, or because they haven't allowed their stations to interfere with their friendships. Tilla has the most angst because of Jax, and her father which I already hit on.

Zell, who becomes a CIty Watchman, is keeping secrets from Tilla which causes issues of trust. Lyrianna is a party girl, who likes to have sexual trysts, and is also keeping secrets which could lead to her death. Meanwhile, Ellarion, who is training to become the next Archmagus, may be the most powerful character in this book. But, even his world is shattered when a whole host of surprises is stacked up in front of his otherwise unbelieving eyes and he is forced to put what he has been taught aside to help keep Tilla and Lyrianna alive.

My favorite part of this story has to be the world building and how the murder mystery is handled. The details of the city of Lightspire, the use of shimmersteal, the underground city where part of the story takes place, the tombs of the Titans where our characters unexpectedly find themselves, as well as the various carnivals & parties that seem to happen almost every night. There's some fantastic banter, and hilarious moments in this book, but they are there to remind readers that things aren't as pretty as they appear on the outside.

I will close this review by saying that the second part of this book is the most action packed and the most stunning. The first part is about Tilla's development or lack thereof, and her situation which would be envious of most people who were given the chance to live in a lap of luxury. Oh, did I mention the mystery? The mystery in this story really done pretty well. Readers won't know the answer to their questions until deep into the book, and then the dam will break, and hell will reign down on all of them, and then you will have to suffer, ah, I mean wade through a cliffhanger ending that will leave you impressed by how much the author piles on to his characters. 

Saturday, July 14, 2018

#Stacking the Shelves # 292 - Week Ending 07/14/2018

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 Stopping by!
Hope you had a great week! Is everyone enjoying your summers!
Is everyone keeping up with their reading? A rather large haul, again, this week. Sorry! Hope you find something you like!
Have a fabulous weekend folks! 

This Weeks Reviews: 

 Monday - Evolution by Stephanie Diaz (YA, SyFy)

(Mystery, Historical)

Thursday - War Storm by Victoria Aveyard (YA, Fantasy)

 Friday - A Flicker of Steel by Steve McHugh (Urban Fantasy)

Weekend - A Study in Shifters by Majanka Verstraete (YA, Paranormal)

*REC'D Via Library, & NetGalley*

Friday, July 13, 2018

#Review - A Study In Shifters by Majanka Verstraete #YALit #Paranormal

Series: The Adventures of Marisol Holmes #1
Format: E-Galley, 300 pages
Release Date: June 26, 2018
Publisher: Monster House Books
Source: NetGalley
Genre: Young Adult / Paranormal

Seventeen-year-old Marisol Holmes may be the great-great-great granddaughter of Sherlock Holmes, but it’s hard to live up to the family name when only one mistake can spell your downfall. After trusting the wrong guy in a case gone totally wrong, Marisol convinces the Conclave, an underground organization of detectives solving supernatural cases, to give her a last chance to prove her worth, and maybe even heal her broken heart.

After all, as a half-blood jaguar shifter, Marisol is uniquely qualified to solve this murder—and every scrap of evidence points toward the culprit being a fellow jaguar shifter. But is one of her own people involved, or is this all a ploy to kick Marisol’s mother off the shifter throne?

Then Marisol discovers her best friend, Roan, is missing, and maybe the killer’s next target. The stakes just got higher than political intrigue. Just when things couldn’t get worse, Marisol’s ex-boyfriend-turned-nemesis, Mannix, starts leaving sinister clues for her. Marisol fears this case might be far more personal than she could’ve imagined. 

It’s time for Marisol to prove her worth, or her people could fall into chaos while her best friend loses his life.

“The game is afoot.” 

A Study in Shifters is the first installment in author Majanka Verstraete's The Adventures of Marisol Holmes series. Meet 17-year old Marisol Holmes, the great, great, great granddaughter of the infamous Sherlock Holmes. But, let's stop there or a minute. By the obviousness of its title, this book is about paranormals. Paras who are mostly shifters like jaguar, snake, wolf, bear, etc. And, while Marisol is being portrayed as the heir apparent to the Holmes line, she is in deep trouble with the Conclave as the story begins thanks to trusting the wrong person.
“There is nothing more deceptive than an obvious fact.” 
The Conclave is supposed to protect humanity from overzealous paranormals. The Conclave is an underground organization of detectives solving supernatural cases.The Conclave is not known to all shifters. Just those chosen and royal families. The Conclave, especially snake shifter Balthazar Rollins, hates Marisol. He wants to see her gone and forgotten. After all, she's not a full blood, so how dare she be able to consider herself part of the shifter royalty like her mother who is La Duchess who rules all other shifter species? 
"When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth."
Rollins offers Marisol one more chance to prove herself. All she has to do is catch a killer. The catch? She has to work with Indra, a snake shifter and senior agent. Marisol and Indra enroll in a posh English private school called Waynard Academy, where a shifter from an important family has been murdered by what appears to be a jaguar. With rumblings about The Gathering of Clans, and the desire of a group of shifters who want Marisol's mother removed from power, especially with Marisol being a half-breed, the pair need to walk softly and carry a big stick in order to find out the truth. 

Just when things couldn’t get worse, Marisol’s ex-boyfriend-turned-nemesis, Mannix, starts leaving sinister clues for her. In her last case, which the author calls the Big Betrayal, Mannix broke her heart and ruined her case. Marisol isn't sure which is worse. But, after learning that a best friend has disappeared, Marisol fears this case too might be far more personal than she could’ve imagined. It’s time for Marisol to prove her worth, or her people could fall into chaos while her best friend loses his life.

Ah, where do I begin to describe the reason for my review? At the very beginning. The author taunts readers with a broken Marisol who is being tested to see if she will remain part of the Conclave or not. She hints about the Big Betrayal and the fact that she can no longer shift. She hints at the villain, Mannix, who not only broke her heart, but also destroyed an innocent life. I, like others, have compared Mannix to Moriarty and I think that is by far a fair assessment.

Both are evil. Both are masterminds. Both are bloody brilliant and can outwit a Holmes like nobody's business. More than anything, I compare Indra to a big sister, or a babysister. Marisol is the brains, Indra is the one who has to approve and keep the Conclave updated. My other complaint is the repetitiveness. Especially when Marisol moans about the Big Betrayal and her inability to shift, and the fact that everyone hates her because she's a half breed. I hope, I repeat, I hope by the time the second installment comes around, the author will get more to the point right out of the door. The author really turns the screw on the readers by writing such a twisted and heart breaking ending. No, I will not spoil. I will say that things are going to get very bumpy from here on out.

#Review - A Flicker of Steel by Steve McHugh #Fantasy

Series: The Avalon Chronicles # 2
Format: E-Galley, 366 pages
Release Date: July 3, 2018
Publisher: 47North
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Genre: Fantasy / Urban

Avalon stands revealed, but the war is far from over. For Layla Cassidy, it has only just begun.

Thrust into a new world full of magic and monsters, Layla has finally come to terms with her supernatural powers—and left her old life behind. But her enemies are relentless.

Sixteen months after her life changed forever, Layla and her team are besieged during a rescue attempt gone awry and must fight their way through to freedom. It turns out that Avalon has only grown since their last encounter, adding fresh villains to its horde. Meanwhile, revelations abound as Layla confronts twists and betrayals in her own life, with each new detail adding to the shadow that looms over her.

As Layla fights against the forces of evil, her powers begin to increase—and she discovers more about the darkness that lies in her past. As this same darkness threatens her future, will she be ready to fight for everything she holds dear?

A Flicker of Steel is the second installment in author Steve McHugh's The Avalon Chronicles. I'll will start with the fact that this story does NOT begin where A Glimmer of Hope ended. Nope! Apparently 16 months have passed, or 2 years since Layla Cassidy was dragged into this world with the murder of her friends and co-workers. I honestly thought the author would pick up right from where he left off with Layla understanding her new powers (ability to manipulate metal) and her relationship with the three spirits (Rosa, Servius, Gyda, and Terhal) she now carries, and her new role that she accepted at the end of the previous installment.

Instead we have Layla and her team in Louisiana hunting for people supplying spirit scrolls to Nergal, the villain of the previous installment. Layla, Chloe Range and their allies are no longer a part of Avalon. They are instead enemies of Avalon and are being hunted down brutally and efficiently. Avalon, for those who haven't read the first installment, are a group of mythological characters and others who once controlled the world from the shadows. Now, with King Arthur around, the world has awakened to the fact that magic, monsters, and mythology are real.

Since we last left Layla, hundreds of thousands have died in attacks around the world. Hades territories are under constant attack, and the one safe space is Greenland. We now have Arthur, Nergal, & Abaddon on one side, while Hades, Persephone, Layla, Chloe, Remy, Diana, Kasey, Tommy, Olivia, Skye & Merlin are the other side. Have you noticed the number of characters who flow in, and flow out of this story? This is the first time for those like Nabu, Irkalla, and Zamek. Oh, and let's not forget about Grayson, err, I mean Lucifer who is supposed to be good. I normally take notes when I read so I remember certain facts and key characters, but even I had had enough by the time the story was wrapping up. 

The point I am trying to make is that there is a whole lot of running, a whole lot of fighting, more running and more fighting, while tossing in betrayal, a father who is known as the All American Ripper, and a shock to Leyla's reality with the return of someone who, well, let's not spoil it. Then, to make things more twisted, the author tosses in another character by the name of Kristin Tusk who works for the villains. Kristin is able to create an almost unlimited supply of her own clones that wreak havoc everywhere they go. I kind of wish Kristin had changed sides and joined Layla. Would be a fantastic ride.

The ending is probably one of the best parts of the story, but it also left with a pretty in your face ending which obviously leads to the third installment. Yes, I will continue. Yes, I will hope that the author doesn't flood us with even more characters. Having not read his previous series, I don't know if this is normal for him or not. Let's hope he changes his ways if it is.