Tuesday, December 18, 2018

#Review - A Thunder of War by Steve McHugh *Urban*

Series: The Avalon Chronicles # 3
Format: E-Book, 304 pages
Release Date: December 18, 2018
Publisher: 47North
Source: NetGalley
Genre: Urban Fantasy

There’s thunder on the horizon, and the lightning of war is about to strike.

After years of struggle, Layla Cassidy has finally mastered the dark powers that threatened to control her and turned them to good. She’s ready to fight, but the next battle will be her greatest test yet.

The forces of Avalon are growing ever stronger, reinforcing their dominance with almighty displays of brutality. When Abaddon comes close to crushing Layla and her friends, it’s clear that the thunder of war is about to give way to lightning—and that they have no chance of surviving it alone.

The final battle against Abaddon is drawing closer. Now Layla and her friends must fight for themselves—and the future of the world. To win, they will need every power and ally they can muster. But even with all their strength, will it be enough to stand against the impending doom?

A Thunder of War, by author Steve McHugh, is the third and final installment in the authors Avalon Chronicles series. The story picks up right where A Flicker of Steel left off. It has been several years since Layla Cassidy discovered a new world that lives right under the eyes of humanity. She became an umbra (a joining of 3 spirits and a demon), found she had kick ass powers, and joined a group that fights against Avalon, an organization that once stood to protect mankind, but now wants nothing more to push it's agenda on everyone from shifters, to gods, and goddesses, and everyone in between.

When a mission to the realm of Norumbega goes wrong, Layla and her allies are faced with the possibility that their rebellion may be at an end. After all, Abaddon has been several steps ahead of Layla's group and always seems to come out ahead while her group ends up on the raw end of things. The battle against Avalon has become more brutal as the fighting increases and the losses stack up. No one knows if Avalon can be defeated and everything is risked. No one knows if they are safe anywhere in any realm from Abaddon and Arthur's forces. 

Yet, Layla refuses to give up. Not even when Avalon masses an army to conquer Yggdrasil, the Tree of Life, thereby gaining control of all the portals so they could kill everyone. Not even when several key figures in the rebellion are taken has hostage in yet another Abaddon plan to smash the rebellion and bring all realms to their knees. One of the main reasons I like reading this series is that the author mixes and draws on legends, folklore, mythology from various countries and times. The author also introduces new characters to the story including a shadow elf, Norse dwarves, fire giants, and a saber tooth panther which becomes Layla's side kick. 

He also takes readers to such realms as Helheim & Tartarus and Shadow Falls. If you've read the first series, you know all about Shadow Falls. While Mordred is thought of as the leader of the group, and there are several chapters which are told from his narrative, it is Layla who seems to be involved in every single aspect of the rebellion, and it is she, and her allies who find themselves involved in the bloodiest battles across several realms. A Thunder of War is a bloody, violent, emotional and thoroughly entertaining finale to this part of her story.

It is true that I spent time getting involved in these books after failing to read the Hellequin Chronicles first It is also true that Layla's arc seems to have come to an end. Still, I still have lots of questions. However, I clicked over to the authors web page and was surprised to learn that a new three book trilogy will be releasing in 2019. The new series is being called Rebellion Chronicles. Apparently this means the return of Nate Garrett who has all but disappeared since being reintroduced in this new trilogy. All three books in the new series pick up right where this book leaves off.


Monday, December 17, 2018

#Review - Gunslinger Girl by Lyndsay Ely #YALit #Dystopian

Series: Apparent Standalone
Format: Hardcover, 432 pages
Release Date: January 2, 2018
Publisher: jimmy patterson
Source: Library
Genre: Young Adult / Dystopian

James Patterson presents a bold new heroine--a cross between Katniss Everdeen and Annie Oakley: Serendipity Jones, the fastest sharpshooter in tomorrow's West.

Seventeen-year-old Serendipity "Pity" Jones inherited two things from her mother: a pair of six shooters and perfect aim. She's been offered a life of fame and fortune in Cessation, a glittering city where lawlessness is a way of life. But the price she pays for her freedom may be too great....

In this extraordinary debut from Lyndsay Ely, the West is once again wild after a Second Civil War fractures the U.S. into a broken, dangerous land. Pity's struggle against the dark and twisted underbelly of a corrupt city will haunt you long after the final bullet is shot.

“Right and wrong isn’t so easy, is it? Sometimes the choices we make are a little bit of both.” 

Lyndsay Ely's Gunslinger Girl is a young adult dystopian with a western cross over feel starring 17-year old Serendipity Jones. It is also the authors debut novel. After a devastating Civil War that left the country in ruins, the Confederation of North America rose, trying to stabilize its rule using raw brutality against the United Patriot Front, Reapers, and a mix of propaganda and strict rules towards its supporters. 

Serendipity 'Pity' Jones, in a desperate need to escape from her cruel father and his attempt at selling her as a Bridal Bribe, flees from her commune taking with her only her mother's six-shooters and her best friend Finn. After an unfortunate occurrence, Pity is taken by a trio (Max, Santino, and Olivia) to Cessation, the last place on the Continent where you can do whatever you want. This is a place run by the curious Selene who seems to have an unlimited source of power.

Here in Cessation you will discover Halcyon Singh's Theater Vespertine which entertains the masses with mesmerizing and deadly performances. Death here is a spectacle. Pity, as the newest act in the theater, finds a home in this peculiar city. But, living in Cessation, performing in the Theater, and watching ones back, comes with terrible costs. Between ambitious politicians and cunning bounty hunters, Pity faces the dilemma whether Cessation is worth saving or it should be left to crumble.

Book was sold as Katniss Everdeen meets Annie Oakley. This genre-bending action-packed story unfolds in a post-Second Civil War setting, mixing elements of Western, Sci-Fi, Dystopian and Action-Adventure genres, perfect for fans of HBO's Westworld, Rae Carson's Walk on Earth a Stranger, Marie Lu's Legend, and Gail Carriger's Finishing School series. While some will agree that the ending wrapped up things nicely, I am of a different thought. 

There are way too many things that could happen after the final scene. Hell, I would be absolutely okay with another Pity adventure since it seems as though she has a long way to go before she has any intention of settling down. Especially when she takes up the mantle along with bounty hunter Siena Bond who knew Pity's mother back in the days. There's a combination of diverse characters, suspense, mind games, plots and action and betrayals, revelries, debauchery resulting in a sinful ambience, and along with the sweet and slightly angsty romance between Pity and Max, who has a secret all of his own.


Friday, December 14, 2018

#Review - Evermore by Sara Holland #YALit #Fantasy

Series: Everless #2
Format: E-Galley, 368 pages
Release Date: December 31, 2018
Publisher: HarperTeen
Source: Publisher
Genre: Young Adult / Fantasy / Epic

In this highly anticipated sequel to the New York Times bestselling novel Everless, Jules must confront the girl who is both her oldest friend and greatest enemy.

Jules Ember was raised hearing legends of the ancient magic of the wicked Alchemist and the good Sorceress. But she has just learned the truth: She is the Alchemist, and Caro—a woman who single-handedly murdered the Queen and Jules’s first love, Roan, in cold blood—is the Sorceress.

The whole kingdom believes that Jules is responsible for the murders, and a hefty bounty has been placed on her head. And Caro is intent on destroying Jules, who stole her heart twelve lifetimes ago. Jules must delve into the stories that she now recognizes are accounts of her own past. For it is only by piecing together the mysteries of her lives that Jules will be able to save the person who has captured her own heart in this one.

This dazzling fantasy series will captivate fans of Victoria Aveyard, Kiera Cass, and Kendare Blake with its fierce heroine, high-stakes adventure, engrossing mysteries, star-crossed romance, and captivating magic all set in a richly built world.

Evermore, by author Sara Holland, is the second installment in the Everless duology. A series that explores an ancient rivalry over time itself. Time is money—literally—in Jules’s world, and the rich are quick to tax years off the lives of the poor, extending their own lives by centuries. The poor must give up their futures to survive in the present. Just as in Red Queen, blood possesses magical properties, and the heroine’s humble origins and fierce familial loyalty draw strong parallels between Jules and Mare.

Evermore begins with protagonist Jules Ember, (who is the legendary Alchemist) on the run from Caro (the legendary Sorceress), still reeling from what she has learned about herself and grappling with her new reality. She has also been accused of murdering the last Queen as well as her former childhood friend Roan, who just happens to be Liam Gerling's brother. Jules and Caro are supposed to be ancient enemies. But, Jules has lost all memories of her past. Whereas, Caro, has remembered everything including the fact that Jules stole her heart. 

Jules must struggle to find a way to end Caro, and the only way she can do that, is to go back to her past, and search for answers which may allow her to finally end a relentless past of dying and being reborn. The key being that stories are the answer to things that Jules has forgotten, including who she once was when things went badly between her and Caro. Much of this book follows Jules on the run while she searches her past for any way to defeat the sorceress along with Liam Gerling who she once found lacking and spiteful. 

Liam is by Jules' side for much of the book, to share what he has learned of the Alchemist's life and as a steady companion through all of Jules' searching. As I stated above, one of the main topics of this series is how being able to buy and sell time from your life would affect people, and society at large, which I thought was fascinating.  Evermore had has plenty of action, the pacing was great, the character arcs were well done and the romance isn't overly in your face. But, the book definitely got away from the Science Fiction feel of the first book and entered into the epic fantasy realm. 

Jules and Caro's pasts are explored pretty thorough. One of the other secondary characters of this book is the new Queen, Ina Gold, who just happens to be Jules sister in this incarnation. Ina has been under Caro's spell for some time now, so the question is whether or not she can be a factor in helping Jules end the redundancy of dying at he hands of her once former best friend, or if she too will become one of Jules most hated rivals.

I have a very different point of view about the ending. The ending is a bit on the emotional side. Not going to lie. Were there any way to make the ending better, I am pretty sure the author or publisher or editor would have found a way to work it out. I honestly believe the most intriguing parts of this story were the back story between Jules and Caro and how they ended up becoming enemies.


#Review - A Shifter's Curse by Raven Steele, Ava Mason #Fantasy

Series: Rouen Chronicles # 1
Format: Kindle, 372 pages
Release Date: December 11, 2018
Source: Kindle Unlimited
Genre: Urban Fantasy

"Karma takes too long. I'd rather beat the shit out of you right now."

With a dagger in her boot and blades in her bra, Briar, a powerful shifter, arrives in Rouen with one goal: find and kill Dominic, the man responsible for the destruction of her entire family and wolf pack. When she discovers he is an Alpha surrounded by muscle-ripped shifters and equally as strong witches, she knows the only way she will get close enough to kill him is if she joins his dangerous and shady pack.

But infiltrating them proves more challenging than she expects, especially when her new roommates turn out to be supernaturals with their own powers and secrets. She can't tell if the centuries-old, nosey vampire and fashion-sensitive witch are working with her or against her.

Whether they are friends or enemies doesn't change things. Briar has a job to do. And she is willing to do whatever it takes to quench her thirst for revenge, even if it means destroying her own soul. 

"We were reapers riding on iron stallions, preparing to take blood."

A Shifter's Curse is the first installment in authors Raven Steele and Ava Mason's Rouen Chronicles. Rouen, Louisiana is a town that is the home to vampires, witches, and shifters. For one shifter in particular, Briar (Isabella Moretti), is on a mission to hunt specific individuals who were responsible for the mass murder of her entire family. Even though she somehow managed to escape their fate, she was fundamentally changed forever. One could say she was made even stronger by the horror she experienced.

But, first things first.  After all, one can't go on a mission of revenge without having a job (money), or a place to escape the darkness that is sure to come. Enter Lynx (witch) and Samira (vampire) who become Briar's roommates and support mechanism. Briar is a very sassy, smart mouthed, badass heroine who walks the walk, and definitely takes no prisoners. Even though she is out for revenge for her family, and what happened to her, she first has to do some bad things in order to be trusted and taken in by the shifter pack led by Dominic De Angelo and his pet psycho Silas. Oh, and let's not forget the sexy shifter, Luke, who looks at you like he's going to eat you. Never a dull moment in Briar's world.

According to the author's web page on Amazon, this is the first of three books for Briar, then will have 6 more books featuring Lynx and Samira. The storyline is actually very good, engaging, entertaining, has twists, surprises, and plenty of dark moments. I have to say that I enjoyed the dark scenes because you can't claim you are on a mission for revenge against your enemies without doing some really horrible things in order to hide who you really are and what you are protecting from an even greater power who may end up destroying the world.

I definitely look forward to the sequel coming out December 18, 2018.   


Thursday, December 13, 2018

#Review - The Dark Days Deceit by Alison Goodman #YALit #Historical

Series: Lady Helen (#3)
Format: Hardcover, 544 pages
Release Date: November 20, 2018
Publisher: Viking Books for Young Readers
Source: Library
Genre: Young Adult / Historical

The thrilling, genre-bending conclusion to Lady Helen’s demon-hunting adventures, set in the glittering Regency world.

Lady Helen has retreated to a country estate outside Bath to prepare for her wedding to the Duke of Selburn, yet she knows she has unfinished business to complete. She and the dangerously charismatic Lord Carlston have learned they are a dyad, bonded in blood, and only they are strong enough to defeat the Grand Deceiver, who threatens to throw mankind into chaos. But the heinous death-soaked Ligatus Helen has absorbed is tearing a rift in her mind. Its power, if unleashed, will annihilate both Helen and Carlston unless they can find a way to harness its ghastly force and defeat their enemy.

In the final book of the trilogy that began with The Dark Days Club and continued with The Dark Days Pact, the intrepid Lady Helen’s story hurtles to a shocking conclusion full of action, heartbreak, and betrayal.

The Dark Days Deceit, by author Alison Goodman, is the third and final installment in the Lady Helen series. This series is set in 1812, during what is called the Regency Era. It is a blend of the Regency Era, along with the supernatural. Lady Helen Wrexhall has spent the past 6 months training to be a warrior, often masquerading as a man since women doing men's work is frowned upon. She, along with Lord Carlston are a pair called the Grand Reclaimer. They are bound by blood along with Helen's maid Darby

They belong to a group known as the Dark Days Club hunting down not only the Great Deceiver, but also minions called deceivers. Deceivers are creatures who can inhabit the bodies of humans, killing them in the process, and feeding off those around them to create weapons and power in an attempt to open a portal to their world. Helen carries the key to power in her memory, but can't retrieve it. She absorbed the Ligatus which is a mad mans journal written in the blood of slaughtered people. 

The Great Deceiver holds one part of the Trinitus that is able to defeat and prevent a massacre.  Oh, and did I mention that Lady Helen was also betrothed to marry Duke Selburn? Despite her pending nuptials, Helen still feels drawn to Carlston. This is where things get tricky and interesting. Helen's relationship with Carlston has become something of a conflict now that she is in Bath getting ready to be married. Especially when her aunt and brother show up for the nuptials and try to interfere. Another part of the story I found fascinating is the reclaimer-terrene relationship that exists between Helen and Darby, as well as Carlston and Quinn. 

So, the first two books in the series were in various places across England like London and Brighton. This time, the author uses historical Bath as her setting and gets it right. A good author always does her research, and Goodman puts the reader in a setting that actually comes alive. I think it is challenging for an author to created a protagonist who is relatable, if not symptomatic, and able to carry the character through 3 books. A character the reader will want to follow from the beginning of the series until the last page is turned.

With that being said, I think that the characters, including Helen, missed key clues as to who the actual villain of the series was. In fact, this villain hides in plain sight until one particular moment when everyone believes the villain has been defeated and Helen can stop chasing deceivers around. There is also a particular scene where a male character pretty much tells Helen that she will be his, and that he won't be putting up with her nonsense, including her relationship with Carlston, or her membership in the Dark Days Club. I think this speaks volumes of the way women of this era were treated by men. 

I would have enjoyed this story a bit more had the book not been so long, or bogged down by the wedding shenanigans. I think it's fair to say her family is a huge Debbie Downer and I would have liked to see a stronger Helen tell them to piss off. The ending is a bit complex as well. I think there is plenty of opportunity for the author to revisit this series to see where Helen's new adventures will take her.

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/15993203-the-dark-days-club https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/26061581-the-dark-days-pact


Wednesday, December 12, 2018

#Review - The Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankenstein by Kiersten White #YALit #Fantasy

Series: Standalone
Format: Hardcover, 304 pages
Release Date: September 25, 2018
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Source: Library
Genre: Young Adult / Dark Fantasy

Elizabeth Lavenza hasn’t had a proper meal in weeks. Her thin arms are covered with bruises from her “caregiver,” and she is on the verge of being thrown into the streets…until she is brought to the home of Victor Frankenstein, an unsmiling, solitary boy who has everything—except a friend.

Victor is her escape from misery. Elizabeth does everything she can to make herself indispensable—and it works. She is taken in by the Frankenstein family and rewarded with a warm bed, delicious food, and dresses of the finest silk. Soon she and Victor are inseparable.

But her new life comes at a price. As the years pass, Elizabeth’s survival depends on managing Victor’s dangerous temper and entertaining his every whim, no matter how depraved. Behind her blue eyes and sweet smile lies the calculating heart of a girl determined to stay alive no matter the cost…as the world she knows is consumed by darkness.

 “Mary Shelley changed the whole world.”

2018 marks the 200th anniversary of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, the story of a young scientist named Victor Frankenstein and his monstrous creation and the havoc that ensues. The Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankenstein, by author Kiersten White, is a re-imaging, told from the female point of view of Elizabeth Frankenstein, nee Lavenza, Victor Frankenstein’s adopted “sister." 

Elizabeth was an orphaned child, condemned to a miserable life then sold to the Frankenstein's as a playmate for Victor, who became attached to her from the very first meeting. This story is actually told in a sort of flashback to the past when Elizabeth was taken in by the Frankenstein's and the present where Elizabeth goes searching for Victor Frankenstein who went off on his own several years before and ends up deep in a conspiracy for the ages.

I loved the addition of Mary Delgado who Elizabeth meets in Ingolstradt along with Justine Moritz, her governess, which leads her to discover some pretty disturbing things about what Victor has been up to these past 2 years. While Justine is a character whom I very much felt sorry for, Mary actually has a backbone and doesn't scare easily. Justine is naive to a fault, but loves taking care of the Frankenstein's younger boys. She was saved by Elizabeth, and quickly became each others support mechanism.

Elizabeth and Victor's relationship is anything but normal. I agree with other reviewers that it is emotionally draining, and abusive, and if this story took place in this century, this book would be protested for the way that women are treated. Sometimes it's very hard for the person being abused to see, acknowledge, and realize that they are being abused. I have to say, however, that Elizabeth isn't a nice, warm, friendly, and stable character. You can't be when you do the things that she does over the course of this story. Would I dare say that this is a twisted love story? Hell yes!

Another character I had to feel a bit for was Henry Clerval. Henry wandered into a disturbing situation, and in the end, he is probably the biggest surprise of the entire story. If you think that the author has felt the need to make Victor a loving, caring, down home character which we never saw in the original story, you would be wrong. Victor is a very disturbing character whose mind is as dark and twisted as they come. Victor is prone to outbursts of anger, and Elizabeth is the only one that can keep him calm. I think White did a good job in uncovering who Victor really was as a young adult.


Tuesday, December 11, 2018

#Review - The Three Secret Cities by Matthew Reilly #Thrillers

Series: Jack West Jr # 5
Format: E-Book, 448 pages
Release Date: December 4, 2018
Publisher: Gallery Books
Source: Publisher
Genre: Thrillers

A shadow world behind the real world

When Jack West, Jr. won the Great Games, he threw the four legendary kingdoms into turmoil.

A world with its own history, rules and prisons

Now these dark forces are coming after Jack...in ruthless fashion.

That is reaching into our world...explosively

With the end of all things rapidly approaching, Jack must find the Three Secret Cities, three incredible lost cities of legend.

It’s an impossible task by any reckoning, but Jack must do it while he is being hunted...by the greatest hunters in history.

Hell hath no fury like Four Kingdoms scorned. The hunt for Jack West Jr has begun. 

The Three Secret Cities is the Fifth installment in author Matthew Reilly's Jack West Jr series. This story picks up right where The Four Legendary Kingdoms left off. Protagonist Jack West Jr. managed to somehow survive the Great Games, but in the process, triggered events that will have long lasting implications for Jack, and everyone that he loves. Family and friends are no longer safe. The world is on the brink of disaster. Jack has changed history, but now it's time to find a way to prevent the end of the world.

A secretive group called the Knights of the Golden Eight has accepted an assignment to kill Jack, & capture Lily and Alby Calvin. Meanwhile, the surviving King of Land, Orlando, has a major vendetta against Jack and every single person who stood with him during the Games including his sister Iolanthe. Orlando was supposed to receive the mysteries to unlocking the universes secrets until Jack stopped him. Thankfully, Jack has his own allies including his wife Zoe, his mother Mae, Lily, Alby, Sky Monster, Hades and a new character named Aloysius Knight who joins the adventure. Plus Pooh Bear and Professor David "Nobody" Black who readers may have met in previous installments.

West must find the three lost cities of legend, three immortal weapons, and save the world. It's the usual rollicking yarn, but there's a depth to it, and an ending that will perhaps make you rethink everything you took for granted about his books. The action scenes are outlandish in the extreme and you really have to toss out your preconceived notions that nothing like this could possibly happen. The author once again returns to his days of Jack frolicking around the globe searching for clues that will lead him the the three secret cities. 

This includes destroying major cities like New York, Vienna, and London. Jack is the ultimate heroes hero. He will drop everything to save those he considers family. He will literally fight for his last breath, which has indeed happened in this series. When all is said and done, this book will leave readers with a stunning and emotional ending. The bad part is that the Internet is saying the next book won't release until 2020. That's a major soul crusher.