Friday, September 30, 2016

#Friday Review - The Forgetting by Sharon Cameron (YA, Science Fiction) @CameronSharonE @Scholastic

Series: Standalone
Format: Hardcover, 403 pages
Release Date: September 13, 2016
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Source: Library
Genre: YA, Science Fiction

What isn't written, isn't remembered. Even your crimes.

Nadia lives in the city of Canaan, where life is safe and structured, hemmed in by white stone walls and no memory of what came before. But every twelve years the city descends into the bloody chaos of the Forgetting, a day of no remorse, when each person's memories – of parents, children, love, life, and self – are lost. Unless they have been written.

In Canaan, your book is your truth and your identity, and Nadia knows exactly who hasn't written the truth. Because Nadia is the only person in Canaan who has never forgotten.

But when Nadia begins to use her memories to solve the mysteries of Canaan, she discovers truths about herself and Gray, the handsome glassblower, that will change her world forever. As the anarchy of the Forgetting approaches, Nadia and Gray must stop an unseen enemy that threatens both their city and their own existence – before the people can forget the truth. And before Gray can forget her.

The Forgetting, by author Sharon Cameron, is a standalone story that features Nadia, a girl of undetermined age, who lives in a walled city called Canaan with her mother and two sisters. It is place where books are more important than anything else because they carry your memories. You are supposed to carry your book with you at all times, and you are supposed to write the truth in your book because they are your sole identity after what the author is calling The ForgettingEvery 12 years, the citizens of Canaan go through The Forgetting

Sometimes, people who lose their books, lose who they once were and end up among those that are considered Lost. This is not the case for Nadia who remembers her life before The Forgetting. She remembers what her own father did with her book. She remembers things that nobody else does and that makes her unique. To say that Nadia is a loner, is pretty accurate. She has no real friends. Her mother is forgetful and apparently doesn't remember who Nadia is. That gives Nadia plenty of time to explore outside the walls of Canaan that was supposedly built to keep trouble out.

What changes things for Nadia, is when she meets Gray, the glassblower's son who goes along on the journey with Nadia to discover why people lose their memories, and if there is anything that can be done to change things before The Forgetting once again overtakes Canaan. Once Nadia and Gray discover a shocking truth, things will never be the same in Canaan again. Nadia is far from a verbose lead character. She's clever, quiet, and smart as a whip.

She keeps her secrets close to her chest because to allow anyone else to know that she remembers, could lead to even more problems. She gets caught in Gray's web surprisingly easy without seeing it coming. But, there are things about Gray that leave Nadia chaffing a bit wondering if there is more to him than meets the eyes. There is such a clever ending to this book, that I give full credit to the author for keeping the secret without letting it out too early. 

Sharon Cameron is also the author of such books as Rook, The Dark Unwinding, & A Spark Unseen, all of which I have read and reviewed. Cameron is a clever writer who I love reading her books because nothing is as it seems. There is always some sort of twist just waiting to jump out and surprise you. In the case of this story, Cameron's world really is a secretive one. You know about the City of Canaan, but not how the citizens arrived there in the first place. 

Thursday, September 29, 2016

#Thursday Review - A Red-Rose Chain by Seanan McGuire (Urban Fantasy)

Series: October Daye # 9
Format: Paperback, 358 pages
Release Date: September 1, 2015
Publisher: DAW
Source: Amazon
Genre: Urban Fantasy

Things are looking up.

For the first time in what feels like years, October “Toby” Daye has been able to pause long enough to take a breath and look at her life—and she likes what she sees. She has friends. She has allies. She has a squire to train and a King of Cats to love, and maybe, just maybe, she can let her guard down for a change.

Or not. When Queen Windermere’s seneschal is elf-shot and thrown into an enchanted sleep by agents from the neighboring Kingdom of Silences, Toby finds herself in a role she never expected to play: that of a diplomat. She must travel to Portland, Oregon, to convince King Rhys of Silences not to go to war against the Mists. But nothing is that simple, and what October finds in Silences is worse than she would ever have imagined.

How far will Toby go when lives are on the line, and when allies both old and new are threatened by a force she had never expected to face again? How much is October willing to give up, and how much is she willing to change? In Faerie, what’s past is never really gone.

It’s just waiting for an opportunity to pounce

A Red-Rose Chain is the 9th installment in author Seanan McGuire's October Daye series. The story picks up (3) months after the end of The Winter Long. One could say that this is the third book in Toby's new story arc that started with Chimes at Midnight with Toby, May, Jazz, Quentin, and Tybalt taking down the Queen of the Mists, and installing her with the person who should have held the title after her father was murdered; Arden Windermere. But, nothing is ever easy for Toby or her friends.

After Arden's second in command is elf shot and she starts questioning whether or not she should really be Queen, Arden is given the choice of either stepping down as Queen, or facing a war against the Kingdom of Silences. Arden names Toby, the same Toby who is reckless, rash, smart-mouthed, and impulsive, as Ambassador and sends her to Portland along with May, Walther, Tybalt, and Quentin to bring an end to the threat of war. Even though Toby is in over her head, including facing the shear hatred of all changelings by the King Rhys, and his desire to find out how she ticks, Toby still has a job to do of stopping an impending war that will do nothing but leave death and destruction behind. 

One of the new things in Toby's evolution as a character, and a hero is that she has a supporting cast that wades into the darkness along with her and not just stands back while she blunders into danger time and time again. Toby still has her wits, and sarcasm about her that remains to be one of the more impressive feats of a series that is 9 books into this series. With Toby facing intense hatred by both the King and the Fake Queen, it will take some tricky maneuvering to ensure that Toby and her friends return home safely.

This book touches on a subject that I've always been curious about. The fact that purebloods can't kill each other without it violating Oberon's Law, but they can use elf shot against each other which puts them out of commission for a hundred years. It's a tricky situation that leads to the possibility that Toby's enemies will keep coming back once they've already been defeated. I am all for putting an enemy in the grave, and not allowing them a second chance at our heroine. I liked that Walther's background and his science plays a key role in discovering a way to help those who have been elf shot. I also like that the author isn't afraid to use diversity in order to tell her story. I love that Tybalt and Toby are in a good place and their interaction always brings a smile to my face.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

#Wednesday Review - Aces Wilde by Jenn Stark (Urban Fantasy)

Series: Immortal Vegas, # 5
Format: Kindle 240 pages 
Release Date: August 29, 2016
Publisher: Elewyn Publishing
Source: Amazon
Genre: Urban Fantasy

Never play the game without an Ace up your sleeve. 

During her years of finding and selling artifacts on the arcane black market, Tarot reader Sara Wilde has made a bona fide killing. Now, as the recently appointed head of an ancient Connected syndicate, she's forced to take a truly deadly role in the war on magic.  

Within the House of Swords, every blade cuts deep. Usurpers and claimants attack from all sides, while the Magician's insidious pull on Sara becomes ever more twisted and beguiling. As she struggles to strengthen her position and manage her new, unwieldy abilities, Sara discovers her greatest challenge yet: a mast warrior determined to deliver the syndicate and everyone it protects to its mortal enemy.  Bolstered by an unexpected Ace and a mystical sword, and faced with a round-the-world race to outmaneuver friends and foes alike, Sara's future balances on a merciless edge. 

The cards can cut both ways when you play ACES WILDE.

Aces Wilde is the FIFTH installment in author Jenn Stark's Immortal Vegas series. This story actually picks up Two weeks after the end of Wicked and WildeProtagonist Sara Wilde finds dangerous artifacts, lost things, including people, using her Tarot Cards. She is one of the more successful artifact hunters in the world and works mostly for the Arcane Council led by the sexy, arrogant, and devious Magician. 

She also works for clients who can pay handsomely what she asks for. This money has never been hers. It supports Father Jerome's mission of saving the connected children who have become casualties in the war on magic. But, things have since changed for Sara. The Minor Houses lead by mortals, have been around for years, but have once again come to the attention of the Arcana Council. 

After Annika Soo's death and Sara's travels into Hell itself to find a missing pendant where she had to deal with a whole bunch of issues, Sara was named as the head of the House of Knives. A move that didn't exactly endear her to the Council or the Magician. Now, instead of just traveling the world finding dangerous artifacts, and saving the connected children, she has to face internal challenges, betrayals, challenges to her standing, and an adversary in Gamon who is most dangerous to Sara's health and welfare.

This particular story was most interesting to me because Sara is now fully engaged in the war on magic, and must make a choice between her standing as the head of of a mortal house, and her loyalty to the Magician, and the Arcana Council which is supposed to be neutral in the war on magic. Sara once again travels the globe from Israel, to Paris, to Vegas, and Cambodia where she has to find a long lost sword that can see her through impending challenges from her own generals.

For those of us who have made it to this particular book, let us thank Jenn Stark for making this possible. She could have stopped at any time, and walked away. Instead, she has made Sara a force to be reckoned with. Her powers, especially after her visit to Hell, have increased dramatically. Her support group which features Nikki Dawes, and perhaps Detective Brody, has remained steadfast, and in Nikki, she's found someone who can stand back to back with her and ensure that she won't be stabbed in the back. I also loved Simon, and his somewhat dry humor that makes you laugh.

To say that I saw the ending of this book coming, would be to say that somehow I managed to get inside the authors head and saw where she was heading with Sara, the Minor Houses, and the Magician. Or, it could be that the author has laid out Easter Eggs along the way from book ONE onward that would have given readers hints on what Sara would eventually face and how her powers would eventually lead her to the final scene. I dare say that I am eager to read the next book called Forever Wilde coming out in December.  

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

#Tuesday Review - Riot of Storm and Smoke by Jennifer Ellision (YA, Fantasy)

Series: Threats of Sky and Sea # 2
Format: Kindle, 239 pages
Release Date: August 18, 2015
Publisher: Self-Published
Source: NetGalley
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy

War draws closer, like a tide to the shore.

Bree and her friends have escaped the clutches of the Egrian King, but their troubles are far from over. Still reeling from the secrets that drew new breath when her father took his last, Bree sets off for the safety of Nereidium-- the kingdom she's just learned is hers.

But with the King's ire at its peak and war a certainty, Nereidium is no longer safe. As Prince Caden rallies the Egrian people against his tyrant father, Bree, Princess Aleta, and Tregle race to the Nereid shore to warn them of the incoming danger—and to put the Nereid Princess on the throne.

The only trouble there: Bree can’t bring herself to reveal that the Princess is her.

It’s not a dilemma she can waste time pondering. With a new weapon in his arsenal, the King's strikes are sure to be bolder than ever before. And Bree may not be ready to wear a crown… but she won't let her kingdom down without a fight

Riot of Storm and Smoke is the second installment in author Jennifer Ellision's Threats of Sky and Sea trilogy. This story picks up immediately where the first book left off. Bree, Aleta, and Tregle have escaped King Langdon's castle leaving many unanswered questions and bodies in their wake. For Bree, things are even more complicated after a shocking confession by the man who was thought to be her father. Bree was never was told the truth about her actual parentage, or the fate that awaits her if she can find a way to Nereidium, or the fact that she is a Water Wielder which came out in all its glory in front of a King. 

Now, however, she and her friends are lucky to be able to escape the castle without facing the injustices that are soon to be reigned down on Prince Caden by his father and his torturer Tutor Larsden. So, while Bree and the others are making their way across country, Caden is trying to stay alive. While Bree is coming to terms with what happened, and what her father told her, she meets the Underground led by a man named Clift who has been working with Caden. We are are also introduced to Meddie who will become more than just a bit player introduced to make things more intriguing. I adore Meddie, and I am sure you will too.

The story alternatives between Bree and Caden. Gives things a more wide range perspective as the two are rushing head first into driving alliances to take down a King, while getting Bree to Nereidium. I also liked that we get a better look at Caden, and how he pulled the wool over his own father's eyes while helping the Underground. While Bree, Aleta, Meddie, & Tregle are making their cross country, Caden gets a little assistance, and puts together his own alliance and army with the help of Lilia & Liam & Elena.

This is a book where things actually happen. It is a book that has Bree in an emotional state and even seeing someone that has connected with her on a soul level. There is plenty of action. There is some really horrible things that happen, and there is a cliffhanger ending that will encourage readers to read the final novel in the series.

Monday, September 26, 2016

#Monday Review - The Secret City by C.J. Daugherty, Carina Rozenfeld (YA, Fantasy)

Series: The Alchemist Chronicles # 2
Format: E-Galley, 307 pages
Release Date: September 1, 2016 Book
Publisher: Bookouture
Source: NetGalley/Publisher
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy

A boy with seven days to live.  An ancient curse. And one girl with the power to stop it. 

Hunted by Dark Alchemy and forced to leave their homes to protect their families, Taylor Montclair and Sacha Winters have arrived at Oxford’s St Wilfred’s College. Surrounded by Alchemists sworn to protect them, they are safe for now.  

But time is short. In seven days Sacha will turn 18, and the ancient curse that once made him invincible will kill him. And unleash a wave of destruction on the earth. Sacha and Taylor need answers – fast. 

When the safety of the college is breached, the alchemists are faced with a terrifying possibility. Could the source of the darkness be one of their own? 

Sacha and Taylor’s only chance is to go to where the curse was first cast - the medieval French city of Carcassonne. There they will face the darkest alchemy the world has ever seen, armed with only the power of their bloodlines. In Carcassonne, this will end. 

The Secret City is the second installment in authors CJ Daugherty & Carina Rozenfeld's The Alchemist Chronicles. The story picks up (3) weeks after the ending of The Secret Fire. For those who may be new to this series, welcome. This series focuses on two main characters. Sacha Winters and Taylor Montclair. Sacha and Taylor have only 7 days to find a way to solve the curse that will kill Sacha on his 18th birthday and unleash a Demon on Earth. His only real hope in all things that really matter may be Taylor, who has learned that she may be one of the more powerful Alchemists currently living thanks to being a descendant of Isabelle. the originator of the curse against Sacha's descendants 300 years ago. 

Taylor has little time to find a way to eliminate the curse that could not only kill Sacha, but unleash hell on earth thanks to the machinations of one Mortimer Pierce. She not only has to take a crash course in Alchemy, but also learn how to learn to fight against the monsters that may come for her and Sacha again. Sacha's life depends on Taylor learning everything she possibly can, from as many sources as she can, before time runs out for Sacha. While Taylor is learning, Sacha is feeling like a third wheel and chafes against the restrictions placed on him. Sacha and Taylor are connected through the most intriguing party. Not necessarily goodness, but perhaps a bit of darkness that may set them on a difficult path.

Pierce refuses to let them have Five minutes, let alone Seven days to find a way to destroy the curse and save the day. By attacking the school, and nearly killing or capturing Sacha and Taylor, he sends a message loud and clear that he can not be easily defeated. If you read the first book, that was the missing piece of the puzzle as to who was responsible for wanting to get their hands on Sacha. Now that Sacha, Taylor, and the Alchemists at St. Wilfred's College, including Louisa and Alastair, know who they are facing, it becomes even more important to stay ahead of Pierce and ensure that he doesn't get his hands on Sacha. A path that leads Taylor, Sacha, Louisa, and Alastair into a face to face fight to the death against Pierce in a small town in France called Carcassonne.

I really like Taylor and Sacha together. Brought together by strange circumstances, they have more than made up for being from different countries (England vs France). Sacha is one of the more intriguing characters because of the fact that he literally can not die. Oh sure, plenty have tried, but he keeps coming back to life. I like that Taylor isn't head strong where she believes she is better than Sacha. They are linked by friendship, by love, and by fate. I loved that the authors gave Louisa a narrative in this book. Her relationship with Sacha and Taylor may not be what you might think, but I dare say she has some respect for them. She even has her own romantic interlude with Alastair and may I just say, Hell Yes!

The Secret City ends with little or no questions left over for another book in this series, plus a surprising twist that I totally did not see coming. So, I am not sure at this time whether or not the authors or publisher intend to release a third installment. If I get an update, I shall update this review. 

Monday, September 19, 2016

#Monday Review - The Shadow Hour by Melissa Gray (Young Adult, Fantasy) @meligrey @DelacortePress

Series: The Girl at Midnight # 2
Format: Hardcover, 421 pages
Release Date: July 12, 2016
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Source: Library
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy

A battle has been won. But the war has only just begun.
Everything in Echo’s life changed in a blinding flash when she learned the startling truth: she is the firebird, the creature of light that is said to bring peace. 
The firebird has come into the world, but it has not come alone. Every action has an equal and opposite reaction, and Echo can feel a great and terrible darkness rising in the distance. Cosmic forces threaten to tear the world apart.
Echo has already lost her home, her family, and her boyfriend. Now, as the firebird, her path is filled with even greater dangers than the ones she’s already overcome.
She knows the Dragon Prince will not fall without a fight.
Echo must decide: can she wield the power of her true nature—or will it prove too strong for her, and burn what’s left of her world to the ground?  Welcome to the shadow hour

The Shadow Hour is the second installment in author Melissa Gray's The Girl at Midnight series. This story picks up three months after the ending of The Girl at Midnight. Echo has become the prophesied Firebird, the creature of light that is supposed to bring peace. Echo is being hunted by the Avicen, Drakharin, and the Dragon Prince, aka Caius sister Tanith. She is also being hunted by a darkness called Kucedra. The Kucedra is the flip side of what Echo is. While Echo is the light, the Kucedra is the darkness. 

Alongside Echo are an eclectic group of Avicen and Drakharin who have become Echo's allies and friends after the events of Strasbourg. There is Jasper, Ivy, Caius, and Dorian. While Echo continues to hear Rose in her thoughts, she also travels the world in search of answers to what she is supposed to actually do as the Firebird, while also staying one step ahead of Tanith who, shocked look, has become something of a major thorn in everyone's backside. 

What's curious though is that as ugly as she is as a villain, she still is Caius blood and blood is thicker than world domination, or one hopes anyway. I would love to have rated this book a bit higher, but unfortunately there were several, yes, several love triangles that kind of sent me into skipping over pages. First, there is Echo, Caius, and of course, Rowan who she basically left behind in order to deal with the previous books events. On top of that, there is Jasper, Dorian, and a wizard named Quinn who take up a whole lot of storyline better served on something else entirely. Sorry, just don't care for triangles and never will. 

In case you're wondering, yes, there is a rather blunt force cliffhanger ending that apparently will lead into the next book in the series called The Savage Dawn. This is a book of real issues that affect every single character already mentioned, plus adding even more that even though they are vital to the story, might not actually survive the bloodshed and war that has has spilled over into the mortal world. Tragedy has apparently followed the Firebird vessel for a very long time. Will the same thing happen to Echo, or will she find the courage and strength to stand before the darkness before Tanith brings the world to an end?  

Friday, September 16, 2016

#Friday Review - Threats of Sky & Sea by Jennifer Ellision (Young Adult, Fantasy) @JenEllision

Series: Threats of Sky & Sea, # 1
Format: Paperback, 360 pages
Release Date: May 20, 2014
Publisher: Self Published
Source: NetGalley
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy>Magic

Sixteen year-old Breena Perdit has spent her life as a barmaid, innocent to her father’s past and happily free from the Elemental gifts that would condemn her to a life in the Egrian King’s army. Until the day that three Elemental soldiers recognize her father as a traitor to the throne and Bree’s father is thrown in jail—along with the secrets from his last mission as the King’s assassin. Secrets that could help the King win a war. Secrets he refuses to share.
Desperate to escape before the King’s capricious whims prove her and her father’s downfall, Bree bargains with him: information for their lives. It’s a good trade. And she has faith she’ll get them both out of the King’s grasp with time. But that was before the discovery that she’s the weapon the King’s been waiting for in his war.
Now, time is running out. To save her father’s life and understand her own, Bree must unravel the knot of her father’s past before the King takes his life– and uses her to bring a nation to its knees.

Threats of Sky and Sea is the first installment in author Jennifer Ellision's Threats of Sky and Sea trilogy. The series starts out with 16-year old Breena Rose Perdit living and working as a barmaid in Aberline with her father who runs The Bridge and Duchess tavern. Bree and her Da live the simple life keeping to themselves, knowing that Elementals are spirited away to join the Kings army. But, things change after Bree encounters King's Dogs searching for rogue elemental and they follow her home. 

Bree's entire world shatters when her father's past comes home to roost. Her father isn't the person she thought he was. Instead, her father is the Duke of Secan who has been AWOL for Sixteen years after disappearing on a mission to the land known as Nereidium. He was supposed to bring back a certain treasure, but disappeared instead. Ardie, as he is called, was also one of the Kings Rider's along with Lady Katherine du Eirya. Bree and her Da are taken away to the capital of Egrian where he was once the best friend of King Langdon, and ends up in prison.

But not for long. While Ardie is sent to the dungeon for being a traitor, now Lady Breena since she is technically the heir to the Duchy of Secan, is sent into Egrian society where people scorn and treat her like a poisoned thorn. It is a place where she is expected to learn social graces, while also being experimented on by a maniac to see if she has any worthwhile value to the King. The same King who is looking for a Thrower to destroy Nereidium's defenses. The same King who has issued orders that Prince Caden and Princess Aleta marry. 

Nobody could imagine, including Bree, what she holds inside her. How could it when her father kept her hidden and away from society for her entire life? How can it when people continue to try and label her unwanted and unrealistic labels?It will take allies like Prince Caden, Princess Aleta (the supposed heir to the Nereidium crown), and Adept Tregle to stay one step ahead of the King, and his loyal dog Lady Kat.
Bree's world that is filled with elementals who have an affinity for earth (Shakers), fire (Torchers), water (Throwers), and air (Riders). 

Here's the things I liked about Bree. She's resourceful. She knows how to fight back, and not wilt like a flower. She's got an attitude and isn't afraid to back it up. She also has a curiously warm relationship with her father even when he has let her down in the most shameful way possible. While this story does end on a pretty stunning cliffhanger, I was able to pick up the sequel and the finale thanks to Patchwork Press. Reviews for those two books will be coming along shortly.