Thursday, April 30, 2015

*Book Review* The Glass Arrow by Kristen Simmons (YA/Dystopia)

Publisher: Tor Teen
Released: February 10, 2015
Source: Library
Format: Hardcover, 336 pages
Genre: YA, Science Fiction

The Handmaid’s Tale meets Blood Red Road in Glass Arrow, the story of Aya, who lives with a small group of women on the run from the men who hunt them, men who want to auction off breeding rights to the highest bidder.

In a world where females are scarce and are hunted, then bought and sold at market for their breeding rights, 15-year old Aya has learned how to hide. With a ragtag bunch of other women and girls, she has successfully avoided capture and eked out a nomadic but free existence in the mountains. But when Aya’s luck runs out and she’s caught by a group of businessmen on a hunting expedition, fighting to survive takes on a whole new meaning.

The Glass Arrow is a standalone novel that has been marketed as The Handmaid’s Tale meets Blood Red Road. The story is set in a futuristic society where men control the world and women are to blame for all of societies problems. To the men of this society, women are nothing more than baby-makers who are auctioned off to the highest bidder. To those women who are still "untouched," there is a higher demand for them. Sounds like the perfect Feminism rallying cry doesn't it?

16 year old Aiyana (Aya) has lived her entire life outside of the city in the mountains with the rest of her family. Caught by Trackers, hired thugs paid for their services, Aya is brought to a place called the Garden where women are primped, and made beautiful so they can be bought and sold in a flesh market. Aya's only goal is to prevent the Garden from selling her, escape by any means necessary, and return to the family she left behind.
“The Garden trapped me like an animal. The Governess sold me like livestock at an auction. And the mayor and his family would have made me their whore. I am shaking with rage.”

Aya is a character I had no hesitation in following, liking, or hoping that she would find a way to make it through her ordeal and reuniting with her family. She's a prisoner of war in a way, with no rights, and no control over her own life or body. She's a strong, solid heroine who  makes it hard not to like her. She refuses to give up hope, refuses to allow anyone to touch her, and really stands out in a crowd of young adult heroines that also features Katniss.

“They've forgotten, or maybe they've never learning, that their worth is not determined by how much a man wants them.”

Simmons world is definitely misogynistic in nature. To the men, women have been the ruination of the previous civilizations, and now it is time for them to pay the piper for their transgressions. One of the biggest differences between Aya and the rest of the girls taken to the Garden, are clear as day. Aya wants to escape back to the world where she knows how to live and is free, while the other girls want to be some dude's sugar girl, and bear them babies. It doesn't matter to these girls that they could be re-sold and used over and over again, and then tossed out like so much trash.

There really are only 3 other characters that you need to pay attention to. Aya befriends Brax, an adorable wolf pup who keeps her sanity and her company while in solitary; Kiran, a Driver who is part of a separate caste system from The Watchers, and the Pips; and Daphne who was sold by her own father into the Garden. For most of the story, Daphne wasn't all that interesting or nice, while Kiran is the mysterious mute boy who doesn't talk but listens while Aya unloads her troubles and tries to survive.

I found myself left wanting at the end because I really felt that there could have been more to the story. The ending wrapped up way too quickly, and there's no indication of what happens next. I won't argue with Aya's choice. It takes a brave person to do what she did. Perhaps one could use their own imaginations and guess in what direction the characters are headed. Perhaps, just perhaps, Simmons will return to this world one day and pick up from where she left off. Here's hoping.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

*Book Review* Deadly Spells by Jaye Wells (UF)

Series: Prospero's War # 3
Publisher: Orbit
Released: February 10, 2015
Source: Library
Format: Paperback, 400 pages
Genre: Urban Fantasy

After the grisly murder of a dirty magic coven leader, Kate Prospero and The Magical Enforcement Agency team up with the local police to find the killer. But as the infighting between covens turns ugly, an all-out war brews in the slums of Babylon.

When a tenacious reporter sticks her nose in both the investigation and Prospero's past in the covens, old ghosts resurface. The team will have to use all the weapons in their arsenal to stop the coven war and find the killer before the case brings down all their careers - and their lives.

Deadly Spells is the third novel in the Prospero's War series that started with Dirty Magic and Cursed Moon!

Deadly Spells is the third installment in the Prospero's War series. Spells picks up 5 months after the end of Cursed Moon. Babylon PD Detective Kate Prospero and the team from Magical Enforcement Agency (MEA), must once again enter the world of coven politics when a member of Kate's former coven is brutally murdered, and all indications are that Kate's ex-boyfriend and Babylon's newly appointed mayor, John Volos, is involved up to his ears.
"You don’t like the game, change the rules."

With a wizard from a notorious Brazilian cartel coming to Babylon with one goal in mind: to cause disruptions within the covens, MEA Special Agent Miranda Gardner past with said cartel also comes to light and this time, she may have a hard time not being part of the body count unless Kate, Morales, Shadi, and Ren find a way to stop the villain and save Miranda's life. I must say that however I might like or dislike this series, I do wish that Wells would shake Kate's tree loose a bit and force her into using more magic. The lack of using magic is kind of a letdown. I don't mind the mystery, or investigations, but more magic would be a major positive.

One of the main focus points of this series has been Kate's belief that she was responsible for her own mother's death. It led her to abandoning the Votary coven, going clean from using dirty magic, and becoming the only Adept (magic user) police officer in Babylon. From the very beginning, there has been nothing but secrets shrouded in mystery about Kate's mom. Was Uncle Abe responsible? What part did John Volos play in what happened?

So much so, that Kate has driven herself a bit mad while putting everyone, including her uncle Abe, in the rear view mirror. When a reporter comes snooping around Kate asking questions, the truth about Margaret Prospero's death may finally be within Kate's reach for the first time. Whether or not the actual truth puts Kate's mind at easy, or drives her towards payback, will obviously need resolution.

The tricky romance or non-romance angles that exist between Kate and Morales, Kate and John Volos, and perhaps Kate and yet another character, headline the events of Deadly Spells. After Kate and Morales were forced to reveal some very personal moments in their lives in Cursed Moon, their relationship has been a bit pensive. Volos refuses to go away. He refuses to accept that his moments with Kate are in the past, and that he needs to stop interfering in her every day life, including her brother Danny's. He is also a main cog in almost every single event that happens in this story, and Kate's desire to see him crash and burn, are right at the top of her to do list.

Perhaps the most heartbreaking storyline with a positive outcome is Danny's. Danny has been through almost as much crap as Kate has since she put the coven's behind her. He is one of the only scholarship kids at his school. He joined DUDE (Don't Use Dirty Elixirs), and found a friendship with someone he could connect to. Then the social status of the characters once again raise their ugly heads. The haves vs the have not's. Those with money and status, vs those that are just trying to survive day to day. Good thing for Danny that Wells has written him to be a wonderfully adorable and positive character who good things will one day come to.

It comes as a surprise to learn that there's no information about whether or not this series will continue to a fourth book or end with Deadly Spells. Publishers clearly aren't looking forward to a long term commitments with authors of Urban Fantasy series. We shall see if Wells and Hachette/Orbit are able to connect to continue this series. It would be a shame if things were to end with THAT ending! The good news is that according to RT Book Reviews, Universal Cable Productions has optioned Jaye Wells’s Dirty Magic and Cursed Moon for television.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

*Book Review* Cursed Moon by Jaye Wells (Speculative Fiction)

Series: Prospero's War # 2
Published by: Orbit
Released: August 12, 2014
Source: Library
Format: Paperback, 370 pages
Genre: Speculative Fantasy

When a rare Blue Moon upsets the magical balance in the city, Detective Kate Prospero and her Magical Enforcement colleagues pitch in to help Babylon PD keep the peace. Between potions going haywire and everyone's emotions running high, every cop in the city is on edge. But the moon's impact is especially strong for Kate who's wrestling with guilt over falling off the magic wagon.

After a rogue wizard steals dangerous potions from the local covens, Kate worries their suspect is building a dirty magic bomb. Her team must find the anarchist rogue before the covens catch him, and make sure they defuse the bomb before the Blue Moon deadline. Failure is never an option, but success will require Kate to come clean about her secrets.

Featuring protagonist Kate Prospero, Cursed Moon is the second installment in Prospero's War series by Jaye Wells. Kate is a former coven member who walked away from magic 10 years ago after her mother died. She's come a long way since. 5 years as one of the only Adept (magic) cops; was deeply involved in events of Dirty Magic in stopping Ramses Bane; received a promotion to the rank of detective in the Babylon PD. She's now part of the task force known as the Magical Enforcement Agency which has taken up home in Babylon.

Cursed Moon introduces readers to Aphrodite, the Hierophant and leader of the Sacred O Coven which specializes in sex magic. Aphrodite is a character who has both sexes which are present at all time. S/he was also friends with Kate's mother Margaret. S/he also has a deadly revenge garden where every single plant can kill you instantly. Thanks to the nasty villains theft of a very potent potion that causes the person sexual lust and the desire to rape another person, all hands are on deck to return the potion before it's too late.

Cursed Moon is a story that is ripe with interesting characters from Baba the elderly witch who chases eligible bachelors around, to the Lake Erie Monster, to bizarre events surrounding Dionysus and the Blue Moon. It follows a heroine who continues to deeply regret her use of dirty magic in order to save her 16 year old brother Danny. She's tried to walk a path to the straight and narrow by rallying against the use of bad magic, but when Dionysus targets Babylon with something explosive and deadly, Kate will need to use everything in her disposal in order to stop him.

I do like this series but there are lots of head scratching moments. I like it because nobody is perfect. Not even the members of MEA. Everyone has crosses to bear with, and the line between black and white is blurred to the point of being grey. However, I do understand the struggles that Kate has to deal with. Not only with Danny not getting into dirty magic, but also her uncle Abe who she walked away from when she could have been leading the Votary coven. She also walked away from John Volos, her former boyfriend, but he refuses to stay out of her life.

The negative about Kate is that she keeps secrets from her best friend Pen, and has picked up drinking heavily which in turn leads to hurting the only real people who only want the best for her with her ugly outbursts. I don't want to undercut the sincerity of Kate's own crosses she continues to bear. Imagine thinking that you were responsible for killing your own mother? Imagine that there are those around you who know the truth about what really happened, but keep their mouths closed instead?

I also have a huge complaint over the use of a particularly vile scene which included a massive rape/orgy with women raping men en mass. Yeah, no thanks. Moving on. The other eye rolling moments are with Volos and Kate. Kate has no desire to be around him, he refuses to let her go, he continues to put his nose in her business, she becomes punchy..literally. Of course, how can we ever forget about Kate and Morales dancing around each other? Morales also has his own deep secrets that are exposed. Will this change anything between the partners? Wait and see!

Other Books in Series:


Monday, April 27, 2015

*Book Review* Hit by Delilah S. Dawson (YA/Dystopia)

Series: Hit # 1
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Released: April 14, 20156
Source: Pulseit
Format: E-Book, 336 pages
Genre: YA, Science Fiction

The good news is that the USA is finally out of debt. The bad news is that we were bought out by Valor National Bank, and debtors are the new big game, thanks to a tricky little clause hidden deep in the fine print of a credit card application. Now, after a swift and silent takeover that leaves 9-1-1 calls going through to Valor voicemail, they’re unleashing a wave of anarchy across the country.

Patsy didn’t have much of a choice. When the suits showed up at her house threatening to kill her mother then and there for outstanding debt unless Patsy agreed to be an indentured assassin, what was she supposed to do? Let her own mother die?

Patsy is forced to take on a five-day mission to complete a hit list of ten names. Each name on Patsy's list has only three choices: pay the debt on the spot, agree to work as a bounty hunter, or die. And Patsy has to kill them personally, or else her mom takes a bullet of her own.

Since yarn bombing is the only rebellion in Patsy's past, she’s horrified and overwhelmed, especially as she realizes that most of the ten people on her list aren't strangers. Things get even more complicated when a moment of mercy lands her with a sidekick: a hot rich kid named Wyatt whose brother is the last name on Patsy's list. The two share an intense chemistry even as every tick of the clock draws them closer to an impossible choice.

Delilah S. Dawson's Hit is a story that isn't too far out of the realm of possibilities for a country, like the US, that has borrowed trillions dollars and continues to have unfunded liabilities that they can't pay back. Imagine, however, that instead of allowing the US government to continue it's spending and borrowing ways, a rather large bank (Valor Savings) steps in and buys the countries entire debt back. Now, imagine if people didn't read the fine print when applying for credit cards or mortgages that give said bank the right to kill you if you can't pay the debt back immediately upon demand.

Imagine a man dressed in black showing up at your door and pointing a gun at your mother while demanding a rather large debt to be paid back immediately. Imagine that you are a 17-year old teenager who, in order to save your mother's life, must become a bounty hunter and kill 10 people over a span of 5 days or face death herself. To those on the Hit list she's provided, Patsy must offer them (3) choices: pay the debt, agree to work as a bounty hunter like her, or die by her hand. Simple right? Or, is it?

Patsy Klein is a character that I didn't have any problems understanding or connecting with. She's caught between a rock and a hard place, and has to fight for who she is, who she loves, and to become someone else entirely in order to survive. She's not necessary a whiny character, but she does have emotions that show she hasn't fallen too far down the rabbit hole. She has to fight for her mother who is frail, weak, and basically down for the count after a series of unfortunate events. Patsy's journey is a personal one as well. The one question that hangs over everything she does is the whereabouts of Patsy's father and why he left 13 years ago. Everything that Patsy deals with in this story connects to events or people she knows which will crack the coldness of your heart.

This story absolutely makes sense in many ways, in others perhaps it's a bit on the satirical side. This is a dystopian reality that is not too far out of the realm of possibility. Whereas others like zombies, or climate change, or what have you, are a bit over the top, and belong in the science fiction genre. Hit absolutely makes me happy that I don't carry any credit cards, or mortgages, or any other debt, including school loans. It makes me happy that this is fiction and not reality.

Although this is fiction, perhaps the politicians of both parties in this country and those who owe tons of money they borrowed but never intended to pay back, should take a moment and read this story. In fact, let's imagine that instead of Valor Savings showing up demanding that you pay their money back, it's a country like CHINA that shows up demanding immediate payback for all the money that the US has borrowed from them over the years. Can you even imagine for one single moment what would happen? I'm not a conspiracy theorist folks but I definitely can.

Hit reminds me of the movie The Purge where people have the legal right to kill anyone they want one time a year. Patsy and others like her, are, in a way, purging the country of anyone too far in debt. This isn't a book that you will walk away from without making some comments or having different feelings. I can't for the life of me imagine anyone forcing me to kill 10 people in order to save a loved one's life. I can't imagine how easily Wyatt, the love interest, accepted what Patsy was doing and ended up helping her even though he had is own pain to deal with.

Hit ends on a bit of a cliffhanger and there are so many different questions that I have about the bank, about the competition, about why Patsy was really chosen, that I will most likely read the sequel, Strike, when it comes out March of 2016.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

*Book Review* Long Live the Queen by Kate Locke (Steampunk/Paranormal)

Series: The Immortal Empire # 3
Publisher: Orbit
Released: November 12, 2013
Source: NetGalley
Format: E-Book, 312 pages
Genre: Steampunk / Paranormal

Xandra Vardan thought life would be simpler when she accepted the goblin crown and became their queen, but life has only become more complicated. Everyone -- vampires, werewolves and humans -- wants the goblins on their side, because whoever has the goblins -- wins. 

Queen Victoria wants her head, Alpha wolf Vex wants her heart, and she still doesn't know the identity of the person who wanted her blood. What she does know is that a project from one of the 'secret' aristocrat labs has gotten free and she's the only one who can stop the perfect killing machine -- a sixteen year-old girl. With human zealots intent on ridding the world of anyone with plagued blood and supernatural politics taking Britain to the verge of civil war, Xandra's finding out that being queen isn't all it's cracked up to be, and if she doesn't do something fast, hers will be the shortest reign in history. 

Long Live the Queen is the conclusion of The Immortal Empire trilogy. Goblin Queen Xandra Vardan faces even more challenges, some very personal, when the secrets about the labs, those responsible for creating them, and one very special creation comes calling on Xandra causing one major problem after the other. Will Xandra be able to pull it all together in time to survive the political upheaval and brutality that's coming for her?

Locke's story is set in an alternative reality world where Queen Victoria is a vampire and has lead the country for 175 years. Humans live pensively side by side with werewolves, vampires, and goblins. It is a world that hangs on the brink of yet another Great Insurrection, like the one that happened 80 years. Xandra has her work cut out for her. While she and Queen Victoria aren't exactly besties and they won't be found painting each others nails, or braiding hair together, they must work together regardless of their personal feelings for the other.

Xandra has come a long way since she took on the mantle of Goblin Queen and discovered the truth behind her own creation. She hasn't yet begun to understand all that she's capable of or what she has to lose, until she nearly loses everyone that she loves to the labs backers and their diabolical creation. Xandra isn't the easiest person to work with at times. She's snarky to a fault, takes lots of difficult challenges that leaves her bloodied, and nearly knocked out of the picture. But, she does come to accept that eating "meat" and drinking blood is a necessity part of being the Goblin Queen, as is relying on others to help her, and not go at it alone.

Long Live The Queen is a mystery filled, romance laden story that finds Xandra, her Alpha Werewolf lover Vex, her Goblin second in command William, her brother Val, and sisters Avery and Ophelia, on the brink of an all out uprising against the aristocratic leadership of Queen Victoria. Xandra and crew really scramble in this story while facing betrayal straight in the eye. It seems as though Locke purposefully put the crew behind the villains schemes, and only really caught up with them when things are hanging dangerously in the balance.

I love William and Xandra's relationship. I love that William is patient and supportive of Xandra as she comes to accepting who she really is. I loved learning about William's surprising background that is revealed in all its glory. I loved that Vex and Xandra can have conversations that don't necessarily go her way, but end up remaining as solid as a couple that you will find. I love that Xandra's brother Val, and Sisters Avery and Ophelia are by her side when things come to a final conclusion. I even respected that Xandra found a little respect for her own father who has been a bastard of a took to this point.

I do have a minor complaint about the ending. I do believe that perhaps there is room for more story. I don't think everything has been resolved. I think the story was perhaps rushed a bit to finish it before the book was released. Although most of the mystery behind the labs and its creator is solved pretty easily, there is room for more. What happens when the Humans finally understand what Queen Victoria has done for them? Have the labs been shut down, or are there any other villains waiting in the wings?

I enjoyed this series because it is Steampunk with paranormal twist and characters that are as interesting as they are dynamic. The Steampunk isn't necessarily in your face, or a major part of the story, but it is there in subtle ways like the phones, and TV. I do appreciate that Locke gives readers a glossary of terms. Makes things so simple to understand instead of scratching your head wondering what she's referring to.

**I received this book for free from (Orbit) via (NetGalley) in exchange for an honest review. Thank you!! This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.**

Other Books in Series:

Friday, April 24, 2015

~Stacking My Shelves & Weekly Round-up 04/25/2015~

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!

The Week in Reviews:

Library Haul


NetGalley & Edelweiss Approvals:



Thursday, April 23, 2015

*Book Review* Ensnared by A.G. Howard (YA-Fantasy)

Series: Splintered # 3
Publisher: Abrams Books
Released: January 6, 2015
Source: Library
Format: Hardcover, 416 pages
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy

After surviving a disastrous battle at prom, Alyssa has embraced her madness and gained perspective. She’s determined to rescue her two worlds and the people and netherlings she loves. Even if it means challenging Queen Red to a final battle of wills and wiles . . . and even if the only way to Wonderland, now that the rabbit hole is closed, is through the looking-glass world—-a parallel dimension filled with mutated and sadistic netherling outcasts.

In the final installment of the Splintered trilogy, Alyssa and her dad journey into the heart of magic and mayhem in search of her mom and to set right all that’s gone wrong. Together with Jeb and Morpheus, they must salvage Wonderland from the decay and destruction that has ensnared it. But even if everyone succeeds and comes out alive, can they all truly have their happily ever after?

In the final installment of the Splintered Trilogy, Ensnared, Alyssa Gardner's journey comes full circle. Ensnared is a story that once again pushes the envelope on imaginary world building, unique characters, action, adventure, and of course, romance. From a train filled with memories, to meeting her father's side of the family and getting his memories back, to arriving in AnyElsewhere to save Jeb & Morpheus, to saving Wonderland before Red tears it apart at the seams, Alyssa definitely has her work cut out for her.

A year has gone by since Alyssa learned that Lewis Carroll's Wonderland exists, and that she, like her mother Alison, are descendants of the Red Queen. Along the way, Alyssa has had two men by her side in Jebediah, and Morpheus who first introduced Alyssa to the world that she would soon become a part of. Alyssa has since survived prom, accepted her madness and powers and broke out of the asylum she was sent to. So, it all comes down to this.

Can Alyssa save her mother, Jeb, Morpheus, her father, and Wonderland from the Red Queen's machinations? Will Alyssa settle the question between who she should be with, Jeb, or Morpheus, or will it be a Clockwork Princess moment? Will Alyssa finally find the strength, courage, and determination to finally put Red out of her misery, or will she fall into the lure of power that she has plenty of? Will Alyssa return to the mortal world, or stay in Wonderland forever?

Each of the men have played a large role in Alyssa's life. Jeb as her best friend, boyfriend, and defender. Morpheus as the figure who allowed Alyssa to accept that she's different from other girls her age, and that's perfectly fine. Each has also made it inherently impossible to choose between the two of them without hurting someone's feelings. I think that Howard made a good point in how she connected each character. I actually enjoyed the fact that Jeb and Morph put aside their hatred for each other to support Alyssa.

“Jeb is an anchor; he holds me grounded to my humanity and compassion. But Morpheus is the wind; he drags me kicking and screaming to the highest precipice, shoves me off, then watches me fly with netherling wings. When Jeb's at my side, the world is a canvas--unblemished and welcoming; when I'm with Morpheus, it's a wanton playground--wicked and addictive.”

Even though Morpheus continued to drive me to brink of insanity with his narcissistic tendencies, manipulations, snarky attitude, and twisted sense of getting things done, he's never failed in his determination to love Alyssa or make her a better Queen. Jeb, on the other hand, has his own issues which makes for an interesting storyline. He's a lost soul in a land that he doesn't care for. He's had a hard life, and being introduced to Wonderland has changed him forever. I'm still trying to decide how I feel about Howard's ending. In one way it makes sense. In another, it's really sad.

Ensnared is probably the best ending that we can expect from this series when you consider all that's happened and the twisted triangle of love that apparently was necessary. Morpheus got under my skin a few times too many, and Jeb was a piss·ant most of the time in this story. However, both characters truly love Alyssa, and their actions speak louder than words. Loved that Chessie, and Ivory return after the series took a detour of sorts in Unhinged. Definitely a must read for all ages no matter your reading tastes.

Other Books in Series:
(Covers are Alyssa, Morpheus, Jeb and Alyssa)

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

*Book Review* The Death Cure by James Dashner (YA/Dystopia)

Series: The Maze Runner # 3
Publisher: Delacorte Books
Released: October, 2011
Source: Library
Format: Hardcover, 325 pages
Genre: YA, Science Fiction

It’s the end of the line.

WICKED has taken everything from Thomas: his life, his memories, and now his only friends—the Gladers. But it’s finally over. The trials are complete, after one final test.

Will anyone survive?

What WICKED doesn’t know is that Thomas remembers far more than they think. And it’s enough to prove that he can’t believe a word of what they say.

The truth will be terrifying.

Thomas beat the Maze. He survived the Scorch. He’ll risk anything to save his friends. But the truth might be what ends it all.

The time for lies is over.

The Death Cure is the final installment in the Maze Runner series. Picking up where The Scorch Trials left off, Thomas once again finds himself with his back up against the wall. Told that he has the Flare, a deadly disease that drives humans into becoming mindless Cranks, he spends a bit of time in confinement and away from his Glade friends Newt, and Minho.

Rat Man aka Assistant Director Janson, once again makes an appearance, and this time it's because the trials are supposedly over, and WICKED intends on giving everyone back their memories. While Teresa, who I still haven't forgiven for her actions in The Scorch Trials, and others agree, Thomas is a hold out. Why shouldn't he be? He's uncovered the real truth behind Wicked. He knows that he, and the others are a pawns in a supposed path to the cure for the Flare. He's sick of taking orders, and just wants to live without all the experiments, or knowledge of what he helped create. He's also Immune to the Flare, while some of his friends are already infected.

This is the point in the series where Dashner throws out all his secrets, twists and more shocking deaths. Now is the point where all the cards are on the table for everyone to see. Or, are they? Are the trials really over, or is WICKED up to no good once again? Will there be further betrayals that left loyalties and friendships hanging by a thread? Why is Thomas so intriguing that WICKED focuses a whole lot of attention on him? Are there any safe places left in the world? Who is the mysterious Chancellor Ava Paige?

This is the point where no matter how you feel about certain characters and what they did in the Scorch Trials or even the Maze Runner, you almost have to feel a bit of loss for them when something awful happens. I think this final story was a bit over the top, especially what constantly happens to Thomas. Everything relies on Thomas, yet you would think he would finally get it through his thick head that nobody can be trusted. So many times over this series, Thomas has found himself injured or nearly dying. What was the point, exactly of this kind of torture? Oh, yes, I forget, he's the.........SPOILER!!! ONE

Some of my more glaring complaints about this story comes from the ending, the re-appearance of a character from the Maze Runner, the loss of two of Thomas's friends. We are also supposed to believe that Brenda has all her secrets out in the open and hasn't been trying to work against Thomas and his friends. Apparently, I was correct in my assumption that Brenda would be a key player in Thomas's struggles and his future. I just didn't know how far Dashner would take her storyline.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

*Welcome Jennifer Estep to Gizmos Reviews! ~Interview and Review of Cold Burn of Magic~

Series:  Black Blade # 1
Publisher: Kensington Teen
Release Date: April 28, 2015
Source: NetGalley/Publisher
Format: E-Book, 368 pages
Genre: YA / Urban Fantasy

There Be Monsters Here. . .

It's not as great as you'd think, living in a tourist town that's known as "the most magical place in America." Same boring high school, just twice as many monsters under the bridges and rival Families killing each other for power. 

I try to keep out of it. I've got my mom's bloodiron sword and my slightly illegal home in the basement of the municipal library. And a couple of Talents I try to keep quiet, including very light fingers and a way with a lock pick. 

But then some nasty characters bring their Family feud into my friend's pawn shop, and I have to make a call--get involved, or watch a cute guy die because I didn't. I guess I made the wrong choice, because now I'm stuck putting everything on the line for Devon Sinclair. My mom was murdered because of the Families, and it looks like I'm going to end up just like her. .

Welcome to the first installment of Jennifer Estep's new Young Adult Urban Fantasy series called Black Blade. Estep's heroine and narrator is 17-year old Lila Merriweather. Lila is a thief who lives in Cloudburst Falls, West Virginia where many of the town's residents have magical talents. Cloudburst Falls has been called “the most magical place in America.” Tourists come from around the world to tour all the magic-themed shops and attractions, as well as see monsters like tree trolls, copper crushers, and lochness in their natural habitats. But make sure you pay the tolls, or else you will find yourself up the creek with no paddles.

Lila has a Talent for sight, along with transference magic. Her transference magic actually makes her makes her stronger. To survive, she does odd jobs for her pawnbroker friend Mo Kaminsky while going to a rube high school, and living in the library's basement. Lila does her best to stay off the grid and avoid the Families — or mobs — who control Cloudburst Falls and who killed her mother 4 years ago. But when she saves a member of the powerful Sinclair Family, Devon Sinclair, Lila finds herself caught in the middle of a brewing war between the Sinclair's and the Draconi's, the most powerful Family in town.

After finishing Cold Burn of Magic, I found myself in a comparison mode which I normally chide myself for doing. However, I can't stop myself in this instance. I love that Estep's three female leads all have unique abilities. Lila has her sight and transference; Gin has her Ice and Stone elemental magics; while Gwen Frost has her psychometric abilities. I have to say that Lila is more like Gin Blanco, than Gwen Frost in many ways. Gwen was luckier than Gin and Lila in that she had her Grandmother who sent her to Mythos Academy.

All (3) characters have kickass weapons (knives for Gin, swords for Lila and Gwen). Gin and Lila live in towns (Ashland v Cloudburst Falls) that are controlled by nefarious elements. Both characters found themselves orphaned by the main villains of the story (Draconi's vs Mab Monroe). Both found mentors (Mo v Fletcher) to take them in, and help guide them. Both have lived outside of the law (thief v assassin). Both found themselves on the streets trying to survive.  

So many different storylines to get through in this first installment of a brand new series. There's the megalomaniac villain who reminds me of Mab Monroe. There's the drunken Pixie (Oscar) who also knows how to cook and listens to country music. There are magical mob-type families who barely tolerate each other. Then there are the monsters straight out of fairy tales, and a setting that is pure fantasy that lures tourists in by the bus loads. 

The one staple of any Estep writing is the gobs of food that is mentioned over the course of the book. Holy crap, folks! If you are hungry, wait until you have eaten before starting to read this book or you will be drooling all over your poor book. I personally don't remember a story, or a character that loved to eat as much bacon as Lila does. Gin could perhaps give her a run for her money in the fact that she can actually cook her own food.

Let's talk about the romance, shall we? .........nothing to see here! Move along please! No, seriously, there's no real romance in Cold Burn and that is absolutely perfectly acceptable to me. Gin went through a trial and error period before finding Owen, and Gwen had the same ups and down before ending up with Logan. So, why can't Lila have a slow burn relationship instead of a love at first sight moment? Why can't Lila have some fun first before settling for one flavor of chocolate?

My friend Braine from Talk Supe Blog, made a great point when reviewing this book. She stated that Lila could be Gin's daughter, in that she has the same attitude with the way she carries herself, the way she goes about her business, and the way she doesn't take crap from no one. I have to agree. Lila IS more alike with Gin, than with Gwen Frost. I think when you get down to the apples and oranges, you will agree with B and me that Lila is definitely a character that has a whole lot of potential, and I can't wait to see what Lila is up to next.  

Per Jennifer's web page, there will be three books in the Black Blade series -- COLD BURN OF MAGIC on April 28; DARK HEART OF MAGIC on Oct. 27; and then book #3 probably sometime in spring/summer 2016. 

**I received this book for free from (Kensington Teen) via (NetGalley) in exchange for an honest review. Thank you!! This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.**

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Today, I get to do an interview with one of my favorite authors, Jennifer Estep!
Jennifer, as many of you may know, is the author of the Urban Fantasy Elemental Assassin series featuring Gin Blanco, as well as the Mythos Academy YA series featuring Gwen Frost. This month, Jennifer releases yet another YA series called Black Blade!

GR) Are  there any other genres that you would love to give a try? IE Science Fiction, Dystopian, Historical, Steampunk

JE: There are several different genres I’d like to try. I’d like to write a romantic suspense one day, a spy thriller, a heist book, and even a western. I always have more ideas for more genres than I will ever have time to write.

GR) You are famous for having characters who love to cook, and eat a variety of amazing delicacies, is Lila like Gin and Gwen in that she can't turn down food? 

JE: Well, my heroine Lila doesn’t like to cook, but she likes to eat—especially bacon. Bacon is her favorite food, so there are a lot of descriptions of bacon and bacon dishes in the series. But I always enjoy writing about food, whether my heroines are cooking or eating.

GR) Would you say that your heroine in Cold Burn is similair or different from Gwen Frost or Gin Blanco?

JE: The heroine of Cold Burn of Magic is Lila Merriweather, a 17-year-old thief who lives in Cloudburst Falls, West Virginia, a town dubbed “the most magical place in America.” Tourists come from around the world to tour all the magic-themed shops and attractions, as well as see monsters like tree trolls, copper crushers, and more in their natural habitats.
Lila does her best to stay off the grid and avoid the Families — or mobs — who control much of the town. But when she saves a member of the Sinclair Family during an attack, Lila finds herself caught in the middle of a brewing war between the Sinclairs and the Draconis, the two most powerful Families in town.  I would say that Lila is similar to Gwen and Gin in some ways – she’s smart, sassy, and much tougher and stronger than she realizes.

But Lila is definitely a little more mature, grown up, and street smart than Gwen Frost was in my Mythos Academy series. The overall tone and world building in Cold Burn of Magic is also a little darker and grittier than in my Mythos Academy series. But I hope that folks enjoy getting to know Lila and the world of Cloudburst Falls.

GR) Thinking back, what are the most important influences to you as a writer?

JE: One of my biggest influences is my mom, who took me to the library just about every week when I was a kid. That’s how I fell in love with books and reading in the first place, and I’m probably a writer because of all those library trips.

GR) What are your favorite and least favorite parts of putting together a story?

JE: One of my least favorite parts is just getting started and writing that first rough draft. It’s always a little daunting when you sit down at your computer with a blank page and a zero word count in front of you. But writing is a job like any other, so I just make myself start working on my next project.  My favorite part is finally finishing a book and knowing that it’s been released for people to hopefully read and enjoy.

Happy reading, everyone!

My name is Jennifer Estep, and I’m the New York Times bestselling author of the Elemental Assassin urban fantasy series; the Black Blade young adult urban fantasy; the Mythos Academy young adult urban fantasy series; and the Bigtime paranormal romance series.
My books are available in print, audio, and e-book formats from a variety of retailers, including the following: Amazon Barnes & Noble Books-A-Million iTunes Kobo Audible / Brilliance Audio
You can follow her on FacebookGoodreads, and Twitter.   I hope that you will take a few minutes to look around my website and learn more about my books. Happy reading!

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Monday, April 20, 2015

*Book Review* A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab (Fantasy)

Series: A Dark Shade of Magic # 1
Publisher: Tor Books
Released: February 24, 2015
Source: Library
Format: Hardcover, 400 pages
Genre: Fantasy, Magic

Grey London is dirty, boring, lacks magic, ruled by mad King George. Red London is where life and magic are revered, and the Maresh Dynasty presides over a flourishing empire. White London is ruled by whoever has murdered their way to the throne. People fight to control magic, and the magic fights back, draining the city to its very bones. Once there was Black London - but no one speaks of that now.

Officially, Kell is the Red Traveler, personal ambassador and adopted Prince of Red London, carrying the monthly correspondences between royals of each London. Unofficially, Kell smuggles for those willing to pay for even a glimpse of a world they’ll never see. This dangerous hobby sets him up for accidental treason. Fleeing into Grey London, Kell runs afoul of Delilah Bard, a cut-purse with lofty aspirations. She robs him, saves him from a dangerous enemy, then forces him to another world for her 'proper adventure'.
But perilous magic is afoot, and treachery lurks at every turn. To save all of the worlds, Kell and Lila will first need to stay alive — trickier than they hoped. 

In A Darker Shade of Magic, Victoria (V.E.) Schwab has created a wondrous world where magic is at the forefront. Schwab takes the reader's imagination on a fantastic journey filled with diabolical kings and queens, treachery and darkness on a scale rivaling the Games of Thrones. Schwab has also created FOUR totally different London's: Grey (Where no Magic exists), White (Starving for magic world), Red (healthy use of magic), and Black which was destroyed by the overuse of magic.

“Sure I do,” countered Lila cheerfully. “There’s Dull London, Kell London, Creepy London, and Dead London,” she recited, ticking them off on her fingers. “See? I’m a fast learner.”

Master Blood Magician Kell travels from one realm into another delivering messages, and collecting trinkets from each place he goes which is supposed to be illegal. He is one of the very last Antari (Travelers) who has control over all the elements, plus blood. Although not a member of the royal family, Kell is still treated as though he is their son, and his brother Prince Rhys tries hard to make Kell understand that he's not alone.

“I'd rather die on an adventure than live standing still.” Lila Bard

Then, there is Delilah (Lila) Bard who dresses as a man, is wanted for her thievery, and would love to travel the world as a pirate. When Lila steals from the wrong person, Kell, things really pick up and a full out adventure begins. There's a whole mystery surrounding Lila that I sincerely hope we get more of an explanation in the sequel. I dare say that Lila is fearless, daring, willing to go on any adventure at the peril of her own life, and is definitely quick with her wits and comebacks.

A Darker Shade of Magic started out on the sluggish side for me. But, thankfully it got a whole lot better and gives me hope that the sequel will be just as amazing. I loved the journey across realms, and the descriptive world building that Schwab once again handles like a pro. I loved that the story is perhaps a bit on the traditional fantasy side, but mixed with an alternative reality London's. I loved that this wasn't a romance filled novel. It is dark, filled with evil on a large scale, and forces our heroes to work together to cull out the villains from their diabolical machinations.

For me this was a rather quick read, even with several dizzy spells thanks to allergies hitting me hard. I loved almost all aspects of the story itself. The characters, the villains, the FOUR different worlds, the magic, of course, and the fact that this reads more as a fantasy novel, than a paranormal one. I will be reading the sequel, no matter if I have to borrow it from the library!