Wednesday, August 31, 2016

#Wednesday Review - The Flame Never Dies by Rachel Vincent (Young Adult, Urban Fantasy)

Series: The Stars Never Rise # 2
Format: Hardcover, 352 pages
Release Date: August 16, 2016
Publisher: Delacorte Press / MIRA Ink
Source: Library
Genre: YA, Urban Fantasy

Nina Kane was born to be an exorcist. And since uncovering the horrifying truth—that the war against demons is far from over—seventeen-year-old Nina and her pregnant younger sister, Mellie, have been on the run, incinerating the remains of the demon horde as they go. 
In the badlands, Nina, Mellie, and Finn, the fugitive and rogue exorcist who saved her life, find allies in a group of freedom fighters. They also face a new threat: Pandemonia, a city full of demons. But this fresh new hell is the least of Nina’s worries. The well of souls ran dry more than a century ago, drained by the demons secretly living among humans, and without a donor soul, Mellie’s child will die within hours of its birth.
Nina isn’t about to let that happen . . . even if it means she has to make the ultimate sacrifice.

The Flame Never Dies is the second and apparent final novel in Rachel Vincent's The Stars Never Rise duology. Vincent's world could be consider dystopian in nature, while also crossing swords with the Urban Fantasy genre. This is a world where demons were supposedly defeated and souls are a commodity to be traded like gold and silver on the black market. The story picks up 5 months after the ending of the previous book where 17-year old Nina Kane discovered that she has the ability to wield the fire that can destroy demons inside a human body. 

Nina and her sister Melanie grew up in New Temperance under the tyrannical rule of the Unified Church. The church has since cast out Nina and her friends calling them Anathema and possessed by demons. Nina is at the top of their most wanted list. For the past 5 months, Nina, Maddock, Finn, Melanie, Grayson, Reese, Devi, and former sister Annabelle have been hitting church convoys in order to survive. They even picked up Eli Woods and his group from the Lord's Army who has been hit hard by Degenerates in the badlands. Even though Eli's group focuses on religion, I didn't really think it would matter to most readers.

But the most intense conflict comes when the Anathema's are forced into traveling to Pandemonia, a city that is full of demons led by the most powerful demon in existence; Kastor. This is a bad time to be a human. Demons are scurrying around like vile cockroaches collecting as many humans as they can. Since they can't stay in a body long, they swap bodies like most people swap underwear. What's even more troubling, Kastor wants all exorcists captured alive, and what a fantastic prize it would be if he were to collect the most valuable and most wanted prize of them all; Nina Kane.

Like other reviewers, my only real complaint was about the open ended ending. The ending is so wide open, that I definitely felt as though there could have been another installment in this series to find out if events that happened towards the end, actually matter in the long run. After all, Nina stepped up and became a leader. She did everything she possibly could to save her sister, and ensure the baby receives the soul it needs to survive. She was even ready to go even further if necessary. Nina's group was not afraid to get their hands dirty, and I liked that Grayson finally got her mojo. They thrive on killing as many demons as they can since the end up back in hell, and not in another innocent human. There are more than a few surprises that are revealed in this story, and I think that readers will be more than pleased by the way Vincent reveals them.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

#Blog Tour Stop (Giveaway) - Unraveled by Jennifer Estep (Urban Fantasy) @Jennifer_Estep @Pocket_Books

Series: Elemental Assassin # 15
Format: Paperback, 400 pages
Release Date: August 30, 2016
Publisher: Pocket Books
Source: Publisher
Genre: Urban Fantasy

After the shocking revelations of the previous book, Bitter Bite, the world of Ashland’s become even more sinister, and Gin Blanco (aka Ashland’s most fearsome assassin, the Spider) no longer knows who—or what—she can count on. Only one thing is for certain: danger and new enemies await Gin in Unraveled, Book 15 in the New York Times bestselling Elemental Assassin urban fantasy series that RT Book Reviews calls “unbeatable entertainment!”
What could go wrong when you’re trying to unravel a decades-old conspiracy?
As the current queen of the Ashland underworld, you would think that I, Gin Blanco, would know all about some secret society controlling things from behind the scenes. I might be the Spider, the city’s most fearsome assassin, but all my Ice and Stone elemental magic hasn’t done me a lick of good in learning more about “the Circle”. Despite my continued investigations, the trail’s gone as cold as the coming winter.
So when Finnegan Lane, my foster brother, gets word of a surprising inheritance, we figure why not skip town for someplace less dangerous for a few days? That place: Bullet Pointe, a fancy hotel resort complex plus Old West theme park that Finn now owns lock, stock, and barrel. At first, all the struttin’ cowboys and sassy saloon girls are just hokey fun. But add in some shady coincidences and Circle assassins lurking all around, and vacationing becomes wilder—and deadlier—than any of us expected.
Good thing this assassin brought plenty of knives to the gunfight …

Unraveled is the FIFTEEN installment in author Jennifer Estep's Elemental Assassin series. Picking up where Bitter Bite, and Finn's novella called Unwanted left off, Finn, who has been ostracized by almost everyone at his place of employment, suddenly receives notice that he has come into an inheritance to a theme park in Georgia. This comes on top of Gin finding herself embroidered in one of the most important curiosities of her life, and the fact that she faces an even more dangerous adversary in Hugh Tucker and The Circle.

After what happened the last time Gin & crew left Ashland, any hopes of actually enjoying a weekend vacation without having to face yet another adversary, isn't looking all that great. No spoilers, it's just the life that Gin has been living for awhile now. As the undisputed Queen of the Ashland Underground, people come out of the wood work to test themselves against the Spider. What's fun about Unraveled, is that most of the book takes place in a wild west environment called Bullet Point Resort. A place where Finn's diabolical mother Deirdre Shaw supposedly hid something rather important to the group known as the Circle. 

Bullet Point is a fantastic place for a story, and I love the the idea behind the setting. I am affectionately calling Unraveled, the Wild, Wild West Spider Style. Or, how about The Outlaw Gin Blanco visits a theme park? With her lover (Owen), her sister (Bria), and her brother (Finn) alongside, Gin ends up facing not only Hugh, but a new character named Roxy Wyatt who quickly sends Gin scurrying for her life during a park wide woman hunt. Roxy is not only really quick on the draw, but she is a fire mage who really tests Gin's mettle and skill as an assassin. I loved that Phillip Kincaid, Silvio Sanchez and Lorelai Parker are there to back Gin up against Hugh and his cronies. 

I love that this book is deep into secrets and flashbacks that once again come to light whenever Gin tries to remember things about her former mentor Fletcher who has set Gin out on a treasure hunt for clues about the Circle and her mother. I loved that has new goals in taking town the Circle members. I dare say that this series has made it a whole lot farther than I expected thanks not only to the author, and the publisher, but to readers like YOU who continue to badger for new material. 

The Sixteenth Installment in this series has been titled Snared, and will release January 31, 2017. Apparently, there is also a novella called Nice Guys Bite. According to the authors web page, this is an e-novella from the point of view of Silvio Sanchez, who has become Gin's personal assistant. Time line wise? Right after Unraveled

Phillip didn’t say anything else as we crossed the lawn, and the only sound was the crunching of the ice-coated grass under our boots. After the warmth and light of the office, the night seemed colder and blacker than before. The drizzle picked up, turning into more of a steady, icy rain, and our breaths hovered around us in chilly clouds. Or maybe it was just my own sense of failure that made everything feel dark, dreary, and desolate.

Phillip had shot through the lock on the iron gate and shoved it open on his way into the mansion, so we stopped at the entrance and looked up and down the street. But there was no sign of Fedora, the giants, or the SUV, and all the neighboring houses were still dark. No one had heard the gunshots or seen us skulking around. Good. One less headache to deal with tonight.

Phillip and I hurried down the street and slid inside my van. I cranked the engine, turning the heat up as hot as it would go, but the warm air did little to dispel the frigid despair and weariness that filled my body.

“So now what?” Phillip asked.

Amazon | Audible | Barnes & Noble | Kobo

About Jennifer Estep:

Jennifer Estep is a New York Times, USA Today, and international bestselling author prowling the streets of her imagination in search of her next fantasy idea.
Jennifer writes the Elemental Assassin urban fantasy series for Pocket Books. Unwanted, e-novella #14.5 in the series, will be released on July 18. Unraveled, book #15, will be released on Aug. 30.
Jennifer also writes the Mythos Academy young adult urban fantasy series. She is also the author of the Black Blade young adult urban fantasy series and the Bigtime paranormal romance series.
For more information on Jennifer and her books, visit or follow Jennifer on FacebookGoodreads, and Twitter.

There’s a tour-wide giveaway you can share! Jennifer is giving away a $25 Amazon gift card, and the publisher has offered up 5 print copies of UNRAVELED AND one FULL SET of the Elemental Assassin series! Open to US and Canada residents only. Visit the tour stops to enter!

8/15: Tome Tender (review + giveaway)
8/16: DianaMCKiaradB (review + excerpt)
8/17: BJ’s Reviews (excerpt)
8/18: Rantings of a Reading Addict (review + excerpt)
8/19: The Book Nympho (review + giveaway)
8/20: The Reading Addict (excerpt + giveaway)
8/21: A Book Fanatic Obsession (review + excerpt), Story Forge (Q&A + excerpt)
8/22: Books and Things (review + giveaway), Angel’s Guilty Pleasures (excerpt + giveaway)
8/24: Cover2Cover (excerpt + giveaway)
8/25: Goldilox and the Three Weres (review + giveaway)
8/26: LilyElement Book Reviews (review), Urban Fantasy Investigations (excerpt + giveaway)
8/27: Book Junkiez (review + excerpt), Will Read for Feels (excerpt + giveaway)
8/28: The Book Crumb Trail (review + giveaway)
8/29: Diane’s Book Blog (excerpt + giveaway), Bad Bird Reads (review + giveaway)
8/30: Slippery Words (review + excerpt + Q&A), Gizmo’s Reviews (review + excerpt)
8/31: Bambi Unbridled (review + giveaway)
9/1: Bookish Things & More (review + excerpt)
9/2: Books That Hook (review + excerpt)

Monday, August 29, 2016

#Monday Review - Vicarious by Paula Stokes (YA, Psychological Thriller)

Series: Vicarious #1
Format: Hardcover, 336 pages
Release Date: August 16, 2016
Publisher: Tor Teen
Source: Library
Genre: YA, Mystery, Science Fiction

A high-action YA psychological thriller with a twisty plot and a questionably reliable narrator in which nothing is quite as it seems.
Winter Kim can't live without her older sister, Rose, who protected her through the harrowing circumstances that began in their youth in Korea, and helped keep her sane as they adjusted to their new lives in the USA. Now Winter and Rose work as recorders—digital stunt women—for Rose's ex-boyfriend, Gideon. Gideon deals in experiences—sight, sound, touch, etc.—by capturing his recorders' sensory neural impulses and selling them as downloads to armchair adrenaline junkies. The more dangerous or sexy the recordings, the higher the price, and Winter, Rose and their colleagues are fearless in pursuit of great footage.
When a neural recording of what appears to be Rose's murder is delivered to Gideon, Winter won't rest until she finds her sister, dead or alive. But when the digital evidence conflicts with the real-world clues, she isn't sure what to believe. If Winter wants to find out what happened to Rose, she'll have to untangle what's real from what only seems real, risking her own life and mind in the process.

Vicarious is the first installment in author Paula Stokes new series by the same name. Per the author, this is actually a duology, which means the final book, Ferocious, will be released sometime in 2017. Vicarious is told from the perspective of 18-year old Winter Kim (aka Son Ha Neul). Winter was dumped at a Korean orphanage by her mother, and later brought to America, along with her sister Rose, by a Sex Slave Trader named Kyung. Three years ago, Winter and Rose were rescued by Gideon Seun and brought to St. Louis. Gideon acts like a landlord, employer, and older brother, while promising to keep them safe.

To say that Winter has some extreme emotional baggage and issues leftover from her time with Kyung, is not even mildly close to representing the sickness that Stokes writes about.  One could say that since this is a sort of mix genre Psychological Thriller and Science Fiction novel, that Winter's perspective might be a bit skewed from everything that has happened to her. But, Winter is a really hard worker. She trains hard. She works with her sister's former boyfriend doing high risk adventures all over the country. She wears Gideon's ViSE (Vicarious Sensory Experiences) which allows users to feel the rush, the adrenaline, fear, and excitement of sky diving, or swimming with sharks, or running away from cops and jumping off a bridge. 

She has an interesting relationship with Jesse Ramirez, an Army Veteran who was badly scared by an IED, and is also her partner in crime. It's a romance that will definitely be talked about, especially after Rose doesn't come home one night, and the worst possible situation forces Winter and Jesse into searching various bars in order to find her. Winter has a goal that puts her directly in the line of fire once again. Things suddenly become less clearer. Events just don't add up, and Winter finds herself struggling against a rising tide that will eventually bring her to the attention of the one person she has no use for; Kyung.

I loved that this is a dark novel. I loved that Stokes doesn't walk away from diving into the issues of PTSD, rape, sex slavery, and unreliable narratives due to the fact that the mind does it's best to protect itself from being harmed again. Winter's ability not to allow anyone to touch her, is expected, and something I can relate to after my own experiences at being raped in the most heinous manner. Unlike Winter, however, I was able to report my issue to the authorities. Because of Winter's status, she can't run to the police for fear of being deported back to Korea, or even worse, ending up under the control of Kyung once again.

I can honestly say that I was not expecting the ending, and therefore, I had emotions over what happens for several days. To say that I need the next installment, well, let's just say I need to see what happens next. I haven't read any previous Stokes works, but I will definitely search my Kindle for my copy of Liars, Inc. which has been sitting there for over a year now. 

Saturday, August 27, 2016

#Stacking the Shelves / Bought, Borrowed, and Bagged # 30

Bought Borrowed and Bagged is all about the latest additions to your library – virtual or actual, with books that are  bought, borrowed, won or ARCs  you will be reading soon. Bought Borrowed and Bagged is a homage to to Barron’s Books and Baubles from Karen Marie Moning’s amazing Fever series, and is hosted by Braine over at Talk Supe. 

Thanks for Shopping by!

Have a great weekend! 

This Weeks Reviews: 

Monday - Admiral by Sean Danker (Adult, Science Fiction)

Wednesday - The Demon King by Cinda Williams Chima (YA, Fantasy)

Thursday - Breath of Earth by Beth Cato (Alt History, Science Fiction)

Friday - The Scorpion Rules by Erin Bow (YA, Science Fiction)

Saturday - The Tattooed Heart by Michael Grant (YA, Fantasy)

Scheduled for Next Week: 

Monday - Vicarious by Paula Stokes (YA, Science Fiction)

Blog Tour/Release Day Review  - Unraveled by Jennifer Estep (UF) 

Wednesday - The Flame Never Dies by Rachel Vincent (YA, Fantasy)

Thursday - Infinite Risk by Ann Aguirre (YA, Urban Fantasy)

Friday - The Exiled Queen by Cinda Williams Chima (YA, Fantasy)

Saturday - The Masked City by Genevieve Cogman (SciFy, Time Travel)

*Received from Edelweiss, NetGalley, Library*


Friday, August 26, 2016

#Saturday Review - The Tattooed Heart by Michael Grant (Young Adult, Horror) @MichaelGrantBks @KatherineTegen

Series: Messenger of Fear # 2
Format: Hardcover, 400 pages
Release Date: September 22, 2015
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
Source: Edelweiss
Genre: Young Adult, Horror

Mara has already witnessed more evil as the Messenger’s apprentice than most people do in their lifetime, but the games continue.
The Messenger leads Mara to the funeral of a Muslim boy named Aimal, who died standing up for his people, and then to an abandoned store, where they discover Graciella, a girl battling addiction. The all-knowing Messenger recognizes that they are victims of heinous crimes. Mara and Messenger will find the wicked—those who act out of selfishness and greed, and others who become violent because of prejudice and hate.
But Mara and Messenger pay a price too. For every person who is offered justice, they will wear a tattoo that symbolizes the heart of the crime. And as Mara delves deeper into her harsh reality, she is suprirsed to realize that part of her is drawn to the sometimes compassionate Messenger. In spite of all the terror she and Messenger inflict, Mara will discover that caring in this world is the hardest part of all.
The second book in New York Times bestselling author Michael Grant’s Messenger of Fear series, The Tattooed Heart combines fantasy with real-world horror stories to create a satisfying conclusion. 

“If you prick a finger with a poisoned thorn, say not that you are innocent when the heart dies.”

The Tattooed Heart is the second and apparent final installment in Michael Grant's Messenger of Fear series. The Tattooed Heart 
continues the story of 16-year old Mara, who has been sentenced to be the apprentice to the Messenger of Fear after surviving her own judgment. Mara was a bad person when she was alive. She had friends and acolytes, but that wasn't enough for her. She ended up driving a fellow student to commit suicide. An act she is still paying for. Mara is now responsible for dolling out justice and punishment to others who have been accused of inhuman acts against others.

She answers the call of Ishtil, Goddess of wickedness and Justice. Mara dreams of loss and alienation. Her life really is a nightmare and not a dream that she can wake up from. She uses dreams to escape her currently reality, especially when she is forced to watch as those who are punished for their actions, are force to play for their very souls. In this reality, the wicked are forced into playing a game where winning is the only real options. If you fail to play the game, you have to face an even more harsher reality in the Shoals. Let's call the Shoals Hell for all intentions of this book. With each judgment, Mara ends up being tattooed reminding her of the horrors she was forced to judge.

"The balance between good and evil, true and false, pain and pleasure, low and loss, hatred and indifference. However you name them, these balances are all that keep the world spinning."

Mara's mentor, who she has feelings for, continues to look for his lost love Ariadne. Messenger has been obsessed in finding her, but he also has to show Mara the ropes so that she can one day take his place. The Tattooed Heart takes Mara and the Messenger from the Middle East, where a young boy named Aimal runs towards terrorists who aim to kill young girls attending school and pays the ultimate price for his heroism. To a school in Iowa where racism drives the actions of two boys that cause a ripple affect elsewhere. But, it also includes the story of a girl name Graciella Jayne who's entire life is such a sad story, that I couldn't help but feel emotionally drained by how society treats those who have been kicked in the face time and time again.

Michael Grant has apparently stated that this is the final book in the series. I am not sure if that is a good thing, or a bad thing since there is definitely room for more story. Mara definitely grows in this book. She becomes more of character who doesn't allow anyone to push her around. She makes choices, and decisions, and travels to the Shoals where she has an encounter with Oriax, who works for Malech and knows what really happened to Ariadne. Oriax has been a thorn in Mara's side hoping to sway her into switching sides. But, Mara has been set on a different path. I think this ending is bitter sweet in several ways. We see Mara's new future, while also seeing that she has lost the only person who has taken the chance to set her on the right path. We see that she has found compassion in a way that I believe was the right and only thing she could have done.

#Friday Review - The Scorpion Rules by Erin Bow (YA, Science Fiction-Dystopian)

Series: Prisoners of Peace # 1
Format: Hardcover, 384 pages
Release Date: September 22, 2015
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books
Source: Edelweiss
Genre: YA, Science Fiction/Dystopian

The world is at peace, said the Utterances. And really, if the odd princess has a hard day, is that too much to ask?
Greta is a duchess and crown princess—and a hostage to peace. This is how the game is played: if you want to rule, you must give one of your children as a hostage. Go to war and your hostage dies.
Greta will be free if she can survive until her eighteenth birthday. Until then she lives in the Precepture school with the daughters and sons of the world’s leaders. Like them, she is taught to obey the machines that control their lives. Like them, she is prepared to die with dignity, if she must. But everything changes when a new hostage arrives. Elián is a boy who refuses to play by the rules, a boy who defies everything Greta has ever been taught. And he opens Greta’s eyes to the brutality of the system they live under—and to her own power.
As Greta and Elián watch their nations tip closer to war, Greta becomes a target in a new kind of game. A game that will end up killing them both—unless she can find a way to break all the rules. 

The Scorpion Rules is the first installment in the Prisoners of Peace duology by author Erin Bow. In the beginning, Global Warming caused the Polar ice caps to melt and flood entire countries. This lead to massive population migrations, which strained water and food sources. People started killing each other. Regional wars popped up. Then an AI  known as Talis decided to step in and save humanity from itself. He destroyed whole cities to send a message that enough was enough. He made wars personal by killing the children of those who made the decisions to go to war, instead of suing for peace. 

400 years later, Talis has maintained the fragile peace by taking children as hostages and keeping them in a place called Precepture until they reach Eighteen. Every world leader is required to send their heirs to a place where they are taught to avoid wars at all costs. In this world, heirs are called Children of Peace and attend school where they are taught history and politics. Every single day those like Greta Stuart, who has been at the Precepture since she was 5, Gregori, Li Da-Xia, Han, Thandi, and Atta know that if their parents declare war on another country, they will be taken away by the Swan Riders and killed.

As with everything, change must happen. So, when Elián Palnik, from the Cumberland Alliance, arrives and claims that he not going to follow the status quo, things get rather interesting. Elián learns the high cost of rebellion, as do the rest of his fellow Children of Peace. They each face their own form of punishment as a result of his rebellion. When Elián's Grandmother declares war on Greta's country and invades the Precepture, both know that they will be dead shortly. That is the price of living in a world where AI's control everything, including weapons from space that can easily level entire cities.

The cast of characters in The Scorpion Rules are diverse as it comes. They are just as important as Greta and Elián to the overall scheme of things. The romance in this book could be considered a bit on the evil side. Greta may have feelings for Elián, but there's little doubt that Li Da-Xia is as important if not more to Greta. Especially after she makes a choice that changes her from human to AI in order to save those she loves. This is a book that is filled with ideas that SJW around the globe believe in, especially when it comes to access to clean, drinkable water. In this reality, the Children of Peace not only grow their own food, but are responsible goats, yes goats as well.

I was hesitant to read this book due in large part to the range of negative reviews that I have seen across the spectrum. I finished this book to see if I should bother reading the sequel called Swan Riders. I still haven't come up with a good answer to that question. I think this book could have been a bit better on the world building. I would have liked to learn more about Greta's other COP that are just as important as she is. I would like to know why the twist in the romance was necessary. I have a feeling that it won't continue beyond this book. I could be wrong.