Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Tuesday #Review - The Trouble with Twelfth Grave by Darynda Jones @Darynda @StMartinsPress

Series: Charley Davidson Series # 12
Format: Hardcover, 304 pages 
Release Date: October 31, 2017
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Source: Publisher
Genre: Fiction \ Fantasy \ Paranormal

Grim Reaper Charley Davidson is back in the twelfth installment of Darynda Jones’ New York Times bestselling paranormal series.
Ever since Reyes escaped from a hell dimension in which Charley accidently trapped him, the son of Satan has been brimstone-bent on destroying the world his heavenly Brother created. His volatile tendencies have put Charley in a bit of a pickle. But that’s not the only briny vegetable on her plate. While trying to domesticate the feral being that used to be her husband, she also has to deal with her everyday life of annoying all manner of beings—some corporeal, some not so much—as she struggles to right the wrongs of society. Only this time she’s not uncovering a murder. This time she’s covering one up.

Add to that her new occupation of keeping a startup PI venture—the indomitable mystery-solving team of Amber Kowalski and Quentin Rutherford—out of trouble and dealing with the Vatican’s inquiries into her beloved daughter, and Charley is on the brink of throwing in the towel and becoming a professional shopper. Or possibly a live mannequin. But when someone starts attacking humans who are sensitive to the supernatural world, Charley knows it’s time to let loose her razor sharp claws. Then again, her number one suspect is the dark entity she’s loved for centuries. So the question becomes, can she tame the unruly beast before it destroys everything she’s worked so hard to protect?

The Trouble with Twelfth Grave, by author Darynda Jones, is the Twelfth installment in the Charley Davidson series. The story picks up 3 days after the ending of Eleventh Grave in Moonlight. As the synopsis really gets the the meat and potatoes of the basic storyline of what happens in this book, I shall do my best to endeavor not to spoil anything. Know this, as this is the 12th book in the series, and with only One book left before the series comes to a close, things happen in this series that will leave you screaming, laughing, and crying. You've been warned.

Charley Davidson aka the Grim Reaper aka the Goddess known as Elle Ryn Ahleethia aka mother to Beep, and wife to Reyes Alexander Farrow, has her hands filled with everything from a haunting, to the GOD telling her to clean up the Reyes mess or else, to someone killing people in a downright gruesome manner, to the Vatican snooping around trying to gleam information about Charley and Reyes daughter, to a criminal who attacks one of Charley's best friends. So for now, let me say that Charley is lost without Reyes. She is also totally and absolutely obsessed with him when he is around.

Her body melts like cheese whenever he is anywhere around him. Even when she wants to kill him for going off the reservation. Even though she knows it wasn't really her fault that Reyes is in the situation he is in, Charley is still expected to figure out how to get Reyes out of his situation before a hoard of Angels hunts him down. This book, not unlike the past few books in the series, features almost every single character that has been introduced from the first book forward. 

There is the usual suspects who she calls her Scooby Gang (Cookie, Garrett, Osh, Uncle Bob, and Angel) who all work to reign in Reyes before he can destroy the world, or be destroyed by the Archangel Michael. Then there's the tertiary characters like Amber Kowalski, Nicolette Lemay, Sister Mary Elizabeth, Special Agent Kit Carson, Gemma Davidson, and Pari. 

This book is fast paced and an emotional roller coaster ride that will leave you eager to find out how Jones is going to suss everything out that has happened recently. This book reads very quickly. Seems like I had just started reading the book, and then BAM! the author nearly killed me with that ending! I know that we are down to the final installment which is sad. But, do we really have to wait an entire year? So not fair! 

Monday, October 30, 2017

Monday #Review - The Empress by S.J. Kincaid #YA #Science Fiction

Series: The Diabolic # 2
Format: Hardcover, 384 pages
Release Date: October 31, 2017
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Source: Edelweiss
Genre: Young Adult \ Action & Adventure

It’s a new day in the Empire. Tyrus has ascended to the throne with Nemesis by his side and now they can find a new way forward—one where they don’t have to hide or scheme or kill. One where creatures like Nemesis will be given worth and recognition, where science and information can be shared with everyone and not just the elite.
But having power isn’t the same thing as keeping it, and change isn’t always welcome. The ruling class, the Grandiloquy, has held control over planets and systems for centuries—and they are plotting to stop this teenage Emperor and Nemesis, who is considered nothing more than a creature and certainly not worthy of being Empress.
Nemesis will protect Tyrus at any cost. He is the love of her life, and they are partners in this new beginning. But she cannot protect him by being the killing machine she once was. She will have to prove the humanity that she’s found inside herself to the whole Empire—or she and Tyrus may lose more than just the throne. But if proving her humanity means that she and Tyrus must do inhuman things, is the fight worth the cost of winning it?

The Empress, by author S.J. Kincaid, is the second installment in The Diabolic trilogy. In the first book in the series, the author introduced us to Nemesis Impyrean, a genetically engineered Diabolic who was bodyguard to Sidonia Impyrean, the daughter of an important political figure in the Empire. Knowing that Sidonia was most likely going to be killed, Nemesis traveled with her to protect her. She eventually met & connected with 19-year old Tyrus von Domitrian who has since risen to become Emperor. 

As their plan of marrying moves forward, Nemesis is set to become the first genetically engineered person to rise to the position of Empress. Unfortunately for Nemesis, a great may of the Gradiloquy, as well as the Helionics, hate her with a passion. Their attempts at keeping her from becoming the Empress has led to assassination attempts, and a treacherous Senator named Pasus who will do anything to put a boot to the neck of not only Tyrus, but Nemesis as well. Tyrus has his own issues as well. He is no longer the crazy person people have watched for years. He is now in the seat of the most important person in the galaxy. 

Tyrus must bring the various factions together so that he can keep his people safe from outside forces. One of the curious trips in this book was Tyrus and Nemesis' trip a galaxy known as Transaturnine where a Sacred City exists. It is home to the Interdict, leader of the Vicars who have the power that Tyrus needs to make his scepter work. Tyrus not only wants the Interdict's blessing for his rise to being Emperor, but he also wants the Interdict to impart human-hood on Nemesis so tat they can marry with his blessing. It is during this trip, that a bit of history of the human race is revealed.  

Nemesis only true ally might end up being Neveni, but will revenge against the Empire be too much to keep their friendship on even keel? Nemesis, as a character, really goes through the garbage disposal before being spit out to leave her bloodied and having to refocus her own path to happiness. She really can't rely on anyone else. I dare say that this book takes a whole lot of twists, and shocking turns of events. I'm still hyperventilating at the last 3 chapters of this book, and how Kincaid ends the story.

This is a story that was supposed to be happy time for the apparent happy couple, only to turn into hell on earth for both of them, which makes you curious what will happen in the third installment. I offer up that I, like many others, would have been happy had the first installment been a standalone. Now, with all that has happened, and all that is to come, one can't ignore the itch to discover what happens next to Nemesis and Tyrus. 


SOMEONE had poisoned me. I knew it with a single sip.

That someone was about to die.

I glanced around the crowded presence chamber, hoping to spot the doomed idiot who thought to poison a Diabolic. This was hardly the first attempt on my life in the harried days since Tyrus’s coronation. There’d been the young Grande Austerlitz, who tried to stab me in a surprise attack. I’d been bemused enough to tolerate his clumsy slashes for a few moments.

It seemed wise to be diplomatic, so I gave him a chance. “Stop this at once,” I told him, dodging his next slash, his next.

He just bared his teeth and dove at me. I sidestepped him and hooked his ankle in mine to flip his legs out from under him. He screamed out as he tried to launch himself back to his feet—so I delivered a kick to his head that broke his skull open.

Days passed before the next attempt. This one had been a fanatical junior vicar. She gave away her intentions with the shout of, “Abomination!” just before she tried to pull me into the air lock with her.

I tore from her grip and batted her away, knocking her into the air-lock shaft. The blast doors sealed closed behind her—clearly some automated timer she’d set up in advance—and I met her eyes in the split second before the door to space popped open behind her and vented her into the darkness.

When criminals were vented to space for execution, the onlookers were supposed to turn their backs and look away. It was a gesture of deliberate disrespect. The condemned were so unworthy, even their deaths wouldn’t be watched.

For this bold woman who’d attacked me, I felt a strange desire to watch her float away. She’d seen the fate of Austerlitz and still mounted a direct attack. This was the least I could do for one of such daring. There were a great many Grandiloquy who loathed me, a great many Helionics who scorned me with every righteous fiber of their being, but few were bold enough to act upon their malice.

Helionics viewed creatures like me as subhumans. The “dan” in our names meant we were beneath them in status, yet now their new Emperor meant to wed me. They would have to kneel to a creature. A Diabolic.

The assassination attempts weren’t a surprise to me; the infrequency of the attempts was. A mere three attempts on my life in ten days? It was actually somewhat disappointing.

I welcomed the familiarity of feeling in danger. It tightened my focus, made my heart pick up a beat. My gaze swept the crowd as I drew the goblet to my lips, because surely my would-be assassin was fool enough to watch me drink this poison.

Yet I realized in moments that too many eyes were fixed on me to guess which pair might belong to my poisoner. I should have realized it at once. After all, everywhere I went now, I was watched, I was scrutinized, I invited discussion and opinion.

“Do they ever tire of staring?” I’d wondered the first night after the coronation, when I’d noticed the unnatural degree of scrutiny.

“This is just life as a Domitrian,” Tyrus told me.

So my assassin . . . There were too many candidates. The crowd for the Day of Pardon was simply too thick, and there was no guessing who’d meant to end my life. Too many of these people watching me probably wished to do it.

Then a familiar pair of pale eyes met mine, and Tyrus inclined his head toward the exit, telling me silently that we needed to part ways with this company of Grandiloquy. It was time for the ceremony, which we would spend with the Excess.

I dipped my head in acknowledgment. The Day of Pardon would be held in the Great Heliosphere. It was an important imperial holiday, one of the few aimed at pleasing the Excess, who lived on planets, rather than the ruling Grandiloquy space dwellers.

On this day, Tyrus would enjoy the Emperor’s privilege of commuting the prison sentences of several Excess who’d converted to the Helionic faith. I aimed for the exit, knowing Tyrus would meet me there. Then my steps stilled as I passed a cluster of revelers gathered before Tyrus’s cousin and her husband.

I always took note of those who flocked to the Successor Primus, Devineé. She was Tyrus’s last immediate relative and consequently heir to his throne. In my eyes, she was the greatest threat he faced. I’d damaged her mind beyond healing, so she couldn’t plot on her own behalf, but others could use her as a puppet. Had it been up to me, she’d be dead already. It was Tyrus’s decision, though. She was the last of his family, and I’d disabled her. He’d view her murder as monstrous.

And then . . .

Then the realization crawled into my mind: there was a weapon of murder in my hand that could not be blamed on me or traced back to me.

I made up my mind. I walked over to my intended’s sole living relative. As my shadow slid over her, her foggy gaze rose to mine.

“Hello, Your Eminence. Are you enjoying the festivities?” I said pleasantly, looming above her.

Devineé blinked up at me dully, unable to comprehend me. I set down my goblet seemingly offhandedly, just beside hers. I made a show of unwinding my elaborate twist of currently chestnut brown hair, then arranging it anew (unnecessary with the hair stilts that arranged my locks in any style, but many women fussed over hair anyway).

“Fine conversation,” I said to Devineé. “We must speak again.”

Then I plucked up her goblet, leaving mine behind. And so quickly, so easily, it was done. I headed out to meet Tyrus for the ceremony, hoping that by the time it concluded, we’d hear news of it: confirmation of the death of his deadliest foe.

• • •

“You look beautiful,” Tyrus murmured to me as we neared the heliosphere.

“I know,” I said.

We were both wearing reflective garments of silver, interwoven with veins of liquid crystal. Though I’d gone with auburn hair and a darker skin tone, Tyrus looked the same as always, pale and lightly freckled, with clever pale eyes and light, sharply angled eyebrows crowned with tousled red hair.

Just outside the Great Heliosphere, I hesitated. It wasn’t like me to be nervous, and I wasn’t, per se. . . . But I just knew I was about to commit an obscenity, marching into the Great Heliosphere and taking an honored place during the ceremony.

Tyrus guessed the turn of my thoughts. He leaned in closer to me, dropping his voice. “There will be no issue with zealots today. We’re not broadcasting this live, so we can edit any incidents out of the transmission. We’ve also borrowed a vicar. This is a holiday for the Excess, so they comprise the audience. They will be more favorably disposed toward us.”

He meant toward me.

Of course he did. Tyrus had been careful with every move of his reign so far, since he was the sort to think ten steps ahead before making a single one. I’d been eased slowly into public life over the last weeks.

First the galaxy was transmitted glimpses of me from the dramatic scene at the coronation, when Tyrus declared his love for me and embraced me before all, consigning his grandmother to death in my place. My prisoner’s garb had been modified in the transmission to a lovely, tasteful set of rags, and my unpigmented hair to a mane of effervescent gold. I looked a lost princess from a tale, not a Diabolic.

The transmission was effective in one respect: Cygna had received all the blame—rightfully—for the late Emperor Randevald’s death.

The galaxy received just that glimpse of me, enough to set the Excess on their planets across the empire wondering who I could be, wondering what story lay behind my appearance in public life. Tyrus believed the best way to strip a secret of its power was to glare a shining light on it from the angle of choice, to exhibit it fearlessly rather than seek to hide it. He followed up on that first glimpse by introducing me as his future Empress—and a Diabolic—at his first Convocation.

Thousands gathered in person on the Valor Novus, the central starship of the Chrysanthemum, and avatars from light-years away appeared to fill the rest of the seats in the Grand Sanctum. It was the greatest chamber on the vessel and only used on such occasions as the first time a new Emperor addressed the powerful of his realm.

Tyrus planted the question about me with one of his allies, and then gave his prepared answer: “My fiancée will be a symbol of the new era we begin here today. Her name is Nemesis dan Impyrean. Some will be scandalized that I have no intention of wedding a member of this Empire’s elite. I say, let them be scandalized, for I love Nemesis above any other. She is the most honest, courageous, and worthy candidate I can imagine as the Empress of this galaxy, and I know you will come to admire her as I have.”

He’d had the sound dampened in certain parts of the chamber in advance, anticipating the stir of voices. Many of the traditional objectors, though, dared do nothing but cheer. Tyrus had taken Helionic prisoners at his coronation. He intended to release them now that the danger of his grandmother was past—provided their relatives in the Senate showed themselves cooperative in this transmission. Thus, those few objections were squelched, whereas sound was amplified from those allies Tyrus could count on to cheer and applaud.

Every major figure in the galactic media of Eurydice received a personal message from Tyrus. He’d greeted each of them, and his words included the “coded language” indicating they were to support me cheerfully in public.

Before more questions could be asked, he forged onward to his lofty hopes about restoring the sciences to tackle the menace of malignant space. This time he selectively muted the Grandiloquy so the cheering of the Excess could be heard. Airing both of his most scandalous intentions at once divided the outrage, as he’d hoped.

Then, on a final note, when cheering swelled at the conclusion of his first Convocation speech, Tyrus reached out, took me by the hand, and drew me to his side to exhibit me at the very finest. Far from my natural, colorless albinism, I appeared hued with brilliant black hair and bronzed skin, stenciled with effervescent glow over the cheekbones, in a gleaming dress of cascading gold sheets.

A beautiful woman, not a Diabolic. That’s how I appeared.

Yet illusion could only get us so far. I knew that in my heart.

Now, here we were at this first real test of whether my public image was being received as Tyrus hoped. With Excess in the audience, they’d hopefully be too amazed to find themselves at this great event to bother dwelling on who—or rather, what—I was.

Tyrus and I stepped into the Great Heliosphere. I was painfully conscious of every single flicker of my lashes, every twitch of my muscles. Now that everyone knew how human I was not, it had become more essential to seem human than ever before.

The crowd within the Great Heliosphere lapsed into silence as we drew into the sacred chamber of diamond and crystal, and then they were dropping to their knees, hands to their hearts in salute to the Emperor.

“Rise,” Tyrus said. He never kept them lingering on their knees as Randevald had been wont to do.

We moved through the parted sea of bodies, and Tyrus glimpsed Astra nu Amador, a nervous young vicar who worked for Senator von Amador.

Tyrus inclined his head in silent thanks to Astra. She returned it with a smile. She was ambitious enough to see that she might become Vicar Primus if she impressed us, replacing Fustian nan Domitrian. Tyrus and Fustian had been at odds since the coronation, when Fustian refused to bless me. Fustian would not have performed this ceremony with me present.

Now, as I raised my eyes to take in our surroundings, the sheer force of the light blasting in through the windows truly registered, though it cast only a faint warmth over my skin. The heliosphere was designed to refract starlight in myriad ways for services. No mirrors were needed to amplify the starlight this close to the red hypergiant star, Hephaestus, for the Ritual of Pardon.

So large, so bright was Hephaestus that the distant, smaller stars of the Cosmos were drowned out against the black. The crowd would have appeared but silhouettes against the great blaze of its light, but for the glowing pigment under their skin that set their features in stark relief. I didn’t recognize any of the faces.

We stood alone in the innermost circle as the Vicar Astra set about placing sacred chalices throughout the chamber.

The Excess prisoners shuffled inside in a silent line. They’d all converted to the Helionic faith in prison, and they were the fortunate dozen due to be pardoned this year as reward for their penitence.

Tyrus’s role in this ceremony was brief. He stepped forward, and the men and women knelt before him, displaying their pitifully bared heads, where they’d shaved away their hair to exhibit their faith. He spoke the short litany of pardon, and then the vicar took it from there.

Astra moved between the converts to aid them in shedding their clothing. Then she led each of the converts by the hands to the window to position them in the glare of the sacred hypergiant. The naked men and women pressed up against the window, spreading their arms, their fingers, soaking light into every square centimeter of their skin.

Tyrus took my arm, nudged me gently, and we stepped back, and back, as the vicar slowly adjusted the optics so more light from the hypergiant could seep into the chamber.

Then the hypergiant’s light grew so bright, it seemed to lance into my pupils. The white skein of starlight scorched my eyes, and my hand flew up instinctively to protect my face. Through the veil over my vision, I heard the rustle of other people raising their hands to do the same. Then heat followed, a great, terrible wave of it that pummeled the air about us, stinging my skin, and I knew it was too much heat.

Something was wrong.

The pardoned men and women scrambled back from the windows, dark silhouettes contorting as their terrible screams knifed the air. The vicar’s garb flared ablaze and the oil chalices spouted columns of heat.

I comprehended several things all at once: flames, hundreds of bodies all about me, and one exit.

This was a death trap.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

#Stacking the Shelves # 261 - Week Ending 10/28/2017

Stacking The Shelves is all about sharing the books you are adding to your shelves, may it be physical or virtual. This means you can include books you buy in physical store or online, books you borrow from friends or the library, review books, gifts and of course ebooks!

Thanks for Shopping by!

Heck of a week! Thank you so much for all your comments and your questions. Please feel free to ask me anything. This week has been a curious week of books. The most interesting is the package I received from Entangled: Teen. Thank you so much!


This Weeks Reviews: 

Monday - Berserker by Emmy Laybourne (YA, Historical)

Tuesday - The Glass Spare by Lauren DeStefano (YA, Fantasy)

Wednesday - Swollen Identity by Rich Leder (Mystery)

Thursday - Invictus by Ryan Graudin (YA, SyFy)

*REC'D VIA Library, Publisher, NETGALLEY *

Thank you Entangled: Teen! 

Friday, October 27, 2017

Saturday #Review - Before the Devil Breaks You by Libba Bray #YALit #Fantasy

Series: The Diviners # 3
Format: Hardcover, 560 pages
Release Date: October 3, 2017
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Source: Library
Genre: Young Adult \ Fantasy

The Diviners are back in this thrilling and eerie third installment by #1 New York Times bestselling author Libba Bray.
New York City.
1927.Lights are bright.Jazz is king.Parties are wild.And the dead are coming...
After battling a supernatural sleeping sickness that early claimed two of their own, the Diviners have had enough of lies. They're more determined than ever to uncover the mystery behind their extraordinary powers, even as they face off against an all-new terror. Out on Ward's Island, far from the city's bustle, sits a mental hospital haunted by the lost souls of people long forgotten--ghosts who have unusual and dangerous ties to the man in the stovepipe hat, also known as the King of Crows.
With terrible accounts of murder and possession flooding in from all over, and New York City on the verge of panic, the Diviners must band together and brave the sinister ghosts invading the asylum, a fight that will bring them fact-to-face with the King of Crows. But as the explosive secrets of the past come to light, loyalties and friendships will be tested, love will hang in the balance, and the Diviners will question all that they've ever known. All the while, malevolent forces gather from every corner in a battle for the very soul of a nation--a fight that could claim the Diviners themselves.
Heart-pounding action and terrifying moments will leave you breathless in the third book of the four-book Diviners series by #1 New York Times bestselling author Libba Bray. 

"Before the Devil Breaks you, first he will make you love him."

Before the Devil Breaks You, by author Libba Bray, is the third installment in the authors The Diviners series. The book features a sprawling cast of characters and multiple points of view. One of the reasons this series is so popular, I believe, is that it is a mixed bag of genre's. You have a historical setting of 1927 New York City where Prohibition is still in place, with a paranormal threat that affects every single character in this book. As the story begins, the Diviners have helped rid the city of the sleeping sickness but that doesn't mean that the public is all in accepting them.

Since the end of the second novel, there have been subtle hints have pointed The Diviners (Memphis, Isaiah, Theta, Evie, Sam, Jericho, Ling and Henry) towards a man in the hat who apparently has been around since the secretive Project Buffalo was still operational. A project that the Diviners are still uncovering what really happened and how it affected them. A Project that will cause a major rift between those who were involved in the project, and the kids who it affected.

What they soon come to learn is that the man in the hat is actually called The King of Crows. The King of Crows and his Forgotten are spreading evil across the country. There is a tear in the world, a crack between our world and another dimension. There is a battle between good and evil, but evil may have a huge leg up thanks to a group called the Shadow Men who truly hates the Diviners. They believe that they are traitors and instigators but are willing to work with Jake Marlowe in riding society of undesirables. 

I would love to characterize the Diviners as an off shoot of the X-Men. They even train to use their powers and abilities together to face off against the King of Crows and his forgotten across New York City. Each of their individual powers get a power up every time they use them as a team. I think the most interesting twist in this story was that both Mabel Rose and Theta Knight take center stage. Mabel's life has been centered about her family and their socialistic views on the world. She is still Evie's best friend, but Mabel goes out on her own this time around, and not only finds her own voice, but perhaps, her own calling as well. Theta's backstory was brilliantly revealed as was the fact that she has some wicked cool powers that really make the rest of the team look like a bunch of amateurs. I also believe that Theta's issues are issues that still face society today. I am glad that Theta got an opportunity to be something other than a character who loves Memphis. 

Bray has a tendency of dropping plot twists in the most unlikely places. Example, Evie's brother James and what really happened to him. Is he really dead, or did something more nefarious happen to him and his unit? Curious that Bray uses a character named Conor Flynn in this story. Not sure what the overall point was since he's like a one hit one. Here today, gone tomorrow. Pay close attention to who the forgotten actually are. I think you will not be surprised that Bray uses a bit of social activism to push the stories of certain aspects of the population that were used and then tossed away like yesterdays garbage. 

**If you haven't read about Eugenics in a while, please go back and refresh your memories. Eugenics is the study of or belief in the possibility of improving the qualities of the human species or a human population, especially by such means as discouraging reproduction by persons having genetic defects or presumed to have inheritable undesirable traits (negative eugenics) or encouraging reproduction by persons presumed ... Eugenics was taken to its horrifying extreme during the Holocaust, through forced sterilizations and breeding experiments. **

One final comment: I am one of those who wishes that the covers would stop changing. Stick with one formula and stay with it until this series ends. 

Friday #Review - The Tethered Mage by Melissa Caruso #Fantasy @melisscaru @orbitbooks ‏

Series: Swords and Fire # 1
Format: E-Book, 480 pages
Release Date: October 24, 2017
Publisher: Orbit
Source: NetGalley 
Genre: Fiction \ Fantasy \ Epic

In the Raverran Empire, magic is scarce and those born with power are strictly controlled -- taken as children and conscripted into the Falcon Army.
Zaira has lived her life on the streets to avoid this fate, hiding her mage-mark and thieving to survive. But hers is a rare and dangerous magic, one that threatens the entire empire.
Lady Amalia Cornaro was never meant to be a Falconer. Heiress and scholar, she was born into a treacherous world of political machinations. But fate has bound the heir and the mage. And as war looms on the horizon, a single spark could turn their city into a pyre.

The Tethered Mage is the first novel in a spellbinding new fantasy series.

The Tethered Mage, by author Melissa Caruso, is the first installment in the authors Swords and Fire Trilogy. The Tethered Mage caught my attention with it's beautiful world building; which reminded me so much of Venice, Italy. The story is deep in court intrigue & magic, has a twisty story plot with plenty of action, and a friendship that grows out of two very different engaging characters in Lady Amalia Cornaro and Zaira, the mage with the ability to wield fire. The Serene Empire of Raverra is a place that has seen 50 years of peace after a 3 year war with the neighboring Witch Lords of Vaskander.

One of the reasons the peace has lasted so long are magical users called falcons. Falcons aka mages, are those who are born with mage marks in their eyes. Some of these mages have unimaginable powers of pure destruction. Children who show any signs of being mage marked are quickly gobbled up by the ruling government and sent to a place called the Mews to learn to control their powers. All of the falcons are assigned a person who is called a Falconer. Falconers exist to control magic and those who use magic. With a jess, the magic is bound, with a word from a Falconer, the magic is unleashed.

Lady Amalia is the daughter and heir of one of the most powerful people in all of Raverra-La Contessa Lissandra Cornaro. She is not only bright, but bold as well. As she is returning home with a copy of a much sought after book, she runs into a waif of a girl being harassed by several men. After the waif unleashes her fire magic that nearly burns down the city and everyone with it, Amalia is encouraged by Lieutenant Marcello Verdi to put a magic halting artifact called a jess on the girls wrist thus restraining the girls powers. Marcello may have not only broken the law, but given the powerful Court of Nines a weapon of mass destruction. 

One could definitely say that things do not get off to a good start between the waif girl named Zaira and Amalia. Why should they? Amalia is not only her mothers heir, but has also been to university. She has seen places like Arden and is comfortable being among powerful people. She is also a creative inventor which we see bits and pieces throughout the story. Meanwhile, Zaira's life has been one challenge after another while living on the streets, and hiding her powers. In this world, Zaira has no rights of her own now that she has been discovered as a fire mage. Oh sure, they claim the mages will be treated like kings and queens, but what they don't tell you goes a long way in understanding Falcon/Falconer relationship. 

Zaira and Amalia are now forever linked together whether they like it or not. In the end, it takes a whole lot of twists, and turns, and actions to bring the two women together. This relationship also includes Marcello since he finds that he is enamored with Amalia, as well as his sister who is a bright spot in this story. The unlikely relationship between Amalia and Zaira is key to this story, but the underlying issue is where Amalia's relationship with her own mother ends up. Nobody can stand in the same room with La Contessa without being a bit intimidated, but Amalia more than holds her own when the chips are on the table.

I will definitely be waiting for the sequel called The Defiant Heir (April 19, 2018). 

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Thursday #Review - Invictus by Ryan Graudin #YALit #Science #Fiction

Series: Standalone
Format: Hardcover, 464 pages 
Release Date: September 26, 2017
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Source: Library
Genre: Young Adult \ Time Travel 

Time flies when you're plundering history.
Farway Gaius McCarthy was born outside of time. The son of a time-traveling Recorder from 2354 AD and a gladiator living in Rome in 95 AD, Far's birth defies the laws of nature. Exploring history himself is all he's ever wanted, and after failing his final time-traveling exam, Far takes a position commanding a ship with a crew of his friends as part of a black market operation to steal valuables from the past.

But during a heist on the sinking Titanic, Far meets a mysterious girl who always seems to be one step ahead of him. Armed with knowledge that will bring Far's very existence into question, she will lead Far and his team on a race through time to discover a frightening truth: History is not as steady as it seems.

Author Ryan Graudin's Invictus is a thrilling sci-fi time-traveling adventure that will have readers on the edge of their seats waiting to see what the author will come up with next. Protagonist Fairway Gaius McCarthy is the son of a legend. His mother, Empra McCarthy, disappeared ten years ago while recording events of 95 A.D. But, that didn't cool off Fair's desire to become a time recorder, or to become a captain of his own ship, or to discover what really happened to his mother.

Fair is a character who has a fairly impressive resume. He's
the only known person to ever be born outside of time. He's also at the top of his class in almost every category. But, after his final exam goes wonky, Fair finds himself kicked out of the Corps and aligned with a black market racketeer named Lux Julius. Fair becomes Captain of a fairly successful ship named Invictus that transverses time & collects valuables that would otherwise be lost in time. 

His crew includes is own cousin Imogen, a historian who changes her hair color daily. Gram, who is the brilliant engineer as well as recorder. And, Priya who is the ships
medic, and mechanic. Oh, and I should mention that Priya is also Fair's love interest. Lux sends the Invictus back in time to April 14, 1912 to retrieve a valuable book. If you don't know that date, it is the date that the Titanic hit an iceberg and sank. During the mission, things don't go as expected. But, the most unexpected thing is Fair meeting a girl named Eliot. Eliot who is as mysterious as she is dangerous. She's also keeping a major secret that sends the crew back in time in hopes of saving the universe.

So, where do I start. I loved Fairway. Yes, he's arrogant. Yes, has a huge ego. But, this is someone who lost his mother without anyone telling him exactly what happened. Even though he loses his chance at becoming a superlative recorder like his mother, becoming Captain of the Invictus is probably the best thing that could happen. He and his crew have dozens of successful missions, and they've become a family as well. His relationship with Priya is pretty special. I loved that Priya is dual talented. One minute she can be helping heal, the next she's changing a rod so that ship can jump through time. Eliot is definitely the wild card of this story. She is so mysterious, but seems to know a whole lot. Her connection to Fair is one of antagonist, which slowly becomes a necessary alliance with lots of twists and surprises.

Overall, I really enjoyed the second half of this story. I am giddy that this is a standalone and not part of a series. The ending, while leaving room for a possible future sequel, would have been better had the author explored more of a relationship between Priya and Fair. They really deserved a happy ending.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Wednesday #Review - McCall & Company: Swollen Identity by Rich Leder #Mystery

Series: McCall & Company # 2
Format: Mobi, 392 pages
Release Date: September 7, 2014
Publisher: Laugh Riot Press
Source: Publisher
Genre: Mystery

Way-off Broadway actress and NYC PI Kate McCall had promised the police and the Assistant DA—her son—that she was all done investigating any damn thing in New York…
Meaning beautiful billionaire socialite Brooke Barrington says someone has stolen her identity and the corporate assassin who murdered Kate’s father has shot the eyes out of the CEO of Superior Press…
Meaning McCall & Company is back in business…
Meaning Kate enlists the help of the eccentric tenants of her brownstone—the House of Emotional Tics—and her melodramatic acting troupe, the Schmidt and Parker Players…
Meaning things spiral hilariously and dangerously out of control…
Meaning she is confronted by Brooke’s demonic identical twin, Bailey, accosted by international counterfeiters, and arrested for impersonating a hooker.
Will Kate stop Bailey from murdering Brooke? Or will she stop Brooke from murdering Bailey? Or will she figure out how to tell one from the other in time to survive the wrath of the Bulgarian mob men hired to protect the counterfeit cash?
And will she finally find her father’s killer?
She might, but it’s going to be a fast, fun, and furious ride.

Swollen Identity, by author Rich Leder, is the second installment in the authors McCall & Company trilogy. The story picks up right where Workman's Complication left off. 
Welcome back to the wacky, wacky world of Kate McCall who not too long ago, days actually, promised her son and a NYPD Detective that she wasn't going to get involved with any more dangerous investigations. Pfft, amateurs! 

Kate is an off, off, off, off Broadway actress by trade, a private investigator who learned at her fathers side, including his 10 rules of dos and don'ts, and someone who has had her world upturned by the murder of her father by a corporate assassin. His murder hangs over everything that Kate does. In this installment, Kate gets a visit from billionaire Brooke Barrington. Brooke claims that someone has stolen her identity and is spending her money all over the city. 

Kate agrees to help, but what happens when Kate discovers that Brooke has a twin sister who also wants to hire her, and ends up with a curious who wants to kill whom mystery?Kate's story is just getting started. Throw in yet another murder with similarities to that of her deceased father, a shoot out with the corporate assassin on a boat, being accused of murder, and the hilarity of her friends getting involved, especially Fu Chen who really has stolen the spotlight, and this story holds its own against the first installment. Never under estimate Leder's twisted mind. 

While Kate is determined more than ever to find her fathers killer, she also encounters more than her fair share of resistance from her own son Matthew, and of course, Detective Logan who she promised not to get involved with the investigation of her father's killer. Kate has a curious assortment of characters that are above and beyond wacky. Not only does she have her cast and crew from Schmidt and Parker Players helping her lure in her prey, but she also has the residents of what the author is calling the House of Emotional Tics that have become more than just sidekicks.

When one goes into this series, one has to know that there will be slap stick comedy from nearly everyone involved. You do have some really emotional moments and serious issues to deal with like Kate still feeling the loss of her father who was her support and her stable. I've chosen to read this series to see what happens when Kate and her cast of dozens let it all hang out, and just deal with things as they come together. There are quite a few plot twists in this story to keep a reader entertained. I look forward to reading Emboozlement to see what happens between Kate and the elusive assassin.