Wednesday, October 31, 2018

#Review - Muse of Nightmares by Laini Taylor #YALit #Fantasy

Series: Strange the Dreamer # 2
Format: Hardcover, 528 pages
Release Date: October 2, 2018
Publisher: Little, Brown Books
Source: Library
Genre: Young Adult / Fantasy / Epic

The highly anticipated, thrilling sequel to the New York Times bestseller, Strange the Dreamer, from National Book Award finalist Laini Taylor, author of the bestselling Daughter of Smoke & Bone trilogy.

Sarai has lived and breathed nightmares since she was six years old.
She believed she knew every horror, and was beyond surprise.
She was wrong.

In the wake of tragedy, neither Lazlo nor Sarai are who they were before. One a god, the other a ghost, they struggle to grasp the new boundaries of their selves as dark-minded Minya holds them hostage, intent on vengeance against Weep.

Lazlo faces an unthinkable choice--save the woman he loves, or everyone else?--while Sarai feels more helpless than ever. But is she? Sometimes, only the direst need can teach us our own depths, and Sarai, the muse of nightmares, has not yet discovered what she's capable of.

As humans and godspawn reel in the aftermath of the citadel's near fall, a new foe shatters their fragile hopes, and the mysteries of the Mesarthim are resurrected: Where did the gods come from, and why? What was done with thousands of children born in the citadel nursery? And most important of all, as forgotten doors are opened and new worlds revealed: Must heroes always slay monsters, or is it possible to save them instead?

Love and hate, revenge and redemption, destruction and salvation all clash in this gorgeous sequel to the New York Times bestseller, Strange the Dreamer.

Muse of Nightmares is the second and apparent final installment in author Laini Taylor's Strange the Dreamer series. After the prologue where two new characters (Kora & Nova) are introduced, the story itself picks up right where the first installment left off with Sarai's fall, and Lazlo's ascension as one of the children of the Gods. Kora and Nova's story takes place mostly in the past, while Sarai, Lazlo, Minya, & Thyon's story takes place in the present tense. 

With the strange ending of the first story, it now appears as though Minya, the girl who is stuck in the body of a 6-year old, is now taking charge of those she not only saved. She is more powerful than anyone realized. But, Lazlo has finally found out who he really is and where he belongs and how he is able to bend mesathium and even move it. Sarai, Lazlo, Ruby, Sparrow, and Feral must try to convince Minya not to send her army of ghosts to attack the people of Weep, or take vengeance on the man, Eril-Fane, who ended the domination of the Gods over Weep 15 years ago.

I am a fickle reviewer at times. I will be honest in saying I really loathed Minya. But, the author then has Sarai, the queen of nightmares, go back in time and uncover what really happened the day 15 years ago when she, as a 6-year old, was able to save 4 children from being murdered in their cradles. Then I really found myself cheering for her when their sanctuary is torn asunder by one of the new characters, and it become clear that Minya is really a badass.

Down in Weep, Eril-Fane, as well as Thyon Nero, are dealing with a new reality. Both have questions as to how Lazlo ended up in Zosma, and not with the rest of the mesathium. One of the more interesting facets of the story is the relationships. Thyon isn't from Weep, and his choices in regards to Lazlo and what was stolen from him, have weighed heavily on his mind. Especially now that Lazlo has found out who he really is.

Whereas Eril-Fane and his wife Azareen are trying to see if they are able to rekindle the love that was lost when he was taken by the Gods, and used as a sex toy. For Thyon, fact that he is now actually making friends with those who just a few hours, or days ago he was looking down his nose at them. For me, it was fun to watch Thyon grow up as a character and take responsibility for his action while also uncovering a secret that was wiped out by the gods. The real name of Weep.

What's interesting in Nova and Kora's story, is how utterly fascinating it is how the world's connect. It's also fascinating how Kora's story gives readers an idea at how the gods manipulated people to their will, and then shipped off the unwanted children to various other universes. While Kora was trying to save the children she could, Nova was tearing apart the universe searching for the sister who was taken away from her.

This is a long book. Get used to it. But, I will say that I am not sure that the Nova, Kora angle was worth all the pages that it took up in this book. I loved the romance between Lazlo and Sarai. It's absolutely adorable. Laini Taylor has a fascinating imagination, and I would not be surprised if a spin-off was written about the exploits of a group of secondary characters we've already met, like Thyon, and Calixte, in searching other universes for the missing children of the Gods. 

Even though all of these characters, minus the adults like Eril-Fane, are 15-16, the author seems not to care that she puts them in curious sexual situations, especially Sarai and Lazlo. In the end, the story revolves around Can the Godspawn save their fallen brethren and stave off an attack by a character who would tear the universe apart to find her sister? Can the citizens of Weep rebuild or is their precious township lost forever? As occurred within Strange the Dreamer, the narration jumps between the various characters, all telling their point of view. 

Monday, October 29, 2018

#Review - Demons Lie by Sherry D. Ficklin #YALit #Paranormal

Series: A Girls Guide To Witchcraft And Demon Hunting #1
Format:E-Galley, 305 pages
Release Date: October 31, 2018
Publisher: True Type Press
Source: Publisher
Genre: Young Adult / Paranormal

Rule #1 Demons Lie

Orphaned by an unspeakable evil, Aria Dupree is the last of her line. A powerful witch tasked with guarding the boundaries between our world and the world of demons who prey on humankind, Aria has gone rogue. Now she’s out to find and destroy every single gateway into our world and kill every demon that she can find--including the one who murdered her mother.

But, as it turns out, hunting is the easy part; it’s graduating high school that might kill her. Red Prairie Texas isn’t just another stop on her demon hunting world tour and an unlikely alliance might be exactly what she needs to keep from becoming a slave to the very darkness she’s been fighting against.

Because the devil is coming down to Texas--and only Aria can keep all hell from breaking loose.

DEMONS LIE is the first in a dark paranormal series full of magic, monsters, and mayhem

Demon's Lie is the installment in author Sherry D. Ficklin's A Girls Guide to Witchcraft and Demon Hunting series. The story is told in the first POV by 17-year old Ariadne "Aria" Dupree. Aria has arrived in the West Texas town of Red Prairie searching for demons. Aria is driven by revenge. For the past 3 years, Aria has focused on 3 main goals: killing every single demon that crosses her path, finding the one responsible for ripping her family apart, locate and destroy all gateways.

Aria is known as a Buidseach aka Witch aka Demon hunter. Buidseach's are supposed to guard & protect gateways that demons use to enter this world. Aria's mother was also a Buidseach as well as her grandmother. But, now, she is alone in the world and nothing will stop her from completing her mission. After killing one demon fairly easily, she realizes that she was too lax in her duty, and someone was killed in the process. Aria later enrolls in Red Prairie, High School where she is drawn to find a demon who is hiding out as a human. 

Little does she know that the demon she thinks she is supposed to kill, Ben, is a charming, funny, nearly perfect high school boy who will tear at every single one of her emotions. Their relationship is sappy as hell, but fun to watch as Aria has to open her heart to someone who breaks all the rules. If that weren't enough, she meets Maddie Brown, who, not only will become her best friend, but also someone it seems that fate has chosen to help Aria. What shocks Aria the most is that Maddie has a dormant magical spark that seems to sense. Aria seems to have a forbidden physical attraction to Ben which makes this extremely complicated. 

Aria, who is a pretty badass hunter with mad skills, soon realizes that it will take all her skills, all her snark, and all her arsenal to protect the people she has opened her heart to before the boy she loves is torn asunder, and she loses the only apprentice she has ever had. Can Aria walk the thin line between doing what is expected of her, while continuing to search for the demon who killed her mother? Read the book and find out! ::grin::: I loved that Aria has a group of rules that she tries to live by. 

Such as Rule # 1 Demon's Lie. There are no absolute good v bad, or right v wrong when it eliminates the human element. I give props to the author for not going all in on the high school hi-jinks and angst. She stuck to her guns and didn't have any mean girls or any real nasty bullies to pushed Aria's buttons to the limit. While this book is about demons, it is the relationships that take over the main story-line for the entire book. 

Determination: yes, I will be reading the sequel whenever it comes out. Aria's next stop should be loads of fun!

Sunday, October 28, 2018

#Review - This Cruel Design by Emily Suvada #YALit #SyFy

Series: Mortal Coil# 2
Format: E-Galley, 400 pages
Release Date: October 30, 2018
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Source: Publisher
Genre: Young Adult / Science Fiction

Cat thought the Hydra epidemic was over, but when new cases pop up, Cat must team up with an enemy to fix the vaccine before the virus spirals out of control in this thrilling sequel to This Mortal Coil, which New York Times bestselling author Amie Kaufman says “redefine’s ‘unputdownable.’”

The nightmare of the outbreak is finally over, but Cat’s fight has only just begun.

Exhausted, wounded, and reeling from revelations that have shaken her to her core, Cat is at a breaking point. Camped in the woods with Cole and Leoben, she’s working day and night, desperate to find a way to stop Lachlan’s plan to reprogram humanity. But she’s failing—Cat can’t even control her newly regrown panel, and try as she might to ignore them, she keeps seeing glitching visions from her past everywhere she turns.

When news arrives that the Hydra virus might not be as dead as they’d thought, the group is pushed into an uneasy alliance with Cartaxus to hunt down Lachlan and fix the vaccine. Their search takes them to Entropia, a city of genehackers hidden deep in the desert that could also hold the answers about Cat’s past that she’s been searching for.

But when confronted with lies and betrayals, Cat is forced to question everything she knows and everyone she trusts. And while Lachlan is always two steps ahead, the biggest threat to Cat may be the secrets buried in her own mind. 

This Cruel Design is the second installment in author Emily Suvada's Mortal Coil series. 18-year old Catarina "Cat" Agatta thought she had saved the world by eradicating a terrible virus that caused victims to detonate, and sent billions more to underground bunkers under the control of Cartaxus. To make matters worse, Cat discovered some troubling secrets about her own past, as well as her connection to Leoben, Cole, and Anna (who we meet in this book) who are all black-out agents. 

Unfortunately for everyone involved, Dr. Lachlan Agatta has fled to parts unknown taking his plans to recode humanity with him. Thanks to his Daemon Code which gives him access to everyone on the planet, Lachlan believes that he can use make humanity better by erasing the wrath DNA from everyone. Cat doesn't want him to get away with it. But, things quickly change right from the beginning of this story. Even though the vaccine is out there and the virus should be dead, people are still detonating.  

Brought out of their temporary reprieve by Cartaxus, thanks to an unknown virus that seems to be ramping up, Cat, Leo, and Cole must find a way to locate Lachlan, find a way to head off this new strain, while also dealing with Cat's repressed memories which are rapidly proving to be more of a clue as to what really happened to a certain unnamed character who walked away from Lachlan and let the others like Cole, Leo, and Anna behind.

This Cruel Design has plenty of action and twists and shocks, that left me reading as quickly as I could to see if the author was going to leave us any clues as to what is apparently going to be the finale of the series. New readers to this series may want to begin with the first volume before jumping into this story. If you are a fan of science-y things, you will love this story. If you're not, you might still enjoy it because it touches on so many technical questions about what scientists may have up their sleeves in the future for humanity.

The story dives deeper into the world of Cartaxus, hackers and what Lachlan did to Catarina. One of the plot lines of this book is the ying and yang of Cat and her suppressed memories and who she may or may not be. I won't spoil things, but Cat is wading into a new world with the terrifying prospect that she might be losing who she is. If she gets to the point where she does lose herself, what happens then? Will the yang part of her take control, or will she have the strength to stand and take control of her own life and her own fate? We shall see.

A depressing part of the story is the romance angle between Cat and Cole. Put me down for not being a fan. Cole is hiding secrets from Cat, while Cat is trying to deal with troubling secrets that slowly unravel. There are some new intriguing characters in this story including Mato, and Regina, a genehacker who runs what is known as Entropia where people have gone beyond the boundaries of what one can do to their own bodies.

I will leave you with this. There is no second book let down syndrome for This Cruel Design. It takes things even further than readers saw in the first installment and leaves so many twists and revelations, even the jaded among us will be happy. The author leaves a really cruel ending for readers to swallow. I honestly thought this was a duology for some lame reason, so imagine my surprise at what came for readers in the last several chapters?

Saturday, October 27, 2018

#Review - The Darkest Star by Jennifer L. Armentrout #YALit #SyFy #Romance

Series: Origin Series (#1)
Format: Hardcover, 368 pages
Release Date: October 30, 2018
Publisher: Tor Teen
Source: Publisher
Genre: Young Adult / Science Fiction

#1 New York Times, USA Today, and internationally bestselling author Jennifer L. Armentrout brings her trademark drama and intrigue to her new Origin series, featuring a girl caught up in a world she doesn't understand, secrets long buried, a betrayal that could tear her life apart...and Armentrout's most swoonworthy book boyfriend yet.

Seventeen-year-old Evie Dasher knows firsthand the devastating consequences of humanity's war with the aliens. When she's caught up in a raid at a notorious club known as one of the few places where humans and the surviving Luxen can mingle freely, she meets Luc, an unnaturally beautiful guy she initially assumes is a Luxen...but he is in fact something much more powerful. Her growing attraction for Luc will lead her deeper and deeper into a world she'd only heard about, a world where everything she thought she knew will be turned on its head...

The Darkest Star is the first installment in a brand new series called Origin by author Jennifer L. Armentrout. This new series features 17-year old Evelyn (Evie) Dasher who lives in a world where 4 years ago, aliens invaded the planet and killed 3% of the world's population. Thanks to an Alien race called Luxen, the world was saved from complete extinction. Some of you already know this, but this is actually a spin-off from the authors Lux series. Does this mean you should that series first? I won't say no since there are some characters who do appear as much older versions of themselves, but I think you can get by without doing so.

So, Evie and her friend Heidi decide to go to this club called "Foretoken" where Heidi is supposed to meet a girl that she has fallen for. Evie is actually breaking all the rules since this club is known for having the sexy, gorgeous, beautiful aliens called Luxen hanging out there. Evie meets Luc, who like Daemon in the original series, is hot as sin, and as sarcastic as they come. He is also something that Daemon never was. an Origin. To say that he is rude from the moment that they meet, is mild. He is downright hostile and claims she is breaking an unsaid agreement.

When the club is raided by ART (Alien Response Task Force) and their drones, Evie and Luc are able to escape without getting caught. Evie doesn't know what unwritten rule she apparently broke by going to the club. She can't actually ask her mother or fear being grounded. Evie's world is turned upside down when things she thought she knew, are things that are far from the truth. As Evie struggles to keep her distance from Luc, girls from her school go missing & are found dead in and around the school. 

Luc knows things about Evie, that is killing him in not bursting out and telling Evie about what he knows about her past. As the duo dances the tango around each other, and Luc does tell Evie about things her own mother hasn't told her, Evie is being stalked by someone extremely dangerous and it will only be a matter of time before things explode. Can Luc save Evie before it's late? When Evie learns the real truth about her past, will she run away, or stand and fight?

I have it on good authority that Luc was just a young boy in the original series, while in this story, he is 18, and not only running Foretoken, but also some other endeavors off the book. I will give one thing away, YES, a certain character does make a guest appearance in this book. ::lips are sealed:: I also have it on good authority that Evie was the ill girl from the original series which is why I suggest, but don't demand that you read the entire first series before jumping into this story.

One of the things that drove me nuts is the not knowing. The secrets that everyone seems to know, including Evie's mother Colonel Sylvia Dasher, about deals and the past and Evie's part in what happened 4 years ago. The relationship between Evie and Luc is a bit on the hot and cold side. Luc is also pretty darn funny at times especially when it comes to his teasing of Evie and his relationship with Sylvia. Meanwhile, Evie is pretty vanilla for a character. There's really nothing special about her. She's just a human. She's not a hybrid. She's not a Luxen. She's not a Luxen or worse, an Aren.

The best part of this story was the mystery. When the mystery is revealed, and the villain is named, readers of the original series will smirk knowing that he is very familiar.  I think it's fair to say that there are a whole lot of questions that haven't been explained, and plot points that were intentionally left unsolved until the next installment in this series. So many questions about the villain of this books warning of things to come. 

Chapter 1

I f Mom ever found out I was sitting outside of Foretoken, she would kill me. Like, legit hide  my  body  in  a  deep  dark  grave kind of kill me. And my mom totally had the means to do so.
When she went from Momma baking brownies in the kitchen to Colonel Sylvia Dasher, she put the fear of God and then some in me.
 But knowing just how much trouble I’d be in if I got caught obviously hadn’t stopped me, because here I was, sitting in Heidi’s car, applying yet another coat of lipstick with a shaky hand. Shoving the lipstick wand back into its tube, I watched fat raindrops bomb the windshield. My heart threw itself against my ribs as if it were determined to punch its way out.
I couldn’t believe I was here.
I’d rather be home, finding random things in my house to take pictures of and posting them on Instagram. Like those new gray-and-white vintage candleholders Mom had bought. They’d look amazing paired with the pale blue and pink pillows I had in my bedroom.
From the driver’s seat, Heidi Stein sighed heavily. “You’re second-guessing this.”
“Nuh-uh.” I eyed my final results in the little mirror in the visor. My lips were so red, it looked like I’d French-kissed an overripe strawberry.
And my brown eyes were way too big for my roundish, freckled face. I looked scared, like I was about to walk naked into class twenty minutes late.
“Yeah, you are, Evie. I can see it etched into the five hundred coats of lipstick you just applied.”
Wincing, I glanced over at her. Heidi looked completely at ease in her strapless black dress and dark eye makeup. She had that cat-eye thing down, something I couldn’t re-create without looking like an abused raccoon. Heidi had done an amazing job on my eyes before we’d left her house, though, giving them a smoky, mysterious look. I thought I actually looked pretty good. Well, except for the whole looking-scared part, but . . .
“Is the red lipstick too much?” I asked. “Do I look bad?”
“I’d be into you if I liked blondes.” She grinned when I rolled my eyes. “Are you sure you want to do this?”
I peeked out the window at the dark, windowless building squeezed in between a closed boutique shop and a cigar store. My breath hitched in my throat.
FORETOKEN was written in black paint above the red double doors. I squinted. On second thought, the name of the club looked like it had been spray-painted on the gray cement. Classy.
Everyone who went to Centennial High knew of Foretoken, a club that was packed every night, even on Sundays, and was notorious for allowing outrageously fake IDs to slide by.
And Heidi and I were most definitely seventeen and 100 percent in possession of some fake-as-hell driver’s licenses that no one in their right mind would believe were real.
“Because I’m worried you’re not going to have fun.” Heidi poked my arm, drawing my attention. “Like you’ll get freaked out and call Zoe. And you know you can’t call April to come get you either. That girl is not allowed within a ten-block radius of this place.”
I drew in a shallow breath that felt like it went nowhere. “I’ll have fun. I swear. It’s just . . . I’ve never done this before.”
“Done what? Gone somewhere you weren’t supposed to? Because I know that’s not true.” She held up a finger, and the nail looked like it had been dipped in black ink. “You have no problem breaking and entering when it comes to climbing around abandoned buildings to take pictures.”
“That’s different.” I dropped the lipstick into my little wristlet. “You sure these IDs are going to work?”
She shot me a bland look. “Do you know how many times I’ve been here and had no problems? Yes, you do. You’re stalling.”
I was totally stalling.
Looking out the window again, I could barely suppress the shiver tiptoeing down my spine. Puddles were forming in the vacant street and there was no one on the sidewalks. It was like once the sun went down and Foretoken unlocked its doors, the streets emptied of everyone who exhibited an ounce of common sense.
Foretoken also had the reputation for something entirely different than allowing fake IDs.
Aliens were known to hang out here.
Like legit extraterrestrial beings that had come from trillions of light-years away. They called themselves the Luxen, and they looked like us—well, a better version of most of us. Their bone structure was often perfect, their skin airbrush-smooth, and their eye colors were shades that we humans couldn’t achieve without contacts.
And not all of them had come in peace.
Four years ago, we’d been invaded, totally Hollywood-movie-level invaded, and we’d almost lost the war—almost lost the entire planet to them. I’d never forget the statistic that had dominated the news once the TVs starting broadcasting again: 3 percent of the world’s population. That was 220 million people lost in the war, and my father had been one of them.
But over the last four years, the Luxen who hadn’t been on Team Kill All the Humans and had helped fight their own kind had been slowly integrated into our world—into our schools and jobs, government and military. They were everywhere now. I’d met plenty of them, so I didn’t know why coming here freaked me out so much.
But Foretoken wasn’t school or an office building, where the Luxen were typically outnumbered and heavily monitored. I had a sinking suspicion that humans were the minority beyond those red doors.
Heidi poked my arm again. “If you don’t want to do this, we don’t have to.”
I twisted in the seat toward her. One look at Heidi’s face told me that she was being genuine. She would turn the car on and we’d go back to her place if that were what I wanted. Probably end the night gorging ourselves on those cupcakes her mom had picked up from the bakery. We’d watch really bad romantic comedies until we passed out from a ridiculously high caloric intake, and that sounded . . . lovely.
But I didn’t want to bail on her.
Coming here meant a lot to Heidi. She could be herself without worrying about people getting all up in her business about who she was dancing with or checking out, whether it be a boy or another girl.
There was a reason why the Luxen were comfortable coming here. Foretoken was welcoming to everyone, no matter their sexuality, gender, race, or . . . species. They weren’t a human-only establishment, which was rare nowadays when it came to privately owned businesses.
Tonight was special, though. There was this girl Heidi had been talking to, and she wanted me to meet her. And I wanted to meet her, so I needed to stop acting like a dork who’d never been to a club before.
I could totally do this.
Smiling at Heidi, I poked her back. “No. I’m fine. I’m just being stupid.”
She stared at me a moment, cautious. “You sure?”
“Yes.” I nodded for extra emphasis. “Let’s do this.”
Another moment passed and then Heidi broke out in a wide smile. She leaned over, throwing her arms around me. “You’re the best.” She squeezed me tight, causing me to giggle. “Seriously.”
“I know.” I patted her arm. “I put the awe in awesome.”
She snort-laughed in my ear. “You are so weird.”
“I told you I am.” I untangled myself from her hug and then reached for the car door before I could chicken out. “Ready?”
“Yep,” she chirped.
I climbed out and immediately shrieked as cold rain hit the bare skin of my arms. I slammed the door shut and then darted across the dark street, my hands forming the weakest shield ever over my hair. I’d spent way too much time curling the long strands into waves for the rain to ruin it.
Water splashed over my heels, and when I hopped up on the sidewalk, I was surprised I hadn’t slipped and fallen face-first into the asphalt.
Heidi was right behind me, laughing as she rushed under the awning, shaking the mist of rain from her pin-straight crimson hair.
“Holy crap, this rain is cold,” I gasped. It felt more like the rain that fell in October than in early September.
“My makeup isn’t running down my face like I’m some chick about to be killed in a horror movie?” she asked, reaching for the door.
Laughing, I tugged on the hem of my strappy blue dress I normally wore leggings under. One wrong move and everyone would see the skull design on my undies. “No. Everything is where it should be.”
“Perfect.” She pulled on the massive red door with a grunt.
Violet light spilled outside, along with the heavy thump of music. A small entryway appeared, leading to another door, this one a deeper purple, but between that door and us was a man sitting on a stool.
A gigantic man.
A huge bald man wearing jean overalls and absolutely nothing else under them. Studs glinted from piercings all over his face—his eyebrows, under his eye, and his lips. A bolt went straight through his septum.
My eyes widened. Oh my word. . . .
“Hey, Mr. Clyde.” Heidi grinned, completely unfazed.
“Yo.” He looked from her to me. His head cocked to the side as his eyes narrowed slightly. That couldn’t be good. “IDs.”
I didn’t dare smile as I pulled my ID out of the little card slot on my wristlet. If I did smile, I would totally look like I was seventeen and close to peeing myself. So I didn’t even blink.
Clyde glanced at the IDs and then nodded toward the black door. I peeked at Heidi, and she winked.
For real?
That was all he was going to do?
Some of the tension leaked out of my neck and shoulders as I shoved my ID back into its slot. Well, that was exceptionally easy. I should do this more often.
“Thanks!” Heidi patted Clyde’s big, bulky shoulder as she went for the door.
I was still standing in front of him, like an idiot. “Th-thank you.”
Clyde raised a brow as he pinned me with a look that had me quickly wishing I’d just kept my mouth shut.
Heidi reached back, grabbed my hand, and yanked me forward as she opened the second door. I turned, and every one of my senses was immediately overwhelmed by, well, everything.
The thump of heavy drums poured from speakers, coming from every corner of a large room. The tempo was fast, the lyrics a blur as white light burst from the ceiling, shining over the dance floor for a few seconds before tossing it back into shadowy darkness.
People were everywhere, sitting at high, round tables and lounging on oversized couches and chairs under alcoves. The center of the floor was a mess of twisting, churning bodies, arms up and hair flying. Overlooking the throng of dancers was a raised stage shaped like a horseshoe. Rapidly flickering bulbs lit the edge of the stage, and dancers up there urged on the crowd below with their shouts and their hips.
“This place is pretty wild, isn’t it?” Heidi curled her arm around mine.
My wide gaze bounced from person to person as the scent of perfume and cologne mingled. “Yeah.”
“I so want to get on that stage.” Heidi grinned when my eyes widened. “That is my goal for the night.”
“Well, it’s always good to have goals,” I replied dryly. “But can’t you just walk up there?”
Her brows lifted and she laughed. “No. You have to be invited up there.”
“By who? God?”
She snorted. “Something like that—” She squeaked suddenly. “There she is.”
“Where?” Eager to see this girl, I scanned the crowd.
Heidi stepped into my side and slowly turned so our bodies were angled toward one of the large shadowy recesses behind the tables. “There.”
Soft candlelight lit the alcove, casting a glow over the area. I doubted candles were safe in a bar, but what did I know? More oversized chairs flanked a gold-trimmed, crushed red velvet couch that looked like an antique. Two of the chairs were occupied. I could see only profiles. One was a blond guy staring down at his phone. His jaw was clenched like he was trying to snap a walnut shell in two with his teeth.
Across from him was another guy with a shockingly blue Mohawk—like, Smurf blue. His head was thrown back, and even though I couldn’t hear him, I could tell he was letting out a laugh of the deep-belly variety. My gaze shifted to his left.
I saw her then.
Good Lord, girl was gorgeous.
Easily a head taller than Heidi and I, she had the most awesome haircut ever. Her dark hair was buzzed on one side and shoulder length on the other, showing off the sculpted angles of her face. I was so jealous of that haircut, because I didn’t have the courage or the face to pull something like that off. She looked a little bored as she eyed the dance floor. I started to turn back to Heidi, but then a tall figure cut in front of the girl and sat on the couch.
It was a man with sandy-blond hair cropped close to the skull. The haircut reminded me of what you saw from guys in the military. From what I could see of his profile, he appeared to be older than we were. Maybe in his midtwenties? A little older? He didn’t exactly look happy. His mouth was moving a mile a minute. My gaze shifted to who he’d sat down next to.
My lips parted on a soft inhale.
The reaction was startling and embarrassing. I sort of wanted to smack myself, but in my defense, the guy was stunning, the kind of beauty that almost didn’t seem real at first.
Messy brown hair toppled over his forehead in waves and curls. Even from where I was standing, I could tell that his face knew no bad angle, the kind of face that needed no filter. Impossibly high and broad cheekbones were paired with a carved, square jaw. His mouth really was a work of art, full and tipped up on one corner, forming a rather impressive smirk as he eyed the man who’d sat next to him. I was too far to away to see his eyes, but I imagined they were just as striking as the rest of him.
But the allure went beyond the physical.
Power and authority radiated from him, sending an odd shiver curling down my spine. Nothing about what he was wearing stood out—just dark jeans and a gray shirt with something written on it. Maybe it was the way he was sitting, thighs spread and one arm tossed over the back of the couch. Everything about the lazy sprawl looked arrogant and somehow misleading. He appeared as if he were seconds away from taking a nap even as the man beside him became more animated, but there was the distinct impression in the way his fingers tapped along the gold trim that said he could spring into action at any given second.
“Do you see her?” Heidi asked, startling me.
Goodness, did I forget Heidi was there or something? I had, which meant I needed to get a grip. Dude was hot, but come on. I was here for Heidi.
I dragged my gaze from the guy and then nodded. None of these people, except for the blond guy and the one who’d just sat down, looked old enough to be anywhere near this club. Then again, neither did we. “Is that her?”
“Yes. That’s Emery.” She squeezed my arm. “What do you think?”
“She’s really pretty.” I glanced over at Heidi. “Are you going to go over and talk to her?”
“I don’t know. I think I’m going to let her come to me.”
Heidi nodded as she sucked her bottom lip between her teeth. “The last three times, I approached her. I think I’m going to let her find her way to me this time. Like, see if it’s just a one-sided interest or not, you know?”
My brows rose as I stared at my friend. Heidi was not shy or patient, nor did she get nervous. That could only mean one thing. I clasped my hands together. “You’re really into her, aren’t you?”
“I like her,” Heidi said after a moment. A small grin appeared. “I just want to make sure she likes me.” She lifted a shoulder. “We’ve talked a little and danced, but she hasn’t asked for my number or asked to meet up outside of here.”
“Have you asked for hers?”
“Will you?”
“Hoping she’ll make that move.” Heidi exhaled loudly. “I’m being stupid. I should just ask for hers and get it over with.”
“You’re not being stupid. I would be doing the same thing, but I think you should at least ask for her number tonight. That should be your goal.”
“True,” she replied, forehead creasing. “But that stage . . .”
“Stop with the stage.” I laughed.
The truth was, I wasn’t the best person to be dispensing relationship advice. I’d only ever been in one somewhat serious relationship, and Brandon and I had lasted a whopping three months, ending right before summer.
I broke up with him over text.
I was that person.
As awful as it was to admit to even myself, I’d only gone out with Brandon because all my friends had been coupling off and, well, peer pressure was a bitch and I wanted to feel whatever it was they kept going on and on about every time they posted online or in their snaps. I wanted to be . . . I wanted to know what that felt like. I wanted to fall in love.
And all I did was fall into boredom.
I drew in a shallow breath as my gaze found its way back to the couch, the one with the guy with the messy bronze hair. He looked about my age. Maybe a year or two older. Instinct told me that anything to do with him would not be boring. “Who . . . who is that?”
Heidi seemed to know who I was talking about without my pointing him out. “His name is Luc.”
“Just Luc?”
“No last name?”
She laughed as she spun me around, away from them. “Never heard his last name. He’s just Luc, but you see the blond guy who appears as friendly as a rabid porcupine?”
“The one looking at his phone?” I smiled, because that felt like a good description of the guy.
She started walking around the dance floor, pulling me with her. “He’s a Luxen.”
“Oh.” I resisted the urge to look over my shoulder to see if he was wearing a metal band around his wrist. I hadn’t noticed it when I saw the phone in his hands.
The band was known as a Disabler, a form of technology that neutralized the Luxen’s otherworldly talents, which were derived by what the Luxen called the Source. The Source. Still sounded completely made-up, but it was real and it was deadly dangerous. If they attempted to go all Luxen on someone, the Disabler stopped them by releasing shocks equivalent to being hit by a Taser. While that wasn’t pleasant for anyone, it was particularly painful and debilitating to the Luxen.
Not to mention, all public spaces were designed to immediately quell any incidents that may arise with the Luxen. The shiny reddish-black metal above every door and the specks in the ceilings of most establishments were some kind of aerosol weapons that had no effect on humans.
Whatever mist it dispensed supposedly caused extreme pain. I’d never seen it happen—thankfully—but my mom had. She’d told me it was one of the worst things she’d ever witnessed.
I doubted Foretoken had such a weapon installed.
Because I was nosy, I asked, “Is Luc a Luxen?”
“Probably. Never been close enough to him to tell for sure, but I’m guessing he is.” Their eye color was usually a dead giveaway, as was the Disabler. All registered Luxen were required to wear them.
We stopped near the stage, and Heidi slipped her arm free. “But the guy with the blue hair? He’s definitely human. I think his name is Kent or Ken.”
“Cool,” I murmured, curling an arm over my stomach. My wristlet dangled. “What about Emery?”
Heidi looked over my shoulder at Emery. Relations of the fun and naughty kind between humans and Luxen were illegal. No one could stop a Luxen and a human from getting together, but the two couldn’t marry and they faced hefty fines if their relationship was reported.
“She’s human,” Heidi answered.
I honestly couldn’t care less if a Luxen and human wanted to engage in a little bow-chicka-bow-wow. Not like it impacted me on any level, nor was it any of my business, but relief still swept through me. I was happy that Heidi wasn’t trying to get involved with someone she’d have to hide her relationship with while also risking paying thousands of dollars or going to jail if she couldn’t pay it. Heidi would be eighteen soon. The responsibility to pay such a ridiculous fine wouldn’t fall on her family.
I glanced up at the stage again, spotting the girl dancing closest to us. “Wow. She’s beautiful.”
Heidi followed my stare and nodded. The girl was older with a head full of shimmery blond hair. She spun and twisted, her body snakelike in its movements.
Arms in the air, hands clasped together, the girl whirled, and her skin was . . . it was fading and blurring around the edges, almost like she was disappearing right in front of us.
The girl was definitely on the away team. Luxen had this wild ability to assimilate our DNA and look like this, like humans, but that wasn’t their true appearance. When they were in their real form, they glowed like a high-watt lightbulb. I’d never seen what was under all the bright light, but my mom told me they had skin that was nearly translucent. Kind of like a jellyfish’s.
Heidi cast a grin over at me. “I’m going to dance. You coming?”
I hesitated as I looked at the teeming throng. I did love to dance . . . in the privacy of my bedroom, where I could look like a double-jointed Muppet. “I’m going to grab a water first.”
She pointed a finger at me. “You better join me.”
Maybe I would, but just not now. As I backed up, I watched her disappear onto the mass of twisting bodies, and then I wheeled around and moved along the edge of the stage. I made my way to the bar, squeezing between two occupied stools. The bartender was down at the other end of the bar, and I had no idea how to get his attention. Should I lift my hand and wave it around like I was hailing a cab? I didn’t think so. That would look stupid. How about the three-finger Hunger Games salute? I’d just seen the movie on TV last weekend. A marathon of all four movies had been playing, so I felt like I could pull it off. I volunteer for a glass of water.
Luckily, the bartender was slowly making his way to where I stood. I opened my wristlet and tapped on the screen of my phone. There was a missed text from Zoe. A call from April and—
An odd feeling started at the nape of my neck. It was like a breath with no air. It traveled down my spine, raising the tiny hairs all over my body. It felt like . . .
It felt like someone was standing right behind me.
I zipped up my tiny purse and then glanced over my shoulder, half expecting to come face-to-face with someone, but no one was there. At least not creepily close or anything. I scanned the crowd. There were so many people, but no one seemed to be paying any attention to me. The feeling, though, it only increased.
I swallowed hard as my gaze tracked over to that alcove.
The guy who’d sat down was gone, but the big guy in overalls—Mr. Clyde—was inside. He was leaning over that old-looking couch, speaking to Luc, and Luc was—oh God—he was staring straight at me. Anxiety burst open, spreading through my system like a noxious weed.
Did Clyde realize we had fake IDs?
Okay. Wait a second. He had to have known from the moment we came in that we had fake IDs, and even if he now had a problem with the IDs, why would he report that to Luc? I was being ridiculously paranoid—
“Yo. Need a drink?”
Twisting back to the bar, I nodded nervously. Bartender was a Luxen. Those bright green eyes were definitely not in the human color wheel. My gaze dipped. The silver band was tight around his wrist. “Just a, um, a water.”
“Coming up.” He grabbed a plastic cup, filling it up with water he poured from a bottle, and then shoved a clear straw into it. “No charge.”
“Thanks.” I took the cup and then slowly turned back around. What to do? What to do?
Sipping my drink, I ambled around the stage and stopped by a pillar that looked like a unicorn had puked glitter all over it. I stretched up on the tips of my toes and scanned the crowd until I found Heidi.
A wide smile broke out across my face. She wasn’t alone. Emery had come to her, and she was eyeing Heidi like I eyed tacos on most days.
That was what I wanted at some point in my life, for someone to look at me like I looked at tacos.
Heidi’s back was to me, her shoulders swaying as Emery’s arm swept around Heidi’s waist. I so wasn’t going to bust up their little dance party. I would wait until they were done. Meanwhile, I was going to do my best not to think about how I looked lurking by the edge of the dance floor. Since I knew I probably looked pretty dumb. Maybe even a little creepy. I took another drink. Wasn’t like standing here all night was a viable—
I turned at the sound of a vaguely familiar voice. Shock splashed through me. A girl from school stood behind me. We had had class together last year. English. “Colleen?”
She smiled as she tilted her head. The tops of her cheekbones glittered. She had the smoky eye thing going on, just like me. “What in the world are you doing here?”
I lifted a shoulder. “Just hanging out. You?”
“With some friends.” Her brows knitted as she tucked several strands of blond hair behind her ear. “I didn’t know you hung out here.”
“Um, this is my first time.” I took a sip of water as I glanced over my shoulder. I didn’t know Colleen all that well, so I had no idea if this was something she did every weekend or if this was her first time here too. “Do you come here a lot?”
“Sometimes.” She smoothed a hand over the skirt of her dress. It was a slightly lighter blue than mine, and strapless. “I didn’t know you liked to come—” Her head jerked toward the dance floor, and her flushed cheeks deepened in color. I thought maybe someone had called her name. “I’ve got to go. You’ll be here for a while?”
I nodded, having no idea how long I’d be here.
“Cool.” She started backing up, grinning. “We should chat later. Okay?”
“Okay.” I wiggled my fingers at her and watched as she turned, slipping past the churning bodies along the edge of the dance floor. I knew that people from school came here, but I guess I hadn’t been expecting to see anyone, which was stupid—
A hand landed on my shoulder. Startled, I jumped and water splashed over my hands and hit the front of my dress. Wrenching forward, I pulled away from the grip and spun around, prepared to throat-punch whoever had grabbed me, like my mom had taught me. I froze, my stomach dropping as I found myself staring into the studded face of Mr. Clyde.
Oh, this couldn’t be good.
“Hi?” I said weakly.
“You need to come with me.” The hand on my shoulder grew heavier. “Now.”

Friday, October 26, 2018

#Review - Fury (Menagerie #3) by Rachel Vincent (Urban Fantasy)

Series: The Menagerie Series (#3)
Format: Paperback, 336 pages
Release Date: October 30, 2018
Publisher: MIRA
Source: Publisher
Genre: Fantasy / Urban

Told through two intersecting timelines, the grand finale to Rachel Vincent’s stunning Menagerie series will reveal the secret of how Delilah Marlow became a furiae just as she discovers what her true purpose is…

In 1986, humanity experienced The Reaping— a nationwide slaughter of six-year-old children by their parents—one of the country’s most horrific tragedies. What’s even more terrifying: the revelation that the few six-year-old survivors of the country’s greatest tragedy are now thought to have caused it. These aren’t the children their families believed they were. In truth, they were fae changelings brought home from the hospital in place of the real babies they were exchanged for. From that day forward, the world would never trust another cryptid. For if the fae were capable of such dark evil, surely all cryptid creatures posed a danger to humanity…

Now, Delilah Marlow and a rogue group of cryptids are on the run, having narrowly escaped the horrors of the Savage Spectacle, a private collection of "exotic wildlife” that specialized in ruthless cryptid cage matches, safari-style creature hunts and living party favors. As they travel in search of lost family members and cryptid friends, Delilah struggles with the difficulties of pregnancy, complicated by the bitter memory of how her child was conceived.

Then one morning Delilah wakes up with dried blood all over her hands. Though she has no memory of it, she obviously went somewhere—and possibly killed someone—in her sleep. Soon, Delilah finds herself constantly pulled by the furiae, which she hasn’t felt stir within her in quite a while, but who she has no choice but to follow. As she is compelled to act of the furiae’s impulses, she’s beginning to realize that something much bigger is at stake. There is something connecting her victims, something more than the usual injustice she kills them for—and perhaps something as dangerous as another Reaping.

Fury is the third and final installment in author Rachel Vincent's The Menagerie series. The Menagerie series is a captivating blend of carnival magic and startling humanity, and this final book is an intricately woven and powerful tale about the fight for freedom and self-discovery. This series combines all the key elements (magic, mystery, fantastical creatures and an important quest). Told through two intersecting timelines, the grand finale to Rachel Vincent’s stunning Menagerie series will reveal the secret of how Delilah Marlow became a furiae just as she discovers what her true purpose is.

In 1986, 14-year old Rebecca Essing arrives home to blood and death. She is understandably shocked that her parents might have murdered her siblings in cold blood while leaving the youngest to live. Humanity just experienced The Reaping. A nationwide slaughter of children by their parents—one of the country’s most horrific tragedies. What’s even more terrifying: the revelation that the six-year-old survivors are now thought to have caused it not the parents. What's even worse, these aren’t the children their families believed they were. 

In truth, they were fae changelings brought home from the hospital in place of the real babies they were exchanged for. The world would never trust another cryptid. For if the fae were capable of such dark evil, surely all cryptid creatures posed a danger to humanity. Rebecca's story takes readers from the day of the Reaping, until the year 2000 when fate intersects with Delilah Marlow's history thanks to Rebecca's own actions which will have long lasting consequences. Rebecca's story is a mixture of shock, sadness, and darkness for which you can't measure with mere words.

2016, Delilah Marlow and a rogue group of cryptids (Lenore, Zyanya, Eryx, Gallagher, Genevieve & Rommily) are on the run, having narrowly escaped the horrors of the Savage Spectacle, a private collection of "exotic wildlife” that specialized in ruthless cryptid cage matches, safari-style creature hunts and living party favors. As they travel in search of lost family members and cryptid friends, Delilah struggles with the difficulties of pregnancy, complicated by the bitter memory of how her child was conceived and Gallagher's desire for bloodshed.

Then one morning Delilah wakes up with dried blood all over her hands. Though she has no memory of it, she obviously went somewhere—and possibly killed someone—in her sleep. Soon, Delilah finds herself constantly pulled by the furiae, which she hasn’t felt stir within her in quite a while, but who she has no choice but to follow. As she is compelled to act of the furiae’s impulses, she’s beginning to realize that something much bigger is at stake.  This is where we learn why and how fate chose Delilah to be it's instrument. There is something connecting her victims, something more than the usual injustice she kills them for—and perhaps something as dangerous as another Reaping…

I have to say that both timelines are dark, filled with emotion, and you really can't put into words what both Rebecca and Delilah go through. You could, but you would be ruining it for other who haven't read this book yet. Rebecca finding out her sister wasn't her sister, Delilah learning that she may have a connection to the 1986 Reaping that left thousands dead, and a world changed forever. For me, Rebecca's timeline was the most appealing, until the final chapters which stay with Delilah, and Gallagher.  I am emotionally drained from reading the final chapters. I think the author was brave to choose this avenue, but at the same time, I wish things could have somehow managed to bring the two timelines together when all was said and done.

Thursday, October 25, 2018

#Review - Archangel's Prophecy by Nalini Singh #Paranormal #Romance

Series: Guild Hunter # 11
Format: E-Galley, 400 pages
Release Date: October 30, 2018
Publisher: Berkley
Source: Publisher
Genre: Romance / Paranormal

Return to New York Times bestselling author Nalini Singh’s darkly passionate Guild Hunter world, where human-turned-angel Elena Deveraux, consort to Archangel Raphael, is thrust center stage into an eons-old prophecy…

Midnight and dawn, Elena’s wings are unique among angelkind—and now they are failing. The first mortal to be turned into an immortal in angelic memory, she’s regressing. Becoming more and more human. Easier to hurt. Easier to kill.

Elena and Raphael must unearth the reason for the regression before Elena falls out of the sky. Yet even as they fight a furious battle for Elena’s very survival, violent forces are gathering across the world. In China, the Archangel Favashi is showing the first signs of madness. In New York, a mysterious sinkhole filled with lava swallows a man whole. In Africa, torrential monsoon rains flood rolling deserts. And in Elena’s mind, whispers a haunting voice that isn’t her own.

This time, survival may not be possible…not even for the consort of an archangel.

Story Locale: Alternate USA

Archangel's Prophecy, by author Nalini Singh, is the 11th installment in the authors Guild Hunter series. Welcome back once again to an Alternative US where Archangel's, vampires, and Guild Hunters play a dangerous game where only the strongest survive. One of the strongest is Elena Deveraux. Elena is an Hunter-Angel born with the capacity to track vampires and angels by their scent. She is also consort to the most powerful immortal in North America; Archangel Raphael.

This book is really a multi-pronged story arc. First, it appears as though the second incarnation of the Cascade: a confluence of time and unknown critical events that ignited a power shift in Archangels, has returned and this time it may be Elena herself who is the one that the Cascade will affect the most. Elena finds herself shedding feathers and nothing seems to actually work to help her explain the problem, or why it is happening to her now.

What's even more bizarre, is that someone, presumably a sleeper Archangel, has noticed Elena and is whispering things in her mind. Things that are so shocking that you have to wonder if the author is going to go there. As an Angel-Made, Elena is breaking new ground that hasn't been seen in millennial. You really have to feel for what Elena is going through in this story, while also questioning some of the things she does. 

She keeps getting weaker and weaker and one has to wonder if she is reverting back to her human form, or if the author has something sinister in plan for her whenever she next features Elena and Raphael.  The next part of the story hits close to home when her brother-in-law Harrison is attacked by an unknown assailant and her sister is threatened which sends Elena on a mission to find those responsible. The further she searches, along with Ashwini and Janvier, the deeper she gets into the city she lives in, and the vampires who are looking for the next big thing when it comes to stimulation. With Elena slowly unraveling, finding Harrison's attacker becomes a priority above everything else.

I will say this, Elena's struggles are real, but the Harrison issue was a bit too easily solved. Instead of fighting for her own survival, she kind of just acts like nothing is wrong, and that she will survive because of her love for Raphael. Not to put the horse before the cart, but I have a very bad feeling that things are going to get even more bizarre from here on out. My advice is to ignore all the reviews of your favorite bloggers, pick up the book, and see for yourself what sinister things the author has conjured up in order to make this story one of the more curious endings in this entire series. It's only fair to warn you that the book ends on a blistering cliffhanger.

By Nalini Singh

Illium turned in a direction that would take them to the Catskills if they kept on going.
Sweeping closer to him, she said, “You just want to fly?”
Hair rippling in the quiet but cutting wind, he twisted down in a complicated fall before flying back up to her side. She laughed at his showing off. That was Illium. An angel of violent power who had a heart that might almost be mortal. And, these days, she could appreciate his tricks again. Not a single angel in the city had been ready to witness his acrobatics in the immediate aftermath of the day he’d crashed out of the sky.
Elena would never forget her screaming fear.
To his credit, Illium had flown with absolute discretion for months, letting the memory dull and fade.
When he returned to her side today, his face was flushed, the gold of his eyes rich. “Sky’s too beautiful to shut ourselves away in a club.”
“Just don’t forget I’m not as fast as you. Also, I’m currently lame.”
Illium lifted one cupped hand close to his shoulder, the other moving back and forth . . . and she realized he was playing a tiny violin in response to her morose tone.
“Crossbow, Bluebell.” Narrowed eyes. “Remember the crossbow.”
He dived, his wicked laughter floating up on the night air. Lips twitching, Elena continued to glide, letting the air currents sweep her along with cold but gentle hands. Illium, meanwhile, flew circles around her—but he never went far, always close enough to halt her descent should she tumble.
She landed a number of times to rest her wings, once in an isolated park whispering and dark. A luminescent insect appeared then disappeared from sight before she could truly see it, an earthbound star. The ghostly owl sitting on a tree branch watched her with eyes even more luminous.
A sigh deep in her mind, an old, old presence restless in Sleep.
The hairs rose on her arms.
Then Illium shot them both up into the sky again, and together, they flew far beyond the diamond-bright skyline of the city and over the sleeping homes of ordinary people who lived in a world of vampires and angels, blood and immortality.
Another rest stop for Elena.
Another throb of pain from the cut on her forearm.
Another watchful owl, this one landing on Illium’s shoulder without his knowledge. Ashwini had told her not to be afraid of the owls, so Elena ignored the goose bumps and said, Hello, with her mind. A good night to fly.
A vein began to throb at her temple.
The answer came a long time later, after they were in the air again, the glow of the sinkhole visible from the distance.
It has been an eon since I flew.

Posted by arrangement with Berkley, a member of Penguin Group (USA) LLC, A Penguin Random House Company. Copyright © Nalini Singh, 2018.