Tuesday, April 30, 2019

#Review - Defy the Fates by Claudia Gray #YALIT #SyFy

Series: Constellation #3
Format: Hardcover, 480 pages
Release Date: April 2, 2019
Publisher: Little, Brown Books For Young Readers
Source: Library
Genre: Young Adult / Science Fiction

The stunning finale to the Defy the Stars trilogy from the New York Times bestselling author of Star Wars: Lost Stars and Bloodline.

Hunted and desperate.

Abel only has one mission left that matters: save the life of Noemi Vidal. To do that, he not only has to escape the Genesis authorities, he also must face the one person in the galaxy who still has the means to destroy him. Burton Mansfield's consciousness lives on, desperate for a home, and Abel's own body is his last bargaining chip.

Alone in the universe.

Brought back from the brink of death, Noemi Vidal finds she's something more. Noemi must find her place in a universe where she is utterly unique, all while trying to create a world where anyone--even a mech--can be free.

The final battle between Earth and the colony planets is here, and there's no lengths to which Earth won't go to preserve its domination over all humanity. But together, the universe's most advanced mech and its first human-mech hybrid might have the power to change the galaxy for good.

Defy The Fates is the third and final installment in author Claudia Gray's Constellation Trilogy. The story picks up right where Defy The World ended with a shocking cliffhanger. Now, the author has a choice: Does she make readers believe that everything is going to be fine, or does she twist the story so radically that it will fundamentally change the lives of both main Abel, the galaxy's most advance artificial cybernetic intelligence mech and Noemi Vidal, a solider of Genesis who has put her life on the line time and time again in order to save her planet from being crushed by Earth?

Let me start by saying that Abel spends a whole lot of time making choices that affect both his and Noemi's lives. Some of the choices don't really make any sense, and some make sense if you are trying to send a message that it doesn't matter who are what you are in order to find love and a happy ending. Abel also believes that once his choice is made, that Noemi will no longer think highly of him, or love him any longer now that choice has been taken away from her. 

That being said, I think Noemi's heroism will always be the one thing that I will remember after reading this series. From the beginning, she volunteered to be a sacrifice in order to stop Earth from invading Genesis, then she met Abel who had spent 30 years in confinement aboard a ship once called Daedalus. Abel and Noemi are the only mech and human to ever step foot on every single one of the planets that the author has created from the start of this series, to the end of the series. Noemi has a fascinating story that I won't spoil because it's huge. 

I said after the end of the previous novel that I saw what the author had planned for her, and whether I agreed or not, the choice wasn't mine to make. I am glad that the author once again gave story time to such characters as Virginia, Harriet, Zayan, Ephraim and Delphine. Whether you like them or not, and I do love Virginia, they add another layer to the story and also are characters who Abel and Noemi can call on for help since Genesis has turned into something she no longer recognizes. In one way, the author definitely makes a case for racism with the choice made against Noemi.

Yes, this book does have more more romance than the previous books, and that comes after Abel makes a choice for Noemi which will have lasting consequences for both of them. I will say that I think the author spent too much time on the whole Abel, Mansfield & Gillian plot. Had she wrapped that storyline sooner, the end of the so called Liberty War would not have felt as rushed as it did. As it is, the ending is really just one chapter when everyone comes together in order to decide the fate of both Earth and Genesis.


Monday, April 29, 2019

#Review - Aurora Rising by Kristoff & Kaufman #YALIT #SyFy

Series: Aurora Cycle (#1)
Format: Hardcover, 480 pages
Release Date: May 7, 2019
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers
Source: Publisher
Genre: Young Adult / Science Fiction

From the New York Times and internationally bestselling authors of the Illuminae Files comes a new science fiction epic…

The year is 2380, and the graduating cadets of Aurora Academy are being assigned their first missions. Star pupil Tyler Jones is ready to recruit the squad of his dreams, but his own boneheaded heroism sees him stuck with the dregs nobody else in the academy would touch…

Ty’s squad isn’t even his biggest problem—that’d be Aurora Jie-Lin O’Malley, the girl he’s just rescued from interdimensional space. Trapped in cryo-sleep for two centuries, Auri is a girl out of time and out of her depth. But she could be the catalyst that starts a war millions of years in the making, and Tyler’s squad of losers, discipline cases, and misfits might just be the last hope for the entire galaxy.

The Andromeda Cycle (Book 2): Coming Spring 2020 

“We the legion. We the light. Burning bright against the night.”

Aurora Rising is the first installment in co-authors Jay Kristoff and Amie Kaufman's The Aurora Cycle trilogy. Things you should know. If you've read the Illuminae series by this writing duo, you will enjoy this book. The big difference is that the authors have chosen to alternative POV's between 7 characters in order to tell their story. Yes, I did say 7 main characters so you will want to make sure you get your highlighter ready so that you know who is who.

This is an eclectic group of characters lead by Squad Leader First Class Tyler Jones. Tyler is 18 and at the top of his class at Aurora Academy in most categorizes. He is eagerly waiting for the Draft to pick who will become part of his first crew. But, after his heroism in rescuing a girl we soon learn is Aurora Jie-Lin O'Malley from a stranded ship known as Hadfield said to have disappeared 220 years ago, Tyler ends up with a crew that includes not only his own sister, and a girl that he may or may not have feelings for, but a range of characters from humans to aliens that have a whole lot of issues and baggage.

Meet the crew:  

Scarlett Jones, Ty’s older-by-several-minutes twin, is the team’s Face (ambassador). She can speak all known languages. She knows her brother, the most decorated Alpha at the Academy, got screwed when he saved Auri's life. For 5 years, the two of them have worked hard to get where they are after losing their father. Scar has a laundry list of ex-boyfriends, but it's her loyalty to her brother and her friendship with Cat, that are her most important features. 

Catherine "Cat" Brannock is the teams Ace pilot. She decides to stand alongside Tyler even though they both have a bit of a past together and she doesn't know if there are true feelings for him, or if it was just a one time ride in the hay with no regrets. Things continue to be awkward between the two.    Zila Madran is Human (Terran) who is scientist who has a fondness for shooting her bunkmates, and being a sociopath. Zila may be top of her class in the sciences but she has a nasty tendency to use her classmates as lab rats. 

Betraskan Finian de Karran de Seelis is in the top tenth percentile of his class and is the master of Tech Division but his black belt in snark can make him a difficult hang. He's 19,  he's a smart as a whip, but sometimes carries a chip the size of Jupiter on his shoulder. If he's not careful, someone will knock him down to size.  Syldrathi combat specialist Kalis (Kal) Idraban Gilwraeth, aka the squadron’s Tank. His race and the Terrans have recently signed a peace agreement ending years of conflict. But, Kal is on an island all is own as a warrior class who choose to help the Aurora Legion instead of people fighting against each other. Auri considers him to be elf like in nature.

Finally, there is Aurora Jie-Lin O'Malley (Auri) who left Earth with hundreds of other colonists only to find themselves lost in the Fold which allows inter-stellar travel between worlds. Auri is mysterious, beautiful, with a curious gray streak in her hair and an eye that just happens to glow at times. Auri has lots of secrets that I won't spoil because it leads to more questions that the authors will have to unravel in the next two installments. 

Let's talk about the book, shall we? After Tyler and his crew are given their first mission after the draft failure, there is a wicked curve ball thrown at them from those Tyler has trusted for the past 5 years. You've got to have faith that I'm not going to spoil anything in this book other than to tell you that once the crew arrives at its mission destination, all hell breaks loose. 

The crew is chased by some really dangerous people, including their own. The crew also has to try to solve a serious mystery that may have galactic consequences for all known races. They have to decide whether or not to stick together or abandon all hope and let's the chips fall where they might. There is intense action in this book right from the beginning and doesn't let up. 

The last chapters of this book crushed my soul and let me weeping. That's nothing new if you've read anything by this writing duo, especially Kristoff. I will only say one negative about the copy I received. I could not read the graphics that appear before every chapter. If I had a finalized copy of the book, perhaps my review would have been higher. The graphics tell information that I believe is necessary to enjoy what the authors have created and the alien species that have their own identity and conflicts as well.


Friday, April 26, 2019

#Review - The Night Window by Dean Koontz #Thrillers #Suspense

Series:  Jane Hawk (#5)
Format: Hardcover, 432 pages
Release Date: May 14, 2019
Publisher: Bantam
Source: Publisher
Genre: Thrillers / Suspense

Groundbreaking, wholly involving, eerily prescient and terrifyingly topical, Dean Koontz’s Jane Hawk series sets a new standard for contemporary thrillers. Since her sensational debut in The Silent Corner, readers have been riveted by Jane Hawk’s resolute quest to take down the influential architects of an accelerating operation to control every level of society via an army of mind-altered citizens. At first, only Jane stood against the “Arcadian” conspirators, but slowly others have emerged to stand with her, even as there are troubling signs that the “adjusted” people are beginning to spin viciously out of control. Now, in the thrilling, climactic showdown that will decide America’s future, Jane will require all her resources—and more—as she confronts those at the malevolent, impregnable center of power.

The Night Window is the Fifth and final installment in author Dean Koontz Jane Hawk Series. Jane's fight with the Techno Arcadian's comes to an end with some very interesting twists and surprises. Nicknamed "The Beautiful Monster", found guilty of treason and murder, Former FBI Agent Jane Hawk is at the end of her rope with very little help and a road that is just as terrifying as one can imagine when you have massive parts of the government, media, and others telling everyone what a delusional and dangerous person Jane really is.

Never mind that Jane's husband Nick was killed by the Arcadian's. Never mind that she's found a network of Techno Arcadian's who have used a so called Hamlet list to remove anyone they believe is dangerous to their Utopia. Never mind that her 5 year old son Travis is in harm's way and has been threatened with all sorts of violence, torture, and other things that one can't imagine in a so called civilized society. Never mind the fact that thousands of people have been intentionally murdered and thousands of other people have been "adjusted" by a conspiracy of unprecedented proportions that would like to murder up to 200,000 more people so that they can control the world. 

But, now, Jane might have an prayer of actually bringing down the entire Deep State with the help of Vikram Ragnekar a former colleague of Jane's at the FBI. A colleague who used his own unique skill set to begin collecting evidence that could exonerate Jane once and for all. Vikram puts his life on the line when he decides to help Jane and come up with a plan to bring the entire conspiracy down. One could say that this is a more hopeful story that what readers of the first four books discovered. There are more characters like Vikram, Bernie, Cornell, and Thomas Buckle who must face life or death at the hands of the man who is the most responsible for what the Techno Arcadian's have done to so many innocent people.

In fairness, I would not recommend that readers jump in to the series with this book, without understanding the trials and tribulations that Jane, her son, her friends, and those like Bernie and Cornell have had to face just for knowing Jane, and offering her aid and comfort. The major question that remains as the story opens is if can Jane get the proof to someone who will believe her and can she escape with her life that has been torn asunder. I find it interesting that Vikram is the one who uses the comparison of the Invasion of the Body snatchers for those who have been implanted with mind controlling nano technology. It is fair to say that Koontz once against uses vile villains to tell his story. They are absolutely dreadful and represent the darkest of what humankind has to offer.     


Thursday, April 25, 2019

#Review - The Missing Season by Gillian French #YALIT #Thrillers #Suspense

Series: Standalone
Format: Hardcover, 304 pages
Release Date: May 21, 2019
Publisher: HarperTeen
Source: Publisher
Genre: Young Adult / Thrillers & Suspense

From the author of Edgar Award finalist Grit and The Lies They Tell comes a tense, atmospheric novel for readers of E. Lockhart and Marieke Nijkamp about friendship, truth, and the creeping fears that can’t be outrun.

Whenever another kid goes missing in October, the Pender kids know what is really behind it: a horrific monster out in the marshes they have named the Mumbler.

That’s what Clara’s new crew tells her when she moves to town: Bree and Sage, who take her under their wing; spirited Trace, who has taken the lead on this year’s Halloween prank war; and magnetic Kincaid, whose devil-may-care attitude and air of mystery are impossible for Clara to resist.

Clara doesn’t actually believe in the Mumbler. But as Halloween gets closer and tensions build in the town, it’s hard to shake the feeling that there really is something dark and dangerous in Pender, lurking in the shadows, waiting to bring the stories to life.

Gillian French's The Missing Season is set to the backdrop of a small town working-class town in Maine with a colorful cast of characters and an unsettling past that features a character named Mumbler. Pender is like so many other towns in America—a small factory town with a failing economy confronting unemployment and drug abuse—a setting we rarely see in YA fiction. Once again, Gillian has perfectly captured this unglamorous but very realistic setting. 

Pender is where we find Clara Morrison as the new kid on the block who just happens to be starting high school later than anyone else which makes her the next human conversation piece. Clara is soon charmed by a gang of weirdos like Bree, Sage, Trace, Landon, Ivy, and Kincaid who skip class to hang out by the old skate park. Soon enough, she is taking part in their prank wars, their banter, and all of their teenage chemistry that the author has so perfectly captured.

Clara and Kincaid have almost insta-romance made all the more powerful by the fact that he seems so off-limits. But as the two characters are drawn together, the stakes only feel higher. Clara plays the part of the stalwart skeptic, but as Halloween approaches (the Mumbler’s favorite season) she is thrown into disarray when a fellow classmate that she knows disappears without a trace. As the rumors grow louder, Clara and gang find themselves as targets of a unknown villain who may be responsible for other disappearances as well.

The Missing Season blends a bit of urban legend with true crime to mostly keep readers on their seat and entertained. Truth be told, I lost interest somewhere in the middle all of the juvenile pranks that these kids play on people they have no respect for. Not their property, not their animals, especially not their vehicles. Readers get the quick introduction campfire story style in the beginning to introduce both our lead and the readers to the local legend and the history of missing or dead kids before it quickly fades into the background. It isn't until Clara falls for Kincaid that she realizes that someone is watching her. Not impressed wih the ending. It was a non-stop prank show for much of the story then the symphony decided it wasn't going to play any more and walked off stage taking any creepy feelings you might feel by reading about the marsh and its history.


Wednesday, April 24, 2019

#Review - Little Darlings by Melanie Golding #Thrillers #Supernatural

Series: Standalone
Format: Hardcover, 304 pages
Release Date: April 30, 2019
Publisher: Crooked Lane Books
Source: Publisher
Genre: Thrillers / Supernatural

“Mother knows best” takes on a sinister new meaning in this unsettling thriller perfect for fans of Neil Gaiman, Grimms’ Fairy Tales, and Aimee Molloy's The Perfect Mother.

Everyone says Lauren Tranter is exhausted, that she needs rest. And they’re right; with newborn twins, Morgan and Riley, she’s never been more tired in her life. But she knows what she saw: that night, in her hospital room, a woman tried to take her babies and replace them with her own…creatures. Yet when the police arrived, they saw no one. Everyone, from her doctor to her husband, thinks she’s imagining things.

A month passes. And one bright summer morning, the babies disappear from Lauren’s side in a park. But when they’re found, something is different about them. The infants look like Morgan and Riley—to everyone else. But to Lauren, something is off. As everyone around her celebrates their return, Lauren begins to scream, These are not my babies.

Determined to bring her true infant sons home, Lauren will risk the unthinkable. But if she’s wrong about what she saw…she’ll be making the biggest mistake of her life.

Compulsive, creepy, and inspired by some of our darkest fairy tales, Little Darlings will have you checking—and rechecking—your own little ones. Just to be sure. Just to be safe.

Set in present-day England, and spanning the first five weeks following a traumatic childbirth, Lauren Tranter’s hopes and dreams of being a new mom are shattered when she encounters a mother’s worst nightmare—someone is threatening to take her twins if she leaves them alone. The novel ranges from the stark loneliness of returning home after birth to the confines of a psychiatric unit, as the reader is forced to question if Lauren is mad, or does she know something we don’t?

"Changeling- a child believed to have been secretly substituted by fairies for the parents' real child in infancy." 

The story starts towards the end of Lauren's long labor which heralds the arrival of twin babies Morgan and Riley. Lauren spends several days in the hospital with them, wondering when her "love" for her babies will appear. Lauren is exhausted, inexperienced, and gets no real support from her husband Patrick, at any time in the story. I dare say that Patrick turns out to be a right awful prick who for even one moment in time had he took the time to actually understand what his wife was experiencing, perhaps the events that happened would have not transpired.

This story actually follows two distinct characters: Lauren Tranter, and Detective Sergeant Joanna Harper. It is Harper who we not only meet in the beginning of the book, but follow to the end of the book as she tries to piece together what is really happening to Lauren, and whether or not she experiences a phenomenon called puerperal psychosis or if there is something supernatural at play here. How else would you explain the behavior of Lauren from the moment she gives birth to twins Riley and Morgan, and later believes that someone is attempting to steal her babies and replace them with changelings? 

Terrified for her babies, Lauren spends her days locked away in the house with them, until her increasingly annoyed and utterly useless husband insists that she take them out for some fresh air. That day as poor sleep deprived Lauren dozed off for a minute, someone snatched her babies. Lauren no longer her babies but someone else's. Someone else who has been stalking her since Lauren overheard her singing to her own twins in the recovery room and demanded that they switch babies.  

As someone who has never, to my shame, had children, it is hard for me to understand what postpartum depression really is and how it affects the life of a new mother. In several ways, this book is rather disturbing. It also becomes a mystery or sorts to puzzle out the facts from the paranormal. Plus, the ending is rather strange in that it really doesn't the question as to whether or not Lauren experienced what she did, or was a psychosis?


Tuesday, April 23, 2019

#Review - The Lovely and the Lost by Jennifer Lynn Barnes #YALIT #Mystery

Series: Standalone
Format: Hardcover, 336 pages
Release Date: May 7, 2019
Publisher: Freeform
Source: Publisher
Genre: Young Adult / Mysteries

Kira Bennett's earliest memories are of living alone and wild in the woods. She has no idea how long she was on her own or what she had to do to survive, but she remembers the moment that Cady Bennett and one of her search-and-rescue dogs found her. Adopted into the Bennett family, Kira still struggles with human interaction years later, but she excels at the family business: search-and-rescue. Together with Cady's son, Jude, and their neighbor, Free, Kira works alongside Cady to train the world's most elite search-and-rescue dogs. Someday, all three teenagers hope to put their skills to use, finding the lost and bringing them home.

But when Cady's estranged father, the enigmatic Bales Bennett, tracks his daughter down and asks for her help in locating a missing child-one of several visitors who has disappeared in the Sierra Glades National Park in the past twelve months-the teens find themselves on the frontlines sooner than they could have ever expected. As the search through 750,000 acres of unbridled wilderness intensifies, Kira becomes obsessed with finding the missing child. She knows all too well what it's like to be lost in the wilderness, fighting for survival, alone.

But this case isn't simple. There is more afoot than a single, missing girl, and Kira's memories threaten to overwhelm her at every turn. As the danger mounts and long-held family secrets come to light, Kira is forced to question everything she thought she knew about her adopted family, her true nature, and her past.

The story follows the Bennett family Cadence (Cady), one of the best search and rescue dog trainers in the country, her son Jude, her adopted daughter Kira, who she found in the woods 11 years ago, and Phoebe (Free) Morrow who has inserted herself into the family dynamics and refuses to be left behind when the family is asked by Cady's father Bales, to help search for a missing girl who disappeared in Sierra Glades National Park. With its lush mountain setting, pulse-pounding intrigue, cast of unique characters -including a troop of rescue dogs-this book makes a great pitch for television and film. 

Blending the high stakes action of a police procedural with the majestic thrills of a heart-pounding survival story, The Lovely and the Lost explores what it means to be lost and the power of family to bring us home. Barnes has thought out every intricate detail of these characters' backstories, from Kira's time as a feral little girl in the woods who is still trying to fit the pieces as to what really happened to her, to the geneses of Free's independent attitude to Cady's contentious relationship with her father, to the mystery surrounding the town bad boy, Gabriel. 

Readers will love discovering how this cobbled together group of misfits became a loving family unit. The story is filled with adorable dogs with their own unique personalities and their own roles in the action of the story, adding another intriguing layer to the narrative and making this a perfect read for dog-lovers everywhere. If you are a fan of search and rescue stories with dogs, you will enjoy this book. 

For the record, I didn't hate this story even though my rating isn't 4 stars or higher. In fact, I love stories about Search and Rescue and the way the dogs are trained to search out anyone from missing and lost people, to cadavers. I loved Kira's relationship with both Saskia and Silver. My issue was the use of Foster Mother over and over and over and over again even though Kira has been with Cady for 11 years. Was there no attempt made by the Cady to adopt Kira, or was this a mistake by the author? Also, the ending leaves a huge question about what happened to Kira when she was abandoned. I'd like that cleared up but it's unlikely to happen.

He laid his hand on my shoulder, a warm and steady weight. Familiar. Home. And just like that, I was five years old again and six and seven, and Jude was the one person in this world that I trusted. Back then, I wouldn’t have stared down the bullies. Back then, I would have attacked.

“Dude,” one of the townies said under his breath, “is she the one who . . .”

The one they found in the forest all those years ago. The one who’d forgotten how to speak. The one who’d fended for herself for who knows how long.

“And on that note,” Free said, stepping forward, “let’s break this little lovefest up.”


Monday, April 22, 2019

#Review - Storm Cursed by Patricia Briggs (#Urban #Fantasy)

Series: Mercy Thompson #11 
Format: Hardcover, 368 pages
Release Date: May 7, 2019
Publisher: ACE
Source: Publisher
Genre: Urban Fantasy

Mercy Thompson is back and better than ever in the new book in the #1 New York Times bestselling urban fantasy series.

Mercy Thompson has opened her garage again and is trying to get back to normal. Of course, now that the Tri-Cities are viewed as neutral ground, all kinds of supernatural beings are heading her way.

With her mate Adam Hauptman’s firm involved in providing security to a top-secret meeting with the US government and the fae, Mercy is tapped to handle everything else—including reports of a strange witch in town…

Story Locale: alternate Washington state

Storm Cursed, by author Patricia Briggs, is the Eleventh installment in the author's Mercy Thompson series. Everyone's favorite shapeshifting mechanic is back in action after her trials and tribulations in Europe. I will say this, if you haven't been keeping up with the releases in this series, you might find my review a bit on the spoiler-y side and for that I sincerely apologize. It is fair to say that there are a bunch of characters outside of Mercy that you, as a reader, should be paying attention. 

In fact, all of the characters who are important to Mercy and have been part of this series from the beginning, play roles in this story. Especially when things are really getting down to the brass tacks. Once upon a time, a few books ago, Mercy brazenly proclaimed that the Tri-Cities are under the protection of the Columbia Basin Wolf Pack. Mercy, Adam, and the Pack have busy dealing with a variety of hot button issues including those intent on encroaching on their Territory and causing major problems for everyone involved.

Not everyone is thrilled that the pack has taken such a stand, but mostly it's just the typical haters who despise anyone who is different from them. As the story opens, Mercy, Ben, Mary Jo and Larry the Goblin King are called in to take care of a marauding Gremlin. If that isn't enough to whet your whistle, Mercy & gang are asked by a local sheriff to investigate the report of zombified goats. Yes, you did read that right! 

Soon thereafter, Adam informs Mercy that the pack is going to play bodyguards for the upcoming summit between the US government and the Fae Gray Lords. A summit which has been long in the making and could finally bring peace to both humans and fae and ensure that there's not devastation left behind from a war that nobody would win. But, if you think that the author is going to let Mercy and gang off easily, you've got another thing coming! 

She has to add on some pretty evil and twisted enemies who have no inclination of allowing the peace treaty to go forward. As I said before, new and old characters come together to help Mercy keep the peace and thwart the villains. These include Elizaveta, Zee & Adam, Stefan, who Mercy is bound to, as well as Sherwood Post, who came to the pack from Bran's pack, Wulfie, who has plenty of sarcasm and humorous lines, and Uncle Mike just to name a few. 

I have to say that my favorite characters in this book were Sherwood and Wulfie. Wulfie is such a shocking surprise considering what he's done in the past, and Sherwood, well, readers will get plenty to ponder after reading this book. I have to say that Marsilia, the lead vampire, is actually growing on me. She and Mercy may butt heads, but when it comes right down to it, they both need each other to protect their people.

I did have one minor complaint......what the hell was the author thinking when she wrote THAT ending? I'm not going to spoil the ending, but a major character makes a curious statement and now, we have to wait another year, or two before we find out what he actually meant! Rude!


Friday, April 19, 2019

#Review - Dark Shores by Danielle L. Jensen #YALIT #Fantasy

Series: Dark Shores #1
Format: Hardcover, 368 pages
Release Date: May 7, 2019
Publisher: Tor Teen
Source: Publisher
Genre: Young Adult / Fantasy

Piracy, blackmail, and meddling gods meet in this thrilling first novel in a commercial, fast-paced new YA fantasy series by Danielle L. Jensen

Teriana is the daughter of a trading ship captain. Her people have the sea in their bones, their ships are guarded by demigods of the Sea Goddess, and they are the only ones who know how to traverse the never-ending ocean between the East and the West. 

Marcus is the leader of the Thirty-Seventh legion, the notorious army that has led the Celendor Empire to conquer the entire East. The legion is the only family he has, and even they don’t know the secret he’s been hiding since childhood. 

When a tyrannical ruler gains power in Celendor, he kidnaps Teriana’s mother and threatens to reveal Marcus’s deepest secret unless the two of them help him conquer the unknown West. The unwilling pair, distrustful of each other’s motivations, join together for the sake of their families, and must decide how far they are willing to go, and how much of themselves they are willing to sacrifice.


Dark Shores is the first installment in author Danielle L. Jensen's Dark Shores series. Things you should know. This series is based loosely on Ancient Rome. Instead of being called the Roman Empire, here it's the Celendor Empire. The story features dual narratives from 17-year old Teriana, the daughter the Captain of the Quincense and Marcus, the leader of the 37th Legion who has been brought back to Celendor for a mission that the two are forced to work together in order to save Teriana's people.

Teriana's people are seafaring (not calling them pirates) that rely on Gods to guide them on the seas. The Maarin are not controlled by the Empire. They can use any port, and are taxed just like other members of the Cel Empire. They also aren't tax with the so called son tax which says all families must give up their second born son to the Empire. They are also the only ones who know how to traverse the seas from one part of the world to the other using a kind of wormhole that is opened by one of the Gods.

Teriana finds herself as a political pawn in a much larger game after she inadvertently tells her best friend about the Six Gods which her people worship. Because of Teriana's betrayal, her mother turns her back on her and she's forced into a contract with Lucius Cassius where she is to lead a contingent of Celendor soldiers across the seas to a world that is being called the Dark Shore. Succeed and her mother and her people live, fail and they all die. What could go wrong?

Marcus is the leader of the Thirty-Seventh legion, the notorious army that has led the Celendor Empire to conquer the entire East. The legion is the only family he has, and even they don’t know the secret he’s been hiding since childhood. Marcus and his legion have a reputation for cruelty, but Marcus's own secret may be his downfall. A secret that Lucius Cassius gladly uses as blackmail in order to have Marcus and his men become political pawns. Cassius knows Marcus's true identity as well as his weakness and isn't afraid of revealing it to get what he wants which is world domination. He also uses Teriana's love for her people in order to blackmail her into leading Marcus to the Dark Shores and a way for other Celendorian Legions to follow.

The Empire controls all of the Eastern land masses while the West has been left to its own devices. There's even a saying that East shall not meet West under any condition. The West knows that if this happens, bad things will follow in its wake. The West worships a group of 6 Gods and Goddesses, with a 7th making all sorts of loud noises that could lead to even more violence and bloodshed. It is fair to say that there is a very large secondary cast of characters which I suggest that you keep copious notes so that you know which characters are the good guys and which are the bad ones.

If you like slow burn romance, Roman inspired Empires, power hungry politicians as the villain, and fast reads, this book is for you! If you like a mouthy heroine, they you will definitely get enough from Teriana while Marcus is the more stoic and driven character. There is a huge question hanging over this series and that is why a certain God allowed Teriana to spill secret information in the first place? Was this particular God trying to influence future events? One certain God even suggest that Teriana is the one who really matters when all is said and done. Curiouser and Curiouser.  

Jensen is also the author of the Malediction Trilogy featuring Stolen Songbird, Hidden Huntress and Warrior Witch.       


Thursday, April 18, 2019

#Review - Finale by Stephanie Garber #YALit #Fantasy

Series: Caraval (#3)
Format: Hardcover, 496 pages
Release Date: May 7, 2019
Publisher: Flatiron Books
Source: Publisher
Genre: Young Adult / Fantasy

Welcome, welcome to Finale, the third and final book in the #1 New York Times bestselling Caraval series! 

A love worth fighting for. A dream worth dying for. An ending worth waiting for.

It’s been two months since the Fates were freed from a deck of cards, two months since Legend claimed the throne for his own, and two months since Tella discovered the boy she fell in love with doesn’t really exist.

With lives, empires, and hearts hanging in the balance, Tella must decide if she’s going to trust Legend or a former enemy. After uncovering a secret that upends her life, Scarlett will need to do the impossible. And Legend has a choice to make that will forever change and define him.

Caraval is over, but perhaps the greatest game of all has begun. There are no spectators this time: only those who will win, and those who will lose everything.

Welcome, welcome to Finale. All games must come to an end…

Finale is the final installment in author Stephanie Garber's Caraval trilogy. The story takes place 2 months after the events of Legendary. Even though this story is told from both Scarlett and Donatella Dragna POV's, it is Tella that gets a huge chunk of the story. Just like she did in Legendary. Since the book is mostly about Tella, let's start with her. Tella has won Caraval but she hasn't received her prize from Legend who now has even bigger fishes to fry and more enemies to deal with. 

Tella is enraptured every night in dreams wrapped in the magic of Legend while encountering the devious Jacks during the day. Tella and Legend are on a collision course with the Fates who were released in the previous installment. It is fair to say that Tella spends an inordinate amount of time thinking about Legend, her mother, and Jacks, a bastard of a fate who has decided that Tella is going to be his whether she likes it or not. Talia has always been brazen, reckless, and makes silly mistakes that come back to haunt her.

Tella must not only deal with Legend and Jacks, but the rest of the Immortal Fates who have returned to the Meridian Empire seeking a bit of vengeance. Meanwhile, Scarlett has chosen to meet with her ex fiance Nicolas who had thought she was dead, which leads to a game between him and Julian who disappeared for weeks, but now wants to focus all his time and energy on making up to Scarlett. One could honestly say that it was pretty apparent as to what the author had already intended before she started writing this book.

Scarlett's story isn't just about her and Julian, or her and Nicolas which is basically a blip on the radar, it is much more intense after meeting certain fates who might hold the key to her underdeveloped powers and a way to defeat them. She also has to understand that there is someone who wants her to become immortal and thus heir to the Meridian crown. Scarlett's story has been an interesting one from the beginning, and now that it is over, her ending is one that I am sure readers will be pleased with. It is fair to say that I was hoping for a more equal story between the sisters. But, such as life.


Wednesday, April 17, 2019

#Review - Romanov by Nadine Brandes #YALit #Historical #Fantasy

Series: Standalone
Format: Hardcover, 352 pages
Release Date: May 7, 2019
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Source: Publisher
Genre: Young Adult / Fantasy / Historical

From the author of Fawkes comes a magical take on the story of Anastasia Romanov.

The history books say I died.

They don't know the half of it.

Anastasia "Nastya" Romanov was given a single mission: to smuggle an ancient spell into her suitcase on her way to exile in Siberia. It might be her family's only salvation. But the leader of the Bolshevik army is after them . . . and he's hunted Romanov before.

Nastya's only chances of survival are to either release the spell, and deal with the consequences, or enlist help from Zash, the handsome soldier who doesn't act like the average Bolshevik. Nastya's never dabbled in magic before, but it doesn't frighten her as much as her growing attraction for Zash. She likes him. She thinks he might even like her . . .

That is, until she's on one side of a firing squad . . . and he's on the other.

Nadine Brandes Romanov is a historical fantasy novel set during the early 20th century (1918) when Lenin's communist revolutionaries ended the Romanov dynasty in a bloody coup that is still being talked about in most history books. I encourage people to read this book up to the point where history and the author's own story diverge. The history of the Romanov's end and what evil was done to them by Lenin's revolutionaries, and his Red Army, was absolutely brutal and unnecessary.

As a admitted history nerd, I appreciated the fact that the author didn't try to cover up the horrors that happened to the family or those who failed to join the revolution. Anyone who thinks Communism is amazing, really needs to read actual history, and not history distorted by others who have an agenda. Lenin killed people as though they were throwaway garbage instead of human beings. Was Nicolas Romanov a saint? No, and Russian historians have gone as far as to blame him a whole bunch of things whether it be true or not.  

There have been a variety of stories about Grand Duchess Anastasia Nikolaevna Romanov and whether or not she actually survived the July 17, 1918 massacre that happened to her entire family and those who were allowed to remain with the family. Anastasia was the youngest daughter (16) of Tsar Nicolas II, the last sovereign of Imperial Russia and Tsarina Alexandra Feodorovna, who had connection to Queen Victoria of England. She had three older sisters, Tatiana, Olga, Maria, as well as one brother Alexei who really did have hemophilia.

In this story, Nastya is portrayed as a girl who is a bit on the mischievous side, but not overly rebellious towards her father or her siblings. She questions her mother's relationship with Rasputin who is said to have been trying to help cure Alexei's hemophilia. In fact, the Russian people were said to be very angry with the Empress for her secretive nature and perhaps a bit on the cold side as well. As the family is moved from one place to another, Nastya is given responsibility of a magical matryoshka doll which might be the families only salvation from those who want to see them dead. 

Nastya's relationship with her father was adorable and heart breaking. Her relationship with her sister Maria was also emotional. Yet, it was Nastya's connection to a Bolshevik Soldier named Zash, who first comes into the picture in Tobolsk and then continues on to the fateful night when Nastya and her family are executed, that opens the story up. Zash is a character who starts out as a hard, solid, defensive and dutiful soldier that you think you’re going to hate until you don’t, then surprises you when you really think there is no hope. 

Zash is a fictitious character that the author uses as a way to tell her story. However, there are fair number of real historical characters who triggered the events leading to the killing of the Romanov's. As background for the story, the author uses persistent rumors that Nastya and her brother Alexei somehow escaped the brutality of what happened to their family. The fact that in real life, their bodies weren't found until the USSR came to an end, fuels even more speculation.  

At the heart of Romanov is a story about loyalty, seeing beyond who is the enemy, while giving people second chances. It is said that even some Bolshevik soldiers fell in love with the Romanov family, thus causing changing of the guard many times until there was no more room for hope for the family. Even though this book is a "retelling" that leans towards the historical fantasy genre, I still give the author plenty of props for doing her research on the Romanov family and the tragedy that fell on them.