Tuesday, November 26, 2019

#Review - Chasing the Shadows by Maria V. Snyder #YA #SyFy

Series: Sentinels of the Galaxy #2
Format: Kindle
Release Date: November 18, 2019
Publisher: Maria V. Snyder
Source: Amazon
Genre: Young Adult / Science Fiction

Year 2522. Lyra Daniels is dead.

Okay, so I only died for sixty-six seconds. But when I came back to life, I got a brand new name and a snazzy new uniform. Go me! Seriously, though, it's very important that Lyra Daniels stays dead, at least as far as the murdering looters, know.

While dying is the scariest thing that's happened to me, it morphed my worming skills. I can manipulate the Q-net like never before. But the looters have blocked us from communicating with the rest of the galaxy and now they believe we've gone silent, like Planet Xinji (where silent really means dead).

A Protector Class spaceship is coming to our rescue, but we still have to survive almost two years until they arrive - if they arrive at all. Until then, we have to figure out how to stop an unstoppable alien threat. And it's only a matter of time before the looters learn I'm not dead and returns to finish what they started.

There's no way I'm going to let the looters win. Instead I'll do whatever it takes to save the people I love. But even I'm running out of ideas...

Chasing the Shadows is the second installment in author Maria V. Synder's Sentinels of the Galaxy. It has been 8 days since Lyra Daniel's funeral. It has been 8 days since Lyra took up the name Ara Yinhexi Lawrence in order to keep the fact that she is alive from Jarren, the looter/former friend who tried to kill her. If he finds out she's alive, he will come after her again. Ara is now Junior Security Officer Lawrence working with the Chief of Security Tace Radcliff and his son Niall. As you may recall, Ara's parent's are renown archaeologists who focus on Terra Cotta Warriors who were originally found in China in 1974.
Ara and crew still have to deal with the looters they captured at the end of the last story. They have absolutely no back-up, and the nearest Protector class ship is at least 18 months away. They also have to deal with the Hostile Life Forms (shadow blobs) that only she can see after she accidentally touched one of the Warrior hearts. Her worming skills took a giant leap forward when she died, but she needs to worry about letting Jarren know she's catching up to his skill level. Ara is still one of those stubborn, impetuous, and just generally a stereotypical “I don’t have to listen to anyone” teenagers who is actually quite brilliant. 
Ara doesn't get as much credit for the good things she's done. There are those who even think she's over stepping her role. She's constantly trying to prove herself to those she works with, especially her overly protective parents. Her relationship with Niall takes a major step forward in this book even though both are working in security and both have major responsibilities to keep the scientists and rest of the security detail safe. Ara doesn't want to lose anyone else. Not if she can help find a way to get a message to DES (Department of Explored Space) and warn them about what is happening to other planets that have Warriors on them.
There are a whole lot of reasons to keep reading this series. As I said before, Ara's makes a choice to explore the deepest parts of Q-net where nobody has gone before. What's even more amazing is when Q-net actually starts having conversations with her and recognizes the Hostile Life Forms for what they are. Ana is like a comet; burning brightly, doing impossible things, going full speed, no sense of self-preservation. She'll eventually burn herself out. The more the author digs into the Warriors themselves, the more I am intrigue to the possibilities to come. After all, what is the name of this series?


#Review - Supernova by Marissa Meyer #Fantasy #Superheroes

Series: Renegades (#3)
Format: Hardcover, 560 pages
Release Date: November 5, 2019
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends
Source: Library
Genre: Young Adult / Superheroes

All's fair in love and anarchy...

The epic conclusion to Marissa Meyer's thrilling Renegades Trilogy finds Nova and Adrian struggling to keep their secret identities concealed while the battle rages on between their alter egos, their allies, and their greatest fears come to life. Secrets, lies, and betrayals are revealed as anarchy once again threatens to reclaim Gatlon City.

Supernova is the third and final installment in author Marissa Meyer's Renegades trilogy. The story once again alternatives between Nova Artino nee McLain (Nightmare & Insomnia) and Adrian Everheart (Sketch & Sentinel). The aftermath of Archenemies is immediately felt. Nova was successful in stealing back Ace Anarchy's helmet, but in the aftermath, Max was left as a innocent victim of her fight with the Renegades. Several Renegades where hit with Agent N thus making them basically human. Nova could be exposed at any moment.
From the first book onward, Nova thought that the Renegades were to blame for the tragic death of her parents and little sister Evie. Where were they with their promises to protect her family? It was Ace who took her in and raised her to be an Anarchist with the ability to put someone to sleep with only a touch. One could call it brainwashing. After all, Nova spent her life with Leroy, Honey and Phobia believing Ace was her hero and the Renegades were true villains. Nova's walk between doing what's right, and doing the wrong thing, was a tightrope that I was glad to have read.
Adrian hates Nightmare, but is absolutely in love with Nova. Adrian is the son of two Renegade Council members as well as the son of Lady Indomitable who was killed by someone unknown to him. Adrian has spent his life trying to find the person who killed his mother. He has a remarkable talent for using tattoos to make his alias Sentinel even more impressive. He adores his younger brother Max, but will his secret finally be revealed to his fathers as to who he has been spotlighting as? What will he do when it discovers Nova's true identity?
There are so many surprises and revelations in this story that to actually spoil any of them, would defeat the entire idea of reading the book for yourself. Nova's world definitely becomes much, clearer in this book after a series of events that leads to a massive reveal. The villains are not necessarily villains but they do villainous things in this book that leads to a major conflict between the Renegades and Anarchists. The heroes are definitely not what you would expect. After all, who uses a chemical agent to neutralize anyone with powers? Instead of using law enforcement to carry out justice, they choose who gets to live with their powers or not. 
I adored Max and the author doesn't let readers down by putting Max into the thick of things when the final conflicts are brought to bear.  I liked how Adrian and Nova explored the gray areas between "good" and "evil". That. Ending. Killed. ME! Seriously! Read the book, but pay particular attention so that when a certain character pops up in the Epilogue, you don't scream, WHO THE HELL WAS THAT? like I did because I'm an idiot. 
I can't imagine what was going through the author's head when she thought let's introduce this character, forget about her except at key moments, make it as though Nova hated her guts, and then slam the readers in the head with the most shocking revelation imaginable and then close the story as though nothing happened! I demand a recount! I demand another story featuring this character! I want her to find her own happy ending and discover the truth that's she not alone! I really thought about lowering my rating after the identity was revealed to me since I apparently slept walked though part of the book!


Monday, November 25, 2019

#Review - Navigating the Stars by Maria V. Snyder #YA #Science Fiction

Series: Sentinels of the Galaxy #1
Format: Kindle, 363 pages
Release Date: December 1, 2018
Publisher: Maria V. Snyder
Source: Kindle
Genre: Young Adult / Science Fiction

“The answer is no, Lyra,” my mother utters her favorite—I swear—phrase.

No means I have to travel with them to another planet—again.

No means leaving all my friends fifty years in the past. Thanks, Einstein.

Seventeen-year-old Lyra Daniels can’t truly blame Einstein or her parents for their impending move across the Milky Way Galaxy. It’s all due to the invention of the Q-net, which made traveling the vast distances in space possible—with one big caveat: the time dilation. But that never stopped Lyra's ancestors from exploring the Milky Way, searching for resources and exoplanets to colonize. What they didn’t expect to find is life-sized terracotta Warriors buried on twenty-one different exoplanets.

... Make that twenty-two.

As the Galaxy’s leading experts on the Warriors, Lyra's parents are thrilled by the new discovery, sending them—and her—fifty years into the future. Her social life in ruins, she fills her lonely days by illegally worming into the Q-net. The only person close to her age is the annoyingly irresistible security officer who threatens to throw her into the brig.

After the planet they just left goes silent—meaning no communications from them at all—security has bigger problems to deal with than Lyra, especially when vital data files go missing. But that's just the beginning, because they’re not as alone as they thought on their new planet... and suddenly time isn't the only thing working against them.

Navigating the Stars is the first installment in author Maria V. Snyder's Sentinels of the Galaxy. As the story opens, it is the year 2471. 17-year old Lyra Daniels is the daughter of two prominent archaeologists who have focused their mission on discovering locations of Terracotta Warrior that were originally found in China in 1974. Lyra's parents along with a cadre of experts are heading for Planet Yulin, one of 22 known planets to have Terracotta Warriors. Lyra doesn't want to travel 50 years into the future leaving her friends and her plans on going to college, behind. 
But, since she is underage, she has no choice. All of the warrior planets have been named after Chinese cities. Lyra's mother is Chinese, while her father is English. Two things impressed me about this story. The Terracotta warriors as well as the time crinkling and space travel. While it may take 90 days to travel from one planet to another, it's actually 50 years to arrive at your destination thanks to a time crinkling. So, when it was 2471 when she left Planet Xinji, it will be 2522 when she arrives at Planet Yulin. While here on Earth there are 6,000 Terracotta warriors, someone has created 24 million warriors. 
Were they made on Earth and brought elsewhere, or made elsewhere and brought to Earth? Lyra is an interesting character to follow. While she is 17 actual years old, she really is over 100 years old since she's already been to several other planets with her parents and has had to face the dreaded time dilation that comes with space travel. Onboard the ship to Planet Yulin, Lyra meets Niall Radcliff. He is ship-born and ship-raised and the last thing he wants to do is make friends with a passenger. Once passengers leave the ship they are never again part of the crew's life. 
He's grumpy but attractive and a little bit too law-and-order for her. Lyra decides to do some exploring in the Q-net which is a vast computer network that does everything from storing all data to managing space flight. She's a hacker and a really good one thanks to her friend Jarren who taught her to worm through the Q-net without being caught. However, she does get caught. Niall's father and Harrison, the ship's captain, decides to make her an intern for those who navigate the ship rather than place her in detention for her worming. There she learns much more about the Q-net and about navigating through space.
Lyra soon discovers that all of Planet Xinji's files have gone missing and the planet itself has gone dark. Her friend Lan was left behind on Xinji so this really concerns Lyra since Lan apparently made a shocking discovery. Someone isn't playing by the rules and has somehow found a way around the time dilation. While she does have a tendency of whining a bit too much in this story, she is pretty damn smart. She's in the thick of things almost from the arrival on the planet. Lyra discovers the way into a unknown lower level beneath the pits which contains devices, more warriors, and hearts covered with alien symbols. 
When she picks up a heart, it crumbles in her hand but it also lets her see shadow blobs that are also in the pits. Unfortunately, she's the only one who can see them which leads her to being questioned about her sanity. While most of the adults refuse to listen to her, it becomes apparent that she's not wrong when she's shot at by looters who are out to destroy the warriors, while also collecting certain ones for wealthy donors. She also has to face the fact that Niall isn't all that bad, and that her former friend may be out to ruin her life. 
Her relationship with her parent's isn't all that antagonistic. Her parents genuinely want the best for Lyra even when she steps over the line and ends up in trouble. She's often called pampered, or Queen of Yulin, or a mastermind, but she refuses to back down when she learns that she has unlocked major discovers. I have subsequently read the second book in this series since this book ended in a way that gave me the push to borrow the book via Kindle. This series is pretty damn good. This book didn't get bogged down by romance, but it didn't ignore it either. 


#Review - Life and Limb by Jennifer Roberson #Urban #Fantasy

Series: BLOOD AND BONE (#1)
Format: Hardcover, 352 pages
Release Date: November 5, 2019
Publisher: DAW
Source: Publisher
Genre: Urban Fantasy

A biker and a cowboy must stop the apocalypse in the first book of the Blood and Bone western urban fantasy series.

Gabe Harlan, ex-con biker, and Remi McCue, Texas cowboy, are informed—no, commanded—by a higher power that they must form a partnership, bound by blood and bone, to help save the world. Complete strangers one moment, they have now been thrust together, conscripted into heaven’s army-on-earth. While Remi is willing to believe in such things, to Gabe, newly released from prison, it makes no sense that heaven would count on humans when it has angels in its armory.

Especially when the devil claims a more dangerous, unearthly weapon: demons. Now loosed upon the earth in the first spasms of an unholy war, demons inhabit and make real the beasts and characters of fiction, folklore, fairy-tales. Gods and goddesses walk the earth. Myth becomes reality; legends and lies become truths.

End Times. End of Days. Armageddon and Apocalypse.

It’s up to Gabe and Remi to stop it, no matter the name. But how the hell do you stop hell? Tell truth from lies? Friend from foe? Heaven has its own agenda, and demons wear wings, too.

"You'll be a soldier. Sealed to it. Life and Limb, blood and bone, heart and soul. Not a soldier like others are, for it's not the kind of people most people fight on earth. The fate of the world hinges upon it."

Life and Limb, by author Jennifer Roberson, is the first installment in the authors Blood and Bone series. It’s up to Gabriel Harlan, a biker in black leather, and Remiel McCue, a country music-loving cowboy, to stop Armageddon and take up the fight between heaven and hell in this western urban fantasy. Gabe has just been released from prison after he apparently killed someone. Remi has been living in Arizona where he loves to buck horses. The two are tied by the fact that neither of them is entirely human. 

Jubel is a character the two call Granddad. Granddad has been preparing the two for the end of the world. After some time away from them both, Granddad brings the two together in Flagstaff, Arizona for a life altering mission. Gabe is really good with guns, Remi is really good with knives. Gabe is sensitive to places, Remi is an empath. Alpha and Beta. The world has apparently become Lucifer's playground. The Devil has loosed his surrogates on the world and are now riding mythological tall tales, historical figures and fictional villains. 

Lucifer is really good at exploiting disbelief. The greatest trick the devil every pulled was convincing the world that he doesn't exist. In this reality, folklore has roots in some portion of reality. All across the planet, there have been signs that the apocalypse is imminent. Where ever an earthquake happens, things come out from the ground. Legends are now very real and are picking sides of who to support in the upcoming war. Everyone in this story has some sort of agenda. From Granddad and who he really is. To a Grigori named Ambriel who Gabe encounters and tells him to open his eyes to the new reality.

Gods and Goddess are involved. Many are on Hell's side. People once worshiped the Gods and have no clue that some of these Gods don't favor their existence. Gabe and Remi must be the stop sign to keep the adversary from taking out humanity. Gabe and Remi's allies include Lily Morrigan aka Boudica the Irish Goddess of War who led an uprising against the occupying forces of the Roman Empire in AD 60 or 61 and an African Orisha who sings volcanoes awake. While Gabe and Remi are working out their own issues and their new mission, they are being hunted. The hunter is leaving bodies behind in a very Jack the Ripper modus operandi. 

This story ends on a cliffhanger. People have been comparing this book to the TV series Supernatural for very good reasons. After all, Gabe and Remi are all but blood brothers who have been called to fight a variety of characters from black demon dogs called Barghest, to Nephilim who Granddad can't stand, to La Llorona, the Weeping Woman who appears near the water wailing for her children who she killed after her husband left her for another woman. As a fair warning, the opening chapters are filled heavily with information dumping as readers have to prepare themselves for why they should care about these two characters, and what is at stake if the two fail in their mission.

Will I read the sequel? Mayhap!

From out of the heat of the day and into looming twilight, I pulled onto gravel and threaded my Harley through a parking lot jammed with pickup trucks. Killed the growl of the engine as I rolled up next to a handicapped spot, stayed straddled as I pulled off my helmet and gloves and let the cool pine-scented air wash over me. Pure tactile, almost atavistic relief after hours on a hot interstate.
I yanked the tie from my hair and unstuck compressed strands from my skull with a couple of quick scrubs so it fell loose to my shoulders again. Unzipped the jacket. Left my ass parked on leather and crossed arms as I surveyed the building before me.
I had to smile. Not exactly my thing.
Now roadhouses, yeah. Definitely. But in the Patrick Swayze/Sam Elliott school. This? Nuh-uh. Pickup trucks, gun racks; a lighted sign boasting live country music. Probably spittoons on the floor, for all I knew. Maybe even a mechanical bull.
The building was a bulwark of massive, stripped pines chinked together rising two stories tall, topped by a rust-patinaed tin roof. Its slab of a front door looked thick enough to bounce cannon balls off of, and the entry steps were framed by a massive split-crotch tree. Behind it loomed the shoulder of a fire-ravaged mountain, and the dying of the day.
I heaved in a breath, blew it out on a sigh as I swung a leg across the seat. “Grandaddy, why the hell did you summon me to a cowboy bar in Flagstaff, Arizona?”
I clomped up the low steps in my biker boots and stepped aside as a laughing couple, nearly joined at the hip, exited. I caught the door’s edge from the guy, pulled it wide, and the strains of that live country music erupted into the twilight.
I winced, thought uncharitable things about a music genre I cannot abide-all that whine and twang and mud and blood and beer-and prepared myself for an even noisier unwelcome assault upon my ears.
As always in strange places, particularly roadhouses and dive bars, which I tend to frequent, I entered carefully. Eased through the door, let it thump closed, then stepped aside and waited, marking the details of the place. Particularly the exits.
Live band, already established; parquet dance floor; booths against the wall; couple of pool tables in the back. Tables and chairs; long, polished slab of a bar; rough-hewn beams, tree trunk pillars; and so many mounted animals, trophy heads, skins, and antlers affixed to the walls that it looked more like a…well, yeah, the place was called the Zoo Club. Though it more closely resembled a taxidermist’s. In fact, just beyond my right shoulder, crammed into the corner, loomed a ginormous huge-humped grizzly bear with mouth agape to display fearsome teeth.
I did not fit here, not in this place, where I was pretty much an alien. Cowboy hats, boots, plate-sized silver belt buckles, pressed jeans, yoked shirts. Me, I wore a plain black t-shirt, motorcycle leathers, and thick-soled boots meant for the road, not stirrups. I like my bars with chrome and steel and twinned wheels parked outside, where the only hint of horses resides within engines.
A flash of movement at the end of the bar. Seems I’d caught the notice of a young woman. And boy, did I notice back. Long wheat-blond hair was slicked away from her face and tied into a high ponytail hanging down her back. I couldn’t see details in bar lighting, but the assemblage of her features collaborated quite nicely, well above the norm. Red lipstick. Her brows, darker than the gold of her hair, arched as her eyes brightened, and she smiled slow and easy, the invitation obvious. She did not appear to care that I was not in the cowboy uniform, or that my hair hit just past my shoulders.
Well, then. I smiled back, raised brows, lifted one shoulder in a half-shrug that told her Not just now, saw faint disappointment in the tilt of her head, the regretful twist of her mouth. Maybe later, if she were still around when business was concluded.
Even in the midst of roadhouse noise, I heard and knew that tone. With regret I shifted attention from the young lady to the man coming toward me.
Jubal Horatio Tanner, aka Grandaddy, the only one who called me by my full name. Tall, blue-eyed, clear-skinned, with a cascade of springy silver-white hair tucked behind his ears. Imposing man. To me as a kid, he’d seemed old; now, not so much, even with the near-white hair. Ageless, if anything. Rock of Gibraltar type. His brows remained dark, as did his neatly trimmed beard, though it bore a peppering of silver.
He wore, as he always did-for some unaccountable reason I kept forgetting to ask him about-an old-style frock coat, as if he’d stepped out of a Western. Which, inside a cowboy bar in Arizona, struck me as ironically appropriate. He fit. I didn’t. Beneath the coat, unless he’d changed his ways, he wore a sheathed Bowie knife and a waistband holster, home to his 9-mil S&W.
We clasped hands, grinned at one another, then stepped close for a quick hug, slap of hands against backs before stepping out again.
“Too long, Grandaddy!” Couple of years, in fact. I raised my voice over the live band. “I thought you’d visit, at least.” I didn’t say more; he’d know what else I meant.
“Business,” Grandaddy said crisply; no apology was included. “You know how that goes. I kept tabs on you.” He touched a fingertip to his left eyebrow. “Your dad told me you got jumped.”
I almost put my own hand up to that spot in my brow, but dropped it back down. I knew it was there: a thin, pale diagonal line, stitch-free now, but it looked like the hair wouldn’t grow back.
I kept my tone light. “Too far from my heart to kill me.”
Grandaddy’s eyes were unrelenting. “You handle the man who jumped you?”
Handle him? Oh, yeah.
I lifted the scarred eyebrow. “We had us a ’discussion’ right there in general population. Nobody bothered me after that.”
What I didn’t add was that it’s tough to bother a man in solitary.
Grandaddy didn’t respond, just gestured with a sweep of a broad-palmed hand. “I’ve got a table in an alcove in the back where we can talk privately. Remi’s not here yet; he called to say he was running a tad late. Sorry to say that boy’s always a tad late; his internal clock runs about as slow as his Texas drawl.”
I started to ask who he meant, but Grandaddy’d headed off through the crowd. I followed to the alcove, discovered a pitcher of beer and a half-filled mug, two empty tumblers, a bottle of Patron tequila, and another of Talisker single malt sitting atop the table.
“Unless you’ve changed your brand of whiskey.” Grandaddy flipped aside the tails of his frock coat as he sat down and took up his beer.
I couldn’t suppress my grin of delight. “Hell, no. I still drink that whenever I can get it. But it’s not usually on offer in biker bars.” And anyway, I’d pretty much ridden nonstop to this watering hole with time only for coffee, prepackaged convenience store sandwiches. And, well, licorice. The black stuff. The real stuff.
“They don’t carry it, so I snuck the bottle in under my coat,” Grandaddy admitted, eyes bright with amusement.
Warm affection filled my chest. Damn, it was good to see the man again. I hooked out a chair, swung it around, pushed the back against the wall so I could keep an eye on the bar crowd, then sat my ass down and poured two fingers’ worth of fine Scottish whiskey. Lifted the tumbler, let it linger at my lips as the pungent tang of spirits rose to my eyes. Took a sip.
Yeah, there it was, that complex peaty power. I just appreciated it in my mouth a long moment, then swallowed with a grateful smile and a nod of the head. I’d missed this while in prison. “So, this is all your doing, right? Early release, and now I report to you? Maybe the first time an ex-con has been assigned to his own grandfather.”
Blue eyes were bright across the beer mug. As always, he watched me even as his posture suggested relaxation. “Mitigating circumstances, Gabriel.”
I poured more whiskey, enjoyed another swallow. “Now, who’s this Remi, and why are we meeting here? Why not Oregon, like usual?”
“Remi’s coming in from Texas. Arizona splits the difference.” Grandaddy drank beer, thumbed away liquid from his moustache, then fixed me with a steady gaze I remembered very well, even if I hadn’t seen it for a couple of years. “Pay attention, Gabriel.”
Okay, so it’s like that. I’d heard those words, that tone, so many times over the years. It always prefaced information Grandaddy considered vital, even if it made absolutely no sense. I huffed air through my nose in amusement, grinned crookedly, nodded.
And he said, by way of pronouncement, “Remi is someone you’re going to come to know very, very well, Gabriel. Someone with whom you will form a bond unlike any other. Someone upon whose actions your life will depend, and whose life will depend upon your actions.”
For a long, arrested moment, drink suspended in midair on its journey to my mouth, I stared blankly at him. Found no illumination in his face. “My life?” I waited a beat; no answer was forthcoming. “As in, life and death?”
“Precisely life and death.”
“Uhhh, okay.” I set down the tumbler with a muted clunk, scratched at my bisected eyebrow. It itched now and then. “Can you kinda elaborate on that? Just-” I waved a hand in an indistinct gesture encompassing worlds of nothing much “-you know, for the sake of me knowing what the hell you’re talking about?”
The eyes were penetrating. “He will have your back, and you will have his, pretty much twenty-four, seven, three-sixty-five.”
I contemplated that announcement, knocked back more whiskey, then opted for candor. “That still doesn’t tell me shit, Grandaddy.”
Now he was quietly amused. “Not yet, no. We’ll wait till Remi arrives, and then I will, as you say, elaborate.”
I opened my mouth to question further, but gave up, knowing it was pointless. Grandaddy was often cryptic, and he could not be rushed. I’d learned not to push or things got more obscure. I could tie my brains into knots trying to sort out the man’s intentions. “This Remi got a last name?”
“McCue. And-ah, speak of the devil.” Grandaddy laughed softly. “Or not.” He shoved his chair back, rose, extended his hand. “Remi, good to see you, boy.”
I raised my brows. Unlike me, Remi McCue fit right in with the crowd. Dark denim western shirt, tucked in; neatly pressed jeans, leather belt with big silver buckle, cowboy boots, even an honest-to-God hat.
This was the man Grandaddy thought I’d bond with, whatever the hell that meant. Upon whom my life was to depend.
A cowboy?
The booze warmed my belly. I gusted a laugh and sat back in my chair, grinning. “No offense, but…you gotta be shitting me!”
The stranger gazed down at me a long moment, registered that he was himself the target of the irony, and raised one eloquent dark brow beneath the brim of his cream-colored hat as he made his assessment of me. In a clear tone he drawled, “Well, boy, looks to me like you’re wearin’ one of my steers in all that biker leather, so I wouldn’t go sayin’ much, was I you.”
Ah. Okay. Like that, then. “You weren’t me the last time I looked.”
Grandaddy laughed. “Oh, in a way he is, Gabriel. While you’re not related in a normal sense, there is a common genetic background. Take a harder look.”
I did. Okay, yeah, the cowboy was around six-feet, one-eighty, so we were pretty much within an inch and five pounds of one another, and he had dark hair, too, but his eyes were a clear blue, not my brown. He was tanned, I wasn’t; prison leaches melanin. Still, I had to concede we were of a similar physical type.
McCue smiled as he was given his second inspection. “Well, if Grandaddy says we resemble one another, then I’ll have to say you are a handsome devil.” He paused, lips pursing. “Might could do with a haircut, though.”
Beneath the hat, McCue’s hair was neatly trimmed and did not remotely approach the vicinity of his shirt collar, let alone his shoulder blades. I smiled back, not meaning it; you learned to do that in prison. “And you’re a poor man’s Matthew McConaughey.”
That, too, you learned there, to challenge before he did.
But the cowboy, patently unoffended and offering no return challenge, grinned slow, then drawled in deep tones, “All right, all right, all right.”
“Remi, sit down and have something to drink,” Grandaddy told him, before it went further, “and Gabriel, have another. You’ll need the alcohol. I’m about to embark upon a foray into the expositional-and I guarantee you won’t believe a word of it. All I ask is that you suspend your disbelief and hear me out.”
I employed a booted foot to shove the empty chair toward the cowboy. He caught it, settled it, took his seat. We eyed one another in brief male-to-male consideration and evaluation, smiled blandly, poured drinks. My second went down easily. McCue drank Patron.
Grandaddy meanwhile assessed us like he was weighing our worth, marking things about the two of us I couldn’t grasp. This was a man who knew things, who always struck me as a secret-keeper, but not out of ill-intent. Out of privacy and a wish to control what he said when he said it. Of what he viewed was safe to be said.
And just now, Grandaddy appeared to arrive at a conclusion. His smile was a brief, sardonic twitch. “Forgive me the melodrama, but I do promise that at some point, some day, all will come clear. I ask merely that you keep your minds open.” His smile broadened. “I did train you for that.”
Much as I wanted to, I didn’t swear in frustration. Yeah, you don’t push him, but Grandaddy could be more than a little frustrating at times. And a sideways glance at McCue suggested he felt the same as he smiled crookedly at me and twitched a shoulder, tilted his head in shared resignation.
But we waited. It’s what you do with Jubal Tanner: you wait for pronouncements to be declared from on high.


Friday, November 22, 2019

#Review - A Constellation of Roses by Miranda Asebedo #YA #Contemporary

Series: Standalone
Format: Hardcover, 336 pages
Release Date: November 5, 2019
Publisher: HarperTeen
Source: Publisher
Genre: Young Adult / Contemporary

A heartwarming contemporary standalone novel with the slightest twist of magic, A Constellation of Roses is perfect for fans of Anna-Marie McLemore and Emily X.R. Pan!

Ever since her troubled mother abandoned her, Trix McCabe has preferred to stay on the move.

But when she lands with her long-lost relatives, there’s something special about the McCabe women, something almost magical about their mysterious talents that reminds Trix of her own ability to steal things without anyone noticing, and almost makes her want to stay put for once. Her aunt’s pies seem to cure all ills, her great-aunt’s palm-reading never misses the mark, and her cousin’s ability to uncover a person’s deepest secrets by simply touching them is uncanny.

Before long, Trix feels like she might finally belong with this special group of women in this tiny town in Kansas. But when her past comes back to haunt her, she’ll have to decide whether to take a chance on this new life . . . or keep running from the one she’s always known.

With lovable and flawed characters, an evocative setting, and friendships to treasure, A Constellation of Roses is the perfect companion to Miranda Asebedo’s first novel, The Deepest Roots, which ALA Booklist called “a must-read” in a starred review.

A Constellation of Roses is the authors follow-up to her debut novel The Deepest Roots. 17-year old Trix McCabe has been living in various hotels doing what she needs to do in order to stay alive, dodging social services, and not having to return to another foster home after her mother went out for cigarettes and never returned. Trix has an uncanny ability of stealing things and not getting caught. She can literally walk into almost any place and walk out without being seen or caught. Shortly after the story begins, Trix is turned into the cops and given a choice by a judge. 

She can either go to jail, or she can go live with her newly discovered long-lost family in Rocksaw, Kansas which she knew nothing about. Her mother never told Trix who her father was, so finding out that she has a family living in a small Kansas town is a shock to the system. Trix must stay with the family until she is of legal age as well as attend school. Trix is surprised to learn that her Aunt Mia, her cousin ember, and her Great-Aunt all have unique abilities of their own.

Auntie tells fortunes; Mia bakes pies that magically fixes emotions and Ember can read secrets upon touch. Auntie hints that Trix must learn to put down roots or else be enveloped by her haunting past. She can either dig roots here with people who care for her or she can runaway again like she is prone to do. As Trix starts to try and make a living with the McCabe family, she learns secrets about her past and realizes that this may be just the fresh start she needs to turn things around. This is definitely a twist of magical realism along with a coming of age story that most readers will enjoy.

The book provides a few scenes from the past which was nice because we get to see what Trix's life was like before having to go to Rocksaw and some of her memories especially of the "good year" gives us an insight on why she thinks that things can still go back to how they were. Trix learns how to be responsible. She learns to let people in, including students at her new school and the boy, Jasper Ruiz, who has some of his own issues to deal with which I won't spoil. I will say that the final part of this book is the most emotional. 

How can it not be after all she's been through and then gets another kick to the head which causes her to choose to run back to her dark past and those who would only use her talents. My absolute favorite character is Mia. Mia is always looking out for her and trying to keep her happy. Even when Trix runs back to her old flame, she legitimately wants the best for Trix and for her to stay as long as she wants. Ember is the silent type who is slowly drawn out of her shell by Trix. Ember was too afraid of touching someone due to the fact that she can see your deepest, darkest secrets. Auntie was brutally honest and didn't sugar coat anything and she usually put everyone in their place with a dose of reality. Trix learns about Jasper when they go out on deliveries for McCabe Bakery and Tea Shoppe. 

Overall,  A Constellation of Roses is an emotional journey that Trix goes through and how she eventually put down roots. Yes, I did get a bit emotional! 


Thursday, November 21, 2019

#Review - Eight Will Fall by Sarah Harian #YA #Fantasy

Series: Standalone
Format: Hardcover, 368 pages
Release Date: November 26, 2019
Publisher: Henry Holt & Co. (BYR)
Source: Publisher
Genre: Young Adult / Dark Fantasy

A girl leads a band of magical outlaws on a deadly subterranean mission in this exhilarating YA fantasy standalone.

In a world where magic is illegal, eight criminals led by rebellious Larkin are sent on a mission to rid their kingdom of monsters. Descending into an underground world full of unspeakable horrors, Larkin and her crew must use their forbidden magic to survive.

As they fight in the shadows, Larkin finds a light in Amias, a fellow outlaw with a notorious past. Soon, Larkin and Amias realize that their destinies are intertwined and she dares to dream of a future where they can freely practice magic.

But as the beasts grow in number and her band is picked off one by one, Larkin is forced to confront a terrible truth: They were never meant to return.

Lovers of dark, high-octane adventure will be enthralled by this genre-bending YA fantasy standalone, perfect for fans of Kendare Blake and Leigh Bardugo.

Eight Will Fall, by author Sarah Harian, is pitched as Six of Crows meets Suicide Squad, but actually shares no similarities with either. The story follows 17-year-old Larkin who lives in the Demura Isles with her family. Larkin is an Empath, a person who has the ability to project emotions called destruction magic. In this reality, empaths have no rights. They can't get an education. They can't be caught using any magic since it is banned. She is forced into working in the Ethera mines digging for luminite which is said to keep Empath magic in check. 

What's worse is that Queen Karsyn Melay has a tendency of sending empaths into the Reach or the farms where they are never seen from again. Soon after this story begins, Larkin and her younger brother Garran are arrested and taken to the Queen's dungeons. The Queen gives Larkin, along with 6 other empaths and a non-empath a mission they can't refuse. They are to travel to the Reach and hunt down a dark under lord named Kyran and kill him. Kyran was banished to the Reach by Melay's ancestor Queen Ilona, but it's apparent that he or someone close to him is causing major issues. 

Each chosen Empath has a family member held back as leverage, thus making their choice to participate an easy one. For Larkin, that is her brother Garran. The Reach is a dangerous underground world that has slowly consumed parts of the upper world as well those who live on the farms. As they descend into the net of underground tunnels, they realize the ancient Empath may not be a legend after all and that there’s something following them. As the group goes deeper into the Reach, Larkin discovers that her powers are actually growing.

With almost no skills, knowledge, or resources, the ragtag group must first learn to fight for their survival before they can complete their task and return home. Larkin must become a leader and discover a whole new path to her powers that seem to grow the further into the Reach they travel. A word of warning: Don't be fooled by those who claim there are (8) main characters. That is false. Larkin is the main character. The story is told from her perspective. This book is creepy and bloody and dark. The challenge for Larkin and her group is to stay alive since nobody that has gone after Kyran has come back.  

In my opinion, the characters to keep an out out for besides Larkin are Elf, who came from a dancing traveling troupe, Jacque, who is a soldier as well as an empath who yearns to survive so she can finally marry the love of her life, and finally Amias, who has so many secrets it's hard to keep up with. Plus, he's the so called romantic interest in this story for Larkin. Apparently, this was supposed to have been a duology. I think the ending wraps things up nicely even though it felt a bit rushed, but I would not have minded if there were another book. Especially when it comes to following Elf on her next journey. 


Wednesday, November 20, 2019

#REVIEW - Snow Creek by Gregg Olsen #Thriller

Series: Detective Megan Carpenter #1
Format: E-book, 280 pages
Release Date: November 18, 2019
Publisher: Bookouture
Source: Publisher
Genre: Police Procedural / Thriller

Footprints were scattered about like fallen leaves. She looked down into the ravine, and once more her lungs filled with fear. A body, blackened and motionless lay splayed out in the bushes.

Detective Megan Carpenter is no stranger to evil. Escaping the horrors of her old life, she’s vowed never to let anyone hurt her or those she loves ever again. Joining the small police force in Jefferson County’s Port Townsend, Megan is determined to get every victim of a crime the justice they deserve.

So when Ruth Turner walks into the Sheriff’s office claiming her sister Ida Watson has been missing for over a month, Megan’s instincts tell her that she needs to do more than just file a report.

Arriving at a secluded farmhouse in the hills above Snow Creek, she finds Ida’s teenage children alone and frightened.

Then a few days later, close to the Watson's home, the blackened body of a woman is discovered in an abandoned pickup truck.

Megan must unravel the disturbing secrets of the isolated Snow Creek community if she is to catch the killer.

But Megan has dark secrets of her own too…

Hidden in the back of her closet is a box of tapes containing every single recording of her therapy sessions with Doctor Albright over thirteen years ago. As Megan begins to play the tapes, she’s taken straight back to her terrifying childhood, back to the time she was a kid called Rylee, fighting to survive.

Can Megan finally confront the past she’s spent years trying to block out and will listening to her own painful story help her solve the complex case she is now entangled in?

Snow Creek is the first installment in author Gregg Olsen's Detective Megan Carpenter series. The story is largely set in and around Port Townsend and Snow Creek, Washington. Megan Carpenter is a Detective for the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office. As the story opens, Ruth Turner claims that her sister Ida has been missing for over a month. Apparently, Ida and her husband Merrick were planning on going to Mexico to some orphanage but haven't been heard from since. 
Megan soon starts her investigation by doing a welfare check on Ida and Merrick's teenage children Joshua and Sarah. Something is really not right with not only Ida and her family, but Ruth's as well. The investigation into the Merritt's disappearance heightens when a burnt out truck with the body of a dead woman is found in a nearby ravine thanks to intrepid cryptozoologists searching for Sasquatch. With the mystery of Ida’s whereabouts solved, Megan has to figure out what happened to Wheaton.
With Sarah telling Megan that her father was abusive, Megan has even more to go on.The race is on to find Merrick and bring Ida’s killer to justice begins in earnest. But as further evidence is uncovered Megan starts to wonder if they’ve been focusing on the wrong person and someone else could be their killer. Between trying to put the pieces together or what is actually happening, Megan takes a journey back to her own troubled past. Not going to sugar coat it, but the more she listens to the tapes from her former psychiatrist, the more questions you will have.
Snow Creek is actually a pretty twisted story that makes you compare this book to Deliverance. Haven't seen Deliverance yet? Rent it! While Megan is trying to maintain a sort of dual existence between the past and the present, you get the feeling that she really had a whole lot of help hiding what happened to her in the past in order to become a Cop. Megan and her brother no longer speak thanks to her own actions. She doesn't speak to her mother who she hasn't seen in years, and I don't think she has any intentions of doing so any time soon. 
I definitely plan on continuing with this series as the book ends on a curious cliffhanger ending.