Tuesday, June 30, 2020

#Review - Cloak of Night by Evelyn Skye #YA #Fantasy

Series: Circle of Shadows #2
Format: Hardcover, 416 pages
Release Date: February 11, 2020
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Source: Library
Genre: Young Adult / Fantasy

The stunning sequel to Circle of Shadows, a fantasy series full of magic and betrayal—from Evelyn Skye, the New York Times bestselling author of the Crown’s Game series.

After the devastating Ceremony of Two Hundred Hearts, Sora, Daemon, Fairy, and Broomstick are truly alone in the fight to save their kingdom. Empress Aki is missing, and everyone else who could help them is a prisoner to the Dragon Prince’s mind control. 

At least Sora understands what they’re up against. Or so she believes, until she overhears the Dragon Prince bargaining with the god of war for immortality and learns that ryuu magic may be a more insidious danger than she realized.

Suddenly, the stakes are higher and even more personal for Sora—not only must she stop a seemingly indestructible Prince Gin, but she must also unravel the secrets of ryuu magic before it is too late for nearly everyone she loves. 

And as Sora, Daemon, Fairy, and Broomstick face dangerous obstacles at every turn, the greatest challenge may be discovering who they truly are, and what, if anything, they are capable of. 

The fate of a kingdom rests in their hands. Full of dangerous action, heartbreaking romance, and incredible magic—Cloak of Night is the exciting end to this thrilling duology.

 "Self-doubt is a ghost that feeds on fear, start if with bravery, and you'll prevail." 
Cloak of Night is the second and final installment in author Evelyn Skye's Circle of Shadows duology. In this finale to the fantasy duology that began with Circle of Shadows, the author has created a story full of jaw-dropping action as well as a bit of a twisted romance. The story picks up after the devastating events of the Ceremony of Two Hundred which saw Empress Aki dethroned by her own brother, Gin making a deal with a God named Zomuri to purse his dream of bring Evermore to the entire world, and hypnotizing the entire society of Taiga which are the best fighters in the land to fight for him.

Except, that is, for the four members of the league of rogues who fled with their lives. From the dangerous and talented Sora is dangerous and talented and the leader of the group of rogues who has always been the smartest one, but also the one who loves to create mischief. She's been given the ability to become invisible using ryuu magic after a confrontation with her sister who she thought was dead; Daemon, a powerful boy with a mysterious past who can shift into an electric flying wolf; Fairy is Sora’s best friend, a relentless flirt and brilliant poison-master; Broomstick has an uncanny ability of creating explosives. 

Hana aka Virtuoso is Sora's younger sister. She chose blood, glory, Evermore and Gin over her family. 10 years ago, she was taken from a nursery during the Blood Rift that tore the country into factions and became Gin's second in command. There might be hope for her after a heart breaking event happens that proves to Hana that she's on the wrong side of the war and Sora was right all along. Aki is the dethroned Empress who knows the only people who can help her are Sora and her friends. As long as she remains alive, there is hope that she will be able to regain her throne and stop a huge mistake from going forward.

Meanwhile, Gin, who stole the ability to see magic from the afterlife, is going by Emperor Gin now. He is in complete control of Kichona and the people have fallen under his sway. Gin wants more power. He summons Zomuri, God of Glory, and asks for help. The plan is to capture the leaders from all the kingdoms and give the hearts to the God. In return, he'll be immortal in what's known as Evermore. Gin has used his powers to create an army loyal to him by hypnotizing them. But, Sora, Daemon, Fairy, and Broomstick might be the straw that broke the camel's back if they can stick together.   

Overall, I thought the story could use a bit more pacing but was happy that another character named Liga, aka Alligator Constellation, was added to the mix. Liga's participation gives the story a bit of depth and humor as he tries to teach Daemon about his magic and his heritage. I thought it was good that Sora and Hana found a way to reconnect. Hana always looking up to her sister but turned mean spirited when she was taken by Gin. I was glad that the author finally understood that even though Sora and Daemon were Gemina bonded partners, that they could also be romantically linked. Never did understand the Fairy/Daemon link and glad it was sort out.  


Monday, June 29, 2020

#Review - All Out War by Sean Parnell #Fiction #Thriller

Series: Eric Steele #2
Format: Hardcover, 416 pages
Release Date: September 3, 2019
Publisher: William Morrow
Source: Library
Genre: Fiction / Thrillers / Military

Special operative Eric Steele, introduced in Man of War, is on the hunt for a formidable Russian terrorist in this high-intensity tale of international intrigue from the author of the New York Times bestselling memoir Outlaw Platoon.

Badly injured while stopping a rogue agent from obtaining weapons of mass destruction, elite warrior Eric Steele is drawn back into service before he’s ready when unknown assailants break into his home near Pittsburgh, injuring his mother and stealing his father’s pistol.

An Alpha—an elite soldier under the direct command of the president of the United States—Steele is hell-bent on finding the attackers and bringing them to justice. While tracking his foe, Steele discovers he’s become entangled in a far more sinister plan that’s already been set in motion.

A terrorist named Zakayev, once locked away in a maximum-security prison in Russia, has escaped and joined forces with Hassan Sitta, a man who’s shown his prowess and ingenuity with a spectacular bomb planted somewhere in the Middle East that hasn’t been ignited—and no one can find. But that is only the beginning of a horrifying plan that, if it succeeds, will shatter international alliances and bring the world to the brink of war.

Now, the hunted must turn the tables on the hunter—Steele must find a way to stay alive and stop Zakayev before innocent lives are lost.

All Out War, by author Sean Parnell, is the second installment in his Eric Steele series. This story picks up 6 months after the end of Man of War. Eric Steele is the kind of hero that fans love: a badass with brains, brawn, and tons of heart. If you haven't started reading this series yet, and you love characters like Jack Reacher and Mitch Rapp, you really should try it sometime. 6 months ago, Eric stopped a former mentor from detonating a nuclear bomb on US soil in an act of revenge on those who did him wrong. In the process, he was severely injured requiring some much needed down time at his home in Pennsylvania.

Trouble always seems to find Eric even when he's not looking for it. Upon coming back to active duty status as an Alpha, Eric must prove his skills and stamina are up to par to regain active status. Thankfully, his keeper and friend Demo is alongside. Demo in many ways is a comedy act as well as being serious when the action is hot and heavy. But, after Eric and his mother Susan are attacked by a well-oiled group of soldiers at his home, things change. Both Eric and Susan are critically injured so badly they need to be air lifted to a specialized treatment facility. What makes this attack so devastating, is that Eric's past was supposed to be expunged from all records when he joined the Program. 

Second, the attack leads to questions about Eric's father Hank Steele who was listed as presumed dead after a package arrives from Bo Nolan, another special op operator who was friends with Hank. The package leads to a very important secret which nobody is supposed to know about. Third, while recovering via experimental treatment, Eric learns that there is more at play; this isn’t only personal anymore, it’s a well-planned, backed with formidable opposition, global conspiracy that could threaten major world partnerships and bring All Out War. Fourth, the mission becomes all that more important when it becomes clear that someone is targeting the President, Israeli Prime Minister, and the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia in Jerusalem.

As a backdrop, Eric Steele in an clandestine operative known as an Alpha. At any given time, there are nine Alpha’s assigned their own geographical territory on the globe. An Alpha is “a Clandestine operative assigned to a unit known simply as ‘The Program’.” Its purpose is to give the United States President another option to use when diplomacy has failed and all out war is on the horizon. Much like The Orion Team Mitch Rapp was a part of early in his career. Again, if you like Mitch Rapp, you’ll love Eric Steele.

I was hoping for a return of Meg Harden to the series and I was happy to see my wish was granted. 6 months ago, Eric asked that Meg be added to the Program since her background is impressive and she got a firsthand look at what Eric does for a living and all the challenges he faces in stopping America's enemies. Now, Meg not only works for the President, but has super impressive gadgets she can use to track down the man responsible for the attacks on Eric and his mother. Steele goes on the offensive thanks to Meg's work. Aleksandr Zakayev is a former Chechen super soldier trained by Russians who led the attack on Eric's home as well as believing he killed Eric.

Zakayev, using funding from a man called Gabriel who is apparently someone within Saudi Intelligence, goes after his friend Hassan Sitta from one of the most secure prisons on the planet called Cold Storage. Sitta is a genius bomb builder with ties to Hezbollah who was caught by another Program Alpha operative planting bombs under Mecca. Parnell brings us a literal globetrotting thriller with our hero fighting bad guys in his home, then London, Budapest, Vienna, the middle of the Arctic Ocean, Norway, Egypt, and Israel. There is never any lack of action and putting this thriller down is a tall order. 

What makes me continue to read this series is the reality of what is possible in the world of cover operations and those who want to harm the US and its allies. I first started reading Mitch Rapp novels right before I began blogging and reviewing thanks to my Dad who was former Army. He and I could agree on things when we were talking about our time in the military as well as reading military centered novels like All Out War. Plus, Parnell is the real deal. He’s an actual American hero who put his life on the line for this country time and time again in Afghanistan. I said this previously, I’ll say it again, there is nothing political about this story. It’s not about Democrats vs Republicans, or Liberals vs Conservatives. It’s about a man dedicated to saving the country he loves from anyone who wants to harm it.


Friday, June 26, 2020

#Review - On Sinister Shores by Jennifer Ellision #YA #Fantasy

Series: Lady Pirates #3
Format: Kindle, 236 pages
Release Date: June 1, 2020
Publisher: Jennifer Ellision
Source: Kindle Unlimited
Genre: Young Adult / Fantasy

Is her pirate revenge worth the price she'll have to pay?

Pirate Grace Porter has lost both her mother and her crew--her family--to the monstrous Mordgris creatures.

But it never would have happened if it not for the villainous pirate Whighorn.

Tracking Whighorn to a mythical island, Grace must grapple with her slipping grip on her humanity as she succumbs to a darkness in her. A darkness that isn't just her pirate experience talking. It's something deeper. Something ancient.

Something in her blood.

And she’ll have to decide if her revenge on Whighorn and the Mordgris is worth sacrificing what she has left--what she holds more dear than any treasure she's ever encountered.

Her soul.

On Sinister Shores, by author Jennifer Ellison, is the third and final installment in the authors Lady Pirates series. This story picks up right where Through Fathoms Dark and Deep left off. Protagonist Grace Porter and the survivors of the Lady Luck, including Lord Leonardo Wesson & Sam Smi, have found themselves on board her father's ship the Commandant after being rescued. Things though are not so simple. Grace is changing. She knows she's changing but she keeps up her hope that she can find her way to gain revenge against Captain Whigborn and the Broken Serpent for what he did to the crew of the Lady Luck. 

Grace needs to find a way to get to La Isla de Oro (Island of Gold) where Whigborn and his crew are heading. Leo’s brother John is also on board, so finding the Captain's ship and its crew may lead them to helping John escape which would go a long way of making things right. She also has the Map of Omna which allegedly can lead her to the home of her most dreaded enemy; the Mordgris. 3 years ago, the Mordgris allegedly took Grace's mother and vanished back to their homes.

The most curious aspect about Grace is that she seems impervious from attacks by her enemies. They've had numerous chances to take her but have left her alone for some reason. She can't forget that the Mordgris warned Grace to say away from their home. The Mordgris have the curious ability to walk on two legs and take the face of anyone that they've encountered. Grace believes that if she can find the island, she may solve the mystery of what happened to her mother. Is her mother really the monster that she believes? Or, can she be saved? Meanwhile, Grace’s relationship with her father apparently ends in a good place of respect. 

Summary: I think this story could have been longer. I would have liked to see more action. I would have liked to see more scenes between Grace and the Mordgris. There are some romance scenes between Grace and Leo. In the time of this pandemic, I understand that authors are struggling to put out a product to satisfy fans. In this case, I think the author could have waited a few more months to tighten up editing errors and making the story sing.