Friday, July 23, 2021

#Review - The Chariot at Dusk by Swati Teerdhala #YA #Fantasy

Series: Tiger at Midnight # 3
Format: Hardcover, 432 pages
Release Date: June 29, 2021
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
Source: Publisher
Genre: Young Adult / Fantasy / Epic

In the sweeping, dramatic third book and denouement of Swati Teerdhala’s South Indian–inspired fantasy trilogy, Esha must hunt down Kunal and work alongside him and Harun in a race to collect ancient artifacts to help save their fragile kingdom after the magical bond between their people, the land, and the gods finally shatters.

A queen at last. An empty palace. A kingdom to save.

Esha is reeling from Kunal’s betrayal, but she has a kingdom to rule from behind a thin smokescreen—pretending to be Princess Reha while she sends her most trusted soldiers to collect Reha and Kunal by any means necessary. Traitors, after all, must be punished.

But the Yavar are attacking from every front—tracking down Kunal and Reha in the remote mountains, kidnapping Harun—in search of legendary artifacts that will give them the power to break the precarious janma bond and release the destructive magic back into the lands.

Now that the race is on to find the missing artifacts, Esha must put aside her rage and work with Kunal again—but can she find the strength to forgive him, or will the Viper have her revenge at any cost?

In the final book of Swati Teerdhala’s epic fantasy trilogy, the lands’ fate, their people’s livelihoods, and the bond that sustains their world all depend on what Kunal and Esha can offer—to the gods and to each other.


The Chariot at Dusk, by author Swati Teerdhala, is the third and final installment in the authors Tiger at Midnight trilogy. Drawing inspiration from ancient Indian history and Hindu mythology, Teerdhala creates a fresh, layered world that is vivid and compelling. The destroyed janma bond, an essential element of the land that was broken by the division of the regions during the violence, demonstrates how the health of the land is intricately related to the actions of its people. Readers loved the cat-and-mouse game of Book One with Kunal attempting to capture Esha. 

In Book Two, Kunal and Esha were finally working together in the castle. But with Kunal’s betrayal at the end of the second book, they’re once again on different sides—and Esha must track down Kunal before he costs them their whole mission. Though they find themselves on opposite sides once more, readers will be pleased to see the steamy chemistry between them never fades. This story shows Esha stepping forward from her role as the shadowed assassin to take on the power and responsibility of a temporary ruler, while Reha shows strength by resisting the role of queen until she can accept it on her own terms. 

But Yamini, the Yavar Princess, continues to attack from every front—tracking down Kunal and Reha in the remote mountains, kidnapping Harun—in search of legendary artifacts that will give them the power to break the precarious janma bond and release the destructive magic back into the lands. At the same time, Vardaan has gathered his own troops and mercenaries to retake the kingdom. It seems as if they are fighting from all sides, all while trying to decipher the old scrolls and messages that may lead them to being able to fix the janma bond. 

Now that the race is on to find the missing artifacts, Esha must put aside her rage away and work with Kunal again—but can she find the strength to forgive him, or will the Viper have her revenge at any cost? The push and pull between the two after the events of Archer was super interesting to follow, and allowed for some really raw moments between the two. The book alternates between Esha and Kunal. Kunal’s chapters where he was so focused on winning Esha back and helping Reha learn her heritage. Esha's chapters prove that you can take the girl out of the assassin, but when you do, there's more to her than meets the eye. She really stands up and delivers as she's pulled together both Blades and Spirits in order to help save their country. 

One final comment, I am happy that the revolving love triangle involving Esha, Kunal, and Harun resolved itself way before the finale. Do I think the finale was rushed? Maybe just a little bit. I am glad that Reha was patient in her determination not to jump into becoming Queen before she was ready. This showed a lot of character growth. I liked the group of friends that Esha has put together including Kunal, Laksh, Zhyani, Aripya, Farhan, and Aahal among others. 

Thursday, July 22, 2021

#Review - Daughter of Sparta by Claire M. Andrews #Mythology #Fantasy

Series: Daughter of Sparta # 1
Format: Hardcover, 384 pages
Release Date: June 8, 2021
Publisher: Jimmy Patterson Books
Source: Library
Genre: Young Adult / Fantasy / Historical

In this thrilling reimagining of ancient Greek mythology, a headstrong girl does whatever it takes to rise up and become the most powerful fighter her people have ever seen.

Seventeen-year-old Daphne has spent her entire life honing her body and mind into that of a warrior, hoping to be accepted by the unyielding people of ancient Sparta. But an unexpected encounter with the goddess Artemis—who holds Daphne's brother's fate in her hands—upends the life she's worked so hard to build. Nine mysterious items have been stolen from Mount Olympus and if Daphne cannot find them, the gods' waning powers will fade away, the mortal world will descend into chaos, and her brother's life will be forfeit.

Guided by Artemis's twin—the handsome and entirely-too-self-assured god Apollo—Daphne's journey will take her from the labyrinth of the Minotaur to the riddle-spinning Sphinx of Thebes, team her up with mythological legends such as Theseus and Hippolyta of the Amazons, and pit her against the gods themselves.

A reinterpretation of the classic Greek myth of Daphne and Apollo, Daughter of Sparta by debut author Claire Andrews turns the traditionally male-dominated mythology we know into a heart-pounding and empowering female-led adventure.


Daughter of Sparta, by author Claire M. Andrews, is the first installment in the authors Daughter of Sparta series. The classic character of Daphne is reinterpreted as a compellingly capable Sparta warrior able to hold her own in a fight. The romantic tension and enemies-to-lovers development between Daphne and Apollo is an ever-present slow burn build up woven into a fast-paced action-heavy plot. While Daughter of Sparta stands on it's own, the book ends with the potential for future books in a series, with several questions left up in the air.

“A warrior has no time to spare worrying about dresses, I would say. Now, as Lykou and Theseus both eyes me with open admiration, I recognize that there is a different kind of strength in embracing your femininity and the vulnerability that comes with it. Dresses can be a weapon, too, a blade of cloth to turn heads and guide eyes, to influence the decisions of others.”

In the original tale of Daphne and Apollo, Daphne was said to be a beautiful nymph whose beauty caught the eye of Apollo, god of archery, music and dance, truth and prophecy, healing and diseases, the Sun and light, poetry, and more. It is said that Daphne was the first love of Apollo but unfortunately the girl never responded his love. It was not usual or possible for a nymph or a mortal woman in the Greek mythology to resist to the love of a god, but Daphne did so and in fact, she lost her life trying to escape this love.
In this version, Daphne is a young woman living with her two brothers Pyrrhus and Alkaios and adoptive parents in Sparta after being abandoned by their father. She's considered to be an mothakes, or a non-spartan who is not allowed as many liberties as true-Spartans are. Daphne has spent her life training and fighting, hoping to one day be seen as something more than a mothakes. When she has the opportunity to take her brother's place in a ceremonial race to catch a stag and bring the gods favor and good harvest to the land, she decides to go with it, hoping that she might gain status and recognition.
Daphne finds herself coming face to face with Artemis, Goddess of the Hunt. Artemis is the daughter of Zeus and Leto, and the twin sister of Apollo. She is charged by Artemis with recovering nine items of power whose loss from Olympus threatens the power of the gods and the fate of the entire world. The message is clear; Daphne must go on a quest to find the missing 9 objects or her brother Pyrrhus and friend Lykou will remain stuck as a deer and a wolf. To make matters even more challenging, Artemis uses the Midas Curse to ensure her compliance as well as sending Apollo along. If she fails to complete the quest, she will be bound and enslaved by Artemis. And as her guide and companion, she's accompanied by Artemis's devious and handsome twin brother, the god Apollo.
Daphne’s sense of isolation and of not being fully embraced by the Spartans is clear from the first pages, and her need to belong propels many of her actions. Daphne is tough-as-nails fighter with some hidden magic about her as well who never hesitates to throw herself headfirst into danger. Daphne's mysterious parentage and assorted godlike abilities was never revealed which begs for a sequel. This book is full of action and ancient Greek myths and legends. It's fast-paced, and our heroes barely have the time to catch their breath before another problem appears. They are either fighting monsters or trying to escape them, or solving riddles and or battling gods. 
This book is a literal who's who of Greek Gods and Goddesses and other players. The King of Sparta is Menelaus and his wife is Helen. If you remember your mythology, Helen was stolen away from Menelaus which led to the Trojan War. In this story, Helen was once the fastest Sparta female which Daphne herself is attempting to follow in her footsteps. Others not necessarily how they appear: Artemis and Apollo: Ares: Hermes: Demeter: Minos: King of Crete. Pasiphae:  Ariadne: Minotaur: The Nine Muses are goddesses of the art and the sources of all knowledge. They are also the caretakers of Hesperides, the source of all the power of Olympus.


Wednesday, July 21, 2021

#Review - A Good Day for Chardonnay by Darynda Jones #Mystery #Humor #Suspense

Series: Sunshine Vicram # 2
Format: E-Galley, 416 pages
Release Date: July 27, 2021
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Source: Publisher
Genre: Contemporary / Mystery & Detective

Running a small-town police force in the mountains of New Mexico should be a smooth, carefree kind of job. Sadly, full-time Sheriff—and even fuller-time coffee guzzler—Sunshine Vicram, didn’t get that memo.

All Sunshine really wants is one easygoing day. You know, the kind that starts with coffee and a donut (or three) and ends with take-out pizza and a glass of chardonnay (or seven). Turns out, that’s about as easy as switching to decaf. (What kind of people do that? And who hurt them?)

Before she can say iced mocha latte, Sunny’s got a bar fight gone bad, a teenage daughter hunting a serial killer and, oh yes, the still unresolved mystery of her own abduction years prior. All evidence points to a local distiller, a dangerous bad boy named Levi Ravinder, but Sun knows he’s not the villain of her story. Still, perhaps beneath it all, he possesses the keys to her disappearance. At the very least, beneath it all, he possesses a serious set of abs. She’s seen it. Once. Accidentally.

Between policing a town her hunky chief deputy calls four cents short of a nickel, that pesky crush she has on Levi which seems to grow exponentially every day, and an irascible raccoon that just doesn’t know when to quit, Sunny’s life is about to rocket to a whole new level of crazy.

Yep, definitely a good day for chardonnay.

A Good Day for Chardonnay, by author Darynda Jones, is the second installment in the authors Sunshine Vicram series. If you haven't already read the first installment, please take time to do so before jumping into this book.* You've been warned. 

Set in the small mountainous town of Del Sol, New Mexico, Sheriff Sunshine Vicram has her hands full in this second installment. The story begins with Sunny on a blind date with a man named Carver that was set up by her parents. Sunshine believes that having her teeth pulled would be a whole lot more fun but Carver wants more. She then heads to her best friend Chief Deputy Quinn Cooper's along with her entire staff and the women from her mother's book club, where a raccoon has invaded his home. Hilarity ensues as the raccoon refuses to go down without a fight.

Sunshine then races towards Roadhouse Bar & Grill where an incident has left ex-military Keith Seabright seriously injured and likely drugged after being attacked by 3 unknown men who fled the scene. The fact that the love of her life, even though she won't admit it out loud to anyone, Levi Ravinder was also injured and refuses treatment after he went to Keith's aid, makes things more twisted. Keith's investigation brings Sunshine back to Santa Fe where there's an open investigation into a kidnapping. This case was the only case that she's failed to close.

Sunshine also has the Mayor of the town, Donna Lomas, blackmailing her into investigating a group called the Dangerous Daughters. They are allegedly a group of women that secretly run the town and who the Mayor believes helped Sunshine win her election as Sheriff after spending 10 years working for the Santa Fee P.D. as a Detective with a high clearance rate. Sunshine has gone over the towns records with a fine tooth comb, but she's gotten nowhere fast. Even though she knows who is who's pocket, she doesn't how close she could be to solving the mystery.

One of the ongoing issues that Sunshine is trying to solve is her own kidnapping. Which brings Sunshine to visiting Levi's uncle Wynn in prison in Arizona and some revelations. Wynn claimed he was responsible for killing Sunny's kidnapper but Sunny knows that he's protecting someone. Because Sunny doesn't have full memories of what happened to her thanks to a head injury, Levi may be the only person in town who knows the truth about what happened to her when she was kidnapped and held for ransom for 5 days. 

To make matters more interesting is that Sunshine's daughter Aurora aka Auri is enamored with Levi who once saved her life when she was only 7 years old. Auri decides that she is going to be like her mom and investigate a series of disappearances in the town and the appearance of what may be a serial killer who is still alive. Her BFF Sybil and love interest Cruz joins her investigation and they get into lots of trouble. As a reminder, Auri's mom saved Sybil and Cruz saved Auri which has tied them together. 

If you're like me and had lots of unanswered questions after A Bad Day For Sunshine, be prepared for what you'll discover after reading this story. The banter between Sunshine and Levi ratchets up to hot, and Ari might have found her future as the towns investigator after nearly finding a grave. The interactions and banter between Sunny's team, which includes Deputy Tricia Salazar, the ace shooter Zee, and 'newbie' Poetry Rojas, whom she blackmailed into becoming a cop, and who is turning out to have stellar instincts and spot on judgements.   

Tuesday, July 20, 2021

#Review - The Canary Club by Sherry D. Ficklin #YA #Historical

Series: Canary Club # 1
Format: Paperback, 325 pages
Release Date: October 19, 2017
Publisher: Clean Teen Publishing
Source: Publisher
Genre: Young Adult / Historical

"Bad Luck" Benny is a boy from the wrong side of the tracks. Recently released from jail, he has vowed to keep his head down and stay out of trouble. But he also needs to care for his ailing sister and the rest of his struggling family, and he'll do anything to make that happen—even if it means taking a position with a notorious crime boss. He soon finds himself in over his head—and worse still—falling for the one dame on earth he should be staying away from.

Masie is the daughter of a wealthy gangster with the voice of an angel and gun smoke in her veins. Strong-willed but trapped in a life she never wanted, she dreams of flying free from the politics and manipulation of her father. A pawn in her family's fight for control of the city, and with a killer hot on her heels, she turns to the one person who just might be able to spring her from her gilded cage. But Masie is no angel, and her own dark secrets may come back to burn them both.

Two worlds collide in this compelling story of star-crossed lovers in gritty prohibition-era New York.

Perfect for fans of Beatriz Williams’ A CERTAIN AGE or Libba Bray’s THE DIVINERS, THE CANARY CLUB by Sherry D. Ficklin will entice Historical Romance fans of all ages. This Gatsby-era tale filled with dazzling speakeasies, vicious shoot-outs, gritty gangsters, and iridescent ingenues has also been compared to the television series Z: THE BEGINNING OF EVERYTHING and BOARDWALK EMPIRE.

The Canary Club, by author Sherry D. Ficklin, is the main installment in the authors Canary Club series. Other titles in the series include: Gilded Cage, All That Glitters, and Nothing Gold. This story takes place in 1927 New York City. It features two main characters: Benny Fleischer, and Masie Schultz. "Bad Luck" Benny spent 3 months in prison for not pointing the finger at others. He's trying to do what's right for his family which includes his mother who has been working double shifts, and siblings one of which, his sister, who is very sick. 

His best friend Richard "Dickey" Lewis (who was introduced in Nothing Gold) works for JD Schultz, son of Dutch Schultz. Prohibition has turned good people into criminals, criminals into modern gods. One of those Gods just happens to be Dutch Schultz. After working with Benny for a few days, he starts earning a bit of cash that goes a long way to help is sick sister get the treatment she needs. But when he ends up in the wrong place at the wrong place and takes a bullet for his trouble, Dutch is so grateful, that he makes Benny bodyguard for his daughter Masie.  

The moment the two meet, there are sparks of interest but with Dutch as a father, and one who sees his daughter as a chess piece to gain even more power, the likelihood of a happy ending isn't looking that good. He has to make a lot of tough decisions in order to keep everyone he loves safe, while not compromising his values. When Benny is given oversight of a brand new club called The Canary Club, Benny is hounded by corrupt individuals who want to bring Dutch down and take what they believe they are entitled to.

Masie is the flaxen-haired daughter of notorious boot-legger Dutch Schultz who was introduced first in Gilded Cage. Masie was born to violence like a fish born to water. In this world, women are considered to be soft targets and disposal. Women are pawns in a game they are not allowed to play. Women are to be coddled, protected, and mollified. But what the men around her don't understand is that Masie has a brain of her own, and she wants something else besides being part of a criminal organization until she is married off.

Maisie falls for naive Benny who get innocently drawn into the racket out of desperate need for money to help support his family fallen on hard times. Masie's best friend, and J.D.'s main squeeze is June West who was introduced in All That Glitters. With rival gangsters, Prohibition agents, and even a murderer in the mix, Masie and Benny may be pulled apart just as they’ve found each other. I feel as though the story was missing something. Like another sequel. The ending literally bypasses actually history when it comes to Dutch and his crew. The ending also leaves a whole lot of room for another Masie and Benny to have yet another adventure. At this point, things don't look so good. 

There are a boatload of actual characters who really did exist in this era including Lucky Luciano. The book should have a forward, telling the reader that some of these people did in fact exist, but that the author had taken literary license with the story, and written a "what if" instead.