Wednesday, March 31, 2021

#Review - Lucky by Marissa Stapley #Contemporary

Series: Standalone
Format: Paperback, 256 pages
Release Date: April 6, 2021
Publisher: Simon Schuster
Source: Publisher
Genre: Contemporary

For fans of The Flight Attendant​, a compelling and thrilling road-trip novel about a talented grifter named Lucky whose past comes back to haunt her.

What if you had the winning ticket that would change your life forever, but you couldn’t cash it in?

Lucky Armstrong is a tough, talented grifter who has just pulled off a million-dollar heist with her boyfriend, Cary. She’s ready to start a brand-new life, with a new identity—when things go sideways. Lucky finds herself alone for the first time, navigating the world without the help of either her father or her boyfriend, the two figures from whom she’s learned the art of the scam.

When she discovers that a lottery ticket she bought on a whim is worth millions, her elation is tempered by one big problem: cashing in the winning ticket means the police will arrest her for her crimes. She’ll go to prison, with no chance to redeem her fortune.

As Lucky tries to avoid arrest and make a future for herself, she must confront her past by reconciling with her father; finding her mother, who abandoned her when she just a baby; and coming to terms with the man she thought she loved—whose complicated past is catching up to her, too.

This is a novel about truth, personal redemption, and the complexity of being good. It introduces a singularly gifted, complicated character who must learn what it means to be independent and honest…before her luck runs out.  

Lucky, by author Marissa Stapley, follows the life of one Luciana (Lucky) Armstrong from her abandonment as a baby on a church step in 1982 NYC, through a series of adventures through October of 2008 when her life comes full circle. Told in alternating timelines between a child version and a present day adult version, this is a novel about truth, the complexity of doing what's right, and of redemption. After being abandoned, Luciana is taken by a grifter by the name of John Armstrong.  

John creates a story that the baby's mother abandoned her and that he's the baby's father. Lucky is taught by the man she calls father, who changes their names and appearances between scams, everything she knows about grifting. Along the way, we learn that Lucky really didn't have a life that she deserved. She got the life that was guided by a man who lied, stole, and conned as many people as he could. When she tried to make friends, her father was trying to find ways to make money off rich people. When John finds bad luck, he ends up working for a woman who has no morals.  

While Lucky is trying to find a way to get an education, and maybe a new career path, she meets Cary Matheson and falls in love with him. After setting up in Idaho where Lucky hopes for yet another new beginning, she allows herself to get caught up in yet another scheme of Cary's. This time a ponzi scheme which will steal money from senior citizens who trusted her with their investments. The couple decides to flee to another country since they are now wanted for fraud, embezzlement, and racketeering. 

But after a stop in Las Vegas when Cary disappears, the events send Lucky into finding the alleged woman who gave birth to her, and the man who raised her but is now paying a steep price for his past. Part of the story revolves around the fact that while leaving Idaho, Lucky plays the lottery not believing that she had any chance at all at winning. Luck is the lady as they say and she ends up winning the drawing worth $390 million. But because of her past misdeeds, she can't actually appear to collect the money or she will be arrested and sent to prison for a very long time. 

Lucky carries this lottery ticket around with her everywhere she goes. Will the money save her and provide her with redemption or lead her down darker paths? Stapley expertly navigates multiple timelines and storylines, carefully intertwining them and making you care about every character—good or evil. Even though John did a very bad thing by taking Lucky, I genuinely think that he tried to show her affection and gave her opportunities to actually learn something that could change her life. 

I didn't expect to be sympathetic to a grifter, but ten-year-old Lucky had a vulnerability and a complicated sense of morality about her that endeared her to me. I also liked the idea of redemption or making right what you've done wrong. Lucky has a whole lot to redeem and with the hopeful ending, perhaps she can actually do something worthwhile with her life.  

**This just in, TV rights for Marissa Stapley's upcoming novel Lucky have been sold to ABC Disney Studios and Carlton Cuse. Stapley is said to be writing the script for the story. I wish her luck. As long as the author is allowed to stick to her original story, the TV movie will be enjoyable. If they demand rewrites to change certain characters, it will be idiotic. 

Tuesday, March 30, 2021

#Review - Havoc by Mary Lindsey #YA #Fantasy #Romance

Series: Haven # 2
Format: Paperback, 400 pages
Release Date: April 5, 2021
Publisher: Entangled: Teen
Source: Publisher
Genre: Young Adult / Romance / Paranormal

The next installment of a thrilling and sexy new werewolf series, full of girl power and heart-pounding paranormal action.

For the first time in his life, Rain Ryland has it all: a home, a family, security. The newly minted shape-shifter even has a place in the pack—the coveted spot right next to his girlfriend, Freddie, who will assume the role of Alpha in a few weeks at the Solstice celebration.

But Rain's peace is shattered when a stranger from Freddie's past returns to the tiny town of New Wurzburg with the power to disrupt the pack and destroy his relationship with Freddie.

When dead bodies mysteriously begin to rise as revenants, the pack and coven square off in a power struggle that could erupt in civil war. Rain and Freddie must choose whether to trust their instincts or their hearts as enemies close in from all sides—even from within. 

Havoc, by author Mary Lindsey, is the second installment in the authors Haven series. This story takes place 5 months after the ending of Haven. So, let's rewind a bit since the last installment came out in 2017, and then was delayed until this year. The primary storyteller is Aaron "Rain" Ryland. Rain, who spent time homeless, then found himself in the Texas Hill Country town of New Wurzburg after learning that he has an aunt, Ruby, who works for the New Wurzburg Police Department. What he didn't understand is that New Wurzburg is a community that is masking a struggle between Watchers and Weavers. 

At the center of the struggle is none other than Friederike Burkhart. Freddie is the presumptive Alpha to be now that her father was murdered. Freddie isn’t like normal teen girls. She's actually a Watcher aka Werewolf who wants to change things where Weavers no longer have control over her pack or have anything to say what Freddie and her pack are allowed to do once she becomes Alpha. And, after the events of Haven, Rain is also a Watcher thanks to a powerful sealer. The story opens with a look at what’s to come for Aaron and Freddie which really isn’t good, especially for the woman who literally saved Aaron’s life. Someone is wanting a war between the shifters and witches and they don’t care who gets hurt in the process.

Rain likes being a wolf, especially when he’s with Freddie and her cousins who work at Haven Winery. When four strangers from Germany show up in town from, descendants of the original Hill Country settlement, including a woman who left Freddie behind 18-years ago, everything changes. There’s a contract that binds Freddie to someone she’s never met, nor has she heard of such a binding contract. The rule stipulates that Rain and Freddie can’t be together. They can’t talk, they can’t bee seen in the same place together. There are other weird things going on.

To make matters worse, someone is targeting not only Freddie, and Aaron, but Petra as well. Petra is targeted because she’s the coven’s sealer who seals the dead so that they don’t wake as revenants. Petra has been doing the job correctly, but someone has decided that she needs to be removed from the picture since she also has a curious ability to see the future. Petra is a key player in this story and for good reasons. She has some unique abilities, and she genuinely lights up when Rain calls her friend. The bad part is that she literally has egomaniacs as parents who look down on everything she does.

After Rain eats a cookie, he sees dark possibilities for Freddie that he’s going to do whatever he can to prevent it from happening. Grant is a Weaver who is in charge of pack oversight thanks to his own father’s destructive behavior in the first installment. At several points in this story, Freddie and Rain wanted his head for what he does and doesn’t do including his knowledge of said contract. Aaron’s disgust with the Elders and the Council is palpable. You can feel the hurt and the desire to prove everyone wrong about him, and Freddie, as well as Petra. There are, of course, surprises that pop up at the end of this book. No spoilers, of course.

As with the first installment, there’s a beginning, a middle, and an ending which could be thought of as a standalone story. Will there be another story in this story? I’d be shocked if there were, but stranger things have happened. I recommend reading the books in order. Especially after such a long wait between books.

Monday, March 29, 2021

#Review - The Seeker's Shadow by Isadora Brown #Urban #Fantasy

Series: Shadows of Wonderland # 1
Format: E-Book, 222 pages
Release Date: September 28, 2020
Publisher: Isadora Brown
Source: Kindle Unlimited
Genre: Urban Fantasy

All magic has been forbidden from Wonderland after the Mad Mage was banished twenty-four years ago. But some still use it in secret, for the worst sort of purposes.

Twenty-three-year-old Alice Wynter, daughter of the chief of police, can’t wait until she can get out of Wonderland. As the only person in the entire town who doesn’t have magic, she’s never felt as though she belonged. It doesn’t help that her best friend was murdered a year ago.

When Rumpelstiltskin himself asks her for a favor, she can’t refuse. However, she soon realizes he thinks the man convicted for her best friend’s murder is actually innocent. Alice isn’t sure she wants to entertain that idea, considering the fact that her father was the officer who arrested him and the reason he was promoted to Chief of Police so quickly.

In order to obtain justice for her friend, Alice must look at the clues with an open mind to the truth. Bodies are meant to stay buried but ghosts live on - until their restless spirits are finally given peace.

With the grittiness and mystery of Riverdale and the magic and romance of Once Upon A Time, The Seeker’s Shadow is a captivating urban fantasy mystery readers are sure to be enchanted by!


The Seeker's Shadow is the first installment in author Isadora Brown's Shadows of Wonderland series. 23-year-old Alice Wynter is the adopted daughter of the Wonderland Chief of Police, and the only non-magic human in the entire town of Wonderland. It's has been one year since Alice's best friend, Anna Skaarsgard, was murdered. Her alleged killer is in prison having admitted to the crime. Since Anna's death, Alice leads a lonely existence without any real friends, just co-workers. Alice has been saving money trying to get out of Wonderland and the Disdain that’s been thrown at her since her adoptive father bought her here.

Alice is known for finding things other people might not be able to find, except her biological parents who she's still searching for. She also wants answers as to how she ended up in Wonderland in the first place. Which is why it's so shocking when the most feared man in Wonderland, Rumpelstiltskin, a man nicknamed The Imp because you are not supposed to say his name out loud, doesn't believe that Beast, who her own adoptive father arrested for the murder of Anna, is actually guilty of Anna's murder. Rumpel knows that something else is happening and needs Alice's help to prove that his theory is correct. 

Alice is tasked with locating a picture of a rose that is supposedly evidence to prove who really killed Anna. To make things even more troubling, Alice is confided in by Ella Byrne, don't ever call me Cinderella! about a sexual assault that allegedly happened at the home of one Stephan Charming. What's especially sickening is that it appears that someone wiped Ella's memories of the entire party which leads to Alice believing that someone is using outlawed magic. Enter Jack Lapine who blamed Alice for Anna's death and will eventually turn Alice's world on its head with a shocking revelation. 

In Wonderland, it has been 25 years since the Red Queen banished all magic thanks to the Mad Mage. The Red Queen directed that anyone who uses Shadow Magic gets no trial. They are just put to death. Could the Mad Mage be back? With a little help from Peter the Dwarf, known as Grumpy, the pieces slowly merge together, and Alice finds the culprit responsible for Ella's attack. But there's still a whole bundle of unanswered questions that remain unsolved. Why would Rumple ask Alice to help him instead of doing the work himself? 

What makes Alice so special? Why did Jack blame Alice for Anna’s death when Alice doesn’t have any magic? Why was he such an ass and now apparently knows secrets about Alice that he can't tell her without the wrong people knowing? What is up with the Cat Chess who was Anna’s cat? Where is the White Queen who disappeared with the Mad Mage? What was up with the out of the blue job offer given to Alice? Was it to keep her from discovering more truths? Why was the villain of the story told not to hurt Alice? Will Paul actually tell her the truth about who her parents were? Will Beasts sister Gianna be helpful proving her brother’s innocence? 

I borrowed this book for free via Kindle Unlimited and yes, these are my own opinions. The next three books are not free and therefore I shall have to pause this series for now. I do want to see how the author gets the questions that I stated above. Would make me feel better about letting for until these books are free or available on Kindle Unlimited.  


Friday, March 26, 2021

#Review - Red Widow by Alma Katsu #Thrillers #Espionage #Suspense

Series: Standalone
Format: Hardcover, 352 pages
Release Date: March 23, 2021
Publisher: G.P. Putnam's Sons
Source: Publisher
Genre: Thrillers / Espionage / Suspense

An exhilarating spy thriller written by an intelligence veteran about two women CIA agents whose paths become intertwined around a threat to the Russia Division—one that’s coming from inside the agency.

Lyndsey Duncan worries her career with the CIA might be over. After lines are crossed with another intelligence agent during an assignment, she is sent home to Washington on administrative leave. So when a former colleague—now Chief of the Russia Division—recruits her for an internal investigation, she jumps at the chance to prove herself. Lyndsey was once a top handler in the Moscow Field Station, where she was known as the “human lie detector” and praised for recruiting some of the most senior Russian officials. But now, three Russian assets have been exposed—including one of her own—and the CIA is convinced there’s a mole in the department. With years of work in question and lives on the line, Lyndsey is thrown back into life at the agency, this time tracing the steps of those closest to her.

Meanwhile, fellow agent Theresa Warner can’t avoid the spotlight. She is the infamous “Red Widow,” the wife of a former director killed in the field under mysterious circumstances. With her husband’s legacy shadowing her every move, Theresa is a fixture of the Russia Division, and as she and Lyndsey strike up an unusual friendship, her knowledge proves invaluable. But as Lyndsey uncovers a surprising connection to Theresa that could answer all of her questions, she unearths a terrifying web of secrets within the department, if only she is willing to unravel it….

Story Locale: Washington, DC; Virginia

Alma Katsu's Red Widow is an espionage thriller which alternates between two women: Lyndsey Duncan, and Theresa Warner. On a flight from NYC to DC, a Russian businessman named Yaromir Popov dies under mysterious circumstances which sets off a series of alarm bells deep in the heart of Langley, Virginia. Shortly thereafter, Lyndsey Duncan, a CIA agent who has been placed on administrative leave for her actions in Beirut, is told that she has a meeting with Eric Newman, Chief of the Russian Division at the CIA. 

Lyndsey, who can tell a lie better than any polygraph, is placed in charge of an investigation into a number of CIA assets in Russia who have turned up dead, or are missing. Popov was her first double agent she turned into a double agent when she came out of training, so his death is even more heartbreaking. Lyndsey knows his family quite well and tries to make sure that the FSB doesn't go after them. Lyndsey must put together a case that could lead to a traitor within the CIA. But who would commit such a heinous crime and why? Haven't the CIA and FBI had enough traitors?

Theresa Warner is the so called Red Widow. She lost her husband when he tried to rescue a woman who was caught spying on Russian President Putin. For those who haven't followed the career of Putin, and believe that he's not the monster under the bed that we all must fear, do yourself a favor and track his career as an agent for the KGB forward. He's not a nice guy no matter who wants to say otherwise. For Theresa, she'll have to make a life and death decision that will put her directly in the line of focus for Lyndsey's investigation. And, while the two may become friendly, Lyndsey's job is to capture the mole. 

Both Lyndsey and Theresa are multi-dimensional, intelligent, and heroic women who drive the action in Red Widow. Although Lyndsey is almost always looking over her shoulder for the next shoe to drop on her career after her consensual relationship with a British spy which is apparently a no no, she refuses to stand down and walk away from finding out the truth even if the truth means those she likes are caught up in the chaos. Theresa's back story is told to the point where you really have to feel a bit of emotion for her knowing what's she's had to dealt with and those who knew things but never once told her what was really happening. Again, my issues with the CIA match those of Theresa in that they sometimes become too political while missing out on both Russia and China's threats to the US. 
While many authors writing in the political and espionage thriller space feature female leads, few are written by female authors. Women readers in particular will identify with and root for these smart yet sympathetic characters. One could thank Alma for her inspiration in putting to pen and paper things that lots of reporters are afraid to talk about for fear of reprisals or having their lives upended. The author has mostly been writing horror novels like The Hunger, and The Deep which I have but haven't read yet.
Background: Alma Katsu had a 30+ year career as a senior intelligence analyst (8 years with the CIA, 24 years with NSA), and is currently an intelligence consultant for a think tank for emerging technologies. She knows the ins-and-outs of some of the most elusive agencies in the nation, and writes about both the drama and the day-to-day functions of the CIA with ease. She expertly captures the job with a level of detail and accessibility, within an exciting, page-turning story, that is sure to draw in readers. 
To be honest, I was kind of shocked to learn of Katsu's background. She literally holds nothing back when attacking the CIA for being a bunch of blithering idiots. Especially those in the higher levels of management. Personally, I do not have a favorable view of the CIA. The CIA is supposed to be the world's greatest spy agency, and yet it missed The Cuban Missile Crisis, The Bay of Pigs Invasion, The Tet Offensive, The Iranian Revolution, The Collapse of the Soviet Union, The 9/11 Attacks, The Iraq War 2003, China's hacking of our most important secretive sights, and all sorts of disastrous mistakes including not catching Julius Rosenberg before he gave Russia plans for nuclear bombs when led to the Nuclear Arms race.   




The gentleman in seat 2D was in medical distress when he boarded, the flight attendant is sure of it.

He was the first on the plane, leading the rush of premium club members. She noticed he was already having trouble, stumbling in the narrow aisle, sweat visible on his face. He shoved his overnight bag into her arms to stow for him and asked for a drink right away, a vodka neat. She is used to this kind of treatment from business class passengers, especially on this hop from JFK to Reagan National, which is often full of VIPs, senators and businessmen. He looks to her like a politician, the worst of all. She knows better than to argue with him.

She brings him a glass of water, too, even though he didn’t ask for it, in case he needs to cool off or take medication. He’s not in great shape—­three hundred pounds easy, squeezed into a suit at least two sizes too small. His face is pale, but there’s a deep flush creeping up from under his collar.

He grumbles to himself throughout the boarding process, but is otherwise quiet. His cell phone is clutched in one hand as the rest of the passengers squeeze by, his face turned to the tiny window, shunning any possibility of contact. He pays no attention through the safety demon­stration but then again no one does anymore, and the flight attendant stopped taking offense long ago.

As the plane taxis onto the runway, she checks the manifest. His name is Yaromir Popov and he came to JFK via an Aeroflot flight from Heathrow. A Russian businessman, then.

No sooner has the Airbus A330 lifted into the night sky than the Russian starts having problems. From the jump seat in the galley, the flight attendant sees his face has turned bright pink and that he’s having difficulty breathing. Could he be choking on something? He hasn’t pressed the call button so it might just be garden variety anxiety. Takeoffs are the worst for many passengers. She counts the minutes until the fasten seat belt signs go off.

The flight to Washington, D.C., will be quick. Because the plane is barely one-­third full, the airline cut back on flight attendants. Tonight, it’s just her and another woman, the bare minimum. Still, there’s plenty for them to take care of and she doesn’t think about Popov again until it’s time to take drink orders. By then, he’s gotten worse. He is shaking in his seat and on the verge of convulsions. His eyes bulge, and his bright red face is shiny from sweat.

She is glad the cabin is dark and the plane practically empty. She doesn’t want to alarm the rest of the passengers. Most have their heads down anyway, trying to catch a quick nap on the ninety-­minute trip.

She leans over him, bringing her face close to his so she can check for the smell of alcohol. “Are you okay, sir? Is there something I can do for you?”

He opens his mouth but no words come out, only a gurgling, choking noise.

Something’s seriously wrong. Her pulse immediately quickens. She’s never had to give emergency medical aid on a plane and she frantically tries to recall what she’s supposed to do next. Loosen his tie? Check his airway for obstructions? Signal for the other flight attendant to come help her?

Bubbles form in the saliva that coats his lips, like a rabid dog. She darts into the galley for another plastic cup of water which he gulps down greedily but it does nothing to help him to speak. The shaking increases; it is like he is riding his own personal wave of turbulence. There is a strangled look of panic in his eyes—­he knows something is very wrong—­but stubbornly keeps trying to speak, as though he is determined to give a message to her.

Spooked, she leaps to her feet and sprints for the cockpit. She knocks on the door and waits for the click of the lock as it disengages before popping her head in. The pilot and copilot look up at her at the same time without even a hint of curiosity as to why she needs to see them. Maybe they think she is bringing coffee.

“We’ve got a passenger in medical distress. In business class,” she adds, knowing that sometimes makes a difference.

A look of annoyance flits across the pilot’s face. “How bad is he?”

“I don’t know. He seems pretty bad.”

The pilot twists in his seat to look directly at her, like this is her fault. “Do we need to turn back?”

“We’re almost over Trenton,” the copilot says, looking at the instruments. “Even if we turn around, we’d have to circle at JFK for an hour before we could land. It’s only another forty minutes to D.C. We can ask for priority landing and for a medical team to be waiting at the gate.”

She can tell by the glassy look in the pilot’s eyes that his mind is made up. “Yeah, sure, that’s what we’ll do. You”—­he turns to the flight attendant, not having bothered to remember her name—­“keep him as comfortable as possible. See if he can give you anything we can radio on ahead to Washington—­the name of a doctor, what medications he’s on, anything.”

She hesitates. “Could you see if there’s a doctor on the flight?”

Both pilot and copilot exchange glances; it’s the kind of thing they hate to do. It makes the passengers nervous. Ask over the intercom if there’s a doctor on the plane and some passengers immediately assume that Ebola has broken out and start freaking out. But the pilot gives a quick nod.

By the time she gets back, Popov is having a full-­blown seizure. Luckily, after the announcement on the intercom, the flight attendant from economy class came forward to help. She has the confidence of the very young and—­thank goodness—­remembers first aid training from her time as a lifeguard at the town pool. She’s brought the plane’s automated defibrillator with her. The two women huddle over Popov. Given his size, putting him on his side is out of the question, even in the more spacious business class seat. The attendant tucks one of the small, thin pillows under his head and spreads a blanket over him. He’s not cold—­his clothes are soaked through with sweat—­but she does it for privacy more than anything else.

The flight attendant notices a man has crept forward from economy class, watching from a couple seats back. He didn’t announce himself to the attendants so he’s probably not a doctor. He’s just morbidly curious. He is middle-­aged but tough looking, like he’s former military. She holds out hope for a second that he’s an air marshal—­she will take all the help she can get at this point—­but knows they wouldn’t put an air marshal on this flight, not a midnight run.

There is a cold curiosity in his eyes. “Are you a doctor, sir?” she asks.

He says nothing, just gives a curt shake of his head.

“Then would you return to your seat, please?” she asks with only a hint of irritation. People can be unthinkingly rude; she has learned this in her ten years on the job. “We need to give him air.”

After one more look at the sick man over the attendant’s shoulder, the passenger retreats down the aisle.

The attendant turns her attention back to the Russian. She pats his hand. “Mr. Popov, is there someone we can contact for you? Someone waiting for you in D.C.?” She wishes she had thought of this earlier as the Russian is now nearly unconscious. His eyes are rolled back in his head, his face freezing in a rictus of fright and surprise. He is unresponsive to their questions. His hands are balled tightly, his arms and legs rigid and shaking. Worst of all, foam is coming out of his mouth in waves, like a washing machine gone out of control, like something you might see on a television show. She can’t imagine what’s wrong with him; she’s had passengers with food poisoning and one heart attack, but it was mild. She’s never seen anything like this. She is nearly paralyzed from fright.

She glances at her watch. Twenty more minutes. “Hang on, we’re almost there,” she tells him, though she doesn’t think he can hear her.

That’s when she sees the note. A scrap of napkin. She can’t make out what he’s written. It could be a name, but the ink has bled into the napkin’s porous fibers. If he was trying to tell her something, she’s at a loss.

The rest of the trip goes by in a blur. When she sees that he’s slipped into unconsciousness, she and her colleague in economy do as they were trained. One strips the clothing from his upper torso while the other readies at defibrillator. She breathes a silent prayer of thanks for the muscle memory of the classes; it makes what they’re doing now seem less unreal. This is something she can do. She attaches the pads to the man’s chest and side as indicated, sits back on her heels as the machine searches for his pulse. No heartbeat detected. It delivers a shock. The other flight attendant begins CPR and she waits impatiently for her turn as the machine counts off two minutes before it will check again. The pair take turns doing CPR, two cycles, four cycles . . . Before long she is damp with sweat and shaky from nerves as each time the machine says No heartbeat detected and shocks him again . . .

By the time the first wheel touches the ground—­the bounce and sudden deceleration as rubber catches on the second touch—­she is ready to accept that he is gone. If not dead then so far gone that it doesn’t matter.

They will not be able to keep the other passengers on the plane while waiting for the medical crew to remove the body—­they are like thirsty cattle that smell water in the distance—­and so she does her best. The other flight attendant ran down the aisle just before landing to get her cabin ready, leaving her alone with the Russian. She takes a second blanket from the overhead bin and drapes it over Popov so his entire body is covered. She stands in the next seat to block the view as passengers disembark, her knees trembling. They shuffle by quickly, eyes averted, even Mr. Curious, who can’t get off the plane fast enough.

It’s not until the last passenger is gone that the medical crew comes down the jet bridge with a gurney. The crew is nudged aside as the EMTs congregate around the body. The flight attendant stands in the galley, craning her neck to see what’s going on, but the EMTs’ body language is clear: the passenger is gone. The way they handle the body, there can be no doubt, pulling it out from the tight space like a beached whale and then—­drafting in a member of the cleaning crew for assistance—­lugging it over to the gurney. The flight attendant takes one last look at the dead man’s face as they struggle past her. Poor man.

Then she remembers the note. She had left it next to the passenger, thinking that it might come in handy at the hospital. But it’s gone. Disappeared.

Maybe the EMTs took it with them.

Whatever he was trying to tell her, she will never know.

Thursday, March 25, 2021

#Review - The Bone Maker by Sarah Beth Durst #Fantasy

Series: Standalone
Format: Paperback, 496 pages
Release Date: March 9, 2021
Publisher: Harper Voyager
Source: Publisher
Genre: Fantasy / Epic

From award-winning author Sarah Beth Durst, a standalone epic fantasy set in a brand-new world of towering mountains and sparkling cities, in which a band of aging warriors have a second chance to defeat dark magic and avenge a haunting loss.

"Durst consistently defies expectations."—Publishers Weekly (starred review)

Twenty-five years ago, five heroes risked their lives to defeat the bone maker Eklor—a corrupt magician who created an inhuman army using animal bones. But victory came at a tragic price. Only four of the heroes survived.

Since then, Kreya, the group’s leader, has exiled herself to a remote tower and devoted herself to one purpose: resurrecting her dead husband. But such a task requires both a cache of human bones and a sacrifice—for each day he lives, she will live one less.

She’d rather live one year with her husband than a hundred without him, but using human bones for magic is illegal in Vos. The dead are burned—as are any bone workers who violate the law. Yet Kreya knows where she can find the bones she needs: the battlefield where her husband and countless others lost their lives.

But defying the laws of the land exposes a terrible possibility. Maybe the dead don’t rest in peace after all.

Five warriors—one broken, one gone soft, one pursuing a simple life, one stuck in the past, and one who should dead. Their story should have been finished. But evil doesn’t stop just because someone once said, “the end.”


Sarah Beth Durst's The Bone Maker is a standalone fantasy which explores the notion of second chances and what comes next after a hero's journey. The Bone Maker introduces new characters in a new setting but is written in Sarah’s captivating narrative style and explores the themes that make her novels favorites in the genre. Like the central characters from her previous novels, The Bone Maker centers on a multifaceted, strong female protagonist who will appeal to fans of Naomi Novik and S. A. Chakraborty. 

25 years ago, during the Bone War, 5 heroes came together and defeated a notorious villain named Eklor and his grotesque army. One of their team fell saving another. 25 years later, Kreya, the leader of the team, is living life as a hermit outside of the village of Eren creating her own bone constructs while trying to find a way to bring her husband, Jentt, back to life. In this reality, the dead are burned so that evil bone workers don't use the dead's bones for their nefarious machinations. That doesn't stop Kreya who desperately wants to find a way to bring Jentt back from the dead.  

Jentt, along with Zera, Marso, and Stran, are the other four members of Kreya's team. While Kreya has been living alone, Zera has become wealthy, Stran got married and has three children, while Marso has some serious issues that make him legitimately afraid of touching another bone to see what the future may hold. Kreya knows that there is only one place that has the bones she needs to raise Jentt and that is the forbidden zone which is lined with walls, and protected by soldiers.

Zera is a bone wizard who makes talismans. She's really the face of the team who has all but vanished into the woodwork. Since people tend to love gossip, Zera's presence gives them plenty to talk about. After a trip to visit Zara, a shocking discovery is made. Their nemesis is very much alive and on the move and it appears that he has swayed numerous important Bone council members to believing he seeks forgiveness and a second chance. Kreya knows better. Kreya slowly puts her old team back together, including a very much alive Jentt, to try to make one more stand for the people of Vos.

There are three types of bone magic users in the novel; bone seers who see the future using bones, bone wizards who create bone talismans imbued with power, and bone makers. Kreya is a bone maker who uses the power of bones to animate machines and inanimate objects and have them function to her will. It's a world that seems rather primitive except for the cable cars and the magic crawling carriages. Bones are what makes everything work here from mechanical contrivances to corpses.

There was also a TON of dialogue in this book, way more than was necessary. Part of this story is told from the perspective of Zara who, as I said, is something of a celebrity. Even though Zera is secure in who she is, her constant need for attention with her sarcastic humor kind of dragged the book down a bit.
The world building could have and should have been broadened a lot more. There is this entire city supposedly has five levels to it, and yet we only get a brief glance as Kreya is proceeding through all 5 levels to reach Zara. I need to explain the ending without spoiling things for future readers. Let's just say that in the end, you have to be really strong willed not to want to stand up and say, that's it?