Tuesday, November 30, 2021

#Review - The Theseus Conspiracy by Victor Alvarez #Thrillers #Suspense

Series: CID Jacqueline Sinclair # 2
Format: Kindle, 364 pages
Release Date: September 2, 2021
Publisher: Black Rose Writing
Source: Kindle Unlimited
Genre: Thrillers / Suspense

CID Special Agent Jacqueline Sinclair, the Army's famed counterterrorism agent, returns in this chilling and exhilarating sequel to Requiem for the Dead.

A ruthless scheme hatched by one madman threatens to plunge humanity into World War III!

With the theft of seven Russian nuclear suitcase bombs, rogue CIA double agent Matthew Banks code-name Theseus... with the execution of his wife and child at the hands of Russian FSB agents, and the CIA's treachery, plans his vengeance on Russia and the U.S.

In Germany, the U.S. Intelligence apparatus inadvertently intercepted Banks' nefarious scheme in a secure message from the Russians. Efforts in tracking Banks have been futile. While the American agents desperately search for answers, the terrorist sets his plan in motion. Sinclair must make the ultimate sacrifice for her country; can she stop Banks before the bombs go off?

The Theseus Conspiracy is the second installment in author Victor Alvarez's CID Jacqueline Sinclair's series. This novel jumps all over the globe. From Russia, to the US, to Germany, to Afghanistan. The novel begins with a SEAL Team entering Murmansk, Russia where they hope to free a double agent called Theseus. It quickly moves to Germany where the same SEAL team faces an FSB Special forces group out for revenge for what happened in Murmansk. Soon thereafter in Afghanistan, DIA Special Agent Tom Price and his squad are ambushed leaving him as the only survivor.

Matthew Banks, code name Theseus, is a rogue double agent of both the CIA and FSB who wants revenge for the execution of his wife and child. He blames the Russian FSB and the U.S. CIA. Having stolen seven Russian nuclear suitcase bombs, and putting together former Russian assets who want to overthrow the Russian leadership, has put together a  ruthless plan is to start World War III by taking out the Kremlin, CIA Headquarters and the Pentagon.  

In Germany, the U.S. Intelligence intercepted Banks' scheme in a secure message from the Russians. This sets off a action packed rush to see who will survive the brutal slaughter of innocent people. CID Special Agent Jacqueline “Belle” Sinclair, the Army's famed counter-terrorism agent who saw her best friend end up dead because of Theseus, is pulled into the situation. This is a global conspiracy but can Sinclair stop Banks before the bombs go off in the race against time?

Unfortunately, Belle learns of Tom's situation but has little time to dwell on his situation whether he will live or not as she quickly receives word that the world has a massive problem, and that problem’s name is a madman named Theseus. She and her team are targeted over and over again by Russians who don't want Belle to know what is really happening. At times, this book has so many different characters that it is hard to keep track of them unless you take good notes. 

The one bad thing about this story is that it doesn't come to a conclusion, but leaves room for the sequel which has been named The Price on Her Head. We all know who this story is about and who the villain is going to be. The most unfortunate part of this story is that even though this is Belle's story, she is relegated to the side for a whole lot of the story. I'm not a fan of naming a series after a character and then having other people like Banks grab hold of most of the plotlines.  

Monday, November 29, 2021

#Review - Our Violent Ends by Chloe Gong #YA #Fantasy #Historical

Series: These Violent Delights # 2
Format: Hardcover, 512 pages
Release Date: November 16, 2021
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books
Source: Publisher
Genre: Young Adult / Fantasy / Historical

The year is 1927, and Shanghai teeters on the edge of revolution.

After sacrificing her relationship with Roma to protect him from the blood feud, Juliette has been a girl on a mission. One wrong move, and her cousin will step in to usurp her place as the Scarlet Gang’s heir. The only way to save the boy she loves from the wrath of the Scarlets is to have him want her dead for murdering his best friend in cold blood. If Juliette were actually guilty of the crime Roma believes she committed, his rejection might sting less.

Roma is still reeling from Marshall’s death, and his cousin Benedikt will barely speak to him. Roma knows it’s his fault for letting the ruthless Juliette back into his life, and he’s determined to set things right—even if that means killing the girl he hates and loves with equal measure.

Then a new monstrous danger emerges in the city, and though secrets keep them apart, Juliette must secure Roma’s cooperation if they are to end this threat once and for all. Shanghai is already at a boiling point: The Nationalists are marching in, whispers of civil war brew louder every day, and gangster rule faces complete annihilation. Roma and Juliette must put aside their differences to combat monsters and politics, but they aren’t prepared for the biggest threat of all: protecting their hearts from each other.  

Our Violent Ends, by author Chloe Gong, is the second and final installment in the authors These Violent Delights duology. This story picks up 4 months after the ending of These Violent Delights. The story once again alternate's between Juliette Cai and Roma Montagov heirs of the Scarlet Gangs and White Flowers. The blood feud between gangs has taken a toil on everyone involved, but Juliette can't let her guard down with her cousin Tyler chirping at her heels waiting for her to make a mistake that will bring her down. 

On the other hand, Roma is seeing blood after the loss of Marshall Seo at the hands of Juliette. It had been only three months, but Roma has changed. From the bodies piling up farther and farther inward into Scarlet territory lines, as if the White Flowers were testing the limits they could encroach upon. It was unlikely that Roma had sought out Scarlets specifically for vengeance killings—he didn’t have it in him to go that far—but each time a conflict erupted, the message left behind was clear: This is your doing, Juliette.

Ever since the city caught wind of a confrontation between Roma and Tyler Cai, the blood feud has shot into its most terrible heights. Neither gang needed to worry about their numbers being picked off by the madness anymore. Now the White Flowers were pressing down on the Scarlet Gang with a renewed urgency, and the Scarlet Gang were fighting back just as hard. They had to. No matter how carefully the Scarlet's cooperated with the Nationalists, every single person in this city could feel something shifting, could see the gatherings grow larger and larger each time the Communists attempted a strike.

Then comes the blackmail letters saying that the blackmailer has the recipe to once again unload the monster who terrorized Shanghai and put everyone on edge. It isn't just one gang over the other that the letters are being sent. It's both of them which finally leads to a semi-armistice between the gangs with Juliette and Roma taking the lead. But someone doesn't want them to be successful. At every turn, there is someone there to thwart their efforts. To make matters even more disturbing for Juliette, her cousins Kathleen and Rosalind are blurring the lines as to which path they will eventually take.

There are many different sub-plots going on in this book. There's multiple power struggles, multiple love stories, and multiple battles and enemies. The ending was also a huge disappointment, not very memorable. I kept waiting for the author to say, Just Kidding! But with a title like Our "Violent" Ends, you can pretty much expect anything to happen which it does. Again, I say this, the author does a fantastic job of incorporating actually history into this series. She really understands the nuisances of how the people of Shanghai, and China as a whole, were dealing with both Communists and Nationalists wanting to take over the country and kick out all foreigners who split the city and country into chunks of their own.

#Review - Bluebeard and the Outlaw by Tara Grayce #YA #Fantasy #Retelling

Series: A Villain's Ever After # 3
Format: Kindle, 188 pages
Release Date: August 27th 2021
Publisher: Sword & Cross Publishing
Source: Kindle Unlimited
Genre: YA / Retelling / Fantasy

Marriage: the ultimate heist.

Robin of the Greenwood spends her days robbing from the rich to feed the poor. With her knowledge of the fae paths, she eludes all attempts to capture her. But she and her merry band of brothers never seem to get anywhere. The more she steals, the more the evil Duke Guy "Bluebeard" taxes the villagers.

When Robin discovers that Duke Guy plans to marry yet again, she conceives a plan for a final, big score. As Guy's wife, she will have access to his wealth. The lord is notorious for killing his wives shortly after he marries them, but Robin has no plans to be dead wife number four.

The only problem is that Duke Guy is devastatingly handsome, brooding, and nothing at all what she expected. If she isn't careful, she might just find that he steals her heart before she can rob his riches.

A fantasy retelling of the Robin Hood legends and Bluebeard fairy tale. 

Bluebeard and the Outlaw, by author Tara Grayce, is one of twelve short novels in A Villain's Ever After, a collection of stand-alone stories featuring villainous twists on some of your favorite classic fairy tales. Read the series in any order for magical adventures … and fall in love with villains as you've never seen them before. Who said villains can't have happily-ever-afters?

This is a fun story filled heists and daring feats--pretty much anything you could hope for in a Robin Hood retelling and then goes one further by mixing in Bluebeard. Robin is basically an adrenaline junky seeking justice. Robin is the leader of her merry band of brothers, literally, they are her brothers, as they try to aid their village. Not only is Duke Guy levying too many taxes on the poor, but he’s also rumored to have murdered three wives. Robin comes up with the plan to end all plans and take care of Duke Guy forever. But is the Duke all he seems to be?

The only problem is that Duke Guy is devastatingly handsome, brooding, and nothing at all what she expected. If she isn't careful, she might just find that he steals her heart before she can rob his riches. Despite being a short story, this was much more entertaining that the first two installments in this series. There are a few bonus chapters at the end of the story. One of which includes a guest appearance from characters in her Midsummer Night's Bride story in the Stolen Brides series (all stand alone so you don't need to read the whole series in order to read it). 

You don't need to read it in order to read this book or the bonus chapter the characters appear in, but I think it's more fun to know their story. 

Friday, November 26, 2021

#Review - The Sultan and the Storyteller by Lichelle Slater #YA #Fantasy #Retelling

Series: A Villain's Ever After # 2
Format: Kindle, 186 pages
Release Date: August 20th 2021
Publisher: Independent
Source: Kindle Unlimited
Genre: YA / Retelling / Fantasy

For thirty-nine nights, the sultan of Zunbar has chosen a new wife. For thirty-nine dawns, they are pronounced dead.

When Sultan Zayne summons my best friend to be taken as his newest victim, I can no longer pretend to be blind and volunteer in her stead. My only plan--weave a story each night and hopefully learn why he would kill in the first place.

As I unravel the tapestry of lies, I learn there's more going on inside the gilded walls of the palace than anyone in the land could ever realize. I've woven myself into the story, and if I don't pull on the right thread, it's not only my life at stake but my heart.

The Sultan and the Storyteller, by author Lichelle Slater, is one of twelve short novels in A Villain's Ever After, a collection of standalone stories featuring villainous twists on some of your favorite classic fairy tales. Read the series in any order for magical adventures and fall in love with villains as you've never seen them before. Who said villains can't have happily-ever-afters?

This retelling of Scheherazade and 1001 Nights with Shahira being the main character of the story and Sultan Zayne being the villain. Shahira is the eldest daughter of the vizier to the Sultan who has to hide and contain her magic. She is a storyteller who can infuse her magic into her stories and make them come true. Shahira and her sister Kiara run an apothecary in town after the death of their mother. Their father is the sultan’s vizier and stays at the palace. Sultan Zayne has been marrying a new wife every evening, and every morning, she is dead.

When her best friend Jade’s life is threatened by becoming the next bride of the Sultan, Shahira decides to volunteer in her stead. 39 brides lost is enough and Shahira won’t allow the murderous sultan to continue when she has the power to stop him. When she realizes that there’s more to the story, she and the sultan must learn to trust each other and discover where the evil shadows come from before it’s too late. 

I actually really liked her younger sister Kiara. She's really good at Tasseography, or the art of tea leaf reading. Tea leaf reading is an ancient practice of interpreting patterns made by tea leaves in the cup. There was a pretty big plot inconsistency (not a spoiler) with the tiger. At first, no one could understand him, then all of a sudden they can? There's the problem with short stories. They leave gap filled spaces where answers should be found.  

Apparently, this story continues in "Daughter of Thieves" (book 1 in The Sands of Wonder series)

#Review - The Beast and the Enchantress by Camille Peters #Retelling #Fantasy #Mythology

Series: A Villain's Ever After # 1
Format: Kindle, 198 pages
Release Date: August 10, 2021
Publisher: Rosewood Publications
Source: Kindle Unlimited
Genre: Mythology / Fantasy / Retelling

f there’s one thing Astrid, an aspiring enchantress, has learned throughout her studies, it's that magic must only be used for good. But when an egocentric prince breaks her sister’s heart, Astrid’s only focus is revenge, and what better way to enact it than with a well-chosen curse?

A simple incantation is all it takes to transform the arrogant prince's appearance to match the state of his heart. But something goes wrong, causing the spell to affect not only the prince, but its caster as well. As the curse begins to change her appearance to reflect the state of her own vengeful heart, Astrid becomes desperate to break it at all costs, even if it means entering the castle in disguise and interacting with the prince she loathes.

To her surprise, Astrid encounters not a conceited prince, but one very different from the one she cursed. She soon finds her heart softening, but not in the way she expects—she’s losing it to the cursed prince she has vowed to hate. The closer they become, the more desperate Astrid is to free the prince, and herself, from the curse. But in so doing, she may lose the man she loves forever. For how could a prince ever love the woman who turned him into a beast?


The Beast and the Enchantress, by author Camille Peters, is one of twelve short novels in A Villain's Ever After, a collection of standalone stories featuring villainous twists on some of your favorite classic fairy tales. Read the series in any order for magical adventures...and fall in love with villains as you've never seen them before. Who said villains can't have happily-ever-afters? This book is the retelling of Beauty and the Beast with twists.

Astrid is an enchantress-in-training. When she's finished with her apprenticeship, she will serve the crown prince as court magician just as her mentor serves the current king. Astrid's younger sister has a crush on the prince, but when he is cruel to her Astrid sets out to get revenge. She curses Prince Gladen so that his outward appearance will reflect the state of his heart, and when he becomes hideously disfigured Astrid feels justified even though deep down she knows what she did was wrong. 

Unfortunately the curse also affects Astrid herself, and in order to figure out how to break it she has to spend time with the prince. Instead of the callous, self-absorbed monster she'd imagined him to be, she discovers a bitter young man tired of being seen only for his looks and title. The more time she spends with him, the more Astrid loses her own heart to the romantic, bookish person she's discovered lurks under the prince's quick temper. 

I had mixed feelings about Astrid. I admired her devotion to her sister and her love of magic, but her justification in what she does go Gladen goes way beyond being a really bad deal. Then again, Gladen has a bad habit of treating women like a nuisance, and even then, he didn't deserve the anger Astrid puts on him including a dangerous curse that can only be stopped if both characters offer a bit of redemption. 

In the end, this might have been a reimagining of Beauty and the Beast, but it also serves as a cautionary tale about the destructive nature of anger.

Wednesday, November 24, 2021

#Review - All of Us Villains by Amanda Foody, Christine Lynn Herman #YA #Fantasy

Series: All of Us Villains (#1)
Format: Hardcover, 400 pages
Release Date: November 9, 2021
Publisher: Tor Teen
Source: Publisher
Genre: Young Adult / Dark Fantasy

The blockbuster co-writing debut of two up-and-coming powerhouses, All of Us Villains is The Hunger Games with magic

You Fell in Love With the Victors of the Hunger Games.
Now Prepare To Meet the Villains of the Blood Veil.

The Blood Moon rises. The Blood Veil falls.
The Tournament begins.

Every generation, at the coming of the Blood Moon, seven families in the remote city of Ilvernath each name a champion to compete in a secret tournament to the death.

The prize? Exclusive control over a secret wellspring of high magick, the most powerful resource in the world—one thought long depleted.

But this year a salacious tell-all book has exposed the tournament and thrust the seven new champions into the worldwide spotlight. The book also granted them valuable information previous champions never had—insight into the other families’ strategies, secrets, and weaknesses. And most importantly, it gave them a choice: accept their fate or rewrite their legacy.

Either way, this is a story that must be penned in blood.


All of Us Villains is the first installment in co-authors Amanda Foody and Christine Lynn Herman's All of Us Villains series. While there are seven champions, there’s only four perspectives in the book: Alistair Lowe, Isobel Macaslan, Gavin Grieve, and Briony Thorburn, with Finley Blair, Elinor Payne, and Carby Darrow as secondary characters. For the first time in 20 years, this year brings the arrival of the Blood Moon and its tournament to see who is the strongest. These are the same kids who grew up together, were friends, and even lovers, and now they will be enemies.

7 families in the remote city of Ilvernath each name a champion to compete in a tournament to the death. Instead of being picked at random, the champions are chosen by their families. Some having been forced into the role by their family and would like nothing more than to escape. The prize? Exclusive control over a secret wellspring of high magick, the most powerful resource in the world—one thought long depleted until the next tournament. Only one family line may claim the magick, and only after defeating the other six competitors by winning the tournament in a fight to the death. Very much like the Hunger Games except with magic.  

In this tournament, there are 7 Landmarks, and 7 Relics that fall from the sky throughout the tournament. Gain one of the relics, and it will give you powers to use on your rivals. Gain one of the Landmarks which corresponds to your family, and it becomes your castle. Thanks to a salacious tell-all book, A Tradition of Tragedy, the tournament and the champions have been thrust into the worldwide spotlight while also exposing the truth about high magick still being around. 

This years competition has everyone talking and more visitors that usual to the sleepy town as well as a representative of the Kendalle Parliament who is deciding if they will execute everyone involved. The book granted the public valuable information previous champions never had—insight into the other families’ strategies, secrets, and weaknesses. Between each chapter, there are sections of the book that outlines different aspects of the challenge. Pay close attention.

Alistair belongs to the Lowe Family. They are the winningest family of all seven and are will do do the shocking things imaginable to win. Alistair is wicked and vicious, yet he would do anything for his brother and wants his family to be proud of him and to love him. Alistair and his brother Hendry are nearly inseparable thanks to the families rather unorthodox way of raising the boys.

Isobel belongs to the Macaslan's. Because she was the first champion outed, she's become a paparazzi darling and talented spellmaker of the family, but her family is viewed as distasteful vultures by the rest of the Seven. Isobel is her family’s champion because she is the strongest, but she never wanted to be part of the tournament and is stuck between her loyalty to her family, and her desire to flee.

Gavin Grieve comes from the weakest family, the one everyone makes fun of, the one that never ever won a tournament, and he is determined to prove to everyone that the Grieves family is worth something which means trusting cursemakers to make him stronger and able to stand against the rest of his nemesis.

Briony Thorburn was born-for-heroism of the respected family but commits a grave sin at the beginning of the tournament after learning that there may be a way to permanently end the tournament forever. Now she has to convince the other six to lay down their goals of winning, while finding the right combination to destroy the tournament. Then there's the real villain of the story. 

One cursemaker in particular puts ideas in the aspiring champions’ heads about whether the tournament’s curse can be changed—or broken. The competitors teeter wildly between heroism and villainy, especially once the tournament starts and their preconceived ideas of themselves and each other are challenged in lethal combat. I do have to issue a warning to potential readers: this book ends on a massive cliffhanger. I can't in good conscious review a book without telling you that expect the unexpected. Expect to be shocked. Expect to be stunned, and expect to hold onto your seat for a wild ride right to the last page of this book.

Tuesday, November 23, 2021

#Review - An Unintended Voyage by Marshall Ryan Maresca #Fantasy

Series: Maradaine Sequence
Format: Paperback, 400 pages
Release Date: November 2, 2021
Publisher: Daw Books
Source: Publisher
Genre: Fantasy 

Moving outside the city of Maradaine, this new novel follows a lone member of the Maradaine Constabulary as she navigates a new but just as dangerous city.

Sergeant Corrie Welling—the young constabulary officer from Maradaine—has been abducted and confined on a ship bound for distant shores, where her captors have nefarious plans for her. With fortune and ingenuity, Corrie escapes, but finds herself stuck in a sprawling metropolis on the other side of the world: The Mocassa.

The Mocassa is a test unlike anything Corrie has ever faced. She doesn’t speak the language, doesn’t know the culture, and is forbidden from leaving the city until she pays off a colossal debt. Even if she’s able to find decent work, it will take her years to settle her accounts and get home.

But Corrie Welling will not be cowed. She will work, fight, and hold her chin high. As a fringe faction of an apocalyptic faith spreads throughout the city, threatening the new friends she’s sworn to protect, she’ll continue to stand up for the values instilled in her as a member of the Maradaine Constabulary. Even if, as her darkest day approaches, she has to do it alone.

An Unintended Voyage, by author Marshall Ryan Maresca, is part of the Maradaine Sequence series of books. I saw this posted from the author. "Chronologically speaking, the story takes place after People of the City. It follows its own thread from A Parliament of Bodies and doesn't spoil events of the Fenmere Job. Essentially, this story is the prelude for Phase two of the Maradaine Sequence." Though set in the same world as the Maradaine novels, An Unintended Voyage takes place entirely outside of Maradaine.

Sergeant Corrie Welling, of the Maradaine Constabulary, was betrayed, kidnapped, and sent onboard a ship filled with children who will be sold as slaves once they reach their destination. 9 children have already died during the 27 days journey. However, before she reaches her destination of the Mahabassian Slave Market, the ship goes down in heavy seas, and only she and a girl named Eana survive. To make matters worse, they are rescued but occur a huge debt that must be paid off before they are released. 

Both Corrie, who takes her job as a Constabulary seriously, and Eana, must find work in order to pay off their debt. They also must learn a new language if they are going to survive. Luckily for Corrie, she finds a job as a bodyguard for a wealthy daughter who is attending university. Corrie also finds a friend an Ang, who has been studying the stars, and knows that there will be an eclipse, and a comet on the same day which brings out all the zealots looking to make trouble. 

One of the things you must get used to when reading about Corrie is her colorful language. For me, I don't give a horse's rear end how many vulgarities she comes up with. I care that she, like her brother and her family, have a real idea of what standing up for something they honestly believe in, and don't take any grief from anyone who steps on their toes. Corrie quickly learns the language. She quickly knows how to deal with her roommates, and she is a true big sister to Eana who comes into her own over the course of this story. 

The author does a pretty good job of rehashing events that got Corrie into the situation she finds herself in. What I need to know is whether or not she will be written off, or will the author continue to make Corrie sure that she ends up being reunited with her friends who likely believe she's dead. One of the things that makes me coming back to this series is the amazing characters and the worldbuilding. He really throws the entire sink into this story with magic, weird celestial events, indentured servitude, religious fanaticism, and young women attempting to make it in a world gone crazy.  

Chapter 1

GARTEN HAD DIED IN THE night, the ninth so far. Corrie Welling had kept count, added every death to the tally of sins that she would visit upon these bastards.

And those sins were plentiful.

She had been in the fetid, rotting hold of this ship for twenty-seven days, shackled to the wall with just enough freedom of movement to get her hands to her mouth when her captors gave her a cup of water or a bite of moldy biscuit. Water and food was twice a day, and even in this darkened hold, she could tell when the sun was out, filtering through the seams of the hatch above them.

Plus the heat of the daytime had turned ungodly.

The heat, the stench of them all sitting in their own filth, the creep of salty bilge water that was sometimes several inches deep-all of it was too damn much to bear.

The animals who had done this to her and the kids locked in the hold with her, they would pay dearly. Corrie would make sure.

The rest were all kids, and they all had been looking to her. Most of them were around eleven or twelve, some as old as fifteen. Corrie was by far the oldest. By her reckoning, her twentieth birthday passed the same day the ship had made an abrupt swing in direction.

“Southeast to northeast,” Garten had said that day. “We went around the Ihali Cape.”

Garten had been a good kid. Twelve years old, went to the public prepatory in Dentonhill. He had clearly been a good student, since he knew geography and had a good sense of direction this whole time they’d been in the hold.

He had known when the ship made anchorage in Yoleanne, taken on water and supplies, and then presumed they had kept going south along the Acserian coast, naming cities they might have reached the next time supplies were brought on. Agenza, Corren, Torphia, Hamandaghad.

That one he had been certain about, especially when Corrie had told the rest what she could hear when supplies were loaded. Their captors had shouted out to the supply boats in something other than Trade. They were now off the coast of Imachan.

“Imachan is actually a bunch of countries,” Garten had said weakly.

He had gotten sick the day before, unable to keep even water down. Corrie couldn’t get close to him, but Eana, shackled next to him, said he was hot with fever. Fever and vomiting had been how it had started for Relia. And Washle. And Nicelle, Samon, and Tirl. For each of them, once it started, death came fast and hard and cruel. Garten had been no different. Corrie had tried to keep him talking, asked him to tell her more about Imachan, tell her more about the stories he read in school, tell them all about his home and his mother and his family, anything.

But he had died in the night.

One more crime, one more sin, that she would hold these rutting bastards to account for.

“He was your fault, stick,” Penler said. Penler was one of the older ones, a real rutting pisser with too damn smart of a mouth for his own good. “He hadn’t been right since Morger knocked him to punish you.”

“That wasn’t her fault!” Eana said. “None of that is her fault.”

“None of what these bastards do to us is my fault,” Corrie said. “But I am sorry they hurt you to punish me. It’s because they know I can take it if they knock me.”

“So stop pushing them, stick!” Penler said.

“Stop yelling at her,” Eana said. “That’ll make them come again, and they’ll blame her, and they’ll hit one of us.”

“How do we know she’s not in it with them?” Penler said. “It was sticks who grabbed me in the first place. Same for Washle.”

“Same for me,” Corrie said. Of all the parts that hurt the most of this rutting sewage was the fact that she had been betrayed by fellow officers.

She was a sergeant in the Maradaine Constabulary. The Wellings had served for eight generations. Her many-times-great grandfather had helped found the Constabulary and the City Loyalty. Her father had died with his red and green on.

She was still wearing hers. Maybe the bastards who took her wanted to taunt her that much, put her in this hold with her uniform on, so these kids would know she was an officer in the Constabulary. Crush any sense of hope they might have. Show them that no one could save them.

“Listen,” she said quietly. “In a few minutes, Morger will be down here with our rations. None of us are going to give him any blasted trouble this time, give him any reason to stay down here more than he needs to. Not right now.”

“What about Garten?” Treskie asked. He was on Garten’s other side.

“Don’t draw attention to him,” Corrie said. The others all groaned and whined. “Listen to me. Listen!” She knew they didn’t want to hear this. They were as scared as anything, and she couldn’t rutting blame them. They were exhausted, they were sick, they knew they were being shipped to some horrific fate in some place only the saints and sinners knew. The next port might be where they were unloaded, and from there, who even knew what damned atrocity awaited them.

She was a damned officer in the Constabulary, and like her father, like her grandparents, like all three of her brothers and half her cousins, she had taken a damned oath to serve, to stand for the safety and protection of the citizens of Maradaine. The kids in this hold with her, no matter where they were in the world, were still citizens of Maradaine, and she still had her red and green on.

She would fulfill that oath or die trying.

“Listen,” she said calmly. “I know it’s horrible to be there next to him, to have to smell his rotting corpse-”

“No worse than any other smell down here,” Iastanne said.

“But we don’t want it to be Morger taking him out. It’s got to be Hockly, tonight. So hold on.”

She didn’t have the sharp mind of her brother Minox-or his magic, that would rutting come in handy-but she had paid attention, noting everything about the hold they were in. She had figured out everything that could be used as a weapon, memorized where it was. She could find it all in the dark if she had to. She learned the patterns of the ship’s crew. Morger brought them water and food in the mornings, Hockly in the evenings. Hockly, with bad knee and weak shoulder.

“Tonight?” Eana asked. Her raised eyebrow showed she understood what Corrie was driving at. She, more than any of the other kids, had been sharp and clever enough to see what Corrie had been doing all this time, and kept her mouth shut about it. Eana had a whip of a mind, Corrie saw that. Eana knew what the score was, and she clearly trusted Corrie to get it done.

It had taken twenty-seven days, slow and patient work, but Corrie had cracked the wood holding her manacles to the wall. She knew one good yank was all it would take to be free.

But she had to do that at the precise, ripe moment. She had to be ready to take the ship, free these kids, and make all the bastards on the ship pay for their crimes.

That moment was going to be tonight.

Corrie was a damned constable, even here and now, and she was ready to get to work.

Chapter 2

MORGER HAD COME AND GONE with the morning rations, not even noticing that Garten was dead. That was what Corrie had suspected. The man was fundamentally cruel, but lazy. Like most of the rotten crew on this evil ship, he had little interest in dealing with the prisoners in the hold any longer than he had to. Corrie didn’t know exactly what each of the crew did with their day, but she knew Morger wanted to get his work done quick and get back to it.

Rutting pig, he was.

The ship was full of them.

Corrie had used her ears for the past twenty-seven days, listening to the chatter of the crew as they wandered about on the deck above them. She kept track of voices, of names. She made sure she had them all.

There were twelve of them on the crew, all of them men. She was actually honestly shocked none of them had tried to roll her, or one of the other girls. Not that she was remotely interested in that, and if one of them tried she’d have bit their pisswhistle off. But it hadn’t come to that. Of those twelve, Morger and Hockly were the main ones to come down and deal with the prisoners. On rare occasions, there were the ones she called Knocknose and Badeye. She didn’t get their real names. Up on top, there was the Captain and the Chief, and then six more men she just called One, Two, Three, Four, Five, and Six. No need for more than that.

Focus your mental energies on the important details. That’s what Minox would tell her. Coming up with names for the other ones, faceless voices, was a waste of time and thought. No need to do that.

She knew she had little to go on about the eight she had never seen. The Captain was old, moved slow. The Chief had an accent, one she couldn’t place at all. He had a deep voice, that made her think he was tall and beefy.

Didn’t matter. Once she was free, had something in her hand she could fight with, she could whip any one of them. She was certain of that.

As long as she didn’t have to take them all at once.

The hold didn’t have the baking heat it usually had today. She wasn’t sure why, until she heard them talking up above her. Two and Six.

“Storm is coming fast.”

“We can get ahead of it.”

“Don’t think so.”


Blazes, yes. That was rutting perfect.

Within an hour-still before the evening rations-the ship was pitching hard, and thunder rolled in the distance. One wave hit the ship, sending everyone in the hold careening toward the bulkhead, filthy bodies crashing on top of each other. Corrie’s stomach would have rebelled at that, had there been much of anything in there.

“Corrie!” Eana shouted. Because Corrie was lying in her lap. That knock had sent them flying, including tearing her manacles from the housing on the wall.

“Blazes,” Corrie muttered. She had wanted to come free when Hockly was down here, take him by surprise when he was dealing with Garner’s body. Now she was off the wall, and they’d see that as soon as they started down the hatch.

“Get ’em provisioned and batten that down!” the Chief shouted.

The hatch. Hockly was about to come down, and if she was spotted off the wall, he’d surely call for everyone to come down, beat her senseless again. Like when those two rutting traitors took her by surprise on the northside docks.

She still wondered what else happened that night. After they took her, shoved her on the ship, did they get Tricky? Was she dead? Somewhere else on this ship? Something worse?

Minox would be shattered. So would Mama. The whole family. They knew-they all knew-any ride out could be the last one, but it was one thing to know that as an idea, and another to face it.

Saints and sinners, they would surely blame Tricky. The lady didn’t deserve the hate the family would give her for that. And they would, saints knew. Not Minox, of course. But most of them already hated Tricky, even if she had saved Nyla, and this would lock that down.

Provided Tricky was still alive.

But if she was, all the more reason to fight her rutting way out of here and get back home.

She hadn’t ridden her last ride, and, by every saint, she wasn’t about to yet.

The hatch was opening.

Despite the rocking of the hold-the ship was really getting battered by storm and wind-she scrambled to her place on the wall, got her arms up. Hopefully Hockly-that sweaty dog-wouldn’t notice before it was too late.

“Chows up, cats!” he shouted as he came down the ladder.

“Don’t you-” Penler muttered.

“Hush your face,” Corrie hissed back.

“What’s the whisper here?” Hockly asked as he reached the ground.

Before anyone else could speak, Corrie said, “Garten died, that’s what.”

“Who’s Garten?” Hockly asked. “Blazes, I only remember your name, stick, since you keep it on your chest. Ha!” Not that Corrie had a choice about that-she couldn’t reach her brass name badge to get it off. She was pretty sure they only left it on her uniform coat-left her the entire uniform, for that matter-as a taunt. Such a funny jape they had a stick sergeant locked up down here with these kids.

“Him,” Eana said, knocking Garten’s dead form with her knee.

“Ugh, he’s looking ripe as a rutter,” Hockly said. “What got him?”

“The same fever that’s been running through all of us, idiot,” Corrie said.

“Hey, girl!” he snapped, “You give more of that mouth, I’ll crack someone’s jaw open.”

Corrie glowered. Let him think he had tamed her.

He turned to Garten’s body, taking the keys off his belt.

“Hurry it up, Hockly!” Four shouted from up top, his words punctuated with a crack of thunder.

“I gotta get this dead one out!”

“Rutting leave it!”

Corrie froze for a moment. She couldn’t see Four, couldn’t tell what he was seeing from up there, how close he was looking.

This might be the only moment she’d have, and if Four raised an alarm before she was ready, it’d all go to sewage.

But this was the moment. Hockly was bent over, back to her, hands occupied.

Saints watch over me, she whispered to herself. You too, Pop.

She darted from the wall, in one fell motion, leapt up and planted her boot hard on Hockly’s bad knee.

He would have cried out, but Eana-bless the wits on that girl-grabbed Garten’s arm and shoved it into his mouth, muzzling him. Corrie walloped him over the head with the chain of her manacles, and then again. He had a handstick and his belt that he tried to go for, but Corrie snapped at it, drawing it out and pulling it up under his weak shoulder. She slammed her foot onto that knee again while she drove him down, pushing his face into Garten’s body.

Monday, November 22, 2021

#Review - Taming the King by D.D. Chance #Fantasy #Romance

Series: Witchling Academy # 3
Format: Kindle, 246 pages
Release Date: November 22, 2021
Publisher: Elewyn Publishing
Source: Publisher
Genre: Fantasy / Romance

I swore nothing would screw up the alliance I'd finally forged with the king of the Fae. Then I was captured by his mortal enemy.

❤️ : It's Complicated.

Marrying the brutally gorgeous, fiercely proud, and irredeemably arrogant High King of the Fae wasn’t on my punch list a few weeks ago, but it was the fastest way to keep my people safe.  

Then the Fae’s ancient enemies strike. The darkly twisted king of the Fomorians rips me into his underworld prison…and tells me I’m now his bride, too.

Even worse? Once my beautiful Fae king learns how I’ve unwittingly betrayed him, his only solution is war.

To stop the bloody battle that will destroy two of the most powerful races in all the realms—and take down Earth’s witches too—I’ve got to call in every favor and squeeze every last drop of magic I can from my Hogan blood. It still might not be enough.

Because witch’s hearts are meant for breaking, traitors hide around every corner, and when it comes to Fae, Fomorian, and especially witchling magic—nothing is as it seems. 

Taming the King, by author D.D. Chance, is the third and final installment in the authors Witchling Academy series. This story begins right where Tempting the King finished. The story once again alternate's between Belle Hogan and Aiden, High King of the Fae. Belle Hogan is once again in a whole lot of trouble. She's been stolen from the human realm where she was trying to return home to, and taken to the Fomorian realm by those who betrayed her family, where she comes face to face King Lyric who claims that he wants what Aiden believes he already has; A wife. 

Take my world for it, it's been a really rough week for Belle as well as enlightening. Her care free life of helping anyone, witches, monsters, shifters, etc, find peace ended in a shocking manner, and suddenly she's the Fae King's Witch even though she tried to break her contract. Each encounter with the Fomorian has left a bad taste in her mouth. They look like creatures from the Black Lagoon. They are darkness, whereas Aiden's people are lightbringers. For this King Lyric to now imply that Belle is now tied to him as his wife, just makes her week even more sickening and devastating. 

Even as tempting as Lyric's offer is to open up and access more of her magic, nothing is ever free when it comes to any Fae or anyone else in this world. Meanwhile, Aiden has his hands full trying to figure out how to bring his people together in light of a dangerous enemy making advances into the Fae world while saving Belle. That includes trying to find out what happened to all the books that tell the history of the Fae. It makes Aiden begin to question everything he's been told about Fae history and what really happened between Reagan Logan and his grandfather, King Odin and why no records can be found. Anywhere. 

What's even more troubling is that if Aiden goes to war, it will likely affect all realms, including the monster realm, and the human realm where witches have always been the archenemies of the Fae. To make things even more consequential, Belle knows that she is the tool that is being used by various sides in this conflict to get what she wants. Her visions show her hundreds of possibilities and none of them are easy, or pleasant. Who can she really trust? Thankfully, Belle has some ideas which brings her to Chicago, and the House of Swords. Hint Hint

She also gets visited by a person known as the Night Witch who was visiting Boston. Hint Hint. For those who just finished the Monster Hunter Academy series, a character for that series makes a guest appearance. Nope, not spoiling. Belle and Aiden's connection, as well as their magic, grows leaps and bounds in this story. On a side note, I loved that Niall and Celia seemed to have found each other. After everything that's happened to Celia, they both deserve a moment of peace and happiness.  

When I received this copy from the author, I was pleasantly surprised when she told us that there would be a few surprises, call them Easter Eggs, in the book. I am eagerly urging the author to please, please do more crossovers in another series since that series seems to be ending soon. This is one of those series that you can't just pick up this book up, and expect to know everything that has happened over the previous two books in the series. 

Ain't happening. Instead, this book ties together every single previous storyline into one fantastic, and revealing finale. Did I mention revealing? This series just happens to be the third in the authors Boston Magic Academy cycle which includes Twyst Academy and Monster Hunter Academy.  

Friday, November 19, 2021

#Review - The Quicksilver Court by Melissa Caruso #Fantasy

Series: Rooks and Ruin (#2)
Format: Paperback, 544 pages
Release Date: October 12, 2021
Publisher: Orbit
Source: Library
Genre: Fantasy / Epic

Loyalties are tested and nations clash in the second novel of a fresh epic fantasy series bursting with adventure, intrigue, ambition, and deadly magic.

Ryxander, the Warden of Gloamingard, has failed. Unsealed by her blood, the Door hidden within the black tower has opened. Now, for the first time since the age of the Graces, demons walk the world.

As tensions grow between nations, all eyes—and daggers—are set on Morgrain, which has fallen under the Demon of Discord’s control. When an artifact with the power to wipe out all life in a domain is stolen, Ryx will do whatever it takes to save her home from destruction. But success may demand a larger sacrifice from Ryx than she could have imagined.

The Quicksilver Court, by author Melissa Caruso, is the second installment in the authors Rooks and Ruin series. The series itself is set in the world of Eruvia. This story takes place 150 years after the ending of the authors Swords and Fire series and in the same universe but with an entirely new cast of characters. As the granddaughter of an immortal Witch Lord (Lady of Owls) of Vaskandar and a line of Royal Vivomancers, Exalted Ryxander (Ryx) was destined for power and prestige. But a childhood illness left her with broken magic that drains the life from anything she touches, and Vaskandar has no place for a mage with unusable powers. 

Ryx resigned herself to an isolated life as the Warden of Gloamingard. After an unwanted visitor got too curious to Gloamingard's infamous Black Door and what's behind it, Ryx accidentally killed the dignitary in self-defense, activating a mysterious magical artifact sealed in an ancient tower in the heart of her family’s castle which released several of the Nine Demons including Hunter, Madness, Nightmare, and Discord. Ryx has found a home among a group of people who belong to the Rookery. 

Asheva, Bastian, Foxglove, Kessa, as well as former Shrike Lord Severin, and her ever present shadow cat called Whispers have accepted Ryx into their group without reservation. After being banished from her own home by her Demon possessed Grandmother, Ryx and her new friends in the Rookery must pull their resources together in order to find a powerful artifact that has been stolen by a fringe group called the Zenith Society who just happens to be aligned with the Demon of Hunger who now possesses the body of the man who murdered Ryx's aunt and tried to kill her with arrows and poison who wants to destroy Severin's home.

This will take Ryx and crew to the Loreican Court (think Palace of Versailles) where secrets will be spilled, Demons will come together for the first time in thousands of years, including Hunger, Madness, Nightmare, Discord, Death, Disaster, and Ryx's life will once again be changed forever after she learns a brutal secret about her own powers and past. One of the biggest hopes when you pick up a sequel to a book that you really liked is character growth and a more expansive understanding of all the characters involved. In my opinion, the author is very successful in that character.

The author dives into Foxglove’s secrets, Bastian’s trauma and the root cause of it, Kessa’s loss, and Ashe’s rule’s – and we watch as each character is pushed to their limits. This book was intense, emotional, magical and action-packed with a much darker tone than before and with much higher risks. Caruso manages to include plenty of food for thought with the inclusion of demons that are not totally bad and humans that are certainly not totally good.  

Ryx is an interesting character in that she isn't a total badass. She's not one to say she's the savior or the one to save the world. She has fatal flaws that seem to get her in trouble more times than not. Her best feature is that she has the time to improvise when things are going sideways, and after what the author did to the ending, we are in for a very long finale to this series. With the Graces long gone from this world, who will step up and stop another Dark Days from destroying humanity? With the Court of Nines and Crow Lords put away their animosity to join with Ryx and her friends in stopping the Dark Days? We shall see!

Thursday, November 18, 2021

#Review - Feather and Flame by Livia Blackburne #YA #Retelling #Historical

Series: Queen's Council # 2
Format: Hardcover, 336 pages
Release Date: February 1, 2022
Publisher: Disney Hyperion
Source: Publisher
Genre: YA / Historical / Retelling

She brought honor on the battlefield. Now comes a new kind of war... The war is over. Now a renowned hero, Mulan spends her days in her home village, training a militia of female warriors. The peace is a welcome one, and she knows it must be protected.

When Shang arrives with an invitation to the Imperial City, Mulan’s relatively peaceful life is upended once more. The aging emperor decrees that Mulan will be his heir to the throne. Such unimagined power and responsibility terrifies her, but who can say no to the Emperor?

As Mulan ascends into the halls of power, it becomes clear that not everyone is on her side. Her ministers undermine her, and the Huns sense a weakness in the throne. When hints of treachery appear even amongst those she considers friends, Mulan has no idea whom she can trust.

But the Queen’s Council helps Mulan uncover her true destiny. With renewed strength and the wisdom of those that came before her, Mulan will own her power, save her country, and prove once again that, crown or helmet, she was always meant to lead. This fierce reimagining of the girl who became a warrior blends fairy-tale lore and real history with a Disney twist.

Feather and Flame, by author Livia Blackburne, is the second installment in The Queen's Council series which alternates between several different authors. In the second novel within the sweeping YA historical fantasy series Queen's Council, Mulan takes center stage as she is named empress of a people who do not want her, forbidden from marrying the man she loves, and facing a potential coup, she must return to the battlefield to fight for her right to rule. Mulan is older, wiser, and bolder—but still true to the personality, character traits, and values that made her beloved by generations of Disney fans. 

Mulan is still considered to be Hero of China after she helped defeat the Huns and stopped the Hun leader from killing the emperor and taking over. I would say that this book sticks pretty close to the Disney version, rather than the recent Mulan movie version which was cleaned up and approved by the Chinese Communist Party before distribution. Mulan is now Commander of her own militia. A militia made up entirely of women who wanted more out of live than the mundane of every day life.

But things change when General Li Shang shows up and tells Mulan that the Emperor requests her presence in the Imperial City. Mulan’s relatively peaceful life is upended once more when the aging emperor decrees that Mulan will be his heir to the throne. Such unimagined power and responsibility terrifies her, but who can say no to the Emperor? As Mulan ascends into the halls of power, it becomes clear that not everyone is on her side. Her ministers undermine her, and the Huns sense a weakness in the throne. When hints of treachery appear even amongst those she considers friends, Mulan has no idea whom she can trust. 

The Queen's Council, a collection of badass former female warriors, helps Mulan uncover her true destiny. With renewed strength and the wisdom of those that came before her, Mulan will own her power, save her country, and prove once again that, crown or helmet, she was always meant to lead. This fierce reimagining of the girl who became a warrior blends fairy-tale lore and real history with a Disney twist. The story richly blends Chinese history, folklore, and magic to tell the next chapter of Mulan’s epic story.

There are some excellent relationships in this book. From Mulan and her grandmother via Oracle bones, as well as her parents, to Liwen her second in command who is probably the most skilled fighter in her militia, to Zhonglin who is as mysterious as they come, until she reveals who she is and why she's here now. Then of course there is Mulan and Li Shang. The two have been separated for a long time. When he comes back into her life, and then she's thrust into powerful position, he has to stand back and take it all in. Empress's are supposed to marry for political reasons and Li Shang begins to question any future they might have once had.  

When I first requested this title, the release date was November 9, 2021. After finishing this book, I learned that release date has now been pushed back to February 2022. Goodreads "claims" that the delay is due to supply chain issues. Really? You don't say! The first book in this series was Rebel Rose a retelling of Beauty and the Beast centering about Belle. The next book in the series is a retelling of Jasmine. As I mentioned, I would brush up on my Disney Mulan version before jumping into this story. Also, there's no MuShu in this story. Sorry!