Wednesday, August 31, 2022

#Review - Only Bad Options by Jennifer Estep #SyFy #Fantasy

Series: Galactic Truebond # 1
Format: EBook, 408 pages
Release Date: September 20, 2022
Publisher: Jennifer Estep
Source: Jennifer Estep
Genre: Science Fiction / Fantasy

Space opera meets Bridgerton in an exciting new science-fiction fantasy adventure by bestselling author Jennifer Estep. Perfect for readers looking for a mix of magic and technology and for fans of soul mates and enemies-to-lovers stories.


Few people know the name Vesper Quill. To most folks, I’m just a lowly lab rat who designs brewmakers and other household appliances in the research and development lab at the powerful Kent Corp. But when I point out a design flaw and a safety hazard in the new line of Kent Corp starcruisers, everyone knows who I am—and wants to eliminate me.

I might be a seer with a photographic memory, but I don’t see the trouble headed my way until it’s too late. Suddenly, I’m surrounded by enemies and fighting for my life.

I don’t think things can get any worse until I meet Kyrion Coldren, an arrogant Regal lord who insists that we have a connection, one that could be the death of us both.


The name Kyrion Coldren strikes fear in the hearts of people across the Archipelago Galaxy. As the leader of the Arrows, the Imperium’s elite fighting force, I’m used to being a villain, as well as the personal assassin of Lord Callus Holloway. Even the wealthy Regals who live on the planet of Corion are afraid of me.

But everything changes when I meet Vesper Quill. I might be a powerful psion with telepathic, telekinetic, and other abilities, but Vesper sees far too many of my secrets.

Thanks to an arcane, unwanted quirk of psionic magic, the two of us are forced to work together to unravel a dangerous conspiracy and outwit the dangerous enemies who want to bend us to their will.

Only Bad Options is the first installment in author Jennifer Estep's Galactic Truebond series. The story is told in first person narrative by both Vesper Quill and Kyrion Coldren. The story is a mix of science fiction and fantasy. There are psions; people with mental abilities like telekinesis, telepathy, and telempathy along with seers, spelltechs, siphons, and others who can wield magic. This is a universe that is literally at war between the Imperium and the Techware.

Imperium deals in magic, genetics, and bloodlines. Techware uses cutting edge technology to meld men and machine to create unstoppable soldiers. Techware has been attacking Regal owned companies almost at will and taking whatever they want. Vesper works for Kent Corporation as a research and development lab rat for household appliances. She is responsible for finding flaws in designs. She has near perfect recall and her seer magic highlights things that will cause trouble. 

But after she shows a design flaw in a new spaceship to Rowena Kent and her daughter Sabine, Vesper finds herself being disposed of, and all of her work destroyed to prevent Lord Callus Holloway from knowing the Kent's are disloyal to the Imperium. Next thing she knows, she is on a battlefield as an unwilling recruit. Expecting to die quickly, Vesper finds herself entangled with the most dangerous man in the galaxy; Kyrion Coldren after she saves his life. Suddenly they have connection neither wants.

Kyrion strikes fear in the hearts of people across the Archipelago Galaxy. As the leader of the Arrows, the Imperium’s elite fighting force, as well as the personal assassin of Lord Callus Holloway who he would love to destroy, he has enemies in every corner. Even the wealthy Regals who live on the planet of Corion are afraid of him and want him dead. Kyrion doesn't know what to do with Vesper, but he knows that there is something more to her than she is telling. In fact, Vesper has surprising talents which allow her to survive against great odds.

So, without further babbling by me, I will say that this book has a bunch of action, a bunch of twists, both Vesper and Kyrion have some awful backgrounds that have made them who they are. Vesper's mother is a POC and we should never speak about her again. Vesper's growth in this story reveals itself slowly. Every time she's put into a dangerous situation, it seems as though her magic grows to the point where she's a person you don't want to mess with. Kyrion has his own reason for wanting revenge on certain people in this story. I would say that the romance is tempered due to the unknown of what will happen if what happened between the two is uncovered. 

As always, whenever the sequel is produced and released, I will be all over it like flies on rice. 

Tuesday, August 30, 2022

#Review - Be The Serpent by Seanan McGuire #Fantasy

Series: October Daye (#16)
Format: Hardcover, 368 pages
Release Date: August 30, 2022
Publisher: DAW
Source: Publisher
Genre: Urban Fantasy

October Daye is finally something she never expected to be: married. All the trials and turmoils and terrors of a hero’s life have done very little to prepare her for the expectation that she will actually share her life with someone else, the good parts and the bad ones alike, not just allow them to dabble around the edges in the things she wants to share. But with an official break from hero duties from the Queen in the Mists, and her family wholly on board with this new version of “normal,” she’s doing her best to adjust.
It isn’t always easy, but she’s a hero, right? She’s done harder.
Until an old friend and ally turns out to have been an enemy in disguise for this entire time, and October’s brief respite turns into a battle for her life, her community, and everything she has ever believed to be true. 
The debts of the Broken Ride are coming due, and whether she incurred them or not, she’s going to be the one who has to pay.


Be The Serpent is the Sixteenth installment in author Seanan McGuire's October Daye series. Timeline, this story takes place in June of 2015. It has been 6 years since Toby was released from her 14 year captivity as a koi fish in which she lost both her husband and her daugher. After once again saving the day in Toronto, she's now married now to Tybalt, the King of the Cats. She's also Knight of Lost Words, Hero of the Realm of the Kingdom of the Mist, and named Realm Breaker by more than a few former enemies who are weary of this new turn in Toby's life.

Before I continue with this review, I want to express how hard it is to write this without spoilers. The author, in fact, pretty much warns readers ahead of time that she used the pandemic to write a entirely new story arc that will rock Toby’s world and have consequences on the Fae and everyone that Toby has surrounded herself with. If you have read this series from the beginning, you know that fate has found ways to dig at Toby at all angles and in some ways, Toby has changed Faerie for better or worse.

Be the Serpent picks up with a hearing in Arden's court to determine whether Rayseline should be woken after being asleep for 4 years thanks to being elf shot. If you've followed this series closely, you know that Rayseline has made a choice, and now that choice is being revealed. Going into this story, I was extremely peeved at Sylvester for allowing his wife to treat Toby like garbage, thus breaking a bond that was like the one that Toby has with her squire, Quentin. 

At the beginning of the day, Toby thought that her biggest problem would be persuading the queen to waken an elf-shot prisoner and give Toby custody of her, to save Raysel from her parents Sylvester and Luna. At the end of the day, Toby has found that someone extremely dangerous has been hiding in plain sight. Someone who she grew up with. Someone who she loves like a sister, and someone who has been there since Toby was a street rat. With the help of Tybalt, Quentin, May, Simon, and The Luidaeg, along with a very reluctant Oberon, Toby must face her most dangerous threat yet.

We have known from early on that Toby was the subject of several prophecies. Also, the Luidaeg has plans for her and has made it apparent that she is the only one allowed to murder Toby, when she's finished with her. As is the nature of fairy tale prophecies, some of them have come true. But not in the way that anyone thought they would. If you want to read a HOLY!!! CRAP!!! cliffhanger ending, you must prepared for two stunning revelations that happen within minutes of each other. 

The story reaches deep into the past and deep into the future. How was Faery born?  Could Maeve being hanging around waiting to return? Will what was broken in the Broken Ride be fixed? This book ends with a short novella Such Dangerous Seas that features Luidaeg as well as several other characters. The story pretty much reveals why Luidaeg is unable to lie to anyone. It's a good story.   

Monday, August 29, 2022

#Review - This Vicious Grace by Emily Thiede #YA #Fantasy #Romance

Series: The Last Finestra (#1)
Format: Hardcover, 448 pages
Release Date: June 28, 2022
Publisher: Wednesday Books
Source: Publisher
Genre: Young Adult / Fantasy / Romance

Serpent & Dove meets The Bodyguard in this romantic, thrilling debut fantasy where one girl's magic can save - or it can kill.

Three weddings. Three funerals. Alessa’s gift from the gods is supposed to magnify a partner’s magic, not kill every suitor she touches.

Now, with only weeks left until a hungry swarm of demons devours everything on her island home, Alessa is running out of time to find a partner and stop the invasion. When a powerful priest convinces the faithful that killing Alessa is the island’s only hope, her own soldiers try to assassinate her.

Desperate to survive, Alessa hires Dante, a cynical outcast marked as a killer, to become her personal bodyguard. But as rebellion explodes outside the gates, Dante’s dark secrets may be the biggest betrayal. He holds the key to her survival and her heart, but is he the one person who can help her master her gift or destroy her once and for all?

Emily Thiede's exciting fantasy debut, This Vicious Grace, will keep readers turning the pages until the devastating conclusion and leave them primed for more!

This Vicious Grace is the first installment in author Emily Thiede's The Last Finestra series and her fantasy debut. This is an Italian inspired story which you will quickly discover as each chapter has a different Italian quote. 18-year old Alessandra (Alessa) Paladino, the Chosen Finestra of Saverio, is blessed with a gift from a goddess named Dea in order to save the world from a demon invasion sent by an opposing god. Crollo will lead a horde of demons to attack her island on the day of Divorando. Alessa isn't supposed to touch anyone but her chosen Fonte. 

Fonte's are blessed at birth with defensive magic like fire, wind, water, earth, and electrical. Fonte's are respected and revered and considered to be a precious resource. Their families receive a generous annual stipend and protection. Alessa's magic allows her to amplify a Fonte's gift. Over the last 5 years, Alessa has found a Fonte, and lost them. There have been 3 weddings, and 3 funerals, and if Alessa can't find a Fonte she can't kill, it is likely Savero will fall. Knowing their time is coming to an end, a priest convinces the faithful that killing Alessa is the island's only hope of survival after she kills three partners. 

Alone and isolated by the Consiglio, without companionable or loving touch, our heroine is expected to fulfill her role as Finestra and save her people and island. When her life is endangered, Alessa realizes she can’t even trust the guards sworn to protect her. Between a rock and a hard place, she makes a rash decision and hires a big, strong man named Dante whom she'd seen fight in a local tavern. Dante is a marked killer who Alessa hires as her bodyguard from the priest's faithful subjects until she can control her powers and choose a partner. 

With his help over time, she works to master her gift and gains the trust of other Fonte. But Dante also has a secret that if exposed, could ruin everything and leave Alessa's home vulnerable to attack. Alessa and Dante help each other become the best versions of themselves. She learns to stand up for herself and love herself, and she teaches him what it feels like to be loved and accepted. With time running quickly, Alessa decides to gather all of the potential Fonte's and work with each to try and determine who is best suited to help her. Now she just has to choose a Fonte, kill the demons, and hope that nobody discovers the truth about Dante. 

Alessa is a character who is easy to like. She begins as an unsure, confused girl who only knew the rules that had been forced on her. She felt restricted and alone because she desired family, and to be touched and loved. As she grows, she became more independent, more confident, and much more entertaining. I am impressed that I remember enough Italian to enjoy the headings of each of the books chapters. I miss speaking Italian with my grandparents, and I miss Italy where I was stationed for a year in Naples in the 1980's.

The book does end on a cliffhanger. Ergo, if things are good in 2023, I will seek out the sequel to see what happens next with Alessa and Dante and the other Fonte's. 

Friday, August 26, 2022

#Review - The Dragon's Promise by Elizabeth Lim #YA #Fantasy

Series: Six Crimson Cranes (#2)
Format: Hardcover, 496 pages
Release Date: August 30, 2022
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers
Source: Publisher
Genre: Young Adult / Fairy Tales & Folklore

A journey to the kingdom of dragons, a star-crossed love, and a cursed pearl with the power to mend the world or break it...

Princess Shiori made a deathbed promise to return the dragon's pearl to its rightful owner, but keeping that promise is more dangerous than she ever imagined.

She must journey to the kingdom of dragons, navigate political intrigue among humans and dragons alike, fend off thieves who covet the pearl for themselves and will go to any lengths to get it, all while cultivating the appearance of a perfect princess to dissuade those who would see her burned at the stake for the magic that runs in her blood.

The pearl itself is no ordinary cargo; it thrums with malevolent power, jumping to Shiori's aid one minute, and betraying her the next—threatening to shatter her family and sever the thread of fate that binds her to her true love, Takkan. It will take every ounce of strength Shiori can muster to defend the life and the love she's fought so hard to win.

The Dragon's Promise is the second installment in author Elizabeth Lim's Six Crimson Crane's duology. Princess Shiori, Daughter of the Nameless Queen, Bloodsake of Kiata, Bearer of Wraith's pearl, made a deathbed promise to her stepmother Raikama to return the dragon's pearl (the ‘heart’ of a dragon) to its rightful owner, the Wraith. But keeping that promise is more dangerous than she ever imagined. Along with Prince Seryu, she must journey to Ai'long, the kingdom of dragons where she will come face to face with King Nazayun and other dangerous dragons.
Shiori must navigate political intrigue among dragons who want the pearl for themselves, face off against the possibility of becoming a dragon companion for life, or dying for alone without any of her brothers around to save her. The Pearl itself has a mind of its own. It tends to protect Shiori one moment, and abandon her the next. Shiori's only friend is Kiki, the paper crane she made with her magic that has people afraid of her and demons wanting her blood so that they can be released from the Holy Mountains.

While in Ai'long, Shiori meets a young boy named Gen. Gen traveled to Ai'long to steal the mirror of truth and was  betrayed by a dragon, and has spent years in the undersea kingdom with no hope of ever seeing his home again. By the time all is said and done, Shiori will have been missing for 6 months before she is sent home by Seryu. 6 months where things in her own kingdom have changed drastically and not for the better. Her own people are blaming her for the demons rumbling in the Holy Mountains and an assassin tries to kill her with poison.
As the bearer of the pearl and wielder of magic, Shiori must bear its weight and things are not made easier by the fact that the monsters that had been released in her last adventure, especially their menacing leader Bandur covet the pearl for themselves. Shiori really has her hands full. Bandur is taunting her and taking the place of people she loves. And if that weren’t enough, the Kiatan people are now aware of her magic, and many in and outside court wish to see her ‘sacrificed’ to save the kingdom.
Her intended Takkan, doesn't plan on letting her go alone on yet another dangerous journey without him coming along. In order to return the pearl to its rightful owner, the Wraith, Shiori asks her brothers to once again put their lives on the line in order to travel to a far off place where Shiori's stepmother came from where demons and ghosts await. The journey to restore the pearl to its rightful owner which involves Shiori turning her brothers into cranes once again which they do without complaining. 
While her deceased stepmother was of course not physically there, her presence was always felt, especially when Shiori travels to her homeland. Their bond always mattered— to the very end. It was truly emotional shifting through Shiori's memories of her stepmother, and how she really was trying to protect her by making things hard for her and turning her brothers into cranes. I give Takkan all the credit for his patience. He could have easily stepped aside and let Shiori choose the dragon prince instead, or walked away when she went on yet another dangerous adventure. I also love her brothers. After all they went through in the first book, none of them blinded when they were needed for a dangerous mission.


The bottom of the Taijin Sea tasted of salt, slime, and disappointment. But for a few faint beams of mysterious light, it was darker than the deepest chasm. Hardly the magnificent watery realm dragons were said to call home.

I sat up on Seryu’s back as he slowed, his long whiskers vibrating toward one beam in particular. Maybe I’d imagined it, but the beam shone brighter than the rest--almost violet.

“You ready?” Seryu asked.

Ready for what? I thought, but I nodded.

With a flip of his tail, he dove through the violet beam--and everything changed.

The water turned azure, and puffs of coppery mist hissed from beds of sand and crystal. And light! There was light everywhere, radiating from an unseen sun.

My heart began to race with anticipation, and I clung to Seryu’s horns as he accelerated down, swimming so fast that I almost let go of my breath.

We’re almost there, Kiki, I thought excitedly in our shared, unspoken language, but she didn’t respond. A peek into my sleeve told me why: my poor paper bird had fainted.

I didn’t blame her. We were moving at dizzying speeds, and my head pounded like a storm when I tried to see straight. But I couldn’t afford to faint. I didn’t even dare close my eyes.

I wanted to see everything.

At last we arrived at a labyrinth of bright coral reefs, fathoms below the mortal sea. Seagrass swayed in an unseen current, dunes of white sand and gold-veined rocks dotted the grounds, and canopies of braided seaflowers formed the roofs of underwater villas.

So this was Ai’long, home of the dragons.

It was a world few mortals would ever glimpse. At a glance, it didn’t seem so different from land. In place of trees were pillars of coral, some slender and some thick, most with spiraling branches adorned with bracelets of moss. Even the way the fish glided, their tapered fins spread out like wings, reminded me of birds soaring across the sky.

And yet . . . it was like nothing I’d ever seen. The movement of the water, constantly tossing and turning, was revealed by flashes of color and flurries of fish. The way the seagrass tickled the fish that swept by, as if they could speak to one another.

Seryu smirked as I drank in the view. “I told you you’d be dazzled.”

He was right, of course. I was dazzled. Then again, Ai’long was meant to astound mortal eyes such as mine. That was its danger, after all. Its trap.

A place so beautiful that even time held its breath.

Every hour you spend here is a day lost at home--if not more, I reminded myself sharply. That time would add up quickly, and I’d been away from my father and brothers so long I didn’t want to waste a single minute.

Let’s go. I signaled with a kick to the dragon’s long serpentine side.

“I’m not a horse, you know.” Seryu’s green eyebrows arched as he twisted to view me. “Why so quiet, Shiori? You’re not holding your breath, are you?”

When I didn’t reply, he tossed me off his back, and his claw shot out and pinched my nose.

Out escaped a jet of bubbles--the air I’d been preciously hoarding. But great gods, I could breathe! Or at least it felt like I was breathing. The water tasted sweet instead of salty--intoxicating, like a heady plum wine when I inhaled too deeply, but maybe that was because my head was still spinning.

“So long as you’re wearing a piece of my pearl, you can breathe underwater,” Seryu explained, reminding me of the glowing fragment I wore around my neck. “It might not be inside your heart anymore, so we can’t share thoughts . . . but you do know you can talk, right?”

“Of course I know,” I lied.

Covering up my relief, I touched the tiny pearl. Even this deep in the sea, it shone like a bead of moonlight.

“You might want to keep it hidden,” said Seryu. “People could get the wrong idea.”

“I thought it was just to help me breathe. Why would they--”

“It’s too complicated to explain,” the dragon mumbled with a grunt. “I forgot how many questions you ask. Maybe I should have let you keep holding your breath.”

My brows knit into a frown. “You’re in a sour mood.”

“Humans aren’t exactly welcome in Ai’long,” said Seryu thinly. “I’m thinking of the infinite ways your visit can go wrong.”

I didn’t believe him. He had been in a mood all day, starting with when he’d come for me onshore. He’d barely greeted my brothers, had ignored Takkan entirely. . . .

I tried to coax him out of it by teasing, “Will I have no fun stories to share when I go home? Here I was, telling everyone that the prince of dragons himself was going to give me a grand tour of his kingdom.”

“The shorter your visit is, the better.” Seryu’s red eyes flicked to my satchel, which hung off my shoulder. “You’re here to deliver something to my grandfather, not frolic about.”

So much for cheering him up. Now I was in a sour mood too.

I pried my satchel open--just a pinch. That something I was supposed to deliver was a dark and broken dragon pearl. Raikama had left it to me before she died, and its power was so strong I could feel it fighting against my satchel’s enchantment, which kept it safely confined and concealed. No surprise that Seryu’s grandfather wanted it.

It wasn’t the only thing inside the bag, though. I’d also brought my starstroke net--for some protection against the Dragon King--and the sketchbook Takkan had given me when we said goodbye.

“More letters?” I’d asked, taking the book in both hands.

“Better,” Takkan promised. “So you don’t forget me.”

What could be better than his letters? I stared wistfully at the sketchbook, wishing I could brush my knuckles against its soft spine and flip through its charcoal-stained pages. But I supposed it would be rude to read while I was in Seryu’s company.

Seryu certainly thought so. He narrowed his eyes at me. “I’ve never seen you blush while looking at the pearl.”

“Its light gets bright,” I said quickly. “Makes my face warm.”

He scoffed at the lie. “At least your human lordling didn’t jump into the sea after us. The way he was making fish eyes at you for leaving, I half thought he might. He wouldn’t have made it past the reefs before the sharks got to him.”

I closed the satchel. “Really, sharks?”

“Grandfather employs a platoon of them.” Seryu smirked. “They’re always hungry. We’ll encounter some shortly.”

My heart thumped in my chest. Were we that close to Nazayun’s palace?

Seryu misread my apprehension, and his tone lightened a little. “Worry not--the sharks don’t have an appetite for a stringy human like you.”

They might change their mind, I thought. Once the Dragon King learned why I was really in Ai’long, I’d be lucky if he granted me such a swift death.

Nervously, I glided back to Seryu, kicking harder than I needed to. Swimming in Ai’long was nothing like swimming in regular water. The water here was as light as air, and tiny currents tracked under my feet, propelling me where I needed to go. Almost like flying.

I overshot the dragon, jetting a hair too high. Out of nowhere, a bloom of jellyfish descended upon me.

There were at least a dozen of them. Their bodies were shaped like luminous umbrellas, tentacles swirling in a sinuous dance. They approached boldly, brushing against my arms and legs and even weaving through my long hair. I giggled at how it tickled--until Seryu let out a growl.

“Leave her alone.” His red eyes flashed at the intruders. “She’s with me.”

The jellyfish recoiled, but they didn’t disperse. Quite the opposite. As Seryu tried to tow me away by grabbing my hair, they followed and drew even closer.

Then, like the Taijin Sea, they changed.

The gold light radiating in their bodies went out in a flash, and their tentacles, soft as silk ribbons, turned hard and pointed. Two slid between Seryu and me, forcing us apart. The rest surrounded us.

I reached for the knife I kept hidden inside my sash. I barely got a chance to brandish it. Cold, slick tentacles suctioned onto my back and encircled my arms.

Tiny barbs grew out of my attacker’s tentacles, grazing my skin: a lethal warning not to resist. One sting, and I’d be paralyzed for life.

Defeated, I went still and dropped my knife, letting it float beyond my grasp. In return, the jellyfish relaxed its grip, but only slightly. Its tentacles began to search me for other hidden weapons, and as they rifled through my satchel and robes, Kiki darted out of my sleeve.

She was groggy, her wings in a dramatic midstretch as she yawned to announce she was awake. But when her inky eyes popped open and she saw the jellyfish, she shrieked.

Bubbling, blazing demons of Tambu!

“It’s not a demon,” I assured her, hugging my satchel as tentacles attempted to pry it open. “It’s a jellyfish.”

A what?

The jellyfish loomed over Kiki, scrutinizing her intently.

My bird covered her head with a wing. Oh gods, she moaned. Let me faint again.

To Kiki’s relief, the jellyfish deemed her unworthy of its attention and returned to my satchel. Its tentacles tugged hard at the straps, but I held on as tight as I could.

“Sting me all you like,” I said. “You are not taking this.”

The jellyfish hissed and bared its poisonous barbs.

“Away!” Seryu barked. His tail lashed back and forth, creating innumerable ripples, like tiny tempests. With a swipe of his claw, there came a fierce rip in the water.

While the jellyfish struggled against the sudden current, Seryu slung me onto his back and dove into a jungle of coral, swimming for the crystal spires ahead. He tossed my knife onto my lap. “Really, Shiori? This is what you bring to Ai’long?”

I gave a careless shrug. “Did you think I’d come unarmed?”

“You’ve met my grandfather before. This little dagger of yours would hardly be a splinter.”

“Splinters can still hurt” was all I said, tucking the blade back into my sash. “What were those jellyfish?”


“For what?”

“Trespassers and assassins.”

He didn’t elaborate, a signal to let it go. But I was too curious. “There was magic about them.”

“Most of Grandfather’s subjects have . . . a certain ability. It helps fend off those who try to enter Ai’long without an invitation.”

“But why search me? I have an invitation.”

“They were looking for your stepmother’s pearl, obviously,” said Seryu testily. “The jellyfish have a taste for dark magic. They also specialize in sensing deception.”

A wave of unease fell over me. “Deception?”

“Yes, like that steel needle you didn’t deign to tell me you brought.” Seryu’s voice hardened. “Worry not. Your time in Ai’long will be short; you won’t have to experience our court.”

That wasn’t what worried me, but I kept silent and glanced at Kiki.

She’d swooned on my palm, and her wings were wilted into a dejected lump. Thankfully, she hadn’t been paying attention to my conversation with Seryu. I loved her dearly, but keeping secrets wasn’t one of her gifts.

Are we nearly there? she moaned. I should have stayed on land. I feel seasick.

“No one gets seasick underwater.”

Kiki wrinkled her beak, letting out a theatrical sigh. Can’t you tell the dragon to swim with more care? Even whales move more daintily than he does.

“You tell him. He’s been surly all day.”

Why? Her brow crinkled. Is he upset with you?

“Of course not.”

Is it the jellyfish? Gods, Shiori--do you think they know? Maybe you should tell him you plan on keeping Raikama’s p--

My eyes went wide, and I stuffed her into my sleeve before Seryu heard.

Raikama’s pearl, Kiki had almost blurted.

No, I hadn’t told him. I didn’t plan to.

Guilt nibbled at my conscience, but I shoved it away. There was nothing to feel guilty about. I wasn’t reneging on my word. I had promised Seryu I would bring Raikama’s pearl to his grandfather. . . . I just never said I’d let him keep it.

“Only give it to the dragon with the strength to make it whole once more,” Raikama had made me swear before she died.

As if it could read my thoughts, the pearl inside my satchel began to pulse. I could practically see it in my mind--spinning and scheming, trying to find a way out. It was only the size of a peach, barely larger than my palm, but at its peak brilliance, it glowed like a bead of sunlight. But now that Raikama was gone, its light was muted, the fracture in its center seeming to widen more every time I looked at it.

That crack would not heal until the pearl was reunited with its true owner. I had a feeling the grief I buried inside me was the same, deepening the hollow in my heart until my promise to Raikama was kept.

“A promise is not a kiss in the wind, to be thrown about without care,” I murmured to myself. “It is a piece of yourself that is given away and will not return until your pledge is fulfilled.”

They were my stepmother’s words from long ago. Words I used to hate because they needled me with guilt, even as I ignored them. Never would I have guessed that I would draw upon them for comfort.

The pearl trembled, responding to my unease, and I lifted the satchel onto my lap so Seryu wouldn’t notice. Too many times I had broken my word--to Raikama more than anyone. Not this time.

I will see you made whole again, I vowed to the pearl silently. I will take you home.

No matter the cost.


The walls enclosing King Nazayun’s palace were impossibly high. They stretched taller than I could see, all the way to the violet lights marking the fringes of the realm, their sharp finials like needles prodding at the ocean’s veins.

An audience of sea creatures had gathered outside the palace. Whales larger than my father’s warships, mottled sea turtles that blended into the sand and rocks, dolphins, squid, and, when I looked closer, even crabs and seahorses. Scattered among them were dragons, a few with humans mounted on their backs. All lowered their heads in deference as Seryu passed, but their gazes were fixed on me.

“Don’t hold my horns here,” growled Seryu. “They’re a measure of status in Ai’long, and I’m a dragon prince, not a bull.”

I let go as if I’d touched fire. “Sorry.”

Thursday, August 25, 2022

#Review - Blood of Troy by Claire Andrews #YA #Historical #Mythology

Series: Daughter of Sparta (#2)
Format: Hardcover, 480 pages
Release Date: September 6, 2022
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Source: Publisher
Young Adult / Historical / Mythology

The sequel to Daughter of Sparta thrusts warrior Daphne and her love interest, the Olympian god Apollo, into the middle of the Trojan War in an epic YA fantasy reimagining of Greek mythology.
A year after saving the powers of Olympus by defeating Nyx, the Goddess of Darkness, Daphne is haunted by still-looming threats, her complicated feelings for the god Apollo, and the promise she made to the Olympian gods that she would help them again when they called upon her. When their command finally comes, it is deceptively simple: secure herself a spot as one of Queen Helen’s guards.
A war is coming, and all of Sparta must be prepared.
In the midst of a treaty summit among the monarchs of Greece, Daphne and Helen uncover a plot of betrayal—and soon, a battle begins that leads to all-out war. As the kingdoms of Greece clash on the shores of Troy and the gods choose sides, Daphne must use her wits, her training, and her precarious relationship with Apollo to find a way to keep her queen safe, stop the war, and uncover the true reason the gods led her to Troy. But the gods are keeping more than one secret, and Daphne will be forced to decide how far she is willing to go to save those she loves—and whose side she’s on in a war that is prophesied to be the downfall of her people. 

Blood of Troy is the second installment in author Claire Andrews Daughter of Sparta series. I do recommend that interested readers first read the first installment to get a better understanding of not only the world the author has created, but the key characters who are involved in the series. Summary: Spartan Mothakes Daphne Diodorus earned the respect of her people, and brought her Kingdom a year of wonderful harvests and fortuitous alliances thanks to what she did to help the missing Muses. But not everyone is a fan of Daphne or her desire to become a full fledged Spartan warrior.

Last year, Daphne faced off against Ares, Hermes, and Nyx, the Goddess of Darkness, who hasn't forgotten that Daphne interrupted her plans for the Olympians. Nyx now expects Daphne to fear her and is relentless in her wrath appearing everywhere she goes and sometimes causing undo attention. Summoned to Olympus because of the promise she made to the Olympian gods that she would help them again when they called upon her, Daphne finds herself dealing with yet another challenging situation. 

Their command is deceptively simple: secure herself a spot as one of Queen Helen’s guards. Daphne is told that a conflict is coming to Sparta, and she needs to be among those protecting her own Queen Helen or all will be lost. Which means being part of a competition, including her own brother, to gain favor as Shield of Helen. After winning her position, Daphne and Helen have to deal with an alleged treaty summit with all factions of Greece plus Troy showing up. 

At this point, Daphne's world gets much more dangerous after the Fates tell her that a war never seen before will encompass the entirely of the known world and Daphne will be at the center of what happens next. If Daphne fails to protect Helen, she will find herself on the bloody fields of Troy watching as a great country falls to the war of the Gods, and the likely fall of Olympus itself. No pressure! Daphne seriously has her hands full. She has conflicting feelings for Apollo. She ends up in Troy with Helen where we obviously meet characters like Hector, and Paris, and later Achilles and Odysseus. 

So, let me repeat what the author has said. If you think you know everything there is to know about the Trojan War, and how Troy fell, you are about to get your mind blown. I think one of the things the author does well is to give an actual voice to Helen and not just assume that she ran away with Paris thus giving Agamemnon reason to war on Troy. I also had no choice but to feel for Kassandra who has always been portrayed as someone with mental issues. Had her father and brothers listened to her, there may have been a different outcome.

Plus, readers will finally get an understand as to who Daphne really is and what her heritage is and why the Gods are so silent when it comes to revealing who her father is. And, yes, there is a cliffhanger ending, and thus there will be a third installment in this series. This book is a who's who of almost all the key players in the Trojan War including Ares, Hermes who seems to have his own agenda, and of course, Nyx. I noticed while writing this review that the third book has a title. Storm of Olympus. I can't wait to find out what happens next. 

Wednesday, August 24, 2022

#Review - Daughter of the Siren Queen by Tricia Levenseller #YA #Fantasy

Series: Daughter of the Pirate King (#2)
Format: Kindle, 342 pages
Release Date: February 27, 2018
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends
Source: Kindle Unlimited
Genre: Young Adult / Fantasy

A seventeen-year-old pirate captain must race her father, the Pirate King, to a legendary hidden treasure in this thrilling, action-packed YA sequel to Daughter of the Pirate King. My father's ships will be at the siren's mercy. We will be the ones to reach the island first and claim its treasure for ourselves.

Alosa's mission is finally complete. Not only has she recovered all three pieces of the map to a legendary hidden treasure, but the pirates who originally took her captive are now prisoners on her ship. Still unfairly attractive and unexpectedly loyal, Riden is a constant distraction, but now he's under her orders. And she takes great comfort in knowing that the villainous Vordan will be facing her father's justice.

When Vordan exposes a secret her father has kept for years, Alosa and her crew find themselves in a deadly race with the feared Pirate King. Alosa knows they will recover the treasure first . . . after all, she's the daughter of the Siren Queen. 


Daughter of the Siren Queen is the second installment in author Tricia Levenseller's Daughter of the Pirate King. This book picks up two months after the ending of the previous installment. Captain Alosha Kalligan of the Ava-Lee and her crew are on a mission to find the final piece of the map that is said to lead the way to a place called Isla de Canta where Siren's keep a fortune in gold and goods they've collected over the centuries. But after catching up with Vordan and his crew, he let's Alosha know that her father has been keeping a stunning secret from her.

It seems as though the Pirate King Kalligan found something on the Island where he was the only survivor. He also may have something capable of defeating the sirens, including Alosha's own siren call. She also discovers a even more stunning secret. A secret that will change everything for Alosha and set the stage for Alosha to head out on her own against an entire Pirate fleet ready to stop her. If you read the first installment, or even my review of the first installment, you know that Alosha's heritage is half human and half siren. 

Her siren side is out of control and there is only one person who seems to be able to control her when he's around. Only Riden seems to be able to control Alosha's siren which makes him the perfect person to test her abilities to gain control so that she can outfox and defeat an entire fleet of Pirates led by her father. Alosha has no choice but to find the sirens' lair on her own, and claim their treasure for herself, especially since she has a connection to the Siren Queen. 

The voyage of the Ava-lee is nothing but dangerous. With her father's entire fleet on her heels, her only chance at defeating him is to control her siren nature, and use it to save her crew. She loves every member of the crew, and she is a fair captain in that she shares the wealth. The crew in turn  would all lay down their lives for her as well. Alosa is a character who is brutal, strong willed and level headed heroine but has some interesting moments with the youngest member of her crew.

Although this book was apparently going to be the final installment in the series, it has come to my attention that the author seems to be writing a third installment that will be released sometime in 2023. I am happy that I found this series. It is action packed, and it twists a bit of romance in between some emotional scenes.

Tuesday, August 23, 2022

#Review - The Liar’s Crown by Abigail Owen #YA #Fantasy #Romance

Series: Dominion # 1
Format: Hardcover, 448 pages
Release Date: August 30, 2022
Publisher: Entangled: Teen
Source: Publisher
Genre: Young Adult / Fantasy / Epic

Beauty and the Beast meets Snow White in this upper YA fantasy where a black heart is disguised by beauty, the purest soul is hidden within a beast, and a gift of hope is laced with death.

Everything about Meren’s life is a lie. As a hidden twin princess, born second, she has only one purpose—to sacrifice her life for her beloved sister if death comes for her. Meren has lived under the guise of a poor, obscure girl of no standing, slipping into the palace and into the role of the true princess when danger is present.

Now the queen is dead, their dominion under threat of eternal winter, and the sinister King Eidolon has sent her sister a flower. The first seen in a thousand years. With that gift, he seeks to wed her. Untrusting, Meren does what she was born to do and secretly takes her sister’s place on the eve of the coronation.

Which is why, when a man made of shadow kidnaps the new queen…he gets Meren by mistake.

As Meren tries to escape, all the lies start to unravel. Not just her lies. The Shadow Ranger who took her has secrets of his own. He struggles to contain the shadows he wields—other faces, hideous faces, that terrify her.

Winter is at the walls. Darkness is looming. And the only way to save them all is to kill Eidolon. But to kill the king is to destroy the king, including the only good piece of his soul left—the Shadow Ranger who has stolen Meren’s heart.

The Liar's Crown, by author Abigail Owen, is the first installment in the authors Dominion series. Dominion is an upper YA fantasy series with a twist on the Beauty and the Beast and Snow White fairy tales, with a nod to the sisters of Snow-White and Rose-Red. In this world, there are six dominions: Aryd, Tyndra, Wilderness, Savanah, Mariana, and Tropkis. 18 years ago, twin sisters were born. One (Princess Tabra) was born to become Queen. One (Mereneth) was born to be raised in obscurity and used as a stand-in when necessary. 

One child was born Enfernae, the other Hylorae. Hylorae can control tangible, physical elements like sand, water, and plants. Enfernae control the intangible like souls or a persons mind. For as long as he has been King, Eidolon has been stealing and murdering the Queens of Aryd. In Ayrd, the Queens have been unique in that they have a set of twins every other cycle. For 18 years, Meren has lived life in poverty raised by her Omma. Her best friend is Cain who is a Wanderer, but wants more from their relationship. Things quickly change when Meren notices that she's being followed. 

Then, the Queen of Aryd dies which makes Princess Tabra the new Queen. If that weren't enough, Eidolon sends Tabra a pendant as a gift. The first seen in a thousand years. With the gift, he seeks to wed her. Meren decides to take her sisters place at the coronation and unwittingly puts herself in the sights of a shadowed kidnapper named Reven. As Meren struggles to gain her freedom, she learns that there are more lies to unravel than just her own. This is definitely a story that falls into the enemies to lovers category.

While Meren is learning more about Reven, she discovers that she may be the one person who may be able to stop Eidolon and his brutal regime that seems never ending because of her powers. She also gets introduced to a cadre of characters who have made a new life for themselves away from the Dominions. Meren was raised in the desert and that made her strong, brave and compassionate towards her people. She was also forced to hide her power to control sand since childhood. She only came out of hiding when Tabra was put into dangerous situations.

Though she has one purpose in life, she longs for so much more, and her epic journey, both emotional and physical, we see the real Meren. Yes, it is fair to say that this book ends on a cliffhanger. If 2023 allows me, I will likely request the sequel from the publisher.    

Monday, August 22, 2022

#Review - True Believer by Jack Carr #Thriller #Suspense

Series: Terminal List # 2
Format: Hardcover, 496 pages
Release Date: July 30, 2019
Publisher: Atria/Emily Bestler Books
Source: Library
Genre: Thrillers / Suspense

In acclaimed author Jack Carr’s follow-up to The Terminal List, former Navy SEAL James Reece’s skill, cunning, and heroism put the US government back in his debt and set him on another path of revenge.

When a string of horrific terrorist attacks plagues the Western world during the holiday season, the broader markets fall into a tailspin. The attacks are being coordinated by a shadowy former Iraqi commando who has disappeared into Europe’s underground. The United States government has an asset who can turn the Iraqi against his masters: James Reece, the most-wanted domestic terrorist alive.

After avenging the deaths of his family and team members, Reece emerges deep in the wilds of Mozambique, protected by the family of his estranged best friend and former SEAL Team member. When a series of events uncovers his whereabouts, the CIA recruits him, using a Presidential pardon for Reece and immunity for the friends who helped him in his mission of vengeance.

Now a reluctant tool of the United States government, Reece travels the globe, targeting terrorist leaders and unraveling a geopolitical conspiracy that exposes a traitorous CIA officer and uncovers a sinister assassination plot with worldwide repercussions.

A high-intensity roller-coaster ride, True Believer explodes with action and authenticity that cements Jack Carr as the new leader in political thrillers.

True Believer is the second installment in Jack Carr's Terminal List series. There are a series of events that happen in the first part of this story that will eventually lead to the return of James Reece from exile. Until then, things are gloomy. Horrific bombings hit London during Christmas time. Followed by a Terrorist attack on a renowned British 2nd Battalion Assault Brigade. While the world markets are plummeting, a third assault on the US General of the NATO allied command is taken out. In the Middle East, a sniper has killed an important politician, and it appears this is just the tip of the iceberg of things to come.
These events have been in the works by a Russian billionaire and puppet master who wants to return Russia to its greatness, along with key US politicians and other characters that will lead to the US reaching out to the most wanted man on the planet; James Reece. Mohammed Farooq, a former Iraqi commando trained by the Americans, is the prime suspect in the recent series of terrorist attacks and a man quite capable of disappearing into the European underground. The CIA would like to talk to him, but there's only one man whom Farooq would trust enough to meet with...ex-SEAL James Reece.
While this is all happening, James has finally reached Mozambique after months of being at sea onboard the Bitter Harvest. He has no clue as to the chaos that has happened world wide. He has no idea what's happened to his friends Liz Riley and Katie Buranek who broke the story about the Terminal List. He has no clue as to the last message that was left on his phone giving him hope on a life he believes is coming to an end. Mozambique is where he finds Rich Hastings, the uncle of James’ estranged best friend and former SEAL teammate.
They run a hunting safari outfit that concentrates on culling the old animals and protecting the young animals from the ivory and trophy poachers who have a ready market in China for their wild game kills. Reece soon puts his tactical knowledge to work, using drones and other technologies to help catch the poachers before they can further devastate the wildlife. Everything is going fine until one of his co-workers is hurt badly, and his moment of peace is shattered. When CIA operative James Strain appears, despite his misgivings about his own country,  and the fact that he's ready to join his wife and daughter in the afterlife, Reece decides to help find the people behind the attacks. 
His friend Farooq can’t be the mastermind. Reese knows Farooq well from his time in country. As Reece starts to unpack the intel from the terrorist attacks, it becomes clear that even though he is a reluctant tool of a government that hates him, all the years of training has prepared him for the scenarios he faces in this book. From traveling the globe, to avoiding a terrorist attack, to targeting terrorist leaders and unraveling corrupt politicians and corporations who love to make money off the suffering of others. 

If you can honestly put your politics behind you, and just pay attention to this story, especially what China is doing in places like Africa, South America, and Central America to steal mineral wealth from those countries, and why we have such a problem with lithium batteries and other products, you will enjoy it more. Some refuse to read Carr's novels due to the political polarization cursing this country, but you are missing out on a great thriller if you do let your political leanings guide you in life. Carr doesn't hold back on criticism of US presidents like Carter and recent policies that have allowed millions of unvetted undocumented aliens, including 69 on the Terror Watch List, into the country. Apparently, there is a large majority of this country who has forgotten why 9/11 happened.
I have added Jack Cart to my list of must read along with Vince Flynn, Kyle Mills, and Brad Thor. Again, put your politics aside, and just enjoy the ride. You won't be sorry.

London, England


AHMED TURNED UP HIS collar and cursed the snow. He’d never liked the cold, despite his hometown of Aleppo being a far less temperate destination than most Westerners envisioned. He’d found Italy’s Mediterranean coast in the summertime to be a paradise and would have gladly made it his home. His current bosses, however, wanted him in London. Frigid, dreary, snowy London. It was temporary, he was told; six months’ work with his head down and his mouth shut and he could live wherever he wanted. His plan was to travel back south, find an honest job, and then send for his family.

Tonight, his job was to drive the van. His destination was the medieval market village of Kingston upon Thames, in southwest London. Ahmed didn’t know the nature of his cargo and didn’t much care so long as it was unloaded quickly. Whatever he was carrying was heavy. He felt the brakes struggle to handle the load whenever he stopped at the many traffic signals along his route. He turned the white Ford Transit delivery van’s heat to its maximum setting and lit a cigarette. Traffic was terrible, even for a Friday evening.

Ahmed pulled the cell phone from his pocket: 7:46 p.m. He’d allowed himself plenty of leeway to get to the marketplace on time, but the weather was slowing things down, not to mention the throngs of drivers and pedestrians heading toward what must have been some sort of festival. Children, bundled up for the cold, holding hands with parents and siblings, were everywhere. The sight made him think of his own family, crowded into a refugee camp somewhere in Turkey. At least they were no longer in Syria.

The van moved at a pedestrian pace as he tapped the horn to part the crowd. He jammed on the brakes and inhaled sharply as a little girl in a pink puffy jacket scurried across the road in his headlights. He turned left and entered the marketplace, stopping the van in front of the address that he’d been given at the garage and turning on the emergency flashers. His eyes strained as he looked through the frosted windows to confirm he was in the right spot, his bosses having been so adamant regarding the precise location of his unloading point.

From a bird’s-eye view, the marketplace was the shape of a large triangle, wide at one end and narrow at the other. Ahmed’s van sat idling at the base end of that triangle, unnoticed by the happy crowds attending the German Christmas market. The shopping district was busy on a normal evening but with the holiday event in full swing, it was packed. A recent online article had highlighted the quaint festival, and families from all over London and the surrounding suburbs had come to experience its wonders firsthand. Shoppers filled the storefronts, ate in the cafes and pubs, and strolled the booths selling everything from hats and scarves to hot spiced wine, warm pretzels, nutcrackers, candle arches, and traditional wooden ornaments. The already charming town market looked like an alpine village with snow-covered A-frame booths, strung with lights, punctuated by an enormous Christmas tree towering above it all.

Ahmed looked around and saw no sign of the men who were to unload the cargo.

All this congestion must have slowed them down, he thought as he dialed a number on his phone per his instructions and waited impatiently for an answer.


“?’Ana hunak.”


The line went dead. Ahmed looked at the LCD screen to see whether the call had dropped or if the other caller had simply hung up. He shrugged.

The explosion was deafening. The market’s snowy cobblestone streets held thousands of shoppers and those closest to the van were simply vaporized by the detonation. They were the lucky ones. The steel shrapnel that had been embedded directionally into the explosive device raked into the crowd like a thousand claymore mines—killing, maiming, shredding, and amputating everything in its path, taking future generations before they even existed. A joyful Christmas gathering was now a twisted war zone. Scattered among the wreckage of charred wooden shopping booths, broken glass, tangles of hanging lights, and broken tables were scores of the dead and dying.

Those who could move and who weren’t totally dazed from the shock wave surged toward the apex of the triangular market, rushing to escape the carnage. That end narrowed significantly and was now strewn with the remains of the festival, forced there by the power of the high-explosive charge. The debris-choked street was constricted even further by cars parked illegally at the mouth of the triangle. The human wave jammed to a stop in the narrow bottleneck of buildings, cars, and rubble, the panicked mob pushing, shoving, and heaving like stampeding cattle. The young were trampled underneath the old, the weak forsaken by the powerful. The confusing scene was such that, at first, few even noticed the gunfire.

Two men wielding Soviet-made PKM belt-fed machine guns opened up on the crowd from the flat third-story rooftops above, one on either side of the bottleneck. Several 7.62x54mmR rounds tore through the mass of humanity, shredding bodies in their path. Those below, many already wounded from the van’s deadly blast, had no chance for escape. The crowd was packed together so tightly that even the dead did not fall to the ground, but rather were held up like sticks in a bundle by the unrelenting human wave. The shooters had each linked multiple belts of ammunition together to prevent having to reload and the steel rain fell until each man’s belt ran dry. The firing lasted over a minute. The men dropped the empty weapons, barrels glowing white-hot from their sustained fire, and made their way down into the chaos below. The market’s gutters ran red with blood as they stepped onto what had moments before been a street filled with the joy of the season.

Surveillance footage would later show the two men move to opposite ends of the outdoor market and find positions on the street that would be the most likely routes that first responders would take to treat the wounded. Blending in with the dead, they waited more than an hour to detonate the suicide vests strapped to their bodies, murdering police officers, firefighters, medical personnel, and journalists, and creating a new level of terror for twenty-first-century Europe.

Four hundred and forty miles to the southeast, Vasili Andrenov looked at the bank of four giant flat-screen monitors in front of him and admired the turmoil. It was being reported that this was the deadliest terror attack in England’s history. Not since the height of the Blitz in 1940 had this many Londoners been killed in a single event. That casualty figures were cresting three hundred and expected to climb did not appear to bother him. That half of those killed were children and that there were not enough trauma centers in all of London to deal with the number of wounded bothered him even less.

The room was completely silent. Andrenov preferred it that way. He read the news tickers across the bottom of each screen and sipped his vodka. The media was on the scene before many of the wounded could even be evacuated; their satellite trucks added to the traffic gridlock and slowed the progress of the steady stream of ambulances dispatched from all over London under the city’s emergency response plan.

While viewers from around the world watched in shock and horror at what the media quickly termed “Britain’s 9/11,” the Russian’s expression never changed, nor did his breathing rate increase or his blood pressure rise. His eyes simply moved from screen to screen, processing information in much the same way the powerful computer on the desk before him processed data. This would not have been overly remarkable except for the fact that Vasili Andrenov was responsible for the carnage in the streets of London that December evening.

Shifting his gaze from the spectacle of violence radiating from the wall of his own personal command center down to his computer, Andrenov checked to ensure the correct stocks were set to automatically begin trading as markets opened across the globe on Monday morning. Satisfied that everything was in order, he took one last long look at the new London he had created, before turning in for an early night’s sleep. Come Monday, Vasili Andrenov would be an extremely rich man.