Monday, September 26, 2016

#Monday Review - The Secret City by C.J. Daugherty, Carina Rozenfeld (YA, Fantasy)

Series: The Alchemist Chronicles # 2
Format: E-Galley, 307 pages
Release Date: September 1, 2016 Book
Publisher: Bookouture
Source: NetGalley/Publisher
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy

A boy with seven days to live.  An ancient curse. And one girl with the power to stop it. 

Hunted by Dark Alchemy and forced to leave their homes to protect their families, Taylor Montclair and Sacha Winters have arrived at Oxford’s St Wilfred’s College. Surrounded by Alchemists sworn to protect them, they are safe for now.  

But time is short. In seven days Sacha will turn 18, and the ancient curse that once made him invincible will kill him. And unleash a wave of destruction on the earth. Sacha and Taylor need answers – fast. 

When the safety of the college is breached, the alchemists are faced with a terrifying possibility. Could the source of the darkness be one of their own? 

Sacha and Taylor’s only chance is to go to where the curse was first cast - the medieval French city of Carcassonne. There they will face the darkest alchemy the world has ever seen, armed with only the power of their bloodlines. In Carcassonne, this will end. 

The Secret City is the second installment in authors CJ Daugherty & Carina Rozenfeld's The Alchemist Chronicles. The story picks up (3) weeks after the ending of The Secret Fire. For those who may be new to this series, welcome. This series focuses on two main characters. Sacha Winters and Taylor Montclair. Sacha and Taylor have only 7 days to find a way to solve the curse that will kill Sacha on his 18th birthday and unleash a Demon on Earth. His only real hope in all things that really matter may be Taylor, who has learned that she may be one of the more powerful Alchemists currently living thanks to being a descendant of Isabelle. the originator of the curse against Sacha's descendants 300 years ago. 

Taylor has little time to find a way to eliminate the curse that could not only kill Sacha, but unleash hell on earth thanks to the machinations of one Mortimer Pierce. She not only has to take a crash course in Alchemy, but also learn how to learn to fight against the monsters that may come for her and Sacha again. Sacha's life depends on Taylor learning everything she possibly can, from as many sources as she can, before time runs out for Sacha. While Taylor is learning, Sacha is feeling like a third wheel and chafes against the restrictions placed on him. Sacha and Taylor are connected through the most intriguing party. Not necessarily goodness, but perhaps a bit of darkness that may set them on a difficult path.

Pierce refuses to let them have Five minutes, let alone Seven days to find a way to destroy the curse and save the day. By attacking the school, and nearly killing or capturing Sacha and Taylor, he sends a message loud and clear that he can not be easily defeated. If you read the first book, that was the missing piece of the puzzle as to who was responsible for wanting to get their hands on Sacha. Now that Sacha, Taylor, and the Alchemists at St. Wilfred's College, including Louisa and Alastair, know who they are facing, it becomes even more important to stay ahead of Pierce and ensure that he doesn't get his hands on Sacha. A path that leads Taylor, Sacha, Louisa, and Alastair into a face to face fight to the death against Pierce in a small town in France called Carcassonne.

I really like Taylor and Sacha together. Brought together by strange circumstances, they have more than made up for being from different countries (England vs France). Sacha is one of the more intriguing characters because of the fact that he literally can not die. Oh sure, plenty have tried, but he keeps coming back to life. I like that Taylor isn't head strong where she believes she is better than Sacha. They are linked by friendship, by love, and by fate. I loved that the authors gave Louisa a narrative in this book. Her relationship with Sacha and Taylor may not be what you might think, but I dare say she has some respect for them. She even has her own romantic interlude with Alastair and may I just say, Hell Yes!

The Secret City ends with little or no questions left over for another book in this series, plus a surprising twist that I totally did not see coming. So, I am not sure at this time whether or not the authors or publisher intend to release a third installment. If I get an update, I shall update this review. 

Monday, September 19, 2016

#Monday Review - The Shadow Hour by Melissa Gray (Young Adult, Fantasy) @meligrey @DelacortePress

Series: The Girl at Midnight # 2
Format: Hardcover, 421 pages
Release Date: July 12, 2016
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Source: Library
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy

A battle has been won. But the war has only just begun.
Everything in Echo’s life changed in a blinding flash when she learned the startling truth: she is the firebird, the creature of light that is said to bring peace. 
The firebird has come into the world, but it has not come alone. Every action has an equal and opposite reaction, and Echo can feel a great and terrible darkness rising in the distance. Cosmic forces threaten to tear the world apart.
Echo has already lost her home, her family, and her boyfriend. Now, as the firebird, her path is filled with even greater dangers than the ones she’s already overcome.
She knows the Dragon Prince will not fall without a fight.
Echo must decide: can she wield the power of her true nature—or will it prove too strong for her, and burn what’s left of her world to the ground?  Welcome to the shadow hour

The Shadow Hour is the second installment in author Melissa Gray's The Girl at Midnight series. This story picks up three months after the ending of The Girl at Midnight. Echo has become the prophesied Firebird, the creature of light that is supposed to bring peace. Echo is being hunted by the Avicen, Drakharin, and the Dragon Prince, aka Caius sister Tanith. She is also being hunted by a darkness called Kucedra. The Kucedra is the flip side of what Echo is. While Echo is the light, the Kucedra is the darkness. 

Alongside Echo are an eclectic group of Avicen and Drakharin who have become Echo's allies and friends after the events of Strasbourg. There is Jasper, Ivy, Caius, and Dorian. While Echo continues to hear Rose in her thoughts, she also travels the world in search of answers to what she is supposed to actually do as the Firebird, while also staying one step ahead of Tanith who, shocked look, has become something of a major thorn in everyone's backside. 

What's curious though is that as ugly as she is as a villain, she still is Caius blood and blood is thicker than world domination, or one hopes anyway. I would love to have rated this book a bit higher, but unfortunately there were several, yes, several love triangles that kind of sent me into skipping over pages. First, there is Echo, Caius, and of course, Rowan who she basically left behind in order to deal with the previous books events. On top of that, there is Jasper, Dorian, and a wizard named Quinn who take up a whole lot of storyline better served on something else entirely. Sorry, just don't care for triangles and never will. 

In case you're wondering, yes, there is a rather blunt force cliffhanger ending that apparently will lead into the next book in the series called The Savage Dawn. This is a book of real issues that affect every single character already mentioned, plus adding even more that even though they are vital to the story, might not actually survive the bloodshed and war that has has spilled over into the mortal world. Tragedy has apparently followed the Firebird vessel for a very long time. Will the same thing happen to Echo, or will she find the courage and strength to stand before the darkness before Tanith brings the world to an end?  

Friday, September 16, 2016

#Friday Review - Threats of Sky & Sea by Jennifer Ellision (Young Adult, Fantasy) @JenEllision @Patchwork_Press

Series: Threats of Sky & Sea, # 1
Format: Paperback, 360 pages
Release Date: May 20, 2014
Publisher: Self Published
Source: NetGalley
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy>Magic

Sixteen year-old Breena Perdit has spent her life as a barmaid, innocent to her father’s past and happily free from the Elemental gifts that would condemn her to a life in the Egrian King’s army. Until the day that three Elemental soldiers recognize her father as a traitor to the throne and Bree’s father is thrown in jail—along with the secrets from his last mission as the King’s assassin. Secrets that could help the King win a war. Secrets he refuses to share.
Desperate to escape before the King’s capricious whims prove her and her father’s downfall, Bree bargains with him: information for their lives. It’s a good trade. And she has faith she’ll get them both out of the King’s grasp with time. But that was before the discovery that she’s the weapon the King’s been waiting for in his war.
Now, time is running out. To save her father’s life and understand her own, Bree must unravel the knot of her father’s past before the King takes his life– and uses her to bring a nation to its knees.

Threats of Sky and Sea is the first installment in author Jennifer Ellision's Threats of Sky and Sea trilogy. The series starts out with 16-year old Breena Rose Perdit living and working as a barmaid in Aberline with her father who runs The Bridge and Duchess tavern. Bree and her Da live the simple life keeping to themselves, knowing that Elementals are spirited away to join the Kings army. But, things change after Bree encounters King's Dogs searching for rogue elemental and they follow her home. 

Bree's entire world shatters when her father's past comes home to roost. Her father isn't the person she thought he was. Instead, her father is the Duke of Secan who has been AWOL for Sixteen years after disappearing on a mission to the land known as Nereidium. He was supposed to bring back a certain treasure, but disappeared instead. Ardie, as he is called, was also one of the Kings Rider's along with Lady Katherine du Eirya. Bree and her Da are taken away to the capital of Egrian where he was once the best friend of King Langdon, and ends up in prison.

But not for long. While Ardie is sent to the dungeon for being a traitor, now Lady Breena since she is technically the heir to the Duchy of Secan, is sent into Egrian society where people scorn and treat her like a poisoned thorn. It is a place where she is expected to learn social graces, while also being experimented on by a maniac to see if she has any worthwhile value to the King. The same King who is looking for a Thrower to destroy Nereidium's defenses. The same King who has issued orders that Prince Caden and Princess Aleta marry. 

Nobody could imagine, including Bree, what she holds inside her. How could it when her father kept her hidden and away from society for her entire life? How can it when people continue to try and label her unwanted and unrealistic labels?It will take allies like Prince Caden, Princess Aleta (the supposed heir to the Nereidium crown), and Adept Tregle to stay one step ahead of the King, and his loyal dog Lady Kat.
Bree's world that is filled with elementals who have an affinity for earth (Shakers), fire (Torchers), water (Throwers), and air (Riders). 

Here's the things I liked about Bree. She's resourceful. She knows how to fight back, and not wilt like a flower. She's got an attitude and isn't afraid to back it up. She also has a curiously warm relationship with her father even when he has let her down in the most shameful way possible. While this story does end on a pretty stunning cliffhanger, I was able to pick up the sequel and the finale thanks to Patchwork Press. Reviews for those two books will be coming along shortly. 

Thursday, September 15, 2016

#Thursday Review - A Torch Against The Night by Sabaa Tahir (Young Adult, Fantasy) @sabaatahir @RazorbillBooks

Series: An Ember in the Ashes, # 2
Format: Hardcover, 452 pages
Release Date: August 30, 2016
Publisher: Razorbill
Source: Library
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy

Elias and Laia are running for their lives. After the events of the Fourth Trial, Martial soldiers hunt the two fugitives as they flee the city of Serra and undertake a perilous journey through the heart of the Empire.
Laia is determined to break into Kauf—the Empire’s most secure and dangerous prison—to save her brother, who is the key to the Scholars’ survival. And Elias is determined to help Laia succeed, even if it means giving up his last chance at freedom.
But dark forces, human and otherworldly, work against Laia and Elias. The pair must fight every step of the way to outsmart their enemies: the bloodthirsty Emperor Marcus, the merciless Commandant, the sadistic Warden of Kauf, and, most heartbreaking of all, Helene—Elias’s former friend and the Empire’s newest Blood Shrike.
Bound to Marcus’s will, Helene faces a torturous mission of her own—one that might destroy her: find the traitor Elias Veturius and the Scholar slave who helped him escape…and kill them both.

A Torch Against the Night is the second, but not final installment in author Sabaa Tahir's An Ember in the Ashes series. Apparently there will be two more books in the series coming in 2018, and 2019. Torch picks up immediately after the events of Ember, while also alternating narratives between Laia, Elias, and Helene who gets a bigger piece of the pie this time around. I am all for admitting that I enjoyed Ember, and was hoping that I could get my hands on a copy of this book. Thankfully, my local library loves me so much they ordered it and viola!

As Torch picks up, Laia and Elias are fighting their way out of Serra after Laia rescued Elias from certain death and also destroyed Blackcliff Military Academy, the bane of every Scholars existence. The same Scholars who are being slaughter en mass. Laia and Elias have come to an agreement where he will help her travel to Kauf Prison where her brother Darin has been sent to be interrogated. But, nothing is easy when you have Elias's own mother the Commandant after him, and scheming with the Nightbringer behind the new Emperor's back. Did anyone guess who the Nightbringer was before the big reveal? ::raises hand::

The relationship between Elias and Laia grows this time around. There is more than even I had hoped for. For Laia, she's grown from the first time we've seen her. Her new abilities are also very interesting as well as puzzling since we have now gone through two stories without the author explaining what Laia really is, and how she came into her abilities. I also give her a whole lot of credit for not just writing off her brother even when the chips are down, and Helene's forces are slowly luring them in. I also respect Elias for not breaking his word even when he was facing a dire situation.

Meanwhile, Helene is finding out what happens to those who have upset the balance of the Martial's Empire. Helene's story is much darker than that of Elias or Laia's and for good reason. She is the Emperor's Blood Shrike having given her oath to do whatever he tells her. She is given an order by Marcus to hunt Elias down, and bring him back to be executed publicly. Elias is a stain on the new Emperor's regime, and nothing will stand in his way of getting his revenge. Helene also has more to lose this time around especially since she still doesn't truly hate Elias, nor Laia. 

"Most people are nothing but glimmers in the great darkness of time. But you, Helene Aquilla, are no swift-burning spark. You are a torch against the night-If you dare to let yourself burn." 

I think the most interesting storyline in this book happens between Elias and the Soul Catcher. There is so much to say about these scenes, that I'm hoping that I don't spoil anything by blabbing about it. Don't get me wrong, the Kauf prison scenes are darker, and more vivid because of the way Elias faces his own mortality, but having a character like Soul Catcher actually was more intriguing than Helene's struggle to find and bring in Elias. Yes, I still love Helene, and I can't wait to see if she and Cook will become allies. I'm also curious as to how Elias will get out of the choice he made.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

#Wednesday Review - Wicked and Wilde by Jenn Stark (Urban Fantasy)

Series: Immortal Vegas, # 4
Format: Kindle Edition, 232 pages
Release Date: May 24, 2016
Publisher: Elewyn Publishing
Source: Purchased
Genre: Urban Fantasy

Hell hath no fury...
Tarot reader Sara Wilde has spent her whole life finding the lost with the use of her trusty cards--from missing kids to shifty criminals to ancient, arcane artifacts. But when her newest assignment sends her straight to Hell, she discovers more than she bargained for. 
The journey through Dante's playground forces Sara to endure a client's bitter loss, fall victim to a vicious betrayal by her own kind, and come face-to-face with the woman she might have been--a soul capable of heartless brutality. Not even Sara's blossoming love for the darkly sensual Magician is safe in the underworld. She's tested in ways she never fathomed, ways that could drive her mad or utterly destroy her.
But time waits for no artifact hunter. Back in Vegas, the war on magic takes a fatal turn, with the worst of the dark practitioners focusing on all Sara holds dear. If she doesn't escape the bonds of the underworld, scores of psychics will die. To flee Hell for good, however, the final sacrifice Sara must make may be more than she can bear. Nothing's ever easy when you're Wicked And Wilde.

Wicked and Wilde is the fourth installment in author Jenn Stark's Immortal Vegas series. It is a series that features ex-teen Psychic phenom turned mercenary Sara Wilde. Sara is a globe trotting, highly specialized mercenary who seeks out dangerous artifacts using Tarot cards. Sara's main employer for the past year has been the Arcana Council led by Magician Amaeus Betrand. With the arrival of the Emperor, who Sara knows from her past, things are about to change and maybe not for the better.

Sara is one of the more interesting characters you will read about in this Genre. She doesn't normally turn down any jobs she's approached for. She doesn't keep any of the profits for herself, and she works for others who have the money she needs to protect the Connected children from being used as cannon fodder by dark practitioners who will do anything to gain more magic. Sara's ability to stay under the radar while others are fighting a war on magic, has also come to an end. Too many people have started to ask questions about how Sara is able to do the things she does. Including certain Geisha's who see her speaking to a Sky Serpent.

Sara's escapades take her from Japan, where she searches for an artifact that is said to be a pure source of energy, to Shanghai and a meeting with one of Sara's main competitors in the arcane market; Annika Soo. Soo wants Sara to go into the bows of hell and retrieve her grandmothers lost pendant. Hell is apparently a popular place to dump artifacts, and who better than Sara, who uses tarot cards to lead her way? Once again, Sara surprises everyone involved by not only retrieving requested pendant, but doing other things that puzzles even the Magician who has been around for centuries. She also has a vision of what is being called Mortal Houses of Swords, Cups, Coins, and Staves.

But, the fun is only just beginning. With the balance of the Council swaying towards the dark side, the Magician decides to travel to hell to bring back the Hierophant, aka Archangel Michael from Hell where he has been living. Since all of the important characters in this series are based on esoteric tarot cards, The Hierophant is fifth Major Arcana card in most traditional Tarot decks. Sara gets her first glimpse of Michael in Hell. Stark's version of Hell is much more of a place of illusions, than that out of the bible. It is a place of what-ifs, and a place where you can't leave without leaving all your emotional baggage behind. 

There is a whole lot of action, adventure, and a shocking new villain named Gamon who will definitely play a major role in what happens in the next installments. Trust me folks, you have to jump on the bandwagon and read this series. This series gets better and better as the series progresses. I am happy that Stark continues to churn out stories every few months. I look forward not having to wait an entire year before wondering what Sara and crew will do next. I think Sara is about to become an even more important player than she already is, and her relationship with the Magician will be tested to the limits.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

#Tuesday Review - The Winter Long by Seanan McGuirre (Urban Fantasy) @seananmcguire @dawbooks

Series: October Daye # 8
Format: Paperback, 358 pages
Release Date: September 2, 2014
Publisher: DAW
Source: Purchased
Genre: Urban Fantasy

For once, it seems like the Kingdom of the Mists has reached a point of, if not perfection, at least relative peace. Queen Arden Windermere is getting settled on her family's throne; no one's going to war with anyone else; it's almost like everything is going to be okay. Even October "Toby" Daye is starting to relax her constant vigilance, allowing herself to think about the future, and what it might entail.

And then Simon Torquill comes back, and everything begins to fall apart. In Faerie, nothing stays buried forever. No matter how much you might want it to.

The Winter Long is the EIGHTH installment in author Seanan McGuirre's October Daye series. The Winter Long actually picks up several months after the ending of Chimes at Midnight. If you think McGuirre has any intention of letting up on what she puts Toby through, you obviously haven't read the entire series yet. Get to it! Sir October "Toby" Daye is a Knight of Lost Words, in service to Shadow Hills, who is named Hero in the Mists by the new Queen. She's also one of a kind and not just because she's a changeling. 

Toby and her mother Amandine are Dóchas Sidhe. A Fey race of blood workers who have the ability to garner memories from a person, or change the balance of someone's blood. Toby has already affected several individuals, including her own daughter, and has fought to keep herself from being fully fae, or fully human. As the story picks up, Queen Arden is throwing a party. For the first time in years, think the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake, the realm of the Mists is has a Queen who isn't a maniac. She also kind of likes Toby.

“I don’t like parties. Someone always tries to assassinate someone I actually like, and there are never enough of those little stuffed mushroom caps.”  Toby

To Toby's personal nightmare, her one time nemesis, Simon Torquill, who turned her into a fish, returns claiming he did what he did to her in order to save her life. And, he's not alone in his reappearance from the dead. Most readers will remember that Toby spent 14 years as a fish. When she finally did escape the spell she was under, life had moved on quickly without her. With Simon's arrival, and his claim that he was paid handsomely by his boss to hurt Toby badly, things get intense. Who was Simon's boss? What makes this situation a whole lot worse is Sylvester Torquill has too many secrets, and isn't willing to tell Toby anything to help her.

Most readers will end up enjoying this book, and gritting their teeth at the same time over all the revelations that come out. Especially with regards to her mother. I, needless to say, have no further use for anyone in the Torquill family after what they've done to Toby, and how she's been treated after everything she's done for this family. Thankfully, Toby has some friends that she can rely on. None more so than King Tybalt of the Dreaming Cats, Quentin, Toby's squire who we learned a bit more about in the previous installment, and May, Toby's Fetch who is hard to kill.

I like repeating my self, so, let me say again that Luidaeg has to be one of the more interesting characters in this series. Even though we know she's a powerful being and a First Born, I think she's found a way to let Toby squeak into her heart. She's got so much hope and plans for Toby, and is a huge fan of her relationship with Tybalt. 

“Love is love. It’s rarer in Faerie than it used to be—rarer than it should be, if you ask me. If you can find it, you should cling to it, and never let anything interfere. Besides, he has a nice ass.” 

I just picked up the next book in the series called A Red-Rose Chain from my library, and unless I decide to drive to NY in the coming weeks, that will be reviewed on this blog as well shortly!

Monday, September 12, 2016

#Monday Review - Chasing Embers by James Bennett (Urban Fantasy) @orbitbooks

Series: Ben Garston # 1
Format: E-Galley, 464 pages
Release Date: September 6, 2016
Publisher: Orbit
Source: Publisher
Genre: Urban Fantasy

Behind every myth, there's a spark of truth...

There's nothing special about Ben Garston. He's just a guy with an attitude in a beat-up leather jacket, drowning his sorrows in a downtown bar. Or so he'd have you believe.

What Ben Garston can't let you know is that he was once known as Red Ben. That the world of myth and legend isn't just a fantasy, as we've been led to believe. And he certainly can't let you know the secret of what's hiding just beneath his skin...

But not even Ben knows what kind of hell is about to break loose. A centuries-old rivalry has just resurfaced, and the delicate balance between his world and ours is about to be shattered.

Chasing Embers is the first installment in author James Bennett's Ben Garston series. Chasing Embers is told in the third person narrative with a male lead character. Bennett takes his character from New York City, to London, to Berlin, and onward to Cairo for the crushing finale. Ben Garston, aka Red Ben is one of the last dragons left in existence thanks an agreement that was signed between the Remnants, and King John who also signed the Magna Carta, 800 years ago. Ben looks like a normal human being, but that's just because he can't tell anyone what he really is without incurring a major wrath against him.

"Progress always means decline for others."

Pact was supposed to protect all Remnants leaving them protected by the Guild of the Broken Lance, but ended up luring them into a long sleep instead. As the last Remnant and Dragon, Ben has an obligation to the Lure and Pact that becomes tiresome at times, especially after trouble hits him where it counts right out of the gate, and keeps hitting him until he realizes that he might be over matched. It takes Ben a rather long time in understanding why he has been targeted since the breaking of the pact takes place away from his purview. As Ben scurries for a way to stay alive from those who mean to see his end, he must try to the one person who has his heart; Rose McBriar.  

Clearly this is a book that weighs heavily on understanding things that happened 800 years ago, and why Ben and Rose have such a dysfunctional relationship that ends up leaving a whole lot of questions by the time you get to the ending. By the end, I liked Rose's attitude while wanting punch Ben in the throat from being a complete and utter asshat. I held back a bit on my review because the author through Ben does a whole lot of info dumping that probably wasn't necessary. Bennett didn't shy away from action. Nope. From a sword fighting scene in a bar, to Ben being chased by Witches through NYC, to facing an entity even more powerful and older than he is across Europe, while ending in a curious shove everything into the washer, and hope it comes out in a cohesive way ending in Egypt.