Friday, September 30, 2016

#Saturday Review - Freed by Amanda Carlson (Paranormal Romance) @amandaccarlson

Series: Phoebe Meadows # 2
Format: Kindle, 254 pages
Release Date: September 23, 2016
Publisher: Author
Source: Author
Genre: Paranormal Romance

Phoebe Meadows has one thing on her mind: Free her mother.

For the last month, Phoebe has been training in the Valkyrie stronghold readying for battle. But when she stumbles into a secluded valley after a day of grueling practice, she’s given a dire prediction. Phoebe must leave the stronghold immediately with the aid of the giant, Junnal, to rescue her mother from the dark elves. If Phoebe fails, Leela will be transported to a place that can no longer be reached.

Leaving Fen behind threatens to undo her, but Phoebe stays true to the mission. Along the way, she allies with the god Baldur and an old white elf mage. Together, they storm the realm, and with the help of an angry wolf and her Valkyrie sisters, they just might stand a chance to free the valiant shieldmaiden.

But Phoebe soon learns that in order to save her mother, she might lose something too precious to sacrifice…

Freed is the second installment in author Amanda Carlson's Phoebe Meadow's series. As the story picks up, Phoebe has been in the Valkyrie compound training hard to become one of the legendary & immortal Valkyrie's. Phoebe is the daughter of Odin, and Leela, one of the legendary Valkyrie's. Alongside are her lover Fenrir, her half-brother Tyr, the God of war, plus her best friend Sam, and her aunt Ingrid. While Phoebe is training with the rest of the Valkyrie's and being pushed to the limits in order to get caught up on lost time, she's visited by Odin's trusty raven Huggie. 

Odin, via Huggie, believes that Phoebe is ready to go on a mission of her own. He tells Phoebe, who finally has a weapon called Gundren, that she must travel to Svartalfheim, where her mother is being held by the Dark Elf Invaldi, and rescue her. The catch? She must do so without Fen, or Tyr or the Valkyrie's alongside. Her only support is to be the Jotun-Troll Junnal who has already saved her life more than once and a magical cloak. But, while Phoebe is looking for a way to get her mother home where she belongs, the Norns are hot on her tail. They have plans to make her, Odin, and Leela pay for their supposed transgression in allowing Phoebe to be kept a secret for 24 years.

Freed is a wonderfully entertaining and action packed sequel to Struck. Carlson takes readers into the dark realm of Svartalfheim where Phoebe finds some interesting new allies including another half brother in Baldur, son of Odin and Frigg, and Callan a white elf wizard who was left behind by his own people. Phoebe isn't alone for long. Not when she is reunited with her mother. Not when Ingrid and her sisters arrive to take on the Dark Elves and help Phoebe complete her mission. Not when the Norns show up and throw a monkey wrench in Phoebe's future plans.

Freed left me with some anxious feelings, but only because Carlson has a tendency of leaving heroines in the lurk at the end of each story. This is the same of Phoebe and Freed. Phoebe has definitely come a very long way from the girl who worked at Macy's before being struck and revealed as a Valkyrie. She has accepted her fate. She even steps up and faces bullies who are either jealous of who she is, or are afraid of being over looked once important missions are chosen. I adore Sam. 

I don't believe she is the comic relief of the story, but she comes close to being very entertaining and Phoebe's rock when things aren't necessarily all creme sickles and chocolate. I loved Baldur. I can definitely see where he was coming from in knowing what his fate would be and damn anyone who thought to allow him to do what he wanted with his own life. I am eager to read Exile, the third book in this series. As Phoebe has already traveled to several interesting worlds since Struck, things are definitively about to get even more dangerous.

#Friday Review - The Forgetting by Sharon Cameron (YA, Science Fiction) @CameronSharonE @Scholastic

Series: Standalone
Format: Hardcover, 403 pages
Release Date: September 13, 2016
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Source: Library
Genre: YA, Science Fiction

What isn't written, isn't remembered. Even your crimes.

Nadia lives in the city of Canaan, where life is safe and structured, hemmed in by white stone walls and no memory of what came before. But every twelve years the city descends into the bloody chaos of the Forgetting, a day of no remorse, when each person's memories – of parents, children, love, life, and self – are lost. Unless they have been written.

In Canaan, your book is your truth and your identity, and Nadia knows exactly who hasn't written the truth. Because Nadia is the only person in Canaan who has never forgotten.

But when Nadia begins to use her memories to solve the mysteries of Canaan, she discovers truths about herself and Gray, the handsome glassblower, that will change her world forever. As the anarchy of the Forgetting approaches, Nadia and Gray must stop an unseen enemy that threatens both their city and their own existence – before the people can forget the truth. And before Gray can forget her.

The Forgetting, by author Sharon Cameron, is a standalone story that features Nadia, a girl of undetermined age, who lives in a walled city called Canaan with her mother and two sisters. It is place where books are more important than anything else because they carry your memories. You are supposed to carry your book with you at all times, and you are supposed to write the truth in your book because they are your sole identity after what the author is calling The ForgettingEvery 12 years, the citizens of Canaan go through The Forgetting

Sometimes, people who lose their books, lose who they once were and end up among those that are considered Lost. This is not the case for Nadia who remembers her life before The Forgetting. She remembers what her own father did with her book. She remembers things that nobody else does and that makes her unique. To say that Nadia is a loner, is pretty accurate. She has no real friends. Her mother is forgetful and apparently doesn't remember who Nadia is. That gives Nadia plenty of time to explore outside the walls of Canaan that was supposedly built to keep trouble out.

What changes things for Nadia, is when she meets Gray, the glassblower's son who goes along on the journey with Nadia to discover why people lose their memories, and if there is anything that can be done to change things before The Forgetting once again overtakes Canaan. Once Nadia and Gray discover a shocking truth, things will never be the same in Canaan again. Nadia is far from a verbose lead character. She's clever, quiet, and smart as a whip.

She keeps her secrets close to her chest because to allow anyone else to know that she remembers, could lead to even more problems. She gets caught in Gray's web surprisingly easy without seeing it coming. But, there are things about Gray that leave Nadia chaffing a bit wondering if there is more to him than meets the eyes. There is such a clever ending to this book, that I give full credit to the author for keeping the secret without letting it out too early. 

Sharon Cameron is also the author of such books as Rook, The Dark Unwinding, & A Spark Unseen, all of which I have read and reviewed. Cameron is a clever writer who I love reading her books because nothing is as it seems. There is always some sort of twist just waiting to jump out and surprise you. In the case of this story, Cameron's world really is a secretive one. You know about the City of Canaan, but not how the citizens arrived there in the first place. 

Thursday, September 29, 2016

#Thursday Review - A Red-Rose Chain by Seanan McGuire (Urban Fantasy)

Series: October Daye # 9
Format: Paperback, 358 pages
Release Date: September 1, 2015
Publisher: DAW
Source: Amazon
Genre: Urban Fantasy

Things are looking up.

For the first time in what feels like years, October “Toby” Daye has been able to pause long enough to take a breath and look at her life—and she likes what she sees. She has friends. She has allies. She has a squire to train and a King of Cats to love, and maybe, just maybe, she can let her guard down for a change.

Or not. When Queen Windermere’s seneschal is elf-shot and thrown into an enchanted sleep by agents from the neighboring Kingdom of Silences, Toby finds herself in a role she never expected to play: that of a diplomat. She must travel to Portland, Oregon, to convince King Rhys of Silences not to go to war against the Mists. But nothing is that simple, and what October finds in Silences is worse than she would ever have imagined.

How far will Toby go when lives are on the line, and when allies both old and new are threatened by a force she had never expected to face again? How much is October willing to give up, and how much is she willing to change? In Faerie, what’s past is never really gone.

It’s just waiting for an opportunity to pounce

A Red-Rose Chain is the 9th installment in author Seanan McGuire's October Daye series. The story picks up (3) months after the end of The Winter Long. One could say that this is the third book in Toby's new story arc that started with Chimes at Midnight with Toby, May, Jazz, Quentin, and Tybalt taking down the Queen of the Mists, and installing her with the person who should have held the title after her father was murdered; Arden Windermere. But, nothing is ever easy for Toby or her friends.

After Arden's second in command is elf shot and she starts questioning whether or not she should really be Queen, Arden is given the choice of either stepping down as Queen, or facing a war against the Kingdom of Silences. Arden names Toby, the same Toby who is reckless, rash, smart-mouthed, and impulsive, as Ambassador and sends her to Portland along with May, Walther, Tybalt, and Quentin to bring an end to the threat of war. Even though Toby is in over her head, including facing the shear hatred of all changelings by the King Rhys, and his desire to find out how she ticks, Toby still has a job to do of stopping an impending war that will do nothing but leave death and destruction behind. 

One of the new things in Toby's evolution as a character, and a hero is that she has a supporting cast that wades into the darkness along with her and not just stands back while she blunders into danger time and time again. Toby still has her wits, and sarcasm about her that remains to be one of the more impressive feats of a series that is 9 books into this series. With Toby facing intense hatred by both the King and the Fake Queen, it will take some tricky maneuvering to ensure that Toby and her friends return home safely.

This book touches on a subject that I've always been curious about. The fact that purebloods can't kill each other without it violating Oberon's Law, but they can use elf shot against each other which puts them out of commission for a hundred years. It's a tricky situation that leads to the possibility that Toby's enemies will keep coming back once they've already been defeated. I am all for putting an enemy in the grave, and not allowing them a second chance at our heroine. I liked that Walther's background and his science plays a key role in discovering a way to help those who have been elf shot. I also like that the author isn't afraid to use diversity in order to tell her story. I love that Tybalt and Toby are in a good place and their interaction always brings a smile to my face.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

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

Series: Immortal Vegas, # 5
Format: Kindle 240 pages 
Release Date: August 29, 2016
Publisher: Elewyn Publishing
Source: Amazon
Genre: Urban Fantasy

Never play the game without an Ace up your sleeve. 

During her years of finding and selling artifacts on the arcane black market, Tarot reader Sara Wilde has made a bona fide killing. Now, as the recently appointed head of an ancient Connected syndicate, she's forced to take a truly deadly role in the war on magic.  

Within the House of Swords, every blade cuts deep. Usurpers and claimants attack from all sides, while the Magician's insidious pull on Sara becomes ever more twisted and beguiling. As she struggles to strengthen her position and manage her new, unwieldy abilities, Sara discovers her greatest challenge yet: a mast warrior determined to deliver the syndicate and everyone it protects to its mortal enemy.  Bolstered by an unexpected Ace and a mystical sword, and faced with a round-the-world race to outmaneuver friends and foes alike, Sara's future balances on a merciless edge. 

The cards can cut both ways when you play ACES WILDE.

Aces Wilde is the FIFTH installment in author Jenn Stark's Immortal Vegas series. This story actually picks up Two weeks after the end of Wicked and WildeProtagonist Sara Wilde finds dangerous artifacts, lost things, including people, using her Tarot Cards. She is one of the more successful artifact hunters in the world and works mostly for the Arcane Council led by the sexy, arrogant, and devious Magician. 

She also works for clients who can pay handsomely what she asks for. This money has never been hers. It supports Father Jerome's mission of saving the connected children who have become casualties in the war on magic. But, things have since changed for Sara. The Minor Houses lead by mortals, have been around for years, but have once again come to the attention of the Arcana Council. 

After Annika Soo's death and Sara's travels into Hell itself to find a missing pendant where she had to deal with a whole bunch of issues, Sara was named as the head of the House of Knives. A move that didn't exactly endear her to the Council or the Magician. Now, instead of just traveling the world finding dangerous artifacts, and saving the connected children, she has to face internal challenges, betrayals, challenges to her standing, and an adversary in Gamon who is most dangerous to Sara's health and welfare.

This particular story was most interesting to me because Sara is now fully engaged in the war on magic, and must make a choice between her standing as the head of of a mortal house, and her loyalty to the Magician, and the Arcana Council which is supposed to be neutral in the war on magic. Sara once again travels the globe from Israel, to Paris, to Vegas, and Cambodia where she has to find a long lost sword that can see her through impending challenges from her own generals.

For those of us who have made it to this particular book, let us thank Jenn Stark for making this possible. She could have stopped at any time, and walked away. Instead, she has made Sara a force to be reckoned with. Her powers, especially after her visit to Hell, have increased dramatically. Her support group which features Nikki Dawes, and perhaps Detective Brody, has remained steadfast, and in Nikki, she's found someone who can stand back to back with her and ensure that she won't be stabbed in the back. I also loved Simon, and his somewhat dry humor that makes you laugh.

To say that I saw the ending of this book coming, would be to say that somehow I managed to get inside the authors head and saw where she was heading with Sara, the Minor Houses, and the Magician. Or, it could be that the author has laid out Easter Eggs along the way from book ONE onward that would have given readers hints on what Sara would eventually face and how her powers would eventually lead her to the final scene. I dare say that I am eager to read the next book called Forever Wilde coming out in December.  

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

#Tuesday Review - Riot of Storm and Smoke by Jennifer Ellision (YA, Fantasy)

Series: Threats of Sky and Sea # 2
Format: Kindle, 239 pages
Release Date: August 18, 2015
Publisher: Self-Published
Source: NetGalley
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy

War draws closer, like a tide to the shore.

Bree and her friends have escaped the clutches of the Egrian King, but their troubles are far from over. Still reeling from the secrets that drew new breath when her father took his last, Bree sets off for the safety of Nereidium-- the kingdom she's just learned is hers.

But with the King's ire at its peak and war a certainty, Nereidium is no longer safe. As Prince Caden rallies the Egrian people against his tyrant father, Bree, Princess Aleta, and Tregle race to the Nereid shore to warn them of the incoming danger—and to put the Nereid Princess on the throne.

The only trouble there: Bree can’t bring herself to reveal that the Princess is her.

It’s not a dilemma she can waste time pondering. With a new weapon in his arsenal, the King's strikes are sure to be bolder than ever before. And Bree may not be ready to wear a crown… but she won't let her kingdom down without a fight

Riot of Storm and Smoke is the second installment in author Jennifer Ellision's Threats of Sky and Sea trilogy. This story picks up immediately where the first book left off. Bree, Aleta, and Tregle have escaped King Langdon's castle leaving many unanswered questions and bodies in their wake. For Bree, things are even more complicated after a shocking confession by the man who was thought to be her father. Bree was never was told the truth about her actual parentage, or the fate that awaits her if she can find a way to Nereidium, or the fact that she is a Water Wielder which came out in all its glory in front of a King. 

Now, however, she and her friends are lucky to be able to escape the castle without facing the injustices that are soon to be reigned down on Prince Caden by his father and his torturer Tutor Larsden. So, while Bree and the others are making their way across country, Caden is trying to stay alive. While Bree is coming to terms with what happened, and what her father told her, she meets the Underground led by a man named Clift who has been working with Caden. We are are also introduced to Meddie who will become more than just a bit player introduced to make things more intriguing. I adore Meddie, and I am sure you will too.

The story alternatives between Bree and Caden. Gives things a more wide range perspective as the two are rushing head first into driving alliances to take down a King, while getting Bree to Nereidium. I also liked that we get a better look at Caden, and how he pulled the wool over his own father's eyes while helping the Underground. While Bree, Aleta, Meddie, & Tregle are making their cross country, Caden gets a little assistance, and puts together his own alliance and army with the help of Lilia & Liam & Elena.

This is a book where things actually happen. It is a book that has Bree in an emotional state and even seeing someone that has connected with her on a soul level. There is plenty of action. There is some really horrible things that happen, and there is a cliffhanger ending that will encourage readers to read the final novel in the series.

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

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!