Dragonslayer by Duncan M. Hamilton- ARC Review

Witty and Sarcastic Bookclub

In his magnificent, heroic, adventure fantasy, Dragonslayer, Duncan M. Hamilton debuts the first book in a fast-moving trilogy: a dangerous tale of lost magics, unlikely heroes, and reawakened dragons.

Once a member of the King’s personal guard, Guillot dal Villevauvais spends most days drinking and mourning his wife and child. He’s astonished―and wary―when the Prince Bishop orders him to find and destroy a dragon. He and the Prince Bishop have never exactly been friends and Gill left the capital in disgrace five years ago. So why him? And, more importantly, how is there a dragon to fight when the beasts were hunted to extinction centuries ago by the ancient Chevaliers of the Silver Circle?

On the way to the capitol city, Gill rescues Solène, a young barmaid, who is about to be burned as a witch. He believes her innocent…but she soon proves that she has plenty of raw, untrained power…

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In the Shadow of Spindrift House by Mira Grant- ARC Review

This book will be available tomorrow!

Witty and Sarcastic Bookclub

Thank you to Netgalley and Subterranean Press for providing me with this book in exchange for my honest opinion. This will be available to buy June 30th.

Edgar Cantero’s Meddling Kids meets The Haunting of Hill House (the Netflix show) in this eerie tale about a grown-up Scobby-esque group wanting to solve one more mystery. Told from the perspective of Harlowe, the orphaned “brains” of the group, this book was more ghost story than mystery.

Harlowe, who isn’t ready to stop being a teen-sleuth and start paying for things like insurance, convinces the rest of the mystery solvers (Andy, Addison, and Kevin) to join her in a “haunted” house, to discover who actually owns it: two of three families are offering a pretty penny to anyone who can find proof of ownership (each hoping it’s theirs). The catch? The whole “haunted” thing. It seems no one has been able to…

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The Betrayal of Ka (The Transprophetics Book 1) by Shea Oliver

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As the spaceship secretly lands on Earth, Ka’s mission is clear: find and kill Transprophetics. His shipmates think of him as a killer. On his home planet of Koranth, he is considered a murderer. Haunted in his dreams by the boy whose life he stole, Ka struggles to define who he really is.

A girl in a temple in Thailand. A boy kidnapped in Mexico. Both can do the impossible. Both can move objects with their minds. These two Transprophetics pose grave risks to the Donovackia Corporation as it plans its invasion of Earth.

With a blade in his hand, Ka’s decision to kill, or not, will reverberate across the galaxy. (taken from Amazon)

                        Thank you to the author for providing me with this book, in exchange for an honest review.

This is a tough one for me to review, since I did not finish it. There was quite a bit of sexual assault in this book, which I try desperately to avoid. It ended up being too much for me, so I had to set this one down. Be aware: this book is gritty, disturbing, and very, very harsh.

It is also well written. While I can’t speak to how the story came together or ended, I can tell you that Shea Oliver created a fully realized universe. He paid special attention to details that I’ve found are normally glossed over.

Of the characters I’d met up to my stopping point, not one of them was likable. There was a lot of political maneuvering and stepping on of toes. In some ways this felt like a sci-fi Game of Thrones-type of book. If you can handle the harshness in those books, then this book might very well be for you.

This book has recently relaunched and the sequel releases in September.

Ivory Apples by Lisa Goldstein- ARC Review

Ivy and her sisters have a secret: their reclusive Great-Aunt is actually Adela Martin, inspired author of the fantasy classic, Ivory Apples. Generations of obsessive fans have searched for Adela, poring over her letters, sharing their theories online, and gathering at book conventions. It is just a matter of time before one fan gets too close.

So when the seemingly-perfect Kate Burden appears at the local park, Ivy knows that something isn’t right. Kate has charmed the entire family, but she is suspiciously curious about Ivory Apples. And Ivy must protect what she and her Great-Aunt share: magic that is real, untamable, and—despite anyone’s desire—always prefers choosing its own vessel. (taken from Amazon)

                      Thank you to Netgalley for providing this book in exchange for my honest opinion. This book will be released on October 15th.

Um…what did I just read? This book had such potential! I wanted to love it, but it left me feeling a bit underwhelmed. The thing is, I felt like this book was originally an idea for two separate books that kind of melded together into one book. The problem is, they didn’t mesh well.

Ivory’s great-aunt is a famous but reclusive author. No one outside the family knows where she lives now and she has no interest in responding to fan mail, answering questions about her work, or- really- discussing it at all. Ivory and her family- her father, and three sisters- visit on occasion. Usually, the kids wander around while Ivory’s dad goes over business things with their great-aunt.

On one such trip, Ivory comes across a shocking scene. It changes things for her, and affects her entire life afterward. Here’s the first issue I had with this book; aside from a few vague questions that aren’t satisfactorily answered, Ivory seems to accept this huge thing with very little issue. For me, it’d be a “Holy hand-grenade! What was that?”, type of thing, but she just kind of went with it.

Shortly after that, the kids meet a kind woman named Ms. Burden. Something about her bothers Ivory, but no one else shares her suspicions. Things progress, and Ms. Burden suddenly becomes much more involved in their lives. Ivory has to protect her great-aunt’s secret while figuring out what Ms. Burden’s ulterior motive is, assuming she actually has one.

At this point in the book, things start to get very choppy. There’s several chapters where not much happens at all. Ivory ends up kind of on her own, with no other characters to interact with. That would be fine if it led to some character growth. It really didn’t, though. By the time the book got back to the original narrative, I’d lost interest..

There were a lot of things that were just accepted, then never really explored throughout this book. It’s really too bad; there were some themes that could have been fascinating if they’d gotten a little more attention.

Ultimately, I think what this book really needed was to become two separate novels. On their own, each of the disparate ideas would have worked very well; they just didn’t get along.

Dominion (The Coldfire Trilogy 0.5) and The Coldfire Trilogy by C.S. Friedman

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I love The Coldfire Trilogy so, so much. I recommend it constantly. It’s one of those amazing trilogies that seems to be sadly underrated. Imagine my surprise, then, to learn that there’s a short prequel that I hadn’t read. That needed to be remedied right away!

This book follows Gerald Tarrant as he heads to the forest for the first time, the center of extreme power. His story also interweaves with that of Faith, a holy knight who had set out to destroy an unholy creature.

If I’d written this post right after I finished the book, it would have been a rave. But I had time to think first and my opinion has shifted slightly. I still think it’s a well-written book, but… with stipulations.

While I thought this book was great, it won’t do much for those who haven’t read The Coldfire Trilogy already. It’s very short and means much more if you already have an understanding of the world and storyline. If you’ve read the trilogy, you’ll be thrilled to read more about Tarrant and to get a glimpse of his arrival at the forest. If you haven’t read it, you’ll probably read it, shrug, and move on.  So, that being said, let me tell you why you should read the entire Coldfire Trilogy.

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Over a millennium ago, Erna, a seismically active yet beautiful world was settled by colonists from far-distant Earth. But the seemingly habitable planet was fraught with perils no one could have foretold. The colonists found themselves caught in a desperate battle for survival against the fae, a terrifying natural force with the power to prey upon the human mind itself, drawing forth a person’s worst nightmare images or most treasured dreams and indiscriminately giving them life.

Twelve centuries after fate first stranded the colonists on Erna, mankind has achieved an uneasy stalemate, and human sorcerers manipulate the fae for their own profit, little realizing that demonic forces which feed upon such efforts are rapidly gaining in strength. 

Now, as the hordes of the dark fae multiply, four people—Priest, Adept, Apprentice, and Sorcerer—are about to be drawn inexorably together for a mission which will force them to confront an evil beyond their imagining, in a conflict which will put not only their own lives but the very fate of humankind in jeopardy. (taken from Amazon)

I’ve never read a series like this. It’s incredibly unique, and the effort the author went through to develop every little bit of the world is breathtaking.  I love the idea of a natural power (fae, in this world) , manifesting people’s thoughts and fears into physical form. Add to that some amazing characters (my favorite is Tarrant, but the priest is pretty darn interesting as well), and a complex plot, and this book series had me hooked. In fact, I liked it so much that I’ve read it multiple times.

Another wonderful thing about the series is that as it goes on, each character evolves. They don’t just stay in stasis. Goals have to change, and disappointments have to be weathered.  As the series continues, the price of living in a world with unchecked wild power becomes more evident.

I’m a big fan of the gothic feel that permeates the book. It’s understated, but the darker atmosphere highlights the dangers the characters face and does so much to explain the harsh environment without dragging the reader through a bunch of boring exposition.

I really don’t want to say too much and give anything away, but if you enjoy sci-fi of any kind (this one borders between sci-fi and fantasy, oddly enough), read this series.

Food, Culture, Latin America by Matt Simkin

A love for food and travel, but riddled with apathy from a mundane routine; surely there’s a way to be happier and combine the things you love in life?

The dull working life inspired this enticing travelogue on how food and culture influence the varied regions across Latin America with a backpacker’s voice. Travelling from Mexico down to Patagonia in Argentina, Simkin takes a profound look into the Latino culture with enthusiasm and pragmatism. Stepping away from the gringo trail and exploring everything from islands to jungles, mountains, beaches, favelas and cities.

Simkin recounts his adventures with vivid detail and honesty through the journey, whilst reflecting on his life and girl back home, affectionately called the GBH.

The story of how food reflects the culture across the continent makes this a relatable and unique story for food, culture and travel lovers alike. (taken from Amazon)

Thank you to Matt Simkin and the publisher for providing me with this book in exchange for my honest opinion. This book is available for purchase now.

I haven’t traveled much at all, and I’ve been asked to stay out of the kitchen on numerous occasions, so I came into this book a little unsure what to expect. I found it highly enjoyable. Matt Simkin decides to leave the daily grind behind him as he heads across Latin America, immersing himself in the food as well as the culture.

I liked how honest this book was. While it was overall an amazing experience for the author, he also mentioned when it was…slightly less than amazing. I laughed a little at his comments regarding a group of self-righteous, hypocritical hippies. I felt like I was traveling along, albeit from the comfort of my home.

The headers of each entry were fantastic: “Tikal- Best served with termites, and Ushuaia- Best served at the end of the world” were a couple of my favorites.  There was a sense of humor as well as a genuine appreciation for each part of his adventure that was refreshing to read.

Oh- I need to mention that Matt Simkin was trekking all over the place with a broken foot! That was impressive! All in all, I quite liked this incredibly unique and entertaining book.

The Unlikely Escape of Uriah Heep by H.G. Parry- ARC Review

For his entire life, Charley Sutherland has concealed a magical ability he can’t quite control: he can bring characters from books into the real world. His older brother, Rob — a young lawyer with a normal house, a normal fiancee, and an utterly normal life — hopes that this strange family secret will disappear with disuse, and he will be discharged from his life’s duty of protecting Charley and the real world from each other. But then, literary characters start causing trouble in their city, making threats about destroying the world… and for once, it isn’t Charley’s doing.

There’s someone else who shares his powers. It’s up to Charley and a reluctant Rob to stop them, before these characters tear apart the fabric of reality. (taken from Amazon)

Thank you to Netgalley for providing me with this book in exchange for my honest opinion. It will be available for purchase on July 23rd.

If you enjoy The Book Jumper, Mr. Penumbra’s 24-hour Bookstore, or even the TV show The Librarians, you’ll love this book. It celebrates the bond between a reader and a really good book. I fell in love with this book before the first chapter had even ended.

Charlie Sutherland is a prodigy. Brilliant at languages, he teaches Dickensian literature at a university. He also has the-sometimes unfortunate- tendency to read characters out of books. He can also put them back, but they don’t always want to go.

The book opens with Charlie’s older brother Rob, receiving a phone call: Charlie’s accidentally read Uriah Heep out of David Copperfield and needs help catching him so that he can be read back into his book. When Rob and Charlie finally catch him, Uriah warns that a new world is coming, brought into being by another book summoner. From there, Charlie and his less-than-enthusiastic brother are drawn into a fight for both fiction and reality.

I loved Charlie. He was a delightful combination of brilliance and naivete. He was a bit uncomfortable in his own skin unless he was discussing books. Then he had an enthusiasm and confidence that a was a ton of fun to read. He also looked up to Rob so much, and Rob couldn’t really see it.

The book is told largely from Rob’s perspective as he’s drawn into a world where fiction and reality collide. He feels largely out of his element, and he’s a little resentful of Charlie for that. He was such a complicated character, often at odds with himself, and made for a great narrator.

My other favorite character (the last one, I promise!) was Dorian Gray. He was selfish and intelligent, unsettling, and unapologetic about who he was or any choices he’d ever made. He was exactly the way he always seemed to me in Oscar Wilde’s book, and I loved every scene he was in.

The twists weren’t very twisty; I saw them all coming. It didn’t dull my enjoyment of the book at all, however. It was highly entertaining, and surprisingly thought-provoking. I’ll definitely read this again in the future.

Ghosts of the Shadow Market- Cassandra Clare

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                                             **Spoilers for previous books**

Phew! I’m breathing a giant sigh of relief here: after the disaster that was Queen of Air and Darkness, I was nervous to read any more books in the Shadowhunter world. Thankfully, both The Red Scrolls of Magic and Ghosts of the Shadow Market were much, much better.

This series is a bit of a guilty pleasure for me. It contains pretty much every trope that I usually despise, but I love the world anyway. Plus…Magnus! He’s absolutely fantastic. While he’s in a few of these short stories, the collection is mainly told from Jem’s perspective, as he slips in and out of the various narratives throughout the books’ timelines. It’s a very clever way to cover a large expanse of story line.

I enjoyed all the stories in this collection, with the exception of the last one. I didn’t love that one simply because it continues where Queen of Air and Darkness left off and that was such a disappointment for me.

I have a few favorites, of course. I loved Learn About Loss, and the beginning of the lost Herondale storyline. The idea of a carnival covering up faerie mischief- and mischief of a more demonic nature- was a lot of fun to read about. Plus, having Jem interact with another character showed both his removal from human emotion, as well as his desire to hold onto what makes him human.

Son of the Dawn was also fantastic. This one tells the tale of Jem’s encounter with a very young Jace. He sees underneath the arrogance and self-possession to the scared child beneath. This was a wonderful pre-City of Bones introduction to Jace, as well as a window into his early relationship with Isabelle, Alec, and Mayrse.

Through Blood, Through Fire is quite possibly my favorite story in this collection. This one is actually told from Alec’s perspective, although Jem makes an appearance. It highlights both Alec’s strength and compassion, gives the origin of little Rafe, and has a story line that is, sadly, relevant in our world today. It was beautifully told.

This book is a worthy addition to the Shadowhunter books. Enjoy!

Have you read Ghosts of the Shadow Market? What did you think?

The Last Magician by Lisa Maxwell

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An interesting thing happened to me with this book: I thought I might have read it before, but I wasn’t positive. I couldn’t say what was going to happen before I read it, but every time something big happened, I’d think, “Oh, yeah…I remember that.” Is it because I’ve actually read this book before, or is it just similar to others I’ve read? I’m still not sure. I don’t think that’s necessarily a good thing.

In this particular book, Esta is a thief who steals magical artifacts for her benefactor. She also has the ability to manipulate time, in a world where magic has to be hidden. It’s kept secret from a group called The Order (I guess coming up with a creative name wasn’t all that high on the groups’ list of priorities), which has created kind of a magical wall that keeps everyone with magic from leaving the city.

Esta goes back in time to the 1920’s to steal a magical item before The Order can get to it.  There, she infiltrates a gang in an effort to pull off the heist of this item, and return it to the present. I’m a bit sketchy on why she needed a team for that particular theft, when she tended to work solo, or with just one other person previously.

The similarities between this and Six of Crows are hard to ignore. True, Six of Crows doesn’t have the time travel element, and it takes place in its own world, but there is the band of misfits, the heist aspect, and even the youngish gang leader with the cane. Because of this, the story failed to pull me in. I kept comparing it to Six of Crows without meaning to, which really isn’t fair to this book.

I didn’t really love any of the characters. They all had the potential to be interesting, but they never really developed past surface level. Maybe they become more nuanced in the next book. It can be hard to fully develop a larger group I’d assume, but none of them seemed more than surface-level.

Time travel is touch-and-go for me. I have a hard time with most stories involving it, simply because it can lead to some gaping plotholes. This book did okay with that for the first half or so, but the last little bit had some really big problems. I won’t give anything away, but it didn’t work for me.

This book wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t great. I get what the author was going for, it just isn’t for me. I’m not going out of my way to read the sequel.

Dungeons, and Dragons, and Books- Oh, My!

Being a happily imaginative nerd, I have a grand time playing Dungeons & Dragons. While there are those of you who don’t, fantasy books- and, more recently- non fantasies can go hand-in-hand. There have been several books over the years that use D&D, or any roleplaying game, as part of the storyline .I think people who haven’t played have some misconceptions about D&D. I mean, aside from the fact that it’s apparently very evil (insert demonic laughter here), there’s the whole “staring at worksheets and doing math” thing. Here’s the thing, though: if you find a good group of friends, it’s fun. Readers already have an advantage: we are always visiting different worlds. If you’re a bit trepidatious about trying it, but still curious: you can always play a campaign put in a familiar setting. For example: Why not try adventuring in Tolkien’s world?Mouse Guard: if you haven’t read these graphic novels, you really should. Okay, this is cheating because it’s originally based on a show. But, there are books and comics based on the show, so I’m adding Firefly.Those are just a few examples, if you’re not sure about starting with the D&D brand in and of itself. If you have comic/gaming stores in your area, they often host a rpg game once or twice a month.There are no boundaries to what can be done: my favorite games have all been ones done in worlds that my incredibly creative husband has created completely from scratch. All you really need to enter the fantastic world of rpgs is a group, some D&D dice, and your imagination.Go on an adventure, readers!I’m curious: how many of you play D&D? How many of you are interested but unsure where to start?