The Dragon’s Banker by Scott Warren- ARC Review

Witty and Sarcastic Bookclub

Image result for dragon's bankerFinance: The lifeblood of any country’s beating heart and the life’s work of Sailor Kelstern — Merchant Banker. While wizards brood in their towers and great warriors charge into battle Sailor is more interested in the price of ore, herbs, and alchemicals carried by the trade ships.
But when a spell of bad fortune and bitter rivalry leaves him scrambling to turn a profit on little more than winds and whispers, one such whisper catches Sailor’s ear— a dragon has been seen in the west.
Sailor soon finds that the dragons are very real, and not at all what he expected. And they practice a very different sort of economy — one of subterfuge and fire. (taken from Amazon)

                               Thank you to Netgalley for providing me with this book in exchange for my honest opinion…

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Professionalism: Why Attitude Matters (even in writing)

In light of the recent shenanigans that have been going on regarding authors and bookbloggers, I’m feeling the urge to grab my soapbox. While it’s usually (as in, almost always) a bad idea for me to stick my nose in where it doesn’t belong, in this case I feel a bit validated in doing so. So, let me roll up my sleeves and dive right in.

First of all, I know that it stinks to receive a less than glowing review. I understand that authors put their hearts into their work and it must be incredibly difficult to read a negative review. If I were to write a book, I know I’d be heartbroken by a poor review. Which is why I would choose to not read any reviews of my book at all. That’s an absolutely valid choice, authors: you can leave Goodreads to the readers.

Barring that, there are some great ways to handle negative feedback. You could read the constructive criticism, learn from it, and use it to improve your work. Or you could discount it and carry on about your business. Either way is fine. What is not fine is verbally attacking a reviewer because you disagree with their opinion.

Reviews are just opinions. That’s all. Not every book is for every person. What one reader loves, I might hate, and vice versa. It’s important to remember that one negative review does not mean your book is crap, it doesn’t mean you’ve failed as an author. It won’t kill your career.

What can kill a career is an unprofessional attitude. In this day and age, how a person presents themselves online will be seen and taken into account. Not only will other readers balk at reading a book written by someone who acts in a vindictive manner, publishers might also be wary of working with that person. Harassing a bookblogger, or other reviewer, online will be noticed and it will affect future interactions. Please be aware of that.

That being said: bookbloggers, we also have a responsibility. We have a responsibility to not sink to a low level as a retaliation. The way we present ourselves also matters. We can (and should) report authors on sites such as Goodreads when they go against policy, especially in a way that is blatant harassment. We should stick up against bullying in the bookblogging world. But we can do so in a mature way. Even when it’s tempting to call names, let’s avoid that.

Lastly, let’s all remember why bookbloggers do what we do: we love to read. Authors, we want to give glowing reviews. We want to shout about your excellent work from the rooftops. Our opinions can help get a book noticed. And of course we want new, amazing stories to read. Let’s continue to work together. You write ’em, we’ll read ’em (unless you throw a temper tantrum).

Now, I’ll pack up my soapbox and head back to my massive tbr pile.

Kingdom for a Stage by Heidi Heilig

Image result for kingdom for a stage
Jetta is a wanted criminal. The army wants her for treason against the crown, for the sabotage of Hell’s Court temple, and for the murder of General Legarde. They also want her for the power in her blood―the magic that captures wandering spirits to give life to puppets, to rocks, to paper . . . to weapons. They’re willing to trade the elixir that treats Jetta’s madness for the use of her blood. The rebels want her, too, to help them reclaim their country. Jetta may be the one who can tip the scales in this war.

But Jetta fears using her power will make her too much like Le Trépas, the terrifying and tyrannical necromancer who once held all Chakrana under his thumb―and who is Jetta’s biological father. She’s already raised her brother from the dead, after all. And scared off Leo, the only person who saw her as she truly is. With Le Trépas at large and a clash between the army and the rebels becoming inevitable, Jetta will have to decide if saving her country is worth sacrificing her soul. (taken from Amazon)

There are spoilers for For a Muse of Fire (first in the series) below. You can find my review for that book here.

                                                     ** Here Be Spoilers**

                          Oh man, I loved this book! From the plot-line to the characters, everything was done well. It was a worthy sequel to For a Muse of Fire, which was a huge relief after some of the sequels I’ve read lately.

Jetta is a great character. She’s tough without being cold and emotionless. In fact, her emotions are a big part of what makes her so tough. She has an illness that is most definitely bipolar (as confirmed by the author). I’m sure I’ve mentioned this before, but books that feature mental illness with consideration and respect automatically get extra points from me. This one in particular means a lot, since I also have bipolar. It is a mental illness that is rarely represented in YA, and even more rarely mentioned in the fantasy genre. Heidi Heilig’s choice to not only feature it in a fantasy, but to show both the positive and negative aspects of it is pretty stinking cool. But I digress.

In this book, Jetta has been offered a medication that will help with her illness, in exchange for the use of her blood by the crown. Whoever uses the blood can bind souls to inanimate objects, essentially animating-and controlling-them. The crown wants to use her power as a weapon against the rebels, who Jetta sympathizes with.

The rebels also want to use Jetta. Meanwhile, she’s afraid to use her power at all, worrying that it will make her like her biological father. He’s a monstrous necromancer, and everyone is afraid of what would happen if he- or another like him- came to power.

Of course, there’s also ye random romantic entanglement with Leo, another rebel. I’m not a huge fan of their relationship because it often came across as an unnecessary distraction from the rest of the plot, but I admittedly don’t like most dramatic bookish relationships.

I liked that Heilig didn’t pull punches. I was justifiably concerned about what would happen to some of the characters in the book. I like when an author gives things a sense of urgency, and she does that very well. I raced through this book, enjoying every moment of it.

I feel like this series is very underrated and deserves way more hype. It’s well-written and fast-paced, with memorable characters and an interesting plot. The mental illness representation just pushes it even higher in my esteem. I highly recommend this book.

Have you read this book? What did you think?


Reverie by Ryan La Sala- ARC Review

Reverie
All Kane Montgomery knows for certain is that the police found him half-dead in the river. He can’t remember anything since an accident robbed him of his memories a few weeks ago. And the world feels different―reality itself seems different.

So when three of his classmates claim to be his friends and the only people who can tell him what’s truly going on, he doesn’t know what to believe or who he can trust. But as he and the others are dragged into unimaginable worlds that materialize out of nowhere―the gym warps into a subterranean temple, a historical home nearby blooms into a Victorian romance rife with scandal and sorcery―Kane realizes that nothing in his life is an accident, and only he can stop their world from unraveling. (taken from Amazon)

Thank you to Netgalley for providing me with this book in exchange for honest opinion. This is available in stores now.

What drew me to the book was the comparison to Inception, a mind-bending movie that I really liked, though the gorgeous cover definitely helped. I’m a big fan of twisty plots, so I had high hopes.

This book just didn’t do it for me. It felt too big, and at times I worried that the plot had gotten away from the author. I’m not sure that makes much sense, but it’s the impression I had. It’s difficult to become immersed in a book when you are unsure if the author can deliver on what he set out to do. It was actually mildly stressful.

The characters didn’t really stand out all that much to me. One of them actually shot rainbows, and I couldn’t stop thinking of Aoyama from My Hero Academia: he has a laser that shoots from his naval and for some reason that image kept popping into my mind as I read this. Poesy, the drag queen sorceress was my favorite by far. The other characters just didn’t interest me.

The concept was interesting, but felt a bit shaky on delivery. The descriptions were fantastic, however, and I consider the prose itself the strong point of this book. La Sala definitely knows how to turn a phrase.

I think this is one of those books that many people will love;  it just didn’t butter my biscuit.

Best of the Best: My Favorite Books from 2019


Wow, 2019 has been filled with amazing books! I had an incredible year: I traveled with an “I love Lucy”-obsessed alien, visited the Starless Sea, and solved a mystery on Coney Island. And that’s just some of the wonderful things I got to experience in literature this year. I loved so many of the books I read, but I’ve (painfully) narrowed down the plethora of amazing books to a short list of favorites. In no particular order, here they are:

             Master of Sorrows ( The Silent Gods #1) by Justin Travis Call

Master of Sorrows (The Silent Gods, #1)
This book is a masterpiece. I loved everything about it. You can find my review here. If you like a good fantasy, don’t let this one pass you by.

You have heard the story before – of a young boy, orphaned through tragic circumstances, raised by a wise old man, who comes to a fuller knowledge of his magic and uses it to fight the great evil that threatens his world.

But what if the boy hero and the malevolent, threatening taint were one and the same?

What if the boy slowly came to realize he was the reincarnation of an evil god? Would he save the world . . . or destroy it?

Among the Academy’s warrior-thieves, Annev de Breth is an outlier. Unlike his classmates who were stolen as infants from the capital city, Annev was born in the small village of Chaenbalu, was believed to be executed, and then unknowingly raised by his parents’ killers.

Seventeen years later, Annev struggles with the burdens of a forbidden magic, a forgotten heritage, and a secret deformity. When he is subsequently caught between the warring ideologies of his priestly mentor and the Academy’s masters, he must choose between forfeiting his promising future at the Academy or betraying his closest friends. Each decision leads to a deeper dilemma, until Annev finds himself pressed into a quest he does not wish to fulfil.

Will he finally embrace the doctrine of his tutors, murder a stranger, and abandon his mentor? Or will he accept the more difficult truth of who he is . . . and the darker truth of what he may become . . . (taken from Amazon)

                                              The Dragon’s Banker by Scott Warren

The Dragon's Banker
I fell in love with this unique tale. A story about the man who happens to be a dragon’s personal banker? Brilliant. You can read my review here.

Finance: The lifeblood of any country’s beating heart and the life’s work of Sailor Kelstern — Merchant Banker. While wizards brood in their towers and great warriors charge into battle Sailor is more interested in the price of ore, herbs, and alchemicals carried by the trade ships.
But when a spell of bad fortune and bitter rivalry leaves him scrambling to turn a profit on little more than winds and whispers, one such whisper catches Sailor’s ear— a dragon has been seen in the west.
Sailor soon finds that the dragons are very real, and not at all what he expected. And they practice a very different sort of economy — one of subterfuge and fire. (taken from Amazon)

The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow

The Ten Thousand Doors of January
This book will stick with me for a long, long time. It’s beautifully written, and special in a way that I can’t quite describe. I tried really hard to, though, in my original review. You can find that  here.

In a sprawling mansion filled with peculiar treasures, January Scaller is a curiosity herself. As the ward of the wealthy Mr. Locke, she feels little different from the artifacts that decorate the halls: carefully maintained, largely ignored, and utterly out of place.

Then she finds a strange book. A book that carries the scent of other worlds, and tells a tale of secret doors, of love, adventure and danger. Each page turn reveals impossible truths about the world and January discovers a story increasingly entwined with her own. (taken from Amazon)

The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern   


The Starless Sea
This was my most anticipated new release of 2019. After reading and adoring, Erin Morgenstern’s previous book, The Night Circus, I had ridiculously high expectations for this one. It surpassed them. You can find my original review here.

Zachary Ezra Rawlins is a graduate student in Vermont when he discovers a mysterious book hidden in the stacks. As he turns the pages, entranced by tales of lovelorn prisoners, key collectors, and nameless acolytes, he reads something strange: a story from his own childhood. Bewildered by this inexplicable book and desperate to make sense of how his own life came to be recorded, Zachary uncovers a series of clues—a bee, a key, and a sword—that lead him to a masquerade party in New York, to a secret club, and through a doorway to an ancient library hidden far below the surface of the earth. What Zachary finds in this curious place is more than just a buried home for books and their guardians—it is a place of lost cities and seas, lovers who pass notes under doors and across time, and of stories whispered by the dead. Zachary learns of those who have sacrificed much to protect this realm, relinquishing their sight and their tongues to preserve this archive, and also of those who are intent on its destruction. Together with Mirabel, a fierce, pink-haired protector of the place, and Dorian, a handsome, barefoot man with shifting alliances, Zachary travels the twisting tunnels, darkened stairwells, crowded ballrooms, and sweetly soaked shores of this magical world, discovering his purpose—in both the mysterious book and in his own life. (taken from Amazon)

                                            Kings of the Wyld by Nicholas Eames

Kings of the Wyld (The Band, #1)
Last, but most certainly not least, this fantasy blew me away. I loved every heart-pounding, violent, sweet, or funny moment of it. Read my original rave here.

Clay Cooper and his band were once the best of the best, the most feared and renowned crew of mercenaries this side of the Heartwyld. 

Their glory days long past, the mercs have grown apart and grown old, fat, drunk, or a combination of the three. Then an ex-bandmate turns up at Clay’s door with a plea for help–the kind of mission that only the very brave or the very stupid would sign up for. (taken from Amazon)

So, there you have it. I am partially through a book right now that will probably be added to the list. It has been a really, really good reading year. I’m looking forward to more amazing books in 2020. Happy December, everyone!

Stephen Hawking: My First Stephen Hawking (Little People BIG Dreams) by Maria Isable Sanchez Vegara- ARC Review


Thank you to Netgalley for providing me with this book in exchange for my honest opinion. This will be available on February fourth, 2020.

My toddler loves historical figures. His favorites are the U.S. Presidents (any of them: he has yet to decide his party), but he is interested in other figures as well. Not too long ago, I told him I had a secret to tell him. I whispered “I love you” and he whispered back, “Ibn Batutta.” I jumped at the chance to read this book about an important person with him.

I’ll start with the illustrations. They were adorable. They were simple, but brightly colored. My little guy liked pointing at them and saying “That’s Stephen Hawking” multiple times. They definitely held his interest.

The story itself was cute. It talked about Stephen Hawking in a way that would be easily grasped by youngsters. At times it seemed a little too simple: but it could just be because my toddler wants a wealth of information in his nonfiction books. He sometimes goes a little beyond the “normal” amount of information requested by that age group.

It was very difficult to find good nonfiction books when my oldest was a toddler, and I love that authors are changing that. Overall, my toddler liked it, and so did I. I’d buy this for any curious kid in the 2-5 year old range.

Cadaver Swords by Emmett Swan- ARC Review

Image result for cadaver swords
Chimber was a master grave digger and knew his business. But when the Queen of the nation of Dalmeer called out the Gravedigger’s Guild to bury thousands of citizens that had perished from a mysterious poison-laced cloud, he was not prepared for what he found. Before his very eyes, bodies thought dead began to rise up, walk, and huddle together in dark groups. Soon, an unstoppable cadaver army was laying waste to the land.

With the good people of Dalmeer under siege and the army in disarray, Chimber wants to do his part to defend his home town. But as a gravedigger, he isn’t usually needed until after the killing is done. As he watches a battle unfold from the cover of a nearby hill, an unflappable female warrior gets felled from her horse by a mob of cadavers. Risking life and limb, he slides down to the battlefield and manages to save her life.

Chimber and the warrior establish a bond and agree to journey into the Northern Wastes to find the one being that may be able to save the nation—the mysterious Medium of the Blue Mountain. But she is surrounded by a strange tribe of female ice pixies that have little interest in helping those from the southern lands.

If Chimber can convince the Medium of the Blue Mountain to join their cause and return to Dalmeer’s capital city in time, they just may save the people of the land from the bite of cadaver swords. (taken from Amazon)

Thank you to Netgalley for providing me with this book in exchange for my honest opinion. This book is available now.

Epic in scale, this was a slow read for me.  It took me a very long time to get all the way through. However, once I did, I ended up really enjoying it.

With this book, what stood out to me was the world-building. It was so incredibly creative! The setup of the geography was pretty cool. There were several islands within relatively close proximity, which made the timing more believable. I am a big fan of fantasy books that feature a journey of some sort because it allows for so many different kinds of encounters, so that was a win for me.

Climber’s buddy Jern was probably my favorite character. The relationship between the two was fun to read. I know I’ve mentioned in other posts that I don’t always like the main character, but I did enjoy Climber. It was good to read a main character that wasn’t a giant ball of angst.

The author was very judicious with his fight scenes. They were well-written, but they weren’t the crux of the story. I liked that he understood the fine balance between action and story. Many authors rely too much on one or the other.

I recommend this one to fantasy readers who don’t mind some slow set-up.

Have you read this book? What did you think?

Death Train and Anxious Anna by Daye Williams

Anxious Anna & The Souls by [Williams, Daye] DEATH TRAIN by [Williams, Daye]

Thank you to the author for providing me with these novellas in exchange for my honest opinion.

I went back and forth on whether to review these two novellas in one post, or separately. I finally decided on one because they both examine similar themes, albeit from different angles.

Death Train is about a man who stores aboard a train that delivers souls to the Underworld. He is attempting to save the souls of his deceased loved ones. While this story is ostensibly about saving his family, what made me invested in this story are the underlying themes of grief, and dealing with loss.

The story moves along quickly without ever feeling trite. While the descriptions are absolutely incredible, sometimes I’d get lost in them and have to remind myself of what was happening. Daye Williams has a very detailed writing style. It was fascinating to get a glimpse into his mind, so to speak. I quite enjoyed this one.

Anxious Anna also explores themes of mortality and the fear of the unknown. This story is about a young girl who, on her eighth birthday, is so terrified by the idea of growing old and dying that she manages to break the binds of Time and goes on a journey wherein she must come to grips with her fears and decide whether to return home.

This one was a little more difficult for me to grasp. Again, it was very well-written, but I felt a little lost at times. The descriptions were beautiful, but I couldn’t connect with Anna as easily. Taken separately, both of these novellas are good. Read back-to-back (I read Anxious Anna first), they paint a vivid picture and are thought-provoking. These stories can be read quickly, but they’ll stick with you and make you think.

Have you read either of these novellas? What did you think?

It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas: Adult Fiction Edition

I’m back with my final post of books that would make great gifts. I’ve already written posts suggesting gifts for picture book readers, middle-grade, YA, and adult nonfiction. If you’re interested in reading those posts, I’ll put the links at the bottom. Here are five suggestions for adult readers:
The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow

This prose in this book is gorgeous. I’d recommend this to anyone who appreciates good writing with a sense of wonder liberally thrown in. It’s easily one of the best books I’ve read in a very long time.

Kings of the Wyld by Nicholas Eames

Holy guacamole, this book is fantastic! There’s heart (and gore, of course). It’s fun and engrossing. Any fantasy reader will love this book.

Duckett and Dyer: Dicks for Hire by G.M Nair

Image result for duckett and dyer dicks for hire

This book is flat-out hilarious. I buddy read this one with Beth at beforewego (read her excellent review here) and we both loved it.

The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern

This was my most anticipated new release of the year. It did not disappoint. The writing is exquisite. It will suck the reader in and leave them breathless.

Master of Sorrows by Justin Call

Image result for master of sorrows


Last but most certainly not least, I loved every moment of this book. It had a bit of a Name of the Wind vibe and belongs on the shelf among greats like Tolkien.

So, there you have it. These books would be great gifts. Have you read any of these? Are you planning on giving them to anyone?

Links:

It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas: Adult Nonfiction

It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas: YA Books

It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas: Middle-grade Books

It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas: Picture Books

Fortuna by Kristyn Merbeth- ARC Review

Image result for fortuna by kristyn merbeth
Fortuna launches a new space opera trilogy that will hook you from the first crash landing.
Scorpia Kaiser has always stood in Corvus’s shadow until the day her older brother abandons their family to participate in a profitless war. However, becoming the heir to her mother’s smuggling operation is not an easy transition for the always rebellious, usually reckless, and occasionally drunk pilot of the Fortuna, an aging cargo ship and the only home Scorpia has ever known.

But when a deal turns deadly and Corvus returns from the war, Scorpia’s plans to take over the family business are interrupted, and the Kaiser siblings are forced to make a choice: take responsibility for their family’s involvement in a devastating massacre or lay low and hope it blows over.
Too bad Scorpia was never any good at staying out of a fight. (taken from Amazon)

               Thank you to Netgalley for providing me with this book in exchange for my honest opinion. This book is available now.

Oh dear. I wanted to like this book, I really did. I’m a big fan of smuggling in stories in general, and especially in space (blame the incredible show Firefly). Unfortunately, this book was a giant resounding “meh” from me.

I can’t pinpoint anything really wrong with the book, it just didn’t keep my attention. The characters weren’t all that engaging, and Scorpia annoyed me. She was immature to the point of obnoxiousness. Corvus was okay, but not all that fantastic a character either.

If I don’t enjoy the characters in a book, the writing itself needs to be incredible to keep me invested. The writing was fine, but nothing to write home about. This is my first book by this author and, honestly, I can’t say I’m going to go out of my way to read any others she’s written.

I’ll say that this is just a case of the book not fitting the reader. It happens. I hope other readers find it more interesting than I did. I gave up 60% in.