Pulling Strings by Nick DeWolf

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The feeling you’re being watched. Knowing what card is next out of the deck. Guessing what someone’s thinking… and always being right.Or maybe you can move things. Maybe you can hear people’s thoughts. Maybe you can make fire out of nothing. Maybe, just maybe, you’re different. Maybe, you’re psychic. And maybe, there’s a place for you.Rebecca Colt was different, and used her abilities to become the best psychic Secret Agent in America. She traveled the world, hunted down foreign agents, had wild car chases and adrenaline pumping shoot outs. Until one day, in Austin, Texas, when everything went wrong. When a little girl died. When Agent Colt’s life fell apart.Now, she’s sitting around a field office in Kansas, thinking of the good old days, begrudgingly awaiting retirement. She just wants one last shot, one thing to put her back on top for a while.So when people start turning up in hospitals nearby, their minds broken into a thousand pieces, she thinks she’s found just that chance.But once she starts her investigation, every answer she gets only leads to more questions. Things don’t add up. She starts to realize she’s dealing with something bigger and badder and scarier than she’s ever dealt with. It’s not a foreign sleeper agent she’s tracking. It’s a puppeteer, the most dangerous kind of psychic there is.And she has no idea what to do.Or even who it is.But she knows she’s alone.She’s caught.And she’s going to have to fight her way out. (taken from Amazon)

              Thank you to the author for providing me with this book, in exchange for my honest opinion. This book, and others by Nick DeWolf, are available now.

How to describe my feelings about this book? I can’t say I’ve ever read a book that gave me such a physical reaction. I had to set it down on a few occasions because I could feel myself working up to a panic attack (I don’t say this disrespectfully; I have an anxiety disorder). I think I mean this as a compliment. The fact that the author was able to create such a visceral reaction is pretty stinking amazing.

That being said, I didn’t love this book. The main character, Rebecca, had a chip on her shoulder the size of Texas. She’d been through a lot and was tough as nails, but she was kind of a jerk to people that didn’t deserve it in any way, which made her an unpleasant character to read.

While the book has a supernatural premise, it quickly becomes more of an action book than anything else. The idea of the Puppeteer was truly terrifying, and the writing was confident and solid.

If you like heart pounding action, and characters that kick butt, this book is for you.

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The Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow Place by Julie Berry

There’s a murderer on the loose–but that doesn’t stop the girls of St. Etheldreda’s from attempting to hide the death of their headmistress in this rollicking farce. 

The students of St. Etheldreda’s School for Girls face a bothersome dilemma. Their irascible headmistress, Mrs. Plackett, and her surly brother, Mr. Godding, have been most inconveniently poisoned at Sunday dinner. Now the school will almost certainly be closed and the girls sent home–unless these seven very proper young ladies can hide the murders and convince their neighbors that nothing is wrong. (taken from Amazon)

                  This book is scandalously fun! The girls at St. Etheldreda’s School for Girls find themselves hiding a murder in an attempt to prevent themselves from being sent back to their respective homes. The girls have become incredibly close, and don’t want to be separated.

What makes this book such a blast to read are the clever, and ridiculously funny, characters. There’s “Dull” Martha, called that because she’s a bit of a spaz; “Pocked” Louise, the “scientist” of the group; “Dear” Roberta, so called because she’s such a sweetheart; “Disgraceful” Mary Jane, who has a penchant for flirting; “Stout” Alice, loyal friend; “Dour” Elinor, who was a little like Wednesday Addams dialed down; and “Smooth” Kitty, the leader of their little collective. While that’s a huge group of important characters to remember, their individuality made it easy to keep track of who was who.

Dour Elinor was my favorite character. Her doom and gloom attitude, not to mention her love of gothic literature, made her so much fun to read! I also enjoyed Stout Alice, although I felt bad for the situations she got pushed into. They were hilarious situations, though.

The way things quickly snowball, and the ridiculous events that kept escalating were incredibly entertaining. This book is a fast-moving romp, one that’s perfect for middle-grade readers, or for anyone who wants a giggle.

Bloody Rose (The Band book 2) by Nicholas Eames

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A band of fabled mercenaries tour a wild fantasy landscape, battling monsters in arenas in front of thousands of adoring fans. But, a secret and dangerous gig ushers them to the frozen north, and the band is never one to waste a shot at glory.
 

Live fast, die young.

Tam Hashford is tired of working at her local pub, slinging drinks for world-famous mercenaries and listening to the bards sing of adventure and glory in the world beyond her sleepy hometown.

When the biggest mercenary band of all, led by the infamous Bloody Rose, rolls into town, Tam jumps at the chance to sign on as their bard. It’s adventure she wants – and adventure she gets as the crew embark on a quest that will end in one of two ways: glory or death. (taken from Amazon)

This adrenaline-filled, heart pounding fantasy is a more than worthy successor to Kings of the Wyld, book one of The Band series. It’s an incredibly layered and touching book that just happens to also be full of battles and tough-as-nails warriors.

The first book follows a group of retired mercenaries called Saga as they take one last mission. Bloody Rose is told from the point of view of Tam, a barmaid-turned-bard, who joins Fable, a mercenary band led by “Bloody” Rose, the daughter of the frontman from Saga. Bloody Rose obviously has daddy issues and is desperate to surpass his reputation. Just how does she plan on doing that? Oh, only be killing the Dragoneater, a vicious, undefeated monster. The last band that attempted to take it on lasted only 17 seconds. Sounds easy, right?

What causes this fantasy to shine is the amazing cast of characters that Nicholas Eames has created. My favorite is either Roderick, the band’s booker, who is hilarious while also being useful in his own right; Brune, a shaman who shape-changes into a bear…when it works. Or maybe it’s Cura; a summoner whose tattoos come to life and kick butt. I found her story arc incredibly touching. I related a little bit, obviously not to the tattoos that can kill, but to the reason she gets them.

This book takes a bit longer to get to the main event than Kings of the Wyld, in my opinion, but it makes perfect sense and it showed more of the incredible world that Eames has created. I love how summoners work in this series, and the shamans were flat-out cool.

Look for old characters from the first book, although they don’t steal the thunder from the amazing new group. I’m not going to say who shows up, but expect some fantastic scenes.

If you like fantasy at all, read Kings of the Wyld and Bloody Rose. If you don’t like fantasy but love a well-written book, read Kings of the Wyld and Bloody Rose. They’ll win you over to the fantasy genre.

Genesis: Vision of the New World (Terra Nova Book 2) by D. Ellis Overttun

A light streaking across the predawn sky, an explosion and an impending menace from above, seemingly unrelated events but connected to space time distortions predicted by an obscure scientific paper over 250 years ago. That same paper has predicted an end to the universe.

Has the unthinkable become a reality?

The ruling class Celesti see the danger as real and imminent since planet Arkos could become compromised in as little as 1,000 years. To them, that is one lifetime. That same timeframe is ten lifetimes to the servile class Gendu. To them, the threat does not even exist.

There are those within the Celesti who see the Gendu as a more immediate threat. Their solution is to genetically engineer a more pliant servant class and leave Arkos for an unknown planet. Is that even possible?

But will it even matter? The leaders of the Celesti, the Transcended, know a terrible secret: The Celesti are dying.

Against this backdrop of extinction lies the politics of power. A new leader has just assumed her role as the head of the Gendu Houses. However, she is an outsider. Will she be accepted or will she be cast out as an interloper?

Also, the leader of the most powerful religious organization on the planet is missing and presumed dead. It is the opportunity of a lifetime for anyone bold enough to seize the moment. Who will fill this void? Someone with a hunger for influence and privilege? Or someone with a calling for higher purpose?

Finally, there is a prophecy from the “Codices of Taru” which foretells of a time of darkness when the “head will be cleaved from the body” that will announce the coming of the “Deceiver”. Ancient superstition or a vision of the future? (taken from Amazon)

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

This book, while still a “thinking book” (don’t read this while you’re surrounded by yelling kids; it will make zero sense), moves more quickly than the first in the series. It’s incredibly smart and complex.

I liked the way the story expands, now that the plot has been established. It continues to expand on the themes of politics, and relationships. I was particularly fascinated by the relationships between the different classes.

I’m trying very hard not to give anything away. Suffice it to say, this is a series worth reading. It will challenge, as well as entertain you. I recommend this series to fans of sci-fi, as well as people who like books that make them think.

Rotherweird by Andrew Caldecott- Blog Tour

 

The town of Rotherweird stands alone – there are no guidebooks, despite the fascinating and diverse architectural styles cramming the narrow streets, the avant garde science and offbeat customs. Cast adrift from the rest of England by Elizabeth I, Rotherweird’s independence is subject to one disturbing condition: nobody, but nobody, studies the town or its history.

For beneath the enchanting surface lurks a secret so dark that it must never be rediscovered, still less reused.

But secrets have a way of leaking out.

Two inquisitive outsiders have arrived: Jonah Oblong, to teach modern history at Rotherweird School (nothing local and nothing before 1800), and the sinister billionaire Sir Veronal Slickstone, who has somehow got permission to renovate the town’s long-derelict Manor House.

Slickstone and Oblong, though driven by conflicting motives, both strive to connect past and present, until they and their allies are drawn into a race against time – and each other. The consequences will be lethal and apocalyptic. (taken from Amazon)

Thank you to Jo Fletcher Books for providing me with a copy of this book, in exchange for my honest opinion.

Rotherweird is a book unlike any other I’ve read. It’s ambitious, vast in its scope, and often left me both puzzled and intrigued. The writing in this book is confident and self-assured. Even when I wasn’t sure exactly where the book was going, it was quite obvious that the author knew precisely what he was doing.

I think both my favorite and least favorite parts of the book are the same thing: the characters. They were wonderfully quirky, from their odd mannerisms to their even odder names. But, there were many that seemed superfluous. I’m a huge fan of large casts of characters, however too many can be a bit confusing at times.

I loved the mix between the historical aspect and the fantastical. It was a wonderful juxtaposition, and it brought out the creative aspects in both. The feel of the book was sometimes reminiscent of Johnathan Strange and Mr. Norrell.

This book almost shouldn’t have worked, but it did. I’m planning to continue the series. I’m curious and intrigued.

The Grammarians by Cathleen Schine- ARC Review

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The Grammarians are Laurel and Daphne Wolfe, identical, inseparable redheaded twins who share an obsession with words. They speak a secret “twin” tongue of their own as toddlers; as adults making their way in 1980s Manhattan, their verbal infatuation continues, but this love, which has always bound them together, begins instead to push them apart. Daphne, copy editor and grammar columnist, devotes herself to preserving the dignity and elegance of Standard English. Laurel, who gives up teaching kindergarten to write poetry, is drawn, instead, to the polymorphous, chameleon nature of the written and spoken word. Their fraying twinship finally shreds completely when the sisters go to war, absurdly but passionately, over custody of their most prized family heirloom: Merriam Webster’s New International Dictionary, Second Edition. (taken from Amazon)

Thank you to Netgalley for providing me with a copy of this book, in exchange for my honest opinion. This will be available on September third.

Isn’t it funny how words can both simplify and add complexity, often simultaneously? This book was one of those rare stories where little happens, but in such an all-encompassing way that when you read the final sentence, you feel like you’ve experienced something profound.

Laurel and Daphne are identical twins. They’ve always been close, and they both share an unapologetic love for words. As they grow, this love stretches in different directions, causing first tension, then a full-blown rift.

I have a thing for books about books or language, so this one immediately interested me. I ended up really enjoying it. The way it was written was both clever and charming, but it never moved fully over into the fluff category. Daphne and Laurel were well-balanced and believable characters. Sometimes one or both of them would annoy me, but in an endearing way, if that makes sense.

The cast of characters in this book is on the small side, which only serves to bring out the impeccable quality of the writing. This is my first book by Cathleen Schine, and I can immediately see why she’s such a popular author. This was a smile in book form. I definitely recommend it.

Kings of the Wyld by Nicholas Eames

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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)

Filled with blood, guts, and a surprising amount of heart, this is everything a fantasy book should be. I loved this epic adventure: even more so, because the characters were long past their glory days. I guess you’re never too old to be a hero.

Having settled down with his family, Clay has no intention of getting sucked back into the life of a warrior. But when his best friend asks for help rescuing his daughter from the midst of a besieged city, Clay rushes back into the fray. Before attempting to brave an entire army in an ill-advised rescue attempt, Clay “Slowhand” and his friend Gabe, have to gather their old band back together, which proves to be more a journey than you’d think.

The writing in this book is fantastic! The battle scenes, while many, never became “same ‘ol, same ‘ol”. I was surprised by how different each fight scene was from the others. I know that sounds like a weird thing to write about, but as a reader of fantasy, I’ve often found myself getting bored by the similarity between different fight scenes in a book.

If the battles were interesting, that’s nothing compared to the characters. I loved every single one of them. My favorite is a toss-up between Clay and Ancandius Moog, the band’s wizard. Moog was so kind-hearted! He was also a bit of a hit-or-miss wizard: sometimes he was incredibly useful…other times, not so much. Part of his background was tragic and sad, which only led to stronger character development.

Clay was wonderful in every aspect. It’s rare that I like a main character as much as I liked Clay. Because they’re often tasked with moving the story along, I tend to find them annoying (I’m looking at you, Harry Potter). But Clay was a loyal friend,  and someone who did what was right even when it wasn’t easy. I loved his wry sense of humor, his realistic viewpoints, and his tenacity. I also loved his giant shield.

I guess it’s pretty obvious at this point that there isn’t a single thing that I didn’t love about Kings of the Wyld. Every fantasy reader needs to pick this book up.

Have you read this book? What did you think?

Lingeria by Daniel Kozuh

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Thank you to the author for providing me with a copy of this book, in exchange for my honest opinion.

Norman is a successful author of Lingeria: a series of fantasy books that he’s written and now despises. He’s in a rut and incredibly unhappy. Imagine his surprise when he finds a door in his oven that leads into the fictional world he created-with one small exception. There happens to be an evil wizard who has seized control.

The fate of Lingeria is in the hands of a depressed author, a hobbit ripoff named Roe, and a ragtag group of equally unlikely heroes. What could go wrong?

Full of sarcastic humor, and a twist on every common fantasy trope, this book was a ton of fun. It moved quickly, taking me on a very bizarre and incredibly funny adventure. I found Norman’s discontent with the books he’d written incredibly entertaining.

I loved the situations that mark the “introduction” between Norman and his very real creations. One of them involves a broken nose; another a very disconcerting painting. This book takes every fantasy expectation, turns it upside down, and shakes its pockets for loose change. I highly recommend this one.

Possible trigger warning: There is a botched suicide attempt at the beginning, easily passed over by skipping pages 15 and 16.

One Way by Jeff Lane

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Barry Griffith doesn’t know it yet, but tonight is the night fate has chosen to be the night of his death… his murder. At a gas station in the middle of nowhere, late at night, his wife Jenny appears… no car… no coat and looking older than when he saw her last. That’s because this is not the woman he received a good-bye kiss from this morning. This woman has been a widow for over four years and has made an impossible journey back in time to try to stop her husband’s murder. Will they be able to escape the killers or does fate only have one plan… one possible outcome… ONE WAY? (taken from Amazon)

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

This book was a mixed bag for me. I’ve read time travel books before, but never one that centered around preventing the murder of your spouse, and most definitely not one that was this action packed. This was an emotionally charged thriller, that started quickly and kept on going at a heart pounding pace. However, there were a few things that just didn’t work for me.

I went back and forth on how I felt about the characters of Jenny and Barry. I can’t put my finger on it, but there was something that really bugged me about Jenny. I’ve been thinking it over and I honestly don’t know what. Barry was a bit of a jerk, but I loved that he didn’t suddenly become Rambo while on the run from a deadly threat. He got very lucky, which was much more interesting. I really liked the grief counselor, Dr. Van Der Vehn; he was an fascinating mix of sympathy and selfish professional mania.

There were a few writing choices that I found a bit jarring. The beginning chapters of the book had several sentences foreshadowing future events, worded similarly to “little did they know that the shadow of death hung over…” which isn’t a literary choice that I love.

The other writing issue that I had with this book is one that probably would be completely unnoticed by many people: the use of the word “seizure” instead of spasm or convulsion. There is one example in particular: “There were cords standing out in her neck, and she was shaking like she might go into a seizure at any moment.” The thing is, I have grand mal epilepsy,  and seizures being used as descriptors when the author is discussing stress or fear really rubs me the wrong way. This is just one of my pet peeves, but I wish different wording was chosen.

I did like how the issue of a set path vs. changing your fate was explored. It was fascinating seeing it as the theme in a game of cat- and- mouse.  Incidentally, this has been adapted into a movie, and Jeff Lane also wrote the screenplay. Talk about wearing multiple hats!

While I didn’t love this book, I found it a solid addition to the thriller genre, one with a one-of-a-kind twist.

Have you read this? What did you think?

The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow- ARC Review

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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)

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

This book was both magical and beautiful. Diving into its pages, I immediately forgot everything but the gorgeous storytelling. I felt January’s desperation and discontent, as well as her insatiable curiosity. I wanted to escape into the pages of her book with her–only a reader can understand how this is completely possible.

I love the themes present throughout this book. There is a subtle yet present focus on relationships and how they can shape us- both positively and negatively. It got me thinking a lot about the power we give to others without even realizing it.  How what happens in our lives can affect us but doesn’t have to define us. January had both some lousy examples of “love” and experiences with loss, as well as the kind of love that is selfless and pure.

The writing was astounding. This story is so vast, yet I never felt like it got away from the author. It’s so wonderful that I’m having a hard time articulating my thoughts. A book like this is so hard to review because at some point it stops being characters, plots, and turns of phrase, and becomes something more. It’s magic.

Read this book.

Doors, he told her, are change, and change is a dangerous necessity. Doors are revolutions and upheavals, uncertainties, and mysteries, axis points around which entire worlds can be turned. They are the beginnings and endings of every true love story, the passages between that lead to adventures and madness and- here he smiled- even love. Without doors the worlds would grow stagnant, calcified, storyless. (quote from arc, and might change in final copy)