Westside Saints by W.M Akers- ARC Review

Westside Saints - W.M. Akers - Hardcover

Return to a twisted version of Jazz Age New York in this follow up to the critically acclaimed fantasy Westside, as relentless sleuth Gilda Carr’s pursuit of tiny mysteries drags her into a case that will rewrite everything she knows about her past.

Six months ago, the ruined Westside of Manhattan erupted into civil war, and private detective Gilda Carr nearly died to save her city. In 1922, winter has hit hard, and the desolate Lower West is frozen solid. Like the other lost souls who wander these overgrown streets, Gilda is weary, cold, and desperate for hope. She finds a mystery instead.

Hired by a family of eccentric street preachers to recover a lost saint’s finger, Gilda is tempted by their promise of “electric resurrection,” when the Westside’s countless dead will return to life. To a detective this cynical, faith is a weakness, and she is fighting the urge to believe in miracles when her long dead mother, Mary Fall, walks through the parlor door.

Stricken with amnesia, Mary remembers nothing of her daughter or her death, but that doesn’t stop her from being as infuriatingly pushy as Gilda herself. As her mother threatens to drive her insane, Gilda keeps their relationship a secret so that they can work together to investigate what brought Mary back to life. The search will force Gilda to reckon with the nature of death, family, and the uncomfortable fact that her mother was not just a saint, but a human being. (taken from Amazon)

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

I read this book without having read the first one in the series. I was able to follow the story-line without any problems, but I’m sure I would have appreciated it more if I’d read the first book.

I put off writing this review for way too long because I wasn’t sure how to put all my thoughts into words. I’m still having that issue, but I think this review is just going to be a weird one. That works, because the book is best described as “weird.” I like a little weird, so that is in no way an insult.

This book was a bit of a downer for me, to be honest. I found myself picturing the entire thing in varying shades of gray (even the things that were specifically described by color). I went into the book expecting light and funny, which wasn’t quite what I got. Gilda, the detective, was an intriguing character. I think I missed some character development in the first book, because she didn’t seem to grow all that much in this one. Her cynicism definitely got on my nerves from time to time.

There was some quippy dialogue which I appreciated. I love a good quip. Or a bad quip. Pretty much any quip. It wasn’t quite enough to pull me out of the oppressive atmosphere of the book, but it did garner an appreciative nod from me.

There were some bits that felt a little choppy to me. It’s a very strong possibility that it was intentionally written that way, and I just didn’t get it. Sometimes an author and the reader just don’t jive. It’s abundantly clear that this author is very talented, I just couldn’t connect.

I think I can chalk this book up to “wrong book for right now, right book for another time.” I’ll probably reread this at some point in the future, when a little bit of a hopeless vibe isn’t going to mess with my happy.

Would I recommend this book? I honestly don’t know.

Winterwood by Shea Ernshaw

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Be careful of the dark, dark wood…

Especially the woods surrounding the town of Fir Haven. Some say these woods are magical. Haunted, even.

Rumored to be a witch, only Nora Walker knows the truth. She and the Walker women before her have always shared a special connection with the woods. And it’s this special connection that leads Nora to Oliver Huntsman—the same boy who disappeared from the Camp for Wayward Boys weeks ago—and in the middle of the worst snowstorm in years. He should be dead, but here he is alive, and left in the woods with no memory of the time he’d been missing.

But Nora can feel an uneasy shift in the woods at Oliver’s presence. And it’s not too long after that Nora realizes she has no choice but to unearth the truth behind how the boy she has come to care so deeply about survived his time in the forest, and what led him there in the first place. What Nora doesn’t know, though, is that Oliver has secrets of his own—secrets he’ll do anything to keep buried, because as it turns out, he wasn’t the only one to have gone missing on that fateful night all those weeks ago.

For as long as there have been fairy tales, we have been warned to fear what lies within the dark, dark woods and in Winterwood, New York Times bestselling author Shea Ernshaw, shows us why. (taken from Amazon)

Here’s what I thought the book was going to be: an old, misunderstood woman rescues a boy and nurses him back to health. As she does so, she comes to care for him as a son, leading her to try to solve the mystery of what happened the night he went missing. I was WAY off. This is about two teens who have one of those “instant connections.” You know – the kind where they both think they’re destined to be together forever, despite not knowing anything about each other. Oh – and ignoring the fact that there’s a possibility that one of them is a murderer. So, you know. It’s your usual boy-meets-girl – meets weirdness story.

If you’ve followed my blog for long, you know this sort of book is not my thing. It’s on me; I completely misunderstood the plot when I bought this book. I’m going to do my best to proceed as though this is something I’d normally read, and review it accordingly. Please bear with me and wish me luck!

Firstly, let me say that Shea Ernshaw did an excellent job of describing not only the setting, but the feel of the story. It takes place in an isolated, snowed-in area, near a forest that’s known to be haunted. There’s a boys’ camp across the lake, but that’s it. It was very well communicated that if anything were to happen, the few people up there would have to fend for themselves. It’s an interesting way to raise the stakes and one that she put to good use here.

The characters, while not what I expected, were likable. Oliver, in particular, was a fascinating character. He started out with a spotty memory, which turned into secrets as he slowly began to piece things together. I liked that he was an unreliable character. He clearly couldn’t be trusted but the question is: are his secrets harmless?

The story itself was just okay. I knew each twist before it happened, and the ending was a bit of a letdown for me. I’m not a huge fan of the deus ex machina trope (is that a trope?), and it just didn’t work for me. However, I have a feeling that I’ll be in the minority on this opinion. If you like stories where something random happens to suddenly save the day, this one’ll be right up your alley.

Over all, if you’re into supernatural mysteries with more than a hint of romance, this book will be one for you. It’s not my thing, but it’s a skillfully told representative of that type of story.

Venators: Magic Unleashed by Devri Walls- Write Reads Blog Tour

The dark unknown beckons.
Rune Jenkins has a long-standing infatuation with anything from the supernatural world, and she’s trying to hide it. If she doesn’t, she angers her reckless twin brother Ryker, and starts feeling like her own sanity is slipping. But the closer she gets to Grey Malteer – an old friend who waves his fascination with fantasy like a flag – the harder it becomes to stifle her own interest. The supernatural suddenly invades their reality when other-worldly creatures come hunting for the three college students. With help from a mysterious savior Rune and Grey escape, but must follow Ryker’s abductors into an alternate dimension, Eon, and discover their true identities. They are Venators, descendants of genetically enhanced protectors and sentries between Eon and Earth. In this world of fae, vampires, werewolves, and wizards, power is abundant and always in flux. Ryker is missing, and Rune and Grey are being set up as pawns in a very dangerous game. The three must find their way through and out of Eon, before it consumes them. (taken from Amazon)

I must say, I was so jazzed to be a part of this book blog tour. I’d heard some great buzz about this book, and was eager to jump in. Venators: Magic Unleashed is a fast-paced book full of action and excitement.

This book follows Grey and Rune, two college students who learn they are in fact venators, enhanced humans with the power to fight all manner of unpleasant creatures- you know, the sort that aren’t supposed to exist. Except they do, which Rune discovers as both she and Grey find themselves in an alternate dimension. They need to somehow rescue Rune’s abducted brother (who, by the way, is a major jerk) and get back to their own world.

One of the interesting things about this book is the sheer variety of fantastical creatures included. There are the more common vampires and werewolves. Then, you get elves, fae, succubi, incubi, wizards, goblins and more. Verida, the sassiest vampire I’ve read in quite a while, was my favorite character. She added spunk and a sense of adventure.

I didn’t really connect all that much with Grey or Rune. Although, there were some things set up that I think will come into play quite well in book two, making them grow and develop into very complex characters.

The book jumps pretty much right into action, with development along the way, as opposed to the dreaded info dump. The action is scattered liberally throughout the story, upping the ante and adding to the excitement.

This was a highly entertaining read. I’m curious to see what happens in book two. Pick this book up and tell me what you think!

The Dark Stalkers by Henry Bassett

I: The Dark Stalkers (The Dead Chronicles of Martha Railer Book #1)In a town not too dissimilar to yours lived Martha Railer; a solitary individual who lived by herself, yet enjoyed the company of her close friends whom she spent time with on days out. In a realm outside of human perception, something sinister had been put into motion, and inhuman dark figures arrived in her town. They stalked Martha on her day to day activities, but was she chosen or was it chance or, perhaps, even fate? However, a simple choice of a short cut home would change everything for her…& them. (taken from Amazon)

                               Have you ever seen one of those artsy films? You know, the ones where the story-telling is so different, and the camera shots are so distinct, that you know there will never be another movie like that made, no matter how many other people try to mimic the style? This felt a bit like that.

The story itself is a simple one, but the execution is so unique that the story-line in and of itself really doesn’t matter. I’m used to books that attempt to make the reader a part of the world. This one deliberately keeps the reader at arms’ length, allowing a glimpse into what’s happening, but never opening the door all the way. It lent the book a sinister vibe, like there was a secret being held which added a sense of urgency.

The point of view switches back and forth from that of Martha and the stalkers. Martha never really reveals much personality at all. Because of that, certain things that happened in the book didn’t hit me the way I think they were supposed to. This is one of six novellas and I wonder if possibly combining them all into one full-length novel might help the characters come to life a bit more.

I can’t sum up my opinion of this book in a neat “I liked it” or “I didn’t”. I’ll settle for this: the book is intriguing and will stick with me for quite a while.

The Last Smile in Sunder City by Luke Arnold- ARC Review

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Welcome to Sunder City. The magic is gone but the monsters remain.
I’m Fetch Phillips, just like it says on the window. There are a few things you should know before you hire me:
1. Sobriety costs extra.2. My services are confidential.3. I don’t work for humans.
It’s nothing personal–I’m human myself. But after what happened, to the magic, it’s not the humans who need my help. (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 February 25th.

This book is noir-fantasy at its finest. It has all the trademarks of a good, gritty noir, with a dash of the fantastical thrown in for good measure. A hard-boiled P.I with a penchant for getting drunk? Check. A tragic backstory? Check. A talent for stirring up trouble and making everyone mad? Double check.

Fetch is an ex-soldier in a war that was basically humans vs. all things magical. He’s not proud of what he did during the war, or who it turned him into. He’s now a semi-talented P.I., who will take pretty much any case, as long as it pays and he’s not working for a human.

At the beginning of the book, he is hired to find a missing vampire, dead or, um…alive (?). Less dead? I honestly don’t know how to word that. Huh. Moving on. In Sunder City, either state of being is equally likely. Of course, things are brought to light that certain parties prefer stay hidden, and chaos ensues.

Now, on to the setting. Sunder City is a slum, but what a slum! The amount of detail the author put into it is astounding. I could easily picture the entire city, could hear rain drizzling, and could smell the “breakfast” being served at a certain restaurant.

Another thing I loved about the book is Fetch’s internal dialogue. It’s so deliciously old-school detective. He was perfect, the setting was perfect, the storyline was perfect. Basically, the entire book was phenomenal. The only beef I have: I have to wait to see what happens in the next book.

This one would be perfect for fans of the Dresden Files or Breaking Lore. I can’t recommend this one enough.

The Friday Society by Adrienne Kress

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Set in turn of the century London, The Friday Society follows the stories of three very intelligent and talented young women, all of whom are assistants to powerful men: Cora, lab assistant; Michiko, Japanese fight assistant; and Nellie, magician’s assistant. The three young women’s lives become inexorably intertwined after a chance meeting at a ball that ends with the discovery of a murdered mystery man.

It’s up to these three, in their own charming but bold way, to solve the murder–and the crimes they believe may be connected to it–without calling too much attention to themselves.

Set in the past but with a modern irreverent flare, this Steampunk whodunit introduces three unforgettable and very ladylike–well, relatively ladylike–heroines poised for more dangerous adventures. (taken from Amazon)

                               A friend of mine loaned this book to me, and I’m so glad she did. Entertaining, a bit silly, and full of things that explode, this book is a ton of fun.

What first interested me in this book was the steampunk aesthetic although, after reading it, I’d call it steampunk light (that’s a term, right? Well, it is now). The Friday Society follows three incorrigible ladies as they attempt to solve a murder.

The plot was the weakest point in the book. That’s not to say it wasn’t there, just that the twists weren’t all that twisty, and the perpetrator was easy to call. That being said, it didn’t dim my enjoyment in the slightest. In fact, it allowed the characters to shine through.

And what characters! Some of the situations these girls got into were hilarious. It did get a bit over the top from time to time, but it never went into full-blown ridiculous mode. Nellie was the most charming of the bunch, and also a magician’s assistant. Michiko was training to be a samurai (probably the hardest part of the book for me to believe), while Cora was the lab assistant for a scientist. She was my favorite. She was snarky and sarcastic, but also competent and confident in her abilities. It was a good mix.

Another thing that I appreciated about the book was the lack of over-the-top, saccharine romance. There were ye random love interests, but they kind of hovered in the background, instead of taking the focus away from the main characters. I’m glad it didn’t descend into mooning over potential boyfriends, since I truly hate that sort of thing.

Be aware that this is one of those books with a vaguely Victorian English flair that’s layered under decidedly modern vernacular. It was a bit jarring at first, but once I stopped thinking of this book as attempting to be a period piece (it’s not), the juxtaposition worked well.

Altogether, this was a fun romp of a book. If you’re looking for a fun, fast read, this book is for you.

Have you read it? What did you think?

This Time by Azaaa Davis – Buddy Read

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Legendary demon hunter Nadira Holden paid the ultimate price to end the war between demons and hunters.

Resurrected in present-day New York, many years have passed, everyone moved on without her, and the demons she once battled have made peace with humans. Nadira no longer has a purpose here. Dying again might be her ticket back to that “next life” she experienced.

Except humans are disappearing, and Nadira’s father is one of the missing. Feeling a strong obligation to find him before sorting out her own fate, she begins investigating.

She won’t rest in peace unless she can prove the demons are behind the disappearances. But Nadira is running out of time. The darkness within her is causing her to lose her humanity while the rest of mankind is on the verge of enslavement to the demons they now worship.

Fight with Nadira in a new urban fantasy series that combines monster-slaying action, family drama, and simmering romance. Experience why not even death can stop her. (taken from Amazon)

I got to do a buddy read with the fabulous Beth at Before We Go . This is a genre that I have very little experience in, so please forgive me as I wade through the tangled morass that functions as my thought process. I blame motherhood.

I got some serious Buffy vibes in the first few chapters. Seeing as I’ve watched Buffy upwards of five times, that’s quite the compliment. Nadira digs her way out of her own grave, only to find that years have passed and the things have changed drastically. She has to deal with an uncertain peace that now exists between humanity and demons. Her innate distrust lets her see that things aren’t what they seem.

Nadira was pretty hard-core. I love reading a tough cookie of a female main character, so I was down for that. It was interesting to see that, despite her tough exterior, Nadira was also unsure of herself in many ways.

There were several scenes with Roquell the succubus that made my (more prudish than I thought) sensibilities a bit squirmy. Ha ha! I’m not used to steamy scenes in books. They weren’t over the top in any way, just not the sort of thing I usually read.

The middle slowed down a bit, but the last little bit packed a wallop. The action was fast-paced and didn’t let up. Make sure to read Beth’s take on This Time, and consider picking it up yourself.