Ruthless Gods by Emily A. Duncan

Amazon.com: Ruthless Gods: A Novel (Something Dark and Holy ...
Nadya doesn’t trust her magic anymore. Serefin is fighting off a voice in his head that doesn’t belong to him. Malachiasz is at war with who–and what–he’s become.

As their group is continually torn apart, the girl, the prince, and the monster find their fates irrevocably intertwined. Their paths are being orchestrated by someone…or something. The voices that Serefin hears in the darkness, the ones that Nadya believes are her gods, the ones that Malachiasz is desperate to meet—those voices want a stake in the world, and they refuse to stay quiet any longer.

In her dramatic follow-up to Wicked Saints, the first book in her Something Dark and Holy trilogy, Emily A. Duncan paints a Gothic, icy world where shadows whisper, and no one is who they seem, with a shocking ending that will leave you breathless. (taken from Amazon)

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

Gothically gorgeous, this follow-up to Wicked Saints (review here) was everything I wanted it to be. I loved the darker vibe, and the progression of characters. It took a little bit longer to really “get going” than the first book did, but the character-building made it worth it. All of the main players have had their world shaken in some form or another, and seeing how they handled it (or didn’t) was fascinating.

I enjoyed reading about Nadya’s crisis of faith (for lack of a better term); it was heartbreaking and interesting, all at once. As in Wicked Saints, Malachiasz was my favorite (I’ve nicknamed him “Mal” because there is zero chance I’ll ever read that name correctly). He’s such a complicated character; I love it!

Emily A. Duncan’s strength lies in her ability to create an atmosphere both dangerous and foreboding. I had no idea what was going to happen next, which was fabulous. My only complaint about this book is that I would have loved to have a summary from Wicked Saints in the beginning, simply because so much happened.

If you like a darker feel to your fantasy, this series is for you.

The Haunted Lady by Mary Roberts Rinehart

The Haunted Lady (Hilda Adams): Mary Roberts Rinehart, Otto ...

Someone’s trying to kill the head of the Fairbanks estate, and only her nurse can protect her.

The arsenic in her sugar bowl was wealthy widow Eliza Fairbanks’ first clue that somebody wanted her dead. The nightly plagues of bats, birds, and rats unleashed in her bedroom were the second indication, an obvious attempt to scare the life out of the delicate dowager. So instead of calling the exterminator, Eliza calls the cops, who send Hilda Adams ― “Miss Pinkerton” to the folks at the bureau ― to go undercover and investigate.

Hilda Adams is a nurse, not a detective ― at least, not technically speaking. But then, nurses do have the opportunity to see things that the police can’t, and to witness the inner workings of a household when the authorities aren’t around. From the moment Adams arrives at the Fairbanks mansion, confronted by a swarm of shady and oddball relatives, many of whom seem desperate for their inheritance, it’s clear that something unseemly is at work in the estate. But not even she is prepared for the web of intrigue that awaits her therein. (taken from Amazon)

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

To my chagrin, I have to admit that I hadn’t read any of Mary Roberts Rinehart’s writing before this year. The author’s name sounded vaguely familiar, but it was only recently that I heard her being called the “American Agatha Christie.” Of course, that little phrase made me curious.

Hilda Adams is a nurse with a sharp eye and good problem-solving skills. In this particular book, she’s asked by the police- who she’s worked well with previously- to stay nights with the wealthy, older Mrs. Fairbanks, who is convinced that someone is trying to kill her. Hilda reluctantly agrees, expecting nothing more than the paranoia of a lonely woman. Instead, she finds herself in the middle of a who dunnit, one that takes place within a locked room. I truly love locked room mysteries!

I thought the mystery itself was clever, and the author planted the clues along the way, so that- were I smart enough- I might have solved it on my own. Alas, I am not. Thankfully, Hilda was also on the case! The cast of suspects felt a little flat to me, however. I was hoping for more from them, as far as personality goes. I struggled to feel the sense of excitement or tension that I often find in Agatha Christie’s books. Hilda herself was fun to read, though. She was a no-nonsense sort, but she was also far from impervious to nerves.

I enjoyed the book, but I didn’t love it. It was a fun read, and a good way to pass some time, but I wasn’t blown away.

Have you read this book? What did you think?

Where Dreams Descend by Janella Angeles- ARC Review

Where Dreams Descend (Kingdom of Cards, #1) by Janella AngelesIn a city covered in ice and ruin, a group of magicians face off in a daring game of magical feats to find the next headliner of the Conquering Circus, only to find themselves under the threat of an unseen danger striking behind the scenes.

As each act becomes more and more risky and the number of missing magicians piles up, three are forced to reckon with their secrets before the darkness comes for them next.

The Star: Kallia, a powerful showgirl out to prove she’s the best no matter the cost

The Master: Jack, the enigmatic keeper of the club, and more than one lie told

The Magician: Demarco, the brooding judge with a dark past he can no longer hide

Where Dreams Descend is the startling and romantic first book in Janella Angeles’ debut Kingdom of Cards fantasy duology where magic is both celebrated and feared, and no heart is left unscathed. (taken from Amazon)

Thank you to Netgalley for providing me with this book in exchange for my honest opinion. This book will be available for purchase on June second.

I was interested in this book because a review said that fans of The Night Circus would love it. I must say, I have no idea why the review said that, since the two books are so incredibly different. However, I still found this book to be incredibly enjoyable.

Kallia is a very powerful magician. When the book opens, she works for the enigmatic Jack (also known as The Master) in a club known as Hell House. She lives on his estate, a pampered but lonely existence. Kallia dreams of leaving and travelling to the city of Glorian. When she sees a flyer advertising a competition for magicians she seizes her chance, despite Jack’s warnings against leaving.

Kallia is the only female in the competition, and it is clear from the beginning that she is not wanted. Strange doings start and what began as a competition turns into something far deadlier.

What makes this book stand out are the fantastic characters. On top of Kallia, there’s Canary, a fire eater; Aaros, a thief-turned-magician’s assistant; and Demarco, a judge from the competition who’s hiding something. And, of course, there’s Jack. I didn’t love Kallia because she’s so convinced that everyone is against her. She’s very prickly. However, it made her incredibly interesting. The other characters were all very well-developed. Jack is my favorite. He’s such a mystery. There’s obviously more to him than is revealed in this book, and I can’t wait to see where his story-line goes.

This book ends on a cliff hanger, so if that’s a pet peeve of yours, you might want to wait for the sequel to be released before reading it. I loved it, though. The stakes were raised and there are loose ends waiting to be tied up. If the sequel continues in the vein of this book, it’s going to be a doozy.

This book was a blast. I highly recommend it.

The Glass Magician by Caroline Stevermer- ARC Review

Image result for the glass magician caroline
New York 1905―The Vanderbilts. The Astors. The Morgans. They are the cream of society―and they own the nation on the cusp of a new century.

Thalia Cutler doesn’t have any of those family connections. What she does know is stage magic and she dazzles audiences with an act that takes your breath away.

That is, until one night when a trick goes horribly awry. In surviving she discovers that she can shapeshift, and has the potential to take her place among the rich and powerful.

But first, she’ll have to learn to control that power…before the real monsters descend to feast. (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 April 7th.

In The Glass Magician, there are three types of castes: Solitaires, Sylvestri, and the top-rung, Traders. Thalia, the stage magician, is a Solitaire, meaning she has no special abilities- until the day she discovers that she is a Trader, part of the caste that can change into animals. That knowledge changes everything for her.

I enjoyed the idea of the three classes and how they interacted. The author obviously put a lot of thought into how things would work in her world. I do wish that the Sylvestri had been explained a little more- I’ve kind of inferred their function, but they weren’t mentioned quite as much as the other two.

I have to be honest, I spent the first third of the book incredibly bored. I kept waiting for something to happen, but not much did for quite a while. Thalia was an uninteresting character, so I struggled to keep my mind from wandering while I read. Thalia both hated and envied the money that others had, which was an understandable juxtaposition.  It was honestly the most interesting character trait she had.

Right when I was ready to give up, the book picked up a little. Thalia found herself swept up in a mystery which added a sense of fun that the first part of the book was missing. It kind of wound down again at the end, though. I really felt that the ending was lacking something.

Altogether, this book wasn’t for me. It felt like it was a great idea that just needed to be fleshed out a little more. A teensy bit of work on the pacing would go a long way toward making this book much more enjoyable.

Ghosts of Harvard by Francesca Serritella- ARC Review

Image result for ghosts of harvard"
Cadence Archer arrives on Harvard’s campus desperate to understand why her brother, Eric, a genius who developed paranoid schizophrenia took his own life there the year before. Losing Eric has left a black hole in Cady’s life, and while her decision to follow in her brother’s footsteps threatens to break her family apart, she is haunted by questions of what she might have missed. And there’s only one place to find answers.
 
As Cady struggles under the enormous pressure at Harvard, she investigates her brother’s final year, armed only with a blue notebook of Eric’s cryptic scribblings. She knew he had been struggling with paranoia, delusions, and illusory enemies—but what tipped him over the edge? With her suspicions mounting, Cady herself begins to hear voices, seemingly belonging to three ghosts who walked the university’s hallowed halls—or huddled in its slave quarters. Among them is a person whose name has been buried for centuries, and another whose name mankind will never forget.
 
Does she share Eric’s illness, or is she tapping into something else? Cady doesn’t know how or why these ghosts are contacting her, but as she is drawn deeper into their worlds, she believes they’re moving her closer to the truth about Eric, even as keeping them secret isolates her further. Will listening to these voices lead her to the one voice she craves—her brother’s—or will she follow them down a path to her own destruction? (taken from Amazon)

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

Hmm…where to begin with this book? I rarely give trigger warnings, instead describing books as harsh if they discuss heavier subjects, but in this case I think I need to add a trigger warning. Suicide is an ongoing theme throughout this book. It’s mentioned in the blurb, so it’s not hidden or anything, but if that’s something you don’t want to read about, you might want to skip this review.

I actually almost gave up on this book multiple times. Parts of it hit too close to home and brought up feelings from my own mental illness diagnosis (bipolar 1, diagnosed during high school. Fun times). I prefer not to think about that time in my life, so this book was difficult for me.

So, why did I finish it? Because Francesca Serritella is an extremely talented author. If she wasn’t, I would have had no problem reading this book. Instead, she made the characters easy to connect to. I felt for Eric as his illness was spoken about. I was heartbroken on his behalf when people felt “embarrassed” by him. I can’t say I understand fully how schizophrenia works, other than that it has some symptoms that overlap with bipolar, but I can absolutely relate to the feelings of loneliness a mental illness diagnosis can carry with it.

This book is about Cady (Eric’s sister) and her decision to follow in her deceased brother’s footsteps to discover what led to his death by suicide. She learns that things are much more complicated than she originally thought. He was a paranoid schizophrenic (as well as a brilliant young man with tons of potential: a diagnosis is not an identity), and as he came close to the end of his life, he began to think he was being followed and was in danger. As Cady learns more of who her brother was, she begins to wonder: was he right?

At the same time, Cady begins hearing voices that no one else hears. She starts to question whether she might have the same mental illness as her brother. Needless to say, this scares her. What made me sad about this is that she was so afraid to mention her concerns to anyone. Again, the stigma against mental illness rears its ugly head.

This book was very well-written, but I would never be able to reread it. And, honestly, I felt that the ending diminished the rest of the book a bit. It felt out of place and took me me out of the story. However, the author wrote a compelling story, even though it was most definitely a harsher one.

If you struggle with suicidal ideation, I strongly suggest you skip this book. It is a good one, but ultimately it wasn’t for me.

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

Image result for the last smile in sunder city
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.

Blood of the Fae by Tom Mohan

Image result for blood of the fae by tom mohan                                Liza McCarthy has never known the love she so desperately craves. The illegitimate child of a broken marriage, the identity of her father and her heritage are a well-kept secret. When she receives a call from a mysterious woman claiming her life is in danger, she manages to flee just before two men break into her home.

She soon finds herself in the tiny midwestern town of Halden’s Mill. There she is taken in by the Finns, a mysterious family who claim to guard the entrance to the fabled land of the faerie.

Liza is slowly drawn into a world of monsters, dark magic and a host of peculiar townsfolk. Now she must rethink everything she’s ever known and seek her destiny before two worlds collide with a force that could mean the end of the human race. (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’m rather apathetic about this book, to be honest. The description immediately interested me: weird doings in a weird town? Talk of the fae? I’m down. However, the book didn’t really go anywhere.

I spent this first third of the book really confused. Things seemed very choppy to me. I couldn’t connect with Liza at all. For example: at the beginning she gets a call to an unplugged landline phone where a stranger predicts a break-in and leads her out of the house safely. It’s all very Matrix. But Liza spends much less time being completely weirded out than I could believe. Another thing that felt odd, is that there didn’t seem to be a sense of urgency at all. I couldn’t bring myself to care about any of the characters or what happened to them.

That’s not to say the book didn’t have its strengths. I liked the darker tones throughout the book, and it seemed that the storyline was always on the verge of going somewhere really cool. Unfortunately, it just didn’t seem to get there.

Ultimately, this book wasn’t for me.

The Royal Gift: 2019 Two Giftens Edition by Drae Box- ARC Review


                  Five days to save him.

Five days to find a thief, rescue her village’s one line of defence – a magic dagger – and return home. Could Aldora do it? She didn’t know the first thing about tracking a thief, and barely knew any of the kingdom’s geography.

Accompanied by a talking Prince of the Cats and a law enforcing soldier that’s a trouble magnet, Aldora’s future is forever changed. (taken from Amazon)

I received this book from Netgalley in exchange for my honest opinion. This book is available now.

This was an interesting experience for me. I did not care for it myself, but I think that the author will improve and the next endeavor might be really good. The ideas were creative, but the execution needed a little work.

First of all, the reader is dropped right into the middle of the story without any setup or explanation. I was actually confused enough to wonder if I’d missed a previous book that explained everything. While it does clear up as time goes on, it was a very disconcerting start.

I did appreciate the uniqueness of the book. The Prince of Cats was a fun character, although, like the others, he needed more development. It felt as though I was reading a first or second draft and not the finished book.

That being said, the premise is interesting, but the end product needs tweaking. I didn’t hate the book, but it wasn’t for me.

Have you read it? 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.

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.