Showing posts with label Review. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Review. Show all posts

Friday, July 24, 2020

ARC Review: Deal with the Devil by Kit Rocha

40078832. sy475 Title: Deal With The Devil
Series: Mercenary Librarians #1
Author: Kit Rocha
Source/Format: Bookish First; Bound ARC
More Details: Science Fiction; Romance
Publisher/Publication Date: Tor Books; July 27, 2020

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Synopsis from Goodreads...
Orphan Black meets the post-apocalyptic Avengers in the vein of Ilona Andrews’ Hidden Legacy series by USA Today and New York Times bestselling author duo Kit Rocha 
The United States went belly up 45 years ago when our power grid was wiped out. Too few live in well-protected isolation while the rest of us scrape by on the margins. The only thing that matters is survival. By any means. At any cost. Nina is an information broker with a mission: to bring hope to the darkest corners of Atlanta. She and her team of mercenary librarians use their knowledge to help those in need. But altruism doesn’t pay the bills—raiding vaults and collecting sensitive data is where the real money is. Knox is a bitter, battle-weary supersoldier who leads the Silver Devils, an elite strike squad that chose to go AWOL rather than slaughter innocents. Before the Devils leave town for good, they need a biochem hacker to stabilize the experimental implants that grant their superhuman abilities. The problem? Their hacker’s been kidnapped. And the ransom for her return is Nina. Knox has the perfect bait for a perfect trap: a lost Library of Congress server. The data could set Nina and her team up for years... If they live that long.
Deal With The Devil is the first book I’ve read by Kit Rocha. It was one of my most anticipated books of the year, and it was a wild, action-packed dystopian novel. There were plenty of science fiction nuggets packed into this book too, including enhanced super soldiers, clones, and corporations that were up to some not so good things. It was dark and gritty story with hints of romance, set against the backdrop of a devastated and crumbling version of the US.

For starters, I enjoyed the world building in this story. Rocha did an excellent job of quickly establishing the rules of the world, while also maintaining a consistent level of ruin and corruption scattered throughout every part of the setting. Even the first chapter established how cutthroat and unforgiving society had become since an incident called the Flares, and the details about how certain areas were rebuilt and governed were also quite interesting.

In general, the story was a good one. There was a good deal of travel going on. That being said, the action started basically immediately, and there was a bit of a mystery about who had kidnapped the Silver Devils’ hacker. Needless to say, I was hooked from start to finish.

Another part of the reason why I enjoyed Deal With The Devil so much was because of the characters. The characters were personable. Nina was a standout in the story. I enjoyed the chapters from her perspective, and a highlight of the story was the dynamic between Nina, Maya, and Dani. They each brought a skill to the table, and honestly I just liked the friendship and camaraderie between the three of them. I also enjoyed the chapters from the POVs of the secondary characters. It offered a different perspective to the events of the story, and gave those characters a moment of much needed development outside of Nina and Knox’s perspectives.

Deal With The Devil proved to be an excellent start to the Mercenary Librarians series. I’m excited to see what Kit Rocha has in-store for the next book.

About the author...

Kit Rocha is the pseudonym if author duo/cowriting team Donna Herren (@totallydonna) and Bree Bridges (@mostlybree). They are best known for their gritty and sexy dystopian Beyond series. Bree and Donna met while writing X-Men fanfic in 200, which is the best meet-cute in history for writing BFFs and coauthors, and have been penning original work since 2007. They currently live three miles apart in Alabama and spend their nonwriting time caring for a menagerie of animals and crafting handmade jewelry, all of which is chronicled on their various social media accounts....

Disclaimer: this copy of the book was provided by the publisher (Tor Books) via BookishFirst for this review, thank you!

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

ARC Review: Axiom's End by Lindsay Ellis

51171377Title: Axiom's End
Series: n/a
Author: Lindsay Ellis
Source/Format: Publisher via Netgalley; eARC 
More Details: Science Fiction
Publisher/Publication Date: St. Martin's Press; July 21, 2020

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Synopsis from Goodreads...
An extraordinary debut from Hugo finalist and video essayist Lindsay Ellis... 
Truth is a human right... 
It’s fall 2007. A well-timed leak has revealed that the US government might have engaged in first contact. Cora Sabino is doing everything she can to avoid the whole mess, since the force driving the controversy is her whistleblower father. Even though Cora hasn’t spoken to him in years, his celebrity has caught the attention of the press, the Internet, the paparazzi, and the government—and with him in hiding, that attention is on her. She neither knows nor cares whether her father’s leaks are a hoax, and wants nothing to do with him—until she learns just how deeply entrenched her family is in the cover-up, and that an extraterrestrial presence has been on Earth for decades. Realizing the extent to which both she and the public have been lied to, she sets out to gather as much information as she can, and finds that the best way for her to uncover the truth is not as a whistleblower, but as an intermediary. The alien presence has been completely uncommunicative until she convinces one of them that she can act as their interpreter, becoming the first and only human vessel of communication. Their otherworldly connection will change everything she thought she knew about being human—and could unleash a force more sinister than she ever imagined.
Axiom’s End is not the first book about first-contact that I’ve read, and it won’t be the last. It was one of my most anticipated releases of 2020—so my expectations were on the higher side. The story had a lot of promise in its premise from the beginning, and I ended up having an inordinate amount of fun reading this novel. Plus I thoroughly liked Ellis's take on first-contact.

Axiom’s End was good. It deals with first contact alongside an alternative and politically tumultuous version of 2007, where a memo about aliens gets leaked to the public. During the ensuing fallout is where the story begins and where the main character, Cora was introduced. From the start, the premise was a pretty exciting one, and I thought the author did a good job with developing the different parts of the story. In particular, I liked the details about Cora’s connection to the memo—through her estranged father—because it added tension to the earlier parts of the story even before aliens got involved. It also added a personal edge to the conflict, and I thought it presented an interesting contrast between Cora and other characters in the story—particularly for those who weren’t her family members—and how different their reactions to the memo were.

I also enjoyed Ellis’s take on aliens. The ones features in the story were kind of cool to say the least, and they were by far one of my favorite aspects about Axiom’s End. Since Cora becomes an interpreter for one of the aliens, there were plenty of details about them—such as how they looked, some of their societal norms, the reason why they were there, and their technological advancements. It was an interesting bit of world building that fleshed-out the aliens.

Cora was a pretty entertaining protagonist, and I enjoyed reading from her perspective. I liked how the author approached her character, including her conflicted feelings about the aliens as well as her father. It grounded her character amongst the extraordinary circumstances of the story. It was also an interesting emotional contrast, with the fear, confusion, and determination she experienced throughout much of the story. I did enjoy the few scenes Cora had with her other family members though, particularly with her aunt. Cora’s father was a different story. Some of his tactics and writings leaned more towards manipulative, and it was clear where his concern was focused.

Overall, I enjoyed Axiom’s End. There was a lot to like about the story, and the end wrapped up the plot in a satisfying way. I will definitely check out more work by this author in the future. Have you read Axiom’s End? Do you plan on reading it?

About the author...

LINDSAY ELLIS is an author, Hugo finalist and video essayist who creates online content about media, narrative, and film theory. After earning her bachelor's in Cinema Studies from NYU's Tisch School of the Arts, she earned her MFA in Film and Television Production from USC's School of Cinematic Arts with a focus in documentary and screenwriting. She lives in Long Beach, California, and Axiom's End is her debut novel.

Disclaimer: this copy of the book was provided by St. Martin's Press (publisher) via netgalley for this review, thank you!

Tuesday, July 7, 2020

ARC Review: Haunted Heroine by Sarah Kuhn

40740848Title: Haunted Heroine
Series: Heroine Complex #4
Author: Sarah Kuhn
Source/Format: Netgalley (Publisher); eARC
More Details: Urban Fantasy
Publisher/Publication Date: DAW Books; July 7, 2020

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Synopsis from Goodreads...
The fourth book in the smart, snarky, and action-packed Heroine series follows Evie Tanaka, Aveda Jupiter, and Bea Tanaka as they combat a new supernatural threat. 
Everything in Evie Tanaka's life is finally perfect. As a badass superheroine, she defends San Francisco from demon invasion on the regular. Her relationships with superhero partner Aveda Jupiter, little sister Bea, and hot, half-demon husband Nate have never been stronger. Maybe it's possible for a grad school dropout turned put-upon personal assistant turned superhero to have it all? As if things can't get any better, Evie learns she's pregnant. She's overjoyed, but also worried about whether she's cut out for motherhood. Before she can dwell on her dilemma too much, a women's college reports a string of mysterious "hauntings," and Evie and Aveda are called in to investigate. When the hauntings turn deadly, they decide to move into the dorms full-time, going undercover as grad students. As she lives out a bizarre version of her grad school life, Evie can't help but wonder about the road not taken: what would her life be like if she'd stayed here instead of pursuing superheroing with Aveda?
If there was ever a series that needed more books, it was this one. I was excited when Haunted Heroine got announced, and now that I’ve read it I can say for certain that the excitement was well deserved. Haunted Heroine was a fantastic addition to the Heroine Complex series. It was an excellent continuation for the characters of the series—and as they embarked on the next chapter in their story, they were literally and figuratively being haunted by things from the past and present. With this kind of story, it was an emotional rollercoaster from start to finish, and I was rooting for the characters every step of the way.

Haunted Heroine is told from the perspective of Evie Tanaka, one of my favorite characters. Her POV is what introduced the series, and her perspective was just as delightful to read from as the first time around, in Heroine Complex. While the beginning was looking at her future—with her husband, Nate, and her pregnancy—much of the story explored Evie’s past. That also included an old relationship that has haunted (no pun intended) Evie in previous books in the series. It had affected her relationships with others, as well as how she saw herself. So it was great to see it finally addressed. Plus Kuhn’s handling of the emotional side of the character arcs was fantastic. It was one of my favorite aspects about the story, and I felt like a lot of the lingering plot threads from previous stories reached a satisfying resolution.

It was also great to see how the other characters in the series were adjusting to changes in their lives/ what they were currently doing after the end of the third book—including Evie’s younger sister, Bea, Aveda, and everyone else. Evie and Aveda’s friendship has always been one of the highlights of the series, even with the ups and downs. I liked how they were both still working on their friendship, but there was never a doubt that there was a bond there.

Overall, I liked Haunted Heroine’s story. It took place in October, and the setting—Morgan College—was different from the more familiar urban city setting of San Francisco. The grounds of the college afforded for something of a spooky atmosphere, and it was a perfect place for the latest mystery to play out.

Haunted Heroine is one of the best books I’ve read so far this year. If you’re a fan of this series, then this one should be on your TBR list.
About the author....

Sarah Kuhn is the author of the popular Heroine Complex novels—a series starring Asian American superheroines. The first book is a Locus bestseller, an RT Reviewers’ Choice Award nominee, and one of the Barnes & Noble Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog’s Best Books of 2016. Her YA debut, the Japan-set romantic comedy I Love You So Mochi, is a Junior Library Guild selection and a nominee for YALSA’s Best Fiction for Young Adults. She has also penned a variety of short fiction and comics, and her hotly anticipated graphic novel Shadow of the Batgirl is coming out in early 2020 from DC Comics. Additionally, she was a finalist for both the CAPE (Coalition of Asian Pacifics in Entertainment) New Writers Award and the Astounding Award for Best New Writer. A third generation Japanese American, she lives in Los Angeles with her husband and an overflowing closet of vintage treasures.
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Disclaimer: This copy of the book was provided by the publisher (DAW Books) via netgalley for this review, thank you!

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Review: The Case Study of Vanitas Volume #3 by Jun Mochizuki

35181843. sy475 Title: The Case Study of Vanitas
Series: The Case Study of Vanitas #3
Author: Jun Mochizuki 
Source/Format: Christmas gift; Paperback
More Details: Fantasy 
Publisher/Publication Date: Yen Press; November 14, 2017

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Synopsis from Goodreads...
The masked ball has ended, but the music plays on. As Noe and Vanitas return disgraced from Altus, the curtain rises on a new battle. News of kidnapped curse-bearers sends the pair to the catacombs beneath the streets of Paris, where a melody of intrigue echoes and a superhuman foe awaits! Humans or vampires: Who will be the hunter, and who the hunted?

**note: there are potential spoilers for volume 1-2, you’ve been warned…**
It’s been a minute since I last read one of the volumes in this series, and I was eager to pick it up again. Volume 3 starts with the end of the masquerade arc, and Mochizuki wasted no time in reminding readers that the story is being narrated by Noe. He’s the only character whose thoughts are ever really seen, and it’s clear that the events so far have already happened and are just being recounted. It is called The Case Study of Vanitas. However, the expressions of the characters in the story presently being shown, are telling enough. Besides it’s still an interesting story regardless.

I’m really into this series so far. With each volume, it seems like the story and the characters get a little more complex as more of the world is slowly revealed. For instance, the “Babel Incident,” keeps coming up. Like with everything else about the series so far, I feel like there’s more to the story than what’s currently being said. The same could be said about the characters. The motivation behind Vanitas’s actions remains pretty murky at this point. However, I do like his interactions with Noe. The two can at times act as a foil to each other, especially when their personalities lead to clashes.

I also enjoyed the part of the story that was spent in Altus, which is still one of my favorite locations in this series so far. Plus a little more of the vampire politics was discussed before the story moved on. Even though there were plenty of revelations and plot twists here, I still have a lot of questions regarding the truth of the situation with the curse-bearers.

Speaking of vampires, I continue to be fan of how they’re portrayed in The Case Study of Vanitas. Part of that is due to how powers are set up in this series. The action sequences are always great, and the art is consistently gorgeous. There was also, finally, a conflict where the world formula revisions were directly shown for more than a few panels (and by characters other than Vanitas). The uses seem to vary—like the ability of The Book of Vanitas, and how some vampires can create fire and others can create ice.

Volume 3 is also the beginning of the next arc, and it gets off to an exciting start. The Chasseurs (vampire hunters) were finally introduced in this volume, and I’m excited to see where that part of the story goes.

All-in-all, I’m having a lot of fun reading this series.

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Review: Ghost Squad by Claribel A. Ortega

43319573Title: Ghost Squad
Series: n/a
Author: Claribel A. Ortega
Source/Format: Purchased; Hardcover
More Details: Middle Grade; Fantasy; Supernatural
Publisher/Publication Date: Scholastic Press; April 7, 2020

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Synopsis from Goodreads...
Coco meets Stranger Things with a hint of Ghostbusters in this action-packed supernatural fantasy.... For Lucely Luna, ghosts are more than just the family business. 
Shortly before Halloween, Lucely and her best friend, Syd, cast a spell that accidentally awakens malicious spirits, wreaking havoc throughout St. Augustine. Together, they must join forces with Syd's witch grandmother, Babette, and her tubby tabby, Chunk, to fight the haunting head-on and reverse the curse to save the town and Lucely's firefly spirits before it's too late. With the family dynamics of Coco and action-packed adventure of Ghostbusters, Claribel A. Ortega delivers both a thrillingly spooky and delightfully sweet debut novel.
I don’t know what it is with this trend of middle grade ghost stories, but I’ll take it. Ghost Squad, is just the latest book I’ve read that falls in line with this pattern, and I had a lot of fun reading this story.

Ghost Squad had a lot going for it. I like ghost stories, especially ones that are set during October, which is one of my favorite times of the year. From the start, I enjoyed Ortega’s take on ghosts and magic. There were a number of spooky and heartwarming moments in the story. The latter was particularly evident at the beginning with instances between the main character, Lucely Luna, her father, and the ghost (fireflies) of past relatives. The ghosts were fantastic. Their portrayal is one of the best I’ve read in middle grade fiction. I liked how there was a mixture of them with some of them being spooky/creepy while others were seemingly made of light. So Ortega did an excellent job of developing the magical aspects of the story.

I also enjoyed how the message and themes were explored in the book. Part of that was through Lucely’s connection to her family and friends. The portrayal of the platonic and familial bonds in Ghost Squad was not only excellent but they were also one of the highlights of the story. The same could be said about the rest of the colorful cast of characters. I really loved the friendship between Lucely and Syd. And among my top-favorite characters was Babette, Syd’s grandmother. She was such a fantastic character. She was stylish, and her personality was great. She and her cats—all named after characters from the Goonies—were entertaining. I also loved Lucely’s ghost relatives. They were wonderful characters.

As for the story, I liked it. There were a number of pop culture references, such as mention of characters from the Goonies.

I really enjoyed the book, and I will be looking forward to what Ortega writes next. As for recommendations, Ghost Squad is perfect for fans of The Forgotten Girl by India Hill Brown as well as Small Spaces and Dead Voices by Katherine Arden. But really, if you’re looking for a ghost story, then I’d recommend giving this one a try anyway.

Friday, May 29, 2020

Short Stories I Read In April

Today, I’m here to talk about the short stories, miscellaneous posts, and podcast episodes I read and or listened to in April.

Go Fish by Ian Rogers (, April 15, 2020)

One of the first short stories I read in April was Go Fish by Ian Rogers. It was a pretty entertaining story. At times, it was spine-tinglingly scary. It also read like an episode of Xfiles. Instead of extraterrestrials though, there were ghosts and a number of paranormal and horror elements.

An Explorer’s Cartography of Already Settled Lands by Fran Wilde (, April 22, 2020)

This story was the first one I’ve read by Fran Wilde. It was about a navigator who was mapping a landscape that was already inhabited. This story was an absolute treat. It was enthralling, somewhat haunting, and atmospheric. The Navigator’s perspective was fascinating, and I enjoyed the different sections of the story where each “map”—or landscape/people—were described. This one was all around an enjoyable story.

From around the web…

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Review: All Systems Red by Martha Wells

32758901. sy475 Title: All Systems Red
Series: The Murderbot Diaries #1
Author: Martha Wells
Source/Format: Tor ebook club freebie; ebook
More Details: Science Fiction
Publisher/Publication Date:; May 2, 2017

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Synopsis from Goodreads...
In a corporate-dominated spacefaring future, planetary missions must be approved and supplied by the Company. Exploratory teams are accompanied by Company-supplied security androids, for their own safety. But in a society where contracts are awarded to the lowest bidder, safety isn’t a primary concern. On a distant planet, a team of scientists are conducting surface tests, shadowed by their Company-supplied ‘droid — a self-aware SecUnit that has hacked its own governor module, and refers to itself (though never out loud) as “Murderbot.” Scornful of humans, all it really wants is to be left alone long enough to figure out who it is. But when a neighboring mission goes dark, it's up to the scientists and their Murderbot to get to the truth...
All Systems Red is a novella I’ve been hearing about for a while, and it’s been on my TBR list for just as long. I finally decided to pick it up again. All Systems Red is the first book I’ve read by Martha Wells, and in general I enjoyed my initial introduction to the Murderbot Diaries. The story was good, and due to its length it was very fast paced with plenty of action and even a hint of mystery. The Murderbot’s perspective was fun to read from, due in part to its personality quirks—such as its habit of preferring entertainment to doing its job. Considering that it was a SecUnit—and thus a standard part of planetary missions in All Systems Red—its commentary about itself and the corporate-domination of exploration was one of my favorite aspects about the story. The setting was also interesting. Given that Murderbot plus its clients were on a remote planet to study it, the different environments—and the flora and fauna found there—were described in detail. Wells has created a highly entertaining story and world in All Systems Red. The ending left off in a place that was satisfying. However, it also left room for more stories. So I’m going to eventually get around to the next books in the series.      

Wednesday, May 6, 2020

Review: The Night Country by Melissa Albert

43565384Title: The Night Country
Series: The Hazel Wood #2
Author: Melissa Albert
Source/Format: Borrowed from the library; Hardcover
More Details: Fantasy; Young Adult
Publisher/Publication Date: Flatiron Books; January 7, 2020

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Synopsis from Goodreads...
The highly anticipated sequel to Melissa Albert’s beloved, New York Times bestselling debut The Hazel Wood! 
In The Night Country, Alice Proserpine dives back into a menacing, mesmerizing world of dark fairy tales and hidden doors. Follow her and Ellery Finch as they learn The Hazel Wood was just the beginning, and that worlds die not with a whimper, but a bang. With Finch’s help, Alice escaped the Hinterland and her reclusive grandmother’s dark legacy. Now she and the rest of the dregs of the fairy tale world have washed up in New York City, where Alice is trying to make a new, unmagical life. But something is stalking the Hinterland’s survivors―and she suspects their deaths may have a darker purpose. Meanwhile, in the winking out world of the Hinterland, Finch seeks his own adventure, and―if he can find it―a way back home...
Earlier this year, I finally finished reading The Hazel Wood. Since then, The Night Country was one of the 2020 sequels I was excited to pick up. The Night Country was an excellent sequel. I enjoyed it more than the first book. I loved the development the characters went through as well as the return to the colorful, strange, and terrifying world of the Hinterland.

From here on out, there may be spoilers for The Hazel Wood. So if you haven’t read it, click away from this post. You have been warned. :-)

Alice Proserpine thought she was done with the Hazel Wood and the Hinterland since she escaped her story at the end of the first book. However nothing was as it seemed, and the mystery of the ultimate fate of the Hinterland and the enigmatic and malevolent Spinner brought trouble right back into Alice’s life. Alice’s character arc was great. It was one of my favorite aspects about The Night Country. I liked how Albert dealt with Alice’s transition from story to ex-story and addressed her conflicting emotions about everything that had happened to her while also exploring the platonic and romantic relationships in her life.

Most of the story was told by Alice, but I didn’t mind the dual perspectives. It was interesting to see what was going on from Ellery Finch’s perspective. Since he had stayed in the Hinterland, his side of the story was filled with magic. It was a nice temporary break from the urban setting, and it bridged the two halves of the story before they were ultimately brought together. I was all for the trippy-magical landscapes, and all the dangers they presented.

The Night Country was pretty dark at times, just like most of the fairy tale themes common throughout this series. There’s no better example of that than the stories that made up the Hinterland.

Another great part of the book was the mystery surrounding the deaths of the people from the Hinterland. It was a solid mystery, and there were plenty of twists to keep the story moving.

The Night Country was an atmospheric read, and I was drawn in by the story from the beginning. The ending was full of possibilities, and it left Alice and Ellery’s story in a much more satisfying place. Plus I liked how everything that happened to places and people who weren’t the main characters wasn’t magically fixed in the end. It drove-home how the magic in the book had consequences.

Ultimately, The Night Country turned out to be an excellent sequel that answered most of the questions I had about the end of The Hazel Wood. Now, I just have to wait for Tales of the Hinterland to be released.

Have you read The Hazel Wood or The Night Country?

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Short Stories I Read In March

Last month, I realized that I never actually talked about any of the short stories I’ve read. There is no shortage of good short fiction out there, and today I’m here talk about the stories (and other miscellaneous articles) I read in March. 

**Note: the titles are linked to the respective stories**

La Bête by Leah Bobet (Strange Horizons, Issue: 9 March 2020) 

I always love a good story about a house. Especially when the place seems to be a character of its own, described in vivid detail, with mysterious rooms and equally enigmatic doors. La Bête by Leah Bobet checked all of those boxes. It had a little bit of a mystery, and the château had a very gothic feel to it. The story itself was a little eerie and haunting, and I found that it was extremely easy to get lost in it from beginning to end. All-in-all, La Bête was a great read.

The Touch Pool by Lisa Nan Joo (Strange Horizons, Issue: 16 March 2020)

The next story I read was The Touch Pool by Lisa Nan Joo. Oh gosh, how do I describe this one? To begin with, I loved it. Joo’s language is engaging and vivid in its imagery. The story was told in alternating pieces split between a present that was near the past—which was revealed over the course of the story. There were themes of love, loss, and letting go intertwined with descriptions of a house and land that, over time, was steadily being consumed by the sea. At times, The Touch Pool could be a little eerie and surreal, but it was an experience and an excellent read.

A Series of Steaks by Vina Jie-Min Prasad (Clarkesworld, Issue 124, January 2017)

I also reread one of my favorite short stories: A Series of Steaks by Vina Jie-Min Prasad. It came out a few years ago, and it left a lasting impression. It has such an interesting premise too, with a forger who creates counterfeits of pricey cuts of meat. It was a fascinating choice considering that the counterfeit products weren’t something that lasted for long, or even stuck around after dinner.

From Around the Web...

So those were the stories I read last month. Now here are a couple of other miscellaneous articles I read in March.

Friday, April 24, 2020

ARC Review: Heiress for Hire by Madeline Hunter

51054407. sx318 sy475 Title: Heiress for Hire
Series: Duke's Heiresses #1
Author: Madeline Hunter
Source/Format: Netgalley (publisher); eARC
More Details: Historical Romance
Publisher/Publication Date: Zebra Books; April 28, 2020

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Synopsis from Goodreads...
In this stunning series debut from New York Times bestselling author Madeline Hunter, a duke's mysterious bequest brings fortune—and passion—to three young women... 
Minerva Hepplewhite has learned the hard way how to take care of herself. When an intruder breaks into her home, she doesn't swoon or simper. Instead, she wallops the rogue over the head and ties him up—only to realize he is Chase Radnor, the man who nearly got her convicted of her late husband's murder. Now, he's insisting that Minerva has inherited a fortune from his uncle, a wealthy Duke. Only one thing could surprise her more: her sudden attraction to this exasperating man. Chase can't decide whether Minerva is a wronged woman or a femme fatale. Either way, he's intrigued. Since the scandal surrounding her husband's death, she has set up a discreet detective business to rival Chase's own. She may be the perfect person to help him uncover the truth about his uncle's demise. But as proximity gives way to mutual seduction, Chase realizes he craves a much deeper alliance...
It has been some time since I last picked up a historical romance. I read an excerpt for Heiress for Hire and was immediately intrigued. The dynamic between the two main characters, Chase Radnor and Minerva Hepplewhite, was as interesting as the circumstances that brought them together in the first place. With romance and hints of mystery, Heiress for Hire was a very entertaining read.

In general, I liked the story. I know Heiress for Hire is a historical romance—so the development of the relationship comes before all—and that aspect of the story was good. However, I was also here for the mystery. So many different possibilities were presented within the first couple of pages. Such as the mystery surrounding just why Minerva received a fortune from a person she never met and what really happened to said person. I enjoyed all of the investigative parts. Plus the mystery was a great way to get the characters together on page, and it kept a consistent pattern of interaction between them throughout the entire story. It was pretty great.

The characters were all great. In particular, Chase’s family was a definite highlight. They were a bickering bunch, but very entertaining to read about.

As for the romance, I thought it was good. I liked it because of the conversations between Minerva and Chase, and I liked how good of a team they made—even though they were reluctant to share information at times. They were a great duo, and the moments when they put their heads together were some of my favorites from the book.

I enjoyed Heiress for Hire. The ending, while satisfying, left several parts of the plot mostly unresolved. So, I’m looking forward to what Hunter has in store for this series.
About the Author...

Madeline Hunter is a nationally bestselling author of historical romances who lives in Pennsylvania with her husband and two sons. Her books have won two RITA awards and seven nominations, and have had three starred reviews in Publishers Weekly. In a parallel existence to the one she enjoys as a novelist, Madeline has a Ph.D. in art history and teaches at an East Coast university.

Disclaimer: This copy of the book was provided by the publisher (Zebra Books) via Netgalley, thank you!

Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Review: Come Tumbling Down by Seanan McGuire

44804083Title: Come Tumbling Down
Series: Wayward Children series #5
Author: Seanan McGuire
Source/Format: Borrowed from the library; Hardback
More Details: Fantasy
Publisher/Publication Date: Tor.Com; January 7, 2020

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Synopsis from Goodreads...
The fifth installment in Seanan McGuire's award-winning, bestselling Wayward Children series, Come Tumbling Down picks up the threads left dangling by Every Heart a Doorway and Down Among the Sticks and Bones 
When Jack left Eleanor West's School for Wayward Children she was carrying the body of her deliciously deranged sister--whom she had recently murdered in a fit of righteous justice--back to their home on the Moors. But death in their adopted world isn't always as permanent as it is here, and when Jack is herself carried back into the school, it becomes clear that something has happened to her. Something terrible. Something of which only the maddest of scientists could conceive. Something only her friends are equipped to help her overcome. Eleanor West's "No Quests" rule is about to be broken. Again...
**There are possible spoilers for the first four books in the Wayward Children series in this review. You have been warned…. **

Come Tumbling Down is a slight departure from some of the more hopeful themes of the Wayward Children series. But then again, nothing about Jack and Jill’s story has been anything but a dark trek through the Moors. Even so, Come Tumbling Down was one of the darker installments of the series. It also featured my favorite group of characters and setting from this series, and the overall story was good.

Jack Wolcott has always been one of my favorite characters. With each of her appearances throughout this series, she has always stood out. Even after her appearances in Every Heart A Doorway and Down Among the Sticks and Bones, there was always one lingering question left: What happened to Jack and Jill once they returned to the Moors? Come Tumbling Down firmly answered that question.

As I mentioned above, I liked the story. It was as fast-paced as the others in the series, and the ending left Jack’s story in a much more satisfying—and bittersweet—place. I also enjoyed seeing more of the Moors again. The setting—which is a prominent part of Down Among the Sticks and Bones—was expanded beyond the windmill and the town, most prominently by a couple of new locations.

Come Tumbling Down is one of my favorite sequel stories from the Wayward Children series to date. I’m already looking forward to the next book, Across the Green Grass Fields.

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Review:The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert

34275232. sy475 Title: The Hazel Wood
Series: The Hazel Wood #1
Author: Melissa Albert
Source/Format: Won in a giveaway; Paperback
More Details: Young Adult; Fantasy
Publisher/Publication Date: Flatiron Books; January 30, 2018

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Synopsis from Goodreads...
Seventeen-year-old Alice and her mother have spent most of Alice’s life on the road, always a step ahead of the uncanny bad luck biting at their heels. But when Alice’s grandmother, the reclusive author of a cult-classic book of pitch-dark fairy tales, dies alone on her estate, the Hazel Wood, Alice learns how bad her luck can really get: her mother is stolen away―by a figure who claims to come from the Hinterland, the cruel supernatural world where her grandmother's stories are set. Alice's only lead is the message her mother left behind: “Stay away from the Hazel Wood.” 
Alice has long steered clear of her grandmother’s cultish fans. But now she has no choice but to ally with classmate Ellery Finch, a Hinterland superfan who may have his own reasons for wanting to help her. To retrieve her mother, Alice must venture first to the Hazel Wood, then into the world where her grandmother's tales began―and where she might find out how her own story went so wrong.
This is the second time I’ve picked up The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert. The first time around, I wasn’t feeling it. However, I was in the mood for something with a fairy-tale atmosphere to it, and I decided to give this book another try.

The Hazel Wood was good. I liked it. I still encountered some of the same issues I had the first time around. Like the opening chapters, while interesting, weren’t my favorite part of the story—Alice Proserpine’s characterization and interactions with the characters around her somewhat contributed to that. That being said, once I got past the point that I originally stopped at, the story picked up some pace with the introduction of more of the fantastical elements. The “Tales from the Hinterland” and everything to do with it were among my favorite portions of The Hazel Wood. They were where the fairy-tale atmosphere and Alice shined the most—and the aspects about Alice that were sort of meh, made sense when put into context with the rest of the story. The Hazel Wood is, by no means, a light book. It deals with some of the darker aspects of fairy-tales, and that was true for most—if not all—of the Hinterland stories.

In general, the characters were interesting. Finch was probably my favorite character from The Hazel Wood, because I enjoyed his backstory and character arc the most.

Overall, I liked The Hazel Wood. The ending definitely left room for more possibilities, and since the sequel, The Night Country, is already out, I don’t have to wait to read it. Have you read The Hazel Wood? If so, what did you think about it?

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Review: The Forgotten Girl by India Hill Brown:

40110093. sy475 Title: The Forgotten Girl
Series: n/a
Author: India Hill Brown
Source/Format: Borrowed from the library; Hardcover
More Details: Middle Grade; Fantasy
Publisher/Publication Date: Scholastic; November 5, 2019

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Synopsis from Goodreads...
"Do you know what it feels like to be forgotten?" 
On a cold winter night, Iris and her best friend, Daniel, sneak into a clearing in the woods to play in the freshly fallen snow. There, Iris carefully makes a perfect snow angel - only to find the crumbling gravestone of a young girl, Avery Moore, right beneath her. Immediately, strange things start to happen to Iris: She begins having vivid nightmares. She wakes up to find her bedroom window wide open, letting in the snow. She thinks she sees the shadow of a girl lurking in the woods. And she feels the pull of the abandoned grave, calling her back to the clearing... Obsessed with figuring out what's going on, Iris and Daniel start to research the area for a school project. They discover that Avery's grave is actually part of a neglected and forgotten Black cemetery, dating back to a time when White and Black people were kept separate in life - and in death. As Iris and Daniel learn more about their town's past, they become determined to restore Avery's grave and finally have proper respect paid to Avery and the others buried there. But they have awakened a jealous and demanding ghost, one that's not satisfied with their plans for getting recognition. One that is searching for a best friend forever - no matter what the cost. The Forgotten Girl is both a spooky original ghost story and a timely and important storyline about reclaiming an abandoned segregated cemetery....
The Forgotten Girl is another one of the 2019 books I was looking forward to the most, and I have finally read it.

“Iris’s nightmares terrified her. Especially the ones when she couldn’t tell if she was dreaming or not.”—pg.1

The Forgotten Girl is a ghost story, a serious one that had just the right amount of horror (the ghost) where it was needed. It took the otherwise ordinary wintery setting and added a heightened sense of tension to the story. The supernatural elements were suitably creepy, and Iris’s fear was paramount in the later part of the story. Brown excels at writing compelling characters who would appeal to a wide audience. In that way, it reminded me of the Small Spaces series by Katherine Arden. In both stories, the issues in the plot felt local—especially how personal it was to the respective casts of characters. It was literally close-to-home. Plus the ghosts were written in such a vivid way that there were a number of truly terrifying instances.

The Forgotten Girl also drew upon the real history of segregated cemeteries, which is something I haven’t seen very often in a fictional story. So I liked the fact that it was incorporated into the story—there’s also an author’s note in the back of the book that further explains the inspiration behind The Forgotten Girl.

Overall, The Forgotten Girl was a quick read and an excellent ghost story. On a side note: I would definitely take a story about Iris’s mother, because that one offhanded comment got my interest.

Have you read The Forgotten Girl? Or what are some of your favorite ghost stories?

Friday, March 6, 2020

Review: The Case Study of Vanitas Volume 2 by Jun Mochizuki

32856005. sy475 Title: The Case Study of Vanitas
Series: The Case Study of Vanitas #2
Author: Jun Mochizuki
Source/Format: Gift; Paperback
More Details: Manga; Fantasy
Publisher/Publication Date: Yen Press; May 23, 2017

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Synopsis from Goodreads...
Now installed at a hotel in Paris with the help of Count Orlok, Noé and Vanitas take their awkward partnership on the a vampire masquerade ball! The order of the evening may be small talk and hobnobbing with fellow guests, but the mystery of the curse-bearers is never too far behind. The intrigue swirls as quickly as the dancers twirl, a blue moon ascends upon the guests...and all hell breaks loose!
Well…that escalated quickly. If you know anything about Pandora’s Hearts, there was tragedy all over the place in that series. Now, some of the darker themes of The Case Study of Vanitas are starting to show through. While the first volume was already exciting enough, it was more of an introduction to the story, characters, and world. While volume two, on the other hand, starts the next arc of the story. It also ramps up the action and world building as Noe and Vanitas take on more curse-bearers set against the dazzling backdrop of a masquerade ball.

So far, Mochizuki’s take on vampires is proving to be one of my favorites. They have some of the usual traits—super strength, immortality—but they don’t need to drink blood to live (it seems like more of an indulgence, so far) and they live in another world entirely. The artwork for Altus Paris was gorgeous. I loved the style of the city, and how different it was from the steampunk Paris the story began in—just by changing one aspect about the sky. I also liked the details about names. Names have meaning and importance. It comes up all the time in fiction, in particular fairy tales or stories based on them (think Spinning Silver, The Cruel Prince, and most stories involving fairies). Names, true names, have power in this story, and I was surprised at how closely linked it was to curse-bearers. I’m looking forward to seeing how that develops later on.

I also enjoyed how quickly volume 2 delved into talking more about the world, and mentioned some occurrence called Babel. I found this quote—“Babel really was an astounding incident, wasn’t it? Rewriting the principles of the world like that…”—pretty interesting since the magic-type system in this world is related to world formula revisions.

As for the events in this volume, it presented some interesting questions as to the source of curse-bearers themselves. It also fleshed-out the dynamic between the dual protagonist, and it directly showcased more of the vampire society/politics that were hinted about in the last volume. That also included the introduction of a few new characters.

With the way the twists keep coming, The Case Study of Vanitas is shaping up to be one of my favorite series. The current arc of the story isn’t over quite yet, and now more than ever I’m excited to read volume 3.
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