Pages

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

ARC Review - The Art of Theft by Sherry Thomas

The Art of Theft by Sherry Thomas
The Lady Sherlock series, book four
Published Oct 2019 by Berkley

Format Read: Print ARC provided by publisher for review

Description from Goodreads:
As "Sherlock Holmes, consulting detective," Charlotte Holmes has solved murders and found missing individuals. But she has never stolen a priceless artwork—or rather, made away with the secrets hidden behind a much-coveted canvas.

But Mrs. Watson is desperate to help her old friend recover those secrets and Charlotte finds herself involved in a fever-paced scheme to infiltrate a glamorous Yuletide ball where the painting is one handshake away from being sold and the secrets a bare breath from exposure.

Her dear friend Lord Ingram, her sister Livia, Livia's admirer Stephen Marbleton—everyone pitches in to help and everyone has a grand time. But nothing about this adventure is what it seems and disaster is biding time on the grounds of a glittering French chateau, waiting only for Charlotte to make a single mistake...

My Review: 
As some of you know I read a lot of cozy mysteries for both work and fun and I LOVE a good historical mystery. I'd been intrigued by this series for a while, after hearing amazing things about author Sherry Thomas's skill as a writer. I also love the imagined twist on the character Sherlock Holmes.  So, when given the opportunity to read The Art of Theft, I couldn't pass it up, even though it is book four in the series.  

As such, my review will be more of a teasing spotlight, as like I will recommend to you, I intend to go back and start this series properly with book one, A Study in Scarlet Women. The writing in this series is wonderful, full of rich historical detail, flirtations with "current events" of the time and character development that leaves no character as simply a caricature of themselves. The mystery unfolds well, and though I've heard it is not the most exciting in the series, I thoroughly enjoyed it.  I did feel as though I were missing pieces of the characters' interactions with each other, though, having not read the previous books. This is a series that truly should be read in order.  

So, book one is highly recommended for readers who enjoy a good historical mystery and like the idea of a female behind the incredible mind of the infamous Sherlock Holmes

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

2019 5 Star Review #14 - Thrall

Thrall by Carina Cook
Supernaturals of Las Vegas, book one
Published Jan 2018

Format Read: eBook I Own

Description from Goodreads:
Liss Lorensson is a thrall–born to be a servant of the vampire crown prince.

Gregor Valdemar is a vampire prince who chafes under the strict rule of his sire and longs for a different life.

When the two finally meet on Liss’s 21st birthday, sparks fly. But blood magic, murder, and political intrigue stand in the way of their growing romance.

My Review: 
Okay, upfront confession. I know (and am friends with) the author of this book.  However, when I say I gave this five stars it is in no way because of who wrote the book.  I love urban fantasy and paranormal romance and when I realized - and I did NOT realize this right away because I'm a dummy - that my YA author friend had branched out to adult UF/PR I was delighted to try her other books.  I LOVED the YA books she wrote (under her real name Carrie Harris) featuring a SMART girl protagonist and weird happenings, so I was pretty sure I'd like her other books, as well. 

Anyway, so I purchased the first book in her Supernaturals of Las Vegas series and dove in, emerging only once I'd finished it.  This was a consuming, quick, amazingly enjoyable read! I loved the main character, Liss, and her love interest, Gregor. They both felt real and relatable, even though they were a vampire and his thrall, so I shouldn't really have felt that way at all! LOL. The book was written in a way that divulged the necessary information to set up this world where vampires exist without taking away from the immediate storyline and romance.  

If you're a fan of books that take place in our world, but have vampires or any other "supernaturals" and you love action and romance, this would be a great series to check out.  I read the second book, as well, and even though I didn't love it quite as much - the standard was pretty high after book one! - I plan to continue on and read book three, as well. 


The Vanished Bride

The Vanished Bride by Bella Ellis
Bronte Sisters Mysteries, book one
Published Sept 2019 by Berkley Books

Physical book received in exhange for an honest review

Description from Goodreads:
Yorkshire, 1845. A young wife and mother has gone missing from her home, leaving behind two small children and a large pool of blood. Just a few miles away, a humble parson's daughters--the Brontë sisters--learn of the crime. Charlotte, Emily, and Anne Brontë are horrified and intrigued by the mysterious disappearance.

These three creative, energetic, and resourceful women quickly realize that they have all the skills required to make for excellent "lady detectors." Not yet published novelists, they have well-honed imaginations and are expert readers. And, as Charlotte remarks, "detecting is reading between the lines--it's seeing what is not there."

As they investigate, Charlotte, Emily, and Anne are confronted with a society that believes a woman's place is in the home, not scouring the countryside looking for clues. But nothing will stop the sisters from discovering what happened to the vanished bride, even as they find their own lives are in great peril...


My Review: 
As some of you may know, I read a lot of cozy mysteries. I lead the cozy mystery book club at my Library.  So, I was really excited when Berkley Books (Penguin Random House) offered to let me read this book as part of the release tour.  And while this book is truly a love letter to the Bronte sisters, the actual mystery itself was a little disappointing.

So, the positives - each Bronte sister has her own distinct personality and watching them interact was not only fun and interesting, it made me want to go research them more on my own.  The author is obviously very familiar with both their lives and their works.  Seeing the relationship they had with their father and brother was also illuminating.  I loved that these smart, independent women would be brave enough to go out "detecting."

What I didn't love, as I said, was the mystery itself.  It was messy. There were a lot of bits and pieces and while some of it seemingly tied into how the sisters developed their published works later, which was an intriguing concept, there was just too much going on sometimes.  That was what led to me pretty much losing interest in the mystery itself. I honestly didn't care by about two-thirds of the way into the book what had happened to the young bride who disappeared.  Which... was about when things circled back around and I figured out what happened before the sisters did.

So, overall, I was not really impressed with this book as a mystery per se.  I did, however, thoroughly enjoy it as a piece of fictionalized history focusing on three famous women authors.  I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys the Bronte sisters' works, but if you purely want a cozy mystery, sadly, this would not be at the top of my recommendation list. 

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

2019 5 Star Review #13 - Even White Trash Zombies Get the Blues

Even White Trash Zombies Get the Blues by Diana Rowland
White Trash Zombie, book two
Published July 2012 by DAW

Format Read: Audiobook I Own

Description from Goodreads:
Angel Crawford is finally starting to get used to life as a brain-eating zombie, but her problems are far from over. Her felony record is coming back to haunt her, more zombie hunters are popping up, and she’s beginning to wonder if her hunky cop-boyfriend is involved with the zombie mafia. Yeah, that’s right—the zombie mafia.

Throw in a secret lab and a lot of conspiracy, and Angel’s going to need all of her brainpower—and maybe a brain smoothie as well—in order to get through it without falling apart.

My Review: 
This series is funny and so very, surprisingly heartfelt. I originally picked up a book in the series (out of order) because I'd been assigned to review it. I'd seen the cover for the first one and thought it was amazing, but never got around to reading it.  Well, after I read one book in the series and LOVED it, I was good and hooked. I finally went back and started the series from the beginning and I'm now completely caught up and hoping there will be more books... 

Anyway, this is book two in the series and *spoiler alert* Angel is getting somewhat used to being a zombie.  Unfortunately, her new boyfriend may or may not be part of the Zombie Mafia, and there some other weird crap going on.  Needless to say, as a zombie book lover, this whole concept is great, but it's also AMAZING how Angel is like the worst human being, but grows to become such a stellar person...as a zombie.  There is a huge amount of character growth in each book and I love watching her come to stand on her own feet and kick some butt along the way. 

This book was funny and touching and I couldn't stop smiling as I hit the end of the book. I also immediately wanted to move onto book three. I'll also mention that I LOVE the narration of the audiobooks for this series.  The reader does an amazing job with accents and diction that gives very distinct tones to each character and makes the listening experience wild. As I said, I've now read all six books and not only do I want more, but I would happily re-listen to any book in this series if I had the free time. 

Monday, August 19, 2019

2019 5 Star Review #12 - Getting Hot with the Scot

Getting Hot with the Scot by Melonie Johnson
Sometimes in Love, book one
Published April 2019 by St. Martin's Press

Format Read: Physical Book I Own
(ARC won from Goodreads and then purchased own copy)

Description from Goodreads:
Cassie Crow, a pop-culture reporter for a TV talk show, is focused on becoming a “serious” journalist. But when she stumbles into a kilted Highlander with a killer accent, Cassie decides that taking one night off from work and spending it with a sexy Scot couldn’t hurt...

Logan Reid has built a career on his charm, hosting a series of off-the-wall hijinks on the Web. But when the Scottish prankster meets the all-American, equal parts intelligent and irresistible Cassie, Logan realizes that one night of fun won’t be enough. Could it be that this career-focused, commitment-phobic couple is finally ready to take a chance at true and lasting love? 

My Review: 
This was the delightful start to a hot, new romance series. While there are five best friends who take this once in a lifetime trip and I can definitely see how Johnson has arranged things so that each book in succession can address the relationship of one of the friends.  And yet, each book (so far, I've read the first two) while including the friends group, manages to focus solely on the relationship developing with the main character for the book. Very well done. 

I loved the way that this book introduced such a fun group of long-time friends, and I really loved Cassie's character.  She's driven and works her butt off to better her career.  And yet, she has close friends, and decides she wants a fling on the side, when she can get it.  The introduction of Cassie and Logan was hilarious, sweet, hot, and totally fraught with potential disaster!! The best kind of start to this type of contemporary romance.  Both Cassie and Logan distrust the relationship for their own reasons and watching the two of them overcome that was beautiful.  

The book was heartfelt and emotionally tense, but also fun and playful, and HOT. I tore through this book and loved every second of it.  I'm sooooooo glad this was a series starter. As I said, I've already read book two, as well, and while it wasn't the perfection of this book, it was darn close! I cannot wait to dive into book three. 

Highly recommended if you're looking for a fun romance that you can curl up and read in one or two sittings... plus did I mention the kilt??


Tuesday, August 13, 2019

2019 5 Star Review #11 - Morning Star

Morning Star by Pierce Brown
Red Rising trilogy, book three
Published Feb 2016 by Del Rey

Format Read: Audiobook I Own

*SPOILER WARNING*
Description from Goodreads:
Darrow would have lived in peace, but his enemies brought him war. The Gold overlords demanded his obedience, hanged his wife, and enslaved his people. But Darrow is determined to fight back. Risking everything to transform himself and breach Gold society, Darrow has battled to survive the cutthroat rivalries that breed Society’s mightiest warriors, climbed the ranks, and waited patiently to unleash the revolution that will tear the hierarchy apart from within.

Finally, the time has come.

But devotion to honor and hunger for vengeance run deep on both sides. Darrow and his comrades-in-arms face powerful enemies without scruple or mercy. Among them are some Darrow once considered friends. To win, Darrow will need to inspire those shackled in darkness to break their chains, unmake the world their cruel masters have built, and claim a destiny too long denied—and too glorious to surrender.

My Review: 
It's hard to write a review for book three in a trilogy without getting into spoilers, so I'm going to be somewhat brief.  This book, like all the other books in this series, is phenomenal. Brown is a master at weaving action, cunning politics, and brutal emotions into a storyline that just won't let the reader go.  This particular book had a lot of highs and lows and kept me on the edge through almost its entirety.  I've become so invested in these characters that their betrayals cut me to the bone, their deaths made me grieve, and the small joys they find had my heart singing.  The moments of triumph left me speechless in the best possible way.  I thought about this one for quite a while after I read it. It was the perfect end to the trilogy, but also I was super happy to know there are also more books going forward.  I highly recommend this series to adult science fiction fans, but with the caveat that there are language and brutally violent scenes so if you like the lighter-hearted variety (like Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy) this series is NOT the one for you... 

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

June and July Challenge Wrap Up Post

2019* Book I Already Own Challenge
So, here is my confession.  Work and life got a little crazy and I never realized that I did not post a June wrap up!! *sigh*  So, instead you are going to get two months worth of reading in one nifty little post and I'm going to try to keep up with things again! *fingers crossed*

Here's what I read in June/July:

Audiobooks I Own - June
Buried Heart by Kate Elliott
Arcana Rising by Kresley Cole
The Beholder by Anna Bright

Audiobooks I Own - July
Iron Gold by Pierce Brown
Even Tree Nymphs Get the Blues by Molly Harper (novella)
Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman
Spirit of the Witch by Deanna Chase
Scythe by Neal Shusterman *5 star*
A Local Habitation by Seanan McGuire
The Warlord Wants Forever by Kresley Cole (novella)

Physical Books I Own - June
A Heart so Fierce and Broken by Brigid Kemmerer *5 star*
The Falconer by Elizabeth May *5 star*
The Vanishing Throne by Elizabeth May *5 star*
The Fallen Kingdom by Elizabeth May *5 star*
Kingdom of Exiles by Maxym Martineau *5 star*
Day Zero by Kresley Cole (novella)

Physical Books I Own - July
In an Absent Dream by Seanan McGuire *5 star*
Protect the Prince by Jennifer Estep
Smitten by the Brit by Melonie Johnson
Ain't She a Peach by Molly Harper
The Magicians: Alice's Story by Lilah Sturges and Lev Grossman
Roar by Cara Carmack

eBooks I Own - June
A Stranger Thing by Isla Neal and Martin Leicht
The Year of Shadows by Claire Legrand

eBooks I Own - July 
Prey by Carina Cook
Loving My Pack by Lane Whitt
A Few Pecans Short of a Pie by Molly Harper

Required Reading 
(for work - June) Still Life by Louise Penny
(for review - July) The Bookish Life of Nina Hill by Abbi Waxman *5 star*
(for work - July) Lethal Licorice by Amanda Flower
(for review - July) Here There are Monsters by Amelinda Berube

Book Borrowed from the Library
Crazy Cupid Love by Amanda Heger

So, that's quite a few books over two months.  Thirty-two to be exact.  I'm not sure how I managed that with things being as busy as they were!! I will say that audio books have been a godsend for me this year. I can listen while doing chores, in the car, putting on my makeup, etc. It gains me a lot of reading time. I was also lucky enough to pick up a few books that were such page turners they turned out to be one-sitting books! I haven't had one of those in a while... 

In terms of my challenge, I didn't do too badly.  Not only did the majority I read come from my own collections, but I was happy to read a few of my oldest TBR books this summer! I finished a series that I'd been two-thirds of the way through for years. I reread the first book in a trilogy and then read both other books to finish the series. (And I LOVED them... OMG why did I not finish the Falconer series sooner???) I finally read Good Omens because the TV show came out and I refused to watch it without having read the book.  And while I did have one pretty disappointing read over the two months, I had EIGHT five star reads, which is awesome! 

I'm hoping now that things might be calming back down in work and life, that I can pick up on writing my five star book reviews, because I've fallen woefully behind... like months and months worth... *sigh* 

How has your summer reading been?


Monday, July 22, 2019

A Dark and Creepy Comparison - Here There Are Monsters vs. Never-Contented Things

How frustrating is it when you go into a book with high expectations and then find yourself utterly disappointed? How amazing is it when you start a book not really hoping to enjoy it and then find yourself immediately sucked in?

I had both of those experiences in the last few months and with two books that were seemingly similar and so I thought it would be fun to compare them.

Never-Contented Things
by Sarah Porter
The first book was Never-Contented Things by Sarah Porter. (Borrowed from my Local Library)

Prince and his fairy courtiers are staggeringly beautiful, unrelentingly cruel, and exhausted by the tedium of the centuries ― until they meet foster-siblings Josh and Ksenia. Drawn in by their vivid emotions, undying love for each other, and passion for life, Prince will stop at nothing to possess them.

First seduced and then entrapped by the fairies, Josh and Ksenia learn that the fairies' otherworldly gifts come at a terrible price ― and they must risk everything in order to reclaim their freedom.

I read this one back in April and marked it as a 2 star read.  I have to admit that I got sucked in by the premise and the stunningly creepy cover. I love dark fae stories so I thought this was going to be right up my alley... and it should have been.  All the elements were there.  Creepy, mean fae.  Humans making sacrifices to save themselves and each other. Walking between the realms.  BUT... although I loved the premise, something about the execution just didn't work for me.  Neither main character was totally likeable (in fact Josh was downright aggravating) but that can work if done well (think The Cruel Prince by Holly Black) and the Fae weren't very well fleshed out.  I was way more interested in the introspective journey Ksenia has to take that is largely self-directed, than the "punishments" or cruelties of the fae. I found myself anxious for the book to just BE OVER about two-thirds of the way through, and I powered through to the end since it was a shorter novel, but I didn't even find the end totally satisfying.  I'd had high hopes for this one and sadly the reality fell very short. 


Here There are Monsters
by Amelinda Berube
Book two was Here There Are Monsters by Amelinda Berube. (ARC received from Sourcebooks after the Book Expo - publishes on August 1, 2019)

I devoured this one last night.  I sat down to read at about 7:30 p.m. and finished it just before 10:30 p.m. A one-sitting read! I gave this book a 4.5 star rating.

Sixteen-year-old Skye is done playing the knight in shining armor for her insufferable younger sister, Deirdre. Moving across the country seems like the perfect chance to start over.

In their isolated new neighborhood, Skye manages to fit in, but Deirdre withdraws from everyone, becoming fixated on the swampy woods behind their house and building monstrous sculptures out of sticks and bones.

Then Deirdre disappears. And when something awful comes scratching at Skye's window in the middle of the night, claiming she's the only one who can save Deirdre, Skye knows she will stop at nothing to bring her sister home.

Now, this, THIS is what I'd been hoping for with the first book! This book held my attention from start to finish. It doled out backstory in dribs and drabs... just enough to keep whetting my appetite to read.  I felt sympathy for both Skye and Deirdre...until I didn't... and even then, I could feel how trapped they both felt.  This book explored their relationship to each other and everyone else in a brilliant way.  And this dark fantasy had the perfect blend of goose-bump inducing setting and creepy creatures that made me shiver.  

There was a gritty realism that I felt was missing in the first book, possibly because this one takes place in our world, while the other skips into a blend of ours and the fae, without truly committing to either.  The resolution of Here There Are Monsters left me slightly heartbroken and perfectly satisfied which was exactly what I'd hoped for as the book went on.  I hadn't been sure what to expect after reading the other book, and this type of slightly "horror" novel isn't my usual fare, but I really, truly enjoyed this book and I know I'll be recommending it to others in the future!! 

Friday, July 12, 2019

The Bookish Life of Nina Hill

The Bookish Life of Nina Hill by Abbi Waxman
Published July 2019 by Berkley Books

Physical ARC received in exhange for an honest review

Description from Goodreads:
The only child of a single mother, Nina has her life just as she wants it: a job in a bookstore, a kick-butt trivia team, a world-class planner and a cat named Phil. If she sometimes suspects there might be more to life than reading, she just shrugs and picks up a new book.

When the father Nina never knew existed suddenly dies, leaving behind innumerable sisters, brothers, nieces, and nephews, Nina is horrified. They all live close by! They're all—or mostly all—excited to meet her! She'll have to Speak. To. Strangers. It's a disaster! And as if that wasn't enough, Tom, her trivia nemesis, has turned out to be cute, funny, and deeply interested in getting to know her. Doesn't he realize what a terrible idea that is?

Nina considers her options.

1. Completely change her name and appearance. (Too drastic, plus she likes her hair.)
2. Flee to a deserted island. (Hard pass, see: coffee).
3. Hide in a corner of her apartment and rock back and forth. (Already doing it.)

It's time for Nina to come out of her comfortable shell, but she isn't convinced real life could ever live up to fiction. It's going to take a brand-new family, a persistent suitor, and the combined effects of ice cream and trivia to make her turn her own fresh page.


My review: 
So, I've discovered lately that there are a lot of really GREAT romantic comedies being published right now.  They are fun, easy to read, and yet still completely heartfelt.  This book is most definitely a prime example of the genre. I LOVED this book. I shared quotes with friends. I cried, just a little, and I hugged the book when I was done.  

Abbi Waxman did an excellent job building a believable book worm.  Nina is an introvert, who also leads a competative trivia team.  She is excellent at reader's advisory, and also has a wry sense of humor.  She completely fits the book nerd mold, while at the same time breaking it wide open.  I felt so much kinship with this character it made my heart go a little fuzzy.

The storylines of Nina trying to both navigate a newly discovered, LARGE family that rocks her world's foundations and a love interest kept me rooting for her each step along the way.  The way the author dealt with anxiety felt completely real.  The interactions between characters felt genuine and believable.

In short, I devoured this book, want to read it again, and kinda hope that Abbi Waxman might write a follow-up that somehow involves these characters again.  I miss Nina, her family and friends already.
Highly recommended for anyone that wants a great beach read, a romantic comedy with heart, or just needs a funny book to take on a commute to and from work!! 

Monday, July 1, 2019

YA Book of the Month Club!!

Hey Booklovers!
I'm now an affiliate for the Book of the Month YA program!!

It's a fantastic opportunity to get a hot new YA hardcover (or two or three!) each month at a less than bookstore price from a list of curated titles. What does that really mean?

Each month, you would receive a list of hot new YA titles that are coming out and you can pick which ones off the list you'd like and then they're delivered straight to your door!! No more having to browse through hundreds of titles online wondering if they might actually be something you want to read... no more having to wander the aisles in the bookstore overwhelmed. (Unless that's your happy place, then this can just be an amazing add-on to that experience!)

That's right, this list is CURATED each month to make sure they're all exceptional reads and there's a book to everyone's taste! And all you have to do is pick which ones you want and then *poof* they show up at your front door. Such an awesome program. 

Click on the link HERE for more information!

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

2019 5 Star Review #10 - City of Brass

City of Brass by S.A. Chakraborty
The Daevabad Trilogy, book one
Published Nov 2017 by Harper Voyager

Format Read: eBook I Own

Description from Goodreads:
Nahri has never believed in magic. Certainly, she has power; on the streets of 18th century Cairo, she’s a con woman of unsurpassed talent. But she knows better than anyone that the trade she uses to get by—palm readings, zars, healings—are all tricks, sleights of hand, learned skills; a means to the delightful end of swindling Ottoman nobles.

But when Nahri accidentally summons an equally sly, darkly mysterious djinn warrior to her side during one of her cons, she’s forced to accept that the magical world she thought only existed in childhood stories is real. For the warrior tells her a new tale: across hot, windswept sands teeming with creatures of fire, and rivers where the mythical marid sleep; past ruins of once-magnificent human metropolises, and mountains where the circling hawks are not what they seem, lies Daevabad, the legendary city of brass?a city to which Nahri is irrevocably bound.

In that city, behind gilded brass walls laced with enchantments, behind the six gates of the six djinn tribes, old resentments are simmering. And when Nahri decides to enter this world, she learns that true power is fierce and brutal. That magic cannot shield her from the dangerous web of court politics. That even the cleverest of schemes can have deadly consequences.

After all, there is a reason they say be careful what you wish for . . .

My Review: 
One of the things I like best about fantasy is that a story can unfold into a beautiful new world when done right.  This book starts out a trilogy in a fantastic new middle eastern world that came alive on the pages.  Not only the beginning that took place in somewhat familiar settings, but the portion that opens up a whole new fantastic realm created by the djinn.  The descriptions were vivid and I wanted to dive in and explore the world myself. 

Additionally, the characters were interesting and the plotline was so rich with political, religious, and ethical layers that I was riveted.  This was an intense reading experience.  In a good way.  I'm so excited to see how things unfold moving into book two.  

Someone had described this book to me as a "gender-bent Aladdin story," and while on the barest surface it certainly meets that description, it is also so much more! Recommended for readers who enjoy rich fantasy and other cultures. 

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

2019 5 Star Review #9 - Circle of the Moon

Circle of the Moon by Faith Hunter
Soulwood, book four
Published Feb 2019 by Ace

Format Read: Audiobook I Own

Description from Goodreads:
Nell can draw magic from the land around her, and lately she's been using it to help the Psy-Law Enforcement Division, which solves paranormal crimes. Joining the team at PsyLED has allowed her to learn more about her powers and the world she always shunned--and to find true friends.

Head agent Rick LaFleur shifts into a panther when the moon calls him, but this time, something has gone wrong. Rick calls Nell from a riverbank--he's naked, with no memory of how he came to be there, and there's a dead black cat, sacrificed in a witch circle and killed by black magic, lying next to him.

Then more animals turn up dead, and team rushes to investigate. A blood-witch is out to kill. But when it seems as if their leader is involved in the crime, the bonds that hold the team together could shatter at any moment.

My Review: 
This is book four of the series, so I'm going to try not to be spoilery in terms of plot.  

Nell Ingram, our main character, is a woman who was raised in a religious, polygamous cult and only now has her own lands and home because both her childhood husband and his previous wife have passed.  As supernatural occurences happen near her lands, Nell becomes involved with the PsyLED team and eventually trains and becomes a full-fledged member with their branch of the government. 

Nell is a woman who has experienced hardships and mistreatment, but has also experienced care and loyalty.  What she finds with the PsyLED team is a new focus, challenges, friendship, and maybe more.  The team is awesome and the world-building in this series (based off of the Jane Yellowrock world) is phenomenal.  I love seeing Nell navigate her way through things with grit and integrity. 

For those of you who are audiobook listeners, let me tell you this series is an AMAZING listen, too.  The narrator, Khristine Hvam, does a fabulous job bringing out Nell's churchwoman accent and defining the other characters. I love listening to the books in this series. 

Book one in this series, Blood of the Earth, is highly recommended to anyone who enjoys urban fantasy, paranormal romance, and stories about strong women finding their way. 

Monday, June 17, 2019

(Belated) May Challenge Wrap Up Post

2019* Books I Already Own Challenge
So, I'm just full of blogging excuses! My last wrap up post was several weeks late, and again here we are mid-month and I still haven't posted my wrap up from May... All I can say is life happens? Work is busy. Today is actually the first day of summer reading, so we spent the last few weeks prepping like crazy for our busy season at work. I've been reading, I just haven't had time to do things like write blog posts lately. 

Anyway, here's what I read in May:

Audiobooks I Own
Atomic Marriage by Curtis Sittenfeld (novella)
The Hundredth Queen by Emily R. King
Faerie Magic by Emma Adams *5 star*
Aurora Rising by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff *5 star*
Corpse & Crown by Alisa Kwitney
Imposters by Scott Westerfeld

Physical Books I Own
Kingsbane by Claire Legrand
Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon
Finale by Stephanie Garber *5 star*

Required Reading
(for work) Murder in the Paperback Parlor by Ellery Adams
(for work) A Friendly Life by S Prestley Blake

Book Borrowed from the Library
A Lady's Guide to Etiquette and Murder by Dianne Freeman

Again, this was a very good month for audiobooks.  I was running around a lot and prepping for my trip into New York City for the Book Expo and so listening was often easier than sitting down to read.  I should mention, though, that I liked two of these audiobooks enough (Aurora Rising and Corpse & Crown) that I actually bought the physical books to add to my Personal Library.  They were both great "reads." 

I also read a bunch of physical books that I really enjoyed this month.  AND I finally finished Priory of the Orange Tree!! I didn't really give myself time to sit down and read big chunks of this book until May, so I literally read this book over a course of six weeks, which is an excruciatingly long time for me. It turned out to be very good, though not as good as I'd hoped.  I was a little disappointed in the end, but then I followed it up with Kingsbane and Finale, both of which were amazing.

Overall, it was a month that sort of passed in a blur, but it was a happy fuzz of good reading, so that's okay.  How was your May in terms of reading?

2019 5 Star Review #8 - Josh and Hazel's Guide to Not Dating

Josh & Hazel's Guide to Not Dating by Christina Lauren
Published Sept 2018 by Gallery Books

Format Read: Print book from Personal Library

Description from Goodreads:
Hazel Camille Bradford knows she’s a lot to take—and frankly, most men aren’t up to the challenge. If her army of pets and thrill for the absurd don’t send them running, her lack of filter means she’ll say exactly the wrong thing in a delicate moment. Their loss. She’s a good soul in search of honest fun.

Josh Im has known Hazel since college, where her zany playfulness proved completely incompatible with his mellow restraint. From the first night they met—when she gracelessly threw up on his shoes—to when she sent him an unintelligible email while in a post-surgical haze, Josh has always thought of Hazel more as a spectacle than a peer. But now, ten years later, after a cheating girlfriend has turned his life upside down, going out with Hazel is a breath of fresh air.

Not that Josh and Hazel date. At least, not each other. Because setting each other up on progressively terrible double blind dates means there’s nothing between them...right?

My Review:
A book that will make you laugh out loud.  There was nothing earth-shattering about the plot of this book, but I loved the characters of Josh and Hazel and their interactions SO much that I LOVED this book with all my heart.

I gushed about it at work on my lunch break. I gushed about it in DMs.  I told anyone I thought would like a funny rom-com to try this book. And now I'm telling you.  

This book had me snorting with laughter. It also had me tearing up.  I felt like emotions were just so genuine in this one and I adored every moment I spent reading it.  I hope that I can find other books by this author that hit me just the same way.  

Highly recommended as a beach read or a holidays read (when you need a little destressing) or really an anytime you need a laugh and a heart full of love kind of read!

Monday, May 13, 2019

(Belated) April Challenge Wrap Up Post

2019* Books I Already Own Challenge
Okay Spring, can we slow down a little? Work has gotten busy and not only have I not been able to read very much lately because I've been both busy and tired, but I also suddenly realized it's mid-May and I hadn't posted my April wrap up yet.  So, here it is...

What I read in April:

Audiobooks I Own 
Morning Star by Pierce Brown *5 star*
Devil May Care by Pippa DaCosta
Even White Trash Zombies Get the Blues by Diana Rowland *5 star* 
White Trash Zombie Apocalypse by Diana Rowland
Lucky Suit by Lauren Blakely (novella)
Never-Contented Things by Sarah Porter
Carter & Lovecraft by Jonathan Howard
Faerie Blood by Emma Adams *5 star* 

Physical Books I Own
Getting Hot with the Scot by Melonie Johnson *5 star*
Muse of Nightmares by Laini Taylor
Clockwork Princess by Cassandra Clare - group read

eBooks I Own
Thrall by Carina Cook *5 star*

Required Reading
(for work) Snobbery with Violence by Marion Chesney
(for review) An Artless Demise by Anna Lee Huber

As I mentioned work has gotten quite busy and I was also traveling to and from meetings quite a lot. So the majority of my reading was actually done via audiobook this month. I had a very hard time actually sitting down to read. Thankfully, the majority of the audiobooks I listened to were pretty stellar and eight is not too shabby a number to cross off my list! LOL.  The physical books I squeezed in were all pretty great, too, so overall it was a pretty good reading month.  I had one book that turned out to be a HUGE disappointment, but that happens. I also finished my group read of the Infernal Devices trilogy in April, and while I was really glad to have read them, I didn't love them as much as I'd expected to, so they got donated to the library.

How was your reading in April?

Monday, April 15, 2019

2019 5 Star Review #7 - Princess Academy: The Forgotten Sisters

The Forgotten Sisters by Shannon Hale
Princess Academy, book three
Published Feb 2015 by Bloomsbury USA Childrens

Format Read: Print book from Personal Library

Description from Goodreads:
After a year at the king's palace, Miri has learned all about being a proper princess. But the tables turn when the student must become the teacher!

Instead of returning to her beloved Mount Eskel, Miri is ordered to journey to a distant swamp and start a princess academy for three sisters, cousins of the royal family. Unfortunately, Astrid, Felissa, and Sus are more interested in hunting and fishing than becoming princesses.

As Miri spends more time with the sisters, she realizes the king and queen's interest in them hides a long-buried secret. She must rely on her own strength and intelligence to unravel the mystery, protect the girls, complete her assignment, and finally make her way home.

My Review: 
It had been so long since I'd read book two in this series, The Palace of Stone, that I was worried I wouldn't be able to fall into this world easily again.  On the contrary, I almost think the extra time between books enhanced my experience. It reintroduced me to Miri, Peder, and some of the other characters, while also drawing me into a new part of the world as Miri travels to Lesser Alva to meet three "cousins" of the royal family.  

Readers get to see smart, resilient Miri turn from student to teacher, and yet still learn some lessons along her way to the final ending.  I loved that these books demonstrate how much we can learn from one another and how we interact with and treat other people.  Friends, family, strangers, each are important and each touch and color our life experience.  I especially loved how Miri passes on things she knows to the sisters, but internalizes the things she can learn from them, as well.  And the fact that she, again, finds the solution to a MAJOR problem in the kingdom... we need to keep recognizing and valuing girls like Miri in real life.  

This book was definitely a shade darker than the first two, but as the characters had matured, it seemed only fitting.  I think these books tackle more than readers expect by looking at the covers and I cannot wait to pass them on to my niece when she's old enough. 

Recommended to readers ten and above looking for a smart, kind heroine in a neat fantasy setting.  But, start with Princess Academy so you can take Miri's journey along with her! 

Monday, April 8, 2019

ARC Review - An Artless Demise by Anna Lee Huber

An Artless Demise by Anna Lee Huber
Lady Darby Mysteries, book seven
Published April 2019 by Berkley

Format Read: print ARC received from publisher for review

Modified Description from Goodreads:
November 1831. After fleeing London in infamy more than two years prior, Lady Kiera Darby’s return to the city is anything but mundane. A gang of body snatchers is arrested on suspicion of killing people from the streets and selling their bodies to medical schools. Then Kiera’s past—a past she thought she’d finally made peace with—rises up to haunt her.

All of London is horrified by the evidence that “burkers” are, indeed, at work in their city. The terrified populace hovers on a knife’s edge, ready to take their enmity out on any likely suspect. And when Kiera receives a letter of blackmail, threatening to divulge details about her late anatomist husband’s involvement with the body snatchers and wrongfully implicate her, she begins to apprehend just how precarious her situation is. Not only for herself, but also her new husband and investigative partner, Sebastian Gage, and their unborn child.

My Review: 
While this series has been on my radar for a couple of years, this is honestly the first Lady Darby book I've read.  I was somewhat worried that it would be difficult to pick things up seven books into the series, but Huber was skillful at inserting all the backstory I needed to be able to follow along without a problem.  

Lady Kiera (Darby) Gage is a very strong-minded likable heroine. She knows her mind and is quick at matching wits with others when needed. She's also artistic and very much a lady of her time.  I loved the realistic blend of historical accuracy and chutzpah in the sense that while Kiera acts as an investigative partner to her husband, she still maintains her role in society and the author was careful to find the perfect balance between the two roles.  She carries a gun, but doesn't chase down criminals herself.  She attends grand soirees and also sketches criminals when needed for the police.  

I also really loved the relationship between Kiera and her husband Sebastian.  I need to go back and read the earlier books to experience their falling in love and getting married! It's always amazing when you read about a man who really values his wife for her intelligence and personality.  Admiring her as she is and not as he's expecting her to be... and they have what seems to be a perfectly mutually respectful partnership... with a side of passion. This particular book was a great introduction to their relationship, as well, because it forces both of them to really explore the abuses Kiera suffered in her first marriage and how they feel about each other and their marriage in general.  Kiera receives a lot of beautiful support from friends and family in this book. 

The mystery was built around an interesting historical phenomenon, as well. I had heard vaguely about people digging up bodies illegally for cadaver autopsies, but I'd never actually heard of "burking." It made for both an interesting history lesson and a great cover for the murderer's motives... I won't say more for fear of spoiling things.  

I'll just end with a hearty recommendation to readers who love historical mysteries and the comment that I will be going back at some point to start this series from the beginning!! 

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

March Challenge Wrap Up Post

2019* Books I Already Own Challenge
Wow. Did anyone else feel like March flew by and they somehow missed it? I did not get to read nearly enough last month! Suddenly, it was April... and I was in shock. LOL. I only read a couple of the books on my TBR, went off the rails a little, and ended the month wondering what happened.

Here's what I (managed to) read in March:

Audiobooks I Own
Ash Princess by Laura Sebastian
Rosemary and Rue by Seanan McGuire
Dead of Winter by Kresley Cole
Circle of the Moon by Faith Hunter *5 star*

Physical Books I Own
A Curious Beginning by Deanna Raybourn
Wintersong by S. Jae-Jones
Clockwork Prince by Cassandra Clare - group read

eBook I Own
City of Brass by S.A. Chakraborty *5 star*

Required Reading
(for work) Jane and the Unpleasantness at Scargrave Manor by Stephanie Barron

Borrowed from Library 
Josh and Hazel's Guide to Not Dating by Christina Lauren *5 star*
Good Luck Charm by Helena Hunting

As I mentioned, this month got away from me a little. I attempted to read two epic adult fantasies at the same time, which was just not possible, so had to put Priory of the Orange Tree on hold so I could finish City of Brass.  Hopefully, I'll finish it this month!  I also ended the month *almost* finished with an audiobook, but not quite, so that's my first officially finished book in April instead.

This month I both read less and enjoyed the books a little less than in January and February, which made me a little sad.  April, though, is starting off well, so I think I may just try to wipe March mostly from my memory. *laughs somewhat hysterically*

How was your March reading?

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

2019 5 Star Read #6 - A Curse So Dark and Lonely by Brigid Kemmerer

A Curse So Dark and Lonely by Brigid Kemmerer
Published Jan 2019 by Bloomsbury YA

Format Read: Print ARC received at Book Expo 2018

Description from Goodreads:
Fall in love, break the curse. It once seemed so easy to Prince Rhen, the heir to Emberfall. Cursed by a powerful enchantress to repeat the autumn of his eighteenth year over and over, he knew he could be saved if a girl fell for him. But that was before he learned that at the end of each autumn, he would turn into a vicious beast hell-bent on destruction. That was before he destroyed his castle, his family, and every last shred of hope.

Nothing has ever been easy for Harper Lacy. With her father long gone, her mother dying, and her brother barely holding their family together while constantly underestimating her because of her cerebral palsy, she learned to be tough enough to survive. But when she tries to save someone else on the streets of Washington, DC, she's instead somehow sucked into Rhen's cursed world.

Break the curse, save the kingdom. A prince? A monster? A curse? Harper doesn't know where she is or what to believe. But as she spends time with Rhen in this enchanted land, she begins to understand what's at stake. And as Rhen realizes Harper is not just another girl to charm, his hope comes flooding back. But powerful forces are standing against Emberfall . . . and it will take more than a broken curse to save Harper, Rhen, and his people from utter ruin.

My Review:
This was one of those times I kicked myself for not reading a book sooner! I had this book for nine months before I sat down to read it, and I did so because the buzz got SO huge, I couldn't take it anymore... and I get why.  This is a STELLAR Beauty and the Beast retelling. 

The re-imagining of how the curse worked was so well done and my heart broke for Rhen (the Prince) and what he went through over the decades that he battled the curse.  The true friendship that developed between Rhen and Captain Grey (my favorite character, for sure!) was steadfast and inspiring.  The friendship that develops between Grey and Harper, our heroine, plucked at all my heartstrings.  

And Harper, if I could have created a heroine that I would root for until the very end, it is HER.  She has cerebral palsy, but never, ever lets it stop her from achieving her goals. She is smart. She is a fighter.  She is brave, and loyal, and so kind.  This is the "Belle" that modern girls can follow.  

If you like fairytale retellings at all, give this one a shot. Please.  I CANNOT wait for book two, A Heart So Fierce and Broken

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

The Veronica Speedwell Mysteries - series highlight

I want to wish the happiest of book birthdays to A Dangerous Collaboration by Deanna Raybourn today!

This is book four in an amazingly fun historical mystery series that I recently discovered and found such JOY in reading. Veronica Speedwell, our intrepid heroine, is a professional lepidopterist (butterfly scientist) and adventuress. Ahead of her time, she travels the world, has affairs when she wants to, and accidentally gets embroiled in murder mysteries and other dangerous situations more often than one might expect. 

Description from Goodreads:
Victorian adventuress Veronica Speedwell is whisked off to a remote island off the tip of Cornwall when her natural historian colleague Stoker's brother calls in a favor. On the pretext of wanting a companion to accompany him to Lord Malcolm Romilly's house party, Tiberius persuades Veronica to pose as his fiancée--much to Stoker's chagrin. But upon arriving, it becomes clear that the party is not as innocent as it had seemed. Every invited guest has a connection to Romilly's wife, Rosamund, who disappeared on her wedding day three years ago, and a dramatic dinner proves she is very much on her husband's mind.
I'm very much looking forward to reading this newest Veronica and Stoker adventure! 

I recommend starting the series from the beginning, though! So you should start with A Curious Beginning to get to know the secret of Veronica's real identity and meet the enigmatic (and sexy) Mr. Stoker. Then, you can also check out A Perilous Undertaking and A Treacherous Curse. (Each title links to the book's description on Goodreads)

This series features a strong heroine, fascinating plots, with mysteries that will leave you guessing and a male counterpart that will keep both you and Veronica on edge... (and aren't these covers gorgeous???)

I'll have some individual reviews of the books in the series coming up soon, so keep an eye out! And if you follow me on Instagram (instagram.com/ireadtorelax) I'm lucky enough to have partnered with Berkley Books to be hosting a US Giveaway for A DANGEROUS COLLABORATION! 

Monday, March 11, 2019

2019 5 Star Read # 5 - The Hating Game by Sally Thorne

The Hating Game by Sally Thorne
Published Aug 2016 by William Morrow

Format Read: Print book from Personal Library

Description from Goodreads:
Nemesis (n.)
1) An opponent or rival whom a person cannot best or overcome;
2) A person’s undoing;
3) Joshua Templeman.
Lucy Hutton and Joshua Templeman hate each other. Not dislike. Not begrudgingly tolerate. Hate. And they have no problem displaying their feelings through a series of ritualistic passive aggressive maneuvers as they sit across from each other, executive assistants to co-CEOs of a publishing company. Lucy can’t understand Joshua’s joyless, uptight, meticulous approach to his job. Joshua is clearly baffled by Lucy’s overly bright clothes, quirkiness, and Pollyanna attitude.

Now up for the same promotion, their battle of wills has come to a head and Lucy refuses to back down when their latest game could cost her her dream job…But the tension between Lucy and Joshua has also reached its boiling point, and Lucy is discovering that maybe she doesn’t hate Joshua. And maybe, he doesn’t hate her either. Or maybe this is just another game.

My Review: 
So, you know those books that everyone's read and recommends and you think the story just won't live up to the actual hype?  Yeah, this book was one of those for me....and BOY was I wrong.  If you need a little romance in your life, this is the book to pick up, for sure! 

I LOVED Lucy's character with a passion.  She was fun, she was flawed, she was funny, she felt deeply.  She was unapologetic in her Lucy-ness.  Even better, I LOVED Joshua.  Not in the "he's so perfect, you can't help but love him" way, but in the "oh god, he's not perfect, and I love him anyway" kind of way.  These characters were both amazing and their chemistry practically burned the pages in my hands as I was reading.  This book hit the absolute sweet spot of being hot, but without being uncomfortably graphic, and I COULD NOT PUT IT DOWN.  

This was absolutely a one sitting book for me, and I keep looking at this book trying to decide how fast I want to read it again.  That is RARE.  This book made me laugh, it made me cry, and I felt like my heart swelled with amazing perfect happiness at the end... please give this book a try if you haven't read it yet. 

Thursday, March 7, 2019

February Challenge Wrap Up Post

2019* Books I Already Own Challenge
Hello Readers! For one of the shortest months of the year, I actually got a ton of reading done in February! How did you do?  I was amazed at how many audiobooks I managed to fit in between things.  And in the cold and snow, there's nothing I love more than snuggling up with a good book, a cozy blanket, my dog, and a good read. 

Though my February reads didn't rank quite as high as my January ones did on my one to five star scale, a lot of them were solidly in the middle, so that's not too bad.  I started hosting a group read of The Infernal Devices trilogy by Cassandra Clare on instagram, so we read book one in February and we'll be reading books two and three in March and April.  I also read a lot of romance, as I was trying out Audible's Romance package, which I ended up canceling after my free trial month.  I hope you read some good books this past month. 

Here's what I read in February:

Audiobooks I Own
Mikhail by Lauren Smith
Save a Truck, Ride a Redneck by Molly Harper - novella
Peachy Flippin' Keen by Molly Harper - novella
Rurik by Lauren Smith
How to Date Your Dragon by Molly Harper
Love and Other Wild Things by Molly Harper
Illusion Town by Jayne Castle
First World by Jaymin Eve

Physical Books I Own 
The Hating Game by Sally Thorne *5 star*
The Forgotten Sisters by Shannon Hale *5 star*
Kingdom of Ash by Sarah J. Maas
Gunslinger Girl by Lyndsay Ely
Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare  - group read
A Curse So Dark and Lonely by Brigid Kemmerer *5 star*

eBooks I Own 
Ever the Hunted by Erin Summerill
Lera of Lunos by Alex Lidell

Required Reading
(for work) Death by Cashmere by Sally Goldenbaum

Borrowed from the Library
An Elderly Lady is Up to No Good by Helene Tursten

Did you read anything amazing in February?
Are you also working on reading from your own collections at home?

Sunday, February 24, 2019

2019 5 Star Read #4 - Greta and the Lost Army by Chloe Jacobs

Greta and the Lost Army by Chloe Jacobs
Mylena Chronicles, book three
Published Feb 2016 by Entangled: Teen

Format Read: ebook from Personal Kindle Library

*Spoiler Alert as this is the final book in the trilogy!!*

Description from Goodreads:
A fate as unavoidable as love itself...

After spending the last four years trapped in a place of monsters, demons, and magick, the last thing the fierce teenage bounty hunter Greta expected was to ever be back on Earth. But a rare opportunity gives her and the Goblin King Isaac the opportunity to do just that. Now she’s home. With a boy in tow. And her parents have lots of questions.

Although Greta finally has her heart’s deepest wish—to see her family again—every step she takes to reconnect with them drives her further away from Isaac. Greta and Isaac planned for her to return to Mylena and become his queen, but she’s not sure if she can go back to that harsh world, though staying on Earth means giving up the boy she loves.

But a powerful enemy refuses to let Greta escape. A demon who will stop at nothing to destroy her and everything she loves. Even if it means following her to Earth and forcing her to face a fate as unavoidable as love itself.

My Review: 
I'm going to try and be somewhat spoiler-free here, but again this is the last book in the trilogy, so some hints may be unavoidable as to what happened in the first two... 

Anyway, this is not the first series, nor I'm sure will it be the last, where the main character finds themselves transported to a hostile world.  What I really enjoyed about this particular book in the series was that the author takes the main character, Greta, back to her home world and then lets both Greta and the reader come to the realization that Earth may no longer be the best place for her.  It explores both the joy and guilt associated with her homecoming.  The excitement and the bewilderment.  The horrible confliction that she now feels as she realizes there are things she truly loved about Mylena, even as she was working so hard to escape it. 

I hadn't quite expected when I started this series to get so emotionally invested in it.  It seemed like it would just be a breezy, fun paranormal YA romance and I found it to be so much more by the time I finished it. The characters had depth and there was both action and romance that built in a believable way.  There was good world building and consequences to characters' actions and betrayals that moved the plot along well. As I said, I ended up really loving this series.  I was so happily surprised.  

I think this is a trilogy that never got the buzz it deserved and is well worth a shot if you are looking for something new to read!  

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

2019 5 Star Read #3 - Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo

Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo
Six of Crows, book two
Published Sept 2016 by Henry Holt and Company

Format Read: Book borrowed from Public Library

Description from Goodreads:
Welcome to the world of the Grisha.

Kaz Brekker and his crew of deadly outcasts have just pulled off a heist so daring even they didn't think they'd survive. But instead of divvying up a fat reward, they're right back to fighting for their lives.

Double-crossed and badly weakened, the crew is low on resources, allies, and hope. As powerful forces from around the world descend on Ketterdam to root out the secrets of the dangerous drug known as jurda parem, old rivals and new enemies emerge to challenge Kaz's cunning and test the team's fragile loyalties.

A war will be waged on the city's dark and twisting streets - a battle for revenge and redemption that will decide the fate of the Grisha world.


My Review:
So since this is the second book, I will attempt to be somewhat non-spoilery for anyone who hasn't read Six of Crows. For me, both of these books were absolutely stellar and I loved them much more than Bardugo's original Grishaverse trilogy.  Why? I happen to LOVE ragtag heist stories.  The Dregs, the six members that make up Kaz Brekker's newly formed "mini-gang" develop into a mini-family and though each is pretty flawed, they are all super interesting characters doing bad things for good reasons.  Even Kaz himself, though he would never, ever let on that he might be anything but the worst guy out there.  These characters have HEART.  

And, though this is the Grishaverse and many people in this world have magical abilities, this group primarily relies on wit, stamina, sheer stubbornness, a hint of luck, and Kaz's ability to think eight steps ahead of anyone else. I LOVE that.  I felt as if the characters in these two books were more fully formed than the ones in the original trilogy.  They felt real.  Less caricature-ish (oh she's the good guy, oh he's the bad guy, oh he's the love interest)... here they were all a little bit of everything.  Even Ketterdam itself had a gritty personality. 

This book, though the first also sucked me in immediately, was fast-paced and full of what felt like imminent danger around every corner.  There were almost no times that I wasn't sort of white knuckling the book and I haven't had one put me on edge like that in a while.  I was fully engaged from start to finish.  Fantastic and now I'm hoping that King of Scars will engage me the same way... and that Bardugo truly is working on a Six of Crows #3 to come sometime after that...  

Friday, February 8, 2019

2019 5 Star Read #2 - Shadow of Night by Deborah Harkness

Shadow of Night by Deborah Harkness
All Souls Trilogy, book two
Published July 2012 by Viking Adult

Format Read: Book from Personal Library

Description from Goodreads:
Picking up from A Discovery of Witches’ cliffhanger ending, Shadow of Night takes Diana and Matthew on a trip through time to Elizabethan London, where they are plunged into a world of spies, magic, and a coterie of Matthew’s old friends, the School of Night. As the search for Ashmole 782 deepens and Diana seeks out a witch to tutor her in magic, the net of Matthew’s past tightens around them, and they embark on a very different—and vastly more dangerous—journey.

My Review:
Both books I have read so far in this series have been truly spectacular. They make for slow reading because the author is a historian by trade and her work is jam packed full of facts, but they are also super interesting, intricate reads. I have not for one second regretted the "extra" time it took to read either book. They are intense reads, but so engrossing, and I have not wanted to put them down to go to work! I wish all books left me with that hungry feeling between reading sessions.

Anyway, this book picked up immediately after the ending of the first.
*spoiler alert*

Diana and Matthew utilize her time traveling ability to go back to Elizabethan London to find a powerful witch that can tutor Diana in navigating her powers. There are emotional repercussions to traveling back to an earlier point in Matthew's life, which at first threaten to divide them, but Harkness does an amazing job at believably having the two lovers connect in an even stronger way after recognizing even greater depths of each of their personalities. This book is truly a homage of a type to a deep, abiding love built not on first attraction, not on fate, etc, but on the willingness and faith to push through difficulties and truly accept another person into your life, flaws and all. I LOVED that this was not an easy love story, but a strong, deep one.

Beyond that, there were soooooo many interesting scenes and details of Diana adjusting to life in Elizabethan England. The cast of real, historical characters including Marlowe and Shakespeare, himself, made for a very entertaining diversion into the past. The intersection between history, science, and the elements of the fantasy world that Harkness has created was seamless. As I read, I felt as if I could turn around at any moment and find a new history book denoting important vampires and witches of Europe. It was astounding how real the possibility felt.

*end spoilers*
I finished this book both dying to read the next one and desperate to read something totally different. Something light. The story is so gripping, but the writing is exhausting (in the best possible way). I'm hoping to read The Book of Life sometime in late February or early March.

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

2019 5 Star Read #1 - Kill the Queen by Jennifer Estep

Kill the Queen by Jennifer Estep
Crown of Shards, book one
Published Oct 2018 by Harper Voyager

Format Read: Book from Personal Library

Description from Goodreads:
In a realm where one’s magical power determines one’s worth, Lady Everleigh’s lack of obvious ability relegates her to the shadows of the royal court of Bellona, a kingdom steeped in gladiator tradition. Seventeenth in line for the throne, Evie is nothing more than a ceremonial fixture, overlooked and mostly forgotten.

But dark forces are at work inside the palace. When her cousin Vasilia, the crown princess, assassinates her mother the queen and takes the throne by force, Evie is also attacked, along with the rest of the royal family. Luckily for Evie, her secret immunity to magic helps her escape the massacre.

Forced into hiding to survive, she falls in with a gladiator troupe. Though they use their talents to entertain and amuse the masses, the gladiators are actually highly trained warriors skilled in the art of war, especially Lucas Sullivan, a powerful magier with secrets of his own. Uncertain of her future—or if she even has one—Evie begins training with the troupe until she can decide her next move.

But as the bloodthirsty Vasilia exerts her power, pushing Bellona to the brink of war, Evie’s fate becomes clear: she must become a fearsome gladiator herself . . . and kill the queen.

My Review: 
Holy cow, did I love this book. 
I am a fan of high fantasy, but I also love quick reads, and sadly, the two are not always one in the same.  However, this book delivered all the things I love about high fantasy - a world with a fully-fledged magic system, a loosely medieval society, and epic battles - in a super easy to read writing style.  I devoured this book...and immediately pre-ordered the sequel! 

The main character of this book is a girl with a strong core, but has been brow-beaten enough that she believes she is worthless. The girl finding her inner strength and going on to kick ass trope is one I'm all in for... every single time.  I love that in this book, too, there is romance, but it is completely secondary to her doing what she needs to do AND the friendships she builds with others along the way.  This is no princess that drops everything for a man. No, indeed. 

The magic, the sword-fighting, the royal intrigue, the secrets, the romance, and the main character all sold this book for me.  I am waiting WITH BATED BREATH until July (wahhhh!!) for the sequel, Protect the Prince, to be released.