Monday, 12 August 2019

The Wicked King by Holly Black

Book Title: The Wicked King
Author: Holly Black
Genre: Fantasy, YA, Fae
My Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥
Source: Library

Goodreads, Amazon UK 
Plot: Jude was seven when her parents were murdered and she and her two sisters were stolen away to live in the treacherous High Court of Faerie. Ten years later, Jude wants nothing more than to belong there, despite her mortality. But many of the fey despise humans. Especially Prince Cardan, the youngest and wickedest son of the High King.
To win a place at the Court, she must defy him–and face the consequences.
As Jude becomes more deeply embroiled in palace intrigues and deceptions, she discovers her own capacity for trickery and bloodshed. But as betrayal threatens to drown the Courts of Faerie in violence, Jude will need to risk her life in a dangerous alliance to save her sisters, and Faerie itself.
As usual there will be NO spoilers as this is a sequel and the plot description is of the first book, The Cruel Prince.

What did I think?

This is the kind of book that gets me out of a reading slump. Quick, fast-paced, filled with action and deliciously good.

Hyped books are often a bit hit and miss, at least for me, but this series is a firm hit.

Just like the first book, I devoured The Wicked King in a day. I just couldn't stop myself.

The beginning of The Cruel Prince was visceral, brutal and surprising. It starts with the murder of Jude's parents. Right there on page one. And I immediately knew I was in for a wild ride.

Followers of my blog know that I'm not the biggest romance fan, but damn if Holly Black doesn't have me straight-up asking for more.

This book ripped my heart out and stepped on it. My jaw kept dropping, and I may have possibly yelled at the pages while reading the ending.

Jude is an amazing character with incredible depth, and well, nobody really is all that great in these books. One review on Goodreads called them Slytherin books, and I agree. The whole cast belongs in Slytherin, but they're compelling, well written, three dimensional, and I want to adopt and protect both Jude and Cardan (but I wouldn't, because that would make it weird.)

The world building is interesting, detailed, and I enjoy the fae a lot. But it's the plot that makes this book and the many twists and turns. And they all managed to surprise me!

I recommend this series to all YA fans who enjoy fantasy YA, especially those who enjoy fae. I don't think there's much not to like with this one, if you're the target audience.

I can't wait to read The Queen of Nothing.

Tuesday, 6 August 2019

Sanctuary by V. V. James

Book Title: Sanctuary
Author: V. V. James
Genre: Mystery, Fantasy, Paranormal mystery
My Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥
Source: Netgalley, own a hardback

Goodreads, Amazon UK 
Plot: To Detective Maggie Knight, the death of Sanctuary's star quarterback seems to be a tragic accident. Only, everyone knows his ex-girlfriend is the daughter of a witch - and she was there when he died.
Then the rumours start
Bereaved mother Abigail will stop at nothing until she has justice for her dead son. Her best friend Sarah will do everything in her power to protect her accused daughter. And both women share a secret that could shatter their lives. It falls to Maggie to prevent her investigation - and Sanctuary itself - from spiralling out of control.
I got a review copy from NetGalley; this is my honest review. HOWEVER, I have pre-ordered the special edition hardback, that's how excited I am for the release of this book.

What did I think?

It is no secret that I am a huge fan of Vic James, author of the Dark Gifts trilogy, [Here's my spoiler-free review of Bright Ruin.] and I was super excited to hear that she would release a new book this August.

Big Little Lies meets witches is probably the most accurate tagline.

My reading experience went like this: I swallowed Sanctuary whole. Just like that. I couldn't put it down. It's gripping from the very first page. Just like with Big Little Lies, I had to know what happens next, and I did not stop until the very end.

And the author got me as well. I thought I'd figured it all out. The secret, the culprit, the motive and for one hot minute I felt incredibly smug, but of course, I was wrong.

Sanctuary is filled with twists and turns, but it's the characters that make it. The cast is diverse, and everyone is complex, filled with a drive to do what they think is right. And this is what James is so very good at: showing us people whose actions we disagree with, people we loathe, people we think are utterly wrong, and making us see why they do it.

They're not bad people. They truly believe they and their families are in grave danger, and that they're the only ones doing something about it.

A small, peaceful community can unravel in a matter of days...and James takes it all the way to the terrifying end.

As usual, nothing is black and nothing is white. Most of these people are grey, and I believe we're all grey, and the author is a master at portraying that emotional baggage we carry with us. Those mistakes we've all made, and how they sometimes haunt us.

But we're still good people, right?

The element of magic and witches is cleverly folded into the world building, and it feels entirely plausible that if witches were real, this is how they'd operate. You're feeling tired? You can either visit your GP or you can go to your local witch. Both will be able to help you.

I can't discuss the themes in Sanctuary too much without spoiling the plot, but they're incredibly interesting: Innocent until proven guilty is a cornerstone of our society, but what happens when a mob thinks the justice system is failing them? What if a small community decides the police aren't handling things as they should?

From mass hysteria to mob mentality and vigilante justice, this book has it all.

It's human not to trust what we can't understand, but accusing someone of murder just because of who they are is wrong...and, of course, the president is tweeting.

I recommend Sanctuary to everyone who is looking for an interesting mystery filled with twists and turns and witches.

Sunday, 4 August 2019

Looking for Something new to Read?

Happy Sunday to everyone, and I wish you all a successful August.

I've got two links to share with you this Sunday. One is a science fiction and fantasy Kindle Unlimited campaign. It's a StoryOrigin link - a platform that allows authors to pull together and share their books. (Seriously, if you're an indie writer and you're trying your hands at marketing, check it out!)

All books are currently enrolled in KU and will be for the remainder of August.

Click here to see the list of books that are part of this campaign.

The other link is a bunch of authors looking for ARC readers. Have a browse, and if you think you might enjoy any of the following books, approach the author for a review copy. Click here, if you'd like to find a new book to review from indie authors.

And finally, because dogs make everything better, have a Lola with her pig:

How is everyone doing? Let me know in the comments.

Tuesday, 23 July 2019

Amarah by L.L. McNeil

Title: Amarah
Author: L.L. McNeil
Genre: Fantasy
My Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥
Source: ARC, but I did buy it as well!

Amazon UK, Goodreads

Plot Summary: ‘This treasure’ll make us richer than any Goldstone. All the sky pirates in Estoria, Val Sharis, heck, in all of Linaria would be on their way here if they knew where here was.’
With rampaging dragons and marauding Arillians dominating Linaria’s skies, Amarah’s quest for vengeance against the one who took everything from her seems almost impossible.
When a treasure hunt with a former ally leads to the discovery of a lost Varkain artefact, she’s plunged into the middle of an ancient war between Sevastos dragons, Varkain blood magic, and those who crave these powers for themselves.
Amarah wanted revenge. What she uncovers will change the face of Linaria forever.

I received an ARC of Amarah from the author in exchange for an honest review, but I also bought it!
Find the author's website here.

Find the first book, Moroda, here on Goodreads and here's my review of it.

What did I think?

I bought all three books in the series, and my other half bought both available audiobooks, and she doesn't even read fantasy. My other half using a credit to buy fantasy instead of hard SF is possibly the biggest compliment L.L. McNeil could get.

4.5 Stars. Mostly because I am just one stingy and tight-fisted person when it comes to giving five stars, but that's a different story and tells you more about my penchant for perfectionism than anything else.

This book is superb.

As usual, my review will contain no spoilers.

The World of Linaria is an epic fantasy series with dragons, and who doesn't love dragons? (Uhm, so, you'll laugh, but I'm not the biggest dragon lover, however, I do love McNeil's dragons. They're cool.)

The series has several kick-ass female protagonists, of which Amarah is the one who kicks ass the most.

McNeil writes with a pleasing, straight-forward prose, making the fantasy genre accessible even to people who are not used to sprawling epics with a cast list that is longer than a Dickens novel. In fact, it speaks of McNeil's skill that her world building is creative, intricate, clearly the result of a vast imagination, yet so straightforward that it's perfect for someone who usually shies away from the sheer complexitiy of some of the books out there.

One of L.L. McNeil's many skills is to drip information into descriptions and conversation, and never dump it all on the reader at once.

While the first book, Moroda, is about a young woman who sets out to save her world, Linaria, from a war, Palom and now Amarah dive deeper into the world, lore and characters.

The characters are the series' main strength. They all feel authentic with interesting pasts and promising futures.

While Palom felt a bit slower than Moroda, Amarah is where it all kicks off, and while Isa slowly morphed into my favourite character throughout the second book, it's Morgen whose point of view

I particularly enjoyed in this third book.

Moroda starts off with the typical quest of a young woman who needs to save the world; Palom deals with the fallout of war, diving into the heartbreaking themes of depression and PTSD; Amarah, on the other hand, deals with who we are and how we can be the best version of ourselves.

Amarah's childhood has marked her and turned her into a character who is opportunistic, yet kind with an inherent sense of fairness. She's running from her past, but at the same time her past defines who she is.

For now.

All of them - absolutely all of them - Palom, Morgen, Isa, Amarah, Kohl - they all fight to be better, to improve and to bring peace to this world. They're not always sure how to do it. They doubt themselves. They fight their inner demons. They fail. But they're all trying their best.

And that hopeful note, that we can all be better, is what makes this book such an uplifting read.

I would recommend The World of Linaria to anyone who is looking for a new twist in epic fantasy with a character driven plot and dragons - especially to anyone who loves sky-pirates and airships.

Like I said before: McNeil's World of Linaria is a great introduction to fantasy for new fans, but also a treat for old fans of the genre.

And now, I've got but one question: when can I read the fourth book?

Monday, 15 July 2019

New on my Shelves (6)

We're going to Cornwall for a few hiking days with friends and our dogs. I will make sure to take a few pictures and post them next Sunday.

I got myself three books from the library. Well, I borrowed them about three weeks ago and just had to renew them because I'm still not done.

Knowing England, it will rain and I'll be able to read.

Tchaikovsky's Redemption Blade will be first, as it has been on my list forever, then I'll finally have to get done with The Bitter Twins. Jen Williams is a fairly new discovery, and I'm enjoying her style a lot. And, yes, I'm hopelessly behind in the schedule for this read-along.

And last but not least, I will dive into a few more Kindle Unlimited reads. Or...the weather will be gorgeous and I'll actually have to hike.

Guess which the dogs are hoping for?

Monday, 1 July 2019

Across the Void by S. K. Vaughn

Book Title: Across the Void
Author: S. K. Vaughn
Genre: Science Fiction
My Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥
Source: Netgalley

Goodreads, Amazon UK

Plot: Commander Maryann “May” Knox awakes from a medically induced coma alone, adrift in space on a rapidly failing ship, with little to no memory of who she is or why she’s there.
Slowly, she pieces together that she’s the captain of the ship, Hawking II; that she was bound for Europa—one of Jupiter’s moons—on a research mission; and that she’s the only survivor of either an accident—or worse, a deliberate massacre—that has decimated her entire crew. With resources running low, and her physical strength severely compromised, May must rely on someone back home to help her. The problem is: everyone thinks she’s dead.
Back on Earth, it’s been weeks since Hawking II has communicated with NASA, and Dr. Stephen Knox is on bereavement leave to deal with the apparent death of his estranged wife, whose decision to participate in the Europa mission strained their marriage past the point of no return. But when he gets word that NASA has received a transmission from May, Stephen comes rushing to her aid.
What he doesn’t know is that not everyone wants May to make it back alive. Even more terrifying: she might not be alone on that ship.

I got a review copy from NetGalley in return for an honest review.

What did I think?
I requested Across the Void from Netgalley because I both liked the blurb and the cover. A wrecked spaceship, a lonely survivor, a hint of Gravity, and a faint memory of The Martian. It all sounded fantastic.

Sadly, I was somewhat disappointed. I'll talk about the negative things first and will end on a positive note, because, at the end, I enjoyed the read.

Across the Void crams too many things into a normal-sized book. Torn between being a thriller focusing on survival, and a love story with a mystery and a redemption arc, it ends up being neither.

May is well depicted and three-dimensional, but sadly I did not like her and could not warm to her. All other characters fell a bit flat.

While the beginning feels realistic, the end does not, and I could no longer suspend my disbelief. Especially the events on Earth begin to feel over the top.

Now, for the positive:

The book opens strong. May wakes up, doesn't know what happened, is terrified and slowly builds a bond with the ship's AI, Eve. Those first 30-40% or so are exceptionally well done, and Eve is a fantastic character. I seem to have a thing for artificial intelligence with an elaborate personality.

The pacing is solid, and it never slows down to a crawl, and Across the Void kept my attention throughout. The writing is straightforward, simple and doesn't distract.

This one isn't for people who like hard SF, or who like their SF to be super realistic. However, if you are looking for some fun twists and turns in space, a dose of marriage turned sour but really they still like each other, give this one a try.

Thursday, 27 June 2019

Chasing Graves by Ben Galley

Book Title: Chasing Graves
Author: Ben Galley
Genre: Fantasy / Grimdark
My Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥
Source: Kindle Edition

Amazon UK, Goodreads

Plot Summary: Meet Caltro Basalt. He’s a master locksmith, a selfish bastard, and as of his first night in Araxes, stone cold dead.
They call it the City of Countless Souls, the colossal jewel of the Arctian Empire, and all it takes to be its ruler is to own more ghosts than any other. For in Araxes, the dead do not rest in peace in the afterlife, but live on as slaves for the rich.
While Caltro struggles to survive, those around him strive for the emperor’s throne in Araxes’ cutthroat game of power. The dead gods whisper from corpses, a soulstealer seeks to make a name for himself with the help of an ancient cult, a princess plots to purge the emperor from his armoured Sanctuary, and a murderer drags a body across the desert, intent on reaching Araxes no matter the cost.
Only one thing is certain in Araxes: death is just the beginning.
What did I think?
This is my first Ben Galley book, and two things struck me the most: pacing and world building.

Galley doesn't waste unnecessary words (or time) and the plot moves forward at a good speed. While I love long books, I highly appreciate shorter ones, since I'm - I almost don't dare and say it - I'm prone to skim descriptions. Still, Galley takes care to introduce his characters and they feel unique and three dimensional.

It is, however, the first book in a series and doesn't stand on its own. In fact, the ending is quite abrupt, with no real resolution, and there is quite a bit of set-up.

The world building is exquisite, refreshing, original and Galley dives straight into grimdark territory. It is obvious that the author spent a lot of time fleshing out his setting with striking detail, and I wouldn't mind reading more books set in this world.

Galley's writing is atmospheric. He paints a vivid picture, revealing a vast imagination. It's also dark, yet witty, and made me chuckle more than once. The prose is smooth, and I was pleasantly surprised by how descriptive it is, yet not a single word is unnecessary or wasted. That's skill.

How dark is Chasing Graves, you ask? I picture Araxes as some sort of Egyptian city. The dead rise and their souls get bound to coins, and then they're sold as slaves. Great concept, but pretty damn dark.

Caltro is definitely the one character that stood out to me the most, and mostly, I wanted to read about him. He's a master locksmith, and his arrival in Araxes ends in disaster. His great sense of humour is what made this book for me.

I had a ball reading Chasing Graves, and will definitely pick up the sequels. Recommended to all fans of grimdark fantasy.

About the author: Ben Galley is an author of dark and epic fantasy books who currently hails from Victoria, Canada. Since publishing his debut The Written in 2010, Ben has released a range of award-winning fantasy novels, including the weird western Bloodrush and the epic standalone The Heart of Stone. He is also the author of the brand new Chasing Graves Trilogy.