Monday, February 19, 2018

Tuesday #Review - Fire and Bone by Rachel A. Marks #YALit #Paranormal

Series: Otherborn # 1
Format: Paperback, 414 pages
Release Date: February 20, 2018
Publisher: Skyscape/Amazon
Source: NetGalley
Genre: Young Adult / Paranormal
In Hollywood’s underworld of demigods, druids, and ancient bonds, one girl has a dangerous future.
Sage is eighteen, down on her luck, and struggling to survive on the streets of Los Angeles. Everything changes the night she’s invited to a party—one that turns out to be a trap.
Thrust into a magical world hidden within the City of Angels, Sage discovers that she’s the daughter of a Celtic goddess, with powers that are only in their infancy. Now that she is of age, she’s asked to pledge her service to one of the five deities, all keen on winning her favor by any means possible. She has to admit that she’s tempted—especially when this new life comes with spells, Hollywood glam, and a bodyguard with secrets of his own. Not to mention a prince whose proposal could boost her rank in the Otherworld.
As loyalties shift, and as the two men vie for her attention, Sage tries to figure out whom to trust in a realm she doesn’t understand. One thing is for sure: the trap she’s in has bigger claws than she thought. And it’s going to take a lot more than magic for this Celtic demigoddess to make it out alive.

Fire and Bone is the first installment in author Rachel Marks Otherborn series. 18-year old Sage has spent an enormous amount of time on the streets of Los Angeles scrambling to keep herself fed and safe while running away from foster homes. Sage loves books with legends, & Gods, & cursed Kings, & castles. After being invited to a party where there is supposed to be plenty of food, Sage wakes to the reality that she has stepped into another world that has apparently been there the entire time. 

A world where she is a half human demigoddess and the second daughter of the Goddess Brighid. Oh, and her origin powers are ready to burst lose now that she is 18. She must train alongside a hunter named Faelan for her emergence, where she will pick one of the five houses each based off one of the elements: fire (Brighid), water (Lyr), earth (Cernunnos), air (Arwen), and spirit (Morrigan). Sage is a character who goes from being completely and totally out of her element, to growing leaps and bounds as she discovers more about herself, the world that is forever linked to, and what she is meant to do.

This isn't just Sage's story. The author actually alternatives between Sage, and Faelan, while also tossing in the Dark Prince of the House of Morrigan,Kieran, who makes Sage's life more than interesting. Reader also should know that the author taunts you with the backstory of Sage's sister, Queen Lily. It is fair to say that I didn't much connect with Lily at all. While the author does her best to make you understand why you should care about Lily, it is Sage who is growing into someone you can stand alongside.

Faelan is a curious sort of character. He's dark, dangerous, mysterious, and alluring. He is the hunter who is chosen to protect and train Sage for her Emergence. He is supposed to stand by her side while enemies try to kill or lure her to their way of thinking with expensive gifts. Faelan and Sage's story is a twisted one because of her bravado, sass, and lacking of education when it comes to the mythology for which she was born into, but abandoned to live as a human. One could say that there is a twisted sort of love triangle. Sage is pulled in the direction of both Faelan and Kieran who has more secrets to shake a stick at. Is Kieran an ally, a nemesis, a possible lover, or just a hurdle for Sage's happy ending?

Monday #Review - The Book of Secrets by Melissa McShane #Fantasy

Series: The Last Oracle # 1
Format: E-Book, 192 pages
Release Date: February 20, 2018
Publisher: Curiosity Quills Press
Source: NetGalley
Genre: Fantasy

Helena Davies just wants a job that will get her out of her parents’ basement. Abernathy’s Bookstore is disorganized, out of the way, and smells funny, but it pays well and promises to be interesting. She has no idea how interesting. By the end of the first day, Helena has a dead boss in the basement, an unexpected promotion, and the news that she is now a part of an endless war against creatures from another reality.
As Abernathy’s newest custodian, Helena is responsible for its secrets, including the most important one: Abernathy’s isn’t just a bookstore. It’s the world’s only living oracle, producing prophecies to help fight the war against alien invaders bent on draining this world of its magic. Helena’s job is to find books to answer questions put to the oracle by the Wardens, fighters in the Long War. It seems simple enough, but Helena’s new job is anything but.
Without training, without any knowledge of the magical world, and facing the hostility of those who’d wanted someone else to be Abernathy’s custodian, Helena must navigate the treacherous waters of her new world and find a place for herself within it. But there’s still a murderer on the loose, someone who intended to control Abernathy’s by killing its custodian—and Helena might be next on his list.

The Book of Secrets is the first installment in author Melissa McShane's The Last Oracle series. This is a brand new series from the author. I first became aware of the authors work through her series called The Extraordinaries which I am looking forward to continuing. McShane's new world is a curious one. It is a world in which our protagonist, Helena Davies, walks in for an interview at Abernathy's, and gets hired by the mysterious Nathaniel Briggs on the spot. Abernathy's does business via phone calls, order forms, catalog trade, and in person. 

After Nathaniel is found dead, a curious thing happens. Helena inherits the bookstore as custodian. Of course, this leads to all sorts of questions. Why did Nathaniel hire someone with no experience, and no knowledge of what Abernathy's really is? Will Helena be able to do the job she's supposed to be paid fairly well for, or will she have to abdicate to someone else? It's obvious that Nathaniel had no reason to believe that he would die any time soon, but the questions still continue right until the very end at why Helena was chosen over someone who has had previous training.

There are also questions regarding the war which has been ongoing for 700 years. There are creatures who come from somewhere outside our reality. Nightmareland creatures want the magic that humans are born with, but only a few have access to. As a custodian like Lucia Pontafelli who becomes a support mechanism in all of Helena's questions and circumstances she finds herself in, she can also see through glamour and what the monsters actually look like. Wardens like Malcolm Campbell, who is predicted to become Helena's romance buddy, fight and die every day in order to protect this world from the monsters that invade our world.

Abernathy is also a weapon in that it gives out answers at how to fight the long war. It is expected to treat each side (Nicollien & Ambrosite) as equals regardless of personal feelings. Abernathy's runs on what's called indeterminacy. Abernathy is never organized by author, title, or subject. By never being organization, no one actually knows what is in here, therefore anything can be in here. While Helena is learning all about her new function in life, there's those pesky police detectives who truly believe that Helena is involved in some way even though they have zero evidence of actually accusing her of doing evil. Thankfully, Helena does have a bit of relief in her best friend Viv.  

There are times the synopsis is perhaps a bit too revealing at what happens in this book. This is one of those cases. So, let me highlight the more interesting aspects. First, Helena isn't a member of the cast of the Librarian, but she is being compared to Flynn. Second, Abernathy's isn't a Library, it's a living oracle, and the greatest of its kind since the disappearance of the Lady at Delphi. People come into Abernathy's with questions, and it is up to the custodian to find the answers given by the oracle. Sometimes those answers are not what the person wants to hear. 

Abernathy's is a place that takes both money and magic in payment for augery's. Custodians of Neutralities can't use magic or ask questions on their own behalf. However, many custodians like Helena have abilities bestowed on them by the virtue of their position as custodian. This is not a standalone, although you might think it was after everything is said and done. I would love to have the author dig deeper when it comes to Silas Abernathy. I think there is a fountain of information just waiting to be revealed.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

#Stacking the Shelves # 274 - Week Ending 02/17/2018

Stacking The Shelves is all about sharing the books you are adding to your shelves, may it be physical or virtual. This means you can include books you buy in physical store or online, books you borrow from friends or the library, review books, gifts and of course ebooks!

Thanks for Stopping by!

Short and sweet this week!
One unexpected book from Wednesday Books,
3 unexpected approvals via NetGalley!
Thank you, Curiosity Quills Press, St. Martin's Press, Flatiron Books!

Have a great weekend!

This Weeks Reviews: 

Monday - Shadow Hunt by Melissa F. Olson (Urban Fantasy)

Tuesday - The Defiant by Lesley Livingston (YA, Fantasy)

Wednesday - Iron Gold by Pierce Brown (Science Fiction)

Thursday - The Traitor Prince by C.J. Redwine (YA, Fantasy)

*REC'D VIA Publisher, NetGalley*

Friday, February 16, 2018

Book #Review - Honor Among Thieves by Rachel Caine, Ann Aguirre #YALit #SyFy

Series: Honors # 1
Format: E-Book, 480 pages
Release Date: February 13, 2018
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
Source: Edelweiss
Genre: Young Adult / Science Fiction

The first book in a daring new sci-fi series from New York Times bestselling authors Rachel Caine and Ann Aguirre! In Earth’s distant future, a savvy young criminal is recruited to join the Honors space program, which sends humans into the far reaches of the galaxy aboard sentient spaceships called the Leviathan, only to discover that dangerous secrets are hidden amongst the stars.
Zara Cole has been in and out of New Detroit’s rehab facilities for treatment of her antisocial disorder. There’s no adjusting Zara’s attitude, though. A painful past has made her stronger than most, which is why she chose life in the Zone instead moving with her family to Mars. In her eyes, living inside a dome isn’t much better than a prison cell.
Still, when Zara commits a crime that has her running scared, jail might be exactly where she’s headed. Instead, Zara is recruited into the Honors, an elite team of humans selected by the Leviathan—a race of sentient alien ships—to explore the outer reaches of the universe as their passengers.Zara seizes the chance to flee Earth’s dangers, but when she meets Nadim, the alien ship she’s assigned to along with fellow Honor Beatriz, Zara starts to feel at home for the first time, along with a devotion she’s never experienced before. Yet nothing—not her Honors training or her street smarts—could have prepared her for the dark, ominous truths that lurk behind the alluring glitter of starlight.

Honor Among Thieves is the first installment in co-authors Rachel Caine and Ann Aguirre's Honors series. Set in a distant future (2142) where 100 years before, Aliens called Leviathans arrived in time to save the crew of the International Space Station from certain death. Since arriving, Leviathans have solved lots of problems for humankind. It gave humanity cleaner water, food, & great leaps in medical advancements. In return, the Leviathans require 100 volunteers a year to ride along with a cultural and scientific exchange. 

Zara Cole is the main protagonist for this story. Zara lives in New Detroit, the Lower 8, where she is basically a thief who steals in order to survive. While her own mother and sister have made a new life for themselves on Mars, Zara has absolutely no desire to live in any paradise. After stealing from the wrong man with a long reach, and trying to hide out in a last chance facility, Zara is shockingly chosen to be one of the 100 volunteers for this years crop. She is also the youngest ever chosen which in itself is remarkably curious to the point where you begin to search for Easter Eggs that will explain why Zara was really chosen.

Meanwhile, there is another character who is just as important to the story and just as likable. Nadim is one of the Leviathans who is looking forward to completing its mission so that it can go on its own Journey like others before it. But, Nadim has met his match with Zara. Zara has the ability to connect with her alien ship Nadim on an emotional level. The more comfortable they are with each other, the more certain boundaries that are supposed to exist between them begin to fall away. 

The more dangerous the mission becomes, the more Nadim, Zara, and Beatrix, an Honor from Brazil, becomes glued together in a united front against unlikely distractions. Some will call this the romance angle of the story. Ick! Sorry, not going to jump on that stage. As the team grows closer, they are even more determined to complete a successful mission so that they are not replaced.  

Strong and unreservedly rebellious, Zara is a complex heroine that readers will love to root for as she fights for her one chance at safety. Yes, these books take place mostly in outer space. And yes, some of the main characters are aliens. But the world building and writing are very accessible, with a story fast paced and supported by well-drawn relationships, which will appeal to mainstream readers as well as genre-based fans. Fast-paced prose, sparkling characters, and unique details that bring the imagined futuristic world to life make for a gripping adventure that will appeal to both avid sci-fi fans and readers new to the genre. 

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Book #Review - The Traitor Prince by C.J. Redwine #YALit #Fantasy

Series: Ravenspire # 2
Format: E-Book, 416 pages
Release Date: February 13, 2018
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Source: Edelweiss
Genre: Young Adult / Fantasy / Epic

A dark epic fantasy inspired by The Prince and the Pauper and the fairy tale The False Prince about a determined prince who must fight in a gladiator-style competition to unseat the impostor who’s taken his place. The third book in the New York Times bestselling Ravenspire series by C. J. Redwine.
Javan Najafai, the crown prince of Akram, has spent the last ten years at school, far away from his kingdom. He’s been eagerly awaiting his return home to his ailing father, but his journey there goes dangerously wrong. A mysterious impostor has taken his place—and no one will believe Javan is the true prince.
After barely escaping the impostor’s hitmen, Javan is thrown in the most dangerous prison in his kingdom—Maqbara. The only way to gain an audience with the king and reveal the truth is to fight his way out in the prison’s twice-yearly tournament, which pits inmates against a coterie of the deadliest creatures in the world.
The one person who can help him is Sajda, a strong and secretive girl who has been enslaved by Maqbara’s warden since she was a child. Working with Sajda might be the only way Javan can escape alive—but she’s hiding something.
Together, Javan and Sajda will have to outwit the dangerous warden, outfight hundreds of deadly creatures, and outlast the murderous prisoners intent on killing Javan before he can win—in order to fight for their freedom, and take down the impostor once and for all.

The Traitor Prince, by author C.J. Redwine, is the third installment in the Ravenspire series. If you have read the previous two installments, The Shadow Queen and The Wish Granter, you know that the author has used a different set of characters while also recreating certain folktales. Apparently, The Traitor Prince is based on the novel called The False Prince and The Prince and the Pauper. The Traitor Prince doesn't have just one, or two narratives, it actually has three plus plenty of villains for your reading pleasure. 

Prince Javan has dedicated his training and achievements to his mother who passed away. Unfortunately for Javan, there are others who would like to see him removed from the picture entirely. After avoiding an assassination attempt, a dragon shifter, and running into a boy who is attempting to pass as him, Javan ends up in Maqbara prison where he will have to fight not only for his freedom, but to keep breathing. Maqbara prison is the place where the Warden pushes the inmates into fighting in a gladiator like environment against all sorts of bizarre monsters. In order to survive, Javan must find a way to secure allies, and avoid being cannon fodder for those who to replace the king with someone else.

Sadja is, I dare say, the most interesting character in this entire book. I liked Javan. I did. I understood his struggles and his determination and was heart broken at one point in the story after he tries so hard to return home. However, Sadja is a curious sort. She is a dark elf who works for the Warden in Maqbara prison. She is responsible for feeding the monsters who are brought to the prison where inmates are bet on by the aristocrats. While Javan is genuinely a nice guy, Sadja isn't afraid of anyone. She's badass and can really stand up for herself without anyone else helping her.

I shall briefly summarize the main villain of the story, Rahim. Born to a mother who lives in a desert, a father who refused to acknowledge him until it suited his pleasure. Rahim isn't a nice guy no matter how much you may want to feel a bit of emotion for. There is a whole lot to think about when it comes to the parental aspects of Rahim's mother and father. Once could gather that Rahim didn't much care for his mother or that he has had to scrap for everything. But, see, there are other characters like Sadja who have no desire to remove a king or kill a prince and take his place. 

I have noticed that the author tends to introduce characters for her next book. I, unfortunately, must have missed it because I couldn't tell you who will be featured in the apparent fourth book in this series. This is a book that is action filled whenever Javan is the narrator. Loved the gladiator like environment, plus the appearance of Hansel and Gretel just to make things even more twisted. I've never read the original The Prince and the Pauper, so I can't do a detailed comparison of how similar the plot is to The Traitor Prince. 

I can say, however, that Redwine likes to twist her own story without sticking to a clear connection between the two stories. This story reads as a standalone even though Javan and others mention other characters from distant lands like Ravenspire. The romance is pretty muted. Javan and Sadja have a whole lot of other things to worry about than smashing lips and acting like teenagers at the prom. I'm not a huge fan of characters who use religion as a crutch. I won't judge that the author chooses to do so with Javan. To each their own. 

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Book #Review - Iron Gold by Pierce Brown #Science Fiction

Series: Red Rising Saga # 4
Format: Hardcover, 624 pages
Release Date: January 16, 2018
Publisher: Del Rey, Random House
Source: Library
Recommended By: 
Genre: Science Fiction / Action & Adventure

Honor and betrayal fuel a caste-shattering revolution in the action-packed new novel from the #1 New York Times bestselling author of the Red Rising trilogy—the epic next chapter in Pierce Brown’s “haunting space opera.” —Entertainment Weekly

They call him father, liberator, warlord, Reaper. But he feels a boy as he falls toward the pale blue planet, his armor red, his army vast, his heart heavy. It is the tenth year of war and the thirty-second of his life.

A decade ago Darrow was the hero of the revolution he believed would break the chains of the Society. But the Rising has shattered everything: Instead of peace and freedom, it has brought endless war. Now he must risk everything he has fought for on one last desperate mission. Darrow still believes he can save everyone, but can he save himself?

Red Rising was the story of the end of one universe, and Iron Gold is the story of the creation of a new one. Witness the beginning of a stunning new saga of tragedy and triumph.

Story Locale: Space; future

Series Overview: RED RISING: Darrow, a lowly Red, leads a revolution to upend a color-coded Society ruled by the nefarious Gold overlords. He infiltrates their secret schools and warring families, rending Society asunder from within using the very tools of Gold oppression and hegemony. Fighting against an overwhelming enemy with the help of newfound friends and loved-ones Darrow’s efforts are finally rewarded with open revolution, as the Rising emerges from the shadows to break the chains and live for more.

Iron Gold, by author Pierce Brown, is the fourth installment in the Red Rising Saga. However, this is apparently the first installment in an entirely new arc. Red Rising was the story of the end of one universe, and Iron Gold is the story of the creation of a new one. Witness the beginning of a stunning new saga of tragedy and triumph from masterly New York Times bestselling author Pierce Brown. Iron Gold picks up TEN years after the ending of Morning Star.

"Death begets death begets death" is one way of describing what happens in this book. From the onset, we are reintroduced to Darrow, who is once again doing what he does best. Trying to bring down the planet Mercury which is under one of Darrow's main adversaries. But, times haven't exactly been easy for him. It is the tenth year of war and Darrow no longer believes that peace can be achieved. Not even when is own wife is the leader of the Republic. 

A decade ago, Darrow was the hero of the revolution he believed would break the chains of the Society which separated people by colors like Gold, Red, etc. But the Rising has shattered everything: Instead of peace and freedom, it has brought endless war. Now he must risk everything he has fought for on one last desperate mission. Darrow still believes he can save everyone, but can he save himself?

And throughout the worlds, other destinies entwine with Darrow’s to change his fate forever: A young Red girl named Lyria flees tragedy in her refugee camp and achieves for herself a new life she could never have imagined. An ex-soldier named Ephraim broken by grief is forced to steal the most valuable thing in the galaxy—or pay with his life. And Lysander au Lune, the heir in exile to the sovereign, wanders the stars with his mentor, Cassius, haunted by the loss of the world that Darrow transformed, and dreaming of what will rise from its ashes.

This is a book that is filled with darkness, betrayal, war and violence, and an entirely new set of characters who have waited their time before confronting the man, Darrow, who destroyed most of their lives. One could say that Darrow is his own worst enemy more times than not. This causes him undue heart aches with his wife, his son, and his former allies who now see him as someone who needs to be retired one way or the other.

Two of the three new characters really didn't nudge me in one direction of the other. Lyria and Ephraim both get caught up in things that see their lives fundamentally changed. Iron Gold is definitely a book large in scope, page count, and a more complicated plot and character development. I am hesitant in saying that Brown didn't really need to continue this series. If he had just left Darrow alone to his own devices, we wouldn't have the sort of ending that Brown leaves readers to stew on.

One could say that Darrow is still the main protagonist, but splitting up the airtime among Lyria, Lysander, and Ephraim gave the book a much broader scope. Having Ephraim, a former Grey resistance fighter, and Lyria, in particular, was great because it gave us a glimpse back into the lower reaches of the society. Author Brown also addresses those left over by Darrow's war. Those who have faced consequences from just being a certain color. There are those like Lyria who truly do stand for those who were lost in the cracks of Darrow's war. Whether or not we will see any resolution towards that aspect remains cloudy at best.

I shall repeat what others have said. While you probably can get away with reading this as a standalone, I would not recommend it. As I've said before, it doesn't make sense to jump into a series at this point without knowing what happened from the beginning and who the characters that Darrow calls friends and allies. There is way too much history and in order to understand Darrow and others, you need to know why they matter to you, the reader. 

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Book #Review - The Defiant by Lesley Livingston #YALit #Fantasy

Series: The Valiant # 2
Format: Hardcover, 384 pages
Release Date: January 23, 2018
Publisher: Razorbill
Source: Library
Genre: Young Adult / Fantasy

The darling of the Roman Empire is in for the fight of her life in this lush sequel to the acclaimed historical fantasy The Valiant.

Be brave, gladiatrix…And be wary. Once you win Caesar’s love, you’ll earn his enemies’ hate.

Fallon was warned.

Now she is about to pay the price for winning the love of the Roman people as Caesar’s victorious gladiatrix.

In this highly anticipated sequel to THE VALIANT, Fallon and her warrior sisters find themselves thrust into a vicious conflict with a rival gladiator academy, one that will threaten not only Fallon’s heart - and her love for Roman soldier Cai - but the very heart of the ancient Roman Empire.

When dark treachery and vicious power struggles threaten her hard-won freedom, the only thing that might help the girl known as Victrix save herself and her sisters is a tribe of long-forgotten mythic Amazon warriors.

The only trouble is, they might just kill her themselves first.

The Defiant is the second but not last installment in author Lesley Livingston's The Valiant series. They call Fallon "Victrix" now. Victory. But winning the highest honor ever bestowed upon a gladiatrix in Rome has earned Fallon more deadly enemies outside the arena than she ever faced within it. And it is those dearest to Fallon who will pay the price for her success. Now, Fallon and her warrior sisters of Ludus Achilles Academy are thrust into a vicious conflict with a rival gladiator academy, one that will threaten not only Fallon's heart - and her love for Roman soldier Cai - but the very heart of the Roman Empire.

Let me summarize. It has been a year since Fallon arrived in the heart of the Roman Republic, first a slave, and later as a gladiatrix for Julius Caesar the woman who she thought was long dead. She fought and received a ceremonial sword of freedom which she gave to someone else. Probably not the smartest move Fallon has done up to this point. Especially since Julius Caesar hasn't freed Fallon and her gladiatrix sisters who fight for Ludus Achilles. Then the unthinkable happens.

While a rival female gladiatrix academy is visiting, Pontius Aquilla aka the Collector, makes his move on Sorcha, Rome's Lady Achillea. This moves brings back some of Fallon's most hated enemies who would do anything to see her dead. This sends Fallon, Caius Antonius Varro, Quintus, his second in command, and Fallon's sister gladiatrix on a mission to save their academy, those left behind in their rush to escape, as well as Fallon's sister Sorcha. 

One can definitely say that this story spends a whole lot of time as fugitives. Fallon herself is supposed to be the leader of a supposed rebellion against Rome. Rome has a short memory when it comes to rebellions. In fact, Fallon is being compared to Spartacus. Spartacus was a Thracian gladiator who, along with the Gauls Crixus, Gannicus, Castus, and Oenomaus, was one of the escaped slave leaders in the Third Servile War, a major slave uprising against the Roman Republic. 

What makes this a pretty decent read, is the new characters that are introduced. Even though they are secondary, or even tertiary characters for the most part, I believe that we haven't seen the last of them. I also respect the way that Fallon has become the default leader of Ludus Achilles Academy while Sorcha claims to never again want to fight. Fallon's guts and determination override any hesitancy one might have at poking fun at Sorcha. I also appreciated that the sisters stand shoulder to shoulder when all is said an done, but not alone. Nope. They have Cai, and Charon who you met in the first book. I have to also say that I adored Quint and his fondness for the hard core Elka. In today's world, Quint would probably be called dozens of names for chasing hard after someone like Elka. 

For those who are curious about my second by not last comment above. The author has a third book planned for this series releasing in 2019. The title has been listed on Goodreads as The Triumphant