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Review – Storm Front (The Dresden Files #1) by Jim Butcher

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Storm Front (The Dresden Files #1)

By Jim Butcher

SummaryHarry Dresden — Wizard

Lost items found. Paranormal Investigations.
Consulting. Advice. Reasonable Rates.
No Love Potions, Endless Purses, or
Other Entertainment.

Harry Dresden is the best at what he does. Well, technically, he’s the only at what he does. So when the Chicago P.D. has a case that transcends mortal creativity or capability, they come to him for answers. For the “everyday” world is actually full of strange and magical things — and most of them don’t play well with humans. That’s where Harry comes in. Takes a wizard to catch a — well, whatever.

There’s just one problem. Business, to put it mildly, stinks. So when the police bring him in to consult on a grisly double murder committed with black magic, Harry’s seeing dollar signs. But where there’s black magic, there’s a black mage behind it. And now that mage knows Harry’s name. And that’s when things start to get… interesting.

Magic. It can get a guy killed.

Source: I received a paperback as a gift for Secret Santa

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Review:

I’ve heard of The Dresden Files, but it never really showed up on my radar as something I might enjoy. When I got the first book from a coworker in my secret santa gift, I looked at the synopsis and realized it was the kind of book that would be perfect for me. I love science fiction, fantasy, urban fantasy, mysteries, and thrillers and The Dresden Files is a mash up of all of those things in one book. It’s more closely related to an urban fantasy, but Harry Dresden was basically a wizard P.I. so there was definitely the crime/mystery element as well. (I mean, if you were shopping for a book for me without knowing the specific books I’d want, this is honestly the best pick because it’s bound to appeal to me on some level! So genius!)

I loved Storm Front! It was so much fun and I really liked Harry’s POV. I loved the way the book kind of threw me right into this world where wizards were a thing, but like most urban fantasies, it’s not a big deal for the magical part of society to exist, but it’s still something that most people don’t deal with. I feel like Storm Front set the reader up for the rest of the series and wasn’t necessarily the strongest book as a standalone, but yet I also feel that there were some obvious conclusions so that, if I really wanted to, I could stop reading right now and feel like I read a book with a regular story arc. 

I definitely recommend Storm Front and I’m thankful that my gift giver person at work seemed to know me well enough to pick it out for me. It was right up my alley and a good mix of everything I love in my fiction and I don’t know that I would’ve picked it up otherwise. The urban fantasies from male POVs can be hit or miss, but much like the Iron Druid Chronicles, The Dresden Files seems to be a solid book with likable characters and a plot that just keeps grabbing me. I think I’ll definitely pick up the other books in this series!

On a side note, I am a huge fan of table top gaming and I noticed there is a board game for this book. This isn’t something I see a lot of with the fiction I read, despite the games I play and the books I read having many similar themes. Games are usually based on classic D&D or classic literature (like Lovecraft) or cult classic tv shows/movies… and the fact that there is a board game for The Dresden Files makes me hopeful that this is a world with some really solid plot/world building with a ton of fans, which makes me even more eager to read the rest of the series.

Star 4

 

 

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Blog Tour and Review – Between the Blade and the Heart (Valkyrie #1) by Amanda Hocking

 

Between the Blade and the Heart (Valkyrie #1)

By Amanda Hocking

Summary: When the fate of the world is at stake

Loyalties will be tested

Game of Thrones meets Blade Runner in this commanding new YA fantasy inspired by Norse Mythology from New York Times bestselling author Amanda Hocking.

As one of Odin’s Valkyries, Malin’s greatest responsibility is to slay immortals and return them to the underworld. But when she unearths a secret that could unravel the balance of all she knows, Malin along with her best friend and her ex-girlfriend must decide where their loyalties lie. And if helping the blue-eyed boy Asher enact his revenge is worth the risk—to the world and her heart.

Source: I received a digital copy from NetGalley for review as part of a blog tour.

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Review:

Between the Blade and the Heart was a fun read. I loved the setting! It was sort of like an urban fantasy set in an alternate world where immortals roamed and gods existed. The valkyries were human women that were chosen to dispose of immortals, as choosing other immortals would provide a conflict of interest. The main character, Malin, was a valkyrie in training and a student when she wasn’t out trying to take down the next immortals on the list. 

I wouldn’t consider Between the Blade and the Heart anything like Game of Thrones or Blade Runner, so the synopsis is a bit misleading in that regard. I’d categorize it with other urban fantasies blended with a bit of Norse mythology. I think the comparison in the synopsis is trying to allude to the fact that there are gods and it’s futuristic in a way. It was more in the same vein of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, both fun and adventurous.

Malin was a character I couldn’t help but want to root for. She went against the grain, cared about her friends, felt sort of unloved, and pushed people away who cared too much about her. She was interesting and I wanted to sort of figure her out, while also following her on this epic adventure where things went drastically wrong. Everything she thought she believed was basically wrong and her world was upside down. She had to form some alliances that weren’t comfortable, like teaming up with a guy who tried to kill her and teaming up with her ex girlfriend. Awkward, right?

The personalities of the characters were what made this book shine. None of your typical tropes were present (aside from girl suddenly possesses the qualities to save the world).The main character was sarcastic, a bit rough around the edges, and yet soft and vulnerable in different ways. 

I definitely recommend the book if you’re looking for a fast paced, fun, and entertaining urban fantasy. I loved the attitude and sass of the characters, the relationship drama, and the serious fate-of-the-world drama. It was enjoyable to read!

Star 4

 

About the Author: Amanda Hocking is the author of over twenty young adult novels, including the New York Times bestselling Trylle Trilogy and Kanin Chronicles. Her love of pop culture and all things paranormal influence her writing. She spends her time in Minnesota, taking care of her menagerie of pets and working on her next book.

 

Snag a copy:

Amazon

Barnes & Noble

Books-a-Million

IndieBound

Powells

 

Social Media:

Author Website: http://www.worldofamandahocking.com/

Twitter: @Amanda_Hocking

Facebook: @AmandaHockingFans

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Review – Visions (Cainsville #2) by Kelley Armstrong

 

Visions (Cainsville #2)

By Kelley Armstrong

 

SummaryAs #1 New York Times bestselling author Kelley Armstrong’s new Cainsville series continues, Olivia’s power to read omens leads to the discovery of a gruesome crime with troubling connections to her new hometown.

Omens, the first installment in Kelley Armstrong’s exciting new series, introduced Olivia Taylor-Jones, daughter of notorious serial killers, and Gabriel Walsh, the self-serving, morally ambiguous lawyer who became her unlikely ally. Together, they chased down a devious killer and partially cleared her parents of their horrifying crimes.

Their success, however, is short-lived. While Olivia takes refuge in the old, secluded town of Cainsville, Gabriel’s past mistakes have come to light, creating a rift between the pair just when she needs his help the most.

Olivia finds a dead woman in her car, dressed to look like her, but the body vanishes before anyone else sees it. Olivia’s convinced it’s another omen, a sign of impending danger. But then she learns that a troubled young woman went missing just days ago—the same woman Olivia found dead in her car. Someone has gone to great lengths to kill and leave this young woman as a warning. But why? And what role has her new home played in this disturbing murder?

Olivia’s effort to uncover the truth places her in the crosshairs of old and powerful forces, forces that have their own agenda, and closely guarded secrets they don’t want revealed.


Source: I borrowed a Kindle copy

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Review:

I really enjoyed Omens, the first book in the Cainsville series, and I loved that it was more supernatural mystery than urban fantasy, with just a hint of underlying supernatural abilities. I loved the strange friendship between Gabriel and Olivia and I couldn’t wait to pick up the sequel.

Visions had a great plot that moved forward affter the events of Omens, with a strange connection between her town and a missing girl. I enjoyed the journey and I definitely want more, but Visions was disappointing to some degree. Omens was not a romance, but there was a slow burn between Gabriel and Olivia as she slowly began to rely on him and his icy demeanor melted a bit for her. 

In Visions, the relationship was strained after Olivia was pursued by Ricky, a biker she met in book one. I like Ricky, don’t get me wrong, but I did not want that relationship to happen and the book was peppered with tons of romance between the two of them that just made me feel like banging my fist on the table. Not only do I not trust whatever Ricky is, because he’s definitely something, but I would really like to see more Gabriel and Olivia. Ricky just feels like a setback, a temporary distraction, and so I kind of felt like it was a waste of time. 

For some odd reason, my library has the rest of the series except for book three, so I had to make a decision about what I would do next. While I like the premise and want more, I wonder if the author will distract me with more romantic adventures I don’t want. I just don’t want to pay $10 to read the next book, so I think I’m going to take a break and maybe read some reviews and see what to expect from the book. 

The story has a lot of potential to be great, but part of the reason I loved book one was the fact that it wasn’t full of romance. It’s weird, because I love romance, but I just wanted something different I guess.

I definitely recommend the Cainsville series, though, and I’m sure I’ll return to it at some point. 

Star 4

 

Review – Omens (Cainsville #1) by Kelley Armstrong

 

Omens (Cainsville #1)

By Kelley Armstrong

Summary: Twenty-four-year-old Olivia Taylor Jones has the perfect life. The only daughter of a wealthy, prominent Chicago family, she has an Ivy League education, pursues volunteerism and philanthropy, and is engaged to a handsome young tech firm CEO with political ambitions.

But Olivia’s world is shattered when she learns that she’s adopted. Her real parents? Todd and Pamela Larsen, notorious serial killers serving a life sentence. When the news brings a maelstrom of unwanted publicity to her adopted family and fiancé, Olivia decides to find out the truth about the Larsens.

Olivia ends up in the small town of Cainsville, Illinois, an old and cloistered community that takes a particular interest in both Olivia and her efforts to uncover her birth parents’ past.

Aided by her mother’s former lawyer, Gabriel Walsh, Olivia focuses on the Larsens’ last crime, the one her birth mother swears will prove their innocence. But as she and Gabriel start investigating the case, Olivia finds herself drawing on abilities that have remained hidden since her childhood, gifts that make her both a valuable addition to Cainsville and deeply vulnerable to unknown enemies. Because there are darker secrets behind her new home and powers lurking in the shadows that have their own plans for her.

Source: I purchased a hardcover

Review:

I loved Omens. It was not at all what I expected, yet it felt very similar to the urban fantasy style that I’m used to. It was more of a supernatural mystery than an urban fantasy, not focused on romance or supernatural creatures at all. The book was set in a normal world, but Cainsville itself was a strange town that Olivia ended up in. She could also read omens, but didn’t really know why. 

Olivia thought she knew who she was, but she discovered she was adopted and her real parents were convicted serial killers. Her adopted father passed away and Olivia really only connected with him in her family, so the news was shocking and it left her feeling like she had nowhere to go. Her life was turned upside down, so she decided to find out more about her real parents.

Gabriel is one of my favorite characters. He was weird, untrustworthy, icy, and incredibly interesting. Olivia and Gabriel began this weird working friendship in which he assisted her, but they both clearly wanted something from each other and it was the only reason Olivia chose to work with him. It was strange, but I was drawn to their relationship. 

Omens didn’t really contain any romance, but I could sense a slow burn between Gabriel and Olivia and I loved watching their friendship unfold. There also seemed to be people in the town of Cainsville rooting for their friendship, which was also interesting. The town itself was supernatural, I think, but couldn’t be sure. The rest of the book seemed like a regular mystery, so I liked the underlying weirdness that set it apart from regular mysteries and urban fantasies because it straddled the line. 

I definitely recommend Omens, especially if you like urban fantasies, but want something different. 

Star 4

 

 

Review – A Book of Spirits and Thieves (Spirits and Thieves #1) by Morgan Rhodes

 

A Book of Spirits and Thieves (Spirits and Thieves #1)

By Morgan Rhodes

Summary: Modern-day sisters discover deadly ancient magic in book 1 of this Falling Kingdoms spin-off series!

Worlds collide in this suspenseful, page-turning Falling Kingdoms spin-off series, which explores a whole new side of Mytica—and an even darker version of its magic.

Crystal Hatcher, Modern-day Toronto: It’s a normal afternoon in her mother’s antique bookshop when Crys witnesses the unthinkable: her little sister Becca collapses into a coma after becoming mesmerized by a mysterious book written in an unrecognizable language.

Maddox Corso, Ancient Mytica: Maddox Corso doesn’t think much of it when he spots an unfamiliar girl in his small village. Until, that is, he realizes that she is a spirit, and he is the only one who can see or hear her. Her name is Becca Hatcher, and she needs Maddox to help get her home.

Farrell Grayson, Modern-day Toronto: Rich and aimless Farrell Grayson is thrilled when the mysterious leader of the ultra-secret Hawkspear Society invites him into the fold. But when he learns exactly what he has to do to prove himself, Farrell starts to question everything he thought he knew about family, loyalty, and himself….
Fate has brought these young people together, but ancient magic threatens to rip them apart. 

Source: I purchased a paperback

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Review:

I purchased this book because it stood out on the shelves at Barnes and Noble. I didn’t know it was a spinoff of the Falling Kingdoms series, which I had been planning on reading after hearing so much about, but I knew it was the same author, so I figured I’d give her other series a shot.

Since buying the book, I have read up the current book of the Falling Kingdoms series. I decided to pick it up after finishing Crystal Storm. I am enjoying the series, but it is a bit dramatic and ridiculous, so I was eager to see how the author would handle the present day Toronto world and that of Mytica, the setting of the Falling Kingdoms series.

I think there are aspects of A Book of Spirits and Thieves that I like much more than the Falling Kingdoms series. I read a lot of fantasy and the author’s writing is a little modern and a tad juvenile, making her Falling Kingdoms series a bit of one of those popcorn-munching guilty pleasures that I don’t pick up for the writing itself. Her writing works a lot better in the modern world where I expect characters to act a certain way and care about certain things, so I felt like I “believed” in the characters a little bit more than I do the characters of the Falling Kingdoms series. 

I liked the area of the book that was set in Mytica and I’m glad it didn’t really tie into anything with her other series at all as far as time period or characters or anything. It was just a magical plane of existence that worked in the modern world and Maddox’s struggle didn’t seem to fit in, but I knew it would tie in at some point and it did towards the ends. I know see how the two worlds are linked and I liked that whole set up.

I think I’ll likely continue the series, but I’m not rushing out for the next book because it’s still in hardcover. I feel like the author writes great YA fantasy fiction, but I feel like it’s one of those borrow instead of buy situations. I’ll wait for the library to stock the next book and go from there. This spin off series is fun and entertaining with a cast of characters you can’t help but care about. There is drama, relationships, mystery, betrayal, and secret societies. I definitely recommend reading, even if the Falling Kingdoms series isn’t for you. The setting in A Book of Spirits and Thieves changes the overall feel so that the writing fits a lot better than it does in an ancient world. 

Star 4

 

Review – Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman

Neverwhere

By Neil Gaiman

SummaryUnder the streets of London there’s a place most people could never even dream of. A city of monsters and saints, murderers and angels, knights in armour and pale girls in black velvet. This is the city of the people who have fallen between the cracks.

Richard Mayhew, a young businessman, is going to find out more than enough about this other London. A single act of kindness catapults him out of his workday existence and into a world that is at once eerily familiar and utterly bizarre. And a strange destiny awaits him down here, beneath his native city: neverwhere.

Source: I purchased a paperback ages ago and finally picked it up.

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Review:

Neverwhere was Gaiman’s first solo novel, an urban fantasy taking place in an alternate London, underground, called London Below. Richard was ordinary, average, and kind of doormat. Until, for some reason, he decided he had to take action and help a wounded girl on the street while being berated by his controlling fiancé. His decision led him on a wild adventure underground once his life above was stripped from him, rendering the already slightly invisible Richard, totally invisible. 

I really enjoyed Neverwhere. It was such a fun adventure, dark in all the right places, full of darkness, puzzles, and intrigue. The villains were oh-so-perfectly villainous and it was an overall awesome fantasy adventure. There were twists and turns in the plot, betrayals and deaths, and Richard discovered he was a heck of a lot braver and more capable than he’d every imagined. 

In a lot of ways, Neverwhere read like a middle grade or young adult novel, because it deals with coming into yourself and discovering who you can truly be, but it’s even better because it’s a tad dark and Richard is older and I think adults sometimes need a good kick in a butt to realize we are just living in a routine. It was simple to read, but it was complex in just the right ways. I think it’s perfect for adults who love urban fantasy and somewhat dark, Tim Burton-like stuff. There is a ton of coming of age fantasy for kids and young adults and I love that this one features an older, but just as out of place protagonist finding his own Narnia wardrobe of sorts. 

It’s safe to say I am definitely a Gaiman fan. I can’t wait to dive into more of his books. I still think American Gods is the best, but this is a great book and one that helps bridge the gap from Coraline or The Graveyard Book, which involve child protagonists, and American Gods, which is wholly adult. 

Star 4

Review – White Cat (The Curse Workers #1) by Holly Black

 

White Cat (The Curse Workers #1)

By Holly Black

SummaryCASSEL COMES FROM A FAMILY OF CURSE WORKERS – people who have the power to change your emotions, your memories, your luck, by the slightest touch of their hands. And since curse work is illegal, they’re all criminals. Many become mobsters and con artists. But not Cassel. He hasn’t got magic, so he’s an outsider; the straight kid in a crooked family. You just have to ignore one small detail – he killed his best friend, Lila, three years ago.

Cassel has carefully built up a facade of normalcy, blending into the crowd. But his facade starts to crumble when he finds himself sleepwalking, propelled into the night by terrifying dreams about a white cat that wants to tell him something. He’s noticing other disturbing things to, including the strange behavior of his two brothers. They are keeping secrets from him. As Cassel begins to suspect he’s part of a huge con game, he must unravel his past and his memories. To find out the truth, Cassel will have to outcon the conmen.

Holly Black has created a gripping tale of mobsters and dark magic, where a single touch can bring love – or death – and your dreams might be more real than your memories.

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Source: I purchased a paperback from my local indie bookstore.

Review:

I’m a huge fan of Holly Black’s novels, so when I saw White Cat at my local bookstore on a day I decided to browse, I immediately picked it up. The synopsis was intriguing, but I knew little about it. As a blogger and Bookstagrammer, I feel like there are very few books I’m unaware of, especially by some of my favorite authors, so I was excited to dive into a book I knew nothing about. When I bought it, it wasn’t even sure if it was YA or not. 

I really enjoyed White Cat. It was an interesting story set in a world where some people were curse workers and had abilities like affecting memory, breaking bones, creating luck, transforming people and items, etc. At one point, these workers were banned from using their abilities and, like prohibition, it created a haven for mobsters and crime families to erupt and have an underground trade. Cassel’s family was one of those crime families, though Cassel himself had no abilities.

Cassel was in school, trying to live his life after a major mistake he made. He found himself waking up on a roof and everyone thought he was trying to commit suicide or ask for help, but he felt like he was sleepwalking. The event spun out of control and his family suddenly had him under his wing out of concern for him, but what was really going on?

I loved White Cat. It was dark, a bit gritty, and Cassel was such a great character. He was who he was and I felt like he was a likable character who was honest. The author is a woman, but she nailed Cassel’s character and his narration, which is something I don’t see very often. In a book where the main character is supposed to be part of a crime family and isn’t special, he could’ve easily come across as soft or too introspective or whiny and I think Holly Black captured his naivety and impulsiveness in a way that felt real. I’m so impressed by Cassel’s character and her portrayal of him and his whole family. 

I highly recommend White Cat. I had so much fun, it was entertaining and dark and so intriguing. I love how Cassel conned people and loved it and still held grudges against his family for conning other people or using their abilities. I loved the family dynamics and being in Cassel’s head. I don’t know whether to continue the trilogy because I absolutely loved the book and I don’t know that I want to face the possibility of a second book syndrome or anything awful. White Cat is an absolute must read for fans of urban fantasy. 

Star 5