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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

 

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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

Review – Hammered (Iron Druid Chronicles #3) by Kevin Hearne

 

Hammered (Iron Druid Chronicles #3)

By Kevin Hearne

SummaryThor, the Norse god of thunder, is worse than a blowhard and a bully—he’s ruined countless lives and killed scores of innocents. After centuries, Viking vampire Leif Helgarson is ready to get his vengeance, and he’s asked his friend Atticus O’Sullivan, the last of the Druids, to help take down this Norse nightmare.

One survival strategy has worked for Atticus for more than two thousand years: stay away from the guy with the lightning bolts. But things are heating up in Atticus’s home base of Tempe, Arizona. There’s a vampire turf war brewing, and Russian demon hunters who call themselves the Hammers of God are running rampant. Despite multiple warnings and portents of dire consequences, Atticus and Leif journey to the Norse plain of Asgard, where they team up with a werewolf, a sorcerer, and an army of frost giants for an epic showdown against vicious Valkyries, angry gods, and the hammer-wielding Thunder Thug himself. 

Source: I purchased a paperback

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Review:

Hammered was the third book in the incredibly entertaining Iron Druid Chronicles. This time, Atticus had to fulfill his promises to other people, beginning with stealing the apple in Asgard and then aligning with Leif to finally take down Thor. 

I love this series because it’s fun and Atticus is such a charismatic, sarcastic, and generally smug character, despite getting into life and death situations and barely coming out of them alive. There’s something so hilarious about the fact that he’s still so smug and sure that he will succeed. It’s been a couple of years since I read the first two books, but honestly, I think that’s for the best. The series is fun, but I imagine it can be too much to read all in one go. There’s not a whole lot that needs to be remembered, so jumping back into the series wasn’t an issue at all for me and it made me appreciate Atticus all the more instead of wanting to roll my eyes (because he kind of makes you want to do that sometimes).

Hammered dealt mostly with the plot to take down Thor. It didn’t feature Oberon or the widow or even his apprentice very much, so it was a bit different, but I felt like I got to know Gunnar and Leif more and get their back stories. I flew through the pages, but I have to admit that I missed Oberon. However, the end of the book drew me back in with the introduction of some strange presence in  Arizona that I’m sure Atticus will have to address before moving elsewhere. I loved the back stories of the alchemist and the wizard and their personal issues with Thor, along with the various interactions with squirrels and frost giants. Atticus has a way with words and he makes any potentially dangerous situation a little safer with his comedic timing.

I recommend the Iron Druid Chronicles if you’re looking for a fun urban fantasy that is full of geek pop culture references (Jesus literally quotes Monty Python’s Holy Grail and I laughed out loud) and a charming and quite over the top hero who gets into all sorts of crazy shenanigans. I love the references to all sorts of mythology and religions and the way the author weaves them together and creates a variety of characters with their own motivations and goals. It’s great fun, but it can be too much to binge read the series. I don’t know that I could really handle it, so I have them on my shelves for when the mood strikes. I was in kind of a book rut and this series made me laugh so much and genuinely enjoy myself, revitalizing my reading life. The series is like a hilarious version of American Gods and Atticus even praises author Neil Gaiman at one point!

 

Star 4

Review – Alice (The Chronicles of Alice #1) by Christina Henry

 

Alice (The Chronicles of Alice #1)

By Christina Henry

SummaryA mind-bending new novel inspired by the twisted and wondrous works of Lewis Carroll…

In a warren of crumbling buildings and desperate people called the Old City, there stands a hospital with cinderblock walls which echo the screams of the poor souls inside.

In the hospital, there is a woman. Her hair, once blond, hangs in tangles down her back. She doesn’t remember why she’s in such a terrible place. Just a tea party long ago, and long ears, and blood…

Then, one night, a fire at the hospital gives the woman a chance to escape, tumbling out of the hole that imprisoned her, leaving her free to uncover the truth about what happened to her all those years ago.

Only something else has escaped with her. Something dark. Something powerful.

And to find the truth, she will have to track this beast to the very heart of the Old City, where the rabbit waits for his Alice. 

Source: I purchased a paperback

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Review:

Alice was an extremely dark and horrific retelling of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. There are many retellings of the famous and fantastic story, many of which are equally fantastic and quirky and beautiful. This was NOT one of those retellings. It wasn’t dark like a trek into a dark and mysterious forest as many imagine a dark retelling to be. Alice was a bit graphic, bloody, and haunting in a way that torture and rape is haunting (since those things were happening often). Alice was a twisted retelling in the sense that the story was slightly sick and twisted. I was 100% on board with such an awesome concept, but I feel like this book needs a disclaimer. People of all sorts enjoy Alice in Wonderland and will not enjoy the darkness that marks each page. 

I loved Alice. It was a unique retelling that took a children’s story and turned it around into a haunting and graphic story about a broken girl. Her trek down the rabbit hole didn’t end with a bit of tea and an adventure. Instead she left bloody, broken, and scarred and was trying to find her way back to enact revenge on the creature who did that to her and save everyone from the dreaded Jabberwocky. With the famous (and crazy) Hatcher by her side, Alice made her way through the ruined streets of the Old City into a world she didn’t quite understand.

There are so many retellings that have elements of the Lewis Carroll’s world, but none of them have the grit and violence of Alice. The book was a modern and futuristic story, but doesn’t even really stand with apocalyptic or steampunk or science fiction. Alice is most fittingly placed in horror, with both psychological consequences and physical consequences of everyone’s actions quite apparent. The book itself wasn’t scary, but the world was terrible and bloody and violent, like a trip through an old insane asylum or watching the Saw movies. The characters have been scarred by their experiences and the book was absolutely stunning. I highly recommend Alice to fans of the original who are also fans of horror/gore/dark fantasy. 

 Star 4