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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

Review – This Savage Song (Monsters of Verity #1) by Victoria Schwab

This Savage Song (Monsters of Verity #1)

By Victoria Schwab

SummaryThere’s no such thing as safe.

Kate Harker wants to be as ruthless as her father. After five years and six boarding schools, she’s finally going home to prove that she can be.
August Flynn wants to be human. But he isn’t. He’s a monster, one that can steal souls with a song. He’s one of the three most powerful monsters in a city overrun with them. His own father’s secret weapon.
Their city is divided.
Their city is crumbling.
Kate and August are the only two who see both sides, the only two who could do something.
But how do you decide to be a hero or a villain when it’s hard to tell which is which?
 

Source: I received a hardcover in my Owlcrate box.

Owlcrate_July.jpeg

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Review:

I received This Savage Song in an Owlcrate box and I wanted it very badly. While I haven’t read any of Schwab’s YA novels, I really enjoyed Vicious and I knew she had the ability to wow me with a tale of monsters. I was right. I LOVED This Savage Song. It was unique, interesting, well executed, and awesome with characters I loved immediately. I really enjoyed August’s character and the way he fought internally over his humanity. I loved Kate and her desire to be fierce and unforgiving. 

In a fast paced adventure, August Flynn debated what it meant to be human, attempted to feed without falling, and Kate Harker struggled over where she fit in with her father keeping her away from Verity. She did everything she could to come home, only she knew she had a lot to prove to a person she wasn’t sure she trusted. I love that the story, while still fast paced and full of betrayal and close calls, took the time to talk about what it meant to be human, what being a good person was about, and I felt like I fully understood the weight of each choice the characters had to make. Vicious did a similar thing, so I feel like the author really cuts to the heart of good and evil in her books and I can’t wait to read more of her novels.

Schwab is an author to look out for. She’s extremely talented and I love the way she writes. The plot of This Savage Song was unique, but the idea of a hero losing his humanity and a heroine attempting to be fierce are not new to the YA sphere and the book could have easily turned into another forgettable YA adventure if placed in another author’s hands. Schwab balanced complexity with adventure and she did it well!

I cannot gush enough about This Savage Song. I was so afraid it would disappoint me because I had such high expectations after reading Vicious. Fortunately, it appears the author isn’t going anywhere and she’s putting out some pretty amazing work! I highly recommend the book if the synopsis intrigues you. I don’t know that it would appeal to those who stick to the contempories and other realistic fiction, but for lovers of fantasy or alternate worlds and strange creatures, it’s awesome. 

Star 5

Review – Burned (Fever #7) by Karen Marie Moning

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Burned (Fever #7)

by Karen Marie Moning

Summary: It’s easy to walk away from lies. Power is another thing.
MacKayla Lane would do anything to save the home she loves. A gifted sidhe-seer, she’s already fought and defeated the deadly Sinsar Dubh—an ancient book of terrible evil—yet its hold on her has never been stronger.
When the wall that protected humans from the seductive, insatiable Fae was destroyed on Halloween, long-imprisoned immortals ravaged the planet. Now Dublin is a war zone with factions battling for control. As the city heats up and the ice left by the Hoar Frost King melts, tempers flare, passions run red-hot, and dangerous lines get crossed.
Seelie and Unseelie vie for power against nine ancient immortals who have governed Dublin for millennia; a rival band of sidhe-seers invades the city, determined to claim it for their own; Mac’s former protégé and best friend, Dani “Mega” O’Malley, is now her fierce enemy; and even more urgent, Highland druid Christian MacKeltar has been captured by the Crimson Hag and is being driven deeper into Unseelie madness with each passing day. The only one Mac can depend on is the powerful, dangerous immortal Jericho Barrons, but even their fiery bond is tested by betrayal.
It’s a world where staying alive is a constant struggle, the line between good and evil gets blurred, and every alliance comes at a price. In an epic battle against dark forces, Mac must decide who she can trust, and what her survival is ultimately worth.

Source: I borrowed a digital copy from my library.

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Review:

I stopped reading the series after book 5 because it was such a major conclusion. Also, book 6 was from a different point of view altogether and it was not a POV I was ready for at the time. I recently read book 6 and enjoyed it, especially after getting used to the main character shift, so I figured I’d keep reading the series even though it’s not really Mac’s story anymore.

I have to admit, I’m frustrated for a variety of reasons. To start, the book began with a scene I vaguely remembered from the beginning of the book, but it did not go the way the scene went, which confused me. It wasn’t even mentioned until near the end of the book, when we discovered the reason for the existence of that particular scene, which explained the scene. But for over 50% of the book, I had no idea what it all meant.

There were entirely too many points of view. Often, they didn’t make any sense and they completely pulled me out of the storyline and POV I was invested in. I remember being on the edge of my seat for the previous books and sometimes the scene DID switch when I desperately wanted answers, but the strategy was definitely overused in this book with the constant switches. It was maddening.

As much as I was skeptical about reading a book from Dani’s point of view in book 6, I was kind of relieved because Mac and Barrons were finally a thing and sometimes, when authors continue a series after a HEA, they completely ruin whatever the romantic couple had going for them. I was terrified that the series would do this to Mac and Barrons… and I was kind of right. They fought, didn’t communicate well, and were generally not much different than they were before they became a thing, with the exception of maybe admitting they sleep together and possibly connecting with their whole nonverbal communication thing. Which was mostly disappointing.

Basically, Burned was a hot mess and I was frustrated for the majority of the novel. I am interested in a ton of characters, but I would have rather had it all from mostly Mac’s POV and had her “see” more scenes than switch constantly and have to keep track of other character’s emotions as they went through unimportant motions that maybe would later be important, but just didn’t seem incredibly important at the time. The angst just doesn’t work when I’m being shuffled all over the place. Reading a book shouldn’t feel like I’m being passed from person to person in a mosh pit, full of chaos and the fear of being dropped. It should be much more seamless than that, like I’m being passed gracefully to the next dance partner in a ballroom.

I am a die hard fan of books 1-5. I completely love the Fever series, but I think I’m just going to have to pretend the rest of the series doesn’t exist if the author can’t get it right. This was not the experience I wanted from Burned, especially when I was finally getting back to Mac.

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