Saturday, May 26, 2018

#Stacking the Shelves #285 (Memorial Day Weekend)

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!
A smaller haul than usual this week. Had a WHOLE bunch of denials from publishers on Edelweiss which is absolutely drives me crazy sauce since I've been reviewing for 7 years or more and read over 300 plus books every year. I know some of you are having the same issues. Would love to know your thoughts on what is happening.

Have a safe memorial day weekend folks in the US! 

This Weeks Reviews: 

 Monday - Ruthless Magic by Megan Crewe (YA, Fantasy)

Tuesday - The Fates Divide by Veronica Roth (YA, Fantasy)

*REC'D Via NetGalley

Friday, May 25, 2018

Friday #Review - A Glimmer of Hope by Steve McHugh #Urban Fantasy

Series: The Avalon Chronicles # 1
Format: Kindle, 351 pages
Release Date: April 1, 2018
Publisher: 47North
Source: Kindle Unlimited
Genre: Fantasy / Urban

From Steve McHugh, the bestselling author of The Hellequin Chronicles, comes a new urban fantasy series packed with mystery, action, and, above all, magic.

Layla Cassidy has always wanted a normal life, and the chance to put her father’s brutal legacy behind her. And in her final year of university she’s finally found it. Or so she thinks.

But when Layla accidentally activates an ancient scroll, she is bestowed with an incredible, inhuman power. She plunges into a dangerous new world, full of mythical creatures and menace—all while a group of fanatics will stop at nothing to turn her abilities to their cause.

To protect those she loves most, Layla must take control of her new powers…before they destroy her. All is not yet lost—there is a light shining, but Layla must survive long enough to see it.

A Glimmer of Hope is the first installment in author Steve McHugh's The Avalon Chronicles. Layla Cassidy is the protagonist of this series. She's a student of metallurgy, she absolutely blames her father for ruining her life spectacularly (even after he trained her in all forms of personal protection), and she has some curious friends, especially Chloe Ranje. She's also has a voice in her head telling her to commit acts of violence. Thankfully, she has never once listened to the voice. 

Not after her mother was killed in a bizarre car accident, and now after her father was arrested and imprisoned when she was 14 for killing over 300 people in the States. Layla's life that she has tried so hard to hide away from the public eye is about ready to be upturned thanks to forces who want her to help in finding her father. It all starts innocently enough. At work, she finds a group of powerful beings who slay her co-workers and take her hostage after she tries to run away. 

According to the villain, Elias Wells, Layla is one of only 3 people in the entire world who know the location of her father's secret prison. Wells as a villain is the real deal folks. He's dark, well written, well rounded, evil incarnate, & has an agenda that leaves him not giving two figs who he offends or who he has to kill to be successful in his goal of finding Layla's father. While attempting to escape, she accidentally becomes a vessel for spirits, which includes having inhuman powers.

In order to survive, Layla must accept all four spirits, and learn how to keep her emotions under control while continually being a target of Wells, and his master Nergal who wants to take down the organization known as Avalon, and replace it with like minded folks who are willing to take over the world. While Layla is learning about her new abilities, and her new state of being, as it were, she also has to face the facts that she never can go back to being normal again. She is now part of something much larger than herself.

Before you ask, yes, I really liked Layla. In fact, I really loved her character growth over the course of the story including her interactions with the 4 spirits, especially Rosa, that she accidentally ends up with. She, unlike most of the other characters in this book, had no clue that there are more beings in this world that she could ever believe. Until she becomes an Umbra and is now one of them thanks to the spirits she no carries with her. She must ally herself with those like Thomas Carpenter, Olivia Green, Diana, Chloe, Remy, her best friend Harry Gao, and Kasey. 

Some readers have indicated to me that this book is a spin-off of the authors Hellequin Chronicles. I couldn't tell you since I've never read anything by this author until now. I can say that there are characters who do appear in both series. This includes Nate Garrett, a sorcerer who formerly worked for a group called Avalon, but is now apparently doing things independently from the group, Tommy, Diana, Remy, and Dr. Grayson. This is a story filled with a whole range of legendary & mythological characters as well as magic, spirits and demons. I can't wait to meet the mysterious Nergal. Could he be the mysterious My Liege from the 7th installment of the Hellequin Chronicles? Good thing the publisher has already sent me the sequel to this book! 

Thursday, May 24, 2018

ARC #Review - Bright Burns the Night by Sara B. Larson #YALi #Fantasy

Series: Dark Breaks the Dawn # 2
Format: E-Galley, 320 pages
Release Date: May 29, 2018
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Source: NetGalley
Genre: Young Adult / Fantasy

Ten years ago, King Lorcan of the Dark Kingdom Dorjhalon defeated Queen Evelayn and cut her conduit stone from her. Since then, he has kept her trapped in her swan form. With the loss of balance between Dark and Light, winter has descended and the Draíolon of Éadrolan lose more power every day. But once a year, Lorcan transforms her back to her Draíolon form and offers a truce. 

And every year Evelayn refuses -- for he requires her to Bind herself to him for life. But now, with an Ancient power bearing down upon them, everything may change. Evelayn will learn that the truths she once believed have shattered, and that she may need her enemies even more than her allies. Lorcan and Evelayn become partners in a desperate quest to return the balance of power to Lachalonia. How far will this partnership go? Can friendship -- perhaps even love -- bloom where hatred has taken root?Sara B. Larson delivers a thrillingly romantic and hauntingly satisfying end to this extraordinary duology. 

Bright Burns the Night is the second and final installment in author Sara B. Larson's Dark Breaks the Dawn duology. The Dark Breaks the Dawn duology is a reimagining of Swan Lake. Ten years ago, King Lorcan of the Dark Kingdom Dorjhalon defeated Queen Evelayn of the Light Kingdom of Éadrolan and cut her conduit stone from her. He also used his powers to transform her into a swan. Get it? Swan Lake? Since then, he has kept her trapped in her swan form where nobody can find her. Can't spoil things that have already been spoiled by the synopsis, right?

Once a year Lorcan transforms Evelayn back to her Draíolon form and offers a truce; all she has to do is bind herself to him for life. Every year Evelayn refuses only to be returned to swan form and hidden away from those who are lost without her. After all, why should she bind herself to the man who she offered peace to and got only heartbreak and betrayal? But now something has apparently changed. This time, Evelayn finds herself free for the first time in a decade. With the loss of balance between Dark and Light, winter has descended on Draíolon and the Éadrolan lose more power every day. 

To make things every more twisted, an Ancient power, who readers met in the first installment, is bearing down upon them, and everything may change. Evelayn will learn truths she once believed in to be facts have been shattered, and that she may need her enemies even more than her allies. Except for Ceren and Quinlan who have never lost hope in finding Evelayn and freeing her. Lorcan and Evelayn become partners in a desperate quest to return the balance of power to Lachalonia. How far will this partnership go? 

So, let me get to my rating argument. If you've read the first installment, and hopefully you have, or will before jumping into this book, there was a whole lot of action, and suspense, and betrayal, and twists in the final chapter of the previous story. So bad were the betrayals, that the author seems to have forgotten what she wrote and decided to toss it all out the window and make believe that nothing of what happened between Evelayn and another character was anything that meant anything because she was going to turn an enemy into a possible love connection.

See, I can be mysterious. In this book, the author makes the villain, (and yes he still is the villain for anyone who cares to debate me), supposedly a hero and the only person that Evelayn can rely on to protect her people, and bring the peace that she and her parents had tried before they died. You will also notice that this book takes place over the course of a 3-4 day period. It is not necessarily rushed, but there is a whole lot of action and adventure and revelations in that short time frame.

I am not a fan of the romance in this book and that too affected by overall rating. I just don't see tearing a former coupling a part and then fermenting mistrust and anger in order to proceed in a entirely different direction. Ok, that was probably too much to tell. The current coupling is absurd and laughable and so damn predictable that I couldn't help roll my eyes. My last comment. When last we saw Evelayn, she was 18 years old. After ten years, she would be 28, right? So, why did the author make her characters should as though they were still in their teens? 

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

ARC #Review - The Death of Mrs. Westaway by Ruth Ware #Thrillers

Series: Standalone
Format: E-Galley, 384 pages
Release Date: May 29, 2018
Publisher: Gallery/Scout Press
Source: Edelweiss
Genre: Thrillers / Psychological

On a day that begins like any other, Hal receives a mysterious letter bequeathing her a substantial inheritance. She realizes very quickly that the letter was sent to the wrong person—but also that the cold-reading skills she’s honed as a tarot card reader might help her claim the money.

Soon, Hal finds herself at the funeral of the deceased…where it dawns on her that there is something very, very wrong about this strange situation and the inheritance at the center of it.

Full of spellbinding menace and told in Ruth Ware’s signature suspenseful style, this is an unputdownable thriller from the Agatha Christie of our time.

Ruth Ware's The Death of Mrs. Westaway is the author's four novel after In a Dark, Dark Wood, The Woman in Cabin 10, and The Lying GameThis is a story of a dysfunctional family, sibling conflicts and rivalry, intrigue, legacies and buried secrets from the past. 21-year old Hariet aka Hal Westaway is in a bleak financial situation. She is receiving threatening messages, and visits from intimidating strong men because she borrowed money to pay her rent, or to keep the electric on. As a job, Hal uses tarot cards to tell futures of those who believe she is a psychic like her mother.

Hal is apparently really good at reading people, and understanding what they want from her readings. She is also very good at weaving a story out of images. But, it doesn't keep the electric on, or food in her refrigerator. Then things really get interesting. Hal receives a curious letter from a lawyer named Mr. Treswick informing her of a possible substantial bequeath thanks to the passing of a woman named Hester Mary Westaway who is supposed to be Hal's grandmother. 

Hal has been told to be skeptical and be doubly skeptical when its something you want to believe. Curious and in desperate financial need and believing she can play the role of a lifetime, she travels to Penzance where meets with the woman's family who she never knew existed. What's even more shocking is the reading of the will. Nope, I shall not spoil that part. I will say that a substantial part of this story takes place at Trepassen House which is just creepy.

Especially the magpies who seem drawn to the place, or the attic bedroom that has some twisted features which, again, I won't spoil, or bars on the window found in an attic bedroom. Hal tries to understand her role in what appears to be a major mistake while also digging into the families past, including her own mothers past. Hal faces hostility from all quarters, especially the elderly, menacing and strange Mrs Warren. Mrs Warren is the housekeeper & it appears that she not only has secrets of her own, but may know all the families darkest secrets. I can say this. 

The author actually alternates between 1994 and the present. The past is all about revealing Easter Eggs that will lead you to hopefully figure out what is actually happening in the present. The Westaway's are so discombobulated and distrusting of Hal, that it will be a remarkable turn of things were Hal to live to tell the story to any children she may have in the future. Hal is a flawed character, who you can forgive her deceptions, given the precarious nature of her finances. 

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Tuesday #Review - The Fates Divide by Veronica Roth #YALit #Fantasy

Series: Carve the Mark # 2
Format: Hardcover, 464 pages
Release Date: April 10, 2018
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
Source: Library
Genre: Young Adult / Fantasy / Epic

In the second book of the Carve the Mark duology, globally bestselling Divergent author Veronica Roth reveals how Cyra and Akos fulfill their fates. The Fates Divide is a richly imagined tale of hope and resilience told in four stunning perspectives.

Fate brought them together. Now it will divide them.

The lives of Cyra Noavek and Akos Kereseth are ruled by their fates, spoken by the oracles at their births. The fates, once determined, are inescapable.

Akos is in love with Cyra, in spite of his fate: He will die in service to Cyra’s family. And when Cyra’s father, Lazmet Noavek—a soulless tyrant, thought to be dead—reclaims the Shotet throne, Akos believes his end is closer than ever.

As Lazmet ignites a barbaric war, Cyra and Akos are desperate to stop him at any cost. For Cyra, that could mean taking the life of the man who may—or may not—be her father. For Akos, it could mean giving his own. In a stunning twist, the two will discover how fate defines their lives in ways most unexpected.

The Fates Divide is the second and final installment in author Veronica Roth's Carve the Mark duology. In addition to Cyra Noavek and Akos Kereseth's point of views, the author has added in two new alternating perspectives: Eijeh Kereseth and Cisi Kereseth. Each have their own unique powers—and their own agendas and are probably the two least likeable characters in this entire series. Both Cyra and Cisi's are in the first person, while Akos is in the third person. 

As the story opens, Cyra, Akos, Cisi, Eijeh, Isae Benesit, and oracle Sifa Kereseth have escaped onboard a Shotet exile ship and are heading for an exile colony on Ogra. But, before they arrive, someone will die, and two of the characters, Cisi and Isae are jettisoned to find their own way to the Assembly ship. Then the news arrives, the former tyrant leader of the Shotet, Lazmet Noavek, presumed dead for 10 seasons, is very much alive and ready for war against the Assembly and the Thuvhe. 

I always get to this point, and wonder what I shall write in order to avoid spoilers. Even though the book has been out since April, there are still those who have not read the story, or even the series for that matter. I did a bit of head scratching when the author did a major twist between Cyra and Akos. I was actually okay with the twist because it actually made the story even more interesting. While Akos and Cyra were doing their thing in saving the universe and getting over their angst and feelings for each other, I did not like Cisi one tiny bit. 

She is a manipulative witch, and if she was a man, the relationship between her and Isae would be called abusive. My other minor complaint, well, not so minor, is why the author chose to write in first person for Cyra, & Cisi, while writing Akos in the third person. Overall, I think The Fates Divide is actually a set up from Carve the Mark. When you compare the so called villain to Isae, you have to really ask yourselves who did the most damage and who caused the most problems when all is said and done. 

Where the first book was mainly captured in one place, The Fates Divide spans across different planets and the Assembly ship where Cisi and Isae end up. Oh yes, as I read my notes to remind myself why my rating is what it is. Let's briefly talk about Eijeh. Here is a character who is given 3 chapters at the most. Here is a character who has been through so much since he was first taken along with Akos. Here's a character who has a whole lot of potential, but is only used sparingly. What was the point I asked myself? ::looks at the author::

Monday, May 21, 2018

ARC #Review - Ruthless Magic by Megan Crewe #YALit #Fantasy

Series: Conspiracy of Magic # 1
Format: E-Galley, 372 pages
Release Date: May 30, 2018
Publisher: Another World Press
Source: NetGalley
Genre: Young Adult / Urban Fantasy

In the contest to keep their magic, the only options may be die... or kill.

Each year, the North American Confederation of Mages assesses every sixteen-year-old novice. Some will be chosen. The rest must undergo a procedure to destroy their magical ability unless they prove themselves in the mysterious and brutal Mages' Exam.

Disadvantaged by her parents' low standing, Rocío Lopez has dedicated herself to expanding her considerable talent to earn a place in the Confederation. Their rejection leaves her reeling—and determined to fight to keep her magic.

Long ashamed of his mediocre abilities, Finn Lockwood knows the Confederation accepted him only because of his prominent family. Declaring for the Exam instead means a chance to confirm his true worth.

Thrown into the testing with little preparation, Rocío and Finn find themselves becoming unlikely allies—and possibly more. But the Exam holds secrets more horrifying than either could have imagined. What are the examiners really testing them for? And as the trials become increasingly vicious, how much are they willing to sacrifice to win?

The first in a new series by USA Today bestselling author Megan Crewe, Ruthless Magiccombines the magic of Harry Potter with the ferocity of The Hunger Games alongside a poignant romance. Fans of Cassandra Clare and Holly Black, look no further for your next urban fantasy fix. 

Ruthless Magic is the first installment in author Megan Crewe's Conspiracy of Magic series. The story is actually told in two separate narratives; 16-year old Finn Lockwood, son of the man, Jonathan Lockwood, who helped bring Mage's into the light of day. The second narrative is by 16-year old Rocio Lopez who is a much, much better magician than Finn but doesn't have the same options open to her. While Finn is from a long lineage of mages, Rocio's parents have been Dampered, or, had their magic contained so it's at the barest minimum. 

Let me say that I recommend readers pick up Magic Unmasked before you read this story. Magic Unmasked actually takes place 40 years before this story, however, there are several key players in the story, including Jonathan Lockwood, and Raymond Lockwood, who appear in both installments. Magic Unmasked focuses on Jonathan and another character who I won't spoil since there's no point. It was because of Jonathan's action in Unmasked, that have led to the world these characters live in now.

This is a world where old magic, mixes with new magic, mixes with those like Rocio who are extremely talented but are often left out of the elite schools where magic is taught at a higher level. In this world, when you turn 16, you are either chosen for the College of North America Confederation of Mages, or you are Dampered. There is, however, another choice and that is to opt into a brutal contest called the Mage's Exam where only the top survivors are chosen for the College, or other opportunities.

Both Finn, who doesn't believe his family takes him seriously, and Rocio, who spent years at a much less prestigious school in Manhattan, opt into the Mage's Exam along with 54 other candidates from all over the country. Since Finn's best friend Prisha Mathurs is an important secondary character, I will mention that she chooses the Mage's Exam as well. Prisha is what the author calls new money. To become a Champion, Finn, Rocio, & Prisha will have to survive 5 days of testing. 5 days of the most brutal, the most diabolical, the most nerve shattering testing you've read about since, well, The Testing by Joelle Charbonneau.

As a reviewer, we are supposed to tell you who our favorite characters are and why, right? Well, I have to say that I give Rocio the edge since she is utterly impressive, powerful, and really good at magic. Without her magic, she would be just another person on the streets with no future and no expectations. Rocio is also searching for answers to what happened to her brother Javi who disappeared 3 years ago, and has been presumed dead. 

Finn is second since he is someone who is trying to prove himself and not be taken for granted because of his name. He isn't at the top of any mage list. He's not even in the middle. He's probably at the bottom which gives certain family members pause to question what they are going to do with him. What makes Finn a really good hero, is that he wants to actually use his magic for good, not unlike his own father in Magic Unmasked. Finn doesn't like that the Confederation has so much power to decide a person's fate, especially when there are those like Rocio and Prisha who are just as talented as those from old money magic families.

I am definitely eager to read the sequel whenever it is planned for release. There are a whole lot of avenues the author has left for herself to explore from both Finn and Rocio's perspectives after the final bell is tallied, and those who survived are named Chaptions, or end up Dampened.

Saturday, May 19, 2018

#Stacking the Shelves #284 (Week Ending 05/19/2018)

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!
A smaller haul this week. Good thing too since my Kindle decided to stop working. Thankfully, Amazon had a Mother's Day special which I took advantage of. I must admit. I am an addict. I have way too may books on my Kindle. Not kidding! I have 140 pages of books! Grrrr
Have a great weekend!

This Weeks Reviews: 

 Monday - Inferno by Julie Kagawa (YA, Fantasy)

Tuesday - Personal Demons by Rachel Collett (YA, Paranormal)

Wednesday - Stormcaster by Cinda Williams Chima (YA, Fantasy)

Thursday - Legendary by Stephanie Garber (YA, Fantasy)

 Friday - Infamous by Alyson Noel (YA, Mystery)

Saturday - War and Wind by Alex Lidell (YA, Fantasy)

*REC'D VIA Publisher & NetGalley & Library