Thursday, April 26, 2018

ARC #Review - Nightblade's Vengeance by Ryan Kirk #Fantasy #Historical

Series: Blades of the Fallen # 1
Format: E-Book, 336 pages
Release Date: October 24, 2017
Publisher: 47North
Source: Publisher/NetGalley
Genre: Fiction / Fantasy / Historical

In a thrilling fantasy series from the author of the Nightblade novels, revenge becomes a quest for a young female warrior.

In a feudal land, a Kingdom is at risk. With no heir to the fragile throne, its future rests with the powerful members of the dying king’s Council, including Minori, a nightblade warrior, and Kiyoshi, a dayblade healer. The two men are bound by the sword but divided by two opposing principles: rule the land, or serve it. In their challenge for supremacy, a spark has been lit.

Her name is Asa. Her creed is revenge.

A fierce nightblade warrior, she’s spent a decade in pursuit of the enigmatic general who killed her father in a violent revolt—then mysteriously vanished from all records. Now, her desire for reckoning has led her to the village of Two Falls—and straight into the heart of an impending civil war. Minori and Kiyoshi are vying for her loyalty. And Asa must choose sides.

As fresh betrayals unfold and a new uprising looms, Asa knows that chasing a ghost is no longer just a personal quest for retribution. It’s going to alter the fate of the entire Kingdom.

Nightblade's Vengeance is the first installment in author Ryan Kirk's Blades of the Fallen series. Ryan Kirk is also the author of the Nightblade trilogy which I have not read nor do I think it matters if you do or you don't. Set in a world that I am pretty sure is Japan during the Feudal Era, powerful Nightblades (who I am calling Samurai), and Lords (who I am calling Daimyo) play a dangerous game to see who will reign supreme and lead the Kingdom. The story is actually told through the eyes of three very distinct characters, but what happens in the beginning of the book, will stay with readers throughout.

If you ignore the beginning, you will miss the reason for the current state of the Kingdom and the Nightblades. Asa is a Nightblade who is on a mission of vengeance. She has lost her entire family, and now hunts the man who is responsible for killing her father 20 years ago in a place called Two Falls. As a Nightblade, Asa feels what others can't see. We won't call it the force folks. The author calls it Sense. Nightblades tend to be able to sense events at a distance, or they can predict an opponent's next movement, or they can walk into a village without being seen. Blades are almost mystic in their status. Nightblades are supposed to keep the peace, but history has a tendency of repeating itself over and over again because humans never learn from their mistakes and the Kingdom is on the cusp of war. 

As for Asa, one could tell her when searching for vengeance, she should dig two graves, but I don't think that would have mattered one bit. Asa is so driven for revenge, that she gets careless at times, and really isn't all that hot when it comes to fighting against much quicker and skilled fighters. Thanks to a directive by the Council of Blades, Asa has unlimited access to records, and has been given the approval to kill the man who was responsible for betraying her father 20 years ago. When Asa finally meets the man who killed her father, will she have the strength to finish the job? And if she does, what's next for her?

But, this isn't only Asa's story as much as I would have preferred it to be. There are two other characters that matter just as much. Minori is a Nightblade who knows that the Blades are being targeted by the Lords. His mission is to regain the power that has been taken from the Nightblades even if that means working with the devil himself. Through some interesting twists and manuevors, Minori finds himself vying to deceive and control those who may become the next King of the Kingdom. Minori is thought to be a brilliant strategist and specialist, but even he finds that he may be in over his head.

The last character to mention is Kiyoshi. Kiyoshi is a Dayblade, which means that he can heal, but he is a whole lot more to him. He wants to ensure that the Nightblades continue to serve the Kingdom, and not go their own way like they tried to do 20 years ago. He happens to be the only person capable of keeping King Masaki alive which also makes him a target of opportunity for the Lords scrambling to take over.

But, there is so much more than meets the eye test. I especially liked his colleague Daisuke who is probably the most interesting Nightblade outside of another Nightblade named Koji. (I won't speak on Koji in this book since he is more of less a tertiary character. You'll see lots more of him in the sequel.) I was happily entrenched in this book because I love the Feudal history of Japan, as well as the Samurai. 

There are so many correlations between this book and that era, that you can close your eyes and imagine that you are right there in the muck and the blood and the battles and the power plays. I liked the fact that the Nightblades are no longer considered to be immortal. I know that part of the blame for this lies in politics, and part lies in blackmail, murder, and vindictive Nightblades who take and take till there's nothing left. I dare say that I am hoping for more of Asa and Daisuke. I think there is a whole lot that he can teach her, including patience, and choosing where her path will lead her. While there is a fair amount of mystery and intrigue, I would have like to have the author use Asa's beauty as a crutch. Plus, she is the only Nightblade that a lead character position.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

ARC #Review - Ghost Slayer by Majanka Verstraete #Paranormal #Romance

Series: Ghost Slayer # 1
Format: E-Book, 257 pages 
Release Date: April 24, 2018
Publisher: Fire Quill Publishing
Source: NetGalley
Genre: New Adult / Paranormal / Romance

Twenty-one-year-old Kaelyn has spent half her life hunting ghosts and killing them. But she's not like the other ghost hunters who have to rely on spells and curses to banish ghosts back to where they came from, hoping that they don't come back. When Kaelyn kills a ghost, they stay dead.

But in Mortimer Hall, a behemoth of a house, Kaelyn is about to face the most powerful Twenty-one-year-old Kaelyn has spent half her life hunting ghosts and killing them. But she's not like the other ghost hunters who have to rely on spells and curses to banish ghosts back to where they came from, hoping that they don't come back. When Kaelyn kills a ghost, they stay dead.

But in Mortimer Hall, a behemoth of a house, Kaelyn is about to face the most powerful and life-threatening ghost she ever met, and what she doesn't know is that the ghost has been waiting just for her...  

Ghost Slayer is the first installment in author Majanka Verstraete's Ghost Slayer series. The story really starts out wonderfully. Kaelyn is on a job trying to get rid of a 19th century ghost who has killed several people. Why should I care, you ask? Because when Kaelyn gets a job, she does what she is paid to do; remove ghosts permanently. The other curiosity is her relationship with her mother. No, I am not going to spoil it for you.

I will say that they've moved plenty of times over the course of the past 10 years. They travel from town to town removing maleficent ghosts. But, Kaelyn also has plenty of issues outside of her attending college for parapsychology and other courses. The first issue is one Alex Miller who she was once smitten with and returns to her life asking for assistance with an exorcism. The second issue is that she is about to take a field trip to one of the most haunted houses in existence; Mortimer Hall. Mortimer Hall has a long history of accidents, deaths, and mayhem. 

As a ghost slayer, Kaelyn is sensitive to ghosts. But, that won't prevent her from stopping what's coming her way. It won't stop Alex from re-entering her life with a shocking secret that really explains Kaelyn's history before this story even opened. There is no complicated world building. There are, however, a rather large cast of characters. From Kaelyn's professor who carries a rather large secret, to her best friend who has no clue what she is, to Kaelyn's fellow students who could wind up as cannon fodder if she doesn't do her job.

So, the book starts out quickly, fades to mediocrity, and then rushes towards the ending in a breakneck pace. Oh, and the ending leaves no doubt that this isn't a standalone, and that if you are full invested in this story, you should also be prepared to carry on to the sequel. The story is a bit on the creepy and dark side, that I will admit. However, I could have done without the whole romance angle that just seemed to come out of the blue and added nothing to the story itself. I loved the gothic setting of Mortimer Hall. Add to it the plethora of ghosts, and one disturbingly powerful ghost who seems to not only know Kaelyn, but is 5 steps ahead of her.

Will I read the sequel? Sure why not? After all, there is a huge storyline that is still be be wrapped up and I'd like to see what happens next after Kaelyn's trip to Mortimer Hall opened her eyes to her own past. 

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Tuesday #Review - Hero at the Fall by Alwyn Hamilton #YALit #Fantasy

Series: Rebel of the Sands (#3)
Format: Hardcover, 480 pages
Release Date: March 6, 2018
Publisher: Viking Books for Young Readers
Source: Library
Genre: Young Adult / Fantasy

The breathless finale to the New York Times bestselling Rebel of the Sands series will have you on the edge of your seat until the dust from the final battle clears!

When gunslinging Amani Al’Hiza escaped her dead-end town, she never imagined she’d join a revolution, let alone lead one. But after the bloodthirsty Sultan of Miraji imprisoned the Rebel Prince Ahmed in the mythical city of Eremot, she doesn’t have a choice. Armed with only her revolver, her wits, and her untameable Demdji powers, Amani must rally her skeleton crew of rebels for a rescue mission through the unforgiving desert to a place that, according to maps, doesn’t exist. As she watches those she loves most lay their lives on the line against ghouls and enemy soldiers, Amani questions whether she can be the leader they need or if she is leading them all to their deaths.

Hero at the Fall is the third and final installment in author Alwyn Hamilton's Rebel of the Sands Trilogy. This story begins right where Traitor of the Throne left off. After a twisted turn of events at the end of the previous story, Amani Al’Hiza aka the Blue-Eyed Bandit, is one of the few remaining rebels not in captivity. She has become the de facto leader of the rebellion, but she would rather have someone else in charge, like her friend Shazad or Ahmed, so she can do what she does best.

Word has spread that the Rebel Prince has fallen, and hope is quickly fleeting with the invading Gallan army approaching quickly. But, Amani knows the truth and so does the remaining rebellion. He's been captured and sent to place where it is virtually impossible to get into, let alone escape. To make things worse, she, along with Jin, Prince of Miraji, Hala, Izz, & Maz are unable to leave the city of Izman due to a protected dome. Amani and her group make some interesting choices in this first part of the story. Choices that lead to a curious alliance which I won't spoil.

They need to find a way to get to Eremont and rescue their fellow rebels. They need to find a way to stand against the Gallan who are are close to taking over their country and their way of life. They need to find an army to march to the gates of Miraji and take back their kingdom from a Sultan who has gone too far into the deep end of the pool. They need to find a way how to release the Djinni being kept as hostages for Leyla's experiments. And, they need Ahmed and Shazad, the daughter of a General who are keys to winning against the Sultan.

Amani's journey from the beginning has been a twisted one. From a small dead-end village, to becoming the Blue-Eyed Bandit able to hit any target without missing, to learning that she is more than human. She is able to control the sands, and she has fallen in love with a boy who is supposed to be high above her station. She has also found friendship among a group of Rebels who were looking for a new way of living and having control over their own lives. Amani can be selfish, and self-less. She can be fearless and brave and able to find the strength to keep going when others would have given up.

Finale books for me have been hit or miss for a long time now. In this books case, I think the ending was perhaps a bit rushed. Then there was an interesting Epilogue of sorts which gives light to the lives of those we have come to love or hate since the beginning. I have to agree with others. I love the relationship between Amani and Shazad. There is a particular scene that shows home much respect and admiration the two have for each other. Then, of course, there is the romance between Amani and Jin. Not a fan for awhile, ended up being quietly content with it by the time we get to the end. 

Monday, April 23, 2018

Blog Tour / #Review / Giveaway - Dark Queen by Faith Hunter (Urban Fantasy)

Series: Jane Yellowrock # 12
Format: Paperback, 432 pages
Release Date: May 1, 2018
Publisher: ACE/Penguin
Source: Publisher
Genre: Urban Fantasy

Jane Yellowrock used to hunt vampires, but now she must fight--and win--beside them.

As Enforcer to the vampire Master of the City of New Orleans, Jane Yellowrock stakes her reputation and her life on keeping her territory safe. But Leo has been issued a blood challenge by the emperor of the European vampires, who seeks to usurp all of his power and possessions. If Leo loses the match to the death, the city will be forfeit, and the people of New Orleans will suffer the consequences. Jane can't let that happen.

Preparing for the duel requires all of Jane's focus, but with so much supernatural power in play, nothing goes according to plan. She has to rely on herself and the very few people she knows she can trust to stand and fight. Only two things are guaranteed: nothing is sacred, and no one is safe.

Dark Queen is the 12th installment in author Faith Hunter's Jane Yellowrock series. Series overview for those who haven't :::shocked face:: read the series yet. Warning number one: don't think you can jump into this story without having read the previous books in the series. Doesn't work, and there is so much that has happened that you will be utterly confused and disappointed. Second, this is an urban fantasy series featuring shapeshifting skinwalker Jane Yellowrock, who both works for vampires and hunts them in the city of New Orleans.

Along with Beast, her constant companion, Jane has made a name for herself as someone not to take lightly. She stands as Enforcer for Leo Pellisier, the Master Vampire of the City of New Orleans, and something else which hasn't been explained. For an extended storyline now, the author has laid the groundwork for what is to come. She has given every opportunity for fans of this series to be ready for anything and everything that can happen. 

This is the book that Jane and her allies, vampires, witches, werewolves, and humans, must stand and fight against the European Vampires who have desired to take control of Leo's territories as well as the entire United States. The so called Sangre Duello will be the highlight of the entire story, but don't ignore the arrival of a shocking new character who arrives and upturns Jane's life. This wouldn't be a Jane Yellowrock story without plenty of action, and mystery. 

Yes, we do get more than our fair share of Beast as well as as past that Jane is only now coming to remember. Yes, we do get more than our fair share of Jane and Bruiser. I am holding my breath trying not to let in spoilers to this review. So far I think I've done okay. Especially since this is part of the books blog tour. Let me say this; be prepared for anything to happen. Be prepared for the return of characters who are new, and old. 

There are characters who are loved, and not so much. By the way, I love the relationship between Molly and Jane. I am happy their issues have been resolved, and yes, Molly is nobody you should mess with. I also love how much respect and love Jane has for her partners/brothers Eli and Alex Younger even the prickly Edmund Hartley has found himself a home with Jane. When I finished this book, I immediately went on Goodreads and posted this. "If someone spoils the ending of this book for anyone, they'll be hell to pay."

Seriously folks. If you've read this book, don't go posting any spoilers. What happens at the end of this book, and to Jane herself and others should be a surprise and let's leave it at that. I'd love to ask the author questions about why she did what she did, but I trust her in that she knows what she's doing. This book is an end of a very long story arc that has seen Jane face her own past, her relationships with best friend Molly, Leo, Edmund, Gee, while forming a wonderful relationship with Bruiser that is much, must more appealing than Jane's previous loser. She has so much more ahead of her that I will be looking forward to the 13th installment.

Amazon | Audible | Barnes & Noble 
| Books-A-MillioGoogle Play  

BIO – New York Times and USA Today bestselling fantasy author Faith Hunter was born in Louisiana and raised all over the south. Altogether she has 40+ books in print under the names Gary Hunter, Gwen Hunter, and Faith Hunter. As Faith, she writes two contemporary Urban Fantasy series: the Jane Yellowrock series, featuring a Cherokee skinwalker who hunts rogue vampires, and the Soulwood series, featuring earth magic user Nell Ingram. Her Rogue Mage novels are a dark, post-apocalyptic, fantasy series featuring Thorn St. Croix, a stone mage. The role playing game based on the series, is ROGUE MAGE, RPG.


Win one of two complete sets of Faith Hunter’s Jane Yellowrock novels! Contest runs April 23rd until May 11th. Rafflecopter code is below:

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Saturday, April 21, 2018

#Stacking the Shelves # 280 (Week Ending 04/21/2018)

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!
This is a fairly heavy haul this week. Mostly from NetGalley.
Got an invitation recently to join the Coastal Magic Convention in 2019 as featured Blogger. I live right up the coast from Daytona Beach, so, this would be an amazing chance to see fellow bloggers and authors who I've followed for 9 years. Thank you for all your comments last week. It really helped make my weekend.
Have a great weekend!

This Weeks Reviews: 

 Monday - True North by L.E. Sterling (YA, Dystopian)

Wednesday - Devils Upon Dust by Emma Berquist (YA, Dystopian)

Thursday - Traitor Born by Amy A. Bartol (YA, Dystopian)

 Friday - Suitors and Sabotage by Cindy Antstey (YA, Historical) 

Saturday - Ace of Shades by Amanda Foody (YA, Fantasy)

*REC'D VIA NetGalley, & Edelweiss*

Friday, April 20, 2018

ARC #Review - Ace of Shades by Amanda Foody #YALit #Fantasy

Series: The Shadow Game Series (#1)
Format: Hardcover, 416 pages
Release Date: April 10, 2018
Publisher: Harlequin Teen
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Genre: Young Adult / Fantasy / Dark Fantasy

Welcome to the City of Sin, where casino families reign, gangs infest the streets…and secrets hide in every shadow.

Enne Salta was raised as a proper young lady, and no lady would willingly visit New Reynes, the so-called City of Sin. But when her mother goes missing, Enne must leave her finishing school—and her reputation—behind to follow her mother’s trail to the city where no one survives uncorrupted.

Frightened and alone, her only lead is a name: Levi Glaisyer. Unfortunately, Levi is not the gentleman she expected—he’s a street lord and con man. Levi is also only one payment away from cleaning up a rapidly unraveling investment scam, so he doesn't have time to investigate a woman leading a dangerous double life. Enne's offer of compensation, however, could be the solution to all his problems.

Their search for clues leads them through glamorous casinos, illicit cabarets and into the clutches of a ruthless Mafia donna. As Enne unearths an impossible secret about her past, Levi's enemies catch up to them, ensnaring him in a vicious execution game where the players always lose. To save him, Enne will need to surrender herself to the city…  And she’ll need to play.

Ace of Spades, by author Amanda Foody, is the first installment in the authors The Shadow Game series. Foody is also the author of Daughter of the Burning City. One could call this story a mash-up of House of the Rising Sun meets Six of Crows. Foody takes readers to the infamous City of Sin (New Reynes) with the story of Erienne "Enne" Salta, a 17-year old lady-to-be orphan who must brave rowdy casinos, magic, street gangs, Ponzi schemes gone wrong, and a mire of dangerous politics as she searches for her missing foster mother, Lourdes Alfero, using Lourdes rules of survival and a trusty hand book. 

"Avaric, pride and lust; these are all modest desires. What the City of Sin truly craves is destruction" - The City of Sin, a Guidebook: Where to Go and Where No To.

Foody explores the classic themes of seeking the truth and finding where you belong, all set against a rich and evocative fantasy backdrop. Foody alternates her story through two very different characters; Enne Salta, who I mentioned before. Enne, from Bellamy, is armed only with a letter her foster mother left her after going missing 4 weeks ago telling her to find Levi Glaisyer, and 17-year old Levi Glaisyer, a gang leader, a card dealer & card shark, a lover of both men and women apparently, and someone who is just one scheme away from owning the streets and having everything he's ever wanted.

In New Reynes, Enne can't trust anyone. Not Levi, who leads her into the devil's own den where she finds herself bound to a crime leader and forced to work while searching for her foster mother. Not Vianca Augustine, head of the Augustine Crime family who has a fetish for all things Mizer, and certainly not Sedric Torren, the man who may have a connection to a group that has risen out of the Shadows and may possibly be the most dangerous person Enne will face in New Reynes. Enne must also explore her blood talent that derives from her parents. Parents she never knew.

This is a story that features some interesting ideas. Mizers, who apparently were overthrown 25 years ago, monarchists, Talents o Mysteries, and Talents of Aptitude, volts, which one uses as a payment method, and orbs. All kidding aside, this story is twisted, strange, bizarre, and really shouldn't be compared with Six of Crows. Levi surely has nothing on Kez Brekker, and neither does his so called crew. One could say that Levi's crew, minus Jac, is pretty much non-existent and not even in play for most of the story. The only other characters that really matter in the long run outside of Enne and Levi, are Lola Sanguick, and Zula Slyk. I enjoyed Enne's character development. From the green and innocent girl who arrives in New Reynes, to the girl who has a whole lot of encouraging growth in a positive direction.

"She’d faced the witch. She’d poisoned the wolf. She’d strolled into the land of death with her head held high and left it a lord. She was an impossible player in a fixed game, the only person not playing to win."

ARC #Review - Suitors and Sabotage by Cindy Anstey #YALit #Historical Fiction

Series: Standalone
Format: E-Book, 336 pages
Release Date: April 17, 2018
Publisher: Swoon Reads
Source: Publisher
Genre: Young Adult  / Romance / Historical

Two young people must hide their true feelings for each other while figuring out who means them harm in this YA Regency romance from the author of Love, Lies and Spies and Duels & Deception.

Shy aspiring artist Imogene feels conflicted about marrying the young man her father has chosen for her, but she is willing to at least give him a chance for her family's sake. That is, until she meets Ben, a charming architect's apprentice . . . and her suitor's younger brother.

Unbeknownst to Imogene, Ben feels the same way about her, but he can never let his true feelings be known without betraying his brother. So he resigns himself to merely a friendship with her, enlisting her to teach him how to draw.

But hiding their true feelings for each other becomes the least of their problems when, after a series of unfortunate "accidents," it becomes apparent that someone means Ben serious harm. And as their affection for each other grows, so does the danger . . .

Author Cindy Ansley's Suitors and Sabotage is a story that is set in the early 19th Century England. The story revolves around four main characters: Imogene Chively, Emily Beeswanger, Ernest Steeple, and Benjamin Steeple. Imogene is a character who is an aspiring artist who just had a successful season in London. Imogene is expected to accept Ernest's offer of marriage whenever the young man proposes, as he is her only suitor.

In this reality, only a firstborn with a sizable income is suitable for Imogene. At least according to her father. She is also on the shy side unlike her best friend Emily. The problem is that Benjamin Steeple arrives before Ernest, and catches Imogene's imagination. Ben is the more daring, the more interesting, the more forward, and the one who peaks her interest with his wit and humor. He also seems to be a trouble magnet. For some reason or the other, someone appears to want to make Ben's life a living hell. 

While Ernest is the eldest and is expected to retain the families reputation, it is Benjamin who is an apprentice to a renowned Architect. The problem is that he can't draw to save his life. Imogene's forte is architectural details and teaching others how to draw. Learning of Ben's ineptitude towards drawing, Imogene offers to help Ben learn to draw. Now comes the twist. Imogene and Emily are best friends and sisters of the heart.

But, Emily apparently fancies Ben, which creates an internal conflict in Imogene. This is the case of best friends not telling each other how they feel. While Imogene's undeniable feelings for Ben continue to grow, you do feel a sense of isolation as Imogene essentially loses her only confidante. There is always a tricky element when you have two men and one woman involved in a story. Love triangle? Not necessarily. There really wasn't any romantic interest on Imogene's part towards Ernest. More as a friend to friend relationship. 

It's a twisted sort of story where the author takes the readers to various houses that seem to be a summer tradition. There is Fotheringham, Shackleford Park, Chotsdown & Dowersham all apparently in Kent, England. It also has a curious mystery that is played out against the backdrop of everything else that is happening to Imogene, Emily, Ben, and Ernest. A mystery that was rather sad when you really think about it. This book is filled with obvious tension between the characters. I am kind of sad at how the story resolves itself. Not sad that the ending didn't make sense. Sad that the author left things kind of unbalanced in regards to her characters.