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Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Lair of Dreams (A Diviners Novel 02) by Libba Bray

Title: Lair of Dreams
Author: Libba Bray
Series: A Diviners Novel 02
Read Type: eARC
Stars:StarStarStarStar

You can pre-order a copy of this book from Amazon (International)
You can find out more about the author on Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, Instagram and her website

Book Blurb
After a supernatural showdown with a serial killer, Evie O'Neill has outed herself as a Diviner. With her uncanny ability to read people's secrets, she's become a media darling. It seems like everyone's in love New York City's latest It Girl - their 'Sweetheart Seer'.

But while Evie is enjoying the high life, her fellow Diviners Henry DuBois and Ling Chan will fight to keep their powers secret.

A malevolent force is at large, infecting people's dreams and claiming victims in their sleep. At the edges of it all lurks a man in a stovepipe hat who has plans of nightmare proportions . . .

As the sickness spreads, can the Diviners descend into the dreamworld to save the city?


Review

Strong language: Mild, some derogatory
Drugs: None
Violence: Some, semi-graphic
Sexual content: None

I received a copy of this novel from NetGalley, via Little Brown publishers, in return for an honest review.

Please note, any quotes within are not from the commercial copy of the novel and may be subject to change.

“Dream with us, dream with us, us, us, the dream wants you wants you wants you to dream to dream to dream with us.”

Deep underground in New York, 1927, many men, often considered second-class citizens because of their racial heritage, dig subway tunnels for the future. One group accidentally come across a caved in subway station, long since abandoned. As they explore they find a music box playing an ancient tune, lulling them all into peace… Until they find the skeletal corpse! That night they dream of the music, of their wildest hopes and dreams with only one condition: the dream wants them to stay. If they try to fight it the Dreams turns into their worst nightmares. None of the men ever wake again.

The sickness quickly spreads through Chinatown, getting the name the Chinese Sleeping Sickness, despite it taking all races and classes indiscriminately. The prejudice against the Chinese, and Chinatown as a whole increases. Life becomes dangerous for all minorities as people hold irrational fears and quarantines are put into place.

This is the second novel in the Diviners series. I haven’t read the previous novel but I didn’t have much difficulty adapting to the scenario. Diviners appear to be various forms of psychics, some speak to the dead, read objects, can walk in dreams or even heal. This appears to have become increasingly common since events of the previous novel.


One such diviner, Evie O’Neill has her own radio show reading the memory of objects for her avid listeners. She has become a celebrity, with crowds lining the streets, and rowdy parties every night in her lifestyle. She’d obviously had a major part in the previous novel and had moments when she showed stress and suffering due to this. I couldn’t however connect to this character. She felt overly pretentious and very shallow at times. I must have connected on some level though because I found myself muttering her catchphrase Pos i tute ly a couple of times.

Initially the novel jumps between many characters of different lifestyles, race and ages. This let me really see New York, from the slums, to the working families, the minorities and the majorities, as well as the rich and famous. It really grounded me in the world, and I saw many different aspects and opinions of what the sleeping sickness was and what to do about it. There were however many sections that didn’t cover this at all, people carrying on with their day-to-day lives that at times left the plot meandering. Every character had their own desires, means and subplot. At the quarter mark I was concerned about the lack of plot progress and direction, unsure of the main characters and what was being done. Nevertheless, I was still interested, and with the increasing amount of Sickness victims the characters began to know people who were affected.

The language was rich and vibrant, using many terms from the time. I felt real and authentic, almost like that book was written in the 20’s in places. I did feel this went too far in places though, making me have to stop in the middle of an immersive scene to find out what something meant. Maybe much of this was introduced slower in the first novel, but I felt a poor job was done of integration into a young adult novel in this installment. I’m all for using this language to give depth, but it can be done while explaining what it means better than this showed.

I particularly liked the character Ling, a young Chinese girl working in her family’s teashop while having dreams of studying physics. She often had books surrounding her on these subjects, causing teasing from her peers, unless she was taking requests to speak to the dead for people. I felt she was a very strong character, far ahead of her time in ambitions, not willing to let her race hold her back, and with a disability I believe was polio, she showed a good demographic for a main character. I particularly enjoyed her dream walks, seeing the difference in her when she could take her splints off, discard the crutches and run freely. Once she met Henry, another dream Walker who could share dreams with her, the Dreams quickly became my favourite part of the novel. The backgrounds of the Dreams were often insubstantial and couldn’t be touched, yet the dream itself was that much more real for it. I think here the language was the most vibrant, and the characters the most free. They often fell far closer to contemporary characters, less of a barrier separating them from our time with sarcasm, humour and dry wit.

“Yes. Bloody clothing is often a clue that something has gone awry,” Henry demurred.

Most of the characters were young, however the demographic was very varied. You had black, white, Chinese, gay, straight, rich, poor and disabled. While I applaud the author for giving the reader the full variety of society who are often hidden in historical fiction, I did feel some of these were put in for the sake of it without an actual plot reason. Not having read the previous book though this could have been explained there.

As the plot progressed it became clear that this was not a normal sickness. It was being caused by something far beyond the realm of normal, far beyond what the government could deal with. It was time for the diviners to step in once more. This was when the novel really stepped up its game, many of the characters came together, their plotlines beginning to merge, although they still held to their individualities and their own desires. This caused the very human rift between the characters, it was far from the trope of “something terrible happens and random people dropped their lives to fix it”. They all had different ideas, priorities and moralities.
“C’mon, Freddy,” Sam goaded, still trying to jimmy the lock. “Is your curiosity button on the fritz?”
“No. Neither is my code-of-ethics button. Maybe you can ask Santa to bring you one of those for Christmas.”

I felt the language only grew stronger as the story continued. As the plot thickened I was pleased to see that the author employed methods such as newspaper articles, letters and switching points of view to give news, rather than lengthy boring exposition. Both the dream world and the waking world we used, building both emotion and tension as cracks appeared in the perfect veneer the characters wanted to see of their lives. I think during this stage too many aspects were added to the plot, with monsters leaving the dream world to attack the waking especially, with no real effect behind them, or solid conclusion. I think the plot could have been better split into two separate novels at this point, it was by no means short of ideas, the book just didn’t have enough space or time to deal with them all adequately. I was particularly interested in the side plot that suggested the government had a secret department using diviners. While this was looked into it was never perfectly clear one way or the other. I hope the next novel continues this.

The finale was emotional and exciting, I didn’t know who would survive. Characters had to split their differences and ditch their ways of life to save all the ‘normal’ people in the rest of America. It ended with a bang, but the last couple of chapters produced more incomplete plot threads and questions that I’m sure will carry into the third novel. I’d like to have seen this cleared up a bit more as some main areas were left up in the air, but I guess I’ll just have to read book 3 to find out what happens next.

The world is safe again, or is it? What will the diviners do with their powers that seem to be increasing?
“Beautiful dreamer, wake unto me/Starlight and dewdrops are waiting for thee.…”


The 411
this novel was incredibly atmospheric, and a good description of what 1920s New York looked like. The characters were well written, even the ones only had one scene felt fleshed out.

I felt the language, while very true to the time and adding to the intensity of the environment, gave very few concessions to the modern reader, especially as this book is aimed at young adults. On several occasions it threw me and I had to stop to look it up. I feel this could have been improved.

The story itself meandered through several threads and many point of view characters. Most of the time this added in richness, but occasionally it became distracting.

This novel had its flaws, but I loved the style. I hope to get an opportunity to read more from this series in the future.
I give this novel 4 stars.

 



Thursday, 18 June 2015

Battle Cry (Loki's Wolves (book 2)) by Melissa Snark

Title: Battle Cry
Author: Melissa Snark
Series: Loki's Wolves (book 2)
Read Type: eARC
Publisher: Nordic Lights Press
Stars: Star Star Star StarImage from the Silk icon theme by Mark James *'''Source:''' http://www.famfamfam.com/lab/icons/silk/ photo HalfStar_zps439ec261.png

You can purchase a copy of this book from: Amazon (International), B&N, ARe, Kobo, iTunes and Google Play


Book Blurb
Survival demands sacrifice. Healing requires forgiveness.

After losing her lover and then her mate, Victoria Storm builds a new life in Sierra Pines, California. When the Norse Fates predict the she-wolf will destroy the world to save her unborn child, her duties as Freya’s priestess conflict with her responsibilities as Odin’s Valkyrie.

Sawyer Barrett has hunted Victoria so passionately, he doesn't know whether he loves or hates her. Desperate to end the fighting, he will take chances with everything—except his heart. This hunter harbors a deadly secret he can't reveal without risking the tentative ceasefire and his father’s continued disapproval.

Men revere him; monsters fear him. Jake Barrett—the notorious Hunter King—values loyalty to family above all else. When he believes his eldest son was murdered by a wolf ally, he releases a chain reaction of violent destruction that claims the lives of both wolves and hunters.

An ancient vampire plots the destruction of wolves and hunters alike. If the embittered rivalry doesn't end quickly, there is no hope for the Hunters, Victoria's pack, or the mortal world.




Author Bio


Author Melissa Snark lives in the San Francisco bay area with her husband, three children, and a glaring of litigious felines. She reads and writes fantasy and romance, and is published with The Wild Rose Press & Nordic Lights Press. She is a coffeeoholic, chocoholic, and a serious geek girl. Her Loki’s Wolves series stems from her fascination with wolves and mythology.


·         Subscribe to her newsletter:  http://eepurl.com/LteNP




Review


Strong language: Yes
Drugs:  No
Violence: Graphic
Sexual content: Mild


I received a free copy of this book from the author in return for an unbiased review.

Battle Cry is the third book in the Loki’s Wolves series, following directly on from the previous book Hunger Moon. This book starts out as almost 3 separate books in one, with the threads slowly being wound closer and closer together until, by the end, you have a cohesive whole.

You have the story of the Hunters, Jake and Sawyer Barrett, leading a platoon of men in the fight against the endless hordes of vampires. Grieving a son and brother, the men struggle on, with Sawyer out of control and bent on revenge.

Then there is the Storm wolf pack: decimated by war with the Hunters over a chronic misunderstanding, the pack is led by Victoria, a young werewolf grieving her lover, the lead Hunter’s son.

Finally, at the start of every chapter there is a small look into Freya’s halls where the goddess of war, Freya, and the trickster, Loki, are having an unexpected confrontation. This last story can be read as a short story all of its own by flicking to the first couple of pages of each chapter.

The novel opens to show the Hunters in an intense battle against vampires. A large pack of werewolves come to the aid of the Hunters. This is a fantastic show of battle, varied, intense and emotional, and exciting display of the author’s control over extended battles. It also shows the tension between all wolf packs and the Hunters. Soon, we switch to Sawyer Barrett waiting for Victoria with the supposed intention of calling a truce. The tension soon ramps up here, the plot thickens, and the adventure begins.

The plot was dense and intriguing. Battle lines were constantly being redrawn, and characters having to rethink their loyalties. As this book carries on where the previous one left off, the plot leans heavily upon hunger moon and the events that happened there. Primary to this is the death of Daniel Barrett, the eldest son of the Hunter Jake and secret lover of the werewolf Victoria, causing confusion and the rift between the two sides that formerly worked together.

While this is stated that it can be read as a stand-alone, and the events that are referenced from previous books have some details brought back up in this, I would recommend that the reader reads the previous instalments for the best effect. This book heavily relies on the emotional connotations of these events and of knowing the characters as well as the plot points themselves. This gives the reader a fantastic chance to give a deep read, but would restrict a reader who hasn’t read what came before.

The various points of view used in this book, often switching every chapter, were a great way to see the pain and confusion on all sides of the story. It gave a great sense of completeness that couldn’t have been given from one perspective alone. With a mixture of werewolves, Hunters, gods and those in between, I was able to see the world within the book in more depth, and it kept me from feeling “side X are the side I am seeing through, so they must be in the right.”

The characterisation was thorough and never missed a beat despite regularly changing. The changes felt natural, almost like reading a balanced argument. The point of view was wherever the action was, feeding the reader information so it didn’t have to be given in lengthy exposition. I particularly felt the emotions of the male characters in a depth that is rare in such a book. It had me hooked from the very beginning.

The story is set across many different levels. You have the human stories of love, loss, and war, the supernatural creatures of varying intellect fighting for what they believe is right, or have been hypnotised to do, and the stories taking place right up to the level of the Norse gods. This book covers a couple of the major Norse myths, updated to fit the modern times and including the big players of their lore. I’m not completely up on this particular mythology and had to Google it a couple of times, but I felt it was fresh, while holding a regal yet bloodthirsty essence just a breath away. The god Loki had to be my favourite. He was crazy, funny, and got many of the best lines.

While all the different types of scenes in this book were well written, at the end of the day it was the emotional ones that I felt the deepest. The way the hidden wells of pain were cracked open inside characters leading them into fits of depression or anger depending upon their personalities felt very real and natural. It had me going from laughing, or being on the edge of my seat during a battle, to welling up within the space of a few lines.

This is a very character and emotionally driven novel, I suggest you read it with some energy food because you won’t want to put it down…and maybe a box of tissues.



The 411
I found this to be an exciting novel that didn’t stop. It jumped from fights, to adventures, to deep emotional scenes, and back. The plot was fitted together tightly, and the characters well written. I enjoyed the constant switching of themes without losing the plot or the reader.

I think the fight scenes were handled especially well. In one case there is a three-chapter long fight scene, yet it is constantly switching tactics, points of view, and new events are always happening so it never feels old. Fight scenes are an especially hard thing to keep me interested in, so this was a real achievement.

I can’t wait to see where this series goes.
I give this a 4.5 adjusted to a four for reviewing sites.


Friday, 12 June 2015

Flying Toasters - The Dead Pixel Tales

Title: Flying Toasters - The Dead Pixel Tales
Author: Various
Publisher: Dead Pixel Publications
Read Type: Amazon freebie
Stars: StarStarStarStar

You can purchase a copy of this book from Amazon (International)
You can find out more about the author on Dead Pixel Publications website. For details on individual authors please see the link at the start of the relevant review


Book Blurb
FLYING TOASTERS – THE DEADPIXEL TALES is a collection of engaging short stories that range from gritty to haunting. Thought-provoking to ridiculous. The authors of DeadPixel Publications craft tales that will appeal to all readers through solid storytelling, crossing genre lines, and focusing on brilliant characters and twisted plots.


Publisher Bio
We're just a bunch of people with day jobs, writing for the pure love of the craft and hoping for a little success along the way.

By joining forces we help promote each other and create a community of sharing and collaboration with one goal in mind:


Helping the public find some kick ass books to read (if we do say so ourselves).




Review
Strong language: Some
Drugs: No
Violence: Gruesome descriptions of after effects
Sexual content: Some, non-explicit

I received a copy of this anthology via a free promotion.


The Man Upstairs by Hanna Elizabeth
3.5 Stars
This is a story of a ghost trapped on this plan without knowing if he has to fulfil a destiny or if this is life. This was an interesting look at the afterlife. The powers the ghosts had were woven into the story well, as was the background of the relevant human characters without any info dumps. I felt it meandered in places a bit, I'd like to have seen more drive and intention from John, the primary ghost.

Overall a fun read, and there was one scene I think women will love while men will cringe away from. Way to go, Hannah!


The Cave by Brian L. Braden
4 stars
Western is a genre I don't generally choose to read. I was pleasantly surprised. The story had good tension and mystery throughout. The POV was interesting, not your usually TV stereotype. I was drawn into the world with its strong characters and refreshingly direct approach that engaged me enough that I actually went looking for a few more westerns and am now enjoying them, particularly the more romantic ones.  This story was an unexpected pleasure that avoided the TV tropes.  In this story, no cowboy goes bang, Indian goes twang, cowboy goes bang, Indian goes twang, cowboy goes bang, Indian goes twang, etc. All around, a great read.


My Dead Friend Nancy by Robert Brumm
4.5 Stars
A slightly confusing story to start, but it soon transitions into a full colour, Dolby Surround Sound, HD movie of pirates and other undesirables heading to newly discovered America to look for the fountain of youth… or treasure if you are one of the more sensible of the party. Or are you?

The language flowed, the voice was strong, I loved the concept. My only complaint, I wish it was longer, like long novel long! Great job Brumm.


The Lightgiver by Thomas Cardin
4.5 Stars
An amazingly rich world built layers with great care, leading us into the heart the true story. The ideas behind this story were creative and intriguing, and to pull it off in a short, or possibly a novella, was incredible. I felt at times the imagery distracted me slightly from the bigger picture of what was happening and what this world was, but overall, it was greatly crafted with strong characters. Though there was little dialogue, it was well placed and used to give a feeling of forced servitude and fear.


Altitude Sickness by C.M. Saunders
4 stars
A long aeroplane flight. Time to catch up on some reading, take in a movie, or just sleep. That’s James’s hope, until he gets the chatty passenger that just can’t take the not-so-subtle hint of headphones!
Not being a huge fan of air travel myself, I felt the tension built well, smoothly transitioning from the air travel itself to the creepy passenger. Until…

Prism by John Gregory Hancock
4.5 stars
In a world of old, where kings can call humble shoe makers before them without explanation or notice, our story begins. Liam has a most unusual disability for his profession, but one the king thinks may save the kingdom.

I found the writing immersive, and while long, it never lost my attention. Always something new to see. I particularly like the scenes with the creatures causing the issues, and the way the “new boy” handled them when the soldiers couldn’t. I found the ending satisfying.


The Ballad of Azron by Berzon Steven Wetherell
4.5 stars
This story started with rich descriptions of a thriving town running on thievery. Soon it moved into energetic action with a side of humour.

We followed our thief, Azron, as he was thrown into a tough situation, and repeatedly failed to escape, something he seemed very unaccustomed to. Given the humorous start to the story I was surprised at the depth of the characterisation and emotion that was achieved without losing the humour or the rich language. There was plenty of action making this a good all-rounder of an adventure.


The 411
This anthology showed a good selection of the high-quality work produced by Dead Pixel Publishing. The majority was set in the genres of science fiction, fantasy, and things otherwise not quite of this world. I enjoyed the rich quality of the work, the language, and the variety of subjects within the book. The works were a decent length, allowing me to get a good sense of the author’s style without appearing to monopolise the anthology.

This introduced me to many new authors who I’d enjoy working with.

Overall I give this anthology 4 starts


Tuesday, 9 June 2015

The Golden Key Chronicles by AJ Nuest

Title: The Golden Key Chronicles
Author: AJ Nuest
Series: The Golden Key Chronicles
Read Type: ARC for HarperImpulse
Stars: StarStarStarStarStar


You can purchase the entire Golden Key Chronicles on Amazon UK and Amazon US
To purchase an individual episode please see my Golden Key Chronicles Archive
You can find out more about the author on her Website, Blog, Facebook, Author Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest



Series Synopsis
The key would unlock his future and the safety of his kingdom, but he never imagined the sorceress would unlock his heart…

Antiques restorer, Rowena Lindstrom, finds herself the owner of an ancestral armoire containing a hidden key and a magic mirror leading to another realm!

But the handsome warrior prince waiting on the other side is truly the final straw. This must be an elaborate joke, right? As she struggles to discover the truth, Rowena learns Prince Caedmon Austiere needs the key to save his kingdom. In the end, she cannot deny him anything. Including her heart.


~~~

Lost in a world she doesn't recognize, Rowena struggles to find her place.

Yet her abilities with a blade and the loyalty of a fierce falcon don't discourage the heated advances of the handsome Prince Caedmon, and the connection between them seems much deeper than her troubled heart can recall. 



~~~


For two years Prince Caedmon suffered in the dungeons of Seviere’s keep, leaving him with more than just lash marks lacing his back. He now retains the secret behind the key, and is the only one who understands its grim connection to his beloved Rowena.

Torn between telling her the truth and risking their future, he agrees to join her perilous quest. But their enemies to the north are not the only menace determined to see them fail and, to prove his love, he must conquer the demons of his past.

 

Author Bio

I am a multi-published, award-winning author who lives in the middle of a cornfield in NW Indiana. My loving husband, two beautiful children and a bevy of spoiled pets have agreed to stay and, in exchange for three rations per day and laundry service, tolerate my lunacy.

While I spend most days happily ensconced in crafting romance across a multitude of genres, an underground coup has been percolating. The dogs just informed me the cat is secretly vying for dictatorship. 













Review
Strong language: Yes
Drugs: No
Violence: Yes, Graphic
Sexual content: Yes, Graphic

My previous reviews for this series can be seen at my Golden Key Chronicles Archive



I received a copy of The Golden Key Chronicles from the author in return for an unbiased review. At the author's request, I will read and review each novella separately, followed by an overview.


I have now read the 4 novels and this is my overview, covering the story as a whole (with a break of at least 2 weeks between each to give me perspective) as well as the epilogue detailing the myth of the gods of the sun and moon. If you wish to see my more detailed opinions on any of the stories please click the relevant link above

The story started in Rowena’s Key. This was a fun, sexy and atmospheric opening to the series. There was lots of mystery and adventure. I did however feel it was lacking in explanation, and in a couple of places, I had to reread. I think this was my favourite on the fun factor.

Next was Candra’s freedom. I found this to be very action packed and tight. This was much more adventure and far less romance compared to the first novella. I missed that aspect, and in some ways, I felt the situation had gone back to how it was at the start of Rowena’s key, with mistrust on the side of Rowena. Nevertheless it was a good novella.

Then we moved into Caedmon's Curse, hands down my favourite book of the series. Once again, there was a mixture of adventure and romance. In this book I really fell for the main male protagonist, Caedmon. He was tender and caring when Rowena was weak, but also the romantic heart every romance novel needs.

Finally, came Braedric’s Bane, an epic story of adventure, romance, fun and destiny. It was a real rollercoaster. I did however feel that Caedmon was treated badly in this story. Considering how the series started, I could have expected Rowena to have been more considerate towards him in his plight.

The epilogue was an interesting surprise I wasn’t expecting. All through the story, we heard the tale of Helios and Celine, essentially the sun and moon, who, to these medieval people, were Gods locked in an endless battle for romance. The tone and writing of the epilogue was very different. It was written in old language, very fluent and floury, but never losing the reader. Having heard shortened versions and snippets so many times, it completely drew me away with it. This epilogue gets a 5, no questions about it.

My only criticism I could make of the series, is that whether the particular novella was an adventure, romance, war or a mixture it seemed to follow a vague formula. Each novella started with distrust or confusion from one or more parties. By the end of each novella this was resolved, yet something would happen, either in the last few pages, the space until the next story, or right at the beginning of the following one, to cause a sense of distrust that had to be overcome once again. Though these occurred for a variety of reasons, it could be repetitive at times.

The 411

This series was a real rollercoaster, with many genres mixed in. I enjoyed the adventure, the romance, the excitement, and the all-round newness of the world. AJ Nuest wove the world and characters that could be frustrating, but always kept you going for the next chapter. This series was very fulfilling, and I’m glad there is a spin-off. I have no doubt her skill in storytelling will continue.

I give this series as a whole a 5.