Soulless by Gail Carriger – Audiobook Review

Cover- Soulless

Published: June 22, 2010

Publisher: Recorded Books

Genre: Paranormal, Romance

Series: Parasol Protectorate #1

Narrator: Emily Gray

Length: 10 hour 52 min

My Rating: 4.5/5.0

Synopsis:

Alexia Tarabotti is laboring under a great many social tribulations.

First, she has no soul. Second, she’s a spinster whose father is both Italian and dead. Third, she was rudely attacked by a vampire, breaking all standards of social etiquette.

Where to go from there? From bad to worse apparently, for Alexia accidentally kills the vampire–and then the appalling Lord Maccon (loud, messy, gorgeous, and werewolf) is sent by Queen Victoria to investigate.

With unexpected vampires appearing and expected vampires disappearing, everyone seems to believe Alexia responsible. Can she figure out what is actually happening to London’s high society? Will her soulless ability to negate supernatural powers prove useful or just plain embarrassing? Finally, who is the real enemy, and do they have treacle tart?


Another result of my unintentional purchase of extra Audible credits and a really good 2-for-1 sale. I’ve been wanting to read Soulless for quite some time now because I have a few of the other books in this particular series hanging out on my shelves, sadly unread. And oh my goodness, I fell in love with this book after about 4 pages (an estimate) and I COULD NOT PUT IT DOWN. I was in an audiobook haze, it was so good.

Soulless is our introduction to Alexia Tarabotti, a half Italian, half English spinster with a sharp tongue and mad skills with her specially made parasol. She is stunningly intelligent and opinionated, much to the chagrin of her entire family, who gave up the hope of marrying her off before she even came of age. Alexia sneaks off to the library at yet another dull party, where she unfortunately comes across a half-mad, starved vampire who attacks her, despite her soulless state which renders vampires and werewolves both rather ineffectual. This launches a rather exciting series of events that involve her with the B.U.R. and the rather handsome Lord Collum Maccon… glorious day, those two so obviously like each other, but can’t bear to admit it even to themselves!

The story was well paced and just the right amount of supernatural and mundane drama blended together. Strolls in the park gossiping with friends, tea with flamboyant Rococo-styled vampires, and scandalously late nights spent fighting evil scientists with a penchant for cephalopods. Everything about this book was absolutely fun and there were several moments that I could barely contain my laughter. Gail Carriger’s writing appealed to me in her YA geared Finishing School series, but this is leagues above that in appeal!! I’ll be devouring the rest of this series as soon as time allows. I would highly recommend this book to fans of Victorian-era paranormal fantasy, witty heroines, and dry/weird humor.

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Godsgrave by Jay Kristoff – Review

Cover- Godsgrave

Published: September 5, 2017

Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books

Genre: Fantasy

Series: The Nevernight Chronicle #2

Pages: 448 (Hardcover)

My Rating: 4.5/5.0

A copy of this book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Synopsis:

A ruthless young assassin continues her journey for revenge in this new epic fantasy from New York Times bestselling author Jay Kristoff.

Assassin Mia Corvere has found her place among the Blades of Our Lady of Blessed Murder, but many in the Red Church ministry think she’s far from earned it. Plying her bloody trade in a backwater of the Republic, she’s no closer to ending Consul Scaeva and Cardinal Duomo, or avenging her familia. And after a deadly confrontation with an old enemy, Mia begins to suspect the motives of the Red Church itself.

When it’s announced that Scaeva and Duomo will be making a rare public appearance at the conclusion of the grand games in Godsgrave, Mia defies the Church and sells herself to a gladiatorial collegium for a chance to finally end them. Upon the sands of the arena, Mia finds new allies, bitter rivals, and more questions about her strange affinity for the shadows. But as conspiracies unfold within the collegium walls, and the body count rises, Mia will be forced to choose between loyalty and revenge, and uncover a secret that could change the very face of her world.

Set in the world of Nevernight, which Publishers Weekly called “absorbing in its complexity and bold in its bloodiness,” Godsgrave will continue to thrill and satisfy fantasy fans everywhere.


Godsgrave is the much anticipated sequel to Jay Kristoff’s 2016 hit, Nevernight. Kristoff’s work has previously been geared towards the young adult crowd, however, the Nevernight books ARE NOT YA FANTASY. Get this outta your heads, folks. This book isn’t for the faint of heart and contains copious amounts of violence, blood, and/or gore. Usually all three at once.

Mia Corvere has gone from apprentice assassin, to Blade of the Red Church, to a voluntarily enslaved gladiator. It is only fitting that a book so clearly inspired by Rome would have at least some gladiatorial combat featured, but an entire book where such is the game was nothing short of this reader’s delight. One of the very first scenes in Godsgrave is where Mia sets herself up to encounter a particular slaver in the Wastes, eventually making an arrangement with the slaver that she would be sold as a gladiatorii. This seems odd, right? Fortunately, this absurd act will get her closer to her heart’s desire than ever before if all the cards fall into place. Of course, there are struggles, subplots, and the ever present flashback segments that reveal ever so much about dark of eye, dark of hair, Mia Corvere. (And yes folks, in my head that little bit rhymed).

Mia is one of those characters that are just really fun to read about. You basically never know if she’s about to knife someone and there’s an instance in Godsgrave where you think she’s just gone full on backstabbing beastie, but she’s really not! It was great. I was 100% fooled. I wish Eclipse had gotten more development – she remains flat compared to Mister Kindly and his overabundance of sarcasm and questionable advice. The come and go nature of the shadowy companions in this installment lessened the overall amount of page time they both had, though the absences were relevant to the play of the story. The characters introduced in Godsgrave were fantastic, particularly Sidonius who started out being another crude muscle head, but was really just loyal to the wrong people.

I gotta say, Kristoff has succeeded in impressing me yet again. At this rate I’m actually going to have to read his other books just to see if they’re anywhere near this good. She comes across as this crazy tough, fearless girl but her inner thoughts are nothing but fear and fury. Her past haunts her more than anything, but it also drives her forward. Without that I think she would be mostly empty. It leaves me wondering how things will wrap up in the final book! I would highly recommend this series, particularly if you want to see an epic battle between mere mortals and an epicly sized sand beasty reminiscent of the worms from Dune.

Currently Reading: 9/18/17

Cover- The Last Wish

The Last Wish by Andrzej Sapkowski

I’ve always been curious about the Witcher books, especially since I actually sat down and began to play one of the games. Geralt is way cool – monster killer, assassin, etc… the man’s got some talent. If you’ve read this, let me know what you think!

 

I’ll also be finishing up Invictus by Ryan Graudin this week. It’s really fun so far, though the plot is strikingly similar to Wesley Chu’s Time Salvager.

Lord of Shadows by Cassandra Clare – Review

cover-lord-of-shadows

Published: May 23, 2017

Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy

Series: The Dark Artifices #2

Pages: 701 (Hardcover)

My Rating: 3.0/5.0

 

Synopsis:

Would you trade your soul mate for your soul?

A Shadowhunter’s life is bound by duty. Constrained by honor. The word of a Shadowhunter is a solemn pledge, and no vow is more sacred than the vow that binds parabatai, warrior partners—sworn to fight together, die together, but never to fall in love.

Emma Carstairs has learned that the love she shares with her parabatai, Julian Blackthorn, isn’t just forbidden—it could destroy them both. She knows she should run from Julian. But how can she when the Blackthorns are threatened by enemies on all sides?

Their only hope is the Black Volume of the Dead, a spell book of terrible power. Everyone wants it. Only the Blackthorns can find it. Spurred on by a dark bargain with the Seelie Queen, Emma; her best friend, Cristina; and Mark and Julian Blackthorn journey into the Courts of Faerie, where glittering revels hide bloody danger and no promise can be trusted. Meanwhile, rising tension between Shadowhunters and Downworlders has produced the Cohort, an extremist group of Shadowhunters dedicated to registering Downworlders and “unsuitable” Nephilim. They’ll do anything in their power to expose Julian’s secrets and take the Los Angeles Institute for their own.

When Downworlders turn against the Clave, a new threat rises in the form of the Lord of Shadows—the Unseelie King, who sends his greatest warriors to slaughter those with Blackthorn blood and seize the Black Volume. As dangers close in, Julian devises a risky scheme that depends on the cooperation of an unpredictable enemy. But success may come with a price he and Emma cannot even imagine, one that will bring with it a reckoning of blood that could have repercussions for everyone and everything they hold dear.


Oh Cassie Clare, how your books draw me in and then spit me back out. I am perpetually frustrated by how strongly your series begin and then 2, 3, or 4 books in I just utterly lose interest. I loved Lady Midnight, it was a bang-up series intro that I thought would surely trump her other two Shadowhunter series, but Lord of Shadows was SO underwhelming.

Once again, the highlights of the story are great. What you would call major plot points range from interesting to jaw dropping, but the smaller threads that weave a tapestry of disappointment are what puts me off. So much of the text is dedicated to failed relationships, teenage angst, forbidden love, and awkward, tension filled conversations that it’s hard to see past it to the meat of the story. You could have chopped out 400 pages and had a pretty good book. The effort to make me feel for the characters was just too much. It in fact achieved the opposite and I became increasingly annoyed with them and their inability to just say what they’re thinking or at least make a clear attempt to show their feelings.

Aside from this, there were some incredible scenes where I just wanted to high five the characters. Emma Carstairs is pretty epic when she’s in battle-mode, wielding Cortana against immortal foes and generally showing up all the other Shadowhunters her age. Julian is surprisingly angry for a handsome, family-oriented YA character, which I appreciated. He makes an awesome rage-machine, much like a mother grizzly protecting her cubs and it makes a nice counterpoint to the stereotypical humorous bad-boy or sensitive types. Kit gets a lot more screen time in Lord of Shadows and we get to see his development from reluctant Herondale to one of the gang. There’s far too much going on in this book for me to discuss each and every character in detail, but I’ve covered the main points. Lots of new people are introduced, side characters are given more depth, and everyone feels the need to be in one bad relationship or another.

Lord of Shadows was pretty disappointing, though Clare managed to crush my soul (just a bit) at the end, much as I was forewarned. I’m considering finishing out the series when book three is released simply because BIG CHANGES were about to go in effect at the conclusion, but may wait until I see some reviews.

Stacking the Shelves: 9/16/17

Stacking The Shelves is a weekly meme hosted by Tynga’s Reviews and it’s all about sharing the books you are adding to your shelves, may it be physical or virtual. 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!


I think it’s been nearly a month since I last typed up a Stacking the Shelves post and that’s mainly due to the fact that I haven’t received loads of books. I’ve been trying to cut back on what I request/accept because the next month is going to be BUSY.

Received for Review: 

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I featured The Man in the Tree and The Girl in the Tower in the last Stacking the Shelves post, but now I’ve got the lovely physical copies to show off. A finished copy of The Bear and the Nightingale arrived alongside The Girl in the Tower from Del Rey. Just this morning my finished copy of Blackwing by Ed McDonald arrived courtesy of Ace, which I’ve been pretty excited about.

I recently received an ebook copy of The Heart of Stone by Ben Galley from the man himself. I’ve heard a ton of great stuff about this book and I’m really excited to read it once I’ve got some time! I also received an eGalley of Weaver’s Lament by Emma Newman from Tor/NetGalley. Earlier this year I reviewed Brother’s Ruin, which I absolutely loved so obviously I had to continue with the novella series.

My Purchases:

I’ve been going through audiobooks like crazy lately! Carve the Mark and Soulless were featured on one of Audible’s 2-for-1 sales and both were on my someday TBR. I loved Soulless so much that I went and picked up Changeless as soon as I finished it. Lastly, I picked up Tower of Dawn, the Throne of Glass novel dedicated entirely to Chaol… While many people, myself included, were skeptical of how successful this would be, I ended up enjoying it far more than the last ToG book.

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And we’ve also got the only physical book that I actually purchased. I’ve been collecting Ben-Erik van Wyk’s books for the last couple years and Culinary Herbs & Spices of the World is my latest addition! They’re such dense little books, with tons of info, pictures, and are nicely cloth bound.

One Dark Throne by Kendare Blake – Review

cover-one-dark-throne

Published: September 19, 2017

Publisher: Harper Teen

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy

Series: Three Dark Crowns #2

Pages: 464 (Hardcover)

My Rating: 4.0/5.0

A copy of this book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Synopsis:

The battle for the Crown has begun, but which of the three sisters will prevail?

With the unforgettable events of the Quickening behind them and the Ascension Year underway, all bets are off. Katharine, once the weak and feeble sister, is stronger than ever before. Arsinoe, after discovering the truth about her powers, must figure out how to make her secret talent work in her favor without anyone finding out. And Mirabella, once thought to be the strongest sister of all and the certain Queen Crowned, faces attacks like never before—ones that put those around her in danger she can’t seem to prevent.

In this enthralling sequel to Kendare Blake’s New York Times bestselling Three Dark Crowns, Fennbirn’s deadliest queens must face the one thing standing in their way of the crown: each other.


As I mentioned in my Currently Reading post, Three Dark Crowns was one of my favorite YA books of 2016, so naturally I was very excited for its sequel, One Dark Throne. Once I picked this up, I devoured the entire book in about two sittings because I was absolutely hooked! So much can happen between one page and the next that it’s difficult to put down. I wish I could have read both books back to back, because as I began One Dark Throne I realized I had forgotten about many of the details and character relationships that were central to the plot. I struggled through and managed to glean most of the details from context alone, alas I still missed out on stuff but it didn’t detract from my overall enjoyment.

While the story seemed dark from the very first pages of Three Dark Crowns, One Dark Throne really takes things to a new level. Katharine is now known as the Undead Queen because of her miraculous emergence from the Breccia Domain, a depthless rift in the island where dead queens are thrown. She’s gone from fearful girl to a deadly spider of a woman and she won’t be deterred from the throne. Mirabella and Arsinoe are on the defensive since Katherine’s emergence and you can practically taste their desperation. Mirabella’s role in this book isn’t as prominent as in book one, where she was introduced as the favored daughter and the most powerful elemental queen in history. Arsinoe continues here charade as the naturalist queen while testing her true gift – that of the poisoner. Her role in this book as significant as Katherine’s, thus developing her character further.

The plot itself was surprisingly unpredictable, though I can’t say the surprises were particularly astounding. I mostly found myself thinking “oh, didn’t see that coming” with raised eyebrows rather than rocketing out of my seat and hurling the book an undetermined distance. So basically, it was good but not mind-blowingly life/genre changing. The pacing was pretty solid and there was definitely enough drama. One thing that I’ve noticed is that all the male characters feel extraneous – if they weren’t there, it would hardly matter at all. I don’t feel strongly about any of them and I still can’t get over the fact that there’s one name Billy. It’s like naming your cat Kevin or something – waayyyyy too normal of a name.

Overall I liked this book quite a bit and will DEFINITELY be continuing on with the series. I’ve got to know what happens next! The ending of One Dark Throne was satisfying and unexpected – I look forward to having the world expand somewhat and I hope some of my questions will finally get answered! For instance, what really happens to the queens after they leave the island? Kendare Blake has once again delivered a book both aesthetically and intellectually pleasing.

Currently Reading: 9/11/17

Cover- Tower of Dawn

Tower of Dawn by Sarah J. Maas

So, I actually forgot this book was coming out in September but was quickly reminded when searching for my next audiobook purchase! I’m about halfway through and so far it’s MILES better than Empire of Storms, which I was disappointed by in many ways. I have renewed hope for this series now and it may end on a higher note than I’ve come to expect/dread.

 

 

Cover- Invictus

Invictus by Ryan Graudin

I’m pretty excited to start this time-travelling adventure, which will also be my first experience with a Ryan Graudin book! I don’t know what to expect, but I’ve heard so many good things about her writing that I think it will be pretty awesome.

 

The Punch Escrow by Tal M. Klein – Review

Cover- The Punch Escrow

Published: July 25, 2017

Publisher: Geek & Sundry

Genre: Science Fiction

Series: Stand Alone

Pages: 319 (Paperback)

My Rating: 4.0/5.0

A copy of this book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Synopsis:

It’s the year 2147. Advancements in nanotechnology have enabled us to control aging. We’ve genetically engineered mosquitoes to feast on carbon fumes instead of blood, ending air pollution. And teleportation has become the ideal mode of transportation, offered exclusively by International Transport—a secretive firm headquartered in New York City. Their slogan: Departure… Arrival… Delight!

Joel Byram, our smartass protagonist, is an everyday twenty-second century guy. He spends his days training artificial intelligence engines to act more human, jamming out to 1980’s new wave—an extremely obscure genre, and trying to salvage his deteriorating marriage. Joel is pretty much an everyday guy with everyday problems—until he’s accidentally duplicated while teleporting.

Now Joel must outsmart the shadowy organization that controls teleportation, outrun the religious sect out to destroy it, and find a way to get back to the woman he loves in a world that now has two of him.


The Punch Escrow is book that came to my attention through the reviews of several fellow bloggers. Mere hours after my curiosity was piqued, I was contacted by the publisher about receiving a copy for review… could they have possibly used quantum entanglement (or something equally physics-y) to predict my interest? Unlikely, but the subject matter of this book might make you wonder such things.

Image a world run by corporations, where teleportation is a totally mundane way of travelling from point A to point B. That’s the world we have here, but we the readers are immediately thrust into crisis – the main character, Joel Byram, is being hunted down by International Transport, the inventors of human teleportation and the most powerful corporation in the world. It’s not even poor Joel’s fault, he’s just trying to use a TC terminal to get to his vacation in Costa Rica when an anti-teleportation terrorist decided to blow up said terminal. Joel’s life is quite immediately thrust into chaos because his very existence now has the power to destroy IT and proves the truth of some very dangerous secrets. You see, there are now two Joels – the one who made it to Costa Rica and the one that exited the terminal in New York…

I found Joel to be a likable character that was easy to sympathize with and the same can be said for Joel2 (aka Costa Rica Joel). The strong affinity with Joel is largely due to the fact that this story is a narrative as told by him – other characters are present (his wife, IT employees, undercover travel agents) but I never felt a strong like or dislike for them. Those who we can identify as the ‘bad guys’ didn’t elicit any really strong emotion from me, just a passive dislike which is definitely a drawback of this type of story. The author’s building of this future Earth was well done and through Joel’s eyes we get a good feel for what the world is like, though it’s definitely an overview and doesn’t get to the nitty-gritty details for the most part. The footnotes regarding certain technologies and scientific developments were and interesting addition, though the physics stuff mostly went over my head and eventually I just ended up skipping over them.

Overall, The Punch Escrow was a really cool book that I hope will actually make it through the production phase and appear as a movie! I think it will adapt very well to that format and I’ll definitely be keeping an eye out for updates on that front. The ending was satisfying, the pacing quick, and the set-up for a potential sequel has me pretty stoked.

Currently Reading: 9/4/17

cover-one-dark-throne

One Dark Throne by Kendare Blake

Finally, I have time to read this!! I’ve been SO excited to get to One Dark Throne because Three Dark Crowns was one of my favorite YA books of 2016 and I can’t wait to share what I think of it!

 

 

Cover- Changeless

Changeless by Gail Carriger

I couldn’t resist picking up the next book in Carriger’s Parasol Protectorate series after loving the first one SO DANG MUCH. I typically save audiobooks for when I’m working, but I’ve been listening to this every time I get in the car – such drama! The Lord and Lady Woolsey are both full of mischief and all the dramatic Victorian-ness is overwhelmingly fun for me to listen to!

Night of Cake & Puppets by Laini Taylor – Review

Cover- Night of Cake and Puppets

Published: September 12, 2017

Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy

Series: Daughter of Smoke & Bone #2.5

Pages: 256 (Hardcover)

My Rating: 4.0/5.0

A copy of this book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Synopsis:

In Night of Cake & Puppets, Taylor brings to life a night only hinted at in the Daughter of Smoke & Bone trilogy — the magical first date of fan-favorites Zuzana and Mik. Told in alternating perspectives, it’s the perfect love story for fans of the series and new readers alike.

Petite though she may be, Zuzana is not known for timidity. Her best friend, Karou, calls her “rabid fairy,” her “voodoo eyes” are said to freeze blood, and even her older brother fears her wrath. But when it comes to the simple matter of talking to Mik, or “Violin Boy,” her courage deserts her. Now, enough is enough. Zuzana is determined to meet him, and she has a fistful of magic and a plan.

It’s a wonderfully elaborate treasure hunt of a plan that will take Mik all over Prague on a cold winter’s night before finally leading him to the treasure: herself! Violin Boy’s not going to know what hit him.


Ever since reading Strange the Dreamer earlier this year, I’ve basically been on a Laini Taylor binge read. I devoured her Daughter of Smoke & Bone series, so obviously when a Zuzana and Mik novella showed up at my doorstep, I was ecstatic!

Night of Cake & Puppets is the story of the fated first introduction/date of Zuzana and Mik (who are positively adorable). It’s probably one of the most bizarrely cute first dates ever and I love that Laini decided to turn it into a novella, complete with illustrations because it was only ever vaguely mentioned in the main series. I’ll be honest, if this were about any characters other than our beloved rabid fairy and her blue-eyed violinist, I wouldn’t have liked it nearly so much.

There’s really not much more to say, other than if this story is basically a little winter time fairy tale. You may ask why I didn’t give it 5 stars if I liked it so much and my answer is that it just didn’t feel like a 5-star book to me. Can’t really explain it. I would definitely recommend it to those who have already read at least the first two Daughter of Smoke & Bone books, as this is sort of book 2.5 and contains some spoiler-y material.