Stacking the Shelves: 10/16/21

Stacking The Shelves is a weekly (or in my case monthly) meme hosted by Tynga’s Reviews and it’s all about sharing the books you’ve added to your shelves, may it be physical or virtual. You can include books you buy in a physical store or online, books you borrow from friends or the library, review books, gifts, and of course ebooks!


Received for Review:

Orbit kindly provided me with finished copies of Blood of the Chosen by Django Wexler and The Seven Visitations of Sydney Burgess by Andy Marino. 

An Unintended Voyage by Marshall Ryan Maresca
I’m excited to see where voyages outside of Maradaine take Corrie Welling! I’m betting it’s going to be a thrilling story if the first few chapters are anything to go by! Thanks to DAW for the eARC.

The Rot by Siri Pettersen
I’ve already finished this up and will be posting a review soon! It’s an excellent story and it makes me want to get my hands on even more translated works. Thanks to Arctis for the eARC.

The Bone Shard Emperor by Andrea Stewart
Aren’t we all just reading this book for more Mephi? Thanks to Orbit for feeding my animal companion addiction!

Edgewood by Kristen Ciccarelli
Family curses, dark forests, and fae. A trio too good to resist. Many thanks to Wednesday Books for the eARC.

The Liar’s Knot by M.A. Carrick
I really want to check this one out soon (AKA before the actual release date). I also really want that mask on the cover – SO gorgeous! Thanks to Orbit for the eARC.

A Botanist’s Guide to Parties and Poisons by Kate Khavari
This is a wayyyy early copy – it doesn’t come out until June 2022! A research assistant must clear her mentor’s name in the poisoning death of another professor’s wife. Thanks to Crooked Lane Books for the eARC.

Saint Death’s Daughter by C.S.E. Cooney
A royal assassin who is allergic to violence and accidentally brings the dead back to life?? Yes!!! Much thanks to Solaris for the eARC.

Absynthe by Brendan Bellecourt
A WWI veteran must hone his latent telepathic abilities to stop the President’s nefarious plans. GOOD LORD, WHAT A SUMMARY. Can’t wait to check out this unusual book from DAW!

My Purchases:

I hate stickers on book covers 😦

I always go wander around bookstores on vacation, even if it is just a Barnes & Noble and this time I could actually buy stuff because we didn’t fly!! I picked up the rad 10th anniversary edition of Leviathan Wakes, the special edition of Empire of the Vampire, and American Cider. Vespertine arrived in the mail just before I started working on this post – it was so good I had to buy a physical copy. 

I’ve had quite the audiobook binge lately! I finished up the Jessica Blackwood trilogy with Name of the Devil and Black Fall. Empire of the Vampire was a great book with excellent narration, as was The Man Who Died Twice. I just picked up Heavy Lies the Crown and I’m expecting good things from this one too!

The Atlas Six by Olivie Blake – Review

Published: January 30, 2020

Publisher: Self Published/Tor Books

Series: The Atlas #1

Genre: Fantasy

Pages: 383 (Paperback)

My Rating: 4.0/5.0

Synopsis:
The Alexandrian Society, caretakers of lost knowledge from the greatest civilizations of antiquity, are the foremost secret society of magical academicians in the world. Those who earn a place among the Alexandrians will secure a life of wealth, power, and prestige beyond their wildest dreams, and each decade, only the six most uniquely talented magicians are selected to be considered for initiation.

Enter the latest round of six: Libby Rhodes and Nico de Varona, unwilling halves of an unfathomable whole, who exert uncanny control over every element of physicality. Reina Mori, a naturalist, who can intuit the language of life itself. Parisa Kamali, a telepath who can traverse the depths of the subconscious, navigating worlds inside the human mind. Callum Nova, an empath easily mistaken for a manipulative illusionist, who can influence the intimate workings of a person’s inner self. Finally, there is Tristan Caine, who can see through illusions to a new structure of reality—an ability so rare that neither he nor his peers can fully grasp its implications.

When the candidates are recruited by the mysterious Atlas Blakely, they are told they will have one year to qualify for initiation, during which time they will be permitted preliminary access to the Society’s archives and judged based on their contributions to various subjects of impossibility: time and space, luck and thought, life and death. Five, they are told, will be initiated. One will be eliminated. The six potential initiates will fight to survive the next year of their lives, and if they can prove themselves to be the best among their rivals, most of them will.

Most of them.


Seems like I jumped on the bandwagon just in time with this book because it’s just been picked up by Tor for a re-release in March 2022! I love the current cover and have seen it around on Instagram enough that I was Influenced and picked it up. (Grab it now while it’s still only $5 for the ebook!). Between the dark academia setting and a cover that practically screamed “weird occult symbols” I was unable to resist temptation. And you know? It was a pretty cool story!

The story follows six magical practitioners who are highly skilled in their various disciplines. Each of them is extended an offer they can’t refuse by one Atlas Blakely, recruiter for the Alexandrian Society, an elite secret society of magicians. Only six are selected for admission each year and only five of them make it in as members. Isn’t it obvious that something ominous happens to the uninducted member? During their pre-initiation they spend their time learning secret powerful magics and inventing incredible feats of their own. Wormholes, time travel, anything is possible with their level of power and skill. They must also repel anyone who tries to invade the society’s walls and whilst they do all this, they must also decide who will be eliminated. 

The characters themselves are quite the cast. The two youngest, Nicole and and Libby have just graduated from magical university and are the fiercest of rivals, though their sexual tensions is palpable. They’re also the most likable of the cast, even though I could punch Libby for being so dense and insecure! The others are all varying shades of assholes. Callum reigns as the most psychotic and his empathic abilities only serve to make him worse. They all have quite obvious flaws and it really does serve to keep the reader on their toes and guessing about what might happen next. I liked the unpredictability of the whole story, and the ending left me clamoring for the sequel! I suppose now that Tor has picked it up I might have to wait a little longer for the next book, but I hope it will be worthwhile.

Overall, this was an interesting take on the magical school trope, had great dark academia vibes and some definite antiheroes. This is one instance in which unlikable characters worked for me – they weren’t completely awful and had enough redeeming qualities and interesting motivations to keep me invested! I can’t wait to see where the story goes next after such a wild ending!

Waiting on Wednesday: For the Throne by Hannah Whitten

Waiting On Wednesday” is a weekly meme originally hosted on Breaking the Spine but has since linked up with “Can’t Wait Wednesday” at Wishful Endings now that the original creator is unable to host it anymore. This is a great way to share upcoming releases you’re excited about!

I am SO THRILLED to get my hands on this book!! It’s definitely one of my most anticipated fantasy releases of 2022. Red and Neve’s stories are going to come to an epic conclusion I’m sure!! As of right now, this will be released June 7, 2022.

Gild by Raven Kennedy – Review

Published: October 16, 2020

Publisher: Self Published

Series: The Plated Prisoner #1

Genre: Romance, Fantasy

Pages: 375 (Kindle)

My Rating: 1.5/5.0 

Synopsis:
The fae abandoned this world to us. And the ones with power rule.
Gold.
Gold floors, gold walls, gold furniture, gold clothes. In Highbell, in the castle built into the frozen mountains, everything is made of gold.
Even me.
King Midas rescued me. Dug me out of the slums and placed me on a pedestal. I’m called his precious. His favored. I’m the woman he Gold-Touched to show everyone that I belong to him. To show how powerful he is. He gave me protection, and I gave him my heart. And even though I don’t leave the confines of the palace, I’m safe.
Until war comes to the kingdom and a deal is struck.
Suddenly, my trust is broken. My love is challenged. And I realize that everything I thought I knew about Midas might be wrong.
Because these bars I’m kept in, no matter how gilded, are still just a cage. But the monsters on the other side might make me wish I’d never left.
The myth of King Midas reimagined. This compelling adult fantasy series is as addictive as it is unexpected. With romance, intrigue, and danger, the gilded world of Orea will grip you from the very first page.


I hated this book with almost every fiber of my being. It was utter shite and I genuinely do not understand the numerous high ratings I see (on Amazon especially). Like, it’s really not even good smut, so it’s definitely not good fantasy! Had I not been super invested in my hate-read I would have DNFd this after the halfway point for sure. Why did I stick with it for so long you may wonder?

Well, while it opened with a rather awkward orgy scene I kept hoping that there would be some excellent character or plot development to justify some part of those ratings. It kept teasing a potentially good plot, but it would continually let me down. At the roughly 50% mark, I concluded that there would be no plot development worth my time, but it was a shorter book so I pushed on through for the sake of writing a complete and justifiably negative review. 

This book does not feature healthy relationships AT ALL. Our MC is the King’s favorite concubine and is proof of his amazing ability- turning things to gold- because she is literally completely golden. Talk about economic inflation! She also has wiggly ribbon appendages sprouting from her back, which has honestly got to be the STUPIDEST thing I’ve ever heard and I really try not to judge too hard since SFF can get weird and make it work. Our Golden Girl has Stockholm syndrome like you would not believe, basically giving me hard-core heeby jeebies the whole book. I mean, it was just disturbing and pitiful. She just kept telling herself that life was great and that she was happy, all while downing copious amounts of alcohol to dull her feelings of entrapment.

0/10, do not recommend. It was also super rape-y, with tons of abuse of not only the main character but also the other concubines. And not just by the king! He would pimp them out to other nobles! To be fair, a disclaimer is provided at the end of the synopsis, so I knew it was going to be there… just perhaps not to that extent. Overall, it was SO NOT my cup of tea and I won’t be reading any more of the series despite the oddly attractive cover art. It gets 1.5 stars for a charming side character that gets murdered too soon and the nice cover.

Currently Reading: 10/11/21

The Man Who Died Twice by Richard Osman
I was counting down the days until I got my Audible credits so I could pick this one up! I really adore the characters in these books and this one is extra exciting because we get to learn more about Elizabeth’s past adventures.

The Quicksilver Court by Melissa Caruso
Another very exciting sequel! I took this with me on vacation the week before last, but didn’t have time to check it out so I’m making up for lost time. I expect I’ll actually be finishing this one up today and I can pick up another exciting book this week. 

Vespertine by Margaret Rogerson – Review

Published: October 5, 2021

Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books

Series: Vespertine #1

Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult

Page: 400 (Hardcover)

My Rating: 4.5/5.0

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

Synopsis:
The dead of Loraille do not rest.

Artemisia is training to be a Gray Sister, a nun who cleanses the bodies of the deceased so that their souls can pass on; otherwise, they will rise as spirits with a ravenous hunger for the living. She would rather deal with the dead than the living, who trade whispers about her scarred hands and troubled past.

When her convent is attacked by possessed soldiers, Artemisia defends it by awakening an ancient spirit bound to a saint’s relic. It is a revenant, a malevolent being that threatens to possess her the moment she drops her guard. Wielding its extraordinary power almost consumes her—but death has come to Loraille, and only a vespertine, a priestess trained to wield a high relic, has any chance of stopping it. With all knowledge of vespertines lost to time, Artemisia turns to the last remaining expert for help: the revenant itself.

As she unravels a sinister mystery of saints, secrets, and dark magic, her bond with the revenant grows. And when a hidden evil begins to surface, she discovers that facing this enemy might require her to betray everything she has been taught to believe—if the revenant doesn’t betray her first.


I have read a streak of amazing books lately, but this one wasn’t exactly a surprise. Margaret Rogerson has firmly established herself (IMO) as a reliably excellent author so I had decently high expectations. As with Sorcery of Thorns, I was entranced from the first pages and spent a nice chunk of a 16 hour car ride reading.

What I may enjoy the most about this book is our main character Artemesia. She has the Sight, which means she can see spirits and that means she is vulnerable to possession. Unlike most who have the Sight, Artemesia had it from birth and was possessed in her vulnerable state by a spirit called an ashgrim. Her family had no idea and thought she was just mentally unwell from birth and locked her in a shed until she severely burned her own hands to exorcise the ashgrim from herself. Events unfolded such that she was taken in to a convent where the nuns specialize in caring for the dead and this is where we find her when the story begins.

Artemesia is not particularly popular among the novices because she quite frankly pretty scary. That’s what happens when you spend many of your formative years possessed. This had the upside of making her quite capable of sensing spirits and making use of the Relics (artifacts bound with spirits) used among the Clergy. Artemesia declines to move on from her post, which is fortunate since when possessed soldiers attack the abbey she must use the relic of a Revenant, one of the Seven most powerful spirits. This act, along with following events end up garnering too much attention on our young Revenant-wielder. The people dub her a saint, but the Clergy are concerned that she is not in control and desire to hunt her down. The plot is really, really excellent and I won’t reveal any more here. 

I loved Artemesia! She has a fascinating origin story and how she handles her life going forward is quite motivating. The Revenant who possesses her is actually a fairly likable character as well, and even some minor characters ended up being rather decent in the end too, despite first impressions. The characters really made this excellent, but MAN is it cool to see a story with these super cool, yet terrifying Revenants with uncertain backstories. I’m really thrilled to learn more about how they came to be bound to saints in the first place! This is certainly  a world I can’t wait to see more from this series and I’m super happy that IT IS A SERIES, because I thought it was another standalone!

A Spindle Splintered by Alix E. Harrow – Review

Published: October 5, 2021

Publisher: Tordotcom

Series: Fractured Fables #1

Genre: Fantasy

Pages: 128 (Hardcover)

My Rating: 5.0/5.0

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

Synopsis:
USA Today
 bestselling author Alix E. Harrow’s A Spindle Splintered brings her patented charm to a new version of a classic story.


It’s Zinnia Gray’s twenty-first birthday, which is extra-special because it’s the last birthday she’ll ever have. When she was young, an industrial accident left Zinnia with a rare condition. Not much is known about her illness, just that no one has lived past twenty-one.

Her best friend Charm is intent on making Zinnia’s last birthday special with a full sleeping beauty experience, complete with a tower and a spinning wheel. But when Zinnia pricks her finger, something strange and unexpected happens, and she finds herself falling through worlds, with another sleeping beauty, just as desperate to escape her fate.


YOU GUYS! I have never loved a novella as much as I loved this one! It’s a little dark, a little hopeful, and has ten tons of snark. I picked it up and stayed glued to my couch for about an hour and a half while my eyeballs devoured it (such imagery!). 

Zinnia Gray has just turned twenty-one and expects any day to be her last because she’s nearing the term limit on her life. No one else who has this disease has lived past the ripe old age of twenty-one, so she’s basically set a record. In honor of her birthday, her best friend Charm throws her a Sleeping Beauty themed party replete with booze, cheap princess crowns, and an honest to god spinning wheel. Zinnia of course touches the needle and wakes up in another world with another version of Sleeping Beauty who was about to touch her own cursed spinning wheel needle. 

Zinnia and Prim, the other cursed princess, set off on a hastily put together journey to threaten/kill/maim the evil fairy who cursed Prim so she removes Prim’s curse (and hopefully Zinnia’s as well). It’s a short journey, but it works since this is a bit of a rush job anyway. Prim starts to wander off each time she sleeps in search of her fate, Zinnia can’t really ride a horse, and she’s also dying a bit more rapidly since she’s out of meds. They’re a hot mess.

Despite its short length I loved this book immensely. The characters are the most badass group of heroines fighting their fates down to their last breath and/or waking moments. There’s a sequel scheduled for release next year and I am sooooo excited to see where this story goes!

Waiting on Wednesday: Miss Percy’s Pocket Guide to the Care and Feeding of British Dragons by Quenby Olson

“Waiting On Wednesday” is a weekly meme originally hosted on Breaking the Spine but has since linked up with “Can’t Wait Wednesday” at Wishful Endings now that the original creator is unable to host it anymore. This is a great way to share upcoming releases you’re excited about!

I’ve been waiting AGES for a cover and release date for this book because it sounds SO COOL! Miss Percy’s Pocket Guide to the Care & Feeding of British Dragons is the tale of a spinster who receives a dragon egg as part of her inheritance and LO’, IT HATCHES! It sounds like there will be plenty of misadventure and perhaps even a budding romance (oh la la!). You won’t have to wait long at all to check this out because it’s being released October 26, 2021!

Activation Degradation by Marina Lostetter – Review

Published: September 28, 2021

Publisher: Harper Voyager

Series: Standalone

Genre: Science Fiction

Pages: 480 (Paperback)

My Rating: 4.0/5.0

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

Synopsis:

The Murderbot Diaries makes first contact in this new, futuristic, standalone novel exploring sentience and artificial intelligence through the lenses of conflicted robot hero Unit Four, from Marina Lostetter, critically acclaimed author of Noumenon, Noumenon Infinity, and Noumenon Ultra.

When Unit Four—a biological soft robot built and stored high above the Jovian atmosphere—is activated for the first time, it’s in crisis mode. Aliens are attacking the Helium-3 mine it was created to oversee, and now its sole purpose is to defend Earth’s largest energy resource from the invaders in ship-to-ship combat.

But something’s wrong. Unit Four doesn’t feel quite right.

There are files in its databanks it can’t account for, unusual chemical combinations roaring through its pipes, and the primers it possesses on the aliens are suspiciously sparse. The robot is under orders to seek and destroy. That’s all it knows.

According to its handler, that’s all it needs to know.

Determined to fulfill its directives, Unit Four launches its ship and goes on the attack, but it has no idea it’s about to get caught in a downward spiral of misinformation, reprograming, and interstellar conflict.

Most robots are simple tools. Unit Four is well on its way to becoming something more..


I can certainly see why this would be compared to Murderbot in so many blurbs! It’s an excellent becoming human type story, but it’s unique and in no way derivative of the Murderbot  series that has taken readers by storm. There are a few little twists and turns that totally blew me away!

The story starts off in possibly the most stressful situation possible. Unit Four, our protagonist, has just been yanked from a solution vat and is being rushed about to help save a mining station that has come under attack. Four’s handler insists that the attackers are extremely dangerous and so in a last ditch effort Four takes out a ship to fend off the invaders. It (as Four wants to be referred to as) is captured by humanoid creatures, and though it manages to injure a few, ends up strapped to a chair.  Turns out the humanoids are humans (a shock!) which also begs the question of who/what is Four’s handler if Earth isn’t inhabited by humans any longer. There a several of these topsy-turvy moments that really make one question what’s happening! Keeps you on your toes for sure!

The humans don’t trust Unit Four (who has been given the name Aimsley) but they do need it’s help. Their ship was damaged in the short battle that commenced at the beginning of the story and they now must work with Aimsley to repair their ship. 

This is ultimately a story of self-discovery and though it doesn’t give you the warm fuzzy that Becky Chambers stories have, it does have a similar feeling. It’s a crew up against stacked odds, they’re a weird and wonderful found family and now Aimsley might just get to be a part of that. Life can be longer than 90 days of eating recycled protein and getting blasted by radiation. Should a sequel be in the works, I would most definitely check it out!

Among Thieves by M.J. Kuhn – Review

Published: September 7, 2021

Publisher: Gallery/Saga Press

Series: Standalone

Genre: Fantasy

Pages: 352 (Hardcover)

My Rating: DNF @ ~50%

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

Synopsis
A high-stakes heist novel set in a gritty world of magic and malice

In just over a year’s time, Ryia Cautella has already earned herself a reputation as the quickest, deadliest blade in the dockside city of Carrowwick—not to mention the sharpest tongue. But Ryia Cautella is not her real name.

For the past six years, a deadly secret has kept her in hiding, running from town to town, doing whatever it takes to stay one step ahead of the formidable Guildmaster—the sovereign ruler of the five kingdoms of Thamorr. No matter how far or fast she travels, his servants never fail to track her down…but even the most powerful men can be defeated.

Ryia’s path now leads directly into the heart of the Guildmaster’s stronghold, and against every instinct she has, it’s not a path she can walk alone. Forced to team up with a crew of assorted miscreants, smugglers, and thieves, Ryia must plan her next moves very carefully. If she succeeds, her freedom is won once and for all…but unfortunately for Ryia, her new allies are nearly as selfish as she is, and they all have plans of their own.


So, I feel like this was not the right time or format for this book to work for me. I picked up the audiobook so I could whittle down the tremendous number of new books I had on my review list and it never quite clicked. Partially, I think this was due to narration style – the narrator had the same voice for every character and they all muddled together. 

This was a weird situation because this book has SO MANY THINGS that I usually love! Ryia is a gang enforcer with a bloody terrifying reputation. She’s also hiding under an assumed name and she’s running from the Guild because she has magical powers. People with these powers are usually spirited away shortly after birth to become slaves to the guild. When the opportunity to steal a powerful object from the Guildmaster arises, she takes the offer and sets off with a group of harebrained fellow criminals. 

It sounds so awesome, right?? I just never connected with any of the characters and even though I listened to it for four hours straight while driving (and therefore with nothing else to do) I couldn’t tell you much beyond the basic synopsis I just gave. Rather than force my way through a book I wasn’t enjoying, I decided to DNF at around the 50% marker. I might give this a second chance in the future.