Waiting on Wednesday: In the Shadow of Lightning by Brian McClellan

“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!

In the Shadow of Lightning is the start of a brand new fantasy series from Brian McClellan. That alone is enough to get my hyped, simply because I found the Powder Mage world to be so wildly awesome. The synopsis is promising and well, I’m quite excited for this which is why it’s getting featured!

Currently Reading: 11/29/21

The Starless Crown by James Rollins
I’ve read several of James Rollins’s Sigma Force books, so when I saw he was releasing a fantasy series I knew I wanted to check it out! The synopsis sounds quite fun – a prince, a thief, a soldier, and a student seer walk into a bar… LOL, I couldn’t help myself. Anyway, what could be more fun than thwarting the apocalypse?

I’m also finishing up Cytonic and perhaps The Free Bastards this week. The Free Bastards turned into a slog about halfway through, so I put it down in favor of a highly binge-able fantasy romance trilogy.

Unsouled by Will Wight – Review

Published: June 13, 2016

Publisher: Hidden Gnome Publishing

Series: Cradle #1

Genre: Fantasy

Pages: 294 (Kindle Edition)

My Rating: 3.0/5.0

Sacred artists follow a thousand Paths to power, using their souls to control the forces of the natural world.

Lindon is Unsouled, forbidden to learn the sacred arts of his clan.

When faced with a looming fate he cannot ignore, he must defy his family’s rules…and forge his own Path. 

Where oh where do I begin with this? Well, let me say first that I picked this up for two reasons – the first being that I see it recommended on r/fantasy all the time and the second is that the first six books in the series were free on Kindle about a month ago. I had to see what all the fuss was about, especially since the tenth book was released just a couple weeks ago and I saw SO MANY five star reviews and much hype leading up to the release. I also decided to pay up the extra $2 to get Audible narration to go along with my free ebook.

We start off with Lindon, our main character failing a childhood magical aptitude test, and then proceed to watch as he fails again and again over many years. Lindon is what they call “Unsouled”, which basically amounts to him having very little natural capacity for magic. This is not only a great shame, but also impacts many other aspects of his life (for example, he cannot marry). A solid 90% of this book is leading up to Lindon finding a way to increase his power to a usable/quantifiable level and be recognized as more than an Unsouled. To be fair, I can’t blame him at all because I wouldn’t want to be the shame of the village either. The most interesting part is when an external character is introduced that is to Lindon a higher power. This changes how both Lindon and the reader view the power scale of the magical practitioners within Sacred Valley. They are as infants compared to those outside of the valley, hence the name Cradle.

While this was a fun book, it was also rather juvenile and pretty cringey at times so I’m a little confused by the high average rating on Goodreads (4.15). I do hear that the series gets much better as it goes along and since I have the first six books I would like to continue on with at least one more. If you’re looking for the book equivalent of Dragonball Z, where the characters are constantly looking for a way to increase their power then you might want to check this out. I was not in love with the story, but I didn’t hate it either and it was easy to zip right through the audiobook.

Stacking the Shelves: 11/27/21

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:

LOL @ my little feet in the pic

Orbit has once again graciously provided me with some wonderful new books to check out. Engines of Empire by R.S. Ford and The Justice of Kings by Richard Swan are two books that I’m going to be reading much sooner than expected since I got some sweeet physical ARCs. The finished copy of the The Liar’s Knot by M.A. Carrick is even lovelier in person and I’ll be posting a review very soon!

Castles in Their Bones by Laura Sebastian
This sounds brilliant! Four princesses are sent across the lands to marry as one expects princesses to do, but then they will bring down the kingdoms they are sent off to so that their mother may rule everything. Many thanks to Delacorte Press for the eARC.

The Might by Siri Pettersen
Book three in the Raven Rings series is high on my most anticipated list because each book keeps getting better and better! Many thanks to Arctis Books for the eARC.

Age of Ash by Daniel Abraham
I’ve been wanting to pick up a Daniel Abraham series and it seems like I’ve timed things right and get to start a brand new epic fantasy trilogy. Can’t wait to read about the city of Kithamar and it’s denizens. Thanks to Orbit for the eARC!

The Carnival of Ash by Tom Beckerlegge
Cadenza is a city of poets and it’s on the brink of war with it’s rival city – Venice. The premise really has me curious! Thanks to Solaris for the eARC!

Midnight in Everwood by M.A. Kuzniar
I’ve already feature this book in my Waiting on Wednesday post series and now I have an eARC courtesy of HQ/Harper 360. A ballet dancer is swept into an alternate world where she must find a way to escape a sadistic king. 

In A Garden Burning Gold by Rory Power
This cover is GLAM! Not gonna lie, that’s what drew me to this book, but then I stayed for the prospect of two near immortal twins trying to save their kingdom. Many thank to Del Rey Books for the eARC!

My Purchases: 

Only a few physical book purchases recently. I picked up A Court of Silver Flames because I ordered these GLORIOUS dust jackets from Nerdy Ink and needed a hard copy of this installment. I actually featured Vespertine in my last Stacking the Shelves post, but we are going to admire it one more time, and I also had to snag a hard copy of Cytonic

In anticipation of reading Cytonic I also picked up the first two novellas, Sunreach and Redawn. I’ve also grabbed a couple audiobooks in the last month – Unsouled by Will Wight and The Wisdom of Crowds by Joe Abercrombie. I couldn’t find the motivation to read the physical copy of The Wisdom of Crowds, but Steven Pacey’s narration is always spot on and I flew through the audiobook!

Waiting on Wednesday: The Stardust Thief by Chelsea Abdullah

“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!

Everything about The Stardust Thief sounds fabulous! Ancient lamps, jinn queens, and a journey with the sultan’s son. I’m stoked and hoping for a little smidgen of romance on top of all the exciting sounding action. This will be out May 17, 2022!

The Man Who Died Twice by Richard Osman – Review

Published: September 28, 2021

Publisher Pamela Dorman Books

Series: Thursday Murder Club #2

Genre: Mystery

Pages: 368 (Hardcover)

My Rating: 5.0/5.0

It’s the following Thursday.

Elizabeth has received a letter from an old colleague, a man with whom she has a long history. He’s made a big mistake, and he needs her help. His story involves stolen diamonds, a violent mobster, and a very real threat to his life.

As bodies start piling up, Elizabeth enlists Joyce, Ibrahim and Ron in the hunt for a ruthless murderer. And if they find the diamonds too? Well, wouldn’t that be a bonus?

But this time they are up against an enemy who wouldn’t bat an eyelid at knocking off four septuagenarians. Can The Thursday Murder Club find the killer (and the diamonds) before the killer finds them?

I find myself pleasantly surprised that The Man Who Died Twice (despite the ominous name) was just as delightful as The Thursday Murder Club (also somewhat ominous, or at least eyebrow raising). Who would have thought that a book series about an eclectic group of elderly folks solving murders would be such an absolute hit! Our elderly folks don’t get much of a break either, seeing as how this picks up not terribly long after the events of the first book.

It starts off with Elizabeth receiving a mysterious note and then meeting up with her ex-husband Douglas who is still a spy. A good ol’ James Bond type, still a flirt in his twilight years, and still up to his same old tricks. He’s got a bit of a situation because he stole several million pounds worth of diamonds from a fellow who’s essentially a criminal broker of sorts and now the same fellow is definitely going to kill Douglas. On top of all this, Ibrahim was mugged by a couple young guys on a trip to town and he’s ended up in the hospital. Elizabeth certainly has quite a few things to take care of, so it’s a good thing she has such a tight group of pals in the Thursday Murder Club, plus Bogdan, plus DCIs Chris and Donna. It will take the whole gang to deal with the complicated tangle of a situation that has arisen because it’s not just Douglas hiding out from a criminal – the young guys who mugged Ibrahim are part of a larger crime ring that Chris and Donna are looking into as well. 

The story was quite intense, though the characters themselves move at a slower pace than I’m accustomed to – no fancy sword work, no parkour, none of the craziness that abounds in the books I usually read. What they lack in physical talent, they more than make up for with their scheming. And it’s not just Elizabeth with a talent for handling interesting situations! Joyce, Ron, and Ibrahim are all clever in their own right and that’s part of what keeps the story so interesting. You’re never quite sure who’s up to something!

The Man Who Died Twice was a brilliant read and quite frankly, I never saw the ending coming! The culminating chapters were gripping and I really didn’t want to be interrupted (listening to audiobook) because I didn’t want to accidentally miss something. Richard Osman certainly knows how to write a compelling mystery that will keep you guessing and mentally pointing fingers at like, all the characters right until the very end. This was a really fun book and can’t wait for the next one!

Currently Reading: 11/22/21

Cytonic by Brandon Sanderson
I know I’m not the only person who will be picking this up the day it comes out! I’m picking up the audiobook since I’ve absolutely loved the first two in that format, but I also have a hardcopy on the way to stick on my shelves. 

The Free Bastards by Jonathan French
I’ve also been playing catch up, since there are a few review books that I just couldn’t squeeze in earlier this year. It’s good (and brutal) so far and I have no idea how thing will wrap up!

Black Fall by Andrew Mayne – Review

Published: March 21, 2017

Publisher: Harper Paperbacks

Series: Jessica Blackwood #3

Genre: Mystery, Thriller

Pages: 368 (Paperback)

My Rating: 4.0/5.0

In Black Fall, the third book in the ITW Award-nominated series that began with self-published eBook phenomenon Angel Killer, magician-turned-FBI agent Jessica Blackwood investigates a series of seemingly unrelated, but equally bizarre and sinister, crimes that lead her to the Colorado desert and a town that has, simply, disappeared.

With two big cases under her belt, FBI Agent Jessica Blackwood is learning to embrace her unconventional past as the rising star in a family dynasty of illusionists. Her talent and experience endow her with a unique understanding of the power and potential of deception, and a gift for knowing when things are not always as they appear to be. Once resenting her eccentric grandfather, a brilliant magician in his own right, Jessica now sees him as a mentor and regularly seeks his advice about her work. But Jessica’s routine surveillance operation becomes a fight for survival when a disturbed young woman, clutching a baby, shows up at the stake-out location and threatens to kill her child. On the same day, an hour after a severe earthquake rocks the eastern seaboard, a strange video goes viral. Nobel Prize-winning physicist Peter Devon has been dead for eight years, yet here he is on camera, predicting the location and date of the earthquake. Jessica is put on the case by her boss, Dr. Ailes, but when Detective Aileen Lewis reports that they’ve found a Jane Doe who matches her description of her attacker, she’s torn between professional duty and a personal desire to find out who the woman was, and why she was killed.The investigations pull her in very different directions–until they start to converge, leading Jessica to confront something darker, and more powerful, than anyone expected. Something so twisted, only one person could be behind it…the Warlock.

And now to wrap up the Jessica Blackwood reviews! Black Fall is the concluding entry to the Jessica Blackwood trilogy and wow, does it go out with a bang! If the stakes weren’t high enough for you in the first two books, this should be more than enough to WOW you.  This time around the safety of the world is at stake and a mere button press could tilt the world into chaos.

The story starts off with a small Colorado town that has disappeared off the map – there’s simply no trace of it. While this is certainly a strange situation, it actually gets moved to the back burner in favor of some other situations for much of the story. When Jessica is nearly assassinated by a woman who literally shows up on her doorstep then that same woman is found murdered, the plot focuses there instead. And let’s not forget the video that surfaces of a dead physicist predicting the massive earthquake that just occurred! There’s suspicion that an environmental cult may be involved, though the exact reasons behind it are suspect – is the Warlock in play again, despite being in jail? So much happens in this book that I can’t remember it all very well… I really shouldn’t procrastinate my reviews for so long!

I’ll be keeping this brief since I’ve forgotten so many details already. The stakes are higher than ever, but in this case I didn’t care for it as much. I prefer the slightly smaller scale cases where the whole world isn’t about to be thrown into chaos by an environmental terrorism cult. Somehow, even though those other cases are equally improbable, they still seemed believable while this story was a bit too wild for me. It was still good, but in my opinion is the weakest of the installments and I found myself skimming (technically fast forwarding) through sections of the audiobook. I just didn’t really care because it was on a massive scale and you sort of lose the human connection (and it also feels like the craziness the world is going through now). So no, I didn’t love this one as much but it was interesting and I still enjoyed it overall AND it was a good set up for Mastermind and the return of the Warlock.

Waiting on Wednesday: Half Baked Harvest Everyday by Tieghan Gerard

“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!

This week’s feature is completely unlike what I usually feature, but I am QUITE looking forward to this! I love cooking and the recipes I’ve tried from the Half Baked Harvest blog have all been pretty tasty (and pretty to look at!). Apparently this book features a bunch of new recipes that haven’t been featured on the HBH blog and I’m looking forward to checking them out. This will be released February 2022 and I’ve already pre-ordered my copy!

The Bone Shard Emperor by Andrea Stewart – Review

Published: November 23, 2021

Publisher: Orbit Books

Series: The Drowning Empire #2

Genre: Fantasy

Pages: 416 (Hardcover)

My Rating: 4.0/5.0

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

Andrea Stewart returns with The Bone Shard Emperor, the second installment of this unmissable, action-packed, magic-laced fantasy epic.

The Emperor is Dead. Long live the Emperor.  

Lin Sukai finally sits on the throne she won at so much cost, but her struggles are only just beginning. Her people don’t trust her. Her political alliances are weak. And in the north-east of the Empire, a rebel army of constructs is gathering, its leader determined to take the throne by force.  

Yet an even greater threat is on the horizon, for the Alanga – the powerful magicians of legend – have returned to the Empire. They claim they come in peace, and Lin will need their help in order to defeat the rebels and restore peace.  

But can she trust them? 

I feel like I’ve been saying this so often lately, but The Bone Shard Emperor was another of my most anticipated releases/sequels of the year! It was a satisfying sequel, though I did find myself more excited to read about Ranami and Phalue than Lin and Jovis this time around. Lin and Jovis ended up having so many secrets that it made me nervous to switch to their POVs because of the inevitable and untimely reveal of said secrets. I’d literally get to a point where I thought things would start to go badly and have to put the book down for a little break. Authors really be out there traumatizing their readers page by page.

Onward to the meat of the story! The Bone Shard Emperor picks up right after the events of The Bone Shard Daughter, with Lin having just assumed the throne and appointed Jovis her Captain of the Imperial Guard. Little does she know, but Jovis is spying for the Shardless Few and sending them information so that they might depose Lin. However, the longer he spends with Lin the more he begins to both like and understand her and he struggles with his decision. There’s a lot going on in The Bone Shard Emperor, not counting the secrets of Lin and Jovis. There’s a construct army ravaging the islands that aren’t sinking, political upheaval, assassination attempts, and the feared Alanga seem to be appearing more and more. 

I think its clear at this point that I very much enjoy these characters and the world Andrea Stewart has constructed to house their wonderful story. It’s full of love, betrayal, action, and you can absolutely feel the tension at times. All in all, it’s very well crafted. I do think this installment felt a little slower than the first, mainly due to the switch from  Lin as a rebellious girl trying to overthrow her father to Lin as emperor. She’s much more involved in negotiations and politicking rather than running across the rooftops practicing bone shard magic in secret, so it’s definitely toned down a bit in that aspect. 

Overall, The Bone Shard Emperor was a solid sequel that perfectly satisfied my need for more Mephi (and Thrana!). I’m thinking a Mephi POV chapter where he’s searching for tasty food would be a welcome bit of fun!! This didn’t suffer from middle book syndrome (or whatever you choose to call it) but it was definitely a set up for the third book. I can’t wait to see where the series goes next!!