Subscription Box Review: OwlCrate – May 2020

Basic Box Info

This box only has two options – Owlcrate, which caters to fans of Young Adult books and Owlcrate Jr, which caters to Middle Grade readers.

  • Owlcrate (29.99 + Shipping)
  • Owlcrate Jr. (27.99 + Shipping)

Boxes are shipped between the 15th and 20th of each month. Shipping is available worldwide, with the exceptions of Mexico and Peru. The FAQ said that delivery was proving to be unreliable in these countries, though if a more reliable shipping service is available service may resume in the future.


May 2020: Rebels With A Cause

20200604_205651

Another awesome box from OwlCrate. The theme is weirdly fitting for the current state of the world.

20200603_182142

The OwlCrate special edition of Incendiary by Zoraida Cordova is quite lovely. I’m a little torn as to whether I prefer this or the original cover which was stunning. It is the story of a girl who becomes a rebel spy to help people escape the oppression of the crown. This month also featured a bonus book called Witchy by Ariel Slamet Ries and it’s a graphic novel!

20200603_182208

OVEN MITTS!!!! I love it when I get truly useful items in these boxes! These are going straight to the kitchen because I can never have enough oven mitts.

20200604_205729

Got a nice wooden magnet and a crystal shaped pin as well. The pin design is simple, but nice looking.

20200604_205754

Got a set of nice quality stickers with quotes from various authors like Margaret Atwood and Neal Shusterman. On the environmentally friendly side of things, a bundle of reusable metal straws were also included! This came with two cleaning doodads and a nice bag to store them in.

The Angel of the Crows by Katherine Addison – Review

Cover- The Angel of the Crows

Published: June 23, 2020

Publisher: Tor Books

Series: Standalone

Genre: Fantasy

Pages: 448 (Hardcover)

My Rating: 3.5/5.0

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

Synopsis:

A fantasy novel of alternate 1880s London, where killers stalk the night and the ultimate power is naming.

This is not the story you think it is. These are not the characters you think they are. This is not the book you are expecting.

In an alternate 1880s London, angels inhabit every public building, and vampires and werewolves walk the streets with human beings under a well-regulated truce. A fantastic utopia, except for a few things: Angels can Fall, and that Fall is like a nuclear bomb in both the physical and metaphysical worlds. And human beings remain human, with all their kindness and greed and passions and murderous intent.

Jack the Ripper stalks the streets of this London too. But this London has an Angel. The Angel of the Crows.


Friends. Countrymen. This is not the book you expected based on the amazing synopsis. I mean, the synopsis does say that, but fair warning. This is purely and simply, Sherlock wing-fic (fanfic but give a character wings). I was just as shocked as so many other reviewers seemed to be, but I wasn’t entirely disappointed. It was fun and catered to my love for the mystery solving, brilliant Sherlock Holmes and the ever loyal John Watson. 

To be clear, the characters are not called Sherlock Holmes and John Watson, but rather Crow and J.H. Doyle. Crow is an unusual sort of angel who doesn’t have a building to be guardian to the way the rest of his brethren do. He’s an anomaly and has managed to bend the rules and declares himself the Angel of London. J.H. Doyle (or Dr. Doyle) has rather traditionally been injured during the war in Afghanistan and his injuries have resulted in his return to London where he can’t afford a flat by himself. If you’re at all familiar with the BBC show or the books you’ll guess what happens next. They become fast friends, solve crimes, and have dangerous adventures but this time the author throws in a bunch of supernatural stuff and Jack the Ripper.

Crow and Doyle, while original in some aspects, are comfortingly familiar characters. The cases themselves are thematically on point with the stories as well, though they certainly have minor differences. It was similar enough that I could guess who the culprit would be at each turn. 

While I greatly enjoyed this book, I struggle to rate it because it’s literally Sherlock with supernatural bits and the supernatural parts themselves weren’t all that in depth. The whole angel thing for one could have been so much more detailed! Angels guard a building. If the building is destroyed, the angel usually becomes Nameless and they sort of float about in a drone type state until further notice. The Named angels can’t leave their buildings, but protect them and usually the inhabitants. Crow has managed to avoid this, though I won’t spoil how. Angels can Fall and become evil, but this is merely glossed over. So many of the potentially amazing supernatural elements were just vague. 

This was tremendously fun, but it certainly wasn’t what I expected from Katherine Arden’s latest book. Admittedly, I would hate to have to live up to reader’s expectations following her much loved and acclaimed The Goblin Emperor. If you like Sherlock and/or re-tellings of Doyle’s stories then you’ll more than likely enjoy this as well. Do note that Crow (our Sherlock) doesn’t so much do amazing deduction as what seem to be brilliant guesses. I think this is in part due to Dr. Doyle being the main POV. 

Waiting on Wednesday: The Way Back by Gavriel Savit

“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 released you’re excited about!


Cover- The Way Back

First of all, this cover is absolutely gorgeous and second – it claim to be perfect for fans of Neil Gaiman and Phillip Pullman! The Way Back is the story of two teenagers who are swept into the Far Country where ghosts and demons reside in Jewish folklore. It sounds absolutely captivating and it’s September 2020 release is just in time for the beginning of autumn. I know you people love reading scary stuff, particularly during spooky season.

The Obsidian Tower by Melissa Caruso – Review

Cover- The Obsidian Tower

Published: June 2, 2020

Publisher: Orbit Books

Series: Rooks and Ruin #1

Genre: Fantasy

Pages: 528 (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 mage-marked granddaughter of a ruler of Vaskandar, Ryx was destined for power and prestige at the top of Vaskandran society. But her magic is broken; all she can do is uncontrollably drain the life from everything she touches, and Vaskandar has no place for a mage with unusable powers.

Then, one night, two terrible accidents befall her: Ryx accidentally kills a visiting dignitary in self-defense, activating a mysterious magical artifact sealed in an ancient tower in the heart of her family’s castle.

Ryx flees, seeking a solution to her deadly magic. She falls in with a group of unlikely magical experts investigating the disturbance in Vaskandar—and Ryx realizes that her family is in danger and her domain is at stake. She and her new colleagues must return to the family stronghold to take control of the artifact that everyone wants to claim—before it destroys the world.


Having absolutely loved Melissa Caruso’s first series, it only made sense for me to be equally excited for news of a brand new series set in the same world. This is set a number of years after the events of the first series and many of the characters are new, but there are a few familiar names that pop up. Things have changed a great deal since Amalia Cornaro’s push for mage rights in the first series and readers do get to see this, though the series is set in Vaskandar and the main character is the granddaughter of the Lady of the Owls.

Ryx is mage marked and should really be at the pinnacle of Vaskandran society, but her magic is deadly to any who may come in contact with her. She serves her grandmother, the Lady of the Owls, but has no one she can really call friend except for one of the castle gargoyles. Part of her job is to ensure that no one enters the obsidian tower that lies at the heart of Gloamingard. Its purpose is unknown, only that it must not be opened by anyone under any circumstance. Of course, there wouldn’t be a story if some foolish and ambitious mage-marked didn’t force their way into it, unleashing unknown trouble. This foolish person was the beloved of the neighboring witch lord, and when she was killed he demanded vengeance for her death. Ryx is sent to find a group of magical experts that have a deployment nearby the castle in hopes that they can help with whatever may have been unleashed when the seals were breached.

Ryx was quite a likable character and it was easy to sympathize with her desire to just be normal. She wants to be useful, but she also wants friends and human contact without the fear of harming those she cares for. The Rookery (the magical experts) were a delightful bunch that found Ryx to be fascinating rather than terrifying and I quickly fell in love with the whole group of them. The less savory characters were just as delightful, but in an evil sort of way. The Shrike Lord, whose beloved entered the tower, was rather awful. Perhaps not quite as reprehensible as Lord Ruven from the first series, but manipulative and abusive for sure. His brother, while not necessarily entirely a good guy was quite a spicy addition to the book as well. 

Overall, this was a great intro to a new series in a much beloved setting. Looking back, I ended up rating the Tethered Mage 4 stars as well, so I’m hoping that the next book will really solidify my love for this new series in much the same way! The characters are compelling, the stakes are high, and boy oh boy, do I love those morally grey Vaskandran guys.

Waiting on Wednesday: The Mask of Mirrors by M.A. Carrick

“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 released you’re excited about!


Cover- The Mask of Mirrors

First of all, THIS COVER!! It is LOVELY!!! And second of all? The Mask of Mirrors is actually written by Marie Brennan and Alyc Helms under the pseudonym M.A. Carrick. The synopsis gives me strong Lies of Locke Lamora vibes and I’m really, really excited to get my hands on a copy! This will be released in January 2021 (the release date was recently pushed back a bit).

Currently Reading: 5/25/20

Cover- Spirit

Spirit by A.C. Cobble
The ebook edition of this was released earlier this month and I’ve been checking Audible periodically and the audiobook is finally out!!! I can’t wait to start listening to this book this week. This is one of my very favorite independently published series and the narration is phenomenal. You can’t go wrong with Simon Vance!

*I linked to Amazon because there’s no real detail on the Goodreads page for this book.

Deal with the Devil by Kit Rocha – Review

Cover- Deal with the Devil

Published: July 28, 2020

Publisher: Tor Books

Series: Mercenary Librarians #1

Genre: Dystopian

Pages: 336 (Paperback)

My Rating: 3.5/5.0

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

Synopsis:

Deal with the Devil is Orphan Black meets the post-apocalyptic Avengers by USA Today and New York Times bestselling author duo Kit Rocha.

Nina is an information broker with a mission–she and her team of mercenary librarians use their knowledge to save the hopeless in a crumbling America.

Knox is the bitter, battle-weary captain of the Silver Devils. His squad of supersoldiers went AWOL to avoid slaughtering innocents, and now he’s fighting to survive.

They’re on a deadly collision course, and the passion that flares between them only makes it more dangerous. They could burn down the world, destroying each other in the process…

Or they could do the impossible: team up.

This is the first book in a near-future science fiction series with elements of romance.


Alrighty then, let’s talk about the new Mercenary Librarians series! First of all, if you want a book with tons of good looking characters who are all highly skilled at something go ahead and add it to your TBR. All the characters are either super hot super soldiers or stunningly gorgeous genetically altered babes. And they’re all soooo touchingly good at heart.

Despite my sarcasm, this was an incredibly entertaining book if you suspend disbelief and accept that this is like a cheesy tv drama. Also, there’s minimal librarian stuff going on here. I was expecting something like near-future Indiana Jones hunting down hidden information and dodging booby-traps. The only booby traps here are the trio of women hunting down the information. Hahahah…. Wow that was awful. I loved them though – they had an incredible bond of sisterhood and they were tough, smart, and always looked out for one another and their little corner of the community. The guys of the Silver Devils were all equally lovable and I just couldn’t help but to ship them!

Spoiler alert! Your ship dreams might come true because this does have a romantic element to go along with the action. It’s just as corny and touching as you might imagine and yeah, it was fantastic. I do think the romance took away from the plot toward the end because it seemed to become the central focus of the story. I was hoping for more data hunting danger but that was definitely not the focus in the latter half. It starts out that way… but then the two groups get together and become friendly and it turns rather character driven.

All in all, it was a fun book and I’m planning to pick up the sequel whenever it might be released. That being said, dial back those expectations if you’re expecting female Indiana Jones searching for hidden data caches because that’s mostly superficial in this installment. I do hope in the next book that the author really shows off the Mercenary Librarian vibe and balances the romance and action a bit better.

Waiting on Wednesday: The Seventh Perfection by Daniel Polansky

“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 released you’re excited about!


Cover- The Seventh Perfection

I haven’t yet read any of Daniel Polansky’s books, though they’ve certainly been on all my wishlists. His latest novella, The Seventh Perfection, sounds perfectly fantastical and will hopefully be a great place to start reading his work! This is under 200 pages, but the synopsis is amazing and I can’t wait to read it! It will be released September 2020.

By Force Alone by Lavie Tidhar – Review

Cover- By Force Alone

Published: June 16, 2020

Publisher: Tor Books

Series: Standalone

Genre: Fantasy

Pages: 416 (Hardcover)

My Rating: 2.0/5.0

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

Synopsis:

A retelling of Arthurian myth for the age of Brexit and Trump, from World Fantasy Award-winner Lavie Tidhar, By Force Alone.

Everyone thinks they know the story of King Arthur and his knights of the Round Table.

The fact is they don’t know sh*t.

Arthur? An over-promoted gangster.
Merlin? An eldritch parasite.
Excalibur? A shady deal with a watery arms dealer.
Britain? A clogged sewer that Rome abandoned just as soon as it could.

A savage and cutting epic fantasy, equally poetic and profane, By Force Alone is at once a timely political satire, a magical adventure, and a subversive masterwork.


Have you ever come across a book that you just don’t know how to rate? Or one that was SO not what you expected? This is that book. I went in to this book with so much certainty that it would be that dry, British humor that I so love with a dash (or more) of glorious Monty Python. Well, let me tell you reader – IT WAS NONE OF THOSE THINGS. I mean, it’s described as political satire, but I feel like that strongly implies some humor. It wasn’t funny. AT ALL.

This is a host of supremely unlikable characters ranging from Uther Pendragon’s drunk, lecherous self to his power hungry thug of a son and everyone in between. Merlin and Guinevere were the most likable of the lot and that ain’t sayin’ much. It’s like the author thought to himself… what if we took every good trait these characters had in the original stories and just sort of threw it away and made them cold, greedy villains. Yes, I get that they’re power hungry and they give no heed in stepping on those who might lift them to the lofty heights of a throne just like politicians (and so many others) today. The metaphors are not lost on me. It doesn’t change the fact that I didn’t really care for it.

That being said, I also didn’t really want to put it down because it was also really, really weird. There is a portion that reminded me so much of the Misery in Ed McDonald’s Raven’s Mark series and it was one of my favorite sections of the book. It was so bizarre and out of place compared to the rest of the setting and I swear there were aliens. Like, what? It was mundane for so long, like yeah yeah… the Romans aren’t coming back, all the gutters are full of crap and rats and bums, and Arthur’s a thug with grandeur. And then WHAM, radiation and weirdness dude!  

Honestly, this is a really tough one to rate. I definitely didn’t like it but I’m also still rather peeved that it wasn’t funny, so I might be a little biased. It was well written, but it seemed to have these big jumps forward in the timeline and I also felt as if much of it was skimmed across. Like you were a mere observer of these pitiful ants trying to build a kingdom. Ultimately, this book wasn’t for me but it seems like many other early reviewers did enjoy it. If you want a dark version of Arthur where he isn’t noble (or doesn’t have the propaganda budget) then check it out.