Someone Like Me by M.R. Carey – Review

Woman wearing a red hoodie by a river

Published: November 6, 2018

Publisher: Orbit Books

Series: Stand alone

Genre: Horror, Thriller

Pages: 512 (Hardcover)

My Rating: 4.0/5.0

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

Synopsis:

SHE LOOKS LIKE ME. SHE SOUNDS LIKE ME. NOW SHE’S TRYING TO TAKE MY PLACE.

Liz Kendall wouldn’t hurt a fly. She’s a gentle woman devoted to bringing up her kids in the right way, no matter how hard times get.

But there’s another side to Liz—one which is dark and malicious. A version of her who will do anything to get her way, no matter how extreme or violent.

And when this other side of her takes control, the consequences are devastating.

The only way Liz can save herself and her family is if she can find out where this new alter-ego has come from, and how she can stop it.


If you’re looking for a psychological thriller with a twisty bit of speculative fiction thrown in, you might just want to pick up Someone Like Me. M.R. Carey’s latest novel is on a different plane of existence from The Girl With All the Gifts, but it is no less thrilling and at times terrifying. This guy knows how to hit those obscure points of terror that absolutely freak me out – from the parasitic fungi zombie apocalypse to the evil spirit twin possession going on here.

CONTAINS SOME SPOILERS

Someone Like Me follows two main perspectives – that of Liz Kendall, a mother of two who has divorced from her abusive husband and Fran Watts, a teenage girl with psychological trauma from a kidnapping that occurred a decade or more prior. Both characters are extremely likable and I quickly began to sympathize with them. Liz is attacked by her ex-husband Mark and during the altercation it feels as if her body was being controlled by someone else – someone one much angrier and vengeful than she could ever be. About the same time, Fran has some disturbing issues of her own and they end up at the same doctor’s office to see the same psychologist. Thus we have the first moment Fran and Zach (Liz’s son) are actually aware of one another. The two become friends and their friendship ends up being rather important to the plot and thank goodness it remains mostly platonic! No sense in throwing in a pointless love story when it would be a distraction from all the other madness.

Fran’s portion of the story is primarily her dealing with the demons of her past. She was kidnapped as a young girl by a man who thought she was evil because she had something wrong with her shadow. Fran has coped with this for years and her imaginary friend, Lady Jinx (a cartoon fox knight) has helped and provided her solace. Liz’s part is a bit more dramatic, as she struggles with a few more dissociative episodes and finally realizes the situation is a bit more complicated than that. She’s essentially struggling with her evil twin Beth. Beth was killed by Mark in her world and somehow moved on and invaded Liz’s mind when Mark tried to choke her out and kill her. I hated Beth. SO MUCH. She was absolutely horrid and so selfish and as I read more and more I just kept thinking of all the mess she would leave behind for Liz to clean up (because I just knew Liz had to win in the end).

Someone Like Me was a great story that would make an excellent mini-series (HEY NETFLIX!) and makes for an equally entertaining audiobook. The added emotion of the narrator really takes this to the next level and prevents me from peeking ahead. I did find myself wishing the story would get on with it already from time to time, and I’ll be honest I’m not sure that it was really a pacing issue so much as it was an I’m impatient issue. I would totally recommend this and can’t wait to see what M.R. Carey has in store for readers next.

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The Way of Shadows by Brent Weeks – Review

cover-the-way-of-shadows

Published: October 1, 2008

Publisher: Orbit

Genre: Fantasy

Pages: 645 (Mass Market)

My Rating: 4.0/5.0

 

Synopsis:

From New York Times Bestselling author Brent Weeks…
For Durzo Blint, assassination is an art-and he is the city’s most accomplished artist.

For Azoth, survival is precarious. Something you never take for granted. As a guild rat, he’s grown up in the slums, and learned to judge people quickly – and to take risks. Risks like apprenticing himself to Durzo Blint.

But to be accepted, Azoth must turn his back on his old life and embrace a new identity and name. As Kylar Stern, he must learn to navigate the assassins’ world of dangerous politics and strange magics – and cultivate a flair for death.


In one of the recent Audible 3 for 2 sales I picked up the entire Night Angel trilogy by Brent Weeks because I discovered that I loved his book The Black Prism. The Way of Shadows is the first book in the Night Angel trilogy and follows Kylar Stern, the apprentice to the city’s best wetboy (magically talented assassin), as he grows up and into his role.

Azoth is a child of the streets and the gangs, and certain rather traumatizing events lead him to becoming the apprentice to Durzo Blint, a talented and cold killer. Durzo takes Kylar (formerly Azoth) under his wing and teaches him the necessary skills to take lives professionally- deception, disguise, herb lore, and blade work. Kylar masquerades a landless noble, befriending Logan Gyre, the new Lord of House Gyre. What I love is that the only false part of their friendship is Kylar’s true identity- he doesn’t use Logan because he genuinely likes him. I love books with a good solid friendship.

The plot of the book is pretty intense and spans over many years. Kylar is growing up and becoming a formidable wetboy, while the other characters like Logan, Durzo, and Elene are maturing in their own ways. Not that Durzo really needs to mature much since he’s a grown man, but he’s got his own special set of circumstances. The true beginning of the events that will carry on in the rest of the trilogy doesn’t begin until the latter third of the book. This book is a great set up and gives the reader time to really get to know the characters and develop some empathetic feelings towards them.

I will say that at first I DID NOT like the audio version of the book- I didn’t think the Paul Boehmer’s voice fit the characters well or conveyed enough emotion. I recommend checking out the audio sample before you commit to the audiobook version of the series, which I did not do (Shame on me, but they were on sale!). After I got into books 2 and 3 I wasn’t as bothered by the narration. Brent Weeks’ writing still managed to wring some serious emotion out of me (mostly gasps of horror), which I applaud him for. I love those shocking moments! I definitely think Weeks’ writing has matured since this series and find that his character building seems to have improved between the Night Angel trilogy and the Lightbringer series. I’ve already begun and will probably have finished the second book, Shadow’s Edge by the time this is posted!

Review- Don’t I Know You? by Marni Jackson

cover-dont-i-know-you

Received from publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Published: September 27, 2016

Publisher: Flatiron Books

Genre: Fiction

Pages: 256 (Hardcover)

My Rating: 4.0/5.0

Synopsis:

A debut novel in stories that follows one woman’s life from age 16 to 60, and what happens when certain celebrities—Neil Young, Meryl Streep, John Updike, Taylor Swift, Karl Ove Knausgaard—start turning up in her private life, at the spa, in the middle of a break-up, even on the operating table.

Rose McEwan has lived her life out of the spotlight—daughter, wife, mother, ex-wife, journeyman writer trying to make ends meet. But even so, fame has come to her.

When she is 16, Rose’s parents send her to an arts school where a writing class with John Updike takes an extracurricular turn. After college she goes backpacking around the world with a boyfriend, and while their relationship implodes, she finds herself camping in a cave near the young, pre-famous Joni Mitchell. When she is back home waitressing, Bill Murray and Dan Ackroyd show up and whisk her away for some synchronized swimming. Bob Dylan crashes her summer cottage and won’t buy groceries, but at least teaches her son how to play the guitar. During a trip to the Cannes Film Festival, where her husband’s film will premiere, Rose becomes convinced she is being stalked by Charlotte Rampling. Treating herself to a weekend at a spa after the publication of her first novel, Rose is befriended a little too quickly by Meryl Streep. Having failed in her marriage (Gwyneth Paltrow dispenses romantic and skin care advice) and as a thriller writer, she applies for a job writing ad copy but en route to the interview, Van Morrison hijacks her bus. And in the somehow totally plausible final chapter, Rose finds herself on a camping trip with Leonard Cohen, Taylor Swift, and Karl Ove Knausgaard.

Filled with spot-on social commentary, Jackson shows how the famous serve us in ways we don’t recognize. But, more importantly, she shows how the daily dramas of an ordinary woman’s life are as engrossing and poignant as any luminary tell-all. Unputdownable, deliciously fun, and incredibly thought provoking, Don’t I Know You? puts an unremarkable woman center stage, and shows how in the end, an ordinary life might be the most extraordinary one.


Very rarely I come across a book that inspires such wanderlust in me that I can barely keep from throwing necessities in a bag and rushing out the door, never to be seen again. Inexplicably, Don’t I Know You? was one of those  books. It’s not even a book that’s specifically about travelling, though there a few chapters that the character, Rose McEwan, spends abroad. Don’t I Know You? is strange- Rose McEwan is a writer with a number of relationship faux pas under her belt, but the curious thing is how celebrities just seem to show up throughout her life.

The celebrities aren’t specially designed fictional characters; they’re actual celebrities like Bob Dylan, Taylor Swift, Keith Richards, and Meryl Streep. Of course, they’ve been fictionalized for this story and the encounters certainly aren’t real, or based of anything real. The funny thing is that, for the most part these people just pop into Rose’s life in one interesting way or another, but they’re just so normal. They aren’t being red carpet superstars- Bob Dylan decides to take Rose’s air mattress for a paddle around the lake and becomes a house guest for an unacceptable length of time. Meryl Streep is her spa buddy. You can get the picture.

I liked the format of the book because each chapter was kind of a short story unto itself. The chapters follow the courses of Rose’s life, but we never get bogged down in one period for too long, and her boyfriends, husband, and children remain somewhat distant, like extras in a movie. I’ll be honest, Rose’s life made me really sad because it seemed like love was a failed endeavour for her. She had a moderately successful life, children that seemed distant, and a heck of a lot of stories to tell her friends but the overall tone was melancholy. The setting frequently changed- Canada, to France, to Greece, to perhaps somewhere in the US. The constant change kept me on my toes and never once did I get bored.

Don’t I Know You? was a great change in pace for me and a good little break from tons of Fantasy, Science Fiction, and Young Adult books. If anyone has recommendations for some good contemporary fiction, I would appreciate your suggestions! I look forward to adding some more things like this to my reading list, just for some novelty (pun not intended). This is definitely unlike anything I’ve ever read before and enjoyed it immensely. Huge thanks to Flatiron Books for sending this to me- it was a great surprise!

A City Dreaming by Daniel Polansky – Review

Cover- A City Dreaming

Received from publisher in exchange for an honest review

Published: October 4, 2016

Publisher: Regan Arts

Genre: Fantasy

Pages: 304 (Hardcover)

My Rating: 4.0/5.0

 

Synopsis:

M is a drifter with a sharp tongue, few scruples, and limited magical ability, who would prefer drinking artisanal beer to involving himself in the politics of the city. Alas, in the infinite nexus of the universe which is New York, trouble is a hard thing to avoid, and when a rivalry between the city’s two queens threatens to turn to all out war, M finds himself thrust in thrust in the unfamiliar position of hero. Now, to keep the apocalypse from descending on the Big Apple, he’ll have to call in every favor, waste every charm, and blow every spell he’s ever acquired – he might even have to get out of bed before noon.

Enter a world of Wall Street wolves, slumming scenesters, desperate artists, drug-induced divinities, pocket steam-punk universes, hipster zombies, and phantom subway lines. Because the city never sleeps, but is always dreaming.


Having never read anything by Daniel Polansky, I didn’t know what to expect when I began A City Dreaming. What I got was a weirdly fascinating book that left me guessing at what was really happening. M, the main character, is a magician that can’t seem to put down roots in any one city. Maybe because he’s constantly getting on the bad side of important and/or powerful people. M has come back to New York City after a long absence and he begins rekindling old friendships and old grudges, just in time for a crisis to begin building.

The plot in this book is something else, lemme tell ya. Most books have a very linear plot. The MC finds out he/she needs to save something, whether it’s a person, a city, the world etc. but in A City Dreaming I didn’t really know what the point was for most of the book and I was strangely okay with that. Instead of getting right to the point, M goes on all these crazy adventures (they’re more like inconveniences to M) and I started to get the sense that maybe, just maybe there was some connection between these seemingly random divergences. It was like some sort of hallucinatory trip- M travels through Hell on a New York subway train, he and his compatriots get sucked into an RPG-esque fantasy scene , and he goes to a party where zombies are serving him drinks. Each situation was so unbelievable creative and wacky that I couldn’t help but to like this book.

The outlandish and otherworldly situations were also a really fantastic way to introduce M’s associates (be they enemies or friends). One of my favorites is when M rescues Boy (who is a girl) from Captain Grimdark, a canal pirate who haunts a particularly foul waterway and has mistakenly captured a magician who’s out of his league. Each character is a unique specimen and there are so, so many to choose from. You’ll really just have to read it to find out more!

I enjoyed A City Dreaming and it’s made me curious about Polansky’s other books, which I’ve had my eye on for some time now. If anyone has read them, I would love to hear what you thought! This book was kind of surprise in that I was surprised I actually liked it. I loved that the plot was crazy and I never knew what M was going to do next. There wasn’t a lot of background info, but I didn’t need it to enjoy the book. I would say give it a try- I was laughing (or at least smiling) every few pages because the humor suited me and I ended up highlighting WAY more quotes than I usually do in a book.

River of Stars by Guy Gavriel Kay – Review

Cover- River of Stars

Published: April 2, 2013

Publisher: Roc

Genre: Fantasy, Historical Fiction

Pages: 656 (Hardcover)

My Rating: 4.0/5.0

 

Synopsis:

In his critically acclaimed novel Under Heaven, Guy Gavriel Kay told a vivid and powerful story inspired by China’s Tang Dynasty. Now, the international bestselling and multiple award-winning author revisits that invented setting four centuries later with an epic of prideful emperors, battling courtiers, bandits and soldiers, nomadic invasions, and a woman battling in her own way, to find a new place for women in the world – a world inspired this time by the glittering, decadent Song Dynasty.

Ren Daiyan was still just a boy when he took the lives of seven men while guarding an imperial magistrate of Kitai. That moment on a lonely road changed his life—in entirely unexpected ways, sending him into the forests of Kitai among the outlaws. From there he emerges years later—and his life changes again, dramatically, as he circles towards the court and emperor, while war approaches Kitai from the north.

Lin Shan is the daughter of a scholar, his beloved only child. Educated by him in ways young women never are, gifted as a songwriter and calligrapher, she finds herself living a life suspended between two worlds. Her intelligence captivates an emperor—and alienates women at the court. But when her father’s life is endangered by the savage politics of the day, Shan must act in ways no woman ever has.

In an empire divided by bitter factions circling an exquisitely cultured emperor who loves his gardens and his art far more than the burdens of governing, dramatic events on the northern steppe alter the balance of power in the world, leading to events no one could have foretold, under the river of stars.


After having oft admired this book while perusing the bookstore and deciding that I didn’t have time to fit it into my reading schedule, I finally got the audiobook version. Of course, when I did this I wasn’t aware that, though not necessary, maybe I should have read Under Heaven first. You see, these two books are set in the same world, though many years apart. I can’t help but think I may have enjoyed River of Stars more had I understood the significance of some of the references made. But no matter, what’s done is done.

River of Stars is set in a world that is much like China, as you may have guessed from the cover, the names, or the synopsis. As a matter of fact, I recently read that it’s based off the beginning of the Jin-Song wars in the early 13th century. It’s majestic- gardens, imperial palaces, songs, poets, and war weave together to make a world realistic, with just the barest touch of the magical. The setting spans from the southernmost island where court exiles are sent to the northern steppes and the lost provinces, giving readers a variety of locations and climes to experience. These locations (of course) are a mere backdrop to the vast cast of characters presented within the pages of River of Stars.

There are truly only two protagonists in this story; however Kay gives his readers quite a lot of diversity. We get the perspectives of exiles, poets, palace officials, and soldiers to broaden the scope of the story and enhance the depth of detail. Ren Daiyan and Lin Shan are very different people, but their lives collide nonetheless. Daiyan, formerly a bandit leader, wants to lead the empire of Kitai back to former glory and retake the lost provinces from their northern neighbors. Lin Shan is a girl with a man’s education and determination- unheard of in the era she lives in. I can’t even begin to explain them because they are deep.

While River of Stars is definitely a masterpiece, it does not inspire great welters of emotion. Some passages were emotional or inspirational, but I was dispassionate and felt as if I were a great distance from the story rather than in the midst of it as I usually prefer. If you haven’t read Under Heaven, you can read this as a standalone without any trouble. It’s definitely worth reading if you’re a fan of Kay’s other works or are looking to delve into the land of historical fantasy.

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern – Review

Cover- The Night Circus

Published: September 13, 2011

Publisher: Doubleday

Genre: Fantasy

Pages: 387 (Hardcover)

My Rating: 4.0/5.0

 

Synopsis:

The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. Within the black-and-white striped canvas tents is an utterly unique experience full of breathtaking amazements. It is called Le Cirque des Rêves, and it is only open at night.

But behind the scenes, a fierce competition is underway: a duel between two young magicians, Celia and Marco, who have been trained since childhood expressly for this purpose by their mercurial instructors. Unbeknownst to them both, this is a game in which only one can be left standing. Despite the high stakes, Celia and Marco soon tumble headfirst into love, setting off a domino effect of dangerous consequences, and leaving the lives of everyone, from the performers to the patrons, hanging in the balance.


Have you ever read a book that makes you long for a particular season or location? The Night Circus did that for me- I was longing for crisp, cool autumn skies, gold and scarlet leaves, the scent of pumpkin spice wafting from every coffee shop in existence. Heck, I even started looking at boots and flannel and it’s the middle of JULY as I write this!

The Night Circus is simply magical. It’s much more than that though-it’s a love story, a work of art, and a singularly memorable novel. It is the story of two magicians locked in a competition of strength and skill and Le Cirque des Reves is their stage; an act that travels the world, suddenly appearing and disappearing just as mysteriously. It is a thing of wonders, containing a garden made of ice, a tree made for wishing, a bonfire that never goes out and so much more. The Night Circus is also the story of the others in and around the circus, the Reveurs who follow it around the world, the man who created it, and the magicians who began the contest when the contestants were mere children.

Following Celia and Marco throughout their lives as they learn their trade, join the circus, and begin their slow dance around one another was…nice. Both were isolated in their own ways from those around them, much of which was due to their craft. Celia could practice her art openly in the guise of incredible illusion, but Marco was forced to play a subtler hand, wearing a mask and never letting others know what he can do. As the two magicians competed with one another, adding more and more ethereal tents to the Circus of Dreams, they also began the slow dance of falling in love. Celia and Marco may be the main players in this story, but Poppet, Widget, and a New England boy named Bailey also play a significant role in the fate of the circus, but I’ll leave that for you to figure out!

The Night Circus would be a perfect read for those long October evenings with a great cup of tea in hand and maybe some pumpkin bread or a caramel apple! My only real complaint about this book is the tense it’s written in is a bit odd and can be difficult to get used to. After a few chapters I was alright, and by the end of the book it made sense as to why the very first chapter was written in the manner it was. If you’re a fan of bookish-themed stuff, The Melting Library has two candles that were designed after scents described in The Night Circus on their Etsy page! I seriously want the “Au Reveur” candle because it sounds like it would smell HEAVENLY.

Curtsies & Conspiracies by Gail Carriger – Review

Cover- Curtsies and Conspiracies

Published: November 5, 2013

Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

Genre: YA, Fantasy

Pages: 310 (Hardcover)

My Rating: 4.0/5.0

 

Synopsis:

Does one need four fully grown foxgloves for decorating a dinner table for six guests? Or is it six foxgloves to kill four fully grown guests?

Sophronia’s first year at Mademoiselle Geraldine’s Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality has certainly been rousing! For one thing, finishing school is training her to be a spy–won’t Mumsy be surprised? Furthermore, Sophronia got mixed up in an intrigue over a stolen device and had a cheese pie thrown at her in a most horrid display of poor manners.

Now, as she sneaks around the dirigible school, eavesdropping on the teachers’ quarters and making clandestine climbs to the ship’s boiler room, she learns that there may be more to a field trip to London than is apparent at first. A conspiracy is afoot–one with dire implications for both supernaturals and humans. Sophronia must rely on her training to discover who is behind the dangerous plot-and survive the London Season with a full dance card.

In this sequel to New York Times bestselling Etiquette & Espionage, class is back in session with more petticoats and poison, tea trays and treason. Gail’s distinctive voice, signature humor, and lush steampunk setting are sure to be the height of fashion this season.


Gail Carriger is one of the more recent additions to my theoretical list of favorite authors, though I haven’t even had the chance to delve into her adult fantasy series. The Finishing School books are immensely fun to read; the characters are bright and lively and I often find myself laughing aloud at their antics. Curtsies and Conspiracies is the second book in the Finishing School series and continues Sophronia Temminick’s education at a school that is actually a floating airship. She’s learning to be a proper lady as well as how to be a proper spy or assassin and she’s certainly getting practice at both this term.

Sophronia and her friends Dimity, Sidheag, and Anna are delightful. They’re the perfect characters for a YA book set in this era, being a combination of proper, spunky, and hilarious. The plot is not particularly deep and complex, though it’s appealing nonetheless. These are short, fun books, not some tome of moral and ethical depth so I was expecting something with a lighter plot.

I really love this series so far (I’m assuming you’ve figured that out by now). I’ve even got my mom started on the first book because she was looking for something fun to read on the weekends! Honestly, there’s not much else to say without repeating myself. Definitely check it out!

Promise of Blood by Brian McClellan – Review

Cover- Promise of Blood

Published: April 16, 2013

Publisher: Orbit

Genre: Fantasy

Pages: 545 (Hardcover)

My Rating: 4.0/5.0

 

 

Synopsis:

The Age of Kings is dead . . . and I have killed it.

It’s a bloody business overthrowing a king…
Field Marshal Tamas’ coup against his king sent corrupt aristocrats to the guillotine and brought bread to the starving. But it also provoked war with the Nine Nations, internal attacks by royalist fanatics, and the greedy to scramble for money and power by Tamas’s supposed allies: the Church, workers unions, and mercenary forces.

Stretched to his limit, Tamas is relying heavily on his few remaining powder mages, including the embittered Taniel, a brilliant marksman who also happens to be his estranged son, and Adamat, a retired police inspector whose loyalty is being tested by blackmail.

But when gods are involved…
Now, as attacks batter them from within and without, the credulous are whispering about omens of death and destruction. Just old peasant legends about the gods waking to walk the earth. No modern educated man believes that sort of thing. But they should…

In a rich, distinctive world that mixes magic with technology, who could stand against mages that control gunpowder and bullets? PROMISE OF BLOOD is the start of a new epic fantasy series from Brian McClellan.


As time allows, I’ll be working on re-listening to and re-reading some of my favorite books that I haven’t featured on my blog. I’ve only been blogging for the last year, but I’ve been an avid reader since the age of five so that leaves a lot of un-reviewed subject matter. I’ll be featuring some of my favorite YA and Adult fantasy and sci-fi books that I’ve read in the last 6-8 years or so (makes me feel old). As you may have guessed from the title, the first feature review I’ll be doing is for Promise of Blood by Brian McClellan.

When I first decided that Promise of Blood looked… well, promising, I had never heard of the sub-genre of flintlock fantasy. I loved the military aspect of the Powder Mage Trilogy as well as the unique magic system McClellan developed and the relative modernity it had compared to the usual swords and knights kind of thing. The whole book is appealing, from the incredible cover, to the names of people and locations, to the finely crafted story itself.

Said story begins with a coup. Adamat, a private investigator, is called to Skyline palace in the wee hours of the morning only to find that it wasn’t the king who had called, but rather Field Marshall Tamas, the man who’s just overthrown the king and murdered his mage cabal. Upon their demise, each mage uttered a singularly disconcerting phrase and it is now Adamat’s job to figure out what it means. Tamas meanwhile, must oversee the executions of the nobility, keep the country of Adro running, identify an unknown Privileged sorcerer, and that’s just within the first few days. Of course, Tamas has the help of his Powder cabal, his fellow usurpers, and his son Taniel, who is a renowned powder mage himself. Taniel Two-Shot and Ka-poel, his “savage” companion enter the story right in the midst of the coup and Taniel immediately finds himself drawn into the action chasing down the unknown Privileged in Adro. This book really throws you right in the middle of the action and it doesn’t let up the entire time!

Promise of Blood was full of saltpeter and sorcery, gods and guns, magic and mayhem. Okay, you get the picture right? It was fantastic, action-packed, and had me on the edge of my seat! Each character was interesting and well-developed and I was seriously invested in each storyline, which is impressive. I loved Adamat, Tamas, and Taniel’s chapters- for me to both not want to stray from the current character and want to see what’s going on with next is great because I usually have a favorite by the first hundred pages.

All in all, this was a strong, enticing start to the trilogy and I loved it just as much the second read as the first. After such praise, you may wonder why I only gave it 4 star so let me explain. Because this is a re-read, I already know how much more awesome the next two books get and in comparison with the plot in the latter two, this is a 4.0/5.0. Autumn Republic was a great conclusion to the series and I can’t wait to review books 2 and 3 for you, my readers! I hope this has piqued your interest enough to read Promise of Blood!

 

Nightshades by Melissa F. Olson – Review

Cover- Nightshades

Published: July 19, 2016

Publisher: Tor.com

Genre: Urban Fantasy

Pages: 176 (Kindle)

My Rating: 4.0/5.0

Synopsis:

Alex McKenna is the new Special Agent in Charge of the Chicago office of the Bureau of Paranormal Investigations—the division tasked with investigating crimes involving shades.

Or vampires, as they’re more widely known.

Children have been going missing, and agents are routinely being slaughtered. It’s up to McKenna, and some unlikely allies, to get to the bottom of the problem, and find the kids before it’s too late.

Nightshades is a new gritty urban fantasy from Melissa F. Olson.


I was unsure what to expect when I requested a book about vampires and FBI agents from NetGalley, but I’ve always been fond of vampire books so I figured I’d give Nightshades a shot. I was pleasantly surprised at how much excitement was packed into this little novella and found myself wishing it were a little longer.

Nightshades is set in a world where vampires exist and everyone knows it, though the common knowledge is a recent development. In light of this new threat to humanity, the FBI has created a division specially tasked with handling the vampire threat and learning more about them in an effort to defend their fellow man. This division, called the Bureau of Preternatural Investigations, has several branches in the United States, but the primary focus of this story is on the Chicago branch where a string of civilian kidnappings and vampiric attacks on agency members have occurred. The division is in the spotlight, but not in a good way and FBI golden child Special Agent Alex McKenna has volunteered to be the new lead agent of the Chicago division. He’s got his hands full, recruiting a decent team, getting information, and even working with vampires to achieve his goals.

This story is well developed and engaging despite its short length. In fact, it’s very nearly the perfect length and it left me wanting to read and learn more about this alternate world filled with vampires. I love the slight air of mystery that I was left with – clearly there is a long history with two characters in particular that I would LOVE to learn more about. Lindy, a vampire masquerading as human, is great – she appears very normal at first glance, but upon further inspection she’s more than she seems. Lindy is actually more than just your average vampire, which makes me want a sequel desperately. The epilogue of this novella left a very clear opening for continuing the storyline – YAY!

I found Nightshades to be intense and appealing- special agents and vampires are a great combination and I look forward to reading more! The closest I can come to a comparison to this book is The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black, which was surprisingly awesome for a YA vampire novel. I realized after finishing Nightshades that I actually have another of Melissa F. Olson’s books on my Kindle and I had totally forgotten that I had it! At some point I’m going to have to make time to read Boundary Crossed, which was featured as a Kindle First book some time ago.

Stiletto by Daniel O’Malley – Review

Cover- Stiletto

Published: June 14, 2016

Publisher: Little, Brown, and Company

Genre: Fantasy

Pages: 583 (Hardcover)

My Rating: 4.0/5.0

Synopsis:

In this spirited sequel, The Rook returns to clinch an alliance between deadly rivals and avert epic—and slimy—supernatural war.

When secret organizations are forced to merge after years of enmity and bloodshed, only one person has the fearsome powers—and the bureaucratic finesse—to get the job done. Facing her greatest challenge yet, Rook Myfanwy Thomas must broker a deal between two bitter adversaries:

The Checquy—the centuries-old covert British organization that protects society from supernatural
threats, and…
The Grafters—a centuries-old supernatural threat.

But as bizarre attacks sweep London, threatening to sabotage negotiations, old hatreds flare. Surrounded by spies, only the Rook and two women, who absolutely hate each other, can seek out the culprits before they trigger a devastating otherworldly war.

STILETTO is a novel of preternatural diplomacy, paranoia, and snide remarks.


Alright guys, I was really, really excited to read Stiletto and I preordered it MONTHS ago. Well, it arrived and then I had to exercise self control and wait until vacation to read it. Check. Done. Finally, vacation arrived and I devoured this book and gave myself eye-strain headaches and stiff muscles from sitting still too long. And a sunburn, but not a bad one. Stiletto was an absolutely great sequel to The Rook and I’m here to tell you allllll about it.

First off, for those who aren’t familiar with The Rook, you can check out my review of it HERE. You should definitely read it first and then read Stiletto because it doesn’t really work as a standalone. Stiletto focuses on two new characters, Pawn Felicity Clements and Odette Leliefeld, who is on the Grafter delegation. The book starts out with their storylines being separate, but events bring them together soon enough. Said events are unusual, traumatic, and may or may not involve giant freaky sea creatures, aliens (?), and nutrient Jell-o. Okay, so it does involve all of those things, just not necessarily at once. Pawn Clements and Odette are brought together in an effort to keep anyone from murdering Odette for being who she is and to bring the Checquy and the Grafters (Broederschap) together. It’s like a meeting of nations who are trying to sign a peace treaty because they don’t want to kill each other, but long standing hatreds are really throwing a wrench into the cocktail parties. There are many complex layers to this story beyond the two groups trying to find a peaceful way to merge and that’s really what makes it so great. Internal and external conflict, mystery, and even a bit of history make it a very rich story.

It took me awhile to really begin to like the new characters that were introduced and that’s partly because I loved Rook Myfanwy Thomas so much from the first book. Felicity Clements is tough and has long term goals of joining the Barghest, the elite forces of the Checquy. She’s kinda put off when she has to be the bodyguard of the Belgian girl that keeps making bad impressions and ruining her clothes with an assortment of bodily fluids. Odette, said Belgian girl, is the youngest official member of the Grafter delegation and she wants to make a good impression, but can’t seem to stop doing embarrassing things. The Grafters, Odette in particular, also have a secret that isn’t allowed to be shared with the Checquy, despite the fact that they could probably help. The characters eventually began to grow on me and I found both Felicity and Odette to be relatable, realistic (aside from the obvious stuff), and completely great. Felicity isn’t comfortable dressing up and going to official Checquy functions and Odette is trying to fit in in a new city while towing her little brother along. They have such normal concerns, but then they also have these massively crazy characteristics like Felicity’s superpowers and Odette’s arm-spurs that contain platypus venom. It’s whatever you know.

I found Stiletto to be incredibly enjoyable and it was such a box of surprises! This is slightly more serious in nature than The Rook, but there are plenty of humorous moments too. This was a solid sequel and I am SO excited to see what else Daniel O’Malley has in store for his readers.