Mask of Shadows by Linsey Miller

The only person I can think of at the moment who reminds me of Sal is Arya Stark from Game of Thrones, even though that isn’t accurate. But, it kind of fits in my mind, so I’m going with it.

I was Sallot Leon—one of the last children of Nacea, orphan and street fighter, highway thief and Twenty-Three.

This book isn’t released until September, so I don’t want to go too much into the plot. The premise is that Sal ends up participating in an elite “audition,” to become one of the Queen’s Left Hands.

Each “Hand” is a gemstone… there’s Amethyst, Emerald, Ruby, and Opal. The last Opal died, so they need a new one. The competition? It’s to the death.

I found this book to be fantastic! I read the entire thing in 24 hours and could barely put it down. I thought the pacing was good, and the action was tempered well with character and world-building and a little bit of romance. It’s pretty much everything I look for in a book.

I have seen a few reviews on Goodreads that accuse this of being a Hunger Games rip off and I would respectfully disagree. The only thing the two books have in common is that there is a “competition to the death.” No one is forced to compete, there is no tyrannical government or districts.

This book is more about swords and assassins. It’s fantasy-lite, meaning it’s more action-adventure rather than about magic or fantastical creatures or beings.

I have also seen a few reviews on Goodreads say they had a difficult time getting into the characters because they were all referred to by numbers and had masks on and I would also respectfully disagree on that point. The majority of the numbered competitors were more like window dressing and not really vital to the story, and the few “numbers” that were main plot points were definitely identifiable and memorable.  Two, Four, Five… you don’t forget them by the end of the book!

Since this is my review space, I have one more point to bring up. I like the way the author handled the “gender fluidity” theme. This was not a story about prejudice or bigotry and no one really even made a big deal of how Sal dressed. When he dressed as a male, he was called “he.” When she dressed like a female, she was called “she,” and Sal said this is how “they” wanted to be addressed. But it was in the background and not a main focus of the book, which I liked, because usually it becomes this huge issue. Sal just was who Sal was.

I guess that is all I’ll say for now since I’m reviewing an ARC. I highly recommend this for readers who like young adult fantasy action-adventure. I’ll probably pick up my own copy of this for my personal library since I would definitely read again, and I can’t wait to read the next one! Fantastic debut novel!

Thank you so much Netgalley and publisher for providing a digital copy to read and review!

Review also found at Goodreads.

Tyrant’s Throne (Greatcoats #4) by Sebastien de Castell

What to say about this final installment in the Greatcoats quartet except that it was a very satisfying conclusion. We have our hero Falcio:

His buddy, Brasti, arguably the best archer (and wannabe pirate) in the world:

(I know he’s not holding a bow, but that gif reminded me of him.)

And Kest, the former Saint of Swords:

(He’s the serious one, but that gif reminds me of how Kest might physically look.)

I really love – ADORE – the friendship and loyalty of these three. The humor that was missing from the last book (that one had a much more serious and dramatic tone) is definitely back.

We all know (those of us who have read the previous books) that the kingdom of Tristia is still in trouble and on the verge of chaos. Aline has not been named Queen yet, but Falcio is doing his best to remedy that.

There is a new and surprising villain and the return of another villain that we expected because that loose end had not been wrapped up.

Something happened which I won’t say because obviously spoilers, but I was almost ready to throw my Kindle at the wall.

Those who have read this probably know what I am talking about, and I’m still not quite sure things had to go that way, but I have come to expect surprises from Sebastian de Castell. He takes the reader through the emotional ringer at times.

The amount of adventure, action, humor, and feels was an almost perfect blend. This might have been slightly over-long in my view, but all in all, it truly was a satisfying conclusion that felt authentic. I even cried a couple times!

I highly recommend this series if you like books that remind you of The Three Mustakeers and The Princess Bride. This is one I will definitely return to in the years to come.

I still don’t quite understand why people were always giving Falcio such a hard time, though. He really was smart and made good decisions. He did babble and his inner dialogues went on too long, but he was fiercely heroic and a good leader. I guess it was just part of the deprecating humor and if people listened to him and respected him, there would be no story, right?

I really liked the new young girl character, Chalmers. Brasti will forever be my favorite Greatcoat. The female characters were stronger here than in the previous book. I guess I will view Saint’s Blood as being the book that serves as the “dark night of the soul” for the series.

I guess that is all. Well done! Fantastic series and conclusion!

Thank you Netgalley and publisher for providing a digital copy to read and review!

My review of Traitor’s Blade.
My review of Knight’s Shadow.
My review of Saint’s Blood.

The Red Lily (Vampire Blood 2) by Juliette Cross

This is a blog I wrote about book two in the Vampire Blood series by Juliette Cross featuring Nikolai and Sienna, who we met in book one. It will be released on
July 19, 2017 and was fantastic. Check it out below! 🙂

The Red Lily is book two in the Vampire Blood series by Juliette Cross. The kingdoms are ruled by the dark and powerful Varis vampire family. One of the royals is pulling the strings and powering the soldiers with a blood madness, called sanguine furorem, giving them extra strength and an indiscriminate urge to murder […]

via The Red Lily (Vampire Blood 2) by Juliette Cross — Dust off Your MacHalo

The Black Lily by Juliette Cross

Bam! 5 stars! I’ve been waiting for you, wonderful book! So often, I am disappointed by vampire romances. This one was perfect. Everything I love. I’m going to cast my favorite book boyfriend actor as Marius, the vampire prince.

For Arabelle, something like this:

She is no damsel in distress. She dresses in “man pants” in a time when women only wore dresses and gowns. She is the leader of a resistance against the vampire monarchy.

She sets out to kill Marius and of course ends up falling in love with him.

I thought this book was written well. The romance happened fast and there was insta-lust, but it was very believable, and besides, I don’t like romances that drag out forever. It’s a hate-to-love romance.

I loved the encounters these two had. I thought they had fantastic chemistry and the plot was quite substantial for a romance. I really hope there are more!!! I would like to see more of Nikolai. And Sienna. She was awesome. I loved the hart wolves and want to find out more about the magic of Silvane Forest.

The female is not a virgin and even though Marius is almost one hundred years old, it wasn’t quite as extreme as some paranormal romances are. She was experienced in her own way and independent.

I DEVOURED this in one day. It is one of my favorite vampire romances now. I want to go and binge everything this author has written now, even though I think this is her only vampire book. She did it all SO WELL. (I think she has a dragon series and a demon one?) More vampires please!

I have nothing but good things to say about this. I don’t think it is released yet, but I highly recommend. So so good.

I love my vampires and there are a lot of crappy vampire books out there. THIS is a great one, in my view. I would view it more as fantasy, since it takes place in a time of castles, swords, and balls, etc. PNR is generally more often set in “modern” time.

“Nevernight” by Jay Kristoff

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My new favorite book. Kristoff owned this. He’s the rock star of edgy YA fantasy. I haven’t been this excited about a series since Pierce Brown’s Red Rising trilogy. I’m serious.

I loved the dark tone of this book. It made me want to put on my Cure CDs and smoke clove cigarettes and ponder the mysteries of life. Yes, I’m fangirling. Give me a moment. This has actually given me book depression because it ended and now, what will I read? I actually want to go and pre-order the hardcover edition! What is happening to me? I suppose now I’ll even have to try Illuminae again!! (I DNF’d that one because I don’t do well with journal/interview/email story-telling. But I must have been on something because if he wrote THIS and co-wrote THAT, it must be awesome too. It just must.
This isn’t released until August 9, 2016, but if you love fantasy, you seriously need to get it as soon as you can. It’s worth paying full price for. Don’t even wait for it to go on sale. It’s that good.

I’m not giving anything away except to say it’s got everything: action, adventure, excellent world-building, cool creatures and magic, dark vs. light, dark vs. dark, heroism, friendship, sex (not the fade to black kind either), lots of stabby stabby. It’s truly epic.

Think about all the female assassins you’ve read about in YA and think about how they would be if they weren’t watered down. That’s how Mia is. I don’t even know if this is YA. She just happens to be a teenager. I know it will be marketed as YA, so I’m going with older teens. It’s a lot edgier than most YA I’ve read. It was just awesome, period. I lurved it.

Thank you Netgalley and St. Martin’s for providing a digital copy of this to read and review!!! It was a gem.

Review also found at Goodreads.

Initial post:

Gah! Netgalley and St. Martin’s approved me!

“School of assassins?” Yes, sign me up please!

tumblr_noulz1bjx21s3h43ko1_500

Mating in Flight (Dragon Erotica) by Christie Sims

I read this for science, of course. It was… entertaining. A nineteen year old sorceress virgin (of course) calls a dragon with a summoning spell and he answers her call. She wants to be his baby mama and he’s like… you’re a hot young virginal sorceress, let’s do this.

This is not a dragon shifter, we’re talking fully grown, huge-ass scaly dragon. With a three foot long dong. And somehow, he gets it in there. I guess we can call it magic.

I appreciated some of the descriptions in this. Like this gem:

“her flower released honey onto her pollinator’s malehood”

And “he throttled his member into her”. The author describes said member as “gargantuan meat.” Nice. She even calls their sex a “dance of love.”

I did find it a little gross when she went down on the dragon and his thing was so big, she could only get her mouth over the “hole.”

Overall, this was kind of funny, but I’m not sure it was supposed to be? I was entertained and that’s all I’m looking for in stuff like this. It was better than Taken by the T-Rex, I have to say. 😉

Review also found at Goodreads.

“Uprooted” by Naomi Novik

UprootedUprooted by Naomi Novik
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Review also found at: Goodreads

I’ve been thinking for days now how to review this book when almost everyone has. It seems like almost everyone likes/loves it, while a few didn’t (or didn’t like the second half). When I started it, I wasn’t sure, but before I knew it, I was completely wrapped up in the story and characters. By the end, I had cried, my feels broke, and I was blown away by the imagination of the author and the story she had created. So I guess I’ll just ramble on about a few things.

Even though this book had the trope of “ancient powerful male falls for very young inexperienced woman,” it worked. There was romance, but the story did not revolve around it and it was actually a fairly minor part overall. The girl’s life did not revolve around the male character’s loving her and she was fine with or without it. She had her own things going on and was not a love-sick puppy.

There is a sort of mega alpha jerk in this, but it worked for me. We got to understand why the Dragon was the way he was. He was annoying sometimes and a bit too much “prickly” and cantankerous, but I grew to really love him. Even though he wasn’t really a dragon and that was just his wizard name.

The magic in this book is awesome. There’s spells, chants, illusions, and even magic that can literally shape and change reality. There are fantastical creatures – chimeras and forest monsters. The forest is like a dark spirit that can possess people when they go into it and make them do evil things.

Part of the book takes place at the royal castle and there are politics and intrigue. The end has a more other-worldly, mystical vibe. It really feels like a fairytale laced with mythology.

One of the things I came to truly love was the main character, Agnieszka. She was so kind and giving and had joy in her heart and soul. Her loyalty to Kasia was a foundation of the story. I love how strong she was and how content to just roam around the land and be grounded and use her magic to help the villagers in the valley. She had no interest in being a fancy, rich wizard.

I could go on and on with how much I was unexpectedly swept up by this. I think it will become a favorite for me for years to come and I can imagine re-reading it several times. I am not classifying this as Young Adult because it doesn’t seem like it to me. It just has a 17 year old as the main character. But I highly recommend!

Original post:

OMG you guys. LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE.

RTC.

Buddy read with Buddies Books and Baubles starting January 8, 2016.

Okay, I have to see what all the fuss is about with this book. Everyone in the world seems to have read it but me. Some people adored it, others only liked the first half? I’m curious what I will think. I hope I like it!

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Krampus: The Yule Lord by Brom

Krampus: The Yule LordKrampus: The Yule Lord by Brom
My rating: 4 of 5 stars


“Ho ho ho, Merry Christmas!”

We’ve all been taught that Santa and Mrs. Claus look a little something like this:

We’ve all been taught wrong. This is Santa:

And his wife:

Santa is really Baldr, an ancient Norse god and son of Odin. He was known for being all peace, love, and light, but was that the real story or was Baldr a great deceiver?

In this story, after Baldr dies in ancient times, he is reborn as Santa Claus. He takes over Yule and changes the holiday. Well, someone is not very happy about THAT.

Meet Krampus. Our villain, I mean hero, or is it anti-hero? Who knows, who cares. He’s awesome.

Krampus has been imprisoned by Santa/Baldr for 500 years and has just gotten his freedom back, only to discover no one celebrates Yule anymore. No candy in shoes? No tributes? And where’s his bag? Oh yeah, SANTA STOLE IT! The battle to bring back Yule is on. You’re toast, Santa!

Here’s Isabel and Jesse.

They are part of Krampus’s Belsnickels. If Krampus bites you, you become a little bit demon. Your skin gets black spots and you grow claws, have heightened senses, live a really long time, the cold doesn’t bother you, you don’t need to eat as much, etc. But you have to obey his commands. So you’re basically a slave, but hey, things could always be worse!

When we meet Jesse, he has lost his wife and daughter and is pretty much a loser. He can’t keep a job, his truck barely works, and everyone hates him. He gets stuck doing jobs for The General, who runs the meth in town. And the police chief named Dillard wants him dead (and is sleeping with his estranged wife). He meets Krampus and ends up turning his life around. This is even a tale about FRIENDSHIP, people!

It’s got a little bit of everything – horror and gore, comedy, mythology, fantasy… I love how the author wove ancient myths and paganism into the story. Flying yule goats instead of flying reindeer…Krampus is Loki’s grandson…Yule was celebrated before Christmas existed and was about celebrating the winter solstice and the rebirth of the sun and was also connected to Odin and The Wild Hunt. It was about drinking, dancing, sex and partying!

It’s really fascinating. The only reason I am not giving this 5 stars is because there was a little bit of issues with pacing at times. But overall, this was loads of fun and a perfect (for me) Christmas story.

The author, Brom, drew the pictures I posted above. He is amazing!!! So talented.

Original review:

Loved it! What a great Christmas, er, I mean, Yuletide book! I’ll post a review tomorrow, but I think I have found a new favorite author and I LOVED how he worked in ancient paganism and Viking/Norse gods and myths. It’s got crazy hill-billy meth gangs, a Santa who looks like Odin, and Loki’s grandson who looks like a demon with horns. Fun fun fun. Good for both horror and fantasy fans. Highly recommended!

Still $1.99 on Amazon Kindle: 17 DEC 2015.

View all my reviews

Vicious (Vicious, #1) by V.E. Schwab, aka Victoria Schwab

Vicious (Vicious, #1)Vicious by V.E. Schwab
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Yep, all the stars.

This story reminded me a lot of the X-Men and young Magneto’s and Charles Xavier’s friendship turned nemesis relationship. Two young men meet at college and form a deep friendship. They love science and a ground-breaking experiment succeeds and ends up turning them into violent enemies.

Ten years goes by. One went to prison and has escaped (Victor Vale). One spends those years as a sort of vigilante, searching for people who fit the experiment’s perimeters, and assassinating them in some kind of twisted Holy War (Eli Ever).

I don’t want to go into the plot too much because of spoilers. This was such an awesome book that you should just go in knowing as little as possible. If you like sci-fi fantasy, mutants, superheroes, and books where the main characters are, at best, anti-heroes and at worst, villains, this is the book for you. The MCs are not “good” and they break laws and kill. I still found myself liking Victor a lot.

I loved Victor.

Even though Victor’s blond and younger, he reminds me of Michael Fassbender’s Magneto. He also (for some reason) kind of reminds me of Julian McMahon as Doctor Doom in the Fantastic Four. Again, not blond and older than Victor, but I just picture them as Victor. *shrugs*

The supporting characters were really good also. There’s a huge tattooed brilliant hacker named Mitchell, a 12-year-old girl named Sydney, and a humongous dog named Dol. They made up Victor’s “team” of misfits and I loved them!

I hated Eli.

He was so self-righteous and a hypocrite. I hated how obsessed with religion he was, yet he only cared about it when it suited him. Serena was a girlfriend and partner in crime. I hated her too. Hated her. I wanted them both to die. I felt no pity or sympathy for them whatsoever. Eli’s sections in the book were the worst. I hated how he thought he had divine justification for doing the despicable things he did.

”You don’t understand,” gasped Eli. “No one understands.”

“When no one understands, that’s usually a good sign that you’re wrong.”

SPOILERISH:

The author had an interesting take on the whole “mutant ability” theme. When people were somehow brought back to life after being brain-dead, they acquired some type of ability based on what they were thinking as they died. But they also lost a lot of their humanity – stuff like empathy, guilt, fear, and even joy. It’s a darker interpretation, but still cool.

Overall, I loved this book. I loved the characters, the plot, the premise, the execution. The middle might have dragged just a bit when Eli’s sections were introduced, but I even loved hating him. It was a satisfying ending. And now apparently, there will be a second book! YAY!

Review also found at: Goodreads

“Dragon Actually” by G.A. Aiken

Dragon Actually (The Dragon Kin, #1)Dragon Actually by G.A. Aiken
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

3.5 stars, but rounded up.

So, reading and writing this review has given me another an opportunity to Google Jason Momoa pictures, since he reminds me of the male lead character, Fearghus (who is a SEXY dragon shifter).

On one hand, this was a pretty typical fantasy romance, but it also had some high points that put it above your average, tropey love story. Annwyl is a 21 year old virgin, but she grew up with an abusive father and brother and spent all her time learning to be a warrior, so she could eventually take the throne and save her people from evil tyranny. Annwyl is pretty bad-ass. She says what she feels, does what she wants, and knows what she wants. That is refreshing. There is little angst. The sex scenes are very steamy (and there are a LOT of them).

Fearghus is a fun romantic hero. He’s also got LOTS of sexy dragon shifter brothers, so that means lots more books in the series! HAHA – His sister, Morfryd is awesome as well. Another strong female character in a romance. Imagine that.

So, if you like PNR or fantasy romance, you’ll probably like this. It’s got all the “good stuff” (raunchy sex scenes) plus a plot plus strong characters you don’t want to bitchslap. That’s a win in my book! Where’s book 2?!?! *goes to find it*

Buddy read with my MacHalo dragon lovers. Even Sarah liked it!

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