The Empress (The Diabolic #2) by S.J. Kincaid

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I fangirled like crazy over the first book and was THRILLED to receive an ARC of The Empress! Then I read it. It’s so difficult when you want to love a book and you don’t. I decided not to rate the book because it’s a good book and I think the reason for my disappointment lies with me and not the author’s story.

There is a LOT of politics and focus on religious extremists in this, which makes my mind turn off. It’s not my favorite set up or theme in books AT ALL. So I was not the right audience from the very start. I did not realize this or I would not have requested it from Netgalley.

However, I did and here is my review. (No spoilers.)

This is going to be a tough review to write. I’m sure it’s just me. I didn’t like this, and here is why:

– Nothing much happens until 30% into the book
– Almost the entire book dealt with politics and religious extremists/conservatives
– It was all about court betrayal and intrigue
– There was so much talking and telling and not enough doing and showing
– Yes, you get a LOT more world-building in this book, but it felt tedious (I’m sorry!)
– Ends in a cliffhanger
– I predicted most of what happened
– Drama llama made me angry

I’m sure some things that happened will not be as they appear in the final book. But, I am moving on and won’t be continuing. :((

I am sorry. Thank you for the digital copy to read and review. I am just being honest. I’m sure it’s mainly me and the book will be popular and most others will like it.

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“The Agony of Bun O’Keefe” by Heather Smith

OMG guys, I read a book that didn’t have monsters, vampires, or any supernatural themes. Just regular old fiction! 🙂 I would never have heard of this little gem if it weren’t for reading my friend, Schizanthus’s review. I just had to request it from Netgalley!

This short book is just so unique and addictive. Bun O’Keefe is a 14 year old (this is NOT a young adult book) with a 300-pound hoarder mother who tells her one day, “Get out! Just get out!” And so she does.

Luckily, she finds a very kind group of rag-tag friends who teach her about life, love, emotions, and how to function *more* as a social being.

I’m guessing Bun has Asperger’s, but it doesn’t really say. She memorizes details from medical encyclopedias and remembers lines from movies and little obscure tidbits. She is extremely literal and has no inkling of “social cues,” but wow, this girl is so awesome and there are many touching scenes and lines.

This also takes place in the 80s, which is cool!

She doesn’t remember her birthday but when her mother lights a candle on August 16th for Elvis’s birthday, she knows “that’s the day to say, Happy Birthday, Bun O’Keefe.”

She is tiny and malnourished and never menstruated. She lived off sausage in a can, saltines and plastic-wrapped cheese. She thought of Cherry Coke as being a fruit.

“Santa stopped coming when my dad left. I figured it was ’cause my mother turned me invisible.”

No one knew she was alive, she didn’t go to school, and was basically an agoraphobic teen until she finds her tribe.

Cher/Chris – the awesome transvestite whose dad wanted him to be a doctor
Chef – the guy who works as a dishwasher but can cook like a boss
Busker Boy – an Innu Indian with a tender heart who takes Bun under his wing
Pop Girl – the girl whose Catholic-extremist mom wanted her to join a convent so she ran away

This was just great. I highly recommend. It’s a book you can read in a day and will leave you feeling good, even though it’s sad. It’s the kind of quirky, “regular” fiction I LOVE.

There are some abuse triggers, but no major details and it doesn’t go on and on. I lurve Bun so much!

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

Artemis by Andy Weir

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This book isn’t released until November and already has about 400 reviews at Goodreads! What do I say that probably hasn’t already been said?

My initial response was that the book felt like:

  1. John Grisham in space. Only no lawyers.
  2. Michael Crichton in space. Only no dinosaurs.
  3. Dan Brown in space. Only no religious conspiracies.

Let’s start with Jazz. She’s Saudi Arabian and lived most of her life on the moon (Artemis). She might have been born there, but I can’t remember. She can’t live or even WALK on Earth anymore without major treatments, exercise, medication, etc. because of the difference in gravity. But she is a moon girl, through and through, and has no intention of being anywhere else.

Jazz is a very interesting character, in that she isn’t very likable, yet you find yourself cheering for her anyway. She is a smuggler and doesn’t do anything too crazy yet she is always on someone’s radar. She is one of those brilliant young women who have family members (in this case, it’s just her dad) always telling her she “has so much potential.” She is fiercely independent, snarky as hell, and does what she wants, when she wants.

This is a story of how she makes a deal thinking this will be “the one” to make her rich and yet of course, EVERYTHING goes wrong, and she has to figure out how to dig her way out of the big poop pile.

I have NOT read The Martian, believe it or not, so have nothing to compare this to except The Egg and Annie’s Day (which I liked both of those very short stories a lot).

I enjoyed this. A good high-tech sci-fi suspense… very science-y in a way readers will be able to comprehend. I don’t think it’s my typical choice in reading material. But I was entertained and I think it’s going to sell tons of books and be very successful.

Thank you Netgalley and publisher for providing a digital copy to read and review!
Review also found at Goodreads.

 

 

Creatures of Will and Temper by Molly Tanzer

This book isn’t released until November 2017, so I’ll try and keep this brief and nonspoilery. Loosely based on The Picture of Dorian Gray, the story revolves around a young woman named Dorina Gray and her sister, Evadne.

Dorina and Evadne have a difficult relationship. When Evadne catches her with a girl and tells their parents, she is forced to chaperone her younger sister in London for the summer. They stay with their Uncle Basil, who is an artist. He introduces them to Lady Henry, who Dorina becomes smitten with, while Evadne views her hedonistic lifestyle as distasteful.

The two sisters continue to struggle to get along and eventually choose to mainly ignore each other. Dorina spends her time with Henry, while Evadne finds a fencing club. Fencing plays a very large role in this story. We find out that Henry has a secret club of her own that is occultic.

I thought this book was fabulous! It reads more like historical fiction at first, with the paranormal aspects coming to the front towards the end. It is well-written and focuses a lot on sensuality and appreciating the five senses, physical pleasure, art, food – and the philosophies revolving around a life lived in the pursuit of these pleasures.

Dorina is a lesbian and I got the impression that Henry was a bit of a cross-dresser. Sexuality was treated as a non-issue; the characters loved who they loved and lived as they wanted to live and no one made much of it.

Evadne was at first a rigid and unlikable character, but wow, does she have some surprises in store for the reader.

This book is very unique and I found it pleasantly, surprisingly FANTASTIC.

My review at Goodreads;

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

Reincarnation Blues by Michael Poore

3.5 stars

Milo has lived almost 10,000 lives and if he doesn’t achieve an act of “Perfection” pretty soon, he is going to get poofed into nothingness by the universe. I mean, you only get so many tries.

Suzie is his girlfriend (who happens to be Death) of 8,000 years. They have an unconventional relationship and only see each other between his lives. But, it’s pretty epic.

Even though the story focuses on Milo and his many lives, there are actually two other major plots going on:

– Suzie’s evolution from Death to realizing she wants (and can have) more, and
– The story of their relationship (don’t worry, while this has romantic elements, it’s not a kissing book.)

We are shown the types of lives Milo has lived, chapter by chapter. A lot of the book reads like a collection of short stories. We learn about Milo’s lives hundreds of year ago and the ones that take place hundreds of years in the future, some in space and on space ships.

I felt sympathy for Milo because, if reincarnation is true, how awful is it to have to go back over and over without remembering anything in the hopes you stumble upon an act deemed as “perfection” by the universe. Not fair! 😛

The book is a combination of sci-fi and philosophical, humorous fiction. The book has more in common with Douglas Adams and Tom Robbins than Carlos Castenada or Paulo Coelho. (It also kind of reminds me of Patrick deWitt, who wrote the Sisters Brothers and Undermajordomo Minor. The books are nothing alike, but there is something about the writing style…)

The first part of the book was fantastic. It was funny and quirky, poignant, and even melancholy at times. Unfortunately, I felt like the book started to lose steam in the middle and the various lives started to blend together. I felt like the story could have been easily told in fewer pages, since the additional chapters weren’t really revealing anything new and was a continuation of what we had already seen.

However, this was well-written and I really enjoyed the author’s style of writing and humor. Along with the “funneh” and eccentric vibe, there are some good nuggets about philosophy and “dharma.” I am definitely putting this author on my watch list.

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

Nyxia (The Nyxia Triad #1) by Scott Reintgen

Emmett Atwater is one of ten teens picked by a multi-billion dollar corporation called Babel Communications to travel through space to a planet to help mine a new, amazing element/metal/compound called nyxia. (There is actually a reason why it can only be teenagers, but… spoiler.)

Once the paperwork has been signed and they are onboard, Bable pulls a fast one and announces only 8 will actually go to the planet, so it becomes a competition on the space ship to win a coveted spot on the team that goes down to the planet.

The book covers various training activities and the dynamics of the group as they go through ups and downs. This book is a little reminiscent of Ender’s Game, Red Rising, and Hunger Games, but it’s original enough to stand on its own.

I found this book to be very easy to read and crazy-hard to put down at times. I actually had to force myself to slow down at some parts because I was starting to skim to find out what was going to happen. It’s suspenseful and has surprises. I think this is going to be very popular!

My only criticism is the romance towards the end didn’t do anything for me and I am not sure if I even trust that character. Also, the book ends before they get to the planet! GAH! I am dying to know what happens next! I can’t wait for the next book.

This comes out in September and I can highly recommend this for YA dystopian sci-fi fans. Don’t worry for those sci-fi shy – it’s very accessible and not bogged down with any lengthy descriptions.

Four stars!

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

Review also found at Goodreads.

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

“Wait for It” by Molly O’Keefe

ERMAGHERD. ERMAGHERD. SO GOOD.

Made me cry. Broke my feels. This is my second book by Molly O’Keefe and even better than Burn Down the Night (and that one was really good). I’m starting to think she’s an auto-buy/read for sure. Contemporary romance is VERY love/hate for me (especially with “dark” themes and “broken” characters) but this one blew it out of the park. Perfect balance of everything.

I was worried how Blake was going to be, that he would be too much of a jerk. But no no no… Tiffany – I felt a sort of kinship for her, and I have not gone through what she did. But, as a single parent of only one kid, I could still sympathize with her, with the feelings of obligations and no “me” just “them,” crushed by chores and bills and in survival mode, etc. I really think I got her.

I liked how her stretch marks and “mom body” was written into the story. Her breasts being a bit droopy after breastfeeding 3 kids, her poochy belly. It was realistic and yet still incredibly HOT.

Sometimes kids in a romance can be cheesy or take some of the steam out of the book, but the author just did it PERFECTLY – with the family members on both sides of the family.

It was just perfect. I can’t say anything else. Except, the sex scenes?

Man, this woman can write some good sex. Good dialogue too. I mean, I was drawn in from the beginning and it kept me interested the entire time. Devoured it.

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

Review also posted at Goodreads