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I Belong


Review: Spindle by E.K. Johnston

February 18th, 2018 @ 12:01 am
Posted by Kristie under Review Tags: , , , , ,

Title: Spindle

Author: E. K. Johnston

Genre: YA Fantasy

Series: A Thousand Nights (Book #2)

Publication Date: December 6, 2016

Format: Hardcover, 355 Pages

ISBN-10: 1484722280 (Disney-Hyperion)

ISBN-13: 978-1484722282 (Disney-Hyperion)

Reviewed by: Kristie

Synopsis:

The world is made safe by a woman . . . but it is a very big world.

It has been generations since the Storyteller Queen saved her country from fire and blood – but now the kingdom of Kharuf is threatened by a demon gathering power. When a princess is born, the demon is ready with her final blow: a curse that will cost that princess her very soul, or force her to destroy her own people to save her life.

The threads of magic are tightly spun, binding princess and exiled spinners into a desperate quest to break the curse. But the web of power is dangerously tangled – and they may not see the true pattern until it is unspooled.

Quick & Dirty: Middle eastern take on Cinderella with a hint of Rapunzel, but ultimately the slow pacing kept me from enjoying this novel as much as the first, A Thousand Nights.

Opening Sentence: We know exactly how we came to these cold, hard mountains, and we remember everything that we have lost since we arrived here.

Excerpt: Yes

The Review:

Spindle by E.K. Johnston is a companion novel to A Thousand Nights and both novels are based off of famous stories, 1001 Nights and Cinderella. If you haven’t checked out these books yet, they are middle-eastern inspired twists to the original work with some added paranormal elements. (I know 1001 Nights is already middle-eastern but Cinderella is not.) I really enjoyed the different settings and culture that was portrayed. I loved A Thousand Nights but I just found Spindle to be an okay read. The story was really slow, the ending rushed and I just had a hard time seeing spinning as an addiction.

Spindle is set many years past the events of A Thousand Nights. The first book is referenced quite a few times as Spindle deals with some of the descendants of A Thousand Nights. Overall, I don’t feel like you have to have read A Thousand Nights but I do feel like you would get the references better if you did. (Plus, I loved the spin of A Thousand Nights. So definitely check it out!)

Spindle is told through the story of a young man named Yaasha from the country of Kharuf. He was a young boy when the Little Rose was cursed by a demon. He wasn’t even present at the event so he has to rely on stories from others to tell his story. At five years old, Little Rose was bestowed gifts and a curse because a demon decided that it wanted Little Rose as the perfect host when her body was ready to receive its essence. Like the original story, Little Rose is given a way out but it isn’t pleasant and, of course, involves a spindle. The demon makes sure that any spinners in the country will get deathly ill because it has to make sure that Little Rose can’t touch a spindle.

Yaasha’s story is about his mother, whom used to work as the top spinner at the court, and all the other spinners are effectively banished from the country and have to leave but they aren’t accepted in, Qamth, the country they seek safely in. His mother wants Yaasha to go on a quest to find the King of the country where they are seeking asylum and see if he can talk him into accepting all the foreign spinners. Yaasha decides to not go that route, he decides his best step is to find Little Rose and see if they can end the curse through her so that his mother can become a great spinner again and survive the wasting disease that is killing all the spinners from their home country.

There are portions of this story that I had some really issues with especially the spinning issue. Yaasha hated spinning but in the way he tells the story it is almost an addiction for some of the side characters. Their fingers are constantly moving like they are spinning but they can’t because they will get sick. In their home country, spinning makes them sick but it temporarily relieves their insanity too. Spinning is needed for employment but also for clothing that the country is running out of. Another issue I had was that this story just felt slow. Most of the story was told on the road during a journey that the characters didn’t really have any grasp of because they had a hard time deciding where to go and what to do.

Little Rose is an enigma all her own. I loved her attitude and her spunk. She loves her country and she hates what the demon has forced down upon everyone but to give up would leave herself vulnerable to the demon so she makes sure that doesn’t happen. Little Rose is forced to not learn anything because learning or “making” as the book keeps calling it will open Little Rose for the demon to use as it wishes. Learning things will help make Little Rose the proper host for the demon because the demon doesn’t want to fall into the same trap as the last powerful demon did in A Thousand Nights.

I’m very conflicted over the ending because in one sense I found the ending perfect (and beautiful) but I was also severely disappointed in it. I guess I was just hoping for something else but you can’t really change the ending of Cinderella, just some of the events surrounding it. The ending was rushed. All the major crazy events I was looking forward to happened in the last ten pages and was basically summed up through Roses’ point of view.

Overall, Spindle is a wonderfully creative book but fell a little flat of A Thousand Nights. I enjoyed the spin that E.K. Johnston wove with this tale. I had a few issues with why it seemed like spinning was an addiction (my guess is the demon messed with people’s heads that way) and really slow going. Reading the story, I had no idea where she was going with the ending and then having it wrap up so quickly didn’t help. If you are looking for something diverse and different in an old-fashioned fairy tale, I would still tell you to try this series because you may enjoy it better than I did. So please, give it a try!

Notable Scene:

“I should know so many things,” she said. “I should be able to bake bread, even though my kitchens will always have a bread mistress. I should know how to weave a tapestry and write a trade agreement. I should know, but I can’t. I was born and bred to do these things, and my heart cries out for them, and I can’t. I cannot make anything. Every stitch, every note, every letter, and every dance step would prepare me for the demon’s curse, and spinning would seal it. And I cannot take the piskey’s gift. I would sleep forever, but the demon would be free–the curse would remain unbroken–and then my kingdom, my people, would be queenless and cursed, both.”

A Thousand Nights Series:

1. A Thousand Nights

1.5 The Garden of Three Hundred Flowers

2. Spindle

FTC Advisory: Disney-Hyperion provided me with a copy of Spindle. No goody bags, sponsorships, “material connections,” or bribes were exchanged for my review.

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Review: Sins of Empire by Brian McClellan

February 17th, 2018 @ 12:01 am
Posted by Stephanie under Review Tags: , , , ,

Title: Sins of Empire

Author: Brian McClellan

Genre: Fantasy

Series: Gods of Blood and Powder (Book #1)

Publication Date: March 7, 2017

Format: Hardcover, 624 Pages

ISBN-10: 0316407216 (Orbit)

ISBN-13: 978-0316407212 (Orbit)

Reviewed by: Stephanie

Synopsis:

An epic new fantasy series from Brian McClellan, set in the same world as his wildly popular Powder Mage trilogy.

The young nation of Fatrasta is a turbulent place – a frontier destination for criminals, fortune-hunters, brave settlers, and sorcerers seeking relics of the past. Only the iron will of the lady chancellor and her secret police holds the capital city of Landfall together against the unrest of a suppressed population and the machinations of powerful empires.

The insurrection that threatens Landfall must be purged with wile and force, a task which falls on the shoulders of a spy named Michel Bravis, convicted war hero Ben Styke, and Lady Vlora Flint, a mercenary general with a past as turbulent as Landfall’s present.

As loyalties are tested, revealed, and destroyed, a grim specter as old as time has been unearthed in this wild land, and the people of Landfall will soon discover that rebellion is the least of their worries.

Quick & Dirty: An addicting follow-up to the Powder Mage trilogy, full of action and great characters.

Opening SentencePrivileged Robson paused with one foot on the muddy highway and the other on the step of his carriage, his hawkish nose pointed into the hot wind of the Fatrastan countryside.

Excerpt: Yes

The Review:

It’s been ten years since the war that made Vlora Flint’s career and allowed her to start her own mercenary company. Her company is recalled to the city to aid the Lady Chancellor in rooting out a rebel who is causing no end of trouble for the government. While Vlora is in no way favorable towards said government, they are the ones paying her wage, so she will do what she’s told. In her efforts, she meets Blackhat (government spy) Michel, a man who holds more secrets than it initially appears. Michel has his own mission: find out who has been printing seditious pamphlets and distributing them throughout the city. Doing so will win him a long-desired promotion. Also in the city is Ben Styke, a legendary soldier who wound up in a labor camp for his actions. He finds himself freed by a mysterious benefactor and ordered to make himself available to Lady Flint. Styke will do so, but he also has his own agenda: revenge on the man who he feels is responsible for his time in a labor camp. As war looms on the horizon, these three will find themselves inextricably linked. Will they all make it out alive?

I was extremely excited to find this in my review pile, but also a little worried. I absolutely loved the Powder Mage trilogy and was so happy to see that a spinoff was happening. At the same time, I worried that the magic of the original trilogy could not be repeated with all new characters (save Vlora and Olem, of course). Happily, lightning has struck twice, as this first book in the new series is just as captivating as that original trilogy was. I will admit it had a bit of a slow start as we were introduced to the new characters, but once the plot got going, it never let up, and I found myself turning pages as quickly as possible to find out what would happen next.

I was really happy to get to see more from Vlora this time around, as I liked her in the original trilogy and was hoping she could carve out a life for herself. I loved getting to see where she and Olem are now and how they’ve grown together. As much as I loved Vlora though, I think my favorite narrator was Ben Styke. There is just something about him that I loved, and I really couldn’t get enough of the chapters that were from his point of view. As for our third narrator, I enjoyed Michel’s sections, but he was probably my least favorite, through no fault of his own really. I just preferred Vlora and Ben.

I honestly have nothing bad to say here. The slow start results in the 4 star ranking rather than a 5, but all in all, this was a great start to a new series. I think both old and new fans of McClellan will find a lot to love here. I can’t wait for the next one!

Notable Scene:

“I didn’t know you were that Ben Styke.”

“What do you mean by that Ben Styke? How many of us do you think there are?” Styke stood up, barely feeling the twinge in his knee through the anger. His head grazed the ceiling of the parole cell. For some reason, the tremble going through Raimy’s body made him even angrier. They’d spent countless days together in her unguarded office, even had a few laughs together. She’d flirted with him. And now she was shaking, terrified, even though she as behind an iron grate? “Are we friends?” he demanded.

“Yes,” Raimy squeaked.

Styke wrapped his good hand and the two working fingers of his bad hand around the bars of the grate. He tightened his grip and, with one solid yank, ripped it out of the wall. Raimy’s mouth fell open but she remained transfixed as he set the grate to one side and leaned in over her desk, fishing through her papers until he came to the last one.

It was a note on stationery from the office of the Lady Chancellor. It had three sentences:

Mad Ben Styke, formerly Colonel Styke of the Mad Lancers, is a violent murderer guilty of several war crimes. He must be denied parole. Make it convincing.

It was signed by Fidelis Jes, head of the Lady Chancellor’s secret police.

Styke could hear someone yelling in the hallway. They’d heard the racket, and the yelling was soon followed by the pounding footsteps of the guards. Styke crumpled up the note and flicked it into Raimy’s face. “You can stop your damned trembling, then. I don’t hurt my friends.”

He turned away from her, spreading his arms wide, and waited for the first guard to come through the door.

Gods of Blood and Powder:

1. Sins of Empire

2. Wrath of Empire (May 15, 2018)

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FTC Advisory: Orbit provided me with a copy of Sins of Empire. No goody bags, sponsorships, “material connections,” or bribes were exchanged for my review.

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Review: Snakewood by Adrian Selby

February 16th, 2018 @ 12:01 am
Posted by Stephanie under Review Tags: , , ,

Title: Snakewood

Author: Adrian Selby

Genre: Fantasy

Series: N/A

Publication Date: March 15, 2016

Format: Hardcover, 432 Pages

ISBN-10: 0316302309 (Orbit)

ISBN-13: 978-0316302302 (Orbit)

Reviewed by: Stephanie

Synopsis:

Once they were a band of mercenaries who shook the pillars of the world through cunning, alchemical brews, and cold steel. Whoever met their price won.

Now, their glory days behind them, scattered to the wind, and their genius leader in hiding, they are being hunted down and eliminated one by one.

A lifetime of enemies has its own price.

Adrian Selby brings us into an unforgettable new world filled with magic, mystery, intrigue, bloodshed and betrayal.

Quick & Dirty: A slow moving story and unlikable characters make this one very hard to get through.

Opening Sentence: I never knew my father.

Excerpt: Yes

The Review:

It’s been 20 years since the mercenary group known as Kailen’s Twenty disbanded. They’ve all gone their own ways, and now, someone is bent on revenge. Kailen receives word that numerous former members of the group have been killed, leading him on a mission to find the remaining members and warn them before it’s too late.

Usually, I can read a 400-page book in a couple days, three tops. This one, it took me a month and a half. That more than anything shows how much I disliked this book. I just was not enthused to read it. The only thing that kept me going was that I haven’t DNFed a book yet for this site, so I was determined to see it through. Most nights, though, I could barely make it through five percent of the book at a time.

So what was wrong with it? For one thing, it felt very disjointed, not cohesive at all. We don’t find out until maybe the 50 percent mark what happened 20 years ago to make someone want to kill the members of Kailen’s Twenty. Up until that point, I just knew that something happened at Snakewood that pissed someone off enough to want to kill everyone. The novel also goes back and forth in time a lot, and even when everything starts to sync up towards the end, it just doesn’t feel cohesive.

Next, I just really could care less about all of the characters. There’s not one redeemable person in the whole bunch, and it just makes it very hard to read chapters from the perspective of people that I really don’t like. Add to that, the fact that Selby chooses to write in different dialects to reflect the background of the characters, and it just makes it very difficult to follow sometimes.

There also seemed to be a lot of description at times, and it honestly just made my eyes glaze over. With me not really knowing what was going on or why, the added description of scenery or history really didn’t help win me over. I just spent a lot of time feeling bored. When you have three kids and can only read at night, being bored does not help you stay awake to read more!

All in all, I just really didn’t like this one. The only thing keeping me from giving it just one star is that there were brief moments where I would find myself interested in what was happening, but that would only last for a page or two before I would lose interest again. I may at some point pick up another book by Selby, but this experience does not have me excited to do so.

Notable Scene:

Then I was alone. Sometime after that the water had gone.

I passed out of time on the Droop I’d re-concocted to escape my reliving of what had been done to me as a slave.

I had accepted death on this sea. Its vastness beneath and around me matched the perfect still blue of the sky. Both crushed me against this raft with their indifference, an unknowing of the fact I was alive. What more would a mountain have cared for a leaf floating on a pool on its flanks?

I recalled almost nothing of my old life. A stream of images were there but I could make little sense of them. I woke on occasion and had been talking, conversing with someone, but the sense, the answers, vanished as I did so. The colours my skin had bleached to were my only solid reference that I must have at some point fought and killed as a soldier, though the skin was burned and flaking. I wanted that missing part of me, for comfort, for something to give me strength. This other voice in me knew the man I was, and someone had taken it from me. This I knew, and I held this in my gut; it anchored me, the only comfort I had.

Sometime later I was weeping and singing in the night, silent white eyes beyond count above me. I remembered a boy and a girl I cared for. I knew I loved that girl somehow. There were other faces, a windmill, I was in somebody’s arms. I stared into a stream, entranced by the boy staring back, his nose running from crying. Then I was hacking at soil so hard from frost and vivid to my mind I woke screaming and was sick, so unlike was it to the rolling of this featureless, hopeless plain.

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FTC Advisory: Orbit provided me with a copy of Snakewood. No goody bags, sponsorships, “material connections,” or bribes were exchanged for my review.

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Review: Luca by Sarah Castille

February 15th, 2018 @ 12:01 am
Posted by Kristie under Review Tags: , , , ,

Title: Luca

Author: Sarah Castille

Genre: Contemporary Romance

Series: Ruin & Revenge (Book #2)

Publication Date: June 27, 2017

Format: Paperback, 362 Pages

ISBN-10: 125010405X (St. Martin’s Press)

ISBN-13: 978-1250104052 (St. Martin’s Press)

Reviewed by: Kristie

Synopsis:

Luca Rizzoli was nearly destroyed by a brutal betrayal that cost him his family. Now a ruthless crime boss in the city of sin, he lets nothing touch his frozen heart–until a smoldering encounter with a beautiful stranger ignites his passion. One night isn’t enough for a man who takes what he wants, but his mysterious temptress has slipped away.

For two years police detective Gabrielle Fawkes has lived for revenge. But a night of indulgence with a sexy stranger changes everything. Powerful, charming, and deliciously dangerous Luca, has his own private reasons for offering to help her pursue the drug lord who killed her husband. There’s a lot Luca isn’t telling her and the more she finds out the less she wants to know.

When Gabrielle becomes the target of the drug lord she has vowed to hunt down, she must do the unimaginable: place her life in a mobster’s hands. To save her, Luca must break his Mafia ties–or risk losing Gabrielle forever.

Quick & Dirty: Dark, deadly, dangerous and beautiful. A vengeful cop and a mobster bring the heat in this thrilling romance set in Vegas.

Opening Sentence: It began like every other day in Vegas.

Excerpt: Yes

The Review:

The dark, dirty world of the Vegas Mafia is the setting for the Ruin & Revenge series by Sarah Castille. Luca is the second book and follows Nico’s ruthless crime boss Luca Rizzoli and police detective Gabrielle Fawkes. If you are a fan of the dark stories where the women bring out the wee bit of a soft side in their men then this is definitely a book and series for you to check out. This novel can be read as a standalone even though the events at the beginning tie into the first book, Nico, you don’t really need to know about anything that happens in it to understand what is going on in this book.

Luca picks up not too long after the events in Nico. After saving Nico’s life, Luca ends up in the hospital where he meets his golden angel Gabrielle. There is something about her that he just finds alluring even though she is the complete opposite of the type of woman he is normally attracted. Luca owns an Italian restaurant but he is also a crime boss for Nico. Luca is used to killing people to help his crime family, but when he meets Gabrielle, a woman bent on killing a certain man, knowing that she could never kill anyone (or at least shouldn’t have too), he decides to help her on her quest. Unfortunately, police and mafia don’t mix so if Nico should ever find out about their arrangement one or both of them could be killed.

Luca is a lady’s man. He has already done his Italian heritage marriage and he doesn’t plan to do that again so he has an endless stream of one-night stands. Gabrielle is one that he originally thought would be a one and done but there is something about her he just can’t get enough of. Luca knows he is signing his own (and possibly Gabby’s) death warrant if he continues to pursue a relationship with her. I believe he can tell how torn up she is on the inside and he is helping her to open up to new experiences, even if those experiences are solved with kinky sex. Being a part of the Mafia, Luca has a lot of rules he must follow and with Gabby he’s breaking a lot of those rules.

Gabrielle is a broken woman. Revenge has been the only thing on her mind for the past two years. She knows who brutally killed her husband and she will do everything she can to stop that man, including dying herself as long as that man goes down with her. Gabrielle knows that Luca isn’t being entirely truthful with her but she doesn’t push it. She also knows he’s hiding a dark secret of his own and she believes that she can crack it.

I hate to play the comparison card but at the beginning of this novel I just kept imagining that Luca was Lucifer and Gabrielle was Chloe from the TV show Lucifer. Mainly because of Luca’s fascination with his suits/one-night stands and Gabrielle because she was blonde, a cop and having to deal with being a female in a naturally male driven profession. They have a reluctant partnership at first but not like they do in the show. Sorry, I’m a huge fan of this show so it really bled into how I saw these characters. Luca is Lucifer just without the accent.

Overall, there are some really dark tones and themes in this series. There are a lot of deaths, a few told graphically that may turn off some readers. There are four different POVs throughout this book. Luca is intriguing and action-packed and even though I had a pretty good idea of the twist I still didn’t imagine it in its entirety. The bad guy is one evil, effed up dude. I really enjoyed the chemistry between Luca and Gabrielle. I was really surprised how much I liked this book since I have kind of been turned off the death and destruction front lately.

Notable Scene:

“I can give you what you want,” Luca said to Gabrielle, thinking quickly. “You want Garcia. I can make it happen.” She was an intelligent woman, a police detective. She’d start asking questions about him already. But now, Little Ricky was hanging butchered in his meat freezer, and no one was planning to call the cops. He had no doubt she would find her way to the truth about who he was and what he did.

“The way you were going to make sure Clint didn’t hurt Nicole again?”

“Yes.”

She twisted her lips to the side, considering. “Clint only spent twelve hours in jail,” she said finally. “He was fined two hundred dollars and he has to do some community service. No counseling. No anger management. He’s walking around and Nicole still has bruises, not to mention the damage inside that no one can see. I saw it all the time when I worked the beat. We were called to the same houses again and again. It never bothered me before, but it does now.”

“Your system doesn’t always work.” He kept his gaze on Frankie as he spoke. The enforcer had his own methods when it came to protecting the family, and Luca had no doubt he would shoot first and deal with the repercussions later if Gabrielle said anything that caused him concern.

“I thought it did. I thought I could make a difference. But it seems the harder I fight, the faster I fall.” The resignation in her voice and her defeated tone speared through him, ramping up a fear that she didn’t care anymore if she lived or died. But he cared. So much that he didn’t know if he could recover if he lost her. He’d cared about Gina, but this longing for something impossible, a forbidden love, was a tidal wave compared to the tear she’s left behind.

“Not if we work together.”

Ruin & Revenge Series:

1. Nico

2. Luca

3. Rocco (January 2, 2018)

FTC Advisory: St. Martin’s Press/Macmillan provided me with a copy of Luca. No goody bags, sponsorships, “material connections,” or bribes were exchanged for my review.

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Waiting on Wednesday: Obsidio by Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff

February 14th, 2018 @ 12:08 am
Posted by Kristie under Waiting on Wednesday Tags: , ,

Today’s Waiting on Wednesday post is for a book that I’ve been waiting a long time for! I have wanted Obsidio ever since I finished the ARC of Gemina so it’s been a while… Also I don’t ever pre-order books (I know I’m an awful reader…) but I’ve had this book on pre-order since April of last year! I’m also an awful reviewer because I will be putting any reviews to the side until I finish this one! I can’t wait!

**Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly blog post by Jill over at Breaking the Spine, that spotlights releases we’re eagerly awaiting.**

Available March 13, 2018 from Knopf Books for Young Readers

About this Book:

Kady, Ezra, Hanna, and Nik narrowly escaped with their lives from the attacks on Heimdall station and now find themselves crammed with 2,000 refugees on the container ship, Mao. With the jump station destroyed and their resources scarce, the only option is to return to Kerenza—but who knows what they’ll find seven months after the invasion?

Meanwhile, Kady’s cousin, Asha, survived the initial BeiTech assault and has joined Kerenza’s ragtag underground resistance. When Rhys—an old flame from Asha’s past—reappears on Kerenza, the two find themselves on opposite sides of the conflict.

With time running out, a final battle will be waged on land and in space, heros will fall, and hearts will be broken.

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