Loved By P.C. Cast and Kristin Cast

Loved by P.C. Cast and Kristin Cast

Author: P.C. Cast, Kristin Cast
Series: House of Night Other World #1
Reviewer: Marlou

Content warnings

Swearing

Summary

It’s Zoey’s eighteenth birthmas and the Nerd Herd has been scattered across the country busily adulting for almost a year when Stark calls them back to Tulsa to surprise Z. But all is not well in T-town. Strange, dark signs are appearing—could it be possible Neferet is stirring? Not willing to chance disaster striking again, Zoey calls on her newly reunited friends to circle with her and add a layer of protection over Neferet’s grotto jail. Easy-peasy, right?

Wrong. Nothing at the House of Night is ever as it seems.

With rabid red vampyres closing in, Zoey and the Nerd Herd must come together again and battle evil. But a year is a long time. Have these old friends grown too far apart?

When the world fractures and allies become enemies, will darkness devour friendships or will light save those she’s loved?

Find this book on Goodreads.

Review

Rating: 2 out of 5 stars

I wanted to love this book so badly, but I just can’t. House of Night was (with Twilight) the first fantasy series I’d ever read and these books got me into reading fantasy and I still (8 years later) barely read anything else. Loved was definitely nostalgic because of that, but it really wasn’t good. Cast tries too hard to make them sound like teenagers but it’s very obvious it’s written by an adult who views teenagers as little children that can’t form proper sentences, or something like that. 

Yes, I do love the characters, I love the HoN world. BUT everything is so poorly written that I can’t stand it. 

The storyline is interesting enough. There’s some kind of parallel world that comes into ours and shit goes wrong. And guess what, it takes half a book to get to the ‘and now shit goes wrong’ without building any tension. Then shit goes wrong and everyone freaks out. The goddess Nyx swoops in gives someone a new ability to save humanity and everything is resolved. At least the saved people have major PTSD, so not everything was solved so quickly.

Gosh, I’m so annoyed by this book. I won’t be reading the other books, that’s for sure… Loved gets a two star review from me and that’s already pretty damn high.

Books in this series

Lover (#1), Lost (#2), Forgotten (#3)

Keeping His Siren by Kiersten Fay

Keeping His Siren

Author: Kiersten Fay
Series: Creatures of Darkness, #4
Reviewer: Marlou

Summary

Naia DeVoe never mixes business with pleasure, but when she winds up in bed with the vampire she’s been hired to spy on, that rule gets tossed out his luxury suite window. But Cortez is not a man to be trifled with; he’s rich, powerful and the hottest club owner in town. From their first combustible night together, it’s obvious Naia is in way over her head…

As the leader of his clan, Cortez must be careful who to trust. No one gets too close to him…no one, that is, until Naia. He can’t help but be drawn to the beautiful seductress who all but demands his attention. Is she the one he’s been searching for, or just another woman destined to betray him?

Find this book on Goodreads.

Review

Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

This book was provided to me by Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Oh my what a lovely book! I’ve been getting into paranormal romance over the last year and I’m not regretting my decision to pick up that first book.

Keeping His Siren has a good, strong storyline which leaves you wanting more. I tried to savor this book, but I just flew through it (time flies when you’re having fun).

All the characters have a proper and well thought-out personality. Only the MC was given a tight backstory, but that is fine considering we, the reader, read from her perspective and she doesn’t know every single detail about people either.

This book is full of smut (duh) but where other mature fanfiction-things are a little over the top Kiersten did a wonderful job at showing just how magical (and primal) sex can be. She wrote every mature scene in a very tasteful way. What I also love is the fact that the author didn’t overdo it. Yes, there was a lot of sex, but there weren’t too many scenes overall. Again, the amount of descriptive scenes was tasteful.

This book is great for fans of J.R. Ward and Larissa Ione. I will definitely check out some of Kiersten Fay’s other books.

Books in this series

A Wicked Hunger (#1), A Wicked Night (#2), A Wicked Desire (#3), Keeping His Siren (#4), Vampire Masquerade (#5)

The Revolution of Jack Frost

The Revolution of Jack Frost

Author: K.M. Robinson
Reviewer: Marlou

Summary

No one inside the snow globe knows that Morozoko Industries is controlling their weather, testing them to form a stronger race that can survive the fall out from the bombs being dropped in the outside world—all they know is that they must survive the harsh Winter that lasts a month and use the few days of Spring, Summer, and Fall to gather enough supplies to survive.

When the seasons start shifting, Genesis and her boyfriend, Jack, know something is going on. As their team begins to find technology that they don’t have access to inside their snow globe of a world, it begins to look more and more like one of their own is working against them.

Genesis soon discovers Morozoko Industries is to blame, but when a foreign enemy tries to destroy their weather program to make sure their destructive life-altering bombs succeed in destroying the outside world, their only chance is to shut down the machine that is spinning out of control and save the lives of everyone inside the bunker–at any cost.

Find this book on Goodreads.

Review

Rating: 1 out of 5 stars

This book was provided to me by Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

I requested this book on Netgalley because it had Jack Frost in the title and the synopsis sounded like an interesting sort of scifi read. Well, guess what, it wasn’t interesting at all. I promised an honest review, I’m going to have to be brutally honest with this one. It sucked.

I was very annoyed with the writing, it felt like the author knew exactly what she wanted to write but once she sat down to actually write the story, she forgot what proper world-building is… 

The characters were all very bland or confusing or just plain weird or all of the above.

Genesis: Her obsession with Jack is so freaking weird, what even is this mess.

Jack: That dude has some serious issues that he needs to solve STAT.

Nathaniel: I was pretty sure he was going to murder Jack and he is supposed to be his best friend *insert my very confused face right here*

Azra: She was cool. She should have been the MC, maybe I wouldn’t have skipped half the book.

Eustace: Okay, what’s up with him? Should I know him already even though he’s never properly introduced? I don’t have a sixth sense so that’s not gonna work…

Okay, so, this book was a little too weird for me. I skipped most of it and had to DNF it a little over halfway through. I don’t like DNFing books but I also don’t like to waste my time. I really wanted to like this book but it’s a definite no from me.

Villains Never Die by Nick DeWolf

Villains Never Die

Author: Nick DeWolf
Reviewer: Marlou

Summary

It started when the warehouse exploded. But not really. The moment when Japan was nearly destroyed. But not quite. When the world’s greatest heroes came together to fight the Triad of Evil, it began. But still, no. The moment Doctor Dendrite became the world’s most feared man.

Almost there.

History is coming to a head. The military is moving in the shadows. Evil, thought to be long gone, reemerges, while plans made decades ago are set in motion. The world is crumbling, and at the center of a hurricane of chaos are three people who will change everything.

An old villain.
A new hero.
And a wayward girl.
One’s been planning. The other’s been training. And the third?
She’s in way, way over her head.

Find this book on Goodreads.

Review

Rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars

Big thanks to the author for giving me a free ebook in exchange for a review.

Was this a horrible book? No. Was this a good book? Also, no. 

It’s the kind of book you can’t quite give your opinion on. But I’ll try because I do want to properly review this book.

The three different POV were useful for the story but it was often confusing who’s part you were reading because everyone sounded the same to me. There wasn’t a difference between the supervillain, the ‘normal’ girl, and the Latina agent/soldier.

Agent Garcia spoke a lot of Spanish and the translation was never given. This confused the hell out of me, because I don’t speak Spanish. Her bilingual nature also felt forced which was too bad.

Every character was quite bland. The story had potential but it just didn’t work for me. Maybe superhero stories aren’t my thing, I wouldn’t know, this is the first superhero book I’ve read. I do love superhero movies though…

Thanks again to Nick DeWolf for giving me a free copy of his book. I always feel so bad when I read a book given for free to me by the author and then end up not liking it, but I am always honest so there you have it. Villains never die gets 2.5 stars from me.

The Steel Prince by V.E. Schwab

The Steel Prince

Author: V.E. Schwab
Series: Shades of Magic Graphic Novels
Reviewer: Finja Marie

Summary

Before he became King Maxim Maresh, father to Rhy and adoptive father to the Antari Kell, he was a prince. Young, arrogant, and inexperienced.

When his own father sends him to the Blood Coast of Verose, Maxim must learn that Red London was a sanctuary in a cruel world. Out here, the people don’t obey the law; violence rules, magic runs wild, and even the guard doesn’t stand a chance against the evil under the surface.

Maxim learns this the rough way, even though he refuses to adapt to this dire situation. But the biggest thread still awaits, for the pirate queen returns to claim her bloody throne…

View this book on Goodreads

Review

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

The Steel Prince is a prequel to Schwab’s much acclaimed Shades of Magic series. The first bound-up contains issues #1-4 and spans the first adventure of a still young Maxim Maresh, formerly known to  readers as the stern king of Red London. In the first arc of the comic series, he must learn that his world is not as sugar-coated as he formerly thought, and he must face his first real opponent in Arisa, the self-proclaimed pirate queen. 

The world of Shades of Magic works splendidly in a visual medium. The magic system comes alive through Andrea Olimpieri’s artwork, which is more on the rough, edgy side – a perfect fit for the darker tone of the setting. 

The story itself is solid, but nothing new. It pulls out all the tropes one would expect for character introductions. The execution is still interesting and entertaining enough, though, as one would also expect from an author as well-established and hard-working as Schwab is. 

The only qualm I had with this comic book was the fact that it’s too much story on way too few pages. Especially towards the end, one or even two more issues would’ve done the story a much better service. I don’t want to give away any spoilers, but the way some of the scenes were brushed over took too much suspense away from what could’ve been one of the best scenes in the entire book.

Other than that, I am really looking forward to the next arc. Maxim Maresh is an interesting character with a lot of potential. I also liked that you don’t have to read the Shades of Magic trilogy first – new readers can jump into this world right with this comic book!

Radioactive Revolution by Richard Hummel

Radioactive Revolution

Author: Richard Hummel
Reviewer: Inopinion

Summary

LitRPG, GameLit, RPGLit, GameFiction…. So many names for this genre!

Jared and his dragon companion, Scarlet, emerge from the depths of the earth bound together and with a mission to restore dragons back to the ecosystem and free humans from their captivity. They set out across the radioactive wasteland that stretches between the refugee camps and larger cities facing both small and enormous mutated critters collecting nanites and boosting their skills, strength, and size all along the way!

Can they gather the army they need to take on the corrupt human world? Can they wake the dragons and return them to their proper place on the surface of the Earth?

View this book on Goodreads

Review

Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

I received a book in exchange for reading and reviewing. What follows is my honest assessment. I read approximately half of the book in print and the other half through my Kindle Unlimited subscription (great place to find many indie authors!).

I am new to this genre, and if you, like me, are participating in the Pop Sugar Challenge (download a PDF of this year’s list here), you know that LitRPG is an ‘extra’ category this year. So I was delighted when our blog was contacted for a review. So, bear-in-mind, this is my first foray into this type of book and so my review has no bearing on if this is an exemplary title for the genre or if it deviates from the typical. I’m just going to keep this to the story, the writing, and the potential for the series.

Here we go…

Appeal: This book would appeal to fantasy readers who enjoy dragons, but mostly, this book would appeal to those that love quests and a touch of dystopia. I was reading this book at the same time as Ink Mistress and found several parallels with the quest, boss-fight, quest, boss-fight formula (and that’s a good thing for me!). If you want to cover ground and see new things and skip the political maneuvering, this book will work for you.

Review:

This book has a strong opening that introduces the world, the characters, and the challenges in a post-apocalyptic New York. The introduction to the world and the ‘point system’ is gradually blended into Jared’s actions and overall both are well integrated into the story. So while the idea that Jared has nanites he can assign to different attributes was a little hokey for a first-time reader in this genre, it wasn’t jarring and so I was well adjusted to references to this system by the time Jared and Scarlet are really starting to level-up. 

The story has a strong premise. Jared makes a vow to assist Dragons to return to Earth and they uncover a long-standing conspiracy that makes humans dependent on Boosters. And thus, they also want to free humans. I really like the conversations between Scarlet and Jared as they navigate these two goals throughout the book. And I especially like the first half where they are truly working together and are equal participants in the book.

Starting around the 65% mark, I started to struggle with the pacing. I would liken the middle of this book to watching someone play a video game: mildly tedious. There’s still things going on, but the stakes are just not as high as they were before the major boss fight. Now, I believe this part of the story is going to be crucial to the overall series or I don’t think the author would have spent time on it, but honestly, I struggled to get through. At about 80%, the book picks right back up and Jared and Scarlet are off on another quest, another series of fights, and the opening to the next book is clearly laid out.

If it weren’t for that troublesome middle, I would be rating this book at 4 stars. Even with it, I’m eyeing that book 2 on Kindle Unlimited, and I don’t waste time on continuing bad series. So that’s a solid half-star-plus from me.

The Savior’s Champion by Jenna Moreci

The Savior’s Champion

Author: Jenna Moreci
Reviewer: Leslie

Content Warnings

Graphic violence, gore, adult language, sexual situations

Summary

Tobias Kaya doesn’t care about The Savior. He doesn’t care that She’s the Ruler of the realm or that She purified the land, and he certainly doesn’t care that She’s of age to be married. But when competing for Her hand proves to be his last chance to save his family, he’s forced to make The Savior his priority.

Now Tobias is thrown into the Sovereign’s Tournament with nineteen other men, and each of them is fighting—and killing—for the chance to rule at The Savior’s side. Instantly his world is plagued with violence, treachery, and manipulation, revealing the hidden ugliness of his proud realm. And when his circumstances seem especially dire, he stumbles into an unexpected romance, one that opens him up to unimaginable dangers and darkness.

View this book on Goodreads

Review

Rating: 2.5 stars out of 5

I was pretty interested and excited to read this book because it sounded like a Hunger Games meets The Selection story that I could get behind. Plus, I knew that the author was a pretty well-known Authortuber and has a ton of fans for her writing knowledge and advice. 

However, to say that I was disappointed is a slight understatement. Things in the story start off well enough, with the typical reluctant hero storyline, but there weren’t many other things that I was impressed by in the end. 

First, it was long. Really long. And then it ends incredibly abruptly. I definitely felt a little cheated because of that and may be (definitely) holding onto some resentments about investing the amount of time I did and NOT getting any real sort of resolution. 

Secondly, I’m not a prudish reader by any means and am all for the properly used adult language in whatever context, as long as it makes sense and is done for a purpose. However, this was not the case here. I literally searched the ebook for how many times the f-word, and a couple of c-words were used throughout the book and was not surprised that the totals were staggering. For example, the f-bomb is dropped 182 times and the word “cock” is used 96 times and by every single character (or so it seemed). Because of this, the characters lacked depth, they all sounded the same, and it seemed like a society who literally couldn’t be bothered to come up with words that were different or unique in any way, no matter what the character’s background or place in that society. This might seem nit picky, but for me, it definitely stood out and made things seem like a farcical telling of what a girl thinks boys sound like (similar to the girls have pillow fights at sleepovers type of stereotype).

Lastly, the plot was interesting enough that I wanted to see if the secret that was being kept was what I thought it was and I will hand it to Moreci about the challenges–they were interesting, even when they weren’t that exciting, but some of them were, and it allowed the book to have some high points. 

Overall, I assume that there will be a book two, but I won’t be picking it up. I think that sums up my thoughts succinctly enough. 

Mr. Penumbra’s 24 Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan

Mr. Penumbra’s 24 Hour Bookstore

Author: Robin Sloan
Reviewer: Leslie

Summary

The Great Recession has shuffled Clay Jannon away from life as a San Francisco web-design drone and into the aisles of Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore, but after a few days on the job, Clay discovers that the store is more curious than either its name or its gnomic owner might suggest. The customers are few, and they never seem to buy anything; instead, they “check out” large, obscure volumes from strange corners of the store. Suspicious, Clay engineers an analysis of the clientele’s behavior, seeking help from his variously talented friends, but when they bring their findings to Mr. Penumbra, they discover the bookstore’s secrets extend far beyond its walls.

View this book on Goodreads.

Review

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

I’ve had this book on my shelf for a long time. With a title about a 24-hour bookstore and a back cover hinting at a mystery and assembly of characters, I couldn’t resist. However, I was fairly disappointed in how it ended up. 

I enjoyed the witty way that our main character, Clay, describes the world and other people, and also the themes that were broached throughout. One of the larger themes that I picked out was the way that advancements, like technology, might allow us to get things faster, isn’t part of the adventure the tediousness of the journey? Along with that, there’s a mystery, a secret society, some fancy detective work, and more.

However, the actual execution of everything didn’t really excite me. I was hoping that at some point, the action would pick up, or the tension would increase, but there weren’t enough negative side effects to really ramp it up. What I mean by this is that although there are some tense conflicts and situations, very, very few of them actually ended in any sort of consequences, leaving me with a sense that nothing could go wrong, so why worry?

I gave this a three out of five because I liked the style and language enough to finish, but put it down not feeling like I had really connected to anyone or anything in it. Even in writing this review, I almost forgot that I had even read it.

The Alice Network by Kate Quinn

The Alice Network

Author: Kate Quinn
Reviewer: Inopinion

Content Warnings

Abortion, Torture, Unplanned Pregnancy, Description of Wartime Atrocities

Summary

A stand-alone Historical Fiction, this book follows three primary character arcs, with the niggling trick that two are the same woman. The book opens with Charlie St. Clair crossing the Atlantic and launching a search for her cousin, Rose, who last made contact at the height of the German occupation of France during World War II. Charlie finds an unlikely resource in Eve Gardiner, a 56 year-old violent drunk who was the last person to report on the search for Rose; and Eve’s driver, ex-con and ex-soldier, Finn. With her promise to pay, Charlie sets off into post-war France expecting to encounter the residue of the recent past. But instead, through Eve’s begrudging reveals, uncovers Eve’s younger self.

Eve wasn’t always a wreck downing bottles for dinner. As an English spy in German-occupied France in 1915, she walked a tightrope collecting information while undercover. And, as with all good Historical Fictions with two timelines, these two arcs intersect.

View this book on Goodreads.

Review

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Appeal:

Readers who appreciate stories like YA Historical Fiction The Book Thief or the adult novel The Guernsey Literary and Sweet Potato Peel Pie Society may also enjoy Alice Quinn’s The Alice Network. It contains adult topics like unplanned pregnancy, abortion, wartime atrocities, and depictions of torture, but it also contains strong statements on feminism, toxic masculinity, and perseverance. It can be dark but has lighter moment in equal measure.

Review:

What an insidious villain! Any time I look back on history, I try to find both sides of every story. It’s the point of learning about history: uncovering why it happened. And, of course, that’s true when looking at large troop movements and local lives alike. So, as the story lays out Rene and his business profiting from the Germans, there was a part of me that sort of said, “Good on ya.” He took money from the Germans, employed locals, and, had the Germans won, he would have been in a better position. It’s a very logical decision. But then there’s the other side, the side that condemns the collaborators. The side that looks on men who profited and strongly considers stringing them up to the lamp posts. Maybe not all of them deserved the vitriol and the violence that came to them, but Quinn’s Rene’ Bordelou couldn’t beg sympathy out of me. She builds him up slowly from strict businessman to harasser to toxic poet and then to an ultimately depraved sociopath who tortured, murdered, and massacred with impunity. He’s the scariest of villains because he is a mirror of reality, something that could easily exist around the corner or in your family tree.

The complexity of Eve Gardiner amazed me. When we first meet Eve, she’s in her fifties and perpetually seeing through a whiskey haze. She’s disfigured, gruff, and curses unlike any other woman of the times. She is a miserable sort that begs to be opened up and explored. Then Quinn takes us all the way back to a younger Eve that’s unrecognizable in comparison. She’s not all that dissimilar to Charlie. She has a nievite and wide-eyed wonder about her. She sparkles in her newness and shines as she sees her potential. And even as we follow her through her narrative as a younger woman, we get these flashes to the older Eve coming back to life in a sense. It’s not until towards the end that you can set each one side-by-side and understand the elder Eve. It is a masterful, and suspended unveiling that kept me moving from chapter to chapter, eager to find the moment of transformation.

Charlie St. Clair also has an arc from innocent college girl in trouble to steadfast, loyal, and fierce woman ready to plan her own life on her own terms. It’s not as complex as Eve’s but it’s a counterbalance to the weight of Eve’s narrative. There’s less of a surprise with Charlie. She is exactly what you expect on an easily sighted trajectory and she manages to hit the mark with ease if not grace.

It’s Charlie’s storyline, her search for Rose, that brings the rating down a star. While it was plausible and possible and even completed on a predictable note, it was a little flat. To use another metaphor, because we need one so desperately, it was the buildup to a storm that never flashed lightning. The completion of Eve’s arc nearly made up for it.

The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden

The Bear and the Nightingale

Author: Katherine Arden
Series: Winternight Trilogy #1
Reviewer: Inopinion

Summary

This book is the first in a series centered around a girl in a Russian family. This book starts just prior to her birth and continues to her later adolescence. During this time perior, there is a shift in the village away from traditional beliefs that include sprites and demons to the orthodox teachings of the Russian church. Vasya and her step-mother both possess the abliity to see the old spirits. To one, it’s a comfort, to the other a sign of madness. Vasya is brought into conflict with her step-mother, the priest, and the spirit world as the old ways are abandoned and the natural balance is upset. Throw in a supernatural sibling rivalry, and you have a collision of worlds centered in the rural Russian forest.

View this book on Goodreads.

Review

Rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars

I want to start with a recognition: many people like this book and go on to love the series. Every reader has at least one type of book that just falls short of their preferences and becomes a chore to read. This is one of those books for me. So, I will focus on the areas that made this a difficult read for me in hopes that others that feel the same may make a more informed choice.

Issue one: What’s the point?

I cannot stress how much detail is stuffed in this book. From the scenery, to the characters, the court, and the folklore, there is so much to get through. Unfortunately, most of that detail seems to be setup for book two because a lot of it has no bearing on anything in book one. The further I read, the more it became apparent that I was storing away details like a squirrel for a winter many months away.

Issue two: So much talk, but where’s the action?

Aside from a couple scenes in the later part of the book, there isn’t a lot of actual physical action that takes place. This book is mostly about making character connections whether that’s between the human characters or the humans and the spirit world. This requires a lot of conversation and observations, but not much action. I think there were opportunities where the same goal could have been achieved but in less of a stagnant, shut-in sort of way.

Issue three: What’s her name again?

Russian is a supremely confusing language, at least if I use this book as my guide. Every character has several variations of their names used by varying members of their families. It does make it difficult to understand if they’re being patronizing, kind, or formal without an explanation. And, it’s just not easy to keep track of all the characters, at least it wasn’t for me.

But what about the story?

Removed from the chore of actually reading the book, I can see the story for what it is and even appreciate the layers and nuance that the author provides. I will give the story it’s due: the ending finally pushed the pace from crawl to sprint. The ground covered in the last few chapters was immensely entertaining and engaging. And I greatly appreciated the ending of this portion of the story as a great set up for a far-reaching and epic adventure. I just don’t think I’ll be following along, at least not any time soon.

Appeal: This book would appeal to YA readers who are fans of darker themes and intricate character relationships. If you liked other fairytale retellings like the Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyers, or Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater, then you may also like this series for the incorporation of folklore. For adult fantasy readers, think more along the lines of The Night Circus than The Way of Kings. These comparisons are not made to say this book is similar, just that it may carry some of the same appealing qualities.

Books in this series