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The Night Girl by James Bow

The Night Girl by James Bow

The Night Girl by [James Bow]

Genre: New Adult, Sci Fi & Fantasy

I love quirky, unusual reads and this book promised that. I’m not the target demographic, but I often enjoy YA reads, good ones appeal to all ages. While I enjoyed this I found it wasn’t one of those IMA, its one that’s a great read for YA/NA I think, but for we folk past that age its a little too simplistic.
Its got some fun characters, a bit of mystery, a lot of whimsy, and a kind of moral theme about acceptance and rights of minority groups. That’s particularly interesting given I’m writing this while the world is seeing the impact of BLM. Being in a minority group myself I understood some of the fears the supernatural folk had, and of course the frustration. I found the Amnesia Reset particularly sad, to have life wiped away like that, all knowledge of your past gone.
Its a quirky read, some fun moments and subtle humour, and though I don’t know Toronto it was easy to visualise from the descriptions given. Overall I felt it was a great reader for the target age group, but just a little too YA simplistic for me to really enjoy.

Stars: Three, its a strange read at times, some quirky events and good but weird characters, and a theme of acceptance that’s particularly poignant right now.

Arc via Netgalley and publishers

The Chalice and the Crown, Kassandra Flamouri

The Chalice and the Crown, Kassandra Flamouri

The Chalice and the Crown by [Kassandra Flamouri]

Genre: Sci-fi and Fantasy, Teens and YA

I’m way past the target age range, but reviews suggested that this book would still appeal and I’ve loved other fantasy reads aimed at this age group. Sadly I’m on the fence about this one.

I really liked the sound of this, a very different fantasy read and was excited to start. I found Sasha hard to like though, she’s really not a particularly nice girl to those around her. I know she’s worried about becoming ill like her mother, but that’s more recent and her behaviour seems to have always been like this.
I was puzzled at how things changed, how she actually got pulled in to the other world, it seemed one page she was in this world, worrying about illness, feeling strange and then she was in the next, though her body remained here. I didn’t see the transition, needed a bit more detail there.
Then she’s in a horrible situation, has become a thrall, among thousands more. For a time she simply doesn’t realise who or what she is but slowly that changes. Even then she’s still a hard to understand person, there are flashes of when she knows there’s something wrong, but mostly she carries on. As with the best war/slave/fantasy reads there’s an underground movement though and they see Sasha as someone they can help…..

I found the writing absorbing but the actual story very difficult to follow. I didn’t wholly see how things worked, how they found potential thralls, how they pulled them in. Sasha still remained someone I found difficult to understand.
I felt this book had a lot going on, but jumped too quickly from one situation to the next without fully explaining how things happened or worked. As a reader I had to follow the text and guess. There were explanations for parts, but other things just had to be accepted and the reader just go with. Its hard to explain, the apostate for instance, this person/name just popped up without explanation of who or what he was, ( other than he lived on an island) and yet he was a fairly important part of the story.
Overall for me it was an ok read, not one I’d re-read, and one that left me with questions as I was reading that largely seemed to be unanswered. If things like that don’t bother you, then like others you may love this unique fantasy read.

Stars: Three, an on the fence read for me. I loved parts but there were too many unanswered puzzles for me.

Arc via Netgalley and publishers

In His Kiss, The Unrequited Series, Ava Alise

In His Kiss, The Unrequited Series, Ava Alise

In His Kiss (The Unrequited Series Book 1) by [Ava Alise]

Genre: New Adult, Romance

I wanted to like this book, best friends to lovers? Those classic words “this was a mistake” So tempting.
I did like it, just so many little irritations. The biggest one was that Jordan was 24, Xia 21 and yet they both were still in school? I guess that’s a US/UK thing. Here we finish school/college at 18, uni at 21 and its off to the world of work then. By 21 you’re expected to act as an adult, be mature, yet these two were like teens so much of the while, teen drama stuff. It really irritated me at times, I wanted to say to them Grow Up! There was so much to and fro stuff about their emotions, so much inner musing, one step forward, two steps back it got old fast. Usually that’s fine with me, but there seemed to be no real reason for the constant vacillating. I wanted to say to them stop playing around, talk to each other, Do Something. TBH I didn’t really feel anything between them more than friendship with a bit of lust, and I guess that’s why I found it hard to get invested in a relationship between them.
In contrast Xi’s parents story was much more interesting 😉 but unlike Xia, there’s no way I could not have asked more, contain my curiosity about pictures etc. Xia had her life turned upside down by her parents issues, and yet when she finds out some pretty curious pics she does nothing?
Then there’s Jordan’s issues about his home, and then the problems with his ex. I love stories that have more than one plot, that have side issues to keep things interesting, but here I felt that they were only very tenuously connected, and rather than back up the main story that actually detracted from it. My issues of course, I’m sure others will love this story – its that horses for courses thing again. No story suits all readers, we all like different things.

Stars: Two, a story that just didn’t resonate with me. I found it hard to invest in the characters. My issues though, others love it.

Arc via Netgalley and publishers

Second novel by indie author E L Croucher. Horned Winged Blessed

 Indie authors need readers support, and if youre a lover of dystopian type fiction this may be for you. Its out now at £3.99 and also available on KU.

Horned Winged Blessed

Horned Winged Blessed by [Croucher, E L]

Horned Winged Blessed opens in a post-world war three world,with an all-female, all-wiccan government in charge. They are known as theSilver Party, and have led Broken Britain through the war. Now, they are pavingthe way to a utopia in which hate crime and sexual assault are things of thepast.

One of their biggest and most profound laws is the law of 3×3. Three genders,and three sexual orientations. Men are now called Horned ones. Women are called Winged ones. Lastly, every other gender is grouped together as the Blessed ones.
The story follows the protagonist Joan Wood’s journey tounderstand the issues within this society and eventually finds her taking itdown. She is the daughter of the founder that started the Silver Party, and shestarts the novel under the illusion that this is indeed a utopia. However,after various attacks on her home from the rebel party the Grounded, as well asvarious friends warning her that life isn’t a rose-tinted as she thinks, she becomes aware that the Silver Party, and her mother, have indeed taken things too far, and many of the non-binary folk in society feel oppressed and labelled.
In the later half of the book, Joan actually finds her way to the rebel faction, and joins them in their aim to take down her mother and bring a true version of gender equality and LGBT liberation – rather than the erroneous attempts at such by her mother.The book ends with a showdown between her and her mother, eventually with her prevailing to crack her way through the Silver Party, with the help of her Grounded comrades.

Free ebook. Michael’s story.

I’ve not read this book, not my kind of read, but for fantasy/sci-fy/gamers its worth a look. Its free as an ebook, all that’s asked is you consider a donation to Michael’s charity.
https://www.fantasticbooksstore.com/michaels-story.html?fbclid=IwAR0rCZFUbbkeVQ2FURpAmp074KS0kJcMkJHSTnRQkHg9AQhhDyMTxMdtSfQ

“Michael’s story” was written for Michael Holyland, a 15 year old Elite Dangerous player who died on 22nd May 2019. It was created in 3 days from start to finish, by the combined talents of Frontier Developments and the Elite Dangerous player community.

Best selling novelist Drew Wagar wrote the story, Antony Taylor created the amazing cover, Anthony Hunt created the iconic Eagle glyph, Commander Cryptic Echo, Commander Orange Phoenix, their respective teams and numerous Elite: Dangerous players contributed to the project by creating materials that are still being used to promote this touching tribute to a brave and inspirational Commander.

An audiobook version was also produced as by the end his treatment was affecting Michael’s ability to see. This was produced using the magnificent soundscape of Elite: Dangerous by Frontier Developments and features stunning performances by Amelia Tyler, Richard Reed and Jay Britton. It was edited by Joe Hogan and produced by Zac Antonaci. It is available for free on Drew’s website here.

This story would not exist without Michael’s Uncle Matt Westhorpe reaching out over Twitter to help bring this project together. Thank you Matt, you are the best Uncle a boy could ask for.

Please enjoy this free ebook and consider making a donation to Michael’s Cancer Research UK page.

Thank you.

1

Legendary,  Stephanie Garber

Legendary,  Stephanie Garber

Legendary (Caraval 2) by [Garber, Stephanie]

Genre:  Sci fi and fantasy

I was so looking forward to this, I adored Caraval, and amazingly I think Legendary is even better. It’s another magical book, full of secrets, of things that are not as they seem, of twists and turns that predicting who is who and what will happen just isn’t possible. And the “is it a game or are things real this time “ conundrum. Poor Tella, she has a series of really difficult choices to make and she doesn’t know, and the consequences are so very different if its real this time.

As with Caraval its has that YA feel to it, and yet its one that will appeal to all ages, there’s nothing childish about the story, and its so full of changing consequences, riddles, pure magic or possibly illusion – how can Tella know whats real. As an adult I certainly couldn’t!
This story is told from Tella’s POV, I liked seeing Scarlett and the mysterious Julian again, along with of course Dante and some of the other minor characters. There’s some fabulous new people too, and as before knowing if what they say is true or not is important but incredibly hard to tell. Tella has struck a bargain with Jacks, but as she gets closer the consequences become more clear and she doesn’t know whats the best thing to do, whichever way she jumps people will be hurt but doing nothing isn’t an option either.

I’m still full of questions, who, how, why and what about….I could go on for ages, it seems like when one question gets answered there’s always the chance that it may not be the Correct Answer, just An Answer 😉 and trying to work it out is like herding cats, simply impossible. Just let it flow and enjoy the magic.

Stars: Five, a read to take you away for a few hours, though That ending was incredibly frustrating for me. I understand more of Caraval having read this, and would up my rate for that to a five now

ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers

The Silenced Tale, Book 3 of the Accidental Turn Series, J.M. Frey

The Silenced Tale, Book 3 of the Accidental Turn Series, J.M. Frey

The Silenced Tale (The Accidental Turn Series Book 3) by [Frey, J.M.]

Genre: LGBTQIA , Sci Fi & Fantasy

I’ve loved this trilogy, fresh and unusual, it hinges round the characters in a series Elgar read wrote. By some quirk of fate he wrote magic so perfectly that it – and the actual characters, places and events, became real. As a Reader, Pip was pulled into the world and met Forsyth. Now they both live in the Overrealm, our world, with their daughter Alis.
They had issues with Hain and certain people in the last book, where events there were affecting the Overrealm, and now they fear that things weren’t as safe as they left them, that maybe, just maybe, someone else has come through to the Overrealm.

There’s another fantastic adventure, Syth being his spymaster self here in the real world, master of the PC and Internet. I love how he’s adapted to it, his careful turn of phrase, his planning, always looking ten steps ahead and of course his love for Pip and Alis.
Pip is wonderful, such an intelligent girl and I love how she breaks out the writing jargon, explaining to Syth ( and readers like me!) about tropes, genres, and how books are plotted. I read, I had no idea of the structure of a story but it makes sense, and makes my author admiration even greater! She’s having a bad time in this book, due to the events of the past that connect her to magic through the carvings.
To begin its just a series of odd events that could be explained away, but Syth being the cautious type he sets his programme up to look for anything that might be connected. I love when he says he thought Pip’s Poster “its not paranoia if they’re out to get you” was a warning not an irony. That sums him up in a way, written to protect, its in his very marrow to do just that.
Of course what he and Pip don’t know is that Elgar is having issues too, with what the police think is a stalker, but what Elgar fears is Hain stuff, and vengeance from there. He had no way of knowing what he wrote created a real world, and he feels so guilty for the casual way he wrote torture and death in his stories. There’s a top secret TV series based around his books being planned and the police agree its a good idea for him to go there for a couple of weeks. Syth’s programme tells him what Elgar didn’t though, so he’s beginning to piece together events and he now knows he, Pip and Elgar are facing real danger that the police can’t help with. How can they fight magic and fictional people that have become real. If they tried to tell them they’d be taken to the nearest Psych centre!

It all comes together in a nail biting, climatic finish, and I was gutted at some of the events and yet – it was the perfect way to end the trilogy.
I read the Magician trilogy when that was first out, back in Oct 2014, and thought it would make a great family film, Disney agreed some time later. I think this too would make a great film, has that magic (hah!) content that will appeal to kids and adults alike and is so very unusual.

Stars: Five, a perfect ending to a terrific, exciting and fresh trilogy.

ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers

Tarnished City, Vic James

Tarnished City, Vic James

Tarnished City (The Dark Gifts Trilogy Book 2) by [James, Vic]

Genre:General Fiction (Adult),Sci Fi & Fantasy

I thought Gilded Cage was incredible but this has that one blown away. Its an incredible read.
I see some reviewers suggest its a YA, but for me its one that would appeal to older teens and anyone upwards. Its pretty dark in parts and there are some graphic murders and accounts here which I think make it unsuitable for the lower end of YA.

I had ideas about certain people after GC, but they’re turned upside down here. New characters come in, secondary ones from GC move up and Silyen – oh I love his character!! So full of mystery and secrets, so talented and very, very, very un-forthcoming. You simply never know what’s in his head, what he’s thinking and whether he sees people as real, as having feelings or just pawns in some secret game he’s playing. He always seems to be ten steps ahead of what’s happening and yet he says he doesn’t make plans….

Abi is keen to free Luke, but how? She needs help so has to plan carefully how to get that.
Luke is desperate to break out of the strange place he’s in, but as with Millwood he wants to learn more about the people here, the reasons why one in particular is treated differently, he seems to have an effect on people, and he’s clearly a key to what Vic has planned for the grand finale.
Well, that’s how it seems to me. All the things that happen to any of the characters have reasons behind them, some not instantly obvious, as in events from GC that now become clearer here. There are murders, revenges, historical grudges, and over it all the Jardine’s grasping for power – or are they?

Some of the Club from Millwood are back here and working hard for freedom, William Jardine is cementing his place in power by reviving some old and horrific customs, controlling what news leaks out and how its presented. We see how easy it is to manipulate a mob, and sadly that part is so very, very realistic.
Gavar is reluctantly being led to the alter by his power hungry bride, who sees him as a stepping stone, while he’s trying to keep his daughter’s place in Society secure, much to the disgust of his father.
Jenner isn’t so prominent here, but still the quite guy from book one, who seems to have strong feelings for Abi, and she’s busy building alliances to free Luke.
Silyen, well I wrote about him earlier, he’s a character that’s fascinated me from the outset. He feels so much older that his years, connected to this world and to others, searching for long forgotten answers.

Within all that maelstrom of events things are changing, key characters die or get killed, people who we thought were one thing turn out to be something else, and one in particular seems to have undergone a huge change in how they feel.
That came as a huge shock to me and I wonder if perhaps things aren’t as they seem? With this story anything seems possible and its a gripping read. and of course ends on a huge cliffhanger!!
Gah, I so need the final book.

I know this is a trilogy I’ll love to reread, back to back to really get the most from the story.
There’s so much I want to say about this story but I don’t want to give away the surprises, shocks and suspense in it. hopefully I’ve got the balance, if anyone feels its too close to what happens please let me know – I’d hate to spoil it for others.

Stars: five, cracking read, totally absorbing and one to get lost in a world of Skill, suspense and subterfuge.

ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers
 

Marked, Sue Tingey

Marked, Sue Tingey

Marked: The Soulseer Chronicles Book 1 by [Tingey, Sue]

Genre: Sci-fi and Fantasy, Romance

This novel turned out to be far from what I’d expected. I really enjoyed the beginning of this but….it changed dramatically and once the Underlands were brought in I really wasn’t enjoying it.

Parts were interesting, the court intrigue but with all the different daemon descriptions, the twee names of two of her guards, the jealousy between Jamie and Jinx, and then the drakon, who can change size as needed it all began to feel like a YA novel to me, with some pretty urghh torture scenes that seemed to be added for keeping in in the adult genre…

I felt there was a lot going on but not much actually happening, that kind of odd thing when none of the events actually have any real conclusion, where threats are everywhere but none happen, where everyone is urging Lucky to be quiet, go unseen and of course New Girl knows best and does the opposite, but despite the dire predictions its rare anything much results.

The emphasis on sex and her virginity, her shock at the daemon guards of her friend Kayla actually undressing at night, her shock at the inference Kayla is sleeping with her main guard, her constant speculation of the attractiveness or not of the daemons, all began to  feel to me too much like later Laurell Hamilton Anita Blake reads 😦

Lucky becomes very judgmental and Kayla a totally different person to the one we knew, and TBH I’m unsure I like either of them or this world enough to continue.
Sometimes first books try too hard, and a series settles down into a winner for me, but I think this one isn’t going to do that.

Stars: Two, just not a series for me I think

ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers

Dark Moon Wolf, Calling the Moon, Sarah E. Stevens. Once Bitten, Heather McCorkle

Once Bitten, Heather McCorkle

Once Bitten (The Wolves of Hemlock Hollow) by [McCorkle, Heather]

Genre:  Romance,

My first read of Heather’s novels, but I love the werewolf genre and this sounded fun.
I found it a little – well – bland I guess? It was well written, the characters were all clearly set out and the take of the werewolf genre had some fresh additions. Sounds good doesn’t it?
However I just found the story dragged, with nothing much happening until the last 20% or so. Even then I found that for a group so set in rules and hierarchy the story-line went well off track.

I couldn’t see how all these things, all these anarchist actions wouldn’t have been seen coming, if those in charge had been taking note. Its hard to see a rigid, supposedly strong and well run system fall down so badly by the actions of such inept characters.
There didn’t seem to have been much thought or planning of what would happen,  and the ones creating the mayhem were strangely lacking in intelligence and strategy.
The story-line is sound, and things like this do happen but it needed to have characters that were capable of planning and executing such a strategy for me to believe it.

Its kind of a one plot book too, in that Sonya’s transforming was a part of that overall plot. I liked Ty, apart from his manner of speaking which proved irritating after a time, but he was so laid back he was almost horizontal, which didn’t fit so well with his thoughts on throwing everything, disregarding all the rules, because he was so attracted to Sonya. I anted to say “get a grip man, its only for a couple of weeks!!” The man I thought he was would have done just that, not been mulling constantly about giving in to temptation.
Its one of those reads that feels very simplistic, not complex drama but a quick easy read. Depends what you want – and its different for everyone, for me its more often the complex drama that does it.

First books in a series have a hard task and for me this one doesn’t quite live up to the promise of the description. I’m undecided as to whether I want to continue with it. I’ll see nearer the time I guess, how much other things I’ve got on and whether I’m pulled in by the description. I’m not saying I would read more, not saying its a no go for me but I am on the fence over it.

Stars: two and a half, a good premise but it needs a bit more action and drama, a little more speed for me. Maybe in the later books?

ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers

Dark Moon Wolf, Calling the Moon, Sarah E. Stevens

Dark Moon Wolf (Calling the Moon Book 1) by [Stevens, Sarah E.]

Genre:  General Fiction, Sci-fi and Fantasy

Well, I love paranormal/Fantasy, and wolf shifters in particular appeal to me. I was keen to read this, a first in what hopefully would turn out to be a new and fun series.
I’d made the mistake of thinking this was romance, isn’t not classed as that, simply my error and not looking carefully enough. That’s not a game-changer though, I read books other than romance too 🙂 Just that it came as a surprise to find out some things early in the story.

Its an interesting read, Sarah has put a slightly different slant on shifter practicalities and categories which was good, kept that part fresh.
The story though didn’t really work totally for me. There was just so much in it, the search for Carson’s dad, meeting the new people, finding out about werewolves and witches…Julie was incredibly blase about all the new things she was learning.
Then the murders. there was a lot of action, lots going on and I just had a hard time believing things would play out as easily as they did.
Don’t get me wrong – there was struggle, lots of it but given Julie is human and new to all this supernatural stuff she did really well. the other werewolves too has a very hard task solving the murders, they’d been cleverly done by someone who was clever and had lots of backing, and I just couldn’t see things playing out quite the way they did without Huge, Massive repercussions.
I didn’t guess who was involved til quite far on when there’s a really – to the reader- obvious clue but Julie completely misses it.

It looks like a debut novel, I can’t find any more books. Its well written but I just felt there was a little too much packed tightly into a novel that was just a bit too short for it. If the story was a bit longer so the action could have been made more realistic, and not have “Clue, and wow – here’s the Perpetrator” plots that these shorter novels need I think its one I’d love.

A first in series has a hard ask too, setting the scene, introducing new characters, and in the case of fantasy/paranormal, other types of people, and all the while leading a story to keep the readers interest. This one does OK for me, but of course will be perfect for others. That’s how it goes, we don’t all want the same thing thankfully!

Stars: Three, a good start to fiction writing, and a new series, but for me needed a little more reality and practicalities.

BTW Full/Lily: does she remind anyone else of Dolly Parton? For some reason she’s all I see each time Full comes into the story

ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers

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