Morning Star – Review

Here’s the deal Howlers! This is the third book in a trilogy, so this review will contain spoilers from the first two books. It can’t be helped so stop whining, you gorydamn Pixies. To be perfectly honest darling, if you haven’t read this series by now, you are never going to earn your scar at this rate!

“I rise into darkness, away from the garden they watered with the blood of my friends.”

In case anyone could forget the traumatizing cliffhanger that Golden Son left us with, Pierce Brown stabs us right in the gut with his opening sentence. Again. This guy loves making his readers cry. Repeatedly.

But it is such a sweet agony!

The opening of Morning Star tests our limitations for hopelessness. In fact, this book, out of the three tests the reader the most.

“I feel like a prisoner who has spent his whole life digging through the wall, only to break through and find he’s dug into another cell.”

This is the first book where Darrow cannot hold onto his own chains of secrecy. He has to learn to trust, really trust, in his friends. In the way he asked for before but never gave in return. This trust is difficult for him, but opens the door for some beautiful relationships to begin to develop with Darrow.

The beauty in this book is the emphasis on trust. Darrow isn’t a chosen one. Yes, he’s a symbol, but the fate of mankind is not fated on his shoulders. Even the rebellion isn’t fully dependent on him, though obviously, he plays a key role. I feel like this book really refocuses the whole point of what the Son of Ares stands for. Building a better Society for everyone, not the few.

While the previous two books can feel very cold and cruel, Morning Star is a book full of warmth. Don’t get me wrong, there is plenty of brutality, violence and cruelty written in the pages. This society didn’t undergo a complete change of heart overnight, after all. But, in contrast, you see the possibility of the rebellion solidify into the full potential of Eo’s dream.

“I always told Victra to let people in. I could never take my own advice because I knew one day I’d have to betray them, that the foundation of our friendship was a lie.”

But potential doesn’t always mean victory.

Darrow learns rather quickly that war is messy, and difficult to control. They have unleashed the tide of the lowColors into open rebellion, but they may not all share the vision of a peaceful society like he does. Many want to see Golds punished. But this isn’t the way to bridge society into a better tomorrow. This discord once again provides a tone of reality to this series that I really enjoy. It also ensures that nothing with Darrow, nor his plans, will ever go easily.

“Victories are less romantic when you’re cleaning your friends off the floor.”

Beyond the rebellion and the battle over the future of Society, this book is about relationships. We see them develop in such an intimate way. Not just with Darrow, but between everyone that is choosing the side he and the Son of Ares represents. It’s a fascinating conversation over fighting for an ideal versus fighting for what’s right. Do you watch horror and atrocity and wrap yourself in your ideals to excuse the violence? Or do you see beyond it to something more?

We also get to see the dynamics and power structures of other Colors beyond the Gold and Red. Finally we see how fully the Golds of Society have stayed in power. The full scope and horror of their manipulation is jaw-dropping. And also the sheer arrogance they have shrouded themselves in.

“And man was never meant to tame fire. That’s the beauty of it,” he says challengingly. “This moon is a hateful little horror. But through ingenuity, through will we made it ours.”

Everything in this book is played with higher stakes. This is an all out battle over a Society to remain the same, or one that will be forever changed. Adding the element of the deeper relationships, along with showing characters dealing with the trauma not just of war, but of torture and loss, adds to this escalation experience.

Every single battle is more intense, whether the scale is one to one in the snow of the Poles, or facing an enormous Armada in the depth of space. And, again, the intensity ratchets up even more because war is never clean. War is never easy. And people on both sides die. Brown isn’t afraid to show us the horror of loss, the reality that war isn’t selective and that death comes to us all.

“War is not monstrous for making corpses of men so much as it is for making machines of them. And woe to those who have no use in war except to feed the machines.”

And the ending. Oh, goryhell, talk about a writer ripping your heart out and holding it while it bleeds on the floor. I am rarely shocked at a book. And I rarely am so upset that I am tempted to close the book, slag that, throw the book and never look back. You think you’re ready for heartbreak. But you have no idea. And while I won’t ruin the reading for anyone, just keep reading. Remember, I said this book will test you.

While any death is difficult, rarely is it careless in this series. Heartbreak is sometimes inevitable. Brown never relents in doing what is true for the story, true to his characters, even if it means doing the hard thing.

“Everything is cracked, everything is stained except the fragile moments that hang crystalline in time and make life worth living.”

Pierce Brown gets the tragedy of what it means to be human. We are a fickle species. Capable of achieving the heights of greatness or falling to the depths of depravity. He shows us this spectrum without flinching, or romanticizing it. This series will take you down through how truly awful we can be, but will also show you how simultaneously wonderful we also are.

Yes, these books are about war. And societal strife. They are full of violence and cruelty and brutality. But they are also about friendships. Love. What it means to live for more. To live for others. It is a book on the grand spectacle of humanity. And one very much worth reading.

#PBHOWLERFEST

Today, my goodmen, today was GLORIOUS!!!!! In full nerd fashion, I embarked on a journey. A journey many months in the making, and surprisingly, not entirely about the event itself.

 

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Let me back up. Of course, the event was the entire gorydamn point. I’ve been waiting for Iron Gold for what feels like an eternity. And honestly, I probably would have simply waited for the release like any other Introvert book nerd and watched all this amazingness from afar. Except, a good friend called me, and said, “Come with me?”

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And I said YES!

So, a journey was planned. It involved matching shirts. I dyed my hair. I tried to get her to agree to matching tattoos. Spoiler: she said NO! However, she did agree to temporary tattoos as a compromise.

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But let’s get to the juicy gossip.

The event was amazing. I know that adjective gets thrown around a lot. By me. But, it was. When you walked in, they had large prints of all the fan art from around the world, and in our packet was a voting ticket.

Here’s a few for your perusal……

Once you voted, you entered the theater itself.

We also received a packet at the door, with the voting ticket and shirt ticket (if you ordered ahead of time). Our badges were Color coded and assigned us to our Color. I got Obsidian. Apparently even in this fandom, the Fandom Gods want to make me the trained killer. Weird. At least I’m not the bloodydamn villain again.

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Next to the shirt display, they had a small bookshop set up with BookSoup, featuring books Pierce himself loves. Of course I bought one or two, but you’ll have to go watch my Instagram stories in the next few days to see those goodies!

There was a bar, serving PitVipers for those daring Helldivers, and Haemanthus (mocktail) for the dreamers of the group.

Finally, there was an airbrush artist there to make sure we all had the appropriate sigils for our Color.

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And then the real fun began! Pierce came on stage, accompanied by his close friend and actor, Eric Christian Olsen. The interview was incredible to listen to on SO MANY LEVELS!

As a fan, it is always so fun to listen to an author talk about the world from their perspective. Who they see themselves in, who they had fun writing, who they hate. It’s fascinating to hear them describe the world that you, as a reader, are so immersed in. To hear the creator of that world dive into some of the rationale behind characters, plot twists, and world building is always good nerd fun!

Beyond the discussion of the world, Pierce himself is so kind and generous with his fans. He made sure to really reflect on his answers, and took his time thinking them through. His answers to questions ranged from funny, to snarky, or vague to very detailed, depending on the question. You can tell he enjoys interacting with his fans as much as we enjoy intreating with him. So much so, that he is involved in the Facebook group, Hic Sunt Leones: A Red Rising Fan Group, knows who the admins of the group are, and called up the MOST AMAZING COSPLAY EVER!!!!!

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As a writer, I LOVED EVERY SINGLE MOMENT OF THIS! Not just the cosplay, although, talk about #writergoals! When he talked about his life as a writer, I was so grateful I went to this event. To hear that an author you look up to, for his incredible writing style and fantastic plotting, doesn’t outline, or take notes. That he also can face writer envy of writers he considers the greats. That he can be a harsh critic of himself or his writing.

I need to remember that novels don’t happen in a moment, they happen in a series of moments. They take time, and then they take a team of people to make them the wonderful pieces of magic we lose ourselves in. I simply have to be as true to myself and to my story as I can be. I tend to forget that.

He also talked about telling his editor that Golden Son had a moderately happy ending and getting a literal WTF text when he faced the horror of the ending that traumatized us all. Or how he had the most fun writing the Jackal, and holds an appreciation for villains. I am a big believer that villains could use a little more love!

If you doubt the sincerity of his appreciation of his fans and readers, just look at that dedication! FOR THE HOWLERS!!!!

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Of course, the afternoon ended when we got called up (by Color) to take a photo with him. Again, he asked everyone’s name, shook their hand or hugged them, and truly made each person feel seen and heard. That is an incredible skill.

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The part of the journey that wasn’t the event, was simply going. Meeting Trissina in person after talking for nearly a year was awesome, but also daunting! Hi, my name is Jena, and I’m an Internet Introvert. And, there’s something intimidating about meeting someone you’ve tried to aspire your own writing to. Not that I was worried about how he would be, more, it’s just scary to open myself up for judgement. I never said introverting logic made much sense.

Anyway, driving to LA and being away from all my puppies and my books was hard. Oh, and my husband, I miss him too. Meeting new people in an intense environment is also daunting for me. But, I am so glad I did it!

The journey is about meeting authors and listening to them talk. Taking in their advice, knowing that even the greats have bad first drafts, and realizing that the glory is in the attempt. Nothing is made from nothing, but something can be made from something.

Meeting Internet friends in real life is the business! It’s fantastic that there is an entire community of book people in this virtual world. But, to take those friendships and conversations and hug them, and talk to them? Words just don’t quite capture how incredible that feels.

In all, I’m glad that I didn’t have to go to Mordor or face the Eye of Sauron. Perhaps my journey wasn’t quite as epic as Frodo’s. But it was mine, and I feel like I’ve grown for it.

The book comes out in three days, January 16, but we got the book 3 days early for attending! Was it worth it? You’re gorydamn right it was, my goodmen!

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Good night Howlers! Per Aspera Ad Astra!!!

The Wolves Of Winter – Review

“Snow can save you and sustain you, crush you and kill you. Snow is a fickle bastard.”

The Wolves Of Winter is a phenomenal debut post apocalyptic novel! I devoured this incredible book in a day. From the moment I opened the pages it was impossible to put down.

Gwendolynn, or Lynn, as she prefers, is living with her family in the North Yukon. After raging nuclear war and a viral flu managed to take out most of the population, her father included, her family fled to the far reaches of civilization in hopes of finding survival. And survive they did. Until Lynn comes across Jax and his husky Wolf.

“If I wasn’t embarrassed by Mom’s paranoia, I probably would have thought the sight of her cooking food with a  shotgun in her hand was hilarious.”

Jax is the first stranger they encounter, but he isn’t the last. With each new encounter, Lynn is pushed into a new world, finding out secrets about herself and her family that were long buried. Survival takes on a whole new meaning, and Lynn has to learn survival with a whole new set of rules.

“Arrows are like snow or sorrow or secrets – they seem small and light, but their weight adds up.”

As I mentioned, this book is a crazy addictive read. The way Johnson writes is simple yet powerful. He creates such stunning imagery but you never feel pulled out of the plot or the action, even when describing the snow. It all feels natural, fitting. It gives you the feel of being there, with Lynn, in this wild place. This, in addition to the pace he sets, makes you really connect with Lynn. Because in her world, even when things are quiet, you never know when deadly danger is right around the corner. That state of suspense is held throughout each page, even her memories.

One of the things I really enjoyed in this book was how Johnson handled explaining the world before compared to the world now. Lynn flashes to memories of before, but they are brief, to the point, and all tie in with what is happening to her in the present. Again, rather than pull you out of the plot, it actually pushes you further into Lynn’s head, because this is how our brains work. Thinking, remembering, all while currently doing. It made her feel more real to me.

“If fear had a sound, thats what it sounded like. Fear of change. Fear of the unknown. Fear of men. Crunch. Creak. Closer. Closer. Closer.”

The world Johnson has created is chilling. Besides the obvious nod to the frozen world stuck in perpetual winter, the actions humanity took to trigger these catastrophic events sound frighteningly similar to news reports we listen to today. It’s easy to imagine this world, which makes the reading that much more intense. The goal of post-apocalyptic fiction should be to serve as a warning of things that could come, and The Wolves Of Winter nails it!

Lynn is an amazing protagonist. She’s strong and fierce but is also flawed. She’s stubborn and makes choices that make things worse for her and her family. In her defense, her decisions were based on keeping information from her, but she still defies her mother and uncle to make them. Yet, even when you know she’s making a bad choice, you feel her yearning and curiosity for the world at large. To see what’s left. To hope for something better. Her humanity is stunning in that sense, and makes her so vivid to me.

“I was in one of my moods, the ones that can be changed only by long bouts of solitude. Strange, the things that survive the apocalypse.”

For a novel full of harsh realities and intensity, there are only brief moments of violence. They happen, but aren’t graphic or overdone. They are used to illustrate and highlight the reality of this world. Survival can bring out the best of mankind, and it can also bring out the worst. Even if we don’t see the entire possibility happen in person, we still get a sense of how bad things could get. How bad people could be.

As each memory helps us understand what happened, and the days drive forward for Lynn, pieces of an obscure puzzle fit into place. Things begin to make sense, and we start to understand the reason behind the secrets. We also increase our fear as the danger in the situation continues to escalate.

I don’t want to reveal anything in the plot, not beyond the blurb because this novel unravels itself in such a beautiful way. The connections between past and present, the possibility of the future, they are all paced and revealed with amazing momentum, never too soon, and never making you wait too long. I am very curious to find out if there is more to this story, because the novel ends in a way that could simply be ambiguous and open, or as a possibility to a sequel. I am very much hoping for a sequel, myself.

If reading about the world gone wrong, with a Call Of The Wild feel added to it, combined with a beautiful prose, sounds like something you’d enjoy, then you need to pick this book up! This is a debut novel from a voice that I will be anxiously awaiting to hear again.

Thank you Scribner Books for sending me a copy to read and review.

I Like You Like This – Review I also

“Hannah always tried her best to hold it together. Tears only made it worse. Eventually she’d gotten used to the tormenting and pretended to be in on the joke.”

Hannah Zandana lives a bleak life. She faces unrelenting bullying at home and at school, and only wants to find a place where she belongs. This desire to fit in has her come up with a plan to buy drugs in order to impress the popular girls at her school. The only positive thing that comes out of this bad plan is gaining the attention of the drug dealer, Deacon.

There may be some minor spoilers in my review, for those who have not read yet. There are also several trigger warnings including drug abuse, verbal abuse, and bullying.

I wanted to like this book. I did. A book with dark themes relevant to teenagers is a book we actually need more of. Unfortunately, this book missed the mark for me.

To start with, the abuse from her parents was odd. They are verbally abusive; perhaps more, but that was really unclear. There is only one drug induced scene, where physical, maybe even sexual violence, is introduced. It was presented to feel like a repressed memory, but it was never brought up or explored again, so I’m not really sure.

They constantly belittle Hannah, berate her, ignore her and are generally extremely vicious towards her. Even though we get an attempt at an explanation of their behavior towards her, it felt very shallow and unrealistic. The level of abuse in relation to the feeble explantation was simply lacking.

“Hannah was a human pincushion for her parents’ criticism, and there was always ample room for just one more jab.”

As far as her attempts to impress the popular girls at school, choosing to buy drugs for a party seems like an odd choice. It’s never really explored that these popular girls would even be in the drug scene, just that everyone knew where to get ‘the good stuff’. The entire initial deal is awkward and weird, and the ensuing relationship between Hannah and Deacon continues down that path.

The characters and plot felt more like an array of scenes rather than a cohesive plot. Hannah is unsure of herself, has no self-confidence or self-esteem but she somehow manages to threaten and fight off the bullies of her school with no problems when it suits her. Other times she’s a quivering mess that can’t stand up for herself. That didn’t feel real to me.

It was set in 1984, which is very specific and I was hoping it was for a specific reason. The only reason I could gather was to introduce how crack changed drug addiction in some areas, but that was such a brief mention, I may be grasping at straws for that connection. Product specific nods, or other pop culture references were added in, but for the most part they were clunky and unnecessary.

I also really didn’t like Deacon. He’s supposed to be rich and charming, but damaged. A very cliche ‘more than just a bad boy’ character. He never really showed the kinder side underneath, and after one near rape scene, I was pretty done with his misunderstood excuses.

“She searched his face. His constrained grin didn’t match his words or the shot of sadness in his eyes.”

There are some problems with the romance portion of the book. Hannah doesn’t necessarily find herself other own, but rather changes her identity as a result of her relationship. The fact that the relationship is unhealthy, and at times, even toxic doesn’t send the message I would want in a YA book. I always struggle with books where the theme is we need someone else to become whole. Love is important, but it isn’t the key ingredient in self-worth or the journey to finding out who we are.

This book felt like a really good draft, and I felt like it had a lot of potential. There are some very serious topics introduced, but the opportunity to explore them is largely untapped. While bullying, abuse and drug use are all brought up, the majority of the story focuses on the weird romance between Hannah and Deacon instead. The deeper examination is lacking and it leaves the book feeling superficial rather than hard hitting.

As I said, I think that YA books that tackle the issues presented in this book are really important. They can help kids going through similar struggles and traumas feel understood, seen and maybe even help them work through them. But when these issues aren’t explored as fully as they should be, it can do more of a disservice to those teens who need it most.

Thank you BookSparks and She Writes Press for sending me a copy to read and review.

Exquisite – Review

“I was suspicious of love and what it did to people – those dark depths of anguish and horror; the thought of it all made me shudder.”

Bo Luxton has the life everyone wants. A successful writing career, loyal husband and two adorable daughters. She is the very picture of happiness and contentment. All she wants is to share her happiness with others. To help guide fresh new talent into the literary world, giving back to the world that has given her so much.

Alice Dark is young and lost. Full of hidden but unused talent, she writes an entry to a writing retreat, expecting it to end in nothing but disappointment like every endeavor before. To her surprise, she is selected and given the chance at everything she’s ever wanted.

From the moment Bo read Alice’s words, she knew this was the young talent she had been looking for. And from the moment Alice spoke with Bo, she knew this was a woman whose wisdom could guide her. Mentor and mentee. Two paths destined to cross and become entwined. So how does it all go wrong?

This book is breathtaking in it’s intensity! Every page has you swept into the story, the suspense building with a subtlety that is, well, exquisite. You know something is off, but it’s difficult to put your finger on it. For the life of me, I could not tell which direction Stovell was taking me. I only knew it was going to be a dark and twisted path.

“There’s only one direction this can go, and that is straight to hell.”

We are given the story of Alice and Bo in parts. The first is a story, a woman in prison, but where and when is yet to be determined. Is she a narrator, a story from one of the writers, or a third party yet to be presented? And then we get chapters from both Bo and Alice’s perspectives. These are alternating until after the retreat, where we get only Alice and then only Bo. And then back to alternating as we get closer to the truth.

Each side is presented, with their own slant told. And Stovell is masterful in her writing, never giving us enough clues to get a grasp on what’s actually taking place. Page after page has us feeling as if we are trapped in a cage of quicksand and fog. Nothing is steady, nothing is sure, except that someone is lying.

“The thing about being hurt badly is that the only person who can make you feel better is the person who hurt you, and so you keep going back and they keep making you better, but then they hurt you again, and so it goes on.”

Exquisite kept me on the edge of my seat the entire time. I never knew who to trust, who was the victim and who was the assailant. Even when Stovell unveiled the details, the truth was so sinister, it hits you in the gut, hard and unexpected. Again, the word exquisite fits so perfectly, because that level of story telling is exquisite. You know something is coming, and yet it still manages to hit you by surprise. The title perfect in so many ways.

I am a huge fan of psychological plots, especially where the characters are so deeply complex it’s difficult to fault them for their flaws, and Stovell does not disappoint. But there’s also a deeper villain uncovered, and the cold, sinister motivations are chilling and pathological. We are introduced to someone unrelenting and unapologetic in their behavior, and that persona is truly terrifying. To be lulled into complacency, into sympathizing with someone this evil in nature gets under your skin. Stovell has given us a villain that really does make you stay awake at night because this is the type of villain that is real.

If you are a fan of psychological suspense or thrillers, you need to get your hands on this book. It is masterful in it’s suspense, brilliant in it’s psychology, and breathtaking in it’s twists. In all, this book is exquisite.

Thank you Orenda Books for sending me a copy to read and review!

Daughter4254 – Review + GIVEAWAY

Daughter4254 used to think life in a community where art, music and names are outlawed would suffocate her creative spirit. Now that she’s rotting in a prison cell, she’s not sure her dying mother made the right choice when she entrusted her with the secrets of rebellion. Prison has given her plenty of time to relive every mistake and lose all hope.

Then she meets Thomas, a fellow inmate, who tells her stories of the mythical mountain colonies where people have names and the arts thrive. Together they plot an escape, knowing if they fail, they will die. Or worse, their consciousness will be taken by the MindWipe, leaving their bodies free for the government to use. When nothing goes as planned, Daughter4254 must choose between using her mother’s secret to better the world she hates, or following Thomas to the quiet life of freedom she has always craved.

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Welcome to November! I am so thrilled to be kicking off November with this book! thank you Rockstar Book Tours for letting me part of this awesome tour. Click the photo above or click HERE for more information about them and upcoming tours. And be sure to check out the links below for the rest of the tour for Daughter 4254.

“My mother’s words come back to me: “Beware of beauty in this life, child. It will break your heart.”

Daughter 4254 is a haunting dystopian set in a world far in the future. A world where only things deemed “useful” are legal. Beauty, art, love, color, compassion, laughter. These are not useful. They do not feed the population or help them fight illness, or live. so they are illegal. Forbidden. Names aren’t useful, so citizens are given numbers instead.

We meet Daughter 4254 as she struggles in a prison. We don’t know her crime, only that she fears having her mind wiped. Her very essence wiped from her brain, leaving her useful (and compliant) body in return. The days progress miserably, and we see that while positive emotion is frowned upon, absence of it doesn’t make people kind or tolerant. It leaves them harsh and sterile instead.

“Our civilization cannot survive if we don’t all comply. We have limited resources and must make the best use of everything, including our time.”

Statham alternates each chapter to be a Before and an After. Before prison and after. The tension in seeing what life is like between these two timeframes is incredible. Each reality holds its own horror, and the entire time you are wondering what could she have done to have landed in prison. And, even more importantly, what will happen next. In this way we get a lot of backstory for this society without losing the tension or fast pacing of the plot. It is quite remarkable to write a story where I want to know both what happened, what’s happening and what’s going to happen all at the same time!

Life for 4254 gets interesting when for reasons unknown to her, she is moved to a new cell block. One where she can hear and see other prisoners, though she is ordered to not speak to them. One prisoner in particular, Thomas, with a name not a number doesn’t listen to rules though.

“He smiles at me, an irresistible grin filled with mischief and mayhem.”

I loved this book! Dystopian novels always hold a special place in my heart, especially when they examine the dark underside of humanity. I found this society fascinating. Every detail that emerged made complete sense in the construct of their logic, and yet was just as horrifying to imagine. Even worse, (or better, for dystopian sake), was that it was easy to see how a society like this could emerge. There are some very famous psychological experiments that this society felt very similar to. It was chilling how similar they felt.

Daughter 4254 ends with the possibility of more to come, and I do hope this story continues! I need to know more, and am looking forward to exploring this world outside of the confines of a prison or strict community structure. More exists, and I can’t wait to unravel it. I am especially excited to see the development of 4254 herself. She was already pushing boundaries within herself, but was still stuck within the logic of how she was raised. It will be interesting to see how freedom truly helps her evolve into a more developed person.

Even the nature of the rebellion itself felt like there was more to them than we initially saw. Are they actually good, or not? Its an interesting question that I’m dying to learn more about! I also hope we see more of 4254’s roommate, 0203. She was a fascinating character, curious and smart, and I really hope she plays a larger role in upcoming books.

This is my first novel by Statham but I am already a fan! I will be dying to read the next book and will be looking up her other books in the meantime.

Anyone who loves good dystopian fiction needs to read this book! It is a fast read that will simply leave you breathless in it’s pages. You’ll love getting to know these characters while reviling the society they live in. Dystopian at it’s best, if you ask me. Daughter 4254 comes out November 7, and the links for purchase can be found below (none are affiliate links).

Be sure to enter the GIVEAWAY for your chance to win a finished copy or a $25 Amazon gift card! AMAZING!!!

Once again, thank you Rockstar book Tours for sending me a copy to read and review for this tour!

 

D4254-CoverTitle: DAUGHTER 4254

Author: Leigh Statham

Pub. Date: December 5, 2017

Publisher: Owl Hollow Press

Pages: 286

Formats: Paperback, eBook

Find it: AmazoniBooksThe Kings English (exclusive signed copies)Goodreads

ohp-LeighStathamLeigh Statham was raised in the wilds of rural Idaho but found her heart in New York City. She worked at many interesting jobs before settling in as a mother and writer.

She now resides in North Carolina with her husband, four children, eight chickens, a fluffy dog, and two suspected serial killer cats.

Leigh is currently working on an MFA, has written countless short stories, and is the author of lots of mediocre poetry. She is also the winner of the 2016 Southeast Review Narrative Nonfiction Prize for her short story “The Ditch Bank and the Fenceline.”

Website |Twitter |Instagram | Facebook | WattpadGoodreads

Giveaway Details:

1 winner will receive a $25 Amazon Gift Card, US Only.

2 winners will receive a finished copy of DAUGHTER 4254, US only.

Click below to enter!

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Tour Schedule:

Week One:

10/25/2017- BookHounds YA– Interview

10/25/2017- Fan-Girl-Tabulous– Review

10/26/2017- Reese’s Reviews– Excerpt

10/26/2017- Caffeine and Composition– Review

10/27/2017- Hooked To Books– Guest Post

10/27/2017- YA Obsessed– Review

Week Two:

10/30/2017- Maddie.TV– Interview

10/30/2017- The Desert Bibliophile– Review

10/31/2017- Wandering Bark Books– Excerpt

10/31/2017- Kindle and Me– Review

11/1/2017- Wishful Endings– Interview

11/1/2017- Jena Brown Writes– Review

11/2/2017- Stuffed Shelves– Review

11/2/2017- Life of A Simple Reader– Review

11/3/2017- Books, Vertigo and Tea– Excerpt

11/3/2017- Savings in Seconds– Review

Week Three:

11/6/2017- Two Chicks on Books– Interview

11/6/2017- Cindy’s Love of Books– Review

11/7/2017- Captivated Reading– Review

11/7/2017- Bookalicious– Review

Seance Infernale – Review

“All those things you fear will reach from into the shadows and pull you down there with them.”

Seance Infernale is an intense thriller following Alex Whitman on his journey to find a piece of film, only rumored to exist. In America, Thomas Edison is credited with building the first camera known to capture motion pictures. In France, the Lumber brothers. But one year before Edison filed his patent, a man named Augustin Sekular is rumored to have built and filmed the world’s first motion picture camera. Conveniently, or rather inconveniently, one year before Edison files for his patent, Sekular vanished from a train, never to be seen or heard from again, taking all signs of the camera with him.

However, the man hiring Whitman to find this lost piece of film isn’t interested in any of the film strips by Sekular known and catalogued. He wants one so rare, it is only whispered about: Seance Infernale. A film only referred to in a letter by a man known in history to be a conman of sorts.

This book is more than a hunt for rare art. More than a historical mystery yearning to be solved. We learn that Whitman lost his daughter ten years prior. Abducted in a park in Edinburgh and never heard from again, she haunts Whitman. His acceptance of this job, and this hunt for Sekular’s film takes him back to the city filled with ghosts. Whitman will have to face his own ghosts, while searching for Sekular’s.

“Sources failed to indicate Sekular’s exact Edinburgh address, they stated that the family lived in a perilous region, full of seedy businesses, dark alleys, and run-down tenements, a place “where wickedness loses its seductive appeal by manifesting in all its depravity.”

Whitman isn’t the only perspective we get; however. In addition to his hunt for this mythical film, a Detective Sergeant, Georgina McBride is hunting an elusive creature of a different sort. A serial killer prowling the streets of Edinburgh, kidnapping children and leaving their bodies in alleys. Georgina needs to find his latest victim while there’s still a chance they are alive.

Two different people searching for two different things, and yet their paths cross in unpredictable ways. But the more each of them discovers, the more they realize their searches are more dangerous than either one ever anticipated.

“Because a murder investigation is first and foremost a hired investigation; your client may be silent and dead, but he is still screaming out for justice.”

This book shocked me! I was expecting a hunt through time to solve a lost mystery. But, the present day twists with McBride’s serial killer hunt kept me on my toes! It was easy to lulled into the mystery of this lost film, and what happened to Sekular. As soon as you got comfortable in that story, you were slammed into the present day with the hunt for this killer. In addition, we get some narration from Elliot, the killer himself, told in such a way that you aren’t sure who he is going to end up being, or why he is important to Whitman and this film.

There is graphic violence in this book, both in what Elliot does to his victims and some flashbacks of other scenes in characters lives. One particular scene of animal cruelty was two pages I skipped, it was that grotesque. So, if that sort of violence unnerves you or makes you queasy, this may not be the book for you.

As far as dark thrillers, this book is crazy dark and crazy intense. I was climbing the walls, reading between my fingers, and definitely leaving the lights on to make it through this book! The author does a fantastic job weaving characters in and out of the plot, and just when you’ve forgotten about someone, they pop back in to play. He has a talent for making you look to the left and then hitting you from the right. Every twist and turn was like plummeting down a roller coaster blind folded. It is exhilarating but also terrifying.

My favorite parts are when we are taken below ground into ancient and forgotten parts of Edinburgh. Areas simply entombed over in the name of progress. Skariton does an insane job bringing places to life. I could taste the dust and smell the stale air as crypts and catacombs were discovered and explored. And nothing says creepy more than underground houses, forgotten tunnels and old graveyards.

“You could have walked past it every day on the way to work and you wouldn’t have noticed it, padlocked behind doors or hidden underground. It was right there, for everyone to see, yet it was unknown. But that was Edinburgh, revealing itself only in the constant vigilance of dark, steady eyes.”

I did read this as an ARC, so there were some pieces that seemed incomplete. I don’t mean the writing, it’s more the presentation of the book. This is a book that has art within the book, and with those pieces missing, it felt a little confusing. Some were there, but notes at the bottom and the notes in the back seemed to not quite be finished, so I didn’t feel that I got the entire experience.

The hardest thing, and again, this may be fixed in a final copy, is there weren’t any years in the chapter headers. The book is divided into sections with the date (month and day) listed at the beginning of each section. But, the narration jumps between the years quite a bit and it can get confusing, especially as we are reading between multiple points of view. It isn’t overwhelming, but I did have to backtrack a few times to figure out where I was supposed to be.

In all, this book was perfect for October reading and for the #spookathon. It will leave your heart racing and your stomach churning as you hold your breath waiting to read the outcome. If you like dark, if you love thrillers, and you don’t mind some intense violence, this book is definitely for you!

I won this in a giveaway from AA Knopf, and was not required or obligated to review.

The Balance Project – Review

“You’ve got to make your own dreams happen, Lucy,” Ty says. “Sounds a lot like you’re helping to make someone else’s dreams happen.”

The Balance Project is such a fun read! Very reminiscent of The Devil Wears Prada and The Nanny Diaries, The Balance Project is about the life of a working woman who earnestly and whole-heartedly believes that women can have the perfect life, everything they’ve ever wanted. If only they balance everything just right.

That woman is Lucy Cooper’s boss, Katherine Whitney, COO of a juice empire. Her new book, The Balance Project, has launched her into a new level of success with millions of women dying to know how they too can successfully have it all.

Lucy on the other hand, does not have it all. She doesn’t want to be an assistant forever, so her career isn’t exactly moving on the right track. And she doesn’t want to get married, which her boyfriend Nick is adamant about, so relationship may also be slightly unbalanced. When Katherine begins to fall apart at the seams, it falls even more on Lucy to hold it all together for her. Which is fine, until Katherine betrays Lucy unexpectedly. Not Lucy has to make a choice, and that choice will impact the course of her life. And Katherine’s.

“It sure doesn’t seem like your life is all that balanced, and you’re at ground zero of this balance operation.”

This book is a very fun read! And very funny! Lucy has an internal dialogue that is sarcastic and witty, which made her very enjoyable to read. Even when she makes the wrong choices, or doesn’t stand up for herself, she’s written in such a way, that it doesn’t feel cliche. She feels very real to me.

I think we’ve all had moments in our lives when we actively justify things that are happening, or make decisions we instantly regret, or even decisions we later regret. The thing I enjoyed about Lucy was it didn’t matter if you didn’t agree with how she processed things, or her decisions. The point was you understood. And were usually entertained along the way.

“It feels like there are crack-addicted trapeze artists in my stomach, and they are just beginning their routine.”

I really liked how we are introduced to the situation and characters without a giant info dump at the beginning. The flashbacks and narration is well paced and done so that it feels very natural to the progression of the plot. We learn a lot about Lucy and Katherine in the first chapter through a clever use of an interview. We also get a very real sense of the pressure Lucy feels as Katherine’s assistant in that first chapter. I loved that the tone and pace were introduced and maintained very consistently throughout the entire book.

Ava, her best friend is probably my favorite character. She’s the only one who I liked the entire time. It would be easy to hate the best friend who loved her job and made everything look easy while also posting an inspirational quote daily, but Ava is so kind and awesome you just want to be friends with her. I really loved that, because it’s so easy to go Mean Girls these days. It was nice to not have that cliche love/hate your best friend trope, and to also have a character that I genuinely adored throughout the entire book.

“Ava works at Cosmo – she is a fun, fearless female – as an associate features editor. She loves her job, and by love I mean she would make out with her job if she could.”

Nick, I wasn’t a fan of. And this part may get a touch spoiler-y so BEWARE! I didn’t like how the author managed to hold every other character accountable to their shitty behavior EXCEPT FOR NICK! Somehow he gets to act like a complete jerk to Lucy, give her a really intense ultimatum and in the end, he gets off the hook. Something about his list and how he handled her rejection just really didn’t sit well with me. It reeked of control issues and a refusal to compromise that didn’t fit with the rest of the books message.

Lucy is a complex character for me as well. She is willing to admit her fears and her weaknesses, but is also willing to allow people to treat her pretty poorly at times. Namely her boyfriend and her boss. And while their behaviors can be rationalized, Lucy doesn’t seem to be able to stand up for herself in healthy ways until extreme situations hit. The interesting part is I actually really liked Lucy, so maybe I just wanted her to be a bit more of her own advocate. I wanted her to see her worth more than if felt she did.

I realize that we all have to go through bad jobs, and bad relationships, and bad friendships to learn where our boundaries are. This book is a good exploration of that process. I think Lucy did forgive Nick way easier than Katherine, and wish that Nick would have offered a little more reflection on his bad behavior like other characters.

Overall though, I really enjoyed this book. It was a very fast read, I finished in an evening, and there were multiple laugh out loud lines. Even though that part with Nick really bothered me (obviously because I can’t seem to let it go), the book was a good presentation on how important it is to balance your life when you’re young.

Lucy explores some very relevant issues facing most women at all ages. How do we balance work and personal lives? When is too much too much? Is marriage and being a mother right for you? These are all very real things that most women struggle with. I was really happy to have a book that is enjoyable to read without seeming preachy, but still gives a thoughtful examination of some of these struggles. I think that most women will find a lot of it relevant and relatable, not to mention sassy and thoroughly entertaining!

Thank you BookSparks and She Writes Press for sending a copy to read and review!

Containment – Review

“When it comes to contagious diseases, it’s a pretty small world.”

I knew by the synopsis that this book was going to be a terrifying ride. I knew going in, and yet somehow I was still unprepared for the terror this book brought!

Mariah Rossi studies viruses and works to make sure that in the event of a breakout, it can be easily and quickly contained. Curt Kennedy, scientist and covert CIA agent, also works to ensure containment of outbreaks. But when a lethal virus begins to kill people outside of Philadelphia, time is not on their side. They need to work together to figure out what this virus is, and how it can be contained.

Told from multiple perspectives, we get to watch this terrifying virus reveal itself. We see it through Mariah and Curt’s eyes, but also Doctor Vector, the terrorist developing the virus to be even deadlier than it was originally. Using ticks as its carrier. While the outbreak is happening in Philadelphia, the conspiracy that unleashed it ends up taking Curt and Mariah all over the globe as they race to stop Doctor Vector from releasing havoc onto the world.

“Doctor Vector smiled. Soon his soldiers would be ready for battle.”

The twists and turns this book takes you on are as exhilarating as a roller-coaster. The plot builds and builds, and just when you think you have a grasp on what’s happening, the floor plunges from out beneath you. Over and over again, until your heart is pounding in your ears and you’re breathless with the intensity of it all. There were twists I never would have guessed that completely blind-sided me. And yet, each turn the plot took, each twist that presented itself, all made sense in a very real-world setting. Which made the entire thing even more chilling than if it remained in the realm of fiction.

Most thrillers and suspense novels borrow from real life. They take a ‘what if’ and explore the dark underbelly of possibility. What could happen? And even though we know these things could happen, we take comfort in knowing they probably won’t.

With Containment, the details hit a little too close to home. They unravel with breathtaking speed, and every event makes your stomach queasy. Even more disconcerting is finding out that the author has studied and lectured on these exact topics. The book is fiction, but the ideas within the pages are all too real. As you read you can hear the reality a little too clearly.

There is a lot of “shop talk” within these pages. A credit to the strength of writing and story-telling of Parker in how he manages to make them seem natural to the reader. There is a glossary in the back, but I never felt the need to look up a term or felt confused in reading. He doesn’t work it into the dialogue, or place an awkward technical explanation in the writing, he simply is able to describe what he means without dumbing it down or calling it out. By the time I reached the glossary, I realized that how elegant these work-ins were. I didn’t even realize I needed a glossary.

It’s strange to think, but most plots, whether fictional or real life, truly only impact a small number of people. A person gets murdered, and while the effect on their friends and family is deep and profound, the tragedy is contained. Part of what makes Containment so bone-chilling, is the sheer idea of how many people can be impacted. A virus can kill millions in the blink of an eye. People, wildlife, pets, infected and killed, sometimes within hours or even days. The sheer volume of casualty is shocking, and the speed in which it can occur even more horrifying.

The title eludes to more than simply finding and stopping a virus. Containment zones need to be put into place, and the extent of those zones will vary by threat. It was chilling to read how quickly you could lose your rights in the event of a tragedy or emergency. How fast law-abiding citizens turn rogue as fear and panic set in. How little control we end up having in the face of disaster. The idea of containing not just the virus, but the fallout as well. I love a title that has multiple layers of meaning hidden within it.

I will caution sensitive readers going into this book. While there isn’t graphic violence, there are disturbing ideas discussed and presented. Parker doesn’t shy away from giving a direct understanding of what lethal viruses would look like in a human and animals, which is unpleasant to read about. There is a trigger scene involving a sexual assault. Again, nothing graphic or explicit, but the detail is realistic and can be disturbing.

This book is a thriller in the most strict of definitions. I found myself having to put it down and breathe through my unease. It is realistic and terrifying. Like any thrill ride, you’ll put the book down feeling shaky; adrenaline having spiked through your muscles leaving you exhilarated and shocked, but stronger for surviving the ride.

Thank you Touchstone Books for sending me a copy to read and review!

Traitor’s Hope – Review + GIVEAWAY

TRAITOR'S HOPE

Traitors lurk around every bend. Mishi’s mind is betraying her, and she fears her kisō and katana will betray her next. Taka’s heart abandons her for a person she cannot possibly trust. Now that the two friends are obliged to help re-establish peace in the land of Gensokai, the only question is where the next betrayal will come from and if Mishi and Taka will have the strength to survive it. 

I was thrilled to be able to dive right into Traitor’s Hope after finishing Blade’s Edge earlier this week! You can find my review HERE. A huge thank you to Rockstar Book Tours for hosting this tour and including me as a tour stop! Click the picture above to find more tours and be sure to check out all the blog stops on this tour, by clicking the links below!

First, I loved the first book. LOVED! The world building! The characters! The magic! I loved it all! I even loved the darkness that the world presented. Traitor’s Hope kept the same pacing and tone from Blade’s Edge and leveled up!

We still get narration from Taka and Mishi, both grown and traumatized in their own ways from the war fought. Instead of hearing from Tsuko this time, we get the perspective of Kusuko instead.

Assassin turned ally, Kusoko was one of the most interesting characters in the book. Her story of how she came to be a hishi assassin highlights the cruelty and brutality of the crumbled regime. But we get so much more than a heartbreaking story from Kusoko. We get an interesting look at the psychology of lifelong abuse and brainwashing. The depth we get from her is quite astounding, and made her not just an integral part of the story, but really brought to life what the New Council was fighting against.

The themes in this book are no less severe than in Blade’s Edge. We are still in the aftermath of war, with factions attempting to start a new one. The island of Gensokai is no less violent than before, and it still holds on to it’s negative views on anyone other than male Kisoshi. The war may be over, but the old regime is not going to be easily reformed.

“The illusion of power can make men blind to many things.”

And there is a lot to love in this sequel! First, I adore that even though this is the second in a series, and the story is obviously building on the first book, the story isn’t reliant on the first book. You could easily read this on its own, and while the experience won’t be quite as deep or rich, it would be enjoyable still. The second thing is that we get a glimpse of what a society looks like after a war. Often in a series, we get the ending of the series at the end of the conflict. So we don’t get to explore what the next steps in that rebuilding of society looks like. Here we do, and folks, it isn’t as easy as we would hope.

“I hadn’t considered that there would be men evil enough to keep harming innocents even once they knew the truth of their own actions.”

As the society is dismantled and rebuilt, we also get more information about the elemental magic kiso. Learning more about how the elements work, and even how they can combine both within an individual and with Kisoshi working together was fantasy at it’s best! I wish we could have gotten a bit more with my favorite Dragon and Tree Kami, but I get it, rebuilding a society isn’t about training, so we didn’t see quite as much of them.

And talk about plots! Plots with plots, schemes within schemes! The brilliance of the title is that you go in suspecting someone of being treacherous. What you don’t expect is how many people that could possibly be! I gave up trying to figure out who was going to betray who, because the double crosses on the double crosses became impossible to guess. I really liked that each character presented, both old and new, were as vividly complex as before. And this complexity made predicting treachery nearly impossible. But it isn’t simply treachery between characters. McClain shows us the danger in betraying our true selves.

In keeping with the first book and taking an unflinching look at tough themes, this book dives deep into exploring PTSD. The emotional wreckage that violence leaves is real. And even if you’ve been training for war, the reality of it is often very traumatic. I loved that McClain really let us see how deep these wounds can be in a character. How patience and time and understanding can help heal those wounds.

“She was very afraid of what lay beneath the visions that haunted her dreams, both waking and sleeping.”

Finally, we get to see a budding same sex romance. It’s fantastic to see an author seamlessly introduce the budding sexuality of her characters and include diversity in that development. The romances are slow, and sweet, written more from the emotional development rather than focusing on the physical. That was refreshing and added to the emotional growth of each character.

This is a world I am deeply in love with. I love the characters, and want to know what happens next. I love how McClain isn’t afraid to explore some really intense topics, and she does them justice. Whether it’s revisiting old characters, or getting to know new ones, the dialogue and personalities are such  joy to read! This is a series that I will be continuing as long as she writes them!

Thank you Rockstar Book Tours for the opportunity to participate on this tour; as well as the chance to read and review these books! They are phenomenal!

New Cover

Title: TRAITOR’S HOPE (Blade’s Edge #2)

Author: Virginia McClain

Pub. Date: October 14, 2017

Publisher: Artemis Dingo Productions

Pages: 284

Formats: Paperback eBook

Find it: AmazonBuy The Paperback, Goodreads

 

V and Artemis

About Virginia: 

Virginia thinks dangling from the tops of hundred foot cliffs is a good time. She also enjoys hauling a fifty pound backpack all over the Grand Canyon and sleeping under the stars. Sometimes she likes running for miles through the desert, mountains, or wooded flatlands, and she always loves getting lost in new places where she may or may not speak the language.

From surviving earthquakes in Japan, to putting out a small forest fire in Montana, Virginia has been collecting stories from a very young age. She works hard to make her fiction as adventurous as her life and her life as adventurous as her fiction. Both take a lot of imagination.

She recently moved to Winnipeg with her husband (a Manitoba native) and their dog.

Website | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads

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1 winner will receive a signed paperback set of BLADE’S EDGE & TRAITOR’S HOPE, US Only.

3 winners will receive eBook sets of BLADE’S EDGE & TRAITOR’S HOPE, International.

CLICK THE SAMURI SWORD TO ENTER
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Be sure to follow the rest of the blog tour, and visit the previous stops too!

Tour Schedule:

Week One:

10/9/2017- Two Chicks on Books Interview

10/9/2017- Blushing Bibliophile– Review

10/10/2017- Arvenig.it– Guest Post

10/10/2017- Bibliobakes– Review

10/11/2017- Kati’s Bookaholic Rambling Reviews– Excerpt

10/11/2017- Ashley M. Delgado– Review

10/12/2017- A Dream Within A Dream– Excerpt

10/12/2017- Don’t Judge, Read– Spotlight

10/13/2017- BookHounds YA– Guest Post

10/13/2017- Adventures Thru Wonderland– Review

Week Two:

10/16/2017- Novel Novice– Excerpt

10/16/2017- Nick Bryan Dot Com– Review

10/17/2017- Books at Dawn– Guest Post

10/17/2017- YA and Wine– Excerpt

10/18/2017- Fire and Ice– Spotlight

10/18/2017- A Gingerly Review– Review

10/19/2017- My Nook, Books & More– Excerpt

10/19/2017- Jena Brown Writes– Review

10/20/2017- Seeing Double In Neverland– Interview

10/20/2017- Ramblings From An Alternate Reality– Review