The Lady Rogue by Jenn Bennett – Spoiler Free Review

Publisher: Simon Pulse

Publication Date: September 03, 2019

Genre: YA Fantasy, Historical

Adventure Rating: 3.5 Stars

Amazon

The Last Magician meets A Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue in this thrilling tale filled with magic and set in the mysterious Carpathian Mountains where a girl must hunt down Vlad the Impaler’s cursed ring in order to save her father.

Some legends never die…

Traveling with her treasure-hunting father has always been a dream for Theodora. She’s read every book in his library, has an impressive knowledge of the world’s most sought-after relics, and has all the ambition in the world. What she doesn’t have is her father’s permission. That honor goes to her father’s nineteen-year-old protégé—and once-upon-a-time love of Theodora’s life—Huck Gallagher, while Theodora is left to sit alone in her hotel in Istanbul.

Until Huck arrives from an expedition without her father and enlists Theodora’s help in rescuing him. Armed with her father’s travel journal, the reluctant duo learns that her father had been digging up information on a legendary and magical ring that once belonged to Vlad the Impaler—more widely known as Dracula—and that it just might be the key to finding him.

Journeying into Romania, Theodora and Huck embark on a captivating adventure through Gothic villages and dark castles in the misty Carpathian Mountains to recover the notorious ring. But they aren’t the only ones who are searching for it. A secretive and dangerous occult society with a powerful link to Vlad the Impaler himself is hunting for it, too. And they will go to any lengths—including murder—to possess it. “

*Thank you to the publisher and Net Galley for the e-arc in exchange for an honest review!*

I really had fun reading this book! And let’s be honest here, that’s really why I read, to have a good time. I was caught up in this story right away. Literally from the first page I was like the Kool-Aid Man going, “OH YEAH”! However, towards the end it kind of lacked it’s shine. Books are usually the other way around for me. It takes me awhile to get into them and then the ending has me wow’d.

Characters: Theodora was actually pretty funny. She was cleverly sarcastic, believable in her actions, and fun to read about. I LOVED her sense of adventure. She was a “damn the consequences” type of gal. She was a dreamer. Huck, was the opposite. Poor guy was dragged along to her wild adventurous ways (even though he kind of liked it). He was also very practical which was a good balance. He was also very charming. They had good chemistry also, and I liked that they had a deep history before the story started. You don’t see that too often.

Plot. Like I said, the plot pulled me in from the get-go. I was all about that Vlad life, you know? And not Bram Stoker’s Vlad but historical Vlad. I find him extremely interesting. I also liked the creative direction the author took for his story! The historical part was actually pretty rich and deep considering it was a shorter book! BUT I feel like more could have been done. It felt almost too magical realism rather than fantasy. The fantasy element only came into play maybe the last 50 pages or so? I felt as though more could have been done with the magic and the surprise element at the end.

Writing. I can understand why so many people are Jenn Bennett fans! She’s actually quite funny! She is clever and a bit mysterious in her writing. I will definitely be reading her other works!

Final Thoughts. I would recommend this book to anyone who likes just a taste of magical horror. Vlad is a very interested historical figure to read about and books like these might help teens to get interested in history. As an adult, if you are looking for a short, fun read, check it out!

* *Normal disclaimer that content warning isn’t necessarily my personal thoughts. It’s for parents. *

CONTENT WARNING: Kissing, talk of sex, mild swearing, death, gore, blood, the general history of Vlad is extremely violent.

OTHER CONTENT: Family is extremely important, helping those that are in need, strong female lead, following your convictions, towards the end, promoting healthy communication

*Amazon link is my affiliate link!*

Do you like Vlad (pretty sure I’ve said ‘Vlad’ too many times in this review) the Impaler retellings? What are your favorites?

The Harp of Kings (The Warrior Bards, #1) by Juliet Marillier – Spoiler Free Review

Publisher: Ace Books

Publication Date: September 03, 2019

Genre: High Fantasy

Adventure Rating: 4 Stars

Amazon

A young woman is both a bard–and a warrior–in this thrilling historical fantasy from the author of the Sevenwaters novels.

Eighteen-year-old Liobhan is a powerful singer and an expert whistle player. Her brother has a voice to melt the hardest heart, and a rare talent on the harp. But Liobhan’s burning ambition is to join the elite warrior band on Swan Island. She and her brother train there to compete for places, and find themselves joining a mission while still candidates. Their unusual blend of skills makes them ideal for this particular job, which requires going undercover as traveling minstrels. For Swan Island trains both warriors and spies.

Their mission: to find and retrieve a precious harp, an ancient symbol of kingship, which has gone mysteriously missing. If the instrument is not played at the upcoming coronation, the candidate will not be accepted and the people could revolt. Faced with plotting courtiers and tight-lipped druids, an insightful storyteller, and a boorish Crown Prince, Liobhan soon realizes an Otherworld power may be meddling in the affairs of the kingdom. When ambition clashes with conscience, Liobhan must make a bold decision and is faced with a heartbreaking choice. . . “

*Thank you so much to Ace for sending me an ARC in exchange for an honest review!*

This was my first Juliette Marillier book and I quite enjoyed it! It was a very traditional fantasy. Meaning it was more focused on the characters, I think, than the plot. Which I am completely fine with! It had elves, magic, druids, bards, and warriors! It reminded me a tad bit of an RPG!

Characters. Almost all of the character names were pronounced differently than how they were spelled. I was very thankful for the pronunciation guide at the beginning of the book! Liobhan (sounds like Leevahn), is totally BA. I really liked her personality. She was very headstrong and always did what she thought was right, and not necessarily what she wanted. She also had a feminine side to her that I appreciated. Why can’t women be BA AND very feminine?! She played her spy role fairly well I think! Dau. Oh sweet Dau. I think he is a cinnamon roll (and I NEVER use that term!) He has a very hard exterior but once you get to know him, your heart breaks for him. Brocc is a total sweetie. He has a bit of a secret past as well that he tries to run away from but it ends up finding him. He has musical magic abilities which I found really cool!

Plot. All three main character POV go on a quest to find a missing harp. Obviously A LOT of things happen during their quest. And there is a bigger plot happening that we have yet to really find out about! Plus a few mini plots that are happening. There is a lot to read about! We just get a teaser of what looks to be some pretty cool dark magic at hand. I hope we find out more in book 2!

Writing. I am officially a big fan of Marillier’s now! She really has a way of drawing you into the story so much so that it was hard sometimes to come back into the real world.

Final Thoughts. Really enjoyed it! Can’t wait to read another one of her books and the second book to this series! Harp of Kings reads like a nostalgic bedtime story. That ending was a tear-jerker! And I have questions! And I want to see if my ship sails…

Have you read a Juliet Marillier book? If so, what is your favorite?

*Book Sleeve from Love You More Studio! My rep code is Storied10 to save in their shop!*

*Amazon link is my affiliate link! No extra cost to you. I get paid by Amazon if someone shops through my link!*

WWW Wednesday

This is my first time participating in WWW Wednesday and I’m so excited! This was started by MizB at A Daily Rhythm and brought back by Taking on a World of Words.

Rules are to just answer three questions:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

Currently Reading:

Ship of Destiny by Robin Hobb

I am OBSESSED with this series and author right now! I am listening to this on audible and quite enjoy it!

An Unkindness of Magicians by Kat Howard

I am reading this for one of my bookclubs and am really liking it so far! It takes place in our modern world! There is basically a secret elitist magic society and they are competing in s tournament!

The Lady Rogue by Jenn Bennett

It’s about a girl whose Indiana Jones like – father goes missing searching for a cursed ring that belonged to Vlad the Impaler! I am also liking this one so far! I love how feisty the main character is!

Recently Finished:

The Harp of Kings by Juliet Marillier

Review coming next week! I really enjoyed this one! It gave me a mix of RPG vibes and nostalgia!

Crown of Coral and Pearl by Mara Rutherford

Review also coming next week! I liked this!

Reading Next:

I am really trying to get a handle on my ARCs so I am going to try to read two within the next few weeks!

The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow

Tiger Queen by Annie Sullivan

Have you read any of these? Or are any on your TBR?

The Beginner’s Guide to Winning an Election by Michael R. French – Feature

Publisher: Moot Point Productions

Publication Date: November 20, 2018

Genre: YA, Fiction

Amazon

I am very excited to be on a feature tour for The Beginner’s Guide to Winning an Election by Michael R. French! Thank you so much to the author and TLC Book Tours for the free copy! And I have a giveaway running on my Instagram!

This sounds like a good read for any young teen to start to get into politics. It is really important for them to start learning about how the system works and how they are going to vote on the issues at hand.

” Brit Kitridge’s plan was just to get her high school diploma and head to college and med school, but nobody can escape from fate, or is it history? The Beginner’s Guide To Winning an Election reveals our main character’s love for history, and after a summer reading books that fuel her passion for politics, Brit decides to join TM (Team Mathew), a fourteen-member group that has helped Mathew Boltanski win every election he’s ever entered. Now he’s going for the big one—student body president. By orchestrating brilliant campaigns one after the other, TM has made Matthew a national young star and promising politician who could even run for higher office in Washington. When Brit is accused of sabotaging the team, she realizes that Hawthorn High has its secrets, and someone needs to shed some light on them. The story is set in a world six years ahead of our time. Security is a constant issue. Politics isn’t black-and-white, it’s not even gray anymore. Inflation is out of control and the educational system is in crisis. But what happens when you find out what’s really going on? What do you do with secrets no one but you wants to hold up to the light?”

National best selling author Michael French is a graduate of Stanford University and Northwestern University. He is a businessman and author who divides his time between Santa Barbara, California, and Santa Fe, New Mexico. He is an avid high-altitude mountain trekker, world traveler to developing countries, and is a collector of first editions of twentieth-century fiction.

He has published twenty two books, including fiction, young adult fiction, biographies, and art criticism. His novel, Abingdon’s, was a bestseller and a Literary Guild Alternate Selection. His young adult novel, Pursuit, was awarded the California Young Reader Medal.

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

The Mad Ship by Robin Hobb – Spoiler Free Review

Publisher: Harper Voyager

Publication Date: March 1999

Genre: Fantasy

Adventure Rating: 4.5 Stars

Amazon

“The Farseer trilogy continues the dramatic tale of piracy, serpents, love and magic. The Vestrit family’s liveship, Vivacia, has been taken by the pirate king, Kennit. Held captive on board, Wintrow Vestrit finds himself competing with Kennit for Vivacia’s love as the ship slowly acquires her own bloodlust. Leagues away, Althea Vestrit has found a new home aboard the liveship Ophelia, but she lives only to reclaim the Vivacia and with her friend, Brashen, she plans a dangerous rescue. Meanwhile in Bingtown, the fading fortunes of the Vestrit family lead Malta deeper into the magical secrets of the Rain Wild Traders. And just outside Bingtown, Amber dreams of relaunching Paragon, the mad liveship … “

I think more often than not second books fall into that “sophomore slump”. Not this one! It could be because this is technically the 5th book that Hobbs wrote. This second installment of The Liveship Traders was, in my opinion, better than the first! It introduces so many new elements and plot points that I loved!

Characters. I hated Malta in the first book and the first half of this book. However, and I have no idea how this happened, but a switch went off and she became my favorite plot line to read about! She really developed into a strong young woman instead of a whiny brat. Speaking of whiny brats, Althea. Ugh. She was still so annoying. She literally would never accept help from anyone because she wants to be “independent”. That’s not maturity. And she is hurting those around her by acting like that. Brashen straitens up a little bit. I was unhappy with the direction he was going but happy where he ended up! Amber is still so mysterious and I now have a pretty good idea of who she is. Reyn, I think, is my favorite! I ship him and Malta so hard! Kefria is slightly annoying. She won’t change even though everything else is changing. Kennit is my other favorite character to read about! He’s so intriguing! He is doing good things but with the wrong motives. Wintrow, next to Reyn, is probably the most honorable character. He always tries to do the right things no matter the cost. Ronica is who I want to be when I “grow up”! Serilla makes me nervous. She went through something horrible but then used that as an excuse to be horrible. And poor Vivacia and Paragon!!

Plot. I am going to try to not say spoilers so I won’t spend much time here. Let me just say this, DRAGONS. Oh. Yes. There is still a lot of high seas adventures, crazy talking ships, a bit of romance, mystery, backstabbing, and plot twists. Kennit is still bent on taking over the pirate isles and we still don’t quite know why. Althea, Amber, and Brashen are outfitting the insane ship Paragon (that’s definitely going to go well…) to sail after Kennit, who has the Vestrit family ship and Wintrow. Ronica, Malta, Reyn, and Kefria are battling the people who are trying to take over Bingtown and some threats within. And meanwhile we are still following the tangle that is the sea serpents and what they are up to. There is a lot going on in this book and I love it.

Final Thoughts. This might become one of my favorite series. It is the exact adventure I love. I am already deep into book 3 and can’t wait to finish! I want to read everything Hobb has written!

Have you read anything by Robin Hobb? What is your favorite? OR what is your favorite high seas adventure?

Recursion by Blake Crouch – Spoiler Free Review

Publisher: Crown Publishing Group (NY)

Publication Date: June 11, 2019

Genre: Sci-fi, Fiction, Thriller

Adventure Rating: 4 Stars

Amazon

Memory makes reality.

That’s what New York City cop Barry Sutton is learning as he investigates the devastating phenomenon the media has dubbed False Memory Syndrome—a mysterious affliction that drives its victims mad with memories of a life they never lived.

That’s what neuroscientist Helena Smith believes. It’s why she’s dedicated her life to creating a technology that will let us preserve our most precious memories. If she succeeds, anyone will be able to re-experience a first kiss, the birth of a child, the final moment with a dying parent. 

As Barry searches for the truth, he comes face-to-face with an opponent more terrifying than any disease—a force that attacks not just our minds but the very fabric of the past. And as its effects begin to unmake the world as we know it, only he and Helena, working together, will stand a chance at defeating it.

But how can they make a stand when reality itself is shifting and crumbling all around them?”

This was my first Blake Crouch book and I completely understand the hype. It’s been a really long time since I’ve read a Fiction book that has challenged my mind. I truly believe that what happened in this book would never happen in real life, but it was really scary to think about!

Characters. There was a good mix of a scientific mind, Helena, and a mind that solves puzzles, Barry, who is a detective. Their minds meshed and worked so well together! Helena is one-minded and married to her work. Barry, I think just wants love and purpose. In the beginning I found Barry to be more exciting to read about. Helena’s chapters were really, really scientific and some of it went over my head. But I didn’t mind, because I found it fascinating to find out what happens to your brain when you die. But towards the end, Helena had the more interesting interactions.

Plot. Crouch is like a mastermind or something. I am usually pretty good at guessing where a book is going to go but he takes you to different places. I could not guess what was going to happen. I can’t even talk about it because of spoilers! But the way he melded the past, present, and future together with memories was amazing. What would happen if you could remember something that never happened to you? Or if you remembered your own death? What would the repercussions be if millions of people had these false memories? Also, THAT ENDING THOUGH, WHAT?! I HAVE QUESTIONS.

Writing. I understand why people like Crouch so much. His writing is precise, witty, and very smart. He writes a good balance of character development and highly intriguing plot. I am officially a fan!

Final Thoughts. I want to read all of his books right now. My husband and I watched Wayward Pines before it got cancelled and loved it. I would also highly recommend this book to anyone who likes the movie Inception…

Have you read any of Blake Crouch books? If so, what do you recommend?

The Gossamer Mage by Julie E. Czerneda – Spoiler Free Review

Publisher: DAW

Publication Date: August 6, 2019

Genre: Fantasy

Amazon

From an Aurora Award-winning author comes a new fantasy epic in which one mage must stand against a Deathless Goddess who controls all magic.

Only in Tananen do people worship a single deity: the Deathless Goddess. Only in this small, forbidden realm are there those haunted by words of no language known to woman or man. The words are Her Gift, and they summon magic.

Mage scribes learn to write Her words as intentions: spells to make beasts or plants, designed to any purpose. If an intention is flawed, what the mage creates is a gossamer: a magical creature as wild and free as it is costly for the mage.

For Her Gift comes at a steep price. Each successful intention ages a mage until they dare no more. But her magic demands to be used; the Deathless Goddess will take her fee, and mages will die.

To end this terrible toll, the greatest mage in Tananen vows to find and destroy Her. He has yet to learn She is all that protects Tananen from what waits outside. And all that keeps magic alive.”

I am so excited to be on the blog tour for The Gossamer Mage! Thank you so much to the publisher, DAW, for sending me an ARC and a finished copy in exchange for a review.

Characters. My favorite point of view was probably Maleonarial. He was the mage that raged against the injustice that the goddess takes part of a mages life in exchange for magic. They die early deaths. Maleonarial goes on a quest to kill her and take back the stolen futures of his kind. He was a kind soul but also knew what needed to be done. He mourned but didn’t hesitate to do what was right. I admired that. Kaitealyon is a Daughter of the goddess. They speak with her authority in different holds. I liked her. She was a mother and protected her son at all costs. She had this sense of almost super-hero like honor when it came to Tananen (the land they live in). There were also side character POV that were fun to read about.

Plot. The plot was my favorite part of the whole book. The fact that there is magic but it comes at a very high price. A twenty-seven year old that has used magic since he was fifteen would look like he was eighty. I really liked the magic system. I loved that writing words with your intention could produce something beautiful (or in Cil’s case, something horrible). They not only have to write the right words but have the right feelings behind them. And the plot twist at the end about the goddess was A+! And the eaters were a pretty scary threat. They ate magic and could take over people’s bodies! That Maleonarial and Kaitealyon had to team up against this threat was epic!

Writing. I had a really hard time being drawn into this book because of the writing. It was written very differently than what I used to. While I can appreciate the uniqueness, it wasn’t exactly my flavor. It seemed choppy and really hard to read. I often had to re-read sentences and paragraphs to understand what was going on.

Final Thoughts. This stand alone was hard to read but I loved the plot so much! Everything about this book was extremely unique!

“For over twenty years, Canadian author/ former biologist Julie E. Czerneda has shared her curiosity about living things through her science fiction, published by DAW Books, NY. Julie’s written fantasy too, the first installments of her Night’s Edge series (DAW) A Turn of Light and A Play of Shadow, winning consecutive Aurora Awards (Canada’s Hugo) for Best English Novel. Having completed her Clan Chronicles series with To Guard Against the Dark, Julie’s latest SF novel is Search Image, Book #1 of her new SF series, The Web Shifter’s Library, bringing back her beloved character Esen the Dear Little Blob. Julie’s edited/co-edited numerous award-winning anthologies of SF/F, including SFWA’s 2017 Nebula Award Showcase, but nothing prepared her for the sheer joy of opening her Clan Chronicles to fans of the series to produce Tales from Plexis, out December 2018. This year, Julie is delighted to a guest of honour at ConStellation, April 26-28th. What’s coming next? Her new fantasy standalone, The Gossamer Mage, out August 2019, and so much more ” Her Website