Owl and the Electric Samurai by Kristi Charish

I received this novel as an advanced copy from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

When I began to read this novel, I had no idea that it was part of a series. I wish I had known because it would have explained away a lot of the confusion I was feeling when I was reading. Anyways, here is my review:

Owl is an antiquities thief who reluctantly navigates the hidden supernatural world. And she is in for another adventure. The International Archaeology Association (IAA) is responsible for keeping all things supernatural hidden… but they are also the ones responsible for ruining Owl’s archaeology career. Needless to say, Owl’s still a little sore about that. But now, the IAA has a bounty out for the 2 designed of World Quest, an online RPG that is a whole lot more than it seems. Owl needs to find the gamers before the other mercenaries do … but when every clue points to them hiding in the legendary lost city of Shangri-La. Not only does Owl have to deal with competitors, she also finds herself dragged into a game of wits with someone who calls himself the Electric Samurai. The stakes are high, especially when losing means an all-out civil war between 2 powerful supernatural factions.

I felt that I was really at a disadvantage when it came to this novel because of my lack of knowledge on this series and the characters. There was a lot going on and not everything made sense. You definitely need to read this series in order in order to really understand and appreciate all that is going on. I’ve decided not to rate this book or post my review on Goodreads because I don’t think any of my comments would be a fair assessment of this novel since I didn’t do my due diligence and read this series properly. I would recommend this novel to anyone who is a fan of this series or is looking to start a new urban fantasy/supernatural series!

Happy reading ~

Visions by Kelley Armstrong – Cainsville #2

It’s been a while since I read Omens by this author but I really enjoyed that foray into urban fantasy. I hadn’t planned on waiting so long to read the sequel but … life … happens. Anyways, I finally got around to it so here is my review:

In Omens, Olivia Taylor-Jones discovers that she is the daughter of notorious serial killers. She finds an ally in Gabriel Walsh, a selfish, morally ambiguous lawyer. Together, they were able to find a devious killer and partially cleared Olivia’s parents from their crimes. Their success, however, doesn’t last long. While Olivia continues to take refuge in Cainsville, Gabriel’s past comes back to haunt both of them.

When Olivia finds a dead woman in her car, dressed just like her, she is shocked. What makes it worse is that the body disappears before anyone else sees it. Olivia is convinced it’s another omen. But when she learns that a real young woman went missing just a few days ago, it makes Olivia question whether the body she saw was just a simple omen – or a message. Who would have left this kind of warning and why? As Olivia tries to uncover the truth, she finds herself in the crosshairs of old and powerful forces that have their own agenda and secrets.

It took me a while to get into this novel because I couldn’t really remember what had happened. But after just a chapter or two, everything started to fall into place. It helped that the author provided recaps of important events from the first book to help set the tone for this novel. Again, we are thrown into a murder mystery that has some supernatural elements to it. I liked that the novel actually managed to answer some of the underlying questions that I had had from before. She also added a whole host of new elements that led to more questions. I will say that there is a whole new level of romance seen in this book that I was not expecting so …. readers be prepared! The dynamic between Olivia and Gabriel gets better in this novel and you really start to admire their witty friendship. One of the things that made me really happy about this novel is that the supernatural elements of the story were a lot more visible, even though it still maintained its main murder mystery plot; what drew me to the series in the first place was a promise of fantasy, and the author definitely delivered on that account. Overall, this is a novel filled with intrigue, supernatural forces, and an interesting murder mystery. If you liked Omens, you will definitely enjoy Visions!

Happy reading ~

Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman

Yes!!!!!!!!! A new Neil Gaiman that I haven’t read!!!! I was so excited when I heard about this book’s release, but I waited to read it at a time when I knew I could afford to do no work and just focus on the book – because Neil Gaiman deserves it! Anyways, here is my review:

Norse Mythology is a collection of stories that begins with the creation of the nine worlds, delves into the exploits of the deities, dwarves, and giants, and concludes in Ragnarok, a time of death and rebirth. We are introduced to Odin, the all-father; Thor, Odin’s son, known for his brawn but not for his wisdom; and Loki, son of giants, a trickster who constantly shifts between good and evil.

Yes, that is a very short summary of the novel. But I really cannot get into any more detail than that; in fact, giving the summary was pointless in itself. Anyways, as I mentioned, this is a collection of stories, arranged chronologically to a point. What makes this book so wonderful is that it takes the original stories and delivers them in a more straight-forward way, making it more accessible to readers. Gaiman takes away a great deal of flowery language that is usually seen in these types of stories and reimagines the gods in a more modern and interesting way. He highlights each god’s strengths and weaknesses, and makes the conversations easier to follow while not losing any subtle nuance. It goes to show why Gaiman is considered a master storyteller! This was a short read, mainly because a lot of the less important jargon was removed, but also because the stories itself were presented in a more interesting manner. If you have read other works by Gaiman, you can see how Norse mythology has inspired him in other original works by him! All in all, this was just a fresh take on classic mythology and it was highly entertaining and worth reading!

Happy reading ~

Miranda and Caliban by Jacqueline Carey

The Tempest is one of my favorite plays by Shakespeare. Something about the story and the magic always captured my interest, and I relish any chance to get back into that world. It’s one of the reasons that I love reading retellings of it, and so I was glad to hear of this one. Here is my review:

Miranda is a lonely child, with only her father, some animals, and a few spirits to keep her company in the abandoned Moorish palace where she lives. Her father’s fascination with a terrible wailing spirit trapped in a pine tree has him constantly practicing his magic, an art that he refuses to explain or teach to Miranda. And then there is the presence of a wild boy, who leaves little gifts for Miranda on their doorstep but never tries to make contact. Miranda knows her father has great plans but his refusal to provide her with explanations means she is left with a great deal of questions about who she is and where she comes from. The wild boy Caliban is a lonely child, too: orphaned at a young age, he has had to fend for himself and has no language that he speaks. When Caliban is summonded and bound into slavery by Miranda’s father, he rages against his shackles…. and yet, he yearns for the the kindness and love he sees in Miranda’s eyes.

This is by far one of my favorite retellings of The Tempest. It is dark, rich in detail, and takes the time to pull apart the characters and show their depth. When Shakespeare first wrote this, it was branded as a comedy. However, after this rendition, it is really better seen as a tragic romance. I love how the author reimagined Caliban, a character that I had always pitied in the original work. I also loved the dark undertones to the story, and how Miranda’s father is shown to have some madness inside of him. I could not put this book down and I felt so drawn to the different characters and their interaction; the author really made the relationships come alive in this story. While the story’s general plot line doesn’t change, the additions in nuance and character building really give the story a different element, and renders this retelling unique. Overall, a wonderfully written novel that tugged at my heartstrings!

Happy reading ~

Elves by Jean-Luc Istin

I received this novel as an advanced copy from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

One of my favorite things about graphic novels is how the artwork pulls me into the story. It makes reading a lot faster and allows me to get immersed into the world that the author is creating. I’ve been trying to read a lot more graphic novels nowadays so I was quite happy to have received this novel as an ARC!

This novel consists of 2 stories: The Crystal of the Blue Elves and The Honor of Sylvan Elves.

In The Crystal of the Blue Elves, the Blue Elves of Ennyla are found murdered. When Lanawyn, a Blue Elf, and Turin, her human ally, begin to investigate this crime, their trail leads them to a clan of Yrlans, Northern men who hate Elves. At the same time, Vaalann, a young Blue Elf, is about to go through an initiation test to divine her future under the guidance of Mother Prophetess. It seems that Vaalann’s future is linked to the Sacred Crystal, a powerful artifact that allows the wielder to control the ocean. Is Vaalann the messiah the Blue Elves have been waiting for?

In The Honor of Sylvan Elves, the Sylvan Elves are recluses that stay in their sacred grounds. Anyone who dares enter their territory soon become their prey. Meanwhile, Eysine is a city-state that has always respected the ancient pact between Elf and Man. But when a powerful army of Orks lay siege to the kingdom, Llali, the daughter of the King of Eysine, goes to remind the Elves of the treaty and their pledge to help.

Thus begins Elves, a sprawling saga of mythic proportions!

The art in this graphic novel is definitely beautiful but that’s the only thing I enjoyed about it. There were so many weak areas in this book. One of my major problems was the plot. The pacing was completely off; it was too fast in some places and too slow in others. The story line in the first story was unique but its execution was poor; the characters were sloppy, the writing style was choppy, and I always felt as if I had been thrown into the middle of the story. In terms of the second story, the flow and writing style were better, but the characters still lacked depth and the plot itself was boring. This wasn’t a terrible graphic novel, but it was by no means good. But hey, at least the artwork was impressive!

Happy reading ~

Hell’s Gate by Laurent Gaudé

I received this novel as an advanced copy from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

I always enjoy reading foreign novels. By this, I am referring to novels that are not in the English language. It’s interesting to see how the author’s culture and background influence the writing style and approach to the story they are creating. My only wish would be to be able to read the work in its original format, rather than as a translation. With this novel, I was interested to see how the author would take the concept of death and make it unique.

When Matteo’s son gets killed by gangsters in a crossfire as he makes his way to school, life seems to end for Matteo and his wife. Consumed by grief and despair, Matteo’s wife, Guiliana, asks him to either bring back their son or take revenge on the man who killed him. But when the moment for vengeance occurs, Matteo finds himself unable to commit the final deed. This disappointment becomes too much to bear and Guiliana leaves. It is during this time that Matteo makes the acquaintance of a mysterious priest who claims to know the way to the underworld and is willing to take him there. But the journey to the land of the dead is a dangerous one and may be more than Matteo bargained for.

This was an intriguing concept of vengeance, death, and grief. The author did such an amazing job portraying the complexity of grief and death, so much so that you can feel and understand the pain and suffering felt by Matteo and Guiliana. You can understand the decisions they make, the various stages of grief that they go through, and the ways in which they struggle to hold onto their lives even as life loses all meaning for them. It was powerful in that way, even though the reader never feels a true connection to any character. I would be hard-pressed to believe that any reader would be able to form a strong bond with the characters in this book, especially based on the storytelling style employed here. Usually, I consider this a negative, but in the case of this novel, it worked. It made the descent into the Underworld the focal point, and added a level of intrigue that may not have been possible if the reader was more focused on the character than the plot. This novel is guaranteed to take you on a unique journey that is thought-provoking and will stay with you long after you finish reading.

Happy reading ~

Omens by Kelley Armstrong – Cainsville #1

One of my best friends really loves Kelley Armstrong and has been urging me to read one of her books for a long time. So I took a look at some of her work. I know she is a very popular author and is well-known for her Otherworld series but it is a LONG series and I didn’t think I would have the time to plunge into that right now. The Cainsville series seemed really interesting so I decided to start here!

24-year-old Olivia Taylor-Jones has the perfect life. She is the only child of a wealthy, prominent Chicago family, and she is engaged to a handsome CEO who is entering the political field. But Olivia’s world shatters when she learns that she is adopted and her real parents are notorious serial killers, Todd and Pamela Larsen, who are in prison serving a life sentence. When the media makes a field day out of this news, Olivia sees no choice but to go into hiding. She ends up int he small town of Cainsville, Illinois, an old and tight-knit community that takes a shine to Olivia … and harbors secrets of its own. When Olivia becomes acquainted with her mother’s former lawyer, Gabriel Walsh (who also has ties to Cainsville), Olivia decides to take the opportunity to uncover her birth parents’ past. But as Olivia and Gabriel dig deeper into the crimes, Olivia finds herself drawing on abilities that she never knew she had, abilities that make her valuable to Cainsville but make her vulnerable to unknown enemies. It seems there are darker secrets and powers in play than Olivia could ever have imagined.

There are so many things that I loved about this novel and I want to talk about all of it so I’m going to try to approach this systematically:

When I first picked up this book, it was labelled as an urban fantasy. After reading this novel, I’m going to have to disagree with this classification. There is very little fantasy elements in this novel. Olivia is not going around tapping into some kind of magical power and using it. The title aptly describes the kind of supernatural influence that is pervasive in this novel: it’s all about seeing omens and interpreting them. There are also allusions to Wiccan rituals and fairies and other supernatural beings …. but they are not too heavily involved. First and foremost, this novel is a mystery. We follow Olivia and Gabriel as they go back into the past and try to uncover who was really behind some of the deaths that Olivia’s birth parents were accused of. Even when we do get to the bottom of the investigation that is at the forefront of this novel, the author has left enough room for the story to continue to delve deeper and expose bigger secrets in the following novels. That is one of the things that I really enjoyed about this novel; it did a great job of setting the scene for the story that is going to come in the next book. Incidentally, as soon as I finished this book, I went out and got the next one in the series. So that should be a good indication of how well the author was able to tease me into wanting to read more.

I really loved the characters. Gabriel and Olivia are sarcastic, selfish, and absolutely perfect. They are a great team and I loved reading about their interactions. If you are looking for a strong romance connection between them, you will be disappointed. But that is one of the things I loved: the romance was not strong! For once, the relationship between 2 main characters did not end in love!!!!! The fact that the author deviated from the stereotype made for a far more interesting relationship between the main characters. I loved their banter and their sarcasm and their confusion about each other and their tentative friendship.

The writing style is nothing elaborate or fancy. And that made it perfect for this story. Everything was told as it is, with no crazy metaphors. You got everything point-blank. This worked in the story’s favor because it made me really connect with the emotions and the characters. I laughed, I freaked out … I felt everything genuinely. The chapters were mostly told in Olivia’s perspective but there were other perspectives thrown in here and there that made the story pop out. The different perspectives had that supernatural aspect that the author alluded to in her blurb, and it made me curious to see where the story would go.

When the final pieces of the puzzle came together, I was a bit skeptical. I don’t know if I really loved the direction the author took in terms of the perpetrators of the murder but it was unusual and I’m interested in seeing where the author takes it in the next novel.

With all this being said, I really loved this novel and had a great experience. I would not recommend this book to anyone looking for a strong supernatural/fantasy novel; this is better suited for someone who likes mysteries that have elements of the supernatural thrown in. It was a fast-paced action-packed read with an awesome duo taking the stage, and I cannot wait to read the next book in the series!

Happy reading ~

Nevernight by Jay Kristoff – Nevernight Chronicle #1

I didn’t really know what to expect when I got this novel. It seemed interesting enough with its amazing cover art and its blurb about assassins. I love all things dark and anti-heroes are my favorite, especially when they’ve got a pretty kick-ass revenge plot. I was quite excited to read this novel … and it shows because I stayed up until 4am in the morning to finish this book, and I forgot to eat lunch and dinner!

In a land where three suns almost never set, a fledgling killer joins a school of assassins, seeking vengeance against the powers who destroyed her family.

Mia Corvere barely escaped her father’s failed rebellion with her life. With him executed as a traitor, her mother is sent to a prison with her younger brother, and Mia was sent to her death. She manages to escape and finds herself alone and friendless in a city built from the bones of a dead god. But she finds solace at the doors of a retired killer, who leads her to a future she could never have imagined. Now, Mia is sent to train with the deadliest group of assassins in the entire Republic: the Red Church. If she can beat her classmates in the areas of steel, poison, and the subtle arts, she will be inducted among the Blades of the Lady of Blessed Murder – and one step closer to the revenge she seeks. But with a killer loose within the church, Mia may not even survive to initiation.

I find that the more I love a book, the worse I am at articulating what it is I like about the novel. I’m going to try my best to overcome that here.

This is not a novel that is light-hearted. You are reading a story about assassins and as such, this novel is grim and dark and full of complexity. Every person is a cold-blooded killer and you really cannot trust anyone. On top of that, there is a murder plot going on that becomes quite important as the story goes on. What I loved about this story was that it kept its theme throughout; the same intensity and darkness were maintained and the novel was engaging to read. I loved that the characters themselves were so dark and broken and messed-up – it made for such interesting characters. The author did a great job with creating the anti-hero and showing her growth. The story flits between her past and present in such a way that I felt like I knew her and also felt like she was an enigma all at the same time. Every character introduced has a purpose – but whether they are good or bad remains to be seen. This novel was a rollercoaster ride and it was one of the best rollercoasters I have ever been on!

I am not a fan of lengthy descriptions and overusage of metaphors and similes. But it worked for this novel. The first chapter that I encountered was written in alternating paragraph form, depicting 2 distinctly different scenes in a similar manner. It hooked me. It was such a unique and interesting way to write and as soon as I read it, I had to reread it again to make sure of what I had just read. It was one of those woah-epiphany moments for me, and after that, I was captivated by the writing style employed in this novel. I loved that there were footnotes included that gave little funny tidbits from an unknown sarcastic narrator. I enjoyed having glimpses between the past and the present, and the way the author wrote made it a mystery as to who is actually on Mia’s side and who is a potential threat.

Overall, I found this book spellbinding from the start, with its unique (and humorous) prose, its sinister plot, and its amazing characters. I am anxiously waiting to read Godsgrave, the next novel in this series!

Happy reading ~

Medalon by Jennifer Fallon – Hythrun Chronicles: Demon Child #1

The series is called Demon Child. I mean… DEMON CHILD!!! How could I NOT read it with such an insanely cool title?! Initially, I was drawn to this series because of The Lyre Thief, which just recently got released. But when I found out that Lyre Thief wasn’t the first book in the series, I knew that I would have to start from the beginning. Which brought me here to Medalon.

Medalon is a small country bordered by the nation of Karien in the north and the nations of Fardohnya and Hythria in the south. The Sisters of the Blade rule Medalon with an iron fist, with an elite army of Defenders to enforce their rules. The Sisters forbid the worship of all gods, including the Harshini, a magical race that has been long extinct. They quash all signs of heathens with the force of the Defenders. And so, there is an uneasy peace. R’shiel Tenragan and her half-brother Tarja findd themselves caught up in a political battle when their mother takes on the role of the First Sister. In order to escape from her machinations, R’shiel and Tarja flee the Citadel for safer ground. But by fleeing, they incur the wrath of the Sisters and the Defenders, who hunt them as traitors. Meanwhile, in Hythria, Brak, a Harshini outcast, is tasked with finding the demon child, the half-human child of the dead Harshini king. But what does this have to do with R’shiel and Tarja?

I can see how I’m going to get hooked to this series! I really really liked this novel! When you read a lot of teen fantasy novels or standalone fantasy novels, there is a lot of world-building that gets missed. Not the case in this novel! You can tell the author spent a great deal of time envisioning this fantasy world; everything was well thought out and intricately put together. I felt like I was living in the story myself because it was so detailed! The story is interesting from page 1 and every perspective is explored at different intervals so you read about the situation happening in every country. There are some violent parts in the story, and rape does get brought up, so consider this your trigger warning! In general, I love power struggles; it’s one of my favorite things about GoT, so I was really glad to see it expressed strongly in this novel.

I will admit, though, there were 3 things that I wasn’t so happy about:

1) R’shiel is not a very strong protagonist; I wanted her to be more fierce but she was a lot more weak and stayed in the backseat while her brother took the main stage. Not that I didn’t like Tarja, but I wanted to see some more badassery from her.

2) There is a romance element that made me feel really awkward. It should not have happened. Seriously, it just felt really weird and I have no idea why it came about that way and I really hope it somehow…. stops….

3) Brak’s character is pretty much useless. He is supposed to find the demon child and bring them to one of the Gods but he literally does nothing except observe throughout the whole novel. It made me really annoyed because he could have had a more active role.

That being said, I still thought this was a really good novel. There was tons of action and duplicity and conniving characters and intrigue. The author really immerses the reader into this fictional world, and that allowed me to have a great experience while reading this novel. I will definitely be continuing with this series!

Happy reading ~

Chasing Embers by James Bennett

I received this novel as an advanced copy from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

I really like stories that take mythology and put it in an urban setting. Neil Gaiman is one of my favorite authors because he’s just such a master of reviving mythology and putting an interesting twist on it. I recently discovered Brom, and he is also fantastic at taking classic characters and reshaping them. I was really excited to read this story, hoping that it would also succeed in this lofty goal.

Ben Garston is your typical guy with an attitude, drowning his sorrows in a bar. At least, that’s what you think. Ben is actually Red Ben, from a world of myth and legend that has been hidden from view. He’s been doing a good job of keeping his identity a secret, but even he isn’t prepared for the hell that is about to break loose. When a centuries-old rivalry resurfaces, it will break the delicate balance between his world and ours.

I really wanted to like this book. And I don’t actually think the story is bad in any way. However, the writing style really put me off. It was far too descriptive and I just couldn’t focus on what was actually happening. The other reason I didn’t like this book is because I didn’t really care about any of the characters. I wasn’t able to form a bond with any of them enough to want to read more about them. Like I mentioned before, this story isn’t a bad one at all. It’s got plenty of action and a fast-moving pace. However, it just didn’t cut it for me, and so I’m going to have to add this to my DNF list. I hope that others who are interested in urban fantasy will still give this novel a shot because there is definitely potential in the overall story!

Happy reading ~