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Book Review: Traitor’s Blade by Sebastien De Castell

Traitor's Blade by Sebastien De Castell

Title: Traitor’s Blade

Author: Sebastien De Castell

Series: Greatcoats #1

Genre: Fantasy

Rating: 3.5/5 stars

The Overview: Falcio is the first Cantor of the Greatcoats. Trained in the fighting arts and the laws of Tristia, the Greatcoats are travelling Magisters upholding King’s Law. They are heroes. Or at least they were, until they stood aside while the Dukes took the kingdom, and impaled their King’s head on a spike. Now Tristia is on the verge of collapse and the barbarians are sniffing at the borders. The Dukes bring chaos to the land, while the Greatcoats are scattered far and wide, reviled as traitors, their legendary coats in tatters. All they have left are the promises they made to King Paelis, to carry out one final mission. But if they have any hope of fulfilling the King’s dream, the divided Greatcoats must reunite, or they will also have to stand aside as they watch their world burn… -Goodreads

The Review:

This is one of those books that improves as it goes. My initial impression from just the first chapter was not fantastic. The story was told in a very over-the-top sarcastic voice that was almost condescending to the reader. It made me question whether the book would offer enough substance, or if I was in for a whole lot of bolstering and nothing else. Thankfully, about the point I would’ve gotten fed up, it started to tone down and I had just enough interest to keep going.

Then I hit about the halfway point and magic happened. I’m still not sure exactly what changed, but I was shocked to find myself suddenly unwilling to put it down. Who’d have thought a 1 or 2 star beginning would turn into a 4 to 5 star ending? And the second book was even better (RTC on that).

I’ve heard Greatcoats described as an alternate take on the Three Musketeers, and can’t say I disagree with that assessment. It has the same spirit of camaraderie, loyalty, and humor. But it definitely differs in delivery by amping up the sarcasm and humor to just shy of tolerable at times (this definitely relaxes as the story progresses, turning into much-needed comedic relief for some of the more intense scenes). Eventually it finds its balance, but the dynamics between the three Greatcoats was definitely a consistent highlight throughout.

Traitor’s Blade introduced some cool plot ideas I don’t think I’ve seen before, and I really liked how the story developed. It truly surprised me how much I ended up loving the second half of the book. This is one of those rare instances where I’m glad I stuck with it.

Recommendations: Traitor’s Blade had a very Locke Lamora attitude (on crack) that I think will appeal to fantasy readers who like a mix of humor and grit in their books. I think it’s safe to say that the beginning suffers a bit from being overdone, but if you stick with it, the payoff is well worth the effort.

Other books you might like:

by Niki Hawkes

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Book Review: Unraveled by Kate Jarvik Birch [and Blog Tour!]

Title: Unraveled

Author: Kate Jarvik Birch

Series: Perfected #3

Rating: 4/5 stars

The Overview: Ella isn’t anyone’s pet anymore, but she’s certainly not free. After exposing the dark secrets about NuPet’s breeding program, forcing them to repeal the law that allowed genetically modified girls to be kept as pets, she thought girls like her would finally be free. She never dreamed that it would backfire. NuPet may have convinced the public of their intentions to assimilate pets back into society, but Ella knows it’s a lie. They aren’t planning mass rehabilitation…they’re planning a mass extermination.  Now, with the help of a small group of rebels, Ella and Penn, the boy she’d give up her life for, set out to bring down NuPet for good. But when her group gets implicated in a string of bombings, no one is safe. If she can’t untangle the web of blackmail and lies that extends far beyond NuPet’s reach, she won’t just lose her chance at freedom, she’ll lose everyone she loves.

The Review:

I’m a fan of this series. Kate Jarvik Birch is such a lovely writer, and Ella’s story is one I won’t soon forget.

The beauty of the Perfected series was Ella’s inner story. I’ll always hold Perfected (book 1) on a pedestal for how much the innocent love story within touched me. It’s where Ella learned to see herself as a person, and a person of worth at that. Tarnished (book 2) will stick with me for the pit it put in my stomach. It’s where Ella learned the ugly cruelty of the world, but used those experiences to find and shape her convictions. More poignantly, it’s where those convictions blossomed into hope for a better world, and turned into determination to make her vision reality.

Unraveled, this final book of the trilogy, is where Ella, molded by her experiences of love and hardship, stands strong on her own and fights for vindication. Because it’s her choice.

I fully loved the journey and appreciated what each installment brought to the story. Admittedly, some of the events and dynamics in Unraveled required some suspended belief, but because the strength of the series is in the beautifully conveyed concept, I was able to put aside the need for super-realistic and just enjoy the action-packed ride to the end. This is one of those series where delivery makes a difference, and the author’s lovely writing always had me on board. Overall, these beautiful hardcovers get a permanent home on my shelves. :)

Recommendations: Perfected was a trilogy of unforgettably poignant moments that fits snugly into what I’m calling the “elegant dystopia” genre, where pretty dresses and fancy lifestyles are underscored by ugly realities (you know what I mean if you’ve read any… it’s one of my favorite weird sub-genres). Each book offers something different, the first of which landed in my conservative list of all-time favorites.

I’d like to thank Entangled Teen and Kate Jarvik Birch for the chance to read and review an early copy of Unraveled. :)

About Kate Jarvik Birch:  Kate Jarvik Birch is a visual artist, author, playwright, daydreamer, and professional procrastinator. As a child, she wanted to grow up to be either a unicorn or mermaid. Luckily, being a writer turned out to be just as magical. Her essays and short stories have been published in literary journals including Indiana Review and Saint Ann’s Review. She lives in Salt Lake City, Utah with her husband and three kids. Author Website: katejarvikbirch.com Author Twitter: @katejarvikbirch Author Facebook Author Goodreads Author Instagram 
Buylinks: https://entangledpublishing.com/unraveled.html

Other books you might like:

by Niki Hawkes

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Tackling the TBR [33]: April 2018

tackling the TBR

It’s once again time for my favorite feature: Tackling the TBR! There’s nothing I love more than picking out which books to read next, and this slightly organized method of reading has really amped my enjoyment to the next level. Bring on the mantras!

Read the best books first.
&
Life is too short to read books you’re not enjoying.

However you put together your TBR for the next month, the goal is to reduce the amount of obligation in reading and increase the fun.


Here’s a look at how the system works:

1. Identify the titles that take top priority in your TBR.
2. Combine them all in your own Tackling the TBR post.
3. Throughout the month pick from that pile as the mood strikes you. <-November 2017 I’m trying something new and reading them in a specific, carefully pre-determined order. <-Going back to how I was doing it before.

Here’s what mine looks like:

April 2018 TBR Tackler Shelf:

Due to some unfortunate medical issues, I’m only just now getting into the swing of things for April. Even so, I feel directionless without my trusted TBR Tackler shelf, so getting it set up feels good for my soul. I read 8/10 books from last month’s lineup and have already made decent headway with these titles. I’ve been working so hard on my Incomplete Series Challenge over at Fantasy Buddy Reads that at one point last month I was down to just 9 open series (from 129 about a year and a half ago). I’m excited this month to start cashing in some new series credits I “earned” while completing the challenge. My next focus (which I’ll probably start including an update for) is the Overflowing Bookshelf Challenge which means I finally have the opportunity to dig into some of the potentially awesome books that have been sharing space with me for 10+ years. The goal is to streamline my library down to just the books I’ve read and loved (and a manageable TBR section).

What books are you tackling this month? Are the any from my list I need to read ASAP?!! :)

by Niki Hawkes

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Niki’s Book Journal [March 2018]

Niki’s Book Journal [March 2018]

Am I the only one who gets overwhelmed when the “To Be Reviewed” pile starts getting out of hand? I always have the best intentions, but I’m at the point where I have almost 50 unreviewed titles from just the last 6 months. It’s stressing me out! And we’re not even going to talk about all the books I’ve neglected to review beyond the 6 months. My usual solution is to stamp my foot down and say “That’s it!! I’m going to write a review every single day until I catch up!” which is promptly followed by review writing burnout where I don’t feel like doing any more for a couple of months. It’s a vicious cycle.

But I think I may have constructed a solution.

Some amazing (or horrible) books require a lot of time and effort to sit down and review properly, but oftentimes it’s the simplest, most straightforward books that don’t get reviewed because I can’t come up with much to say about them. My new book journal review format will hopefully offer a solution to that problem by giving me a place to log my smaller reviews. Then WHAM! They’ll go live whenever the mood strikes me. Here goes…


Nexus by Scott Westerfeld

Nexus by Scott Westerfeld & Co. [Zeroes #6] 3/5 stars

This was a fun trilogy that I think will appeal to fans of Sanderson’s Reckoners series. It has a very Heroes (the show) feel where kids are born with abnormal abilities. I’ll definitely give the authors kudos for coming up with “powers” I’ve never seen before, such as controlling a crowd’s energy, electronics manipulation, and “throwing” vision (to name a few). They were extremely odd, but oddly interesting at the same time. I’ll most remember the series for it’s diverse cast of characters (with different ethnicities and sexual orientations, something I love seeing more of in books). I also liked the overall plot progression. This final novel offered a nice story arc that seemed a lot grander than the self-induced problems the characters faced in the first book and I appreciated how everything played out. Overall, this trilogy is a fun read, especially if you’re in the mood for something kind of different. It didn’t knock my socks off, but it definitely entertained.

Red Tide by Marc Turner

Red Tide by Marc Turner [Chronicles of the Exiled #3] DNF at 54%

I didn’t put this book down because it was a bad read. I put it down because it was taking me well over two weeks to get to just the 50% mark and I just couldn’t muster the enthusiasm to get into it knowing that it’s meant to be a six book series and there’s not a single peep that the author’s even working on the next book (for more of a reference, all 3 of the released titles came out between May 2015 and September 2016 and it doesn’t look as though he’s shared any updates on his website since). So I was finding it difficult to really care what was going on with no continuation in sight. If the author announces another book, I’ll happily pick this back up where I left off (until then…). For what it’s worth, I liked the story, the world building, the interwoven plot lines, and even the characters (who are extremely one-dimensional). It wouldn’t be the first fantasy series I recommend, but I wouldn’t discourage anyone from reading it, either.

The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson

Girl of Fire and Thorns Stories by Rae Carson 2.5/5 stars

This compilation of three short stories would’ve been exponentially more enjoyable had I read it with the series instead of waiting several years. Considering how little I remembered of the side characters, the first two stories were entertaining enough and I’m sure they added a bit of good backstory. However, the final book (Hector’s story) didn’t really give me any of the feels I wanted even though it was the one I was most looking forward to. I’d long ago learned my lesson about waiting too long to get back to a series, but this experience just helps reinforce how important momentum is to my reading feng shui.

Lord of Misrule by Rachel Caine

Lord of Misrule (Morganville #5) by Rachel Caine 3/5 stars

This is yet another book I would’ve enjoyed more had I continued right away. Alas, I’m grateful for the few subtle drop-in reminders of events in previous books to get me back up to speed for the rest of the series (which I’m planning to continue in a timely manner). I’m always impressed at Caine’s writing and thinks she has some of the better-developed characters in the genre. I know every time I pick up a Morganville book I’m going to be entertained. The storyline for Lord of Misrule specifically felt a little more erratic than previous books. It’s definitely functioning as a setup novel and ended without one whit of resolution (which is good motivation for me to keep reading…thank the book gods for completed series). Overall, I’m excited to dive back into this series.


Thanks for following along! What do you think of this new reviewing format for middle-of-the-road titles? :)

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Book Reviews: Dime Store Magic and Industrial Magic by Kelley Armstrong

Dime Store Magic: 4/5 stars
Industrial Magic 4/5 stars

It took me a loooooong time to get around to continuing this series with Dime Store Magic. I loved Bitten and Stolen, but found myself a little bitter that the series would start following different characters from there. I think my overall sentiment was “well, if continuing is going to feel like starting a new series, it doesn’t matter when I read them (salty reader, party of one).” For the most part, that was true. The story in books 3&4 focuses on Paige and her involvement in the witch and sorcerer communities (Elena’s story is a footnote, and werewolves take a backseat to other supernatural beings). It does tie back to Stolen, but more in a spin-off kind of way.

I’m not going to lie – I didn’t hate it.

I think I can see what Armstrong is trying to do with the series, and think nowadays I’m more in the mood to appreciate a series that takes a little longer to get to the payoff. What it has going for it are interesting and sassy female characters (I think Paige is one of the most relatable uf leads I’ve come across even if she is a little typical), good mysteries, romance, and writing that you can really lose yourself in. The story components weren’t earth-shattering, but I absolutely love where I think it’s going and look forward to seeing through some potential plot points.

Dime Store Magic offered a good Kate Daniels/Julie* relationship between Paige and Savannah and had a lot of excellent witchy moments (by witchy I mean supernatural spell casting and other creepy shit). It also had a decently organic romance, which I always appreciate. I finished this book feeling genuinely excited to see where the story went next. I even picked up Industrial Magic within a couple weeks (a turnaround that’s pretty unheard of with me). *Side note: I realize this was probably written before the KD series, but as I’m a super fan of that one now, everything must be compared. ;P

Industrial Magic was less about Paige’s relationships and more about the politics and dynamics within the witch and sorcerer communities (with a dash of necromancer and vampire). It expanded the plot sufficiently for me even though the story went in a different direction than I was expecting. It was much more inclusive of other supernatural groups, which made the whole world feel more robust and well-developed. The further I read, the more I appreciate how Armstrong is writing this series.

Overall, comparing books 3&4 to 1&2 is like apples to oranges. They’re still fruit sitting together in the same basket, but the sampling experience is vastly different. Elena’s story was more carnal and sensory, whereas I would call Paige’s more thoughtful and conceptual. Armstrong did a great job adapting her storytelling to both of these unique POVs, but I can see how such a drastic change caused a lot of readers to complain of a quality decline. They say the apples aren’t as good; I say that’s because you bit into an orange when you were expecting an apple.

Recommendations: I personally think there’s more than one type of urban fantasy, and books 3&4 strike a very different note than books 1&2 (as discussed above). As someone who likes most types, I’d recommend both as long as you’re prepared for the change. These haven’t landed at the top of my uf list yet, but they’re making a very compelling (and entertaining) case. :)

Other books you might like:

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Book Review: Dayfall by Michael David Ares


Title: Dayfall

Author: Michael David Ares

Series: N/A

Rating: 1.5/5 stars

The Overview: In the near future, patches of the northern hemisphere have been shrouded in years of darkness from a nuclear winter, and the water level has risen in the North Atlantic. The island of Manhattan has lost its outer edges to flooding and is now ringed by a large seawall. The darkness and isolation have allowed crime and sin to thrive in the never-ending shadows of the once great city, and when the sun finally begins to reappear, everything gets worse. A serial killer cuts a bloody swath across the city during the initial periods of daylight, and a violent panic sweeps through crowds on the streets. The Manhattan police, riddled with corruption and apathy, are at a loss.

That’s when the Mayor recruits Jon Phillips, a small-town Pennsylvania cop who had just single-handedly stopped a high-profile serial killer in his own area, and flies him into the insanity of this new New York City. The young detective is partnered with a shady older cop and begins to investigate the crimes amidst the vagaries of a twenty-four hour nightlife he has never experienced before. Soon realizing that he was chosen for reasons other than what he was told, Jon is left with no one to trust and forced to go on the run in the dark streets, and below them in the maze of the underground. Against all odds he still hopes that he can save his own life, the woman of his dreams, and maybe even the whole city before the arrival of the mysterious and dreaded event that has come to be known as…. DAYFALL. -Goodreads

The Review:

What initially drew me to Dayfall was the interesting concept: a mystery novel set in a not-to-distant-future post-war world where nuclear bombing has caused semi-permanent blackout cloud-cover. Not only have I been itching for a good mystery novel lately, but I loved the presented concept for Dayfall and couldn’t wait to see some cool ideas on how society adapted to these conditions.

The trouble is, the book didn’t quite deliver to my satisfaction for either the mystery or the world-building.

It did have a couple of cool ideas for how city life had changed since the blackout, but for the most part the book fixated on a brief moment where sunlight would shine through (Dayfall) and how seeing the sun for the first time (in less than half a generation) would drive people to literal instantly… a concept that even in hindsight doesn’t make a lot of sense to me. Especially since the entire arc of the mystery depended on average citizens turning into aggressive lunatics at the first sign of sunlight. I didn’t see any details within that could’ve explained this shift in human behavior (any sort of made up sci-fi explanation would’ve worked for me. Like radiation mutation or something). And the concept continued to unravel with very inconsistent drop-in details (such as talking about current everyday things in our world, like the NFL, which felt very out of place under the circumstances the author presented) to the point where even suspended belief became impossible for me to maintain.

What’s more, I also found the character profiles incredibly inconsistent. Every time I was starting to get an idea of who they were, they’d do or say something completely out of character from what had been presented so far. They were very erratic, so it made it difficult to get into their thought processes as they tried to solve a mystery. I also had issue with their general lack of common sense and logical follow-through. My concern with this started with the first scene and unfortunately only got worse from there.

Yikes. Okay, so overall, while I can appreciate some concepts within the story and what I think the author was trying to do with it, it just didn’t work for me.

Recommendations: Dayfall definitely had a cool setting for a mystery novel. However, neither the world-building and overall concept nor the characterization were on par with my expectations. There are a whole host of books I would recommend first.

I’d like to thank the publicists at TOR/Forge and Michael David Ares for the chance to read and review an early copy of Dayfall.

Other books you might like:

by Niki Hawkes