The Palace Job (Review)

18685436Title: The Palace Job
Author: Patrick Weekes
Genre:  Fiction, Fantasy

Publisher: 47North
Release Date: October 2013
Format:  E-book
Acquired:  Netgalley ARC
Pages: 438

Date Finished: June 7, 2015
3.5 Starts

Goodreads Description

Loch is seeking revenge.

It would help if she wasn’t in jail.

The plan: to steal a priceless elven manuscript that once belonged to her family, but now is in the hands of the most powerful man in the Republic. To do so Loch—former soldier, former prisoner, current fugitive—must assemble a crack team of magical misfits that includes a cynical illusionist, a shape-shifting unicorn, a repentant death priestess, a talking magical warhammer, and a lad with seemingly no skills to help her break into the floating fortress of Heaven’s Spire and the vault that holds her family’s treasure—all while eluding the unrelenting pursuit of Justicar Pyvic, whose only mission is to see the law upheld.

What could possibly go wrong?

My Review

The Palace Job is an action-packed romp through a high-fantasy heist.  Like all good heists, the main character, having been wronged and seeking revenge, must assemble a team of highly skilled folks to help get the job done.  Of course, this team includes some strange folks with some strange skills.  Ever wondered what you could accomplish with a horny shifter-unicorn and a death priestess?  Read this book to find out.

A lot of the reviews I read compared this to The Lies of Loche Lamora (LLL) and deemed it lacking.  If you’ve read my review of LLL, you’ll know I was not that impressed with it.  I personally found A Palace Job much more likeable.  The humor kept it light-hearted, the characters were more diverse, and the plot moved along at a brisker pace.  It did have a bit of a slow start, but it picked up at about 20%.  It also avoided the dark, grittier tropes that turned me off of LLL.

I’ll admit the characters could have been a little more fleshed out and the plot could have been deeper, but then it would have been a different book with a different feel.  I personally like it just the way it is.

Wrap-Up

If you like high-fantasy with a little humor and burglary thrown in, you’ll like this book.  The world-building was well paced and not daunting in the slightest.  Weekes actually uses puppets in the book to keep you up to date on the political happenings.  I thought it was a genius way to keep you informed without bogging down the swiftness of the plot.  It’s very similar to the way we get our news in the real world.  (Get it? Puppets?)

It was a fun read and I hope you’ll give it a shot.  3 1/2 stars that I would round-up to 4.

Special Thanks…

I’d like to give a shout out to Netgalley, Amazon Publishing, and Patrick Weekes for giving me the opportunity to read and review this ARC.

Tell the Wolves I’m Home (Review)

12875260Title: Tell the Wolves I’m Home
Author: Carol Rifka Brunt
Genre:  Fiction

Publisher: The Dial Press
Release Date: June 2012
Format:  E-book
Acquired:  Purchase from Amazon
Pages: 360

Date Finished: May 26, 2015
4 Stars

Goodreads Description

1987. There’s only one person who has ever truly understood fourteen-year-old June Elbus, and that’s her uncle, the renowned painter Finn Weiss. Shy at school and distant from her older sister, June can only be herself in Finn’s company; he is her godfather, confidant, and best friend. So when he dies, far too young, of a mysterious illness her mother can barely speak about, June’s world is turned upside down. But Finn’s death brings a surprise acquaintance into June’s life – someone who will help her to heal and to question what she thinks she knows about Finn, her family, and even her own heart.

At Finn’s funeral, June notices a strange man lingering just beyond the crowd. A few days later, she receives a package in the mail. Inside is a beautiful teapot she recognizes from Finn’s apartment and a note from Toby, the stranger, asking for an opportunity to meet. As the two begin to spend time together, June realizes she’s not the only one who misses Finn, and if she can bring herself to trust this unexpected friend, he just might be the one she needs the most.

My Review

Tell the Wolves I’m Home is a sad, poignant novel about loss.  It is incredibly depressing, but don’t let that keep you from reading it.  I’m not the type of person who likes to read sad books.  I don’t like to cry, as some people do.  (I actually despise it.)  But, this book was so much more than just dealing with loss and was worth the tears.

The entire story revolves around June’s loss of her uncle, Finn, to AIDS in the 1980s, but the majority of the novel is about June’s relationship with her sister, Greta, and her uncle’s partner, Toby.  It is about her struggle to keep Finn alive in her heart while growing up and moving on, a true coming of age story.

As a child who grew up in the 80s, I remember the fear, distrust, and hate that surrounded the AIDS outbreak.  It was a confusing time and so little was known about the virus.  Rumors and untruths ran rampant through society and the people who contracted HIV bore the brunt of that fear and hatred.  I thought Tell the Wolves addressed these issues beautifully.  It was a fitting tribute to those who have fought and are still fighting that battle.

Wrap-Up

This is a beautifully sad, heartfelt story.  The beginning is a little slow, but it picks up dramatically about 40% in.  The writing is really lyrical and helps carry you through the slow spots.  The synopsis of this book does not do it justice. I recommend giving it a try.  It is a perfect choice for book clubs and generates a lot of discussion.

The Conquering Dark (Review)

The Conquering Dark (Crown & Key, #3)Title: The Conquering Dark (Crown & Key #3)
Author: Clay & Susan Griffith
Genre: Fiction; Urban Fantasy; Steampunk
Publisher: Del Rey
Release Date: July 28, 2015 (Estimated)
Format: E-book
Acquired: Netgalley ARC
Pages: 352

Date Finished: May 6, 2015
4.5 Stars

Goodreads Description

The Crown and Key Society face their most terrifying villain yet: Gaios, a deranged demigod with the power to destroy Britain.

To avenge a centuries-old betrayal, Gaios is hell-bent on summoning the elemental forces of the earth to level London and bury Britain. The Crown and Key Society, a secret league consisting of a magician, an alchemist, and a monster-hunter, is the realm’s only hope—and to stop Gaios, they must gather their full strength and come together as a team, or the world will fall apart.

But Simon Archer, the Crown and Key’s leader and the last living magician-scribe, has lost his powers. As Gaios searches for the Stone of Scone, which will give him destructive dominion over the land, monster-hunter Malcolm MacFarlane, alchemist extraordinaire Kate Anstruther, gadget geek Penny Carter, and Charlotte the werewolf scramble to reconnect Simon to his magic before the world as they know it is left forever in ruins.

My Review

The Conquering Dark is the final book of the Crown & Key trilogy, and it was a wonderful ride!  I kept wondering how the Griffiths were going to pull all the loose ends together in order to save the world, but they did.  And, somehow, it didn’t feel rushed or contrived.  It was a fabulous frolic through the final, gas-lit book of the series.

There were a lot of ups and downs in this one.  Simon has lost his powers and the group is greatly suffering for it.  The enemy definitely seems to have the upper hand throughout the story.  The group seems surrounded by insurmountable obstacles, but everything pulls together.  Not all of the outcomes are good.  Unfortunately, there are some rather sad moments, but the characters handled the situations like you would expect, which only added to their depth and complexity.

By the end of this book you are in love with every character of the Crown & Key Society.  There is not a single one that does not have their own voice and distinct characterization.  It is a testament to the Griffiths’ character development ability.

My only complaint is that the trilogy is over.  I was left wanting more.  Hopefully, the Griffiths will decide to take these characters a little further.

Wrap-Up

I cannot stress enough how good this series was.  It was such a fun read!  I really hope you will take a little time to escape your life and step back in time.

Special Thanks…

I’d like to give a shout out to Netgalley, Del Rey, and Clay and Susan Griffith for giving me the opportunity to read and review this ARC.

The Girl on the Train (Review)

22754100Title: The Girl on the Train
Author:  Paula Hawkins
Genre:  Fiction; Mystery; Thriller

Publisher: Riverhead
Release Date: January 13, 2015
Format:  E-book
Acquired:  Amazon Purchase
Pages: 336

Date Finished: March 21, 2015
3.5 Starts

Goodreads Description

Rachel takes the same commuter train every morning. Every day she rattles down the track, flashes past a stretch of cozy suburban homes, and stops at the signal that allows her to daily watch the same couple breakfasting on their deck. She’s even started to feel like she knows them. “Jess and Jason,” she calls them. Their life—as she sees it—is perfect. Not unlike the life she recently lost.

And then she sees something shocking. It’s only a minute until the train moves on, but it’s enough. Now everything’s changed. Unable to keep it to herself, Rachel offers what she knows to the police, and becomes inextricably entwined in what happens next, as well as in the lives of everyone involved. Has she done more harm than good?

My Review

Is anyone out there a “people watcher”?  Do you sit in a shopping area, pick out a person, make up a name for them, and imagine what their story is?  Well, Rachel, the main character of this book, takes her people watching to a whole different level.  Obsessive is the word that immediately springs to mind.  But, if you think this is going to be some creepy stalker story where Rachel terrorizes this couple from afar, you are completely wrong.  This story has so much more to it.

Let me be perfectly honest.  There was not a single likeable character in this book.  They were all horribly flawed and damaged.  Some were flat-out crazy.  But, like any good train wreck, I couldn’t turn away.  I wanted to know how it would all pan out.

Rachel, our main character, was a raging alcoholic.  This made for some very uncomfortable reading.  Her blackouts and constant justification of her drinking were infuriating.  It also made her a completely unreliable narrator.  Throughout the book, I was never sure if she was telling us the truth or her drunken version of the truth.  The worst part was that she wasn’t sure either.

The other characters were just as bad.  “Jess & Jason,” Rachel’s made up names for the people she watched, actually turned out to be Megan and Scott Hipwell.  Early on, Megan goes missing, but throughout the book, we get her back story in her own voice.  She turns out to be a horrible person.  Her husband is no peach either.  Rachel’s ex-husband, Tom, is a douche-bag and his new wife, Anna, is a whiny, paranoid woman with no spine.  So, now you see why I said none of these characters were likeable.  Honestly, I really didn’t want to be in any of their heads.

This book’s redeeming factors were that it was well written and it offered very interesting character studies.  I kept wondering if there are really people like this?  Maybe I’m too stoic, but I just can’t imagine being as out of control as these people were.

The Girl On the Train was compared to Gone Girl in several reviews I read.  Let me be clear…this is not Gone Girl.  There are no major plot twists.  The similarity lies in the character flaws.  Gone Girl didn’t have any likeable main characters either, but, like Gone Girl, I liked this book despite that fact.  Their atrocities are what furthered the plot and made the book what it was.

Wrap-Up

I was torn between 3 and 4 stars, so it got a solid 3 1/2.  This was not a super fast read.  It was like watching a train wreck in slow motion.  The different points of view were a bit disjointed in the beginning, but once their voices were established, I had no trouble.  The mystery aspect of the story was ok.  I did have it figured out before the big reveal, but it ended pretty well.  If you like dark mysteries like Gone Girl and Sharp Objects, this fits the genre.  It definitely had a gritty, uncomfortable feel to it.  So, if that’s your thing, I say go for it!

The Undying Legion (Review)

23308133Title: The Undying Legion (Crown & Key #2)
Author: Clay & Susan Griffith
Genre: Fiction; Urban Fantasy; Steampunk
Publisher: Del Rey
Release Date: June 30, 2015 (Estimated)
Format: E-book
Acquired: Netgalley ARC
Pages: 384

Date Finished: April 30, 2015
4.5 Stars

Goodreads Description

With a flood of dark magic about to engulf Victorian London, can a handful of heroes vanquish a legion of the undead?

When monster-hunter Malcolm MacFarlane comes across the gruesome aftermath of a ritual murder in a London church, he enlists the help of magician-scribe Simon Archer and alchemist extraordinaire Kate Anstruther. Studying the macabre scene, they struggle to understand obscure clues in the ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics carved into the victim’s heart—as well as bizarre mystical allusions to the romantic poetry of William Blake. One thing is clear: Some very potent black magic is at work.

But this human sacrifice is only the first in a series of ritualized slayings. Desperate to save lives while there is still time, Simon, Kate, and Malcolm—along with gadget geek Penny Carter and Charlotte, an adolescent werewolf—track down a necromancer who is reanimating the deceased. As the team battles an unrelenting army of undead, a powerful Egyptian mummy, and monstrous serpentine demons, the necromancer proves an elusive quarry. And when the true purpose of the ritual is revealed, the gifted allies must confront a destructive force that is positively apocalyptic.

My Review

The Undying Legion is an impressive follow-up in the Crown & Key trilogy.  The cursed middle book is often a space filler and a let down, but this one did not disappoint!  Book 2 continued with just the right amount of magic and steampunk elements without being overdone.  The characters kept deepening at just the right speed, a steady progression that kept me hooked.

I will admit the synopsis had me worried.  I was concerned the Griffiths were overreaching with necromancers, Egyptian mummies, undead armies and the like, but, somehow, they tied it all together without creating an indecipherable mess.  The plot stayed on point and furthered the overall trilogy nicely.  I am also happy to report the undead were not your typical crazed, brain-eating zombies.  I felt they were handled very tactfully.

Again, I really enjoyed the characters.  This book finds the individual characters beginning to recognize they are becoming a cohesive entity.  They are finding their places within the group and beginning to work together as a team.  Their interactions with each other are touching at times and then abruptly turn into a hilarious round of witty banter.  My favorite character is still Malcolm MacFarlane.  I did get a little more info about his appearance in this book, and although he is a brunette instead of a ginger and no kilts were mentioned, I still love him.  His snarkiness is near and dear to my heart.  Simon and Kate continued to skirt the edges of a real relationship.  Charlotte, the werewolf girl/pup, and Imogene, Kate’s mutant sister, forge the beginning of a deep friendship.  And, thrown into the mix is Penny, inventor extraordinaire.  If you are a character-driven reader, you will love these folks.

Wrap-Up

Book 2 did not disappoint, and I’m ready for book 3!  Thank goodness they are releasing the books in this series fairly close together, so I don’t have year-long waits in between!!  I hope you will give the series and try.  It is exceptional!

Special Thanks…

I’d like to give a shout out to Netgalley, Del Rey, and Clay and Susan Griffith for giving me the opportunity to read and review this ARC.

Escape from Witchwood Hollow (Review)

24239419Title: Escape from Witchwood Hollow
Author: Jordan Elizabeth
Genre:  Urban Fantasy

Publisher: Curiosity Quills Press
Release Date: October 29, 2014
Format:  E-book
Acquired:  From author
Pages: 200

Date Finished: May 29, 2015
3.5 Starts

Goodreads Description

Everyone in Arnn – a small farming town with more legends than residents – knows the story of Witchwood Hollow: if you venture into the whispering forest, the witch will trap your soul among the shadowed trees.

After losing her parents in a horrific terrorist attack on the Twin Towers, fifteen-year-old Honoria and her older brother escape New York City to Arnn. In the lure of that perpetual darkness, Honoria finds hope, when she should be afraid.

Perhaps the witch can reunite her with her lost parents. Awakening the witch, however, brings more than salvation from mourning, for Honoria discovers a past of missing children and broken promises.

To save the citizens of Arnn from becoming the witch’s next victims, she must find the truth behind the woman’s madness.

How deep into Witchwood Hollow does Honoria dare venture?

My Review

Escape from Witchwood Hollow was an intriguing tale.  The story was told through three narrators from three different time periods.  I’ll admit I stumbled over the POV shifts the first couple of times, but after a while I got used to them and actually enjoyed seeing the hollow through different characters’ eyes.

The characters were all interesting, however, I wish some of them had been better developed.  Honoria, the best developed character, was very likeable.  I enjoyed her part of the tale best.

The plot was well paced for the most part, no lulls that I remember.  The biggest issue I had with the book was that the end came very suddenly.  There was a big shocking event (which I won’t divulge) and then the book was over.  It reminded me of a lithium battery, no warning that it was out of power, just dead all of a sudden.  It was disconcerting to say the least.  I guess you could turn this into a positive, in that I didn’t want it to be over.  I just wish there had been more of a slow coast to the end.

Wrap-Up

Great story!  It was a little creepy and very interesting.  It was a super fast read.  It sort of reminded me of a fairy tale.  It had that same mythical feel to it.  I’d give it a solid 3 1/2 stars that I’d round up to 4.  I hope you’ll give it a read.

Special Thanks…

I’d like to give a shout-out to Jordan Elizabeth for reaching out to me and allowing me to review her book!

Day Shift (Review)

23597716Title: Day Shift (Midnight, TX #2)
Author: Charlaine Harris
Genre:  Mystery, Urban Fantasy

Publisher: Ace
Release Date: May 5, 2015
Format:  E-book
Acquired:  Netgalley ARC
Pages: 320

Date Finished: May 21, 2015
4 Stars

Goodreads Description

There is no such thing as bad publicity, except in Midnight, Texas, where the residents like to keep to themselves. Even in a town full of secretive people, Olivia Charity is an enigma. She lives with the vampire Lemuel, but no one knows what she does; they only know that she’s beautiful and dangerous.

Psychic Manfred Bernardo finds out just how dangerous when he goes on a working weekend to Dallas and sees Olivia there with a couple who are both found dead the next day. To make matters worse, one of Manfred’s regular—and very wealthy—clients dies during a reading.

Manfred returns from Dallas embroiled in scandal and hounded by the press. He turns to Olivia for help; somehow he knows that the mysterious Olivia can get things back to normal. As normal as things get in Midnight…

My Review

Much better!!  This book was a vast improvement over Midnight Crossroad.  The mystery was something you were really interested in and it fully carried the plot.  There was a good bit of action as well.  There was also a lot more information about some of the characters.  It looks like Harris is going to focus in on certain characters in each book to give you more on their backstories.  This one was mainly about Manfred and Olivia.  Harris doesn’t give you everything, but she gives you enough to keep you hooked.  She usually has a way with character driven writing and this one didn’t disappoint.

I enjoyed the pacing of this one much better as well.  There were no lulls, which was nice because the first book felt like one giant lull.  This was fast paced and it really held my interest.  There were even several surprises that totally caught me off guard.  I love it when that happens!

Wrap-Up

If you struggled with Midnight Crossroad, please give this one a chance.  I was torn about whether to continue with the series, but I’m glad I did.  Day Shift was significantly better, more in the Sookie Stackhouse vein and less cozy mystery.

Special Thanks…

I’d like to give a shout out to Netgalley, Ace, and Charlaine Harris for giving me the opportunity to read and review this ARC.