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 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.

The Forgotten Room (Review)

22889771Title: The Forgotten Room
Author: Lincoln Child
Genre: Fiction; Mystery; Thriller
Publisher: Doubleday
Release Date: May 5, 2015
Format: E-book
Acquired: Edelweiss ARC
Pages: 304

Date Finished: April 24, 2015
4.5 Stars

Goodreads Description

Jeremy Logan is an “enigmalogist”—an investigator who specializes in analyzing phenomena that have no obvious explanation. In this newest novel Logan finds himself on the storied coastline of Newport, Rhode Island, where he has been retained by Symposikon, one of the oldest and most respected think tanks in America. Just days earlier, a series of frightening events took place in the sprawling seaside mansion that houses the organization. One of its most distinguished doctors began acting erratically—violently attacking an assistant in the mansion’s opulent library and, moments later, killing himself in a truly shocking fashion. Terrified by the incident and the bizarre evidence left behind, the group hires Logan to investigate—discreetly—what drove this erudite man to madness.

His work leads him to an unexpected find. In a long-dormant wing of the estate, Logan uncovers an ingeniously hidden secret room, concealed and apparently untouched for decades. The room is a time capsule, filled with eerie and obscure scientific equipment that points to a top secret project long thought destroyed, known only as “Project S.” Ultimately, the truth of what Project S was . . . and what has happened in that room . . . will put Logan in the path of a completely unexpected danger. 

My Review

I love a good thriller and Lincoln Child did not disappoint.  I’ve been reading Child’s books for a long time and his work with Douglas Preston is one of the reasons I love paranormal thrillers.  The wonderful thing about their books is you never know if it is going to be paranormal until the end.  Sometimes the events point to a paranormal cause, but end up being explained by something totally different.  They always keep you guessing.  The Forgotten Room was no different.

The opening chapters had our protagonist, Jeremy Logan, visiting a creepy old manor to investigate a gruesome suicide in order to determine if there were additional factors involved.  The description of the manor, as well as the suicide video, instantly set the mood for a creeptastic romp.  Logan and the cast of characters were odd and intriguing.  The science and architecture bits were very interesting.  There was plenty of meat for the techno-reader as well as the super-sleuths.  The pace was fast, and I don’t remember any lulls in the action.  I’ll admit some of the plot devices were a bit cliché, but there were plenty of surprises along the way as well.

Wrap-Up

Creepy, edge-of-your-seat reading.  If you like thrillers & mysteries, this one should be on your TBR list.  By the way, this is the 4th in the Jeremy Logan series, but you do not need to read the others to enjoy this one.  It completely stands alone.

Special Thanks…

I’d like to give a shout out to Edelweiss, Doubleday, and Lincoln Child for giving me the opportunity to read and review this ARC.

The Shadow Revolution (Review)

23460383Title: The Shadow Revolution (Crown & Key #1)
Author: Clay & Susan Griffith
Genre: Fiction; Urban Fantasy; Steampunk
Publisher: Del Rey
Release Date: June 2, 2015 (Estimated)
Format: E-book
Acquired: Netgalley ARC
Pages: 384

Date Finished: April 6, 2015
4.5 Stars

Goodreads Description

They are the realm’s last, best defense against supernatural evil. But they’re going to need a lot more silver.
 
As fog descends, obscuring the gas lamps of Victorian London, werewolves prowl the shadows of back alleys. But they have infiltrated the inner circles of upper-crust society as well. Only a handful of specially gifted practitioners are equipped to battle the beasts. Among them are the roguish Simon Archer, who conceals his powers as a spell-casting scribe behind the smooth veneer of a dashing playboy; his lay about mentor, Nick Barker, who prefers a good pub to thrilling heroics; and the self-possessed alchemist Kate Anstruther, who is equally at home in a ballroom as she is on a battlefield.

After a lycanthrope targets Kate’s vulnerable younger sister, the three join forces with fierce Scottish monster-hunter Malcolm MacFarlane—but quickly discover they’re dealing with a threat far greater than anything they ever imagined.

My Review

This was a stunning introduction to the new Crown & Key series by Clay and Susan Griffith!  Set in Victorian London, it had just the right amount of magic and steampunk elements.  They were not overdone and were woven into the story without being pretentious.  The Griffiths also did a fabulous job with their world building.  The reader is introduced to bits and pieces of the backstories throughout the book which gives the characters a mysterious air and leaves the reader wanting more.  That is always the mark of story-telling at its best!

After I finished, I immediately went to see if there was more to be had.  Unfortunately, that is a drawback of ARCs.  You’ve already gotten the blasted book early, so you have to wait even longer to get the follow-ups!

I enjoyed the characters immensely.  Simon Archer is a scribe who can wield a sword in more ways than one.  ((Wiggly Eyebrows))  But, he also has a soft side and seems to be more of a gentleman than a rake.  Nick Barker is the curmudgeonly side-kick who can shoot fire bolts from his hands, but also dabbles in necromancy.  Kate Anstruther, the heroine of the tale, does not wield magic, but she can whip-up some mean recipes in her alchemistic kitchen.  The last, but definitely not least, of the group is Malcolm MacFarlane who is Scottish and a monster-hunter to boot.  I have a lovely picture in my head of what he looks like…a strapping, ginger rogue dressed in a kilt with guns blazing!  The Griffiths don’t give us much to go on as far as physical attributes, and I know he probably wouldn’t have been in a kilt, but he is in my version.  He’s snarky and no non-sense and I love him.

The baddies in this book were the werewolves, and they were really well done.  Again, not over the top.  Everything in this book was done tastefully and had just the right balance.

Wrap-Up

This promises to be a really great series.  I cannot wait for the next book!  In the synopsis it was compared to Sherlock Holmes (Robert Downey Jr.’s version, not Benedict Cumberbatch’s), as well as Showtime’s Penny Dreadful series, and Kevin Hearne’s Iron Druid Chronicles.  I definitely see the Sherlock connection.  The dirt and grit of the time period really shows through, and it has that same feel.  I have not seen the Penny Dreadful series or read the Iron Druid Chronicles, but if they are anything like this book, I need to get my hands on them.

I hope you will give this book a go.  It was an exceptional read.

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 Raven Boys (Review)

15995747Title: The Raven Boys (The Raven Cycle #1)
Author: Maggie Stiefvater
Genre: Fantasy, Urban Fantasy, YA
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Release Date: September 18, 2012
Format: E-book
Acquired: Amazon Purchase
Pages: 468

Date Finished: January 31, 2015
4.5 Stars

Goodreads Description

Every year, Blue Sargent stands next to her clairvoyant mother as the soon-to-be dead walk past. Blue never sees them–until this year, when a boy emerges from the dark and speaks to her.

His name is Gansey, a rich student at Aglionby, the local private school. Blue has a policy of staying away from Aglionby boys. Known as Raven Boys, they can only mean trouble.

But Blue is drawn to Gansey, in a way she can’t entirely explain. He is on a quest that has encompassed three other Raven Boys: Adam, the scholarship student who resents the privilege around him; Ronan, the fierce soul whose emotions range from anger to despair; and Noah, the taciturn watcher who notices many things but says very little.

For as long as she can remember, Blue has been warned that she will cause her true love to die. She doesn’t believe in true love, and never thought this would be a problem. But as her life becomes caught up in the strange and sinister world of the Raven Boys, she’s not so sure anymore.

My Review

I was surprised by how much I liked this book.  I was introduced to the series through everyone blogging about Blue Lily, Lily Blue last year, so I figured I’d give it a try.  I typically have a love/hate relationship with YA, but especially YA Fantasy.  The angst and the conspiracy theories kill me.  They tend to use the same stale tropes, and don’t get me started on YA dystopian!  Ugh!  Sorry, back to the review…

The initial premise of The Raven Boys is that Blue, the heroine, has been told her whole life that she will cause her true love to die when she kisses him.  So, I anticipated a lot of romancy, angsty crap, but I was surprised that the “love story” really took a back seat in the plot line.  The majority of the book was your introduction to Blue, her rambunctious family and the Raven Boys: Gansey, Adam, Ronan, and Noah.  The other major storyline is about Glendower, a lost Welsh king, who is supposedly in a deep sleep and if you wake him, he will grant you a wish.  He is also supposedly buried somewhere along the Ley Lines in North America.  This is the quest of Gansey and the Raven Boys, and it soon becomes the quest of Blue and her family as well.

Now, I will not go into a lot of depth about my theory of how Gansey mirrors King Arthur, Adam passes as Lancelot, Blue is a solid stand-in for Guinevere, and Glendower is the perfect Grail.  I will, however, state that I wrote my college thesis on Arthurian legend in literature, so it tends to jump out at me on various occasions.  This is a straight-up quest story if I’ve ever read one.  I highly recommend delving into some Arthurian legend and making the comparisons for yourself.  The parallels are not direct, but they are definitely there.  It is moments like these, that I wish I was an English major again.

Lastly, Maggie Stiefvater’s writing is stunning.  She truly has a mystical way with words.  I love the imagery her writing conjures.

Wrap-Up

Read it!!  It is one of the best YA books I’ve read.  4 1/2 stars!!

Gone Girl

Gone GirlTitle: Gone Girl
Author:  Gillian Flynn
Genre:  Fiction, Mystery, Thriller
Publisher:  Broadway Books
Release Date:  June, 2012
Format:  E-book
Acquired:  Kindle Purchase
Pages:  422

Date Finished:  July 26, 2014
4.5 Stars

Goodreads Description

On a warm summer morning in North Carthage, Missouri, it is Nick and Amy Dunne’s fifth wedding anniversary. Presents are being wrapped and reservations are being made when Nick’s clever and beautiful wife disappears. Husband-of-the-Year Nick isn’t doing himself any favors with cringe-worthy daydreams about the slope and shape of his wife’s head, but passages from Amy’s diary reveal the alpha-girl perfectionist could have put anyone dangerously on edge. Under mounting pressure from the police and the media—as well as Amy’s fiercely doting parents—the town golden boy parades an endless series of lies, deceits, and inappropriate behavior. Nick is oddly evasive, and he’s definitely bitter—but is he really a killer?

My Review

I’ll admit I was late to the party on this one.  My crazy rebellious streak rears its ugly head at the strangest things sometimes.  As Gone Girl was receiving tremendous buzz last year, I flirted with the idea of reading it, but ended up refusing just because everyone else was reading it.  I know, I’m weird like that.  I finally relented because this was last month’s pick for our book club.  I have to say…I was impressed.

Gillian Flynn has quite a way of sucking you into her twisted, macabre rendering of reality.  I say her rendering of reality because I can’t imagine anyone really being as sick and twisted as these characters.  There may be people out there like this, but thank goodness, I’ve never met any of them.  Manipulation is taken to a whole new level.

The beginning was a little slow.  As you become acquainted with Nick and his missing wife, there was some definite drag.  Most mysteries start this way, though.  The story has to build; You have to learn the characters and the back story.  Flynn does give you a few twisty tidbits as you go, but it’s mostly a building exercise.  The most interesting part of it?  The entire opening section is meant to manipulate the reader.  Our minds automatically start trying to figure out the mystery.  Flynn relies on our human nature to totally mess with our heads.  Trust me, don’t try to figure it out because Flynn is going to rip the rug right out from under you at the half-way point.  Just believe me, the characters are manipulating each other and the author is manipulating the reader.  I hate spoilers in reviews, so I will leave it that.

The ending aggravated the crap out of me because there was no finality.  But, that’s life isn’t it?  Most things don’t get wrapped up in a nice, neat package for us.

Typically, I need a character I connect with to really like a book, but I hated all these characters and it didn’t really bother me.  None of them were likeable in the slightest.  Well, I liked Nick’s sister, Go, but she was not a main character.  These characters were deeply flawed, manipulative, and conniving.  Basically, they were just icky.  Of course, I don’t think Flynn really meant for the reader to like them.  The plot doesn’t really lend itself to likeable characters.

Wrap-Up

My book club thoroughly enjoyed this book.  We actually liked it so much, we decided to read Sharp Objects this month.  Our plans are to go see Gone Girl (the movie) opening night and have our Sharp Objects book discussion afterwards.  I’m not really convinced Ben Affleck is a good choice for Nick, but I’m willing to give him the benefit of a doubt.  I have heard rumors the movie rearranged the ending a bit.  Usually it makes me mad when a script writer takes creative liberties, but I actually hope they do on this one.  I want some satisfaction!!

If you are on the fence about reading Gone Girl, I say give it a shot.

A Discovery of Witches (Re-read)

8667848Title: A Discovery of Witches (All Souls #1)
Author:  Deborah Harkness
Genre:  Fantasy, Historical Fiction, Paranormal Romance
Publisher:  Viking Penguin
Release Date:  February, 2011
Format:  E-book
Acquired:  Kindle Purchase
Pages:  579

Dates Finished:  Sept 9, 2012 & Aug 17, 2014
4.5 Stars

Goodreads Description

Deep in the stacks of Oxford’s Bodleian Library, young scholar Diana Bishop unwittingly calls up a bewitched alchemical manuscript in the course of her research. Descended from an old and distinguished line of witches, Diana wants nothing to do with sorcery; so after a furtive glance and a few notes, she banishes the book to the stacks. But her discovery sets a fantastical underworld stirring, and a horde of daemons, witches, and vampires soon descends upon the library. Diana has stumbled upon a coveted treasure lost for centuries-and she is the only creature who can break its spell.

My Review

I loved this book the first time I read it, and I loved it all over again during my re-read.  With the third book of the All Souls Trilogy, The Book of Life, recently being released, I had to re-read A Discovery of Witches.  I could remember the gist of the story line, but I knew I had forgotten the details.  Trust me, this is not a series in which you want to forget details.  Deborah Harkness has spun an intricate web of characters and story lines which delight at every turn.

Diana Bishop is the heroine of the novel.  She starts off as a socially awkward historian who loves nothing more than being submersed in her world of academia.  Her books are safe and far away from the world of witches in which she was raised, but when she accidentally calls up an old, enchanted book from the library stacks, Diana sets off a bomb which sends ripples through the underworld.  She has no idea the single event of opening a book will set her on a path that will not only change her life, but the future of every witch, vampire and deamon in existence.

There is history and science and witches and vampires and love and intrigue and time travel and just about everything else you could want in a good book.  I do have one warning…this book is LONG.  I can’t really say the author should have chopped out a bunch of useless info, because there really wasn’t any useless info.  Everything furthers the story in one way or another.  Even if it doesn’t seem to be that important in this book, it comes into play in the next.  Deborah Harkness definitely has her crap together.  I love good world building and she does it wonderfully.

You may be wondering why I held back that 1/2 star on my rating.  It’s because Harkness doesn’t go into much detail about the logistics of time travel.  There are some important things that have to be answered when you get into time travel, like “What if you run into your former self?” or “Does your former self disappear from the past when you appear there from the future?” etc., etc.  Harkness basically tells Diana and the reader that you just have to trust the universe to work it all out.  I felt like she just didn’t want to be bothered with the time travel details.  So, that was my only pet peeve with the book.  I couldn’t give it a perfect 5 stars for that reason alone.

I hope you’ll give this one a shot.  It’s really a great read!