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.

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.

Midnight Crossroad (Review)

18689531Title: Midnight Crossroad (Midnight, TX #1)
Author: Charlaine Harris
Genre:  Mystery, Urban Fantasy

Publisher: Ace
Release Date: May 6, 2014
Format:  E-book
Acquired:  Amazon purchase
Pages: 320

Date Finished: May 12, 2015
3 Stars

Goodreads Description

Welcome to Midnight, Texas, a town with many boarded-up windows and few full-time inhabitants, located at the crossing of Witch Light Road and Davy Road. It’s a pretty standard dried-up western town.

There’s a pawn shop (someone lives in the basement and is seen only at night). There’s a diner (people who are just passing through tend not to linger). And there’s new resident Manfred Bernardo, who thinks he’s found the perfect place to work in private (and who has secrets of his own).

Stop at the one traffic light in town, and everything looks normal. Stay awhile, and learn the truth…

My Review

I really love Charlaine Harris’ writing style.  I don’t know if it’s because she writes in a small town, southern brogue, or if she’s just a really good writer, but I never stumble over her writing.  I’ve read most of the Sookie Stackhouse series (I’ll admit I lost interest toward the end), but I’ve never read any of her other work because I’m not a big cozy mystery girl.  I was really hoping this series would follow in the footsteps of the Sookie Stackhouse phenomenon.  Unfortunately, it doesn’t look very promising.

The characters were quirky and interesting, but there just wasn’t much going on plot wise.  The big mystery of the book was supposed to be what happened to Bobo’s girlfriend.  (Yes, that’s really his name.)  However, the biggest mystery was what are all of these people hiding because everyone in Midnight, TX has some kind of secret.  The good thing about that plot device is it really makes you want to keep reading.  The bad thing is that you don’t get any answers in this book.  The only mystery solved in this one was about Bobo’s girlfriend.

I really did enjoy the characters.  Charlaine gave me just enough to make me want to know more about them.  Because of that, I’m sure I’ll read the next book.  I hope there’s more action in the next installment.

Wrap-Up

Slow out of the gate!  This book felt like one big introduction to the characters and Midnight, TX.  There wasn’t much action, but maybe Charlaine wanted the book to mimic Midnight’s lifestyle, slow and laid-back.  The characters were engaging and that’s probably what will keep me moving forward with the series, however, if book two doesn’t pick-up, that will probably be the end of my foray into Midnight, TX.

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.

Blue Lily, Lily Blue (Review)

22009560Title: Blue Lily, Lily Blue (The Raven Cycle #3)
Author: Maggie Stiefvater
Genre: Fantasy, Urban Fantasy, YA
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Release Date: October 21, 2014
Format: E-book
Acquired: Amazon Purchase
Pages: 400

Date Finished: March 13, 2015
4 Stars

Goodreads Description

There is danger in dreaming. But there is even more danger in waking up.

Blue Sargent has found things. For the first time in her life, she has friends she can trust, a group to which she can belong. The Raven Boys have taken her in as one of their own. Their problems have become hers, and her problems have become theirs.

The trick with found things though, is how easily they can be lost.

Friends can betray.
Mothers can disappear.
Visions can mislead.
Certainties can unravel.

My Review

Another really good book in the series.  I’m ready for book 4!!!  Seriously, Stiefvater loves some cliff-hangers.

Cliffhanger! Hanging from a cliff!

She really is building quite a story here.  It has tons of depth which is typically missing from YA books.

As you know, in my reviews of the last two books, I drew some parallels to Arthurian Legend.  I’m struggling with this one.  I know there is something there, I’m just not seeing it.  I’m thinking maybe Blue’s mom, Maura, is a Lady of the Lake figure, but Persephone may fit that role as well.  Also, I’m pretty sure The Gray Man and Greenmantle have Arthurian parallels.  I’ll have to see what happens in the next book.  Hopefully, they will become more evident.  I’ll keep you updated.

Wrap-Up

Please read these books.  They are really well written and engaging.