The City of Lost Fortunes (Bryan Camp)

I received a free copy of The City of Lost Fortunes in exchange for an honest review. This did not change my opinion of the book.

Six years after Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans is still rebuilding. Jude Dubuisson carries the burden of his past and of a magical secret. He has the ability to find lost things, something passed down to him from a father he has never met, one who just happens to be a god. When the fortune god of New Orleans calls in a favor, Jude finds himself involved in a poker game with the gods of New Orleans and stakes much higher than he ever could have imagined.

The City of Lost Fortunes is definitely a book that one could do a pretty in depth analysis of. However, if you have ever read my reviews before, that’s not really my thing. For one thing, I definitely need to read it again. There is so much going on here. The cast of characters is not only eclectic, but large. Fortunately, not to a confusing degree.

Jude himself is a bit of a rogue, certainly no boy scout, but he’s interesting enough, it makes him fairly likeable. Regal was a personal favorite, but there are more than a few fascinating characters here that I wouldn’t mind reading more about. In particular, Sal the psychopomp.

This was a book I found to be best savored, a perfect summer read. The mashup of mythologies set in a wonderfully dark New Orleans made for a surprisingly enjoyable combination. It’s a little fantasy, a little mystery and a lot Southern Gothic. This being Bryan Camp’s first novel, I certainly cannot wait to read more from him.

Children of Blood and Bone (Tomi Adeyemi)

Yes. I’m leading with the cover on this one, because look at it. Stunning.

When magic disappeared from Orïsha, Zélie lost not only her mother to the hate of the ruthless King Saran, but all hope, as well. Now, in a twist of fate Zélie has the chance to bring magic back to her people with the help of a runaway princess and her own non-magical brother. Will they be able to navigate the many dangers and escape from the crown prince who hunts them single-mindedly?

This is a book that I had been anticipating for quite awhile, along with, I suspect a ridiculous number of other people. I read a few other reviews of Children and Blood and Bone after I finished the book, and found I did not agree with them. They were critical of it for being unoriginal and overlong. I can’t totally speak for the unoriginal critique, as I’m not familiar with The Last Airbender, which was apparently a strong inspiration. I could see some of the parallels with Ember in the Ashes, but overall, it felt original to me. As to it being overlong, well, I love really long books. Most of the chapters were quite short, so that helped keep the pace up for me.

Overall, I thought it was wonderful. I finished it and immediately had to look online to see if there were going to be more books. While I loved Zélie, I particularly enjoyed Amari. It was fantastic seeing her grow from fearful and damaged into someone much stronger. I’m also just desperate to see what happens with Inan in the next book. There is so much potential here and I’m super excited to see where it’s all going.

YA and Wine

If you’ve been following for awhile, then you know I enjoy pairing books and booze. And if there are two things I’m particularly passionate about, it’s young adult novels and a decent glass of wine. I can’t honestly claim to be an expert on either, but I can’t think of many things that would go better together. It’s likely that I’ve mentioned some of these series before on other lists, however, they are certainly worth mentioning again.

 

Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl

This is a series I have definitely mentioned before, probably paired with a cocktail. I stand by that, but I feel like it would pair equally well with a good mead. I know, typically it would be something better suited to a more medieval setting, but bear with me here. Southerners like their tea sweet, right? Why not their wine too? Being that Beautiful Creatures is very Southern, it just makes sense to me. And mead feels a little more “grown up” to me than most other sweet wines. Any mead will obviously do, but my absolute favorite is actually local for me, from just down the highway in Hermann, MO, an orange blossom mead.

An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir

This is a series I only recently finally picked up. It’s still ongoing, with the third book in the series coming out this May. While there is definitely hope to be found, they are still pretty dark, so I endorse something dark (and pretty strong). Sip on a nice port. It’s certainly a wine that can stand on it’s own feet, like Laia.

The Selection by Kiera Cass

This is another series I’ve only recently given a shot, but quite surprised myself by enjoying. I’ve only read the first book so far, but I plan on picking up the rest of the series. It’s a little bit like The Bachelor meets The Hunger Games, but with better fashion. It’s not all pretty dresses and wooing a prince, but it still feels like it needs something pretty and a little decadent. I would suggest a nice, dry, sparkling rosé.

The Thousandth Floor by Katherine McGee

I’ll be honest, I initially picked up this book because I thought the cover was pretty. I really wasn’t sure what it was about, but I really ended up enjoying it. Pretend like you are rich and perfect enough to live in the penthouse of The Tower and dive in with a nice (but cheap) champagne.

The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee

I’ve previously reviewed this book here, but if you haven’t checked that out, I cannot stress enough how fun it is. It seems fitting that the wine I chose to pair with it is a little old fashioned; pretty much every 18th century and Regency set novel I’ve ever read has gentlemen drinking claret. It’s not a wine you see much these days, but Coppola Winery has a particularly nice one. I can’t normally recommend a specific wine, but this is the only time I can remember seeing a claret and it’s definitely well worth it if you can track it down.

Do you have any wine and YA pairings you’d like to recommend? Share them with me below!

The Thirteenth Gate (Kat Ross)

Sorry that there has been a bit of a delay on posts. I spent last month working on another book related project that I might be sharing some time in the future. Anyway, on to The Thirteenth Gate.

Last year, you may recall I review Kat Ross’s The Daemoniac (catch up on that review here). That book was a prequel to this one, which is the first in the Dominion Mysteries series. While The Daemoniac ends just shortly before the Jack the Ripper murders, this one picks up shortly after they ended.

Here we met Vivienne Cumberland and her companion, Alec Lawrence, on their way to the Greymoor Lunatic Asylum in the dead of a rainy night. Really, can a book begin in a better way? Initially, I was a little disappointed. I was hoping to have more adventures with Harry and John. They do show up and play a major role, but not until a little ways into the book.

That disappointment did not last long. This book somehow managed to delve even further into the supernatural, but still managed to maintain the mystery element that was particularly fun in the previous book.

It did lead me even further down the rabbit hole, however. Now, having been introduced to Vivienne and Alec, I wanted to know more. I knew Kat Ross had other books that had a connection to this series, but I had not yet sought them out. As it turns out, Midnight Sea is available to read for free. It was, of course, amazing. I picked up the entire trilogy and devoured them. She is also two books in to another connected series. I haven’t yet gotten my hands on those yet, but I will and I definitely recommend you do to.

So, if you feel like losing yourself for awhile, you really can’t go wrong with a little Kat Ross.

One Dark Throne (Kendare Blake)

I know. Some of you are completely floored that I am finally getting around to actually posting something substantial. I really am sorry. You know that I always have the best of intentions, but life gets in the way sometimes. And boy, let me tell you, life has certainly made its presence known these last few months. Breakup, family death, sick pets, car troubles… to say it’s been nuts would be an understatement. But, I’m trying to get back into the swing. Bear with me.

Back to my book this week: Kendare Blake‘s sequel to Three Dark Crowns: One Dark Throne. When I initially read Three Dark Crowns a few months ago, I enjoyed it, but wasn’t totally in love with it.  The twist at the end was enough to bring me to the second book and I am glad I decided to stick with it. This might not make much sense to you if you haven’t read the first book, and… well, you should. Just go read it. I’ll wait.

ANYWAY. We catch up to our three sister queens of Fennbirn with the Ascension year well underway. Queen Katherine, once considered the weakest is now stronger than ever; Queen Arsinoe is grappling with how to make her newly discovered secret gift work to her advantage; Queen Mirabella, once the certain choice to be Queen Crowned faces fights that put those she loves in danger.

Katherine was a particular favorite in this book. It was fascinating to watch her slip further and further into darkness, becoming more and more unstable. While Arsinoe and Mirabella each grew, as well, let’s be honest, sometimes it’s just more fun to watch a villain develop than it is to watch a hero.

There was plenty of time spent with the supporting characters as well, but there were times when I felt they were in my way. I know supporting characters are necessary. However, the three queen’s are so satisfying to read, that sometimes it was hard to let them share the stage.

There also seemed to be a heftier dose of teen angst going on here than in the previous book. Or maybe I’m just getting old and just noticing it more than I did before. Who knows?

Overall, One Dark Throne was enjoyable and full of enough twists I’m going to keep going with the series. (Apparently, this was originally going to be a duology, but it was popular enough she decided to expand to four books.) For all my fellow YA fantasy lovers out there, it is certainly not one to miss.

End of July Roundup

I know. I’ve been distant lately.

But truly, it’s not you, it’s me.

Writing a book is hard. I sort of suspected it might be, since I had never just written one before, but the reality is harder than I could have guessed. The good news is, things are still moving along well with the book, despite several stalls over the course of the month. I’ve just begun chapter 10, which is more or less the halfway point in my story. This journey has been excited and made me really proud of what I can accomplish, but it’s also been incredibly stressful. I second guess myself all the time. I’ve thought about giving up, because there is no way anyone would want to read this garbage.

But, I’ve kept going. I don’t write everyday, but I do most days, even if it’s only a paragraph or two. I’m not yet one of the super disciplined writers who can sit down and churn out several thousand words a day. Aside from discipline, I don’t really have the time. The book will get done, but it may take some time.

I’ve also been reading lots. Since reading is helpful in dealing with my stress and I’ve been VERY stressed out lately, it has helped make the month tolerable. I’ll have full reviews coming up on some of what I’ve read, which I’ll note, but otherwise, I wanted to summarize my reading list and maybe give you some ideas for your summer reading.

Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo

I’m late to the Grishaverse. I ordered Six of Crows several months ago looking for books with amoral protagonists and it languished on my TBR piled for quite awhile before I finally picked it up last month. I order Crooked Kingdom well before I ever finished the first book. The world Leigh Bardugo has built is rich and engrossing and the characters were fascinating. I will definitely be reading more from her in the future.

Heartless by Marissa Meyer

I’ve always had a soft spot for fairy tale retellings, so this seemed like it would be right up my alley. It was definitely well written and creative, but overall the story didn’t appeal to me. I didn’t expect a happy ending, and certainly didn’t get one, but I sort of hoped for something less bleak.

What the Raven Brings by John Owen Theobald and Spectacle by Rachel Vincent

Each of these books is, respectively, the second books in their series. You might recall I reviewed the first books (These Dark Wings and Menagerie) last year. I finally kicked myself into gear to read these. Look for full reviews of each in the next month.

Mycroft Holmes by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Anna Waterhouse

I was surprised as anyone to find out the legendary basketball player was not only writing books, but fiction books. With a soft spot for Sherlock and a great deal on Kindle, I decided it was worth trying. It was actually pretty good, occasionally bordering on a little stuffy, but hey, this is Mycroft we’re talking about. Definitely a worthwhile read if your into all things Holmes.

Tales from the Shadowhunter Academy– Cassandra Clare, Sarah Rees Brennan, Maureen Johnson, Robin Wasserman

This has seriously been collecting dust on my TBR since November. Which is weird for me, particularly since I usually gulp down anything Shadowhunter related pretty fast. Once I started, this one was no exception. Despite 600+ pages, I read it in an entire day. It was enjoyable and certainly helped fill in a few gaps between the Mortal Instruments and The Dark Artifices.

Dragon Unbound by Katie MacAlister

The usual Katie MacAlister Dragon craziness, distilled down to novella size. Here, we finally get a little more with the First Dragon. Of course I loved it. I always do.

Dream World by Erin A Jensen

I had many of the same issues with Dream World as I did with the first book, Dream Waters, which I reviewed awhile back. It wasn’t a bad book, I’m intrigued enough to keep going, but it wasn’t great.  The switching between perspectives got a little confusing and I’ve seriously never seen so many variations on ‘pissing oneself’ in my life. This made it hard for me to read for long periods of time without having to step away. But, I’ll stick around and see what the next book holds.

Caraval by Stephanie Garber

Ok, so technically I read this one last month, but I’m including it anyway. This was one I picked up at the same time as Six of Crows and it waited in the TBR pile for awhile. I really loved this one, guys. It had moments where things got a little confusing, but I chalked that up to the atmosphere of Caraval. It was dark and magical. Cannot wait to read more.

The Bone Witch (Rin Chupeco)

I received a free copy of The Bone Witch from the publisher in exchange for a review. This did not change my opinion of the book.

Tea comes from a family of witches, but after she accidentally raises her brother from the dead, it becomes clear that she’s nothing like her sisters. She is a Bone Witch, feared and often reviled. After being taken under the wing of the Bone Witch Mykaela, Tea finds herself in a completely different world from the small village she has grown up in: training to become an asha.

The simplest way for me to sum up The Bone Witch is Memoirs of a Geisha meets The Kingkiller Chronicles. I’ll admit, it took me quite awhile to get over the similarities to Memoirs of a Geisha in particular. If you’ve read it before, it’s difficult not to see the tribute. If you haven’t, well, you’re golden. It will pretty much be an all new thing for you.

Don’t get me wrong. I really enjoyed The Bone Witch.

The asha themselves are more than just pretty faces. These are some seriously ass-kicking ladies. Asha are more than just witches: they are also graceful artists and skilled fighters. The are sort of a deadly combination of ninja, geisha and witch. While Tea feels adrift and out of place among the asha, she is extremely well suited to it. She is smart and powerful. I look forward to seeing more of her in the future.

The ending really left me ready for more. There is a HUGE twist at the end. I cannot wait for the next book in the series. Considering I finished this book in August, I think I’m going to have an unfortunately long wait… in the mean time, my preordered copy should be here soon!

The Blazing Star (Imani Josey)

I received a free copy of The Blazing Star in exchange for an honest review. This definitely did NOT change my opinion of the book.

Sixteen-year-old Portia is used to playing second fiddle to her genius twin sister, Alex. After having a strange reaction when she holds a scarab in her history class, Portia finds herself braver and stronger than she was before. But, the second time she comes into contact with the scarab, what happens is even stranger: she wakes up in Ancient Egypt, along with her twin and a freshman girl.

While trying to find a way back to their own time, they discover that they are not there by chance and their connection to Ancient Egypt runs far deeper than they ever could have imagined.

Let’s be real here: my regular readers can probably figure out what initially drew me to this book. Did you see that cover? It’s gorgeous. Scroll back up and look at it if you didn’t look before. See? Gorgeous. BUT, even more importantly, this book was about Ancient Egypt. I’ve only been obsessed with Egypt since 3rd grade. Of course I was going to read it.

Lucky me: it’s an awesome book. Things start out just a little slow, but they pick up fairly quickly. Although I’ve never had sisters, I felt that Portia and Alex’s relationship seemed pretty authentic. It’s not perfect, but they love each other. In fact, I really liked almost all the characters. The priestesses are all pretty fantastic, very well written and interesting.  I have a particular fondness for sweet Prince Seti.

Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=637421
I imagine he’s more of a dreamboat than this more recent picture of the actual Pharaoh Seti I

I made the mistake of reading several other reviews before I started The Blazing Star. There were a few that mentioned that the setting was vague and could have been anywhere ancient. I have to disagree. The whole thing felt pretty Egyptian to me. Could it have been more detailed? Probably, but too much detail would have bogged everything down. As someone who has spent the better part of two decades or more fascinated with the Ancient Egyptians, most things seemed to ring fairly true to me.

You have Egypt and magic, what more can you want?? For a first novel, Imani Josey KILLED it. I pretty much finished the book and immediately ordered myself a signed copy. I cannot wait to read more.

 

Wise Phuul (Daniel Stride)

I recieved a free copy of Wise Phuul from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This did not change my opinion of the book.

Teltö Phuul is a humble necromancer and library clerk, living the peaceful life, when he finds himself caught up in a political intrigue he could never imagine. Stranded far from home and his family, he must navigate the treacherous political climate as well as the physical distance to get himself back home in one piece.

Let’s start here with the world building, because it really was top-notch. The only problem for me was that I felt like I was dropped into the middle of a world that I didn’t truly understand. It was so well realized and complex, that I felt like I needed some sort of primer so that I could understand what was going on. It took me the better part of the book to feel like I sort of had a handle on things. Even then, I would have still liked to understand more of the history of the Viiminian empire.

Then there is the character of Teltö. I struggled with him. Sometimes he was clever, but mostly he just seemed lucky and he seemed to spend a great deal of time being concerned with getting laid, even in the most unlikely of circumstances. In the end, I suppose his flaws make him more human, but I still cannot say that I liked him. Ultimately, in a fantasy book I’m looking for a seemingly normal character to emerge from their situation as a hero, and I don’t feel like that really happened here. I understand there is to be at least one more book in the series, so there is more time for character development, but I’m having trouble seeing much at this point.

Overall, it was a reasonably enjoyable book and certainly not bad for a debut novel. If you are looking for a fantasy with a richly imagined world, you will not be disappointed. I will be very interested to see where Daniel Stride goes from here.

The Devil’s Bible Saga (Michael Bolan)

I received free copies of The Devil’s Bible saga from the author in exchange for an honest review. This did not change my opinion of the books.

The story opens as the Duke of Brabant lay dying. The succession is supposed to be split between the three sons of the Duke, giving them all a chance to be leaders. After he slips away, the eldest brother Reinald reveals that their father changed his will on his deathbed and he is now the sole heir to the duchy.  He makes it quite clear that he will brook no defiance from his siblings. Willem and Leo, along with their headstrong sister Isabella choose to leave their home and pursue their own destinies rather than submit to their brother’s will. The form a war party for hire and proceed to be very successful throughout the Thirty Years War. Reinald, meanwhile follows a much more sinister path: he joins forces with a group intent on bringing about the apocalypse by killing as many people as possible.

What a thoroughly enjoyable series! A little history, a little fantasy and totally binge-able! The series consists of three books, The Sons of Brabant, Hidden Elements and The Stone Bridge.  My little summary above? Barely scratching the surface. There is a great deal going on, but it’s all told fairly compactly, which is something I really liked. I read the whole series in under a week, partially because they are not super long, partially because I couldn’t put them down. He doesn’t waste a lot of time dragging out pointless conversations or endless, overdone descriptions. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate that.

While The Sons of Brabant was a great book, my favorite was definitely Hidden Elements. Within the first two pages my jaw was on the floor and I could barely stop to sleep, eat and go to my day job. And The Stone Bridge can certainly hold it’s own with the other two: happy, sad, spectacular.

The characters are also pretty fantastic. The bad guys range from sinister to absolutely deplorable, some make your skin crawl. The heroes are just as fleshed out. Isabella was my particular favorite. She’s totally ass-kicking and I thought an amazingly well written female character.

One thing is for certain, Michael Bolan tells one hell of a story. And I cannot wait to read more.