Friday, 6 December 2019

Review: Laughter at the Academy - Seanan McGuire

From fairy tale forest to gloomy gothic moor, from gleaming epidemiologist’s lab to the sandy shores of Neverland, Seanan McGuire’s short fiction has been surprising, delighting, confusing, and transporting her readers since 2009. Now, for the first time, that fiction has been gathered together in one place, ready to be enjoyed one twisting, tangled tale at a time. Her work crosses genres and subverts expectations.

Meet the mad scientists of “Laughter at the Academy” and “The Tolling of Pavlov’s Bells.” Glory in the potential of a Halloween that never ends. Follow two very different alphabets in “Frontier ABCs” and “From A to Z in the Book of Changes.” Get “Lost,” dress yourself “In Skeleton Leaves,” and remember how to fly. All this and more is waiting for you within the pages of this decade-spanning collection, including several pieces that have never before been reprinted. Stories about mermaids, robots, dolls, and Deep Ones are all here, ready for you to dive in.

This is a box of strange surprises dredged up from the depths of the sea, each one polished and prepared for your enjoyment. So take a chance, and allow yourself to be surprised.

Visit Seanan McGuire's website for more information

Laughter at the Academy is a collection of 22 short stories written by Seanan McGuire, these stories have all been published before but this is the first time they've been collected together and each has an introduction from the author explaining why she chose to include it in this anthology. None of these stories are linked to existing series (like October Daye or Incryptid) so you don't need to be familiar with Seanan's other books to enjoy them.

This really was a fantastic collection of stories, it includes everything from urban fantasy, science fiction and horror through to a couple of retellings and even a steampunk story thrown in for fun. There are hints of Peter Pan and the Wizard of Oz alongside stories of multiverses and mermaids so it really does have something for everyone.

As with any short story collection some stories will resonate more than others but overall there were far more hits than misses and there were a lot of worlds or characters that I'd love the chance to spend more time with. My particular favourites were The Tolling of Pavlov's Bells (a story about a scientist who is fed up of trying to explain the risks of bioterrorism), Crystal Halloway and the Forgotten Passage (which reminded me a little of the Wayward Children series), Please Accept My Most Profound Apologies for What Is About to Happen (But You Started It) (about a social misfit who loves dinosaurs) and Down, Deep Down, Below the Waves (the story of a grad student who has been carrying out an unexpected experiment).

If you're a Seanan McGuire fan then you're sure to love this collection, and even if you're new to her work then this would be a brilliant place to start. She has such an incredible imagination and always manages to throw in surprising twists that turn things upside down. I would love to know where she gets her ideas from!

Source: Received via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Other Reviews:
If you have reviewed this book on your blog please leave a link to your review in the comments & I'll add the link here.


Thursday, 5 December 2019

Review: The Harp of Kings - Juliet Marillier

A young woman is both a bard--and a warrior--in this thrilling historical fantasy from the author of the Sevenwaters novels.

Eighteen-year-old Liobhan is a powerful singer and an expert whistle player. Her brother has a voice to melt the hardest heart, and is a rare talent on the harp. But Liobhan's burning ambition is to join the elite warrior band on Swan Island. She and her brother train there to compete for places, and find themselves joining a mission while still candidates. Their unusual blend of skills makes them ideal for this particular job, which requires going undercover as traveling minstrels. For Swan Island trains both warriors and spies.

Their mission: to find and retrieve a precious harp, an ancient symbol of kingship, which has gone missing. If the instrument is not played at the upcoming coronation, the candidate will not be accepted and the kingdom will be thrown into disarray. Faced with plotting courtiers and tight-lipped druids, an insightful storyteller, and a boorish Crown Prince, Liobhan soon realizes an Otherworld power may be meddling in the affairs of the kingdom. When ambition clashes with conscience, Liobhan must make a bold decision--and the consequences may break her heart.

Blackthorn & Grim:
Dreamer's Pool
Tower of Thorns
Den of Wolves

Warrior Bards:
(This series can be read completely separately but it stars Blackthorn & Grim's children)
The Harp of Kings
A Dance with Fate (2020)

Visit Juliet Marillier's website for more information

I've been a fan of Juliet Marillier ever since I first started reading her Blackthorn and Grim series a few years ago so I was absolutely thrilled to find out that she was returning to this world with The Harp of Kings. Although the new Warrior Bards series can easily be read without reading the previous books the story is set in the same world but many years later and it stars Blackthorn and Grim's grown up children Liobhan and Brocc.

Liobhan is a skilled musician and singer but the one thing she wants more than anything is to become a warrior. Brocc is more interested in his music than fighting but he chose to accompany Liobhan to Swan Island, where elite warriors are trained, to keep his sister safe. Dau is another member of their class and he is in fierce competition with Liobhan to be the top student. The three are still in training when they are selected for an important mission. They'll need to take on new identities for the duration of the challenge with Liobhan and Brocc as travelling bards while Dau works as an apprentice blacksmith.

Their mission is to find a missing harp. The Harp of Kings is an ancient artefact that has been used at the coronation of all the previous kings, it has been stolen from the Druids and unless it's found in time the crown prince will not be accepted by his people as their rightful king. They need to find answers but that is made very difficult by the fact that nobody can know who they really are or that the harp is even missing in the first place. Add in the way the local fae seem to have taken an interest in both the harp and the siblings who are looking for it and things are going to get complicated fast.

I absolutely love Juliet Marillier's writing style, her books are very character driven and they read just like an old fashioned fairytale. I love the way she weaves folklore and fae creatures into her work and the blend of mystery and magic is just seamless. The story is told in alternating points of view from Liobhan, Brocc and Dau, all three were distinctive characters with very different outlooks on life. I love the strong bond between Liobhan and Brocc, they always have each other's backs and they are willing to risk a great deal to protect each other. I wasn't a fan of Dau's at first, he had some very old fashioned ideas about women wanting to be warriors and to be honest he came across as a bit of an idiot but he really grew a lot throughout the story and I enjoyed seeing him and Liobhan go from fierce enemies to grudging allies.

This story has a lot of heart and it was totally captivating from the first page to the last. I'm already desperately waiting for the sequel and I can't wait to spend more time with these characters.

Source: Received from publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review

Other Reviews:
If you have reviewed this book on your blog please leave a link to your review in the comments & I'll add the link here.


Wednesday, 4 December 2019

Review: A Dream So Dark - L.L. McKinney

In L. L. McKinney's A Dream So Dark, the thrilling sequel to A Blade So Black, Alice goes deeper into a dark version of Wonderland.

Still reeling from her recent battle (and grounded until she graduates high school), Alice must cross the Veil to rescue her friends and stop the Black Knight once and for all. But the deeper she ventures into Wonderland, the more topsy-turvy everything becomes. It's not until she's at her wits' end that she realizes - Wonderland is trying to save her.

There's a new player on the board; a poet capable of using Nightmares to not only influence the living but raise the dead. This Poet is looking to claim the Black Queen's power - and Alice's budding abilities - as their own.

Dreams have never been so dark in Wonderland, and if there is any hope of defeating this mystery poet's magic, Alice must confront the worst in herself, in the people she loves, and in the very nature of fear itself.

The Nightmare-Verse Series:
A Blade So Black
A Dream So Dark

Visit L.L. McKinney's website for more information

A Dream so Dark is the second book in L.L. McKinney's Nightmare-Verse trilogy and it picks up Alice's story immediately from where the previous book left off with Alice trying to explain her latest disappearance to her long suffering and very, very angry mother. As I mentioned in my previous review I really liked the fact that Alice's mum is involved in her life and constantly checking up on her daughter and it's no surprise to see her grounded and pretty much under house arrest after her latest antics. I don't want to say too much but I appreciated the fact that Alice is able to be more open with her mum in this book, it was just a shame that her mum was only really around in the beginning of the story.

In this book we get to spend much more time exploring Wonderland, we meet some great new characters along the way but there were parts of the book where I really found myself missing my favourites from the first book. There were also places where the story dragged a little even though it was fun seeing more of Wonderland and the creatures who live there. The pacing just felt off to me, very slow in the middle and rushed towards the end, and that meant I didn't enjoy this book quite as much as the first one.

The action scenes we do get were fabulous, L.L. McKinney has a way of hooking you in and she makes it really easy to picture exactly what is happening. There are some huge revelations that are going to make the final book really interesting and I'm definitely invested enough in these characters to want to see how their story ends.

Source: Received via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review

Other Reviews:
If you have reviewed this book on your blog please leave a link to your review in the comments & I'll add the link here.

Paperback / Kindle:

Tuesday, 3 December 2019

Review: Chaos in Death - J.D. Robb

Eve Dallas' latest case is starting off a little more bizarre than usual - a police sketch of a killer based on eye-witness testimony reveals he has green skin, swollen red eyes, goblin ears, and a dislocated jaw-structure that defies the human form. Is it a mask? Is it make-up? Or is the explanation more sinister?

Dallas faces off against multiple suspects - all of them students of medicine capable of precisely slicing the ears, noses, and eyes of the three victims. But who had the motive? More importantly, what kind of rogue science are these healers practicing?

Set between New York to Dallas and Celebrity in Death.

In Death Series:
Naked in Death
Glory in Death
Immortal in Death
Rapture in Death
Ceremony in Death
Vengeance in Death
Holiday in Death
Midnight in Death (Novella)
Conspiracy in Death
Loyalty in Death
Witness in Death
Judgement in Death
Betrayal in Death
Interlude in Death (Novella)
Seduction in Death
Reunion in Death
Purity in Death
Portrait in Death
Imitation in Death
Big Jack (Available in the Remember When Anthology or separately)
Divided in Death
Visions in Death
Survivor in Death
Origin in Death
Memory in Death
Haunted in Death (Novella)
Born in Death
Innocent in Death
Creation in Death
Eternity in Death (Novella)
Strangers in Death
Salvation in Death
Ritual in Death (Novella)
Promises in Death
Kindred in Death
Missing in Death (Novella)
Fantasy in Death
Indulgence in Death
Possession in Death (Novella)
Treachery in Death
New York to Dallas
Chaos in Death (Novella)
Celebrity in Death
Delusion in Death
Calculated in Death
Thankless in Death
Taken in Death (Novella)
Concealed in Death
Festive in Death
Obsessed in Death
Devoted in Death
Wonderment in Death (Novella)
Brotherhood in Death
Apprentice in Death
Echoes in Death
Secrets in Death
Dark in Death
Leverage in Death
Connections in Death (2019)

Visit J.D. Robb's website for more information.

Chaos In Death is a novella available either as an individual ebook, or, as a bind up in print or ebook, that also includes the novella Possession in Death. I read it as part of the bind up but I'm reviewing both stories separately as I'm reading the whole In Death series in order and these stories don't follow each other chronologically.

Three people have been brutally murdered and of course Eve and Peabody are on the case ready to catch the murderer. The slight snag is that their only witness has described a monster right out of a horror story as the killer. Eve is sure they must be skilled with make up and prosthetics but the question is why would they disguise themselves that way? Aww the killing spree continues and the killer seems to be devolving Eve is in a race against time to find them.

What I love most about these novellas is that they're always a little bit weird and creepy. They have all the characters I love, plenty of suspense and action but the answers are never completely straightforward which always throws Eve for a loop as she's very much a black and white kind of person who if she can't see it then she doesn't believe it. This was another great instalment that left me ready to dive into the next book.

Source: Purchased

Other Reviews:
If you have reviewed this book on your blog please leave a link to your review in the comments & I'll add the link here.

Chaos in Death Kindle Or Bind Up Paperback / Kindle that also includes Possession in Death:

Monday, 2 December 2019

Review: Edge of Darkness - Lara Adrian

New York Times bestselling author Lara Adrian is back with Edge of Darkness, the latest sizzling, spellbinding novel in the Hunter Legacy series of vampire romances set in the darkly seductive Midnight Breed paranormal story world.

As a survivor of the horrific Hunter program, Breed vampire and former assassin Knox is a solitary man, closed off to the pain of love—and loss. A loner by choice, Knox deals in death and dark justice, expecting nothing in return. Until one snowy night he drifts into a remote town in northern Maine, where a determined beauty enlists his lethal assistance, tempting not only his hunger, but his wounded heart as well.

Lenora Calhoun has lived in tiny Parrish Falls all her life. Owner of the local diner that’s been in her family for generations, Leni’s as stalwart and stubborn as the tall pines that surround her. That unshakable resolve doesn’t sit well with everyone, least of all the most powerful family in the logging town. Leni’s been the target of their animosity for years, but with their escalating threats now putting an innocent child’s safety at risk, she takes a desperate chance on a dangerous stranger—a man who is something more than human. Knox’s deadly skills and turbulent gaze should be warning enough for Leni to guard her heart, yet she cannot deny the yearning he stirs in her blood. For the merciless Breed male is the only man she can trust in a town full of secrets, and where taking a stand could rip away everything she holds dear.

While this novel is Book 3 in the Hunter Legacy series, each story in this Midnight Breed spin-off series can be read as a complete standalone with HEA and no cliffhangers.

The Midnight Breed Series:
A Touch of Midnight (Novella included in The Midnight Breed Series Companion, now also available separately)
Kiss of Midnight
Kiss of Crimson
Midnight Awakening
Midnight Rising
Veil of Midnight
Ashes of Midnight
Shades of Midnight
Taken by Midnight
Deeper than Midnight
A Taste of Midnight (Novella)
Darker After Midnight
The Midnight Breed Series Companion
Edge of Dawn
Marked by Midnight (Novella)
Crave the Night
Tempted by Midnight (Novella)
Bound to Darkness
Stroke of Midnight (Novella)
Defy the Dawn
Midnight Untamed (Novella)
Midnight Unbound (Novella)
Midnight Unleashed (Novella)
Claimed in Shadows
Break the Day

Hunter Legacy Series:
(A series of standalone romances set in the Midnight Breed world)
Born of Darkness
Hour of Darkness
Edge of Darkness

Visit Lara Adrian's website for more information about the Midnight Breed series you will find excerpts from each of the books. Lara can also be found on Facebook & Twitter where she posts regular updates or you can join other fans to chat about the books over at the LAMB (Lara Adrian Midnight Breed) Forum

Edge of Darkness is the third book in Lara Adrian's Hunter Legacy series and although it's a spin off from the Midnight Breed series (and fans of that series will appreciate the cameo appearances from a few familiar faces) these books have all been designed to work as stand alone stories that can be read in any order. They each focus on a different couple and I'm really enjoying seeing some of the lethal Gen One Hunters from Dragos's awful breeding program finally find their own happily ever afters.

Knox has loved and lost once before and in his grief he walked away from his brothers and the only people he cared about. He's spent months living a solitary existence travelling across the country trying to run away from his pain. While he goes out of his way to keep to himself and avoid getting involved that doesn't stop him from standing up for people around him and when he sees Leni being bullied he immediately steps up to her defence.

Leni has spent her life living in a small town in the middle of nowhere and she's been raising her young nephew Riley ever since her sister disappeared 6 years ago. She will do whatever it takes to keep Riley safe and if that means going up against the most powerful family in town then that's what she'll have to do. She's secretly living in fear though, worrying about how she'll keep custody of the boy when his father is released from prison. When she recognises that Knox is one of the Hunters she turns to him for help but as the attraction flares between them the price may include her heart.

This was another fabulous instalment of the series, Leni and Knox had fantastic chemistry, the romance is slow build but well worth waiting for, Riley was adorable plus there's a ton of action and danger that kept me on the edge of my seat. Throw in a couple of familiar faces from the Midnight Breed series and a fight against a dangerous criminal gang defended by corrupt police officers and you have another unmissable read from Lara Adrian. I honestly can't get enough of these books and I'm already eagerly anticipating the release of the next one!

Source: I received an ebook from the author in exchange for an honest review

Other Reviews:
If you have reviewed this book on your blog please leave a link to your review in the comments & I'll add the link here.

Paperback / Kindle:

Sunday, 1 December 2019

Review: Jessie's Harem - Mandy Rosko

Ghouls just wanna have fun...

Jessie needs an army. One made up of the strongest alphas she can find if she is to kill a powerful sorcerer. The former master who created her.

She needs warriors, both wolf and dragon alike for this tricky mission. Easier said than done because dragons and wolves don’t get along! Luckily, Jessie’s a ghoul with succubus powers and she doesn’t have to look far to find a few scrumptious men who are the perfect candidates...

She just didn’t expect to have so much fun making the growly warriors do her bidding, though they don’t seem to mind when play time rolls around.

As things heat up in the bedroom, complications arise. The long history of fighting between dragons and werewolves is more challenging than Jessie expected. To ensure her freedom, and their cooperation, she might have to, horror of horrors, release them from her spell.

Trusting four angry warriors to stay on their own free will is a new experience for Jessie. Because, whether she wins her freedom or not, Jessie is used to a solitary, loveless life, and not convinced she’s worthy of four knights in shining armor.

Visit Mandy Rosko's website for more information

Jessie has been used and abused by her husband for years, he even went so far as to turn her into some kind of ghoul / succubus type creature who has to feed on souls to stay alive. She's been planning her escape for a long time but she knows she can't battle him alone, so she sets out to get herself an army by ensnaring an alpha werewolf and an alpha dragon shifter using her succubus abilities. She ends up binding 4 men to her with a spell and promises them that if they are able to kill her ex she will give them back their freedom.

I'm having a hard time writing a review for Jessie's Harem because I don't have a lot of positive things to say about it. I struggled with Jessie as a character, she can be extremely childish, is always very selfish and very rarely thinks about anyone other than herself. She has zero problem with compelling others to do her bidding using her magic even while complaining that the same thing had been done to her and that's why her husband needs to die. The men were a little more likeable but they spent so much time having petty squabbles amongst themselves and it was just irritating to read about. The wolves and dragons are at war, for no real good reason and that's just the way it's always been so why would they try to make peace?

Yet, despite the fact that the two sides can't stand each other and have spent years killing each other in battle, along comes a woman and suddenly they can work together? Never mind the fact that they're all aware she's put a spell on them, it's not some subtle thing that they're not aware of. They know from the get go that she's manipulating them and playing on their emotions yet somehow all they care about is how beautiful she is and how much they want to get in her pants. I find that really hard to believe considering she put them under her spell by feeding them her corrupted black blood. I just didn't buy the attraction between them, or believe that all four men would get together behind her back not to try and figure out an escape plan but to try and work out how to seduce her. I hate to say it but this is just one of those books that I'd have a really difficult time recommending and I would have zero interest in reading more about any of these characters or this world.

Source: Received from publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review

Other reviews of this book:
If you have reviewed this book on your blog please leave a link to your review in the comments & I'll add the link here.

Paperback / Kindle:

November 2019 Recap

Books read in previous months but reviewed in November:
(Links will take you to my reviews)
  1. Warner Bros. Studio Tour London - The Making of Harry Potter: The Official Guide (Read in September, review coming soon)
  2. The Marquis and I - Ella Quinn (Read in September, review coming soon)
  3. Wires and Nerve: Volume 1 - Marissa Meyer (Graphic Novel) (Read in October, review coming soon)
  4. Missing in Death - J.D. Robb (Novella) (Read in October, reviewed in November)
  5. Aurora Blazing - Jessie Mihalik (Read in October, review coming soon)
  6. Fantasy in Death - J.D. Robb (Read in October, reviewed in November)
  7. Shadows - Kristen Proby (Read in October, reviewed in November)
  8. The Harp of Kings - Juliet Marillier (Read in October, review coming soon)
  9. Beast - Lexi Blake (Read in October, reviewed in November)
  10. The Bromance Book Club - Lyssa Kay Adams (Read in October, reviewed in November)
  11. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire: Illustrated Edition - J.K. Rowling & Jim Kay (Read in October, review coming soon)
    Books read in November:
    (Links will take you to my reviews)
    1. Laughter at the Academy - Seanan McGuire (Review coming soon)
    2. The Toll - Neal Shusterman
    3. Beauty - Lexi Blake
    4. Indulgence in Death - J.D. Robb
    5. Twist of Fate - Jill Shalvis (Novella)
    6. The Deep - Rivers Soloman, Daveed Diggs, William Hutson & Jonathan Snipes (Novella) (Review coming soon)
    7. Magic for Liars - Sarah Gailey (Review coming soon)
    8. On the Edge - Ilona Andrews (I re-read this book but the link takes you to my original review)
    9. Bayou Moon - Ilona Andrews (I re-read this book but the link takes you to my original review)
    10. Fate's Edge - Ilona Andrews (I re-read this book but the link takes you to my original review)
    11. Steel's Edge - Ilona Andrews (I re-read this book but the link takes you to my original review)
    12. Sirens in Bliss - Lexi Blake
    13. The Bear's Fated Mate - Vivian Arend
    14. Possession in Death - J.D. Robb (Novella)
    15. A Dream So Dark - L.L. McKinney (Review coming soon)
    16. Treachery in Death - J.D. Robb
    17. Outmatched - Kristen Callihan & Samantha Young
    18. The Black Prince - Ariana Nash
    19. Jessie's Harem - Mandy Rosko (Review coming soon)
    20. New York to Dallas - J.D. Robb
    21. Chaos in Death - J.D. Robb (Novella) (Review coming soon)
    22. The Lunatics: Volume One - Navessa Allen
    23. Wake the Dead - Stacey Rourke (Novella)
    24. Dead Man's Hand - Stacey Rourke (Novella)
    25. Caught Dead - Stacey Rourke (Novella)
    26. Drop Dead Gorgeous - Stacey Rourke (Novella)
    27. Dead Ringer - Stacey Rourke (Novella)
    28. Dead as a Doornail - Stacey Rourke (Novella)
    29. The Journals of Octavia Hollows: Books 1-6 - Stacey Rourke
    30. How the Dead Lie - Stacey Rourke (Novella)
    31. Diplomacy - Kit Rocha (Short Story) (Review coming soon)
    32. High Priestess - Kit Rocha (Short Story) (Review coming soon)
    33. Headlines and Hydras - Rebecca Chastain (I beta read this book for the author so I won't be reviewing it until after it is published next year)
    34. Celebrity in Death - J.D. Robb (Review coming soon)
    35. Edge of Darkness - Lara Adrian (Review coming soon)
    36. Tempted by the Gargoyle - Lisa Carlisle (Novella) (Review coming soon)
    November Books of the Month:
    (Choices are made from books reviewed this month and the links will take you to my reviews)

    My top YA read in November:

    The Toll by Neal Shusterman (read my review here)

    My top adult reads in November:

    The Bromance Book Club by Larissa Ione (read my review here)
    Outmatched by Kristen Callihan & Samantha Young (read my review here)
    The Lunatics Volume One by Navessa Allen (read my review here)
    New York to Dallas by J.D. Robb (read my review here)

    I know four books seems a bit excessive for this month's favourite adult reads but I loved all of these books so much that I had to include them. The Bromance Bookclub was hilarious, Outmatched had the sweetest romance, The Lunatics is an incredibly urban fantasy/paranormal romance debut and New York to Dallas was probably my favourite In Death book so far which is saying something as I've been devouring those books as fast as I can over the last few months.

    My Challenge Updates:

    Here are the 2019 challenges I've signed up for:
    2019 Read 100 Books in a Year Challenge - Read 200/200 - COMPLETE
    2019 British Books Challenge - Read 18/20
    2019 New Author Challenge - Read 20/20 - COMPLETE
    2019 Urban Fantasy & Paranormal Romance Challenge - Read 100/100 - COMPLETE
    2019 Contemporary Romance Challenge - Read 20/20 - COMPLETE


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