Grave Mercy (His Fair Assassin #1) by Robin LaFevers

Seventeen-year-old Ismae escapes from the brutality of an arranged marriage into the sanctuary of the convent of St. Mortain, where the sisters still serve the gods of old. Here she learns that the god of Death Himself has blessed her with dangerous gifts—and a violent destiny. If she chooses to stay at the convent, she will be trained as an assassin and serve as a handmaiden to Death. To claim her new life, she must destroy the lives of others.

Ismae’s most important assignment takes her straight into the high court of Brittany—where she finds herself woefully under prepared—not only for the deadly games of intrigue and treason, but for the impossible choices she must make. For how can she deliver Death’s vengeance upon a target who, against her will, has stolen her heart?

Why be the sheep, when you can be the wolf?

Grave Mercy is the first book in Robin LaFevers’ His Fair Assassin series and it is a thrilling start to what I hope will be an equally thrilling continuation.

Set in an alternate universe that is based on a real point in time in our own, Grave Mercy takes place in a time where old ways and new ones often butt heads. Where women are seen more as a commodity then as a person and if a woman wants to live her life on her terms, she has to make her own way. And oftentimes that way comes in to conflict with those around her.

Like some reviewers, I have mixed feelings when it comes to this book. There were points where I was just tearing through the book, eager to know what happens next. While there were other passages that I found incredibly tedious or the characters boring. That is not to say I didn’t enjoy the book, I did, but there are portions that I wish LaFevers had either pared down or omitted completely.

What I can say is that LaFevers does an incredible job of taking a real moment in time and giving it just the tiniest of alterations to create something new. The time period Ismae lives in and many of the people she encounters were real people. A good deal of the events she is witness to did indeed happen. And while LaFevers fudges timelines a bit for dramatic effect, she does so in a way that is completely believable.

Unfortunately, while there were a good deal of strong points in Grave Mercy, there were several weak points too. For me, many of them center on the character of Ismae herself. According to the book, she is trained as an assassin and as such has the ability to get close enough to her target without them suspecting her. And while we do not see much of this training and what it entails, on more than one occasion Ismae finds herself in a situation that is obviously over her head. She flounders in ways that bring attention to herself when she is trying to keep attention off of her.

The romance angle was also a bit off-putting, if only that if felt forced at times. When Ismae first meets Gavriel it’s obvious that these two end up together and it comes as no real surprise when they eventually do.

Overall, I really liked Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers. Like I said at the beginning, it is an exciting start to a series and I am eagerly looking forward to eventually reading the rest.

If Pigs Could Fly (West Kensington Paranormal Detective Agency #1) by Jonny Nexus

“West Kensington Paranormal Detective Agency. Doctor Ravinder Shah speaking. No case too weird, no problem too bizarre. Strangeness a speciality. How can I help you?”

London Social Worker Rav Shah moonlights as a paranormal detective, aided by one of his clients and a Border Collie he rents by the hour. It was supposed to be a bit of fun: a search for truths out there; a quest for a life more interesting than the one that fate, destiny, and personal apathy had granted him.

But then a case involving a Yorkshire farmer and a herd of flying pigs leads him into a world darker and more dangerous than he’d ever dreamed.

The truth is indeed out there.

And it’s got Rav square in its sights.

Whew, what a title!

When a book opens with the line “The mist clung to the moorland like a blanket staple-gunned to a bed.” then you know you are in for an enjoyable read. And that is just what If Pigs Could Fly gives us.

It’s kind of difficult to accurately describe If Pigs Could Fly, but I think the best way would be to say it’s part X-Files part What We Do In The Shadows. In that, I mean that there are some parts of the book that a bit more serious while there are other passages that are just plain ridiculous. This doesn’t mean that those passages are bad – far from it in fact. They are just so silly and over the top that the comparison must be made.

The characters in If Pigs Could Fly are an eclectic bunch. I dare say that any reader would be hard pressed to find someone that they cannot relate to in some way. Also, not every character is likable. The only exception to this would be the Professor and the dog, Jess. Those two are incredibly lovable.

One reviewer on Goodreads compared the book to “a packet of high quality biscuits” – cookies for my American readers – and I must agree. Once you start reading and getting in to the story, it is very easy to binge and read the entire book in one sitting. But like with a delicious treat, one tries to control the urge and dole out small servings, the better to savor and enjoy it.

The ONLY drawback I can find is that this is the only book in the series. While If Pigs Could Fly is subtitled as the first book of the series, sadly there is no second book. This makes me very sad because when one comes across an author who at times channels the great Douglas Adams, one invariably wants to read more. And while I will be reading and reviewing more of Jonny Nexus’ novels in the future, I will have to bide my time and wait for another tale from the West Kensington Paranormal Detective Agency.

The Palace of Lost Memories (After the Rift #1) by C.J. Archer

The king’s magnificent palace was built in a matter of weeks. No one saw the builders, no villagers are allowed beyond the gilded gate, and only one servant has ever left. The haunted look in her eyes as she was recaptured by the palace guards is something Josie, daughter of the village doctor, has never forgotten.

For Josie, the palace is a mystery that grows more intriguing after she meets the captain of the guards, a man known only as Hammer, as mysterious and captivating as the palace itself. Whispers of magic fuel Josie’s desire to uncover the truth, but an ordinary girl like her can only dream of ever being invited inside.

When the king decides to take a wife from among the eligible daughters of the noble families, the palace gates are finally thrown open and the kingdom’s elite pour in. In a court where old rivalries and new jealousies collide, the king’s favorite is poisoned and the doctor is summoned. As her father’s assistant, Josie finally sees inside the lavish walls, but she soon learns the palace won’t surrender its secrets easily, for not a single resident, from the lowest servant to the king himself, has a memory from before the palace existed.

In the search for the truth, Josie is drawn deeper into danger, and the answers she seeks might shake the very foundations of the kingdom.

Josie is the daughter of the village doctor. She loves her father as well as what he does and she works hard to learn as much as she can in order to work beside him. The problem lies in that women cannot become doctors and the best that Josie can hope for is to become a midwife. Josie has no problem being a midwife, she cares for her female patients greatly; what she desires though is to be like her father regardless of what stands in her way.

The Palace of Lost Memories is a mix of historical fiction and fantasy. Set in it’s own land it abides by mostly familiar rules. Science and superstition walk hand in hand and while there are whispers of magic, there is no proof set in stone. Such is the land that Josie and the other characters of the book must navigate.

The author, C.J. Archer, does a decent job of creating a setting and building a mystery in it. The character of Josie is an interesting one and it is easy to sympathize with her in wanting more that what is expected of her. The castle inhabitants, such as the Captain of the Guards Hammer, is also nicely done. Throughout the story information comes to light and both we the reader as well as Josie realize that not every one is as they seem. There is no real black and white, instead each person is a shade of gray.

The mystery surrounding the castle and its inhabitants could have been given a little more attention in my opinion, however. The fact that we are given barely any clues as to what occurred is a little aggravating. If this mystery is to be the main draw of the series, than I believe the readers should be given something more.

Overall, I enjoyed reading The Palace of Lost Memories. Currently there are a total of five books in the series. It is quite likely that I will eventually read and review the rest of the series, so keep an eye out!

Provided for Review: The Devil’s Apprentice (The Great Devil War #1) by Kenneth B. Andersen

Philip is a good boy, a really good boy, who accidentally gets sent to Hell to become the Devil’s heir. The Devil, Lucifer, is dying and desperately in need of a successor, but there’s been a mistake and Philip is the wrong boy. Philip is terrible at being bad, but Lucifer has no other choice than to begin the difficult task of training him in the ways of evil. Philip gets both friends and enemies in this odd, gloomy underworld—but who can he trust, when he discovers an evil-minded plot against the dark throne?

This book was provided for review by the author and The Write Reads. Thank you!

In recent years YA fantasy has apparently found a larger audience and books in the category have come out by the score. And while this is certainly a good thing, sadly many of the books sound and read the same.

The Devil’s Apprentice by Kenneth Andersen however is not one of them.

Set in a universe that could easily be ours, the story follows what happens when a very good boy mistakenly ends up in a very bad place. Philip is the poster boy for being good; I’m fairly sure other parents point to him and ask their children ‘Why can’t you be more like Philip?’ He is something of an oddity both in the living world and in Hell. It is that good nature though that ends up helping him and the Devil as well.

Andersen’s version of Hell is a combination of familiar and new. There are tortured souls and demons aplenty but there are also demon families, a demon school that young demons attend. There is a town with shops and homes and other familiar things albeit with a slightly sinister twist. It is a unique version of the realm.

The characters in the book are also an interesting bunch. Not just the humans like Phillip, but the numerous demons that make up the denizens of Hell. Andersen obviously references Dante’s inferno with the demons yet also adds his own ideas in to the mix.

I really enjoyed reading The Devil’s Apprentice. I found it to be more than just a simple story of a misunderstanding gone wrong. It is nuanced and layered in a way that few YA books are. And while it might be marketed at younger readers, I could easily see older readers enjoying it as well. Major kudos to Mr. Andersen, I look forward to reading the rest of the series!

Provided for Review: 29 Seconds by T.M. Logan

“Give me one name. One person. And I will make them disappear.”

Sarah is a young professor struggling to prove herself in a workplace controlled by the charming and manipulative Alan Hawthorne, a renowned scholar and television host. The beloved professor rakes in million-dollar grants for the university where Sarah works—so his inappropriate treatment of female colleagues behind closed doors has gone unchallenged for years. And Sarah is his newest target.

When Hawthorne’s advances become threatening, she’s left with nowhere to turn. Until the night she witnesses an attempted kidnapping of a young child on her drive home, and impulsively jumps in to intervene. The child’s father turns out to be a successful businessman with dangerous connections—and her act of bravery has put this powerful man in her debt. He lives by his own brutal code, and all debts must be repaid. In the only way he knows how. The man gives Sarah a burner phone and an unbelievable offer. A once-in-a-lifetime deal that can make all her problems disappear.

No consequences. No traces. No chance of being found out. All it takes is a 29-second phone call.

Because everyone has a name to give. Don’t they?

This book was provided for review by NetGalley. Thank you!

29 Seconds is the newest thriller by T.M. Logan and oh my goodness dear reader it is one heck of a roller coaster ride. It is one of those books that grabs you by hand with the opening paragraphs and does not let go until the final pages. If it weren’t for mundane things like work, eating, and sleeping, I could have easily finished the book in a day. I finished it in two.

29 Seconds is centered on a subject that I believe every individual can relate to – harassment. Sexual or not, whether in the workplace or not, everyone has been harassed by another person in their life at one time or another.

For Sarah, her harasser is her boss. A tenured professor and TV host, he is loved by countless audience members, but behind that slick smile and professional demeanor lies a cruel and calculating individual. Hawthorne has been playing the harassment game for a long time and knows just what to say and do. When Sarah realizes that the school faculty know about Hawthorne’s ways but won’t do anything about it, she finds herself left with two options – say nothing and suffer or stand up and fight.

Logan’s writing in regards to this sensitive subject and in regards to the book as a whole is top notch. His style and pacing not only keep the story moving during the high action scenes but during the lower action, more personal scenes as well. His characters are easy to empathize with even if we might not agree with how they handle certain situations.

29 Seconds is not for everyone! Those who are triggered by sexual harassment or even harassment in general would do well to stay away. Readers who love a good, edge of your seat thriller, however might want to give this book a try. Because at the end, you too might find yourself asking, If I had the opportunity to make someone disappear, would I?

Go by Kazuki Kaneshiro (translated by Takami Nieda)

For two teens, falling in love is going to make a world of difference in this beautifully translated, bold, and endearing novel about love, loss, and the pain of racial discrimination.

As a Korean student in a Japanese high school, Sugihara has had to defend himself against all kinds of bullies. But nothing could have prepared him for the heartache he feels when he falls hopelessly in love with a Japanese girl named Sakurai. Immersed in their shared love for classical music and foreign movies, the two gradually grow closer and closer.

One night, after being hit by personal tragedy, Sugihara reveals to Sakurai that he is not Japanese—as his name might indicate.

Torn between a chance at self-discovery that he’s ready to seize and the prejudices of others that he can’t control, Sugihara must decide who he wants to be and where he wants to go next. Will Sakurai be able to confront her own bias and accompany him on his journey?

Go by Kazuki Kaneshiro is one of those books where expectation and reality don’t quite meet. This is not always a bad thing, because while the premise of Go points to romance, the book itself is actually much more.

Though the story centers on the blossoming romance between Sukihara and Sagurai, it is only one of the many layers that make up the entirety. The book is also about coming to terms with oneself and with society, for good and for bad. It is about realization, about understanding that just because the world says we should be one way because of the way we look or because of our background, it is not the only option. And while breaking free of a preconceived mold might be difficult, it can be done.

There is some violence and not all of the characters are very nice, but I think that just adds to the realism of the story. The fact that even the main characters, Sugihara and Sagurai, are flawed makes everything more believable.

Go is one of those books that I could easily see being taught to upper level high school students. As many of the characters are of the high school age, it would be easy to relate to them. That does not mean that adults cannot enjoy this book, because I certainly did.

Overall, I recommend Go by Kazuki Kaneshiro. Not only does it give a glimpse in to a foreign society – literally and figuratively – it also holds up a mirror to our own.

Provided for Review: Crown of Coral and Pearl by Mara Rutherford

For generations, the princes of Ilara have married the most beautiful maidens from the ocean village of Varenia. But though every girl longs to be chosen as the next princess, the cost of becoming royalty is higher than any of them could ever imagine…

Nor once dreamed of seeing the wondrous wealth and beauty of Ilara, the kingdom that’s ruled her village for as long as anyone can remember. But when a childhood accident left her with a permanent scar, it became clear that her identical twin sister, Zadie, would likely be chosen to marry the Crown Prince—while Nor remained behind, unable to ever set foot on land.

Then Zadie is gravely injured, and Nor is sent to Ilara in her place. To Nor’s dismay, her future husband, Prince Ceren, is as forbidding and cold as his home—a castle carved into a mountain and devoid of sunlight. And as she grows closer to Ceren’s brother, the charming Prince Talin, Nor uncovers startling truths about a failing royal bloodline, a murdered queen… and a plot to destroy the home she was once so eager to leave.

In order to save her people, Nor must learn to negotiate the treacherous protocols of a court where lies reign and obsession rules. But discovering her own formidable strength may be the one move that costs her everything: the crown, Varenia and Zadie.

This book was provided for review by NetGalley. Thank you!

Reading Crown of Coral and Pearl by Mara Rutherford it is hard to believe that this is her debut novel. Her talent for creating and describing a new and unique world with equally new and unique characters would make even the most seasoned author proud.

While I enjoyed the lush descriptions of the world the characters live in, it is the interaction between the characters themselves that really drew me in. The relationship of the two twins, Nor and Zadie, is especially well done. They may be identical in looks but they are two completely different people, something that Rutherford does an excellent job in pointing out without being overtly obvious. Reading the way these two sisters get along is very true to life and something any one with a sibling who is close in age can relate to.

The second half of the book – when Nor leaves for Ilara – did not quite grab me in the same way that the first half did. The settings were just as lushly described but there wasn’t the same connection felt. I did like the introduction of characters that roused both sympathy and distaste as well as the beginnings of what secrets the royal family might hold. The instant connection/love between Nor and Talin was a bit off-putting as was the love triangle that seemed to develop between Ceren, Talin, and Nor. There were also a few scenes that made me roll my eyes in their ridiculousness. I will not go in to them for fear of spoilers but I believe many readers will recognize the scenes when they come across them.

Overall, I quite liked reading Crown of Coral and Pearl by Mara Rutherford. Readers who enjoy fantasy and/or romance, whether YA or not, will do well to give this one a try. I personally am looking forward to the sequel – Kingdom of Sea and Stone.

Provided for Review: The Nobody People by Bob Proehl

Avi Hirsch has always known his daughter was different. But when others with incredible, otherworldly gifts reveal themselves to the world, Avi realizes that her oddness is something more—that she is something more. With this, he has a terrifying revelation: Emmeline is now entering a society where her unique abilities unfairly mark her as a potential threat. And even though he is her father, Avi cannot keep her safe forever.

Emmeline soon meets others just like her: Carrie Norris, a teenage girl who can turn invisible . . . but just wants to be seen. Fahima Deeb, a woman with an uncanny knack for machinery . . . but it’s her Muslim faith that makes the U.S. government suspicious of her.

They are the nobody people—ordinary individuals with extraordinary gifts who want one only thing: to live as equals in an America that is gripped by fear and hatred. But the government is passing discriminatory laws. Violent mobs are taking to the streets. And one of their own—an angry young man seething with self-loathing—has used his power in an act of mass violence that has put a new target on the community. The nobody people must now stand together and fight for their future, or risk falling apart.

The first book of a timely two-part series, The Nobody People is a powerful novel of love and hope in the face of bigotry that uses a world touched by the fantastic to explore our current reality. It is a story of family and community. It is a story of continuing to fight for one another, no matter the odds. It is the story of us.

This book was provided for review by NetGalley. Thank you!

Trigger Warnings: Animal death. Violence of varying kinds.

If you are familiar with the X-Men series – whether comic book, animated, or live action – then you already have a decent grasp of the kind of world that The Nobody People is set in. And if you saw the first X-Men movie in the late 90’s, the overall plot of the book is almost exactly like that. Right down to the Resonant/Mutant powered device that causes a great deal of the general population to change.

The Nobody People is told from a variety of viewpoints, which means there is a LOT going on throughout the book. Even then though there are times where the narrative drags and more than once I considered not finishing the book. Also, when the book ends it does so very abruptly leaving quite a few plot threads dangling. Thankfully the conclusion is set to be published soon and one can only hope that the author will bring them to a decent conclusion.

For me, The Nobody People was one of those books that while the premise was interesting, the execution was lacking. It wasn’t a great book but it wasn’t an awful one either – it was simply okay. Generally when I start a series, I see it through to the end. I don’t think I will with this one.

The Atlantis Gene (The Origin Mystery #1) by A.G. Riddle

70,000 years ago, the human race almost went extinct.
We survived, but no one knows how.
Until now.
The countdown to the next stage of human evolution is about to begin, and humanity may not survive this time.

————————————

The Immari are good at keeping secrets. For 2,000 years, they have hidden the truth about human evolution. And they’ve searched for an ancient enemy — a threat that could wipe out the human race. Now the search is over.

Off the coast of Antarctica, a research vessel has discovered a mysterious structure buried deep in an iceberg. It’s been there for thousands of years, and it isn’t man made. The Immari think they know what it is, but they aren’t taking any chances. The time has come to execute their master plan: humanity must evolve or perish. In a lab in Indonesia, a brilliant geneticist may have just discovered the key to their plan.

Four years ago, Dr. Kate Warner left California for Jakarta, Indonesia to escape her past. She hasn’t recovered from what happened to her, but she has made an incredible discovery: a cure for autism. Or so she thinks. What she’s found is actually far more dangerous. Her research could rewrite human history and unleash the next stage of human evolution. In the hands of the Immari, it would mean the end of humanity as we know it.

One man has seen pieces of the Immari conspiracy: Agent David Vale. But he’s out of time to stop it. His informant is dead. His organization has been infiltrated. His enemy is hunting him. But when he receives a cryptic code from an anonymous source, he risks everything to save the only person that can solve it: Dr. Kate Warner.

Now Kate and David must race to unravel a global conspiracy and learn the truth about the Atlantis Gene… and human origins. Their journey takes them to the far corners of the globe and into the secrets of their pasts. The Immari are close on their heels and will stop at nothing to find the Atlantis Gene and force the next stage of human evolution — even if it means killing 99.9% of the world’s population. David and Kate can stop them… if they can trust each other. And stay alive.

I admit I was a little hesitant when I originally added this book to my TBR list before downloading it from Amazon. Autism is a touchy subject and talk of trying to find some sort of “cure” even more so. It is a topic I try to steer clear of simply because I do not want to cause strife to my readers.

Thankfully, the autism angle is only one small plot point among dozens that make up The Atlantis Gene. From aliens to Nazis, from time travel to 9/11 conspiracy theories – I’m fairly sure this book has them all.

For the first part of the book, Riddle has a pretty good story. The pacing is decent and the action scenes are plenty. The characters are interesting enough and while the incredibly short and copious chapters can be irritating, it’s not the first time I’ve encountered such writing and can be easily forgiven.

It is only with the last quarter of the book does the story go completely off the rails. I will freely admit that one of the only reasons I finished this book was to see what kind of a train wreck would result. And dear reader, I was not disappointed. By the end, the story line goes sideways so quickly it’s a wonder I don’t have whiplash.

I’m not going to say that The Atlantis Gene is a bad book. Based on entertainment value alone I found it enjoyable. However, readers going in expecting something serious should take care. Though the book bills itself as an action thriller, it is more along the lines of a B-movie or perhaps something SyFy might come out with.

There are two more books in the series and I will likely add them to my TBR list. If nothing else, it will be entertaining.

Provided for Review: The Pursuits of Lord Kit Cavanaugh by Stephanie Laurens

This book was provided for review by NetGalley. Thank you!

A Gentleman of Means

One of the most eligible bachelors in London, Lord Christopher “Kit” Cavanaugh has discovered his true path and it doesn’t include the expected society marriage. Kit is all business and has chosen the bustling port of Bristol to launch his passion—Cavanaugh Yachts.

A Woman of Character

Miss Sylvia Buckleberry’s passion is her school for impoverished children. When a new business venture forces the school out of its building, she must act quickly. But confronting Kit Cavanaugh is a daunting task made even more difficult by their first and only previous meeting, when, believing she’d never see him again, she’d treated him dismissively. Still, Sylvia is determined to be persuasive.

An Unstoppable Duo

But it quickly becomes clear there are others who want the school—and Cavanaugh Yachts—closed. Working side by side, Kit and Sylvia fight to secure her school and to expose the blackguard trying to sabotage his business. Yet an even more dastardly villain lurks, one who threatens the future both discover they now hold dear.

Trigger warnings: Kidnapping, mentions of stalking, some violence

I do not often read nor review romance novels mainly because, at least for me, they tend to blur together after a while. There are only so many ways for characters to meet and interact and fall in love and the romance genre has been around for a very long time.

Now this is only my personal opinion because when the chance to read Stephanie Laurens’ newest romance came up on Netgalley, I jumped at the chance. Of the romance authors I have read, she is one I consistently come back to. Her characters are engaging and somehow she brings a breath of fresh air to a sometimes stale genre.

Like with most of Ms. Laurens’ series novels, we are first introduced to Lord Christopher ‘Kit’ Cavanaugh and Miss Sylvia Buckleberry (love that name!) in the first novel – The Designs of Lord Randolph Cavanaugh. It is something I have come to associate with her books as it gives the reader a sneak peek of who she will be writing about next. This holds true with this book as well because at the end we were introduced to Lady Eustacia Cavanaugh, sister to Randolph and Christopher and subject of the third novel of the series.

As with many of her other historical romance novels, Ms. Laurens has a way of staying somewhat true to the time period while bending the rules a bit. She doesn’t break the rules of propriety outright but she does give them a hearty bend at times. I personally find it adds to the enjoyment of the story though I know there are more rigid historical purists out there who would disagree.

The only part of the novel that I didn’t like and thought felt forced was Sylvia’s kidnapping and Kit’s subsequent rescue. Before this, she had mentioned the feeling of being watched only in passing and then suddenly a person with a beef against her father (who again was mentioned only briefly) shows up. I will not go too much further in to what happens next only to say that the whole sequence of events felt completely out of place in regards to the novel. It felt more like something out of a bad B-movie.

On the whole, I enjoyed The Pursuits of Lord Kit Cavanaugh. The overall story flowed quite well despite a few minor bumps. While it isn’t necessary to read the first book in the series, readers might want to just to get a better feel for the family dynamic that is common to Ms. Laurens’ books and to receive a proper introduction to the characters. This author has long been a personal favorite and I will continue to look forward to her new writings.