Review: Dark Exodus by Thomas S. Sniegoski

dark exodus

Dark Exodus by Thomas S. Sniegoski

The Demonists #2

July 11, 2017 – Roc

Purpose: Review

Source: Netgalley

4.5 stars

I was given a copy of this title, free, in exchange for my honest opinion.
Mild spoilers for the first book

Wow! This book turned everything that I knew or assumed on its head. In this installment, John and Theo have realized that what happened the previous Halloween wasn’t an accident, someone had manipulated them to be at the house and to find the jar of demons there. Now they are trying to find out who it was and why, while other infernal incidents vie for their attention. New characters join John and Theo’s team, old characters have bigger parts and the infernal side gathers new followers and minions.

But, everything isn’t as it seems.  In this one, as the story progresses we get more backstory for a couple of the characters. This allows us to see more of the bigger picture, and all the reasons that we make it to the ending the way that we do. We also see that the clear line between the infernal and the divine is not as clear as we suspect it to be. Each of the characters are faced with their own set of challenges and obstacles, as the infernal manipulate and move along in the background.

And I loved every minute of it.  I was surprised at some of the things that were happening, wondering how I had missed so much. While almost everything seemed to be wrapped up at the very end, it’s not. There are seeds for what is going to happen, some of the challenges/temptation that the characters will face in the next book. And I have to say that I can’t wait for it. This was just as engrossing as the first book, if not more so. More emotional strings were pulled and while other sides may or may not be clear, I was still rooting for John and Theo’s unconventional group to save the day.

 

Always Shine!

Review: The Secrets You Keep

secrets you keep

The Secrets You Keep by Kate White

March 21, 2017 – Harper Paperbacks

Fiction, Psychological Thriller, Adult

Purpose: Review

Source: Requested from the publisher

2 stars

I was given a copy of this book, free, in exchange for my honest opinion,

Bryn Harper is recently recovering from a car accident that she can’t remember. She is now living full time with her husband of two years. What was once a working commuter relationship is now beginning to fray around the edges. When the chef from the catering company hired for a dinner party ends up dead, Bryn’s world begins to come undone and the man she thought she knew reveals himself as a stranger.

First, I want to say that I really like the idea of this story. It was what caught my eye and caused me to reach out to the publishing company for the chance to review it.  Unfortunately, I have to admit that I found that the writing was a bit formulaic and it was easy to predict what was going to happen. Within the first 50 pages, I was aware that there was something off. Either Bryn had to know more than what she was saying or the author, White, was working overly hard to make us look in a certain direction.  Psychological thrillers, if done correctly, will leave me questioning everything that I had assumed to know about what was happening in the book. With this story though, I could spot what the author was doing immediately. Psyc Thrillers work the same as magic, it is a subtle nudge to look in one direction while the truth lies in the other.  With this book though, the author heavy-handedly told where to look. This made me look in the opposite direction. Because of this, I knew the big reveal almost 300 pages before it happened.

With that being sad, I continued reading, because it was interesting to watch Bryn flail desperately throughout the rest of the story. I wanted to see how the messages of her dreams played out in the full scale of the mystery. Again, that was disappointing. And the ending? The most disappointing of all. The story unravels and then ends. But then as an afterthought, White adds a chapter to tie up all of the loose ends still hanging around at the end of the story. Not only that, but even after all that Bryn has been through we see about to make the same choice/mistake that she made to get her in the position she was originally in. You would think that she would have learned more from her experience and attempt to be a bit more cautious. You would think that she would not immediately jump from one stranger to the next, and yet. She does.

If I hadn’t picked up another book by White, I would confidently say that I wouldn’t read her again. But, I came across one of her older titles for a steal of a dollar and couldn’t pass on it. So, maybe I will ty her again a little while from now and see if The Secrets You Keep was just a fluke.

Always Shine!

 

Blog Tour: Firebrand by A.J. Hartley + GIVEAWAY

I am glad to say that I am joining Jean Book Nerd for this Blog Tour of Firebrand.   I enjoyed both of these books, and you will find my reviews of both  at the end of the promo and BEFORE the link for the giveaway!

Firebrand

Synopsis 
 

New York Times bestselling author A. J. Hartley returns to his intriguing, 19th-century South African-inspired fantasy world in another adrenaline-pounding adventure

Once a steeplejack, Anglet Sutonga is used to scaling the heights of Bar-Selehm. Nowadays she assists politician Josiah Willinghouse behind the scenes of Parliament. The latest threat to the city-state: Government plans for a secret weapon are stolen and feared to be sold to the rival nation of Grappoli. The investigation leads right to the doorsteps of Elitus, one of the most exclusive social clubs in the city. In order to catch the thief, Ang must pretend to be a foreign princess and infiltrate Elitus. But Ang is far from royal material, so Willinghouse enlists help from the exacting Madam Nahreem.

Yet Ang has other things on her mind. Refugees are trickling into the city, fleeing Grappoli-fueled conflicts in the north. A demagogue in Parliament is proposing extreme measures to get rid of them, and she soon discovers that one theft could spark a conflagration of conspiracy that threatens the most vulnerable of Bar-Selehm. Unless she can stop it.

 
Praise for FIREBRAND

Hartley creates a world so analogous to our ownit hardly seems like a fantasy….Anglet has blossomed in this sequel, releasing her previously restrained sharp tongue and expanding her emotional range. Even as she learnsto put on a neutral face to be a more effective spy, her empathy for those whoare suffering and her relentless search for the truth are her most laudable attributes. Readers who come for the tightly plotted mystery will stay for the heroine who does all she can to resist.” ― Kirkus Reviews, starred review

“The well-crafted adventures of this feisty, diverse protagonist continue in thisworthy sequel to Steeplejack (2016), evoking Sherlock Holmes with its Victorian-esquesetting, and James Bond in its espionage-laced plot. Hartley has composed another electrifying fantasy that buzzeswith intrigue and timely political and social issues, making this a must-have additionto any collection.” ― Booklist, starred review

“Expertly written, never preaching or pointing fingers, but subtly applying pressure toexamine race issues, gender inequalities, microaggressions, and socio-economicproblems in our culture…. Teens will see themselves in the tough, realistic, and fierce yet vulnerable protagonist. The multicultural worldbuilding will draw in readers of many ages and backgrounds, while the well-crafted mystery and action will keep them wanting more….A delightful follow-up to the explosive first novel from an established author who clearly knows his craft.” ―VOYA

Hartley‘s story succeeds in building a detailed world of bothfamiliar (charging hippos) and unfamiliar (a precious mineral, luxorite, usedby the rich) elements while also tackling a wide range of complicated social issues….Most impressive is the genre-blending; the author adeptlymerges a political thriller with action, adventure, and mystery. Will have strong appeal to a wide range of readers, particularly those looking for complex novels that reflect a diverse world.”―School Library Journal

Praise for STEEPLEJACK

“A richly realized world, an intensely likable character, and a mystery to die for.” ―Cory Doctorow, New York Times-bestselling author

“A thought-provoking blend of action and intrigue, with a competent and ethical heroine in Ang and a fully imagined setting whose atmosphere and cultural cues also play important roles. The result is an unforgettable page-turner built on surprises and full of potential.”―Publishers Weekly, starred review

“Skillful writing, masterful pacing, and a capable and quite likable female detective are just a few of the things to love about this fantasy-adventure….In addition to the detective angle, Hartley thoughtfully explores issues such as race relations, both inter- and intra-racial, as Anglet deals with the censure of her own community, and class issues, as she attempts to work outside the political system to solve the murder. This one won’t stay on the shelf for long.” ―Booklist, starred review

“Smart political intrigue wrapped in all the twists and turns of a good detective story makes for a rip-roaring series opener.” ― Kirkus Reviews, starred review

“With its unique South African-inspired setting, richly-drawn and diverse cast of characters, and unstoppable plot, readers of any age won’t be able to put Steeplejack down!” ―Carrie Ryan, New York Times bestselling author

“With Steeplejack, A.J. Hartley introduces a dynamic, complex and likeable new heroine who combines wits, skill and courage to face deadly challenges in an exotic world. Teens and adults will love this book and want more, more, more!” ―Jonathan Maberry, New York Times bestselling author of Rot & Ruin and The Orphan Army.

“A.J. Hartley has created an exquisite, explosive, nail-biting, tear-rousing masterpiece, in a world so realistic it might be right around the corner.” ―Faith Hunter, New York Times bestselling author

“What a world Hartley has created! Enough twists and surprises to keep the pages turning long into the night.” ―R.L. Stine

“A unique epic adventure set in a richly imagined world; lush, exotic and masterfully written. It’s Sherlock Holmes, Oliver Twist, and Indiana Jones rolled into one.” ―Lissa Price, internationally bestselling author of Starters and Enders

“Smart and socially-aware, this fabulous debut adds to the growing library of multicultural fantasy and is a loudly resounding success.” ―Nisi Shawl, Tiptree Award-winning author of Everfair

“With Steeplejack, A.J. Hartley creates a world as complex as its heroine, and a mystery that spans class, race and geography. You can feel the grit and glory of Bar-Selehm, a many-spired city teetering on the edge of the savannah, and the verge of war. The perfect setting for a street-smart young woman who is caught between three cultures, yet refuses to be trapped by them.” ―Sherri L. Smith, award-winning author of Flygirls and Orleans

Hartley has created a world so gritty and real I could taste the soot.” ―Maurice Broaddus, author of the Knights of Breton Court trilogy

“Steeplejack combines a lively and intelligent plot with an intriguing and well-drawn world, and caps all this goodness with a determined and indefatigable heroine.” ―Kate Elliott, author of Court of Fives and Black Wolves

“A rich, atmospheric tale of adventure, morality and consequence, Steeplejack will linger with you long after you read the last page.” ―Kady Cross, author of the Steampunk Chronicles and Sisters of Blood and Spirit series

“Elegant prose, a cracking good mystery, lots of action, and characters to fall in love with and root for. I read it cover to cover in no time at all. In fact, I did so twice! And I was on the edge of my seat both times.” ―D.B. Jackson, author of the Thieftaker series

“I was completely hooked from page one. Ang is a hero to cheer for heart and soul. A thrilling, clever, meaningful read.” ―Leanna Renee Hieber, award-winning author of Strangely Beautiful and The Eterna Files

“An exquisitely built mystery set in a lush, vibrant world. I was loath to leave Ang and Bar-Selehm behind at the end of it. Definitely a book to be revisited again and again.” ―Kat Zhang, author of What’s Left of Me

A.J. Hartley
 
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
 
Author A.J. Hartley is the bestselling writer of mystery/thriller, fantasy, historical fiction, and young adult novels.

He was born in northern England, but has lived in many places including Japan, and is currently the Robinson Professor of Shakespeare studies at the University of North Carolina, Charlotte, where he specializes in the performance history, theory and criticism of Renaissance English drama, and works as a director and dramaturg.

He has more hobbies than is good for anyone, all of which you can learn more about by friending him (odious word) on Facebook, by following his blog and by checking in on the What’s Going On blog page. He is represented by Stacey Glick of Dystel and Goderich Literary Management for books, and by Eddie Gamarra of the Gotham Group for film and television. And check out A.J.’s Amazon author page.

Photo Credit: Wade Bruton

Firebrand

Firebrand by A.J. Hartley

Alternative Detective #2

June 6, 2017 – Tor Teen

4 Stars

I was given a copy of this title, free, in exchange for my honest opinion.

Anglet is back with another mystery. This time she is chasing after a thief that stole the plans for a secret weapon. In the midst of this mysterious theft Bar-Selehm is going through their own refugee crisis. This mystery takes Ang deeper into the social elite of Bar-Selehm, places that even her benefactor cannot go. She must learn to become, not just pretend, that she is someone other than herself. The deeper that the mystery takes Ang, the more intertwined the events between the refugees and the theft becomes. Ang finds that her wit, connections and sheer determination is not enough for this case. She must become something that is foreign to herself, and she realizes that this is not easily done.

I enjoyed book #2 in this series a slightly bit better than the first. In the first installment, there were things that often pulled me out of the story, either by not being completely necessary for the story at hand or the blur between the familiar and the unknown. These elements were not present in this book. While the various races and cultures are constantly talked about in this one, the mystery is tied directly to the case that Ang is working on.  The political climate is charged and tense because no one can agree on what the right response to the surge of refugees flooding their shores. The timeliness of this mystery works very much in its favor.

I like the changes that are happening to Ang. She is growing as a character. She has been kicked out of the Drowning, not being the type of Lani that belongs there. She is no longer part of the Seventh Street gang, even after the leader who tormented and attempted to rape her is gone.  Though she is still dependent on the skills learned and perfected, she is also no longer a steeplejack. But she is so much more than all these things, and she has always been more. This is the time where she is learning this for herself.  She is not very good at staying in her place because she is so much bigger than the place that’s been allotted to her. We are also able to see how her friendships grow deeper as she goes about this mystery, a few of them turning into a newfound family.

Again. Hartley fills his book with a lot of things that are going on. Initially, they appear to be separate things but as the mystery unravels the connections are uncovered. I am not sure how long this series is supposed to be, but I’m going to see it through.

Giveaway is open to International. | Must be 13+ to Enter

– 2 Winners will receive a Set Copy of the Alternative Detective Series, Steeplejack and Firebrand by A.J. Hartley.
Check out my previous post to read my thoughts about Steeplejack!
Always Shine!

Review: Steeplejack by A.J. Hartley

Steeplejack

Tomorrow is my stop on the Firebrand Blog Tour.  And you should definitely come back to see my thoughts on that one, and enter the giveaway.

Today though, I will be sharing my thoughts on Steeplejack, the first book in the Alternative Detective series.

SteepleJack By A.J. Hartley

Alternative Detective #1

June 14, 2016 – Tor Teen

4 stars

I was given a copy of this book, free, In exchange for my honest opinion.

Anglet Sutonga is a seventeen-year old steeplejack, a person who climbs talk buildings to do work. She is comfortable dangling over the city at ridiculous heights. The story starts with her waiting for her apprentice to show, but he never does. She is uneasy and discovers that this is due to the beacon, the jewel of Bar- Selehm, missing. Soon she discovers that Berrit did show up, but was murdered.  Her desire to seek justice and uncover the person responsible for Berrit’s death leads her to places she never imagined she be. Hired to investigate, she uncovers strange connections between the growing number of deaths, the missing beacon and other strange things happening around the city.

To be honest, when I first started reading this I didn’t think I was going to like it. I thought that I had made a mistake in signing up for the blog tour. But, as I continued the story grew on me, Anglet grew on me. Still, it wasn’t until the end of the book that I was truly enjoyed it for what it was. The mystery that carries the story from the beginning to end was masterfully unfolded, and the problems that I had with the story had nothing to do with that. Though I was able to guess some of the key players early on in the story, I wasn’t able to put it altogether until the end. The characters were well developed and interesting, though some of their appearances weren’t truly explained.

This story is dependent on the culture, politics and racial tension of Bar-Selehm. The only problem with this is that it shifts from the strange to the familiar. Is Bar-Selhm a real place somewhere in history? In our history? This is the problem with the story, some of the words and races are foreign to the reader (or at least to me). But when they are further described its done so with things that are familiar to us. It was disjointed and pulled me out of the story.

The ending was the best for this story. I liked the way that Anglet grew as a character throughout the story. Surprisingly, even Rahvey’s grew throughout the story, in a way that kind of made me proud of her. In the end, I enjoyed this story. Though I am not sure what else can be done in this world, I am definitely looking forward to book 2.

Always Shine!

Review: Haven of Swans by Colleen Coble

Haven of Swans (Rock Harbor #4)

Haven of Swans by Colleen Coble

Rock Harbor #4

May 2, 2017 – Thomas Nelson

Purpose: Review

Source: Netgalley

3 Stars

I was given a copy of this title, free, in exchange for my honest opinion. 

Full disclosure, I read this book a long time ago. It was originally titled Abomination. I wasn’t sure until I had started reading it, and then it was déjà vu than actually remembering.

Bree is driving down a dark road when she comes across a woman with her daughter. The woman has been injured and obviously scared of something or someone. But, she has no memory of who it was or what has happened to her. Nick is devastated to learn that his daughter is missing and his ex-wife has been killed at the hands of the serial killer called Gideon.

This is the fourth in the series, but I haven’t read the first three in the series. (I didn’t know that it was part of a series the first time I read it.) For the most part, it reads as a stand-alone. I did enjoy this story, I found it a nice balance of suspense and mystery. It was well-written and perfectly paced. Eve struggles between not remembering and surprising instincts. She knows that she is running from someone, but no idea who or why. She has made friends and feels safe in Rock Harbor. Nick turns his grief into focus and is determined to catch Gideon. This book is about more than finding a killer and a past one can’t remember. It’s about faith, love and finding one’s way back.  I am interested in continuing with this series.

Review: Hunt by Maggie Stiefvater

Hunted (Spirit Animals, #2)

Hunted by Maggie Stiefvater

Spirit Animals #3

January 7, 2014 – Scholastic

Purpose: Review

Source: Netgalley, Publishers

I was given a copy of this title, free, in exchange for my honest opinion.

4 Stars

This is the second book in the series. The story continues with the 4 kids and the great beasts trying to get the talismans firsts.  As the story progresses each character is facing their own set of challenges. But, they’re also learning more about themselves, each other and their spirit animals.  We enjoyed this installment of the series. The stakes are raised, there’s more action and we learn more about what’s going on. Doubts about the Greencloaks are raised. Glad we already have book 3 ready for us.

Netgalley Review: One Was Lost

One Was Lost

Netgalley Review: One Was Lost by  Natalie D. Richards

October 6, 2016 – Sourcebooks Fire

Source: Netgalley

4 stars

I was given a copy of this title, free, in exchange for my honest opinion.

6 students and 2 teacher chaperones go into the forest for wilderness survival mandatory senior trip. After a flash flood the group is separated, 3 on one side and 5 on the other.  When Sera, Emily, Jude and Lucas wake up they find their chaperone, Mr. Walker, drugged and words etched on their wrists. Deceptive, damaged, dangerous and darling.  Each one has been labelled and no one knows what it means.

I’m  glad that I finally picked this book up. It kept popping up at bookstores and I was drawn to it. The mystery was very well developed and paced. As I tried to figure out who was behind everything, I found myself becoming more and more paranoid. Like the characters were.  The character growth that happened was believable, as well as relatable. Because there are some seriously twisted people in the world, the plot isn’t too far from being realistic. We watch as the characters begin to take on a new understanding of labels that they have put on one another. We also see them embrace and accept themselves, and one another, for who they are and not the labels that were applied to them (literally since they have been written on skin).

 

Always Shine!