Sunday, May 14, 2017

The Holver Alley Crew (The Streets of Maradine #1) by Marshall Ryan Maresca


https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/29097931-the-holver-alley-crew?ac=1&from_search=trueThis review was written by: C
Received: Publisher (DAW Books)
Date of Publication: March 2017
Pages: 352
Stars: 4/5

Official Summary:

Mixing high fantasy and urban fantasy, The Holver Alley Crew is the first novel of Maresca’s third interconnected series set in the fantasy city of Maradaine-- The Streets of Maradaine.

The Rynax brothers had gone legit after Asti Rynax's service in Druth Intelligence had shattered his nerves, and marriage and fatherhood convinced Verci Rynax to leave his life of thievery. They settled back in their old neighborhood in West Maradaine and bought themselves a shop, eager for a simple, honest life. Then the Holver Alley Fire incinerated their plans. With no home, no shop, and no honest income—and saddled with a looming debt—they fall back on their old skills and old friends.

With a crew of other fire victims, Asti and Verci plan a simple carriage heist, but the job spirals out of control as they learn that the fire was no accident. Lives in Holver Alley were destroyed out of a sadistic scheme to buy the land. Smoldering for revenge, burdened with Asti's crumbling sanity, the brothers lead their crew of amateurs and washouts to take down those responsible for the fire, no matter the cost.

My Thoughts:

I don't read very many books involving a ragtag band of thieves and elaborate heists. Usually this scenario falls more under the contemporary spectrum -- which is not a genre that I enjoy reading. However, when you add a bit of fantasy into the mix - you've got my attention.

I did not realize that this series is one of three written by Maresca, all of which take place within the same universe. From what I've heard, though, they don't have to be read in any particular order, so it was perfectly okay for me to begin with this third series - The Streets of Maradine. I have to say that I was hooked from the first chapter and because of the relationship that Asti and Verci possess. However, before I get into the whole brother relationship, I want to take a moment to appreciate the fact that Maresca is entirely capable of constructing a whole world with unique countries, peoples, customs, and magic without making things overly complicated. I would not call this a high fantasy series, and I was extremely happy with the fact that I could easily follow, for a lack of a better term, the ways of this world.

Maresca also included a wonderful diverse range of characters (both in terms of ethnicity, personality, and skill):
  1. Asti and Verci Rynax: Two young men and brothers who have left behind their life of crime and attempt to use their skills for the greater good. However, they are slowly pulled back into their old ways when Holver Alley is set aflame and they lose their entire livelihoods. 
  2. Helene and Julien: Cousins who have been blacklisted in the underground crime community  for Helene's temper and argumentative personality. However, Helene possesses excellent marksman skills with a bow, and Julien is well-known for his brawn, rather than his brains.
  3. Kennith: Inventor of some very interesting carriages and the driver of the getaway vehicle.
  4. Almer Cort: The quirky chemist and all around mad scientist. 
  5. Mila: A teenage girl whose street smarts and talent make her the perfect scout for all missions.

Honestly, I was drawn to this book via the official summary's mention of two brothers, particularly Asti and his "crumbling sanity." For some reason I just love stories that are capable of bringing to life a heartfelt relationship resulting from familial bonds. Asti and Verci have a great chemistry between them. Their banter is hilarious and their strengths and weaknesses offset one another -- making them the perfect team. I also appreciate the fact that they were both intelligent in their own right, rather than one brother solely being the brains of the operation. Asti is a great tactician and his previous occupation as a spy also brings quite a few more talents to the table. On the other hand, Verci is extremely gifted with inventing all sorts of amazing devices. Also, I love the fact that they often address one another as "brother." Consequently, I was constantly reminded of my love for anime and how boys and girls often address their male siblings as "brother" instead of their given name.

I love to read stories involving broken characters, too. For some reason, I find it interesting to view a world through their eyes and witness the challenges they must face. Asti was betrayed and captured by the enemy when he was a spy. During his incarceration, he was subjected to unimaginable torment, especially mentally. In the end, this resulted in Asti developing blackouts when he becomes extremely enraged. He describes it as releasing the chains of a beast and allowing the red to take over. However, he never remembers what happens during these episodes, and only awakens to dead bodies and bloody hands. This side of Asti was intriguing and had good development throughout the novel. You are left hanging a bit when more information is discovered about how Asti escaped imprisonment after he had let the beast's chain loose, and I hope that the next book explores this mysterious aspect of him further.

Overall, I found the story to be intriguing and entertaining. One might think that reading about tactics and plans to pull off a large heist to get a bit tedious and boring as the story progresses. However, I did not feel bored in the slightest, and I was fascinated by the technical aspects of the Rynax brothers' plans. Maresca knows how to keep a reader's attention, and he crafted the conclusion in such a manner that the plot was leading up to a far more sinister plot. Thus, I will definitely be picking up the next volume when it comes out!


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Friday, April 28, 2017

A Bloody Legacy by Lily Luchesi

34236072This review was written by: B and C
Received: Ebook from Author
Date of Publication: April 27, 2017
Pages: 40
Stars: 4/5

Official Summary:

Give in to the darkness within.

Rebecca Renfield and her best friend Johanna Seward are reopening an old sanatorium to start their psychology practice when Bec discovers old recordings from a John Seward pertaining to someone with her surname.  What she finds in the recordings are unnerving, but their new-shift doctor promises to provide the distraction Bec needs.

Victoria Draconis is a mysterious, beautiful woman who opens doors into levels of pain, pleasure, and submission that Bec had never imagined existed.


My Thoughts:
"Will you walk into my parlour?" said the Spider to the Fly,
'Tis the prettiest little parlour that ever you did spy;
The way into my parlour is up a winding stair,
And I've a many curious things to show when you are there." 
~Mary Howitt

Lily Luchesi has once again come out with a highly enjoyable read stamped with her signature supernatural mark but with a twist! Her audience once again gets a strong, alluring, sexy female vampire who isn't afraid to bite, but this time around we have a dominatrix vampire (Victoria) who becomes interested in a female psychologist named Rebecca.  A Bloody Legacy is a healthy mixture of mystery, F/F (erotic) romance, BDSM, and horror.

"You're a, uh...bondage girl?" I asked.
"Dominatrix," she corrected.  "And whether you know it or not, you are a perfect submissive."

What really brings this book together, though, we believe is the extremely atmospheric setting.  An old but recently renovated asylum with creepy patient files and an odd history?  SIGN US UP!  Plus, the spider and the fly concept held up throughout this novella brilliantly.  

We're not quite sure what it is about Luchesi's LGBT+ couples, but we love them!  Whether it's Brighton and Mark (Can we call ourselves their biggest fans?! SERIOUSLY.  NO JOKE.) or Victoria and Bec, she always does them so well and with justice.  The chemistry and flirtations are always on point and sizzling hot, especially in A Bloody Legacy.  (Be ready for some very intense, succulent scenes!)  You can't help but want to know more about the couples and delve into their relationship in greater detail.  It's great to see Luchesi explore a new genre (femdomme) and expand her horizons, too.  Plus, the references to current pop culture in A Bloody Legacy made us smile so hard (as always!) each time, particularly the one about Pok√©mon Go.  


(Sorry.  We lack self-control.) 

In the end, A Bloody Legacy is a quick, satisfying, sexy read with a dark, rather creepy ending that was more than fitting.  There are some surprising twists for such a quick story, which made A Bloody Legacy even more pleasurable and exciting than one might originally expect going into a forty page novella. (Never doubt Luchesi's skills!)  We loved the female Dracula-esque vibes.  Luchesi has a talent for creating strong, commanding females in her works, too, that are just so kick ass and make you want to go up to the person nearest you and say, "I'm so proud to be a woman."  Plus, in a world where culture tends to glorify and correlate beauty with a small dress size, it's utterly refreshing to see gorgeous, curvy women in Luchesi's works.  Can we get a standing ovation, please?

yes! photo: yes line tumblr_mn8yxxcNCV1ruuoaco10_400_zps2f383a09.gif




Thursday, April 27, 2017

Release Blitz: A Bloody Legacy by Lily Luchesi





Release Blitz:
A Bloody Legacy
By
Lily Luchesi

Apr 27th









Give in to the darkness within.
Rebecca Renfield and her best friend Johanna Seward are reopening an old sanatorium to start their psychology practice when Bec discovers old recordings from a John Seward pertaining to someone with her surname. What she finds in the recordings are unnerving, but their new night-shift doctor promises to provide the distraction Bec needs.
Victoria Draconis is a mysterious, beautiful woman who opens doors into levels of pain, pleasure, and submission that Bec had never imagined existed.















Lily Luchesi is a young author/poet born in Chicago, Illinois, now residing in Los Angeles, California. Ever since she was a toddler her mother noticed her tendency for being interested in all things "dark". At two she became infatuated with vampires and ghosts, and that infatuation turned into a lifestyle by the time she was twelve, and, as her family has always been what they now call "Gothic", she doesn't believe she shall ever change. She is also a hopeless romantic and avid music-love who will always associate vampires with love, blood, and rock and roll.
Her interest in poetry came around the same time as when she was given a book of Edgar Allan Poe's complete work. She then realized that she had been writing her own poetry since she could hold a pen, and just had not known the correct terms. She finished her first manuscript at the age of fourteen, and was first published at twenty-one.
Her debut novel, Stake-Out (Paranormal Detectives Series Book One), was published by Vamptasy Publishing on May 19th, 2015. Book two, Miranda's Rights, was released on January 8th, 2016. Book three, Life Sentence, was released on August 2nd, 2016 by Vamptasy Publishing, and book four, Right To Silence, was also just accepted by the publisher and will be released on January 17th, 2017.
She had a short story, "Undead Ever After" in the CHBB Publishing anthology Love Sucks (released on June 13th, 2015). Her first erotic short story, "Have No Fears", was published in the Hot Ink Press anthology Naughty Bedtime Stories: In Three Words on October 10th, 2015. She will also have a short erotic horror story, "The Devil's Dozen", in the Hot Ink Press anthology Death, Love, Lust, which was released on February 4th, 2016. Her horror short "Too Young To Kill" was released in the CHBB Publishing anthology Lurking In The Shadows on June 28th, 2016.



 

 


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Monday, April 10, 2017

Cover Reveal: A Bloody Legacy by Lily Luchesi





Cover Reveal:
A Bloody Legacy
By
Lily Luchesi

Apr 10th









Give in to the darkness within.
Rebecca Renfield and her best friend Johanna Seward are reopening an old sanatorium to start their psychology practice when Bec discovers old recordings from a John Seward pertaining to someone with her surname. What she finds in the recordings are unnerving, but their new night-shift doctor promises to provide the distraction Bec needs.
Victoria Draconis is a mysterious, beautiful woman who opens doors into levels of pain, pleasure, and submission that Bec had never imagined existed.









Lily Luchesi is a young author/poet born in Chicago, Illinois, now residing in Los Angeles, California. Ever since she was a toddler her mother noticed her tendency for being interested in all things "dark". At two she became infatuated with vampires and ghosts, and that infatuation turned into a lifestyle by the time she was twelve, and, as her family has always been what they now call "Gothic", she doesn't believe she shall ever change. She is also a hopeless romantic and avid music-love who will always associate vampires with love, blood, and rock and roll.
Her interest in poetry came around the same time as when she was given a book of Edgar Allan Poe's complete work. She then realized that she had been writing her own poetry since she could hold a pen, and just had not known the correct terms. She finished her first manuscript at the age of fourteen, and was first published at twenty-one.
Her debut novel, Stake-Out (Paranormal Detectives Series Book One), was published by Vamptasy Publishing on May 19th, 2015. Book two, Miranda's Rights, was released on January 8th, 2016. Book three, Life Sentence, was released on August 2nd, 2016 by Vamptasy Publishing, and book four, Right To Silence, was also just accepted by the publisher and will be released on January 17th, 2017.
She had a short story, "Undead Ever After" in the CHBB Publishing anthology Love Sucks (released on June 13th, 2015). Her first erotic short story, "Have No Fears", was published in the Hot Ink Press anthology Naughty Bedtime Stories: In Three Words on October 10th, 2015. She will also have a short erotic horror story, "The Devil's Dozen", in the Hot Ink Press anthology Death, Love, Lust, which was released on February 4th, 2016. Her horror short "Too Young To Kill" was released in the CHBB Publishing anthology Lurking In The Shadows on June 28th, 2016.



 

 


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Monday, March 27, 2017

The Secret of Dreadwillow Carse by Brian Farrey

25810641
This review was written by: B
Received: Publisher (Algonquin Young Readers)
Date of Publication: April 2016
Pages: 245
Stars: 4/5

Official Summary:
A princess and a peasant girl must embark on a dangerous quest to outwit a centuries-old warning foretelling the fall of the Monarchy in this modern fairy tale.

In the center of the verdant Monarchy lies Dreadwillow Carse, a black and desolate bog that the happy people of the land do their best to ignore.  Little is known about it, except for one dire warning: If any monarch enters Dreadwillow Carse, then the Monarchy will fall.  Twelve-year-old Jeniah yearns to know what the marsh could possibly conceal that might topple her family's thousand-year reign of peace and prosperity.

Meanwhile, in the nearby town of Emberfell, where everyone lives with unending joy, a girl named Aon hides a sorrow she can never reveal.  She knows that something in the Carse -- something that sings a haunting tune only Aon can hear -- holds the cure for her sadness.  Yet no matter how many times she tries to enter, the terror-inducing dreadwillow treees keep her away.

After a chance meeting, Princess Jeniah and Aon hatch a plan to send Aon into the heart of the Carse to unlock its darkest secret.  But when Aon doesn't return, a guilt-stricken Jeniah must enter the Carse to try and rescue her friend -- even if it means risking the entire Monarchy.

My Thoughts:

"Questions are the lamplight that lead us from the darkness.  And you know what lamplight really is, yes?  Fire.  You should tread carefully your highness."
~Skonas (The Secret of Dreadwillow Carse)


What is a young girl to do when her beloved mother, the queen of an entire kingdom, suddenly falls ill, leaving the girl with no other choice but to take up the throne much earlier than expected?  This sudden horror has just become Jeniah's reality.  She's a headstrong individual with a curiosity like no other and a desire to do her kingdom justice, a kingdom that has known nothing but prosperity for centuries upon centuries.  However, she thought she had years to learn about becoming an efficient ruler before officially taking the throne, but this luxury is suddenly taken away from her as she is left with no other option.  As time is quickly running out for her to understand how to fairly rule just as the current cherished queen does, the overbearing remembrance of her sickly mother is constantly hanging in the back of her mind.  As a result, the fact that she is told the entire Monarchy will fall before her very eyes if she ever steps foot in the forbidden Dreadwillow Carse isn't exactly making the situation any better.  Put a mystery in front of Jeniah, and she won't let the subject go until she figures it all out.

Aon is just a village girl living under the kingdom's rule . . . but she's not like the other villagers.  No, Aon's got a secret of her very own that alienates her, even from her own family.  Nobody else in the entire kingdom, save for the royalty, knows what sadness is or can even fathom the concept, let alone define it.  Yet, Aon's the exception.  This makes her drawn to the Carse (the one place in the entire kingdom that every other villager refuses to step foot in) where she is strangely comforted.

By a twist of fate, Jeniah's and Aon's lives intertwine, leading them both on a journey they never could have imagined!  In return for a personal request to Jeniah, Aon agrees to figure out what goes on inside the enigmatic Carse for the princess, as no one else will dare go near the bog of unnatural darkness in a world that only knows light. However, something goes terribly wrong, and Jeniah is forced to put her entire kingdom at stake for one subject!
______________________________________________

The Secret of Dreadwillow Carse will take you on a journey that not many fantasy Middle Grade novels have ever gone on before, challenging the reader to face hard-hitting questions while going on a creepy, topsy-turvy ride into a kingdom that never could have been imagined except by Brian Farrey!  My favorite MG novels have always been in either the fantasy or contemporary genres, my ultimate favorites being The Thing About Jellyfish (contemporary) and The Thickety (fantasy).  The fact that this book even rivaled my deep love of The Thickety by J. A. White, which  is ridiculously hard to do, shocked me to my genuine, bookish core. I honestly had no idea how much I would come to deeply love and appreciate this delightfully spooky novel!    

Farrey painted an eerie picture of a happy little kingdom that made me question just how far a conscience mind was willing to go in order to stay in a complete trance of bliss.  For example, if a local villager was to die, he or she would immediately be forgotten by those around them, their house abandoned, and their children taken in by an adoptive family, as if there was never a loss to begin with.  And the worst part was that the villagers had no idea that they were actually doing this.  They knew no other way or emotions to conjure in these traditionally sorrowful times.  Aon was the only one who noticed how messed up life truly was, but voicing her observations would have made no difference to the contented people who surrounded her every waking moment.  I'm sure that everyone can easily agree that, hypothetically speaking, being in a constant jovial state without any stress or sorrow would be a blessing, but this book almost made it seem like an unwanted curse!

The two great female leads were much appreciated, as they were able to represent different struggles and opportunities throughout the book, as well as showcase that girls can have just as awesome of adventures as boys ever could and be equally brilliant and strong!  (Haha Happenstance (the Books of Umber), Conn (the Magic Thief series), Beck (the Pillage series), and the Time Warp Trio dudes!!!! Guess not all books are dominated by males! Those are all really good books, though, guys.  Check them out.  Seriously.  They're awesome, and that last part was not sarcasm!)  For example, Aon communicated that being different had its own strengths, even though being different made her an outsider.  If she hadn't been an outsider who had no qualms about going into the Carse, Jeniah would have never been able to investigate the Carse through a secondary party.

I also loved how Farrey demonstrated that being able to feel sadness wasn't something to be ashamed of.  Instead, he tried to make the audience understand that it was normal and something that one shouldn't have to hide, which is a great message for the book's directed age range.  In fact, the author tried to express the positive side to being unhappy or melancholic (if you can imagine that!).  He conveyed that it is important to grieve and remember those who we have lost, and while recalling past loved ones may be painful, it can also bring about closure, fonder memories, hidden strength, and creative outlets.


Two other fabulous and thoroughly explored themes that I adored in The Secret of Dreadwillow Carse were curiosity and decision making.

Answers are the pyre that banishes darkness altogether.
~Skonas (The Secret of Dreadwillow Carse)

Despite the fact that Jeniah was constantly told to not question specific subjects (particularly the Carse) she couldn't help herself.  However, she later discovered that some questions may be hard to answer and/or even fathom.  Perhaps you may even wish that you never found out the truth to begin with, yet without truth, life would be a lie.  I absolutely loved how this concept was explored and laid out.  The story couldn't have unfolded in a better way, with a creepy, slightly unsettling atmosphere that only deepened as the book came to a finish, which makes The Secret of Dreadwillow Carse enjoyable for all ages.  I couldn't have asked for a better ending!


I highly recommend this book if you're looking for a unique MG experience with a surprisingly ominous atmosphere, an addictive mystery, a kick-butt female relationship, and amazing themes. Look no further!  This is the perfect fit for you! 


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