Saturday, November 12, 2016

Cover Reveal: The Sanctuary (Book 2 of The Awakened Duology) by Sara Elizabeth Santana

Here it is everyone


We are happy to announce that we are participating in the cover reveal of The Sanctuary. This is the second and final book in Sara Elizabeth Santana's The Awakened Duology from Oftomes Publishing! 
Isn't it gorgeous?!

The Sanctuary is up for preorder on all ebook sites...
The Awakened will be on sale for 0.99 from the 11th - 31st 

Friday, September 23, 2016

The Hike by Drew Magary

27833803This review was written by: B
Received: Publisher (Viking)
Publication Date of Book: August 2, 2016
Pages: 288 (Hardcover Edition)
Stars: 4.5/5

Official Summary:
From the author of Postmortal, a fantasy saga unlike any you've read before, weaving elements of folk lore and video game into a riveting, unforgettable adventure of what a man will endure to return to his family.

When Ben, a suburban family man, takes a business trip to rural Pennsylvania, he decides to spend the afternoon before his dinner meeting on a short hike.  Once he sets out into the woods behind his hotel, he quickly comes to realize that the path he has chosen cannot be given up easily.  With no choice but to move forward, Ben finds himself falling deeper and deeper into a world of man-eating giants, bizarre demons, and colossal insects.

On a quest of epic, life-or-death proportions, Ben finds help comes in some of the most unexpected forms, including a profane crustacean and a variety of magical objects, tools, and potions.  Desperate to return to his family, Ben is determined to track down the "Producer," the creator of the world in which he is being held hostage and the only one who can free him from the path.

At once bitingly funny and emotionally absorbing, Magary's novel is a remarkably unique addition to the contemporary fantasy genre, one that draws as easily from a world of classic folk tales as it does from video games.  In The Hike, Magary takes readers on a daring odyssey away from our day-to-day grind and transports them into an enthralling world propelled by heart, imagination, and survival.

My Thoughts:
You can adjust to anything if you're willing to live on.
~Crab, The Hike

When Magary was asked to describe The Hike in one sentence, he replied: A man goes on a hike and gets very, very, very, very, very, very, very lost.  From the moment I read that, I knew I would inevitably fall in love with this quirky, little stand alone that I was lucky enough to have land in my lap. 

Sitting here now, I realize that there's no possible way to devour this novel and then try to describe it to someone else because it's that insane!  If you try to elaborate on the specifics of the plot even slightly (which I tried to do for my mother), you might get this reaction: 

or this:

or even this:


So, you're basically alone in your lunacy while others watch on.  It's not a pretty sight....observe:

The Hike is literary madness that some might describe as a combination of The Odyssey, Alice in Wonderland, and The Phantom Tollbooth, neatly wrapped into something that's so unique it stands incredibly on its own even while it expresses elements that feel as if they parallel, or at the very least reminisce in, the same vibe as other classic stories.  Consequently, I frequently felt a touch of both the familiar and the spectacular at the same time when reading The Hike, which brought about a daringly amazing experience unlike any other!  Riddled with an abnormally massive insect that immensely grossed me out, a cannibal giantess who is surprisingly cordial, an irritable crab with a sarcasm problem (which I loved!), an old woman who keeps showing up at the oddest of moments, insane murderers with skinned rottweiler faces for masks, and a path that will not hesitate to end your life if you step off of it, this is an impossible novel to predict.  In fact, this book is the definition of sporadic!  Now, that might sound off-putting to some readers, but honestly, that is one of the highest of praises that can be bestowed upon a novel, at least in my opinion.  The Hike didn't follow a set, hackneyed formula like most other publications that are displayed on today's shelves.  Oh no, this one is much more fickle!  We do not pursue the well-worn lines that make up the path through the consistently consulted map labeled Adult Contemporary Fantasy because the map was torn apart and burned by Drew Magary!  Magary is a brilliant explorer of new territory.  I don't even think that I would be able to fit this book properly into a genre if my life depended on it despite the fact that it is marked under a certain one.  There was no rhyme or reason as to what was going to pop up next, and the constant twists and turns kept me awake well after I was supposed to turn off the lights.

The randomness of it all was more than a little addicting to say the least!  (However, while the insanity of it all may be a turn-off for some readers, I assure you that it all had a meaning that is presented at the end.)  Despite all of the craziness, though, this book still retained a structure that drew the plot forward, and the craziness was fascinatingly a way of structure in itself. 

What I loved most about Ben, the main protagonist, was his devotion to his family.  It was what made the book relatable and that much more enriching.  It also gave me a reason to want Ben to defeat whatever the heck was keeping him on the path.  Heartbreaking doesn't even begin to describe how it felt to see a man stripped of everything he loved, forcing him to either give up and dive into despair or keep marching on for one purpose and one purpose only: to get back to his family.  I mean, can you think of anything more touching?  At first, it didn't seem like such a big deal, but the further the story progressed, the more I realized how horrible it must have been to be put in his position.  (I'm a sensitive individual.)  At first, he still had his phone with pictures of his wife and children on it, so it wasn't too terrible.  I was able to keep control of myself...for the most part.

Eventually, the phone died, and all he was left with was one lone image and his fading memories of them.

And then . . . all he had was a faint recollection . . . and I lost it.

Again, I'm a very sensitive person, so maybe this meant more to me than it might to others.  (Plus, I've recently found a deep love for gifs and had to put these in here!)

I also have to mention how unbelievably stunning The Hike's ending was!  I don't think that I've ever seen a conclusion quite as spectacular as this one, and I can't stress that enough.  I was in plain shock at Magary's sheer talent.  Endings are essential to my rating process, and I have to admit that most books that I read either leave me with a distasteful, lackluster feeling or an unsavory sense that everything was wrapped up too quickly.  As a result, their ratings go inevitably down.  This conclusion, though, deserves five stars all on its own!

YOU HAVE TO READ THIS BOOK!  The Hike is divided into three parts, each one leaving you in even more awe and wonderment than the one before it.  Each chapter is an entity of its own.  Yes, this is a novel that is absurdly kooky at points, but if you're willing to let yourself be open-minded to this experience, I feel fairly confident that you're not going to be disappointed.  It will take you high, and it will take you low, leaving you surprised (and possibly hysterical!) at each new revelation that hits you smack dab in the face.  If you're looking for an inventive, ingenious book or just something to get you out of a reading slump, this is undoubtedly the book for you!  While I keep trying to find the words to explain just how marvelous The Hike is, it's just impossible.  You have to experience this one for yourself!       

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Monday, September 12, 2016

The Storybook Knight by Helen Docherty, Illustrated by Thomas Docherty

This review was written by: B
Received: Publisher (Sourcebooks Jabberwocky)
Publication Date of Book: Sept. 6, 2016
Pages: 32
Stars: 5/5

Official Summary:
Even dragons can't resist a good story . . . 

Even though Leo would rather sit at home and read, his parents send him out into the world in the hopes that Leo will become a famous knight.  But when Leo comes up against the land's most fearsome beasts, he soon discovers that scary monsters enjoy a good book as much as anyone . . . 

My Thoughts:
Leo was a gentle knight 
in thought and word and deed.
While other knights like fighting,
Leo liked to sit and read. 
 ~The Storybook Knight

Leo is a most peculiar knight.  Instead of going out and slaying beasts, rescuing damsels in distress, or going on dangerous adventures, he enjoys spending his time with his nose in a great book, which his parents feel a little odd about.  After watching their knight son sit and read for hours on end, Leo's parents urge him to tame a dragon, and they present him with a brand-new shield and sword.  Typically, (along with his handsome stead) this is all that one would expect the traditional knight to bring on a daring, treacherous journey, but Leo does the unexpected: he totes with him a huge stack of books, which prove to be quite handy!

The Storybook Knight is a delightful addition to children's literature today!  It is not only a tale featuring fantastical, magical creatures, but it is also a story highlighting one of the best lessons that a child could ever learn: Winning a battle and saving the day does not necessarily have to be about who's the strongest or the most brutal.  Instead, a knight in shining armor can be just as amazing if he/she uses their resources and talents, while still being innovative and kind!

The lyrical, rhyming quality of the story will surely be a crowd pleaser amongst young readers and will also make reading the book aloud that much more enjoyable!  Plus, the gorgeous illustrations are completely immersive for the setting, giving off this fun, middle-age atmospheric tone.  Just take a look at these beauties:



(I die every time that I see that pony!  It's too cute!!!)

The Storybook Knight is unquestionably one of those children's books that you will want to buy for your own collection and read to your children again and again!  Plus, Leo's the type of mouse you actually don't mind inviting into your house!  He's not only intelligent and gentle, but he LOVES to read, as well!  (I have a feeling that we would get along swimmingly!)

It is safe to say that Helen and Thomas Docherty make a fantastic team, and I can't wait to see what they produce in the future!  I have a feeling that this book could become one of the classics. Consequently, I strongly suggest you check it out!  It's gorgeous inside and out.

Storybook Knight landing page:

Author Links:
Thomas Docherty:
Twitter: @TDIllustration
Helen Docherty:
Twitter: @docherty_helen 

Rafflecopter: Win this book and a sketch by the author!
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If you enjoyed this book, you may also like:

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Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Max at Night by Ed Vere

This review was written by: B
Received: Publisher (Sourcebooks Jabberwocky)
Publication Date of Book: Sept. 1, 2016
Pages: 32
Stars: 5/5

Official Summary;
This is Max.  Max is very sleepy.  It's way past Max's bedtime.  Max has drunk his milk.  Max has brushed his teeth.  Max has cleaned behind his ears.  Now Max just needs to say goodnight . . . 

Max is tired and all ready for bed, but when he can't find the moon to say goodnight to, he sets out to find it.  But that's not as easy as Max had hoped . . . Witty and heart-warming, this stylish and beautifully illustrated book is the perfect bedtime read.

My Thoughts:
Max is the sweetest, most adorable little kitten that I have ever come across!  Before bed, he likes to say goodnight to a series of things, including Fish, Box, Spider, and Moon.  However, when he goes to his window, Moon is nowhere to be found, but Max won't rest until he bids Moon a good night!

This is truly one of the most ideal bedtime stories that I have come across thus far!  For starters, the illustrations are perfect with absolutely gorgeous coloring.  Soothing blue hues and warm, melting reds will gather gravitating readers, inviting them in with a strong sense of comfort.  The reds and oranges were so enriching and the blues were equally all-consuming!  This was literally one of my favorite picture books because of its color palette alone. 



 I also personally loved how Vere portrayed Max.  The doe-eyed, black kitten was so small, that when it came to him being placed against the vast, evening settings, a feeling of awe cannot help but surface within certain readers as they flip from page to page.  It is a great perspective for children to see.  There were even a few pages in which what was going to show up next was foreshadowed by being drawn with less detail and focus on the end of the right most page, which I thought was fabulous because this gives children a sense pf excitement for what they can expect next.   

Max at Night was a great addition to the Max series and, in my opinion, will not disappoint its already won over fans. Plus, it will most likely add more fans to its ranks.  It has a great rhythm and strong repetitive storytelling process.  As a result, this is a fantastic book to read aloud and hold a younger audience's attention.  Vere even added in a little bit of enjoyable humor.  All I can say is that this man easily stole the stage with a great addition to his already impressive collection of stories.  I can't wait to see what this delightful little feline does next!  Only one thing is certain, though: I'm sure that the story will be purrfect!  (I couldn't help myself!  Sorry!!!)

Win a copy of this book at the following link: 

Author Links: 
Twitter: @ed_vere

Max at Night landing page:

Download the activity kit:

Rafflecopter: Enter for a chance to win an original sketch by author and illustrator Ed Vere and a copy of Max at Night!

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If you enjoyed this book, you may also like:  

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Monday, September 5, 2016

This Monstrous Thing by Mackenzi Lee

This review was written by: C
Received: Library
Publication Date of Book: September 2015
Pages: 384
Stars: 5/5

Official Summary:

In 1818 Geneva, men built with clockwork parts live hidden away from society, cared for only by illegal mechanics called Shadow Boys. Two years ago, Shadow Boy Alasdair Finch’s life shattered to bits.

His brother, Oliver—dead.

His sweetheart, Mary—gone.

His chance to break free of Geneva—lost.

Heart-broken and desperate, Alasdair does the unthinkable: He brings Oliver back from the dead.

But putting back together a broken life is more difficult than mending bones and adding clockwork pieces. Oliver returns more monster than man, and Alasdair’s horror further damages the already troubled relationship.

Then comes the publication of Frankenstein and the city intensifies its search for Shadow Boys, aiming to discover the real life doctor and his monster. Alasdair finds refuge with his idol, the brilliant Dr. Geisler, who may offer him a way to escape the dangerous present and his guilt-ridden past, but at a horrible price only Oliver can pay…

My Thoughts:

I have a slight obsession with reading recreations of older tales. From Brom's The Child Thief (a re-imagining of Peter Pan) to Jim McDoniel's An Unattractive Vampire (a reboot of the vampire genre that brings back the frightening vampires of old), I absolutely love it when authors take a well-established idea or story and alter it so that it becomes something unique, original, and utterly fantastic. This Monstrous Thing is one of these tales.

Lee chose to take Mary Shelley's Frankenstein as a basis for a riveting new tale that was true to its source material, yet distinctive and superb in its own right. I have read a few stories that are based off of Frankenstein, but This Monstrous Thing takes the cake and is by far the best one that I have come across, especially due to the countless new elements and emotions that I haven't found in any other Frankenstein retelling!

At the center of Lee's novel are Oliver and Alasdair, two brothers and Shadow Boys who have done nothing but constantly move due to their family's hidden profession of fitting disabled individuals with mechanical parts. What they do is forbidden, as society views altering anything that's made in God's Image as an insult to the Almighty Creator. Consequently, having mechanical parts results in the loss of one's humanity. As the summary already mentions, Oliver is killed and brought back to life by Alasdair -- a feat that has never been accomplished before. Thus, Oliver is both an anomaly and a dangerous creature.  As a result, the story explores a strained relationship between brothers and the implications of upsetting the laws of nature in order to bring a loved one back from the dead.

For some reason, I have always found deep relationships between brothers to be fascinating. In fact, This Monstrous Thing  slightly reminded me of Fullmetal Alchemist, a riveting story that focuses on Edward and Alphonse Elric, two brothers who attempt to use alchemy to bring their mother back from the dead. However, they disobey the laws of equivalent exchange and their transmutation fails. As a result, Alphonse loses his body and Edward loses a leg. In order to bring Alphonse back and bind his soul to a suit of armor, Edward sacrifices another limb -- his right arm.

After this incident transpires, Edward is fitted with automail (mechanical limbs) and devotes his life to restoring Alphonse to his human form. He expresses an undying devotion to right the wrongs that are undeniably his fault and will stop at nothing to attain that which he most desires.

Oliver and Alasdair have a relationship that, in some ways, parallels that of Edward and Alphonse Elric. Alasdair can't live with the loss of his brother and does everything in his power to bring the one  person that he loves back to life -- even if that means resorting to means that are considered taboo. 

Lee did a phenomenal job paralleling Oliver and Alasdair with the original Frankenstein, too. Obviously, Alasdair is Frankenstein and Oliver his monster. However, I believe the relationship between Frankenstein and his creation, rather than locations, events, and supporting characters, is the most important aspect that Lee chose to incorporate from Shelley's original story. Plus, Lee's world is more steampunk, which is an alteration that I really enjoyed. However, I was most drawn in by the  deep, heart-wrenching bond of Oliver and Alasdair that was filled with confusion, regret, despair, and utter turmoil. Consequently, I believe that Lee explored one of the most important aspects of Frankenstein -- what it truly means to be human.

It's a philosophical argument: Can anyone that's been altered or brought back to life even be considered human, especially if they no longer seem to be the same person you once loved? Alasdair has to contend with his mistakes and the events that led to Oliver's resurrection,  and he may have to come to the realization that the being who came back to life may not be his beloved brother.

At the end of this story, I believe that one of the most important lessons comes from a particular quote from the book: “We're all monsters. We're all careless and cruel in the end.” This quote may insinuate that humans can be monstrous by nature. There's cruelty in destroying that which you fear and don't understand, there's cruelty in bringing another back to life due to your own despair, and there's cruelty in taking your new life and lashing out at a world that hates you. The point is, that there's a monster lurking in every single one of us. However, we can try our damnedest to repress the beast and do the right thing, no matter what it will cost us -- you have to give up your selfish desires and do what's best for  everyone else in the world, rather than simply thinking of yourself and lashing out at everyone else.

In the end, This Monstrous Thing has become one of my favorite books. Lee is more than capable of weaving a thrilling and fantastical tale filled with characters that are striking, real, and heartwarming. I also loved her incorporation of Mary Shelley herself as a character in the story and the book Frankenstein  being based upon Mary's time with Oliver and Alasdair. But most of all, I loved the profound bond that existed between two brothers whose lives were altered by a single mistake.

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Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Ancient Appetites (The Wildenstern Saga #1) by Oisin McGann

This Reviews was Written by: C
Received: Publisher (Open Road Media)
Publication Date of Book: August 2015
Pages: 412
Stars: 5/5

Official Summary:

Murder, betrayal, and power . . . Welcome to the Wildenstern empire. The slow collapse of the British Empire in the nineteenth century meant opportunity for anyone with ammunition and wit. Now the Wildensterns are by far the most powerful family and the most ruthless. Trained from childhood in the arts of assassination and conspiracy and endowed with the supernatural ability to live for more than a century, the clan has grown rich, vicious, and seemingly invincible.

After nearly two years away, eighteen-year-old Nate has returned. But his homecoming is shattered when his eldest brother, Marcus, is mysteriously killed. Following the Rules of Ascension, which allow one male family member to murder another, Nate is being blamed. Nate knows he isn't the murderer, but who is? With the help of his sister-in-law, Daisy, and his cousin Gerald, Nate intends to find out. Their investigation brings them into the underbelly of the Wildenstern empire, where living machines, conspiring relatives, and undercover mercenaries do their dirty work. But when a disaster uncovers the ancient remains of Wildenstern ancestors, the lives of the family members and their struggle for power will take a bizarre and gruesome turn.

My Thoughts:

Number One: The Act of Aggression must be committed by the Aggressor himself and not by any agent or servant.

Number Two: The Act must only be committed against a man over the age of sixteen who holds a superior rank in the family to the Aggressor.

Number Three: The Act must only be committed for the purpose of advancing one's position and not out of spite, or because of insult or offence given, or to satisfy a need for revenge for an insult or injury given to a third party.

Number Four: All efforts should be made to avoid the deaths of servants while committing the Act. Good servants are hard to find.

Number Five: The Target of the Aggression can use any and all means to defend themselves, and is under an obligation to do so for the good of the family.

Number Six: Retribution against the Aggressor can only be carried out after the Act has been committed. Should the Aggressor fail in his attempt, and subsequently escape to remain at large for a full day, only the Target of the Aggression and no other person will be permitted to take Retribution.

Number Seven: No Act of Aggression or Retribution must be witnessed or reported by any member of the public. All family matters must be kept confidential.

Number Eight: Any bodies resulting from the Act must be given a proper burial in a cemetery, crypt, catacomb or funeral pyre approved by the family. 

These are The Rules of Ascension, laws that govern the bloodthirsty Wildenstern lineage whose male members can murder their way to the position of patriarch, a superior status that allows one to control the vast wealth, businesses, and assets of the family that are found throughout Ireland, England, and America. The group even possesses an accelerated healing factor (that seems to increase  with the aid of gold), abnormal longevity, and a strange connection to engimals, beasts that are both animal and machine.

Edgar Wildenstern, the current patriarch, has approximately four children: Marcus, Roberto, Nathaniel, and Tatiana. However, with the untimely death of Marcus, the eldest son and heir, the next in line is Roberto, the kindhearted polar opposite of Edgar. In his father's eyes, Roberto's lack of cruelty and aggression makes him weak. Thus, most of the duties and running of the family's American businesses fall upon Nathaniel's shoulders. Neither Roberto nor Nathaniel have any desire to run their horrendous family, and Nathaniel will stop at nothing to apprehend his brother's murderer. However, their are still relatives who are plotting to advance their positions, and Roberto isn't the man he appears to be. Consequently, Nathaniel may have to confront an extremely dangerous killer and four ancient ancestors who were unearthed and brought back to life.

The era in which  this novel takes place is absolutely fascinating. So many books that are labeled as being part of the steampunk genre take place in a Victorian era London that's been depicted far too many times. This mold is fabulously broken with McGann's Ireland-based family feud. Some readers may complain that the story doesn't contain enough features of the steampunk genre, but I'm satisfied with the engimals and the odd, "supernatural" qualities of the Wildenstern bloodline. Plus, many steampunk stories are way too complicated with their politics and technology, and I love the fact that Ancient Appetites wasn't over-complicated in these aspects. McGann did a superb job in creating an awesome, unique, and interesting family whose problems only escalate in countless fashions as the story progresses.

The mystery within the novel also wan't cliche, easy to figure out, or boring in any way, shape, or form. The plot kept twisting and the characters often came to an absolutely incorrect conclusion. It was nice that the story didn't abruptly end with a simple solution and actually continued to advance. Resurrecting ancestors was also a nice touch and added a bit more danger and obstacles for the main protagonist, Nathaniel.

I like the fact that Nathaniel wasn't the only main focal point of the story. There were several interesting supporting characters that added flare. Gerald, Roberto, Daisy, and Tatiana all received their fair share of character development, and they each possessed distinct personalities. When writing from multiple points of view, it isn't always easy to make each character perfectly unique, but McGann seemed to have no problems in this department! There was also a moral to the story. Nathaniel started out as a privileged teen who had absolutely everything handed to him. He even ran away to Africa in order to get away from his father's influence. However, he had to learn that you don't magically receive a position. It takes hard work, determination, and the gaining of respect in order to attain both a title and power. Plus, being cruel and heartless doesn't get you very far and pretty much destroys the lives of everyone else around you.

In the end, Ancient Appetites provided a whirlwind of a ride that allows the reader to explore a family governed by cruel endeavors. The characters are surrounded by deadly plots, deceit, and recently awakened ancestors that will disrupt the entire household order. Simply put, the reader is in for one hell of a ride!

If you enjoyed this book, you may also like:

The Wisdom of Dead Men (The Wildenstern Saga #2) by Oisin McGann

This review was written by: C
Received: Publisher (Open Road Media)
Publication Date of Book: December 2015
Pages: 408
Stars: 4/5

Official Summary:

While investigating a series of mysterious murders, Nate uncovers dark secrets that threaten to reveal the true nature of the Wildenstern family.

The British Empire is no longer the authority it once was. Instead, it's controlled by private business organizations--the most powerful of which is Ireland's ruthless Wildenstern family. Eighteen-year-old Nathaniel Wildenstern has given up his dreams of travel and adventure to devote himself to being his brother Berto's head of security. With the help of his wife, Daisy, Berto wants to change the barbaric ways of the clan. But there are many among the Wildensterns who like things the way they are, and will resort to whatever devious methods necessary to keep it that way. 

Meanwhile, the burnt bodies of women are appearing around Dublin. When a connection to the Wildenstern family is discovered, Nate, Daisy, and Nate's sister Tatiana decide to investigate. Soon the young Wildensterns are digging into shadowy societies and dark family secrets that date back to the origin of the engimals, who are part animal, part machine. And what they find could shed light on the savage nature of the Wildensterns themselves.

My Thoughts: 

I have to say that it's almost impossible to find a series that only gets better and better as it progresses. Oisin McGann has no doubt achieved this. I was so excited to continue The Wildenstern Saga once I finished Ancient Appetites, and The Wisdom of Dead Men met just about every single one of my expectations. There was more betrayal, bloodshed, and countless Wildenstern family secrets coming to light. The mystery and action never ceased, and the story only became far more interesting and complex.

McGann has a talent for juggling a plethora of characters. Although you might pick Nate out as the main protagonist (and an amazing one at that), the story doesn't solely revolve around him. Daisy, Tatiana, Berto, and countless other characters get appear in this second installment and receive their fair share of the limelight. I really haven't come across a book or series that's truly been able to explore so many characters and do it justly. Usually there are only two perspectives and maybe a single side plot that gets the reader through the story. However, McGann is capable of taking many characters and weaving a tremendous tale. I am so glad that McGann continued this trend, as it just adds so much more depth to the story!

It was also interesting to see an accurate historical representation of how women were treated in the nineteenth century. Some may refer to the treatment of women in this book as sexist, but that's how life was then and the author was trying to portray this time period with justice. Although this treatment was extremely unfair, McGann was able to show just how capable Daisy and Tatiana were of overcoming many obstacles that society placed before them. Half the time they were far more intelligent than the men who behaved as if they were above their female counterparts, and I loved that!

You will definitely not be disappointed for picking up the second installment to The Wildenstern Saga. This particular novel has even more twists,  turns, and deception (I really don't want to give any spoilers, as revealing what characters die and who the killer is will definitely spoil all of the fun and excitement!). Trust me when I say that it has everything you could  ask for, and the steampunk aspect is starting to rev up! I saw that some readers complained that there weren't enough facets of a steampunk world to really label the series as "steampunk." However, we are coming ever closer to discovering how the engimals came into existence and what is found within the blood of the Wildensterns. 

This particular book may be a bit of what I would refer to as a "bridge" between the first and final book of a series. The story may also have had a few odd additions to the plot, but they were all required for the final installment and what will come to pass in Merciless Reason. People often say that the first book of a series is the best. I do agree that I loved the first book a bit more, but the second was still an amazing read!

As a side note, I really wish that this series got more attention. And I am so grateful to Open Road Media for making it available within the U.S. There are so many authors whose works aren't available to North American readers,  and I am so glad I didn't miss out on McGann's work.

If you enjoyed this book, you may also like:

Merciless Reason (The Wildenstern Saga #3) by Oisin McGann

This Review was Written by: C
Received: Publisher (Open Road Media)
Publication Date of Book: April 2016
Pages: 466
Stars: 4.5/5

Official Summary:

There's no such thing as escaping the Wildensterns.

It's been three years since Nathaniel Wildenstern left Ireland and his ruthless family behind. But no one turns his back on the Wildensterns, the powerful family controlling what was once the British Empire. While Nate's been gone, one of his maniacal cousins has been hard at work researching engimals, the bizarre living machines with the brains of animals, with the intent of creating the ultimate new species. When Nate learns what his cousin has been up to, he knows he must return and put a stop to it. But in his absence, his clan has become even more despised for its merciless hunger for power. For Nate to succeed, he'll have to return in secret because wherever the Wildensterns go, violence and betrayal are sure to follow.

My Thoughts:

They always say that good things must come to an end. However, I can't believe that the Wildenstern Saga has truly come to a conclusion! McGann had me hooked from the very beginning, and I don't want to let any of his amazing characters go. 

Merciless Reason brought the entire saga to a thrilling finale. The story of the engimals and their existence is finally revealed in its entirety, and there were so many plot twists that utterly drew me in. I especially love the fact that the story of Nathaniel's mother and father unfolds throughout the book. I was finally able to discover what led to the terrible dissolution of their tragic relationship, and I have to add that it was extremely clever to unfold this particular arc of the story through Edgar's journal entries. I didn't have to discern what kind of human being he was based upon an outsider's perspective or through the opinions of his children and various other relatives. Instead, I was able to view the world through his very own eyes. 

I know that I have mentioned this several times before, but I have to reiterate the fact that McGann is highly skilled in weaving multiple story lines and subplots so that they are capable of intersecting at just the right moment to create a spectacular chain of events. I am amazed at how well he was able to intertwine the separate events surrounding Nate, Clancy, Tatiana, Daisy, Gerald, and many other side characters. No one gets left out, and they each serve a particular purpose in McGann's grand scheme. Plus, the character development is spectacular! Nate and Gerald changed so much from how they were portrayed in Ancient Appetites. And the deep and gradual alterations in their characters aren't your typical type of character development. They truly became completley different people and I value the extensive maturation and progress that occurred.

My only disappointment was that it took almost the entire book for Nate to finally return to the Wildenstern mansion. I was almost expecting him to get there, at the very latest, in the middle of the story. However, this was rectified when the final showdown between Nate and his deranged cousin finally began. I was happy that the meaning behind  the title of Ancient Appetites had a bit of a role in this battle, and its meaning was slightly bizarre, but clever. Plus, McGann is capable of elaborately illustrating any form of action that occurs. I know that I sometimes don't appreciate great details that are included during battle scenes. However, McGann's descriptions only made the scenes play out more vividly within my imagination, and I actually found myself enjoying these adept descriptions. 

All-in-all, the Wildenstern Saga has become one of my favorite series! It's a gem that's not very easy to come by, and I hope countless readers will enjoy it must as much as I did!

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Thursday, August 18, 2016

Beastly Bones (Jackaby #2) by William Ritter

This review was written by: C
Received: Library
Publication Date of Book: September 2015
Pages: 296
Stars: 4/5

Official Summary:

“I’ve found very little about private detective R. F. Jackaby to be standard in the time I’ve known him. Working as his assistant tends to call for a somewhat flexible relationship with reality.”

In 1892, New Fiddleham, New England, things are never quite what they seem, especially when Abigail Rook and her eccentric employer R. F. Jackaby are called upon to investigate the supernatural.

First, a vicious species of shape-shifters disguise themselves as a litter of kittens, and a day later, their owner is found murdered with a single mysterious puncture wound. Then in nearby Gad’s Valley, now home to the exiled New Fiddleham police detective Charlie Cane, dinosaur bones from a recent dig mysteriously go missing, and an unidentifiable beast starts attacking animals and people, leaving their mangled bodies behind. Charlie calls on Abigail for help, and soon Abigail and Jackaby are on the hunt for a thief, a monster, and a murderer.

My Thoughts:

William Ritter is back with another tale featuring one of my favorite characters: R. F. Jackaby -- an odd, quirky, eccentric, and unforgettable detective capable of seeing all manor of supernatural entities.

I've had my hands on Beastly Bones for  quite some time now. However, with series that I love, I tend to put off reading the next installment until the book following the one in my possession is almost ready to be published. It's kind of my fail-safe to make sure that I won't be kept hanging at the end of a book. And if I am, I will have the next book available fairly soon. Not to mention, it keeps the story fresh in my mind when going to read the next installment (which usually helps me determine how well the story was written and if it progressed forward in a positive way). I wasn't disappointed by choosing to wait to read Beastly Bones, and now I can't wait to start the third book!

After completing Jackaby (the first book in the series), I was hoping that Ritter would be capable of retaining the amazing personality of the character Jackaby that I fell in love with in the first book -- and I was so happy that he did! There was no shortness of Jackaby-esque humor and hilarious comments that most take offense to, but, in Jackaby's mind, they are nothing more than his simple opinion. For example, there's a conversation between Jackaby and a character named Charlie, who also happens to possess the gift of turning into a large dog:

“Charlie helped with the dig as well?"Jackaby said.
Charlie nodded.
"Surprising-I should think that unburying bones would go against generations of instinct to do just the opposite, wouldn't it? Ouch! Watch your step in the dark, Miss Rook-you just kicked my shin. Where was I? Right-I was saying that coming from a family of dogs-ouch! You've done it again, rather hard that time. Really, the path isn't even bumpy here.” 

Abigail/Miss Rook does attempt to keep Jackaby's mouth in line, but he can be utterly oblivious as to how his words may impact another. This just adds great humor to the story, and it's one of the best perks to Jackaby's character.

Even though Jackaby's personality was left intact, I do feel that the character was a bit distant to the plot and story itself. Jackaby and Beastly Bones are both told from Abigail's perspective, but Jackaby seemed to play a less pertinent role in this installment than he did in the first book. This was a bit of a disappointment. Don't get me wrong, I do enjoy Abigail as a character, but I feel that Jackaby should have played a more important role, especially due to the fact that the books revolve around Jackaby's supernatural cases and his gift of "seeing beyond the veil." 

A lot of reviewers did complain that the plot was a bit boring, and although it may not have been as spectacular as the plot explored in the first book, I don't think it was terrible. I like the fact that dragons and their lore were introduced. So, while some reviewers grumbled that the story was nothing but digging, I feel as if this isn't true. In fact, Jenny Cavanaugh's past and current ghostly state are explored, and it seemed that Beastly Bones was examining Jenny a bit more in order to set up the plot for the third book: Ghostly Echoes

A supporting character named Hank Hudson is also introduced. He is an old friend of Jackaby, and he seems to be a character that's modeled after Hagrid (from Harry Potter) -- they are both depicted as very large and hairy men who love all manor of spectacular, magical beasts. The only difference is that Hudson enjoys hunting and collecting large and supernatural game. In the end, Hudson seemed to be a bit of an archetype, and while I don't mind some archetypes, Hudson was just a little too typical.

In the end, I enjoyed the story even though there were some aspects that left me a bit disappointed. Plus, I am consoled by the fact that Jenny's murderer will hopefully be revealed. And the most exciting aspect is that Jackaby's very own Moriarty may have just been introduced in Beastly Bones! What's a supernatural detective without his ultimate rival?!

Without further adieu, I shall leave you with some advice from Jackaby:

“So often,” Jackaby said, “people think that when we arrive at a crossroads, we can choose only one path, but—as I have often and articulately postulated—people are stupid. We’re not walking the path. We are the path. We are all of the roads and all of the intersections. Of course you can choose both.” 

SPOILER -- Major plot spoiler! Read at your own risk! 
You have been warned! 
The only major disappointment was that the living and breathing dragon wasn't really a dragon at all. I really had my hopes up that they weren't as extinct as Jackaby had originally thought. Ritter did dash my hopes in this regard.

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Monday, August 15, 2016

The Devil's Dreamcatcher (The Devil's #2) by Donna Hosie

This review was written by: C
Received: Library
Publication Date of Book: May 2015
Pages: 261
Stars: 4.5/5

Official Summary:

Hell is full of thieves. But only one has dared to rob The Devil.

The Devil’s accounting office is hiring an intern, and sixteen-year-old Medusa Pallister wants the job. Badly. Not only would she report to the coolest boss in the Underworld, she’d also be working alongside Mitchell Johnson, who, she’s certain, is the key to solving a mystery that’s been haunting her since her death.

Landing the internship is easy, but answers about her past will have to wait. Medusa has barely made Mitchell’s acquaintance when Hell goes into lockdown. Someone has robbed The Devil of his most precious possession: a dreamcatcher so powerful it could be apocalyptic in the wrong hands.

In this gripping sequel to The Devil’s Intern, Team DEVIL reunites for a quest for stolen property that will lead Medusa to a showdown that no one, not even The Devil himself, could have foreseen.

My Thoughts:

With The Devil’s Dreamcatcher, Donna has brought us a new and exciting adventure featuring the one and only Team DEVIL!

Although Mitchell, Elinor, and Alfarin were capable of altering Medusa’s past, death still claimed her at a very young age. Thus, she has been in Hell for 40+ years. However, dying twice has made Medusa special, and she often remembers bits and pieces from the first timeline in which she existed. Medusa is also attempting to work her way up in Hell and applies for an intern position that will enable her to work alongside Mitchell Johnson – whom she feels is quite familiar.

Once easily attaining the position, Medusa joins Team DEVIL and meets up with all of her old friends. However, their reunion doesn’t go quite as expected, especially due to the fact that Medusa’s stepfather, Rory Hunter (also known as the Unspeakable), has escaped from the nine circles of Hell and stolen The Devil’s Dreamcatcher. Septimus entrusts Team DEVIL with the Viciseometer in order to track Rory through time, capture The Devil’s Dreamcatcher, and bring it back to Hell. There’s only one slight hitch, they are all pawns in a complicated game and there is one powerful individual who has even betrayed Septimus, one of Hell’s most feared devils.

After reading The Devil’s Intern, I wasn’t sure how Donna would expand the world that was introduced to us. There are many series that decline in world building after the first installment, and Hosie already explored time travel and Hell itself. However, she was able to expand the world of Team DEVIL for the better, and I almost feel as if The Devil’s Dreamcatcher is better than her first book!

It was also brilliant of her to introduce Team ANGEL, those sent from Up There in order to capture The Devil’s Dreamcatcher for Heaven. The devils have to learn how to work with the divine beings and take back that which belongs to the ruler of Hell. The chemistry between the two groups was amazing, and Donna knew just how to add the right amount of humor at the most opportune times. I absolutely loved the comedy from the first book, and I am so glad that she was able to carry this over in the second book. Let me give you a little example of one particular part of the book that made me laugh out loud. Within the following conversation, the members of Team DEVIL are joking about what form of torture their own fictional circle of Hell would possess, and Alfarin gave a humorous response:

“Mine would be having to wear those garments called underpants,” says Alfarin. “My manly parts cannot be constricted. It affects my appetite.”
“Well, that is an image I did not need in my brain, Alfarin.” Scolds Elinor, standing up. 

Plus, there was so much more lore to be explored. The reader learns about the original Dreamcatcher, what other worlds exist besides Earth, Heaven, and Hell, and what powers angels and devils may possess when they exist outside of their respective domains. There were so many new and exciting aspects introduced into this world, and they all made the story so exciting and fast-paced. The only complaint that I have would be the first bit of the book. It just seemed a little slow at first, and the story is told from Medusa’s perspective, as well. Mitchell is by far my favorite character, so it admittedly took a bit of getting used to seeing events unfold from Medusa’s viewpoint. However, the story picked right up once the Dreamcatcher was stolen and Team DEVIL was introduced to Team ANGEL. All-in-all, this is a read you don’t want to miss!

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