Because of the amount of books I read most months, I don’t get to review everything for the blog. The Mini Review Catch Up is my place to give you a little information about some of my other reads and whether or not I would recommend them without going into tons of detail. These are a good sampling of the books I read this month and I’ll let you know whether they were good, (not so) bad, or just plain ugly!
Night Study by Maria V. Snyder
Book #2 in Soulfinders
Publication Date: January 26th 2016
ARC Provided by MIRA and Netgalley
I am so happy that I can put Night Study in the “Good” column! I was really disappointed by the previous book, Shadow Study, but this one was all I expected and more from Maria V. Snyder. This series is finally shaping up to be worthy of the original Study series and I am once again excited by Valek and Yelena’s story.
So much happened in Night Study, but I feel like anything I talk about would be a spoiler. Briefly, we find out what happened with Owen Moon and associates, a possible reason for Yelena’s missing magic is revealed, we learn way way more about Valek than I ever thought possible, something is wrong with the Commander, Ixia and Sitia are very uneasy with one another, and almost all of our favorite characters get kidnapped at one time or another. Yes, somehow all of those threads (and more) weave together into a fascinating, cohesive story and set the stage for more to come. I’m actually surprised that this series will only be three books; it now feels like it could go on for many more.
Probably my favorite thing about Night Study was all the Yelena and Valek time we got. I do love them both as individual characters, but they are so much more endearing when they are together. Their story has some very dramatic ups and downs here and I cannot wait to see how it comes together. It was nice to get a little of Leif’s POV in this one and the actual POV switches felt more controlled and justified here versus in Shadow Study. There were also a couple of new characters introduced that should be fascinating additions. The only reason I didn’t give this one 5 stars is because some of the more outrageous plot elements just didn’t feel grounded, like the kidnapping of the magicians and the way the Commander was acting. Overall though, I highly recommend this one to all Study series readers!
Thank you to MIRA via Netgalley for providing an ARC copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Rating: = B+
Driven by Kelley Armstrong
Book #13.6 in Otherworld Stories
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Publication Date: January 31st 2016
ARC Provided by Subterranean Press and Netgalley
I am always super excited when a return trip to Kelley Armstrong’s Otherworld comes around and Driven was no exception. Somehow I missed reading Forsaken so I didn’t always know who the new characters were or what some of the previous events mentioned were, but it wasn’t that hard to fill in the blanks. It did seem like this book picked up immediately where the previous left off, as we start in an open field with Elena meeting Malcolm Danvers to evaluate his request to rejoin the Pack.
Driven focuses on the Cain family, a group of mutts that the Pack pretty much leaves alone as they tend to keep to themselves, and Davis Cain in particular. Davis comes to Elena after finding two of his relatives murdered and skinned in wolf form. Even though they are mutts, the Pack can’t let people go around murdering wolves so off they go on the hunt… with Malcolm in tow.
Elena is my favorite POV character so it was great to be back in her head. It was also very exciting to see her in control as the Pack Alpha in Driven and to see how the other characters support her in their different ways. I always love seeing her and Clay’s children and I think I missed quite a bit of their story in Forsaken so I will definitely be going back to that one soon. In my opinion, the wolves and their society is the most interesting and well-rounded part of the Otherworld. Their stories never disappoint and I love all the characters within their world. I am so appreciative that Kelley Armstrong still gives us stories about them, even though the main series ended. I can’t wait to read more from this world and feel like every fan of the series needs to be reading these novellas and short stories!
Thank you to Subterranean Press via Netgalley for providing an ARC copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Rating: = B
NOS4A2 by Joe Hill
Narrated by Kate Mulgrew
Publication Date: April 30th 2013
Audiobook Purchased from Audible
Christal’s Review – 4 Skulls – B
NOS4A2 was my first Joe Hill book and my first audiobook narrated by Kate Mulgrew and I have to say that both blew me away. The story is a little complicated to explain, but there is Charlie Manx who likes to kidnap little children and take them to “Christmasland,” where they become something akin to a vampire. There’s also Vic McQueen, a young girl who has the ability to travel between long distances just by thinking about where she wants to go. As a young adult, Vic uses her power to find Charlie Manx and have him arrested. As the time passes, Vic grows up and has a son of her own. Charlie escapes from prison and decides to take revenge on Vic by taking her son to Christmasland, but Vic hasn’t lost her ability nor her determination and she’s determined to save her son and take Charlie Manx down once and for all. Throughout the book, we learn more about Vic and her life, both as a child with her parents and as an adult with her (ex-)husband Lou and her son Bruce Wayne. We also learn more about Charlie Manx and his motivations and those of his partner in crime, Bing Partridge. There is also a very colorful secondary cast of characters that interweave in Vic and Charlie’s story.
For those that don’t know, Joe Hill is the son of horror legend Stephen King. Knowing this, I went in with the expectation of a solid, scary story. What I didn’t expect was such detailed and believable character development. The characters were lovingly crafted and the main characters were so flawed and damaged, but still deeply human. Though I liked Vic from the get-go, I never expected her story would bring me to tears, but there I was towards the end… incredibly affected by Vic and her relationships with the most important men in her life: her father, her husband, and her son. I was rooting for Vic to triumph in the end, but I didn’t expect to be so impressed with her selflessness and sheer force of will. Vic had a mission to save her son and nothing, no physical pain, no emotional attack, no threat to her livelihood, would stop her. NOS4A2 presented one of the most sympathetic and believable heroines that I have ever come across. On the other hand, the development of Charlie Manx was a little lacking; I felt like more attention could have been given to his back story and how he developed into the evil man of today. There were little moments where you could almost understand his motivations, though never sympathize with them, but they were fleeting and not quite fully formed. I felt like this was a very minor issue in an outstanding story though. NOS4A2 and it’s characters will stick with me for a very long time.
Kate Mulgrew was a wonderful narrator and her reading here was truly a performance. She gave thought to each character and really brought them to life. NOS4A2 has dialogue from a lot of different characters and it was always instantly easy to recognize who was who in Ms. Mulgrew’s reading. Though her reading of Vic and Lou was definitely the most touching, her reading of Charlie Manx was probably the most perfect. His creepy, demented evilness just flowed out of her voice and it truly gives you chills.
Rating: = B
Revenge and the Wild by Michelle Modesto
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy Western
Publication Date: February 2nd 2016
ARC Provided by Balzer + Bray and Edelweiss
Revenge and the Wild was an interesting mash of up of several genres, but sometimes it felt like all those different elements got away from Michelle Modesto and the book wasn’t quite sure what it wanted to be. On the other hand, though, Westie was an infinitely interesting character and her story was very affecting for the majority of the book. Westie’s family was eaten by cannibals after leaving their home for a new life. Westie escapes, though she loses her arm, and is taken in by Nigel Butler, an inventor. Though she’s built a new life for herself, Westie can’t let go of her desire for revenge. When a new family comes to town, Westie is sure they are the cannibals that murdered her family but she has no way to prove it. Westie and Alistair, Nigel’s assistant and Westie’s sort-of-adopted-brother, set out to prove it is them and to finally get Westie her revenge.
Revenge and the Wild was definitely readable; I flew through the pages. I enjoyed most of the characters and Westie’s investigation of the cannibal family. What I didn’t really enjoy was all the side plots — Nigel’s machine and the disappearance of “magic,” the almost completely extraneous and entirely too diverse supernatural population (seriously, think of a supernatural creature and it was probably in this book), and most especially, the romance. I was fine with Westie and Alistair – their back-and-forth made sense within the context of their relationship and shared history – but I really disliked the James’ love triangle and definitely hated the interactions with Costin the vampire. Look, I get it, this is a YA fantasy and Westie is the special snowflake, no one else like her character, but everyone could see that Westie loved Alistair and James was just a distraction, Plus, Costin is a thousand year-old vampire; why would he be laid low by basically a child after all this time? I did love the twist at the end of the book and have to admit I didn’t see it coming. Wonderfully done! I know I complained a lot about this book, but there were a lot of elements that I truly liked as well. Because of that, I wouldn’t hesitate to check out another of Ms. Modesto’s books in the future.
Thank you to Balzer + Bray via Edelweiss for providing an ARC copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Rating: = C+
Half the World by Joe Abercrombie
Book #2 in Shattered Sea
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
Publication Date: February 12th 2015
ARC Provided by Harper Voyager and Netgalley
When Half a King came out in 2014, I absolutely devoured it. Joe Abercrombie’s story was a breath of fresh air in the YA fantasy genre; I couldn’t wait to read more! Enter Half the World and I jumped right in… and then put it down… picked it back up… put it down… and then finally finished it almost a year later. I found this second entry to be so much slower than the debut and it just was not holding my interest. As much as I liked new characters, Thorn and Brand, I just did not care about their looooooong sea journey. Even the presence of Father Yarvi couldn’t liven the joint up. I slogged through until about 65% and then things finally started to look up. I found myself reading faster and faster, eager to see what happened to everyone, especially Thorn. I loved seeing characters from the previous book and that the storylines started there, paid off here. I loved the evolution of Thorn Bathu and Brand’s realization of where in society he was happy. I loved the fights and the intrigue and the backstabbing. I do say, the ending of this book was damn near glorious. But to get there, I had to deal with the overly wordy, too detailed, dare I say boring sea voyage first. Yes, there were some good pages spread here and there, but those jewels were buried deep. Thank Lord Grimdark that this book picked up midway through; I would have hated to DNF this series.
Thank you to Harper Voyager via Netgalley for providing an ARC copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Rating: = C
I am pleased to say that I read no bad books this month! That is always such a glorious thing to say. I did end up putting Thinning the Herd by Adrian Phoenix on hold, but it was just because I wasn’t in the mood for such a light, humor/sarcasm tone. I do intend to give it a try at another time before I write it off completely.
What books did you read this month? Give us your scoop on The Good, The (Not So) Bad, and The Ugly books that we might have missed!
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