Mini Reviews: Vol III

Hello!

Continuing with my catch-up on netgalley with more mini reviews.

Disclaimer – I received an e-arc of these books via netgalley in exchange for an honest review, all thoughts are my own.

The Witness for the Dead – Katherine Addison

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Book Summary:

When the young half-goblin emperor Maia sought to learn who had set the bombs that killed his father and half-brothers, he turned to an obscure resident of his father’s Court, a Prelate of Ulis and a Witness for the Dead. Thara Celehar found the truth, though it did him no good to discover it. He lost his place as a retainer of his cousin the former Empress, and made far too many enemies among the many factions vying for power in the new Court. The favor of the Emperor is a dangerous coin.

Now Celehar lives in the city of Amalo, far from the Court though not exactly in exile. He has not escaped from politics, but his position gives him the ability to serve the common people of the city, which is his preference. He lives modestly, but his decency and fundamental honestly will not permit him to live quietly. As a Witness for the Dead, he can, sometimes, speak to the recently dead: see the last thing they saw, know the last thought they had, experience the last thing they felt. It is his duty use that ability to resolve disputes, to ascertain the intent of the dead, to find the killers of the murdered.

Now Celehar’s skills lead him out of the quiet and into a morass of treachery, murder, and injustice. No matter his own background with the imperial house, Celehar will stand with the commoners, and possibly find a light in the darkness.


The Review:

I loved the premise for this one, and the idea of the Witness for the Dead and the responsibility that brings. This was a fantastical murder mystery, with politics and cultural differences pressing in from all sides. However, it was not this aspect that hooked me into this book – but rather the character of Thara Celehar, the heart and soul of this book. It took me a little while to get used to him, but once he’d grown on me, I loved spending time with him. He was the focus, and I did find that the rest of the book got a little too meandering and caught up in details, and subplots in places, and it felt as though there was a little too much crammed into the book and it ended up detracting a little from the overall impact. However, overall this was an enjoyable read with a fantastic central character.

Purchase Links:

Amazon UK | Amazon US | Bookshop.org | The Broken Binding | Topping & Company | Waterstones

***** *****

Unravel the Dusk (The Blood of Stars #2) – Elizabeth Lim

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Book Summary:

Maia Tamarin’s journey to sew the dresses of the sun, the moon and the stars has taken a grievous toll. She returns to a kingdom on the brink of war. The boy she loves is gone, and she is forced to don the dress of the sun and assume the place of the emperor’s bride-to-be to keep the peace.

But the war raging around Maia is nothing compared to the battle within. Ever since she was touched by the demon Bandur, she has been changing . . . glancing in the mirror to see her own eyes glowing red, losing control of her magic, her body, her mind. It’s only a matter of time before Maia loses herself completely, but she will stop at nothing to find Edan, protect her family, and bring lasting peace to her country.


The Review:

I enjoyed the darker aspect to this sequel, but I did feel as though the consequences did not have quite as much impact as they should have, although I did like that they were felt beyond the main characters. However, I had similar issues to the first book, in that I did not particularly connect with the characters, and in this one I just felt as though things were a little too telegraphed, at least in the first two thirds or so, although it did pick up towards the end. The ending worked well. Again this is one that I can see other people enjoying a lot, and it was just a case of me being the wrong reader.

Purchase Links:

Amazon UK | Amazon US | Bookshop.org | Topping & Company | Waterstones

***** *****

Blackheart Knights – Laure Eve

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Book Summary:

Power always wins.

Imagine Camelot but in Gotham: a city where knights are the celebrities of the day, riding on motorbikes instead of horses and competing in televised fights for fame and money.

Imagine a city where a young, magic-touched bastard astonishes everyone by becoming king – albeit with extreme reluctance – and a girl with a secret past trains to become a knight for the sole purpose of vengeance.

Imagine a city where magic is illegal but everywhere, in its underground bars, its back-alley soothsayers – and in the people who have to hide what they are for fear of being tattooed and persecuted.

Imagine a city where electricity is money, power the only game worth playing, and violence the most fervently worshipped religion.

Welcome to a dark, chaotic, alluring place with a tumultuous history, where dreams come true if you want them hard enough – and are prepared to do some very, very bad things to get them . . .


The Review:

I was fascinated by the premise of this one, and as someone who enjoys Arthurian Legends I was eager to see how that was going to be melded with an urban fantasy setting. Also, I fell in love with the cover at first sight! I will say that this one took me a little while to get into, in part because of the dual POV and how it is written, and also just connecting with the characters and there were a few times when I considered stopping. However, I was completely sucked into the world that Eve had created, and that kept me invested, and as the story found its flow more I was pulled in. I will say that some of the twists and turns were a little predictable, but Eve does an excellent job with the foreshadowing, and keeping the dual timelines separate enough that when they do come together it is fantastic. More importantly, I had fun with this book once I’d got into it properly and the last half or so I flew through. An entertaining read, and something different.

Purchase Links:

Amazon UK | Amazon US | Bookshop.org | Topping & Company | Waterstones

***** *****

Ridgeline – Michael Punke

Book Summary:

In 1866, with the country barely recovered from the Civil War, new war breaks out on the western frontier–a clash of cultures between a young, ambitious nation and the Native tribes who have lived on the land for centuries. Colonel Henry Carrington arrives in Wyoming’s Powder River Valley to lead the US Army in defending the opening of a new road for gold miners and settlers. Carrington intends to build a fort in the middle of critical hunting grounds, the home of the Lakota. Red Cloud, one of the Lakota’s most respected chiefs, and Crazy Horse, a young but visionary warrior, understand full well the implications of this invasion. For the Lakota, the stakes are their home, their culture, their lives.

As fall bleeds into winter, Crazy Horse leads a small war party that confronts Colonel Carrington’s soldiers with near constant attacks. Red Cloud, meanwhile, seeks to build the tribal alliances that he knows will be necessary to defeat the soldiers. Colonel Carrington seeks to hold together a US Army beset with internal discord. Carrington’s officers are skeptical of their commander’s strategy, none more so than Lieutenant George Washington Grummond, who longs to fight a foe he dismisses as inferior in all ways. The rank-and-file soldiers, meanwhile, are still divided by the residue of civil war, and tempted to desertion by the nearby goldfields.


The Review:

Ridgeline was an engrossing read, that focuses on a lesser-known part of history, and one that I’d only been peripherally aware of before reading this book. It has some of the liberties that all historical fiction must take to tell a story, not recite fact, especially for a part of history that is not as well recorded as other – but Punke has taken an incredibly balanced approach to the topic, alternating between the two sides for viewpoints, and buildup, and creating an incredibly atmospheric, believable and impactful account of how things came to be. I also appreciated that there is a detailed afterword to discuss historical notes, and offer further reading. The writing was fantastic across the board, from bringing the setting to life (and the title is just perfect), to capturing the strategic aspects from sides without losing the flow of the narrative, and the action was gripping. Highly recommend for anyone who enjoys historical fiction, or who has an interest in this period – this book should be on your shelf.

Purchase Links:

Amazon UK | Amazon US | Bookshop.org | Topping & Company | Waterstones

***** *****

The Ones We’re Meant to Find – Joan He

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Book Summary:

Cee has been trapped on an abandoned island for three years without any recollection of how she arrived, or memories from her life prior. All she knows is that somewhere out there, beyond the horizon, she has a sister named Kay, and it’s up to Cee to cross the ocean and find her.

In a world apart, 16-year-old STEM prodigy Kasey Mizuhara lives in an eco-city built for people who protected the planet―and now need protecting from it. With natural disasters on the rise due to climate change, eco-cities provide clean air, water, and shelter. Their residents, in exchange, must spend at least a third of their time in stasis pods, conducting business virtually whenever possible to reduce their environmental footprint. While Kasey, an introvert and loner, doesn’t mind the lifestyle, her sister Celia hated it. Popular and lovable, Celia much preferred the outside world. But no one could have predicted that Celia would take a boat out to sea, never to return.

Now it’s been three months since Celia’s disappearance, and Kasey has given up hope. Logic says that her sister must be dead. But nevertheless, she decides to retrace Celia’s last steps. Where they’ll lead her, she does not know. Her sister was full of secrets. But Kasey has a secret of her own.


The Review:

As with many others I’m sure I fell in love with that cover when it was first revealed – it is stunning – and the premise had me hooked, and this book was just as beautiful on the inside. The Ones We’re Meant to Find is a book that starts slowly, but it is like a stream that flows down into the river and on to the sea, because it picks up momentum towards the halfway mark, and it sweeps you along with it. I will say that parts of it require patience and a willingness to dig beneath the surface in order to make sense, but it is so worht the effort. This is a beautiful exploration of climate and environmental change, and all the fallout and developments that come from that – and so very timely – but at it’s heart, this is a story with a human heart that beats and feels and grieves and is faced with tough choices, and I loved how He showed this through the two main characters – sisters seperated and caught in very different situations, yet bound by theur love and relationship, and their search for one another. Honestly, this book blew me away and I will be grabbing a physical copy as soon as possible, because this is a book I want to revisit again and again

Purchase Links:

Amazon UK | Amazon US | Bookshop.org | Waterstones

***** *****

The Wolf Den (Wolf Den Trilogy #1) – Elodie Harper

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Book Summary:

Sold by her mother. Enslaved in Pompeii’s brothel. Determined to survive. Her name is Amara. Welcome to the Wolf Den…

Amara was once a beloved daughter, until her father’s death plunged her family into penury. Now she is a slave in Pompeii’s infamous brothel, owned by a man she despises. Sharp, clever and resourceful, Amara is forced to hide her talents. For as a she-wolf, her only value lies in the desire she can stir in others.

But Amara’s spirit is far from broken.

By day, she walks the streets with her fellow she-wolves, finding comfort in the laughter and dreams they share. For the streets of Pompeii are alive with opportunity. Out here, even the lowest slave can secure a reversal in fortune. Amara has learnt that everything in this city has its price. But how much is her freedom going to cost her?

Set in Pompeii’s lupanar, The Wolf Den reimagines the lives of women who have long been overlooked.


The Review:

The Wolf Den was a fantastic but challenging read. Harper does not shy away from the issues of the time, or those facing the characters in the brothel. There was such a delicate balancing of the darker and more violent aspects, without sugercoating or sensationalising and creating a character-driven story, that delved into the lives of the women – giving them a voice, and showing how they found kinship and kindness together. Harper drops you into the middle of her Pompeii, and shows you everything that it has to offer, the good, the bad and the ugly, and there is a wonderful balance of history , character and emotion. You can’t help but become invested in the stories of Amara and the other ladies in the Wolf Den, because they are so beautifully realised and characterised, each with their own past, and voice and hopes and dreams. A truly mesmerising read that is impossible to escape once you start, and a memorable book that will linger for a while.

Purchase Links:

Amazon UK | Amazon US | Bookshop.org | Topping & Company | Waterstones

***** *****

Dog Rose Dirt – Jen Williams

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Book Summary:

When prodigal daughter Heather Evans returns to her family home after her mother’s baffling suicide, she makes an alarming discovery–stacks and stacks of carefully preserved letters from notorious serial killer Michael Reave. The “Red Wolf,” as he was dubbed by the press, has been in prison for over twenty years, serving a life sentence for the gruesome and ritualistic murders of several women across the country, although he has always protested his innocence. The police have had no reason to listen, yet Heather isn’t the only one to have cause to re-examine the murders. The body of a young woman has just been found, dismembered and placed inside a tree, the corpse planted with flowers. Just as the Red Wolf once did.

What did Heather’s mother know? Why did she kill herself? And with the monstrous Red Wolf safely locked inside a maximum security prison, who is stalking young women now? Teaming up with DI Ben Parker, Heather hopes to get some answers for herself and for the newest victims of this depraved murderer. Yet to do that, she must speak to Michael Reave herself, and expose herself to truths she may not be ready to face. Something dark is walking in the woods, and it knows her all too well.


The Review:

Dog Rose Dirt is a serial killer thriller, that dances tantalisingly along the boundary between crime and horror, and very much toys with the monster in the shadow. It had a somewhat slow start, but began to pick up pace when Heather finds letters from a serial killer to her recently deceased mother which really kickstarts the thriller aspect of the book. The atmosphere in this book was fantastic, and the creeping build of tension of intrigue was like a constant, growing shiver down your spine, and Williams managed to use the landscape and atmosphere to lift the book to another level. There were plenty of twists and turns, some obvious and some less so, and a few places where the pace did feel a little slow – but I could not esape that atmosphere, and it kept me hooked into the story like nothing else. There were a few disturbing scenes, that I feel will put a few people off, but overall the darker aspects were well-written and and carefully handled, and I particularly appreciated the delicate approach to the topic of suicide. Overall, this was a brilliant read.

Purchase Links:

Amazon UK | Amazon US | Bookshop.org | Topping & Company | Waterstones

***** *****

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