The Bloodsworn

**Copy of The Bloodsworn by Erin Lindsey graciously given by Literary Agent Lisa Rodgers in exchange for an honest review**

“Not for you.” 

*commence endless screaming*

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I realize you have no idea regarding the significance of that line, thrown in out of context like that. But oh is there significance and feels attached to it, as there are many, many feelings attached to this entire book, not to mention the whole series. So I’m just being cruel and teasing you. Trust me, you wanna find out why that line makes you want to fist-pump the air into oblivion (but you can’t because you work in a public library, so you satisfy yourself by whispering, Fuck yes” instead).

If you’ve read either of my reviews of the previous two books (The Bloodbound and The Bloodforged), you know I have some opinions (<– understatement of the year).

The first in the trilogy, The Bloodbound, gave me a feeling of nostalgia and home I haven’t felt in ages, as I returned to a story focused in a realm and time of knights; a time period that I adore and is so close to my heart, as it was these types of stories that fueled me during my youth. There, I met Alix Black, who inspired me and encouraged me in a time where I desperately needed both of those things. By the end, I wanted to be a little more like her.

Hell, I still do.

In The Bloodforged, I couldn’t even properly describe how many emotions I experienced, so I forced to try and express myself through a lot of nerdy GIFs. It has been a while since I read a book where I kept telling myself, “There is no way this can get any worse,” only to be proven wrong.

Over.
And over.
And over again.

It was, honestly, quite fantastic, even if the ending resulted in me abusing my paperback as I threw it harshly against the ground in protest. At such a plot twist, I was both wary and excited to read The Bloodsworn; excited because I had to know what happened next, yet wary because I had a sinking feeling that the events to come would make the events in The Bloodforged feel like child’s play.

And I was right.

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You know the advice writers get about being ruthless to their characters? How the best stories are formed by creating the worst possible conflict for your character to conquer? Yeah, Lindsey is obviously a master at this, because holy shit. Similar to book two, every time I dared to hope that the situation couldn’t get any worse, I was proven sorely wrong. More impressively, it wasn’t just one character going through some shit. It was multiple characters dealing with multiple problems, all of which were the most extreme circumstances where the worst possible thing that could happen usually did. But not only that, all of these situations affected and depended on the outcomes of the others. Oh, and with multi-POV, these events were revealed with expert pacing, so the tension continued to build and build until you finally reached that point where you had to know what happened to Alix, only to be shifted to Rig. Or Erik. Or Liam.

Rinse and repeat for 300+ pages.

Friends, this shit is gold.

Complete with twists and turns, political plots of epic expectations (and endings) and threads that were woven since book one and sewn together neatly (even if a little scarred with all the shit they were forced to go through) here in book three, The Bloodsworn was exactly what I wanted–and honestly, have come to expect–to end this fantastic trilogy. This entire series was such a refreshing and needed read. The characters are some I am not eager to leave behind and I’m so glad Lisa pointed this series my way. I have a feeling Lindsey will be an author I’ll be stalking admiring for a long time to come.

Oh, and as an author whose goal has been to write the perfect summer vacation novel, I’m pretty sure Lindsey’s already achieved that. I can’t wait to see what she comes up next.

Read on!

PS: I might have a crush on Rig. Maybe a really big one.

PPS: Can we get a spin-off story just on the adventures of Rudi? Talk about most underrated character.

Top Ten Series on the Back-burner

(Seriously, if I don’t read these soon, I’m pretty sure they are going to catch on fire and potentially burn down the world.)

(And if not the world, at least my apartment.)

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and The Bookish where a different theme is posted each week and book bloggers respond. This is the first time I’ve participated and I’m pretty jazzed about it. This week’s theme is: Top Ten Series I’ve Been Meaning to Start But Haven’t.

Honestly, I struggled to narrow it down to just ten.

But, let’s take a peek at which series made the list, in no particular order.

  1. Earthsea Cycle by Ursula K. Le Guin
    1. It’s a classic. I’m not 100% sure how I’ve managed to not read it yet, but that’s a shame.
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  2. Farseer Trilogy by Robin Hobb
    1. It is almost asinine to me that I haven’t read Robin Hobb yet. Like, beyond-comprehension levels.
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  3. Raven’s Shadow by Anthony Ryan
    1. Like many on this list, I honestly got intrigued by the cover on Goodreads, so now it continues to haunt me until I read it.
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  4. Bring Down Heaven by Sam Sykes
    1. I discovered Sykes on Twitter and have wanted to read his books ever since (and Myke Cole’s, obviously). If you follow him on Twitter, you know what I’m talking about. If you haven’t…well, go take a peek and you’ll know what I mean.
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  5. The Chronicles of the Exile by Marc Turner
    1. I keep seeing the name Marc Turner pop up randomly. I feel like it’s one I should become familiar with.
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  6. The Dinosaur Lords by Victor Milán
    1. This series just sounds fantastic.
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  7. The Memoirs of Lady Trent by Marie Brennan
    1. Every time I go to Barnes and Noble (RIP Borders), it feels like I see a new book in this series pop up, reminding me that I should really get on this bandwagon.
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  8. The Powder Mage by Brian McClellan
    1. Definitely on the top of this list, even though it’s here towards the bottom.
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  9. Chroncile of the Unhewn Thrown by Brian Staveley
    1. Shares the same level of need as the Brian above him, as well as the same level of questioning as to why these haven’t been devoured yet.
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  10. Duelists Trilogy by Julia Knight
    1. I don’t know too much about this series, but I’m hopeful it’s going to become a hidden gem I’m so glad I discovered…even if I have no idea how this series got on my radar.

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Honestly, writing out this list just made me feel overwhelmed with all the series I’m currently reading and haven’t finished, the ones I still need to read and the ones I haven’t (or will never) discover. It’s never-ending.

And that’s the best problem for a bookworm to have (aside from hordes of money being thrust at you with the sole purpose of purchasing more books. That’s a problem I also wouldn’t mind having).

Read on!

The Bloodforged

**Copy of The Bloodforged by Erin Lindsey graciously given by Literary Agent Lisa Rodgers in exchange for an honest review**

Last night, I was sitting in the living room while my friend was building a project for work. I had a little more than 100 pages of The Bloodforged left to devour and boy, did I devour them, to the amused concern of my friend. More than once, I made a frustrated grunt or whispered, “What the shit?” as page by page, my mind was blown, repaired and then blown again.

Here are some GIFs to properly showcase exactly what I went through finishing this book:

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This one.

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Or this one.

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Or this one.

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Yeah, this book puts you through some shit.

I won’t exactly describe what that shit is, because you need to read this book–and this series–for yourself. It seriously is fantastic. This series draws you in with the wonderful, inspiring and realistic characters in the first book, The Bloodbound, and then leaves you utterly speechless by the time you finish the second, leaving you desperate for the third (which, luckily for me, I already have and will be reading as soon as I get off work. Oh Lisa, do I owe you some chocolate).

Actually, the events in The Bloodbound were so gut-punchingly wowing that I literally threw the book to the ground, I was so pissed and awed. My friend, bless him, just snorted, not understanding the turmoil I just went through at the hands of a paperback (if you’re confused, please see GIFs above as reference). Oh boy, was I pissed.

Pissed, but also super impressed.

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This book made me feel a lot of things. Frustration and anger at some of the choices characters made, which in turn made me question how I felt about some of those characters (Alix, in particular, had me questioning, which was difficult, considering how much I admired her in the first book; difficult, but also great, because it just made her that much more real to me, that much more human and made me connect with her that much more). I experienced suppressed giggling (thanks, Liam). Empathy. Sorrow. And most of all, after taking a day to reflect on what just bloody happened, being completely, totally and utterly impressed.

With The Bloodforged, I think we got a wider view into the world Alix navigates. We got a few more perspectives we didn’t get previously, which made my liking for Rig turn into a fierce, protective love. We were introduced to new cultures and government structures that reflected just how complicated the war they are fighting truly is. I found myself having conflicting emotions about the characters involved, which adds a layer of depth I love to find in books.

But what impressed me the most was how this entire book continued to baffle me on how difficult every decision was; how felt the consequences were of every action, choice or hell, even inaction. Just when I was lured into a false comfort that aid for the war was coming or that Eric, Alix or Liam had made the right call, I’m thrown back into the fray of despair and questioning as something else gets thrown at them, making their already dark and hopeless situation even worse.

And then you introduce the twists in the last 100 pages…

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I wasn’t kidding. This book makes you feel some shit.

Now, I’m left as a really weird middle ground. I need to know what happens next. You can’t just drop Bombs A, B and f-ing C and not be aching for closure. Yet at the same time, if I thought shit was going down in this book, I feel like I’m not even remotely prepared for what I’ll have to go through in The Bloodsworn. And there is only one way to find out…

*stares at the clock on the wall waiting for the weekend to start and the epic conclusion to begin*

Read on!

The Bloodbound

**Copy of The Bloodbound by Erin Lindsey given by Literary Agent Lisa Rodgers in exchange for an honest review**

Sometimes, the best books you don’t discover. Instead, they find you.

Like The Bloodbound by Erin Lindsey, for instance. I had no idea this book existed. It had never slipped onto my radar and I had no idea the author existed. I might have never discovered it, if I hadn’t happened to be introduced to Lisa at WorldCon last year and the topic of my book review blog hadn’t been brought up. A few months later, a box of Jabberwocky goodies arrived at my door, courtesy of Lisa. Amongst them was The Bloodbound. It took me a while to actually get to reading this book (and considering Lisa’s kindness, I really should have read this sooner), but perhaps I was meant to read this book at this moment. Because wow, did I need to read this book right now.

I am so thankful for it.

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When I started reading The Bloodbound, it immediately felt like coming home. I’m not exactly sure how this is, considering this book was literally dropped in my lap as a surprise. Perhaps it was because I haven’t read something with a historical feel in quite some time, even though stories about knights were my bread and butter growing up. Perhaps it was because I’ve always been a sucker for writers who give attention to the details and aren’t afraid of the gruesome ones–and The Bloodbound was filled with both. Perhaps it was because there was a complicated love triangle that mirrored ever so slightly to what I am dealing with currently in my life, so I was desperate for any sort of guidance of what I should do or solace that love would win out in the end. Perhaps it was a combination of all of these things.

Or perhaps it was simply because of Alix Black.

Our heroine, a lady and scout who moves up the ranks in surprising ways, I immediately latched onto Alix’s strength. Mostly because I wasn’t shown only her prowess in battle, her resistance against gender limitations, her fierce tongue or how she carried on and made tough choices despite what she struggled with personally. I also saw her vulnerability. Her nervousness, her doubting her own skills and decisions, her mistakes, risking her heart and being confused. In her, I saw pieces of myself and admired pieces that I’m lacking, yet Alix exemplifies, to the point where it emboldens me to want to emulate her a little bit more; be a little braver, take a few more risks, have confidence in my voice and trust my heart. Alix was so much more than just a simple character in a story that you read and enjoy, then promptly forget about.

To me, Alix was real. And she’s bloody inspiring.

Needless to say, I enjoyed this book thoroughly and devoured it. Especially once I reached the end. I’d be lying if I said I had to make a microwavable meal for dinner the night I finished the book, as it distracted me from reality so well that I missed my eating window before work and had to scramble to get something into my stomach. It was beautifully written, the characters are fantastically complex and realistically three-dimensional, and the warfare and political schemes were a delight to get lost in.

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I’m pretty sure that Lisa, the kind aforementioned literary agent who sent me a copy of book, knew that I would fall so hard for Alix and the world she lives in and is trying to save…as she also sent me copies of books two and three in the trilogy. *bows down in gratitude* She might not have known how much I needed this book when I finally found time to read it, but I am seriously thankful for it and the courage–and hope–I found reading it.

Read on!

PS: I also included both versions of the cover, because holy goodness, they are both so gorgeous.

Warlock Holmes: The Hell-Hound of the Baskervilles

** I was given an early copy of the book by the G.S. Denning, because he’s merciful and knows how eagerly I have been awaiting this book. He’s also horrible. Read on to find out why.**

So, friends.

Warlock Holmes: The Hell-Hound of the Baskervilles.

Holy shit.

If you read my review of Warlock Holmes: A Study in Brimstone, the first book in this series, you know how hard I’ve fallen for this retelling. How well the characters captivated my mind, captured my heart and did their best to give me abs (thanks to laughter–in case you had any idea that Warlock and his wacky impropriety or Watson and his esteemed passion for being properly English somehow encouraged me to work out. I confess that you are sadly mistaken and I’m still ab-less–but I might have laugh lines when I get older, just from this series alone).

I had really high expectations for this book. It does contain my favorite Holmes story, after all. And as I became, dare I label it, friends with the author, I became even more invested and my expectations continued to rise.

I’m delighted to report that those expectations were not disappointed.

(I would like to offer a little caveat real quick and let you know that being friends, per say, with the mind behind the madness does not taint the outcome of this review at all–which you might find hard to believe, considering this one is glowing. Nor does getting surprised with an early copy of the book. If you don’t trust my word that is positive review is unbiased, why don’t you check out the book and let me know what you think? I promise the story will speak for itself.)

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First off, I absolutely love the way the book was organized. You get a couple, shorter sections covering various cases/stories before you get to the meat and potatoes of the book (which, in this case, involved the most interesting hell-hound I’ve ever encountered and a very unfortunate family). The stories before the main event were no filler or fluff, either. All of them were a joy to read and I actually read all four cases in one sitting, they were that un-put-down-able (because that’s a word).

(I would like to take this moment to also formally deny that the lack of productivity at work last Thursday had absolutely no correlation to that reading-binge. None. At all.)

I actually annoyed one of my coworkers because I kept switching between giggling and suppressed snort-laughter for the entire two hours I read those first four cases. But I couldn’t help it. You try and read about Grogsson’s SPOILER SPOILER or Warlock SPOILER sneeze SPOILER or Watson SPOILER SPOILER dang Canadian SPOILER SPOILER or Mrs. Hudson SPOILER that smut did what? SPOILER and try not to laugh. It’s practically impossible.

Mix in all of that humor, the clever one-liners and fantastic references, and you already have a recipe for a seriously awesome book. But then you read the tale of the Baskervilles and you get another element that you didn’t see as much of in the first part of the book, yet it also didn’t feel out of place sneaking its way into this case. Instead, it complemented this retelling and fulfilled all expectations.

The element of darkness.

Don’t get me wrong: there’s plenty of grotesque details that threads throughout the series that is utterly fantastic (and sometimes makes me question my decision to eat while reading), but the darkness that surrounded the twist in Baskervilles surprised me. And I immediately loved it, even if reading about it made my heart hurt a little. It gave the story even more depth than it already has and complicated Warlock’s complexity. I finished the book feeling absolutely content.

Well, almost content.

I know what you’re waiting for. Nicole, you mentioned that the author was horrible in the first paragraph. I’m dying to know why. Oh, I’ll tell you why.

The ending.

That single bloody line.

How dare you, sir. *stares straight at Denning* That’s right, I’m talking directly to you, now. You know what you did. You know exactly what. *grumbles about book three’s unknown publication date and other spoiler-y unmentionables*

Now I realize that you, dear reader, have no idea what I’m talking about. Luckily, I have the perfect remedy for you. (Hint: it’s reading the book, which could actually be pre-ordered (before May 16th) or purchased (after the 16th) here or here or here. You’re welcome.)

Read on!

PS: Also, that cover art? *drools*

Kangaroo Too

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Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly event hosted by Breaking the Spine where we readers salivate over the books we wish were on our bookshelves yesterday.

This week’s victim: Kangaroo Too by Curtis C. Chen, the sequel following the hilarious sci-fi thriller, Waypoint Kangaroo, to be published on June 20th, 2017.

If you haven’t read Waypoint, you need to stop reading this post and go read that, instead. Be prepare for sore abs, because the hilarity of Kangaroo and his misadventures is refreshing and pure fun.

I read a lot of long, fantasy epics. A lot of intricate worlds and plots. And there is plenty of humor, don’t get me wrong. I also love those books. But when reading Waypoint, the laughter was as constant as my turning pages and it was so easy to get invested in the whimsical, hilarious characters and situations they found themselves in.

I have the same expectations for Kangaroo Too.

Set in the same world as Waypoint Kangaroo, Curtis C. Chen’s Kangaroo Too is bursting with adrenaline and intrigue in this unique outer space adventure.

On the way home from his latest mission, secret agent Kangaroo’s spacecraft is wrecked by a rogue mining robot. The agency tracks the bot back to the Moon, where a retired asteroid miner―code named “Clementine” ―might have information about who’s behind the sabotage.

Clementine will only deal with Jessica Chu, Kangaroo’s personal physician and a former military doctor once deployed in the asteroid belt. Kangaroo accompanies Jessica as a courier, smuggling Clementine’s payment of solid gold in the pocket universe that only he can use.

What should be a simple infiltration is hindered by the nearly one million tourists celebrating the anniversary of the first Moon landing. And before Kangaroo and Jessica can make contact, Lunar authorities arrest Jessica for the murder of a local worker.

Jessica won’t explain why she met the victim in secret or erased security footage that could exonerate her. To make things worse, a sudden terror attack puts the whole Moon under lockdown. Now Kangaroo alone has to get Clementine to talk, clear Jessica’s name, and stop a crooked scheme which threatens to ruin approximately one million vacations.

But old secrets are buried on the Moon, and digging up the past will make Kangaroo’s future very complicated…

I mean, with a blurb like that, how could I not be stoked? Plus, the fact that it comes out during the summer is absolutely perfect, as that is my slow time during work (though, let’s be honest: even if work was at its busiest, I’d still be devouring this book within the first week of publication).

Read on!

The Desert Spear

So, I have some mixed feelings about this book.

Second in The Demon Cycle, I was so jazzed to read The Desert Spear after tearing through The Warded Man. I fell in love with Arlen and his intense, moving journey–not to mention the other characters we followed through this vivid, fantastic world tainted by corlings. So infatuated was I by Arlen that when the The Desert Spear started out with Jardir and his story, I just wanted to skip ahead and get to the characters I really cared about.

It didn’t help that it took roughly 100 pages for me to remember who Jardir was.

Boy, did that revelation hit like a thunderclap. It wasn’t because Brett did a poor job at reorienting the reader back into this world and Jardir’s role in it. I honestly think it’s because I read a couple books in-between this book and the first in the series and I just completely forgot his significance. These books are jammed packed with events and characters and interlacing plotlines, so I’m not surprised that I forgot a debatable “minor” character who suddenly became a very big deal. Personally, I didn’t see Jardir as a major player in the first book, so I didn’t make any effort to remember him (obviously). So the book started off a little slow to me and I think, had I realized his connection and importance earlier, like I should have, I would have enjoyed the first part of The Desert Spear a lot more than I did. Hence the disservice I feel I did to an otherwise really awesome book.

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Yet once I did remember and we were reunited with some of our main players from The Warded Man, I was certainly hooked.

And that ending.

One of my favorite aspects of The Demon Cycle so far is the interlacing of narratives. I love how the books are formatted into parts, focusing on a certain character or time period, before moving on. And sometimes, particularly in this book, I wasn’t sure how everything was going to come together, or if it would. Yet the second half of the book was just a constant barrage of epiphanies as the connections between characters and events gained clarity and I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough. I am sill blown away of how everything came together–and still pissed how the book ended right before the explosion I knew was coming actually went BOOM.

I also really enjoyed how different Jardir and his people’s culture was and how that difference was brought to light within the book, complicating the plot. It did get a bit confusing, trying to keep all of the titles straight, but I really enjoyed having my own comfort zone challenged in this way.

However, there did feel like there were a lot more instances of rape in this book that made me a bit squeamish. There was one scene I remember distinctly that caused me to stop reading entirely for a few days, I was so uncomfortable. And I don’t get uncomfortable easily. I’m not saying this was necessarily a bad aspect of the book, but it was one that made it difficult to read, at times.

If you read my reviews, you might have noticed that I don’t have a lot of mixed or negative reviews. I usually just fall in love with a book and rave about it until my fingers come off. But The Desert Spear definitely challenged me. I enjoyed it, but I didn’t fall in love like I did with The Warded Man. Yet I most certainly am very eager to read The Daylight Spear and see what happens next.

Read on!