Seven Blades in Black (The Grave of Empires #1)

Seven Blades

Once in awhile I read a book that I identify with so deeply and so completely that I wish I could live within the pages and be the main character. The feelings of regret and suffering, of revenge and perseverance just emanate from the pages and make me drool and moan with pleasure like the smell of freshly baked bread or maybe Calvin Klein Infinity cologne (I’m SO CLASSY). I live vicariously through the main character and find satisfaction in ways I could never find in real life. *slaps faces of enemies with a pure, white glove*

Salazanca a.k.a. Sal the Cacophony is brash, ferocious, and a woman on a mission. She has made a deal with the spirit of her gun (named the Cacophony) that she would kill everyone on her list, everyone who attempted to sacrifice her to meet their own magical ends. Her own history with the individuals on her list is slowly revealed as she tells her story to her captors, Revolutionaries who seek to upend the Imperium and its Empress in favor of a human-run government.

The political backdrop to the story is just as compelling as Sal’s own vendetta. The Imperium has always had mages as Emperors and Empresses. The Revolution is made up of “nuls” – humans with no magical abilities, who seek to make their own government where mages are not in control. In the middle are mages gone Vagrant, mad that the Empress has given birth to one heir, a nul who will one day become emperor. They refuse to support a nul emperor after giving everything to set up and support the current Imperium, so they are fighting to bring about their own future separate from the Imperium and the Revolution.

It’s important to note that this is not your typical revenge story. Along the way it’s made apparent that Sal has her own choices to atone for, and has made some shady deals that she may not walk away from in pursuit of her goals. The realness with which Sykes presents this anti-heroine is so welcome and refreshing that I am already ready to accept her past if it means I get to follow her into the future. She is an unreliable narrator, and she leaves details out of her story as she tells it to her executioner because she sees them as unnecessary, but you will discover that she’s lying by omission, and there are some very disturbing actions she’s taken/taking that we only hear a whisper of before the story ends, leaving you begging for more.

It would be difficult for me to express to you how much I loved this book. When I initially opened it on my Kindle (I received it for free as the winner of a Goodreads giveaway) it said it would take me 12 hours to read it. This was daunting, but from the very first page I was in love with Sal the Cacophony and wanted nothing more than to see her succeed and get revenge on those who had wronged her. I gave what little mental energy I had left over in the past 3 weeks to moving forward inch by inch in the 30 minutes before I fell asleep each night, and every moment was worth it.

My only criticism? I hate the cover art.

You absolutely must read this book. While I wait for the next installment to this series, I’ll be seeking out the rest of Sam Sykes’ works. If his writing is this amazing, I cannot miss out on anything else written by him up to this point. GO GET IT QUICK WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR???

Monster Books

I am currently reading some very long books. The one I’m really into right now is about 800 pages and I’m only 41% of the way through it and it says there’s still 6-7 hours left even though I’ve been reading so fast because it is SO GOOD but it’s just SO LONG.

Seven Blades

Guys this book is spectacular. The world is cool, the main character is AMAZING, the magic system is really original and it has a kind of magic versus no magic vibe that I am really into, and her quest is a mystery that is being revealed slowly as I go, so each glimpse tells me (a) what she’s doing, and even more rarely (b) WHY.

I wish it came out earlier in the year so I would have the mental energy to read more, but this time of year I’m just so mentally exhausted that being able to read for about 30 minutes before bed is all I can muster. To get a review out quickly for this kind of book I need to be reading for at least an hour a day, minimum, and more on weekends. That kind of schedule just isn’t possible for me right now, but I’m doing my best and it helps that I really love the book so far.

I’m in the grind now and it’s gonna be tough all the way through about mid-May. I feel bad about slowing down the reviews but it’s just a normal part of my year.

I can’t wait to share this book with you. ūüôā

Wake of Vultures (The Shadow #1)

I have been meaning to read Delilah S. Dawson’s work for quite some time. She writes fantasy as Lila Bowen, so I went to the library and checked out the first book in her Shadow series, to see what I would see.

This is one of the best beginnings of a book that I have ever read. In the span of three chapters our heroine Nettie Lonesome murders a vampire, proves her worth to the neighboring ranch, and escapes her life with her adoptive, drunk “parents” to be a bronc breaker under the name of Nat (everyone assumes she is a boy). It begins as a western that quickly becomes a fantasy quest.

Just when we think our heroine is safe, well-fed, and living her dream, a mostly dead Indian woman finds her way onto the ranch, gets Nettie to agree to seek her revenge for her, and then rides off on a mythical ocean steed, vowing to haunt her until the Cannibal Owl is destroyed. Nettie’s not real sure what the Cannibal Owl is, but she knows she doesn’t want to be haunted by an old Indian woman and in danger of being drowned by ocean water hundreds of miles away from its source.

Eventually she is forced from the ranch an discovers there are more horrors out in the desert than vampires. She’s pursued by a harpy, saved by a skinwalker and his sister, and brought to the rangers to see if they will train her(him) and accompany her on her mission to kill the Cannibal Owl. They agree, and share stories about what the Cannibal Owl has done, mostly stealing children from towns and eating them, one which was just a newborn baby.

There are a million reasons to love this book. You don’t have to be half black, half Native American to identify with Nettie Lonesome. Her entire attitude of zero fucks to give about being a woman, about being a tool of revenge, about possibly being a mythical Shadow being – all she wants to do is be a man and work with horses. Every step of her journey is one less thing she has to do before she can go home or find a place on a nearby ranch to do what she loves.

This narrative tackles gender and being able to choose the gender you identify as, in addition to LGBT relationships. It shows us what perseverance and trust can mean in the face of a destiny you do not want. One of the intricate issues Bowen/Dawson explores is what it might mean when the gender you choose to present confuses those who might be gay or bisexual when you are not. What happens when a male character who is gay falls for Nettie when she is pretending to be a man? This part of the book made me think about this situation, it was one I hadn’t considered before, and the communication, understanding, and delicacy that the miscommunication required was amazing to read. Even within the community of LGBT there is patience that is required as everyone navigates their identities and their sexualities.

The worldbuilding was wonderful, the characters were compelling and interesting, and the story held me in my seat until the very end. It’s a book that tackles important issues in a normal way in the midst of a fantasy quest. Go get you some.

 

Suddenly Single

Suddenly Single was provided to me as an eARC by Canelo via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

Suddenly Single is a story about a writer in the UK who has just left her husband, published her debut romance novel under a pseudonym, earned a hefty advance and is now moving to the country to write in peace and quiet. She also has some kind of social anxiety.

I don’t read a lot of romance, but what I do read has to be GOOD. Nora Roberts is my steady go-to, but recently I’ve also fallen in love with Jasmine Guillory (The Wedding Date and The Proposal were excellent, and I’ve already preordered The Wedding Party out this July).

Suddenly Single reads like Carol Wyer is writing a book report about a romance novel. The characters are one dimensional, the setting is bland and centered around barns and cow pats (which the MC’s dog eats a ton of – you are treated to a lot of descriptions of her dog eating, escaping, farting, and vomiting). I made it 25% into the book and I WAS SO BORED. There is one scene where she seems to be watching porn for research on her next book (she has writer’s block because of all the stress of relocating and getting over her last relationship) and the man who might be the love interest comes in to do something (he’s the son of the man she bought the house from and they are doing work on the property) and catches her watching porn and he’s like “sure, research” and leaves.

There is no chemistry at all in the first quarter of this book, and I don’t feel like it’s unreasonable to expect that there be an inkling of desire or interest or tingling or¬†something. She just goes out and does things, takes her dog out, and sits at home trying to write. If you’re going to market this as a rom com book then I should either be enjoying the Rom or laughing at the Com, but neither were happening in the first¬†quarter of this book.

I chose this book on a whim when I was logging into NetGalley. I should have checked the publisher or the other reviews before I based my request on the cute cover and premise. You probably won’t encounter this book in the wild, it appears to be ebook only or self-published, and if you are in the mood for a rom-com I would strongly suggest that you pick something else and not this.

Stay Up With Hugo Best

Stay Up With Hugo Best was provided to be as an eARC by Scribner via NetGalley in return for an honest review. SUWHB is scheduled for publication on April 2, 2019.

I’m gonna be quick with this review because I feel like this book insulted my intelligence and doesn’t deserve the full Angry Angel treatment.

This is the most boring, pedantic book I have ever read in my entire life. Oh my god. I got to about 20% on the Kindle and almost threw the small black brick across the room out of frustrated boredom.

A writer’s assistant loses her job when the late night TV show she helps write for has its last episode. She is resolved to going back to stand up but when she finishes her set at the local Comedy Cellar-esque dump, she finds herself face to face with the host of the now shuttered show, Hugo Best. He invites her to accompany him to his house in the *someplace I don’t care about outside of New York City* as a way to pass the time while the reality of the show being over sinks in.

Oh jesus the whole first quarter of this book is them talking to each other. CONVERSING. First in the chauffeured car to his house, then at his house. We’re treated to a description of an empty fridge with mustard jars that have crusted on caps and an unopened Sodastream in the cabinets. My brain is melting just thinking about it. This mundane bullshit just absolutely misses me by a mile. WHERE IS THE STORY IF I WANTED TO READ DIALOGUE THAT GOES NOWHERE I WOULDN’T BECAUSE I DON’T WASTE MY TIME WITH NON-STORY STORIES.

NO. Just…no.

After the Eclipse

After the Eclipse was provided to me as an eARC by Titan Books in return for an honest review. After the Eclipse has a publication date of March 5, 2019. 

After the Eclipse is Fran Dorricott’s debut novel. As I began to read I was surprised to find that it begins with the the point of view of the first kidnapped girl, Olive. We see her being a rebellious little girl and shaking off her older sister Cassie to go buy a snack and a soda. They are attending the town’s celebration of the solar eclipse, and have gathered to watch it happen. On her way back to the gathering, Olive encounters someone she seems to know, a man who drives up to her in a van and offers her a ride back to the celebration. She hesitantly accepts, and realizes her error as they drive away.

The story is then told between Olive’s captivity and her older, now adult, sister Cassie’s experience in the present day.¬†Another girl has gone missing, this time about a week before another solar eclipse, and sixteen years after Olive was taken.¬†Cassie blames herself for Olive’s disappearance, and as a recently unemployed journalist who has returned home to take care of her grandmother, she sees it as her duty to uncover the truth behind the newest disappearance.¬†

I love how the setting of a small town in England creates a different kind of atmosphere. It reminds me of the cozy, small town, murder mystery shows on the BBC. Please come in and have a cuppa while we watch the retired grandma travel around town in her frumpy coat asking questions about the murders, which people answer because she’s just a grandma after all, until she solves the mystery! I mean, 10 people had to die before she figures it out, but it’s adorable! And Cassie isn’t an old lady, but the feeling is the same. Is it the gardener? The local doctor? The guy we all think beats his wife? The fisherman that talks too much at the pub? Find out next week on BBC One! I loved it. Coziness amidst the thrill of the hunt. Tea everywhere.

It’s a small town, so everybody knows everybody, but I really appreciated how Dorricott brought a feminist eye to the search for answers. Dads and stepdads were looked at with high suspicion, their aggressive and possessive natures questioned and suspected, and I really appreciated that. Most kidnappings and abuse cases happen between kids and someone they know, and we get glimpses of the man who has taken Olive in her POV chapters.

I guess the only thing I couldn’t quite wrap my mind around was why the eclipse was necessary. There is a line early in the book that said something to the effect of “another girl kidnapped sixteen years later on the even of an eclipse. It couldn’t be a coincidence…” and my mind was like, yes it could totally be a coincidence.¬†How many kidnappings have there been in the past¬†sixteen years? One kidnapping every¬†sixteen years¬†doesn’t seem like it would raise a bunch of eyebrows, terrible yes, but not a lot of connections besides an eclipse(?) to make it seem weird. What is weird is that the kidnappings didn’t happen during or after the eclipses. The first happens just before, and this more recent one happens like a week before. Why is the eclipse such an important thing? Why is it the title?¬†After the Eclipse? I mean…I’m just confused. It seems like an unnecessary detail added in to create a sense of uniqueness that the story did not need.

This is an electric debut. The suspense is so amazing and you’ll be holding your breath without realizing it. In some parts I found that I couldn’t read fast enough to keep up with my desire to know more, to find out what happened next, to make sure everything would turn out okay. The child abuse stuff was creepy and gross, so if that’s something you can’t read about you should be warned right now that it’s there and it will make your skin crawl. If you’re looking for an excellent thriller that will have you on the edge of your seat until the very end, you need to pick up After the Eclipse.

My Lovely Wife

Have you ever seen the show Dexter? It’s about a serial killer who hides in plain sight as a police forensics analyst and kills bad people to satisfy his psychological urges. I watched the first season and then none of the rest. It was so long ago that I remember deciding that the finale to that season was so good that I didn’t need to see more. An individual with a terrible tendency turned it into something “good” and I was 100% fine with that.

When I started reading My Lovely Wife it was the same kind of feeling. Millicent has a terrible past that her husband helps her…well… deal with. Their first murder is her sister who abused her as a child. The next is someone who worked with the sister who remembered the husband. It feels like what they are doing, while terrible, has a greater purpose.

Then the couple discovers they now have a hunger for murder. In the midst of low-paying service jobs and harried family life (they have two kids!!), they decide to continue doing this one thing together that makes them feel connected and in control when in so many areas of their life they are not. So the third murder is someone they choose via social media, and we enter the story as they are choosing the fourth.

This story put a hook in my mouth and I allowed myself to be led through the first 40% of the book. The suspense was killing me. Our narrator is the husband and he’s doing all this to impress his wife, but the wife seems way more into it than she should be and so I had some questions that I wanted answered. Since the book is told through the POV of the husband, I began to realize that I wasn’t going to get those answers until he got them, and he obviously wasn’t going to get them soon because he was kind of stupid and impulsive.

Suddenly my excitement and suspense turned to boredom as I watched this ineffectual jackass get bribed by his son, revive an¬†actual serial killer which scares his daughter enough to bring a knife to school, and chase his wife around like a small puppy dog hoping to impress her at every turn. I wasn’t about to spend any more time with this guy than I had to, I don’t care how terrifying Millicent turned out to be. I set it down and won’t be going back.

Usually I say something like “I didn’t like it, but you might!” but for this one you might want to just skip it. I’m sure there are better thrillers out there than this.