Friday Face-Off: Upside Down, Topsy Turvy

Welcome to The Friday Face-Off, a weekly meme created by Books by Proxy! Each Friday, we will pit cover against cover while also taking the opportunity to showcase gorgeous artwork and feature some of our favorite book covers. If you want to join the fun, simply choose a book each Friday that fits that week’s predetermined theme, post and compare two or more different covers available for that book, then name your favorite. A list of future weeks’ themes are available at Lynn’s Book Blog.

This week’s theme is:

~ a cover that is UPSIDE DOWN or TOPSY TURVY

The Possession by Michael Rutger

The Possession opens with the arrival of a journalist in Birchlake, a quaint little village nestled in the hills of northern California, with its curious network of low stone walls that twist and turn across its wooded landscape. Kristy has come searching for more information on the disappearance of a14-year-old girl whose social media accounts show signs that the girl may have a victim of harassment. But to Kristy’s frustration, her questions around town seem to lead nowhere, and worse, strange things suddenly start happening around her. Queue her ex-husband Nolan and the crew of his YouTube documentary series “The Anomaly Files.”

Most of these covers give off a certain vibe, but if you go into this one expecting horror or a paranormal thrill ride, I think you’ll be disappointed. The story does place more emphasis on the atmosphere of intrigue though, so I’d say it’s probably more suited for mystery lovers. Let’s take a look at the contenders:

From left to right:
Grand Central Publishing HC (2019) – Grand Central Publishing PB (2020)

Zaffre HC (2019) – Zaffre PB (2020)

Winner:

These covers are definitely going for the creep factor. A shame that many these are so dark though, it’s hard to see a thing. With that said, I’m going to have to go with the Grand Central Publishing hardcover as the winner, as it’s the only one with a splash of color and enough light to make out all the details.

But what do you think? Which one is your favorite?

Thursday Thriller Audio: Razorblade Tears by S.A. Cosby

I received a review copy from the publisher. This does not affect the contents of my review and all opinions are my own.

Razorblade Tears by S.A. Cosby

Mogsy’s Rating (Overall): 4.5 of 5 stars

Genre: Mystery, Thriller

Series: Stand Alone

Publisher: Macmillan Audio (July 6, 2021)

Length: 12 hrs

Author Information: Website | Twitter

Narrator: Adam Lazarre-White

I wish I had the words to describe Razorblade Tears. A crime novel at its heart, the story also has elements of a gritty revenge thriller, but it is also about so much more. The book follows two men, Ike Randolph and Buddy Lee Jenkins, a couple of rough-around-the-edges ex-cons whose lives would never have crossed had fate not put them on the same path for truth and retribution.

One might even think all this sounds just a bit like the beginnings of a buddy vigilante story, had the circumstances not been so tragic. Ike, a black man, got out of jail fifteen years ago and vowed to turn his back on the criminal world after he saw how it nearly cost him his family. But when his son Isiah came out to him and announced that he was going to marry the love of his life Derek, Ike couldn’t find it in himself to accept it, tearing a new rift in their relationship. Derek’s father Buddy Lee, who is white, was not so supportive of his son either when he found out, but things between them were already strained due to the older man’s alcoholism and multiple stints in prison.

Both our protagonists saw themselves as failed fathers. Neither were able to accept that their sons were gay, declining to attend the wedding. But mere months later, Ike and Buddy Lee receive the devastating news—their boys are dead, gunned down outside an upscale wine store in Richmond, Virginia. Meeting for the first time at their sons’ funerals, the two of them recognize in each other their pain and regret, and when the police turn up no leads, Ike and Buddy Lee decide to team up and do right by their children by finding their killer. For some reason though, people seem reluctant to come forward with any information. It almost seems like they’re afraid. Fortunately, Ike and Buddy Lee still have their contacts in the underworld, and unlike the authorities, they don’t have to do things by the book or worry about getting their hands dirty. They might not have been there for Isiah and Derek when they were alive, but they’d be damned if they were going to let those who killed them walk free…and when they catch them, there will be hell to pay.

Still, I promise this won’t be like any revenge story you’ve read before. It doesn’t matter how much violence and chaos and death Ike and Buddy Lee leave behind, the book never lets us forget why the two men are doing it in the first place. Despite this being first and foremost a mystery crime thriller, with some brutal action thrown in, it was also a heartbreaking read. Here we have two fathers grieving the loss of their beloved sons. It’s a pain that’s always near the surface, the idea that some things are just too late, and there’s no way to go back in time to right the wrongs. So not only is Razorblade Tears a tale of vengeance, in many ways it is also a tale of redemption, for both Ike and Buddy Lee realize they will never be able to see their boys again and tell them they love them, or say they’re sorry. All they have is the way forward, and while it won’t ever be enough, knowing that the corrupt system has failed to bring Isiah and Derek justice, finding out who killed them will be a good first step to absolution.

There are also some powerful messages here, handled in incredibly meaningful, nuanced ways. At first, a tenuous bridge is built between the racial divide as Ike and Buddy Lee team up, brought together by their shared grief and anger towards those responsible for their sons’ murders. But this partnership gradually grows into a genuine friendship of trust and loyalty as both men start to better understand each other. Together they also share stories of fatherhood, their guilt at having rejected their sons for being gay, lamenting their past mistakes and all that they wish they could take back. Years of ingrained upbringing and viewpoints might not be changing overnight, but by the end of the book, the main characters definitely reach a point where they are willing to open their minds and see things differently.

If there was a single weak point in the novel though, it might be the story. Still, these are relatively minor issues, like a few instances where the plot leans heavily on tropes, or where someone might act out of character or do something irrational just for the sake of moving things in the right direction. And although the identity of the killer was obfuscated behind layers of motivations and even the involvement of a rough biker gang, ultimately it was still pretty easy to guess who was behind it all.

Still, I loved this book. Razorblade Tears is easily the most hard-hitting thriller novel I’ve read so far this year. If you’re looking for crime fiction that’s unflinchingly brutal, emotionally cutting, and moves at a relentless pace, then you need to pick this up.  Also kudos to Adam Lazarre-White, the narrator the audiobook. Some of his voices could use a bit more emotion, but overall I loved his portrayal of the characters. Highly recommended if you want a suspenseful and thought-provoking read. This one definitely needs to be made into a movie.

Waiting on Wednesday 06/23/21

Waiting On Wednesday” is a weekly meme that first originated at Breaking the Spine but has since linked up with “Can’t Wait Wednesday” at Wishful Endings now that the original creator is unable to host it anymore. Either way, this fun feature is a chance to showcase the upcoming releases that we can’t wait to get our hands on!

Mogsy’s Pick

Cytonic by Brandon Sanderson (November 23, 2021 by Delacorte)

I’m going through Sanderson withdrawal! But just a few more months until book 3 of the Skyward series. I know what I’ll be reading this Sci-fi November!

“Spensa’s life as a Defiant Defense Force pilot has been far from ordinary. She proved herself one of the best starfighters in the human enclave of Detritus and she saved her people from extermination at the hands of the Krell—the enigmatic alien species that has been holding them captive for decades. What’s more, she traveled light-years from home as an undercover spy to infiltrate the Superiority, where she learned of the galaxy beyond her small, desolate planet home.

Now, the Superiority—the governing galactic alliance bent on dominating all human life—has started a galaxy-wide war. And Spensa’s seen the weapons they plan to use to end it: the Delvers. Ancient, mysterious alien forces that can wipe out entire planetary systems in an instant. Spensa knows that no matter how many pilots the DDF has, there is no defeating this predator.

Except that Spensa is Cytonic. She faced down a Delver and saw something eerily familiar about it. And maybe, if she’s able to figure out what she is, she could be more than just another pilot in this unfolding war. She could save the galaxy.

The only way she can discover what she really is, though, is to leave behind all she knows and enter the Nowhere. A place from which few ever return.

To have courage means facing fear. And this mission is terrifying.”

Book Review: Adrift by W. Michael Gear

I received a review copy from the publisher. This does not affect the contents of my review and all opinions are my own.

Adrift by W. Michael Gear

Mogsy’s Rating: 5 of 5 stars

Genre: Science Fiction

Series: Book 5 of Donovan

Publisher: DAW (June 1, 2021)

Length: 512 pages

Author Information: Website

Every time I find out about a new book in this series, I simply cannot contain my glee. I do hope the W. Michael Gear keeps them coming, because I don’t think I could ever get tired of returning to Donovan, watching yet another group of know-it-all settlers think they can get the better of the planet only to be slapped down and shown just how wrong they were. Nope, it never gets old!

This time, Adrift takes us to the seas of Donovan, where the Maritime Unit has just set up their research facilities perched on the edge of a reef, hundreds of miles from the closest shore. Having survived the last ten years trapped aboard the Ashanti with a cult of cannibals, the members of this small team mostly made up of oceanographers and marine scientists are excited to have finally arrived on the planet and are eager to start studying its aquatic ecosystems. For many of them, Donovan represents more than just a new life—it’s also a fresh start for humanity. Vowing never to make the same mistakes as their ancestors back on Earth, this was their ultimate opportunity to put a lifetime’s worth of training and education to good use. They will respect the world’s creatures, study and understand them, and hopefully bring a wealth of knowledge back to their corporate sponsors and employers to aid in the colonizing efforts.

But this idealism is shattered almost immediately. Visiting from the mainland, Supervisor Kalico Aguila tries to warn the scientists that Donovan is not like Earth. Nothing can be inferred or assumed based on what they previously knew. Treat every living thing as a threat that’s out to kill you. Always carry a weapon and never let your guard down.

Unfortunately though, hubris proved to be Maritime Unit’s downfall. Even with Scientific Director Michaela Hailwood as their leader, the team has always been largely run by consensus, functioning more like a family than a workplace. Most of the members of this close-knit group are parents, their children having been born on the Ashanti, and this shared communal experience of raising their kids under those harsh conditions had brought them all even closer than before. Which is why, even at Michaela’s insistence, the unit could not be convinced to follow the supervisor’s directives, voting to go it alone even when threatened with a shutdown. Frustrated, Aguila decides to simply wash her hands of the matter, letting the scientists learn for themselves why the local saying “Welcome to Donovan” is less of a greeting and more a warning.

Obviously, for members of Maritime Unit, this spells very bad news. For readers though, what follows is a nerve-wracking, heart-pounding, gut-wrenching series of events, resulting in what might be the darkest, bloodiest Donovan novel to date. Considering all that we’ve been through already with the last four books, that’s definitely saying something! One of the reasons for this extra horror might be the fact that quite a few children are involved in this book, and if you find you that you are more sensitive to stories where bad or disturbing things happen to kids, then yeah, you might want to stay away. Just a warning.

As always though, Gear always keeps several plot threads going, and believe me, there’s much more happening out in the world of Donovan beyond the reef. In Adrift, we also get the chance to catch up with series protagonist Talina Perez, whose relationship with Dek Taglioni is certainly heading down some interesting roads. The former playboy and wealthy scion has made a complete transformation since his early days aboard Ashanti, and with quetzal TriNA now in his body, the changes just keep on coming.

Still, while the romance explored between Talina and Dek was compelling, their plotline was definitely not where my fascination yearned. I confess, as terrifyingly disastrous things were back at in the oceans, I just always wanted to get right back there to see how things were going. From deadly sea monsters to killer algae, poor Maritime Unit never catches a break. That’s what they get for disrespecting my girl Kalico Aguila! The no-nonsense, tough-as-nails supervisor is now officially my favorite character of the series, and I find I just love her more with every book.

But anyway, I could go on forever about how much I loved Adrift, how much I love the Donovan series if left to my own devices. This latest installment is proof that there is so much more of the planet to explore, and that author W. Michael Gear can still keep things new and fresh. If anything, these books just keep getting better and better, and I’m so glad that signs point to there being more to come.

More on The BiblioSanctum:
Review of Outpost (Book 1)
Review of Abandoned (Book 2)

Review of Pariah (Book 3)
Review of Unreconciled (Book 4)

YA Weekend: Blood Like Magic by Liselle Sambury

I received a review copy from the publisher. This does not affect the contents of my review and all opinions are my own.

Blood Like Magic by Liselle Sambury

Mogsy’s Rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

Genre: urban Fantasy, Young Adult

Series: Book 1 of Blood Like Magic

Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry (June 15, 2021)

Length: 496 pages

Author Information: Website | Twitter

Meet Voya Thomas. She’s a Torontonian teen, with the magic of her Trinidadian ancestors running through her veins. At sixteen, she must now face what every witch in her family had had to go through in order to come into her power—the Calling. During this trial, Voya would be assigned a task, and only if she completes it will she pass the test and become a full-fledged witch.

Given the intense pressure to succeed, Voya has been preparing for this moment her entire life. Still, she can’t help but be worried. She’s always been indecisive, and just her luck, the Calling always involves making a difficult choice. Of course, whatever it is, she could always choose to refuse…except, doing so would mean that no one in her family would ever be Called again. Worse, those who have their powers now would also lose them, and a life without magic is simply unthinkable to Voya.

So, the Calling it is. And just as she feared, the challenge her ancestors have chosen for her is a doozy. In one month’s time, coinciding with the city’s Caribana festival, she must kill her first love. Needless to say, Voya is devastated. While she’d be willing to do anything to save her family’s magic, taking a life also goes against everything she believes in. On top of that, how could she ever hope to fulfill her task, if she’s never even been in love?

Fortunately, Voya has hatched the beginnings of a plan. Everyone’s been talking about a new matchmaking program, one that promises to pair you with your perfect mate based on your DNA. Voya intends to join this program, get matched with her one true love, then sacrifice him to fulfill her destiny, all in the span of one month. This should go off without a hitch, right?

Yeah, no. Things start off poorly right away as the genetic program matches Voya with the insufferably arrogant Luc Rodriguez, whom she can’t stand. But, a plan is a plan. More lives than hers are at stake. Putting her trust in technology and magic alike, our protagonist sets out a path to secure her family’s future.

So, I didn’t really know what to expect from Blood Like Magic, but I ended up being pleasantly surprised. Also, I feel I need to make a confession: the main reason I was drawn to this book, at least initially, was the setting. Lately, I’ve been real picky when it comes to YA, but a novel that takes place in my hometown of Toronto? Still going to be irresistible.

And wow, if nothing else, author Liselle Sambury has written a love letter to the city that holds my heart. It’s been years since I last lived there, but this book transported me right back. All the neighborhoods, landmarks, and vibrant communities are represented. Even my old haunts at the University of Toronto, uptown in Richmond Hill, even good old Pacific Mall! And the cherry on top was of course Caribana. Ah, the memories of dangling our feet from apartment balconies overlooking Yonge Street, watching the parades from above. Of course, this being an urban fantasy story set in the future, we’re also looking at an incorporation of paranormal and sci-fi elements, but deep in its bones, this is still the Toronto of diversity and culture that I know and adore, and reading this book made me realize how much I miss it.

Then there are the characters who gradually grew on me. Voya is a fun and refreshing voice, and realistic in her uncertainties and fears of failure. It’s also clear how much she loves her family and cares about preserving their traditions. Admittedly, it took me longer to find a connection with Luc, but perhaps that’s not so surprising considering he was a character who held himself at a distance, at least at first. It was certainly a while before Voya could get through to him, and only then was I able to see deeper beyond his haughty and aloof demeanor. I also can’t say I was crazy about the whole genetic matchmaking concept, which reminded me of the premise to The One (as it so happens, I thought it was completely ridiculous there too) but thankfully that only turned out to be a minor aspect, and ultimately I became curious to see how Voya would resolve her conflict of having to fall in love with Luc knowing that she’ll end up having to kill him.

My only big point of criticism? I thought the book was kind of slow. I found as I read there would be pages and pages going by without any real advancement in the plot. I suppose everything came together in the end, but for all that there was plenty going on, sometimes it just felt like we were zipping back and forth yet still not getting anywhere fast.

That said, despite its flaws, Blood Like Magic was still a promising first book to what I think will be a very successful series. While the ending didn’t go exactly the way I wanted, the fact it mattered to me hopefully shows how much I was invested in the story by that point, and the leadup to the climax was definitely riveting and I want to know more. I just love how central the themes of family are in this one, and it’s one of the main reasons why I’ll probably continue with the series. Something tells me there’s still much more in store for Voya, and I want to find out what.

Bookshelf Roundup: 06/19/21: Stacking the Shelves & Recent Reads

Bookshelf Roundup is a feature I do every weekend which fills the role of several blog memes, like Stacking the Shelves where I talk about the new books I’ve added to my library or received for review, as well as It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? where I summarize what I’ve finished reading in the last week and what I’m planning to read soon. Mostly it also serves as a recap post, so sometimes I’ll throw in stuff like reading challenge progress reports, book lists, and other random bookish thoughts or announcements.

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Received for Review

My thanks to the publishers and authors for the following review copies received, and be sure to click the links to their Goodreads pages for more details and full descriptions!

Only a couple books in the mail this week. First, with thanks to Tor Books for the arrival of a finished copy of The Witness for the Dead by Katherine Addison, the standalone sequel to The Goblin Emperor. I enjoyed the first book, so I’m really looking forward to returning to Maia’s world!

Also a huge thank you to Del Rey for sending along an ARC of The Free Bastards by Jonathan French, the conclusion to The Lot Lands trilogy. We’ve already gotten Jackal and Fetch’s stories, so it’s only fair that we follow Oats this time around! The “thrice” (a term for a three-quarters orc) has always been one of my favorite characters, so I’m pretty excited about this one.

On the digital front though, we have a pretty full haul. With thanks to Tantor Audio for listening copies of The Ones We’re Meant to Find by Joan He and Horrid by Katrina Leno. I’m so glad these books got audio editions, better late than never! Also thank you to Harper Audio for The Chariot at Dusk by Swati Teerdhala, the final installment of the epic Tiger at Midnight trilogy.

As well, thank you to Macmillan Audio for the following ALCs: Razorblade Tears by S.A. Cosby is a mystery thriller that’s been gaining a lot of buzz lately, and it does sound incredible! Not to be outshone, Dark Roads by Chevy Stevens also caught my eye, setting this summer up to be an excellent one for thrillers. And finally, I also grabbed A Psalm for the Wild-Built by Becky Chambers, a novella that kicks off a new series by the author called Monk & Robot. The book’s blurb sounds positively delightful and I’m always up for anything Becky Chambers writes.

Reviews

Rabbits by Terry Miles (3.5 of 5 stars)
For the Wolf by Hannah Whitten (3.5 of 5 stars)
Survive the Night by Riley Sager (3 of 5 stars)
The Ice Lion by Kathleen O’Neal Gear (2 of 5 stars)

What I’ve Been Reading

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Have you heard of or read any of the books featured this week? What caught your eye? Any new discoveries? I hope you found something interesting for a future read!

Friday Face-Off: Out of Perspective and A Bit Dizzy

Welcome to The Friday Face-Off, a weekly meme created by Books by Proxy! Each Friday, we will pit cover against cover while also taking the opportunity to showcase gorgeous artwork and feature some of our favorite book covers. If you want to join the fun, simply choose a book each Friday that fits that week’s predetermined theme, post and compare two or more different covers available for that book, then name your favorite. A list of future weeks’ themes are available at Lynn’s Book Blog.

This week’s theme is:

~ a cover that is OUT OF PERSPECTIVE, or make you feel a bit DIZZY

Imaginary Friend by Stephen Chbosky

I don’t know if any of these make me dizzy, exactly…but the perspective on some of them are definitely a bit wonky! Not surprising, I guess, considering this book was kind of strange. It’s a horror story, obviously, but I recall not really enjoying it because it was way too drawn out, overblown, and self-indulgent. But that’s neither here nor there, so let’s move on to the covers:

From left to right:
Grand Central Publishing (2019) – Orion Hardcover (2019) – Orion Paperback (2020)

German Edition (2019) – Italian Edition (2019) – Ukrainian Edition (2021)

Chinese Edition (2020) – Turkish Edition (2020) – Croatian Edition (2021)

Winner:

I love the art style of the Ukrainian cover, which caught my eye right away! So I’m going to go with it as my winner this week.

But what do you think? Which one is your favorite?

Thursday Thriller Audio: Survive the Night by Riley Sager

I received a review copy from the publisher. This does not affect the contents of my review and all opinions are my own.

Survive the Night by Riley Sager

Mogsy’s Rating (Overall): 3 of 5 stars

Genre: Mystery, Thriller

Series: Stand Alone

Publisher: Penguin Audio (June 29, 2021)

Length: 10 hrs

Author Information: Website | Twitter

Narrators: Savannah Gilmore

The year is 1991, and the story of Survive the Night opens on a cold November day as our protagonist Charlie prepares to leave college prematurely because of her overwhelming grief. Her best friend Maddie was the latest victim of the serial killer known as the Campus Killer, and Charlie blames herself. Like a movie, she replays the last time she saw Maddie over and over again in her head—because being a massive film buff, that’s what Charlie does to cope—wishing she could have done things differently, or taken back the last words she said to her best friend.

Eventually, Charlie decides returning home to her grandmother in Ohio would be the best course of action, even if it means leaving her life in New Jersey behind, including a serious relationship with a long-term boyfriend. He had offered to drive her himself, but Charlie knows that would just be delaying the inevitable. Instead, she turns to the college ride board and solicits a ride, knowing that chances of a reply would be slim since few people would be looking to leave in the middle of the semester. So when she gets a call from Josh Baxter, offering to take her to Ohio on his way back west to care for his sick father, Charlie is relieved but also a little wary. After all, her friend had just been murdered, and they never caught the killer; it would be wise to be a bit careful. Still, employed as a custodian at the university, Josh seemed harmless enough, not to mention Charlie was also desperate. She agrees to the arrangement, and together they set off on a snowy day.

Early into the drive though, Charlie begins to second-guess her decision, especially when she suspects Josh might not be telling the whole truth about himself. There’s reason to doubt Josh Baxter is even his real name, or that he had ever been employed by the university. He’s also dodgy about certain topics and seems to know more about her than he should—almost like he’s looked her up. As their car travels in the dead of night, through the featureless remote countryside, Charlie begins to wonder if she might just be sharing a ride with the Campus Killer. But she also knows she hasn’t been herself lately. Charlie’s habit of imagining movies in her head has been going a bit haywire, and it’s true that Maddie has been in her thoughts. Might it just be the guilt and anguish playing tricks with her mind?

I won’t mince words here. Considering how much I loved my last book by Riley Sager, which was Home Before Dark, I felt a little let down by this one. First of all, before the story even begins, you have to suspend your disbelief, and even though I’m somewhat used to doing so by now when it comes to thrillers, I still rarely expect to do it right off the bat. But that’s exactly where we find ourselves on the very first page, which sets the tone for the rest of the novel. We start with the elephant in the room, which is why in the bloody blue hell would any woman in their right mind get into a car alone with a man she’s never met, right after her best friend was brutally stabbed multiple times by an unknown serial killer and left for dead? Not too bright, that Charlie. And then there were all the holes in the plot, offering clear insight into why the author might have chosen to set this novel in the early 90s. That’s because in the age of cellphones, this story would never fly, and even then, there was a whole lot of shameless bending of logic and contortion of reality just to keep the ruse of a plot going.

But okay, I can go along with it. It was either that or accept that Charlie is the most senseless and ineffectual person in the world. To be fair, Sager makes a valiant attempt to explain away the inconsistences in her character by making her narrative extremely unreliable. In fact, her entire “movie geek” persona along with her habit of escaping into movie scenes in her mind seemed to have been created for just this purpose. As readers, we’re supposed to question if some of the things she perceives are real or not, with the goal of keeping us guessing about Josh. And hey, this did work, at least for a short while, until it became repetitive and then just downright silly.

The ending was something else though. For me, it improved the book substantially, though it appears reviews are mixed on the subject. The final reveal was pretty predictable, I’ll admit, which I had a feeling was inevitable, seeing as you can count all the characters in this book on one hand, leaving your options limited. Still, I liked the ending, because as contrived as it was, it helped break me out of the funk I was falling into for the first half of the book, and I won’t lie, the last few chapters were also pretty exciting.

Bottom line, I thought this book could have been better, but still, for a popcorny thriller read, I can’t complain. Annoying leaps of logic and a too-dumb heroine aside, I had a good time with Survive the Night and finished listening to my audio copy in about two sittings. Savannah Gilmore was an excellent narrator, despite me wondering if she might have felt as exasperated as I did with Charlie or if I’d simply imagined it in her voice. Overall, an entertaining thriller to pass the time.

Waiting on Wednesday 06/16/21

Waiting On Wednesday” is a weekly meme that first originated at Breaking the Spine but has since linked up with “Can’t Wait Wednesday” at Wishful Endings now that the original creator is unable to host it anymore. Either way, this fun feature is a chance to showcase the upcoming releases that we can’t wait to get our hands on!

Mogsy’s Pick

The Great Witch of Brittany by Louisa Morgan (February 15, 2022 by Redhook)

This week, I’m waiting on the next “witchy” book by Louisa Morgan, and this time it looks like we’re returning to the world of one of her previous books, A Secret History of Witches, featuring the Orchiere family with the story of Ursule herself.

“Brittany, 1741

There hasn’t been a witch born in the Orchière clan for generations. According to the elders, that line is dead, leaving the clan vulnerable to the whims of superstitious villagers and the prejudices of fearmongering bishops.

Ursule Orchière has been raised on stories of the great witches of the past. But the only magic she knows is the false spells her mother weaves over the gullible women who visit their fortune-telling caravan. Everything changes when Ursule comes of age and a spark of power flares to life. Thrilled to be chosen, she has no idea how magic will twist and shape her future.

Guided by the whispers of her ancestors and an ancient grimoire, Ursule is destined to walk the same path as the great witches of old. But first, the Orchière magical lineage must survive. And danger hovers over her, whether it’s the bloodlust of the mob or the flames of the pyre.”

Book Review: Rabbits by Terry Miles

I received a review copy from the publisher. This does not affect the contents of my review and all opinions are my own.

Rabbits by Terry Miles

Mogsy’s Rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

Genre: Science Fiction, Mystery

Series: Stand Alone

Publisher: Del Rey (June 8, 2021)

Length: 448 pages

Author Information: Website | Twitter

Wow, this one was real head trip, and I mean that in the best way possible. Rabbits is the kind of story that worms its way into your mind, and you find yourself mulling over it even days after you finish. Sometimes I still go back and forth between a 3 or a 4 star rating, depending on my mood, but as I’m sitting here typing out my review, I’m feeling right in the middle. This was a good book! But I won’t lie, it was also strange as hell. It’s not going to be for everyone.

First a bit of background. In 2017, the author Terry Miles created a pseudo-documentary style podcast called Rabbits. I had not heard of it prior to reading this, but although it is set in the same world, not being familiar with the podcast will not hinder your understanding of the novel in any way. Nor would it help you, I suspect, though it may help prepare the reader for some of the story’s more idiosyncratic traits, such as its alternate reality gaming themes or heavy use of pop culture references. The book’s storyline focuses on “K”, a fan obsessed with the game Rabbits. Using the real world as a platform, players would seek out patterns and unlikely connections, following them down a particular path filled with more clues, ultimately ending in the fulfillment of the individual’s deepest desires. Once an iteration of the game has been won, another round will begin again.

Like many Rabbits players, K has become completely addicted and can’t stop trying to find a way into the game. An opportunity presents itself, however, when our protagonist is approached by reclusive billionaire Alan Scarpio, who had reportedly won the sixth iteration. But what Scarpio actually wants to share is a dire warning. He believes Rabbits is corrupted and must be fixed before the next round, the eleventh, is to begin, or else the world as we know it will cease to exist. Together with close friend Chloe, K seeks to find out more about Scarpio’s claims, but before they can get far in their research, the billionaire is reported missing. The eleventh iteration begins as K and Chloe fail to learn what Scarpio was talking about. Like it or not, they are playing now.

What happens next is something readers will have to find out for themselves if they choose to read this book. For one, I don’t want to accidentally spoil anything, and two, a lot of it simply gets too complicated and weird to describe. If you know about anything the nebulous nature and definition of ARGs, you might have some idea. In the real world, many media companies have employed them for marketing campaigns for movies, video games, etc. but in Rabbits, it is a secret underground hush-hush kind of situation, similar to Fight Club—outside the game’s ultra-exclusive circles, you don’t ever mention you’re playing or even acknowledge its existence. There is also a dangerous element, as rumor has it that the game has been around for decade, and many players have gone missing or lost their lives over the years trying to unravel its secrets.

As we soon find out, some folks are also better equipped play Rabbits, giving them an edge. Being well-versed in pop culture and a gaming geek helps. If you are tech savvy, that is another advantage. Then there’s K, who is especially good at spotting patterns of coincidences and clues. The story explores this aspect later in the book, though by this point, things get so convoluted it’s difficult to trust our protagonist’s point-of-view, especially as it becomes increasingly unreliable. Thing is, I wouldn’t say the plot itself is too difficult to keep track of, but problems do arise when as time goes on and everything becomes more complex with memory lapses, alternate realities and the Mandela effect thrown in. There’s a sense of “anything goes” at this point, and needless to say, it’s incredibly frustrating to find yourself constantly questioning what you’ve read or wondering what the whole point is.

So, should you read Rabbits? It is very difficult to say. If you followed the podcast, I would say, yes, of course. If you like books heavy on geek culture references, then maybe. If you’re intrigued by the premise, or perhaps you’re drawn to unique mind-bendingly weird books and are curious to see what the fuss is all about, I would give it a try. For the most part, I actually enjoyed myself quite a bit, at least until things kind of went off the rails towards the end. Like I said, it won’t be for everyone, but I can promise you one thing: it’ll never be boring.