Book Review: The Free Bastards by Jonathan French

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

The Free Bastards by Jonathan French

Mogsy’s Rating: 5 of 5 stars

Genre: Fantasy

Series: Book 3 of The Lot Lands

Publisher: Del Rey (September 28, 2021)

Length: 560 pages

Author Information: Website | Twitter

The Lot Lands trilogy comes to a close with The Free Bastards, centering on the final member of our True Bastards hoof trio, the thriceblood known as Oats. It’s also important to note that although every novel in the series has followed a different character, each story builds upon the events that happened before. As such, these books aren’t really meant to be read as standalones, and experiencing them in chronological order is recommended.

As the novel begins, the inevitable war with Hispartha has finally come to the Lot Lands, and Oats, loyal friend and Bastard that he is, finds himself on the front lines because he knows that’s where he belongs. Our protagonist is aware that he’s nothing special, unlike his friends Jackal, god-touched and off on his own mission, or Fetching, who has brought the people of the Lots together into a grand army and now leads them as their new war chief. However, Oats has never desired for anything more than to fight for his hoof, and being three-quarters orc has always made him bigger and stronger than his half-blood brethren, making him very good at what he does.

Unfortunately, the forces of Hispartha also have their divine warriors and dark sorcery, and Oats soon realizes this isn’t a war they can win through brute strength alone. The stakes are high, and should the half-orc rebellion fail, their enemies would bring ruin to all the Lot Lands and the hoofs that live within them. With the lives of his loved ones on the line, Oats must make the difficult choice to journey to the heart of the human’s empire rescue his friends and confront the scheming wizard who betrayed them. Once there, it will take more than brawn and violence to survive the dangerous political quagmire of Hispartha, unless the frails make the mistake of pushing our thriceblood Bastard a little too far…

I’ve got to hand it to Jonathan French. Oats began the series as a peripheral character, hovering just on the edge of my attention. Sure, he was interesting enough, but still incomparable to the larger-than-life personalities of Jackal or Fetch and the excitement of their rip-roaring adventures. But all of that’s changed with The Free Bastards, which singlehandedly vaulted to Oats to the position of my favorite True Bastard. Behind his daunting scarred physique hides a thoughtful soul, deeply committed to his family and friends. Paired with a steely resolve to take on anything, this makes him the most complex of The Lot Lands protagonists.

You also best hold tight to your hog if you’re to have any chance of keeping up with the insane pacing. The book opens with a measured introduction as French takes a moment to catch readers up, tying up some loose ends from the previous books as well as to give Oats a proper introduction so that we can get reacquainted. But once all that’s taken care of, we’re off to the races, with the action coming in fast and unrelenting. If you’ve enjoyed the series thus far, you’ll certainly love this installment as well, with its vicious blood-soaked battles, ribald sweary language, and irreverent genre-bending takes on epic fantasy tropes–all of which have become The Lot Lands trademarks.

But like I said, Oats is really the highlight here. A fearsome warrior, he is also capable of much insight and compassion. Of the True Bastards trio which consists also of Jackal and Fetching, Oats was perhaps the one I connected to emotionally the most. There were moments where I felt close to tears, especially the ending, which cast such a warm, comfortable and glowing light on this trilogy of books otherwise filled with so much darkness and violence. One wouldn’t think such a conclusion would be fitting, but I felt the scene was the perfect sendoff for these characters, and the crowning glory this brilliant epic fantasy masterpiece.

So, do yourself a favor and pick up The Lot Lands if you haven’t yet. For any fantasy fan who has ever lamented the fact that high fantasy with elves and orcs seem to all feel the same, here is your cure.

More on The BiblioSanctum:
Review of The Grey Bastards (Book 1)
Review of The True Bastards (Book 2)

Audiobook Review: Cackle by Rachel Harrison

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

Cackle by Rachel Harrison

Mogsy’s Rating (Overall): 4 of 5 stars

Genre: Horror

Series: Stand Alone

Publisher: Penguin Audio (October 5, 2021)

Length: 10 hrs and 15 mins

Author Information: Website | Twitter

Narrator: Dylan Moore

Rachel Harrison is paving the way for a rising trend of chick lit horror, and I kind of like it. That said, I’d also advise putting aside all your preconceptions and any prejudices for the chick lit genre when it comes to Cackle, because it certainly didn’t turn out anything like I’d expected.

In this book, we follow Annie, who initially appears to be your typical chick lit protagonist navigating her way through the rough waters of modern womanhood, which includes relationship hang-ups, female friendships, and workplace drama. It’s her thirtieth birthday, she has just broken up with Sam, her boyfriend of nearly ten years, and is now in the middle of vacating their shared apartment in Manhattan. As high school teacher, Annie can scarcely afford another place in the city, so she is forced to move to a small village upstate where she will be starting a new job.

Almost immediately, she is charmed by the picturesque town of Rowan, where the people and warm, friendly and welcoming. Her life may be in ruins, but at least there’s this silver lining. She thinks that if she can survive here for a while, put up with the snotty and disrespectful teens at her school just long enough, maybe one day Sam might come around and they can be a happy couple living together again.

But then, Annie meets Sophie, one of the town’s residents who changes her life forever. The older, elegant woman is everything Annie wishes she could be—beautiful, charismatic, composed and confident. And amazingly, this incredible lady wanted to be her friend! Sophie shows Annie a whole new way of looking at things, encouraging her to seek her own happiness and do things for no one else but herself, teaching her to be more comfortable in her own skin. But gradually, Annie beings to suspect there may be something more to Sophie’s self-assuredness and ethereal, ageless beauty. The other townspeople all act like they are afraid of her, and strange and terrible things seem befall those who speak ill of her or Annie—almost as if they’ve been cursed. And then there are the spiders glimpsed around Sophie’s mansion in the woods, unnatural little critters that act like they’re in her control. There’s a word for women who wield such power, but surely that’s only in children’s stories and fairy tales?

Although Cackle is most definitely categorized as horror, it is also much less shocking and gruesome than Harrison’s previous novel The Return. Dare I say, there may even be streaks of some feel-good vibes here and there, and a conclusion that ultimately has an uplifting message. Still, there were definitely some downright grotesque, skin-crawling moments as well, and an overall tone to the story that is eerie and disturbing.

Cackle is also a great tale of transformation. Annie makes for a fascinating character study, introduced to us as a rather needy, timid woman. She is self-conscious of her looks and tall lanky figure, turns to drinking when she gets depressed (which is often), and can’t stand the idea of being single because she’s always had a boyfriend in her life. She’d thought Sam was the one, until he dumped her, shattering her plans for their future. The breakup completely unmoors her, leaving her feeling adrift, but fortunately her friendship with Sophie is like a life preserver that keeps her afloat and steers her back on a stable path.

But there’s also more to Sophie than meets the eye, which I’m sure you’ve guessed. Needless to say, I won’t be elaborating since unraveling the mystery that surrounds her is a huge part of the plot, and much of the fun. I do have to give a shoutout to Ralph though, who is the most memorable spider ever. Even now, I’m just picturing his sweet, goofy grin! He wins my favorite character of the year award, hands down.

All in all, Cackle was a quirky novel with some genuine moments of gross, terrifying horror. If you’ve also read The Return, which was another good read, you should know this one is quite different, but I do appreciate that Rachel Harrison has the versatility and talent to go in another direction and try something new. My compliments also to the folks behind the production of the audiobook, especially to narrator Dylan Moore who made this such an enjoyable listen. Perfect for the Halloween season.

Bookshelf Roundup: 09/25/21: 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.

black line

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!

Big thanks to Tor Books this week for this surprise copy of Dune: The Lady of Caladan by Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson. Thing is, I’m not sure where in the sequence this book comes in, and I haven’t even read the original Dune series which means I’m doubly clueless. However, I do know that this is the second novel in the Caladan trilogy, so I don’t think it’s meant to be a good starting point. It also means I’ll likely not get to this one anytime soon, but it’s always interesting to learn about new books regardless.

Also I was very excited to receive a finished copy of The Last Graduate by Naomi Novik, with thanks to Del Rey. In case you missed my review earlier this week, I loved this book! Definitely better than the first one and probably one of the biggest surprises for me this year.

 

It may have been a light week for physical books, but my digital pile is hopping! I have the kind folks at Macmillan Audio to thank for most of these new arrivals: The Orphan Witch by Paige Crutcher is a tale of family, magic and curses, and I’ve had my eye on it for a while. I also received a handful of horror and dark fantasy titles, including Slewfoot by BromThe Death of Jane Lawrence by Caitlin StarlingThis Thing Between Us by Gus Moreno, and Nothing But Blackened Teeth by Cassandra Khaw, That’s definitely got me set for the Halloween season! Also from the publisher I received These Silent Woods by Kimi Cunningham Grant, a haunting novel of mystery and suspense, as well as All of Us Villains by Amanda Foody and Christine Lynn Herman, described as a bloodier fantasy twist on The Hunger Games.

And with thanks to Tantor Audio for a listening copy of A Wizard’s Guide to Defensive Baking by T. Kingfisher! I’ve been hearing great things about this one, and lately I’ve been hankering for more of the author’s quirky humorous stories, so I think this YA/Middle Grade novel should do the trick. And finally, speaking of Middle Grade books, I also received an ALC of Dust & Grim by Chuck Wendig, courtesy of Hachette Audio.

Reviews

The Last Graduate by Naomi Novik (4.5 of 5 stars)
Citadel by Marko Kloos (4 of 5 stars)
My Heart Is A Chainsaw by Stephen Graham Jones (3 of 5 stars)

Roundup Hightlights:

What I’ve Been Reading

black line

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: A Favorite Thriller

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 of a FAVORITE THRILLER

He Started It by Samantha Downing

I’ll never turn down a chance to feature Samantha Downing, who has become one of my favorite thriller authors in recent years. He Started It was a book that knocked me out for a loop, so I’d say it definitely counts as one of my favorite thrillers.

Let’s take a look at some of the covers:

From left to right:
Berkley (2020) – Michael Joseph (2020) – Thorndike Press Large Print (2020)

French Edition (2021) – Persian Edition (2020) – German Edition (2021)

Winner:

The Berkley edition, definitely. Fiery car in the background, with a well-dressed lady in heels wielding a shovel…there’s something so badass about this image, and it certainly makes you wonder just what the hell is going on.

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

Book Review: My Heart Is A Chainsaw by Stephen Graham Jones

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

My Heart Is A Chainsaw by Stephen Graham Jones

Mogsy’s Rating: 3 of 5 stars

Genre: Horror

Series: Stand Alone

Publisher: Gallery/Saga Press (August 31, 2021)

Length: 416 pages

Author Information: Website | Twitter

My Heart is a Chainsaw by Stephen Graham Jones tells the story of teenager Jade Daniels, a half-Indian high school senior obsessed with slasher horror movies. It’s an oddity that makes her stand out in the rural town of Proofrock, Idaho, though truth be told, Jade already has a lot of unwanted attention due to her troubled home life as well as a recent suicide attempt. With just a few months left to go until graduation, she returns to school following her recovery at a treatment center and writes an extra credit paper for her history class entitled “Slasher 101.” In it, she explains to her favorite teacher Mr. Holmes the ingredients that make up a true slasher film, and based on the available evidence, why she also believes that a real-life slasher plot is in the midst of unfolding in Proofrock this very moment.

First, there is the town’s bloody history. On the shores of its lake is an abandoned campground which the locals call Camp Blood because of the horrific murders that took place there half a century ago. Now a new Terra Nova housing development in the works, not far from where a young tourist couple went missing not long ago. The head of the project is a real estate tycoon with a sweet, beautiful and painfully naïve teenage daughter named Letha Mondragon, whom Jade believes possesses all the characteristics of the classic final girl. Everything is falling into place, or so our protagonist believes. Unfortunately though, it’s going to be hard to convince everybody else.

This is my third novel by Stephen Graham Jones, my first being The Only Good Indians which kind of fell flat for me, the second being the novella Night of the Mannequins with which I fared better despite its relatively short length. In fact, looking back now, the fact that it was so short could be why I enjoyed it so much, due to the unconventional writing style and the unique voice of the protagonist. In many ways, Jade’s narration felt very similar here, employing a stream of consciousness technique with this run-on, almost breathless quality to it. In small doses, I found it easier to take in Night of the Mannequins, but with the longer novel format of My Heart is a Chainsaw, it quickly became grating and tiresome.

And that’s the thing: Jade loves slashers. By that, I mean she lives them, breathes them. Don’t get me wrong, it’s great to be passionate about your hobbies and interests. I admired Jade for her enthusiasm for something that is clearly very meaningful and important to her. And yet, after a while I couldn’t help but feel like I was being held hostage, forced to endure a relentless tide of trivia about movies like Halloween, Scream, Friday the 13th, and even Jaws. Now, I like slashers as much as the next horror film buff, but still. In the face of this single-minded, incessant rambling, at some point you just have to say enough is enough.

Anyway, that was my frame of mind by the time we moved into the second half of the book, and while I have to give credit to the author for coming up with an extraordinarily creative and fascinating concept for the novel’s premise, this was also where my focus and attention started to wane. No doubt this was probably due to a combination of factors, including the writing style and frenzied nature of our protagonist’s voice, but quite simply put, I just started to lose interest. It’s a shame because Jade could have been a great character, but her obsession ultimately got in the way of any significant exploration into her feelings of loneliness, anger, and being trapped. By the time we reached the story’s conclusion, I can’t say I had strong feelings about the ending either way.

Ultimately, the book felt a little too long for its particular narrative style and structure, and I guess I’m simply not interested enough in the subject matter of slasher films. At this point it might aso be time to admit Stephen Graham Jones’ style just isn’t for me, though that’s not to say I’ll be parting ways with the author completely. I do think he’s a talented writer and has some amazing ideas, but in the future I’ll probably be more circumspect when deciding which of his books to pick up.

Waiting on Wednesday 09/22/21

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 Book of Cold Cases by Simone St. James (March 15, 2022 by Berkley)

It’s always exciting when a newly discovered favorite author will have a book coming out, and after the amazing time I had with The Sun Down Motel, I’m looking forward to seeing what Simone St. James will have in store next.

In 1977, Claire Lake, Oregon, was shaken by the Lady Killer Murders: Two men, seemingly randomly, were murdered with the same gun, with strange notes left behind. Beth Greer was the perfect suspect–a rich, eccentric twenty-three-year-old woman, seen fleeing one of the crimes. But she was acquitted, and she retreated to the isolation of her mansion.

Oregon, 2017. Shea Collins is a receptionist, but by night, she runs a true crime website, the Book of Cold Cases–a passion fueled by the attempted abduction she escaped as a child. When she meets Beth by chance, Shea asks her for an interview. To Shea’s surprise, Beth says yes.

They meet regularly at Beth’s mansion, though Shea is never comfortable there. Items move when she’s not looking, and she could swear she’s seen a girl outside the window. The allure of learning the truth about the case from the smart, charming Beth is too much to resist, but even as they grow closer, Shea senses something isn’t right. Is she making friends with a manipulative murderer, or are there other dangers lurking in the darkness of the Greer house?“

Book Review: The Last Graduate by Naomi Novik

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

The Last Graduate by Naomi Novik

Mogsy’s Rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

Genre: Fantasy

Series: Book 2 of Scholomance

Publisher: Del Rey (September 28, 2021)

Length: 368 pages

Author Information: Website | Twitter

Naomi Novik should consider herself lucky we’re not in the same room right now, because I can’t decide if I want to screech in her face or give her a hug while crying tears of pure joy. Yep, The Last Graduate was THAT good, but ugh, that ending! I’m still in a state of shock.

First though, a bit about the book. As it is the direct sequel to A Deadly Education, this one cannot be read as a standalone, and as such you should also be aware that the following review may contain spoilers for the first book if you’re yet not caught up. The story follows protagonist Galadriel “El” Higgins and her friends at Scholomance, a school for magically gifted children. In order to graduate, students in their senior year must pass a final challenge by running a gauntlet against a swarm maleficaria, or “mals”, which are monsters that feed on magic. Not everyone comes out of it alive, and in fact, each year a good number of students are expected to fall to the mals, so most would-be graduates train hard and adopt an “everyone for themselves” mentality in order to increase their chances of survival.

But this year, El is looking to change all that. Figuring out that the school itself has a mind of its own and a need to protect as many students as possible, she comes up with a plan to save everyone. Of course, such an endeavor is going to require a ton of mana as well as everyone to work together, and she’s not sure she can make either one of these happen. Luckily though, she’s forged several alliances since coming out of her shell, taking others into her confidence and allowing herself to trust some of her classmates. One of them happens to be Orion Lake, a talented monster hunter who is also very sweet on El, but she’s not quite sure what to make of him yet. Having a dark prophecy hanging over her head has a way of complicating things, making her nervous and reluctant to take things further with Orion. So instead, she decides to focus her attentions on ending the deadly situation at Scholomance, devoting hundreds of hours into training exercises and getting everyone ready for the big day, which is fast approaching.

What a difference from the first book! I won’t lie, there were parts of A Deadly Education I struggled with, and most of them had to do with El, whom I found insufferably ill-tempered and unlikeable, and the fact that she was downright awful to everyone around her certainly didn’t help. However, being forced to interact and actually work with her fellow students seems to have done wonders for her personality, making her rethink the loner life as she finds new purpose in trying to change things for the better. Now that El has become more caring and less self-absorbed, she was also much more pleasant to read about this time around. Needless to say, she’s easier to sympathize with when I’m not gritting my teeth against her belligerence, and it made reading this sequel feel like a whole new experience.

And yet, the style and pacing of the story remained quite consistent with the second half of the first book. While A Deadly Education opened with a somewhat drawn out and sluggish intro, it ultimately made up for that with a killer ending, and I was glad to see that The Last Graduate was able to snatch up that momentum and keep running with it. Obviously, as a sequel, it had the advantage of being able to jump right into the action, but on the whole this one also felt more evenly balanced and better paced. Having a timeline for graduation and an endgame to look forward to definitely helped moved things along, and with everyone working towards the same goal, the result was a sharply focused and less meandering plot. There was even time to work in some relationship development between El and Orion, as well as other little detours involving the history and motivations of Scholomance without being too much of a distraction.

All in all, everything in the first book was either rectified or improved upon in The Last Graduate. Perhaps the only thing that was worse was the cliffhanger. If you thought the one at the end of A Deadly Education was bad, ooh boy, you have no idea, mwahahahaha! Just as it appears things might be finally settling down, the rug gets pulled out from under us again, making you realize Novik’s far from finished with us and the fun’s just begun…

So glad I decided to continue this series. While I can’t honestly say I appreciated the whiplash I got from that cruel and abrupt cliffhanger, The Last Graduate was otherwise very enjoyable, easily my favorite sequel of the year, and definitely one the biggest surprises.

More on The BiblioSanctum:
Review of A Deadly Education (Book 1)

Audiobook Review: Citadel by Marko Kloos

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

Citadel by Marko Kloos

Mogsy’s Rating (Overall): 4 of 5 stars

Genre: Science Fiction

Series: Book 3 of The Palladium Wars

Publisher: Brilliance Audio (August 10, 2021)

Length: 10 hrs and 37 mins

Author Information: Website | Twitter

Narrator: Korey Jackson

Citadel is one of those books that sneak up on you—surprising and exhilarating. I’ve been really enjoying The Palladium Wars series, and like its predecessors, the third volume is another fun and action-filled addition to this space operatic mil-SF saga.

Once more, we return to our four main perspective characters to follow up on what they’ve been up to since we last saw them. Because Citadel is a direct continuation of the series and cannot be read as a standalone, this review may also contain possible spoilers for the first two books if you are not caught up yet. First, we have Aden, a former prisoner-of-war from the losing side of the battle. Following his release, he joined up with the crew of a courier ship hoping to start a new life under a false identity. Thus far, his secret has remained safe, but with the recent nuclear attack on Rhodian territory, security has been stepped up everywhere, and he’s not sure how long his new identification will hold up to close scrutiny—especially since his crew may have something to do with the attack, however unwittingly.

Meanwhile, Idina is a Palladian soldier stationed on the defeated planet of Gretia, partnering with the local forces to keep the peace. Unhappy with the foreign occupation though, the population has become increasingly violent, with deadly protests breaking out each day. Solvieg, who was only a child during the war, has managed to regain control of her father’s company after it was taken away from him, but now finds herself with the heavy responsibility of dealing with the family business in this unstable political climate. And finally, we have Dunstan, a commander in the Rhodian Navy who has just ben handpicked to captain an experimental prototype ship with technology that has the potential to change the way war is waged forever.

Things are moving fast in this series. The story picks right up from the cliffhanger at the end of the last book and takes off running without missing a beat. I do love how Marko Kloos can keep readers on the edge and wanting more, by keeping the momentum up, throwing in twists and turns, unexpected developments. I began this series not knowing which storyline is my favorite, and I still don’t, because they are all seriously so damn good!

And of course, this is because of the characters. I like how we are still focusing on the same four POVs, and though their ARCs are still relatively separate, each of them has made their own way and formed their own relationships. Aden has the Zephyr, and his guilt at not coming clean with his crewmates continues to be a source of intrigue, especially when their decision to go to the Rhodian Navy in the last book resulted in dire consequences for them this time around. Dunstan’s storyline remains the most heavily “military sci-fi”, and I’m currently enjoying his new dynamic with his first officer and their shared delight at the technological wonder that is the Hecate. I wasn’t sure I liked Solvieg’s POV as much, but ultimately she impressed me by standing up to her father for more autonomy, and I’m also awwwwing at her budding romance with the detective she’s sweet on. Idina’s chapters brought the pure action, and I truly enjoyed how well-paced and balanced all the POVS were.

Gradually, we’re seeing the storylines integrate, as events on Grecia as well as out in space are starting to create these focal points drawing the characters together. Again, we are left with a semi-cliffhanger at the end of Citadel, fortunately not as scream-inducing as the other ones, but there are still plenty of burning questions by the last page. If you aren’t a fan of being left in suspense, clearly this would not be a series for you, though if you’ve made it this far to the third book, surely you’ve got to be used to it by now!

All in all, there’s not much more to say about Citadel, other than that it was pretty darn awesome. I don’t know how many more books we’ll get, but I’m glad there will be more, and I look forward to finding out what happens to these characters.

Audiobook Comments: I’m also happy to be continuing this series in audio because the narration is top-notch, though I still think multiple narrators would have been ideal. Furthermore, I can’t say I’m a fan of changing narrators from book to book, but admittedly I was thrilled to see Korey Jackson’s name on the audiobook of Citadel, as I’ve been fan of his for a long time. As a voice actor he always delivers a flawless performance, and this was definitely no exception.

More on The BiblioSanctum:
Review of Aftershocks (Book 1)
Review of Ballistic (Book 2)

Bookshelf Roundup: 09/18/21: 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.

black line

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!

Another week of exciting new arrivals. Thank you to Tor Books for sending me a finished copy of Mordew by Alex Pheby, the first volume of a gothic epic fantasy trilogy that has me very intrigued. From the kind folks at Subterranean Press, earlier this month I also received an ARC of Radiant Apples by Joe R. Lansdale, a novella featuring a new adventure starring Nat Love AKA “Deadwood Dick”, the African-American cowboy protagonist of the author’s novel Paradise Sky.

Also with thanks to the amazing team at Redhook, I received an ARC of Sistersong by Lucy Holland, described as a “beautiful reimagining of an old British folklore ballad” that mixes history and legend and magic. And also huge thanks to Margaret K. McElderry Books for sending me an ARC of Our Violent Ends by Chloe Gong, the sequel to These Violent Delights which is a reimagining of Romeo & Juliet set in the gangster-ridden streets of 1926 Shanghai.

Received for Review

In the digital haul, we had the Labor Day weekend at the beginning of the month so many of my audio review copies didn’t come in until later, but when they did, they came in a flood. With thanks to HarperAudio for the following ALCs: Activation Degradation by Marina J. Lostetter has been compared to Murderbot Diaries, and I hope it won’t disappoint! And these days it’s pretty rare for me to request YA but Dark Rise by C.S. Pacat did catch my interest, as well as All These Bodies by Kendare Blake (but then I do love her work!)

Speaking of YA, I also received a listening copy of Beasts of Prey by Ayana Gray with thanks to Listening Library. Mythological fantasy will get me every time. From Random House Audio I also received Hyde by Craig Russell, whose novel The Devil Aspect I enjoyed a lot, as well as The Last Guest by Tess Little, because I was intrigued by its locked room whodunit mystery premise.

Thank you also to Simon & Schuster Audio for a listening copy of Gutter Mage by J.S. Kelley. I’ve had my eye on this one for a while, so I’m pretty excited to dive in. And finally, my thanks to Hachette Audio for Briarheart by Mercedes Lackey, a retelling of Sleeping Beauty.

Reviews

Empire of the Vampire by Jay Kristoff (4 of 5 stars)
Revelator by Daryl Gregory (4 of 5 stars)

What I’ve Been Reading

black line

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: “Murder” In The Title

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 of a book with MURDER” IN THE TITLE

The Murders of Molly Southbourne by Tade Thompson

Pretty straightforward theme this week. I give you The Murders of Molly Southbourne by the master of modern weird horror, Tade Thompson:

From left to right:
Tor.com (2017) – French Edition (2019)

Catalan; Valencian Edition (2019) – Hungarian Edition (2021)

Winner:

The contenders are all pretty strong this week, and the red/black/white color scheme is actually one of my favorites. I guess my winner would be the one that drew my attention right away.

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