Bookshelf Roundup 02/22/20: 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!

Kicking us off, a big thank you to the awesome folks at 47North for Ballistic by Marko Kloos, the sequel to Aftershocks, which was a fantastic read. It ended on a nail-biter of a cliffhanger too, so definitely eager to dive into book two. Also thank you to Simon Pulse for When We Were Magic by Sarah Gailey, which was a surprise but a welcome one because this book has been on my radar for a while. And speaking of surprises, cheers to Del Rey for an ARC of Bonds of Brass by Emily Skrutskie. It’s new to me, but from the synopsis it looks to be a promising start to a new coming-of-age science fiction trilogy.

Up next, courtesy of Tor Books, I also received The Queen of Raiders by Sarah Kozloff, the second installment of her four-book series The Nine Realms. As promised, these are coming out fast and furious, and I have plans to read this later in the month so I don’t fall behind. From Tor as well, I received this exciting ARC of The Sin in the Steel by Ryan Van Loan. I actually featured this book on a past Waiting on Wednesday, so you can imagine how thrilled I was when it showed up. And also thanks to Harper Voyager for this beautiful finished copy of Crush the King by Jennifer Estep. I’m looking forward to reading this conclusion to the Crown of Shards trilogy.

Thanks also to Minotaur books for the following mystery/thriller arrivals: Hard Cash Valley by Brian Panowich is described as a tale of “southern noir” featuring a race against time to solve a brutal murder in a Jacksonville, Florida motel room and to find a missing boy with Asperger’s Syndrome before the killer finds him first. Then there’s this this adorable looking doggy mystery called The Finders by Jeffrey B. Burton, the first book of a series featuring the heroic team of a golden retriever cadaver dog and her handler. Finally, my thanks to the team at Gallery Books for sending along this sweet hardcover of Star Trek: Picard: The Last Best Hope by Una McCormack. I actually haven’t started the new show yet, but maybe I’ll just wait to watch once I finish this prequel novel.

About a month ago, I also discovered a new indie bookstore in my town which holds a lot of cool bookish events and also accepts book donations. Anyway, I was there earlier this week dropping off a couple boxes of books and was checking out their local crafts section and saw they had these adorable Harry Potter earrings which I thought would be perfect for my daughter, as well as this awesome Star Wars book sleeve which I just had to get, of course! The store owner is also incredibly nice and when she found out I review books, she gave me this ARC of Incendiary by Zoraida Córdova to review for them as well as some extra swag from promotions of Deathless Divide by Justina Ireland and The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes, the upcoming Hunger Games prequel. They’re an amazing little community-driven store called Caprichos Books and if you’re ever in the area, you should definitely give them a visit.

In the digital pile, just one audiobook for review this week. From Listening Library, I received The Vanishing Deep by Astrid Scholte. I enjoyed her debut Four Dead Queens so I’m pretty excited to listen to this one.

Reviews

Dead to Her by Sarah Pinborough (4 of 5 stars)
Heart of Flames by Nikki Pau Preto (4 of 5 stars)
Terminus by Peter Clines (3.5 of 5 stars)

This Week’s Reads

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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! Let me know what you plan on checking out. Until next time, see you next Roundup!:)

Friday Face-Off: Pretty Dresses

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:

“The puffy dress”
~ MERINGUE

Mogsy’s Pick:

Glamourist Histories by Mary Robinette Kowal

For today’s topic, I’ve decided to feature the covers of the five books in Mary Robinette Kowal’s Glamourist Histories, her fantasy of manners series inspired by Austenesque Regency romance. These gorgeous editions are published by Tor:

Winner:

I had a hard time choosing this week. It was almost a three-way tie between Shades of Milk and Honey, Glamour in Glass and Of Noble Family, but in the end I had to go with the first book–the fiery colors made it stand out, and the striking imagery leaves no doubt there is a touch of magic going on, not to mention it appeals to the music lover in me.

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

 

 

Audiobook Review: Terminus by Peter Clines

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

Terminus by Peter Clines

Mogsy’s Rating (Overall): 3.5 of 5 stars

Genre: Science Fiction, Horror

Series: Book 4 of Threshold

Pubisher: Audible Original (January 30, 2020)

Length: 11 hrs and 21 mins

Author Information: Website | Twitter

Narrator: Ray Porter

Terminus was an audiobook that kind of snuck up on me, so even though I knew beforehand that it would be a part of the Threshold sequence, what I didn’t realize was that it was more or less a follow-up to 14. I mean, I loved that book. And while I enjoyed The Fold and, okay, even Dead Moon but to a much lesser extent, a part of me has always wondered what became of the original gang back at that mysterious old brownstone back in Los Angeles…

But wait, before you get too excited, Terminus doesn’t actually give that many answers or even provide much continuity, though if you’ve read the other books, I think there’s a lot here that would make sense or click with you, and no doubt there will also be rejoicing at the return of a couple of familiar characters. Still, even if you’re a newcomer to Threshold, the good news is that this one can be enjoyed as a stand-alone. In fact, no matter who you are or your level of experience with the series, I guarantee everyone will start with the same level of confusion at the utter strangeness with which Terminus begins. The story first introduces us to Murdoch, who appears to be a part of some religious sect calling themselves the “Family.” However, from the offhand descriptions of the congregation and teachings of their minister, it swiftly becomes clear this is not like any religion you’ve ever come across or heard of, nor is Murdoch your average kind of person.

In another thread, our focus shifts to Chase, a man who has seen his life completely fall apart and is now going his own way, sailing around the world with some interesting types. When news of a monster storm approaches, he and a few others are dropped off on a bonafide uncharted island—totally off them maps, known only to a very few. But soon, Chase and his companions come to realize this cannot be true. There is clear evidence that someone—or something—has been living on the island. Also odd is the complete absence of insects, and the fact that the plant life does not appear to be native. Then there are the deadly traps and the sneaky attacks from unseen enemies. Something’s definitely not right here, but it’s going to take everyone coming together—and a whole lot of mindfuckery—in order to figure out what.

Anyway, before we continue, can we just take a moment to geek out over the sheer awesomeness of that cover? I love me some Lovecraftian-level cosmic horror, baby! Not surprisingly, I also got some major LOST vibes from the story. Of the three previous Threshold novels, Terminus probably most resembles the mood and style of 14, more evidence that the two are more heavily linked, even leaving aside the obvious connections between the characters and the island with the Kavach Building. The overall atmosphere is creepy is surreal, steeped in mystery. It is also more brutal, nihilistic and darker in tone, featuring less of Clines’ usual wit and bantering dialogue as characters’ attitudes are shifted towards being more survival oriented. As a whole, this is much more unsettling than 14, which is apt considering how much more is at stake.

More than that, I’m hesitant to say because I don’t want to inadvertently give away too many details of the story. However, I do want to touch upon some of the characters. As I said, longtime Threshold readers will recognize a couple familiar faces, most notably Veek. Much to my disappointment though, seeing her again did not give me the satisfaction I expected. Her character was always a spitfire, which was what I loved about her in 14, but sadly this obnoxious cringey version of Veek is far from the one I remember. Honestly, her snark and divisive preachy one-liners here were so unnecessary and distracting, I couldn’t think of any good reason for them other than an attempt for the author to score some woke points (and it was definitely not worth it). The new characters were far more interesting, especially Murdoch, whose background and struggles were nothing short of amazing. Chase was also a sympathetic protagonist, though I wish we had more of his backstory to bring together his character arc development. His steady demeanor like a solid, reliable anchor in a sea of weirdness and unpredictability.

And for real, these Threshold stories are meant to warp your brain. While not every piece of the puzzle fell neatly into place to form a coherent picture (there’s some disjointedness in the story, plenty of plot holes if you stop to think about it, stuff that’s glossed over and certain instances where you just have to throw up your hands and simply roll with it), overall Terminus was slick, quirky and entertaining. Ultimately, I can also appreciate a sequel that builds significantly upon the previous books and I hope we get more. There’s certainly plenty of material!

Audiobook Comments: When it comes to audiobook narrators, Ray Porter is a personal favorite. I’ve loved his work in the past and no surprise I also enjoyed his performance on Terminus. Not only is he a pro at doing tones and accents, he’s fantastic at putting a range of emotion into his voices and made this audiobook a great listen.

More on The BiblioSanctum:
Review of 14 (Book 1)
Review of The Fold (Book 2)
Review of Dead Moon (Book 3)

Waiting on Wednesday 02/19/20

“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 Hollow Places by T. Kingfisher (October 6, 2020 by Gallery/Saga Press)

*Gasp* I need this, I need this now! Last year I adored horror-humor blend in The Twisted Ones and I can’t wait for another book by Ursula Vernon writing as T. Kingfisher.

“A young woman discovers a strange portal in her uncle’s house, leading to madness and terror in this gripping new novel from the author of the “innovative, unexpected, and absolutely chilling” (Mira Grant, Nebula Awardwinning author) The Twisted Ones.

Pray they are hungry.

Kara finds these words in the mysterious bunker that she’s discovered behind a hole in the wall of her uncle’s house. Freshly divorced and living back at home, Kara now becomes obsessed with these cryptic words and starts exploring the peculiar bunker—only to discover that it holds portals to countless alternate realities. But these places are haunted by creatures that seem to hear thoughts…and the more you fear them, the stronger they become.

With her distinctive “delightfully fresh and subversive” (SF Bluestocking) prose and the strange, sinister wonder found in Guillermo del Toro’s Pan’s Labyrinth, The Hollow Places is another compelling and white-knuckled horror novel that you won’t be able to put down.”

Excerpt: The Golden Key by Marian Womack

The BiblioSanctum is pleased to be participating in the tour for The Golden Key by Marian Womack, a suspenseful and atmospheric debut crime-fantasy novel set in Victorian England! Today we are sharing an exciting excerpt from the book, available now from Titan Books wherever books are sold. Check it out, and be sure to also visit the other stops on the tour!

The Golden Key by Marian Womack

An extraordinary, page-turning Gothic mystery set in the wilds of the Norfolk Fens from the BSFA-shortlisted author.

London, 1901. After the death of Queen Victoria the city heaves with the uncanny and the eerie. Séances are held and the dead are called upon from darker realms.

Samuel Moncrieff, recovering from a recent tragedy of his own, meets Helena Walton-Cisneros, one of London’s most reputed mediums. But Helena is not what she seems and she’s enlisted by the elusive Lady Matthews to solve a twenty-year-old mystery: the disappearance of her three stepdaughters who vanished without a trace on the Norfolk Fens.

But the Fens are a liminal land, where folk tales and dark magic still linger. With locals that speak of devilmen and catatonic children found on the Broads, Helena finds the answer to the mystery leads back to where it started: Samuel Moncrieff.

 

Excerpt from The Golden Key by Marian Womack, published by Titan Books. Copyright © 2020 by Marian Womack

Sam’s arrival in London coincided with the first signs of Christmas. Little lights charmed passers-by from behind cloudy shop windows, and Albert trees sprouted here and there. The festivities welcomed him with their air of a season out of time, and came and went quickly; a sad, subdued affair.

‘Samuel, my boy. The only thing we ought to concern ourselves with is your health. I have instructed Mrs Brown to provide for your every need.’ Sam’s godfather, Charles Bale, had a house in Saffron Hill Road, a large number of friends associated with the Spiritualist cause, and too much time on his hands. His robust disposition, cheerful eyes and fondness for amusing company were at odds with his prominent position in one of those societies occupied with exploring the darkest corners of our universe. Bale was one of the most senior members of The New Occultist Defence League, funded some years previously to ‘defend those interested in Spiritual communion from the misunderstanding or aggravation caused by the non-Spiritualist-minded’. Showing a rare delicacy, the older man had not been inquisitive about the tragic accident that had brought Sam to his door. He had asked no questions, and demanded no answers. And so Sam had the chance to gather his breath. London, even if looked out upon from a window, did not look back at him with reproach: a welcome change. College life lay behind him, forever gone. He was capable of admitting that much to himself.

A few weeks after Sam’s arrival, the Queen’s passing changed the mood of the capital once more. To his godfather’s delight, advertisements now kept sprouting everywhere for lectures on Mesmerism in working men’s clubs, or for assemblies and raffles to gather funds for séances. Victoria’s death had suddenly rekindled the interest in their dusty cause: most of the papers proclaimed new ghostly sightings and bewildering phenomena, usually involving the departed monarch.

‘Who knows?’ Charles took to saying with a smile. ‘Her Majesty may, even now, be looking at us from The Beyond.’

Most visitors to Saffron Hill Road interpreted the black ribbon on Sam’s arm as a mark of respect for Victoria, and he did not set them right. He often heard Charles and his friends discussing what they called the Queen’s ‘promotion’, and admiring the symbolism of her final journey: the crowds in dark mourning, the bright white horses. The monarch had famously made all the preparations herself, in accordance with her well-known interest in the fanfare of death.

Sam avoided seeing the ominous procession. The incident in the river, still an open wound in his mind, meant that he was not in a humour to witness such an event. And then there was the house: the crumbling walls, soft with lichen; the dense silence welcoming him back. At night he turned in bed left and right, until a feverish sleep found him. And what came to his rescue but this ruin, this thing? It was all there again; so unreal, so recognisable, bringing back no memories, but dark premonitions from the past. Then nothing: his mind filled with black water. Sam longed for only one thing: a night of untroubled sleep. It was one of his uncle’s Spiritualist gazettes that proposed the notion, imbued with dark meaning, of what might be happening, bringing to mind at once the ruined house, the river, Viola, as a melange of connected possibilities:

TWENTIETH-CENTURY CURE. MAGNETISM IS LIFE!

WRITE AT ONCE.

MARVELLOUS CURES.

ALL SUFFERERS FROM LOSS OF MEMORY, SADNESS, AND ALL NERVOUS AILMENTS, INCLUDING SLEEP ILLNESSES

Sleep illness. Could that be his affliction?

What he needed wasn’t a cure for his nightmares, but a potion to help him forget. He knew people who had wandered down to the canalside in Oxford, where the slow Chinese barges sometimes came up from London. They had spoken to him of medicines that could calm the busiest brain, but for some reason he had always rejected these out of hand. What he ought to do was give himself over to the dedicated task of changing the fog inside his head for the London fog, like a self-induced trance. But he wondered: would he be able to do that alone, or would he need a light to guide him? Samuel Moncrieff felt irrevocably lost, for the first time in his life.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Marian Womack is a bilingual writer, born in Andalusia and raised in the UK. She is a graduate of the Clarion Writers Workshop and the Creative Writing Masters at Cambridge University. She works for Cambridge University libraries, and her professional background is in academic libraries, having worked at Glasgow University Library and the Bodleian. Whilst living in Spain, Marian worked as a translator, desk editor, fiction publisher, and bookseller. She now lives in Cambridge, UK. She tweets @beekeepermadrid.

Review: Dead to Her by Sarah Pinborough

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

Dead to Her by Sarah Pinborough

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

Genre: Thriller, Suspense

Series: Stand Alone

Publisher: Hardcover: William Morrow | Audiobook: HarperAudio (February 11, 2020)

Length: Hardcover: 352 pages | Audiobook: 11 hrs and 31 mins

Author Information: Website | Twitter

Featuring old money, jealous wives, and spiritual voodoo, Dead to Her has all the ingredients of a sultry modern southern gothic mystery, and Sarah Pinborough just kills it—no pun intended.

Marcie Maddox went from greasy diner waitress living in an Idaho trailer park to becoming the wife of one of Atlanta, Georgia’s most prominent businessmen. Now she resides in a luxurious mansion, dines on fancy food at country clubs, and attends parties on million-dollar yachts. But of course, this all happened because she was having an illicit affair with Jason, now her husband, who had then divorced his first wife in order to marry Marcie. Because of this, Marcie has never managed to shake the paranoia even after their marriage, knowing all too well the tendency for Jason’s eye to wander. After all, she had been “the other woman” in his previous relationship, and as they say, “Once a cheat, always a cheat.”

Pretty soon, all of Marcie’s worst fears are realized when Jason’s best friend and boss, wealthy widower William Radford IV returns home from an extended trip to London with a stunning and sexy new wife on his arm. Young, black, and drop-dead gorgeous, Keisha immediately charms everyone in their social circle with her vivacious personality and larger-than-life presence—including Jason. But even as she feels her husband slipping away from her, Marcie can’t help but be drawn into Keisha’s orbit herself. In doing so, she discovers that the young Englishwoman might not be as carefree as she seems, haunted by her own demons and dark secrets from her past.

While I had a lot of fun with Dead to Her, let’s begin this review with a few warnings. First of all, be prepared to despise everyone in this novel. The husbands in this story are completely devoid of redeeming qualities, as both Jason and William are domineering, insensitive and pathetic blowhards who never take responsibility for their own actions and treat their wives as nothing more than a household ornament. But before you feel too bad for Marcie and Keisha, the two of them aren’t exactly angels either, being completely ruthless, duplicitous and conniving. Oh, but what a storm of good, scandalous entertainment all of them together made. It’s never a dull moment with these four, and besides, I often find that toxic marriages and deeply unlikeable characters make for scrumptiously exciting domestic thrillers.

Anyway, I don’t want to talk too much about plot details, but the second thing you should know is that there is an element of the supernatural here—just a slight touch, nothing too pronounced. But if wanting more of a speculative component or preferring none at all in your mysteries/thrillers is an issue, that’s perhaps something to keep in mind. I also thought that some of the story’s handling of the black magic and voodoo involved was a bit messy, but I suspect this might have been a result of Pinborough attempting to throw her readers off-course or keep us guessing. Admittedly, this novel doesn’t really feel as well put together as some of her previous thrillers, with some pacing issues near the beginning and the middle, though to be fair, nothing really kept me from wanting to devour it as fast as possible either.

That said, the book’s strongest moments were undoubtedly all in its second half, which made it easier to understand why the author spent so much time setting up the story in the first half. This is where you’d best hope you were paying attention, because a lot of the clues dropped earlier come back into play in a big way. If I had to level some criticism at the ending, however, I would say that perhaps the conclusions might have been a bit rushed and there were still a few questions left over when all was said and done. A lot of knowledge is also kept from us until it’s dropped on our heads very late in the game, so on some level it might lead to some readers feeling cheated. Personally speaking though, I didn’t feel any of these were dealbreakers.

Bottom line, plenty of twists and surprises abound, the interest never wanes, and Sarah Pinborough’s writing is as superb and gripping as always in Dead to Her. I don’t think I’ll ever grow tired of her work, especially her highly inventive, insanely addictive thrillers like this one. I very much hope she’ll keep ‘em coming.

YA Weekend: Heart of Flames by Nicki Pau Preto

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

Heart of Flames by Nicki Pau-Preto

Mogsy’s Rating: 4 of 5 stars

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy

Series: Book 2 of Crown of Feathers

Publisher: Simon Pulse (February 11, 2020)

Length: 640 pages

Author Information: Website | Twitter

With Heart of Flames, this series is shaping up to be pretty epic. It does what second books are supposed to do, which is progress the storyline and raise the stakes! If you haven’t read Crown of Feathers though, you might want to skip this review until you’re caught up, as I’ll probably touch upon some of the insane fallout from the first book.

For one thing, war has arrived. The Phoenix Riders are busy preparing, rigorously training wings of new recruits for the coming battle should the enemy empire formally declare engagement. Veronyka, having shed her disguise, has reunited with her phoenix and has been accepted into their ranks. However, her challenges have just begun. She wants to be a Master Rider, but there are still years of learning ahead of her, time that she does not have. The countryside is being ravaged by the invaders, and all she wants to do is to fly out and defend them.

Meanwhile, she is also keeping a dark secret, one that gets more difficult to hide by the day as her shadow magic threatens to overwhelm her control and leak into the minds of others. Worse, those closest to her seem to be the most susceptible, including Val, whom Veronyka once thought was her sister who cared for her. Instead, Val turned out to be a power-hungry Ashfire princess who is using everyone as pawns in her grand scheme to retake her empire, and she is still using her connection with Veronyka to pull the strings. Then there’s Tristan, the son of the Phoenix Rider commander and now her superior officer. As Veronyka’s romantic feelings for Tristan become more involved, she also fears that he will become affected, and dreads the day she must tell him the truth even as she gradually gleans more about her own past.

Coming in at more than 600 hundred pages, Heart of Flames is a doorstopper, but considering the sheer amount of information the author needed to reinforce, compound, and establish, the length of the book will start to make more sense. Our characters are all facing the possibility of war in their own ways, each of them chafing at limitations holding them back. For Veronyka, much of her struggle is within. Finding out the truth about Val has been a huge blow to her emotionally, the betrayal filling her with anger and sadness in equal measure. She’s also impatient and frustrated, knowing she can be doing so much more, but until she can get her magic under control, she’s going to be a liability in the field and a danger to her teammates and their phoenixes. Basically, she’s a bit of a mess. Compared to all her other problems, the tension between her and Tristan almost feel trivial as she worries he might be favoring her over the other Phoenix Riders or going too easy on her. Not to mention her magic is endangering his safety, and he doesn’t even realize it.

Tristan on his part is also coming into his own, and I like that his relationship with Veronyka is a slow burning one while we focus our attentions on matters that actually progress the story and develop him as a person. Tristan is given a leadership position but often finds himself at odds with the decisions of his father, who still sees a young and inexperienced boy he looks at his son. In a way, those insecurities are a clever mirror to the concerns Veronyka feel about being overprotected and coddled by Tristian, which help him understand a little of where she is coming from. I do like how their romance wasn’t rushed or shoved in our faces and was instead given time to grow organically. It made their later decisions and sacrifices feel a lot more realistic.

Still, if you were to ask me if every page was utilized to its full potential in this clunker of a novel, I would say no. There were moments that dragged and sections that could have been pared down and reduced, though to be fair, the narrative never took too long to regain its pace. Here I must also confess I never felt too connected with Sev’s part of the story. This might have something to do with the first book, in which I thought he spent way too much time being parked in a holding pattern while more exciting things were happening elsewhere. Maybe to an extent, my lack of interest in Sev’s chapters was impacted by the fact I barely remembered his part in Crown of Feathers, so it was more difficult for me to pick up on his story thread again here. That said, I loved that his role was greatly expanded in this sequel, which is what I’d hoped to see. Sev definitely mattered a lot more this time around, with a romance of his own and more opportunities to make an impact on the big picture. Of all our characters, he probably saw the most growth in this book, and I’m sure he’ll continue to rise in the next one.

But what really took the cake weas the ending. The final chapters were a sprint through to the climactic showdown, and after that conclusion, I’m pumped for more. In fact, I didn’t even mind too much the cliffhanger, even if it does mean a tougher wait for the concluding volume. But come phoenix fire or high water, I will be there.

More on The BiblioSanctum:
Review of Crown of Feathers (Book 1)

Bookshelf Roundup 02/15/20: 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!

Whee, first a big thank you to Ace/Roc/DAW for the following pair of beauties: Unreconciled by W. Michael Gear is the fourth book in the Donovan sequence, a sci-fi exploration/colonization series that I’ve been enjoying. I thought it was going to end with three books, so I was so happy when I found out there’ll be more. And of course, The Girl and the Stars by Mark Lawrence needs no introduction. It’s the start of the author’s new series set in the same world as his Book of the Ancestor trilogy, and I can’t wait to read it! A huge thanks also goes to the kind folks at Harper Voyager for a finished copy of Carved From Stone and Dream by T. Frohock. She’ll be spotlighted here on the blog with a guest post at the end of the month to celebrate the release of the book, so make sure to check in for that!

With thanks also to the ever generous Subterranean Press for ARCs of The Properties of Rooftop Air by Tim Powers and The Darkling Halls of Ivy edited by Lawrence Block. I couldn’t find either of these titles on Goodreads at the time of this writing, so the info I have on them is limited. But man, the cover to that Tim Powers book sure looks disturbing! Have I ever mentioned how much clowns creep me the hell out? I’d also like to thank Kaye Publicity and Henry Holt & Company for sending me a finished hardcover of Bent Heavens by Daniel Kraus. As you might recall from my comments on this book on another roundup post a while back, this is a YA horror sci-fi about alien conspiracies and abduction. Intriguing, right?

Next, my thanks to Tor Books for sending along a finished copy of The Firmament of Flame by Drew Williams, book three of the Universe After series. I’ve only read the first book which was enjoyable, but I remain on the fence about continuing the series. Perhaps once all the books are out, I will re-evaluate the decision. Also thank you tor Anchor Books for Final Cuts: New Tales of Hollywood Horror and Other Spectacles edited by Ellen Datlow. This publisher always sends me the most intriguing anthologies! While short stories aren’t really my thing, I do love the sound of a collection inspired by the dark side of cinema and television. And finally, big thanks to Wunderkind PR and Mira for this surprise copy of The Unwilling by Kelly Braffet. I hadn’t heard of it before it showed up, but it sounds interesting. Even though it’s probably going to wreak havoc with my reading schedule this month, I think I’m going to have to work it in!

 

 

And yes, I know my digital haul this week is embarrassingly huge. A bunch of review copies came in from multiple audiobook publishers this month, but first, from Del Rey via NetGalley, I snagged an eARC of Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia. The author’s always full of amazingly unique ideas, so I can’t wait to see what she’ll have in store for us with this one.

With thanks to Harper Audio, I also received a couple of YA titles: Red Hood by Elana K. Arnold, a fabulously dark looking retelling of Little Red Riding Hood, and Deathless Divide by Justina Ireland, the highly anticipated sequel to Dread Nation. Courtesy of Macmillan Audio, I also received an advance listening copy of Black Leviathan by Bernd Perplies, a fantasy retelling of Moby Dick but with dragons, as well as a couple of YA titles All the Stars and Teeth by Adalyn Grace and The Shadows Between Us by Tricia Levenseller. From Penguin Audio, I received a mystery-thriller that has been on my radar for a long time, The Sun Down Motel by Simone St. James. And finally, from Audio Studios, I received Terminus by Peter Clines, the fourth in his Threshold series. At least at this point, it appears he’s publishing more in this series exclusively as Audible Originals now.

Reviews

A Witch in Time by Constance Sayers (4 of 5 stars)
Alone in the Wild by Kelley Armstrong (4 of 5 stars)
Ashes of Onyx by Seth Skorkowsky (4 of 5 stars)
A Longer Fall by Charlaine Harris (3.5 of 5 stars)

This Week’s Reads

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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! Let me know what you plan on checking out. Until next time, see you next Roundup!:)

Friday Face-Off: Romantic

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:

“Thus with a kiss I die”
~ a ROMANTIC cover

Mogsy’s Pick:

The Darkest Star by Jennifer L. Armentrout

The topic for today’s Friday Face-Off is a romantic cover for Valentine’s Day, and even though I wasn’t crazy for this book, it features a romance and there are a couple covers well-suited to the theme. Let’s take a look at them now:

From left to right:
Tor Teen (2018) – German Edition (2019) – Italian Edition (2018)

 

Spanish Edition (2018) – Polish Edition (2018) – French Edition (2019)

 

Winner:

Despite the effusion of pinks and purples which are perfect for Valentine’s Day, my goodness some of these covers are just awful. The most fitting one for today though also happens to be my top pick.

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

Book Review: A Witch in Time by Constance Sayers

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

A Witch in Time by Constance Sayers

Mogsy’s Rating: 4 of 5 stars

Genre: Fantasy, Historical Fiction

Series: Stand Alone

Publisher: Redhook (February 11, 2020)

Length: 448 pages

Author Information: Website | Twitter

I really enjoyed A Witch in Time, but I’ll say this right off the bat—it’s not going to be for everyone. First of all, if you’re looking for a “witchy” book, with magic and spells and all that jazz, well…this is not going to be it. What we have here is more like a love story, and it’s a strange one at that. Delving into the concept of past lives and predetermined fate, this novel follows three characters and their various incarnations going back for more than a hundred years.

But we first begin the story in the present with Helen, an ambitious journalist working the political circuit in Washington DC. Having recently divorced Roger, a man she’d thought would be her soulmate, Helen is finally feeling up to seeing other people again and is about to sit down to a blind date with Luke Varner. However, she senses a strange familiarity when she really looks at Luke, even though she’s almost certain they’ve never met before. But Luke informs her that, in fact, they are very well acquainted—not in this life, perhaps, but in the past, when she was a different person.

Helen leaves the date convinced that everything Luke told her was nonsense, but that night, she has a series of vivid dreams in which she is Juliet LaCompte, a sixteen-year-old French farm girl in 1895. At the time, Juliet was involved in an affair with Parisian painter Auguste Marchant, with whom she was madly in love. Unfortunately, he did not feel the same way and left her broken-hearted and with child. Juliet’s mother, a hedge witch who dabbled in the dark arts, invoked a curse on Marchant, but inadvertently ended up binding her daughter to the spell as well. A demonic servant, Luke—who was known then as Lucian Varnier—was then roped in as the administrator of the dark pact, and thus the three of them were forever bound. Juliet and Marchant are cursed to reincarnate again and again, and in each life they will fall in love, only to have that love eventually fail spectacularly, with no exception. An immortal, Luke must find each iteration of Juliet to help her remember the events that started it all, and hope that one day they will manage to break this vicious cycle.

As the story progresses, Helen eventually recalls two more past lives, one as Nora Wheeler, a 19-year-old aspiring actress from the 1930s who had moved from New York City to Hollywood in order to become a star. The next is Sandra Keane, a young Los Angeles musician in the 70s who traveled with her band to a remote studio in New Mexico to record their first album. In both lives, the women fell in love with men who were incarnations of Marchant. And both times, Luke was there to see her through the disastrous results. Because Juliet was the daughter of a witch, she had the magic that enabled her to remember the past lives, but the curse also meant that she always died young. Her incarnations never lived past thirty-four, as that was the age Juliet’s mother died when she made her deal with a demon.

So, essentially what we’re getting are four stories in A Witch in Time, each featuring different settings and characters, but they are all trapped in the same pattern cursed to repeat forever. It’s a bizarre structure, but somehow it worked. With each remembered past life, the details are wildly different—and Juliet/Nora/Sandra/Helen all have their own unique personalities, even if they do represent the same person. In fact, this point plays a key role in the novel, as Luke struggles with his feelings for the different versions of Juliet, watching someone he cares for very much die and live again, not knowing what the next cycle will bring. He’s perhaps the most sympathetic character in the book, because he’s the one constant who remembers everything from the past hundred and twenty-five odd years or so. While Helen’s character development feels disjointed because it is punctuated by all her dreams and memories of her past lives, we can track Luke’s motivations through history as he makes mistakes, learns from them, and tries to be a better guardian each time.

There’s also a strong thread of romance here, which I suppose culminates into a love story at the end, but it would still be extremely tough to categorize this book. So often I found myself wanting to immerse myself in its storm of emotions, but at the same time, the novel’s very premise presented a barrier to that. After all, if the characters are always fated to end up in the same position in each life, are the feelings they have truly genuine then?

Yes, it’s a messy situation, which results in a somewhat messy novel. That said, I don’t know if searching for a “point” behind it is the way to go. I personally kicked back and simply allowed the story to take me where it wanted to go, and I enjoyed myself immensely because of it. The stories of Helen’s past lives built upon each other, and with each dream she had, more was revealed. And as I said, each life she lived had its surprising plot twists and interesting developments. As its title suggests, this book was a romp through time, and it was pure delight to visit the different historical eras. What’s more, as we make our way towards the end, the suspense builds as we wonder if Helen will remember everything in time before her predestined death, and whether or not she will have what it takes to break the curse once and for all.

Bottom line, I thought A Witch in Time was refreshingly different—a somewhat unusual but interesting read. I had a good time, which surprised me, since I’m not normally one for stories that are made up of smaller parts stitched together, which pretty much describes this one. I won’t deny there were some missteps, a few details here and there that didn’t hold water, but I suppose that’s typically a consequence when dealing with books like this. It’s not one I would recommend to everyone, but I do urge you to give it a try if the synopsis grabs your attention. At the end of the day, I enjoyed myself, and that’s all that matters.