Friday Face-Off: The Night

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:

“Do not go gentle”
~ a cover featuring THE NIGHT

Mogsy’s Pick:
The Midnight Queen by Sylvia Izzo Hunter

I have featured books with multiple editions for the last few Friday Face-Offs so this week I thought I would simplify things with another head-to-head contest. While there were plenty of covers to choose from featuring the night, I decided to go with The Midnight Queen, a Regency fantasy novel which blends together magic, romance, and historical fiction elements. The story follows Gray Marshall, a student at Merlin College who falls out of favor with the school following a midnight errand gone awry. Disgraced, he is sent away to the summer home of the arrogant and unpleasant Professor Appius Callendar until such time the college can decide his fate.

It’s there that Gray has the pleasure of meeting the professor’s middle daughter Sophie. Even though he was told none of the Callendar girls were born with any magical talent, Gray senses something strange about Sophie. The two of them strike up a friendship, and so when astounding revelations are revealed about Sophie’s past, Gray is wrapped up in the whirlwind of events.

Let’s check out the covers:

Ace Books (2014) vs. Allison & Busby (2016)

 

And as a bonus, here are the covers to the sequels too, even though I haven’t read them yet:

Lady of Magick by Sylvia Izzo Hunter

Ace Books (2015) vs. Allison & Busby (2017)

 

A Season of Spells by Sylvia Izzo Hunter

Ace Books (2016)

Winner:

These are all beautiful covers (especially if you love owls) but for The Midnight Queen I’m going to have to go with the 2016 Allison & Busby edition for this one.

What do you think? Which one is your favorite?

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Book Review: Into the Drowning Deep by Mira Grant

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

Into the Drowning Deep by Mira Grant

Mogsy’s Rating: 3 of 5 stars

Genre: Horror

Series: Book 1 of Rolling in the Deep

Publisher: Orbit (November 14, 2017)

Length: 512 pages

Author Information: Website | Twitter

Here’s the thing: I like Seanan McGuire, but for some strange reason or another her books always seem to rub me the wrong way when she writes as Mira Grant. Because of this, I almost didn’t pick up Into the Drowning Deep, but in the end, I’m glad I did—the premise of a horror novel about mermaids was just too amazing for me to pass up, and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have at least bit of fun with it. Still, I wish I’d enjoyed the book more, though like I said, there’s probably a precedent for some of my more conflicted sentiments, namely that some of the same issues I’ve had in the past with her characters and world-building just kept cropping up.

While Into the Drowning Deep is the start of a new story, it is also technically the follow-up to Rolling in the Deep, a novella chronicling the tragic fate of the cruise liner Atargatis which set sail for the Mariana Trench seven years ago on a mission to film a mockumentary about the existence of mermaids. Only, no one made it back alive. Every member of the Imagine Entertainment studio film crew was reported lost at sea, including the sister of Victoria “Tory” Stewart, who has now made it a personal mission to discover the truth of what happened on that doomed voyage. Tory’s only clues are the final terrified messages received from her sister, as well as some fuzzy raw footage recovered from the ship after the disaster, showing lots of panic and screaming amidst what looks to be a brutal attack. But from whom…or what?

Now, with the hopes of putting the rumors and speculation to rest once and for all, Imagine Entertainment has decided to launch a second expedition to the Mariana Trench, putting together a film crew aboard the Melusine. This time, however, they’re determined to be ready for anything. If there are mermaids lurking in the deep, they want a full science team on hand to accompany their troop of reality TV personalities, the better to record every detail of the discovery for their viewers. Heading this mission is Theodore Blackwell who is every bit Imagine’s man, there to look out for his employer’s interests. Along for the ride is his estranged wife Dr. Jillian Toth, a renowned marine biologist who has dedicated her life’s work to proving the existence of mermaids. In addition, a number of young scientists have also accepted Imagine’s invitation to join the expedition, including Tory who is a graduate student of marine acoustics, though her personal connection with a member of the Atargatis was also a factor in the decision to add her to the roster. In spite of everything, Imagine is still first and foremost in the business of entertainment, and having a cast member whose sister disappeared on the last expedition would be an irresistible hook. Tory knows she’s being used, but doesn’t care; all she wants is the truth and vengeance.

Even though Mira Grant is McGuire’s pseudonym for her horror novels, these stories often also include an element of suspense. Into the Drowning Deep appears to have been written with the tradition of Crichton or Preston & Child in mind, utilizing the typical thriller genre devices such as frequent POV asides and the essential third act twist. This is definitely a good thing, as it kept the story moving along swiftly even for this longer-than-average book. The introduction was perhaps just a tad too drawn out, which meant the story took some time to get off the ground, but once the legwork was completed and all our main players were brought together aboard the Melusine, that was when the real fun started.

Indeed, if you can get over how absurd the plot eventually becomes, you should have no problems getting into this book. Problem is though, I can only suspend my disbelief to a point before the inconsistencies and poor explanations start piling up and getting in the way of my enjoyment. I remember having the same issues with the author’s Parasite, where it seemed pretty obvious that she only did the bare amount of research before trying to pass it off in the book as realistic science. Again, I might just be overly critical because of my background in biology, but I grew increasingly frustrated at the way this book tried to fudge the scientific aspects. While it’s not a deal breaker by any means (I read sci-fi and fantasy after all, which does somewhat bolster my tolerance for authors simply making shit up), I believe that being thorough and paying high attention to the details is what ultimately separates the chaff from the wheat, and Grant probably didn’t put in as much effort as she could have to make her concepts feel as realistic and accurate as possible, which diminished the suspense quite a bit.

Then, there were the characters. I just don’t know what it is with Seanan McGuire’s protagonists when she’s writing as Mira Grant, but from George Mason in Feed to Sal in Parasite, I can’t stand any of them. Unfortunately, the characters in this book were no exception—most of them were self-centered, entitled brats who often acted out of impetuousness and self-gratification rather than logic and reason. Worse, these were all supposed to be scientists, but many of them—especially the women scientists like Tory, Dr. Toff, and the Wilson sisters—were portrayed as driven by their emotions rather than any form of rationality, which propagates an annoying stereotype. Seriously, there’s a time and place for voicing opinions on controversial topics, but in the middle of whale watching tour is not one of them, especially when you’re the guide. How dense does one have to be to lose control on the job like that, and not expect to be fired? And yes, while we’re at it, let’s just go ahead and put a personal vendetta ahead of scientific discovery, and damn the consequences of lost knowledge. Also—and here’s just a mild spoiler alert—if you’re a professional on any kind of scientific expedition, you should know that on high-risk excursions, when mission control says “Get your ass back to the surface”, you should do just that. What you shouldn’t do is throw caution to the wind, ignoring safety commands to go joyriding in your deep-sea submersible just to satisfy some personal dream. That’s how bad things happen.

But anyway, enough ranting from me. As you can see, a lot of my issues with Into the Drowning Deep fall into the “It’s not the book, it’s me” category, which probably just means I’m being too picky. Had this novel not hit upon a couple of my major pet peeves, I’m sure I would have enjoyed it more, and truth be told, there’s still plenty of entertainment value to be found. All in all, I think this is a pretty decent horror thriller if you’re willing to overlook a few flaws and certain things in the story that don’t make sense, and I would still recommend it for fans of the genre and encourage you to give it a try if the premise strikes your fancy.

Book Review: My Soul to Keep by Tananarive Due

My Soul to Keep by Tananarive Due

Genre: Supernatural

Series: African Immortals #1

Publisher: Harper Voyager (1997)

Author Info:  tananarivedue.com

Wendy’s Rating: 4 of 5 stars

“My mother used to say to me that she collected sorrows and put them in her pocket. Walking around with them that way, by and by, you just learn to carry them all a bit better, to stand up a bit straighter. That’s all life is, on this earth anyway.”

Dawit is an immortal. 500 years ago, he was gifted with eternal life. Initially, this meant living life to the fullest, learning, loving, and leaving, as long as he didn’t break the rules of sharing the secrets of his brotherhood. This is obviously where our drama come in, because Dawit’s love for music draws him to the ever-evolving mortal world where, every once in a while, he falls in love with a soul that speaks to his own. Even though he knows it cannot be forever.

Jessica believes David to be everything she could possibly want in a man, a husband, a friend, and a father. But what she does not know about his past begins to catch up when her investigative journalism leads her on a path that brings his previous life into focus.

Due tells the story from mainly Jessica and Dawit’s points of view. From the beginning, we know what he is and learn more about his past and present, including the very powerful reason why he chooses to say in the United States, despite living through the horrors of slavery as a black man. Due skillfully blends actual history with the fantasy of the story. We know what Dawit does to keep his secret, so it is the question of how Jessica will find out that drives the plot.

Jessica’s denial or lack of realization is sometimes frustrating, but only because it is realistic when we consider how easily strong emotions can have us convince ourselves to accept lies even when the truth hangs right before our faces. Due takes the time to show how easily people can be blinded, even and especially by the ones we love the most. This isn’t Stockholm Syndrome. It’s the reality of relationships where you can write off those “little things” until you suddenly find that your world has fallen apart. At that point, it seems like the person you loved is suddenly a stranger, but in reality, those “little things” have always been there, trying to warn you of the truth. Though things drag in places, Due does a stellar job of taking us through Dawit and Jessica’s relationship such that, when things eventually fall apart, there’s still uncertainty as to which direction it will all go.

One of the things I admire in Due’s writing is the way she deals with the human body. I love how she is unafraid to let her characters express themselves through their emotional and mental state, and how their bodies reflect this. Not just the pretty or sexy parts. From sweaty armpits to morning breath, attention to such detail might seem squicky to some, but to me, it lends authenticity and relatability to the characters.

The various ways in which Due ingrains her characters into the reader’s mind makes me admire her writing style and want to read more. Nalo Hopkinson’s quote on Due’s short story collection, Ghost Summer Stories is most apt:

“Tananarive Due’s characters quietly into your heart and take up residence. You love them, you fear for them, and they scare you half to death.”

 

 

Waiting on Wednesday 12/06/17

“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

Noir by Christopher Moore (April 17, 2018 by William Morrow)

I’m ashamed to admit I’ve never read Christopher Moore, though his books have always called to me with their promise of humor and quirk. But as soon as I learned of his upcoming novel Noir, I knew I had to read it. This mix of intriguing characters and the film noir style is simply too good to miss. The cover already has me chuckling, but knowing Moore’s reputation, I have a feeling that’s just a part of the picture!

“The absurdly outrageous, sarcastically satiric, and always entertaining New York Times bestselling author Christopher Moore returns in finest madcap form with this zany noir set on the mean streets of post-World War II San Francisco, and featuring a diverse cast of characters, including a hapless bartender; his Chinese sidekick; a doll with sharp angles and dangerous curves; a tight-lipped Air Force general; a wisecracking waif; Petey, a black mamba; and many more.

San Francisco. Summer, 1947. A dame walks into a saloon . . .

It’s not every afternoon that an enigmatic, comely blonde named Stilton (like the cheese) walks into the scruffy gin joint where Sammy “Two Toes” Tiffin tends bar. It’s love at first sight, but before Sammy can make his move, an Air Force general named Remy arrives with some urgent business. ’Cause when you need something done, Sammy is the guy to go to; he’s got the connections on the street.

Meanwhile, a suspicious flying object has been spotted up the Pacific coast in Washington State near Mount Rainer, followed by a mysterious plane crash in a distant patch of desert in New Mexico that goes by the name Roswell. But the real weirdness is happening on the streets of the City by the Bay.

When one of Sammy’s schemes goes south and the Cheese mysteriously vanishes, Sammy is forced to contend with his own dark secrets—and more than a few strange goings on—if he wants to find his girl.

Think Raymond Chandler meets Damon Runyon with more than a dash of Bugs Bunny and the Looney Tunes All Stars. It’s all very, very Noir. It’s all very, very Christopher Moore.”

Book Review: The Girl in the Tower by Katherine Arden

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

The Girl in the Tower by Katherine Arden

Mogsy’s Rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

Genre: Fantasy, Historical Fiction

Series: Book 2 of The Winternight Trilogy

Publisher: Del Rey (December 5, 2017)

Length: 352 pages

Author Information: Website | Twitter

Mark my words, Katherine Arden is definitely going places. Early this year, she enchanted me with her lovely debut The Bear and the Nightingale, and now she has done it again with its follow-up The Girl in the Tower, which I thought was just as good—if not better—than its predecessor.

The story continues the journey of brave Vasya, a young woman with a gift that grants her a special connection with the wilderness and the spirits that dwell within. But in the small Russian village where she lives, her abilities and strange behaviors eventually give rise to rumors that she is a witch, made worse by the town’s zealous priest who holds a grudge against her. Now she has been driven out of her community, her options reduced to either letting her older sister arrange a marriage for her, or spending the rest of her life in a convent. Neither are acceptable to Vasya, so in the end she decides to take her fate in her own hands and attempts to forge a third path.

Disguising herself as a boy, Vasya takes to the road with Solovey, her trusty horse. Her adventures are cut short, however, when she encounters a group of bandits who have been preying on the nearby villages in the countryside. Unfortunately, her swift dispatching of them ends up drawing the attention of the Grand Prince of Moscow, whose party had been in the woods at the time, trying to track down the same bandits. Worse, riding with the prince is Vasya’s own brother Sasha, who had left home years ago to pledge his life to the monastery. Seeing through his sister’s disguise at once, Sasha nonetheless agrees not to reveal Vasya’s true identity as the two of them ride on to the capital with the prince, pretending to be brothers. For the moment, it seems our protagonist’s secret is safe, but with the precarious political situation in the city and the eye of the Winter King trained on her, Vasya must remain on her guard at all times.

While I loved The Bear and the Nightingale, like many debuts, the first book suffered from some flaws. Some of the ones I wrote about in my review included uneven pacing, which slowed to a crawl in certain parts of the story, as well as the excessive number of POVs and minor subplots that felt haphazardly inserted into the narrative, further disrupting the flow. The good news is, I experienced almost none of these problems in The Girl in the Tower, which really speaks to Arden’s growth as an author. It seems she’s ironed out most of the issues readers had with the first book, and the result is a much smoother and more tightly-plotted sequel.

When I read the first book, I also thought it a bit strange that Arden would make Sasha was such a huge part of Vasya’s life, only to send him away to become a monk, seemingly to be forgotten. As it turns out though, she actually had big plans for him in the second book, and indeed Sasha is one of the main characters in The Girl in the Tower, along with Vasya and their older sister Olga. While it’s true that they don’t always see eye to eye (especially when it comes to Vasya’s future), it still really pleased me to see more interaction between the three siblings, especially given how long we’ve watched Vasya struggle by herself. It was nice seeing her surrounded by love and support again, even if it was only for a brief period of time.

And speaking of developing relationships, this book also builds upon the complicated one between Vasya and Morozko, the powerful spirit known as the Winter King or the Frost Demon. Again, the story teases a bit more about his character—still not giving us all the answers, but readers who wanted to see more of his involvement in Vasya’s journey will be very happy with the way things are going, I think.

To be honest, I wasn’t sure what to make of it when I initially heard that The Bear and the Nightingale was going to be the start of a trilogy instead of a standalone. It’s always a challenge to follow up a successful debut, and I was worried Katherine Arden wouldn’t be able to come up with more to Vasya’s tale that’s worth telling. I realize now that those concerns were unwarranted, and I am glad because I found The Girl in the Tower to be as enchanting as the first book. In some ways, it even surpasses its predecessor, with a story that features more action, better pacing, and darker tones. As a reader, I just can’t ask for more than that. Now I’m very excited for the third book, which I’m sure will a finale to remember if this upward trend continues.

*** Originally reviewed at The Speculative Herald ***

More on The BiblioSanctum:
Review of The Bear and the Nightingale (Book 1)

Book Review: The Fall of the Readers by Django Wexler

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

The Fall of the Readers by Django Wexler

Mogsy’s Rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

Genre: Fantasy, Middle Grade, Children’s

Series: Book 3 of The Forbidden Library

Publisher: Kathy Dawson Books (December 5, 2017)

Length: 368 pages

Author Information: Website | Twitter

Django Wexler’s outstanding Middle Grade series The Forbidden Library comes full circle in The Fall of the Readers, the concluding volume of this richly dark and enchanting adventure through the magical world of books. So far we’ve seen the young protagonist Alice through some very harrowing times, following her as she visits new worlds and encounters their strange and whimsical inhabitants—some of whom turn out to be allies, while others reveal themselves to be fiendish and dangerous enemies.

But now, Alice is about to face her biggest challenge. If you’re not caught up with this series yet, please be aware that this review may contain spoilers for the previous three books, because The Fall of the Readers is definitely not meant to be read on its own. This fourth and final installment wraps up a saga that has been long in the making. It all began with the disappearance of Alice’s father which landed her in the care of her uncle Geryon, a crotchety old man who actually turned out to be a member of a ruthless organization of sorcerers known as the Readers. To her shock, Alice discovered that she has the same magical powers that allow her to enter the world of certain books, enabling her to subdue and bind the nasty creatures locked within to harness their special abilities. Although she agreed to study as Geryon’s apprentice, it soon became clear that her uncle may have had something to do with her father’s disappearance. Stricken, Alice decided to strike back, but in doing so, she also incurred the wrath of the older and more powerful Readers who are now targeting her and her friends in retribution.

Desperate for a way to safeguard those she cares about, Alice decides to turn to the powerful cat-like entity known as Ending for a way to defeat the old Readers once and for all. The mysterious Labyrinthine reveals that in fact there is a way—but Alice probably won’t like it. The plan will involve great risk to our protagonist and her friends, as well as all the otherworldly creatures they’ve agreed to protect. But with the old Readers’ attacks growing more frequent, Alice knows it’s only a matter of time before her defenses will fall, and since surrender is not an option, it is better to take the chance and hope for success. Better to go down fighting than to sit and watch as the enemy destroys you little by little over time.

This being the last book, there is a distinct sense of urgency to the story which keeps any digressions and mini side-plots to a minimum. In every aspect that counts though, Wexler comes through with flying colors, conceding no ground in areas like character and story development. The Fall of the Readers basically thrives on its plot, the book’s greatest strength proving to be its ability to make you want to turning the pages and never put it down. As a result, this was a lightning quick read for me, but it’s important to note that the pacing still remained well-balanced and appropriate for the different events of the story.

But the most amazing thing about this book is Alice. Not only is she a heroine you want to root for, she’s also one you’d definitely want on your side. She’s smart, brave, and strong. She’s an amazing friend and role model, as well as a leader who takes charge. But because she’s young and still learning a lot about the burdens of responsibility, the pressure of so many lives depending on her can sometimes lead her to make rash decisions. This book sees Alice growing up fast, having to learn to deal with the consequences of her mistakes, but instead of growing more jaded with her failures, she simply becomes even more determined.

Because the story itself is so streamlined though, this does leave little room for other characters to play much of a role. But ultimately this might not even be an issue, given the way we’ve been made to care so much about Alice, thus conveying the understanding that this series has always been about her journey, and now only she—and she alone—can see it through to the end. My only disappointment in this is the fact that we got to see much less of favorites like Isaac and Ashes the talking cat. Still, I believe Wexler was fully aware of this, because he also made sure to make the most out the scenes between Alice and Isaac, continuing to develop their friendship and perhaps nudge it towards something more, and yes, thankfully we still get plenty of Ashes’ epic snark!

Of course, the world-building was also fantastic, and what impressed me was seeing how all the elements of the world finally came together in this climactic conclusion. There was a big twist near the end that I wish I could have said I saw coming, since I pride myself on paying attention to the details, but the truth is, the author was imply very clever and subtle in his foreshadowing and hint dropping.

Like all good endings, The Fall of the Readers managed to unite the various themes and elements from the previous books, gradually building tension and momentum until events culminate in an epic showdown. This novel has everything you want in a finale, from excitement and suspense to tenderness and heartbreak. I think fans of the series, no matter how old you are, will be very happy at how things play out. I know I am! The Forbidden Library is another winner from Django Wexler, a series of magical and endearing books that I would not hesitate recommending to children and adults alike.

More on The BiblioSanctum:
Review of The Forbidden Library (Book 1)
Review of The Mad Apprentice (Book 2)
Review of The Palace of Glass (Book 3)
Exploring the Forbidden Library: An Interview with Django Wexler

Audiobook Review: Captive Prince by C.S. Pacat

Captive Prince by C.S. Pacat
Genre: Fantasy, LGBTQ, Erotica
Series: Captive Prince #1
Publisher: Berkeley (January 28, 2014)
Tiara’s Rating: WHEW, LAD!

 

Narrator: Stephen Bel Davies | Length: 6 hours and 48 mins | Audiobook Publisher: Audible Studios (June 26, 2017) | Whispersync Ready: Yes

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First let me say, I was very wrong about what I thought this book was about—or rather how the story was going to be structured. For some reason, I thought this was a young adult book, and I was expecting the typical captive hero meets forbidden love interest from a rival county and they go on an adventure to change the course history or what-the-fuck-ever for both of their countries. That was not this book. I read this with a couple of friends, and we were all under the impression this was your typical young adult book. One friend stopped reading pretty early when we quickly learned otherwise because she finds stories like these triggering, and I don’t blame her for that.

Captive Prince follows two princes—Prince Damen of Akielos and Prince Laurent of Vere. Following a coup orchestrated by Prince Damen’s half-brother, his court is told he’s dead. In reality, he’s gifted to Prince Laurent as a pleasure slave. Everyone is unaware that Damen is the actual prince of Akielos and not just a pleasure slave named for him. Prince Laurent hates Akielos, so their relationship starts as a naturally antagonistic one. While both countries have pleasure slaves, the slaves of Damen’s country are trained to be gentle and agreeable. In turn, it’s seen as a grievous offense to abuse a slave in Damen’s country. In Vere, a country that thrives on political backstabbing and manipulation, slaves are often subjected to cruelty depending on the whims, interests, or disinterests of their masters. Damen doesn’t reveal his true identity since Vere has severe views of him due to a past battle that saw the people of Akielos prevail over Vere thanks to Damen. He struggles with being a slave while trying to let go of enough of his ego and willful nature to gain the trust he needs to eventually to escape. Vere is not kind to Damen, and Laurent makes his stay more miserable. Damen soon finds himself an unwitting pawn in political intrigue in the royal house involving Laurent and the regent king who happens to be Laurent’s uncle.

This book has an obvious pairing in mind with Damen and Laurent, but honestly, I’m not feeling it at this point. The master and slave narrative in a situation that deals with forced enslavement and not consensual relationships in a BDSM setting can be prickly. It’s too easy for the narrative to turn into some gross apologist story that asks readers to sympathize with the “master” inflicting horrors on their slave, and I haven’t decided if this story is that or not. Laurent is a dreadful human being even if he does use his power to do random good things. I might’ve been a little more in favor of the relationship even with Laurent being a major asshole if the story hadn’t asked me to accept this romance is probably still on even after Laurent brutalized Damen (which Damen did do something totally unacceptable before, but the brutal retaliation was a bit much).

It boils down to this. Overly romanticized, graphic sexual violence can be shaky ground with me and books. I would be lying if I said even I didn’t indulge from time to time. I have guilty pleasure reads that I wouldn’t necessary recommend to other people, but there comes a point when it can be too much and repulsive rather than romantic and/or sexy. This book has sort of hit that point for me not only with the slavery situation, but other very prickly subjects such as underaged pleasure slaves. However, there were parts of the story that intrigued me and little nuggets of things I think I spotted in the story, which means I’ll probably read the next book(s). Another plus for this is that if you can overlook that one scene, it’s kind of refreshing that Damen and Laurent didn’t fall into each other arms immediately. If you can overlook the sexualized violence of this book, this is obviously meant to be a slow burn type of romance.

I purposely did not rate this story because I have so many mixed feelings. This book made me feel so many things, and even made me confront some personal prejudices I have when it comes to things like this—such as the fact that if either character had been female (especially if it had been Damen who has darker skin and regarded as a barbarian) I would’ve quit the story as soon as I started. So, I did have to do some self-reflection because I have been absolutely brutal on stories similar to this with heterosexual couples.

Current mood about this book:

 

 

Novella Review: The Squirrel on the Train by Kevin Hearne

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

The Squirrel on the Train by Kevin Hearne

Mogsy’s Rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

Genre: Urban Fantasy

Series: Book 2 of Oberon’s Meaty Mysteries

Publisher: Subterranean Press (November 30, 2017)

Length: 114 pages

Author Information: Website | Twitter

These Oberon side stories have been given a series name now, called Oberon’s Meaty Mysteries (which is just so perfect) so hopefully that will mean a lot more of these hilarious novellas to come! Spinning off from Kevin Hearne’s Iron Druid Chronicles, this book once again follows Atticus O’Sullivan’s faithful Irish wolfhound as he and his owner embark (pun intended) upon another mini-adventure to solve a mystery and bring the dastardly culprits to justice.

While knowing the basics behind the main Iron Druid series will help you get the most out of this story, thankfully like its predecessor The Purloined Poodle, this one can be read perfectly fine as a standalone if you just feel like jumping in. This time, our doggie protagonist and his human are off to Portland. But first, Oberon would like everyone to know: Squirrels are pure evil and must be stopped at all costs—especially when they are so bold as to hitch a ride on the train.

After giving chase to a particularly impudent squirrel through the crowded Portland station and banishing it into a stairwell, Oberon and his fellow canine companions Orlaith and Starbuck inadvertently lead Atticus to stumble upon the scene of a crime. A man with an uncanny resemblance to him has been murdered, shot through the skull with a plastic bolt fired from a crossbow. Stunned and disturbed at how much the victim looks like him, Atticus is driven to do some investigating for himself, and with few leads to work with, the lead detective on the case reluctantly agrees to let the druid and his hounds help her out.

I’ve only read a few books in the Iron Druid Chronicles, but even with my limited experience with the series, it was impossible not to fall in love with Oberon. For readers who simply can’t get enough of this goofy pooch, you must read these novellas, which are completely told from his point of view, and as an added bonus, this book also features a lot more of his fellow wolfhound Orlaith as well as Starbuck the Boston terrier. Once again Hearne does a fantastic job putting his readers inside his canine characters’ heads, and all the doggy quips never failed to crack me up. In particular, Starbuck reminds me very much of my own dog with his adorable outbursts of “Yes food!” or “No squirrel!” which sounds just about right.

Compared to the first book though, this one was perhaps a tad less funny, with many of the jokes and pop culture references feeling a bit forced. The mystery plot was also a bit slapdash in places, with explanations that don’t make a lot sense or are simply glossed over to push the story along. Still, I can’t say I minded too much, considering these novellas are meant to be breezy little excursions on the side and nothing too complex. That said, in a head-to-head, I would hand the edge to The Purloined Poodle in a heartbeat, hence my slightly lower rating to this follow-up, but in the end you really can’t go wrong with either of these novellas which are both solidly fun and entertaining.

Bottom line? I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Dog lovers, Iron Druid enthusiasts, and Kevin Hearne fans—this one’s for you. I had a great time with The Squirrel on the Train, which proved to be another lighthearted diversion featuring one of Urban Fantasy’s most popular and beloved pets. With luck, I hope to see even more books starring Oberon in the future.

More on The BiblioSanctum:
Review of The Purloined Poodle (Book 1)

Mogsy’s Bookshelf Roundup: Stacking the Shelves & Recent Reads

Bookshelf Roundup is a feature I do every other 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 round up what I’ve read since the last update 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

Thank you to the publishers and authors for the following review copies received. For more details and full descriptions of the books, be sure to click the links to their Goodreads pages!

Persepolis Rising by James S.A. Corey, the seventh book of the much raved about Expanse series. I’ve been waiting soooo impatiently for this one, and I can’t wait to start!

Also thanks to Subterranean Press for an ARC of Phoresis by Greg Egan! Like a lot of the books the publisher sends to me early, I can’t seem to find anything online about this book yet, but the description on the back describes it as a narrative chronicling a tale of two planets. One is inhabited while the other is not, though with the former’s resources dwindling, its people are hoping to build a bridge from their planet to its (hopefully) inhabitable sister. Sounds interesting indeed.

Next up is a new-to-me book courtesy of Fiery Seas Publishing and the kind folks at Wunderkind PR. Demon Freaks by J.R.R.R. Hardison sounds totally bizarre. A group of punk rocker kids need to ace their SATs so they sequester themselves in an isolated cabin in the woods in order to cram for it. What could go wrong? The evil Golfer’s Association, that’s what. This might be a little too silly for me, but if you enjoy quirky books like this, you should check it out!

Another surprise arrival coming up, this one with thanks to Entangled Publishing. The November Girl by Lydia Kang follows a half-mortal named Anda who is born of the lake and is the bringer of November storms. When a runaway named Hector ends up on her island on Lake Superior, an unexpected relationship forms. I gotta admit, while I’m generally iffy when it comes to magical realism novels, something about this one really speaks to me. It’s also gotten some fantastic reviews so far, so hopefully I’ll have time to take a look.

With thanks to Inkshares I also received a finished copy of Sorcery for Beginners by Euphemia Whitmore with Matt Harry. I had hoped to read the ARC of it this summer, but the release date snuck up on me quick!

And from BookishFirst, I read and shared my thoughts on an excerpt from The Girl in the Tower by Katherine Arden, and ended up winning a raffle for the ARC! I’ve already read it and loved it, so be sure to keep an eye out for my review next week.


Kicking off my next batch of new books is an ARC of Child of a Mad God by R.A. Salvatore, the start of a new series from the author who brought us Drizzt Do’Urden. I also got an ARC of Shroud of Eternity by Terry Goodkind, the sequel to Death’s Mistress. Next up are a couple of finished copies: Hymn by Ken Scholes, which is the final volume of his Psalms of Isaak series (unfortunately I have not read any of the previous books), and Weave a Circle Round by Kari Maaren which I’m really looking forward to reading (hopefully soon!) I also love the adorable key bookmark it came with. Thank you Tor for all the great books!

I would also like to thank Pyr books for sending me a finished copy of The Nine by Tracy Townsend, which I am so excited to read especially since I’ve heard such amazing things about it recently! I couldn’t quite manage to fit it in my November schedule, but I’m starting it now. Since I prepare these posts ahead of time, by the time you’re reading these words, hopefully I’ll be well into the story already and enjoying the hell out of it. And finally, I received an ARC of Blade and Bone by Jon Sprunk, which is the third volume of the Book of the Black Earth series. I’ve only read the first book, so yes, I’m a bit behind!

Wait, what’s this? More goodies from Tor! A couple weeks ago I was surprised to receive from them a large lumpy package, and when I opened it, I found six of these paperback-sized hardcovers inside. Apparently they are part of a new line of miniature books that Tor just put out, with selections ranging from Tor’s older classic titles to newer releases. The full list of releases are Edgedancer by Brandon SandersonSix Months, Three Days, Five Others by Charlie Jane AndersEnder’s Game by Orson Scott CardWild Cards edited by George R.R. MartinOld Man’s War by John Scalzi; and From the Two Rivers by Robert Jordan. With dimensions of 4 x 6, these are definitely “mini-sized” and oh so cute! My thanks again to Tor for this cool set, and also for giving me a great holiday gift idea for some of my more bookish friends.

 

After several weeks of binging on NetGalley I’ve resolved to reign in my requests this month, so there’s only a couple new books in the digital haul. From St. Martin’s Press/Wednesday Books I was sent a widget invite to Between the Blade and the Heart by Amanda Hocking, a Young Adult novel inspired by the Valkyries of Norse mythology. From First to Read I also lucked out and scored a review copy of Reign of the Fallen by Sarah Glenn Marsh, which I had entered a draw for because it looked interesting!

Reviews

A quick summary of the reviews I’ve posted since the last update:

Communication Failure by Joe Zieja (4 of 5 stars)
ReMade created by Matthew Cody (4 of 5 stars)
Origin by Dan Brown (4 of 5 stars)
Above the Timberline by Gregory Manchess
Awakenings by Edward Lazellari (3.5 of 5 stars)
Provenance by Ann Leckie (3 of 5 stars)

Interviews & Guest Posts

A huge thanks to author S.C. Flynn for stopping by The BiblioSanctum this week with a guest post featuring a character from his new novel The Hidden Face!

Guest Post: “Malombra Reviews The Hidden Face!” by S.C. Flynn

 

What I’ve Read Since the Last Update

Here’s what I’ve “unstacked” from the TBR since my last roundup post. Reviews are coming soon!

   

  

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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: Fancy Font

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 pen is mightier than the sword”
~ a cover featuring a FANCY FONT

Mogsy’s Pick:
Caraval by Stephanie Garber

YA book covers always seem have the prettiest typeface. Hence, this week I went with a book about a pair of teen sisters who live on a secluded island under the eye of their cruel, abusive father. Ever since they were little, Scarlett and Tella have both dreamed of Caraval, a legendary performance held only once a year in a far-away land. For years, Scarlett has written to Legend, the mysterious ringmaster behind Caraval, begging him to bring his show to their lonely island, but never once has she received a reply…until now.

Unfortunately, Legend’s invitation couldn’t have come at a more inconvenient time. Scarlett has all but given up on seeing Caraval, and there’s no way she can travel there now, with the marriage her father had arranged for her happening in about week. While she has never met her fiancé, Scarlett could hardly care; all she wants to do is leave her island for good, taking Tella with her so that they can escape their horrible father forever. What she didn’t count on, however, was her sister having different plans. On her own, Tella had made the acquaintance of a handsome sailor named Julian and arranged for her and Scarlett’s passage on his ship to attend Caraval, unwilling to let this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity slip through their fingers.

What follows is a whimsical dark adventure, steeped in trickery, mystery, and magic. Do the covers live up to the atmosphere? Why don’t we take a look and see…

From left to right, top to bottom:
Flatiron Books (2017) – Hodder & Stoughton (2017a) – Hodder & Stoughton (2017b)
Polish (2017) – Bulgarian (2017) – Dutch (2016) – Russian (2017)
Romanian (2017) – Persian (2017) – Serbian (2017) – Japanese (2017)

  

   

   

Winner:

I am amazed at how many beautiful covers there are for this book; I’m having a hard time picking just one. After going back and forth between several, I’m going to have to settle on the Russian edition. The bright splashes of color might be just shy of being gaudy, but it also fits the madcap, fever dream mood of the story which is full of twists and turns. There’s also something very “Disney Princess” about this image, and I love the purple dress.

Anyway, this was a tough week but I think we have a winner. But what do you think? Which one is your favorite?