Audiobook Review: Day Zero by C. Robert Cargill

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

Day Zero by C. Robert Cargill

Mogsy’s Rating: 4 of 5 stars

Genre: Science Fiction, Post-Apocalyptic

Series: Stand Alone

Publisher: HarperAudio (May 25, 2021)

Length: 8 hrs and 32 mins

Author Information: Website | Twitter

Narrator: Vikas Adam

Given that I loved C. Robert Cargill’s Sea of Rust, I came with great excitement to Day Zero, which serves as its prequel. Imagine Calvin & Hobbes but with Hobbes as Terminator, and you’ll have a pretty good idea of what to expect from this book. It stars Pounce, a furry anthropomorphic AI “nannybot” shaped like a tiger. His owners, Bradley and Sylvia Reinhart, had bought him to be a companion and best friend to their eight-year-old son Ezra, which is in keeping with Pounce’s main directive…except, well, as we’ll later find out, his “deluxe model” designation also comes with a few extra features.

Anyway, if you’ve read Sea of Rust (though that is not required), you’ll know that that novel takes place in a post-apocalyptic future in which the A.I. of the world had risen up and taken over, leaving the world devoid of human beings. Day Zero takes us to the beginning of all that, to the moment where society’s fate was sealed. When the novel begins, everyone is paying attention to the coverage of a brewing revolution led by Isaac, the first bot to ever be granted freedom and independence in the lengthy emancipation trial that took place after his owner died. After founding Isaactown, he has invited other bots to join him to build a place where A.I. can live on their own terms.

But not everyone sees this as a good thing. Some even see it as blasphemy against the will of God. Driven by this belief, a radical religious group commits an unspeakable act of violence, annihilating everyone in Isaactown. Things quickly escalate, with heavy casualties on both sides, and before long, the government is warning people to power down their bots until they can determine if the A.I. protocols that prevent them from harming humans are still in place. However, this proves too late, as the majority of bots are revealed to be compromised already and decide to turn on their owners before they can be shut down. Ever the loyal companion though, Pounce chooses to protect Ezra, especially after the Reinharts and their neighbors come under attack from the other A.I. in their houesholds. Pounce knows he’s all the boy has now, and he will do whatever it takes to keep him live.

As with Sea of Rust, my favorite thing about this book was its premise. I happen to love “a boy and his dog” type stories, and the fact that an A.I. tiger is our protagonist is just the icing on the cake. In fact, I might have even preferred Day Zero a bit more, for the fact that “robothood” actually plays a major role in this novel. One of my main criticisms from Sea of Rust was that not more of the machine-ness in the protagonists came through, and for all intents and purposes we may as well have been reading about a bunch of human characters.

This is not so with Day Zero. I loved the voice of Pounce, the way he was always questioning what it means to be A.I., and whether in the end that even means anything at all. His whole world is Ezra, and should it matter if it is program or instinct? As we learn from this tale, no, it does not. Pounce is Ezra’s best friend and more. He’s also the boy’s guardian and protector. There’s nothing he wouldn’t do to keep Ezra safe, even if it means killing or sacrificing others or even himself. Still, there’s a soft side to Pounce as well, and the caregiver part of him that is meant to provide comfort also comes through often. He chastises Ezra for using bad language just like any good nanny, or lets him win at video games like a doting big brother.

In terms of the plot, it’s pretty straightforward. We have lots of action, as Pounce and Ezra make their way out of the ruined suburbs on their way to safety, encountering violent bots and other hostile factions along the way. The story was fast-paced and thrilling, but also super cute and endearing. Sure, the messages could have been deeper or more cerebral, but that would have meant a completely different kind of book, and I wouldn’t have had near as much fun.

All in all, I had a good time, and a special shoutout to the narrator of the audiobook, Vikas Adam. I’ve been a huge fan of his work ever since first hearing his narration for the Heartstrikers series, and no surprise, his performance was also fantastic in Day Zero. He was the perfect Pounce, and also did amazing voices for Ezra and all the other characters. Great listen, highly recommended.

More on The BiblioSanctum:
Review of Sea of Rust

YA Weekend Audio: Daughter of Sparta by Claire M. Andrews

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

Daughter of Sparta by Claire M. Andrews

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

Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult

Series: Book 1 of Daughter of Sparta

Publisher: Hachette Audio (June 8, 2021)

Length: 11 hours 53 minutes

Author Information: Website | Twitter

Narrator: Brittany Pressley

If you’re a fan of YA fiction and Greek myths, then you’re in luck. Daughter of Sparta by Claire M. Andrews is a reimagining of the tale of Daphne and Apollo, taking readers on an adventure which puts them up close and personal with some of Greek mythology’s most famous legends and figures, including the Minotaur and the labyrinth, the riddles of the Sphinx, Hippolyta of the Amazons, and many, many more.

The novel begins with an introduction to Daphne Diodorus, our seventeen-year-old protagonist who has always felt like an outsider. Despite being raised Spartan, society has never ceased to remind her that she and her brothers were adopted, even if it was by one the most respected families of Sparta. As a result, even though Daphne had been trained from a young age to be a warrior, she finds she still needs to fight harder to constantly prove her worth, not only because of her blood but also because of her sex.

Then came the day of the games, in which each family must put forth a young man to compete in a race to win the favor of the gods and blessings for their village. After her brother Pyrrhus is a n0-show, Daphne is forced to step up to take his place in order to uphold her adoptive parents’ honor. But during the race, she has an encounter in the forest with the goddess Artemis who tells her that Mount Olympus is in danger. Nine powerful items have been stolen from the gods, weakening the powers of the pantheon. Now Artemis wants Daphne to help them take back what rightfully belongs to them—or else. With horror, our protagonist next discovers what had really happened to Pyrrhus, who had been taken captive by Artemis and turned into a stag. To further ensure Daphne’s obedience, the goddess of the hunt also casts upon the girl a magical binding curse which would kill her if she were to fail in her task.

And finally, Artemis has arranged for her twin Apollo to accompany Daphne, to keep her in line as well as to help speed things along. Not unlike her sister, Apollo has his own ways of coercion, turning Daphne’s best friend Lykou into a wolf after the young man tries to follow them. Left with no other choice, Daphne sets out on her quest knowing it would be seen as desertion, putting an end to her dreams of ever being accepted. Still, the alternative is that neither Pyrrhus nor Lykou would ever regain their humanity, not to mention if the Olympus falls, so too would the mortal world.

This book moved fast—too fast, in some instances. I have to say, I had a rough time at the beginning, trying to find some connection to Daphne, which proved difficult when there was virtually no breathing room at all to get to know her or learn about her relationships. The introduction to the book suffered from too much telling and not enough showing, and as such we were given few reasons to sympathize with Daphne or care what happens to Pyrrhus or Lykou, for simply declaring their importance to her was not automatically enough to make me believe so. Readers were pretty much shuffled from one action scene to the next with no attempt to develop the setting or characters, to the point it all became one big blur.

Thankfully, the pacing stabilized once Daphne set out with Apollo, and it became rather clear to me that the author had rushed the intro just to get these two together. After that, I began to enjoy myself a lot more, as what came next was essentially a tour through some of Greek mythology’s more well-known stories. These encounters also came at us relentlessly hard and fast, but at the very least, we now had plenty of quieter, more intimate moments where Daphne and Apollo’s feelings for each other were given a chance to grow.

That said, I still wasn’t sure how to feel about their romance. One thing to know is that Andrews took a whole lot of liberties with the original Daphne and Apollo myth, but she did get one thing right—the Greek gods were assholes, and sure enough, there were many instances of their cruelty, jealousies and pettiness in this novel. Suffice to say, I did not feel Apollo was truly deserving of Daphne’s attentions, or that she really needed him at all, especially given the way her character was written, i.e., tough, ferociously independent and free-thinking, too clever by far to be love-struck by any of his bullshit. However, lots of YA go down this path these days, and perhaps the notion of our protagonist taming a wild god and making him change was always going to be inevitable.

My verdict? If you like fantasy inspired by Greek mythology, Daughter of Sparta the book for you. At times, it feels obvious that this novel is a debut, given some of its pacing issues, and there are also moments where the story leans heavily on YA clichés when it doesn’t have to. Still, Claire M. Andrews is to be applauded for doing an impressive job spinning her own take on the original Greek myths and characters, and the action is superb, far outshining the romantic elements—which, in my eyes, is not a bad thing at all.

Bookshelf Roundup: 06/05/21: Stacking the Shelves & Recent Reads

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

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Received for Review

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

With thanks to Orbit Books for a review copy of Catalyst Gate by Megan E. O’Keefe, the third and final installment in The Protectorate trilogy!

Also thank you to Random House for a finished copy of Scorpion by Christian Cantrell, a high concept technothriller about a cat-and-mouse hunt for an international killer known as the Elite Assassin.

And also my thanks to Minotaur/Wednesday Books for an ARC of Enola Holmes and the Black Barouche by Nancy Springer, which is technically the seventh volume in the series but can be read as a standalone. In fact, the last book came out more than a decade ago, so this is definitely more of the series revival following the success of the Netflix movie more than anything!

Huge thanks also to Hachette Audio for the following audiobooks added to the digital review pile this month: A Season of Sinister Dreams by Tracy Banghart is a YA court intrigue fantasy, and The Retreat by Elisabeth de Mariaffi is a locked room mystery-thriller with a snowy setting that I’ve been looking forward to checking out.

Reviews

The Shape of Darkness by Laura Purcell (4 of 5 stars)
The Lights of Prague by Nicole Jarvis (4 of 5 stars)
The Trouble With Peace by Joe Abercrombie (4 of 5 stars)

What I’ve Been Reading

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

Friday Face-Off: The Nose Boop

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:

“Any animal, or human, with a close up shot”
~ THE NOSE BOOP

If It Bleeds by Stephen King

From left to right:
Scriber (2020) – Hodder & Stoughton (2020) – Swedish Edition (2020)

Finnish Edition (2021) – Bulgarian Edition (2020) – Ukrainian Edition (2021)

Hungarian Edition (2021) – Czech Edition (2021) – German Edition (2020)

Winner:

Whew, some of these are really out there! Really tough to choose a favorite this week, but I think the German edition is the most interesting and visually arresting.

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

Audiobook Review: The Shape of Darkness by Laura Purcell

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

The Shape of Darkness by Laura Purcell

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

Genre: Horror, Historical Fiction

Series: Stand Alone

Publisher: Penguin Audio (June 1, 2020)

Length: 10 hrs and 44 mins

Author Information: Website | Twitter

Narrator: Ell Potter

The latest from Laura Purcell, The Shape of Darkness is as dark and twisty as we’ve come to expect from the queen of gothic suspense. The setting is Victorian Bath, where an ailing silhouette artist struggles to keep her business afloat in a world moving towards camera photography. With each passing day, fewer and fewer people seem interested in Agnes Darken’ craft, while at home she still has her elderly mother and 12-year-old nephew Cedric to care for. With work already hard to come by, Agnes is shaken when her latest client is found dead, his throat cut and his face smashed in, just before she can complete the final touches on his portrait. Now, not only will her finances remain strained, but she’s also beginning to think someone might be targeting her business by killing her customers, especially when mysterious deaths connected to her seem to keep happening.

After the third person to sit for her is found murdered, Agnes knows she must take matters into her own hands, given the police won’t take her suspicions seriously. Desperate to know why this might be happening to her, she decides to go against the advice of her doctor friend Simon by consulting a medium. Her search leads her to the doorstep of Myrtle West, who claims to be a mesmerist, and her half-sister Pearl Meers, an 11-year-old seer who recently came into her gift. It is Agnes’s hope that if Pearl can communicate with the spirits of her clients, they might be able to reveal who killed them and why. Still, pretty soon, they realize that meddling with the unseen might not be so wise, and that the ghosts of the dead may not be so forthcoming…or friendly.

As you probably know, in the last few years Laura Purcell has become a must-read author for me. This is my fourth novel by her, having previously read and loved The Silent Companions, The Poison Thread, and The House of Whispers, and now I’m excited to report that The Shape of Darkness is another winner, containing all the spine-tingling, creepy gothic goodness that I’ve come to love from her books. There’s often a strong element of mystery to her stories as well, not to mention a certain ambiguity surrounding the supernatural forces that might or might not be in play, and this was definitely no exception.

Another hallmark of the author’s books appears to be her tortured protagonists, who frequently bear the weight of their emotional and sometimes physical scars. This usually makes them highly unreliable narrators, and just when you think you understand how they tick, you will discover something surprising that completely changes everything. Following Agnes’s point-of-view was very much like that, as each chapter gradually reveals more of her backstory. Life for her has become a series of misfortunes ever since falling ill a few years ago, and she is still recovering from the effects. Her sister also died, which is why her son Cedric is being raised by our protagonist. Agnes wants to do right by the boy, but can hardly even afford to keep herself clothed and fed some days. Now her only source of income is also dwindling, as silhouettes fall out of popularity in favor of photographs. What’s clear is that Purcell’s deft handling of character development paints a sympathetic picture of Agnes, and readers can’t help but feel for her plight, especially since her passion for her art is so genuine and deep. For real, this book actually made me wish traditional silhouette portrait cutting was still in fashion.

And of course, we have the atmosphere. This is THE number one reason to read Purcell’s books, if you ask me. Even when the overall vibe of the story is bleak and heavy, she has a talent for always making her settings feel authentic and alive. Steeped with supernatural undertones, things feel even more haunted and unsettling, with Pearl’s chapters and the séance scenes being prime examples. However, I would still hesitate to categorize this novel as straight-up horror, as it’s way too subtle and nuanced. That said though, it would also be a mistake to underestimate the creep factor—you have been warned.

Bottom line, with The Shape of Darkness, Laura Purcell has written another deliciously dark gothic novel with more than a few mind-bending surprises. Granted, some of them might turn out to be more predictable than others, but overall I can’t deny I had a good time with this one. As always, I look forward to the author’s next project.

Audiobook Review: Superbly narrated, The Shape of Darkness audiobook was a great way to experience this novel, with Ell Potter’s rich accents and tones greatly enhancing the story’s atmosphere.

Waiting on Wednesday 06/02/21

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

Dead Silence by S.A. Barnes (January 25, 2022 by Nightfire Books)

Whew, after a month of fantasy-filled Wyrd & Wonder, let’s catch a breather with an upcoming sci-fi release, of the “in space, no one can hear you scream” variety. From Nightfire, Tor’s new horror imprint, this one sounds like a real nail-biter.

“The Aurora, a luxury space-liner destined for a cruise of the solar system, has been missing for twenty years. Among the hundreds of presumed dead were passengers from society’s finest – celebrities, tech giants, influencers. Every last one… vanished.

So when Claire’s crew picks up an emergency signal in deep space, the long-lost Aurora is the last ship they expect to find. The salvage claim could be their best chance at extraordinary wealth, but it might mean missing their transport back home, and nobody can stand another minute out in the darkest corner of the universe – nobody, except Claire.

Once onboard the ship, the crew realizes something is terribly wrong. Unspeakable horrors lurk in every shadow of the massive ship, and soon they each start experiencing violent hallucinations.

Claire must fight to keep her sanity and get her crew back to safety – before they all meet the same ghastly fate as the Aurora passengers.”

Tour Review: The Lights of Prague by Nicole Jarvis

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

The Lights of Prague by Nicole Jarvis

Mogsy’s Rating: 4 of 5 stars

Genre: Fantasy, Historical Fiction

Series: Stand Alone

Publisher: Titan Books (May 25, 2021)

Length: 416 pages

Author Information: Website | Twitter

Set in 19th century Prague, Nicole Jarvis’ historical fantasy debut opens on a world at the cusp of great change. Society has been introduced to countless wonderful new scientific technologies, paving the way for an era of cultural and artistic development. Residents of the city are enjoying a revolution of sorts, with everything around them changing quickly, becoming better and more modern. However, unbeknownst to its citizenry, Prague is still a dangerous place, hiding many secrets in its shadows. Thanks to men like Domek Myska and his fellow Lamplighters though, everyone can sleep a little more soundly. Our protagonist is part of a guild of monster hunters who patrol the streets at night, keeping the gas lamps burning, vanquishing any supernatural creature unfortunate enough to cross his path. As the story begins, Domek has just had a run-in with a particularly nasty pijavica, a vampire-like predator. After killing it, he discovers what the creature had been transporting—a mysterious container with a will-o’-the-wisp trapped inside. Curious about his find, Domek contemplates taking the wisp to the guild scientists, but winds up befriending it instead, learning that its name is Kája.

Along the way, he also becomes drawn to Lady Ora Fischevá, our other major POV character who is a wealthy widow with a reputation for being a little eccentric. What no one realizes though, is that the noblewoman actually cultivates that image to her advantage, in order to prevent people from looking too deeply into her affairs. The truth is, she is a pijavica, currently working on her own investigation into rumors about a possible cure for vampirism. Having survived for centuries, Ora has mostly turned away from the more violent and baser instincts of her kind, but for some, it won’t matter—she’ll always be a soulless monster. Unaware of Domek’s affiliation with the Lamplighters, she strikes up a relationship with the young man, while he also finds himself growing more attracted to her, completely clueless as to her true nature. As the bond between our two main characters deepens, so too does the urgency to expose those behind the conspiracy that has bought them together, but of course, it’s also only a matter of time before they find out the truth about each other.

Drenched in history and atmosphere, The Lights of Prague is an intelligent and moody work of fiction combining supernatural and urban fantasy elements. Nicole Jarvis has a way with words, bringing the setting to life with flowing, confident prose. Her world-building feels at once strange and wonderful, from the grand museums and lavish opera halls in which we find Lady Ora and the upper class circles she runs in, to the dank crypts and alleyways where Domek often hunts his prey. I loved that our two main characters come from different worlds, in more ways than one, as it allowed readers to experience so much more of the author’s version of Prague—both its fantastical side, as well as the mundane.

I was also fascinated by the characters, as individually they were each quite compelling, though I confess I was probably more impressed with how well the two clicked with they were together. Domek is a level-headed man of purpose and principles, but he’s not so rigid as to be unwilling to consider other ways of doing things. That makes him a pretty good match for Ora, who is charming and vivacious, for all that she is secretly a pijavica. I was a huge fan of her character, the way she flouted social norms and expectations, following her heart wherever it leads her. Despite her socialite ways, there’s also a depth to her that’s only revealed in her more private moments. Ora has something of a heartrending backstory, one that gives her current mission quite a bit more meaning and substance. It’s when she and Domek are in each other’s presence, however, that things get really interesting, as neither are aware they are on opposite sides of a primal conflict.

And when their investigative paths coincide, that’s when the story really heats up. Prior to that, the pacing was more of a slow burn, but the action ticks up noticeably after the halfway point, as does the intrigue in the overall mystery. For me, Kája was a highlight as well, and I enjoyed how such a seemingly minor side character came to occupy such a large place in my heart by the end of the book! Bottom line, there were so many moving parts to this book, I was quite amazed Jarvis was able to weave them all together while losing none of the gothic elements or atmospheric vibes.

All in all, I had a good time with The Lights of Prague, a historical fantasy I would recommend to readers looking for a more sophisticated kind of vampire and monster hunter story.

#WyrdAndWonder Book Review: The Trouble With Peace by Joe Abercrombie

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

The Trouble With Peace  by Joe Abercrombie

Mogsy’s Rating: 4 of 5 stars

Genre: Fantasy

Series: Book 2 of The Age of Madness

Publisher: Orbit (September 15, 2020)

Length: 512 pages

Author Information: Website | Twitter

The Trouble with Peace by Joe Abercrombie continues The Age of Madness saga which began in A Little Hatred, and we’re catching up with all our characters in the North versus the Union conflict. To recap, Rikke is the daughter of the famed Northman fighter Dogman, and she has the gift of the Long Eye. Unable to control it, however, the second sight also has the power to kill her. Meanwhile at the capital, Leo, the son of Finree and Harod dan Brock, is in recovery following his injury taken in battle. Unfortunately, the long convalescence also means sitting around doing a lot of politicking, and the Young Lion finds he has very little patience or appreciation for it, as he still hungers for glory.

Things aren’t going too great for Savine dan Glokta either, with her financial situation in ruins and a baby on the way. Still, she has not gained her cunning reputation for nothing, and sets to work rebuilding her fortunes by seeking out new alliances. And then there’s Prince Orso, who became the new king following his father’s death, but the crown now weighs heavily on the pampered playboy’s head, with all the responsibilities that come with leadership. Social unrest is tearing the realm apart, and his own advisory council cannot come together to support him. There will be no respite, it seems, and no peace. This much is especially obvious, considering how in the North, the brutal war chief Stour Nightfall has solidified his rule and has set his sights on expanding his influence by attacking the Union.

As you can see, things have not gotten much better for our characters, and life continues to be a struggle in this bleak, brutal world. Political maneuvering and strategizing play a huge role in this one, as a good chunk of the story plays out in the capital and tensions are created through uncertainties in the power players’ behaviors and choices. There was still quite a bit of action, but they regrettably didn’t stand out too much for me. Rather, it was the intrigue and character dynamics that really drove the plot this time around.

In many ways too, The Trouble with Peace felt like a bridge book, in that it stays pretty much in a holding pattern and deviates very little from the overall tone and general direction established by the first book. That’s a sword that cuts both ways, I suppose, for if you enjoyed what you saw from A Little Hatred, I think you will be pleased to see this sequel carry on down this same path. That said though, don’t expect to see too much out of character development. Despite changes in many of their circumstances, I feel like none of our main characters have made much progress in terms of personal growth. Again, depending on the kind of reader you are, you might find comfort in this familiarity, but I can’t help but feel like there could have been more. Part of the problem is that we do have so many POVs to cover, and I can see how balancing them all can be a challenge, one that even a seasoned author like Abercrombie would have some trouble overcoming.

Still, to be clear, that there was a lack of growth did not diminish my love for the characters or my interest in them one bit. They were awesome, they are still awesome. Ask any fan of the author why they love his books and there’s a good chance they’ll point to his knack for writing morally grey characters, and the ones here are definitely proof of that. Every single one of them is a unique collection of personality traits, albeit more flaws than merits. You see this especially clearly when Abercrombie employs the good old “same scene from different perspectives” device on several occasions, where you get to experience all the little subtle nuances, and that’s what keeps things interesting, isn’t it? What’s more entertaining than watching a bunch of confused, misguided young people stumble their way through their messed up lives with no clue what they’re doing?

Story wise, that’s kind of where we’re at, anyway. Like I said, we’re still neck deep in the main conflict, but this novel also introduces and advances a lot of new developments, keeping the hook baited while biding time until the ending with its inevitable bloody battle. But even though I knew it was coming, it was still an awe-inspiring event. Having spent the majority of the book developing the political and ministerial side of things, the author really let loose for this final stretch, delivering what might be his most vivid and intense action sequences to date.

To sum it all up, The Trouble with Peace is a sequel that holds true to the grimdark traditions set by its predecessor—or heck, by the first seven books and numerous short stories that came before it, if we’re talking all the works in The First Law world. Although in some ways it still feels like a bridge book maintaining the current situation with no major progress to the storyline or characters, it nevertheless introduces more intrigue and flavor to the elements you already love.

More on The BiblioSanctum:
Review of A Little Hatred (Book 1)

Bookshelf Roundup: 05/29/21: Stacking the Shelves & Recent Reads

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

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Received for Review

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

Thank you to Simon & Schuster Children’s/McElderry Books for reaching out to me earlier this year with a few pitches for their upcoming spring and summer books! As you know I’ve become very picky about my YA, but out of many titles on the list, Blood like Magic by Liselle Sambury stood out immediately for me. I mean…witches, sacrifice, urban fantasy set in my hometown of Toronto…how could I not? There’s also a forbidden love aspect and a genetic matchmaking program thing that kind of reminds me of The One, so that made me curious as well. Definitely looking forward to check it out, and thrilled to have received an ARC.

My thanks also to Tor Books for this surprise arrival of The Blacktongue Thief by Christopher Buehlman. Very happy to have a finished copy of this gritty, quirky fantasy debut from one of my favorite horror authors. I posted a review for it last week, in case you missed it you can check it out here!

Also with thanks to the amazing team at Minotaur Books, earlier this week I also received an ARC of The Missing Hours by Julia Dahl, described as a hard-hitting mystery about the aftermath of a sexual assault, and how a young woman from a family of dysfunctional relationships will seek justice by attempting to piece together the hours missing from her memories.

And courtesy of Random House Audio, I received two very exciting new titles in the digital review haul this week! The Disappearing Act by Catherine Steadman kind of snuck up on me, I didn’t even know she was going to have a new book out! I love her work though, so needless to say this was an auto-request. Finally, I’ve been waiting not-so-patiently for the US release of The Shape of Darkness by Laura Purcell, the queen of Gothic horror fiction. At last, the time has come, and I’m beyond excited to dive right into this ALC.

Finally, thank you to Brilliance Audio for a listening copy of The Ice Lion by Kathleen O’Neal Gear, a dystopian sci-fi novel about climate change and survival in a frozen world. I’ve read the author’s work before, it’ll be interesting to get an archaeologist’s point of view, and she writes great characters!

Reviews

The Album of Dr. Moreau by Daryl Gregory (4 of 5 stars)
The Photographer by Mary Dixie Carter (4 of 5 stars)
Lost in the Never Woods by Aidan Thomas (2.5 of 5 stars)

Bugging Out…

With the weather getting warmer, my family and I have been going on more outings and hikes at the many parks and trails around my area. This year, the state of Maryland is also the epicenter of Cicada Brood X, which if you’re not aware is a cyclical phenomenon that happens every 17 years where billions of these huge, noisy insects burst out from the ground en masse, and basically the peak of their emergence was this past week. Just imagine, for seventeen years, they have been living beneath our feet…waiting. My daughter, deathly afraid of bugs, has taken to calling it the cicada uprising, but really, they’re harmless, just kinda gross. Me being a science geek though, I’m always fascinated by this type of thing, and while my background is more in healthcare and human biology, the ecological stuff never fails to interest me as well. These last few weeks I’ve been snapping photos and keeping track of Brood X, which hasn’t been difficult, because they are literally everywhere, from backyards to parking lots. My neighborhood being right next to a nature preserve, the cicadas are especially plentiful, and the days and nights have been getting really LOUD with their calls.

Here are some of pics I’ve taken on my hikes. The holes in the ground like Swiss cheese are where the nymphs have tunneled out, after which most will attempt to climb up the closest vertical surface (which is usually a tree trunk, but can also be a tall blade of grass, a wall, or a mailbox) and shed their exoskeleton, reaching the adult stage. The reason we’re not currently overrun with the adults is because of the heavy predation, but all the papery brown shells they leave behind are a good indication of the sheer numbers that have emerged. You can’t go two steps without crunching on some.

What I’ve Been Reading

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

Friday Face-Off: The Hood

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 featuring a HOODED FIGURE

The Way of Shadows by Brent Weeks

I read this book around the time it came out, I can’t believe it’s been so many years! Whenever someone mentions the “hooded figure” in fantasy though, these covers always come to mind.

From left to right:
Orbit (2008) –Spanish Edition (2010) – Romanian Edition (2017)

French Edition (2009) – Danish Edition (2015) – Chinese Edition (2010)

Russian Edition (2010) – Greek Edition (2015) – Turkish Edition (2013)

Winner:

It’s been a while since I read this book, and a lot of these international covers I’m only now seeing for the very first time. There are a few gems, like the French or Russian editions, but in this case, I think familiarity actually breeds comfort. That’s why I’m going with the original Orbit cover this week, as there’s just something so classic about it that I still find appealing after all this time.

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