Waiting on Wednesday 01/06/21

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

Survive the Night by Riley Sager (June 29th, 2021 by Dutton)

I read my first Riley Sager book last year, promised myself it wouldn’t be my last. This next one of his is going to be a 90s horror thriller, I can definitely get on board with that!

“It’s November 1991. George H. W. Bush is in the White House, Nirvana’s in the tape deck, and movie-obsessed college student Charlie Jordan is in a car with a man who might be a serial killer.

Josh Baxter, the man behind the wheel, is a virtual stranger to Charlie. They met at the campus ride board, each looking to share the long drive home to Ohio. Both have good reasons for wanting to get away. For Charlie, it’s guilt and grief over the murder of her best friend, who became the third victim of the man known as the Campus Killer. For Josh, it’s to help care for his sick father. Or so he says. Like the Hitchcock heroine she’s named after, Charlie has her doubts. There’s something suspicious about Josh, from the holes in his story about his father to how he doesn’t seem to want Charlie to see inside the car’s trunk. As they travel an empty highway in the dead of night, an increasingly worried Charlie begins to think she’s sharing a car with the Campus Killer. Is Josh truly dangerous? Or is Charlie’s suspicion merely a figment of her movie-fueled imagination?

What follows is a game of cat-and-mouse played out on night-shrouded roads and in neon-lit parking lots, during an age when the only call for help can be made on a pay phone and in a place where there’s nowhere to run. In order to win, Charlie must do one thing—survive the night.”

Most Anticipated Releases of 2021: January to March

Happy 2021! As we get ready to begin another year, it’s time to look ahead to the Science Fiction and Fantasy reads I’m most excited about. Not only is it fun to organize my reading and to make lists, they also have the added benefit of focusing my attention to the highly anticipated releases that I’d like to check out. Every quarter I’ll be putting together a post of my “must reads”, and while I’m under no illusions that I’ll be able to read them all, hopefully I can get to most of them (and also put some new books on people’s radars)!

So here are the books I’m really excited for in early 2021. What are some of yours?

January

 

January 5 – Star Wars: Light of the Jedi by Charles Soule, Persephone Station by Stina Leicht

January 12 – Tales From the Hinterland by Melissa Albert, Doors of Sleep by Tim Pratt

January 19 – The Mask of Mirrors by M.A. Carrick, The Forever Sea by Joshua Phillip Johnson, Hall of Smoke by H.M. Long, In the Garden of Spite by Camilla Bruce

January 26 – Brother Red by Adrian Selby

February

February 2 – A History of What Comes Next by Sylvain Neuvel, Winter’s Orbit by Everina Maxwell, A Stranger in Town by Kelley Armstrong, Star Wars: Into the Dark by Claudia Gray

February 9 – The Burning Girls by C.J. Tudor, The Witch’s Heart by Genevieve Gornichec, The Power Couple by Alex Berenson, The Iron Raven by Julie Kagawa

February 16 – The Echo Wife by Sarah Gailey, Black Coral by Andrew Mayne, The Galaxy, and the Ground Within by Becky Chambers, The Black Coast by Mike Brooks

February 23 – The Russian Cage by Charlaine Harris

March

 

 

March 2 – The Councillor by E.J. Beaton, Dead Space by Kali Wallace, Forget Me Not by Alexandra Oliva

March 9 – Heartbreak Bay by Rachel Caine, The Bone Maker by Sarah Beth Durst

March 23 – The Unbroken by C.L. Clark, The Ladies of the Secret Circus by Constance Sayers, The Two-Faced Queen by Nick Martell, Red Widow by Alma Katsu, Girls with Rebel Souls by Suzanne Young, The Lost Village by Camilla Sten

Book Review: We Ride The Storm by Devin Madson

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

We Ride The Storm by Devin Madson

Mogsy’s Rating: 4 of 5 stars

Genre: Fantasy

Series: Book 1 of The Reborn Empire

Publisher: Orbit (June 23, 2020)

Length: 528 pages

Author Information: Website | Twitter

We Ride the Storm by Devin Madson was a great read, with a pretty inspiring story behind it too! Originally self-published, the book was vaulted into the spotlight following its success in Mark Lawrence’s Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off, where it advanced into the finals. The competition has helped many other authors and their work achieve recognition, and in this case it was well deserved. Inspired by Asian cultures, this slow-burn fantasy epic has plenty to offer.

The story focuses on three central characters. Miko Ts’ai is a princess and potential heir to the Crimson Throne of the Empire of Kisia, a realm ravaged by a recent coup by her stepfather. Under close watch at all times, she is practically a prisoner in her own castle, her life in constant danger. Then there’s Captain Rah, a warrior in exile with the remnants of his Levanti clan who struggle to survive on the borderlands where the fierce fighting forces them to choose sides. To keep his people safe, the tribesmen find they can no longer refuse to be a part of the conflict. And finally, there is Cassandra Marius, an assassin with a mysterious magical voice in her head. Used to moving in shady circles, she knows her game and plays it well, but when confronted with a possible cure to her affliction, she has no choice but to accept a dangerous contract that may lead to the fall of the empire.

Our main characters start off unconnected, and their backgrounds couldn’t be any more different. However, all three are bound by circumstance. They are also each trapped in their own situations, simply trying to keep from drowning in the chaos around them. Soon, their paths will intersect as the political tensions between the divided factions come to boiling point, weaving together the fates of a princess, a warrior, and an assassin.

As I alluded to earlier, this was a slow-burn fantasy, and admittedly it took a while for me to settle into a comfortable rhythm with the cycle of perspective chapters. The introduction does a decent job familiarizing you with our three main characters, but it took a bulk of the novel’s first half to give a good sense of who they really are. The story’s take off was a little bumpy as a result, though the pacing remained strong and never felt like a slog, and things smoothed out once we had everything in place. If you read a lot of epic fantasy, the multiple POV format will be pretty old hat, and even though the plot may take its sweet time, we eventually get to a point where each thread generates enough steam to keep interest high.

For avid fantasy fans, reading this will also feel rather routine, I think. We Ride the Storm contains a number of genre tropes, though to her credit, Madson tackles them in an engaging way that doesn’t feel too clichéd. She doesn’t delve too deeply into the world-building either, but that’s actually a good thing. There’s been a whole raft of Asian-inspired fantasy releases as of late, and keeping things somewhat vague works in the book’s favor by allowing the setting to develop its own identity in the reader’s mind. The various cultures of this world have extremely unique spiritual customs and practices, for example, and we get to appreciate them without a million other ideas and details to distract. As much as I enjoy a well-developed world, it’s better not to overwhelm the reader with description, especially at this stage, when you want your characters to take precedence.

And believe me, it’s Miko, Rah, and Cassandra you’ll want to read about. A story may be packed to the gills with everything from court intrigue to pitched battles, but without the characters giving the content its heart and soul, it would be meaningless. It’s here that all the buildup in the first half finally pays off, as the plot gains momentum and rockets towards a stunning climax and conclusion. All of the relationships, the entanglements, the bargains and the compromises, they all come to fruition at a critical moment as motives are finally made clear.

Yet despite this enjoyable finish, the final pages tease even more still, and it’s the perfect kind of ending to leave you satisfied but also hungering for more. I’m so jazzed to read the sequel now, as you can imagine, as I think anyone would be following such an epic journey of discovery, intrigue, and adventure. All in all, We Ride the Storm is a masterful opener to The Reborn Empire series and is an excellent reflection of what the fantasy genre should strive for. Absolutely worth checking out.

2021 Audiobook Challenge

Here we go again! We love audiobooks here at The Bibliosanctum for a variety of reasons, from distraction while doing chores to just enjoying a good story being read by an awesome narrator. We also love to undertake a good challenge, especially when it coincides with our love of reading.

Caffeinated Reviewer and That’s What I’m Talking About are hosting the annual Audiobook Challenge for 2021, and of course I’ll be participating again. Below, you’ll see the challenge details as well as the different levels. As you can see, there’s a new goal added this year for 75 audiobooks! I’m excited, because I’ve been wanting this category for a while, for those of us who can hit more than 50 but can’t quite make 100.

If you want to take part, make sure to check out the sign-up page for this year’s challenge, and also head on over to the Goodreads group. We hope you’ll join us!

Challenge Details

  • Runs January 1, 2021 – December 31, 2021. You can join at any time.
  • The goal is to find a new love for audios or to outdo yourself by listening to more audios in 2021 than you did in 2020.
  • Books must be in audio format (CD, MP3, etc.)
  • ANY genres count.
  • Re-reads and crossovers from other reading challenges are allowed.
  • You do not have to be a book blogger to participate; you can track your progress on Goodreads, Facebook, LibraryThing, etc.
  • If you’re a blogger grab the button and do a quick post about the challenge to help spread the word. If you’re not a blogger you can help by posting on Facebook or Tweet about the challenge.
  • Updates plus a giveaway will be posted twice during the year. The first update will be July 2, 2021, and the last update will take place on December 30, 2021.

Levels

  • Newbie (I’ll give it a try) 1-5
  • Weekend Warrior (I’m getting the hang of this) 5-10
  • Stenographer (can listen while multitasking) 10-15
  • Socially Awkward (Don’t talk to me) 15-20
  • Binge Listener (Why read when someone can do it for you) 20-30
  • My Precious (I had my earbuds surgically implanted) 30+
  • Marathoner (Look Ma No Hands) 50+
  • Over-Achiever (Power Listener) 75+
  • The 100 Club (Audiobook Addict) 100+

Mogsy’s Goals

There wasn’t the Over-Achiever level last year, but I aimed for 75 and was just shy of meeting my goal. This year though, I think I can do it! So that’s what I’m going to shoot for.

Do you listen to audiobooks? Will you try doing the audiobook challenge this year? Let us know your thoughts!

Bookshelf Roundup 01/02/21: Stacking the Shelves & Recent Reads

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

black line

Happy 2021! I hope everyone had a great New Years Eve and New Years Day, and I’m super excited to be starting another year with you all. Last month I had a good time looking back at my reading in 2020, but now it’s time to look forward. I had some reasonable success at catching up and chipping away at that old TBR in December, and even got to get started on the early 2021 pile. With that, let’s get on the with the roundup and check out the new shelf additions as well as what I’ve been reading…

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!

A couple of new arrivals this week. With thanks to Titan Books for this beautiful copy of Hall of Smoke by H.M. Long. I’m hoping to jump into this Viking-inspired fantasy real soon, probably later this month.

From the kind folks at Tor.com, I also received a surprise ARC of First, Become Ashes by K.M. Szpara. There were a ton of disclaimers that came with the pitch for this book, but I’m honestly not too bothered by the warnings of graphic sex or violence. However, I’ve already seen some reviews accusing it of creating controversy for the sake of controversy, and that’s something I can’t really get behind. So, I don’t know yet if I’ll read this one, guess we’ll see.

After a few months dry spell, Hachette Audio finally did a huge update on Libro.fm so I was able to request a few titles. I was thrilled that my listening copy of The Effort by Claire Holroyde became available this week, and I can’t wait to get started.

Reviews

Shiver by Allie Reynolds (5 of 5 stars)
A Chorus of Fire by Brian D. Anderson (4 of 5 stars)

Roundup Highlights:

This Week’s Reads

black line

Have you heard of or read any of the books featured this week? What caught your eye? Any new discoveries? I hope you found something interesting for a future read! Let me know what you plan on checking out. Until next time, see you next Roundup!:)

Friday Face-Off: Dressed in White

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

This week’s theme is:

~ a cover that is “DRESSED IN WHITE”

Mogsy’s Pick:

The Au Pair by Emma Rous

Welcome to the first Friday Face-Off of 2021! The theme is “Dressed in White” which we were free interpret in any way we wanted, so I’ve decided to go with the most literal meaning, choosing a book that features someone on the cover with white clothing.

The Berkley edition of The Au Pair, which was the version I read, was the book I had in mind. This was a pretty wild and twisted one, even for a thriller! Let’s check out some more of the covers:

From left to right:
Berkley Books (2019) – Piatkus (2018) – Dutch Edition (2019)

Finnish Edition (2019) – Italian Edition (2019) – Hebrew Edition (2019)

French Edition (2018) – German Edition (2020) – Spanish Edition (2020)

Winner

Um, I just have to say, many of these covers are VERY confused. You’d think you are picking up some Austenesque country house-type romance, which is definitely NOT what this book is (in fact, the Spanish cover probably comes closest to capturing the true spirit and tone of the story). Still, a few of these “quaint” covers are very pretty, and I think my favorite is the Italian edition, despite it being a poor reflection of what the book is really about.

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

Audiobook Challenge 2020: 4th Quarter Update

It’s our final update for the 2020 Audiobook Challenge! Thank you to the challenge hosts and here’s to another year of great listens. Let’s see how everyone did.

Challenge Details

  • Runs January 1, 2020 – December 31, 2020. You can join at anytime.
  • The goal is to find a new love for audios or to outdo yourself by listening to more audios in 2020 than you did in 2019.
  • Books must be in audio format (CD, MP3, etc.)
  • ANY genres count.
  • Re-reads and crossovers from other reading challenges are allowed.
  • You do not have to be a book blogger to participate; you can track your progress on Goodreads, Facebook, LibraryThing, etc.
  • If you’re a blogger grab the button and do a quick post about the challenge to help spread the word. If you’re not a blogger you can help by posting on Facebook or Tweeting about the challenge.
  • Updates plus a giveaway will be posted twice during the year. First update in June 30, 2020 and last update in December 15, 2020.

Levels

  • Newbie (I’ll give it a try) 1-5
  • Weekend Warrior (I’m getting the hang of this) 5-10
  • Stenographer (can listen while multi-tasking) 10-15
  • Socially Awkward (Don’t talk to me) 15-20
  • Binge Listener (Why read when someone can do it for you) 20-30
  • My Precious (I had my earbuds surgically implanted) 30+
  • Marathoner (Look Ma No Hands) 50+
  • The 100 Club (Audiobook Elite) 100+

In the last few months of 2020, I added another 15 audiobooks to my final count, making my grand total…73! Oooh, SO CLOSE. My “soft goal” for the year was 75 so I didn’t quite make it, but I think I got close enough that I will still congratulate myself 😉 It was a great year overall for the challenge, and at least I blew away last year’s total which was 60, so I call that a win! I hope everyone also did well on their audio goals this year, and we’ll see you again for the Audiobook Challenge 2021!

Waiting on Wednesday 12/30/20

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

Daughter of Sparta by Claire M. Andrews (June 8th, 2021 by Jimmy Patterson Books)

Yeah, I know I said in 2021 I’m resolving to be choosier about the YA books I read and only pick up the ones I think I’ll really like, but um, did I mention how this one has everything I really like? Greek gods, women warriors, a retelling of the Daphne and Apollo myth, and Sparta…I’m so there.

“Sparta forged her into a deadly weapon. Now the Gods need her to save the world!

Seventeen-year-old Daphne has spent her entire life honing her body and mind into that of a warrior, hoping to be accepted by the unyielding people of ancient Sparta. But an unexpected encounter with the goddess Artemis—who holds Daphne’s brother’s fate in her hands—upends the life she’s worked so hard to build. Nine mysterious items have been stolen from Mount Olympus and if Daphne cannot find them, the gods’ waning powers will fade away, the mortal world will descend into chaos, and her brother’s life will be forfeit.

Guided by Artemis’s twin-the handsome and entirely-too-self-assured god Apollo-Daphne’s journey will take her from the labyrinth of the Minotaur to the riddle-spinning Sphinx of Thebes, team her up with mythological legends such as Theseus and Hippolyta of the Amazons, and pit her against the gods themselves.”

Best of 2020 and the Year in Review

It’s once again that time of the year where I look back at the last twelve months and round up my favorite reads! As always, my methods are going to be rather haphazard, but as you know I read a TON of books and having to narrow it down to just “Top 10” or even “Top 20” is a difficult (if not impossible) task. That’s why I’ve opted not to do a traditional list, and instead I’m going to be breaking this post down into different genres/categories to highlight all the books that 1) were my favorites of the year, 2) I thought were most memorable, or 3) I think should be getting more love and attention. The one thing they have in common is that I loved them all.

It was definitely an interesting year! It was also busier, meaning less reading time. As a result, I read about 40 fewer books than my yearly average.

Fantasy

Science Fiction

Horror

 

Urban Fantasy/Paranormal

Young Adult

 

 

Mystery/Suspense/Thriller

 

Overview: Books Read in 2020

Goodreads Ratings:

More on The BiblioSanctum:
Best of 2014 and The Year in Review
Best of 2015 and The Year in Review
Best of 2016 and The Year in Review
Best of 2017 and The Year in Review
Best of 2018 and The Year in Review
Best of 2019 and The Year in Review

Audiobook Review: Shiver by Allie Reynolds

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

Shiver by Allie Reynolds

Mogsy’s Rating: 5 of 5 stars

Genre: Thriller, Mystery

Series: Stand Alone

Publisher: Penguin Audio (January 19, 2021)

Length: 10 hrs and 23 mins

Author Information: Website | Twitter

Narrator: Olivia Vinall

When they were young, they thought they were invincible. Now a group of former pro snowboarding friends are reunited a decade after the height of their careers. But only five of them have made it—Milla, Curtis, Brent, Heather, and Dale. Missing are Odette, who none of them have seen much of since the catastrophic accident that left her paralyzed from the neck down, and of course, Saskia, who is dead.

Like the others, our narrator Milla had received an invitation several weeks ago with instructions to arrive at Le Rocher, the remote ski resort in the French Alps where they had all trained and competed that fateful season. Before, she had thought she knew who invited them, but now she’s not so sure, because when the five of them get to the resort, the place is deserted, and the cable cars back to the bottom of the mountain have stopped running. They are also greeted by an icebreaker game meant to draw out their secrets and separate from their cellphones, but when they finally realize it is a trap, it is too late. Whoever had set it up seems intent on reminding them all of Saskia, who had vanished on the morning of the big competition ten years ago, never to be seen again. So much time has passed that the young woman had been declared dead, the mystery of her disappearance remaining unsolved.

But the truth is, anything could have happened to Saskia that day. Each year, people are lost to any number of dangers on the mountain, including sudden avalanches or hidden crevasses. There were also rumors that Saskia could have been murdered. The popular and successful snowboarder had many admirers, and perhaps one of them had gotten a little too close. However, what everyone is thinking but no one wants to say is that Saskia had a lot of enemies too. She was ruthlessly competitive and would do anything to win. No one knew this better than Milla, her greatest rival, or even her own brother, Curtis. When it came to Saskia, her closest friends were often the victims of her ambitions, and now, someone has gathered them all in a place of dark memories to find out the truth of what happened to her. But who could it be, and why have they deliberately isolated them and left them stranded in the middle of a snowstorm?

After the outstanding read that was The Guest List left me in the mood for another locked-room mystery, I came to Shiver by Allie Reynolds knowing that it would be the perfect book for me. Aside from the tantalizing premise, I was drawn to setting. Did I mention I love thrillers that take place in cold, snowy places? And the more remote the better! I also liked the snowboarding angle. Now, I’m not athletic at all, and if there’s one thing I dislike more than doing sports, it is doing snow sports, because I hate the cold. But somehow, Reynolds made reading about halfpipes and nose grabs exciting, even when I have little interest in the topic itself. I think it has a lot to do with the way the story puts you into the competitive mindset. According to her bio, the author has had experience snowboarding and competing, and it shows. You couldn’t convey the tension, exhilaration, or the cutthroat atmosphere with such accuracy and immediacy, unless you’ve lived it before.

It also helps that it was so easy to get into the protagonist’s head. The story is told through Milla’s eyes via two timelines, one in the past and one in the present. Ten years ago, it was her dream to become a professional snowboarder, gaining sponsors and representing Britain on the international stage. Unlike her peers Odette and Saskia though, she did not have the resources or the recognition, so her season at Le Rocher was meant to be her final shot at the big league, and the desperation is palpable. Unfortunately, Milla is also impulsive. Like Marty McFly in Back to the Future, nobody calls her chicken. She’ll take on any challenge, no matter how ridiculous or ill-conceived, because she’s got a lot to prove. And as you’d expect, this gets her into a lot of trouble, even when her original plan was to do nothing but eat, sleep and train. Another thing she did not expect to find was Brent and Curtis, two best friends in the men’s competition who both show their romantic interest in her. In a place of so much competitive drive and pressure, there’s also a lot of sexual tension flying around, which makes this mystery even more delectable.

Not surprisingly, all the secrets and lies come home to roost in the present, as the five remaining members of the group meet again, discovering for the first time the wrongs they had committed against each other in the past. While they may still call themselves friends, it’s painfully clear there is not a shred of trust left between them. From the start, we know that many bad things happened ten years ago, and even if we aren’t aware of the specifics, Saskia’s shadow is ever present, weighing heavily on the events of the story. One or more people in the group know the truth of what happened, a puzzle that is gradually, teasingly revealed to the reader as the plot progresses.

It’s hard to believe this is Allie Reynolds’ debut, for I truly feel that Shiver can stand on its own against many other thrillers of its type by more veteran authors. The audiobook was also amazing; I finished listening to this one in just one session while making holiday meal preparations, and my heart was in my throat almost the entire time. In addition, Olivia Vinall did a great job as narrator, voicing Milla perfectly, and you could tell she was enjoying the story while reading because her enthusiasm seemed authentic. Bottom line, I can’t recommend this book enough. If you are a fan of locked-room thrillers and mysteries, you’ve got to check this one out.