Waiting on Wednesday 03/08/17

“Waiting On Wednesday” is a weekly meme hosted by Breaking the Spine that lets us feature upcoming releases that we can’t wait to get our hands on!

Mogsy’s Pick

The Court of Broken Knives by Anna Smith Spark (June 29, 2017 by Harper Voyager)

This one is right up my alley! Crossing my fingers that it’s as good as it sounds.

“Perfect for fans of Mark Lawrence and R Scott Bakker, The Court of Broken Knives is the explosive debut by one of grimdark fantasy’s most exciting new voices.

They’ve finally looked at the graveyard of our Empire with open eyes. They’re fools and madmen and like the art of war. And their children go hungry while we piss gold and jewels into the dust.

In the richest empire the world has ever known, the city of Sorlost has always stood, eternal and unconquered. But in a city of dreams governed by an imposturous Emperor, decadence has become the true ruler, and has blinded its inhabitants to their vulnerability. The empire is on the verge of invasion – and only one man can see it.

Haunted by dreams of the empire’s demise, Orhan Emmereth has decided to act. On his orders, a company of soldiers cross the desert to reach the city. Once they enter the Palace, they have one mission: kill the Emperor, then all those who remain. Only from ashes can a new empire be built.

The company is a group of good, ordinary soldiers, for whom this is a mission like any other. But the strange boy Marith who walks among them is no ordinary soldier. Marching on Sorlost, Marith thinks he is running away from the past which haunts him. But in the Golden City, his destiny awaits him – beautiful, bloody, and more terrible than anyone could have foreseen.”

Book Review: Silence Fallen by Patricia Briggs

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

silence_fallen_layout.inddSilence Fallen by Patricia Briggs

Mogsy’s Rating: 4 of 5 stars

Genre: Urban Fantasy

Series: Book 10 of Mercy Thompson

Publisher: Ace (March 7, 2017)

Length: 352 pages

Author Information: Website | Twitter

YES. Now that’s what I’m talking about!

While I’ve made it no secret that I love the Mercy Thompson series, if you recall my reviews for the last few books, you’ll know how I feel things in the overall story arc have been stuck in a holding pattern for some time now and the lack of progress was starting to take its toll. For this milestone tenth installment though, I’m glad to report that Briggs has brought the energy back to these books in a huge way.

It all began like any other night. A pirate-themed video gaming session ends with Mercy heading out to the store to pick up some cookie baking supplies, but she never makes it home. Her car getting wrecked is the last thing she remembers of that day. Next thing she knows, she’s waking up alone, imprisoned in some strange room. Her mysterious captors are soon revealed as two vampires playing good cop/bad cop come out to question her, cluing Mercy in to the identity of the one behind her rude abduction. If she’s right about her guess though, things are only about to get worse.

By shapeshifting into coyote form, Mercy manages to escape her confinement by outmaneuvering the werewolf assigned to guard her, but the resulting triumph is short-lived. Outside, the world is completely unfamiliar, and with a sick realization, Mercy suddenly understands why she cannot feel her mate bond with Adam anymore. Not only have her kidnappers taken her out of the Tri-Cities area, they’ve taken her out of the country altogether and somehow gotten her unconscious body across the ocean to Europe, where she now finds herself with no clothes, no money, and no allies.

Mercy has been in some hairy situations before, but nothing like this. Silence Fallen is the big shakeup this series needed, in my opinion, and it delivered phenomenally in both content and structure. The synopsis alone should tell you why this story should not be missed; aside from being able to take an unexpected but totally awesome trip to Europe with Mercy, we also get to see a side of the werewolf-vampire political war that we’ve never seen before. This one blows the door wide open on what we think we know, adding a great many more layers to the history of the conflict and to the various parties involved.

The other big deal is how Briggs has chosen to tell the story. So far for the most part, all the books have been told from Mercy’s point of view, though recently we’ve seen a smattering of other POVs involved, like Adam’s. Silence Fallen takes things even further this time around by making Adam’s perspective a central aspect of the novel, though given the nature of the plot, it’s easy to understand why it had to be this way. With Mercy in Europe trying to problem solve her way out of a jam, Adam and the pack have not been sitting idly by, and having both storylines running along side by side is a good way to show how everyone is working in concert trying to figure out why Mercy was kidnapped and how to bring her home. I was truly delighted with the way the two timelines ended up tying together, and especially enjoyed the way it emphasized the power behind their partnership.

Plus, seeing Adam take such an active role in a Mercy Thompson book was a refreshing change of pace. None of us are strangers to Mercy’s resourcefulness, so of course it is no surprise when this book once again shows her using her wits and skills to wriggle out of an impossible situation. But Adam? Thus far, Adam has mostly played the role of Mercy’s support, and bless his heart, he’s good at things that require strength and a voice of authority when it comes to pack drama, but he’s never exactly been one for subtlety. At long last, we see him out of his element and it is a real treat, not to mention the new challenges also add a lot of depth to his character. What do you know, our great commanding Alpha is actually quite capable of diplomacy!

When you’ve been following an urban fantasy series for this long, it’s always fantastic to see a tenth installment that still brings fresh ideas. This being Briggs and Mercy Thompson, I was never truly worried, though the last couple of books have led me to feel slightly underwhelmed by the direction the overall story seemed to be taking. Well, no longer. There are so many great twists here, so many new developments, and so much new potential. Silence Fallen is the shot of energy I needed, and I am once more excited about the future of this series.

4-stars

Mogsy 2

More on The BiblioSanctum:
Reread of River Marked (Book 6)
Review of Night Broken (Book 8)
Review of Fire Touched (Book 9)
Review of Shifting Shadows (Anthology)

Book Review: The Holver Alley Crew by Marshall Ryan Maresca + GIVEAWAY!

***The giveaway is now over, thanks to everyone who entered!***

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

the-holver-alley-crewThe Holver Alley Crew by Marshall Ryan Maresca

Mogsy’s Rating: 4 of 5 stars

Genre: Fantasy

Series: Book 1 of The Streets of Maradaine

Publisher: DAW (March 7, 2017)

Length: 352 pages

Author Information: Website | Twitter

Yes, Marshall Ryan Maresca is back with a third series set in Maradaine, the great city that features at the center of his fantasy universe. But even with all these novels under his belt, Maresca is keeping things interesting; each one of his series brings something different, retaining their own individual flavor. They’re also headed up by their respective casts of unique and diverse characters. Already, we’ve embarked on several adventures through the eyes of a vigilante magic student in Maradaine and patrolled the crime-ridden streets with a pair of resolute detectives in The Maradaine Constabulary.

And now, we get our chance to see yet another side of the city with The Holver Alley Crew, the fantastic opener to The Streets of Maradaine starring a group of plucky thieves who are just burning to exact their own brand of justice. Oh, and did I mention that this is a heist book?

The Rynax brothers were raised by their conman father, who taught his sons the tricks of the trade. But now the boys are all grown up and are ready to go legit. Recently returned from his service in Druth Intelligence with his mind broken and fragile, Asti is ready to settle down, and getting married and becoming a new father has convinced Verci that he needs to set aside a life of thievery and do the same. After taking out loans and using up all their savings, the brothers were able to buy a shop in their old neighborhood of Holver Alley where they have plans to set up a business selling gadgets and trinkets.

But then, the great fire happened. It spared nothing on Holver Alley, incinerating everything in its path including the Rynaxes’ shop and home. That night, Asti and Verci saw their entire future go up in flames, and with nothing left to their name, the brothers are forced back into their old life of crime. Along with a crew made up of other victims of the fire, they agree to take on a job involving a carriage robbery—a situation that quickly blows up when Asti stumbles upon information proving that the inferno that gutted all their lives was in fact no accident. Soon, what began as a simple smash-and-grab escalates to become a full-blown heist planned on a gambling house owned by the powerful man behind the conspiracy. It’s a dangerous job which, if skunked, could cost them all their lives. But the risks are worth it, in Asti and Verci’s mind. For the Holver Alley crew, it’s not even about the money. It’s personal.

Reading The Holver Alley Crew made me realize it’s been a while since I read a heist novel, which happens to be one of my favorite sub-genres. It was also the perfect book to get me back into the action. Every page was packed with fast-moving plot developments with plenty of twists and turns, made even more exciting by the presence of a large and interesting cast. At the heart of the story is of course Asti and Verci Rynax, our masterminds. Next we have Helene and her cousin Julien, the crew’s sharpshooter and muscle, respectively. Then we have Kennith, the driver and designer of specialized carriages; Mila, the scrappy young urchin who knows the streets inside and out, making her the perfect scout; Almer Cort, the chemist who cooks up helpful (albeit sometimes unstable) creations for the Rynax brothers to use; Gin, an actor and make-up artist who joins the crew later in the novel; and finally, we have Win the locksmith, so naturally he is also our resident safe-cracker.

It’s true that we have a big crew here—ten members in all, if you include the Old Lady, their shadowy benefactor who funds their activities from behind the scenes. Books with a large number of characters are often problematic, but to my surprise, I didn’t run into any issues here. In part, this has to do with the story’s flawless pacing. Maresca didn’t introduce the whole gang all at once, but instead broke his novel up into several stages. First we had the Holver Alley fire, then we had the carriage job, and ultimately the events that led up to the big heist. Each section flowed into the next, and as the plot grew in scope and complexity, so too did our cast of characters.

I also thought the author did a great job jazzing up the traditional heist story elements to fit his fantasy world. Think Ocean’s 11 set in Maradaine, complete with magic, violence, and plenty of double dealing. Of our diverse group of characters, many of them have roles that will probably be familiar to fans of heist fiction, but others will also have more innovative, specialized skills to get them past certain obstacles. Levels of intensity are through the roof because the stakes are so high and failure is not an option. Along with great banter and humor to break up the tense scenes of planning and carrying out the job, the overall result is a novel that’s lots of fun to boot.

Certainly, fans of caper stories should be making The Holver Alley Crew their number one priority. A strong start right out of the gate, this series opener is a well-written and brilliantly executed example of the fantasy heist genre, and of all the novels written by Marshall Ryan Maresca so far, this might be my favorite one yet! The Rynax brothers and their crew are so good at their jobs that they will steal your heart from the very first page, and I simply can’t wait to see what the gang will be up to next.

4-stars

Mogsy 2

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The Holver Alley Crew Giveaway

the-holver-alley-crew

Interested in the book? Now here’s your chance to win it! With thanks to the publisher, we’re happy to be hosting this giveaway for one print copy of The Holver Alley CrewThis giveaway is open to addresses in the US and Canada. To enter, all you have to do is send an email to bibliosanctum@gmail.com with your Name and valid Mailing Address using the subject line “THE HOLVER ALLEY CREW” by 11:59pm Eastern time on Thursday, March 16, 2017. 

Only one entry per household, please. The winner will be randomly selected when the giveaway ends and then be notified by email. All information will only be used for the purposes of contacting the winner and sending them their prize. Once the giveaway ends all entry emails will be deleted.

So what are you waiting for? Enter to win! Good luck!

YA Weekend: Caraval by Stephanie Garber

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

CaravalCaraval by Stephanie Garber

Mogsy’s Rating: 3 of 5 stars

Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult

Series: Book 1 of Caraval

Publisher: Flatiron Books (January 31, 2017)

Length: 407 pages

Author Information: Website | Twitter

Caraval seems to be the kind of book that readers either love or hate, but once more I find myself falling somewhere in between. While I enjoyed the story for its enchanting and whimsical premise, like many debut novels, it is also not without its flaws.

The book begins with an introduction to a pair of sisters living on the Conquered Isle of Trisda under the eye of their cruel, abusive father. Since childhood, Scarlett and Tella have both dreamed of Caraval, a legendary performance show that is only held 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, not when she is engaged to be married in about a week. She has never met her fiancé, whom her father had arranged for her, but that hardly matters to Scarlett; all she wants to do is leave the isle 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 actually happens at Caraval has always been shrouded in magic and mystery. All Scarlett knows is that the show involves a game where the audience participates, and the winner is awarded with the ultimate prize, the granting of any wish by Legend. When they arrive though, the last thing she expected was for her own sister to be kidnapped and be made part of the performance. As the clock ticks down, Scarlett becomes less and less convinced that Caraval is just a game, and now she must do all she can to find and save Tella before her sister is lost to her forever.

First, the good: Caraval is a book full of twists and turns, and as expected there are plenty of surprises. Nothing kills my enthusiasm faster than a predictable YA novel, but thankfully this is not a problem here. Sometimes, I even wondered if the author had any idea where her story was going to go before she started, since the plot had that touch of randomness that made me think she might have just made things up as she went along. The ideas behind the novel are also imaginative and compelling. Together with the swift pacing, this creates the fever dream atmosphere that perfectly brings out the urgency of Scarlett’s quest.

And now for the not-so-good: for a novel that is supposed to espouse the loving spirit of sisterhood, I found the relationship between Scarlett and Tella incredibly off-putting. Scarlett is protective to the point of smothering, and Tella is a manipulative spoiled brat more often than not. It didn’t matter how many times the author tried to hammer a point home through repetition, I simply could not grasp any sort of connection between the two sisters, let alone any kind of trust. Then there was Scarlett’s romance with Julian, which was also built on shaky foundations. Julian is hardly what you would call a valiant hero, and I think I would have been more on board with their relationship if Scarlet’s attraction to him didn’t feel so much like Stockholm syndrome.

Caraval is also the debut novel of Stephanie Garber and sure enough I spotted a few quirks in her writing that I often associate with relatively new authors. The big one is “telling not showing” and the constant repetition of key ideas as illustrated in the example of Scarlett and Tella’s relationship, which was just discussed. For the most part the prose is well-written, though occasionally there will be an awkward phrase or two that jumps out at you and smacks you in the face. World-building is also pretty sparse, though to be fair, more world-building might not have mattered that much due to the nature of this particular story, but still, I think it would have helped anchor readers more firmly to the setting.

Bottom line, Caraval wasn’t bad, but I fear my tastes in YA fantasy are growing increasingly hard to please. I see a lot of potential in this series, and even though that potential failed to manifest itself in this first book, I have hopes that the sequel will hit closer to the mark. Yes, I do plan to give the next book a try, since despite my issues with the book’s characters and writing, I think the next book will show development in these areas.

3stars

Mogsy 2

YA Weekend: A Thousand Pieces of You by Claudia Gray

A Thousand Pieces of YouA Thousand Pieces of You by Claudia Gray

Genre: Young adult, science fiction

Series: Firebird #1

Publisher: Harper Teen (November 2014)

Author Infoclaudiagray.com

Wendy’s Rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

“Every form of art is another way of seeing the world. Another perspective, another window. And science –that’s the most spectacular window of all. You can see the entire universe from there.”

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I’m not fond of YA books that put romance first, but Claudia Gray proved herself capable of formulating a story around a romance, rather than making it the entire focus with Lost Stars. While I don’t feel as strongly about this book as I did Lost Stars, I am still very impressed with the way Gray weaves her magic.

In A Thousand Pieces of You, Gray writes about a young woman named Marguerite Cain who is at the centre of the science that can cross dimensions. She herself is not a scientist, but her parents and their assistants are, and their brilliant minds have created the firebird device, which allows users to jump into alternate versions of themselves in other dimensions. The science is a bit iffy at times, but as this is told through Marguerite’s perspective, it can be appreciated that her artistic mind does not grasp many of the concepts (and frankly, mine wouldn’t either).

Marguerite is also at the centre of a love triangle involving her parents’ assistant. The problem is that one of those assistants is responsible for murdering her father and stealing the firebird. Marguerite races across dimensions with Theo to catch Paul and make him pay. But things aren’t that easy, of course, and there are other sides to every story — especially when there are other sides to the people involved.

As Marguerite jumps from one life to another, the plot slows a bit to focus on that romance. While this jaunt seems to stray from the main in order to get the romance on, several important elements and ideas are subtly raised that solidify the plot, as well as the character development of both of the men in Marguerite’s life. In other words, I can forgive the delay to make kissy face when the ramifications of their actions and the reality of who a person truly is, no matter what dimension they are from, are still integral to the development of the people and the events to come.

Somewhere towards the end of the book when the plot thickens, the story very much reminded me of the events in Fringe, but with Gray’s own unique twist on the implications of interdimensional travel. At this point, I fell into all my Fringe feels and emotional twirling.

This was a pretty solid book, but I did not find the characters as endearing as I have in Gray’s other writing. In particular, Marguerite was not nearly as interesting a protagonist as she could have been and I found myself wishing to see the story from other perspectives instead.

3-5stars

Wendy 2

Friday Face-Off: Playing Cards

the-friday-face-off

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:

“Life is not a matter of holding good cards, but of playing a poor hand well”
~ a cover featuring PLAYING CARDS

Mogsy’s Pick:
Planesrunner by Ian McDonald

When I saw what the theme was for this week, my mind immediately went to the US cover for this book, mainly because Planesrunner is never too far from my mind. It’s an amazing novel, the first of a Young Adult series called Everness, but don’t write it off just because of the YA tag — this is a smart, unique, and entertaining universe-hopping steampunk adventure like no other, and I’m glad to finally get the chance to gush about it. I just wish I knew whether or not Ian McDonald is planning on writing more for this series, because book three was the latest one to come out and that was in 2013.

Anyway, let’s take a look at some of book’s covers. Interestingly, the Pyr edition has two versions, one for the hardcover and one for the Kindle, with only slight differences between them:

planesrunner-pyr-1 planesrunner-pyr-2

The Russian edition is the only other cover to feature playing cards. The rest show the eponymous airship Everness in all her glory.

From left to right, top to bottom: Bulgarian (2015) – French (2013) – Italian (2017) – British (2012) – Russian (2013)

planesrunner-bulgarian-2015 planesrunner-french-2013 planesrunner-italian-2017

planesrunner-jo-fletcher-books planesrunner-russian-2013

Winner:

This was a tough one. My eye for aesthetics went immediately to the Bulgarian edition, because damn, that’s just beautiful. At the same time though, my heart refused to relinquish the Jo Fletcher Books UK cover, and all because that’s the edition I own. Oh well, stubborn hearts win out in the end!

What do you think? Which one is your favorite?

planesrunner-jo-fletcher-books

Novella Review: Idle Ingredients by Matt Wallace

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

idle-ingredientsIdle Ingredients by Matt Wallace

Mogsy’s Rating: 4 of 5 stars

Genre: Urban Fantasy

Series: Book 4 of Sin du Jour

Publisher: Tor.com (February 7, 2016)

Length: 224 pages

Author Information: Website | Twitter

Put on your chefs hats and smocks, because it’s time for another crazy adventure starring the ragtag crew of New York’s most exclusive kitchen and catering company. And if the first three books of the Sin du Jour series can be considered the early courses of a meal, then with this fourth installment we have come to the entrée—the meat of this story arc, so to speak.

The last we saw these characters, Lena had just dropped the big news on everyone that she was leaving Sin du Jour. As we would soon discover at the start of Idle Ingredients, however, her so-called bombshell of a decision ultimately led nowhere, for it didn’t take long for Bronko to track her down, pluck her up from her new place of work, and unceremoniously drop her right back into his kitchen line. That’s because it’s all hands on deck again for their next big assignment, catering a series of campaign events for the underground supernatural community’s upcoming elections. Bronko has even brought on a new liaison named Luciana Monrovio to help him streamline Sin du Jour’s operational processes and salvage their reputation after their last few disastrous gigs.

But instead of improving things around the place, Luciana ends up driving a wedge between Bronko and his staff. Jett, the event planner, is one of the first to be pushed out. Then Ryland loses his home as his trailer is towed away. Boosha ends up comatose in the hospital after a mysterious accident. Lena becomes infuriated after she is banned from the kitchen, reassigned to work with Nikki on deserts and pastries. Darren and his new boyfriend James are inexplicably sent off on vacation in the middle of this busy time. The Stocking and Receiving department, a mainstay of the company, gets ordered off the premises and put on call. Worse, the women seem to be the only ones noticing these odd changes, since the men seem to be unnaturally smitten with Luciana, like they’ve all suddenly come under a spell. Something is seriously wrong at Sin du Jour, and it’s up to the ladies to figure it out and put a stop to whatever’s happening.

While it’s true that Pride’s Spell was an improvement over Lustlocked, this installment might finally be the one to bring the complexity and substance I feel has been sorely needed since Envy of Angels. Granted, the introduction was a bit weak due to the considerable time spent getting the team back together again (cycling through all the characters in order to catch up with every single one of them took up the entire first quarter of the book) but still, it’s probably safe to say Idle Ingredients is my favorite addition to Sin du Jour so far.

For one thing, I like how this series has settled into a rhythm—and no, that does not mean things have slowed down or become stuck in a rut. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. We seem to have found what works, and now Matt Wallace is building upon those foundations with this fourth installment. Apart from the intro, the story in Idle Ingredients was fast-paced and consistent, focusing on some of the most interesting characters like Lena, Bronko, and Nikki. The plot was tightly woven and we didn’t waste much time with distractions, instead diving straight into the main conflict. Even though there wasn’t as much cooking when compared to the previous three books, I thought Sin du Jour’s catering job in this one—providing food for a party of elementals during a Sceadu candidate’s campaign speeches—was their coolest assignment yet.

I hope we’ll keep seeing these “big picture” plots, because as much as I’m enjoying reading about Sin du Jour’s action-packed and insanity-fueled adventures, I think I like following the characters’ relationships even more. As their personalities continue to grow and develop, the books also seem to be getting better, and Idle Ingredients is evidence of this upwards trend. Besides, with a teaser like that in the epilogue, how can I not feel excited for the future of this series? Thank goodness the next book Greedy Pigs is already on the horizon, because I can hardly wait.

4-stars

Mogsy 2

More on The BiblioSanctum:
Review of Envy of Angels (Book 1)
Review of Lustlocked (Book 2)
Review of Pride’s Spell (Book 3)

Waiting on Wednesday 03/01/17

“Waiting On Wednesday” is a weekly meme hosted by Breaking the Spine that lets us feature upcoming releases that we can’t wait to get our hands on!

Mogsy’s Pick

The Core by Peter V. Brett (August 15, 2017 by Del Rey)

Reading the last few books of this series has become increasingly like watching “Days of Our Lives in The Hollow”, but I just can’t seem to bring myself to quit. Say what you want about these books, but damn it, they’re addictive as hell. I must know how it all ends.

the-core“For time out of mind, bloodthirsty demons have stalked the night, culling the human race to scattered remnants dependent on half-forgotten magics to protect them. Then two heroes arose—men as close as brothers, yet divided by bitter betrayal. Arlen Bales became known as the Warded Man, tattooed head to toe with powerful magic symbols that enable him to fight demons in hand-to-hand combat—and emerge victorious. Jardir, armed with magically warded weapons, called himself the Deliverer, a figure prophesied to unite humanity and lead them to triumph in Sharak Ka—the final war against demonkind.

But in their efforts to bring the war to the demons, Arlen and Jardir have set something in motion that may prove the end of everything they hold dear—a Swarm. Now the war is at hand and humanity cannot hope to win it unless Arlen and Jardir, with the help of Arlen’s wife, Renna, can bend a captured demon prince to their will and force the devious creature to lead them to the Core, where the Mother of Demons breeds an inexhaustible army.

Trusting their closest confidantes, Leesha, Inevera, Ragen and Elissa, to rally the fractious people of the Free Cities and lead them against the Swarm, Arlen, Renna, and Jardir set out on a desperate quest into the darkest depths of evil—from which none of them expects to return alive.”

Book Review: The Devil Crept In by Ania Ahlborn

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

the-devil-crept-inThe Devil Crept In by Ania Ahlborn

Mogsy’s Rating: 4 of 5 stars

Genre: Horror

Series: Stand Alone

Publisher: Gallery Books (February 7, 2017)

Length: 384 pages

Author Information: Website | Twitter

Don’t you just love it whenever a horror novel lives up to its promise? No joke, I actually had to stop reading this book at night because it was getting too disturbing and creepy for me, and you know I’m not one to scare easily. If this is what I’ve been missing out on for so many years, I wish to hell I’d started reading Ania Ahlborn much sooner.

In the small town of Deer Valley, Oregon lives a ten-year-old boy named Stevie Clark. Ostracized by the other kids at school because of his speech impediment and the missing fingers on one of his hands, Stevie has no friends except for his neighbor and cousin Jude Brighton. Whether it’s watching true crime shows on TV or building a secret fort out in the woods, the two of them do everything together and have been inseparable for years.

Then one day, Jude goes missing. The entire town mobilizes to try to find the boy, but after his bloody sweatshirt is found, the whole mood of Deer Valley seems to shift. To Stevie’s frustration, no one seems to think they’ll find his cousin alive anymore. After all, the search has already been going on for three days with no luck, and the locals all know the story about Max Larsen, another boy who met a gruesome end in these woods years ago, after disappearing under similar circumstances. That story doesn’t get talked about much though, not unlike the reports going back for years about the dogs and cats that go missing from their owners’ yards. There’s a good reason why there are no veterinarians in Deer Valley.

Last year I read and was a little disappointed by the book Disappearance at Devil’s Rock by Paul Tremblay, another horror novel with “a boy goes missing in the woods” main plot. Somehow I can’t help but think The Devil Crept In is what that story should have been. Ahlborn’s take on the premise is the real deal, the way a true horror of psychological thrills and supernatural suspense should have played out. It is a creepy tale worthy of the campfire, containing all the right ingredients: a small town with a big secret, a terrifying local legend that holds more truth than meets the eye, and a young innocent boy that no one takes seriously because of his disability.

Of course, it wasn’t all smooth sailing from the start; like any good scary story, this one required a bit of setup. I would describe The Devil Crept In as a novel of three parts. Ahlborn uses the first to establish our main character, a boy who lives a troubled life. Stevie’s father walked out on his family when he was younger, and his mom remarried an abusive man who beats him while she looks the other way. Stevie also often feels frustration at his own speech disorder, unable to get his thoughts across without losing control of his words. He is the target of the worst bullying because of it, not only by the other kids but by his own older brother and some adults as well. So you can imagine how horrible it is for a someone like Stevie to lose his only friend, which means too that the entire first part of this book is taken up by his obsession with finding Jude, with the dogged determination you would expect from a ten-year-old. In my opinion, the introduction was a little too drawn out, with Stevie’s chapters becoming repetitive after a while.

Fortunately, that was probably the only point where I felt this book faltered. Ahlborn follows up with a second part that brings about the full-on creeps. The transition was a little jarring at first, as the narrative veers off into a completely different direction, starting over with a seemingly unrelated tale about a woman named Rosie. I’m not going to talk too much about her, as that would spoil the story; all I’ll say is that I quickly became riveted by the horrifying details of her tragic, disturbing life—like witnessing a bloody car wreck where you just can’t tear your eyes away. It might take some time for this part to make sense with the rest of the novel, but once it clicks into place, you’ll see how it all the pieces fit the big picture. The third and final part of The Devil Crept In is where all this magic happens, as elements from Jude’s disappearance and Rosie’s tale begin to gradually come together.

The results are eerily satisfying and really hit the spot. Note to self: no trips out to the woods anytime soon. For a straight-up entertaining and chill-you-t0-your-bones good read, I really can’t recommend this book enough. Mark my words, The Devil Crept In might be my first novel by Ania Ahlborn, but it certainly won’t be my last.

4-stars

Mogsy 2

Book Review: Thunderbird by Chuck Wendig

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

ThunderbirdThunderbird by Chuck Wendig

Mogsy’s Rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

Genre: Urban Fantasy

Series: Book 4 of Miriam Black

Publisher: Saga Press (February 28, 2017)

Length: 400 pages

Author Information: Website | Twitter

Chuck Wendig is one of my favorite authors, and to date I must have read more than a dozen of his books. But whenever someone asks what I think is his best work, my mind always comes back to Miriam Black.

Oh Miriam, Miriam, Miriam, “my fair fuckin’ lady” Miriam. From the very start she had me with her snarky spitfire devil-may-care ways, though in truth it is her secret power that makes most people sit up and pay attention. With no more than the slightest touch, she can tell you when you’ll die and how it’ll happen. All she needs is a bit of skin-on-skin contact, and the visions will trigger and she will know.

But is such a power more of a gift or a curse? Very few people actually want the knowledge Miriam can glean, and her abilities have brought her more pain than anything else. Imagine foreseeing hundreds of deaths, many of which can be pretty disturbing or gruesome—accidents, car crashes, illnesses, murders, and suicides. Imagine seeing how those closest to you will die, but knowing there’s nothing you can do to stop it or change it.

So Miriam has decided that she doesn’t want anything to do with death anymore. Thunderbird is the fourth novel of the series in which our protagonist begins to take the necessary steps to get rid of her powers. Last we saw her, she had just gotten a name of a person who might be able to help, so now she’s on her way to the Southwest to find the psychic known as Mary Scissors. Unfortunately, Mary is proving to be a hard woman to find, and soon Miriam and her friend Gabby are getting mixed up with the Arizona drug gangs and crazy militia cults.

Technically, it is possible to read Thunderbird on its own without having read the previous novels, though I have to say it’s probably not ideal. The story here is a culmination of everything that happened before, and knowing Miriam’s past will make it easier to understand why she has come to a point where she feels she has no choice but to get rid of her curse. There are also characters and references to events from the first three novels, and the significance of some of these appearances and mentions are going to be confusing if you haven’t read them yet. Even I had a few stumbles along the way because I couldn’t remember all the details of what happened; after all, it has been about three years since the last book came out, and it was a wait that felt like an eternity at times, given how much I adore this series.

Still, a part of me also has to wonder if the long hiatus affected my experience with this book, because there are certain aspects that feel a little different about it. One thing that first made me fall in love with the Miriam Black series was the sheer horror aspect of it; I still remember certain scenes from Blackbirds and Mockingbird that were so violently and gut-churningly graphic that I almost couldn’t bear to read anymore. And yet, I also once wrote how Wendig’s writing can make you desperately want to keep turning the pages and be scared to do so at the same time, and that is why I love these books.

Thunderbird, however, probably didn’t hit me as profoundly or affect me as viscerally. Is Miriam Black getting soft? I certainly hope not! But this book did strike me as being a little more conventional and having fewer sharp edges as the first three. One simply has to compare the villains in this story to the likes of those that came before (Ashley Gaynes? Shudder! The Mockingbird Killer? GAH!) and it’s easy to see why this one felt less terrifying and lacked a certain punch in that regard. I also had some mixed feelings about the interludes. Let’s just say they can be…tricky. Time jumps can be tough to pull off, and personally I didn’t think they worked all of the time. I enjoyed those flashbacks that dropped at appropriate moments, giving us important details or building up the atmosphere, but I didn’t like them so much when they disrupted the momentum and took away from the developing suspense.

That said, while this probably wasn’t my favorite book of the series (that distinction still belongs to The Cormorant, the previous one) I still think it’s great because of what it does for Miriam. Wendig has done an exceptional job developing her backstory and personality in Thunderbird, and in spite of all her faults and damaged psyche, I just love everything about her character. Beneath that sarcastic badass persona is a woman with a bigger heart than she would probably like to admit, and over the last couple installments we’ve been able to see that part of her emerge.

There really is no one else quite like Miriam Black, so if you haven’t had the pleasure of meeting her yet, what are you waiting for? I highly recommend picking up this series, and if you can, definitely start her story from the beginning. I promise you won’t regret it.

3-5stars

Mogsy 2

More on The BiblioSanctum:
Review of Blackbirds (Book 1)
Review of Mockingbird (Book 2)
Review of The Cormorant (Book 3)