Sunday, April 21, 2019

Book Review: Witchmark by C. L. Polk

Witchmark
Author: C. L. Polk
Series: The Kingston Cycle (Book 1)
Publication: Tor.com (June 19, 2018)

Description: In an original world reminiscent of Edwardian England in the shadow of a World War, cabals of noble families use their unique magical gifts to control the fates of nations, while one young man seeks only to live a life of his own.

Magic marked Miles Singer for suffering the day he was born, doomed either to be enslaved to his family's interest or to be committed to a witches' asylum. He went to war to escape his destiny and came home a different man, but he couldn’t leave his past behind. The war between Aeland and Laneer leaves men changed, strangers to their friends and family, but even after faking his own death and reinventing himself as a doctor at a cash-strapped veterans' hospital, Miles can’t hide what he truly is.

When a fatally poisoned patient exposes Miles’ healing gift and his witchmark, he must put his anonymity and freedom at risk to investigate his patient’s murder. To find the truth he’ll need to rely on the family he despises, and on the kindness of the most gorgeous man he’s ever seen.

My Thoughts: This intriguing fantasy is set in a world powered by magic. Dr. Miles Singer is a psychiatrist who is dealing with the many soldiers who have returned from the war with Laneer with significant mental issues. They are claiming that something in their mind is commanding them to kill. Miles has a magic for healing that he has been successful in hiding. He can see this cloud in the mens's mind but he doesn't know what it is or what can be done about it.

One night, when he is outside for a smoke break, a man - Sir Tristan Hunter - comes up to him carrying a dying man. Nick Elliot is dying and claiming that he has been poisoned. To ease his mind, Miles promises to find his murderer and, in return, Nick gives Miles all of his magic when he dies. Tristan sees the secrets that Miles is hiding about his magic and begins by threatening him to expose it if Miles doesn't keep his promise to Nick. Tristan has quite a few secrets of his own and a task to complete in the eight days he has remaining before he must return home.

Investigating exposes Miles to the family he ran away from to become a doctor and dumps him right in the middle of the politics of the most powerful Mages in Aeland including his father and his sister Grace. Storm-Singers are the powerful mages who control the weather that keeps Aeland a perfect place to live. Only Storm-singer magic is valued. Miles with his healing ability was slated to be nothing more than a Secondary and act as a magical battery for his powerful sister.

I loved the world building in this story. I also loved the relationship that grew between Tristan and Miles. The characters were well-rounded and interesting people with all sorts of problems that they had to solve. The book was fast-paced and filled with mystery and intrigue.

Favorite Quote:
He tossed the keys in the air and caught them again. "People lie, Doctor. They fib. They omit. They smooth matters over with the easy thing to say. You know this."

How easily he talked of laying the truth aside, as if it were a tie in a color that didn't suit. "Have you lied to me?"

He took a moment to think about it. "Not that I recall."
I got a free copy of this one from Tor.com. You can buy your copy here.

Saturday, April 20, 2019

Book Review: Spellslinger by Sebastien De Castell

Spellslinger
Author: Sebastien De Castell
Series: Spellslinger (Book 1)
Publication: Orbit (July 17, 2018)

Description: A would-be mage with no magic of his own has to defeat powerful enemies with only cunning and deception in the first book of an exciting adventure fantasy series from Sebastien de Castell.

Kellen is moments away from facing his first duel and proving his worth as a spellcaster. There's just one problem: his magic is fading.

Facing exile unless he can pass the mage trials, Kellen is willing to risk everything - even his own life - in search of a way to restore his magic. But when the enigmatic Ferius Parfax arrives in town, she challenges him to take a different path.

One of the elusive Argosi, Ferius is a traveller who lives by her wits and the cards she carries. Daring, unpredictable, and wielding magic Kellen has never seen before, she may be his only hope.

The first novel in a compelling six-book series, bursting with tricks, humor, and a whole new way to look at magic.

My Thoughts: This first book in a new fantasy builds an interesting world and has an intriguing main character. Kellen is almost sixteen, the son of a very powerful mage, and feeling his magic fade away. He lives in a society where only those with magic are powerful and respected. Those without magic are essentially made slaves who may end up working in the mines or serving in their own family homes.

Kellen may lack magic but he is clever and tricky. Faced with having to win a magical duel, he wins by using his wits to convince his opponent to bespell himself. However, he's called out by his own sister for cheating. And he is willing to cheat if it gives him the magic that he needs to take his proper place in his society.

It isn't until he meets Ferius Parfax that he even begins questioning his future. Ferius is accused of being a spy for a rival country but is actually a member of the Argosi - travelers who are watching all the different countries. She is irreverent, fearless, and fascinating as she challenges Kellen to really think about what he wants for his future.

As events happen in this story, Kellen learns things about his people that changes his view of them. His parents aren't who he thought they were. What he wants for his life changes through the course of the story.

I liked Kellen's character. I liked his resilience and creativity. I liked his new "business partner" Reichis who makes a great adventure buddy. They each balance the other's weaknesses and enhance their strengths. I liked the role Ferius plays as she acts as a goad to the changes Kellen needs to make.

I am eager to read more in this six book series.

Favorite Quote:
"This would be a good time for a really powerful spell," he chittered in my ear.

"I've got one that channels a light breeze," I said, ignoring the confused looks of my uncle and his followers. "Think that'll work?"

Reichis gave a sigh. "Why did I ever agree to partner up with a magic-less skinbag?"

"I think because your mother ordered you to."
I bought this one. You can buy your copy here.

Friday, April 19, 2019

Friday Memes: Spellslinger by Sebastien De Castell

Happy Friday everybody!
Book Beginnings on Friday is now hosted by Rose City ReaderThe Friday 56 is hosted at Freda's Voice. Check out the links above for the rules and for the posts of the participants each week. Don’t dig for your favorite book, the coolest, the most intellectual. Use the CLOSEST.

Beginning:
The old spellmasters like to say that magic has a taste. Ember smells are like a spice burning the tip of your tongue. Breath magic is subtle, almost cool, the sensation of holding a mint leaf between your lips. Sand, silk, blood, iron...they each have their flavour. A true adept -- the kind of mage who can cast spells even outside an oasis -- knows them all.
Friday 56:
I followed as fast as I could, which turned out to be pretty fast considering I was barefoot.
This week I am featuring Spellslinger by Sebastien De Castell. I saw good reviews and became curious about this one. Here is the description from Amazon:
A would-be mage with no magic of his own has to defeat powerful enemies with only cunning and deception in the first book of an exciting adventure fantasy series from Sebastien de Castell.

Kellen is moments away from facing his first duel and proving his worth as a spellcaster. There's just one problem: his magic is fading.

Facing exile unless he can pass the mage trials, Kellen is willing to risk everything - even his own life - in search of a way to restore his magic. But when the enigmatic Ferius Parfax arrives in town, she challenges him to take a different path.

One of the elusive Argosi, Ferius is a traveller who lives by her wits and the cards she carries. Daring, unpredictable, and wielding magic Kellen has never seen before, she may be his only hope.

The first novel in a compelling six-book series, bursting with tricks, humor, and a whole new way to look at magic.

Thursday, April 18, 2019

ARC Review: Hide and Seek by Mary Burton

Hide and Seek
Author: Mary Burton
Series: Criminal Profiler Novel
Publication: Montlake Romance (April 23, 2019)

Description: She’s hunting. He’s watching.

Special Agent Macy Crow is a survivor. After a vicious hit-and-run nearly kills her, she gets right back to work, and now she’s gunning for a spot on the FBI’s elite profiling team. As an audition, she offers to investigate the recently discovered bones of Tobi Turner, a high school girl who disappeared fifteen years ago.

While investigating with local sheriff Mike Nevada, a former colleague and onetime lover, Macy discovers a link between Tobi’s case and several others that occurred around the same time as her disappearance. As Macy interviews victims and examines old cases, she uncovers a sinister picture of a stalker who graduated to sexual assault—and then murder.

Macy and Nevada race to put this monster behind bars before he can come out of hiding. But the murderer’s had years to hone his skills, and soon Macy herself becomes a target. She’s no stranger to pain and terror, but will Macy’s first profiling case be her last?

My Thoughts: This first book in the new Criminal Profiler series stars FBI Agent Macy Crow who is still recovering from almost dying in a hit-and-run accident. She has spent some time during her recovery deep in an FBI basement doing computer work. When she is given a chance to become part of a new group, she is eager to prove that she is back and ready to work active cases again.

Macy is sent to Deep Run, Virginia, where she reconnects with Sheriff Mike Nevada who had come back home after burning out on harrowing FBI cases and run for sheriff because he was so disgusted that the current sheriff had let years of rape kits pile up without testing them. Testing them has revealed that the same man was involved with at least three of the cases but his DNA is not on file anywhere.

When the bones are discovered of a teenage girl who disappeared fifteen years earlier, Macy and Nevada are pretty sure that they have a serial killer in their town. As they investigate, old secrets are unearthed. Chapters from the murderer/rapist were quite chilling.

There is a possible paranormal twist as Macy has recurring dreams of another teenage girl who disappeared at the same time. Macy is concerned that her own near-death experience might have done something to her mind.

I liked getting the backstory of Macy and learning how she came to be the person she is. She was an intriguing, driven woman. I liked Mike Nevada too. Both are gifted investigators. I am quite curious to know where this series will be going next because I enjoyed the writing style and strong characters.

Favorite Quote:
A rape rarely lasted beyond the event for a rapist. But for his victim, the trauma could linger for a lifetime. 
I received this one in exchange for an honest review from NetGalley. You can buy your copy here.

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Book Review: Grave Memory by Kalayna Price

Grave Memory
Author: Kalayna Price
Series: Alex Craft (Book 3)
Publication: Ace (July 3, 2012)

Description: When the dead need to talk, Alex Craft is always ready to listen…

As a Grave Witch, Alex solves murders by raising the dead—an ability that comes at a cost, and after her last few cases, that cost is compounding. But her magic isn’t the only thing causing havoc in her life. While she’s always been on friendly terms with Death himself, things have recently become a whole lot more close and personal. Then there’s her sometime partner, agent Falin Andrews, who is under the glamour of the Winter Queen. To top everything off, her best friend has been forever changed by her time spent captive in Faerie.

But the personal takes a backseat to the professional when a string of suicides occur in Nekros City and Alex is hired to investigate. The shades have no memory of the days leading up to their brutal endings, so despite the very public apparent suicides, this is murder. But what kind of magic can overcome the human will to survive? And why do the shades lack the memory of their deaths? Searching for the answer might mean Alex won’t have a life to remember at all…

My Thoughts: In this third Alex Craft adventure, Alex has to find a way to stop an entity that steals bodies, uses them to eat a great restaurants, hire hookers, and live in posh hotels, and then causing them to commit suicide. She gets involved when hired by one of the victims' wife who doesn't believe that her husband could have done those things.

Of course, that isn't all that is going on. Alexis losing her grip on the glamour that she didn't even know she had and is starting to glow. She goes to her estranged father for help and learns some things she didn't know about her family history. She'd already met a king in faerie who acknowledged her as his niece and met a brownie who said he helped raise her. These aren't things Alex wants. She would much prefer to be a human grave witch and private investigator.

Her love life is also in a state of chaos too with Falin being under the thumb of the Winter Queen and him telling Alex that she can not trust him. Meanwhile, Death is breaking rules for Alex including exchanging life force with her and taking her to the Mender who deals with injured soul collectors. Their latest action have led to an either/or choice for Death that Alex isn't willing to accept. She is willing to go to great lengths even lose her own life to give him better options.

This is an entertaining urban fantasy series with great characters. It seems each episode opens up more opportunities for Alex but the opportunities could cost her what she holds the most dear. I can't wait to see what happens next for her.

Favorite Quote:
It said something about my life when a heavily armed official accused me of causing magical havoc and I had to wonder which incident she meant. 
I bought this one Dec. 22, 2013 and am rereading it. You can buy your copy here.

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

ARC Review: Wolfhunter River by Rachel Caine

Wolfhunter River
Author: Rachel Caine
Series: Stillhouse Lake (Book 3)
Publication: Thomas & Mercer (April 23, 2019)

Description: She can’t ignore a cry for help. But in this remote hunting town, it’s open season.

Gwen Proctor escaped her serial-killer husband and saved her family. What she can’t seem to outrun is his notoriety. Or the sick internet vigilantes still seeking to avenge his crimes. For Gwen, hiding isn’t an option. Not when her only mission is to create a normal life for her kids.

But now, a threatened woman has reached out. Marlene Crockett, from the remote town of Wolfhunter, is panicked for herself and her daughter. When Gwen arrives in the small, isolated rural community, Marlene is already dead—her own daughter blamed for the murder. Except that’s not the person Marlene feared at all. And Gwen isn’t leaving until she finds out who that was.

But it may already be too late. A trap has been set. And it’s poised to snap shut on everyone Gwen loves. Her stalkers are closing in. And in a town as dark as Wolfhunter, it’s so easy for them to hide…

My Thoughts: WOLFHUNTER RIVER was an appalling and pulse-pounding thriller. Gwen Proctor managed to escape from her serial killer husband Melvin Royal. She is trying to make a new, safe life for her kids Lanny and Connor, but she has been convicted of being his accomplice by the court of public opinion. She faces daily harassment from online bullies of all descriptions.

Her main nemesis is Miranda Nelson Tidewell. She is wealthy and obsessed with the idea that Gwen was involved in the death of her daughter. She is using her money currently to fund a documentary which will bring everything back to public awareness and encourage a new round of hateful fanatics. Gwen's boyfriend Sam was once a supporter of Miranda and her agenda. They joined forces when Sam's sister was identified as one of Melvin's victims. However, getting to know Gwen has enabled him to realize how wrong he was about her. He hasn't confessed his role in Gwen's harassment though.

Gwen has been getting something of an underground reputation for being able to help other women in her sort of situation. When she gets a call from a woman in Wolfhunter River, she thinks this is another one of those calls. But the woman is too frightened to tell her what is going on. The next time the phone rings from that number, it is the woman's fifteen-year-old daughter Vee who says she's standing over her mother's dead body and that she is afraid that "they" will be coming for her next.

Needing to get away from Stillhouse Lake while the documentary is being filmed there, Gwen, Sam, Lanny and Connor head to Wolfhouse River to see if they can help Vera. They find a town steeped in secrets. Young women are missing, the police are obviously corrupt, and assorted other villains are gathering there. And in the background is the possibility that six-year-old kidnapping victim Ellie White might be somewhere in the area.

The tension and suspense seemed to build with every turn of the page. I loved that the viewpoint shifted from Gwen, to Sam, to Lanny, and to Connor. I loved that there was no complete resolution to Gwen's problems. She'll always be under suspicion from some people regarding whether or not she had a part in Melvin Royal's killing spree. She and Sam have a lot of trust to rebuild after she learns of his involvement with Miranda's hate campaign against her. I do like the strong family that they are building though.

Favorite Quote:
"I look forward to the day someone destroys those children the way Melvin destroyed mine. Then I can rest, because the last trace of Melvin Royal will be gone from this earth."
I received this one in exchange for an honest review from NetGalley. You can buy your copy here.

Monday, April 15, 2019

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? (April 15, 2019)

It's Monday, What Are You Reading? is now hosted by Kathryn at The Book Date.

It’s Monday!  What Are You Reading is where we gather to share what we have read this past week and what we plan to read this week.  It is a great way to network with other bloggers, see some wonderful blogs, and put new titles on your reading list.

I will be combining my YA and adult reading and purchases on this one weekly roundup.

Other Than Reading...

The weather was certainly interesting this week in Duluth. We began the week with mist and fog and ended the week with a snowstorm. They were predicting it all week but snow didn't begin until Thursday afternoon. Thursday morning was grey and very windy. The wind kept up and the snow began making travel "not advised" in the whole area. The wind died down but the snow continued until Friday early evening. It took until Saturday morning before our road was plowed. We didn't end up with as much snow as had been predicted - only 5.9 inches of very heavy snow - what we call "heart attack" snow for all the heart attacks suffered by people who try to shovel it. My brother fired up the snowblower on Friday to get out to work and on Saturday to deal with the icy ridge the snowplow left in front of out driveway.

I haven't been out of the house since last Wednesday which is perfectly all right with me. I can wait until I can see the roads before I go out driving on them. I have been watching a lot of baseball on TV even though my team isn't doing very well. I am also still watching The Voice. We did go out to eat on Tuesday night since my brother's birthday was Wednesday but his work schedule didn't allow time to go out. He was eager to go to Bridgeman's again for a burger, fries, and a malt. I had the hot turkey dinner and enjoyed it too.

This coming week has an appointment with my tax preparer to try to figure out how to fill in the forms for a Property Tax Refund which is a lovely perk of living in Minnesota. I'm also meeting with my investment people to finally shift two 403Bs to a more accessible location. It will be nice, and easier, if my retirement investments are all managed by the same people. Otherwise, next week should be quiet and I should be able to get back into my exercise routine.

Read Last Week

If you can't wait until the review shows up on my blog, reviews are posted to LibraryThing and Goodreads as soon as I write them (usually right after I finish reading a book.)
  • Echo North by Joanna Ruth Meyer (Mine) - YA retelling of Beauty and the Beast mixed with East of the Sun, West of the Moon. It was lyrical and imaginative. My review will be posted on May 4.
  • Lake Silence by Anne Bishop (Mine) - I enjoyed listening to the audiobook version of one of my favorite books. 
  • Aurora Rising by Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff (YA Review; May 7) - Excellent science fiction epic adventure that begins a trilogy. My review will be posted on May 7.
  • Spark by Sarah Beth Durst (Middle Grade Review; May 14) - This was an excellent middle grade fantasy with dragon-like storm beasts and a young girl who quiet but becomes a hero anyway. My review will be posted on May 8.
  • Shadowblack by Sebastien De Castell (Mine) - The second book in the Spellslinger fantasy series is filled with action and adventure and a main character who is gradually figuring out what he wants to do with his life. My review will be posted on May 11.
  • The Dark Bones by Loreth Anne White (Review; May 21) - Great thriller with well-rounded and interesting characters. My review will be posted by May 14.
Currently
Next Week
Reviews Posted
Want to See What I Added to My Stack Last Week?

Bought:
  • Charmcaster by Sebastien De Castell (Spellslinger #3)
Review:
What was your week like?