Saturday, 3 June 2017

Review: Darklands by M.L. Spencer


Compelled to obey the dark god he pledged his soul to, Darien finds himself tasked with delivering the people of the Black Lands from under the curse of darkness which shrouds the skies. With the enemy mage Azár, Darien sets out across a barren darkscape to assume his place as the leader of a people who despise him.


As he journeys deeper into the shadowed waste, Darien is confronted with difficult truths that force him to question every loyalty he has ever held. For there, in the brutal proving grounds of the north, Darien will be inexorably forged into the most dangerous adversary the Rhen has ever faced.


***

My fabulous brother in law and fellow Virgo knows just how pull my strings. He gives me, oh say, book three in a series, then watches in full-on amusement as I drop everything, helpless against the impulse to run to the book store for books one and two.

Being "she who must have the entire set" can seem like a nonsense compulsion, but getting more books isn't really a bad thing at all, right?

So when M.L. Spencer offered ARCs of Darklands, I readied myself to burn through the first two.

When she said I wouldn't have to read the first two in order to have a good grasp of the goings on in book three, I decided the only way to know for sure was to hold back my inner collector and start reading.

First, I was super happy to see Darklands was edited by the fantastic Morgan Smith, writer of solid, honest heroines and immersively tactile fantasy worlds.

Though loaded with repercussions, heartache and grief from the previous two books in the series, Darklands opens with its own ominously laden action. The line between life and the afterlife quickly blurs and left me with the feeling of straddling both sides of the conflict filled streams winding through the book.

I also loved the balance of voice between the various characters. To me, none stood out over the others and each clearly availed me of the differences in the way they see each other. Each change in point of view made a point of pushing the plot further or pivoting it around in a new direction while maintaining a great feel of being its own small story.

I also felt a good sense of The Rhen and The Black Lands though I suspect much of the setting for book three is in areas not yet explored in books one and two. Though there are a good part of the lands I didn't get to by jumping in to book three, they have the solid feel of the place where your best friend, mage mentor, etc. grew up and gave them life through their first-hand telling.

Darklands is a complete, dark, anything goes fantasy that brings together one of the ultimate challenges in fiction, the balance between life and death, and with it what happens when the very balance of light and dark is thrown awry. Find room for Darklands on your bookshelf and in your escape time. At night. Outside.

So, if you'll excuse me, I'm off to Virgo my way through Darkstorm and Darkmage.

I received an advanced review copy from the author in exchange for my honest opinion.


Tuesday, 21 March 2017

Review: Severance by Haven Cage


In Severance, a dark, adult urban fantasy novel from the Faltering Souls series, Nevaeh has to face the overpowering gravity of her choice to save those she loves while striving for strength to fight her greatest threat—herself.

Nevaeh Richards makes her declaration. Living a life in which she has few possessions, she sacrifices the only thing of worth she has to offer—what the Dark One wants the most—all for the slim chance of redeeming the souls of George, the man who raised her, and Gavyn, the Light Celata who holds a piece of her heart.

Her gifts are unfurling now, but so is a fierce, unpredictable beast inside her. While she struggles to keep herself—and the beast—in check, she has to play the part of a Dark Celata and fulfill every wickedly tempting task the evil beings command of her. Each mission she goes on, each time she uses her gifts, the line she toes between the woman she used to be and the monster she reluctantly yearns to become grows thinner.

As Nevaeh deals with her own turmoil, Archard watches the world he's accepted as his own begin to suffer for the mistakes he’s made. The sacred laws which segregate the realms and hinder demons from freely moving among humans are less and less effective with each passing day. He’s failed to keep Nevaeh out of Evil’s clutches, and so the shadows of Hell are creeping through. In an attempt to right his wrongs—and heal the hole in his heart—Archard chases his elusive woman, but every lead that should bring him closer to Nevaeh only ends with more questions about who she is, where she comes from, and how to save her—if he can save her at all.

Will Nevaeh survive the soul-severing decision she’s made?

*****

Severance picks up several months after the heart-lurching ending of Falter, Book 1, and while building on the previous story it moves things along with good action, stronger characters and easy to visualize settings. Also, this is sort of a combination review of both books one and two since I found I can't really talk about one without touching on the other. (I tried!)

Cage's characters and settings quickly won me over and remained consistently strong throughout both books. My faves in Falter were Gavyn, George and Naveah. Why? Well, they're honest, loyal and above all else, good. Cage let them show who they are enough for me to be certain of my opinion. She built on this foundation by proving it in their interactions with each other.

Cage shows us her settings the same way she does here characters. Gavyn's restaurant, the streets and even Hell are solid and most importantly, memorable. Her character interactions with those places bring them to life to the point where the next time the action took us to a place we had been to before, the mood lingered, flavoring the current scene. As a visual reader, these books kept me in my element. Putting them down felt like I was really leaving places I knew.

I always feel that unless the action moves the plot and takes full advantage of the characters and the scene, it's lost an opportunity to be as driving and strong as it can be. The action (both small and omg wth nooooo) uses everything at it's disposal.

Both Falter and Severance are easy to get lost in. Cage's writing was strong in Falter and even better in Severance. I haven't read much new adult, but I found these books solid and dark, dark, dark.

I recommend Falter and Severance for all lovers of dark new adult fantasy. I loved both and will dive in to book 3 as soon as I can!

Comment below to tell me what intrigues you about Falter and Severance (or angels and demons or prophecies or even purple) and on April 15 I'll pick one winner to receive a $10 Amazon, iTunes, Kobo or Nook gift card so you can treasure a copies for yourself!

Sunday, 12 February 2017

Review: A Spell in the Country by Morgan Smith


What if you weren't what heroes are made of? What if your life was an open book? What if you were just an ordinary soldier, with ordinary skills and ordinary goals? What if you weren't "The Chosen One" but still had to try to save the world? "A Spell in the Country" is the story of that soldier - a young woman driven not by prophesy, but by circumstances and coincidence, and by the strengths and weaknesses that anyone might possess. Lured into treason and only narrowly escaping the gallows, Keridwen was desperate to build some kind of life for herself. But between demons bent on death and mayhem, treachery at the very heart of the kingdom, and a prince who had every right to nurse a grudge against her, what were the odds that she could stay out of trouble for long?


*****


I had such a good time reading A Spell in the Country. I'm currently reading Casting in Stone, also by Morgan Smith, and I adore her heroines. In spite of their circumstances, engagement in vivid and gory battles, and struggles, they display a sturdy, forthright and almost (shall I say) cheery disposition against all they face.

In A Spell in the Country, Keridwen quickly finds herself bounced from facing the noose to a solitary trip to obscurity posted at Penvarron, a sad and so out of the way post even the even the Camrhyssi wouldn't be likely to trod within spy-glass distance if they chose to invade.

Keridwen finds her niche at Penvarron, leading her soldiers with the same pragmatic and insightful tone in which she tells her story, describes the dead and lends her snide opinions (quite rightfully) of those she must tolerate. She can also be counted on to speak up no matter how unwelcome the truth may be.

Smith's delightfully clean and engaging prose lures us through twists, deceptions, revenge, dice games and pints. For Keridwen, trouble lurks under every stone and through every poorly lit corridor. A Spell in the Country has magic by the bushel and although the story is told by Keridwen, Smith's secondary characters are as well developed through Keridwen's eyes as I've seen lead characters in other books.

I recommend adding this one to your shelf!

Sunday, 29 January 2017

Review: Demorn: Soul Fighter by David Finn



New City. New Terror. Maximum DEMORN!


Bay City is home to the Soul Fights and a welcome respite from the War. 


Demorn, exile and assassin, has journeyed across the Glass Desert to aid an old friend. But the conflict that is tearing apart Firethorn follows her to the city. As a catastrophic comet descends upon the Bay, Demorn fights to untangle a web of conspiracies surrounding her friends and enemies alike. As she uncovers past sins from those she trusts the most, Demorn is slowly drawn into a desperate, last-ditch plan to avoid the destruction of everything, never sure where her loyalties lie. 


Meanwhile, Demorn’s old friend is developing into something more…


***


I started reading Demorn with the first volume, Blade of Exile, a few months ago and though my inability to force order on the events persisted through the second book, City of Innocents, and into this third volume, Soul Fighter, I continued to find myself caught up in each and every chapter and sentence. I felt like I'd found myself dropped in the middle of an intense car chase. I didn't know who was chasing whom but the cars were beautiful, the drivers were intense and hilarious, the passing landscape and buildings made it impossible to keep my eyes on the road and the special effects were frickin out of this world.

Oh, and did I mention since Soul Fighter hits many other POV's than just Demorn's, her wisecracks take on an ultra layer of humour when heard through the lens of someone else.

... They say I'm not a werewolf, there's another name for it.'
[Demorn] rolled her eyes. 'I doubt it's going to be as cool as "a werewolf" is.'

I also loved how easy it is to picture Demorn and the other characters. They have a very superhero feel and don't change their outfits every second page. If I could draw anything more than stick figures ... well stick Demorn will have to suffice. This reliable imagery coupled with 'signature' expressions give the story a fun comic book/video game feel.


Couldn't resist. Demorn is awesome and Soul Fighter is intense and addicting. Get some of that gymnasts chalk, coat up your hands and hold on.

I received a mobi copy from the author in exchange for my honest opinion.





Sunday, 15 January 2017

WCBR Book of 2016, a Giveaway and Other Treasures!


Happy 2017!

This January brings a first for WCBR. Of all the great reads I enjoyed this year I have picked a favourite. I can be a choosy reader and don't have unlimited reading time (wishes I did!) so my year end tally ended at around 75 books read and of those I reviewed about a third. Thinking back to the one story which gave me the biggest feels and celebrated both an original and fantastic tale, my Book of 2016 is...

Dragon of Ash & Stars by H. Leighton Dickson
*fireworks*


You are welcome to read my review here.

Wait, you said something about a giveaway?

Yasss!

I'm hosting a Canada/US giveaway of Dragon of Ash & Stars.
1st prize: A signed paperback copy
2nd prize: An audible.com copy

You can enter the giveaway here.

And something about Treasures?

You bet!

Check out my reviews for some of my other favourites this year. One of the reviews has an easter egg. (You'll know it when you see it.) Just comment on the review to say you found the easter egg for a chance to win a $10 gift card for Amazon, Kobo, Play Store or iTunes. There will be one winner for this giveaway and my hope is you'll take a couple of these books for a spin or be adventurous and check out a new to you author! (This giveaway closes at midnight PDT on January 28, 2017)


Thank you so much for entering and keeping up with me past year. Enjoy all your reads in 2017.


Tuesday, 27 December 2016

Review: A Life in Blood by Martyn Currill


When a young vampire hunter is saved by one of those he is sworn to destroy, he is forced to question everything he was taught. He soon learns that there is far more to vampires - and to the conflict he was born into - than he ever realised, and he finds himself siding with sworn enemies to pursue their cause. Read, in his own words, the story that altered his life as he recounts the night of his salvation and his entry into the hell that followed.



***


I will start this review with a confession: I don't seek out vampire novels.

*waits for the collective gasp*

It could be so many vampire novels rely on over-cliched vampire cliche's or stereotyping which make many vampire characters feel flat and unoriginal. (Not the case with this book. Gonna make that clear right now.)

So when a writer guaranteed to wow me with amazing and original work and can make this grown woman fan-girl with a single post shared A Life in Blood by Martyn Currill, I'm not sure if I eeped or clicked first. The end result put this book in by hands, blurb unread.

Diemos Black, vampire hunter, finds himself healing at the hands of the very creatures his family has hunted down and destroyed for centuries. I loved his voice as narrator. He is smooth, observant and capable of bluntness when called for. We aren't spared his pain nor his victories. His consistent way of telling reliably cements the many aspects of A Life in Blood together.

I found out quite quickly that vampires and Currill's vampire lore are only a part of this story and the characters. Just as gender, age, experiences or appearance put a character together, being a vampire only describes each character only in part.

I appreciated A Life in Blood as a British military action story first. It sets great characters on a solid foundation of hunter/vampire family history and couples the whole thing with exciting combat scenes, military tech and genuine relationships then finishes it off with enough flash and bang to leave me catching my breath at the end.

A Life in Blood is a solid military-fantasy (that's my word for it) that confidently marks all the X's in blood.


Saturday, 26 November 2016

Review: The Impending Possession of Scarlet Wakebridge-Rosé by S.L. Saboviec

Scarlet Wakebridge-Rosé, busy executive and less-than-stellar mother and wife, has a problem that only an exorcist can solve. Except she’s not precisely a devout Catholic parishioner any longer, and to gain assistance from the Church means telling a whopping lie of omission.
Fortunately, she discovers Father Angelo Ambrosio, whose commitment to helping the afflicted means he’s willing to overlook the things Scarlet prefers to keep hidden. Unfortunately, his sordid past keeps him under a microscope with the bishop, who’s not so liberal in his views.

But the demon harassing Scarlet is relentless. It makes its motives clear: in a previous life, she struck a bargain, promising it her body on her fiftieth birthday. Now, she and Angelo must unravel the mystery surrounding her forgotten past in order to stop the possession by next week or risk losing her to the depths of Hell forever.

This stand-alone novel set in the Fallen Redemption universe extends the series to modern day. Enter a world where humans reincarnate, demons interfere in daily life, and the currents of fate carry us all to our destinies. 

***
Years ago, when I first realized I could choose to read (rather than what I was assigned at school) I was drawn to scary books and two of the first novels I read were The Amityville Horror and The Exorcist. That was back in grade seven and since then, hauntings and possessions still give me the absolute creeps so my choosing to read The Impending Possession of Scarlet Wakebridge-Rosé surprised me.

Scarlet's predicament comes across will the ominous tension and lurking danger I expected but for many more reasons than a cruel demon. We have Scarlet's challenges with her own religious identity and her struggling marriage, Father Ambrosio's struggle with his past and of course good and evil. Every aspect of this story is contrasted as good and evil, depending on which character you hear from. These contrasts, bound together, provide much of the tension and drama of the story.

I found this book smooth (and creepy) at the start. It definitely drew me in and held me there, so much so I read the whole way through in a couple of sittings.

I loved Scarlet because she is my own age and like me, deeply loves her family even with her imperfections and fears. I also appreciated she didn't engage herself in any ridiculous butt-kicking or fights I know I couldn't pull off. She is a very capable, real and relatable woman.

I definitely recommend The Impending Possession of Scarlet Wakebridge-Rosé, a side by side novel with Saboviec's Fallen Redemption series which I look forward to.


I received a copy from Netgalley in exchange for my honest review.