Monday, August 31, 2015

Goldilox's Greatest Hits Vol. 8

Goldlox's Greatest Hits is our monthly wrap up feature. We'll recap our favorite books we've read this month and show you some of our favorite posts that you might have missed, as well as what's coming up next on Goldilox and the Three Weres.

Greatest Hits

We were a little light on reviews in August since we spent so much time on our Blogoversay event. But we found a few good ones for you:
Ilona Andrews's Magic Shifts got 5 stars from Rose Red.
Gretl gave Alice by Christina Henry 4 1/2 stars.


In our Read This F-ing Book feature we talked about Charlaine Harris's Midnight, Texas series and the Mercy Thompson series by Patricia Briggs.

We revisited why we love  Amanda Bonilla's Shaede Assassin series in an RTFB reboot.

And Rose Red's looking for Romantic Suspense recs in Which F-ing Book Should I Read?

Coming Soon

Last week we brought back Waiting on Wednesday, so watch for those posts every week.

At the end of September we're celebrating the 3rd anniversary of Read This F-ing Book with a special post and giveaway.

What F@!%ing Book Should I Read? (4)

It's Monday, which is usually when we tell you to

But we're switching it up a little bit this week.
I've been in a weird reading mood lately. I haven't wanted to read my typical science fiction and fantasy fare. I'm still picking up paranormal romance books and urban fantasy but not much else. I've been craving a good romance and a good thriller or in the words of Gretl, "Oh, you mean Romantic Suspense!" I totally knew there was a term for these types of books. I just couldn't remember what it was. :) 
About ten years ago, I was super into Phyllis A. Whitney's romantic suspense books and I miss them! Although, I would like there to be more romance in the next romantic suspense book I pick up than were in hers. The thing is I don't seem to have any romantic suspense book on my shelves or in my endless stockpile of kindle books. I need recommendations! 
They can be contemporary, historical, paranormal, etc. My preliminary searches on Goodreads and Amazon bring up lots of suspense books with bikers, special agents, military men, and werewolves. It's kind of overwhelming! I just want some good romantic suspense books in my life right now! 
So this week I'm asking
Sell Me on Romantic Suspense: Which F-ing Book should I read?
Here are some suggestions from my co-bloggers to get it started:

Goodies from Gretl:

I'm going to break this down a little bit since, as Rose Red noticed, there are so many sub-genres (or would they be sub-sub-genres?) to choose from. I can't think of a Historical Suspense title to recommend and I really haven't read any MC series, but hopefully you commenters will have some favorite bikers. So this is not a complete list of categories in Romantic Suspense, just a list of what I've read.

Military Men
What I've read the most are series about private Black Ops groups made up of former CIA agents and Special Forces soldiers. I think The Associates series by Carolyn Crane is my favorite. It's darker than some of the others with the undercover Associates infiltrating crime families and drug cartels. Each of Crane's characters has interesting skills, like Macmillan the forensic linguistics expert, that set them apart from the rest. I also think that the books in this series stand alone better than some of the others if you don't have time for a binge. I reviewed the latest release in the series, Behind the Mask, a few months ago.

In this category, I've also enjoyed Julie Ann Walker's Black Knights Inc series, its spin-off Deep Six (I recently reviewed the first book in that series, Hell or High Water) and Shannon K. Butcher's Edge series. If you want a paranormal version, I recently read the Alpha Pack series by J.D. Tyler in which the former SEALs are all werewolves.

Another thing you see a lot in Romantic Suspense series are law enforcement officers. My favorite of these is Mandy Baxter's U.S. Marshals. I've reviewed each of the first two books, One Night More and One Kiss More, here on the blog. Book three is due out in October. Baxter's series is a little more light-hearted, filled with pop-culture references from its snarky heroines.

In this category, you might also want to check out Tessa Bailey. I've only read one book in her Line of Duty series about dirty-talking Alpha cops, but it was pretty good. These are sometimes listed as erotica, so they're steamier than some of the others.

Small town suspense
I cannot rave enough about The Bourbon Kings by J.R. Ward! (You can read my full review here.) I could not put it down. This small town in Kentucky is home to two rival bourbon-making families, corporate politics, legal wrangling, and closets full of skeletons. It reminds me of a prime time soap and it already has a TV deal.

I also liked the Ash Trilogy by Shiloh Walker. This one's also set in Kentucky - total coincidence. The first book, If You Hear Her, features a blind heroine which is something I haven't seen anywhere else.

Tell me about your favorite Romantic Suspense books in the comments!

If you have a topic you'd like us to feature in a Which F-ing Book post, send a message on Facebook.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Waiting on Wednesday (46)

 Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly event hosted by Breaking the Spine that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating. We haven't done Waiting on Wednesday since early last year, and we decided it's about time to bring it back.  So here's my very first WOW pick:
I feel like I've been hearing about Wake of Vultures forever, though it's probably really been about a year. Delilah S. Dawson (a.k.a. Lilia Bowen) describes it as "Weird West Buffy." That phrase combines two of my favorite things so I'm already hooked. Nettie Lonesome also sounds like the poster child for the We Need Diverse Books hashtag - she's mixed race and gender-fluid. That could be amazing if it doesn't get too message-y. Plus she slays demons, so she's bound to be awesome.

The worst part of waiting for this one is that I actually already have it. I just got the ARC but I can't read it yet because I have all these September releases that I have to do first. *sob*

Wake of Vultures
(The Shadow #1)
Lila Bowen
Release: October 27, 2015
Goodreads Amazon
A rich, dark fantasy of destiny, death, and the supernatural world hiding beneath the surface.

Nettie Lonesome lives in a land of hard people and hard ground dusted with sand. She's a half-breed who dresses like a boy, raised by folks who don't call her a slave but use her like one. She knows of nothing else. That is, until the day a stranger attacks her. When nothing, not even a sickle to the eye can stop him, Nettie stabs him through the heart with a chunk of wood, and he turns into black sand.

And just like that, Nettie can see.

But her newfound sight is a blessing and a curse. Even if she doesn't understand what's under her own skin, she can sense what everyone else is hiding -- at least physically. The world is full of evil, and now she knows the source of all the sand in the desert. Haunted by the spirits, Nettie has no choice but to set out on a quest that might lead to her true kin... if the monsters along the way don't kill her first.

What book are you waiting on?

Monday, August 24, 2015

Read This F@!%ing Book Rebooted

Did you know Read This F@!#ing Book debuted in 2012? I found some of my favorite series because of those first posts.This year we've decided to look back at a few of our favorite RTFBs and update them for 2015. We'll keep doing new ones too, so if you have a favorite book or series that you think deserves some attention or if you'd like to guest post, let us know.
Amanda Bonilla's Shaede Assassin series was one that I one-clicked as soon as I finished reading Goldilox's RTFB post, which originally appeared in March 2013. I read the first three books in two days. Book four, Against the Dawn, was one of my Top Ten of 2014. I may have read it in a single sitting. And I've been waiting (not so) patiently to find out what happens next ever since.
Book five, Shadows at Midnight, comes out next month so if you haven't started yet, this is a great time for a binge-read. Plus, you avoid those pesky cliffhangers that way.
Here's what Goldilox had to say about
The Shaede Assassin Series
by Amanda Bonilla

Crave the Darkness (Shaede Assassin, #3)Shaedes of Gray (Shaede Assassin, #1)Blood Before Sunrise (Shaede Assassin, #2)

Against the Dawn (Shaede Assassin, #4)Shadows at Midnight (Shaede Assassin, #5)
Click covers for Goodreads

Why I Love It:
The Shaede Assassin series is a fabulous urban fantasy series that lovers of the genre will adore and appreciate. Author Amanda Bonilla created two new paranormal species in the Shaedes and the Lyhtans, and although some of the abilities are familiar the species themselves are new.

Darian, our heroine and a Shaede, is anti-social and anti-relationship and she prides herself on being one hell of an assassin. She's put to the test when she finds out all at once that not only is her sort-of boss hardcore in love with her and has some abilities of his own, but she is not in fact the only Shaede in the world. Darian grows throughout the first three books and although the story plots are always exciting and fresh, its the emotional aspects of this series that keep me addicted. These books make me want to cry, scream, throw things, and take a cold shower!
Why I'm Pushing It:
As seems to be the case lately with adult UF series that I love, this series just isn't getting the attention it deserves. Although myself and most of my blogging friends adore Darian and the lot, it seems to be hard to get it in the hands of other readers. I think readers of urban fantasy will really gravitate to this series because it has all the best UF elements with a lot of added emotional turmoil and romance. 

The Men!
This series gives readers three very different but equally sexy men. The first is Raif, who is not a possible love interest for Darian but rather an almost-guardian, protector, and good friend. Even though we don't see him in romantic situations, he is no less sexy. He is strong and loyal and lives by a serious code of honor.

The second is Tyler, Darian's muscular and sexy sort-of boss. Tyler and Darian's up and down relationship is the most tumultuous of all and provides for a lot of frustration and tears throughout the series.

Finally, there is cocky and desirable Xander, the Shaede King. His continued romantic advances on Darian cause occasional strife between them throughout the series.

So, how did I do? Are you ready to jump into Darian's world with both feet?

Our reviews of books in this series:
Have you read this series?
Did I persuade you to add it to your TBR mountain?
Let me know in the comments below!


Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Review: Flight From Death by Yasmine Galenorn

Flight From Death
(Fly by Night #1)
Yasmine Galenorn
Release: July 7, 2015
Goodreads Amazon
 I’m Shimmer, a blue dragon shifter. Thanks to a mistake, I was exiled from the Dragon Reaches and sentenced to work for Alex Radcliffe, a vampire who owns the Fly by Night Magical Investigations Agency. Now, not only do I have to adapt to Earthside culture, but every time I turn around, somebody’s trying to kill us. And worse, Alex is as gorgeous as he is exasperating. But you know what they say: All’s fair in love and bounty hunting…

When an old friend of Alex contacts him about a haunting at the High Tide Bed & Breakfast in Port Townsend, Washington, we think we’re on a simple ghost hunt. But our investigation quickly transforms into a deadly fight as we uncover an eighty-year-old murder, a cursed house, and a dark force trapping the spirits within. To stop impending disaster we must break the curse and lay the angry spirits to rest.
While I was waiting for Flight From Death to come in at the library, I read Galenorn's novella Flight From Hell. It's a prequel to the Fly by Night series, as well as a transition from her Otherworld series (which I haven't read.) The novella introduces Alex and Shimmer from the point of view of one of the D'Artigo sisters, the stars of the Otherworld books. In it Alex and the sisters rescue Shimmer from a vampire's thrall. That vampire and the events in the story are referenced in Flight From Death.

I have mixed feelings about whether I would recommend others read the prequel first though. If you've already read the Otherworld series, go for it. I felt like there were a lot of characters to keep track of for someone brand new to Galenorn. Each of the three sisters has multiple spouses or partners that they referred to a lot even though not all of them actually appear in the story. (They remind me of Anita Blake that way.) I did learn more about the vampires and other creatures in this world than I would have otherwise. Galenorn uses the traditional Dracula "need invitations, have no reflections, turn into bats" mythos, but Alex and Patrick never use their bat forms in Flight From Death.

My main issue though is that Shimmer comes off incredibly naïve and not very likable in the novella. I probably wouldn't want to read a book about her based only on that impression. Some of that naivety remains in Flight From Death, but it's more culture shock than ignorance. For example, she hasn't learned to drive yet and she has hit or miss knowledge of pop culture - she misses Star Trek references, but talks about Ghostbusters. But I found her struggle to adjust to a new city and make new friends quite relatable. And I really enjoyed learning about her dragon side and seeing her transform underwater.

I loved the supporting cast for this new series. Fly by Night Investigations' receptionist is a leathery skinned, chain smoking, dirty old woman, who also turns into a snake. Their tech guru Ralph is a werewolf who can't stand the sight of blood. But the best Chai! He's a djinn who comes to visit Shimmer from her home realm. He's incredibly powerful and can be quite useful as long as you don't actually ask him for help. His djinn nature will compel him to screw you over. What's so funny is that he's completely upfront about being devious.

I liked the ghost story centered around the bed and breakfast and the other creatures that Galenorn brought into the mix. They were an unexpected twist and something I hadn't seen before. I also really enjoyed the scenery as the group travels from Seattle to Port Washington. Galenorn did a great job of giving me the sense that I was seeing it all for the first time along with Shimmer, while not letting me get bored on the journey.

Overall I really liked this story, but I had some issues with the writing. I haven't read enough from Galenorn to know if it's just her style or if it was a conscious decision to make Shimmer, the first person narrator, have an imperfect grasp of the language since she's new to Earthside, but it really drove me nuts. And since the first time it happened was on the first page of the book, I was tuned in to it the rest of the way through. I apologize in advance for the following Word Nerd Rant: the phrase "big-assed knife" implies that the knife literally has an ass, in which case it's rude to fat-shame the weaponry, whereas the phrase "big ass knife" simply contains an expletive comparable to "big f-ing knife." That little grammar faux pas happened several times, but there were other examples where Shimmer's language was just slightly off. If not for that, I probably would have given Flight From Death another star.

I'm still planning to read the next book in the series since I like the characters and I want to know more about them. I just hope I don't feel compelled go to after it with a red pen again. I doubt the library would appreciate that.

Recommended for fans of: Vampires, dragons and ghost stories


Monday, August 17, 2015

Read This F@!%ing Book (45)

Welcome to a feature I'm going to post on Mondays called:
Read This F@!%ing Book!
This is a feature for me to push my favorite reads that just aren't getting enough attention! 
I'm also opening it up to anyone who would like to guest post. Do you have a book that you just LURVED but feel like its not getting the play it deserves? Email me to let me know and I'd be THRILLED to have you post about it here! Especially if its something I haven't reviewed yet - that's even better (but not necessary)! If you're interested email me:

 This week's post comes from our very own: 
Rose Red!

Read This F@!%ing Book Post 45: The Mercy Thompson Series by Patricia Briggs
(Click book cover to go to Goodreads page)

It's no secret that I absolutely adore Patricia Briggs' urban fantasy books. I've reviewed enough of her books here at Goldilox and the Three Weres that you all know exactly how much I love her books. I first found her Mercy Thompson books while I was in college and I quickly devoured all of the books that had been released at that point (Silver Borne). Since then, I've reread this series multiple times and I still adore everything about it! Why do I love this series so much? Let me tell you!

Werewolves, Vampires, Witches, Fae... Oh my!
Mercedes Thompson, also known as Mercy, is a Volkswagon mechanic in the Tri-Cities area of Washington. But Mercy isn’t just a mechanic. She’s a walker or someone who is able to shapeshift into a coyote. Despite that, she wants and is striving to lead as normal of a life as a walker who was raised by werewolves and whose neighbor is Alpha of the local werewolf pack can expect. It’s also hard to be normal when your former boss is a powerful member of the fae community and you have befriended a vampire with a Scooby Doo obsession and the Mystery Machine to prove it. That’s just the norm for Mercy.

I was instantly sucked into Mercy’s world the first time I read Moon Called and that hasn’t changed at all with each reread. Mercy is such a likeable and engaging heroine. She’s spunky and sassy and a tad bit cheesy. Most importantly, she feels real. She understands her limitations and that being a walker doesn’t make her invincible. She doesn’t come off as invincible and inhuman in her buttkicking abilities, yet at the same time, she is comfortable in her own skin and can hold her own. With so many other powerful paranormal characters in her life, she realizes just how vulnerable she actually is. All the characters are realistic even the paranormal ones are realistic in their otherworldliness, which is impressive. Briggs worked in a good base of folklore and real world nature to make even the unbelievable believable.

I love the world building in this series. It is amazing how much it’s like the world we live in but different at the same time with the addition of preternatural creatures such as werewolves, vampires, and fae. The lore for the creatures while taking on a lot of the characteristics we’ve come to associate with some of these creatures, Briggs has managed to insert her own unique rules and spin on it that makes her supernaturals refreshing to read about.

Mercy Is One Of The Best Female Characters In Urban Fantasy.
Mercy is one of the most refreshing female characters I have come across in a long time. Her banter with the other werewolves is priceless, and writing good dialogue is something that Patricia Briggs excels at. I loved Mercy instantly. She is loyal, stubborn, smart, tough, and snarky. I want to be best friends with her. But she's not that the only character that I adore in these books. Spoiler: I love almost all of them. I love Adam, the alpha of the werewolf pack. He’s control freak (hello, he’s an alpha!), but he always does right by Mercy even when she drives him crazy. And I love how Mercy does that with the junk car in her backyard. Samuel, Mercy’s first love and friend from the pack she grew up with, took longer for me to love than Adam. But he patiently works on you and before you know it you find that you love him as much as Mercy. The other secondary characters are an interesting and entertaining bunch. You can’t help but love Zee, Stefan, Warren, Kyle, Jesse, Bran, and the rest of the Tri-Cities pack.

I could gush about this series for days. I loved every minute of it and I vow not to wait too long before I reread it again. I adore it so much! If you haven’t read it yet, you need to fix that ASAP. I promise you won’t regret it.

ZOMG! The Audiobooks Are Freaking Fantastic! 
If you like Audiobooks, then you have to listen to this series! Lorelei King is the narrator and she does a phenomenal job! She nailed all the voices perfectly to what I imagined them sounding like in my head. I have a confession to make. I love these audiobooks and these stories so much that I have been listening to the audio on a continuous loop this year. They are really just that good, guys!

I'm anxiously awaiting the next Mercy book! I need more Mercy in my life! Seriously. I can't wait for Fire Touched to come out next spring! If you haven't read this series or the Alpha & Omega books, you should fix that ASAP! I'd recommend reading both series together in chronological order. Patricia Briggs has a timeline on her website that you can use to know the reading order. Both of these series are wonderful examples of why urban fantasy is a great genre! They are freaking fantastic! 

Friday, August 14, 2015

Review: Magic Shifts by Ilona Andrews

Magic Shifts
(Kate Daniels #8)
Ilona Andrews
Release: August 4, 2015
Goodreads Amazon
In the latest Kate Daniels novel from #1 New York Times bestselling author Ilona Andrews, magic is coming and going in waves in post-Shift Atlanta—and each crest leaves danger in its wake…

After breaking from life with the Pack, mercenary Kate Daniels and her mate—former Beast Lord Curran Lennart—are adjusting to a very different pace. While they’re thrilled to escape all the infighting, Curran misses the constant challenges of leading the shapeshifters.

So when the Pack offers him its stake in the Mercenary Guild, Curran seizes the opportunity—too bad the Guild wants nothing to do with him and Kate. Luckily, as a veteran merc, Kate can take over any of the Guild’s unfinished jobs in order to bring in money and build their reputation. But what Kate and Curran don’t realize is that the odd jobs they’ve been working are all connected.

An ancient enemy has arisen, and Kate and Curran are the only ones who can stop it—before it takes their city apart piece by piece…

Review by Rose Red:

Okay. Where do I start with this review? Over the last few months, I have written a review on all of the main series books and I find that I’m running out of ways to sing my praises to this series without being repetitive. I’ll try but Holy Hell! The writing duo that makes up Ilona Andrews did it again!

This book is kind of a transition book because, let’s face it, things were left wide open after the end of Magic Breaks. The whole series up to that point dealt with what was going to happen when Kate and Roland meet for the first time. There was sort of a resolution but we really didn't know what it meant. And of course, Curran's decision at the end had our jaws on the floor even though it was an action that is in complete harmony with his character. I had no idea what to expect but I can tell you I didn't expect this book. It was fan-freaking-tastic! It made laugh, it made me cry, and it made me almost have an anxiety attack. It was perfect! My love for this series has no bounds! The plots are multilayered, interesting and unpredictable. But the thing that makes this series such a huge success is the characters! Add in some of the best snark ever and you have a mix that can’t lose.

I have found that I tend to read to each new Ilona Andrews book the same way. I dive in and read it all in one sitting if possible. The addiction is strong with this series. I always want to make it last as long as possible but I never the willpower to make these books last so I end of impatiently waiting for the next installment in the series.

The action in Magic Shifts starts right away and never really lets up through out the whole book.. What I found the most interesting in the beginning were the pack rules Kate and Curran had to obey. I wanted everyone to play nice. But with the way the rules are set up, they really can't. There are agendas that need to be followed and the pack's future to worry about. At first I was stunned with some of the Pack’s manipulations but they soon made sense. Some of those said manipulations look to have a big part in the coming books.

Another thing I liked was the change we see in Curran. Don’t worry. He’s still the Curran we all know and love but he’s definitely a bit different than before. He needed a change from being the Beast Lord and boy did he ever get one. He's a schemer and needs problems to overcome so he doesn't get bored. We get to see a whole new side of Curran and there is definitely no shortage of page time with everybody's favorite beast lord. He's one of the strongest characters of the book (and not just physically of course). He's such a complex character! I love him, stubbornness and all!

What I really loved most in this book is how much we got to see of Kate and Curran’s relationship! It was awesome seeing how far their relationship has come in the last few books. They are deeply in love at all times and it shows. I don't see any fan of these two finishing this book unsatisfied with their dynamic. I loved that they got to be themselves in this book. Normally it's all about the pack and their responsibilities as Beast Lord and Consort. And even though they are not the alpha couple anymore, they don't completely cut ties with their people. They are feeling the effects of this transition and some things will never change. But I did like that they got to do their own thing for a little while. We see change in not only Curran but in several of the characters. I really enjoyed learning more about each and every one of them. I was always a big fan of Mahon but this book definitely made me look at him in a different light.

I was a little nervous about starting Magic Shifts but I wasn’t done with page one before I was wanting it to never end. The husband and wife team of Ilona Andrews have never disappointed me and now I can only wait to see what they come up with next. Each new Kate Daniels book just adds more awesomeness to an already amazing series. The progression of ALL the characters blew me away. The research and imagination in each book is always on point and has become one of my favorite things about this series! Well, besides Kate and Curran of course. The storylines change and grow, the intensity of each plot always puts me on the edge of my seat, and each of the characters have found a place in my heart.

The only problems I had with this book were that I ran out of pages and that I now have to wait another year for the next one. Ilona Andrews will forever be on my auto-buy list and they've rightly earned their spot on my list of favorite authors. I think I need to do another reread.

P.S. If you love audiobooks, I'd highly recommend getting these books on audio! Renee Raudman does a fantastic job of narrating this series!


Thursday, August 13, 2015

Blogoversary Recap and Last Chance for Giveaways!

We'd like to thank all the authors who participated in our Blogoversay event the last two weeks: Jennifer Estep, Amanda Bonilla, Dakota Cassidy, Kristi Charish, Chloe Neill, Karina Cooper, Carolyn Crane, Jan DeLima and Jenn Bennett! And thanks to everyone who came by to comment and wish us a happy blogoversary!
Week one giveaways have all closed, but you can still read about what each of these authors (and bloggers) was doing four years ago when GATTW was born:

Jennifer Estep
Amanda Bonilla
Kristi Charish
Rose Red

All of our week two giveaways are open through Friday night. Check out all of these posts:

Gretl Four Years Ago and enter to win Bloodlines books and Vampire swag

Four reasons to read The Veil by Chloe Neill and enter to win a print copy

Karina Cooper Four Years Ago and enter to win a Galen Dara print

Carolyn Crane Four Years Ago and enter to win an E-book of your choice

Jan DeLima Four Years Ago (with puppy pics) and enter to win a Gift Box including signed books and Amazon GC

Jenn Bennett Four Years Ago and enter to win a signed copy of Kindling the Moon

Thanks again to everyone who stopped by our Blogoversary Party!

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Review: Alice by Christina Henry

Christina Henry
Release: August 4, 2015
Goodreads Amazon
 A mind-bending new novel inspired by the twisted and wondrous works of Lewis Carroll...

In a warren of crumbling buildings and desperate people called the Old City, there stands a hospital with cinderblock walls which echo the screams of the poor souls inside.

In the hospital, there is a woman. Her hair, once blond, hangs in tangles down her back. She doesn’t remember why she’s in such a terrible place. Just a tea party long ago, and long ears, and blood…

Then, one night, a fire at the hospital gives the woman a chance to escape, tumbling out of the hole that imprisoned her, leaving her free to uncover the truth about what happened to her all those years ago.

Only something else has escaped with her. Something dark. Something powerful.

And to find the truth, she will have to track this beast to the very heart of the Old City, where the rabbit waits for his Alice.
Alice is not exactly a retelling of Alice in Wonderland, though some of the characters and events are familiar. It's also not an update of the classic story. It doesn't take place today, but in a world where people exchange gold coins, slave traders roam the streets and factories make city air hard to breathe. It could perhaps be seen as a sequel, since Alice is now an adult who has been to this world once before. I've decided it's best not to try to figure it out and just enjoy the ride. It's a dark fantasy adventure about a woman facing her demons and discovering her own strength.

Ten years ago, Alice followed her friend Dor into the Old City. Two weeks later, Alice came out alone, covered in blood and talking about the Rabbit. Since then, she's been confined to the asylum, plagued by nightmares of what the Rabbit did to her. Her only friend is the man on the other side of the mouse hole in her room. Hatcher remembers even less about his past than Alice does about hers. He knows nothing before he killed a room full of men with his axe and landed in the asylum. But when the fire allows him to rescue Alice and escape, he knows how to find a safe place in the Old City.

There's no color in the Old City but the occasional splash of blood red. In fact, Henry rarely mentions anything having a particular color at all unless magic is involved. Magical beings wear colorful clothes and live in colorful places, unlike the rest of the city's residents who believe there's no magic left in their world. Everything is dirty, smoke-covered and gray. Hatcher, with his black hair sprinkled with white and his gray eyes, fits right in in the Old City. They wear gray clothes to blend in, but Alice's blonde hair and blue eyes mark her as Other. It's a testament to Henry's skill that color became such an effective symbol on a black and white page.

The story's structure does recall the original Alice. She and Hatcher move from one character to the next, seeking information. First Cheshire, then the Caterpillar, and so on. But instead of animals, these characters are crime lords who each control different territory within the Old City. They each, to varying degrees, engage in human trafficking and prostitution. The scenes Alice encounters in each of their lairs are both horrific and visually stunning. There's no Queen of Hearts in this world, no female in a position of power. All the women are victims, even Alice, though she saved herself once before and she's no longer the girl she once was.

Now she has a knight in shining armor, or at the very least a partner, and he's a crazy axe murderer. There are some sweet moments in their relationship, though it's not precisely a romance. I felt like it was somewhat one-sided at the beginning, with Hatcher clearly committed to Alice while she seems to be just along for the ride. But I think she grew to understand Hatcher by the end of the journey and appreciate him for more than just his devotion.

Alice is definitely not a fairy tale for children. If it were a film, it would probably be rated NC-17. Though visually it would be absolutely stunning. I was fascinated by the characters, horrified by their circumstances and inspired by their courage. Despite everything she's seen and endured, ultimately Alice is a symbol of hope. I'm excited to see what's next for this more mature Alice and her Hatcher.

Recommended for fans of: fairy tale retellings and dark, adult fantasy

ARC provided by the publisher via Netgalley

4 1/2 stars

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