Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Superweek Review: Black Widow: Forever Red by Margaret Stohl

We had so much fun with the Superhero week we put together recently that we decided to do it again. (Plus, we still have a lot of superhero reads in our TBR piles.) All this week we're bringing you more super-themed reviews and features.

Black Widow: Forever Red
(Black Widow #1)
Margaret Stohl
Release: October 13, 2015
Goodreads Amazon
Enter the world of the Avengers’ iconic master spy…

Natasha Romanoff is one of the world’s most lethal assassins. Trained from a young age in the arts of death and deception, Natasha was given the title of Black Widow by Ivan Somodorov, her brutal teacher at the Red Room, Moscow’s infamous academy for operatives.

Ava Orlova is just trying to fit in as an average Brooklyn teenager, but her life has been anything but average.The daughter of a missing Russian quantum physicist, Ava was once subjected to a series of ruthless military experiments—until she was rescued by Black Widow and placed under S.H.I.E.L.D. protection. Ava has always longed to reconnect with her mysterious savior, but Black Widow isn’t really the big sister type.

Until now.

When children all over Eastern Europe begin to go missing, and rumors of smuggled Red Room tech light up the dark net, Natasha suspects her old teacher has returned—and that Ava Orlova might be the only one who can stop him. To defeat the madman who threatens their future, Natasha and Ava must unravel their pasts. Only then will they discover the truth about the dark-eyed boy with an hourglass tattoo who haunts Ava’s dreams…
Given the increasing unlikelyhood that Black Widow will ever get her own movie, I was pretty excited for her to get a book. And since it was a YA book, I originally thought it would be a prequel story about a teenaged Natasha Romanoff. It turns out Natasha's one of three main characters in Black Widow: Forever Red and the only one who's not a teenager. Some of her back story is revealed over the course of the book though.

After each chapter, there's a page from the S.H.I.E.L.D. file that began with the mission where Natasha was sent to kill Ivan and ended up rescuing Ava. Most of those pages are parts of a transcript from a D.O.D. hearing about a Line of Duty Death. Natasha's testimony reminds me of the scene in Congress at the end of Winter Soldier, which I loved. At first I was more interested in those pages than the chapters they separated, but I did eventually get attached to the characters and invested in their story.

Reading one of those transcripts early in the book, I figured out whose death was being investigated. I looked back later and it's not actually revealed. I just inferred it for some reason. But thinking I knew what was going to happen kept me from getting too attached to that character. I think the actual death, and really the whole book, had a lot less impact for me than it should have because of that.

I did really enjoy the action scenes. As you would expect, the book is full of them. And I was surprised by Alex's connection to the story. I had a theory, but it was way off. I also liked the fact that there are so many familiar characters in addition to Black Widow. Coulson shows up periodically to provide snark and mission support. So does a certain tech genius Avenger. I can't help but hear the actors who play them when I read those characters though, and they didn't always sound quite right. I admit, that's not really a fair standard to hold the book to though.

I was initially annoyed by how much the characters in the book seemed to mention The Avengers, and superheroes in general. But right after I finished the book,  I read a Tor.com article about growing up in the MCU, which is just as true for Alex and Ava as it is for Spider-man. It made me realize that it was world building and not just name dropping.

What still troubles me though, is the timeline, both in relation to the Avengers and within Forever Red. I was perfectly comfortable placing the events in Forever Red before Captain America: Winter Soldier even though the book released a year later. They would have to be since there are S.H.I.E.L.D. bases that would not have existed after the movie. But then there's a reference to Bucky Barnes. I know that the movies and the comics don't follow the same timeline and it makes more sense for the book to be consistent with the comics. But since I have only seen the movies, I automatically try to make it fit with what I know. I wish the book had an author's note or something at the beginning to give me the right context.

I also wish Natasha's back story had more (metaphorical) time stamps. Natasha is at most ten years older than Alex, who is seventeen, and six or seven years seems much more likely. That would make her a teenager when she rescues Ava at the beginning of the story. At that point, she was already a S.H.I.E.L.D. Agent. There's no mention of how old she was when she defected, but I can't figure out a way to make the math feel right. One of the hearing transcripts says that Natasha's date of birth is classified, which means I'm not probably not supposed to think about it so much.

So while I enjoyed Forever Red, I spent too much time trying to figure out its puzzles and not enough just watching the explosions. That's probably my fault just as much as the book's. I'm happy that there's going to be a sequel though. I'm really interested in where the story seems to be going at the end of the book.


Did you enter our Superweek giveaway yet?

The Alpha Showdown Is On! Vote For Simon!

Like Gretl, I too was a fan of Vampire Book Club's Alpha Showdown before I started blogging. This annual competition pits our favorite paranormal characters against each other to see who's the bigger badass. This year I'm actually championing an Alpha.

VBC: Home of Alpha Showdown

Who am I championing? You ask. My alpha is none other than the delightfully feral Simon Wolfgard from Anne Bishop's The Others series. (You all know how much we love Simon, Meg, and the rest of the Lakeside Courtyard residents around here!) He's taking on Vlad from the Night Huntress and Night Prince series in Round 6.

This round is open through the rest of today. So please go read the pitches and vote for Simon!

For more on his series, you can check out our reviews.

Gretl is also championing an alpha in the showdown this year and Mercy made it to the next round. Watch for her next round coming soon!

Monday, May 30, 2016

Read This F@!%ing Book (59)

Welcome to a feature we're going to post on Mondays called:
Read This F@!%ing Book!
This is a feature for us to push our favorite reads that just aren't getting enough attention!
We're 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 us to let us know and we'd be THRILLED to have you post about it here! Especially if its something we haven't reviewed yet - that's even better (but not necessary)! If you're interested email us: 

 This week's post is a guest post from: 
Mark from Mental Megalodon!

Read This F@!%ing Book Post 59: The Reckoners by Brandon Sanderson
https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/20342545-steelheart https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/15704459-firefight https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/15704486-calamity

(Click book cover to go to Goodreads page)

We have a giveaway going on right now for a signed copy of Steelheart in honor of Superhero Week: The Sequel. You can enter that here. Now on to why Mark thinks you needs to read The Reckoners!

The Reckoners is one of my favorite series of all time, and if you haven’t at least read the first book, you really need to try it out for so many reasons. I could tell you about it all day, but since I think you should spend the rest of your day reading the books, I’ve kept my list to a few reasons.

It’s A Superhero Story.
Who doesn’t love superheroes? With Marvel and DC putting out so many movies and earning so much money, it’s apparent that pretty much everyone loves a good superhero these days. And while the movie and comic book industries are saturated with superheroes, there aren’t enough good superhero novels. The Reckoners fills that gap nicely.

But with a twist.

In The Reckoners, the superheroes are evil. They have taken over and largely destroyed the world, leaving only small cities behind ruled over by one Epic or another.

The first book focuses on Steelheart, the Emperor of Newcago (formerly Chicago). David’s father was killed ten years ago by Steelheart, and he has spent that time plotting, preparing to get his revenge. Recently, he’s heard rumors that The Reckoners, a shadowy, near-mythical group of ordinary people, some of the last who fight back against the Epics, have come to town. With their help, he might be able to murder the man who might be the most powerful person in North America, if not the world.

And that’s just the first book.

It’s A Completed Series!
Once you devour Steelheart, you aren’t going to be waiting around for years, or even months, to get your next hit. The Reckoners is a completed series, with the last book, Calamity, having been released this last January. All of the books are relatively short, as well, so it’s perfectly possible to binge the entire series in a weekend.

The series has an overarching plot and a very definite and satisfying ending. I truly envy anyone who starts the series now and can read the books back to back and get the emotional impact of all at once!

The Series Is Written By Brandon Sanderson. Enough Said.
If you haven’t read a Sanderson book yet… Fix that! The Reckoners series is a great starting point because it’s finished, quick to read, and so awesome.

Brandon Sanderson is known for two things: Awesome Worldbuilding/Magic Systems and Plot Twists. As a writer he excels at many things but he’s especially great at creating memorable characters, excellent at getting the story’s pacing perfect, and proficient at prose.

In The Reckoners, he’s built an amazing world. It’s a North America after the apocalypse with each book set in a different, fascinating city. As mentioned earlier, Steelheart is set in Newcago. The city that once was Chicago has been transformed entirely to a city made of steel. Additionally, Sanderson has brought his signature creative touch to superpowers which has lead to an incredible range of powerful Epics. Each one has their own portfolio--and a weakness. The whole backdrop of the series is just super detailed. If you enjoy having a solid setting for your story, The Reckoners is an absolute blast.

Plot Twists. Sanderson is amazing at finishing his books in a way that you will never predict. Without fail, 50-70 pages from the end, you’ll be wondering how Sanderson can wrap up even half of the threads and you’ll be unsure of whether or not you’ll be satisfied by the ending..

Hold. On. Tight.

By the end of every book, the majority of the threads will be tied up in ways that you would never have expected--but it’ll somehow be so much better than you could ever have anticipated. The range of emotions that these books will put you through to reach the end of the book is amazing! There really is nothing like reading a Sanderson book for the first time.

The Reckoners is no exception to this rule with each book getting better and better. All three books are more intense individually than even a series ender by other authors is. And the finale of the series, Calamity, is just so utterly amazing. I tear up at the ending every time.

The Series Has A Lovely Romance And Amazing Characters
I’m not typically the target audience for romance novels--I’d rather the characters pay more attention to beating up the villains and less to each other. But the romance that runs throughout this series is just so adorable and so sweet that I can’t help but loving it. Plus, the characters spend plenty of time beating up the villains.

There’s a side character in the second and third books that I really like. I won’t spoil who it is, but she’s awesome and super cool. Competent at what she does (mostly blowing things up), always upbeat, and genuinely nice, this character is my first book crush since Hermione Granger.

The fact that Sanderson has been able to achieve both of these things--a romance that I like, and a character I have a crush on--is nothing short of miraculous, and should be a pretty darn good reason to read the series.

Beta Reading...
This last reason might be cheating, but… I was a beta reader for Calamity and that experience has made this series even more special to me. It’s awesome to know that my name is in the acknowledgments at the end in every single copy ever printed. So go read the series and make sure to look for my name in the acknowledgements. :)

Have you read this series?
Let us know in the comments below!
Did we persuade you to add these books to your TBR mountain?

Superweek 2: The Sequel (and a Super Giveaway)

We had so much fun with the Superhero week we put together recently that we decided to do it again. (Plus, we still have a lot of superhero reads in our TBR piles.) All this week we're bringing you more super-themed reviews and features. And to kick it off we've got a super giveaway for you.

We're giving away a signed copy of Steelheart by Brandon Sanderson, a Captain America shirt (size L), an Avengers travel mug, tote, notebook and pens, a mjolnir key chain, and Iron Man candy. 
This one will be U.S. only because it will ship in two packages.

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Friday, May 27, 2016

It's Alpha Showdown Time: Vote for Mercy!

Even before I started blogging, I was a big fan of Vampire Book Club's Alpha Showdown, the annual competition that pits our favorite paranormal characters against each other to see who's the bigger badass. But now I actually get to champion an Alpha.

VBC: Home of Alpha Showdown

This year, I'm all about Mercy Thompson from Patricia Briggs's Mercy Thompson series. (You might have noticed how much we love her and all of Briggs's characters around here.) She's taking on Merit from the Chicagoland Vampires series in round 5. It's something of a rematch since their significant others battled in round 3. Mercy's husband Adam won BTW.

UPDATE:Mercy won her first round! Thanks to everyone who voted!

This round is open today and tomorrow. So please go read the pitches and vote for Mercy.
For more on her series, check out our reviews.

Moon Called by Patricia Briggs // VBC Review

Rose Red is also championing an alpha in the showdown this year. Watch for her round next week!

Weres Wanna Know: Is Book Hype A Good Thing?

Weres Wanna Know is a new discussion feature where we share a topic that's been on our minds and invite you to share your thoughts as well.

I've been thinking a lot about Gretl's Weres Wanna Know post from last week. She discussed the things that keep her from picking a book up. When I read her post the first thing I thought of that keeps me from reading a book is book hype.

Yeah. I said it. Book hype, for me, is a double-edged sword. On one hand, hearing tons of good things about a book makes me excited to read said book. On the other hand, book hype can kill any or all of my desire to read a book. I don't know about you but to me it seems like book hype is getting to be a more prevalent thing than it used to be and it's something that seems to more prevalent in the YA book community than any other. It may just be that I notice it more now because social media lets me see what's popular in the book community at all times. So I want to ask:

Does The Book Hype Make You Want To Read A Book?

When I first got seriously involved in the online book community, I took book hype seriously. I would end up hearing of a hyped book that everybody loved and I'd immediately feel inclined to get my hands on it. So I bought several of the really popular and hyped YA books and I read them. The thing was I didn't like them as much as I thought I would. Don't get me wrong! I loved several of those books and I still love them. But the hype that had built up around those books had raised my expectations so high that some of those books didn't even come close to meeting them. I became the black sheep and I feel betrayed when I don't love a book everyone else does. Unfortunately, it took me a year and a not insignificant amount of money to accept that I'm not going to like a lot of books others are loving and that being the black sheep was not a bad thing.

The biggest thing I've learned is how to deal with book hype in a way that lets me read for myself. I curate the hell out of the books I choose to pick up. I know more of my likes and dislikes so I don't give in to the book hype as much any more because there are some books that no matter the hype I KNOW that I won't like them. For the ones I'm on the fence about, I've learned that the best possible thing for me to do is to wait. That way I can see whether the book hype disappears quickly or if it just keeps picking up momentum. There are some books that the hype dies as soon as they come out and in those cases most of the time my interest dies with it. It's the books where the hype doesn't die the first six months after release that I find myself gravitating to. 

I have also come to realize that there are different kinds of hype: publisher hype and reader hype. I deal more easily with one than I do the other. Personally, I hardly ever like the books that publishers decide to push hard. It feels like there's more of a push to promote certain books these days but it seems like each publisher chooses just one book out of all of their upcoming releases to throw all their money at. You all know what I'm talking about and probably can think of a book or two that has been heavily promoted in the last couple of months. I've tried so many of these books the last few years and I can count on one hand the ones I've liked. One of the most disappointing books I read last year was one where the publisher pushed it hard.

The other type of hype is reader hype. This is the hype I don't mind as much. There are still books that get so overhyped that I feel no desire to read them, but I find that I enjoy the ones I do pick up more often than not. I have several book and blogger friends who have almost the same taste in books that I do and they're the ones that I let persuade me instead of trusting the entire capslocky "OMG! READ THIS NOW!" part of the book community. If 85% of my friends love a certain book, I know that I'll be more predisposed to love it too regardless of how much hype it has gained. There have been some exceptions to that. *tries not to glare at the Throne of Glass books*

I will admit that most of this post applies to YA books because I just don't feel the same way about the hype around adult books even though it's there. The hype doesn't feel as urgent or as big as it does in the YA community. It's probably my YA burnout talking, but that's how I feel. I'm much more willing to pick up a hyped adult fantasy book than I am a YA one. My expectations are still high with the adult books but they're not set as ridiculously high as with YA. I really have no idea why I feel so differently between the two age groups. Maybe I've just been burned too many times by similar plot lines and love triangles in YA. Your guess is as good as mine at this point.

So how do you feel about book hype...

Does it make you want to read a book? Why or why not? 
How do you deal with the hype? Let's discuss!

If you have a topic you'd like to see discussed in a Weres Wanna Know post, let us know in the comments, send us a Facebook message, or email goldiloxandthethreeweres@gmail.com.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Really Short Reviews: Star-Touched Queens and Summer Days

Summer Days and Summer Nights
Edited by Stephanie Perkins
Release: May 17, 2016
Goodreads Amazon
Maybe it's the long, lazy days, or maybe it's the heat making everyone a little bit crazy. Whatever the reason, summer is the perfect time for love to bloom. Summer Days & Summer Nights: Twelve Love Stories, written by twelve bestselling young adult writers and edited by the international bestselling author Stephanie Perkins, will have you dreaming of sunset strolls by the lake. So set out your beach chair and grab your sunglasses. You have twelve reasons this summer to soak up the sun and fall in love.

Featuring stories by Leigh Bardugo, Francesca Lia Block, Libba Bray, Cassandra Clare, Brandy Colbert, Tim Federle, Lev Grossman, Nina LaCour, Stephanie Perkins, Veronica Roth, Jon Skovron, and Jennifer E. Smith.

Review by Rose Red:

How do you review an anthology without spoiling any of the stories? The only way I could think of was to make my review a short one. 

I'm going to honest. I thought Summer Days & Summer Nights was just okay. I probably would have like it more if I had read the companion anthology, My True Love Gave To Me. At least one of the stories in this book was a continuation of the author's story in the companion. I only loved three of the stories. Most of the rest of the stories I thought were good and there was only one that I completely skipped. Several of the stories would have been better if they would have been a little bit longer.

The beautiful thing about this anthology is that it is a diverse collection of stories. It has LGBT couples and mental health and mental conditions like autism and relationships that don't end with a happily ever after. It's quite the diverse collection and there are enough different stories that there should be something for everyone. 

My favorites in this collection were Leigh Bardugo's and Libba Bray's stories. While my least favorite (aka the one I skipped) was the one by Francesca Lia Block. 

I'd definitely recommend picking it up if you're looking for a YA anthology with a diverse set of stories.

ARC provided by the publisher via Netgalley.

  3 / 5 Stars

The Star-Touched Queen
(The Star-Touched Queen #1)
Roshani Chokshi
Release: April 26, 2016
Fate and fortune. Power and passion. What does it take to be the queen of a kingdom when you’re only seventeen?

Maya is cursed. With a horoscope that promises a marriage of death and destruction, she has earned only the scorn and fear of her father’s kingdom. Content to follow more scholarly pursuits, her whole world is torn apart when her father, the Raja, arranges a wedding of political convenience to quell outside rebellions. Soon Maya becomes the queen of Akaran and wife of Amar. Neither roles are what she expected: As Akaran’s queen, she finds her voice and power. As Amar’s wife, she finds something else entirely: Compassion. Protection. Desire…

But Akaran has its own secrets—thousands of locked doors, gardens of glass, and a tree that bears memories instead of fruit. Soon, Maya suspects her life is in danger. Yet who, besides her husband, can she trust? With the fate of the human and Otherworldly realms hanging in the balance, Maya must unravel an ancient mystery that spans reincarnated lives to save those she loves the most…including herself.

Review by Rose Red:

The Star-Touched Queen was a wonderful read! The writing is straightforward and for once, we have a strong YA heroine who does not turn into a twitterpated mess around the love interest. I adored that the story was heavily influenced by Indian mythology. It was a breath of fresh air in comparison to the typical retellings we see in YA. I also loved that the story is quite lovely and without the drama and logic issues that are prevalent in a lot of YA books recently. Even though it's based upon Indian mythology, there seems to be a bit of influence from the fairy tale, Beauty and the Beast, in it. The thing that made this book for me is that it wasn't a normal YA tale of love and loss. It was unapologetic in its telling and it had enough detail that it wasn't overly simplistic or info dumpy.

Maya was very down-to-earth heroine and I enjoyed seeing the story unfold through her eyes. She is very brave and uses her intelligence to follow the dictates of her conscience. I loved the demonic horse that acted as a sounding board for Maya and their scenes were probably my favorite part of the book. The love interest wasn't bad either. :) The Indian culture felt authentic in the story from the harems of the Raja to the political squabbling to the reliance on horoscopes. The culture was treated reverently and lovingly and I really enjoyed exploring it through Maya's story.

The writing is smooth and straightforward but has the occasional clunky analogy after a particularly beautiful worded line. The world building was excellent and it was easy to become carried away in the story. This book itself is a stand-alone with a complete story arc but it has a companion novel set to come out next year sometime. I would highly recommend picking it up if you're looking for a out-of-the-norm retelling.

ARC provided by the publisher via Netgalley.

  4 / 5 Stars

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Blog Tour, Review, and Giveaway: The Voodoo Killings by Kristi Charish

We loved Kristi Charish's newest, The Voodoo Killings, book one of the Kincaid Strange series, about a Seattle voodoo practitioner and her ghostly roommate. Check out Rose Red's review below and enter to win a copy of your own at the bottom of the post.

One of our favorite things in the book is the Underground City, the supernatural section of the Seattle Underground.  So we're really excited to bring you Kincaid's guide to all the ghosts and ghouls you'll find there on the blog today.

The Voodoo Killings
(Kincaid Strange #1)
Kristi Charish
Release: May 10, 2016
Goodreads Chapters/Indigo
The Heroine Bookstore
For the first time since we launched Bitten by Kelley Armstrong, Random House Canada is thrilled to announce the debut of a new urban fantasy series. Kristi Charish's The Voodoo Killings introduces Kincaid Strange, not your average voodoo practitioner...

For starters, she's only 27. Then there's the fact that she lives in rain-soaked Seattle, which is not exactly Haiti. And she's broke. With raising zombies outlawed throughout the continental USA, Kincaid has to eke out a living running seances for university students with more money than brains who are desperate for guitar lessons with the ghost of a Seattle grunge rocker--who happens to be Kincaid's on-again, off-again roommate.

Then a stray zombie turns up outside her neighbourhood bar: Cameron Wight, an up-and-coming visual artist with no recollection of how he died or who raised him. Not only is it dangerous for Kincaid to be caught with an unauthorized zombie, she soon realizes he's tied to a spate of murders: someone is targeting the zombies and voodoo practitioners in Seattle's infamous Underground City, a paranormal hub. When the police refuse to investigate, the City's oldest and foremost zombie asks Kincaid to help. Raising ghosts and zombies is one thing, but finding a murderer? She's broke, but she's not stupid.

And then she becomes the target...As the saying goes, when it rains it pours, especially in Seattle.

You all know how much I love Kristi Charish's The Adventures of Owl series, right? Well, I think this series may have surpassed it. I absolutely adored it! This book was everything I wanted it to be! Zombies! Ghouls! Voodoo outside of New Orleans! Ghosts! Poltergeists! All of these things mixed with bits and pieces from various mythologies made for some A+ worldbuilding, which is something I've come to expect from Charish and enjoy the hell out of in each of her books. But amazing worldbuilding aside, how could I not love a book about a voodoo practitioner who lives in Seattle with the ghost of a grunge rockstar?

Kincaid Strange was a seriously kick-butt heroine. I was able to relate to her on an emotional level. She knows how to keep herself together and is a planner after my own heart. She is a really mature heroine who avoids unnecessary drama and gets things done. She was brilliant! Add in her sarcastic wit and sense of humor and she easily became a favorite character of mine.

Also, did I mention this is an urban fantasy murder mystery with zombies? It's totally a murder mystery with zombies, which is such of fantastic premise! This book is fast paced and full of action. Like with the Owl books, there was never a dull moment. I also loved that the supernatural world was known to everybody and that some of the politics of dealing with the "non-living" were explored. It added a whole new dimension to the book. 

And Charish deserves a slow clap for her zombies. They are not your typical zombie apocalypse zombies. No unknown viruses making zombies out of the living. The dead are raised with voodoo and have a surprising range of capabilities and weaknesses. And the Underground City for zombies and ghouls beneath Seattle was such a cool touch.

Charish has a gift for creating a monster mash of paranormal creatures. I loved the secondary characters! Of course, zombie Cameron was a big part of this book and learning what happened to him really drove the story, but there was also Kincaid's ghostly roommate, Nate, and her zombie informant/Otherside ringleader, Lee Ling. Nate was my favorite! Not only was he an awesome character, his and Kincaid's friendship and teamwork was a really great additional dynamic. I really loved the two of them and their interactions together!

I switched back and forth between the audiobook and the ARC while reading this and I can't recommend the audiobook enough! By the time I finished the book, I had listened to over 75% of it. It's definitely one of the best audiobooks I've listened to in 2016. The narrator, Susannah Jones, totally captured the atmosphere of the book and her portrayal of Kincaid and the other characters was on par with what I had imagined in my head.

I can say with certainty that Kristi Charish’s books never disappoint! They are like a breath of fresh air in so many ways. The Voodoo Killings is no exception and is an excellent start to a new series! I love how she made the zombie trope her own. I absolutely cannot wait to read more of Kincaid's adventures!

ARC provided by the author

  4.5 /5 Stars

Purchasing note: Right now the Physical and Audiobook are available internationally (Amazon U.S./Amazon.ca/Audible/Chapters Indigo/Book Depository), but the ebook is only available in Canada because of rights.

If you're in the US and looking to buy a copy of this book, I'd highly recommend The Heroine Bookstore. Their customer service is awesome and their shipping fee from Canada to the US was the most reasonable I could find since it wasn't available from Book Depository when I ordered my copy. 

Enter to win your choice of a signed paperback (USA/Canada) or an audiobook (international).

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Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Release Day Review: Struck by Amanda Carlson

(Phoebe Meadows #1)
Amanda Carlson
Release: May 24, 2016
Goodreads Amazon
When Phoebe Meadows gets struck by a strange light in the stockroom of Macy’s, life as she knows it flies out the window. As if being hit by lightning isn’t bad enough, she’s accosted in the subway by a man with a missing hand, arrives home to find a raven on her kitchen counter, and her neighbor, Ingrid, shows up dressed like a gladiator hell-bent on protecting her.

Before Ingrid can shuttle her to safety, Phoebe is kidnapped and tossed into one of the Nine Worlds where she’s quickly forced to come to terms with what she is: A valkyrie. The only problem is, she has no idea what that means.

After a narrow escape, she finds an unlikely ally in Loki’s son, Fenrir. Together the valkyrie and the wolf must battle their way back to New York City and reach the valkyrie stronghold where Ingrid is waiting for her. But with danger and obstacles at every turn, she might not live long enough to learn the full truth about who and what she really is… 
Struck is a modern re-imagining of Norse mythology with a plot that reminds me of Lost Girl if the valkyrie had been the main character instead of the succubus. I love the idea of the valkyrie heroine learning about her world along with the readers, getting all the behind the scenes details on how they're chosen and how they train. That's a side of the myth that's not often explored.

I also loved all the different creatures that Phoebe encounters in the book, in addition to the mythological figures. She's constantly under attack from demons and giants and all kinds of monsters I haven't seen before. The story is fast-paced and action-packed.

Those are all good things, but I struggled with this book. The dialogue is tedious and repetitive, and the writing in general is unpolished and imprecise. The author often chooses a word that's just slightly off in a really distracting way. Like calling someone "a skeleton," rather than "skin and bones," and then proceeding to describe her flesh. I really wanted to get out the red pen and start editing.

I also had a hard time with Phoebe - she is just too clueless. She has no idea what's going on around her and doesn't seem to be listening to what people are saying. At one point I actually thought, "has she never seen a sci-fi movie?" Later she actually starts referencing those movies, though it's still obvious she's never seen Thor. Her over-use of words like "gross" and "stinky" also makes her seem immature. It's hard to reconcile that with her sexual behavior. And it's hard to believe a thousand year old demi-god would see her as a potential mate and not a child to be protected.

Which brings me to the romance plot. It makes sense that there would be insta-love in this world that's all about fate and prophesy. That's not exactly what happens, but it does seem to come out of nowhere. I wish that Phoebe's emotional connection to Fenrir had been developed more. I like them together and I like the supporting cast she collects along the way.

I'm probably being too generous with the three star rating. Two and a half might be more accurate. This was almost a DNF. The writing was just too distracting. But somewhere after the halfway point, I got caught up in the action and didn't notice it quite as much.

I'll probably even give the next book in the series a shot, since Phoebe didn't even get to start her Valkyrie training yet. Struck is just about gathering her entourage (and encountering all kinds of baddies) on her way there. I really hope that next book lives up to the potential I see in this series.

ARC provided by the author

 3 stars

Friday, May 20, 2016

Weres Wanna Know: What would keep you from reading a book?

Weres Wanna Know is a new discussion feature where we share a topic that's been on our minds and invite you to share your thoughts as well.

In the last few months, I've seen several people swear off a particular author/narrator/cover model because of comments they've made on social media. Though I understand that decision, I'm not going to open that can of worms again. I don't want to discuss any of those people specifically, but it's got me thinking about deal breakers.

What Would Keep You From Reading a Book?

I've never read The Hobbit because when I was three years old, I saw the animated version and was scared of the chair in the corner of my room for a week. (In the dark, I thought it was a dragon.) I still associate that book with the scary chair and I have no interest in reading it. Also, I will never read a book where I know something bad happens to the dog. Brutalize the humans all you want, it won't bother me, but leave the dog alone. And I'll probably never read the book that was my very first rejected ARC request. I've read other books that I didn't get approved for since then, but something about that first one really hurt my feelings and I just don't want to read it anymore.

I recently read a blurb that was so poorly written, I couldn't even consider reading the book. It had a typo in the first paragraph and a grammatical error in the second. (It was only two paragraphs long.) It was a subject I like and the book had lots of positive comments. And it wasn't a self-pubbed title so the author probably didn't even write the blurb. But I just can't.

I have the same problem with reviews sometimes too. I know nobody's perfect and I try to cut people some slack, but there's a point where it's just too distracting. If I can't read your review without getting out my mental red pen, I just won't read it. And if it has more GIFs than words in it, I'm not going to read that either.

What are your deal breakers?
Let's discuss!

If you have a topic you'd like to see discussed in a Weres Wanna Know post, let us know in the comments, send us a Facebook message, or email goldiloxandthethreeweres@gmail.com.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Really Short Reviews: Psy-Changeling #6-8

As you all know, I've have become hopelessly obsessed with Nalini Singh's books. I cannot begin to tell you how much I have come to love them but I can tell you that I have reread this series five times since I first marathoned it last June. See? I told you I've become obsessed.

The fifteenth book in the series is set to come out next month and in celebration of its release I'm going to review two or three books in the series each week until Allegiance of Honor is out. I was lucky enough to get a copy of it for review and I've already read it! It was SO good! Since I don't have enough to say about each book to warrant a full review, I'm going to do Really Short Reviews of the series so far! Today, I'm reviewing the next three books! If you haven't started this series yet, you still have time to do so before the next book is out!

Branded by Fire
(Psy-Changeling #6)
Nalini Singh
Release: July 7, 2009
A Psy-Changeling novel from the New York Times bestselling author of Shards of Hope, Shield of Winter, and Heart of Obsidian..."the alpha author of paranormal romance" (Booklist).

Though DarkRiver sentinel Mercy is feeling the pressure to mate, she savagely resists when Riley Kincaid, a lieutenant from the SnowDancer pack, tries to possess her. The problem is not simply that he pushes her buttons; the problem is that he's a wolf, she's a cat, and they're both used to being on top.

But when a brilliant changeling researcher is kidnapped from DarkRiver territory, Mercy and Riley must work together to track the young man - before his shadowy captors decide he's no longer useful. Along the way, the two dominants may find that submitting to one another uncovers not just a deadly conspiracy, but a passion so raw that it'll leave them both branded by fire...

Review by Rose Red:

Yay! We finally got Mercy's book! I loved this book so much! It's the first in the series to have a changeling-changeling couple and what's even better is the hero is a wolf and the heroine a leopard. It was bound to happen at some point, right? The packs' have an alliance after all. How close the packs are is actually one of the things I love about this series. Plus, it gives us a chance to see characters from previous books again. Mercy and Riley have an interesting dynamic with them being the liaisons between their two packs! It made me laugh in more than a couple spots.

Mercy has always been one of my favorite characters, but in Branded by Fire she sealed her position as one of my personal favorites. She's strong, both physically and mentally, cunning, kind, warm, funny, and generous and on top of it all, imperfect. And it's one of the things I love about her most! She's stubborn and proud. There's a reason she's a Sentinel. Despite her reticence at falling in love with a wolf, Riley is exactly the right male for her. He's more than Mercy's equal in terms of strength, dominance, and pack position. He's also incredibly giving and a sweetheart. Riley is utterly endearing which is not something you expect from someone nicknamed The Wall. Unfortunately, his heart is scarred by what happened to his sister, Brenna. Her imprisonment left its mark on Riley, making him overprotective of those he cares about, which causes problems at times in his relationship with Mercy.

I loved watching the two of them find their way in their relationship, each complimenting the other's strengths and willing to call one another on their flaws. Mercy and Riley are perfect for each other even though their road to being together was more than a little bit rocky. And boy do these two have chemistry! As with the previous books in this series, Nalini Singh will also leave you wanting books for each character introduced. Personally, Branded by Fire is the book that made me desperate to know Sienna Lauren's story. Unfortunately, that doesn't happen until book ten. This book also made me hopeful for future leopard-wolf pairings! I've mentioned that I love this series a lot a lot, right?
  5 / 5 Stars!

Blaze of Memory
(Psy-Changeling #7)
Nalini Singh
Release: November 3, 2009
Goodreads Amazon
A woman without a past becomes the pawn of the man who controls her future...

Dev Santos discovers her unconscious and battered, with no memory of who she is. All she knows is that she's dangerous. Charged with protecting his people's most vulnerable secrets, Dev is duty-bound to eliminate all threats. It's a task he's never hesitated to complete...until he finds himself drawn to a woman who might prove to be the enemy's most insidious weapon yet.

Stripped of her memories by a shadowy oppressor and programmed to carry out cold-blooded murder, Katya Haas is fighting desperately for her sanity. Her only hope is Dev. But how can she expect to gain the trust of a man who could very well be her next target? For in this game, one must die...

Review by Rose Red:

Good heavens! These books just keep getting better! I was hesitant to start this book because there are no changelings in it and I really thought I was going to miss them. Dev definitely makes up for the lack of changelings in this story. He is actually just as protective as a changeling and incredibly intense, so I was more than happy to get his backstory. It was also fascinating learning more about the Forgotten.

The woman he falls for, Katya, is a Psy, but she shows more emotion than any Psy we've meet so far. It was a change of pace for a Psy heroine to have no Silence to work through and overcome. The reason she is free of Silence is actually heartbreaking and something I am not going to go into because I think you need to read it for yourself. I was always afraid that these books were going to hit a routine and become repetitive with the Psy stories, but Nalini Singh keeps coming up with ingenuous ways to have these characters develop so I am never bored.

The world just keeps getting more and more interesting and the characters are fantastic! What I was not expecting was to have my heart ripped slowly out of my chest with this book. It made me sob like a little girl. Yet I loved it so much! Dev has been an enigma since he was first introduced and I liked getting to know more about him even though he is a jerk sometimes. The person I really loved was Katya. You can't help but love her after you find out her back story.

Blaze of Memory is a fantastic addition to the psy/changeling world. It shakes things up quite a bit even though changelings are the not main focus of this story. I love how the world just keeps expanding with each book to include other groups like the Human Alliance and the Forgotten. This series just makes me so happy.
  4.5 / 5 Stars

Bonds of Justice
(Psy-Changeling #8)
Nalini Singh
Release: July 6, 2010
Max Shannon is a good cop, one of the best in New York Enforcement. Born with a natural shield that protects him against Psy mental invasions, he knows he has little chance of advancement within the Psy-dominated power structure. The last case he expects to be assigned is that of a murderer targeting a Psy Councilor’s closest advisors. And the last woman he expects to compel him in the most sensual of ways is a Psy on the verge of a catastrophic mental fracture…

Sophia Russo is a Justice-Psy, cursed with the ability to retrieve memories from men and women so twisted even veteran cops keep their distance. Appointed as Max’s liaison with the Psy, she finds herself fascinated by this human, her frozen heart threatening to thaw with forbidden emotion. But, her mind filled with other people’s nightmares, other people’s evil, she’s standing on the border between sanity and a silken darkness that urges her to take justice into her own hands, to become judge, jury…and executioner…

Review by Rose Red:

Just as with the other books in this series, I loved this one. The world is so fascinating and the plots are so complex and emotional. I love the fact that it's not just hearts and roses but that the characters, have to work for their happily ever afters. I think Max and Sophie are my favorite and I have a lot of favorites in this series. A lot of things changed with this book and I'm excited to see what happens next!

I have had my fingers crossed since I finished Mine to Possess that we'd get a book with Max as the hero! And we finally did! I fell in love with both Max and Sophia in it. I found Sophia to be an intriguing character. As a J-Psy, she's been exposed to a lot more evil than the Psy in the previous books. She's damaged and her abilities have the potential to make her into a monster. They have also made it so she can't touch another person without her personal shields basically imploding and letting all the voices around her in to drive her insane. I loved how Max handled Sophia and her problems. It was sweet and intense because he pushes her limits but he's never mean or condescending about taking things slowly. His natural mental shield really comes in handy in this book for lots of reasons.

One thing I really love about this series is how, while it's focused on the romance between the characters and their obstacles to being together, there's still a conflict that deals with an outside force like a serial killer or people targeting a certain group. In this book, Max and Sophia are dealing with a serial killer that is both psychotic and evil and he has fixated on Sophia. So much stuff happens with that but it complimented the story instead of hindering it. I enjoyed the dynamic of Max and Sophia working together to solve this case for a Councilor.

All in all, Bonds of Justice was a great addition to the series. Oh, Sophie and Max! I love you both so much! And Morpheous! Max's temperamental alley cat of a pet was a wonderful part of the story! I want more stories about these two and a certain someone who appears at the end. I really want a short story set immediately after this book. You all who have read it know why. 

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