Thursday, October 19, 2017

Friday #Review - 13 Minutes by Sarah Pinborough #YALit #Thriller #Suspense

Series: Standalone
Format: Hardcover, 352 Pages
Release Date: October 3, 2017
Publisher: Flatiron Books
Source: NetGalley
Genre: Young Adult \ Thrillers & Suspense

Natasha’s sure that her friends love her. But does that mean they didn’t try to kill her?

Natasha is the most popular girl in school. So why was she pulled out of a freezing river after being dead for thirteen minutes? She doesn’t remember how she ended up in the icy water that night, but she does know this—it wasn’t an accident, and she wasn’t suicidal.

Now Natasha’s two closest friends, who are usually her loyal sidekicks, are acting strangely. Natasha turns to Becca, the best friend she dumped years before, to help her figure out the mystery.

At first Becca isn’t sure that she even wants to help Natasha. But as she is drawn back into Natasha’s orbit, Becca starts putting the pieces together. As an outsider, Becca believes she may be the only one who can uncover the truth…which is far more twisted than she ever imagined.

13 Minutes, by author Sarah Pinborough, is dark, psychological suspense novel featuring a cast of characters who will remind readers of Mean Girls. From the onset of the story, the author starts with a puzzling and disturbing mystery. For 13 minutes, Natasha Howland was all but dead, until she was found floating in a river. She claims to have no memories of what really happened up to the point of ending up in the river. She does remember getting a text message that night from a unknown number.

But, things just don't add up. Why was Tasha in the river in the first place? Did someone attack her and dump her body in the river hoping she wouldn't be found? Why would Tasha be the first person Tasha asks for upon waking up? Is Tasha part of what happened, or just a pawn in a hard core game where anything can happen, and usually does? The same Becca she hasn't been friends with since Tasha became beautiful and started her own groupies called the Barbies who are by all indications, mean girls. 

To top things off, Tasha becomes bitter cold towards her two best friends, and in fact, turns to her ex-best friend to discover the truth about what really happened. As with all of the authors plot lines, she loves to screw with readers heads. She is the queen of psychological thrillers. The author has chosen to write different POV's for each chapter, so you really have to pay attention as to who is telling the story. One could say that both Natasha and Rebecca are primary storytellers, especially since Becca gets dragged into a situation that she doesn't understand. In doing so, she ends up experiencing her own intrigue.

This isn't a story for the feint at heart. There's plenty of abuse of alcohol, drugs, and yes, sex. 13 Minutes is a twisted web of surprises and twists. Both main characters are unreliable as narrators, and truth be told, hard to actually like. The story is also told through text messages, psychiatrists notes, and police case notes. In the end, I'm not especially tolerant of characters who are mean girls, so this book ended up being just satisfactory for me. 

Thursday #Review - Last Star Burning by Caitlin Sangster @CaitSangster ‏#YALit #Post-Apocalyptic

Series: Last Star Burning # 1
Format: Hardcover, 400 pages 
Release Date: October 10, 2017
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Source: Publisher
Genre: YA \ Apocalyptic & Post-Apocalyptic

To escape execution for a crime she didn’t commit, seventeen-year-old Sev is forced to run away from the only home she’s ever known in this exciting start to a brand-new fantasy series from debut author Caitlin Sangster.
Sev is branded with the mark of a criminal—a star burned into her hand. That’s the penalty for being the daughter of the woman who betrayed their entire nation.
Now her mother’s body is displayed above Traitor’s Arch, kept in a paralyzed half sleep by the same plague that destroyed the rest of the world. And as further punishment, Sev is forced to do hard labor to prove that she’s more valuable alive than dead.
When the government blames Sev for a horrific bombing, she must escape the city or face the chopping block. Unimaginable dangers lurk outside the city walls, and Sev’s only hope of survival lies with the most unlikely person—Howl, the chairman’s son. Though he promises to lead her to safety, Howl has secrets, and Sev can’t help but wonder if he knows more about her past—and her mother’s crimes—than he lets on.
But in a hostile world, trust is a luxury. Even when Sev’s life and the lives of everyone she loves may hang in the balance. 

Last Star Burning, by debut author Caitlin Sangster, is the first installment in the authors Last Star Burning series. For the past 8 years, Sevvy Jiang has been labeled as a Fourth Class citizen all because the City Proletariat claims that her own mother betrayed the city by infecting her own daughter with the so called encephalitis lethargica, or sleeping sickness. A sickness that can only be settled with a drug called Mantis. Sevvy has been branded with a star seared into her flesh as a way to indicate that she is the daughter of a traitor, and has been forced to undergo indoctrination

Sevvy is the last remaining member of her family since her mother currently hangs in stasis in a place called Traitor's Arch. Sevvy's only real friend, Tai-ge, is the second son of the family who is supposed to re-educate her back into society. Yet, he is still a second class citizen, or a Red as they are called. But, after a bomb is dropped by what the city claims is an enemy plane nearly killing her and Tai-ge, Sevvy finds that she has become the enemy of the city. Only one person actually believes that she is innocent. That is the son of the Chairman. 

Howl and Sevvy set out for a destination called the Mountain, where Howl claims that answers can be found. The road to the mountain is fraught with danger, and the promise of safety in the mountain may in fact be an illusion after Sevvy discovers some shocking and eye opening secrets. Sevvy's only real true ally might in fact be an outsider named June, and a medic named Sole who helps her when things looked their most darkest. 

Sevvy is a genuinely decent character who remains strong willed despite all of the issues that have been laid at her feet. One could state that Last Star Burning is influenced by the author’s experiences in China. The story is set against the back drop of a post-apocalyptic world where deception, lies, and propaganda rule the day. Where the First class actually drops bombs on its own citizens while blaming an unseen enemy. The stigma behind the sleeping sickness really does lay heavily over this story. It gives it a bit of a darker feel to it since nobody is immune. 

The author gets an A for her world building, an A for a very well thought out plot line, and an A for writing such a fantastic character in Sevvy. It is Sevvy's struggle to understand a whole new reality that is vastly different from what she was told by those who pretended to know better than she did. Her voice doesn't waiver, but gets strong as the story rushes towards a somewhat cliffhanger ending. Shatter the Suns, which is apparently the sequel, releases fall of 2018. 

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

#Fantasy #Review - Call of the Wilde (Immortal Vegas, #8) by Jenn Stark

Series: Immortal Vegas # 8
Format: Kindle, 339 pages
Release Date:  September 5th 2017
Publisher: Elewyn Publishing
Source: Amazon
Genre: Urban Fantasy

Hello darkness, my old friend…

Still recovering from an explosive family get-together, Tarot-reading mistress of the House of Swords Sara Wilde isn’t ready to return to the war on magic. Then the Magician of the Arcana Council uses her to summon an ancient Greek deity for his own devious purposes, and Sara’s suddenly up to her elbows in oversized egos and millennia-old conflicts. Conflicts that imperil the delicate balance of power between the most formidable mortals on earth and the gods who wait beyond the veil.

To keep both gods and monsters where they belong, Sara is forced to put out the first call to arms of the four Houses of Magic since the fall of Atlantis. Unfortunately, that call brings ancient enemies into the open and reveals truths about the Council–and the Magician himself–she would have preferred not to know. Worse, a brutal resurgence of violence rocks the Las Vegas Connected community and has Sara questioning everything she knows about her closest allies, while a nagging interest from Interpol evolves into a far more insidious threat. Sara’s done her best to become a team player, but with friends like these…

Better pray it’s a wrong number when you get the Call of the Wilde.

Call of the Wilde, by author Jenn Stark, is the Eighth installment in the Immortal Vegas series. This time around, Stark decided that Sara hasn't had enough on her plate. Nope. This time she takes the entire freezer and dumps all of its contents on Sara's shoulders. If you follow this series closely, and I hope that you do, Sara has had an extraordinary adventure up to this point. Sara is a tarot card reading artifact hunter of some renown, who has become the head of the House of Swords. Oh, and she's apparently Immortal now as well. 

But, there's nothing like meeting your own bio-mother, aka Vengeance, aka the Denounced, and barely surviving against her and your nemesis Gamon. (Yes, the author does actually reveal her real name later in this story and it blow you away to learn who she really was, and how she and the Hermit met.) But, I digress. As the story begins, Sara is supposed to be on vacation with her on again, off again romantic interest Armaeus. Better known as the Magician of the Arcane Council. There are times I really, really can not trust him, and this is one of those times.

At the urging of Armaeus, Sara finds a way to bring a certain Goddess through the veil. Sowelcome to the series Hera! You are the newest hopeful for the Arcane Council as the Empress? If you thought that was all I was going to talk about, oh you are in for a rude awakening. As I've said before, Stark doesn't like Sara to have any sort of down time. Why have any down time when you can come under attack four times by an unknown source that later is revealed to be the fourth house of human magic, the House of Wands.

The House of Wands is a curious collection of warriors who have hidden themselves away from the rest of the world for centuries, and now have decide to find out whether or not Sara is the real deal, or just a fading star that will soon blink out. If that weren't enough, Sara is betrayed, Interpol is hot on her tail because of said betrayal, and then there are the Gods who decide that they have been on the other side of the veil for far too long. Sara attempts to bring all four houses together in London to seal the breach and stop the Gods. 

On top of all that Sara has been through since she started working for the Arcane Council, she still struggles to catch up to the world of magic that she has become a prominent figure in. Not only a prominent figure, but now a figure who has a huge bounty on her head from all sorts of people. A figure who may be as powerful as any member of the Arcane Council, possibly even strong because of her parents. Sara is far from a Mary Sue character, or one of those TSTL characters either. She does stand and deliver time and time again, and in this story, standing up causes a really curious cliffhanger ending. 

I love this series, I do, don't get me wrong. I will read it to the end if that's what it takes to discover Stark's end game when it comes to Sara. But, my weakness is that Sara is so far behind the eight ball, and really seems like she doesn't want to understand her part in what is happening all around her. Her refusal to take her leadership of the House of Swords is perhaps my biggest issue. Remarkably, Sara does have General Ma-Singh, and Nikki Dawes around to keep her focused. And, maybe, just maybe, Sara will discover what her abilities are capable of doing as she gets closer to the Devil, and the secrets he holds in his hands. 

This is, perhaps, the first cliffhanger ending in this series. Sara is really in a pickle, and it will take a major magic trick to escape as everyone seems to be eager to get their hands on Sara and discover what she really is capable of. Author states that Running Wilde will be the 9th installment, and will release this December. See you then!

Monday, October 16, 2017

Gizmo #Reviews - Freefall by Joshua David Bellin #YALit #Science #Fiction

Series: Standalone
Format: Hardcover, 368 pages
Release Date: September 26, 2017
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books
Source: Publisher
Genre: YA \ Science Fiction \ Space Opera

When the 1% and the 99% clash, the fate of the human race hangs on the actions of two teens from very different backgrounds in this thrilling sci-fi adventure.
In the Upperworld, the privileged 1% are getting ready to abandon a devastated planet Earth. And Cam can’t wait to leave. After sleeping through a 1,000-year journey, he and his friends will have a pristine new planet to colonize. And no more worries about the Lowerworld and is 99% of rejects.
Then Cam sees a banned video feed of protesters in the Lowerworld who also want a chance at a new life. And he sees a girl with golden eyes who seems to be gazing straight though the feed directly at him. A girl he has to find. Sofie.
When Cam finds Sofie, she opens his eyes to the unfairness of what’s happening in their world, and Cam joins her cause for Lowerworld rights. He also falls hard for Sofie. But Sofie has her own battles to fight, and when it’s time to board the spaceships, Cam is alone.
Waking up 1,000 years in the future, Cam discovers that he and his shipmates are far off-course, trapped on an unknown and hostile planet. Who has sabotaged their ship? And does it have anything to do with Sofie, and the choices—and the enemies—he made in the past?

Freefall, by author Joshua David Bellin, is a standalone, young adult, science fiction, space opera featuring Cameron Newell, with guest appearances by Sofie Patel, the object of his obsession. The story alternates between the years 2151 & 3151. In the year 2151, Cam, his friends Griffin and Adrian, and their hot shot families are preparing to leave Earth for a new planet called Tau Ceti E. They are part of what is called Upperworld, where the rich have had years to prepare to depart Earth which is doomed to an extinction level event. Then, Cam sees Sofie. 

Sofie has been preaching the slogan of one world, not two, and has managed to become the leader of the Lowerworld with a huge following that encompasses what is currently the Middle and Far East after her mentor is assassinated. Sofie has been labeled everything from a Terrarist, to prophet, to a revolutionary, to the last hope for the Lowerworld where people have been dumped on for hundreds of years. Sofie has a plan, and that plan ends up encompassing a boy with no clue of what he is getting involved in. A boy who will be used, tossed away, and betrayed. But, who is Sofie really, and why should readers really care about a radicalized fundamentalist?

In the year 3151, Cam awakes alone, his pod was jettisoned leaving him castoff from the others on the Executor. As he slowly awakes from his thousand year sleep, Cam finds that he is under attack by a strange thing made of mist. Newelly screwed because the Executor landed on a planet that is not conducive to any lifeforms, including terraforming, Cam finds that he is the enemy of his own people, including his best friends. Yet another chess piece to be moved around, and then sacrificed by both sides, Upper, and Lower. 

Cam, however, is too far gone to use the brain he was born with to open his mind and discover what is really happening under the facade. Instead, he uses the brain between his legs in order to continue his obsessive insta-romance with a girl who not only betrayed him, but used him in order to provide transportation for Lowers to another world altogether. After the Freefall, which is Sofie's ship, lands on the planet, Cam has to actually use his brain to figure out what is happening and why both ships landed on the same planet. Who is to blame, and why? What is Cam's part in all of this? Does Sofie have any clue how utterly gone he is when it comes to loving her?

You may think that I am being a bit harsh with my commentary regarding Cam. I assure you, I am not. From the first moment that Cam sees Sofie on a video screen, his entire world ends. There's no moving forward. He can't think of anything but Sofie. He can't do anything but think about Sofie and what she's doing. He runs off to NY where she is supposed to be speaking at the UN. He ends up joining Sofie in the Lowerworld where he basically doesn't do anything but sit around trying to make himself more attractable to the girl who will eventually leave him behind, and betray him.

I rated this story 3 stars because of the science fiction elements of the story. I rated this story because of the suspenseful action that takes place in 3151, not 2151. One could manage to say that this is yet another dystopian world where the socio-advantaged get whatever they want at the expense of the rest of the world. What would have made this story better for me? The addition of real life aliens that feast on the travelers. Or, how about an all out battle between the Upper and Lower over the only ship that actually matters when all is said and done? Bottom line? The future chapters were by far the only thing that kept me from rating this story any lower.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Gizmo #Review - Hunting Prince Dracula by Kerri Maniscalco #YALit #Horror

Series: Stalking Jack the Ripper # 2 
Format: Hardcover, 448 pags
Release Date: September 17, 2017
Publisher: jimmy patterson
Source: Library
Genre: Young Adult \ Horror

In this New York Times bestselling sequel to Kerri Maniscalco's haunting #1 debut Stalking Jack the Ripper, bizarre murders are discovered in the castle of Prince Vlad the Impaler, otherwise known as Dracula. Could it be a copycat killer...or has the depraved prince been brought back to life?
Following the grief and horror of her discovery of Jack the Ripper's true identity, Audrey Rose Wadsworth has no choice but to flee London and its memories. Together with the arrogant yet charming Thomas Cresswell, she journeys to the dark heart of Romania, home to one of Europe's best schools of forensic medicine...and to another notorious killer, Vlad the Impaler, whose thirst for blood became legend.
But her life's dream is soon tainted by blood-soaked discoveries in the halls of the school's forbidding castle, and Audrey Rose is compelled to investigate the strangely familiar murders. What she finds brings all her terrifying fears to life once again.

Hunting Prince Dracula, by author Kerri Maniscalco, is the followup to Stalking Jack the Ripper. The story takes place between December 1-26, 1888. 17-year old Audrey Rose Wadsworth is back. This time she and Thomas Cresswell are traveling via the Orient Express to Romania where they hope to study in the prestigious Academy of Forensic Medicine and Science. Before they even arrive though, there are headlines screaming about the possibility that Vlad Dracula may very well be alive and on the hunt after a body is found staked through the heart.

Apparently, the centuries dead legend has once again gained the imagination to the point where people truly believe it is possible that Dracula is an immortal. With the Ripper case fresh in her mind, and her imagination playing very cruel games with her, Audrey must find a way to put it all behind her if she is to be chosen as one of only two candidates to be entered into the next session of the school. This is a story that is as foreboding, as it is eerie. From a stunning murder on the Orient Express, to bodies piling up in and around the school, to the dangers that linger behind every corner, and possibly every student, Audrey and Thomas have their work cut out for them if they are to survive.

Historical Fiction is all about creating your own world, while also intermingling factual figures into your story. While this story is once set in the Victoria Era, Maniscalco knocks the walls down by allowing some things to happen between Audrey and Thomas that would probably have been frowned upon. She also uses the Orient Express as means of travel for Audrey Rose and Thomas. She uses the train for romantic means for Audrey and Thomas who grow even closer than before. Something that takes a whole lot for me to admit since I found Thomas a bit of a cad and a bloody bastard at times in both novels.

There's a bit of cooling at one point during the story after Thomas did something quite foolish. One could say that he bit off more than he could chew, and got smacked. But, Audrey gets a bit of clarity from her own cousins letter arrives and they end up in a good place when all is said and done. 
Bran Castle was never been a school for forensics, yet the historical and creepy aspects of the school gave the story a Gothic feel to it. Maniscalco's brilliant use of hallways, passageways, and tricky labyrinths that lead to life or death situations for Audrey and Thomas just prove that Maniscalco is not a one hit wonder.

The author also uses a secret society called The Order of the Dragon which really did exist at one point in history. The author twists the Order's membership by adding two female characters, Ileana and Daciana, something that really wouldn't have been possible in this era. Plus, Ileana and Daciana have a love for the other that is not restrained, but passionate and real. I do like the modern effort that allows Audrey to become a strong model for young women in today's society. She says I am strong, I am willing, and I am going to kick down the door on the male dominated world of forensic science, and make it my own.

I am extremely interested in what will play out in the next installment as Audrey and Thomas and Audrey's Uncle travel to America. Will the situation test their romance, or will it survive any circumstances thrown at them? We shall see.     

Saturday, October 14, 2017

#Stacking the Shelves #259 - Week Ending 10/14/2017

Stacking The Shelves is all about sharing the books you are adding to your shelves, may it be physical or virtual. This means you can include books you buy in physical store or online, books you borrow from friends or the library, review books, gifts and of course ebooks!

Thanks for Shopping by!
This week is an eclectic collection of books received from publishers, authors, NetGalley, and Edelweiss. As I close in on 300 books read for the year, I am actually opening myself up for more review requests. Something I haven't done in a long while. Hopefully they will be as entertaining as they were sold to me!
Have a fantastic weekend! 

This Weeks Reviews: 

Wednesday - Blood Rose Rebellion by Rosalyn Eves (YA, Fantasy)

Thursday - Ally by Anna Banks (YA, Fantasy)

Friday - Godsgrave by Jay Kristoff (Epic Fantasy)

Saturday - Warcross by Marie Lu (YA, SyFy)


Also received “Night of the Victorian Dead” by Amber Michelle Cook in exchange for an honest review but still waiting for the new cover to be sent to me.

Saturday #Review - Warcross by Marie Lu #YALit #SyFy @Marie_Lu ‏@PutnamBooks

Series: Warcross # 1
Format: Hardcover, 368 pages
Release Date: September 12, 2017
Publisher: G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers
Source: Library
Genre: Young Adult / Science Fiction

From #1 New York Times bestselling author Marie Lu—when a game called Warcross takes the world by storm, one girl hacks her way into its dangerous depths.
For the millions who log in every day, Warcross isn’t just a game—it’s a way of life. The obsession started ten years ago and its fan base now spans the globe, some eager to escape from reality and others hoping to make a profit. Struggling to make ends meet, teenage hacker Emika Chen works as a bounty hunter, tracking down Warcross players who bet on the game illegally. But the bounty-hunting world is a competitive one, and survival has not been easy. Needing to make some quick cash, Emika takes a risk and hacks into the opening game of the international Warcross Championships—only to accidentally glitch herself into the action and become an overnight sensation.
Convinced she’s going to be arrested, Emika is shocked when instead she gets a call from the game’s creator, the elusive young billionaire Hideo Tanaka, with an irresistible offer. He needs a spy on the inside of this year’s tournament in order to uncover a security problem…and he wants Emika for the job. With no time to lose, Emika’s whisked off to Tokyo and thrust into a world of fame and fortune that she’s only dreamed of. But soon her investigation uncovers a sinister plot, with major consequences for the entire Warcross empire.
In this sci-fi thriller, #1 New York Times bestselling author Marie Lu conjures an immersive, exhilarating world where choosing who to trust may be the biggest gamble of all.

Warcross, by author Marie Lu, is the first installment in the authors Warcross duology. Like Ready Player One and The Matrix, Warcross takes readers into a strikingly realistic version of what the future may hold, where the lines are blurred, and the effects of online gaming seep from the virtual into reality. Though Emika's learned everything she could about the brilliant and mysterious Hideo Tanaka, she never imaged she'd meet him, let alone become one of his confidants.

18-year old Emika Chen is a down on her luck college drop out who is several months behind on her bills, including her rent. She's also got a criminal record, but not for doing something bad. On top of losing her beloved father, she has struggled with life and finding a decent paying job. As a way of paying her bills, Emika is also a bounty hunter going after those who illegally gamble on Warcross. So illegal, that there are those who put up good money to apprehend those who are in arrears and owe a substantial debt. Emika isn't the best bounty hunter there is.

Nope. She's already lost several as the story begins, and loses another one to shear bad luck. But, then the crazy begins. Emika accidentally hacks her way into Warcross using her outdated Neurolink, and finds herself in the game itself where everyone in the world sees her. Thinking that she is going to be arrested as an adult this time, Emika instead is spirited away to Tokyo by Hideo and given a job hunting down a hacker who has been disrupting the game. Warcross is a game that is played by those of all walks of life and all skill sets. 

Emika doesn't realize that her life is about to get even more twisted and dangerous by being one of the wild card players in this years game and by digging into hard truths that may end up getting her targeted by the person hacking into Warcross. Emika soon learns Hideo is hiding frightening secrets, secrets that may be her undoing. From the wild draft party, to meeting her new team the Phoenix Riders, to attempting to uncover who is hacking to Warcross and why, Emika has her hands full and then some when she realizes that things aren't exactly what she has been told. 

Even though Emika is brilliant and talent, there might be someone else out there even better than she is. From the incredibly descriptive futuristic setting of Tokyo, to the Warcross game itself, to the diversity of the characters, to the game where everything is as bloodthirsty as you might think, Warcross impresses my alt-geek persona. The mystery behind who the culprit was, and what this person actually wants, was well thought out and delivered in a way that left me curious as to if I was correct in my guesstimate as to who the actual villain really was. 

The mysterious Hideo becomes more than Emika's employer after the two grow closer. One could say that this is a very smart person in Emika who has finally met the person who put her on the road to becoming an even better hacker that is hard to resist. The ending of the story itself is just mind blowing and sets up an irresistible urge to read the next installment as soon as I can get my hands on the book. 

Chapter 1

It’s too damn cold of a day to be out on a hunt.

I shiver, tug my scarf up higher over my mouth, and wipe a few snowflakes from my lashes. Then I slam my boot down on my electric skateboard. The board is old and used, like everything else I own, its blue paint almost entirely scraped off to reveal cheap silver plastic underneath—but it’s not dead yet, and when I push my heel down harder, it finally responds, jerking me forward as I squeeze between two rows of cars. My bright, rainbow-dyed hair whips across my face.

“Hey!” a driver yells as I maneuver past his car. I glance over my shoulder to see him waving a fist at me through his open window. “You almost clipped me!”

I just turn back around and ignore him. Usually, I’m a nicer person than this—or, at least, I would have shouted an apology back. But this morning, I’d woken up to a yellow paper taped to the door of my apartment, its words printed in the largest font you can imagine.


Translation: I’m almost three months behind on my rent. So, unless I can get my hands on $3,450, I’ll be homeless and in the streets by the end of the week.

That’d put a damper on anyone’s day.

My cheeks sting from the wind. The sky beyond the cut of skyscrapers is gray, turning grayer, and in a few hours this flurry of snow will become a steady fall. Cars jam the streets, a nonstop trail of brake lights and honking from here all the way to Times Square. The occasional scream of a traffic controller’s whistle cuts above the chaos. The air is thick with the smell of exhaust, and steam billows from an open vent nearby. People swarm up and down the sidewalks. Students coming home from school are easy to spot, their backpacks and fat headphones dotting the crowds.

Technically, I should be one of them. This should have been my first year of college. But I started skipping classes after Dad died and dropped out entirely several years ago. (Okay, fine—technically, I was expelled. But I swear I would’ve quit anyway. More on that later.)

I look down at my phone again, my mind returning to the hunt. Two days ago, I had gotten the following text message:

New York Police Department ALERT!
Arrest warrant out for Martin Hamer.
Payment $5,000.

The police are so busy these days with the increasing crime in the streets that they don’t have time to hunt for petty criminals on their own—petty criminals like Martin Hamer, who’s wanted for gambling on Warcross, stealing money, and allegedly selling drugs to fund his bets. So, about once a week, the cops send out a message like this, a promise to pay anyone who can catch the criminal in question.

That’s where I come in. I’m a bounty hunter, one of many in Manhattan, and I’m fighting to capture Martin Hamer before another hunter can.

Anyone who’s ever fallen on hard times will understand the nearly constant stream of numbers that run through my mind. A month’s rent in the worst apartment in New York: $1,150. A month’s food: $180. Electricity and internet: $150. Boxes of macaroni, ramen, and Spam left in my pantry: 4. And so on. On top of that, I owe $3,450 in unpaid rent, and $6,000 in credit card debt.

The number of dollars left in my bank account: $13.

Not the normal things a girl my age worries about. I should be freaking out over exams. Turning in papers. Waking up on time.

But I haven’t exactly had a normal adolescence.

Five thousand dollars is easily the largest bounty in months. For me, it might as well be all the money in the world. So, for the last two days, I’ve done nothing but track this guy. I’ve lost four bounties in a row this month. If I lose this one, too, I’m going to be in real trouble.

Tourists always clogging up the streets, I think as a detour forces me down a path right into Times Square, where I get stuck behind a cluster of auto-taxis jammed at a pedestrian walkway. I lean back on my board, pull myself to a halt, and start inching backward. As I go, I glance down at my phone again.

A couple of months ago, I’d succeeded in hacking into the main directory of Warcross players in New York and synced it all up to my phone’s maps. It’s not hard, not if you remember that everyone in the world is connected in some way to everyone else. It’s just time-consuming. You worm your way into one account, then branch out to their friends, then their friends, and eventually, you’re able to track the location of any player in New York City. Now I’ve finally managed to place my target’s physical location, but my phone’s a cracked, beat-up old thing, with an antique battery that’s on its last legs. It keeps trying to sleep in order to save energy, and the screen is so dark I can barely see anything.

“Wake up,” I mutter, squinting at the pixels.

Finally, the poor phone lets out a pitiful buzz, and the red location marker updates on my map.

I make my way out of the taxi jam and push my heel down on my board. It protests for a moment, but then it speeds me forward, a dot in a sea of moving humanity.

Once I reach Times Square, screens tower above me, surrounding me in a world of neon and sound. Every spring, the official Warcross Championships kick off with a huge ceremony, and two teams of top-ranking players compete in an all-stars opening round of Warcross. This year’s opening ceremony happens tonight in Tokyo—so all the screens are Warcross-related today, showing a frenzied rotation of famous players, commercials, and footage of highlights from last year. Frankie Dena’s latest, craziest music video plays on the side of one building. She’s dressed like her Warcross avatar—in a limited edition suit and webbed glitter cape—and dancing with a bunch of businessmen in bright pink suits. Underneath the screen, a group of excited tourists stop to pose for photos with some guy dressed in fake Warcross gear.

Another screen features five of the superstar players competing in tonight’s opening ceremony. Asher Wing. Kento Park. Jena MacNeil. Max Martin. Penn Wachowski. I crane my neck to admire them. Each one is dressed from head to toe in the hottest fashion of the season. They smile down at me, their mouths big enough to swallow the city, and as I look on, they all hold up cans of soda, declaring Coca-Cola their drink of choice during game season. A marquee of text scrolls below them:

Top Warcross Players Arrive in Tokyo, Poised for World Domination

Then I’m through the intersection and cut onto a smaller road. My target’s little red dot on my phone shifts again. It looks like he’s turned onto Thirty-Eighth Street.

I squeeze my way through another few blocks of traffic before I finally arrive, pulling over along the curb beside a newsstand. The red location dot now hovers over the building in front of me, right above a cafĂ©’s door. I tug my scarf down and let out a sigh of relief. My breath fogs in the icy air. “Caught you,” I whisper, allowing myself a smile as I think of the five-thousand-dollar bounty. I hop off my electric skateboard, pull out its straps, and swing it over my shoulder so that it bumps against my backpack. It’s still warm from use, the heat of it seeping through my hoodie, and I arch my back to savor it.

As I pass the newsstand, I glimpse the magazine covers. I have a habit of checking them out, searching for coverage of my favorite person. There’s always something. Sure enough, one of the magazines features him prominently: a tall young man lounging in an office, dressed in dark trousers and a crisp collar shirt, sleeves casually rolled up to his elbows, his face obscured by shadows. Below him is the logo for Henka Games, Warcross’s parent studio. I stop to read the headline.


Friday, October 13, 2017

Friday #Review - Godsgrave by Jay Kristoff #Fantasy @misterkristoff @StMartinsPress

Series: The Nevernight Chronicle # 2 
Format: Hardcover, 448 pages
Release Date: September 5, 2017
Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books
Source: Library
Genre: Epic Fantasy

A ruthless young assassin continues her journey for revenge in this new epic fantasy from New York Times bestselling author Jay Kristoff.

A ruthless young assassin continues her journey for revenge in this new epic fantasy from New York Times bestselling author Jay Kristoff.

Assassin Mia Corvere has found her place among the Blades of Our Lady of Blessed Murder, but many in the Red Church ministry think she’s far from earned it. Plying her bloody trade in a backwater of the Republic, she’s no closer to ending Consul Scaeva and Cardinal Duomo, or avenging her familia. And after a deadly confrontation with an old enemy, Mia begins to suspect the motives of the Red Church itself.
When it’s announced that Scaeva and Duomo will be making a rare public appearance at the conclusion of the grand games in Godsgrave, Mia defies the Church and sells herself to a gladiatorial collegium for a chance to finally end them. Upon the sands of the arena, Mia finds new allies, bitter rivals, and more questions about her strange affinity for the shadows. But as conspiracies unfold within the collegium walls, and the body count rises, Mia will be forced to choose between loyalty and revenge, and uncover a secret that could change the very face of her world.

Godsgrave, by author Jay Kristoff, is the second installment in the authors The Nevernight Chronicles. Godsgrave picks up 8 months after the slaughter by the Luminatii on the Quiet Mountain and the Red Church. Since then, protagonist Mia Corvere has become one of the Blades of Our Lady of Blessed Murder. There are some, however, who continue to believe that she didn't really earn her title, even though she freaking saved a bunch of people's lives. Were it not for Mia, a whole lot of others would be dust in the wind.

“If Vengeance has a mother, her name is Patience.”   

Nonetheless, Mia still doesn't exactly have a clear path at finally getting her revenge on those who killed her father, shoved her mother and brother in a hole, and tried to drown her. That would be Consul Scaeva, and Cardinal Duomo if you missed the first book, or synopsis. Thankfully, Mia is a badass who has two daemons in Mister Kindly and Eclipse helping eating away her fears, and giving much needed humor to a very dark story. Let's really talk about this story without giving away any spoilers. Godsgrave has moved away from being a Hogwarts School for Assassins, and in return, moves into a gladiator arena where anything can happen and does.

That means that Kristoff's world has grown immensely bigger as well. Mia's desire for revenge sets her on a path that takes her all over the Republic of Itreya, including one stop at her families former home called Crow's Nest. It is the gladiator story itself that sits at the foundation of Mia's plan for taking out the last two people responsible for her families demise. If you thought that Kristoff was going to go easy on you after the first book, you thought wrong cupcakes. This is one of the more bloodier books I have read this year, and I have no idea why that appeals to me on such a strange level. 

This story actually alternates between two very curious timelines I believe to be several months apart. The present storyline is Mia's attempt at surviving as a slave and being sold to a collegium where gladiatti, (gladiators), fight for their freedoms. The past timeline is where things get tricky, especially when Mia encounters several curious paths to her path to revenge, including being allied with the one person she should be killing on sight. I can honestly say that the author really punches the readers in the mouth with both the ridiculous bloodshed and revelations about who Mia should be focusing on, as well as the heart pulsing final chapters that really left me saying HOLY SHIT! 

If you are curious about the artwork on the books cover, I can say that it indicates a particular scene in the book which was not only action packed, but set the cornerstone for what will lead into the third installment. This is one of those books where the author definitely proves he is not just a one trick pony, that there is plenty more in his repertoire. At the same time, he gives you a push off the cliff, while tossing a parachute after you in hopes that you catch it in time to save yourself from excruciating pain. While the story definitely kicks the middle book syndrome in the coyones, it did leave me curious as to not only Mia's future, and that of several others, but whether or not we will finally get an understanding about what it means to be a Darklin, and who the strange she meets in this book is.

"Fear not, little mortal. The song is not yet sung. This is but the calm before the crescendo."