Blog Tour: Where Dreams Descend (Kingdom of Cards #1) by Janella Angeles

Blog Tour Banner_Use on and after 8.25

I’m excited to present my stop on the Where Dreams Descend blog tour! 

Where Dreams Descend_Cover

In a city covered in ice and ruin, a group of magicians face off in a daring game of magical feats to find the next headlinerof the Conquering Circus, only to find themselves under the threat of an unseen danger striking behind the scenes.

As each act becomes more and more risky and the number of missing magicians piles up, three are forced to reckon with their secrets before the darkness comes for them next.

The Star: Kallia, a powerful showgirl out to prove she’s the best no matter the cost

The Master: Jack, the enigmatic keeper of the club, and more than one lie told

The Magician: Demarco, the brooding judge with a dark past he can no longer hide

Where Dreams Descend is the startling and romantic first book in Janella Angeles’ debut Kingdom of Cards fantasy duology where magic is both celebrated and feared, and no heart is left unscathed.

My Thoughts

Where Dreams Descend sets some lofty goals for itself- comparing it to The Night Circus and Phantom of the Opera. I’m pleased to say it meets those expectations fairly well. I loved the atmosphere and Angeles’s writing makes for an almost cinematic experience. It was easy to picture the old world glitz and glamor of glittering chandeliers and extravagant halls, as well as the more whimsical, playful scenes of the Conquering Circus, the dramatics of the performers’ clothing. The setting easily sweeps the reader away.

But I have to say I think the best parts of this book are the female empowerment. Kallia is a refreshing main character. She consistently defies expectations, relishing in it even, making room for herself where the men would rather exclude her. And while there is usually a man nearby to catch her when she swoons, she is by no means relying on them to sweep in and save the day. Several other female characters were strong and independent as well- Ira the seamstress holding her own at the card tables, and Canary, who was a very minor character but was a delight to read anyway, and the rest of the circus performers are a ragtag group of rough-around-the-edges women that I really adored.

This book is heavy on the romance and the mystery and ends on a huge cliffhanger. Hopefully the next book won’t keep readers waiting long as there is still a lot to uncover!

Where Dreams Descend released on August 25, 2020 and can be found on GoodReads and Amazon. Thank you to Wednesday Books and NetGalley for the review copy.

Have you read Where Dreams Descend or do you plan to? Let me know in the comments below!

About the Author

JANELLA ANGELES is a Filipino-American author who got her start in writing through consuming glorious amounts of fanfiction at a young age—which eventually led to penning a few of her own, and later on, creating original stories from her imagination. A lifelong lover of books, she’s lucky enough to be working in the business of publishing them on top of writing them. She currently resides in Massachusetts, where she’s most likely to be found listening to musicals on repeat and daydreaming too much for her own good. Where Dreams Descend is her first book.

Book Review: Jar of Hearts by Jennifer Hillier

Jar of Hearts by Jennifer Hillier

Rating:  ★★★

Before I start this I just wanted to say I’m sorry for the lack of Sci Fi and Fantasy Reviews on my SFF blog… Still kind of recovering from the reading slump I guess.  On the other hand I hope these reviews of totally-unrelated-genre books help you guys find something you might enjoy too? I know most of us read pretty diversely.

Anyway- I read Hillier’s Little Secrets earlier this year (which Maddalena @ Space & Sorcery reviewed Friday and nailed it- so check her review out too) and thought I’d check out Hillier’s Jar of Hearts, which is also highly rated.

According to the blurb, this is the story of three best friends: one who was murdered, one who went to prison, and one who’s been searching for the truth all these years . . .

We first meet Geo – short for Georgina – as she is about to testify against her old highschool boyfriend for the murder of her high school best friend.  The twist? Geo helped cover it up, and she’s about to go to prison too. When Geo is finally released, she learns that her old boyfriend, Calvin James, escaped prison not long after his trial, and the Sweet Bay Strangler is back at it again.

The story is pretty straightforward. We see two timelines- Geo in highschool, how she met Calvin and the events that lead up to her friend, Angela’s murder, and everything that happens after Geo’s arrest.  I did figure out what was going on about 30 minutes before the characters did (I listened to this on audio), but otherwise I didn’t see anything coming.

I liked the characters- Geo is super interesting because she really is an awful person, but at the same time she’s sympathetic.  This seems to be Hillier’s shtick. She’s not as sympathetic as say, Marin, from Little Secrets, but the feeling is still there.  Kai is a typical good guy, knight in shining armor type.  And Calvin James is as evil a villain as you can expect to see.

Which is why it pains me to say that the ending was over the top to the point of being silly.  I actually laughed at how dumb, cartoonish, and cliche it all was.  It could have just been the mood I was in, because most readers seemed to enjoy this.

This also has content warnings for literally everything so I wouldn’t recommend it if that’s something you try to avoid (or if, like me, your just not in the right headspace for it).  I realize some of this comes with the territroy but there was a point where it just became excessive.

I listened on audio and January LaVoy’s narration is growing on me, despite some of the weird male voices.  Anyway- it’s not bad, most of it is a solid four star read.  Jar of Hearts can be found on GoodReads if you’d like to check it out for yourself.

Book Review: The Escape Room by Megan Goldin

The Escape Room by Megan Goldin

Rating:  ★★★★

The Escape Room is about a team of four investment bankers, who receive a mysterious email from HR, and are sent to an elevator at an empty construction site on a Friday night as a team building exercise, an escape room.

The puzzles begin and tensions rise as each coworker has their own reasons for needing to get out as soon as possible. Vincent is worried they are about to be fired, but lusts equally after a big promotion.  Sam is broke because of his wife’s excessive spending. Jules is broke because of his alimony.  Sylvie has a boyfriend who told her if she cancelled on him again, he was done.  Only a few puzzles in and things start to go horribly wrong in the elevator.

Alongside the story of the escape room, we are told the story of Sarah Hall. An old coworker, set a few years earlier.  Her desperation in joining Stanhope & Sons, all the hard work and endless hours she put into the team.

I liked both parts of the story equally- Sarah was a character you wanted to root for. The investment bankers are the sort of horrible people the vulture in me just loves to watch turn on eachother.

I think regular mystery/thriller readers will see what’s happening fairly early on, which is the only real fault I can find with the book. The author throws a few red herrings at you, but ultimately, parts of this are fairly predictable.  I listened to this on audio and two different narrators were used, each fantastic (January LaVoy and Ramon de Ocampo).  They kept me hooked into the story despite all that- it was a great way to experience the book.

The ending sort of fizzled out for me. It’s hard to say why without major spoilers, but I was looking for a little more perspective on the events that took place in the elevator from the characters.  You know what happened, I just wanted to know what they thought about it.

Otherwise this is a quick read that I very much enjoyed.  I loved the dual narration format and hope more audiobooks will explore it in the future.  The Escape Room can be found on GoodReads  if you’d like to check it out!

Have you read The Escape Room?  What did you think?

Book Haul

Even though I wasn’t reading this summer- it didn’t stop me from buying books. What can I say? I have a problem. Barnes & Noble had a great sale a couple weeks ago so I picked up a few things.

Afterland by Lauren Beukes

In a world where most of the men are dead (after an event known as Manfall) a mother and son flee across the country in search of a safer place, encountering anarchist communes and crazed cults. I’ve read a couple books by Beukes now and while they each left something to be desired – the blurb on this one is too good to ignore.

The Confessions of Young Nero by Margaret George

Historical Fiction has always kind of been my first love, especially anything relating to Greeks, Romans and Vikings. So of course, when this was released a couple years ago, it caught my attention. This is a different look at one of Rome’s most famous Emperors, that one that fiddled while Rome burned.

Bird Box by Josh Malerman

I’ve already seen the movie- but this seemed perfect to keep away one of my longest reading slumps. It’s relatively short, the chapters are quick and suspenseful. Malerman has a sequel out to this now called Malorie that I’d also like to read, but I knew I couldn’t pick it up until I’d actually read this one.

The Turn of the Key by Ruth Ware

The Turn of the Key is about a nanny who takes a job in a smart home in the Scottish Highlands. What she doesn’t know is the children are a nightmare, the parents are absent, and the “smart” home has it’s own ideas about how to operate. This was another book that seemed perfect for my current reading mood so I picked it up on a whim.

That was it for this haul- but I’m excited to share some of my other summer purchases too! I’ve already made it through two of these books and loved them. Have you read any of these books? What did you think?

On a side note- this is my first time using WordPress’s new Block Editor. It’s okay but also kind of weird? So I apologize if the formatting is wonky. Might take some getting used to.

Book Review: The Only Good Indians by Stephen Graham Jones

The Only Good Indians by Stephen Graham Jones

Rating:  ★★★★

I read SGJ’s Mapping the Interior late last year and was very impressed.  So impressed in fact, that I went through and added just about everything he’d ever written to my TBR.  So of course I was very excited to read this.

The premise is this: ten years ago, four friends embarked on an illegal hunting trip.  They knew what they did was wrong.  They did it anyway.  Now, something evil is hunting them back.

The story started out very strong.  I heard the term literary horror for the first time last year in reference to another book, and that phrase kept popping up over and over again in my head while I was reading this.  There was symbolism, biting social commentary, the imagery and tone were perfect.

There were times in reading this I was genuinely unsure if I wanted to continue- not because the book was bad, but because it was just that dark.  I cherished every single word I read in that first fifty percent.  I cared about the characters, I cared about Lewis’s marriage.  I cared about their friendships and their pets.  If this had been a novella, and had ended after Lewis’s part, I think it would have been damn near perfect.

However, after Lewis’s part, we shift POVs.  And while I enjoyed those parts too, I think the problem was that I was already so attached to Lewis I wasn’t ready to leave him.  I do wonder if I would have enjoyed this a little more if those parts had been switched around.  I don’t think either Gabe or Cass came across as sympathetic as Lewis did, so it was difficult to become reinvested in their story lines after finishing Lewis’s.

There’s a lot of basketball in this story – so the parts of this that talked about basketball I sometimes drifted off.  I’m less than five feet tall and have always been more inclined towards mental gymnastics then physcial ones, so it’s just not my thing, though I think it was used very well here.  Basketball seemed to make up a decent chunk of the second half, so the pace felt inevitably slower, hence the 4 stars instead of 5.

This is very much a supernatural story with a very supernatural ending, so if that’s not your thing this may not be for you.  The horror aspect is brutal and visceral – so consider yourself warned.  It won’t be for everyone.

But if you think you can cope with it- I highly recommend trying this out.  I was even more impressed with this than the last SGJ book I read, and I’m eager to read his other works.

The Only Good Indians released on July 14, 2020 and can be found on GoodReads or Amazon.  Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for the review copy.

Have you read The Only Good Indians?  What did you think?

Top Ten Tuesday: My Most Anticipated Releases for the Second Half of 2020

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Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish in June of 2010 and was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January of 2018. It was born of a love of lists, a love of books, and a desire to bring bookish friends together.

I missed this topic a few weeks back, but there are SO MANY amazing books to be released this year.  I keep finding new ones to gawk at and feeling overwhelmed at the amount of reading I have to do to catch up.

The Evening and the Morning by Ken Follett

The Evening and the Morning by Ken Follett (Sept 15, 2020)- This is the prequel I never knew I needed.  It’s a Kingsbridge novel set during the Viking Age.  A KINGSBRIDGE NOVEL SET IN THE VIKING AGE!!!  A favorite series by a beloved author during my favorite time period.  It’s like Follett wrote it just for me.

War Lord by Bernard Cornwell

War Lord by Bernard Cornwell (Nov 24, 2020) – I’m sorry to start this list with two pieces mostly unrelated to my blog content- but when I found out about this title just a couple weeks after Follett’s, it felt like Christmas was coming early. I’ll probably sob my whole way through this book because I know it’s the last but I have never loved any fictional character as much as I love Uhtred.  I cannot wait to get my hands on it.

Black Sun by Rebecca Roanhorse

Black Sun by Rebecca Roanhorse (Oct 13, 2020) – I’ve been eager for this too, since I first heard about it in spring.  Although her Sixth World series (that starts with Trail of Lightning) wasn’t exactly my cup of tea, I loved her short story, Welcome to Your Authentic Indian Experience and I’m hoping to see more of what drew me in about that story here.

The Trials of Koli by MR Carey

The Trials of Koli by M.R. Carey (Sept. 15, 2020) – The Book of Koli has undoubtedly been my favorite read so far this year, so I can’t leave it’s sequel off the list.

The Tower of Fools by Andrzej Sapkowski

The Tower of Fools by Andrzej Sapkowski (Oct 27, 2020) – I can’t tell if this is set in the same world as The Witcher, but regardless I’m thrilled to see this.  It’s been around for quite some time, but it’s never been translated before. I’ve seen some reviews that said this is Sapkowski’s best, so even though there’s no Geralt, I’ll be there with bells on.

The Hollow Places by T. Kingfisher

The Hollow Places by T. Kingfisher (Oct 6, 2020) – We all know how much I love horror, and while I still haven’t had a chance to try Kingfisher, I’m super excited for this.  The blurb reminded me of House of Leaves and also like the Horror version of Ten Thousand Doors of January.  No idea how that would work exactly but I’m there for it.

Night of the Mannequins by Stephen Graham Jones

Night of the Mannequins by Stephen Graham Jones (Sep 1, 2020) – After the most excellent Mapping the Interior, and the even more excellent The Only Good Indians (RTC), consider me an official fan of Stephen Graham Jones.  This is what I think of when I hear the term literary horror and it’s brilliant.

Beowulf A New Translation by Maria Dahvana Headley

Beowulf: A New Translation by Maria Dahvana Headley (Aug 25, 2020) – According to the author’s twitter, the first word of this book is “Bro” and Grendel’s mother “is a warrior woman, not an ugly troll woman”.  I was thrilled with her modern contemporary retelling- The Mere Wife, and I am so excited for this modern feminist translation of Beowulf.

Confessions on the 745 by Lisa Unger

Confessions on the 7:45 by Lisa Unger (Oct 6, 2020) – I’m in love with the premise of this – two strangers confess their problems to each other on a train. A few days later, one of those problems mysteriously disappears…

The Relentless Moon by Mary Robinette Kowal

The Relentless Moon (The Lady Astronaut #3) by Mary Robinette Kowal (Jul 14, 2020) – Okay, so this one is cheating, since it’s already been released, but I haven’t read it yet. It is on hold at my library though!  If you haven’t read this series yet, I highly recommend checking it out (starting with the short story The Lady Astronaut of Mars).

I’ve been out of the loop – so I’m curious, which new releases are you most looking forward to?

 

Overdue: Apologies and Book Reviews

Joey back baby

Hello friends!! I want to start by apologizing for disappearing out of the blue in such turbulent times, and thank those of you who reached out to check in.  We’re all safe and healthy, for which I am grateful.  I’ve been in a strange place- trying to homeschool my daughter and work full time while also feeling fairly isolated from other adult contact and feeling paranoid everytime I had to leave the house.

It didn’t make for a good time to read, and I ended up gaming and binging movies all weekend because I couldn’t focus enough to read.  I tried, and my eyes drifted off the page every two minutes. And then by the time I figured out I wasn’t going to be able to read any time soon and therefore wasn’t going to be able to blog any time soon – it felt like too much time had gone by to double back and put any sort of notice up.

So again- I’m sorry, but please know how much I appreciated it when you all reached out, if only to check in and say hi.

Dog Sorry giphy

That being said- I took a vacation a couple weeks ago, and was able to get a couple books read! And though I seem to have less reading time on my hands now that I’m back home I’m still trying to keep up.  I’m moving slower than I used to so bear with me if posts are still infrequent.

I have tons to catch up on, so I’m going to start with my long overdue review of:

Devolution: A Firsthand Account of the Rainier Sasquatch Massacre, by Max Brooks

Devolution by Max Brooks

Rating:  ★★★★

I posted a Can’t Wait Wednesday about Devolution back when I first heard about it- and that excitement never waned.  When I attempted to read over the past few months, this was the book I picked up.

It starts a little slow- an introduction to the world and the characters, their relationships with each other.  It took me until about the 25% mark to get into the unputdownable parts.  Is it a little over the top? Yeah.  Did I care?  Nope.

The sasquatch (es? what is the plural of sasquatch?!) in this book reminded me a lot of the creatures encountered in Michael Crichton’s Congo, and I ate up every second of it.  There was tree knocking and howls, rock throwing and glowing eyes in the dark.  It was exactly what I hoped for.

It was both similar and different to Max’s previous success, World War Z.  It’s similar in style – where WWZ was an oral retelling, this is told mostly in journal entries.  It’s different because it is told primarily from one POV – Kate’s. I found this style much better suited to my tastes, because with the journal entries felt like one cohesive, connected story, not bits and pieces of a much larger story.  There’s no knowing how or if Kate survived, only that her journal did.

There were parts that made me cringe away in horror and parts that had me holding my breath.  The atmosphere and tone were perfect.  I only deducted a star for the slow beginning.

If you liked WWZ, if you’ve ever wondered about the existence of sasquatch, I’d definitely recommend this! It’s a fun summer read with a creepy tone.  Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley who provided a free copy in exchange for a review.  Devolution can be found on GoodReads and Amazon.

If you read Devolution and I missed your review – please link to it below! I’d love to know what you thought.