Setting the Bar: A Discussion of Empire of Storms by Sarah J. Maas

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The moment you have all been waiting for is finally here! Empire of Storms is out! Tune in to this extra long episode to hear Caitlin and Cynthia lament the fact that they have to wait a year for Sarah J Maas’s epic conclusion to the Throne of Glass series. Warning: Contains high levels of fangirling.

WARNING: This is not a spoiler free review. If you haven’t read the book or hate spoilers you should check back with us once you have read Empire of Storms. Actually, expect spoilers for the entire Throne of Glass series.

Thank you so much for tuning in! We hope you enjoyed our newest episode. We would apologize for it being longer than normal, but it’s a miracle that we managed to keep it under two hours. There is just so much to SQUEE over! We’d love to hear what you thought about this installment in the Throne of Glass series! Did you love it? Did you hate it? Do you love Rowan? Miss Chaol? Share your thoughts in the comments below! We’d love nothing more than to discuss this book with you guys. Please share!

Tune in next time to hear what we thought of Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake!

Don’t forget to check out the rest of the books mentioned in this episode!

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Of Monsters and Men: A Discussion of This Savage Song by Victoria Schwab

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Tune in to hear Caitlin and Cynthia rave about Urban Fantasy and This Savage Song by Victoria Schwab!

WARNING: This is not a spoiler free review. If you haven’t read the book or hate spoilers you should check back with us once you have read This Savage Song.

Thank you so much for tuning in! We hope you enjoyed our little monster mash! Is Urban Fantasy one of your favorite genres? Share your favorites in the comments below! We would love to see your recommendations. Did you love This Savage Song? Did you hate it? We’d love nothing more than to hear your opinions. Please share!

Don’t forget to check out the rest of the books mentioned in this episode!

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Speakeasies and Sirens: An Advance Review of Iron Cast by Destiny Soria

28818313Title: Iron Cast
Author: Destiny Soria
Genre: Historical Fiction / Urban Fantasy
Publisher: Amulet Books
Publication Date:  October 11th
Kindle Edition: 384 Pages
Source: Netgalley

It’s Boston, 1919, and the Cast Iron club is packed. On stage, hemopaths—whose “afflicted” blood gives them the ability to create illusions through art—captivate their audience. Corinne and Ada have been best friends ever since infamous gangster Johnny Dervish recruited them into his circle. By night they perform for Johnny’s crowds, and by day they con Boston’s elite. When a job goes wrong and Ada is imprisoned, they realize how precarious their position is. After she escapes, two of the Cast Iron’s hires are shot, and Johnny disappears. With the law closing in, Corinne and Ada are forced to hunt for answers, even as betrayal faces them at every turn.

“I’m not a nice person… so the sooner you wrap your head around that, the better. I don’t like people expecting me to be something I’m not.”

I received an advance review copy of this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Ada is a songsmith; through her music, she can evoke from the listener the keenest loss or sharpest pain, sending them through their deepest memories in the space of a few bars. Corrine is a wordsmith; with a few lines of poetry, she can create illusions so real, they can fool a bridge full of people and press. In post World War 1 Boston, the threat of Prohibition looms over their heads, and the stage of their adopted home, the Cast Iron Club, like the Grim Reaper’s scythe, promising death to their way of life and income. Already, they and the other club performers are targets of the Hemopath Protection Agency, an agency dedicated to identifying those “afflicted” with hemopathy and removing them from the public sphere, and the more violent Ironmonger, vigilantes who will would rather see all hemopaths dead. To practice their arts is criminal. To not practice, unthinkable. Cast Iron owner Johnny Dervish gave them a safe place to live, and to perform. That he asks them to help supplement the failing club’s income through less legal means is merely the price they pay for safety. When that protection fails, and Johnny is killed, Ada and Corrine are determined to do what they can to save the Cast Iron, themselves, and their friends.

Ironcast is Soria’s debut novel, and what a debut it is! This book reads like classic Urban Fantasy of which I am so fond, evoking the same feel as authors who excelled in the format, such as Emma Bull or Charles de Lint. That said, while Ironcast certainly has the feel of Urban Fantasy, don’t go into it expecting magic, or high fantasy elements, like elves or wizards. This book reads more as historical fiction, with a paranormal/fantasy twist. Hemopaths, like our main characters Ada and Corrine, have a sensitivity to iron. It’s painful for them to hold or touch in the extreme, burning their skin like a brand. The presence of iron around them can cause extreme discomfort, depending on the amount; iron-free buildings, such as the Cast Iron club, are safe spaces for hemopaths, but those places are few and far between. Hemopaths can be thespians, artists, wordsmiths, or songsmiths- performers that can trick the mind, the body, and the heart, and make real the imagined. The use of hemopathic talent is outlawed in Boston, but, just as we see during Prohibition, people will still pay a high price for the forbidden. Soria’s world is rich and developed, and as a fan of this historical era, I can’t quite sing its praises enough.

The main characters of Ada and Corrine are well-developed. Their strong and enduring friendship is very believable, and they really are the driving force for the story. Soria manages to weave their histories and backgrounds into the telling of their present with almost seamless grace. Ada, as a biracial teen in this era, is already a target for prejudice; that she is a hemopath makes her an outcast among outcasts. Corrine comes from high society, a place where she never fit, and is hiding from her family’s eyes and name; if her affliction was known, it would bring ruin upon them. My only real complaint about the two of them is that Corrine’s personality overshadows Ada’s at times, almost, but not quite, to the detriment of their equal importance in the narrative. Otherwise, they are main characters that truly balance each other well. The primary supporting characters, Gabriel, Charlie, and Saint, are equally as developed as

the main, sketched quickly but fully, and our villains, who truly do get very little screen time, still feel real and powerful.

Throughout the narrative, Soria touches on social issues and prejudices that, while certainly period, also parallel modern issues. We see racial tensions, post-war immigration disputes, and the Socialism versus Democracy debate, all tied into the very real human fear of the Strange and Different. We also see a LGBTQ relationship portrayed both as a normal occurrence, and as something to be wary of publicizing. Ironcast tackles these topics in ways that are almost vital to the narrative, little nods here and there that may not seem important at the time, but in the final chapters weave together to lock the answers in place.

Now, all of that said, I did have a couple of issues of note, aside from my previous comment about Corrine overshadowing Ada. Ironcast starts off with a lot of action in the first fifty or so pages, then lags a bit for the next fifty or so. Once I got past that lag, however, I had difficulty putting the book down. I was truly invested in Ada and Corrine’s story. That Soria wove a mystery element into the plot likely helped with that; I do so love a good mystery. I also felt that the last chapter was truly unnecessary. It’s only in that chapter that I was reminded that this is Soria’s debut. The story could have ended with Chapter 22, and I would have been perfectly happy. The last chapter just didn’t mesh with the rest of the narrative; I feel as if it were an add-on because someone felt that we needed a “wrap-up” at the end to make things neat and tidy.

Still, I very much recommend this book. Despite receiving and electronic copy as an ARC, I will be purchasing it when it releases it in October, because I need to be able to see this book on my shelf. Iron Cast is a standalone story; as of this review, there is no indication of additional books to indicate a series. If you’re a fan of the Prohibition era, or subtle urban fantasy, or strong standalone stories, I really do suggest you give Iron Cast a shot when it releases. I sincerely doubt you’ll regret it.

 

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The Potter Paradox: A Discussion of Harry Potter and The Cursed Child

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Join Caitlin and Cynthia in welcoming Geek Tank Radio’s Joe Thordarson to Shelfie for a Harry Potter Extravaganza! Tune in to hear them rave about The Cursed Child, Fantastic Beasts, and Pottermore!

WARNING: This is not a spoiler free review. If you haven’t read the book or hate spoilers you should check back with us once you have read Lotus and Thorn.

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Thank you so much for tuning in! We hope you enjoyed our Harry Potter extravaganza! We wish this episode could have been much longer, but we wouldn’t want to bore you to death with our love of the fandom. That said, we are Potter heads and we can talk about it for hours. Are you a Ravenclaw? Can’t get enough Puckwudgie? Hate Snape? Love Snape? Please share your opinions in the comments! We’d love to continue the discussion.

Don’t forget to check out the rest of the books mentioned in this episode!

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Daggers in the Dark: An Advance review of Nevernight by Jay Kristoff

26114463Title: Nevernight (The Nevernight Chronicle #1)
Author: Jay Kristoff
Genre: Fantasy
Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books
Publication Date:  August 9th, 2016
Kindle Edition: 643 Pages
Source: Netgalley

In a land where three suns almost never set, a fledgling killer joins a school of assassins, seeking vengeance against the powers who destroyed her family.

Daughter of an executed traitor, Mia Corvere is barely able to escape her father’s failed rebellion with her life. Alone and friendless, she hides in a city built from the bones of a dead god, hunted by the Senate and her father’s former comrades. But her gift for speaking with the shadows leads her to the door of a retired killer, and a future she never imagined.

Now, Mia is apprenticed to the deadliest flock of assassins in the entire Republic—the Red Church. If she bests her fellow students in contests of steel, poison and the subtle arts, she’ll be inducted among the Blades of the Lady of Blessed Murder, and one step closer to the vengeance she desires. But a killer is loose within the Church’s halls, the bloody secrets of Mia’s past return to haunt her, and a plot to bring down the entire congregation is unfolding in the shadows she so loves.

Will she even survive to initiation, let alone have her revenge?

“The books we love, they love us back. And just as we mark our places in the pages, those pages leave their marks on us. I can see it in you, sure as I see it in me. You’re a daughter of words. A girl with a story to tell.”

I received an advance review copy of this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Gory, violent, and visceral, the story of Mia Covere is unapologetically raw. It starts in blood and ends in blood and in between… well, there’s more blood. To avenge her family, the nobleborn Mia pledges herself to the Red Church and the dark Mother Niah. As a trained assassin, Mia gains the skills to touch the untouchable. Touched by Niah herself with a kinship with the dark itself, Mia gains an advantage both rare and terrifying. A feline shade twined to her shadow, Mia hasn’t known true fear in so long she’s forgotten the sensation. Useful, when one wants to squelch worries that could cost one their mark. Not so useful, when the lack of fear makes one arrogant, a lesson Mia learns shortly after beginning education in the arts of death.

Nevernight promised me assassins, an enigmatic anti-heroine, and a rich mythos—all things I tend to be drawn to in my fiction. Technically, it delivers on those promises. Technically. But, the fallen noble-turned-assassin story has been done, with both genders, across various media, many times over. Nevernight needed to present an exceptional take on the trope to make more than a passing impression. Unfortunately, I felt the book failed on that score. While I didn’t dislike the book, I didn’t particularity care for it, either. I’m of the school of thought that indifference is akin to death, and my feelings for Nevernight border entirely too close to indifference.

Continue reading “Daggers in the Dark: An Advance review of Nevernight by Jay Kristoff”

Waiting on Wednesday: Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake

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Waiting On Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we’re eagerly anticipating.

23207027Title: Three Dark Crowns (Untitled #1)
Author: Kendare Blake
Genre: Fantasy
Publisher: HarperTeen
Publication Date: September 20th, 2016

From Goodreads:

Every generation on the island of Fennbirn, a set of triplets is born: three queens, all equal heirs to the crown and each possessor of a coveted magic. Mirabella is a fierce elemental, able to spark hungry flames or vicious storms at the snap of her fingers. Katharine is a poisoner, one who can ingest the deadliest poisons without so much as a stomachache. Arsinoe, a naturalist, is said to have the ability to bloom the reddest rose and control the fiercest of lions.

But becoming the Queen Crowned isn’t solely a matter of royal birth. Each sister has to fight for it. And it’s not just a game of win or lose…it’s life or death. The night the sisters turn sixteen, the battle begins. The last queen standing gets the crown.

If only it was that simple. Katharine is unable to tolerate the weakest poison, and Arsinoe, no matter how hard she tries, can’t make even a weed grow. The two queens have been shamefully faking their powers, taking care to keep each other, the island, and their powerful sister Mirabella none the wiser. But with alliances being formed, betrayals taking shape, and ruthless revenge haunting the queens’ every move, one thing is certain: the last queen standing might not be the strongest…but she may be the darkest.

Continue reading “Waiting on Wednesday: Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake”

Fantastic Finale: An Advance Review of The Beauty of Darkness by Mary E. Pearson

25944798Title: The Beauty of Darkness (The Remnant Chronicles #3)
Author: Mary E. Pearson
Genre: Fantasy / Romance
Publisher: Henry Holt
Publication Date:  August 2nd, 2016
Kindle Edition: 688 Pages
Source: Netgalley

Lia and Rafe have escaped Venda and the path before them is winding and dangerous – what will happen now? This third and final book in The Remnant Chronicles is not to be missed.

Bestselling author Mary E. Pearson’s combination of intrigue, suspense, romance and action make this a riveting page turner for teens.

“I have no qualms about cutting out your tongue, Your Eminence. In fact, after all the years I had to endure your condemning lectures, it would give me the greatest pleasure, so I would advise you hold your tongue while you still possess one.”

I received an advance review copy of this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

The synopsis for this book is short and to the point. It spoils nothing, instead leaving it all to the reader’s imagination. Where is Kaden? What happened to Lia and Rafe? Is the Komizar dead? Don’t worry. I’m not going to answer those questions for you. This review will be as spoiler free as I can manage. After all, I want people to experience this book the same way I did: on the edge of my seat.

Continue reading “Fantastic Finale: An Advance Review of The Beauty of Darkness by Mary E. Pearson”

Bird’s Eye View: A Review of Steeplejack by A.J. Hartley

26114337Title: Steeplejack (Alternative Detective #1)
Author: A.J. Hartley
Genre: Mystery / Fantasy
Publisher: Tor
Publication Date: June 14th, 2016
Hardcover: 336 Pages
Source: Personal Purchase

Seventeen-year-old Anglet Sutonga, makes a living repairing the chimneys, towers, and spires of Bar-Selehm. Dramatically different communities live and work alongside one another. The white Feldish command the nation’s higher echelons of society; the native Mahweni are divided between city life and the savannah. And then there’s Ang, part of the Lani community who immigrated there generations ago and now mostly live in poverty on Bar-Selehm’s edges.

When Ang is supposed to meet her new apprentice, Berrit, she finds him dead. That same night the Beacon, an invaluable historical icon, is stolen. The Beacon’s theft commands the headlines, yet no one seems to care about Berrit’s murder—except for Josiah Willinghouse, an enigmatic young politician. When he offers Ang a job investigating the death, she plunges headlong into new and unexpected dangers.

Meanwhile, crowds gather in protests over the city’s mounting troubles. Rumors surrounding the Beacon’s theft grow. More suspicious deaths occur. With no one to help Ang except Josiah’s haughty younger sister, a savvy newspaper girl, and a kindhearted herder, Ang must rely on her intellect and strength to resolve the mysterious link between Berrit and the missing Beacon before the city descends into chaos.

“The first daughter, it was said, was a blessing. The second, a trial. The third, a curse. As a third daughter myself, I felt the full weight of that last piece of wisdom….”

It was the cover for SteepleJack that first grabbed my attention when perusing upcoming releases online. Industrial, enticing in its brown and gold colors, the name in stark white—yet smudged at its roots—the cover conveyed a vaguely Steampunk feel, which compelled me to click through, seeking out more information. Its blurb promised mystery, a practical heroine and diverse cast, with a heavy dose of political intrigue, all set against an exotic city of gaslights and towering spires. Of course, it went on the preorder list; it hit too many of my preferences to not.

I do want to say that SteepleJack is not a Steampunk-genre story, nor is it a fantasy story. It could, perhaps, be placed in the historical fiction stacks, as it does borrow heavily from the histories of British Colonial Africa and India, mixing together the two into its own unique. However, that isn’t what this book is.

SteepleJack is a mystery. A classically-told YA mystery couched in smog, soot, and gaslight, and I loved every page of it.

Continue reading “Bird’s Eye View: A Review of Steeplejack by A.J. Hartley”

Waiting on Wednesday: Empire of Storms by Sarah J. Maas

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Waiting On Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we’re eagerly anticipating.

28260587Title: Empire of Storms (Throne of Glass #5)
Author: Sarah J. Maas
Genre: Fantasy
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Children
Publication Date: September 6th, 2016

From Goodreads:

The long path to the throne has only just begun for Aelin Galathynius. Loyalties have been broken and bought, friends have been lost and gained, and those who possess magic find themselves at odds with those don’t.

As the kingdoms of Erilea fracture around her, enemies must become allies if Aelin is to keep those she loves from falling to the dark forces poised to claim her world. With war looming on all horizons, the only chance for salvation lies in a desperate quest that may mark the end of everything Aelin holds dear.

Aelin’s journey from assassin to queen has entranced millions across the globe, and this fifth installment will leave fans breathless. Will Aelin succeed in keeping her world from splintering, or will it all come crashing down?

Why we are waiting:

 

I need this book today. Sadly, we will all have to wait until September, which really isn’t all that far off, right? It’s just two months until we can continue on with the story of Aelin Galathynius, Queen of Terrassen. I can’t tell you how excited I am for this.

I know some people were disappointed with Queen of Shadows, but I think this series just gets better with each book. I can only hope that trend continues!

How about you? Are you waiting on Empire of Storms? Is there something better on your radar? Share it with us below in the comments.

 

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Missed Opportunities: A Review of Empire of Dust by Eleanor Herman

29962851Title: Empire of Dust (Blood of Gods and Royals #2)
Author: Eleanor Herman
Genre: Historical Fiction / Fantasy
Publisher: Harlequin Teen
Publication Date: June 28th, 2016
Kindle Edition: 432 Pages
Source: Netgalley

In Macedon, war rises like smoke, forbidden romance blooms and ancient magic tempered with rage threatens to turn an empire to dust.

After winning his first battle, Prince Alexander fights to become the ruler his kingdom demands — but the line between leader and tyrant blurs with each new threat.

Meanwhile, Hephaestion, cast aside by Alexander for killing the wrong man, must conceal the devastating secret of a divine prophecy from Katerina even as the two of them are thrust together on a dangerous mission to Egypt.

The warrior, Jacob, determined to forget his first love, vows to eradicate the ancient Blood Magics and believes that royal prisoner Cynane holds the key to Macedon’s undoing.

And in chains, the Persian princess Zofia still longs to find the Spirit Eaters, but first must grapple with the secrets of her handsome — and deadly — captor.

New York Times bestselling author Eleanor Herman entwines the real scandals of ancient history with epic fantasy in the second book of the Blood of Gods and Royals series.

“We are not Persians, Alexander, too cowed by the whip of the Great King to utter a word or think a single thought he might disapprove of. You would grow to despise your own people if they were like that. When you possess power over those whose lives, whose minds, you do not value, all you will have… is an empire of dust.”

I received a copy of this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

I did not write a review of Legacy of Kings. It was such a letdown that I could not articulate my exact feelings on the book. Looking back, it was shock. I was baffled at how disappointed I was. Was it possible for a book about a legendary conqueror to be so very boring? While waiting for Empire of Dust, I convinced myself the first book was just the intro. I couldn’t pass any judgement until I had read the sequel. So, when I saw it pop up on Netgalley, I couldn’t resist. It had to be better, right? Actually, yes. It is better. Sadly, it was not better by much.

Continue reading “Missed Opportunities: A Review of Empire of Dust by Eleanor Herman”