Release Day Review: Firstlife by Gena Showalter

, by Kt Clapsadl

Firstlife by Gena Showalter
Everlife #1

ONE CHOICE.

TWO REALMS.

NO SECOND CHANCE.

Tenley “Ten” Lockwood is an average seventeen-year-old girl…who has spent the past thirteen months locked inside the Prynne Asylum. The reason? Not her obsession with numbers, but her refusal to let her parents choose where she’ll live—after she dies.

There is an eternal truth most of the world has come to accept: Firstlife is merely a dress rehearsal, and real life begins after death.

In the Everlife, two realms are in power: Troika and Myriad, longtime enemies and deadly rivals. Both will do anything to recruit Ten, including sending their top Laborers to lure her to their side. Soon, Ten finds herself on the run, caught in a wild tug-of-war between the two realms who will do anything to win the right to her soul. Who can she trust? And what if the realm she’s drawn to isn’t home to the boy she’s falling for? She just has to stay alive long enough to make a decision…

This book is going to be interesting to rate and review. To be honest I almost DNF it more times than I can count, and getting through the first third or so of the book was so slow going even when I kept deciding to push through. I found reasons to put the book down and do something else. Dishes, laundry, you name it. Considering my reading time is very limited anymore, you would think I would have just gone with the DNF and moved on. But there was just something about the world and storyline that kept me reading. And I'm so glad I did. There's a pretty big change in situations/surroundings for Ten, and once that event happens, I was completely hooked. I flew through the pages just to see what would happen next. 

I think there were the foundations for a solid five star book here based on the incredible premise alone, which is what made the book even more frustrating than it should have. You have the first half the book which drags incessantly with no real explanations of anything, cruelty for the sake of cruelty at times it seemed that leave the reader completely detached and almost uninterested. And then the second half of the book takes up at an almost frenetic pace, and yet still somehow the reader still has no idea what's going on. I needed more info altogether, especially early on in the book. Towards the ends there were hints at somethings and peeks at conflicts to come, and while it was enough to keep me intrigued, it was not enough to satisfy.

The characters were solid and fully three dimensional, and yet I still felt a bit of detachment from them as well. I think that stemmed more from the lack of explanation about the warring sides, and no real reason ever given for why Ten refused to choose. Honestly it felt like just stubborn teen indecision, and that didn't jive with the tortures she went through because she refused to make a choice. Honestly it just didn't make sense why she would choose torture over a decision when she had no real reason not too. I guess I would have preferred a deeper reason. Add that into her obsession with numbers that seemed to randomly take over, and then all of a sudden disappear, which felt like a convenient quirk to try and make her more interesting rather than a real personality trait.

I realize this review sounds mostly full of frustration, and while that's accurate, it's not really the whole story. Once I was finally hooked, I couldn't stop reading and found myself flying through the pages. And then low and behold would you believe it ends in a killer cliffhanger. So now I'm frustrated, intrigued, impressed, and dying to get my hands on the next book all at the same time. And that ladies and gentlemen perfectly summarizes FIRSTLIFE, a whole mix of good and bad meshed into one package. So in the end I'll give this one a solid three star middle of the road and look to the next book to continue the trend/pace set at the end of this one.

(Received a copy from the publisher)

Rating:



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Other Reviews:
     a GREAT read
     My Guilty Obsession
     Tome Tender

Early Review: The Shadow Queen by C.J. Redwine

, by Kt Clapsadl

The Shadow Queen by C.J. Redwine
Ravenspire #1

Lorelai Diederich, crown princess and fugitive at large, has one mission: kill the wicked queen who took both the Ravenspire throne and the life of her father. To do that, Lorelai needs to use the one weapon she and Queen Irina have in common—magic. She’ll have to be stronger, faster, and more powerful than Irina, the most dangerous sorceress Ravenspire has ever seen.

In the neighboring kingdom of Eldr, when Prince Kol’s father and older brother are killed by an invading army of magic-wielding ogres, the second-born prince is suddenly given the responsibility of saving his kingdom. To do that, Kol needs magic—and the only way to get it is to make a deal with the queen of Ravenspire, promise to become her personal huntsman…and bring her Lorelai’s heart.

But Lorelai is nothing like Kol expected—beautiful, fierce, and unstoppable—and despite dark magic, Lorelai is drawn in by the passionate and troubled king. Fighting to stay one step ahead of the dragon huntsman—who she likes far more than she should—Lorelai does everything in her power to ruin the wicked queen. But Irina isn’t going down without a fight, and her final move may cost the princess the one thing she still has left to lose.

I really enjoyed THE SHADOW QUEEN. I'm not typically a fan of retellings, fairy tales made modern or changed never really were my thing. Too much of a been there, done that feeling for my tastes. And to be honest, Snow White even in the original form never was my favorite  But the cover on this one completely hooked me in, so I gave it a try, and I'm so glad I did. It's Snow White, but it's really not. In fact, I think a lot of why I enjoyed this book so much is that it was far more "not" Snow White. Aside from just a few similarities, THE SHADOW QUEEN is fully its own story. Add that to the fully fleshed and intriguing cast of characters, and I was hooked from the start.

Lorelai is strong and fierce and yet very vulnerable as well. So much of this book was about her journey towards confidence and believing herself and powers. She faces so many trials and persevered through every single one, and I thoroughly enjoyed cheering her on the entire way. Then you have Kol who has similar confidence issues, but in a very different way. The two made for an interesting pair especially when you consider certain obstacles that were placed between them. But I really enjoyed how neither was over the moon instalove swoon for the other, but kept their heads and always remembered their duties. They are both to be the leaders of their countries, and I really felt their attitudes matched that. So many times once a love interest is involved everyone always seems to lose their heads, and it was a refreshing change of pace here to not have that happen.

That being said, while I enjoyed this book, it did have a few pacing issues that kept me from giving a five star rating. Some things that I felt could have used a bit more focus due to their importance/intensity were very rushed through. While in reverse, some things that I felt were less important seemed to drag a bit longer than necessary. For example, there's a pretty big loss relatively early on that seemed to happen in a blink. While I felt like I should have been devastated alongside the characters, I just wasn't due to how fast things happened and then moved on. Almost more of a telling rather than showing me the character's devastation. And then in reverse, there's several inner struggles that different characters go through that seem to drag on, and become a bit repetitive by the end. There's other examples of course, but I'll stay vague to avoid spoilers.

All in all, THE SHADOW QUEEN has made me think I might be a fan of retellings after all. From the characters, to the world building in a familiar yet different story, I was hooked from the start. While things wrapped up well in this book, and the story could end here, things were left just open enough to continue, and I can't wait to see what's next.


(Received a copy from the publisher)

Rating:


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Other Reviews:
     Between Dreams and Reality
     Brandi Breathes Books
     The Eater of Books!

Review: Wickedly Powerful by Deborah Blake

, by Kt Clapsadl

Wickedly Powerful by Deborah Blake
Baba Yaga #3

Known as the wicked witch of Russian fairy tales, Baba Yaga is not one woman, but rather a title carried by a chosen few. They keep the balance of nature and guard the borders of our world, but don’t make the mistake of crossing one of them…

The only thing more fiery than Bella Young’s red hair is her temper. She knows that a Baba Yaga’s power without strict control can leave the people she cares about burned, so to protect her heart—and everyone around her—the only company she keeps is her dragon-turned-Norwegian-Forest-cat, Koshka.

But when Bella is tasked with discovering who’s setting magical fires throughout Wyoming’s Black Hills, she finds herself working closely with former hotshots firefighter Sam Corbett—and falling hard for his quiet strength and charm.

Sam may bear the scars of his past, but Bella can see beyond them and would do anything to help him heal. Only before she can rescue her Prince Charming, she’ll have to overcome the mysterious foe setting the forest fires—a truly wicked witch who wields as much power and even more anger than Bella…

I really enjoyed Bella's character in this book, and how she was very different than her other two Baba sisters. In fact that's one of the things I appreciate the most about this series. Each Baba has their own very unique voice and personality despite all their similarities. In Bella's case, she's more middle of the road between the two others. She's not as aggressive as Barbara, and not as easy going as Beka. I found her to be a good balance to the other two. That of course doesn't mean she doesn't have her own baggage. Far from it. In fact I think she had more baggage than the other two and that's saying something. However, that baggage made for an interesting character development as she learned to trust herself again. In fact, the theme of this book seemed to be emotional/scarred pasts and baggage. And while that may sound like it would make the book gloomy, it did the exact opposite. It made the book a journey of healing for all involved, and I really enjoyed every moment of it. 

As far as the romance, unfortunately unlike each of the Babas being unique, I didn't find the main conflict between Bella and Sam to be so. Sure, when it boils down to it, Sam and Liam were very different, and Sam especially came with a scarred past like I mentioned. But the one thing that got me was that in both books the conflict that separates the pairs is the hero's need to follow the letter of the law rather than the spirit. Perhaps I shouldn't be quite so picky as the rest of the book was more than enjoyable. I just wanted a new "black moment" for the thing that drove them apart. 

Getting back to the good stuff, not only did I really enjoy Bella's character, but the plot had me hooked as well. The ladies have faced some nasty troubles in the past, but I have to say this one takes the cake. Not only did it make this book rather intense, but there are a lot of far reaching implications that will be kicking off the next part of the series featuring the Riders. So all in all, WICKEDLY POWERFUL is a very enjoyable installment, and I can't wait to see where this series goes next.

(Received a copy from the publisher)

Rating:


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Other Reviews:
     Herding Cats Burning Soup
     Badass Book Reviews

Previous Books:
     1. Wickedly Dangerous
     2. Wickedly Wonderful
     1.5. Wickedly Ever After
   

Early Review: Bitter Bite by Jennifer Estep

, by Kt Clapsadl

Bitter Bite by Jennifer Estep
Elemental Assassin #14

Which is stronger: blood ties or a battle-tested friendship?

It’s not easy being queen bee of an underworld abuzz with crooks and killers. Wielding my potent Ice and Stone elemental magic will only get me so far—my real secret is my tight-knit makeshift family, a motley crew of cops and criminals, dwarves and playboys. My foster brother Finnegan Lane is my right-hand man, but when his suddenly not-dead relative comes back into the picture, I’m the one on the outside looking in.

It’s funny how life works: one minute your best friend is rock-steady, and the next he’s doe-eyed and buying into this whole loving-relative routine to the point of ignoring you. I’d like to be happy for Finn, I really would. But all of my instincts are telling me that beneath the syrupy sweet demeanor and old-fashioned charm, this sudden interloper is planning something. The whole shtick leaves a bitter taste in my mouth. This person might have avoided the grave once, but I’ll put anyone who hurts Finn in the ground—for good.

I always thoroughly enjoy each new installment in the Elemental Assassin series as every book provides a solid block of action packed entertainment, and great character dynamics. That being said some books shine more than others, and others just aren't quite as bright. BITTER BITE, while very good in its own right and full of intense action and really impactful character dynamics, I found the latter to be rather frustrating. While Gin's love life has been up and down and back up again throughout the series, the one constant has been the bond between her and Finn. While foster siblings, they have always been thicker than any blood relation. And yet, at the first sign of a blood relative to Finn he loses his head and turns against Gin. While this made for a very intense book, it didn't sit right with me. I'm sure that was the point and I commend the author for being able to play with my emotions so much. But the fact remains this turmoil in an area I considered to be an unbreakable bond lessened my enjoyment of the book. That being said, hopefully future books will be able to rebuild my faith in Finn, but it's not going to be an easy road.

Disappointment in Finn aside, this was one heck of an intense read. I feel like I say this every time I review a new Elemental Assassin book, but somehow Jennifer Estep was able to yet again top her previous villian with the current one. I really don't know how she does it. By sheer logic they should have a "been there done that" or just too over the top feeling by now as they've had to continually outdo the previous. And yet, that's the furthest thing from the case, as each new villain brings a new angle of threat and keeps me practically biting my nails off to see how Gin and co will survive the latest catastrophe. It truly is impressive and is what keeps me coming back time and time again to this series.

Full of action, suspense, drama, betrayal, and an overall intense read, BITTER BITE is sure to please fans of the series.

(Received a copy from the publisher)

Rating:


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Other Reviews:
     Gizmo's Reviews
     Bad Bird Reads
     Tome Tender

Previous Books:
     1. Spider's Bite
     2. Web of Lies
     3. Venom
     4. Tangled Threads
     5. Spider's Revenge
     6. By a Thread
     7. Widow's Web
     8. Deadly Sting
     9. Heart of Venom
     10. The Spider
     11. Poison Promise
     12. Black Widow
     13. Spider's Trap

Early Review: The Immortals by Jordana Max Brodsky

, by Kt Clapsadl

The Immortals by Jordana Max Brodsky
Olympus Bound #1

MANHATTAN HAS MANY SECRETS.
SOME ARE OLDER THAN THE CITY ITSELF.


Manhattan.
The city sleeps. Selene DiSilva walks her dog along the banks of the Hudson. She is alone-just the way she likes it. She doesn't believe in friends, and she doesn't speak to her family. Most of them are simply too dangerous.

Murders.
In the predawn calm, Selene finds the body of a young woman washed ashore, gruesomely mutilated and wreathed in laurel. Her ancient rage returns. And so does the memory of a promise she made long ago. To protect the innocent-and to punish those who stand in her way.

Gods.
With the NYPD out of its depth, Selene vows to hunt the killer on her own. But when classics professor Theo Schultz decodes the ancient myth behind the crime, the solitary Huntress finds herself working with a man who's her opposite in every way. Together, they face a long-forgotten cult that lies behind a string of murders, and they'll need help from the one source Selene distrusts most of all: the city's other Immortals.

I had a really hard time with this one. So much so that I found myself continually skimming large parts and considered not finishing more than a few times. I mustered through however as the plot had intrigued me enough to see how everything played out, but it wasn't the smoothest of reads for various reasons. The largest being how flat the characters were, specifically the main character, Selene. Everything about her was wooden and completely flat. It's like all the personality had been sucked out of her, aside from her firm belief that all men are evil. She's supposedly the protector of the innocent, but somehow that only seems to apply to women, and even then she looks upon the ones she saves with contempt.

Now onto the thing that kept me reading, the mystery behind the plotline. I was hooked enough to want to find out the root of the evil rituals and see who was behind it all. Unfortunately despite being intrigued, this didn't make the plot progression exciting or engrossing. Far from it in fact. This is a rather long book, and honestly I feel a lot could have been condensed as again it all seemed flat, plot included. That being said, the twist at the end did make things rather interesting and did help soften the blow of my frustration. 

Perhaps I should have DNF this book, but the greek mythology and mystery hooked me enough to stick around. I guess I kept hoping for it to redeem itself, and unfortunately that just didn't happen. Take my review with a grain of salt as looking over other reviews, it seems while some disliked the book like myself, a good bit absolutely loved it, so depending on your reading preference you might enjoy this. But in the end it's simply not for me. 

(Received a copy from the publisher)

Rating:


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Other Reviews:
     Miss Em Recommends
     The Literati Press
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Grave Visions by Kalayna Price

, by Kt Clapsadl

Grave Visions by Kalayna Price
Alex Craft #4

Grave Visions by Kalayna Price is the much-anticipated fourth installment in the kick-ass urban fantasy series about Alex Craft, a grave witch who can communicate with the dead.

If you want to hear voices from the dead in Nekros City, you call Alex Craft. She's a Grave Witch with reasonable rates and extraordinary powers, who specializes in revealing the secrets of the dead. But now she's the one fighting to keep her own secret. She's not human—and her newly discovered heritage is causing havoc for her both in the human realm and in Faerie. But her status as an unaffiliated fae also makes her an ideal candidate to investigate a new street drug that has surfaced in several of the spaces between the human and fae worlds.

This glamour-infused drug causes hallucinations that turn real—at least for a while and often with deadly consequences. Searching for the source of this drug—and its purpose—lands Alex front and center in the conflict brewing in Faerie and she must find answers before she's dragged so deep she loses her freedom.


While the wait for GRAVE VISIONS may have been incredibly long, after reading, I'm happy to say it was worth the wait. I had worried after all this time that I wouldn't remember the previous books and be lost picking up the one. However, I was pleasantly surprised at just how fast I slipped back into this world. There was no "re-learning" curve needed. I think that's really a testament to just how well this world is crafted. I love the characters just as much now as I did years ago when the last book was released, Alex in particular. This time around she really shines as she's learning to cope with her newly found Fae heritiage and all of the politics that come with it. Each time I thought she might just have to give in to the bonds and demands placed on her, she preserved and I found myself rooting for her more with each page.

The only reason I didn't give this book a 5 was due to it feeling like a set up book. Don't get me wrong, more than plenty happens and I was completely entertained throughout, but I felt like it was all leading to the next book. It felt like Alex had to over come the certain task/politic issues so she could move onto the next step of who she is becoming. And THAT is the book I really want to read. So that being said, I really hope the wait isn't as long as I simply want more from this world and these characters. All in all fans in the series will be more than pleased with this much awaited installment. 


(Received a copy from the publisher)

Rating:


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Other Reviews:
     Red Hot Books
     Gizmo's Reviews
     a GREAT read

Previous Books:
     1. Grave Witch
     2. Grave Dance
     3. Grave Memory

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