Review: Deception by Selena Montgomery

Stacey Abrams writing as Selena Montgomery. Deception, A Novel

This was a fun book. There was mystery, intrigue, spiciness. Finley Borders is a professional poker player who is called home because an innocent woman has been accused of murder. She’s going to use her skills of reading people and bluffing to help uncover a criminal organization.

When home, she meets FBI agent Caleb Matthews and immediately clocks him as undercover. They both find each other intriguing and annoying and, as a reader, that’s a good time.

I liked all the characters. They were three dimensional and awesome. The spiciness was slow burn but also very hot. The mystery was detailed and believable. It was so good. I am already looking for my next Stacey Abrams writing as Selena Montgomery novel.

Review: Deception by Selena Montgomery

Stacey Abrams writing as Selena Montgomery. Deception, A Novel

This was a fun book. There was mystery, intrigue, spiciness. Finley Borders is a professional poker player who is called home because an innocent woman has been accused of murder. She’s going to use her skills of reading people and bluffing to help uncover a criminal organization.

When home, she meets FBI agent Caleb Matthews and immediately clocks him as undercover. They both find each other intriguing and annoying and, as a reader, that’s a good time.

I liked all the characters. They were three dimensional and awesome. The spiciness was slow burn but also very hot. The mystery was detailed and believable. It was so good. I am already looking for my next Stacey Abrams writing as Selena Montgomery novel.

Review: Greywaren by Maggie Stiefvater

After finishing the Dreamer’s Trilogy, I think I liked The Raven Cycle a little bit better. No disrespect to the Lynch brothers. I’m glad they were able to get their lives together but as I reading this, I sort of forgot that they were trying to stop the apocalypse from happening. Not a minor thing. I was definitely more invested in the emotional journey of Ronan, Declan, Matthew, Jordan, Hennessey and even Carmen then I was in whatever mission they were supposed to be on. It was definitely a journey. I love that these characters who have been through so much that they got the healing they needed and will be able to move on with their lives in a more healthy way. So much time of this novel was spent on their healing journey and their past that when it came time to save the world it was a little jarring. Like oh that’s right. That’s why Hennessey destroyed the Ley line. It’s why Ronan is asleep and Declan is frantic. It’s why all of them are in the state that they were in are catching up with the story. That all being said. I’m glad that this series existed because Ronan was one of my favorite characters from the Raven Cycles and I’m happy that he has got the closure he needed. It was also good to catch up with the Blue and the other Raven boys. I feel like that Maggie left a little bit open that if she wanted to pick up again with Blue and Gansey she could but if she doesn’t. The Raven Cycle and The Dreamers Trilogy were beautiful stories with characters, I’ll never forger and grateful to have spent time with.

Review: The Poppy War Trilogy by R.F. Kuang

This series is brutal and unflinching. It is a really a brutal read. I’ll be honest, I’m not sure I truly understood what I was getting into when I started this last month. It was like the one book that people on Booktok seemed to all agree was a must read. I was intrigued that it was a fantasy that was based on East Asian history. Specifically Chinese history. I am not familiar with Chinese history but I definitely recognized the parallels from 20th century China and the Japanese occupation of some areas of the country and the attempted colonization from Western Nations. The Poppy War Trilogy tackles the trauma of colonialism, war, famine, sexual assault and racism. The Poppy War follows Rin, an orphan from a poor southern province of Nikara. Her guardians try to marry her off so she decides to take the test to get into the elite military school and not only passes it, she gets the highest score in her province. This shocks everyone and instead of celebrating it, she is accused of cheating. Things don’t get much better when she arrives at Sinegard. She is looked down for her poor upbringing and dark skin. She has to fight to prove hat she belongs and it isn’t easy. The first day, she makes the enemy of Nezha, the son of the Dragon lord but also make friends with Kitay, the son of a minister to the Empress. The Mugenese, who live on the island of the coast of Nikara, who has tried twice to conquer Nikara in the Previous Poppy wars. After a couple of years at Sinegard, the Mugenese invade and Rin and her schoolmates have to go to war. Rin discovers she is a Shaman and can channel the power of the Phoenix god and summon fire. With great power there are costs and Shamans don’t always have control of her minds. She is constantly fighting to keep her own mind while wanted to have the power. She likes the power it gives her. However, coming to grips with what she can do and how it effects others is hard to always come to terms with. To be clear, Rin does some unconscionable things in this series. There are at times, I just couldn’t justify her behavior but most of the time I could. The biggest criticism, I read about her online was how unlikable she was. And yeah, she’s not so great. She’s immature, stubborn, easy to manipulate and easy to rile up but even when she starts to spiral into madness, it made sense to me. When you factor all that she has been through. All that she had to endure in such short life, it made sense why she would act this way Yes, it is hard to justify but it rang true to who she was.

As the story progresses and we go further and further into the wars, the cost of war becomes evident and devasting. War effects the poor more than it does the rich. It’s not the rich that have to flee their homes or starve. It’s not usually their woman who are raped or their man forced into service. The depictions of all these things are unflinching. There is no shying away from the brutal results of war. It can be triggering. Just as the cruel depiction of colonialism and the trauma of being erased in your own country. The Mugenese were the first enemy but other outside enemy is the Hespira, who represented Western Nations who came in wanted to take advantage of the natural resources. I appreciate how religion played a huge role in the Hespirans plans to take control because often times the role of Christianity is downplayed or unmentioned when we talk about western colonialism. The Hespirans wanted to make Nikara more “civilized” and to do that meant making them more like them and that includes converted them to their religion.

I truly loved this series but it is not for everyone. It is not for everyone. As I mentioned, it does not shy away from the graphic depiction of violence of war, towards woman. Rin is own penchant for committing violence herself is no less jarring. All of this is necessary to telling the story and if you are willing to take it all in. It is worth the ride.

Review: It Devours! by Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor

It Devours! A Night Vale Novel by Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor

This absolutely scratched the itch I wanted it to scratch. Set in the town of Night Vale (the Night Vale from the Welcome to Night Vale podcast) Nilanjana Sikdar is an outsider from Indiana. She has a job as a scientist, which she loves, but she’s not really sure she gets the town of Nightvale.

One day her boss Carlos invites her into his office and asks her to help him secretly continue some research the city council has told him to stop. From there, she gets involved in a mystery with giant pits, disappearances, a maybe nice guy from a definitely sketchy cult-like church, a mysterious other world, a house that doesn’t exist, and an unknown creature that may or may not be the church-cult’s smiling god. This was a fun little story full of some outrageous characters and a couple of plot twists. It was funny in places and touching in places. I really enjoyed it. If you like the podcast and want something set in that world, I recommend it. If you don’t know the Welcome to Nightvale podcast, but like things that are weird, sometimes silly, sometimes creepy, but always fun, I recommend both this book and the podcast (which you can get anywhere you typically get podcasts.)

Review: The Bell Witch Series by Sara Clancy

So, this is a series about four families who were cursed by a witch centuries ago and now a family member is chosen every year to face the witch. The family member is chosen by receiving a music box. The members of each of the four families that are chosen then have to hike through the ancestral woods of the witch (and the families) to search for keys and to lock the music boxes. If they don’t find their keys, a demon will escape and they’ll be tormented forever.

So, the premise was good. The main characters we’re likable. The villains were villainous. This was a fun little read to prepare for spooky season. But each of the novellas ended quite abruptly. I suppose we could call them cliffhangers, but it didn’t feel cliffhangery. It felt unfinished. This was a little disappointing because there were storylines I would have liked to know a bit more about.

I would read more by this author (or more in the Scare Street series… if only because I love that they’re knock-offs of Fear Street) but I’m in a hurry to do so.

So, 6/10. Entertaining and quick but nothing that will really stick with me.

Review: The Inheritance of Orquidea Divina by Zoraida Cordova

For anyone who has seen Encanto will find many of the stories themes familiar. Especially from the beginning. It starts with the Matriarch of the family, Orquidea Divina invited her family back to her magical home for her death. The Montoya’s grew up in her home that always had everything they needed and they never questioned it. When they arrive, things are a miss and her death doesn’t go as planned but family pulls together to send her off. Orquidea was a complicated woman, like most people are but even more so to her family. She was a loving woman who gave all to her family but she was also very secretive and leaves the family reeling if they even knew here. Marimar, her granddaughter in particularly has some feelings about her Grandma. As does her cousins, Ray and Tatinelly. Seven years after her death, they are forced to go to Ecuador where Orquidea was born to discover her past to save their futures. Its basically a story of family trauma and family healing. Again, a lot like Encanto.

That’s where the comparisons end though. This story goes back and forth and the “present day” and the Orquidea’s past. Both storylines entwine to tell the story of Orquidea and the Montoya’s. Before she passes, she tells her family that she can’t tell them who is coming for them and they must find who. Marimar is to me the main character. She inherited the house and rebuilds. I feel like she is the one that is most connected to her. She goes through the wringer in this book but really comes out of it better. She is quite a extraordinary person. She starts out to be very guarded and for awhile she really starts to shut herself off. It’s her way of protecting herself but when tragedy strikes the family and she has to move, she does. It’s really through her eyes that we get to know Orquidea and the Montoya’s family and who they were and what they will become. So, if you like magical realism and Encanto, I think you will like this book too.

Quick Review: The Inheritance Game by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

I mentioned earlier that I was surprised to find out this book was a trilogy because I thought it wrapped up pretty nicely in the last book. They found Toby, the missing Hawthorne. Avery had picked between Jameson and Greyson but I guess her year wasn’t quite over yet and hadn’t officially inherited the Hawthorne fortune yet and I guess we still hadn’t found it why she was picked. Well all of that was answered and some of it was good and some of it was okay. The fast pace nature of the story telling is still there. The puzzles were more complicated and we have a new antagonist to play against. Tobias Hawthorne was an asshole but I can’t imagine anyone who accumulated that much wealth is a decent person. What he did to Avery is kinda cruel but I do like what she did with the money at the end. How people can play with other people’s lives like this is just horrible? I get that in his way, he was protecting his family but at Avery’s expense. Anyway, Avery got the upper hand so good for her. The Hawthorne brothers got the closure and healing they needed though I do hope they all are in therapy after all of this. And I like how it’s been left open for future books if the author ever wants to return to. So yes, this was a fun mystery series. I highly recommend it.

Quick Review: A Venom Dark and Sweet by Judy I. Lin

Ning is on the run with the Princess and the banished Prince has taken over power. Ning knows who is responsible for the poisoned tea across the country but since she has been branded as the enemy of the state she doesn’t have many allies. So she goes with Princess Zhen to find solutions. Meanwhile, Kang wants desperately to get his father’s approval but he also can see that some things are a miss. They soon discover a magical conspiracy centuries in the making and only Ning’s Shennong-shi powers can save them. I like this. I thought it was a good sequel to the first book. I’ll admit, I wasn’t quite in love with Kang’s POV as much as Ning’s but it was necessary for us to know what was going on in the capital since Ning was no longer there. I love Ning’s strength and self doubt. She was real She is dealing with other worldly powers and she isn’t even a trained Shennong-shi but she persevered through it. Her sister, Shu was a welcomed addition to the story and I adored Princess Zhen and Ruyi’s relationship. So, if you are looking for a fantasy that is not based on western mythology or world building. I highly recommend this series.

Quick Review: This Vicious Grace by Emily Thiede

I like this book but it was a bit too long. So Alessa is the only standing between her people and the threat of the Gods. All She has to do is find a partner to help fight them with her but she already married and buried three partners so far and time is running out. And then there is a new threat of fundamentalist who believe that she is more of a threat then savior and is trying to kill her. So she hires Dante to be her bodyguard. Of course they fall in love and of course he is not what he seems. He has a dark secret. Okay, this is right up my alley and I was loving it but She finds a partner to fight the bad guys and there are still 100 pages left and it starts to drag on. Which was a shame because it really started to take me out of the narrative and I started to get disinterested. When the ending came, I was more relieved then anything else. I’m still going to read the sequel because I’m curious to see how they resolve the cliffhanger but I hope the pacing will be better.