Review: A Swift and Savage Tide by Chloe Neill

Series: Captain Kit Brightling #2
Author: Chloe Neill
Publisher: Berkley
Released: November 30, 2021
Received: NetGalley

4 kitties

As a massive fan of both Chloe Neill and Captain Kit Brightling, I am extremely excited about the second novel in this series. A Swift and Savage Tide brings readers back to a fantastical world where our beloved Captain is one of the few people around to save the day. And I, for one, cannot wait to see where her journey takes us.

Captain Kit Brightling and her crew have been sent on a mission to track down Gerard Rousseau and his allies. It is a dangerous task, but her fast ship, Diana, and her competent crew give them better odds than most.

While on her mission, she unexpectedly bumps into Rian Grant. Together they must team up, discover Gerard’s insidious plan, and save the day. Who knows, if they have the time, perhaps they’ll continue falling for one another.

“At twenty-four, Kit understood the ways of romance, and she wasn’t one to pine over a man. Certainly not a viscount.”

Captain Kit Brightling is the best combination of favorite elements: fantasy, piracy, and romance (plus many other details that I almost certainly forget to mention). Thus you can imagine my joy when I laid my hands on the latest novel, A Swift and Savage Tide.

Hopping back onboard Kit’s ship, Diana, was such a delight. Her crew is determined and loyal, and I feel like we really got a chance to get to know a few of them in this novel. More than that, we got to learn even more about Kit, her adventures, and the task at hand.

Let us not forget Rian Grant, who plays a pivotal role in this novel. He is likewise dealing with Gerard and the enemy, and I love how that brought these two back together again. I know I can’t be the only one thrilled about that – as they are the perfect pair to ship (pun intended).

The slow-burning romance is the perfect balance to an intense and sometimes outright dangerous plot. It’s hard to ignore the magical threat that looms on the horizon, though at times, one might like to try and forget all of that.

I honestly really do love Kit’s humor and all of the char that seems to seep from these pages. It has quickly become one of my favorite series – something I look forward to. Given the state of the world, I think that is something we could all use right about now.

Thanks again, Chloe Neill, for creating such a captivating series. I love Kit Brightling and very much look forward to seeing what adventure (read: mess) she gets into next time!

Thanks to Berkley and #NetGalley for making this book available for review. All opinions expressed are my own.

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Review: The City We Became by N.K. Jemisin

Series: Great Cities #1
Author: N.K. Jemisin
Publisher: Orbit
Released: March 24, 2020
Received: Own (BOTM)
Warnings: Racism, misogyny, sexual assault, child abuse, antisemitism, abuse

4 kitties

The City We Became is the first in a new series by N.K. Jemisin, a brilliant author that we all should cherish more. Or at least, that is how I feel about it. The Great Cities series is science fiction with a strong city focus.

Every city has a soul, though most people don’t know how to listen for it. In New York City’s case, it has five souls. Each one is carefully hidden away to best protect all we know and love. However, a great danger is rising, and it will take all five souls to protect the city and stop this horrible darkness.

“People who say change is impossible are usually pretty happy with things just as they are.”

N.K. Jemisin has done it again. The City We Became is a bold and brilliant read, one that I’m sincerely struggling to describe. I’m so happy I grabbed it when I had a spare credit for BOTM club, though honestly, I really should have read this beauty much sooner.

What I can say is that The City We Became is by far one of the most unique books I’ve read this year. Since this will likely end up being my second to the last novel read this year, I would like to think that is saying something!

“This is the lesson: Great cities are like any other living things, being born and maturing and wearying and dying in their turn.”

I love the idea of a city having human avatars. More than that, I adore that New York has more than one. It makes sense on so many levels, and I honestly couldn’t get enough of this story or the characters it portrayed.

There is something so essential and so human about this read. It’s not perfect because people aren’t perfect. But it was the perfect read for me, and sometimes that is more than good enough.

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Realm Review: Black Widow: Bad Blood Episode 8

The Vector Raid in Black Widow: Bad Blood Episode 8

The Black Widow, aka Natasha Romanoff, continues her quest in Black Widow: Bad Blood Episode 8. Somebody has made the mistake of taking her blood, and they’re going to pay for that. As soon as she figures out who they are and tracks them down.

In the last episode, we saw Natasha turn a sticky situation into something positive. One of the many skills of the Black Widow, of course. Now she’s got a new target, one that will hopefully start providing answers to all the questions she has.

Black Widow: Bad Blood is one of three Marvel series currently on Serial Box – now Realm (the other two being Jessica Jones and Thor). This series has done an excellent job highlight the intensity and drama that comes with Widow’s work while simultaneously reminding us that she is human.

Old Friends, New Enemies

Black Widow: Bad Blood Episode 8 is every bit as fascinating and tense as the rest of the series thus far. Perhaps that is why it shocked me so much when it had me laughing out loud – but that is exactly what happened.

Natasha Romanoff is a woman of many skills, so getting into a secure facility is not challenging. Yet Lindsey Smith creates a series of scenes that varied from spectacular to surprisingly humorous and everything between. Proof that the series can be just as multifaceted as the heroine herself.

There was something highly satisfying about this episode. That’s probably largely because it feels like Natasha is closing in on her target. However, it’s hard to believe that we’re now officially more than halfway through the series.

Alongside the other tones and elements I’ve already mentioned, this episode is full of details that make the scenes and characters come alive. The secondary characters feel so human, despite our limited exposure. Likewise, the trials that Nat has gone through…feel so vibrant and full of determination.

Narration

As with the rest of the series so far, Black Widow: Bad Blood Episode 8 was narrated by Sarah Natochenny. Once again, she knocked it out of the park, though at this point, maybe you could say that I’m biased. I certainly have quickly become fond of her portrayal of one of my favorite Marvel characters.

Natasha’s sass and wit ring true and stronger than ever in some of the scenes within this episode. They were surprisingly funny and almost felt like the calm before the storm. They would have been great scenes on their own, but the narration really did bring it to a whole new level.

There were a few new voices this time around, and while they’re unlikely to make an appearance after this episode, I have to say I enjoyed them. It’s amazing what one person can do. Though it certainly proves the importance of a talented narrator.

Conclusion

Black Widow: Bad Blood Episode 8 may very well be my favorite episode of the season. Well, so far, at least. I do not doubt that the tale will get even more exciting now that we’re that much closer to the end (of the season).

Black Widow’s series proves that the Serial Box format is a brilliant match for Marvel. This is a chance to see Natasha in a new light (and medium), and they really ran with it. There’s a different focus than you would find in the comics, which I’m personally enjoying. Here’s hoping that there will be more than one season to this journey.

This review was originally written for Word of the Nerd, but has been ported over to Quirky Cat’s Fat Stacks now that the site has shut down.

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Short Story Saturday: Heaps of Pearl by Seanan McGuire

Series: October Date #8.1
Author: Seanan McGuire
Released: January 5th, 2016
Received: Patreon

4 1/2 kitties

While Heaps of Pearl is set in a distant past, I would strongly recommend waiting to read it until after you’ve finished The Winter Long (book eight). What happens within this short helps to explain those events, and thus it’s fairly riddled with spoilers!

Baron Patrick Twycross is a different sort of fae, at least in the eyes of many. He’s unlanded and content with that fact. All he wants is to be left alone to his projects, which for the most part, is what he gets.

That is unless King Gilad is hosting a ball – one that is quite mandatory. Then Patrick must step out of his comfort zone and into something new. This time around, he’s about to get more than he could have hoped for – or feared.

“What’s more, I have less than no interest in the meeting of mermaids. I prefer ships which stay above the waves to scaly women who waste their time beneath them.”

Heaps of Pearl is an entertaining and charming tale – one that fans will enjoy, especially if they love the curious relationship of Dianda and Patrick. Their love is a quirky one, but that just makes it all the more endearing in my book.

In case it wasn’t obvious by this point, this is the story of how these two met. It makes sense that there would be a story to go along with this one, as it isn’t likely that they would simply stumble across one another otherwise. Part of the fairytale charm, I’m sure.

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Review: Cold Hearted by Serena Valentino

Series: Villains #8
Author: Serena Valentino
Publisher: Disney Press
Released: July 6, 2021
Received: NetGalley

3 kitties

Cold Hearted, written by Serena Valentino, is the eighth novel in her Villains series. As you might be able to guess from the cover, this is a series that takes the stories of Disney villains and twists their tale into something else.

Serena Valentino has covered many of the classic villains by this point, including Ursula, Maleficent, Mother Gothel, and more. While this latest is meant to be an installment in the series, it can be read as a standalone for the eager Cinderella fans in the audience (just be aware that some minor plot points might not make sense).

Part of what made Cinderella’s story so famous is how her stepmother and her stepsisters treated her. But what if the classic fairytale story didn’t actually tell the whole story? Or the truth, for that matter.

Lady Tremaine is a widow and a woman who desperately wished that her heart was made of ice. That way, she would no longer feel the pain that came with the loss of her husband. And yet, quite suddenly, a magical story appeared around her.

“I can’t go flying here and there just because Cinderella is worried about her stepsisters.”

Okay, so usually, I adore this series, as well as the core premise behind it. In addition, I love retellings focusing on the villain, as in many instances, I feel like it gives those characters more agency than they are typically granted.

It didn’t feel that way this time around. If anything, Lady Tremaine’s true story is all the more heartbreaking and upsetting because it feels like everything is happening to her, with her merely reacting after the fact.

It was disappointing, as much as I hate to admit it. I was really looking forward to seeing how Lady Tremaine’s story would be twisted around to fit this new narrative. Additionally, I’ll admit more than a passing curiosity for how Lucifer would have gained his name in this context.

On the bright side, while I didn’t love this particular addition, it has done nothing to diminish my love for the rest! I am very much looking ward to seeing what the next Villains novel has to bring with it.

While this was not my favorite novel in the series (go read Beast, if you’re hoping for that!), I will admit that it did have plenty of exciting elements to keep me reading. And it has made me all the more curious to see what Serena Valentino’s long-term goal is here.

Thanks to Disney Press and #NetGalley for making this book available for review. All opinions expressed are my own.

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Review: Fated Blades by Ilona Andrews

Series: Kinsmen #3
Author: Ilona Andrews
Publisher: Montlake
Released: November 23, 2021
Received: Own

Holy cow. Is this happening? Are we really getting another Kinsmen novel after all of these years? For those not freaking out, let me tell you: Kinsmen is a fantasy world that I adore and highly recommend to all of my friends.

Anyway, moving on. Fated Blades, by Ilona Andrews (Ilona and Andrew Gordon), is the third novel in the Kinsmen series. This story takes place in the same world, with the same rules and magical abilities (and politics!). As such, I would suggest reading the first two novels first, as they do a fantastic job of explaining how it all works.

There are families in this world (well, universe, actually) with special powers. Commonly, only high-class families have these gifts, and they must carefully plan out their family lines to maintain their powers.

This is the life that Ramona Adler and Matias Baena have always known. They come from opposing families, and while they have never met in person, they knew enough to keep the feud going strong. That is, right up until they realized that to protect their families, they would have to work together.

“The two of them, Cassida and Gabriel, thought they could simply take everything she’d worked for. They thought she would roll over. Ramona laughed. It sounded like a promise of murder.”

Unsurprisingly, I loved Fated Blades and everything about it. Ilona Andrews has such a way of building these vast and imaginative worlds – I can’t help but be utterly enchanted by them. In many ways, Fated Blades is the sequel to the Kinsmen world that I never knew I needed.

Admittedly this series is probably not for the faint of heart, as Ramona and Matias are very talented at what they do – protecting their family…and killing people. Don’t get me wrong, killing people is almost always a last resort. Unfortunately, in a world such as theirs, last resorts happen more often than they would like.

The politics in this world are intense, as two significant families feud onward (with smaller families getting in the way here and there). It makes for a complex but solid foundation on which our heroes find their adventure.

This book ended up having a lot of tropes that I adored, including a take on the ‘enemies to lovers’ trope. It was so much fun, and I am already trying to decide when another read-through will be warranted (and whether or not I should binge the first two beforehand).

For those fantasy lovers that also enjoy a heavy dose of action and battles – this is the read for you. Ramona and Matias get into more than their fair share of fights, and they are brilliantly described. Enjoy!

“Being kind to people and paying attention shouldn’t be done with the expectation of repayment. I helped them because I could, and it made me happy.”

Interestingly, Fated Blades, besides all of the other amazing parts, is that it technically could be read as a standalone. I personally wouldn’t do this, as the other two novels really set the tone while explaining A LOT about how the magical system works (not to mention how it got into these families), but it could certainly be done.

Normally it is about now in the review where I would speculate about a sequel. However, as I never expected Fated Blades to come into being in the first place, I’m not going to push my luck! The simple truth is that I will happily read anything that Ilona Andrews feels inspired to write.

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Review: A Flicker in the Dark by Stacy Willingham

Author: Stacy Willingham
Publisher: Minotaur Books
Released: January 11, 2021
Received: Own (BOTM)
Warnings: Murder, strangulation, self-injury, mental health, medication

4 kitties

A Flicker in the Dark is Stacy Willingham’s debut novel, and let me tell you: this one book is enough to get Stacy Willingham on my ‘auto-buy’ list. I can already see her writing potential and cannot wait to see what she comes up with next.

Oh, did I mention that HBO Max already bought the rights to adapt A Flicker in the Dark? Yeah, clearly, they saw the same potential! I’m looking forward to seeing how that movie turns out (fingers crossed!).

Chloe Davis is a woman with a tortured past. Her town was wracked by unimaginable horrors as six girls went missing. The whole scenario formed a lingering sense of fear in Chloe, something that she has never quite been able to shake.

As an adult, Chloe tried to take her trauma into her own hands, becoming a psychologist. She even runs her own practice. However, her attempt to move on is put to a sudden halt as more girls begin to disappear in a horrifying familiar pattern.

“Monsters don’t hide in the woods. They aren’t shadows in the trees or invisible things lurking in darkened corners.
No, the real monsters move in plain sight.”

Wow. A Flicker in the Dark was such a fantastic read; I’m almost (almost!) at a loss for words). This is a dark and gritty read that isn’t afraid to show the lingering mental effects of past trauma. In that sense, it is so very human.

What impressed me the most about A Flicker in the Dark is the twist on the unreliable narrator trope. I’d been getting a bit tired of it lately. Or, more accurately, I was getting tired of it being done in the same way. That doesn’t happen here. Chloe’s perspective is sharp; it’s her reactions that are thrown into question. It makes for quite an interesting twist.

Speaking of, there are several twists within these pages. Some were more predictable than others, but altogether it made for a brilliant read. One that will be fun to see on screen someday (here’s hoping the adaptation is faithful!).

The pacing in A Flicker in the Dark is another highlight for me. Everything went SO quickly. It was hard to believe that I went from meeting Chloe for the first time to seeing the final wrap-up in just a few short hours. It’s an absolute whirlwind.

If you haven’t already, consider giving this debut novel a try! I certainly don’t regret doing so.

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Review: Gilded by Marissa Meyer

Series: Gilded #1
Author: Marissa Meyer
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends
Released: November 2, 2021
Received: BookishFirst
Warnings: Child death, animal death, kidnapping

4 kitties

It’s hard to believe that it is already time for another new Marissa Meyer series, and yet here we are! (and I’m not complaining) Gilded kicks off her latest series of the same name, once again delving into a different fairytale element.

Serilda has always had a gift for words. More accurately, she’s had a knack for twisting them. Her entire village knows well that Serilda loves stories, tall tales, and the occasional outright lie. That isn’t the only reason they are concerned about this young woman, as her eyes mark her as something other.

Yet it is those eyes and her talent with words that saved Serilda’s skin – or so she thought. Now she’s neck-deep in danger with the Erkling himself, as he believes she has power not her own. Again, it all comes back to the tales she has spun.

“No, I’m not a witch. And I didn’t summon you. I was just sitting here, crying, contemplating my own demise, thank you muchly.”

If you love fractured fairy tales, unique twists on the classics, or Marissa Meyer’s writing style, then the odds are more than good that you’re going to love Gilded. Her magic rises to the surface here, and I am absolutely enchanted (and counting down the days for the sequel).

Serilda’s story is, well…fascinating. It’s all based on a simple fairytale premise: turning straw into gold, and yet it so quickly gets blown out of proportion. I think that is what I loved the most about this novel – seeing how far it would stretch.

Other elements I loved include Serilda herself (she’s so full of energy and mischief), the tales she tells, her romantic adventure, and the magic she comes across. Each of these parts worked hard to capture my imagination, and I cannot wait to see more regarding each and every one. Okay, I’m a bit more excited for some over others, but you get what I’m saying.

I should probably mention that there are some heavier plots inside Gilded. Given that we’re dealing with the Erkling, that probably isn’t too much of a surprise, but I thought I’d mention it all the same. There are scenes in this book that depict hunting, brutality, child death, and animal injury/death.

Overall I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised by Gilded, and I already was expecting something amazing. I honestly can’t wait to see what happens in Cursed, but unfortunately, we’ve got a bit of time before that happens. It’ll be worth the wait, I’m sure.

Thanks to Feiwel & Friends and #BookishFirst for making this book available for review. All opinions expressed are my own.

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Review: Neptune by Ben Bova

Series: The Grand Tour #25
Author: Ben Bova
Publisher: Tor Books
Released: August 17, 2021
Received: NetGalley

3 1/2 kitties

Neptune is the twenty-fifth (yes, you read that right!) novel in Ben Bova’s The Grand Tour series. For the sake of honesty, I have to confess that I have not read the rest of this series. However, I was too curious to pass up the opportunity to give it a try regardless!

Set in a far future where humanity has dispersed among the stars – literally. The outer planets, such as Neptune, are in the process of being settled, though naturally, they come with their own set of challenges. The planet’s atmosphere alone would create enough issues.

Enter Derek Humbolt – famous space explorer. Her ship is heading to Neptune, in part to check on the early settles. Only instead of the settlers, they find something else. Something that is going to throw their plans way off course.

Neptune is a novel with an infinite amount of potential. It makes me want to see what the rest of the series is like, truth be told. I can’t imagine what the other twenty-four books much be like! Other than to assume that they cover the other planets in the solar system.

Overall, this was a quick and interesting read. I enjoyed the creativity in Bova’s writing, though I’ll admit that I wish there was more character development. There’s a lot going on, but not a whole lot of emotional attachment to any of it, which was an odd sensation.

Still, I found the novel to be worth reading and will probably check out the rest of the series should I ever find enough time to do so.

Thanks to Tor Books and #NetGalley for making this book available for review. All opinions expressed are my own.

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Realm Review: Black Widow: Bad Blood Episode 7

Of Monsters and Men in Black Widow: Bad Blood Episode 7

It’s safe to say that the Black Widow, aka Natasha Romanoff, is more than capable of handling almost any situation. Even the ones that directly target here. Yet the events in Black Widow: Bad Blood Episode 7 surprise even her.

Last we saw, Natasha has found a potential ally, yet her quest for answers seemed to be only bringing up more questions. Whatever has been done to her will not be resolved easily, especially when she only has so many avenues to pursue.

Black Widow: Bad Blood is an actively updating series on Serial Box (now Realm). It’s currently one of three Marvel series to be found on the platform, hoping that more will get added later. If you’re a fan of the Black Widow, you can grab a new part of her adventure each Tuesday.

Who Will Stop Me?

Black Widow: Bad Blood Episode 7 brings us straight into the action, following up on the cliffhanger created in the last episode. Once again, we’re given a chance to see what Natasha can do in a fight – one sprung upon her.

The parallels being drawn between this moment and the first attack are, quite frankly, haunting. It was certainly intentional. It’s a poignant reminder that the Black Widow is, in fact, a human being and must process trauma like the rest of us.

Lindsay Smith did a wonderful job of portraying how complex trauma can be, all while showing us other sides of Natasha at the same time. In this single episode, she’s strong, cunning, and even vulnerable at times.

What’s really interesting to see (aside from all of the potential ship bait) is how thoroughly Natasha settled into her latest case. Little moments of it keep popping back into her head at the strangest times. Almost like she never really wanted to walk away from that life at all.

There’s a lot to enjoy about this episode, thanks to all of the different elements and subtleties are woven in. Many threads are directly connected to the plot and to Natasha, which could potentially be picked up from here. It’ll be interesting to see how it goes.

Narration

Black Widow: Bad Blood Episode 7 was narrated by Sarah Natochenny. As with the rest of this series so far, she’s done an excellent job here. Natasha is constantly bouncing around from concerned to curious, to clever, and back again. Those are just a few of the emotions and tones that Natochenny had to portray here, and she did it flawlessly.

There is also a bit more of an opportunity to voice other characters, both the good and the bad. The variety that can be heard is impressive, though one character, in particular, shines above the rest. Again, that was certainly done with intention.

As with the rest of this series, there are many subtle sound effects thrown in to increase the scenes. From wind gusting in the background to sounds of impact added to the fight. Combine that with the musical score created for the series (credit to Amanda Rose Smith), and you’ve got an experience worth diving into.

Conclusion

Black Widow: Bad Blood Episode 7 was every bit as thrilling as I could have hoped for. Though perhaps not for the reasons expected. Yes, there was a fight, as the last episode implied there would be. But there was more to be found as well. It made for an interesting mix, one that was full of surprises.

Black Widow: Bad Blood has quickly become one of those moments I look forward to each and every week. It’s almost sad thinking about how we’re now at the halfway mark. At least that means we still have seven-episode left.

This review was originally written for Word of the Nerd, but has been ported over to Quirky Cat’s Fat Stacks now that the site has shut down.

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