Review: Project Namahana by John Teschner

Author: John Teschner
Publisher: Forge Books
Released: June 28, 2022
Received: NetGalley

3 1/2 kitties

I’ve learned I cannot resist dark and gloomy mystery/thriller covers. Especially if they involve the sea, it’s a weakness, I suppose. Naturally, this means that I snatched up John Teschner’s Project Namahana.

Is it possible to work in a corporation and not be affected by its greed? What about the horrors those corporations can cause (intentionally or not). Will those scrape by, or will you feel each and every one?

Two men, both corporate employees, are connected – through death. There have been a series of deaths and disappearances on the island they call home. It doesn’t take long before the men, Brent and Lindstrom, begin to suspect the role they had to play in these deaths.

Ohhh. I was so curious about Project Namahana. I’ve seen plenty of corporate/thriller novel combinations, but nothing like this. It’s a different take on the plot of greed and corruption, though it has familiar tones here and there.

The whole concept of Project Namahana makes me think of the quote: “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” Brent and Lindstrom could have looked away from these deaths – it would have been easier (for them) if they had. Yet they didn’t. There’s a lesson in that.

Admittedly, while I wanted to like Project Namahana, it took me a little while to get invested in the story. It was probably a few chapters (maybe a bit more) before I felt like I was getting into the story, mainly because it has a bit of a slower start.

On the bright side, I loved the way John Teschner tackled complex situations and concerns, especially those revolving around (as mentioned above) corporate greed and corruption. It’s something that we should be discussing more, which feels like the whole point.

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

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Review: Pieces of Her by Karin Slaughter

Series: Andrea Oliver #1
Author: Karin Slaughter
Publisher: William Morrow
Released: August 21, 2018
Received: Own (BOTM)
Warnings: Gun violence, graphic violence, suicide, drug abuse, AIDS, domestic abuse, strangulation

4 kitties

Pieces of Her is one of my latest BOTM choices, mostly because I regretted not grabbing it the previous month! I know this isn’t a new release, but I just had to try it. Before you ask, no, I haven’t seen the adaptation yet. I’m still unsure if I will – I tend to like my thrillers in novel format (maybe because it lets me control the pace a bit more?).

Like most women, Andrea had assumed she knew everything there was to know about her mother. Her assumption is about to be proven wrong as one event changes her life as she knows it.

A public and violent incident in a mall puts Andrea’s mother, Laura, in the spotlight. She should be hailed a hero, but people are looking too closely at her – and that’s putting everyone at risk. To save her daughter, she will try and throw some distance between them, only for it to backfire on them both.

“Love doesn’t keep you in a constant state of turmoil. It gives you peace.”

Yikes. Pieces of Her is one of those heavy-hitting novels that’s hard to look away from. Much like the title implies, I quickly found myself trying to piece together the mystery of Andrea. This proved to be far from a simple task.

This novel is told mainly through two perspectives, twenty-plus years apart. The first perspective is Laura’s, as she struggles to deal with all the violence that just rose up in her life – while getting to the bottom of her mother’s secrets.

The second perspective is Andrea herself, though it may take some time for that to become clear. Set in 1986, it slowly reveals her backstory, leading readers to the inevitably and surprising conclusion.

I’ll admit, there were twists that I didn’t see coming in Pieces of Her. Overall I want to say that’s a good thing, though there are some pieces (no pun intended) that I wouldn’t have minded a change in. Perhaps the adaptation does precisely that? Maybe I will cave and watch it. Time will only tell.

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Review: Blood Scion by Deborah Falaye

Series: Blood Scion #1
Author: Deborah Falaye
Publisher: HarperTeen
Released: March 8, 2022
Received: Own (OwlCrate)
Warnings: Self-harm, sexual assault, control, death, gore

4 kitties

Blood Scion is both a debut novel and the start of a new series. Written by Deborah Falaye, it kicks off a series of the same name, one that is as intimidating and dangerous as it is compelling. Get ready for an emotional roller coaster!

Sloan has spent her entire life hiding who she is – a descendant of the Orisha gods. She has magic in her veins but must suppress it for the safety of herself and those she loves most. The Lucis hate people like her and will hunt her until the day they die.

Unfortunately, suppressing her magic isn’t enough to keep her safe, as this is not the only terror the Lucis put on her people. Sloan has been forcibly conscripted into their army, which will make surviving so much harder – especially while trying to keep her gift a secret. There is a light in this darkness, as following through on their orders will give Sloan the chance to finally get some answers of her own.

“You have to decide what matters most: your humanity or your survival.”

Wow. Every now and then, I come across a book that defies reviewing. Blood Scion is one of those books. I have so many thoughts and feelings about this book, but I feel like I lack the words to adequately explain any of them.

Let’s start with this: Blood Scion does not pull punches. It is an emotional and graphic read, pulling readers into the deep end and forcing us to ride along in Sloan’s life. It’s heavy, wondrous, and powerful all in one.

The characters are complex, the story compelling, and the twists shocking; this is a book that all fantasy lovers need to read. Seriously, go out and buy the book! If you can manage it, the OwlCrate version is stunning.

Oh, I forgot to mention the world-building. Shocking – I know. This is generally my favorite part about any fantasy novel, and Blood Scion did not disappoint. It’s so rich and detailed. Even though we spent a whole book exploring the world, I feel like it is merely the tip of the iceberg. I cannot wait to see more.

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Review: Heat Wave by T.J. Klune

Series: The Extraordinaries #3
Author: T.J. Klune
Publisher: Tor Teen
Released: July 19, 2022
Received: Own

3 1/2 kitties

Heat Wave is the third and final novel in T.J. Klune’s The Extraordinaries series. If you wandered across this story after finding (and falling in love with) The House in the Cerulean Sea, then you better prepare yourself because this is a totally different beast. T.J. Klune is the master at changing voices.

Nick is finally the extraordinary he had always dreamed of being. Better yet, he has his boyfriend, best friends, and family at his side, helping him keep the city safe. Yet there’s a new darkness looming over the city, as always seems to be the case for heroes.

While fighting to protect the city, Nick can’t help but feel like he’s missing something. Only time will reveal what it is that he’s been overlooking.

“Silence, only interrupted by Seth banging his head against the nearest wall over and over, each hit punctuated by the word why.”

Back into the fray! I’ve been looking forward to Heat Wave, though admittedly, I slightly dread having to say goodbye to this series. Especially Miss Conduct, she’s my favorite and I’m not really to let go.

Nick has got to be the happiest and most cheerful hero I have ever seen, and I’m a fan of MHA (though I do think Lumillion would give Nick a run for his money). It’s endearing. His character makes for an interesting foundation, as the world and story revolve around him.

It didn’t take long to fall in love with Nick’s quirky personality and explosive nature. The past two novels were a delight, making it easy to look forward to the events of Heat Wave. Unfortunately, I think I may have made the mistake of letting myself get a bit over-hyped.

I’m not going to say that Heat Wave was bad – it wasn’t. But I don’t think it was as strong as the first two novels. It almost felt like something was missing, though I couldn’t tell you what for the life of me.

Still, it’s a fun and fast hero read with solid characters. This series has never been afraid to touch upon current topics to make a point, and I respect that so much. This fictional world has grown with its audience, which can sometimes feel like an impossible task. So let’s give some credit where credit is due.

As for the main plot, I can’t say too much about that. Even a light description would risk spoiling a significant reveal – though I think readers will feel it coming long before it happens. I would be curious to see what everything else thought about this twist. Feel free to reach out!

Long story short, Heat Wave was still a good read, but now the mind-blowing read I had come to expect from this series.

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Review: Kaikeyi by Vaishnavi Patel

Author: Vaishnavi Patel
Publisher: Redhook
Released: April 26, 2022
Received: Own (BOTM)
Warnings: Controlling, misogyny, abuse, assault, animal death

4 kitties

Who else has been craving more mythological retellings? I know I have. That’s why I absolutely had to snag Kaikeyi when I saw it available on BOTM. Written by Vaishnavi Patel, Kaikeyi is a captivating fantasy tale worth diving into.

Kaikeyi was born the only daughter of a ruler of Kakaya. At a young age, she witnessed her mother’s banishment, and she took this lesson to heart. Do not trust others, especially men, to arrange her well-being and fate.

In a move of desperation and loneliness, Kaikeyi delves into the texts that her mother left behind. These texts help Kaikeyi understand the magic that flows within her veins – the magic that gives her the ability to influence those around her. These abilities will eventually shape Kaikeyi’s life, though perhaps not in the ways she could have ever anticipated.

“I was born on the full moon under an auspicious constellation, the holiest of positions—much good it did me.”

Wow. Kaikeyi was such a compelling read. It hits home on many points, especially the treatment of women and how wars can ruin lives and families. Vaishnavi Patel did an absolutely wonderful job of capturing these very human elements.

This is an impressive feat, given that the characters often felt larger than life. Kaikeyi seemed to take on the world, tackling the challenges and issues that so many had overlooked. It was beautiful and powerful to see, even if things didn’t go as she hoped or planned.

I don’t know enough about anything that Kaikeyi is based upon, and I wish that were different. I can tell you that Vaishnavi Patel did so much research prepping for this novel – much of the preparation is listed at the back of the book. I love it when authors do this. It provides insight into just how much work went into the novel, even before the writing process began.

Part of me was so sad when Kaikeyi. I wasn’t ready to say goodbye to the characters or the story, even though it did feel like the natural conclusion to the tale. I’m looking forward to seeing whatever Vaishnavi Patel has to write next, and know that I’ll be reading it.

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Review: Woman Last Seen by Adele Parks

Author: Adele Parks
Publisher: MIRA
Released: February 1, 2022
Received: NetGalley

3 1/2 kitties

Woman Last Seen is the latest novel written by Adele Parks, a thriller author I generally really enjoy. Truth be told, I expected Woman Last Seen to come up in the latest BOTM round of choices. Guess I was wrong on that front!

Two women disappear without warning. Did they leave of their own volition, or were they taken? That is up to Detective Clements to uncover. The first woman, Leigh Fletcher, was supposedly happily married and a good stepmother. The second, Kai Janssen, married a man and then disappeared in the same week.

Neither woman appear to have left much evidence behind, though both husbands are grieving at the loss. They have no idea where the women went and can’t understand what has happened. Are they connected? Or is it a horrible coincidence?

“I think that’s the hardest lesson I have had to learn as a parent; no matter how much I try, I am not able to guarantee my sons’ happiness and success.”

Woman Last Seen is another solid thriller/mystery novel by Adele Parks. I wouldn’t go so far as to say it was my favorite – but it was enjoyable. It has a lot of classic thriller vibes and tropes, which can be fun.

Naturally, the most significant plot of Woman Last Seen revolves around the two women who disappeared without a trace. If you love sleuthing your way through a missing-person novel, then this is arguably going to be an enjoyable experience for you.

I’ll admit that the first third of this book (give or take) is a bit on the slow side. Thankfully, when things do pick up, they do so quickly. The transition is borderline jarring, but it wasn’t off-putting. And it came just in time to make readers become reinvested in the story.

Woman Last Seen was a dark, gripping, and easily binged book. Sometimes those are the best types of thrillers, at least as far as I am concerned.

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

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Review: A Wizard’s Guide to Defensive Baking by T. Kingfisher

Author: T. Kingfisher
Publisher: Argyll Productions
Released: July 21, 2020
Received: Library
Warnings: Animal death

4 1/2 kitties

A couple of months ago, I read my first novel by T. Kingfisher (Nettle & Bone, for those that are curious). I was instantly hooked. From that moment, I promised myself to try and snag the rest of her books, and thankfully my local library is willing to work with me on that count! First up on the list, we have A Wizard’s Guide to Defensive Baking, which is a delightful name. I can tell you that I enjoyed the book just as much as the title.

This is a world where magic exists, but no two magics are alike. One person may be able to bend water to their will, while the other can communicate with birds. It’s very individualized magic, with no instructors available to help those master their gifts.

Enter Mona. Her magic is bread. No, really – she can work with any dough, encouraging it to be fluffy or not burn. Her specialty is sourdough. Given Mona’s gifts, she never thought the city’s fate would rest in her hands. Yet her expectations are about to change.

“You expect heroes to survive terrible things. If you give them a medal, then you don’t ever have to ask why the terrible thing happened in the first place. Or try to fix it.”

Oh wow! A Wizard’s Guide to Defensive was such a delight to read! It’s endearing, emotional, and has more than its fair share of humor. But that description doesn’t do this book justice. It is profoundly moving, portraying the complexity of human nature, especially regarding war, trauma, and otherness.

It was easy for me to become enchanted with this book. Mona and her abilities are unique, and while there were familiar parts to her story (mainly the battle revolving around magic), it feels different in this context.

There are times when A Wizard’s Guide to Defensive hits hard, and then there are times when I could do nothing but giggle. There are dozens of quotes worthy of remembrance from this book – it’s that good.

I love the way T. Kingfisher (which is a pseudonym, I know) looks at the world and creates something new and exciting. Her take on magic is unlike anything I’ve seen before, and I have to admit it was a lot of fun to read.

This is the second novel I’ve read by T. Kingfisher, and I am blown away by how different the two are from each other. And yet, both are fantastic, just in their own unique ways. I can’t wait to choose my next read!

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Review: A Mirror Mended by Alix E. Harrow

Series: Fractured Fables #2
Author: Alix E. Harrow
Publisher: Tor.com
Released: June 14, 2022
Received: NetGalley/Own
Warnings: Terminal illness

A Mirror Mended is the second novella in Alix E. Harrow’s Fractured Fables series, and once again, I am utterly enchanted. What I wouldn’t give for a million more books in this series.

Zinnia Gray has spent all her life knowing she will die. Having a rare but fatal illness does that to a person. As a child, she found herself connected to the tale of Sleeping Beauty. As an adult, she suddenly found herself gallivanting around different tale renditions, saving damsels and running from her future.

Unfortunately, you can only run from your past for so long. Perhaps that is why Zinnia found herself in a series of worlds that didn’t belong to her. One that almost always portrays an Evil Queen (capitalization required) and a princess on the run.

“In Sleeping Beauty stories, I’ve come to recognize certain moments-tropes, you might call them, repeated plot points-that have an echo to them. Pieces of the story that have been told so many times they’ve worn the page thin: the christening curse, the pricked finger, the endless sleep, the kiss. You can almost feel reality softening around you, at those times.”

Can we just talk about how much fun A Mirror Mended was to read?! I loved it, I loved it so much. Zinnia’s character is stubborn and bold, unafraid to jump into worlds unknown (literally) – especially if it lets her run away from her fate.

Okay, this admittedly gives the story a rather somber foundation. But it works. It puts Zinnia in a position to sympathize with those who feel they have no control over their lives. In an attempt to gain control in some aspects of her life, Zinnia instead focuses on helping others.

This can sometimes be chaotic since Zinnia doesn’t always bother to think things through. She leaps headfirst into trouble, assuming that her (somewhat exhausted and estranged) best friend will find a way to save the day should the need arise.

I think I’m babbling a little bit here. As the sequel in the series, A Mirror Mended does two essential things. First, it transports Zinnia (and us) into a different fairy tale (Snow White, in case that wasn’t clear). Second, it starts giving consequences to Zinnia’s running around the multiverse.

Having consequences always make a world feel more sustainable. In this case, it also forces a fair bit of character development. I’m not saying that Zinnia needed to grow up…but don’t we all? I think Alix E. Harrow perfectly captured all of this, cramming it into one concise novella.

On a different note, the romantic subplot (or is it the main plot? Zinnia did a great job making that unclear) was pretty beautiful. Yes, there’s a trope thrown into the mix, but there’s a certain level of self-awareness about that whole fact. I think that made me like it more.

My one issue/regret with this series? I can’t tell if A Mirror Mended is the end or not. It feels like a conclusion to the series, but that thought breaks my heart. I want a million more. Perhaps things merely look wrapped up, with the ability to happily carry on should Alix E. Harrow find the time/inspiration? One can hope.

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

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Review: Together We Burn by Isabel Ibañez

Author: Isabel Ibañez
Publisher: Wednesday Books
Released: May 31, 2022
Received: NetGalley

3 1/2 kitties

Together We Burn is the latest novel by Isabel Ibañez, and it’s a young adult fantasy tale full of dragons, romance, and more. Bonus points: my latest OwlCrate box included a beautiful version of this book.

Zarela Zalvidar is an eighteen-year-old flamenco dancer, yet her fame pales in comparison to her father’s fame. He’s the famous Dragonador in Hispalia, and someday Zarela wants to inherit his arena and take over.

Unfortunately, things don’t go quite as planned. A disaster forces Zarela to step up, protecting the beloved arena from those who would see it taken and permanently altered.

“Dragonfighting is a three-thousand-year-old Hispalian tradition. It’s an art form and part of who we are and integral to our culture. Dragonadores are artists. My father is an artist.”

You guys know that I can’t resist a good dragon story. Better yet, Together We Burn is a dragon RIDING story. Yes, please! You can imagine my excitement upon reading that description. Throw in a tale of romance, danger, and intrigue? I’m sold.

However, I feel compelled to say that this wasn’t quite the story I expected (or hoped) it would be. It’s still a decent read, with many fantastic plot points. But something never really clicked in my head. Maybe I just had too many high expectations for it? I can’t say. I can say that I struggled to stay connected to the story, characters included. You’d think it would have been easy, given the circumstances, but unfortunately not.

On the bright side, there’s a lot woven into this single story. We’re talking dragons, hidden danger, a quest to protect the family legacy, and romance. It means that there will be something for everyone, which is always so much fun.

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

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Review: Daisy Darker by Alice Feeney

Author: Alice Feeney
Publisher: Flatiron Books
Released: August 30, 2022
Received: Own (BOTM)
Warnings: Emotionally distant and verbally abusive family

4 1/2 kitties

Daisy Darker was one of my six choices for August BOTM (side note: did you know that you can have more than one BOTM account? It’s amazing!). As a huge fan of Alice Feeney’s, I couldn’t pass this one up!

Daisy Darker didn’t have what most people would call an ideal childhood. She spent much of her life sick and feeling like she was broken due to her illness. It left her estranged from the rest of the family, not that they had the best of relationships, to begin with.

Now, years later, the family is once again gathering. It’s Nana’s 80th birthday party, and she wants everyone there. Nana always believed she wouldn’t live past her 80th year, but her family didn’t believe her -until they found her body. That’s when everything kicks off.

“Don’t spend all of your ambition on other people’s dreams.”

Oh wow, Daisy Darker was such an intense read! Though I should probably mention that people hoping to read about a happy family should look elsewhere because the Darker family is anything but.

The whole story is told from Daisy’s perspective. She’s a sweet woman who clearly wants her family to work things out, though nobody else seems willing to extend her the same courtesy. It’s heartbreaking to see, especially as the story continues.

The family drama is pretty on point, all things considered. It makes the perfect foundation for a murder mystery. The Darker family is so much that it’s hard to feel bad as things go south (with a couple of exceptions, of course).

There are two clear and significant influences on Daisy Darker. The first is And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie. The second one I can’t reveal because it would ruin the end. But trust me, once you get to that twist, there will be no doubt in your mind which influence I’m referring to here.

Long story short, Daisy Darker blew me away, and I loved every minute of it. This is a thriller that I would love to see on the big screen someday. Please?

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