Review: Barnhill by Norman Bissell

Barnhill: A Novel
Author: Norman Bissell
Publisher: Luath Press
Released: May 6, 2019
Received: NetGalley

4 kitties

Are you more than a little bit obsessed with George Orwell’s 1984? Well then, you’re going to enjoy reading Barnhill: A Novel.

Norman Bissell’s novel takes place at Barnhill – the location that George Orwell (Eric Arthur Blair) famously tucked himself away in – and the birthplace of 1984. Essentially, Barnhill is a dramatization of George Orwell’s time there and the creation of a novel that will always resonate with its readers.


Like me, you might be wondering where Barnhill is actually located. Barnhill is on the Isle of Jura, Scotland. If you look up the photos, it looks appropriately isolated but also oddly striking and comforting. I can see why an author would seek peace and solitude here.

Maybe it’s because I don’t read too many historical fiction novels (at least not without a fantasy twist – what can I say, I have a preference), but I’m struggling to find words to describe this novel.

It’s informative and interesting, much like a biography or autobiography. I’d recommend it for fans of the author, though perhaps those that already know every detail of his life would be annoyed by this portrayal. I’m not sure.

Overall, I enjoyed Barnhill and what I was able to glean from its telling. Though it does make me want to reread 1984, something I’ve been craving anyway.

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

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Review: Ignite the Fire: Incendiary by Karen Chance

Series: Cassandra Palmer #11
Author: Karen Chance
Publisher: Indie
Released: September 9th, 2021
Received: Own
Warnings: Mentions of assault, mind control, bleeding

4 1/2 kitties

Fans of Karen Chance were undoubtedly thrilled to see the latest installment of her beloved Cassandra Palmer series drop. Ignite the Fire: Incendiary is the eleventh book in the series and a two-parter. You better believe I’m anxiously awaiting that second part (Inferno, for those curious).

Cassie Palmer has never lived a normal life. She grew up in the company of vampires, fell in love with a mage, and is now Pythia. Being Pythia comes with an abundance of responsibilities and power. Naturally, it also comes with a fair share of danger.

While juggling the many aspects that come with her job (including handling a multi-faceted war), Cassie is doing her best to keep a promise to a friend. This involved jumping back in time, all in the hopes of finding Mircea’s lost wife. Will she succeed, or will other magical beings endeavor to get in the way?

“What you have done is to open a door to potentially changing yourself, or even worse, the Pythian power.”

Ahh! I can’t believe it! As a massive fan of Karen Chance, I’ll confess that I stayed up way too late reading Ignite the Fire: Incendiary when it was released. Then I reread it. Somehow in that process of freaking out and rereading, I forgot to write my review. Oops! Time to fix that.

First, can I just say that I love that Ignite the Fire was such a vast beast that Karen Chance had to split it into two novels? Amazing. I can’t wait to see what the second half of this novel looks like because the first half is huge!

As per usual, I loved the choreographed chaos that unfolds throughout a Cassandra Palmer novel. There’s always so much going on and so little time to deal with it all (ironic, given her title and abilities).

And man is there a lot going on here. Not only are there half a dozen dramatic threads already flying every which way, but then Chance added a few more. You know, for good measure! As if a war (several wars?) wasn’t enough, there’s also vampire/mage/fae politics, internal politics, family dynamics/drama, personal issues, and friends in need of help or a bit of time with Cassie. As I said, it’s a lot. But I love it.

I do feel like there was more chaos and action in this novel than in the previous couple, but maybe that is just me. Perhaps I need to go back and read the entire series again…(I swear I’m not looking for an excuse to do that). One thing I can tell you: I’m already so badly looking forward to the release of Ignite the Fire: Inferno. I don’t quite know when that will be released, but I’m hoping we’ll get enough notice so that I can once again plan to stay up too late reading it.

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Review: A History of Wild Places by Shea Ernshaw

Author: Shea Ernshaw
Publisher: Atria Books
Released: December 7, 2021
Received: Own (BOTM)
Warnings: Controlling behavior, missing person

4 kitties

A History of Wild Places caught my attention because it promised to be this interesting blend of fantasy, thriller, and suspense. As this is a magical combination I am always looking for, I knew I had to give Shea Ernshaw’s writing a chance.

Travis Wren is good at finding people. His talent goes beyond being ordinary and into extraordinary – and supernatural. He’s been set on the trail of Maggie St. James, though whether or not he found her is anyone’s guess, as he too went missing.

Travis went missing near a place called Pastoral, and it is here that the rest of the story takes place. This is a quiet community that fears the outside world to an excessive degree. It makes one wonder what they had to do with the now multiple cases of missing people.

“Silence can hold a thousand untold stories.”

A History of Wild Places is both everything and nothing like what I expected. I feel like I’ve been saying that a lot lately, but it’s true! I wasn’t sure if I should be expecting more fantasy than thriller, or vice versa. What I got was…unexpected. But it worked so well with the story at hand.

What surprised me is that there is a bit of a horror undertone in the mix. It’s precisely what this story needed. I wouldn’t have said no to a bit of bit more horror. That being said, the balance was delicate as it was, primarily as readers work through all the truths, half-truths, and lies that weave in and out of this little community.

I’ll confess that I like Travis’ story, so when it suddenly switched over to Theo and Calla, I was more than a little disappointed (even though I knew it was coming). As such, I sort of dug my heels in for a bit. Once I let go and let myself enjoy this new story, I found myself enjoying the unique plot and all of the implications that came with it.

Admittedly one of the elements that sucked me into this story would be Maggie St. James herself. Or rather, her stories. That part very much felt like something right out of The Hazel Wood. I almost expected a similar twist to happen because of it (no, I won’t say whether or not I was right – spoilers). Though obviously, it’s a bit more of an adult theme here.

All things considered, A History of Wild Places was a moody and compelling read, one that I thoroughly enjoyed. While unlikely, I wouldn’t mind reading a sequel along the same vein. Or at least another story about Travis and his talent.

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Blog Tour & Review: Crushing by Sophie Burrows

Author/Artist: Sophia Burrows
Publisher: Algonquin Young Readers
Released: January 11, 2022
Received: Blog Tour

Crushing is a lovely graphic novel written and illustrated by Sophie Burrows, and I personally feel so lucky to have already had the opportunity to read it. This story hits very close to home for many, and I look forward to seeing how well it does.

Crushing is the story of two people who feel very lonely in life. One is desperately searching for that special someone, while the other is too afraid to look or reach out. Together they go on similar yet very different journeys.

We’ve all felt alone before. This story so deeply speaks to that part of our soul; it’s almost unbearable. This feeling is enhanced by the carefully curated panels, which allow for almost no words. And yet there is a complete story unfolding on the pages. It’s evocative and utterly moving.

There were many parts of Sophie Burrows’ works that I loved here. The way she captured raw human emotion, combined with that eternal fear of being alone. The way she designed and portrayed her characters, and especially her choice of colors. It all works together so flawlessly, creating the perfect (haunting) experience.

Thanks to Algonquin Young Readers for making this book available for review. All opinions expressed are my own.

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Review: Battle of the Linguist Mages by Scotto Moore

Author: Scotto Moore
Publisher: Tor.com
Released: January 11, 2021
Received: NetGalley

3 kitties

Ready Player One meets fantasy in Scotto Moore’s Battle of the Linguist Mages. So if you loved the vibes of that novel, but wanted to see it taken in a slightly different direction, then I would seriously consider checking this one out.

Isobel has become famous for her VR and gaming abilities. More specifically, she’s famous for playing Sparkle Dungeon. In this game, one has to master vocal spells in order to succeed and master them she has.

Unfortunately, this fame has made Isobel a target of sorts – and not for the reasons you might expect. She’s about to find herself knee-deep in a real fight to protect the planet. Who could have seen that coming?

I went into Battle of the Linguist Mages with high hopes. I fully expected (and hoped) to be blown off my feet. And while I did enjoy the read, I can’t pretend that it was my favorite. Still, I don’t regret reading it.

I loved the premise of Battle of the Linguist Mages but felt that it fell short in the character development department. It was a fight to care about Isobel and everything she was working so hard towards…which is a shame, because again – I wanted to like it all.

Otherwise, I did enjoy the story. I love how creative the world is and all of the events that were thrown in our direction. I wasn’t expecting too many surprises, but I was wrong there! That kept the novel interesting enough for me to happily read through to the end.

I’m not going to lie; there were times where Sparkle Dungeon and its descriptions had me cracking up. The idea of it all was too vivid in my mind for me to easily let go of, and that gave me a lot of amusement. So thank you, Scotto Moore, for putting a smile on this face.

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

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Review: The Justice in Revenge by Ryan Van Loan

Series: The Fall of the Gods #2
Author: Ryan Van Loan
Publisher: Tor Books
Released: July 13, 2021
Received: NetGalley

3 kitties

The Justice in Revenge is the second (and final) novel in Ryan Van Loan’s The Fall of the Gods series. It’s also a novel that I’ve been really looking forward to, as I adored The Sin in the Steel.

Buc and Eld return with more politics, adventures, and dangers than ever before. Yes, they succeeded in their last mission, but that doesn’t mean their story is over, far from it. In fact, thanks to a new entity residing within Buc, there are more complications than ever.

Not to mention Buc’s determination to destroy the Kanados Trading Company from within. That takes careful planning – and work. Something neither Eld nor Buc will shy away from. However, they are unprepared for the challenges that lie ahead.

“Now I swam in a sea of boardroom intrigue and backdoor politics that continually took me by surprise: the drowning waves. I’d no intention of slipping under, but isn’t that what everyone believes?”

It’s no secret that I had been counting down the days to The Justice in Revenge. I enjoyed The Sin in the Steel, and yet I had so many questions about what was going to happen next. Including what was going on within Buc herself.

While I did get those answers (mostly), I’m not going to pretend that I loved this novel as much as I had hoped. Sure, it was entertaining and interesting at times. But there were other times where I sincerely did consider putting the book down, at least for a little while.

The angst between Buc and Eld really got to me at points, making it difficult to read and even harder to want to invest in anything that they were doing. This is unfortunate because I still love the whole ‘take the evil company down from the inside out’ plot. It’s an old one, but it is always fun.

All of those complaints aside, the ending somehow managed to crush me. That’s the reward I get for reading to the end. Conclusions always get me, so I know I’m probably reacting a little stronger than normal. And yet, I didn’t see this finale coming. It somehow feels right and yet very wrong at the same time.

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 6

The Ailing Soldier in Black Widow: Bad Blood Episode 6

Natasha Romanoff is a hero who has seen it all and had the confidence to keep going forward. In Black Widow: Bad Blood Episode 6, Natasha faces a whole new sort of enemy. Her past is catching up to her, and she’s not the only one on the hunt.

Last we saw, Natasha had finally tracked down a potential lead for what has been done, as well as an ally (or at least a fellow target). Only, things haven’t quite turned out how she planned, and the whole situation sent her down memory lane—a less than pleasant experience when you have baggage like the Widow’s.

Black Widow: Bad Blood is part of an ongoing series on Serial Box (now Realm). It’s the second Marvel series to hit the platform, and it is currently updating every week. Soon, it won’t be the only series actively updating either.

Uncertainty Made Her Uncomfortable

Mikki Kendall continues her foray into Romanoff’s story in Black Widow: Bad Blood Episode 6. You would think that half the danger would end once she managed to find somebody to team up with. But you’d be wrong.

The story is getting more complicated rather than less, with too many possibilities and even more questions left to be answered. The condition of her ally is really only adding to the concern when you think about it.

I love the rising tension of this series. Not only have they perfectly captured Black Widow’s voice, but they’ve turned her series into something that feels both like a Marvel series and a spy serial. It’s absolute perfection.

The details woven throughout the narrative have helped establish the world that Natasha is working in. References to S.H.I.E.L.D., Fury, and other potential allies (or complications, as the case may be). None of them offer an easy solution to the problem at hand.

Narration

Sarah Natochenny is still at the helm of this harrowing adventure of Natasha’s, with ‘A Trap with a View’ taking a darker turn for the season. Natochenny really has perfectly captured the tone and voice of Natasha, as well as those around her.

There were a lot of subtleties to enjoy in Black Widow: Bad Blood Episode 6. The minor details and sounds are woven into the narrative, the inflections Natochenny included in her speaking. All of it combined together to create a brilliant experience.

Honestly, the more I listen to this series, the more eager I become to get my hands on the next episode. This has easily been a thrilling experience all around and is proof that Marvel series will do well on this platform.

Conclusion

Black Widow: Bad Blood Episode 6 felt like such a short episode, but realistically that was only because I found myself really enjoying it. Okay, the conclusion admittedly made me want to continue as well, but if you’re following along with the story, you know exactly why I feel that way.

I sincerely enjoy this series so much, not only because Natasha’s world fits nicely into the Serial Box platform. They’re doing justice to her character as well. It’s making me even more excited for the Jessica Jones series, which is due to lunch this Thursday (keep your eyes open for those reviews).

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: No Sooner Met by Seanan McGuire

Illustration -Old locomotive at night seeing moon and smoke

Series: October Daye #6.2
Author: Seanan McGuire
Released: January 7th, 2015
Received: Online

4 1/2 kitties

You can read this short HERE.

No Sooner Met is set after the events of Ashes of Honor, and trust me – you’ll want to read this one in order. Or if you’re like me, much later. My point is, don’t read it before book six! There will be spoilers. Consider yourself warned.

First dates are almost always memorable. I imagine this is doubly true when they involve the King of Cats and October Daye – a woman especially talented for getting herself drenched in blood (her own) on a regular basis.

“How the very nature of October would change each of the essential steps, transforming a time-honored tradition into something strange and new and potentially hazardous to my health.”

For all the Tybalt fans in the room – don’t skip this short story. It is so sweet and endearing, and it truly does offer a window into the relationship these two have formed. I may be biased here (Tybalt is my favorite character in the series), but both their relationship and this story are absolute delights.

I think the thing I love the most about this short (other than the shockingly cute nature of it all) is how it so perfectly captures both character’s standout personalities. This is important to highlight, as they are both so different and yet are trying so hard to make it work.

I’m so happy to finally be taking some time to read through all of Seanan McGuire’s October Daye shorts. Yes, I know there is a virtual ton of them. I’ll get there! Each story is a window into this world, and I can’t wait to find them all.

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Review: All of Us Villains by Amanda Foody and Christine Lynn Herman

Authors: Amanda Foody and Christine Lynn Herman
Publisher: Tor Teen
Released: November 9, 2021
Received: NetGalley
Warnings: Abuse (emotional and physical), gore

4 1/2 kitties

It’s here! The novel we have all been waiting for (read: the novel that I have been waiting for!). Amanda Foody and Christine Lynn Herman have teamed up to create a new fantasy series for fans, and it all starts with All of Us Villains.

Unbeknownst to many, there is magick in our world. However, the strongest magic is hoarded by seven magickal families. Every generation they come together for a bloody tournament to decide who will wield the most power.

This year it is time for another Blood Moon, which means there are seven new contestants on the line. Traditionally this has always been a battle to the death, with the sole victor deciding the win for their family. However, these contestants don’t seem content to follow the rules.

“But that was what this alliance led up to. Not a kiss stolen in the dark, or a priceless gift given without being asked.
A duel.”

Wow. All of Us Villains really did manage to pack a punch, didn’t it? I can’t say I’m surprised, given that we have The Shadow Game and The Devouring Gray authors working together. I honestly think I loved everything about this novel.

Picture the Hunger Games with magic, family politics, and more personal grudges between the contestants. Now you have a solid idea of what is in store in All of Us Villains. I didn’t realize until now that I needed a magical version of The Hunger Games, but now I can’t live without it.

All of Us Villains is split into several perspectives, giving us a chance to know most contestants before the Tournament begins. Naturally, it also follows these perspectives as the battle wages, giving us a chance to see the blood and desperation they face.

“You want to know something funny?’ he asked. “In a choice between staying here or going home, I’d still choose here. With you.”

As with any split perspective novel, there are some characters that I immediately took to, while others I found myself stepping back and pondering. Together they make a complete whole, and I really enjoyed figuring out how the pieces were going to fall together.

The magical system in this world is brutal and dark, and I’m not ashamed to admit that I kind of love it. I also enjoyed the more modern twists, such as having paparazzi and the like. It was a bit surprising, but I think it made the story stronger on the whole.

However, that ending was straight-up mean. Am I really expected to wait a year (at least!) before finding out what happens next? Obviously, the answer is yes. But I’m going to be counting down the days for the release (and the book doesn’t even have a name yet, so it’s going to be a hot minute).

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

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Review: The Girl Before You by Nicola Rayner

Author: Nicola Rayner
Publisher: Avon
Released: May 27, 2019
Received: NetGalley

3 1/2 kitties

The Girl Before You is Nicola Rayner’s debut thriller novel, with psychological and crime elements. In short, it was more than enough to catch this reader’s attention!

For a time, Alice thought she had a perfect life. She’s happily married to a politician slash TV personality, and yet she can’t seem to get out of her own head. More accurately, she can’t stop obsessing over her husband’s past.

You see, before he settled down, her husband was known for being a bit of a ladies’ man. Alice can’t help but dig into the ladies that came before her, especially one in particular – the one who went missing.

I picked up The Girl Before You because it sounded exciting and fun. It also seemed to be oddly topical, which I appreciated. It added another layer to what was already promising to be a complex read.

The other reason The Girl Before You caught my eye is that it was favorably compared to My Lovely Wife. Now, while I did end up enjoying the book quite a bit, I personally would not have made that comparison.

The Girl Before You is told through multiple perspectives. I love it when thrillers do this. It spreads out the story, and when done right, it can build tension while still obfuscating the whole truth of what has happened.

On the whole, I think it was done pretty well here. The story starts in such a way as to immediately suck readers in, and from there, it’s one altering moment to another. It’s arguably not the best thriller that I’ve read – but I still enjoyed it and all of the surprises it brought with it.

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

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