Reviews

Storm Cursed

“This is our territory,” I said, giving him the words he needed. “We don’t allow black magic in our territory.” 

When Mercy Thompson declared the tri-cities protected territory of the Columbia Basin pack last year, she didn’t expect that duty to come calling so soon. Again. Only this time the threat might be closer to home.

Someone is working black magic in the tri-cities and they’re leaving quite a few bodies behind them while they do it. Mercy, Adam, and the rest of their family must find out who it is, and fast, before this violence breaks the fragile peace in their city, and the country too.

The eleventh addition to the Mercy Thompson series by Patricia Briggs dropped at the beginning of this month and it was a whirlwind. Literally.

Between the witches and goblins and miniature zombie goats, yes you read that correctly, there’s enough magic and chaos to go around in Storm Cursed.

I’ve been reading this series, and its companion series Alpha & Omega which shares a timeline, for years. Briggs has been amping up the stakes and the drama for many novels now and this one seemed to do the same. The big clash between the Fae and the United States has finally come to a lull and tense negotiations are about to begin when the trouble goes down for Mercy and friends. I would have loved for the book to have spent more time with that plot line, as I am still eager to know a lot more than we got to see this time, but the main plot is a terrifying group of witches trying to stop these talks. Overall, the story was pure and gripping fun to read.

One thing I’ve always loved about Briggs is the way she writes characters and that is where this book also shines. Her main characters are complex, tough, layered, and beyond relatable while also being a coyote shapeshifter and a werewolf. That’s a feat. I love spending time with Mercy and Adam and that they grow and change along with every story. Their relationship continues to be one of my favorite to follow throuought all of its various developments.

They’re joined by some of my favorite supporting characters and the books are well-known for the bedrock that they create in this world. I find it so fun and interesting that Briggs cycles carefully through her side characters when she assigns who will have a larger role in each book, because it creates something pretty wonderful. I never know who I’m going to get the privilege to hang out with in the next book until I get to read it and she always brings a new layer to a beloved character when they take the spotlight.

I loved seeing more of Stefan after the last few books and it was great to have Tad take a larger role in this one too. As always Zee was there to support his own, and Paul had a powerful moment as well that left me quite heartbroken. I can’t wait to find out more about Sherwood! Knowing Briggs, I’ll have to wait a few books to piece all of the connections of his fascinating backstory together, but that’s honestly half the fun.

I even loved spending time with the villains in this book. Specifically Wulfe, though he doesn’t play the central villain in this particular story. His unique brand of psychotic politeness and violence was a hilarious backdrop to some of the moments in this book. And yet again, Briggs has me wondering about all new questions to a character I thought that I’d known well for many books. I can’t wait to know more. The central villains themselves are the things of nightmares. Briggs has an unnatural ability to write visceral and disturbing moments that stay with you for a long time.

In addition, Storm Cursed is another great example of Briggs ability to tie in plot threads across her series. She’s a master at making the smallest connections between ideas that seem forgotten and then end up being important pieces of story.

My only complaint about Storm Cursed is that it was too short. In some ways, that’s just me complaining and I need to get over it. Patricia Briggs had a couple of very tough years personally and yet she still put out a great book and I loved it, I can’t say otherwise. At times though, I felt that the length also held moments back from what I thought they could have been at other times in her writing. It was as if the story rushed by me like a train, too fast to see all the wonderful, beautiful details that I know she spent time and effort crafting. If anything this complaint is a high compliment because this book could have been twice as long and still as good, but I would love to see her books grow a little longer as the series goes on.

Storm Cursed, despite my desire for more of it, was yet another solid addition to the Mercy Thompson series. I highly recommend it and will definitely be reading it again when I revisit this wonderful series.

“Coyote’s Daughter,” he said. “We shall sing them to the great death.”

Reviews

The Unhoneymooners

Luck, fate and determination – whatever it is, I’ll take it. I pull Ethan down to me, feeling the slippery slide of his tank top under my hands and my laugh echoing into our kiss.

When her sister’s wedding ends in widespread food poisoning, Olive gets sent off on the non-refundable honeymoon that her sister so meticulously planned. Only there’s a catch— her new brother-in-law has sent the Best Man, Ethan, in his place too. And Olive and Ethan do not get along.

What starts off as a test of endurance to enjoy her vacation without punching Ethan in the face, soon becomes something else. Forced to pretend they’re married in order to fool Olive’s boss, who they find at the same resort along with Ethan’s ex-girlfriend, both of them start to see a different side of the other. Soon they start to realize that maybe they aren’t pretending anymore, and that fate may have had more of a hand in their “honeymoon” than they thought.

It’s official! The Unhoneymooners by author duo Christina Lauren has ushered in the Summer of 2019.

This was the first time I’ve had the privilege of reading a Christina Lauren novel and I enjoyed every second of this delightful romantic comedy. It is warm, sexy, and written with a wicked sense of humor that had me smirking and cackling over and over again. And it’s now a NYTimes Bestseller!

The main characters in this book made it for me, they were each so funny and relatable, frustrating and flawed, and incredibly sweet together. At least when they weren’t tossing hilarious banter back and forth. The dialogue between them feels easy and real and I often found myself laughing or sighing contentedly at some special moment between them. Olive and Ethan may have started off hating each other but it was easy for me to fall in love with them.

Even the side characters were people I cared about and laughed with throughout the novel. Olive’s family is huge and loving and the way they take care of her was one of my favorite parts of the novel, as well as her relationship with her sister. 

I think what I loved most about this book was that, as sweet and romantic as it is, it still isn’t an easy, straight shot for Olive and Ethan from enemies to lovers. When their vacation ends, there’s a pretty big, emotional twist that immediately pops the happy love bubble they’ve built around them, for them and the reader. It was jarring, but I appreciated it. It felt real even though it was dramatized and, even though Ethan’s behavior at times had me grinding my teeth, I was ultimately glad that they learned they can survive a tough blow. Something about this addition to their love story was emotional and powerful, and added another layer of depth that I enjoyed. I felt so much for everyone in these scenes, and I still feel it hours after finishing.

Ultimately, this was the Summer read I was waiting for. I read this on a rainy day and I loved how it was written so that you could practically feel the warmth of the Hawaii sun on your skin. I felt like I was on the beach with them, warm and without a care in the world. The world that the authors create in the Unhoneymooners feels real and tangible, like a breath of fresh, ocean air.

I blew through this Summer read and wholeheartedly plan to read more Christina Lauren soon, they have joined the ranks of authors I adore. This is the perfect book to read near the beach, dreaming of your own Olive or Ethan. I hope you all enjoy it as much as I did.

“Ami watches her go. “She’s so brave.”

She doesn’t say it like its an epiphany; she just says it like its a face, something we’ve all always known about Olive, a core quality. And its true, of course, but these little truths, finally being spoken aloud, are tiny, perfect revelations, dropped like jewels in Olive’s palm.”

Book Blog Hop

Time to Hop!

One of the things I’ve been trying to do a lot of since starting this blog is check out other awesome book review blogs and get involved in some of the weekly challenges and prompts they use. There are so many options! What a fun community!

Today I’m going to be taking part in the Book Blogger Hop! This is currently active over at Ramblings of a Coffee Addicted Writer and bloggers all over the sphere get involved to answer the prompt, visit some of the other responses, and make new connections!

This week’s prompt was submitted by Elizabeth at Silver’s Review and she asked: “Do you continue with a book even if you aren’t liking it?”

And my answer is: Yeah, most of the time. It can be a bad habit and I’m trying to more comfortably DNF books that aren’t my cup of tea but it’s tough for me. I record and compete with myself over how many books I can read in a month or how many genres I can read in a month, etc. and not finishing a book can sometimes feel like wasting the hours I put into it. Then again, logically, you have to think that moving onto a new book that I would like would read faster and easier. Plus I’d just enjoy myself more. So this is definitely something I’m working on. Not finishing can be hard too! Haha

What about you?? Do you finish every book you read?

Friday Fun

Flashback Friday

Flashback Friday is a weekly tradition started over at Bookshelf Fantasies, focusing on showing some love for the older books in our lives and on our shelves. If you’d like to join in, just pick a book published at least five years ago, post your Flashback Friday pick on your blog, and let us all know about that special book from your reading past and why it matters to you. Don’t forget to link up!

What a fun idea! And I don’t know about you but I love to talk about my favorite books, no matter how old or new they are.

This week I’ll be featuring one of my favorite writers, Jim Butcher!

Storm Front is the first in Butcher’s Dresden Files series and I read it more than a decade ago, when I was in the 8th grade. Wow. Even typing that is crazy.

Storm Front, and The Dresden Files, follows Harry Dresden, Professional Wizard and PI, as he takes magical cases, finds lost objects, and fights the bad guys who would harm the people of Chicago. (He doesn’t do parties though, don’t ask.)

This gritty, urban fantasy was one of the first books I remember reading and loving that was written in a masterful first-person voice. Harry’s sarcastic wit, humor, and belief in his ideals color every line of dialogue and description and he is one of my favorite characters through which to look at the world. And he makes me laugh. In fact, I have laughed, cried, screamed, and thrown things in response to these books. We’ve been through a lot together.

The Dresden Files is 15 books long now, along with an additional novella and two collections of short stories, each one from a different characters POV. Butcher has grown so much since he wrote Storm Front, his debut novel, that his later books are impossible to put down. He is a master of suspense, twists, tricks, and pulling the wool over the readers’ eyes just enough so that they’re on the edge of their seat.

The most recent book in the series is called Skin Game and I highly recommend it to anyone who’s looking for a deep, complex urban fantasy series with characters you will never forget.

What old favorites have you been thinking about lately?

To join in the Flashback Friday fun:

  • Grab the Flashback Friday button
  • Post your own Flashback Friday entry on your blog (and mention Bookshelf Fantasies as the host of the meme, if you please!)
  • Leave your link in the comments below
  • Check out other FF posts… and discover some terrific hidden gems to add to your TBR piles!

Reviews

On the Come Up

“When I was little I used to stand in front of mirrors with hairbrushes and imagine crowds chanting my name. But I don’t think I could have ever imagined this feeling.”

On the Come Up follows sixteen-year-old Bri, who wants to be one of the Greatest Rappers of All Time, as she navigates a lot of tough issues in her own life and fights to follow her dreams.

Her late father, who was an underground rap sensation, left big shoes to fill and Bri isn’t sure that they fit her. Her mother, who tries so hard, just lost her job and can’t get food stamps without dropping out of school. Bri dreams of not only being able to make it big, but also to provide for her family.

After she’s persecuted at school by a security guard, Bri turns her fury into a song and gets the chance to put her truth into the world. What she finds is that not everyone in the world likes what you have to say, or that she’s the one saying it, and that they make decisions about who she is because of it. Between trying to battle the stereotypes being placed on her, the pressure to embrace a new image that doesn’t fit, and navigating her way through both good and horrible advice, Bri manages to still create something astounding: herself. (And some badass music.)

I already loved Angie Thomas from her debut novel THUG (The Hate You Give) and I only love her writing more now than I did before. On the Come Up is a new book, a different book, from its predecessor but a hit all the same. I loved so many things about On the Come Up that it’s hard to name them all.

Bri was such a relatable character and I loved her voice! She’s not the easiest to love, and I think that’s why I liked her so much. She’s human and authentic, especially for a teen. She’s moody, angry, and impulsive sometimes, but also loving, protective, and strong. She expresses herself without any apology and I both enjoyed reading her character and aspire to be more like that some days.

Another aspect of this book that I loved was how Thomas portrayed Bri’s family life. Her brother is an interesting and strong character for her to lean on, and Bri’s mother was an entirely empathetic character to me. I wanted her, and her family, to succeed so badly! Bri learns a lot about her mom throughout the book which I enjoyed watching unfold, especially with how human and real her discoveries were. She’s always known that her mom is a recovered addict and yet she starts to see that its a struggle her mother has to fight daily. She sees her mother give up her school when its the only way to qualify for food stamps and realizes just how many sacrifices she has made to take care of them. At the end they both see each other in a new and different light, and I loved watching that transformation through Bri’s eyes.

Like THUG, her debut novel, Thomas is able to speak to a lot of important truths in this book. I felt Bri’s pain and anger every time her family had to scrape for bills or her school security guards targeted black and latinx students or her aunt got arrested. But then again— Bri would probably hate that I just said all that. She suffers no pity or sympathy. She takes all of her fear and fury and love and channels into her music, which was a phenomenal piece of this beautiful story. I love how she turned to her music every time she needed to be heard. Bri’s rhymes are poetry and truth, and unapologetically herself.

Thomas’ examination of the double standards and various pitfalls for women, especially a young black woman, in the rap industry (and the world) also felt vital to this story. After Bri releases her song, she quickly finds out that people who don’t know her are making assumptions about her being dangerous and irreverent because of her age, lyrics, and skin color. She’s targeted by the Crowns (a local gang) and by the media who vilify her and her song. She goes on to release a video for the song, demonstrating that her lyrics about guns and rage against authority are in response to a personal persecution in a trend of persecution among people like her. She tries to make her message clear, but it only brings her more hate from outside. Thomas does a wonderful job of examining the hypocrisy of a white journalist arguing against rap being “unsafe for kids” because of lyrics about guns and violence, without trying to understand or support the communities in which there are actual children who need that safety. It felt important that Thomas wrote about Bri’s struggles to say certain things in her lyrics that are never questioned when men are rapping, but questioned for her all the time. It felt important that Thomas, and Bri, used this platform to not just talk about important issues but to express how these struggles made them feel and celebrate the people who fight them every day.

On the Come Up was insightful, full of heart, and unafraid. It’s a wonderful story about a girl so many of us can relate to fighting hard to follow her dreams even when the odds are against her. It’s a story about how freedom of speech is not always free, depending on who you are. It’s a story about music and how it can connect us to new and deeper parts of ourselves. It’s a story about family and love and community. And most of all it is an ode, a love letter, to hip hop. I enjoyed every word.

Gift. One word, one syllable. I don’t know if it rhymes with anything because it’s a word I never thought could be used when it comes to me.

WWW

It’s “What are you reading?” Wednesday!

I’ve seen a lot of bookish memes and list ideas here on the book-blogging circuit, and I wish I could do all of them! One of my favorites has been a trend of bloggers posting their current reads on Wednesdays!

This week I’ll be taking inspiration from Taking On a World of Words, and trying out their “WWW Wednesday!”

The Three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

What I’m reading now:

Right now I’m reading two books that were recommended to me by friends who love them!

I’ve only just started Half Bad, but I’m already really enjoying it. The main characters nameless almost wordless first hand experiences are gritty and compelling. The lack of information so far, only circumstances and clues, makes me want to know exactly how he got into this mess and what this world and his captors are like. I can’t wait to read more!

And I Darken has been so good, and I am almost finished with it. I have loved reading a royal court story of intrigue that is set in the Ottoman Empire! I’ve never read anything quite like that, and I feel like it gives it such a unique twist, and all sorts of fresh pockets to explore. The MC is harsh and difficult but also determined and strong, and the complex relationship with her brother is fascinating to me. I look forward to letting you guys know what I think when I finish!

I know these two came out a few years ago, what did you think of them?

What I’ve recently finished:

A lot! Or at least it feels like a lot! May has been a great reading month so far.

I most recently finished On the Come Up by Angie Thomas and I was in love. Look for the review of this book appearing on my blog soon. I loved the MC Bri and watching her fight for her dreams, as well as struggle to know what to do with them when she found herself on that very road. I loved her songs, I loved her passion, I loved that she was difficult and unapologetic. Angie Thomas definitely has done it again with this wonder.

Truly Devious was so much fun to read! I buddy-read this one with fellow blogger and friend Elizabeth from This is Lit (check our their podcast! It’s great), and we had an excellent time. She’s already tweeted about her love for this book, but look forward to a review on my blog shortly! What a fun mystery, a great and competent MC, and an all-around good time. Can’t wait to read the sequel soon!

I waited so long for Storm Cursed by Patricia Briggs! I’ve been reading her series (both set in the Mercy Thompson world) for almost ten years now. Briggs is one of those authors that I don’t even read the synopsis before buying, and I wasn’t disappointed. Her books have gotten a little shorter but no less entertaining over the years, and I’ll always love going back to visit Mercy and Adam and all of their pack. Will continue reading this series until I die, probably.

What I plan to read next:

I am SO EXCITED to read Kingsbane!

Claire Legrand dropped this sequel to Furyborn only a few days ago and my pre-order arrived this morning. I’ll be starting on this probably sometime tonight or tomorrow and I can’t wait to find out what’s in store next for Rielle, Eliana, and their colorful crew. Especially after that reveal near the end of Furyborn! Very much looking forward to enjoying and reviewing this book.

What are you reading this week? What are you excited about? Tell me in the comments and have a great reading week!