Category Archives: Female

Villainous by Kristen Brand

Black Valentine and White Knight are back in the sequel to Hero Status! After the events of the first book, Dave (White Knight) is dealing with the repercussions of his actions. If she wants to keep him out of jail, Valentina has to play nice with the feds and track down some nasty narcotics.

I received an ARC or review copy of this book from the author/publisher. All opinions are my own.

Title: Villainous
Author: Kristen Brand
Series: White Knight/Black Valentine Book 2
Publish Date: September 28, 2015
Genre: Fantasy
Source: Received for review from author

Publisher’s Description: Valentina Belmonte isn’t evil anymore—honest. She’s hung up her supervillain costume, retired to Florida with her family, and hasn’t committed a crime in years. (Well, not a felony. What’s a misdemeanor here and there if you don’t get caught?) This time, she’s not the one in trouble with the law—her goody-two-shoes, former superhero of a husband is.

He saved her life two months ago but committed a spectacular amount of assault and property damage along the way. The feds plan to press charges…unless Val does something for them in exchange. Apparently, an old friend of hers is importing a deadly drug that gives people temporary psychic powers. The feds want to send in Val with a wire to get evidence to bring him down. Sounds simple enough, but things turn deadly fast, and Val finds herself up against another supervillain—one who can out-play her at her own game.

Val’s worried she’s gone soft since retirement, but if she doesn’t get the feds the evidence they need, her husband will end up rotting in one of the most hellish prisons in the country…


Kat Mandu says…

This series is super full of action and I love it! It blends a lot of genres. It’s not just cool villain versus superhero fight scenes, it’s also got a touch of romance, mystery, and humor. Plus the characters are relatable to real life despite its fantasy appeal.

Valentina is sexy and hardcore and ready to take on anything if it means getting her husband a get out of jail free card. She makes a deal to track down a shipment of a drug called “psyche” and its seller, but discovers her own sister and her twisted arch-nemesis, Dr. Sweet, may be behind its trafficking. As she tracks down clues and skirts dangers thrown at her at every corner, she’s gotta use her telepathic abilities and sheer force of will (which is a lot, for the record) to save the day.

This series is growing to be one of my favorites in the superhero genre. It’s the little tidbits of information about the characters, plus the awesome flashback scenes, that really make it for me. Valentina and Dave are awesome on their own, but even cooler together. I’m very eager to see where the next book, Almost Invincible, whisks me off to on their adventures.

But don’t just stop there – check out Hero Status and her episodic online, all of which you can find on her home site. https://kristenbrand.com/web-fiction/ – I really recommend this fun, crime-fighting (or in some cases, crime-loving) series.

Other recommendations…

…you might try other badass superhero books from Lexi Dunne, Jennifer Estep, and Bethany Frenette.

I received an ARC or review copy of this book from the author/publisher. All opinions are my own.

Dealing With Dragons by Patricia Wrede

Cimorene longs to be more than just the ordinary princess – so when she runs away from her kingdom and volunteers to be a dragon’s “captive” princess, all new adventures unfold.

 

Title: Dealing With Dragons
Author: Patricia Wrede
Series: Enchanted Forrest Chronicles Book 1
Publish Date:  November 1st 2002
Genre: Middle Grade
Cover:  Peter de Sève
Source: Purchased

 

Publisher’s Description: Cimorene is everything a princess is not supposed to be: headstrong, tomboyish, smart – and bored. So bored that she runs away to live with a dragon – and finds the family and excitement she’s been looking for.


Kat Mandu says…

I used to read this series a lot when I was growing up and like Harry Potter, it still calls to me no matter what age I am. This isn’t your typical middle-grade story, though sometimes it reads like one. Cimorene is technically a teenage princess, she even has that streak of defiance in her that often leads her into trouble – but she embraces it. However, this reads so different from books today that I find its simplicity and innocence the best part about it.

Cimorene sneaks off from her family’s kingdom and discovers a group of dragons. She offers her services – cooking and cleaning mostly – to one of them and finds a companion in Kazul, a female dragon with a feisty spirit. As the two become friends and Cimorene becomes accustomed to her new home, she meets a couple new friends, including another princess named Alianora, a witch named Morwen, and a stone prince who had an unlucky adventure himself and is now looking to redeem himself.

But she also uncovers a plot between the wizards and a shifty dragon that includes killing off the king of the dragons and putting a specific dragon in his place. When she teams up with her friends and Kazul, Cimorene manages to defeat the wizards and save the day.

This is really an enjoyable, funny read that people of all ages should enjoy. I’m eager to read the next in the series.

Other recommendations…

You’ll also love authors like Rick Riordan, Marissa Meyer, and Katherine Roberts.

 

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The Cruelty by Scott Bergstrom

Though The Cruelty by Scott Bergstrom might be a great book for young adults new to the spy/espionage genre, it wasn’t unique enough to capture the interest of our spy-loving adult reviewers.

I received an ARC or review copy of this book from the author/publisher. All opinions are my own.

TitleThe Cruelty
Author: Scott Bergstrom
SeriesThe Cruelty, Book 01
Publish Date: February 7, 2017 by Fiewel & Friends
Genre: YA Thriller
Source: Provided by the publisher

Publisher’s Description: When her diplomat father is kidnapped and the U.S. Government is unable to help, 17-year-old Gwendolyn Bloom sets off across the sordid underbelly of Europe to rescue him. Following the only lead she has—the name of a Palestinian informer living in France—she plunges into a brutal world of arms smuggling and human trafficking. As she journeys from the slums of Paris, to the nightclubs of Berlin, to the heart of the most feared crime family in Prague, Gwendolyn discovers that to survive in this new world she must become every bit as cruel as the men she’s hunting.

Possible spoilers beyond this point.


Agent Annie says…

The best line in the book The Cruelty by Scott Bergstrom is in the very first chapter when the main character, Gwendolyn, pulls a book out of her backpack and tells us, the reader,

“It’s a novel with a teenage heroine set in a dystopian future. Which novel in particular doesn’t matter because they are all the same. Poor teenage heroine, having to march off to war when all she really wants to do is run away with that beautiful boy and live off wild berries and love. Paper worlds where heroes are real.”

This is echoed two hundred some odd pages later when Gwen, now called Sophia, who is in real danger from the Czech mafia, says “Damn my luck, having to go off to war when all I want to do is run away with that beautiful boy and live off wild berries and love.”

That about sums up what’s wrong with this book: it pretends not to be formulaic but follows the same pattern as all spy/espionage novels. This could have been written by James Patterson, Lee Child or Robert Ludlum and I really wouldn’t have noticed the difference. The author simply puts a 17-year-old girl in the role of the main character and, unfortunately, this doesn’t lend itself to believability. The only training this teenager gets is about a month from an Israeli spy, and she totally eludes and ultimately defeats criminals in several European countries included the “dreaded” Czech mafia and kills several of their number through a variety of methods?

I also really didn’t think that The “Cruelty” itself, which the author tries to describe as an internal “thing” rising up in Gwendolyn and taking over her more sane (regular) self, was well defined. He mentions it a few times as “wanting to get out” or “taking over” but I don’t think he spent enough time on her internal struggle. It felt really ho-hum when Gwen had to make difficult choices, like murdering someone in cold blood!

I give this book a 3 for being too much like other books I’ve read in this genre and not having enough of what the title featured.

Percy Procrastinator says…

For me, as a forty-four-year-old long interested in thriller/spy/espionage novels, this was a tough read. I didn’t read it all, either. At about the halfway point, I realized that I had read this story before by some other author. It’s not that it was bad; it just wasn’t good enough to pull me in. I don’t know if it was because it’s geared toward young adults or if I have just read and seen too much of this kind of story.

The setup is quite good. It was easy for me to believe that Gwendolyn could become a spy. She knows languages and had gymnastics, so had some of the rudimentary skills needed. It wasn’t luck that had her know several ex-spies, people who could set her on the path to find her father. I was happy that she got a month of training and even a test so she knew if she could do it.

Reading about her training was interesting to me to see which way the author would have Gwendolyn go. And once she made her choice, I knew how the rest of the story would go, again from decades of reading these kinds of novels. I just wasn’t interested enough in reading this particular story. I skimmed through several chapters of her meeting people, going up the chain and following the leads. I can easily see how this would be a great introduction for someone to these kinds of novels. It’s just not for me.

Finally, I will say that the ending left me a bit disappointed. I read the final ten percent of the book and I don’t think I got the payoff I wanted. The twist didn’t surprise me and the ending left me with a sour taste in my mouth.

I give the book a three. It might deserve a four because it handles the subject matter well, but I can’t be the one to give it that rating.

Other recommendations…

Advanced teen readers could probably jump right into the Alex Cross, Jason Bourne, and Jack Reacher thrillers, or go with the classics and give the original James Bond novels a try. Unfortunately, those all have male protagonists. For female protagonists, here is a list of 9 Best Thrillers with Strong Female Protagonists.

I received an ARC or review copy of this book from the author/publisher. All opinions are my own.

The Marvelous Misadventures of Ingrid Winter by J.S. Drangsholt

Professor, wife, and mother Ingrid Winter is sent to a conference in Russia, where all her mental anxieties push her into some crazy antics.

I received an ARC or review copy of this book from the author/publisher. All opinions are my own.

ingridTitleThe Marvelous Misadventures of Ingrid Winter
AuthorJ.S. Drangsholt
Series: stand-alone
Publish Date: March 1, 2017, by Amazon Crossing
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Source: Purchased via Kindle First

Publisher’s DescriptionIngrid Winter is desperately trying to hold it all together. A neurotic Norwegian mother of three small children and an overworked literature professor with an overactive imagination, Ingrid feels like her life’s always on the brink of chaos.

Her overzealous attempt to secure her dream house has strained her marriage. She’s repeatedly reprimanded for eye rolling in faculty meetings. Petulant PTA parents want to drag her into a war over teaching children to tie their shoes. And an alarmingly persistent salesman keeps warning her of the potential dangers of home intrusion.

Clearly she needs to get away. But Russia? Forced to join an academic mission to Saint Petersburg to promote international cooperation, Ingrid finds herself at a crossroads while drinking too much cough syrup. Will this trip push her into a Siberian sinkhole of existential dread or finally give her life some balance and direction?

Possible spoilers beyond this point.


Agent_Annie_100Agent Annie says…

The Marvelous Misadventures of Ingrid Winter by J.S. Drangsholt is a careening ride through the stream of conscious of a neurotic, anxiety-riddled woman. I read this book so fast because the narrator’s anxiety was so strong you just couldn’t step away from it. If the author’s hope was to give you a glimpse as to how anxiety makes a person say or do crazy things, she hit the mark, but man, I never want to be that immersed in it again.

badge3v4Outside of the good writing of conveying what Ingrid was thinking and feeling, I wasn’t a big fan of this story. It seemed kind of boring as far as the action goes or the main character’s relationships. Not much really happened. I think the promotional material from Amazon’s Kindle First program didn’t really convey the true nature of this book and I was disappointed. I appreciated getting a early opportunity to read it, but I would have never spent money on this book. I did however suggest it to a relative that enjoyed Where Did You Go, Bernadette? by Maria Semple and I would be interested to see if they liked this book. I personally can only give this book a 3.

Other recommendations…

Here are some other novels with anxious main characters: A Stranger on the Planet by Adam Schwartz, Planetfall (sci-fi) by Emma Newman, Daffodil Dancing by Jean Jardine Miller.

I received an ARC or review copy of this book from the author/publisher. All opinions are my own.

Bone Witch by Rin Chupeco

I was really excited to read this since I enjoyed The Girl from the Well duology so well. There are some of the elements that I loved about Girl from the Well that are present in this novel as well: beautiful descriptions, gorgeous settings, and interesting characters. But somewhere it fell flat for me.

I received an ARC or review copy of this book from the author/publisher. All opinions are my own.

TitleThe Bone Witch
AuthorRin Chupeco
SeriesThe Bone Witch, Book 01
Publish Date: March 7, 2017 by Sourcebooks Fire
Genre: Dark Fantasy
Source: NetGalley

Publisher’s DescriptionA Publishers Weekly Most Anticipated Young Adult Book of Spring 2017!

In the captivating start to a new, darkly lyrical fantasy series for readers of Leigh Bardugo and Sabaa Tahir, Tea can raise the dead, but resurrection comes at a price…

Let me be clear: I never intended to raise my brother from his grave, though he may claim otherwise. If there’s anything I’ve learned from him in the years since, it’s that the dead hide truths as well as the living.

When Tea accidentally resurrects her brother from the dead, she learns she is different from the other witches in her family. Her gift for necromancy means that she’s a bone witch, a title that makes her feared and ostracized by her community. But Tea finds solace and guidance with an older, wiser bone witch, who takes Tea and her brother to another land for training.

In her new home, Tea puts all her energy into becoming an asha—one who can wield elemental magic. But dark forces are approaching quickly, and in the face of danger, Tea will have to overcome her obstacles…and make a powerful choice.

Memoirs of a Geisha meets The Name of the Wind in this brilliant new fantasy series by Rin Chupeco!

Possible spoilers beyond this point.


Luna Lovebooks says…

Likes: I love the fact that this is a darkly beautiful world. There is betrayal and war (mentioned in passing for the most part) and, of course, death. But death is what makes this novel unique. How, you ask? The answer is in the very title of the book! Bone witches raise the dead, heal the sick, and defeat demonic-like creatures. The way they are described reminds me of magic wielding geisha! I love the idea of heartsglass as well. It is a wonderful way to detect emotions and a fun way to bring sayings into literal play – for example, if you give someone your heart they have power over you. I love the relationship between Tea and her brother, Fox.

Dislikes: As much potential as this story has, it fell flat for me, and I gradually lost interest until the last couple of chapters when it picked up again. I devoured the beginning for its explanation of this world and the people in it. I flipped excitedly through the pages towards as I wanted to know what would happen. But the middle was a montage of years of training – only not. It felt like no time at all had passed and Tea became an asha in the blink of an eye, still only 14. The two timelines interwoven added to my confusion until the very end. But not much happens in either plot. There is a love triangle, but it is mostly hinted at. I can’t decide if this is worse or not – either way, the story does not need a triangle.

I would love to rate this book higher, but because of my confusion and the loss of interest for the middle section of the book, I have to give this 3 bones.

Other recommendations…

Dreamfall by Amy Plum, Poison Kiss by Breeana Shields, Roar by Cora Carmack.

I received an ARC or review copy of this book from the author/publisher. All opinions are my own.