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Shorefall (Foundryside #2) – Robert Jackson Bennett

Shorefall (Foundryside #2) – Robert Jackson BennettTitle: Shorefall (Foundryside #2) by Robert Jackson Bennett
Publishing Info: April 21, 2020 by Penguin Random House, Del Rey Books
Source: Received from the publisher for review purposes
Genres: Adult, Fantasy
Date Completed: April 15, 2020
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads

The upstart firm Foundryside is struggling to make it. Orso Igancio and his star employee, former thief Sancia Grado, are accomplishing brilliant things with scriving, the magical art of encoding sentience into everyday objects, but it's not enough. The massive merchant houses of Tevanne won't tolerate competition, and they're willing to do anything to crush Foundryside.

But even the merchant houses of Tevanne might have met their match. An immensely powerful and deadly entity has been resurrected in the shadows of Tevanne, one that's not interested in wealth or trade routes: a hierophant, one of the ancient practitioners of scriving. And he has a great fascination for Foundryside, and its employees - especially Sancia.

Now Sancia and the rest of Foundryside must race to combat this new menace, which means understanding the origins of scriving itself - before the hierophant burns Tevanne to the ground.

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I picked up FOUNDRYSIDE on a whim in 2018 when I saw it as an ARC at ALA and it was sort of like a new discovery for me. No one I knew had read it and thieves! cons! banter! magic! It sounded like such a me book, and a me book it ended up being after I read it too. SHOREFALL was one of my most anticipated releases of 2020 because of that and whew. This was awkward and painful for me.

I listened to the audiobook for this one instead of reading since I received a copy from the publisher and that’s how I get most of my reads in these days. The narrator was fine but I didn’t love her and I would have preferred maybe two narrators to get a male voice in there too even though a lot of this book is from Sancia’s persperctive, despite being in the third person. Maybe I’m not remembering well, but I feel like we got a LOT more from other POVs in FOUNDRYSIDE and I felt like Gregor had a much stronger presence in that book… I really would have loved to see more character development in this book but it really just fell flat and I feel like we learned almost nothing new about any of the characters except for Gregor in moments of plot reveal. There just really wasn’t much of anything new, and if anything, Sancia just became mushier with a romance involved. It’s not a bad thing but she lost some zip and the character banter was one of the things that made FOUNDRYSIDE so enjoyable. There was pretty much nothing humorous in SHOREFALL and I was pretty bummed to see that missing here.

Speaking of tone, the whole feel of this book seems so different. FOUNDRYSIDE was basically all heist/theiving/scheming and SHOREFALL really didn’t feel engaging like that at all. There are some big villain presences in here and gods/godlike characters getting involved which I guess makes sense after the end of book one but it really did change the feel of just about everything. The book was working on a grander scale which seems to have worked for a lot of people but I just didn’t love it. The concept was a very Brandon Sanderson-esque type of concept for the book but I didn’t like the pacing and plotting here like I do with Sanderson’s books (sorry to make the comparison but it’s part of the reason I loved FOUNDRYSIDE so much) and it really lacked those fun twists or brilliant moments that I’ve loved so much before. There were some big twists here but the scale was just so big that I just wasn’t really into it. It was like it was pushed too quickly and maybe things like this should have been spread out into more than just three books, giving the second book time to set up another task for the team while slowly introducing these higher powers, giving more of a team bonding, time to care about the characters more and become really invested in them, and get the ball rolling on these bigger things coming into play. It seemed like it JUMPED from book one to book two and it was all a bit much for me, coming across as forced and trying too hard to be epic.

The pacing was just not for me at all. There were so many BIG BIG action sequences that I constantly felt like the book was ending with all of these climax-like moments. But then it just kept going and going and going. Everyone sort of seemed like a shell of who they once were with just the big points sticking and I missed all of those pieces that made them human, so the dialogue was boring and sort of eye-roll worthy at points. It felt basic and more like what I expect from some newer or younger authors. There were WAY too many villains speeches with the big bag guy just telling you what he was going to do and there was actually a point where the team was like “What do we do now” and Sancia says “Let’s talk to him. He seems like he likes to talk” (not a direct quote) and I laughed out loud. Yep, he sure does.

I read a couple reviews before I finished the book because there was seriously a point where I considered not finishing but I decided I could make it another five and a half hours. One review pointed out how characters constantly get cut off mid-sentence and wow, that was a mistake to read because it was all I noticed for the rest of the book and really annoying…. And then others raved about the ending of the book and even those who didn’t love it felt the ending redeemed the rest of it. I didn’t really feel that way but there is a big reveal moment that’s supposed to shock you and others that are supposed to tug on your heart-strings. I just didn’t care at that point and wanted the book to end so I was not moved at all but my feelings shut off by that point. As for the plotting…. Eh. I don’t really know if I care to read the last book, even if there are only three and I’d only have to read one more. I don’t really care for where this book took the series and I’m just so disappointed with the pacing, lack of banter, and lack of character development that I really just don’t care what happens, plot-wise or character-wise. I can’t imagine being drawn in enough to care about the last book, and that’s the saddest part of it all when I was so excited about the first book.

 

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Kept Me Hooked On: Less-mainstream fantasy reads. I don’t really know many people reading this series so it was still enjoyable to read something that was a little “unique” to me.
Left Me Wanting More: The feel of the first book. I missed nearly everything that made the first book what it was. Heists! Banter! Ugh.

Addiction Rating
Try it

If you read FOUNDRYSIDE and enjoyed it, you may still like SHOREFALL. It didn’t work for me but a bunch of other reviewers really loved it!

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BOOKS LIKE SHOREFALL

             

The Better Liar – Tanen Jones

The Better Liar – Tanen JonesTitle: The Better Liar by Tanen Jones
Publishing Info: January 14, 2020 by Penguin Random House, Ballantine Books
Source: Received from the publisher for review purposes
Genres: Adult, Mystery/Thriller
Date Completed: February 19, 2020
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads

When a woman conceals her sister’s death to claim their joint inheritance, her deception exposes a web of dangerous secrets in this addictive new thriller for fans of Megan Abbott, Gillian Flynn, and Paula Hawkins.

“Like most of the dead, I want to be remembered.”

Robin Voigt is dead. If Leslie had arrived at her sister’s cramped Las Vegas apartment just hours earlier, this would have been their first reunion in a decade. In the years since Robin ran away from home as a teenager, Leslie has stayed in New Mexico, taking care of their dying father even as she began building a family of her own. But when their father passed away, Leslie received a rude awakening: She and Robin would receive the inheritance he left them together—or not at all. Now her half of the money may be beyond her grasp. And unbeknownst to anyone, even her husband, Leslie needs it desperately.

When she meets a charismatic young woman who bears an uncanny resemblance to Robin—and has every reason to leave her past behind—the two make a reckless bargain: Mary will impersonate Robin for a week in exchange for Robin’s half of the cash. But neither realizes how high the stakes will become when Mary takes a dead woman’s name. Even as Mary begins to suspect Leslie is hiding something, and Leslie realizes the stranger living in her house, babysitting her newborn son, and charming her husband has secrets of her own, Robin’s wild, troubled legacy threatens to eclipse them both.

An electric, twisted portrait of sisterhood and the ties that bind, The Better Liar is a stunning debut with a heart-stopping, twist-after-twist finale that will beg the question: How far would you go to get what’s yours?

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This was a really interesting read! THE BETTER LIAR had so many layers and I love a good unreliable narrator. The switching of POVs made the story work and captured some thriller tricks at their finest!

The characters really sucked me into this book and especially with psychological thrillers like this, I feel like that’s so important. There was something about Leslie that you knew just wasn’t quite right but it and it was a thought-provoking ride trying to figure out what secrets she was keeping and why. We get a voice from Robin, who has been missing for years and we’re quite unsure what happened to her for all those years, so that added another layer of intrigue, and then there’s the stranger Mary who agrees to impersonate Robin so Leslie can retrieve an inheritance . It really was so twisty the way all of these characters worked together (or against each other) and how this story unfolded the more you learned about each one.

There’s a big twist in here (as there usually are with psychological thrillers) that I somehow didn’t see coming and I love with a book surprises me! That’s one thing I love about listening to thrillers on audio while working — my brain doesn’t try as hard to dissect the mystery since it’s being occupied by something else, so I was definitely shocked by this book and I loved the slow but steady journey to all of the reveals.

The book was interesting, twisty, and for its craziness, really not so far-fetched. I was worried the ending was just going to fizzle out and it actually had a few more twists coming to really bring the story full-circle and it was nice that the book didn’t drag on after the big reveal. Sometimes with thrillers once that big moment is presented to the audience, I tend to feel like things wilt if carried on too long, so I liked that this book was filled with things to keep the readers interested until literally the past page and also had a sense of originality to it.

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Kept Me Hooked On: Unreliable narrators. You’ve got to love a good unreliable narrator, especially when there are three of them and you really can’t trust any one of them. This book definitely kept me guessing!
Left Me Wanting More: Pacing. I really didn’t have any complaints about this book, looking back. I liked the pacing of the book but I suppose there were just a couple points where my focus drifted. Really such a minor thing though because I really liked it from start to finish!

Addiction Rating
Read it

If you like psychological thrillers, I really recommend this one! I enjoyed every bit of it, really.

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BOOKS LIKE THE BETTER LIAR

             

Mini-Review: Time of Death (A Stillwater General Mystery #1) – Lucy Kerr

Mini-Review: Time of Death (A Stillwater General Mystery #1) – Lucy KerrTitle: Time of Death (A Stillwater General Mystery #1) by Lucy Kerr, Erica O'Rourke
Publishing Info: December 13, 2016 by Penguin Random House, Crooked Lane Books
Source: Audiobook borrowed from library, Used bookstore
Genres: Adult, Mystery/Thriller
Date Completed: May 28, 2019
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads
Related Posts: Dissonance (Dissonance #1), Harmonic (Dissonance #1.5), Resonance (Dissonance #2)

It’s been twelve years since ER nurse Frankie Stapleton fled the quiet banks of Stillwater, but with her sister’s pregnancy taking a dangerous turn and a string of failed relationships in Chicago hanging over her, Frankie is back–and hoping to put the past behind her. Within minutes of arriving at Stillwater General Hospital however, she ends up saving a man’s life, only to have him turn up dead hours later – and the hospital blames Frankie.

Her instincts say Clem Jensen didn’t die of natural causes, but the more she digs, the more she discovers too many suspects, a few surprising allies, and some hard truths about the first man she ever loved–and left. Now the boy she once knew is a skeptical sheriff’s deputy, her family's hardware store is in jeopardy, and the rift between Frankie and her loved ones is deeper than ever.

With her career–and future–on life support, Frankie must catch a killer, clear her name, and heal the wounds of the past in Lucy Kerr’s enthralling mystery debut, Time of Death

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I’m so glad I finally read this book! It was a fun mystery that had more of a contemporary focus than a lot of mystery/thrillers do. The main character is back in town to help her family and runs into her old first-love/ex-fiance so there’s a lot of family stuff going on as well as a little hint of a potential romance. I love how the romance wasn’t rushed and there’s still plenty of time to explore that option in the rest of the series!

The mystery was also really well-put together. There were clues laid about so things were still constantly coming to light but the ending was a bit of a mystery until the reveal. I’m usually reading some darker thrillers or mysteries so this was a fun change of pace! It was somewhere in between a silly/fluffy cozy mystery and that dark thriller. A very happy middle!

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Kept Me Hooked On: Mysteries. I read a lot of thrillers and I had fun reading something that was more into the mystery realm without that element of constant suspense.
Left Me Wanting More: Books! I was pretty satisfied with this one so I’d say I’d just like to read more of this series and see where the character storylines go too!

Addiction Rating
Read it

This was a really good read for me and I loved reading an adult mystery that wasn’t a thriller (as much as I love thrillers). I think it’s easily readable by those who like contemporary romances too!

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BOOKS LIKE TIME OF DEATH

             

An Unwanted Guest – Shari Lapena

An Unwanted Guest – Shari LapenaTitle: An Unwanted Guest by Shari Lapena
Publishing Info: August 7, 2018 by Penguin Random House
Source: ALAAC18
Genres: Adult, Mystery/Thriller
Date Completed: December 30, 2018
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads

A remote lodge in upstate New York is the perfect getaway. . . until the bodies start piling up.It's winter in the Catskills and the weather outside is frightful. But Mitchell's Inn is so delightful! The cozy lodge nestled deep in the woods is perfect for a relaxing--maybe even romantic--weekend away. The Inn boasts spacious old rooms with huge wood-burning fireplaces, a well-stocked wine cellar, and opportunities for cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, or just curling up with a book and someone you love. So when the weather takes a turn for the worse, and a blizzard cuts off the electricity--and all contact with the outside world--the guests settle in for the long haul. The power's down but they've got candles, blankets, and wood--a genuine rustic experience! Soon, though, a body turns up--surely an accident. When a second body appears, they start to panic. Then they find a third body. Within the snowed-in paradise, something--or someone--is picking off the guests one by one. They can't leave, and with no cell service, there's no prospect of getting the police in until the weather loosens its icy grip. The weekend getaway has turned deadly. For some couples, it's their first time away. For others, it will be their last. And there's nothing they can do about it but huddle down and hope they can survive the storm.

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This was such an interesting read! I always love reading mysteries or thrillers where I’m not quite sure what’s going on. Shari Lapena did a great job at not revealing too much suspicion too early, and then once it started to arise, to cast it around really evenly to put a lot of doubt on the pages, never being too sure who to trust. At one point, I had no idea who was the murderer so I started to form all kinds of hair-brained ideas extending to psychological “everyone is the murderer” tropes that get played out so often. The ending was surprising and satisfying!

I also really loved this wintery setting. A snow storm was the perfect way to lock the guests of this hotel in, adding in the loss of power, unable to leave or maintain footprints because of the ice, and the antique nature of the hotel lending even less technology or modern conveniences, preventing the suspects from getting answers too easily. I also waited to read this book in the winter so it made it even more atmospheric (even though there wasn’t a lot of snow on the ground when I read it).

I feel like the narration could have been a bit smoother and it took me out of the novel just a little bit. Some of it felt forced and choppy (I sometimes have trouble when authors don’t use contractions in order to keep the narration formal when it just doesn’t seem natural) so that was really the only thing I didn’t connect with throughout the book.

It was quite a solid read with a good mystery and I really enjoyed it! I’m definitely interested in picking up more from Shari Lapena in the future and already have a few other titles from her earmarked!

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Kept Me Hooked On: Single location thrillers. I loved that this all took place in a little off-the-grid hotel. It’s fun to see the ways that authors have to eliminate technology like this in order to keep everyone in the same place and unable to phone for help. I love everyone stuck together to hash out the mystery!
Left Me Wanting More: Smoothness. There were a couple spots that felt a little forced and choppy. With a couple more smooth transitions, this would have been even better, but I still enjoyed it quite a lot!

Addiction Rating
Read it

I really liked this one! I love when I read a thriller and I’m already looking forward to more from the author.

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The Starless Sea – Erin Morgenstern

The Starless Sea – Erin MorgensternTitle: The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern
Publishing Info: November 5, 2019 by Penguin Random House, Doubleday Books
Source: Amazon
Genres: Adult, Magical Realism, Fantasy
Date Completed: September 2, 2019
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads
Related Posts: The Night Circus, The Night Circus

Far beneath the surface of the earth, upon the shores of the Starless Sea, there is a labyrinthine collection of tunnels and rooms filled with stories. The entryways that lead to this sanctuary are often hidden, sometimes on forest floors, sometimes in private homes, sometimes in plain sight. But those who seek will find. Their doors have been waiting for them.

Zachary Ezra Rawlins is searching for his door, though he does not know it. He follows a silent siren song, an inexplicable knowledge that he is meant for another place. When he discovers a mysterious book in the stacks of his campus library he begins to read, entranced by tales of lovelorn prisoners, lost cities, and nameless acolytes. Suddenly a turn of the page brings Zachary to a story from his own childhood impossibly written in this book that is older than he is.

A bee, a key, and a sword emblazoned on the book lead Zachary to two people who will change the course of his life: Mirabel, a fierce, pink-haired painter, and Dorian, a handsome, barefoot man with shifting alliances. These strangers guide Zachary through masquerade party dances and whispered back room stories to the headquarters of a secret society where doorknobs hang from ribbons, and finally through a door conjured from paint to the place he has always yearned for. Amid twisting tunnels filled with books, gilded ballrooms, and wine-dark shores Zachary falls into an intoxicating world soaked in romance and mystery. But a battle is raging over the fate of this place and though there are those who would willingly sacrifice everything to protect it, there are just as many intent on its destruction. As Zachary, Mirabel, and Dorian venture deeper into the space and its histories and myths, searching for answers and each other, a timeless love story unspools, casting a spell of pirates, painters, lovers, liars, and ships that sail upon a Starless Sea.

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THE NIGHT CIRCUS is one of my favorite books and I’ve been waiting so long for a new Erin Morgenstern book that I was SO NERVOUS for THE STARLESS SEA! I also have a tendency to hype myself up and sometimes overhype myself for some of my favorite books so it was quite the effort to let myself get immersed in the book and not get ahead of myself! Thankfully, I had nothing to worry about because Morgenstern’s master prose easily wrapped me inside of the pages of this book and I was instantly swept away.

THE STARLESS SEA is basically a love story to books, reading, writing, and anything literary. There are so many amazing quotes about books and literature here that it was easy for me to love on so many different levels, but it wasn’t just about the characters being book lovers. The concept of stories made up this book on a magical level, adding fantastical elements to storytelling in the real world. It’s really kind of impossible to describe but Morgernstern once again nails that dreamy element of magical realism that lets you peek behind the curtain into the magical undercurrent of the normal world. It’s truly mesmerizing and it was such an incredible thing to read.

There’s quite an array of characters in the book, all of which were lovable, really. All of them have their flaws but I absolutely loved following the story of main character Zachary Rawlins. He sort of reminded me of a Quentin-type character (from The Magicians) except not quite as tragic and not quite as… erm… whiny, I guess (sorry, Q. It’s a common complaint). He’s a book-lover, has a studious mind, is a little more reserved, and just has something about him that reminded me of Quentin, which is funny considering I read later on that Erin Morgenstern actually kind of borrowed the concept of the bee-key-sword combination from Lev Grossman and The Magicians!

It’s kind of funny how THE STARLESS SEA seems to leave me wordless and tongue-tied when it’s so beautifully written but it’s slightly indescribable and so hard to review! I think the beauty of the book speaks for itself. I loved the stories within the story that linked back to different stories that represented things in real life which were also magical. (See? Impossible.) Everything just folded back in on itself and connected so perfectly and it was a truly wonderful read.

 

 

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Kept Me Hooked On: Bookish magic. Can it really get much better than magic inspired by and revolving around books and stories? I don’t know if it can.
Left Me Wanting More: Time with the ending. There is a point in magical realism books where I have a hard time merging the fantasy and reality and that point in THE STARLESS SEA really came towards the end for me. I just wanted a biiiiit more time to spend with some of the magical elements to really feel grounded with them and know that this was real.

Addiction Rating
Read it!

I know that this book isn’t for everyone BUT if you enjoy magical realism or think you might get along with this book, I do highly recommend it! The writing is definitely more etherial.

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BOOKS LIKE THE STARLESS SEA

             

Foundryside (Foundryside #1) – Robert Jackson Bennett

Foundryside (Foundryside #1) – Robert Jackson BennettTitle: Foundryside (Foundryside #1) by Robert Jackson Bennett
Publishing Info: August 21, 2018 by Penguin Random House, Del Rey Books
Source: ALAAC18
Genres: Adult, Fantasy
Date Completed: July 29, 2019
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads
Related Posts: Shorefall (Foundryside #2)

Sancia Grado is a thief, and a damn good one. And her latest target, a heavily guarded warehouse on Tevanne’s docks, is nothing her unique abilities can’t handle.

But unbeknownst to her, Sancia’s been sent to steal an artifact of unimaginable power, an object that could revolutionize the magical technology known as scriving. The Merchant Houses who control this magic--the art of using coded commands to imbue everyday objects with sentience--have already used it to transform Tevanne into a vast, remorseless capitalist machine. But if they can unlock the artifact’s secrets, they will rewrite the world itself to suit their aims.

Now someone in those Houses wants Sancia dead, and the artifact for themselves. And in the city of Tevanne, there’s nobody with the power to stop them.

To have a chance at surviving—and at stopping the deadly transformation that’s under way—Sancia will have to marshal unlikely allies, learn to harness the artifact’s power for herself, and undergo her own transformation, one that will turn her into something she could never have imagined.

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This book was so enjoyable from start to finish! Right off the bat, I connected with it. Sancia and really her whole gang throughout this book are sassy, clever, and such personable characters. I absolutely loved spending time with them, even the… inanimate objects? Robert Jackson Bennett really brought everything to life in this book and it made for such an enjoyable reading experience!

The setting was refreshing yet familiar all at the same time. Having read a lot of fantasy/high fantasy lately, I had grown a little weary of the medieval take on things and had switched to some urban fantasy for a while to experience fantasy in a more modern setting. While FOUNDRYSIDE still maintains that old world/technologically inadvanced feeling, the concept behind scrivings really gives it that feel of a sort of industrial revolution coming about and it was fun to see the progress as well as the more spiritual side behind things (gods and mythology and the like). There’s a lot of world-building present and I love how the reader is taken along the road of exploration to figure out how the scrivings work, where the concept came from, and how they could change the world entirely.

Everything just felt like it unfolded naturally. Key points were revealed at just the right moments. The crew came together in a perfect way that brought misfits together but everyone seemed to fit perfectly despite how different they all were. It was natural the way that they ended up finding each other and felt like they should have been together all of their lives.

This book also gave me a very Brandon Sanderson vibe. I love Sanderson’s books so much because of how much world-building he packs in and how perfectly timed his reveals are involving the secrets of his worlds. Robert Jackson Bennett has a similar style — in context as well as character tone — that really reminded me a lot of MISTBORN and THE WAY OF KINGS. I can’t wait to see where the next book goes because with everything that we learned in this book, I can only imagine getting even more lost in the politics, worldly secrets, and more hijinks!

 

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Kept Me Hooked On: Adult fantasy with attitude. Misfits! Cons! Sass! This book had all of my favorite elements combined with a fun and creative fantasy world.
Left Me Wanting More: Character relationships. I did like the character relationships that were there for sure! I feel like I wanted just a liiiittle bit more deep connections somehow!

Addiction Rating
Read it!

This was so enjoyable and I can’t wait to read more of the series!! This felt a little bit introductory and I’m excited to continue this and get even deeper into this world!

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BOOKS LIKE FOUNDRYSIDE