Black Tide by K.C. Jones

Publisher: Macmillan-Tor/Forge, Tor Nightfire

Date of publication: May 31st, 2022

Genre: Horror, Science Fiction, Post Apocalyptic, Thriller, Dystopia, Speculative Fiction

Purchase Links: Amazon | Audible | B&N | WorldCat

Goodreads Synopsis:

It was just another day at the beach. Then the world ended.

Mike and Beth were strangers before the night of the meteor shower. Chance made them neighbors, a bottle of champagne brought them together, and a shared need for human connection sparked something more.

Following their drunken and desperate one-night stand, the two discover the astronomical event has left widespread destruction in its wake. But the cosmic lightshow was only part of something much bigger, and far more terrifying.

When a lost car key leaves them stranded on an empty stretch of Oregon coast and inhuman screams echo from the dunes, when the rising tide reaches for their car and unspeakable horrors close in around them, these two self-destructive souls must fight to survive a nightmare of apocalyptic scale.


First Line:

My mom once accused me of being a human car wreck, I laughed in her face when she said it.

Black Tide by K.C. Jones

Black Tide was the first in a series of books I had seen on other blogs that I wanted to read. So, like everyone else, I added it to Goodreads and prayed to the book gods that I got an invite. The book gods blessed me because I got every single book I had put on my Want to Read list. I was pretty stoked about getting it and couldn’t wait to read it. I am glad I did because this book scared the everliving out of me!!

Black Tide is a fast-moving horror story on the Oregon coast. Beth is a woman who has gone through a lot but is turning her life around. She is pet sitting for a wealthy couple and enjoying it. Then one night, she meets Mike. Mike owns the house next door and is a bit of a mystery. When Beth sees him drinking champagne on the deck of his house, she invites herself over. That turns into a drunken one-night stand with Beth having a strange, almost vivid dream and Mike witnessing a meteor shower like none he had seen before. When Beth wakes up, Mike is on the beach with Jake (the dog she is pet sitting), and Mike has disturbing news. There is no power, and he cannot get a hold of anyone over the phone. He also has a strange pod on the beach that turned up (along with several others). Deciding to leave and try to find a person of authority who knows what is going on, they drive until they find a bunch of people parked on the beach and the road. What happens next is almost unbelievable, and Beth drops the keys to the car in a rush to get out—stranded and with high tide coming in, Mike and Beth need to figure something out fast before they end up like the people with them on the beach. What happened on the beach? Will they get out? Will they find out what happened?

I very rarely get frightened by books. I lost the ability to do that when I read The Stand and It in middle school (I was a precocious reader). But this book scared the ever living out of me. But, at the same time, while I was scared to death, I also couldn’t put it down. I 100% attribute that to the author keeping me hooked and wanting to see if Mike, Beth, and Jake (along with another person who appears later in the book) would get out alive. I was left feeling breathless during certain scenes. The author also ramped up my anxiety.

I could relate to Beth on certain levels. Who hasn’t felt like a car accident waiting to happen during specific points in their life? Who hasn’t hit rock bottom and has to claw their way out? I know I have. I loved seeing her character grow. She went from being this self-absorbed drunk to a woman willing to do whatever it took to get out of her situation.

I wasn’t too sure about Mike when he was introduced. I kept feeling that he was hiding something (which he was, and it was very sad when it was revealed). But his character also transformed throughout Black Tide. He was pulled out of his depression and realized his life was worth living. I thought he was perfect for Beth, and he complimented her towards the end of the book.

The author very well wrote the horror angle of Black Tide. During the scenes in the car (while the tide was creeping in), I did get some Cujo-like vibes. That didn’t take away from how much I liked the book. Instead, it added to it. And as I said above, the author stoked my anxiety during pivotal scenes.

The science fiction angle of the book was well written also. I loved the imagination the author had with the aliens. They were so monstrous that I had no issue imagining them in my head (which added to my anxiety).

The end of Black Tide left me with conflicting emotions. I was upset over some things, but I understood why they happened. But at the same time, I was overjoyed over other things. I was also sad because of what they realized after leaving the beach. The book didn’t end with a HEA. Instead, without going much into it, I left the book feeling pessimistic about Beth and Mike’s future.

I would recommend Black Tide to anyone over 21. There is violence, language, and nongraphic sex/sexual situations.

Quantum Girl Theory by Erin Kate Ryan

Publisher: Random House Publishing Group – Random House, Random House

Date of publication: March 8th 2022

Genre: Historical Fiction, Fiction, Mystery, Science Fiction

Purchase Links: Amazon | Audible | B&N | WorldCat

Goodreads Synopsis:

On December 1, 1946, Paula Jean Welden put on a bright red parka, left her Bennington college dorm for a hike, and vanished. Eighteen, white, blonde, wealthy; her story captivated a nation, but she was never found.

Each chapter of Quantum Girl Theory imagines a life Paula Jean Welden may have lived after she left that room: in love with a woman in a Communist cell and running from her blackmailer in 1950s New York. A literary forger on the verge of discovery at the advent of the computer age. A disgraced showgirl returning home to her mother’s deathbed. Is she a lobotomy victim, is she faking amnesia, or is she already buried in the nearby woods?

Or is she Mary Garrett, the hard-edged clairvoyant running from her past and her own lost love by searching for missing girls in the Jim Crow south? A trip to Elizabethtown, North Carolina, leads Mary to a twisty case that no one, not even the missing girl’s mother, wants her to solve. There, Mary stumbles into an even bigger mystery: two other missing girls, both black, whose disappearances are studiously ignored by the overbearing sheriff. Mary’s got no one else to trust, and as her own past tangles with the present, it’s unclear whether she can even trust herself.

This brilliant jigsaw puzzle of a novel springs off from a fascinating true story to explore the phenomenon of “the missing girl“: when a girl goes missing, does she become everyone people imagine her to be?


First Line:

Mary missed her connection in Fayetteville and, still marked from the creases in the bus seat and stinking of diesel, sweet-talked her way into the pickup truck of a lanky Dublin kid headed home for supper.

quantum girl theory by erin kate ryan

I wasn’t too sure about this book when I accepted the review request. I had read mixed reviews for Quantum Girl Theory, and from what I read, either people loved this book or hated it. I had read very few reviews that were middle ground. What ultimately made me accept this book was based on a disappearance in the 1940s that never got solved. I was curious to see how the author weaved her story around Paula Jean Welden’s disappearance.

Quantum Girl Theory is a story about a girl who disappeared and speculations about what happened to her. Mary is a clairvoyant who makes money from finding missing girls—dead or alive but more often dead. She arrives in Elizabethtown, North Carolina, and immediately contacts the parents of Paula, who has recently gone missing. The investigation into Paula’s disappearance will uncover secrets. These secrets people will kill to keep hidden. But there is more to Mary than what people see. Mary has her own reasons for finding these missing girls. Will Mary find Paula? Or will she be silenced before she can tell the truth?

As I mentioned in the first paragraph, this story is loosely based on the real-life disappearance of Paula Jean Welden (I included a link to the New England Historical Society). I am fascinated with anything true crime and was secretly thrilled that Quantum Girl Theory was taking a 60-year-old disappearance and shining some light on it. The author’s research was excellent, and I loved how she took any/all rumors and incorporated them into the book. But, it did fall a little flat for me.

The main storyline (with Mary, in 1961) was interesting to read. I didn’t particularly like Mary. She was so depressing, and it did bring down the book in some parts. I wish I could say that my opinion of her improved as the book went on. It didn’t. She remained the same throughout the book. Not all characters have to be likable, and Mary was not. I did like that the author did that.

I was surprised at how the 1961 storyline went. I wasn’t expecting the other two girls to be added to Mary’s investigation. There was a point in the book where I wondered why the author introduced them, but there is a link to Paula’s disappearance. I was surprised at how and why they were linked. I was also surprised by the common denominator behind all three disappearances.

The memories were fascinating. I did have some issues following along. There were times when I wasn’t sure if it was Mary remembering another Paula’s life or it was Mary’s life. I did have to reread several of those memories to make sure what I was reading (if that makes sense). It did lessen my enjoyment of the book for me.

The end of Quantum Girl Theory did confuse me a little. I couldn’t figure out what was happening, which seldom happened. I did figure it was obvious but then second-guessed myself. I also was irritated because I felt that nothing got wrapped up. That, along with cliff-hangers, are my most significant irritant with these types of books.

I would recommend Quantum Girl Theory to anyone over 21. There is moderate violence, language, and sex/sexual situations. There is also racism and discrimination.

The Paradise Tree (Pirates and Puritans: Book 3) by R.A. Denny

Publisher: Mesmeringa Press

Date of Publication: March 10th, 2022

Series: Pirates and Puritans

The Alchemy Thief—Book 1 (review here)

The Sultan’s Court—Book 2 (review here)

The Paradise Tree—Book 3

Genre: Science Fiction, Fantasy, Dystopia, Time Travel

Purchase Links: Amazon

Goodreads Synopsis:

Welcome to Paradise. Daniel’s alchemy has hurtled them 112 years into the future where a mysterious tree-shaped structure rises into the Moroccan sky. Generations have passed, but a culture grounded in ancient Yoruba traditions has sprung up.

Peri must choose between trusting the friendly strangers she meets and following Ayoub, the terrorist-turned-pirate, into the unknown. She fights to keep her family together, but her faith is shaken. Nothing is as it seems.

Caught between two warring factions, the YUS with brain chips and the Natural Resistance Force, Peri must search within herself to discover what truly makes life worth living. How much is she willing to sacrifice for paradise?


First Line:

At the sound of the knock, Peri’s father was filled with both hope and dread.

the paradise tree by r.a. denny

I was surprised and excited when I got the invite to read/review The Paradise Tree. I wondered when the 3rd and final book would be published and was hoping that I would get the invite. I had also hyped this book up in my mind. Well, The Paradise Tree lived up to that hype. I loved reading it (even if it did scare me in some places).

The Paradise Tree is the 3rd book in the Pirates and Puritans series. Readers cannot read this book as a standalone. If you read the books out of order, you will be confused. It will help if you read The Alchemy Thief and The Sultan’s Court to understand Ayoub, Peri, Mya, and Daniel’s backstory.

The Paradise Tree was an exciting book to read. It starts almost immediately after the events of The Sultan’s Court. Peri, Daniel, Mya, and Ayoub have traveled 112 years into the future. Thinking it would be a sanctuary from the people they escaped from in the present, they soon find the future is much more dangerous. The group is separated, Ayoub trekking to the distant mountains and meeting a woman connected with a group called the NRF, and the other three being picked up by a group called the YUS. The group soon finds itself in a struggle between oppression and freedom.

There are 3; sometimes 4, POVs in The Paradise Tree. The main POVs are Ayoub and Peri’s, with Daniel breaking in occasionally and Mya having a chapter or two to flush out more of the YUS’s plotline. The alternating POVs gave great insight into how each faction worked. It also provided insight into how each society was (if that makes sense). Usually, I wouldn’t say I like it when the book constantly switches back and forth between numerous people, but in this case, it worked.

Ayoub had some character growth in The Paradise Tree. Mainly, it centered around his relationships with Salima and her children. He morphed from only caring about himself to accepting responsibility for her and her children. He also came to terms with everything that had happened to him as a child. But, the biggest surprise was when he went to rescue Peri and Daniel. I didn’t think he would do it, to be honest. But seeing Mya and hearing about what was going on in The Paradise Tree spurred him on.

I felt a connection with Peri during her storyline. She was a middle-aged woman who was introduced to new technology. I laughed out loud during the scenes when she learned how to control (and talk) with her chip. The whole broadcasting of her thoughts to others was hilarious. I also got her wanting to see Daniel and Mya and her devastation when she wasn’t allowed.

Daniel was the real MVP of the book. He got what was going on fairly early in the book, and he actively found ways to get around the chip. I had a feeling what happened to him was going to happen around the middle of the book, but I was still surprised.

The secondary character added depth to The Paradise Tree. Each character, no matter how small, was essential to the plotline.

The science fiction angle of The Paradise Tree was well written. Time travel was mentioned throughout the book, along with ball lighting. The author did a great job of explaining how time travel was commonplace.

The dystopia angle of The Paradise Tree was scary. I had no issue imagining our society inventing a chip that would allow inner thought speaking and that monitored our bodily needs. I could also see plastic surgery as painless as described. I can also see egg harvesting and having genetically modified children happening. But the scariest thing to me was the split in society (one who wants total control and the other free will). That is part of what made the book so enjoyable to read.

The author did wrap up almost all of the storylines during this book, even from previous books. One storyline was left open, and I am curious to see if the author writes books about it. It was nice to see karma happen to the main bad guy in the first two books. I had a feeling who the Oba was when Busi had Peri in her rooms.

The end of The Paradise Tree was a little bittersweet. I can’t go into why I say that, but I did get teary eyes during the last couple of chapters of the book.

I would recommend The Paradise Tree to anyone over 21. There are violence and sexual themes. There is no language.

The Paradox Hotel by Rob Hart

Publisher: Random House Publishing Group – Ballantine, Ballantine Books

Date of publication: February 22nd 2022

Genre: Science Fiction, Mystery, Time Travel, Thriller, Fantasy, Speculative Fiction

Purchase Links: Amazon | Audible | B&N | WorldCat

Goodreads Synopsis:

An impossible crime. A detective on the edge of madness. The future of time travel is at stake.

January Cole’s job just got a whole lot harder.

Not that running security at the Paradox was ever really easy. Nothing’s simple at a hotel where the ultra-wealthy tourists arrive costumed for a dozen different time periods, all eagerly waiting to catch their “flights” to the past.

Or where proximity to the time port makes the clocks run backward on occasion—and, rumor has it, allows ghosts to stroll the halls.

None of that compares to the corpse in room 526. The one that seems to be both there and not there. The one that somehow only January can see.

On top of that, some very important new guests have just checked in. Because the U.S. government is about to privatize time-travel technology—and the world’s most powerful people are on hand to stake their claims.

January is sure the timing isn’t a coincidence. Neither are those “accidents” that start stalking their bidders.

There’s a reason January can glimpse what others can’t. A reason why she’s the only one who can catch a killer who’s operating invisibly and in plain sight, all at once.

But her ability is also destroying her grip on reality—and as her past, present, and future collide, she finds herself confronting not just the hotel’s dark secrets but her own.


First Line:

Droplets of blood pat the blue carpet, turning from red to black as they soak into the fibers.

the paradox hotel by rob hart

It has been a while since I have read any science fiction. It’s not that I don’t like the genre (I do); it’s just that I haven’t found any that has caught my eye. Then I started seeing reviews for The Paradox Hotel, which interested me. I figured that I would read it when it was published. So, imagine my surprise (and delight) when I got an invite to review from the publisher.

The Paradox Hotel had an exciting plotline. January Cole is the head of security at The Paradox Hotel, an exclusive hotel where the mega-rich can travel back in time. Her job is to make sure that the guests don’t do anything to disrupt the timeline and to take care of any security threats. The bidders meet at The Paradox when the government decides to privatize time travel. But, as January discovers, someone is willing to do anything to swing the vote in their favor. Can January figure out who is behind the attacks and their motive?

The Paradox Hotel had a fast-moving plotline. The entire book takes place within a couple of days of the bidders arriving at the hotel. There was a slight lag in the middle of the book, but it wasn’t anything that I couldn’t get past.

January was an unlikeable character in The Paradox Hotel. She was unlikable, reckless, and had a potty mouth. But, I had some sympathy for her. She had suffered an unimaginable loss in the recent past and had a traumatic childhood. I did feel bad for her because of those events, and they did help me understand why she was so unlikable. I wish I could say that I grew to like her during the book, but if I would be lying. She was a hot mess.

The author very well wrote the mystery angle of The Paradox Hotel. I couldn’t figure out who was behind the attacks or the why until the end of the book. There were so many red herrings and diverting plotlines that it made it impossible for me to pin down the exact person.

The author just as well wrote the science fiction angle of The Paradox Hotel. I was fascinated by the premise that time travel could be normalized and used as a vacation (even if it was only for the super-rich). There were brief references to people traveling to Egypt (I will never be able to listen to Walk Like an Egyptian without remembering a specific scene in the book again). I also like that the author took a creative angle with people being Unstuck. In the book, Unstuck is someone who has traveled back in time one too many times. People who are Unstuck can see past, future, and current events. There are various levels of being Unstuck, with four being the highest. January is level 2 and takes medication to control it. If she doesn’t take the medication, she can see past, current, and future events. I was fascinated by that!!

I loved the representation that The Paradox Hotel had. There were gay and gender-neutral characters. I firmly believe that January’s girlfriend was trans (the scene where January sees Mena as a child).

The secondary characters were essential to The Paradox Hotel. Ruby, January’s AI assistant, was my favorite secondary character. It reminded me of Jiminy Cricket (being January’s conscience), and a big plus, it was as big of a wiseass as January.

I wouldn’t say I liked the end of The Paradox Hotel. It was the only part of the book that I didn’t like. The author did wrap up the storylines, but I was left feeling that there should have been more.

I would recommend The Paradox Hotel to anyone over 21. There is language, violence, and sexual situations.

The Violence by Delilah S. Dawson

Publisher: Random House Publishing Group – Ballantine, Del Ray

Date of publication: February 1st, 2022

Genre: Horror, Thriller, Mystery, Adult, Science Fiction, Dystopia, Suspense

Purchase Links: Amazon | Audible | B&N | iTunes | WorldCat

Goodreads Synopsis:

A mysterious plague that causes random bouts of violence is sweeping the nation. Now three generations of women must navigate their chilling new reality in this moving exploration of identity, cycles of abuse, and hope.

Chelsea Martin appears to be the perfect housewife: married to her high school sweetheart, the mother of two daughters, keeper of an immaculate home.

But Chelsea’s husband has turned their home into a prison; he has been abusing her for years, cutting off her independence, autonomy, and support. She has nowhere to turn, not even to her narcissistic mother, Patricia, who is more concerned with maintaining the appearance of an ideal family than she is with her daughter’s actual well-being. And Chelsea is worried that her daughters will be trapped just as she is–until a mysterious illness sweeps the nation.

Known as The Violence, this illness causes the infected to experience sudden, explosive bouts of animalistic rage and attack anyone in their path. But for Chelsea, the chaos and confusion the virus causes is an opportunity–and inspires a plan to liberate herself from her abuser.


First Line:

The first recorded incidence of the Violence occurred as Ruth Belmont of Land O’Lakes, Florida, was putting a tub of mayonnaise in her cart at a warehouse store on Tuesday, April 15th, 2025.

the violence by delilah s dawson

When I read the blurb for The Violence, I was instantly intrigued. But, I was also a little hesitant to read it. I was intrigued by the last few books that I did not like. So, keeping that in mind, I dove into The Violence. To say that I was pleasantly surprised is an understatement. I loved this book!!

The Violence is a dystopia set in 2025 Florida. In this world, we have learned to live with COVID and adapted our lives around it. Life has gotten back to normal when news reports start talking about people randomly attacking and killing people. These random attacks soon become commonplace, and a new pandemic is announced. As with the COVID pandemic, its seriousness is downplayed until it is out of control.

The Violence centers around three people and follows them from the pandemic’s start to the end. Chelsea is a stay-at-home mother trapped in an abusive marriage. She dreams of getting out and saving her girls but can’t because her husband would destroy her. So, when The Violence starts, Chelsea uses that to her advantage. Ella is Chelsea’s seventeen-year-old daughter who has witnessed her mother’s abuse for years. She is caught up in an abusive relationship herself but breaks it off when her abuser is caught on camera (and in a public place) beating on her. Patricia is Chelsea’s narcissist mother. She is more concerned with maintaining appearances than helping her daughter and granddaughters escape their abuser. The Violence brings them together unexpectedly, but it also tears them apart. With Chelsea on the run, Ella looking for her, it is up to Patricia to keep Brooklyn safe. But who will keep Patricia safe? And will Chelsea ever get free from her ex? Will Ella find her mother before her father does? What happens when everything comes to a head?

The Violence had a lightening fast storyline. I had zero issues keeping up with how fast the storyline went. Surprisingly, there is no lag. This story didn’t stop. Put it this way, I read it in one night; that’s how fast it went.

Before I get deeper into the review, I want to give everyone a trigger warning heads-up. This book is graphically violent (hence the title). The author doesn’t hold any punches when infected people storm (when they blackout and kill people). She also doesn’t hold back during the abuse scenes. At the beginning of the book, there is a forward explaining why she wrote those scenes the way she did. But still didn’t prepare me for how graphic those scenes were. There is also scenes of verbal abuse (Patricia remembering calling toddler Chelsea stupid stuck out to me), sexual abuse (Chelsea getting raped by David), emotional abuse (Hayden telling Ella he was going to kill himself if she didn’t respond to his text), and animal abuse (David kicking the family dog every time he saw him and that awful scene when Chelsea blacked out). Those examples are only scratching the surface of this book. So read with caution if any of these triggers you.

I loved and pitied Chelsea. I hate to say it, but the way her mother treated her growing up paved the way for her to be in an abusive relationship with David. My heart broke for her during those first few scenes when David choked her. The author made me feel the horror and desperation she went through. I did think she was genius for her plan to get David taken away, and Ella’s 911 call only cemented it. But it was a short-lived plan, and she was getting threatened by David’s friends (one a lawyer and one a cop). When she ended up getting The Violence, she did what any mother would do, she shut herself away, and when she got word that her ex was coming home, she ran to her mother. But, it was what happened after she left the girls at her mother’s. I was equally shouting “Yas girl” and cringing at what she was doing. The name Florida Woman will forever be associated with her.

My heart broke for Ella. She was such a broken child, and I wanted to spirit her away from her family. She had no safe space for her to decompress. Instead, she went from school (where her friends and abusive boyfriend were) to home, where she had to worry about her father potentially killing her mother. She also was tasked with keeping her 5-year-old sister safe and away from her father at night. That meant locking herself and Brooklyn in her room at night. But, that all changed when her father was arrested, and her mother got The Violence. Ella became Brooklyn’s parent. I didn’t blame her for getting angry when Chelsea decided (after finding out that David was getting out of jail) to move them to Patricia’s. I also didn’t blame her for leaving to find Chelsea because Patricia was awful. It showed how much she had grown. But, it was when she stumbled upon the RV and got hooked up with the scientists that she started to blossom. She became that strong, independent girl that she should have been from the start.

I was not too fond of Patricia. OMG, I wanted to go into the book and strangle her at points. She was one of the more awful people that I have ever read. The way she ignored Chelsea’s bruises and how she talked to Chelsea was horrible. Everything was about appearances to her. But, as her backstory was revealed, I did start to feel sorry for her. Her abusive childhood and rape (which resulted in Chelsea) shaped her. She modeled the only behavior that she knew, verbal and emotional abuse. When she took in Ella and Brooklyn, I could see cracks in her facade. And when she was left to care for Brooklyn, those cracks became bigger and bigger. Her character growth and transformation was one of the more surprising ones I read. I loved how she ended up.

Brooklyn was adorable. I was so surprised that she wasn’t more traumatized. I mean, she witnessed her father almost killing her mother. She was uprooted from her house and lived with her grandmother, who was distant and cold. Then, Ella, her protector, leaves. Instead of acting out, having tantrums, or regressing, she remained normal. The only sign the author gave that she had been traumatized was the nightmares she had while sleeping in Patricia’s closet. My heart (and Patricia’s) broke when I realized who she was talking about and what. But other than that, there was nothing.

The secondary characters did round out the book. They all added an extra depth that the book needed.

The horror angle was well written. As I mentioned above, there was a lot of gore and violence associated with this book. The author got in-depth with the gore. I did think certain scenes could have been toned down, but then they wouldn’t have had the punch that they did.

The mystery angle was also very well written. I couldn’t figure out what would happen next in the book. After a certain point, I couldn’t figure out if everyone would come together and when.

The end of The Violence was, well, violent. I will not say much about it except that David got what was coming to him. I also liked the epilogue, showing where everyone was. It gave me hope for all the characters.

I would recommend The Violence for anyone over 21. There is graphic violence, language, and graphic accounts of sexual assault.

The Sultan’s Court (Pirates & Puritans: Book 2) by R.A. Denny

Book Cover

Publisher:

Date of publication: October 14th, 2021

Genre: Historical Fiction, Time Travel, Science Fiction

Series: Pirates & Puritans

The Alchemy Thief—Book 1 (review here)

The Sultan’s Court—Book 2

Purchase Links: Amazon


Goodreads Synopsis:

A vivid and powerful sequel to The Alchemy Thief. A tale of stolen secrets, kidnapping, slavery, and death.

Left behind as a slave in Morocco while Daniel journeys to the New World with the fearsome corsair Ayoub, Peri gives birth to a daughter. The drive to protect the imperiled lives of those she loves leads Peri to the court of the ruthless sultan, Moulay Ismail. In a city built on the backs of slaves, Peri’s rescue plot hangs by a thread, dependent on a dubious disguise and the man she despises. It will take all of her wit and perseverance to survive.

This spellbinding 2nd novel in the Pirates and Puritans Series takes the reader on a journey from Algonquin villages to Moroccan palaces, during the time when Morocco’s most feared leader rose to power and the American colonies sank into a bloody war named after Metacom.


First Line:

“Push!” the midwife instructed Peri, while Hennu supported the Christian slave girl’s shoulders from behind.

the sultan’s court by r.a. denny

The Sultan’s Court is book 2 in the Pirates and Puritans series. I was very excited when the author emailed me with a request to review it. I wasn’t disappointed!! I had enjoyed The Alchemy Thief and couldn’t wait to jump right into this book.

As I mentioned above, The Sultan’s Court is book 2 in the Pirates and Puritans series. I cannot stress this enough, but this book is not stand-alone. The author briefly goes over what happened in book one, but you need to read The Alchemy Thief to understand the relationships and motives. If you don’t, you will be lost and slightly confused.

The author did something that some authors don’t do enough of. She included maps of the different areas discussed in the books (present and past). Having those maps helped me a bunch while reading the book.

There were three significant points of view in The Sultan’s Court and two minor points of view. The critical points of view are Ayoub, Peri, and Daniel, with Liam and Brahim’s minor points of view. The book also goes between 1650 (ish) and the present day. The author does it seamlessly with each chapter saying who the POV is, where, and year. I had zero issues keeping the chapters straight.

The plotline for The Sultan’s Court was interesting. Instead of focusing on alchemy and time travel, it focused on Peri, Ayoub, and Daniel surviving and trying to find a niche in their new worlds. It made for a fascinating read.

There is religion in The Sultan’s Court, but it isn’t shoved down your throat, which I hate. Instead, I got to see how people from that era practiced Native American, Christianity, and Islam religions. The author also gave a small glimpse of extreme Islamists during Brahim and Liam’s POV. It was all very fascinating, and I couldn’t read enough of it.

Of all the characters in the book, I enjoyed reading Ayoub’s point of view the most. His character grew the most throughout the book. It was a gradual growth, but it showed at the end of the book. The conversation that he and Peri had before Ayoub left broke my heart. As did his realization that other people were traumatized like him but didn’t go down his extremist route. But most importantly, his behavior at the very end and his choice to help Peri and Daniel showed his real growth.

I also enjoyed reading Peri’s chapters. She was a devoted mother who gave everything to make sure that her child survived. I also understood why she did what she did when the Sultan took Mya away. As a mother with a child the same age, I would have done the same thing.

I was a little iffy about Daniel. He disappeared for a while from the book. When he was reintroduced, he was an almost different person (which I get, people change in 17 years). It seemed like he had practically forgotten Peri. He became a Mohawk and killed enough people that the tattoos formed a pattern on his face. It wasn’t until after his 2nd wife and children died that he decided to look for Peri. I go that he was tortured and then forced to marry into the tribe, but still. Then I felt terrible for him. He seemed to get the short end of the stick no matter where he went.

Liam was still a man-child who irritated me. But, I did figure out why he was being treated differently the minute they arrived where they were. Then I felt terrible because he didn’t see it until the very last minute.

Brahim, on the other hand, confused me. He came across as an extremist, but then the author did something that took me by surprise. I wasn’t expecting what happened with him to happen.

There is violence in The Sultan’s Court, and some of it was a little graphic. I was a little taken aback by one scene where Peri witnessed the Sultan execute a slave, order his body dumped into a wall (and all I could think was: the smell), then a cat was brutally killed when it wanted to get down. There are other similar scenes sprinkled throughout the book. But, seeing the era it took place in, I expected it.

The end of The Sultan’s Court was terrific. I was glued to the book and couldn’t finish it fast enough. What I didn’t expect was the twist the author threw in!!! It took me by surprise, and I loved it. Now, I can’t wait for book 3 (yes, there will be a book 3!!!)

The Alchemy Thief by R.A. Denny

Book Cover
The Alchemy Thief by R.A. Denny

Publisher:

Date of publication: July 16th, 2021

Genre: Historical Fiction, Science Fiction

Purchase Links: Amazon

Format Read: Unedited ARC

Received From: Author


Goodreads Synopsis

When the secrets of the past threaten to destroy the future.

A tale of hope, resilience, and the indomitable spirit of a woman, this sweeping epic spans the Atlantic from New England to Morocco during the Age of Exploration.

2019: A young woman finds a relic engraved with a mysterious symbol off the coast of Martha’s Vineyard. Terrorists in Morocco steal a 17th-century book engraved with the same symbol. As the woman struggles to unravel the secrets behind the symbol, her life changes in ways she could never have imagined.

1657: Transported back in time, she meets the alchemist, John Winthrop, Jr. who is plotting to lure the greatest scientific minds to the New World. But the more she learns, the more she fears for the lives of the loved ones she left behind.

In a stunning twist of fate, a modern terrorist has traveled into the past, where he has become a Barbary Corsair. He has plans of his own. And he will stop at nothing to succeed.


First Line:

His parents called him Ismail after the Moroccan Warrior King, but even his new Glock-17 didn’t make Ismail feel like a warrior.

The Alchemy Thief by R.A. Denny

I am not a huge fan of time travel books. I have read a few books out of that genre that soured me on them. So, I was a little hesitant to read The Alchemy Thief. What eventually sold me on the book was the alchemy angle.

I am glad that I decided to read The Alchemy Thief. This book was action-packed and full of interesting facts about Colonial Massachusetts and the Barbary Corsairs (which I have rarely read about).

The Alchemy Thief started slow. Usually, I’m not too fond of it when books start slow. But, in this instance, Peri and Ayoub’s backstories needed it. Once the book explained their backstories, then it picked up speed. It stayed at a medium pace throughout the book. Again, I wasn’t bothered by it. The pace fits the book. If it went slower, the storyline would have dragged. If it went faster, then I feel that I would have missed out on some of the backstories. So, the pacing was perfect.

I felt awful for Ayoub’s character and thought that the author did a fantastic job of portraying him. She captured what war and extremism do to children. Ayoub was 10-11 when he was sent back in time. As a mother, I was horrified by what he was exposed to and what he was forced to do. I wanted to reach through the book, scoop him up, and hug him. But, even though he was sent back in time and became a Barbary Corsair, I think it was better than what he went through in modern times. But, as I said earlier, the damage was done, and it shaped him into the man he became later on in the book.

I was kind of “eh” about Experience when she first made an appearance in the book. She was too nice and very naïve. Oh, and trusting. She was very trusting to the point where I wanted to shake her and tell her to get rid of Liam. However, once she was transported back to Colonial Massachusetts, I felt that her character grew by leaps and bounds. She went from being this one-dimensional character to a fully fleshed-out person. I also liked that she forged friendships and relationships while figuring out how she was getting home.

As I mentioned above, the book’s alchemy angle was the reason I chose to read the book. I find alchemy fascinating, and The Alchemy Thief only added to that fascination. In addition, I enjoyed learning how the bodkins were made and how the main characters used them.

There is a romance angle to The Alchemy Thief. There are two main romances. The first one is Peri and Liam. I was 100% against Peri even looking at Liam. He came across as too smarmy. However, my instincts were right about him (the 100 virgins comment made me want to smack him).

The second romance was Peri and Daniel. Talk about a swoon-worthy romance. I loved the instant connection that they had. I also loved that Peri was able to confide in Daniel about where she had come from and what she was trying to do (go home). I also liked that Peri and Daniel’s romance came naturally. There was no Instalove and no instant sex. Instead, Daniel courted Peri and spent time with her.

The time travel angle of the book (which is tied into the alchemy angle) was very well written. I thought it was interesting how Ayoub and Peri were transported back in time. I liked that it was a one way only type deal. Once the main characters used the bodkin, it was gone. I also liked how the author didn’t have Ayoub or Peri give away the future. Well, Ayoub did, but he was written off as having a djinn. Peri was careful to keep her cellphone hidden and to keep up her Puritan facade.

The author had a glossary at the back that detailed the historical events. She also gave definitions to the Native American terms used. I found it helpful and was grateful that she included it.

The end of The Alchemy Thief was interesting. There is a big twist that I did not see coming, and it stunned me. She didn’t wrap up any of the storylines. Instead, with the way she ended the book, I want to read book 2. I need to find out what happens!!


I enjoyed reading The Alchemy Thief. It was engaging and kept my attention glued to my Kindle!!

I would recommend The Alchemy Thief to anyone over the age of 16. The Alchemy Thief is a clean book (no sex). There are some disturbing scenes of a suicide bombing. Ayoub has PTSD and has flashbacks about killing people as a child (he was forced). There is a scene where Peri is forced naked and has a man forcibly check her vagina (she was accused of being a witch).

Scorpion by Christian Cantrell

Book Cover
Scorpion by Christian Cantrell

Publisher: Random House Publishing Group – Random House, Random House

Date of publication: May 25th, 2021

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Science Fiction

Purchase Links: Amazon | Audible | B&N | WorldCat

Format Read: Unedited ARC

Received From: Publisher


Goodreads Synopsis:

Around the world, twenty-two people have been murdered. The victims fit no profile, the circumstances vary wildly, but one thing links them all: in every case the victim is branded with a number.

With police around the globe floundering and unable to identify any pattern, let alone find a killer, CIA Analyst Quinn Mitchell is called in to investigate.

Before long, Quinn is on the trail of an ice-hearted assassin with seemingly limitless resources – but she’s prepared for that.

What she isn’t prepared for is the person pulling the strings…


First Line:

Henrietta Yi and her team have been underground for three days.

Scorpion by Christian Cantrell

When I read the blurb for Scorpion, I was intrigued and a little wary—intrigued because I am a massive sucker for a mystery that goes international. Wary because I have read technothrillers before, and they were not my cup of tea. But, since I read anything that comes across my desk (or email in this case), I decided to take a chance on it. It was a chance that fell flat.

Scorpion is the story about a CIA analyst, Quinn, who is called in to help with a strange case. There have been 22 people killed, all with different numbers tattooed somewhere on their bodies. Who is this serial killer, who controls him, and why do they want those people dead? The answers might be the biggest surprise of all.

Scorpion started as a fast-paced book. The storyline zipped right along until it hit the middle of the book. Then the storyline came almost to a standstill, which surprised me. Unfortunately, it did take some time for the author to get the story going again.

Scorpion’s storyline was exciting at first. It was easy to follow, focusing on Quinn and Ranveer during the first half of the book. Then the author introduced Henrietta, who I thought would be a secondary character and the storyline took on an unfortunate (and weird) turn. After that, I almost couldn’t follow the storyline because of everything that was going on. It was too much. If the author had just kept the storyline focused on Quinn and Ranveer, I would have been OK with it and enjoyed the book more.

I wasn’t sure if I liked Quinn. I did have sympathy for her, and when her backstory was revealed, my heart broke. But, she came across as flaky. A former spy, you would have thought that she would have had at least some experience with interviews. But she didn’t and cried during an interview. I mean, seriously? Who does that?

There is a lot of technical jargon that did bog down the storyline. I found myself googling terms a lot. Again, it didn’t help with the book’s flow and made me grumpy while reading it.

The end of the book was a giant cluster. I couldn’t wrap my head around what was happening (and I read the last eight chapters twice). Add in everything that was happening with Henrietta, and I was like, “What. The. Heck. Is. Going. On“. Like I mentioned above, it was almost too much.


I did like the first half of Scorpion. It was a good read with the right amount of mystery and thriller. But the book went downhill in the second half, and I didn’t enjoy it.

I am on the fence if I would recommend Scorpion. There is no sex. There is violence, sometimes graphic. There is one troubling scene of a baby being murdered. There is mental illness with the character going off her meds.

The Last Human by Zack Jordan

The Last Human by [Jordan, Zack]

4 Stars

Publisher: Random House Publishing Group – Ballantine, Del Ray

Date of publication: March 24th, 2020

Genre: Science Fiction

Where you can find The Last Human: Barnes and Noble | Amazon | BookBub

Book Synopsis:

The last human in the universe is on the run from a godlike intelligence in this rip-roaring debut space opera.

Sarya is the civilized galaxy’s worst nightmare: a Human.

Most days, Sarya doesn’t feel like the most terrifying creature in the galaxy.

Most days, she’s got other things on her mind. Like hiding her identity among the hundreds of alien species roaming the corridors of Watertower Station. Or making sure her adoptive mother doesn’t casually eviscerate one of their neighbors. Again.

And most days, she can almost accept that she’ll never know the truth–that she’ll never know why humanity was deemed too dangerous to exist. Or whether she really is–impossibly–the lone survivor of a species destroyed a millennium ago.

That is, until an encounter with a bounty hunter and a miles-long kinetic projectile leaves her life and her perspective shattered.

Thrown into the universe at the helm of a stolen ship–with the dubious assistance of a rebellious spacesuit, an android death enthusiast on his sixtieth lifetime, and a ball of fluff with an IQ in the thousands–Sarya begins to uncover an impossible truth.

What if humanity’s death and her own existence are simply two moves in a demented cosmic game, one played out by vast alien intellects? Stranger still, what if these mad gods are offering Sarya a seat at their table–and a second chance for humanity?

The Last Human is a sneakily brilliant, gleefully oddball space-opera debut–a masterful play on perspective, intelligence, and free will, wrapped in a rollicking journey through a strange and crowded galaxy.


First Line:

Not so many years ago, Shenya the Widow was a void-cold killer.

The Last Human by Zack Jordan

My Review:

I usually do not read science fiction for review. That doesn’t mean I don’t read that genre. I wouldn’t say I like do not like reviewing that genre. So how did I end up with The Last Human for review? Easy, I wished for it on NetGalley and the publisher granted my wish.

The Last Human is the story of Sarya. Sarya is the adopted daughter of Shenya the Widow and she lives on a space station. But, Sarya is also the last of her species, a Human. Sarya’s mother and herself have worked carefully to hide what Sarya is. Everything was okay until a bounty hunter showed up and everything went sideways. The result was Sarya on the run with a spacesuit who can think for itself, an android who is obsessed with death and a super-smart fluffball (think a Tribble) and her protector. When two gods approach Sarya with a chance to make right past wrongs, she has to make a choice. Does she accept what they individually offer? Or does she go her own way?

The plotline for The Last Human was well written and kept my attention. There was a little bit of lag (when Sarya was inside the Observer’s brain), but the author was able to pull past it. There was also no dropped storylines or characters, which was a massive plus for me.

Sarya was an awesome character. She knew that she was Human, and she knew that she needed to keep her Humanity secret. If she didn’t, she would have been killed on sight. She loved her mother, Shenya the Widow, and was devastated when Shenya gave her life to let Sarya escape. She did make some rash decisions, but that only highlighted her Humanity. Her actions at the end of the book were exciting and thought-provoking.

The science fiction angle of the book was wonderfully written. It has been a long while since I read a space opera that I enjoyed. The worlds, the technology, the other life forms were fantastically written. I loved that the author broke the book up into the tiers of intelligence. I also loved that he gave excerpts of the rules and a glimpse into why Humanity was wiped out.

The end of The Last Human was satisfying. It raised a lot of questions for me. Those questions weren’t to do with the book but with the question “Is there life out there.


I would give The Last Human an Adult rating. There is no sex. There is mild language. There is violence. I would recommend that no one under the age of 21 read this book.

I would reread The Last Human. I would recommend it to family and friends.

**I voluntarily reviewed a complimentary copy of this book**

The Vanished Birds by Simon Jimenez

The Vanished Birds: A Novel by [Jimenez, Simon]

3 Stars

Publisher: Random House Publishing Group – Ballantine, Del Ray

Date of publication: January 14th 2020

Genre: Science Fiction, Fantasy

Where you can find The Vanished Birds: Barnes and Noble | Amazon | BookBub

Book Synopsis:

A mysterious child lands in the care of a solitary woman, changing both of their lives forever in this captivating debut of connection across space and time.

“This is when your life begins.”

Nia Imani is a woman out of place and outside of time. Decades of travel through the stars are condensed into mere months for her, though the years continue to march steadily onward for everyone she has ever known. Her friends and lovers have aged past her; all she has left is work. Alone and adrift, she lives only for the next paycheck, until the day she meets a mysterious boy, fallen from the sky.

A boy, broken by his past.

The scarred child does not speak, his only form of communication the beautiful and haunting music he plays on an old wooden flute. Captured by his songs and their strange, immediate connection, Nia decides to take the boy in. And over years of starlit travel, these two outsiders discover in each other the things they lack. For him, a home, a place of love and safety. For her, an anchor to the world outside of herself.

For both of them, a family.

But Nia is not the only one who wants the boy. The past hungers for him, and when it catches up, it threatens to tear this makeshift family apart.


First Line:

He was born with an eleventh finger.

The Vanished Birds by Simon Jimenez

My Review:

I was on the fence about reviewing The Vanished Birds. To make up my mind, I read the first four reviews on Goodreads. That is something I never do, but I was conflicted. The reviews were evenly conflicted about the book. So, I decided to take a chance on it. For the most part, it was a good book. But some parts made me wonder why they were written, even after finishing the book.

The Vanished Birds had a slow to a medium-paced plotline. When the book focused on Nia and her relationship with Ahro/their travels until he was 16, the book moved at a medium-paced. But, when the book focused on Fumiko Nakajima (past and present) and her travels, it slowed to a crawl. I will be honest; I skimmed over a large part of her story. I started paying attention when she was on the secret base and the events afterward.

I enjoyed reading about the type of space travel that Nia used to go between planets. It fascinated me. I couldn’t imagine being in space for what I would have thought would be a few months and to find out that 15 years have passed.

Nia was a tough cookie to like during the book. She made some questionable decisions that affected the people around her. Nia kept people are arm’s length. She did unbend, slightly, when she met Ahro. She unbent, even more, when Fumiko asked her to keep him safe for 15 years. But, I couldn’t quite bring myself to like her.

When Fumiko was introduced in The Vanished Birds, I didn’t understand what her role was. I mean, it was explained relatively early on that she was the founder of the colonies in space, and she invented the engine that allowed space travel. But I didn’t know why her backstory was being told. It didn’t go with the flow of Nia’s story. Even when her story was brought to the present, I still wondered: “Why?” I also wondered why she was so invested in Ahro. It was explained, and it didn’t show her in a good light.

I loved Ahro. I loved seeing his character growth throughout the book. I wasn’t prepared for what his secret was, though. I honestly thought that it had something to do with music and his affinity for it. So, when it was revealed, I was shocked. I loved watching his relationship with Nia and her crew grow, which made what happened and who caused it such a shock.

I do wish that more time had been spent on the times they visited the planets. There were so many locations!!! All exotic and all made me want more. But that didn’t happen.

I wasn’t a fan of the last half of the book. I had questions about what was going to happen to Nia and Ahro once the dust settles. I also had questions about Fumiko. I can only assume what happened to her. And then there is the question about where Ahro originally came from and who The Kind One was.


I would give The Vanished Birds an Adult rating. There is sex. There is language. There is violence. I would recommend that no one under the age of 21 read this book.

I am on the fence if I would reread The Vanished Birds. I am also on the fence if I would recommend it to family and friends.

**I voluntarily reviewed a complimentary copy of this book**