All posts by Elena Linville

I am a Russian-Swiss-American citizen of the world. I have traveled all over the globe then hopped over the big Atlantic pond and moved to North Carolina, USA, where I lived for eight years. But staying in one place for too long is not in my nature, so when the wanderlust called again, I packed my meager belongings and my cat continued my great migration all the say from NC to Texas. So here I am not in DFW area with my cat who strongly believes she is a dog and the Queen and Ruler of the house. I have an 8 to 5 job as an field force training specialist and the rest of the time I write stories “for fun and pleasure,” though most of the time it feels like pulling teeth or bleeding on the page. I have two novels, Of Broken Things and The Choices We Make, which are both in the fully finished first draft stage. I’m currently editing Of Broken Things and letting Choices sit in a desk drawer for a few months. I’m also editing my novella Mists of the Crosswords which is almost ready for beta readers. Looking for a few betas btw who are not afraid to give honest feedback. I have an idea for a serial of short stories called the Eye of the Norns Cicle. The first short story had been published in an anthology, the second story is written down but needs editing, and I’m outlining the next three stories. I think I have enough ideas for 2 seasons of 6 stories each. I also love reading sci-fi, fantasy, dystopia, urban fantasy and post -apocalyptic books. I have been known to pick up a romance or two from time to time, but NEVER in the contemporary or historical genres. I don’t read YA, children books or nonfiction.

A Fool’s Errand (In All Jest 1) by D.E. King

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DNF at 25%.

I managed to finish 6 books since I started this one, but I had to force myself to come back to this time and time again, read about 10 pages, then loose interest again. I’m calling it quits because I haven’t opened this book in 4 days and have no desire to come back to it again.

The sad part is – there is a good story in this book, but it’s buried under mounds of useless minutiae that don’t do anything to drive the plot forward. Case in point: the book opens with a strong sequence where our protagonist has a run-in with local guards, finds a dying man, and is entrusted with a dangerous artifact… And then we have 4 chapters following a completely different character in another part of the world, sitting through a long meeting discussing school reforms, study rotations, and rations. any tension that the first chapter had built is killed at the vine.

The other problem is that the characters are very lukewarm. I would have followed them if the book was more tightly written, but I don’t feel like wading through pages upon pages of worldbuilding and often useless details just for the sake of these characters. I don’t care enough about them. As I said, any high stakes that were set up in chapter one were lost by chapter 5 because the story just can’t get started in earnest.

It’s sad, because as I said, there is a good book somewhere in there, it would have benefited from another content editing session and a 200 pages cut.

PS: I received an advanced copy of this book via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Winter’s Reach (Revanche Cycle 1) by Craig Schaefer

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Stars: 4.5 out of 5.

This is an interesting start of a new (to me) series with nice worldbuilding and depth. The world is reminiscent of Renaissance Europe with it’s domination of the Church, the Holy City and byzantine political intrigue. Everyone has an ulterior motive, there are plans within plans, and conspiracies abound.

I liked all the characters, which is an important criteria of just how much I will enjoy the book. They aren’t all good people. In fact, I would argue that most of them aren’t particularly good, and all of them are out of their own personal gain in some shape or form. But they feel real, with their own good qualities and flaws. And I understand their motivations. Which made me invested in their struggles.

I especially liked Felix who went through a crucible of fire in Winter’s Reach and emerged stronger, but also more ruthless. And Amadeo, the dying Pope’s confessor and oldest friend, who is thorn between trying to fulfil a promise he made to his old friend and the realization that putting his the Pope’s son on the throne will be the end of, well, everything. 

I loved that there are plots within plots, and some plots are thwarted, and others succeed… but not exactly in a manner the organizers expected. And nobody is safe. Bad things happen to seemingly good characters, and death can come in an instant. Seemingly good people can be forced to do horrible things and bargain with powers they barely understand. Nothing is black and white, but all different shades of gray instead. This makes the book interesting, and the stakes ever so high for our characters. 

My only complaint about this book is that there are a lot of plotlines left unresolved. This book just sets the stage for the series, so don’t expect a nifty little conclusion at the end of it. We are introduced to the world and the characters. The lines are drawn and the armies are gathering, but you will have to read the following books to understand how it all gets resolved. Which I am more than happy to do, by the way, because this series seems amazing, and I want to know what happens to my favorite characters… and whether or not the villains in this story get their just desserts.

The Ghosts of Lewis Manor by Marcia Armandi

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Stars: 2 out of 5.

The premise was promising, but the execution is disappointing. Overwritten prose. Some glaring historical errors that could have been avoided if the author had done a little bit of research before referencing certain things. The US Air Force wasn’t officially established until 1947. During the war they were part of the US Army. Yes, a small detail, but it matters, and Google would have given you the correct answer in like 2 minutes.

My other problem is that there were no characters I could root for in this book. I didn’t particularly care for Seraphina, and the supporting cast of characters aren’t very fleshed out. They are there to serve a purpose, or possess one distinguishable treat and that’s it. I particularly didn’t like the fact that the women in this book are all either older than Seraphina and thus fulfill the role of the town gossip or the wise “motherly” figure. And those who are her age or close are either dead, or rather unsympathetic. It’s the usual trope of portraying the heroine as better (wiser, more beautiful, virtuous, etc.) as everyone else by making other women less than her. Ugh, I hate that trope.

Also, the idea that London somehow has less active ghosts than a little town in New Forest is rather ridiculous. London has been inhabited for thousands of years and saw its fare share of tragedies and deaths. For someone able to see ghosts, the city would be positively teeming with them.

I didn’t particularly care for the romance between Seraphina and Ross either. It read rather lukewarm to me. Like the author just wanted to add a romance into the story to draw a parallel between Seraphina and Ross and Rose and Elliott. 

Though I must admit that the concept that ghosts might exist on different planes from each other and not be able to see other ghosts or communicate with those that aren’t on the same plane is interesting. I don’t think I saw anything like that before.

My biggest issue is with the identity of the killer though. I found that it came out of nowhere. There was no foreshadowing anywhere in the book before the big reveal, no crumbs disseminated throughout the story to make the protagonist, or at least the reader suspect anything. It was just “bham! He is the killer! Queue evil laughter”. It’s almost like the author decided to make him the bad man just for shock value. I am all for shocking reveals, but they need to be justified.

PS: I received an advanced copy via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Ghostdrift (The Finder Chronicles 4) by Suzanne Palmer

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Stars: 5 out of 5.

When we last saw Fergus, he had been saved from imminent and very painful death by the Asig, while he in turn saved the known galaxy. But all is not sunshine and roses in this book. Yes, Fergus is alive and even whole, but he is the most wanted man in the humanity settled cosmos, with a hefty price on his head and a lot of powerful enemies. So he has been in hiding. Which means that he has been alone with is cat and no contact with his family and friends. But when one such friend finally comes calling and asks for his help to free another friend from pirates, of course he will say yes.

Suzanne Palmer has a gift for creating likeable characters. I mean, we are dealing with a ship full of pirates here, yet I grew rather fond of all of them in the end. I think this is also due to the fact that Fergus always tries to see good in people, or at least to find ways to coexist with those he has no choice but to interact with due to various circumstances. It also helps that all of the characters are painted in different shades of gray and all have their own needs, wants and motivations. The villains aren’t even just for the sake of being evil, they have their own reasons behind their actions. The good guys aren’t always exactly good either. Everyone is human and bound to make an absolute mess out of things.

I also liked the main mystery of this book – a missing ship, possible rogue active jump points. A solitary planet in the middle of the Gap between two sections of the galaxy. Oh, and new kinds of aliens, who turn out not so evil in the end after all. Oh, and Fergus being his usual “interesting” self. We get more Asig as well, and get introduced to some of the other humans they changed.

I had a lot of fun with this story, and I am looking forward to following Fergus on his future adventures.

PS: I received an advanced copy via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Between Homes (The City Between 5) by W.R. Gingell

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Stars: 5 out of 5.

This was the best book in the series so far, at least in my opinion. Mostly because the ending of the last book brought home that it’s not all fun and games anymore. Pet made a serious choice and must live with the consequences in this book. I’m glad to see that she is sticking to her guns and decides to do what’s right, and to help where she can, even if she doesn’t have the looming presence (and protection) of two fae and a vampire at her back. Well, she has the vampire eventually, but that’s a different story.

I love that Pet continues to accumulate friends and found family around herself. Now she has Morgana and Daniel, and a whole werewolf pack to book, and mysterious kids on the roof of a mysterious house. I think this ability to empathize and make friends with the underdogs is her real magical power, not the fact that she can pull stuff out of Between into human world. She has a keen sense as to who is fundamentally a good person even if they did something stupid or harmful, and who isn’t, and she hasn’t been wrong so far.

The two cases that are investigated in this book are also very interesting. One is a killer that attacks fae and that nobody can see it seems, and the other is the case of a child that the Behindkind took a particular interest to. We learn a bit more about heirlings and harbringers and maybe who Pet really is and why she and her parents lived like they did. Hopefully, this will be explored further in consecutive books. 

I also liked that Pet managed to get her point across to Zero in the end and explain why helping humans mistreated by Behindkind maters to her. And maters enough that she was willing to live her home and the safety that the Troika offered her because staying would have betrayed her moral principles on that matter. 

The Phoenix Illusion (SPI Files 6) by Lisa Shearin

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Stars: 5 out of 5

This book starts with a bang… or with a literal building being dropped almost on top of our characters… and then catching on fire. Wow, that was an intense opening scene, let me tell you! The rest of the book is a fun romp in search of other vanishing buildings and figuring out who the baddies are and what they want. Side note, still not clear on that last part. 

This series continues to shine, and it’s because of the characters. I love Mac and her team. Heck, I even hooked my husband on these books, and he isn’t usually a big fan of urban fantasy. Mac, Ian, Rake, and especially Yasha have made a convert out of him. 

Mac continues to be a sassy, but competent protagonist who reads very human and relatable. Yes, she has powers, since she can see through glamor and cloaking spells, but she isn’t overpowered. She definitely isn’t a one woman army. She knows her strengths and weaknesses and can think on her feet. And kudos for bringing one of the previous book’s baddies down with a bottle of perfume and a handy storage closet. That was hilarious.

My only complaint is that at one point this book almost became a Tam and Rake show, and the other characters, including Mac, were kinda pushed into the background.  And there was very little Ian again, which was very disappointing. Yes, I love Mac and Rake as a couple, and their interactions are always fun to read about. But I also love Mac and Ian, and their partners/siblings relationship. I want to read more of their banter and how they bounce ideas of each other and have each other’s back during tough cases. 

But all in all, still loving this series, and I will definitely finish it. Also thinking about picking up the Raine Benares series afterwards.

The Last Night in Amsterdam by Melanie Atkinson

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Stars: 3 out of 5.

I am honestly amazed at the amount of 5 star reviews for this book. Did I read a different book from everyone else?

I mean, yeah, it starts great if a bit slow, introducing us to the two main narrators and showing us what brought them to Amsterdam before the fateful emergency podcast. Problem is, the rest of the book is like watching a train wreck in Zack Snider slow motion with heavy dose of flashbacks and exposition inserted between all the action. Which, you guessed it, kills any type of tension or momentum of the story. It doesn’t help that the two narrators relate that story after they had already survived the events, so there is really no need to worry about them not making it.

I mean, you have a scene where a guy is literally about to get tackled by zombies, and he is running for the door to a building… but our protagonists realize that if they open that door to save him, all the zombies will get into the building as well, so not only he would be dead, but all of them would as well. Tense moment, right? Life or death stakes, right? Why oh why do we have to read through 4 pages of those characters reminiscing about their guilty feelings and PTSD about that episode WHILE that episode is unfolding? No more tension. And my interest in the story is as dead and mangled as the body of that guy once he is savaged by the zombie horde.

And the whole book is like that. I don’t mind the inner monolog and some explanations of the character’s feelings, or a couple flashbacks here and there, but not when it bogs down the story and kills the flow of it. I ended up skimming the last fifty pages of the book ignoring all of the “feelings” just to see what happened. And it was nothing much.

It’s better written then some zombie books I read, but definitely not a 5 stars or even 4 starts read.

Reborn by Stephanie Ellis

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Stars: 2 out of 5.

While this was a dark and immersive world, I didn’t particularly enjoy it for several reasons. 

Firstly, the pacing was off in this book. There is no sense of urgency or how much time actually elapsed between different events. There is talk that the three brothers need to reach Cernunnos before his resurrection, but exactly how urgent is that? This whole book just reads like a long road trip movie where they just meander around and take their time. 

This would have been fine if I had enjoyed the characters, but I didn’t. Tommy, Fiddler, and Betty are horrible beings. Yes, they act according to their nature and the purpose for which they were created, but that doesn’t make them any less monstrous. Or does it make me less inclined to follow their stories. I don’t care if Betty gets a new heart. I don’t care if the Wheel turns and they are reborn. In fact, I’d rather they just pass into oblivion and not repeat the pain and suffering they seem to joyfully rain onto humankind.

I didn’t particularly like Megan either. I found her mopey and dull. But then again, I haven’t read the first book, so she might have a good reason for being this depressed, but it makes for a very unlikeable character to follow.

But I think my biggest gripe with this story is just how hopeless it is. The monsters win in the end. The Wheel is turning again, the weirdkin are running free to murder and torture and terrorize humankind again, and the only human in the group died without accomplishing anything she wanted. She didn’t free her husband. She didn’t get her revenge. She didn’t even get closure, because her husband’s murderer was resurrected and forgiven despite everything he had done. Talk about a depressing end of the story. 

I know that this ending opens the door for another book in the series, but I have no desire to read it. Yes, the world is fascinating, in a dark and horrifying sort of way, but it lacks even a ray of hope or a character I want to root for, so I think I’m done.

PS: I received an advanced copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

The Watchers by A.M. Shine

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Stars: 2 out of 5.

How can a horror book be so boring? By being full of overwritten purple prose, that’s how.

The premise was very promising: a mysterious forest where all electronics die. A group of people trapped in a bunker in the middle of it. Haunted and hunted by mysterious Watchers. What’s there not to love. Unfortunately, the execution is more than lacking.

The author doesn’t know how to show, not tell, or that less is more. No, they choose to tell us every little thing the characters are doing or feeling at every given time. ALL the characters, ALL the time…

Well, there is nothing that kills the tension faster than having all the characters reminisce about their pasts or ponder what they are feeling WHILE they are running for their lives through a forest full of monsters. You have to reach the river, find the boat, and escape before the sun sets, or you will be murdered in a horrible way, but yes, by all means, let’s sprinkle this high octane flight with page upon page of useless filler. Tension – gone. Boredom – fully set in.

Every scene in this book that was supposed to be high stakes, heart pounding, and horrifying is diluted to ineffectiveness by constant flashbacks and inner monologs. I got so tired of this that I literally skimmed the last third of the book just to read the major plot points and get to the ending.

You would think that as much as we spend reading the characters’ inner thoughts, I would have grown to care for them? Nope. Not in the slightest. They are all annoying and lack substance. I honestly didn’t care for any of them, so any character deaths that might have happened didn’t have the intended impact.

This book would have benefited from a rewrite that would have cut about 100 pages of purple prose and added better character development.

Redemption Ark (Revelation Space 2) by Alasdair Reynolds

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Stars: 2.5 out of 5.

This is the third book I read by this author, and I’m beginning to see a trend: the worldbuilding is excellent. The ideas are fascinating and thought-provoking. The faraway future of human space exploration and settlement the author paints is definitely worth exploring further. But the characters, oh the characters… the author can’t write engaging characters to save his life.

It was a slight issue for me in the first book of the series, Revelation Space, but the new world was interesting enough to dive into that I overlooked the lack of engaging characters to follow. It was also visible in the prequel Chasm City, but at least that book gave me some answers about other things raised in book 1, so I let is slide. But this problem came to the forefront in this book, because the main storyline is most definitely character driven. Unfortunately, I didn’t have any good characters to latch on to. And by good I mean interesting and realistic, or even engaging. 

I couldn’t care less for Clavain and his identity crisis, mostly because he came off condescending and thinking himself smarter and better than anyone else in the universe… while making some rather stupid assumptions and decisions. I also didn’t like Skade and couldn’t really understand her motivations for being as she is. You would think that it would be better explained, since she is the main villain. But even her story was put aside halfway through, when Clavain and his crew got busy with the big confrontation with the Triumvir. 

Speaking of which, what was that even about? We spent pages upon pages talking about the importance of the weapons, and everyone is fighting for control and possession of said weapons… only to just leave them and run at the end? What was the point of this book exactly then? If they were essential for the fight against the Inhibitors, then why didn’t anyone bother to scoop them up before they turned tail and burned it out of the dying system?

As it stands, the book dragged for me. In fact, it took me the better half of last year and then a couple months in 2024 to finish it, simply because I would start losing interest after 10 pages or so and put the book away. I had to force myself to come back to it every time and finish it. I will still give book 3 a try to see where this story is going, but I hope it will be a much tighter book with at least a couple characters I can latch into.