Tuesday, December 12, 2017

The Innkeeper of Ivy Hill (Tales from Ivy Hill, #1)The Innkeeper of Ivy Hill by Julie Klassen

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Category: Adult
Genre: Historical Fiction
Content: Clean

On a rise overlooking the Wiltshire countryside stands the village of Ivy Hill. Its coaching inn, The Bell, is its lifeblood--along with the coach lines that stop there daily, bringing news, mail, travelers, and much-needed trade.

Jane Bell lives on the edge of the inn property. She had been a genteel lady until she married the charming innkeeper who promised she would never have to work in his family's inn. But when he dies, Jane finds herself The Bell's owner, and worse, she has three months to pay a large loan or lose the place.

The innkeeper of Ivy Hill is the first series Julie Klassen has written and so far I like it. I was expecting this to have more romance in it since Klassen is known for writing historical Christian romances, but the focus here is more on other types of relationships, with the main focus being on telling Jane's story, while touching on other characters in the town of Ivy Hill as well. There is also very little focus on religion in the book, making this a straight up historical fiction. The author mentioned classics like Cranford as inspiration for the series. The author also said she used the cute historic town of Lacock as the layout for the town of Ivy Hill. That was helpful to me when it came to picturing the town since I've actually been there.

Except for a few details that I would have liked to have been included in the book, one being why and how Jane fell in love with John - an innkeeper - to begin with, I think the author has done a good job. I look forward to reading more.

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Thursday, December 7, 2017

Written in Red (The Others, #1)Written in Red by Anne Bishop

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Category: Adult
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Content: Strong Language

As a cassandra sangue, or blood prophet, Meg Corbyn can see the future when her skin is cut—a gift that feels more like a curse. Meg’s Controller keeps her enslaved so he can have full access to her visions. But when she escapes, the only safe place Meg can hide is at the Lakeside Courtyard—a business district operated by the Others.

I was looking for something fresh and new to read in the urban fantasy genre for a while and considered several, but just couldn't get interested in any of them enough to pick them up. I finally came across this one when a friend read and liked it enough to give it 5 stars. I'm happy to say I got what I was looking for. Right from the beginning I could not put Written in Red down. The world and the characters are all interesting and it felt like something no one else has written even though it has several similar elements to other urban fantasies.

The shape shifters seem a lot less human in this than most other fantasies, and I liked that. I loved the elemental ponies. I loved the crows and their shiny objects and the way they referred to Meg and "The Meg". There was enough humor in the book to balance out the darker parts, which I always appreciate. Ponies and crows with shiny objects aside, this is a pretty brutal world that includes shape shifters, vampires, elementals, and apparently a few unknowns. Most of them consider humans meat, and will not hesitate to eat a human if they are crossed.

I like the way potential romantic relationship is evolving slowly, I haven't seen that in any of the books I've read in a while. By the end of the book we are in on the way they feel about each other and they haven't even realized it yet. Shape shifters don't fall in love with humans in this world as far as I can tell - the whole food thing I suppose - so this will be interesting.

If this book has a weakness I would say it is the Asia Crane part of the plot. I just had a hard time buying that she would be taking all of those chances just to become an actress on a TV show and didn't really get how it tied together. She was mostly annoying and I felt like the author could have come up with something better to advance the plot.

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Monday, December 4, 2017

FleshFlesh by Laura Bickle

My rating: 2.5 of 5 stars

Category: Young Adult
Genre: Horror
Content: Strong Language

Charlie Sulliven thinks she knows all the secrets of the dead. Raised in a funeral home, she’s the reluctant “Ghoul Girl,” her reputation tied to a disastrous Halloween party.

Chewed human bodies are appearing in her parents’ morgue…and disappearing in the middle of the night. When one of Charlie’s classmates, Amanda, awakens in the cooler as a flesh-eating ghoul, Charlie must protect her newfound friend and step up to unravel the mystery…and try to avoid becoming lunch meat for the dead.

Flesh is what I would call YA horror, although it's mild. There are some gross out scenes in the morgue, but nothing is really all that scary. I felt like the end wrapped everything up a little too quickly, and it was missing the creepy aspect that I was hoping for, and that made it just an ok read instead of a good read.

I've read and liked other books by Laura Bickle, but this one was not one of my favorites. I'm glad it's a stand-alone since the story is all wrapped up in this one book. I probably wouldn't have been interested enough to read a sequel.

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Friday, December 1, 2017

Never Forgotten (Mary O’Reilly Paranormal Mystery #3)Never Forgotten by Terri Reid

My rating: 2.5 of 5 stars

Category: Adult
Genre: Paranormal, Mystery
Content: Clean 

The curse had killed another law enforcement officer in Stephenson County – this time it struck on Christmas Eve. Nearly a dozen good men had died in the past four years and they all had the same unexplained symptoms. And Mary knew Bradley was next.

***There are some minor spoilers in this review, but just small things, and nothing that should ruin the reading experience plot wise.

Never Forgotten is the third book in the Mary O'Reilly series and so far the worst. I liked the first book despite its flaws, but with each book this series has gotten weaker and weaker. Yet again we are told who the killer is. I really am frustrated with the lack of mystery for the reader to solve. Why not keep us guessing? It would make the stories so much more interesting if we had to figure everything out along with Mary and Bradley. However, I know good and well I would have figured it out long before they did, which is another problem with this series. Bradley needs to turn in his badge and Mary needs to give up being a P.I. because it was so obvious who did it and how they did it that these two have lost all credibility as a police chief and an ex-cop, not that they had a lot to begin with, especially Mary. And I'm not just saying that because I was privy to information they didn't have. There was so much staring them in the face that they were too dumb to see.

We also get a little more info on Bradley's missing wife Jeannine, but I am completely frustrated with this aspect of the book. There are several questions that come to mind like why all of a sudden are there the ghost rules that Jeannine says she has to follow? None of the other ghosts have had rules. And why after his wife has been missing for 8 years, and he has clearly moved on wouldn't Bradley be able to accept that his wife may be dead? It seems like that would be an easier thing to accept than that she walked out on him while pregnant and completely disappeared. Why didn't Bradley realize he had a near death experience and not just a dream when he saw Jeanine while near death? Why didn't he ask about their daughter? And why wouldn't Mary drop bigger hints about Jeanine to help Bradley come to the right conclusion about her, even if she couldn't just come out and tell him she was dead herself? None of it really makes any sense and it all just seems contrived to draw out the mystery - the only real mystery in this series so far - out for several books.

I'm glad I listened to most of this one on Audible while working around the house, so I didn't really feel like I wasted a huge amount of time on it since I was doing other things too. I feel so frustrated with this series that I've decided not to keep reading it, even to find out exactly what happened to Jeanine.

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Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Cloaked (Once Upon a Western Book 1)Cloaked by Rachel Kovaciny

My rating: 2.5 of 5 stars

Category: Young Adult, Christian
Genre: Western, Fairy Tale
Content: Clean

Mary Rose feels uneasy around Mr. Linden from the moment she meets him on the stagecoach ride to her grandmother's ranch in Wyoming Territory. But he works for her grandmother, so that means he's trustworthy, doesn't it?

She tries to ignore her suspicions until one night, she discovers his real reason for being at the ranch. Now, if she's going to save her grandmother -- and herself -- she's going to need to run faster than she's ever run before.

2.5 stars. Cloaked is a re-telling of Red Riding Hood and that's what drew me to it in the first place. I usually love reading re-tellings of that story, but unfortunately this one fell flat for me. I thought maybe it would include a supernatural aspect to it, but this is straight up western, which isn't really my thing. I don't know how to define this other than that. It's not really a romance, but there is romance in it. It also isn't really a mystery, although there is a slight mystery to it. However, it's easy to figure out what Mr. Linden is up to, and it's pointed out from the very beginning that he's a suspicious person. This was really short at 143 pages, but it felt longer because it was very slow moving and rather boring. This is the first book in what will be a series. If I could guess I would say a companion series. I will not be continuing on with the series though, because I just didn't enjoy this enough.

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Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Leviathan Wakes (The Expanse, #1)Leviathan Wakes by James S.A. Corey

My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

Category: Adult
Genre: Sci-fi, Space Opera
Content: Strong Language

I read this book three yeas ago and I thought I would share my review of it on my blog since I'm about to read the second book in the series in December and I've recommended the TV series to quite a few friends.

Jim Holden is XO of an ice miner making runs from the rings of Saturn to the mining stations of the Belt. When he and his crew stumble upon a derelict ship, the Scopuli, they find themselves in possession of a secret they never wanted. A secret that someone is willing to kill for - and kill on a scale unfathomable to Jim and his crew. War is brewing in the system unless he can find out who left the ship and why.

Detective Miller is looking for a girl. One girl in a system of billions, but her parents have money and money talks. When the trail leads him to the Scopuli and rebel sympathizer Holden, he realizes that this girl may be the key to everything.

Leviathan Wakes is a mix of space opera and Noir which brought to mind Voice of the Whirlwind by Walter Jon Williams, and those hard-boiled detective type books as well. The prologue drew me in immediately, I was really interested in Julie and how she was going to get out of the situation she was in. Unfortunately we don't find that out for a huge chunk of the book. We are introduced to Holden and Miller in the first chapter of the book and they both came up a bit short for me. Holden and Miller were both the polar opposite of each other. I really had a hard time liking either of them or caring what happened to them for a while. The book was so much better when they finally met and teamed up.

Miller was very cynical, but smart and observant. But his being in love with a woman he doesn't even know was ridiculous. Love may not be the right word. More like obsessed. He becomes obsessed with solving the case of the missing Julie Mao and in turn obsessed with her. I guess we can blame it on the fact that he is a really messed up drunk. He was really hard to like in the beginning, but by the end I was crying for him.

Holden was the naive idealist who has good intentions, but messes everything up because he sees everything too black and white. Honestly I really hate when the "good" guy is characterized this way. Holden does eventually learn a few things and becomes less annoying and more likable later in the book.

A couple of other small complaints I have about the book would be: Do I really care or need to know what is happening to their certain body parts when they hit a certain amount of Gs? No...no I don't. And I don't care about the fact that they have catheters stuck in them in the med bay either. Too many references to body parts. It just seemed a bit juvenile for the writers to keep going there. Also there is a big revelation that Miller has near the end of the book that I feel should have happened long before it did, I figured out early on in the book what was happening to those people who got infected. For Miller to be characterized as someone so smart and observant about people, he really wasn't too smart and observant there.

With those negatives out of the way I will say that I thought the story was good and there are a lot of layers to peel back in upcoming books. Overall I liked the book. It didn't blow me away, but it wasn't bad either. I'm not sure if I will read any further into this series yet.

Update 12/23/15: I've been watching the TV adaptation of this on Syfy and after seeing the first three episodes I am really liking it. I'm finding the TV show more compelling than I found the book.

Update 2/6/16: After finishing the first season of the TV adaptation, this story has just continued to grow on me. I was so pleasantly surprised by the first season of this. It's easily one of the best TV shows on Syfy in a very long time, just leaps and bounds above the other space opera shows they've offered in recent history. It's an odd thing when I think a TV show is better than the book it was based on, but that is the case here. I do feel like I was probably too hard on this book in my initial review, maybe because it wasn't exactly what I was expecting, but I am seeing it through different eyes now. The show has taken these characters that I wasn't all that crazy about and added more depth to them and this in turn has renewed my interest in reading the rest of the books in the series, especially since I've heard the characters deepen and become better in subsequent books.

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Saturday, November 25, 2017

Locker NineLocker Nine by Franklin Horton

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Category: Adult
Genre: Post-Apocolyptic
Content: Strong Language, Some rather brutal killings

Grace Hardwick’s dad is a science fiction writer who makes his living destroying the world. When Grace decides to go away for her first year of college her dad can’t help but think of all of the potential ways that society could collapse and strand his daughter hundreds of miles from home. Then it happens. Robert reminds his daughter of the key he gave her when she left for school. She doesn’t know what it opens. She doesn’t know where the engraved numbers will lead her. All she knows is that her dad is not the type to let her go hundreds of miles from home with no backup plan.

If I could sum up Locker Nine in one sentence it would be: This is every worst case scenario a prepper prepares for.

Honestly it's one thing to be prepared, but this dad borders on paranoid. No one should have to grow up thinking of all the bad things that could happen to them and carry around everything it would take to save them, but that's Grace in this book. From the key she never takes off her neck to the ginormous truck she drives, complete with armored bumper, Grace is prepared for anything and suspicious of everyone, thanks to dad. I personally couldn't stand to live that way. But of course in this story Grace is right to be suspicious every time. I personally don't think society would deteriorate as quickly as it does in this book. I mean there are thieves and murders lurking around every corner the very next day.

In the beginning of the book there is a coordinated terrorist attack that leaves much of the US without electricity and other important resources. I thought the book would continue on with the point of view of the terrorists, but as soon as the attack happens we never see them again. It was all just the set up for Grace to begin her journey across the US to get home, and an excuse for her to use every single resource her dad has given her, even the armored bumper on the big truck.

Grace is accompanied by her lifelong friend and college roommate, who is the complete opposite of Grace and inexplicably is surprised by some of the things Grace says and does, even though they have been friends since they were 6 years old. One thing that really irked me about this book was the fact that the best friend is portrayed as a rather weak character, but she is also the only character that shows any real emotion in the book. Grace is quite a Mary Sue, as she is good at everything, and shows next to no emotion, even after having to kill someone. There is one time she shows emotion near the end when someone dies, but other than that it's like she's on auto pilot.

There are also chapters from another character's point of view that I disliked a lot, and in the end I felt like his character and several others were just pointless to the plot. I think it would have made more sense if the book had focused on the terrorists and Grace trying to get home and left this other person out. But what really annoyed me the most about this book was that in the end after all that preparation and Mary Sue-ing on Grace's part, someone has to step in and save her because of her one emotional moment.

This book was not what my fellow book club members and I thought it was going to be. I think I can definitely say this book was not for me, but if you like post-apocalyptic stories that include a lot of preppers and all that encompasses you might like it.

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