Sunday, April 23, 2017

The Ivy TreeThe Ivy Tree by Mary Stewart

My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

Category: Adult
Genre: Mystery, Suspense


 
Mary Grey had come from Canada to the land of her forebears: Northumberland. As she savored the ordered, spare beauty of England’s northern fells, the silence was shattered by the shout of a single name: “Annabel!”

Another good mystery/romantic suspense story by Mary Stewart; The Ivy Tree wasn't my favorite, but was still good. The secret about Mary was an interesting twist, but I'm not sure how plausible the whole premise was. Stewart's books usually incorporate insta-love, but not this one, which was a good thing. This was written in 1961 so there is an excessive amount of smoking compared to today's books and a couple of sexist lines that dated it as well, but it is a product of it's time and I enjoyed reading it as I pictured the early 60s setting. I think the biggest issue I had with the book is that there is so much description. Stewart has a talent for writing good descriptive surroundings, but in this case it was a bit too much and I felt like it ate into a couple of the suspenseful scenes. The best thing about this book is that Mary Stewart kept me guessing about Mary's identity.



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Saturday, April 22, 2017

Six WakesSix Wakes by Mur Lafferty

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Category: Adult
Genre: Sci-fi, mystery



It was not common to awaken in a cloning vat streaked with drying blood.

Six Wakes is a mystery in space that reminded me a lot of the TV show Dark Matter and maybe a little of Voice in the Whirlwind by Walter Jon Williams. The crew of a generational space ship wake up in new cloned bodies to find that they have all been murdered. But none of them remember what happened. Really there is more than one mystery here. Who killed them all, why that person killed them, and why they are all on this ship in the first place. As the story progresses we get back stories on each of the characters a piece at a time until all is revealed.

I enjoyed all of the characters, but Maria and Hiro were probably the two that I enjoyed the most. I also enjoyed the A.I. IAN a lot as well. The book poses a lot of questions about cloning itself and how ethical it really would be if a person could clone themselves over and over, plus all of the problems that could arise from it, what rights should that clone have and so on. I really enjoyed pondering all of these things.

In the end I didn't find the mysteries very hard to figure out but I ended up enjoying the story anyway. This book was read for Fantasy Book Club and I think there will be loads of things to discuss.

We made Coquito Acaramelados which is a Cuban dessert featured in the book and Jello clones in cloning vats for the book club treats. I think the clones came out so cute!





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Thursday, April 20, 2017

The Black Mage Series

I just finished the last book in this series and now that I have I'm not sure how I feel about it. I mostly had good feelings about it even though the love interest could be a jerk at times, but the last book just raked my emotions over the coals. Here are my reviews for the series:


First Year (The Black Mage, #1)First Year by Rachel E. Carter

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Category: Young Adult
Genre: Fantasy



Magic. Romance. Rivals. 

 
Before the age of seventeen, the young men and women of Jerar are given a choice —pursue a trade or enroll in a trial year in one of the realm’s three war schools to study as a soldier, knight, or mage… 


First Year is a light YA fantasy that's set in a mage school. There isn't much world building, but I loved the mage school setting. It's very reminiscent of The Black Magician by Trudy Canavan in quite a few ways, but despite its lack of world building, I think I enjoyed this book more.

The protagonist, Ryiah is very likable, but she has her flaws that include jealousy and a hot temper at times, which made her more relatable as a character. I developed a love-hate relationship for Darren, the antagonist right along with Ryiah. On the surface he seems like the typical stuck up, rich kid, bad boy, but I liked the glimpses of what could be seen under the surface of his character.

This book was great fun. There is just something about it that makes it so readable and I enjoyed every minute of it. I'm starting the sequel immediately.



Apprentice (The Black Mage, #2)Apprentice by Rachel E. Carter

My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

Category: Young Adult
Genre: Fantasy



She survived a trial year at the Academy of Magic, but that was the easy part…

This is the second book in The Black Mage series. I enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed reading the first book. It was really hard to put down and I found myself staying up into the wee hours of the night to finish it.

While First Year spanned only the first year of Ryiah's mage training, Apprentice covers 4 years. This resulted in some parts feeling rushed, and a lot of time jumps. It felt inconsistent with the pace of the first book. There was more time spent on characters and interactions in First Year. This time around we got less of that and more world building. I would have liked to have seen both. I thought the first half of the book was better paced than the second.

While I mostly liked Ryiah in this book, I will say that I hated the way she treated Ian. The back and forth roller coaster romance stuff got annoying at times, and I feel like it took over the second half of the book too much. The love-hate relationship with Darren continued and I loved that I was kept guessing about him, although I did have him figured out eventually.

Overall I'm enjoying this series a lot and am looking forward to the next two books.



Candidate (The Black Mage, #3)Candidate by Rachel E. Carter

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Category: Young Adult
Genre: Fantasy



Welcome to the Candidacy. Where dreams go to die.

The Candidate is the third book in the Black Mage series and the plot definitely got thicker with this one. There were some good twists and turns and I could sympathize with the predicament Ryiah is in at the end of it. I still think she should trust Darren and his love for her enough to tell him what is going on though! And his jealousy over Ian in the first part of the book was ridiculous.

This book was a step up from the last book. Not many time jumps in this one which was good. I enjoyed it just as much as the first book and looking forward to reading book four.




Non-Heir (The Black Mage, #0.5)Non-Heir by Rachel E. Carter

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Category: Young Adult
Genre: Fantasy



Prince. Prodigy. Mage. 

For a free novella Non-Heir sure had a lot packed into it. And I mean that in a good way! This is a prequel to The Black Mage series and it focuses on Darren. We see what it was like to grow up as the second son of the king, or the non-heir. We also see how the rift between Darren and his brother begins, and also how they become emotionally dependent on each other. The story starts out when Darren is 6 years old and ends not long after he has met Ryiah at the academy. It was nice getting into Darren's head, especially when he meets Ryiah and then when his opinion of her starts to change. The back story on Darren and his brother was heart wrenching. Even though I knew what their father was like, it was still heartbreaking to read, but it enabled me to see what shaped both boys into the type of men they eventually become.



Last Stand (The Black Mage, #4)Last Stand by Rachel E. Carter

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Category: Young Adult
Genre: Fantasy



He’s the Black Mage and she’s the traitor to the Crown.

Ryiah’s world was shattered the night she discovered King Blayne’s nefarious plans. Now, she has to betray the one she loves most in order to save the realm from war.


Last Stand is the final book in The Black Mage series and to be honest it was incredibly hard to read at times even though I was glued to it. This book broke my heart into a million pieces and then attempted to put them back together, but they didn't all fit back together the way they were supposed to. Darren was not a likeable character in the beginning of this series but I grew to like him as I grew to understand him and I believed that he truly loved Ryiah. But the things that Darren did in this book crossed a line for me that even the self-sacrificing acts that they both commit near the end, and that sweet ending could not completely fix for me. I'm just really sad about it.

**Spoiler here so if you don't want spoilers skip down to the next paragraph**
 I did not find it very plausible that Darren would have been so set against believing Ryiah, whom he was supposed to love so much. And the fact that he let her be tortured like that and then participated in some of it himself was more than disappointing, it crossed a line for me. There is no way that a person could do that to someone they truly love. Darren is just not a believable character to me any more. I was convinced that it was over between them. How could it not be after all that? And realistically it would have been.

Ryiah as much as I like her and was rooting for her, did some things here that I thought were very foolish. If you love someone you should trust them. She should have trusted Darren in the beginning and just told him what she had learned. Don't get me wrong, there were things I really loved about this book, but it put me through an emotional roller coaster. For the most part I enjoyed this series. But this is a great example of why I hesitate to finish a series sometimes. I've got a pretty big list of unfinished ones, and I'm always afraid that I'm going to be disappointed with how they end. While I wouldn't say this ending was a complete disappointment, it did put a bit of a damper on how I feel about the series. It's a real bitter-sweet feeling. Even though I was a little disappointed in some things about this book I still will most certainly be looking forward to seeing what this author writes next.


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Wednesday, April 19, 2017

The Farm (The Farm, #1)The Farm by Emily McKay

My rating: 2.5 of 5 stars

Category: Young Adult
Genre: Post Apocalyptic



**There are some minor spoilers in this review.

The Farm started out great. It might have stayed that way if it would have just been what it sounded like it would be. In the beginning Lily and her autistic sister Mel are trying to escape a "farm" where their blood is being harvested to feed vicious vampire-like creatures called ticks. The Farm is a place where teens are taken until they are 18. There is a lot of mystery about what happens after everyone at the farm turns 18. They disappear and Lily is sure nothing good happens to them so she decides she and her twin sister Mel need to escape before their 18th birthday. And along the way they meet a boy named Carter who helps them.

Unfortunately the story takes an unexpected turn. Once we find out why Carter is really there I thought it veered off in the wrong direction. I mean did we really need another book with the girl who is special trope? I also felt like there was no good reason for Carter to have hidden things from Lily in the beginning. Why couldn't he have been upfront with her about what he was doing there, at least about the helping her get out part? And he was so convinced that she was what he thought she was, but the reasoning behind it seemed pretty flimsy to me.

Since it's a vampire apocalypse type story, I was expecting a lot of creepiness, maybe something a lot more like The Hallowed Ones by Laura Bickle. Now that was a creepy YA book! Unfortunately the creatures in this book weren't creepy at all. They even sounded like Sasquatches the way they were described, which I thought was weird. Also the whole reason for the ticks existing didn't work for me either. A regular vampire decides he wants to rule the world so he ends up creating some sort of virus with his venom in a lab that turns people into these vicious, mindless vampire-like creatures. I would have liked it much better if the regular vampires had been left out and the monstrous vampire-like creatures had been the only ones.

Honestly though, all of those issues were small compared to my main problem with this book. And that is I have a real problem with a book that breaks its own rules, and that's exactly what The Farm does repeatedly. If an author is going to set up rules to their book mythology it's a good idea to stick with them, otherwise why bother with making the rules in the first place? We have the ticks in this book that are supposed to only be active at night, only to suddenly find out they are out in the daytime now too. They are supposed to avoid churches or holy ground, only to find out that there is an exception to that rule as well. And they are supposed to be afraid of fire, but surround an entire burning building! At the end of the book (and yes I did see that little twist concerning the sisters coming a mile away) I already know which rule will probably be broken in the sequel.

Even with all of the problems I had with the book I still found myself kind of wanting to find out what happens next, mainly with Mel, but in the end I decided to just look up spoilers instead of read the next book.


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Tuesday, April 18, 2017

The Noble ServantThe Noble Servant by Melanie Dickerson

My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

Category: Adult, Christian
Genre: Fairy Tale, Historical Fiction



She lost everything to an evil conspiracy . . . but that loss may just give her all she ever wanted.

First I would like to thank NetGalley and the publisher Thomas Nelson for giving me a copy of this book.

The Noble Servant is the third book in the Medieval Fairy Tale series. I haven't read the first two yet, but this works fine as a stand-alone. The story begins with Lady Magdalen traveling to marry the Duke of Wolfberg in an arranged marriage. Magdalen had met the Duke once two years before and developed a bit of a crush on him, so she is happy about the arrangement, as she is penniless and wasn't expecting anyone to want to marry her without a dowry. However, things do not go as planned while on the way and Magdalen is forced to switch places with her maidservant who steals her identity. Little do they both know that more deception is afoot at the Duke's castle.

This is a retelling of The Goose Girl, a Fairy Tale I am not all that familiar with so I can't say how true to that story this is. I did enjoy reading when she was tending the geese and when she met Steffan who just happened to be tending the sheep. I thought it was a little ridiculous that they didn't just tell each other who they were, especially after a certain point. Of course just like most of these historical romances, there are some misunderstandings and characters who don't tell each other how they really feel because they think the other person doesn't feel the same way. It got a little old after a while, and while nothing new, it was a sweet romance and I still enjoyed the book

This is also Christian fiction and I knew that going into the book. I felt it got a bit heavy handed with the scripture quoting and praying. Don't get me wrong, I don't mind those things in general, but as I've said in other reviews, I usually just prefer them to be added to the story in a more subtle way. I think the thing about it that bothered me a bit was that the religious aspect of the book felt too modern and evangelical for the time period and medieval setting in the way it was presented. This kind of pulled me out of the story a couple of times.

I will probably read the other two books in this series as they are nice to read when I just want something light.


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Cover of SnowCover of Snow by Jenny Milchman

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Category: Adult
Genre: Mystery



Nora Hamilton wakes up one morning and finds her husband dead from an apparent suicide. He was a police officer in the small town they live in and Nora can't help but ask the question of why her husband would take his own life when he had appeared to be happy.

I found Cover of Snow compelling even though I had some issues with it. The writing took getting used to at first. In the beginning, I didn't care for the way the characters broke off their sentences while talking to each other. This primarily happened between Nora and her family and I think it was supposed to illustrate the state of Nora's mind after losing her husband. She was having a hard time putting sentences together, but it was annoying to read. This stopped later on and I enjoyed the writing a lot more.

The problems I had with the overall story were plot threads that were never tied up, and things that didn't really make a whole lot of sense. Also conclusions were jumped to a couple of times that were far-fetched or too easily reached, and the fact that Dugger, the autistic man had everything so conveniently on film or recorded was too much of a coincidence to be believable. How was he there for all of that and no one noticed? The only conclusion I came to was maybe he was there because the police used him as their tracker. It was mentioned several times in the book that he was a good tracker, but never explained. Did they mean he was helping the police track suspects? I also couldn't figure out why the recording of the childbirth was included in the book. As far as I could tell it served no purpose.

I enjoyed this mostly despite the problems I had with it and I found it hard to put down. What I did like about the book was the relationship between Nora and her sister and the way the author described the surroundings and made you feel like you were there in the cold, winter weather right along with Nora.



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Saturday, April 15, 2017

DreamstriderDreamstrider by Lindsay  Smith

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Category: Young Adult
Genre: Fantasy



Livia is a Dreamstrider. The only one of her kind, she travels through the dream world, Onieros and can leave her body to inhabit the bodies of others as a spy for her kingdom. She can only do this for short periods of time, and it's always risky, because if the person she is inhabiting wakes up, she will be forced out of their body and lost in the dreamworld unless her own body is nearby.

Dreamstrider is an interesting concept, but sadly I didn't feel like it lived up to its potential. I found most of the book to be rather dull. It only became interesting near the end when something big finally happened. More world building would have helped the story and more description of the dream world. Also more background on the world and the three kingdoms in it would have been nice, and it would have been helpful if a lot more on the origin of Nightmare had been added. Where did it come from? Why were its bones left on the mountainside overlooking the city? There is a whole chunk of mythology for this world that seemed to be missing.

One other issue I had about this book was that at times there were some odd words used that I felt didn't really fit what the author was trying to convey. For example there is this sentence: "He follows her gauze-swathed leg up to its terminus and raises a brow at her." It's terminus? This is supposed to be a scene where a character is trying to be seductive to a guard and that word just kind of ruined it.

As for the characters, I thought they were ok, but I never really got too attached to any of them. I found Livia hard to like at times because she lacked so much in confidence. She was constantly berating herself and it got old, although I could see how it fit into the plot of the books once I got to the end. The relationship between Livia and Brandt was nice, and for the most part I liked it, even though I thought it could have been better developed. He was supportive of Livia and he encouraged her, but I thought it should have been obvious to each of them how they felt about each other.

There were several things about the book that I did really like. What I liked most was the whole dreamstriding concept. The dream world was interesting even if there could have been more world building there, and more time spent there. I liked that the people in the dream world didn't always look like people, but could disguise themselves as animals or other things, like the Fox, the lizard, and the wind. And I think the cover for this book is gorgeous. If you look at the details of the cover you will see that it includes things that were in the dream world.

It seems as if this is a stand-alone, and it really should be as everything is wrapped up in the end, which is a plus.


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Thursday, April 13, 2017

A Noble Masquerade (Hawthorne House, #1)A Noble Masquerade by Kristi Ann Hunter

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Category: Adult
Genre: Historical Romance



At the age of nine Miranda Hawthorne is struggling with her mother constantly berating her behavior and drilling into her head how a lady should behave, or "lady lessons" as Miranda calls them. With no outlet for her frustrations she writes to her older brother, Griffith who is away at school, but he is more of a father figure to her than a confidant, and this isn't what she needs. In his letters, Griffith has told Miranda all about his school friend Marsh, who is a rule breaker. Marsh sounds like someone who would understand how she feels and Miranda begins to write a letter to him, pouring out all her secret frustrations and feelings. Miranda knows she can't possibly mail such a letter to someone she has never even met, but the letter writing proved to be a good outlet for her pent up feelings, so she continues to write to Marsh, locking the letters away in a chest under her bed.

Skip forward 12 years and Griffith arrives home with a mysterious new valet. One night Miranda leaves one of her letters to Marsh on the desk in the library and the new valet posts it. Miranda is very distraught over this and knows she is going to be ruined when the letter reaches Marsh, who is the Duke of Marshington. Oddly enough though, the Duke who has some secrets of his own, is fascinated and writes back to her.

I enjoyed the character Marsh, who I thought was rather swoon worthy, but I did get a little frustrated a couple of times with Marsh for not telling Miranda what was going on and for thinking that he had to protect her constantly, especially at one point near the end of the book when she flat out demands he tell her and he still doesn't. Instead he locks her in his study to keep her safe! In the end though, it seemed that he learned what a mistake that was.

A Noble Masquerade was a fun, delightful read. It is set in the Regency period and includes some mystery that involves spies, along with romance and a bit of comedy. I especially enjoyed the first part of the book when Miranda and the valet are interacting with each other, and I thought the epilogue was quite lovely. I think it was my favorite part of the whole book. The little notes were a sweet touch, but I won't say any more about them so as not to spoil anything.

This is a companion series. The next book will be about Miranda's sister Georgina, who I did not like much at all. After reading the description for the book I can see how it could be interesting though. I really wonder what secret Georgina is hiding that has caused her to behave the way she has. I also like the idea of the love interest for her in the next book, so I will be reading it.



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Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Truthwitch (The Witchlands, #1)Truthwitch by Susan Dennard

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Category: Young Adult
Genre: Fantasy


On a continent ruled by three empires, some are born with a “witchery,” a magical skill that sets them apart from others.

I liked Truthwitch, but didn't love it as much as I wanted to. The story is told from four different points of view which I liked, but the character Safiya annoyed me throughout most of the book. Safiya is a Truthwitch, which is a rare type of power and she keeps that fact a secret from almost everyone because the power of a Truthwitch is also a very coveted thing. Basically she doesn't want to end up being someone's puppet. Only somehow just about everyone seems to find out and there is never any explanation as to how they find out. I honestly don't know why a Truthwitch's power is considered so great. So she can tell when someone is telling the truth or lying. I guess that is an advantage at times, but so much so that everyone is going to fight to control her?

Safi's best friend Iseult-or Threadsister as it's called in this book, is a Threadwitch who is from a tribe of people who are shunned and hated. There isn't much explanation as to why they are hated. From what I gathered it had something to do with their skin looking white as death and maybe the type of magic they have. It would have been nice to have more explanation here. I wasn't sure why they were able to live so close to town when they are so hated either. Iseult can see the threads of magic that are connected to everyone, or something like that. I'm still a little confused as to what exactly she can do. Threadwitches are supposed to be able to make thread stones that have magical attributes, but for some reason Iseult can't. Iseult was probably the best character in the book. There was one other that I really liked and I'll get to him in a minute.

Truthwitch centers mostly on Safi and Iseult and their friendship, or it tries to anyway. As far as their friendship went, the book would have benefited greatly from more showing and less telling. Because of the way the book is written, it was hard to feel the relationship between the characters. I also found Safi hard to like at times. For a good chunk of the book she does so many reckless and stupid things that I found her annoying. I felt sorry for Iseult for having to put up with her. However the book picks up considerably later on when Safi actually realizes what she's been doing, feels guilty and changes. Thank goodness for that. I actually started kind of liking her as a character at that point.

There are two other important characters in the book, Merik and Aeduan. We get chapters from their points of view as well. Merik is a Windwitch. He can control the wind and uses it to fly, among other things. Aeduan is a Bloodwitch that can basically control his own blood and the blood of others, with other cool added abilities. Aeduan would be that other character that I really liked. He's for the most part the coolest character in the book. The magic in this book reminded me a lot of Avatar: The Last Airbender, but with other types of magic added in as well, and I liked that.

As for the world building, it could have been better. There was a lot left out about the past war and the treaty and how it all came to be. There could have been so much told about the world in general and each kingdom and its rulers. Not much is told about where the magical witch powers come from either, other than the wells and some gods that we know next to nothing about. We also get next to nothing on each of the characters backgrounds, just little tiny snippets here and there. It is a trilogy or a series though, so we may get more in subsequent books, at least I hope so.


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Monday, April 10, 2017

Airs Above the GroundAirs Above the Ground by Mary Stewart

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Category: Adult
Genre: Mystery, Suspense

 

Lovely Vanessa March, two years married and very much in love, did not think it was strange for her husband to take a business trip to Stockholm. What was strange was the silence that followed. She never thought to look for her missing husband in Vienna -- until she saw him in a newsreel shot there at the scene of a deadly fire and knew it was more than strange. It was downright sinister.

Airs Above the Ground was a good read once it got going. Unfortunately or the first 200 pages it was a rather dull story with no real mystery or suspense. The prospect of a woman seeing her missing husband on a newsreel and setting out to find him is what I found interesting about this book and it was probably the main draw, other than the fact that it's written by Mary Stewart and I generally like her writing. However the book's description isn't very accurate. The book's description makes it sound like Vanessa's husband is missing, but he really isn't. He's just seen somewhere other than where he told her he was, or at least someone that looks like him, and Vanessa sets out to Austria to find out if it's really him.

As always Mary Stewart's descriptions are wonderful and there is a lot about the Lipizzaner horses in the book as well which is interesting up to a point. I found myself skimming through the description after a while. The main reason for that is I wanted to get to the meat of the story. Once we finally got there it wasn't hard to figure out what was going on or who the bad guy was and that was disappointing to me. The best part of the book by far was the chase across the castle rooftop. Other than that this one fell flat for me.



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Sunday, April 9, 2017

The Graveyard Queen Series

I discovered the Graveyard Queen series back in 2013 and the combination of ghost story and urban fantasy really won me over. I also became really interested in what real graveyard restorers do. The author has done a lot of research herself on the subject and she has a whole section of her website dedicated to photos of cemeteries and gravestone meanings and symbols which I think is totally cool. If you're interested you should check it out. http://amandastevens.com/books/the-graveyard-queen-series/cemetery-gallery/

Here are my reviews for the series:



 The Restorer (Graveyard Queen #1)The Restorer by Amanda Stevens

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Category: Adult
Genre: Paranormal, Urban Fantasy



Amelia Gray is an archaeologist who works as a graveyard restorer and she can see ghosts. It started when she was 9 years old. Her father also sees them and he gave Amelia a few rules to live by, because the ghosts can latch onto you forever if you acknowledge them, and that can be dangerous. Now 27, Amelia has always followed these rules, until she meets John Devlin, a cop who asks her to assist him on a murder investigation, and whom Amelia is very drawn to.

I really liked The Restorer. It was a little bit creepy with a likable protagonist, and Charleston South Carolina made a wonderful setting for the story. I really enjoyed the cultural aspects of the book that made me really feel like I was there. There are many aspects of Charleston, the low country and the Gullah people that remind me a lot of New Orleans and the Creole people in my native Louisiana.

While the killer was pretty easy to spot, the mystery surrounding Devlin and his ghosts was the part of the story that really kept me reading. After finishing this there are still things that remain a mystery that I'm sure will eventually be revealed in other books in the series.

I think the only negatives would be that weird scene at Devlin's house. You'll know the one I'm talking about if you read the book. The whole scene wasn't weird, but parts of it were. Like Devlin not asking her why she was in his house and just saying he knew she would come. They didn't behave like people would really behave. Also we never find out why he was visiting the psychic or who the woman was that Amelia heard with Devlin when she was talking to him on the phone, two minor things, but I just really wanted to know.




The Kingdom (Graveyard Queen, #2)The Kingdom by Amanda Stevens

My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

Category: Adult
Genre: Paranormal, Urban Fantasy



Deep in the shadowy foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains lies a dying town...

The Kingdom starts not long after The Restorer ended with Amelia Gray off to restore another grave yard. She takes this particular job not only because she needs the money, but also because she thinks getting away from Charleston for a while will help her to get past the things that happened there, and help her get over John Devlin. She's in for a surprise, because this creepy little town has a lot of ghosts and one unmarked grave that she is inexplicably drawn to.

If The Restorer was a little bit creepy, The Kingdom amps up the creepiness as the supernatural element of the series rears its ugly head. Pretty much all the mystery surrounding Amelia's past and her parents is solved in this book. At first I wasn't crazy about leaving Charleston behind, but as I continued to read I felt it was necessary to the series so that Amelia could dig up her roots.

We are introduced to a host of new characters, most of them just for this book and I liked some of them. Tilly, Thane, and Sidra were all nice additions and I wouldn't mind meeting them again in later bo0ks. I also love the addition of Angus the dog to the series. I did feel like the parts with Amelia and Thane were just kind of meh, definitely a rebound relationship. We got a romantic scene that was almost just like the one in the last book, and it ended almost the exact same way too. This author seems to love writing weird, supernatural, incomplete love scenes, but I could do without them. I would say that is probably the only downside of the book to me.

So far this series has been very compelling to read, so much so that I'm starting the third book right away.




The Prophet (Graveyard Queen #3)The Prophet by Amanda Stevens

My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

Category: Adult
Genre: Paranormal, Urban Fantasy



In The Prophet, Amelia is back in Charleston and supposedly trying to avoid Devlin. But it isn't long before she accidentally runs into him, sort of. Then she decides she wants to see him late one night, but chickens out and ends up hiding in the bushes at the last minute spying and eavesdropping on him, acting very much like a stalker. Why couldn't she simply call him up and ask him to come over? She ends up hiding and spying on quite a few people in this book. Despite this childish behavior I still liked the book. The creepy ghost aspect of it was once again very good.

All of the mystery surrounding John Devlin and his ghosts were solved in this book. I did think the romance aspect of the story was just ok. It wasn't the strongest part of the book, simply because I thought Amelia just didn't know Devlin enough to be so crazy in love with him.

In the end we are left wondering what the consequences could be for some of Amelia's actions concerning the afterlife. Did she bring something back with her? Will this somehow change her? This could have ended as a trilogy, but the author is writing a fourth book, which I don't think is a bad thing. This series has been a fun escape, so I will definitely read it.




The Visitor (Graveyard Queen, #4)The Visitor by Amanda Stevens

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Category: Adult
Genre: Paranormal, Urban Fantasy



I've wanted to read this book for a while and the month of October was the perfect time to get back to the Graveyard Queen series. Lots and lots of ghosts and creepiness make for great Halloween reading. And I must say, this edition to the series is the creepiest yet. I felt like the first three books in this series were a bit shaky at times, but this one was definitely an improvement and the best book in the series so far. The author has come into her own here with the story telling. With this book being so good, this series is fast becoming one of my favorite paranormal/urban fantasy series. I like the uniqueness of this series as an urban fantasy that does not include the typical creatures that normally inhabit those. No werewolves or vampires or shape shifters or witches or wizards or fairies here, just ghosts and demons.

The Visitor starts off not long after The Prophet ends. Amelia is plagued by a ghost while both awake and in her dreams. She also starts seeing another being that doesn't seem to be either ghost or human. After her upstairs neighbor starts cleaning out the creepy cellar in the house they are renting, more odd things begin to happen, one being the discovery of a stereograph card in the cellar that includes an image of the woman whose ghost has been haunting Amelia.

I continue to like Amelia. There was some growth for her character in this book as she discovered yet more about herself and her ancestry. I'm looking forward to seeing how this is all going to play out in subsequent books. She most certainly has a quest now that is going to take several books to complete. Also, Amelia and John Devlin are now in a relationship, sort of. Just when I thought I knew all of Devlin's secrets, there seem to be even more. My feelings about Devlin have been very hot and cold throughout the books. They were mostly cold this time around.

One disappointment for me was that the dog, Angus that Amelia adopted was barely in the book, as he is now staying at her parent's house for an indefinite period of time. I hope that doesn't mean he's being written out of the series. I liked his addition in the two previous books and hope at some point the author brings him back. I also missed her mother and aunt as they were absent from this book. Those are really the only two small complaints I have.

I enjoyed this one so much I'm going straight into the next book.




The Sinner (Graveyard Queen, #5)The Sinner by Amanda Stevens

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Category: Adult
Genre: Paranormal, Urban Fantasy



I am a living ghost, a wanderer in search of my purpose and place…

The Sinner takes place a whole year after the previous book in the series. At first I thought the time jump would bother me, but I actually didn't mind it at all. It gave Amelia enough time to possibly move on from John Devlin. Whether she does or not, I won't spoil here (as usual, any spoilers will be under spoiler tags), but I will say that I was very much in favor of a new relationship, and I thought Lucian Kendrick was a good prospect. There were some twists in this one that were pretty good. I can't say I was completely surprised, because I always thought it was a possibility that it could go that way, and there were a couple of clues that it would.

Overall this book wasn't as creepy as the last one. It relied more on humans with abilities than ghosts for suspense. John Devlin makes a couple of very brief appearances in this book, but we are left wondering what he's up to throughout most of it. Some of it isn't that hard to figure out and we do get some answers. We are however, still left to ponder some of his motivations.

Oh, and Angus is back. That made me really happy. This book left me wanting to read the next book in the series right away. Unfortunately I have to wait until it's released at the end of March.




The Awakening (Graveyard Queen #6)The Awakening by Amanda Stevens

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Category: Adult
Genre: Paranormal, Urban Fantasy



My name is Amelia Gray, a cemetery restorer who lives with the dead.

The Awakening is the last book in the Graveyard Queen series. Two books ago after I finished The Visitor I thought for sure this would be a series that would need several more books to wrap everything up, and I was fine with that, but the author managed to do it in just two books which kind of surprised me. I was expecting the whole plot with the Conge and Amelia's powers to be a longer and more drawn out thing. However, I do think this is a fitting ending to the series, even if I do feel like some things were too quickly and neatly wrapped up.

Shush…lest she awaken…

In this book Amelia is hired by an anonymous donor to restore Woodbine Cemetery. Woodbine has a history of being the place where rich and powerful people bury loved ones they would rather be forgotten. Amelia comes across the grave of a child with the disturbing inscription "Shush…lest she awaken…" on it, and soon the ghost of a child is haunting her, but this child is older than the one in the grave. Amelia eventually sets out to figure out how the two children are linked and in the process uncovers more than one secret.

John Devlin is back in this book and his secrets are finally uncovered as well. This is one part of the story that I felt was wrapped up a bit too neatly, especially considering what Amelia went through in the two previous books. I wasn't a fan of John for a while, but somehow by the end of this I liked him again. I do wish that the author wouldn't have romanticized him so much with the way he is written. He never felt quite real enough to me because of it. I had conflicting emotions about his character throughout the series more so than I think I've ever had about a love interest in any other book, but this wasn't always necessarily a bad thing as it did keep me guessing about him.

I love a good creepy book and this book was incredibly creepy at times. The scene in the middle of the night at Amelia's house with the thing trying to get in was probably the best one, and I made the mistake of reading that part while I was alone in the dark! I will miss this series and I'm sad to see it end. I'm hoping this author writes another creepy book series for me to read.



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Saturday, April 8, 2017

Night MachinesNight Machines by Kia Heavey

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Category: Adult
Genre: Paranormal, Psychological Thriller


Maggie decided to have an affair. No one needed to know, not even her lover. . . .


I was intrigued by the description of this book. A lonely woman decides to carry on an affair in her mind just for fun, only to realize that there may be something more to it than just her imagination. I decided to give it a try even though I was afraid it might turn out to be something I wouldn't like. I soon discovered that I could not put Night Machines down. I was so intrigued by the plot I stayed up reading into the wee hours of the morning, hanging onto every word.

Maggie, the main character in the story decides she needs something in her life other than being a wife and mother. After being at home with her kids for 5 years, she's aching to find her own individual identity again. I liked the exploration of relationships, what being faithful in a marriage means, and hanging onto your own individual self after marriage and kids. I think most of us women can relate to this feeling of wanting something that is just our own and not about our family. Maggie takes a part time job at a drug company that develops and manufactures sleep aids. I did find it quite humorous that her boss was named Cambien, a name that sounds very close to a real sleep aid.

As the story unfolds we are taken into the world of Maggie's dreams. I liked the whole premise of dream travel. I've read several fantasy novels with this concept and I always enjoy it. Maggie’s dreams start out romantic, but become more intense and even horrifying as she decides they are unwelcome. I liked that we got a glimpse into other peoples thoughts other than just Maggie’s. We get to see her husband’s point of view a few times, her bosses, and her best friend’s as well as a few other more minor characters. I’m not sure I would have revealed quite as much about the villain so early on, but there are still many questions left unanswered until almost the end of the story.

I would say just as the book blurb says, this book is most certainly hard to categorize. Many who enjoy women's fiction might enjoy it, but then it also is paranormal fantasy, and psychological thriller. I don't think I've ever read anything like it. And while the book did suffer from a bit too much unbelievable masterminding on the villains part (I mean how can he predict how a person will really act if something happens, e.g. the husband investigating the murder case, the wife applying for the job that just happens to be there at the right time.) and a few unlikely coincidences I still felt the story was solid. This author definitely has talent and I would love to read whatever she writes next.



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Friday, April 7, 2017

Hope and Red (Empire of Storms, #1)Hope and Red by Jon Skovron

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Category: Adult
Genre: Fantasy



In a fracturing empire spread across savage seas, two young people from different cultures find common purpose. 

A nameless girl is the lone survivor when her village is massacred by biomancers, mystical servants of the emperor. Named after her lost village, Bleak Hope is secretly trained by a master Vinchen warrior as an instrument of vengeance.

A boy becomes an orphan on the squalid streets of New Laven and is adopted by one of the most notorious women of the criminal underworld, given the name Red, and trained as a thief and con artist.

When a ganglord named Deadface Drem strikes a bargain with the biomancers to consolidate and rule all the slums of New Laven, the worlds of Hope and Red come crashing together, and their unlikely alliance takes them further than either could have dreamed possible.



Hope and Red is the first book in the Empire of Storms series and I enjoyed it quite a bit. The story is nothing new. Two orphaned children grow up in very different ways. One under the tutelage of a warrior type monk, the other on the streets in a rough part of town. Of course their paths eventually cross and when they do that's when the story really took off for me.

This is a gritty story with some slightly disturbing elements to it. The biomancers were a formidable enemy and I couldn't help but feel rather terrified of them myself. They do run the risk of being too overpowered though. I can't imagine how they will possibly be able to defeat them all. I enjoyed several of the characters, Hope in particular. Red had to grow on me as I found myself annoyed with him during his time as a 16 year old. Besides Hope, I think I ended up liking Alash the most. And although I wouldn't categorize this book as steampunk I really liked the steampunk type element Alash's inventions brought to the story. Also the character Brigga Lin ended up not being at all what I thought, and although I don't particularly like this character too much, the story line was interesting to say the least.

One thing I had a problem with was the crude language and I'm knocking my rating down to 3 stars because of it. I'm just not a fan. The use of a couple of words in particular, one being the C word, not just once but multiple times, bothered me. I just don't want those words in my head. This was probably the only real drawback of the book for me though, so if you don't mind really crude language that is mostly used as slang street talk then you will probably be ok with it.

Because of the way this book ends, I'm interested in reading the next book, Bane and Shadow but I haven't made up my mind whether or not I will read it yet.





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Monday, April 3, 2017

The Impostor Queen (The Impostor Queen, #1)The Impostor Queen by Sarah Fine

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Category: Young Adult
Genre: Fantasy


Sixteen-year-old Elli was only a child when the Elders of Kupari chose her to succeed the Valtia, the queen who wields infinitely powerful ice and fire magic in service of her people. The only life Elli has known has been in the temple, surrounded by luxury, tutored by magic-wielding priests, preparing for the day when the queen perishes—and the ice and fire find a new home in Elli, who is prophesied to be the most powerful Valtia to ever rule.

But when the queen dies defending the kingdom from invading warriors, the magic doesn’t enter Elli. It’s nowhere to be found.

Disgraced, Elli flees to the outlands, home of banished criminals—some who would love to see the temple burn with all its priests inside. As she finds her footing in this new world, Elli uncovers devastating new information about the Kupari magic, those who wield it, and the prophecy that foretold her destiny. Torn between her love for her people and her growing loyalty to the banished, Elli struggles to understand the true role she was meant to play. But as war looms, she must choose the right side before the kingdom and its magic are completely destroyed.


The imposter queen started off very slow, and I struggled a bit through the first hundred or so pages. There's a lot of set up to who she is and what she is supposed to become, and it drags a bit through what follows. However after that the book really takes off and I'm so glad I didn't give up on it.

Elli is one of those characters that have to grow into who she is supposed to be. She lives a very sheltered life in the beginning, but blossoms into a capable young woman throughout the rest of the book. For me the story really picked up when she left the city and met the other banished citizens.

There are most of the usual fantasy tropes here with chosen ones and prophesies and hidden magic, and I saw every one of the plot twists coming, but I still very much enjoyed this. One of the main reasons I enjoyed it was Oskar. Oskar is the male lead in this novel and the love interest. I couldn't help myself, I really fell for that big, gentle bear of a man. He's one of the best male leads I've read in a while. But before you start thinking this is just another YA romance disguised as a fantasy, I assure you it isn't. There is just the right amount of romance in the story. It doesn't overpower anything, but adds to it.

There are no major cliffhangers at the end of this book, but it does leave us with some really big loose ends. Obviously there will be a sequel. I'm hoping it's a duology so that it isn't dragged out too long.



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Sunday, April 2, 2017

My first NetGalley read

I would like to thank NetGalley and the publisher Kensington Books for giving me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

I love this beautiful cover! Isn't it gorgeous?


What the Dead Leave BehindWhat the Dead Leave Behind by Rosemary Simpson

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Category: Adult
Genre: Mystery


Set amidst the opulent mansions and cobblestone streets of Old New York, this enthralling historical mystery by Rosemary Simpson brings the Gilded Age to life in a tantalizing tale of old money, new love, and grave suspicion . . .

What the Dead Leave Behind begins during the Blizzard of 1888 in New York City. I was immediately drawn into the story as the main protagonist Prudence MacKenzie is anxiously awaiting word that her fiance has made it safely home. Prudence has just recently lost her father and is looking forward to leaving her step mother who she dislikes greatly (for good reason) behind by marrying Charles Linwood. Her father has put provisions in his will that state that as long as Prudence and Charles marry she gets the bulk of the estate including the family home. Of course all does not go as planned and Prudence discovers her stepmother, Victoria is even more terrible than she imagined.

We know right off the bat that Victoria is behind much of what happens. The real mystery here is figuring out how and also how and why some of the supporting characters are involved. Along with Victoria, there is also Victoria's brother, Donald Morley, the new maid Francis Barstow, the new butler Obedia Jackson, and the local crime boss Billy McGlory. There are several elements at play here and sorting it all out was a good deal of the fun of reading this mystery.

There are a few slow parts in the book and things were repeated a few times that I thought didn't need to be, but overall this was a very good read. I really liked the way things ended. Obviously this is intended to be the beginning of a series, and while this would be a fine stand-alone, I'm not opposed to starting another mystery series. I'll be looking forward to the next book.



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Friday, March 31, 2017

The Dark Alchemy Trilogy

A few years ago I read a really creepy young adult book called The Hallowed Ones by Laura Bickle. Most of the time when a YA book claims to be creepy I end up being really disappointed, but this time I was pleasantly surprised. It really was a good creepy book. I read that book and it's sequel and then I looked for more by this author. In my search I came across her latest trilogy written for adults, the Dark alchemy trilogy. While I can't say I enjoyed it as much as her YA books it was still pretty darn good. What I like about it the most is that it's a bit different from other paranormal fantasy books I've read.



Dark Alchemy (Dark Alchemy, #1)Dark Alchemy by Laura Bickle

My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

Category: Adult
Genre: Paranormal



Petra Dee is a geologist looking for her father who disappeared in the town of Temperance, Wyoming twenty years ago. Why she waits so long to look for him, I'm not exactly sure, but she has just come from a traumatic experience where she lost the man she loved because of an accident and blames herself for it. Petra doesn't believe in anything she can't prove through science. Little does she know how much her world view is about to change. While in Temperance Petra discovers that there is a whole lot of weirdness there involving alchemy and magic.

I liked Dark Alchemy quite a lot aside from the fact that there is a whole lot of cursing in it that I could have done without. I can ignore it to an extent, but I felt like it was excessive here. There is a lot of mystery to unravel in this book and it kept me turning the pages. The story has a bit of a wild west feel to it, mixed with the whole "somethings not right in this small town" theme. Petra and Gabe were probably my two favorite characters. Gabe had me feeling all warm towards him, yet repulsed at the same time. Not repulsed by his personality, but by his secret and what it entailed. I did feel like the kissing scene in the trailer after Petra "rescued" Gabe was kind of came out of nowhere. The romance definitely could have been developed better, but other than that I liked the way their uneasy relationship progressed.

This is the first adult novel I've read by Laura Bickle. I read her YA duology The Hallowed Ones and really liked it. I was expecting this to be on par with The Hallowed Ones as far as creepy horror goes, but it wasn't really that creepy at all. I really want to categorize this as Urban Fantasy, but it's not in an urban area, so I'm going to go with paranormal for now. The ending left me feeling sad for one character, but there is a sequel, so I'm hoping that part of the story continues.




Mercury Retrograde (Dark Alchemy, #2)Mercury Retrograde by Laura Bickle

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Category: Adult
Genre: Paranormal 



At the beginning of Mercury Retrograde it has been 2 months since the events in Dark Alchemy. This time around Petra Dee finds herself battling a basilisk and a female motorcycle gang/cult who call themselves The Sisters of Serpens. I'll give you one guess what they worship. It's also been 2 months since Gabe last spoke to Petra. The ending of Dark Alchemy was rather heart wrenching as far as Gabe went and was the main thing that kept me reading this series.

While I did not find this book as good as Dark Alchemy I did enjoy it. What I enjoyed about it were the parts about Gabe and The Hanged Men. If there had been more focus on The Hanged Men and less on the giant snake I might have given this a higher rating. I'm not even sure I really liked the overall plot of this book. The parts with the giant snake felt like watching one of those Syfy channel B movies at times. I also kind of felt like the motorcycle gang/cult was a little pointless, and I never really cared about Cal or what happened to him. But I was very happy that Gabe got some resolution to his story line.

I kind of wish this had just been a duology instead of a trilogy or series or whatever it's going to end up being, but I will probably stick it out and read the next book because I don't mind continuing on with Petra's and Gabe's story.




Nine of Stars (Dark Alchemy, #3)Nine of Stars by Laura Bickle

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Category: Adult
Genre: Paranormal 



Winter is the most deadly season in Temperance. And it’s not just because of the fierce cold. Evil is stalking the backcountry of Yellowstone, killing wolves and leaving only their skins behind.

As the snow deepens, Geologist Petra Dee is staring her own death in the face, while former Hanged Man Gabriel struggles with his abrupt transition back to mortality. The ravens and the rest of the Hanged Men are gone, and there are no magical solutions to Petra’s illness or Gabriel’s longing for what he’s lost…and what he stands to lose now.

Meanwhile, there’s a new sheriff in town. Sheriff Owen Rutherford has inherited the Rutherford ranch and the remnants of the Alchemical Tree of Life. He’s also a dangerously haunted man, and his investigation of Sal’s death is leading him right to Gabriel.

It’s up to Petra, her coyote sidekick Sig, and Gabriel to get ahead of both Owen and the unnatural being stalking them all – before the trail turns deathly cold.
 


Nine of Stars was a good entry into the Dark Alchemy series. I liked it better than the last book, but that ending! Way to leave us all hanging. Apparently the author has decided to make this trilogy a prequel to another series called The Wildlands. At least I think that's what she's doing. I'm a little confused. I'm still enjoying this series though and I'm curious about what direction it is taking in the new series. I do want a couple of things resolved in the next book though.


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Thursday, March 30, 2017

The Rook (The Checquy Files, #1)The Rook by Daniel O'Malley

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Category: Adult
Genre: Urban Fantasy



"The body you are wearing used to be mine." So begins the letter Myfanwy Thomas is holding when she awakes in a London park surrounded by bodies all wearing latex gloves. With no recollection of who she is, Myfanwy must follow the instructions her former self left behind to discover her identity and track down the agents who want to destroy her.

She soon learns that she is a Rook, a high-ranking member of a secret organization called the Chequy that battles the many supernatural forces at work in Britain. She also discovers that she possesses a rare, potentially deadly supernatural ability of her own.

In her quest to uncover which member of the Chequy betrayed her and why, Myfanwy encounters a person with four bodies, an aristocratic woman who can enter her dreams, a secret training facility where children are transformed into deadly fighters, and a conspiracy more vast than she ever could have imagined.



The Rook is what I would describe as Jason Bourne meets Men in Black meets X-Men with a touch of James Bond thrown in. It sounds like nonstop fun doesn't it? Well the beginning is very intriguing and had me turning the pages. However it became a less compelling read when the info dumps in the form of letters from the original Myfanwy (pronounced like Tiffany with an M and if you don't know what I mean by original, then you haven't read the book description) began to intrude on the present day action. I'm not sure why we had to have two missions interrupted by these letters. It was kind of aggravating to me, and just made the whole story less compelling which in turn made it seem like the book was far longer than it actually was. I didn't mind the letters themselves. They were vital to the story, but I just didn't always like where they were placed within the story.

I ended up liking Myfanwy a lot, at least the present Myfanwy. I don't think I would have liked her predecessor very much. The book was loaded with interesting characters and good action scenes, at least when they weren't interrupted. I think the book had the right amount of humor and action. Parts of it still make me giggle if I think about them.

Overall this was a fun read that was at times more compelling than others. I originally wanted to read the sequel, but now that I've found out it's a companion novel with different characters I'm not so sure.



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Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Two ghost stories by Simone St. James

Back in October I was really in the mood for some ghost stories and author Simone St. James's books caught my eye. Although the romantic relationships in these really bothered me, I was mostly happy with these as they filled my need to read something creepy. I also really enjoyed the time period that these are set in.



An Inquiry Into Love and DeathAn Inquiry Into Love and Death by Simone St. James

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Category: Adult
Genre: Paranormal, Mystery



 After her uncle Toby, a renowned ghost hunter, is killed in a fall off a cliff, Oxford student Jillian Leigh must travel to the seaside village of Rothewell to pack up his belongings. Almost immediately, unsettling incidents - a book left in a cold stove, a gate swinging open on its own - escalate into terrifying events that convince Jillian an angry spirit is trying to enter the house and is haunting the woods around Blood Moon Bay. If Toby discovered something sinister during his investigations, was his death no accident?

This is the first book I've tried by this author and I enjoyed it a lot. It had the creepy ghost story element to it that I loved. I do wish there had been a bit more of it though. I felt like it was overshadowed a little by the murder plot which I thought was too easy to figure out. The best thing about this book and the thing that kept me reading was the whole atmosphere of it. I enjoyed the setting, the characters, and the creepy ghosts enough to give this 4 stars.

There is a fair amount of romance in this book. I didn't mind the romance in general, but there was a certain aspect of it that I wasn't crazy about, namely the nature of the relationship from the beginning. It didn't seem too convincing as anything more than insta-love, or maybe lust in this case. I was happy with the way the romance ended up in the end though.

I've heard that the author's first book, The Haunting of Maddy Clare has more ghosts in it so I think I will try that one next.




The Haunting of Maddy ClareThe Haunting of Maddy Clare by Simone St. James

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Category: Adult
Genre: Paranormal, Mystery



Sarah Piper's lonely, threadbare existence changes when her temporary agency sends her to assist a ghost hunter. Alistair Gellis-rich, handsome, scarred by World War I, and obsessed with ghosts- has been summoned to investigate the spirit of nineteen-year-old maid Maddy Clare, who is haunting the barn where she committed suicide. Since Maddy hated men in life, it is Sarah's task to confront her in death. Soon Sarah is caught up in a desperate struggle. For Maddy's ghost is real, she's angry, and she has powers that defy all reason. Can Sarah and Alistair's assistant, the rough, unsettling Matthew Ryder, discover who Maddy was, whereshe came from, and what is driving her desire for vengeance-before she destroys them all?

The Haunting of Maddy Clare was a good but not great read for me. I was somewhat disappointed for a couple of reasons, the first being that although there were a lot of ghost scenes in this book, they were not really all that creepy to me. I found the ghost scenes in An Inquiry into Love and Death to be creepier, even if there were fewer of them. The second thing I disliked was the insta-love/lust. I wasn't crazy about the romance in An Inquiry into Love and Death, but it was even worse here. The reason I had an issue with the romance so much in this book is because of the first romantic (really not romantic) encounter and how it was portrayed.

*Minor spoilers here so skip down to the next paragraph if you don't want to read about the love scene...The love interest enters Sarah's room in the middle of the night, says nothing to her, and roughly thrusts himself upon her. As soon as he's done he apologizes, saying he won't do it again. Sarah actually tells him she's glad that he did, even though she thinks he has probably just used her. She seems to blame it on his PTSD, which still doesn't make it ok! Seriously ladies, don't ever be ok with someone using you for any reason. This scene was rather disturbing to me. He never asked her permission and up to this point he had hardly even spoken to her. He barely knew her. And even though she kissed him back and raised up her night gown I felt like some verbal communication was needed.

Even though I was disappointed in some things about this book, there are things I like about this author's writing style. Her story telling is excellent and I like the setting of the 1920s a lot. It's a nice departure from the Victorian and Regency era historicals that I've been reading, despite the fact that I feel at times the characters are a bit too modern in their morals for the setting. I like ghost stories so I may get around to reading more from this author. I do have a couple more of them on my to-read list.





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Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Scarlet Widow (Beatrice Scarlet #1)Scarlet Widow by Graham Masterton

My rating: 2.5 of 5 stars

Category: Adult
Genre: Mystery, Horror



London, 1750: Beatrice Scarlet is the apothecary's daughter. She can mix medicines and herbs to save the lives of her neighbours - but, try as she might, she can't save the lives of her parents. An orphan at just sixteen, Beatrice marries a preacher and emigrates to America.

New Hampshire, 1756: In the farming community where Beatrice now lives, six pigs are found viciously slaughtered, slices of looking-glass embedded in their mouths. According to scripture this is the work of Satan, but Beatrice suspects the hands of men. As she closes in on the killer, she must act quickly to unmask him - or become the next victim herself...


This would have been 3.5 stars, but I'm docking a whole star from this book because of the rape scene, which I will talk about later. When I picked up Scarlet Widow I was expecting something a lot milder; something along the lines of a mild historical mystery. I probably should have done more research, especially on the author before I read this. This is an author who has a history of writing horror and that became obvious as I read this book. There were some very gruesome murders. This is definitely not for the squeamish.

The things I liked about the book were: it kept me glued to it from the first page; the protagonist was a strong, intelligent person; and it kept me guessing throughout most of it.

There was something about the writing style that kept me turning the pages. I found Beatrice to be very likable and intelligent, and her interest in her father's profession was one part of the book I really enjoyed. For a girl back in the 1700s, Bea was an independent thinker. I liked reading about Bea's past with her parents in London, and I found the part with her relatives interesting too, although they were not ideal. That part with her crazy uncle was shocking and weird and personally I think it could have been left out of the book completely as it didn't really seem to fit.

After Bea immigrated to America, the mystery behind what was happening to the townspeople kept me guessing for a long time. Not the part Jonathan Shooks played, that was obvious, but who or what was behind the whole thing. Was Bea right about it being a person behind it all, or were the townspeople right that it was a demon or Satan himself? Logic says that Bea is right, but I've read enough supernatural type books to know that it isn't always the logical answer. And if it is just a person then who? Those were the questions I kept asking myself. The mysterious person in the brown cloak was an easier mystery to figure out. I kept wondering if that person was who was behind the murders. I'm not going to say if it was or not though because of spoilers.

The things I didn't like so much were: the strict puritanical views of most of the people; the superstitious beliefs of most of the people; the lack of any real emotion or romance between Bea and Francis, whom I didn't find very likable at times; and the rape scene.

Superstitious Puritans do not always make for pleasant reading. It's hard to believe that people could be so ignorant and superstitious, but they can- The Salem Witch Trials come to mind. Also the way women were viewed really angered me. Bea was such an intelligent woman and I had a hard time not being disappointed in who she chose to marry. He was a good man, but I think she would have thrived in a less puritanical setting. I felt like her husband Francis was mostly boring, and we really aren't given any reason why she fell in love with him. Their whole courtship is skipped over. Their scenes in bed as husband and wife are just the mechanics with no romance or real emotion. I would have rather they had just been skipped over completely because they didn't add anything to the story. This might sound sexist, but I've yet to read a romance scene written by a man that I've liked.

That brings me to the rape scene. The author couldn't craft a good love scene, but he didn't have a problem writing all the awful details of a rape scene. I don't know if that was done on purpose, or just the way it ended up, but it bothered me. I've read rape scenes in books before and they fit the story and were a part of the plot. They didn't leave me as disturbed as this one did. This rape was really unnecessary and I didn't want to read all the details of it. It bothered me more than the grisly murders did. For the writer to put the main character through that after reading through over 80 percent of the book was just needless. It did nothing for the story and felt like it was just put there for shock value. I kept thinking someone would come and help her, but no one did. Where was the mysterious person in the brown cloak then? I'm sorry if anyone thinks this is a spoiler, but I think potential readers need to know this is in the book. Had I known, I probably wouldn't have read this book.

It turns out that this is the first book in a series. While I would kind of like to know what happens next in Bea's life, I'm not sure if I can go there again. The rape scene just tainted the whole reading experience for me.



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Monday, March 27, 2017

The Bands of Mourning (Mistborn, #6)The Bands of Mourning by Brandon Sanderson

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Category: Adult
Genre: Urban Fantasy



The Bands of Mourning is the third book in the Second Era Mistborn series and it was just as good as the first two. It's rare that I like every book in a series equally, but that's what happened here. Hopefully the fourth and last book will be just as good too.

There's a fair bit of traveling in this book, but it's a good thing. A kandra has images that seem to depict the Bands of Mourning, metalminds that belonged to the Lord Ruler, that are supposed to give whoever wears them the powers that the Lord Ruler had. Wax is recruited to travel south to the city of New Seran to investigate, while Marasi has a mission to find a missing Kandra spike. So Wax, Wayne, Marasi, and even Steris this time, travel to New Seran and beyond to investigate. While there they encounter Wax's uncle and learn more about what he is up to, and as usual with a Sanderson book, there end up being a few big surprises.

Yet again I came away loving each of the characters. I did feel like Wax dove headlong into things a couple of times without thinking them through, but I can't help but like the guy. I still loved Marasi and although the Mariwax ship has sailed- I'm not gonna lie, I did find that a little disappointing- I feel like things ended up how they should anyway. It's rare that I'm this ok with a relationship I've been such a fan of not happening. Steris grew on me a lot in this book and I can see how she and Wax are not only good together, but good for each other. They sort of balance each other out. Steris makes him think before he acts.

One thing I really like about the Mistborn world is that the magic system continues to be added to and evolve. It's just really cool how that happens. I don't think I've ever read another fantasy series that accomplishes that the way this one does. I'm looking forward to reading the next book. I just wish I didn't have to wait so long!



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Friday, March 24, 2017

The Archived and The Unbound

I picked up this book, The Archived,  to read a couple of years ago. I had never read anything by Victoria Schwab (she goes by V.E. Schwab for her adult books) so I didn't know what to expect, but I was intrigued by the description of this book. It sounded rather macabre but fascinating. I ended up enjoying it quite a bit, so much so that I read the sequel as soon as I could get it from my library. The best thing that came out of reading this book was that I was introduced to an author that I enjoyed reading and I eventually read her Shades of Magic books, which I liked even better than these.



The Archived (The Archived, #1)The Archived by Victoria Schwab

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Category: Young Adult
Genre: Urban Fantasy



Imagine a place where the dead rest on shelves like books.

In this story the dead are called Histories and their bodies rest in a place called The Archive. Each body has a story to tell, and only the archive librarians can read them. Recruited by her grandfather, Mackenzie Bishop has been been working for The Archive for just four years. The Archive is a secret place that not many people know about so Mac has kept it a secret from the rest of her family just as her grandfather did. After her grandfather dies, Mac becomes a Keeper. When Mac discovers someone is deliberately altering Histories and erasing essential chapters she sets out to find out who is doing it and why.

The Archived is kind of like Warehouse 13 with dead bodies. The bodies are copies of dead people that contain the history of those people. Or picture a library with stacks of morgue type drawers containing these bodies instead of books. Sometimes these bodies wake up and escape and it's the Keeper's job to return them to the archive. The younger the body, or the more recent the history, the more restless they are and the more prone to waking up they are. The older the history the deeper asleep they are. Most of the time the older histories do not wake up. I liked that the older histories were asleep and kind of forgotten; a lot like real history is to a lot of people. How many times do we really think about things that happened a long time ago? Mostly we think about more recent events.

I thought this was a pretty original idea. I liked the character Mac and I also liked Wesley, even if I could have done without the guyliner. Yes, he wears guyliner. The biggest weakness of the book to me is that there is no real reason given for why the archive exists, other than it's the Keeper's job to protect the histories. It's kept a secret from everyone but the people who work in it or for it, so who really uses it and why are all of those histories stored there? It just kind of seems to exist for no reason. Despite that I enjoyed reading this so I am planning on reading the next book. Maybe the reason the archive exists will be explained in it.






The Unbound (The Archived, #2)The Unbound by Victoria Schwab

My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

Category: Young Adult
Genre: Urban Fantasy



Last summer, Mackenzie Bishop, a Keeper tasked with stopping violent Histories from escaping the Archive, almost lost her life to one. Now, as she starts her junior year at Hyde School, she's struggling to get her life back. But moving on isn't easy -- not when her dreams are haunted by what happened. She knows the past is past, knows it cannot hurt her, but it feels so real, and when her nightmares begin to creep into her waking hours, she starts to wonder if she's really safe.

I thought The Unbound was a very good follow up to The Archived and I had a really hard time putting it down. I liked the way we get to see Wesley in a whole different light here. There was a side to his life that was hidden from Mac in the first book. Also the edition of some new characters was nice.

I do have a few of small complaints. One would be that Mackenzie keeps one bit of information from everyone including Wesley and Roland and there was no real reason for her to, except to create drama later in the story. Another is that there just doesn't seem to be any reason for the character Sako to dislike her so much, or Agatha for that matter. And I also disliked that Mackenzie kept wanting to protect Wesley like he was some fragile flower. But most importantly, did it answer my questions about why The Archive existed? No, not really. Despite those things I still managed to like the book quite a lot. The story is wrapped up pretty well in the end, but there looks to be a planned third book, although the author has said she doesn't know when it will be released. When or if it ever is I will most certainly read it.



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