12.01.20

The Haunting at Bonaventure Circus by Jaime Jo Wright

Posted in Review at 11:25 am by Amber

Title: The Haunting at Bonaventure Circus

Author: Jaime Jo Wright
Publisher: Bethany House
Source: The publisher on NetGalley in exchange for an honest review

1928
The Bonaventure Circus is a refuge for many, but Pippa Ripley was rejected from its inner circle as a baby. When she receives mysterious messages from someone called the “Watchman,” she is determined to find him and the connection to her birth. As Pippa’s search leads her to a man seeking justice for his murdered sister and evidence that a serial killer has been haunting the circus train, she must decide if uncovering her roots is worth putting herself directly in the path of the killer.

Present Day
The old circus train depot will either be torn down or preserved for historical importance, and its future rests on real estate project manager Chandler Faulk’s shoulders. As she dives deep into the depot’s history, she’s also balancing a newly diagnosed autoimmune disease and the pressures of single motherhood. When she discovers clues to the unsolved murders of the past, Chandler is pulled into a story far darker and more haunting than even an abandoned train depot could portend.

I liked both the historic and modern day settings for this novel. Chandler would be imagining the people and what it looked like in the past and through Pippa the reader is able to picture it a bit more accurately. The alternating storyline format was done well. However, I felt more description was needed for the present timeline to make the characters come alive in my imagination. I felt much more invested in the historic storyline.

If asked what type of book I thought it was, well, that’s really open to interpretation. Mainly it’s a mystery but it’s also a tale about women standing up for themselves against actual or perceived cultural norms, and there’s some romance too.

10.31.20

Generic Review Template

Posted in Review at 10:03 pm by Amber

Title: Ink & Sigil
Author: Kevin Hearne
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group – Ballantine Del Ray Books
Source: NetGalley in exchange for an honest review

Book Cover of Ink & Sigil by Kevin Hearne

Al MacBharrais is both blessed and cursed. He is blessed with an extraordinary white moustache, an appreciation for craft cocktails—and a most unique magical talent. He can cast spells with magically enchanted ink and he uses his gifts to protect our world from rogue minions of various pantheons, especially the Fae.

But he is also cursed. Anyone who hears his voice will begin to feel an inexplicable hatred for Al, so he can only communicate through the written word or speech apps. And his apprentices keep dying in peculiar freak accidents. As his personal life crumbles around him, he devotes his life to his work, all the while trying to crack the secret of his curse

But when his latest apprentice, Gordie, turns up dead in his Glasgow flat, Al discovers evidence that Gordie was living a secret life of crime. Now Al is forced to play detective—while avoiding actual detectives who are wondering why death seems to always follow Al. Investigating his apprentice’s death will take him through Scotland’s magical underworld, and he’ll need the help of a mischievous hobgoblin if he’s to survive.

Oh my-lanta! Beth Cato recommended this book on Twitter and I’m so glad I was able to snag a copy of this one so I could spread the word about it. Now, I remember back in the old days of LiveJournal when there was a Holy Taco Church. Beth was the High Priestess of Churromancy and Kevin was the Taco Pope. I think it was a group of authors who came together to promote their work and if you liked the works of one author you were likely to enjoy the others. It was silly and fun. And a great way to get the attention of people who enjoy reading similar types of books. But I haven’t read anything by Kevin until now. 

This novel is just about perfect. I’m sure there’s a flaw somewhere but I haven’t seen it yet. It’s a great escapist read and was something I really needed. Apparently this is set in the world of his The Iron Druid Chronicles series. This series consists of 10 books, and lots of short stories, and novellas. I have no idea if any of these characters make an appearance in the series.

The chapters go back and forth between the past and the present very seamlessly. I was floored with the worldbuilding – he’s obviously spent a lot of time with Al and his cohorts. Buck, the hobgoblin, is new to Scotland and the world of humans which leads to some funny interactions. Buck’s humor is juvenile but he also has some wonderful ideas. Nadia, the accountant/office manager, makes Al’s professional lives (magical and non-magical) run smoothly. Perhaps it’s Al’s age (he’s in his 60s), or that he leads a double life, that he has an open mind and very little surprises him. 

Now, just because it’s set in modern times (there’s cell phones, surveillance cameras, etc.) doesn’t mean there’s no action scenes or sword play. Expect the unexpected, put on your safety belt or harness, and enjoy the ride. 

10.06.20

The Nidderdale Murders by J. R. Ellis

Posted in Review at 4:50 pm by Amber

Title: The Nidderdale Murders
Author: J. R. Ellis
Publisher: Amazon Publishing UK
Source: Netgalley in exchange for an honest review

In a Yorkshire Dales village everyone has a motive for murder—except the killer.

A retired judge is shot dead outside the Dog and Gun inn in the remote Yorkshire village of Niddersgill. There’s a witness who saw everything, and the gunman’s on the run; the case should be open-and-shut for DCI Jim Oldroyd. But the murderer had no motive for wanting Sandy Fraser dead and, what’s more, no trace of him can be found.

As Oldroyd and his team cast the net wider, they discover that Fraser wasn’t without enemies in Niddersgill. As the wealthy owner of a grouse moor, he’d clashed with farmers, debtors, hunt saboteurs and blackmailers. But none of them were at the scene of the murder. And when a local shopkeeper is gunned down in a second senseless attack, it’s clear that these killings are anything but random.

Surrounded by the dramatic beauty of the Yorkshire Dales, Oldroyd faces a race against time to connect the crimes and find who’s behind them. But with all the evidence sending him down dead ends, can he get one step ahead before someone else is killed?

Book cover of The Nidderdale Murders

This is the 5th book in the series. J. R. Ellis sometimes refers to previous cases worked on by Detective Chief Inspector Oldroyd and his team but knows how to give just enough information without bogging the story down.

The pacing of the novel was very leisurely. This mystery has a twist and I was able to figure it out but not determine the who behind it. For some reason I wasn’t in any hurry to finish reading to find out.

09.18.20

Faking It by Rebecca Smith

Posted in Review at 11:28 am by Amber

Title: Faking It
Author: Rebecca Smith
Publisher: Harper Collins UK, One More Chapter
Source: NetGalley

Meet Hannah Thompson: wife, mother, teacher and… secret erotica author?

My Guilt List:

1. If we have a date night then I’m always asleep before it’s halfway through and honestly, if I had to choose, I’d rather have a hot bath and read my book than engage in any other nocturnal activity.

2. If we do actually have you-know-what then it’s not unheard of for my mind to wander… and I’m not talking about sexy things – I’m talking about what food there is in the fridge and when the car is due for its next service.

3. I am struggling to write about anything that could be classed as even a little bit sexually adventurous which is a problem when I’m supposed to be an erotica writer and I am speaking at Sex Con in exactly one month.

With a book to publicise, Hannah has no choice but trade her M&S cardis for S&M parties, and become her writing alter-ego. What could possibly go wrong…

So, Hannah is married with children at home, has written a published erotica novel titled More Than Sex under the pseudonym of Twinky Malone, and teaches part-time. Surely we can all agree that competing priorities and imposter syndrome can get in the way of success, right?

I found Hannah’s predicament very relatable. She’s got heart and struggles to juggle those priorities. Hannah figures out whose opinions matter the most to her and definitely has a story arc of change from the beginning to the end.

Some readers have found this laugh out loud funny but not me. I found some of the situations and descriptions to be humorous. Overall, this was a sweet, funny book.

09.14.20

Swashbuckling Cats edited by Rhonda Parrish

Posted in Review at 4:34 pm by Amber

Title: Swashbuckling Cats
Editor: Rhonda Parrish
Publisher: Tyche Books
Source: NetGalley from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Book cover of Swashbuckling Cats

If you think cats and water don’t mix, think again.

Plunge into worlds of piratical cats: some selfish, some mischievous, all fond of hitting the catnip stash. From ships on the deep blue sea, to ships flying through the depths of space, and even visiting from beyond the veil, these cats are determined and on a mission.

Featuring fourteen “tails” of adventure-loving cats, puns, and fun by: Megan Fennell; S.G. Wong; Rebecca Brae; Grace Bridges; Lizz Donnelly; Blake Liddell; Frances Pauli; JB Riley; Joseph Halden; Leslie Van Zwol; Krista D. Ball; Chadwick Ginther; Rose Strickman; and Beth Cato.

May 26th was the virtual release party for this book of short stories. I’m a friend and fan of Rhonda’s. I’m not a fan of cats (a barn cat peed on me when I was 10) but I can appreciate them and I figured I’d get around to reading it at some point. Lo, and behold, a few days after the release party when I was looking through available books on NetGalley I saw it was available. So I asked for it and was approved!

Overall, this short story collection is a good one. I always love to see the diversity achieved with the same prompt. These swashbuckling cats aren’t confined to nautical vessels. And the cats include ghost cats, pirate cats, shape-shifting cats, and kittens. Definitely not a one size fits all anthology.

My favorite story was “Buccaneer’s Revenge” by JB Riley. It tackles the pirate cat angle completely differently from the others. No, I won’t spoil it! There are puns for names which some might find childish or silly. I found them quite clever and they made me smile.

My second favorite story was “All Cats Go to Valhalla” by Chadwick Ginther. From the title it’s easy to guess this is a viking themed story. From the opening line you know it’s bad but you don’t know just how bad this journey is for another paragraph or so. Does Odin allow cats into Valhalla or do they go to Folkvangr with Freyja? You’ll have to read it to find out.

09.09.20

Ink & Sigil by Kevin Hearne

Posted in Review at 5:52 pm by Amber

New York Times bestselling author Kevin Hearne returns to the world of his beloved Iron Druid Chronicles in a spin-off series about an eccentric master of rare magic solving an uncanny mystery in Scotland.

Ink & Sigil is escape reading, and I loved every word.”—Charlaine Harris, New York Times bestselling author of A Longer Fall

Al MacBharrais is both blessed and cursed. He is blessed with an extraordinary white moustache, an appreciation for craft cocktails—and a most unique magical talent. He can cast spells with magically enchanted ink and he uses his gifts to protect our world from rogue minions of various pantheons, especially the Fae.

But he is also cursed. Anyone who hears his voice will begin to feel an inexplicable hatred for Al, so he can only communicate through the written word or speech apps. And his apprentices keep dying in peculiar freak accidents. As his personal life crumbles around him, he devotes his life to his work, all the while trying to crack the secret of his curse.

But when his latest apprentice, Gordie, turns up dead in his Glasgow flat, Al discovers evidence that Gordie was living a secret life of crime. Now Al is forced to play detective—while avoiding actual detectives who are wondering why death seems to always follow Al. Investigating his apprentice’s death will take him through Scotland’s magical underworld, and he’ll need the help of a mischievous hobgoblin if he’s to survive.

I was approved to review this on NetGalley and am looking forward to reading it! Publication Date was 8/25/2020. We could have a read-off to see who finishes it first. 🙂

09.03.20

The Big Get-Even by Paul Di Filippo

Posted in Review at 10:45 pm by Amber

Title: The Big Get-Even
Author: Paul Di Filippo
Publisher: Blackstone Publishing
Source: NetGalley

A disbarred lawyer and an ex-arsonist cross paths and find themselves organizing an elaborate real estate scam to bilk a shady rich speculator out of twenty million dollars. The sting is personal for ex-arsonist Stan and for a woman named Vee, who plays an essential role in the caper. Glen, the narrator and former lawyer, finds himself at first just along for the money. Eventually, as bonds deepen among the conspirators, Glen too discovers he has a lot more at stake than simply the loot.

This cast of lively eccentrics discover along the way that getting to the big payoff might just be more scary fun than the monetary prize itself.

Back in September 2017 I think I finished this book in record time, began to write the review, and a lost internet connection lost the review. Frustration can get the best of me at times. (This is why you get this review about three years after I read it.)

This book was not frustrating at all. It had an old time caper or heist feel to it but had a few modern touches to indicate the the story is set in the present day.

To some this might be boring but I really like it when I’m reading a book and the imagery is so vivid I can picture it playing out like a movie in my head.

07.22.20

Dead Perfect by Noelle Holten

Posted in Review at 3:39 pm by Amber

Title: Dead Perfect
Author: Noelle Holten
Publisher: HarperCollins UK, One More Chapter
Source: NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. To be Published October 2020

Dead Perfect Book Cover

A murdered woman…

When the body of a young woman is found in a local park, DC Maggie Jamieson knows she’s dealing with no ordinary killer.  The murder victim has been disfigured; her outfit changed to resemble someone else.  Someone Maggie knows all too well…her close friend Dr Kate Moloney.

A determined detective…

Maggie is determined to keep her friend safe, but with Kate already struggling with a threatening stalker, Maggie now fears Kate’s life is in real danger.  Who else would want to harm Kate and why else would the killer be turning his victims into exact replicas – his living dolls?

Can Maggie find the depraved killer?  Or will Kate become his next living doll?

I didn’t enjoy much about this novel. Some of the ARCs I receive have formatting issues which I overlook but this went beyond that.

The Good:

  • The cover is awesome.
  • You don’t have to read any of the other books in the series to pick up on the characters, relationships, or the plot.
  • References to the last book were minimal.
  • The ending leaves an opening for fans to have another book in the DC Maggie Jamieson series.
  • I wasn’t able to identify who the serial killer was but I was able to mark off all of the suspects as they were presented.
  • Some of the chapters were of the serial killers actions and some were of the potential victim and main investigator.

The Bad:

  • The pacing was off. It was really slow until the end.
  • There was a lot of telling and not showing.
  • Dialogue could be stilted and awkward at times.

I received this book in May and it’s not set to be published until October. There’s probably another ARC copy floating around that’s gone through another round or two of edits.

06.18.20

The Last Place You Look by Kristen Lepionka

Posted in Review at 8:35 pm by Amber

Title: The Last Place You Look
Author: Kristen Lepionka
Publisher: Blackstone Audio
Source: Columbus Metropolitan Library

Book Cover of The Last Place You Look

I listened to this on audio book so I missed small details that I’d normally catch when reading the ebook or print version but I still really enjoyed it. The narrator was perfect.

It has bits set in Columbus so it was nice to see my hometown so prominently featured. It has neighborhoods and restaurants that are still around so it didn’t come across as dated.

It was interesting reading this during a pandemic and a time of protests against police brutality and racial inequality. The accused murderer is a black man on death row for allegedly killing the parents of his white girlfriend who went missing the same night and is presumed dead. Roxane is going to parties to do more investigative work.

It’s really well written. There was a red herring that I didn’t believe, partly because it was halfway through the book and partly because Roxane was so adamant that it was the right answer. The situations in this book were taken from headlines.

Roxane Weary is a complicated character and I’m glad there are more books featuring her. (The fourth one comes out next month.)

Before this one was published, a mutual friend who knows Kristen said that Kristen had done a ride-along with the police as part of the research. Our mutual friend is a big pusher of Kristen’s books! 🙂

I actually met Kristen at The Great American Read Trivia Night 2018 at the Columbus Metropolitan Library. Our mutual friend got a lot of ribbing that night because she wasn’t there. I attended that night with members of my book club, which includes our mutual friend. Without knowing Kristen was there we all ended up at the same table.

06.03.20

Unfamiliar Familiars by Megan Lynn Kott and Justin DeVine

Posted in Review at 1:18 pm by Amber

Title: Unfamiliar Familiars
Author: Megan Lynn Kott and Justin DeVine
Publisher: Chronicle Books
Source: NetGalley in exchange for an honest review

Book cover for Unfamiliar Familiars

The witch and her black cat are an iconic partnership, but every witch is different—shouldn’t you have a familiar as unique and powerful as you are? Leave the toads and crows to the basic witches and consider some unconventional options when seeking your own arcane animal companion!

With a helpful quiz to get you started, UNFAMILIAR FAMILIARS is a lighthearted and humorous guide to finding the familiar best suited to your personality and particular magical needs. Filled with playful pop culture references, unusual and engaging animal facts, and aww-inducing artwork, UNFAMILIAR FAMILIARS brings a magical twist to the animal fact book for companion-seeking witches everywhere.

This was a spur of the moment pick from NetGalley. I follow the publisher on Instagram and during the pandemic they’ve been posting a lot of stories which I actually watch and don’t swipe through. This cover caught my eye and then seeing who the publisher was… I grabbed it.

It appeared it would be a lighthearted read and possibly provide some laughs. At 96 pages it could be read in a day or two, but why push yourself? These 40 unique familiars aren’t going anywhere.

The books notes what a familiar is, how to choose one, and how to summon one prior to explaining who would make a good match for each familiar. It’s important to remember that a familiar is not a servant or a pet!

According to a decision tree (if you don’t want to summon a familiar), the Ball Python would be a good match for me. They are a limbless cuddler known for getting along well with witches allergic to dander.

That’s me, exactly!

Great at hugs. Cool. Shed their skin every 4-6 weeks which require renewing the pact? Okay. Renaming must also be done and can’t be a repeat of the last 6 names. Ummm. I guess that’s why the witches they’re paired with must have good memories!

The drawings are all cute. The descriptions of the animals as familiars veer into silliness. Who doesn’t need a bit of silliness now and then? As the authors noted, if the facts couldn’t be found, then they just made it up.

Bonus points to Megan Lynn Kott for proclaiming Valiant, the 3-legged Corgi as her familiar. I would’ve done the same.

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