Friday, July 21, 2017

Storm Front~Jim Butcher | Review

Title: Storm Front (The Dresden Files #1)
Author: Jim Butcher
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Length: 352 Pages
Release: April 2000

Fantasy is my favorite genre, urban fantasy, however, is difficult for me. This book has been recommended by a lot of friends, so I decided to give it a try. Overall I'm really glad that I did. 

The writing style in this was a little difficult for me. The sentence structure confused me at times as it felt like commas were in odd places. This caused me to reread several passages, reworking them in my head, which threw me out of the story at times. After a while I got used to this and it became less of a distraction, but for me there was just something off about the style. 

Harry, our main character, who happens to be a wizard investigator living in Chicago, was a really interesting and likable character. I liked how he was somewhat old fashioned and polite, treating women with respect. Some people might read this as being misogynistic, but honestly I found it refreshing. He respected the women that he worked with, found them talented and capable, but he recognized that they were different from men. If everyone was the same the world would be a boring place. 

The main thing regarding Harry that bothered me was the lack of background we have on him. There were points throughout that hinted at things that he had done in the past, the family that he lost, but we don't find out a lot of concrete details. Since this is the beginning of a long series, it makes sense that not everything would be explained now, but I would have liked a few more details. It was nice to see that he wasn't an overly confident jerk. He had limitations and he knew what they were. He was also tempted by the darker sides of magic, but he worked his hardest to steer clear of its taint, doing what he believed was right. 

All of the side characters were interesting and well developed. Murphy and Mac are two that I am curious about, so I hope that we get to see more of them later in the series. Mister was also a favorite. It was always so much fun to have him around and it made Harry more human. 

The worldbuilding was quite good and made it believable. It was nice that Harry wasn't trying to live in secret among the inhabitants of the city. Not everyone knew about him, but it was a nice change from stories where the magical side of the world is a hidden thing. Because that never makes much sense. 

The mystery and investigation side of things was a bit lacking for me. A lot of it was fairly predictable and left me slightly detached. I just never felt fully invested in the story. 

Overall I enjoyed this, I just didn't think it was amazing. I will be continuing the series at some point and hope that the it gets better as it goes.  

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Theft of Swords~Michael J Sullivan | Review

Title: Theft of Swords (Riyria Revelations #1)
Author: Michael J Sullivan
Genre: Fantasy
Length: 681 Pages
Release: November 2011

This is a bindup of two novels that were released previously. So in total the series is really six books that fall between three hundred and four hundred pages. 

The Crown Conspiracy
I am reading Theft of Swords which is the bindup of both books one and two in this series, but decided to write separate reviews for them as well. 

This first book in the Riyria Revelations series was really good. Michael J Sullivan is quickly climbing the list of my favorite authors, so let me tell you why. 

A lot of the plot in this was quite predictable, really, but that didn't make it any less enjoyable. Any book with great characters can have a somewhat lacking plot and still be excellent for me, and this was one of those cases. Each character breathed life into this story, and that's what made it so fun. And most of the characters actually grew a lot, which was wonderful. 

One thing that I love in books (particularly fantasy books, for some reason), is a great bromance. And this has a great one. I love that for Royce and Hadrian it's always we. It doesn't seem like it ever crosses their mind to split up, no matter if it's a job they are taking on right now or some future plan they might hatch. And I loved that. They seemed like real brothers, despite their differences. 

Ok, let's talk about the characters a bit. 

Royce is probably my favorite of our main duo. He's quiet and unnerving and has a past shrouded in mystery. He makes people uncomfortable, gets angry at odd times, picks locks, and, well, he's just cool. I really want to know more about him, however. I feel like we get barely a glimpse into who he really is. Since this is only the first in a six part series (three binups of six novels), I'm sure there is more to be revealed. 

Hadrian is also really likable, he just wasn't as compelling as Royce for me. He definitely has his own mysteries I would like unfolded. How did he become such a skilled swordsman? There are hints here and there, but, as with Royce, not a lot of deep looks. Hopefully we get more. 

Myron was my favorite of our side characters. His innocence was endearing and his curiosity so believable. Plus, he loved horses a lot, so he gets bonus points. I really hope we get more of him in the future. 

Alric and Arista were both likable enough and I felt that both of them grew as the novel progressed. Particularly Alric, who really wasn't that likable in the beginning, actually. These are probably two of the characters we found the most out about. I'm not sure how that will play into the rest of the series, but it will be interesting to see. 

The other side characters were all interesting, whether good or evil. There are some that I expect to see in the future, causing more trouble for our duo. And it might not go very well. And as far as good people go, I really hope we get more of Gwen. I want to know more about her.

I'm really glad that I read Age of Myth before I read this, if only because it makes me even more curious what is going to happen as that series continues. How did they go from that to this? Now I am even more eager to get my hands on book three!

"It's elvish for two."

Here's the thing, I really liked The Crown Conspiracy. But I loved Avempartha! The first book made me like Royce and Hadrian, but this one made me love them. Particularly Royce. 

Some time has passed since the previous book, but that doesn't mean that Royce and Hadrian have forgotten about the events of The Crown Conspiracy. In fact, they seem to be playing a big role in the lives of our duo. Which means that we get to see some of the characters from the previous book, which I really enjoyed. 

Since I read Age of Myth before starting this series, I am really enjoying all of the connections and trying to figure out how everything ties together. It makes me even more excited to continue that series as well as this one. 

I felt more connected to the characters this time around. Both Royce and Hadrian felt more real to me than they had before. Their stories were explored a little more, giving us some background. Particularly Royce. We find out quite a bit--and early on, too--about him. And then there are little snippets of information dropped here and there, giving the characters and their stories more depth the further we go. Which is fantastic and works really well with this type of story. 

Royce and Hadrian spend most of the novel in a small town called Dahlgren, which is near the elvish tower Avempartha. All of the characters in this little town were amazing. Honestly, there are a few of them I would love to see again. And the descriptions of Avempartha were wonderful. I wanted to be there with Royce and Hadrian, finding out its secrets. 

There were characters from the first book that popped back up here and I really loved seeing all of them. The Pickering brothers are probably some of my favorites. Their interactions with Royce and Hadrian really made me smile. 

Alright, let's talk about our two main guys a little more. I really fell in love with Royce here. He was my favorite in the first book as well, but I liked him even more here. There's still a lot of his story that I want to find out, but I really like what we did get. And I'm sure we'll get more as the series continues. While I don't enjoy Hadrian quite as much as Royce, I do really like him. We still don't know a whole lot about his background, but we got a few nuggets of information to help us out. 

Royce and Hadrian together are wonderful. Their banter had me smiling as I read and the ways they make it out of impossible situations always has me in awe. They don't always get along, but it's obvious they are very loyal to each other and care about each other. 

Michael J Sullivan is quickly becoming one of my favorite authors. He can craft some great fantasy tales and his characters are lifelike and vivid. I will definitely be reading the rest of his books in the coming weeks. 

Let's end with a quote I really liked: 

"It was beautiful yet disturbing, like swimming out too far, delving into unknown, unseen, and untamed places."

Monday, July 17, 2017

The First Puddlegineer~P D Kalnay | Review

Title: The First Puddlegineer
Author: P D Kalnay
Genre: Children's Fiction
Length: 152 Pages
Release: January 2017

I received a copy of this novel from the author in exchange for an honest review.

This was a really fun children's book about a little boy who likes to play in the mud. Jeremy, our main character, is around five during the story, which takes place over a few days during the summer. He's fairly well written for a five-year-old and seems believable. His thoughts about his baby sitter are particularly funny.

While playing one day Jeremy falls to sleep beside a puddle and wakes up with the Puddlekin--a group of people who live in the puddles. This part of the novel, while rather short, was one of the best portions. The world that Kalnay created, in just a few short passages, was clever and fun. I almost wish that more of the novel had been set among these little people. And the best part was that it didn't give any answers as to whether this really happened or if it was in Jeremy's imagination. For a children's book, I think that is an important point to make. Let the child decide what happened.

I was a little frustrated with Jeremy's parents during the story. I could understand their frustration with some of the things he did, but it honestly felt like they were stifling his creativity. The child is five, let him have his fun! But I know, from experience with parents, that, too often, this is the way of the world. Imagination isn't encouraged nearly as much as it should be.

This was a really fun book. If you have children, read it with them. Or read it on your own. It's a nice way to spend an afternoon. 

Friday, July 14, 2017

Dreamless~Jorgen Brekke | Review

Title: Dreamless (Odd Singsaker #2)
Author: Jorgen Brekke
Genre: Mystery
Length: 311 Pages
Release: January 2012

I received a copy of this book in a giveaway on goodreads a couple of years ago and had every intention of reading it right away. Obviously, that didn't happen. It's been sitting on my shelf, begging me to read it, ever since. And so I finally have.

This is the second in the Odd Singsaker series, following the titular character, a detective, as he works through various cases. I didn't read the first novel in the series and felt that I could follow the story and characters well enough without it, so they seem to be fairly self contained novels. I'm sure that there are some things that come out more with the characters through the series though.

The novel jumps between two different time periods in the same city. Odd's story and investigation into the murder of a woman and a possibly related kidnapping are set in the present. There is a parallel investigation, with ties to the present-day story, that is happening in the late 1700's.

Both stories had interesting details that kept me reading. And I always forget how much I enjoy mystery novels until I'm in the middle of one, so I had a lot of fun with this. That said, I wasn't in love with the story or characters. The mystery was interesting enough to keep me reading, but didn't make me think as much as I would have liked. Some things were too obvious while others were too hidden. Sometimes this worked well, other times not so much.

The conclusion to both mysteries was satisfying and also, in some ways, rather heartbreaking. Committing crime is never a good thing, and some of the characters learned a valuable--and devastating lesson--after what they did. The ending is open for a sequel (which I believe has been written, though I'm not sure that it's been translated to English). The mystery of this novel was tied up, but Odd may have a mystery of his own to solve as he searches for the woman he loves.    

Monday, July 10, 2017

Agnes Grey~Anne Bronte | Review

Title: Agnes Grey
Author: Anne Bronte
Genre: British Classic
Length: 148 Pages
Release: 1847

I read Agnes Grey as a teenager around ten years ago and really enjoyed it, but I think I liked it even more this time around.

Anne is the least known of the Bronte sisters, but probably my favorite of the three. While this novel lacks the excitement and twisted nature of the works of her sister, it has its own charms. It's beautifully written and very real.

Agnes Grey is very biographical and I think that is one of its charms: it's real. Agnes is a young woman who, when her family falls on hard times, decides to become a governess. But life as a teacher to children is not what Agnes had expected and she is face with many trials. The families she works for are often harsh, treating her as more of a servant than anything else. This seems strange to me, since she's teaching their children, so shouldn't she be thought of in nearly the same class as they? But alas, that is not the way of the world. Her pupils are often cruel and obstinate, making it easy to sympathize with her.

Agnes is a likable character and I really appreciate her struggles and the realism of her life. This really seems like a look at life in the 1800's and what it would have been like for a governess. I also really liked Mr Weston. It was nice to see that he couldn't be easily caught by the tricks of those who just wanted to play with him.

This is a very well written and easy to read novel. It's not a great adventure story, or a great romance. It's just a real look at life as a governess. And for that I really appreciate it. 

Friday, July 7, 2017

Age of Myth~Michael J Sullivan | Review

Title: Age of Myth (Legends of the First Empire #1)
Author: Michael J Sullivan
Genre: Fantasy
Length: 414 Pages
Release: June 2016

"No man can escape death. But it's how we run that defines us."
I have been meaning to read a Michael J Sullivan book for a few years now. I finally have and I loved it. And now I have the rest of his novels to explore while I wait (not very patiently) for the rest of this series to release. 
First of all, let's talk about the two things that make this book so amazing: the characters and the writing. Every single character in this was so well done. The ones I loved, the ones I hated, the ones I still don't know what to feel about. They all made me feel something, and when I read, that's what I want. I need characters I can connect with in some way, and that definitely happened here. And the writing is superb. It flows easily, is descriptive without dragging, and brings the world to life.
Let's talk a little more about some of the characters. 
Raithe was an early favorite. The story shifts from him, but he remains a central character throughout. He's the classic fantasy hero, I guess you could say. He's a good person with hard past that likes to haunt him. And he can't seem to say no to helping people, even when he might want to. Plus, this line came from his head, so I knew I had to love him. "Hands could be such expressive things." You can tell a lot about someone from their hands. Glad to see I'm not the only one who thinks so! I really want some of those dreams Raithe is harboring to come true for him; he deserves it.
Malcolm had me grinning every time he was mentioned. Ever since that first encounter I knew there was something I liked about him. And now I just want him to find his freedom and his happiness. The bromance between him and Raithe is also pretty perfect. Their scenes together are some of my favorites.
I wasn't sure how to feel about Persephone in the first couple of chapters where she was introduced, but I soon came to love her. She's strong and confident but seeks council and help from those around her. There are plenty of times that she could break and it would be completely understandable, but she understands that her people need her, so she holds herself together. She is honestly one of my favorite women in fantasy at the moment.
Suri might possibly be my favorite of them all, but it's really hard to say. She's quirky in the perfect way and has these little bouts of wisdom that I love. She fits so well with the rest of the main cast, despite her eccentricities. And of course Minna, her wolf companion, is wonderful. Who doesn't want a wolf for their sidekick? As for those bouts of wisdom, this was one of my favorites: "Fools believe silence is a void needing to be filled; the wise understand there's no such thing as silence."
Our other central character, Arion, is probably the one I have warmed to the least. She isn't as involved with the other characters throughout the main story, so that might be where some of my reservations come from with her. I am definitely interested in seeing where her story goes in the future installments, I am just not quite as attached to her as some of the others. 
The side characters are also excellent. They each added something to the story. No one was there just to be there. And I can see that some of them might grow more in later installments. 
The world in this is excellent and has a fascinating magic system that I look forward to exploring more. Everything is so well explained, and so naturally that you don't feel overwhelmed entering an alien setting when you start. This book comes very close to perfect in my opinion. If there was anything that bothered me, it hasn't stuck around in my thoughts. It's full of action, politics, magic, and just the day to day challenges of life. 
If you haven't read this book yet and are at all inclined to read epic or high fantasy stories, I highly suggest you start now. I will be diving right into the second one (which releases at the end of July) and from there exploring the rest that Sullivan has to offer.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

The Blinding Knife~Brent Weeks | Review

Title: The Blinding Knife (Lightbringer #2)
Author: Brent Weeks
Genre: Fantasy
Length: 671 Pages
Release: September 2012

Unfortunately, I was not very impressed with this second installment in the Lightbringer series. It had a promising beginning, as Gavin was working to fix the things that had gone wrong at the end of book one, but things did not remain so bright for me. 

Kip became somewhat more likable as he was thrust into a new world and no longer had the influence of Liv (who I can't stand) to drag him down. Some of his adventures were interesting and even enjoyable. It was fun finding out more about the Blackguards and their training. 

The story never went beyond some fun moments and a few likable characters, sadly. It all turned into a book about sex. While there wasn't that much sex that happened in the novel, there were a few scenes that were somewhat detailed. And when there wasn't actual sex happening, there was constant talk about having/needing to have/wanting to have sex. And it served no purpose. 

I was also really disappointed with how slavery was approached in this world. Slavery is something that has existed in the real world since the beginning of time, so the inclusion of slavery in itself does not bother me, but the way that the characters view it as a normal way of life, despite the fact that they are supposed to be good (well, mostly) people was very disappointing. Maybe this is looked at more in later installments, I don't know, but here it was a major setback. 

Very few, if any, of the questions I had at the end of book one were answered. Instead of giving answers and building up to new ones, we were just given even more questions. And they left me very frustrated. 

There are many people who enjoy this novel, but I don't think I will be continuing the series from this point. The first book was good, but this one spiraled downward from there. Based on the reviews of my friends, it seems that the series continues in the same vein, so I don't think it's for me. 

Monday, July 3, 2017

Dawn of Wonder~Jonathan Renshaw | Review

Title: Dawn of Wonder (The Wakening #1)
Author: Jonathan Renshaw
Genre: Fantasy
Length: 712 Pages
Release: May 2015

At the beginning of the year one of my reading friends suggested this book to me. I immediately added it to my list and it would periodically pop up. After reading her review I finally decided to get the book and read it. And I'm really glad I did. 

This isn't the most groundbreaking, mind blowing epic fantasy that there is, but it's a good start to what could turn into an excellent series. We follow a young boy name Aedan who has his entire life turned upside down by the arrival of a single man. He and his best friend Kalry are smart enough to see the signs, but no one will take them seriously, which leads to disaster. 

The beginning of the story is rather slow, as is customary with these types of novels. Things start to pick up once Aedan enters training as a marshal. The cast of characters is filled out nicely with his schoolmates. My favorites are Peashot and Hadley, who play off of Aedan quite well. And I love the school setting. I always have and I think I always will. 

This novel deals a lot with family and friendship. It tackles some hard hitting topics like abuse and slavery, but in a really great way. Aedan doesn't overcome his problems easily. In fact, he really hasn't overcome his problems by the end of this first book, which I appreciated. At times it seemed like he was too smart (or sometimes that others just weren't smart enough), but when it came to dealing with his real issues, it didn't gloss over them. Life for Aedan is hard. But he keeps on living and finds ways to believe, even when it seems like there is no hope to be had. 

There are hints of magic and other forces at work, but those aren't completely realized in this first installment. The ending gives me hope that this will play more of a role in the coming books, as Aedan sets out on a quest that could shape the future for many of our characters. It won't be easy, but if he succeeds (or even fails) it will be worth it. Sometimes you just have to try and hope that what you can do is enough. 

I think this novel could use with another round of edits, just to clean things up a bit, but it's very well written. Since the author has released multiple editions, fixing issues that he has found, I feel confident that he will continue to improve his work. I am really looking forward to the next installment and hope that people will continue to read--and enjoy--this novel. 

Friday, June 30, 2017

Dark Deception~Nancy Mehl | Review

Title: Dark Deception (Defenders of Justice #2)
Author: Nancy Mehl
Genre: Thriller
Length: 320 Pages
Release: June 2017

A copy of this novel was provided through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. 

Once you turn that first page you will begin a ride with your heart in your throat, from beginning to end.

Brilliant storyteller, Nancy Mehl, has once again crafted a dramatic, spine-tingling suspense—guaranteed to keep you holding on to the edge of your seat with bated breath! My thoughts were all over the place as I took a chilling roller coaster ride into the mastermind behind numerous serial killings and his intended victim, Kate O'Brien. Kate has been living a quiet life in small-town, Shelter Cove, under an assumed name, after a horrendous attack four years prior by a notorious serial killer who took the life of her twin sister. Kate appears strong and whole, but much to her chagrin, handsome Deputy U.S. Marshall Tony DeLuca draws attention to the fact that she is in denial about that horrific night and needs inner healing. Tony has his own denial issues when it comes to his feelings about Kate, and protecting her is definitely in the forefront. He accepts an assignment to escort her back to St. Louis, but a new development in the case forces them to stay in Shelter Cove. However, has something sinister taken hold in sleepy little Shelter Cove...and will Tony be able stop any more killings before it is too late? 

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Pursued~Lisa Harris | Review

Title: Pursued (Nikki Boyd Files #3)
Author: Lisa Harris
Genre: Suspense
Length: 315 Pages
Release: April 2017

A copy of this novel was provided through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Lisa Harris’ latest installment in The Nikki Boyd Files gives new meaning to the words thrill ride. Non-stop action filled with twists and turns is the order of the day. Neither Nikki nor the reader knows from one moment to the next what will happen, making Pursued a late night page turner.

Special Agent Nikki Boyd is on her way home to Tennessee. She is flying on a plane when they encounter some turbulence. The woman in the seat next to Nikki strikes up a conversation and tells Nikki she is afraid. Before they can continue their conversation, more turbulence strikes and it is discovered that the man next to this woman is dead, then the plane takes a nose dive. After getting off the plane, Nikki notices that the woman has accidentally left her watch in her seat. Nikki tries to find her to return it, but doesn’t see her. She asks for her name of a flight attendant and told that no one was sitting in that seat. There is no record of the woman being on the plane. A mystery begins that will take Nikki on a harrowing journey in the next 24-48 hours.

In addition to this, Nikki is to meet Tyler at the airport. He has returned from overseas just a few days ago after a 3-month contract job. He has a new job offer in Tennessee, but he and Nikki haven’t had a chance to talk about a relationship or the future. With this new case of a missing person, Nikki is whisked out of the airport and taken directly to her office to begin the search for the missing woman as Nikki discovers she was supposed to testify at a trial that would have resulted in a famous philanthropist going to jail. With the search on, Nikki is under pressure to find the woman as well as deal with a personal health issue that might affect her future relationship with Tyler. How will she survive the next couple of days? You will have to read this exciting tale to find out!

Pursued was a great book. The characters were all very likable. I can’t wait for the next book in the series!

Monday, June 26, 2017

Sandpiper Cove~Irene Hannon | Review

Title: Sandpiper Cove (Hope Harbor #3)
Author: Irene Hannon
Genre: Adult Contemporary
Length: 352 Pages
Release: April 2017

A copy of this novel was provided through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. 

I absolutely loved Sandpiper Cove! When I read the summary, and discovered Police Chief Lexie Graham and ex-con Adam Stone were the main characters I was intrigued. What an original story line. This type of relationship falls outside social norms, so I couldn't wait to see how author Irene Hannon would handle this unique and tricky connection. She did a fantastic job of presenting both the attraction and the challenges to be dealt with between them, but what an amazing payoff in the end.

There's a wonderful cast of secondary characters in Lexie's son Matt, her mom Annette, co-worker Luis, Charley the taco-maker, and Reverend Baker, to name a few. The story wouldn't have been complete without Clyde the rescue dog, he tied the whole story together. They all added a rich layer of dialogue and understanding as to what it means to live as community in a small charming seaside town. An at-risk teen name Brian and the struggles he faced while trying to navigate high school and find acceptance as the new kid on the block was especially poignant and touching.

It doesn't happen often that all aspects of a story come together so well, but they did in Sandpiper Cove. Loyalty, commitment, friendship, encouragement, faith and love, the things of value that make life memorable, they're all there in this book.
"Any damaged board can be smoothed out and made new with work and patience."

Is Adam Stone a "damaged board"? Starting life over as an ex-convict, in a small town, is not an easy thing to do, but Adam Stone has managed to live a simple life as a responsible citizen, out of the limelight in his solitary cabin by the Oregon coastline. Until one day, the beautiful police chief shows up at his doorstep, tipped off by a local, about the recent vandalism on Stone's property and "a tiny ember of hope for a future that included more than a loyal, lovable dog for a companion began to glow in a long-dark corner of his heart".

Lexie Graham has hardly noticed Adam Stone since he arrived in Hope Harbor, and she would have remembered it if she had. Ruggedly handsome, coupled with a humble spirit, is a hard thing to forget. Acting on a hunch, Chief Graham commandeers Adam's help with one of the troubled youths proven to be a part of the local pranks, and in the process, discovers a part of herself that has lain dormant since the death of her husband. "Was she ready to let go of the past and take a chance on a future that could be fraught with challenges - and change?"

This addition to Irene Hannon's "Hope Harbor" series is all about trusting God to open the door to second chances. 

Friday, June 23, 2017

Threads of Suspicion~Dee Henderson | Review

Title: Threads of Suspicion (Evie Blackwell Cold Case #2)
Author: Dee Henderson
Genre: Suspense
Length: 432 Pages
Release: May 2017

A copy of this novel was provided through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. 

In Threads of Suspicion, Evie is part of the newly formed Missing Persons Task Force. She chooses to pursue the case of a college student who went missing without a trace in 2007. Her colleague, David, is researching the case of a missing Private Investigator who likewise vanished without a trace. While the two cases are dissimilar in time, they share a general locale which is why the two investigators are working at the same office location. As they separately pursue their cases, they bounce ideas and thoughts off one another.

There is something very relatable in all of Henderson's characters, and Evie is no different. Her personal internal debate as she is trying desperately to find the balance between career and relationships is very real to life. Dee manages to make police investigations about more than details (though her writing research gets all those details right!) but also about the people involved.

Detective Evie Blackwell is good at what she does; really good, so good in fact, that she has just been appointed by the governor to serve on an elite "Missing Persons Task Force" for the state of Illinois. Working within a team of highly talented investigators, she and her partner, David Marshal, head to Chicago to work on cases that don't seem to have anything in common except geographic location, until "threads of suspicion" begin to unravel in all directions and the two top cops feel a sense of urgency to find their killer.

This second novel in Dee Henderson's "Evie Blackwell Cold Case" series reads like an investigative textbook; full of swirling data, and confusing innuendos, but thankfully letting its readers tip-toe into the hearts and minds of two very focused detectives, whose personal lives hold just as many challenges as the facts of this case.

As the investigations continue, the cases begin to intertwine and even cross over into the personal lives of the two investigators. The resources of others are called in as the potential crimes take on even more ominous tones.

In addition to the mystery, the personal lives of the investigators are progressing. Evie has commitment issues and is trying to get to the bottom of why she is afraid of marriage. David's fiancee, Maggie, has commitment issues of her own with regards to faith.
Once again (at least for me) Dee Henderson has hit one out of the ballpark. This second in the Evie Blackwell series has a great mix of new and previous characters from other books. The intricacies of working a cold case and the intuitiveness of the requirements the law officers need to pull these cases together Dee relates in a very compelling and interesting manner. This book, though different from other books by Dee, is well worth the read.

Reading Dee Henderson's books is becoming part of the story. You love her characters, you hurt when they hurt, you smile when they smile and you wish you knew people like that in real life. When the story is over you look forward to the next one. Will it be about someone you met in this story? You hope so, because you don't want to let go of the people you met this time.

I highly recommend "Threads of Suspicion" by Dee Henderson. Evie Blackwell is a top investigator, with her partner, David Marshall. Trying to solve cases in Chicago area. They are trying to solve issuing person, but a cold case. As usual Dee Henderson has written a hard to put down mystery. A great book!

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Moving Target~Lynette Eason | Review

Title: Moving Target (Elite Guardians #3)
Author: Lynette Eason
Genre: Mystery/Suspense
Length: 331 Pages
Release: January 2017

A copy of this novel was provided through Netgalley in exchange for review.

If you are searching for a spine-tingling, suspenseful thriller that will keep you peering over your shoulder, then look no further! Moving Target is a chilling who-dun-it that will keep you guessing until the deliciously creepy conclusion. Maddy McKay is one tough cookie who has an Achilles' heel where a certain tenacious detective, Quinn Holcombe, is concerned. However, a romantic relationship can't even be considered until they find the psychotic madman who is bent on exacting revenge by hunting them down like prey.

I love Quinn and Maddy. They both were dealing with family drama, and on top of that a mad man wanted them dead. This book has kidnapping, attempted murder, murder, bomb threat, embezzlement, suicide, and a whole lot more. Quinn blamed himself for what happened to his sister. He felt his family had turned their backs on him. Maddy's FBI unit had been set up and everyone blamed her for what happened, including her father. 

The story follows Maddy and Quinn as they face an enemy with an unknown agenda bent on causing destruction. The two friends draw closer together as they learn to rely on each other for protection. 

The book was completely high impact and not one slow moment from page one to the last page. You will be on the edge of your seat. You find yourself sucked in and you just can't put the book down.

I highly recommend this series to anyone looking for great suspense with a little romance thrown in for good measure!

Monday, June 19, 2017

The Silent Corner~Dean Koontz | Review

Title: The Silent Corner (Jane Hawk #1)
Author: Dean Koontz
Genre: Suspense/Mystery
Length: 464 Pages
Release: June 2017

I was provided a review copy of this novel by the publisher through Netgalley

Dean Koontz is one of my favorite authors, so I was very excited to hear about this upcoming series. After nearly six years of reading his books, I'm still hooked. And The Silent Corner is no exception. 

The story follows Jane Hawk an FBI agent gone rogue when sinister forces threaten her life--and the world in general. Living off the grid, alone, Jane is searching for the reason behind the rise in suicides the world over. Because things don't add up and it has finally touched too close to home. 

Koontz has an absolutely beautiful style of writing and I fall in love with his sentences. Really, there are some that are too beautiful to be ignored. And while his subject matter can be somewhat dark at times, there is always hope. Hope can not be killed. That is evident throughout this novel as Jane fights evil, having to push her own moral boundaries in the process. It's similar to any superhero/vigilante story out there in that respect. The law is not always on her side, but does that mean that what she does is wrong? I guess that's something you have to decide for yourself. 

The concepts in this novel are plausible enough to have you questioning what if scenarios. I won't delve too deeply into that, because it's the meat of Jane's story, but it's so spine tingle disturbing that I almost expected to read about it in the news myself. That's where the power of this novel comes in for me. That big what if question that this inspires in my mind. 

Some readers fault Koontz for his slow pacing, but for me that's a plus. His beautiful writing keep the story engaging no matter how it's paced. And the slowness is generally due to the internal struggles and understanding that is happening within our characters, and a character driven story is always a plus. 

I would highly recommend this novel to anyone with interest in suspense, mystery, or even science fiction. There is action, evil, and above all hope for a new and brighter future. Because Jane Hawk is on our side, and what more could we ask for?

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Once and for All~Sarah Dessen | Review

Title: Once and for All
Author: Sarah Dessen
Genre: YA Contemporary Romance
Length: 358 Pages
Release: June 2017

The description created this really nice picture in my head. Unfortunately this did not live up to that image. There are things I liked, but a lot bothered me in this one. 

Going into this I expected a YA romance with a someone cynical main character who had been hurt from some previous relationship. That, however, is not really what this was. There was romance, in an odd way. To avoid spoilers I am not going into the previous relationship that left Louna feeling unsure about love, but I was rather disappointed with it. The story was sad, yes, but there was far too much instalove and that sapped it of any real emotional connection for me. 

The description leads you to believe that Ambrose will leave behind his serial dating and actually try to win Louna over, but that's not the case at all. In fact, for most of the novel it didn't seem like he was any more interested in her than in any other girl there was. While they had their cute moments, their "romance" was seriously lacking. And they way they treated the other people they dated throughout the story was appalling. Honestly, that ending made me rather mad. 

I know that Dessen's novels tend to be strictly YA aged main characters, but I was still a little surprised that Louna turned out to be only seventeen. I think it would have worked better if she had been just a few years older. And it never says how old Ambrose is exactly, which left me a little confused at times. The characters, overall, were rather lackluster for me. Louna was hurt after what happened with her previous relationship, but I also felt like she hadn't really cared before that either. Ambrose had his moments, but was overall kind of a jerk. The rest of the side characters were ok and had some nice moments. 

The main thing that I did appreciate about this one was the relationship between Louna and her mother. It's the healthiest mother/daughter duo I think I've seen in a Dessen novel and it was nice to see that side of things. Neither of them was clueless about the others life and they genuinely cared about helping each other. William was also sweet with Louna and it was nice to see their interactions. 

I also really liked Ira, Ambrose's dog. This added a cute touch and is really what made Ambrose seem like a good guy, since there were no other great indications that he really cared about anything that much. This could have been a great book, I just don't think it was constructed properly for me to feel that way about it. I'm sure that there are many people who will love it and while it wasn't my favorite, it also wasn't my least favorite of Dessen's novels. Well, that's still up for debate. 

After thinking about this book for a few more days, I think I like it less than I initially thought. There was so much potential. Dessen is my go to for contemporary novels, but this was such a disappointment. 

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Writing | Tuesday Talks

Tuesday Talks is a goodreads group designed to foster discussion on various book related topics. You can join in or follow the discussions through the group.

Are you a writer?
Writing is probably the one thing that comes naturally to me. Am I perfect in my writing? No, not by any means. Am I a good writer? I like to think so. Do I enjoy writing? Yes. It's one of my greatest passions. So let's talk about this a little more. 

I have been creating stories for as long as I can remember. I loved drawing and art as a child (I still do, I just didn't develop the skill) and would carry around notebooks and drawing supplies everywhere I went. It was a long time before I was much of a reader, but I would write all the time using invented spelling and chronicling the adventures of my heroes and heroines. Some of the ideas weren't even that bad, they just need a lot of polish. 

In my teens I wrote a few novels but never edited them or did much with them after that first drafting stage. Since then, I've stared developing my skills more. I write regularly, have joined online writing communities (which can be really helpful), and completed NaNoWriMo once. The writing is the easy part for me; it's the editing that pulls me down. 

My writing journey continues and I finally released a story this year. I am hoping for many more to come. It's short, it's sweet (ish), and I had a blast writing it. Short stories and novellas have become a writing obsession for me, but I still enjoy poetry and novels. Writing is in my blood. 

If you're curious, my story is Worlds with Ruby

Are you a writer? I would love to hear about your writing journey. 

Thursday, June 8, 2017

The Autumn Republic~Brian McClellan | Review

Title: The Autumn Republic (Powder Mage #3)
Author: Brian McClellan
Genre: Flintlock Fantasy
Length: 580 Pages
Release: February 2015

While this installment didn't quite live up to the standard set by The Crimson Campaign this was a solid conclusion to a series that I will likely revisit in the future. McClellan has the potential to climb the ranks in my list of favorite authors and I'm excited to see what he produces next.

My main drawback in this installment is really the character focus in the story. While it made sense in a lot of ways, there were a lot of characters I wanted to see more of--and, alternatively, so I could have handled with a little less page time. There were some nice father/son moments between Tamas and Taniel that I had been hoping for for a while, but then Taniel essentially disappears. He crops up occasionally, to let you know he's not completely out of the picture, but he is no longer as big of a focus and I missed that. He and Ka-poel are probably my two favorite characters and having them pushed aside so far was rather disappointing. For the story it may have made sense, but I think they could have been worked in a little better.

Through the series it was nice to see Tamas struggle with the things he has done and I really think he grew a lot as a character. He didn't let his mistakes slow him down, which was great, he just kept pushing forward, hoping that something he had done was right. And the back and forth between him and Olem was wonderful. I would have liked to see a little more of this there at the end of the book, but don't want to go into spoilers.

Nila and Bo both stepped to the forefront in this one and I think that's the main area that bothered me. I never found either of these characters particularly compelling and so their portions just kind of dragged for me. There isn't anything in particular that I don't like about them, they were just bland for me where the other characters were colorful. Vlora also had a bit more of a position in this one, though it still wasn't big. She's a character that I don't really know how to feel about. It was one of those cases where I felt like I was supposed  to like her and think she was strong and capable so instead I didn't. I don't know. She just frustrated me.

There is action from start to finish here and while I was not as into the fighting between the gods as I was the fighting between men (or even the men fighting the gods), the ending was still a solid conclusion. Things were wrapped up enough to be satisfying while leaving plenty of room open for further exploration. The characters weren't just ending on a page, they were continuing on afterward.

I definitely recommend this series and hope that McClellan can continue to improve and produce high quality fantasy adventures. His magic systems are fun and unique, his writing sharp, and his storytelling entertaining. Plus, the man can outline a battle. Now onto his new material and hoping that it's just as good as this. 

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Surprised by an Author | Tuesday Talks

Tuesday Talks is a book discussion group that you can find on goodreads. There is a new topic each Tuesday and it's always fun to jump in and have discussion with other book lovers.

What Authors Surprised You With Their Writing Skills?
One author that immediately comes to mind for this is Sara Ella. I knew Sara through booktube for quite a while before her first book was released, which was really the first time I had read her writing. I was really excited to read her book, but I never know what to expect from new authors, so I was pleasantly surprised by her skill. Her novel Unblemished is not a genre that I tend to love (I prefer high fantasy to urban), I found her writing very compelling and descriptive. I am now looking forward to reading the next book in the trilogy, Unraveling, which releases July 11th.

What authors have surprised you? 

Friday, June 2, 2017

What Happened to Goodbye~Sarah Dessen | Review

Title: What Happened to Goodbye
Author: Sarah Dessen
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary
Length: 402 Pages
Release: May 2011

I am now up to date with all of Dessen's published novels, which is crazy to me. It has been two years since I started, but still. Where does the time go?

Anyway, back to the book at hand. This was not my favorite of Dessen's novels, but I did really enjoy it. I think that Mclean's struggles through her parents divorce was very realistic and relatable. I have never been that close to a divorce and can only imagine what that would feel like for a young teen, knowing what she knew about the situation. So her identity crisis, while it made her somewhat difficult to connect with at times, was completely understandable.

The parents in this book, the mom in particular, were clueless. How they were so oblivious to their daughter's pain and conflict is beyond me. That said, I do think that there was a good amount of growth in these relationships. You were able to see Mclean come to terms with a lot where this was concerned.

The group of friends that Mclean makes in her new town is a lot of fun. Deb is by far my favorite. I like that she is misunderstood but extremely well rounded. She knows so much but because she is an overwhelming personality people don't react well to her. So much about her reminds me of myself. It was nice to see her being included in a group from which she had always been excluded, and them realizing that she was more than they thought. Dave was also a really nice addition. Dessen is great with slow burn romance and I think it worked well in this case. Mclean needed to come to terms with things in her life before she could really let someone else in, and Dave helped her along the way.

The restaurant side of things gave this one a nice flair. It wasn't the focus of the main story, but even the few glimpses into the workings of the business were fun. And Opal, the manager of Luna Blu, was a nice character to have around. In the beginning I wasn't sure what she would turn into, so I was happy that it turned into a good thing.

The last major thing I want to mention is Jason. He was a minor character here, a boy who worked in the kitchen of Luna Blu (and one of the few that was good at his job). This was the third novel he has appeared in after being a jerk in both The Truth About Forever and Along for the Ride. But here he seems different, more mature. And now I want a novel that features him as our main guy. It would be nice to see one of the formerly rejected boys come back and be the star. So now I have my fingers crossed for that to happen. 

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Northanger Abbey~Jane Austen | Review

Title: Northanger Abbey and the History of England
Author: Jane Austen
Genre: British Classics
Length: 9.5 hours audio
Release: February 2017 (first published 1817)

I received an audio copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.

Northanger Abbey is one of those books that I was unsure of reading. It tends to be one of Austen's more overlooked novels and I think I heard some negative comments. That put me off reading it for a long time, which may have been a good thing. By the time I read it, I was ready to read it with an open mind. And I loved it.

This audiobook was the second time through the book for me, the first time being several years ago. While Austen's writing improved as she wrote, this is an excellent book. Catherine Morland, our heroine, is every bit the over imaginative fangirl, letting her love of Gothic novels carry her away. She's young and out in society for the first time, learning and growing as her imagination runs wild.

Henry Tilney is probably my favorite of all of Austen's male leads. He's flirty, talkative, intelligent, and just plain fun. He was voiced really well in this audio and I think I fell a little more in love with him. The relationship between him and Catherine is really nice and different to most of Austen's other romantic entanglements since Catherine was so attached to Henry from the beginning. And he was rather fond of her as well, which made it even better. There was no dislike between them, former lovers hanging on, or other love interests getting in the way. And it was perfect.

Catherine's character progression from beginning to end is wonderful. She starts out young and naive and, though not completely changed by the end (which is a good thing), she has learned that not everything or everyone is always what it seems. She always believes the best of people and this positive outlook stays with her--with a hint of caution now in the mix.

The Thorpe family, Isabella and John specifically, irritate me so much. It really shows how innocent Catherine and James are, not to be able to spot the issues early in their relationships with this family.

Northanger Abbey is full of Austen's charm and wit that makes her later novels so loved. And it might possibly be my favorite of the bunch. 

Monday, May 29, 2017

The Order of the Phoenix~J K Rowling | Review

Title: The Order of the Phoenix (Harry Potter #5)
Author: J K Rowling
Genre: Middle Grade Fantasy
Length: 870 Pages (Hardcover)
Release: June 2003

In November 2016 I started my reread of the Harry Potter series. This is the first time I have read any of the books since reading the seventh one twice within two months of its release, so it's been a while.

The Order of the Phoenix has always been one of my two favorites, normally ranking just beneath The Prisoner of Azkaban. Reading these as an adult, I think it has now surpassed that loved installment to become my favorite.

This fifth installment is much more developed than any of the previous four books, with a more detailed plot and higher stakes. It succeeds where The Goblet of Fire fell flat for me in that everything seems connected from beginning to end. It didn't really feel like it was long just to be long, but because there was legitimately enough story to fill that many pages, which is where that last installment was a bit of a letdown.

There are many things in this book that I don't like. Harry, for one, becomes more and more annoying as the series goes on. I have never really been a fan of his character and find him to be rather selfish. It's understandable that he has problems, after the way he was treated by the Dursley's, but I don't like the direction he took after getting out from under them. I have some similar issues with Ron, but not to the same extent. Hermione is a pretty stellar friend.

The story gets darker and grittier in this installment. You learn more of the history of Voldemort rising to power years ago and what was done to stop him. There are revelations made about certain characters and their families that are not altogether expected. And even Hogwarts is not safe for Harry this time, with the Ministry taking more control. Umbridge is one of the most genuinely evil characters in the entire series.

Just like with previous installments, one of the highlights here is definitely Fred and George. Their characters are absolutely amazing. They are genuinely good people who truly care about their friends and family. They make mistakes, but they aren't cruel. They play jokes but no when to pull back. These two will forever be the highlight of the series for me.

A lot of new and exciting characters are introduced including Luna and Tonks, who are both excellent additions to the cast. We see some of our old favorites. Lots of stupid choices are made, brave things done. The ending isn't is rather bleak, as the previous book was, but there is hope.

I do have to say, while I think that Rowling's writing is good I am not blown away by it. The main characters are hard for me to connect with and I think that has a lot to do with the writing style. It also seems a lot clunkier than I remember when I was younger, probably due to changed perceptions as I've read more widely. I do, however, feel that her writing and story telling improved with each book.

I am not sure when I will be reading book six, but I look forward to delving into the next chapter of Harry's life and seeing what it has to offer. There are many things that I have forgotten through the years and it's nice to revisit some of those old memories.  

Friday, May 26, 2017

The King of Average~Gary Schwartz | Review

Title: The King of Average
Author: Gary Schwartz
Genre: Middle Grade Coming of Age
Length: 228 Pages (~6 hours on audio)
Release: October 2015

I received an audio copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review. 

It's always fun for me when I hear that an author has narrated their own book. I don't know why, exactly, I just think that it adds more to the experience if you hear the words from the person who penned them. 

But onto the actual reason for this post: the book. This story follows James, a child who receives no love from his mother and was abandoned by his father. He does well enough, but no better. And thus begins his quest to become the most average person that ever lived. It is at this point that he is transported to a world where Average is a kingdom in search of a king. 

In the beginning this was a little bit of a hard listen for me. James is only a child and has to hear from his mother how he caused her so many problems and only made his life worse. Some of my own family have had similar experiences, so this was difficult to hear about in a story. It's very sad, but a reality for too many children these days. 

Once James was transported to Average, things became more optimistic. There are plenty of lessons to be learned and James makes a lot of friends along the way. There is a French Optimist and his companion the Pessimist. A talking goat. And, eventually, other children. These characters help James learn about himself and what it means to really be average. 

The idea behind this story is an intriguing one and I found it very clever. The names of the various kingdoms and the peoples that inhabit them were always so nicely devised. There were places like the Flatter Lands, where everyone was constantly flattering you. And then there were other darker lands, where paranoia seemed to rule all. The concepts were all fascinating and I found myself intrigued as each new place was introduced. 

Overall I thought this was an enjoyable book to listen to. The narration was nicely done and the story a lot of fun. I did find certain parts repetitive and thought the ending wrapped up a little too quickly without enough closure, but I overall really enjoyed it. 

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Ghostly Echoes~William Ritter | Review

Title: Ghostly Echoes (Jackaby #2)
Author: William Ritter
Genre: Paranormal/Historical/Mystery
Length: 352 Pages
Release: August 2016

This third installment in the Jackaby series was just as well written as the two previous novels and had its own mystery to be solved. Most of what we learn here is really just a set up for the final volume (which releases in August 2017). There are finally some answers about Jenny and Jackaby, who have been shrouded in mystery from the beginning. 

All of the favorite characters from the first two books reappear here, with some new additions that are not always pleasant. This volume focuses more on the supernatural element (well, more might be a bit of a stretch, since that's what these books are) with mention of the underworld, vampires, and other mythological creatures roaming the world. 

The events of all three novels are brought together as our detectives realize that everything has been connected from the beginning. There may even be connections of which we are not yet aware. This makes for some interesting exploration and some hilarious Jackaby moments. 

Interactions between Jackaby and Abigail are some of the highlights of this series. They have great banter and there friendship is really fun to watch. It's not always easy, but it's interesting. And of course Jenny and Charlie are great to have around. And then there is the question of Douglas and where his story will lead. Will he use the information that Jackaby found to take by his old life? Or will be remain in his fowl form? Hopefully The Dire King will answer this and many other questions. 

I will be eagerly awaiting the release of the final book in the series. It has been a very fun ride. Matthew Ritter has an excellent way with words and I hope he continues to produce more fun and imaginative stories.  

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Scythe~Neal Shusterman | Review

Title: Scythe (Arc of a Scythe #1)
Author: Neal Shusterman
Genre: YA Sci-fi/dystopia
Length: 435 Pages
Release: November 2016

This was my ninth novel by Neal Shusterman and he still manages to amaze me. I have yet to be disappointed by him. His world building is absolutely stunning.

Scythe follows two teens who live in a futuristic world where death by natural causes has been eradicated. In order to keep the population manageable (since people continue having children) Scythes "glean" a certain number of people each year. Our two leads, Citra and Rowan, are chosen to be apprentices by an honorable Scythe who is impressed with their moral character. But not everyone is as upstanding as Scythe Faraday and things take a rather dark turn.

Rowan and Faraday were by far my favorite characters in the story. I found them much easier to connect with than any of the other characters and really hope that we see more from both of them in the sequel. There were points throughout the novel where I felt rather detached from the characters and their concerns, but I always found it interesting.

The chapters are separated by entries from the Scythes journals, where they contemplate the things they have done. Some of these were dark, some of them sad, but all of them interesting. Again, this really shows Shusterman's skill with world building, as this made it all that much more real.

If you enjoy good young adult science fiction with dystopia elements, this is definitely a series to try. If you have enjoyed other works by Shusterman, I think you will not be disappointed with this. 

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Beastly Bones~William Ritter | Review

Title: Beastly Bones (Jackaby #2)
Author: William Ritter
Genre: Historical Paranormal
Length: 295 Pages
Release: September 2015

William Ritter really has a way with words. With Jackaby I was immediately sucked into the story by the clever writing and Beastly Bones was exactly the same. 

This series blends historical fiction and paranormal occult occurrences together so well and is filled with likable characters. The story is narrated by Abigail Rook who became the assistant to R F Jacakby, a detective who can see paranormal phenomena. Abigail has always sought adventure, and with Jackaby she found it. There are ghosts, shapeshifters, vampires, dragons, and any other creature you can think of. 

This second installment really sets up the main story that we will follow for the two later installments. Because everything is connected, of course. And you finally start to learn how and a little bit of why. 

The characters in this series are so much fun. Jackaby is excellent on his own, always with a witty remark. The banter between him and Abigail is one of the highlights. Their developing friendship is a really nice one and I like that this series highlights the fact that you can be close to someone without having a romantic relationship. Charlie and Jenny are back for this installment, each adding their own flare to the story. 

While I find Ritter's writing fantastic and the stories engaging and fun, I do find them somewhat lacking. They aren't the kind of books that leave me with questions, contemplating them long after I've finished reading. That doesn't make them any less brilliant, they just aren't as memorable as I would like for them to be to boost them into my favorite books category. 

This is a series that I would recommend to anyone who enjoys mystery, paranormal elements, historical fiction, and wants to see those all blended together. They also have some great laugh out loud moments and likable characters.