Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Caught Dead Handed - Review

Title:  Caught Dead Handed
Author:  Carol J. Perry
Series:  Witch City Mystery #1

Synopsis:  “Most folks associate the city of Salem, Massachusetts with witches, but for Lee Barrett, it’s home.  This October she’s returned to her hometown – where her beloved Aunt Ibby still lives – to interview for a job as a reporter at WICH – TV.  But the only opening is for a call-in psychic to host the late night horror movies.  It seems the previous host, Ariel Constellation, never saw her own murder coming.
     “Lee reluctantly takes the job, but when she starts seeing real events in the obsidian ball she’s using as a prop, she wonders if she night really have psychic abilities.  To make things even spookier, it’s starting to look like Ariel may have been an actual practicing witch – especially when O’Ryan, the cat Lee and Aunt Ibby inherited from her, exhibits some strange powers of his own.  With Halloween fast approaching, Lee must focus on unmasking a killer – or her career as a psychic may be very short lived…”

Review:  I have a weakness for cozy mysteries involving cats, coffee, or the paranormal.  I call it my guilty pleasure, and for a long time I was embarrassed by it because cozies have a reputation for being fluffy or silly and for being full of clichés.  Well, yeah, that’s kind of true.  But I still enjoy them.  Sometimes it’s nice to read something you don’t have to think too much about. 
     Caught Dead Handed is a fun bit of fluff.  I enjoyed the characters, especially the cat, O’Ryan.  I think it would be fun to be a call-in psychic hosting late night horror movies on television.  Lee and Aunt Ibby are likable characters.  With a cozy you are pretty much guaranteed that everything will wrap up nicely in the end, and your favorite characters will be okay, but I was still compelled to stay up late to finish and find out what was going to happen.  I look forward to reading the rest of the series. 

Publisher:  Kensington

If you like this book you may want to read:

Tails You Lose (Witch City Mystery #2) by Carol J. Perry

A Familiar Tail (Witch’s Cat Mystery #1) by Delia James

Secondhand Spirits (A Witchcraft Mystery #1) Juliet Blackwell

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Lady of Ashes - Review

Title:  Lady of Ashes
Author:  Christine Trent
Series:  Lady of Ashes #1

Synopsis:  “In 1861 London, Violet Morgan is struggling to establish a good reputation for the undertaking business that her husband has largely abandoned.  She provides comfort for the grieving, advises them on funeral fashion and etiquette, and arranges funerals.
     “Unbeknownst to his wife, Graham, who has nursed a hatred of America since his grandfather soldiered for Great Britain in the War of 1812, becomes involved in a scheme to sell arms to the South.  Meanwhile, Violet receives the commission of a lifetime: undertaking the funeral for a friend of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert.  But her position remains precarious, especially when Graham disappears and she begins investigating a series of deaths among the poor.  And the closer she gets to the truth, the greater the danger for them both…”

Review:  I really enjoyed Lady of Ashes.  There aren’t many novels out there about undertakers, much less a female undertaker in Victorian England.  Trent’s character building and world description was well done.  The descriptions of Victorian funeral practices, and etiquette was fascinating.   Violet is a likable heroine and I couldn’t help but feel for her.  I hated Graham and truly felt throughout the novel that Violet would be better off without him, despite her being a woman in a male dominated society. 
      I don’t read a lot of mysteries, because I can always guess what is going to happen and get bored.  Lady of Ashes was a perfect blend of history, mystery and romance.  I did not get bored and even stayed up past my bedtime to finish, because I just HAD to find out what happened.  A big thank you to my Tattooed Cupcake for recommending this outstanding novel to me.  I can’t wait to read the next installment!

Publisher: Kensington

If you like this book you may want to read:

Stolen Remains (Lady of Ashes #2) by Christine Trent

Jackaby (Jackaby #1) by William Ritter

A Deadly Affection (Dr. Genevieve Summerford Mystery #1) by Cuyler  Overholt

Monday, May 29, 2017

River of Teeth - Review

Title:  River of Teeth
Author: Sarah Gailey
Series:  River of Teeth #1

Synopsis:  “In the early 20th Century, the United States government concocted a plan to import hippopotamuses into the marshlands of Louisiana to be bred and slaughtered as an alternative meat source.  This is true.
     “Other true things about hippos: they are savage, they are fast, and their jaws can snap a man in two.
     “This was a terrible plan.
     “Contained within this volume is an 1890s America that might have been: a bayou overrun by feral hippos and mercenary hippo wranglers from around the globe.  It is the story of Winslow Houndstooth and his crew.  It is the story of their fortunes.  It is the story of his revenge.”

Review:   This is an awesome novella.  I highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys a rollicking fun adventure.  You might have guessed this, but the hippo wranglers ride hippos like cowboys ride horses.  Yeah, they ride the hippos.  But wait, it gets better.  These hippo wranglers have been hired to clear out a bayou full of feral hippos.  Have you ever seen a video of an angry hippo?  They’re terrifying!  Here’s a video about hippos for those interested: start at 20:37 to watch a hippo attack.  Another awesome thing about River of Teeth is the inclusion of genderqueer/non-binary and bisexual characters.  Thank you Sarah Gailey for a fun romp through an alternate history.  I cannot wait for Taste of Marrow, the second in this series.  This is easily one of the best things I’ve read all year!

Publisher:  Tor

If you like this book you may want to read:

Taste of Marrow (River of Teeth #2) Sarah Gailey

A Natural History of Dragons (Memoir by Lady Trent #1) by Marie Brennan

Water Knife by Paolo Bacigalupi

Fangs & Fennel - Review

Title: Fangs & Fennel
Author: Shannon Mayer
Series:  The Venom Trilogy #2

Synopsis:     “Alena Budrene is not just a gifted Seattle baker – she’s also a supernatural.  Having survived the virus that made her transformation necessary and outwitted an attack by a Greek hero, she’s ready to settle down and deal with the challenges of living as a “Super Duper”.
    “But nothing is easy for a woman who can turn into a giant snake.  Threatened by her unprecedented strength, Alena’s enemies team up against her.  What’s next on the menu?  The duplicitous demigod Theseus – backed by a ruthless vampire gang and the power-hungry goddess Hera – is determined to lure her into a glorious, and rather public, battle to the death.
     “Now humans, even the ones Alena risks her life to protect, are afraid to acknowledge her existence.  And when the friends who once rallied around her begin to fall prey to Theseus’s manipulative schemes, Alena realizes she must act before she loses everything.  But will the price of success be too high to pay?”

Review:  Just like the first in the series, Venom & Vanilla, Fangs & Fennel is a good read, full of playful fun.  See BookGirlR's review of Venom & Vanilla here.  I’ve enjoyed watching Alena grow and develop as a character.  In the first novel we watched Alena develop from a plain wallflower into a bad-ass “Super Duper”; in this second installment in the series we watch Alena struggle with who she used to be versus who she is now.  Throughout the novel she sometimes fights to remember that she is no longer a doormat and is now a powerful woman.  I do have to say though that Yaya is my favorite character. 
     I’ve seen several other reviews that mentioned Yaya should get her own novel, and I agree.  I would snatch up a novel about a feisty Grandmother who argues with Zeus, stands up to “Super Dupers”, and fights with Greek gods.  When can we have that novel?  And if something similar exists someone please let me know!
     If you enjoyed Venom & Vanilla than I highly suggest the next installment, Fangs and Fennel.  I missed the third novel while it was available to reviewers on NetGalley so I’ll be buying Hisses and Honey when my bank account allows. 
***I received a free copy of the book in exchange for an honest review, via NetGalley.***

Publisher: 47 North

If you like this book you may want to read:

Blood of the Earth (Soulwood #1) by Faith Hunter

The Glass Gargoyle (The Lost Ancients #1) by Marie Andreas

Sunday, May 28, 2017

The 5th Wave - Review

Title:   The 5th Wave
Author:   Rick Yancey
Series:  The 5th Wave #1

Synopsis:     “After the 1st wave, only darkness remains.  After the 2nd, only the lucky escape.  And after the 3rd, only the unlucky survive.  After the 4th wave, only one rule applies: trust no one.
     “Now, it’s the dawn of the 5th wave, and on a lonely stretch of highway, Cassie runs from Them.  The beings who only look human, who roam the countryside killing anyone they see.  Who have scattered Earth’s last survivors.  To stay alone is to stay alive, Cassie believes, until she meets Evan Walker.  Beguiling and mysterious, Evan Walker may be Cassie’s only hope for rescuing her brother – or even saving herself.  But Cassie must choose: between trust and despair, between defiance and surrender, between life and death.  To give up or to get up.”

Review:  I grabbed this novel on a whim.  When I bought it the movie was coming out soon.  Well, I brought it home and added it to my TBR pile.  I haven’t seen the movie yet because I wanted to read the book first, but never seemed to get around to reading it.  Well now I’ve read it, and I’m very sorry that I didn’t read it sooner.  I still haven’t seen the movie, but you guys know that I would rather read than watch tv or movies most of the time.
     The 5th Wave is a fun alien invasion YA novel.  There’s a little bit of teenage angst, but you have to expect that in any YA novel, and honestly this one is not as bad as some others I’ve read.  I like Cassie, and I found myself getting emotionally involved in her search for her brother, and her struggle over whom to trust.  This novel made me laugh, it made me cry, and it made me chew on my lips (a disgusting nervous habit I know).  I love novels about alien invasion, and if you love them too you should check out The 5th Wave

Publisher:  G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers

If you like this book you may want to read:

Orleans by Sherri L. Smith

Monument 14 (Monument 14 #1) by Emmy Laybourne

Life As We Knew It (Last Survivors #1) by Susan Beth Pfeffer (Check out BookGirlR’s review here)

The Postman - Review

Title: The Postman
Author: David Brin

Synopsis:  “This is the story of a lie that became the most powerful kind of truth.  A timeless novel as urgently compelling as War Day or Alas, Babylon, David Brin’s The Postman is the dramatically moving saga of a man who rekindled the spirit of America through the power of a dream, from a modern master of science fiction.
     “He was a survivor – a wanderer who traded tales for food and shelter in the dark and savage aftermath of a devastating war.  Fate touches him one chill winter’s day when he borrows the jacket of a long-dead postal worker to protect himself from the cold.  The old, worn uniform still has power as a symbol of hope, and with it he begins to weave his greatest tale, of a nation on the road to recovery.”

Review:  I picked up this book because as a teenager I loved the movie.  The movie The Postman, starring Kevin Costner,
came out in 1997, and was one of my first exposures to the post apocalyptic genre.  It was based on this book which was published in 1985.  So recently I decided to read the novel.  It’s much better than the movie, of course, when isn’t the novel better than the movie?  With the novel we are able to get more in depth descriptions, and the characters are fleshed out with descriptive back stories.  There was a lot left out of the movie, this novel is so much more than the movie even dreamed of being.  The Postman is a novel about hope, and the effect hope can have on a community.

Publisher:  Random House/ Spectra

If you like this book you may want to read:

Glory Season by David Brin

Eternity Road by Jack McDevitt

Dies the Fire (Emberverse #1) by S. M. Stirling

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Illuminae - Review

Title: Illuminae
Author:  Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff
Series:  The Illuminae Files #1

Synopsis:  “This morning, Kady thought breaking up with Ezra was the hardest thing she’d have to do.  This afternoon, her planet was invaded.
     “The year is 2575, and two rival megacorporations are at war over a planet that’s little more than an ice-covered speck at the edge of the universe.  Too bad nobody thought to warn the people living on it.  With enemy fire raining down on them, Kady and Ezra – who are barely even talking to each other – are forced to flight their way onto an evacuating fleet, with an enemy warship in hot pursuit.
     “But their problems are just getting started.  A deadly plague has broken out and it mutating, with terrifying results; the fleet’s AI, which should be protecting them, may actually by their enemy; and nobody in charge will say what’s really going on.  As Kady hacks into a tangled web of data to find the truth, it’s clear only one person can help her bring it all to light: the ex-boyfriend she swore she’d never speak to again.”

Review:  I love this novel!  First of all I love the format, There really is no one single narrator; Illuminae is told through a series of recovered documents, emails, instant messages, and more.  The closest thing I’ve read to this is World War Z by Max Brooks, but Illuminae is even more unique than that outstanding novel. 
     Illuminae sucks you in with the invasion of a planet and the frantic flight of two teenagers trying to escape.  The next thing you know there’s a possibly homicidal AI on a spaceship and the people on board are struggling to survive not only the aforementioned invaders, but the crazy AI on-board.  I started reading Illuminae at bedtime and finished at 4 am.  I just could not put it down.  I grabbed the sequel, Gemina, as soon as it came out and loved it just as much (review coming soon).  Run, don’t walk, to go get this book and read it ASAP.  You won’t regret it!

Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers/ Random House

If you like this book you may want to read:

Gemina (The Illuminae Files #2) by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

Passenger by Alexandra Bracken

World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War by Max Brooks

The Radium Girls - Review

Title:  The Radium Girls: The Dark Story of America’s Shining Women
Author:  Kate More

Synopsis:    “The incredible true story of the young women exposed to the “wonder” substance of radium and their brave struggle for justice…
     “As World War I raged across the globe, hundreds of young women toiled away at the radium-dial factories, where they painted clock faces with a mysterious new substance called radium.  Assured by their bosses that the luminous material was safe, the women themselves shone brightly in the dark, covered from head to toe with the glowing dust.  With such a coveted job these “shining girls” were considered the luckiest alive – until they began to fall mysteriously ill.  As the fatal poison of the radium took hold, they found themselves embroiled in one of America’s biggest scandals and a groundbreaking battle for workers’ rights.
     “A rich, historical narrative written in a sparkling voice, The Radium Girls is the first book the fully explores the strength of extraordinary women in the face of almost impossible circumstances and the astonishing legacy they left behind.”

Review:  This book was really hard to read, while also being hard to put down.  The descriptions of what happened to these women are horrific; I had nightmares after reading this.  But it’s an important part of our history.  Where would we be without the ground breaking legal battles that these brave women fought?  They illuminated the way for future worker’s rights.  With The Radium Girls, Kate Moore brings history to life.  I truly felt like I got to know the women whose stories are being told here.  At one point I was so into what I was reading that I literally burned water.  Seriously, I was beginning dinner, making rice and the pot boiled dry while I was reading.  There were flames. 
     It took me about 5 hours to read The Radium Girls, and I did nothing else while reading it.  I had to finish, to find out what happened to these women, and make sure they got the justice they deserved.  If you like history, or enjoy the safety laws that keep you safe at your job, I strongly recommend The Radium Girls.
**I received a free copy of this book, in exchange for my honest review, via NetGalley**

Publisher:   Sourcebooks

If you like this book you may want to read:

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

The Lost City of Z: A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon by David Grann

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Embers - Review

Title:  Embers
Author:  Laura Bickle
Series:  Anya Kalinczyk #1

Synopsis:     “Truth burns.
     “Unemployment, despair, anger – visible and invisible unrest feed the undercurrent of Detroit’s unease.  A city increasingly invaded by phantoms now faces a malevolent force that further stokes fear and chaos throughout the city.
     “Anya Kalinczyk spends her days as an arson investigator with the Detroit Fire Department, and her nights pursuing malicious spirits with a team of eccentric ghost hunters.  Anya – who is the rarest type of psychic medium, a Lantern – suspects a supernatural arsonist is setting blazes to summon a fiery ancient entity that will leave the city in cinders.  By Devil’s Night the spell will be complete, unless Anya – with the help of her salamander familiar and the paranormal investigating team – can stop it.
     “Anya’s accustomed to danger and believes herself inured to loneliness and loss.  But this time she’s risking everything: her city, her soul, and a man who sees and accepts her for everything she is.  Keeping all three safe will be the biggest challenge she’s ever faced.”

Review:  After reading Bickle’s The Hallowed Ones series (see the review of The Hallowed Ones here and The Outside here) a few years ago I’ve been wanting to read more by her.  I wish there was more in that series, but since there isn’t I picked up Embers instead.  I was not disappointed.  I enjoyed this novel just as much as the previous ones I had read. 
     I like stories about ghosts and mediums.  Embers puts a new spin on the familiar story by introducing a special, and rare, form of medium called a Lantern.  Anya is a strong female lead with a special gift, but she is definitely not perfect.  She has her faults and weaknesses.  My favorite character was Sparky, Anya’s familiar.  Bickle has done a great job developing her world and her characters; I frequently forgot that this was the first book in the series as it didn’t have any of that debut novel feel.  I recommend this novel, and I’ll be grabbing the next in the series, Sparks, during my next book shopping spree. 

Publisher:   Pocket Books

If you like this book you may want to read:

The Hallowed Ones (The Hallowed Ones #1) by Laura Bickle (read 
BookGirlR’s review here)

Greywalker (Greywalker #1) by Kat Richardson

The Voodoo Killings - Review

Title:  The Voodoo Killings
Author:  Kristi Charish
Series:  Kincaid Strange #1

Synopsis:     “Introducing Kincaid Strange, not your average Voodoo practitioner… For starters, she’s only twenty-seven.  And she lives in rain-soaked Seattle, which is not exactly Haiti.  And she’s broke.  Since raising zombies was outlawed, she has had to eke out a living by running séances for university students desperate for guitar lessons with the ghost of a grunge rocker – who happens to be Kincaid’s roommate.
     “Still, when a stray zombie turns up outside her local bar, she tries to help.  But not only is it dangerous for her to be caught with an unauthorized zombie, she soon realizes the zombie is tied to a spate of unsolved murders.  Someone is killing the zombies and voodoo practitioners connected to Seattle’s infamous Underground City, a paranormal hub.  When the police refuse to investigate, the City’s oldest and foremost zombie asks Kincaid to help.  She doesn’t want to chase a murderer: she’s broke but she’s not stupid…
     “But then she becomes the target.”

Review:  This is one of the best books that you’ve never heard of.  I hadn’t heard a peep about this book, and I follow a lot of book blogs, bookstagrams, and publishers.  But then a new friend of mine posted, on Facebook, that she had read it and enjoyed it.  I wanted a physical copy, not a Kindle copy, and it was really hard to find!  I live in Western NY and finally found a copy from a seller in Canada.  It took over 2 weeks to arrive and by the time it came I had kind of forgotten I’d ordered it.  So it was a nice little surprise! 
     This is one of the best books I’ve read in a long time.  I liked the world, and the characters are well developed.  The plot itself reads a lot like a “who-dun-it”, and I really had no idea until the very end who the bad guy really was.  I read a lot of zombie novels, and this is not your normal zombie novel.  The Voodoo Killings is a fun, fast-paced romp through a paranormal world full of strange and wonderful things.  I highly recommend fans of urban fantasy give the novels of Kristi Charish a try.  I can’t wait for the next book about Kincaid Strange!

Publisher:   Penguin Random House/ Vintage Canada

If you like this book you may want to read:

City of Light (Outcast Novels #1) by Keri Arthur

Blood of the Earth (Soulwood Novel #1) by Faith Hunter

Monday, May 1, 2017

Spells of Blood and Kin - Review

Title:  Spells of Blood and Kin
Author:  Claire Humphrey

Synopsis:  “Some families hand down wealth through generations; some hand down wisdom.  Some families, whether they want to or not, hand down the secret burdens they carry and the dangerous debts they owe.
     “Lissa Nevsky’s grandmother leaves her a big, empty house and a legacy of magic: folk magic, old magic, brought with Baba when she fled the Gulag.  In the wake of her passing, the Russian community of Toronto will depend on Lissa now to give them their remedies and be their koldun’ia.  But Lissa hasn’t had time to learn everything Baba wanted to teach her – let alone the things Baba kept hidden.
     “Maksim Volkov’s birth family is long dead, anything they bestowed on him long turned to dust.  What Maksim carries now is a legacy of violence, and the does not have to die to pass it on  When Maksim feels his protective spell fail, he returns to the witch he rescued from the Gulag, only to find his spell has died along with the one who cast it.  Without the spell, it is only a matter of time before Maksim’s violent nature slips its leash and he infects someone else – if he hasn’t done so already.
     “Nick Kaisaris is just a normal dude who likes to party.  He doesn’t worry about family drama.  He doesn’t have any secrets.  All he wants is for things to stay like they are right now, tonight: Nick and his best buddy, Jonathan, out on the town.  Only Nick is on a collision course with Maksim Volkov, and what he takes away from this night is going to crack open Nick’s nature until all of his worst self comes to light.
     “Lissa’s newfound knowledge of magic might hold the key to Maksim’s salvation, if she can unravel it in time.  But it’s a legacy that comes at a price.  And Maksim might not want to be saved.”
Review:  I love the main premise found in Spells of Blood and Kin, you know the one: the main character, who is usually a young woman, is left a magical legacy by a dead/ missing/ retired mysterious older relative.  This main character must then figure out the details of this magical legacy which is usually a business of some type.  While discovering the ins and outs of this business she meets her love interest and by the end of the novel she is running the business successfully and the young couple is happy and in love.           While this is the main premise of Spells of Blood and Kin I found myself not loving this novel.  I found the characters to be unlikable.  I honestly though Lissa was whiny and a bit pathetic.  Her half sister Stella was never really fully fleshed out.  Maksim and Nick are sort of antiheroes, they are evil but don’t want to be evil, but they were so unlikable that I honestly didn’t care if they became redeemed or not.  Claire Humphrey’s writing is good, her setting is believable, and I enjoyed the Russian element of the novel.  Unfortunately I just couldn’t get past the unlikable characters.

Publisher:  St. Martin’s Press/ Thomas Dunne Books

If you like this book you may want to read:

The Enchantment Emporium (Gale Women #1) by Tanya Huff

Carousel Tides (Carousel Tides #1) Sharon Lee