Saturday, December 16, 2017

REVIEW: Illuminae

Illuminae
Authors:  Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff

The audiobook version of this sci-fi thriller is just amazing. It's full cast, with amazing acting and sound effects. The story grabbed me right from the beginning. This is an action packed, entertaining, sci-fi story.

The basics:  When Kady breaks up with her boyfriend Ezra, she thinks that is the extent of the stress for her week. She couldn't have been more wrong. That same day the planet is attacked by a corporation, BeiTech, that wants to take over the mining operation there. The attack causes death and chaos. To make matters worse, those who escape the planet face a virus, mutating and spreading among the survivors. The AI that controls the weapons, life support and other vital systems malfunctions. And, in the distance, a ship is coming.....a ship that means to destroy everyone who is left.

Wow! This story just blew me away. The full cast audio book made this a truly entertaining experience. I'm not going to give away much about the plot so that I don't spoil anything. I will say the story is a great blend of action and emotion.....a tale about the strengths and weaknesses of humanity, the dark,empty beauty of space, and the many facets of love. I enjoyed the full story....but the last hour, it definitely kept me right at the edge of my seat. Don't discount this book because it's classified as YA....just as the main character can't be judged for only being 17.  Kady is such a strong, intelligent, brave character. The story is told through ship's logs, instant messages and emails, interviews, and recovered documents. Creative!

All in all, a great sci-fi action story! I loved every minute of it!

This is the first book in the Illuminae Files trilogy. Book two, Gemina was published in 2016, and book 3, Obsidio, will be out in 2018.  I will definitely be reading (or listening) to the rest of this series!

To find out more about the authors check out their websites: http://amiekaufman.com/ and https://jaykristoff.com/

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

REVIEW: Mr. Dickens and His Carol

Mr. Dickens and His Carol
Author: Samantha Silva

A Christmas Carol by Dickens has been my favorite book ever since the first time I read the story as a child. I re-read it every year and watch every movie version from Alastair Sim to the Muppets. :) When I heard about this book, I knew I had to read it. :) I'm glad I did!

First of all, don't confuse this book with the book or movie "The Man Who Invented Christmas''....that is another story by another author (Les Standiford). Standiford's book is non-fiction, telling the tale of how A Christmas Carol reignited Dickens' career. This book -- Mr. Dickens and His Carol -- although it contains some factual information here and there, is a work of fiction. Silva states at the end of the book that the story is a re-imagining of how A Christmas Carol was written. It's meant as an homage to Dickens, not as a factual story. I read and enjoyed Silva's book with that in mind.

I read this book wrapped up in my favorite fuzzy purple blanket, a cup of hot Earl Grey beside me, my fat cat asleep on my lap, and Alastair Sim in the movie A Christmas Carol (1951) playing in the background for ambiance. Full on Christmas spirit goin' on around here. :) The only way I could have felt more Christmas-y would be if I had strung twinkle lights around my head before sitting down to read. I couldn't read a book about my absolutely most favorite beloved story without everything being just right. I wanted to enjoy every word. The minute I started to read, I couldn't put the book down. It's a delightful story! Before Alastair Sim as Scrooge pretended to fire Cratchit for being late to work after Christmas, I had devoured this entire book. I loved it! And the cover is awesome! It made this Dickens fan totally happy!

Anyone who loves A Christmas Carol will enjoy this book. Just remember to read it as a work of fiction -- not a factual account.

Mr. Dickens and His Carol is Samantha Silva's debut novel. For more infoformation on the author, check out her website: https://www.samanthasilvawriter.com/


Tuesday, December 12, 2017

REVIEW: The Giver

The Giver
Author: Lois Lowry

I had never heard of this book or the author before my son came home from school with a permission slip for me to sign. The book had some "sensitive subject matter"in it (as far as the school is concerned) so they asked for parental permission before assigning the kids to read it. I looked up a blurb on the book, read a little about it, and listened to the first couple of chapters of the audiobook. I signed the slip. I would have signed it no matter what the content of the book. But I would have carefully read it and had discussions with my son about the book if it had sexual or other situations I thought warranted some parental involvement. I didn't feel the book warranted Mom-mode, but the little bit that I read did pique my curiousity. I spent today doing some heavy cleaning and packing up items to donate to local charity and I needed something to listen to while I worked. I remembered I still had the audiobook loaded on my phone. The unabridged audiobook is only 4 1/2 hours long....perfect companion for a day of housework.

The basics: Jonas is nearing his 12th birthday. When kids in his community turn 12, they get assigned their jobs in life. Everything changes....they start training for their vocation, there is less time for play with their former classmates, and they are on the track to adulthood. It's an important milestone. More important than their naming ceremony the first year, the year where they lose their comfort item they've slept with since infancy, the 9th year when kids get their first bicycle......all of the other milestones pale in comparison to Twelve. Jonas is nervous. What if he gets wrongly assigned to a job he won't like? He's excited, but a bit scared too. He hopes that whatever he get assigned that he will perform well and not make mistakes.People who can't follow the rules or make mistakes can get corrected...but sometimes they are released. Old people are released. Sickly infants are released. They leave the community to go Elsewhere and are never seen again. Jonas really doesn't wonder much about Elsewhere. He's sure they are happy and productive there. Jonas has no clue what his Twelfth year will mean for him....it will change his entire life.

I'm not going to give away any spoilers. But, I do understand why the school asked permission for sixth graders to read this book. It's not bad....nothing sexual or completely over the top....just some deep subjects that do require a bit of discussion. My son isn't quite to the part where I know he is going to have some questions -- or want to rant a bit. But I did let him know I've read the whole thing, and I'm ready for when he gets to certain parts. The plot isn't anything new......it's been discussed in many books before. But it does add some new elements to the story. When is it ok to control choices and limit decisions, experiences......and what happens when it goes too far? When does trying to prevent injury, pain and harsh life experiences become so total that other parts of what it means to be human also disappear? Things like love, the value of life, and individuality.  Very interesting concepts....and the iffy portions of the subject matter are not graphic or over dramatized. The book is well-written...and chilling. I'm glad my sixth grader is reading it....and I look forward to discussing the book with him as he gets a bit further in the story.

The audiobook I listened to (enguin Random House Audio Publishing) is just a bit under 5 hours long. Ron Rifkin narrates. He reads at a good pace and is easily understandable. I have hearing loss, but was easily able to hear and understand him. The recording quality is excellent.

The Giver is part of a 4-book series. I'm definitely going to read the rest of the series!

To find out more about the author and her other books, check out her website: http://www.loislowry.com/

REVIEW: The Trouble With Murder

The Trouble With Murder
Author: Kathy Krevat

Colbie Summers is trying to build her organic cat food business, raise a 12-year old boy and help her ill father. Her life in beautiful Sunnyside, CA is busy and chaotic. She has a chance to increase distribution of her Meowlio Batali products to a health food store chain that owns seven locations in the San Diego area, and she's networking like mad to get as much local exposure as possible. She's even joined the Sunnyside Power Moms, a group for female home business owners in the area. The SPMs are having a trade show in a gated community and Colbie is helping with setup. She fields complaints about booth space, competing products and other catty in-fighting among the SPM members, but the show goes smoothly otherwise. During the show, her father becomes ill at home so Colbie has to leave early. Her friend Twila offers to pack up her products and drop them off at her house after the show ends. Later, Colbie and her father return to the product show site, only to find that Twila has been murdered. Not just killed...she has a Meowlio Batali brand knife sticking out of her chest. Suddenly Colbie's life is a whole lot more complicated.... she's a suspect in a murder investigation!!

The Trouble With Murder is the first book in the new Gourmet Cat Mystery series It's a quick, fun read and gives a great introduction to the characters and their lives in Sunnyside. I like Colbie as a main character. She is trying to improve her life by building her business but still takes time out to help her father recover and to make sure her son gets what he needs to thrive. She also supports her son's love of theater. I also had to smile at the relationship between her and her father. They grouse at each other occasionally, but are always there to support and love each other, even if it's in secret. The mystery moved along at a good pace and had some nice surprises. I pretty much had the murder figured out before the end....but the ending was action-packed and exciting, so I didn't mind that the murderer's identity wasn't a surprise. All in all, a very enjoyable, fun cozy mystery! And the cover is totally cute! :)

I will definitely be reading more of this series! Luckily, I don't have too long to wait! The second book, The Trouble With Truth, will be out in August 2018.

Kathy Krevat also writes the Chocolate Covered Mystery series (published by Berkley) under the name Kathy Aarons. To find out more about the author and her books, check out her website: http://www.kathyaarons.com/

**I voluntarily read an advanced readers copy of this book from Kensington via NetGalley. All opinions expressed are entirely my own.**




Monday, December 11, 2017

REVIEW: Fever Dream

Fever Dream
Authors: Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child

So far, this book is my favorite in the Agent Pendergast series. Fever Dream is the 10th book in the 16-book series. A 17th book, City of Endless Night, is coming out in 2018.

Pendergast's wife, Helen, died 12 years before during a safari in Africa. She was attacked and killed by a lion. While in New Orleans at his family's home, Pendergast discovers evidence that Helen's death was not an accident. It was murder. Immediately he knows he must investigate, identify Helen's killer, and get justice (or revenge) for his wife. He enlists the help of NYPD officer Vincent D'Agosta. As they investigate, Pendergast discovers that there were things about his wife that he didn't know. She was researching a dangerous, mind altering virus and illegal medical experimentation and someone wanted her silenced. Pendergast is willing to go from the jungles of Africa to the swamps of Louisiana to find out who killed his wife.

Pendergast is still tall, pale, brooding and upper class snooty. A'gosta remains city tough and  NYPD through and through, with a strange loyalty to Pendergast. And Captain Laura Heywood is still pissed that Pendergast always seems to get A'gosta injured or in trouble. This story gives some new insight into Pendergast....his past and how he deals with emotion. We see some chinks in the FBI agent's armor. There were so many things about his wife that he didn't know, and he struggles with that knowledge while hunting for her killer. This book is an action-packed thriller. I think the series has found new direction following the ending of the Diogenes storyline. I can't wait to see where it goes from here.

I don't really care for the Constance Green portion of the story. I felt like it was inserted inbetween portions of the investigation just to keep readers reminded that Constance is still around....still strange. She goes from being in a tibetan monastery, to on board a ship, to in a mental hospital....bleck. I know that her storyline will be picked up in a subsequent book, but I almost feel like it's an unnecessary cord attached to the Diogenes plot. I'd rather the series just moved forward with new, creepy investigations without opening the can of worms that is his time-displaced, strange ward, Constance. But, I know it's coming......like a strange black cloud on the horizon.

I enjoyed this book....and I love this series. It's creepy, weird and exciting. I'm definitely moving on to book #11!

I listened to the unabridged audiobook version of this book. It was narrated by Rene Auberjonois.He reads at a nice, even pace and is easily understood. I have partial hearing loss but am able to easily hear and understand him. I also like his accent and the way he does dialogue for Pendergast. After listening to most of this series on audiobook, I prefer Auberjonois as narrator. The audiobook is about 14 1/2 hours long. The quality is great. Enjoyable listen!

To find out more about the authors and their books, check out their website: https://www.prestonchild.com/

Saturday, December 9, 2017

REVIEW: The Child Finder

The Child Finder
Author: Rene Denfeld

Naomi is The Child Finder. She's a private investigator who specializes in finding lost children. A little girl, Madison Culver, disappeared while on a trip into Skookum National Forest. She was with her parents and they were hunting for a Christmas tree. One second she was right there with them....and the next second she was just gone. Her parents searched for hours. Search teams scoured the area for days....she was never found. Three years later, the parents call Naomi. If anyone can find Madison, her body, or just some sort of sign of what happened to their little girl, it's The Child Finder. Why is Naomi so talented at finding lost little ones? She was once lost herself. She knows something happened to her as a child, but she has no memory of events before she was found wandering, naked. Some migrant workers dropped her off at a police station, and she was put into foster care. Naomi was once lost....and now she helps find the lost. Can she find little Madison?

This story is powerful and haunting. And not for the feint of heart. Warning: This book contains instances of child rape, abuse, and kidnapping. It is not described in graphic detail....but it is there. If that might be a trigger topic, or too much for a reader, it might be best to avoid this book. As a mother, I had a hard time reading this book. It's well written and suspenseful, but disturbing. If I had known beforehand that this story dealt with that level of abuse, I probably would not have read it. But -- that does not mean it isn't a good book. Some stories make a reader uncomfortable. Some stories hit where it hurts. Some stories are about truth that we don't want to acknowledge. That makes this a hard hitting, realistic story....not a bad book. If the subject of child kidnapping and abuse didn't make me uncomfortable....then I would have something to worry about.

There was one point in the book where I had an eyeroll moment. Naomi is talking about prior cases she worked. One was a kidnapping case where the girl was found alive. The girl's name was Elizabeth Wiley. Wiley? Badly veiled reference to Elizabeth Smart? I just felt that the name wasn't necessary....too melodramatic maybe? Or just a weird choice by the author. Or it could be I was already extremely uncomfortable with child rape references that the name choice just was an easy excuse to roll my eyes and put the book down for awhile.

All in all - as a mom this was a rough book to read. But, it is a well-written story of human strength, resilience and survival. Naomi brings light to the darkness.....her strength and determination lend hope to those broken by loss.

To find out more about the author and her books, check out her website: http://www.renedenfeld.com/

Friday, December 8, 2017

REVIEW: The Black Jacket Mystery (Trixie Belden)

The Black Jacket Mystery
Author: Kathryn Kenny

This 8th mystery in the Trixie Belden series opens with the BWGs (Bob-Whites of the Glen) planning a carnival fundraiser to help the Mexican village of San Isidro following an earthquake. The money they raise will help buy books for the San Isidro school library that was heavily damaged in the disaster. The BWGs are busily planning the event, gathering prizes and doing all they can to have a fun carnival. But as usual, Trixie and the gang get pulled into a mystery. Regan, the Wheeler's groom, is acting strangely and seems to be hiding something. Trixie sees a paper in the Wheeler's tack room that might be pointing to some sort of legal problem. Soon after, there is a new boy on the school bus. He seems very unfriendly and seems out of place in his black leather jacket and hat. His name is Dan Manigan, and he starts talking some pretty rough talk in the cafeteria....gangs, fights, switchblades. Then strange things start happening....Honey's watch is stolen and the clubhouse is broken into. Is Dan a thief? Or are they misjudging him?

The plot for The Black Jacket Mystery is a bit predictable, but still an enjoyable read with a good message. There are some nice developments for the BWGs in this 8th story. As an adult re-reading these I am wondering one thing though......when is little Bobby (Trixie's little brother) going to start talking like a 7 year old and not a toddler? What 7 year old says stuff like "Holp! Holp!'' and "I losted it and Trixie tooked it.''  No kid that goes to school talks like that. lol.  C'mon Bobby -- you can be cute and little without talking like a two year old. As a middle schooler I loved these books. It was my favorite series. I had every book -- all matching of course -- lined up in series order on my bookshelf. :) And when the last few new books came out (I was in high school) I remember being so excited that the series was continuing. :) As an adult, I'm still very much enjoying the series, but I do notice I look at a few things (like Bobby's dialogue) with adult eyes.

Moving on to book 9! Next up is The Happy Valley Mystery!

The Trixie Belden series was written from 1948 - 1986. There are 39 books in the series. The first six books were written by Julie Campbell. The rest of the series was written by various authors under the pen name Kathryn Kenny.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

REVIEW: Unsub

Unsub
Author: Meg Gardiner

The Prophet killed 11 people in the Oakland area in the 1990's. Then he disappeared. The fact the killer was never caught ruined the life of the lead investigator on the case. Detective Caitlin Hendrix knows that better than anyone else because that investigator is her father. Twenty years after The Prophet killings, a woman's body is discovered in a cornfield. She has been strangled to death. A crude symbol depicting Mercury has been pounded into her chest with nails.  It's The Prophet's signature. The symbol he left on all his victim. He's back......

OMG! This book just did not let up! Caitlin Hendrix is a great main character. She is determined to solve the case that destroyed her father and led her down a dark path as a teenager. She works relentlessly to break the code contained in strange poetry The Prophet leaves at each crime scene. The killer is methodical and ruthless. He taunts the investigators, terrifies the public with online videos and threats, and always seems one step ahead of the police. This story is so suspenseful and chilling! I loved it!

This is the first book by Meg Gardiner that I've read. I will definitely be reading some of her other books! A second book in the Unsub series, Into the Black Nowhere, is coming out on January 30th. I can't wait to find out what's in store next for Caitlin Hendrix!


Tuesday, December 5, 2017

REVIEW: The Whispering Room

The Whispering Rooom
Author: Dean Koontz

Jane Hawk is back. She's still on the run....a fugitive....a rogue FBI agent. Following the apparent suicide of her husband, Jane discovered a conspiracy, something so evil and diabolical that she immediately knew she had to find those responsible and stop them. A group of powerful, wealthy people have developed technology that can hijack the will of any person...take over their brain. The person can be made to do anything. No resistance. No conscience. They will obey without question. Some people are made to kill themselves like Jane's husband. Others are made to commit terrorist acts. And some are just used as mindless sex slaves for the wealthy. They made a mistake when they killed Jane's husband. They made a mistake when they threatened the life of her young son. They made a mistake when they tried to kill her. And, they made the biggest mistake of all when they underestimated her power to bring them down, to exact revenge.

This book is hard hitting from the beginning and doesn't let up until the very end. I loved the first book in this series, The Silent Corner.....and I enjoyed this book just as much. Jane Hawk kicks ass. She is intelligent, resilient, and cunning. As a highly trained FBI agent, she knows how to use surveillance, interrogation and techonology to her best advantage. She also knows how to avoid being seen, unless she chooses to be noticed.

Dean Koontz is hit or miss for me. His horror books recycle plot elements a bit too much -- sentient dogs, groups of people battling supernatural forces, etc. But the Jane Hawk series is something from Koontz that's fresh and wonderfully written. He could even write in a talking dog and nobody would see a single eyeroll from me.....that's how much I like Jane Hawk. A strong, hard-hitting, brutal female main character.  The story has great realistic action and excitement. It's not often I sit and read an entire book in one sitting, but this series has had me burning the midnight oil twice now. I'm sure I will be totally into the third book, The Crooked Staircase, when it comes out in June 2018.

**I voluntarily read an advanced readers copy of this book from Random House - Ballentine via NetGalley. All opinions expressed are entirely my own.**

Monday, December 4, 2017

REVIEW: And Death Goes To...

And Death Goes To
Author: Laura Bradford

The Tobi Tobias series has rapidly become one of my favorite cozy mystery series. The books are consistently well-written, suspenseful, and just fun to read. And Death Goes To...is the third book in the series. I enjoyed it just as much as I did the first two books.

The basics: Tobi's advertising agency is up for an award. She gets all gussied up and goes to the awards banquet. Her firm is up for the Best Overall Ad Campaign Award, and Tobi is incredibly exited. Who can blame her? She's worked hard building up the business in St. Louis, MO. She's excited to be up for the biggest award of the night. The winner takes home the Golden Storyboard, a coveted and prestigious award. The entire evening falls flat after an award winner is killed when a staircase collapses, sending her crashing to the stage below. Turns out it wasn't an accident, but murder. Tobi's Grandpa Stu immediately begins to brainstorm what the motive might be, and soon Tobi finds herself pulled in to yet another murder investigation. Was it greed? Professional jealousy? Revenge? Why would someone have sabotaged that staircase?

I enjoyed this newest bit of sleuthing by Tobi, her Grandpa Stu, and the rest of the gang. The mystery moved at a nice pace with plenty of suspects and investigation. The background theme of the advertising agency and the drama that comes with it is interesting and entertaining. It didn't over power the mystery portion of the book, but adds depth to it. I wasn't surprised by the ending of this one, but enjoyed the action leading up to the reveal. This story provides some great character development for Tobi, her grandpa and his cranky love interest, Ms. Rapple. All in all, a great addition to the series! I'm looking forward to the next book!

To find out more about the author (who also writes as Elizabeth Lynn Casey) and her books, check out her website: http://www.laurabradford.com/

**I voluntarily read an advanced readers copy of this book from Kensington via NetGalley. All opinions expressed are entirely my own.**






Sunday, December 3, 2017

REVIEW: Terminal Alliance

Terminal Alliance
Author: Jim C. Hines

A plague on Earth killed most of humanity, leaving the survivors feral. Feral humans are incredibly dangerous. An Alien species, the Krakau, had planned to invite humanity to join an alliance with other sentient alien species. But after the plague decimated Earth, the Krakau decided to save the human race from their new feral existence instead. The Krakau can give humans "rebirth", returning them to normal, but it is rumored that injury or severe stress can sometimes make humans revert to feral behavior. Reborn humans serve in the Earth Mercinary Corps (EMC). Reborn humans make great mercenaries because they are strong, resistant to most diseases, and recover quickly from injury. Reborn humans are the crew for the EMCS Pufferfish. Humans do the grunt work for the Krakau Command Crew, who controls the vessel. Following a battle with enemy vessels, a bioweapon kills the Kraukau commanders and reverts the human crew members to shambling, dangerous ferals. The only humans not effected are members of a janitorial crew who are wearing protective suits to clean up a sewage spill. They go from cleaning up the poo to being chin deep in it. And their leader, Marion "Mops" Adamopoulos, suddenly finds herself captain of the ship. Not only do they need to figure out how to fly the ship.....but they also discover some sinister secrets about the apocalypse that basically ended human civilization on Earth.

Terminal Alliance is a funny and enjoyable read. The concept is incredibly creative, and executed masterfully. I laughed out loud multiple times as the zany crew worked their way through problems and situations after being forced to take over the ship. While hilarious in many spots, the plot is actually quite complex. No spoilers from me....but there's a lot going on! Mix a bit of Red Dwarf, Star Trek and The Orville....and you get the antics on the EMCS Pufferfish. I love it when I read a book that shows such creativity and wit. It definitely put a smile on my face. Terminal Alliance is the first book I have read by Jim Hines -- I can't wait to read more!

For more information on the author and his books, check out his website: http://www.jimchines.com/

**I voluntarily read an advanced readers copy of this book from Berkley via NetGalley. All opinions expressed are entirely my own.**

REVIEW: Artemis

Artemis
Author: Andy Weir

Jasmine Bashara -- Jazz to her friends -- lives on the moon. Artemis is the first city on the moon. It's a great place for spoiled billionaires and wealthy tourists to visit. Safe, plenty of space, most of the amenities....and it's on the freaking moon! But Jazz lives there....she's lived in Artemis since she was six years old. It isn't a vacation for her....but home. She sleeps in a little cubby hole, has to walk down the hall to the bathroom but dreams of having a larger living space with actual rooms and a microwave. She does a bit of smuggling and fringey business to make ends meet and save up some cash for her life improvement plans.....a girl has to eat, right? She doesn't hurt anybody....she just ensures that people have those comforts or items they feel are lacking. A little ethanol or other contraband items never hurt anyone....and they put slugs (money in Artemis) in her account. Again, girls gotta eat.  Then suddenly she offered a job.....a single job that will bring her more than enough money to change her life. All she has to do is damage some equipment.....just a bit of sabotage without getting caught. Of course she can do it. But, little does she realize that the job is actually a bid to take over control of Artemis, and Jazz will have to put her wits to the test to save herself and everyone else.

I loved Weir's The Martian. And I jumped at the chance to read this newest book. I liked it -- it was completely different than what I thought it was going to be. But, the story is great & Jazz is a quirky, strong, resilient character. Not to mention some seat-of-your-pants action as well. A fun space romp! I liked the fact that Jazz is a bit of a fringe-y character.....she's a smuggler, an opportunist. But she doesn't hurt anyone....she's not a thief or a scavenger. She just sees opportunity and goes for it. She has her network of friends who help her complete jobs, and knows how to work behind the scenes of Artemis to make a living. But then things get out of hand......and she has to put her wiley ways to work in order to stop a dangerous scheme. That's all I'm going to say.....avoiding giving anything away. No spoilers from me!

Fun read. Lots of action and great characters!

For more information on the author and his books, check out his website: http://www.galactanet.com/

**I voluntarily read an advanced readers copy of this book from Crown Publishing via NetGalley. All opinions expressed are entirely my own.**


REVIEW: The Rosary Murders

The Rosary Murders
William X. Kienzle

The Rosary Murders was one of the first real adult suspense thrillers I ever read. In fact, as a teenager, when I brought it to the check-out counter at my small hometown library, the librarian called my father to get permission to check it out to me. Still makes me laugh to this day. My dad's response to the librarian? He'd rather I read murder mysteries than bodice ripper romance novels with half naked people on the front. I found that funny because the book cover has a dead woman in a bathtub.....it doesn't show anything vital, but the naked is implied. I guess dead naked people are acceptable, while half naked women contemplating sex with rogues is less so. :)

But I digress......I remember that I thoroughly enjoyed the novel. And the movie with Donald Sutherland (even though it made significant changes). But for whatever reason, I never returned to read more of the Father Koesler series. I was a teenager....who knows what I was thinking. :) There are several series that I started when I was younger and never finished....I've decided to backtrack and read them! The Father Koesler series is one....and the Dana Fuller Ross Wagons West! series is another.  Just to mention two.....there are more, but I will never get to the review for The Rosary Murders if I keep rambling.

Back on task.....

The basics: Father Bob Koesler is a priest in Detroit. A killer is targeting priests and nuns in the city. Killing them brutally....then draping a black rosary around each one's hand before leaving the scene. Koesler works with the police to try and catch the murderer. They struggle to investigate as more killings occur. The case heats up when one victim lives long enough to scrawl a clue in her own blood, and then Father Koesler has a frightening run-in with the killer inside the confessional. Koesler cannot reveal what the killer said to him in the confessional. He struggles to aid the investigation without breaking the seal of confession. It all builds to an exciting conclusion!

Although it can't be much of a surprise that a story centered around murders of Catholic priests and nuns would contain a lot of details about the Catholic church, for non-Catholics some of the details and situations in this book might be a bit confusing, or at times, even boring. There are many details about church politics, conflicts over Vatican II changes, Catholic practices and the duties of priests and nuns. I grew up Catholic so I didn't find it tedious. Others might though. I rewatched the movie starring Donald Sutherland as Father Koesler after I finished the book. The movie made a lot of changes to the story, but some were obviously made to keep the focus on the murder mystery, rather than Catholicism. As usual though some changes between the book and film versions seemed arbitrary and ridiculous. For instance one murdered nun in the book is middle-aged and a religious coordinator for a church in Dearborn, but in the movie she is young and beautiful, preparing to renounce her vows to get married.  I guess they wanted to add a little extra drama? *eyeroll*

Kienzle wrote so well about the Catholic church, its inner issues, politics and drama because he was a priest from 1954-1974.He left the priesthood over doctrinal differences.

I'm so glad I re-read this novel. This time I didn't have to get parental permission. ha ha. I'm going to read more of this series (there are 24 Father Koesler books). I'm interested to see how Koesler's character develops throughout the series.






Saturday, December 2, 2017

REVIEW: Cemetery Dance

Cemetery Dance
Authors: Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child

Zombies. VooDoo. Animal sacrifices. A violent cult. Cemetery Dance, book #9 in the Agent Pendergast series, has a little bit of everything. And once again it is a brilliantly creepy tale.

Two of Agent Pendergast's cohorts -- William Smithback and Nora Kelly -- are celebrating their anniversary when they are brutally attacked in their New York apartment. Witnesses are able to identify the assailant. The only problem is the suspect died three weeks before the attack. Soon Pendergast and Lieutenant Vincent D'Agosta are investigating a cult operating in an old abandoned church, amid rumors of murderous zombies. Then a dead man kills a woman in a room crowded with reporters and local media. Are the dead coming back to life to stalk the living? And is the cult behind it all?

I listened to an audiobook version of this novel, narrated by Scott Brick. He reads at a nice pace, and was easily understood. I have some hearing loss, but was easily able to hear and understand him easily.

I enjoyed the voodoo (or Vodou, as Pendergast points out in the book) and zombie killer cult slant of this story. Zombies are about as trope-y as vampires....but I enjoyed the use of re-animated corpses as murderers. A little bit different from most zombie tales. The story has lots of action, some grisly moments and lots of twists & turns. The ending was action-packed and thrilling as usual. Very enjoyable thriller. I love this series & I'm happily moving on to the next book. :)

To find out more about the authors and their books, check out their website: https://www.prestonchild.com/

If you watched the two movies based on early books in this series.....try the books instead. The movies didn't to the characters justice at all. Too many changes to the stories too. The books are much better -- as usual. :)


Friday, December 1, 2017

REVIEW: The Curious Affair of the Witch at Wayside Cross

The Curious Affair of the Witch at Wayside Cross
Author: Lisa Tuttle

The best words I can come up with to describe this book are: charming and entertaining.

Jasper Jesperson and Miss Lane make up Jesperson & Lane, Private Investigators. A possible client, Charles Manning, arrives at  their London home in the wee hours of the morning. He screams at Miss Lane, calling her a witch and then promptly drops dead. Jesperson suspects foul play, but after an autopsy Mr. Manning's cause of death is listed as heart failure. It turns out Manning was obsessed with the occult and witchcraft. The detective duo are hired by the deceased's brother to investigate what caused his death. Their investigation takes them to an area of Norfolk known for its haunted hollows called shrieking pits and a strange, weeping, female specter. The area has had three suspicious deaths in the past year. The case keeps expanding and increasing in scope -- unexplained deaths, a missing woman, a missing baby, and three strange women living at Wayside Cross. Are the three women witches? Where is the missing baby? And, what happened to Charles Manning?

I loved this book! The mystery is engaging and fun. I like the characters as well. Jesperson is more than a little eccentric. Diane is level-headed and keeps Jesperson grounded so that he doesn't just go off on tangents. The two of them together make an awesome detective agency. The supernatural aspects of the plot were not over-done, but just made the story interesting, engaging and creepy. Just a fun read!

This book is the second in The Curious Affair Of.... series. I have not read the first book, but that didn't matter. It isn't necessary to read the first book to enjoy this tale of witches and murder. I'm definitely going to read the first book though! I hope it is as enjoyable as the second one!

**I voluntarily read an advanced readers copy of this book from Random House - Hydra via NetGalley. All opinions expressed are entirely my own.**

REVIEW: A Spoonful of Magic

A Spoonful of Magic
Author: Irene Radford

Daphne "Daffy" Deschants is livid. She has photos showing her husband in a compromising position with another woman at a sleezy motel. She knows what drama her finally being tired of his fooling around is going to cause, but she's had it. She confronts him....and the drama starts. But it's so much more than she expected. Come to find out her husband is not a travelling for his job with a software company. He's a wizard....a sheriff for the International Guild of Wizards. His job is dangerous. Yeah....he's a letch and a cheater. But he's so much more. Then, her children start manifesting magical talents.....and even herself. Her perfect life is pretty well disintegrating.....and completely changing. But that's not all......her husband's ex-wife is an evil witch. Literally. She's going blind, and she wants her son's eyes. Daphne has raised the boy as her own since he was a baby. And she's not about to let his mother hurt him. Can she figure out how to use her new powers to protect her family?

I really really really (really x 10) wanted to like this book. But, I have to be honest and say that I didn't. The main characters are annoying. The husband is a jerk. The wife is whiny and annoying. The kids....annoying too. I just didn't connect with any of them. The writing style and short paragraphs weren't my cup of tea either. The premise itself was intriguing. But the story just never gelled for me. I can't find any one thing that I can say "This right here is the reason I didn't enjoy this book.'' I just think the whole thing was just not for me. That's life -- not everything is enjoyable for everyone. I gave it the best try I could....I read the entire book. Then I thought about it for a couple days before writing this review.  My conclusion -- I really tried to like this story and the characters. There were some cute moments....and some enjoyable bits here and there. But overall, this was not the book for me. And as a reviewer, I have to be totally honest and rank it as truthfully as possible. I thank the author and Berkley Publishing for allowing me to review this book, but it just fell flat for me. It happens.

Other readers who like light stories with magic, humor and some family drama might like this tale better than I did.

**I read an advanced readers copy of this book from Berkley via NetGalley. All opinions expressed are entirely my own.**




REVIEW: Caroline

Caroline: Little House, Revisited
Author: Sarah Miller

One of the first books I read when I had learned how to read well enough to read a chapter book was Little House in the Big Woods. All these years later, I can still remember that I got the book for free at school (R.I.F. day!). I carried it all the way home after school just staring at the cover with the picture of a happy family in a log cabin on it. That book started a life-long love of anything Laura Ingalls Wilder.....the thought of being a pioneer girl, living on the prairie, watching Pa build the house.....it all seemed magical.

I never once thought about what it might be like for Ma and Pa Ingalls. As a girl, I just focused on the lovely children's stories told from Laura's perspective.

Sarah Miller revists the Ingalls family, telling the story from Caroline Ingalls' perspective. The life of a pioneer family from an adult's view is still magical.....but also harsh, frightening and unforgiving.

Caroline recounts the story of the Ingalls' move from Wisconsin to the Indian Territory in Kanasas by covered wagon. It mirrors the tale from Little House on the Prairie, but this time the story is told by Ma, not Laura. Caroline is pregnant and afraid there won't be a woman to help her when it comes time for the baby to be born. She has to bear the stress of the lurching wagon, life on the trail, managing the food supplies and cooking in a moving wagon, keeping the girls occupied, helping Charles with the wagon & horses, helping build their first cabin......I never considered what a hard life it would have been for a mother making a long trek by wagon after leaving her entire family behind. Especially pregnant and not knowing if there would be help for her at the end of the journey.

I really enjoyed this book! Christmas with Mr. Edwards. Losing & finding Jack, the dog. Building the log cabin. The family being sick with ague. All the events from Little House on the Prairie....just another side. The tale is sometimes joyous....other times sad. But, that's life,right? The story presents the married/husband side of Pa, too. Caroline supports her husband and is strong for him, even when he makes mistakes. Just a lovely story. Miller did take a few liberties with historical fact, but outlines the few changes she made in the back of the book. It was nothing that made me cringe....little things to keep the continuity.

I highly recommend this to anyone who grew up loving the Little House books! Be prepared to get a bit teary eyed a couple of times.....and I even had a few eyerolls when the prose got just a bit too sappy....but all in all, a wonderful read. There are a couple sexual situations -- nothing graphic or inappropriate. Married couples have sex -- even Ma and Pa Ingalls. It's tastefully done, and not in any way traumatizing. But, I would recommend parental guidance before allowing children to read the book. Adults might want to read the book first....and make an informed decision before allowing those under 13 to read it.

I was sad momentarily when I read the last page -- I didn't want it to be over! I have the Little House books on my shelf....I need to re-read them! I also have a couple seasons of the 1970's tv show on DVD. I feel a binge watch coming on!

Thursday, November 30, 2017

REVIEW: The Man From the Train

The Man From the Train
Author: Bill James

In the past, Freight trains thundered through most American communities, big and small, several times a day. I owned a home in a very small Kansas community in the 1990's. Coal trains would clatter through shaking the windows and making that easily recognizable, loud clack-clack whine and whistle. The trains and their noise became a regular, comforting part of life. When the trains became fewer and fewer, the lack of that sound seemed wrong and somehow disturbing. But it is also true that sometimes drifters and criminals rode the trains, jumping off to cause problems in the town and nearby farms. At times they were just travelers, modern day hobos....but at other times they were looking to do harm or steal.

The front cover of this book caught my eye immediately. It's a sight that is disappearing in many towns.....railroad tracks going off into the distance.  In Western NC, the county I live in has re-purposed most of its train routes  into paved fitness rail-trails with the real train traffic going through the more rural, smaller towns. It isn't like in decades past where livestock and freight trains were essential for all communities across the country.

In the early 1900s, trains were the lifeblood of  most communities. But, someone evil rode the rails. Not just another hobo, freely riding, strumming a guitar like in all those country songs. But a killer. A serial killer who murdered from one end of America to the other. He was never caught. Nobody ever noticed the massive scope of his killing streak until now. Bill James and his daughter, Rachel researched and found the killer's trail 100 years after the fact. The Man From the Train: The Solving of a Century-Old Serial Killer Mystery presents the facts and their conclusions. It's a tale of a murder and unprepared small town law enforcement and justice systems. The story makes me incredibly appreciative of modern forensic science and investigation techniques. The murders were never linked or properly investigated because of communication and investigation problems, plus lack of modern scientific processes. Plus, by the time the bodies were discovered, the murderer was long gone, riding the rails to another town and other potential victims.

The first section of the book focuses on details and background of crimes that the authors believe were perpetrated by the same man. The second section shares details about law enforcement procedures in the early 1900s and the limitations of forensic testing at the time,and more details of crimes the authors believed can be traced to The Man From the Train.  In the last section, the authors reveal their conclusion and present a suspect that they believe was The Man on the Train. The man who killed multiple families in the middle of the night, in their own homes over several years in the early 1900s.

This book is very different from most true crime books. The information presented combines researched factual accounts of crimes mixed with added conjecture based on the authors' research and opinion. There is no way to jet back more than 100 years in time and put the research and theories to the test, so in the end, readers are left to form their own opinions. The writing style is an interesting mix of factual reporting, humor and conversational tone. I didn't mind the mix, as a former reporter I fully understand that humor makes it possible to more easily discuss horrible details. Plus, the conversational tone and occasional jokes make this a much more readable book. It pulled me in and made me feel more engaged with the writers...like they were sharing their information with me rather than formally presenting bare evidence. I wouldn't have enjoyed 450 pages of dry facts about 100+ year old axe murders. But I enjoyed this book immensely. If this were a book about a more recent crime spree where evidence, documentation and witnesses were still available to interview, then this writing style might be inappropriate. But, given the passage of time, the subsequent limitations on research, and the fact that guessing is pretty much required in this case, the more relaxed style works.

The authors make a lot of assumptions about the researched data, but I enjoyed reading about their theory and the potential suspect. All in all, an enjoyable read that will have me pondering for days, wondering if they got it right. Especially when I'm walking, alone at night, on the rail-trail.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

REVIEW: Ditched 4 Murder

Ditched 4 Murder
Author: J.C. Eaton

Sophie "Phee" Kimball is starting to wish she hadn't relocated to Arizona to be closer to her mother. Her job as an accountant for a detective agency is great....but her mom and her friends sometimes drive Phee a bit crazy. Things are definitely heating up for the little group of older ladies, and Phee is stuck right in the thick of things.....again. Her eccentric Aunt Ina is getting married. First Ina sends out strange, cryptic invitations announcing their wedding at dawn amidst ruins in the nearby state park. The 74-year old aging hippie has the whole affair planned from the bed and breakfast where they will all stay to the catering by a local French restaurant. In fact, the groom has rented out the entire section of the state park surrounding the ruins for the ceremony and reception. Phee soon realizes what a nightmare the event is going to be....bird shaped pastries, wedding tents, floral arrangements.....it's already becoming a total angst-fest. Ina begins asking Phee, Harriet and all the ladies in Harriet's bookclub, Booked 4 Murder, to handle final decisions for her wedding. Tasting the bearnaise sauce at the caterers. Picking the tent material. Making decisions about the pastries. Harriet, Phee's mother, is becoming stressed....calling constantly to complain about her sister's crazy schemes and horrible planning skills. Then, an elderly businessman is killed on the golf course near Harriet's home. And that's just the first dead body that pops up. Phee is definitely caught in the middle between murder investigations at work, and the drama over Ina's wedding at home.

I love the mix of humor and mystery in this series. I laughed just as much while reading this second book as I did when I read the first. The characters are charming. Phee's relationship with her mother is sweet...and hilarious at the same time. Drama and strange events seem to follow after the Booked 4 Murder ladies no matter what they do! :)

Ditched 4 Murder is an enjoyable cozy romp. The mystery moves along at a good speed and there is plenty of action to keep things moving. Between Aunt Ina's wedding drama and dead bodies popping up, there is never a dull moment. The wedding is.....interesting. ha ha. And, there is some nice character development leading into the next book.

The next Sophie Kimball Mystery, Staged 4 Murder, is coming out in July 2018. I can't wait! What trouble will the old gals be in this time??

Another book by J.C. Eaton, A Riesling to Die, will be published in March 2018. It's the first book in the Wine Trail Mystery series.

**I voluntarily read an advanced readers copy of this book from Kensington via NetGalley. All opinions expressed are entirely my own.**

REVIEW: The Mysterious Code (Trixie Belden)

The Mysterious Code (Trixie Belden)
Kathryn Kenny

Trixie Belden and her friends have a club, The Bob Whites of the Glen. They fixed up a clubhouse and work on projects to help their community, Sleepyside, NY. Imagine their surprise when the high school principal tells them that the school board is considering disbanding all clubs. The board thinks that the clubs don't serve a  purpose and form cliques, leaving some kids out. The Bob Whites quickly come up with a project they all believe in so that they can prove their club is productive. The teens are going to hold an antique show and sale to benefit UNICEF. While gathering items for the show at Honey Wheeler's home, Trixie finds a magazine with he key to a secret code inside. The code leads the group to a cool discovery! Unfortunately, publicity for the antique show leads local thieves to the antiques. There is a break in at a local home and at the clubhouse. The teen sleuths are back on the case to discover the identity of the thieves before they ruin the fundraiser.

The Mysterious Code is the 7th book in the Trixie Belden series. The first six books were written by Julie Campbell. Books 7 - 39 were written by various authors using the pen name Kathryn Kenny. Plot wise The Mysterious Code is one of the weaker books in the series. It's still an enjoyable read, but not as well-written as the others. The code portion of the plot is clever, but plays only a small part in the story. There is a bit of character development, but not much really happens in this book. All in all, another enjoyable visit to Sleepyside, but there are much better books in the series.

The Trixie Belden series was my favorite series when I was in middle school. I preferred Trixie over Nancy Drew. I had the whole set with the 80's paperback covers. I babysat my bratty nephew to earn money to buy the paperbacks at Waldenbook s. :) The brat is now 37 years old. ha ha  I still love Trixie but read them with an adult perspective now. Still enjoyable! But I cringe every time the kids decide to chase criminals and thieves themselves rather than calling the police, or when they hide events or evidence from their parents.

Great series! I am enjoying re-reading the books even though I have an adult perspective now. The books are a bit dated (just like Nancy Drew), but fun, quick reads. I like reading a Trixie book in-between thriller or suspense novels to clear my mind a bit. There is no cursing, nothing graphic.....just teens solving simple mysteries while going horseback riding, etc in the woods around their homes. Nice relaxing reading. :)

 The last Trixie Belden book came out in the late 80's, and some of the books can be hard to find. I'm reading scanned ebooks on openlibrary.org. Most of the series is available on that site. Openlibrary is a free site that offers scanned ebooks of many books for checkout, just like a library. It's all legal and does not violate copyright laws.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

REVIEW: Whose Body?

Whose Body?
Author: Dorothy L. Sayers

There are many book series that over the years I have said "I'd love to read those books!'' and then never did. Lord Peter Wimsey is one of those great characters that I vowed to visit, and promptly forgot my promise. In an attempt to turn over a new leaf reading-wise, I am changing this habit. When I find a book that really appeals to me, I make the time and read the book! This does mean that I reshuffle my TBR pile more, but that's ok. I have already read several delightful books that I probably never would have read otherwise. They would all still be lost in wishicouldreadthisland. Recently I read an article listing several female detective writers that wrote before and at the same time as Agatha Christie, and I had never read a single word of any of their writings. When the little voice inside my head started saying "I would love to read that!'' I didn't allow myself to just forget about it . I immediately picked one of the authors -- Dorothy L. Sayers. I went to openlibrary.org and found a scanned copy of Whose Body? and actually started reading! Finally reading Sayers is just the first step. I have a whole list of female mystery writers from that time period....and one at a time, I'm going to actually delve into their fictional worlds and savor their exceptional talent as storytellers.

Whose Body? is the first Lord Peter Wimsey story. He is quite an interesting character. English aristocracy. Wealthy, privileged, a bit of an upper class dandy....but with a difference....he can solve crimes. He's different from Sherlock and Poirot in that he goes after a case with a sense of flair, humor, and upper class sarcasm. He uses his social standing to gain a foothold and his brains to finish the job. I thought I might find him annoying....rather upper class twit-ish. But from the first chapter of Whose Body? I found myself liking Wimsey....he's amusing, capable and at times, pokes fun at himself and his class with witty bad verse and even song. Too much fun!

In his first case, Wimsey teams up with his friend Charles Parker, to solve the discovery of a murdered naked dead man in a bathtub, and the disappearance of a local financier, Sir Reuben Levy. Levy left his house in the middle of the night without so much as a stitch of clothing with him, never to return. The police (namely Wimsey's nemesis, Detective Sugg) want to claim the dead body in the tub as the financier....find a naked man, lose a naked man, they must be one and the same, right? But Wimsey knows the dead man is not the missing wealthy Jewish financier......so who is he? Sugg is quick to rush to judgement in an effort to close the case -- he arrests the man who lives in the apartment where the dead body was discovered, and a servant girl. Wimsey knows Mr. Thipps did not kill the strange man, but he knows he needs to discover the identity of the found corpse and his killer and find the missing banker before Sugg makes more mistakes. With his trusty man servant Bunter and Scotland Yard's Charles Parker in tow, Lord Peter Wimsey is on the case!

At just over 200 pages, this book is a quick and fun read. Wimsey and Parker each take a case and begin investigating, then compare information with each other. And Wimsey's trusted manservant Bunter photographs items and dusts for fingerprints, all while quizzing the servants about their employers and anything they may have witnessed or overheard. All of this is done with Sugg of Scotland Yard seething in the background. Wimsey pulled rank (his mother is good friends with the Chief, of course) and has complete access to the crime scenes. Cue more Sugg seething.  You know, the poor guy isn't that great of a detective, but he is an excellent seether. Too bad there isn't a spot at Scotland Yard for seething. He would be perfect. In the end, this case turns out to have just as many magnificent twists and turns as any Christie novel. And it is just as masterfully executed. I am definitely going to push on to book 2.....Wimsey's brain power and antics are just too fun!

Dorothy L. Sayers wrote 11 Lord Peter Wimsey books and five collections of short stories. Author Jill Paton Walsh completed an unfinished manuscript left by Sayers and also wrote 3 Wimsey books herself. I was led to finally read this series while watching the documentary A Very British Murder featuring Historian Lucy Worsley. She mentions many classic  mystery writers. My TBR grew by leaps and bounds!! The documentary is wonderful for classic mystery lovers (I found it streaming on Britbox). I highly recommend anything by Lucy Worsley! She discusses history with intelligence, understanding, and humor!


REVIEW: The Plot is Murder

The Plot is Murder
Author: V.M. Burns

Samantha Washington's life has completely changed. Her husband of 13 years died, but he made her promise to fulfill her dream of opening a bookshop. She keeps her promise, selling their house, buying a building and preparing to open her mystery bookshop in North Harbor, MI. Not only is she opening her dream shop, but Samantha is also writing a murder mystery. All her dreams are about to come true. Things are moving along smoothly until she discovers the dead body of real estate agent Clayton Parker in her enclosed patio. Parker tried to sabotage her purchase of the building, forcing her to get an attorney to help her complete closing on the property. Now he's dead. Parker had come to her door the day before asking to speak with her, and she had refused to open the door, walking away instead. Feeling guilty that there might have been a way to prevent the man's death (even if he was a shyster), she vows to find out who killed him.

This first book in the Mystery Bookshop series is actually a mystery within a mystery. As Samantha tries to discover who killed Clayton Parker, she is also writing her own British-style cozy mystery novel about Lady Penelope Marsh and her sister Daphne.  As she works to discover who killed Parker, she's also working on her book. I enjoyed the snippets of Samantha's novel and thought the author alternating between the two stories was really creative and fun.

I love the characters in this book! Samantha is a strong woman, realizing her dreams while still grieving for her husband. Her grandmother Jo is a tough old bird, who enlists her friends at the retirement village to help in the investigation. My favorite side character is Irma....the lovely old lady who peppers her conversation with curse words.....well, the group stops her before she finishes saying them, but still....it's the thought that counts. ha ha. :) The colorful characters and humor sprinkled in with the mystery really made this an enjoyable book. The mystery moves along at a nice pace. There are plenty of suspects and sleuthing. Nana Jo's friends are really a huge help -- nothing like a gang of old ladies to dig up gossip and info on anybody!

This is a great start to a new cozy series! A second book, Read Herring Hunt, will be out in April 2018! 

For more information on the author and her books, check out her website: http://www.vmburns.com/

**I voluntarily read an advanced readers copy of this book from Kensington via NetGalley. All opinions expressed are entirely my own.**




Sunday, November 26, 2017

REVIEW: The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane

The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane
Author: Laird Koenig

In 1976 Jodie Foster starred in a movie that scared the crap out of me. The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane. A thriller about a little girl who knew how to survive....how to take care of herself...no matter what. I had no idea that this creepy-cool film was based on a book by Laird Koenig until a few days ago. Remembering the movie that seriously creeped me out, I had to read the book. Luckily, a quick check of openlibrary.org turned up a scanned copy available online.

This book is a serious creep-fest just like the movie. Even better than the movie (of course).

Rynn lives in the large, old house at the end of the lane with her poet father. People who stop by seem to always arrive when her father is busy translating, writing or sleeping -- he is ill, you know. The house was leased for 3 years from Mrs. Hallet -- a pushy, wealthy real estate agent that is used to controlling everything around her. But Rynn won't allow Mrs. Hallet to bother her father. She won't allow her to see him. She also turns away her son, Frank....the neighborhood policeman that stops by....basically everyone. Only when she makes a new friend, Mario, does Rynn allow anyone to get close to her, to learn her secrets.

I had the BEST time reading this book! Awesomely creepy and suspenseful. I have to watch the movie again now as well. Jodie Foster was soooo good in it. Good enough to make me sleep with my light on for days afterwards. :) This story is subtle, psychological. There is no spurting blood or even blood-curdling screams. It's all a mind game.....a kid's game. Well....a kid who isn't really childlike in any way.

Awesome read for anyone who likes thrillers or suspense. The movie version changed the story a bit here and there, but it's a good movie. For those wanting to watch it -- the full movie is available on youtube: https://youtu.be/8z0zRAPBHuk




Friday, November 24, 2017

REVIEW: Cruel Beauty

Cruel Beauty
Author: Rosamund Hodge

Beauty and the Beast is by far my favorite fairy tale. I've read several re-tellings of the classic tale, and Cruel Beauty is one of the best I've read. The story is a bit dark....but beautiful at the same time.

All her life, Nyx has been prepared to give her life to save her people. Their land has been imprisoned outside of the world for years by an evil demon being, The Gentle Lord. Because her father made a pact with the demon, Nyx will be his wife. For years she has been training, gaining the knowledge she needs to kill the Gentle Lord and save her people. She is prepared to hate him....to kill him...to die for her duty, until she actually meets him. Ignifex is beautiful, and strangely compelling. Nyx never expected to love her husband. She's faced with a horrible choice.....love her husband and not save her people, or betray her love and fulfill her duty.

I loved this book! The descriptions of Ignifex's strange house are beautiful. The slow build of the relationship between Ignifex and Nyx definity fits the Beauty and the Beast theme, with a bit more darkness and evil than the classic story.

I was a bit disappointed with events leading up to the ending. Nyx makes some decisions that I had a hard time reading. I wanted to hop into the book, grab her and yell NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO. But odds are she wouldn't have listened to me anyway. :) The ending was satisfactory, so I can live with a few bad decisions by the main character. In her place, I think I would have been just as torn, confused and conflicted.

All in all, a great new spin on an old tale. I am definitely going to read more by Rosamund Hodge. I like her writing style and storytelling! There is a novella, Gilded Ashes, set in the same universe. The novella is a re-telling of Cinderella. :)

The cover art work is phenomenal!!

For more information on the author and her books, check out her website: http://www.rosamundhodge.net/

Thursday, November 23, 2017

REVIEW: NOS4A2

NOS4A2
Author: Joe Hill

A few days ago, I was scrolling through updates on my Goodreads feed while sitting in my car in the middle school parking lot waiting for my son. The front cover for this book by Joe Hill caught my eye immediately.....a bloody license plate with one of the most clever personalized plates I've ever seen. NOS4A2 - Nosferatu. Oh yeah.....I have to read this book! Immediately! It is awesome at times how a smartphone can give instant gratification. I had the audiobook checked out from my local library and downloaded in less than a minute.

Instant. Total. Gratification. Horrifying gratification. Best horror audiobook I've listened to in quite awhile.

Not only did the story instantly have my attention....but the narrator of the audio book is Kate Mulgrew (she played Captain Janeway on Voyager). I knew right away that I would not be wasting almost 20 hours of my life listening to Mulgrew read this tale to me. :) As a narrator, Mulgrew is superb. I have partial hearing loss and at times female narrators can be difficult for me to understand. But Mulgrew's voice is a bit lower than most women's voices, so I had no problems whatsoever. It's not just that though.....her performance is excellent! The voices she does for the characters....the expressiveness.....just PERFECT!!! I will definitely be looking for other audiobooks she has narrated.

The story itself is incredibly creative and viciously horrifying. Charles Manx. Murderer. Sadist. Kidnapper. He lures children into his Rolls Royce Wraith, a magical car that takes the kiddies to Christmasland. In Christmasland, it's always snowing....bright, fluffy holiday snow. The kind Bing Crosby sang about. Holiday music is always playing and kiddos can have all the candy, popcorn, cotton candy and goodies that they want. But....they can never leave. And they really aren't children anymore. While Manx doesn't kill or molest the children, he loves to torture, kill and otherwise completely ruin the day for adults. Or he has his murderous lackey do it for him.  There are a few other people who can travel into this other dimension. They all have something that allows them to enter....an object that catapults them from the real world into Manx's horrible other dimension. For Victoria McQueen it's her bicycle. As a child she discovered she could ride across a nonexistent bridge and find lost things.....but she learned there was much more to that other place than just finding things. It cost her dearly. Later in life she tells herself that she was crazy, mentally ill, that none of it ever happened. But it did. Years later she learns it was all real......and Manx is much, much more than just a murderer who drives a magic Wraith to Christmasland.

Listening to this book just before Thanksgiving was perfect timing. I don't think I will be able to listen to carols or look at holiday decorations this year without thinking about Charles Manx and his sleek Rolls Royce. And the horrors of Christmasland.

This book had great suspense, real horrors and moved along at a nice pace. The audiobook is 20 hours long, so it took me 2 weeks to finish it.....totally worth the time! I definitely recommend it for anyone who likes a bloody dose of holiday horror!

Happy Holidays! If you see a Rolls Royce Wraith driving slowly through your neighborhood this holiday season.....bring the kiddos inside and lock the door! :)

For more information about the author and his other books (which I plan to read, and hope that they are just as grisly and demented as this one!), check out Joe Hill's website: https://www.joehillfiction.com/

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

REVIEW: The Aliance

The Alliance
Author: Jolina Petersheim

Leora Ebersole lives in an Old Order Mennonite Community in Montana. Both of her parents are gone so she is responsible for her younger brother and sister. Life suddenly changes for Leora, the entire community and thousands of other people when an EMP bomb takes out all technology. Anything with computer components instantly stops working -- cell phones, newer vehicles, airplanes, appliances...most of modern technology. Poof! All gone in an instant. A pilot, Moses Hughes, crashes near their community but survives. Hughes and other Englishers who were visiting the Mennonite community join with the community to protect its residents, food supplies and buildings from the hordes of survivors they all know will be coming soon. Thousands of people will be streaming out of cities, looking for food and shelter, desperate to survive. Can the Mennonite Community stay true to its Christian beliefs of non-violence and kindness in the midst of a large-scale disaster?

I'm on a bit of a disaster story kick at the moment. This book sounded interesting, and I wasn't disappointed. It's definitely Christian fiction, but it's not preachy or overdone. The story really brought out the fact that everyone would be effected by a disaster that nullifies technology, even communities that shun modern conveniences. The Mennonites have to deal with dwindling food supplies, waste disposal, clean water, and safety just like everyone else. They have to revert to old ways of farming, building and cooking, and bend their beliefs a bit to protect themselves from violent gangs, thieves and hordes of desperate survivors.

I liked how the characters are thrown together with no warning and have to learn to work together, despite very different views. They learn to compromise for the good of the entire group.

There is a second book in this series, The Divide. I can't wait to read it so I can find out what happens next!

To find out more about the author, check out her website: http://www.jolinapetersheim.com/


Tuesday, November 21, 2017

REVIEW: The Complete Sookie Stackhouse Stories

The Complete Sookie Stackhouse Stories
Author: Charlaine Harris

I am usually disappointed when my favorite books are adapted for television or movies. Sookie Stackhouse was a favorite character of mine before HBO started their seven seasons of True Blood. As usual, the film version bore very little resemblance to the books. The first season was pretty close.....but it veered completely off course after that. In my mind, the books and the show are two completely different stories. HBO changed major plot points, added characters, and left out major portions of the books. And unfortunately most of the things they left out, or changed substantially, were my favorite parts of the series. Not that I didn't enjoy True Blood....I did. I was just disappointed they didn't follow the books. Not surprised. Just disapppointed. Now that the show is over, I want to revisit this entire series and put Sookie, her friends, and Bon Temps back into my mind the way Charlaine Harris created them.

While she was writing the series, Harris published several short stories set in Sookie's world. They added some nice side stories to the series, and were nestled into sweet themed anthology collections alongside stories by other authors I love like Jim Butcher and Rachel Caine. It's a bit difficult to go back and read all the stories since they were originally published in several different books. Then I saw a blurb for this new book -- yay!! All of the Sookie short stories collected in one book!

For anyone who wants to read the entire series in chronological order, the Southern Vampire series wiki page has a list that includes both the books and the short stories: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Southern_Vampire_Mysteries

For those who watched the HBO show but haven't read the books -- I highly recommend reading this series, with these additional stories. There are 13 books in the series, written from 2001 - 2013. The books are SO much better than the television series! I highly recommend the Southern Vampire series to anyone who likes supernatural, urban fantasy. Sookie Stackhouse is a waitress in Bon Temps, LA. She tends to keep to herself because she can hear other people's thoughts. Her abilities tend to make people think she's strange. She's always wanted to meet a vampire ever since they came "out of the coffin," revealing their existence to the world. One night she meets Bill Compton....a vampire who has moved into his old family home in Bon Temps. Her life will never be the same!

There are no new stories in this book....it's a re-release of 10 previously published short stories. Readers can enjoy them all in one place, rather than spread between several anthology books. For me, that's great because I have been waiting to reread the series until I had all of the short stories and I was a couple books short of having them all. I'm just a bit OCD like that when it's time to a revisit to a favorite series. And I can have my Sookie shelf in my bookcase....without having to add anthologies that include other stories.

This means I can move Sookie up to the top of my TBR and start re-reading!! :) I originally read this series with my husband. When new books arrived we used to argue over who got to read it first. Once we even played a boardgame to determine the winner. I lost, of course, and my husband got to gloat for an entire week about how he knew what was happening and I didn't. ha ha :) I ordered a copy of this book today....so soon I will have another fresh new Sookie book arriving on my doorstep to grace my keeper shelf. I'm sure once hubby sees me re-reading the first book he will want to join in and revisit Bon Temps too.

For more information on the author and her books, check out her website: http://charlaineharris.com/

**I voluntarily received an advanced readers copy of this book from Berkley Publishing via NetGalley. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own.**






REVIEW: The Shade of the Moon

T he Shade of the Moon
Author: Susan Beth Pfeffer

I don't think I have read my way through a series of books this fast in years. I couldn't stop reading. The Last Survivors series is the story of what happens on Earth after a large scale disaster completely destroys modern society. Many people die from hunger, disease and violence. Those who are left fight for survival. In this last book of the series, the less noble facets of human nature start to come out. A new society begins to form split between the more essential and upper class enclave residents (called clavers) and the worker class grubs. Clavers are allowed more freedom, better food, and a safe place to live. Grubs reside outside the enclaves in violent, dangerous slums with no electricity and only enough food and necessities to survive. Only three of the survivors introduced in earlier books can live in the enclave...the rest have to become grubs. Surviving the new conditions brought about by the disaster is hard.....but surviving in the new social order turns out to be even harder.

This is my least favorite of the books in this series. Not because there is anything wrong with it....but because it was the most difficult to finish, possibly because it's very realistic. It is hard to admit that human nature is not to be understanding, kind and caring when it comes to survival. We can be a very cruel and violent species. Unfortunately, following a disaster of this type, a horrific society like what is depicted in this book might just be what happens. It isn't all doom and gloom though.....there is hope and there are always those who don't conform. It is those types of people who will keep their humanity in the aftermath of an extinction event. I did not like what happened psychologically to a couple of the main characters in this final book, but most likely because it was just a bit too real for me.

This series deals quite heavily with death, loss, rape, violence and prejudice. It's written for a YA audience so there isn't any graphic sex, violent scenes or language....but the subject matter is very dark and intense. I wouldn't recommend this series for children under 13. The books are well-written and the plot is thought provoking. I found myself wondering how my family would handle such a cataclysmic event. Would we survive? What would happen in the rural area we live in? How would we fare if all modern conveniences -- including medicine and the food supply -- was suddenly gone? Sobering thoughts.

I'm glad I read this series.....at the same time I'm glad I'm done reading. I think I need to read something happy, funny and much brighter now to clear my head of darkness. One good thought I take away from this series is that even when things seem darkest, there is always hope. And where there is hope, there is a chance for life.

Excellent series!

For more information on the author, check out her blog: http://susanbethpfeffer.blogspot.com/

REVIEW: The Massacre of Mankind

The Massacre of Mankind
Author: Stephen Baxter

I have to admit I was a bit hesitant to read a sequel to H.G. Wells classic The War of the Worlds. Usually I am left disappointed by continuations of classic stories that I love. Authors either try too hard to copy the writing style and feel of the earlier tale, or they don't try hard enough. In a majority of cases, sequels leave me feeling a mix of disappointment and annoyance. So when I received a lovely hardback copy of this new book by Stephen Baxter, I have to admit that the book sat on my desk for weeks because I had to build up the courage to read it. The book is high quality and the cover art is wonderful....so it looked quite nice on my desk. But an unread book is an adventure not taken....so I finally took a deep breath and started reading. Immediately I knew that Baxter was not going to disappoint me! The Massacre of Mankind is well-written and a fitting sequal to Wells' classic.

It has been 14 years since the last Martian invasion.....and they are back. Martian technology looted from the remnants of ships from the last invasion has been used to give humanity a huge tech boost. With one eye on the sky, humanity moves on, content that they can thwart any more threats from Mars. One man, Walter Jenkins, tries to caution people.....the Martians might have learned from their loss and become better prepared to fight for control of Earth. Turns out he's right -- the aliens return and attack again, with even more fire power and nastiness than they unleashed the first time.

This book is in an alternate timeline where the  Martian invasion and alien technology have an effect on history and world events. Wave after wave of Martians and colonization of our planet take H.G. Wells vision to an all new level.

Just a lovely and thrilling sequel to one of my favorite classic sci-fi stories!! Before this, I had only read a Doctor Who book by Baxter. I will definitely be checking out more of his books! I thoroughly enjoyed this story!

The cover art is superb as well!

For more information on the author and his books, check out his website: http://www.stephen-baxter.com/

**I voluntarily read a copy of this book from Blogging for Books. All opinions expressed are entirely my own.**


Monday, November 20, 2017

REVIEW: This World We Live In

This World We Live In
Author: Susan Beth Pfeffer

In this 3rd book in the Last Survivors series, the two groups of survivors depicted in books 1 and 2 come together. Humanity faces possible extinction as natural disasters and climate changes hit Earth following an asteroid strike pushing the moon closer to the planet. It's been a year since the disaster. Very few people remain alive. This group of 10 survivors faces not only the daily fight for survival, but also their own emotions, weaknesses and fears. They must learn to live and work together to survive.

Although it is a bit preachy in places (in my opinion), this book is just as enjoyable as the first two in the series. Although the disaster premise is not scientifically valid, I find the concept of survival after a large scale planet wide disaster to be both thought provoking and horrific. I don't know how I would react to a complete, sudden change in life as I have always known it. I don't know if I would be strong enough, mentally or physically, to survive as nearly everyone around me dies of starvation, illness or injury. What would I be prepared to do to protect my children? I  liked how Pfeffer brought her characters together to form a sort of rag-tag family. The story unfolds in diary format, with the character Miranda writing about their daily challenges. There is a lot of emotion in this book, as the characters all try to live together, survive and deal with uncertainty and danger.

This series is written for a YA audience. Because of the serious, dark theme I wouldn't recommend it for kids under 13. There is no graphic violence, sex or cursing....but Pfeffer doesn't pull any punches with the dystopian theme. Death, starvation, suicide and other dark themes figure heavily into the plot. Pfeffer realistically depicts what it might be like to survive after society ends.

For more information on the author and her books, check out her blog: http://susanbethpfeffer.blogspot.com/