Wednesday, October 31, 2018

REVIEW: Jack & Jill

Jack & Jill
Author: James Patterson

A murderous duo calling themselves Jack and Jill are killing important people in Washington, D.C. Detective Alex Cross is put on the case when they threaten the President. But he would rather stay on a more personal case....children are being killed at the school Cross' young son attends. Deaths continue as Cross investigates both cases. Is anyone in Washington safe?

This book is definitely filled with action and twisted suspense. Originally published in 1996, the book is a bit dated in places. But, the story is still very much enjoyable. I found the plot in this 3rd book of the Alex Cross series to be just as action-packed and exciting as the first two books.

I'm enjoying this series. I started reading just this year because the series is listed as part of The Great American Read. I'm not sure why I had never read a book by James Patterson before this year. I guess it was a case of so many books...only so much time. I'm glad I finally gave the Alex Cross series a's really quite good. It will take me awhile to catch up, as the series has 25 books and Jack & Jill is only #3. Book 26, Target, is scheduled to come out in November 2018. I have lots of reading/listening to do!

I listened to the audio version of this book. Narrated by Ron Butler and Maxwell Hamilton, the audio is just over 12 hours long. Both narrators read at a nice pace. I liked the fact that the narrators change when the point of view changes. Even with my hearing loss, I was still able to hear and understand the entire book.

I have book 4, Cat and Mouse, on hold at the library. I'm definitely continuing with this series. I like Alex Cross as a main character. He is gritty, intelligent and hard-hitting. I like all the side characters, especially Nana Mama and Sampson. I do see a tendency in this series towards killing or victimizing any woman that Alex looks at as a possible love interest. It's happened in every book so far....and seems repetitive and unrealistic. But, this is only book 3.....   If I get further in this series and this is still a major repeating plot point, it might make me stop reading. I'm suspending judgement until I get further into the series.

I can see why this series is part of the list of 100 books for The Great American Read. This bestselling series has wowed readers for 25 years now. The Great American Read honors 100 books that got the American public reading and talking about books. From classics to contemporary fiction, the list is varied. Check out the list here:  In my quest to read all 100 books/series, I am currently at 16. (I'm counting series listed as one, even if I read multiple books). Lots more reading to go! I love this concept -- I hope they do something similar again!

Here is a link to the main website for The Great American Read:

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

REVIEW: Murder By the Book

Murder By the Book
Author: Lauren Elliott

Addison Greyborne worked at the Boston Public Library until a year ago, but then her life fell apart. Her fiance was murdered and her father died in an accident. While still reeling from the deaths, a relative died and left her money and a house in Greyborne Harbor. She opened her own shop, Beyond the Page Books & Curios, and started trying to piece her life back together again. Someone seems determined to put a damper on her plans. Her shop and home are broken into and a dark car seems to be following her. Just as she makes a new friend, that friend is arrested for killing another local merchant. Addie is determined to clear Serena's name and discover who is behind the break-ins and other bad happenings in Greyborne Harbor.

Murder By the Book is a great start to a new cozy series! I do wish they had chosen a more creative title for the book though. There are SO many mysteries with the same title. It's been done before.....1000 times. The story line is a bit trope-y too.....mysterious, unknown relative leaves money and property to main character and bad things happen. But, I enjoyed the characters and the background theme of a book and curio shop. The story was entertaining and the mystery plot engaging enough to hold my interest. So, I forgive the tropes.....

I wish the small town I live in had a shop like Beyond the Page. I would be there all the time!! :)

A second book in this new series, Prologue to Murder, will be out in 2019. I will definitely read more of this series!

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

Monday, October 29, 2018

REVIEW: After the Fire

After the Fire
Author: Will Hill

Moonbeam was a member of the Lord's Legion cult until a fire destroyed the cult compound. She, and the other members, had lived totally controlled by cult leader Father John. As the fire is investigated, facts about the cult, its leader and members, and daily life in the compound are revealed.

Although this book is a little confusing at first, as Moonbeam reveals more and more about the compound and cult before and after the fire, the story becomes more clear. She is a strange and disturbing main character because all she knows is the Lord's Legion. She distrusts anyone who isn't a cult member and displays some strange behaviors. Her strangeness just adds to the suspense and slow reveal of facts, making this book disturbing, emotional and mesmerizing. The author does a great job of depicting the story of a controlling cult and its long-lasting effects on members. The tale is not without hope though....which made it easier for me to read.

When I was a child back in the 80s, there was a cult compound raided by the feds near where I lived. The cult leader murdered a man and a 5-year old boy on a rural farm. The trial and all the mess that followed completely shocked everyone in the area. It was mind-numblingly awful. Even as a child, I remember being so surprised that people would follow such a nasty (and crazy) person, and even more shocked that parents brought their children to this weird rural compound led by a nut in overalls ranting strange racist, pseudo-religious crapola. So, this book really hit home with me and made me see things from the other side.  As an adult, I live in a town 1200 miles away from where I grew up.....and a local cult (disguised as a church) is being investigated for fraud, abuse, and other crimes. Again, I am shocked that people actually follow the craziness taught by this cult (they scream at people to release demons from them, require people to give all their possessions to the church, control members' finances, etc) and its leader -- an old woman who is just completely disgusting. How do people like this gain control over so many?? It still boggles my mind. I kept thinking about this local cult the entire time I was reading this book. It really hit home with me. Groups like this are more commonplace than anyone would like to admit. I've personally encountered three such groups in my lifetime and heard about so many more.

Definitely an emotional, hard-hitting book! I'm definitely going to read more by this author!

*I voluntarily read a review copy of this book from Sourcebooks via NetGalley. All opinions expressed are entirely my own.**

Sunday, October 28, 2018

REVIEW: Shotguns and Stagecoaches

Shotguns and Stagecoaches
Author: John Boessenecker

Wells Fargo. Today the company is a financial institution offering the usual services....banking, loans, retirement accounts, investments, etc. But from 1852 to 1918, the company offered express services. Wells Fargo shipped mail, packages, valuables, money...even gold...all across the United States. In its heyday, Wells Fargo delivered goods faster than the United States Postal Service. Starting as a small company in the 1850s, by the time World War I ended Wells Fargo express services, the company had 10,000 offices all across the country.

Shotguns and Stagecoaches tells the stories of 20 Wells Fargo messengers and detectives whose job required them to protect Wells Fargo assets from nefarious criminals and robbers. I loved reading the stories of these fascinating characters who protected the integrity of the company by making sure money and valuables entrusted to the company arrived at their final destination. The stories are well-written, interesting and amazing! The history of that era is so fascinating. I've read a lot about Old West history, but I still learned some new facts by reading this book. For instance, Wells Fargo express services ended in 1918 because the United States government required all mail/express services be consolidated into only one carrier -- the USPS -- due to World War I. Only the banking services offered by Wells Fargo survived WWI. I always wondered how Wells Fargo went from a Old West stagecoach delivery type service to the banking institution it is today. I also didn't realize that their express service still operated into the 1900s. So interesting! I find it fascinating that we have come so far in just 100 years....makes books like this one by John Boessenecker incredibly interesting! The United States might have much less history than other nations that are much older, but our history is definitely colorful. Not necessarily always good....but colorful.

My husband loves tales from this era in history. He is fascinated about the wild and woolly days of the Old West and the Gold Rush era. I pre-ordered him a copy of this book immediately after I finished reading my review copy. I enjoyed this book....but he will absolutely love it. It will be a binge reading event I am sure. :) Anyone who enjoys US History or tales of the Old West will love this book.

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

Saturday, October 27, 2018

REVIEW: The Guilty Dead

The Guilty Dead
Author: P.J. Tracy

The Guilty Dead is the 9th book in the Monkeewrench series. Gregory Norwood, a wealthy Minnesota businessman with political ties, is found dead of an apparent suicide on the one-year anniversary of his son's death by overdose. The police believe it's an open and shut case at first until they find another body at the scene. The case quickly escalates into a complex murder investigation. The local police are also dealing with terrorist threats related to tracking software being tested by the FBI. The software, developed by Monkeewrench, will enable law enforcement to track terrorists world-wide.

This book is complex with lots of action, intrigue, murder and mayhem. The characters are all well developed with their own individual strengths and weaknesses. This is the first book in the Monkeewrench series that I have read. I think I might have understood the characters, the software company and some of the nuances of the plot better if I had read more of the series. I enjoyed this story despite jumping into things on the 9th book. I'm going to backtrack and start at the beginning...then re-read this book when I through the first 8 of this series. I definitely liked the characters, the suspense and the premise of this book. I think I would enjoy it more a second time after learning more background on the characters and Monkeewrench. I already have book 1 on hold at my local library!

**I voluntarily read a review copy of this book from Crooked Lane via NetGalley. All opinions expressed are entirely my own.**

Friday, October 26, 2018

REVIEW: When Winter Comes

When Winter Comes
Author: V.A. Shannon

It has been 13 years since Mrs. Jacob Klein came west to California. She doesn't like remembering her journey west. She has three children now and a husband....and she doesn't want them to know she was part of the Donner Party. She wants to keep the horror of that winter in the wilderness a secret. Some of the survivors have made money or gained fame from telling partial truths about their experiences that winter....but she doesn't want to risk the truth destroying her new life with her family.

This book switches back and forth from Mrs. Klein's present day to her experiences as part of the Donner Party in the winter of 1846. I don't usually like books that jump back and forth in time, but for this story it worked nicely. Mrs. Klein is hiding so much from her family...she hides behind her married name, never revealing really who she is while telling her story. Some secrets are just too much to share...too dangerous, too revealing. She chooses to remain silent, rather than tell half-truths like others have done.

Mistakes. Rough choices. Consequences. Starvation. The Donner Party is remembered for all of those things. This book adds a human element to the story we've all heard many times before. It isn't all doom and gloom. The author mixes the horror and desperation with courage, optimism and hopefulness. When I was all done with this book, I had to sit back and think for awhile to ascertain what I think about the narrator. Mixed feelings. On the one hand I find Mrs. Klein to be courageous, strong and intelligent. But on the other hand, I find her secretive, manipulative and maybe even a bit weak in that she can't tell the truth about herself for fear that her family will be horrified. I can understand it....and yet, it made me feel a bit of negative emotions about her. So strong in the face of danger....yet so fearful of telling the truth about the experience. I would suppose if I had something of that nature in my past, I would want to hide it from friends and family as well. And I would be very upset at others using the situation for personal gain, especially if I knew they weren't telling the whole truth.

Interesting and creative story. I am definitely looking forward to more by this author!

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

REVIEW: Dark Queen Rising

Dark Queen Rising
Author: Paul Doherty

The year is 1471. The War of the Roses has pitted the houses of York and Lancaster against each other. Edward of York has taken the throne, and is destroying anyone who supported the Lancasters. Margaret Beaufort, mother of Henry Tudor, is forced to hide in the shadows, determined to protect her son. She and two of her men, Christopher Urswicke and Reginald Bray, are the main characters in this book, surrounded by political intrigue and upheaval, the effects of war, and lots of death and betrayal. 

I think the blurb for this book was a bit off. I expected a historical mystery.....but this book is more historical fiction. Very little mystery here. And the history is definitely fictionalized. Some facts -- like Margaret Beaufort's husbands -- are off.   In my opinion, even when writing a fictionalized account, the stories of real people should be spot on.....with only the daily occurrences, conversations, and events that can't be historically proven being fiction. it constantly pulls me out of a story when I have to go fact check when I suspect a historical fact has been altered.

Now, I'm not saying this isn't an enjoyable story. It is. There is a lot of action and intrigue. The book is well-written and moves along at a nice pace. For readers who liked the White Queen and other similar historical fiction novels, this boo is perfect. It tells the story from the point of view of the Lancasters and Margaret Beaufort. For me, I just wish it had been a little truer to actual events....and that it had actually provided a mystery component with Margaret and her minions doing some detective work behind the scenes. Instead there was a lot of political maneuvering, hiding and plotting.....which I am sure actually happened given the violence and upheaval of the time.

I would have given this five stars but for the historical inaccuracies. But it's a solid 4 star, even with that little ding. I enjoyed the intrigue, but I think this story just got a little confused. Is it historical fiction? Or a historical mystery? In the end, it sort of didn't hit either mark very well for me. But it had enough suspense and action to keep my attention.

**I voluntarily read a review copy of this book from Severn House via NetGalley. All opinions expressed are entirely my own.**

Thursday, October 25, 2018


Author: Ellen Goodlett

The King is dying. His heir has been murdered. Three girls find themselves in the middle of political intrigue and danger when it is revealed that they are the king's illegitimate daughters. Someone doesn't want them to rule. Someone knows the terrible secrets each one hides and wants to destroy them. One of the girls will be the king's new heir...if any of them survive.

I enjoyed this book. Lots of action, political intrigue, treachery, manipulation....the basic plot built up a lot of suspense. The story definitely kept my attention from start to finish. The three girls are all so different. Each has their own strengths and weaknesses, making the characters seem more realistic. And each girl had to learn to strengthen themselves, brave the challenges of their new life, and survive. All in all, this is a very creative and great start to a fantasy duology. The book is well-written. The characters are nicely developed. And, the story moves at a good pace. Not too fast....but not agonizingly slow either.

There is a bit of a abuse and some adult themes in this book, plus violence. Some parental guidance is required. I would say it's PG13. Parents might want to read the book first to be sure it's appropriate for their child under 13.

The book does end on a bit of a cliffhanger...I'm definitely looking forward to the next book, Rise. Rise is scheduled to come out in June 2019.

**I voluntarily read a review copy of this book from Little Brown Books via NetGalley. All opinions expressed are entirely my own.**

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

REVIEW: How Fascism Works

How Fascism Works
Author: Jason Stanley

When I finished reading this book, I had to think deep thoughts for awhile before I could attempt a review. While I found the information informative and very interesting, I also was alarmed at the definitive left slant the author took in the presentation of his knowledge. As an American who remains strictly in the middle...siding with democrats/liberals on some issues and republicans/conservatives on others....I wanted an unbiased, informational look at fascism. But that is not what this book presents.

Stanley discusses the basic components of fascism and how it gains control. The use of mythic tales of the past, dehumanizing portions of the population, propaganda, conspiracy theories and fake news to manipulate citizens, creating a state of control that creeps up quietly. I do agree whole heartedly that Americans and others around the world should be very concerned at the tendency of modern politics to descend into lies, manipulation and tricks. BUT, I disagree firmly when it is implied that this is a conservative tactic not used by the more liberal minded or intellectual side of the political arena. That is just simply not true. In America at the moment, I see both sides using all facets assigned to fascism to gain control of segments of the population in order to further their political agendas. The right uses Christianity and fear of failing morality, fear of immigrants, terrorism and other modern issues to fear monger their political views into voters minds. And, the left uses fear of patriarchy, the threat of Christian domination of the non-religious or other minded, and tales of Nazis, fascism and other past threats to further their own views. It's a shit show from both sides. And a very deeply divisive and destructive one.

The best way to overtake a nation is to divide, manipulate and conquer.  Both extremes in the American political arena are attempting to do this. The end result is NOTHING is ever accomplished. No matter which side is the victor in any election, they spend all their time un-doing the work of past administrations, changing things to ensure their re-election or keeping the seats/positions their party currently controls and keeping the general population riled up. How is this in any way a healthy, productive or democratic situation?? Party politics has become a fascist tool. And both sides are pointing fingers at the other screaming terms like fascism, socialism, many isms. When in the end, both sides are completely guilty of fucking over the very people they are elected to represent and care about.

I enjoyed the basic information this book presented. But using it to further a left slant political agenda just poisoned the entire effect this book might have had for me. I expected a neutral presentation of facts.....and ended up disappointed at just another thinly veiled bout of Trump bashing. Is Trump a great president? No. Has he been effective? No. And, the entire political environment in the United States currently is frankly an embarrassment IMHO. An international shit show. BUT.....both political parties in the United States are to blame for weakening our political process for their own ends. I could rant about it....but this is a book review and I'm going to keep my comments on the book at hand.

Great basic information on fascism.....but I did not like the political agenda that was woven in with the facts. I would have liked a longer book that included basic history on some of the fascist regimes that have existed in history, plus more details on why those regimes ultimately failed and what political environment replaced them. In the end, this book touched on basics and used them to support the author's political views. More of an editorialized spewing of knowledge than a non-fiction non-biased sharing of information about a dangerous political situation.

**I voluntarily read a review copy of this book from Random House via NetGalley. All opinions expressed are entirely my own.  PLEASE VOTE -- your voice does matter!!!!!**

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

REVIEW: Vault of Frankenstein

Vault of Frankenstein
Author: Paul Ruditis

I love tales about monsters! Frankenstein has been one of my favorite classic monsters ever since I watched the old black and white movies with my dad as a child. I grew to love the character even more when I read the book that started it all. I have to admit I didn't read the classic book by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley until I was in college. I first came to enjoy the character based on all the cheesy monster movies, scary tales and pop culture references that morphed out of her tale. I have since read the book many, many times and love both the original character and the more Holllywood version.

The book Vault of Frankenstein traces the history of the character from the book's publication in 1818 through all the related novels, plays, movies and pop culture references. Frankenstein's monster has grown from a monstrous creation that didn't even have a name to a pop culture force all its own.

This book is just awesome! Not only does it give detailed facts about Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, the book, the history of the character, the films, related novels and plays, actors who played the monster, and the pop culture history of the character, but the book is filled with many amazing illustrations and photos as well. I love how there are pictures of everything from Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley's original hand written manuscript pages to Frankenstein themed postage stamps.

I have always loved the fact that the book grew out of a bet among friends during a boring, rainy summer in 1816. I wonder what Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley would think about the amazing journey her character has taken over the past 200 years? I think she would be impressed that the monster has taken on a life of its own....just like in the book. Just a bit less lonely and hopeless.

This is a beautiful book! After reading a review copy, I immediately ordered a copy for our keeper shelf. As a lover of classic monsters, I just had to have this book. The facts and descriptions are so interesting and the photos are awesome! Definitely full stars from this Frankenstein fan!

**I voluntarily read a review copy of this book from Quarto Publishing via NetGalley. All opinions expressed are entirely my own.**

REVIEW: A Crafter Knits a Clue

A Crafter Knits a Clue
Author: Holly Quinn

A Crafter Knits a Clue is the first book in the new Handcrafted Mystery series. Samanatha Kane has recently moved back to Heartsford, WI. She came back for her best friend's funeral but stayed to run Kate Allen's craft shop, Community Craft. The shop sells local artists' work on consignment and also sponsors community fundraisers and other projects. She  just didn't have the heart to see the business close after her friend's death, especially since it is so important to the community. Just as the town is gearing up for the annual Spring Fling, tragedy strikes. Ingrid Wilson, owner of The Yarn Barn, is stabbed to death with a knitting needle in her shop. Ingrid was a difficult person...but she didn't deserve to be murdered. Sam joins forces with two of her childhood buddie, Heidi and Ellie. They used to play at detective in grade school. Things are little bit more serious when they are tracking a murderer!

A nice start to a new cozy series! There really isn't anything new here....there are a lot of crafting theme cozies. But, the characters are entertaining, the mystery is engaging and the theme of a local artists' consignment shop works nicely. I like Samanatha as a main character. She's putting her life together and helping the community and herself deal with the death of her good friend. The supporting cast of characters are great! I love how she pairs up with her old childhood sleuthing partners to solve the crime. Hunting down a killer is a lot different than searching out lost puppies and stolen bicycles though!

The mystery moved along at a nice pace with lots of clues, sleuthing and twists.  The ending wasn't a total surprise, but the story held my attention from start to finish.

In the back of the book there are several knitting patterns for socks! :) Yay! I love it when cozies have crafting patterns included! As with most cozies, the cover is fantastic!

All in all, while there was nothing especially creative or new about this story, I enjoyed it. Entertaining and interesting! It made for a nice rainy day read. I will definitely be checking out more of this series.

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

Monday, October 22, 2018

REVIEW: Dracul

Authors: Dacre Stoker, J.D. Barker

What if the dark tale of Dracula was not just a flight of fancy for author Bram Stoker? What if the origins of the story came from Stoker's own life? Dracul is a prequel of sorts for the classic novel, spinning a dark tale of death, evil and monsters.

OMG....I love this book! This isn't a re-telling of the Dracula story, but an imagining of the origins for the vampire story. Bram Stoker left diaries and notes behind, detailing mysterious happenings revolving around a Stoker family servant, Nanna Ellen. The story switches back and forth in time, alternating from Bram's sickly childhood in Ireland to his facing down unimaginable evil 12 years later as an adult. I was completely engrossed in this dark tale from beginning to end. Easily as horrific and well-written as the classic Dracula, this new tale of the undead is darkly disturbing and mesmerizing.

Like the classic Dracula, this book relies mostly on psychological horror, rather than more in-your-face type scary. The dark and bleak atmosphere, horrific discoveries and mysterious occurrences build suspense, revealing just a little bit of the truth at a time. The pacing is perfect. I don't usually like books that skip back and forth in time, but for this story it worked perfectly. Jumping from Bram and his sister discovering secrets about a beloved family servant to his facing evil lurking outside his locked, barricaded door years later just made the suspense stronger. The characters are awesome. The writing is descriptive, and the horror....chilling.

Full stars from me! Loved it!

**I voluntarily read a review copy of this book from Penguin via NetGalley. All opinions expressed are entirely my own.**

REVIEW: Anne of Cleves

Anne of Cleves
Author: Sarah-Beth Watkins

Divorced, Beheaded, Died
Divorced, Beheaded, Survived.

Henry VIII is one of the most famous English monarchs...and one of the worst husbands...ever. His notorious marriages are still the subject of much talk, even after the passage of 500 years.

Anne of Cleves was Henry's 4th wife, but not for very long. Henry didn't like her. He complained about her appearance and mannerisms from day one. And poor Anne has been unfairly maligned as fat, ugly, and even stupid for centuries following her disastrous (and short) marriage to Henry VIII. So unfair!!

Sarah-Beth Watkins presents much more favorable details about Anne of Cleves in this book, presenting her as intelligent and cunning, rather than stupid. After all, she survived Henry's unhappiness and was, for a time, the wealthiest woman in England because of her choices. She chose to let Henry have a divorce after six months of marriage, living as his "sister'' and being paid quite well for her silence on the matter. Take the money and run, honey -- definitely a smart move on her part.

I enjoyed this book. I knew a lot about Anne and her disastrous marriage already....but I didn't know much about what happened to her after Henry's death. The author also includes the text of the marriage and financial arrangements that brought Anne to England and her Last Will and Testament. I had never read those two documents before. Very interesting!

I'm glad someone FINALLY presented Anne as a smart, relatively attractive woman who just happened to somehow not please an aging, possibly crazy, monarch. By the time he married Anne, Henry was fat, in ill health, and literally reeked because of a constantly infected open sore on his leg (from a jousting injury he sustained.) Supposedly people could smell Henry approaching long before actually seeing him.....that's like ewwww factor 10+.  Not only that, his reputation in marriage preceded him. When his queen Jane Seymour passed away after childbirth, nobody wanted to marry him. He had divorced Katherine of Aragorn in a horrible manner....then beheaded Anne Boleyn....who wanted to risk being the next victim? Poor Anne of Cleves was offered up by her family to cement a relationship with the monarchy. When she first arrived in England, Henry snuck into the room in disguise to meet her. Not recognizing him as the King, she rebuffed his attention, angering him.  I imagine that was embarrassing, emasculating and upsetting for Henry.  He saved face by blaming the problem on her, maligning her personality and appearance. It couldn't possibly be that she couldn't believe a smelly, fat, old man was actually the English King.....   

Sarah-Beth Watkins tells Anne's story with respect, dignity and truthfulness. The information is backed up with well researched facts and presented in a very interesting manner. I enjoyed this book! The writing style is excellent. The story kept my attention from beginning to end. Even though I have read copious amounts of information on Anne of Cleves, I still learned some new facts and enjoyed reading an account more favorable towards Anne than most others. The poor woman has been called The Flanders Mare for almost 500 years. Give it a rest....she wasn't ugly. She wasn't fat. And she definitely wasn't stupid. She was a victim.  And, she did the best she could in a bad situation. She came out of it a rich woman. Henry advised her to "Be quiet and be merry''....and she did. It kept her head firmly attached to her neck, which is better than a couple of Henry's other wives fared.

At 176 pages, this book is a fairly quick read. I definitely recommend it to anyone interested in Henry VIII. Great information backed up with research, presented in a concise, interesting manner. Loved it!

**I voluntarily read a review copy of this book from John Hunt Publishing via NetGalley. All opinions expressed are entirely my own.**

REVIEW: The Devil's Fingers

The Devil's Fingers
Author: Hunter Shea

I admit it....I'm That Person...the one who starts decorating for Halloween on September 1st. I rush the season every year. And, I'm not sorry. Not one bit. It puts me in a mood for creepy, scary books! Fall is horror story season! I'm not waiting for the calendar to tell me it's time. For me, when my son goes back to school and temperatures start to ease off a's horror time! My newest go-to author for creepy awesomeness is Hunter Shea. So far, he has freaked me out with legendary stand-bys like the Jersey Devil, giant rats, and a creature in the woods....and now....killer fungus. Oh yeah....I'm always up for a Hunter Shea book!

In The Devil's Fingers, a strange fungus from Australia makes its way to America. It's red, has undulating slimy tentacles, and smells bad. If that doesn't recommend it enough....touching it is a very bad idea. Just ask the group of college kids who stumble across an entire meadow of Devil's Fingers while hiking in Washington State. Messing with the fungus changes them.....not that they weren't already fun-gis (fun guys. See what I did there? Yeah, I know....lame. But I had to do it!).

This book was complete joy for a cheesy horror junkie like me. Campy. Creepy. Perfect reading for an almost-fall, rainy day. I have to admit this -- I was sorta rooting for the fungus. A group of hikers in the forest run across a clearing filled with red tentacle fungus and one of them just has to F with it. There's always one in the bunch, right? So, they can't really whine when the fungus strikes back. Go Fungus! Slime everybody! 

I would love to see some of Hunter Shea's books made into movies. While I'm reading I always see the story playing out like a movie in my head anyway.....might as well be able to watch it in 4D HD on my TV.  For now, I will continue to enjoy his books....with hopes of seeing an adaptation in film some day.

This is a great book for any reader who loves cheesy horror.! At just over 100 pages, it's a quick horror fix.

Today's Lesson: While walking in the forest, do NOT touch any weird fungus tentacles that you might find. Walk on by....wave to just about anything else. No touchie! (The actual fungus (see picture below) is not poisonous or is even edible, but only as a last resort as it tastes and smells really bad.)

**I voluntarily read an advanced readers copy of this book from Kensington via NetGalley. All opinions expressed are entirely my own. No fungus was touched, molested or groped in any way during the reading of this book. And yes...I do have my Halloween Deco out in September. Christmas comes out Nov. 1st. Don't judge me. :)**

The fungus described in this book is actually real....and creepy looking! It is slimy and it does stink, but doesn't create fungus monsters. :)

Sunday, October 21, 2018

REVIEW: Be Our Ghost

Be Our Ghost
Author: Kate Kingsbury

Melanie West and her grandmother, Liza, run the Merry Ghost Inn in Sully's Landing. The quiet, comfortable atmosphere of Sully's Landing is a real tourist draw. People who want some serious R&R enjoy the small town atmosphere. Unfortunately, a local wants to change the vibe of the town. Jason Northwood is proposing a large arcade and other changes that might transform the town into one of those cookie-cutter, bright lights, jangling tourist trap towns. Three buildings downtown are going to be demolished to make way for the arcade and many local residents and business owners are upset. But how can anybody fight a billionaire? It seems Northwood's plans will go through no matter what locals think. least until he is found stabbed to death after a meeting about the arcade plans. All of the local residents who attended the meeting are suspects. Who decided to block Northwood's plans by killing  him? When local pub owner Doug Griffith is arrested, Melanie knows he is innocent. She has to find the real killer!

I enjoyed Be Our Ghost, the third book in the Merry Ghost Inn Mystery series. My favorite character is Cindi Metzger, the assistant who moves to the beat of her own drum. She had a rough childhood but got past it. Now she loves to express her individuality through her clothes, jewelry and tattoos. She has her own sense of style and doesn't care what anyone else thinks about it. I enjoy her as a character...quite feisty but loyal to her friends. :) Melanie and Liza are both intelligent and determined women.

The story kept my attention from start to finish. The mystery was engaging and had plenty of suspects and twists. The story was nicely paced....not too slow and not too fast. All in all, a nice addition to this cozy series. I will definitely be reading more!

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

Saturday, October 20, 2018

REVIEW: Sold On a Monday

Sold on a Monday
Author: Kristina McMorris

OMG -- this book is so emotional, distressing and strangely beautiful, all at the same time. It's 1931...the depression is ravaging the economy and families all across the nation. A reporter snaps a photograph of a farmhouse with two children sitting the steps next to a sign. The sign reads: 2 Children For Sale. Ellis Reed never intended to publish the photograph, but he does...and it makes his career. But it has devastating effects on those two children and their family. Ellis and his co-worker, Lily Palmer, work to right the wrong they've done.

I was sucked into this story from the start and couldn't put the book down. I can't even imagine the hardships, difficult choices and heartbreak of farm families during the depression. So many people without work. Unable to pay debts. Unable to even buy food or clothe their children. It must have been so scary. And decisions were made that in easier times never would have even been a possible choice. There are documented cases where children were actually sold. Horrific!

This story is well-written, moves along at a perfect pace and is hauntingly emotional. Kristina McMorris has written several other books. I'm definitely going to read more by this author! This book is fantastic!

**I voluntarily read a review copy of this book via NetGalley. All opinions expressed are entirely my own.**

Friday, October 19, 2018

REVIEW: A Dark and Twisting Path

A Dark and Twisting Path
Author: Julia Buckley

A Dark and Twisting Path is the 3rd book in the Writer's Apprentice Mystery series. I have to admit that I haven't read the other two books in this series yet. I think I might have enjoyed this book more if I had read the first two books before this one. I was able to follow the story and enjoy it, but I would have understood past events that are very important to the plot and the characters a lot better. So, while it isn't completely necessary to read this series in order, it might be a good idea anyway.

There is a lot of serious stuff going on in this book -- a kidnapped child, murder, burglary, stalking -- it has a little bit of everything. Lena London is an engaging and capable main character. She's intelligent and loyal, standing by her new boyfriend despite his multiple run-ins with the law. She knows he isn't a killer, and she works hard to help him prove it. The supporting characters are well-developed and believable. This isn't a cutesie cozy's got some pretty serious crime and complex things going on behind the scenes. The story is on-going through all of the books, which is something I enjoyed. There is enough background information given just in case a reader hasn't read the other books or has forgotten things over time. But, the story line isn't bogged down in back-tracking, either. The mystery moves along at a nice pace, with great suspense building and plenty of twists.

I'm definitely going to read the first two books in this series, then read this one again. Then I will be ready for the next book in this series! Very enjoyable book! I look forward to more!

**I voluntarily read a review copy of this book from Berkley Publishing via NetGalley. All opinions expressed are entirely my own.**

Thursday, October 18, 2018

REVIEW: Little Shop of Found Things

The Little Shop of Found Things
Author: Paula Brackston

After leaving London for a fresh start, Xanthe runs an antique store in Marlborough with her mother, Flora. Xanthe finds herself feeling a connection to the people that owned the items that they offer for sale in the shop. Then it becomes more than just a feeling....she touches one item and finds herself transported back to 1605. A ghost demands Xanthe's help with righting an injustice.

This book is such a nice blend of supernatural, mystery and romance. It's a bit like Outlander meets antique-ing. I found the plot creative and interesting...I didn't want to stop reading! This book is a nice start to a new series. I can't wait to find out what object might send Xanthe back into the past in the next book!

Paula Brackston is the author of several other books including The Witch's Daughter series. The Little Shop of Found Things is the first book by Brackston that I have read. I'm definitely going to check out her other books!

**I voluntarily read an advanced readers copy of this book from St Martin's Press via NetGalley. All opinions expressed are entirely my own.**

REVIEW: Foundryside

Author: Robert Jackson Bennett

Sancia Grado is a thief. She's a very good thief, in fact. So good that she gets hired to sneak past multiple guards at the Tevanne docks and steal a magical artifact. And she does -- but she never realized how important and dangerous an item she was stealing. Now powerful people want her dead. She has two choices -- die, or learn to harness magic to save herself. Guess which one she picks?

This book is amazing! I love Sancia as a main character. She is intelligent, cunning and feisty. But...she still gets in over her head. Totally over her head. But, she's wily enough to do whatever she can to get herself out of trouble...which leads to more trouble, of course. This book has engaging characters, an entertaining plot and lots of creative story-telling. Loved it!

Foundryside is an excellent start to a new fantasy series. I will definitely be reading more! Robert Jackson Bennett has written several books including Mr. Shivers and the Divine Cities trilogy.

**I voluntarily read a review copy of this book from Crown Publishing via Netgalley. All opinions expressed are entirely my own.**

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

REVIEW: The Dream Daughter

The Dream Daughter
Author: Diane Chamberlain

It's 1970. Caroline Sears' husband has died fighting in Vietnam and her unborn daughter will be born with a life-threatening heart defect. There is no way to treat her daughter's condition and Caroline is devastated. Then her mysterious brother in law, Hunter, proposes a fantastical solution to the problem that might just save the baby's life. Hunter is a physicist and tells Caroline that she can travel forward in time, access advanced medical care for the ailing baby, then come back to 1970 with a healthy daughter. Only things don't go as smoothly as Hunter promises.....

This story is so creative with many twists and surprises. While it is a tale about how much a mother is willing to sacrifice and endure for her child, it also gives a healthy lesson about not messing with time. There are consequences. While time travel is not a new plot by any means, I loved the premise of this story. The book is well-written, paced nicely and the author really takes a new and creative approach to the idea of time travel.

Diane Chamberlain has written more than 25 books. I really enjoyed this story and will definitely read more of her books!

**I voluntarily read a review copy of this book from St. Martins Press via NetGalley. All opinions expressed are entirely my own.**

REVIEW: Stars Uncharted

Stars Uncharted
Author: S.K. Dunstall

There is a lot going on in this sci-fi romp -- body modifications and exchanging, evil and greedy corporations, space exploration, and just lots of action-packed adventure. It's a space adventure that gave me a Firefly-type fix, with more intrigue and genetic modifications added into the mix. Sometimes I just need an entertaining adventure in space to make me happy. This book put a smile on my face. :) See?

For the first third of this book the story dealt mainly with genetic modifications and body exchanges. While that is interesting and I like the Nika (the body modder) as a character, the story moved a bit too slowly for me at first. But, once the action got started, I was so hooked on this story. It definitely kept my attention. The character development and the world is just so richly creative. This was definitely fun to read!

This sci-fi story is well-written, engaging and incredibly creative. I like it when I find a story that is different and new....this isn't just a recycled sci-fi plot with tired trope-y characters. Nicely done!

The cover art is gorgeous!!

S.K. Dunstall also write the Linesman series. I liked this book, so I'm definitely going to read her other series!

**I voluntarily read a review copy of this book from Berkley Publishing via NetGalley. All opinions expressed are entirely my own.**

REVIEW: The Witch of Willow Hall

The Witch of Willow Hall
Author: Hester Fox

In 1821, the Montrose family flees Boston in the wake of a scandal. They settle in New Oldbury, MA with their three daughters. Their new country home, Willow Hall, seems perfect, but the longer they live there the more dark history seems to seep out of the very walls. Secrets never stay in the shadows indefinitely. One of the Montrose daughters is a witch and doesn't know it yet...but she will have to call on her powers to protect those she loves from the secrets and evil lurking at Willow Hall. The Montrose family will never be the same.

I loved this story! It has touches of creepy gothic darkness, social commentary, a bit of scandal, and even a splash of romance. Definitely a lot of dark, gothic fun in this book! The suspense developed slowly, building as the darkness of the story was revealed. I liked how the truth being revealed was not only about the history of Willow Hall and events there, but also the secrets and scandal that caused the Montrose family to leave Boston.

This book is definitely written for the YA audience, but will be enjoyable for adult readers as well. It's age appropriate for teenage readers.

The Witch of Willow Hall is Hester Fox's debut novel. I'm definitely going to keep an eye out for more by this new author! This story had just the right amount of creepy...not too much, not too little. It kept my attention from beginning to end!

**I voluntarily read an advanced readers copy of this book from Harlequin/Graydon House Books via NetGalley. All opinions expressed are entirely my own.**

REVIEW: Under My Skin

Under My Skin
Author: Lisa Unger

Poppy lives in a constant state of confusion and grief. Just a year ago her husband was murdered in Manhattan. She descended into a mental breakdown, disappearing for several days, only to reappear in clothes she didn't even recognize without any memories of the days she was missing. The murder was never solved, and she has never regained the time she lost. Unless the things she sees in nightmares are memories. And now, someone is following her.....     What is real? And what is nightmare?

Wow! This book is dark, disturbing, emotional .... just a great psychological thriller. It was a bit confusing in places....but that's all part of the plot. Poppy is confused and afraid, so a bit of confusion on the reader's part just helps build the suspense. The author does a great job of portraying a woman living in a state of fear, confusion and the after-effects of a mental breakdown. She isn't sure what is reality and what is not. She wants to know the truth of what happened and where she was for the time she was missing.....but at the same time, she is afraid of the truth. The whole time I was reading, I was imaging what I would do in the same situation.....   Yikes! Quite disturbing! Very, very twisted! I had to take the trash out after dark while I was reading this book. I kept looking over my shoulder as if expected a dark, hooded figure to be lurking somewhere in the dark, watching and following me. I hurried back into the house...and kept reading!!

This is the first book by Lisa Unger that I have read. I have heard so many good things about her books that I was excited to read this one. I'm glad I did -- this book was well-written and extremely engrossing. I got sucked right into the story and just had to know what happened to Poppy and her husband. It quickly turned into a late night reading binge. I'm definitely going to read more by Lisa Unger! She has several other thrillers that sound like awesome reading, including The Sleep Tight Motel and The Whispering Hollows. Looks like there are many creepy nights of reading ahead for me!

**I voluntarily read a review copy of this book from Harlequin/Hanover Square Press via NetGalley. All opinions expressed are entirely my own.**

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

REVIEW: The Kennedy Debutante

The Kennedy Debutante
Author: Kerri Maher

I inwardly cringe every time the Kennedy Family is portrayed as "American royalty.'' No, no, no. Wealthy? Yes. Privileged? Yes. Powerful? Without a doubt. But I hate seeing them put on a pedestal. Digging into the history and behavior of the Kennedy clan can be quite a disturbing experience. One daughter lobotomized to avoid scandal and hidden away for the rest of her life. Another dead in Europe before her time, separated from her family because she defied her father. Two sons shot to death. One son getting away with murder after letting a girl drown in his car at Chappaquiddick. It's not a golden story....but a really dark and sad one. And all for ambition, power and greed. Seems such a waste.

After listening to an audio book about the life and lobotomizing of Rosemary Kennedy earlier this year, I wanted to learn more about her sister, Kathleen "Kick'' Kennedy, so I snapped up this book! Kick grew up in privilege, enjoying Europe in the 1930's when her father was an ambassador and becoming a bright, beautiful debutante. Much was expected of her by her parents. They had ambitions for their family and expected Kick to tow the line. She didn't. She fell in love with an Englishman that her family did not approve of. Kick defied her family, choosing love over duty to her parents' ambitions. Her choices had consequences.

 Although I found the Kick's story disturbing and sad, the book is well-written and filled in some gaps in my knowledge of her life and experiences. This is Kerri Maher's debut novel. I will definitely be looking for more by this new author! This book was informative, obviously well-researched and very interesting.

I think I need to lay off books about the Kennedy family for awhile though. It's just too much......with nothing really hopeful or uplifting coming out of any of it. Sad. No reflection on Maher's book -- the book is excellent! Great debut novel! Just thoughts about the family and all the destruction that came in the wake of extreme ambition. Power corrupts.

**I voluntarily read a review copy of this book from Berkley Publishing via NetGalley. All opinions expressed are entirely my own.**

REVIEW: Behind the Door

Behind the Door
Author: Mary SanGiovanni

The small town of Zarepath has a strange secret. A door. Nobody knows where it came from or exactly how it works, but if you follow some simple rules, it can ease burdens. It doesn't always work as expected...but it always works. A note sealed with wax and blood slipped under the outpouring of emotion and need....wait three days....and the door does the rest. There is just one Big Rule that cannot be broken -- NEVER EVER open the door. Unfortunately, sometimes broken people break rules.

OMG! This book was so suspenseful and fun to read! I love weird, spooky stories and this story about a magical strange door was wonderfully creepy and awesome! The town did great for awhile dealing with times that the door sort of got things wrong....or letting new people in town know the rules....but their luck certainly ran out when a woman freaked out and opened the door to get her letter back. MISTAKE! There are no take-backs when it comes to supernatural shit-shows....   Who you gonna call?? Kathy Ryan, Occult specialist.

The whole time I was reading this book I wanted to yell at the residents of Zarepath...warning them. If supernatural beings offer you favors, wishes, say NO THANK YOU and walk away. There is always a price. And wishes never ever get granted the way you think they will. All those ghostly the one where two old people wish for money to pay a debt and just as they utter the wish there is a knock at the door. It's news that their son was killed and there is a death payment due them of exactly the amount they wished for. Like the old saying says....when you sup with the devil, you use a long spoon. It is never never wise to play games with things you don't understand. And it's even dumber to do it right where you live. Plus....if there is one un-breakable rule, it is pretty much a given that some ninnyhammer will come along and break that rule. There's one (or usually multiples) in every group/town/family. Always. The residents of Zarepath certainly learned their lesson. What were they thinking! Sure makes for an awesome story though!

Kathy Ryan is a great main character. She comes in to face the evil that has poured out of the open door, and shows amazing bravery and talents at facing the supernatural. It made for a great, eerie, entertaining story! Loved it!

Another book in this series, Inside the Asylum, is coming out in 2019! I will definitely be reading it!

**I voluntarily read a review copy of this book from Kensington Books via NetGalley. All opinions expressed are entirely my own. No magical doors were opened or messed with during the reading of this book.**

Monday, October 15, 2018

REVIEW: They Fought in Colour

They Fought in Colour
Author: The Vimy Foundation

Because World War I is so far in the past and all of the Canadian soldiers who fought in it are now dead, it's hard to put that history into perspective. Black & White photos from that era somehow make the people seem less real, separating us from them. So the Vimy Foundation has colorized photographs of Candadian forces from 1914-1918 to bring them to life. This book gives information on Canadian forces in the war, the battles they fought in, the roles of soldiers and nurses, training, trench warfare, field hospitals and other aspects of The Great War.

The photographs in this book are amazing. I read this book on my Ipad just so I could zoom in on pictures to better see the faces of the troops. So many gave their lives....and now are almost forgotten. This book serves as a remembrance to all of those who gave their lives. They aren't just historical notes from 100 years ago that don't matter anymore.....they were women, men, sons, daughters, spouses, sweethearts.....people. The colorized photos bring these faces and places back to life. I found myself wondering what each person was like, did they miss the family and friends they left behind, and did they survive the war or not.

The information is presented tastefully. There are no photos of deceased troops, graphic injuries or mistreatment of POWs. Most of the photos are of troops, events, trenches between battles and training events. Everything presented in this book is respectful to the individuals involved. The text is in English and in French.

I can't even imagine how scary trench warfare was for the troops...or the new perils soldiers faced like tanks and poison gas. Not to mention the illness and physical toll it took on them.....trench foot, the flu epidemic, battle related injuries. It must have been pure hell. This book reminded me to be thankful of the sacrifices of all soldiers....those in the past and those still serving today.

I very much enjoyed this book. The photographs are accompanied by interesting information about Canada's overall participation in the war. Any history buff or those who had a family member who fought in The Great War will love this book. Beautiful photos and great information.

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

Sunday, October 14, 2018

REVIEW: True or Poo?

True or Poo?
The Definitive Field Guide to Filthy Animal Facts and Falsehoods
Authors: Nick Caruso and Dani Rabaiotti

Ever wondered how many of those little factoids about animals and insects we've all heard before (like how many spiders we all swallow while we sleep at night) are actually true? This book upholds some myths about animals and debunks others, presenting the information in an interesting and entertaining way. I had a great time reading this book....and even read several selections out loud to the family. The cute illustrations were fun as well.

The facts are on all sorts of topics ranging from mating and courtship rituals to eating and defenses. Facts are sorted into chapters by topic, with each individual fact or myth presented in a few paragraphs. This book is very easy to read and understand, while being very entertaining and interesting. We always have one of those lovely bathroom reader books in each bathroom in our house -- I think this book would do very well in that capacity as well. Especially since the title is True or Poo? :)

The book has many strange and interesting facts. It definitely kept me entertained from beginning to end. Some were a particular type of male octopus that can fling its penis like a harpoon to avoid being eaten by females. And some were just the ability of a shark's brain to keep it constantly swimming even while it's sleeping. Some myths were solidly debunked, such as the story that we are never more than six feet away from a rat or that we ingest spiders while sleeping. Not true. Thank God!

I've already pre-ordered several copies of this book. Each year we give bathroom reader books to family members as Christmas presents....and this will be our informational offering for this year. Definitely a fun and educational book!

**I voluntarily read a review copy of this book from Hachette Books via NetGalley. All opinions expressed are entirely my own. And, I was NOT within six feet of a rat while writing this review. Whew!**

REVIEW: Toil and Trouble

Toil and Trouble
Author: various

I love spooky stories about witches, but they can get a bit trope-y at times. Variations on the same theme. Black cats. Warts. Spells. Incantations. It gets a bit repetitive. Toil & Trouble is a story anthology about witches that gives a new spin to the classic tales. These stories are diverse, creative, and entertaining, with a dash of spooky witchiness.

From love spells that go wrong to witch hunts, these 15 stories celebrate all things Witch....with a empowering, feminist overtone.

Each story gives a bit of a new spin to the witch tale. Creative, entertaining and thought-provoking anthology! I really enjoyed this book! Each story is different and interesting. I tried to pick a favorite, but it was pretty much a tie between two: Daughters of Baba Yaga and Why They Watch Us Burn. But, all of the stories are good!

Stories included are:

Starsong - Tehlor Kay Mejia
Afterbirth - Andrea Cremer
The Heart in Her Hands - Tess Sharpe
Death in the Sawtooths - Lindsay Smith
The Truth about Queenie - Brandy Colbert
The Moonapple Menagerie - Shveta Thakrar
The Legend of Stone Mary -  Robin Talley
The One Who Stayed - Nova Ren Suma
Divine Are The Stars - Zoraida Cordova
Daughters of Baba Yaga - Brenda Yovanoff
The Well Witch - Kate Hart
Beware of Girls With Crooked Mouths - Jessica Spotswood
Love Spell - Anna-Marie McLemore
The Gherin Girls - Emery Lord
Why They Watch Us Burn - Elizabeth May

This book is definitely intended for a young adult audience. I still enjoyed it, despite having passed the Young Adult stage a few decades ago. The stories seek to empower women and show a different side to witch tales. A bit of diversity mixed in with the spookiness was a nice change!

**I voluntarily read a review copy of this book from Harlequin Teen via NetGalley. All opinions expressed are entirely my own.**

Saturday, October 13, 2018

REVIEW: Coldfall Wood

Coldfall Wood
Author: Steven Saville

A sleeping god awakes. Danger. Murder. Mysterious illness. Bad things start happening.....and Joshua Raines will have to become a true hero, stepping up to fight an epic battle. The tale of Glass Town continues.....

When I accept ARC copies of books for review, I promise to write an honest review. And I always do. Even when I have to say that I just did not enjoy a book. I'm always constructive in my criticism, but I'm never going to be less than honest.

Not every book is for every reader. I say that because this book is just not something I can enjoy reading. So....much as I hate to do it....I DNF'd this book at 60%. I tried three times to finish so I could write a complete review....but finally I had to give up and declare it done.

Now....that doesn't mean that this is a bad book. It just means that I, personally, did not enjoy this story. I did not realize it was a continuation of the story started in Glass Town. Even though the book blurb said it can be read as a stand alone story, I found the plot, basic premise and characters confusing because I haven't read the first book. I couldn't get into the story because I didn't understand the motivation of the characters or if this was a mystery/crime investigation or supernatural story. The mixing of the two just didn't work for me in this case. This series is just not for me.

I have heard some very wonderful things about Steven Saville's other I think I will try another selection and see if it's a better fit for me. I did a bit of looking around at other reviews and found many readers like this series....I'm glad. :) It just is not a good fit for me.

**I voluntarily read a review copy of this book from St Martin's Press via NetGalley. All opinions expressed are entirely my own.**

REVIEW: Claw The System

Claw The System
Author: Francesco Marciuliano

Anyone who has a cat knows that felines are plotting to take over the world. They have already enslaved much of's only a matter of time. Every cat lover knows this is true.....but we all continue to love and adore our kitties. :) It's all a part of their insidious plan.

Claw the System is a collection of photos of cats and poetry expressing their disenchantment with humans and their habits, foibles and just existence in general (other than filling their food dishes and pats when ordered). Some of the commentary is obviously thinly veiled reflections and thoughts about the current political and social atmostphere.....but it's not overdone or ridiculous. Just funny. :) The poems are creative, outragously fun to read, and cute.....yet poignant. Loved it!

I loved this book! I often think my cats roll their eyes and shake their heads at nearly everything I do....and this book just upheld that belief 100%. The color pictures of cute kitties are great, and the poems are cute. This book is by the same people who published I Could Pee On This and other similar books. Definitely a must-read for cat lovers!

Unfortunately my cats read my galley of this book and want to know where they can go to join the uprising. They keep calling me their "minion.''  This could be really bad......I think I'm being stalked....

**I voluntarily read a review copy of this book from Andrews McMeel Publishing via NetGalley. All opinions expressed are entirely my own.**

Friday, October 12, 2018

REVIEW: Merci Suarez Changes Gears

Merci Suarez Changes Gears
Author: Meg Medina

Sixth grade is a tough year for every child. As a scholarship student at an expensive academy, it's even tougher for Merci Suarez. Not only does she have to learn to endure middle school where she doesn't always feel she fits in with her classmates, but she also has to start growing up and facing changes. Not just changes in herself, but changes in her family as well. Her brother is getting ready to leave for college and her grandfather is showing symptoms of Alzheimer's disease. It's a time of change and lessons to learn. Merci Suarez faces them with strength and intelligence.

I'm really impressed by the selection of children's books published by Candlewick Press. Every book I have read has just been outstanding! Merci Suarez Changes Gears touches on some major topics for middle school girls -- the end of childhood, growing up, taking more responsibility, seeing grandparents age, the pain of older siblings leaving home, learning to love and care for smaller children in the family, and just the joys and stress of living with extended family. This book is heart-felt, emotional and completely awesome! Merci learns to think of others and grows up a bit, while learning to live in her own skin and love the person she is. Wonderful story!

Meg Medina has written several books for the YA and middle grade audience. I will definitely be reading more by this author!

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

Thursday, October 11, 2018

REVIEW: The Toy Thief

The Toy Thief
Author: D.W. Gillespie

9-year old Jack lives with her father and older brother, Andy. At night, something dark sneaks into their house, creeping and crawling through the shadows. Jack isn't sure what the creature is....but she knows it is something she was never meant to see. And it steals things. Particular things that give joy or hold happy She calls it The Toy Thief. The dark being with the strange eyes doesn't just want to terrorize wants much more than that. Sometimes knowledge comes with a price.

The suspense and darkness of this story build slowly, until the truth of the monstrous situation is revealed. I got sucked right into this story and it held my attention until the very end. How terrifying would it be to have a dark, evil thing sneaking around every night, stealing the very things that are most precious to you? As a child, I was scared of the dark.....and I can only imagine how much more terrifying it would have been to see what Jack saw. And then to realize that you couldn't unsee it....that sometimes knowing about something evil has a cost.

Awesome dark and disturbing tale! Definitely a great Halloween season read!

This is the first book by D.W. Gillespie that I have read. He has written several other horror novels including The Tree Man and All Safe In Here. I'm definitely going to be reading more by Gillespie! This book was delightfully frightening!

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

REVIEW: Blessed Be the Wicked

Blessed Be the Wicked
Author: D.A. Bartley

Detective Abish Taylor has returned to Utah where she grew up.  She's trying to put her life back together after the death of her husband and just had to get out of New York. She never intended to return to Utah. After leaving the Mormon faith, her family relationships are difficult....but this is a chance to start over so she's going to do the best she can. She expected her detective position at the Pleasant View PD to be pretty bland, as the crime rate is incredibly low. But then new homeowners find a dead man in their closet. Not just dead.....his throat has been cut. His clothing and body point to this being some sort of Mormon blood atonement ceremony. The local Mormons want this kept quiet to prevent scandal....but Abish knows she needs to solve this case.

I wasn't sure I was going to like this book. I'm not usually all that interested in books that lean heavily on religion, especially religious factions that control local government or attempt to hide crimes to stop scandal. But...this story is very well written and definitely suspenseful. Despite a few twinges at the Mormon-centric plot, I found myself engrossed in this story of secrets, lies, hypocrisy, and the many demons that can be hidden behind religion. I felt Abbie's frustration every time local Mormon leaders controlled information, slowed her investigation or put pressure on her and others to keep things quiet, even hinting the case didn't need to be solved. With a father who is high up in the Mormon hierarchy and already strained family relationships, Abbie is really between a rock and a hard place. She can stay true to herself and her career by solving this case, no matter what it brings to light. Or, she can placate her father and Mormon leaders and smooth her job, family and local relationships. 

Great story! Very well-written. The suspense builds quickly and keeps steady from start to finish. The characters are nicely developed. I loved Abbie as a main character. She is strong, intelligent, somewhat broken, but always true to herself.

I will definitely be reading more of this series! That shocks me, I usually just hate books that intertwine religion so much with the plot....but in this case, it really worked. Making waves in a place where religion forms the local culture is difficult and sometimes dangerous. As a former Catholic, I found myself sympathizing with Abbie. The Catholic church fights to cover up things that maybe should see the light of abuse and other crimes. And, my leaving the Catholic church caused a very harsh family schism in my own that still exists today. There will be no smoothing over the rift in my case, which I have had to learn to live with. I can see this becoming a favorite series for me. I can't wait for the next book!

A word of caution:  This book might be a bit offensive for those of Mormon faith. It talks about some of the more violent aspects of Mormon history and shows a local church leadership bent on hiding secrets, even if that means stopping the investigation of a murder. The plot doesn't pull any punches and talks about some aspects of temple and Mormon life that according to a Mormon friend of mine are really not supposed to be talked about. If that would offend you, might be best to pass this one by.

**I voluntarily read a review copy of this book from Crooked Lane Books via NetGalley. All opinions expressed are entirely my own.**

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

REVIEW: The House By the Cemetery

The House By the Cemetery
Author: John Everson

Mike Kostner is having a rough time. His wife left him, he's lonely and going into the slow season for construction work. An offer from a friend for a construction job couldn't come at a better time. Perry wants him to strengthen the floors and stairs in the old Bremen House at Bachelor's old house with many local legends told about murder, ritual sacrifice, witchcraft, satanism, ghosts.....  What a perfect place to construct a gruesome haunted house! Perry promises if the county makes money from the venture, then Mike's construction company will in turn get more work and more money. It seems a win-win situation...     Until Mike starts working on the house.  Then it seems.....  evil.

I love reading horror novels in the fall! This lovely, demented tale by John Everson is a perfect October release! The old Bremen House is creepy, evil and scary! I enjoyed this story! The suspense builds up nicely and it has just the right mix of creepy, scary, demented and just icky emotions. Nicely done! The ending is unusual....but completely fits with the story.

There is a bit of sex and gruesomeness in this book that leads me to say it probably shouldn't be read by teens younger than 14. Bit adult in places. Nothing too graphic, but not for kids.

All in all, an entertaining, very creepy read. I found myself having discussions with Mike in my head while I was reading. Kinda like when I catch myself yelling at the TVduring cheesy horror movies: "No! Don't go in the basement to check the fuses!''  I kept wanting to lecture ol' Mike about his choices in girlfriends, and his dedication to a job that he should have walked away from when the creepy stuff started. It reminded me of that old Eddie Murphy routine about white guys and haunted houses. When the house screams "get out!'' white guys move in with their kids, their elderly parents, etc. Anybody else sees S like that and they run back to their car and drive away, never looking back. shoulda run while you had the chance.

Too Late.

Anybody who loves horror, haunted house, witchy or devilish tales will enjoy this book!

**I voluntarily read an advanced readers copy of this book from Flame Tree Press. All opinions expressed are completely my own.**

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

REVIEW: Grace and Fury

Grace and Fury
Author: Tracy Banghart

In a world where women have few, if any, rights, Serina and Nomi Tessaro have been raised to accept their fate. All her life, Serina has dreamed of becoming a Grace...a pliant, graceful servant of the Heir. It will be an easy life, and it is expected of her. Her sister Nomi doesn't accept that it's her fate to be an uneducated, subservient woman. She hides a secret.....her brother broke the law and taught her to read. When Nomi's secret causes a role reversal between these two sisters, they both have to become strong and fight for what's on an island prison for women and the other while serving as a Grace to the Heir.

For me, this book was just ok. While I totally understand the point -- women deserve to form their own destinies and have equal rights and opportunity with men -- the plot just seems very contrived. In the past couple of years, stories about women having no rights and being restricted from work, education and simple tasks like reading have just been over-done. I do understand (particularly since I am a woman myself) that this is a hot topic right now. I am  just growing weary of the same tired story line. It took me three tries to get through this book.

On the good side, I do like the characters. The two sisters are witty, intelligent and able to get along despite the fact that they are very different. And, the men are not all portrayed as narcissistic, sexist pigs. There are a few pigs, of course.....but some very redeeming male characters as well. I also like the fact that the book's message is that it's ok to be a smart, intelligent woman. And it's ok to choose to be pretty and graceful......or to be more studious. Either choice is powerful.....and both together -- amazing!

All things considered, I can't say I liked this book though.

I didn't hate the story, but I didn't like it either. I think in this case it's just a matter of this book not being for me. This book is written for a Young Adult audience and just felt a bit juvenile and forced to me. BUT.....I'm 50 years old and nowhere near the age this book is targeting. That being said....I think even a 14-25 year old me would have felt that this story is a bit too contrived to get it's background point across.

Not every book is for every person. This one is just not for me. There are many, many people who have read it and loved it. I'm glad! It's an important point -- women can be strong, intelligent and live their lives unfettered. Be strong! Be amazing! And....women have a right to their own opinions.....and this time I just disagree with the majority. This story speaks to others though -- and that is always a great thing!

**I voluntarily read a review copy of this book from Little, Brown Books via NetGalley. All opinions expressed are entirely my own.**

Monday, October 8, 2018

REVIEW: The Spellbook of Katrina Van Tassel

The Spellbook of Katrina Van Tassel
Author: Alyssa Palombo

I have a weakness for re-tellings. This one had me completely sucked into the story from the first line:

Washington Irving got it wrong. 

Katrina Van Tassel tells her story. All the characters are there.....Ichabod Crane, Brom Van Brunt, the Headless Horseman. Only the tale doesn't unfold as Washington Irving told it. Katrina meets Ichabod, immediately forming a friendship with the new schoolmaster, which soon turns to romance. They begin sneaking off into the woods to meet. But the schoolmaster really has nothing to offer....he's poor and has no social standing. Katrina's father prefers his daughter choose Brom Van Brunt. But, Katrina wants nothing to do with him. Then Icabod disappears. With the help of her friend Charlotte, Katrina searches to find out what happened to Icabod....all the while worrying that the ghostly headless horseman might not be just a legend.

I loved getting the story from Katrina's point of view. She enjoys Icabod's company because they have similar interests, but she is afraid she will be forced into a marriage with Brom because of money. In a time where women were controlled by their families, Katrina wants a life with someone she can love. When Icabod disappears, she is determined to find out what happened to him, even if she has to call on the witchy talents of her best friend to accomplish it.

The Legend of Spooky Hollow is one of my favorite spooky reads for fall. This story puts a brand new spin on a favorite classic tale! I loved it! I feel the author stayed true to the feel of the classic, while giving it a completely new direction. Definitely a great book to read in October!

**I voluntarily read a review copy of this book from St Martin's Press via NetGalley. All opinions expressed are entirely my own.**