Tuesday, April 30, 2019

REVIEW: The Invited

The Invited
Author: Jennifer McMahon

Helen and Nate buy 44 acres near Hartsboro, Vermont to build their dream home. A mile outside of the nearby village, it's the country setting they envision for their life together. But....the property comes with a violent and haunted past. Almost a century before, Hattie Breckenridge was hanged on the property, accused of being a witch. Helen becomes obsessed with the story of Hattie, and the two generations of Breckenridge women since the hanging. The story evolves into a gothic ghost story with a bit of an unexpected twist.

This is the first book by Jennifer McMahon that I've read. I have read a short piece, Hannah-Beast, from Amazon Originals by McMahon. I like how this story doesn't just develop into a formula story about a haunting. The past wraps itself around the present as the story of Hattie and her descendants unfolds. It makes for a much more complex...and creepy....story.

I enjoyed this book. The characters and plot developed in ways I didn't expect. I love it when I expect a formula story and get surprised! I've added several thrillers by McMahon to my TBR list. I like her writing style and hope to find her other books as enjoyable as this one.

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

Monday, April 29, 2019

REVIEW: The Strangest of Strange Unsolved Mysteries Vol 1

The Strangest of Strange Unsolved Mysteries Vol 1
Author: Phyllis Raybin Emert

Before the internet and sites like Youtube, kids were reading books like this one to get a good dose of creepy-strange. When I went to school in the 70s/80s, there were all sorts of story collections about strange, eerie, and mysterious events. I'm glad to see these types of books are still being published. Strangest of Strange Unsolved Mysteries was published in 2010. I bet some of the stories from this book were included in the older books I read. Great unsolved mysteries are always intriguing!

I was totally addicted to these books in grade school! Every time we got a book order form, I would order one or two and then share the tales with my parents and older siblings. I'm sure they all got tired of my complete addiction to pirates, ghosts, unexplained/unsolved mysteries....but I loved it! Still do! These days I get a lot of my unexplained fix from Youtube and television....but I still read books like this every chance I get!

The Strangest of Strange Unsolved Mysteries Vol 1 gathers tales about lost treasure and ghosts. I had a great time reading all these tales! Some were a bit scary, others weird, and some a bit unbelievable....but all fun to read! I jumped online several times to check on these stories to see if the mystery was solved between its publication in 2010 and today. There are 25 stories about lost and sunken treasures, followed by 27 ghostly tales. Each section has its own glossary and bibliography. The stories are short and all are middle grade appropriate. Some stories are a bit creepy or scary.....but not overly so. Each story is short, but well-written. A reluctant or slow reader with an interest in strange facts might really enjoy this book. The stories are varied and all are interesting. Not a boring tale in the bunch!

All in all, a fun, interesting read! I'm hunting up a copy of Volume Two...

Phyllis Raybin Emert has written several books for middle grade kids. Many of them are about unsolved mysteries or strange facts ranging from lost ships and planes to UFOS and strange animals. I'm definitely going to be reading more of her work!

Sunday, April 28, 2019

REVIEW: What Makes a Fish a Fish?

What Makes a Fish a Fish?
Author: Andi Cann

As a grandma and a former home-school teacher, I always keep a lookout for great children's books. Andi Cann's Animal Classes series for young children is excellent! What Makes a Fish a Fish is the latest book in the series.

This series is appropriate for preschool and younger elementary age children. While the younger kids might not understand the science facts like a K-1st grade student might, the full-color pictures will definitely catch their attention! The book explains the special things about fish (lives in water, gills and fins, etc) and about animals that also live in the water but aren't fish. Each page has a full-color photo or illustration.

This would be a great book to read before a fishing trip or an outing to an aquarium or zoo. Great information on fish for young kids!

In the back of the book there is a listing of the names of the fish pictured throughout the book. Kids will ask! Saves parents/grandparents from googling types of fish to find out! :) Page numbers are included to make it easy.

Andi Cann has written several awesome books for children! I'm enjoying reading them...always looking for interesting and educational book to send to the grandkids!

Saturday, April 27, 2019

REVIEW: Atlas Alone

Atlas Alone
Author: Emma Newman

Atlas Alone is the 4th book in the Planetfall series. The prior three books could be read as standalone novels. Each book told the story of the aftermath of a cult's exodus from Earth from a different perspective. Atlas Alone brings the prior plots full circle, bringing back characters from previous books and making references to events in all of the prior Planetfall novels. This isn't a standalone story a reader can jump into before reading the other books in the series. There are spoilers regarding the endings of a couple of the prior novels and characters whose back stories are essential to understanding the events in this book.

I accidentally requested this review copy months ago. I don't usually jump in mid-series. The concept sounded so interesting that I backed up and started reading the Planetfall series from the beginning before starting this book. I'm glad I did. This is by far the best science fiction series I've read in a long time. The plots and characters are complex. The first three books showed the aftermath of one event from different perspectives. This fourth book brings it all together to move the storyline along in a way I didn't expect.

Atlas 2 has left Earth, carrying what's left of humanity after nuclear strikes destroyed much of the planet. Dee speculates that the person who ordered those strikes is on board the ship. She contemplates revenge and submerges herself in "mersives''....complex video games.....to keep herself occupied during the voyage to the colony planet. I liked the gaming aspect of the plot. And as usual with this series the plot was quite complex and sucked me right in. I couldn't stop reading -- totally binge read this book!

Awesome book!

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

Friday, April 26, 2019

REVIEW: Last Night

Last Night
Author: Karen Ellis

Valedictorian of his high school class, Titus "Crisp" Crespo has a bright future. He's heading to Princeton in the fall and looks forward to college life. A series of bad decisions on one fateful day lead Crisp down a path he never expected to follow, where he will face a father he's never known and decisions he wanted to avoid ever facing. When Crisp's mother reports him missing, Detective Lex Cole has to unravel the events of Crisp's day to locate the youth, and his companion, Glynnie, after their disappearance.

This is a story that hits many of the big social concerns: racism. inequality, targeting of minorities by police, injustice, addiction, abuse, murder, etc. One bad decision leads into more like the domino effect for Crisp. One bad day might completely derail his life.

Last Night is the second book in The Searchers series. In the first book, Detective Lex Cole was mostly in a support position for FBI Agent Elsa Myers. This time, Lex is in the forefront with his partner, Saki Finley. Lex has a lot going on in his personal life, as he worries over his boyfriend possibly seeing someone else. He pushes those feelings to the side and hits this case hard, searching for two teenagers who are making some very poor, and possibly life-threatening, decisions. Elsa shows up a couple times in passing during the story, but she really doesn't figure into the plot in this second book. In fact, this second book really could be read as a standalone story. It isn't necessary to have read A Map of the Dark first to enjoy this story. While I was happy to see Lex become a more developed character and to see what a great detective he is, this story didn't grab  my attention quite as quickly as the first book in the series. This story develops a little more slowly, and focuses more on social justice than detective work. It caught me a bit by surprise. I was expecting more of the same vibe from the first book. The difference in pace and style surprised me a bit....but once I got into the plot and realized this was going to be totally different than A Map of the Dark, I got sucked into the story. 

I'm very interested to see where this series goes from here. I will definitely read more! Very curious to see who the main character will be in the next book. Will the series jump around, switching up each time? Or will it settle into focusing on Lex....Elsa....someone else? Each story so far has been well-written with complex and flawed characters. It makes for an interesting read....a different experience than other crime novels with more formula main characters.

Karen Ellis is a pen name for Author Katia Lief. The Searchers is my first experience with her writing. I've added her Karin Schaffer series to my TBR list.

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

Thursday, April 25, 2019

REVIEW: City of Flickering Light

City of Flickering Light
Author: Juliette Fay

It all starts in 1921 when Irene Van Beck and her two friends, Millie and Henry, jump from a moving train. They were tired of life with a travelling burlesque show...low pay, abuse, constant moving around. The three friends find their way to Hollywood, dreaming of a new life acting in "flickers.'' Turns out, Hollywood glamour is an illusion hiding a seedy underside. The friends experience hunger, disappointment, and loss while trying to make it big in tinseltown.

I love tales of Old Hollywood, so jumped on the chance to read an early copy of this book by Juliette Fay. So many hopefuls have gone to Hollywood in the past 100 years....only to learn that competition is killer and the lifestyle is a soul-sucking experience. Many seek the glamour and fame...but few ever find it. These three friends experience so much together after jumping off that train...and the story is mesmerizing. It's like a peek behind the curtain into the dark shadows behind the glamour of Old Hollywood. Once I started reading this book, I couldn't put it down!!

This is the first book by Juliette Fay that I've read. I've added her book about the Vaudeville era, The Tumbling Turner Sisters, to my TBR stack!

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

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

REVIEW: Dutch Girl: Audrey Hepburn and World War II

Dutch Girl: Audrey Hepburn and World War II
Author: Robert Matzen

I have always loved Audrey Hepburn's films. She just shines on the screen...so beautiful, so poised and talented. I learned years ago about her charitable work through UNICEF. She was a kind and giving person, as well as intelligent and talented. This book talks about Audrey's life before Hollywood...the years she lived under the Nazi occupation of Holland.

I never realized how much she went through during World War II in the Netherlands. My respect for her has increased so much since I finished reading this book. She worked as a doctor's assistant, witnessed brutality, hunger and death, and survived it all. This book is not about Audrey as an actress....it is about her life prior to all of that. Her film career is mentioned only in passing. This book is about Audrey's years growing up during the war and how those experiences shaped who she became as an adult. Her life is so much more than her Hollywood career!!

This is the first book by Robert Matzen that I've read. He has also written books about Carole Lombard, Jimmy Stewart and Mulholland Farm...an infamous house owned by Errol Flynn. I'm definitely going to read his other books, starting with the one about Jimmy Stewart's war service: Mission (on my TBR shelf already).

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

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

REVIEW: The Pandora Room

The Pandora Room
Author: Christopher Golden

An archeologist discovers a suberranean city in Iraq. Inside a secret chamber covered in ancient writings, there is a jar. Pandora's Box. The ancient story tells of two jars....one containing all the blessings of the Gods and the other containing all of the curses. Which jar lies in the secret chamber? Suddenly governments and even ISIS are fighting for control of the jar. Will they unleash ancient curses upon the earth? Some myths are best left buried!

I enjoyed the first book in this series, Ararat. And I definitely enjoyed this sequel. The book wastes no time jumping into action. Archeologist Sophie Durand is followed by The Bad Guys in chapter one and the fight for control of Pandora's Box begins immediately. Ben Walker, admittedly an expert in "Weird Shit,'' joins the team just in time for the S to hit the fan. The book definitely has an Indiana Jones type feel....nefarious evildoers following archaeologists to gain control over a powerful mythological artifact.

The Pandora Room is an action-packed, thrilling read. The temptation to open Pandora's Box (if it were real and ever discovered) would be almost over-whelming. This book jumps right into the myth and proposes what would happen if the legendary vessel were discovered.

I'm definitely going to keep reading this series. I wonder what dangerous situation Ben Walker will find himself in next time? First Noah's Ark....now Pandora's Box. I can't wait to find out what will happen in the next book, Red Hands!!

**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: The Library of Lost and Found

The Library of Lost and Found
Author: Phaedra Patrick

Martha Storm cared for her aging parents for 15 years before their deaths. She does favors for everyone. She wants to be The Good Neighbor.....the one who is always there to help out, to be kind, to be useful. Her whole house is filled with these favors....laundry that needs to be done, fish and plants that need looking after, items to be repaired, pants to hem.....her whole life is filled with self-imposed obligations to others. Then one book....a book given to her by a stranger....changes everything. Martha recognizes the stories in the book....and goes on a quest to find out how the stories ended up in a book. What she finds out changes not only her view of the past, but her future.

Beautiful story! The Library of Lost and Found is a complex and quirky but heartwarming story about a woman searching for her true place in the world. I loved how the stories Martha wrote as a child were woven in with the book's plot, revealing a deeper meaning. The stories meant so much to Martha as a child....and they come to mean even more to her as an adult as she discovers family secrets and lies, and overcomes them.

This is the first book by Phaedra Patrick that I've read. I'm definitely going to read more by this author. I have added The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper and Rise and Shine, Benedict Stone to my TBR list! :)

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

REVIEW: A Dream of Death

A Dream of Death
Author: Connie Berry

Three years after the death of her husband in an accident on the island, Kate Hamilton returns to Glenroth. The island off the coast of Scotland has a sparse population of only 238 people once the tourist season is over. Kate returns to fulfill a promise she made to her husband to help her sister-in-law, Elenor Spurgeon. Elenor runs the Glenroth House Hotel. She contacted Kate requesting her help. Initially all Elenor will tell her is that something is happening on the island that worries her and shows Kate a small carved box. Elenor says everything that is occurring relates to the box. Unfortunately, Elenor is murdered before she can elaborate. Kate finds herself in the midst of a murder investigation. Who killed Elenor? And how does it all tie in with the intricately carved wooden box and another murder that happened 200 years in the past?

A Dream of Death is the first book in the Kate Hamilton series. I enjoyed the setting, the characters and the plot. I will definitely be reading more of this series! I like Kate as a main character. She is strong, intelligent, and driven to protect her friends and family. The side characters are all small town quirky, which adds to the charm and magic of this story.

A great start to a new cozy series! It made for a very enjoyable afternoon of reading! I am definitely eagerly awaiting the next book in the series!

Connie Berry also writes the Davis Way Crime Caper series.

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


Monday, April 22, 2019

REVIEW: Into the Wild

Into the Wild
Author: Jon Krakauer

I've always been fascinated with mountains. Not sure why...maybe it's the beauty. Maybe it's that I grew up in Kansas and rarely got to see peaks. Or maybe it's because mountains are wild, free and natural places....places that are still uncontrolled and dangerous. Pretty....and possibly deadly. Whatever the reason, I devour books, documentaries and films about famous mountains -- K2, Mount Everest, etc -- and famous (and infamous) expeditions. Dyetlov pass. Deaths on Everest. Calamities on K2. Alaskan wilderness tales. I find it fascinating that some are brave enough to challenge the toughest, wildest places on earth. Sometimes they are triumphant and return home fulfilled until the next adventure....and sometimes they fail and never return home at all.

Chris McCandless was such a brave soul. He tramped around the western United States for a couple years before venturing up to Alaska. He wanted to live off the land, wanted to be free, wanted to find his spiritual peace. But, he was ill prepared, made mistakes, and the Alaskan wilderness is unforgiving. Chris McCandless died in an old abandoned bus near an old mining road called The Stampede Trail. Into the Wild is about his life and his death.

Having read Jon Krakauer's book about an ill-fated trip up Mount Everest that ended in the deaths of several climbers, I knew he would present an unbiased story about McCandless. And, I was not disappointed. Krakauer doesn't just talk about McCandless starving to death alone in the Alaskan bush. He shares information from the young man's journals, his life, his thoughts on humanity......

I  listened to the audio book version of this story. Narrated by Phillip Franklin, the audio is just over seven hours long. I listened slowly and paused often to let things sink in. I tried to understand McCandless and his motives. In the end, I believe he had a good heart....a pure heart...and wanted more from life than making money and accumulating "stuff.'' He wanted to live, love, exist on a higher plane than that....he wanted to prove he could be strong, could take care of himself, and that he could live without modern conveniences or money. He just came too early, stayed too long, made mistakes.....

Great book. It's definitely an emotional story. As a mother it was hard for me to listen to some of the details. If my son starved to death in an abandoned bus in the wilderness.....I'm not sure my sanity would remain intact. But it's also a tale of strength of conviction....a man who was willing to risk his life to live the way he wanted to live. But I think in the end, his undoing was reading too much into the writings of men who talked the talk but didn't entirely walk the walk ... Henry David Thoreau and Jack London specifically. McCandless truly believed he could walk into the wilderness and survive...that he had the strength and human spirit necessary to subsist on his own without anybody else. That is noble.....but very difficult to sustain for long periods of time without adequate supplies and more knowledge than Candless possessed.

I'm so glad I read this book! It's a bittersweet story, but McCandless lived and died by his own rules. And, despite his life being cut short, I feel he was successful. He became the type of man he wanted to be....and in the end, that's all anyone can really hope for.

Jon Krakauer has written two other books about mountain climbing: Into Thin Air and Eiger Dreams. I loved Into Thin Air. And Eiger Dreams is on my TBR list.

Sunday, April 21, 2019

REVIEW: Superman Versus the Ku Klux Klan

Superman Versus the Ku Klux Klan
Author: Rick Bowers

I love Old Time Radio. :) I listen to every old radio show I can....super heroes, detectives, suspense stories....I love it all. And I loved this book!

In 1947, the Superman radio show pitted the iconic hero against the ku klux klan. This book outlines the history of Superman, antisemitism and other racial issues of the depression era, history of the klan, and the radio show that pitted the super hero against a racist organization.

I detest the klan with every fiber of my being. They didn't just hate people of color and Jews. My grandmother, whose sons were overseas fighting in World War II, was awakened one night to hooded klansmen burning a cross in her front yard. My family is of German descent and Catholic....so they decided to victimize a woman and her children on a rural farm while she was fearing for the lives of her four sons fighting in a war for their country. Bastards. Cowardly bigots. Hiding under hoods and robes....spewing hate. My father taught me well....he instilled in me the knowledge that judging others by their color, creed, nationality or sexual orientation is not just wrong, but small-minded and weak. Hate is a weak person's weapon. Period.

This book brought together my love of super heroes, old radio and history. I learned some facts about the creators of Superman that I didn't know before...did my best to listen to the history of the klan without throwing up....and enjoyed the history of the Superman radio show and information on the radio show episodes.

I listened to the audiobook version of this story. Narrated by Johnny Heller, the audio is about four hours long. Heller reads at a nice pace and has a pleasing voice. I have hearing loss but was easily able to hear and understand the entire book. I'm going to buy a print copy of this book because I read some other reviews that mentioned photos and artwork that I missed by listening to the audio. My husband is a big comic book fan, so this book will find a place on our keeper shelf.

Great book! Filled with a lot of topics I love! (and one group I detest). Full stars from me. Can't wait to see the print edition with all the art!

Saturday, April 20, 2019

REVIEW: Pet Sematary

Pet Sematary
Stephen King

An old indian burial ground now used as a pet cemetery. The old cemetery is filled with signs erected by children marking graves of their pets killed on the nearby busy highway. But back behind the graves, under a tree is a darker spot....a spot even the Native Americans avoided. A place that can reverse death...for a price. The pets that come back home are not the same. And a person should never, ever be buried there.

I first read Pet Sematary when I was in high school. For me, the worst part of the story wasn't any of the resurrections or attack scenes, but the funeral. Revisiting the story as an adult, I still feel the same way...but for different reasons.

Lewis and Rachel. Parents burying one of their children. Everyone rallies around Rachel. The neighbors. Friends. Family. Nobody is there for Lewis. In fact his father-in-law decides the funeral is a great place to spew insults and horrific accusations in Lewis' face. The man who just 3 days before got to watch one of his children dragged down a road by a truck has to listen to horrible things spilling out of his father-in-laws mouth in front of everyone at the funeral. Nobody comes to help him....to make the old man leave....to calm the situation....to comfort Lewis....to stand up for Lewis. When he reacts in grief and finally (after years of abuse, name calling, being left out of holiday plans, etc) strikes the old man, the entire altercation is somehow seen as Lewis' fault. Everything falls on Lewis.

Who is there for the father as he buries his child?

Nobody.

Who is there to keep Lewis from making two very large mistakes between that moment and the end of the book?

Nobody.

That is the most horrific thing in this entire book for me. Lewis -- the doctor who worked so hard for his family, loved his kids, loved his wife, did everything for them -- has nobody and nothing. The in-laws are never once even admonished for their behavior. The wife is never there for him. In the end, she leaves Lewis ALONE and goes with her parents -- the ones that have been spewing poison against Lewis for years. Rachel blames LEWIS. She leaves him. Like his grief, like his needs, like his loss doesn't matter. Never once does she stand up for her husband and tell her father and mother to hush...to stop saying horrible things about him....to stop their behavior....and not once does she berate her father for his horrible behavior at their child's funeral. How sick is that??

The entire scene starts the downward spiral of this story into absolute horror.

This story is magnificent.....and disturbingly, horrifically dark....at the same time. I can see why Stephen King chucked the manuscript into a desk drawer and only published it to get out of a bad publishing contract. Even King was horrified by this book. Rightly so -- it's chilling -- with a cold, morbid, horrible truth to it.

If faced with the choice to bring a loved one back from death, many would make a horrible decision. It isn't about the person who died.....the choice comes from grief. An inability to live without the person who is gone. The utter impossibility of never hearing a voice again, never seeing a face, never enjoying someone's presence again. But what if the thing that comes back is no longer the loved one that was lost? Would the choice still be made?

It makes for a chilling story. A bit too chilling in places. The funeral scene still haunts me. Who the F was ever there for Lewis??

I re-visited this Stephen King novel in audio version this time. The scary parts are even more chilling when the tale is being read out loud. Narrated by Michael C. Hall, the audio is just under 16 hours long. Hall reads at perfect pace and does the Maine accent of elderly neighbor Jud just right. He gives a great performance. It made the story even more chilling to hear it read out loud in such a normal voice. No low voice of doom. But one that sounds like ..... anybody. It grants the horrible events a normalcy that makes them seem even more horrific.

Masterfully written. Chillingly horrific. Hard to take. I agree with Stephen King. Pet Sematary is the darkest book he has ever published. While it might have been better to leave it chucked in a desk drawer, I'm glad he published it. The story is powerful and definitely hits home.

I'm giving Pet Sematary full stars. Any book that can bring emotions out in me -- even anger -- is well-written. I find this book more disturbing than scary though.

I think I will re-read Christine next. After re-reading Pet Sematary I'm just not ready to try to revisit another King story that really bothered me -- Carrie. I will read Christine and some more Bachman writing before I try to tackle that one again.

Friday, April 19, 2019

REVIEW: Never Say Die

Never Say Die
Author: Will Hobbs

Nick is 15 and excited to meet his half-brother Ryan who works as a wildlife photographer. As a half-Inuit living in Canada, Nick has a different view of hunting and trapping than Ryan does, so Nick is a bit unsure when his brother invites him to go on a 3-week trip into the wilderness with him. Ryan is going to document changes in the caribou herd for a National Geographic special on climate change. Nick finally agrees to go on the trip, which turns out to be quite the adventure!

This is a great survival adventure story. Not only do Nick and Ryan have to learn to work together to survive, but they also build a relationship of mutual respect with each other. They have some pretty in-depth discussions on environmental responsibility, climate change, hunting and wildlife preservation. I loved the fact that the story balanced the environmentalist side of the issue with the Inuit way of life in terms of hunting, putting GPS tracking collars on wildlife, and killing bears.

I listened to the audio book version of this story (Recorded Books). Narrated by Nick Cordero, the audio is just short of 4.5 hours long. Cordero has a nice voice and read at an even pace. I have partial hearing loss, but was easily able to hear and understand the entire book.

Will Hobbs has written several other nature adventure stories like this one. I enjoyed Never Say Die, so I will definitely be reading/listening to his other books!


Thursday, April 18, 2019

REVIEW: Murder She Barked

Murder, She Barked
Author: Krista Davis

Holly Miller gets an emergency call from her grandma's best friend and rushes to Wagtail, VA without even packing a suitcase. She arrives to discover her grandma has been in an accident, one of the employees at the Sugar Maple Inn has been killed in a hit and run, and a thief has been stealing valuables all across town. Soon, another resident of Wagtail is dead and Holly finds herself in the middle of the investigation.

I enjoyed this book.  It's a light cozy mystery.....no blood, no graphic violence, no sex, cursing, etc. The plot is light and a bit cozy-tropey, but I didn't care. The story is fun to read! The setting is fun -- a tourist town catering to pet owners. The characters are tourist-town quirky. The main character calls her grandma "oma' -- my grandkids call me Oma. :) Murder She Barked made for an enjoyable, relaxing afternoon of reading.

Favorite characters? Trixie and Twinkletoes, of course! The dog and kitten steal the show all the way through the book! :)

There are five books so far in the Paws & Claws series, with a sixth coming out in October 2019. I've had the series on my TBR shelf for quite awhile. I read book one and then got sidetracked by other books. I listened to the audio book this time to refresh my memory before reading book 2. The audio is about 9.5 hours long and narrated by Jeanie Kanaley. I have hearing loss but was easily able to hear and understand the entire book. Happily moving on to book 2 -- The Ghost and Mrs. Mewer!

Krista Davis also writes the Domestic Diva Mysteries and Pen & Ink cozy series.




Wednesday, April 17, 2019

REVIEW: The Feathered Serpent

The Feathered Serpent
Author: Steven Moore

I think I have found a new favorite action series!

 Hiram Kane. Archaeologist. Explorer. Hero. In The Feathered Serpent, Kane is up against a deranged and discredited professor obsessed with fame and revenge. Calling himself Quetzel, the madman kidnaps 12 young girls in Mexico, threatening to sacrifice them all unless Kane meets his demands. The author obviously did in-depth research on Mexico, the Aztecs, and related archaeological finds. Richly developed background, heroic characters, and an exciting story-line make this an awesome action story! The book definitely kept my attention from start to finish.

The Feathered Serpent is the 5th book in the Hiram Kane series. This is the first book by Steven Moore that I've read. I'm definitely going to back-track and start with book 1 of the Hiram Kane series, The Tiger Temple, and read the entire series. Loved it!

Just a warning: The story line does include some rough, dark topics including child abduction, human sacrifice, violence, etc. The descriptions are never overly graphic, but the violent scenes are intrinsic to the plot. So, if those types of situations aren't ones you can handle....might be best to pass by this series.

**I voluntarily read an advance readers copy of this upcoming book by Steven Moore. All opinions expressed are entirely my own.**

REVIEW: The Magic of Friendship Snow

The Magic of Friendship Snow
Author: Andi Cann

As a grandma and former homeschool teacher, I'm always on the lookout for interesting children's books. I was first drawn to this book by Andi Cann because of the colorful front cover. The message inside is even more awesome...so I knew I needed to review this book. 

Some children have a harder time making new friends than others. The stress of a move can make things difficult even for more social kids. This book tells a story about a little girl who desperately wants to make friends but isn't sure how. She finds a snowman who talks to her about how to make friends, and then in turn she helps a boy who just moved to town to make some new friends. The book doesn't over-explain, but leaves room for parents/grandparents or a teacher to start a discussion about ways to make friends, what being a good friend means and ways to make new kids feel welcome. 

The artwork in this book is beautiful! Each page has a colorful picture. 

This book could have classroom uses as well as being perfect for story time at home. It teaches an important lesson and could be really helpful for shy kids. The story might even give more outgoing children ideas about how to befriend kids who are more reserved. Overall, it's just a nice story about how to be a friend and make friends. 

Great book! It is available in both English and Spanish. I'm going to recommend it to my local library.

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

REVIEW: Hacker - A Sulan Story

Hacker: A Sulan Story
Author: Camille Picott

The Sulan series is a YA dystopian series. Hacker is a prequel novella introducing the world and characters from the series. Hank works as a hacker. She started out laundering money for Logan, a dangerous criminal. But now she's expected to erase people...wiping out all record of their existence. Hank knows she can't spend the rest of her life working for Logan. He kills people. How can she protect her family, but escape from Logan?

This story is so action-packed and interesting! It kept my attention from start to finish. This is my first experience with Author Camille Picott and the Sulan series. I will definitely be reading more! This story really made me want to know what happens to Hank in the future, and what she does with her amazing computer skills.

I like Hank as a main character. She wants to make sure her parents and little brother are safe. She's willing to do just about anything to make sure they are fed and happy....except work for a murderer. She is definitely an intelligent and strong female character!

I listened to the audio book version of this free novella. The audio is 2.5 hours long and is narrated by Gwendolyn Druyor. Druyor reads at a nice even pace. Her performance is top notch...she really made the action scenes exciting!

There are seven books in the Sulan series. I bought a copy of book one, The League, after finishing this prequel story. Can't wait to read it!

**I voluntarily read this story after receiving a free copy from the author. All opinions expressed are entirely my own.**

Monday, April 15, 2019

REVIEW: Stranger Paths

Stranger Paths
Author: R.J. Zarkani

Raghad Zarkani's poetry was born from her childhood experiences in war-torn Iraq. Her memories and experiences come shining through... both the fear of war and the joy of childhood.

Children are resilient and find happiness and joy in the midst of any situation. Zarkani's poems not only touch on war and its effects, but also the joy and wonder only children can feel. She also speaks about confusion over propaganda, coming to America, missing her childhood, and experiencing racism.

I don't normally read poetry. But I made an exception for this book. I'm glad I did. I loved it!

When the war with Iraq was ongoing, my oldest son was young. I would watch the news on television and then gaze at my son thinking about all the children in Iraq and how scared they must be. Soldiers, bombs, fires, death....things children shouldn't have to endure.  I remember the wide range of emotions I felt as a young mom watching the war unfold on CNN  -- relief that I had never personally experienced that level of violence, sadness that some lived the horror of war every day, and fear for the children that were caught in the middle of a situation they couldn't understand. Reading this poetry collection reminded me of all those thoughts and emotions I felt back then and opened up my eyes to how it made a young Iraqi girl feel. I'm very glad the author made it out safely and I'm so glad she chose to share her memories and emotions in her poetry.

Wonderful book!

**I voluntarily downloaded a free copy of this book. All opinions expressed are entirely my own.**



Sunday, April 14, 2019

REVIEW: Dawn Patrol (Undead Ultra)

Dawn Patrol (Undead Ultra Prequel)
Author: Camille Picott

Niles is an extreme long distance runner. He's training for a 100-mile endurance race. Today's workout is 50 miles with a goal time of 11 hours to finish. He's barely halfway finished and behind his time when he notices something strange at the Liberty Glen campground.....

Screams.

Blood.

Zombies.

Niles can't bring himself to actually use the word zombie....but that's what the monsters are. Dead, but animate, former humans with horrific milky white blind eyes. Attacking. Killing.

Niles joins forces with a hunter and his teenage son as they run for the safety of Niles' car on the other side of Lake Sonoma. It's 20 miles....can they outrun the horde of undead? Niles uses his race mindset to help keep them moving. Run the flats and downhill....power walk the uphill....stay ahead of the horde that wants to eat you. Good advice!

Can they outrun the hungry undead?

I love a good zombie story! Camille Picott definitely delivers with this prequel to her Undead Ultra series. I have read a lot of zombie stories in my day....but this is the first time I've read one involving endurance runners. The story is like the Run, Zombies, Run running app on steroids! Fun! Niles uses his running experience to keep himself and two other survivors moving. It isn't just about fitness....it's a mindset, too. And in this case, it's about surviving.

Dawn Patrol is a prequel story to Undead Ultra....a story of two endurance runners trying to outpace the zombie apocalypse and save their son. 200 miles. Can they make it?

After reading this intro story, I'm definitely going to read Undead Ultra! The mix of endurance running and the zombie apocalypse is perfect!

**I received a free copy of this story from the author. All opinions expressed are entirely my own.**

Saturday, April 13, 2019

REVIEW: King Henry's Christmas

King Henry's Christmas
Authors: Loretta Jackson & Vickie Britton

King Henry's Christmas is part of the High Country Mystery series. This is the first story I've read in the series, even though this story falls between books 7 and 8. There are 8 books and one short story collection in the series so far.

It's two days before Christmas and Sheriff Jeff McQuede is called to investigate a jewelry store robbery. The owner was robbed of precious jewels at gunpoint. Just as McQuede starts to leave the scene of the robbery, he's called to a break-in at a local apartment. When he arrives, he finds Sofia Moretti on the floor. She's been bashed in the head from behind. The only eye-witness to the attack is a fat, tabby cat. McQuede recognizes the cat. King Henry belongs to a man he suspects might know something about the jewelry robbery.  Who stole the jewels? How is the robbery related to the attack on Sofia? And what the hell is he going to do with a pesky, fat tabby cat?

This story is a great introduction to the High Country Mystery series. It's a good stand alone story and doesn't give any spoilers for prior books. I had to laugh at King Henry's antics. McQuede worked to solve the case quickly because the cat was tearing up his house and driving his dog nuts! :)

I will definitely read more of this series. I like McQuede as a main character. He's an intelligent and skilled investigator. The side characters were all likable and quirky enough to be interesting.

**I received a free copy of this short story from the authors. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own.**

Friday, April 12, 2019

REVIEW: Antarctic Ice Beasts

Antarctic Ice Beasts
Author: Hunter Shea

I love scary monster stories...always have! Movies, television, books, audio plays....if it has a monster in it, I'm going to watch/read/listen happily.

Hunter Shea is quickly becoming one of my favorite authors. He delivers my absolutely favorite sort of mind-candy horror story again and again. He has scared me with man-eating fungus, rampaging dinosaurs, giant rats, multiple cryptids, and just about every other sort of monstrous creature I could ever want to imagine. :) Love it!

I also love books about mountain climbing, the Arctic, and Antarctica. Shea's new book, Antarctic Ice Beasts, combines two things I love -- cold, unforgiving places and monsters! Yay!

The basics: A skeleton crew of workers are left at an Antarctic outpost to winter over. A storm hits with raging winds and blinding snow. They're hunkered down inside, relatively safe....until....    (There is always an "until,'' right?) A strange earthquake shakes the outpost. Then, they begin seeing strange creatures gathering outside in the snow. Where did these humanoid creatures come from? How are they not freezing to death? And what do they want?

Since it's a Hunter Shea book you can guess the strange creatures aren't stopping by for tea and a nice chat. The action and suspense get started quickly and ramp up throughout the story. It definitely kept my interest from beginning to end. I did not expect the ending....it was a pleasant surprise (for me, not for the characters, of course.) All in all, another creepy-cool monstrous story from Hunter Shea!

Thursday, April 11, 2019

REVIEW: CSNY

CSNY
Author: Peter Doggett

I have always been a big fan of Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young. Although I was too young to really understand their lyrics when they were big in the 70s, I liked their music. Later when I had grown up, I understood what their songs were saying, and liked them even more. I jumped at the chance to read and review this biopic of the band, their music and their careers.

David Crosby. Steven Stills. Graham Nash. Neil Young. All huge musical talents. And big stars in the 60s & 70s, a time when war protests, social unrest and angst were the driving forces behind an entire generation. I was born in 1968...so I missed out on most of it, but I did get to enjoy their music.

I enjoyed this book.  It describes the formation of the band, personality clashes among the members that broke them up multiple times, and the force, will and creativity they all added to the mix. After enjoying the recent movie about Freddy Mercury and Queen, I enjoyed reading about another band that seemed to have similar problems. Each member of CSNY had been in other front line bands like The Hollies and The Byrds and each wanted their songs/lyrics at the forefront. Strong personalities, incredible talent and inflated egos seem to be a recurring theme with popular bands. It was so interesting to read about their prior music careers, eccentricities and musical abilities, plus information about the band (both in the Crosby, Stills & Nash years and after the addition of Neil Young) that I didn't know.

I had to read this book in small bits. There is a lot of information....lots of name dropping and mentions of singers, bands, songwriters,  concerts, lyrics, historical events, etc....so much information. I read a few pages....looked up names and events online for more information....and let that digest before moving on. I pulled up all sorts of songs and albums and enjoyed listening to so much awesome music as I read this book! My copy was a digital review copy....so the accompanying photographs were absent in my copy. I'm going to see if my library has this book so I can see the photos!

Great book for any fan of CSNY, 60s/70s music or culture! I loved it!

My favorite CSNY song?? Definitely this one:



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

REVIEW: The Lost Man

The Lost Man
Author: Jane Harper

I loved Jane Harper's first two books, The Dry and Force of Nature. Her newest book, The Lost Man, is a standalone story about a family living in the outback.

An old stockman's grave sits in the sun in outback Australia. The man it honors died so long ago nobody can remember who he was, or how he died. The small slip of shade the grave marker casts was the small chance of survival a dying man had, left alone with no water and no hope in the baking heat. His family is left behind to try and piece together what Cameron was doing out there alone without supplies, why he left the safety of his vehicle, and how to deal with his death. As one man is buried....family secrets are revealed.

I listened to the audio book (Macmillan Audio) format of this story. Narrated by Stephen Shanahan the audio is just under 11 hours long. Shanahan reads at a nice steady pace, with a pleasant voice. I have hearing loss, but was easily able to hear and understand the entire book. This was a story that was awesome to listen to on audio. Shanahan's accent and performance added so much to the story. It was a great listening experience.

This is a suspenseful and emotional story about a family dealing with not only the real outback, but an emotional wasteland of their own creation. Secrets, lies, excuses....all hidden for decades. What happens when all is revealed?

I loved this book, pure and simple. Full stars from me. I'm definitely in line for Jane Harper's next book! I've enjoyed every one from her so far!


Wednesday, April 10, 2019

REVIEW: A Map of the Dark

A Map of the Dark
Author: Karen Ellis

FBI Special Agent Elsa Myers is very good at her job, but she doesn't know how to deal with her father slowly dying from cancer and demons from her past. She could take time off from work to spend more time with her dad at the hospital, but she knows working is the only way she can cope. It keeps her from dwelling on her memories. She is called to assist on a case. A teenage girl is missing.  Elsa pushes her personal life to the side, intent on finding the missing girl before it's too late.

At first, I had a hard time identifying with, or liking, Elsa Myers. Elsa is an excellent investigator and she's driven to solve cases, especially those involving children. But she has some deep emotional scars and is pretty much emotionally unavailable. The story flips from the current investigation to flashbacks about Elsa's childhood frequently.  At first, I found the flashbacks a bit annoying. But by the end of the book, those flashes of insight into her past helped me understand the character better. By the end of the book, I liked Elsa as a main character. The development of her character over the course of the story is quite complex. I liked how little bits and pieces about Elsa were revealed as she discovered and followed up on clues in the missing person investigation.

A Map of the Dark is the first book in The Searchers series. Book 2, Last Night, turns its focus to Lex Cole, Elsa's temporary partner in A Map of the Dark.

Karen Ellis is a pseudonym for crime thriller author Katia Lief. A Map of the Dark is the first book by this author that I've read. I'm definitely going to read more! I liked the character development and slow-build pacing. I saw one aspect of the ending coming...but wasn't quite sure how it would work in with the story. All in all, a very enjoyable crime thriller. It kept my attention from start to finish. I binge read this entire book in one afternoon. I couldn't stop reading!

I am looking forward to book 2. Lex Cole was a bit of a background character in book 1 because it focused mainly on Elsa and her past. I'm so curious about how his story will develop in the second book!

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

REVIEW: Blutinstein Manor

Blutinstein Manor
Author: Rhiannon Archer

10 people answer a strange ad. Spend Halloween night in a haunted house. Be the last one standing. Win a million bucks. Sounds tempting, right?

There are some intrinsic facts that every person should know. Don't tug on Superman's cape. Don't spit into the wind. Don't pull the mask off The Lone Ranger. Leave Jim alone. And......don't spend the night in a haunted house on Halloween.

But a million dollars is enough cash to make anyone lose their judgment.

I love haunted house stories! I'm a sucker for all things that go bump in the night....so this book was a total binge read. Loved it! The basic plot has been done before....but the author executes it well. A hellish house on Halloween night....what could possibly go wrong? It made for an enjoyable, entertaining evening of reading.

I found myself thinking....wondering if I would answer a similar ad. A million dollars. What could I do with a million dollars? Would I chance it? And who would win....me? One of the other "Guests" or perhaps.....The house??

Great spooky read! Any reader who enjoys ghost stories will love this book! It was definitely sweet brain candy to this horror lover!






Tuesday, April 9, 2019

REVIEW: Clean & Lean

Clean & Lean
Author: Ian K. Smith, MD

I like Intermittent Fasting. I feel my best when I'm following a regimented, mostly clean, eating plan. I'm not jumping on the dieting bandwagon. I have other reasons for needing to follow a strict diet. 10 years ago I had surgery on my gut that forever changed the way I have to eat....it happens. I deal with it. Plus, I'm a food addict. When I get upset...I want to eat. When I'm happy...I want to eat. When I'm sad...I want to eat. I just like to eat. I look at it like this....food is my drug of choice. Instead of alcohol, drugs or other options....I choose food. So, I have to keep a tight rein on my eating or face the consequences.....gaining weight, feeling sick, etc.

 IF limits daily meals to a period of hours each day. There are a number of fasting hours each day, and a number of eating hours each day. All meals, snacks, or drinks with calories have to be consumed during eating hours. So if I'm following a 16:8 IF plan, I fast for 16 hours a day and eat during an 8 hour window. From 8 pm to noon each day, I would be fasting -- no food, or drinks with calories. Then from noon to 8 pm, I can have 3 meals and snacks. Make sense? Some do 14:10, 12:12...there's a whole range of options depending on what works for an individual. The basic concept is simple. 

Dr. Ian K. Smith's new book, Clean & Lean, mixes an IF eating plan with clean eating options and an exercise program. His plan calls for cutting out processed foods, added sugars, junk carbs and eating a limited list of healthier foods. He combines his clean eating program with IF -- clean foods eaten within a limited window of time each day.

I enjoyed reading through this book. Smith gives basic information on how IF works, the IF requirements/restrictions and options, and a basic list of allowed clean foods with flexible options. He gives basic instructions for exercise for beginning, intermediate and advanced fitness levels. There are some recipes included for making homemade condiments, salsa, salad dressing, etc.

Pros -- the plan is simple. A quick read through the book, a trip to the grocery store, and anybody can be trying this program. There are no strange, hard-to-find foods on his list. It's all normal foods available at any store. He doesn't list any expensive supplements, drinks, powders that are supposed magic elixirs available for outrageous prices on his website blah blah blah -- we've all seen those diet guru tricks.  None of that here -- his entire plan is in the book with no gimmicks required. Healthy foods & willpower, both supplied by the individual...with guidance from Smith. Easy Peasy and nothing sleazy.

Cons -- Just the usual common sense precautions here, especially for those with special medical needs like diabetics. IF is a controlled eating program, and anytime someone makes radical changes to their nutrition or exercise, their personal doctor should be consulted first. Also, Smith does have a website with the usual diet/nutrition guru stuff (exericse DVD, multiple other books, etc) available and an app. But, those add-ons are not pushed in this book. Everything someone needs to try Clean & Lean is in this one book. There is an extra recipe book available for purchase separately....but clean eating recipes are readily available everywhere. Local libraries, free internet sites.....literally everywhere. The recipe book isn't required. And there is no hard sell gimmick. I saw no potions, powders, vitamin pills or anything like that for sale on Smith's website either. If an app or extra recipes is a plus for you -- buy them. But, you don't have to. Kudos to Smith for not pushing sales of sketchy supplements or other books on his readers.

Over the past few months I have gotten lazy with my eating.....and I'm starting to notice the icky feeling creeping back. The sluggish, out-of-shape, blecky feeling I get when I'm not eating right.....I hate it. I want the pep back in my step...so I'm going to clean up my act. I think this new book might just be a great catalyst to put me back on track. I'm putting myself into self-imposed rehab when it comes to food.

 I like the simplicity of this book. The information is straight forward and basic. Smith provides a suggested daily eating/exercise plan for 30 days, a list of allowable and restricted foods and a very basic regimen of exercise.

Full stars from me for the simple presentation, basic daily suggested regimens, and no sales gimmicks!

**I voluntarily read an advance readers copy of this book from St. Martins Press via NetGalley. All opinions expressed are entirely my own. This review is certified organic, no sugar added, gluten free, no preservatives or artificial coloring.**


Monday, April 8, 2019

REVIEW: Cryptid Zoo

Cryptid Zoo
Author: Gerry Griffiths

Carter Wilde has built the ultimate adventure theme park. Just imagine a huge dome housing a top-notch bioengineering lab, animatronics workshop, huge viewing areas, a 5-star hotel and every imaginable spa amenity for guests....then add in cryptid creatures of all sorts. Cryptid Zoo has four sections...sea monster cove, a reptile house, mammoth arena and biped habitat, housing some of the most legendary, and dangerous, creatures ever imagined. Some were caught in the wild....others were bioengineered. It's like Disney World....with real monsters.

What could possibly go wrong?

Move over Jurassic Park......it's time for the Cryptid Zoo.

I absolutely love this book! I'm a sucker for monster action stories....and this had every sort of cryptid from the chupacabra to a humongous kraken. Interesting story....lots of action.....and lots of monsters! I could see this easily being adapted into a sci-fi channel monster movie. I would watch it!! Bring on the popcorn! :)

Cryptid Zoo puts a new angle on the theme of poorly thought out dangerous parks. I loved Jurassic Park....but throwing cryptids into the mix is a nice new angle on an old story line.

This is the first book by Gerry Griffiths I've read. I'm definitely going to read more. He has written several other monster stories including The Beasts of Stoneclad Mountain and Silurid. Can't wait to see what other monstrous mayhem his books have in store!

REVIEW: The Last

The Last
Author: Hanna Jameson

Jon had a fight with his wife and left for a conference in Switzerland, frustrated and angry. He thought he had all the time in the world to fix his relationship with his kids and his wife. But, widespread nuclear attacks destroy modern society and he's left stranded with a small group of survivors at a remote Swiss hotel. Not only do they have to worry about radiation, dwindling food and supplies, and other survivors....but they find a child's body floating in one of the hotel's water tanks. It's the end of the world as they know it....20 people holed up in a deserted hotel.....possibly with a murderer. And Jon has no idea if his wife and kids are even still alive.

Yikes!

I enjoyed this story. The plot has a lot going on....a murder investigation, the fight to survive, personality conflicts. It definitely kept my attention from start to finish. The ending was a little bit strange....but after I thought about it, I think it is a fitting and realistic end. I like books that make me think about how I would react to similar circumstances. Jon and the other survivors had to make some rough life and death decisions. I'm not sure I would make the same ones, but I can understand their reactions to things like a rapist, going on supply runs and how to handle a murder investigation in the middle of extreme chaos. I'm not sure what I would do if I were away from my family when a society-ending event occurred. Would I try to get back home and hope they survived? Would I stay where I was and always wonder what happened to them? I hope I never have to face anything like Jon went through in this book.

All in all, a great book. I've read a lot of end-of-the-world disaster stories, but this one was different and creative. It didn't just focus on the disaster and the struggle to survive, but also touched on how the situation would change everything -- relationships, acceptable behavior, morals, etc. The story really got me thinking about how a world-level cataclysmic event would change life as I know it completely. I love it when a book gets me thinking big thoughts. This one definitely did! Full stars from me!

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


Sunday, April 7, 2019

REVIEW: Awakening

Awakening
Author: M.C. Bass

I'm always game for a good zombie story, especially one with a different twist. In Awakening, M.C. Bass takes the usual zombie apocalypse scenario and adds in an ancient plague curse and nanotechnology. The results? A really good zombie tale with great sci-fi elements and lots of action!

Dr. Lauren Martinez is in Russia working on nanotechnology that could extend the human life span, possibly indefinitely The experiments aren't going very well though. Becoming impatient, the man financing the research comes across an ancient box that contains ancient Egyptian technology. Although he is warned not to open the box, he does so anyway. And....BOOM....the apocalypse descends. Cue grisly deaths, narrow escapes and nano-zombies running amok everywhere.....

This book is a mix of sci-fi, zombie horror and military action story. I'm always up for a guns-blazing action story...the zombies were just the cherry on top the cupcake for me. Made for a great afternoon of entertaining reading!

Awakening is the first book in the Ancient Purge series. The second book, Evolution, continues the story, as the zombie outbreak threatens humanity. I already have book 2 queued up on my Kindle. Book one ended on a cliffhanger....and I have to know what happens next! :)


REVIEW: On a Witch and a Spell

On a Witch and a Spell
Author: Misty Bane

Druscilla Rathbone, called "Granny'' by everyone, is having a real witch of a week. First, her daughter is killed by a witch hunter and her spirit is nowhere to be found.....her son-in-law is freaking out and taking her baby granddaughter away to somewhere safe...and her spell book has been stolen. She needs that book back to complete a ceremony to protect her granddaughter from harm. Where there's a witch, there's a way! She's on a mission to find that book!

On a Witch and a Spell is a prequel novelette for Misty Bane's Blackwood Bay Witches paranormal cozy series. There are two books in the series so far: Haunted and Hexed, and Bad Magic and the Big Top.

This introductory novelette was a fun, humorous read. Granny is quirky and definitely feisty. She knows how to get down to business....and her sidekicks are always willing to go along to help. I did learn an important lesson from this book -- never, ever wear a jellyfish bra.

I love it when a free download introduces me to a new-to-me author and series that I know I will love! I loved the humor in this short prequel, and will definitely be reading the series!

On a Witch and A Spell can be downloaded for free from Amazon. Enjoy!

**I voluntarily downloaded a free copy of this novelette. All opinions expressed are entirely my own.**

Saturday, April 6, 2019

REVIEW: Undad

Undad
Authors/Artists: Shane W. Smith, Diego & Andrea Lopez Mata, Joseph Canave

Brett Buckley deals with dad-stuff.....kids, work, his marriage, responsibility...it all comes with the territory. Then, a chance meeting with a strange homeless man changes everything. One bite from the stranger makes Brett...different. He goes from being a strict vegetarian to craving meat. He has wickedly violent dreams. He eats his son's hamster.

How do you tell your family that you're a zombie? And how do you deal with being so.....hungry?

I love a good zombie story, and when I saw the title to this graphic novel .... Undad .... I knew I had to read it!

I loved the story. Brett goes through hell trying to figure out what has happened to him, how to gain control of himself, and how to tell his family he's undead.

This project was originally funded by Kickstarter, which I find supremely cool. I'm always excited about supporting creative indie projects. It was evident that the artwork was mostly digital and that several artists worked on the project. The art style changed between chapters. But....that didn't dampen my enjoyment of the story. Some of the art was excellent....some less so. But overall, I enjoyed this graphic novel. I'm definitely on-board for Undad Volume 2. I need to know what happens next! :)



Fun read! I did feel a bit sorry for the hamster though..... 

**I voluntarily read a free copy of this graphic novel provided by the author. All opinions expressed are entirely my own. No zombies -- or hamsters -- were harmed in the writing of this review. My dogs protest the fact that the hamster eating was initially blamed on the dog. :) **

REVIEW: Extinction of All Children series

Extinction of All Children series
L.J. Epps

Craigluy is a world divided according to class. Lower, middle and upper classes are separated and live totally different lives. In Territory L, Emma Whisperer is the last child to turn 18. The last baby to grow up. Lower class citizens have been deemed irresponsible and are no longer allowed to have children. Anyone who comes up pregnant is arrested, forced to bear the child and watch as the baby is taken away to be killed. It is a brutal world to live in. Those in Territory M and Territory U have other options, but President Esther controls all aspects of society no matter which class. Emma Whisperer....the last child....wants to change everything. She wants everyone to live together again...for people to be free.

The Extinction of all Children series is a trilogy. Book one introduces Emma and centers around Territory L. The storyline moves from L to the middle class area and on to the upperclass walled-in territory in the final book. I enjoyed how the characters developed throughout this series. Emma knows in the first book that she wants to see President Esther's policies destroyed...to remove the segregation from the people of Craigluy. Over the 3 books, Emma and the followers/supporters she gathers go from dreaming of freedom to actually fighting to try and make it happen. President Esther is a worthy, tricky adversary. She is wiley and wise. I found myself not able to totally hate her. Down at her very core, there is some good....at one point she actually had the best interests of the people at heart. But it got twisted inside her mind. Absolute power really does corrupt.

All in all this series is a very enjoyable read. I found the premise a bit unrealistic, but the story for me was enjoyable enough to override my sense of realism. The charcters are nicely developed over the 3 parts of the story. There is a lot of action, and the story moves along at a nice pace. There is plenty of suspense and some nice twists in the tale.

Enjoyable read! Nothing inappropriate for older teenagers, but be aware that there is discussion of abuse, death, imprisonment, murder, infanticide, torture, violence and other topics that may require a trigger warning for some students/adults reading this series.

**I voluntarily read review copies of the three books in this series by L. J.  Epps via NetGalley. All opinions expressed are entirely my own.**

Friday, April 5, 2019

REVIEW: Witchiest Circus on Earth

Witchiest Circus on Earth
Author: Leanne Leeds

The Magical Midway is a circus. Not just any old carnival attraction, but a magical, travelling circus. Instead of trained animals and human performers, it's filled with paranormal creatures of all sorts. Charlotte Astley gets to spend one week every year visiting her Uncle Phil, ringmaster at the Magical Midway. Until he's murdered. Then Charlotte finds herself immersed in the world of paranormals, trying to investigate her uncle's death.

What a fun paranormal cozy mystery! I like the idea of a circus that isn't filled with caged, trained animals, but awesome paranormal creatures who truly love being part of the circus. Finally, a circus I can enjoy, without feeling angry or guilty because animals are being mistreated!

Charlotte makes a great main character. She hasn't got a clue how to run a paranormal circus, but she's willing to learn on the fly. My favorite character hands down is her familiar, Samson. He's a special black cat with plenty of magical cattitude!

I liked the plot of this first book in the Magical Midway series. Nice mix of humor, paranormal, and circus excitement, sprinkled with a little bit of mystery. I'm definitely going to keep reading this series! 10 books are planned. Five have been released so far, with a new book coming out soon. I'm moving on to book two, Life on the Lion. Can't wait to see what's in store next for the Magical Midway!

**I voluntarily downloaded a free copy of this book. All opinions expressed are entirely my own.**

Thursday, April 4, 2019

REVIEW: The Diviners

The Diviners
Author: Libba Bray

New York City. 1926. Ziegield Girls. Speakeasies. Jazz. And.....supernatural evil.

I am officially a huge Libba Bray fan. After thoroughly loving Beauty Queens, I decided to try her Diviners series. Oh. My. God. I loved this first book! The setting is awesome! The plot is dark and disturbing. And the characters are fun and quirky, with plenty of hidden secrets to go with the plot. And the villain.....a total scary creep!

Naughty John. Naughty John. Does his work with his apron on. Cuts your throat and takes your bones. Sells em off for a coupla stones.

Yikes! :)

I listened to the audio book version of this story. January LaVoy narrates. She does a superb job of acting. This was one of the best audio books I have ever listened to. She does great voices for all the characters and even sings. Great performance! I have the second audio book in the series, Lair of Dreams, checked out from the library and ready to go!

There are 3 books in this series so far, with the final book tentatively scheduled to release in spring 2020.

I read online that the story has been optioned for a movie, but I haven't seen anything about it actually being in production. I hope they make a film! I would definitely watch a movie version!

And yes, I used many exclamation points in this review. I really liked the book :)   !!!  There's a couple extra ones just for S&G. :)

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

REVIEW: This Is Halloween

This is Halloween
James A. Moore

Halloween is my favorite holiday. I love Fall, costume parties, candy, caramel apples, pumpkins, black cats......but I especially love scary stories! Ghosts, ghouls and all things that go bump in the night! This story anthology caught my eye as I was trolling Kindle Unlimited looking for something scary to read. The cover art caught my eye immediately....so awesome!

This Is Halloween gathers 10 deliciously creepy and bizarre Halloween tales. From the dangers of trick or treating to the threat of wicked secret traditions, the stories are varied and very creepy. My two favorites are: Harvest Moon...the tale of a small town with a strange annual tradition, and The Walker Place...sometimes the scariest house in town is vacant for a very good reason!

The stories are all well-written. I enjoyed all 10 of them. This anthology was perfect for giving me a bit of Fall fright, even in the off-season. :)

This is the first book by James A. Moore that I have read. I'm definitely going to be reading more by this author. He has a nice long list of published books in horror, sci-fi and fantasty genres including The Haunted Forest Tour, Under the Overtree, and the Serenity Falls series.

REVIEW: The Editor

The Editor
Author: Steven Rowley

James Smale has finally sold his book to a publisher. When he arrives at the publisher's office in New York, he is shocked to discover the editor who wants to publish his book is none other than former first lady Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. As he progresses down the road towards publication, James has trouble finishing his story. The book is semi-autobiographical and could cause problems in his already tenuous relationships with his family and partner. He forms an unexpected friendship with Onassis, who helps him not only with the ending for his book but with his life.

Lovely book! This story sucked me right in at the start with Smale's shocked first meeting with his editor. The poor man was absolutely gobsmacked that he was in the same room with Jackie O. Turns out her wisdom would do more for Smale's life than a published book.....

This is the first book by Steven Rowley that I've read. I thoroughly enjoyed this story! I'm definitely going to be reading more by this author! I've had Lily and the Octopus on my bookshelf for quite awhile. I think it's time to move it to the top of the TBR stack and start reading! Rowley tells this story with the sweetest mix of humor, wisdom, and wit. Just a lovely story!

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

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

REVIEW: The Loch Ness Papers

The Loch Ness Papers
Author: Paige Shelton

The Loch Ness Papers is the 4th book in the Scottish Bookshop Mystery series. I enjoy this cozy series. It has a nice mix of humor and mystery. The setting is awesome and the characters are fun and quirky. This time around, book enthusiast and seller Delaney Nichols meets and befriends an elderly man who is a local expert on the Loch Ness Monster. Norval Fraser is obsessed with the monster. and has been researching it for decades since the disappearance of his father. Norval firmly believes Nessie took his father. When the old man becomes a suspect in the murder of his great-nephew, Delaney steps in to help prove his innocence.

This book is a fun read. I love the fact that the Loch Ness Monster figures into the story. Who doesn't love Nessie? Norval is an interesting character. I found myself wondering as much about his notes and information on Nessie as I did about the murder mystery. Wouldn't it be so cool to read through someone's notes and observations on a cryptozoological mystery as famous as Nessie?

I enjoyed the plot. The mystery moved along at a nice pace with plenty of suspects and sleuthing. Although the ending wasn't a big surprise for me, I liked this story from start to finish. I will definitely be reading more of this series. I love the characters and the setting.

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

Monday, April 1, 2019

REVIEW: Women Talking

Women Talking
Author: Miriam Toews

As a former victim of domestic violence and sexual assault, this book was a rough, but powerful, read for me. The author states that the story is loosely based on truth. Over a period of four years, more than 100 women and children were sexually assaulted in a Mennonite community in Bolivia. The victims were drugged with animal anesthetic and assaulted, waking the next morning bruised, bleeding, and in pain. Victims were led to believe that demons were attacking them because they were sinful. When the men responsible were arrested, the victims were accused of lying, expected to just forgive them and not seek justice, and assaults continued. Miriam Toews took her outrage over reports of the case and wrote this book.

The story builds using notes from secret meetings of the women. They are illiterate, so a trusted man attends the meetings to record the discussions. I was immediately sucked into the story. Thinking about a community of women kept illiterate, isolated, and without any decision making powers was disturbing. The thought that this sort of thing still happens in the world made me realize how spoiled, unaware and blind I am because of the relatively easy life I live. I am college educated. I am not abused on a daily basis. I make my own decisions. I have money at my disposal. My husband does not control my life. I'm treated as an equal. I can only imagine how these women felt....  They had to meet in secret to decide to stay in the life they knew, or leave and try to start over again somehow.

I felt so many emotions while reading this -- anger, fear, sadness. But it also made me realize how strong women are. When faced with an almost impossible situation, women will somehow find the strength to power through and go on. When faced with a horrific, abusive situation, these women met secretly to decide what to do. They supported each other and they did not falter. Bravery. Intelligence. Compassion.

I loved the plot of this book. I kept reading because I truly wanted to know what happened to these characters. But, the story moves slowly. Maybe the plodding feel is because it's reported through meeting notes? Most of the story is told through conversations. It made things tedious at times. But, I do see why the author chose the format. It works with the characters and the situation. They couldn't just make a decision and act on it. They were powerless. Conversation, planning and secrecy were required. Slow, methodical planning. They had to think it through. Their choices were do nothing and let things continue.....stay and fight for safety in their community.....or leave and learn to survive in the world outside the community. Big choices. Coming from a religious sect, they had to rethink their entire belief structure. Heavy stuff. And not something that can be decided quickly. My emotional response to this story might be because I knew from the start it was based on truth. If I had been reading this story solely based on its own merits, I might have been more frustrated by its slow pace.

I would have liked a lot less discussion of religious doctrine and a little more action, but the format (meeting notes) limited the exposition to conversations. The focus, at times, was on religion a bit too much, although I do recognize that the characters involved are part of a religious sect. I could see this book being great for discussion at a Christian women's group or book club. But the constant religious overtones put a damper on the story for me. It made me mad -- women subjugated, lied to, victimized, traumatized -- in a community that should have been safe had there not been extreme villainy and hypocrisy occurring. It took my attention off the subject of rape and abuse and turned it more towards my dislike of organized religion.

All in all, a powerful story about women. A bit too much religion for me, personally. But, I still enjoyed it. I'm giving this book a solid 3 stars.

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