Saturday, August 31, 2019

REVIEW: Seducing and Killing Nazis

Seducing and Killing Nazis
Author: Sophie Poldermans

Hannie, Truus and Freddie were just teenagers when the Germans invaded the Netherlands during World War II. They joined the resistance and spent the war targeting German officers and those who turned resistance fighters into the German police. They also blew up bridges, passed information to the allies and did whatever they could to fight the German occupation of the Netherlands. One of them was executed by Germans after being captured. The other two survived but suffered from PTSD, depression and other war related ailments for the rest of their lives.

This book outlines what these girls did for the resistance, retaliations by German forces and some of the events that occurred in the Netherlands during the occupation. I found the facts and photographs compelling, but horrifying. I have a 15 year old son at home. I can't imagine children his age being recruited to kill people, being forced to hide from authorities, and being under threat of execution if captured. It makes me have a high level of respect and pride in these girls and what they did. They did not kill German officers and others with no care....what they had to do during the war had an effect on them until their deaths. When I was 14, my biggest worry was running out of hairspray or getting a flat tire on the way to work. These girls faced arrest, starvation, being sent out to shoot people, planting bombs on bridges or in buildings, and the daily atrocities committed by German troops occupying their homeland. I can't even imagine it...  But, part of the reason why I (and millions of others) can't imagine living like that is because of the strength and bravery shown by thousands of people like these three teenage girls during World War II.

Great book! I did not know about these three girls before I read this book. I'm going to read more on the resistance fighters in the Netherlands. It's a portion of World War II history that I don't know very much about. I would definitely read more by this author. She obviously did a lot of research for this book, and her sources are well documented.

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

Friday, August 30, 2019

REVIEW: House of Salt and Sorrows

House of Salt and Sorrows
Author: Erin A. Craig

Annaleigh lives in her father's manor by the sea. Highmoor used to be a happy place. But since the death of her mother and four of her sisters, there is talk of an evil curse targeting her family. There was once 12 only 8 remain. When Annaleigh starts having visions about the deaths not being accidents, she starts to realize there is something sinister at work.

I loved this story! Creepy, disturbing yet mesmerizing! Great read! I couldn't put the book down. I ended up reading until the wee hours of the morning because I had to know the ending! So glad I did. This was the best YA fantasy book I've read in quite awhile! Erin Craig is a talented storyteller! The ending wasn't a total surprise...but there were still many twists and turns in the tale.

House of Salt and Sorrows is Erin Craig's first book. I can't wait to read more by this author! The cover art is fantastic!!

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

Thursday, August 29, 2019

REVIEW: Ever Alice

Ever Alice
Author: H. J. Ramsay

When Alice came back from Wonderland, her tales of White Rabbits, Mad Hatters, and insane queens landed her in an asylum. She's 15 years old now and keeps trying to explain to her parents and anyone else who will listen that her stories are TRUE and that she is not insane. But nobody will listen. The doctors want to try an experimental treatment on her, but instead she escapes, returning to Wonderland. But, Wonderland isn't much better than the real world....the queen is still quite insane. Alice didn't expect to be asked to kill her.

This is an interesting sequel to Alice in Wonderland. I liked it for the most part, except for the very end. I love Lewis Carroll's original so I happily read this re-imagining. The story is well-written and very interesting. I couldn't put it down! In the end, I just found it a bit too dark and depressing. Alice being treated like she is mentally ill was just a bit much for me. 

Interesting story. Awesome new vision for a sequel. But it does touch on some dark and disturbing themes. Public execution. Mental illness. Extreme medical procedures.

I would definitely read more by this author. Ever Alice is her first book.

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

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

REVIEW: Manga Classics - The Stories of Edgar Allan Poe

Manga Classics: The Stories of Edgar Allan Poe

I love the works of Edgar Allan Poe. Poe's dark, and sometimes demented, tales of death, madness, and murder are some of the best classic horror tales. I have Poe's works on my keeper shelf in various forms (classic version, illustrated, comic books, etc) and even have a motion graphic novel app on my phone. He is my go-to mood builder for my favorite holiday -- Halloween! I read through his works every fall.

So far, I am very impressed with the Manga Classics I have read. The books stick to the original story for the most part. The tale is just condensed a bit, and illustrated with manga style art. I'm picky about Poe adaptations, but was pleasantly surprised by this book's depictions of several favorites: The Tell Tale Heart, The cask of Amantillado, The Raven, The Mask of the Red Death, and The Fall of the House of Usher. The dark themes of madness, murderous intent, and death were well depicted. The artwork is fantastic!

I'm ordering a copy of this book to add to the Poe section of my keeper shelf! Loved it!

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

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

REVIEW: Too Sweet to Be Good

Too Sweet to Be Good
Author: K. M. Jackson

Too Sweet to Be Good is the second book in K.M. Jackson's Sugar Lake series. Alexandria "Drea" Gale came back home from New York to help with her family's bakery business. She jumps into another project to earn some cash -- renovating a local theater building. The project gets to be a bit stressful when the theater owner's grandson starts sticking his nose into the project. Kellen wants to sell the theater to help his grandmother financially and feels Drea's innovative ideas are too great a risk. But.....he also thinks she is attractive.  Can you feel the romantic tension???

Too Sweet to Be Good is a feel-good, lighthearted romance. I don't usually read romance novels. I requested this review book totally by accident, but I actually enjoyed reading it. The characters and town are quirky and entertaining. The recipes included sound yummy! And, I had to know what happened between Drea and Killen. They were either going to kiss or kill each other. ha ha.

Cute story! It's good to step outside of favorite genres once in awhile and mix things up a bit.

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

Monday, August 26, 2019

REVIEW: The Escape Room

The Escape Room
Author: Megan Goldin

Sara Hall landed her dream job at a Wall Street finance firm. There she met heavy hitters Vincent, Jules, Sylvie, and Sam....four finance execs who play a very ruthless game to stay ahead. The salaries, egos, and risks are large. They would do just about anything to stay on top....anything. Ethical or not. When a surprise team building exercise requires them to escape from a sealed elevator, dark secrets are revealed.

This story is intense. I despised most of the characters, as they really were willing to do just about anything to keep their status and positions at the company. It was hard to continue reading as their facades came down, revealing their true nature. Creepy. Suspenseful. Intense. Great read! The story builds slowly mixing flash backs with present time. The slowness got a little bit frustrating for me, until I started to figure out what was coming. Then it made much more sense. Stick with moves slow for awhile, then things speed to the inevitable crash at the end. Boom.

Awesome suspense! Horrible, ruthless characters that I would despise in real life. But they were perfect for the plot of this story!

I'm a bit claustrophobic following being trapped in an elevator for several hours during a power outage when I was a child. That made this particular story a bit more creepy for me. I would not like a team building exercise that involved me being locked in a tiny room....especially an elevator in the dark. Nope. No way. And ruthless assholes trapped in a locked elevator trying to figure out's not a pleasant scenario.

This is the first book by Megan Goldin that I've read. I will definitely read more by this author!

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

Sunday, August 25, 2019

REVIEW: Surprise Island (The Boxcar Children)

Surprise Island
The Boxcar Children #2
Author: Gertrude Chandler Warner

The story of the Boxcar Children continues with Surprise Island. The kids have grown accustomed to their new life with their grandfather. But sometimes they miss the days where they had adventures and lived on their own in an abandoned boxcar. So their grandfather has a surprise for them. They get to spend the summer on an island he owns! They have a new friend....and make some cool discoveries!

Another cute story in this children's adventure series! While enjoying this story, I had to smile. The adult in me kept wanting to think "oh my gosh, this is just not safe!''  But the kid still lurking in me was like "Woo Hoo! A whole summer vacation on an island! SO MUCH FUN!!''  So, I firmly told the adult in me to shut up. It's a children's story....let the kids have fun! :)

I listened to the audio book version of this story. Narrated by Tim Gregory, the audio (Oasis Audio) is just over 2.5 hours long. Gregory reads at a nice pace and does a great acting job, even with the children's voices. There are also some sound effects here and there. Nice listening experience! I like listening to these stories while doing house or yard work because they are happy, innocent and just fun. Brain candy! :)

Surprise Island was published in 1949. It is a little bit dated, but not badly enough to hamper enjoyment of the story. Nineteen books in this series were written by the original author, Gertrude Chandler Warner. More than 130 books have been added to the series by other writers with the newest book, Secret on the Thirteenth Floor, coming out in September 2019! I'm so curious how the newer books compare to the original series! I might have to skip around a bit and read some of the new books to see what I think. :)

On to the next book in this series -- The Yellow House Mystery!

Saturday, August 24, 2019

REVIEW: Dark Above

Dark Above
Author: Jeremy Finley

William Chance is hiding out following the events in The Darkest Time of Night. He's hiding from fear, memories, and the knowledge of what is coming. But he can't hide from his nightmares. Then he finds a girl who shares his nightmares and begins a cross country race to find the others....only they can stop the coming destruction. His grandmother, her best friend, and a host of other operatives work for a secret organization looking for these same people. They believe they need to be contained to prevent the apocalypse manufactured by an alien species.

Darkest Time of Night had me sitting on the edge of my seat, binge reading. And that same feeling continued with Dark Above. Filled with action and suspense, the book was like X-Files on speed. The Truth is out there....but you probably don't want to know what the truth is. My favorite characters are still Lynn and Roxy.....the feistiest, bravest senior citizens ever!

It isn't often that I like a sequel even more than the first book. I liked The Darkest Time of Night, but found the action and suspense even stronger in this second book. I sipped coffee and read into the early morning hours because I had to know how it ended! Another binge read -- you're killing me, Finley! I'm too old for all-nighters! ha ha I'd better rest up before you publish another book!

Not going to say much about the plot, because....spoilers. The story kept my attention from start to finish. The characters are driven, dedicated and....scared shitless most of the time. Great story!

I will definitely be looking for more from this author! He leaves the door open for a third book in the William Chance & Lynn Roseworth series....but I will be in line for his next book, regardless of what it is.

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

Friday, August 23, 2019

REVIEW: Hotel Dare

Hotel Dare
Author: Terry Blas
Artist: Claudia Aguirre

This world-hopping adventure story for kids teaches an awesome lesson about the importance of family. Family isn't about being biologically's about who you trust and who makes you feel loved and valued. Three teens go to visit their Grandma Lupe in her run-down, mysterious, old hotel. They discover a secret that sends them into several different magical fantasy worlds. Space pirates. Wizards. Aliens. This book has a little bit of everything!

I loved this story! The teens are learning how to become a newly blended family and come together to solve the mysterious predicament they find themselves in. Their Grandma Lupe is quirky and feisty, yet lovable.

The artwork is fantastic! The story is interesting and exciting, while making important points about family relationships.

Loved it! I will definitely be looking for more by this author and illustrator! Terry Blas has written stories for several familiar animated characters including Steven Universe and The Amazing World of Gumball. Claudia Aguirre's art appears in multiple graphic novels/comics including Open Earth and Kim & Kim #1.

**I voluntarily read a review copy of this graphic novel from Boom! Studios. All opinions expressed are entirely my own.**

Thursday, August 22, 2019

REVIEW: Manga Classics - Jane Eyre

Manga Classics - Jane Eyre

For me, there is just something refreshing about classics revisited Manga style. Japanese style art flowing across the pages....reading right to left....    It's still the favorite classic tale I know and love. The Manga adaptation just gives a new feel to an old, favorite story. 

I've read Jane Eyre probably 50 times. It's one of those stories I can re-read often, but still enjoy. And I loved the Manga Classic version! It follows the book closely, including illustrating most, if not all, of my favorite lines from the book. The artwork is awesome! From Pilot (Rochester's faithful dog) to Mrs. Fairfax, I liked the appearance of all the minor characters. As for major characters....Jane Eyre had a sweet face and Rochester was drawn with just the right amount of brooding darkness. The pages depicting Rochester's hidden, terrible secret as well as other important plot points were perfect!

I am always skeptical of adaptations. I have dnf'd many, many supposed continuations of favorite classic stories or re-tellings/adaptations because they just didn't stay true to my favorite classic stories. I am picky. But I have yet to be disappointed by Manga Classics. The story is always well depicted. The art is awesome each time. It's an enjoyable reading experience for me. I don't find myself frowning about weird plot changes, or missing characters/dialog. For the most part, they stick to the original...just condensing it a bit and illustrating the story. Love it! I'm ordering copies for my keeper shelf!

I thoroughly enjoyed this manga version of Jane Eyre!

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

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

REVIEW: Manga Classics - Great Expectations

Manga Classics - Great Expectations

I have always been a big fan of Dickens. In fact, my favorite book is A Christmas Carol. But, his larger works can be quite dark and depressing. Dickens lived through some rough times in his childhood and it certainly colored his writing. The first time I read Great Expectations, I remember thinking to myself about how absolutely F'd up every single character is.....there isn't a single character that doesn't have some darkness or flaw that puts a damper on their entire life. Even if they are just fictional creations, it's difficult to read through a story that shows so clearly how harsh human nature, the world, and society can be. I had to read Great Expectations twice during my school years....and never touched the book again. Too depressing. Too real.

But then I saw this manga version of the classic story. I decided to give Pip another visit. I'm glad I did. This manga classic follows the basics of the story closely enough, but it seemed somehow less depressing accompanied by manga-style artwork. I liked how the manga version seems to fit even how Dickens felt about the story himself.

The story is still intense, but I enjoyed this slightly condensed version much better than the original novel.

The adaptation of the story is good...the artwork is wonderful! I'm glad I read this version, even if the original story is not one of my favorites.

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

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

REVIEW: Manga Classics - Sense and Sensibility

Manga Classics: Sense and Sensibility

I have loved the works of Jane Austen ever since I read them for the first time as a young teen. Sense and Sensibility is one of my favorite books! I'm always a bit hesitant to read adaptations for fear of being disappointed. But the artwork in this book caught my eye and I was curious about a manga adaptation of this classic novel. I'm so glad I took a chance and read this book! The art is wonderful! And it is faithful to Austen's book for the most part.

This manga classic reads like most manga...from right to left. It has a couple introductory pages to explain how to read the book properly, so this edition is a great gift for someone new to manga. There is nothing inappropriate for teens in this book, just as in Austen's novel. It is Sense and Sensibility, just presented in a new manner.

Udon Entertainment and Morpheus Studios have published several other manga classics including Jane Eyre, Great Expectations, and the works of Edgar Allan Poe. I'm definitely going to read more in this classics series!

Great book! Faithful to the original! And the art is wonderful!

**I voluntarily read a review copy of this book from Udon Entertainment. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own.**

Monday, August 19, 2019

REVIEW: The Boxcar Children

The Boxcar Children
Author: Gertrude Chandler Warner

I have always heard such good things about this children's series...but never took the time to read any of the books. This year I decided to make a concentrated effort to revisit favorite books/series that I love and to finally read books I've always wanted to read. This series made the list. I'm so glad I took the time finally to enjoy this sweet story! I enjoyed it enough to read more!

The Boxcar Children series was originally started in the 1920's. Gertrude Chandler Warner was a first grade teacher, and wanted to write an adventure story for young children. This first book was originally published in 1924, but revised, edited and re-released in 1942. Warner added 18 more books to the series, starting with Surprise Island in 1949. More than 132 books were added to the series by other authors, as well as a couple spin off series. I can understand why -- this adventure story is sweet, engaging and fun to read. I'm 50 years old, and still loved this tale of four children who want to stay together at all costs after the loss of their parents.

This first story introduces Henry, Jessie, Violet, and Benny.  After being orphaned, they are roaming and working to survive as a family. They have a grandfather, but they are afraid of him. They find an abandoned boxcar near a town and make it their home. They trust very few people because they are afraid of being sent to an orphanage and split up. They have quite the adventure! Great story for kids and adults!

I listened to the audio book version of this story (Oasis Audio). Narrated by Aimee Lilly, the audio is just under 2 hours long. Lilly reads at a nice, steady pace and has a pleasant voice. She gave a great performance. This audio would be fun and interesting for both kids and adults.

I'm definitely going to keep reading this series. It's happy, innocent and enjoyable. Sometimes I need a "feel good'' story, even if it was written for young children. :)

Sunday, August 18, 2019

REVIEW: The Mystery at Lilac Inn

The Mystery at Lilac Inn
Author: Carolyn Keene

The Mystery at Lilac Inn is the fourth Nancy Drew Mystery. Originally published in 1930, the book was revised and updated in 1961. The story is a little bit dated, (example - a department store credit card is called a "charge plate'' and snorkeling/free diving is called "skin diving.'') but not enough to hamper my enjoyment of this action-packed story! Although this story follows the usual Nancy Drew suspenseful formula, there is more danger and action in this story than the previous three mysteries. The bad guys really mean business this time!

The Basics: Nancy and her friend Helen travel to the Lilac Inn to visit with their friend Emily, who is soon to be married. Immediately strange things start to happen....their canoe capsizes, thefts occur at the inn, and someone is pretending to be Nancy! Of course, Nancy jumps right into the mystery to help her friend. The case is filled with danger this time and Nancy finds herself in multiple scrapes while sleuthing out the truth.

Great story! I'm enjoying reading my way through this series as an adult. I was about 10 years old or so when I read these books the first time. I'm enjoying them as much at 50 as I did at 10! I do have to smile a bit when Nancy miraculously has exactly what she needs to investigate, or when help shows up just in time to save her from a grisly demise.

I listened to the audio book version of this story. I'm really enjoying the audio books from Books on Tape via my local library. There are sound effects and music added at appropriate spots in the story to build suspense. Makes it fun! And I can listen to the story while working outside in my yard and garden. At just over 3 hours long, this audio book was a perfect easy listening length. I easily finished it in a day. Laura Linney narrates. Linney has a pleasant voice and reads at a nice pace. All in all, an enjoyable listening experience.

On to the next book in this series -- The Secret of Shadow Ranch!

Saturday, August 17, 2019

REVIEW: The Perfect Wife

The Perfect Wife
Author: JP Delaney

Holy cow! This story is....disturbing.... yet mesmerizing. I know other reviews and even the book blurb spoil the story a little bit....but I'm not going to say a word. It's best to enjoy this story with no prior knowledge. If you haven't read anything about this book.....don't. Get a copy and read....don't read other people's opinions, summaries, or blurbs. Just pick up this book and let JP Delaney traumatize you.'s quite the psychological roller coaster!

After reading Delaney's Believe Me in 2018, I knew I was going to enjoy this book. I just didn't realize the emotions and questions this story was going to elicit in me. As a mom, portions of the plot were rough for me...but I had to know what happened! Not an easy tale to read, but a very very enjoyable one! I'm still thinking over the ramifications of several plot points were they to happen in real life.... Any story that leaves me thinking deep thoughts deserves full stars from me!

I had an egalley of this book, but I chose to listen to the audio book version. I'm glad I did....having this story read to me as I puttered about my daily Mom-chores made the plot hit home even more with me. Several great voice actors narrate the audio book. I love it when audio versions use full casts! It made for a very enjoyable listening experience. The audio book (Penguin Random House Audio Publishing) is almost 11 hours long. I whizzed through it in one day ..... I couldn't stop listening! I listened while working in the yard and garden. I listened while folding laundry. I listened while cooking dinner. I listened in the car. I had an earbud in while grocery shopping. This story just sucked me in and I had to know what happened next! It has been a long time since I binge listened to an audio book. While the story was emotionally difficult for me in places, it was awesome!

JP Delaney is quickly becoming one of my favorite suspense authors. This story is different, creative and complex. I didn't see the end coming until it smacked me in the face. I love it when that happens!

**I voluntarily received an advance readers copy of this book from Random House via NetGalley, although I chose to listen to the audio version from my local library instead. All opinions expressed are entirely my own.**

Friday, August 16, 2019

REVIEW: The Darkest Time of Night

The Darkest Time of Night
Author: Jeremy Finley

A seven year old boy disappears in the woods outside his Tennessee home. William Chance is the grandson of a US Senator, so the story immediately draws media attention. The FBI and National Guard comb the woods. The police question every sex offender and possible person of interest within miles of the wooded area. No leads. No sign of the child. Nothing. It's like he disappeared into thin air. But his grandmother, Lynn Roseworth, thinks she knows what happened. It has happened before. Many, many times. In the 1960s Lynn was an assistant in a college astronomy department. One of the professors was doing research into missing persons cases. Although the cases were all seemingly unrelated, all of the witnesses said they saw people disappear into strange beams of light. Lynn knows the truth. There are very powerful people and agencies that would never, ever let her reveal what she knows. But she's determined to save her matter what she has to do.

This story gave me the same creepy-cool feeling I used to get while watching episodes of the X-Files. In trying to locate and save her grandson, Lynn has to wade through her own past. Missing memories from childhood and what she discovered while working at the college in the 60s hold the truth that she has to reconcile in order to find William. It's dangerous to start looking into secrets that powerful government agencies want kept from the public. As she investigates, Lynn discovers the total horrifying truth: We are not alone.

Despite my not being a real fan of conspiracy theory stories or alien abduction tales, I enjoyed this story. Two feisty older women -- Lynn and her good friend Roxy -- setting off to blow the cover off a long-held government secret just gave this story a cooler edge than other similar books I have read. The plot isn't new....and it reads like a script from the X-Files....but 70-year old women determined to rescue a missing child, dodging men in black and nefarious secret agents while investigating UFOs --- what's not to love? I enjoyed the story for what it is ..... a suspenseful story about government cover-ups and aliens. The story continues in book 2 --The Dark Above.

On to book 2!

Thursday, August 15, 2019

REVIEW: The Bungalow Mystery

The Bungalow Mystery
Author: Carolyn Keene

In this 3rd Nancy Drew Mystery, Nancy and her friend Helen are enjoying a trip out of town, when they have a boating accident during a thunderstorm. They are saved by a girl named Laura. Nancy doesn't realize at the time that meeting Laura will draw her into yet another mystery. This time, Nancy suspects Laura's guardians are stealing the orphan's inheritance. She just has to find proof!

I listened to the audio version of this story. Narrated by Laura Linney, the audio is just over 3 hours long. Linney reads at a nice, even pace and gives a great acting performance. The audio (Penguin Random House Audio Publishing) is enhanced by some background sounds, suspenseful music at the end of chapters, and other sound effects.

I enjoyed this story! I'm having a great time re-visiting this series. It's been so many years since I last read these books, that I don't remember whodunnit! It makes the stories seem fresh and new, despite the fact I read all the books as a child. :) The Bungalow Mystery was originally written in 1930, and revised/updated in 1960. The stories are a bit dated, but not enough to impair my enjoyment. I'm having fun listening to the audio books as I work in my yard and garden. The mystery progresses quickly since the books are short, so I can easily finish one in a day.

The books do follow a formula. Usually, the story opens with Nancy in some sort of danger that connects her to a mystery she needs to investigate. At some point, she will be confronted or threatened by the bad guys...barely escape unscathed....and discover some pivotal clue that helps further her investigation. Each chapter ends on a cliffhanger of some sort....pulling the reader to continue on to the next chapter immediately. It's definitely formula....but an enjoyable formula!

This series is totally appropriate for middle grade age kids and up. Nothing graphic or too scary. Nancy is an intelligent and resourceful main character, who occasionally gets help from her lawyer father to solve her cases. The books are short, quick reads so there isn't a lot of character development, but the plots really revolve more around the action and investigation than the characters themselves.

I love to read/listen to children's stories in between more the heavy adult fiction I read. Sometimes a light, simple mystery is a nice palate cleanser after a horror or thriller novel! Plus, I can listen to Nancy Drew books outside in my yard without worrying what the young neighbor children are over-hearing.

Enjoyable and a great dose of nostalgia! I'm enjoying these books just as much at 50 years old as I did at 10! Luckily my local library has these audio books always available with no waiting on their digital site! I can indulge myself with some good ol' Nancy Drew whenever I want! Sweet! On to the next book -- The Mystery at Lilac Inn!

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

REVIEW: Ross Poldark

Ross Poldark
Author: Winston Graham

Captain Ross Poldark comes home to Cornwall after fighting for the British in the Revolutionary War. He has been dreaming of coming home...but everything has gone wrong. The woman he loves is marrying his cousin. His father is dead. The family home and lands are a rundown mess. But Ross is not a man to be defeated. He starts working to repair the house, plans to go into copper mining, and builds a new life for himself.

I have known about this book series for years and saw many commercials for the PBS series, plus the new series on Amazon. The concept sounded interesting, but I just never took the time to try the books or watch the shows. I saw several of the later books available for review...and decided it was time to finally jump in and discover the Poldark family for myself. I'm glad I did! The story and characters are engaging and interesting. The story had a bit more romance than I usually like, but it didn't over power the rest of the plot.

There are 12 books in The Poldark Saga. I enjoyed this first tale about Ross Poldark enough to read more in the series. It might take me awhile to work my way through all 12 books....but I will over time. And, now that I've read book 1, I can watch at least most of season 1 of the show. :) I will watch until I catch up with the book....then pause long enough to read book 2, Demelza.

I listened to the audio book version of this story. Narrated by Oliver Hembrough, the audio is just under 14.5 hours long. Hembrough reads at a steady pace and gives a good performance. A nice listening experience! I can tell people are enjoying this series and the television show. I tried to check out book 2 on audio from the library --- and the waiting list is 6 months long! Yikes! lol. Only had to wait a week for the ebook (they have many copies of that version) moving on to book 2! :)

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

REVIEW: A Stranger on the Beach

A Stranger on the Beach
Author: Michele Campbell

Caroline seemingly has it all. A great husband, kids, dream job, and a brand new beach house to top it all off. She wants to show off her perfect life and perfect family.'s all a facade. Underneath everything, Caroline and her life are a hot mess. So, she has a fling to make herself feel better. But unfortunately a one night stand that means nothing to her means so much more to the bartender she uses for gratification. But not everything is as it seems...

This is the kind of book where it is perfectly ok to absolutely hate all of the characters. I enjoyed hating every single one of them. That very fact sucked me right into the was like driving by an accident scene. You don't want to slow down and look....but you can't help it. I didn't want to feverishly read about these people's demented lives....but I couldn't stop myself. What a ride.....great story!

I couldn't put this book down. Suspenseful. Twisted. Unputdownable. Loved it! I stayed up until 2 am because I had to finish this story. I love it when a suspense novel has me thinking "Oh my F'd up are these people!'' the entire time.  This is the first book by Michele Campbell that I've read....and I'm definitely reading her other two books, It's Always the Husband and She Was the Quiet One. A Stranger on the Beach was so stalkerishly creepy and twisted that I can't wait to find out what other demented creepiness this author has in store for me! She also has a new book coming out in 2020, The Wife Who Knew Too Much.

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

Monday, August 12, 2019

REVIEW: Pop Goes the Weasel

Pop Goes the Weasel
Author: James Patterson

I started reading this series during The Great American Read. I was familiar with James Patterson, mostly because his name is splashed all over so many books as author, co-author, or whatever you want to call his publication style, but I had never actually read one of his books. I discovered quickly that I actually like Alex Cross, a Washington D.C. psychologist who becomes a detective. Cross investigates some gritty, hard-hitting cases. The series reads like a television thriller series or an over-the-top movie.....a cop soap opera. Devious serial killers. Crooks who keep popping up in Cross' life to cause damage. Bad cops. Thugs. And every time Cross gets a girlfriend bad things happen. Every. Time.

Despite the plots getting cheesy in places, I'm enjoying reading through this series. Pop Goes the Weasel gave me some trouble though, but not because of the plot, characters or writing. I actually had a hard time finding a copy of the book. I'm on a personal book buying ban at the moment (I own way too many physical books -- thousands of them -- so I'm not buying anything I'm only going to read once) so buying this book was not an option. My local library and its various branches do not own a physical copy of this book. So I turned to the digital offerings.....the ebook had a huge waiting list (Drat! People have discovered the joy of the library's digital site! lol). I finally checked out the audio book version only to discover it's abridged. Heavily abridged. The full audio book is almost 10 hours long. The version I listened to is only 5 1/2 hours long, which means they cut out half the story. Rather than wait weeks in a queue for the ebook....I chose to listen to the abridged story. I found it a bit annoying that they chose to leave in a steamy sex scene between Alex and his girlfriend Christine while obviously cutting out a lot of the meat of the story. Sigh. least I can move on with the series now rather than sitting in a queue for a couple months waiting on an ebook.

Pop Goes the Weasel is the 5th book in the Alex Cross series. There are 26 books in the series, with a new book, Criss Cross, coming out in 2019. I have a lot of reading to do to catch up with this series....another reason I didn't want to wait for the library's ebook. This time, Cross is investigating a string of violent murders in D.C. They are calling the killer The Weasel. Just as Cross is narrowing in on a suspect, his girlfriend is kidnapped (Please stop dating, never ever ends well!). Turns out this killer will be one of the most gruesome and diabolical criminals that Alex Cross will ever come across. And he's playing a game of life and death with Alex Cross.

I enjoyed this story.....well, I enjoyed the parts of this story I got to hear. This version is just too heavily abridged. The narrators give a great performance....the plot was interesting (despite the girlfriend in danger plot device coming up yet again...sigh) and the investigation filled with action and suspense. I'm going middle of the road with my rating on this one....just because half the story is missing. I'm confused why both libraries I use (my local and a nearby large metro library system) only have an abridged audio version of this book while the rest of the series is available unabridged? Frustrating! Especially when the after effects of this story continue through the rest of the series. Grumble, grumble.

On to the next book in the series -- Roses are Red.

Sunday, August 11, 2019

REVIEW: The Big Book of Classic Fantasy

The Big Book of Classic Fantasy
Editors: Ann & Jeff VanderMeer

I am a sucker for humongous anthologies -- if it has the words Big, Giant or Mammoth in the title, I'm gonna read it! It might take me awhile to read through a book several inches thick (or an egalley file in this case), but I'm going to read every word and savor each story. I like anthologies of short stories and novellas because every story is different....a different author, a new style, new ideas. When I come across a large anthology I really like...I take my time and savor it like a lovely vintage wine. I read one story a up a little on the author and the story if it's a classic....and just enjoy. Story anthologies also let me break my own rules a little bit....  I can skip around, reading one story at the beginning of the book then jump to the middle and try another. I can stop reading a story in the middle if it's not for me...and move on to something else. I can read one tale, and then jump to a story by that same author that I find somewhere else and come back to the anthology in my own time. I'm usually a strict read-in-the-proper-order and stay-on-task person....anthologies set me free to just jump around as I please and get a good dose of whatever genre is the focus. Love it!

I love this anthology! It gathers classic writing from authors like Edgar Rice Burroughs and L. Frank Baum and also includes authors new-to-me like Franz Blei, Stella Benson and Der Nister. The stories are varied and different. For some, this is the first time the stories have been translated into English. Some of the stories veered off into the unusual or strange....and some had no real proper ending....but I didn't mind. Fantasy by its very nature is wild and fantastical. Wild doesn't lend itself to the normal or I embraced the strange and just enjoyed myself.

Interesting. Different. Lots of new-to-me writers and stories. Fun to read! It did take me a good long while to read my way through this book. It isn't a quick snack.....but a long, drawn out feast.

Great read! Full stars from me -- it wasn't just a rehashing of old tales I had read before. But a mix of favorites and some stories I had never heard about before! :) Lovely! After writing this review, I immediately ordered my own copy of this book. It's an awesome collection of fantasy tales!

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

Saturday, August 10, 2019

REVIEW: Mrs. Morris and the Ghost

Mrs. Morris and the Ghost
Author: Traci Wilton

I love ghost stories. Always have. When I first read the blurb for this book, I knew I would enjoy the story. And I did! For me, this book was a mix of nostalgia for favorite haunting tales like The Ghost and Mrs. Muir, and my love for cozy mysteries with a ghostly theme.

The basics: Charlene Morris relocates to Salem, MA after her husband's death. She just couldn't stand living in the house and city where she and her husband had been happy for so many years. So, she bought a large estate in Salem with the intent of opening a bed and breakfast. Charlene doesn't have much time to get the house set up because it's almost Halloween, and that would be a perfect time to debut a new B&B in Salem. As she busies herself with hiring contractors to paint, buying furniture for the bedrooms and readying herself to start taking reservations, she notices something strange about the house. It seems she isn't alone. She left the ghosts of her past behind in Chicago only to trade them for a real ghost in a large house in Salem. To rid herself of the ghost, Charlene finds herself investigating a death. Was it a natural death....or something much more sinister?

I loved this story! A second book in this series, Mrs. Morris and the Witch, is scheduled to come out in April, 2020. I will definitely be reading the next book! The ghost situation and mystery moved along at a nice pace, with plenty of suspense, quirky local characters and suspects. I like the characters....although I do get a sneaking suspicion there might be a love triangle of sorts ahead in this story line. I hope not....that particular plot device is over-used in cozies. Charlene is an intelligent, strong and interesting main character. She's trying to put her life back together while working through grief. I'm anxious to see how she is going to work through owning a haunted B&B. I think in Salem that would be a positive thing for a tourist based business! I can't wait to see how the ongoing plot and characters develop in this series!

Very enjoyable cozy! I'm definitely going to be reading more by this new author!

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

Friday, August 9, 2019

REVIEW: After the Storm

After the Storm
Author: Linda Castillo

The Kate Burkholder series is one of my favorites. Kate is the police chief in Painters Mill, OH. She grew up Amish but left the faith as a teenager after a traumatizing event. She walks the line between the Amish population of the county and the "Englishers'' as best she can, still feeling the sting of being chastised or even shunned for leaving the Amish way.

After the Storm is the 7th book in the series. A tornado touches down in the county. It destroys a trailer park and injures or kills several people, including an infant Kate tried to save from a damaged trailer. It also uncovers skeletal remains in an old barn. The remains might be a local man who disappeared in the 1980s. Kate jumps in to investigate how the remains ended up in the old barn and who might be responsible. While juggling this cold case, she's also trying to figure out her complicated relationship with John Tomasetti.

I enjoyed the investigation portion of this book....but the side plot of Kate and John's relationship left me cold this time around. Tomasetti acted like a pig most of the time.....and Kate acted incredibly immature. The plot line of Tomasetti brooding about his murdered family and saying/doing things to Kate that border on abuse using that past trauma as an excuse is just getting OLD. He went about four steps over the line in this book....   I really think Kate should have walked away from him at the end of this novel. Seriously. But she isn't golden either.....she pulled some serious crap herself. I realize the author is trying to build tension in their relationship....I just didn't like the tension she chose to build in this story between Burkholder and Tomasetti. They either need to figure it out -- or split up. Or their relationship needs to just fade to the background, secondary to the investigations. I'm getting seriously tired of Tomasetti.

Regardless of my feelings about the relationship side plot, I enjoyed this book. The mystery moved along at a nice pace, and had some surprises along the way. I did not expect the ending. Enjoyable story! On to the next book in the series!

Thursday, August 8, 2019

REVIEW: Small Spaces

Small Spaces
Author: Katherine Arden

I enjoyed Katherine Arden's Winternight Trilogy, and I love creepy I knew I would like this book! :) Great story!

Olivia (only her mother got to call her that .... call her Ollie, or face her anger!) has been through a lot. Most of the time she deals as best she can...but she is really beginning to hate pity and sympathy from adults, teachers and other kids.  She finds comfort in her books...and her mom's old smart watch that she never, ever takes off her wrist. One day her life takes an unexpected strange turn when she comes across a woman standing at a creek. The woman is preparing to throw a book into the water. As a book lover, Ollie sees this as such a waste....and on a whim, she swoops in and steals the book, running away with it. At home, she starts to read.....and gets pulled into the creepy tale of Beth, two young men who love her, and a frightening deal made with a supernatural being called "The Smiling Man.''  Little does Ollie know that The Smiling Man is more than a boogie man in a book. Much, much more.

I loved this story!!! I'm a big fan of horror....even horror stories written for children. This story is well told...and truly creepy. I listened to the audio book version of this scary tale while canning tomatoes in my kitchen. It was a bright and sunny summer day.....but this tale made me dream of crisp, fall afternoons with scarecrows blowing in the breeze. I always felt a bit creeped out by scarecrows....and this story only heightened their creep factor.

The audio book, narrated by Renee Dorian, is just over 5 hours long. Dorian reads at a nice, steady pace and gives a great performance. Very enjoyable listen!

There is nothing age-inappropriate in this story. Middle grade kids who can handle some horror elements would love this story. For kids that still have a bit of fear of things that might go bump in the night.....they might want to read something else. There is nothing too graphic or blood-curdling....but the story is a bit scary. Be aware.

Great read!! It really got me primed for the upcoming Halloween season (It's August as I write this review)! Time to start reading creepy stories now! :) I won't be able to look a scarecrow in the face by October!

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

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

REVIEW: I'm Not Dying With You Tonight

I'm Not Dying With You Tonight
Author: Kimberly Jones, Gilly Segal

Lena and Campbell are two high school students. They don't know each other. In fact, they have very little in common, other than the fact they are both young and come from the same city. One Friday night, a fight after a high school football game escalates into violence. What starts as an exchange of angry words at a concession stand grows into a dangerous violence in the crowd at the game and then area neighborhoods. The two girls find themselves having to work together to make it home safely.

This story is fast paced and the perspective alternates between the two girls. I had a hard time getting into the characters at first. I think it might have been because as I would just start getting into one girl's story, the chapter would end and it would switch to the other girl. But as the story ramped up, I found myself pulled in...and it didn't matter whose perspective it was....I wanted to know what was happening! Emergency situations can bring together people who would not normally mesh....and also uncover the true nature of people we thought were familiar.

I enjoyed the story and the points this YA book strives to bring home. At the end, I found myself wanting to know what happens next! The ending was realistic and leaves the reader to think...imagine...hope. I hope that the events depicted in the book would lead the characters to change their lives, their opinions and their judgments of others. I wish our world was more about love and respect instead of hate and judgment. In the end, I left the story hoping at least the two main characters formed a bond and learned life lessons they won't forget.

Very moving story. I enjoyed it. The fast pace glossed over a few things I wish had been more fully developed.....but, I understand why the action was fast. The situation the girls were in left no time for thinking about things....they had to pull together to get home. The writing style and development perfectly fit the plot.

I'd definitely be interested in reading more from these two writers!

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

Saturday, August 3, 2019

REVIEW: The Curse of the Blue Scarab

The Curse of the Blue Scarab
Author: Josh Lanyon

I am a fan of literary mash-ups ever since I read Pride and Predjudice....and Zombies. When I saw this book by Josh Lanyon and realized it was a mashup of The Mummy by Riccardo Stephens....I just had to read it! I'm a HUGE fan of classic monster stories...and I haven't read anything by Josh Lanyon. A classic mashup....and discovering a new-to-me author! Woot!

Not only am I new to Josh Lanyon's writing....but this is the first time I've read a book with M/M romance. Lanyon has written more than 60 books...action, adventure, mystery, all with M/M romantic subplots. I don't usually read romance novels of any sort....just not my thing. But mix in the Mummy....and let the main character have some romantic emotions come into play all while trying to escape a classic monster....yeah, I'm in.

**If you are not one to enjoy a LGBTQIA story.....then pass this by. For those who do enjoy them, don't expect graphic love scenes or a sex-filled subplot. That isn't what this book is about. It's a mashup of a classic monster tale written in 1912. Lanyon just added a bit of romantic tension, plus some mashings from a couple other books on opium addiction. The Mummy is a well-written classic book, but the style is antiquated when compared to more modern writing. Be aware the style and writing in the original book has been preserved. I saw several reviews that complained about the "flowery language,'' slow moving plot, differences between the writing in this book and in Lanyon's other books, etc etc etc. I think those readers/reviewers didn't understand that Lanyon was adding elements to the text of a book written in 1912. This story is a MASHUP....that means Lanyon took the text of the classic book and added elements. The language, writing style, main plot and basics are all more than 100 years old. Keep that in mind when reading. I find it awesome that Lanyon tackled such a project -- skillfully, I might add!**

All in all, I enjoyed this book! And I bought an ebook copy of the original book by Stephens. At first it was just to compare this book with the original, but I got pulled into the story and ended up reading both versions. Great monster story!

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

Friday, August 2, 2019

REVIEW: Till Sudden Death Do Us Part

Till Sudden Death Do Us Part
Author: Simon R. Green

I have been a huge Simon R. Green fan ever since I read his Nightside series. I love how Green mixes sci-fi and horror elements along with a healthy splash of humor....makes for very enjoyable stories! I started reading Ishmael Jones when I finished the Nightside books. For me, this new series filled the void left by the ending of the Nightside storyline. Quirky, a bit scary, definitely entertaining!

Ishmael Jones has a deep, dark secret.....he's actually an alien. He knows he's an alien, but he's been stranded on Earth for a very long time. And he doesn't remember exactly where he is from, or even what he really is. He's been working for various secret organizations for decades doing various strange and dangerous investigations. Now he teams up with his human girlfriend, Penny Balcourt, to investigate mysterious, strange cases around the UK.

Till Sudden Death Do Us Part is the seventh Ishmael Jones story. Ishmael and his sidekick are once again on the case.....but this time it's a bit different. Someone from Ishmael's past hunts him down to ask for help. The family is cursed. Each time a female family member gets married before the sun rises after the wedding night, people will be dead. Ishmael wants to prevent a dead groom and wedding party members.....    At the same time, he's dealing with his own inner demons. Literally. It seems he might be remembering who he is.....and his alien self might be trying to pop out into the sunshine.

Great story this time! Green never disappoints me! I enjoyed the story of the family curse and also the character development for Ishmael in this newest book. The ending of the story surprised me a bit....I wasn't expecting either of the two reveals. Nice!

Love this series! I'm definitely on board for the next book!

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

Back from a Summer Oma Break

Just wanted to apologize for the break from reviews this summer.

My granddaughter came to stay with us for an entire month! While I was having fun being Oma, I just wasn't reading much.....except for library books about ducklings, teddy bears, alligators, dinosaurs and spiders. :)

We are driving The Princess back home on the blog will return to normal very soon.

Thanks for being understanding. Oma duty trumps my book reviewing. Every time. :)

I will be back to work and daily postings on Monday 8/5.