Wednesday, April 24, 2019

#Review - Little Darlings by Melanie Golding #Thrillers #Supernatural

Series: Standalone
Format: Hardcover, 304 pages
Release Date: April 30, 2019
Publisher: Crooked Lane Books
Source: Publisher
Genre: Thrillers / Supernatural

“Mother knows best” takes on a sinister new meaning in this unsettling thriller perfect for fans of Neil Gaiman, Grimms’ Fairy Tales, and Aimee Molloy's The Perfect Mother.

Everyone says Lauren Tranter is exhausted, that she needs rest. And they’re right; with newborn twins, Morgan and Riley, she’s never been more tired in her life. But she knows what she saw: that night, in her hospital room, a woman tried to take her babies and replace them with her own…creatures. Yet when the police arrived, they saw no one. Everyone, from her doctor to her husband, thinks she’s imagining things.

A month passes. And one bright summer morning, the babies disappear from Lauren’s side in a park. But when they’re found, something is different about them. The infants look like Morgan and Riley—to everyone else. But to Lauren, something is off. As everyone around her celebrates their return, Lauren begins to scream, These are not my babies.

Determined to bring her true infant sons home, Lauren will risk the unthinkable. But if she’s wrong about what she saw…she’ll be making the biggest mistake of her life.

Compulsive, creepy, and inspired by some of our darkest fairy tales, Little Darlings will have you checking—and rechecking—your own little ones. Just to be sure. Just to be safe.

Set in present-day England, and spanning the first five weeks following a traumatic childbirth, Lauren Tranter’s hopes and dreams of being a new mom are shattered when she encounters a mother’s worst nightmare—someone is threatening to take her twins if she leaves them alone. The novel ranges from the stark loneliness of returning home after birth to the confines of a psychiatric unit, as the reader is forced to question if Lauren is mad, or does she know something we don’t?

"Changeling- a child believed to have been secretly substituted by fairies for the parents' real child in infancy." 

The story starts towards the end of Lauren's long labor which heralds the arrival of twin babies Morgan and Riley. Lauren spends several days in the hospital with them, wondering when her "love" for her babies will appear. Lauren is exhausted, inexperienced, and gets no real support from her husband Patrick, at any time in the story. I dare say that Patrick turns out to be a right awful prick who for even one moment in time had he took the time to actually understand what his wife was experiencing, perhaps the events that happened would have not transpired.

This story actually follows two distinct characters: Lauren Tranter, and Detective Sergeant Joanna Harper. It is Harper who we not only meet in the beginning of the book, but follow to the end of the book as she tries to piece together what is really happening to Lauren, and whether or not she experiences a phenomenon called puerperal psychosis or if there is something supernatural at play here. How else would you explain the behavior of Lauren from the moment she gives birth to twins Riley and Morgan, and later believes that someone is attempting to steal her babies and replace them with changelings? 

Terrified for her babies, Lauren spends her days locked away in the house with them, until her increasingly annoyed and utterly useless husband insists that she take them out for some fresh air. That day as poor sleep deprived Lauren dozed off for a minute, someone snatched her babies. Lauren no longer her babies but someone else's. Someone else who has been stalking her since Lauren overheard her singing to her own twins in the recovery room and demanded that they switch babies.  

As someone who has never, to my shame, had children, it is hard for me to understand what postpartum depression really is and how it affects the life of a new mother. In several ways, this book is rather disturbing. It also becomes a mystery or sorts to puzzle out the facts from the paranormal. Plus, the ending is rather strange in that it really doesn't the question as to whether or not Lauren experienced what she did, or was a psychosis?

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

#Review - The Lovely and the Lost by Jennifer Lynn Barnes #YALIT #Mystery

Series: Standalone
Format: Hardcover, 336 pages
Release Date: May 7, 2019
Publisher: Freeform
Source: Publisher
Genre: Young Adult / Mysteries

Kira Bennett's earliest memories are of living alone and wild in the woods. She has no idea how long she was on her own or what she had to do to survive, but she remembers the moment that Cady Bennett and one of her search-and-rescue dogs found her. Adopted into the Bennett family, Kira still struggles with human interaction years later, but she excels at the family business: search-and-rescue. Together with Cady's son, Jude, and their neighbor, Free, Kira works alongside Cady to train the world's most elite search-and-rescue dogs. Someday, all three teenagers hope to put their skills to use, finding the lost and bringing them home.

But when Cady's estranged father, the enigmatic Bales Bennett, tracks his daughter down and asks for her help in locating a missing child-one of several visitors who has disappeared in the Sierra Glades National Park in the past twelve months-the teens find themselves on the frontlines sooner than they could have ever expected. As the search through 750,000 acres of unbridled wilderness intensifies, Kira becomes obsessed with finding the missing child. She knows all too well what it's like to be lost in the wilderness, fighting for survival, alone.

But this case isn't simple. There is more afoot than a single, missing girl, and Kira's memories threaten to overwhelm her at every turn. As the danger mounts and long-held family secrets come to light, Kira is forced to question everything she thought she knew about her adopted family, her true nature, and her past.

The story follows the Bennett family Cadence (Cady), one of the best search and rescue dog trainers in the country, her son Jude, her adopted daughter Kira, who she found in the woods 11 years ago, and Phoebe (Free) Morrow who has inserted herself into the family dynamics and refuses to be left behind when the family is asked by Cady's father Bales, to help search for a missing girl who disappeared in Sierra Glades National Park. With its lush mountain setting, pulse-pounding intrigue, cast of unique characters -including a troop of rescue dogs-this book makes a great pitch for television and film. 

Blending the high stakes action of a police procedural with the majestic thrills of a heart-pounding survival story, The Lovely and the Lost explores what it means to be lost and the power of family to bring us home. Barnes has thought out every intricate detail of these characters' backstories, from Kira's time as a feral little girl in the woods who is still trying to fit the pieces as to what really happened to her, to the geneses of Free's independent attitude to Cady's contentious relationship with her father, to the mystery surrounding the town bad boy, Gabriel. 

Readers will love discovering how this cobbled together group of misfits became a loving family unit. The story is filled with adorable dogs with their own unique personalities and their own roles in the action of the story, adding another intriguing layer to the narrative and making this a perfect read for dog-lovers everywhere. If you are a fan of search and rescue stories with dogs, you will enjoy this book. 

For the record, I didn't hate this story even though my rating isn't 4 stars or higher. In fact, I love stories about Search and Rescue and the way the dogs are trained to search out anyone from missing and lost people, to cadavers. I loved Kira's relationship with both Saskia and Silver. My issue was the use of Foster Mother over and over and over and over again even though Kira has been with Cady for 11 years. Was there no attempt made by the Cady to adopt Kira, or was this a mistake by the author? Also, the ending leaves a huge question about what happened to Kira when she was abandoned. I'd like that cleared up but it's unlikely to happen.

He laid his hand on my shoulder, a warm and steady weight. Familiar. Home. And just like that, I was five years old again and six and seven, and Jude was the one person in this world that I trusted. Back then, I wouldn’t have stared down the bullies. Back then, I would have attacked.

“Dude,” one of the townies said under his breath, “is she the one who . . .”

The one they found in the forest all those years ago. The one who’d forgotten how to speak. The one who’d fended for herself for who knows how long.

“And on that note,” Free said, stepping forward, “let’s break this little lovefest up.”

Monday, April 22, 2019

#Review - Storm Cursed by Patricia Briggs (#Urban #Fantasy)

Series: Mercy Thompson #11 
Format: Hardcover, 368 pages
Release Date: May 7, 2019
Publisher: ACE
Source: Publisher
Genre: Urban Fantasy

Mercy Thompson is back and better than ever in the new book in the #1 New York Times bestselling urban fantasy series.

Mercy Thompson has opened her garage again and is trying to get back to normal. Of course, now that the Tri-Cities are viewed as neutral ground, all kinds of supernatural beings are heading her way.

With her mate Adam Hauptman’s firm involved in providing security to a top-secret meeting with the US government and the fae, Mercy is tapped to handle everything else—including reports of a strange witch in town…

Story Locale: alternate Washington state

Storm Cursed, by author Patricia Briggs, is the Eleventh installment in the author's Mercy Thompson series. Everyone's favorite shapeshifting mechanic is back in action after her trials and tribulations in Europe. I will say this, if you haven't been keeping up with the releases in this series, you might find my review a bit on the spoiler-y side and for that I sincerely apologize. It is fair to say that there are a bunch of characters outside of Mercy that you, as a reader, should be paying attention. 

In fact, all of the characters who are important to Mercy and have been part of this series from the beginning, play roles in this story. Especially when things are really getting down to the brass tacks. Once upon a time, a few books ago, Mercy brazenly proclaimed that the Tri-Cities are under the protection of the Columbia Basin Wolf Pack. Mercy, Adam, and the Pack have busy dealing with a variety of hot button issues including those intent on encroaching on their Territory and causing major problems for everyone involved.

Not everyone is thrilled that the pack has taken such a stand, but mostly it's just the typical haters who despise anyone who is different from them. As the story opens, Mercy, Ben, Mary Jo and Larry the Goblin King are called in to take care of a marauding Gremlin. If that isn't enough to whet your whistle, Mercy & gang are asked by a local sheriff to investigate the report of zombified goats. Yes, you did read that right! 

Soon thereafter, Adam informs Mercy that the pack is going to play bodyguards for the upcoming summit between the US government and the Fae Gray Lords. A summit which has been long in the making and could finally bring peace to both humans and fae and ensure that there's not devastation left behind from a war that nobody would win. But, if you think that the author is going to let Mercy and gang off easily, you've got another thing coming! 

She has to add on some pretty evil and twisted enemies who have no inclination of allowing the peace treaty to go forward. As I said before, new and old characters come together to help Mercy keep the peace and thwart the villains. These include Elizaveta, Zee & Adam, Stefan, who Mercy is bound to, as well as Sherwood Post, who came to the pack from Bran's pack, Wulfie, who has plenty of sarcasm and humorous lines, and Uncle Mike just to name a few. 

I have to say that my favorite characters in this book were Sherwood and Wulfie. Wulfie is such a shocking surprise considering what he's done in the past, and Sherwood, well, readers will get plenty to ponder after reading this book. I have to say that Marsilia, the lead vampire, is actually growing on me. She and Mercy may butt heads, but when it comes right down to it, they both need each other to protect their people.

I did have one minor complaint......what the hell was the author thinking when she wrote THAT ending? I'm not going to spoil the ending, but a major character makes a curious statement and now, we have to wait another year, or two before we find out what he actually meant! Rude!

Friday, April 19, 2019

#Review - Dark Shores by Danielle L. Jensen #YALIT #Fantasy

Series: Dark Shores #1
Format: Hardcover, 368 pages
Release Date: May 7, 2019
Publisher: Tor Teen
Source: Publisher
Genre: Young Adult / Fantasy

Piracy, blackmail, and meddling gods meet in this thrilling first novel in a commercial, fast-paced new YA fantasy series by Danielle L. Jensen

Teriana is the daughter of a trading ship captain. Her people have the sea in their bones, their ships are guarded by demigods of the Sea Goddess, and they are the only ones who know how to traverse the never-ending ocean between the East and the West. 

Marcus is the leader of the Thirty-Seventh legion, the notorious army that has led the Celendor Empire to conquer the entire East. The legion is the only family he has, and even they don’t know the secret he’s been hiding since childhood. 

When a tyrannical ruler gains power in Celendor, he kidnaps Teriana’s mother and threatens to reveal Marcus’s deepest secret unless the two of them help him conquer the unknown West. The unwilling pair, distrustful of each other’s motivations, join together for the sake of their families, and must decide how far they are willing to go, and how much of themselves they are willing to sacrifice.


Dark Shores is the first installment in author Danielle L. Jensen's Dark Shores series. Things you should know. This series is based loosely on Ancient Rome. Instead of being called the Roman Empire, here it's the Celendor Empire. The story features dual narratives from 17-year old Teriana, the daughter the Captain of the Quincense and Marcus, the leader of the 37th Legion who has been brought back to Celendor for a mission that the two are forced to work together in order to save Teriana's people.

Teriana's people are seafaring (not calling them pirates) that rely on Gods to guide them on the seas. The Maarin are not controlled by the Empire. They can use any port, and are taxed just like other members of the Cel Empire. They also aren't tax with the so called son tax which says all families must give up their second born son to the Empire. They are also the only ones who know how to traverse the seas from one part of the world to the other using a kind of wormhole that is opened by one of the Gods.

Teriana finds herself as a political pawn in a much larger game after she inadvertently tells her best friend about the Six Gods which her people worship. Because of Teriana's betrayal, her mother turns her back on her and she's forced into a contract with Lucius Cassius where she is to lead a contingent of Celendor soldiers across the seas to a world that is being called the Dark Shore. Succeed and her mother and her people live, fail and they all die. What could go wrong?

Marcus is the leader of the Thirty-Seventh legion, the notorious army that has led the Celendor Empire to conquer the entire East. The legion is the only family he has, and even they don’t know the secret he’s been hiding since childhood. Marcus and his legion have a reputation for cruelty, but Marcus's own secret may be his downfall. A secret that Lucius Cassius gladly uses as blackmail in order to have Marcus and his men become political pawns. Cassius knows Marcus's true identity as well as his weakness and isn't afraid of revealing it to get what he wants which is world domination. He also uses Teriana's love for her people in order to blackmail her into leading Marcus to the Dark Shores and a way for other Celendorian Legions to follow.

The Empire controls all of the Eastern land masses while the West has been left to its own devices. There's even a saying that East shall not meet West under any condition. The West knows that if this happens, bad things will follow in its wake. The West worships a group of 6 Gods and Goddesses, with a 7th making all sorts of loud noises that could lead to even more violence and bloodshed. It is fair to say that there is a very large secondary cast of characters which I suggest that you keep copious notes so that you know which characters are the good guys and which are the bad ones.

If you like slow burn romance, Roman inspired Empires, power hungry politicians as the villain, and fast reads, this book is for you! If you like a mouthy heroine, they you will definitely get enough from Teriana while Marcus is the more stoic and driven character. There is a huge question hanging over this series and that is why a certain God allowed Teriana to spill secret information in the first place? Was this particular God trying to influence future events? One certain God even suggest that Teriana is the one who really matters when all is said and done. Curiouser and Curiouser.  

Jensen is also the author of the Malediction Trilogy featuring Stolen Songbird, Hidden Huntress and Warrior Witch.   

Thursday, April 18, 2019

#Review - Finale by Stephanie Garber #YALit #Fantasy

Series: Caraval (#3)
Format: Hardcover, 496 pages
Release Date: May 7, 2019
Publisher: Flatiron Books
Source: Publisher
Genre: Young Adult / Fantasy

Welcome, welcome to Finale, the third and final book in the #1 New York Times bestselling Caraval series! 

A love worth fighting for. A dream worth dying for. An ending worth waiting for.

It’s been two months since the Fates were freed from a deck of cards, two months since Legend claimed the throne for his own, and two months since Tella discovered the boy she fell in love with doesn’t really exist.

With lives, empires, and hearts hanging in the balance, Tella must decide if she’s going to trust Legend or a former enemy. After uncovering a secret that upends her life, Scarlett will need to do the impossible. And Legend has a choice to make that will forever change and define him.

Caraval is over, but perhaps the greatest game of all has begun. There are no spectators this time: only those who will win, and those who will lose everything.

Welcome, welcome to Finale. All games must come to an end…

Finale is the final installment in author Stephanie Garber's Caraval trilogy. The story takes place 2 months after the events of Legendary. Even though this story is told from both Scarlett and Donatella Dragna POV's, it is Tella that gets a huge chunk of the story. Just like she did in Legendary. Since the book is mostly about Tella, let's start with her. Tella has won Caraval but she hasn't received her prize from Legend who now has even bigger fishes to fry and more enemies to deal with. 

Tella is enraptured every night in dreams wrapped in the magic of Legend while encountering the devious Jacks during the day. Tella and Legend are on a collision course with the Fates who were released in the previous installment. It is fair to say that Tella spends an inordinate amount of time thinking about Legend, her mother, and Jacks, a bastard of a fate who has decided that Tella is going to be his whether she likes it or not. Talia has always been brazen, reckless, and makes silly mistakes that come back to haunt her.

Tella must not only deal with Legend and Jacks, but the rest of the Immortal Fates who have returned to the Meridian Empire seeking a bit of vengeance. Meanwhile, Scarlett has chosen to meet with her ex fiance Nicolas who had thought she was dead, which leads to a game between him and Julian who disappeared for weeks, but now wants to focus all his time and energy on making up to Scarlett. One could honestly say that it was pretty apparent as to what the author had already intended before she started writing this book.

Scarlett's story isn't just about her and Julian, or her and Nicolas which is basically a blip on the radar, it is much more intense after meeting certain fates who might hold the key to her underdeveloped powers and a way to defeat them. She also has to understand that there is someone who wants her to become immortal and thus heir to the Meridian crown. Scarlett's story has been an interesting one from the beginning, and now that it is over, her ending is one that I am sure readers will be pleased with. It is fair to say that I was hoping for a more equal story between the sisters. But, such as life.

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

#Review - Romanov by Nadine Brandes #YALit #Historical #Fantasy

Series: Standalone
Format: Hardcover, 352 pages
Release Date: May 7, 2019
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Source: Publisher
Genre: Young Adult / Fantasy / Historical

From the author of Fawkes comes a magical take on the story of Anastasia Romanov.

The history books say I died.

They don't know the half of it.

Anastasia "Nastya" Romanov was given a single mission: to smuggle an ancient spell into her suitcase on her way to exile in Siberia. It might be her family's only salvation. But the leader of the Bolshevik army is after them . . . and he's hunted Romanov before.

Nastya's only chances of survival are to either release the spell, and deal with the consequences, or enlist help from Zash, the handsome soldier who doesn't act like the average Bolshevik. Nastya's never dabbled in magic before, but it doesn't frighten her as much as her growing attraction for Zash. She likes him. She thinks he might even like her . . .

That is, until she's on one side of a firing squad . . . and he's on the other.

Nadine Brandes Romanov is a historical fantasy novel set during the early 20th century (1918) when Lenin's communist revolutionaries ended the Romanov dynasty in a bloody coup that is still being talked about in most history books. I encourage people to read this book up to the point where history and the author's own story diverge. The history of the Romanov's end and what evil was done to them by Lenin's revolutionaries, and his Red Army, was absolutely brutal and unnecessary.

As a admitted history nerd, I appreciated the fact that the author didn't try to cover up the horrors that happened to the family or those who failed to join the revolution. Anyone who thinks Communism is amazing, really needs to read actual history, and not history distorted by others who have an agenda. Lenin killed people as though they were throwaway garbage instead of human beings. Was Nicolas Romanov a saint? No, and Russian historians have gone as far as to blame him a whole bunch of things whether it be true or not.  

There have been a variety of stories about Grand Duchess Anastasia Nikolaevna Romanov and whether or not she actually survived the July 17, 1918 massacre that happened to her entire family and those who were allowed to remain with the family. Anastasia was the youngest daughter (16) of Tsar Nicolas II, the last sovereign of Imperial Russia and Tsarina Alexandra Feodorovna, who had connection to Queen Victoria of England. She had three older sisters, Tatiana, Olga, Maria, as well as one brother Alexei who really did have hemophilia.

In this story, Nastya is portrayed as a girl who is a bit on the mischievous side, but not overly rebellious towards her father or her siblings. She questions her mother's relationship with Rasputin who is said to have been trying to help cure Alexei's hemophilia. In fact, the Russian people were said to be very angry with the Empress for her secretive nature and perhaps a bit on the cold side as well. As the family is moved from one place to another, Nastya is given responsibility of a magical matryoshka doll which might be the families only salvation from those who want to see them dead. 

Nastya's relationship with her father was adorable and heart breaking. Her relationship with her sister Maria was also emotional. Yet, it was Nastya's connection to a Bolshevik Soldier named Zash, who first comes into the picture in Tobolsk and then continues on to the fateful night when Nastya and her family are executed, that opens the story up. Zash is a character who starts out as a hard, solid, defensive and dutiful soldier that you think you’re going to hate until you don’t, then surprises you when you really think there is no hope. 

Zash is a fictitious character that the author uses as a way to tell her story. However, there are fair number of real historical characters who triggered the events leading to the killing of the Romanov's. As background for the story, the author uses persistent rumors that Nastya and her brother Alexei somehow escaped the brutality of what happened to their family. The fact that in real life, their bodies weren't found until the USSR came to an end, fuels even more speculation.  

At the heart of Romanov is a story about loyalty, seeing beyond who is the enemy, while giving people second chances. It is said that even some Bolshevik soldiers fell in love with the Romanov family, thus causing changing of the guard many times until there was no more room for hope for the family. Even though this book is a "retelling" that leans towards the historical fantasy genre, I still give the author plenty of props for doing her research on the Romanov family and the tragedy that fell on them.

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

#Review - Dreaming Darkly by Caitlin Kittredge #YALit #Thrillers #Suspense

Series: Standalone
Format: Hardcover, 368 pages
Release Date: April 9, 2019
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
Source: Publisher
Genre: Young Adult / Thrillers & Suspense

This teen Gothic mystery novel takes readers to the cold, creepy island of Darkhaven, where a girl with unexplained blackouts grapples with secrets from her dead mother’s past and a legacy of murders that have been committed by her family. Perfect for fans of Madeleine Roux and Lisa Maxwell.

Ivy Bloodgood’s mother is dead, and she should probably be sad about it.

But she isn’t. Myra Bloodgood was a confusing mix of protective and abusive, a manipulative personality who never told the truth—about where she came from, who Ivy’s father was, or why they were living their lives on the run.

Now that Ivy has been sent to Darkhaven, an island off the New England coast, to live with a rich uncle she didn’t know existed, she is forced to reckon with her mother’s past. Ivy can tell right away there are long-held family secrets buried within these walls, but when she wakes up from one of her nightmares covered in someone else’s blood, Ivy fears that whatever demons her mother battled while she was alive have come to roost in her own mind. Scared that she can no longer trust what she sees, Ivy seeks the help of a boy who thinks her episodes are connected to the sordid history of Darkhaven—but what they don’t know might kill them both.

A moody and twisty Gothic mystery with an impossible romance, Dreaming Darkly is an atmospheric, fast-paced page-turner written by comics veteran Caitlin Kittredge.

Dreaming Darkly is a story about cursed families, dead bodies, feuding neighbors, and scary mansions that hold all sorts of mysteries. 16-year old Ivy Bloodgood (will be 17 during the story) has just lost her mother, and now finds herself on a creepy island called Darkhaven along with an uncle she's never known, a house keeper who is straight out of a creepy horror novel, a mansion that is crumbling into the ocean, and a neighbor who is eager for Ivy to run as fast as she can away from the Darkhaven and its bizarre history before it's too late. 

Ivy suffers from blackouts that might be linked to a hereditary illness—or an evil curse placed on her family. Ivy’s instability makes her the perfect anchor in this mystery, but she’s no wilting flower. She’s got tons of attitude, and she's not going to let something as silly as a family curse prevent her from getting answers about her mother, her family, and whether or not she is two steps away from being sent to an asylum for the rest of her life.

Thanks to a rough childhood which has seen her and her mother move any time her mother gets into trouble, Ivy is older than her 17 years. Her mother's suicide has done nothing to bring her any real sadness just anger. After all, her mother didn't really have that loving feeling nor did she act as though she was a mother who cared about her daughter. As Ivy takes in her new surroundings, things go from strange to the bizarre. In fact, her mother's past is ripe with mystery that is key to unlocking her own future.

Starting with the Ramsey family which has lived on Darkhaven as long as the Bloodgoods and takes up have of the island. There is a serious feud that has gone back generations. Of course, Ivy immediately wanders the island without considering its property lines and runs into Doyle Ramsey, the resident cocky high school guy and sworn enemy of her family. The same guy who spends more time telling her to run, than explaining what is really happening.

If you like the idea behind an unreliable narrator, then Dreaming Darkly will proved you plenty of entertainment. The ending of this book was a bit on the cliché side and ruined the creepy vibe that was built over the course of the story.Also, the who Romeo and Juliet vibe the author may or may not have been attempting, didn't work for me. Otherwise, the mystery is pretty good with the final revelation coming at the right moment in the book.