Friday, July 1, 2022

#Review - Our Crooked Hearts by Melissa Albert #YA #Contemporary #Fantasy

Series: Standalone
Format: Hardcover, 352 pages
Release Date: June 28, 2022
Publisher: Flatiron Books
Source: Publisher
Genre: Young Adult / Fantasy

Secrets. Lies. Super-bad choices. Witchcraft. This is Our Crooked Hearts, a darkly gripping contemporary fantasy from Melissa Albert, the New York Times bestselling author of The Hazel Wood

The suburbs, right now . . .
Seventeen-year-old Ivy’s summer break kicks off with an accident, a punishment, and a mystery: a stranger whose appearance in the middle of the road, in the middle of the night, heralds a string of increasingly unsettling events. As the days pass, Ivy grapples with eerie offerings, corroded memories, and a secret she’s always known—that there's more to her mother than meets the eye.

The city, back then . . .
Dana has always been perceptive. And the summer she turns sixteen, with the help of her best friend and an ambitious older girl, her gifts bloom into a heady fling with the supernatural. As the trio’s aspirations darken, they find themselves speeding toward a violent breaking point.

Years after it began, Ivy and Dana's shared story will come down to a reckoning among a daughter, a mother, and the dark forces they never should’ve messed with.


Melissa Albert's Our Crooked Hearts takes place in a town called Woodbine. The story is set in two worlds: modern days from Ivy's perspective and past days from Dana's perspective. While riding with her inebriated boyfriend Nate one night, Ivy has an unsettling run-in with a strange girl. The even more unsettling part is that this stranger somehow knows Ivy's name. This night sets off a bomb in Ivy's life as secrets that have been forming since her closed-off mom was her age finally come to light. 

In order to do that, though, Ivy needs to go down the dark, twisted path laid before her and discover more about herself and her mother than she ever thought possible. This book is also about her mother, Dana. When Dana was sixteen, she met a girl named Marion who taught her and her best friend Felicita (Fee). But this girl isn’t being completely honest about her intentions. This leads the girls into contending with magic that they are not prepared for the severe consequences. 

For years, Dana fully believed that she was protecting Ivy and her family from magic and her own dark past for fear it would destroy them. But her secrets end up destroying the family dynamics. Especially after Ivy ends up confronting Dana's deep dark secret that she's tried so hard to protect. When Dana and Fee go missing, strange things start happening. The girl she has seen in the woods lurking around her house and the boy next door she has complex feelings insists she broke his heart five years ago. Could she forget something important like this?

Especially after Ivy learns that she and Billy had shared things that slowly are revealed until there are no longer secrets between the two of them. And, even though Ivy's discoveries about her mother's past allow her to finally understand her actions, understanding doesn't always lead to forgiveness, and that's perfectly acceptable. Not to be forgotten, the girl that Dana and Fee met all those years ago, has been slowly scheming and making her own path to revenge. Who better to lure to her side than Ivy whose eyes are fully opened to her mothers betrayal.

One could say that this is the perfect coming age story for both Dana and Ivy. I have heard that there are those who compare this book to the Craft, and those reviewers aren't wrong. While it begins with just Dana and Fee, it ends up becoming more like their own twisted coven. 





Thursday, June 30, 2022

#Review - The Lost (Mace Reid K-9 Mystery #3) by Jeffrey B. Burton #Mystery

Series: Mace Reid K-9 Mystery (#3)
Format: Hardcover, 288 apges
Release Date: June 28, 2022
Publisher: Minotaur Books
Source: Publisher
Genre: Mystery

A home invasion turned kidnapping at the mansion of billionaire financier Kenneth J. Druckman brings Mason “Mace” Reid and his cadaver dog, Vira, to this wealthy northern suburb of Chicago. Druckman was assaulted, left behind while his wife and young daughter were taken for ransom.

Brought to the scene by the FBI, Reid specializes in human remains detection, and Vira is the star of his pack of cadaver dogs he’s dubbed The Finders. After Vira finds the dead body of the mother, former supermodel Calley Kurtz, everyone is on high alert to find Druckman’s missing daughter before the five-year-old disappears forever. But the trail Vira finds on the property’s dense woodlands leads right back to Druckman himself.

With the help of Detective Kippy Gimm, Reid and Vira must race against the clock. Nothing is as it appears to be . . . and the red herrings could be lethal. 


The Lost is the third installment in author Jeffrey B. Burton's Mace Reid K-9 Mystery series. Key Characters: Mace Reid, specializes in human remains detection. He trains dogs called the Finders to hunt for the dead. Chicago Police Detective Kippy Gimm who has been involved in recent escapades with Mace and has risen in the ranks of the Chicago Violent Crimes Unit. Special Agent Len Squire has become a friend of Mace's thanks to his Finders and what they've done over the course of this series. Vera, Golden Retriever who seems to have preternatural ability of linking a missing or dead person to the killer.

Mace, Kippy Gimm, and Vira are called out to the estate of billionaire financier Kenneth J. Druckman by Special Agent in Charge Len Squires where a home invasion and robbery has turned into a kidnapping. Druckman claims that several men broke into his home, stole all his valuables, and kidnapped his former supermodel wife Calley Kurtz and their 5 year old daughter Eleanor aka Scarf Druckman. After Vira locates Calley, Mace once again senses that Vera knows what really happened, and Kenneth may not be as innocent as you want to believe.

This time the complex plot involves scheming billionaires, deceit, kidnapping, murder, stolen jewels, and more. There are chapters from other characters as well to fill in the blanks as to what has happened before Mace, Vera and Kippy got involved. One of the things the book does do, is go back in time a few weeks, before bringing all key characters together for a twisted ending. We also get an interesting dynamic in that Vira has found Kippy to be trust worthy, and she also latches on to Scarf (aka Eleanor) when the little girl is found. 

The relationship between Mace and Kippy continue to develop. They are more than comfortable with each other which is a change after Mace's divorce left him discombobulated and looking for something new to liven up his life. Although this is one of those series where reading the others are not required, I highly encourage it so that you can get a better understanding about Mace and his other Finders which includes Delta Dawn, Maggie May, Billie Joe, and Sue.  





Wednesday, June 29, 2022

#Review - Blood of a Phoenix (Nix #2) by Shannon Mayer #Fantasy

Series: The Nix Series # 2
Format: Kindle, 352 pages
Release Date: September 2nd 2017
Publisher: Hijinks Ink Publishing
Source: Kindle Unlimited
Genre: Urban Fantasy

I thought that going after those who’d destroyed my life would help me move on. At the very least, that it would ease the thirst for vengeance singing in my blood. I was wrong.

With my guns at my side, I continue to search for ways to punish the one man who took everything from me. The man who killed my family. Death is far too good for him.

I want to make him suffer, to take from him everything he loves.

To that end, I need a code breaker, one who deals in magical glyphs. But in the hunt for her, I discover there are far more secrets to my life, and my blood, than I ever could have imagined.

Secrets that are burning their way out of the past and the shadows.

A promise dangled in front of me by the enemy of my enemy is too sweet to ignore. And I will cast all my cards on the table for the one chance that the promise he offers is true.

That my son is alive.

God help those who stand between my boy and me.

 

“Nothing burns hotter than the Phoenix. She will turn you to ash and dust, minion. Run away while you still can.”

Blood of a Phoenix is the second installment in author Shannon Mayer's Nix series. The story picks up where Fury of a Phoenix cliffhanger ended. Nix has gone to hell and back. Her husband (Justin) and son (Bear) were killed in the accident, that wasn't an accident. She was kept hidden from her own family by Abe ever since she broke away from the assassin business. She found hidden papers in Justin's desk, and needs a code breaker which sends Nix and Simon to Seattle where they can locate a girl name Talia to help them decide her late husband’s papers.

Nix also has to worry about the fact that Mancini, leader of the Collective, wants her dead after she destroyed one of his factories. Her father, Luca Romano, who made a deal with a demon, has something precious that Nix wants back badly. We learn a lot about Romano's deal with the devil and a little bit about how it affects Nix. Then, to top things off, Mancini drops a bomb in Nix's lap which sends her off to New York to confirm whether he is telling the truth or not. 

After finding a stunning truth, Phoenix chooses to work with Mancini to put an end to Genzo and the production of a substance that can distort abnormals into monsters. We get to know Nix's guns Eleanor and Dinah a little better and learn a bit more about their past with her sister. It’s killing me not to be able to say more about Phoenix’s guns, but that would be a huge spoilers. Killian seems to be an ally, but how far can Nix trust him? 

Mancini drops a bomb in the lap of Nix, and now she has even more reason to hate Luca. What is clear is that all is not what it seems in the world of abnormals. Luca wants to control everything. Mancini is playing his own game that may end up catching Nix in a dangerous situation, and Killian is now likely the only real ally she has. Nix must discover her true identity and embrace it before she loses everything she holds dear. Nix will stop at nothing to get her revenge and get her life back, whatever is left of it. But will it cost her the one person she loves the most in this world?

I appreciate those who continue to read my reviews. I also wish that I had finished this series as well as Mayer's Rylee Adamson series sooner. 





Tuesday, June 28, 2022

#Review - Stealing Infinity by Alyson Noel #YA #SyFy #Fantasy

Series: Stealing Infinity (#1)
Format: Hardcover, 400 pages
Release Date: June 28, 2022
Publisher: Entangled: Teen
Source: Source
Genre: Young Adult / Science Fiction / Time Travel

Dan Brown meets Leigh Bardugo in this clever, fast-paced series from the #1 New York Times bestselling author of the Immortals series.

My life goes completely sideways the moment I meet the mysterious Braxton. Sure, he’s ridiculously hot, but he’s also the reason I’ve been kicked out of school and recruited into Gray Wolf Academy—a remote island school completely off the grid. I never should have trusted a face so perfect.

But the reality of why Gray Wolf wanted me is what truly blows my mind. It’s a school for time travelers. Tripping, they call it. This place is filled with elaborate costumes and rare artifacts, where every move is strategic and the halls are filled with shadows and secrets.

Here, what you see isn’t always what it appears. Including Braxton. Because even though there’s an energy connecting us together, the more secrets he keeps from me, the more it feels like something is pulling us apart. Something that has to do with this place—and its darker purpose. It’s all part of a guarded, elaborate puzzle of history and time…and I might be one of the missing pieces.

Now I have all the time in the world. And yet I can’t shake the feeling that time is the one thing I’m about to run out of…fast. 

Stealing Infinity is the first installment in author Alyson Noel's Stealing Infinity series. The author has agreed to a series of books that will be released over a course of six months. Anyone who read paranormal in the time of Twilight would be familiar with Alyson’s name and her Immortals series. The story’s jumping-off point is an academy for teens who travel through time, but it gets much deeper than that when we discover the heroine is linked to the (real-life) mysterious Antikythera.

The Antikythera mechanism is an Ancient Greek hand-powered orrery, described as the oldest example of an analogue computer used to predict astronomical positions and eclipses decades in advance. The story is told in the first person narrative by Natasha Clarke. When Natasha was 9 years old, her father disappeared, her mother broke down, and Natasha all but gave up on doing well in order to be the adult in the family. Natasha's only real friend is Mason, as well as a girl named Elodie Blue who acquires as quickly as she discard trouble.

After a night out at Arcana, Elodie finds herself arrested for theft, and kicked out of school. She is recruited to a fancy boarding school called Gray Wolf Academy located on a private island, owned by a extremely wealthy man named Arthur Blackstone and trains for time travel missions. The 100 students who call Gray Wolf home, are separated by colors. Green means you are a newbie, Yellow means you've did well, and Blue is where a core of students like Elodie, Braxton, Jago, Oliver, Song, and Finn belong. 

Natasha has a gift and she's been experiencing episodes of Unraveling: seeing, sometimes unexplained, visions through time and memories of her past. As she navigates her way through her new home, the people she thought she knew best might be the most secretive of all. The most secretive may be Braxton who she quickly falls for. Natalie doesn't just going along with things because she felt like she didn't have a choice. She actively tries to figure out what Arthur is up to and why it sees as though a certain character is always around when things go sideways. 

There are obviously lots of questions that need to be answers. I want to ensure you folks read the prologue because I think that will give you some idea of what's to come, and what's already taken place. There is a glaring cliffhanger ending which is to be expected. There's also a brief epilogue which features Braxton when he first meets Natasha at Arcana along with Elodie. The sequel is allegedly called Ruling Destiny and it is set to release February, 2023. 





Monday, June 27, 2022

#Review - Veil of Winter by Melanie Dickerson #YA #Historical #Fantasy

Series: A Dericott Tale # 3
Format: Hardcover, 320 pages
Release Date: June 14, 2022
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Source: Publisher
Genre: Young Adult / Fairy Tales & Folklore / Adaptations

From New York Times bestselling author Melanie Dickerson comes a reimagining of the beloved "Sleeping Beauty" tale.

She’s hounded from every side by treacherous elements and foes, but her greatest enemy lies within.

In the mountains near France, the medieval Princess Elyce is being forced to marry, thus forming an alliance that will enrich her father but enslave her kingdom. Instead, she chooses to feign her death and flee to Prague to beg King Wenceslaus to help save her people.

In England, the young knight Sir Gerard has a vision from God instructing him to help Elyce on her quest. When he arrives to find she has been near death for days, he manages to revive her. However, thinking the stranger was trying to kiss her, the princess immediately distrusts him. But her desperate situation forces her to accept his aid.

Pursued by her enemy’s guards over mountainous terrain, they must also battle the deadly winter elements. Her greatest challenge may be to overcome the voices of disapproval and accusation from her childhood. Will her emotions lead her into her true identity, or will they undermine her ability to work with Gerard and to save her people, who desperately need her help?


Veil of Winter is the third installment in author Melanie Dickerson's A Dericott Tales series. This is the authors retelling of Sleeping Beauty. While you do not have to have read the previous books, characters often show up in sequels. Case in point is Sir Gerald, who, along with his 7 brothers, was charged with treason by his step-monster and sent to the Tower of London where escape is almost nonexistent in Court of Swans 

Kingdom of Montciel, in the mountains near France late 1382, King Leandre has chosen to make a bad deal with King Claude of Valkenfeld. Leandre will give Claude workers, who are all shepherds and farmers, to work in his mines in exchange for the protection of his army against the Ottoman Empire. In return, Leandre sacrifices his only daughter, Princess Elyce, to Count Rodrigo as a political pawn. With little help of freedom, and without any power of her own, Elyce chooses to purchase a sleeping poison which will put her to sleep for 3 days.

Back in Dericott Castle, Bedfordshire, England, Sir Gerald, a knight in the service of the King, as well as the Duke of Westmoor, and a skilled swordsman, is urged by his only sister Delia, who is now married to Duke of Strachlegh, to find a way to help Princess Elyce of Montciel who she's friends with. Delia has learned that Elyce plans to make everyone believe that she's dead so that she can escape and hopefully find help from King Wenceslaus and free her people from tyranny. After praying for guidance, Gerald see's Elyce in trouble, so he and his friend and mentor Sir Oswalt decide to help.

When he arrives, he manages to revive Elyce from her sleep. However, thinking the stranger was trying to kiss her, the princess immediately distrusts him. But her desperate situation forces her to accept his aid. Pursued by her enemy’s guards over mountainous terrain, Gerald, Elyce, and Oswalt must also battle the deadly winter elements in hopes of gaining an audience with King Wenceslaus in Prague. Along the way, we meet a few others including Prince Bertold of Valkenfeld, Astrid, the woman who allegedly fell to her death, as well as King Wenceslaus, a true life historical figure who was King of Bohemia from 1378 until his death and King of Germany from 1376 until he was deposed in 1400. 

Elyce's greatest challenges may be to overcome the voices of disapproval and accusation from her childhood. She's too passionate. She's been told never to allow anyone to see her cry, or any showings of feelings. Elyce thinks that if she does show her emotions, no one will love her and that emotions are disgusting and dangerous. Gerard is a strong and courageous man who defends Elyse on her travels through the countryside. Throughout the story, Gerard finds that Elyce was put in his path for a reason, and he would do almost anything to ensure she doesn't get used by her father or anyone else.

This story is clean. There's a bit of kissing here and there, but no sex scenes. There's some action, and adventure, and this story will most definitely not be enjoyed by anyone who hates the Christians.





Friday, June 24, 2022

#Review - The Gatekeeper by James Byrne #Thrillers #Suspense

Series: Standalone
Format: Hardcover, 336 pages
Release Date: June 7, 2022
Publisher: Minotaur Books
Source: Publisher
Genre: Thrillers / Suspense

Introducing Dez Limerick - "a welcome blast of freshness"* and "the most exciting new character I've read in years"** -- in the most anticipated new thriller in years.

A highly trained team of mercenaries launches a well-planned, coordinated attack on a well-guarded military contractor - but they didn't count on one thing, the right man being in the wrong place at the right time.

Desmond Aloysius Limerick (“Dez” to all) is a retired mercenary, and enthusiastic amateur musician, currently in Southern California, enjoying the sun and sitting in on the occasional gig, when the hotel he's at falls under attack. A skilled team attempts to kidnap the Chief legal counsel of Triton Expeditors, a major military contractor – in fact, Petra Alexandris is the daughter of the CEO – but their meticulously-planned, seamlessly executed scheme runs into the figurative 'spanner-in-the-works,' Dez himself.

After foiling the attack, and with nothing better to do, Dez agrees to help Alexandris with another problem she’s having – someone has embezzled more than a billion dollars from her company and left very few tracks behind. But Dez is a gatekeeper – one who opens doors and keeps them open – and this is just a door of another kind. And the door he opens leads to a dangerous conspiracy involving media manipulation, militias, an armed coup, and an attempt to fracture the United States themselves. There’s only one obstacle between the conspirators and success – and that is Dez, The Gatekeeper.


The Gatekeeper, by author James Byrne, is one that fans of Jack Reacher and Orphan X will sure to love. The story begins in Algeria, and ends in California. Desmond Aloysius Limerick (“Dez” to all) is a retired mercenary, and enthusiastic amateur musician, currently in Southern California, enjoying the sun and sitting in on the occasional gig, when the hotel he's at falls under attack. After finishing a 3 hour set at Hotel Tremaine, Dez spots the glint of a scope from a sniper on the roof of the next building, aimed at the entrance of the hotel.

He watches as a van pulls up, the doors open, and four men pour out. The men are dressed all in black and obviously armed. Dez finds that the phones and alarms have all been disabled. Dez steps into trouble by foiling a kidnapping attempt on Petra Alexandris, the chief legal counsel for Triton Expeditors, a multi-billion-dollar military contractor. After temporarily landing in a L.A. Country jail, where he meets Detective Beth Swain. After he's released, Dez agrees to help Alexandris with another problem she’s having.

Someone has someone has embezzled $1.3 billion dollars from her company. But Dez is a gatekeeper – one who opens doors and keeps them open – and this is just a door of another kind. And the door he opens leads to a dangerous conspiracy involving media manipulation, militias, an armed coup, and an attempt to fracture the United States themselves. With the aid of LAPD Detective Swanson and her boss Captain Naomi Cardona, he follows leads, all pointing to a military-type plot stemming from a small town in north central California.

Dez is five-eight but built like a tank, with a barrel chest, thick arms, short, bowed legs, and oversized hands riddled with scarred knuckles. His scars, burns, and bullet wounds paint a road map of the world’s hot spots. His past and training is shrouded in mystery. On the inside of his right forearm is a tattoo of Janus, the two-faced Roman god of doors, gates and transitions, and the patron for duality—life/ death, war / peace, beginning / ending—holding the metaphorical key to doors or gateways between what was and what is to come.  

Dez cannot help but pepper his conversation with quips and wisecracks—somewhat shrouding his true guile and mental acuity, He can quote writers and philosophers, yet is an expert at throwing and taking punches. Even as the situation deteriorates into a life or death situation, Dez keeps cool, calm and collected and does what he does best - controls the gate. You will also want to pay close attention to Petra. She's not just a pretty face who Dez tends to want to sleep with...often. She's a powerful woman who refuses to back down easily, especially against her own father and his company.

I actually overlooked several parts of this book due to the insanity of someone actually believing anything that the author comes up with can happen. The author loves his conspiracy theories. He wants to blame everything on certain ripped out of the news groups that the Media and politicians love to label as villains while watching other groups actually burn down cities, chase reporters trying to cover the riots, and attack police officers because they are pigs and they need to be taken out. And you wonder why we have so much crime in this country.

I would not be hesitant in reading any sequel that the author might write about in the future. I think there's more Dez adventures that could be very entertaining. 





Thursday, June 23, 2022

#Review - The Blue Diamond by Leonard Goldberg #Mystery #Historical

Series: The Daughter of Sherlock Holmes Mysteries (#6)
Format: Hardcover, 336 pages
Release Date: June 14, 2022
Publisher: Minotaur Books
Source: Publisher
Genre: Mystery / Historical

The fate of the allied forces lies in the hands of Joanna and the Watson's in the latest Daughter of Sherlock Holmes mystery from USA Today bestselling author Leonard Goldberg.

During a critical stage in World War One, the Governor-General of South Africa journeys to London for a meeting of The Imperial War Conference. Days prior to the conference, the Governor-General is scheduled to have an audience at Buckingham Palace at which time a most precious blue diamond will be presented to King Edward as a symbolic gesture of the colonies’ resolute and never-ending allegiance to England.

The flawless blue diamond, with its magnificent luster, weighs nearly 3000 carats which renders it one of the world’s largest and most valuable gems. On the Governor-General’s arrival, he is ensconced at the fashionable Windsor Hotel under the tightest security, with his entire entourage and formidable security team occupying the entire penthouse floor. All entrances and exits are locked down and closely guarded, and no one is allowed entrance after 6 PM.

Despite the extreme precautions, the famous diamond is stolen from the Governor-General’s suite in the middle of the night, with no clues left behind. With Scotland Yard baffled, Joanna and the Watson's are called in to investigate the theft and it becomes clear that the crime is not simply the work of a master thief, but one that could greatly aid the Germans and turn the tide of war in their favor. Time is of the essence and the blue diamond must be recovered before it begins its travels which could cause irreparable damage to the allied war plans.


The Blue Diamond is the Sixth installment in author Leonard Goldberg's The Daughter of Sherlock Holmes series. As with the previous Five installments, this story is narrated by Dr. John Watson Jr, husband of Joanna Holmes Watson, with his father. Dr. Watson, former chronicler of Sherlock Holmes, along for the mystery and to give his own Sherlock inspired commentary. During a critical stage in World War One, the Governor-General of South Africa journeys to London for a meeting of The Imperial War Conference. 

Days prior to the conference, the Governor-General is scheduled to have an audience at Buckingham Palace at which time a most precious blue diamond will be presented to King Edward as a symbolic gesture of the colonies’ resolute and never-ending allegiance to England. The flawless blue diamond, with its magnificent luster, weighs nearly 3000 carats which renders it one of the world’s largest and most valuable gems. 

On the Governor-General’s arrival, he is ensconced at the fashionable Windsor Hotel under the tightest security, with his entire entourage and formidable security team occupying the entire penthouse floor. All entrances and exits are locked down and closely guarded, and no one is allowed entrance after 6 PM. Despite the extreme precautions, the famous diamond is stolen from the Governor-General’s suite in the middle of the night, with no clues left behind.

This isn't the first sensational robbery at a named hotel. Before the Windsor was hit, there was the Fairmont, and St. Reyes all over a 10 day period. One of the other rare items stolen was a Ming Era vase. Enter Inspector Lestrade, and Sir Charles Bradberry, Scotland Yard Commissioner. With Scotland Yard baffled, Joanna Holmes Watson, her husband Dr. John Watson, and Sherlock Holmes chronicler Dr. John H. Watson MD, are called in to investigate the theft and it becomes clear that the crime is not simply the work of a master thief. 

Joanna quickly learns that this is only the tip of the mystery. To make things even more dire, a war document has also been stolen, and if it falls into German hands, millions of allies will be slaughtered. Time is of the essence. As she gets closer and closer to the mechanics of just how the diamond was stolen and by whom, and if their South African allies are actually frauds, Joanna and the Watson's suddenly become targets for murder. And, when chips are down, Joanna once again calls on Toby Too and her group of street urchins who are slowly growing up to be adults. 

Since this story takes place in November of 1917, there is a lot of historical ties to actual historical characters. There is more realism than before in that the author puts our characters in harms way of German bombs, and the devastation that they left behind. For Sherlock fans, the author mentions a specific case called Adventure of the Dancing Men which means that readers will finally get a look at the infamous Sherlock Holmes code book he used to break the case.