Friday, December 30, 2016

#Friday Review - A Ghostly Undertaking by Tonya Kappes #Cozy #Mystery

Series: Ghostly Southern Mysteries # 1
Format: Paperback, 273 pages
Release Date: February 24, 2015
Publisher: Witness
Source: Library
Recommended By: Braine aka +Talk Supe 
Genre: Cozy Mystery, Romance

Another day. Another funeral. Another ghost. Another average day in the life of young funeral home director, Emma Lee Raines. After a perilous run-in with a plastic Santa Claus, Emma Lee, co-owner of Eternal Slumber Funeral Home in Sleepy Hollow, Kentucky, sees the ghost of town gossip Ruthie Sue Payne, who is proving to be a real pain, more so in death than while living. Recently deceased, Ruthie reveals to Emma Lee that her demise wasn't caused by accidentally falling down the steps at the Sleepy Hollow Inn as everyone believes—she was pushed...murdered. In order for the ghost to cross over—and for Emma Lee to be rid of Ruthie for good—she must find a desperate killer...or risk being haunted forever.

A Ghostly Undertaking is the first installment in Author Tonya Kappes Ghostly Southern Mysteries series. This book was recommended to me by my friend Braine from Talk Supe Blog. I've been wanting to read this series for awhile now, and have even been sent the fifth and sixth installments in this series. This is a cozy mystery series set in the fictional town of Sleepy Hollow, Kentucky. 

Protagonist Emma Lee Raines is co-owner & director of Eternal Slumber Funeral Home. She works with her rather perfect in every way sister Charlotte Rae Raines. But, to get things in order, Emma Lee was recently hit in the head by a plastic Santa. Some, like Charlotte, have been calling it Funeral Trauma. Some think Emma Lee needs a bit of help. Regardless, Emma Lee can see, speak to, and touch ghosts!

One of those ghosts, is Ruthie Sue Payne, recently deceased, adversary to Emma Lee's own grandmother Zula Fae Raines who has every reason to want Ruthie dead. Ruthie, realizing that Emma Lee can hear and see her, pushes Emma Lee into doing a bit of detective work to find out who killed her. Oh, yes, Ruthie claims she was pushed, and didn't just suddenly fall down a flight of stairs. How embarrassing for a gentile southern belle who is the biggest town gossip this side of the Mississippi.

I have to admit that I went in to this book with some reservations. However, I have been trying to read other books outside of my so called comfort zone for years now. Braine was nice enough to recommend a few, including this series, to me. Emma Lee is a quirky character who you can't help but laugh along with, and hold you breath fearing she will make things even worse for those around her. Including one Sheriff Jack Henry Ross. 

The same Jack who opens up the case of Ruthie after some questions. The same Jack who knows that Emma Lee is speaking with ghosts, and doesn't seem offended by her bizarre nature. The same Jack that makes Emma's heart run like an engine in the Indianapolis 500. Jack and Emma's relationship is not so overwhelming that it takes over the guessing as to who could possibly stoop so low to kill Ruthie without any remorse.

As I have now started this series, I have requested the second novel, A Ghostly Grave, from my local library system. I do want to find out about Emma Lee's new status as a Betweener, and how she wiggles her way through the rest of this series. Thanks to B for opening my eyes and recommending this series to me. Thanks for a fun, fast pace story Tonya Kappes who this is the first book of any kind that I've had the pleasure to read.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

#Thursday Review - Ahsoka by E.K. Johnston #YA #Science Fiction @ek_johnston

Series: Star Wars Disney Canon
Format: Hardcover, 353 pages
Release Date: October 11th 2016
Publisher: Disney Lucasfilm Press
Source: Library
Genre: YA, Science Fiction

Fans have long wondered what happened to Ahsoka after she left the Jedi Order near the end of the Clone Wars, and before she re-appeared as the mysterious Rebel operative Fulcrum in Rebels. Finally, her story will begin to be told. Following her experiences with the Jedi and the devastation of Order 66, Ahsoka is unsure she can be part of a larger whole ever again. But her desire to fight the evils of the Empire and protect those who need it will lead her right to Bail Organa, and the Rebel Alliance 

Author E.K. Johnston jumps feet first into the world of Star Wars with the release of Ahsoka, and delivers an action packed thriller sure to delight hardcore fans. As one of those who saw the original Star Wars in 1977, and every single movie since then, I was eager to read this in-between novel about a character who was a tertiary character in the movies, but later showed up in Disney's Star Wars Rebels animated series. Let me clear up a point: I have not watched the animated series Star Wars: Clone Wars. Apparently, the animated series takes place between Attack of the Clones, and Revenge of the Sith.

Ahsoka Tano was Padawan to one Anakin Skywalker, better known as Darth Vader. Ahsoka is a Togruta, and a survivor of the Order 66 which saw the end of the Jedi order. After walking away from the Jedi Order, Ahsoka made her way to the outer rim where she started working as a mechanic. It has been a year since she walked away, but she still has some regrets. When the Empire, and its Storm-troopers arrive on the planet of Thabeska for Empire Day, she knows it's time to leave. Stealing a ship, she makes her way to an out of the way moon called Raada. On Raada, Ashla aka Ahsoka, finds herself among a small farming community.

With her skills, she quickly fits in as the person to see when something needs fixing. Ashla truly believes that Raada is a safe place, and thus begins making friends with Kaeden, Miara, and fellow Togruta, Selda. But, we all know where hope leads. Hope leads to trouble in this world. The Empire always has nefarious reasons for arriving on a planet. Ashla choose to take a stand and reveals her true identity to those she's made friend with. 

Even though she is not a Jedi Knight like Anakin, or Obi-Wan, or even Luke for that matter, her training, her moral code, her desire to not allow anyone else fall by the way side kicks in. Thus begins some wild and heart breaking action scenes that will eventually lead Ahsoka to a meeting with Bail Organa, aka Princess Leia's adopted father. This story shows that Ash still has a lot of room to grow, and the pain from walking away from the Jedi Order still hurts.

The fact that she might be the only remaining trained Jedi also wears heavily on her psyche. Her protective nature kicks in when she discovers others who are force sensitive like her. Force sensitives who can be brain washed like Anakin was when he fell under the influence of Darth Sidious. Even though she thought she wouldn't have to fight against the Empire, her code tells her it is the right thing to do. 

I appreciated the back story that the author provides, especially about Mandalore, Rex, Anakin, Obi-Wan, Yoda, and the first appearance of what will be called the
InquisitorsThis Ahsoka has the ability to know when crystals are around. Knows how to put together light sabers, and has the ability to wield two at a time. When all is said and done, Ahsoka will soon become the Rebel named Fulcrum, and that's where I pick up with Star Wars Rebels series. Go forth and read this book my fellow padawan's. You won't be sorry you did! 

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

#WEDNESDAY REVIEW - The Iron Ghost by Jen Williams #Epic Fantasy @sennydreadful @angryrobotbooks

Series: The Copper Cat # 2
Format: E-Galley, 512 pages
Release Date: January 3, 2017
Publisher: Angry Robot
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Genre: Epic Fantasy

Beware the dawning of a new mage…
Wydrin of Crosshaven, Sir Sebastian and Lord Aaron Frith are experienced in the perils of stirring up the old gods. They are also familiar with defeating them, and the heroes of Baneswatch are now enjoying the perks of suddenly being very much in demand for their services.
When a job comes up in the distant city of Skaldshollow, it looks like easy coin – retrieve a stolen item, admire the views, get paid. But in a place twisted and haunted by ancient magic, with the most infamous mage of them all, Joah Demonsworn, making a reappearance, our heroes soon find themselves threatened by enemies on all sides, old and new. And in the frozen mountains, the stones are walking…

The Iron Ghost, by author Jen Williams, is the second installment in The Copper Cat series. The series features three primary characters; Wydrin Threefellows aka the Copper Cat of Crosshaven, Sebastian Carverson, & Lord Aaron Firth. Following the adventures of The Copper Promise, the three have become the go to trio to call on whenever something strange and magical raises its ugly head. The three have even started calling themselves "Black Feather Three." 

Ever since the Black Feather Three defeated their adversary in the Copper Promise, things have taken an interesting turn. Old things have started to rise again, magic is stirring in strange places, and that only means more work for the trio. The Iron Ghost takes our heroes to a land called Skaldshollow and an even more dangerous challenge that awaits. The Skald have had something of theirs stolen by the hated Narhl of the Frozen Steps. Tamlyn Nox, Mistress Carver of the Skald, hires the trio to travel to the Narhl and return with their heart stone. 

The heart stone is key to the very foundation of Skald's lives and successes, and the things they create from the mountains which are filled with Edeian magic. But, as we have learned from the first installment, nothing is every easy when it comes to our heroes. There are some truly fun moments, some haunting moments, some truly strange new animals, and some really brutal/dark moments when you fear for the safety of our heroes, and whether or not they can stand up to the newest villain. There is also an awakening of sorts of romance between two of our heroes which I say is about time!

The Iron Ghost has a cast of secondary characters that you won't soon forget. You would be missing a whole lot were you to just ignore their importance to this story. Let's start off with Siano who is a trained assassin from the House of Patience. Joah Demonsworn is a mage who is on the same level of villainy as Y'Ruen. He even has his very own "let's leave a whole lot of dead bodies in the way for our heroes to deal with" moment.

Nuava Nox is an apprentice to her aunt Tamlyn Nox learning how to carve things called werken. Prince Dallen is the one character that was the curiosity aspect of the story. Dallen is the King's son, the leader of a group of Wyvern soldiers, and the one who puts his very existence on the line when he aligns himself with Wydrin, Sebastian, and Frith. He has some powers of his own, and that power makes for an interesting read. 

Each of our heroes spends time alone dealing with the after effects of The Copper Promise. Frith, who has been living in the past trying to make up for his mistakes, now has an option to accept a betrothal that will unite two kingdoms in peace. He's chosen to walk the path of the Mage, and has tried to learn everything he can about Edeian magic. 

Meanwhile, Sebastian has to deal with the remaining Brood Sisters that he inherited after The Copper Promise. The author spends a fair share of the story with Sebastian, his past, and his attempt at training his new responsibilities in how to avoid humans, and becoming more civilized while keeping their promise not to kill humans. Sebastian's relationship with Ephemeral & her sisters also take a strange journey that one has to wonder where it goes from here.

Wydrin who loves to say, "Ye Gods and Little fishes!" is still my favorite. She binds herself to a werken she calls Mendrick. She has a love for things that are broken, and this is just adds another piece for her to ever growing reputation. I love her humor, her sarcasm, her ability to stand and deliver while others hesitate, and her carefree attitude which often leads to trouble. She often looks in the face of death and laughs it off. How dare anyone mess with The Copper Cat of Crosshaven! 

Can I say that I really loved when Wydrin and Xinian, the Battleborn were together? I loved that Xinian carried a god like sword that can bring gods and mages down to their knees. I liked how the two battle side by side against hoards of zombies and even how Wydrin seems to genuinely care about what Xinian has to say about the way she's been living her life. 

‘You are willing to die for love, but not to live for it. What are you afraid of?’

The Iron Ghost has everything you expect from an Epic Fantasy tale. There is action, adventure, twists, danger, bloodshed, amazing characters, creepy creatures called Arichok & Arachnos, and Sea Wyverns. There is even romance, and an interesting twist at the end of the story which I am definitely eager to find out what happens when the third & final book in the series, The Silver Tide, is released in the US! 

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

#TUESDAY REVIEW - Lost Girls by Merrie Destefano #YALIT #Psychological Thriller @MerrieDestefano @EntangledTeen

Series: Standalone
Format: E-Galley, 360 pages
Release Date: January 3, 2017
Publisher: Entangled Teen
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Genre: YA, Psychological Thriller 

The only rule is: There are no rules.
Yesterday, Rachel went to sleep listening to Taylor Swift, curled up in her grammy’s quilt, worrying about geometry. Today, she woke up in a ditch, bloodied, bruised, and missing a year of her life.

She doesn’t recognize the person she’s become: she’s popular. She wears nothing but black.

Black to cover the blood.

And she can fight.

Tell no one.
She’s not the only girl to go missing within the last year…but she’s the only girl to come back. She desperately wants to unravel what happened to her, to try and recover the rest of the Lost Girls.

But the more she discovers, the more her memories return. And as much as her new life scares her, it calls to her. Seductively. The good girl gone bad, sex, drugs, and raves, and something darker…something she still craves—the rush of the fight, the thrill of the win—something she can’t resist, that might still get her killed…

Merrie Destefano's Lost Girls is a story that will grab your attention from the very first page, and won't let go until the last page of the story. It is a story that is being compared to Black Swan meets Fight Club. Appropriately so I might add. It is a story that is one of the more twisted, and interesting books to be released for 2017. The author slowly peeks away the layers on story narrator Rachel Evans. After waking up in a ditch half buried with leaves, Rachel with the help of motorists, finds a way to contact her family. 

“When everything you’ve forgotten is what you need to survive.”

Even though she went missing 2 weeks ago, Rachel has lost an entire year of memories. After sifting through her bedroom, and her belongings, she becomes aware that isn’t the only thing that has apparently changed. She has gone through a sort of metamorphosis into someone who is popular, smart, has her fair share of enemies, wears lots of dark clothing, has apparently learned how to fight, sneaks out at all hours of the night, and is also dating the boy, Dylan, that she’s had a crush on. 

She is also the alpha leader of a group of teen girls called Swan Girls (Lauren, Stephanie, & Zoe) who all participate in an underground fight club. If you are looking for the Black Swan comparisons, it is here with the tattoos they each have that show up under black light. It is also because she is called Odette by her teammates. 

"Peace. Love. Unity. Respect. Party like there's no tomorrow."

But, what’s even more disturbing, is that Rachel isn’t the first, nor the last girl who has gone missing. All of the girls have gone missing over the past 3 months. Rachel is the first to have returned to her family. As Rachel slowly tries to piece together her lost memories, and why she and her best friend Molly are apparently on the outs, she knows that at any time, her memories may come back. Rachel, with the help of Molly, try to uncover what happened to her before the kidnappers try to take her again.

Rachel is a conflicted but strong heroine because of her own actions, her own experiences, those she has surrounded herself with, and her desire to get to the bottom of what happened to her, and other girls who have gone missing without a trace. She tries to put together the reason why she went from an average student, to one getting straight A's. She has some very interesting moments that lead her into hell itself, but thankfully she has a brilliant father who is a former Navy SEAL, and even her new friends who have her back no matter what happens. 

Lost Girls is story that is dark, mature story that makes you think about other girls who have gone through the same experiences as Rachel. It is a world where underground raves and fight clubs exist. It is a world where Rachel and group of male and female friends drink, and take drugs like Pink Lightning, and Blue Thunder. Rachel's connection to Dylan is not one that is insta-lust. They have had a relationship for the past year, and while Dylan has some secrets of his own, his love for Rachel isn't just a side piece to be put into the story just to entertain.

Destefano hits on the world of Sex Trafficking with this story. Her world, like our own, has a group of wealthy individuals who will do anything to own a certain girl with a certain hair style and body type. It is absolutely disgusting, and the world needs to come together and track these abusers down. As an advocate for child & teen safety issues, I continue to push for legislation that will protect our most precious & most vulnerable members of society. I won't let up until all our missing boys and girls are returned home where they belong. 

If you walk away from Lost Girls with lots of emotions and a desire to do something, then the author has done an excellent job of telling her story. I liked that this book didn't ignore Rachel's family. Her relationship with them is a key component to this book, especially with her brother, and her father who I mentioned before. I'm also glad that Rachel's broken relationship with Molly didn't permanently shatter like so many have in the YA genre before. 

*I received this E-Galley from Entangled Teen via NetGalley in exchanged for an honest review. This book came with no money changing hands.*

Friday, December 23, 2016

#Friday Review - The Dead Seekers by Barb Hendee, J.C. Hendee #Fantasy @AceRocBooks

Series: Dead Seekers # 1
Format: Hardcover, 336 pages
Release Date: January 3, 2017
Publisher: ACE BOOKS
Source: Publisher
Genre: Fantasy, Thriller

In the dark reaches of the eastern continent, Tris Vishal travels from village to village, using his power to put unsettled spirits to rest. He works alone, having learned that letting people close only leads to more death. Still, he finds himself accepting the help of the Móndyalítko woman who saves his life—a woman whose gifts are as much a burden as his own.
Mari Kaleja thirsted for vengeance since the night her family was taken from her. She has searched far and wide for the one she thinks responsible, known only as “The Dead’s Man.” But before she can kill him, she has to be sure. Mari hopes traveling with Tris will confirm her suspicions. But as they embark on a hunt where the living are just as dangerous as the dead, she learns the risks of keeping your enemy close...   Because it’s no longer clear who is predator and who is prey.

The Dead Seekers is the first installment in authors Barb & J.C. Hendee's new series called Dead Seekers. This is a series that is set in the same world as the Noble Dead saga. You don't have to have read the previous series to enjoy this book. The Dead Seekers is told by two main characters: Mari Kaleja and Tris Vishal. This book is different from the Nobel Dead in that it doesn't feature vampires which has been a staple of the duo's previous series.

Mari is a Mondyalitko who watched as her family was murdered by an unknown dark force. Mari is considered cursed because she survived, and because she is able to shift into a Lynx (Yai-morchi). A feat that makes her something of an oddity to the close knit Mondyalitko who passed her from family to family. Ever since her family was murdered, Mari has been searching for a man who calls spirits and can command them. This Dead Man may hold the key to what actually happened the night her parents were killed. Is the Dead Man responsible for what happened, or is there another entity yet unrevealed?

Tris is even more of an oddity than Mari. Tris is from a wealthy family of which only his mother paid any real attention to him thanks to his unfortunate birth. With glimpses into Tris's past, Tris is a serious contender for the most misunderstood and socially inept character in a fantasy setting. His dual nature has made him stay away from most people, except for his mentor/alchemist Heilman "Heil" Tavakovich. Heil's determination to keep Tris from losing himself to his dark side weighs heavily on this story.

Tris and Mari are thrown together after he is attacked by three men, and she comes to his assistance. This leads the duo to work together to find out what happened to a girl from a village who died of a starving disease, and now haunts the village. What exactly happened at Soladran that lead to her death? Is anyone else at risk for having the same thing happen to them? During their time together, Mari continues to work with Tris, while also being curious as to whether or not he is actually responsible for what happened to her parents, and those with them in the woods.

The Dead Seekers is a good start to a hopefully successful new series. I am a fan of the authors and am happy to have had early access to this title. I have read the Noble Dead series, as well as Vampire Memories, and Mist-Torn Witches. The idea behind the Mondyalitko isn't a new concept to these authors. My curiosity peaked by Mari being a shifter. The character I am most intrigued with outside of Tris and Mari is Heil. Heil is a powerful presence and doesn't take anything from either character. When he puts his foot down, you better pay attention. His past story is also curious, and thus I am interested to see if the three continue on the path they were left with at the end of this story.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

#Thursday Review - The Book Jumper by Mechthild Gläser #YALIT #Fantasy @FeiwelFriends @MacKidsBooks

Series: Standalone
Format: Hardcover, 384 pages
Release Date: January 3, 2017
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends 
Source: Publisher
Genre: YA, Fantasy

Amy Lennox doesn't know quite what to expect when she and her mother pick up and leave Germany for Scotland, heading to her mother's childhood home of Lennox House on the island of Stormsay.
Amy's grandmother, Lady Mairead, insists that Amy must read while she resides at Lennox House—but not in the usual way. It turns out that Amy is a book jumper, able to leap into a story and interact with the world inside. As thrilling as Amy's new power is, it also brings danger—someone is stealing from the books she visits, and that person may be after her life. Teaming up with fellow book jumper Will, Amy vows to get to the bottom of the thefts—at whatever the cost.

Mechthild Gläser's The Book Jumper is a wonderfully written, vivid, fast paced, and entertaining story that should appeal to readers of all ages. 16-year old Amy Lennox is the story's narrator. She is the daughter of Alexis, who fled her home in Stormsay, Scotland when she was 17, and ended up in Germany. After a heartbreaking situation involving both Alexis and Amy, the two decide to run away from their issues, and return to Scotland for a little vacation.

Stormsay is a place where two families, the Lennox's and Macalister's have been given the job of protecting the literary world from encroachers. A job that has been in both families for centuries. Amy soon discovers that her mother has been keeping a few secrets from her. Not including the fact that she has a Grandmother, Lady Mairead or the fact that she has the ability to jump into ACTUAL BOOKS! Can you imagine having the ability to jump into a book you adore, and be there in person as it plays out? I'm in!

Amy, who is a bibliophile to core, makes her way through an assortment of books from The Jungle Book, to Oliver Twist, to Peter Pan, and a slew of other well known literary
masterpieces. Amy will bump into a whole slew of characters including Shere Khan, the evil tiger from The Jungle Book, and Werther, from the book "The Sorrows of Werther" by Goethe. (I actually had to look this particular book up because I had not heard of it before.) Werther will become Amy's most trusted confidante while also dealing with his own story's issues.

It is a place where her talents as a book jumper will come as easy as eating a slice of bread, but it is her courage & determination that may be all that stands in the way of solving the mystery of why a thief is stealing KEY storylines from books like Alice and Wonderland, & Anna Karenina, Aladdin, MacBeth, and A Midsummer's Night Dream

Will is also one of the alternative narrators of this story, along with a secretive back story that you will have to pay close attention to for fear of losing yourself in the brilliant twisted story. Will and Amy's relationship is one that is cold, then lukewarm, then warms up by the time the story reaches conclusion. Just the way I prefer my romances. I would hope that although this is apparently a standalone, and the first time being produced in English, that Glaser consider writing a sequel to the story. I think there is more than enough story ideas to make another book worthwhile, and entertaining.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

#Wednesday Review - Breath of Fire by Amanda Bouchet #Fantasy #Romance

Series: Kingmaker Chronicles # 2
Format: E-Galley, 448 pages
Release Date: January 3rd 2017
Publisher: Sourcebooks Casablanca
Source: Edelweiss
Genre: Fantasy, Romance

"Cat" Catalia Fisa has been running from her destiny since she could crawl. But now, her newfound loved ones are caught between the shadow of Cat's tortured past and the threat of her world-shattering future. So what's a girl to do when she knows it's her fate to be the harbinger of doom? Everything in her power.
Griffin knows Cat is destined to change the world-for the better. As the realms are descending into all-out war, Cat and Griffin must embrace their fate together. Gods willing, they will emerge side-by-side in the heart of their future kingdom...or not at all.

Breath of Fire, by author Amanda Bouchet, is the second novel in the Kingmaker Chronicles. Breath picks up right where A Promise of Fire left off. Catalia "Cat" Fisa's secret identity has been exposed and that's not necessarily a good thing. Especially for Cat who ran away and hid for years fearing that she will be found out, and dragged back home to face her powerful mother. Having others know her true identity is a shock to the system. With Griffin, Beta Team (Carver, Kato, Flynn) and the rest of Griffin's family now knowing who they have welcomed into their home, Cat has some choices to make.

For a person who never wanted to become Beta Fisa, Cat now has to either accept that it is her destiny to be the harbinger of the end, and destroyer of realms, or do something to change her fate. Cat has some interesting abilities as we learned from the previous installment. Her ability to steal magic from others, the ability to tell if someone is lying, and the ability to go invisible are great tools to have at her disposal. Her unique relationship with the Gods like Zeus, Poseidon, Hades, and some that you've heard about before, give her the ability to survive situations others would fall by the way side. 

Cat also has some very interesting revelations about her heritage that came to light over the course of this story. Revelations that will guide the series through the next installment. With the Power Bid at full throttle, Cat, Griffin, & Beta Team travel to the Ice Plains in hopes of gathering some Ipotane's to guard the borders while Cat & Griffin make a play at Tarvan. This leads the group, plus Selena & Jocasta, to participate in what's known as the Agon Games. This part of the story, pitting Cat's team against others, was strangely familiar to another Fantasy story that is now nearing its conclusion. 

Breath of Fire is an interesting and enjoyable story once you get past certain aspects of the story. The story started out on the wrong foot for me. I don't care for misguided male characters who beat their chests, throw temper tantrums that end up destroying everything in sight, and then blaming the female lead for running away when he, himself, uttered words that had Cat wondering about what to do next. Cat herself is so careful not to allow all of her barriers to open to Griffin, that they are nearly always at each other's throats.

Then, to make things utterly crazy in my world, the author chooses to go full out sex for several chapters in a row. There is so much sex in this book, that I found myself skipping over entire pages until I got to where the actual action took place. I don't like sex for sex sake. Every time there was a moment of down time, there was sex for sex sake. After reading this book to the final page, I was going to comment on Cat's wild mood swings, and curious reckless behavior that would have killed anyone else. Then the author played THAT card, and I zipped my lips. I am looking forward to the third installment in this series. I am looking forward to seeing how much the author uses certain characters that appeared during the games and whether or not they will be allies, or enemies when all is said and done.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

#Tuesday Review - House of Silence by Sarah Barthel #Historical Fiction @KensingtonBooks

Series: Standalone
Format: E-Galley, 300 pages
Release Date: December 27, 2016
Publisher: Kensington
Source: NetGalley
Genre: Historical Fiction

Oak Park, Illinois, 1875. Isabelle Larkin s future like that of every young woman hinges upon her choice of husband. She delights her mother by becoming engaged to Gregory Gallagher, who is charismatic, politically ambitious, and publicly devoted. But Isabelle s visions of a happy, profitable match come to a halt when she witnesses her fiance commit a horrific crime and no one believes her.
Gregory denies all, and Isabelle s mother insists she marry as planned rather than drag them into scandal. Fearing for her life, Isabelle can think of only one escape: she feigns a mental breakdown that renders her mute, and is brought to Bellevue sanitarium. There she finds a friend in fellow patient Mary Todd Lincoln, committed after her husband s assassination. 
In this unlikely refuge, the women become allies, even as Isabelle maintains a veneer of madness for her own protection. But sooner or later, she must reclaim her voice. And if she uses it to expose the truth, Isabelle risks far more than she could ever imagine. 
Weaving together a thread of finely tuned suspense with a fascinating setting and real-life figures, Sarah Barthel's debut is historical fiction at its most evocative and compelling."

House of Silence, by author Sarah Barthel, is a historical fiction mystery novel set in the year 1875. 20-year old Isabelle Larkin is engaged to someone who she believes she will spend the rest of her life with. Coming off the loss of her father, the person she most respected, Isabelle is finally able to move forward. Her mother couldn't be happier for Isabelle knowing that Gregory will be her stepping stone into a world that she's been destined for. But, things are never that simple.

Gregory Gallagher has a mysterious past, and that past comes to light when Isabelle discovers that he may have murdered a maid he was seen talking to. Much to Isabelle's chagrin, nobody believes her. Not her mother. Not the doctor who called her befuddled, and warns the sheriff to ignore her pleas. After being placed under house arrest by her mother, Isabelle chooses to go silent. Since Isabelle won't speak to anyone until someone believes her, she is taken to Bellevue Sanitarium. 

By refusing marriage to Gregory, Isabelle's mother believes
Isabelle will be giving up her good name, her friends, her status, and her future. But, Isabelle, being strong of will, and of strong mind, doesn't really care about that as long as she can rid herself of Gregory and find a way to make him pay for what he did to the maid. This brings Isabelle in contact with one of histories most interesting widows, Mary Todd Lincoln, whose husband was assassinated on April 1865. For the record, Bellevue was a really place. It was a place where upper class women were sent for a variety of reasons.

Unlike Isabelle who is voluntarily mute, the other women of Bellevue have some real issues, and that includes Mary Todd Lincoln who I had the pleasure of reading about years ago, and again during my time with this story. Isabelle's relationship with Mrs Lincoln is one of the guiding storylines of this story. I do believe that Barthel got her story as close to the truth as possible. Comes from excellent research.

Isabelle's friendship with her best friend Lucy D'Haviland gave the story more depth and yet another strong willed women of the late 19th century who went against what her parents wanted for her for real love. I absolutely loved Lucy when she put her mind to it and just did what Isabelle suggested she did. She put love ahead of societies expectations and still believed every word that Isabelle said about Gregory.

Let's talk about the final character who makes a splash and who I consider the romantic interest of the story. Samuel Deston works for Bellevue under the auspices of Mr and Mrs Patterson who run the sanitorium. PS - They are also real life people who really did run Bellevue. I really liked Samuel. He seemed like a good guy, and it wasn't only towards Isabelle, but all the women at Bellevue. The romance isn't rushed, it is slow burned right to the very end, and that is the way I love romances to be.

I highly recommend this story if you are an aficionado of historical fiction with strong female characters, along with real life historical characters like Mary Todd Lincoln. I give credit where credit is due. The author does a wonderful job of integrating fictional characters, with historical ones. Definitely worth the while to read.

I received this novel as an advanced copy from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Monday, December 19, 2016

#Monday Review - Illuminate by Tracy Clark #YALit #Fantasy

Series: The Light Key Trilogy # 3
Format: Paperback, 444 pages
Release Date: August 25, 2015
Publisher: Entangled Teen
Source: Library

Can one girl be the light in a world spiraling toward darkness?
Haunted by the loss of her loved ones, Cora Sandoval, one of the remaining few of an extraordinary race known as Scintilla, holds the key to disentangling the biggest conspiracy in human history...and its link to the fate of the human race. As Cora follows a trail of centuries-old clues and secrets, she collides with a truth not only shocking, but dangerous.
With enemies both known and unknown hot on her trail, Cora must locate each of the ancient clues hidden in the art, religions, and mythologies of humankind. And through it all, she must keep her heart from being torn apart by the two boys she loves most. One is Scintilla, one is Arazzi.
Save herself. Save the Scintilla. Save the world. Or die trying...

"There is no home for the Hunted."

Illuminate, by author Tracy Clark, is the third, and final installment in The Light Key Trilogy. Illuminate picks up right where Deviate left off. The action picks up right from the first page of the first chapter, and drives straight towards the final chapter which will leave you stunned. The story takes the reader from Ireland, & Chile, & Italy. Cora Sandoval has been left with pain and loss. She's watched those she loved fall by the wayside in a never ending war between Scintilla and Arazzi. Now, is time to seek answers, and find a way to save her race before it's too late.

Illuminate is actually told through the adventures of three different characters, which I've already mentioned above. Let's start with Cora. Cora has been betrayed by one boy (Giovanni), and had her heart ripped out by another (Finn Doyle). But, the main mystery is who is actually behind the Arazzi, and why are they so intent on killing off all Arazzi? Cora's world is getting more dangerous by the day. Natural disasters are spreading world wide because of an energy imbalance. Cora and her allies still haven't a clue what religious organization is driving the Arazzi to commit genocide against the Scintilla, but she's not going to just sit back and let them come for her again. 

Cora, who has psychometry abilities that leave tattoos behind on her body, may be the KEY to everything. She travels alone to Italy looking for answers as to who is behind the Arazzi and the murder of her parents and cousin. Her adventures lead her to hook up with a journalist named Edmund Nustber in Vatican City, and answers to why the key that she wears around her neck is so important. Edmund and Cora, along with her friend Dun, make for a pretty good team. It is Cora's action at the Vatican that stir up a whole lot of twists to come. 

While Cora travels to Italy in search of answers, and gets more than she bargained for, Giovanni heads to Chili with his daughter (Claire) and Cora's grandmother Mami Tulke to yet another shocking surprise that blows the lid off this series. This shocking revelation had me open mouthed and stunned. Giovanni becomes the de facto leader with Cora gone. I do believe that he truly intended to redeem himself for the lies that he kept from Cora. By taking the bull by the horns, as they say, he steps up and becomes a totally different character.

Finn, on the other hand, has been doing his best to redeem himself in the eyes of Cora. What's interesting about Finn is that his family, especially his mother, pay key roles in this story that will lead to several twists, surprises, and shocks when all is said and done. Finn, like Giovanni, know they have done Cora harm. With Finn staying in Ireland, and with his mother's help, he discovers something that may help Cora, and end the war between Scintilla and Arrazi. Finn, though, still makes some silly mistakes, especially in who he should trust. 

One of the things that I have to discuss is the religious aspects of this story. While I have some issues with once again blaming the Church for which I was brought up in, I am not going to whimper, whine, or throw a hissy fit because someone dared to smeared my faith. Most of us in the Roman Catholic Church can take the truth about our faith without wanting revenge against those who believe it is corrupt and irredeemable. If you want to talk about the villain of this story, then it really does make sense in that his goals are no worst than radical fundamentalists in any other religion who are intolerant of others, and want to see them eliminated from the world.