Thursday, February 28, 2019

#Review - A Curse So Dark and Lonely by Brigid Kemmerer #YALit #Fantasy

Series: A Curse So Dark and Lonely #1
Format: Hardcover, 496 pages
Release Date: January 29, 2019
Publisher: Bloomsbury YA
Source: Library
Genre: Young Adult / Fantasy

This lush retelling of Beauty and the Beast features a kingdom in peril and a heart-stopping romance—perfect for fans of Marissa Meyer.

Prince Rhen is cursed. He spurned the wrong woman and is now forced to repeat the autumn of his eighteenth year until he can convince another to love him. His fate would be bearable, but at the end of every season, he transforms into a dangerous monster. After his subjects learned to fear the castle on the hill, Rhen sent Grey, the last member of his guard, to find young women in other worlds.

Harper is cursed by reality. Her father left and her mother is losing her fight with cancer. When Harper sees Grey abducting a woman from the streets of D.C., she intervenes, only to get sucked into Rhen’s world. Now, Harper is trapped. But when Harper proves to be more than just another girl to charm, Rhen realizes he can do more than break the curse . . . he can save his kingdom once and for all.

A Curse So Dark and Lonely is Brigid Kemmerer retelling of Beauty and the Beast. For over 300 seasons, Prince Rhen of Emberfall has been cursed to turn into a shape shifting monster that kills everything in his path. The only way to break the curse is to find true love. For each of these seasons, his royal guard Grey, is the only one able to cross into our world to bring back one woman who may be able to provide true love and break the curse.  

Rhen's curse forces him to keep repeating the autumn of his 18th birthday until he can get one of the women his commander kidnaps to fall in love with him. Rhen is growing desperate. His family is gone, his guards and his army is gone, and his people are falling into poverty and disrepair. He's being tormented at every turn by the woman he scorned leading to Rhen being cursed. He is losing hope. 

Meanwhile in DC, Harper’s brother Jacob is the enforcer for a local loan shark, as a way to pay off their father’s debts and protect their terminally ill mother. While he tries to protect her, Harper helps in anyway she can. When keeping lookout on his latest job, Harper sees a man attempting to kidnap a woman. Harper leaps into action with a trusty crowbar, but finds that she is kidnapped instead. Harper, who is afflicted with cerebral palsy, is transported to Rhen’s alternate world, where she may be his last chance at love. 

However, she is not interested in a guy who kidnapped her or the Captain of the Guard who took her away from home. As Harper continues to try to run away and get back home, even though Rhen is powerless to return her, she begins building friendships with the people of this new world. In Emberfall, Harper becomes a princess from Disi, who tries to help Rhen's people in their time of need. Will Harper and Rhen be able to find love in each other and end the curse?

Harper is stubborn, hot-headed and wonderfully courageous; her flaws make her a very real protagonist that you can root for and fully understood, even when you disagree. Harper never once complains about her CP. In fact, I can say that it makes her more genuine. As a reader, I understand that Rhen was under a curse. I understood that his curse was causing him to change into a beast and kill innocent people. 

But, when the time actually came to meet said beast, the story was nearly over. I really liked Grey. I liked his relationship with Harper, and his protectiveness of Rhen even when Rhen needed a good kick in the ass. With the way this book ends, there is hope that the next book in the series, A Heart S Fierce and Broken, will feature Grey. I hope it's Grey and not Harper's brother Jacob who took a lot of time for me to warm up to.

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

#Review - Phoenix Falling by Laura Bickle #Urban #Fantasy

Series: Wildlands # 5
Format: E-Book, 384 pages
Release Date: February 26, 2019
Publisher: Harper Voyager
Source: Publisher
Genre: Urban Fantasy

In the Yellowstone back-country, a merciless source of evil carries a torch for the past…

Petra Dee and her immortal husband Gabe have been trying to gain a toehold in what passes for ordinary life in Temperance, Wyoming—a wickedly enchanted land founded generations ago by the alchemist, Lascaris. Petra may be adept when it comes to the uncanny, but as a reasoned geologist, Petra still can’t fathom the wildfires suddenly engulfing Yellowstone National Park, or why Gabe claims to have seen the sky explode in flames. The answers could lie in the past.

It was a dreadful night in 1862 when Lascaris went harvesting for souls, only to be set upon by townsfolk determined to eliminate the root of all evil in a trial by fire. Petra can’t help fearing that Lascaris has crawled out of the ashes of history to wreak vengeance—and to complete his mission by claiming every vulnerable soul in Temperance.

With the help of Gabe and her coyote sidekick, Sig, Petra must now venture into Lascaris’s shadow before he turns her world into an inferno burning out of control.

Phoenix Falling is the Fifth and final installment in author Laura Bickle's Wildlands series. Set in Temperance, Wyoming, Phoenix Falling provides a satisfying ending for the Wildlands books, wrapping up a 5-book story that work both as stand-alone adventures and cohesive whole. This is a book that alternates narratives between several key characters from Petra, to Nine, to Gabriel, to Owen. Each struggles mightily in this story. 

Each rises like the heroes they are to keep their little town from being removed from the map forever. It will take a remarkable series of events for everyone to walk out alive. It is includes an ending that is emotional not only in its scope and depth. The series started by introducing Geologist Petra Dee who arrived in Temperance with hope of finding her lost father who she hadn't seen since she was 16. Petra discovered a town that was founded by a destructive alchemist named Lascaris who disappeared in the 19th century. 

She also discovered an entirely new world with the help from Gabriel, a former Hanged Man who is now her husband, Maria Yellowrose, her best friend and confidant, Sig, a curious devil of a Coyote who is Petra's familiar, Mike Holland, a Park Ranger who has no clue as to what is happening in the supernatural world, Nine, a former wolf who is now a human, and Sheriff Owen Rutherford, a man who has been followed around by a ghost named Anna. 

Petra has met her share of creepy and the unusual since moving to Temperance. Petra's own body is a map of all the troubles she's seen since arriving in Temperance. She's watched a lover die in flames, she faced a drug lord, a Basilisk, and her current lover Gabriel, a former hanged man, became mortal again after 100 plus years of being attached to the Lunaria, or Tree of Life, only to revert to being an immortal being. 

If you've read the fourth installment, you know that she fought cancer and was given a remarkable present. A present that has her questioning whether she is truly human or something else. As this story begins, Yellowstone and the surrounding area is on fire. With worries that the volcano under Yellowstone may be ready to erupt, thus eliminating all life on earth as we know it, Petra and her friends must try to uncover what is really going on. 

Petra via Gabe and her own encounter, learns about the Phoenix and how destructive this being really is. But, the newest villains in this story will give Petra and her friends more than they can handle. From the return of a powerful alchemist with desires of immortality if he can only catch the mythical Phoenix, and a large frog name Pigin who is the God of Death. 

Meanwhile, Owen, who has had enough of Gabe and Petra for one lifetime, is fighting to uncover a 20 year mystery of a girl name Anna. Owen got his first-hand ride into the abyss, and what he discovered has scared him for the rest of his life. How can you look into the dark, and not have the darkness look back & swallow you whole? His story leads to some interesting decisions which I won't spoil. I am one to admit that Owen really surprised me in this story. 

I am also adult to admit that his story was a bit on the emotional side as was the ending to this series. If you haven't read this series yet, don't get fooled by the covers. This is not a paranormal western. This is a paranormal series set to the back drop of a small western town in Wyoming that has seen its fair share of ups and downs. It is filled with characters who you will come to love, and characters you will hate. Petra's life has changed in many different ways. She's not gullible. She's not afraid of taking chances. But, life somehow always finds a way to throw up road blocks even at the most curious of times.

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

#Review - Blood Echo by Christopher Rice #Thrillers

Series: The Burning Girl # 2
Format: Paperback, 366 pages
Release Date: February 19, 2019
Publisher: Thomas & Mercer
Source: Publisher
Genre: Thrillers

A conspiracy that promises bloodshed and the only woman who can stop it collide in the page-turning thriller by Christopher Rice, Amazon Charts bestselling author of Bone Music.

Kidnapped and raised by serial killers, Charlotte Rowe suffered an ordeal that made her infamous. Everyone in the world knew who she was. But no one in the world has any idea what she’s become…

Charlotte is an experiment. And a weapon. Enabled by a superpower drug, she’s partnered with a shadowy pharmaceutical company to hunt down and eliminate society’s most depraved human predators. But her latest mission goes off the rails in a horrifying way. Unsettled by her own capacity for violence, Charlotte wants some time to retreat so she can work on her new relationship with Luke, a sheriff’s deputy in the isolated Central California town she now calls home.

If only the threats hadn’t followed Charlotte there.

Something sinister is evolving in Altamira, California—a massive network of domestic terrorists with ties to Charlotte’s influential and corrupt employers. As a vast and explosive criminal conspiracy grows, the fate of Charlotte’s hometown hangs in the balance. With everyone she cares about in danger, Charlotte has no choice but to bring her powers home.

Charlotte Rowe has been triggered, and now she’ll have to take matters into her own powerful hands.

Blood Echo is the second installment in author Christopher Rice's Burning Girl series. The story takes place 5 months after the events of Blood Music and absolutely should be read as the books are released. The series follows Charlotte Rowe aka Trina Pierce who spent 7 years being raised by serial killers Daniel and Abigail Banning. It has been 18 years since her rescue, and Charlotte's life has turned in so many different directions, that you just have to hold on to your seat and watch what happens next. 

The usual suspects are back again for this sequel to Blood Music. Charlotte, Cole Graydon the CEO of Graydon Pharmaceuticals and for all technical reasons, Charlotte's boss. There's also Luke & Bailey Prescott, brothers who have in their own way helped Charlotte through difficult issues. The last two are Noah Turlington and Marty Cahill who were also deeply involved in where Charlotte is today. 

After Cole decided to bring commerce to Altamira, he thought he had enough security to protect his investment. Charlotte is on the forefront of Cole's aspirations to create a drug called Zypraxon that gives Charlotte super human strength once she is triggered by certain emotions. He's hoping that he can mass produce the drug so that others who fell to rapists, serial killers, and human traffickers can fight back and take down their abusers.

Charlotte goes after the worst of the worst from rapists, to serial killers. But, when things at her hometown go off the rail, Charlotte and her crew will need to dig a bit deeper if they are to survive the events that will lead to all sorts of twists and revelations. When Luke comes into a strange case of a woman who appears to have been beaten, he starts to be curious as to what else he can dig up. One could say that life in Altamira is easy peasy and not a care in the world. Just don't look too closely at the people who have moved into the area, and are planning some massive protest events with mass casualties.

I have to say that I liked the final parts of this story better than I did the first book. Charlotte has got her hands full with both Cole, and the dark that seems to have followed her home. How far can Charlotte really trust Cole to protect her? How far will Charlotte go to protect the ones she loves? This book involves Cole and Luke more than it did the previous book. Luke feels a bit left out since he can't be on Charlotte's team any more while working as a Deputy Sheriff. Meanwhile, Cole is being twisted in many different directions knowing that he has the future in his hands if she doesn't suddenly disappear or turn against him. Will be interested to see what path the author follows next.

Monday, February 25, 2019

#Review - Bone Music by Christopher Rice #Thrillers

Series: The Burning Girl Series # 1
Format: E-Book, 464 pages
Release Date: March 1, 2018
Publisher: Thomas & Mercer
Source: Kindle
Genre: Thrillers

There’s more than one way to stoke the flames of revenge…

Charlotte Rowe spent the first seven years of her life in the hands of the only parents she knew—a pair of serial killers who murdered her mother and tried to shape Charlotte in their own twisted image. If only the nightmare had ended when she was rescued. Instead, her real father exploited her tabloid-ready story for fame and profit—until Charlotte finally broke free from her ghoulish past and fled. Just when she thinks she has buried her personal hell forever, Charlotte is swept into a frightening new ordeal. Secretly dosed with an experimental drug, she’s endowed with a shocking new power—but pursued by a treacherous corporation desperate to control her.

Except from now on, if anybody is going to control Charlotte, it’s going to be Charlotte herself. She’s determined to use the extraordinary ability she now possesses to fight the kind of evil that shattered her life—by drawing a serial killer out from the shadows to face the righteous fury of a victim turned avenger.

Bone Music is the first installment in author Christopher Rice's Burning Girl series. The series features Charlotte Rowe who as a baby named Trina Pierce, lost her mother, and spent the next 7 years being raised by prolific serial killers Daniel and Abigail Banning. Charlotte changed her name, and merged into the background trying to avoid all sorts of unpleasantness and questions about her participation in he Banning's perverted crimes. But, there are those who won't leave her alone.

Most of her life she has been given the nicknamed of "Burning Girl" for reasons I won't spoil. There were even movies made to take advantage of her notoriety. Hell, her own father exploited her notoriety which finally ended with Charlotte making a clean break from him, and her birth name. Now living in seclusion in Arizona, she enlists the aid of a psychiatrist named Dylan who seems to help her as he learns everything about her. 

Dylan however has his own agenda and tricks her into taking what she believes is a new drug to calm her anxieties. The effect is mind-blowing and once more Charlotte’s world spins out of control, leaving her with a whole set of frighteningly different problems. This turn of events forces Charlotte to run once again, but this time back to the home where she once lived. A home where she was bullied as a child by one person in particular; Luke Prescott who is now a Deputy Sheriff.

Along for the ride is her deceased grandmother's former boyfriend Martin Cahill. The one thing that keeps this book going is the short stories. I didn't mind the different narratives that are mixed in with Charlotte's as well as Luke's. It gave the book a bit more depth. Charlotte is a fairly decent character once you get to know her struggles and challenges and the choices she now has at her disposal. It is fair to say that you should expect to suspend a bit of reality when you read parts of this book. Charlotte on the super-drug is a badass, but a bad-ass that kind of walks the line between grey and black. 

Note: I don't warn readers about trigger warnings. I will say, however, that this is not a young adult themed series. Charlotte is an adult and so is every other character both good and bad. I borrowed this book via Kindle Unlimited after being offered the chance to read the second book in the series by the publisher. That review shall be forthcoming this week.

Friday, February 22, 2019

#Review - Extinction of All Children by L.J. Epps #YALIT #Dystopian

Series: Extinction of All Children #1
Format: E-Book, 231 pages
Release Date:  June 3rd 2016
Publisher: L.J. Epps
Source: NetGalley
Genre: Young Adult, Dystopian

A young adult, fantasy novel about a teenager who is the last eighteen-year-old in her territory. There will never be another child; every baby born after her has been taken away. Everyone wonders why she survived.


Extinction of Children is the first installment in author L.J. Epps series by the same name. 18-year old Emma Whisperer was born in 2080, in the small futuristic world of Craigluy which is apparently a territory between Arizona and California. President Esther, in charge for the last twenty-two years, has divided their world into three territories, separated by classes-the rich (Territory U), the working class (Territory M), and the poor (Territory L)-because she believes the poor should not mingle with the others. 

The poor are no longer allowed to have children, since they do not have the means to take care of them. Any babies born, accidentally or willfully, are killed. Mothers are placed in jail to be punished for having children. Emma is the last eighteen-year-old in her territory. Somehow, she survived this fate. As Emma is turning 18, the president expects Emma to give a speech at how grateful she is that she's the last 18-year old. Needless to say, this story would be extremely short if that is where it ends.

Perhaps because people have a love to hate relationship with Emma, she chooses to stand up to Emma rebels. Perhaps because her own sister is hiding a huge secret, Emma stands up to tyranny, she stands up to the President with a rousing speech that turns a whole bunch of people's heads. It also gets her 30 days confinement as well as becoming a Guard. During Emma's journey, she meets and becomes friends with Eric, a young guard who understandably is puzzled by her actions. 

She also befriends Samuel, another guard for the president, who is summoned to watch over her. As Emma meets new people, she doesn't know who she can trust. Yet, she finds herself falling for a guy, something which has never happened before. After doing what she feels is right, Emma finds herself in imminent danger. In the end, she must make one gut-wrenching decision, a decision that may be disastrous for them all. 

I am sure you are aware, but NetGalley was offering all three books. So, yes, I have two more reviews coming for the next two installments. Emma is a curious sort. She knows her parents are keeping a secret. She knows that her parents were once friends with the President. She also realizes that people who work for the President are not out to be her friends, or to help her with her goals. Yet, it is Eric and Samuel who come through the most for Emma. Now, onto the sequel!

Thursday, February 21, 2019

#Review - Never Tell by Lisa Gardner #Thrillers #Suspense @DuttonBooks

Series: D.D. WARREN # 10
Format: Hardcover, 416 pages
Release Date: February 19, 2019
Publisher: Dutton
Source: Publisher
Genre: Thrillers / Suspense

#1 New York Times bestseller Lisa Gardner returns with an unpredictable thriller that puts fan favorites D.D. Warren and Flora Dane on a shocking new case that begins with a vicious murder and gets darker from there.

A man is dead, shot three times in his home office. But his computer has been shot twelve times, and when the cops arrive, his pregnant wife is holding the gun.

D.D. Warren arrives on the scene and recognizes the woman—Evie Carter—from a case many years back. Evie’s father was killed in a shooting that was ruled an accident. But for D.D., two coincidental murders is too many.

Flora Dane sees the murder of Conrad Carter on the TV news and immediately knows his face. She remembers a night when she was still a victim—a hostage—and her captor knew this man. Overcome with guilt that she never tracked him down, Flora is now determined to learn the truth of Conrad’s murder.

But D.D. and Flora are about to discover that in this case the truth is a devilishly elusive thing. As layer by layer they peel away the half-truths and outright lies, they wonder: How many secrets can one family have?


Never Tell is the tenth book in author Lisa Gardner’s Detective D.D. Warren series and the third time Warren’s path has crossed with that of victim-turned-avenger turned Confidential Informant, Flora Dane. Sergeant Detective D.D. Warren is once again on the case. D.D. and Flora must investigate the murder of a man married into a wealthy and secretive family who DD has intimate knowledge of from 16 years ago. The third primary character, and yes, this story does revolve around all three women, is Evelyn Carter.

Evie Carter returns home to find her husband, Conrad, dead in his home office. He has been shot three times, but Evie takes his gun and shoots his computer twelve times. Why would she shoot the computer? What secrets are contained on his computer? Who was Conrad, and why was he murdered in cold blood? As the police arrive, they see Evie, who is obviously pregnant and still holding the gun. D.D. recognizes Evie from a case sixteen years ago, when Evie was 16 and accidentally shot her father, a Harvard professor. 

Two shootings involving the same person can't be coincidental as far as Warren is concerned. Things become even more complicated when Flora Dane recognizes the dead man and believes he has ties to her deceased former rapist/kidnapper Jacob Ness who held her for 472 days. For the first time, Flora chooses to revisit her past to try and remember what she knows about Conrad. She is also determined to discover the truth behinds Conrad's murder and how it may be tied into crimes by Jacob Ness. 

For DD, puzzles & mysteries have always intrigued her and this one is a doozy. Even though she is a Supervisor now, and her former teammates now have a new members, she really does have the itch in the blood to be involved in every asset of the investigation, as well as learning more about Flora's past, and why 16 years later, Evie is once again darkening her doorstep with a tale that will make you curious as to who would go to such lengths to allow Evie to be the focus of two separate murder investigations.

Never Tell will thrill readers of thrillers, crime fiction, and police procedurals, but it also will entice fans of domestic suspense. The final scenes are disturbing, clever, heart-stopping, and brilliant. All typical of books written by Lisa Gardner which makes her one of my top 5 authors of all time. This story reads as a standalone and the mystery plot is great. The narrative is unusual with Flora and Evie giving first person accounts of the unfolding events while D.D.’s take is told in the third person. That, by the way, is pretty standard. 

Chapter 1

By the time I pull my car into the garage, my hands are shaking on the wheel. I tell myself I have no reason to feel so nervous. I tell myself I’ve done nothing wrong. I still sit there an extra beat, staring straight ahead, as if some magic answer to the mess that is my life will appear in the windshield.
It doesn’t.
With a bit of care, I can still slide out of the driver’s seat. I’m bigger, but not that much bigger. I fight more with my bulky coat and the strap of my oversized purse, as I ease out from behind the steering wheel. Conrad bought me the purse as a Christmas gift last year. From Coach. Real leather. At least a couple hundred dollars. At the time, I’d been so excited I’d thrown my arms around him and squealed. He’d laughed, told me he’d seen me eyeing the bag in the store and had just known he had to get it for me.
When I’d hugged him then, he’d hugged me back. When I’d laughed that day, and giddily opened up the huge, gray leather bag to explore all the compartments, he’d laughed with me.
Christmas morning. Nearly one year ago.
Had we hugged since? Laughed since?
The bulge in my belly would argue we’d found some way to connect, and yet, if not for the streams of bright colored lights and gaudy decorations covering my neighborhood, I’m not sure it would feel like the holidays at all. As it is, we’re one of the last undecorated houses on the block. A wreath on our door; that’s it. Each weekend, we promised to get a tree. Each weekend, we didn’t.
I take my time hefting my purse over my shoulder. Then I turn and face the door leading from the garage into the house.
Dead man walking, I think. And something crumples inside me. I don’t cry. But I’m not sure why.
The door is open. Cracked slightly. As if on the way out, I didn’t pull it hard enough shut. Letting out all the heat, my father would say, which causes me a fresh pang of pain.
I push through the interior door, close it firmly behind me. That’s it. I’m home. Standing in the mudroom. Another day done. Another night to begin.
Hang up the purse. Shrug out of the coat. Ease off the boots. Jacket on the coatrack. Shoes on the mat. I fish my cell phone out of my bag and set it up on the side table to charge. Then, I take a final moment.
Breathe in. Breathe out.
Listening for him.
The kitchen? He could be sitting at the table. Waiting in front of a cold dinner. Or pointedly taking the last bite. Or maybe he’s moved into the family room, ensconced in his recliner, feet up, beer in hand, eyes glued to ESPN. Sunday is football. Go Patriots. I’ve lived in Boston long enough to know that much. But Tuesday night? I never got into sports. He’d watch; I’d read. Back in the days when we spent so much time glued together, it seemed natural to also have some time apart.
I don’t hear the clinking of silverware from the kitchen. Nor the low rumble of TV from the family room.
Door open, I remember. And my left hand flattens on the relatively small, but noticeable, curve of my belly.
The hall leads me to the kitchen. A spindly table sits in front of the back window. No sign of dinner. But then I notice a rinsed plate lying neatly in the sink.
Breathe in. Breathe out.
I should have a story, I think. An excuse. A lie. Something. But in the growing silence, my thoughts churn more, my brain spinning wildly.
Dead man walking. Dead woman walking?
I’m going to vomit. I can blame it on the baby. You can blame anything on pregnancy. I’m sick, I’m tired, I’m stupid, I lost track of time. Baby brain, pregnancy hormones. For nine whole months, nothing has to be my fault. And yet…
Why did I come home tonight? Except, of course, where else do I have to go? Ever since I first met Conrad ten years ago…He noticed me. He saw me. He forgave me.
And I loved him.
Ten whole years, I have loved him.
I leave the kitchen. It’s small and, like the rest of the 1950s house, still in desperate need of updating. We purchased the place with hope and aspiration. Sure it sat on a postage stamp yard, and each room was tinier than the last, but it was ours. And being young and handy, we’d fix it up, open it up, then sell it for oodles of money.
Now I walk down a narrow hallway where half the wallpaper hangs down in pieces and do my best not to notice.
Family room. Den, really. With Conrad’s beloved La-Z-Boy, a modest sofa, and of course, an enormous flat-screen TV. The recliner is empty. The TV is off. The room is empty.
Door open, I remember again.
Our garage fits only a single vehicle, and even that is a perk in a Boston neighborhood. Conrad parks his Jeep on the street. Which I check now. Because I’d spotted it pulling into the driveway and, yes, there it is. Black Jeep. Situated at the curb straight outside. A prime spot I can already imagine he was thrilled to get, as even with parking permits, there’s more demand than supply. Hence his kindness in giving me the garage.
It’s okay, honey. I don’t want you walking down the street alone at night. I like knowing that you’re safe.
Dead woman walking. Dead woman walking.
Don’t vomit now.
And then…
“Door open,” I whisper. And I finally notice what I should’ve noticed from the very beginning.
Smell. I’d been listening for the sound of my husband. The clatter of silverware in the kitchen. The thump of his recliner banging back in the family room. But there aren’t any sounds. No sounds at all.
The house is hushed. Quiet. Still.
As if it were empty.
The stairs leading to the second floor are like the rest of the house, narrow, confining, creaky. Conrad tightened the bannister three months ago. When I broke the news. When we both stood in our bedroom and stared at the little stick. My hands had been shaking so hard he’d had to take it from me.
I remember feeling ill then, too. Willing myself not to vomit, though it had been the near-constant queasiness that had led me to take the pregnancy test. A marriage is a mosaic of a thousand moments, a hundred precious memories. That day, watching his hands close around mine. Strong fingers, seamed with calluses. Steady, as they took the pregnancy stick away from me, held it closer to him.
I had that surreal feeling I sometimes get. Where I’m not present in my own life, but even all these years later, standing in my parents’ kitchen again. Holding the shotgun. Smelling all that blood.
And Conrad, being Conrad, looked right at me. Looked right into me.
“Evie,” he said. “You deserve this. We deserve this.”
I loved him again. Just like that. In that moment, I adored him. We held hands. He cried. Then I had to pull away to vomit for real, but that made us both laugh, and afterward he’d wiped my face with a washcloth and I’d let him.
A thousand moments. A hundred memories.
That pain again, deep inside me, as I lean heavily against the wall, away from the bannister I no longer trust, and work my way up the narrow staircase.
The odor hits me hard now. Nothing faint, teasing, ambiguous. This is it. Had I known all along? Turning into the drive? Pulling into the garage? The interior door open, open, open.
What had my subconscious suspected, long before the rest of me had paid attention?
Upstairs, not the bedroom, but the second tiny room, Conrad’s office, looms to the left. That door is open, too.
Sounds to go with the smell. Sirens. Down the street. Growing louder. Coming closer. But of course.
My parents’ kitchen.
My husband’s office.
Dark, viscous. A spray. A pool.
I can’t help myself. I’m sixteen. I’m thirty-two. I reach out. I touch the spot closest to me. I smear the red across my fingertip. I watch the way it fills in the whorls of my fingerprints.
My father. My husband.
More noise. Banging. So far away. Shouts and demands and orders.
But up here, none of it matters. There is just me and this final moment with Conrad. His body fallen back into the desk chair, the back of his head sprayed on the wall behind him.
I fear what I will see on the computer screen before I even look. But I force myself to do it. Take it in. Register the images. This is my husband’s computer. This is what my husband was looking at before he died.
Harder banging now. The police. Responding to reports of shots fired. They will not be denied.
“It was an accident,” my mother whispers urgently in my ear. “Nothing but an unfortunate accident.”
I reach over to the computer. I close out the images. Then, because I have enough experience to know it won’t be enough, I pick up the gun from my husband’s lifeless hand. I curl my palm around the checkered grip. I slip my finger into the cold trigger guard.
And I start shooting.
When the police finally burst through the door, I stand at the top of the stairs, both hands up, gun in plain view, while turning slightly so that the curve of my stomach can’t be denied.
“Drop the weapon, drop the weapon, drop the weapon!” the first officer shouts from the base of the stairs.
I do.
He scrambles up the stairs, cuffs in hands. I hope for his own sake that he doesn’t stumble against the bannister.
A marriage is a mosaic. A thousand moments. A hundred memories.
The officer twists my arms behind my back. He cuffs my wrists tight, pats me down as if expecting even more weapons, as more uniforms pour through the door.
“My husband,” I hear myself say. “He’s been shot. He’s dead.”
“Ma’am, is there anyone else present?”
A thousand moments. A hundred memories.
“Ma’am, you have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to speak to an attorney, and to have an attorney present during any questioning.”
The officer escorts me down the stairs, out of the house, away from my husband’s body.
“Do you think I’ll be allowed to plan the funeral?” I ask him.
He looks at me funny, then deposits me in the back of the patrol car on a hard plastic bench seat.
More cops. More sirens. The neighbors appearing to watch the show. I know what will come next. The trip to the police station. Where my hands will be swabbed for blood, tested for GSR. Fingerprinting. Processing.
Then, when my past appears on the computer screen…
“An accident,” my mother whispers again in the back of my mind. “Nothing but an unfortunate accident.”
I can’t help myself; I shudder.
She will come for me now, I think. And because of that, as much as anything else, I curl my hands around my belly and tell my baby, this fragile, fluttery life that hasn’t even had a chance yet, how sorry I truly am.

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

#Review - Queen to Ashes by Mallory McCartney #YALit #Dystopian

Series: Black Dawn # 2
Format: E-Book, 301 pages
Release Date: February 19, 2019
Publisher: Clean Reads
Source: Publisher
Genre: Young Adult, Dystopian

“You lived your entire life feeling like half of you was missing. Fight for the missing part. Fight for this.”

Emory Fae has abandoned everything she thought she knew about her previous life on Earth. Stepping up to her role as Queen of Kiero she makes a startling sacrifice- feigning her allegiances to Adair Stratton, the man who murdered her parents and casted Kiero into ruin. Emory’s memories slowly piece together, and she soon realizes the Mad King may not be all he seems— and the man who was once best friend, may be fighting beneath the surface.

With the King’s attention on her, can she buy Black Dawn Rebellion enough time to recuperate their forces? And when the time comes, will she be able to kill Adair, ending his tyranny and rising herself as the rightful Queen? Fighting to hide her secret, Emory navigates the brutal trials of the Mad King, trying not to lose herself in the process.

Sequel to Black Dawn, now a bestselling series, the sparks are ignited, as Emory learns the cost of freedom, and her title. Will the rebels unite in time? A sinister force has spread across the land, stripping everyone bare- their betrayals, their secrets, their intentions. But above all, what will their decisions cost? By refusing to give in to the darkness, will Emory rise as Queen?

Queen to Ashes is the second installment in author Mallory McCartney's Black Dawn series. I have to say, I am absolutely stunned by the endings to this story. Endings meaning two characters face life or death moments. I dare say it's given me some time to think about my review before sitting down and actually writing it, or in this case, typing it. This is a story that features many different characters. But, let's start with Emory Fae, the presumptive Queen of Kiero.

Emory has abandoned her previous life on Earth. She joined the Black Dawn Rebellion in order to remove the Dark King, Adair Stratton. But, nothing was what it seemed, & she ended up making some really interesting choices at the end of the previous installment which has led her to her current predicament. She has to prove her allegiance to Adair, survive the numerous life or death trials she is put through, as well as learning everything she can in order to overthrow him.  

Adair is the man who was once a good friend at the Academy and maybe more. That means becoming one of his soldiers and giving the Rebellion time to heal from their defeat. But, that's not the only challenges that Emory and her fellow Rebellion have to face. There are some really vile villains in this story. From the dangerous Oilean who are working to bring back their King, to another even darker force just waiting to rise. So, let's not focus all our time on Emory. 

Yes, she is an interesting character, and yes, she has some brilliant moments as well as a sort of awakening, but if you ignore the others like Azarius, Lana, Brokk, Memphis, Riana, Nyx, & Alby. While Emory is hoping to make Adair believe she's on his side, the Rebellion is fighting for their very lives. One could say that most of the action and twists is with those of the Rebellion. It's fair to say that I am not at all disappointed by this story. I am fascinated to learn more about the other realms, including Daer, as well as finding out more about the Shatter Islands which is where part of the story ends.

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Tuesday, February 19, 2019

#Review - Seek and Destroy by Alan McDermott #Mystery #Thriller

Series: Eva Driscoll # 2
Format: E-Book, 272 pages
Release Date: November 14, 2018
Publisher: Thomas & Mercer
Source: Kindle Unlimited
Genre: Mystery, Thriller

She got away once. They can’t let it happen again.
Eva Driscoll is on the run. She has a new identity, and the best part of $20m liberated from the CIA. Henry Langton is dead but his sinister allies are circling, and not even a presidential pardon can help Eva against an organization that operates above the White House.

With agents around the globe and no tactic off limits, Langton’s men are calling the shots. When they track down ex-CIA computer expert Farooq Naser and threaten Andrew Harvey and Tom Gray, Eva knows they will come for her next. She needs to run—and fast—but what chance does one woman have against the most powerful group in the United States, with just a few ex-spooks and a couple of mercenaries on her side?

But her pursuers should know that, even backed into a corner, Eva Driscoll is not the kind of prey to give up without a fight. But will it mean hurting those she cares for the most?

Seek and Destroy is the second installment in author Alan McDermott's Eva Driscoll series. Months after the events of Run and Hide, Eva Driscoll and her team (Farooq, Sonny, Len Smart, Carl Huff, and Rees Colback) are living under the radar with new ID's since being pardoned by the American President. But, things are about to get very dangerous for everyone. Henry Langdon, the dark, shady man behind most of the governments of the world, and who was presumed to be dead by almost everyone, is very much alive and itching for payback. 

He especially hates Eva, the former CIA operative who brought the richest man in the world down. When Farooq, Eva’s IT maestro, is tracked down in India, his friend is murdered by the Langdon's people in order to force Eva and the others out into the open. When that fails, Langdon's people target retired mercenary Tom Gray, and then his friend, MI5 agent Andrew Harvey, kidnapping their daughters in order to get them to give Eva up. I have to be fair with my review. 

This is more of a Tom Gray story than one that belongs under the heading of Eva Driscoll's. Tom, Sonny, and Len have a history. So, when Tom and his daughter are targeted and things don't go as expected, it will take an act of God to stop him from doing what's needed into order to bring down Langdon and his entire organization. Even though Eva proved herself to Sonny and Len, with his daughters life on the line, it is Tom who proves the much necessary leadership.

From India, to England, to Italy, to a secretive island in the Pacific, Tom, Eva and their team must infiltrate Langdon's highly protected base of operations and rescue two little girls from finding pain and suffering. It is fair to say that one must suspend disbelief at times while reading this story. The story is fast paced, and takes large jumps from one locale to the other. The author really uses Tom Gray, maybe as a farewell, in order to show that even when he's supposed to be retired, you can't mess with him, or his family without paying a steep price. I would also encourage readers to please read Run and Hide so that you understand what has happened to Eva and her crew that has sent them on a virtual war against a man who knows where all the bodies are buried because he ordered their removal.