Friday, July 31, 2020

#Review - The Night Witch (Wilde Justice #6) by Jenn Stark #Fantasy #Romance

Series: Wilde Justice #6
Format: Kindle
Release Date: August 3rd 2020
Publisher: Elewyn Publishing
Source: Author
Genre: Urban Fantasy / Romance

Be careful what you wish for.

Tarot-reading Justice of the Arcana Council Sara Wilde has an avalanche of oppressed psychics crying out for her aid. How can she help them all? Despite the support of the formidable Magician, she’s only one woman.

Worse, the Council’s biggest rival, the Shadow Court, taunts her at every turn, defying her efforts to discover the power behind their elite operation.

Frustrated by the Council’s unwillingness to act, Sara is tempted to take matters into her own hands. Especially when she uncovers ancient, mysterious references to a vigilante-style enforcer, the night witch, who does what Justice can’t…or won’t.

Then a new, mysterious ally emerges, a reclusive sheikh with tales of captured genies and impossible wishes who offers Sara his assistance—for a price. A price that may prove to be more than Sara ever expected to pay…

Shadows dance and demons howl when The Night Witch comes to call.

"Darkness draws down, and the night witch stirs."

The Night Witch is the sixth installment in author Jenn Stark's Wilde Justice series. Sara Wilde is a Tarot Card reading Justice of the Arcana Council. She's the cosmic cop of the connected world. Tracking down the outlaws of the psychic community and delivering them to Judgment is Sara Wilde’s business and business has been good ever since the appearance of the Shadow Court and their obsession with Sara. As the story opens, Sara and Eshe, the High Priestess of the Arcana Council who was once an Oracle of Delphi, are in Pompeii, Italy attending a techno psychic music festival where things quickly go from bad to worse as what appears to be pterodactyls attack Sara.

The Shadow Court has been pushing the envelope on magic, using arcane powers to advance their position in society. The Shadow Court seeks to impose their own brand of justice, restricting magic to only the richest and most influential psychics, while stripping power from all the undesirables. The cries of help from the connected are growing louder by the day. More and more requests for help are showing up at the Justice Hall overwhelming Sara and her staff. An instability is growing in the world because of the Shadow Court and its past time to take the gloves off and strike back. You are wondering about the name The Night Witch. I can only tell you this.

Once upon a time, there was a Night Witch who could do things that the Justice of the Arcana Council couldn't or wouldn't do. This person could cross lines that Sara has been unwilling to cross. Where this person went, death and destruction followed. This person has received special requests for help since Justice disappeared for 150 years before Sara took the job. For several books now, Sara has been the main target of the Shadow Court. Sara knows that Jarvis Fuggerson and his colleagues will stop at nothing until either Sara chooses to join them, or they eliminate her from the playing field. When they go after someone close to Sara, the gloves do come off. But how far will Sara go to get Justice? 

Sara's powers are above anything anyone else has seen and they are rapidly growing. There is literally nobody, well maybe the Magician, who can stop her. Time and time again the Shadow Courts comes after Sara. Time and time again they fail spectacularly. They want Sara to make a mistake that will cost her the support of those she's sworn to protect as well as a piece of her humanity. But, how much more patience does Sara have to stand back and restrain herself while friends and allies are being targeted? The author does introduce new council members and members who are either in hiding, or perhaps joined the Shadow Court. Of those is the Sun. But there is also the Moon and the Star and may others who are out there either waiting to be found, or unwilling to help Sara and her allies. We shall see where the author goes from here.

Here is my recommendation, read the books in the order as they are released. There is lots of information that will be lost in translation if you don't know who the main characters are in this series or what has happened. The usual suspects appear: Simon, Sariah, Nikki Dawes, Aleksander Kreios, Armaeus Bertrand, Death, Danae, as well as some crossover characters from the authors Demon Enforcer series including Warrick of the Syx, leader of a demon special ops team with a brutal reputation for efficiency, along with Finn, Stefan, Gregori & Raum. 

The Demon Enforcers are those fallen angels who agreed to become an enforcer for a chance to be redeemed. The redemption is held in Archangel Michael’s aka Hierophant hands and he makes them work thousands of years to get it. Only demons can kill demons, so their participation tells you that there is a whole lot of stuff that the author adds to make the story even more action packed. I am glad for one point in this book and it happens right at the end. I would be as happy as a clam at high tide if this is the way the author has chosen to go with her series. It makes total sense for Sara and this character to work closely together in the battle and war to come.

Thursday, July 30, 2020

#Review - The Sun Down Motel by Simone St. James #Thrillers #Supernatural #Horror

Series: Standalone
Format: Hardcover, 336 pages
Release Date: February 18, 2020
Publisher: Berkley
Source: Publisher
Genre: Thrillers / Supernatural / Horror

Upstate NY, 1982. Every small town like Fell, New York, has a place like the Sun Down Motel. Some customers are from out of town, passing through on their way to someplace better. Some are locals, trying to hide their secrets. Viv Delaney works as the night clerk to pay for her move to New York City. But something isn’t right at the Sun Down, and before long she’s determined to uncover all of the secrets hidden there.

Upstate NY, 2017. Carly Kirk has always been fascinated by her aunt Viv who disappeared from the Sun Down before Carly was born. Using a small inheritance from when her mom dies, Carly leaves college to go to Fell to figure out what happened to her aunt thirty-five years ago.

Soon, Carly is mirroring her aunt’s life, working as the night clerk at the motel, which hasn’t changed since 1982. The guest book is still handwritten, the rooms still have actual keys, and a haunting presence still lingers. Carly discovers that Viv had been trying to unravel mysteries of her own—including a possible serial killer working in Fell. If Carly can find the answers Viv was searching for, she might be able to solve the mystery that has haunted her family for years.

Story Locale: Fell, NY (fictional town)

The Sun Down Motel, by author Simone St. James, is a mixture of the supernatural, horror, and mystery. The story also alternates between 1982, and 2017 and takes place in the fictional town of Fell, New York. The author has described her story as, "a little I'll Be Gone in the Dark, a dash of Mindhunter, with some Bates Motel thrown in." The story begins by asking the question, what happened to Vivian Delaney who disappeared November 29, 1982? Vivian disappeared without a trace after she ran from her home in Illinois and her family never was able to find out what really happened to her.

Fast forward 35 years later. 20-year old Carly Kirk has just lost her mother, dropped out of college, and has chosen to attempt to find out what happened to her aunt. Carly, like her aunt, drives in from Illinois searching for answers as to what happened to Vivia on November 29, 1982. In the process, she becomes a night clerk at the Sun Down Motel where her aunt also worked. The same motel her aunt disappeared from thirty-five years ago. She meets a mysterious guest by the name of Nick Harkness, and ends up right in the middle of the same mystery and ghostly happenings that her aunt went through. Carly soon realizes the mystery of her aunt's disappearance isn't the only mystery haunting Fell or even the Sun Down Motel. Soon she becomes entangled in an investigation that unknowingly mirrors her aunt's own.

Back in 1982, Vivian Delaney was on her way to NYC when she was detoured to Fell, NY. She gets as job working the front desk midnight shift at the Sun Down Motel. All she has to do is stay in the office and give people the keys when they come to check in. But, right from the very beginning Viv realizes that things aren't quite right. She can smell the cigarette of an invisible smoker, sees a boy run away from her when the motel should be empty, hears the screams of a woman who tells her to run. Doors open and shut on their own. The motel is clearly haunted. 

During Vivian's stay, young women were being murdered in Fell and Vivian believed she could find out why. Viv quickly discovered that there’s a reason why Janice was so eager to offload all the responsibility onto her. But, it will take 35 more years before we discover what really happened to Vivian and why she chose to disappear without a trace. Did something bad happened to her? Was she one of the murdered young women? Although they don't exist simultaneously, Carly and Viv’s stories run in eerie parallels. 

While Carly has her roommate Heather and the mysterious Nick Harkness to help put the pieces together before it's too late, Viv actually had the help of two black women, one a cop (Alma Trent), and the other a photographer (Marnie Mahoney), who was paid to take photos of cheating spouses as well as helping out the police department. Viv became friends with both women after a fashion. 35 years after Vivian, these same two women have some explaining to do as to what they know about Vivian's disappearance. 

Will Carly fly headlong into danger that also loosed her Aunt like a hound seeking vengeance? One has to read the book to find out! The reason for my rating is pretty simple: The repetitive nature of the past and present chapters read almost word for word as the same conversations, which slowed the pacing down. I still have to read the authors previous book called The Broken Girls. Hopefully, I won't have the same issues.

Fell, New York
November 1982
The night it all ended, Vivian was alone.
That was fine with her. She preferred it. It was something she’d discovered, working the night shift at this place in the middle of nowhere: Being with people was easy, but being alone was hard. Especially being alone in the dark. The person who could be truly alone, in the company of no one but oneself and one’s own thoughts-that person was stronger than anyone else. More ready. More prepared.
Still, she pulled into the parking lot of the Sun Down Motel in Fell, New York, and paused, feeling the familiar beat of fear. She sat in her beat-up Cavalier, the key in the ignition, the heat and the radio on, her coat huddled around her shoulders. She looked at the glowing blue and yellow sign, the two stories of rooms in two long stripes in the shape of an L, and thought, I don’t want to go in there. But I will. She was ready, but she was still afraid. It was 10:59 p.m.
She felt like crying. She felt like screaming. She felt sick.
I don’t want to go in there.
But I will. Because I always do.
Outside, two drops of half-frozen rain hit the windshield. A truck droned by on the road in the rearview mirror. The clock ticked over to eleven o’clock, and the news came on the radio. Another minute and she’d be late, but she didn’t care. No one would fire her. No one cared if she came to work. The Sun Down had few customers, none of whom would notice if the night girl was late. It was often so quiet that an observer would think that nothing ever happened here.
Viv Delaney knew better.
The Sun Down only looked empty. But it wasn’t.
With cold fingers, she pulled down the driver’s-side visor. She touched her hair, which she’d had cut short, a sharp style that ended below her earlobes and was teased out for volume. She checked her eye makeup-not the frosty kind, like some girls wore, but a soft lavender purple. It looked a little like bruises. You could streak it with yellow and orange to create a days-old-bruise effect, but she hadn’t bothered with that tonight. Just the purple on the delicate skin of her lids, meeting the darker line of her eyeliner and lashes. Why had she put makeup on at all? She couldn’t remember.
On the radio, they talked about a body. A girl found in a ditch off Melborn Road, ten miles from here. Not that here was anywhere-just a motel on the side of a two-lane highway leading out of Fell and into the nothingness of upstate New York and eventually Canada. But if you took the two-lane for a mile and made a right at the single light dangling from an overhead wire, and followed that road to another and another, you’d be where the girl’s body was found. A girl named Tracy Waters, last seen leaving a friend’s house in a neighboring town. Eighteen years old, stripped naked and dumped in a ditch. They’d found her body two days after her parents reported her missing.
As she sat in her car, twenty-year-old Viv Delaney’s hands shook as she listened to the story. She thought about what it must be like to lie naked as the half-frozen rain pelted your helpless skin. How horribly cold that would be. How it was always girls who ended up stripped and dead like roadkill. How it didn’t matter how afraid or how careful you were-it could always be you.
Especially here. It could always be you.
Her gaze went to the motel, to the reflection of the gaudy lit-up blue and yellow sign blinking endlessly in the darkness. vacancy. cable tv! vacancy. cable tv!
Even after three months in this place, she could still be scared. Awfully, perfectly scared, her thoughts skittering up the back of her neck and around her brain in panic. I’m alone for the next eight hours, alone in the dark. Alone with her and the others.
And despite herself, Viv turned the key so the heat and the radio-still talking about Tracy Waters-went off. Lifted her chin and pushed open the driver’s-side door. Stepped out into the cold.
She hunched deeper into her nylon coat and started across the parking lot. She was wearing jeans and a pair of navy blue sneakers with white laces, the soles too thin for the cold and damp. The rain wet her hair, and the wind pushed it out of place. She walked across the lot toward the door that said office.
Inside the office, Johnny was standing behind the counter, zipping up his coat over his big stomach. He’d probably seen her from the window in the door. “Are you late?” he asked, though there was a clock on the wall behind him.
“Five minutes,” Viv argued back, unzipping her own coat. Her stomach felt tight, queasy now that she was inside. I want to go home.
But where was home? Fell wasn’t home. Neither was Illinois, where she was born. When she left home for the last time, after the final screaming fight with her mother, she’d supposedly been headed to New York to become an actress. But that, like everything else in her life to that point, had been a part she was playing, a story. She had no idea how to become a New York actress-the story had enraged her mother, which had made it good enough. What Viv had wanted, more than anything, was to simply be in motion, to go.
So she’d gone. And she’d ended up here. Fell would have to be home for now.
“Mrs. Bailey is in room two-seventeen,” Johnny said, running down the motel’s few guests. “She already made a liquor run, so expect a phone call anytime.”
“Great,” Viv said. Mrs. Bailey came to the Sun Down to drink, probably because if she did it at home she’d get in some kind of trouble. She made drunken phone calls to the front desk to make demands she usually forgot about. “Anyone else?”
“The couple on their way to Florida checked out,” Johnny said. “We’ve had two prank phone calls, both heavy breathing. Stupid teenagers. And I wrote a note to Janice about the door to number one-oh-three. There’s something wrong with it. It keeps blowing open in the wind, even when I lock it.”
“It always does that,” Viv said. “You told Janice about it a week ago.” Janice was the motel’s owner, and Viv hadn’t seen her in weeks. Months, maybe. She didn’t come to the motel if she didn’t have to, and she certainly didn’t come at night. She left Vivian’s paychecks in an envelope on the desk, and all communication was handled with notes. Even the motel’s owner didn’t spend time here if she could help it.
“Well, she should fix the door,” Johnny said. “I mean, it’s strange, right? I locked it.”
“Sure,” Viv said. “It’s strange.”
She was used to this. No one else who worked at the motel saw what she saw or experienced what she did. The things she saw only happened in the middle of the night. The day shift and the evening shift employees had no idea.
“Hopefully no one else will check in,” Johnny said, pulling the hood of his jacket over his head. “Hopefully it’ll be quiet.”
It’s never quiet, Viv thought, but she said, “Yes, hopefully.”
Viv watched him walk out of the office, listened to his car start up and drive away. Johnny was thirty-six and lived with his mother. Viv pictured him going home, maybe watching TV before going to bed. A guy who had never made much of himself, living a relatively normal life, free of the kind of fear Viv was feeling. A life in which he never thought about Tracy Waters, except to vaguely recall her name from the radio.
Maybe it was just her who was going crazy.
The quiet settled in, broken only by the occasional sound of the traffic on Number Six Road and the wind in the trees behind the motel. It was now 11:12. The clock on the wall behind the desk ticked over to 11:13.
She hung her jacket on the hook in the corner. From another hook she took a navy blue polyester vest with the words Sun Down Motel embroidered on the left breast and shrugged it on over her white blouse. She pulled out the hard wooden chair behind the counter and sat in it. She surveyed the scarred, stained desktop quickly: jar of pens and pencils, the black square that made a clacking sound when you dragged the handle back and forth over a credit card to make a carbon impression, puke-colored rotary phone. In the middle of the desk was a large, flat book, where guests were to write their information and sign their names when checking in. The guest book was open to November 1982.
Pulling a notebook from her purse, Viv pulled a pen from between its pages, opened the notebook on the desk, and wrote.
Nov. 29
Door to number 103 has begun to open again. Prank calls. No one here. Tracy Waters is dead.
A sound came from outside, and she paused, her head half raised. A bang, and then another one. Rhythmic and wild. The door to number 103 blowing open and hitting the wall in the wind. Again.
For a second, Viv closed her eyes. The fear came over her in a wave, but she was too far in it now. She was already here. She had to be ready. The Sun Down had claimed her for the night.
She lowered the pen again.
What if everything I’ve seen, everything I think, is true? Because I think it is.
Her eyes glanced to the guest book, took in the names there. She paused as the clock on the wall behind her shoulder ticked on, then wrote again.
The ghosts are awake tonight. They’re restless. I think this will be over soon. Her hand trembled, and she tried to keep it steady. I’m so sorry, Tracy. I’ve failed.
A small sound escaped the back of her throat, but she bit it down into silence. She put the pen down and rubbed her eyes, some of the pretty lavender eyeshadow coming off on her fingertips.
It was November 29, 1982, 11:24 p.m.
By three o’clock in the morning, Viv Delaney had vanished.
That was the beginning.
Fell, New York
November 2017
This place was unfamiliar.
I opened my eyes and stared into the darkness, panicked. Strange bed, strange light through the window, strange room. I had a minute of free fall, frightening and exhilarating at the same time.
Then I remembered: I was in Fell, New York.
My name was Carly Kirk, I was twenty years old, and I wasn’t supposed to be here.
I checked my phone on the nightstand; it was four o’clock in the morning, only the light from streetlamps and the twenty-four-hour Denny’s shining through the sheer drapes on the hotel room window and making a hazy square on the wall.
I wasn’t getting back to sleep now. I swung my legs over the side of the bed and picked up my glasses from the nightstand, putting them on. I’d driven from Illinois yesterday, a long drive that left me tired enough to sleep like the dead in this bland chain hotel in downtown Fell.
It wasn’t that impressive a place; Google Earth had told me that much. Downtown was a grid of cafŽs, laundromats, junky antique stores, apartment rental buildings, and used-book stores, nestled reverently around a grocery store and a CVS. The street I was on, with the chain hotel and the Denny’s, passed straight through town, as if a lot of people got to Fell and simply kept driving without making the turnoff into the rest of the town. The welcome to fell sign I’d passed last night had been vandalized by a wit who had used spray paint to add the words turn back.
I didn’t turn back.
With my glasses on, I picked up my phone again and scrolled through the emails and texts that had come in while I slept.
The first email was from my family’s lawyer. The remainder of funds has been deposited into your account. Please see breakdown attached.
I flipped past it without reading the rest, without opening the attachment. I didn’t need to see it: I already knew I’d inherited some of Mom’s money, split with my brother, Graham. I knew it wasn’t riches, but it was enough to keep me in food and shelter for a little while. I didn’t want numbers, and I couldn’t look at them. Losing your mother to cancer-she was only fifty-one-made things like money look petty and stupid.
In fact, it made you rethink everything in your life. Which in my crazy way, after fourteen months in a fog of grief, I was doing. And I couldn’t stop.
There was a string of texts from Graham. What do you think you’re doing, Carly? Leaving college? For how long? You think you can keep up? Whatever. If all that tuition is down the drain, you’re on your own. You know that, right? Whatever you’re doing, good luck with it. Try not to get killed.
I hit Reply and typed, Hey, drama queen. It’s only for a few days, and I’m acing everything. This is just a side trip, because I’m curious. So sue me. I’ll be fine. No plans to get killed, but thanks for checking.
Actually, I was hoping to be here for longer than a few days. Since losing Mom, staying in college for my business degree seemed pointless. When I’d started college, I’d thought I had all the time in the world to figure out what I wanted to do. But Mom’s death showed me that life wasn’t as long as you thought it was. And I had questions I wanted answers to. It was time to find them.
Hailey, Graham’s fiancŽe, had sent me her own text. Hey! You OK?? Worried about you. I’m here to talk if you want. Maybe you need another grief counselor? I can find you one! OK? XO!
God, she was so nice. I’d already done grief counseling. Therapy. Spirit circles. Yoga. Meditation. Self-care. In doing all of that, what I’d discovered was that I didn’t need another therapy session right now. What I really needed, at long last, was answers.
I put down my phone and opened my laptop, tapping it awake. I opened the file on my desktop, scrolling through it. I picked out a scan of a newspaper from 1982, with the headline POLICE SEARCHING FOR MISSING LOCAL WOMAN. Beneath the headline was a photo of a young woman, clipped from a snapshot. She was beautiful, vivacious, smiling at the camera, her hair teased, her bangs sprayed in place up from her forehead as the rest of her hair hung down in a classic eighties look. Her skin was clear and her eyes sparkled, even in black and white. The caption below the photo said: Twenty-year-old Vivian Delaney has not been seen since the night of November 29. Anyone who has seen her is asked to call the police.

#Review - Shadow Ruin (Shadow Fall #3) by Audrey Grey #YA #SyFy

Series: Shadow Fall #3
Format: Kindle, 314 pages
Release Date: May 25, 2020
Publisher: Starfall Press LLC
Source: Kindle Unlimited
Genre: Young Adult / SyFy

My name is Maia Graystone: soldier, commander of the rebel army . . . and the Emperor’s worst nightmare.

After going from scorned traitor to leader of the rebel army overnight, I’m now the most powerful girl in the empire.

But power always comes with a price.

My mother questions my position at every turn, my enemies wait for the right moment to strike, and the burden of leadership threatens my relationship with Riser.

When the Emperor kidnaps someone I love, I’m faced with the impossible—sneak onto Hyperion, his highly-guarded palace in the sky.

I’ve survived the Shadow Trials. I’ve survived the violent Blood Courts. But surviving this final mission means deciding once and for all who to trust—the golden prince from my past or the dark soldier from my future.

With Pandora’s wrath only days away, I’ll enter one final twisted game of treachery, secrets, and deceit.

Winner takes all . . . let the games begin.

Shadow Ruin is the third and final installment in author Audrey Grey's Shadow Fall Trilogy. The story begins right where it left off in Shadow Rise. The fate of the Earth depends on the successful infiltration of the castle on Emerald Island, locating and activating the Mercurian to deal with the Pandora asteroid about to destroy the planet, and taking out the Emperor. Maia Graystone has done some impossible things over the course of this series. She's survived 7 years in the Pit after being caught trying to feed her brother Max. 

She survived the Shadow Trials after having had a complete makeover by a former guard of the families to become someone entirely new. She survived the Blood Courts against her once lover Riser and her alleged ally Nicolai. She's put together a large army of the willing including Prince Caspian and her own brother Max. With her mother alongside, a mother who turned her back on her family and became an ally of the Emperor, a mother who created she Shadow Trial, who now claims it was all part of a larger plan that involves Maia and Max having pieces of a puzzle that will lead to finding the Mercurian that her own father developed to save the world from Pandora.

What's interesting about this story is that sleepers are waking up and they are a major part of Maia's army. Sleepers include people from all walks of life including Bronze and Silver, and people who are weak and hungry. The bad thing is that half the people are starving and weak and really can't be relied on to face off against Nicolai's people, the Archduchess, or the Emperor for that matter. After Nicolai throws a wrench in her plans, as always, and the psychopathic Archduchess kidnaps Max, Maia is forced to choose between finding the Mercurian so she can save the planet or saving her brother.

The story moves to space station Hyperion, a floating city of wonder where Maia, posed as Delphine, is expected to marry Prince Caspian. Things quickly spiral into dangerous territory and it's only a matter of time before choices and decisions will need to be made. For some, the revolving door between Maia, Caspian and Riser is considered a love triangle. But not really. Maia once loved the boy Caspian, but it is the man, Riser, who holds her heart even after all the bad things that he's done for her. Would I have preferred Maia with Caspian? Perhaps. Caspian never once betrayed Maia. Oh, sure, he blamed her for his sister’s death but that was due to being emotionally distraught. The ending is part violent, part emotional, and part heart breaking. It's a good ending. There's not much I would change including the high body count.