Thursday, December 28, 2023

#Review - Empress of Fae by Briar Boleyn #Fantasy

Series: Blood of a Fae # 3
Format: E-Galley, 450 pages
Release Date: October 25, 2023
Publisher: Starwater Press
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Genre: New Adult / Fantasy

Morgan Pendragon has another name now: Morgan Le Fay. As her true heritage slowly emerges from the mists of the past, Morgan renounces one possible future as the new ruler of the fierce Siabra fae and the wife of the Prince of Claws and vanishes through a portal–returning to Camelot and the Rose Court where her friends and younger brother lie in mortal peril from Arthur's cruel wiles.

But back in the Court of Claws, Kairos Draven won't allow his beloved to disappear from his life so easily. His bond with Morgan goes beyond blood, love, life, and even time itself and neither one of them can relinquish its power or its pull.

Yet Morgan is no ordinary woman. Not only is she beginning to manifest remarkable abilities, but the powers of the gods themselves run through her veins, bestowing her with an unimaginable power and an unthinkable claim over all of Aercanum and beyond...

A claim which some will stop at nothing to put a halt to.


Briar Boleyn's Empress of Fae is the third installment in the authors Blood of a Fae series. Key Characters: Morgan Pendragon aka Morgan Le Fay, and Kairos Draven of the Siabra Court. As the story opens, Draven is angry that Morgan has run away through a gate to her home, destroying any chance he has of following her. Morgan arrives back in Camelot knowing that she may be the only one to save her younger brother Kaye from Arthur's growing darkness and destruction with a distraught Javer who lost his acolyte.

Upon her arrival in Camelot, things have gone from dark, to hopeless for the people of Camelot. People are struggling to find food. Arthur has gone to war with once allies. He has brutally subjugated people, taken a women hostage who was meant as his wife (Guinevere) and tried to destroy her. He made a familiar face Queen who now bears his child. A child that comes with a prophecy. And, apparently Lancelot and Merlin and a few other notable characters are now members of a resistance trying to overthrow Arthur and save their Kingdom. 

Morgan also has a new enemy: Fenyx, Arthur's general and right hand man who is evil as they come and is willing to treat Morgan as a play thing. The one thing that does change is that Morgan and Draven are now able to speak to each other, and do other things, while in dream world. In dream world, Morgan comes to realize that she made a huge mistake in running away from Draven. Especially when he has a powerful army that is at her call now that she is Queen of the Fae. 

Meanwhile, Draven asks for volunteers to travel to help Morgan's people, and dethrone Arthur once and for all. But nothing is as easy as one thinks. Upon arriving at their destination, Draven and his army are surprised by an attack by creatures not seen in these parts. And, it appears that a certain High King is pulling Arthur's strings, and  looking for his lost daughter who may be even more powerful than she believes. This is by far the darkest book of the series, and yes that includes the sexual assault that occurred in the first book.

*Thoughts*  In order to enjoy this series, one must forget everything you though you knew about the legend of King Arthur, and focus on Morgan le Fey instead. You must forget about Merlin and Guinevere. They have been written to be totally different people. You must also be willing to open your minds to the possibility that Arthur wasn't a good person when all is said and done, not if you read about the May Day slaughter he directed. 

I know that there will be a fourth book in this series set to be released in 2024. We may finally to meet the most dangerous person alive, Morgan's father who has been searching for her after she was taken from her by her mother. 





Wednesday, December 27, 2023

#Review - The Fallen Usurper by Jon Monson #Fantasy

Series: The Final Heir # 2
Format: Kindle, 335 pages
Release Date: November 13, 2023
Publisher: Castle Peak Publishing, LLC
Source: Kindle Unlimited
Genre: Epic Fantasy

A usurper without a throne. A soldier turned emperor. A mage struggling with purpose.

Mere weeks have passed since the Usurper’s defeat at the hands of the Final Heir. With Mahzun’s whereabouts unknown, his empire—forged in blood by the Eternal Blade—fractures at a furious pace.

Severely weakened, Mahzun flees back to the Northern Wilds. In the land that cradled him during his youth, he seeks rest and revenge. Unfortunately, all he has are vague and mysterious instructions from the ghostly apparition of his oldest enemy.

Ekarath transitions from resistance fighter to emperor, discovering that defeating the Usurper was only the beginning. New perils are coming to challenge his rule. With them will come unexpected allies.

Zahara struggles with her purpose as nobles plot and the other Heirdoms descend into rebellion. Friends plan her future as Ekarath’s wife, while the world feels far too chaotic for romance. Fortunately, an ancient power beyond her comprehension has its own plans for her.


Jon Monson's The Fallen Usurper is the second installment in the authors The Final Heir trilogy. This book picks up a few weeks after the ending of The Final Heir. This book revolves around three key characters: Ekarath, Zahara, and Mahzun, aka the Usurper.  

Severely weakened, Mahzun flees back to the Northern Wilds. In the land that cradled him during his youth, he seeks rest and revenge. Mahzun sees his victims and begins following the instructions of a voice. Although not knowing the source of the voice, he feels that the voice is a holy calling that he must follow. Unfortunately, all he has are vague and mysterious instructions from the ghostly apparition of his oldest enemy who is allegedly killed during the battle of Segova. Or is he?

Ekarath, now the Heir of Creation and Segova, transitions from resistance fighter to emperor, discovering that defeating the Usurper was only the beginning. New perils are coming to challenge his rule. With them will come unexpected allies. He can see the threads of destruction, and restoration, but when Shajarat, the timeless tree that represents the magic in the land, shows signs of damage from Mahzun's war on the realms, he must rely on people who he both trusts, and out of necessity to ensure it doesn't die.

Zahara, who for a brief time in her life, war the named Heir of the realm, now struggles with her purpose as nobles plot and the other Heirdoms descend into rebellion. Friends plan her future as Ekarath’s wife, while the world feels far too chaotic for romance. Fortunately, an ancient power beyond her comprehension has its own plans for her. An ancient power that sends Zahara to a far off land where she will encounter the Usurper himself, while also finding a bit of her own magical prowess in order to save herself, and others. She has visions and learns more about the history of the lands and the magic they hold. Her quest results in an unexpected bond with Mahzun and new insight on the war against the heirs.

*Thoughts* 2023 was the year of exploration new authors and attempting to finish older series for me. I was happy when the author contacted me and told me that the long awaited finale to the series would be soon releasing. I am happy that I take notes so I remember what took place in the first installment and why these characters matter. I see huge character growth coming for Ekarath, as well as Mahzun. Zahara may become the most powerful mage in all realms as it seems that magic, and the ability to create powerful artifacts that enhance making is above anyone else. I don't want to gamble on taking a guess on what is going to happen in the finale. I will just say that this series doesn't get the love and respect it needs from book nerds around the world. 





Tuesday, December 26, 2023

#Review - That's Not My Name by Megan Lally #YA #Thriller #Suspense

Series: Standalone
Format: Paperback, 304 pages
Release Date: December 26, 2023
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Source: Publisher
Genre: Young Adult / Thrillers & Suspense / Psychological

Who is Mary Boone? No one knows..not even Mary Boone herself. A gripping debut thriller perfect for fans of Natalie D. Richards and Vincent Ralph

Shivering and bruised, a teen wakes up on the side of a dirt road with no memory of how she got there—or who she is. A passing officer takes her to the police station, and not long after, a frantic man arrives. He’s been searching for her for hours. He has her school ID, her birth certificate, and even family photos.

He is her father. Her name is Mary. Or so he says.

When Lola slammed the car door and stormed off into the night, Drew thought they just needed some time to cool off. Except Lola disappeared, and the sheriff, his friends, and the whole town are convinced Drew murdered his girlfriend. Forget proving his innocence, he needs to find her. The longer Lola is missing, the fewer leads there are to follow…and the more danger they both are in.

 


Megan Lally's That's Not My Name is her debut novel. The story alternates between Andrew (Drew) Carter-Diaz and a mysterious teenaged girl. Over the course of 5 days, both Drew and our mystery girl will try to put the pieces together of a mystery that may have dark implications. On Day one, an unknown girl is found on the side of the road pretty beaten up by Officer Bowman of the Alton Police Department. She doesn't know her name, she has a concussion, broken nose, and is covered in blood. Was she in a car accident? What really happened?

Shortly after she is brought to the police station, a man named Wayne claims that Girl is actually Mary, his daughter who was in a car accident. He even claims to have all of her identification to prove who she is. Meanwhile, Drew's girlfriend Lola Scott went missing months ago, and he has become the ire of everyone's wrath, including the Chief of Police who thinks he had something to do with her disappearance and is willing to destroy his life in order to get a confession whether it is the truth or not.

While "Mary" is trying to regain her memories and find out what exactly happened, Drew finds surprising help from his cousin Max, and Autumn who was Lola's best friend, and truly believes that Drew did something to hurt Lola. In an attempt to clear his name and find his girlfriend, Drew discovers that a girl 50 miles away may be exactly who he is looking for.  

The whole town is convinced Drew is a horrible person and killed his girlfriend, but Drew is relentless when it comes to finding Lola. He works tirelessly, infuriated by the fact that nobody else seems to be looking, especially not the sheriff who is eager to put Drew behind bars.  Can Drew find Lola and clear his name? Can Mary unravel the mystery of her lost memories before she falls into a deep, dark web without any escape? The ending is not as predictable as one might think.

*Thoughts* For a debut novel, this was pretty intense. I felt for Drew for what happened previously to this story. I felt for "Mary" because she will have to face a lifetime of help to get over what happened to her. I have to give props to Drew's "parents" who tried hard to show they were with him, even when the town was willing to sacrifice Drew to find the truth. And, I'm thankful that the ending was not as predictable as one might think. When the reveal actually happens, it steam rolls right to the final page.  





Thursday, December 21, 2023

#Revew - I Heard a Fly Buzz When I Died by Amanda Flower #Mystery #Historical

Series: An Emily Dickinson Mystery (#2)
Format:  Paperback, 352 pages
Release Date: November 14, 2023
Publisher: Berkley
Source: Publisher
Genre: Mystery / Historical

When a literary icon stays with the Dickinson family, Emily and her housemaid Willa find themselves embroiled in a shocking murder in this new mystery from USA Today bestselling and Agatha Award–winning author Amanda Flower.

August 1856. The Dickinson family is comfortably settled in their homestead on Main Street. Emily’s brother, Austin Dickinson, and his new wife are delighted when famous thinker and writer Ralph Waldo Emerson comes to Amherst to speak at a local literary society and decides he and his young secretary, Luther Howard, will stay with the newlyweds. Emily has been a longtime admirer of Emerson’s writing and is thrilled at the chance to meet her idol. She is determined to impress him with her quick wit, and if she can gather the courage, a poem. Willa Noble, the second maid in the Dickinson home and Emily's friend, encourages her to speak to the famous but stern man. But his secretary, Luther, intrigues Willa more because of his clear fondness for the Dickinson sisters.

Willa does not know if Luther truly cares for one of the Dickinson girls or if he just sees marrying one of them as a way to raise himself up in society. After a few days in his company, Willa starts to believe it’s the latter. Miss Lavinia, Emily’s sister, appears to be enchanted by Luther; a fact that bothers Emily greatly. However, Emily’s fears are squashed when Luther turns up dead in the Dickinson’s garden. It seems that he was poisoned. Emerson, aghast at the death of his secretary, demands answers. Emily and Willa set out to find them in order to save the Dickinson family reputation and stop a cold-blooded fiend from killing again.

Amanda Flower's I Heard A Fly Buzz When I Died is the second installment in the authors An Emily Dickinson Mystery series. This story is a retelling of Emily Dickinson's poem by the same name. The series features Willa Noble, maid to iconic American poet Emily Dickinson, who solves mysteries with her new employer. For Willa, it has been 1 year since her beloved brother was murdered, and she, along with Emily Dickinson (1830-1886), worked together to solve his murder. They also discovered the Underground railroad, and the Abolitionist movement.

It is now August 1856. The Dickinson family is comfortably settled in their homestead on Main Street. Emily’s brother, Austin Dickinson, and his new wife Susan Gilbert are delighted when famous thinker and writer Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882) comes to Amherst to speak at a local literary society and decides he and his young secretary, Luther Howard, will stay with the newlyweds. Emily has been a longtime admirer of Emerson’s writing and is thrilled at the chance to meet her idol. 
 
She is determined to impress him with her quick wit, and if she can gather the courage, a poem. Willa Noble, the second maid in the Dickinson home and Emily's friend, encourages her to speak to the famous but stern man. But his secretary, Luther, intrigues Willa more because of his clear fondness for Emily's sister, Lavinia. Willa does not know if Luther truly cares for Lavinia or if he just sees marrying one of them as a way to raise himself up in society. Emily is also weary of Luther's request to read her poems.
 
After a few days in his company, Willa starts to believe it’s the latter. Lavinia appears to be enchanted by Luther; a fact that bothers Emily greatly. One afternoon, Willa overhears an argument between Emerson and Luther. Emerson accused Luther of stealing some of his works, telling him he was fired when their current visit ended. However, Emily’s fears are squashed when Luther turns up dead in the Dickinson’s garden. It seems that he was poisoned. Emerson, aghast at the death of his secretary, demands answers. Emily and Willa set out to find them in order to save the Dickinson family reputation and stop a cold-blooded fiend from killing again.
 
*Thoughts* The author uses plenty of historical figures in this story once again like Louisa May Alcott (1832-1888) writer of Little Women. I honestly don't know much about Emily Dickinson's life, but understand she ended up spending a lot of time in her own mind, and has been thought of one of America's most talented writer of poems. Even though only 10 poems were released, it is said she may have written up to a thousand which were later edited for format and released. In this series, she's a bit headstrong and flighty, yet actually one of the only ones that treated everyone kindly. Especially Willa who she treats better than her sister most of the time.  
 
It is curious to see how much longer Willa continues to play keep away from Officer Matthew who has made his intentions known to her. Willa also has issues with Lavinia in not understanding why she and Emily are constantly getting involved in things that the police are supposed to investigate and solve. Willa and the Dickinson's head maid have a curious relationship. Willa never shirks away from doing the job she is supposed to be paid to do, not even when she is constantly pulled away by Emily to do more investigating. 
 


Chapter One

I thrust the tip of my spade into the earth and had images flash through my mind of digging a grave, a grave dug in stone. The tiniest bit of dirt came loose from the combination of my force and the steel blade. The small amount of soil hardly seemed worth the effort. I closed my eyes for a moment. Trying to plant these daylilies in August was a bad idea. This was the driest and hottest month of the year, not a good time for planting much of anything. However, when my mistress, Emily Dickinson, saw the lilies growing on the side of an abandoned road, she had to have them for her new garden at the Dickinson homestead. One way or another, I had to get them in the ground before they languished in the heat.

Sweat trickled down both sides of my face. My only recourse was to wet the ground and then plant the daylilies. I knew Emily would not want to change the location of the plants. When she made up her mind about something, it was as good as done. The only trouble being when I was the one who was supposed to make sure it got done. At least I wasn't alone on this particular assignment.

Cody Carey, the family's yardman, stood a few feet away and looked as hot as I felt. He wiped at his brow. The pair of us had toiled in companionable silence for a long while. Cody was a few years younger than my twenty-one years. He had a dusting of freckles across the bridge of his nose and cheeks. The blond mustache on his upper lip could only be seen when the light hit it directly. His attempt at a mustache was the same straw color of his hair. He had just started to work at the Dickinson home that summer, and Emily hoped to train him up as a proper gardener, both for the homestead and for the Evergreens, the neighboring property that was home to Emily's brother and his new wife.

"Willa!" a breathy voice called.

I jumped and dropped my spade onto the hard ground. The handle bounced and struck me in the ankle. I bit my lip to keep from crying out.

"Willa!" Emily called again. "Susan and Austin are home!" The jubilation in her voice was clear. My mistress Emily wasn't one to do anything by halves. If you were someone she loved, like her family, then it was wholly and fiercely.

Emily's brother, Austin, had married Susan the month before in a private ceremony. Not even the Dickinson family had been included.

Susan Dickinson née Gilbert was Emily's dearest friend, and I thought, as such, Emily would be thrilled to now be able to call Susan not just her friend but her sister. However, when she'd learned that Susan and Austin were to marry privately, she had seemed relieved.

"I don't think I could bear to watch. It's like a death. Death causes division and change, and I sense that coming," she'd told me.

To this day, I don't understand why she felt that way. Did she fear losing her brother to marriage or did she fear losing her friend? In any case, they were both with her now, living in a grand house that Emily's father had built for the newlyweds. I could not fathom what the loss, or "death" as Emily called it, could be.

Perhaps I was looking at this from the perspective of my own pain. Over a year ago, my brother, Henry, had been brutally murdered. He'd been the only family I had left in this world . . . the only family worth mentioning at least. I'd experienced real death and loss, so the comparison chafed at my own grief.

"We must go over to the Evergreens to greet them," Emily declared. "I know they will be tired from their journey, but it cannot be helped. I have to see them straightaway. I can't wait until the evening meal. That is hours from now."

"You should go," I said.

"I want you to go with me."

I picked up my spade and noticed that Cody had wandered off when Emily appeared. I hoped he didn't think I was going to plant all these daylilies myself. He was the yardman, not me. "I don't know why you'd like me to go with you."

"They will want to see you," she insisted.

I wiped sweat from my brow with the back of my hand, certain I would have dirt on my face. I doubted Austin Dickinson and the newly married Susan Gilbert Dickinson would be so eager to see me upon their return to Amherst.

Austin had spoken less than twenty words to me in the last year and a half I had been under the Dickinson family employ, and Susan scoffed at my friendship with Emily like I was her competition. This I could not quite understand. Susan was Emily's dearest friend and now her sister. I could never compete with that, nor would I want to. I was a maid. I knew my station. Emily may be amused by my friendship, but I was still a servant first. I was there to do her bidding and the bidding of the family.

"Please, Willa, come with me." Emily's small hands fluttered in front of her face. Emily was a petite woman with a tiny waist, reddish hair, and deep-set dark eyes. At the moment those eyes were afraid. Maybe not afraid, but certainly anxious. What could possibly strain her nerves about seeing her brother and Susan, two people whom she knew and loved best in the world?

"Are friends delight or pain? Could bounty but remain," Emily said.

I had become accustomed to Emily speaking so. When she spoke in that tone, she wasn't speaking to me but to herself. She was working through a poem. She murmured the words again and added, "Riches are good."

I picked up my spade and set it into the metal pail I used to carry my gardening tools around the yard. "I will come, miss. If it will be a help to you."

Emily's eyes cleared. The faraway look that seemed to overtake her every so often faded. "Thank you, Willa. You are a true delight."

I glanced at the large yellow house where I lived with the Dickinson family and their head maid, Margaret O'Brien. "I should go wash up. I have been digging in the garden for the better part of an hour. I'm sure I'm covered in dirt."

Emily waved this idea away. "Do not bother. It is my brother and Susan. There is no reason to keep up appearances. Now come. Just remove your apron and you will be presentable enough."

I glanced up at the house, where it seemed to loom over the garden. "I can't be long. Miss O'Brien was expecting me to come in soon to assist with dinner. She will be quite upset if I'm not there on time. Your father likes to eat at the same hour every evening for his digestion."

"I have already told Miss O'Brien that I have need of you and you will clean the kitchen top to bottom after dinner to make up for the lost time."

I dug my fingernails into the palms of my hands. I typically cleaned the kitchen top to bottom every night, but with Miss O'Brien's help. Without her help it would take twice as long, which meant I wouldn't have any time to read The Scarlet Letter, the novel Emily lent me. When she'd learned of my love of reading, she'd given me access to her personal library. Many nights, I had to force myself to blow out the candle and go to sleep. I would have much rather stayed up and read, but the time I had outside of working was limited. My only day off during the week was Sunday. Often after church, I would walk through Amherst with a book under my arm.

At times, I would allow Matthew Thomas, a local police officer and friend, to accompany me on my walks. He would like to join me every Sunday, but as much as I enjoyed his companionship, I wanted nothing more than friendship from him. He felt differently and had made his intentions known. For his sake, I wished he would look elsewhere for a wife. I did not want him to waste his time on me when he could find happiness with someone new.

I removed my apron as Emily instructed, folded it, and placed it neatly onto the garden stool I used while weeding. Perhaps while I was gone, Cody would return and finish planting the daylilies. That would be a great gift.

Emily grabbed my hand. "Come, Willa. There's not a moment to waste." She pulled me along the grass and released my hand when we reached the younger Dickinsons' property. I slowed and took in the new house.

Just like the homestead, where Emily lived with her parents and younger sister Lavinia, the Evergreens was an impressive home. It was so new that the paint on the shutters gleamed in the sunlight. I'd heard Emily say it was an Italianate-style home, which made me think it must have been inspired by grand buildings in Italy. I'd never seen any structure like it. It was large, but the most impressive thing was the tower that rose out of the middle of it. It looked like a clock tower looming over the joint grounds of the Evergreens and the homestead.

Emily called the house a "bribe tied into a threat." Her brother had wanted to move west after his marriage to make his own way in the world and discover his fortune. Miss Susan had not wished for that. She wanted to stay in Amherst near friends and most of all near Emily. Mr. Dickinson made his son an offer that he couldn't walk away from: a grand new home and work at the family law firm. He would find nothing like this house in the wilderness. It was a gilded cage meant to keep him close, and Mr. Dickinson had succeeded.

Emily was running now. She was so eager to greet her brother and new sister. It made me wonder why she insisted I come along at all. It was clear she didn't need me. I had found Emily always had a purpose for everything she did, even if she was the only one who understood it.

Austin Dickinson stood next to a carriage and offered a hand to his new bride as she stepped out. Miss Susan looked up at the house, and her lips curved with pleasure as if some sort of dream had been fulfilled. It must have been a great comfort for her to know she was now secure and would always have a home. From the snippets I had overhead from the family, I gathered Miss Susan hadn't had the same upbringing as the Dickinson children. Her parents were dead, and she'd been handed off from aunt to aunt. As luck or providence would have it, she and Emily struck up a friendship several years ago, and from that relationship, Miss Susan became acquainted with Austin. Now, she was a member of one of the most prominent families in Amherst. It was a great change of fortune.

"You're home!" Emily cried, and ran to her brother and Miss Susan. "I thought I should die before you returned. It was so long, and you did not write me nearly as much as you should have."

"Emily." Her brother laughed. "We are to dine at the homestead tonight and greet you properly then. There is no reason to make a scene."

From the light shining in Austin's eyes, he was pleased to see his sister.

Emily hugged her brother and Miss Susan in turn. "I don't need a proper greeting. I could not wait one more second without seeing you. You can greet Mother and Father under the stiff confines of the dining table. But me, I want to be greeted in the open air with only heaven looking down."

"Oh, Emily, Sister," Miss Susan said. "I have missed you so. I'm certain I longed to see you as much as you longed to see me."

Austin wrinkled his brow. "Yes, we have both missed you, Sister."

The porter removed the couple's trunks from the back of the carriage, and Austin seemed to accept this as a time to escape. "I will show you where to put those. The house is still being put in order, and not all the furniture is in place."

"Yes, sir," the man murmured. His thick Irish accent was noticeable when he spoke. Austin led the green-eyed porter into the house. It was then that Miss Susan noticed me for the first time. "And why did you bring the maid with you?" Miss Susan asked. Her intelligent eyes bored into me.

"She was in the garden and wanted to welcome you home too. I see no reason to turn a warm welcome away, do you, dear Sister?" She sighed happily. "What a thrill it is for me to call you that. I feel as if I have been waiting for this day for so many years. I have dreamed it, prayed for it, and now it is here. We will be together each and every day, as we were meant to be."

Miss Susan's gaze softened when she looked at Emily. "This is what I have wished and prayed for too. I'm grateful to be married to your brother, but I wish . . ." She trailed off and then looked at me again. "It is no matter. This is the best solution." Miss Susan's demeanor changed. "We have news."

"You are with child already?" Emily gasped.

Miss Susan clapped her hands as if Emily's thought were a fly that must be squashed. "Heavens no. We're going to have our first guests to the Evergreens here in just a week's time. There is a literary society meeting at the college just before the new term begins, and Mr. Emerson will be the honored guest. I learned of this while we were on our wedding trip, and wrote to extend an invitation. He accepted, and he and his secretary will be staying here with us."

Emily laid a hand to her chest. "Ralph Waldo Emerson, the writer?"

Susan chuckled and lovingly touched Emily's cheek. "My girl, yes, is there any other Emerson of literary importance in this world? He will be arriving from Concord by carriage a week from today. As you can imagine, this does not give me much time to prepare. My own maid is in a complete panic over it because, yes, I expect everything to be perfect. I will not have my first esteemed guest reporting back to the wider world that I neither knew how to keep a home, nor was a proper hostess." She lowered her hand from Emily's cheek




Wednesday, December 20, 2023

#Review - Dead of Night by Annabel Chase #Fantasy #Urban

Series: Crossroads Queen # 2
Format: Kindle, 220 pages
Release Date: July 20, 2023
Publisher: Red Palm Press LLC
Source: Kindle Unlimited
Genre: Urban Fantasy

For Lorelei Clay, no good deed goes unpunished…

Reluctant ghost whisperer Lorelei Clay wants a working moat, which is the only reason she agrees to help with yet another supernatural situation. The simple ghostbusting job quickly escalates when Lorelei discovers the involvement of a powerful and ancient collective not known for their social skills.

Lorelei wants nothing more than to get back to her renovations and her life of solitude, but it becomes painfully clear that if she can’t fix this small-town problem, Fairhaven is going to suffer big-time consequences.


Annabel Chase's Dead of Night is the second installment in the author Crossroads Queen series. It has been six months since Lorelai Clay moved to the sleepy town of Fairhaven, Pennsylvania from London where she thought she would find peace and quiet while refurbishing the Bluebeard Castle. Anabel lives in a town that is close to the Crossroads, which means there are all sorts of paranormals living in town. Including a Prince of Hell, Kane Sullivan, who also heads an assassin guild.

Lorelei is a Ghost Whisperer who lives with two ghosts (Nana Pratt and Ray Bauer) who she has tried to lay down ground rules in order to avoid unnecessary questions about her abilities. Because she wants a working moat, she agrees to help a real estate specialist called the Boss with yet another supernatural situation. All she has to do is go to a certain house and ascertain whether the owner, who hasn't been seen in months, is dead or alive.

The simple ghost busting job quickly escalates when Lorelei discovers a dragon shifter, unusual guardians, and a treasure stored in an alternative reality that may indicate the involvement of a powerful and ancient collective not known for their social skills. When they get mad, towns disappear from existence. Lorelei wanted a life of solitude, but it becomes painfully clear that if she can’t fix this small-town problem, Fairhaven is going to suffer big-time consequences. 

*Thoughts* The first book in this series hinted that a possible romantic entanglement was possible between Lorelai and Kane Sullivan. Then there is the curious relationship between Lorelai and a vampire named Otto who is apparently not well liked by most of the supernatural community. This is the second novel where Mallt-y-Nos, also known as the Night Mallt, a crone in Welsh mythology who rides with Arawn and the hounds of the Wild Hunt, appears to help Lorelai with her problems. Eventually, maybe the next installment, we will learn the truth about Lorelai. Lorelei seems to be in hiding, but from what? She refuses to share with anyone what her magical abilities actually are, but we know that ghosts can not resist her. We know she is not a necromancer, a witch, a demon, a vampire, or a werewolf. Could she be related to Matilda in some way?





#Review - Black Sun by Michelle Madow #Paranormal #Romance

Series: Star Touched: Vampire Bride # 1
Format: Kindle, 306 pages
Release Date: December 13, 2023
Publisher: Dreamscape Publishing
Source: Kindle Unlimited
Genre: Paranormal Romance

Amber Benson has no idea what to do for the rest of her life, let alone what major to pick for college. So when she inherits an apartment in Manhattan from a grandmother she never knew, she moves there faster than a New York minute.

Her plan to find herself is soon derailed—on the subway, where she’s attacked by demons.

Even crazier? She defends herself with something she never knew existed: magic.

But it's not her newfound ability that saves her. It’s the intervention of a mesmerizing warrior with otherworldly grace… who then proceeds to kidnap her to a supernatural kingdom hidden in the heart of the city.

Because Amber’s savior—Damien Fairmont—is a king. A vampire king.

And he’s just declared to his entire kingdom that Amber’s destined to be his bride, whether she wants to be or not.

But trying to escape her so-called destiny as Damien’s queen isn’t Amber’s only problem. Because dark forces are rising in Manhattan. And now that they’ve gotten a taste of her powerful magic, she’s not just a target for Damien’s affections, but also for the sinister shadows that lurk in the underworld of the city.

Michelle Madow's Black Sun is the first installment in the Star Touched: Vampire Bride series. This story is the retelling of the Hades and Persephone classic. 19-year-old Amber Benson has no idea what to do for the rest of her life, let alone what major to pick for college. Originally from Maplewood, Vermont, she has inherited an apartment in Manhattan from a grandmother she never knew, she moves there faster than a New York minute. During a solar eclipse, Amber is touched by a curious woman named Evie.

Soon thereafter, she is attacked by demons on a subway that most humans tend to stay away from, and saves herself by using a magic she never knew she possessed. She also encounters Damien, King of the Uptown Clan of New York City who proceeds to kidnap her to a supernatural kingdom hidden in the heart of the city. Amber's so called savior is a vampire king who soon after declares to his entire kingdom that Amber’s destined to be his bride, whether she wants to be or not.

Why? Because of the North Star found on Amber's hip bone. Amber is the alleged Star Touched Queen he has been searching for. And, Evie is Sunneva, the Celestial Goddess of the Sun! But trying to escape her so-called destiny as Damien’s queen isn’t Amber’s only problem. Because dark forces are rising in Manhattan. And now that they’ve gotten a taste of her powerful magic, she’s not just a target for Damien’s affections, but also for the sinister shadows that lurk in the underworld of the city.

*Thoughts* I am new to this authors writings but understand that certain characters in this book have shown up in the previous series. Those like Connor and Ruby who is also one of the touched, and is a shifter. One of my pet peeves, is when the male main character does something stupid without telling the female main character. This choice ends up with both character bonded, leaving the female character fighting for her write to not only privacy, but against those who think she is the greatest thing they have ever seen. He then gives Amber a year to train and learn before she makes her choices. Of course, you also have the dangerous Shadow Lord who wants her soul and magic she contains, and several instances of betrayal that certain secondary characters must have seen coming, yet refused to say so before crap hits the fan. I do know that the author tends to write 3-5 books before wrapping up the series, so we are in for a rather long haul. 





Tuesday, December 19, 2023

#Review - Legends of Ash and Dust Kate Cowan #YA #Fantasy

Series: The Fearless Saga Book # 1
Format: Kindle, 312 pages
Release Date: January 24, 2023
Publisher: Kate Cowan
Source: Kindle Unlimited
Genre: Young Adult / Fantasy

They forged her into a weapon.

Now, she is the last.

Aerona was raised by legends. The Shae Warriors are the closest thing this world has to the supernatural: fearless warrior monks who train their entire lives to protect the realm. Or, they were: until the massive Red Wolf Army attacks, slaughtering them all in a single night.

Now, brokenhearted and defeated, Aero is the last Shae. Tasked with protecting Niran, the prince her people were caring for, she journeys to his home in the Golden City with one thing in mind: revenge.

Nothing is as it seems in Niran’s home, the Palace of the Golden City. Aerona’s enemies are lurking around every corner, the Emperor is blackmailing her into becoming his assassin, and an ex-Shae librarian is convinced that Aero holds a long-forgotten power hidden inside of her.

Caught between two worlds, Aerona must kill, spy and betray to discover what her people hid from her… even if it means unlocking the magic this world has long been starved of.

Kate Cowan's Legends of Ash and Dust is the first installment in the authors The Fearless Saga series. Aerona was raised by legends to be a weapon after she was abandoned by her mother. The Shae Warriors are the closest thing this world has to the supernatural: fearless warrior monks who train their entire lives to protect the realm from all threats. They have sealed themselves off for the past 14 years since war between the realms. But after Prince Niran of Dothor is found by Aero close to the Shae sanctuary, it brings the harbinger of bad things to come. 

Niran clams that he is the only survivor of a brutal attack by a group of rogues and wild-men called Red Wolves who also slaughtered a local village where he was supposed to meet a possible marriage match. To make matters worse, shortly after she is marked to become a full fledged Shae Warrior bound to protect Prince Niran, the Red Wolf Army, led by a man named Ahaza, attacks the Shae sanctuary slaughtering everyone except for Aero and Niran. Ahaza believes he knows Aero.

Now, brokenhearted and defeated, Aero is the last Shae. Tasked with protecting Niran, the prince her people were caring for, she journeys to his home in the Golden City with one thing in mind: revenge. Nothing is as it seems in Niran’s home, the Palace of the Golden City. Aerona’s enemies are lurking around every corner, the Emperor is blackmailing her into becoming his assassin, and an ex-Shae librarian is convinced that Aero holds a long-forgotten power hidden inside of her.

It appears the Shae have kept many secrets, but Aerona does not realize that until she starts her journey to restore the Shae. Caught between two worlds, Aerona must kill, spy and betray to discover what her people hid from her even if it means unlocking the magic this world has long been starved of. Nothing is as it seems, everyone has an ulterior motive, and trust is almost nonexistent. Everyone keeps secrets, but the right price will lead to betrayal. To discover the truth, Aerona must look to the past for answers and discover what she truly is and why she is being hunted.

*Thoughts* I honestly believe that there are people in this world who would complain if there was too much sunlight, or too much night. I don't care if a supposed white person is writing a story about what appears to be an Asian inspired world and main characters. If you are going to claim the author can get away with it because of white privilege, then you are a racist who should probably stop reading and writing reviews. It is the same complaint I hear when I man writes from the point of view of a female main character. If you don't like it, don't finish the book, or the series. 

Also, we can complain about editing errors all we want to, but unless we are going to take jobs as editors, or writers, then maybe we need to keep our opinions to ourselves. The only thing that matters to me is the entertainment value of the story which this was, especially the final chapters of the book when things really get ugly for Aero and she has to learn the hard truth about why she is being hunted so aggressively.





Monday, December 18, 2023

#Review - The Last Dragon King by Leia Stone #Fantasy #Romance

Series: The Kings of Avalier # 1
Format: Kindle, 288 pages
Release Date: September 29, 2022
Publisher: Bloom Books
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Genre: Fantasy / Romance

Eighteen-year-old Arwen Novakson has magic, but just barely. So, when the Dragon King announces his search for a wife, Arwen knows she won't be in the running, as the king needs someone who has enough dragon magic to produce a strong heir. But, much to her shock, when the magic sniffers visit her small village, they command her to present herself at the king's castle as a possible wife.

This should be a dream-come-true opportunity for Arwen, but before going, she learns a terrifying secret about the strength of her magic, and if the king ever discovered the truth, he would have every reason to kill Arwen himself. Protecting herself becomes more and more challenging as her magic and her feelings for the king grow. Especially as she must watch him court other women.

Arwen can't help but fall for the charming, empathetic Dragon King, but she knows being together would put everyone in danger—herself, the king, anyone with dragon magic. With a magical war brewing, Arwen must decide how much she is willing to risk and how much she is willing to sacrifice for love.

Leia Stone's The Last Dragon King is the first installment in the authors The Kings of Avalier series. Each of the books in this series will feature a King, the women he falls in love with, as well as a happy ending. 18-year-old Arwen Novakson lives in Cinder Village with her mother and younger sister. Ever since her father passed away, Arwen has been the hunter-gatherer of the family. In this world, there are Humans, Dragonfolks, Elves, Fae and Wolves. 

It is not unusual for mix-breeding to take place which leaves offspring with diluted magic. Cinder Village falls under the control of Drae Valdren, the Last Dragon King due to the fact that his Queen died in childbirth leaving no heirs when he's gone. On the day of her biggest kill and right before May Day where all single boys and girls get together to hopefully find love, she's shocked to find that the kings army turns up in her little town, a town the king never visits.

Apparently he's searching for a bride someone who wields enough magic to carry an heir to full term. This should be a dream-come-true opportunity for Arwen, but she soon learns a terrifying secret about the strength of her magic from her mother. Arwen is likely the most dangerous person around with magic that can cause irreparable damage to Drae, and if the king ever discovered the truth, he would have every reason to kill Arwen himself. 

Thanks to her mother's dark secret, Arwen tries to run from being found out. Needless to say, she doesn't get very far. She's topped by Regina Wayfeather, Captain of the King's Guard, and Arwen's idol, as well as Drae Valdren who demands that she be subjected to testing. But, much to her chagrin, when the magic sniffers discover that she does, in fact, have powerful magic, they command her to present herself at the king's castle in Jade City as a possible wife.

Chosen to travel to Jade City along with other women of the Kingdom, Arwen is decidedly not like them. Not at all. Instead of all the pretty dresses, and all the parties, and intermingling, Arwen would have loved to have been chosen to work with her hero Regina Wayfeather. The fact slowly comes out that Arwen comes from a line whom were enemies to Drae's family thought to have all been executed. If is treason to even be alive. But Drae needs an heir to save the dragon folk and the magic that is slowly fading.

Arwen finds herself trying to protect herself from being charged with treason, and possible death. Protecting herself becomes more and more challenging as her magic and her feelings for the king grow. Especially as she must watch him court other women. Arwen can't help but fall for the charming, empathetic Dragon King, but she knows being together would put everyone in danger—herself, the king, anyone with dragon magic. With a magical war brewing, Arwen must decide how much she is willing to risk and how much she is willing to sacrifice for love.

*Thoughts* As I said above, this is a series which features a Dragon, A Fae, an Elf and of course, a Wolf. Each of their stories can apparently be read as standstone's even though they all face the dangers from the Nightfall's army who wants to destroy them. This story has vibes of The Selection, and The Bachelor to name 2 of hundreds. The story moves slowly for the most part, but there are action scenes and battles that will keep the ardent reader happy to continue to the end. Wasn't a fan of the MC telling the FC that he would marry another and then choosing to sleep with others in order to be able to provide heirs. Thankfully, this is a gook with a happy ending. 





Friday, December 15, 2023

#Review - A Karma Girl Christmas Jennifer Estep #Fantasy #Romance

Series: Bigtime #3.5
Format: Kindle, 61 pages
Release Date: September 24, 2011
Publisher: Jennifer Estep
Source: Jennifer Estep
Genre: Urban Fantasy

It's Christmas time in Bigtime, New York, but society reporter Carmen Cole isn't in the mood to celebrate since her husband, Sam, has to go on a business trip and might not make it home for the holiday. But Carmen has plenty to keep her busy, since she moonlights as Karma Girl, a member of the Fearless Five superhero team.

On Christmas Eve, Carmen, as Karma Girl, is assigned to guard toys, clothes, food, and more that are intended for needy children and their families. But an ubervillain also has his eye on the toys and plans to steal and then sell them to the highest bidder. Carmen will have to use all her empathic powers just to stay alive, not to mention make sure Christmas is a happy one for all the kids who are counting on her. It's all in a night's work for a superhero ...


A Karma Girl Christmas, by Jennifer Estep, is a novella set in the world of the authors Bigtime series. The story apparently takes place right after Jinx, the third book in the series. It's Christmas time in Bigtime, New York, but society reporter Carmen Cole isn't in the mood to celebrate since her husband, Sam Sloane aka Striker, has to go on a business trip and might not make it home for the holiday. But Carmen has plenty to keep her busy, since she moonlights as Karma Girl, the rookie member of the Fearless Five superhero team. 

On Christmas Eve, Carmen, as Karma Girl, must guard the toys and donations for needy families being held at Oodles o’ Stuff, a shopping center and neutral ground for supers on both sides of the coin. But an ubervillain named The Mintilator also has his eye on the toys and plans to steal and then sell them to the highest bidder.  He’s a D-grade ubervillain whose arch-nemesis is aptly-named Halitosis Hal. His status as a less-than-feared ubervillain actually works in his favor, too. He’s able to steal some pretty nifty gadgets from the truly bad bad guys and he plans on using them to steal the toys from the needy and dispose of Karma Girl once and for all.  

Carmen will have to use all her empathic powers just to stay alive, not to mention make sure Christmas is a happy one for all the kids who are counting on her. It's all in a night's work for a superhero. 

*Thoughts* This is a must-read for fans of Estep's Bigtime books. For those who haven't read them, this story is a stand-alone and you won't have any trouble keeping up with the characters. This was sent out as a thank-you to the author's followers. One of these days, I need to finish the second and third book in this series! 





#Review - Cocktails & Chloroform by Kelley Armstrong #Historical #SyFy

Series: A Rip Through Time # 2.5
Format: E-Book, 136 pages
Release Date: December 31, 2023
Publisher: Subterranean Press
Source: Publisher
Genre: Historical Fiction / SyFy

For modern-day detective Mallory Atkinson, being trapped in the body of Victorian housemaid means overcoming endless obstacles. Her current challenge is winning over the suspicious young parlor maid, Alice. Mallory’s plan starts with teaching the girl to make Molotov cocktails, which is a perfectly valid science experiment and not at all a desperate ploy to gain Alice’s attention. Before the lesson can begin, though, Alice receives a letter that has her slipping off in the night. Concerned for her safety—and naturally curious—Mallory follows.

Mallory finds Alice at what seems like a simple dance hall, watching young men and women flirting and whirling in pretty dresses and dapper suit coats. But nothing here is what it seems, and what starts as a simple surveillance exercise turns into a full-scale spy mission with Mallory’s boss, Dr. Duncan Gray, at her side. Before the evening is done, those Molotov cocktails are probably going to come in handy.

Cocktails & Chloroform, by Kelley Armstrong, is a novella in the authors A Rip Through Time series. For modern-day detective Mallory Atkinson, being trapped in the buxom 19-year old body of housemaid Catriona Mitchell in Victorian, Scotland, means overcoming endless obstacles. She is employed by Dr. Duncan Gray, an undertaker often employed by the local constabulary’s office. Mallory ends up helping to solve cases using her 21st century knowledge, but without revealing too much that could change the future. 

Dr. Gray also assists Detective McCreadie in his police investigations. She is now officially an undertaker’s assistant, but continuing her maid duties until they can hire someone for that position. Her current challenge is winning over the suspicious young parlor maid, 12-year-old Alice. Mallory’s plan starts with teaching the girl to make Molotov cocktails, which is a perfectly valid science experiment and not at all a desperate ploy to gain Alice’s attention.

Before the lesson can begin, though, Alice receives a letter that has her slipping off in the night. Concerned for her safety—and naturally curious—Mallory follows. Mallory finds Alice at what seems like a simple dance hall, watching young men and women flirting and whirling in pretty dresses and dapper suit coats. But nothing here is what it seems, and what starts as a simple surveillance exercise turns into a full-scale spy mission with Mallory’s boss, Dr. Duncan Gray, at her side. 

Before she can Alice out of trouble, she is kidnapped and ends up in a human trafficking ring. Before the evening is done, those Molotov cocktails are probably going to come in handy. While it would be best if you understand this world, and series from the beginning, I think this novella reveals just enough information for you to enjoy this story. My curiosity is about how the author is going to resolve getting back to her own time, and whether Cat has taken her place. We shall see!





Thursday, December 14, 2023

#Review - The Serpent & the Wings of Night by Carissa Broadbent #Fantasy #Romance

Series: Crowns of Nyaxia # 1
Format: E-Book, 480 pages
Release Date: December 5, 2023
Publisher: Tor Publishing/Bramble
Source: Publisher
Genre: Fantasy / Romance

The first book in the Wall Street Journal bestselling Crowns of Nyaxia series by Carissa Broadbent. Filled with heart-wrenching romance, dark magic, and bloodthirsty intrigue– perfect for fans of From Blood and Ash and A Court of Thorns and Roses.

For humans and vampires, the rules of survival are the same: never trust, never yield, and always – always – guard your heart.

The adopted human daughter of the Nightborn vampire king, Oraya carved her place in a world designed to kill her. Her only chance to become something more than prey is entering the Kejari: a legendary tournament held by the goddess of death herself.

But winning won’t be easy amongst the most vicious warriors from all three vampire houses. To survive, Oraya is forced to make an alliance with a mysterious rival.

Everything about Raihn is dangerous. He is a ruthless vampire, an efficient killer, an enemy to her father’s crown… and her greatest competition. Yet, what terrifies Oraya most of all is that she finds herself oddly drawn to him.

But there’s no room for compassion in the Kejari. War for the House of Night brews, shattering everything that Oraya thought she knew about her home. And Raihn may understand her more than anyone – but their blossoming attraction could be her downfall, in a kingdom where nothing is more deadly than love.

The Serpent & the Wings of Night, by Carissa Broadbent, is the first installment in the authors Crown of Nyaxia series. In the world of Obitraes, humans living in this world are prey, pests, or both. The vampires who rule this world bow to the Goddess Nyaxia who has decided that every 100 years, the three great houses, House of Night, House of Shadow, and House of Blood, will provide participants in a game that there can only be one winner. When the Kejari takes place, people from all over Obitraes can participate. 

The contestants have to go trough five trials over the period of four months to win. The winner will be granted one wish by Goddess Nyaxia, the mother of all vampires. The House of Night is divided into two rival vampire clans: the Hiaj and the Rishan vampires. Oraya has been chosen for greater things. Vincent, the Vampire King of House of Night, found Oraya when she was eight years old. He called her his little serpent because she doesn't back down from any fight, especially when she is hunting vampires who prey on humans. 

He has trained her to survive in a world that even vampires can't stand the sight of each other, and there have been rebellions squashed by Vincent, including one that left Oraya an orphan. For humans and vampires, the rules of survival are the same: never trust, never yield, and always – always – guard your heart. Oraya's only chance to become something more than prey is entering the Kejari: a legendary tournament held by the goddess of death herself. But winning won’t be easy amongst the most vicious warriors from all three vampire houses. 

To survive, Oraya is forced to make an alliance with a mysterious rival. A rival who belongs to the Rishan clan. Everything about Raihn Ashraj is dangerous. He is a ruthless vampire, an efficient killer, an enemy to her father’s crown and her greatest competition. He even has one of his best friends, Mische, along for the competition. Yet, what terrifies Oraya most of all is that she finds herself oddly drawn to him. But there’s no room for compassion in the Kejari. War for the House of Night brews, shattering everything that Oraya thought she knew about her home. 

And Raihn may understand her more than anyone but their blossoming attraction could be her downfall, in a kingdom where nothing is more deadly than love. Oraya is a character who is delightfully complex. She is shown to be caring and desperate to make a change, yet her fierce ambition is limited by her weakness as a human. He relationship with Vincent is both curious and puzzling. The puzzling part is how she didn't put two and two together and figure out why Vincent was so focused on her. 

The positive for Vincent is that he truly wants Oraya to win so that she can be powerful like him, and that means giving her tools like a poisoned knife and healing to keep her alive. Her relationship with Raihn is even more complex because he is supposed to be the enemy. The enemy who is ready to challenge Vincent and take away his powers. To make things even more maddening, is that apparently I am the one that I know that found the final chapters discombobulating. 

The story is going along, the end of the games is coming to an end, it is down to two expected participants, when suddenly, it was like an entire different story was taking place within this story. Chapters 50 thru 56 seem to have been written to take place after whoever wins the Kejari. The other curiosity of this story is that all of the powerful vampires have wings, and the contestants can go anywhere they want, as long as they are back inside when the the night turns to day. It is fair to say that trials and tournaments done right peak my interest greatly. That being said, I wish the author can explain the brutal ending to the story to me before I search for the sequel to this story!