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review 2018-06-14 20:53
Review: Undead Girl Gang
Undead Girl Gang - Lily Anderson

Review: Undead Girl Gang

 

I received a copy from Penguin's First To Read.

 

This. Book. Was. Awesome. 

 

I absolutely loved it, from start to finish. I loved it so much I bought a finished hard back. There are some books you know from the tone of the first page if you're going to love them and the main character, and for me, this was one of those books. 

 

I felt a connection with Milla right away. I loved her don't give a fuck snarky tone. She's clearly grieving, the book opens with her best friend Riley's funeral. She has quite an interesting perspective on the funeral itself, a bunch of people from their school wailing and crying who would never have given Riley the time of day. Riley died in mysterious circumstances. The third death to happen to students from their class recently. Two of the schools most popular mean girls June and Dayton were also found deceased recently in what looked like a suicide pact. 

 

Neither Riley nor Milla fit in with the other students, they were heavily into Wicca, spending all their time at the local new-age magic shop or an abandoned house they found where they practice their spells and hang out. Riley's family own the local funeral home and Riley found herself a outcast, she and Milla connected and became best friends and have been for years. Though she'll never admit it Milla has an epic crush on Riley's hot, popular older brother Xander.

 

He's actually talking to her after the funeral. Milla is struggling with school, mandated meetings with the school shrink, and certain people (namely her chem lab partner) being a dick about her weight. She has two annoying younger sisters who don't seem to get 'personal space' and is generally miserable.

 

It's well written and believable without being over the top with the goth Wicca scene. The characters are well fleshed out as well. Milla's voice, despite her attitude problems, is easy to connect with. Her family drama, her school problems, it's not surprising she's not coping as well as she's saying she is. It's a sort of read between the lines thing. 

 

So she decides she's going to perform a spell to bring Riley back from the dead, find out what happened so she can bring the person who killed Riley to justice. It's not a simple basic spell, there are things she needs to get, certain times it can be performed. Kinda complicated. The method she received the volume of spells in which the actual spell to cast came to her is a little spooky. 

 

And of course when she heads to the magic shop with the  book, the lady who runs the shop tells her its a very old book and a dangerous one. Naturally of course, she doesn't listen to a word of warning. Hardly surprising then, when the spell works it not only brings back Riley, but June and Dayton too.

 

No one knows how it happened and it's not so much fun anymore with the two mean girls back again. They're all still dead, and discover some less than pleasant things about being a sort of zombie as they go along. No one remembers what happened before they died. The book from then on focuses on figuring out what happened to June, Dayton and Riley.

 

Some secrets come out as the novel progresses. And it has moments where it's very entertaining and quite funny as well. Though it has it's fair share of deep emotions and a few surprising twists to boost. Hints at something that could finally start to progress between Milla and Xander when they start developing a friendship of their own. 

 

One thing I did like was there wasn't really much romance involved. Hints and teasers, but it was more about the friendship with Milla and Riley and dealing with June and Dayton than about hooking up with the hot boy. 

 

A few more twists by the end when things start going wrong. Though when the truth is finally revealed, it's one of those why didn't I see this coming thing? It was quite clever. A tad over dramatic, maybe. Also, a standalone. Everything wrapped up decently and there wasn't any well what happened about so and so and no unanswered questions. 

 

I loved this book through and through and would definitely read it over and over.

 

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review 2018-06-14 10:43
The Trouble with Twelfth Grave
The Trouble with Twelfth Grave - Darynda Jones

I love this series - especially the later ones - and even though I enjoyed this one enough to read it in one sitting today, it was not one of her best.  Mostly because the plot(s) were utterly transparent.  There was never any doubt in my mind what Reyes was looking for, or what would happen when he found it (although the third member of the showdown was a delightful surprise).  There was never any doubt in my mind who was responsible for the killings either, although the 'other' murder plot, while not central to much of anything, was interesting and its resolution unexpected.

 

There are also a few story elements that keep getting repeated in the books - honestly, it's like hell has a revolving door - but Jones still manages to write a captivating, and hilarious, story that expands on biblical mythology while honouring its structure and its spirit.  So in spite of not being everything it could be, it was exactly what I needed today.  

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review 2018-06-13 02:41
A Witch's Path box set Books 1-3 by N. E. Conneely
A Witch's Path Box Set Books 1-3 - N. E. Conneely

Book 1 Witch for Hire

 

It was very easy for me to get into this book. It’s a pretty standard urban fantasy detective mystery story. Set in Georgia, Michelle is a clanless witch, which means she has to make a go of it on her own, working a job, paying bills, etc. She lives in a bed and breakfast run by a brownie, works as a consultant with the local police departments, and has girls’s night over pizza once a week with her best buds.

The best part of the world building were the various magical beings and creatures. Humans aren’t the only sentient beings and trolls are real, real enough to remove your head and slurp your innards out like a squeezed juice box. Elves, mermaids, dragons, griffons, unicorns, shifters, vampires, and more make up the cast of characters.

There’s a little dark humor mixed in with the clue hunting and action scenes. I especially liked the remarks about well-meaning but naive people trying to live side by side with the trolls. There was also that crazy, fast growing plant in Michelle’s bathroom. The various enchanted items that Michelle has to help un-spell were interesting too. Imagine having something useful spelled to keep people in their dinner seats until excused from the table yet then that item ends up in a yard sale. Some unsuspecting soul buys it and before you know it, they’re calling you from their dinner nook seat where they’ve been stuck for hours. Yep, makes me think twice about yard sales.

I don’t really know why the 1500 year old elf Elron is in this story. He doesn’t really fit into the scene and he doesn’t have anything to do with the plot. However, it does seem that his head has been turned by Michelle and she’s both interested in and annoyed by him. Sigh… can we please break the mold of 1000+ year old magical male being falls for young lady? Michelle is 25 in this story, but I still felt like rolling my eyes every time the two made eyes at each other.

The story ends on a total cliff hanger. Luckily the next book is available so you don’t have to wait for the rest of the tale. Over all, the book was a fun, easy urban fantasy. 4/5 stars.

The Narration: Jeff Hays was absolutely excellent in this story. I have enjoyed his narrations before but this is the first time I have heard him narrate a female-lead full-length novel. His female voices are great and all his character voices are distinct. I love how he goes the extra mile with making people sound like they are on the phone or through a radio. 5/5 stars.

I received this audiobook as part of my participation in a blog tour with Audiobookworm Promotions. The tour is being sponsored by Jeff Hays. The gifting of this audiobook did not affect my opinion of it.

Book 2 A Witch's Path
 

Note: A Witch’s Path is Book 2 in the series and it is also the title for the box set of the first 3 books in the series. It should be read in order and doesn’t work well as a stand alone.

Book 1 left us hanging off a cliff by our finger tips so it was great that Book 2 was immediately available. Book 2 picks up right where Book 1 left off. The mess with the death threats deepens. In fact, Michelle screams and falls down a few times over these threats but I find it hard to fault her. After all, if a really big spider spelled out a death threat on my ceiling I would have some immediate gut reactions too.

Meanwhile, Elron is still in the story. I didn’t really care for him in Book 1 but I am finally starting to warm up to him. I don’t think he and Michelle are really a good romantic match but I do think they can be friends. Elron wavers back and forth on being romantically inclined towards Michelle and still mourning his long dead wife. He seems too stiff and proper for the modern times and yet that is part of his charm.

I totally fell in love with Michelle’s new pet, Ty the T-rex. It was a crazy, dangerous event that led to her adopting Ty but I’m sure glad she did. Michelle needs all the help she can get. Then there’s the whole mysterious crap with her parents and their clans. Michelle is an adult standing on her own for some years now but her parents still feel the need to shield her from her family history. I was on Michelle’s side with this, totally frustrated with her parents. I think they are doing more harm than good by keeping secrets from her.

The whole werewolf fiasco was a lot of fun. Michelle’s good friend Amber is kidnapped by this local clan leader. Amber is also a shifter but not a powerful one and Michelle has good reason to be very worried for her friend. I did feel that Michelle was a bit slow to put her powers and abilities into hunting for Amber but she was dealing with a lot of other stuff too. Michelle’s eventual efforts earn her some new, much needed allies.

Gargoyles! Who doesn’t love gargoyles? I can see these characters adding to the series immensely and I look forward to seeing what the author does with them. Then there’s the teen suicides that Michelle’s mom asks her to look into. The pace is fast all the way through this tale except for the tiny little bits where Elron is contemplating his life and missing his dead wife Sylvia.

Once we reach the end, there’s tons of stuff not wrapped up. Now it’s not the big cliff hanger we had from Book 1 but it still leaves a lot to be tied up in the next book. A mysterious book with dreams comes into play and throws Elron into a downward spiral. The Big Baddie is still at large. Then there’s trouble on the horizon with Michelle’s parents’s clans. So, once again, I’m glad the next book is immediately available. 4/5 stars

The Narration: Jeff Hays continues to do this series justice. He has the perfect voice for Michelle and he sounds so animated throughout the entire story. He makes a great angry werewolf and a serious gargoyle. I also like his somewhat formal voice for Elron.  5/5 stars.

Book 3 A Witch's Trial
 

Note: A Witch’s Trial is the 3rd book in the series and it really does need the previous books to make sense.

I’m really glad to say that this book wraps up the big cliff hangers from the previous two books. Michelle certainly has her hands full! She now knows for sure that there is a demon, Gremory, walking the Earth and it wants her suffering and dead. Also, the witch clans have finally taken notice of her and they all want her to join their clan. Some are far ruder about it than others. Also, things with her possible boyfriend Elron have tanked. The wife he thought long dead is still alive and he’s grieving anew.

Ty the Trex is still one of my favorite characters. He’s both a protector and pet of Michelle’s. He’s pretty formidable because, hey, he’s a Trex. I did find it odd that Michelle insists on keeping him secret. First, she took him down in a previous book when he was rampaging around taking out gas stations and such on news cameras. Second, Michelle and Ty live at a Bed & Breakfast. I think most people know there’s a Trex on the property.

Elron is still a problem for me. I started to warm up to him in the previous book but I didn’t find him a good match for Michelle. Now in this book, he is weepy almost all of the time. On one hand, I can appreciate having a lead male character be in touch with his feelings. On the other hand, Elron was a very boring, dull, exhausting character.

Landa the Brownie who owns and runs the B&B is a great bit of comfort to both Elron and Michelle. While Michelle has a mother, it’s nice to see Landa step in here and there and provide a bit of motherly comfort. And the gargoyles! Yay! Horst who we met last book, has asked Julius, another but more powerful gargoyle, to come hang out and help protect the area. These gargoyles have secrets and I hope we see them again later in the series.

The rest of the book was fun. I like that Michelle is having to juggle so much at once and she’s not sure she’s capable of taking on some of these challenges. I loved how she repeatedly blew off the clans, including her own grandmother’s. These clans had no use for her or her mother before they learned how powerful she was. Also, no clan has offered to accept both her and her mother.

The demon Gremory is a whole different flavor of trouble. Michelle faces a serious foe in Gremory and he has many weapons, one of them being the body of Sylvia, Elron’s wife. He brings minions to the final battle, which was OK. I did find it a bit anticlimatic as I really wanted a good, major rumble with Gremory. Then there’s the wrap up, which could have been shorter for me.

I know this is a quibble but I’m going to say it anyway. Michelle says, ‘thank you’ so many times in this book. It started to grate on my nerves. I wanted the author to use a thesaurus to mix it up a bit with ‘thanks’ or ‘much appreciated’ or such. In some conversations she says, ‘thank you’ 3 or 4 times. It was repetitive. All told, a fun urban fantasy with a Trex. 4/5 stars.

The Narration: Jeff Hays continues to do a great job as the voice of Michelle. He really does sound like a 20-something woman. He also has a great voice for Elron the Sad. I absolutely loved his voices for the gargoyles, making me think of sandpaper on stone. 5/5 stars.

I received this audiobook as part of my participation in a blog tour with Audiobookworm Promotions. The tour is being sponsored by Jeff Hays. The gifting of this audiobook did not affect my opinion of it.

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review 2018-06-13 00:08
A Witch's Concern by N. E. Conneely
A Witch's Concern - N. E. Conneely

Note: This is Book 4 in the series and really works best if read as part of the series.

It was nice revisiting Michelle’s witchy detective world again. I was glad to see that Ty (her magical T-rex), her guardian lion statues, and the protective plants were all still part of the story, if only minorly. Elron, Michelle’s elvish boyfriend, is still in the picture. I was glad that he had a backseat for most of the story as I find his character rather boring in this series.

The main plot centers around Michelle’s lack of clan loyalty. For a while now, since she had to go public with her powers in strength, several clans have wanted her to join. Michelle wants to stay free as she has been all her life and she’s built her detective and consulting business on her own. A clan probably wouldn’t allow her to keep doing her business. But now the clans are getting aggressive and Michelle has to fight back.

As a side thing, Michelle’s parents have decided to finally tie the knot. Michelle’s mom has officially joined her dad’s clan and now they are free to marry. And this leads to one of the weak points of the story. I kept expecting Michelle’s dad’s clan to step in and protect him, his wife, and perhaps Michelle since this other clan is breaking some serious rules and actually harming people. But that never happened and I felt that needed to be addressed somehow.

So over all, the story was fun and kept me engaged throughout the tale. There’s a good balance between action and character development. Well, except for Elron. He’s still a wet blanket. He’s got this selfish sad streak where he feels responsible for everything that goes wrong in the life of whatever woman he’s with. I was glad that he had less page time in this tale. All together, 4/5 stars.

The Narration: For the first 3 books, we had a single narrator (Jeff Hays). Now we’ve added Laurie Catherine Winkel. Both did fine but because I was used to hearing Michelle performed by Hays (excellent performance by the way), it took some time to get used to her voice coming from Winkel. There were no technical issues with the recording. 4.75/5 stars.

I received this audiobook as part of my participation in a blog tour with Audiobookworm Promotions. The tour is being sponsored by Jeff Hays. The gifting of this audiobook did not affect my opinion of it.

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review 2018-06-12 23:32
Strange Magic by James A. Hunter
Strange Magic - James Hunter

I had a lot of fun with this story despite its few faults. Yancy is a rough and tumble character with a good heart. He’s somewhere in his 70s but because of his magic he looks like he’s in his 40s. His lingo made me think of biker movies and James Dean and gritty stories of Vietnam. Also, Yancy is a smoker which I like in characters even though I don’t care for it in real life.

Hunter gives us small glimpses into Yancy’s past which includes his family that he left behind and his time spent working closely with other magic users. It hooked me. I wanted to know more even as I wanted Yancy to get to the bottom of these demonic murders. Yancy has depth and while I wanted some of the side characters to be a bit deeper, Yancy was enough to keep me entertained.

The pacing was good with plenty of action and small moments of reflection tossed in. This story made a good companion was I played Titan Quest. While Yancy was the star, I enjoyed Greg as well. He’s got some snark and he’s tough on Yancy but he’s also intriguing. The building of the magic-side of the world is also well done. There were clear rules for the bits of magic presented and those stayed consistent throughout the story. All together, 4/5 stars.

I received a free copy of this book.

The Narration: Charlie Kevin was a lot of fun to listen to. He is the perfect match for Yancy Lazarus. He’s got a little gravel to his voice, always seems on the cusp of being a smart ass (just like Yancy), and also handles Yancy’s emotions well. All his character voices were distinct and his female characters sounded feminine. There were no technical issues with this recording. 5/5 stars.

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