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review 2019-10-18 20:49
There's work, there's vacations, there are working vacations and then there's...
Flame and Ash - Morgan Brice

Before I get into anything in terms of specifics let me just say if you haven't read the previous stories in this series and by read I mean read or listened to the audio, I strongly recommend doing this to get the full background on Seth and Evan. Also this series connects to the authors "Badlands" series and to some of her stories that are written under the authors name of Gail Z. Martin. However, when it comes to reading these stories or even the 'Badlands' stories it's definitely an individual choice. While I've read the 'Badlands' series, I haven't read any of the other stories that are connected to this series and so far I haven't found it to be a problem.


Seth and Evan met back in the first book when Seth rescued Evan from one of the dark witch Rhyfel Gremory's disciples (for more on this just read the blurb). Since then these two have discovered that they have a few things in common the most important being that they're attracted to each other and they both want to see Gremory's disciples defeated to ensure not just their safety but that of the descendants of the deputies who originally destroyed Gremory. 


I've been enjoying this series on audio but when the opportunity for this story was presented I decided that I didn't want to wait for the audio...not that I won't get it when it's available because rest assured...I will. But I was just to curious to see what was in store for Seth and Evan as they travel to North Carolina seeking to once again do battle with one of Gremory's disciples and save yet another descendant of the orginal posse and this time they've got help...not just the intended victim and his boyfriend but the boys are meeting up with Milo and Toby, Seth's mentors in the demon hunting world.


Things have definitely stepped up in this one because if fighting these otherworldly bad guys wasn't challenging before this time around it seems that the bad guy knows they're coming and he seems to be more powerful than the disciples that Seth and Evan have encountered so far and he seems to have a whole lot more help.


I love a good mystery/adventure type story I have to admit I don't usually go for stories that delve into the supernatural quite as much as this series seems to but as with all things 'never say never' because I am all in on this one. These stories work for me, while the details are enough to give me a solid sense of the paranormal it's done without any real horror, which totally works for me.


I've also enjoyed seeing Seth and Evan's relationship grow to the point where both men are starting to feel like they could have a future together as long as they survive fighting Gremory's disciples and the other things that go bump in the night that they seem to encounter along the way.  


And not to surprisingly I also lost a little bit of sleep with this one, but it wasn't due to the spooky stuff...nope, it was a case of 'I just need to read one more page...' and we all know how things go when you fall down that rabbit hole...just one more...no really just one more...and then before I knew it, I was out of pages. Well done dear author, well done.



An ARC of 'Flame and Ash' was graciously provided by the author in exchange for an honest review.

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review 2019-10-18 20:09
Quick Thoughts: Dreamer's Pool
Dreamer's Pool - Juliet Marillier

Dreamer's Pool

by Juliet Marillier
Book 1 of Blackthorn & Grim



In exchange for help escaping her long and wrongful imprisonment, embittered magical healer Blackthorn has vowed to set aside her bid for vengeance against the man who destroyed all that she once held dear.  Followed by a former prison mate, a silent hulk of a man named Grim, she travels north to Dalriada.  There she’ll live on the fringe of a mysterious forest, duty bound for seven years to assist anyone who asks for her help.

Oran, crown prince of Dalriada, has waited anxiously for the arrival of his future bride, Lady Flidais.  He knows her only from a portrait and sweetly poetic correspondence that have convinced him Flidais is his destined true love.  But Oran discovers letters can lie.  For although his intended exactly resembles her portrait, her brutality upon arrival proves she is nothing like the sensitive woman of the letters.

With the strategic marriage imminent, Oran sees no way out of his dilemma.  Word has spread that Blackthorn possesses a remarkable gift for solving knotty problems, so the prince asks her for help.  To save Oran from his treacherous nuptials, Blackthorn and Grim will need all their resources: courage, ingenuity, leaps of deduction, and more than a little magic.

Dreamer's Pool, to be honest, while written well with Juliet Marillier's style of magic and lore, also sort of tended towards the predictable.  It's a usual plot device of Marillier's to give away the plot twist from one of the tales or stories told throughout the book.  And so it wasn't hard to figure out how everything would turn out in the end.

As has been quite typical of Marillier as well, this first book in the Blackthorn & Grim trilogy involved a lot of world building and set-up.  A lot of traveling happened, and I'm not entirely sure that things started picking up until about halfway through the book.  At least, for me, I didn't start getting really interested until halfway through the book.

So while I enjoyed the book, I still had a hard time with it, not only because of the slowness of the plotting, but also because of how hard it was to really relate with any of the characters.  Blackthorn tended towards more bitter than I felt like she needed to be, and I found I liked her more when she wasn't constantly thinking about how she could betray the new chance at life that Conmael gave her by going back to her need for revenge.  I didn't mind her being a cranky old wise woman (who was hardly old by biological age standards), and I liked her role as the local wise woman.

I'm much like Blackthorn in that I hate being crowded and I like my privacy.  But I think that, as much as Blackthorn and Grim seem to understand the way that the fey work their magic, they don't seem to understand that there might be a reason for the seven year restriction that Conmael has given her.  If Blackthorn went back for her revenge at this stage in her new chance at life, she'd probably just end up back in prison again.

Anyway, the only reason I even gave this book a higher rating anyway was because of the last half of the book.  It certainly did end up drawing me in all the way, and if only we could have stuck with Blackthorn's and Grim's POVs, I think I would have enjoyed the book in it's entirety a lot more.  I sincerely was more interested in their journey, and instead found Prince Oran kind of frustrating to follow.

I also found our "villian" more overpowered than was believable.  Lady Flidais's behavior was never acceptable nor was it normal, so I'm surprised that no one ever called her out on it, save for Oran in private.

Of course, without Oran's POV, there probably wouldn't be a whole lot of story.  Maybe if this book were written in third person, things might have been a bit different?

Nonetheless, the end of the book left me wanting more, and so I will definitely be jumping into the next book when I get the chance.



Halloween Bingo 2019



Source: anicheungbookabyss.blogspot.com/2019/10/quick-thoughts-dreamers-pool.html
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review 2019-10-18 20:00
Quick Thoughts: Pocket Apocalypse
Pocket Apocalypse - Seanan McGuire

Pocket Apocalypse

by Seanan McGuire
Book 4 of InCryptid



Endangered, adjective:  Threatened with extinction or immediate harm.

Australia, noun: A good place to become endangered.

Alexander Price has survived gorgons, basilisks, and his own family—no small feat, considering that his family includes two telepaths, a reanimated corpse, and a colony of talking, pantheistic mice.  Still, he’s starting to feel like he’s got the hang of things…at least until his girlfriend, Shelby Tanner, shows up asking pointed questions about werewolves and the state of his passport.  From there, it’s just a hop, skip, and a jump to Australia, a continent filled with new challenges, new dangers, and yes, rival cryptozoologists who don’t like their “visiting expert” very much.

Australia is a cryptozoologist’s dream, filled with unique species and unique challenges.  Unfortunately, it’s also filled with Shelby’s family, who aren’t delighted by the length of her stay in America. And then there are the werewolves to consider: infected killing machines who would like nothing more than to claim the continent as their own.  The continent which currently includes Alex.

Survival is hard enough when you’re on familiar ground.  Alex Price is very far from home, but there’s one thing he knows for sure: he’s not going down without a fight.


I surprisingly found this book more enjoyable than the previous one, and I'm not sure if it's just because I've warmed to Alex and Shelby.  For certain, it had nothing to do with the Australian cryptozoologists, the Thirty-Six Society--I didn't like them at all and felt like they all either needed a reality check or a good whack in their heads as a collective.

Neither Alex's nor Shelby's characters are any more fleshed out than they were in the previous book, but I think what really did it for me was all the lore about lycanthropy in the InCryptid world.  I liked learning about how the lyncanthropy-w virus worked, all the new twists to werewolf transformation that Alex talked about, as well as learned about as new surprises were revealed throughout the book.  What I DIDN'T like was how the Thirty-Sixers had a problem and refused to take the expert advice of someone who knew how to handle werewolves.

And even as Alex proved again and again that he was right about what he was telling them, they still continued to treat him like he was some sort of delusional crazy, disbelieving him and even being overly suspicious despite the fact that his own life had been in danger so many times, trying to save others.  I'm in agreement with Shelby--if I'd have come to Australia with an intent to help and ended up being treated like some sort of crazed criminal, unwelcome and unwanted, I would have gotten on the first plane back out of Australia, and screw the survival of a bunch of jackasses who think they know better.

Outside of all of the above, I DO wish that we could have seen more of the cryptids in Australia.  As the series suggests, Australia is an isolated ecological cesspit for all sorts of fun and new types of living creatures, both cryptid and non-cryptid.  I loved meeting the yowie, and I loved watching the Tanner girls get schooled about how they treat their local sapient cryptids.

Now if only Alex could help school the rest of the Thirty-Sixers about how to cooperate with the rest of the sapient cryptids, maybe life on Australia for the cryptozoologists will be easier.  Of course, on the other hand, I have my misgivings about the fact that an outsider had to teach the Thirty-Sixers this lesson, especially since, by all rights, I'd assumed that at least one person or another would have figured out how NOT to treat the sapient cryptids as monsters.

If a huge organization like the Covenant of St. George was able to produce a few dissenters, I'm surprised that a less restrictive organization such as the Thirty-Six Society hasn't yet.

Anyway, I know the next book goes back to following Verity, but further along the line, I wouldn't mind returning to Australia and visiting with one or another of the Tanner sisters, especially Raina, whom, while I did have issues with at first, ended up warming up to her.



Halloween Bingo 2019



Source: anicheungbookabyss.blogspot.com/2019/10/quick-thoughts-pocket-apocalypse.html
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review 2019-10-18 12:16
"Real Murders - Aurora Teagarden #1" by Charlaine Harris.
Real Murders (Aurora Teagarden Book 1) - Charlaine Harris





"Real Murders" is a not so Cosy Mystery that is mildly subversive and moderately entertaining.


"Real Murders" was an odd book. It's a Cosy Mystery that makes you think about just how cosy any murder mystery can be.


It's about the murder of a member of the Real Murder Club, who meet once a month to talk about true crimes. It starts with what seems to be a copycat murder of one of the group and escalates from there.


Like other cosy mysteries, "Real Murders" focuses on a small group of people in an intimate, small-town setting, it has most of the violence occurs out of sight of the reader, it's coy about sex, it defaults to a humour rather than aggression when dealing with stress and the main character, who glories in the name Aurora Teagarden, is a small-town-librarian who is almost too innocent to have made it to twenty-seven.


Yet the murders in this book, and there are lots of them, are gruesome, cruel and driven by the sort of hard-boiled sociopathic narcissism that reminded me of Hitchock's adaptation of Patrick Hamilton's "Rope". The murders also revisit actual murders, using them as game fodder, with little or no empathy for the real people involved.


The Real Murder Club the suspects and murder victims are all members of is a ghoulish, voyeuristic thing, yet it's members, including the unfailingly nice Aurora Teagarden, seem unaware of this until the killing starts and the group's existence comes under public scrutiny.


Having read "A Secret Rage" her unflinching book about rape and the equally hard-hitting Lily Bard series, starting with "Shakespeare's Landlord", I know that Charlain Harris can be quite a serious writer when she chooses to be, so I wondered how subversive she intended to be in "Real Murders".


I never read true crime. I understand why people do but I can never rid myself of a sense of voyeurism. The one exception might be "The Five: The Untold Lives of the Women Killed by Jack the Ripper" because of its focus on the lives of the women Jack The Ripper killed but even then, I dislike the continued fame of the Ripper. I was pleased to see that, in the early chapters of the book, Harris seemed to be challenging the ethics of True Crime buffs and perhaps the idea of "Cosy" mystery, even while writing one. She's suggesting that the process of treating killing someone as the starting point for a puzzle serves to desensitise us to the reality of murder.


Here's what's going through the mind of Aurora Teagarden who has discovered the body and called the police.


I knew he was about to tell Gerald that his wife was dead, and I found myself wondering how Gerald would take it. Then I was ashamed. At moments I understood in decent human terms what had happened to a woman I knew, and at moments I seemed to be thinking of Mamie’s death as one of our club’s study cases.


This is followed by a police interview where the detective's disgust at the idea of a Real Murder Club is very clear.


Sadly, that was pretty much the end of any visible subversion. After that, it devolved into a game of pin-the-blame-on-the-suspect in the traditional way. The plot was clever. I didn't guess who was doing the killing and the denouement was skillfully managed.


I was entertained although mostly because the Texan small-town life being described is so far from my experience. Harris' writing is smooth and efficient and Aurora Teagarden is likeable if a little relentlessly, self-deprecatingly ordinary. There wasn't enough there to make me want to read the rest of the series.



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review 2019-10-18 02:23
Review: Mandie and the Windmill's Message by Lois Gladys Leppard
Mandie and the Windmill's Message (Mandie, Book 20) - Lois Gladys Leppard

Title: Mandie and the Windmill's Message
Author: Lois Gladys Leppard
Series: Mandie, 20
Format: ebook, bind-up
Length: N/A
Rating: 3 stars


Synopsis: Mandie, Celia and Jonathan should have known that when Uncle Ned said there was a big mystery waiting for them in Holland that he meant a BIG mystery. Adventures had followed them at every stop on their summer travel through Europe with Mrs. Taft, Senator Morton and Uncle Ned, and Holland promised to be no exception. But what mystery could the quiet, peaceful land of the windmills possibly bring?
They won't be there long before they find out. Who's behind the mysterious resetting of the windmill's blades and what message are they sending? Is it a harmless prank or is someone really up to something bad? Are lives in danger?
Is someone out to destroy the royal family's reputation?


Favourite character: Albert & Jonathan
Least favourite character: Mandie


Mini-review: Okay, so, didn't like Mandie's grudges against Jonathan for something he obviously had nothing to do with. That is a big lesson in judgment right there and I'm honestly kind of shocked that her grandmother didn't send her back on the first ship home because she's a real piece of work (Mandie not Mrs. Taft). Not sure if the ending was supposed to be racist or not. Can't wait to get into the books I haven't read yet.


Fan Cast:
Amanda "Mandie" Shaw - Emma Rayne Lyle
Celia Hamilton - Sadie Sink
Jonathan Lindall Guyer III - Louis Hynes
Grandmother Taft - Meryl Streep
Senator Morton - Donald Sutherland
Albert Van Dongen - Levi Miller
Uncle Ned Sweetwater - Zahn McClarnon
Mr. Van Dongen - Mads Mikkelsen
Velda Van Dongen - Thomasin McKenzie
Maurice - Nicholas Hamilton

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