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review 2018-04-09 11:49
Between the Blade and the Heart
Between the Blade and the Heart - Amanda Hocking

I received a copy from Netgalley.

 

This book was fun. An action packed paranormal adventure.

 

First book I read by this particular author, and I enjoyed it. The world building was a little haphazard, in this world there are all sorts of supernatural creatures around, all governed by Norse gods, and kept in control by Valkyries. Seemed to be a vaguely futuristic kind of society. A little unclear on when it was set. A little bit of history on the species and the set the governing body and the jobs of Valkyries.  When your time is up, a Valkyrie is sent to dispatch you to the next plane of existence. Valkyries only go through the female line, Marin is training to follow in her mother Marlow’s footsteps and is in the final steps of her training to become an official Valkyrie as well as attending a supernatural academy for classes.

 

Marin was tough and spunky, relatively sensible and a likeable MC. Also extra points – she was bisexual. She had a relationship with another female Valkyrie, Quinn. Which didn’t end brilliantly but they remained sort of friends.  Marin lives with her best friend, witch Oona and her beloved pet, some sort of a hybrid creature a little like a dog but not quite.

 

Lots of action, though I did find some of the characters to be a little flat, there didn’t seem to be much back story to hardly anyone other than Marin herself. There was very little seen of the academy she attends, there’s a few classes mentioned, and a rivalry with a classmate she doesn’t get on with. Though later on in the novel they do have a fairly interesting discussion about fate and destiny – which was about as deep as the novel got.

 

Mostly it was all action packed. Marin’s world is thrown into chaos when a handsome stranger breaks into her apartment demanding information on her mother. Something that was supposed to have happened didn’t and as a result people are being killed. Marin is stunned and furious, and with the stranger, Asher, by her side sets off to confront Marlow about what happened.

 

She’s shocked at the revelations and she and Asher decide to try and put things right and stop the killings. The supernatural beasties Marin is hunting are getting stronger, she’s feeling pain when she shouldn’t and it could all be a result of what went wrong many years ago. She gets help from witchy Oona and Quinn appears a few times saving her butt and becomes part of the group who work to find the bad guy and solve the mystery.

 

Of course, Marin is starting to develop feelings for Asher and finds herself getting closer again with Quinn, trying to understand why their relationship failed – something to do with something that’s been ingrained into Marin about Valkyries and love and how it never works. So Marin is struggling to come to terms with her feelings on top of this manhunt for a bad guy getting nastier and stronger as the time goes by.

 

A surprise death half way through doesn’t help at all.

 

 

A surprising twist at the end as well, as it turns out the bad guy they’re hunting is small fries and there’s an even bigger bad on the way. Left at cliff hanger of course.

(spoiler show)

 

 

Not particularly moving, while the world building wasn’t brilliant (in my opinion) it was interesting and it’s been a long time since I’ve found a paranormal adventure I’ve liked so much. Decent characters, and a fun read.

 

Looking forward to the next one in the duology.

 

Thank you to Netgalley and Pan McMillan for approving my request to view the title.

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review 2018-03-07 08:41
Spells and Scones (Magical Bakery, #6)
Spells and Scones - Bailey Cates

Eh.  I generally enjoy Bailey Cates' writing, but a few of my least favorite tropes were trotted out for this one:  the relationship crossroads; the ex's last ditch effort (which was SO transparently meant to give Steve an HEA) at reconciliation; the jealousy bit with Mungo the dog... eh.

 

The mystery plotting  didn't light up my disco ball either. It wasn't bad, but it wasn't great; too few clues and a reliance on the 'lightbulb' moment at the very end.  Reading Golden Age mysteries is ruining my mediocre tastes.

 

Still, a relaxing enough read when one's brain has been overtaxed in real life.

 

 


This book qualifies for the Murder Your Darlings Scene of the Crime card:  Gryffindor Common Room.  This was one of the crime scenes identified by Nighttime Reading Center in the Green Game Round, so worth 10 points for my team (Themis-Athena, Lillelara and myself).

 

My misunderstanding of the rules left me with this book unused, so I'm using it for the Suspect: Jane Austen cards.  (Alliterative Title)

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review 2018-02-28 21:59
Review: DEAD EYE by Alyssa Day
DEAD EYE: A Tiger's Eye cozy paranormal mystery (Tiger's Eye Mysteries Book 1) - Alyssa Day

Tess has lived in Dead End her whole life. Although the town is no stranger to the weird and unexplained, she’s a bit of an oddball; able to see a person’s death when coming into contact with another. She runs a pawn shop, which she is now partial owner, and genuinely loves her job.

 

Jack, a tiger shifter, has been away for ten years, leading the human resistance against vampires and working side by side with the Atlanteans. He recently discovered his uncle (and only family member), Jeremiah, was murdered, and after being back in Dead End for less than a day, another dead body is dumped at the door to his deceased uncle’s pawn shop. Now Jack is determined to figure out what’s going on.

 

I absolutely enjoyed reading Dead Eye, the first in Ms. Day’s new Tiger’s Eye Mysteries (although the book was previously released). The story is shared by the first person POV of Tess, and features Jack, one of the heroes from the Warriors of Poseidon series. There are so many delightful surprises in this one... and not at all what I expected after reading the Warriors of Poseidon. Dead Eye is filled with light-hearted humor and has a cozy-mystery vibe.

 

The mystery of who killed Jeremiah and what is happening in Dead End builds slowly and clues delivered sporadically. Tess and Jack do a great job of seeing the interconnected strings that tie everything together. While it’s not a surprise who did what and why by the time the master plan is revealed, it unfolds in a way that is thoughtful and interesting. 

 

Tess is a great heroine. She’s an “average Joe” (with a weird gift of being able to foresee a person’s death), who rises to the occasion. She finds courage when she doesn’t expect it. She’s kind and good, but has a wicked side when it comes to seeking vengeance against those who’ve done harm to innocents. Jack compliments her in many ways,  bolstering her and allowing her to be more. Their attraction is slow-burning but obvious to the reader. 

 

Dead Eye is a fabulous, engrossing story filled with great humor, interesting adventures, and a hint of romance that has the potential for some serious heat. I found myself cheering for Jack and Tess. I enjoyed meeting all of Dead End’s denizens, with all their quirks and flaws. The core group is solid and will look out for one another, which sets this up to be a wonderful series.

 

My Rating:  A, Loved It

Review copy provided by NetGalley

Originally posted at That's What I'm Talking About

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review 2018-01-03 21:02
Review: Breaking
Breaking - Danielle Rollins

I received a copy from Netgalley.

 

I initially requested this one because I liked the previous book I’d read by the same author. I had no idea it was actually a companion novel to Burning until I was half way through and looking up something else on Goodreads.

 

This was an interesting book, after reading the first two or three chapters slowly, I read the rest in a couple of hours one evening. I just couldn’t put it down. I wasn’t completely blown away with the book, I can’t even say I really liked all the characters that much. There was just something about the story and the way the plot unwound that made me want to keep reading and just had to know what was going on and how it all wound up together.

 

Trigger Warnings: Suicide.

 

The novel tells the story of teenager Charlotte, starting off when she’s a very young child, her mother who is some sort of doctor giving her genius tests (which Charlotte is not very good at) her mother has certain expectations of what sort of girl Charlotte should be.  You get the impression that Charlotte doesn’t really care about her mother’s expectations, even at a very young age. Skip ahead to a teenager in a posh prep school. Charlotte is in the principal’s office one of her best friends Devon, has recently committed suicide in a very short time since her other best friend Ariel also committed suicide. Both were bright, smart and popular.

 

Charlotte doesn’t seem to fit the bill with the other smart kids in the school. The kids in the school are all very smart to genius. She’s struggling in her classes and not making the grade. Her mom is a very prestigious (and very rich) alumni. She’s about to pull Charlotte from the school on the principal’s advice, failing grades and the sudden deaths of her two best friends very close together and Charlotte’s attitude seems to be very blasé about everything.

 

Whilst packing her stuff Charlotte finds a package left by one of her deceased friends containing a strange note and a tiny bottle saying “Drink me”. Charlotte realises there must be something more going on, she can’t stop thinking about the note. She realises she wants to find out what it means and will have to be at the school to do that. When almost overnight her physical appearance improves and her (really bitchy) mom notices too. She uses this and manages to convince her mom to let her stay at the school for the rest of the semester contingent on her grades rapidly improving.

 

 

 

 

Charlotte notices quickly that her grades are improving as well, she’s answering questions in class without studying, acing essays and vastly better at her fencing class than she’s ever been. And she’s not the only one who noticed. Her BFF Ariel’s former boyfriend Jack for one, when they start talking again over what happened it turns into more than talking and flirting. And a rival in Charlotte’s fencing class, Zoe, who is not happy at all when Charlotte kicks her ass in fencing.

(spoiler show)

 

The plot is fairly fast paced and there’s enough intrigue that kept me interested when Charlotte finds more notes and more clues left by Ariel and realises at one point that she found the notes and clues left for her in the wrong order. The mystery deepens, Charlotte’s relationship with Jack is getting more and more intense and she’s got the added irritation of fending off Zoe who seems determined to make things difficult for her.

 

The characters were kind of flat, I couldn’t really identify with Charlotte much, she was cold and aloof and had a sort of above it all vibe about her. There was an interesting morality grey area to the plot as it developed as well. It definitely takes a darker twist towards the end, and that’s where it ties in with the previous novel Burning. It can be read as a standalone, there’s very little that gives away anything to do with Burning’s actual plot but if you’ve read Burning there’s an “ahhh” moment when you realise the connection.

 

I also have issues with Charlotte and her two best friends, Ariel and Devon, the reader learns some pretty unsettling things about the two girls as Charlotte delves into the mystery as what caused them both to commit suicide within weeks of each other. These girls were supposed to have been the tight knit group that everyone wanted to be part of, yet there was a sense of underlying threat rather than close female friendship with Ariel as the ring leader and Devon following with Charlotte trailing behind. There was a sense of rivalry and tension that was supposed to be uncomfortable but more annoying than anything else.

 

There was an eye rolling side plot revolving around Ariel’s former boyfriend Jack who was close with Charlotte and Charlotte had always had a thing for but never did anything cause Ariel got there first even though it’s completely obvious Charlotte liked him. Jack is a typical nice guy, good looking with rich parents. His dad has an important job – senator or judge or something along those lines (can’t remember which) but Jack doesn’t seem interested in following those footsteps and like Charlotte doesn’t seem that interested in the classes at the prep school. He and Charlotte redevelop their friendship which of course develops into something more. She (of course) gets to see the side of him that no one else really gets to see.  Then Charlotte notices Jack starts rapidly improving in grades and stuff like she did. The romance angle was irritating.

 

It was a fairly quick read and definitely interesting, not something I would call a favourite but definitely worth a go if you like prep school mysteries and are intrigued by unlikeable characters.

 

Thank you to Netgalley and Bloomsbury Publishing Plc (UK & ANZ) for approving my request to view the title.

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review 2017-11-08 09:41
Grave Errors (Witch City Mystery, #5)
Grave Errors - Carol J. Perry

When you read enough books in one genre, you start to get a feel for the different styles of different publishers, and I've definitely read enough cozies to recognise patterns.  Kensington, for instance, tends to publish authors with creative stories and strong characters, but are almost always too light-handed with the editing.  Just enough to notice it but mostly not so bad you can't enjoy the story anyway.  

 

Grave Errors is a good example.  Lee is a strong, independent, likeable female protagonist with intelligence, who has an unwelcome gift for scrying that she can't control.  Instead of going all woe is me! she takes steps to deal with it.  She gets along with all the other characters and isn't TSTL.

 

The book (and series) has no love triangles, just a nice, subtle sub-plot romance that makes Lee's involvement in mysteries feasible and lends an additional air of well-adjustedness.  The story is set in Salem Massachusetts, which lends its atmosphere to a variety of plots.  And finally, the mystery is decently plotted.  Even though I think it was pretty obvious who the villain was from almost the start, the story behind the motive was, to me, so much more interesting. 

 

But man, this could have been so much better if it had been more tightly edited.  Small things, like red-lining blue-lining* the author's tendency to mention Pete's (the BF) discomfort with Lee's visions every time she tells him about one.  There were at least 6 visions in this book, and I'd gotten a clear idea of Pete's discomfort with them after the first 2.  

 

At one point she refers to a hurricane heading their way named Penelope, with top sustained winds of 60mph.  Storms aren't categorised as hurricanes until they reach a sustained wind speed of 74mph.  I get that as a Florida girl, that's something I'm going to pick up on more than a lot of readers, but it's a simple google search - you don't even have to leave the results page to find it.

 

I'm not trying to discourage cozy readers from reading this - it's a good story and I really enjoyed it.  But at a time when I feel like most cozies are turning into completely vapid crap, Kensington shows so much promise, publishing stories that are both cozy and interesting to readers that value intelligence in their fiction.  If only they weren't quite so stingy with their red blue* pencils.  

 

*Editors actually use blue pencils.  I did not know that.  But I googled it.  ;-)

 

I read this for Task 1 Calan Gaeaf:  Read any of your planned Halloween Bingo books that you didn’t end up reading after all, involving witches, hags, or various types of witchcraft.

 

(I originally said in my status update I was going to read this for Dios de Muertos, using my Book Holiday Joker card, but then realised it totally fits the Calan Gaeaf category without burning the Joker. Duh.)

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