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Monday, December 11, 2017

REVIEW: Into the Drowning Deep by Mira Grant

*Thank you to Netgalley and Orbit for an ARC in exchange for a review*

Seven years ago, the Atargatis set off on a voyage to the Mariana Trench to film a “mockumentary” bringing to life ancient sea creatures of legend. It was lost at sea with all hands. Some have called it a hoax; others have called it a maritime tragedy.

Now, a new crew has been assembled. But this time they’re not out to entertain. Some seek to validate their life’s work. Some seek the greatest hunt of all. Some seek the truth. But for the ambitious young scientist Victoria Stewart this is a voyage to uncover the fate of the sister she lost.

Into the Drowning Deep was a stellar horror novel with a truly inventive foe. I'm from the generation where mermaids should be red haired, sing, collection flatware and be BFFs with fish, crabs and seagulls.  Grant has deftly crafted a dark, suspense filled addition to the horror genre that echos Hans Christian Andersen's macabre classic fairy tale, "The Little Mermaid." 

Excellent pacing and build of intriguing characters surrounded by uncertainty and some truly creepy creatures.  What I did like was Grant's ability to give the mermaid/sirens depth and develop the idea that they might be intelligent and deadly but only out of necessity as the characters (and the readers) learn more about them and why they behavior the way the do.  I'm looking forward to the develpment of this as a series since there is huge potential for more narrative based on Into the Drowning Deep's ending. 

Final rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

REVIEW: The Hunt by Chloe Neill

When bounty hunter Liam Quinn discovered that Claire Connolly was a Sensitive and infected with magic, he should have turned her in to be locked up in the prison district known as Devil's Isle. Instead, he helped her learn to control her power and introduced her to an underground group of Paranormals and humans who know the truth about the war and those who fought it.

Now the weight of Liam's own secrets has forced him into hiding. When a government agent is killed and Claire discovers that Liam is the prime suspect, she races to find him before the government can. But she'll discover proving his innocence is no simple matter. Their enemies are drawing closer, and time is running out.

The Hunt picks up several weeks after the end of book two. Liam is MIA after his magical pick me up, Claire is feeling uncertain but readers hope those two will actually communicate and figure out they are better together. Our heroine is also in for some harsh truths about her past that shed light on their current predicament and the future of NOLA and the world itself.

This was an entertaining installment to the series and a good set up for a lot more to come in following books. I did find Liam's last line a bit corny but it works for the next book. Well developed urban fantasy with a post apocalyptic twist. Neill continues to write quality, original works.

Final rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Sunday, November 26, 2017

REVIEW: The Shadow Revolution by Clay & Susan Griffith

As fog descends, obscuring the gas lamps of Victorian London, werewolves prowl the shadows of back alleys. But they have infiltrated the inner circles of upper-crust society as well. Only a handful of specially gifted practitioners are equipped to battle the beasts. Among them are the roguish Simon Archer, who conceals his powers as a spell-casting scribe behind the smooth veneer of a dashing playboy; his layabout mentor, Nick Barker, who prefers a good pub to thrilling heroics; and the self-possessed alchemist Kate Anstruther, who is equally at home in a ballroom as she is on a battlefield.

The Shadow Revolution marks the beginning of the Crown & Key series from Clay and Susan Griffith. Set in Victorian London, the novel dabbles in magic, mystery and the perfect amount of entice steampunk. The audiobook held my attention as the story progressed.

Loved the spin on the classic werewolves in London! Definitely a multitude of creepy villains and other monsters.  

The characters are equally intriguing and sometimes sassy. I'm curious about the 'key' and unlocking the secrets that link Simon and Kate together for the subsequent books.

Final rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Highlighted Reviews, November 2017

Welcome back to the Point.

Noe Lee made an enemy of Snowden Stark when she robbed his apartment. In major trouble with some bad people after her, Noe has no one else to turn to for help. 

Stark did not expect to see the tiny, mighty homeless thief, and his first reaction is refusal. However, Stark has second thoughts, but Noe is kidnapped and tortured before he can help her.  To right his wrongs, Stark becomes invested in trying to get her back safe and sound. 

True to Crownover's past characters, both Stark and Noe have their fair share of personal demons. Stark is good with computers, but not necessarily people. While he's super sexy and a bit of a geek, he also has guilt from his past and has kept his emotions buried so he is more machine than man. But something about Noe and his guilt from refusing her brings out more of his emotions.

Noe has had her own painful past. She is a survivor, and is strong, smart, and resourceful. She is a talented techie in her own right so can appreciate Stark's skills. She is good at running and disappearing, but this time she is in way over her head. What they both learn from each other is that sometimes the only solution is to not hide any longer and to face obstacles head on.  They find strength in each other.

I loved Dignity just as I do all Crownover's book.  Excellent characters with depth, intrigue, suspense and detail plus good steamy bit!

Final rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Saving It by Monica Murphy is a cute young adult romance about a girl helping her best friend find someone to help him lose his virginity but instead finds themselves falling for each other instead. The novel is cute and angsty if a bit predictable. 

Eden and Josh are bestie who haven't really thought about each other as anything more than friends until they do. Changing emotions set new jealousies into motion, invite drama and lead to more than one falling out before the couple can admit their feelings.

I liked the book. It was a good, quick, easy read. Appropriate for a teen reader and those transitioning toward the new adult genre.

Final rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Never challenge a cowboy to a little naughty competition… 

A flirty game of sexual truth or dare between best man, Wynton Grant, and maid of honor, Melissa Lockhart during their BFF’s wedding reception results in a steamy hookup. 

But their plans for a one and done change when a family crisis leaves Wyn shorthanded at the Grant Ranch. Experienced horsewoman Mel volunteers to help out and gets way more than she bargained for living under the same roof as the sexy rancher. Playing house has never appealed to Wyn…until now. 

James never disappoints. This is another steamy but well written and developed novella from the Blacktop Cowboys series.  I liked Mel and Wyn, although knowing so many people with diabetes, I wanted to smack Mel more than once for her secrets that could have killed her.

Final rating: 4 out of 5 stars

In the last days before her death, Nel called her sister. Jules didn’t pick up the phone, ignoring her plea for help.

Now Nel is dead. They say she jumped. And Jules has been dragged back to the one place she hoped she had escaped for good, to care for the teenage girl her sister left behind.

But Jules is afraid. So afraid. Of her long-buried memories, of the old Mill House, of knowing that Nel would never have jumped.

And most of all she’s afraid of the water, and the place they call the Drowning Pool . . .


The premise may sound intriguing but I pretty much hated this book. I couldn't engage with any of the characters.  The change in POV each chapter makes it difficult to follow and I couldn't remember the laundry list of characters and how they connected.  I didn't feel bad for any of the dearly departed.

I'm not alone. The entire book club felt the same. 

All in all, not my cup of tea and I won't plan or reading any of her other works.

Final rating: 2 out of 5 stars

The Shadow Land is an engrossing novel that spans the past and the present and unearths the dark secrets of Bulgaria, a beautiful and haunted country. 

A young American woman, Alexandra Boyd, has traveled to Sofia, Bulgaria, hoping that life abroad will salve the wounds left by the loss of her beloved brother. Soon after arriving in this elegant East European city, however, she helps an elderly couple into a taxi and realizes too late that she has accidentally kept one of their bags. Inside she finds an ornately carved wooden box engraved with a name: Stoyan Lazarov. Raising the hinged lid, she discovers that she is holding an urn filled with human ashes. 

As Alexandra sets out to locate the family and return this precious item, she will first have to uncover the secrets of a talented musician who was shattered by oppression and she will find out all too quickly that this knowledge is fraught with its own danger. 

I enjoyed this engrossing tale, especially the audiobook. It was a surprising departure to most fiction I pick up but I was a fan of Kostova's The Historian, so I thought I'd give this a try.  I'm glad I did.

The attention to detail, slow build of the narrative, complex characters and plenty of surprise revelations had more enthralled with the story.

Final rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

REVIEW: Bourbon Kings #2 & #3 by J.R. Ward

The Bradfords hold the upmost tier to high society and a bourbon empire; however, the apparent suicide of the family patriarch is starting to look more and more like murder…

No one is above suspicion—especially the eldest Bradford son, Edward. The bad blood between him and his father is known far and wide, and he is aware that he could be named a suspect. As the investigation into the death intensifies, he keeps himself busy at the bottom of a bottle—as well as with his former horse trainer’s daughter. Meanwhile, the family’s financial future lies in the perfectly manicured hands of a business rival, a woman who wants Edward all to herself.

A lot happened in Book 2, but I found the pacing and the whole drama of it all too much. Honestly, it was like being stuck in an a combination between a Dynasty and a Dallas episode. Who shot JR?--er, no what happened to William?

I don't love this family, the setting or the characters but I kept reading because I want to know what happened and IF anyone in this familly might have a happily ever after.

The audiobook was a HUGE disappointment. I really disliked the narrative performance and found the use of character voice inflection distracting and a bit silly.

Final rating: 3 out of 5 stars

At first, the death of William Baldwine, the head of the Bradford family, was ruled a suicide. But then his eldest son and sworn enemy, Edward, came forward and confessed to what was, in fact, a murder. Now in police custody, Edward mourns not the disintegration of his family or his loss of freedom . . . but the woman he left behind.

Lane Baldwine was supposed to remain in his role of playboy, forever in his big brother Edward’s shadow. Instead he has become the new head of the family and the company. Convinced that Edward is covering for someone else, Lane and his true love, Lizzie King, go on the trail of a killer—only to discover a secret that is as devastating as it is game-changing.

As Lane rushes to discover the truth, and Sutton finds herself irresistibly drawn to Edward in spite of his circumstances, the lives of everyone at Easterly will never be the same again.

The final stretch! I was relieved to find out whodunnit but albeit surprised by the big reveal. I won't spoil it for those planning to read but it was a bit of a jolt. I'd figured out much of the other big reveal toward the end. It was nice to see Richard get the boot and for Gin to have an epiphany.  Lane and Edward were less interesting for me and I really felt that Max wasn't done justice with the storytelling.

Overall, it was just an 'okay' series for me. I prefer Ward's take on the supernatural to Kentucky bourbon.

Final rating: 3 out of 5 stars

REVIEW: The Trouble with Twelfth Grave by Darynda Jones

*Thanks to Netgalley & St. Martin's Press for an ARC in exchange for a review*

Ever since Reyes escaped from a hell dimension in which Charley accidentally trapped him, the son of Satan has been brimstone-bent on destroying the world his heavenly Brother created. His volatile tendencies have put Charley in a bit of a pickle. But that’s not the only briny vegetable on her plate. While trying to domesticate the feral being that used to be her husband, she also has to deal with her everyday life of annoying all manner of beings—some corporeal, some not so much—as she struggles to right the wrongs of society. Only this time she’s not uncovering a murder. This time she’s covering one up.

Throw in helping Cookie's daughter Amber and Quiten's start-up P.I. business and keeping the Vatican from snooping into the existence and whereabouts of Charley and Reyes' daughter. But when someone starts attacking humans who are sensitive to the supernatural world, Charley knows it’s time to let loose her razor sharp claws. Then again, her number one suspect is the dark entity she’s loved for centuries.

Can Charley bring Reyes back from the brink? Can she discover the killer in time? Can she recover from breaking the unforgivable rule????

The Trouble with Twelfth Grave is another wickedly funny and hot fantasy ride with plenty of intrigue, characters we love and great storytelling. Narrator Lorelei King does another stellar job with the audiobook. You'll laugh, you'll cry!

Quite possibly the best moment of the entire series is homeless 'stripper' Cookie. I laughed so hard!

The ending had me reeling and waiting with anticipation for the next book!

Final rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Saturday, November 4, 2017

REVIEW: Without Merit by Colleen Hoover

The Voss family is anything but normal. They live in a repurposed church, newly baptized Dollar Voss. The once cancer-stricken mother lives in the basement, the father is married to the mother’s former nurse, the little half-brother isn’t allowed to do or eat anything fun, and the eldest siblings are irritatingly perfect. Then, there’s Merit who collects trophies she hasn’t earned and secrets her family forces her to keep. She's sarcastic and withdrawn, feeling outshined by others in her family.

While browsing the local antiques shop for her next trophy, she finds Sagan. His wit and unapologetic idealism disarm and spark renewed life into her—until she discovers that he’s completely unavailable. Merit retreats deeper into herself, watching her family from the sidelines when she learns a secret that no trophy in the world can fix.

Fed up with the lies, Merit decides to shatter the happy family illusion that she’s never been a part of before leaving them behind for good. When her escape plan fails, Merit is forced to deal with the staggering consequences of telling the truth and losing the one boy she loves.

Hoover does what she does best, write about interesting characters who wriggle under the readers' skin and make an impact with their biting humor, significant and unique world struggles. Merit is uniquely likeable in her own unlikeable way. Readers feel for her but want to shake her at the same time. 

Without Merit itself fits as a new adult romance/YA crossover book. I'd recommend it for YA readers transitioning to adulthood but have liked Sarah Dessen, Katie McGarry and other similar writers.

I enjoyed this wacky, dysfunctional family despite the book's imperfections.  There's a lot going on here including themes like mental illness, sexuality, suicide, abuse, even the Syrian refugee crisis while meshing it all with a romance plot. Sure, there are imperfections but I found this to be an engrossing, quick read. The audiobook narration by Candace Thaxton was excellent.

Final rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Send Me An Angel--highlighted reviews

As an Agent of Death, Madeline Black is responsible for escorting the souls of the dearly departed to the afterlife. It's a 24/7 job with a lousy benefits package.

Maddy's position may come with magical powers and an impressive wingspan, but it doesn't pay the bills. And then there are her infuriating boss, tenant woes, and a cranky, popcorn-loving gargoyle to contend with.

Things start looking up, though, when tall, dark, and handsome Gabriel Angeloscuro agrees to rent the empty apartment in Maddy's building. It's probably just a coincidence that as soon as he moves in demons appear on the front lawn. But when an unholy monster is unleashed upon the streets of Chicago, Maddy discovers powers she never knew she possessed. Powers linked to a family legacy of tarnished halos.
Black Wings has been on my radar for a while and I finally got to it. This was a quick, enjoyable read. I could certainly tell it is the first of a series as well as one of Christina Henry's earlier novels.  I've read later works in her twist on Alice in Wonderland. She continues to hone her craft.

There was enough 'meat' to this first book, development of an arc and great tension for the romantic relationship that I will definitely pick up the rest of the series.

Final rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Archangel's Enigma is the 8th in Singh's Guild Hunter series.  She continues to build upon the rising tension as Archangel Lijuan plots to kill the Ancient Alexander.

Naasir is the most feral of the powerful group of vampires and angels known as the Seven, his loyalty pledged to the Archangel Raphael. When rumors surface of a plot to murder the former Archangel of Persia, now lost in the Sleep of the Ancients, Naasir is dispatched to find him. For only he possesses the tracking skills required - those more common to predatory animals than to man.

Enlisted to accompany Naasir, Andromeda, a young angelic scholar with dangerous secrets is fascinated by his nature - at once playful and brilliant, sensual and brutal. As they race to find the Sleeping archangel before it's too late, Naasir will force her to question all she knows...and tempt her to walk into the magnificent, feral darkness of his world. But before they can give into their newly developed feelings, they'll have to face unparalleled dangers as the power balance in throughout the world continues to shift.

I really enjoyed this book because they narrative was compelling as was the character development. It is a try mystery/thriller with the addition of romance but was not overtly focused on so much of the sexual dynamic between the potential couple. Sure, the tension and banter is there but there are more important tasks to focus on throughout the journey.

And what an ending!

Final rating: 4 out of 5 stars

REVIEW: Plague of Giants by Kevin Hearne

*Thank you to Netgalley and Del Rey Books for an ARC in exchange for a review*

A Plague of Giants marks the start of a new series by the New York Times bestselling author Kevin Hearne.  Rather a departure from The Iron Druid Chronicles, Hearne creates an unforgettable fantasy world . . . one that is forever changed when an army of giants invades. The kingdom's only hope? The discovery of a form of magic that will call the world's wondrous beasts to fight by the side of humankind.

Fans of epic fantasy with strong characters and world building will flock to this book.  Hearne continues to establish himself as a master storyteller. What I loved most were the echoes to the great oral masters in history--Homer, Ovid, & Virgil.  Plague reads in much the same way as the episodic nature of The Odyssey and I loved the way that the structure of the novel and its chapters support this homage.

A true shining star is the audiobook as narrated by Luke Daniels and Xe Sands.  Through their performances, the characters truly come to life and enhance the reading experience.

Final rating: 5 out of 5 stars