Genre: Paranormal

Early Review | The Ex Hex (Ex Hex #1) by Erin Sterling

Posted September 2, 2021 by Bonnie in 2021, Book Reviews, Early Review / 2 Comments

I received this book free from Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Early Review | The Ex Hex (Ex Hex #1) by Erin SterlingThe Ex Hex by Erin Sterling, Rachel Hawkins
Series: Ex Hex #1
Published by Avon on September 28, 2021
Pages: 320
Genres: Fantasy, Witches
Format: eARC
Source: Edelweiss
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Also by this author: Hex Hall, Demonglass, Spell Bound

four-stars

New York Times bestselling author Rachel Hawkins, writing as Erin Sterling, casts a spell with a spine-tingling romance full of wishes, witches, and hexes gone wrong.

Nine years ago, Vivienne Jones nursed her broken heart like any young witch would: vodka, weepy music, bubble baths…and a curse on the horrible boyfriend. Sure, Vivi knows she shouldn’t use her magic this way, but with only an “orchard hayride” scented candle on hand, she isn’t worried it will cause him anything more than a bad hair day or two.

That is until Rhys Penhallow, descendent of the town’s ancestors, breaker of hearts, and annoyingly just as gorgeous as he always was, returns to Graves Glen, Georgia. What should be a quick trip to recharge the town’s ley lines and make an appearance at the annual fall festival turns disastrously wrong. With one calamity after another striking Rhys, Vivi realizes her silly little Ex Hex may not have been so harmless after all.

Suddenly, Graves Glen is under attack from murderous wind-up toys, a pissed off ghost, and a talking cat with some interesting things to say. Vivi and Rhys have to ignore their off the charts chemistry to work together to save the town and find a way to break the break-up curse before it’s too late.

“Never mix vodka and witchcraft.”

Valuable advice, but advice that Vivi fails to heed. Nine years ago, after falling hard for Rhys Penhallow only to find out too late of his betrothal, Vivi shouts frivolous curses into the night not realizing there was actual magic behind them. When Rhys returns to town for the first time since that fateful night his luck is exceptionally bad and he has no idea why until he finds out the truth behind his misfortune. Vivi, feeling most apologetic for her role in this debacle, decides to set aside past grievances to find out how to reverse the curse especially when they discover the curse is going to destroy the very town itself. It doesn’t help matters when she realizes Rhys Penhallow is just as distracting as he was when she fell in love with him nine years ago.

The Hex Hall series and the spin-off novel School Spirits are some of my favorite YA books so discovering that Erin Sterling (a.k.a. Rachel Hawkins) was writing a witchy adult novel had me thrilledI found this story to be extremely delightful overall (and well worth the read) but there were some aspects that I wish had been better. There’s plastic skulls that come to life, a talking cat that won’t stop asking for treats, and even a ghost that haunts a library. The magical bits were absolutely, well, magical, but considering this has been pitched as “Hocus Pocus but they fuck” (hahaha…) I wanted, and rather anticipated, this book to be straight imbued with magic. The romance was far from lacking in chemistry but I expected more tension between the two since Vivi had been pining over Rhys for the entire nine years but they acted almost as if their issues never happened.

I adored the family aspects of this though (it felt very much like Practical Magic) and the light humor was on point. Apparently this is the first in an anticipated series and I am here for it. Bottom Line: this was an incredibly cute, delightfully whimsical, and overall perfect read for the Halloween season (or when you need a little magic with your romance.)

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Can’t Wait Wednesday | The Book of Cold Cases by Simone St. James

Posted July 28, 2021 by Bonnie in Waiting on Wednesday / 2 Comments

Can’t Wait Wednesday | The Book of Cold Cases by Simone St. JamesThe Book of Cold Cases by Simone St. James
Published by Berkley on March 15, 2022
Pages: 352
Genres: Mystery, Paranormal
Format: Hardcover
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Also by this author: An Inquiry Into Love and Death, The Broken Girls

A true crime blogger gets more than she bargained for while interviewing the woman acquitted of two cold case slayings in this chilling new novel from the New York Times bestselling author of The Sun Down Motel.

In 1977, Claire Lake, Oregon, was shaken by the Lady Killer Murders: Two men, seemingly randomly, were murdered with the same gun, with strange notes left behind. Beth Greer was the perfect suspect--a rich, eccentric twenty-three-year-old woman, seen fleeing one of the crimes. But she was acquitted, and she retreated to the isolation of her mansion.

Oregon, 2017. Shea Collins is a receptionist, but by night, she runs a true crime website, the Book of Cold Cases--a passion fueled by the attempted abduction she escaped as a child. When she meets Beth by chance, Shea asks her for an interview. To Shea's surprise, Beth says yes.

They meet regularly at Beth's mansion, though Shea is never comfortable there. Items move when she's not looking, and she could swear she's seen a girl outside the window. The allure of learning the truth about the case from the smart, charming Beth is too much to resist, but even as they grow closer, Shea senses something isn't right. Is she making friends with a manipulative murderer, or are there other dangers lurking in the darkness of the Greer house?

About Simone St. James

Simone St. James is the USA Today and New York Times bestselling author of The Sun Down Motel, The Broken Girls and The Haunting of Maddy Clare, which won two RITA awards from Romance Writers of America and an Arthur Ellis Award from Crime Writers of Canada. She wrote her first ghost story, about a haunted library, when she was in high school, and spent twenty years behind the scenes in the television business before leaving to write full-time. She lives outside Toronto, Canada with her husband and a spoiled cat.

I’ve read a lot of books by Simone St. James at this point but her most recent string of modern paranormal thrillers (The Broken Girls, The Sun Down Motel) have been some of my favorites. This one sounds spectacular and I can’t wait for it!

What are you waiting on this Wednesday?

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Release Day Feature | The Kindred Spirits Supper Club by Amy E. Reichert

Posted April 20, 2021 by Bonnie in Book Reviews, Early Review, Release Day Feature / 3 Comments

I received this book free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Release Day Feature | The Kindred Spirits Supper Club by Amy E. ReichertThe Kindred Spirits Supper Club by Amy E. Reichert
Published by Berkley on April 20, 2021
Pages: 336
Genres: Contemporary Romance, Ghosties
Format: eARC
Source: Netgalley
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Also by this author: The Coincidence of Coconut Cake, The Simplicity of Cider

three-stars

Jobless and forced home to Wisconsin, journalist Sabrina Monroe can tolerate reunions with frenemies and kisses from old boyfriends, but not the literal ghosts that greet her in this heartwarming tale of the power of love and connection from acclaimed author Amy E. Reichert.

For Sabrina Monroe, moving back home to the Wisconsin Dells–the self-described Waterpark Capital of the World–means returning to the Monroe family curse: the women in her family can see spirits who come to them for help with unfinished business. But Sabrina’s always redirected the needy spirits to her mom, who’s much better suited for the job. The one exception has always been Molly, a bubbly rom-com loving ghost, who stuck by Sabrina’s side all through her lonely childhood.

Her personal life starts looking up when Ray, the new local restaurateur, invites Sabrina to his supper club, where he flirts with her over his famous Brandy Old-Fashioneds. He’s charming and handsome, but Sabrina tells herself she doesn’t have time for romance–she needs to focus on finding a job. Except the longer she’s in the Dells, the harder it is to resist her feelings for Ray. Who can turn down a cute guy with a fondness for rescue dogs and an obsession with perfecting his fried cheese curds recipe?

When the Dells starts to feel like home for the first time and with Ray in her corner, Sabrina begins to realize that she can make a difference and help others wherever she is.

About Amy E. Reichert

Amy Reichert earned her MA in Literature from Marquette University, and honed her writing and editing skills as a technical writer (which is exactly as exciting as it sounds). As a newly minted member of the local library board, she loves helping readers find new books to love. She’s a life-long Wisconsin resident with (allegedly) a very noticeable accent, a patient husband, and two too-smart-for-their-own-good kids. When time allows, she loves to read, collect more cookbooks than she could possibly use, and test the limits of her DVR.

“Two days, twenty-three hours, and thirty-two minutes. Almost three full days since Sabrina Monroe had last spoken to someone who wasn’t a relative.”

Introvert extraordinaire, Sabrina’s goal in life is simple: avoid human interaction as much as possible. Her evasion tactics have succeeded up until the point when she finds herself in the middle of a fight at the water park covered in strawberry margarita slush. It’s there that she meets a human named Ray that she actually wants to speak to, but her severe anxiety and her insistence that her stay in Wisconsin is only temporary keep her from thinking that there could actually be something between them. Sabrina’s need to leave Wisconsin and to get back to her real-life centers around her inability to be a part of what makes the females in her family special: they can see spirits. And Ray has moved back to Wisconsin to uncover a long-buried family secret and Sabrina and her abilities may be able to finally bring them to light.

Even though that seems like enough plot for an entire novel, there were (too?) many other facets to this story. Ray has his own complete backstory surrounding the aforementioned family secret, Sabrina has a bully from her school days that still terrorizes her and is the root cause of her debilitating anxiety, and Molly, one of the spirits that Sabrina sees which has become something of a best friend to her, has her own backstory as well. As a result, the plot felt a little busy at times and turned this potentially light-hearted and quirky tale into something unexpectedly heavy. One of my favorite aspects of Reichert’s novels is her delicious depictions of the most mouth-watering sounding foods. Cheese curds took center stage in Kindred Spirits.

‘In a line, he had the curds, flour, and a beer batter – a simple mixture of Spotted Cow beer, flour, salt, pepper, and a dash of cayenne – each in its own tray.”

Reichert posted a cheese curd recipe inspired by the delicious ones mentioned in the novel and if you’re the drinking type, there’s a recipe for a Wisconsin-Style Brandy Old-Fashioned. Both recipes sound to die for.

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Book Review | Betwixt (Betwixt & Between #1) by Darynda Jones

Posted February 28, 2020 by Bonnie in 2020, Adult, Book Reviews / 1 Comment

Book Review | Betwixt (Betwixt & Between #1) by Darynda JonesBetwixt by Darynda Jones
Series: Betwixt & Between #1
Published by Feather & Leaf LLC on February 18, 2020
Pages: 233
Genres: Funny-ha-ha, Paranormal, Witches
Format: eBook
Source: Kindle Unlimited
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Also by this author: First Grave on the Right, For I Have Sinned, Second Grave on the Left

three-stars

A Paranormal Women's Fiction with a bit of class, and a lot of sass, for anyone who feels like age is just a number

Divorced, desperate, and destitute, former restaurateur Defiance Dayne finds out she has been bequeathed a house by a complete stranger. She is surprised, to say the least, and her curiosity gets the better of her. She leaves her beloved Phoenix and heads to one of the most infamous towns in America: Salem, Massachusetts.

She’s only there to find out why a woman she’s never met would leave her a house. A veritable castle that has seen better days. She couldn’t possibly accept it, but the lawyer assigned to the case practically begs her to take it off her hands, mostly because she’s scared of it. The house. The inanimate structure that, as far as Dephne can tell, has never hurt a fly.

Though it does come with some baggage. A pesky neighbor who wants her gone. A scruffy cat who’s a bit of a jerk. And a handyman bathed in ink who could moonlight as a supermodel for GQ.

She decides to give it three days, and not because of the model. She feels at home in Salem. Safe. But even that comes to a screeching halt when people begin knocking on her door day and night, begging for her help to locate their lost objects.

Come to find out, they think she’s a witch. And after a few mysterious mishaps, Dephne is beginning to wonder if they’re right.

I’ve been anxiously awaiting the release of A Bad Day for Sunshine (Darynda’s upcoming release following the end of her Charley Davidson series) so color me surprised when Amazon informs me that Darynda has another new book and it’s available now. And even though I make it a hobby to sign up for Kindle Unlimited and then promptly never use it, I downloaded Betwixt and started it. Same day.

Betwixt introduces us to forty-four-year-old Defiance Dayne who is still reeling from the recent brutal divorce that left her destitute. Drowning in uncertainty about her bleak future, she’s shocked to discover she’s been bestowed an old house in Salem, Massachusetts from an elderly lady she never met named Ruthie Goode. Deciding to take a chance and see this house for herself, she hops in her vintage mint green Volkswagen Beetle and leaves Arizona behind. She arrives to find not only has she been left a house that is named Percival but that the town seems to know more about Defiance than even she does, including the fact that she might just be magical.

You ever finish a story with a smile on your face, thinking about how great it was, how fun it was, when suddenly the critiques start invading your mind and you start realizing all the things that just didn’t work? I’ve often wondered if becoming a book reviewer lessens your enjoyment of a novel because of your natural inclination to analyze the details, sometimes overly so. But I feel that while overanalyzing can uncover the bad it can also help to highlight the good and this book did have both in almost equal measure.

What this book got right… It’s a charming and whimsical type of paranormal mystery with just a hint of a potentially steamy romance. Darynda’s writing style retains its standard ease making this entertaining story one you’ll fly through. It also happens to be overflowing with snark.

“This house is gorgeous, Nette. It’s ancient and dank and dusty, yet it has so much potential?”
“Like your vagina?”
“What’s strange is that, even though Mrs. Goode only passed away three days ago, it’s like no one has entered it in years.”
“Oh, then it’s exactly like your vagina.”

What this book didn’t get right… While I love her Charley Davidson series, the overabundance of parallels between that series and Betwixt cannot be ignored. The snarky meme type chapter headers could be dismissed as a style choice by the author but the characters are literally carbon copies of one another. There’s the super special snowflake lead character, her equally funny side-kick best friend, and the overly protective alpha male love interest who she has a connection to from when they were younger and she saved him as a child. There’s also the fact that the forty-four-year-old sounds nothing like any forty-four-year-old I know, but maybe I’m not hanging with the right crowd. Would these critiques have been such an issue if I hadn’t read Charley Davidson? Maybe not. But if I had read Betwixt first and then picked up her Charley Davidson series then I still would’ve been disappointed by the similarities. While those similarities were quite distracting at times, the witchy plot was enough to retain my interest and I’m still intrigued by the possibilities for where the story could go, I just wish I could view Defiance Dayne as her own character rather than Charley 2.0.

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Waiting on Wednesday – Alien: Echo: An Original Young Adult Novel of the Alien Universe by Mira Grant

Posted October 3, 2018 by Bonnie in Waiting on Wednesday, YA / 6 Comments

Waiting on Wednesday – Alien: Echo: An Original Young Adult Novel of the Alien Universe by Mira GrantAlien: Echo: An Original Young Adult Novel of the Alien Universe by Mira Grant
Published by Imprint on April 9, 2019
Pages: 320
Genres: Sci-fi, Aliens
Format: Hardcover
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Also by this author: Feed, Deadline, Countdown: A Newsflesh Novella

An original young adult novel of the Alien universe

Olivia and her twin sister Viola have been dragged around the universe for as long as they can remember. Their parents, both xenobiologists, are always in high demand for their research into obscure alien biology.

Just settled on a new colony world, they discover an alien threat unlike anything they’ve ever seen. And suddenly the sisters’ world is ripped apart.

On the run from terrifying aliens, Olivia’s knowledge of xenobiology and determination to protect her sister are her only weapons as the colony collapses into chaos. But then a shocking family secret bursts open—one that’s as horrifying to Olivia as the aliens surrounding them.

The creatures infiltrate the rich wildlife on this virgin colony world—and quickly start adapting. Olivia’s going to have to adapt, too, if she’s going to survive...

An Imprint Book

About Mira Grant

Born and raised in Northern California, Mira Grant has made a lifelong study of horror movies, horrible viruses, and the inevitable threat of the living dead. In college, she was voted Most Likely to Summon Something Horrible in the Cornfield, and was a founding member of the Horror Movie Sleep-Away Survival Camp, where her record for time survived in the Swamp Cannibals scenario remains unchallenged.

Mira lives in a crumbling farmhouse with an assortment of cats, horror movies, comics, and books about horrible diseases. When not writing, she splits her time between travel, auditing college virology courses, and watching more horror movies than is strictly good for you. Favorite vacation spots include Seattle, London, and a large haunted corn maze just outside of Huntsville, Alabama.

Mira sleeps with a machete under her bed, and highly suggests that you do the same.

Mira also writes as Seanan McGuire.

Image result for absofuckinglutely gif

What are you waiting on this Wednesday?

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Life’s Too Short – Vox, Pack, Cross Her Heart

Posted September 20, 2018 by Bonnie in Book Reviews, Life's Too Short, Read in 2018 / 10 Comments

I received this book free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Life’s Too Short – Vox, Pack, Cross Her HeartVox by Christina Dalcher
Published by Berkley on August 21, 2018
Pages: 326
Genres: Dystopian/Post-Apocalyptic
Format: eARC
Source: Netgalley
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dnf

Set in an America where half the population has been silenced, VOX is the harrowing, unforgettable story of what one woman will do to protect herself and her daughter.

On the day the government decrees that women are no longer allowed more than 100 words daily, Dr. Jean McClellan is in denial—this can't happen here. Not in America. Not to her.

This is just the beginning.

Soon women can no longer hold jobs. Girls are no longer taught to read or write. Females no longer have a voice. Before, the average person spoke sixteen thousand words a day, but now women only have one hundred to make themselves heard.

But this is not the end.

For herself, her daughter, and every woman silenced, Jean will reclaim her voice.

DNF @ meh? There was a lot of scan-reading.

I haven’t read many of the recent feminist speculative novels cropping up that are clearly taking inspiration from the newly renewed popularity of The Handmaid’s Tale, but I requested this one and I honestly wish I hadn’t. The issue with Vox, in particular, is it doesn’t seem to be written to show society the dangers in an attempt to right future wrongs, but rather to capitalize on the fears of many. In the beginning of Vox, we’re introduced to a world where all females are fitted with a metal bracelet which delivers a shock if the individual goes over their allotted 100 words per day. Paper, pencils, books, all banned. Jean is a mother of three boys and one girl and she mentally contemplates what she could have done differently to avoid the outcome of the world she finds herself living in. The flashbacks she has regarding her grad school roomie warning her against inaction amid the rise of fundamentalism, how religions are wholly evil, and the indirect references to our current president were all a bit too on the nose. It also didn’t help that the second half turned into some blockbuster thriller and if I couldn’t take the novel seriously before, I certainly wasn’t able to at that point. I’m all about driving home the importance of voting but lines like:

“My fault started two decades ago, the first time I didn’t vote … was too busy to go on [a march].”

I mean criminy, talk about subtle. Voting is incredibly important and I believe that everyone should exercise their right to do so. A single vote might not be the decider in a race, or it could, but at the very least you’ve gone out there and made your opinion known. Dalcher was trying to make a good point, that women’s rights are precarious at best, but maybe don’t wrap up your cautionary tale in the cloak of a thriller simply to make it more exciting.

I received this book free from Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Life’s Too Short – Vox, Pack, Cross Her HeartPack by Mike Bockoven
Published by Talos on July 3, 2018
Pages: 272
Genres: Paranormal, Werewolves
Format: eARC
Source: Edelweiss
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dnf

From the author of FantasticLand comes a supernatural thriller set in a sleepy Nebraska town that mixes the novels of Ann Rice and the pulpy, bloody works of Donald Ray Pollock.

Cherry, Nebraska, population 312, is just off the highway between the sticks and the boonies. It’s where Dave Rhodes and his friends have lived all their lives. They own businesses, raise families, pay taxes, deal with odd neighbors and, once or twice a month just like their fathers before them—transform into wolves. It’s not a bad life, but when one of the group members goes astray, it sets in motion a series of events that will threaten to destroy the delicate balance that has kept Dave and his clan off the radar. Between a son getting ready for his first transformation—called The Scratch—a wife with sordid secrets, a new sheriff who knows nothing of the creatures in his midst, and a mysterious man in a bow tie with a shady agenda, the middle of nowhere is about to get very dangerous.

Interspersed with historical documents and newspaper clippings, and court documents that reveal the past of Cherry, Nebraska, a past informed by spirits, the devil, and crooked cops. In the vein of Donald Ray Pollock and Glen Duncan, Pack is at its heart is the story of family’s survival in an unforgiving world. Mike Bockoven’s second novel moves at breakneck speed with prose that hits like an injection of battery acid. Raw, real, and funny, Pack exposes the horror and tenderness that festers in the forgotten corners of the American Dream.

DNF @ 17%

Pack is described as a supernatural thriller and is likened to Anne Rice (Interview with the Vampire) and Donald Ray Pollock (The Devil All the Time). I am typically not a big werewolf story reader, but my brain went a little wild with excitement over the idea of combining Rice and Pollock, two of my favorite authors. First of all, a supernatural thriller this is not. Small town, werewolf family drama? Absolutely. The characters weren’t very memorable and the storyline itself just felt uneventful and it took me many weeks to even get to the measly 17% I made it to. I know that publishers request lines not be included from review copies, so I won’t, however, the state which the review copy was in absolutely played a part in preventing me from finishing this. Maybe that’s unfair, but this read like the very first draft before a single change was made and before spell-check was even run. There were so many glaring errors (spelling, grammar, you name it) that it was unfortunately too distracting. Here’s hoping the finished copy got a high coat of gloss applied with all the errors buffed out.

I received this book free from Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Life’s Too Short – Vox, Pack, Cross Her HeartCross Her Heart by Sarah Pinborough
Published by William Morrow on September 4, 2018
Pages: 352
Genres: Mystery
Format: eARC
Source: Edelweiss
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Also by this author: Mayhem, Murder, The Language of Dying

dnf

Lisa is living a lie and everyone is about to find out.

Lisa lives for her daughter Ava, her job and her best friend Marilyn.

But when a handsome client shows an interest in her, Lisa starts daydreaming about sharing her life with him, too. Maybe she’s ready now. Maybe she can trust again. Maybe it's time to let her terrifying secret past go.

But when her daughter rescues a boy from drowning and their pictures are all over the news for everyone to see, Lisa's world explodes.

As she finds everything she has built threatened, and not knowing who she can trust, it's up to Lisa to face her past in order to save what she holds dear.

But someone has been pulling all their strings. And that someone is determined that both Lisa and Ava must suffer.

Because long ago Lisa broke a promise. And some promises aren't meant to be broken.

DNF @ 24%

After reading (and loving) both Mayhem and Murder, Pinborough was immediately inducted into my auto-read author hall of fame list. There was a brief setback with The Language of Dying (magical realism either REALLY works for me or REALLY doesn’t, there is no in between) but Behind Her Eyes brought me right back to what I love about this author. Which brings me to Cross Her Heart. What’s strange about this one is I read the first 1/4 of this book in a single night and then proceeded to set it down and then completely forgot about it. The storyline alludes to the concept that Lisa and her daughter Ava ran away from something (I’m sure it was all disclosed later in the story) and the story was full of bits and pieces about Lisa refusing to date and how much of a helicopter mom she is and how the mother-daughter duo led a quiet life, but then strange things start popping up from her past that leads Lisa to believe their quiet life isn’t as peaceful as she thought. There wasn’t anything particularly wrong with the story, there just wasn’t anything particularly great. It also didn’t help that it reminded me quite a bit of another mystery I DNF’d earlier this year. I’ll still be keeping my eyes peeled for her next story.

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Waiting on Wednesday – A Room Away From the Wolves by Nova Ren Suma

Posted July 25, 2018 by Bonnie in Waiting on Wednesday / 2 Comments

Waiting on Wednesday – A Room Away From the Wolves by Nova Ren SumaA Room Away From the Wolves by Nova Ren Suma
Published by Algonquin Young Readers on September 4, 2018
Pages: 304
Genres: Magical Realism, Ghosties
Format: Hardcover
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Also by this author: Imaginary Girls, The Walls Around Us

Bina has never forgotten the time she and her mother ran away from home. Her mother promised they would hitchhike to the city to escape Bina’s cruel father and start over. But before they could even leave town, Bina had a new stepfather and two new stepsisters, and a humming sense of betrayal pulling apart the bond with her mother—a bond Bina thought was unbreakable.

Eight years later, after too many lies and with trouble on her heels, Bina finds herself on the side of the road again, the city of her dreams calling for her. She has an old suitcase, a fresh black eye, and a room waiting for her at Catherine House, a young women’s residence in Greenwich Village with a tragic history, a vow of confidentiality, and dark, magical secrets. There, Bina is drawn to her enigmatic downstairs neighbor Monet, a girl who is equal parts intriguing and dangerous. As Bina’s lease begins to run out, and nightmare and memory get tangled, she will be forced to face the terrible truth of why she’s come to Catherine House and what it will take for her to leave...

About Nova Ren Suma

Nova Ren Suma is the author of the YA novels THE WALLS AROUND US as well as the YA novels IMAGINARY GIRLS and 17 & GONE, which were both named 2014 Outstanding Books for the College Bound by YALSA. Her middle-grade novel, DANI NOIR, was reissued for a YA audience under the title FADE OUT. She has a BA in writing & photography from Antioch College and an MFA in fiction from Columbia University and has been awarded fiction fellowships from the New York Foundation for the Arts, the MacDowell Colony, Yaddo, the Djerassi Resident Artists Program, the Millay Colony, and an NEA fellowship for a residency at the Hambidge Center. She worked for years behind the scenes in publishing, at places such as HarperCollins, Penguin, Marvel Comics, and RAW Books, and now she teaches writing workshops. She is from various small towns across the Hudson Valley and lives and writes in New York City.

Find Nova online at novaren.com and on her blog distraction99.com.

I adore Nova Ren Suma’s stories and I’ve been so anxious for new stuff from her!

What are you waiting on this Wednesday?

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Ominous October – The Empty Grave (Lockwood & Co. #5) by Jonathan Stroud

Posted October 5, 2017 by Bonnie in Book Reviews, Ominous October, Read in 2017, YA / 8 Comments

Ominous October – The Empty Grave (Lockwood & Co. #5) by Jonathan StroudThe Empty Grave by Jonathan Stroud
Series: Lockwood & Co. #5
Published by Disney Hyperion on September 12th 2017
Pages: 448
Genres: Horror, Ghosties
Format: Hardcover
Source: Library
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Also by this author: The Screaming Staircase, The Whispering Skull, The Hollow Boy

five-stars

After the dramatic events of The Creeping Shadow, the Lockwood team (plus Quill Kipps) deserve some well-earned rest.

So naturally they break into the Fittes Mausoleum, on a perilous mission to discover the truth about London's top ghost-hunting agency, and its sinister leader.

What they discover will change everything.

But there's little time to ponder. A near-miss at a haunted fairground is only the start - as the Fittes agency closes in on the team, an epic struggle commences.

With the help of some unexpected, and rather ghostly, allies, Lockwood & Co must battle their greatest enemy yet, as they move ever closer to the moment when the earth-shattering secret of 'the problem' will finally be revealed.

Jonathan Stroud once again delivers a rousing adventure full of danger, laughs, twists, and frights. The revelations will send readers back to Book 1 to start the series all over again.

Lockwood & Co. Series

The Screaming Staircase (Lockwood & Co. #1) by Jonathan Stroud [Purchase|Review]
The Whispering Skull (Lockwood & Co. #2) by Jonathan Stroud [Purchase|Review]
The Hollow Boy (Lockwood & Co. #3) by Jonathan Stroud [Purchase|Review]
The Creeping Shadow (Lockwood & Co. #4) by Jonathan Stroud [Purchase|Review]

“It was a time of beginnings, and a time of endings.”

After the events of The Creeping Shadow, the group set off to prove the Skull’s story right: that Marissa Fitts hasn’t actually been laid to rest and she’s been posing as her granddaughter Penelope for years. As the title implies, they do indeed find an empty grave. How Marissa could possibly remain alive and looking as young as she does remains a mystery. The mystery of the empty grave isn’t the only thing occupying their time though. They’re battling the Fitts agency to remain in business when Marissa announces that all small agencies will be absorbed into one and they must also deal with a fairground haunted by La Belle Dame Sans Merci (The Beautiful Lady Without Mercy) who psychically enchain her victims after alluring them with her beauty. Never a dull moment with Lockwood & Co.

“We’ve worked wonders to get here, and we won’t panic now. If we’re right, there won’t be anything to worry about. If we’re wrong, we deal with it, as we always do. […] But we won’t be wrong. We’re on the verge of something big here. It’s going to be good!”

Kipps adjusted his goggles dolefully. “Since when has anything good happened in a crypt? It’s going to be bad by definition.”

It seems rare that a series possesses such a fantastic story in addition to a brilliant cast of characters. It always makes me cringe when books are constantly being compared to Harry Potter, but the friendship dynamic in Lockwood & Co. is certainly comparable. Of course, it also has that Ghostbusters/X-Files angle that sets it apart. Lockwood himself is quite the complex character with a growing death wish that comes to a peak in this final story. His dark backstory gets dealt out in small servings involving a sister that was ghost-touched at a young age and parents that both died under mysterious circumstances. We see all this through the eyes of Lucy and while the two have been developing an almost reluctant romance since the start of the series, it deserves mention that it never overwhelms the story itself or any of the supporting characters. I originally picked this series up because of my love for a good ghost story and while I’m not often scared by them these days, Stroud still manages to include lines that’ll leave tingles down your spine.

“Her jagged mouth opened in welcome; she was like a deep-sea fish swallowing her prey. As she hugged him close, blue veins of ice ran swiftly down his skin. [Name omitted] limbs jerked and thrashed; he tried to speak, but could only make a gargling sound as he was drawn back into the dark.”

Being that this is the series finale, there’s always the issue with wrapping up all loose ends. What happened to Lockwood’s parents? What caused the rampant increase in hauntings in recent years? How has Marissa Fitts managed to retain her youth for so long? Who is the skull in the jar and what will become of him? And of course, what will become of Lockwood & Co.? I’m notoriously displeased with the majority of series endings but I’m so relieved that this wasn’t the case with The Empty Grave since I’ve been a diehard fan from the very beginning. It retained the perfect balance of creepy and humor (with help in that department from Skull) and resolved unanswered questions without giving it that “and they all lived happily ever after” type of ending that I so dislike. I started Ominous October back in 2014 and The Screaming Staircase was one of the first books I posted about. It’s always heartbreaking to see an amazing story come to an end but I was so pleased to see these fantastic characters get the story they deserve. Lockwood, Lucy, George, Holly, and even Kipps… but I’ll still miss Skull the most.

“These spirits are a bit showy,” the skull said. “All that hooting and cackling. You don’t see me doing that. I ask you, where’s the class?”

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Waiting on Wednesday – The World of Lore: Monstrous Creatures by Aaron Mahnke

Posted September 27, 2017 by Bonnie in Waiting on Wednesday / 10 Comments

Waiting on Wednesday – The World of Lore: Monstrous Creatures by Aaron MahnkeThe World of Lore: Monstrous Creatures by Aaron Mahnke
Published by Del Rey on October 10, 2017
Pages: 320
Genres: Horror, Paranormal
Format: Hardcover
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A fascinating, beautifully illustrated guide to the monsters that are part of our collective psyche, from the host of the hit podcast Lore, soon to be an online streaming series.

They live in shadows--deep in the forest, late in the night, in the dark recesses of our minds. They're spoken of in stories and superstitions, relics of an unenlightened age, old wives' tales, passed down through generations. Yet no matter how wary and jaded we have become, as individuals or as a society, a part of us remains vulnerable to them: werewolves and wendigos, poltergeists and vampires, angry elves and vengeful spirits.

In this beautifully illustrated volume, the host of the hit podcast Lore serves as a guide on a fascinating journey through the history of these terrifying creatures, exploring not only the legends but what they tell us about ourselves. Aaron Mahnke invites us to the desolate Pine Barrens of New Jersey, where the notorious winged, red-eyed Jersey Devil dwells. He delves into harrowing accounts of cannibalism--some officially documented, others the stuff of speculation . . . perhaps. He visits the dimly lit rooms where seances take place, the European villages where gremlins make mischief, even Key West, Florida, home of a haunted doll named Robert.

In a world of "emotional vampires" and "zombie malls," the monsters of folklore have become both a part of our language and a part of our collective psyche. Whether these beasts and bogeymen are real or just a reflection of our primal fears, we know, on some level, that not every mystery has been explained and that the unknown still holds the power to strike fear deep in our hearts and souls. As Aaron Mahnke reminds us, sometimes the truth is even scarier than the lore.

Praise for the Lore podcast

"Truth can often be much scarier than fiction--something Mahnke proves as he dives deep into the world of folklore and the darker side of history in a quest to root out the fragment of truth at the bottom of our fears."
--Entertainment Weekly

"Unlike so much horror that needs over-the-top viscera to scare you, this podcast leans on history--folklore, myth, the stuff people once thought was true--to tell its tales."
--The Atlantic

"Narrated by Mahnke in a style that evokes spooky campfire stories, Lore is a history lesson like no other."--Esquire

About Aaron Mahnke

Aaron Mahnke is the creator, producer, and host of the hit podcast Lore (Best of iTunes 2015 & 2016), Executive Producer of the Lore television show on Amazon (from the producers of The Walking Dead), and author of The World of Lore book series (Penguin Random House / Del Rey).

Born and raised in Illinois, Aaron now lives with his wife and children on the historic North Shore of Boston, where he writes and records full-time.

The Lore podcast is so good and damn but if I wish I had Amazon prime for the upcoming show. I’ll just have to be content with this fantastic sounding book that is going to be a perfect October read.

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What are you waiting on this Wednesday?

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Short & Sweet (Fantasies) – A Local Habitation, Feverborn, Wildest Dreams

Posted March 10, 2017 by Bonnie in Adult, Book Reviews, Read in 2017, Short & Sweet Reviews / 11 Comments

Short & Sweet (Fantasies) – A Local Habitation, Feverborn, Wildest DreamsA Local Habitation by Seanan McGuire
Series: October Daye #2
Published by DAW on March 2nd 2010
Pages: 390
Genres: Urban Fantasy, Fae
Format: eBook
Source: Library
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Also by this author: Indexing, Rosemary and Rue, Night and Silence

three-half-stars

Now comes the second in the series-from a dynamic new fantasy talent!
Toby Daye-a half-human, half-fae changeling-has been an outsider from birth. After getting burned by both sides of her heritage, Toby has denied the fae world, retreating to a "normal" life. Unfortunately for her, the Faerie world had other ideas...

Now her liege, the Duke of the Shadowed Hills, has asked Toby to go to the Country of Tamed Lightening to make sure all is well with his niece,

Countess January O'Leary. It seems like a simple enough assignment-until Toby discovers that someone has begun murdering people close to January, and that if the killer isn't stopped, January may be the next victim.


“Jan built herself an ivory tower to keep the wolves out; she never dreamed they were already inside.”

Now that Toby Daye has her PI license back, things are looking up for her. After a girls night out that leads to Tybalt carrying her home (!!!), Toby wakes up to a request from Sylvester, the Duke of Shadowed Hills, that she can’t decline. Sylvester has been unable to reach his niece, the Countess January O’Leary, in the Country of Tamed Lightning. Several weeks have passed without word from her and he’s unable to personally check on her without inciting a political war, so he’s requesting that Toby go in his place. She arrives to find that no one has been able to call for help outside of Tamed Lightning, people have been dying, and the killer is still unknown even as more bodies pile up. Toby refuses to back down without figuring out what’s happening to January and her people.

While the storyline of A Local Habitation drug along at the pace of a snail, it’s the awesome characters that really make this series for me. I love Toby and I love Tybalt. Danny, the Bridge Troll taxi driver was, unfortunately, absent but we got to see her two hilarious cats briefly and the recent pet addition: Spike the rose goblin (who apparently looks like a cat made from a rosebush but I missed that in the original introduction so I just imagine it as this small, round rosebush that just bounces around.) The story itself reads like some campy horror film where individuals keep getting picked off, the others rush to see if they could catch the person, they never do, repeat ad nauseam. There are some pretty obvious clues that happen early on, Toby’s refusal to get out of danger was just stupid, and the mystery was drawn out for far too long. Regardless, the characters remain the big appeal to me and I’m still so glad I gave this series another shot.

Short & Sweet (Fantasies) – A Local Habitation, Feverborn, Wildest DreamsFeverborn by Karen Marie Moning
Series: Fever #8
Published by Delacorte Press on January 19th 2016
Pages: 512
Genres: Urban Fantasy, Fae
Format: eBook
Source: Library
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Also by this author: Beyond the Highland Mist, Iced, Burned

three-half-stars

In Karen Marie Moning’s latest installment of the epic #1 New York Times bestselling Fever series, the stakes have never been higher and the chemistry has never been hotter. Hurtling us into a realm of labyrinthine intrigue and consummate seduction, FEVERBORN is a riveting tale of ancient evil, lust, betrayal, forgiveness and the redemptive power of love.

When the immortal race of the Fae destroyed the ancient wall dividing the worlds of Man and Faery, the very fabric of the universe was damaged and now Earth is vanishing bit by bit. Only the long-lost Song of Making—a haunting, dangerous melody that is the source of all life itself—can save the planet.

But those who seek the mythic Song—Mac, Barrons, Ryodan and Jada—must contend with old wounds and new enemies, passions that burn hot and hunger for vengeance that runs deep. The challenges are many: The Keltar at war with nine immortals who’ve secretly ruled Dublin for eons, Mac and Jada hunted by the masses, the Seelie queen nowhere to be found, and the most powerful Unseelie prince in all creation determined to rule both Fae and Man. Now the task of solving the ancient riddle of the Song of Making falls to a band of deadly warriors divided among—and within—themselves.

Once a normal city possessing a touch of ancient magic, Dublin is now a treacherously magical city with only a touch of normal. And in those war-torn streets, Mac will come face to face with her most savage enemy yet: herself.

“What we achieve at our best moment doesn’t say much about who we are. It all boils down to what we become at our worst moment.”

Feverborn is the penultimate installment of the Fever series, but then again Moning tried ending it once before and we see how well that stuck. Finding out that Feversong was the last of the series prompted a renewed interest in finding out how it’s all going to get resolved (except, there is a tenth installment listed on Goodreads but apparently it’s not actually happening. WE’LL SEE.) Iced was a complete disaster, Burned was mildly better, but Feverborn actually started feeling like the series I’d always loved again.

Mac continues to be unsure of herself in regards to the Sinsar-Dubh, not able to tell whether or not she’s living a complete illusion created by the evil book. The entire city is at risk from Black Holes that consume anything and everything which the Hoar Frost King left behind from the absence of his power. And underneath the Abbey, Cruce is slowly trying to figure out a way to escape his prison and rule all Fae. In the opening pages, Mac is still invisible and I did an eye roll and reconsidered my decision to pick this up. If you remember, she was invisible the majority of Burned which got real fucking old, real fast. But craziness ensues and she finds herself fully visible once again for unknown reasons and while I would normally question the whys and such, I was just so damn pleased she was visible again so she could hopefully get back to business. And that she did.

The points of view alternated between Mac, Ryodan, Jada, Cruce, and Lor, which the latter felt completely out of place and unnecessary but I admit he did add some mild (yet highly sexualized) sense of humor to this dark tale. And of course Mac and Barrons continue to be mad for each other.

Every cell in my body comes to hard, frantic, sexual life when he’s near.’

There were a few serious issues plot-wise that really detracted from the more positive aspects of this installment. First, the scenes from the past between the Unseelie King and Seelie Queen that were supposed to hint at what’s been happening all along but just confused things even more. Second, which is a major spoiler View Spoiler » And lastly, that ending was just weird and random. View Spoiler » And of course, another cliffhanger! BECAUSE WHY NOT. I can’t say I’m excited for the final installment, but I’m definitely curious to see how this unintentional extension of this series ends up playing out.

Short & Sweet (Fantasies) – A Local Habitation, Feverborn, Wildest DreamsWildest Dreams by Kristen Ashley
Series: Fantasyland #1
Published by Self-Published on August 15th 2011
Pages: 563
Genres: Fantasy Romance
Format: eBook
Source: Purchased
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Also by this author: The Golden Dynasty

four-stars

Seoafin "Finnie" Wilde was taught by her parents that life was meant to be lived, every breath was a treasure and to seek every adventure she could find. And she learns this lesson the hard way when they perish in a plane crash when she's fifteen. But she never forgets and when she discovers there is a parallel universe where every person has a twin, she finds a witch who can send her there so she can see her parents again and have the adventure of a lifetime.

But nearly upon arrival in the Winter Wonderland of Lunwyn, she realizes she's been played by her twin of the alternate universe and shortly finds herself walking down the aisle to be wed to The Drakkar.

Instantly thrown into inauspicious circumstances, with years of practice (she did, of course, survive that elephant stampede, if she could do that, she can do anything), Finnie bests the challenges and digs into her adventure. But as Frey Drakkar discovers the woman who is his new wife is not Princess Sjofn, a woman he dislikes (intensely) but instead, his Finnie, a free-spirit with a thirst for venture just like him (not to mention she is his destiny), without her knowledge he orders his new bride bound to his frozen world, everlasting.


I expected Wildest Dreams to remain on my TBR for a very long time, even after it was recommended to fans of A Court of Mist and Fury. It was $0.99 so I snagged it. I have a hard time saying no to most $0.99 books, even though I’m terrible about getting to the actual reading them part. It was hook, line, and sinker when I found out what this story (and series) was about — there is a parallel universe to our world where your twin resides. Finnie, wanting to find adventure, pays a witch to switch her with her twin so she could reside in this fantasy realm for at least a short time. Imagine her great surprise when she finds herself in this new world, minutes from marriage to an angry, brooding man that she’s never laid eyes on before.

First off, these books are long. But fun. And allllll kinds of romance-y. Finnie had some pretty cheesy dialogue that took me a while to get used to (she says cool and freaking entirely way too much) and there’s some serious alpha-male-ness going on, but when it all comes down to it the world-building was actually pretty awesome and the romance was all sorts of cute.

“You are, my wee Finnie, beyond my wildest dreams.”

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