Review: Ruthless Gods (Something Dark and Holy #2) by Emily A. Duncan

Ruthless Gods (Something Dark and Holy, #2)Ruthless Gods by Emily A. Duncan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Ruthless Gods, the second installment of Emily A. Duncan’s debut YA Fantasy trilogy, Something Dark and Holy, continues to bring the dark atmosphere I cherish.

Significantly darker than your average YA Fantasy, this second book especially, toed the line of Horror and I’m here for it.

Our three main characters, Nadya, Serefin and Malachiasz, return and, y’all, they go through it.

This world is hella brutal. The magic, the landscape, it seems everything is out to get them, maybe even each other.

I enjoyed the character growth in this sequel, as each of them is faced with their own private battles. As they seemingly grow closer towards one another, outside forces are simultaneously pushing them apart.

Each is conflicted with their own demons, causing conflict amongst them. Meddlesome Gods play them like pawns in a game. The intensity is constant.

This was definitely an action-packed ride!

I’ll admit, I wish I would have taken the time to go back and review the first novel, particularly the ending, prior to picking this one up.

Up to around the 50% point of this book, I was confused. I was enjoying it, but it was a confused enjoyment.

My plan is to reread the first two books prior to the release of the third. I absolutely will be following through with this until its, no doubt, brutal conclusion.

I love this world. Based on an Eastern European culture and landscape, I find that the aspects of terrain and local folklore and legends, really add to my overall enjoyment of the story.

If you are a fan of Grimdark Fantasy, Blood Magic and Gods who manipulate the greater worlds around them, then you should definitely pick this series up!

Thank you so much to the publisher, Wednesday Books, for providing me with a copy to read and review. I appreciate it so much!

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Blog Tour: Sister Dear by Hannah Mary McKinnon

Sister DearSister Dear by Hannah Mary McKinnon
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**3.5-stars rounded up**

As her beloved Dad lay in his death bed at a local hospice, Eleanor Hardwicke, overhears a family secret that challenges everything she thought she knew about her life.

It turns out that her Dad, the closest person to her in the world, isn’t actually her biological father.

She can’t believe it. She feels so betrayed, he has lied to her for her entire life.

She would expect something like that from her mother, who is an absolutely vile woman, but her Dad? It’s a complete shock. One she doesn’t take well.

In the days that follow, she’s torn apart by how she behaved; kicking herself for her harsh reaction.

It’s too late for her to make it up to her Dad, so there’s nothing left to do but learn about her biological father, right?

When she discovers who he is, she can’t believe it!

A influential real estate magnate who owns half of the city she lives in, Portland, Maine.

In fact, he lives in Portland as well, with his beautiful wife. The power couple have a grown daughter, Victoria, meaning Eleanor has a half-sister she has never known.

Upon further investigation, she discovers Victoria is everything she is not: stunning, successful and married to an extremely handsome man.

The narrative follows Eleanor as she slowly infiltrates Victoria’s life.

The tension steadily builds, as you know this cannot end well!

Sister Dear is an intense Domestic Drama that kept me glued to the pages. I read this so quickly, I had to discover what would happen to Eleanor.

While definitely a quirky, slight unreliable narrator, I couldn’t help but be drawn in by Eleanor. I found her character to be so interesting.

Far from perfect, there was a lot going on there. Her relationship with her mother, that made me feel for her right from the start.

There were times when I want to reach through the pages, grab her by the shoulders and shake her! Why are you making these choices, Eleanor!?!?

As you race towards the conclusion, everything gets flipped upside down. The plot twist was so fun. I didn’t see it coming!

For me, the end was great. It definitely left me with an evil grin on my face, which is absolutely how I like to wrap-up my dramatic reads!

Thank you so much to the publisher, MIRA, for providing me with a copy of this to read and review, as well as including me in the Blog Tour for the release.

Hannah Mary McKinnon has a new fan in me. I look forward to reading more from her in the future!

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Review: The Earthling’s Brother by Earik Beann

The Earthling's BrotherThe Earthling’s Brother by Earik Beann
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

It all begins when an attractive naked man stumbles into the hotel where Maria works.

It’s very late at night, and with nothing better to do, she engages him in conversation.

Initially thinking he’s high as a kite, she sets him up with some clothes from the Lost and Found and a place to sleep it off. Her hope is that with time, whatever he has gotten into will wear off.

Unfortunately, when her shift ends, he’s still not making any sense. Maybe he needs food.

She takes him with her to a local diner for breakfast. Deeper into the conversation, she finally realizes this man, who she has christened, Sam, may not be of Earth.

After he heals a local homeless man who has been in a wheelchair for years, unable to walk, and gifted him a toilet made of solid gold, others around them begin to take notice.

It just so happens, Sam’s first miracle is performed directly in front of a police station. Not good.

Their first interactions with the police do not go well.

Maria, an immigrant, who it is clear they do not trust, is unable to get them to listen to her. Sam, well, he quickly gets branded a terrorist and all hell breaks loose.

Sam’s alien brother, Mustafa, who happens to look like a purple octopus, joins Maria and Sam as they flee from federal agents and try to save the world from The Authority, an alien power set on terraforming the planet.

If this plot sounds confusing, I assure you, while you reading it, it is not. It all makes total sense.

Just trying to summarize it is difficult, as it is such a wildly creative story.

My favorite aspect was Mustafa. He was so funny! I love him. Him and Sam definitely brought the humor to the narrative.

My only slight critique is that it felt like the ending was rushed. There was quite a bit of build up and the conclusion happened extremely quickly.

This being said, I did enjoy the content of the actual ending. It was cute, like having a little bow tie it all up.

Beann’s writing is compelling. I find his stories read really fast and they are full of action, humor and heart.

If you are looking for a quick, unique, standalone SciFi read, you should definitely give this book a shot. It’s quite enjoyable!

Thank you so much to the author, Earik Beann, for providing me with a copy of this to read and review.

I appreciate it very much!

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Review: Murder, She Wrote: The Murder of Twelve by Jessica Fletcher and Jon Land

The Murder of Twelve (Murder She Wrote #51)The Murder of Twelve by Jessica Fletcher
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Channeling heavy, And Then There Were None vibes, The Murder of Twelve, the 51st book in the beloved Murder, She Wrote series, brings almost everything I love in a Cozy Mystery to the table.

This was ridiculously good fun and kept me glued to the pages well into the night!

In this installment, we find Jessica Fletcher calling the Hill House Hotel in Cabot Cover her home.

Her house is currently under repairs and she has been making due at the ritzy local hotel.

On the eve of the blizzard of a century, guests begin to check in for a destination wedding weekend.

Jessica has her doubts that the wedding will even be able to happen, what with the massive storm front blowing in. Nonetheless, she ends up befriending some of the guests and even gets invited to attend.

The first night includes the rehearsal dinner and even though the bride and groom have yet to show, the dinner will go on.

Jessica dutifully attends and as with many events she has attended before, an attempted murder occurs.

As the storm rages outside, bodies start dropping as fast as snowflakes and Jessica needs to put her crime solving abilities to the test!

This was an absolute blast to read. As you begin to learn about the guests for the wedding, you just know it is going to be a juicy conclusion. It did not disappoint.

While I could still tell that this wasn’t written by the late and great, Donald Bain, I felt that the new author for the series, Jon Land, is starting to get into a groove with these characters and setting.

Land is an experienced author and I know the more he contributes with this series, the more it will continue to grow with him.

I know that long-time fans of this series will absolutely enjoy this installment.

If you have never read a book in this series, just know, you can start anywhere. These books can be read out of order and this is as good a place to start as any!

Also, if you like a good old-fashioned, locked-room mystery, you should absolutely check this one out.

Bonus points, if you love stories where the characters become stranded somewhere due to inclement weather. Oddly specific, but it is a trope I gravitate towards often!

Thank you so much to the publisher, Berkley Publishing, for providing me with a copy to read and review.

I have been a fan of this series for decades and will continue to read them as long as they are printed. A special thank you as well, to the author, Jon Land, for continuing on the tradition and investigatory prowess of Ms. Jessica Fletcher!

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Blog Tour: This is How I Lied by Heather Gudenkauf

This is How I LiedThis is How I Lied by Heather Gudenkauf
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**3.5-stars rounded up**

This is how I lied, and this is my truth.

In 1995, 15-year old, Eve Knox was murdered in a cave walking distance from her house.

When she doesn’t arrive home that night, her Mom panics and sends people out looking for her.

Her best friend, Maggie, teams up with Eve’s little sister, Nola, and they ultimately end up finding her body.

Neither girl will ever forget that night.

Twenty-five years later, Maggie, has followed in her Father’s footsteps and is now a detective in her hometown.

Around eight months pregnant, she is currently working desk duty, when new evidence is found related to Eve’s case.

The boot Eve was wearing on the night of her death has been discovered.

The hope is that with new advancements in forensic science, they will be able to extract some DNA that could finally lead to the killer.

The sudden resurgence of interest in the case begins to take its toll on Maggie.

She becomes slightly obsessed with it all over again and starts doing some digging of her own.

The secrets that come to light, it’s a lot. Secrets involving multiple characters.

I had some serious jaw drop moments while reading this.

This is How I Lied is a quick, compelling read.

If you are looking for something to get your mind off real life for a while, look no further. This is it!

I will be honest, there were definitely some elements in this that made me uncomfortable.

Specifically, Nola, Eve’s sister, is a very disturbing character. There are some aspects of her personality that at times, made me want to close this book and never pick it back up again. But I needed to know the truth!

There were also times when I was uncomfortable with Maggie’s pregnancy and the risks she was taking caused some anxiety for me.

As the story unfolds, however, it becomes clear as to why she feels so compelled.

This is a wild story. It is dynamic and engaging.

Oh, the secrets of a small town. You never know what you are going to dig up!

Thank you so much to the publisher, Park Row Press, for providing me with a copy to read and review.

It was a wicked fun read!

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Review: Star Wars Queen’s Peril by E.K. Johnston

Queen's Peril (Star Wars)Queen’s Peril by E.K. Johnston
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**4.5-stars**

Queen’s Peril, when it releases on June 2, 2020, will be the newest addition to the Disney Star Wars Canon.

The events in this novel take place after the events of Master and Apprentice and just before the film, The Phantom Menace.

In fact, to my surprise, the last quarter of the book runs parallel to The Phantom Menace.

It is not a novelization of the events in the movie, it’s more of an expansion.

With that bit of timeline info out of the way, let’s get into this story, shall we?

At just 14-years old, Padme Naberrie is elected Queen of Naboo. Her parents exposed her early to civic duty and the idea that she could one day be Queen never felt far-fetched to her.

After her election, the Head of Security Forces for Naboo, Quarsh Panaka devises a plan to select special handmaidens for the Queen.

These handmaidens will be a lot more than meets they eye. They will actually serve as body doubles and protection.

Each one, chosen with care by Panaka himself, brings a different skill to the table. Together they make quite a team.

A large portion of the story is learning about the girls and how they contribute to the function of the Queen’s reign.

It was interesting to follow as these girls go from being strangers, to companions and ultimately, to friends.

As Naboo becomes threatened by the Trade Federation, maneuverings take place to secure the Queen and gain help for Naboo.

Once the events begin to align with those of The Phantom Menace, we get more insights into what was going on behind the scenes during Padme’s flight from Naboo.

E.K. Johnston writes with such care and skill within the Star Wars universe.

You can tell that she knows the ins-and-outs of this world, complex as it is, and that she is equally passionate about it as we are as readers.

I loved the subtle feel of the narrative. It’s a character driven story, although the action does pick up towards the end, and I feel like I learned a lot.

Some of the highlights for me were learning about each of the handmaidens, why they were chosen and what their specific skills were.

I also liked the little cameos of beloved characters popping up throughout, including Yoda, Anakin, Qui Gon and Jar Jar Binks.

Senator Palpatine is also explored in greater depth here which I loved.

The duality of his character is so freaking interesting and the way Johnston wrote from his perspective was perfection!

Overall, this book is a joy to read and for Padme fans, an absolute gift!

Thank you so much to the publisher, Disney Lucasfilm Press, for providing me with a copy to read and review.

I had already preordered my copy prior to receiving my ARC and was beyond the moon excited to be able to get my hands on it early!

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Review: In the Role of Brie Hutchens by Nicole Melleby

In the Role of Brie Hutchens...In the Role of Brie Hutchens… by Nicole Melleby
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**4.5-stars**

Brie Hutchens is a dramatic girl, but she sort of has to be!

She wants to be an actress and she’s learned most of her craft from the Soaps she watches with her Mom.

As an 8th grader, she currently has her sights set on the school play, which she will use as a stepping stone for her application to a Performing Arts High School.

Additionally, at her private Catholic School, it is tradition for one of the 8th grade students to ‘crown Mary’ at a May Crowning ceremony. An acting gig of sorts. Perhaps she could do that too?

One afternoon, her mom catches her looking at scandalous photos of her favorite Soap star, Kelly Monaco, and she sort of jumps the gun on the crowning Mary thing. She tells her Mom, in haste, that she has been selected for the honor.

Her Mother, distracted by this tremendous news, seemingly forgets about the dirty photos. Crisis averted.

Unfortunately, this is just the tip of the iceberg for poor Brie.

In the Role of Brie Hutchens is an Own-Voices LGBTQ+ Middle Grade story that examines one girl’s discovery of her own sexual identity while trying to navigate the complexities of family, friendship and faith.

It’s a lot to juggle for anyone at any age, but for Brie the complexities quickly begin to feel overwhelming.

My heart absolutely ached for Brie. You can tell, as the reader, how personal this story is. It is written from the heart with passion, and compassion, for any young person dealing with a less than sympathetic world while they try to discover their truth.

For the first few chapters, I wasn’t sure how I was going to feel about Brie.

The drama is real people, but as the story continues, you learn, that is just who Brie is. She certainly doesn’t mean anything by it. It is absolutely how she deals with the world around her.

With each turn of the page, my heart was more attached to her. I yearned for it all to just be okay. In my opinion, Melleby is absolutely brilliant at eliciting such emotions from her readers.

This was true for Hurricane Season and I believe it will be the same here.

The relationships in this book, particularly between Brie and her Mom, they were so moving. I have no words to describe how poignant those scenes were.

I would highly recommend this to anyone looking for a sweet, yet deep, coming out tale. Some scenes were uncomfortable, but I believe the overall take away is worth it.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Algonquin Young Readers, for providing me with a copy of this to read and review.

I will continue to read anything Melleby has published. She is a gem!

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Review: Sal and Gabi Fix the Universe (Sal and Gabi #2) by Carlos Hernandez

Sal and Gabi Fix the Universe (Sal and Gabi, #2)Sal and Gabi Fix the Universe by Carlos Hernandez
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**4.5-stars**

My favorite Middle Grade magician, Sal Vidon, returns in this second installment of the Sal and Gabi series.

Pairing with his whirlwind best friend, Gabi Real, and their wild and wacky families, this installment continues to bring the humor and good heart.

There is no other way to describe these stories, but: FUN, FUN, FUN!!

Low-key scifi ideas are explored and allow for a lot of flexibility with reality. Magical and heartwarming, I think so many kids are going to fall in love with these characters.

Even as an adult reader, I was fully engaged the entire way through. You just never know where it is going or what is going to happen next.

There are so many important lessons woven throughout as well; just tidbits on how to be a good human and put your most positive side out to the world.

Sal and Gabi attend a private school in Miami called, Cuelco. My interpretation is that it is a kind of performing arts school. This school is an absolute utopia for kids that are different.

I love reading everything about the school and how it functioned. The kids in this one prepare a performance for their parents based on Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and it was EVERYTHING!

Although I did enjoy this so, so much, I didn’t love it quite as much as I did the first book. It did have all of the humor, seriously, I laugh all the time reading from Sal’s perspective, and all of the great characters, but I found the plot to be a little choppy.

It didn’t flow as well as the first one did scene-to-scene, in my opinion. Obviously, this is coming from the perspective of an adult, I think for kids reading this, they will likely not feel that same way.

Overall, I am obsessed with this Middle Grade series. I am not sure how many more of these books are in the works, but I do know, I will read any that are released!

Thank you so much to the publisher, Disney Book Group and Rick Riordan Presents, for providing me with a copy of this to read and review. I appreciate the opportunity!

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Review: Little Secrets by Jennifer Hillier

Little SecretsLittle Secrets by Jennifer Hillier
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Marin Machado is a boss.

A successful business woman, owning upscale hair salons catering to the stars, she is confident and happy.

Her equally successful and handsome husband, Derek, is also a business owner and the couple has a little boy, Sebastian, who is the light of their lives.

Marin has it all.

That is until someone nabs Sebastian from a busy shopping center just prior to the Christmas holiday.

In the blink of an eye, Marin and Derek’s world shatters. Devastated by Sebastian’s disappearance, they both retreat into themselves to deal with their pain and grief.

When the police investigation goes nowhere, Marin hires a PI to continue the search.

Over a year later, the private investigator uncovers something, but it isn’t about her son. It’s about her husband.

As further secrets are revealed the lines between love and hate begin to blur. A woman spurned is a serious force to be reckoned with and Marin has nothing to lose.

Her best friend, Sal, and a grief support group she is a part of, are Marin’s only real connections anymore. She feels so distant from Derek.

But who can she trust?

I had so much fun reading this book. It was captivating from the very first chapter.

I loved Marin’s character. All of her flaws and grief. I found her to be complex, yet relatable.

While I did guess one of the reveals earlier than I expect the reader is supposed to, it didn’t diminsh my enjoyment level at all.

I thought going along with Marin on her journey, as she learns the truth of her husband’s betrayal and what happened to her son, was so satisfying.

Hillier really impressed me with this one. My favorite Thriller of the year so far, I would say.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Minotaur Books, for providing me with a copy of this to read and review. I cannot wait to see what Jennifer Hillier dreams up next!

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Review: The New Husband by D.J. Palmer

The New HusbandThe New Husband by D.J. Palmer
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Close to two years after her husband, Glen, goes missing, Nina Garrity is doing her best to put her life back together. She feels betrayed that he would just ditch her and their two children, Connor and Maggie.

In spite of this, when Simon Fitch walks into her life, she is charmed by him and suddenly ready to try love again.

Not everyone is pleased with this development. Particularly, her daughter, Maggie, whose precocious perspective we get throughout the novel, alternating with Nina’s.

Maggie’s perspective was definitely my favorite to read from. Sure, she’s sassy, but she’s thirteen and wise beyond her years. I found her to be an astute judge of character and considering the circumstances, I cherished her defiance.

When Nina and Simon buy a house together, the living environment becomes quite tense. Connor, Maggie’s older brother, really likes Simon. He believes his Father is dead and he is looking to move on, just as Nina is.

However, Maggie believes her Father is still out there and doesn’t understand why her Mother would just give up on him. Allowing Simon into their family seems like a hasty decision, as far as she is concerned, not to mention the fact that the guy is a complete creep. As a result, she’s fairly combative.

As a reader, it doesn’t take long before you begin to notice that Maggie is on to something. Simon’s behavior is definitely far from normal.

He’s clearly manipulating Nina, gaslighting her and distancing her from her friends, but why? Not only are his behaviors bizarre, they’re also dangerous. You start to fear for everyone in that house.

Full of twists, I mean, absolutely full of twists, I really had a fun time with this book. I loved the perspective shifts and seeing the story be pieced together that way was so intense.

I’ll agree with some earlier reviewers that it was a bit far-fetched as far as some of the plot twists went, but who cares? It was a wild ride and a great way to escape from life for a while. That’s always what I am looking for in a book. I want to get swept up in it, and this definitely provided that.

While it wasn’t perfect for me, it was pretty darn close. I find Palmer’s writing to be super compelling. He absolutely knows how to pull you in.

Thank you so much to the publisher, St. Martin’s Press, for providing me with a copy to read and review. I appreciate it and look forward to reading more from this author!

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