Review: Ghost Wood Song by Erica Waters

Ghost Wood SongGhost Wood Song by Erica Waters
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

**4.5-stars rounded up**

Mood. This book is a mood and I loved it!!

Shady Grove is a fiddle-playing high school girl, who has been struggling a bit since her father’s untimely death.

Her mother has since remarried and her step-dad, Jim, has a contentious relationship with Shady’s older brother, Jesse. This makes life at home far from peaceful.

Shady finds respite practicing her fiddle in the woods surrounding their trailer. At least for a while.

She’s also in a band with her best friends, Sarah and Orlando. While Shady enjoys playing with them, she really wants to play just bluegrass, the music she was raised on, but they have a different opinion; especially Sarah.

Making matters worse is the fact that Shady and Sarah were an almost couple. It never ended up happening and now it feels like there is a giant elephant in the room every time they are together.

When they compete in an open mic night and a boy in a rival band catches Shady’s eye, it seems like things may finally explode with Sarah.

Shady hardly has time to focus on that however, when something much more serious happens.

Her brother, Jesse, gets arrested; accused of murder.

Shady recognizes her brother has a temper and he admittedly, hasn’t been in the best place mentally as of late, but she also knows he could never do this.

Remembering the stories her father used to tell her, how he could channel spirits by playing his fiddle, Shady decides there’s only one thing for her to do.

She needs to find her Dad’s old fiddle and raise the spirit of the person Jesse is said to have killed. That way she can ask him what happened to him and use that knowledge to help free Jesse. Sounds fairly simple, right?

This novel has so many elements that I traditionally love.

There’s the storyline featuring music and musicians, a murder, a haunted old farmhouse, long-buried family secrets, a beautifully-constructed love triangle for our bi-girl protagonist and a haunting, gritty setting.

Tie all of this together with Erica Waters exceptional writing, how could I not absolutely love this story?

I was drawn in from the very start. Some of her descriptions of music, what it is like playing music, the way it can overtake your body; gahhhhhh, it was so well done.

The murder mystery was interesting and just added another level to an already intriguing tale.

Additionally, I loved how Waters weaved in the lore surrounding Shady’s family and their obviously haunted property. Shady’s Aunt Ena was one of my favorite characters.

Then there’s the overriding grief that permeates this entire story. It’s morose, it’s lyrical, it’s so many wonderful things.

I do recognize this story will not be for everyone, but for me and my tastes, it was close to perfection. I would respectfully and lovingly refer to this as a type of Hillbilly Noir. It’s enchanting and I can’t get enough of it.

I cannot wait to check out more of this author’s work! If I love any of it half as much as this one, I will be a happy girl.

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Catalyst (Star Wars): A Rogue One Story by James Luceno

Catalyst (Star Wars): A Rogue One StoryCatalyst (Star Wars): A Rogue One Story by James Luceno
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Catalyst: A Rogue One Story, while admittedly not my favorite, was still a good story. I can appreciate all the fine details it adds to the larger picture.

It’s probably my fault for picking this up directly after, Dark Disciple, which I absolutely loved!!!

This is a prequel novel to the Rogue One film.

Basically it follows Orson Krennic, part of Chancellor Palpatine’s Death Star Project, along with brilliant scientist, Galen Erso and his family.

This had a lot more technical details and political maneuverings than character work and drama, but as I said, it was still good.

I’m glad I read it as it provides a solid backdrop for the events of Rogue One, an immediate prequel to A New Hope; probably only necessary, or interesting, to hardcore fans.

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Review: The Phantom Menace (Star Wars Novelizations, #1) by Terry Brooks

The Phantom Menace (Star Wars: Novelizations, #1)The Phantom Menace by Terry Brooks
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**4.5-stars**

This is a fantastic novelization of one of my go-to flicks, The Phantom Menace. Terry Brooks did a phenomenal job bringing the action and political intrigue to the page!

Admittedly, I am slightly obsessed with the movie The Phantom Menace. Poke fun at me if you must.

I’ve watched the movie a zillion times, so I figured I should probably check out the novelization.

It was only then that I discovered it was adapted into book form by the renowned Fantasy author, Terry Brooks!?

If you’ve seen the movie, there will be no great surprises here, but as with most book/movie combos, you can find a lot more additional information in the book.

I feel like the book allows more space to build out some of my favorite characters in the entire universe, like Anakin and Qui-Gon.

I think if you are a fan of Star Wars, this is definitely worth a read; consider it supplemental to the movie.

I am definitely going to pick up the other novelizations in this prequel trilogy. Attack of the Clones was written by R.A. Salvatore, so I am actually really looking forward to starting that one soon!

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Review: The Last Namsara (Iskari #1) by Kristen Ciccarelli

The Last Namsara (Iskari, #1)The Last Namsara by Kristen Ciccarelli
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

**4.5-stars rounded up**

Asha has been raised on the lore of her kingdom of Firgaard. In it’s heart, it’s a lore of duality.

The stories of the Namsara, the bringer of love and light, and their opposite, the Iskari, the harbinger of death and destruction.

To her people, Asha is the Iskari.

A fierce warrior and slayer of dragons, Asha is treated more as a weapon, than a daughter by her father, the King.

Asha is lonely and feels helpless to control her fate.

She’s engaged to be married to a ruthless commandant in her father’s forces. She feels no love for this man and would do anything to escape that commitment.

When her father offers her a chance of gaining her freedom, she takes it. All she has to do is kill the First Dragon, Kozu. A dragon to whom she is inextricably linked.

Enter her fiancé’s handsome slave, who shows Asha a kindness like she has never known, and you have the perfect mix for disaster.

Going into this novel, I had no idea what to expect. I have owned this book for years and hadn’t really heard any buzz about it.

I was so pleasantly surprised by the fluidity and engaging nature of this narrative.

I was hooked from the very first chapters, falling in love with Asha and her dark, tumultuous life.

In addition to my connection with Asha, I found the side characters and lore of the entire world to be extremely interesting. I loved how Ciccarelli included entire sections dedicated to telling the old stories that Asha had learned in her childhood.

The Last Namsara has romance, action, political intrigue, family drama and more than a few jaw-dropping reveals. In other words, it has everything necessary to keep you fully engaged throughout.

I haven’t read a lot of Dragon Fantasy, but to me, this was incredibly well told. The world felt complete. I could picture it all.

Overall, I was just so impressed with this and tickled pink that I happen to already own the entire trilogy.

I am hoping to start the next novel, The Caged Queen, soon. I cannot wait to return to this world and find out more about this intriguing cast of characters!!

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Review: The Right Swipe by Alisha Rai

The Right Swipe (Modern Love, #1)The Right Swipe by Alisha Rai
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Rhiannon Hunter is a successful business woman with one thing on her mind. Her career.

Rhiannon is the founder, creator and CEO of a successful dating app, but she is looking to expand.

She has her sights set on a rival company whose just lost one of their founders. The remaining owner, Annabelle, seems like she could be persuaded to sell, if Rhi could come up with just the right pitch.

Samson Lima is a former pro-football player, who happens to be the nephew of Annabelle.

He also happens to be the hot guy that Rhi hooked up with one magical night. He subsequently ghosted her.

So when Rhi spots him at an industry event, she runs. This is the last person she ever wants to see again!

When Samson and Rhi are forced to work together, however, sparks begin to fly once again. Privately, of course. Neither one of them is about to communicate what they are feeling.

In the beginning, I’ll be honest, I wasn’t sure I was going to connect with this. Rhi felt too rigid, but once I learned more about her character, her behavior began to make a lot of sense.

In fact, she became relatable and by the end, I absolutely adored her.

Samson, I loved right from the start, but I think Rai made him fairly irresistible. His relationship with his Aunt was so fun to read.

Actually, all of his relationships were pretty great. His friend group is definitely goals. So cute.

As with many Adult Romances, the drama mainly revolves around miscommunications and misconnections, which I know for a lot of people can be frustrating.

I think Rai did a great job though of resolving things in a timely manner. I never felt like I wanted to beat my head against a wall, so that’s a plus.

Also, can we all agree that verbalizing desires and consent is sexy AF?

The steamy scenes were great. There were just enough to add that extra-pearl clutching factor without diminishing the other serious subplots.

I love football, so thought it was nice to see the issue of CTE, and the league’s initial reaction to it, spotlighted here. Samson’s life was filled with individuals impacted by the degenerative brain disease and I thought that was displayed so well.

I also love business, so Rhi’s issues were equally as interesting to me. Overall, I felt it was a very well-rounded story.

I’m so excited to continue on with Rai’s, Modern Love series. This definitely exceeded my expectations.

I believe the next story follows Rhi’s silent partner, and sometimes roommate, Katrina. I’m looking forward to it!!

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Review: Dead Mountain: The Untold True Story of the Dyatlov Pass Incident by Donnie Eichar

Dead Mountain: The Untold True Story of the Dyatlov Pass IncidentDead Mountain: The Untold True Story of the Dyatlov Pass Incident by Donnie Eichar
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Dead Mountain is an eerie recounting of the Dyatlov Pass Incident exceptionally well-told by Donnie Eichar.

I find this to be one of the most haunting unsolved mysteries of all-time.

In February of 1959, nine experienced hikers set out on a challenging back-packing expedition in the Russian Ural Mountains. One hiker survived and only because he departed early due to medical complications.

The young people involved were all college age, with the exception of one, and were members of a hiking club at their university.

Led by Igor Dyatlov, their goal for this particular hike was to receive a Grade III hiking certification, because of this the mountaineers kept copious notes and took photo documentation of their journey.

When they didn’t return home on the date expected, people naturally assumed they must have run into complications that delayed them, but they would arrive any day.

That day never came. A search party is sent out and what they find is extremely shocking and mysterious, spurring numerous theories as to what caused the hiker’s demise.

I won’t go into the horrific details of the discovery of the bodies, just know everything from government conspiracies, armed men, chemical attacks to aliens, were considered.

Donnie Eichar became interested in the case, like many of us, after hearing of the mystery by chance. As a documentary filmmaker, his natural instincts are to do whatever it takes to learn more.

Eichar connects with individuals inside Russia still interested in the case, travels there, pours over the old travel diaries and photos, interviews people involved, including the sole survivor and even hikes the same path the group took.

With the book, we alternate between Eichar’s historical retelling of the incident as he understands it, and his journey over the course of his investigation.

Even though I had read and watched quite a few videos on this incident, I found Eichar’s theory behind the mystery to be wholly unique, interesting and quite possible. While there is no way to say this is definitely what lead to their deaths, it is a very strong theory.

I highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys learning about unsolved mysteries; bonus if you are a hiker, mountaineer or rock climber. Eichar’s writing is engaging and he truly presents this tale with respect and grace.

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Review: The Bazaar of Bad Dreams by Stephen King

The Bazaar of Bad DreamsThe Bazaar of Bad Dreams by Stephen King
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

**4.5-stars rounded up**

The Bazaar of Bad Dreams turned out to be a really superb collection. I absolutely loved my time spent reading this.

Honestly though, am I surprised?

Included are 20-short stories, most never published before, that span a wide gamut of topics and provide plenty of food for thought.

I really enjoyed how varied the stories in this collection were. Going from one to the next, I was always surprised with where I ended up.

I found it to be unpredictable in the best way. One moment you are reading about savage cars, the next, names written in the sand, dueling fireworks shows, all the way to the literal end.

My favorite aspect of this book, however, was the short introductions, where King would give insight into his inspirations or personal connections to each story.

Those sections really helped to set the tone going into each story and for me, I think I took a lot more from each one because of that.

I highly recommend this collection, particularly if you are already a King fan and are familiar with his style and humor.

Even if you are new to King, however, I think you will really enjoy this one. It’s just a darn good time!

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Review: Perfect (Flawed #2) by Cecelia Ahern

Perfect (Flawed, #2)Perfect by Cecelia Ahern
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**3.5-stars rounded up**

After the culminating events of Flawed, the first book in Cecelia Ahern’s YA Dystopian Duology, Celestine North is on the run.

The most wanted individual within the society, Celestine has evidence that could bring down not just Judge Crevan, the man responsible for her being branded as flawed, but the entire Guild.

Hiding from the Whistleblowers, Celestine, along with her trusted companion, Carrick, need to figure out their next steps for exposing Crevan’s misdeeds.

Even prior to Celestine’s case, there were dissidents who wanted to see the end of the system they view as cruel and inhumane. Now Celestine has become a figurehead for their cause.

This novel, like the first, was fast-paced and engaging the entire way through. Ahern has no problem kicking her stories off with a bang and maintaining that pace.

It has been over a year since I read the first book and I appreciated how Ahern refreshed my memory without regurgitating the entire plot.

The dystopian setting is particularly well done, with corrupt leaders and an interesting system for maintaining the obedience of the masses.

I couldn’t help but compare Celestine to Katniss; how they both begrudgingly become leaders of such large causes. They’re both strong and brave; characters who are easy to stand behind.

I would recommend this for anyone who loves interesting Dystopian stories.

This one isn’t too far off from our world, which adds a touch of a frightening element to it. One of those, oh shit, this could really happen feelings.

Overall, I’m really happy that I finally picked this one up and finished this duology. It was really good. I’m actually surprised I haven’t heard more people talking about it.

Another successful backlist bump!!!

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Review: The Haunted by Danielle Vega

The Haunted (The Haunted, #1)The Haunted by Danielle Vega
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**3.5-stars rounded up **

Hendricks and her family move to Drearford to escape a dark chapter in her young life.

Her parents purchase a dilapidated old house to renovate and for her part, Hendricks is hoping to lay low and heal her scarred heart.

Unfortunately, Steel House, their new home, has other things in mind.

Unbeknownst to them, they have inadvertently moved into the most infamous house in Drearford, with a frighteningly violent history.

While at school, Hendricks is quickly accepted into the popular crowd, even catching the eye of a local heartthrob, at home she is harassed and terrified.

It doesn’t take long for the house, and the spirits trapped there, to express their deep-seeded need for vengeance.

This is a classic haunted house story, with a well-executed Teen Scream element.

I enjoyed Hendricks as a character, as well as her new friends. They were all fun to get to know, especially Eddie, but we’ll get to him later.

I was pleasantly surprised, and impressed, by the imagery of the horror elements. I was seeing everything Hendricks was seeing and I’ll tell you, some of it really creeped me out.

Even though it seems initially that the major site of the paranormal activity is located in the cellar, eventually it permeates through the entire house. Nowhere Hendricks goes is safe. I was genuinely afraid along with her.

Hendricks knows she has to get to the bottom of the haunting, or else risk the lives of everyone in her family.

Along with her brooding neighbor, Eddie, who has his own dark ties to Steel House, the two band together to try to exorcise it of its demons.

It all builds up to an epic showdown that kept me glued to the pages.

There were a couple of details towards the end that I wish hadn’t been included. They sort of pushed it pass the line of solid paranormal into eyeroll territory.

With this being said, however, I did enjoy this enough that as soon as I finished it, I ordered the second book.

I need to know what happens to Hendricks next. I want so much more time with her character. Well played, Danielle Vega. Well played.

Original:

Synopsis:
YA’s answer to Stephen King…

That’s a fairly lofty statement, but I’ll bite.
Plus, my 80s-loving heart feels the vibe of this cover.

Let’s do this.

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Review: Insomnia by Stephen King

InsomniaInsomnia by Stephen King
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I am so in LOVE with this story!!!

It’s hard for me to fathom now that I was ever intimidated by Insomnia. Legit for years, I was too scared to pick it up.

Honestly, I don’t even think I ever read the synopsis, so it had nothing to do with that.

I tend not to for King’s books, as I know I am going to pick them up regardless of what it says.

After reading this, I would recommend it to any Constant Reader. If you have been putting this one off, maybe intimidated by its size like I was, please don’t be.

Insomnia is charming, captivating, heart-warming and spine-chilling, with Kingverse connections galore.

As always, King’s character work is just phenomenal; definitely my favorite aspect.

Our protagonist is Ralph Roberts, who after losing his wife gradually develops severe insomnia. Not the low-key aggravating-kind, the continuous, question what you’re seeing while awake-kind.

We follow Ralph, a resident of Derry, as he grapples with his new reality and tries to navigate the world with unrested eyes.

It was so great to be in Derry. There’s a lot happening in that special little town town and Ralph ends up in the middle of it all. Along with his closest companion, Lois, they battle terrifying forces wrecking havoc amongst their friends and neighbors.

There are numerous Dark Tower references, as well as tidbits connecting to the greater King-created world in general. I eat that up. Easter Eggs all day, baby. I can’t get enough of them.

While I recommend this book whole-heartedly to the Constant Readers out there…

I’m not sure it would be as impactful, or feel as extraordinary, to a reader without the background to make the connections.

I could be wrong though, as there is a lot going on in this story outside of all that. There’s social commentary, frightening villains and some intense action scenes; obviously a fantastic setting and believable, well-thought out characters.

I cannot say much more about it. I really can’t say anything about the plot without spoiling things, so we’ll leave it at this:

I loved it, I will read it again and I recommend it to any Stephen King fan!

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