Review: She Lies in Wait (DCI Jonah Sheens #1) by Gytha Lodge

She Lies in Wait (DCI Jonah Sheens, #1)She Lies in Wait by Gytha Lodge
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

1983: Topaz. Coralie. Jojo. Benners. Connor. Brett.

Aurora.

When Aurora Jackson accepts an invitation to go camping with her older sister and her friends, she has no idea it will be her last night on Earth. The younger girl feels shy and out of place as the older kids get to drinking, drugs, dancing and more. The party goes late into the night and everyone basically passes out. In the morning, when they wake, the older kids find nothing of Aurora but her cold sleeping bag.

No trace of her is ever found and suspicions circle the group of friends for the next thirty years.

Present Day: A young girl on a camping trip with her family, stumbles upon the bones of a human hand in a small cavern at the base of a tree. Aurora has been found and so begins the cold case that may finally end up concluding what happened on that ill-fated night in the woods.

The small-town cop in charge of the investigation, DCI Jonah Sheens, knew the kids involved that night. In fact, when it happened, he was just a kid himself, at school with all the rest. Trying to keep his own past to himself, DCI Sheens and a great cast of fellow officers slowly unravel what happened to poor Aurora.

This gripping crime thriller is told in a format of alternating timelines. You get to see what happened on that camping trip in 1983 and the police procedural aspects of the current investigation. I thought the timelines were really well done and the pacing, for me, was perfect. I was so impressed with the fact that this is a debut novel. I hope that Lodge continues on with DCI Sheens character. I enjoyed him and the other officers he had on his team. I would absolutely continue on with this series, no question.

If you like police procedural and split timeline narratives, you should check this one out. Plus, it is always great to support new authors. Thank you so much to the publisher, Random House, for providing me with a copy to read and review. I appreciate the opportunity and look forward to getting my hands on more Gytha Lodge books in the future!

Trigger Warnings: Rape, sexual assault, drug use and emotional abuse.

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Blog Tour: White Stag Review by Kara Barbieri

White Stag (Permafrost, #1)White Stag by Kara Barbieri
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

**3.5-STARS**

We are all monsters to something, somehow, someway.

As the sole survivor of a goblin raid on her village, Janneke is wracked with survivor’s guilt. This would have been bad enough, however, to make matters worse she is taken hostage by the raiding army and forced into a life of servitude at the hands of the sadistic goblin, Lydian.

Her life while with him is absolute hell. This is putting it mildly. We learn about this time through flashbacks but let’s just get the trigger warnings out of the way: sexual assault/rape, torture, body mutilation, and emotional abuse. If you are a reader who is sensitive to these topics, tread with caution. The descriptions of these happenings do pop up continually over the course of the story as they are a big part of Janneke’s character development.

After some time, Lydian grows tired of his plaything and for one reason or another gifts Janneke to his nephew, Soren. When the story begins for us, Janneke has been living with Soren for 100 years.

How can a human girl live that long? I have no idea. I never really understood the concept of time in this story. She is supposed to have been there for a hundred years but is still the same as when she first got there as far as outward appearance? She is still written as a teenage girl. It is strange. I think it has something to do with the location. The Permafrost. The magical land of the goblins.

Soon after the story begins, the current Erlking, leader of the goblins, dies and a new leader needs to be chosen to replace him on the throne. In their world, the way this is done is through a ‘stag hunt’. The magical White Stag is where the Erlking draws his power from, quite literally, during his reign.

Any goblin may become King by slaying the Stag. Hunting groups are assembled, alliances formed, and the hunt begins. Janneke, trained as a hunter since childhood, joins Soren on the hunt. They are both willing to do anything to ensure that Lydian doesn’t become Erlking. They are joined by a ragtag group of allies and the real adventure begins.

On the hunt, things are never boring, there is a lot of action and quite a few violent and intense scenes. New alliances are formed along the way and one of the best parts of the story for me was the various side characters. They added depth and humor to the story which was definitely needed at times. There really isn’t too much more I can say on the topic of the hunt without getting into spoilers, which I do not want to do.

Throughout their journey, Janneke and Soren’s relationship begins to change. The intensity of the hunt pushes them closer together and they begin to rely on each other like never before.

I really enjoyed their relationship. Soren is swoon-worthy for sure.

Soren, you might ask? Isn’t he a goblin? Yes, but keep in mind, these are not your standard goblins.

Oh no. These goblins are hot and are described more like Viking warriors. I found it helpful to picture this when thinking of Soren:

Not what you think of when you think of goblin? Yeah. Truth be told, it was a little jarring at first but I think, again, it has something to do with the magic of the Permafrost. At one point, Barbieri mentions something about their looks being an illusion. Then in another section, during a fight, you read of their illusion dropping a little and their true, more animalistic, form showing through.

Ultimately, I am not really sure how it all works as there was quite a bit of ambiguity with the magic system. Granted, maybe I just didn’t get it, but I do read a lot of fantasy and felt this could have been ironed out a bit more. Perhaps we will get more clarification of the world in the second book.

The conclusion is an absolute cliffhanger and I look forward to seeing how Barbieri continues this story. Janneke and Soren both had so much growth here and I am most interested to see if they continue to grow together in the future or if changing circumstances push them apart.

Overall, I enjoyed diving into the hunt and learning about Janneke and the goblin world. Was this book perfect? No, not at all. There were definitely some places that I felt could have been fine-tuned; some repetitive phrasing and unclear magical elements, etc. That being said, it is impressive that such a young author is getting this out there as a debut novel. The world is vast and complex and I think that Barbieri should definitely be proud. It draws you in and makes you want to learn more.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Wednesday Books, for providing me with a copy to read and review, as well as including me on the blog tour for its release. I truly appreciate the opportunity and look forward to continuing on with this story in the next book!

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Review: The Witch of Willow Hall by Hester Fox

The Witch of Willow HallThe Witch of Willow Hall by Hester Fox
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**4.5-stars**

Forced to flee Boston in the wake of scandalous rumors, the Montrose Family, moves into their summer estate, Willow Hall, in New Oldbury, Massachusetts. The three sisters – Catherine, Lydia & Emeline – take the move as well as can be expected and before too long are settling into their new life with only minor complaints.

The setting and language of this novel are absolutely beautiful. I was surprised to learn this is a debut as the writing seems so experienced. I loved the gothic vibes that extend throughout the story. There is always an underlining feeling of menace just under the surface. In regards to witchcraft, it is subtle in nature, and I felt very well portrayed. It is by no means the bulk of the story but hints of it are sprinkled throughout with it becoming a more prominent feature in the second half.

The interactions between the sisters, particularly Catherine and Lydia, reminded me so much of Downton Abbey with Mary and Edith. It is not a warm and fuzzy sisterly relationship by any means and in fact, their constant battling provides most of the drama in the book.

There is also quite a bit of romance. I am so exhausted by the courtship patterns of this time period. I just cannot even imagine dealing with all that formality. No one ever seems to say what they feel. GAHHHHHHH. Honestly, it’s a wonder anyone ended up with the person they wanted to be with!

Overall, I was very impressed with the book. It was a pleasure to read. All the drama, the overarching feeling of suspense, the subtle supernatural undertones, the hauntings, the domestic drama – soooo fun!

I did take off a half a star just because there were moments where I felt the drama was repetitive and could have been shortened up a bit but that is very slight and 100% my opinion. I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who loves historical fiction, especially if you enjoy things with a gothic atmosphere.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Graydon House Books, for providing me with a copy to read and review. I very much appreciate the opportunity and and am kicking myself for not having picked this up in October as I had originally planned. I cannot wait to see what Ms. Fox comes up with next!

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Review: An Anonymous Girl by Greer Hendricks & Sarah Pekkanen

An Anonymous GirlAn Anonymous Girl by Greer Hendricks
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

“How do you know if you can really trust someone?” I finally ask.
“If you need to ask that question, then you probably already know the answer,” he says.

Wow! First book of 2019 on record and WOW, I loved it!

An Anonymous Girl follows two main perspectives:


Jessica:
A single-gal, late 20s, living in NYC and working as a make-up artist. Jessica lives a fairly solitary life. She has a sweet little dog and a couple of close friends but most of the time, she’s alone. She is a bit haunted by her past. Back when Jessica was a teenager, an incident occurred with her little sister and she has a lot of residual guilt stemming from that. Also, due to this incident, she can find it painful at times to be with her family and they are under extreme financial distress.


Dr. Lydia Shields:
Dr. Shields is a wealthy and successful psychiatrist and author who works at a local college teaching seminars and performing research studies, mainly on morality. Her perspective is written in second person which I did find jarring at first but eventually became used to and even enjoyed.

Jessica and Dr. Shields become acquainted when Jessica lies her way into participating in one of Dr. Shields studies. Motivated exclusively by money at first, Jessica eventually finds herself drawn deeper and deeper into Dr. Shields web.

The relationship lines are extremely blurry with Jessica and Dr. Shields. I was so confused as to who was the predator and who was the prey initially. They both seemed so enamored with one another.

To add to the complication we get Dr. Shields husband, Thomas, thrown into the mix. Again, is he good, is he bad?

Everyone in this book is just too damn smart for their own good! Manipulation FACTOR 10!!!

The story is extremely fast-paced, a lot of twists and turns, ups and downs….

Someone pass the dramamine! I loved every minute of it. There was mystery, there was investigation, there was an ultimate game of cat-and-mouse…I ABSOLUTELY LOVED IT! In my opinion, this could definitely be one of the top Adult Thrillers I read in 2019…if not, the top. I know it is early but I really, really enjoyed this.

Thank you so much to the publisher, St. Martin’s Press, for kindly providing me with a e-copy to read and review. I always appreciate the opportunity to provide my feedback. This book is definitely a winner. The Greer Hendricks & Sarah Pekkanen combo is something very special! I hope they continue to write books together in future, as I would certainly love to read them!

When money and morality intersect, the result can illuminate intriguing truths about human character.

Original:

Ummmm, this is going to be so good -ARC received and I am already rearranging my life to fit it in NOW!

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Review: Insane Mode: How Elon Musk’s Tesla Sparked an Electric Revolution to End the Age of Oil by Hamish McKenzie

Insane Mode: How Elon Musk's Tesla Sparked an Electric Revolution to End the Age of OilInsane Mode: How Elon Musk’s Tesla Sparked an Electric Revolution to End the Age of Oil by Hamish McKenzie
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

“Even if it died tomorrow, Tesla has already achieved what it set out to do: accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable transport. It has convinced the world that electric cars can be great.”

I really enjoyed Hamish McKenzie’s overview of the pending electric revolution within the auto industry. I learned so much, particularly in regards to the progress various nations around the world are making to be rid of gas powered vehicles.

Full disclosure: I am a HUGE Elon Musk fangirl and Tesla shareholder.

This being said, my enjoyment factor for this book may be a bit heightened compared to an average reader who perhaps doesn’t have that love ((ahem, background)) in regards to Musk & Tesla. I believe in him and his passion for his companies and their products is absolutely contagious.

As far as the format and writing for this book, I think they were both very well executed. McKenzie has a journalism background and I think that definitely shines through in the best ways. His ease with explaining a fairly large and complex sector of the market was impressive and I appreciated the way he examined the big picture; aka. looked at the issue of transitioning to electric vehicles from a global perspective and the effects that it could have long-term.

If you are a gear head or a tech guru you should definitely check this book out. It is loaded with up-to-date information on where we stand in our transition away from the internal combustion engine into a more sustainable, as well as potentially autonomous vehicular future.

Whether you are a believer yet or not, it stands to reason that within a generation or two, the kids of the future will look at our current gas powered vehicles like my nieces and nephews look at rotary dial telephones. This concise book is a great start to understanding the history, scope and issues in a nonpolitical way and extends forth a positive outlook on the future while also questioning how these changes will affect our economy and society in future.

My parting words are, Elon, I love you…oh and I want to thank the publisher, Dutton, for providing me with a copy of this book to read and review. I always appreciate the opportunity to read a book early and provide my feedback. Cheers~

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Review: Killing Adam by Earik Beann

Killing AdamKilling Adam by Earik Beann
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

With nonstop action and a hella good storyline, this high tech scifi thriller definitely kept me engaged from start to finish.

Set in the not too distant future, our world runs on ARCs. No, not Advanced Readers Copies, but Altered Reality Chips. These chips, inserted directly into the brain, allow people to experience anything they want at any time. They are basically living in their heads in a virtual reality world.

People are so addicted to their ARCs, they are tuned in all the time and thusly, tuned out from our ‘real’ world almost completely. This makes goings pretty tough for the minority of humans who are ARC-incompatible. Our protagonist, Jimmy Mahoney, is one of those few. Due to a head injury he sustained during his career as a professional football player, Jimmy is unable to have an ARC and therefore unable to connect with pretty much the rest of society, including his wife Michelle.

Jimmy’s main interactions come from his time at a support group for other ARC-incompatibles. Here he meets Trixie, a mysterious woman who ends up recruiting Jimmy to join the fight against the singularity running the system behind the ARCs, Adam. This is putting it in the simplest of terms but basically that is how our main action begins.

Overall, I had a really great time reading this novella. It is short, just over 200-pages, and is packed with action and intrigue. The whole story takes place over only a couple of days. It would have been great if it could have delved a bit deeper into the world and the characters but I understand not every book can be 400-pages long.

There were a couple of cringe-worthy sexual comments/jokes towards the beginning that were a big turn off but I am glad I stuck with it because the story definitely deserves to be read. If you are the kind of reader who likes your scifi to be so close to the truth you could see the premise actually happening in our own world in 15-to-25 years than this is absolutely a book you should pick up. It was close enough to home and what is going on currently in our tech sphere that it made it not only plausible but creepy AF.

I would definitely pick up more books by this author in the future and want to thank him for providing me with a copy of this book to read and review. I always appreciate the opportunity to provide my feedback!

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Review: Girls Made of Snow and Glass by Melissa Bashardoust

Girls Made of Snow and GlassGirls Made of Snow and Glass by Melissa Bashardoust
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

☆☆☆☆.5 stars rounded up!!

All she would remember was the story that would be passed down by those watching: the cruel stepmother, and the wronged princess who had returned from the dead to strike her down and take what was hers. She didn’t want their story to end this way. And more than that, she knew she had the power to change it.

This Snow White retelling was completely original and definitely took me by surprise! This is a debut? Seriously? Melissa Bashardoust’s creativity and originality is on full display with this story.

Lynet and her regal stepmother, Mina, have always had a close relationship as far as ‘step’ relationships go. Young Lynet has admired her and aspired to be strong and smart just like Mina. She never knew her own mother and discovers during the course of the story that a magician actually made her from snow under her father’s orders.

Mina, motherless herself, feels her unbeating heart is perfectly normal. She doesn’t know that her own magician father actually cut out her heart at one point and replaced it with one of glass. After living most of her young life feeling unloved, Mina’s goal of marrying Lynet’s father becomes reality for her and she becomes Queen. She is fond of Lynet and feels they have a special bond.

However, when Lynet’s father suddenly decides to make her the Queen of the Southern Territories, displacing Mina as their figurehead, things dramatically change. Now Mina looks at Lynet as a competitor and we all know the best way to take care of competition…

I know from the synopsis it sounds a little strange but trust me, it works. There is some chasing, some running through the woods, some injuries, a potential queer love interest, girls being their own damn heroes and a whole lot more.

I read this book as part of Retellathon. Retellathon is a readathon hosted by some great Booktubers which I am really hoping turns into an annual affair. I used this to satisfy challenge #2: ‘True Love’s Twist’ – read a queer or gender-flipped retelling.

If you are like me and love retellings I would highly recommend this book. It is dark, it is different and it is definitely worth picking up. I cannot wait to see what Bashardoust comes up with next! **I actually read this book in July 2018 but just realized that I had never reviewed it. I guess I was so busy with Retellathon that week that I put it off! Better late than never…

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Review: Hunting Annabelle by Wendy Heard

Hunting AnnabelleHunting Annabelle by Wendy Heard
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Unfortunately, Hunting Annabelle wasn’t the story for me. I did not like this. It started out promising, as the author’s writing is actually quite strong, but the story, yeah, just did not do it for me.

Around the 50% mark was where it seemed to turn for me and I never got my interest back. Our protagonist, Sean Suh, is a Korean-American in his early 20s who you discover early on has some pretty strong urges to hurt and kill young women. In fact, you learn that he acted on these urges at least once in a severe enough manner to have him sentenced to a psychiatric prison. However, at the point where we meet him, he is living with his overbearing and severe mother in a different state from where he committed his crime(s).

As I mentioned, I enjoyed the beginning. It started off strong. It is revealed to you overtime the extent of Sean’s illness and resulting actions and I enjoyed the way that was slowly unfolded for us. He is very much an unreliable narrator and it is unclear early on how much of his thoughts you can actually believe as the truth.

After a certain point however it just got to be too much. Then plot twists occurred where my eyes legit almost rolled out of my head. I just didn’t buy what the author was trying to sell. It completely lost me on the story.

By the final 20% I just couldn’t. I had to push to make it through. However, just because this story wasn’t for me, in no way makes this a bad book. The author’s writing style is very fluid and easy to read. The suspense and uncertainty at the beginning definitely kept me turning the pages. If you are okay with the plot twists, this could probably be a really strong book for you. It is very violent, very messy, very over-the-top but also explores some interesting topics of identity and mental health.

There are readers for every story but unfortunately, this one just didn’t work for me. I want to thank the publisher, Harlequin – MIRA, for providing me with a copy of this book to read and review. I always appreciate the opportunity and I would read more books by Wendy Heard in the future.

**Please note, the protagonist in this has been diagnosed with schizophrenia but he doesn’t self-identify as such and I in no way can comment on how the rep was for that.

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Review: Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng

Little Fires EverywhereLittle Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The relationship between mother and child can be a beautiful thing.

However, it’s not always and it’s not exclusively. Oftentimes it can be messy, complex and immensely stressful for both parties.

In Little Fires Everywhere, Celeste Ng, weaves an intricate tapestry of such relationships.

The resultant story is one of family, loyalty, community and independence. When I went into this book, I thought it was a story, set in the mid-1990s, about the adoption of a Chinese baby by a white family in suburban Ohio and the resulting community reactions/interactions based off that adoption. There is an adoption. The baby is in fact Chinese, but this baby, her birth mother and her adoptive parents are only a very small part of this deeply emotional tale.

Full disclosure, I never cried but I was moved. I was angry at times, sad, emotionally drained. I had my curiosity peaked, I had my temper flare and most importantly, this story made me think about it even when I wasn’t reading it.

I think that is a sign of a strong literary fiction novel doing its job. I had never read a Celeste Ng book before and I was deeply impressed by her subtle way of totally drawing the reader in to the emotions, drama and angst of her characters.

I definitely plan to read more of Ng’s books in the future. Additionally, I did listen to the audiobook for this and thought that the narration was excellent!

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Review: Heir of Fire (Throne of Glass #3) by Sarah J. Maas

Heir of Fire (Throne of Glass, #3)Heir of Fire by Sarah J. Maas
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

12/12/18: Reflections of 2018 continue with this book, Heir of Fire my favorite book read in April. Since reading this, I have also completed, Queen of Shadows. At the time when I finished this one, it was my FAVORITE of the series. Now it is QoS. For me, they keep getting better and better.

I know haters out there.

That’s fine. No shame here. I am TRASH for this series. Fight me.

Manon gives me life and getting to know her during the course of this book was so entertaining for me. I am equally obsessed with Abraxos and know that my heart is ultimately going to end up being broken in that regard ((NO SPOILERS PLEASE)).

Also, it is now apparent to me that I never wrote a full review for this so, boo on me. Fail.

Original: Oh. My. Wyrd. What an ending! This series! (Fans self) Full review to come…

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