Review: Dying for Dominoes (A Cardboard Cottage Mystery) by Jane Elzey

Dying for DominoesDying for Dominoes by Jane Elzey
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**3.5-stars rounded up**

A vibrant start to an all-new Cozy Mystery series!

Dying for Dominoes is part Designing Women, part Murder, She Wrote and was just as fun as the cover would have you believe.

At one of their regular game nights, best friends, Amy, Genna, Zelda and Rian, chat it up and air grievances as any friends would.

Zelda has been having a hard time with her husband, Zack. And by hard time, I mean he is driving her crazy.

She expresses to her friends that she wants him gone. The talk from there gets quite morbid indeed.

When Zack ends up dead, the victim of a hit-and-run in a parking garage at a hotel where he was going to be meeting Zelda for a romantic evening, all of the friends secretly suspect one another.

Unfortunately for the ladies, the police suspect them too!

Determined not to see any of her friends go down for Zack’s untimely death, Amy vows to find out the truth, no matter the cost.

She then sets out on some fantastic amateur sleuthing and gets herself in a whole host of additional trouble.

This was so much fun, y’all. It gave me pretty much everything I am looking for in a cozy: good humor, strong friendship group, over-the-top crimes and amateur sleuthing.

With this being said, there were a few minor details that didn’t quite work for me, but I know as the series progresses, they will get stronger and stronger.

I feel like a lot of Cozy Mystery series are that way. As you get deeper into them, you get more attached to the characters and everything just seems to have a better flow.

I am definitely planning to continue on with this series. I loved all of the characters and their friendship dynamics made me miss my own friends.

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

I had so much fun with it and look forward to being back with Amy and the rest of the girls!

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Review: City of Bones (Mortal Instruments #1) by Cassandra Clare

City of Bones (The Mortal Instruments, #1)City of Bones by Cassandra Clare
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A delightful surprise!

Since I have become an active participant in the Book Community in 2017, I have watched countless books set in the Shadowhunter world be released.

I have quietly watched from the sidelines as fans swooned about the continuation of the world and ongoing story arcs.

Looking forward, with The Wicked Powers series in the works for Cassandra Clare, I want to take part, gosh darn it!

So, now it is time for some catch-up. A lot of it.

I have previously read Clockwork Angel and really enjoyed it. Ultimately though, I decided that I want to start with The Mortal Instruments series instead, so here we are!

I’m not going to provide a short synopsis for City of Bones, as I usually do in my reviews, because honestly, everyone already knows what this is about.

For this first novel, I chose to listen to the audiobook and I adored it. I thought the narration was engaging and it kept me focused the whole way through.

I loved finally getting to meet characters that I have heard referenced so frequently, like Clary, Jace, Simon, Isabelle and Magnus.

I was pleasantly surprised at how witty the banter was between characters. I live for that.

It always gives me all the feels when a character can literally make me laugh.

In short, I guess I am a Shadowhunter fan now. Is there a special term for us that I should know?

Looking forward to continuing on with this world. This really did it for me!

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Review: Ninth House (Alex Stern #1) by Leigh Bardugo

Ninth House (Alex Stern, #1)Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Moody, dark and secretive, just like me.

Ninth House was a delightfully intriguing start to the all-new, Alex Stern series by Leigh Bardugo.

I have been fascinated by the idea of this book for a while. What’s not to love about the Yale campus, secret societies and magic.

On a recent road trip, I finally decided to give this one a shot.

I have to say, while I really enjoyed the audiobook, particularly the two narrators, I think I may have enjoyed it even more if I had read a hard copy.

I feel like I may have been able to concentrate more on the story if I had been holding the book in my hands and there’s a lot to take in here.

A lot of details regarding the setting of the Yale campus, the magic system, the lore of the secret societies, as well as back and forth timelines, I think just got lost somewhere around mile marker 50.

I was intrigued by Alex’s character. Here was a girl who had a rough start at life, raised by a hippie Mom in California, who ends up at one of the most elite institutions in the world.

After a close call that could have ended her life, Alex instead ends up being offered a seat in the Freshman class at Yale, but why? Her academic transcript certainly wasn’t recommending her for the slot.

Regardless of any trauma experienced in her life, Alex is a survivor and a fighter. I loved that about her.

When she starts at Yale, Alex gets tapped for Lethe House; the ninth of the secret societies at Yale and the one with the closest ties to the occult.

It’s also the responsibility of Lethe House to oversee the other houses to ensure there are no bad actors.

Alex, as it turns out, is well-suited for her new house, as she has an arcane ability she has been struggling with her entire life. This allows her a close connection to the spiritual underworld surrounding her.

Essentially a murder mystery, this novel offers up a lot of darker real world topics for consideration as well.

One of these topics that I found extremely interesting, was the great amount of privilege on the Yale campus, and the way uneven power dynamics can contribute to an extremely harmful environment.

There is also quite a bit on page of drug abuse, sexual assault and rape culture in general. If you are sensitive to these topics, I would tread cautiously.

With this being said, I was impressed overall with Bardugo’s transition to the Adult space. This is definitely an Adult novel. There are some real dark scenes in here and frankly, I am glad that she went as dark as she did.

It made this seedy underbelly of a privileged world seem so incredibly real.

I think as the series progresses the stories will continue to get stronger and stronger.

I may even read this one again, my hard copy, before the second novel is released.

I would love to experience this entire story in a more controlled environment than an SUV whizzing down the highway.

Also, does anyone else want to go snoop around New Haven in the middle of the night now, or just me?

The atmosphere, as always with Bardugo, was really something to behold; loved that aspect so much. I am really looking forward to getting back into this world when the next book releases!

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Review: In an Absent Dream (Wayward Children #4) by Seanan McGuire

In an Absent Dream (Wayward Children, #4)In an Absent Dream by Seanan McGuire
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**3.5-stars rounded up**

Not going to lie, this sort of crushed my heart.

I found this story to be so sad, y’all. It truly hit me right in the heart.

The idea of childhood innocence and optimism being dashed on the rocks of reality.

You cannot outsmart the market; you cannot have it all.

In an Absent Dream, a prequel novella, tells the backstory of Katherine Lundy, Eleanor West’s Assistant.

Her world was a goblin market with the door first manifesting to her in a large, mysterious tree which appears in a place it had never been before.

Talk about every child’s dream!

A portal world accessed through a tree that probably only you could see.

The description of the goblin market itself, not just the vibrant atmosphere, but also the system’s function, was fascinating. I think a lot can be taken from that as a social commentary on our own economic system.

That’s one of the things I love about McGuire’s writing, the stories hold so many different layers depending on how far you want to look.

There’s something for every reader within the pages.

I thought this was a super solid addition to this series. I enjoyed the relationships and how Lundy got to travel back and forth between the two places.

I’m looking forward to continuing on my Wayward Children journey. I wish this series would keep going on forever and ever!

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Review: Dark Disciple (Star Wars) by Christie Golden

Dark Disciple: Star WarsDark Disciple: Star Wars by Christie Golden
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

**4.5-stars rounded up**

The only way to bring down the Sith’s most powerful warrior may be to join forces with the dark side.

Dark Disciple is an Adult novel within the Disney Star Wars Canon. To put it in timeline perspective, it is my understanding that this book falls after the novel, Catalyst and just prior to the Revenge of the Sith movie.

Interestingly, or at least for fans, this novel is based on a story arc scripted for The Clone Wars television series that went unproduced after the show was canceled.

My initial attraction to this book, besides the fact that I want to read all the Canon novels, was Asajj Ventress, the infamous former apprentice to Count Dooku.

This book built out her character in such a pleasing way. I love when a antihero gets their time to shine.

As the war rages on in the galaxy, Count Dooku’s tactics become more and more brutal. The Republic cannot stand by while hundreds more innocent lives are lost.

The Jedi Council surmises the best way to defeat Dooku, perhaps the only way, would be to join forces with someone who knows him best.

Asajj Ventress, Count Dooku’s former protege, becomes their focus for the mission.

Ventress, now making ends meet as a bounty hunter, is perfect for the assignment. After Dooku attempted to have her killed, she severed all ties with him and that hatred runs deep.

Quinlan Vos, the Jedi Knight assigned the mission, sets out to find Asajj with the goal of getting her to assist him in assassinating Dooku.

Once the two meet up, their budding relationship grows quickly. I loved the banter between them as they struggled to figure out a power balance.

Ventress ultimately teaches Vos many things, including how to harness the power of the dark side; a line that is most dangerous to cross.

As is to be expected, there was a ton of action in here. I loved the various battle scenes, but also loved the quieter moments between Vos and Ventress.

I certainly don’t need romance in my Star Wars, but for me, it was more about watching Ventress being able to let her guard down and open up to someone.

She has such a tough facade and reputation, and rarely lets that slip, even for a moment. Reading her in the more vulnerable moments, particularly when she told Vos the truth of what happened to her fellow Nightsisters, it gave me all the feels.

Additionally, the deep bond that forms between them was so well written. A forbidden romance if ever there was one.

Ultimately, this story did shred my heart in a hundred million pieces, but I’m willing to forgive Christie Golden because she wrote it with such care and grace.

Overall, I loved this story. Highly recommend to Star Wars fans who enjoy to dabble in the power of the dark side.

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Review: Party of Two (Wedding Date #5) by Jasmine Guillory

Party of TwoParty of Two by Jasmine Guillory
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**4.5-stars**

My favorite Guillory yet!!!

Party of Two follows Olivia Monroe, Alexa’s older sister, just after she returns to California to open her own law firm with her long-time friend, Ellie.

Olivia had been in NYC since law school and when the opportunity presented itself for her to get out of the big firm game, and all the negative aspects that came with it, and move closer to her family, she jumps on it.

Setting up temporary lodging at a L.A. hotel, she has a lot on her plate. In addition to all of the busy work starting a new business entails, she also needs to find a more permanent place to live, buy a car and get a lot of networking done.

The last thing she is thinking about is starting a relationship. That is, until a very handsome man at the hotel bar starts chatting her up over one of her favorite topics: DESSERT!

She is polite and does enjoy talking to him, but seriously, the last thing she needs is to hook up with a stranger from her hotel bar.

He was charming though. Those eyes…

Saying their goodbyes, Olivia heads back to her room, exhausted. As she turns on the television, she can’t believe her eyes. It’s the man from the bar!

Senator Max Powell.

When the two accidentally run into each other again, the spark is still there and this time, there’s no turning Max away.

Y’all, this book was so much fun!

As mentioned above, it’s my favorite of The Wedding Date series thus far.

I think as far as protagonists go, I related to Olivia the most. I love how analytically she views her world and the cautious way she has of interacting with others.

I liked that she did fall all over herself just because a cute guy was paying attention to her. She had her own goals and wasn’t letting anything distract her from reaching them.

Max as a male lead was great. I loved how earnest he was with his feelings and how genuine his intentions were toward Olivia.

I would say in comparison to the earlier novels in the series, this one had more of a solid foundation to the relationship. There wasn’t as much unnecessary drama, which I appreciated.

I liked the open communication between Olivia and Max. They both exuded maturity which could be expected with two such successful people.

We saw a lot behind the scenes of Max’s life as Senator, the travel required, the staff, the schmoozing. I love politics in books, so was definitely down for all that.

In addition to the normal things you go through when starting a new relationship, Olivia and Max had to navigate surviving a long distance relationship and the paparazzi.

If there would have been a couple more sex scenes, this could have been a full five stars. However, in this installment, there was more dessert than sex and sometimes, that’s okay.

Overall, this is a great summer romance. Available now!

Thank you so much to the publisher, Berkley Books, for providing me with a copy to read and review. I appreciate it so much and would be more than happy to get more books in this series.

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Review: Beneath the Sugar Sky (Wayward Children #3) by Seanan McGuire

Beneath the Sugar Sky (Wayward Children, #3)Beneath the Sugar Sky by Seanan McGuire
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Beneath the Sugar Sky, the third installment of the beloved Wayward Children series, returns the reader to Eleanor West’s School.

At the beginning of our story, a girl, Rini, falls from the sky into the little pond behind the school. Students observing her arrival are shocked, but what she has to tell them shocks them even more.

Rini comes from the land of Confection and she is searching for her mother, Sumi.

But how is that possible? Sumi died years before, at the school, before she ever had the chance to conceive a child.

Nevertheless, Rini persists. She is clearly real, she is right there in front of them, although she is slowly starting to disappear. With her life on the line, Rini won’t let reality and logic stand in the way of her finding her mom and saving not just herself, but also her world.

Sumi was one of my favorite characters from Every Heart a Doorway, so I was excited to get to this book, as I knew there was a connection to her.

In spite of Eleanor’s rule for no quests, a quest is very much where this book goes. Cora, Christopher, Nadya and another one of my absolute favorites, Kade, assist Rini in her search.

A bone flute is used in this story, which I thought was so cool. Christopher, whose world was a skeleton underworld, was able to use the bone flute to summon skeletons right out of their graves and I was living for it!

The kids meet up with another of the original characters from Every Heart, so that was a lovely surprise as well.

The land of Confection, the world Sumi and thus, her daughter is from, is a nonsense world with some logic; some rules the nonsense must follow.

I’ll be honest, the whole concept of a nonsense world freaks me the heck out and Confection is no exception.

Even as a kid, I was super weirded out by Alice in Wonderland, which I would also classify as a nonsense world with some logic.

Overall, this is a delightful novella. Unsurprisingly, the characters were fantastic, the writing is top shelf beautiful; I just really, really enjoyed it.

I cannot wait to continue on with the next book in the series! Do you think Seanan McGuire could just keep adding to this series forever?

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Review: Dark Skies (Dark Shores #2) by Danielle L. Jensen

Dark Skies (Dark Shores, #2)Dark Skies by Danielle L. Jensen
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I really enjoyed reading Dark Shores last year and consider it to be an extremely underrated YA Fantasy novel.

Going into this second installment, I was completely prepared to enjoy it, but Dark Skies takes it to a whole new level.

One very interesting point of note on the format of this series, which I was unaware of going into this, is that this book’s storyline runs parallel to the storyline of Dark Shores.

I expected this to be a linear continuation of the series, picking up directly after the events of the first book.

However, that is not this case. This book follows two completely different perspectives during the course of the same period of time as the first book.

It was so interesting to see the story unfold this way. Lydia, one of the protagonists in this book, is a side character in Dark Shores. The other protagonist, Killian, is new, I believe.

Lydia lives within the Celandor Empire and she was actually the impetus for a great many of the events in Dark Shores, but as the reader, you don’t know the whole story.

Dark Skies fills it in. Not only does this book fill in some missing pieces, it continues to grow the world at an impressive rate.

Lydia meets Killian when she is forced to flee her home due to a botched assassination plot. She ends up in the West, on the far side of the endless sea.

Killian is a solider, marked by the God of War for great things. He is sworn to protect the Princess of Mudamore, a principality on the brink of war.

There are too many incredible elements of this story, but some of my favorites include: Lydia’s character arc, the brutal world that seems inspired by ancient Rome, the political intrigue, the dangerous, dragon-like creatures terrorizing the city by night, the blight infecting the citizens and yes, the extremely slow-burn romance.

This book is close to 500-pages and there is always something going on. These characters have to constantly be on guard and it certainly made me tense.

I had no idea where this was going to go. There is so much left to this story and I was shocked and delighted to learn, this is slated to be a 4-book series!

If you have not picked this series up yet, I highly recommend giving it a shot.

Personally, I did enjoy this more than Dark Shores and that’s saying a lot. I think the main reason is because of Lydia and Killian. Not their relationship, well yes, that helps, but just because I loved each of them both as characters.

Lydia is the legit best. A bookworm who gets in over her head and then learns to be a certifiable badass. Talk about coming out of your shell!

I cannot wait for the next book in the series, which if I understand correctly, will follow the events of the first two books and will have all four main character perspectives: Teriana and Marcus, from Dark Shores, and Lydia and Killian, from Dark Skies.

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

I am really looking forward to continuing with this series!

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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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Review: Morning Star (Red Rising #3) by Pierce Brown

Morning Star (Red Rising Trilogy, #3)Morning Star by Pierce Brown
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

It’s finally happened.

I just let out a breath I didn’t even realize I was holding!

Morning Star, the third installment of the Red Rising Saga, exceeded all my expectations. My favorite so far!

Pierce Brown is currently battling George R.R. Martin for the title of, ‘Author Trying to Crush My Soul’.

Brown has created a hellishly brutal world. No character is safe. Ever!

Just when you start to let your guard down…

Without giving too much away, as this is the third in the series, the battle against the sovereign continues with The Reaper and his allies trying to disassemble the Color System.

The highlight for me, although there is always a ton of action, is watching the relationship growth among Darrow and his friends.

Particularly Darrow and Sevro, which honestly is one of the best male friendships I have ever read. It gives me life.

At the conclusion to this story, six years has passed since the start of Red Rising, so much has happened. It’s a complicated story and really very impressive.

I am entertained beyond reason and cannot wait to continue, although I will most likely need to take a breather before I start the next book.

Nevertheless, it’s pretty clear that I am low-key obsessed with this series and cannot wait to see what Brown has in store for these characters.

With this story, it could literally be anything!

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