Monday, March 20, 2023

Jumata Emill: The Black Queen

In his debut novel Jumata Emill shows that Love can be Murder:

Nova Albright is about to be the very first Black Homecoming Queen for her school, but not if Tinsley McArthur has anything to say about it, she will do anything to make sure that she can continue her family's legacy of Homecoming Queens. When Nova's body is found the night of her coronation, Tinsley is the prime suspect for the murder. No one is more convinced that Tinsley is the murderer than Nova's best friend Duchess. Duchess will do anything to prove that Tinsley was the murderer while Tinsley will do anything to prove that she is innocent. Two girls wanting the same thing for entirely different reasons

I was excited to pick up this book by Emill, not only because it is his debut novel (I Love reading debuts), but I honestly do not read enough books by BIPOC authors. This book was good, and at time it was just okay, this is mainly in the first half of the book as it is rather slow and much of the chapters are dedicated to duchess just being mad and Tinsley going through oh poor me/why me each chapter. 

I think there were times where Emill was trying to do too much with the story, the characters, the social/racial injustice that the whole book felt muddled at times. It was almost Emill did not know what he wanted to focus on in the book and while yes, all these aspects played a part in the book there were just too many times where one aspect or the other took too much center stage away from the main plot; The Murder of Nova.

I was surprised that Tinsley was the main character of this book even though her and Duchess have approximately the same amount of chapters, Tinsley felt more developed and defined than Duchess did. It was Tinsley who made some of the biggest connections about the murder in the book where Duchess is mainly only portrayed as the angry Black girl. I also felt more for Duchess than Tinsley so I wanted her to be the focus. Many of Tinsley's problems were center around being a rich white girl while Duchess had two sides going after her as her father is also the detective on the case and seen as doing nothing, even though he is also black.

This book suffered from the troupe of many teen mystery books, of the teens finding this key piece of evidence (more than once) and they refrain from giving it to the police until forced to. It also portrays the police as extremely dumb and unable to investigate anything and only these teens will be able to solve the problem. I think this was enhanced with Duchess being the daughter of the detective in charge of investigation and having access to files that he brought home (which I don’t actually think police would do in a case like this).

I did enjoy the overall story of this book and the second half is much more interesting than the first and I am glad I pushed through till the end. I think that he did a good job of giving a few possibilities as to who really could have murdered Nova (but I was able to guess before the end). I would read another book by Emill as I think he has a talent for writing, just needs to try not to do too much in one book.


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Wednesday, March 15, 2023

Z.W. Taylor: The Bite

In the first in a series, Z.W. Taylor takes readers on a journey where a woman is running for her life:

 To Escape her violent ex-boyfriend after he almost killed her, Charlotte flees to the wilderness of Alaska to a remote cabin where she hope she will be safe and that he will not find her. Before Charlotte is even able to make it to the cabin she is brutally attacked with them unbelievable changing into wolves and one of them even biting her. Charlotte is saved, but her life is forever changed. Now she must survive the transformation from a human to werewolf but the odds, like everything else in her life, seem to be against her.

 I was excited to pick up this book as it reminds me that I do not read enough shifter books, there is always some aspects that I like in the book especially when a human is turning into a werewolf. However, this book was not what I was expecting. It is a 300 page book where approximately 200 pages are dedicated to character development and just when things start to get really interesting again the book ends with a to be continued. If you want a book that goes into detail about the change from human to werewolf, Taylor is creative in this aspect, but that is about it. I'm not even sure of the romance aspect in this book, as it is being touted as a paranormal romance but I didn’t see any romance in the book, maybe one will come through the relationships she is making but nothing could ever be concrete in the book as they don’t know if she will survive the change or not.

The book starts out really interesting with Charlotte fleeing her abusive boyfriend to a secluded cabin in the woods, to hide, heal and figure out her life. But then she is attacked again by a group of strange men and yet some how she survived. What follows is about 200 pages of getting to know Charlotte, her past, trying to deal with the phases of becoming a werewolf and growing into a new person. And this is all fine but I just wanted a bit more to the plot. There are hints of things that could have been interesting in regards to the Rogue werewolves that attack on Charlotte. These Rouges were organized and were able to come up with a plan and think clearly, very different from Rogue encountered in the past but other than talks about them in side conversations, that are basically overheard nothing more is made of this plot point.

I think Taylor could have halved the amount of time developing Charlotte's character and added more plot to the story. I just overall wanted more from this book as when you get to the end I was left thinking, see this is where we should have gone 100 pages ago not message with to be continued. If you wanting a full on character based werewolf book you will enjoy this one, if you are looking more plot driven this will not be for you (except for the beginning and end). I'm unsure if i will read the next book in the series. I do think that Taylor has something here with the characters, story and possible plot I would just need A LOT more from the next book.


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Wednesday, March 8, 2023

Alex Finlay: What Have We Done

Alex Finlay shows that what happens in our youth, can come back to haunt us:

Jenna, Donnie and Nico have come a long way from the group home for parentless teens where they all met 25 years ago. They have all gone their separate ways and made something of their lives that is far away from where they started and the trauma that they shared. But an event from their past has come back to haunt them, with someone trying to kill them and in order to try to stay alive they have to revisit a past that they want to stay hidden. It's a reunion no one wanted that turned into a cat and mouse game with deadly consequences.

I mistakenly started this book on my lunch break at work and let me tell you it was hard to return to work after reading the first five chapters. This book really sucks you in right away, with multiple murders / attempts and you as a reader need are wondering how they all are connected. I did not want to put this book down, even though I was able to figure it out, I wanted to know how everything was going to play out. I think at Finlay did a great job laying out the plot both in the past and present where it keeps the reader interested and has some suspenseful moments too but I will admit that it became a bit muddled in the middle of the book. The manipulation in this book is on point, and it starts from the very beginning and does not stop until the book is over. I liked that Finlay had the manipulation occurs in both the past and present timelines.

If you like multiple POV then this is for you. I personally like multiple POV so I am here for it. I will say that I kind of missed a law officers POV, more specifically Agent Kelley’s from Finlay's previous two books. I think having the FBI perspective would have added an additional dimension to the book as well. I mean the FBI are hinted at here and there but I think I would have liked to see their POV and why they did become involved in the case, that aspect was never explained.

I really like that Finlay is not afraid to write strong female characters and this one is no different. From the assassins in the book to who i will call the action star of the book Jenna, all the women in this book are strong in their own way, even if they are a little bit psychotic.

Three books in with Finlay and I have enjoyed every one of them. I'm glad that he decided to write a different style of book to change it up a bit. I look forward to reading what Finlay puts out next.


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Sunday, February 26, 2023

Annette Marie: The One and Only Crystal Druid

In the first of a series, Annette Marie shows that there are even things that the Fae are scared of:

Ten years previously Saber risked everything in order to escape the horror that had become her life, but it only lead to death, a murder conviction and amnesia. She cannot remember anything that happened that night, maybe that is why the MPD decided to let her out on parole eventually. Now Saber works for an animal rescue agency as well as at vet clinic as a vet tec, trying to keep a low profile, trying to stay out of trouble. But trouble finds her one night as she hunts for a man who has mistreated horses that were dropped off at the rescue, when the Crystal Druid shows up hunting a powerful being that is hunting and killing animals and Fae, by stealing their hearts. Saber offers to help to save herself, but this creature is far more sinister and powerful than Saber could ever have imagined, so much for keeping a low profile.

This is the first book that I have read for Marie and I am here for the very cool world that she has created. I love that there are witches and druids and so many things that go bump in the night. I found that the  all the different creatures that Saber encounters along the way in just this book to be extremely interesting and suspenseful at time as you never really know what is going to jump out behind the next corner. I also appreciate that Marie takes things darker at times, from when Saber fights with her switch blade to when her and the Druid, Zak, decide to get it on a bit.

I enjoyed Saber as a character, I would say that she is a morally grey character and really the anti-hero at times when she encounters someone who has harmed an animal. I cannot fault her for her love of all creatures. I enjoyed that Marie took the time to show us parts of Saber's past, but yet at the same time, I feel like I did not really know her as a character and I still have so many more questions, mainly around why she is unable to perform magic, and I still don't fully understand her background completely, or what happened that day with her Aunt.

Zak is an interesting character and I want to know more about him and all the favours that he has garnered from the Fae to get the powers that he has, as well as the mistress he seems to have as well. 

So this was a good read, but I want to know more about the main characters and have them feel more developed in order to really enjoy this series. I look forward to reading the next book in the series

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Sunday, February 19, 2023

Alice Feeney: Daisy Darker

Alice Feeney shows that our darkest secrets will always haunt us:

After years of avoiding each other, all of the Darker family have been summonded to Seasglass, the home of the matriach of the family Nana, to celebrate her 80th birthday one that she believes will be her last. As each arrives, each family member harbour  secrets they don't want anyone to know. The funny thing about seaglass that it becomes an island as the tide comes in, no one can come or go safely until the tide is gone, 8 hrs without anyone able to access it. The at the stroke of midnight, Nana is found dead and a strange poem is written on the wall and then the next hour another body is dicovered. The family is trapped on the Island with a killer and the answer as to who is hidden in the past.

I will admit that after I read And Then There was None by Agatha Christie a few years ago, I did wonder if the book could be modernized in some way. Though this book does not take place today, it does take place in the time of flip phones and lacking of cell phone coverage.

Due to the fact that this book is based upon / uses another book as a major plot aspect i'm not really sure to how to review it without giving some thing away from both this book and And Then There was None.

Overall,  I am not 100% sure how I feel about this book. I did enjoy it and did not see the large twist that occurs in the end (which honestly the book needed or else it felt too much like ATTWN up until that point) but I just wanted more. And if I'm being entirely honest it is the twist that makes this book but I felt that the book relied a bit too much on Christie's novel to truly make it Feeney's own. The similiarities are, multiple POV, The Poem, The Poem telling how each person will die, all happens in one Night/Day and the overall reason that each person has been chosen to die. I mean the book is creative in it's creation of the Poem and how it goes about modernizing it, I think i just wish on a little less reliance on the original book.

I think Nana was my favourite character and even though she is the first to be killed off, you really get a sense of who she was with all the scenes from the past that are played out. She is truly the only one who seemed to show love in the Darker family and not just always to Daisy but the other people in the family as well, though not shown as frequent.

I'm torn whether you should read And Then There was None by Christie before this book or after as  I think you should read it not only because of how heavily it influenced this book but it is a book that holds up from when it was originally printed (minus the name and the poem which have been changed) in regards to plot and how it all plays out. Christie really was ahead of her time.

I did enjoy the book but not as much as I was wanting or expecting to. I know that I want to read more by Feeney and look forward to another book I read by her.

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Tuesday, February 14, 2023

Marissa Meyer: Cursed

You will need to read the first book in this series, Gilded, before you read this one as you will not fully understand and appreciate this book if you have not read it.

Marissa Meyer is back with the second book in her Rumplestiltskin retelling and the darkness wants to take over the light:

The Erlking has one goal to capture a God and wish for the return of his lover, the huntress Perchta from the underworld. Serilda and Guild know that they cannot let that happen but what can they do in this world. They know that they have to break the curse that binds them to the dark side of the veil but they need to find their bodies first. As Serilda and Guild search throughout the castle, Serilda soon makes a shocking discovery, that the Erlking may not be just looking to bring back Perchta but to make sure that they are never on the dark side of the veil again.

When a book is in a trilogy or a duology, it can be hard to impress or compete with the first book as expectations have been set high. There are few series where I would choose the second book as my favourite one. But for this duology I liked this book better than the first one. I found that the book was darker, information about Serilda and her power is revealed and there was less side story telling, which I found distracated from the overall plot of the first.

This book really picks up after the first one ends and the darkness of the first continues into this one. I found that the book got darker the farther the book went on. You know that the Erlking is cruel from the first book and after what happened to those Serilda cared about but you see even more of his cruelty in this book. What is also interesting is there are times that Meyer has the Erlking try to relate or get to know Serilda more but you never know if it is jus a game to him or a means to an end.

I found that Serilda grew up more in this book and was less annoying as a character, she just seemed smarter and beginning to learn from the mistakes that she had made in the past. What she is willing to give up in the book is quite shocking as well, and her sense of right and duty is high

I will admit, I was slightly and I mean slightly disappointed by the ending, but that did not take away my overall enjoyment of this book and duology.

If you enjoy re-tellings then I highly recommend that you check out this duology, Meyer knows how to do it right. I look forward to reading more of her re-telling especially if they are this dark.

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Tuesday, February 7, 2023

Elle Cosimino: Finlay Donovan Jumps the Gun

You will need to read the first 2 books in this series (Finlay Donovan is Killing it & Finlay Donovan Knocks' Em Dead) to understand the plot and relationships presented in this book. 

Elle Cosimino is back with in Finlay Donovan book and this time it's time to take Finlay to school; Police Academy in fact:

Finlay seems to have even more on the line before. Felik, The mobster, is determined to use Finlay's pervious actions (or what her actions look like) against her and has told her she has to find out who Easy Clean and make sure they are silent. Finlay is convinced that Easy Clean is a dirty cop on Nick's team and what better way to figure it out than some one on one time with people on Nick's team at a Police Academy. But the more that Finlay and Vero get to know the officers on Nick's team there seems to be more than one possibility for who Easy Clean could be. They need to not only figure out who Easy Clean and "take care" of them, keep the bookies away from Vero, but Finlay needs to finish her latest book by deadline and one steamy scene seems to beyond her ability to write, oh and keep all her secrets intact from her sister and Nick. It's going to be one Hell of a week at the Police Academy.

This was a good book, but I do not think that this was as good as the previous two. As this is the third book in the series, things can get a bit stale as certain jokes or formula or scenarios that were once fresh and funny then to fall a bit flat.  I also felt that the overall plot was muddied along the way, in that Cosimano was trying to do a bit too much in this book.

This book really had two things going for it, the Setting (Policy Academy) and Vera. Am I the only one who thinks that Vero needs to start having some chapters from her POV? Vera is just a fantastic character, I find most of the funny parts come from her and I just love her and the things that she ends up talking Finlay into.

I think the mob aspect has played itself out by now, I mean how long can Felik hold everything over her head and the amount of lies that Finlay continues to tell in order to keep her head above water. Everything has to come to a head sooner rather than later, though how the book ends (cliffhanger) I'm not sure that we are going to get there in the next book.

I'm happy that Finlay finally chooses which guy she wants to be with in this book, but part of me wonders how long that will last, I hope till the end, but for some reason I don't think so.

Although this was my least favourite book in the series, I still found the book enjoyable and some laugh out loud moments and I look forward to reading the next book in the series.

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Monday, January 23, 2023

Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff: Aurora Rising

In the first in a new series Kaufman and Kristoff take on a intergalactic space travel where to ensure the future of worlds, lies with a young woman from the past:

The year is 2380 and the cadets from the Aurora Academy are extremely excited to be graduating and to start their missions. Instead of being part of the graduation, star pupil Tyler Jones responds to a distress call to a ship that had been missing for hundreds of years. So although Tyler was a Hero with the rescue mission, he missed the draft to pick his team, so instead of having the dream team, he is left with the recruits that no one wanted (other than his sister and best friend). They accept their first mission but something is not right especially when they discover the woman, Auri, that Tyler rescued stowed away on their ship. Auri is a woman out of time and space but seems to be the key to many things and possibly the catalyst for war. Now this team of misfits must race across space as they are the last hope to save the galaxy.

This is the first book that I have read by Kaufman and Kristoff (yes do not come for me, I have not read their Illuminate series) and I really enjoyed this book. I do not read too many sci-fi books as I can get lost in the technical terms and all the science they try to put on the reader, but I found this book was easy to read, follow and understand. I really enjoyed that they were able to create such an intricate world with different species without getting too technical about it. 

Wow that was quite a ride, and I really enjoyed this book and I loved that each character had their own chapters to give their POV of what was happening around them. You will tend to like some characters more than others, which happens in any book, but was I the one who I liked best was Zila . I know she had extremely short chapters but she is awesome in her craziness and sociopathic natures. There really is a character that anyone to like in this book and I didn't really find fault with any of the characters in the book, they are all different enough that they do not begin to sound the same.

When the bad guy is fully revealed, it was just wow, truly wow that is a scary beast, that I would not want to mess with. I am really looking forward to see how Kaufman & Kristoff use what the bad guy is capable of and how far they are entrenched in the worlds/society that this book takes place in. From where they are in this book it already seems pretty far.

So far it seems like there is not going to be any type of love triangle which is common in YA novels, so I am happy for that. Is there some relationships that appear to be developing, Yes, but they do not overshadow the overall story.

Loved this book and I wish I would have read it sooner (but also glad that the other 2 books in the series have already been released). I cannot wait to see where Kaufman & Kristoff takes this series.

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Monday, January 16, 2023

Kate Alice Marshall: What Lies in the Woods

In Kate Alice Marshall's latest novel she shows that confronting your past can be deadly:

Naomi, Cass and Olivia have been best friends since kindgarden, and they would spent their days and summers in the forest, playing and creating games. The last summer is was the Goddess Game, but it suddenly ended when Naomi was attacked but miraciously survived the 17 stab wounds and along with Cass and Olivia they were able to ID the man that hurt her. The girls were seen as heroes, but the problem is that they all lied. Now 22 years later. when he dies suddendly in prison, Naomi feels obligated to head home where she discovers that Olivia wants to tell the truth. Naomi has been running from the truth for this long, but she feels she is finally ready to face what happened that night and what really happened. But this town has many secrets and it is a dangerous game to seek out the truth.

Alright, start the car and go grab this book if you want to read a really good mystery with a side of thrills. This is how you write a book. I was hooked from the very beginning and would have read this book in one sitting if I could have. I enjoyed the main characer, the flow, the mystery and multiple twists and turns along the way. I also loved the setting with the a small town secrets to spare and so many are revealled along the way in this book. 

Alright it has been a long time since I have read a book that had so many twists and turns throughout that had me questioning thing throughout the story. Was I able to figure it out before the end, Yes, but that did not stop me from questioning what I thought as well wanting me to read more and more to see if I was right. I think that what Marshall did really well was there were so many people that Naomi could not trust around her and the small town if full of secrets and those trying to protect themselves. I enjoyed that the book was dealing with a mystery in the past that had some present day consequences for many individuals within the town. I wouldnt say that this book is a thriller though as that has different set of parameters for me, there are some thrilling moments but it is not constant in the book. It is mainly about Naomi trying to figure out what happened that night 22 years ago and whether she sent the wrong man to prison with her lie.

Naomi was an interesting character to have the story told through as she is not a realiable character when she is reliving the events of the past, as what happened to her she can physically cannot remember what happened the night that changed her life forever. I love that Naomi does not shy away from what her body and face look like. She never covers her scar that bisects part of her face. To say Naomi has some issues may be an understatement. She can be hard to like as a character at times but if you survived 17 stab wounds one of which disfigured your face, I’m thinking issues are bound to happen 

This was a great mystery novel that had many aspects that I love in  mystery book. I cannot wait to read her other works and to see what she is able to come out with next. 

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Tuesday, January 10, 2023

Laken Cane: Blood Magic

You will need to read the first book in this series, Broken Moon, to understand the characters and relationships plus one of the bad guys that Kait fights is also in this book.

Laken Cane is back with her next book in her Kait Silver series, Kait finds out just how much darkness is in the supernatural world:

Kait has been flung into the supernatural world with the release of her wolf and though she has craved to be part of a pack, she's not sure if she or the pack is ready for that yet. Kait's power is growing and she is itching for a job, so when a human walks in and want to hire her to go after a Master Vampire, she is all in. But this world is new to Kait and her actions have some serious consequesces as not only is she going to have to deal with the vampires but a certian Demon comes calling and he will stop at nothing to get his knife back.

This was a good follow up book to the first one but it just didn’t hit like the first one did, and I think it was a the pacing. It would go super fast then super slow and the fight scenes were on point for me but I’m not sure just the flow was just off to me. I think that Cane tried to do too much in this book, this book could have been about 3 books in one. I don’t mind multiple cases or bad guys but none of the stories seemed completely fleshed out and just rushed through our. I also didn’t like that what drew me to the first book, Kait being a loan wolf whose power was hobbled was already taken care of.

I like that Cane like to introduce different creatures in her book (not as many as the first book), especially in the final vampire battle that was pretty cool. And I loved that the Vampires were not weak beautiful kind but deadly, torture those around you kind. Makes the big bad that much worse in this book

It was a little tiring hear her talk about how she’s the baddest one in the room, I mean I like a kickass heroine and all but they don’t need to brag about it. Kait also seems to have endless power that has not yet been fully explained and nothing seems to really hurt her or keep her down for long.

I did like this book, but not as much as the first. I will continue on in the series to see where Laken takes this series and characters plus this book is a lot darker than I thought it would be, which I am here for.

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Wednesday, January 4, 2023

Stacy Willingham: All the Dangerous Things

Stacy Willingham shows that a mother will stop at nothing to find her son, whether he is dead or alive

On year ago, the unthinkable happens, Isabelle's toddler son, Mason, is taken from his crib at night and has not been seen since. The only evidence is an open window and Mason's dragon found a short distance away. With little evidence and no leads, Isabelle fears that her son's case will be lost in the shuffle of time. She decides to take her story to true crime conferences around the country in order to keep the case in the spotlight. Ever since Mason has disappeared Isabelle has not been able to sleep and it has been affecting her entire life but entire existence is about finding Mason. In the hopes of stirring new information, she agrees to be interviewed by a true crime podcaster, who has has success in the past with finding someone who was missing, but Isabelle is not sure she can trust him as some things are not adding up. Will Isabelle be able to find Mason, or is Mason not the only one who is in trouble of disappearing.

This is a good read but I am not going to lie, it is slow...I was honestly questioning if I should con6tinue on reading it at the 50% as nothing had happened. Once you hit around the 75% mark things start to happen but it was quite a drag to hey there. So does the last 25 % make up for the previous 75% being slow. Yes and No. I mean the twists were well done but I was able to figure out one of the twists and most of the other. But I struggled reading this book as at times as there appeared to be nothing happening other than Isabelle questioning herself and you can only do that so much. Isabelle is really more concerned about the past and what happened to her sister, and there is no additional investigation really done with regards to what happened to Mason, is just sort of comes together in that last 25%.

I like the format that Willingham has done in both their books, with 2 mysteries occurring but at different time periods but yet they are related in some way. I also appreciate that this book's plot is completely different from Willingham's debut novel, though I will say the formula is similar.

I appreciate that it talks about how difficult motherhood can be and how people put on it’s perfect face to try to cover it up and still feel ashamed when they talk about how difficult it can be. This really plays well into the plot of the book as Isabelle becomes a unreliable narrator with her lack of sleep and not knowing if she has done things while sleep walking or when her insomnia gets really bad we are reminded more than once that this can cause hallucinations. You cannot help but feel sorry for Isabelle, throughout the story, everything that she has gone through, the lack of support she receives and just her never-ending relentlessness to find her son.

I do like Willingham's writing style/format and that both of her books have been creative, I just wish this one was more fast paced instead of just all coming together in the end. I will read the another book by Willingham to see what she can come up with next

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