Thursday, July 11, 2019

Book Review: Magic & Murder by Annabel Chase


Goodreads Summary: Welcome to Starry Hollow, where spells were made to be broken.
Short on both cash and time, Ember Rose does her best as a single mom in New Jersey, serving up attitude along with repossession notices. When a repo job goes sideways, she and her daughter find themselves in imminent danger--until a visit from estranged relatives turns their world upside down. Ember, Marley, and their Yorkie are transported to Starry Hollow, a paranormal town where witches rule and magic is as normal as pizza. Where Ember goes, though, trouble seems to follow. When a member of the coven turns up dead, and the sexy werewolf sheriff identifies Ember as a suspect, she decides to take matters into her own hands like only a Jersey girl can.
Goodreads Rating: 4.31 stars with over 1200 ratings
Genre Listing: Cozy Mystery, Paranormal, Witches, Magic, Fantasy
Goodreads Challenge: 15/50 (woohoo! I'm catching up.)
2019 Reading Challenge: #10 a book with a title done in alliteration (find the full challenge here)

Book Review:

If anyone's wondering why the influx of reviews, it's because I'm avoiding real life responsibilities. I have a 30-page business plan to finish so I can graduate and need to pack up my apartment, so I can move out of state in August. The logical thing to do in this situation is to just ignore these things and read, obviously.

I was really struggling to find something with an alliterative title that I wanted to read. I found a couple of titles and started to read them, but lost interest quickly. I finally found one. Magic & Murder is a fun and short cozy paranormal mystery. Annabel Chase is the same author who put out the Spellbound series that I was obsessed with most of last year. Magic and Murder is very similar to the Spellbound series. A single woman in her mid to late 20s doesn't know she has magic, or that it even exists, and finds herself living in a paranormal town as a witch. There's a lot of similar humor like references to Harry Potter that no one in the Starry Hollow gets. Both main characters of the two series have to take some form of magic classes to get up to speed, and both also find themselves in the middle of a murder investigation. At one point and time, Spellbound even gets mentioned.
I don't mind the similarities, but I can see how it'd be a deal breaker for some readers. While I think the foundation is similar, the story its self is somewhat different. Ember ends up in Starry Hollow with her ten-year-old daughter after their lives are threatened by a complete psychopath. I thought this was a really well-done intro to Ember's story because it's highly dramatic and makes her interesting right away. She and her daughter Marley are then whisked away by three witchy relatives that Ember didn't even know existed.

Marley is probably my favorite character in the book. She's sassy and way too smart for her own good. Ember and Marley have a good dynamic that feels realistic. Ember ends up with an Aunt and three cousins (and their families). I can't remember any of their names, and aside from the Aunt they really didn't make an impression on me. The Aunt likes to throw her name around a lot to get her way, and that should be an interesting plot line throughout the series.

The thing I like the most about Magic & Murder (as well as the other Annabel Chase books I've read) is they're short. This one is only 193 pages. It's easy to get into the story, there's a bit of wit and humor, and it's a quick read. If you're trying to get some challenge fillers, this is a good one it'd fit for Fantasy, an M title, Alliteration, Free spaces, and if you're doing just a straight number's challenge, it only takes a couple of hours. 



Tuesday, July 9, 2019

Book Review: An Unwelcome Guest by Emily Organ

Goodreads Summary: Some say the Hotel Tempesta is cursed, but its owner, Mr. Gallo, refuses to believe it. When he’s brutally murdered one night, the suspicion falls on his guests. Ten suspects in total. And Penny Green is one of them.
Does Mr. Gallo’s murder have anything to do with the criminal mastermind on the run from America? Penny and Inspector James Blakely must negotiate a world of courtesans, stolen paintings and secret codes to prove Penny's innocence and uncover the truth.
Goodreads Rating: 4.23 with over 200 ratings
Genre Listing: Mystery, Historical Fiction
Goodreads Challenge: 14/50
2019 Reading Challenge: #50 The most recent book in a series you haven't finished (find the whole challenge here)
Reviews on the series: LimelightThe Bermondsey PoisonerCurse of the PoppyThe InventorThe Maid's SecretThe Rookery

Book Review:

Putting this as my #50 book may be cheating a little bit, only because it's an ongoing series. An Unwelcome Guest was just released in May, so the next book isn't out yet. I totally didn't want to use more of my free spaces yet though. So at #50, it shall stay. 

So, if you're new to the blog, you should know that I'm obsessed with this series. Each book is relatively short and around 200-300 pages. They're quick, easy reads with a lot of detail and suspense. The main character is a female reporter in Victorian London Penny is a rarity in her time with not only being a reporter, but also a Spinster in her mid-thirties. She's has a knack for getting involved in murders through her reporting and always finds herself in some kind of trouble. I wouldn't classify this series as a cozy mystery, but it's relatively tame for some mysteries. There are some blood and gore scenes, but there's no gratuitous sex scenes or cursing. 

At first, while reading An Unwelcome Guest, I thought the murder scene was remarkably similar to The Maid's Secret. This was earlier in the series, but mostly Penny finds herself in a large gathering overnight when a murder happens. They both read a bit like a clue game, the victim was found in this room killed by this weapon sort of thing. I did find that the plot deviated from this after the initial murder investigation was done with. Penny finds herself a suspect in the case and seems to be at the top of the list when others are ruled out.

I think what made An Unwelcome Guest by Emily Organ different than the other books in the series is that there are essentially two crimes and two very different investigations. There's a murder investigation, and then there's an art heist investigation. I won't give much more than that away, but I found it very interesting, and there were a ton of suspects. I feel like in every book that's something that Emily Oran really does really well. There's always a lot of suspects that make sense, and they kind of get narrowed down to a couple in each book. I found myself pretty shocked by the outcome of this case.

If you're following along with this series, or at the very least my reviews, you should know some drama has been building in the last few books. Inspector Blakely was engaged to be married to Charlotte, but called the wedding off on the day it was supposed to happen. An Unwelcome Guest focuses a lot on the aftermath of his decision (in between a murder investigation, obviously). I feel like it came to a head in a truly Victorian way, a lawsuit for breach of contract. I think this is one of the things I admire about Emily Organ, she really goes all out with the little historical details. I can imagine that breaking an engagement was a terribly taboo thing in the 1800s. 

I was hoping there would be a little bit more on Francis's expedition, but what there was definitely enough to keep me interested, and show there's going to be some discoveries made. I have a completely unfounded theory that Francis and Ellie are going to court eventually. Another note on the historical fiction aspect in this plot line. Now that Francis is on an entirely different continent, he is communicating with Penny and her sister through letters. At one point, he gets to send them a telegraph, and the girls gush at how instant the communication was and only took a couple of days opposed to weeks. It just made me giggle and reflect on how technology dependent we are, and how much it is taken for granted.

Obviously, I loved the story.  Something that I found was really exceptional in this book, and very meaningful for the time we live in is a message throughout this story. The message is one that is kind of hidden but can be a powerful one. So, I leave you with a quote from An Unwelcome Guest.

"It is a stark reminder that all victims must be considered in a fair and equal manner."- Chapter 21 in An Unwelcome Guest by Emily Organ


Saturday, July 6, 2019

Book Review: Hounded by Kevin Hearne


Goodreads Summary: Atticus O’Sullivan, last of the Druids, lives peacefully in Arizona, running an occult bookshop and shape-shifting in his spare time to hunt with his Irish wolfhound. His neighbors and customers think that this handsome, tattooed Irish dude is about twenty-one years old—when in actuality, he’s twenty-one centuries old. Not to mention: He draws his power from the earth, possesses a sharp wit, and wields an even sharper magical sword known as Fragarach, the Answerer.
Unfortunately, a very angry Celtic god wants that sword, and he’s hounded Atticus for centuries. Now the determined deity has tracked him down, and Atticus will need all his power—plus the help of a seductive goddess of death, his vampire and werewolf team of attorneys, a bartender possessed by a Hindu witch, and some good old-fashioned luck of the Irish—to kick some Celtic arse and deliver himself from evil.
Goodreads Rating: 4.12 stars with over 68,000 ratings
Genre Listing: Fantasy, Urban Fantasy, Paranormal, Fiction, Magic, Mythology
Goodreads Challenge: 13/50
2019 Reading Challenge: #20 a book published by Penguin Random House (find the whole challenge here.)

Book Review:

My friend Tress over at https://songstress7.wordpress.com/ has been recommending me Hounded for ages, and I finally got around to reading it. It seemed like an easy fit for Penguin Random House since they own Del Rey that publishes Hounded.

When I first started reading it, I wasn't sure if I'd like it. I must have liked it a lot more than I thought because before I knew it I was 40% in and annoyed I'd have to put it down to go to bed. It's a relatively short read that moves extremely fast. There's not a lot of dull moments in the story, which I appreciated. Druids aren't a class of supernatural I've read much on, so I was interested to see a take on their magic. I hope that the rest of the series gets more into the magical aspects.

Along with the druid type of magic, there were a lot of Gods introduced that I hadn't read about before. I think that The Morrigan was the most interesting to me of the Deity characters. She doesn't want to be seen as taking sides but clearly does. She is mysterious, turns into a bird, and seems to feed on death. What's not to like?

There was a decent amount of humor and snark in Hounded. It reminded me quite a bit of The Dresden Files series by Jim Butcher. There was quite a bit of similarity between the two books, and I think fans of The Dresden Files would like The Iron Druid Chronicles if they haven't already read it. There's lots of different supernatural creatures, a snarky main character, and lots of action. Overall, I really enjoyed Hounded. I'm hoping that the next book gets a bit more in-depth into the magic, as that tends to be my favorite parts of fantasy books. 




Thursday, June 27, 2019

Book Review: Catch and Kill by J.D. Lasica


Goodreads Summary: What happened to the girls? Overnight, hundreds of teenage girls disappear from the streets of America. 

Off the coast of Florida, a virtual reality theme park opens for the super-rich. 

Are the two connected? 

When two assailants accost twenty-three-year-old Kaden Baker at an awards gala, she enters a maelstrom of high-tech international intrigue that pits her against a mysterious foe. 

It will take all her covert ops and hacking skills as she allies with a group of family members to battle an enemy out to unleash a mass attack on the U.S. and West by stealth. 

Can they bring the girls home and thwart the unthinkable? 

Goodreads Ratings: 4.14 stars with just over 100 views
Genre Listing: Thriller, Mystery, Fiction
Goodreads Challenge: 12/50 (Holy hell I'm behind.)
2019 Reading Challenge: #12, Free Space (Find the full challenge here)

Review:

Holy crap it feels like FOREVER since I've posted a review. I actually read a book but to fulfill my fantasy novel spot on the reading challenge, but I was so busy I never got around to doing a review. Now I don't even remember the name of the main character. Anyways, I finally got a chance to finish Catch and Kill. As a disclaimer, I received a free copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.

I kind of have to do this review in a vacuum of sorts. From what I can tell on Goodreads Catch and Kill is the second novel in the series. I don't know how much of the themes in this book are carried over from the first book. I will say that I don't think this will really affect the readability. It did raise some questions for me about Kaden's past, but J.D. Lasica does a reasonably good job about recapping to where it didn't feel necessary for me to stop and go read the first book. I was drawn into Kaden's story right away. A special ops thriller with a female lead? Sign me up! Plus, the dynamic between Kaden and Bo was unique, and not one I would expect in a thriller.
My favorite thing in this story was the technology. I felt it was really well done and fascinating. In the world that J.D. Lasica's created, everyone wears smart glasses. The wearers can see a lot of information about other people and their surroundings. Kaden has developed an AI that lives within her smart contact lenses. The AI comes in pretty handy throughout the story and even has an amusing persona. The AI centered vacation island was particularly fascinating. Lasica's created a unique economy for the island based on points for community helpfulness. 

I think the hardest part from me is that the entire book switches from so many points of view. I feel like there were at least ten different characters that we saw the story through. I accept that I appreciate a more linear timeline than some readers. I like one to two points of view, generally. However, this seemed like a lot of character switching in only 400 pages. All of this switching made it kind of hard for me to follow along or really get thoroughly invested in the story. It seemed like as soon as I'd start to get really into the story, it'd switch characters, and I'd have to get reacquainted. I will say that eventually, everything does come together, and I don't know that the story could be told more linearly.  So, if you start to read Catch and Kill and start getting frustrated like I did, keep going and give it a chance.

I could get interested in most of the characters except for the villain, Incognito. He didn't really feel like he fit in with the story. I think his story was almost too complicated. Instead of making him interesting, it just made me not want to read about him. I think if the main plot were this billionaire businessman bought out an island and made it a hub of sex-trafficking and fantasy for the rich, it would have been more plausible. But there's this whole extra plot about using it as a front of terrorism, and it just didn't fit. Now, as I said before, I'm starting this with the second book. So this could very well be an ongoing theme through the series, and I'd have no idea. I think for this to work better, it would need to be its own plot based on the terrorist plot, and maybe a different villain. With what's in Catch and Kill, it just felt like it was thrown in to make things more complicated when it didn't need to be. I probably would have been hooked without it.
Overall, I enjoyed the book, but I didn't love it. I found it hard to stay interested in, even though it is well written, I think that a lot of research went into the tech used in the story as well as the military aspects, which I appreciate. I'm guessing that people who enjoy the Jack Reacher type of novels would like this book. My issue with the book is that the constant character changing and overdeveloped villain took me out of the story.



Saturday, May 18, 2019

Product Review: Literary Book Gifts


A while back, I did a post where I reviewed the website for Literary Book Gifts. They had offered up a coupon code for my readers in exchange for the review. The review, which can be found here, was strictly on the website. I've been eyeing Alice's Adventure in Wonderland tote since I did the review and I finally bought it. It arrived today and I thought I'd do a follow-up review of the actual product this time. You can check out all of what they offer on the website: Literary Book Gifts.

Ordering from the website is really easy. Every item seems to have a lot of color options and size options, even the totes. Shipping is a flat fee and arrives fast! From E-mail confirmation to delivery was about 9 days, which feels pretty reasonable to me. The website felt trustworthy and secure, so I wasn't concerned about using my card.

Now. On to the Tote bag. I AM IN LOVE. I got a large size, because eh why not. IT IS HUGE! Seriously, I can't wait to lose all of my junk in the bottom of this thing, Plus I'm pretty sure I can fit my laptop in it, so I'm pretty excited about that.

The canvas feels really sturdy and like there's a liner backing of some sort. The stitching looks secure, the printing is really nice. It's faded in places and gives it a really antiqued look to it. I absolutely love it.  I tried to get some pictures of this, but I don't know that they do it justice. It's sitting on my couch up against the cushion if you want a visual of size.

Front

Back

Inside
Like I said, this thing is huge. The pictures aren't the best. It's more of a navy blue than the gray in the pictures. I can't wait to use it. My old tote bag is about on its last leg, so this came just in time.  Overall, my experience with Literary Book Gifts has been super positive. The only negative I have is more of a disclaimer for my readers. In my original post, the coupon code LINZTHEBOOKWORM20 was offered so that anyone referred from my blog could get 20% off their order. Unfortunately, when I tried to use the code it did not work. The original post is from back in October, so it's possible it's just expired. It would have been about the price of shipping, so I'm not all that worried about it. I just wanted to make mention of it if anyone went and tried to use it. It didn't impact my perception of the service at all. I still like how quickly I received my item and think it's going to be a great tote to use.
If anyone would like me to review their product or website just reach out to me with the contact form. Authors, feel free to submit requests for your books as well. I just can't promise how quickly I will get to read it.


Edit: The coupon code is working again, so if you'd like to save 20% use Coupon code LINZTHEBOOKWORM20

Writing Prompt Challenge- Mabel and the Elephants



Ooh? What's this? A new feature!?! Yep! It's probably going to be a regular one, too. For those of you who don't know, I'm actually an aspiring author. I've got a handful of stories in various stages, but when I try to work on them, I just get horrendous writer's block. My good friend and fellow blogger got me into listening to a Podcast called Writing Excuses. It's fantastic, and I highly recommend it. While binge-listening to it earlier in the week to inspire Tress and I both to write more. The idea is that about once a month, we find each other writing prompts to expand on. It'd hopefully get us both writing more and give us more blog posts to keep up on. I'm not sure if Tress is going to post hers to her blog or not, but you can e-stalk her here.

So, she gave me my first prompt, and it's actually from Writing Excuses Season 2, episode 31. You can check out the podcast here. I make no guarantees this will be good. I didn't do much in the way of editing because it's 12:30am right now and, honestly I just don't care.

Prompt: An Author comes up with a wacky, crazy gimmick for a book... and then it happens to the author in real life.

Short Story: Mabel and the Elephants

Mabel Jones sat at her desk, trying desperately to put pen to paper. Her publisher was figuratively breathing down her neck, but Mabel feared if she missed her deadline, it’d become literal.

When she had decided to do writing full time, Mabel thought it’d be this fantastic thing where all the creative energies steadily flowed out of her fingertips, manifesting into ideas, stories, and novels. What it actually turned into, however, was all of her creativity hitting a wall, repeatedly. So when her four-year-old daughter, Vanessa, asked to go to the zoo, Mabel happily obliged.

It was a crisp fall afternoon when Mabel and Vanessa arrived at the zoo. It wasn’t crowded, which was nice. Mabel hoped that it’d allow Vaness, or Nessy as she was fondly called, to get a chance to be up close to see the elephants. The zoo had just introduced a juvenile elephant named Rupert to the herd.

They started their adventure by getting lunch. Nessy insisted that they get animal shaped juices. Vanessa picked out a green monkey, which she named Jade. Mabel opted for a red crocodile that she gave the ironic name of ‘Hook.’

After lunch, Mabel and Vaness walked around the zoo. They watched each of the animals for a bit before moving on to the next exhibit. Eventually, they made it to the elephants where Vanessa squealed with delight at the sight of Rupert.

“Mommy?” Vanessa asked as she watched Rupert play with the other elephants.
“Yes, Loch Ness Monster?” Mabel teased her daughter while placing a gentle hand on Vanessa’s head. She was so grateful for this moment.
“I’m not the Loch Ness Monster.” Vanessa giggled. “Mommy, wouldn’t it be funny if animals were people, and people were in zoos?”
“Yeah, Nessy. That would be pretty funny.”

The next morning, Mabel woke as usual and started going about her morning routine. She started her morning by starting a pot of coffee. Magic bean juice make the brain go fast. She thought idly to herself as she checked her watch. She needed to get Vanessa up soon and ready to go to daycare. Mabel dropped her off a couple of days a week so Nessa could socialize and she could have some time to work. Mabel was fortunate that her husband Stuart had come home from work after the zoo adventure. He entertained Vanessa most of the evening so she could get some work done. All she could think of, however, was zoo animals becoming people and vice versa. It wasn’t really what her publisher was requesting, but she went with it anyway.

In her prose, she wrote about a woman named Maxine who’s neighbors slowly became zoo animals. They didn’t seem to notice the change or that they were suddenly different than Maxine. They just went about their day like it was Richard Scarry’s Busytown.

Mabel didn’t even realize she had been lost in her own thoughts until she heard Vanessa. They were on the front porch about to walk out to the car, parked on the street when Vanessa started calling for her rather urgently.

“Mommy! Mommy!” Vanessa exclaimed. “Mommy! Mrs. Bucannan is a giraffe!”
“Vanessa Suzanne Jones! That is rude. You do not call people names.” Mabel lectured in a low voice, hoping that Mrs. Bucannan did not hear the child call her a giraffe. (Though she was a bit of a giraffe at six feet tall.)

Mabel looked up, trying to hide her face of sheer shock. Mrs. Bucannan was usually out tending to her yard. Today there was definitely something next door. Mabel eyed up the Giraffe’s long neck. She finally reached the head where the Giraffe starred at Mabel, expectantly. Mabel couldn’t help but notice that it was wearing Mrs. Bucannan’s sundress and purple straw hat.

“Rough morning, dearie?” The Giraffe... Mrs. Bucannan asked.
“Mhm... Yes... I was ugh... up late working and am still trying to wake up, I guess.” Mabel finally sputtered out. Make the words and form the sentences, Mabel Lynn, Mabel thought to herself.
“Ah, well... I can’t wait to read your next story, dear. I particularly enjoy reading them with my afternoon tea. You girls have a nice day.”
“Yes, ma’am. You too.” Mabel replied. She briefly wondered how Mrs. Bucannan was doing yard work with hooves but pushed the thought aside.

And that’s how her day went. Mabel dropped Vanessa off at daycare to find that the teachers were now sweet little otters. She went to the grocery store and discovered that the cashiers were a flamingo, aardvark (sitting on a stool to reach the register) and rhinoceros. The bagger was a large Orangutan that Mabel desperately hoped didn’t smell that way as a human. Yuck.

Mabel stayed in town a little longer than she had planned, but she was just so fascinated by what was happening. In the back of her mind, she knew she should be freaking out. Mabel had written about animals becoming humanistic, and it was happening. She knew she should be running back home or trying to wake up from what was definitely a dream, but how could she when there was something new to see, everywhere. Alligators were walking dogs on leashes, Koalas were working on power lines, and water buffalo were driving cars. It was so surreal, and Mabel couldn’t look away.

By the end of the day, Mabel was exhausted, and Vanessa kept going on about how cool the animals were. Mabel was too tired to wonder how she and Vanessa were the only humans she saw that day. She pondered if Stuart had changed as well. He had flown out on business earlier in the day, and they had only spoken briefly on the phone.

Mabel woke the next morning, much like she did every day, except for today she was utterly confused. She had fallen asleep on the couch after putting her daughter to bed, but that is not where she resided now. There was sunlight shining in her eyes, and Mabel found herself on a cold, somewhat dirty, floor. She looked around and saw there were other people in cages while animals walked around. The caged humans seemed to be utterly unphased like this was just their everyday routine. Mabel’s thoughts were interrupted by two elephants talking in front of her. One appeared to be a very young elephant.

“Mommy, what animal is this one?” the little elephant asked excitedly.

“Well, dear,” The older elephant briefly looked down at a plaque, “it says here that this is called a Mabel. She shares this space with her mate Stuart and their calf, Vanessa.”
“Oh, neat.” The young elephant replied.
“Come along, Rupert. It’s time for lunch.”
And so, the young elephant trotted off for lunch.

Monday, April 1, 2019

2019 Reading Challenge Update: January- March


Hi, ya readers! I've been planning on doing an update post for a little bit now, but I've just had so few books it didn't seem worth it. I finally feel that I've got a good amount to be able to list. I'm not going to recap them, but I will link to their posts to make it easier.

I've almost got Level 1 finished. I was skipping around in the beginning but ended up focusing on level 1 so that I could feel accomplished. My Goodreads goal is 50 books for the year. I'm two books behind right now, but I'm hoping after I graduate this month (finally, yay!!!!) I'll have more time to read. I'm also hoping to finish some of my writing projects. Here's looking at you almost finished children's novel that I've been working on for 12 years now.

Anyways, without further ado, here's the update. The full challenge can be found here.



Level 1: Book of the Month Club
1. A book with a red cover – The Chalk Man by C.J. Tudor
2. Read a YA fiction novel –Paperglass by A.R. Ivanovich
3. A book under 300 pages – The River Witch by Helena Rookwood
4. A book you got for free – The Hagstone by Helena Rookwood

6. Read a book that takes place during the summer – Summer Knight by Jim Butcher
7. A book whose title starts with the letter M – Magic Bitter, Magic Sweet by Charlie N. Holmberg

9. A book that has been turned into a TV show or movie – Voyager by Diana Gabaldon

Level 3: Dedicated Reader Club
35. A book with exactly three words in the title- Dorothy Must Die by Danielle Paige

Level 5: Overachiever Club
56. A book about a real or fictional politician- My Dear Hamilton by Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamoie
58. A book with a tree or forest on the cover- Have by A.R. Ivanovich