Friday, March 17, 2017

REVIEW: A Curious Beginning by Deanna Raybourn

My Rating: ★★★★★★★★★☆

A Curious Beginning is the first in an exciting new steampunk mystery adventure series from Deanna Raybourn.

The author brings us back to Victorian London, 1887 to be exact. Veronica Speedwell has just buried her aunt, and now the trouble starts and she's running for her life, no idea why anyone would be after her. Placed into the care of the roguishly handsome Stoker, the pair are determined to get to the bottom of who killed the Baron, and why they would be after her as well. The shocking secrets they discover make for an intriguing tale that kept me on my toes to the very end.

The chemistry between Victoria and Stoker was intense. Why don't they just kiss already? Haha! I'm not a big fan of romance when it's the main premise of the story, but the budding background sexual tension between the two of them served to add another emotional layer to the whole story. I'm definitely looking forward to further adventures between these two, and fortunately I have the next in the series, A Perilous Undertaking, waiting on my Kindle up next. :)

The Kindle edition of this book is only $2.99 right now. Click the link or picture above to get it!

Friday, March 03, 2017

REVIEW: The Haunted Heist (Southern Ghost Hunter Mysteries, Book 3) by Angie Fox

My Rating: ★★★★★★★☆☆☆

Verity Long can see and talk to ghosts. Unfortunately, she also seems to always find herself in the wrong place at the wrong time. This time, she's on the scene when the head of The First Bank of Sugarland is killed. No one saw who shot poor Reggie right through the heart, but the calling card left at the scene points to Handsome Henry, an infamous gangster and hit man gunned down and killed back in 1933.

Teaming up with her sort-of boyfriend, deputy sheriff Ellis Wydell, along with her ghostly gangster buddy Frankie, the three search for answers in a haunted mob speakeasy, as well as a spooky cemetery crawling with wailing ghosts. Can Verity use her medium skills to track down the killer before someone else gets popped?

Like the other books in the Southern Ghost Hunter Mysteries, The Haunted Heist was a fun, quick, and quirky read. There were several twists I didn't see coming, and I didn't figure out whodunit until the very end. I was also happy to see the relationship between Verity and Ellis blooming quite nicely. As usual, Verity makes a few stupid decisions along the way, and seems a bit more of a pushover this time around, but fortunately nothing that affected the story line too severely. (Unless you count getting locked in a bank vault.)

This book may not have had all the laughs of the previous two but I found it entertaining nonetheless. The Southern Ghost Hunter Mysteries are a witty, action-packed cozy mystery ride that I'd recommend to any fan of the genre. These books can easily be read standalone, though there are a couple ongoing threads going on in the background, like the burgeoning romance between Verity and Ellis, that make reading them in order much more enjoyable as you get to know the characters better.

Thank you to NetGalley and Season Publishing for providing me with an advanced reading copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Wednesday, March 01, 2017

REVIEW: Ghost of a Chance: A Southern Ghost Hunter Mysteries Novella by Angie Fox

My Rating: ★★★★★★★☆☆☆

This was a cute little novella, only about 40 pages long, that takes place chronologically between books 2 and 3 of the Southern Ghost Hunter Mysteries.

Verity Long can see and talk to ghosts thanks to her resident ghost sidekick Frankie. So when her friend Major Matthew Jackson, long dead since the Civil War, comes to Verity for a favor, she's happy to do what she can to oblige. Matthew would like Verity's help to retrieve an old family heirloom from his family estate. And since it just so happens the Jacksons are holding their annual Christmas party this weekend, Verity straps on her catering hat to help out. But can she save the party, the reputation of her friend's catering business, and fulfill Matthew's request while all the Jackson ghosts are doing their darnedest to to dampen the festivities?

Though I've enjoyed the tales of Verity and the Southern Ghost Hunter Mysteries, I feel as if Verity brings many of her problems onto herself—she can be a bit of a ditz at times too. LOL That said, this series is charming, winsome, and witty, great for when you want a light-hearted, amusing read.

REVIEW: Crucible Zero: A House Immortal Novel (Book 3) by Devon Monk

My Rating: ★★★★★★★★★☆

The final book in the House Immortal trilogy brings things to close with a bang. Like the first two books in the trilogy, House Immortal and Infinity Bell, Crucible Zero picks up right where the previous book left off, so I'd recommend to read them all three together if you can. I myself re-read the first two book quickly before starting this one since it'd been almost 2 years since I was last immersed in this crazy, wonderful world.

An innovating change from the numerous vampire and werewolf tales dominating the genre, Matilda and the other galvanized are a sort of Frankenstein creation—immortal, intensely strong, and stitched together from numerous body parts.

Having just returned from the past, where she met up with her great-great-and-then-some grandfather to convince him to change the calculations of an experiment performed long ago that caused a break in time, Matilda now finds herself in a new reality that is not nearly the same as the one she left behind. But just as her reality is altered, so are the people she once knew. Gone is the heroic, ruggedly handsome Abraham, a galvanized she's got a lot of heat with, and in his place is Abraham the mercenary, killer-for-hire.

Unfortunately, there's yet another thorn in her side: a man named Slater who has followed her through time and will do everything in his immense power to see Matilda and her brother Quinten dead. For Matilda knows everything Slater has done throughout time to achieve the unworldly dominance he now wields in the world, and she'll stop at nothing to bring him down.

Now if she can only convince everyone else what's going on, maybe they'll all make it out alive!

The House Immortal Trilogy is a roller coaster of action and suspense. Science fiction and urban fantasy fans who enjoy great writing, riveting action, and unique world building should definitely check this one out.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

REVIEW: The Book of Life (All Souls Trilogy #3) by Deborah Harkness

My Rating: ★★★★★★★★★★

Wow, what a great read! As the final book in the All Souls trilogy, The Book of Life wrapped things up magnificently, even if I was slightly sad to see it end. I'll miss the characters—so bold and full of life—and the locations that were brought to life so vividly through the author's beautifully detailed writing. Historical books such as these also have a hidden educational aspect for me. I found myself using Wikipedia to learn more about many of the historical figures and places referenced in the story, more so for the second book which took place in the 16th century, but still....

As the ideal alchemical couple, Diana and Matthew are perfect together: light and dark, sun and moon, gold and silver. But still they struggle against the Congregation's archaic covenant which prohibits cross-species relationships, in their case a witch and a vampire. If they can manage to get their hands on the mysterious Ashmole 782 manuscript, otherwise known as The Book of Life, which has been eluding them through time, they're certain they'll have the ammunition they need to fight the Congregation. But there are others who'd love to get their hands on the peculiar manuscript too, and for much less noble and more nefarious reasons.

Overall, The Book of Life was an emotionally engaging read, bringing the All Souls Trilogy to an impactful and sublime end. I'd strongly recommend this trilogy to anyone, even those who normally aren't fans of the fantasy genre, for it's written in such a way that the issues faced by the protagonists can be applied in a non-fantasy setting as well, even if some of the solutions cannot. I'm anxiously looking forward to the upcoming television series—it should be awesome!

Thursday, February 09, 2017

REVIEW: The All Souls Real-time Reading Companion by Deborah Harkness

My Rating: ★★★★★★★★☆☆

I read this book alongside A Discovery of Witches and Shadow of Night, the first two books in Deborah Harkness's All Souls trilogy. I followed along, chapter by chapter, delving deeper into the world of All Souls that this reading guide provided. Pictures, historical facts, and additional detail provided a deeper understanding into the components that made up these books. Particularly useful during the historical 16th century parts, the guide shed light on many of the intricacies of the time with which I was not familiar, and for that reason, I found it very useful and enlightening.

I was slightly disappointed however to find that the final book in the trilogy, The Book of Life was not included in this guide. I will definitely miss it's companionship while reading that final book.

REVIEW: Shadow of Night (All Souls Trilogy #2) by Deborah Harkness

My Rating: ★★★★★★★★★☆

Shadow of Night, the second book in the All Souls trilogy by Deborah Harkness, picks up right where A Discovery of Witches left off. Having just timewalked back to 1590, Diana and Matthew find themselves back in Elizabethan London surrounded by Matthew's friends, the mysterious coterie known as the School of Night. Diana is quite impressed to find Sir Walter Raleigh, Christopher Marlowe, Thomas Harriot, and Henry Percy among those residing at Matthew's house, The Old Lodge in Woodstock.

Among this wily group of artists, astronomers, and spies, Diana and Matthew confide their secrets, and the goals they hope to accomplish while there—find out more about the mysterious manuscript Ashmole 782, as well as locate a witch tutor who can help Diana master her magic. But of course, all does not go according to plan, especially since they've landed themselves just outside of Scotland where the witch hunt is in full swing. The pair also doesn't even know for sure if the mysterious manuscript exists yet so they're left to just search blindly. All the while, they do their best to preserve history and not leave too much of a mark; for overstepping too much in the past can cause a great many changes in the future yet to come.

This book was quite good, though not necessarily quite as good as the first in the series. I loved meeting all the famous historical characters and getting to know their personality and quirks. The author does such a good job at bringing these characters to life, including the famous historical ones, that it felt as if they were my own friends I was cavorting with. Due to the breadth of new faces introduced, the list of characters at the end of the book was a welcome relief to help me keep track of who's who. I must also admit that the companion reading guide, The All Souls Real-time Reading Companion (free for Amazon Kindle), came in quite handy here as well, as did Wikipedia which is just a long press away on my Kindle. :)

Overall, this was a worthy second and a great follow-up to A Discovery of Witches, one that left me breathless to discover how it all wraps up in the last and final book, The Book of Life, which I plan to start reading right away.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

REVIEW: A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness

My Rating: ★★★★★★★★★★

A Discovery of Witches was a fabulous story: a little love, a lot of history, and a whole lot of supernatural. I loved how the author, who's actually a historian herself as it turns out, is able to bring the feeling of different places to life so vividly. I could literally smell the warm cozy scents of the Bishop family home, and feel the chill in the air of the large French chateau.

The same can be said for the characters. They were all brought to life so richly, opening like flowers as they revealed their mysteries slowly and deliberately. In the beginning, I didn't much care for Diana—she was too academic and focused on her studies and seemed to have little interest in much else, using rowing, running, and yoga only as a way to work out her anxieties. It was only as she began to open up and feel comfortable with the devilishly handsome vampire Matthew that she became a bit more interesting.

The author has a unique way of looking at the world: vampires, witches, and daemons living among us, but each their own separate species distinct from humans. Yes, they are hiding in plain sight, attempting to keep their existence secret from humans by blending in with the rest of the world. I didn't quite understand how this was entirely possible in the beginning, but Ms. Harkness is so wonderful at world building that everything falls into place quite nicely, especially since these three species are able to tell one another apart based on their other senses in a way humans cannot.

As a natural born witch, we discover that Diana's been suppressing her magical abilities ever since her parents died when she was seven years old. But now these same abilities are bursting to get out of her, despite her lack of control, and all manner of creatures now have her on their radar. Danger starts to follow her around and despite Matthew's attempts to keep her safe, Diana must start to understand her magic if she's to figure out what the Congregation is after her for.

Overall, a delightfully engaging book that I'd recommend highly to lovers of books, history, and the supernatural. I anxiously look forward to reading Shadow of Night, the second book in the trilogy.