Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Tuesday #Review - Night of the Victorian Dead by Amber Michelle Cook #SyFy #Gothic

Series: Night of the Victorian Dead # 1
Format: E-Book, 272 pages
Release Date: March 18th 2018
Publisher: Asset Creative House 
Source: Publisher
Genre: Science Fiction / Fantasy

The unwitting attendees of a country ball are all too busy striving to hide secrets and make matches to see what’s going on around them until it’s almost too late!

Among the green and rolling hills of Old England, the fields lie ripe for reaping under a blighted Harvest Moon.  While tenants and servants fear the eerie light, Mr. Dorchester invites several families of his acquaintance to his estate—for a visit culminating in a ball to celebrate his ward’s engagement to a most eligible neighbor.  Amid all the usual hopes and anticipation such an event inevitably excites. 

All the while, signs of the dead rising are increasing until the entire household wakes in the middle of the night to a gut-wrenching scream inside the house.

It's the first novel of a trilogy, in which Downton Abbey meets the undead.

Where imagination and suspense reign over splatter-gore, and the knowing modern reader can enjoy accompanying unsuspecting characters down the road to the inevitable, while themselves encountering mysteries and unexpected twists along the way.

Welcome to Romero Park, by author Amber Michelle Cook, is the first installment in what is being called Night of the Victorian Dead series. This story, set in 19th century England, is being marketed as Downton Abbey meets Night of the Living Dead. It is a tale of secrets, romance, and suspense delicately laced with sly humor. The author was inspired by works of literature from Charlotte Bronte, Charles Dickens and Jane Austen, and in tribute to the delightful terror of first encountering classic undead creatures in Night of the Living Dead. 

Cook tells her story through an assortment of characters:

-Edward Dorchester, the disillusioned owner of Romero Park, and possible suitor for Rosemary Helgram, who through machinations that the reader will slowly come to discover, has gathered a group of friends together for what is sure to be a monstrous occasion. Not only does he plan to have a ball for his ward, but perhaps a bit of revenge as well. 

-17-year old Sophie Dorchester, ward of Edward. Brought up in France, moved to England to become the so called Blushing English Rose along with her governess Anne Sommerset. Sophie is soon to be engaged to Blake Helgram, but there are things that could waylay that engagement if Edward has any say in the matter. The most reserved of all the characters. She doesn't want to upset the apple cart, or make her ward angry with her. So, stands in the background and watches as the rest of the cast foreshadows what is apparently coming in the next installment.

-Anne Sommerset, Sophie's governess who perhaps pins for her employer and seeks to free him from his misguided plans for those who have been invited to the ball of the year. Anne is perhaps the most fascinating character in this book outside of one who I will summarize shortly. She seems to know that there is something dark happening right under the surface. Yet, she doesn't try to make a scene to anyone, including Sophie. She tries hard to keep Sophie in check while also letting her express her desires.  

-William Poole, the reclusive apothecary, working at Romero Park under false pretenses. He is hiding so many secrets, it is hard to understand just who this man is, and what he and Edward are up to. Called out by Rosemary Helgram, Poole and his assistant are up to something very dark and nefarious. Poole is definitely up to no good, and one could say that he is Edward's partner in his machinations. 

-Rosemary Helgram, a local beauty raised to marry. Her hope is to marry Edward Dorchester, but she is also hiding some secrets. She also suspects that there is much more than meets the eyes when it comes to Mr. Poole, and what he is doing at Romero Park. Rosemary finds herself trying to protect Sophie knowing the girl has zero chance at making it on her own. She has one of the few encounters with an actual undead in this book. 

-George Bottlesworth, a young man who is Edward's man servant. He is finding great satisfaction at playing the indispensable manservant. But, as well learn later in the story, George is also hiding a secret that the author has gone through great pains to hide from readers until perhaps the sequel. George may be the only other character who actually peaked my curiosity wondering what will happen to him next. 

This is a story that really took me a long time to warm up to. It starts out slow, intersperses hints that something of the undead nature is making an appearance, while also tossing in a bit of intrigue, and twists. The romance really isn't heavily involved in this installment. One could say that the characters named above all have some sort of twist when it comes to whom they will actually end up with. I dare say that part three of this story is perhaps the most entertaining since some very interesting surprises wait the reader.

Meanwhile, we know that something hideous is happening. We know this because several of the characters are either attacked or encounter things that just urges the reader to continue further into the story. I recently watched the movie Pride, Prejudice and Zombies. It is a mashup combining Jane Austen's classic novel Pride and Prejudice (1813) with elements of modern zombie fiction, crediting Austen as co-author. Welcome to Romero Park tries hard to emulate that move but so far lacks the zombies and action. 

**I received this book from publisher in lieu of a review.**

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Monday #Review - McCall Company: Emboozlement by Rich Leder #Mystery #Comedy

Series: McCall & Company # 3
Format: E-Book, 394 pages
Release Date: September 8, 2017
Publisher: Laugh Riot Press
Source: Publisher
Genre: Humor / Mystery

PI Kate McCall was warned to stay home, stay put, and stay out of NYPD business. But someone is killing Lowry Lowe lawyers, and Kate is sure her father’s murderer is pulling the trigger. At the same time, former Major League relief pitcher Steve “Blue” Stark wants her to catch the crook embezzling big bucks from his West Side sports bar. 
Kate can’t help but get in the game.
The problem is the killer is cluing her in before murdering each lawyer and she’s falling for Blue as fast as he’s becoming her prime suspect. 
Can Kate and her crackpot crew catch her father’s killer before all the lawyers are dead? And will she find real love with dreamboat Blue? Or will she have to lock him up for stealing his own money?
If she comes through the kidnappings, she might beat the odds.

Emboozlement, by author Rich Leder, is the third installment in the author's McCall & Company series. As with the previous two installments, this book picks up right where the previous one left off. 45-year old Kate McCall is on a mission. 10 weeks ago, her father, Jimmy McCall, was brutally murdered by a corporate assassin, and she wants payback. Kate inherited Jimmy's business called McCall & Company Private Investigations which has come with some strange and bizarre cases; including a chain smoking lawyer named Mel Shovelson who appears literally out of nowhere every time Kate gets into trouble; which is to say a lot.

In typical Leder fashion, Kate has more than her hands full in this installment. She agrees to help former Major League Baseball player Steve "Blue" Stark find out who has been embezzling money from his sports bar called Blue's Sports Bar. Going undercover as a management specialist, Kate is up against the wall since anyone and everyone could be guilty, especially Blue. The former player has stirred up something in Kate, but when all is said and done, can they still maintain the fire and passion, or will it all go down in flames like Kate's previous lovers after she discovers the truth? 

If that weren't enough, she has also found herself in contact with the assassin who killed her father and a group of others. Kate has antagonized the assassin with text messages, and now he wants Kate to play a game with him. He is the cat, she the mouse. He has a job. A job that will eliminate Lowry Lowe lawyers one at a time unless Kate can figure out a way to get to the killer first. But, with NYPD Homicide Detective Lew Logan chomping at her ass trying to get Kate to say the hell away from his investigation, and her son Matthew, who just happens to be an Assistant District Attorney, belittling and scorning her every move, Kate will once again be forced to use the most comedic resources you can imagine. 

Kate assembles the eccentric tenants of her brownstone that she manages known as the House of Eccentric Ticks, and her histrionic acting troupe from the D-Cup Musicals to help her crack the cases. Meaning things get strange, and down right hysterical. Kate and Fu Chen are like the Abbott and Costello of this series. If you have no clue who Abbott and Costello are, please Google them. Fu has saved Kate's ass 4 or 5 times. He has been with her at the most dangerous points in this series. He is a badass who just happens to be Kate's maintenance man and co-star. Oh, yes, Kate and her Ticks are making a move this time out. You just have to imagine what a group of the most eccentric group of characters ever written is up to and go from there. 

Now the sad part of this review. Apparently, this is the final novel in the series. I am not at all happy with that. I am not happy because there is a HUGE plot hole that hasn't been resolved. I am not happy because the author leaves readers with hopes of yet another Kate and crew case when she accepts an even more curiouser case. However, as sad as I am regarding my negatives, I will encourage you to pick up this series and read it. Leder is an amazingly entertaining writer who has created the most creative, the most zany, the most interesting cast of characters in a long while. Kate is the most ambitious character I have read about. Not only does she manage a brownstone, but she boxes regularly, she acts in way off Broadway plays, and she does it all without bitching and moaning that she has no time for herself.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

#Stacking the Shelves #266 - Week ending 12/09/2017

Stacking The Shelves is all about sharing the books you are adding to your shelves, may it be physical or virtual. This means you can include books you buy in physical store or online, books you borrow from friends or the library, review books, gifts and of course ebooks!

Thanks for Shopping by!
This haul blew my mind. This is December! It's supposed to be slow! LOL
So happy that you stopped by! I hope you find something new to you!
Have a great weekend

This Weeks Reviews: 

Monday - UNSUB by Meg Gardiner (Thriller)

Tuesday - Thief's Cunning by Sarah Ahiers (YA, Fantasy)

Wednesday - Silent Creed by Alex Kava (Thriller)

Saturday - Midnight Thief by Livia Blackburne (YA, Fantasy)

*REC'D VIA Publisher, Library NETGALLEY *

Friday, December 8, 2017

Saturday #Review - Midnight Thief by Livia Blackburne #YALit #Fantasy

Series: Midnight Thief # 1
Format: Hardcover, 384 pages
Release Date: July 8, 2014
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
Source: Library
Genre: Young Adult / Fantasy

Growing up on Forge's streets has taught Kyra how to stretch a coin. And when that's not enough, her uncanny ability to scale walls and bypass guards helps her take what she needs.

But when the leader of the Assassins Guild offers Kyra a lucrative job, she hesitates. She knows how to get by on her own, and she's not sure she wants to play by his rules. But he is persistent-and darkly attractive-and Kyra can't quite resist his pull.

Tristam of Brancel is a young Palace knight on a mission. After his best friend is brutally murdered by the Demon Riders, a clan of vicious warriors who ride bloodthirsty wildcats, Tristam vows to take them down. But as his investigation deepens, he finds his efforts thwarted by a talented thief, one who sneaks past Palace defenses with uncanny ease.

When a fateful raid throws Kyra and Tristam together, the two enemies realize that their best chance at survival-and vengeance-might be to join forces. And as their loyalties are tested to the breaking point, they learn a startling secret about Kyra's past that threatens to reshape both their lives.

In her arresting debut novel, Livia Blackburne creates a captivating world where intrigue prowls around every corner-and danger is a way of life.

Midnight Thief, by author Livia Blackburne, is the first installment in the authors Midnight Thief  series. 17-year old Kyra has spent a lifetime living on the streets struggling to eke out a living. She has the uncanny ability of scaling walls and getting into places that other thief's wouldn't dare to tread. After being sought out by a man name James, who just happens to be the leader of the Assassin's Guild, Kyra finds an entirely different calling. She's told that she will never again have to struggle to find food, or lodging, or lack anything ever again.

Even though the Guild is filled with Assassins, Kyra finds herself mapping and breaking into the palace which allows the Guild to enter and steal items without worrying about being caught. But, things aren't as straight as one might think. James is using Kyra for nefarious reasons, and it isn't until after she accidentally kills someone, that her hopes of finding a true calling among the Guild are dashed. Inevitably, Tristam of Brancel and Kyra's worlds collide, and both are forced to re-examine their alliances.

It is a journey ripe with danger, intrigue, and hidden history. After she's captured by the Palace Guard, she soon realizes that her actions have helped the Guild's alliance with the Demon Riders, a group of rebel barbarians responsible for brutal attacks in the countryside. An uneasy alliance forms between Kyra and Tristam. One that will lead them to uncover some very revealing and shocking secrets. Secrets that will lead Kyra to an entirely different sort of character who really never knew who she really was, or what she is capable of being. 

For me, Kyra is an appealing heroine. She's confident in her physical prowess, but insecure in her identity. She helps care for Lettie and Idalee, sisters who attempt to eke out a living even further down Forge's economic strata. The romance between Kyra and Tristam unfolds like an aged wine. Slowly. When Kyra meets the Demon Riders-magical beings that enjoy the strength and protection of fierce, enormous cats-impels-her whole world turns into a desire to learn what she is capable of and a journey of self-discovery. 

Blackburne became known to me after reading Rosemarked earlier this year. I chose to request this book from my local library to see how the author's writing has evolved from this series to Rosemarked. Much of Blackburne's story is not new; however, it is well executed. Kyra and Tristam, as well as most of the essential secondary characters, are effectively drawn, if not terribly original. Blackburne's strong suit is her plotting, which moves along quickly. The book offers the clever wit, action, and true social awareness, but with a totally new premise, and an ending you won't see coming.

Twists and turns kept me satisfied. The plot is as conniving as the book's villain, James, the head of the Assassins' Guild. Relatable, kick-ass heroine with foibles and feats to her name will have readers falling in love with her empathy and in awe of her grace and skill. The story contains dual POV's between Kyra, and Tristam, a knight who keeps the intrigue and tensions high. I am pondering continuing this series as long as the next book is available via my library.

Friday #Review - The Perfect Stranger by Megan Miranda #Mystery

Series: Standalone
Format: Hardcover, 352 pages
Release Date: April 11, 2017
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Source: Edelweiss

In the masterful follow-up to the New York Times bestseller All the Missing Girls—“think: Luckiest Girl AliveThe Girl on the TrainGone Girl” (TheSkimm)—a journalist sets out to find a missing friend, a friend who may never have existed at all.
Confronted by a restraining order and the threat of a lawsuit, failed journalist Leah Stevens needs to get out of Boston when she runs into an old friend, Emmy Grey, who has just left a troubled relationship. Emmy proposes they move to rural Pennsylvania, where Leah can get a teaching position and both women can start again. But their new start is threatened when a woman with an eerie resemblance to Leah is assaulted by the lake, and Emmy disappears days later.
Determined to find Emmy, Leah cooperates with Kyle Donovan, a handsome young police officer on the case. As they investigate her friend’s life for clues, Leah begins to wonder: did she ever really know Emmy at all? With no friends, family, or a digital footprint, the police begin to suspect that there is no Emmy Grey. Soon Leah’s credibility is at stake, and she is forced to revisit her past: the article that ruined her career. To save herself, Leah must uncover the truth about Emmy Grey—and along the way, confront her old demons, find out who she can really trust, and clear her own name.
Everyone in this rural Pennsylvanian town has something to hide—including Leah herself. How do you uncover the truth when you are busy hiding your own?

The Perfect Stranger, by author Megan Miranda, is the follow up to All the Missing Girls. To be honest and fair, although I read All the Missing Girls earlier this year, I can't for the life of me remember Leah Stevens. So, here's what I do know thanks to the author putting a few things together for us readers. Leah is a former reporter whose name is tied to a series of events that she's ready to leave behind and start over. She has a restraining order against her from her former best friend Paige. She was under a threat of a lawsuit which led to her losing her job and moving from Boston to Pennsylvania where she is now a teacher on probation.

Leah's roommate is Emmy Grey who was her friend about 8 years ago. We know nothing about her except for Leah's flashbacks to the time when they were roommates. Let's start with a young woman named Bethany Jarvitz who is found close to where Leah's lives. Someone apparently hit her and left her near a lake. Police start by investigating an anonymous source who claims that one of Leah's co-workers might have been involved with Bethany, which leads to the arrival of Detective Kyle Donovan in Leah's life. 

Leah discovers that the victim could be her doppelganger. 
Then, Emmy disappears without a trace which opens a whole new box of worms and troubles for Leah since she is the only person who has seen Emmy around. Leah and Kyle attempt to put together what they know not only about Emmy, but her possible connection to the events that have landed Leah in the spotlight. One could say that Leah is a weak character who finds her strength and her courage to put one foot in front of the other. The more that Leah digs, the more that things just don't make sense. 

Who is Emmy really? Where did she go? What's really puzzling for Leah is how quickly trouble seems to find her no matter if she was actually involved, or whether someone is attempting to pull a quick one over her, or if she is trying to help a friend discover something horrible about a loved one. What if Emmy had something to do with the attempted murder? What if Emmy has been stringing Leah along all this time? What if Emmy has found herself in more trouble than she could handle and fled to avoid being discovered?

Without going too far into detail about the book itself, which I have a tendency of doing, there is so much happening that you really must pay attention to even the smallest details. You know that there are going to be twists, and shocking revelations, and even more stunning circumstances that put our protagonist back on her feet struggling to understand all that is happening to, and around her. But, the one good thing that comes out of all of this is perhaps Kyle. I appreciated that the author wrapped up things pretty nicely and doesn't leave the reader standing one foot on, and off a ledge ready to jump off if she doesn't tell you what really happened and why.


Character, Emmy called it, the quirks that came with the house: the nonexistent water pressure in the shower; the illogical layout. From the front porch, our house had large sliding glass doors that led directly to the living room and kitchen, a hallway beyond with two bedrooms and a bathroom to share. The main door was at the other end of the hall and faced the woods, like the house had been laid down with the right dimensions but the wrong orientation.

Probably the nicest thing I can say about the house was that it’s mine. But even that’s not exactly true. It’s my name on the lease, my food in the refrigerator, my glass cleanser that wipes the pollen residue from the sliding glass doors.

The house still belongs to someone else, though. The furniture, too. I didn’t bring much with me when I left my last place. Wasn’t much, once I got down to it, that was mine to take from the one-bedroom in the Prudential Center of Boston. Bar stools that wouldn’t fit under a standard table. Two dressers, a couch, and a bed, which would cost more to move than to replace.

Sometimes I wondered if it was just my mother’s words in my head, making me see this place, and my choice to be here, as something less than.

Before leaving Boston, I’d tried to spin the story for my mother, slanting this major life change as an active decision, opting to appeal to her sense of charity and decency—both for my benefit and for hers. I once heard her introduce me and my sister to her friends: “Rebecca helps the ones who can be saved, and Leah gives a voice to those who cannot.” So I imagined how she might frame this for her friends: My daughter is taking a sabbatical. To help children in need. If anyone could sell it, she could.

I made it seem like my idea to begin with, not that I had latched myself on to someone else’s plan because I had nowhere else to go. Not because the longer I stood still, the more I felt the net closing in.

Emmy and I had already sent in our deposit, and I’d been floating through the weeks, imagining this new version of the world waiting for me. But even then, I’d steeled myself for the call. Timed it so I knew my mother would be on her way to her standing coffee date with The Girls. Practiced my narrative, preemptively preparing counterpoints: I quit my job, and I’m leaving Boston. I’m going to teach high school, already have a position lined up. Western Pennsylvania. You know there are whole areas of the country right here in America that are in need, right? No, I won’t be alone. Remember Emmy? My roommate while I was interning after college? She’s coming with me.

The first thing my mother said was: “I don’t remember any Emmy.” As if this were the most important fact. But that was how she worked, picking at the details until the foundation finally gave, from nowhere. And yet her method of inquiry was also how we knew we had a secure base, that we weren’t basing our plans on a dream that would inevitably crumble under pressure.

I moved the phone to my other shoulder. “I lived with her after college.”

A pause, but I could hear her thoughts in the silence: You mean after you didn’t get the job you thought you’d have after graduation, took an unpaid internship instead, and had no place to live?

“I thought you were staying with . . . what was her name again? The girl with the red hair? Your roommate from college?”

“Paige,” I said, picturing not only her but Aaron, as I always did. “And that was just for a little while.”

“I see,” she said slowly.

“I’m not asking for your permission, Ma.”

Except I kind of was. She knew it. I knew it.

“Come home, Leah. Come home and let’s talk about it.”

Her guidance had kept my sister and me on a high-achieving track since middle school. She had used her own missteps in life to protect us. She had raised two independently successful daughters. A status I now seemed to be putting in jeopardy.

“So, what,” she said, changing the angle of approach, “you just walked in one day and quit?”

“Yes,” I said.

“And you’re doing this why?”

I closed my eyes and imagined for a moment that we were different people who could say things like Because I’m in trouble, so much trouble, before straightening my spine and giving her my speech. “Because I want to make a difference. Not just take facts and report them. I’m not doing anything at the paper but stroking my own ego. There’s a shortage of teachers, Mom. I could really make an impact.”

“Yes, but in western Pennsylvania?”

The way she said it told me everything I needed to know. When Emmy suggested it, western Pennsylvania seemed like a different version of the world I knew, with a different version of myself—which, at the time, was exactly what I needed. But my mother’s world was in the shape of a horseshoe. It stretched from New York City to Boston, swooping up all of Massachusetts inside the arch (but bypassing Connecticut entirely). She was the epicenter in western Massachusetts, and she’d successfully sent a daughter to the edge of each arch, and the world was right and complete. Any place else, in contrast, would be seen as a varying degree of failure.

My family was really only one generation out from a life that looked like this: a rental house with shitty plumbing, a roommate out of necessity, a town with a forgettable name, a job but no career. When my father left us, I wasn’t really old enough to appreciate the impact. But I knew there existed a time when we were unprepared and at the whim of the generosity of those around us. Those were the limbo years—the ones she never talked about, a time she now pretends never existed.

To her, this probably sounded a lot like sliding backward.

“Great teachers are needed everywhere,” I said.

She paused, then seemed to concede with a slow and drawn-out “Yes.”

I hung up, vindicated, then felt the twinge. She was not conceding. Great teachers are needed everywhere, yes, but you are not that.

She didn’t mean it as an insult, exactly. My sister and I were both valedictorians, both National Merit Scholars, both early admissions to the college of our respective choice. It wasn’t unreasonable that she would question this decision—especially coming out of thin air.

I quit, I had told her. This was not a lie, but a technicality—the truth being that it was the safest option, for both the paper and me. The truth was, I had no job in the only thing I’d trained in, no foreseeable one, and no chance of one. The truth was I was glad she had given me the blandest name, the type of name I’d hated growing up. A girl who could blend in and never stand out. A name in a roster anywhere.

EMMY’S CAR STILL WASN’T back when I was ready to leave for school. This was not too unusual. She worked the night shift, and she’d been seeing some guy named Jim—who sounded, on the phone, like he had smoke perpetually coating his lungs. I thought he wasn’t nearly good enough for Emmy; that she was sliding backward in some intangible way, like me. But I cut her some slack because I understood how it could be out here, how the calm could instead feel like an absence—and that sometimes you just wanted someone to see you.

Other than weekends, we could miss each other for days at a time. But it was Thursday, and I needed to pay the rent. She usually left me money on the table, underneath the painted stone garden gnome that she’d found and used as a centerpiece. I lifted the gnome by his red hat just to double-check, revealing nothing but a few stray crumbs.

Her lateness on the rent was also not too unusual.

I left her a sticky note beside the corded phone, our designated spot. I wrote RENT DUE in large print, stuck it on the wood-paneled wall. She’d taken all the other notes from earlier in the week—the SEE ELECTRIC BILL, the MICROWAVE BROKEN, the MICROWAVE FIXED.

I opened the sliding doors, hit the lights at the entrance, rummaged in my bag for my car keys—and realized I’d forgotten my cell. A gust of wind came in through the door as I turned around, and I watched the yellow slip of paper—RENT DUE—flutter down and slip behind the wood stand where we stacked the mail.

I crouched down and saw the accumulated mess underneath. A pile of sticky notes. CALL JIM right side up but half covered by another square. A few others, facedown. Not taken by Emmy after all but lost between the wall and the furniture during the passing weeks.

Emmy didn’t have a cell because her old one was still with her ex, on his phone plan, and she didn’t want an easy way for him to trace her. The idea of not owning a cell phone left me feeling almost naked, but she said it was nice not to be at anyone’s beck and call. It had seemed so Emmy at the time—quirky and endearing—but now seemed both irrational and selfish.

I left the notes on the kitchen table instead. Propped them up against the garden gnome. Tried to think of how many days it had been since I’d last seen her.

I added another note: CALL ME.

Decided to throw out the rest, so it wouldn’t get lost in the shuffle.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Thursday #Review - Stranger Magics by Ash Fitzsimmons #Urban #Fantasy

Series: Standalone?
Format: E-Book, 400 pages
Release Date: November 21, 2017
Publisher: Harper Voyager Impulse
Source: Publisher via Edelweiss
Genre: Urban Fantasy

A fun, fast-paced debut urban fantasy in which Titania’s son, Lord Coilean--aka Colin Leffee--must find a way to re-open the doors between the land of fae and our world, before magic runs out and chaos descends.

Life has been anything but mundane for Colin Leffee, the wayward son of Titania, queen of Faerie. Having spent centuries on his mother’s bad side, Colin made the mortal realm his home. In his latest guise, he fights malicious faeries as an exorcist’s part-time muscle, runs a small-town bookstore as a cover story, and tries to fly under his nosy neighbor’s radar.

Now, Titania has set an unpleasant plan in motion, one that will lead Colin back into her clutches if he isn’t careful. But Titania isn’t the only royal with a scheme. Mab, who has long been exiled from Faerie, sets a trap that threatens all magic by sealing the border between the realms.

As the world runs out of magic, Colin must depend on his wits to set things right, and he must trust some unlikely allies: a wizard with a dangerous family name, a seminarian who fancies himself a knight, and his own psychopathic half-brother.

But no one holds a grudge quite like a faerie, and both queens have Colin in their sights...

Stranger Magic, by author Ash Fitzsimmons, is her debut novel. The story's protagonist is Colin Leffee aka Lord Coile├ín a High Lord of Faerie who has owns and operates a book store called Ex Libris. For his other job, he works with Father Paul McGill exorcising Fae who cross the line and attack humans. One could say that Colin prefers humans over fae since they're not likely to attack him at any moment. The curious part about Colin is the fact that he is 1/2 human, and 1/2 fae. The 1/2 Fae part is the most important because it gives him youthful looks, magic, and immortality. 

It's also important to note this because his mother is Queen Titania who he has a hate hate relationship with. He just happens to be her oldest living heir, but has a target on his back because of an action he committed in saving a human from a fae long ago. As the story opens, Colin is breaking in a new seminarian assistant named Joey. After sending the fae away, things really get twisted. Colin's octogenarian neighbor Mrs. Coopers ends up with a 16-year old girl who calls herself Moyna. Moyna claims that her "mother" Queen Titania tossed her out of Faerie because she wants something else.

This leads Colin to searching for Moyna's parents, which shockingly, become even more twisted when he learns that he is Moyna's father, and her real name is Olive. If you thought things were going to get even more twisted from here, you are absolutely right. Especially after Colin discovers that his long lost lover Meggy Bellamy is the girls mother. Oh, but I'm not finished yet. Meggy and Moyna are sucked into Faerie where Titania waits thanks to, ready for this? Colin's own brother Robin, that would be Puck to you, who triggers a trap blowing up the link to Fairie, and causing magic to be drained while leaving Meggy and Olive stuck in Faerie. 

Oh, but do behave! Colin's troubles have just begun to get rolling. Now he has an untrustworthy brother who is working for Mab, a young assistant priest who isn't sure of his vocation, and a woman named Toula who has worked with Meggy, and has a curious parentage which leads to all sorts of questions about her abilities. What could ever go wrong? I didn't even mentioned Colin's adversarial relationship the Wizards of the Arcanum! So, now Colin and team must find a way to restore magic to the world, save Colin's former lover and his daughter, avoid political manipulations from Oberon, Mab, and Titania, while also searching for the 12 missing globes that a powerful magus hid all over the world. What could possibly go wrong? 

This book has more than its fair share of flashbacks to certain points in Colin's life. While these flashbacks were informative, they may have taken away the enjoyment of the final chapter. While there was some action involved in this story, I would have preferred less of the flashbacks, and more of Colin's team facing the difficulties they encounter along the way. It wasn't until much, much later in the book before Colin and team get their acts together to rescue Meggy and Olive who never once had a kind world to say about Colin.

She was truly obsessed with regaining Titania's love and respect instead of understanding who Colin was and what he has gone through in his 800 years of existence. I would have also liked to get more information about Mab's reality where she was vanquished to. I think the author could have done quite a bit more with that realm. I really liked Joey. Ok, so he is a little bit rambunctious with his nail gun and sword, but he's just now getting an understanding of what Father Paul went through for years with Colin. I liked Toula as well. I dare say the girl more than made up for her prickly side over the course of the story. I don't believe there is a necessity for any sequel to this book. I am just fine with this being a standalone. 

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Wednesday #Review - Silent Creed by Alex Kava #Thriller

Series: Ryder Creed # 2
Format: Paperback, 368 pages
Release Date: January 5, 2016
Publisher: G.P. Putnam's Sons
Source: Edelweiss
Genre: Fiction / Thrillers

Ryder Creed and his K9 search-and-rescue dogs return in the second installment of an exciting new series, teaming up once more with FBI profiler Maggie O'Dell in their riskiest case yet.
When Ryder Creed responds to a devastating mudslide in North Carolina, he knows that the difference between finding survivors and the dead is time. He and his sturdiest search-and-rescue dog, Bolo, get to work immediately, but the scene is rife with danger: continued rainfall prevents the rescue teams from stabilizing the land; toxic household substances spread by the crushing slide fill the area with hazardous waste; and the detritus and debris are treacherous for both man and dog to navigate. But most perilous are the secrets hidden under the mud and sludge—secrets someone would kill to protect. For this is no ordinary rescue mission. Among the buildings consumed by the landslide was a top-secret government research facility, and Creed has been hired to find what's left of it.  

Then rescuers recover the body of a scientist from the facility who was obviously dead before the landslide—killed by a gunshot to the head. The FBI sends Agent Maggie O'Dell to investigate, and she and Creed are soon caught in a web of lies, secrets, and murder that may involve not only the government facility, but decades-old medical experiments that are the subject of current congressional hearings. As more bodies are found under even more unusual circumstances, they come ever closer to exposing the truth—but with unknown forces working against them, Maggie, Creed, and the dogs are running out of time.

Silent Creed is the second installment in author Alex Kava's Ryder Creed series. Ryder Creed is a former marine who was a K-9 handler who served in Afghanistan. For dogs and their handlers, they are the first out, and the first to die. For the past 7 years, Ryder and his partner Hannah Washington have run a company called K9 Crime Scents (Search & Rescue dogs). Ryder and Hannah love to rescue dogs from bad situations and train them to be S&R dogs. They've also made a name for themselves by being available at a moments notice to help in disaster areas.

Ryder's best dog may be Grace, the adorable Jack Russell Terrier who made national headlines in the previous installment called Breaking CreedRyder's dogs are multidimensional. They are the best air scent dogs anywhere. They are also multi-tasked trained which means they can find cadavers as well as survivors. They can also detect viruses, cancers, and drugs. Ryder was first introduced in Kava's Maggie O'Dell series. It now appears that the two series are linked at the hip since Maggie continues to appear at odd places in the story. 

After a landslide destroys a secret DARPA research facility in North Carolina, Ryder is tasked by his former platoon leader, Lt. Colonel Peter Logan, to find any survivors. With his rescue dog Bolo alongside, Ryder's job should be rather simple since he's faced even worse disasters as well as being a target for the Taliban in Afghanistan. But, when Ryder is buried alive after being swept away by a landslide and saved by his dog, things look a bit more gloomy. Ryder then learns that FBI Special Agent Maggie O'Dell has been tasked to the scene as well. She has her own mission.

Things go from simple to dangerous. There are lies, secrets, betrayals, and old secrets just waiting to come out into the open. The main subject of this story is the secretive research centers that Kava believes are all over the country. They each have their own directors. They really don't have any oversight by Congress or anyone else for that matter. I have always been curious about the secret experiments that were tested on our service-members during the cold war. After World War II, America got the German scientists, while Russia got the labs and spread them across their country. 

Meanwhile, in DC, Senator Ellie Delanor (Florida) is trying to fight for medical benefits for those who were exposed to pathogens. She is up against the military complex, scientists, and politicians who have made their money off those who they claim to oversee. Now, here is where things get tricky for me. As a veteran, I am always involved in understanding the things that we have been exposed to. It took years for the VA and Politicians to agree that those who served in Vietnam were exposed to Agent Orange. 

Why am I bringing this up you ask? Because I was exposed while serving in the Navy and have no clue if I will one day discover that I have cancer or any other number of fatal diseases. I do believe that Kava is trying to send a message here. Let's not fully accept what our government tells us. Let's make sure that journalists are doing their jobs and revealing all the horrors that are service members have been exposed to. And, if civilians were exposed, then there needs to be discussions and reparations for their pain and suffering.

Silent Creed ends on what I feel is a cliffhanger. There is several issues that have not been resolved. Since there haven't been any new Maggie O'Dell books since Stranded, one has to wonder if Kava is ever going to explain what happened and if anything that was left unresolved is going to be resolved. Also, can we finally push Maggie and Ryder together and kick Benjamin Platt to the curb? Ben shows up at the wrong places at the wrong time and interferes in what should be a pretty interesting coupling.