Review: The Night Country by Melissa Albert

Title: The Night Country

Author: Melissa Albert

Publisher: Flatiron Books

Length: 352 pages

Genre: fantasy

Publication Date: January 7, 2020

Source: NetGalley

Alice Proserpine has escaped the fairy tale world, the Hinterland, where she was created. Now, she lives in New York with her mother and other escapees. Now, though, something is killing ex-Stories and taking their body parts. Worse, all evidence points to Alice. Desperate to find out what is happening, Alice decides to investigate, and finds that the deaths may serve a larger purpose. Meanwhile, Ellery Finch slips out of the fading Hinterland into worlds he’d only dreamed of all while hoping to find a way back home.

I highly enjoyed this book and tore through it with great enthusiasm. In fact, I think I enjoyed it more than The Hazel Wood. It moves quickly and dives right into the action. I liked Alice trying to first navigate the two worlds by being with the others from the Hinterland and our world, and then rejecting the her Hinterland heritage and past. Of course, that would never work and the Hinterland comes to her with a vengeance.

I liked the new characters, especially Sophia. I loved her back story and wish we could have gotten more of her. Daphne was another interesting character, but she was quite scary. I especially liked all the children characters, because they were creepy, like all good fairy tale children should be. The Trio was amazing.

I do feel it was a little rushed, even at it’s length. I would have liked to see more of Finch’s journey and get more of him. There’s something he does that’s really interesting, but I wish there had been more of it. There wasn’t enough. I also would have liked to see more of Alice’s life before it all started falling apart. It would have helped to see more of her normalcy. Or, maybe she never really had any.

Despite all that, I really did enjoy the book. I thought it was a strong follow up to The Hazel Wood.

Yes, I would. If you liked The Hazel Wood, I think you’ll enjoy this. If you enjoy creepy fairy tales and seeing them try to integrate into our world, then this book will entertain you. It’s a solidly written book with amazing characters and a great plot.

Review: A Touch of Death by Rebecca Crunden

Title: A Touch of Death

Author: Rebecca Crunden

Published Date: February 23, 2017

Length: 306 pages

Source: I was sent this book from the author

Nate Anteros has a habit of speaking his mind. In the Kingdom of Cutta, a totalitarian kingdom where the last of humanity lives safely inside the walls, speaking your mind is the last thing you should be doing. Nate only survived prison thanks to the influence of his mother and father. After being released, he disappeared for two years before mysteriously returning. The trouble is, he hasn’t learned anything in his absence and causes a fight that forces him and Catherine Taenia to flee into the mountains one night, making the dark, cold, and terrible trek to a neighboring city.

Although they are quickly allowed back home, they find they are infected with a mysterious infection that makes it impossible to bear the touch of anyone but each other. Once again, they are forced to flee the city, and the King’s guards and make their way to the one place they will be safe: the Outlands. Of course, safe is a relative term, considering that beyond the walls of the Kingdom are mutants and rabids.

One the run, Catherine and Nate must find out what happened to them and how to stop it before it’s too late.

I really like this book, and I feel the strength of it lies with Catherine. She’s such an interesting character. At the beginning, she’s totally bought into the system of the world she’s lived in. She believes the king is just, the laws are fair, and that dissenters are insane to question the way things are. The book is her journey from pampered princess to understanding that there is something seriously wrong with their society. She starts out strong, too. She’s headstrong and determined and honest. She speaks her mind an isn’t afraid to stand up for herself. She’s amazing.

Nate is well done, too. His whole life, he’s been shown the ugly side of the Kingdom, even though he, too, has grown up in wealth and comfort. He believes in loyalty and friendship and brotherhood. I love his relationship with his brother, Thom. They are close and loving and totally connected. I like how he treats Catherine and how he enjoys arguing with her. His journey is painful to read, but so well worth it.

I was completely engrossed in this story. I loved the world-building, although I do wish some of it had been a little more explicit. I guess at one point, humans lived underground and mutants roamed the earth, and I’d like to know more about that. Especially the mutants. I hope that those topics are more explored in the other books. I greatly look forward to that.

I would recommend this to people who enjoy dystopian books and books about characters fleeing from the law. It’s engrossing, well written, and has great characters. It’s definitely worth checking out.

Review: Fable by Michele Packard

Title: Fable: Matti Baker

Author: Michele Packard

Publisher: I’m not sure

Publication Date: May 20, 2019

Genre: Thriller/Mystery

Matti Baker is a contract operator trained in counter terrorism by Freddy, a man she’s never met face to face, but who has been in her life since she was a child. Coming off a mission in which she was badly injured and lost an entire year to recovery, all she wants is some time with her husband and three kids. But someone is after some important vials and she’s back on the hunt, read to stop a conspiracy that will start a world-wide genocide.

So, that’s what I think it’s about, but even after reading the whole thing, I’m not entirely sure what the plot was. There was something some vials that she’s been protecting since she was a child. There was a conspiracy with a group of identical twins. And, yeah, that’s all I got.

Needless to say, I did not really like this book. First off, it was almost entirely tell-not-show. I felt like I was being bombarded with information, much of it irrelevant to the actual plot. There were long diversions where Matti recalled previous missions with her friend, Bethany, or retold the entirety of the first book, which, although that was sort of helpful, since I didn’t read the first book, also felt a little like the beginning The Baby-Sitter’s Club book, where the formation of the club and backstory of each girl is recounted.

Then, there’s the dialogue. At no time did I feel like any of it was actual words people would speak. It was so stilted and false and just… ugh. There was also the constant references: movies, TVs, songs being brought up on every other page. It was incredibly distracting and annoying. The dialgoue tags annoyed me as well. You can’t smirk a sentence (i.e. “What are you doing there, big boy,” I smirked.). No. Put a period at the end of that sentence and then smirk.

The plot was nonsensical. I literally don’t know what I read. I know at some point she went to Antarctica, but I don’t know why or what happened there because it was one chapter and no one talked the entire time. She was on some kind of tour, but who the other people were, I have no idea. I know there’s some kind of conspiracy, but I don’t know what it was about.

Also, I didn’t like Matti very much. I was very excited at the beginning, because I thought she was going to be a female Joe Ledger, but she’s just a handful of stereotypes slapped on with a veneer of “I’m not like other girls” and “humor” that only see seems to find amusing. Overall, this was a very disappointing and frustrating read.

No. Absolutely not, even if you’re looking for a book with a bad ass female character. Go to the mystery section of your library or bookstore and look there; there are much better and more coherently written bad ass women there.

Review: Think of England by KJ Charles

Title: Think of England

Author: KJ Charles

Publisher: KJC Books

Genre: historical m/m, mystery

Length: 239 pages

Publication Date: March 28, 2017

Two years ago, Archie Curtis was injured in a freak accident with his hand was blown off by a faulty pistol. His entire unit–and closest friends–were killed or maimed in the accident. Now, Archie has discovered that this might not have been an accident at all, but sabotage.

Determined to find out the truth, he attends a house party of the man he suspects of the terrible deed. There, he meets Daniel da Silva, a poet, who is all too obviously queer and dainty for Archie’s tastes. But when the two uncover a ring of blackmail and are caught up in its web, they are thrown together and Archie begins to see the beauty, elegance,and dangerous mind behind da Silva.

Soon, he finds that he needs the other man, not just to save his reputation and avenge his fallen comrades, but to satisfy a hunger he never thought himself capable of.

I love this book, and it’s not even my favorite of KJ Charles, which just goes to show how much I love Charles’s writing. The mystery behind the story is really well done and completely plausible. I wouldn’t be surprised if this was based on real, historical happenings. After all, house parties were notorious as a setting for affairs, and blackmail is just the next step for that setting.

The other thing I like is how masterful Charles is at taking her characters from point A to point Z so seamlessly. At the beginning, Archie is turned off by da Silva. Da Silva is too over the top and sets off a sort of straight-man’s panic in him. But, as the story progresses, he naturally and believably beings to not only da Silva, but become strongly attracted to him. They have a wonderful chemistry and the more intimate scenes are sizzling hot.

It doesn’t appear that Charles plans to continue on with these two lovers, and that’s a shame because if feel she left it at a spot where she could. I’d love to read more of Archie and da Silva and follow their relationship as it grows and deepens. Alas, I think I’ll have to be satisfied with my imagination instead.

If you like historical m/m and mystery, this is definitely a book that you’ll enjoy. It’s available on Kindle and physical form, so get it now!

Review: A Study in Scarlet Women by Sherry Thomas

Charlotte Holmes has the greatest deductive mind of her age. She’s inquisitive, intelligent, and ambitious. When she realizes she’s about to be forced into a marriage she doesn’t want, Charlotte takes matters into her own hands and becomes a social outcast as a result. Taking to the streets of London, she finds life difficult for a fallen women. At the same time, there is a series of seemingly unconnected murders. Her dear is sister is implicated in one of them. Desperate to clear her sister’s name, Charlotte assumes the guise of Sherlock Holmes and, with the help of the few friends she has left, dives deep into the case to uncover the truth.

This book was so much fun. I love a good Sherlock Holmes pastiche, and this was was a delight. Charlotte Holmes is her own, fully realized character and not Sherlock Holmes as a woman. What I mean is, Thomas took care to giver Charlotte her own personality and interests instead of slapping on Holmes’ character traits and making him a woman. Charlotte and Holmes are distinct personalities.

The mystery was a little convoluted for me. Maybe it’s because I was exhausted when I was reading it, but I kept forgetting who was who and how they were connected. I felt the names were very similar to each other, which didn’t help. Still, I was able to follow along the main plot and highly enjoyed it. The reveal at the end was properly chilling and a real blow. I also liked how Thomas teased at a more challenging villain in future books. I’m excited for what’s to come.

Definitely. If you like Sherlock Holmes and are interested in reading a gender-swapped version, this is a fantastic book. The characters are rich and vivid, the plot fast-paced, and the conclusion a punch to the gut.

Review: Rage by Jonathan Maberry

Title: Rage: A Joe Ledger International Novel

Author: Jonathan Maberry

Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin

Pages: 464

Genre: Action/Thriller/Suspense

Publication Date: November 5, 2019

Source: Goodreads Giveaway

The Department of Military Sciences is no more, but that doesn’t stop Joe Ledger and the former Echo Team from doing what they do best: protecting the world. When a massacre happens on an island in North Korea, Joe and Havoc team go to find their worst nightmares realized: everyone, women, children, men, the young, the old, have torn each other apart. They soon find the virus or pathogen on another island and witness the madness and rage that drive people to commit monstrous acts. Not only do they need to figure out what is causing the madness, but they have to prevent war from breaking out and discover who is behind this. It’s crunch time, but Joe and his team rise to the occasion.

I have been eagerly awaiting this book for months. I had no idea I’d won it in a giveaway until the book showed up. I was incredibly excited. I’ve followed the Joe Ledger series for about ten years and even named my cat, Cobbler, after Joe’s cat. When I found out Jonathan Maberry was going to continue the series indefinitely, I was very happy. Each book has been new and exciting without the drop in quality that sometimes happens.

This book was no exception. The plot was tightly woven with a lot of intrigue. I do have to admit, I was a little distressed because there was a lot of violence against women and children. It wasn’t graphically shown on screen, but the bad guys cheerfully talked about what they were going to do to the wives, daughters, and husbands of the people they were coercing.

I continue to love Joe Ledger himself. He’s a deeply fucked up man with a lot of demons, but he’s resilient and authentic. I love that he’s always very aware of what he’s feeling, whether it’s angry or deeply afraid of something. You don’t get a lot of macho bullshit from him. He’s a very vulnerable character who wears his battered and sarcastic heart on his sleeve.

I spent a lot of time being afraid one of my favorite characters was the master villain of the piece. At first, I was super excited when he showed up and was amazing, and then I realized that his scene didn’ t really prove he wasn’t the master villlian, so I’m back to being scared. My only consolation is the speech pattern is totally different from the way he speaks, so it probably isn’t him. Probably.

This book was quite an emotional ride and it didn’t let up. The ending was amazing. Devastating, but amazing. I wish I could pick up the next book right away, but this one isn’t even out yet! I am so thrilled about this series; it’s going to be a roller coaster.

Hooha! (Which, in team Havoc speak, is a resounding yes!)

Review: Girl, Stop Apologizing

Title: Girl, Stop Apologizing: A Shame-Free Plan for Embracing and Achieving Your Goals

Author: Rachel Hollis

Publisher: HarperCollins Leadership

Length: 240 pages

Genre: self-help

Rachel Hollis has built her platform on the idea that women are powerful and should embrace their dreams. In a companion to Girl, Wash Your Face, Hollis explores excuses women need to stop using, behaviors to adopt, and skills to acquire. Peppering her advice with personal anecdotes, Hollis explores the idea that you should go after your dreams with a solid plan and without shame.

I really liked this book, as should be evidenced by the fact that I read it twice in about two months. The first time, I listened to it on audio. Hollis narrates with gusto and enthusiasm that makes it really fun to listen to. It’s easy to get caught up with her outlook and her belief that if you work hard enough, you too can achieve your goal, whatever that goal is. My hard copy is highlighted all over the place and I may even go back and take notes so I can refer to them in the future.

Things I like about the book:

  1. Hollis’s positive outlook.
  2. Her advice on the excuses, behaviors, and skills.
  3. Her 10-10-1 guide to narrowing down your future dream life to 10 dreams to 1 goal to work for.
  4. Her disdain for the term “girl-boss” (a term that, I too, am not fond of).
  5. Her personal stories.

Things I didn’t like:

Not much. I mean, I felt like her story about her boob job was just in there because she wanted to tell a funny story about getting a boob job, but it’s her book. She can do that if she wants. And it was funny. Her story about Amsterdam stressed me out because I’m a planner, but I didn’t dislike it. Yeah, there wasn’t really anything about the book I wouldn’t like.

I would definitely recommend this book. If you are looking for a fun, lighthearted, but serious self-help book that will help you organize your dreams into goals, this is a great book for you!