Friday, October 30, 2020

Book Review: Unnatural Exposure by Patricia Cornwell


Jacque's Review:

Unnatural Exposure is the eighth book in the Kay Scarpetta series. There are currently 25 books in the series, so it is a major undertaking if you plan on reading them all.  I started this series several years ago along with the Stephanie Plum and Women's Murder Club series because I can't resist a good murder mystery, but I have never felt compelled to sit down and read them all straight through. You can read one or two books a year from these series and easily pick up where you left off. There is some character development and personal relationships evolve, but each case or story is independent. I read them in order, but I don't think it is completely necessary.

In this installment Kay, Virginia's Chief Medical Examiner, is investigating some cases that appear to be connected to five serial murders that took place in Ireland several years ago. When an additional body turns up with similar, but several strikingly different characteristics, she believes they are now dealing with a copycat. 

In addition, the most recent body is covered with what appears to be a smallpox like infection. After further investigation, it isn't quite smallpox, but a variation of the disease that we do not have a vaccination for. When the copycat killer stats contacting Kay directly via email and eventually in a chat room, Kay is determined to lure the perpetrator into making a mistake that allows the FBI to trace the connection and find the killer.

Kay's niece Lucy, who works as an IT expert for the FBI, is once again instrumental in solving the case. I always find these books amusing because of the archaic computer technology, which was state of the art at the time. In this case the book was published in 1997, which isn't THAT long ago in my opinion, but light years away in terms of technological advancements. AOL with a dial up connection, pagers, and car phones, are just a few of the high tech gadgets mentioned in this book. I remember when these things were a big deal, but kids today wouldn't have the first clue as to what she is talking about. My son even refers to when I was growing up as "the olden days," because in his eyes we lived in the stone age compared to kids today.

Overall, this was another excellent addition to the series. If you enjoy murder mysteries, I would recommend giving this series a try. Just be aware that they are somewhat graphic and may not be for everyone.

Thursday, October 29, 2020

Book Review: Bone Crier's Moon by Kathryn Purdie


Jacque's Review:

Bone Crier's Moon was the April Owlcrate selection. I was a little leery when I first read the description, but I loved this book. I have heard all of the negativity about the animal cruelty, but it wasn't a significant part of the story and I personally did not find it to be offensive. Every culture has its own rituals. The animal sacrifices required to become a farrier are just part of their customs and beliefs that have been passed down for generations.

Here is a picture of everything that came in the April box. The owl pin is a perfect representation of this book since a snow owl had a significant presence in the story as did the phases of the moon. I am looking forward to completing the Harry Potter puzzle now that the weather is getting cold and we are all stuck in COVID isolation. A tote bag can always come in handy for trips to the library and the bracelet is surprisingly cute and practical. The only thing I didn't really care for is the wood moon phase banner. I don't really have a place for it and decided to put it my little free library. So far, it is still out there and hasn't drawn any interest even from the children in the neighborhood. 

Ailesse is the daughter of the current matriarch or leader of the Bone Criers. She is one of the strongest members of their group and it is assumed she will eventually take over for her mother. All she has to do is complete her rite of passage, which involves luring and killing her true love. 

Bastien has had it out for the Bone Criers since his father was murdered by one of them when he was a boy. He is working with a pair of siblings who also lost their father. They have been researching the history of the Bone Criers and find Ailesse during her rite of passage. They finally have their chance at revenge, but things don't quite go as planned.

Ailesse and Bastien believe they are cursed by the spell between a Bone Crier and her amoure. Once they are past trying to kill each other and their friendship begins to flourish, they try to find a way to break the curse. They are also plagued by a bunch of loose spirits that weren't ferried the night of her failed rite of passage.

Sabine is Ailesse's best friend. She refuses to believe Ailesse is dead even though her mother says she is. She is determined to help her friend, but things become more complicated as the story progresses. It becomes clear that the Bone Criers provide a valuable service to society even if the means to the end is unfathomable. There appears to be a sliver of hope for Ailesse and Bastien at the end of this story, but it is at the expense of another character. 

This was a fast paced and highly entertaining book. I probably never would have read it if it weren't for Owlcrate. They do an amazing job with their book selections and this once certainly did not disappoint. I can't wait to see how things will play out in the next installment, but unfortunately I will have to wait until next March for the release of Bone Crier's Dawn. 

Monday, October 26, 2020

Book Review: Unrivaled by Alyson Noel


Goodreads Overview:

Layla Harrison wants to leave her beach-bum days for digs behind a reporter’s desk. Aster Amirpour wants to scream at the next casting director who tells her “we need ethnic but not your kind of ethnic.” Tommy Phillips dreams of buying a twelve-string guitar and using it to shred his way back into his famous absentee dad’s life.

But Madison Brooks took destiny and made it her bitch a long time ago.

She’s Hollywood’s hottest starlet, and the things she did to become the name on everyone’s lips are merely a stain on the pavement, ground beneath her Louboutin heel.

That is, until Layla, Aster, and Tommy find themselves with a VIP invite to the glamorous and gritty world of Los Angeles’s nightlife and lured into a high-stakes competition where Madison Brooks is the target. Just as their hopes begin to gleam like stars through the California smog, Madison Brooks goes missing. . . . And all of their hopes are blacked out in the haze of their lies.

Jacque's Review:

I picked up a copy of this book at BEA 2016.  It finally made it to the top of my TBR list because I was looking for a book that starts with U for the A-Z reading challenge this year.  

This book was surprisingly good. The owner of several night clubs in L.A. decides to host a contest to help promote his clubs. Layla desperately needs the money to pay for college, but she is far from the night club sort of person. In fact, she runs a celebrity gossip blog that thrives off of celebrity drama. Trying to make friends with these same celebrities and lure them to her club isn't going to be easy.

Tommy is a talented musician and the illegitimate son of the night club owner. He is using this opportunity to get closer to his dad, but he doesn't want to use his connection as an advantage. He needs the money to help launch his music career, but I believe he is more interested in earning his father's respect.

Aster is the privileged daughter of a wealthy L.A. family. She lives a very sheltered life that her parents have planned out for her. She wants to become an actress and live her own life. She believes the connections and money she could make by winning the contest could provide the break she needs to get her foot in the doors of Hollywood. 

The contest awards points to the promoter that lures not only the largest volume of guests, but the highest quality as well. There is a list of celebrities they are supposed to target with Madison Brooks being the top prize. They all connect with Madison in some form before she is discovered missing. Now they are at the top of the list of suspects and need to work together to uncover what really happened to Madison Brooks.

We learn throughout the story that Madison isn't exactly the person she has led the public to believe she is. She has a past she is trying to hide, but we have no idea what it could be. I really think uncovering her true identity will solve the mystery of her disappearance. 

This was a fast paced and highly entertaining beginning of the series. I loved all of the characters and can't wait to see what happens next in Blacklist. This is a trilogy with all 3 books currently available, so there is no need to wait between books. This is a huge advantage to not starting the series when Unrivaled was first released.

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Book Review: The Flip Side by James Bailey

Goodreads Summary: 
To coin a phrase, Josh is suffering a quarter-life crisis. He just broke up with his long-term girlfriend, lost his job, and moved back home with his parents (shudder). Welcome to rock bottom in Bristol. As Josh starts questioning all his life choices, he has a mad thought: Maybe he would just be better flipping a coin. After all, careful planning has landed him homeless, jobless, and single.

What starts as a joke soon becomes serious and Josh decides to start putting his faith in the capriciousness of currency. He doesn’t have anything to lose.

But when the chance of a lifetime and the girl of his dreams are on the line, will the coin guide him to a rich love life or leave him flat broke?

Tee's Review:

He has planned it all, proposing to his longtime girlfriend on the London Eye, has the ring, is down on his knee, and does she say yes? Nope, she turns Josh down, so naturally, he walks away from the relationship both heartbroken and embarrassed. But that wasn’t Josh’s only problem, he also worked for her dad in his hotel’s, so naturally, he lost his job and his apartment along with his girlfriend, and unfortunately finds himself back home living with his parents. He also realizes he is not good at making decisions so he decides to flip a coin for the next year for every decision he has to make. 

While in London watching a friend run a marathon, he sneaks into a museum where he meets the girl of his dreams, but as they are in the crowd outside making their way to watch the runners, he loses her in the crowd. He doesn’t know her name or really anything else about her, he only knows that she lives out of the country and works in an English bookstore close to a museum that has one of the five Sunflower paintings by Van Gogh, so she becomes “ Sunflower Girl “ and he is determined to find her.  So with the coins approval, and some prize money from a trivia contest him and his friends won,  he sets out on an adventure across Europe to find her. His friends even make an Instagram account to help him along the way.

This is James Bailey’s debut novel and it is a great introduction. The thing I liked most about the book was the flip on characters. So many books have the heartbroken girl as the main character. Well, we all know that even the boys occasionally get their heartbroken and it was nice to see that point of view for once. The writing was fantastic, very engaging, and I was completely blown away by the humor in the book, so much so that I found myself more than once laughing out loud at the misadventures Josh got into along the way. 

All the characters, from Josh, to his friends, to his family, Sunflower girl, even the odd cast of characters he meets along the way of his adventure are delightful and warm. The Flip Side is a heartwarming story of strong friendships and determination. You will laugh, and you will cry along the way, this book most definitely explores any and every emotion you can imagine in its pages.

Monday, October 19, 2020

Book Review: The Midnight Library by Matt Haig


Somewhere out beyond the edge of the universe, there is a library that contains an infinite number of books, each one the story of another reality. One tells the story of your life as it is, along with another book for the other life you could have lived if you had made a different choice at any point in your life. While we all wonder how our lives might have been, what if you had the chance to go to the library and see for yourself? Would any of these other lives truly be better?

In The Midnight Library, Matt Haig's enchanting new novel, Nora Seed finds herself faced with this decision. Faced with the possibility of changing her life for a new one, following a different career, undoing old breakups, realizing her dreams of becoming a glaciologist; she must search within herself as she travels through the Midnight Library to decide what is truly fulfilling in life, and what makes it worth living in the first place.

Tee's Review: 

While the midnight library stands Nora, you will be preserved from death. Now, you have to decide how you want to live. “

Nora Seed has had a rough 27 hours, her cat got ran over, she has lost her job, her brother is speaking to her, her best friend will not text her back, but the ex-fiancĂ© she left at the alter is drunk texting her and the one person she gives piano lessons to has decided he no longer wants to play the piano. Feeling alone and depressed she takes a hand full of pills to put herself out of her misery. But Nora can’t even die properly, instead, she ends up somewhere in between life and death in of all places, a library.

The library isn’t a regular library, it is a library of regrets and choices. She is guided by her High School Librarian, and given the chance to relive parts of her life, to right the wrongs she might have done, and to be happy. If she is happy she will continue in that life until her natural death, if not she will find herself back in the library with another chance to try another book in her former life.

The Midnight Library is a heartbreaking book, with Nora feeling that life is no longer worth sticking around for. Matt Haig's writing is both beautiful and brilliant as you travel with Nora while she tries to navigate her former choices and rectify certain regrets she made in her lifetime, and also learns to live and embrace life again.

I loved the entire concept of the book. The idea of a library of your life absolutely fascinated me. Haig's writing kept me engaged and reading long into the night. And Nora, I think many of us will see ourselves in her at certain points throughout her life, as we have all had regrets and felt we may have made the wrong choices.

This was my first book by Matt Haig but his imaginative storytelling makes sure it will not be my last. The Midnight Library is a must-read for everyone.

Friday, October 16, 2020

Book Review: Most Likely to Succeed by Jennifer Echols


Goodreads Overview:

As vice president of Student Council, Kaye knows the importance of keeping order. Not only in school, but in her personal life. Which is why she and her boyfriend, Aidan, already have their lives mapped out: attend Columbia University together, pursue banking careers, and eventually get married. Everything Kaye has accomplished in high school—student government, cheerleading, stellar grades—has been in preparation for that future.

To his entire class, Sawyer is an irreverent bad boy. His antics on the field as school mascot and his love of partying have earned him total slacker status. But while he and Kaye appear to be opposites on every level, fate—and their friends—keep conspiring to throw them together. Perhaps the seniors see the simmering attraction Kaye and Sawyer are unwilling to acknowledge to themselves…

As the year unfolds, Kaye begins to realize her ideal life is not what she thought. And Sawyer decides it’s finally time to let down the facade and show everyone who he really is. Is a relationship between them most likely to succeed—or will it be their favorite mistake?

Jacque's Review:

This is the third and final book in the Superlatives series. The books are companion novels that focus on different main characters, but they all take place within the same school year. There is plenty of interaction between the main characters from the other books, so the reader can get updates on the all their favorite characters.

Kaye is the classic overachiever who has her life all planned out. Her mother came from a rough neighborhood and is now a bank executive. She has extremely high expectations for her daughter and has her on a tight leash. She didn't want Kaye to be a cheerleader, but Kaye was able to convince her she needed another extra curricular for her college applications. It is the one thing she actually enjoys and it allows her to spend time with Sawyer, who her mother does not approve of.

Sawyer is secretly a great student with excellent test scores, but he comes across as a partying class clown. He does an amazing job as the school mascot, but it is more than just a fun position to him. It is a way for him to express his true personality. He is constantly judged and labeled by his father's past mistakes. He is a completely different person than his father, but it is hard to tell that to a small town population that assumes the apple doesn't fall far from the tree.

This was a highly entertaining conclusion to the series. It takes Kaye a long time to realize her life plans may not bring her the happiness she always believed they would. She needs to stand up for herself and take some risks that are way outside of her comfort zone, but the reward is definitely worth the risk. Sawyer also needs to accept the fact that he can't do everything on his own. There is nothing wrong with accepting help from your friends. He also needs to learn to express himself outside of his costume. 

The entire school knows Kaye and Sawyer are the perfect couple, but will they be able to work through their personal demons to finally achieve happiness together?

Thursday, October 15, 2020

Five Great Gothic Literature Books For You To Read During The Spooky Season

Let's talk about Gothic Literature. It is October after all, and we like things a bit more spooky this time of the year. So, what exactly is Gothic Literature?  Well, it is a genre that grew out of the Romantic literary movement in the 18th century, mostly in Europe. In 1764  Horace Walpole wrote a book titled The Castle Of Otranto, this book is credited as being the founding novel of the genre.

What constitutes a book to be Gothic Lit? Well, it must have a few common things...first... the setting. You can’t have a gothic story without a gloomy big manor house or castle that is in some stage of decay. Often the location or the atmosphere surrounding the house is one of the major stars of the story. Even better? The house is situated somewhere in the middle of an isolated moor, as in Wuthering Heights. The story will have a mix of pleasure and terror with some very intense and strong emotions. There is usually a damsel in distress that will on occasion fall in love with the strange character that owns the manor house, but always, she is going to feel a sense of doom, think about Jane Eyre at Thornfield Hall, where she falls in love with her mysterious employer, Edward Fairfax Rochester.

Following Gothic Literature is Gothic Horror, these two can easily meld together as so many of the elements are the same, in fact, you can talk to some people about the two and they will tell you they are the same genre. There are two trains of thought on how gothic horror actually came about. Some credit Edgar Allan Poe, he took gothic literature and applied his fascination with fear into it. The other thought is a more common one and credits the genre to the three-day stay of Mary Shelley and her husband Percy Bysshe Shelly at Villa Diodati, the home of Lord Byron and John Polidori in Switzerland. The story goes that after Byron read the guest a story he challenged them all to create their own story. Out of this weekend, we were gifted Frankenstein by Mary Shelley, one of the great gothic horror stories to be written. Location and feelings of dread are all present in the gothic horror story just as they are in the Literature, however, they go a step further and add in monsters, or something supernatural, and in many cases blood and gore

So are you ready to jump into some great gothic literature to read this spooky season? Well here is our top five picks for you to start with

Mary Shelley " Frankenstein ( 1818 )

Victor Frankenstein attempts to play God by bringing corpses back to life. One of the different and compelling thing about Frankenstein is that the monster actually has feelings and humanity to it. This takes you from being scared of it to feelings of sorrow for it.

Charlotte Bronte " Jane Eyre " ( 1847 )

As I said before, it is the setting of Jane Eyre that is one of its shining stars. Strange attics, winding dark corridors, this house has it all. Plus the book is written in first person, giving it the feel of the character set in front of you telling you the horrors that befell her. We also have romance in this story when Jane develops feeling for Edward Rochester, the owner of the manor.

Bram Stoker " Dracula " ( 1897 )

The King of all Vampire stories that followed. Probably one of the most famous  Gothic novel. It includes a spooky castle, a mysterious figure, several in fact, romance, pretty much everything you need to make a great gothic story.

Shirley Jackson " The Haunting Of Hill House " ( 1959 )

The masterpiece of haunted house books that gathers four strangers, each with some psychic ability into a house. The story shows that the real horror isn’t the house itself but the mind.

Oscar Wilde " Pictures of Dorian Gray " 1890

Probably one of my favorite gothic stories. Dorian is painted by Basil Hallward who is obsessed with Grays beauty. Gray realizes that his beauty will soon fade as will his lavish lifestyle so he sells his soul and instead of him aging, the portrait does. A great story on the evils of excess.

But don’t stop with just these five if you find you enjoy the genre, Gothic has so much to offer, from classics to gothic romances that were published from the 1960s to the early 1990s by authors such as Victoria Holt, Mary Stewart, and Phyllis Whitney to newer ones, such as 2017’s The Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry and the recently published Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia. There is something for all of us in this genre. Happy reading!

Thursday, October 1, 2020

Book Review: Mistletoe and Mr Right by Sarah Morgenthaler

Goodreads Summary: 
Lana Montgomery is everything the quirky small town of Moose Springs, Alaska can't stand: a rich socialite with dreams of changing things for the better. But Lana's determined to prove that she belongs...even if it means trading her stilettos for snow boots and tracking one of the town's hairiest Christmas mysteries: the Santa Moose, an antlered Grinch hell-bent on destroying every bit of holiday cheer (and tinsel) it can sink its teeth into.

And hard could it be?

The last few years have been tough on Rick Harding, and it's not getting any easier now that his dream girl's back in town. When Lana accidentally tranquilizes him instead of the Santa Moose, it's clear she needs help, fast...and this could be his chance to finally catch her eye. It's an all-out Christmas war, but if they can nab that darn moose before it destroys the town, Rick and Lana might finally find a place where they both belong...together

Tee's Review:

Mistletoe and Mr Right is the second in a series from Sarah Morgenthaler, following Tourist Attraction, which I did not read. However I don’t feel like you need to read the first to read this one, it also acts as a great stand-alone. But if you want to invest some time in some of the more minor characters in Mistletoe and Mr. Right, I suggest reading Tourist Attraction.

The location really set the book for me, putting me in a Christmas mood with its snowy location of Moose Springs in Alaska. I think living in the south always has me wanting the cold and the snow when Christmas comes around, I mean Hallmark practically makes it mandatory in the movies. And yes, this book would fit perfectly in their seasonal lineup as a Christmas movie.

The main character Lana wants more tourism for Moose Springs, while the townspeople don't necessarily want change, especially when she is buying up all the buildings, so she tries to win them over by capturing the moose eating all the Christmas decorations. ( Honestly, I liked the moose better than anyone in the book ) . I did not connect AT ALL with Lana, her overuse of the word darling grated on my nerves quickly. I can’t imagine anyone using it that much, it just felt fake and forced. 

The romance with Lana and Rick moved slowly, but I guess not everyone can find love at first sight. While I did like the way she helped him and he supported her, I found the lack of chemistry between the two very sad. It did have its moments, it is a rom-com, so there were some funny parts that I laughed at, and though the romance fell flat for me, it is in the book and others might find it perfect. 

I didn't hate the book by any means, I just felt it was lacking something, it still made a great quick cozy read for winter. SO grab a warm throw, curl up on the couch with it and some hot cocoa and enjoy!