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Review: Swimming Lessons by Claire Fuller

Posted March 15, 2017 by Lily B in Reviews / 18 Comments

Review:  Swimming Lessons by Claire FullerSwimming Lessons by Claire Fuller
Series: standalone
Published by Tin House Books on February 7th 2017
Genres: Contemporary Fiction
Pages: 350
Format: Hardcover
Source: Borrowed
Buy on Amazon
Rating: 3 Stars
Heat:one-half-flames

Ingrid Coleman writes letters to her husband, Gil, about the truth of their marriage, but instead of giving them to him, she hides them in the thousands of books he has collected over the years. When Ingrid has written her final letter she disappears from a Dorset beach, leaving behind her beautiful but dilapidated house by the sea, her husband, and her two daughters, Flora and Nan.
Twelve years later, Gil thinks he sees Ingrid from a bookshop window, but he’s getting older and this unlikely sighting is chalked up to senility. Flora, who has never believed her mother drowned, returns home to care for her father and to try to finally discover what happened to Ingrid. But what Flora doesn’t realize is that the answers to her questions are hidden in the books that surround her. Scandalous and whip-smart, Swimming Lessons holds the Coleman family up to the light, exposing the mysterious truths of a passionate and troubled marriage. 

I really wanted something different from my current reads and Swimming Lessons took care of that.

The book was written in an interesting style that I found I enjoyed.

It follows a family whose mother disappeared a couple of years ago and no one knows why. Well, the mother, Ingrid left for them clues in the form of letters scattered throughout the books in the house. So when her daughters come home due to their father’s accident, we get to find out through the letters what happened to the mother and what caused her disappearance.

It was interesting, like I have mentioned, I really enjoyed the format of the story. We got the current events in one chapter and we get to read Ingrid’s letters the next chapter and as it progressed, we kind of get the sense of what has happened.

The book in itself was okay. Nan and Flora kind of felt one dimensional because I outside of Ingrid mentioning them in the letters, we only get to see them at this specific point in time and I never felt there was much character growth. Flora felt like an absolute disaster at times and Nan was the more mature one who seemed to try hard to keep everything from falling apart. I was also very confused about how Flora has managed to cloud her memories and she remembers things differently than they really were in reality and that pisses Nan off.

The letters part, I enjoyed, for the most part. It was at times hard to read because of the situation that unfolded. I was very confused why Ingrid stayed in the situation she was in with her marriage. I also never really felt the connection between her and her husband Gil. He was twenty years her senior. Ingrid never wanted children, but apparently did not know how birth control works? She gave up so much for this man. Her life, her dreams, her education and instead did everything she hated including having children – that she never really felt any connection to.

Gil, her husband has done some really horrible things. The story was heartbreaking with the amount of stuff Ingrid had to endure, but I also felt like it was her own fault. She was warned and yet she put herself in that kind of situation. Did she deserve any of it? No, but she knew. I get that the time period it was set that she might not have been able to walk away as easily, but there was always that choice… So… I don’t know… The story felt weird at times.

Overall, it was okay. Nothing amazing. It was page turning, it was kind of a cozy read. It was a bit emotional, but I mostly really felt anger. I don’t think I projected the emotion that the author wanted from me, and that was maybe anger at Ingrids situation and pity or sorrow? I couldn’t relate. I felt she basically built her own misfortunate.

The writing was good, I don’t think I ever felt bored.

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Review: A Taste of Ice by Hanna Martine

Posted March 11, 2017 by Lily B in Guest Post, Reviews / 14 Comments

Hey guys, I have another lovely review for you today from our Guest Poster Sophia Rose. Sophia reviews A Taste of Ice a spicy paranormal and a second book in The Elementals series.

This book may be unsuitable for people under 17 years of age due to its use of sexual content, drug and alcohol use, and/or violence.
Review: A Taste of Ice by Hanna MartineA Taste of Ice (The Elementals, #2) by Hanna Martine
Series: The Elementals #2
Published by Berkley Sensation on December 31st 2012
Genres: Paranormal Romance
Pages: 368
Format: Paperback
Source: Bought
Buy on Amazon
Rating: 4 Stars
Heat:four-flames

There is an untapped world of magic that any man would covet...
Five years ago, Xavier escaped from the Ofarian Plant. Today he calls a Colorado mountain town home. It’s there he buries himself in his work, swearing off magic and relationships—until a woman threatens every promise he’s made to himself.
Cat has always known she is different. Water speaks to her on an uncanny level, and she channels this gift into beautiful painted waterscapes. Now, a gallery is debuting her work in Colorado—and it’ll reveal far more about her than she imagined.
The spark between Cat and Xavier is enough to throw both of them off balance. Every tantalizing moment sends them dangerously close to a rising flood of desire. Dangerous because Xavier comes to suspect that Cat is an Ofarian—his people’s enemy. But they’re both about to discover a far greater, more malicious power at play...

This is one of those ‘why did I wait so long to pick this up and read it?’ moments. Because alien made magical and elemental humans playing up their intrigues amongst the ordinary unsuspecting folks, dark pasts and healing romance in the present is definitely my thing.

I accidentally grabbed book two, but we’re going to ignore that because I did alright. Though that said, I knew I was missing the root of this series and could sense a strong connection to the first book, Liquid Lies from A Taste of Ice.

I enjoyed this refreshing take on the paranormal romance genre as these are heavy hitting magic users who are capable and do some bad stuff and I like action plots paired with romance.

My interest was snagged from the starting line with the set-up of a nearly broken man hiding out in the human world from his past and who he really is just to survive and a bright emerging female artist who has always felt like she is missing part of herself while connecting strongly to water through her paintings.

The coming together of this pair would seem easy since they feel a strong attraction and don’t have some stupid screw-up to come between- no, Cat in particularly handles the landmines of a relationship with a guy like Xavier like a champ. It was an intriguing choice to make a sexual abuse survivor be the male and it was handled well. What ends up being the trouble is a deep and meaningful collection of issues that are valid problems that they try to work out even as crazy and bad stuff interferes. It was an interesting choice to include a third major narrator that is one of those grayish-to-black empathetic villain types.

The build of the plot both action and romance was steady and I enjoyed the anticipation for the big ending which was actually a series of big moments though some were predictable.

So, yes, I will definitely be reaching for the next installment in The Elementals series and heading back for book one. I loved the world building, action and romance plot blend and the attention to the characters. I would definitely recommend it to others who enjoy spicy paranormal romance involving X-Men style magic elementals.

About Sophia Rose

Sophia is a quiet though curious gal who dabbles in cooking, book reviewing, and gardening. Encouraged and supported by an incredible man and loving family. A Northern Californian transplant to the Great Lakes Region of the US. Lover of Jane Austen, Baseball, Cats, Scooby Doo, and Chocolate.

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Review: The Billionaire Bachelor by Jessica Lemmon

Posted February 9, 2017 by Lily B in Reviews / 15 Comments

This book may be unsuitable for people under 17 years of age due to its use of sexual content, drug and alcohol use, and/or violence.
Review:  The Billionaire Bachelor by Jessica LemmonThe Billionaire Bachelor by Jessica Lemmon
Series: Billionaire Bad Boys #1
Published by Forever on June 30th 2016
Genres: Contemporary Romance
Pages: 384
Format: Paperback
Source: Bought
Buy on Amazon
Rating: 4 Stars
Heat:four-flames

Indecent Proposal
Manwhore. That's what the board of directors-and the tabloids-thinks of billionaire bachelor Reese Crane. Ordinarily he couldn't care less, but his playboy past is preventing the board from naming him CEO of Crane Hotels. Nothing-and no one-will keep him from his life's legacy. They want a settled man to lead the company? Then that's exactly what he'll give them.
Merina Van Heusen will do anything to get her parents' funky boutique hotel back-even marry cold-as-ice-but-sexy-as-hell Reese Crane. It's a simple business contract-six months of marriage, absolute secrecy, and the Van Heusen is all hers again. But when sparks fly between them, their passion quickly moves from the boardroom to the bedroom. And soon Merina is living her worst nightmare: falling in love with her husband . . .

I was looking for something different to read when I came across The Billionaire Bachelor and figured I could give it a shot.

Boy was I rewarded with a fun story, great characters and a romance that sizzles long after the pages are done.

The Plot

Two hotel owners collide when Merina Van Heusen discovers that her precious hotel has been sold off to Crane Hotels.

Reese Crane is on track of making CEO, there is just one problem, the board of directors do not seem him fit to take over his father’s position. Reese has lived and breathed Crane hotels ever since he threw himself fully into his family’s legacy, and now a bunch of old man, who don’t approve of his lifestyle, are standing in the way of him losing everything.

Now, Reese much ditch his playboy lifestyle and settle down, and who do better with than a woman who hates his guts. But, Reese has something that Merina wants, and knows she is perfect to not screw things up.

Oh I loved the plot. It was an enemy to lovers story with a fake marriage that over time succumbs to passion and morphed into something more.

Like a miracle had occurred. Had he grown a conscience? Her eyes narrowed in suspicion. “What’s the catch?”
He smiled, then said two words that made her go temporarily blind in one eye.
“Marry me.”

It was fun, it was exciting and it was something totally different from my recent reads so I was glad to have discovered this. I was totally engrossed with the plot, hooked, line and sinker. I was unable to put this book down and was cranky from the lack of sleep, but it seemed totally worth it.

The plot was totally character driven and I loved both equally with their prickly personalities. I loved that there was a build up and the way things played up, with even a bit (a little bit) of angst thrown in at the end. The story was everything I wanted and more.

The Characters

Merina and Reese were definitely the stars of the show. Thought I love the fact that this is book one in a trilogy of Crane brothers – because I totally adored Tag and cannot wait to read his story.

Reese was passionate, calculating, and a bit detached. He has a story and it consists of heartbreak that left him running for the hills when it comes to relationships. So marrying was equivalent of having a lobotomy, I’m sure.

He likes his women, he doesn’t like emotions or exposing his weak side. Reese does not want to get hurt ever again after that devastating heartbreak, which made him a little frustrating in the end when the possibility of love came pounding on his doorsteps. He get’s closed up, but he opens up with Merina without even trying to show that he actually does care and in turn exposes his heart.

Merina was prickly and I really liked her and her spunk. She really knew how to get under Reese’s skin and the two worked and clicked so well together. There was heat, there was steam, and a romance that absolutely sizzled. The chemistry was explosive, it didn’t feel forced, and kept things completely engrossing and interesting.

I adored these two so much that I am going to miss them.

Overall

Overall, this entire book was a win. I did have one issue and that was at the end where everything Reese has been trying to avoid, catches up to him and he closes down. I did realize that it’s a part of him that kept him protected from heartbreak, so it did make sense that he had responded the way he did, but at the same time Merina was different. I wanted to throttle him for being so stupid.

When the fog cleared, he did redeem himself and the story ended on a touching note. I loved seeing the vulnerable side of him.

The writing was good, the characters were well rounded, raw, real, emotional, sprinkled with humor. It kept me turning the pages, and will keep me coming back to find out what the author has in store for me next!

“Are you capable of being monogamous?” It was easier to needle him than address the gauntlet resting between them like a huge pink elephant.

“I don’t prefer it.”

Which was no answer at all.

“So this is a bribe.”

“It’s a proposal.” One eyebrow lifted slightly. “In this case, literally.”

“When a woman says ‘fine’…,” he started.

“Run.” Tag’s smug expression fell as he sat ramrod straight. “Like you have zombies on your tail. ‘Fine’ is not a term of endearment from a woman.”

“Yeah, that’s what I thought.”

Tag’s eyes went to Reese’s phone. “Who gave you the F-word?”

“Merina. In answer to my marriage proposal.” He leaned on his desk, hands folded. “I’m assuming that’s a yes.”

“You should assume the position, man. That does not sound like a good sign.”

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The Visitor by Amanda Stevens

Posted October 28, 2016 by Lily B in Reviews / 12 Comments

The Visitor by Amanda StevensThe Visitor by Amanda Stevens
Series: Graveyard Queen #4
Published by Mira on March 29th 2016
Genres: Ghosts, Paranormal, Urban Fantasy
Pages: 384
Format: Paperback
Source: Library
Buy on Amazon
Rating: 4.5 Stars

www.AmandaStevens.com
My name is Amelia Gray. I'm the Graveyard Queen.
Restoring lost and abandoned cemeteries is my profession, but I'm starting to believe that my true calling is deciphering the riddles of the dead. Legend has it that Kroll Cemetery is a puzzle no one has ever been able to solve. For over half a century, the answer has remained hidden within the strange headstone inscriptions and intricate engravings. Because uncovering the mystery of that tiny, remote graveyard may come at a terrible price.
Years after their mass death, Ezra Kroll's disciples lie unquiet, their tormented souls trapped within the walls of Kroll Cemetery, waiting to be released by someone strong and clever enough to solve the puzzle. For whatever reason, I'm being summoned to that graveyard by both the living and the dead. Every lead I follow, every clue I unravel brings me closer to an unlikely killer and to a destiny that will threaten my sanity and a future with my love, John Devlin.

The Visitor picked up shortly after the events in The Prophet, so if you are interested in giving this series a shot, I strongly suggest starting at the beginning, as a lot had happened. Ever since Amelia took Gray dust and came back, she bought something with her from the other side, a woman who happens to look like her except for the fact that she is blind and very much dead. Now the mysterious visitor is haunting Amelia and want something from her. The Visitor mentions a key that will help Amelia find her salvation, but when a stereoscope shows up in the basement of her house, someone else is trying to get Amelia’s attention. Every sign points her to Kroll Cemetery and it’s starting to look like the original ghosts wants her to find the real reason behind the mass suicide that cause all the people to die.

This was one of my favorite books in the series. We see a lot of character growth from Amelia and we get to dig deeper into her past and where she had come from as well as her father’s background. I thought the story was sad and compelling, Stevens did a terrific job.

This book felt just as creepy as the second book in the series, and it was hard to read at night with the lights off. Now that the rules that Amelia’s father tried to pass on to her no longer work, we get to learn more about what Amelia is as Steven slowly peels away the layers of secrets. Devlin’s family is also filled with secrets that I am eager to uncover as the book goes on and it sounds like it will play a major role between Amelia and John in the future books. Especially since John himself is undergoing certain changes possibly due to the incident in the last book.

The only a few things I felt upset about is the fact that Amelia’s father continues to be a shutout. He seems to now know what his daughter is going through and that the rules no longer protect her, but he is still holding on to many secrets from her. I feel like maybe she should know these things by now as far as her safety is concerned?

Also… What happened to Angus the dog?

Also, Amelia finds herself with an ally in Dr.Shaw… but what about the facts behind Dr.Shaws son and what happened between him and Amelia, the whole situation seems a bit odd to me I think. There was only a mention of Ethan in passing once and the entire incident apparently did not reflect the relationship between Dr.Shaw and Amelia.

Overall, this was a very interesting addition to the series with a lot of secrets coming into play. A few new characters from the last book were put aside for now, but I have a feeling that it is not yet even close to being resolved. Lot’s of things are happening and this is becoming more and more addictive and it kept me on the edge of my seat the entire time.

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City of the Lost by Kelley Armstrong

Posted October 22, 2016 by Lily B in Reviews / 16 Comments

City of the Lost by Kelley ArmstrongCity of the Lost by Kelley Armstrong
Series: Casey Duncan, #1
Published by Minotaur Books on May 3rd 2016
Genres: Mystery, Thriller
Pages: 416
Format: Hardcover
Source: Library
Buy on Amazon
Rating: 4 Stars
Heat:one-half-flames

Casey Duncan is a homicide detective with a secret: when she was in college, she killed a man. She was never caught, but he was the grandson of a mobster and she knows this crime will catch up to her. Casey's best friend, Diana, is on the run from a violent, abusive ex-husband. When Diana's husband finds her, and Casey herself is attacked shortly after, Casey knows it's time for the two of them to disappear again.
Diana has heard of a domestic violence support town made for people like her, a town that takes in people on the run who want to shed their old lives. You must apply to live in Rockton and if you're accepted, it means walking away entirely from your old life, living off the grid in the wilds of Canada: no cell phones, no Internet, no mail, no computers, very little electricity, and no way of getting in or out without the town council's approval. As a murderer, Casey isn't a good candidate, but she has something they want; she's a homicide detective, and Rockton has just had its first real murder. She and Diana are in. However, soon after arriving, Casey realizes that the identity of a murderer isn't the only secret Rockton is hiding - in fact, she starts to wonder if she and Diana might be in even more danger in Rockton than they were in their old lives.
An edgy, gripping crime novel from bestselling writer, Kelley Armstrong, City of the Lost boldly announces a major new player in the crime fiction world.

Guys, I am totally kicking myself for not picking up a Kelley Armstrong book sooner. I picked up City of the Lost on the whim, I read the blurb, it caught my attention and I really wanted a good thriller. I know a lot of you have given Armstrong a lot of praises, so I can’t say I haven’t been curious what the fuss is about. What I got in return, I couldn’t have asked for more, mixed in with some really amazing writing and I was completely sold.

Casey Duncan is a homicide detective that has killed a man when she was in college, and not just any man but a grandson of a local mobster. She knows that eventually her secrets will catch up to her, but that does not seem to stop her from tempting fate.

Now with Casey’s best friend is in trouble. Her violent and abusive ex is back in town and she just can’t seem to shake her. When Diana gets attacked in Casey’s apartment and Kurt get’s shot by one of the mobster men, Casey is forced to make them disappear. Leaving behind her job as well as her casual partner Kurt.

The blurb had me at the mention of a city where people go to disappear. I thought that sounded extremely interesting and I was wondering how Armstrong was going to manage that. Casey couldn’t believe that a place like that exists, but she is proven wrong when she arrives in Rockton with the help from the local Sheriff Eric Dalton.

Eric doesn’t want her there. He wasn’t completely buying her story about Diana since Casey has no proof from the hospital that Diana was abused. Plus, Casey herself has committed murder and he doesn’t want people like her in his town. But Eric needs a detective and Rockton’s council kind of bends his arm into taking Casey in – so he puts her on probation for six months.

Casey arrives in town just in time for another murder and secrets of the town and the wilderness keep me on the edge of my seat the entire time.

Wow… just wow.. I cannot express how much I loved this. It was so engrossing, it was so original and it was in it’s way creepy. There were secrets, there were settlers in the woods and people called hostiles. There was mention of cannibalism and an interesting mystery. Also, because Rockton is such a remote town in the middle of nowhere, we get to see the darker side of people when they don’t believe in consequences, something primal and scary that came from this. These people can suddenly be someone new, and leave the old selves behind letting the remoteness take over their beings. And since the ratio of men and women doesn’t match – there is also a bordello!

Okay, so I might have figured out who the killer is at around half way into the book. But, I was okay with that because there was just so much more going on. There is even a romance, but it’s kind of a subplot and doesn’t take over the entire book. Still, the romance was fantastic. I really loved Casey with the way she was around Dalton, she really bought something out in him. Dalton has an air of mystery on his own and it made me want to learn more about him.

I was confused about Diana and the way her character has changed so much, Armstrong also puts a strong spin on her story-line. I found that I didn’t like her character to begin with and by the end of the book, I hated her extremely.

One thing for sure, you cannot get attached to the people who live in Rockton. With the killer on the loose, you never know what will happen next and Kelley does not shy away from making sure that the reader gets the full experience.

When the big reveal happened, I wasn’t completely surprised I was just surprised by why and the confrontation was a bit odd to me and almost felt out of character. I forgave this because Armstrong still took us on a wild ride and since this is a series I am super giddy to see what happens next. I absolutely adored the setting, it played such a major part in this story.

I feel like I am going through a withdrawal, the worse part is the second book won’t be here till Febraury. Oh well, she has a ton of other books for me to explore that I think I will really enjoy. I am sorry the review was so long winded, but I was excited and had a lot to say. There is cursing, alcohol abuse and possibly sensitive subjects, so read at your own discretion.

Like thrillers? Like Armstrong? Did not read this one yet? What are you waiting for?

Memorable Quotes

He catches my expression, shakes his head, and says, “Ever heard of those amazing devices called DVDs?”

“Sure, but what do you play them on up here?”

“Tree stumps. If you carve them out just right and get ground squirrels to run around them really fast, you can project moving pictures on a wall.”

“Yeah, yeah.”

 

 

 

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Terminal by J.L. Bryan

Posted October 19, 2016 by Lily B in Reviews / 22 Comments

Terminal by J.L. BryanTerminal by J.L. Bryan
Series: Ellie Jordan, Ghost Trapper #4
Published by www.jlbryanbooks.com on May 4th 2015
Genres: Ghosts, Paranormal, Urban Fantasy
Pages: 211
Format: Kindle Edition
Source: Bought
Buy on Amazon
Rating: 4 Stars

Ellie Jordan and her apprentice Stacey investigate a house in an elaborate planned community that was only half-built before it went bankrupt, leaving an instant ghost town with only a few residents. The entity haunting this house is a banshee that feeds on sadness and misery.
Unfortunately for Ellie, this is no simple haunting, but just one symptom of the cursed land on which the suburban community was built. The old railroad line running through the nearby woods might just be a conduit for lost souls, including dark spirits with ill intentions toward the living. Ellie soon finds herself facing one of the most complex and difficult hauntings she’s seen in her career.

Ellie and Stacy are investigating a house of a young couple with a baby on the way, living in a community that was never fully developed. Ellie suspects that the ghost might be a banshee and is feeding off on the soon to be mother because of her delicate state.

It should have been a simple haunting, but Ellie and Stacy soon find that the situation is a bit more complicated. Near the failed development runs an old railroad through the woods, a ghost train, lost souls and dark spirits that can be harmful to the hand full of people living nearby.

Wow, what a thrilling ride. Bryan has done it again with this new installment that focuses on a much more complicated haunting that takes the duo out of the house and into their surroundings. I love the creepy, atmospheric setting of the woods, the ghost train and the mystery behind what happened when a train robber went wrong.

I thought this was a very nice addition to the series and I liked how the story branched out and that it wasn’t just a regular house haunting. As always Bryan does an amazing job putting together an interesting background story of what happened to the people on the train and I found the entire thing exciting and fascinating. It made me eagerly flip through my kindle pages to see how it all turned out.

As much as I absolutely adored the story and train robbers and how it connected, I was a bit rattled by the ending. It felt a bit strange, too convenient, too random, as if Bryan wasn’t sure where he was going with it and just threw it all together the last minute. I was left with more questions than answers. Out of all the times she had spent trapping ghosts, why did it happen this way now? The whole resolution with the main baddie ghost was just odd and I have a feeling that whatever it was that Ellie saw that night might not get addressed in later books. I hope that Bryan will prove me wrong in that regard.

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Review: The Prophet by Amanda Stevens

Posted October 12, 2016 by Lily B in Reviews / 11 Comments

Review:  The Prophet by Amanda StevensThe Prophet by Amanda Stevens
Series: Graveyard Queen, #3
Published by Mira on April 24th 2012
Genres: Ghosts, Paranormal, Urban Fantasy
Pages: 347
Format: Paperback
Source: Library
Rating: 4.5 Stars
Heat:two-flames

My name is Amelia Gray.
I am the Graveyard Queen, a cemetery restorer who sees ghosts. My father passed down four rules to keep me safe and I've broken every last one. A door has opened and evil wants me back.
In order to protect myself, I've vowed to return to those rules. But the ghost of a murdered cop needs my help to find his killer. The clues lead me to the dark side of Charleston—where witchcraft, root doctors and black magic still flourish—and back to John Devlin, a haunted police detective I should only love from afar.Now I'm faced with a terrible choice: follow the rules or follow my heart.

I am back with a review for the third installment in the Graveyard Queen series and I have to say, I think I have an addiction problem. I can’t seem to stop reading them. The only reason book four is on hold is because it got delayed in transit, which I guess is okay because I am totally lacking sleep.

The Prophet picked up on some of the events that occurred in the first book. The ghost of Robert Fremont is back and he wants Amelia to find his killer because he wants to move on. To make things worse, Shani – Devlin’s dead daughter is haunting her as well because she is also in desperate need of Amelia to help her move on.

We are thrown back on the mystery behind the death of Devlin’s wife and daughter as well as his partner that ironically occurred on the same night. Amelia is facing trouble because neither of the ghost seem to want to leave her alone and now Shani is actually haunting her, so she needs to find a way to help the scared little girl move on.

This installment was good, I really enjoyed it. It did lack in the creepy atmosphere that the other two books centered around, making it very easy to read in the middle of the night. Despite that, the writing was still so beautiful it just draws you in, Steven’s tells an amazing story and her skills in writing just make me oh so happy on the inside.

Can we just talk about how each book in this series is as strong as the one before it? I am completely blown away and happy about it. It makes picking up each book easy known that I am going to come away satisfied long after the pages are done.

I love Amelia, and I love the growth of her character.. Sure, she had a few juvenile moments when it comes to John Devlin, but overall, she is growing as a character. I also enjoyed how realistic her approach to going back to Oak Grove Cemetery was after the events that occurred in book one. She is slowly developing, growing and learning how to fend for herself. It makes me a bit mad that her father did not prepare her for the world that she is forced upon, since clearly the rules are doing nothing to help her and from the hints in the book – it seems it didn’t help him much in the past either. (Thought this is just my assumption)

Darius a new character enters into the plot-line and Amelia finds herself in the world of voodoo, palm reading and a bit of African shaman magic. This opens up a whole new possibility for the next couple of books, ups the stakes and makes it that much more interesting.

As far as romance, I liked the unexplained connection between Devlin and Amelia, which makes for some really amazing chemistry.

Honestly there was very little in this book that I didn’t like, that being said… what the hell was up with the ending? Is it me or the killer was kind of random? Like Stevens just threw together the ending the last minute. It felt like I missed a page or two of information in the end there and for a second I was worried I got the wrong copy. Everything happened so damn fast that chunks felt missing. It was like she was just in a hurry to finish it up.

Also, that revelation in the end about Shani – woah… totally did not see that coming.

Memorable Quotes

“You’re very light,” he said. “You’ve lost weight since last spring.”

“That’s because I’m haunted.”

“What haunts you?” he asked softly.

“You do.”

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Death Masks by Jim Butcher

Posted October 10, 2016 by Lily B in Reviews / 35 Comments

Death Masks by Jim ButcherDeath Masks by Jim Butcher
Series: The Dresden Files, #5
Published by Roc on August 5th 2003
Genres: Urban Fantasy, Paranormal
Pages: 378
Format: Paperback
Source: Bought
Buy on Amazon
Rating: 4.5 Stars
Heat:two-half-flames

Harry Dresden, Chicago's only practicing professional wizard, should be happy that business is pretty good for a change. But now he's getting more than he bargained for:
A duel with the Red Court of Vampires' champion, who must kill Harry to end the war between vampires and wizards...
Professional hit men using Harry for target practice...
The missing Shroud of Turin...
A handless and headless corpse the Chicago police need identified...
Not to mention the return of Harry's ex-girlfriend Susan, who's still struggling with her semi-vampiric nature. And who seems to have a new man in her life.
Some days, it just doesn't pay to get out of bed. No matter how much you're charging.

Harry is back in the fifth installment of The Dresden Files and the stake seem higher than ever. He is commissioned by a priest to recover the missing Shroud of Turin, but on top of that, he is in a battle with the Red Court. The vampires still want to see him dead after what he did to the Red Court and a vampire named Ortega has challenged him to a duel to the death.

This was an interesting installment. I really enjoy Jim Butchers work and when I am in a slump reading I always find myself gravitating towards The Dresden Files. There is just something about the series that captivates me. Let it be the fast paced style of the book, the noir style, or the one liners that make me smirk – there is always some form of trust that I will walk away enjoying what I got.

I love Harry and his development is progressing within the series. I also enjoy the repeat appearance of the Knights of the Cross and Murphy. We seemed to have missed out on Bob in this book, which breaks my heart a little, but no big deal.

I love Harry and I love his approach to his world with his humor. I also adore the way he seems to care about the people close to him, even if it gets him almost killed like all the time.

The book has a familiar motion that seems to follow Jim Butcher’s style of writing, but I don’t hate it. There is a lot going on, a lot. Storylines intertwine, old characters come out to play, new characters reveal themselves, and the world continues to build on quite nicely.

I was a bit confused by the ending and how Harry found out who the bad guy is, but that can stem from the fact that I picked up the book in the middle after months of it just sitting on my shelf. Also, this one felt a bit more darker. Harry was dealing with demons and sacrifices and there was a bit of gruesomeness that left me cringing. Despite all that, i really had a fun ride and I continue my love and enjoyment of this series.

Memorable Quotes

“It came charging toward me, several hundred pounds of angry-looking monster, and I did the only thing any reasonable wizard could have done.
I turned around and ran like hell.”

“How long have you been a Wiccan?’
‘A what?’
‘A pagan. A witch.’
‘I’m not a witch,’ I said, glancing out the door. ‘I’m a wizard.’
Sanya frowned. ‘What is the difference?’
‘Wizard has a Z’
He looked at me blankly.
‘No one appreciates me.’ I muttered.”

“Michael, are you wearing the armor?”

“I am wearing the armor,” Michael said. “And the cloak.”

“Hello, Michael. We’re going to an airport. The Kind with metal detectors.

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Review: The Kingdom by Amanda Stevens

Posted October 7, 2016 by Lily B in Reviews / 28 Comments

Review:  The Kingdom by Amanda StevensThe Kingdom by Amanda Stevens
Series: Graveyard Queen #2
Published by Mira on March 27th 2012
Genres: Ghosts, Paranormal, Urban Fantasy
Pages: 376
Format: Paperback
Source: Library
Buy on Amazon
Rating: 4.5 Stars
Heat:two-flames

Deep in the shadowy foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains lies a dying town.
My name is Amelia Gray. They call me The Graveyard Queen. I've been commissioned to restore an old cemetery in Asher Falls, South Carolina, but I'm coming to think I have another purpose here.
Why is there a cemetery at the bottom of Bell Lake? Why am I drawn time and again to a hidden grave I've discovered in the woods? Something is eating away at the soul of this town, this withering kingdom, and it will only be restored if I can uncover the truth.

Amelia has been commissioned to restore an old cemetery at Asher Falls, South Carolina. When she arrives things take a strange turn and she begins to wonder the real reason she was bought summoned to Asher Falls and why she feels like she is there for a greater purpose. With the way the residents of Asher Fall’s act around her has Amelia wonders that maybe she wasn’t chosen by random to restore to Asher Falls Cemetery.  The land is cursed, Amelia can feel it in her bones as if she is also a part of it. There is a great evil that lurks in the darkness of the mountain and a woman who keeps showing up always in time to save Amelia from trouble.

Wow! If I thought book one was dark and creepy, it doesn’t begin to hold a candle to The Kingdom. It was creepy, with a gothic undertone and it was tenfold more atmospherical. The book also takes on a more evil and paranormal tone over book one and makes it reading late at night that much more chilling. Don’t make that mistake, I did and found that I lost a bit of sleep because of that, hah.

I loved it. I loved everything about this book. Steven’s writing is enthralling and so good. I was so focused on the mystery, so eager to uncover the secrets of Asher Falls, the secrets of the unmarked grave that Amelia stumbled upon and why Amelia is so drawn to this place.

Thought by the end things unraveled rapidly, I was a bit surprised by the amount that was left unsaid. It might be the reason I did not give the book 5 stars and held back. I felt there was quite a bit answers left for the dead along with Asher Falls. I really hope that sometime in the future things will come to light, but I am a bit doubtful. I wanted to know more about the Asher history, their sins, why almost no one bore an heir yet and how the old cemetery ended up under the water.

I do love how the story progressed and we learned a lot about Amelia. Even if Devlin was absent in this book, his present was still strong through Amelia’s inner battle. There was a brief romance between Amelia and Thane Asher, I wanted to feel angry about it because of Devlin, but I knew there was a reason and in the end it was all going to work itself out.

I cannot wait for book 3, I feel like I should take a break and maybe read something else, but I have been so drawn to this series it is really hard to put down. Especially with the mood setting weather that we are currently experiencing.

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Review: The Restorer by Amanda Stevens

Posted October 4, 2016 by Lily B in Reviews / 22 Comments

Review: The Restorer by Amanda StevensThe Restorer by Amanda Stevens
Series: Graveyard Queen, #1
Published by Mira on April 19th 2011
Genres: Ghosts, Paranormal, Urban Fantasy
Pages: 376
Format: Paperback
Source: Library
Buy on Amazon
Rating: 4 Stars

My name is Amelia Gray. I'm a cemetery restorer who sees ghosts. In order to protect myself from the parasitic nature of the dead, I've always held fast to the rules passed down from my father. But now a haunted police detective has entered my world and everything is changing, including the rules that have always kept me safe.
It started with the discovery of a young woman's brutalized body in an old Charleston graveyard I've been hired to restore. The clues to the killer, and to his other victims, lie in the headstone symbolism that only I can interpret. Devlin needs my help, but his ghosts shadow his every move, feeding off his warmth, sustaining their presence with his energy. To warn him would be to invite them into my life. I've vowed to keep my distance, but the pull of his magnetism grows ever stronger even as the symbols lead me closer to the killer and to the gossamer veil that separates this world from the next.

With the anticipation of Halloween on the horizon, I’ve been in the mood lately for some creepy ghostly reads. After witnessing several of my blogger friends review a new book by Amanda Stevens, I knew I had to go back to the beginning.

So I was introduced to The Restorer and Amelia Gray. Amelia grew up most of her life centering on graveyards. She also has a secret, she can see the ghosts. In order to protect herself from the dead, her father had passed out a very strict set of rules that she had held on to until John Devlin stepped into her life.

A body was uncovered in the cemetery that Amelia had been commissioned to restore and John thinks that there might be something in her pictures or her knowledge that might have them uncover the killer.

I absolutely enjoyed every bit of this book. It was perfect for the cold, gloomy, rainy days that we just got and made it impossible to put it down. The weather here, coupled with the writing of Stevens has made the book very atmospherically heavy. It added to the mood and the chills and thrills.

I liked Amelia and felt her character was very true to self for someone that was just tossed into a very different world. The connection between her and John makes me especially giddy for the upcoming books. John is haunted, he has his ghost, literally that follow him. It’s against Amelia’s rules to get attached to anyone who is haunted, but an unexplained attraction has both of them pulling towards each other. It complicates things, and really makes me wonder how it will play out.

The book was written well, the mystery was a bit dark, but it was the unexplained and the surroundings that gave me the most chills. I figured out who the killer is half way through the book, but it was still interesting to follow the characters as they unravel the secrets of the death and break the code that the killer keeps sending through the cemetery.

I felt like there was a bit of mystery left in the air about the order that was questioned in the book, and wonder if it is something that will become important or get addressed in other books.

I’ve been very happy lately, just sitting back and picking up books I’ve been in the mood to read, even if they are not ARCs. I’ve been impressed with Steven’s first book and already have the second one waiting to be read.

Memorable Quotes

“Don’t look at him.”

I turned in surprise. “You see him, too?”

“Yes, I see him. Now get back to work.”

“But who is he-”

“I said don’t look at him!”

“Do you mind?” Devlin cut in. “If it’s not too much trouble, I’d like to hear your initial assessment.”

“Of Amelia?” Regina gave me a wink. “Lovely girl, handled herself well on camera.”

“I’m talking about the remains,” he said drily.

“Oh, him. Dead as a doornail.”

“Why did you come here tonight?” I asked softly. “Earlier, you said I need to distance myself from the investigation.”

“And I meant it.”

“Then why are you here?”

“Because I can’t stay away.”

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