*** Please note that various posts will contain affiliate links for Amazon. Purchases from these links will make me a small percentage in store credit. ***

25 February 2015

Alice Hoffman's Nightbird

***I received this title for free from NetGalley and Random House/Wendy Lamb Books. 
The free-ness in no way influenced my opinion.***


From time to time a book enters your life and it feels more like a hug than words on a page. For me, Alice Hoffman's upcoming Nightbird had that feel.

It's told by twelve year old Twig Fowler. She's a lonely girl living in a lonely family in a town where everyone knows everyone. No one seems to really know Twig or her family even though their family has been in the Berskhire community for hundreds of years. There are family secrets that keep them hidden in plain sight and this leaves Twig feeling as inconsequential as, well, a twig.

A "monster" is on the loose in town, a new family moves in next door, and the newspaper gets a new editor who seems to be quite interested in Twig's mother. Everything in Twig's life gets turned upside down (which, at times, is the best way to look at things).

It's part fairytale with witches, magic, and curses. It's part coming-of-age with love, family, friendship, and self. It's the kind of book that I wish I had when I was in middle school and feeling inconsequential myself. I can just picture myself curled up with it -- reading it over and over. My only complaint, in fact, is that I finished it too quickly.

24 February 2015

Teaser Tuesday #3

The Meme:
(click on image to go to Should Be Reading!)

The Tease:

From the Soon-To-Be-Released:
(I'm 50% through it now thanks to NetGalley and it's amazing!)

M. J. Trow's The Blue and The Grey

***I received this title for free from NetGalley and Severn House. 
The free-ness in no way influenced my opinion.***

I feel strange saying that I'm a fan of the Civil War. It just sounds wrong and it was truly a horrible time -- but I've always been a fan of stories from and about that time period. Likewise, Victorian England has always held a special place in my lit-based heart. When I read the description on NetGalley for M. J. Trow's upcoming The Blue and The Grey (set to be released April 1st) and saw that it combined the two? I knew it was one that I would have to read.

The year is 1865. Abraham Lincoln has just been assassinated in Washington, D.C. by John Wilkes Booth. Prostitutes are being butchered in London by the Haymarket Strangler. The stars are Captain Matthew Grand -- an American Civil War veteran who was at the theater when Lincoln was shot and gave chase to Booth, and James Batchelor -- a London-based journalist who ended up covered in a butchered prostitute's blood. Grand travels to London on a mission from the pre-Secret Service agency investigating a conspiracy surrounding Lincoln's assassination and ends up joining forces with Batchelor, who is working with the local police in regards to the Haymarket Strangler.

Trow tells the tale beautifully. The supporting characters are fleshed out more than I typically expect and the locations are so richly detailed that the cities feel like characters all on their own. The sights, the smells, the feels (both physical and emotional) all vivid and vibrant. I felt my heart racing with anxiety -- and also snorted my coffee from the humor. A few times (or more) I got frustrated because I wanted to piece things together just so in my head only to have them jostled out of place by Trow within a couple of pages. I love that it wasn't all neat and tidy and actually threw me off kilter!

The Blue and The Grey is the first in a series and I'll definitely be keeping track for when the second is announced and released.

22 February 2015

Reading With John : Dr. Critchlore's School For Minions -- Part One

Note from Karen: John decided that rather than wait until the end of the book (it's a long one -- 39 chapters & 288 pages), he would do a partial "Reading With John" now that we're about a third of the way through. Of course, we'll wrap it all up once it's done. We received Dr. Critchlore's School for Minions for free from NetGalley and Amulet Books. The free-ness in no influences our opinions.
(The book is being released March 17th but you can still pre-order it by clicking on the picture! Trust us -- it's definitely worthy of a pre-order!)

Higgins is a werewolf, 12 years old, who goes to Dr. Critchlore's School for Minions. He goes to school with monsters. Some things are going wrong at the school and it worries Higgins a lot. I think it is really fun so far. I think Higgins will save the day.

17 February 2015

Teaser Tuesday #2

(click on image to go to Should Be Reading!)

I'm currently reading M. J. Trow's The Blue and The Grey thanks to NetGalley and Severn House. It's not going to be released until April but once it is I'm sure it will end up being a huge hit. As soon as I read the description on NetGalley I knew I had to request it!
Introducing 19th-century private investigators Matthew Grand and James Batchelor in the first of a brand-new historical mystery series.
April, 1865. Matthew Grand, a former Yankee captain who witnessed the assassination of President Lincoln, and ambitious young journalist James Batchelor team up to track down the notorious Haymarket Strangler, who is garrotting young women in London's Soho district. Their investigations uncover a disturbing link to the death of Abraham Lincoln.
And the teaser:

16 February 2015

Heather Graham's Let The Dead Sleep

I've been a fan of Heather Graham's for years. She's written over 100 novels and novellas -- historicals, paranormals, romances, combinations of the three. Up until now my favorite Graham series has been the Bone Island Trilogy (it has pirates, after all). Her newest series is Cafferty & Quinn. While C & Q hasn't overthrown BIT ... and probably won't (you know, unless she adds pirates) ... C & Q definitely has the makings of another enjoyable series.

Danni Cafferty is an artist who now runs her deceased father's antique/curio shop in New Orleans. Danni has also inherited her father's gift for dealing with the preternatural, supernatural, and just plain odd -- although she knows nothing about it or what her father was really up to during his "boring business trips." While he was dying (or after he had died -- depending on who you ask) he told her about a book in the basement of the shop and that she needed to read it in the light.

Michael Quinn is an ex-athletic superstar turned party boy who died, was given a second chance, and went on to the military, then the police academy, and is now a private investigator. Unbeknownst to Danni, Quinn and her father were quite close and often helped each other.

Danni and Quinn first meet when he follows a woman into the shop. She's trying to convince Danni to come remove an evil antique bust from her house since she's convinced that it somehow caused her husband's death. Danni puts her off, believing that the woman is mentally/emotionally unstable because of grief, but Quinn finally badgers her into going with him to get the item. By the time they get there, the woman is dead and the bust is missing. Danni feels guilty about not helping the woman sooner and agrees to help Quinn look for the bust so Quinn can make sure that it doesn't harm anyone else.

Their search leads them through the good and the bad of New Orleans -- the drug dealers, the shady businessmen, the clergy (Christian and voodoo), the socialites, etc. A good deal of NOLA's history is touched on, too, as they search various cemeteries, the bayou, areas still covering from Katrina, and places that never recovered from the Civil War. The details that Graham gives of the people and the places are excellent and, for me, help make up for the fact that I had things pretty much figured out before the half-way point.

I already have the second book in the series and will continue with Cafferty & Quinn if only to see more of their neighbors, colleagues and friends. This happens a lot for me with Graham books -- I become a lot more emotionally invested in the secondary characters than the leads (especially if they're pirates).

11 February 2015

Jasper Fforde's The Eyre Affair

Jasper Fforde's The Eyre Affair is set in 1985 England -- but an alternate 1985. The Crimean War is still being fought. The Isle of Wight is French instead of English. Russia is still being led by a Czar (Romanov Alexei IV). Pet dodo birds are common thanks to home cloning kits and reverse extinction. Time travel is common. Shakespeare's Richard III has interactive performances a la Rocky Horror Picture Show (which I now desperately want to see). The Socialist Republic of Wales is a thing. The United Kingdom is not. 

Thursday Next is our main character and she works as an Inspector for the Literary Detective Division of the Special Operations Network in London. They deal, obviously, with literary crimes -- illegal traders, copyright infringers, gangs stealing & selling first editions, counterfeit manuscripts. You know, the usual. Literary treasures are highly regarded and, as a result, guarded. The type of security you would expect at banks and the best museums were in place at homesteads of people like Jonathan Swift and Jane Austen and Charles Dickens. In fact, Charles Dickens' Martin Chuzzlewit is the work in question when we first encounter Thursday at work. It's been stolen and even the Prime Minister is in a huff over it so soon other divisions are called in on the case and soon Thursday is working with a super secret Special Ops unit who believe they know who the culprit is -- and they believe that she can help catch him since he was a professor of hers years prior. The man is named Acheron Hades. (And, yes, he has a brother named Styx.)

Okay. Okay. The names are ... well ... whack. One of Thursday's London co-workers? Her name is Paige Turner. (Get it?) Some reviews I've read haven't been able to get over the names. I, however, read a whole lot of Douglas Adams, Piers Anthony and Terry Pratchett growing up. It almost feels like I already know these characters. Later on we'll also meet government henchman employee Jack Schitt and vampire/werewolf hunter Spike Stoker... among others.

I'm getting ahead of ourselves here. (I think Thursday's time-traveling father might be rubbing off on me.)

So, anyway, to pass the time during a stakeout of Styx Hades, Thursday's new temporary partnerish person, Tamworth, hands her a copy of Jane Eyre to pass the time.

Oh.Yeah. Alternate reality. Hrmph.

 Stuff happens. And more stuff. 

An awful lot of stuff, okay? 

And some of it is awful. Some of it not so much.

(I really rock at this whole "review writing thing," don't I?)

Thursday ends up transferring back to an office in her hometown where her mother, Aunt Polly, and Uncle Mycroft still reside. (Her father pops in from time to time -- stopping time whenever he does for everyone but who he's there to visit.) Uncle Mycroft is an inventor and has just developed some bookworms which are somehow the key to a portal allowing passage into a book. While Aunt Polly tests the Prose Portal by traveling into a poem by Wordsworth, Acheron Hades shows up ....

[insert creepy mad man suspense music here]

And so it goes. Acheron is mad evil differently moralled. He forces Uncle Mycroft into helping him break into texts (he has Aunt Polly hostage in his pocket on piece of paper, after all). Thursday (of course) has to try and save the day ... and her aunt and uncle ... and literature.

Piece of cake, right?

(Here's a hint: Nope.)

I can't say that you absolutely need to read this book. 

I can definitely see how it won't be for everyone's tastes. Even among my own friends I can think of a handful who just might not get it. I don't "get" a lot. It's okay. BUT if you do try it and you do get it and you do want to immediately start staging interactive Shakespearean RHPS-ish productions, feel free to hit me with book recommendations. Obviously, you rock (or we're both big ol' geeky dorks. Whatever.).

Oh, and when you do read it? Remember: even the smallest most inconsequential detail may be there for a reason.

One more really super duper important piece of advice concerning The Eyre Affair: read Jane Eyre first. At least watch the movie (preferably the one with Timothy Dalton as Mr Rochester). Knowing the story helps.

10 February 2015

Teaser Tuesday

A fun new-to-me meme! Yay!!!
(click on image to go to Should Be Reading!)

My teaser is from Jasper Fforde's The Eyre Affair. I'm just about 60% through now and I'm absolutely loving it.

I should have it done and the review up in the next day or so!

(Done! The review is HERE!)

08 February 2015

Robert Evert's Riddle In Stone

Nothing I say here will be able to come even close to expressing how much I enjoyed Robert Evert's Riddle In Stone. The first in Evert's The Riddle In Stone trilogy, the story introduces us to Edmund -- a middle-aged, out of shape, bored librarian. Well, he's not really a librarian but he's referred to as such since he's so well-read and has a bit of a book collection in his house.

Basically, he's a big nerd.

I love big nerds.

It's the same house that he's lived in his entire life and he's ready for a change. He sees a notice posted that the King is seeking a relic of long ago -- an item that belonged to the king who defeated the goblin armies of the Undead King. Edmund has that king's diary in his possession and believes he may know where the relic is, so decides to leave his lonely life of boredom and seek out the relic and glory.

Oh. And he stutters. A lot. And has a love-hate relationship with himself ... complete with some of the best inner dialogues.

And did I mention that along with being a middle-aged out-of-shape stuttering nerd, Edmund is a bit of a chicken? It probably went without saying. Shortly into his great adventure he fears that he's being hunted by a wild beast of an animal -- a wolf, for instance.

Of course, it turns out to be a dog. A plain ol' mutt of a dog.

So now Edmund has a traveling companion since the dog refuses to leave him and soon they're trying to escape a mountain troll which leads them through passages and tunnels and eventually to the riddle in stone itself (although, of course, they don't know that's what it is at the time).

Edmund is captured by goblins -- who, along with the Undead King, apparently weren't as "defeated" as his books had lead him to believe. As it turns out, much of what he had read in his books over the years wasn't entirely accurate. There are, after all, at least two sides to every story.

Anyway, two of the goblins are, for me, among the highlights of the book. Mr Kravel and Mr Gurding are hilarious. Evil because, you know, they're goblins working for the Undead King and all, but still hilarious. Every time they appear in my head they sound just like the UK comic duo Mitchell & Webb.


There are battles and imprisonments and friendships and deaths and escapes and magic ... and none of them necessarily in that order.

I can't tell too much because of spoilers and all ... but it is a most excellent read and I'll definitely be revisiting Edmund soon in the second installment of the trilogy!

04 February 2015

Deanna Chase's Witches of Bourbon Street

This is the second book in the Jade Calhoun series. Trust me when I tell you that you want to read the first one before you even read this ramble.


Go do it.

So, have you ever had a character in a book that you've just wanted to shake really hard and maybe even give a good slap with a "Suck it up, Buttercup!" added for good measure? That's how I felt about Jade through much of Witches of Bourbon Street.

Twelve years ago her mother (a witch) disappeared during a coven gathering and ever since Jade has shunned all witchcraft. She's an empath but didn't know until the end of the first book in the series that she, too, was born with the craft in her blood. She's a white witch and , potentially, a very powerful one. And she fights it. And she whines about it. And she complains about the fact that it would be best for everyone around her if she actually learns how to use it. Her good friend and mentor, Bea, was badly damaged in the previous story. It's now three months later and Jade is the only one who can save her -- whining and complaining be damned.

Whining and complaining be damned? Oh, there's a lot more than that being damned this time around!

She finally finds her magic and saves Bea but, as it turns out, there are a lot more lives and souls at stake this time around than just Bea's.

There are witches trapped inside of portraits and voodoo dolls. Those "three ugly witches" that the strip club uses in their slogan? Yeah. Them ... and quite possibly Jade's missing mother, as well.

Her ex-boyfriend, Dan, appears to be possessed by something evil.

Her current boyfriend, Kane, has been making out with an evil angel.

Yeah, you read that right. An evil angel.

Through all of the turmoil and evil and men trouble, Jade still has her support system of Pyper, Kat, Bea and ghost hunter Ian ... and even Aunt Gwen has arrived from Idaho! (She got to be friends with Bea on Facebook and the two discovered they were at witch camp together years ago. Cute, huh?) With all of the crap she's dealing with she needs as much support as she can get!

The steaminess from the first book is still present but not as much (not much steaminess, after all, when your boyfriend is getting busy with someone else). Instead there's a lot more tension and anxiety and I may have actually caught myself holding my breath more than a couple of times while reading. I do it watching horror movies, too -- as though holding my breath will make the evil not be able to get to me through the screen/page/whatever. Believe me, the evil here you want to avoid coming into personal contact with.

Unfortunately for Jade she doesn't have much of a choice. Not if she wants to save those that she cares about. She comes to realize (much to her dismay) that in order to deal with the evil she needs her witchcraftiness (is that even a word? It must be since I just used it.).

Spells, potions, dreamwalks, general witchcraftiness and evil encounters (including some in Purgatory) take up much of the second half of the book making it for a quick-paced read. A little confusing at times, but it clears itself up. Of course, not everything gets cleared up ... there are more books in the series to read, after all.

Reading With John : How To Train Your Dragon

This past week John read Cressida Cowell's How To Train Your Dragon. He's seen the first movie and the cartoon television series and I was a little worried that he wouldn't enjoy the book as much. How wrong I was! It's pretty much a totally different story and by the end he was claiming that, while he loves the screen versions, "the book is better." (That's my boy!)

02 February 2015

Deanna Chase's Haunted on Bourbon Street

I first got Haunted on Bourbon Street in May 2012 thanks to it being a freebie on Amazon (which, at the time of this writing, it still is .... or is again .... whatever). I'd read that and then the second book in the series, Witches of Bourbon Street, and then got distracted by other things and life and never continued. I found out that one of my favorite side characters was going to be getting her own spin-off series which made me anxious to catch up. Of course, there are now six books in the Jade Calhoun series and the spin-off is set for March so that's a lot of catching up in a little time ... but first, I felt like I should refresh my memory on what happened!
(For now I'll only do a quick ramble about Haunted so you can then go and read it yourself before jumping in to Witches. You know I don't like spoilers -- getting OR giving!)

Jade Calhoun is an empath who has recently moved to New Orleans from Idaho. Her best friend since high school, Kat, lives there and Jade had lived with her for the the first month until it got a little too awkward. Kat happens to be dating Jade's ex-fiance which, of course, Jade didn't know when she agreed to relocate. SO, Jade decides to move in to her own place -- an apartment over the top of a strip club named Wicked. They advertise themselves as having "hundreds of beautiful women and three ugly ones."

Jade does a "cleansing" of the apartment before moving in with some sage and cedar, knowing a bit about such things from the witches in her own family. All seems to be well and good. She's given a housewarming present from her new co-landlords, Pyper and Kane, which includes some edible body powder called Honey Dust. It's been a long day and she takes a bath to unwind and give herself a cleansing... and quickly discovers that she's not entirely alone.
So, her apartment is haunted and ghost hunters are called in to try and straighten things out.

Before long Jade bonds with Pyper -- working for her part-time at a cafe and helping out when needed as a bartender at the strip club in exchange for some free furniture. She also feels a strong attraction to Kane and carries on a flirtation with her ghost hunter, Ian.

Oh, yeah. And she has sex dreams with the ghost.

(Yeah .... there's that. I'm the first to admit that I'm pretty prudish when it comes to what I read but luckily I also have an amazing talent of skipping over "steamy." It helps, too, that the dream occurrences are mostly italicized which makes it a lot easier to skip over. The "real life" steaminess that happens? Well, I'm a good skimmer.)

As it turns out, Jade isn't the only one with ghost issues. Pyper is having them, too, but hers aren't nearly as .... ummmm .... friendly. To make matters even more confusing, the ghost Jade refers to as "Mr Sexy" isn't the only one invading Jade's dreams.
With the help of her new friends, her psychic aunt (Gwen) back in Idaho, and her own empathic abilities Jade sets out to figure what's going on -- not only with the ghosts, but with her own life in general.

Steaminess aside, it's an excellent read. Even the second time around there were parts that got me laughing out loud and parts that got my heart racing from the suspense and anxiety oozing from the pages (or screen, since I've been reading it on my phone).

And now on to the next ...