Book #4 of 2016: Storm Front by Jim Butcher

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Harry Dresden — Wizard Lost items found. Paranormal Investigations. Consulting. Advice. Reasonable Rates. No Love Potions, Endless Purses, or Other Entertainment.

Harry Dresden is the best at what he does. Well, technically, he’s the only at what he does. So when the Chicago P.D. has a case that transcends mortal creativity or capability, they come to him for answers. For the “everyday” world is actually full of strange and magical things — and most of them don’t play well with humans. That’s where Harry comes in. Takes a wizard to catch a — well, whatever. There’s just one problem. Business, to put it mildly, stinks. So when the police bring him in to consult on a grisly double murder committed with black magic, Harry’s seeing dollar signs. But where there’s black magic, there’s a black mage behind it. And now that mage knows Harry’s name. And that’s when things start to get… interesting. Magic. It can get a guy killed.

 I had first heard about The Dresden Files back when there was the SciFi (now Syfy) television series. I had only seen a few episodes, but it was enough to get me to want to try out the book series. So, eventually I was able to find the first book and decided to give it a whirl.

I have the audiobook. The audio rendition of the book gave the story reality. It was the subtle things that got me. The way James Marsters narrates the book gives the character Harry substance. He clears his throat, he shifts around; it is this almost unclean feel to it that gives the audiobook a sense that I was listening to an actual man tell a past case.

Without the narration, I feel that the book would have bored me a little. I was able to figure out early on just what was happening and who the bad guy was. It was pretty easy as the reader, but it wouldn’t be for Harry Dresden the character. So, if you want a mystery that is easy for the reader to figure out: read it.

Truthfully, I was into the world Butcher crafted more than the substance of the story. You get enough of Harry to just taste what he may be like. I’m not sure if I’m completely sold in him as a character or the world in The Dresden Files, but I am sure that I will dabble in more of the books.

All in all, the book wasn’t too bad. It was a quick read to get things done to and I do love James Marsters. The experience was nice. Not amazing-oh-my-god, but nice.

Book #3 of 2016: Peak Heat by Various Authors

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December days that feel like Spring. Droughts that last for years. Ocean temperatures creating massive hurricanes and frequent El Niños. The Earth is changing. Scientists estimate Earth will reach “Peak Heat” within the next several decades, forcing massive changes to the way humans live. What those changes will look like, we can only speculate…

Taipei Writers Group releases its third publication: Peak Heat, an anthology of dystopian stories dealing with the repercussions of a changing Earth pre-, during, or post- an apocalyptic global warming event. The stories range from optimistic, pessimistic, and pragmatic in each author’s perception of what the future holds.

I received a copy of this book from one of the authors for an honest review.

I love dystopian fiction. I’m so/so about anthologies, but so far every one I read hasn’t been so bad. This one was one of the best I’ve read.

Each story is set in a different part of the world, but are centered on the aftermath of a cataclysmic event. Each story shows how the survivors react and rebuild their new world.

What I found interesting is that you could see a bit of each author’s writing style, but each story fit together. If I wasn’t intentially looking at the titles and authors, I would have missed the fact that there were various authors instead of one. It was beautifully done and there was no story that I loved more than the other. I loved them all.

Some were heartbreaking, others were uplifting. Some had a mysticism feel to them. Every story was unique, but fit into the world the writing group created.  I imagine that could be difficult, but boy does it make the read that much more.

In all, I really liked this anthology. I felt for every character. I wanted some to have a better life than they were given, but I enjoyed their story. This is definitely a read if you like anthologies and dystopian fiction.

Book #2 of 2016: The Widow by Fiona Barton

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For fans of Gone Girl and The Girl on the Train, an electrifying thriller that will take you into the dark spaces that exist between a husband and a wife.

When the police started asking questions, Jean Taylor turned into a different woman. One who enabled her and her husband to carry on, when more bad things began to happen…
 
But that woman’s husband died last week. And Jean doesn’t have to be her anymore.
 
There’s a lot Jean hasn’t said over the years about the crime her husband was suspected of committing. She was too busy being the perfect wife, standing by her man while living with the accusing glares and the anonymous harassment.
 
Now there’s no reason to stay quiet. There are people who want to hear her story. They want to know what it was like living with that man. She can tell them that there were secrets. There always are in a marriage.
 
The truth—that’s all anyone wants. But the one lesson Jean has learned in the last few years is that she can make people believe anything…

I received this book through NetGalley for an honest review.

I wanted to like this book. I really did. I love mysteries and thrillers because they make you think. Some can be fast paced whereas others are slow. The Widow was not only slow for me, but also a bit boring.

It is divided into different point of views with the one you really want to know more about being the widow, Jean. Her narration chapters are all in first person while everyone else gets a third person. I would have liked it if her narration was also in third person. She seemed distant, not all together, and tried not to think about the mystery at hand. Which does make sense given the premise.

Her husband is dead. It is the mystery of what led up to his death that is the bulk of the book with his death being an inconsequential thing. The thing is, it was easy to figure out how he died. What I really wanted to know, was the crime he was a suspect in. I wanted more of that. Those chapters were good. Still slow, but they had something aside from a woman grieving about her innocence.

That said, I didn’t care for this book. It was too slow for me and I really didn’t feel a connection to any of the characters. I’m just not a part of the target audience. I tried though.

Book #1 of 2016: Hanover House by Brenda Novak

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Welcome to Hanover House….
Psychiatrist Evelyn Talbot has dedicated her life to solving the mysteries of the psychopathic mind. Why do psychopaths act as they do? How do they come to be? Why don’t they feel any remorse for the suffering they cause? And are there better ways of spotting and stopping them?
After having been kidnapped, tortured and left for dead when she was just a teenager—by her high school boyfriend—she’s determined to understand how someone she trusted so much could turn on her. So she’s established a revolutionary new medical health center in the remote town of Hilltop, Alaska, where she studies the worst of the worst.
But not everyone in Hilltop is excited to have Hanover House and its many serial killers in the area. Alaskan State Trooper, Sergeant Amarok, is one of them. And yet he can’t help feeling bad about what Evelyn has been through. He’s even attracted to her. Which is partly why he worries.
He knows what could happen if only one little thing goes wrong…

I received this novella through NetGalley for an honest review.

Hanover House is a novella thriller by Brenda Novak. It is the prequel to a series that will be starting in September 2016. Which is too long of a wait, but I’ll do it.

The story was easy to get into with characters I was interested in. I like Evelyn’s strength and determination to find answers; even if her life is at stake. In fact, it’s because her life is in danger that she continues her work and her convictions. Not many people can be that way and it’s cool to see a character use her fear as a way to help others.

The novella reminded me a bit of Silence of the Lambs (a favorite movie of mine). It is a strong, intelligent woman, working with serial killers (with meaning studying in this case). The very last bit in the book definitely reminded me of the movie.

The ending didn’t happen the way I expected, which was surprising because the rest of the book did seem a bit easy to figure out (though still exciting at times). There were times that my heart was beating fast and I wanted to see what happened next. Sometimes I did have to put the book down, but it was only for a second because I needed to find out what happened next.

I don’t know if you’ll have to read this novella before embarking in the series, but I feel it couldn’t hurt. You learn and see Evelyn in action when her life is in danger. You see just how determined she is as a character. You learn and see more of her background that is disturbing and heartbreaking. So, I’m happy I read the novella because it makes me want to pursue the series.

Book #92 of 2015: Without You by Lindsay Detwiler

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On the surface, Jenna Landsen has it all…
She’s smart, beautiful, confident, and married to Camden Landsen, who happens to be drop dead sexy and just as successful. But after five long years, all the success in the world hasn’t brought the romantic spark back into her marriage. Jenna fears it never will.
When life gives you lemons, open a bakery and name it Vi’s…
Violet Streiff made the exact mistake her mother warned against—she fell in love with Liam Coffman, a charming finance major. When he left her heartbroken to further his career, Violet drowned her sorrows by opening a bakery, and now relies on Bob, her eighteen-pound cat, for warmth at night instead of a sexy man.
To find love, sometimes you first have to discover yourself…
When Jenna’s job offers an extended trip to New York, she packs her bags and takes a two-month vacation from life. The chance of her marriage surviving looks grim, until the surprise of a lifetime throws a wrench in her plans to stay in the Big Apple for good.
You can bend the rules—but sooner or later they’ll break…
When Violet meets a gloomy but totally drool-worthy guy named Camden in her shop, she’s sure her luck has changed. There’s no denying the chemistry, but he’s married, and that’s a major problem. Violet isn’t a homewrecker. Still, staying away from Camden proves nearly impossible. That is, until his wife comes home.
Two women.
Two men.
Double the chance to find love in the most
unexpected places—or double the chance for disaster.

I recieved a copy of this book from the author for an honest review.

Without You is the second book from Detwiler that I have read. Though I did like it and I could relate to it at points, I liked the first book better. It was more because this one hit home with me.

I’ve stopped airing out my laundry on my blog a while ago, but I can definitely relate to Jenna’s feelings of stagnation. It’s been something that I personally have had a problem with and I’m sure other married couples have gone through it. I found my own way of finding a niche for me (and am still working on it), but I am glad I never did what happened in Jenna’s life.

It was realistic, worrying, and showed me a life that could have happened if I went the route Jenna did. I instead found hobbies and took enjoyment in some domestic work (baking and ironing are favorites. I’m beginning to like cleaning as well). However, the emotions Jenna went through were worries of my own as well. Funny thing, I’ve been married for almost five years now (same amount of time as Jenna and Camden).

Violet’s storyline was more enjoyable for me because it was an escape. I was able to live her life without the echoing of previous worries. Violet was sweet, caring, and had a lot going for her. I was happy to see her ending.

From the blurb, I’m sure you can figure out what happens, but I was surprised at how everyone ended up. I wasn’t expecting the ending Detwiler had. I was expecting something open ended like her first book or something bittersweet.

All in all, it was an easy book to get into and I did like the characters. I find it interesting that the animals are named after Detwiler’s own pets. It’s just a fun tidbit that makes me smile. This is a nice contemporary work that pulls on the strings and may invoke your own worries in wherever you are in relationships.

Book 91 of 2015: Emma and the Banderwigh by Matthew S. Cox

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Ten-year-old Emma doesn’t believe in faerie tales or monsters that secret children away in the night–until she meets one.

She lives in a quiet village at the edge of Widowswood with her parents, her Nan, and her little brother, Tam. Ready to abandon the whimsy of childhood, she finds the boredom of chores comforting and Nan’s fanciful bedtime stories silly.

One morning, a wan and weary older girl staggers out of the woods and sets the entire town aflutter with whispers of a child-stealing monster lurking in the forest. Nan tells her of the Banderwigh: a dark soul who feeds on sorrow and drains the life from children’s tears.

Darkness comes calling on Emma’s happy home, threatening the reality to which she desperately clings. The impossible becomes more and more real, forcing Emma to reach inside herself for the ability to believe. Her family depends on it.

I received this book from the author, Matthew S. Cox, for an honest review. There was no compensation given (aside from the enjoyment of reading another book).

Emma and the Banderwigh is a book geared towards a younger audience than the other books I’ve read from Cox. From reading the acknowledgements (something I like to do), I learned that this story had started off as a short story and grew to what it is.

If you love fairy tales (like I do), Emma and the Banderwigh is a great addition to your fairy tale collection. Never mind that it is written by a modern-day writer, the story feels like a fairy tale and has similar workings to the fairy tales that we know and love.

Emma is a young girl (ten) who doesn’t believe in magic. She used to listen to her Nana’s stories all of the time and used to believe them, but the real life got in the way. Fairies aren’t real. That said, when a girl appears from the woods everything changes.

As a character, Emma makes for a believable girl (I love that Matthew Cox can do this). She helps her family whenever she can; she has a sense of loyalty and responsibility. She has a quiet strength to her. She’s not the strong-willed character who is brash. She thinks of what needs to be done and does it. She also fights for what she believes to be right, no matter if her opponent is a man or goblin. She is the kind of girl you want your neices or daughters to be.

I really liked this story. It was well written and the text had a magic to it that went beyond the actual story. I like Emma as a character and see her as a strong young girl who will be just as strong as she ages. That said, I only have one issue with it… there isn’t more.

Now, that doesn’t mean Cox won’t write more of Emma, but it left me wanting to see her have more adventures and grow. I want to know more about the world. I think this book would be a great beginning to a wonderful younger audience book series. One that I would love to follow. Granted, I’m not trying to persuade the author to do that, but I would like that… if at all possible.

Book 90 of 2015: First Impressions by Charlie Lovett

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A thrilling literary mystery co-starring Jane Austen from the New York Times bestselling author of The Bookman’s Tale

Charlie Lovett first delighted readers with his New York Timesbestselling debut, The Bookman’s Tale. Now, Lovett weaves another brilliantly imagined mystery featuring one of English literature’s most popular and beloved authors: Jane Austen.

Book lover and Austen enthusiast Sophie Collingwood has recently taken a job at an antiquarian bookshop in London when two different customers request a copy of the same obscure book: the second edition of Little Book of Allegories by Richard Mansfield.  Their queries draw Sophie into a mystery that will cast doubt on the true authorship ofPride and Prejudice—and ultimately threaten Sophie’s life.

In a dual narrative that alternates between Sophie’s quest to uncover the truth—while choosing between two suitors—and a young Jane Austen’s touching friendship with the aging cleric Richard Mansfield, Lovett weaves a romantic, suspenseful, and utterly compelling novel about love in all its forms and the joys of a life lived in books.

I found this book in the mystery section of my library’s audiobook page. Since I’m in an audio kick and this was something different, I felt like it was worth a shot.

I typically read reviews of books as I’m reading them. I’m sure this may change my opinion of a book as I read, but it’s something I like to do. I usually read a poor review and match it with a high one. As such, there are a few readers who went for this book for the mystery. I am on the camp that if you read this book, you MUST be a bibliophile. An Austenite as well if at all possible.

I am both. I love Jane Austen, but have always been wary about her as a fictional character. That said, I liked how Lovett weaves her story and the story of Sophie. You see the life of a writer and how she uses conversations and people as the inspirations for her stories. Though Austen’s section in the book is purely fictional, I could see it going that way. The process between her and her mentor are much the same for myself and my best friend. And though I am not a published novelist (yet), her help is what makes me a better writer today.

Whereas Jane Austen’s part in the book is her process and her as a creative person, Sophie Collingwood’s part of the book is centered on books. More specifically, it is centered on a special book that seems completely inconsequential. This special book spurs on the mystery and the romance of Sophie’s story.

Yes, Sophie isn’t really the strongest of characters; however, I found her to be enjoyable. There is something about her love of the written word and the passion of it that speaks to me. I found her conviction to be pure. She is witty, fun, and a lover of books.

The mystery is easy to figure out. I was screaming at Sophie at times when she did something that was completely obvious. I didn’t know the little twist in the end, though I did know who the bad guy was. However, the comparisons I made of Sophie’s life with Austen’s and then add a comparison with Pride and Prejudice, gave me a huge literary moment. I could see how if I was back in school I could use this book in a college paper alongside Jane Austen’s own work. It’d be a fun paper. I hope someone does it.

So, in all, read this book for the love and passion of books. The writing is beautiful and easy to get into. The story may be predictable, but it was enjoyable. It made me want to see Jane Austen sites more and more. This is a fun book to read. Just don’t pick it up if you want a mystery.