155 Following

Hooked on Books

Reading is my passion! I'll read anything if it looks good & sounds good. I'm also a sucker for books with unique settings & I'd choose Hardcovers over E-Books any day! : ) -Empress Reece

Currently reading

Gemina (The Illuminae Files)
Jay Kristoff, Amie Kaufman
-Penguin Audio-, Sean Danker-Smith, Johnathan McClain
The Facefaker's Game
Chandler J. Birch
Grimalkin the Witch Assassin
Joseph Delaney, Christopher Evan Welch
Progress: 90 %
The Forlorned
Angela J. Townsend
Progress: 274/274 pages
The Other Side of Midnight
Simone St. James
Olmec Obituary (Dr Pimms, Intermillennial Sleuth Book 1)
David L. Owen
Progress: 12 %
Stiletto: A Novel
Daniel O'Malley, Hachette Audio, Moira Quirk
Progress: 31 %
The Fate of the Tearling: A Novel (The Queen of the Tearling Book 3)
Erika Johansen
The Aeronaut's Windlass: The Cinder Spires, Book 1
Jim Butcher, -Penguin Audio-, Euan Morton
Progress: 11 %

Vol. 3: Locked Room Puzzles...

Locked Room Puzzles, Academy Mystery Novellas, Volume 3 - Martin H. Greenberg

Vol. 3: Locked Room Puzzles consists of four locked room mysteries...


The Third Bullet by John Dickson Carr-  5 stars

I liked it a lot. It's about a judge that's found murdered in his study which no one had access to. There was also 1 gun found, 1 suspect in the room & 3 bullets from 3 different guns so where did the other 2 bullets come from??  It was a fun locked room mystery and I didn't figure it out until the very end after all of the clues were pretty much announced already. : )


Booktaker by Bill Pronzini- 5 stars

This was a favorite of mine particularly because the setting was a bookstore. Some one had been stealing rare and valuable maps, prints & documents from the store during the hours of 11-2. The owner, Mr. Rothman, was at a loss to who was committing the thefts because the store had a faulty alarm system, sensors, locked windows and fire doors and he had taken back the two keys to the antiquarian room after the first theft occurred. So Mr. Rothman hires a private investigator to pose as an employee in hopes of catching the thief. 


From Another World by Clayton Rawson- 5 stars

In From Another World, a very wealthy man that's been murdered and an unconscious psychic apport medium, are found inside his study which has been sealed from the inside. Merlini, the famous magician, was asked in by police to help discover how the murder was committed. I liked this one a lot because of its paranormal and magic undertones. It was pretty entertaining and a challenge to figure out.


Day of the Wizard by Edward D. Hoch- 2 stars

This mystery features one of Hoch's leading characters, Simon Ark, who is said to be a two-thousand year old Coptic priest. He is asked to "solve the mystery of a wrecked plane in the desert and its strange cargo, an enigmatic magician and a drugged blonde. This one started out pretty good but I didn't care for how it ended and the multiple threads weren't tied together very well it seemed like. I just felt confused when it ended instead of satisfied. 


I read this for my 2016 Halloween Bingo: ~Locked Room Mystery~ square.


Calling All Cat Lovers!

Fifty Nifty Facts about Cats (Volume 1) - J. R. Tony,  Chapman,  Stephen N.,  Clive,  Lloyd M. Arnold, S.M. Davis

I think most of you guys are fellow cat lovers too so I'm sure you understand my desire to read this book. It's hard to pass up a precious feline face.


50 Nifty Facts about Cats is just that- 50 pages each with an interesting tidbit about cats along with large and vivid pictures of cats showing off their unique personalities. 


It's a charming little book and my son and I had a great time laughing at the adorable pictures and learning some new things about our favorite feline friends. 


For example, did you know that cats are superfecund? Yep "a single mom can have a litter with multiple fathers. Such a litter may have siblings that look very different from each other." 


I had no idea! : )



or how about this- 


"Cats can become lactose intolerant. As a kitten ages, it loses the ability to digest the milk sugar and lactose. Ingesting dairy products, like milk and ice cream, can upset adult cats' bellies." 


I didn't know that either! I've been wondering why my cat doesn't seem to want vanilla ice cream and milk as much as he use to. I just figured his tastes have changed but I guess it must upset his tummy now that he's older.



Never fear though- you're cat won't go thirsty because guess what?!


"Cats can drink seawater. Drinking salt water dehydrates most mammals but a cat's kidneys are so efficient, they can filter out the salt and rehydrate the body with seawater." 


Pretty cool huh?! You can take your feline friend with you to the beach now. : )




When I finished reading this book, my first thoughts were it would make a great coffee table book and conversation piece but the cover has a classroom textbook look to it. It really needs a dressier cover and a few more facts and pictures to be a nice coffee table book, then it would be perfect for displaying in your living room. 


I think all cat lovers would enjoy this book though and should check it out. It would even make a great tool for teachers to gets kids excited about books and animals. And if you're not particularly a cat fan, there are also 50 Nifty Facts books about Dogs, Horses and Elephants! 


*I received this ARC from NetGalley & Vulpine Press in exchange for an honest review. Thank you! 


Professional Reader Reviews Published 2016 NetGalley Challenge


House Swaps & Home Invasions...

The Apartment (Blumhouse Books) - S.L. Grey

The Apartment is about a couple- Mark & Steph, who live in South Africa, and have been struggling to recover and get their lives back on track after they were the victims of a home invasion. In an attempt to get away from their home which they don't feel comfortable in now, they sign up with a house swap agency and head to Paris. When they arrive, the house is not as advertised- it's a complete dump and abandoned with the exception of one eccentric old lady; and the couple who was suppose to stay in their house is a no-show...


First of all, I think this story started off all wrong. It presented a traumatized couple having major issues recovering from an "attack" but it doesn't give you any details "upfront" on this supposed attack so I couldn't empathize at all with what they were going through because I wasn't clued in. When the authors (Sarah Lotz & Louis Greenberg a.k.a. S.L. Grey) finally did explain the home invasion there was absolutely no suspense or horrific actions on the part of the intruders so I still didn't feel any empathy toward Mark & Steph- if anything I felt like their behavior was somewhat irrational bordering on nuts. Especially when in the midst of the invasion, Steph tells the intruders not to hurt their little girl- Hayden, so the intruders look in Hayden's room and see her sleeping so they shut the door so they don't wake her. Does that sound like an evil intruder set on harming someone to you? To me, it makes them come across as the least scariest bad guys ever which negates this couple's horrific experience even more. I think the story would have been better if it immediately opened with an intense and "realistic" home invasion -in progress, so we readers are cued in from the very beginning about what's causing this couples extreme fear and obsessive behavior.


Mark & Steph's behavior then turns even more unbelievable when they arrive at this dump in Paris and don't see anything wrong with the situation so they just continue their stay in this awful apartment. Who does that??


After that the story just goes even further downhill from there. The major problem being, that there were way too many threads opened up but none of them were fully fleshed out or tied together properly. To name a few...1) We have the most mediocre "home invasion" ever 2) along with the nicest "bad guys" I've ever seen 3) the elusive safe the intruders were looking for which we never heard anymore about 4) The crazy old lady living in the dump in Paris 5) which also turns out to be- the 'haunted' dump in Paris 6) the mysterious house-swap couple that we never learn anything about 7) Mark's deceased daughter, Zoe's, malevolent ghost 8) the unhinging of Mark 9) the hair aka lifeblood  in Paris & South Africa (don't even ask- lol). I could go on & on but you get my gist.


The book is touted as a psychological horror story but I honestly got the feeling that the authors couldn't come to an agreement on what kind of story they wanted to write, so they just threw in a little of bit of everything and a lot of nothing! If you were planning to read this one, I would save yourself the time and find something else.


*I received this ARC from Edelweiss & Blumhouse Books in exchange for an honest review. Thank you!



**I read this for my 2016 Halloween Bingo: ~Genre: Horror~ square



2016 Halloween Bingo: Updates 19, 20 & 21 - BINGO!

21 squares down &

My 4th, 5th & 6th BINGO: )

 Bottom Across, Right Side Down & 4 Corners




         19. Read by Candlelight or Flashlight- The Factory by Mark West


Magical Realism- The Girl From Everywhere by Heidi Heilig


Witches- Rise of the Huntress (The Last Apprentice series- #7) by Joseph Delaney


Genre: Horror- 


Black Cat- The Black Cat by Edgar Allan Poe


Diverse Authors- Lost Labyrinth by Zoraida Córdova


Ghost Stories & Haunted Houses- The Signalman by Charles Dickens


Young Adult Horror- One Was Lost by Natalie Richards


Scary Women (Authors) - 


Reads with BL Friends- Ammie, Come Home by Barbara Michaels


Grave or Graveyard- Suicide Forest by Jeremy Bates


Genre: Mystery- Crowned and Dangerous by Rhys Bowen


Free Space- Bookburners (Episodes 13, 14, 15 & 16) by Max Gladstone et al.


Gothic- The House by Michael McDowell; The War by Michael McDowell


Creepy Crawlies- The Call by Peadar Ó Guilín


"Fall" into a Good Book-


Locked Room Mystery- The Third Bullet by John Dickson Carr


It was a Dark & Stormy Night- Stranded by Bracken MacLeod


Set in New England- 


         20. Full Moon- Cold Moon Over Babylon by Michael McDowell


         21. Vampires vs. Werewolves- Silver In The Blood by Jessica Day George


SupernaturalStorm Front by Jim Butcher


Classic HorrorSweetheart, Sweetheart by Bernard Taylor


Pumpkin- Trick or Treachery by Donald Bain


Set on Halloween- The Worst Best Halloween Ever by Barbara Robinson



  Full Moon  Vampires vs Werewolves 


The GLUE Club...

The Factory - Mark West

The Factory is a novella about a group of friends that took up urban exploring of old abandoned buildings when they were in college and formed a group called the Gaffney Legendary Urban Explorers Club a.k.a. the GLUE Club. When one of their group members dies suddenly they all reunite for the funeral. To honor their friend's memory, they all decide to go exploring the one building that they've talked about for years because of the rumors that swirled around it, but weren't able to explore before, because it's always been heavily guarded. Now though, the building has been put up for sale and the guards removed, so the GLUE Club finally finds a way in- but getting out isn't as easy!!!


I'm fascinated with urban exploring and if I lived in a bigger city that had urban exploring groups I would immediately take it up as a hobby. So when I saw this novella was about urban explorers I was thrilled to death. It was a pretty intense story and I loved the old factory setting. I thought the parallel story line that was presented through the supernatural elements, about the factory workers and its owner, was also done very well.


My only complaint is that it wasn't long enough. That's just a personal thing though that I have with novellas. I never feel like I have enough time to really get to know the characters and as soon as I start getting into the story-it's over.


If you don't mind reading novellas and are in the mood for a quick scare, I would highly recommend checking this one out. 


*I read this for my 2016 Halloween Bingo: ~Read By Candlelight or Flashlight~ square. I read it this weekend, late at night, in complete darkness, with only a small headlamp similar to what they use for exploring and that added even more creepiness to the story- where they saw shadows in the factory, I was seeing shadows in my recreation room too. : ) That was a lot of fun! If you read this story, you should definitely try it!


Candlelight or Flashlight


Strange Truths by S.D. Wasley Released Today!


For those of you following my "Alice England" posts, Strange Truths is a new YA mystery story by Sasha Wasley featuring Alice. It released today and can also be found on NetGalley if anyone is interested in checking it out. I'm really looking forward to reading/ reviewing my copy and finally finding out all about the mysterious Alice England. : ) 



Strange Truths 



Why did she have to be so goddamn weird?


Mikey Warrender’s goals are within his grasp. On track for a spectacular swimming career in the last months of his senior year at school, his life seems ideal. A successful Senator father, a pretty, popular sister, and a girlfriend who acts and looks, well, perfect. They’ve had their share of trouble in the form of Mikey’s late twin, but that trouble died with Toby and now things can finally get back on track.


Until Alice England. Mikey couldn’t have been less interested in a friendless undertaker’s daughter who sees strange things and always speaks the truth—until she starts stalking him at school. Alice has reason to believe Tobias Warrender was reluctant to take that fatal dose of crystal meth. What’s more, she insists Mikey is grieving for his twin. Curious, Mikey lets Alice in—just for a moment—and before he knows what’s happening she’s wedged her foot in the door and busted his world wide open.


Alice leads him through a series of discoveries that make him look more closely at his own carefully constructed reality. Innocent yet knowing; kind yet devastatingly honest, Alice effortlessly unravels Mikey Warrender’s falsely safe world—and what really happened to Toby.


Strange Truths is a coming of age detective story that will appeal to adults both young and old(er), especially lovers of classical mystery with a twist.



Strange Truths



It seemed like the girl Jasmine had identified as Alice England, the undertaker’s daughter, started haunting Mikey’s life. He’d never noticed her before, but now she was everywhere: in the hallways and library, passing by the pool building when he was running a swim squad meet, or outside his classroom window. He started looking for that particular burnt-red shade of her hair in amongst the throngs of students in the cafeteria, assembly hall, and locker room. She was always alone. Jasmine must be right in saying she had no friends.

She sure had the look of a genuine loner. Her gait was vague and preoccupied, her gaze trained absently on her own private thoughts… except that she had now developed an odd awareness of Mikey. She would lift her eyes to observe him as she passed him in the hall, her eyes invariably dropping to his chest. He hadn’t yet bothered to remove the Saint Cosmas pendant from the chain he always wore around his neck, so either the girl admired his physique, or she was interested in the saint medallion. Alice’s persistent staring irritated him, but not enough to make him remember to take the pendant off.


A few weeks after the funeral, while Mikey was in the school’s office organizing a day pass for his next swim meet, Alice came in. She handed a note to the receptionist.


“It’s for Mr. Cameron. I can’t attend the kayaking weekend because I work in my family’s business on Saturdays and Sundays. My father has signed it.”


The woman told Alice she would pass it on, but the girl didn’t leave right away. He checked her face. She was looking at him. Her solemn gaze remained on him until Mikey grew uncomfortable and glanced away, but when he looked back, she was still watching him, her eyes on his pendant. Unexpectedly, she raised her hand and took hold of a pendant at her own throat, holding it up to show him. Saint Cosmas. Mikey did a double take.


Alice nodded.


He did extra laps in the morning and bailed on the after-school session. It wasn’t a squad meeting, so he figured it was okay to skip. Mikey waited at a street corner between the school and Tranquility Funerals. He’d fobbed Jasmine off. She’d wanted to go for shakes with their friends, but Mikey couldn’t stand some of the girls in the group. He had no desire to sit through an afternoon with their inane, high-pitched remarks in his ears. Things were a little tense between them all around. Jasmine had been quiet on the topic of Mikey skipping Simona’s birthday party, and although she couldn’t argue with his reasons, he still got the feeling she was disappointed with him. He was already in trouble with her for developing an allergy to her favorite perfume. She had mostly stopped wearing it, but every few days she tried a small splash just to test him. He invariably fell into a violent sneezing fit within moments of meeting her. He knew that pissed Jasmine off, although she pretended not to mind.


The refusal to go with her to Harlem Shakes tipped the scales. She got pouty and cold, and within a couple of minutes of leaving with her friends, Jasmine texted him to say she felt hurt and abandoned. He knew when she was fishing for an apology, and gave her one, excusing his behavior by saying his shoulder was playing up again. His nagging case of swimmer’s shoulder was a convenient excuse whenever he needed time out from Jasmine―or any kind of excuse for poor boyfriend behavior.


There she was. Alice England. He spotted her walking toward him, on her way home, her hair pulled back into a messy ponytail. She gazed at the ground with a thoughtful frown on her face, carrying a battered canvas satchel like the ones kids used in the seventies and eighties.


“Hey,” Mikey said when she was just a few steps away.


Alice’s head came up and she regarded him with interest. “Hello, Michael.” Her eyes flicked to his pendant―like she was making sure it was still there. She stopped beside him.


“You walking home?” he asked.




“I’m heading your way. Mind if I walk with you?”


Alice shrugged, but then stared with renewed interest. “You waited for me?”


Mikey reddened, although he wasn’t sure why he should feel flustered. “Yeah, I guess. I figured you had something you wanted to say to me.”


It was an accusation turned back on her. Alice took it calmly and considered his words without a hint of embarrassment.


“Do you miss your brother?” she asked.


Mikey nearly choked. Not one other kid at school had mentioned Toby since he died, although they all knew about it. A couple of Jasmine’s girlfriends had given him hugs and whispered that they were sorry, and Mikey’s buddy Flynn had punched his arm and then slung his own arm around Mikey’s neck for an instant to show recognition of the event―but that was as much as any other kid had done. Alice waited, her eyes on his face, alight with curiosity.


“I wasn’t close to Toby,” Mikey said.


“That’s not what I asked,” she remarked, but apparently without sarcasm or any kind of hidden meaning.


“I don’t miss him because I wasn’t very close to him. That was implied.”


She resumed walking and Mikey walked with her. He checked to see if anyone was around, watching them. He didn’t exactly want to be seen with Alice England.


“It must have been rather a relief,” she said. “He was in trouble a lot.”


“You saw the news, huh?” The level of bitterness in his own voice surprised even him.


Alice shook her head. “I read one article. Tobias was addicted to drugs and I think he got caught stealing to pay for them a few times. Is that right?”


Mikey didn’t speak. This was what they were going to discuss? Toby’s rap sheet? Was the girl feeding the press or something? He shot her a suspicious glance but dismissed the idea a moment later. She was too weird to have cut a deal with the press. A girl like Alice wouldn’t even know where to begin. But he could interrogate, too.


“Why are you so interested in my pendant?” he asked.


For the first time, Alice’s honest eyes spoke of some kind of connection with him―because he’d been so blunt with his question, Mikey figured.


“It’s because I realized Tobias was a twin when I was tending to his body. Your mother supplied a Saint Damian pendant for him to wear. I know about the Saints Cosmas and Damian, the patron saints of twins.”


Alice’s light, sweet voice made her sound fragile. It had a vaguely hypnotic effect. He focused on her words.


“You’ve got a Cosmas, too.”


“Yes. They usually give Cosmas to the firstborn twin.”


“Firstborn by nine minutes,” Mikey answered.


“Four minutes,” was her reply.


“Four minutes; nine minutes―and we get the Saint Cosmas pendant as the reward for winning the race.” Mikey permitted himself a wry grin.


“As well as the traditional family name. Primogeniture, Michael Warrender the Fourth.”

Alice said this without a shadow of humor, and Mikey searched her face furiously for layered meanings. He couldn’t detect a thing. He didn’t know that word she’d said, but he knew exactly what she meant. It smarted, although he wasn’t completely sure why, and he got defensive.


“Okay, what about your twin?” he said, pulling his eyes away from Alice’s open face as he made his attack. “What happened to yours?”


Alice paused for a brief moment before answering. “My twin was born dead. Our umbilical cords were tangled around us both. My leg, and my twin’s neck.”


Mikey felt like a dumb jerk. Clearly, Alice was a little like a kindergartener: brutally honest and without much of a filter to make her interactions socially appropriate.


“You were lucky,” he said, for want of a better reply.


“I was. My leg’s no good, though.”

“What d’you mean?”


“The circulation to my leg got cut off and the muscles have never developed properly. I’ve had physiotherapy, but it’s just weak and inferior. It even looks strange.” She stopped and hitched up her skirt to reveal her bare leg.


Although it was an innocent gesture, the sudden feeling of his sexual interest spiking embarrassed him. Jesus, Michael, he rebuked himself. He didn’t know where to look, but Alice waited patiently for him to bring his eyes to the leg. Finally, he looked. There wasn’t anything too abnormal at first glance, but when he focused on what he was looking at, he saw spidery surface veins and some discoloration.


“It looks fine,” he said because she seemed to be waiting for a response.


Then Alice hitched her skirt on the other side so he could see both legs against each other. He saw how one creamy-colored thigh looked somehow much healthier than the other, which was bluish and blotchy. He also got a glimpse of bright green underwear. Again, the little surge of thoroughly unexpected and unwanted desire. Damn the girl for showing him her legs and underwear in such an ingenuous manner. It made him feel disgusting and guilty about having a physical reaction. If Jasmine had been the one hitching up her skirt to show him her smooth, tanned legs, she would have caught his eye and smirked flirtatiously. Alice was peering down at her own legs, observing their variation critically, as though she wasn’t quite convinced of her own story. She dropped her school skirt and lifted her head to look at his face again.


“Yes, so for me it was the leg, and for my twin, it was the neck. I imagine us doing a kind of synchronized swimming in the uterus, getting all tangled up.”


Surely this must be a joke? An odd attempt at humor? Mikey started to smile, waiting for her to grin or giggle, but Alice simply resumed walking. He scrambled to catch up.


“My twin had a Saint Damian’s pendant, but my parents didn’t bury her with it. She was just a tiny infant, and I’ve seen it many times―newborns that the parents want buried with a pendant or other jewelry they’ve bought specially. But jewelry can look wrong on a baby; it seems to take away from the innocence and purity. The parents usually change their minds when they see how big and ugly jewelry looks on their tiny babies.” Alice glanced at him.


“My parents kept my twin sister’s pendant. It belongs to me now.” The honesty in her face was almost physically painful for Mikey. “Your mother asked for the Saint Damian’s pendant back,” she added. “She told me she needed to keep that one small thing of his for you.”


Mikey’s chest suddenly felt like a cavern, barely holding up under its own hollow weight. He’d not felt a thing for Toby for a couple of years, well, nothing but contempt. But when he thought of Alice keeping her sister’s pendant, and his own mother keeping Toby’s pendant for him, he felt… well, he felt like…


“I’m home, now.”


“What?” he said in agitation. He went to run a hand through his hair but caught hold of it instead, tugging on it in an attempt to clear his head.


“I’m home.”


Alice stood neatly by the steps outside Tranquility Funerals. Next to the front door was a modest sign, an old brass plaque that read, England’s Funeral Parlor Est. 1906.


“Goodbye, Michael,” she said, turning around to climb the steps.


She went through a gate at the side of the house. Mikey wanted to call out to her, to stop her from walking away, but there was no reason he could think of to do so without looking irrational and crazy, so he just watched her go.



"I hope you enjoyed the excerpt and would love to hear your thoughts on the book."



Visit S.D. Wasley

Visit Alice on Instagram 

Visit England's Funeral Parlor

"26 Literary Costumes You Need To Wear This Halloween!"

Anyone dressing up this year? Going to any costume parties?


I'm probably not but if I were picking a costume from this list, I would probably go with Elizabeth Bennet- Zombie Killer! : ) What's your favorite?



Can anyone guess what the most popular adult costume is going to be?


D. Trump & H. Clinton


Yep- Unfortunately, I think we're going to see a lot of Donald Trump's & Hillary Clinton's! : (



Source of Literary Costume Article: Penguin Random House 

From Bathroom to Science Lab...

Bathroom Science: 70 Fun and Wacky Science Experiments - Christine Taylor-Butler

When I saw Sandra's (Reviews in Chalk) post about this book I knew I had to get it! My 10 year old son absolutely loves creating concoctions, blowing stuff up, making messes etc. so I figured this book would go over very well- and it did!


His very first experiment choices were "A Bathroom Stink Bomb" & "The Toilet Volcano." So far, we've completed about seven of them and they were all very successful! None of the experiments in the book require any outlandish ingredients, the instructions are easy to follow and kids can do them with minimal to no help, depending on the experiment and age.


They're perfect for rainy days or just when you're kids get bored at home and need something to do. There are about 70 experiments in the book so there's a good variety to choose from that will please all different ages and tastes.


It's a fantastic way to get your kids interested in science and a must have for their bathroom!


*I received this ARC from NetGalley & Printers Row Publishing Group in exchange for an honest review. Thank you!


 Professional Reader Reviews Published 2016 NetGalley Challenge

Babylon & Blueberries- 4.5 stars...

Cold Moon Over Babylon (Valancourt 20th Century Classics) - Mike Mignola, Michael McDowell

"Terror grows in Babylon, a typical sleepy Southern town with its throbbing sun and fog-shrouded swamps."


"Margaret Larkin has been robbed of her innocence -- and her life. Her killer is rich and powerful, beyond the grasp of earthly law."


"Now, in the murky depths of the local river, a shifting, almost human shape slowly takes form. Night after night it will pursue the murderer. It will watch him from the trees. And in the chill waters of the river, it will claim him in the ultimate embrace."


"The cold moon rises, the awful squishing sounds begin."



Another fantastic book by McDowell! He has a knack for writing about small-towns & Southern characters. Cold Moon reminded me a little bit of his Blackwater Saga just without the 'family saga' storyline- even the Perdido was back for a small part. : )


If you haven't read any of McDowell's books yet, you really should! His talent for combining Southern gothic and horror is exceptional & something you don't want to miss out on!


*I read this with HA-Buddy Read & for my 2016 Halloween Bingo: ~Full Moon~ square


Full Moon square

The Claw, The Wing & The Smoke...

Silver in the Blood - Jessica Day George, Sandy Rustin, Recorded Books LLC

The beginning of this book started out pretty iffy for me. The main characters, cousins Dacia & Lou, came across as superficial, flighty and immature and the majority of the dialogue focused on what they were wearing, what boys they liked and what shops they were going to visit while on vacation.


I listened to the audio and the narrator's voice, although it reflected the flighty characters personalities perfectly, it was also rather annoying. About midway through, the plot finally took a turn for the better and Dacia & Lou gained a little more depth in their characters. The narrator seemed to reflect that too in her tone and I started enjoying both book and narrator a lot more- not enough to rate it 5 stars or anything but enough to finish the story at least.


I think the story with its shapeshifters, Dracula family origins and Romanian setting had the potential to be much more then it was but it just wasn't executed very well. The plot was thin at best. The Romanian culture was hardly touched on and the characters left much to be desired. The tone of the book also seemed geared more toward children's middle grade then young adults. I would say the last quarter of the book was probably the strongest but, it was a case of- too little, too late!


*I read this for my 2016 Halloween Bingo: ~Vampires vs. Werewolves~ square


Vampires vs Werewolves

Meet Zoe Faust & Dorian Robert-Houdin...

The Masquerading Magician (An Accidental Alchemist Mystery) - Gigi Pandian, Julia Motyka

Zoe is a a 400 year old vegan herbalist and alchemist. Dorian is a living French gargoyle chef. Dorian followed Zoe in a packing crate from France all the way to Portland, Oregon to enlist her help. They now live together in a ramshackle house with a hole in the roof,  which actually makes it easier for Dorian to come & go at night without being spotted. : ) They are so unique & delightful and are quickly becoming two of my favorite fictional characters!


This series has so much variety- ancient alchemy, magic, mystery, cooking, etc.- that I just love it. In the first book though, I thought the numerous vegan recipes were a bit over done, excuse the pun, but in this second book, they were toned down more and they flowed with the story line much more naturally. The first book was good but this one was so much better. It was really fantastic and a lot of fun!


The story opens with Zoe on a date with Max- a local policeman. They are attending a magic show at a local theater. Brixton, Zoe's neighbor, thinks the magician might be an alchemist too and can help Zoe and Dorian unlock the secrets in Dorian's alchemy book that will prevent him from turning to stone. As Dorian and Zoe try to get close to the magician to find out just what secrets he's hiding, they become embroiled with treasure hunters, a murder mystery and a decades old jewelry heist.


Zoe also reconnects with her 150 year old friend Tobias, who comes to visit her for a couple of days. He is also an alchemist and is able to help her a little with Dorian's book and her health, which is failing due to the backward alchemy transformations she performs to help Dorian stay mobile. I really like Tobias, a lot more then I do Max! They have so much more in common. I hope we see a lot more of him in this series. 


I listened to the audio book (1.3 playback speed) and it was great! The narrator's French accent for Dorian was so cute. I can't wait to start the next book! If you're a vegan or enjoy cooking, mysteries or alchemy I think you'll really enjoy this series. The quirky characters alone will steal your heart!  

"Voyage of the Damned"...

The German Girl: A Novel - Armando Lucas Correa

The German Girl is about a 12 year old Jewish girl named, Hannah Rosenthal and her well-to-do family that are living in Berlin during the war in 1939. The German authorities are in the process of rounding up the Jewish men first and deporting them to death camps. They are allowing some of the wealthier well known families to leave the country if they agree to hand over all of their possessions. The Rosenthal family along with 900+ Jewish refugees buy visas and gain passage on a transatlantic liner, the MS St. Louis, headed to Cuba. Originally Cuba agreed to accept all of the passengers but midway through their journey the Cuban President revoked the agreement, invalidated the visas and denied entry to all but 29 passengers, including Hannah and her mother. Her father was denied entry along with the others and the ship was sent back to Europe. The Captain, Gus Schröder, continued negotiations with other countries and the passengers were accepted in France, Belgium & the Netherlands. Many families were split up for years to come and some were never reunited. 


Hannah's story was told in parallel with a present day story of a girl named Anna, who lives in New York City. She receives a mysterious envelope from Hannah who happens to be her great-aunt and related to her deceased father. Anna and her mother travel to Cuba to visit Hannah and unravel the connections between their families.


Both girl's stories are very moving but heart wrenching. The author does a fantastic job portraying the cruelty and suffering that the Jewish families endured in Nazi occupied Germany. They suffered incredible losses that no one should ever have to go through. It's not an easy read but if you have any interest in learning more about this last chance voyage that was suppose to be the saving grace for many Jewish families then I highly recommend reading this book. 


*I received this ARC from NetGalley & Atria Books in exchange for an honest review. Thank you!



 Professional Reader Reviews Published 2016 NetGalley Challenge

A Blast from the Past...

A Terrible Beauty: A Lady Emily Mystery (Lady Emily Mysteries) - Tasha Alexander

This series featuring Lady Emily is another one of my favorite mystery series. If you follow the series too, then you know Lady Emily was married and widowed before she remarried Colin Hargreaves. Well in this installment, Lady Emily, Colin, Jeremy & Margaret go on a holiday to help Jeremy recover from his last relationship disaster. When they arrive at Lady Emily's home in Santorini, Greece, Colin & Lady Emily get a very shocking 'blast from the past' and their plans for a peaceful retreat are thwarted. I can't say much else without giving the entire story away so you'll just have to read it..


After reading this series I always want to hop on a plane. The Greek island setting makes the perfect backdrop for the story. They also visit different ruins, a volcano, an archaeological dig and other historical landmarks so it somewhat satiates my need to travel. I love Margaret and Jeremy too so I was glad they were along for the ride. They always add a nice dose of humor to the story line.


There was plenty of murder, mayhem & mystery to keep me entertained & I'm already looking forward to more adventures with Lady Emily. 


*I received this ARC from NetGalley & St. Martin's Press in exchange for an honest review. Thank you!



Professional Reader Reviews Published 2016 NetGalley Challenge

My Halloween Bingo Prize!!

I received my awesome prize in the mail from Obsidian & MR and I wanted to show you guys some pics. It's a gorgeous coffee tea mug that changes colors & design when heated. It's very cool & I love it! My son does as well! He's already commandeered it for hot chocolate. : ) 










Thank you very much Obsidian & MR for your kindness & generosity

& for also taking the time to host these fantastic book bingo's!!


Alice England Scavenger Hunt!

Some of you may have heard of Alice England. She’s the star of an upcoming mystery novel from Curiosity Quills. Alice has talked the publisher into running a little game – a find and unscramble-the-letters puzzle to reveal the title of the book, set to release October 17, 2016.


The 13 letters are scattered across a number of book blogger and author websites, each linking to the next. Start the trail here (http://bit.ly/2dEZofi) to collect the letters, and you will finish up at the entry form to submit your guess and go in the draw to win a 2-book pack from Curiosity Quills and a print of your choice by Evie Seo.



When you submit your guess, you will also find out the correct title and get to see the cover in advance of the official reveal. Look for letters in an aquamarine square with the seashell key symbol.


Write down the letter and click to proceed to the next clue!


Good luck!

The Girl From Venice...

The Girl from Venice - Martin Cruz Smith

"Venice, 1945. The war may be waning, but the city known as La Serenissima is still occupied and the people of Italy fear the power of the Third Reich. One night, under a canopy of stars, a fisherman named Cenzo comes across a young woman’s body floating in the lagoon and soon discovers that she is still alive and in trouble.

Born to a wealthy Jewish family, Giulia is on the run from the SS. Cenzo chooses to protect Giulia rather than hand her over to the Nazis. This act of kindness leads them into the world of Partisans, random executions, the arts of forgery and high explosives, Mussolini’s broken promises, the black market and gold, and, everywhere, the enigmatic maze of the Venice Lagoon."



When I opted to read The Girl From Venice I was hoping for an engaging war story rich in the Venetian atmosphere but instead of feeling completely immersed in the story and time period, I felt more like an outsider looking in. If you've ever been with a group of people that are talking about something that happened when you weren't there, so you don't quite get what the fuss is about, then you'll understand how I felt about the author's writing. It seemed like we were only given scattered parts of the whole story and the political dynamics among the major players- Mussolini, Fascists, Partisans, Italy, Germany, America etc., weren't fleshed out well enough for me to fully engage in it. 


The characters were also very flat. Normally if I read a really good historical war story, I feel emotionally involved in the characters and sympathize with their circumstances but in this story I didn't feel anything at all for any of the characters. There just wasn't enough character development and the stage wasn't set adequately enough for me to get invested in either the characters or the story.


If you already have a deep understanding of Italy's role in the war then you may appreciate the story more then I did but if you don't, then you'll probably come away from it feeling like you're missing crucial parts of this historical period.


*I received this ARC from NetGalley and Simon & Schuster in exchange for an honest review. Thank you!



 Professional Reader Reviews Published 2016 NetGalley Challenge