Book Review: THE KAIJU PRESERVATION SOCIETY by John Scalzi

THE KAIJU PRESERVATION SOCIETY by John ScalziThe Kaiju Preservation Society by John Scalzi
ISBN: 9780765389121 (hardcover)
ISBN: 9780765389138 (ebook)
ASIN: B098GQYDZG (Audible audiobook)
ASIN: B0927B1P8L (Kindle edition)
Publisher: Tor Books
Release Date: March 15, 2022
Genre: Fiction | Science Fiction

The Kaiju Preservation Society is John Scalzi’s first standalone adventure since the conclusion of his New York Times bestselling Interdependency trilogy.

When COVID-19 sweeps through New York City, Jamie Gray is stuck as a dead-end driver for food delivery apps. That is, until Jamie makes a delivery to an old acquaintance, Tom, who works at what he calls “an animal rights organization.” Tom’s team needs a last-minute grunt to handle things on their next field visit. Jamie, eager to do anything, immediately signs on.

What Tom doesn’t tell Jamie is that the animals his team cares for are not here on Earth. Not our Earth, at at least. In an alternate dimension, massive dinosaur-like creatures named Kaiju roam a warm and human-free world. They’re the universe’s largest and most dangerous panda and they’re in trouble.

It’s not just the Kaiju Preservation Society that’s found its way to the alternate world. Others have, too—and their carelessness could cause millions back on our Earth to die. 

 
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Let’s suspend belief in what we know or think we know and imagine an earth that looks remarkably like this earth but it’s just one of many in the multiverse. Now imagine there are creatures on this alternative earth that look nothing like anything on our earth. Due to a fluke, okay, due to humanity’s destructive nature, we’ve ripped the barriers between this earth and that earth and periodically creatures cross over. We now know what causes these rips in the barriers and the “powers-that-be” have aligned and are working together to ensure the barriers remain intact and that these creatures are protected. Sounds a bit outlandish, but that’s the basic premise behind The Kaiju Preservation Society by John Scalzi. After being fired from his job at an up-and-coming food delivery service company, Jamie Gray is offered a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to work with KPS and help protect the kaiju from mankind. The job comes with great benefits, a wonderful salary, and requires him to sign a formidable NDA. Of course, the job might end up being the death of him but every job has a downside.

I’ve been plagued with migraine headaches of late and often can’t complete a book in one sitting anymore. (Okay, it might also be that I’m getting older and the eyes just aren’t what they used to be.) However, I started reading The Kaiju Preservation Society shortly before noon on a Thursday afternoon and was finished before 6:00 PM the same day. I literally and figuratively could not put this book down. I’m not a big science-fiction reader, but I’ve enjoyed everything I’ve read by John Scalzi to date: Redshirts, The President’s Brain is Missing, Fuzzy Nation, Lock In, and Head On. I enjoy the humor found in his writing. I even enjoyed the scientific references because they were presented in manner that made sense, meaning the science isn’t dumbed down or glossed over but presented matter of factly. His works often reference other works of science fiction, whether they’re books or movies, and that always piques my interest in finding out more. The Kaiju Preservation Society references the Godzilla movies, Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson, and the Doom video games. There is action in this story, heroic action in my opinion, and that helped send the story into overdrive. I enjoyed the characters (good and bad guys) and their interactions. Jamie is the main character, but he couldn’t function in isolation and it’s his ability to get along with a variety of people in a variety of circumstances that makes him “that guy.” The basic premise of this story is preserving an environment and it’s inhabitants from all of the destruction that might be wrought by mankind. Unfortunately, mankind is responsible for protecting this world and that’s a recipe for disaster. Mr. Scalzi has, once again, provided a well-written, thought-provoking, yet entertaining story that I think any reader can pick up and enjoy. I strongly encourage you to grab a copy of The Kaiju Preservation Society to read for yourself. I sincerely hope you enjoy it as much as I did. Now I need to get a copy for my 87-y.o. mother to read.

Happy Reading, y’all!

Disclaimer: I received a free digital review copy of this book from the publisher via Edelweiss+. I was not paid, required, or otherwise obligated to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Book Review: ABANDONED IN DEATH by J.D. Robb

Abandoned In Death, In Death #54, by J. D. Robb
ISBN: 9781250278210 (hardcover)
ISBN: 9781250278227 (ebook)
ISBN: 9781250835512 (digital audiobook)
ISBN: 9781250835482 (audiobook on CD)
ASIN: B094DM5TWR (Audible audiobook)
ASIN: B092T8K767 (Kindle edition)
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Release Date: February 8, 2022

Homicide detective Eve Dallas must untangle a twisted family history while a hostage’s life hangs in the balance—in the new In Death novel by #1 New York Times bestselling J. D. Robb.

The woman’s body was found on a bench in a New York City playground. She was clean, her hair neatly arranged, her makeup carefully applied. But other things were very wrong—like the tattoo and piercings, clearly new. The clothes, decades out of date. The fatal wound hidden beneath a ribbon around her neck. And the note: Bad Mommy, written in crayon as if by a child.

It seems clear the killer’s childhood was traumatic—a situation Eve is all too familiar with herself. Yet the clues point to a perpetrator who’d be around sixty, and there are no records of old crimes with a similar MO. What was the trigger that apparently reopened such an old wound and sent someone over the edge? When Eve learns that other young women have recently vanished, the case grows even more urgent—and to solve it she’ll need to find her way into a hidden place of dim light and concrete, into the distant past, and into the depths of a shattered mind.

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I’ve mentioned before that I eagerly await the release of the new additions to the “In Death” series each Winter and Fall. This is one of the few series that just never seems to get old for me and I never tire of reading and re-reading. (Yes, I know that I never seem to tire of re-reading a lot of books, it’s what I do!) Stop and think about it folks, there are 55 books in this series. Yes, that’s 55 and each story is fresh, often introducing new characters and new action even though it’s basically someone commits a crime and Eve Dallas, along with her police partner, co-workers, husband, and friends work together to solve said crime. Sometimes the crimes might involve one of Eve’s friends or her acquired family, but often not. It never really matters who is involved, the reader knows that the crime will be solved and it’ll be solved by Eve Dallas, NYPSD murder cop extraordinaire, and Abandoned In Death is no different.

This begins with what appears to be a simple murder, but it touches a little too close to home for Eve since the body is found in a park that is used by her friend Mavis and daughter Bella. Eve may not have any biological family, that we know of, but Mavis is her sister in everything but blood. Eve may not know the “rules” of family, friendship, or marriage, but she knows that you protect the ones you love and she doesn’t want anything to touch the life of her innocent niece-in-love, Bella. Her investigation quickly uncovers a number of abducted women in the area and when a second body is found, also in a prominent area used by children and teens, Eve knows that she’ll need to use everyone and everything at her disposal to ensure there aren’t any more bodies left in her city by this killer. Can she uncover the reasons why this killer is targeting these particular women when the clues seem to point to a time before most police departments even shared documentation? Why is this killer branding the victims as “bad mommy?” What set off this killing spree and who will be next if Eve can’t find the killer and stop the killings in time?

As I stated earlier, you know with each “In Death” novel that there will be a crime and that Eve and friends will try to beat the clock and solve the crime before more people die. has similarities to previous storylines in that this murder seems to affect the lives of Eve’s family and friends. Obviously, there is a lot more going on in this story as there are women being abducted, dressed in a very specific manner, and then killed apparently for the crimes of someone else. Eve and friends must determine who the victims are surrogates for and, hopefully, that will provide the necessary link to identifying the killer. If only it were that easy! This story involves child abandonment, child abuse (emotional and verbal), drug abuse, abduction, torture, murder, and more. As always, there’s a lot happening in the story and J.D. Robb ties it all together for us at the very end with a nice neat bow. Many of the stories in this series were initially classified as romantic suspense, but the past few have been straight suspense thrillers. Although it is possible to read any book in this series without reading any of the previous books, I feel that would be like starting a movie in the middle and don’t recommend it. So, for those of you that have been reading this series all along, I know I don’t have to tell you to grab a copy of Abandoned In Death to read because you probably had it pre-ordered like I did (yes, that’s in addition to receiving a digital review copy). If you’re into suspense reads and think you’re up to the challenge, then I suggest starting with Naked In Death, the first book in this series, and work your way up to Abandoned in Death. You can thank me later.

Happy Reading, y’all!

Disclaimer: I received a free digital review copy of this book from the publisher via Edelweiss+. I was not paid, required, or otherwise obligated to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Book Review: NEVER TELL by Stacey Abrams

Never Tell by Stacey Abrams writing as Selena Montgomery
ISBN: 9781250805829 (trade paperback)
ISBN: 9781250847645 (hardcover)
ISBN: 9781250847881 (ebook)
ISBN: 9781250841575 (digital audiobook)
ASIN: B094L8S6LD (Audible audiobook)
ASIN: B0966B2CTW (Kindle edition)
Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin
Page Count: 320
Release Date: January 25, 2022
Genre: Fiction | Psychological Suspense | Romantic Suspense

From popular political leader and lawyer Stacey Abrams comes a reissue of her romantic suspense novel, Never Tell, written under the name Selena Montgomery.

Criminal psychologist Dr. Erin Abbott wants nothing more than to live a quiet life. That means no danger, no intrigue—and absolutely no romance. But when Erin suspects a serial killer is roaming New Orleans, her investigation throws her straight into the arms of the only man who can help her.

Journalist Gabriel Moss is hot to find his next huge story—and he knows Erin is on to something big. From the moment they meet, Gabriel senses that Erin is hiding something. One thing is certain: Erin’s boxy suits and sensible shoes hide a delicate beauty waiting to emerge…and Gabriel is just the man to reveal the woman inside.

As they join forces to find the killer, Gabriel slowly seduces Erin with his soft kisses. But Erin knows their love can never be. For she is hiding a terrible secret—and if Gabriel reveals the truth, Erin’s life will be shattered forever…

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Dr. Erin Abbott knows that there’s someone playing a deadly game of “find me.” All of the clues are tied to a secret past life and the deceased mentor in that past life. Erin thought she was starting anew in New Orleans. Wearing dowdy clothing and trying to be as unappealing and unassuming as possible was supposed to be her mask. Unfortunately, the ABC killer knows all about Erin’s past, and journalist Gabriel Moss isn’t fooled by her disguise. Fortunately, Gabriel does believe Erin’s declarations about a local serial killer. The more Gabriel and Erin uncover, the more Erin realizes each murder is linked to her, and those links are benign acquaintances. Not wanting any other innocent to die because of her, Erin tries to push Gabriel away in order to protect not only him but his sister. But Gabriel isn’t budging. Can they uncover the motivations of the killer and the killer’s identity before it’s too late and someone else dies?

I’m an eclectic reader, but one of my go-to genres for the past two years has been romance, especially romantic suspense. Needless to say, I was beyond thrilled when offered the opportunity to read and review Never Tell by Stacey Abrams writing as Selena Montgomery. Although billed as a romance or romantic suspense story, the romance (in my opinion), plays a close second to the psychological suspense that builds with Erin’s attempts to preserve her secrets and secret identity while facing the killer’s taunts head-on. Yes, there’s a definite romance factor and a bit of steaminess, and the relationship between Erin and Gabriel is definitely important, but there are quite a number of other things going on as well: murder, psychological torture, physical abuse, physical torture, psychological and mental abuse, and more. Ms. Abrams has taken quite a number of dark topics and combined them into one immensely readable story. Although the abuse elements might be a trigger for some, I felt it was presented with a deft touch that didn’t diminish the impact of the abuse or provide detailed descriptions that might be repulsive. Never Tell isn’t exactly a light read due to the topics presented, but it is one I found to be intriguing. For those of you into slightly darker reads, I encourage you to grab a copy of Never Tell to read. I’m putting Never Tell on my TBRR or to be re-read list.

Happy Reading, y’all!

Disclaimer: I received a free digital review copy of this book from the publisher via Edelweiss+. I was not paid, required, or otherwise obligated to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Book Review: DESOLATION CANYON by P. J. Tracy

DESOLATION CANYON by P.J. Tracy book cover

Desolation Canyon, Detective Margaret Nolan #2, by P. J. Tracy
ISBN: 9781250754950 (hardcover)
ISBN: 9781250830197 (ebook)
ISBN: 9781250845498 (digital audiobook)
ASIN: B09557MV5Z (Audible audiobook)
ASIN: B092T9QHCS (Kindle edition)
Publisher: Minotaur Books
Page Count: 320
Release Date: January 18, 2021
Genre: Fiction | Thriller | Mystery

P.J. Tracy “seems to have found her literary sweet spot” (New York Times Book Review) with her dazzling new series, and in Desolation Canyon, fans get a deeper look into the complex characters who call Los Angeles home.

LAPD Detective Margaret Nolan is struggling to move forward after the death of her brother in Afghanistan and taking a life in the line of duty. Her stoic parents offer little support – they refuse to address anything difficult, and she’s afraid their relationship is eroding beyond the point of recovery.

The days off are the hardest, because they give Margaret time to think. A moment of weakness leads to cocktails with a colleague—an attraction she knows could be dangerous —at the luxurious Hotel Bel-Air bar. A stroll through the grounds leads to a grim discovery beneath the surface of Swan Lake: the body of a successful attorney who made his fortune in international trade.

It initially appears to be death by misadventure, but the case is anything but straightforward. As a series of shocking revelations emerge, Nolan finds herself confronting a sinister cabal that just might destroy her and everyone she loves.


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Good day, book people. Although it’s a new year with plenty of new books and new-to-me authors to discover, I find myself leaning in on reading favorite authors. I’ve been hooked on the writings of P.J. Tracy since reading Monkeewrench and the subsequent books in that series. Needless to say, I was thrilled to hear that a new series was beginning last year and devoured Deep Into the Dark. I’m eternally grateful that I was given the opportunity to read the second book in this series, Desolation Canyon. I enjoy smart, taut, and well-written mystery or suspense thrillers, especially those involving realistic characters, like LAPD Detective Margaret “Maggie” Nolan. This time around Maggie has to deal with the apparent suicide of a divorced attorney that is ruled murder by poisoning, a subsequent murder and torture of the attorney’s ex-wife, “…kidnappings past and present, a Russian import-export company, and maybe the Russian Mob up in Death Valley hiding behind a cult. Oh, and nerve gas…” One of the kidnappings is personally tied to Detective Remy Boudreau, a possible love interest for Maggie. And if that’s not enough, her mother is visiting the “cult” to deal with the grief over her deceased son. The big question seems to be if Maggie and friends can tie everything together without getting any of the innocent bystanders hurt or worse.

Desolation Canyon introduces us to a host of characters in addition to Maggie Nolan and Sam Easton from Deep Into the Dark. We get to know Maggie’s parents, York and Emily Nolan, a bit better and understand how and why they opt to deal with their grief in a certain manner. Maggie’s partner, Al Crawford, is featured a bit more in this story, as well as the pathologist Dr. Weil, and a private investigator hired by Remy Boudreau, Malachai Dubnik. Ms. Tracy takes the reader through a variety of twists and turns while introducing the Russian Mob angle, along with the money laundering, reverse money laundering (yes, it’s a thing), and more. Desolation Canyon features kidnapping, poisoning, murder, torture, trafficking, and more. Yes, it’s a lot to throw at the reader, but it works. It might not be possible to see how all of the puzzle pieces will fit, but Ms. Tracy does a fantastic job of putting everything together to provide the reader with a picture-perfect resolution. I don’t know about you, but I’m a sucker for stories that feature a group of characters working together even if it’s an ever-changing cast of characters. Police officers/detectives don’t work in isolation and it’s always nice to see books reflecting this fact. It takes a village to raise a child and it usually takes a team to solve crimes. Desolation Canyon has plenty of crimes and a great team working together to solve them. If you enjoy reading thrillers or if you read Deep Into the Dark, then I encourage you to grab a copy of Desolation Canyon to read. For those of you not sure about thrillers, I suggest you grab a copy of Deep Into the Dark and Desolation Canyon to read. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed. I, for one, can’t wait to see what’s next for Maggie Nolan and her friends.

Happy Reading, y’all!

Disclaimer: I received a free digital review copy of this book from the publisher via Edelweiss+. I was not paid, required, or otherwise obligated to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Book Review: FIND ME by Alafair Burke

FIND ME by Alafair Burke Book CoverFind Me by Alafair Burke
ISBN: 9780062853363 (hardcover)
ISBN: 9780062853387 (ebook)
ISBN: 9780062985019 (digital audiobook)
ASIN: B0876GPJGF (Audible audiobook)
ASIN: B08728FV3Y (Kindle edition)
Publication date: January 11, 2022
Publisher: Harper
Genre: Fiction | Suspense Thriller | Psychological Thriller

The disappearance of a young woman leaves her closest friend reeling and an NYPD homicide detective digging into her own past in this thrilling mystery full of twists from the New York Times bestselling author of The Better Sister and The Wife.

Some pasts won’t stay forgotten . . .

She calls herself Hope Miller, but she has no idea who she actually is. Fifteen years ago, she was found in a small New Jersey town thrown from an overturned vehicle, with no clue to her identity. Doctors assumed her amnesia was a temporary side effect of her injuries, but she never regained her memory. Hope eventually started a new life with a new name in a new town that welcomed her, yet always wondered what she may have left behind—or been running from. Now, fifteen years later, she’s leaving New Jersey to start over once again.

Manhattan defense lawyer Lindsay Kelly, Hope’s best friend and the one who found her after the accident, understands why Hope wants a new beginning. But she worries how her friend will fare in her new East Hampton home, far away from everything familiar. Lindsay’s worst fears are confirmed when she discovers Hope has vanished without a trace—the only lead a drop of blood found where she was last seen. Even more ominously, the blood matches a DNA sample with a connection to a notorious Kansas murderer.

With nowhere else to turn, Lindsay calls NYPD homicide detective Ellie Hatcher, the daughter of the cop who dedicated his life to hunting the Kansas killer. Ellie has always believed there was more to the story of her father’s death twenty years earlier—and she now fears that Hope’s recent disappearance could be related.

In pursuit of answers, three women search for the truth beneath long-buried secrets. And when their searches converge, what they find will upend everything they’ve ever known.

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A woman with no sense of a past decides, after 15 years in a small town, to move on with her life. Hope Miller survived a car accident but has no idea where she came from or even who she was before the accident. She’s been dealing with amnesia for 15 years. The woman that discovered the accident scene is now Hope’s best friend. Hope decides to move from New Jersey to the Hamptons in New York. She has no driver’s license, no social security number, and doesn’t officially exist due to her amnesia. She finds a kind landlord willing to rent to her without documentation, as well as an employer willing to hire her and pay her in cash. Then Hope disappears. Her friend, Lindsay Kelly, is determined to find her no matter what. Little does Lindsay know that her “investigation” will open the proverbial “Pandora’s box” linking Hope’s past to murder. Sometimes it’s best to leave the past in the past…or is it?

Folks, as soon as I read about this book with the amnesia hook and featured character Ellie Hatcher, I knew it had to be a book on my MBR (must be read) list. It has been a few years since I read any books in the Ellie Hatcher series. I enjoyed the books I had read and definitely wanted to find out what’s happening now! I found Find Me to be a bit of a slow read at first, but when it picked up, it picked up with a bang. This story incorporated amnesia, murders (past and present), possible blackmail, secret love, and more. The more Ms. Burke revealed about Hope Miller, the more it was possible to see just how her past was intimately linked to Ellie Hatcher’s past. (No, I’m not going to tell you how. Read the book to find out for yourself!) There are plenty of twists and turns in Lyndsay Kelly’s investigation into the disappearance of her friend, Hope Miller. Some of those twists bring in Ellie Hatcher and her brother. The more Lyndsay discovers, the more she realizes that perhaps she didn’t know Hope as well as she had thought. But is it ever possible to know everything about another person? The tension in this story gradually builds and continued even after several unbelievable reveals. For those of you that have read anything by Ms. Burke or if you’re into suspense thrillers, then I encourage you to grab a copy of Find Me. I have a feeling that I’ll be re-reading the Ellie Hatcher series just so I have an excuse (not really needed, but…) Find Me. If you do grab a copy of this book, I hope you’ll enjoy it as much as I did.

Happy Reading, y’all!

Disclaimer: I received a free digital review copy of this book from the publisher via Edelweiss+. I was not paid, required, or otherwise obligated to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Book 349: CITY OF TIME AND MAGIC by Paula Brackston

City of Time and Magic, Found Things #4, by Paula Brackston
ISBN: 9781250260697 (hardcover)
ISBN: 9781250260703 (ebook)
ISBN: 9781250818874 (digital audiobook)
ASIN: B08TZ38281 (Audible audiobook)
ASIN: B08R2HCFLR (Kindle edition)
Publication date: November 23, 2020
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Genre: Fiction | Historical Fiction | Fantasy | Time-Travel

Xanthe meets Brackston’s most famous heroine, Elizabeth Hawksmith from The Witch’s Daughter, in this crossover story with all the “historical detail, village charm, and twisty plotting” of the Found Things series (Publishers Weekly).

City of Time and Magic sees Xanthe face her greatest challenges yet. She must choose from three treasures that sing to her; a beautiful writing slope, a mourning brooch of heartbreaking detail, and a gorgeous gem-set hat pin. All call her, but the wrong one could take her on a mission other than that which she must address first, and the stakes could not be higher. While her earlier mission to Regency England had been a success, the journey home resulted in Liam being taken from her, spirited away to another time and place. Xanthe must follow the treasure that will take her to him if he is not to be lost forever.

Xanthe is certain that Mistress Flyte has Liam and determined to find them both. But when she discovers Lydia Flyte has been tracking the actions of the Visionary Society, a group of ruthless and unscrupulous Spinners who have been selling their talents to a club of wealthy clients, Xanthe realizes her work as a Spinner must come before her personal wishes. The Visionary Society is highly dangerous and directly opposed to the creed of the Spinners. Their actions could have disastrous consequences as they alter the authentic order of things and change the future. Xanthe knows she must take on the Society. It will require the skills of all her friends, old and new, to attempt such a thing, and not all of them will survive the confrontation that follows.

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Xanthe Westlake no longer only has Harley to rely upon when finding lost things that sing to her. She has confided her talents to step through time to her mother, Flora, and her boyfriend, Liam. The third book of this series, The Garden of Promises and Lies ended with Xanthe traveling back in time with Liam. Unfortunately, Liam was snatched from her when they attempted to return to their own time. Now Xanthe, Harley, and Flora are eager to find something that not only sings to Xanthe but will take her back to the right time to rescue Liam. Xanthe’s past travels haven’t been without danger, especially in the form Benedict Fairfax, another time spinner. But this time she has to deal with dangers that not affect those of that time period, but her loved ones as well. Is Liam safe? Where is he? How is he? What dangers, if any, are awaiting Xanthe back in time? And what would motivate another time spinner to snatch Liam in an effort to obtain Xanthe’s attention?

If you’ve been following me for any time now, you know beyond any reasonable doubt that I re-read the previous books in this series—Little Shop of Found Things, Secrets of the Chocolate House, and The Garden of Promises and Lies—to re-familiarize myself (that’s my excuse and I’m sticking with it), before reading City of Time and Magic. Just as the third book in this series was a bit different from the first two, this book reintroduces us to Elizabeth (Hawksmith) Balmoral, originally introduced in The Witch’s Daughter, as well as Mistress Lydia Flyte, Erasmus Balmoral — a time stepper, former lover to Lydia Flyte and now married to Elizabeth Hawksmith, Dougal Harley — publican, neighbor to Flora and Xanthe, and Xanthe’s “advisor.” We’re also introduced to a host of other characters that play major and minor roles within the story, including more time spinners. This particular chapter of Xanthe’s ongoing saga, she must not only right a wrong from the past, but she also to choose the side of the righteous spinners. Her choice will have repercussions on her friends and acquaintances from the past as well as her contemporary loved ones. Does she have to battle evil again, well you’ll need to read the book to find out for yourself!

Reading City of Time and Magic took me a bit longer than normal, not because I found in uninteresting but because of a variety of family trials (elderly parental health issues and a death in the family). I was simply unable to focus my attention on reading for a few days because of these situations. However, once I began to re-read this book, I was enraptured and couldn’t wait to find out what would happen next. I enjoyed the interaction between Liam and Mistress Flyte, Liam and the Balmorals, as well as Harley with everyone else. Yes, Harley gets to travel back in time to assist Xanthe. Xanthe, Liam, and Harley make quite the team in this story and although I can’t tell you more about what happens, I sincerely hope that they will have more adventures in the future, especially with Elizabeth Hawksmith Balmoral! Can you tell I enjoyed this story? City of Time and Magic has hints of romance, intrigue, magic, betrayal, and more. I can’t say that this is the best book in the Found Series because I love them all. I can say that if you’ve read any of the previous books in this series then you owe it to yourself to grab a copy of City of Time and Magic to read. This author provides the reader with fascinating glimpses of the past and usage of past items when compared to contemporary times. The juxtaposition of the timelines is just one of the many things that make this series so enjoyable, at least to this reader. If you enjoy historical fiction, contemporary fiction, bits of fantasy, or just plain good writing, then I encourage you to read this series, consider it a gift to yourself for the holiday season! Something tells me I’ll be getting all four books for my 87-y.o. mother to read.

Happy Reading, y’all!


Disclaimer: I received a free digital review copy of this book from the publisher via Edelweiss+. I was not paid, required, or otherwise obligated to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

2021 Book 87 & 307: THE PASSING STORM by Christine Nolfi

The Passing Storm by Christine Nolfi
ISBN: 9781542029124 (paperback)
ISBN: 9781713592433 (audiobook on CD)
ASIN: B08SXRK8M1 (Audible audiobook)
ASIN: B08MZPFY3J (Kindle edition)
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing
Release Date: November 1, 2021
Genre: Fiction | Contemporary Fiction | Women’s Fiction

A gripping, openhearted novel about family, reconciliation, and bringing closure to the secrets of the past.

Early into the tempestuous decade of her thirties, Rae Langdon struggles to work through a grief she never anticipated. With her father, Connor, she tends to their Ohio farm, a forty-acre spread that itself has enjoyed better days. As memories sweep through her, some too precious to bear, Rae gives shelter from a brutal winter to a teenager named Quinn Galecki.

Quinn has been thrown out by his parents, a couple too troubled to help steer the misunderstood boy through his own losses. Now Quinn has found a temporary home with the Langdons—and an unexpected kinship, because Rae, Quinn, and Connor share a past and understand one another’s pain. But its depths—and all its revelations and secrets—have yet to come to light. To finally move forward, Rae must confront them and also fight for Quinn, whose parents have other plans in mind for their son.

With forgiveness, love, and the spring thaw, there might be hope for a new season—a second chance Rae believed in her heart was gone forever.

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Small towns seem to have a lot of similarities across the world. Neighbors think they know everything about every person in the community and often make judgments based on what they see and think they know. The town where Rae Langdon and Quinn Galecki live fits this definition (as it is in most small towns). Quinn is judged based on who his parents are and their behavior rather than who he is as an individual. Rae Langdon is very aware of being judged by those in her community as she’s a single mother and never revealed who fathered her child. The judgment calls made by others in small community can be emotionally and physically taxing for even the strongest person to endure, add in keeping devastating personal secrets and it can be even more burdensome. Although Rae is dealing with some heavy emotions, she has fallen into the trap of judging Quinn and finding him lacking, or at least she was until she got to know him a bit better. Her opinion changes and her family quickly grows with the addition of Quinn to her household. This addition is not without misunderstandings and emotional turmoil.

The Passing Storm by Christine Nolfi is an amazing read. I’ve found it to be totally engrossing from the first page to the very last on both my initial read and during my recent re-read. This book could be categorized as women’s fiction and/or family fiction, I simply classify it as a darn good read. The characters are not only realistic but are realistically flawed. The action is wholly believable. The Passing Storm deals with plenty of different themes and some are incredibly weighty, such as abuse (sexual, emotional, and psychological). Ms. Nolfi has crafted a story that deals with these issues in a skillful manner, not minimizing the impact in anyway, but presenting them with deference and respect for the victims without trivializing their experiences or discussing them in a manner that could be construed as traumatizing for the reader. Some of the other themes presented are keeping secrets (from family and dear friends), forgiveness (of others and of self), tragedy, survival, second chances, love, and family (those we are born into and those we choose). Needless to say, there’s a lot more happening in this story than the little I’ve revealed. I was incredibly excited to learn that The Passing Storm was being offered as one of the Prime Reads choices by Amazon for the month of October. Yes, I already had a digital review copy to read, but I grabbed a digital copy of this book via Prime Reads and have a print copy pre-ordered to give to my almost 87-y.o. mother (her birthday is November 1st). If you’ve read any titles by Ms. Nolfi in the past, you probably already have this book pre-ordered. If you don’t I suggest you do so ASAP. Seriously people, I can’t recommend this book enough to you. There may be a few tear-filled moments while you read, but the story is one that will stay with you for quite some time after reading. What more can you ask from any book?!

Happy Reading, y’all!

Disclaimer: I received a free digital review copy of this book from the author via NetGalley. I was not paid, required, or otherwise obligated to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

2021 Book 283: THE VANISHED DAYS by Susanna Kearsley

The Vanished Days, The Scottish Series, by Susanna Kearsley
ISBN-10: 1492650161 (paperback)
ISBN-13: 9781492650164 (paperback)
ISBN: 9781728249582 (hardcover)
ISBN: 9781492650171 (ebook)
ASIN: B08XM9QJ6T (Kindle edition)
Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark
Release Date: October 5, 2021

I’ve loved every one of Susanna’s books! She has bedrock research and a butterfly’s delicate touch with characters–sure recipe for historical fiction that sucks you in and won’t let go!–DIANA GABALDON, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Outlander

From international bestselling author Susanna Kearsley comes a historical tale of intrigue and revolution in Scotland, where the exile of King James brought plots, machinations, suspicion and untold bravery to light. An investigation of a young widow’s secrets by a man who’s far from objective, leads to a multi-layered tale of adventure, endurance, romance…and the courage to hope.

In the autumn of 1707, old enemies from the Highlands to the Borders are finding common ground as they join to protest the new Union with England. At the same time, the French are preparing to launch an invasion to bring the young exiled Jacobite king back to Scotland to reclaim his throne, and in Edinburgh the streets are filled with discontent and danger.

Queen Anne’s commissioners, seeking to calm the situation, have begun paying out money sent up from London to settle the losses and wages owed to those Scots who took part in the disastrous Darien expedition eight years earlier–an ill-fated venture that left Scotland all but bankrupt.

When the young widow of a Darien sailor comes forward to collect her husband’s wages, her claim is challenged. One of the men assigned to investigate has only days to decide if she’s honest, or if his own feelings are blinding him to the truth.

The Vanished Days is a prequel and companion novel to The Winter Sea, with action that overlaps some of the action in that book. The Vanished Days goes back in time to the 1680s and introduces the reader to the Moray and Graeme families.

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Imagine Scotland in the late 1600s and early 1700s. Now imagine being a young girl, Lilias “Lily” Aitcheson, whose parents have both died and you’ve been sent to work for an area family by her stepmother (no, she’s not an evil stepmother, she’s just struggling to survive with two young children at home). Now imagine that this girl has spent a number of years being treated as an equal to this family’s daughter, but when she hits puberty, the man she’s thought of as a surrogate father makes untoward advances and gives her extra money. This child has grown up hearing about women who take money for sex and these women aren’t treated well by society. The child’s only recourse, or so she feels, is to runaway. She is taken in by another family in a nearby town, but this household is just as corrupt but in a different way. The “father” expects his “children” to participate in various criminal enterprises and the “wife” is a woman who takes money for sex. Lily has a deep fondness for her adoptive brothers and mother, so she makes do of a bad situation. Years later, Lily is reported to be the widow of one James Graeme, is attempting to claim his wages, but the marriage license is suspect. As a favor to a friend, Sergeant Williamson and others are tasked with investigating the claim of this widow. Is it possible for this investigation to uncover the truth considering the “witnesses” to the marriage license are all deceased? Is it possible for the investigation to continue given that Sergeant Williamson has a marked attraction for the lovely widow? Will Lily be branded a liar and a possible forger?

I’ve read everything written by Susanna Kearsley and was quite happy when given the opportunity to read The Vanished Days. I love her incorporation of history with the story (I’ve learned quite a bit about the Jacobites from her books). The characters are always intriguing and realistically flawed in some way. It doesn’t seem to matter that I’m reading about fictional characters from 300 years ago, I’m invested in their lives and everything that is occurring within the story. This book was no exception. I particularly enjoyed the fact that the story was narrated from a male character’s perspective. The Vanished Days includes tidbits from American as well as Scottish history. There seem to be multiple story lines happening and it isn’t until the very end that everything becomes clear and the twist is revealed (and it’s a great twist – you’ll have to read the book to discover more). This story deals with politics, treason, crime, child labor, child abuse (in the form of molestation and forced participation in criminal enterprises), emotional abuse, romance, how far one is willing to go to protect loved ones, regrets over days past, and more. One theme that seems to be prevalent is that family isn’t always the one we’re born into but the one we make for ourselves. For those of you that have read anything by Susanna Kearsley in the past, I’m sure this book is already on your TBR list. For those of you that enjoy historical fiction, I suggest you put this on your TBR list ASAP. For those of you that aren’t sure about historical fiction, I suggest you grab a copy of The Vanished Days as well as the sequel The Winter Sea. Together or solo, these books make for great reading. Personally, I can’t wait to reread both The Vanished Days and The Winter Sea. I hope you’ll enjoy reading The Vanished Days as much as I did.

Happy Reading, y’all!

Disclaimer: I received a free digital review copy of this book from the publisher via Edelweiss+. I was not paid, required, or otherwise obligated to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

2021 Book 250: FORGOTTEN IN DEATH by J. D. Robb

Forgotten In Death, In Death #53, by J. D. Robb
ISBN: 9781250272812 (hardcover)
ISBN: 9781250272829 (ebook)
ISBN: 9781250810625 (digital audiobook)
ISBN: 9781250817662 (audiobook on CD)
ASIN: B08V236NLL (Audible audiobook)
ASIN: B08R2KNYVW (Kindle edition)
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Release Date: September 7, 2021

In the latest novel in the #1 New York Times bestselling series, homicide detective Eve Dallas sifts through the wreckage of the past to find a killer.

The body was left in a dumpster like so much trash, the victim a woman of no fixed address, known for offering paper flowers in return for spare change—and for keeping the cops informed of any infractions she witnessed on the street. But the notebook where she scribbled her intel on litterers and other such offenders is nowhere to be found.

Then Eve is summoned away to a nearby building site to view more remains—in this case decades old, adorned with gold jewelry and fine clothing—unearthed by recent construction work. She isn’t happy when she realizes that the scene of the crime belongs to her husband, Roarke—not that it should surprise her, since the Irish billionaire owns a good chunk of New York. Now Eve must enter a complex world of real estate development, family history, shady deals, and shocking secrets to find justice for two women whose lives were thrown away…

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There are two things I look forward to each Winter and late Summer/Early Fall, and that’s the new releases in the In Death series. (I look forward to a lot of other books as well, but these books are yearly favorites.) Earlier this year, readers got to continue Eve and Roarke’s story with Faithless In Death. Now, Eve and Roarke continue their romance and crime fighting in the latest addition to this series, Forgotten In Death. This book begins, as most do, with a murder. A sweet, homeless woman is found bludgeoned to death on one of Roarke’s construction sites. Known as the “concerned citizen” due to her habit of writing up infractions of those in the neighborhood and reporting the same to the police, she was truly harmless. Eve’s investigation into this murder has barely begun when she is pulled into another murder, also found on a nearby construction site, and eerily reminiscent of the bodies found in the An Didean shelter a few years ago. This body is found with bullet shells, walled up in a basement, and with a fetus. Adding to the mystery, the body has been on the site for at least forty years. It is quite likely that both murder victims would be considered forgettable, but Eve Dallas isn’t your typical police office and no one is ever forgotten on her watch. Will she be able to locate the killers? Will Eve be able to obtain justice for these victims?

It’s easy to think that too much time has passed on some crimes, such as with the walled up body found on one construction site. Or that the deceased woman thrown into the dumpster on another construction site isn’t worth the time or effort of an in-depth investigation since she was homeless. That might be the prevailing attitude of some today and continue into the future, but for those of us that know and love Eve Dallas, Roarke, and friends, we know that there is no such thing as an unworthy victim. Eve Dallas goes all out to find out the whys and whodunit for both murder victims. It doesn’t matter to her that one woman was homeless or that the other crime occurred almost forty years ago. These women are hers now and Eve will not stop until justice prevails.

I could give you specifics about how the investigation is performed or how the two murders intersect (if they, in fact, intersect), but you already know I’m not going to do that. Yes, there are decidedly predictable elements to this story, but all that aside, I found the story credible and engaging. If it had not been for this current migraine series, I probably would have read this one in one sitting. Sadly, it took me took two days simply because I kept having to set this aside due to pain and vision issues. One of the many things I enjoy about this continuing series, is watching the characters grow in their relationships with one another and on their jobs. We didn’t get to see as much of Feeney in this one, but McNab, Delia, Dr. Mira, Nadine, Cher Reo, Harvo (aka Queen of Hair and Fiber), Dr. Garnet DeWinter, Summerset, Dr. Li Morris, Dickie Berenski, and Commander Whitney make reappearances, as do Baxter, Trueheart, Jenkinson, and others from the Homicide squad. I’m eagerly awaiting future developments with Mavis, Leonardo, Bella, and their new additions (both the baby and the house). There are a lot of themes to unpack in this story, including spousal abuse, classicism, affluenza, privilege, and more. Forgotten In Death is a story of two women, one from the past and one from the present day (okay, Eve and Roarke’s present day), who might otherwise be considered disposable and forgotten due to the perceived privilege of wealth and class of others. We know better and yes, justice ultimately prevails. I enjoyed Forgotten in Death and look forward to seeing what happens next in the ongoing saga of Eve Dallas, Roarke, and friends.


 Happy Reading, y’all!

Disclaimer: I received a free digital review copy of this book from the publisher via Edelweiss+. I was not paid, required, or otherwise obligated to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Guest Post/Review by Savannah Cordova of MEXICAN GOTHIC by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Good day, book people. We’ve made it to the end of another month, yay! I don’t know about you, but I’ve been spending my days either reading or thinking about what I should read next from my alarmingly huge TBR list. (I know, if I stopped re-reading, I might actually be able to whittle down the TBR list. Hey, let’s not get crazy people!) While I ponder what to read next and get ready to celebrate my youngest brother’s birthday (our birthdays are exactly one week apart minus a bunch of years), I’m pleased to welcome a guest writer/reviewer today. Please help me welcome Savannah Cordova as she provides us a with her review of Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia. Thank you, Savannah for stopping by today and providing us this review. I can’t wait to see what your thoughts are on this book.

MEXICAN GOTHIC - SMGarciaMexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
ISBN: 9780525620808 (paperback)
ISBN: 9780525620792 (ebook)
ISBN: 9780593213865 (digital audiobook)
ASIN: B07YK1K1YK (Kindle edition)
ASIN: B082TKH2K7 (Audible audiobook)
Release Date: June 15, 2021 (Paperback edition)
Publisher: Del Rey Books
Genre: Fiction | Historical Fiction | Horror | Science Fiction & Fantasy

After receiving a frantic letter from her newly-wed cousin begging for someone to save her from a mysterious doom, Noemí Taboada heads to High Place, a distant house in the Mexican countryside. She’s not sure what she will find—her cousin’s husband, a handsome Englishman, is a stranger, and Noemí knows little about the region.

Noemí is also an unlikely rescuer: She’s a glamorous debutante, and her chic gowns and perfect red lipstick are more suited for cocktail parties than amateur sleuthing. But she’s also tough and smart, with an indomitable will, and she is not afraid: Not of her cousin’s new husband, who is both menacing and alluring; not of his father, the ancient patriarch who seems to be fascinated by Noemí; and not even of the house itself, which begins to invade Noemí’s dreams with visions of blood and doom.

Her only ally in this inhospitable abode is the family’s youngest son. Shy and gentle, he seems to want to help Noemí, but might also be hiding dark knowledge of his family’s past. For there are many secrets behind the walls of High Place. The family’s once colossal wealth and faded mining empire kept them from prying eyes, but as Noemí digs deeper she unearths stories of violence and madness.

And Noemí, mesmerized by the terrifying yet seductive world of High Place, may soon find it impossible to ever leave this enigmatic house behind.

 

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Mexican Gothic: A Bold Postcolonial Promise That Doesn’t Quite Come Through

Creepy gothic mansion? Check.
Page-turning, thrilling plot? Check.
Confident female protagonist? Check.
Stayed up late to finish it? Cheeeeck.

And yet, for a book that features so many of my favorite literary ingredients, Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s Mexican Gothic fell short of my expectations. Before we examine why, let’s talk about the book’s premise.

Mexican Gothic begins in Mexico, 1950. Noemí Taboada and her father have just received a disturbing letter from Noemí’s cousin Catalina, who has recently married an Englishman, Virgil Doyle, and gone to live in his family’s mansion in the Mexican mountains. Urged by her father, Noemí heads to the mysterious old house to assess her cousin’s health, understand what prompted her letter, and rescue her if necessary.

Certain key strengths immediately stand out in this novel: the setting of the story, for example, is immaculately realized, rich in detail, and highly immersive in its creepy atmosphere. Similarly, it’s hard not to appreciate the tightly controlled story structure Moreno-Garcia employs. What at first appears to be a realist narrative gradually builds suspense through quietly observed bizarre moments, gaining seriously page-turning momentum and reaching a climax where — if you’ll pardon my language — shit really hits the fan.

Much like a murder mystery, it’s impossible to resist the draw of the book once it gets going, and that takes real skill to accomplish. More than that, the thriller dimension of this book didn’t feel cheaply done, like the author had just thrown in a few random ideas to shock the reader; rather, it felt like a steady, deliberate effort that was successfully horrifying (I won’t give specifics to avoid spoilers, but consider this your trigger warning for body horror and sexual assault).

Returning to the premise of the novel, Mexican Gothic is based on a genuinely cool, exciting concept. Unlike the Gothic classics it evokes (Jane Eyre, Rebecca, and The Yellow Wallpaper all lurk in the shadows), it is written from a postcolonial perspective, and dares to tackle things that Jane Eyre, for example, famously overlooks (though perhaps Moreno-Garcia was inspired by Wide Sargasso Sea). Colorism, racism, and eugenics all come into play in the clashes between Noemí and the Doyle family. Unfortunately, this is where my qualms with the novel begin.

I don’t think I’m giving too much away to say that near its resolution, Mexican Gothic takes a sharp turn toward fantasy, leaving most of its postcolonial dimensions behind — which seemed a shame. The fantasy elements, in contrast to the ideas introduced earlier in the novel, felt rushed and vague, filling me with all sorts of last-minute questions about the world-building and how things worked. So while the novel swept me along with the force of a powerful wave, I did feel a bit like the ending dropped me flat on my back.

Another frustrating thing about this book was its somewhat lazy characterization, especially in comparison to the vivid realization of the setting. I found out an awful lot about Noemí’s fashion choices, for example, but not so much about why she likes what she likes or why she behaves the way she behaves. Similarly, the entire Doyle family, and Catalina, struck me as shockingly flat characters, whose personalities aren’t explored in much depth. There’s a reason the “show, don’t tell” rule exists, and Mexican Gothic is not the book to provide an exception.

Style and dialogue were another distracting issue in this novel. Inconsistently shifting between vaguely dated, formal-sounding language to contemporary informal speech (e.g. Noemí exclaiming “what the fuck?”), the novel failed to convince me that it was set in the mid-century. Instead, it comes across as temporally insecure and adrift between time periods.

In summary, this was a book I wanted to enjoy, and one I read with hungry enthusiasm, but which didn’t quite meet my (admittedly high) expectations. When style is among a book’s weaknesses, it becomes frustrating to read; it’s like you’re persisting in spite of your various issues with the language.

That said, I’d still recommend this book to readers of creepy, thrilling, or suspenseful fiction who don’t mind the occasional stylistic lapse — precisely because it’s a novel that still succeeds in building tension, creeping you out, and thrilling you out to an impressive degree.


Meet the Reviewer

Savannah Cordova headshot newSavannah Cordova is a writer with Reedsy, a marketplace that helps authors self-publish their books by connecting them with the world’s best publishing professionals — and helps aspiring authors with their creative writing so they can get there. In her spare time, Savannah enjoys reading contemporary fiction and low fantasy, as well as writing the occasional short story.