The Bone Collection (Kathy Reichs)

I might have a slight obsession with Kathy Reichs.

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Image via Penguin Random House

I started out reading her books and eventually started watching Bones, as well. While my affection for Bones could now be qualified as “unhealthy”, I have by no means turned my back on the books. Although my degree is in Art History, the very best class I took during college was my forensic anthropology class. I was interested before, but it’s really blossomed into a love affair.

For anyone who is a fan only of the show, you have to keep in mind that you are dealing with two very different Temperance Brennans. For those that might find the TV Tempe a little haughty and cold (I, of course, love her anyway), book Tempe is a much more approachable, human person altogether.

One thing I love about Kathy Reichs’ books is the consistency. With 18 novels in the series, she has never failed to entertain me. She knows what she’s talking about, and it shows. I’ve found it rather rare for someone who is an expert on a topic to really tell a gripping fictional story, but she has the knack. Unlike some other series with a forensic bent I could name (but won’t), I’ve never found myself bored or forcing myself to get to the end.

This collection of four novellas was no exception. Three of the stories have previously been published, Bones in Her Pocket, Swamp Bones, and Bones on Ice. I managed to miss all three, so they were new to me. The final novella, First Bones, is exactly what it sounds like, an origin story. It reveals what got Brennan into forensics.

No surprise, I really enjoyed all of these. Bones on Ice was definitely my favorite, but all were very enjoyable. The great thing with novellas is that they are short enough to not be a huge commitment if you are in a hurry, but long enough to to be satisfying (usually). A nice compromise between short stories and full novel.

Tempe gets herself into her usual amount of danger, which I’ve come to expect. For an intelligent person, she does have a real tendency to make poor decisions where criminals are involved. However, that’s just something I’ve come to expect out of her.

Each story draws attention to different issues, in their own way. While all were important, particularly poignant for me was the plea to adopt rescue dogs and help shut down puppy mills. As mom to a rescue dog myself, I have a major soft spot for our four-legged friends.

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That’s all the excuse I need to insert an adorable puppy pic.

So, check out The Bone Collection! What are you waiting for?

I Died Yesterday (Andy Graham)

Happy Halloween!

Given that it’s a holiday, I decided I would give you all a little bonus review for the week- consider it a treat. This will be a pretty short little review, but that seems fitting, because the book itself is a short read.

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You know how I love a good cover…

But, by no means was it what I would call an easy read. I Died Yesterday is a collection of five short stories. While they are all very different stories, they do share the fact that they are all very dark, even bleak.

I always feel like I should enjoy short stories more than I do. It’s just a personal preference, but I’m always left wanting more. I’m a fan of giant tomes with massive page counts and series that keep bringing me back into a particular world. That being said, I did like this book, but was definitely left wishing there was more to it.

The writing was solid and evocative, which is all the more important when you are dealing with short stories. I particularly liked the final story in the book, A View. Another, Sunflower, definitely made my skin crawl. There is something here for any fan of the dark or macabre. The title story I Died Yesterday is scary in a way that could be very real for some readers. Each story is very different. There is some gore, but it’s not overwhelming. No monsters here, except the ones that wear a human face.

If you’re seeking a peek into the darkness, I Died Yesterday is the perfect place to start. You can also check out more from Andy Graham here, including plenty more to reading for those of you who are intrigued. Happy Halloween everyone!!

The Daemoniac (Kat Ross) and The Lost Property Office (James R. Hannibal)

I received a free copy of The Daemoniac and The Lost Property Office from the publishers in exchange for a review. This did not change my opinion of the books.

Today I’m going for a twofer, since these two books share a common thread.

I have a soft spot for Sherlock Holmes. But, I will confess, I’ve never read the books. I know. It’s shocking. Rather, my affection comes from the BBC’s Sherlock. Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman are my Sherlock and Watson. Nevertheless, I still enjoy a little nod to the characters in my reading. Perhaps someday I’ll even get around to the books.

The Daemoniac

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It’s the summer of 1888 in New York, a mere three weeks before Jack the Ripper begins his reign of terror in London. Detective Harrison Fearing Pell and her friend John Weston take a case that looks like demonic possession. Harry is not convinced that the killer is anything other than flesh and blood. The case will take them from the dangers of the Five Points to the mansions of Fifth Avenue.

I was skeptical of this book from page one. The opening chapter was a little awkward and felt like it wanted to be Sherlock Holmes way too much. However, it ended up being an extremely fun Victorian mystery, with hints of magic. It paid homage to Sherlock without, ultimately, being too heavy handed.

While I loved all the characters, I particularly love the inclusion of Nellie Bly and Arthur Conan Doyle. Harry (who, by the way, is female) is not some know-it-all detective but a smart, capable sleuth and Weston is a charming and able side-kick.

It was a super enjoyable read and I would love to read more of Harry’s adventures in the future. I actually just found out that this is connected to the other books Kat Ross has written. Hmm… guess I’ve got some reading to do.

The Lost Property Office

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Thirteen year old Jack Buckles’ father has gone missing in London, and while Jack has a better than normal knack for finding missing items, unfortunately, his father isn’t one of them. After his sister follows someone she thinks is their father out of the hotel, Jack discovers The Lost Property Office and uncovers a secret. His father is member of a secret society of detectives who have served the crown for generations. Now, the only way Jack can save his father is to find the Ember and defeat the Clockmaker before it’s too late.

This book was absolutely SO much fun. Again, this book also owes some of it’s origins Sherlock Holmes as well, The Lost Property Office itself is on Baker Street. You’ll also find other delightful bits and pieces as you read.

In particular I absolutely loved the scene in the archives. I won’t give it away. You should definitely read this book and see for yourself.

While this is clearly for a somewhat younger crowd (middle grades maybe? I’m a bad judge of these things.), it never condescends. It’s full of smart characters and assumes the readers are as well.

While these two books are fairly disparate, I think they both have something for everyone to enjoy.

Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark Giveaway!

I’ll be totally honest: I have been working a bunch of extra hours at my day job, so I have been slacking off a little bit on reading and writing posts.

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BUT I’m willing to make the lack of a review up to you buy giving away one of my favorite books of all time… with the original Stephen Gammell illustrations. I can’t promise it to you by Halloween, but if you’re anything like me, it’s good all year round.
Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark Treasury Giveaway

Other Books I’ve Been Reading

If you keep track of my little Goodreads shelf over on the sidebar, you may have noticed I’m reading quite a few books that I’m not writing up. There are several reasons for this. Some were just bad. Others were ok, but I didn’t have strong enough feelings about them to write an entire review. Yet others are books I’ll be reviewing at a later date.

I’ve decided to do a quick and dirty summary of some of those, since just because I didn’t rave about them, doesn’t mean you won’t.

Useless Bay (MJ Beaufrand)

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This was actually a fairly enjoyable book. Geared more toward middle grades, it was really well written, but left too many questions hanging for me to really enjoy it thoroughly. It centers around the larger than life Gray quintuplets, the unofficial search and rescue team of Whidbey Island. This one is out October 18.

 

Chasing Embers (James Bennett)

I really want to like urban fantasy, but I nearly always struggle with them. This one isn’t bad, a little wordy at times but a fairly solid read. I have a soft spot for dragons, so that may be part of the appeal for me. I can’t really gush about it, but I will likely read the next book when it comes out.

A Rustle of Silk (Alys Clare)

A decent mystery set against the backdrop of early Stuart England.  Overall, it was an enjoyable mystery, but there were a few moments that I didn’t really think fit and overall the mystery was just a little too easily solved for me. I won’t give away exactly what those parts were, but just be fair warned if you decide to pick this one up.

The Apothecary’s Curse (Barbara Bennett)

This urban fantasy, I actually did enjoy. The story moves between modern and Victorian timelines, but I found that kept me really interested. Victorian doctor Simon Bell and and apothecary Gaelan Erceldoune became immortal and now must stop a modern pharmaceutical from exploiting their secret.

Confession of a Serial Killer: The Untold Story of Dennis Rader, the BTK Killer (Katherine Ramsland, Ph.D.)

Talk about books that will make your skin crawl, this was beyond just creepy. Much of the story is told in Dennis Rader’s own words and while it’s interesting, it’s also scary as hell.

Garden District Gothic (Greg Herren)

It could be that I wasn’t super excited about this book because I hadn’t read any of the others in the series (this is the 7th Scotty Bradley book). The worst part for me was that the mystery seemed to be just too easily solved. It had the build up to be a really great mystery and I was really let down. I was a little iffy at the beginning because it really seemed to want to be the gayest thing that ever was gay, but things leveled off so that I wasn’t constantly saying to myself, “OK, I get it, these guys are gay!” It’s gay fiction and it seriously wants you to know it. Regardless, ultimately I found the super easy wrap up to be the deal breaker here.

Choose Your Own Misery: The Holidays (Mike MacDonald, Jilly Gagnon)

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I wanted to love this. It was (supposed) to be pure nostalgia for me, since I grew up with the Choose Your Own Adventure books. This was a humorous take on how much the holidays can suck. It was okay, I suppose. Cute. But, it was clearly written from a purely male perspective and I quickly lost interest.

The Private Lives of the Tudors (Tracy Borman)

I absolutely loved this one. As I’ve mentioned before, I have a passion for all things Tudor and this really gave me a lot of new insight into the everyday lives of the Tudor monarchs. I decided to forgo a full review of this one, just because I don’t know many people that would get as excited about the minutiae of Henry VIII’s private life as I do.

The Red Ripper (Peter Conradi)

Another book about a creepy serial killer, this time it’s Russian killer Andrei Chikatilo. It was an interesting read, but didn’t really expand on anything I hadn’t read previously.

Iron Cast (Destiny Soria)

In the interest of being totally aboveboard here, I received a free digital review copy of Iron Cast from the publisher in exchange for a review. Don’t worry, I’ll still give 100% honest opinions of it.

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This awesome cover courtesy Abrams Books.

I was extremely excited to read this book for a number of reasons. 1) It was the first ARC (advanced reader copy, for those who don’t know already) I was ever approved for. 2) The cover looked interesting. Because as many of you may know, yes, sometimes I DO judge books (at least a little) by their covers. 3) The blurb sounded very interesting. And 4) It was described as a book perfect for fans of Libba Bray’s The Diviners.

Some of you may recall I have mentioned that particular series before as one I thoroughly enjoyed. Iron Cast surprised me. I really think it surpassed The Diviners. Long story short- it’s completely spectacular.

Before the story itself even begins, Destiny Soria says that she wanted to write a book where the female characters were real and complex. I think she succeeded brilliantly.

Set in Boston in 1919, with Prohibition looming on the horizon, Corrine and Ada are both hemopaths- they suffer an “affliction” that makes it possible for them to control peoples’ minds with art. They work for gangster Johnny Dervish in his club, The Cast Iron. After breaking Ada out of the notorious hemopath asylum, Haversham, both girls think they will be returning to the safety of their home at The Cast Iron. But, when several employees are shot and Johnny disappears, they will have to fight to find the truth behind everything that’s happened and make their lives safe once more.

This book was wonderful, engaging and with a richly built world. It was impossible for me not to love it. The friendship between Corinne and Ada was one I think all women can aspire to. The love between them as friends is what makes the entire story possible. I always find it refreshing to read a young adult novel where the romantic element is not the most important part of the entire plot. While there were romantic relationships in the book, they were far from the most significant.

All of the characters you meet are multifaceted and seem very real. Very few of them are exactly as they seem when you first meet them. I love it when I book keeps me guessing, and this certainly did. I found myself more that once nervous about whether or not Ada and Corrine could trust those around them. Anytime a book can draw me into the story so much that I’m feeling anxiety for them, I’d say it was quite well written.

I could not wait to finish the book and was sad when it ended. When I wasn’t reading it, I was thinking about reading it. Iron Cast will be released in just a few days on October 11. I have pre-ordered my copy and my fingers are absolutely itching to get my hands on it.  I cannot recommend Iron Cast enough and I absolutely cannot wait to read more from this author!

Top 5 Halloween Reads (And Cocktail Suggestions)

It’s that time again!

Seriously guys, Halloween is my FAVORITE holiday. Hands down. Those of you who know me in real life already know this. I’ve been planning my Halloween costume since spring. I practically knock people out of my way to the get to the Halloween decorations as soon as they hit stores. There are certainly Halloween decorations I keep out all year. I have a tattoo with a haunted house and a graveyard. Halloween is life.

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So it should come as no shock that I have certain books that are particularly great for Halloween. Surprisingly, I don’t read that much horror. I like it, I just don’t pick it up all that often. So, my list is sort of light on actual horror titles. (There is always next year….)

World War Z (Max Brooks)

I’m not normally all that into zombie books or movies, but for this particular book (not movie, ugh) I make an exception. It is very well written and for me, the scary can be found in just how real some of the scenes are. It makes it seem like a zombie take over is totally possible (reality: it’s not terribly likely). All in all, a great book.

Cocktail: Zombie brain shots. Just kidding. Don’t drink that. Ew. Instead, try a Zombie. Sounds much tastier, and less like something you’d drink at a frat party on a dare.

Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark (Alvin Schwartz)

This was without a doubt the definitive scary story book series of my generation. The stories themselves are pretty creepy, but they are actually outshined by the absolutely horrifying Stephen Gammell illustrations. The books have been redone with a new illustrator, but you are doing yourself a great disservice if you don’t find a copy of this book with the original Gammell artwork. Here is a great article with a few of the nightmarish illustrations for you.  One of my all time favorites.

Cocktail: A Mind Eraser, to erase away those illustrations so you can sleep peacefully at night again.

A Discovery of Witches (Deborah Harkness)

This is the first book in The All Souls trilogy. It’s not scary at all, but considering it’s full of witches, vampires and daemons, I think it still fits the seasonal requirements. The series is a little bit paranormal, a little historical and a little romance. A great series to curl up with on a crisp fall night.

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Cocktail: A Vampire’s Kiss Martini. Appropriate, really, for any of your books with a dreamy vampire protagonist.

‘Salem’s Lot (Stephen King)

This is a spectacularly scary book and really proves why Stephen King is such a master. If you like your vampires pure evil and blood sucking, this is a book for you. If you enjoy it, there are also a few short stories that revisit the town in King’s Night Shift. Never read Stephen King before? This is a great place to start!

Cocktail: A Vampire. Obviously. Not only does it sounds tasty, it would be a great, creepy addition to a Halloween get together.

Anything Edgar Allan Poe

People still read Edgar Allan Poe for a reason. He’s awesome. I’ve loved his dark poems and stories since I was a kid. The Raven, The Cask of Amontillado, The Masque of the Red Death, The Pit and the Pendulum, The Tell-Tale Heart, just a few of the many Poe poems and stories that would be great to break out for the Halloween season.

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Cocktail: If sherry is your thing, how bout a nice Amontillado? If not, try a Raven or a Masque of the Red Death.

Reading anything special for Halloween? Leave a comment! My TBR list can always use a few more! HAPPY HALLOWEEN!!

Crossing the Horizon (Laurie Notaro)

I received a copy of Crossing the Horizon free from the publisher (via Netgalley) in exchange for an honest review. This, however, did not change my opinion of the book.

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Image via Simon and Schuster.

It’s 1927. Charles Lindbergh has recently become a media sensation by completing the first transatlantic flight. Now, the race is on to be the first woman to make the crossing. This story takes a look at three very different and fascinating women who are all hoping to take the crown: Elsie Mackay, daughter of an Earl and the first Englishwoman to receive her pilot’s license; Ruth Elder, who uses her winnings from a beauty pageant to take flying lessons; and Mabel Boll, glamorous society widow who hopes the trip will be her claim to fame.

While I’ve always loved books set in the 1920’s, I was a little bit unsure about one focusing on aviation history. I’ve never really found myself all that interested in the early days of flight. Or the history of flight at all. I knew about Charles Lindbergh (a bit) and that Amelia Earhart was the first woman to accomplish the flight, but beyond that I was clueless. This book, however, changed my mind. It was truly wonderful. Crossing the Horizon was clearly well researched and painted a vivid picture of these three women, their world, and the people around them.

I particularly loved the fact that there were pictures included. When reading historical fiction books, I often find myself seeking out pictures on the primary players on my own. While it’s not really a necessity, I found their inclusion to be a nice touch. Obviously this is a fictionalized account based on real events, but the pictures made it all so much more real, taking these from mere characters, to living, breathing people.

Even without the pictures, I think this would have been a really standout book. Knowing that none of these women were going to be the record holder didn’t take anything away for me. I was hooked and could not wait to find out what happened next. With such brilliantly illustrated characters, I was completely sucked in, anxious to see how their stories would turn out. It’s not a short book, but I was so engrossed it did not take long to finish it.

I cannot recommend this book enough.  There is tragedy, humor and a solid dose of girl power. These were all ladies determined to take charge of their own destinies and Laurie Notaro has told their stories beautifully. This is definitely a book I will be rereading. You can pick up your own copy on October 4 or pre-order it now!

My Lady Jane (Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, Jodi Meadows)

I’ve been nuts about the Tudors for years. My collection of both fiction and nonfiction books about the Tudor clan (especially Henry VIII) has grown pretty substantial over the years. I had come across this book on social media a few times, but really had no idea what it was about. Based solely on the cover image and title, I made the guess that we were dealing with a YA historical fiction about the doomed Lady Jane Grey. And I definitely wanted to read it. However, it had a few surprises waiting for me.

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Well all know I’m a sucker for a good cover. Courtesy HarperCollins.

I was partially right. The book IS about Lady Jane Grey. Turns out, it’s an alternate history. And has three authors. I was immediately skeptical (Three authors? Alternate history? Would this be a total carriage wreck? ), but decided to go ahead and press onward. This may be been partially due to the fact that I forgot I had the book on my library app. With only until 38 hours before it was due back. Challenge accepted.

Worth every minute. This book was so much fun. I also finished it with probably 10 hours to spare. Winner.

“How,” you say, “can a book about a teenager who gets her head chopped off possibly be fun?” Alternate history, people. It’s not exactly a true story. Take what you already know about Lady Jane Grey, add some magic, some modernized dialogue and TONS of pop culture references, and viola! You have My Lady Jane. This one is definitely going to take another reading for me to catch all of the pop culture references that were going on here. The Princess Bride, Monty Python, heck, I even caught a Jaws reference. I’m certain that there are others I missed.

So, the basics: It’s 1553 and sixteen year old King Edward VI is dying. Lord Dudley convinces him to replace his sisters Mary and Elizabeth in the line of succession with his bookish cousin and childhood friend Lady Jane Grey. One hasty marriage later to Gifford Dudley, the younger son of Edward’s chief minister, and Jane becomes the Queen of England after Edward’s death. She was queen for nine days until the Privy Council switched sides and Mary took back the throne.

The first part of the story more or less follows history here. Beyond that… well… you’ll just have to read it. I cannot recommend it enough.

The extra good news is that the Lady Janies (as the authors call themselves, I love it!) have at least two more books planned rewriting the history of two more Janes from the past! How great is that?!?

For fans of history, the Tudors, fantasy or fun, this is just a no brainer.

The Darkest Part of the Forest (Holly Black)

There’s a monster in our wood.
She’ll get you if you’re not good.
Drag you under leaves and sticks.
Punish you for all your tricks.
A nest of hair and gnawed bone.
You are never, ever coming…

Fairfold is a town in between the normal world and the world for faerie. The townspeople have lived side-by-side with the Folk for years, a dangerous balance. Locals are generally safe, but tourists have been known to disappear. Hazel and Ben have spent most of their lives navigating this strange, beautiful, sometimes deadly place and they understand the dangers better than most.

In the woods there is a horned boy lying asleep in a glass coffin. For years he has lain there, an object for tourists to gawk at and the teenagers to have parties around. Both Ben and Hazel have spent years pouring their secrets and dreams to the horned boy. One day, the coffin is shattered and he wakes up. This one act changes everything irreversibly. Now, Hazel finds herself being the knight she always wanted to be, but at what cost?

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Image via Hachette Book Group

We should know after The Raven Cycle I love dark and dreamy. This was loaded with both. Fairfold is like living in a dream on the edge of a nightmare. These are not sweet peaceful faeries from childhood stories, but tricky creatures with little regard for human life. Even the monster is beautiful and horrifying. Holly Black did an amazing job of blending together the modern world and the world of the faerie almost seamlessly.

Hazel, to be blunt, is a total badass. There is romance brewing here, however, it is Hazel, not Jack, Ben or Severin that is the hero. It’s not that the guys aren’t great characters; they are all strong, solid characters with fascinating stories. This isn’t just your run of the mill fairy tale with a damsel in distress. Hazel is not content to sit back and let the guys solve her problems, instead she takes matters spectacularly into her own hands.

I also found Jack to be a particularly interesting character. He is a changeling, one of the fae, but raised by humans. Like the family of his birth, he has many secrets, but still walks a fine line between the world of the Folk and the human world.

And did you see that cover? Gorgeous!

Holly Black is not an author I was previously familiar with, but you can be sure I’ll check out more of her books in the very near future. So glad I stumbled upon this at the library.