Showing posts with label ARC Review. Show all posts
Showing posts with label ARC Review. Show all posts

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Review: The Unkindest Tide by Seanan McGuire

43233639Title: The Unkindest Tide
Series: October Daye #13
Author: Seanan McGuire
Source/Format: Publisher; Bound ARC
More Details: Urban Fantasy
Publisher/Publication Date: DAW Books; September 3, 2019

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Synopsis from Goodreads...
Hundreds of years ago, the Selkies made a deal with the sea witch: they would have the sea for as long as she allowed it, and when the time came, she would call in all their debts at once. Many people assumed that day would never come. Those people were wrong. When the Luidaeg—October "Toby" Daye's oldest and most dangerous ally—tells her the time has come for the Selkies to fulfill their side of the bargain, and that Toby must be a part of the process, Toby can't refuse. Literally. The Selkies aren't the only ones in debt to the Luidaeg, and Toby has to pay what she owes like anyone else. They will travel to the fabled Duchy of Ships and call a convocation of the Selkies, telling them to come and meet the Luidaeg's price...or face the consequences. Of course, nothing is that simple. When Dianda Lorden's brother appears to arrest Dianda for treason against the Undersea, when a Selkie woman is stripped of her skin and then murdered, when everything is falling apart, that's when Toby will have to answer the real question of the hour. Is she going to sink? Or is she going to swim?
I took The Unkindest Tides with me while I had jury duty, and suffice it to say, the story kept me thoroughly entertained during breaks. It’s not the first book I’ve read by Seanan McGuire, but it is the only one I’ve gotten around to reading from the October Daye series. Even though it was the 13th book, I read it anyway—partially because I had no time to get to the other 12 novels in the series before the start of my jury duty. Regardless, I had no trouble following the story, getting invested in the characters, or interested in the world. I loved the story, and it’s probably my favorite book I’ve read by McGuire to date.

The synopsis tells a lot about the book, and the story pretty much delivered on every front. The story starts calmly, but it takes off when the Luidaeg arrived and announced that she intended to collect on debts owed to her. There was mystery, action, and a cast of wonderful characters. The world McGuire has created is probably one of my favorite urban fantasy takes on the fae. It was often a strange and interesting world, particularly with how the everyday side you and I would know met with the magical side. One location that was of interest to me was the Duchy of Ships, which is where the book primarily took place. It was such a creative place to set a story, and I thoroughly like all the details about it from the politics to the architecture, and even some of what local life was like for the people who lived there. Also, I like that there were unique characteristics to each kind of fae and the magic present in the story.

Generally speaking, I liked all of the main characters. October Daye was interesting enough, and I liked the relationship she had with Tybalt. They clashed over certain subjects, but I was a fan of the way they talked it out with one another. The Luidaeg was another one of my favorite characters from the story. Her history and that of her children was long and tragic, and I understood why she would want to be “Cousin Annie” as an escape.

I don’t know everything there is to know about the series, and I probably missed a few references to previous books, but overall The Unkindest Tide was a great story. I enjoyed reading it and look forward to diving into the previous books in the series and other novels by Seanan McGuire. Have you read any books from the October Daye series? If so, are you planning to read The Unkindest Tide?

Disclaimer: this copy of the book was provided by the publisher for this review, thank you!

Thursday, September 12, 2019

ARC Review: Word to the Wise by Jenn McKinlay

43203098Title: Word to the Wise
Series: Library Lover's Mystery #10
Author: Jenn McKinlay
Source/Format: First to Read; eARC
More Details: Cozy Mystery
Publisher/Publication Date: Berkley; September 3, 2019

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Synopsis from Goodreads...
It's no-holds-barred murder, in the latest page-turning Library Lover's Mystery from the New York Times bestselling author of Hitting the Books. 
Lindsey Norris is finally getting married to the man of her dreams--but it's not all roses for Briar Creek's beloved library director, as gardening enthusiast and town newcomer Aaron Grady gives the term "book lover" a whole new meaning. Inappropriate looks and unwelcome late-night visits to Lindsey's house have everyone from the crafternooners to Lindsey's fiancé, Sully, on edge. When Grady's dead body is found staged outside the library and all the clues point to Sully, Lindsey knows it's up to her to dig through the hidden chapters of Grady's previous life to find the real culprit and clear Sully's name. But becoming a thorn in the killer's side is not without its consequences, and the closer Lindsey gets to the truth, the more determined the murderer is to make her just a footnote....
I’ve been looking forward to Jenn McKinlay’s follow-up to Hitting the Books since I read it last year. In Word to the Wise, some of the themes—like harassment and climate change—leaned toward the more timely side. McKinlay nailed the unusual weather patterns, enabling actions of others, the emotional toll, and the disconcerting characterization of characters like Aaron Grady. Because of that, there was an eerie—and sometimes exasperating—feel to the whole story. The mystery was anything but straight forward, and the twists were especially twisty in this one. As such, Word to the Wise was a page-turner. It also turned out to be one of my favorite installments in the Library Lover’s Mystery series.

At first, everything seemed great for Lindsey Norris. She had her job at the library. She was getting married to Sully. And I was happy about the development, because it meant that the romantic subplots of previous books were finally beginning to pay off for the characters. Plus, the stages of wedding preparation were fun, okay. However, once the mystery of who killed Aaron Grady began, some of that happiness evaporated. I liked the mystery here, because the suspects had sufficient motive to want Grady gone. He was a creep who used his reputation as an upstanding citizen as an excuse, a cover, to get away with harassment and stalker behavior. But, just like there was more to Grady, the mystery was also a complex issue. Nothing was as it seemed, and the twists kept coming.

The characters were as great as always. In particular, I liked the library staff who worked for Lindsey, as well as many of the other reoccurring characters. I liked the setting as well. Briar Creek is a small, idyllic coastal town: if you’re familiar with this series, then you know what it’s like, and there isn’t much more to say about it.

Overall, Word to the Wise was an excellent addition to the series. If you’ve read any of the previous books, then this one should be on your TBR List.

About the author...

Jenn is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of several mystery series and will be debuting a new women's fiction series in June 2017, starting with the title About a Dog. She lives in sunny Arizona in a house that is overrun with kids, pets and her husband's guitars.

Disclaimer: This copy of the book was provided by First to Read for this review, thank you!

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

ARC Review: Magic For Liars by Sarah Gailey

41555947Title: Magic For Liars
Series: n/a
Author: Sarah Gailey
Source/Format: Bookish First; bound ARC
More Details: Fantasy; Mystery
Publisher/Publication Date: Tor Books; June 4, 2019

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Synopsis from Goodreads...
Sharp, mainstream fantasy meets compelling thrills of investigative noir in this fantasy debut by rising star Sarah Gailey... 
Ivy Gamble has never wanted to be magic. She is perfectly happy with her life—she has an almost-sustainable career as a private investigator, and an empty apartment, and a slight drinking problem. It's a great life and she doesn't wish she was like her estranged sister, the magically gifted professor Tabitha. But when Ivy is hired to investigate the gruesome murder of a faculty member at Tabitha’s private academy, the stalwart detective starts to lose herself in the case, the life she could have had, and the answer to the mystery that seems just out of her reach...
Prior to reading Magic For Liars, I’d heard a lot of good things about Sarah Gailey’s other published work. I hadn't read them, but I was very excited to dive into this book anyway. Magic For Liars is a whodunit style murder mystery set primarily at Osthorne Academy, a boarding school for mages. From the start, it had a promising premise. And while parts of the story tended to be a little more predictable than others, that didn’t detract from my overall enjoyment of the book.

I liked the writing and pace of the story, as well as the setting. Right away, the prologue introduced the mystery. At first, it seemed like there weren’t any suspects, because the victim was well-liked by students and faculty. However, nothing was as it seemed. And despite Ivy’s idolization of places like Osthorne, they still had as many problems as any other school. She seemed to learn that lesson the hard way, and at times I was waiting for her to let go of her lies—the ones she was beginning to buy into—and focus on the case. As I mentioned above, I was able to kind of guess who the culprit would likely be, just not the motivation behind their actions. So, it wasn’t an issue, because there was so much I generally enjoyed about the book. Also, I was still invested enough in the story to wait around for the big reveal to happen.

Magic was such a big theme in the story. Some of it was kind of whatever goes. However the more academic side with rules and limitations was actually interesting to read about.

Ivy Gamble is a private investigator, and for the most part I liked her characterization. Even though she was solving other people’s issues, she had her own share of problems that—toward the beginning of the book—went largely unaddressed. She drank, resented her sister, was bitter about the magic she didn’t have, and thought about herself in a manner that I could often describe as self-deprecating. Many of her cases involved cheating spouses among other things. So, I could understand her enthusiasm and trepidation about being handed what she considered to be a big and important case that was unlike other’s she’d handled before. The other characters were interesting as well. None of them were perfect. A lot of them had secrets and quirks—like Tabitha Gamble, Mrs. Webb, and others. However, it’s what made them distinctive and memorable. I didn’t even mind the romance subplot.

Magic For Liars was an interesting blend of magic and mystery, and if you’re a fan of that, then I would say give this one a try. I wish there was a sequel, because I would have liked to see more from these characters. Overall, I look forward to reading another book by Sarah Gailey....

About the author...
Permission is granted to freely use either of these photographs for promotional or press purposes so long as they are credited ©   Allan Amato    2019.Hugo award winner Sarah Gailey lives and works in Los Angeles, California. Their nonfiction has been published by Mashable and the Boston Globe, and their fiction has been published internationally. They are a regular contributor for and Barnes & Noble. You can find links to their work at They tweet@gaileyfrey.
(Photo credit: ©Allan Amato 2019) 

Disclaimer: This copy of the book was provided by Bookish First and Tor Books for this review, thank you!

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

ARC Review: The Beast's Heart by Leife Shallcross

40409247Title: The Beast's Heart
Series: n/a
Author: Leife Shallcross
Source/Format: First to read; eARC
More Details: Fantasy; Retelling
Publisher/Publication Date: Berkley; February 12, 2019

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Synopsis from Goodreads...
A sumptuously magical, brand new take on a tale as old as time—read the Beast's side of the story at long last...
I am neither monster nor man—yet I am both. I am the Beast. The day I was cursed to this wretched existence was the day I was saved—although it did not feel so at the time. My redemption sprung from contemptible roots; I am not proud of what I did the day her father happened upon my crumbling, isolated chateau. But if loneliness breeds desperation then I was desperate indeed, and I did what I felt I must. My shameful behaviour was unjustly rewarded. My Isabeau. She opened my eyes, my mind and my heart; she taught me how to be human again. And now I might lose her forever....
Lose yourself in this gorgeously rich and magical retelling of The Beauty and the Beast that finally lays bare the beast's heart....

I always look forward to retellings for the usual reasons. So it’s pretty obvious why I wanted to give The Beast’s Heart by Leife Shallcross a try. It’s a Beauty and the Beast retelling told from the perspective of the Beast, and I was looking forward to what twists Shallcross would inject into a tale that’s already so familiar. I liked this book. It was long and it followed the general plot of Beauty and the Beast—so, if you know anything about the story, some parts of this one will feel familiar. Yet, The Beast’s Heart was still an interesting retelling.

From the first page, I was drawn in by Shallcross’s writing. It was descriptive and expertly conveyed what the Beast was going through as well as the setting and the magic present in the story. Shallcross did a good job at creating a better picture of the loneliness he went through during the time he spent isolated in a forest and then in his chateau. So, one thing I did see more of was what the Beast was doing before the usual starting point of the story, and when he had time alone thereafter. 
I also liked how Shallcross handled the other parts of the story. With so limited a focus, I was afraid that some of the other characters—like Isabeau’s family—would get lost while the story played out between her and the Beast. But, that wasn’t the case at all. There was a gradual progression of the story for both main and secondary characters. And I have to say that I enjoyed how those parts were ultimately incorporated into the rest of the story. Now, one thing I do have to talk about is how familiar parts of the story felt. Because this was a retelling that closely followed the original tale, it took away some of the surprise that might have come with certain revelations had there been more differences. It wasn’t that big of an issue. Other than that, the story was good. 
Overall, The Beast’s Heart was a solid retelling of Beauty and the Beast. And, if you’re a fan of the original tale, then maybe consider giving this one a try. Needless to say, I’m looking forward to whatever Shallcross writes next....

About the author....

Leife Shallcross’s first novel, The Beast’s Heart, a "luxuriously magical retelling of the Beauty and the Beast fairy tale", will be published by Hodder & Stoughton in May 2018. She is also the author of several short stories, including Pretty Jennie Greenteeth, which won the 2016 Aurealis Award for Best Young Adult Short Story. Leife has a bit of a thing for fairy tales, and is particularly inspired by those characters that tend to fall into the cracks of the usual stories. She can be found online at and on Twitter @leioss.

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Disclaimer: This copy of the book was provided by First to Read for this review, thank you!

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

ARC Review: The Winter of the Witch by Katherine Arden

36621586Title: The Winter of the Witch
Series: Winternight Trilogy #3
Author: Katherine Arden
Source/Format: NetGalley; eARC
More Details: Historical fiction; Fantasy
Publisher/Publication Date: Del Rey; January 8, 2019

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Synopsis from Goodreads...

In the stunning conclusion to the bestselling Winternight Trilogy, following The Bear and the Nightingale and The Girl in the Tower, Vasya returns to save Russia and the spirit realm, battling enemies both mortal and magic...
The Winter of the Witch was one of my most highly anticipated releases of January 2019, and it was everything I was hoping it would be and more. Told in the same descriptive and highly atmospheric prose as its predecessors—The Bear and the Nightingale and The Girl in the Tower—The Winter of the Witch was a satisfying and epic conclusion to not only the trilogy but Vasya’s story as well. Plainly speaking, this book was excellent. 
Picking up right after the end of The Girl in the Tower, Vasya quickly found herself in new and dangerous situations that stemmed from the consequences of previous actions—many of which had no easy solutions. As such, the beginning got the story off to a fast-paced start and I was easily drawn back into the world of the Winternight trilogy. And from the opening chapter, the story quickly devolved into more as the plans of foes—both new and old—came to fruition. Choices had to be made. Lessons had to be learned. It was no easy road for any character—not Vasya, or anyone else—and the end result was a relatively fast-paced story with action and magic as wondrous as it was a little dark and mysterious.

Speaking of—magic, dark, and mysterious—it also accurately describes the setting. There were some familiar places toward the beginning of the story—like Moscow and the woods surrounding it—but as the story progressed, Vasya's character arch took her to parts of the spirit realm. I thought those scenes were pretty cool. And with Arden’s prose, those places were described in gorgeous detail, fitting in almost seamlessly with the more ordinary settings. 
And, of course, I can’t forget the characters. One of the best aspects of the Winternight Trilogy has always been the characters—mortal or otherwise. And characters all across the board went through a hefty dose of development in The Winter of the Witch, and no one was exactly the same by the end. Vasya’s story in particular was my favorite. Gone is the girl from the beginning of The Bear and the Nightingale, and in her place is a character that came into her own. And after everything she’s been through, I loved the way her story ended.

While I’m sad the trilogy is over—and I wish there was more—I can’t help but be satisfied with the conclusion. And if you’re a fan of this series, then The Winter of the Witch is a must read….

About the author...
Born in Texas, Katherine attended Middlebury College, where she studied French and Russian literature. She has lived abroad in France and in Moscow, and is fluent in both French and Russian. She has also lived in Hawaii, where she spent time guiding horse trips while writing The Bear and the Nightingale. She currently lives in Vermont...
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Disclaimer: this copy of the book was provided by the publisher (Del Rey) via NetGalley for this review, thank you!

Monday, November 26, 2018

ARC Review: The Mortal Word by Genevieve Cogman

39169409Title: The Mortal Word
Series: The Invisible Library #5
Author: Genevieve Cogman
Source/Format: First to Read; eARC
More Details: Fantasy; Historical
Publisher/Publication Date: Ace; November 27, 2018

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Synopsis from Goodreads...

In the latest novel in Genevieve Cogman's historical fantasy series, the fate of worlds lies in the balance. When a dragon is murdered at a peace conference, time-travelling Librarian spy Irene must solve the case to keep the balance between order, chaos . . . and the Library. When Irene returns to London after a relatively straightforward book theft in Vienna, Bradamant informs her that there is a top secret dragon-Fae peace conference in progress that the Library is mediating, but that the second-in-command dragon has been stabbed to death. Tasked with solving the case, Vale and Irene immediately go to 1890s Paris. Once they arrive, it seems that the murder victim had uncovered evidence suggesting that he may have found proof of treachery by one or more Librarians. But to ensure the peace of the conference, some Librarians are already hostages in the dragon and Fae courts. To save the captives, including her parents, Irene must get to the bottom of this murder—but was it dragon, Fae, or even a Librarian who committed the crime?
The Invisible Library is one of those series that keeps getting better and better. And while I’m guilty of not keeping up with this series as much as I should have—and I really need to—I had no problem reading The Mortal Word. This book was fantastic. The mystery kept me guessing and the action and danger made the story that much more exciting. There was a hefty dose of political intrigue and maneuvering as the Dragons, Fae, and Library all came together for a peace conference.

I have to say that I thoroughly enjoyed this story. Right from the start, it opens with Irene doing what she does best: retrieving books. But as it quickly became apparent, there was so much more going on this time around. There was a multitude of characters in a situation best described as volatile and high stakes. There were a lot of different sides to keep up with such as the Fae and their nature, some of the inner workings of the Dragon society, and how past animosity came into play while trying to make negotiations. So, there was never a boring moment. I also liked all the details about how the idea for the conference came about + all of the danger that came with it. As such, it was interesting to see how the opposing forces affected the setting—an alternative version of Paris—where the story took place.

The overall plot was fantastic, because, I’m going to be honest, there were a lot of characters with dubious motivations who did a number of questionable actions. It’s one of the things that made the mystery at the core of The Mortal Word as interesting as it was, which was why the buildup to the twists were all that more rewarding by the time the book was over. The ending was a satisfying conclusion to The Mortal Word while also leaving room for the story to continue.

The characters from this series have always been interesting, and there were a lot of familiar faces that appeared in The Mortal Word. Irene is, of course, my favorite character. I like her personality. Her job is pretty cool at times. And I also liked how she handled herself during some of the tensest moments of The Mortal Word. There was also Kai, and while he was present, his role was a little more in the background this time. Although, I enjoyed the moments where Kai and Irene got to interact.

All in all, The Mortal Word is one of the best books I’ve read so far this year. It’s effectively renewed my interest in The Invisible Library series. And after that ending, I hope there’s going to be another book after this one. If you’re a fan of this series, then The Mortal Word should be on your TBR list....

About the author...

Genevieve Cogman is a freelance author, who has written for several role-playing game companies. Her work includes GURPS Vorkosigan and contributions to the In Nomine role-playing game line for Steve Jackson Games: contributions to Exalted 2nd Edition and other contributions to the Exalted and Orpheuslines for White Wolf Publishing: Hearts, Swords and Flowers: The Art of Shoujo for Magnum Opus: and contributions to the Dresden Files RPG for Evil Hat Productions. She currently works for the NHS in England in the HSCIC as a clinical classifications specialist. She has had eight books of her series about the multidimensional Library accepted by Tor Books; the first three books, The Invisible Library, The Masked City, The Burning Page, and The Lost Plot are now available: the fifth, The Mortal Word, will be available in November 2018...

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Disclaimer: this copy of the book was provided by First to Read for this review, thank you!

Thursday, October 25, 2018

ARC Review: The Proposal by Jasmine Guillory

37584991Title: The Proposal
Series: n/a
Author: Jasmine Guillory
Source/Format: First to Read; eARC
More Details: Contemporary; Romance
Publisher/Publication Date: Berkley Books; October 30, 2018
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Synopsis from Goodreads...

The author of The Wedding Date serves up a novel about what happens when a public proposal doesn't turn into a happy ending, thanks to a woman who knows exactly how to make one on her own. When someone asks you to spend your life with him, it shouldn't come as a surprise--or happen in front of 45,000 people....

When freelance writer Nikole Paterson goes to a Dodgers game with her actor boyfriend, his man bun, and his bros, the last thing she expects is a scoreboard proposal. Saying no isn't the hard part--they've only been dating for five months, and he can't even spell her name correctly. The hard part is having to face a stadium full of disappointed fans...

At the game with his sister, Carlos Ibarra comes to Nik's rescue and rushes her away from a camera crew. He's even there for her when the video goes viral and Nik's social media blows up--in a bad way. Nik knows that in the wilds of LA, a handsome doctor like Carlos can't be looking for anything serious, so she embarks on an epic rebound with him, filled with food, fun, and fantastic sex. But when their glorified hookups start breaking the rules, one of them has to be smart enough to put on the brakes...
The Proposal by Jasmine Guillory is another cute romance with an excellent cast of diverse characters, and a heroine who finds herself on the wrong side of a story gone viral. And while a public proposal can seem like a sweet idea, The Proposal showed all the ways it could go wrong. Right off the bat—no pun intended—the inciting incident provided the perfect foundation for the rest of the story by adding some early conflict to the plot. And I liked it.

Carlos was one of my favorite characters from The Wedding Date. However, he was only in a supporting role as the best friend of Drew. Here, he’s the main guy, and Guillory fleshed-out his character by adding his backstory and showing more of his family—like his sister, mother, and cousin. I liked Carlos’s family. They were wonderful characters.

Nik was also interesting. She was sassy at times, smart, and had a number of great friends who were willing to back her up—whether that was a much needed cupcake, relationship advice, dinner, or simply getting together to talk things over.

The Proposal was more of a slow burn kind of romance. The characters spent a lot of talking and hanging out together. This was a nice touch to the story because it introduced the main characters of The Proposal to me, as the reader, and to each other on page without slowing down the story. The beginning was excellent. However, some of descriptions and dialogue seemed a little repetitive at times. That being said, I didn’t have the same problem with the second half of the story, and since this was an ARC, it may be changed in the final version of the book.

All-in-all, The Proposal was a pretty great read. And I’m looking forward to whatever Guillory writes next....

About the author...

Jasmine Guillory is a graduate of Wellesley College and Stanford Law School. She is a Bay Area native who has towering stacks of books in her living room, a cake recipe for every occasion, and upwards of 50 lipsticks....

Disclaimer: This copy of the book was provided by First to Read for this review, thank you!

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

ARC Review: The Lost Carousel of Provence by Juliet Blackwell

37585026Title: The Lost Carousel of Provence
Series: n/a
Author: Juliet Blackwell
Source/Format: First to Read; eARC
More Details: Historical Fiction
Publisher/Publication Date: Berkley Books; September 18, 2018

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Synopsis from Goodreads...

An artist lost to history, a family abandoned to its secrets, and the woman whose search for meaning unearths it all in a sweeping and expressive story from the New York Times bestselling author of Letters from Paris...

Present day, San Francisco. During her free time, professional photographer Cady Drake shoots local carousels, a hobby inspired by a gift that transformed her childhood: a wooden rabbit supposedly created by master French carver Gustave Bayol a century ago. And when she's offered a freelance assignment for a book on the antique merry-go-rounds of Paris, Cady can't refuse the opportunity to visit the famous carousels for the first time....

1900s, France. In a small town outside of Avignon, a husband and young wife struggle to keep up their ancestral chateau--and start the family they so desperately desire. For the children they hope to have, the Clements hire the famous Bayol to build a carousel, but as the carver and his apprentice work on the beautiful and whimsical creation, fate will entwine them all in unseen ways--for generations to come...

Present day, Provence. As Cady's research leads her to the dilapidated Chateau Clement and its fabled carousel that was lost to the ravages of World War II, she will uncover a shocking truth in a set of one-hundred-year-old photographs that could guide her in reuniting a family torn apart by petty jealousies over several generations.
In 2016, I read a book called Letters from Paris. Before then, I was unfamiliar with books by Juliet Blackwell. I loved Letters from Paris and was ecstatic to see that Blackwell was writing another book with dual storylines, and that it was also set in France. And, oh man, The Lost Carousel of Provence was as good as I was hoping it would be. It was a compelling story about found family, loss, tragedy, love, and second chances spanning across more than a hundred years from past to present.

Blackwell has a way with words. Right from the start, the writing was descriptive with the settings being rife with vividly described scenery. There were other little things too, details about everything from daily life to even the carousels the character, Cady, loved so much. Carousels were a big part of the story, and I liked the fact that the author included so much detailed information about them including how they were constructed—from concept to completion—with mention of work by Bayol and other notable carousels in France.

While the present storyline was good, I also liked the historical aspects of The Lost Carousel of Provence. Blackwell did a good job of setting the tone for these parts with a mix of fiction and historical fact. A loose image of the time period before, during, and after World War 2 in France was presented with the focus on people from one family. The dual storylines featured more than two perspectives, particularly the ones that took place in 1900 and around the 1940s. That being said, there was never a moment where the characters got muddled. The narrators were unique, their stories varied, and I loved how it all eventually connected in the present without being too or immediately obvious how everything was related. And the build up to the reveals and the ending was one of my favorite things about the story.

As I mentioned above, the characters were pretty unique. One of my favorites was Cady. She was a little rough around the edges and had few connections, but the ones she had were genuine. Her chapters were among my favorites. There was also little romance, but it was subtle, very slow burn.

All in all, I enjoyed The Lost Carousel of Provence. And I guess it’s time to read that copy of The Paris Key that’s been sitting on my shelf since 2016....
About the author....

Juliet Blackwell is the New York Times bestselling author of Letters from Paris and The Paris Key. She also writes the Witchcraft Mystery series and the Haunted Home Renovation series. As Hailey Lind, Blackwell wrote the Agatha-nominated Art Lover's Mystery series. A former anthropologist, social worker, and professional artist, Juliet is a California native who has spent time in Mexico, Spain, Cuba, Italy, the Philippines, and France....

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Disclaimer: this copy of the book was provided by First to Read for this review, thank you!

Sunday, September 9, 2018

ARC Review: Hitting the Books by Jenn McKinlay

37585030Title: Hitting the Books
Series: Library Lover's Mystery 
Author: Jenn McKinlay
Source/Format: First to Read; eARC
More Details: Cozy  Mystery
Publisher/Publication Date: Berkley Books; September 11, 2018

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Synopsis from Goodreads...

It's murder by the book in the latest hit Library Lover's mystery from the New York Times bestselling author of Death in the Stacks...

When a stack of library materials is found at the scene of a hit and run, library director Lindsey Norris finds herself dragged into the investigation as the police try to link the driver of the stolen car to the person who borrowed the books. Before Lindsey can delve into the library's records, the victim of the hit and run, Theresa Houston, suffers another "accident" and the investigation shifts from driver negligence to attempted homicide. A clue surfaces in the confiscated library materials that could crack open the case and it is up to Lindsey to piece it all together. But things are not as they seem in the sleepy town of Briar Creek and when the driver of the stolen car turns up dead, Lindsey, her staff and her library friends have to hit the books before the murderer gets the last word...
Hitting the Books by Jenn McKinlay is the third book I’ve read in the Library Lover’s Mystery series, and it’s by far one of my favorites. It’s been a while since I last thought about this series, but I still remember the previous book. I liked Death in the Stacks—it was one of my favorite books I read in 2017—but Hitting the Books just seemed like more of everything. I mean that in a good way.

The basic premise of the story is: Lindsey Norris, library director and avid fan of fiction, gets involved in yet another mystery, a hit-and-run that leads to a complicated case. In terms of cozy mystery novels, Hitting the Books was a solid read.

It had an excellent story. The opening chapters were a great setup for the mystery that the main character, Lindsey Norris, ends up involved in. Some parts I was able to guess. That being said, the build-up to the end had an excellent pace. The reveals came at the right time and were bolstered by some unexpected action that led to a continued sense of tension. There was more action due to the danger being posed to the characters, because of the kind of mystery Hitting the Books was. The subsequent implications and later ramifications raised the stakes and made the story seem more exciting. I liked it a lot.

The world-building was also nice. It’s kind of a typical setting for cozy mysteries—small, idyllic coastal town that’s portrayed as being a close-knit community. That being said, the characters were interesting—some were a little more unique than others—and the overall story was good.

The characters are worth noting here, because I liked a lot of them. Most of them were familiar faces from the previous books. There was a good deal of character development that took place alongside the mystery. I liked those scenes because it showed the usual cast of characters at varying stages of their lives including the newly married, new parents, budding romances, and long-term relationships that continued to develop.

Overall, Hitting the Books was good, and I’m looking forward to whatever McKinlay writes next....
About the author....

Jenn is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of several mystery series and will be debuting a new women's fiction series in June 2017, starting with the title About a Dog. She lives in sunny Arizona in a house that is overrun with kids, pets and her husband's guitars.

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Disclaimer: This copy of the book was provided by First to Read for this review, thank you!

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

ARC Review: Seafire by Natalie C. Parker

37822534Title: Seafire
Series: Seafire #1
Author: Natalie C. Parker
Source/Format: First to Read; eARC
More Details: Young Adult; Fantasy
Publisher/Publication Date: Razorbill; August 28, 2018

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Synopsis from Goodreads...

After her family is killed by corrupt warlord Aric Athair and his bloodthirsty army of Bullets, Caledonia Styx is left to chart her own course on the dangerous and deadly seas. She captains her ship, the Mors Navis, with a crew of girls and women just like her, whose lives have been turned upside down by Aric and his men. The crew has one misson: stay alive, and take down Aric's armed and armored fleet. But when Caledonia's best friend and second-in-command just barely survives an attack thanks to help from a Bullet looking to defect, Caledonia finds herself questioning whether or not to let him join their crew. Is this boy the key to taking down Aric Athair once and for all...or will he threaten everything the women of the Mors Navis have worked for?
The synopsis for Seafire by Natalie C. Parker doesn’t reveal much about the book, but I was still interested in it because I was looking to read something by this author. For the most part, I liked this book with a few minor exceptions. There were a lot of interesting ideas here and they were done well. Seafire was a fast paced story brimming with action. There was danger around every corner, and the Mors Navis was commanded by an all-female crew.

If you know anything about Mad Max: Fury Road, then you’ll probably like this book since Seafire was kind of like that movie. There was an almost dystopia feel to the story, because of how the world was described. There were hints of advanced technology—like some of the systems that kept the Mors Navis running—but it was hard to place a time period because some of those things were presented without much context about their origins. And instead of a harsh desert climate, this book takes place on a ship, and the setting was mostly open waters with few exceptions. Despite that, Parker made the story exciting with plenty of action and mostly memorable characters.

Caledonia Styx was fairly interesting. She had a tragic past and was determined to fight back against Aric Athair’s army. But at times, it seemed like she was too consumed by what happened and made decisions that put herself, Mors Navis, and her crew at risk. In the first third of the book, I didn’t mind that as much. However, the middle of the book was where I struggled with reading the story. I mean, for all her talk of trust and family and sisterhood, Caledonia seemed to almost use that to avoid having her actions and decisions questioned. Still, she wasn’t a bad character. As for the supporting characters, I liked how they were characterized. As a crew, they were skilled and worked well together. And it was interesting to see the character development happen while they were experienced harsh circumstances.

I was a little conflicted about the ending. On one hand, there were parts that I really loved. In the last few chapters the story picked up. The pace of the action and the revelations were on point. I liked that a lot. On the other hand, there was this one thing that happened that seemed to throw away some of the character development that Caledonia went through. That being said, it didn’t change how I felt about the rest of the book.

Since Seafire is the first book in a new trilogy, there’s more to the story, and I want to see where it goes. So, I’m definitely looking forward to the sequel....

About the author...

Natalie wears many hats: author, editor, entrepreneur. She is the author of Southern Gothic duology Beware the Wild (a Junior Library Guild Selection) and Behold the Bones (both available from HarperTeen) as well as the forthcoming Seafire Trilogy (Razorbill, 2018). Her first anthology, Three Sides of a Heart, is an exploration of the love triangle (HarperTeen, 19 Dec 2017). Parker is the founder of Madcap Retreats, an organization offering a yearly calendar of workshops and retreats for aspiring and established writers. Though she earned her BA in English literature from the University of Southern Mississippi and her MA in gender studies from the University of Cincinnati, she now lives on the Kansas prairie with her wife...

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Disclaimer: this copy of the book was provided by First to Read for this review, thank you!

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