Bloodlust & Bonnets

Bloodlust & Bonnets is the child of Emily McGovern best known for her web comic My Life as a Background Slytherin. McGovern blends Lord Byron, vampires and a brave female hero to create a hilarious and chaotic tale.
In the early 19th century, Lucy rejects her life as a debutante and finds herself catching the eye of Lady Travesty and her cult of vampires. Lucy partners with Lord Byron and a mysterious hunter to track Travesty and put an end the cult. During their journey they cross paths with psychic eagles, talking castles and high society balls.
Bloodlust & Bonnets shares the same charm from McGovern’s comic. The art is simple but effective and helps keep the gory bits from being too gory. In facts, it just makes the blood funny especially when paired with the character’s reactions.40680980
I loved the chaos that ensured when this rag tag bunch comes upon adventure. This isn’t a fantasy novel where the characters are at least somewhat prepared. This is a Christopher Moore style tale where no one can keep anything straight and the most ridiculous things happen. It is refreshing and funny.
Amidst the drunken livery and death, there is also heart. Themes from the area still resonate today. Who am I? How do I handle the ideals society pushes upon me? Why can’t I just stay in my bed and read? (I’m with Byron on this).
The graphic novel meanders in the middle, throwing in chaos just to throw in more chaos but because the characters are lovable and the voice enchanting, Bloodlust & Bonnets is a must for anyone looking for a fun getaway from the real world.

Publication Date: September 17
I received an ARC from the publisher; all opinions are my own.

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Mother Knows Best

Mother Knows Best looks at the emotional side of huge ethical questions involving embryotic changes.
Claire has a rare mitochondrial disease that manifests in different ways. She herself can live a normal like but her son Colton died at age 8 due to complications of the defect. MKB-cover-678x1024Devastated, Claire and her husband want to have another child, but Claire can’t stand the idea that they may be like her first child. Claire and her husband to agree to IVF, but what he doesn’t know is that Claire has a secret plan. They will be seeing a doctor whose specialty is illegal embryonic DNC modifications. But Claire is willing to try anything especially when she hears he can take away the mitochondrial issue.
Mother Knows Best is thrilling putting family drama front and center while blending in cutting edge science. The book never leans too heavily on the science, and the author describes everything in a way that the average reader can understand. Family drives the story, not the science.
The writing keeps you on your toes and the characters are relatable. Though I figured out all the twists but one, each one was written in a way that it wasn’t a cop out and was a perfect fit for the story and characters Kira Peikoff weaves characters to care about. I was engaged in the characters and what would become of the family they had created. With the exception of just one character, I agree with the choices they made even if I wouldn’t have myself I don’t know where I stand ethically on the idea of DNA modification, I was emotionally on Claire’s side. I never once wanted Claire’s family to fail no matter what the practical side of my brain said.
Mother Knows Best is thrilling and though provoking. What would you do for a healthy child?

Publication Date: September 10
I received an ARC through the publisher; all opinions are my own.

My 2019 Dragon Con Highlights

 

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Keeping Lucy

Keeping Lucy is a beautiful tale full of heartbreak and love.

Ginny gives birth to a daughter with Down’s Syndrome but since it is 1969 and those with disabilities are treated less than human. Ginny is unaware that her daughter is sent 41150385away to school until it is too late. Her husband and his powerful lawyer father brush it all aside saying it is what is best or everyone. Two years later, a series of articles exposes what is going on at the school: horrible conditions, suicides, and uncared for children. Ginny is compelled to go to the hospital and sees her daughter for the first time. Even though her husband disagrees, she takes Lucy for the weekend. What she found horrifies her and she knows she cannot take Lucy back to the school. Ginny finds herself at war with her husband and his family while trying to take care of her precious daughter.

T. Greenwood brings the same humanity to these characters that she did with Rust & Stardust. Ginny’s reactions to what was done to her child were mine; I felt her heartbreak and determination and cheered her own.
Others charters moved me as well. Ginny’s friend Marsha was amazing, and I was so glad Ginny had Marsha in her life. These characters were so real to me. Especially little Lucy who couldn’t walk because she was neglected in that “school.”
Because of this, the ending brought tears to my eyes. This journey had gutted me. Greenwood never held back giving the book heart and real emotion. The topic would have been too sugary without any depth in any other writer’s hands.

I will recommend this anyone who loves a good tale but isn’t afraid to see the ugly side of the world and feel despair. I know there will be those who this is too much for and there will be people who understand the struggle from experience. To them, I let them decide on their own.

Publication Date: August 6

 

Bonus Review

Engaging and griping, Rust and Stardust is the fictionalized story of Sally Horner, the inspiration for the infamous Lolita.

Sally Horner is caught trying to steal a cheap composition notebook in New Jersey in 1948. The “FBI agent” tells her she must go with him to face trail over her crime. So begins the years long capture of an eleven year old girl by a 50-sometyhing pervert. While the novel is the fictionalized version of these events, the majority of the story’s rust-stardust-book-covercomponents are factual.

I finished this book in two days because the book was engaging and the chapters short enough to spur the reader to want to know what happens next. The story follows the point of view of a variety of characters including Sally, her mother, and those she meets along the way.

As both a novel lover and a true crime buff, I loved Rust & Stardust; I was entranced on page 1.

Publication Date: August 7, 2018

I received ARCs from the publisher; all opinions are my own.

Those People

42041520Those People looks at the idea of how far you will go to be rid of horrible neighbors.
Welcome to Lowland Way, the perfect home for the upper middle class. Everything here is idyllic and makes for the perfect place to live. This resident’s world is turned upside down when a lower class family member inherits the house on the corner. The homeowner has no respect for his neighbors selling cars from his front yard; playing loud music keeping the home next door’s baby wake; being generally rude when spoken to. When disaster strikes, everyone in the neighborhood is a suspect. Who is cruel enough to actually harm their neighbor?
The chapters include the testimony of the characters then looks back from the dangerous event that happens on their street. This unique set up gives your insight in both what the characters though when the even occurred while giving the reader the background to understand their statement to their police. The characters are not exceptionally long moving the story along at a great pace, keeping the reader guessing and getting them invested in the cast of characters.
Those People works well thought out its first twist. But Louise Candlish overreaches including a second twist instead of dealing with the plot she had created. This second twist ended up having no pay off for the overall plot and just seemed a little too extra. I wasn’t satisfied with the ending as it seemed that no one really put anything on the line.
Those People keeps you on your toes and engaged with the character though the ending isn’t overly satisfying.

Publication Date: June 11
I received an ARC for review; all opinions are my own.

 

The Summer We Lost Her

 

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The Summer We Lost Her promises emotional investment but instead delivers unlikeable characters without any depth.
Matt and Elise Sorenson head to the Adirondacks to sell Matt’s family home. This will be their first chance for quality time in quite a while. Elise is competing in dressage with her eyes on Rio Olympics. Matt is a lawyer who mainly raises their daughter while Elise is off training and competing. The two week getting the cabin ready will be a chance to get away from it all and focus on family. Elise decides, without Matt, that their daughter will attend day camp while they work on the house causing tension as the balance of power shifts when she returns from her latest competition. Their idyllic summer comes crashing down when Gracie doesn’t come home from camp and the Sorensons must deal with every parent’s worst nightmare.
The book struggles. The plot doesn’t actually happen until about halfway through. You spend the majority of the time getting to know the highly unlikable Elise and her husband. As the story goes on, Matt isn’t perfect either but you mostly feel sympathy for him and Gracie. For example, Elise rags her daughter about sucking her thumb but never pauses to understand the under lying psychological cause of the behavior (to be fair the author ignores this as well). I honestly didn’t care about her Olympic aspirations and wanted her to fail.
The publisher suggests this book to fans of Jodie Picoult; I don’t agree. The story is never really deep. The inclusion of the characters past doesn’t add much to the overall story. Tish Cohen writes Matt’s experiences with his grandfather and Elise’s love for Dressage without really getting to the bottom of the desire of the characters. Cohen presents Elise as poor with a troubled youth but Elise has natural talent and a coach who gives her everything she needs so I could not empathize with her at all. Matt’s past built up to what would be the twist (it’s not a twist really, just a surprise) but it wasn’t shocking especially from Matt’s recollections of the past. The author fails to truly delve into the idea that Elise wants her daughter to be perfect to erase her own mistakes. There was every opportunity in to delve deep into the characters but the author only ever scratches their depths. There is no true heart there like in Picoult’s novels. The end is too tidy and unemotional just like the rest of the book.
The Summer We Lost Her has the bones to be a great story, but the author stops herself from truly diving into these characters and her situations. The best 100 pages are when the daughter is gone because that story is exciting and there is emotional tension, but whenever Gracie is with her parents, everything falls flat.

Publication Date: June 4

 

Stoker’s Wilde

Stoker’s Wilde is a fun look into the friendship/rivalry of Bram Stoker and Oscar Wilde.
Stoker is living a normal life when his friends drag him into a killing perpetrated by a stoker's wildewerewolf. Bram cannot believe until he sees it himself. Once the event is over, Bram is believes but is also relieved that all the drama is over. But when he moves to London and marries the fiancé of a homosexual acquaintance (Wilde), Bram finds that there is evil all around. But worst of all? He must put up with Wilde to defeat the evil chasing him.
Stoker’s Wilde is similar to last year’s Dracul. It tells the story that inspired Dracula and sheds light on Stoker’s early life. Both books are very in style and tone. Though it’s written in correspondence, Stoker’s Wilde is lighter reading with more modern language and less wordy. Stoker’s Wilde also focuses on a wider range of Stoker’s life and acquaintances. Though I didn’t like the story as much as Dracul, I found it an easier read.
The best part of the novel is the reference to other vampire pop culture. The book incorporates other vampire lore and gives it a base to stand on. My favorite was the reference to the morticians Wolfram and Hart. I didn’t like that it didn’t look into actual lore and why it existed. For example, there was no reference to why stake through the heart killed vampires. This was actually done by people when they dug up bodies that looked bloody. This wasn’t to kill them but to pin them to the ground and keep them from rising. This is why the legend exists.
Overall, Stoker’s Wilde was a fun read and encouraged me to read up more about Stoker’s time at the theater.
Publication Date: May 9, 2019

Bonus Review: Dracul

Dracul is written in the same style as the original title but adds some light to how Bram Stoker was inspired for Dracula.
Bram Stoker was a sickly youth. But everything changed when Nana Ellen arrives. At draculdeath’s door, Bram is cured by Nana Ellen and inspires a search into the woman herself and how she healed him. With his sister and brother, Bram travels a strange path that leads him to Dracul and the world of vampires.
The prose style matches that of the original Stoker title. This means there is superfluous wording and a tendency to over-describe each moment and place. This makes the exposition difficult to get into. Once the action starts happening, it easier to follow along as the tension rises perfectly.
I enjoyed the novel’s slant: explaining where Bram’s ideas came from. According to additional information included in the book, some things were based on Stoker’s notes as well as research into his own lives. In fact, it seems many characters are based on real people outside the family.
Overall, this is a wonderful tale that fits into the Dracula lore beautifully. I enjoyed the actual story here than in the spiritual counterpart Stoker’s Wilde. While that one was an easier read, its story was overly whimsical and not very deep.

Publication Date: October 2, 2018

I received free copies of these books for review. All opinions are my own.

The Night Window

The Night Window satisfyingly concludes Jane Hawk’s story. While the lead up is not overly exciting, the ending is well done.
Jane has been fighting against the Arcadians, a techno-terrorist group who had her husband killed. On the run, she is trying to prove the depth of the conspiracy that has overtaken the United States and, eventually, the world. Finally, she has what she needs to bring them down; the data regarding who is an Arcadian and who is on the Hamlet (kill) List.night window
The Night Window is a huge improvement over the last two books in the series. Jane is moving forward and actually getting somewhere. This material isn’t filler; it’s actually part of the story. That being said, Koontz does create an adjacent story that becomes the stereotypical man-hunting-man quest that just drags down the pacing. The beginning of this sub-story started off wonderfully; it was an imaginative and fun way to recap what had happened in the last four books. But then it dragged out into a story that didn’t have any impact on the overall arc of the novel.
The ending is perfect. The conclusion makes sense and is the only way the situation could have been countered. While there is plenty of blood and violence, the solution is cerebral and very satisfying using the Arcadian’s tech against them.
I wish the cast of characters has been better integrated. There are characters I really liked that only got a one sentence write-off in this book. Unlike Odd Thomas, this series makes no sense as to why it suddenly dumps characters that were helping her. This is unfortunate; I was rather invested in them.
The Night Window ends Jane’s saga and ends it well. It was about time as the third and fourth entries in the entries were meandering and underwhelming. While I enjoyed the first two novels and was investing in Jane, Dean Koontz overreached and drew out her story for too long.
Publication Date: May 14
I received an ARC from the publisher; all opinions are my own.

Under the Moon: A Catwoman Tale

Ink_UMCTW_1_FINAL_COV_HR_no cropsUnder the Moon: A Catwoman Story details the dark life of Selena Kyle. After dealing with abuse and poverty, Selena finds herself having to take care of her own interest.
Selena doesn’t feel like she belongs anywhere. At home, her mother lives with a man who hits her mother and her. At school, she is outcast, friends only with those on the fringe. She also has a crush on Bruce Wayne, who is just as cruel to her as the others. After her stepfather causes her cat to die, Selena takes off and meets with a group of teens who give her a place to belong and excitement (the good kind).
I wasn’t big on how the book was broken in tiny sections. While there is a lot of ground to cover, nothing ever goes too deep. Though the book allows us to empathize with Selena, I don’t feel we ever got to truly see her deal with her emotions. the story jumps from plot point to plot point. It did make me cry at one point though as I am a cat girl myself.
Weirdly, enough, I had the opposite problem with Under the Moon that I did with Mera: Tidebreaker. Whereas the romantic story there fit with the themes, Bruce’s inclusion Ink_UMCTW_1_FINAL_INT_HR_no crops-145 here did nothing but make me angry. In fact, readers are supposed to see Bruce as a nice guy; he is anything but. He can’t belittle someone around his friends and help them in private and have true, positive feelings for them. Here, Bruce was just like everyone else, and I did not root for her relationship with him. It is just a continuation of the patterns Selena is trying to break from.
I did like the art as well as the color scheme. Isaac Goodhart creates a lovely and expressive view of the world Selena lives in. The color scheme was atypical but worked perfectly for the piece. The moon shadow cast really drove home the title and feel of the story.
Overall, I enjoyed reading about Selena’s life and how she became the epic cat burglar of Batman fame. But it left a bad taste in my mouth in regards to Bruce Wayne.

 

Publication Date: May 7

I received an ARC for review; all opinions are my own. 

The East End

Publisher Summary

THE EAST END opens with Corey Halpern, a Hamptons local from a broken home who breaks into mansions at night for kicks. He likes the rush and admittedly, the escapism. One night just before Memorial Day weekend, he breaks into the wrong home at the wrong time: the Sheffield estate where he and his mother work. Under the cover of darkness, their boss Leo Sheffield — billionaire CEO, patriarch, and owner of the vast lakeside manor — arrives unexpectedly with his lover, Henry. After a shocking poolside accident leaves Henry dead, everything depends on Leo burying the truth. But unfortunately for him, Corey saw what happened and there are other eyes in the shadows.9780778308393_RHC_PRD

Hordes of family and guests are coming to the estate the next morning, including Leo’s surly wife, all expecting a lavish vacation weekend of poolside drinks, evening parties, and fireworks filling the sky. No one can know there’s a dead man in the woods, and there is no one Leo can turn to. With his very life on the line, everything will come down to a split-second decision. For all of the main players—Leo, Gina, and Corey alike—time is ticking down, and the world they’ve known is set to explode.

Told through multiple points of view, THE EAST END highlights the socio-economic divide in the Hamptons, but also how the basic human need for connection and trust can transcend class differences. Secrecy, obsession, and desperation dictate each character’s path. In a race against time, each critical moment holds life in the balance as Corey, Gina, and Leo approach a common breaking point. THE EAST END is a propulsive read, rich with character and atmosphere, and marks the emergence of a talented new voice in fiction.

 

Reader Review

The East End is neither well described nor summarized in its official blurb. This book isn’t really a thriller but a thoughtful look into the lives of both the rich and the poor in the Hamptons. How does one handle a closeted life if you are rich and must put on a good show? How does one handle the stress of teenage life without money and a good support system? How does one handle having children when you are stuck between a rock and a hard place? These are questions Jason Allen tries to answer in The East End.
Corey is poor and lives with his alcoholic mom and, until recently, her abusive ex. In an effort to control something in his miserable life, Corey sneaks into homes for a thrill. One night Corey sneaks into the wrong home. He finds himself overseeing an overdose of drugs that will not only tie him to his mom’s rich employer but one of the daughter’s friends as well. How each of the three deals with the death will dictate how their futures will turn out..
The novel spends a lot of time inside the character’s head. Allen spends a considerable amount of time going through their thought processes and reliving their history. There are bursts of action but because it’s so cerebral, it isn’t a typical thriller. I enjoyed seeing how this event was a coming of age story for Corey and that is where it is so powerful—not because of the suspense.
That being said, I really didn’t care much for Corey otherwise, and I didn’t like any of the other characters. The author seemed to be trying to get across that no one is perfect but the characters didn’t have enough good characteristics to balance. Corey’s mom tries to evolve but never does. Her chapters seem to just stretch the story out. I wasn’t invested in Angelina. While I felt for her family situation, her history soured her for me.
Where Corey’s chapters are the best thematically, it is the first few chapters of Leo‘sperspective that is the best mechanically. Allen does well with the erratic vibe of the character as he snorts and gulps his way to oblivion.
Overall, The East End doesn’t live up to the HR hype. It’s not a typical thriller and fails at trying to be one. When you look at what it is, a cerebral look into the variety of lives in the Hamptons, you’ll enjoy it more and truly understand the story the author is telling.

Publication Date: May 7

I received a book for review from the publisher all opinions are my own.e