Saturday, November 10, 2018

Giveaway: House of Ashes by Loretta Marion


House of Ashes: A Haunted Bluffs Mystery by Loretta Marion



Supernatural Mystery 1st in Series 
Crooked Lane Books (November 13, 2018)  
Hardcover, 336 pages 
ISBN-10: 1683318439  
ISBN-13: 978-1683318439  
Digital Details Coming Soon
 

A family patriarch’s dying proclamation, an enigmatic disappearance, and a century-old curse converge in the shadows of a majestic home on Cape Cod’s craggy coast.
Thirty-seven-year-old painter Cassandra Mitchell is fourth-generation to live in the majestic Battersea Bluffs, a brooding Queen Anne home originally built by her great-grandparents, Percy and Celeste Mitchell, and still standing despite tragedies that have swept the generations. Local lore has it that there was a curse placed on the family and the house is haunted, though opinions are divided on whether it's by malicious or benevolent spirits. Cassie believes the latter―but now she stands to lose her beloved home to mounting debt and the machinations of her dream-weaving ex-husband.

Salvation seems to arrive when a nomadic young couple wanders onto the property with the promise of companionship and much-needed help―until they vanish without a trace, leaving behind no clue to their identities. Cassie is devastated, but determined to discover what's happened to the young couple...even as digging into their disappearance starts to uncover family secrets of her own. Despite warnings from her childhood friend, now the local Chief of Police―as well as an FBI agent who pushes the boundaries of professionalism―Cassie can't help following the trail of clues (and eerie signals from the old house itself) to unravel the mystery. But can she do so before her family's dark curse destroys everything in its path?

About the Author

An author of fiction, Loretta Marion’s writing bridges the genres of mystery and suspense and women’s fiction, always with hints of romance and humor, sometimes delving into the psychological and paranormal. She creates strong but flawed and struggling characters as appealing as the rich atmospheric settings in which the stories take place.

Loretta is a true bibliophile and has loved reading and creating with words since she was a young girl. And that affection for the written word followed her like a shadow throughout her life as she put pen to paper crafting marketing and advertising copy, educational brochures, and newsletters. But her passion for writing fiction evolved from the unlikely world of hospice. As a volunteer, she set out to establish a Legacy Story program to honor and preserve the rich heritage of the fascinating people who were soon to leave this world. The meaningful experience inspired her to create her own interesting characters and stories. Her debut novel, The Fool's Truth, was a twisty and suspenseful mystery with whispers of romance. Her newest novel, HOUSE OF ASHES – A Haunted Bluffs Mystery, is the first in a series published by Crooked Lane Books.

Though born and raised in the Midwest, Loretta fell in love with New England and has made it the setting for much of her writing. When not whipping out words on her laptop, she is traveling, enjoying outdoor pursuits, or is curled up with a delicious new book. Loretta lives in Rhode Island with her husband, Geoffrey, and their beloved Mr. Peabody, a sweet, devoted and amusing “Corgador” (Corgi-Labrador cross). (www.LorettaMarion.com)


EXCERPT 1:
Eighty years ago ~ Whale Rock, Massachusetts ~ Cape Cod Bay Friday, December 13th

     Percival Mitchell balled up the tele gram and threw it into the blazing tavern fire. It had arrived that morning, but he’d yet to share the devastating news with his wife. He needed some Dutch courage before he found the words to tell Celeste that now the last of their three boys had been killed. “A shot of Old Crow, Lloyd,” he said to the barkeep, then downed it, glad for the punishing burn in his throat. He’d loved all his sons, but the youngest, Ambrose, had been most like him, with a love of the sea and a desire to see the world.  They’d struck a deal: Ambrose would enlist in the Navy, but after three years’ time he would return to Whale Rock and assume his rightful place at the helm of the family business. Yet only weeks later, while Ambrose was stationed in China on the USS Panay, there’d been a surprise attack by the Japanese on his ship. The attack was allegedly a mistake, and the USS Panay just an unfortunate target— but what consolation would that be to Celeste, who had already lost her other two sons? 

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Review: The Birthday by Carol Wyer

The Birthday (Detective Natalie Ward, Book #1)
by Carol Wyer
Release Date: September 27th 2018
2018 Bookouture
Kindle Edition; 304 Pages
ISBN: 978-1786815378
ASIN: B07F4BB3RV
Genre: Fiction / Mystery
Source: Review copy from publisher

4 / 5 Stars

Summary
When five-year-old Ava Sawyer goes missing from a birthday party at a local garden centre, the police are bewildered by the lack of leads. That is until two years later, when Ava's body is found and another little girl, Audrey Briggs, goes missing. Audrey also attended that party ...

Leading the investigation is Detective Natalie Ward. A mother of two teenagers, this case chills her to the bone, and is a disturbing reminder of the last job she worked on. One that ended very badly.

Natalie soon discovers that Ava's mother has some worrying gaps in her alibi and as she digs deeper, she's sure Ava's father is not telling the full story. And what did the owner of the garden centre Elsa see that day? Something that she's not telling Natalie ...

Just as Natalie is facing up to the grim possibility that Ava and Audrey were killed by someone close to home, another little girl from the party doesn't come home from her ballet lesson. Can Natalie find a way to stop this killer before more innocent lives are taken?


My Thoughts
The Birthday is the first book in the Natalie Ward series and I enjoyed it tremendously.  With an amazing amount of twists and turns, I had to work really hard trying to figure out who the culprit was, and I enjoyed the events and journey along the way.  I am a huge fan of this author and was happy to see a new series featuring a woman detective, one with two teenage children, working hard at keeping her marriage together yet dealing with a demanding job that keeps her away from her not quite so understanding family.  

I usually stay away from murder cases involving children, but having read books by this author before, I knew she would treat the material with sensitivity, and she definitely did.  Unfortunately, Natalie joins the force just as little Ava's body was discovered, after having been missing for two years, when a local construction company digs up her remains during an expansion.  Natalie was still recovering from her previous case which didn't go very well, so finding the remains of a little girl threw all of her guards she had built around her up in the air.  I really loved her character; she was approachable, but still tough as the lead detective, trying to balance a family life and work, with a husband who was suffering with a complex after being laid off from his own job.  Working with a team that actually gets along (quite refreshing), she put a lot of pressure on herself to find the killer before he struck again.  Her fear of failure kept her going day after day as she didn't want a repeat of the previous case, one of which we only get a glimpse.  

I have always liked this author's writing, and this book is no exception, gripping the reader right from the beginning.  Trying to figure out the killer was not my primary objective as I was too interested in Natalie's story, how she worked and how she interacted with her colleagues.  I was quite impressed with Natalie and I have to give the author kudos for creating a complete package character, one who is strong and intelligent, but is still flawed.  The book moved quickly from scene to scene, quite cohesively, and I definitely liked all of the members of the team.  

Verdict
The Birthday is a good start to this new series and I am looking forward to seeing what Detective Natalie is confronted with next.  As with any first book in a series, we have just been introduced to a variety of characters so I am looking forward to some character development and seeing where the author takes them as I enjoyed the people on Natalie's team and would love to see more of them. The story is fast-paced and well-structured with an interesting little story line about the killer.  Highly recommended. 

 
Sunday, November 4, 2018

Review & Giveaway: Drop Dead Ornaments by Lois Winston



Drop Dead Ornaments (An Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery Book 7)
by Lois Winston
Release Date: October 22nd 2018
2018 Self published
Kindle Edition; 209 Pages
ISBN: 978-1940795447
ASIN: B07GMZ2H4B
Genre: Fiction / Cozy Mystery
Source: Review copy from Great Escapes Book Tours

3.5 / 5 Stars

Summary
Anastasia Pollack’s son Alex is dating Sophie Lambert, the new kid in town. For their community service project, the high school seniors have chosen to raise money for the county food bank. Anastasia taps her craft industry contacts to donate materials for the students to make Christmas ornaments they’ll sell at the town’s annual Holiday Crafts Fair.

At the fair Anastasia meets Sophie’s father, Shane Lambert, who strikes her as a man with secrets. She also notices a woman eavesdropping on their conversation. Later that evening when the woman turns up dead, Sophie’s father is arrested for her murder.

Alex and Sophie beg Anastasia to find the real killer, but Anastasia has had her fill of dead bodies. She’s also not convinced of Shane’s innocence. Besides, she’s promised younger son Nick she’ll stop risking her life. But how can she say no to Alex? 


My Thoughts
Drop Dead Ornaments is the seventh book in the Anastasia Pollack Mystery Series and while it was a fun read, and I enjoyed it, I don't actually think it was the strongest book in the series.  This one pretty much picks up after the last book as Anastasia heads home from the hospital after her encounter with Virginia Owens and finds a bunch of teenagers in her house decorating tree ornaments.  Anastasia's son is dating Sophie, one of the teens creating ornaments for charity, which is how Anastasia and company meet the central figures involved in this book and the events that occur. Sophie's dad is the one who is arrested for murder and Anastasia wanted to help her son and his new girlfriend so she quietly started investigating despite wanting to stay uninvolved.  While I wasn't crazy about the mystery itself, I do have to agree with Anastasia's reasons for getting involved as I would have felt the same way if it was my son and his girlfriend.

The book is a light-hearted cozy mystery with lots of energy and definitely lots of action and interaction between characters.  Because I have read all the previous books, I was familiar with the backstories, but I am not sure if a reader should actually start with this one as you might be missing quite a bit of the back stories.  The author does a great job of filling you in on Anastasia's current situation and highlighting some of what is going on in her life, but there is important stuff missing.  Anastasia was still struggling with commitment issues, and her sons were finally dealing with their anger issues towards their dad, but if you haven't read the previous books, the full reasons for all of that might not be fully clear.  It also makes it difficult to fully appreciate how far Anastasia has come since the first book and her relationship with Zack is one of the things I enjoy reading about in this series.  I love her inner demons about whether Zack is really a spy or not, and now I am starting to wonder myself.  There is a secret part of me that hopes he is and his story line will make an appearance in future books.  And I am still not crazy about her mother-in-law and would love to see her gone from the books, but in a spectacular way.  I don't even find her character interesting, to say the least.  Ira though, is interesting, and I wonder what the author has in store for him.

In this book we sort of have two mysteries, both of which are rather weak in my opinion, but there you have it.  There is the murder that involved Shane, Sophie's father, and while I understood Sophie's anger, I was not impressed with her behaviour as she sounded like a brat, even after the murder was sort of, kind of, solved.  To be honest, there really wasn't a whole lot of investigating around the murder, and I was somewhat disappointed at how everything turned out, and the result was not really satisfying.  I like my mystery stories to have a bit more meat to them and this one just...didn't.  The other mystery involved Lucille, the mother-in-law, and her disappearance.  Not really interesting in my book.  And I'm not sure how it fit into the story.  Luckily, the engaging characters and the witty dialogue saved the book.  I enjoyed their antics, even if I wasn't crazy about the mystery story line and was looking for more, and I have always enjoyed their interactions. The pacing of the book was quick and I do have to admit the author went out of her way to try to have some twists and turns to engage the reader.  

Verdict
Drop Dead Ornaments had its usual cast of engaging characters and lively dialogue as well as some interesting moments, but for me, the mystery portion of the book was lacking.  I like it when there is a more active investigation and while I liked the repartee between Anastasia and the cops, there really wasn't much of a mystery with which to work, and it was kind of pushing the edge of believability when Shane didn't even recognize the person who died because they had changed that much.  I am willing to push the boundaries, but only so much.  However, that being said, I loved the other books a lot so I do highly recommend you give this series a try, and even if this book wasn't the strongest book in it, it was still a fun read.  


Giveaway


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Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Review: Killed on Blueberry Hill by Sharon Farrow

Killed on Blueberry Hill (A Berry Basket Mystery, Book #3)
by Sharon Farrow
Release Date: October 30th 2018
2018 Kensington
ARC Paperback Edition
ISBN: 978-1496704900
ASIN: B079KSR4VL
Genre: Fiction / Cozy Mystery
Source: Review copy from author

5 / 5 Stars

Summary
The Blueberry Blow Out festival has begun and it's time for Marlee Jacob, owner of The Berry Basket, to shine. Unfortunately it's also bringing out the worst in her fiance Ryan Zeller. Ryan's rivalry with Porter Gale, owner of Blueberry Hill Farm, spills over into a very public and very ugly fight. And after they compete in the pie-eating contest and a raucous tug of war, their orchard blood feud takes a deadly turn . . .

The death of the king of Blueberry Hill is a shock but not too surprising--he was a diabetic whose last pig out meal was deliciously fatal. But when authorities discover that someone tampered with Porter's insulin, a tragic accident is looking like murder--and Ryan is the key ingredient. Now Marlee's investigation to clear his name is taking her deep into the Gale family secrets, and she's being shadowed every step of the way by a killer whose sweet revenge is just beginning . . .
Includes Berry Recipes!


My Thoughts
Killed on Blueberry Hill is the third installment in the A Berry Basket Mystery series and so far, is my favourite.  In this one, Marlee and the gang are dealing with another festival, this one being the Blueberry Blow Out, and it seemed to be affecting her fiance Ryan in a very negative way.  I wasn't overly fond of him before, but right from the beginning he drove me nuts with his commanding ways and his superior attitude.  It didn't help matters that the festival featured blueberry competitions, and Ryan's family and their arch-nemesis, Porter Gale, were at the center of everything.  For that matter, the first scene in the book was a pie-eating contest in which Marlee was roped and the pressure was on for her to win.  Having seen a few pie-eating contests myself, they are quite comical, and I enjoyed the author's descriptions of the scene.  It definitely set up this book for quite a ride, and I enjoyed it tremendously.

Generally, I read cozy mysteries as a break between heavier fantasy tomes and the historical novels of which I am so fond.  They tend to be lighter in tone and often can be quite hilarious, something desperately needed.  While the novel definitely dealt with some serious undertones, there was a lighter touch which made it easy to read and the characters are so likeable that you just can't help but laugh at their antics.  I love Marlee and how she was able to see right through what people were saying.  Yes, she could be a bit naive, certainly when it came to Ryan, but he was quite manipulative and deceptive, anyone would have missed the signs too.  I liked how she listened to her emotions and her little inner voice saying something was seriously wrong and didn't rush headlong into stupid things and situations.  She also didn't condescend those professionals looking into the murder and didn't go out of her way to search for clues.  The only reason she was trying to help was because the situation got personal, but she didn't go up to people and ask them all sorts of weird questions with that person answering them as if that was perfectly normal.  Things just seemed to happen naturally which kept the flow of the book moving nicely and kept Marlee moving and associating with some characters from previous books that I wanted her to meet.  So glad she did so I could find out what was happening with them. And if you love parrots, well, there's one in here too; Minnie is a hoot.

The events moved along quite quickly, with quite a few twists and turns, and I have to admit I didn't quite figure out everything in the end which kind of surprised me, as I thought I knew who the murderer was, but I was only partly right.  I love that I got surprised, and looking back, I realized the clues were there but I missed them.  Awesome when that happens.  I actually read the book in one sitting as I couldn't put it down, staying up way too late.  There were so many interesting themes running through this book that it was quite fascinating: relationships, theft, drug use, addiction, ambition, and secrets. Even when the murderer was discovered, there was so much more to the story.  What I really liked though, is how everything was not quite wrapped up as nicely as most books, where we might have to wait until the next book to really see how things ended and I am okay with that. In the real world, that's how it works too.

Verdict
Killed on Blueberry Hill was a really interesting novel and I think anyone who enjoys cozy mysteries will love this book.  Even though it's the third book of the series, you could read it as a stand-alone as the author does a great job filling in some background information without giving away too much from previous books.  I have read the previous books and didn't find it repetitive at all.  It also helps if you love blueberries as there are so many foods mentioned with berries in them, you will probably be salivating.  Luckily, the book comes with some blueberry recipes for you to try.  Enjoy!! 
 
Monday, October 29, 2018

Review: Dracul by Dacre Stoker & J.D. Barker

Dracul
by Dacre Stoker & J.D. Barker
Release Date: October 2nd 2018
2018 Putnam
Kindle Edition; 512 Pages
ISBN: 978-0735219366
ASIN: B079WNXNXS
Genre: Fiction / Historical / Horror
Source: Review copy from publisher

5 / 5 Stars

Summary
It is 1868, and a twenty-one-year-old Bram Stoker waits in a desolate tower to face an indescribable evil. Armed only with crucifixes, holy water, and a rifle, he prays to survive a single night, the longest of his life. Desperate to record what he has witnessed, Bram scribbles down the events that led him here...

A sickly child, Bram spent his early days bedridden in his parents' Dublin home, tended to by his caretaker, a young woman named Ellen Crone. When a string of strange deaths occur in a nearby town, Bram and his sister Matilda detect a pattern of bizarre behavior by Ellen -- a mystery that deepens chillingly until Ellen vanishes suddenly from their lives. Years later, Matilda returns from studying in Paris to tell Bram the news that she has seen Ellen -- and that the nightmare they've thought long ended is only beginning.


My Thoughts 
As a kid, Dracula was the first real horror book that I read at eight years old and for years I wondered where and how he would have been inspired to write such a thing.  What you have here is a prequel, written by a descendant of Bram Stoker no less, told in multiple POVs, one of which is Bram Stoker himself, both as a child and as an adult, in order to tell us what inspired the events in his signature novel, Dracula. I have to say I was very reluctant to read this as I remember the magic of Dracula, but I am SO GLAD I DID.  This story is written using Bram Stoker's original papers as the first 100 pages of his original Dracula were removed from the story and although no one is sure what was actually in those pages, they did use his original journals and other papers to create this story.  So the basics of this story do lie within Bram Stoker's original work and I loved learning that fact.

This is definitely a fine piece of gothic literature and I enjoyed it tremendously.  Although told in multiple POVs, the one I preferred was Bram's, and we first meet him as a child of seven years old suffering from a disease that has kept him bed-ridden for most of his young life.  The story is set in Ireland, where Bram and his family lived, and the authors tried to remain as true to his original background as possible,  I kept looking up facts on the Internet as I didn't really know a lot about Bram Stoker's life before reading this and almost all of the incidents that surrounded his family had been documented.  I loved all of the characters and enjoyed reading about them and although I liked Bram's POV the best, the others, mainly his sister and later his older brother, were quite interesting as well.  I kept making comparisons to the original Dracula (I couldn't help myself) and the links between this novel and the original were amazing.  

I have always loved Barker's writing, which is really what drew me to this novel, and although I wasn't sure about Stoker, the two together wrote one amazing book.  I love gothic novels and when well done, are quite fascinating.  The atmosphere and the setting in this novel raises it to a whole new level, capturing the reader and never letting go until the end.  I was actually disappointed when I got to the end as I didn't want to stop reading.  The tale is superb and the build-up is fantastic.  I could almost see the interwoven laces of the tale being woven throughout the novel as I read and I have nothing but admiration for the authors who could pull off something like this.   I can't even imagine what the editing process would have been like.  Throughout the story there is this chill that is woven throughout the narrative that you can feel but can't quite put a finger on which is perfect for gothic literature.  It's in the atmosphere, the characters, their actions, the weather, their secrets, their words, all woven together to create a suspense that makes you wonder what will actually happen.  When you have scenes in run-down old castles, in dark forests, and in morgues, you are being set up for something quite interesting.  I loved it all!

Verdict
Dracul is one of those novels that succeeded on every level. Bram is one precocious child who is very curious about the world and wants answers to questions about things he doesn't understand.  So faced with a mysterious nanny who does mysterious things, he set out to discover her secret, only discovering far more that he bargained for, which shaped his life and his future.  The authors did a great job with Bram and the other characters, and you can see his progression throughout the story, where he would get his ideas for his future works of literature.  The story was impressively strong, kept me enthralled throughout and I began to wonder what was fact and what was fiction.  Luckily, the authors sorted that out in the end in the Author's Note, but even there much can be left to speculation.  I liked how the novel was written from different POVs as well as through the use of journals and letters as it all flowed seamlessly together.  I have to give credit to both of these authors for creating something that really remained true to the original work, and I highly recommend it to anyone who loved Dracula as much as I did.



Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Child of Love and Water by D.K. Marley

Child of Love and Water by D.K. Marley

Publication Date: October 19, 2018 The White Rabbit Publishing eBook; 291 Pages
Genre: Historical Fiction

The year is 1722. A child is born on the isolated island of Ospo off the Georgia coast. In the midst of General Oglethorpe's vision for this new land, and the emerging townships of Frederica and Savannah, four lives entwine together on this island like the woven fronds in a sea-grass basket - the orphaned Irish girl born free of hate or prejudice, a war-ravaged British soldier seeking forgiveness and absolution, a runaway Gullah slave girl desperate for a word of kindness on the wind, and a Creek Indian warrior searching for answers about this intrusion onto his homeland. What they learn from this wild innocent girl, and from each other, will change their lives forever. A new birth, a new country, and the elements - Water, Wind, Fire, and Earth - entwine to teach one thing: Love conquers all. Love sees beyond borders. There is no ignorance in love.

Available on Amazon

About the Author

D. K. Marley is a historical fiction writer specializing in Shakespearean themes. Her grandmother, an English Literature teacher, gave her a volume of Shakespeare's plays when she was eleven, inspiring DK to delve further into the rich Elizabethan language. Eleven years ago she began the research leading to the publication of her first novel "Blood and Ink," an epic tale of lost dreams, spurned love, jealousy and deception in Tudor England as the two men, William Shakespeare and Kit Marlowe, fight for one name and the famous works now known as the Shakespeare Folio.She is an avid Shakespearean / Marlowan, a member of the Marlowe Society, the Shakespeare Fellowship and a signer of the Declaration of Intent for the Shakespeare Authorship Debate. She has traveled to England three times for intensive research and debate workshops, and is a graduate of the intense training workshop "The Writer's Retreat Workshop" founded by Gary Provost and hosted by Jason Sitzes.She lives in Georgia with her husband and a Scottish Terriers named Maggie and Buster. For more information, please visit D.K. Marley's website. You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Goodreads.

Book Blast Schedule

Friday, October 19 Passages to the Past  
Saturday, October 20 A Darn Good Read Donna's Book Blog  
Monday, October 22 A Book Geek  
Tuesday, October 23 Curling up by the Fire
Wednesday, October 24 Bri's Book Nook
Thursday, October 25 Pursuing Stacie
Friday, October 26 The Book Junkie Reads What Is That Book About View from the Birdhouse

Monday, October 29 Book Nerd Clarissa Reads it All
 

Monday, October 22, 2018

Review: The Christmas Sisters by Sarah Morgan

The Christmas Sisters
by Sarah Morgan
Release Date: September 25th 2018
2018 HQN Books
Kindle Edition; 416 Pages
ISBN: 978-1335946478
ASIN: B0787NYS3K
Genre: Fiction / Contemporary
Source: Review copy from publisher

4.5 / 5 Stars

Summary
In the snowy Highlands of Scotland, Suzanne McBride is dreaming of the perfect cozy Christmas. Her three adopted daughters are coming home for the holidays and she can’t wait to see them. But tensions are running high…

Workaholic Hannah knows she can’t avoid spending the holidays with her family two years in a row. But it’s not the weight of their expectations that’s panicking her—it’s the life-changing secret she’s hiding. Stay-at-home mom Beth is having a personal crisis. All she wants for Christmas is time to decide if she’s ready to return to work—seeing everyone was supposed to help her stress levels, not increase them! Posy isn’t sure she’s living her best life, but with her parents depending on her, making a change seems risky. But not as risky as falling for gorgeous new neighbor Luke…

As Suzanne’s dreams of the perfect McBride Christmas unravel, she must rely on the magic of the season to bring her daughters together. But will this new togetherness teach the sisters that their close-knit bond is strong enough to withstand anything—including a family Christmas?


My Thoughts
The Christmas Sisters is one those warm Christmas stories that you just can help but love. Drawn to the story just by the words "snowy Highlands of Scotland" myself, I couldn't wait to be treated to large fires, hot chocolate, cozy nights, and of course, the snow storms. It is what drew me to this book in the first place and I wasn't disappointed at all.  Basically, it's an escapist story for me, far different from the usual fare I read, but Sarah Morgan is so good at writing escapist stories that just make you want to read another one and another one.  Take family trauma, sisters who love each other but struggle to really understand one another, an adoptive mother with some secrets, and a location that is just made for Christmas, and you have a story just waiting to be told. Curling up in from the fire on a rainy day and reading this was just an added bonus.

For twenty-five years, the family has avoided discussing what really happened the night the girls' parents died in an ice climbing accident on Mount Rainier just days before Christmas.  However, the tragedy left scars on all three of the girls and on Suzanne, the woman who survived the avalanche and who took in the girls after the accident.  Coming together this Christmas would set off a chain of events that would force everyone to look at past events and confront their fears and what actually happened that night and afterwards.  I don't want to say more as it would spoil the story but I loved how it all came together and how it was all revealed.  First of all, you have Suzanne, suffering from nightmares all these years of the event, trying to block it all out and raise the girls the best to her ability.  Hannah's development is the one I loved the most as she learned to show emotion and not always be so perfect all of the time; I thought the author dealt with her character the best of them all.  Beth, wanting to go back to work but taking a path that was not greatly conducive to her or her family; watching her struggle through this and seeing her husband support her was wonderful.  And then there was Posy, who never really left home, but who was looking for adventures of her own and was afraid to reveal her plans to her family.  Having two sisters of my own, I could relate to a lot of the scenarios that were going on in this story, even laughing out loud a few times as I could picture it in my own house so easily.  

When Suzanne came down with a nasty flu right before Christmas, it was up to the girls to pick up the tasks and try to keep Christmas from flying apart.  Through all of the commotion, the girls were able to discuss their lives and work through some of their issues and really talk for the first time in ages.  I enjoyed the humour and witty situations that occurred throughout these discussions, especially the scenes with Hannah and her nieces, so fun; the aftermath and her sister's reaction to some of the things her sisters did with her kids was fun too as I remember my own grand-father being like that and telling everyone to relax.  It brought back a lot of my own memories and the fun times I had at my grandparents when I was young.

Verdict
The Christmas Sisters was an engaging story that was a bit deceptive in its presentation.  While presenting as a fun Christmas story, there were deeper elements that were addressed in this book like acceptance, forgiveness,, communicating, and embracing the future.  The writing just draws you in, makes you feel like part of the family, and within the plot, are many unexpected subplots that I enjoyed tremendously, all of which flowed together at the end.  I have always enjoyed Sarah Morgan's books, and this one is no exception.  If you are looking for a fun, engaging Christmas read, then I highly recommend this one.
Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Review: Storm Glass by Jeff Wheeler

Storm Glass (Harbinger, Book #1)
by Jeff Wheeler
Release Date: June 19th 2018
2018 47North
Kindle Edition; 353 Pages
ISBN: 978-1503902329
ASIN: B077D62HN7
Genre: Fiction / Fantasy
Source: Review copy from publisher

4 / 5 Stars

Summary

Cettie Pratt is a waif doomed to the world below, until an admiral attempts to adopt her. But in her new home in the clouds, not everyone treats her as one of the family.

Sera Fitzempress is a princess born into power. She yearns to meet the orphan girl she has heard so much about, but her father deems the girl unworthy of his daughter’s curiosity.

Neither girl feels that she belongs. Each seeks to break free of imposed rules. Now, as Cettie dreams of living above and as Sera is drawn to the world below, they will follow the paths of their own choosing.
But both girls will be needed for the coming storm that threatens to overturn both their worlds.

My Thoughts
Storm Glass is the first novel is the Harbinger series, a planned five book series, and I really enjoyed it. The author has mentioned in some of his posts that he tried to create a more Dickensian world in this novel, and I think he has succeeded quite well.  What you have are the incredibly wealthy living on these suspended cities using some type of magic called the 'mysteries', while the rest of the population live in "The Fells', cities felled by incredible pollution and disease whereby most children don't survive to adulthood.  The entire world-building was quite incredible and I enjoyed it tremendously.

I am very familiar with Jeff Wheeler's work and he is very fastidious when it comes to world-building, often leaving the development of his characters and story until later books.  That's not to say there isn't any development in the first books of his series, it just doesn't seem to be a priority and I am okay with that as the world development is so great.  What you get are bits and pieces at a time and it is up to you to put them all together and that is something that I really like.  I can't stand it when an author goes on and on about stuff as if you can't figure things out on your own.  That being said, having read the Covenant of Muirwood series helped as well as I was familiar with certain things that I think readers who have not read those books might struggle with a bit.

The story is told in alternating story lines, one from Sera's and one from Cettie's.  I liked both of these characters, for different reasons, but I really loved their independence and their spunk.  Even though oth of these girls had difficulties in their lives, they kept plugging on and kept fighting.  Sera, the heir to the throne, struggled against a jealous father who wanted to be the only heir to the throne and saw Sera as a threat, keeping her a prisoner.  Cettie, raised in 'The Fells' and brought to the sky to live with an admiral's family, lived in constant fear of being sent back through no fault of her own.  Although these girls do not actually meet in this story, you know they eventually will, and the how and why was its own anticipation.  

Even though the character development was not overly strong, there was enough there to get a good sense of them; there was a great variety and I liked all of them, even the quirky and odd ones.  You even met a few odd ones for a few minutes knowing they will probably play greater roles in future books and I can't wait to see how some of those secondary plot lines will unfold.  There was a lot of interesting subplots going on and you really had to pay attention to catch them all.

The author writes with a light, engaging manner that quickly draws you in; I pretty much read the whole book in one sitting.  I've learned as I've read his books not to discount any trivial detail as it usually means something later on so I pay close attention to everything now. 

Verdict
Storm Glass is a great entry to a new series and I am so glad I had the chance to read this.  The world-building was very interesting and I am so glad there is a connection to previous series.  I enjoyed the characters and look forward to seeing how they develop and what they do.  Another intricately woven book, and highly recommended!