Thursday, June 24, 2021

Review: The Last Windwitch by Jennifer Adam

by Jennifer Adam
Release Date: April 13th 2021
2021 HarperCollins
Kindle Edition; 448 Pages
ISBN: 978-0062981302
Audiobook: B08LQX74HK
Genre: Fiction / Juvenile / Fantasy
Source: Review copy from publisher

4 / 5 Stars

Brida is content in her small village of Oak Hollow. There, she’s plenty occupied trying to convince her fickle magic to actually do what it’s meant to in her work as a hedgewitch’s apprentice—until she accidentally catches the attention of the wicked queen.

On the run from the queen’s huntsman and her all-seeing Crow spies, Brida discovers the truth about her family, her magic, and who she is destined to be—and that she may hold the power to defeating the wicked queen and setting the kingdom right again.
My Thoughts
The Last Windwitch was an enjoyable middle-grade fantasy that introduces us to a young hedgewitch apprentice named Brida, who, although quite comfortable with her life, has a million questions about the world in which she lives as she tries to master a magic system that just doesn't seem to quite work the way she wants.   I thought the story was very well-developed and enjoyed the magic system in this tale. And I have to say, the cover page is quite beautiful as well.

I really enjoyed Brida as a main character.  Although naturally inquisitive, which sometimes got her into trouble, she was kind, loyal, smart, and very capable, all qualities that would definitely appeal to younger readers.  She is also very curious, and you know that that curiosity will take her to places she should not go and to see things she should probably not see, which is exactly what happened.  I thought the author allowed Brida's character to grow and develop throughout the story in a way that was interesting, but also felt very realistic; never for a moment did the author forget that Brida was only twelve years old, something I appreciated.

The supporting characters were also a lot of fun, but I took a special liking to Hugh and company. Brida meets a lot of people during her 'quest', and I liked that the characters weren't as they seemed at the beginning, being a lot more complex, with their own stories to tell.  And I liked how Brida didn't immediately classify everyone into bad and good, but took the time to understand what was happening to them, even to those who were hunting her down.  

The story itself was quite engaging, and I pretty much finished it in one sitting.  It does start a bit slowly, but that didn't affect the overall story as it set things up nicely for what was to come and it allows the reader to empathize with the characters and their lives.  Once it takes off though, it doesn't let up until the end, with an ending I loved, with one little twist I wasn't expecting but thought was perfect for the book.  

The writing style itself was captivating, and even as an adult reader, I found myself immersed and absorbed by the characters and the events.  I even found myself reading slower so I could picture the world in my mind. The descriptions of the storm horses probably captured my heart the most though. As a kid, I would have loved that concept.  

The Last Windwitch was an engaging middle-grade novel that will appeal to anyone who loves a story about secrets, magic, family, loyalty, and hope.  I thought the characters were delightful and the author definitely spent time developing them as much as the story.  There are some important themes running through this book that can be explored as well.  If you enjoy middle-grade fantasy, then I highly recommend you add this to your reading list.  I am really hoping for a sequel. 

Tuesday, June 22, 2021

Review: Relentless by Mark Greaney

by Mark Greaney
Release Date: February 16th 2021
2021 Berkley
Kindle & Audiobook Editions; 496 Pages
ISBN: 978-0593098950
Audiobook: B08HDN9JVQ
Genre: Fiction / Thriller
Source: Review copy from publisher
4.5/5 Stars
Intelligence operatives around the world are disappearing. When a missing American agent re- appears in Venezuela, Court Gentry, the Gray Man, is dispatched to bring him in, but a team of assassins has other ideas. Court escapes with his life and a vital piece of intelligence.

Meanwhile, CIA agent Zoya Zakharova is in Berlin. Her mission: to infiltrate a private intelligence firm with some alarming connections. The closer she gets to answers, the less likely she is to get out alive.

Court and Zoya are just two pieces on this international chessboard, and they're about to discover one undeniable truth--sometimes capturing a king requires sacrificing some pawns.
My Thoughts
Relentless is the tenth book in the Gray Man series, and if I thought this series was going to lose momentum at some point, this book definitely proved me wrong by the fifth chapter.  I don't know how he does it, or where he gets his ideas, but this book was intricately plotted; there was so much going on you needed to pay attention to everything.
* Some small spoilers, but only if you have not read the previous entry in the series.* 
I really enjoy the characters in this series, including Court, Zoya, Hanley, and Zack.  I do read in fear sometimes, that one of them is going to die, but it doesn't stop me from reading these books.  What I particularly enjoy about these stories are the vulnerabilities of the characters.  Court is not afraid to admit that someone else is better at something and allows that person to take the lead, if necessary.  As we know, Court was injured quite badly in the previous book, but Matt is desperate for his help so sends him out in the field injured. I like how the book shows his limitations due to his injuries and the interactions between Court and the doctor as she makes him realize he is not a robot, but a human with limitations.  And it is this human side that definitely draws me to this series as much as the action.
And there was plenty of action.  This one was more team-oriented rather than solo-oriented, and I am definitely at a loss as to which one I like better.  All of the agents were in play in Berlin, and because of this, secondary story lines also came into play which could be a bit confusing if you are not familiar with previous story arcs, although the author described the situations enough for a newbie reader to at least grasp what was happening.   
And the plot was relentless, using a term used frequently in the book.  It pretty much exploded from the beginning and didn't let up until the end, with twists and turns where you thought this was happening, then realized it was actually this happening.  So many underlying threads.  And this is brilliant writing by the author who managed to pull all those threads together.  And with one story arc sort of finished in this book, another one is now set up to get us going for future books. And this is where this author excels as he has turned everything upside down and basically changed the rules of the established order.  I don't think I was prepared for what happened at the end.  
If I have one criticism about this book, it has to do with Suzanne Brewer.  For a bunch of brilliant people, and a bunch of super spies/assassins/agents, they really have no idea what she is up to?  This has been a story line that has been building for a while, and I would love to see it come to fruition at some point, hopefully with her dumped on her ass.

Relentless was a great addition to the Gray Man series.  With the team together, there was an additional layer of intrigue added that I particularly enjoyed.  And then I learned that Netflix was making a film based on the first book in this series starring Chris Evans and Ryan Gosling (Court) and I was thrilled. This should increase exposure to the series, not that it needs it, but any attention will hopefully allow Mark the luxury of continuing this great series.  For now, I am looking forward to the next book in the series, Sierra Six, when it releases in February 2022. 

Monday, June 21, 2021

Review: Amari and the Night Brothers by B.B. Alston

by B.B. Alston
Release Date: January 19th 2021
2021 Balzer + Bray
Kindle & Audiobook Editions; 416 Pages
ISBN: 978-0062975164
Audiobook: B087RTHPSC
Genre: Fiction/Juvenile/Fantasy
Source: Review copy from publisher
4.5/5 Stars
Quinton Peters was the golden boy of the Rosewood low-income housing projects, receiving full scholarship offers to two different Ivy League schools. When he mysteriously goes missing, his little sister, 13-year-old Amari Peters, can’t understand why it’s not a bigger deal. Why isn’t his story all over the news? And why do the police automatically assume he was into something illegal?

Then Amari discovers a ticking briefcase in her brother’s old closet. A briefcase meant for her eyes only. There was far more to Quinton, it seems, than she ever knew. He’s left her a nomination for a summer tryout at the secretive Bureau of Supernatural Affairs. Amari is certain the answer to finding out what happened to him lies somewhere inside, if only she can get her head around the idea of mermaids, dwarves, yetis and magicians all being real things, something she has to instantly confront when she is given a weredragon as a roommate. 

My Thoughts
Amari and the Night Brothers was a fantastic juvenile fiction fantasy book, probably one of the best ones I've read so far this year.  I ended up with both an audiobook and a kindle edition to review, but ended up listening to the story as the narrator was too good to put down.  I even worked on my garden for much longer than I intended so I could continue listening to the story.  This book is pretty much why I still indulge in juvenile/middle grade fiction; secrets, fantasy, magic, friendship, and lots of competition type stuff that I would have loved as a kid, and still enjoy as an adult.

Amari is a wonderful character; strong, determined, gutsy, and vulnerable.  I loved her little sarcastic comments to herself throughout the book and laughed out loud a couple of times as I was listening.  And even though she was determined, especially when it came to searching for her missing brother, there was a vulnerability to her as well.  She had trouble fitting in with those around her and always seemed to be on he outs with other students which made her a bit defensive in her relationships.  It was a treat watching her grow and develop throughout the story and I thought the author did a fabulous job with her character development.  

Several strong themes running through this story revolved around friendship and family.  I liked how the author developed Amari's friendship with her roommate and how they encouraged each other to develop their talents and were so complimentary of each other.  Elsie was a wonderful character and I am looking forward to learning more about her in the next book.  Family was also a strong value in this book as well, and I like how Amari was encouraged to search for her brother and it was seen as am important thing even if she was too young to get involved.

The pacing of the book was excellent: there was enough action interspersed with other happenings to keep you interested without going overboard.  The fast-paced plot allowed the action to continue, but at a pace where the character development didn't suffer.  The twists and turns kept me interested and intrigued; however, I'm not quite sure I liked one certain twist, even though I was expecting it, which is why I didn't give it the five stars I was going to originally.  

Amari and the Night Brothers was an engaging and twisty read, full of fun characters and a main character who was sassy and determined.  The pacing moved rather quickly, and the fantasy elements were imaginative and fun.  I really do think a lot of young girls will identify with this book.  I was quite happy to hear two more books have been announced in this series, the next one will be published next year. In the meantime, if you haven't yet picked this up, get on out there!


Monday, June 14, 2021

Review: American Demon by Kim Harrison

by Kim Harrison
Release Date: June 16th 2020
2020 ACE
Kindle Edition; 473 Pages
ISBN: 978-0593101414
Genre: Fiction / Urban Fantasy
Source: Review copy from publisher
3 / 5 Stars
What happens after you've saved the world? Well, if you're Rachel Mariana Morgan, witch-born demon, you quickly discover that something might have gone just a little bit wrong. That the very same acts you and your friends took to forge new powers may have released something bound by the old. With a rash of zombies, some strange new murders, and an exceedingly mysterious new demon in town, it will take everything Rachel has to counter this new threat to the world--and it may demand the sacrifice of what she holds most dear.
My Thoughts
American Demon is the next entry the The Hollows, and while I was excited to learn there would be another entry in this series, it did take a while for me to wrap my head around that fact as it was made pretty clear the last book would be that last book in the series and I was not really prepared for this.  And then when I did start it, I was somewhat disappointed and couldn't get into it.  It's not that I didn't remember anything from the previous books and I thought the author did a great job at explaining the important information in such a way that I wouldn't have to re-read previous books, the whole atmosphere just, in a way I can't explain.  It actually took me three tries to finish this, and this has never happened with a Rachel Morgan book. Ok, yes, I was a bit disappointed with the last book in the series, but that was for different reasons.  
First of all, while I love Rachel, this Rachel drove me nuts.  When did she lose her spine and her will and her spunk....well, I think you get it.  She spent so much time agonizing over whether Trent really loved her as well as second-guessing all of her decisions that I was ready to scream.  The tough-as-nails Rachel was nowhere in sight and I really, really missed her.  Every time something went south on her, she would look to others to see what she should do rather than take decisive action, afraid of creating bad publicity for Trent and his evil cadre of elves (something I will get to in a moment), to the point where I wanted some serious ass-kicking and some serious take downs just to know that she could still do them.  The author spent so many books trying to get Trent and Rachel together that she has turned Rachel into this 'does he really love me or should he get together with Ellasbeth' silliness to take forefront and it's driving me crazy.  I think I preferred it when Trent was evil as Rachel was much more interesting in those books.  
Ok, Trent.  Don't get me wrong, I love his character, but then I love badasses and that's exactly what he was.  I never really saw them together and I'm not really sure this relationship is working for me the way it is as Rachel just seems so...compliant.  To keep them together, I think there needs to be some major power shakeups in this world to make things more interesting.  Something big needs to happen soon. No more teenage angst relationship nonsense that is, frankly, boring. 
And now the elves.  When do the elves ever get their comeuppance?  They create so many problems, and have for books now, but  Why not?  When are they finally going to get their due?  Why is it that Rachel gets lynched all of the time, but nothing bad ever happens to them?  And not just the elves, but it seems like the vampires are going to take a bite out of her as well.   I am not a violent person by nature, but I would have happily cheered to see Rachel destroy Landon first, and then the Order next.  It's been a few books and I am still at a loss as to why they have so much power and can just walk in and do whatever the hell they want to whoever they want whenever they want.  Rachel keeps talking about how Cincinnati is her city to protect, but I am seeing none of it in this book.  

The author is a solid writer and I always look forward to meeting old favourites and finding out what they are up to; unfortunately, there was little of Al or Ivy in this book and I was somewhat disappointed by that. Jenks and Bis though? Always have been my favourites!!   There were a couple of newer characters that I did like however, ones that I hope will shake things up in future books as I think the power structure in these books needs a really good shakeup to make things much more interesting and to drive the story forward. 

American Demon was definitely not a story for which I was expecting or hoping; Rachel spent a lot of time moping after Trent, trying to fix her home, and trying to figure out who was spying on her and why.  The story moved a bit more slowly than previous books and spent a lot of time on explaining different spells. And while a lot of characters jumped in and out of the story, I didn't really see a purpose for some of them other than to remind us who they were so this story really felt a filler, setting up something for the future.  I am really hoping this is the case as both Rachel and Trent were irritating in this book, and I would like the see the annoying, but ballsy, Trent and the kick-ass Rachel back on these pages.  I will be reading Million Dollar Demon (releases June 15th) as I got it for review, but I think if it doesn't improve, this series and I will finally part ways which makes me sad. 

Saturday, June 12, 2021

Review: Confessions From the Quilting Circle by Maisie Yates

by Maisey Yates
Release Date: May 4th 2021
2021 Harlequin
Kindle Edition; 384 Pages
ISBN: 978-1335775856
Genre: Fiction / Contemporary / Women
Source: Review copy from publisher

3.5 / 5 Stars

When Lark Ashwood's beloved grandmother dies, she and her sisters discover an unfinished quilt. Finishing it could be the reason Lark's been looking for to stop running from the past, but is she ever going to be brave enough to share her biggest secret with the people she ought to be closest to?

Hannah can't believe she's back in Bear Creek, the tiny town she sacrificed everything to escape from. The plan? Help her sisters renovate her grandmother's house and leave as fast as humanly possible. Until she comes face-to-face with a man from her past. But getting close to him again might mean confessing what really drove her away...

Stay-at-home mom Avery has built a perfect life, but at a cost. She'll need all her family around her, and all her strength, to decide if the price of perfection is one she can afford to keep paying.

This summer, the Ashwood women must lean on each other like never before, if they are to stitch their family back together, one truth at a time...
****Spoilers ahead.****
My Thoughts
Confessions From the Quilting Circle was a book about secrets and emotions, and I enjoyed it quite a bit.  Having these sisters come together in this way made me reflect upon my own relationship with my sisters, and how important it was to keep those lines of communication open, something with which I struggle even today.  This author definitely knows how to tug at your heartstrings and to make you think about your own life as you are reading about someone else's.  
I enjoyed all the characters in this story and loved how it wasn't so much a story about individual women, but about women sustaining each other emotionally as they revealed difficult secrets and fought through separate heartbreaks.  The three sisters each had trauma in their life, and when their grandmother passed away, they came back to their hometown to deal with their inheritance and to also face the demons their left behind.  Because they spent so much time apart, they didn't really know each other, so the book was about them rebuilding their relationship as adults and not as who they were as children, learning about each other as women.  I loved the anecdotes from their adolescence however, as they learned they were quite different from the people they thought they were, and had secrets from each other even back then.
The writing style is beautiful and I loved following along as the sisters discovered something unique about each section of the quilt on which they were working.  Tracing their quilt patterns and the fabrics they were using to previous generations of women in their family was fascinating and I would have loved to learn more about these women.  I especially enjoyed how each daughter had to deal with their relationship with their mother; Mary, the mom, had grown up without her mother, and didn't really know how to develop relationships with other people so always seemed colder to her children than did their father.  Watching the mom develop throughout the book was one of the highlights for me and I enjoyed reading about her reflections on her life and how she didn't make excuses for her behaviour, but was willing to try anything to mend her relationship with her daughters.   

However, while I would love to say the overall book was wonderful, unfortunately I do have to address a couple of things with which I had a problem.  First of all, I really wish the family had done more with Hannah's situation than scream 'rape' and just leave it at that.  She was under eighteen when this happened, and it happened multiple times, even to the point whereby one of the characters mentioned that he probably had done this to hundreds of girls.  What? That's it?  I get that the book was about Hannah reconnecting with her emotional side and not feeling guilt over what happened, but I also felt more should have been done in this situation, or at least talked about.

Secondly, I really liked the other story line about Avery and the physical abuse, but also wish it hadn't seemed so easy.  Please don't take this the wrong way, but abusive situations are not easy to escape, and I just feel like the wrong message can be sent if it seems that way.  The book did handle the situation with great emotion and sensitivity, and I loved the way the author dealt with Avery's emotions and feelings of guilt, and while the book focused on Avery realizing she didn't have to be perfect and in control all of the time, and she could finally reconnect with who she really wanted to be, it is definitely not so easy for that to happen.  Maybe for some women it is that easy, but I know a couple of women who left abusive relationships, and the emotional scars, never mind the physical scars, don't go away that easily and often take years of therapy to overcome.  It just seemed a little too pat for me.  
Confessions From the Quilting Circle was an emotional read about three sisters reconnecting after the death of their beloved grand-mother, forcing them to confront secrets and issues from which they had been hiding for years.  It was beautifully written, and I enjoyed it quite a bit.  The story is more character-driven and I thought it was very easy to empathize with the characters and their issues.  There is a lot of introspection, but that didn't bother me, although I did have an issue with the way a couple of the story lines were handled.  I do think this book will appeal to a lot of people who are looking for a book about family relationships, but if you are looking for a sexy Maisie Yates romance, this is not it..  


Thursday, June 10, 2021

Review: The Teensy Weensy Virus by Sherri L. Rose

The Teensy Weensy Virus
By Sherri L. Rose
Illustrated by: Megan E. Brawand
Contributor: Gregory D. Evan
Release Date: December 31st 2020
2020 Sherri L. Rose
Paperback Edition; 44 Pages
ISBN: 978-1954003002
cBook: 978-1954003019
Audiobook; 978-1954003026
Genre: Children / Non-Fiction
Source: Review copy from PRbythebook

COVID-19 is a big deal-but with all that adults have to worry about, it's easy to overlook the pandemic's impact on children. This book provides a great way for parents and caregivers to introduce and reinforce the importance of safety measures to children while giving kids the opportunity to ask questions and share their feelings. Embracing the latest science, The Teensy Weensy Virus pairs simple, kid-friendly explanations with bright colorful illustrations, while offering additional resources for adults and an informative song to help lighten the mood as families engage with this serious topic.
My Thoughts
The Teensy Weensy Virus is a really cute way to explain to young kids how the virus works and reinforces the importance of safety measures, such as hand washing and social distancing, without going into a lot of detail that may be too much to handle for young children.  Aimed at young ones from the ages of 2-10, I did feel like the book would be better served for those around the 2-5 year age group as well as parents who are looking for something cute to explain this virus to their young children. There is also a song that goes with the book that will certainly appeal to young children. 
First of all, I liked that the book explained the virus to children in a way that didn't make it scary, but still stressed the importance of social distancing and why they could not visit their loved ones at the moment.  The information was explained in a simple manner, but made it very clear that everyone missed each other very much.  It also made it very clear that people could get very sick from the virus without going into details and scaring young kids, something I appreciated.  
The message was very clear in this book.  Going out with masks on would not be the only thing that would help, but that you would have to wash your hands a lot and ensure that you kept your distance from others.  It did not say that you could not see other people, but it did mention that that social distancing was important while playing and that your social bubbles were important as well.  It also explained that we need to do this so we could all see our family and friend again one day without our social bubbles in a clear manner.
I loved the bright beautiful colours in this book.  Bright purples, reds, oranges, blues, and so on, made the book very appealing, even to me.  Even though the illustrations were simple, I enjoyed them and thought it made the message that much clearer to young children.  While I enjoy complicated illustrations, I don't always think very young kids do, and these ones would definitely appeal to young children.  
The Teensy Weensy Virus is a fun way of introducing the virus and what it means to young children.  I don't necessarily think it would appeal to older children, but it would definitely appeal to the younger ones as it has bright colours and a simply message that is still profound.  For parents, there are additional resources listed at the back of the book if you are looking for more information.  There is also a cute little song, to the tune of "The Itsy Bitsy Spider', that your kids may like.  I've already tried it on the piano and it's very easy to play.  All in all, a good resource if you are looking for a way to explain this virus to young children.  

Author Information
Sherri Rose grew up in Richmond, Virginia. As a retired pediatric and family nurse practitioner, as well and a hospice and palliative care nurse, she recognizes the critical importance of helping children understand what is happening during this pandemic that is currently sweeping our globe. COVID-19 has created so much stress, anxiety, grief, and loss for adults—imagine what children must think but be unable to express!

Inspired by her concerns for the smallest among us—as well as by her own significant grief over not being able to hug her children and grandchildren during quarantine—Sherri began to write this book to help preschoolers understand what is going on and why all of us must follow new rules. As a mother of three daughters and three stepdaughters, as well as a grandmother to many, she hopes that the resources found in this book will be useful to all the readers all over the world. Sherri is having six translations created to spread the importance of basic safety guidelines with this very smart virus. She wrote the lyrics to the little song at the end of the book to have something light and happy after reading about a serious topic.


Monday, June 7, 2021

Review: Battle Ground by Jim Butcher

by Jim Butcher
Release Date: September 29th 2020\
2020 Ace
Kindle Edition; 418 Pages
ISBN: 978-1593199305
ASIN: B0867ZMV25
Genre: Fiction / Fantasy
Source: Review copy from publisher

4 / 5 Stars

Harry has faced terrible odds before. He has a long history of fighting enemies above his weight class. The Red Court of vampires. The fallen angels of the Order of the Blackened Denarius. The Outsiders.

But this time it’s different. A being more powerful and dangerous on an order of magnitude beyond what the world has seen in a millennium is coming. And she’s bringing an army. The Last Titan has declared war on the city of Chicago, and has come to subjugate humanity, obliterating any who stand in her way.

Harry’s mission is simple but impossible: Save the city by killing a Titan. And the attempt will change Harry’s life, Chicago, and the mortal world forever.
My Thoughts
Battle Ground is the next entry in the long-running Harry Dresden files, and it was, simply put, a book-long battle whereby almost every character seemed to drop by for a visit; it was huge, all-encompassing, expansive, but I still felt like there was something missing.  Don't get me wrong though, I enjoyed it tremendously, and I had trouble putting it down, but beneath the battles and the action, there were some issues as well.  
First of all, for long-time readers, we all knew that the clashes and battles would continuously get bigger and more elaborate as the series continued; the politics would become much more expansive and deceptive, and people would no longer know whom to trust.  Every book has built upon the previous one, and people are getting stronger, and the stakes are getting more dangerous.  I've been looking forward to something like this for quite a while.  
Personally, I liked the brutal turn this series took, and I wasn't too shocked at some of the deaths and the way this series turned; in fact, I was kind of expecting it. Harry is going to be around for a very long time so the people who are going to support him are going to be around for a long time as well.  That doesn't mean that humans don't have a role to play, and I loved that Butcher chose to highlight that in this book, and made it clear how important they were.  

Pretty much every character who has appeared throughout the series made an appearance in this book, and we even learned a few new things about them.  And Butters? Oh my gosh!!  Having all of these characters twist in and out of the narrative so cleverly just highlights the skill in Butcher's writing.  And I liked how he lets the reader breathe once in a while, in between battle scenes, then off we go to the races yet again, enmeshed in another epic battle.  I know people often complain about the slower scenes in a book, but not me.  It gives me a chance to reset, breathe, take in what's happening, and continue on with the story.
Can I say how much I enjoyed Mab in this story?  For so many books, she has been so cold and heartless, but the scenes between her and Harry have shown another aspect to her personality that I just loved. She is still terrifying, but I see her a bit differently now. And wow, Molly! I don't know how Harry will ever be able to do what Mab has asked him to do.  And like I've already mentioned, Butters! He was super awesome in this book, and I lived in terror that something would happen to him. I am super curious as to who may get that third sword though. Two are accounted for, one still left. Perhaps Thomas? And I know a lot of people don't like Marcone, but I think his personality is rather interesting, and I am curious as to how the author will deal with the situation between him and Harry in future books.
One of the things that did bother me was Ethniu herself.  I know she was a Titan and all, but I just didn't feel the vibe and the reasoning for what she did.  To go all, 'I will kill the humans because they are useless' just didn't work for me and I really thought the author could have come up with something more plausible than this for causing so much destruction.  However, upon reflection, she may represent a being who has never experienced love and affection, never experienced the real world, and reacts like a child throwing a temper tantrum when someone stands in her way.  Not really sure what he was trying to convey, but it was so muddied, it didn't make sense.  The Fomor though, are terrifying.

Battle Ground was epic, fascinating, and just plain fun. Listening to a recent podcast, I've heard the series is supposed to continue to at least book 25, so there is plenty of room for yet more machinations, and this book has set that up perfectly.  There are so many teasers as to what may happen next, and it has been fun listening to people argue over predictions and what ifs.  I didn't have a problem with the book being split into two books, although I did feel like there was some unnecessary filler added because of this split.  This wasn't really a book about character development per se, but there were definitely some characters who stood out, such as Butters, Mab, and Sanja. And the sweet Christmas story at the end was perfect.  Looking forward to the next entry, Mirror Mirror, when it releases next year.


Friday, June 4, 2021

Review: Checking Out Crime by Laurie Cass

by Laurie Cass
Release Date: April 6th 2021
2021 Berkley Books
Kindle Edition; 352 Pages
ISBN: 978-0593197714
Genre: Fiction / Cozy / Mystery
Source: Review copy from publisher

4 / 5 Stars

Minnie and her rescue cat Eddie can often be found out and about in their bookmobile near Chilson, Michigan, delivering great reads to grateful patrons all over the county. But they always brake for trouble, and when Minnie sees a car speeding away down the road, and soon comes upon a dead bicyclist, she assumes she just missed seeing a hit-and-run.

Minnie is determined to discover who was behind the wheel, but it soon turns out that things are far more complicated than they seem and there's more to this case than meets the eye. Luckily, this librarian is ready to read the killer his rights.
My Thoughts
Checking Out Crime is the next instalment in the delightful 'A Bookmobile Cat Mystery' series featuring Minnie and her cat Eddie.  The story moves along at a nice clip, and there were a number of side stories that kept my interest, including some backstory threads that have been continuing for a number of books now.  
As always, I enjoyed Minnie as a main character.  I enjoy her light sarcasm and banter, even if a lot of it is inner dialogue or dialogue with her cat, but it makes me laugh.  I am really grateful the author has toned down Minnie's emotional outburst from the previous couple of books however, as they were starting to get on my nerves; Minnie was much more enjoyable in this book, thank goodness.
Minnie works at a library, but spends a lot of her time in the bookmobile, developing new ways to get books and information out to her community, something I love reading about.  It is always nice to catch up with the rest of Minnie's friends and family as, after nine books, they have become like familiar friends that I haven't seen in a while. My favourite character will always be Eddie, though.  That cat makes me smile and I can always relate his attitude and behaviour to my own cats.  When Eddie tears up an important piece of information, it just reminds of the times I leave out the kleenex box and one of my cats has a lot of fun and I get to pick up shredded kleenex for 15 minutes. There was also a new character addition whom I really adored so I hope we see a lot  more of this woman in future books. 
Following Minnie around as she investigates was a lot of fun as it is always a chance to meet old and new characters alike and to discover what they've been up to.  I enjoy this author's writing style and find the dialogue witty and enjoyable.  However, I did not like the motive to the murder as it really stretched the limits for me and I definitely did not buy into it.  Luckily, the characters balanced out the story or my rating would have been much lower.  

Checking Out Crime was an enjoyable mystery, but it did have a fat-fetched motive and ending. However, the characters and their interactions balanced out that ending, and made it enjoyable as a whole to read.  I like the addition of a new investigator helping out Minnie and I really hope she stays around in future books.  Overall, a fun addition to the series. 


Wednesday, June 2, 2021

Review: The Treadstone Exile by Joshua Hood

by Joshua Hood 
Release Date: February 2nd 2021
2021 G.P. Putnam's Sons
Kindle Edition; 400 Pages
ISBN: 978-0525542629
Genre: Fiction / Thriller
Source: Review copy from publisher

3.5 / 5 Stars

After the revival of Operation Treadstone, former agent Adam Hayes has retreated to Africa, determined to leave behind the black-ops CIA program behind for good. As a former Treadstone operative, Hayes knows just how destructive the program can be, as it turns government agents into nearly superhuman assassins. But his quiet life in Africa changes irrevocably, when, while attempting to complete a charitable mission in Burkina Faso, Hayes is attacked by extremists. Forced to make an unexpected landing, his plane is damaged and he is left in a hornet's nest of trouble.

In order to get back in the air, Hayes agrees to transport a passenger--Zoe Cabot, the daughter of a tech baron--to a small coastal city. But just after Hayes completes his flight, Zoe is kidnapped. During his search for Zoe, Hayes funs afoul of multiple enemies, including a rogue Treadstone operative, all of whom are searching for him--and for the information about a wire transfer of millions of dollars bound for the relief effort in Burkina Faso. In an action-packed, twisty showdown, Hayes must outrun the factions that are hunting him, and prevent the theft of the much-needed millions from one of Africa's poorest nations.
My Thoughts
The Treadstone Exile is the second book in the Treadstone series, and I enjoyed it quite a bit.  After the events of the previous book, Adam has been pretty much kicked out of the U.S. and has retreated to Africa, and when we meet him again, one of his first thoughts is that he is proud that he has not killed anyone in over five months.  This would not make sense unless you were familiar with the Treadstone universe and the intense training he received as an assassin while in the program, something he is trying really hard to leave behind him.   I found this thought intriguing, the inner monologue one of the things I enjoyed so much about the first book.

I enjoy Adam as a main character, and his inner monologue makes me smile a lot of the time as it's so sarcastic.  And while on the outside he presents as this tough assassin who is almost frightening in his invincibility, the inner monologue makes him human and empathetic, something I really appreciated.  He goes from killer machine to psychologically distressed throughout the book, but only the reader has full insight into this distress.  I also like how he doesn't just jump into the role of a killing machine, but tries really hard to avoid killing people if possible; it is rather refreshing to read a book that is not just multiple shoot-em-up scenes, although there were plenty of those too, just not necessarily caused by Adam. 
The other characters in the book weren't quite as developed as Adam. so I just had a passing interest in them, other than Shaw with whom I am rather intrigued.  There is a story there that is begging to be told, but I am not quite sure what it is.  

I also have to say that I love the descriptions of the various arsenal that was used this book as I have a very limited knowledge of guns and things that go boom.  And I am married to a guy who has served in the armed forces for thirty years, and have watched countless thrillers as well as read them.  Sorry, my eyes roll back into my head whenever hubby yells at the tv because there is no way that gun can be shot that way without kickback as I just don't care; it was all about the action for me.  However, when an author can explain things  in layman's terms so that I can picture it in my mind, I love it. 

The story itself was mostly written from Adam's POV, but there were times when the story was interrupted to show others POV, such as Shaw and Carpenter.  I didn't mind learning more about what was happening in Washington, but it did have a tendency to slow down the story, and it really gave away too much of the story, especially Carpenter's.  One of the advantages to a good thriller is not necessarily knowing who are the good and bad guys as well as having issues shrouded in grey.  When it's too much 'us against them', it can get a bit dreary.  

What the author has done though, it take a concept and twist it to make it his own, and it works.  The writing style works very well, and he has created a main character that is very likeable, but is still deadly, with plenty of action and intrigue.  I really feel like this book, and the previous one, have simply just laid the foundation for what should be some interesting times ahead for Adam and Shaw. 
The Treadstone Exile was well-written, and the author's writing style definitely has a way of pulling you into the story.  I enjoyed Adam as a main character and thought he developed quite nicely, but didn't really feel much for the secondary characters, especially Zoe.  The plot was a bit disjointed at times, and I had to re-read sections because I thought I had missed something important.  Despite this, I am still looking forward to the next book in this series as the story was definitely set up with another one in mind.