Book Tour Review: The Inheritance Games by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

She came from nothing.
Avery has a plan: keep her head down and work hard for a better future.
Then an eccentric billionaire dies, leaving her almost his entire fortune. And no one, least of all Avery, knows why.

They had everything.
Now she must move into the mansion she’s inherited.
It’s filled with secrets and codes, and the old man’s surviving relatives –
a family hell-bent on discovering why Avery got ‘their’ money.

Now there’s only one rule: winner takes all.
Soon she is caught in a deadly game that everyone in this strange family is playing.
But just how far will they go to keep their fortune?

This book was provided by the author as part of a book tour with The Write Reads. Thank you!

Trigger Warning: Physical and emotional abuse (Avery’s sister Libby receives a black eye from her boyfriend) both past and present, alcohol consumption, mentions of stalking

“…Hawthorne loves a good puzzle as much as he loves a good whiskey. And he loves his whiskey.”

Avery Grimes is your typical teenager. She studies hard and works hard, all with the aim of giving herself and her half sister a better life. So what if she has to sometimes sleep in her car because her sister’s boyfriend is being a jerk again? Avery knows that one day things will be better.

Avery’s “one day” happens sooner than expected. A well tailored, handsome young man comes to Avery’s school, informing her that he comes on behest of his family and she is wanted in Texas for the reading of a will. Avery doesn’t know any one in Texas, least of all any one who would be naming her in a will…

The Inheritance Games by Jennifer Lynn Barnes is the first book in the series with the same title. Much like the acclaimed movie Knives Out (great movie, btw), it centers on a ridiculously rich family and the patriarch’s Last Will and Testament.

The Inheritance Games is a tense, puzzle filled, nail biter of a story. Everyone seems to have a hidden agenda of some kind. With nearly every person holding on to one secret or another, Avery (and the reader) have a hard time knowing who to trust. Even Mr. Hawthorne himself though he’s dead. The puzzles he’s left behind seem to point at something but no one is sure of what.

I deeply enjoyed reading The Inheritance Games. Because of how it is written, the reader goes along with Avery as she tries to unravel the clues and puzzles left behind. We learn the answers as she figures them out – and she is very good at figuring puzzles out.

I wasn’t too fond of the love triangle Barnes introduced between Avery and two of the Hawthorne grandsons. Such a thing seems common in many YA books, so much so as to have become a kind of trope. However since it was such a small part of the overall plot and didn’t really figure in to the story, it was also easy to overlook and ignore.

On the whole I quite enjoyed this book. Not everything was tied up neatly at the end, leaving it open for the next book in the series. It is something I am eagerly looking forward to and will likely review it here given the chance.

A Conspiracy of Truths by Alexandra Rowland

Arrested on accusations of witchcraft and treason, Chant finds himself trapped in a cold, filthy jail cell in a foreign land. With only his advocate, the unhelpful and uninterested Consanza, he quickly finds himself cast as a bargaining chip in a brewing battle between the five rulers of this small, backwards, and petty nation.

Or, at least, that’s how he would tell the story.

In truth, Chant has little idea of what is happening outside the walls of his cell, but he must quickly start to unravel the puzzle of his imprisonment before they execute him for his alleged crimes. But Chant is no witch—he is a member of a rare and obscure order of wandering storytellers. With no country to call his home, and no people to claim as his own, all Chant has is his wits and his apprentice, a lad more interested in wooing handsome shepherds than learning the ways of the world.

And yet, he has one great power: his stories in the ears of the rulers determined to prosecute him for betraying a nation he knows next to nothing about. The tales he tells will topple the Queens of Nuryevet and just maybe, save his life. 

A Conspiracy of Truths is a story about stories. It is a story about people, about their stories, and about how their stories aren’t all that different from other people regardless of where or when.

I will be honest and say I did not quite know what to expect when I started reading A Conspiracy of Truths. Going by the blurb provided I was expecting something akin to 1001 Arabian Nights or something similar. And while A Conspiracy of Truths does include stories within the main story, the book as a whole is a completely different beast entirely.

In regards to the characters, there are so many to choose from that every reader is likely to find someone they can connect with. Whether it be the elderly, snarky, main character Chant, or his seemingly unhelpful and maybe cares a little too much advocate Consanza, there is someone for practically everyone. The majority of the characters have 2, 3, even 4 names – and that doesn’t count titles! – and it can be a little difficult to keep track of who is who. While I didn’t do it myself, I highly recommend readers take notes on character names because it is very easy to get confused.

Plot-wise, A Conspiracy of Truths is a bit politics heavy. Because so much happens so quickly and so much information is given to the reader it can feel a little overwhelming at times. This is why I recommend the reader take notes and even go back and reread passages for anything they might have missed. The overall story is very deep and very wonderful and one wouldn’t want to miss a thing.

I really enjoyed reading A Conspiracy of Truths. Ms. Rowland not only did an outstanding job creating and peopling a world, she did it in a way that makes it relatable to almost all who read it. I highly recommend it to my readers and I look forward to seeing what Ms. Rowland comes up with next.

Provided for Review: The Girls with No Names by Serena Burdick

Not far from Luella and Effie Tildon’s large family mansion in Inwood looms the House of Mercy, a work house for wayward girls. The sisters grow up under its shadow with the understanding that even as wealthy young women, their freedoms come with limits. When the sisters accidentally discover a shocking secret about their father, Luella, the brazen older sister, becomes emboldened to do as she pleases.

With rebellion comes consequences, and one morning Luella is mysteriously gone. Effie suspects her father has made good on his threat to send Luella to the House of Mercy and hatches a plan to get herself committed to save her sister. She has however made a mistake, and with no one to believe her story, Effie’s escape from the House of Mercy seems impossible—unless she can trust an enigmatic girl named Mable. As their fates entwine, Mable and Effie must rely on each other and their tenuous friendship to survive.

This book was provided for review by NetGalley. Thank you!

Trigger Warnings: Infidelity, Mentions of rape, Teenage pregnancy, Racial slurs (Specifically the word “gypsy”)

“The times they are a-changin’…” So goes the line in the song by Bob Dylan and so goes the overall theme in Serena Burdick’s The Girls with No Names.

Told from the point of view of a variety of individuals, The Girls with No Names is a story about change. The changes that come with age, that come with knowledge, that come with the inevitable march of time. Events that change the way one sees the world regardless of how large or small it is.

As it is primarily set in the early 1910’s, the way of thinking of some characters might be off-putting for some. When Effie and Luella come across the Romani camp in the beginning of the book, they are enamored of the “other” ness of the group. There is a sense of playing with the forbidden when the girls continue to visit the camp even after their parents express their distaste. It is something that comes up again when the girls’ Grandmother complains of “foreigners” taking over the city.

I personally found myself captivated by each individual characters story in this book. Each woman is connected to the others in numerous ways – by blood, by love, by circumstance. Each connection bringing another layer to the story until it is a veritable tapestry.

Overall, I enjoyed reading The Girls with No Names and was able to finish the book in just two days. While there is some difficult subject matter, I found it to be written about in a way that sensitive without being overly so.

Readers who are looking for well written female characters are likely to enjoy this book. I recommend they give it a go.

I Bring the Fire Parts 1, 2, and 3 by C. Gockel

Sometimes the hero is the wrong guy at the right time.

When Amy Lewis prays for a savior, Loki Norse God of Mischief and Chaos isn’t who she has in mind. Loki can’t resist Amy’s summons, but he can insist she help him outwit Odin, ruler of the Nine Realms. Can Amy trust a so-called God of Mischief? With a powerful evil calling him from beneath the city’s streets, can Loki even trust himself?

In this urban fantasy tale a nice mid-western girl and a jaded, mischievous Loki must join forces to outwit gods, elves, magic sniffing cats, and nosy neighbors. If Loki can remember exactly what he’s forgotten and Amy can convince him not to be too distracted by Earthly gadgets, Earthly pleasures, or three day benders, they just might pull it off…

Part One of I Bring The Fire was reviewed here, while Part Two was reviewed here.

Part Three of I Bring The Fire is aptly subtitled Chaos and picks up immediately where Part Two left off. Loki’s intention on taking the mysterious World Seed for himself still burns as bright as ever. He wants to watch Asgard burn and Odin suffer even if he doesn’t quite understand the reason behind it.

Like with the previous books the story is told from a variety of view points. We see various points from Loki’s past, from when he was a child and from when he was an adult. Moments with his first wife Anganboda and his second wife Sigyn, moments with his children; moments that shape him in to the man that he eventually becomes. There are other moments as well, moments that hint to Loki’s true past.

Loki changes the most in this third book and it isn’t always for the best. Throughout the first two books Cera has done untold psychic damage to him and it is in the third book the results are seen. In Part One Loki was a mischievous character but still likable. Part Two saw him as a darker man even while he had his lighter moments.

In Part Three he is almost a completely different person. While not overtly cruel, he is manipulative even to those he purportedly cares about. He is especially this way towards Amy, taking her to Paris and away from the people who have come to rely on her.

It is only when Loki gets what he wants does he realize in doing so he loses everything.

The way Part Three wraps up makes it clear this is not quite the end. This is only a single story arc with other arcs following behind. Readers who were able to make it through Parts One and Two would do well to read Part Three. It wraps a good deal up while leaving plenty for subsequent books to cover.

Extreme Medical Services by Jamie Davis

Read the book described by one reader as “Like Grimm With Paramedics.” Follow the exploits of new paramedic Dean Flynn as he gets assigned to a backwater station no one has ever heard of, Station U. He soon learns that his unusual patients are far from normal. They are the creatures of myth and legend. His tough, experienced paramedic trainer Brynne is determined to teach him everything she knows. With vampires, werewolves, witches and fairies as patients, will he survive? Will they?

Ever since he was a teenager Dean Flynn has wanted to be a paramedic. Working hard and graduating top of his class, Dean is sure he’ll have his pick of posts. Instead, he’s assigned to Station U – a tiny station at the edge of town that practically no one knows about. Dean thinks he’s being punished until he learns about the unique patients Station U treats.

Extreme Medical Services is one of those books that doesn’t fit neatly in to any one category. It’s not quite a medical style novel nor is it completely fantasy based – it is instead a mish mash of the two. It does rely quite heavily on medical jargon however if the reader has seen even one medical drama (ER, Chicago Hope, The Good Doctor, etc.) they shouldn’t be to lost.

This overabundance of jargon and procedure comes at a price though, and that price is the characters themselves. There just isn’t enough given to create a connection between the reader and the characters. Everyone sounds quite interesting yet as there is so much emphasis put on the actual emergency procedures themselves, no one character is allowed to develop any depth.

I am also rather confused by the picture on the cover. None of the paramedics show even a hint of supernatural abilities.

As someone who has enjoyed the occasional medical drama in the past, I was rather looking forward to reading Extreme Medical Services. Especially as it was combined with another genre I enjoy – fantasy. I was however sadly disappointed. The premise itself was quite promising but the execution was sorely lacking. Readers who prefer a book that focuses on actual medical procedures albeit in a fictional setting might enjoy it. Other readers might want to look somewhere else.

Channel Blue by Jay Martel

channelblue

This review was originally posted January 2015

Turn on the TV at practically any time of day or night on any channel and you have a good chance of seeing some kind of Reality Program. The programs run the gamut from the serious to the insane and cover any number of subjects. People tune in to them in droves and the people who appear on them become stars overnight. But what if the Earth itself was its own reality program? What if the day to day happenings of the people here, no matter how mundane, provide entertainment to extraterrestrial beings?

That is the question posed in Channel Blue.

At one time Earth was Galaxy Entertainment’s highest ranking show. The viewers couldn’t get enough of the backwards little people. But like most audiences, they are fickle and what was once the biggest thing is now at the bottom of the heap. This is what has happened to Earth, aka Channel Blue. With its ratings quickly going down the tube they plan to draw in the viewers once more with an amazing finale. In just three weeks, the TV show will go out with a bang, and unfortunately so will Earth.

One man however can save our planet from it’s final curtain call, but Perry Bunt’s hardly the hero type.

If that last line sounds a tad cliched, that’s probably because it is. Earth is on the brink of destruction and out of the billions of people on the planet the only one who can save us is some nobody. He is your token white man, non-descript and bland. Like most in the anti-hero trope, Perry starts the book with a “I don’t want to do this” approach which evolves in to a “I guess I have to do this” approach which becomes a “I want to do this!” approach. He continues to try and do the right thing which only gets him in to trouble and usually ends with some kind of physical beating for Perry. As the story carries on this becomes tiring, not only for Perry, but for the reader them self.

With Perry in this mad adventure is Amanda Mundo. Hailing from the planet Eden, but looking exactly like any human, she is one of the many many producers of Channel Blue. At first she’s interested in Perry because he’s an ex-script writer and she needs ideas to keep Channel Blue running. The disappointing thing is that eventually she too succumbs to the trope most female characters are subjected to – that of the love interest. Of course she falls in love with Perry and of course they end up together with a happy ending, the story left open-ended for the possibility of a sequel. In it’s predictability it’s almost disappointing.

Now I’m not saying that Channel Blue is a complete disappointment. There are some rather amusing moments and the book itself does present a sort of critique on our society. It is absurd in its own way but hardly “in the tradition of Douglas Adams and Kurt Vonnegut” as one reviewer said it. Adams and Douglas set a precedent when it comes to sci-fi and while Martel does make a good endeavor, he simply cannot match the greats.

Provided for Review: Ten Days Gone (A.L. McKittridge #1) by Beverly Long

They know exactly when he’ll strike… They just have to find him first.

In all their years working for the Baywood police department, detectives A.L. McKittridge and Rena Morgan have never seen anything like it. Four women dead in forty days, each killed ten days apart. With nothing connecting the victims and very little evidence, the clock is already counting down to when the next body drops. A.L. and Rena will have to act fast if they’re going to find the killer’s next victim before he does.

But identifying the killer’s next likely target is only half the battle. With pressure pushing in from all sides, a promising breakthrough leads the detectives to Tess Lyons, a woman whose past trauma has left her too damaged to appreciate the danger she’s in. Unwilling to let another woman die, A.L. and Rena will put everything on the line to keep Tess safe and end the killer’s deadly spree once and for all–before time runs out again. 

This book was provided for review by Netgalley. Thank you!

Trigger Warnings – mentions of abuse (physical and sexual), mention of animal death,

While I do enjoy reading the occasional murder mystery, police procedural novels haven’t always been my cup of tea. Some of the ones I’ve read over the years have been rather dry and never seemed to hold my interest. When I saw Ten Days Gone available on Netgalley, I decided to take a chance on it. And I am quite glad I did.

Ten Days Gone follows Detectives McKittridge and Morgan as they race against time to find a serial killer lurking in their mid-sized Wisconsin town. The killer has already taken the lives of four women, each murder spaced exactly ten days apart. With no clear connection between them, the two detectives are in a race against time to try and determine who the next victim will be.

Like many book and television police dramas, Ten Days Gone starts in the middle of the action. The fourth victim has just been found and we the reader join the two detectives as they must try and find what joins this new person to the previous victims. Like many television police dramas there is a good deal of talking, of going over evidence and discovering new clues. This book is very conversation heavy. It relies more on the detectives as well as other characters talking – either on the phone or in person – to convey information. Many writers use a “show, don’t tell” approach where with Ms. Long, the opposite approach is used.

Ten Days Gone is certainly not for every reader. It is a dark book, one that deals with subjects that might not be comfortable for some. Those readers who do enjoy a well paced thriller that will keep you guessing until the end would likely enjoy this book. I personally liked the characters very much and will be keeping an eye out for further books in the series.

Emperor Mollusk versus The Sinister Brain by A. Lee Martinez

This review was originally posted May 16, 2017

Emperor Mollusk – Mad genius. Conqueror and Destroyer of worlds. Intergalactic menace. And Ex-warlord of Earth.

Not too bad for a guy without a spine…or any bones.

But what is a super villain to do when he’s already done everything?

With no new ambitions – no new planets to conquer – Emperor Mollusk finds himself in a bit of a quandry. Retirement isn’t as simple as he thought it would be. While he would certainly prefer to be left alone to explore the boundaries of science, even that becomes boring after a while. So when the assassins of a legendary death cult come calling, Mollusk is eager for the challenge. Someone has their eye on Earth and Mollusk isn’t about to let the planet go so easily, especially in to the clutches of someone less capable of ruling than him!

Dear reader, in reading a book have you ever that should said book be made in to a movie (or even audio book) that a particular actor would be perfect for a particular role?

I found myself having just those thoughts while reading Emperor Mollusk. The great Emperor himself reminded me so much of Iron Man’s Tony Stark that should this anything be done with this book, if Robert Downey, Jr. isn’t cast as Emperor Mollusk, it would be a great shame.

In the character of Emperor Mollusk, Martinez has captured the dry wit and genius of Tony Stark and put it in the body of a spineless blob from Neptune. In the story itself, he takes the numerous tropes that peppered 50’s B-movies and combines them in a fast and funny tale. If there is one drawback, it is that the prose sometimes gets a bit bogged down with techno-babble. This especially happens towards the end however I didn’t find it too detracting from the story overall.

Fans of 50’s B-movies, Mystery Science Theater 3000, and wonderfully bad sci-fi in general should absolutely read this book. I greatly enjoyed Emperor Mollusk versus The Sinister Brain both times I read it and can only hope that Martinez will take us back to visit these characters again.

Warlock Holmes – My Grave Ritual (Warlock Holmes #3) by G.S. Denning

As they blunder towards doom, Warlock Holmes and Dr. John Watson find themselves inconvenienced by a variety of eldritch beings. Christmas brings a goose that doesn’t let being cooked slow it down; they meet an electricity demon, discover why being a redhead is even tricker than one might imagine, and Holmes attempts an Irish accent. And, naturally, Moriarty is hanging around… in some form or other. 

My Grave Ritual by G.S. Denning is the third book in the ever popular Warlock Holmes series. In it, Denning once again takes the much loved Conan Doyle stories and gives them a macabre and monstrous twist that would do horror authors like H.P. Lovecraft proud.

Much like the original stories, these are also told from the point of view of Dr. Watson. One story however is from the crayon scribbled journals of Warlock Holmes, giving us an insight in to the mind of such a unique character. Funnily enough, aside from how the story ends, Denning’s version strays very little from the original Doyle version.

While some characteristics of both Holmes and Watson have been switched around, one thing does remain true. And that is how highly Holmes and Watson regard one another. How much each man cares for the other, both as a friend and as a work partner.

So far I have been greatly enjoying reading the adventures of Warlock Holmes and Dr. John Watson. Mr. Denning has done a lovely job of giving us readers a new version of these characters while still staying true to what makes them unique. I look forward to reading further stories of these two and seeing what kind of mischief and mayhem they get in to next.

The Alchemist’s Daughter (A Bianca Goddard mystery) by Mary Lawrence

This review was originally published August 4, 2015.

Ask a school aged student what their favorite subject is, and more likely than not their answer will be anything other than “History”. There are those young students who do enjoy history, but for the majority it isn’t until we become adults that the subject holds any interest. This certainly holds true for myself, dear reader. Only as an adult have I found the subject interesting.

The Alchemist’s Daughter is a novel set in a time which I have found interest in – 16th Century London. The time of the reign of Henry VIII, a most turbulent time. In it, we meet Bianca Goddard, an intelligent young woman who uses her knowledge of medicinal plants and herbs to create remedies for the very poor in the Southwark slums where she lives. When her friend Jolyn comes complaining of stomach pains, the usual remedy doesn’t ease the pain but instead kills Jolyn on the spot. Trying to recover from the shock, Bianca begins to suspect that Jolyn was poisoned long before, something the local constable doesn’t seem ready to believe.

In order to keep herself out of the gallows, Bianca must try and find the real murderer. Using her knowledge as well as relying on help from those around her she needs to stay one step ahead and find out who killed her friend before time runs out.

The reviews on Amazon are mixed for this book, and I have to admit my feelings towards it are the same. On the whole, the book itself is fairly enjoyable. A dramatic tale with a variety of characters makes for a good read. The more casual history fan will like this book but the more ardent student will likely find problems. Characters speak more “modern”ly with only the occasional word or phrase from the time thrown in. Outfits, ideas, and even food and drink from a variety of eras form a sort of mish-mash that comprise parts of the novel.

Bianca, as well as the other main characters of the novel, were somewhat interesting. Bianca herself reads as the beautiful yet plucky heroine, constantly overlooked but determined to make her mark. Others seemed more like caricatures instead of full fleshed out persons, right down to the exasperated boyfriend. For me, the only character that I found truly worth wondering about was the mysterious cloaked rat catcher who showed up on occasion. Who was he and what was he doing? I found myself questioning his motives more than the main characters.

I wouldn’t call The Alchemist’s Daughter a light, fluffy read since the subject matter is far from it. It is however for the more casual reader and those who are real sticklers for historical accuracy should stay away. A decent read but I doubt I’ll be searching out any other books in this series.