Provided for Review: Highfire by Eoin Colfer

In the days of yore, he flew the skies and scorched angry mobs—now he hides from swamp tour boats and rises only with the greatest reluctance from his Laz-Z-Boy recliner. Laying low in the bayou, this once-magnificent fire breather has been reduced to lighting Marlboros with nose sparks, swilling Absolut in a Flashdance T-shirt, and binging Netflix in a fishing shack. For centuries, he struck fear in hearts far and wide as Wyvern, Lord Highfire of the Highfire Eyrie—now he goes by Vern. However…he has survived, unlike the rest. He is the last of his kind, the last dragon. Still, no amount of vodka can drown the loneliness in his molten core. Vern’s glory days are long gone. Or are they?

A canny Cajun swamp rat, young Everett “Squib” Moreau does what he can to survive, trying not to break the heart of his saintly single mother. He’s finally decided to work for a shady smuggler—but on his first night, he witnesses his boss murdered by a crooked constable.

Regence Hooke is not just a dirty cop, he’s a despicable human being—who happens to want Squib’s momma in the worst way. When Hooke goes after his hidden witness with a grenade launcher, Squib finds himself airlifted from certain death by…a dragon?

The swamp can make strange bedfellows, and rather than be fried alive so the dragon can keep his secret, Squib strikes a deal with the scaly apex predator. He can act as his go-between (aka familiar)—fetch his vodka, keep him company, etc.—in exchange for protection from Hooke. Soon the three of them are careening headlong toward a combustible confrontation. There’s about to be a fiery reckoning, in which either dragons finally go extinct—or Vern’s glory days are back.

This book was provided for review by the author and the kind people at NetGalley. Thank you!

The copy of Highfire reviewed was an Uncorrected Proof provided by NetGalley. Any changes done after distribution were done at the discretion of the author and the publisher.

Being from the state of Louisiana, I am always interested in books (and movies and TV shows) that are set in this state. I almost always find myself comparing the fiction with the truth. Sometimes the two are so far apart as to be laughable and sometimes the two are actually quite close. When this happens, it is always a pleasant surprise.

Highfire is one of those books where fact and fiction are fairly close. At least when it comes to South Louisiana. And while Colfer does take a few small liberties (dancing alligators) for the most part his portrayal of this little corner of the world is pretty accurate.

Thankfully, Colfer sets the scene in the bayou backwaters around the city of New Orleans. It is much easier to fudge things here since the waterways are constantly changing. What doesn’t change is how the people there live and Colfer seems to get this mostly right. He does not try to make any one character sound too ridiculous or have a bizarre accent that no one down here has. There is a certain cadence to South Louisiana speech that Colfer did try to capture in the first part of the novel and it did not feel natural. Thankfully, the prose shifted away from that later on.

The characters that inhabit Highfire are all unique. It is very easy to cheer for Squib and Vern. Likewise, it is very easy to jeer at Sheriff Hooke. There is one particular character I would have liked to see more of before their departure – not named here because of spoilers. They provided a good dose of humor in to what could have become a too heavy story.

I really enjoyed reading Highfire by Eoin Colfer. Because this is a fantasy with a dragon, the action does go over the top in some scenes. Yet it is done in a way that is also kind of believable. The end is also left open with the understanding that we might once again visit the bayous of South Louisiana and a vodka swilling dragon. I certainly hope so.

Oddjobs (Oddjobs #1) by Heide Goody

It’s the end of the world as we know it, but someone still needs to do the paperwork.

Incomprehensible horrors from beyond are going to devour our world but that’s no excuse to get all emotional about it. Morag Murray works for the secret government organisation responsible for making sure the apocalypse goes as smoothly and as quietly as possible.

In her first week on the job, Morag has to hunt down a man-eating starfish, solve a supernatural murder and, if she’s got time, prevent her own inevitable death.

The first book in a new comedy series by the creators of ‘Clovenhoof’, Oddjobs is a sideswipe at the world of work and a fantastical adventure featuring amphibian wannabe gangstas, mad old cat ladies, ancient gods, apocalyptic scrabble, fish porn, telepathic curry and, possibly, the end of the world before the weekend.

The world as we know it may be ending but someone still needs to make sure the proper paperwork has been done.

Oddjobs is the first book in the series of the same name by Heide Goody and Iain Grant. It is a very British take on the Men in Black trope that has spawned several movies, books, and graphic novels. The main difference being while in Men in Black they were trying to stop the apocalypse, in Oddjobs they’re trying to make sure the process goes smoothly. If it’s going to happen anyway, why not make it as easy as possible? And maybe even bring in a few dollars with a line of incredibly cute and cuddly plushes?

As I said above, Oddjobs is a very British book. Peppered throughout are references to persons, places, and events that the average UK reader would recognize but other readers might not. On a handful of occasions I found myself having to look up things referenced simply to try and keep up with the storyline. Not that this is a bad thing per se, but it might throw off the average reader.

Oddjobs is a fast paced book and in some places quite funny. The cast of characters are an eclectic lot, each one bringing their own strengths to the team. While some background is given on each character, it is my hope that we learn more about every one with each subsequent novel.

I really enjoyed reading Oddjobs. As a fan of British sci-fi I found it to be an entertaining mix of seriousness and satire. Readers who are fans of this genre and like classics like Doctor Who and Red Dwarf are sure to like this one as well. Average readers might find the British-isms a bit confusing at time but I urge them to give this a try as well.

Provided for Review: Parabellum by Greg Hickey

A shooting at a Chicago beach leaves several dead and dozens injured. In the year before the attack, four individuals emerge as possible suspects.

An apathetic computer programmer.
An ex-college athlete with a history of head injuries.
An Army veteran turned Chicago cop.
A despondent high school student.

One of them is the shooter. Discover who and why.

This book was provided for review. Many thanks to the author, Greg Hickey, for reaching out and providing me with this book!

Trigger Warning: Mass public shooting, gun violence, mentions of bullying, mentions of suicidal thoughts

Parabellum, unlike so many books, starts at the end. A mass shooting has just occurred on a Chicago beach. The sand is littered with debris of all kinds, the bodies only just starting to be removed. What kind of person could commit such a heinous act? What chain of events could possibly lead to such an occurrence? Did the killer show any kind of a sign that they were capable of such things?

We the reader are then introduced to four characters; four unique individuals each with their own story and each capable of committing a most heinous crime. There’s the high school student, with his years of being bullied from those around him. There’s the police officer, once an Army soldier during the Gulf War, with his dreams of violence and paranoia. There’s the college athlete, whose whole life once revolved around soccer but has suffered one too many head injuries. And there’s the computer programmer, who’s good at his job even if it isn’t a dream position.

Any one of them could have done it. Any one of them has the motive to want to hurt others.

In Parabellum, Hickey has created four characters and has set them before us. He gives us moments from each one’s past; some moments ordinary and others not. Some moments are ones that shape the particular character in to the adult they eventually become. What is extraordinary is how he does it all without names. It isn’t until the very end of the book, practically the last chapter, that we learn the names of these individuals. The narrative for each person is written in such a way that the reader doesn’t even realize the characters are unnamed. Other descriptive terms are used instead, but not until the end are we given actual names.

With so much time and detail given to each character, to build each one up in such a way as to give legitimacy to their possibly committing mass murder, as a reader I truly kept guessing up until the end. It wasn’t until the last handful of chapters did I find myself thinking “That person…they’re the one who does it…” And I found myself surprised.

My only real qualm with Parabellum happens in the final chapter leading up to the massacre. Hickey dedicates an entire chapter to the people on the beach, introducing each one by name. He gives us these people, decently fleshed out characters, and barely a few pages later takes them away. There is hardly any time for the reader to become invested in these characters so while I can understand why he likely wrote it this way, in actuality if falls flat.

In the end though, I quite enjoyed reading Parabellum. It was quite interesting to see the events that changed each character from what they were in the beginning to who they became in the end. I encourage those who have read Greg Hickey’s other works to read this one and if you are not familiar with him, this is a good starting point.

Provided for Review: The Cousins by Karen M. McManus

Milly, Aubrey and Jonah Story are cousins, but they barely know each another, and they’ve never even met their grandmother. Rich and reclusive, she disinherited their parents before they were born. So when they each receive a letter inviting them to work at her island resort for the summer, they’re surprised…and curious.

Their parents are all clear on one point—not going is not an option. This could be the opportunity to get back into Grandmother’s good graces. But when the cousins arrive on the island, it’s immediately clear that she has different plans for them. And the longer they stay, the more they realize how mysterious—and dark—their family’s past is.

The entire Story family has secrets. Whatever pulled them apart years ago isn’t over—and this summer, the cousins will learn everything.

Many thanks to the author, Penguin Publishing, and to The Write Reads on Twitter for providing this book for review. Thank you!

You know what you did…

Those five words were the last each of the four Story children heard from their mother before disinheriting them. Those five words, written on a single sheet of paper, one for each child. Five little words and then nothing. Not for over 20 years.

The Cousins is the latest book by Karen M. McManus, author of the equally thrilling One of Us is Lying. Again we are met with secrets and lies. Of half truths and where what lies on the surface is on the beginning. And where even those who proclaim innocence aren’t as innocent as they might seem.

The Cousins is told from a variety of viewpoints. Not only are there chapters told from each cousin’s point of view, there are also several chapters from summer/fall of 1996 – just before the four Story children are disinherited. I will not say just who narrates those particuar chapters, just that their addition gives some very good insight as to why what happened did.

The main characters of The Cousins are the three cousins themselves; Milly, Aubrey, and Jonah. I found them all to be quite likeable. Each is a well rounded and well thought out character. Written in a believable manner where like almost every one else, they too have something to hide. Each one is a product of the background and upbringing and their actions through out the novel reflect that.

My only real complaint was while the main characters of the three cousins were well rounded, the same could not be said of the secondary characters. I honestly would have liked to have seen more of the original Story children as older adults along with the flashbacks that we see them in. The same can also said for the grandmother, I would have really liked to have seen more of her aside from the very brief glimpses we are given. While I understand that McManus could only include so much background before inundating us, I still would have liked to have had a least a little more.

In the end though, I enjoyed reading The Cousins. I found it to be a very entertaining read and had a good time trying to put the puzzle pieces together just as the cousins themselves were trying to do. Readers who have enjoyed McManus’ other books will enjoy this one and those who are new to her work should definitely give it a try. It was a fun read and I look forward to going back and reading more of her stuff.

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.

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.

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.

Provided for Review: Harrow Lake by Kat Ellis

Welcome to Harrow Lake...
Someone’s expecting you.

Lola Nox is the daughter of a celebrated horror filmmaker – she thinks nothing can scare her.

But when her father is brutally attacked in their New York apartment, she’s swiftly packed off to live with a grandmother she’s never met in Harrow Lake, the eerie town where her father’s most iconic horror movie was shot. The locals are weirdly obsessed with the film that put their town on the map – and then there are strange disappearances, which the police seem determined to explain away.

And there’s someone – or something – stalking her every move.

The more Lola discovers about the town, the more terrifying it becomes. Because Lola’s got secrets of her own. And if she can’t find a way out of Harrow Lake, they might just be the death of her . . .

This book was provided for review by NetGalley and The Write Reads. Thank you!

When The Write Reads approached me on Twitter to join the book tour for Harrow Lake, I immediately accepted. As someone who grew up in the 80’s, horror films are as much a part of my growing up as anything else. And while yes, I did have my share of nightmares from them, I also came to appreciate them as the works of art that some of them are.

Harrow Lake is a story that centers around horror films and the hold they can create. It focuses on Lola Nox, 17 year old daughter of horror film director Nolan Nox. Having grown up around her father’s films, Lola believes that nothing can frighten her. Those beliefs are put to the test when Lola is sent – rather unwillingly – to her maternal grandmother’s home in Harrow Lake.

Harrow Lake reminds me very much of the older tv series The Twilight Zone. Any one who remembers the original show will recall that the stories they told were built on the premise of suspense and barely hinted at ideas. Where the shadows lurking in a dark corner could be a hideous monster or could simply be a pile of clothes. Where not everything is as it seems and looks are definitely deceiving.

Like some horror movies, the action in Harrow Lake is a bit choppy. Scenes jump from one to the next with almost no indication. It can be a little disconcerting at times. Also, the main character of Lola can be irritating. This can be explained by not only her age but also by her unique upbringing. Any one raised immersed in the horror genre from a young age is likely to be more than a bit jaded as well.

This is the first novel by Kat Ellis that I’ve had the opportunity to read and review. I enjoyed her style of storytelling and have already looked in to what others books she has written.

Readers who enjoy a good suspenseful story will likely enjoy Harrow Lake. It is the perfect creepy read for a dark night. I recommend it and hope others enjoy it as I did.

Provided for Review: If I Had Your Face by Frances Cha

Kyuri is a heartbreakingly beautiful woman with a hard-won job at a “room salon,” an exclusive bar where she entertains businessmen while they drink. Though she prides herself on her cold, clear-eyed approach to life, an impulsive mistake with a client may come to threaten her livelihood.

Her roomate, Miho, is a talented artist who grew up in an orphanage but won a scholarship to study art in New York. Returning to Korea after college, she finds herself in a precarious relationship with the super-wealthy heir to one of Korea’s biggest companies.

Down the hall in their apartment building lives Ara, a hair stylist for whom two preoccupations sustain her: obsession with a boy-band pop star, and a best friend who is saving up for the extreme plastic surgery that is commonplace.

And Wonna, one floor below, is a newlywed trying to get pregnant with a child that she and her husband have no idea how they can afford to raise and educate in the cutthroat economy.

Together, their stories tell a gripping tale that’s seemingly unfamiliar, yet unmistakably universal in the way that their tentative friendships may have to be their saving grace.

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

It is my opinion that the purpose of a book – whether fiction or non-fiction – is to introduce the reader to new ideas. To take them out of the familiar and in to the unfamiliar. To introduce new people and hopefully have them stay with the reader far after the book has been finished.

If I Had Your Face by Frances Cha is an excellent example of this. In it we are taken to Seoul Korea and surrounding suburbs. We are introduced to several young women who live in the same apartment building. Through them we step foot in to a society that is as familiar as it is unique. And through them hopefully understand that despite the differences in language, the desire for a better life is universal.

While the four young women who are the main characters live in the same building and close to one another, their stories are separate. Yes, they are all acquaintances and interact with each other throughout the story, but each woman is her own person. And while there is an underlying thread that connects them, each young woman approaches it in their own way.

I absolutely loved each of the female characters in If I Had Your Face. They are all so relatable in one way or another – because honestly, who hasn’t fantasized about meeting their favorite artist and falling instantly in love? Cha’s writing makes each one of them so believable and it is easy to imagine them sitting around and gossiping over food and drinks.

Whether you are a fan of k-pop, Korean dramas, or not, I honestly believe most readers will enjoy If I Had Your Face. I found it to be a fascinating look at a slice of the world that is so familiar and yet so different than our own.