Atonement in Bloom by Teagan Riordain Geneviene #bookreview #urbanfantasy

“Atonement in Bloom” continues the urban fantasy from the point where “Atonement, Tennessee” ended. The quaint town was stranger than Ralda Lawton could have imagined. The local population included supernatural beings of the fae variety. Although only she and a few others knew about that. In a past life, Ralda ― Esmeralda had been involved in something with those supernaturals and it had carried into her present life. In Atonement, Tennessee, that almost got her killed. Now she has new problems, and new supes to complicate matters.Atonement in Bloom continues the misadventures of Ralda, her friends, and neighbors in the small (but far from peaceful) town of Atonement, Tennessee. Her old house and cemetery are still there, along with Lilith the cat, quirky townsfolk, and assorted supernaturals. Now Lilith the calico sniffs out a strange beast. Fae foolery backfires. A friend is abducted. On a cold December day, Atonement, Tennessee comes into bloom.

Boy, did I miss these characters (especially Lilith, my favorite fictional calico cat) and this quirky little town.  When the author offered me an ARC, I jumped at the chance.

If you’re a regular reader of Geneviene, whether it’s her books or blog, her vast imagination comes as no surprise.  If this is your first encounter, you’re in for a creative treat.  With charismatic characters, both human and magical, glowing pigs, and an engaging mystery, this novel will easily persuade you to curl up in your favorite reading spot and spend a few delightful hours in the town of Atonement.

This is the second book in the series and could be read as a stand alone, but for maximum enjoyment, I’d advise reading Atonement, Tennessee first.  I’d highly recommend this series to fans of magical characters, eccentric towns, creative mysteries, and highly intelligent felines.  I’m still hoping Lilith gets her own book.

I received an ARC from the author.

Mammoth by Jill Baguchinsky #bookreview #YA #contemporary #TuesdayBookBlog

The summer before her junior year, paleontology geek Natalie Page lands a coveted internship at an Ice Age dig site near Austin. Natalie, who’s also a plus-size fashion blogger, depends on the retro style she developed to shield herself from her former bullies, but vintage dresses and perfect lipstick aren’t compatible with prospecting for fossils in the Texas heat. But nothing is going to dampen Natalie’s spirit — she’s exactly where she wants to be, and she gets to work with her hero, a rock-star paleontologist who hosts the most popular paleo podcast in the world. And then there’s Chase the intern, who’s seriously cute, and Cody, a local boy who’d be even cuter if he were less of a grouch.

It’s a summer that promises to be about more than just mammoths.

Until it isn’t.

When Natalie’s hero turns out to be anything but, and steals the credit for one of her accomplishments, Nat has to unearth the confidence she needs to stand out in a field dominated by dudes. To do this, she’ll have to let her true self shine, even if that means defying all the rules for the sake of a major discovery.

Although I’m not usually a big reader of YA contemporary, after reading the blurb for Mammoth, there’s no way I could pass it up.  I’m kind of a dino nerd – given, there aren’t dinosaurs in this book, but it was close enough for me.

Let me say up front – if you have daughters or know girls who are interested in STEM, steer them toward this book.  It strongly encourages girls to display their intelligence front and center, pursue their goals, and be themselves.  After they read it, encourage them to make better choices than Natalie.  She makes one bad decision after another and frustrated me – but she’s such a relatable, personable protagonist that I forgave her.  In her defense, she has good intentions, and also owns up to everything.  Nat’s character arc is incredible, and she’ll charm you from the first page.

Mammoth also contains some standard tropes that are difficult to get away from in YA – a love triangle, a rich, mean girl, and an awesome guy who maybe really isn’t, but all the supporting characters are well-written.

If you’re looking for a fresh, highly enjoyable read that also tackles some very relevant issues, Mammoth easily fills those requirements.

Thanks to the publisher and Edelweiss for the ARC.

#NaNoWriMo and #AmericanHorrorStory

I don’t know about you guys, but it’s a rainy Monday morning here.  It’s been several weeks since we’ve caught up, so let’s do something about it.  This will be a quick post – meant to write it yesterday, but life got in the way.

Wish I could say I’m caught up on visiting blogs by now after Bad Moon – but I’m totally not.  But – this is my first time participating in NaNoWriMo, and I’ve met my word count goal every day so far!  For someone who struggled to get 500 words per day two months ago, it’s a huge achievement, and I have such a feeling of accomplishment after recording my progress every day.  My biggest obstacle to word count in the past was editing.  Going back over what I’d written the previous day, then taking far too long choosing the perfect descriptive words was sucking up valuable writing time.  First drafts are messy, and no one but the writer should ever be put through the torture of reading them – but when they’re finished, you’ve got the bones of a story, and something to work with.

I haven’t made it to the movie theater in weeks, and there are several movies (Bohemian Rhapsody, First Man) I’d like to see – but it just didn’t work out schedule wise.  However, it’s a safe bet that I’ll show up for The Crimes of Grindelwald.  I mentioned several weeks back that this season’s American Horror Story looked promising, and with only one episode to go, it’s at the top of my favorites.  Sarah Paulson and Kathy Bates are always a pleasure to watch, but a new actor to the series has really impressed me this season – Cody Fern.  He’s enthralling as Michael, and he’s  steals every scene.  Okay, yes, he’s playing the Antichrist, but he does it so well.

Fern also turned up in the last season of House of Cards.  I’d looked forward to this final season, with all the backstabbing (sometimes literally), political maneuvering, manipulation, and deceit.  Kevin Spacey wasn’t in these last episodes – but everything was about his character.  I’d hoped it would be Claire’s (Robin Wright) story, and it was such a disappointment.  When all was said and done, I actually yelled out loud in disappointment.  No many unanswered questions.  It definitely ended with a whimper.

Have a great week, and if you’re participating in NaNoWriMo, hang in there!

 

The Fox, the Dog, and the King (Cassie Tam Files #2) by Matt Doyle #bookreview #LBGT #thriller

New Hopeland City may have been built to be the centerpiece of the technological age, but some remnants of the old world still linger. The tools of the trade have changed, but the corruption remains the same, even in the criminal underworld …

When PI Cassie Tam and her girlfriend Lori try to make up for their recent busy schedules with a night out at the theatre to watch the Tech Shift performer Kitsune, the last thing they expected was for Cassie to get a job offer. But some people are never off the clock, and by the end of the evening, Cassie has been drawn into a mundane but highly paid missing pet case. Unfortunately, in New Hopeland City, even something as simple as little lost dog can lead you down some dark paths.

Until now, Cassie wasn’t aware that there even was a rabbit hole, let alone how far down it goes. 

I read the first book in this series earlier this year, and immediately became a fan of Cassie Tam.  She’s a confident, successful woman in her PI business, but when it comes to romantic relationships – that’s where she’s challenged.

In this book, Cassie is struggling to find her footing with new girlfriend, Lori, and  balance their relationship with her workload.  She’s still charmingly awkward, and while she may not say exactly the right things, she honestly means well.  With encouragement from Lori, she’s also learning to be friends with her ex-girlfriend.

Upon realizing Cassie’s new case involves dog fighting, as an animal lover, I was a bit leery of how much detail would be given and wondered if I might have to skip some pages.  No worries – the fighting happens ‘off-screen’, and my heart was spared.

While the first book in this series focuses more on the fascinating tech and world-building, I felt like I got to know Cassie better in this new novel, and her snark is still one of my favorite qualities.  Action, mystery, twists, and a touch of romance make The Fox the Dog, and the King another intriguing addition to this light sci-fi series.  I wouldn’t saying reading the books in order is a necessity, but it would help with understanding more about the world-building and Cassie’s backstory.

I received a digital copy of this book from the author.

WWW Wednesday: What Am I Reading? #amreading

WWW Wednesday is a meme from Sam at Taking On A World Of Words

The Three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

After taking off the month of October for Bad Moon Rising, it seems like forever since I participated in this.   Anyhoo, I’m currently reading Something in the Water by Catherine Steadman for one of my book clubs.  We meet this Saturday, and I’m only on page 67.  So, yeah.  I’m really struggling with this one.  Other than the first few pages, which is really more of a prologue, nothing much has happened.  It’s all backstory.  I’m still hopeful, because the reviews are pretty good.

A shocking discovery on a honeymoon in paradise changes the lives of a picture-perfect couple in this taut psychological thriller debut–for readers of Ruth Ware, Paula Hawkins, and Shari Lapena.

If you could make one simple choice that would change your life forever, would you? 

Erin is a documentary filmmaker on the brink of a professional breakthrough, Mark a handsome investment banker with big plans. Passionately in love, they embark on a dream honeymoon to the tropical island of Bora Bora, where they enjoy the sun, the sand, and each other. Then, while scuba diving in the crystal blue sea, they find something in the water. . . .

Could the life of your dreams be the stuff of nightmares?

Suddenly the newlyweds must make a dangerous choice: to speak out or to protect their secret. After all, if no one else knows, who would be hurt? Their decision will trigger a devastating chain of events. . . .

Have you ever wondered how long it takes to dig a grave?

Wonder no longer. Catherine Steadman’s enthralling voice shines throughout this spellbinding debut novel. With piercing insight and fascinating twists, Something in the Water challenges the reader to confront the hopes we desperately cling to, the ideals we’re tempted to abandon, and the perfect lies we tell ourselves.

I recently finished What You Hide by Natalie D. Richards.  Friends, I enjoyed the heck out of this book.  With a library setting (perfect!) where strange things are going on, I couldn’t put this one down.  It also tackles some tough issues such as homelessness, emotional abuse, and unsafe home environments.  Add this one to your TBR!

A new pulse-pounding romantic thriller from the author of We All Fall Down and Six Months Later 

Spencer volunteers at the library. Sure, it’s community service, but he likes his work. Especially if it means getting to see Mallory.

Mallory spends a lot of time keeping her head down. When you’re sixteen and homeless, nothing matters more than being anonymous. But Spencer’s charm makes her want to be noticed.

Then sinister things start happening at the library. Mysterious symbols and terrifying warnings begin to appear, and management grows suspicious. Spencer and Mallory know a homeless teenager makes an easy target, and if they can’t find the real culprit soon, they could lose more than just their safe haven…

Next, I’ll read The Diviners by Libba Bray.  I’ve picked this up a few times, but then had to drop it for other book commitments.  It fits this month’s theme for my other book club, and I’d determined to finish it.

Evie O’Neill has been exiled from her boring old hometown and shipped off to the bustling streets of New York City—and she is pos-i-tute-ly ecstatic. It’s 1926, and New York is filled with speakeasies, Ziegfeld girls, and rakish pickpockets. The only catch is that she has to live with her uncle Will and his unhealthy obsession with the occult.

Evie worries he’ll discover her darkest secret: a supernatural power that has only brought her trouble so far. But when the police find a murdered girl branded with a cryptic symbol and Will is called to the scene, Evie realizes her gift could help catch a serial killer.

As Evie jumps headlong into a dance with a murderer, other stories unfold in the city that never sleeps. A young man named Memphis is caught between two worlds. A chorus girl named Theta is running from her past. A student named Jericho hides a shocking secret. And unknown to all, something dark and evil has awakened.

Pride and Fall (Cathedral Lake #3) by Staci Troilo #bookreview #suspense #romance

Fear unchecked cripples. Fear conquered liberates. 

Faith Keller has suffered much in her life–the murder of her sister, the near-destruction and almost-ruin of her family, a traumatic abduction. It’s no wonder she battles the effects of PTSD on a daily basis. The last thing she needs is to be the subject of an intense police investigation for the very crime her father was blamed for years before. Yet, despite her family’s staunchest efforts, she finds herself on the hot seat with a tenacious officer–but one whose attention she actually relishes.

Carter Emerson takes his job seriously. It’s the only tribute he can make to honor his fallen brother, and he’s determined to do the title “police officer” justice. When he sets his sights on Faith Keller, he’s torn. His mentor tells him he’s got it all wrong, but the evidence doesn’t lie. The worst part? He doesn’t want her to be guilty. He just wants her.

A story of healing and personal growth, Pride and Fall ends the Keller Family trilogy with action, deception, and a revelation readers won’t see coming.

This is the third book in the Cathedral Lake series, but it could also be considered a standalone.  Although reading the first two may be helpful, enough backstory is provided in Pride and Fall so that it’s not confusing.

After reading the first two books over the past year or so, it felt like catching up  with old friends again when I picked up this novel.  I’d missed these characters, and was anxious to see where life had taken them.  But we didn’t get to catch up for long, because the action and suspense begin almost immediately.  The other books have focused primarily on other family members, but this story is very much Faith’s.  She’s struggling with PTSD, along with trying to establish her veterinary practice and independence, while also dealing with family relationships fraught with tension.

Faith’s relationship with Carter is also tension-filled, and they have to maneuver around several obstacles before hitting smooth waters.  Carter is a new character to the series, and I enjoyed seeing his sometimes harsh, professional outer layers peel away to reveal a likable, gooey center.  As much as I enjoyed Carter and Faith’s relationship, as an animal lover, I thought the ‘relationship’ between Max and Ruby (their canine companions) was adorable and charming.

It was nice to see these characters find their happily ever after (hopefully) and finish their story.  If you’re a fan of family drama and suspense with a dose of romance, you can’t go wrong with this series.

Calendar Girls: Not Quite The End (Favorite Middle Book in a Series)

This is a meme I saw at Adrienne’s blog and thought it looked like fun.  She invited me to join in, and even though the Neil Sedaka song was embedded in my brain and played all day, I decided to participate.  I’m pretty late getting in on this, but better late than never, right?

Calendar Girl is a monthly meme now hosted by Katie@nevernotreading and Adrienne @darquedreamer

The Calendar Girls is a monthly blog event that was created by Melanie at MNBernard Books, and Flavia at Flavia the Bibliophile. It was inspired by the 1961 classic song by Neil Sedaka and created to ignite fun bookish discussions among readers and bloggers.

Each month we get a new theme and choose our favorite book for the theme. The participants get to vote for their favorite.

The other fun piece to The Calendar Girls group is the Twitter chat. On the 3rd Sunday of each month, at 8 p.m. EST, Katie and Adrienne will host a chat with hashtag #CGBChat, where everyone can participate and gif away. They will get the ball rolling by asking a question or two about the theme or the picks of the month to get everyone chatting. The hashtag will be used in all tweets, so you can see all the fun!

The first book in this series, This Mortal Coil by Emily Suvada, was one of my top reads last year, and I was worried the second book wouldn’t maintain the pace and intensity of the first.  Most people are familiar with ‘Middle Book Syndrome’, and I’d been burned before when going in with high expectations.

I worried for nothing.  This Cruel Design more than delivered, and is just as addictive.  More secrets, hidden agendas, and relationship reveals – plenty of shocks and surprises along the way.  And a cliffhanger that left my mouth gaping.  The last book in the series has a lot to live up to.

Cat thought the Hydra epidemic was over, but when new cases pop up, Cat must team up with an enemy to fix the vaccine before the virus spirals out of control in this thrilling sequel to This Mortal Coil, which New York Times bestselling author Amie Kaufman says “redefines ‘unputdownable.’”

The nightmare of the outbreak is finally over, but Cat’s fight has only just begun.

Exhausted, wounded, and reeling from revelations that have shaken her to her core, Cat is at a breaking point. Camped in the woods with Cole and Leoben, she’s working day and night, desperate to find a way to stop Lachlan’s plan to reprogram humanity. But she’s failing—Cat can’t even control her newly regrown panel, and try as she might to ignore them, she keeps seeing glitching visions from her past everywhere she turns.

When news arrives that the Hydra virus might not be as dead as they’d thought, the group is pushed into an uneasy alliance with Cartaxus to hunt down Lachlan and fix the vaccine. Their search takes them to Entropia, a city of genehackers hidden deep in the desert that could also hold the answers about Cat’s past that she’s been searching for.

But when confronted with lies and betrayals, Cat is forced to question everything she knows and everyone she trusts. And while Lachlan is always two steps ahead, the biggest threat to Cat may be the secrets buried in her own mind.