Dangerous Beauty by J.T. Geissinger

Rating: 2.5/5 stars Dangerous Beauty

Length: 264 pages

Series: Dangerous Beauty, Book 1

Genres: Romance, Contemporary, Suspense, Adult

Publication date: March 26, 2019

 

“It’ll be simple,” they said. “Just observe and report,” they said. Your first op, Naz, will be a walk in the park. Get a tan while you’re down there. Drink some beer. Make some easy money by spying on a Russian oligarch’s spoiled runaway wife.

Easy. Sure. Except apparently everyone, including her husband, underestimated this broad to a laughable fucking degree.

(Ch. 2, Naz)

Former Special Ops military man and bodyguard Nasir starts his new job thinking that it’s going to be a piece of cake. All he needs to do is trail a Russian mobster’s runaway wife in Mexico, enjoying the sun while observing and reporting back. The job comes with only one simple rule: don’t get too close. Yet it’s all Naz can do to not watch her every move. 

Evalina, on the other hand, believes she’s escaped her tormentor to live an untraceable life. Yet Eva knows there’s something that can’t be ignored about the dark, muscled stud who rescues her from a drug gang. Especially when they run into each other time and time again. Eva might have been spurned in the past but the mystery man might just show her that it’s okay to trust someone. 

 


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Stalking Jack the Ripper by Kerri Maniscalco

Rating: 4.5/5 stars Stalking Jack the Ripper

Length: 337 pages

Series: Stalking Jack the Ripper, Book 1

Genres: Historical Fiction, Young Adult, Mystery, Historical, Horror

Publication date: September 20, 2016

 

 Without lifting his head from his own journal, he said, “Not having any luck figuring me out, then? Don’t worry, you’ll get better with practice. And, yes” – he grinned wickedly, eyes fixed on his paper – “You’ll still fancy me tomorrow no matter how much you wish otherwise. I’m unpredictable, and you adore it. Just as I cannot wrap my massive brain around the equation of you and yet adore it.” 

(Ch. , p. 66)

Audrey Rose, seventeen years old, was born the daughter of a lord into the life of luxury. Yet between the tea servings and silk dress fittings she hides a dark secret: she often slips away to her Uncle’s lab to practice the gruesome forensic sciences.

When her work on savagely murdered corpses sets her on the path of a serial killer, Audrey find herself searching for clues close to her own sheltered world.

 


 

The first time I read this book, it had just come out. I adored it right away. Years passed and I picked up the second and third books in the series – Hunting Prince Dracula and Escaping From Houdini. Yet enough time had passed that I felt the need to reread Stalking Jack the Ripper before I continued on with the series.

For some reason, I thought that each story followed a different main character as they solved some of the biggest mysteries of all time. Thankfully I read the synopsis of Hunting Prince Dracula and realized my mistake. I wasn’t ready to give up Miss Audrey Rose just yet. Now knowing that she remains the main character throughout the series, I look forward to reading more about her and the mayhem she surrounds herself with.

One of the things that I loved the most about this story is how Audrey Rose isn’t afraid to be herself. Knowing that society looks down on women in general – let alone one that’s intent on learning forensic sciences – I’m glad to see that she never let society break her spirit. Especially since it seemed quite intent to do so at times. Instead, Audrey Rose continues to be true to herself and is willing to face any consequences of her actions.

As someone who’s not the biggest fan of Historical Fiction novels, I’m glad that I love this world as much as I do. Victorian England is a time in history that I’ve always been fascinated by and I do love seeing a strong female lead in this time period. The fact that this strong female lead was trying to solve the crime of the century – one I’ve been intrigued by for years – was just an added bonus.

Maniscalco does an amazing job at setting up a vibrant world with extraordinary characters. Her characters feel real; their emotions and motivations clear from the very beginning. Even when things are happening behind the scenes to characters, it’s clear that things aren’t always as calm and clear cut as they might seem.

Add to the list the real period photos interspersed in the story, and this novel becomes a well rounded piece of media. I found the pictures to be a great way to situate myself in the world of this book, to get myself as close to Audrey Rose’s head space as possible. I’m not always the biggest fan of photos being thrown into a story at random times, but Maniscalco did an amazing job at placing the photos at the most opportune time.

If you’re interested in Young Adult Mysteries, I’d highly recommend checking this story out if you haven’t done so already. I truly believe that this is a strong first book to the series. Knowing that it was Maniscalco’s debut novel impresses me all the more.

 


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Return Addresses by Michael A McLellan

ReturnAddresses2 copy

Welcome to the blog tour for Return Addresses by Michael A. McLellan! This book is getting loads of 5 star reviews! Find out why! Read on for an excerpt and a chance to win a $20 Amazon gift card!


New Final FINAL 4

Rating: 4/5 stars

Length: 278 pages

Series: N/A

Genres: Contemporary Fiction

Publication date: April 13, 2020

Publisher: Mountain Press


“This ain’t your world. You don’t have any friends out here. Not real ones. No one out here cares about nothin’ but where their next drink or fix is comin’ from. That, or they were born too messed up in the head to even understand what friendship is. Remember that. You can’t trust anybody. You can’t rely on no one but yourself.”

Fourteen-year-old Sean Pennington never thought he’d find himself riding on an open train car in the middle of the night. He never thought he’d find himself alone. He never thought he’d be running for his life.

In the spring of 2015 Sean Pennington’s world of comfort and privilege is shattered and he becomes a ward of the state. Thrust into a broken foster care system, he discovers the harsh realities of orphanhood. Lonely, confused, and tormented by his peers, he runs away, intending to locate his only living relative; a grandfather he’s never met, who his only connection with is a return address on a crumpled envelope. Enter Andrea, a modern day hobo Sean meets at a California homeless encampment. Andrea travels the country by rail, stowing away on shipping container cars with other transients calling themselves traveling kids. Though battling her own demons, road-savvy Andrea promises to help Sean on his quest, but can she protect him from the unpredictable and often violent world she lives in?

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The Princess and the Fangirl by Ashley Poston

Rating: 3.5/5 stars The Princess and the Fangirl

Length: 320 pages

Series: Once Upon a Con, Book 2

Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary, Romance, LGBT, Retelling

Publication date: April 2, 2019

 

Minerva cracks open an eye when she hears us approach. “Ah, so my prodigious progeny returns,” she purrs, although there’s only one prodigious child between us, and it’s not me. “Did you save the world or did you get lost?”

“Both?” I glance at Milo.

“Both,” he agrees.

“Both is good,” we say together.

(Ch. 4 (Imogen), p. 43)

Imogen Lovelace is your typical fangirl on a mission to save her favourite character from being killed off. The problem is the actress playing her doesn’t want to reprise her role. If this year’s ExcelsiCon isn’t her last, Jessica Stone will consider her career derailed.

When a case of mistaken identity throws Imogen and Jess together, they quickly become enemies. Yet when the script for the Starfield sequel gets leaked, all signs point to Jess and she must turn to Imogen to find the person responsible. As these “princesses” race to find the script leaker, they need to learn how to rescue themselves from their own expectations and learn what it means to live happily ever after.

 


 

My first thought when I started reading this book was that Geekerella could have lived forever as a standalone and I would’ve been happy. I’m more than happy to say that Poston changed my mind on this and I found myself enjoying this read. Sure I didn’t love it as much as I adored Geekerella when it first came out, but I’m always happy to fangirl with others. Since Anime North – the convention in Toronto, Ontario I go to every year with my best friend – was cancelled this year due to quarantine, I gladly jumped into this fantastical convention in its place.

I knew I was going into this read with a favourite retelling of The Prince and the Pauper so I tried not to judge this read too harshly. (If you’re curious, yes Barbie as the Princess and the Pauper is still the best retelling of this story to be made.) I’ll be the first to admit that I couldn’t help but compare the two retellings from time to time, though I tried not to let this taint my experience in this story.

Overall I found The Princess and the Fangirl to be an enjoyable read. It’s not the most poetic or scholarly read I’ve ever read, but it doesn’t try to be. This book promises a fun read with a lot of nerdy stuff thrown into the mix and that’s exactly what it delivers. If you go into this read expecting a fun, nerdy read you won’t be disappointed.

This book covers a wide variety of fandoms and I was excited to see one of – if not my top – favourite fandoms represented throughout this story. If you’ve read the story and are wondering who that character with the umbrella is that’s mentioned, I would highly recommend you check out The Adventure Zone by the McElroy family. This is my favourite podcast of all time (but all of their podcasts are great) and so far two graphic novels have been released based on the events of this story – Here There Be Gerblins (review here) and Murder on the Rockport Limited (review here). I was absolutely thrilled to find all the hidden nods to this series thrown in.

In fact, my favourite nods to fandoms were the ones that Poston threw in subtly. While most of the fandoms were simply mentioned – Harry Potter, Yu Gi Oh!, etc – it was nice to see more subtle nods in the story. That being said, I would have loved a list of fandoms to be at the end of the book. The nerd in me would love to have seen the list and given the chance to go through the book as a sort of scavenger hunt of nerdom.

I could continue to gush forever about the fandoms mentioned in this story, but that’s not the main point of this story. If you know the story of The Prince and the Pauper then you know the bare bones of this story. The characters and the meat of the story are what make it unique.

I believe that Poston did a great job at making this story its own. It stands apart from the other retellings of this story I’ve read – not only because it’s a modern retelling or because it’s got a nerdy twist to it, either. Poston put life into this story and made it her own.

 


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Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng

Rating: 3/5 stars Little Fires Everywhere

Length: 338 pages

Series: N/A

Genres: Contemporary, Fiction

Publication date: September 12, 2017

 

“… She knew she couldn’t handle things.” Mia scribbled a hasty note in the corner of her drawing. “The question is whether things are still the same. Whether she should get another chance.”

“And do you think she should?”

Mia did not answer for a moment. Then she said, “Most of the time, everyone deserves more than one chance. We all do things we regret now and then, you just have to carry them with you.”

(Ch. 15)

Elena Richardson embodies the rule following nature of Shaker Heights, a progressive suburb of Cleveland. When Mia Warren – enigmatic artist and single mother to a teenage girl – rents a house from the Richardsons, all four Richardson children are drawn to the mother-daughter pair. But Mia carries with her a mysterious past and a disregard for the status quo. When an old family friend attempts to adopt a Chinese-American baby, a custody battle erupts that drastically devised the town and leaves Elena and Mia on opposite sides of the divide.

 


 

Asian Readathon Challenges Met:

1. Read a book written by an Asian author: Ng is of Chinese decent.

4. Read a book recommended by an Asian: as this was the group book of the Readathon, it was suggested by Cindy in her 2020 Asian Readathon announcement video. 

5. *OPTIONAL* Read “Little Fires Everywhere” by Celeste Ng and participate in the 7#LittleFiresReadalong and #LittleFiresWatchalong (more information below)

 


 

First and foremost, I learned that this book was not for me. I can understand its merit, but it is not the kind of book that I find myself falling into. It might be because Contemporary books aren’t my usual go to that I had a harder time connecting with this story, but I find myself pulling away from this idea as I’ve read Contemporary books that I’ve fallen in love with.

The characters felt real enough and the problems they faced were serious, yet I still didn’t find myself falling in love with the world or the story. I could empathize with the events going on but I never felt pulled into the drama or a real tug on my heart strings.

That being said, I can completely understand why some people might love this story. While I easily fall head first into lands of magic and dragons, others find comfort in things more realistic. Closer to what they expect from real life. This story held notes of realism and dealt with issues that still exist today, roughly 20-30 years after the time this book was written in.

I find it hard to explain why I felt so detached from this story without going into spoilers, so I’ll leave the spoiler free section here. If you want to read my in depth feelings about the story, continue on to the spoiler section below.

 


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Beautifully Cruel by J.T. Geissinger

Rating: 4.5/5 stars Beautifully Cruel

Length: 319 pages

Series: N/A

Genres: Romance, Contemporary, Fiction, Adult, New Adult, Dark

Publication date: May 15, 2020

 

“Why, bless your heart, Mr. Driver. But you don’t have to worry about me. I’m only helpless when my nail polish is wet, and even then I can still pull a trigger.”

(Tru, Ch. 6)

Truvy Sullivan thought she was living a pretty normal life – going to law school, working as a waitress to make ends meet, and living with her good friend who didn’t have the best taste in guys. That is, until one rainy night a stranger saves her from a vicious attack. Not even knowing his name, Tru realized that the only place she felt safe was in his arms. But safety is an illusion and sooner than she’d realize Tru was going to learn that this mysterious alpha wanted something in return.

The characters are what brought this world together for me. Geissinger almost made them feel real, each with their own secrets, desires, and faults. The personal conflicts in this story, such as unrequited love, are things that could happen in real life. While the characters might go above and beyond in their reactions to these conflicts, I have to admit it made for a great read. Besides, what’s fiction for if not to have the reader suspend disbelief and experience something that they wouldn’t otherwise in their life?

While I wouldn’t ever want to find myself connected with a “bad boy” such as the likes found in this novel, I absolutely adore reading about them. The bad boy trope exists for a reason and it’s certainly one of my favourites to read about in romance novels.

I also really enjoyed the way that Geissinger used mundane activities – such as working a shift in a diner – throughout the story. Life it’s always fast paced, but it’s sometimes in these calmer moments that the most intense things happen. By having the contrast between the mundane and the extraordinary sprinkled throughout the novel, Geissinger managed to make this a fast paced read that caught and held my attention from the beginning.

The explicit content in this book wasn’t too bad either. While some people might prefer a tamer romance read, I really enjoyed the way that Geissinger wrote the more explicit scenes. They were hot and steamy and never felt out of place. If you’re interested in this kind of romance novel, look no further.

One thing this book showed me is that I seem to really enjoy romance books about the mafia. The Kiss Thief by L.J. Shen was the last book in this subgenre that I read (and greatly enjoyed) so if you also enjoy reading romance books like this one I’d recommend giving that one a try as well. That being said, Geissinger did a fantastic job in Beautifully Cruel and this novel deserves a read on its own. I would highly recommend picking this book up if you’re looking for a great new romance read.

 


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Shadow Frost by Coco Ma

Rating: 4.5/5 stars Shadow Frost

Length: 400 pages

Series: Shadow Frost, Book 1

Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult

Publication date: October 1, 2019

 

Eternity. It was as endless and grey as the bleak sky above, broken only by the craggy teeth of the mountain peaks. Gusts of snow lashed at barren rock, the bitter wind howling with the fury of a thousand souls forever damned.

(Prologue)

Asterin Faelenhart, Princess of Axaria and heir to the throne, discovers that she might very well hold the key to defeating the mysterious demon terrorizing her kingdom. And she’s vowed not to rest until the beast has been slain.

Together with her friends – and powers she doesn’t yet fully understand – Asterin sets out on her mission. Her only task? To kill the demon. Yet as they hunt, they unearth a plot to assassinate the Princess herself. Uncovering lie after lie, Asterin and her friends struggle to figure out how much of their lives have been lies. With no one else to turn to, they must decide who they’re willing to sacrifice in order to protect the only world they’ve ever known.

That is, of course, as long as the demon doesn’t get them first.

 


 

Asian Readathon Challenges Met:

1. Read a book written by an Asian author: Ma is of Chinese decent.

2. Read a book featuring an Asian character or written by an Asian author who you can relate to: Asterin is female (and that’s pretty much the only similarities we have). Ma is a Canadian, and so am I (again, pretty much the only similarity between us). 

3. Read a book featuring an Asian character or written by an Asian author who is different from you: Ma is an accomplished pianist, and while I’ve always wanted to take lessons I have no idea how to play the piano. 

 


 

This is a fast paced novel, filled with tricks and turns. One of the ways that this is so well done is through the short chapters and the multiple perspectives. I know my best friend has a problem with chapters that seem to run on forever so it was refreshing to see that this book didn’t have that going on. Especially since it means she might very well enjoy this story as much as I have.

It’s hard to get multiple perspectives done right, and Co ended up doing just that. The switch between characters is done wonderfully, making it easy for the reader to understand exactly when the perspective has changed as well as I applaud her for it as writing such a fantastic debut novel is hard to accomplish.

Asterin and her friends risk everything in this tale trying to find and destroy the demon that’s wreaking havoc. Knowing that they might not return with their lives, their determination brings them to the heart of the demon’s hunting grounds. Little do they know the truths that they’re going to unveil along the way.

Things aren’t always as they seem in this world and it’s Asterin’s job to uncover the truth – even if she doesn’t know it. Her friends are willing to risk their lives in order to protect Asterin and find the truth, to protect not only their kingdom but the entire world from the darkness that’s started to befall them. The biggest question is if Asterin will be able to save her friends.

If you’re looking for a fast paced YA Fantasy read, I recommend giving this read a try. Not only is it a fantastic debut novel, I truly believe it’s a great novel all around. It was engaging and fun, harrowing and heart wrenching. I look forward to reading more of Ma’s works as they’re released. (God Storm‘s expected publication date is October 20, 2020 – amazon link).

 


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Storm Glass by Maria V Snyder

Rating: 4.5/5 stars Storm Glass

Pages: 488

Series:  Glass, Book 1; The Chronicles of Ixia, Book 4

Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy, Romance, Magic, Fiction, Magic, Magicians

Publication date: May 1, 2009

Within seconds of getting comfortable, I fell asleep. The wind whistled in my dreams as I ran from the waves. The sand sucked at my feet and hindered my movements before melting under me. I slogged through thick molten glass as a huge wave grew behind me. Riding on top of the waves was Blue Eyes. He beckoned to me. His voice echoes in my chest. “Finish the job.”

(Chapter 5)

Growing up as a glassmaker and becoming a magician-in-training has taught Opal Cowan what it means to survive trial by fire. When someone sabotages the Stormdance clan’s glass orbs causing the deaths of their most powerful magicians, the Stormdancers call of Opal’s unique talents to prevent it from happening again. But when the mission goes awry, Opal must learn to tap into a new kind of magic. As she delves further into the intriguing connection between glass and magic the more distorted things appear. Lives hang in the balance, forcing Opal to learn how to control her powers – powers that could lead to disaster beyond anything she’s ever known.

I absolutely adored the way that Snyder continued to expand the world in this series. While I’ve previously read the 6 books in the Poison Study series, I didn’t realize just how much I was missing by not reading the Glass trilogy. To prevent anyone from going through the same things that I did, I’d highly recommend reading Storm Glass after finishing Fire Study – basically, follow the Chronicles of Ixia order.

In Storm Glass, the reader is introduced to much of Sitia that we hadn’t yet explored.  Not only are you given a look at the Stormdance lands, you’re also taken on a tour of some of the other clan homelands. I certainly found this useful as a tool to understand the world that these characters are living in.

Speaking of the characters, I greatly enjoyed seeing a side of known characters – such as Opal and Leif – that we didn’t get to see from Yelena’s perspective, as well as getting to know new characters. Opal has already gone through a lot in her life before the events in this book, but Storm Glass just goes to show how strong Opal is and the lengths she’s willing to go to protect the innocent.

If you’re interested in a land filled with magic and mystery, you might want to give these books a try. Whether through Yelena’s perspective or Opal’s, you’ll learn a lot about the magic system in this world. Not to mention exploring magical talents the likes of which Sitia has never seen before.


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Fire Study by Maria V Snyder

Fire Study.jpg

Rating: 4.25/5 stars

Pages: 441

Series: Poison Study, Book 3; The Chronicles of Ixia, Book 3

Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy, Romance, Magic, Fiction

Publication date: February 26, 2008

 

Magic made me lazy. And when I encountered a bad situation, I reached for it without thought.

(Yelena’s musings, Ch. 22).

Word that Yelena is a soulfinder is spreading like wildfire throughout Sitia and people are growing uneasy. Yelena’s past and her unusual abilities set her apart from other magicians, leaving the Council debating Yelena’s fate. When she receives the disturbing message that a murderous sorcerer she’s defeated before is plotting against her homeland, honour sets Yelena on a quest to stop him once and for all.

Without going into spoilers, I just have to share my love for Moon Man. No matter how cryptic he’s being or how much he’s frustrating Yelena, I absolutely adore this man. His sassiness speaks to me, along with his determination to do what’s right even when it’s not the easiest thing in the world.

Looking at the plot of this story, I think it was a great way to conclude this, the opening trilogy in the Chronicles of Ixia. Yelena has gone through a lot of growth; both as a person and as a magician. She’s learned what it takes to trust others and how to do what you believe in, even when it’s terrifying.

As with the first time I read this series, I’ve absolutely fallen in love with the world. It feels real, the necklace snakes a terrifying nightmare that could be a reality. The Avibian plains, a place filled with magic and mayhem, almost somewhere I’d like to get lost in.

Of course, things are even more difficult for Yelena and her friends in this book. One might think that facing the same villain for a second time would make them easier to beat, but that’s not accounting for all of the twists and turns Yelena and her friends find themselves dealing with this time around.

If you haven’t yet checked out Snyder’s work, I’d recommend it. So far I’ve read the six main books in the Poison Study series so far and am looking forward to completing the rest of the Chronicles of Ixia novels. I’ve grown to adore her writing and look forward to checking out her other books as well.

 

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The Story of My Life by Helen Keller

Rating: 5/5 stars The Story of My Life

Length: 240 pages

Series: N/A

Genres: Biography, Classics, Nonfiction, Autobiography, Historical, Inspirational, Disability

Publication date: May 1, 1990 (first published 1902)

 

It is with a kind of fear that I begin to write the history of my life. I have, as it were, a superstitious hesitation in lifting the veil that clings about my childhood like a golden mist.

(Ch 1, p. 1)

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