The Skeleton Key by Erin Kelly, published 01 September 2022.
Nell’s father wrote a book years before she was born. A book about golden bones that was part children’s story, part treasure map. A book that some people were so obsessed about, they drew strange conclusions and when Nell was a child they tried to cut her open, certain she was born with the last missing piece of the miniature golden skeleton hidden inside of her.
Now, the family meets up to celebrate the upcoming publication of the 50th anniversary edition and its new treasure hunt. With trepidation Nell arrives at her parents’ home which brings back all the memories she has tried to bury. All her family is there. As well as a camera team filming an exclusive documentary. Meanwhile, outside the house, the hard core fans are gathering.
A story of a woman who has hidden herself from the public because of the decisions of her parents. She’s trying to protect her foster daughter as much as herself from the events and the repercussions of the past.
A page-turner with an MC that has scars on her body and soul. Solving the decades old riddle, unearthing several family secrets on the way, is the only way for Nell to keep her foster daughter and make peace with the past.
Voices of the Dead by Ambrose Parry, expected publication 15 June 2023.
Set in 1853, two years after the events of the last book, the fourth book in the Raven, Fisher and Simpson historical (medical) detectives series is centred on mesmerism and the power of mediums.
Body parts have been found around the city and the culprit is soon identified, but the case doesn’t seem to be as straightforward as it seems. Raven helps McLevy with the investigation. Sarah, obviously, helps Raven with the investigation, while trying to learn more about mesmerism. Furthermore, there is a medium that disturbs the routine at Queen Street during a séance that was supposed to clarify that mediums are a fraud. Raven seems at odds with all of it: the things the medium revealed at the séance, Sarah’s interest in mesmerism, the dapper gentleman who’s interested in Sarah, the new head surgeon at Surgeon’s Hall, his wife and his toddler son,…
I had some trouble getting into the story. I felt like I had missed some information at the end of book 3 of the series. So I went back and skim-read book 3 to be up to date, and suddenly the beginning of Voices of the Dead made sense to me. I had indeed forgotten some important details.
Once I got stuck in the book, though, it was hard to put down. Not because I wanted to know whether they would catch the murderer in the end and, more importantly, who the murderer had been – as with most mystery/detective novels, I had an idea how it all tied together before I got to the halfway point – my main interest was the main characters and how their lives and relationships would enfold.
4/5 Harpy Eagles
Miss Percy’s Pocket Guide to the Care and Feeding of British Dragons (2021) & Miss Percy’s Travel Guide to Welsh Moors and Feral Dragons (2022) by Quenby Olson.
Mildred Percy, spinster, inherits a trunk from an uncle. The inheritance and arrival of the trunk soon turns Miss Percy’s rather dull life into an exciting story as it turns out one of the items in the trunk is a dragon egg that soon hatches. Miss Percy is about to have an adventure that ladies of her age are not supposed to have.
After an attempt at abduction, Miss Percy comes to the conclusion that the dragon named “Fitz” needs to be brought to a certain area in Wales to make sure no fortune hunters of any kind try catching him a second time. Together with the local vicar and the vicar’s housekeeper, an old map of her uncle’s and Fitz tucked into a basket, Miss Percy sets off to the unknown land of Wales. A country and journey full of dangers.
The stories are of found family, middle-aged main characters, kindness, adventure and teamwork. The writing is easy to follow, if a bit verbose at times, fast-paced and with the right amount of humour to keep you entertained until the last page.
3.5/5 Harpy Eagles for each book
The Good, the Bad and the History by Jodi Taylor, expected publication 22 June 2023.
For those of you who read this blog regularly, you'll remember that I fell in love with The Chronicles of St Mary's series during the pandemic. I have, since then, re-read the series several times and was in the middle of my "great TCoSM re-read" when Headline Publishing granted my wish and I got a NetGalley eARC of the 14th novel in the series. Naturally, I left book 8, And the Rest is History, unfinished and read the ARC first.
The Good, the Bad and the History is a different St Mary's novel, because, apart from the jumps depicted on the cover (a trip to yet another library on fire and Swan Court), most of the story happens in the future - you know, the desk job Max took up in book 13. Max has to go back to the future 'to close the circle'. Which, incidentally, is also what this novel does with the whole series, there are little remarks about previous jumps/stories here and there, and quotes from previous books, former members of St Mary's being mentioned, etc. Overall, I had the feeling this was to be the last St Mary's story ever. And then there were three seemingly small words right before the Acknowledgements that made me sigh in relief.
Now I can't wait for the signed paperback to arrive so I can re-read the story again while listening to the audiobook.
(For those dying to know: Yes, I finished the "great TCoSM re-read" and, of course, that included re-reading The Good, the Bad and the History.)
5/5 Harpy Eagles
This Time by Joan Szechtman, published 2009.
A Time Travel story about the English king Richard III being snatched from Bosworth Field seconds before his death and being transported to the future.
Sooner than one would think possible for a man having been raised in the rather strict 15th century, Richard acclimatises to the peculiarities of the 21st century. Bathroom facilities don’t faze him; neither does modern clothing or food. He gets the hang of how TV remote controls work as well as mobile phones. He, the king of England, doesn’t even mind being addressed like a commoner, with a nickname even. And although he is still pining after his beloved wife Anne, he soon falls into bed with the one female researcher who greeted him upon his arrival; before you ask, yes, he can wield a condom like he used to wield his sword. I gave up at the point where the previously escaped Richard, who disguised himself as a kitchen help in a restaurant, is about to be recaptured.
The story could have been a good one. The idea is great. Yet, the characters are all one dimensional and Richard takes to the 21st century too easily.
Antimatter Blues by Edward Ashton, published 14 March 2023.
Mickey 7 is back, or should I say he’s still alive? It’s two years after Mickey bartered for his “freedom” from being an Expendable by hiding a bomb with the Creepers. Spring has come to Niflheim and there are problems with the reactor core. To ensure everyone’s survival before the next winter comes, Mickey has to get the bomb back from the Creepers, but it’s gone. What follows is a road trip to recover the bomb from a different tribe of Creepers.
The novel has a plot, but it’s not important. Mickey will save the day, because he is the Chosen One.
1/5 Harpy Eagles
What Angels Fear by C.S. Harris, published 2005.
The first novel in a dark mystery series set in Britain in the early 19th century, right around the tumultuous time when the Regency was about to be declared. Sebastian St Cyr is implicated in the murder and, knowing himself to be innocent, takes it upon himself to find the murderer.
Truly liked to see a mystery set in the early times of the Regency. St Cyr is a likable hero and there are interesting secondary characters. The writing is engaging and the chapters are short, which made the novel a pageturner for me.
4/5 Harpy Eagles
Weyward by Emilia Hart, 02 February 2023.
The cover is gorgeous. The writing is excellent. The three storylines are well-interwoven. That should all make this a five star reading. Do. Not. Be. Fooled. By. The. Cover. This book is darker than you’d think. It’s full of domestic violence, sexual assault, male abuse and subjugation of women, furthermore stillbirth, abortion, miscarriage, mutilation, suicidal intentions.
Three timelines. Three women. Three, let’s call them, hedgewitches are fighting for their independence by using insects or birds to free themselves from their male oppressor/s and/or use the animals for their vengeance.
There is nothing new in these three stories. We’ve read it all before. Women being oppressed by the men in their lives, be it father, husband, family members, neighbours, clergy, men of law. Women being at fault just because they are women.
I appreciate what Hart did here, interweaving the three stories, but even at the end of the book we cannot see the light at the end of the tunnel. The end of the book is the circle closing, to make sure the three stories can interconnect.
The Adventures of Amina al-Sirafi by Shannon Chakraborty, published 02 March 2023.
From the cover of the US edition you might conclude this is a YA fantasy novel. The UK edition cover might make you revise that idea. Whatever idea you come to in the end, did you think of a tall, brown skinned, middle-aged female pirate who leaves her ten-year-old daughter behind to rescue the daughter of a former crew mate?
It’s a swashbuckling tale of Amina’s first adventure after having left her pirating ways when her daughter was born. You’ll encounter a woman torn between the love for her daughter and family as well as her first love her ship and the sea. There are mythical creatures, sea monsters, magic, fights with mythical sea creatures and, we’re among seafaring people, cussing and drinking.
If you liked Pirates of the Caribbean and are more than ready for another pirate adventure with a daring captain and her middle-aged crew in the Indian Ocean at medieval times, then get this book as soon as possible.
The Art of Prophecy by Wesley Chu, published 09 August 2022.
Before I even dare to share any of my thoughts about this book, let me tell you one important thing about myself: I don’t like epic books. I especially dislike epic fantasy books. I might have said this before.
The Art of Prophecy is the first part of an epic fantasy series and I really liked it. Liked it so much so that I put all the other books I have going on the back burner and concentrated on this alone. In other words, I devoured it.
Jian is a Chosen One. The Chosen One that has been prophesied to slay the Eternal Khan. His martial arts training has been overseen by different Masters since he was a small boy. Yet, what Master Taishi encounters when she evaluates him is a spoilt boy living in his lavish palace being waited on hand and foot.
Master Taishi is appalled at how unprepared the spoilt hero of the Enlightened States actually is. She takes it upon herself to train him and dismisses his former masters. Neither the masters nor the spoilt hero are happy about this turn of events. But this is only the first of many unexpected turns that will change the lives of Jian and Taishi.
Set in an alternate China. Martial Arts fights that far exceed what you’ve seen in the cinema. A slowly expanding cast of characters. A Chosen One, Coming of Age story like no other I’ve read in a long time.
And now I am ordering the Waterstones special edition for the re-read.
Scotto Moore’s Wild Massive was published on 07 February 2023.
Scotto Moore’s Wild Massive is a glorious web of lies, secrets, and humor in a breakneck, nitrous-boosted saga of the small rejecting the will of the mighty.
Welcome to the Building, an infinitely tall skyscraper in the center of the multiverse, where any floor could contain a sprawling desert oasis, a cyanide rain forest, or an entire world.
Carissa loves her elevator. Up and down she goes, content with the sometimes chewy food her reality fabricator spits out, as long as it means she doesn’t have to speak to another living person.
But when a mysterious shapeshifter from an ambiguous world lands on top of her elevator, intent on stopping a plot to annihilate hundreds of floors, Carissa finds herself stepping out of her comfort zone. She is forced to flee into the Wild Massive network of theme parks in the Building, where technology, sorcery, and elaborate media tie-ins combine to form impossible ride experiences, where every guest is a VIP, the roller coasters are frequently safe, and if you don’t have a valid day pass, the automated defense lasers will escort you from being alive.
Wild Massive: The #1 destination for interdimensional war. Rate us on VacationAdvisor™!
Like Battle of the Linguist Mages this seemed to be the perfect book for me. I was looking forward to the audiobook ARC and when I got to it I basically listened to the whole book in one very long session. For one, the book is massive. Also, I was certain should I put it down, I wouldn’t pick it up again.
It was interesting and I kept waiting for the weird to unfold and make sense, but –here’s the rub- the ending unfolded the weird but left me unsatisfied. All that – slow info-dumps to get the world-building across and fast paced action scenes – for a rather lame ending. I wish there had been a tiny bit “more” here, though I am not sure how this more could have looked liked.
To sum this up: It’s a wild ride with Sci-Fi and Fantasy elements and I have the feeling that I didn’t truly understand what this genre-bender was about, or that I missed some critical information.
Here’s the promised second part for December. Well, what can I say, I read a lot.
Pulling the Wings Off Angels by K. J. Parker, published 15 November 2022.
Look, another KJ Parker! That's how I approached this novella. I just like the writing style of Parker's first person POV novellas.
The story follows a young man who was born with the proverbial silver spoon in his mouth, likes gambling and suddenly owes a loan shark quite a substantial sum of money. Without wanting to spoil too much, our miserable first person narrator finds himself in a pickle that he might not be able to get out of. Because fate and the sins of his forefathers, justice and mercy are all working against him; as well as that well-meaning brilliant professor of his, Saloninus.
As much as this is a metaphysical/religious/philosophical work and at times felt a bit 'preaching to the choir', I truly enjoyed it. Not least because of Saloninus, who is a self-professed genius.
4/5 Harpy Eagles
A Very Scalzi Christmas by John Scalzi, published 30 November 2019.
Scalzi put fifteen snippets of Christmas fun into this collection. There are interviews, short stories, informational articles and poems.
As much as I liked the short stories, I have to say that I liked the interviews the most. There's one with Santa's lawyer, for example. My favourite was the one with Santa's reindeer wrangler.
It's a selection that you can dip into and don't have to scarf down like a plate of the most delicious Christmas cookies. I said can! You can, of course, also just read them all in one sitting as I did.
5/5 Harpy Eagles
The Christmas Killer by Alex Pine, published 29 October 2020.
The review copy for this debut novel had been on my TBR for far too long. I have heard a lot of good about this series and am glad that I actually got to it.
The ARC was a rather tough read. There were grammar errors and the prose and dialogues sounded very clunky and stilted at times. I hope this has been edited out before the book went public.
What rankled me most, though, was how easy it was to sniff out who the murderer was and what their motive was. I was fairly certain early on that I had the right person and then only kept on skimming the text to find out whether I was right. I was.
As I said above, the series has a lot of fans and I hope the sequels improved in quality compared to the first book.
2/5 Harpy Eagles
The Dresden Files by Jim Butcher, series published since 2000.
Yes, I might be late to this Urban Fantasy series, but this just means I have lots of books to binge on.
A friend from Litsy sent me the first book in the series, Storm Front (2000), felt ages ago. I had another book to read to get my self-set goal of reading twenty physical copies off my shelves, so I chose this. Well, I was in for a treat.
Harry Dresden, the wizard protagonist of the series might be a little old-fashioned in his believes and in the way he works and lives (anything invented after the 1940s doesn't really work around him), but he soon grew on me. Even if he notices the erectness of the nipples of the woman in front of him before he notices the colour of her eyes. I have yet to see him mistreat a woman. In fact, he recognises that women are often far stronger than men and behaves fairly gentlemanly around women.
Chauvinism or no chauvinism aside, there are wizards, ghosts, demons, literal fairy godmothers, vampires, werewolves,... All the ingredients for a good Urban Fantasy. And it's set in Chicago, not New York, or London or a small town somewhere out in the back of beyond.
I'm three books in and I know I have to get to the next one sooner than later.
Also, the audiobooks are narrated by James Marsters, who does an excellent job. Even when I am reminded of Spike from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, especially when he, as Harry, is talking about vampire lore.
I have to admit, I knew nothing about this book, but I liked the cover and the blurb was interesting enough.
Raine can see--and more importantly, speak--to the dead. It's a wretched gift with a death sentence that has her doing many dubious things to save her skin. Seeking refuge with a deluded cult is her latest bad, survival-related decision. But her rare act of kindness--rescuing an injured woman in the snow--is even worse.
The author walks a fine line between YA and adult book, sometimes, Raine got a bit on my nerves, but not so much that I did not enjoy the story from start to finish. There is a sapphic love interest that’s not dominating the story, but interwoven in an engaging way. Raine herself is bisexual, which is a big plus for me, because I just don’t care about the heteronormative love stories anymore.
The story is a classic hero’s journey, but for an epic fantasy, its fairly short with just under 350 pages. The momentum the author builds from chapter one does not die down, and the story leaves you wanting to know more of the world. Many things are hinted at, and I’m looking forward to Book 2 next year.
I suppose there will be a part two towards the end of the month, just because I seem to be reading at least one book a day at the moment.
The Last Tale of the Flower Bride by Roshani Chokshi, expected publication day 14 February 2023.
A gorgeous UK cover. A Gothic tale with beautiful lyrical writing and different folk tales woven into it.
Sadly, the very slow plot never really gripped my attention.
Trigger warning: the relationships between the MCs is toxic, which made reading the story not easier.
2/5 Harpy Eagles
Arden St. Ives trilogy by Alexis Hall
How to Bang a Billionaire (2017)
Arden St. Ives is a student at Oxford when he meets billionaire Caspian Hart. There is chemistry, but although Arden would like to pursue the relationship Caspian doesn't want to ... at first.
Arden is a bit neurotic, yet playful and has an interesting approach to life. Caspian has this dark secret that will be uncovered by the end of the trilogy. There is a billionaire throwing his money around, but it's kind of natural rather than OTT. It's not as steamy as I expected it to be, nor full of weird BDSM.
This first book ends without a cliffhanger. Still, you -just like me- might want to read the next book in this gay 50 Shades of Grey trilogy you didn't know you'd want to read until you started it.
4/5 Harpy Eagles
How to Blow it with a Billionaire (2017)
Arden and Caspian are trying to make their relationship work, but the odds are stacked against them. Caspian is a workaholic and has limited time to spend with Arden.
This book ends in a cliffhanger of sorts. There is a possibility for a happily ever after in the third book though.
5/5 Harpy Eagles
How to Belong with a Billionaire (2019)
Arden and Caspian have a long way to go to get their HEA.
The most important thing for me was knowing that Ardy-Baby was okay. We also get to see more of Ellery (Caspian's sister) and Bellerose (Caspian's PA), which makes me hope that either of them gets their own book in future.
4/5 Harpy Eagles
The Paradox Hotel by Rob Hart, published 22 February 2022.
The Paradox Hotel caters for the super-rich who are about to embark on or have come back from a trip to another century at the Einstein Intercentury Timeport. Grumpy January Cole is the head of security at the hotel and her day just got harder. She's unstuck, which means she is no longer rooted in time. She sees her dead girlfriend, different timelines and there is a dead body not even her AI bot can see. On top of that, four trillionaires are about to meet for a summit to bid on the hotel.
January is the perfect cynical sarcastic detective to find out who killed the dead body. She's pressed for time though, her mind is crumbling, and time is acting up in the weirdest way.
It's a time travel detective story with a noir vibe, LGBTQ+ representation, and a very diverse found family.
4/5 Harpy Eagles
The Locked Attic by B.P. Walter, published 24 November 2022.
I get that thrillers thrive on secrets, but this story was full of rather obvious secrets. Not only that, the secrets were dangle in front of me like a carrot in front of a donkey; they were clearly just used to make me turn the pages.
I didn't mind the non-linear storytelling. I was much more peeved that the two POV read very similar; shouldn't a teenager sound different from his mid-thirties mother?
And why was the secret in the titular Locked Attic not the main topic of the story? The title and blurb are misleading.
I really liked the author's The Dinner Guest, but his last book The Woman on the Pier and this book didn't really work for me.
If This Book Exists, You’re In The Wrong Universe, by Jason Pargin.
This is the fourth book in the John Dies at the End series. All the other books in the series were written under Pargin's pen name David Wong, who is also the main character of the stories.
Like the three other books in this series, this book can be read as a standalone. Reading the other books in the series, in order or not, won’t help with that feeling of “what the … am I reading here?” It's a bonkers wild ride with aliens and magical soy sauce and parasites and a magical egg that demands human sacrifices and ...
In other words, a novel where you have to trust that the author knows what they were doing and go with the flow.
4/5 Harpy Eagles
The Conductors (Murder and Magic book 1) by Nicole Glover, published 02 March 2021.
I liked the idea of the story, Underground Railroad conductors turned detectives, and there is magic involved. Sadly, I didn’t like the way the story was told.
Too many characters are introduced at the beginning of the story and they all lacked backstory, so keeping up with who was who was difficult.
The magic system is not well explained. It’s not clear what makes a magic holder and how exactly the magic works. All I understood was that constellations are used as sigils and those make up a spell.
The mystery is interesting, but since there was too much telling, via dialogue between the two main characters Hetty and Benjy, it was not very engaging.
This speculative fiction woven into a historical fiction story was not for me. Still, I am hoping the next books in the series are better.
3/5 Harpy Eagles
The Immortality Thief by Taran Hunt, published 11 October 2022.
This is the story of that quirky side-character who seems to always stumble into situations without ever having had the ambition to be a hero. Alas, he's about to become the hero he never wanted to be and here is his story.
There is a thousand year old space ship about to be sucked into a supernova. Sean Wren, refugee, criminal, linguist, and FTL pilot, and two other felons are offered a pardon when they rescue important data about the Philosopher's Stone from the space ship before it goes up in flames. What's supposed to be a quick job soon turns into alien encounters, sociopolitical debates and a rather predictable outcome.
I liked the short chapters and the chapter titles. I did not enjoy the 600+ pages of the book. The story could have been told in half the page-count.
3/5 Harpy Eagles
Legends & Lattes by Travis Baldree, first published 22 February 2022, US publication 10 November 2022.
TheMarquessMagpie wrote a wonderful review about this book earlier this year. You can find it here. I agree wholeheartedly.
This book is like a hot mug of coffee and a warm cinnamon roll on a blustery autumn day. Simply delicious, heart-warming soul-food.