King’s Illness Draws Daughters Together

daughters_of_stormThe King falls ill seemingly with a brain illness. He has fits of raving and then long deep sleeps. The sleeps become longer and more frequent. His wife, the daughters’ step-mother sends for her son. The daughters come to his side as well. There are 5 girls, each so different from the other. Bluebell, the eldest, is a warrior and next in line for the throne. Rose was married off to a neighboring kingdom to help maintain a peace and loves her daughter dearly and another man. Ash is gifted or cursed with magic. She has been sent to learn to be a healer. The youngest of the girls, the twins Ivy and Willow, couldn’t be more different. Ivy is all about boys. And Willow is aiming to be pious, but to the trimartyr god and not to, as she puts it, the heathen gods her sisters believe in.
The five daughters come together to take their father away from whatever might be making him sick. Then, they seek a way to heal him. Each weathers the journey differently. And each of the daughters faces challenges. How they deal with the challenges is so very human and not always as successfully as they would like.
I thought in the beginning that 5 daughters would be too much for one book. But, Kim Wilkins makes it work. It’s easy to tell when the point of view changes from one to the other because they are so very different from each other. And there is variety. So, for example, if you don’t much like Ivy, you don’t have to read about her too long before the point of view changes to another daughter.
While a little slow in places, overall the plot moves along at a decent rate. When it seems slow, it’s really setting things up for a future occurrence.
I think this could mostly be read as a stand-alone, but there are enough loose ends to make someone want to read the next book. I’m wondering where the second book will go.
I give this book a rating of 4 out of 5 stars. Overall, it’s well-written with interesting characters and events. If you enjoy a good fantasy read, then you will probably enjoy this book.

Daughters of the Storm by Kim Wilkins is expected to be released from Del Rey books March 6, 2018.

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley. All opinions herein are my own and freely given.


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Once Upon a Time…

hazel_woodOnce upon a time, there was a girl named Alice who lived with her mother. They had no one home but many. They stayed with friends on couches and in space rooms always leaving when bad luck caught up to them.

One day her mother, Ella, got an email saying her mother was dead. She said to Alice, “We’re free.” But she didn’t say from what.

Time passed and they settled in Brooklyn. Ella met a man and married. They moved in with him and his daughter. Now Ella had a step sister and a stepfather. She went to private school and worked in a coffee shop.

Then one day Alice returned home only to perceive that things weren’t quite right. Her mother has gone missing, kidnapped. The best clue she gets is a message from her mother saying not to go to the Hazel Wood, her grandmother’s estate. Alice seeks help reluctantly from a classmate who is also a somewhat enthusiastic fan of her grandmother’s writing, Tales from the Hinterland, a collection of faith tales. Finch agrees to help her for his own reasons. Together they head for Hazel Wood. What follows is a dark fairy tale journey as they seek her mother. It will take them to Hazel Wood and beyond.

I have this book 4 stars out of 5. I really enjoyed the writing and the story. I liked Alice, faults and all. No one is perfect. This is not a retelling, but an original. If you like fairy tales with some darkness like the original Brothers Grimm, then this would be a good book for you.

An excerpt from the beginning of the book is here on Entertainment Weekly. There will be a sequel to this book as well as an edition of Tales from the Hinterland according to Goodreads.

The Hazel Wood was released January 30, 2018 from Flatiron Books.

I received a copy of this book through a giveaway on Goodreads. This is an honest, uninfluenced review.

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Three Mysteries in One

phantom_OzIvy Meadows, actress and almost private-investigator, is at it again in the fifth installment in the series The Phantom of Oz by Cindy Brown. Ivy gets word that her close friend Candace Moon is going to be in town performing a space opera version of the Wizard of Oz. But, Candy isn’t looking like her usual vibrant, voluptuous self. It looks like she’s developed an eating disorder or an addiction to diet pills or perhaps both. A chandelier drops on some of the cast during a rehearsal. Then Candy up and disappears. Babette. the wicked witch who is auditioning the munchkins, doesn’t seem too concerned. Candy’s boyfriend hires Ivy to find Candy. Meanwhile, accidents continue to plague the production. People begin to wonder if the rumored theater ghost is real.

There are really 3 mysteries in this book. The first is about the accidents plaguing the production. The second is where has Candy gone? And the third is a murder mystery. Cindy Brown handles them all well. Entwined within the mysteries is a theme of body image and how mean people can be to those that differ from their ideal especially perhaps in the theater/film crowd. Ms. Brown promotes the idea of a healthy body image using the costumer for the company.

The mysteries are well-written. They all kept my attention. One scene has Ivy down in a room with a pool of water of unknown depth looking for Candace. The suspense and tension of the scene were such that I had trouble reading what happens even knowing that the heroine will most likely be okay in the end. It might not be a long scene, but it’s definitely one that shows the talent the author has for creating suspense.

Overall I give this mystery 4 stars out of 5. It’s well-written. The characters are believable. The mysteries are suspenseful and resolved well. I liked the theme of body image woven into the story. It’s an important and timely topic. I was able to read and enjoy this book without having read the earlier books in the series. I liked the story and writing enough to look into them at a future date though.

The Phantom of Oz is due to be released January 30, 2018 from Henery Press.

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley. All opinions herein are my own and freely given.


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Not a “churchwoman”, but a probie

Flame_inthe_DarkNell Ingram is no longer a “churchwoman” in the polygamist church she grew up in. She has grown into the role of probie in Unit 18 of PsyLed, a unit of Homeland Security responsible for dealing with paranormals like vampires, werewolves, witches, and more.

Nell has also grown in her abilities as whatever type of paranormal she is. She can read the earth to find out things about recent happenings in an area as well as use it for different reasons.

The PsyLed unit is called into the investigation of an assassination attempt on a senator because of the presence of Ming of Glass (vampire) and some abnormalities surrounding the attempt. Nothing exactly points to paranormals initially, but they are still kept in the loop. Further attempts on the senator and his family keep PsyLed involved in the investigations.

There is a romance subplot between Nell and Occam. And Nell’s mama tries to set her up with someone as well.

The characters are well developed, especially the PsyLed team and Nell’s little sister, Mud. I like that they come across as real people who just happen to have these special abilities. Also, I like that Faith Hunter has a good imagination and draws characters that are not your typical paranormals as well as the usual suspects.

The plot is well done. The pace is good. There are at least two big climactic scenes. The more I read, the more I wanted to know what happened next.

I give this book 4 out of 5 stars. It’s a good quality story and well-written. If you enjoy urban fantasy, you will most likely enjoy the Soulwood series. Flame in the Dark is the third book in the series. The series is best read in order to be fully appreciated.

Flame in the Dark by Faith Hunter was released December 5, 2017 from Ace Books.

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley. All opinions herein are my own and freely given.


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2 Mysteries for the Price of One

murdersugarlandexpressIt’s time to get away from the ghosts and have a live people only vacation. Ellis, Verity’s boyfriend, has surprised her with tickets on the maiden voyage of the Sugarland Express. The ghosts have other ideas though. Frankie wants to tag along to provide a romantic getaway for his girlfriend.

This book is a hat tip to Murder on the Orient Express. As it turns out, there was a murder on the original Sugarland Express and there is a ghostly detective still searching for the culprit. Closely following the original mystery, a second murder takes place in the present day. The tracks have been blocked, the wifi and communications have been destroyed. And there is a dead body. Ellis and Verity spring into action to try and solve the present day murder before anyone else is killed. Frankie and Verity get sucked into solving the ghostly murder before the ghost train derails and plunges into the river as it did so many years ago. So much for a relaxing vacation.

I gave this mystery 4 out of 5 stars. It’s well-written. And it’s paced well. As the mystery goes on, the pace increases until the climactic ending. The characters are interesting, both the living and the ghostly. It can be read as a standalone – enough background information is given to follow along and enjoy it. For me though, I found it perhaps more enjoyable having more background from reading earlier mysteries in the series. If you enjoy humorous cozy mysteries with some paranormal involvement, this would be a good reading choice for you.

Murder on the Sugarland Express by Angie Fox is the 6th mystery in the Southern Ghost Hunter series. It was published November 25, 2017 from Moose Island Books.

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley. All opinions herein are my own and freely given.

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To See the World

Girl_in_towerVasya is back in this follow up to The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden. The Girl in the Tower is the second book in the Winternight trilogy.

The first part of the book is mostly about Sasha and Olga. They are Vasya’s siblings. At the close of part one, Sasha and Vasya have just met up for the first time in years.

The second part of the book is told mostly about Vasya and what is happening in her life after the close of The Bear and the Nightingale. Vasya feels that her life is in danger if she stayed in the small village she was raised in. She goes to Morozko, the frost demon, and asks for help. She wants some of the dowry he promised to her so that she can go out and find her place in the world. Adventures ensue.

The third part of the book is mostly about Vasya and Sasha and their cousin Dimitri. There is also a little about Olga. Vasya must keep up the charade that she is a boy. Not only does her life depend on it, but her sister’s and brother’s lives are deeply affected by this as well. There are more adventures and conflict. I don’t want to give away spoilers.

Vasya continues to have her bond to the supernatural throughout the book. She can see the spirits of the bathhouse and the hearth as well as others. This puts her at both an advantage and disadvantage. They can be helpful at times, but she can’t tell anyone that they are there or else she will be marked as crazy and perhaps a witch as well. Only her young niece can also see them and has been warned by her mother, Olga, not to mention this to other people.

The story is well written. This is a crucial time period for the spirits as many of them are disappearing or losing power as the Christian God gains followers. Medieval Russia is an interesting backdrop for the story. The pace of the story is good as well. There are ups and downs throughout, but by about 50% on my Kindle, the story is becoming very dangerous for Vasya and her siblings. The tension continues to mount for the rest of the book until the ending.

My favorite characters in the book are Vasya, her horse Solovey, and Morozko the frost demon. It was hard sometimes watching Vasya’s missteps. But they were necessary for character building and plot advancement.

Overall, I give this book 5 out of 5 stars. It’s well written. The character of Vasya grows and develops as the book progresses. The adventures are interesting. And the book is well-paced. I can’t recommend this series enough. And, I can’t wait for the third book in the trilogy.

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley. All opinions herein are my own and freely given.

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Under the Emerald Big Top

Emerald_CircusThe Emerald Circus is a collection of short stories by Jane Yolen. All of them are previously published with the exception of The Bird, a tale based on Edgar Allan Poe. All of the stories in the collection are either based on another tale or a riff on a famous person. Three of the stories are based on Alice in Wonderland. Examples of inspiration for some of the other stories include: Hans Christian Andersen, Emily Dickinson, Peter Pan, Beauty and the Beast, Robin Hood, and Merlin.

All of the stories are well-written. The book includes an introduction by Holly Black. And at the end of the book, there are notes on each short story as well as a poem relating to each. I found even these endnotes enjoyable to read.

I enjoyed all of the stories, but I had a few favorites. Among those are: Sister Emily’s Lightship, Andersen’s Witch, Blown Away, and Evian Steel. All of them had excellent prose. And I felt the characterization of Emily Dickinson to be right on target in Sister Emily’s Lightship even though it is a fantastical tale.

I gave this collection 5 stars out of 5 stars for the quality of the writing. While each was a riff based on another tale or a historical person, I can say I’ve never read anything quite like them. And I love retellings and have read quite a lot of them.

This book is perfect for those who enjoy Jane Yolen’s writing as well as those who enjoy retellings.

The Emerald Circus by Jane Yolen was published November 14, 2017 from Tachyon.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley. All opinions herein are my own and freely given.

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