Creepy Hollow #1: Guardian by Rachel Morgan: Review

Creepy Hollow #1

Synopsis from Goodreads: Protecting humans from dangerous magical creatures is all in a day’s work for a faerie training to be a guardian. Seventeen-year-old Violet Fairdale knows this better than anyone—she’s about to become the best guardian the Guild has seen in years. That is, until a cute human boy who can somehow see through her faerie glamour follows her into the fae realm. Now she’s broken Guild Law, a crime that could lead to her expulsion.
The last thing Vi wants to do is spend any more time with the boy who got her into this mess, but the Guild requires that she return Nate to his home and make him forget everything he’s discovered of the fae realm. Easy, right? Not when you factor in evil faeries, long-lost family members, and inconvenient feelings of the romantic kind. Vi is about to find herself tangled up in a dangerous plot—and it’ll take all her training to get out alive.
[This short ebook forms Part I of the novel The Faerie Guardian.]

Source: Purchase

My Rating: 4/5 stars

My Review: I have often shied away from reading novellas because there generally just isn’t enough time for the author to completely develop characters and/or the plot.  I am certainly glad I didn’t realize (until after I clicked purchase) the Creepy Hollow series is actually a series of novellas otherwise I would have missed out on a (OK four) fun and entertaining read by Rachel Morgan.

Violet Fairdale is a young faerie who is in her last months of training to become a guardian.  Violet is an orphan whose family has always served as guardians; guardians are members of an elite group of faeries whose job it is to protect unknowing humans from dark faerie attacks.  Humans can’t see fairies and they certainly can’t travel to Creepy Hollow so how is it that Violet finds herself in a heap of trouble after one of her “assignments” not only sees her but hitchhikes his way into Creepy Hollow?  Balls!!

Violet and Nate (her hitchhiking human) now have to get Nate back to the world of humans so Violet can go before the Council to receive her punishment for breaking some of her people’s most important laws.  Here’s the rub: before Violet and Nate can get anyw

here near Nate’s home they are both whacked on the head, kidnapped, and Violet’s magic is bound so she can’t work to save them.  Balls again!  The kidnappers want two things: 1) Nate’s biological mother whom he has never met and; 2) the name of the faerie with the special ability of being able to locate anyone anywhere.

I found this short read to be quite satisfying as Morgan does a great job of setting up her plot and developing her characters in a very short amount of time.  I like Violet!  She has purple streaks in her hair (awesome), uses the work wonky (one of my faves!), and takes her skills and her assignments very seriously.  Here’s what Violet must do:

1)   Get herself and Nate to safety

2)   Figure out why a faerie would want a human woman

3)   Continue to bury the secret of her super-special skill and

4)   Try not to think too hard about how cute Nate is

For Nate, he has to admit that not only does he want to know who his biological mother is but also accept that he is going to need help discovering her identity.  The only problem with his plan is the fact that Violet has been tasked with erasing Nate’s memory.  To be continued . . .


Clara and Mr. Tiffany: A Novel by Susan Vreeland: Review

Clara and Mr. Tiffany

Synopsis from Goodreads: Against the unforgettable backdrop of New York near the turn of the twentieth century, from the Gilded Age world of formal balls and opera to the immigrant poverty of the Lower East Side, bestselling author Susan Vreeland again breathes life into a work of art in this extraordinary novel, which brings a woman once lost in the shadows into vivid color.
It’s 1893, and at the Chicago World’s Fair, Louis Comfort Tiffany makes his debut with a luminous exhibition of innovative stained-glass windows, which he hopes will honor his family business and earn him a place on the international artistic stage. But behind the scenes in his New York studio is the freethinking Clara Driscoll, head of his women’s division. Publicly unrecognized by Tiffany, Clara conceives of and designs nearly all of the iconic leaded-glass lamps for which he is long remembered.
Clara struggles with her desire for artistic recognition and the seemingly insurmountable challenges that she faces as a professional woman, which ultimately force her to protest against the company she has worked so hard to cultivate. She also yearns for love and companionship, and is devoted in different ways to five men, including Tiffany, who enforces to a strict policy: he does not hire married women, and any who do marry while under his employ must resign immediately. Eventually, like many women, Clara must decide what makes her happiest—the professional world of her hands or the personal world of her heart.

Source: Purchase

My Rating: 4/5 stars

My Review: Historical fiction author Susan Vreeland has done it again!  In her latest novel, Clara and Mr. Tiffany: A Novel, Vreeland creates a wonderfully compelling story of an artist and the world she lived and worked in.  This fascinating story traces sixteen years of Clara Driscoll’s life between 1892 and 1908, the years she served as head of the Women’s Department at the Tiffany Glass and Decorating Company.  Vreeland asserts in her novel that it was in fact Clara Driscoll and not Louis Comfort Tiffany who hit upon the idea for the now famous Tiffany lamps!

Vreeland does not make this radical claim without proof and true to form she has woven this particular story around extant historical documentation.  In this instance, Vreeland was able to use Clara Driscoll’s own words as expressed in her letters which were discovered in 2005.  Vreeland’s novel is filled with details and descriptions of life in New York City.  In fact, these descriptions are one of the novel’s greatest strengths; Vreeland’s ability to create such incredible images with her words gives the reader the opportunity to completely understand what life was like for an unmarried woman living and working in turn of the century New York.

Clara Driscoll’s time at the Tiffany Glass and Decorating Company was not just about her creation and designing the leaded glass lamps but also about the creation and flourishing of the Women’s Department with Clara as its head.  In a time when women barely had any rights at all, Clara Driscoll saw that her girls earned a fair wage and were treated with respect. Admittedly, these issues were not always easy ones and Vreeland expertly deals with the social aspects of women in the workplace.

Vreeland also deals with the personal struggles and sacrifices Clara and her girls made during their time with the Tiffany Company.  For instance, per company policy, all of the women working for Louis Comfort Tiffany had to remain unmarried. This policy becomes problematic for many of the women but especially for Clara who constantly struggles with her need to be recognized as a true artist and her desire to be married.  This policy turns into a very clever way for Vreeland to develop the story lines of some of the minor characters, many of which are incredibly delightful and well developed.

Another of Vreeland’s greatest strengths lies in her ability to describe the leaded glass making processes without becoming bogged down in technical jargon.  All of the descriptions are expertly woven into the plot line so that they become a part of the novels’ fabric and not independent or boring descriptions of glass making.  As you proceed through the novel you find yourself holding your breath waiting to find out if a new process or procedure for creating a lamp works or if it will prove to be a total failure.  As with all of Vreeland’s historical fiction, the reader becomes completely invested in the characters and their lives.  You celebrate the victories just as Clara and her girls did and cry when any one of them experiences either a personal or professional loss

This book is beyond being worth your time and energy as a reader; it is a must read if you love historical fiction!  Vreeland is a master storyteller and even if you know nothing about Tiffany and Company, the leaded glass industry, or women’s rights in turn of the century New York, you will love this novel.

Chasing Fools by Aida Brassington: Review

Chasing Fools

Synopsis from Goodreads: Relationships are complicated even under the best of circumstances. For Varda Dorfman and Tommy Campi, these are the worst of times. Varda, an illegal foods smuggler, has pissed off Anthony Carluccio, the kingpin of the local underground dinner club, and put her plans for the future in serious jeopardy. Her boyfriend Gino won’t quit bugging her to get married, even though his mother hates her. Tommy, Gino’s brother and the ladies man of the family, can’t even introduce the love of his life to anyone: he’s secretly gay and dating the son of Carluccio’s biggest competition. And now Tommy’s getting pressure to go public.
When Carluccio’s hit man turns up dead in Varda’s closet after snacking on poisonous mushrooms, all hell breaks loose. Varda’s running for her life, and since his mother is dating Carluccio, Gino’s convinced the only way to save her life is to finally drag her to the altar. And when people start discovering Tommy’s hush-hush relationship, things really start to get interesting.

Source: Author for a fair and honest review

My Rating: 3½/5 stars

My Review: Aida Brassington’s Chasing Fools is a light read with a bit of romance, humor, suspense, a seriously colorful cast of characters, and some really weird food. Since this adult novel absolutely revolves around its large cast of characters, I thought it best to provide you, dear reader, with a rundown of who’s who.

Varda: cheese maker, Gino’s girlfriend, the bane of Flora’s existence and former exotic food smuggler. Yes, that is apparently a real job ☺ Varda is strong-willed, mouthy, and absolutely in love with two things: cheese and Gino.

Gino: Varda’s hopelessly romantic boyfriend and Tommy’s brother. He’s an Italian Catholic from Philly, with a penchant for wearing really bad clothes and using words like “homeslice”. Gino is sweet and delightfully oblivious to his own lameness; he actually thinks the super saggy pants are awesome and calling people “homeslice” is still cool.

Tommy: Gino’s gay brother and Ryan’s boyfriend. Hands down, Tommy is one of my favorite characters in this novel. He is sweet, feisty, often squeamish, but willing to walk through Hell for his family and friends. Tommy’s strength lies in his love of his family, and his devotion to Ryan. You just can’t help but love him.

Ryan: Tommy’s boyfriend. Ryan is a darling who adores Tommy and is willing to go along with any crazy plan, as long as it helps Tommy and makes him happy. Lucky for Tommy, Ryan’s parents have a shady background, and a skill set that comes in quite handy.

Anthony C.: What a pig! Anthony C. is a slob of a man, who fancies himself a connected man of the mob. Anthony loves weird, exotic, and often seriously disgusting foods, which he has Varda procure for him. Anthony’s girth is only overshadowed by two things: his incompetence and his stupidity. I laughed out loud at a few of his stupid moves.

Flora: Holy cats! Flora is a beautifully written Italian Catholic widow who is absolutely certain Varda is no good for her son Gino. The things that come out of this woman’s mouth are as hysterical as they are offensive. I am not quite sure how Varda manages to control her need to punch Flora in the nose ☺

Nana: I loves me some Nana! While Nana doesn’t make much of an appearance early in the novel, when she does show up, she’s there to play. Nana is a great character with a rather surprising background, and once Nana really gets going, even her family is a bit frightened by her.

The Bottom Line: Chasing Fools plot is a bit weak for me, but it is carried through by the delight of this novel, its characters. Brassington has put together such a weird set of people and circumstances that what initially seems to be rather odd and far-fetched somehow comes together in the end and makes perfect if warped sense. The novel’s pacing is good, the unfolding of the plot is not rushed, and all of the characters have ample time to develop and fit themselves into their place within the plot. With this being said, I still wasn’t jumping up and down with anticipation to plow through this one. I liked
the story, I really liked the characters, but I was left with an overall impression of this being an OK read. Would I recommend it? Yeah, I would, but I honestly can’t say it should be pushed to the top of your TBR list.

Caught In Crystal by Patricia C. Wrede: Review

Caught in Crystal

Synopsis from Goodreads: There stands a twisted tower.. hidden in the Windhome Mountains. Something is imprisoned there – the Sisterhood of Stars does not know precisely what, but something is bound tight with a wizard’s spell so that it can never escape again. Kayl is one of the few to have looked upon the Twisted Tower. She has no desire to see it again – she left the Sisterhood long ago, settling down to a quiet life. Her sword lies unused in a secret place beneath the stones of her hearth. But something evil is leaking from the Tower. And now a sorceress and a wizard have appeared on Kayl’s doorstep, demanding she take up the sword again.

Source: Netgalley

My Rating: 4/5 stars

My Review: Caught in Crystal is the fourth book in Patricia Wrede’s Lyra series and picks up ten years after Kayl’s husband Kevran has died.  Kayl is struggling to maintain her inn and raise to two children; the work is difficult but she and her children are safe and the secret of her past life as a member of the Sisterhood of Stars is still firmly buried in the past.  That is, until the day Corrana, a tall dark-haired woman with a silver star on her robes walks into Kayl’s inn and tells the innkeeper it is time to return to the Twisted Tower.  Suddenly, Kayl’s past comes crashing down around her and she finds herself on the run with her children, a wizard, and Corrana and headed toward a fate that is sixteen years in the making.

For six months, Kayl and her companions travel from her small town back to Kith Alunel a place Kayl thought and hoped she would never have to return or expose her children too.  One of my very, very few complaints about this novel is the long journey Kayl and her companions undertake.  Nearly the entire first half of the novel is occupied with this journey and at times the story has a tendency to drag.  To be completely honest, in most books with such a slow pace, I would have given up but Wrede’s characters are so good, especially Kayl, that I never could bring myself to stop reading.  I was sincerely drawn to Kayl and wanted to know how her story ends.  In fact, Kayl is Caught in Crystal’s greatest strength: she is physically strong, a well-trained fighter; she is a master strategist; she is fiercely loyal to those who have earned it; and absolutely endearing when dealing with her children.

The story really begins to pick up in the second half of the novel: Kayl has resigned herself to the fact that she must confront her past with the Sisterhood head on; she must return to the ominous Twisted Tower; she must accept that her children are as involved as she is and; she must acknowledge her feelings for her old friend, the wizard Glyndon.  As the group makes their way to the Twisted Tower the reader learns more of the secrets carried by each member of the travelling party and their ulterior motives.  There is also a significant amount of action in this part of the novel which, when coupled with all the secrets, makes for a swift ride to the dramatic finish.  There is magic and fighting and palpable tension that makes the end well worth the slow pace of the first part of the novel.

The bottom line: I never like reading a series out of order but this book can be easily read as a stand-alone.   The characters and plot are both strong and based on this, I have decided to take a look back at the previous books in the Lyra series.  Wrede has an easy writing style and excellent skill with dialogue that can satisfactorily carry the reader through the slower parts of the novel.  While this book is classified as a Young Adult novel, it will certainly appeal to an older reading audience as well; especially those who are partial to the light fantasy genre.

Born at Midnight by C.C. Hunter: Review

Born at Midnight

Synopsis from Goodreads: One night Kylie Galen finds herself at the wrong party, with the wrong people, and it changes her life forever.  Her mother ships her off to Shadow Falls—a camp for troubled teens, and within hours of arriving, it becomes painfully clear that her fellow campers aren’t just “troubled.”  Here at Shadow Falls, vampires, werewolves, shapshifters, witches and fairies train side by side—learning to harness their powers, control their magic and live in the normal world.
Kylie’s never felt normal, but surely she doesn’t belong here with a bunch of paranormal freaks either.  Or does she?  They insist Kylie is one of them, and that she was brought here for a reason.  As if life wasn’t complicated enough, enter Derek and Lucas.  Derek’s a half-fae who’s determined to be her boyfriend, and Lucas is a smokin’ hot werewolf with whom Kylie shares a secret past.  Both Derek and Lucas couldn’t be more different, but they both have a powerful hold on her heart.
Even though Kylie feels deeply uncertain about everything, one thing is becoming painfully clear—Shadow Falls is exactly where she belongs…

Source: Purchase

My Rating: 4½/5 stars

My Review: C.C. Hunter’s first-in-a-series novel Born at Midnight is an accidental find on my part and holy crap am I glad I stumbled across this book!  It took me less than 24 hours to plow through this novel that takes place predominately at Shadow Falls camp, a refuge for young paranormals who are learning to navigate life as a paranormal.

The novel revolves around Kylie Galen, a teenage girl who has never really fit in at school, has just learned her mom and dad are divorcing, lost her beloved grandmother, and was dumped by her boyfriend because she refused to put out.  This, dear reader, is one seriously craptastic life!  And the hits just keep on coming when Kylie is wrongly accused of doing drugs and drinking, a mistake that lands her at Shadow Falls camp for the summer.  As you might well expect, Kylie doesn’t want to be at Shadow Falls especially when she discovers that it is in fact a camp for paranormals and not just your average run of the mill delinquents.  WTH???

From this point forward the plot moves swiftly as Kylie begins to realize that she may in fact be a paranormal.  Kylie’s head up her ass denial doesn’t last long since she has the ability to see ghosts and one keeps appearing for her viewing pleasure.  Kylie finds it much easier to accept that those around her are paranormals, there is the fact that she is rooming with a dyslexic witch by the name of Miranda and a recently turned and totally snarky vampire named Della.   She’s also haunted by the hotness of a half-fae by the name of Derek and a super-hot werewolf with a sketchy past named Lucas.  With all of this drama, Kylie could have gone completely angsty and emo but instead she bucks up and soldiers on, a quality I find quite satisfactory in a character.  Kylie also behaves quite admirably where the boys in her life are concerned.  Derek and Lucas both make plays for Kylie but she makes her wishes and intentions perfectly clear – for the most part J  A girl can’t ignore the hotness forever, right?

As if the kids at Shadow Falls don’t have enough to be concerned with they are also inadvertently pulled into a vicious and violent scheme meant to shut down the camp.  Here’s the rub: out in the real world there are gangs of paranormals who feel that the mixing of the species at Shadow Falls is a threat to the purity of their various groups.  Furthermore, among the various species of paranormals are old wounds, treacheries, and betrayals that will never be forgotten.  Unfortunately, this real world crap is spilling over into the lives of the kids at Shadow Falls and they are being made to pay for the sins of their fathers.  But here’s the kicker, all these kids have some pretty sweet powers that allow them to protect themselves and one another! I love a good group of ass kicking self-reliant kids and Hunter certainly delivers a great set with the Shadow Falls kids.

The Bottom Line: Hunter has done an excellent job of introducing the reader to the world of Shadow Falls.  She has crafted a world that is based on special powers which bind the major characters to one another in friendship.  Hunter’s writing style is fresh and easy to read with dialogue that is both smart and contemporary.  The plot is fully developed and completed quite satisfactorily while still leaving enough unanswered questions to leave the reader anxious for the next installment.  Did I forget to mention that Hunter never tells us exactly what species of paranormal Kylie is?  Evil genius C.C. Hunter and I have already marked my calendar for the release of book two, Awake At Dawn which will be available in October.

Blood Warrior by H.D. Gordon: Review

Blood Warrior

Synopsis from Goodreads: When her home is attacked by murderous vampires, 17-year-old Alexa is forced to leave her mother for dead in order to save her sister. She soon learns that she is the last known member of an elite race of supernatural Warriors, and is thrust into a world full of vampires and werewolves who all seem to regard her as some sort of savior. Meanwhile, Alexa battles a monster within herself that seeks to gain control; a monster that seeks blood.
The hidden city she finds herself in appears perfect, but Alexa’s instincts tell her that all is not right within its walls. When she is asked to attend a school of fighters, whose exams consist of gladiator-style competitions, she must decide who she can trust among the smiling faces. And, when she meets Kayden, a vampire she feels undeniably drawn to, she must decide if she can trust herself.

Source: Author for a fair and honest review

My Rating: 4/5 stars

My Review: As many experienced readers will tell you, the first book in a new series is often the most difficult for both the reader and the author.  The author has to lay the groundwork of the long-term plot, create a successful and exciting short-term plot, and establish characters and their personalities.  In addition to all of this, the author must also convince the reader to keep reading not just the first book but those that will follow in the series.  Congratulations H.D. Gordon, I’m hooked!

Blood Warrior is Gordon’s first book in the Alexandra Montgomery Saga and it is an exciting and fast-paced read from cover to cover.  Alexandra Montgomery is not like other girls: her mother has been training her ruthlessly and relentlessly since she was old enough to walk and to hit back; she is an absolute outcast at school; and she’s not truly human.  One night the Lamia attack and although Alexa and her younger sister Nelly are able to escape with their lives, their mother is not as lucky.  Alexa soon learns that everything she knows is a lie.

Alexa discovers that she is the last true Sun Warrior and according to the legends, she will be the one to free the Warriors and the undesirables living within the walls of Two Rivers.  Alexa also learns that her younger sister is a half-breed (a dangerous thing to be in the Two Rivers world) who can read people’s souls, and her best friend Jackson is a werewolf.  And just because it’s fun to kick someone while they’re down, Alexa also discovers that she has to quite literally fight for her spot within the Two Rivers warrior school.  No pressure there, right?  Alexa does earn her spot in the warrior school but discovers a very disturbing aspect of her nature: she loves fighting and has great difficulty controlling her desire to kill her opponents.  Enter Kayden, the totally lickable warrior who is a Libra, or the balance to Alexa’s inner demons.

For the first time in her life, Alexa feels like she actually belongs and fits in somewhere in the world.  She does well in her classes, her on-going training is turning her into an even better fighter, and she is now Jackson’s girlfriend.  But there is something wrong in Two Rivers and a very large number of citizen’s keep slyly reminding Alexa of her destiny to save them all.  But in order to be a teenage savior, Alexa first has to figure out what exactly is wrong within the confines of Two Rivers.

Gordon’s story is fast-paced, exciting, and full of characters that the reader connects with fairly quickly and wants to know more about.  Alexa is a strong female lead, Jackson is delightfully weird, and Kayden is a source of steamy tension.  Gordon resolves the short-term plot quite nicely while the tidbits with regard to the long-term plot are decidedly enticing.  The content is absolutely appropriate for a young adult audience while still very appealing to an older audience.

The bottom line: I am absolutely ready for book two of the Alexandra Montgomery saga.

Blood Magic by Jennifer Lyon: Review

Blood Magic

Synopsis from Goodreads: In the days when powerful witches used their magic to shield humanity from demons, their allies and guardians were a group of men gifted with preternatural abilities of their own–the witch guardians. But when a band of witches traded their humanity for demonic power, the ancient bond was broken, and the guardians became the hunters.
Darcy MacAlister knows nothing of demons or magic. But this beautiful young woman is about to discover the truth about her past . . . and her future. For she is a witch–not just any witch, but the key to breaking the curse that has plagued witches and the men who hunt them. For if a hunter kills an innocent witch by mistake, the price is no less than a piece of his soul.
Axel Locke, gorgeous leader of the Wing Slayer Hunters, has sworn never to shed the blood of the earth witches who have resisted the temptation of demonic power. But when his sister is cursed by a demon witch, he discovers that Darcy MacAlister may hold the cure–if she can master her newfound powers in time. When the chase begins and Axel and Darcy come face-to-face, this hunter must weigh his soul against his honor–and against his heart.

Source: Purchase

My Rating: 4/5 stars

My Review: Blood Magic is the first book in a series about a group of hunters and the witches they are born to protect.  Book one follows Darcy MacAlister, a young woman who owns and operates a funeral home and has always felt a bit different and set apart from the world around her.  Darcy’s mother died long before she had time to tell her unsuspecting daughter she is an earth witch.  Unfortunately for Darcy she finds out about her nature in a most heinous way.  Enter Axel Locke: a massive mountain of muscle who owns a club called Axel of Evil; has a dead sexy hawk tattoo; has a serious soft-spot for his baby sister and; is the de facto leader of the Wing Slayer Hunters.

Axel Locke is not an evil man.  In fact, he has struggled his entire life to fight the demons that constantly plague him and his fellow Wing Slayer Hunters.  The hunters were once immortal, the beloved creation of their god, Wing Slayer who created the men to find and protect earth witches.  Unfortunately that arrangement fell apart when a group of demon witches cast a spell that split the men from their god and saddled them with a nearly unquenchable thirst for sex and witch blood.  Axel needs a witch in the worst kind of way, his baby sister has been marked with a death curse and there are only two ways to break it: 1) find a powerful and willing earth witch to break the curse or; 2) kill the demon witch who cast the curse.  Both options have serious consequences.

Darcy MacAlister is content to live her lonely life running the funeral home and avoiding relationships at all costs.  That is, until the night rogue Hunters try to kill her.  This traumatic event coincides with Axel dropping in to kidnap her so she can cast a spell to cure his little sister.  That’s a bad freakin’ night.  Darcy suddenly finds herself trapped in a world she knows nothing about but feels compelled to understand.  After all, a little girl’s life is on the line.  Oh, and then there’s Axel, the guy who kidnapped her and who she is uncontrollably attracted to.  In a few short days Darcy’s life is turned upside down.  With very few stutter-steps, Darcy accepts every challenge, even the role of soul-mirror to her kidnapper; this last part is perhaps the biggest challenge of all.

The Bottom Line: Lyon had a lot of ground to cover in this first book: she introduces all the major characters, the long-term plot line, and the more immediate plot line associated with this particular book. That’s a tall order and Lyon does a decent job of covering everything.  She is not only establishing a whole new cast of characters, all with their own drama and dilemmas, but also a whole new history to go along with the characters and the long-term plot line.  Initially the history is a bit convoluted but eventually straightens out and makes perfect sense.  This is done primarily through a ton of action, dirty awesome sex, and great dialogue.  Lyon’s writing style is smooth, the plot is fast-paced, and the characters are intriguing.