Creepy Hollow #4: Masquerade by Rachel Morgan: Review

Creepy Hollow #4

http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/15753563-the-faerie-guardian-part-iv

http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5458477.Rachel_Morgan

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 novel was originally published in four separate parts: Guardian, Labyrinth, Traitor and Masquerade. It includes bonus scenes at the end that were not published in the individual parts.]

Source: Purchase

My Rating: 4/5 stars

My Review: Nate is a rat bastard!!!!  Masquerade opens with Violet having discovered Nate is a wretched, awful, rat bastard, traitor!!  Oh, and Violet is seriously wounded from her encounter with Scarlett’s newly identified boss, Zell.  The cherries on top of this fantastically awful sundae:

1)   Zell is no ordinary faerie but a prince of the Unseelie Court

2)   Not only is the rat bastard a Halfling, he is a Halfling with the power to control the weather

3)   Ryn is the one to find Violet lying passed out and bleeding and . . . well, you’ll just have to wait for the and.

At this point, you just have to think Violet’s life can’t get any worse than it already is.  But it can L  Once Violet is firmly on the mend thanks to Ryn (what???) and his family, Violet is called into action by Ryn for a secret, non-Guild-approved mission.  Ryn’s little sister Calla is missing and he needs Violet and her super power to help him find and retrieve her.  Although Violet agrees to help she can’t quite figure out if Ryn’s new and improved attitude is because he needs help or if there is something else behind his mood swing.

The really nice thing about this installment is the backstory of Ryn and Violet and how they went from being virtually inseparable to enemies.  The cause of the rift is a shared tragedy that has torn the two apart and has caused years of anger and animosity.  But, the shared mission to save Calla allows time for Violet and Ryn to discuss their pas and their anger and begin to find a way back to the friendship they once had.  This mini-plot is being played out within the context of the larger plot which includes everyone and their dog!  The majority of this novella takes place within Zell’s mansion where Calla is being kept.  After sneaking in to the mansion as masquerade guests, Violet and Ryn discover that Clla is not the only captive of the clearly deranged Zell and his minions.  The plot the two guardians-to-be uncover is evil, cruel, and something that can no longer be kept from the Council.

Overall, I have very much enjoyed the first four installments of the Creepy Hollow series and am certainly looking forward to the continuation of the series.  I like Violet, am starting to like Ryn, and am hoping that Nate is not truly as wretched as he appears to be at this point.  Morgan has filled her pages with just enough description to be satisfying, lots of snarky conversation, and characters that are easy to become invested in.  This series has a little bit of romance, quite a bit of action, and good strong plot line that is apparently going to continue for some time.  YAY for readers on this last bit J  Creepy Hollow is young adult friendly and would satisfy most adults who are looking for a quick, light paranormal read.

Creepy Hollow #3: Traitor by Rachel Morgan: Review

Creepy Hollow #3

http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/13626700-the-faerie-guardian-part-iii

http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5458477.Rachel_Morgan

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 novel was originally published in four separate parts: Guardian, Labyrinth, Traitor and Masquerade. It includes bonus scenes at the end that were not published in the individual parts.]

Source: Purchase

My Rating: 4/5 stars

My Review: The fun continues in Traitor, novella number three of the Creepy Hollow series.  Violet and Nate have survived their trip to the Underground and things seem more complicated than ever!  Nate has discovered he is not just human but a Halfling, he has this weird tattoo on his lower back and he seems to be pushing Violet away for no clear reason.  While Nate doesn’t seem overly concerned about any of this, Violet can’t shake the feeling that there is disaster on the horizon.

Violet is such a take-charge, let’s figure this crap out kind of girl and this is one of the reasons I am so fond of her.  Violet’s mind is constantly moving trying to assess situations and determine what her best course of action should be.  Unfortunately, his doesn’t always work out the way Violet thinks it will L  Enter Scarlett, the incredibly powerful half-faerie half siren who is the source of Nate’s mysterious tattoo.  Scarlett lives in the Underground and has placed (and removed) the tattoo from Nate at the behest of her unknown boss.  When Violet confronts Scarlett about the tattoo things go very, very badly and Violet is once again forced to fight for her very survival.

As if things couldn’t get any worse, Ryn, Violet’s one-time best friend and now sworn enemy and training competition is stirring up all kinds of trouble.  Ryn has a bad attitude about four miles wide and simply couldn’t care less about who he hurts or how badly he hurts them.  While Ryn has disliked Violet for years he seems to be taking his hatred up a notch lately.  Ryn is clearly hiding something and whatever that something is, is being taken out on Violet.  Oh goody!  One more craptastic thing to worry about.

Traitor wraps up with the unveiling of the traitor and believe me when I say this: you will be glad novella number four is already available . . . .

Creepy Hollow #2: Labyrinth by Rachel Morgan: Review

Creepy Hollow #2

http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/13551557-the-faerie-guardian-part-ii

http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5458477.Rachel_Morgan

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 novel was originally published in four separate parts: Guardian, Labyrinth, Traitor and Masquerade. It includes bonus scenes at the end that were not published in the individual parts.]

Source: Purchase

My Rating: 4/5 stars

My Review: Ooh!!  Creepy Hollow round two is just as good as round one!!  The action in Labyrinth picks up right where Guardian left off; none of those annoying time lapse things going on here.  Violet has officially decided she likes Nate and might have “forgotten” to erase his memory.  For Nate’s part, he knows he likes Violet and is anxious to begin the search for his biological mother.  Both are certain that once they find Angelica (Nate’s bio mom) all their questions will be answered and the mysteries solved.  All kinds of warm fuzzy stuff can come from this, right?

In order to find Angelica, Violet has to use her super-cool find anyone anywhere power and it leads she and Nate to a place they should never, ever venture into, the Underground.  The things that go bump in the night live in the Underground and just as soon as they arrive Violet discovers she and Nate have no means of an easy, magical escape.  The pair has no choice but to maneuver through the Underground which is a massive labyrinth until they either find Angelica or a way out.  The story wouldn’t be good if there weren’t obstacles and boy are there obstacles to the tune of a giant tidal wave, a troll, and one seriously b**tchy bio mom.

While Labyrinth answers some of the questions posed in Guardian it also brings with it a whole host of new questions.  In this way, Labyrinth was a bit more frustrating than Guardian but no less good.  Here’s what we’re left with at the end of Labyrinth:

1)   Is Angelica good, evil, or just cranky and tired of being trapped in the Underground?

2)   Why does Angelica want Violet’s already-dead parents dead?

3)   Why is Ryn, Violet’s greatest training competitor and enemy at a nightclub in the Underground?

4)   Where did Nate go when he and Violet get separated in the Underground?

5)   What is the strange eye-shaped tattoo that has appeared on Nate’s lower back?

To be continued dear reader, in Creepy Hollow #3, Traitor.

Creepy Hollow #1: Guardian by Rachel Morgan: Review

Creepy Hollow #1

http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/13422043-the-faerie-guardian-part-i

http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5458477.Rachel_Morgan

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

http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/8296140-clara-and-mr-tiffany

http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/11075.Susan_Vreeland

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

http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/15741883-chasing-fools

http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5307026.Aida_Brassington

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

http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/169880.Caught_in_Crystal

http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/36122.Patricia_C_Wrede

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.