I needed this

Today’s book is Closet Full of Bones, by AJ Aalto.

Book Info

Length: 152 pages

Publisher: Pixiegrind Ink

Released: May 30, 2017

Amazon | Goodreads | Author’s Website

Ever since they were children, Gillian Hearth has been her sister Frankie’s guardian, her sounding board, and her best friend. Together, the Hearth sisters quietly bury their secrets and form a formidable team during any crisis. Purchasing the old Blymhill house with the hopes of turning it into an artists’ retreat, the sisters are finally living their dream. But when Frankie’s stable ground is rattled by a vengeful ex-boyfriend, an unstable friend from the past shows up unannounced with delusions of intimacy, and a cold case cop starts sniffing around their door, the sisters are forced to wonder how far they will go to keep their secrets safe.
Gillian discovers that, this time, her fight is about to land her in the crosshairs of a dangerous predator who will use any means necessary to remove her from the equation. With everything she holds dear under threat, Gillian battles to keep her head above water and her skeletons in the closet.

Real Quick

A wonderful dark thriller that left me deliciously shivery at 3AM.

Ramble

What started out as a quick flip through the first chapter before bed turned into a headlong rush to the last page, sleep cycle be damned. Oh sweet hell, this book got me good.

Closet Full of Bones is a perfect mix of psychological thriller and murder mystery, and the writing is absolutely luxurious – every character was well-crafted, every reveal laced with tension. Seriously, my dog sneezed midway through the climax and I just about died. There’s enough humor and sweetness to keep the book from going full horror, balanced with enough gritty realism to remind you that this is not a cozy mystery either.

In the end, it’s a story about a handful of deeply flawed yet intensely relatable people, and the power of grief and fear to make them come unhinged. I adored every second. Highly recommended!

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I just want to be inside her head

Today’s book is Forbidden, by F Stone.

Book Info

Length: 363 pages

Publisher: Romance Under Fire

Released: December 12, 2016

Amazon | Goodreads | Author’s Website

Gunfire echoes within the walls of a Middle East police compound. Screams of terror are brutally silenced. Police captain Hashim Sharif captures one survivor. Soon Eliza MacKay will wish she had died with her companions.

The vile act of terrorism is covered-up. Sharif becomes the reluctant keeper of his city’s bloody secret – and the witness, MacKay. His corrupt superiors have a gun rammed against his skull. Disloyalty to the mayor will be rewarded with being buried alive.

Whatever the cost, his government’s honor must be restored. Secretly, Sharif hunts forensic evidence. Who is responsible for the murder of fifteen American volunteers? And, why did MacKay lie about her identity? He can’t trust her. Her mental illness is going to get both of them killed.

When he receives orders to dispose of MacKay, his Muslim faith is tested. Murder an innocent in cold blood? He will suffer Allah’s eternal wrath.

CIA Agent Hutchinson has the lying Sharif in his cross hairs. Sharif dodges the agent’s traps almost as easily as the hitman on his tail. When Sharif discovers the shocking truth, he loses all hope of survival.

What is worth dying for? Perhaps it’s not bringing a madman to justice. Could it be saving the life of a woman who kick-started his numb heart? On the knife edge of risk, Sharif plots an act most forbidden and fatal.

Real Quick

My beef lies more with the characters than the story. Not bad, but not for me.

Ramble

Look, don’t get me wrong – Forbidden was well-written and well-paced, and more than lives up to the ‘suspense romance’ tagline. But unfortunately, all that was secondary to the fact that I couldn’t get a handle on Eliza.

This poor woman (who’s already dealing with PTSD from a horrific event in her past) witnesses a brutal massacre, gets held hostage in a foreign country, has the threat of execution looming overhead, narrowly avoids getting gang raped… and then just kinda falls into Stockholm syndrome-y love with the cop at the heart of this whole mess. The book didn’t delve very deeply into her emotional turmoil beyond a few mentions of therapy and some conveniently plot-driving PTSD flashbacks. As a result, Eliza just seemed to pinball between the extremes of ‘complete wreck’ and ‘can-do optimist’ without much explanation – from paralyzing fear to happily cleaning Hashim’s apartment; from a mental breakdown to running off as if she could singlehandedly escape a hostile government. Many of her decisions felt sudden and unrealistic, and it really took me out of the story.

Ms. Stone is a great writer, no doubt. When it comes to Forbidden, though, I wish the characters’ internal conflicts had gotten as much screen time as the external conflict.

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Oddly enough I couldn’t let go

Today’s book is Letting Go, by Maria Thompson Corley.

Book Info

Length: 500 pages

Publisher: Createspace

Released: July 4th, 2016

Amazon | Goodreads | Author’s Website

Even though she lives hundreds of miles away, when Langston, who dreams of being a chef, meets Cecile, a Juilliard-trained pianist, he is sure that his history of being a sidekick, instead of a love interest, is finally over. Their connection is real and full of potential for a deeper bond, but the obstacles between them turn out to be greater than distance. Can these busy, complicated people be ready for each other at the same time? Does it even matter? Before they can answer these questions, each must do battle with the ultimate demon-fear.

Real Quick

Read this for the wonderful characters and the realistically unrealistic love story. Highly recommended. 🙂

Ramble

I always say I don’t like romance novels.

…and then I always eat those words.

Letting Go follows the lives of Langston and Cecile from their early twenties through the fifteen years that follow. They’re wonderful, lovingly-crafted, and beautifully flawed characters – the kind you sort of sink into and root for and wish you could throw a brick at from time to time. I was smitten from the first few chapters, immersing myself in their first awkward but uncommonly self-aware relationships. A lot of young adult romance nowadays tends to get on my nerves, what with the instalove and immaturity and silly decision-making – probably because it reminds me too much of my own dumb 16-year-old self, but we’ll just gloss over that little bit of self-psychoanalysis. 😉

Anyway, Letting Go had no such problems. For lack of a better phrase, Cecile and Langston both had their shit together, which was extremely refreshing. Don’t get me wrong, they still had enough foibles and made enough mistakes to be incredibly relatable, but without feeling like… well, dumb lovestruck teenagers. So yes. Smitten.

So smitten, in fact, that I ended up shotgunning the entire novel (all 500 pages) in one sitting. Oops. 😉

Highly recommended to lovers of romance and to anyone who wants to just curl up and be someone else for a little while.

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-grabby hands- More please.

Today’s book is The First Round Table, by Ben Gillman.

Book Info

Length: 309 pages

Publisher: Self-published

Released: March 6, 2017

Amazon | Goodreads | Author’s Website

At just 18 years old, Arthur is on the verge of being crushed under the weight of his great destiny. The mighty castle at Tintagel has fallen. King Uther Pendragon lies dead. The mad King Vortigern sits upon the throne with a dragon at his command. And Merlin, having turned traitor, stands at the new king’s side. Now Arthur, with the help of the mysterious sword in the stone and his loyal mentors, Gawain and Percival, embarks on a daring mission to retake the crown. However, his greatest challenges lie not in overcoming his enemies, but in finding a way to reunite with two lost friends: a wounded knight called Lancelot and an assassin named Guinevere.

Experience the classic tales of King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table like never before with this thrilling re-imaginings of ancient legend. Packed with swordplay, magic, romance and humor, “The Legends of King Arthur” promise to take readers of all ages on an unforgettable journey of fantasy and adventure!

Real Quick

Swordfights, deception, dragons, humor, and an awesome cover to boot – what a treat!

Ramble

This. Was. Fabulous.

Ben Gillman’s screenwriting chops are very apparent in this modernized (but still faithful) twist on Arthurian myth. Between the fast-paced prose and a web of intrigue that would give Game of Thrones a run for its money, it was all I could do to not inhale this book in one sitting. It hits that YA sweet spot that makes it a great read for just about anyone – not too heavy and dark for kids, but not too fluffy and predictable for adults.

Honestly, though, this is all just my justification for being really excited about Guinevere recast as a badass strong female character. And I don’t mean the typical Strong Female Character™ that you tend to find in YA – you know, the kind whose sole character traits are ‘strong’ and ‘female’. No, no – Guinevere is a breath of fresh air, bearing up under horrible circumstances to become the kind of woman who’ll take care of business (and how!) while still retaining an actual personality. I was smitten.

The First Round Table gets and emphatic and resounding Yes! from me – and be sure to check out the rest of the series as well.

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Bonus points for the cover, though

Today’s book is Spellcaster, by George Bachman.

Book Info

Length: 262 pages

Publisher: Sublime Ltd.

Released: April 3, 2017

Amazon | Goodreads

Christine Daniel suffers in ways no sixteen year-old should and that no doctor has been able to cure. That’s because the excruciating pains and high fevers slowly debilitating her aren’t triggered by a physical cause but by visions of a youth calling to her while fleeing a mysterious man who means him harm. This could hardly be happening at a worse time, when she and her beautiful older sister Allison are making their début in high society, like other wealthy socialites seeking matches with titled but impoverished gentlemen in Victorian England.

Because of his pleas, Christine is convinced that to stop the visions she must somehow save this youth. But first she has to find him, and since she’s seen him only in visions, she needs someone who’d know how to locate someone through means outside the known senses, the paranormal. Unfortunately the authorities have driven underground all but one of the country’s occultists, and the reason she isn’t hiding is the only reason she might help Christine, something she wants in return. Christine must convince Allison to marry the occultist’s lover, one of those impoverished gentlemen, so that the illicit pair can share her part of the family fortune while continuing their affair.

If Christine doesn’t stop the visions by saving the youth, the pains and fevers will eventually kill her. But if she does what the occultist wants, she will betray Allison to a lifetime of misery. Can she lead her sister into a marriage with a very bad man if doing so is the only way to save her own skin – literally?

Real Quick

Well-written, but unfortunately not quite so well-plotted.

Ramble

I got the feeling that this book just didn’t know where it was going. It was ostensibly set in Victorian England… with magic… and occasional mentions of ultrasound showers and hoverships? Look, I like Cassandra Clare as much as the next person. I was on board for petticoats and tarot cards. But the futuristic tech came entirely out of left field and wasn’t woven into the plot at all. In fact, it didn’t even seem that important to the story, since the rest of the narrative was staunchly Victorian. But, you know. Ultrasound showers, I guess.

And then came the realization that I was 30% through the book and the main conflict hadn’t even shown up yet. After nearly a hundred pages of descriptions, supporting characters, body image issues, and ‘mystery’ that felt more like confusion, Spellcaster was still just barely on the cusp of living up to its Amazon blurb – and by that point, I was just done.

I don’t think it would take much to turn Spellcaster into a Clare-esque historical/paranormal romp. Aside from figuring out its time period, it just needs to have a bit lighter hand with the exposition and get to the point within the first thirty pages. I’m afraid I’m just going to pass on its current iteration.

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Hey, I’m Ashley

Devouring indie books in search of the next great novel.

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