The Void (by J.D. Horn)

Urban Fantasy

Book three and the conclusion to the Witching Savannah series has Mercy Taylor and her family continuing their battle against the foes arrayed against them. After Mercy diminished their powers in book two, The Source, the other anchors have turned against her. Adding to her problems a witch has been using blood magic in her home city of Savannah and it seems she is the target.

With the final battle approaching her friends are dropping like flies and it’s possible the ultimate target is not just her, but her unborn child.


 
There really is a lot going on in The Void and this book should not be attempted if you haven’t read the first two in the series. You just won’t get it. Personally I think a little too much was going on and the book would have been better served with a simpler story that didn’t feel the need to tie up every loose end. It wasn’t bad, but the first two books were outstanding and I was expecting a lot more from this.

Screen Shot 2014-02-27 at 9.12.41 pmMany thanks to 47North and Netgalley for providing me with this ARC

Yellow, Orange, Red –– what it means: http://wp.me/P2B7b5-9l

Dreamer’s Pool (by Juliet Marillier)

Fantasy

Blackthorn has been languishing in a dungeon after exposing the brutal crimes committed by her chieftain. While in prison she has lived for the day when she will be able to stand up and tell her story. But on the very eve of her day, she learns she is to be killed before she can talk.

A Fae visits her during the night and offers her a deal. He will help her escape but in return she must travel north to Dalriada, to use her powers as a healer only to help and she must never refuse a plea for help.

When one of her fellow prisoners, Grim joins her, she wants nothing to do with him, until she realises his following her is a plea from someone who is every bit as damaged as she. So Blackthorn and Grim travel north and settle into a derelict cottage on the edge of an enchanted forest.  Despite her obvious bitterness and anger, Blackthorn soon find herself helping the poor folk of the area with their ailments while Grim works odd jobs as a farm labourer.

But when the Prince of Dalriada asks for Blackthorn’s help, she struggles with her antipathy for men in general and especially men in positions of power.


Dreamer’s Pool is pretty good fantasy. I love the story. I love Blackthorn and Grim. I love the town’s folk.  I struggled with the multiple points of view. They really weren’t working. If it was just Grim and Blackthorn it might have worked, but having that third POV of Prince Oran made the story just a little unwieldy.  That said, I still enjoyed the book and look forward to seeing the series progress.

Oh. Just one more thing. The official synopsis for this book has a fairly major spoiler.  Someone at the publisher really needs a lesson in not giving stuff away.

Screen Shot 2014-02-15 at 8.51.33 pmYellow, Orange, Red –– what it means: http://wp.me/P2B7b5-9l

Big Little Lies (by Liane Moriarty)

Mystery 

Big Little Lies starts with a school trivia night and a murder. Then we return to the beginning of the school year, four months earlier, to the events that lead to it.

When Jane moves to the quiet beach side suburb of Pirriwee, it’s not just a fresh start for her, it’s the end of her running from the past.  Her son Ziggy is enrolled in kindergarten at Pirriwee Public School and when she meets another kindergarten mother, Madeleine, things seem to be looking up for her.

Then before the day is finished, one of the girls in Ziggy’s class accuses him of bullying her and all at once the promising start evaporates.  Instantly the other kindergarten mothers ostracise her and Ziggy and as the term progresses things only get worse.  The mothers  are suddenly divided into two camps.  The Madeleine camp who are on Jane’s side and the Renata camp who are against her.

As the term progresses clues are given about dark secrets that are hidden behind the closed doors of seemingly happy and perfect families and as the school trivia night approaches we not only find ourselves puzzling out who committed the murder, we are also trying to figure out who was murdered.


 

I really enjoyed this book.  It’s not perfect, I think the excerpts from police interviews that start each chapter are a little over-done and the conclusion wasn’t as satisfying as I hoped, but the book is overall quite good and those criticisms are really very minor things in what is a unique and entertaining mystery.

Screen Shot 2014-11-09 at 3.09.42 pmYellow, Orange, Red –– what it means: http://wp.me/P2B7b5-9l

More to Give (by Terri Osburn)

Contemporary Romance

Callie is a specialist in renovating hotels. It’s her job to take a fading beauty and breath new life into it. But until now she has always had to play second fiddle, done the work and then sat back to watch someone else take the credit. When a job comes up on Anchor Island it seems like the perfect fit. A hotel that will lift her to the next level in the industry. The only thing standing in her way is her past history with the owner.

When Callie walks into his office, Sam immediately knows hiring her to manage the renovations of his hotel is a bad idea. But seeing her desperation, he gives her the job and resigns himself to avoiding her for the duration. Unfortunately for Sam, Callie is not someone to be ignored.


 

Every now and then an author comes along who revitalises a genre. They manage to bring back the excitement and give you a glimpse of where the genre is heading. Terri Osburn is one of those authors. In the past few years she has owned Contemporary Romance in my humble opinion.

More to Give is a proper CR, it follows all the rules of the genre, and it still manages to be refreshing and current. It’s one of my favorite books of the year from one of the few authors that leave me so happy I could jump.

Screen Shot 2014-03-10 at 6.08.18 pmMany thanks to Montlake Romance and Netgalley for providing me with this ARC

Yellow, Orange, Red –– what it means: http://wp.me/P2B7b5-9l

The Hawley Book of the Dead (by Chrysler Szarlan)

Paranormal

Reve and her husband were Las Vegas magicians. Then during a show a mysterious man, the Fetch, switched the ammunition in a stage gun and her husband was killed. Being pursued by the Fetch she bundles up her children and runs to her childhood home in Massachusetts.

There she discovers things are not as they seem and she must learn the secrets of a grimoire which has been passed down through her family for generations. But the Fetch has found her and is circling.


The Hawley Book of the Dead isn’t an easy book. It’s quite dense, there is a lot going on, and for the first 40%~50% was quite slow. Then, quite suddenly, the story crashes into you and it honestly becomes a bit of a roller-coaster ride.

Overall, I enjoyed this book despite the slow start. The second half more than made up for that.

Screen Shot 2014-02-27 at 9.12.41 pmMany thanks to Ballantine Books and Edelweiss for providing me with this ARC.

Yellow, Orange, Red –– what it means: http://wp.me/P2B7b5-9l

Without Words (by Ellen O’Connell)

Western Romance

After gunning down Rufus Petty, Bret finds himself faced with a half starved mute woman burying an old man. His only choice is to take her with him or leave her to die, so with her broken down old horse and half wild dog in tow they set off together.  His plan is to unload her on the first willing person, but it quickly becomes apparent that life isn’t easy for a woman on the frontier and if he wants to ensure her safety he’ll need to keep her with him.  

As they travel the West, searching for bounties, Hassie finds a place with Bret. Despite the limitations of not having a voice, she is smart and recognises bounties that Bret would have missed. Gradually Hassie’s view of Bret changes. She goes from seeing him as a cold blooded killer, to a man of honour who will put himself in harms way to protect those he loves.

Before long she has fallen in love, but Bret plans to return to his wealthy family in Missouri, and they will never accept a woman like her, poor and with an Irish father, so their time is short.

western
Westerns tend to fall into one of two camps.  There is the idealised version where the good guys wear white hats and the bad guys wear black hats –– where a bad guy gets shot and he dies without shedding any blood; and the gritty, more realistic and usually quite violent version.

What I love about Ellen O’Connell is she takes that more romantic notion of the West but overlays a layer of realism so it is somehow entertaining and realistic but not hard edged.  I’ve read three Ellen O’Connell books and I’ll definitely be reading more. This one is equal to my personal favorite, Beautiful Bad Man. 

Screen Shot 2014-03-17 at 5.44.24 pmYellow, Orange, Red –– what it means: http://wp.me/P2B7b5-9l

The One Plus One (by Jojo Moyes)

Women’s Fiction

Jess is a single mother, working two jobs, and struggling to earn enough money to raise her two children. Despite her difficult circumstances she is relentlessly optimistic and honest to a fault. But when she finds £500 belonging to Ed, a company director whose house she cleans, she finds the temptation too difficult to resist and pockets the money.

Nicky was abandoned by his father and mother and despite not being related by blood finds a mother in Jess. But despite her relentless optimism, there are some things she can’t solve, and as the target of town bullies he struggles with depression and withdraws into himself.

Tanzie is a math prodigy and desperately wants to attend St Mary’s Private School where her talents will be nurtured, but despite receiving a generous scholarship money is still tight and they desperately need to find a way to make up the difference.

When Jess hears about a math olympiad with a prize of £5000 she sees an answer to their problems. She will solve Tanzie’s problem and get Nicky out of town and the bullies for a while. But before they have even left town, they are pulled over by police and she finds herself in even more hot water for driving an unregistered and uninsured car.

Then Ed steps in.

Ed is a founding director of a software company, but he has been suspended from work and is being investigated by police for insider trading. Everything he has built is crashing down around him but then he sees Jess who has nothing but still manages to be optimistic and he decides to help.

As they all cram into his Audi, along with the dog, they begin the road journey to end all road journeys.  Travelling to Scotland by back roads because Tanzie gets violently ill if the car exceeds 40mph.  As they travel they manage to forget their problems and Ed finds in this odd-ball family a place where he manages to fit in. But as their time on the road draws to its conclusion all their problems come crashing back in on them and it becomes apparent that a happy ending might not be possible for them.


There is a beautiful ache to The One Plus One. At times it makes you want to cry for this family who do everything right but still get beaten down.  It’s sad and beautiful, ultimately life affirming and just a really beautiful book.  Highly recommended.

Screen Shot 2014-02-16 at 4.32.33 pmYellow, Orange, Red –– what it means: http://wp.me/P2B7b5-9l