Tuesday, August 27, 2019

The Whisper Man

Alright, so I know that this has been out for like a week now, but I was lucky enough to get an ARC of it from Celadon Books and Bookishfirst.com and it just took me a bit to get through it. Right now is the first week of school for my kids which means that it has been a crazy couple weeks. This is definitely a spooky book and I can see why it kept some people up at night! This is definitely a great book for Halloween season, however it is a great any time read for fans of thriller/spooky books and movies. Alex North did an amazing job writing this book in a way that has you terrified like when you watched the original Freddy and Jason movies. (If you haven't watched Nightmare on Elm Street from 1980ish time, then you have been under a rock lol.) I may have an ARC, but since it already celebrated its pub day I will be able to reveal a little bit more. So here we go...

If you are a parent then you have had to tell your kids at one point in time that there is no such things as monsters in the closet or under the bed and there is no Boogie Man. It is a normal white lie that you have to tell in order to get your children to go to sleep at night. Sadly for published author Tom Kennedy and his son Jake, that is a lie that Tom regrets telling him, and tells him so in the letter on the first page.

In the town of Featherbank that has a rough history from a couple decades ago but is still an overall good smallish town, a little 6 year old boy named Neil Spencer is walking from his father's house to his mother's when he stops to throw rocks at an old T.V. in what is called the waste ground. Without him knowing a man has been following close behind him in the shadows. An hour and a half goes by before his mother finally calls his father and then the police. A search party has started with Detective Inspector (DI) Amanda Beck when DI Pete Williams joins in since he lives close by. The search party is walking all of the waste ground, the quarry that is railed off, and any possible route between the parents's houses with no luck. Now the hunt is on to find Neil after the first 24 hours doesn't reveal anything to find him.

Jake is a little boy of about six years old and is waiting on his father Tom to come pick him up from the 567 Club. Most of the other children were outside playing while Jake is sitting inside at a table drawing. Next to him is a little girl who has scrapes on her knees that never heal, a blue and white checkered dress, and one side of her constantly splayed out to the side. This little girl has been around for a little bit and Jake notices that she always looks the same each day he sees her. She is trying to make sure she has a little song memorized. She keeps saying it's a warning.

                                              "If you play outside alone, 
                                                       soon you won't be going home.
                                               If you're lonely sad and blue, 
                                                       the Whisper Man will come for you."

To make poor little Jake's life a little sadder, his mother Rebecca died of natural causes almost a year ago and he was the one who found her. Rebecca was a sweet and loving mother who was great with Jake, and normally would pick him up. This fateful day she had to ask Tom to go because she wasn't feeling well and lightheaded. Tom goes, he attempts the normal after school conversation all parents have, and they get back home. Jake rushes in to see Rebecca and finds her at the bottom of the stairs off the kitchen. From there, Jake and Tom try to adjust to this new life they have while trying to decide on a new house in hopes of things being better in a new town and house.

After another difficult day with Jake, Tom has finished the bed time routine and is looking at the house they picked out together and bought online. He still thinks it is odd looking, but it makes Jake happy. Tom realizes that it's been a difficult year and this new house in Featherbank is just the thing they both need. Unfortunately for Tom, there is a very dark history in the town and the house that he will soon discover...

DI Beck is standing by while Neil's parents do a press conference together asking for anyone to come forward if they have information and for Neil to come home if he has simply run away. Beck knows there is a chance that the press conference may turn something up and it may not. Once they are all back inside the station, Beck is going back through all the CCTV (closed circuit tv) footage of the area surrounding the waste ground in hopes of seeing something that will help find Neil. 36 hours have now gone by with no lead as to where to look next, when Neil's mom reveals that Neil had said something about hearing whispers outside his window a few days before he went missing. With this new information, Beck goes straight to her Chief and tells him this. Chief decides to that it is time to officially include Pete into the investigation.

20 years ago, DI Pete was involved in a case similar to Neil's where children went missing and weren't found until much later when he finally secured a search warrant for his prime suspect Frank Carter who was arrested. Frank was named the Whisper Man by the papers because each child that he had taken had said that they had heard whispers outside their window a few days before hand. Frank had access through his job to each one, and once Pete was able to search an addition Frank had made to his house, he finally found four of five missing children inside the room in Frank's home. Frank is now in jail, but Pete has been visiting him for the past 20 years trying to find out what happened to the fifth missing child, Tony Smith. Two months have now gone by, and Beck still has not found any leads or Neil himself. Pete has spent the time asking to see Frank in the jail and has been turned away each time. After one more request, Frank apparently agrees to see Pete and now Pete is concerned as to why and what Frank has up his sleeve.

Tom drops Jake off at his new school after spending the day before getting settled into their new house and hopes that this new day will be a good day for the both of them. Tom is back at home attempting to get settled down to work on a new book by making himself something to drink in the kitchen when he notices someone at the garage. Tom clearly sees the man messing with the lock on the garage trying to get in and shouts at the man. The man starts to quickly walk away when Tom races to the front door to confront him before he gets away. To Tom's surprise however the man is waiting for him at the front door. The man says that he apologizes for startling him, but he just wanted to take a look around the house since he grew up there. Tom, of course being a rational human being, refuses to let him in and makes sure the man leaves. Then Tom goes to the garage and opens it to find a bunch of moldy boxes full of junk and some beautiful butterflies that honestly shouldn't have survived. Tom closes and relocks the garage and goes back in the house.

Pete goes and visits Frank and after talking to him in a way he always has with the hopes that he will slip up and say something useful. The only thing that stands out is that Frank seemed to know more about Neil than he should, and that "it always ends where it starts." Then as Pete is walking out, Frank tells him to bring him his family, "that bitch and that little cunt," to be exact. Pete tells Beck about the visit and they try to figure what he means and if they are really going to bring Frank's wife and son to see him in prison.

After a rough first day of school involving the little girl in the blue checkered dress making an appearance at the playground and his teacher telling his father about being seen talking to himself, Jake runs straight into his room after a small fight with Tom. When they first get home, Jake is settling on the floor to color while Tom goes into the kitchen to make a snack for Jake when he hears Jake talking to himself. He decides to say nothing, and goes to his study to try to get some work done. However, he hears Jake talking again in a different voice that is creepy and Tom decides to confront him when he hears "I want to scare you" come from Jake. Jake says that it wasn't him but the little boy in the floor and then runs to his room. While Tom decides what to do he sees Jake's picture. Jake has drawn the very same butterflies that Tom saw in the garage, but has no idea how considering Tom has been the only one in there since they moved in. When he goes to go try to talk to Jake in his room, he sees Jake coming out of the study in tears, and Tom realizes that he must have seen the hateful letter Tom had written to Rebecca to get the grief out of his system.

Pete has just arrived home from his shift filled with breaking down everything he knew about Frank for Beck and now he is sitting at the table staring at a brand new bottle of vodka. Pete has been sober for so long, but still has struggles. In hopes of not giving into the urge to drink, he holds a picture of him and his ex wife who left him because he was a drunk and abusive. Before he can break the seal open, he gets a call saying that Neil's been found  in the exact spot where they believe he was last seen. He meets Beck and looks at the poor little body of Neil. Now Pete and Beck wonder just how Frank is involved if at all from behind the prison walls. All the while the man that was following Neil all those weeks ago is now standing off in the shadows not too far away thinking about his rage that he had when Neil tried to escape him after two months of good behavior. The man realizes that Neil was a mistake, but the next little boy won't be...

Jake and Tom have been in bed for a while when Tom startles awake from a nightmare to someone standing at the foot of the bed shaking his foot. He thinks it's Jake at first, but then sees some hair sticking out to the side that is too long to be Jake's. He glances at the clock and sees that it is four in the morning, when he looks back the foot of the bed no one is there. He sits in silence trying to wake up fully when he hears whispering. He checks Jake's room and nothing. Then he hears that it is coming from downstairs and rushes down. Jake is sitting in front of the door holding keys talking to someone who is trying to convince him to open the door. When Tom sees fingers poke through the mail slot and the door is unlocked he yells. Tom yells and scares off the man on the outside of the door and little Jake who was apparently half asleep the whole time.

Tom chases the man to the end of the yard and thinks about going further until he remembers that no one would be with Jake. He goes inside and calls the cops. The cops show up just a short time later, and Tom tells them about what had just happened and about the man he caught trying to get into the garage. In a bit of anger at his father, Jake makes the scary voice again that Tom had heard and says "I want to scare you" and it makes the cops doubt it just a little bit. The cops leave, and Tom is struggling what to do as a parent. What do they do now? Are the cops taking this seriously? What was up with Jake and that voice? These are all questions he asks himself after he puts Jake back in bed knowing neither of them will sleep anymore.

Pete is still sober despite finding Neil dead in the waste ground, and is trying to prepare himself for the debriefing that Beck is about to deliver about the case. Beck looks defeated about not finding the boy alive, but seems to have a new fire in her eyes when she tells her fellow cops that they need to now find the man that did this to Neil. Pete thinks back about how he was 20 years ago when he was in the same situation after finding those children in Frank's home...

After taking Jake to school, Tom decides that he needs to go talk to the lady he bought the house from in hopes of finding out about the man who was trying to get into the garage and whatever else he can about who previously lived in his home. After she gives a quick run through of the people she has had as rental tenants, Tom gives the description of the man who he seen and it matches the description of a man who tried to buy the house as well and was willing to pay well over asking. She says his name is Norman Collins. Tom goes back to the house and goes through each box in the garage. He mainly finds just plain household junk that was stored improperly, but he does find an oil pit that has been bricked up under all the boxes. When he removes one of the brick he finds a box with a couple more butterflies sitting on top. When Tom cuts it open, he looks inside to see a small skeleton just as Beck is pulling up to follow up on the report he filed just a few hours earlier.

Meanwhile, Pete is paying a visit to the very same Norman Collins a visit who was a suspect 20 years ago during Pete's case. Inside of Norman's house Pete finds a lot of disturbing "murder collector's items" encased in glass that Norman claims he has legal paperwork for it all. Just when he finishes looking at all the items, Beck calls him and tells him to bring Norman in to the station. Beck has just finished talking to Tom about the past couple days, and sets it up so that Tom can have a police escort take him to pick up Jake from school then head to the police station to fill out a statement about everything from Norman showing up at the garage to the incident with Jake to finding the box in the garage. Once the statement is taken and signed by Tom, Beck arranges for Pete to take Tom and Jake to their safehouse while CSI (crime scene investigators) process the garage and the house.

Once Pete enters into the room with Tom and Jake, things get a little awkward. Why you may ask? Well, it turns out that Pete is Tom's estranged father who hasn't seen him since his mother left after another drunk rage. Tom has never talked to his father or about him to Jake or to anyone since his mother died of cancer five years ago. Tom never knew that Pete got sober and now leads a different life. All Tom has known is that his father was an abusive drunk that just fell off the face of Earth after his mother took him and started a new life. Tom and Pete don't say anything to Jake about this though because as far as Tom is concerned they won't see him again once this case is over.

In the other interrogation room, Beck is starting to talk to Norman about everything. Why he was at Tom's house, and why he has all those murder items in his house. During this conversation, Norman's fingerprints are being processed and compared to unsolved crimes and Beck is waiting for the results. When it is clear that Norman thinks he will simply walk out without any charges, Beck gets the results of the fingerprints. It turns out that Norman's fingerprints match a partial found on a hammer that was used to kill Dominic Barnett, a drug dealer and former tenant of Tom's house. Norman clams up and asks for a lawyer right after and spends the night in the jail cell.

After spending the night in the safehouse Pete takes them to, Tom is trying to process everything after he drops off Jake at school when another parent of a kid in Jake's class named Karen asks him to go for a cup of coffee. Once settled at the coffee shop just a small walk away from the school, Tom tells Karen everything about the past few days from the incident with Jake at school to finding out that his father is a cop working on the case of Neil and the almost abduction of Jake. What neither Karen or Tom notice is that a man is sitting just a little ways from there trying to look normal listening and deciding that he really does need to "rescue" Jake. The very same man who took Neil.

Before starting his next shift to work the case full with Beck, Pete goes to the morgue to visit the skeleton found in Tom's garage and is pretty sure that this poor little soul was Tony Smith. The medical examiner talks Pete through his initial findings on the skeleton and then shows him the box. He recognizes the butterflies as Corpse Moth and sees that in the box that has been taped over and over is a pair of blue jogging pants and a black polo shirt folded neatly. It turns out that the Corpse Moth butterflies are only attracted to rotting flesh and has been one of the key things that Pete has looked for over the years in hopes it would lead him to Tony or any other poor victim.

After finishing up at the morgue, Pete heads to the station to join Beck in the second day of questioning of Norman. Norman finally tells them that he was only at the house because he knew Tony was there. How? Norman visited Vic Taylor, Frank's friend in jail, and paid to go visit Tony at that house as a murder shrine. That's right. Norman and many others would pay to sit in Tom's house when Dominic Barnett took over for the man before as murder item keeper. The man who used to watch over the murder items treated each one as a museum and that made Norman happen to keep paying to see Tony. However, when Dominic took over it turned into a "disgusting" fun house type vibe. Dominic wouldn't treat the items with respect or made anyone else do so, which just "sickened" Norman until Dominic refused to let him come back. Which lead to Norman killing Dominic and hiding Tony in the garage.

After a couple days in the safehouse, Tom and Jake are finally able to go back home now that CSI has finished. Pete is there to escort him, and Tom is still unsure of how to proceed. He sees that Pete has changed, but does he really deserve to be in their lives? While driving back home before taking Jake to school, Pete has to stop a bunch of reporters outside the house from bombarding Tom and Jake. When Tom looks over the crowd, Karen is in the mix of reporters. Pete gets to reporters to back off, and meets Tom and Jake in the house to let them know they shouldn't be bothered by the press. Pete leaves his card with Tom in case anything comes up. Tom takes Jake to school and heads back home to process everything. Later Karen comes over and apologizes about not telling him about being a reporter and that she would never use anything he told her in an article because she likes him and her moral expectations of herself wouldn't ever allow her to betray a friend.

Pete leaves to go to the station and make one final visit to Frank in jail after him and Beck pull every CCTV footage of Vic Taylor's visits. Pete takes the stills from the footage with him in hopes that Frank will reveal someone that he knows. Although he gives no names, Frank admits to knowing about the sick museum and pauses on one picture of a man that they had yet to identify. He walks through the visit with Beck and realizes that Frank has slipped up and told Pete something. He didn't mean they would find Neil in the place where he was taken when he said "it ends where it began." Frank meant that he needed to hunt down Frank's son who could possibly be the unidentified man that visited Vic. Frank's son Francis and his mother entered the witness protection program to get a fresh start on life, and now Francis goes by David Parker.

Beck and Pete go through all the David Parkers in the state to try to find Francis. As they go through the stack to come up with a bunch of nothing, Pete gets a text from Tom asking him to watch Jake so that he could go meet Karen for a quick drink. That's right, Tom has decided that maybe slowly Pete could be in their lives because every person deserves a fresh start right? Beck and Pete find one that could possibly be the right David Parker since his description matches the man in the picture, and Beck takes DI Dyson with her to check out the apartment he rents out in a town about 50 miles away. When Beck and Dyson get there, the place is unlocked and abandoned. It smells like mold and everything inside the main area is damp and falling apart. Beck finds the bedroom and it is very clear that it was taken care of and has fresh paint on one wall.

Meanwhile, Pete has gone through the routine and rules with Tom and gets ready to start his night with Jake. Tom keeps repeating that he won't be gone but a couple hours and reassures Jake that he will be there in the morning and that he can call if there's a problem. Tom goes and meets Karen at a bar within walking distance of both their houses, and is having his beer when he keeps getting this nagging feeling that something's off. Back at the house, Pete has just finished Jake's bedtime routine and is about to settled down with a book in the living room when he hears Jake scream upstairs. Pete rushes up the stairs to find that Jake just had a nightmare. Jake insists that Tom needs to be called, and just as Pete dials, they hear the front door open. Assuming it's Tom, Pete leaves Jake in his room and goes downstairs. Jake hears a struggle but stays put in his bed. Then when it stops, he hears someone coming up whispering his name.

Tom and Karen are walking about to Tom's after he sees the hang up call from Pete who is now not answering his phone. Tom practically runs home and finds that his front door is open just enough to let the indoor lights shine out. Tom immediately thinks about the song he heard Jake sing. Tom rushes inside to find Pete laying on the floor and no answer from Jake. He rushes upstairs while Karen calls 911 and finds Jake's bed empty.....

I know you're hair is probably raised on your neck and you have goosebumps on your arms, but I simply cannot tell anymore from this terrifying book. I will admit that I was dying to get my hands on a copy and thrilled when I had won a copy from BookishFirst. I had even seen the comments from fellow bookdragons about how it gave some nightmares and made them stay up all night after reading. I thought I would breeze through it since I loved scary movies. However, what I thought would be a three day read turned into a week long read. I had to put it down a few times simply to get back into a non-paranoid state of mind as a parent. Especially with school starting for them soon. I still loved it overall. I love scary movies and books, but this one definitely had me jumping and gave me goosebumps during certain parts. I will say that the ending has a sort of happy note to it, but it still has me wanting to read a happier book or watch a light show. I am still so grateful to have a copy and recommend to those that love spooky movies or books. If you have read my review and still feel you must have a copy in your hands, then you can find links on my page:

Monday, August 19, 2019

Palace of Moonlight (The Corvinus Chronicles)

Alright, so once again I was lucky enough to receive an ARC of their debut book series from the wonderful Indie Author duo Payton Taylor. I thought I was obsessed on Crown of Sunlight, but I was wrong. Now I am trying to patiently wait for book three, which sadly they have not started yet because they are human beings and have lives. I have to say these two following statements for obvious reasons. One: if you have NOT read Crown of Sunlight, then DON'T read this review!! There are a few things in here that will spoil book one for you. Two, this series is best for 17+ because they did an amazing job writing the violence and sexual situations. It is not smut in anyway, but it should definitely have the same warning as a rated R movie. Now, with that being said, let's dive into my review of this sexy beauty....

First thing I need to do is talk about the characters a little. I know, I normally explain them as I go, but knowing this bit of information will help you follow along easier. I am also going to format it as a list so that you can find it if you need to go back.

         *Sunny/Noelani: Older sister, Thief (can borrow Gifts)
         *Jo/Josephine: Sunny's sister, MurMur (mind reading and control)
         *Azmodeous: King of Ettria, MurMur
         *Westin: General to Azmodeous, Combatant (strength, speed, super senses)
         *Leo: Councilman to Azmodeous, Shadow (invisibility)
         *Zoe: little girl, Traveler (super rare, can travel to places or find people)
         *Seren: Lorlean that's Sunny and Jo's first friend, Watcher (has visions of past and future)
         *Kian: Seren's older brother, Temp (knows time exactly all the time)
         *Zahra: Kian's Match, Siren and Priestess to Goddess Liebbe
         *Asteria: Queen of Vianna, Elemental of Fire & Air (pretty obvious lol)
         *Khione: Asteria's Advisor, Elemental of Ice

There are obviously a lot more characters, but those are the main ones that you need to know about in a review of an ARC. Alright, now you can use this as a reference if necessary, but here we go...

Writhia is a magical world filled with people who have Gifts of different levels. The main areas of Writhia visited in this section of our heroes stories are Ettria, Vianna, and the Wastes. The Wastes is the country where all the criminals are sent, and sadly children are born with no way to escape.  Right now it is the year 5220 and eight months has passed since Sunny and Jo were taken hostage by King Azmodeous of Ettria. It has been eight months since Sunny used her Theif Gift to borrow Jo's MurMur Gift to order Westin her Match with the Combatant Gift to run away and save himself after Azmodeous used his MurMur Gift to force Westin to make a cut from shoulder to opposite hip. It has been eight months since Leo the Shadow was no where to be found during the first escape attempt that lead to Sunny and Jo now being trapped inside the same castle. It has been eight months since a war started between Vianna and Ettria to get Sunny back to Queen Asteria, her grandmother with Fire and Air Elemental Gifts. Eight months since Sunny has laid eyes on Westin, and lived with abuse from Azmodeous as he calls her Eleyna, which was her mother and his supposed Match all those years ago before she escaped Writhia and raised Sunny and Jo on Earth.

Westin is stuck in the the Wastes after little Zoe used her Traveler Gift to take him and herself to a place she knew he could get help. Zoe takes off shortly after she leaves Westin with a woman who is probably more medicine woman than Healer, but she does save Westin's life. The woman lets Westin stay in her little shack and watches over him while he heals and gets the hang of surviving in the jail lands of the Wastes. No one knows that he is there and he has no idea that anyone even cares or is alive or if they had escaped. All he knows is that he must do anything necessary to survive with the mindset that no one is coming to get him.

Sunny/Noelani/Eleyna has been forced to live as the Queen of Ettria and the future wife to Azmodeous. She has been forced to lay side by side in his bed at night, deal with physical and mental abuse from his hand and Gift. She has to watch as Jo has been abused by him and his sidekick and fellow MurMur Cerise. They do everything they can to minimize the damage done, but since Azmodeous is basically off his rocker. Since they are trapped inside the castle with no one to help them, Sunny and Jo decide to do anything they can to buy time after Azmodeous announces to everyone in Writhia that he and Sunny will be having a Match Ceremony (basically a wedding).

Since they now know that they don't have much time, Sunny and Jo try to figure out a way to get out themselves. During the first few nights in the King's chambers, Sunny sees a teenage boy walk into the room like he owns the place. It turns out that the boy is the ghost of a Necromancer named Gordo. Poor Gordo has been haunting the castle ever since Azmodeous killed him and his parents. Using Sunny's Gift, they are able to use Gordo's Gift to see, talk to, and train with the ghosts in the castle. They also use Jo's Gift to link their minds together so that Jo can see the ghosts, and they basically have a 360 view of the room. Sunny sneaks into Jo/s room every night to train with their new group of friends. They are both stronger than anyone knows because during the first escape attempt the Quellers (Gift Surpressors) were killed.

 Leo has been hanging around the castle still since no one knows that he was involved in the first escape attempt but Sunny and Jo. As a result of no one really knowing the full story of what happened that fateful night eight months ago, Leo has been dealing with Jo hating him, and tries multiple times to tell her what happened. When that fails he decides to try to find out as much as he possible about what Azmodeous is really up to after the Match Ceremony announcement. He also has to play his role as spy for the dark king in order to stay alive by spying on the progress of the Viannan Army that they are currently battling. However, Leo does get to live with the small victory that before the failed escape, he was able to get Westin's whole family somewhere safe. He checks in on them as much as possible using his contact and a secret network of people he has, and sadly has to tell Westin's mother each time that he has no news about Westin.

Leo goes snooping into the King's study one night out of hopes of finding something. Using his Shadow Gift, he has been able to keep spying on Azmodeous when he thinks he is alone. During this time, Leo sees that he talks to a mirror a lot. Azmodeous also talks to a hologram image of Eleyna and talks to it like he is having a real conversation with her. This peeks Leo's interest even more to find out just how dark, twisted, and crazy the dark king has become lately. Inside the study alone late one night, Leo goes up to the mirror and notices that it looks normal but something is a little off. Behind the mirror is a safe that holds only one thing, a very old book that is encased in a leatherish cover, at least Leo hopes it's leather. Leo opens it and finds the most disturbing images inside. Images that depict that Sunny and Jo are in more danger than anyone knows...

The day comes when Azmodeous announces that the Match Ceremony will take place at the next full moon, which is only a month away, and Sunny and Jo realize that they need to come up with a real plan to escape. Neither of them know that Leo has been doing the same thing all along. A month passes, and the day comes when they are forced to prepare for the sick and twisted Match Ceremony.  While Sunny is being dressed in her gown and Jo in robes that she must wear now that she is playing the role of the officiant when Leo sneaks into the room. He goes up to Jo and whispers for her to meet him in the privy/bathroom. Once they are alone in the privy, he shows Jo the pictures he took of the book he found. The images all show some twisted blood ceremony on top of the regular Match Ceremony. He begs Jo to trust him because he has a plan to get them both out safely. The ceremony is conducted, and Sunny is forced to drink the mixture of Azmodeous's and hers blood. After everything is done, Azmodeous drags Sunny out of the room and Leo takes Jo to start his plan. After using an alarm as a distraction, Leo's plan to get the three of them out safely works. Waiting for them is Seren, Kian, Zahra (Kian's Match), Khione, and Marzanna are waiting for them in the woods surrounding the castle. Once they short reunion is done, the group of eight now sets off to find Westin after another vision from Seren.

Meanwhile, Westin is still trying to survive and accept the fact that no one is coming for him and that he may never know what happened to his family when he saves a woman named Asta from a creature that has chased her to the area around his shack. Once the creature is dead, Asta tells him that she owes him and that she promises she will not be coming back to kill him. Westin doesn't believe her and stays awake for days to be sure, but of course she doesn't return.

Leo is able to set up a secret meeting with a pirate captain named Ayven Eris who agrees to take them to the Wastes after a hefty price is paid by Leo himself. Ayven takes them on his ship, and they travel on the Lussan Sea, which is apparently the safest way for them all to travel now that they are considered fugitives of Ettria. Weeks go by, and when they are finally getting close to the Wastes, Cianna, wife one of two to Ayven, offers to arm all eight of our heroes from the ship's armory. Each one of them pick out a weapon that fits them, and Cianna helps train Khione, Marzanna, Sunny and Jo since they have the least amount of training. Finally, they reach the Wastes and our eight heroes set off to find Westin. When they are finally on land, Sunny takes off through the woods running at speeds close to Westin's Gift while the rest start slowly walking through behind her under Leo's invisibility. Sunny finally finds Westin, and it is not the reunion she was hoping for. He barely recognizes her, and he is definitely not the same man she sent away. Once everyone else catches up and makes it to Westin's shack, they all come to the realization that none of them are the same people they were just nine months ago. While they are trying to figure out their next step, Seren has another vision that Sunny gets to see thanks to her Gift, and it shows them that they need to head South and battle a darkness that will destroy Withria if they go back to the ship. After a quick discussion, they all agree to go once they have rested for the night.

The next day, they start their journey into the rest of the Wastes. After walking all day, they stop to make camp for the night. While everyone is trying to sleep, Sunny has a very vivid dream about Azmodeous telling her that she can never truly run away thanks to their new forced blood bond and then chokes her when she angers him. Westin wakes up Sunny from her nightmare despite being so mad at her, and she really does have marks on her neck like she was choked. After telling everyone what happened, Zahra tells Sunny that there is no way that Azmodeous is her Match, because a Match cannot be forced by a twisted ceremony. Zahra knows this and is able to say it with confidence because she used to be a Priestess for the Goddess Liebbe herself, and Kian confirms it. Not being able to go back to sleep, Westin goes outside to keep watch and notices a shadow moving around their camp as the sun is starting to rise. He is still struggling with how he feels about everything including what to do about his bond with Sunny. The next morning as he is telling the group about seeing a Skifte, a shapeshifter creature that was the shadow Westin saw, when a group of eight Skiftes attacks them. One of the Skiftes manages to kidnap Marzanna, and it forces Khione to use her supressed Match Bond with her to find and rescue her.

During their journey further South, the group runs into a mole like creature that tries to drag them all underground with no success. During the struggle, Leo is the one to pull Jo out of her sinkhole and save her, which means they had skin to skin contact for the first time. It is a few days later that he realizes that Jo is his Match, and he doesn't know how to deal with that after being tossed aside by his loved ones so many times. The day that he has this realization that he kisses Jo because she makes the same realization, and he ends it saying that they needed to act like this never happened. The group continues on without knowing about Leo and Jo, and stop so they can try to find food and water. Kian, Westin, Sunny, and Jo are busy cutting vines away from a path while the rest try to re-energize when the four of them are attacked by a gang. Sunny and Jo kill everyone in the gang using their linked minds and new rage that they have bottled up for so long. The group goes in search of the gang's camp in hopes of food, water, and supplies, which they do find including a small body of water where they are able to take a bath with a soapy plant and refill canteens. They decide to stay at the camp for a night or two to rest and figure out their next move. While off gathering berries, Sunny, Marzanna, and Khione are attacked by Asta who Westin convinces to take them all to her camp since she still owed him one.

They go to Asta's camp and rest for two days during which Asta's second in command tell them about an oracle that lives in the nearby mountains. After hearing that the oracle is usually right, our eight heroes vote that they need to go into the mountains and find this oracle in order to get as much information about the darkness they are set to fight in the future. They still need to continue on their journey and decide that they need any and all information they can find out. Especially Asta reveals that she had ordered her people to stay away from the South after hearing rumors of a darkness that takes over and destroys anything it touches. At the beginning of their climb up the mountain, they come across a shear wall that they all have to climb up using a rope. Well, everyone but Sunny and Westin since they can simply jump to the top. After everyone else makes it to the top, Leo starts climbing up the rope when suddenly he slips and gets rope burn due to a dark voice enters his head and tries to convince him to just let go of the rope....

Sadly this is where I must stop and tell you to buy it for yourself. It is an amazing second book in a series that definitely the perfect step for the rest of the series, even with a cliffhanger ending. For this being their debut series and a double launch and pub day, I'd say this amazing duo knocked it out of the park! I am so grateful to be part of the few that got to take a look at both these books before their early release on August 16th. As always you can find links to buy this beauty and its partner Crown of Sunlight for yourself on my page:

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Crown of Sunlight (The Corvinus Chronicles)

Y'all! This one had me obsessed almost instantly! From the beautiful cover to the very last page! This is book one in this wonderful Indie Author Duo, and I am so grateful that I have book two as well, but that's a review for later. The Corvinus Chronicles is the debut series for Payton Taylor, and they knocked it out of the park! It is definitely not something I have read before which is one of the great things about it. I couldn't believe it when they told me I could be part of their ARC readers, because as people they are just amazing and sweet. I am sure you have seen me posting about them and their books on my social media pages, and I hope this review makes you excited to get your hands on a copy on August 16th!

First thing I need to do is talk about the characters a little. I know, I normally explain them as I go, but knowing this bit of information will help you follow along easier. I am also going to format it as a list so that you can find it if you need to go back.

         *Sunny/Noelani: Older sister, Thief (can borrow Gifts)
         *Jo/Josephine: Sunny's sister, MurMur (mind reading and control)
         *Azmodeous: King of Ettria, MurMur
         *Westin: General to Azmodeous, Combatant (strength, speed, super senses)
         *Leo: Councilman to Azmodeous, Shadow (invisibility)
         *Zoe: little girl, Traveler (super rare, can travel to places or find people)
         *Seren: Lorlean that's Sunny and Jo's first friend, Watcher (has visions of past and future)
         *Kian: Seren's older brother, Temp (knows time exactly all the time)
         *Asteria: Queen of Vianna, Elemental of Fire & Air (pretty obvious lol)
         *Khione: Asteria's Advisor, Elemental of Ice

There are obviously a lot more characters, but those are the main ones that you need to know about in a review of an ARC. Alright, now you can use this as a reference if necessary, but here we go...

Writhia is a colorful world that is filled with people that have different types of Gifts, and it is currently the year 5219. There are many countries and cities, but the main three visited the most are Ettria, Vianna, Lorlean Lands, and the Mistwoods. Westin is the General of King Azmodeous's army, and he is currently bringing a little girl named Zoe who is a Traveler to see Azmodeous himself. When they reach the king, Zoe is handed a vial of blood and asked to find the person. Westin has no idea what is going on, but he waits patiently since he knows that Azmodeous is a MurMur.

Back on Earth in the year 2017, Sunny and Josephine or Jo are simply trying to make it as adults. Sunny is the oldest and works as a dance teacher, and Jo works at the local library. They are broke, and simply enjoying life as much as possible. Sunny and Jo go through their usual routine of going to work, having lunch together, and then finishing out their day to meet back at home to relax together. Well, one day they go to lunch together and are walking back to work when suddenly they don't feel well and pass out. They wake up a short time later and they are in the middle of some woods with strange men speaking an unknown language in Writhia. When they see the men dressed as warriors, they naturally take off running and end up falling down into what is called The Mistwoods.

Back at Ettria, Leo is a Shadow and the Councilman to King Azmodeous. Leo is currently using his Gift to hide himself from the king to spy after he hears yelling coming through a doorway. Inside he sees Azmodeous yelling at his soliders for losing two women, and they tell him "It wasn't Elena". They tell him that they ran and fell down a ravine into the Mistwoods. Now Leo is curious as to what the king is up to and what in the world they could possibly be talking about. He continues to watch Azmodeous as he uses his MurMur Gift to hurt the solider that brought up Elena and then dismisses them all. Leo is still spying when Westin bring Zoe back in. This time Zoe cannot locate whoever it is she is looking for using her Gift as a Traveler and Azmodeous starts getting angry with her. Out of fear for the little girl, Leo sneaks out of the room and then goes back in once making himself visible and barges into the room quite possibly saving Zoe from getting hurt.

Sunny and Jo are running through the Mistwoods after recovering from the fall, and start noticing the colors that are everywhere. The bright colors of the trees, the silver fruit, and the colorful and interesting creatures that seem to be around them. Suddenly, they find themselves in some lake both envisioning the other diving in and drowning. When they break whatever had a hold of them, they are greeted by a Swarog, half humaniod half shark, that agrees to let them go if they make a blood promise with it. Once that is done, Sunny and Jo start following tire tracks back into the woods until they come across a small stream. They naturally go to it and drink from it, then they gather some silver fruit but don't eat it. A short ways from the stream, they find a cave to stay in for the night simply so they are not laying on the ground. They fall asleep until Sunny is awoken by small, sassy, floating, glowing baby sprites. They are laughing and motioning to Jo, which of course makes Sunny look at her. Jo has taken a bite of the silver fruit, and is now sick. Once Sunny makes sure that Jo is breathing and awake, Sunny sets out to go get some water from the stream to help Jo's stomach. While walking there, Sunny is attacked by Jo look-a-likes that attack her and Jo is picked up by warriors covered in gold paint.

Back in Ettria, Westin takes Zoe yet again to Azmodeous and is told to try locating someone again. This time she is successful and points out where they are on a map. Westin is told to prepare his men to depart the castle immediately. On the way to spread the news of leaving, Leo tries to get Westin to talk to him about Zoe and what is going on, but Westin doesn't say much. Leo decides that he needs to follow and find out for himself. Now, what needs to be pointed out is that Leo and Westin aren't really friends, but they interact with each other for the simple fact that Leo is a Councilman and Westin the General. Westin knows about Leo's Gift and that it is rumored that Leo loves to spy and collect secrets. What Westin doesn't know is that Leo is able to keep the king out of his mind which is how he is able to spy on them without anyone knowing.

Meanwhile in Lorelan Lands, Sunny and Jo wake up to find themselves inside what appears to be a medical facility. In their makeshift room there is a woman named Lizea who tells Sunny about Gifts, Marks (special tattoos that reveal what Gift you have and help balance out the power so the host has time to learn to control it), and that she is a Healer. At first Lizea thinks that Sunny and Jo are both Murmurs, and tells Sunny so while healing them. However, after getting the go ahead to put Marks on them by Queller Jessalynn, do they all discover that Sunny is actually a Thief! Which was an even bigger shocker than the size of Jo's Mark on her back. Jo wakes up a short time later, and Sunny explains what has happened and what she has learned so far. Standing off to the side of their doorway is a man named Seren who is a Watcher. Seren takes them to meet Orrin, the camp's leader. Orrin is the one who tells them that they are in Writhia, and opens their minds so they now know the language being spoken. Orrin decides that Seren will take Sunny and Jo to Vianna to see the queen.

Meanwhile, Westin is escorting Azmodeous and Zoe to the Lorlean Lands on the king's trysk (kind of like an airplane) and arrive at the very same camp that Sunny and Jo just left with Seren. While they are there, the king tries to use his Gift to get the information about two women that may have looked out of place. In the process, he kills Jessalynn and it is then that Westin realizes that there are a lot of things he has done for the king during a moment of clarity. He thinks about all the horrible things he has done all under the influence of the king's Gifts. Now Westin realizes that he needs to never be fully under Azmodeous's control again. After leaving the camp and heading to Vianna, Westin reveals to Leo who is currently hiding in a closet on the trysk that Westin knows he is there. Westin then tells Leo in code that they need to talk privately somewhere else. That somewhere else ends up being a brothel picked by Leo due to its privacy (and yes I laughed out loud during this part and I'm sure you will too!)

Sunny and Jo arrive in Vianna with Seren and are immediately taken to see Queen Asteria. Once they arrive at the castle, they are told that Asteria is their grandmother and they were next in line to the crown. After fully processing all the information they are given about their father dying in a fire, and their mother escaping the wars going on after finding out about being pregnant with Jo, Sunny, Jo, and Seren are shown to their rooms by Khione who is Asteria's advisor. Asteria tells them the next day that they would need to attend classes to get caught up on the history, culture, and what will be expected of them shortly after Asteria announces she wants to throw them a ball. A ball to announces their return home and that Sunny is the heir to the throne. Asteria arranges it so that a good friend's daughter Mazanna will help them go dress shopping for the ball. Marzanna is a Botano, which means she can control plants, and quickly becomes friends with Sunny and Jo.

Westin and Leo are following close by using Leo's Gift to spy on the girls in order to help Azmodeous set up a plan to kidnap them While they are watching them at a save distance, the girls suddenly stop and act ill. That is until one of them takes off running and Westin breaks from Leo and chases her. She is running so fast that sadly leads to both of them tripping and going over the ledge of a bridge and Westin saves them.Once they are safely back on the bridge, Westin looks into her eyes and instantly knows that she is his Match and that this could possibly be a disaster, so he doesn't say anything. The girl's friends finally catch up, and it simply looks like flirting so nothing is said.

The next morning, Sunny wakes up from a nightmare, and sets about getting ready for hers and Jo's first lesson. Their first tutor is Mrs. Ammon who gives them a crash course basically on the history of Lavianna, how they are supposed to behave as royalty, and how people with Gifts were not always around. The belief is that the Gods that were once worshiped regularly decide to bestow the Gifts to ensure the people's survival. The next lesson is for Sunny with Asteria herself, who has the Gift of Fire and Air Elemental so that she can learn to use her Thief Gift properly without hurting anyone. Asteria has arranged for Jo and Sunny to meet with another tutor who is a MurMur as well outside the castle.

Later on at the ball Asteria is throwing for Sunny and Jo, they look and feel like real princesses, and are being escorted by Seren and his brother Kian. Kian is Seren's older brother who has spent most of his life correcting and shielding Seren's socially awkward behavior, and Sunny sees this as Kian's memories appear in his mind. It makes their heart hurt for Seren, and make a point to tell Kian they don't mind Seren's quirkiness. Kian is a Temp which means that he constantly knows the correct time, and make sure they are late to the grand entrance. Once the grand entrance is made and Sunny and Jo make their rounds to meet other royals, they are free to go dance with Seren and Marzanna. During the dancing, Westin and Leo arrive, and Westin goes right up to Sunny and steals her for a dance or two. After dancing together and a spark growing, it gets to the point where Sunny boldly kisses him. Westin pulls away before it goes too far, and warns her not to trust anyone and stay close to Jo before walking away.

Leo decides to cloak himself and follow Asteria after she breaks off from the party and heads to the servants entrance. Once the door is closed, the queen sits down in front of mirror, cuts herself, collects the blood in a vial, and drinks it. All the while she is muttering something about blood, and it creeps Leo out. It is common knowledge that she has a disease that is slowly eating at her brain called the Withering, but Leo has never heard of something like this. Once the queen cleans herself up, Leo follows her back out into the ball. Jo has separated from Seren and Marzanna to go to the bar where she talks to a very drunk Khion who reveals that she is an Ice Elemental and that she is Marzanna's Match. However, Marzanna's father doesn't approve and that breaks Khion's heart. Once she is comforted and walks away, Jo is left alone at the bar. She gets bumped into by Leo, and spooks him by revealing that she can feel the walls he has put up in his mind. Shortly after Leo stalks off, Jo tries to join Seren again, she finds that she has no control of her body. Jo is under someone's control and heads straight to the servant's entrance where she is knocked out by some guards.

At the end of the ball, Sunny and Asteria are headed back up the staircase when Sunny realizes that Jo is missing. Westin sees this and feels absolutely awful since he knows where she is. Asteria points him out in the crowd, and it forces him to have to fight his way out of the castle. Once he makes sure all his soldiers have gotten out of the castle safely, Westin starts to find a spot to watch the castle for further information when a transport (a sort of car) crashes into a tree. Driving the transport is none other than Sunny. Westin calms her down and gets her to agree to let him help after making a blood promise on his sword that has been in his family for generations. Sunny agrees, and goes with Westin back to his home using his transport then trysk. Meanwhile, when Jo comes to, she has a blindfold on and is being told to stay calm because her real father has her now. When they get to where they are going, Jo is locked away in a room that is full of luxuries that are truly meant for a princess.

Who has Jo and why? What will happen between Westin and Sunny? Will Leo ever figure out who and why Azmodeous is so obsessed with? Will Sunny and Jo ever be reunited?

To find out you will need to buy the book for yourself! I know, I'm a stinker, but hey. I absolutely loved this book and struggled to force myself to put it down I was drawn in and devouring each page. I even stayed up late to read and write this review. I am so excited to start book number two next. I am so grateful to first get to know Payton Taylor as themselves and then to be one of their ARC readers. They are so awesome and nice and sweet. You need to check out their Instagram if you haven't already, because it is just as amazing as they are. As always you can find links to buy this beauty and it's partner in the series on my page:

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

The Bitterroots

Once again I was lucky enough to receive an ARC from Minotaur Books. This one is the fifth book in C.J. Box's The Highway Quartet/Cassie Dewell series, however there are enough clues about the other books to make it an easy read. It doesn't feel confusing or like you missed too much by starting with this one first. It is a Private Investigator/Mystery book that is set in Montana. C.J. Box definitely has an easy flowing and keep you interested writing style. I finished it rather quickly, and I honestly think that if I had sat down to read a little longer when I first started it that I would have finished it in a day or two. I am so grateful to Minotaur Books for keeping me in their blogger program. Since this is an Advanced Reader's Copy there is only so much that I can reveal, however it does celebrate it's pub day on August 13th.

Cassie Dewell is a former cop turned P.I. that lives in Montana near the Crazy Mountain Range which is currently in the middle of a huge wild fire. The fire has been burning all summer, and sadly the funds from state and federal to fight it ran out around mid-August. Cassie lives with her 14 year old son named Ben and her mother Isabel. Cassie is in the middle of trying to hunt down 24 year old reprobate named Jerry Allen who is simply known as Antlerhead. Antlerhead is an ex con who was on a work release job when he decided to try to lift a huge deer head above his head after it was just removed from the body when he slipped in the blood and punctured his skull right above his eyebrow and his clavicle to his lung. Once he was released on probation, he became a drug dealer along with two others until three college students wound up in the hospital after using the heroin he sold them laced with fentanyl. He was arrested, and has jumped on the $150,000 bond that his parents pulled together for him. Antlerhead's parents have asked her to find him and bring him home to avoid even more charges. Cassie asks an old cop buddy who is now a correction officer named Johnny Ortiz for background on Antlerhead's associates in exchange for a dozen cinnamon rolls. Ortiz lets Cassie know that a waitress named Nayna at the Grand Hotel in Deer Lodge used to visit Antlerhead in prison, and uses Nayna to find him. She lucks out one night and Antlerhead visits Nayna.

Cassie is a P.I. who likes carry around a kit that contains a .40 Glock 27, 5 shot .38 Smith & Wesson, a Taser, pepper spray, Vipertek mini stun gun, and several pairs of zip ties to use as cuffs, and thankfully has yet to use anything but the zip ties a few times. While she is waiting for Antlerhead to show up, she gets a call from Defense Attorney Rachel Mitchell in Bozeman. The next day Cassie goes to see Rachel at her office. Cassie and Rachel have worked together before when Cassie was still a cop and needed Rachel's dad Bull to guide her through some desert. Rachel tells Cassie that she needs her to investigate a case that started in the Bitterroots Valley and is now being moved to Bozeman so that it is a fair trail. The defendant is Blake Kleinsasser of the Kleinsasser family who runs a cattle and hay operation and pretty much is famous in Lochsa County. Blake has been accused of molesting and raping his 15 year old niece Franny. Rachel wants Cassie to simply make sure that the arrest and investigation was done by the book, not try to disprove that Blake did it.

The Lochsa County Police Department filed the charges and arrested Blake with the following evidence: a rape kit positively identifying semen that matches Blake, tire tracks matching the ones on his car, a glass covered in his fingerprints, and witnesses placing him with Franny sometime during the night. Rachel simply wants to be sure that it was collected properly, and takes Cassie with her to visit Blake in jail. After Rachel makes sure that the jail follows the law in regards to not recording or watching this legal counsel visit, they talk to Blake to get his side of the story. Blake says that he believes that his siblings have set him up because of the Kleinsasser Family Trust. Blake is the oldest son which means he would inherit everything as long as he doesn't publicly denounce the family name or commit moral turpitude such as rape. Blake believes his family is setting him up since he decided to leave the ranch and make a name for himself else where. After leaving the jail,  Cassie goes home and does some research for background information about the family itself. She finds that the men in the family have a strong record and online presence but the women are almost non-existent. Cassie is in the middle of making a game plan for information she will need to find out or follow up on when she gets to Lochsa County when an 18 wheeler parks itself outside her house that looks just like the one the Lizard King (a case from another book). The driver of the 18 wheeler cannot be seen due to tinted windows, but it drives off leaving Cassie not having anything to identify it. The same driver drives to his old high school and parks close by. He gets out and goes to the back of the building to gain access from the auto shop class.

Cassie makes it to Horston in Lochsa County a little later than she wanted, and makes her way to the motel she made reservations at. When she gets there she realizes that it is the same motel that Blake was arrested at, and the manager puts her in the same room "unknowningly". Cassie goes to dinner at a place called Stumpy's when she gets to witness Rand Kleinsasser, the youngest brother, try to pick a fight with some out of town fly fishermen to no avail. The fire is still going strong when she heads back to her motel room. The next day Cassie gets a chance to sit down with Sheriff Wagy about the arrest and why she is there investigating it. Once she explains that she is simply there to verify the evidence and statement, he somewhat willingly agrees to let her look but not touch the evidence gathered. Meanwhile back at home, Ben sees the same 18 wheeler as Cassie when he is out getting ice cream with a new classmate named Erin. It almost runs them both over, but ends up just squishing her backpack. Ben doesn't tell Cassie right away...

Cassie continues her investigation by talking to Attorney Andrew Johnson who was originally going to represent Blake in trial. He chose to step down as counsel for health reasons since he has prostate cancer and has to work as many local cases as he can before he is too sick to work anymore. Later that night, Cassie stops by the bar where a barmaid named Lindy is supposed to be working and is part of Blake's alibi when she happens to run into Cheyenne who is Franny's mother and Blake's sister. Cheyenne talks to Cassie for a little bit until she tries to see about talking to Franny about what happened and Cheyenne tells her to fuck off. The truck driver sneaks back into the high school and goes to library to see if his old drug hiding spot in the ceiling has been discovered. When it hasn't and is empty, he stashes a 12 gauge shot gun, .40 Charter Arms Pitbull revolver, three boxes of shotgun shells, a mesh bag full of smoke and tear gas gernades, and a military grade tactical gas mask.

Cassie gets pulled over after leaving the bar and her talk with Cheyenne, and the cop ends up taking her to jail without filing charges with the ruse of needing a breathalyzer test. The next morning Rachel comes in and raises hell about Cassie being falsely imprisoned and harassed. Rachel drives Cassie back to her Jeep only to find that it had been broken into and torched. All of Cassie's copies of the files and notes about what she has found out are gone along with her wallet. Rachel tries to end the investigation right then and there, but Cassie refuses to quit until the job is done. After rebuilding her P.I. kit with Rachel's credit card and gets a rental vehicle, she drives out the Kleinsasser Ranch to take a look at the house/crew shack that Franny says Blake took her too. After some rude comments from the family and attitude from John Wayne, the second oldest brother, she is able to see the house. She takes pictures of the outside, the rooms that Franny describes. It all mostly fits what she said in her statement, but something doesn't feel right. When Cassie comes out of the house Rand is waiting for her at the picnic table and tries to bait her into an argument, but fails.

Ben is at home after wrestling practice with an ice pack on his head, a bloody and possibly broken nose, and two black eyes trying to figure out why Erin blew him off earlier. Erin did not meet him for their usually free period snack, and he decides to text her to see if there was something bothering her. She tells him that he should probably stay away from her, that she saw the 18 wheeler outside her house the other night, and that she may need to go away for a while. Meanwhile in Lochsa County, Cassie stops off in the tavern and talks to a man named Frank who remembers seeing Blake in the bar. He says that Blake was with a man named Jody Haak aka Hawk and Lindy, when Hawk walks in and walks right back out after seeing Cassie. It turns out that Hawk used to work on the Kleinsasser Ranch for 20+ years until he was fired, but still talked to Blake.

Cassie gets back to her motel room and is only there for a minute or two when Linda Murdock, a cop/receptionist at the Lochsa County P.D. knocks on her door. Murdock reveals that Lindy is her stepdaughter, and asks if she can have a glass of wine with some ice. Cassie has to go get a bucket of ice when the same 18 wheeler that she and Ben have seen pulls into the parking lot and barrels through her motel room with Murdock inside. After filling out the initial report with Sheriff Wagy and being threatened of going back to jail, she calls Rachel who tells her to leave now. Cassie spends the night in a hotel in Lolo which is about an hour away, and finally talks to Ben the next morning. Ben tells her about Erin and the 18 wheeler, which Cassie tells him it will all be ok and to stay home. After she hangs up with Ben, she decides to check out his Facebook page, and finds a picture of Erin. The problem: she looks just like Franny..... Is it Franny? Did Blake really rape her? What does the truck driver of the 18 wheeler have to do with this current case? What will happen to Cassie if she doesn't leave the Bitterroots Valley?

Sadly this is where I must stop in order to avoid giving away any details about the ending. I really enjoyed this book. C.J. Box really is a master at writing P.I./ Mystery. I am now on the look out for the other four in the series as well. I know I know. I probably don't need any more books added to my crazy and never ending TBR pile, but hey. I am super grateful to Minotaur for sending me this book. If you simply must find out what happens for yourself and what details I have left out, you can always find links to buy it on my page:

Saturday, August 3, 2019

The Truth Behind The Lie

Once again I was lucky enough to be sent an ARC from Minotaur Books which I am so grateful for each and every time. This wonderful mystery is by a wonderful woman named Sara Lövestam, and this is a novel that is not in a series. This beauty will be celebrating its pub day on August 27th. As always since it is an ARC I will reveal as much as possible.

Pernilla is the mother of a six year old girl named Julia who has gone missing one day on the way to the grocery store. A few days passes before she decides to reach out young Private Investigator Kouplan. Both of Pernilla and Kouplan have secrets they are trying to keep during the time that Kouplan sets about searching for little Julia. Pernilla works from home so that she can take care of Julia and their dog. Kouplan is a young man who decides to work as a P.I. after he makes a life and name change after his request for asylum in Sweden from Iran was denied. Both Pernilla and Kouplan cannot go to the police for anything for reasons unknown to each other at first.

To start his investigation, Kouplan learns everything he can about the day that Julia went missing and about where she could possibly be now. Kouplan learns that human trafficking is a major issue in Sweden and that it mostly consists of immigrant woman and small children. From there he decides to reach out to an old friend who is also trying to create a new life named Rashid. Rashid agrees to ask around and see what he can find out since he is still hanging out with a rough crowd as a favor to Kouplan. Rashid finds out a day or so later that a man only known as M.B. traffics women and when asked there were a few that said "the girl". He also says that M.B. likes his whiskey and has a rather large nose which is how most people can tell it's him rather quickly.

Pernilla is trying to help Kouplan as much as possible by trying to remember every single detail that he asks about, and in the process she remembers that she always told Julia to go to a church called Sofia if they ever got separated. Since this is the first possible lead that they have they both go to the church in hopes of finding Julia. Unfortunately when they get there it is locked and empty. This makes Kouplan dig a little deeper into Pernilla's life. In Sweden, every single natural and documented citizen is registered in the Tax Authority office, and Kouplan discovers that Julia is not. But why? It turns out that no one knows that Julia exists officially. Pernilla left Julia's father before she was too far into the pregnancy, and told the doctors that she had a miscarriage. Months later, Pernilla simply had Julia on the apartment floor and kept her a secret from everyone. Now she does take Julia out to public places like the store, the park, and the library, but they have never had to deal with any government employee. You are probably asking yourself well why? Because Pernilla apparently has history of self harm and has spent time in a mental hospital before her pregnancy curiosity of Julia's father who wanted to involve Social Services from the beginning. Now Kouplan is not exactly living an honest life either since he has to wait another year to apply for asylum again, so he too avoids government officials as well.

Kouplan keeps going with the investigation with more determination now that he knows that the cops cannot be involved at all. He goes back to the place where Julia was taken and asks as many people that work in surrounding restaurants and shops that he can to see if anyone remembers a little girl that could have been alone or with someone looking very scared and upset. Everyone says no or they were not working that day, so he still does not have much to go on. In the meantime, we find out that Julia is alive and is being by a man in an apartment on the fourth floor by a man who keeps telling her that he is her "real father" and that Pernilla asked him to come take Julia. Julia doesn't believe any of it, but knows that she cannot simply jump out the window and cannot go out the door because she is locked in. There are two other men there along with two other women. The women get a lot of "visitors" during all hours, and the other two men are mean. The man claiming to be her father keeps telling her that she will also be getting "visitors" soon and that she must always remember to be quiet.

Still searching for a way to locate Julia, Kouplan calls Sofia Church to try to locate the priest that Pernilla mentioned named Thor, and the receptionist at the church gives him Thor's address. Kouplan visits Thor who basically tells him that because of his profession that he cannot reveal any details about anyone who attended the church during his time as the priest. Kouplan gets a feeling that Thor does know more especially when Thor does not react in any way when Kouplan tells him Julia is missing. With nothing else to go on Kouplan decides it is time to push Pernilla a little more with questions that he feels will tell him where to possibly look next. Two weeks go by since Julia was taken and just when it looks like there are no leads, Rashid calls Kouplan and tells him that M.B.'s errand boy will be coming by the grill Rashid works at to pick something up. Kouplan decides that he needs to follow the errand boy who is really a huge man to see if he will lead him to M.B.

In the meantime, Pernilla is supposed to be finding some kind of picture for Kouplan of Julia and she realizes that she has none. She has no pictures of Julia at all, and she realizes that it is because she has always been afraid that the wrong camera would capture Julia. Which could mean that it would be reported to Social Services, and Julia would be taken away by them. Kouplan follows the errand man to an apartment building up to his floor and finds out that his last name is Chavez. Kouplan settles into the emergency stairwell to watch for Chavez to leave all night, and then follows Chavez to another apartment building that has a Morgan Björk living there. Could this be M.B.??? Since he has no way to access the apartment building without looking suspicious or tipping off the man who could very well be holding Julia, he goes back to Pernilla's.

After pushing Pernilla a little more about people in her life daily or somewhat daily, she admits that she has left Julia in the apartment by herself while Pernilla walks the dog before going to bed. During some of these walks, Pernilla talks to a man who also walks his dog, and that man has no idea that Julia exists. So now, Kouplan is starting to wonder if Pernilla is having mental health issues again now that he knows a little more about her past. He wonders it even more when Pernilla tells him that she doesn't have any photos or anything to help identify Julia. So he tells her to write anything that she remembers from the past, whether it involves Julia or not, and most of it is in the past tense like she has already accepted that Julia is gone or that she doesn't exist at all...Nonetheless, he keeps trying to find Julia by following around Chavez and trying to keep an eye on the building where Morgan Björk is listed until one day he sees what could possibly be a small child's head in a window that matches the description that Pernilla gave of Julia. But is it her? How is he going to get her out of that building if it is Julia? Is Pernilla making all of this up because she has lost her grip on reality? What will happen to Kouplan, Pernilla, and Julia if the police have to be involved?

To find out you will have to get the book for your own reading pleasure. I enjoyed this book, and it was a fairly quick read considering I had to stop a few times to do mama things or other things involving my Bookstagram. The ending was definitely not what I was expecting at all, but it was perfect for the story line. I am so grateful that Minotaur once again sent me a book. The writing was very smooth and I think that Sara Lövestam is amazing. Don't forget that this beauty has its pub day on August 27th! She has other books out to, but if you simply must have this one then you can always find links to buy it on my page:

Friday, August 2, 2019

Ghosts Are People Too!

That's right! I was lucky enough to get an e-arc of the next installment of the Chantilly series by Carolyn and it was just as good as the first one! Now once again since it is not available for everyone's pleasure yet, there is only so much I can reveal. If you have not read the first one yet, then you really need to stop right here! You need to read the first book to be able to understand what is going on in this one. This is not one of those that stands alone, because it picks up right where the first one left off. So, if you have not read the first book then you must stop reading this review right now. If you have then you are good to go.

Once again we are back in Castleberry with Chantilly, Olivia, Thelma, Delphine aka Del, and Detective Jack. Chantilly is simply trying to adjust to her new normal as a single mom, worker at the historical society, and now ghost whisperer of a sort. Olivia is still Chantilly's co-worker at the historical society. Thelma is still annoying Del every day in Del's diner. Det. Jack is still Chantilly's son Austin's lacrosse coach and head detective. In a place like Castleberry, which has been around since the Civil War, there are a bunch of ghosts and a bunch of history. History that Chantilly hopes to use to attract tourists to her small town with a Halloween Ghost/History Tour.

As part of her routine she stops by Del's diner to get her a cup of coffee when Det. Jack walks in. Now unfortunately Jack has not talked to Chantilly since she managed to solve the murder of Bobby Joe. So, she decides to leave from the diner early and head into the office where Olivia is setting up for the next field trip tour. Chantilly is about to get settled into her office to put together the proposal when her best friend from Birmingham Genevieve aka Gen shows up out of nowhere. Gen claims it is just a surprise visit, but Chantilly knows that something must be up since it is clear that Gen left Birmingham at the crack of dawn.

 Gen reveals that she is in town because she has decided to leave her husband, Jeffrey. Gen found out that Jeffrey had moved some money from their accounts to an off shore account for a business in Gen's name that she didn't know about. Gen decided to withdraw the money from the account and leave Jeffrey. Despite how they made things look, the marriage has been struggling since the miscarriage and was told that another pregnancy would kill her. Chantilly takes Gen with her to look at a house that is up for sale by the owner and is a possible stop for the Halloween tour when Jeffrey shows up and begs Gen for the money, and when she says no, he says "you just killed me". A few hours later, Jeffrey shows up dead inside the same house he surprised them at. Of course, Det. Jack is the leading up the investigation. Jack tells Chantilly that Gen needs to stick in town as long as possible, because she is a person of interest. So, Chantilly, Gen, and Olivia decide to go through all the documents that are in the iCloud that Gen shares with Jeffrey. After pulling an all nighter they are able to come up with a list of names that could be suspects.

Chantilly, Gen, and Olivia spend the whole night going through all the documents that are in the iCloud that Gen shares with her husband Jeffrey to try to get a better idea of what he has been doing behind her back. After going through everything from emails to documents for the offshore account and they are able to come up a list of people who may be suspects. Chantilly decides that she needs to go back to the house they found Jeffrey in and try to talk to the ghosts that she saw there when her and Gen did a walk through. When Chantilly gets there, she is confronted by the ghost of Anna Kentworth who lived there during the Civil War, and is the mother of the two child ghosts that she saw earlier. Anna says nothing at first, and then the little boy comes out of nowhere and keeps repeating "bleacher" over and over. When she tries to talk to the little boy, Anna comes out and shoves Chantilly and tells her to leave them alone. Chantilly leaves immediately and tries to figure out what the little boy meant by "bleacher" when she gets back to the historical society. Chantilly dives in to research about Anna Kentworth and her family after going over some party planning details with Olivia and Gen for the Halloween history tour that Chantilly is trying to put together to get more tourist to come to Castleberry. When Chantilly is walking Thelma out when Harvey, who is an associate of Jeffrey's, shows up at the historical society looking for Jeffrey and Gen. Chantilly of course says that Gen isn't there and that Jeffrey is dead.

Chantilly and Gen go to Austin's lacrosse practice, and it is then that Det. Jack tells Gen that she is no longer a suspect after her clothes come back negative for gun shot residue. That is when they tell Jack about the emails, Harvey being in town, and who he is. Gen reveals that Harvey and Jeffrey have been fighting lately about the business, and it has caused a rift in their personal lives. A short time later, Harvey is found dead inside the same house as Jeffrey with the possible murder weapon. However, it is made to look like Harvey committed suicide, but Jack isn't buying it. Chantilly decides after getting off the phone with Jack that she needs to go see Jack in the morgue and try to talk to his ghost. When she gets there, she is greeted by a lot of ghost to the point of it being hard to tell who is alive and who is dead. With help of a ghost friend named Fran, Chantilly is finally able to get to the morgue and see Jack. When she does, he simply says "It's not what she thinks," when Chantilly asks him what happened....

Sadly this is where I must stop in order to avoid any spoilers! Will Chantilly come through again and help solve the case? Will Gen ever know that Chantilly can talk to ghosts? Will Jack finally talk to Chantilly again? Can Chantilly ever get the hang of her new abilities to start helping the ghosts around town?? I am so grateful to @misswbookreviews for including me in the reviewers group on Facebook. I love a quick read in between my big books, and I especially love this cozy mystery! If you simply must have this one as well, then be sure to check out my page:

Author Interview with J Lynn Hicks

Alright y'all, this is another amazing author that I met through the FB Group Dystopian Ink. I haven't read her books yet, but I did...