Wednesday, October 18, 2017

What's Next ,Wednesday (77)

  •  To play along share a book you've been looking forward to reading, whether it's new or has been on your reading list for a while.


I'm looking forward to... 

The Flats by Kate Birdsall. This is the first installment of another murder mystery series. Liz Boyle is the head detective when a murder victim is found in an area of town called the flats. When someone close to Liz makes the suspect list, this case becomes the most difficult and interesting of her career. I'm always up for the challenge of a mystery and this one seems like it's going to stump me. 

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Teaser Tuesday (286)

Welcome to Teaser Tuesday, the weekly Meme that wants you to add books to your TBR, or just share what you are currently reading. It is very easy to play along:
• Grab your current read
• Open to a random page
• Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
• BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
• Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers! Everyone loves Teaser Tuesday.


Aaru (Kindle 38%)
   - David Meredith

"Aaru is a system by which we can save whole people," Askr went on. "Save whole minds. Every thought and feeling..." 

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Short Story Sunday - Language of Thorns #3

The Witch of Duva

The monsters of Langauge of Thorns seem to always be closer than you think. In this short story, in the town of Duva girls start disappearing as winter begins. Whispers of a Khitka, a vengeful spirit, start sweeping the town. The main character is a young girl named Nadya. When her mother dies, a widow in town decides she wants to marry Nadya's father, Maxim. Karina, the widow, doesn't seem to like Nadya very much and the story takes the feel of the evil stepmother. Before their marriage, Karina warns Nadya that she must leave her home and her father. Nadya believes that it's because Karina doesn't want to have to take care of her through the winter. After they marry, Maxim starts to ignore Nadya, spending his time gambling, drinking, or with Karina. 

With the seeming goal of getting rid of Nadya, Karina begins sending Nadya to the woods each day to check the traps for food. One evening, Nadya gets lost in the woods and meets Magda. Nadya learns that Magda mixes tonics and potions for people who need them as the Witch of Duva. Yet, Nadya stays with Magda instead of returning to her home. For the price of two fingers, Magda helps Nadya make her home safe for her return. But again, like many of Bardugo's stories, the monster isn't the one readers have been led to believe. Nadya learns that her father was responsible for the disappearing girls. After her father's death, Nadya continues to live with the witch, learning potions and tonics, deep in the woods.

This story, like the two before, shares the message that what you think about people isn't always the truth and those you trust may not be trustworthy. However, the end of this story is a bit more disturbing than the others. It seems in the Grishaverse, monsters are always hiding in sheep's clothing which brings to focus the overarching theme of danger hiding in the least likely of places. One thing that I like about these stories is that many of the character's motives and goals are unpredictable. I like that Bardugo offers twists in her stories through both action and characters. I'm also starting to notice that none of the parents in any of these stories are good. They don't seem to actually care about their children or something causes them to stop caring. There is also the reoccurring instance of the main character being female (in the first story and this story) causing me to wonder if the morals of these stories are gender-focused.  We'll see if these patterns continue in the final three stories.

Next Story: Little Knife

Read about the first two stories:

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Brewing Up Murder (Coffee Cup Mysteries #1)

35697563As the owner of Mystery Cup CafĂ© in Wilton, Missouri, a town made famous by a string of long-ago murders, Blake Harper is used to the mysterious. When her barista is found strangled in a mound of coffee beans, Blake vows to find the killer, even though her sister, the town’s lead police detective, tells her to stay out of it.

Blake finds plenty of suspects, like the owners of a rival coffee shop and the handsome new bookstore owner. But when new threats are made, she soon realizes the danger is centered around Mystery Cup and someone is targeting her personally.

Will Blake be able to solve the murder, find a new barista, and perfect her recipe for espresso brownies before she becomes the next victim?

*May Contain Spoilers*

Neila Young introduces a new series with her first installment, Brewing Up Murder, combining the perk of being a coffee addict with the dangerous nature of murder. The main character, Blake, is a coffee shop owner on a street in which all shops boast a name associated with murder or death. When murder does return to this small town, Blake's curious nature threatens to get her into a grave of trouble. 

Blake Harper is one of the hubs of the small town this story takes place in. As a coffee shop owner, she sees many of the townspeople every day while also serving tourists who visit the small town with a murderous history. As a fellow coffee lover, I really liked Blake's character. She's nice, loyal, curious, but she definitely struggles to stay out of situations that could result in a mortal injury. Even though she has an insatiable need to know what's going on, I think if a killer warned me personally to stay out of it -- I would. I also found it very interesting, and entertaining, that Young would open up a love triangle in the middle of the murder mystery. It definitely seems to break some rules about murder mysteries, which I thoroughly enjoyed. The two men that appear with a deep interest in Blake are a bookstore owner and a doctor. While one is dark and brooding, the other seems to have a southern accent and loves to use the pet name, 'Sugar.' This line of romantic interest may just be the link connecting all of the Coffee Cup Mystery books because both men are set up with dates by the end. Even though Blake makes some silly decisions when it comes to her personal safety, I think readers will connect with her mainly through her personality. She's fun and interesting and can't help but poke the hornet's nest. 

The main plotline follows the murder of one of Blake's employees. With hardly any evidence but a long list of suspects, Blake decides to try to solve the crime even though her detective sister directly tells her not to. Of course, this gets Blake into a couple of very sticky situations. Most of the novel is Blake trying to put the seemingly disjointed pieces together, getting hurt, while the side plot love stories slowly build. I do admit that I wasn't able to identify the murderer before the novel ended, which is always nice. I like being wrong every once in a while, but in my defense, I was on the right track with the clues. I would definitely recommend this book to readers of romance and mysteries as this book combines them pretty well. 

Rating: 4/5 Cups

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

What's Next, Wednesday (76)

  •  To play along share a book you've been looking forward to reading, whether it's new or has been on your reading list for a while.


I'm looking forward to...

Aaru by David Meredith. A dying girl is given the chance to live on in a computer-created heaven, life everlasting with a price tag. But there's a lot of controversy swirling around the idea of a virtual heaven. I'm excited to read this one mainly because of the techno-fantasy feel this book's synopsis gives off. I think it's going to be both eerie and entertaining. 

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Teaser Tuesday (285)

Welcome to Teaser Tuesday, the weekly Meme that wants you to add books to your TBR, or just share what you are currently reading. It is very easy to play along:
• Grab your current read
• Open to a random page
• Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
• BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
• Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers! Everyone loves Teaser Tuesday.


Brewing Up Murder (Kindle 93-94%)
    - Neila Young

"Well, I wanted to talk to you about a few things. I know Kyle finally got a hold of my records from the campus police in Lawrence, but I wanted you to hear everything from me first." 

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Short Story Sunday - The Language of Thorns #2

The Too-Clever Fox

In this short story, all of the animals of the forest can speak, and though they are distinguished as prey and predator, they must come together to face a previously unstoppable hunter.

Koja is the main character of this story and though he's ugly his name means handsome. He's a clever fox that is always escaping death. Koja uses his words to trick his predators and his words and wit become his symbol for hope. This brings a major theme into this short story. As long as the fox has a voice, he has hope.

The fox becomes friends with a bear, Ivan, after outsmarting him to keep his life. But, his friend is lost when a dangerous hunter comes to the woods. Koja becomes focused on stopping this hunter and he dedicates his mind to doing so. To achieve this, the fox doesn't let fear cloud his logic and he notices that the hunter's sister, Sofiya, may be the key to learning more about the hunter. As Koja studies Sofiya, he observes that she seems sad and unhappy to be the bearer of the trophies her brother kills, in the form of a coat made of animal hides. Koja approaches Sofiya and slowly becomes her ally against her brother.

She tells the fox of a charm her brother always wears and they devise a plan to steal it. Yet, when she is successful, Koja learns that he has been tricked by a pretty face and a pair of sad eyes. Before he dies, Koja uses his voice to cry out, calling his friend the nightingale to come. She blinds Sofiya and saves Koja, ending the reign of the true hunter and freeing Sofiya's brother from her malevolence.

As a reader, when Sofiya's trap is revealed, there's a sense of betrayal and a tone of deceit. Just as Koja had, readers trust Sofiya because of the very characteristics that tricked the too-clever fox. This echoes a theme from the first story in the book, that beauty can be deceptive and we can't rely on how we see people when it comes to trusting them. However, it also demonstrates how people, or animals, come together when there is a greater threat to their way of life. The prey and predators of the forest all became prey at the hands of the Huntress. This shifted the laws of the forest and put all of the animals on the same side, knowing that they had to face this threat together. Finally, this story also shows that the lowest member of society can be brave and helpful in times of trouble. Just as the unloved child saves the town in "Ayama and the Thorn Wood", Koja saves the forest even though he was born a runt. By demonstrating these themes in this specific way, they become powerful tools that save those who use them and Bardugo uses these themes to share larger moral messages that translate to contemporary society.

Next Story: The Witch of Duva 

Friday, October 6, 2017

The Beacon (The Crystal Coast #3)

35197465There can only be one queen…

Still reeling from the devastation wrought by Susan, Stevie struggles to find a way to retrieve the amulet from the dark witch who now calls herself queen. She develops a plan to amplify her powers, believing it will give her an edge, but the magic is untested and dangerous.

Susan will stop at nothing to complete her rise to power, including eliminating the last of Lucia’s descendants: Stevie and Charlie. She calls for a showdown, with all of the town’s witches present, leaving Stevie no choice but to comply.

Queens who came before her sacrificed their lives to protect the witches, and Stevie is prepared to join their ranks. In this life or death battle, she'll do whatever it takes to save her people.

*May Contain Spoilers*

Chrissy Lessey wraps up her Crystal Coast series with The Beacon in which the final battle between Stevie and Susan takes place. Stevie is the rightful heiress to the station of Queen because of her family's bloodline within the coven, yet Susan is a vengeful and power-hungry witch determined to kill Stevie and rule the coven. And as they say, it all comes down to this. 

Stevie is obviously the better character in terms of relatability and character connection so I think it's safe to say that most (if not all) readers will be rooting for her. She's a caring mother, a loyal friend, and a courageous leader. Though it may be a little risky, Stevie is determined to fight Susan and keep the other witches of Beaufort, NC safe, even if that means she'll die. Over the first two books, readers have seen Stevie suddenly have her magical powers show up, learn how to use them, watch Susan and Vanessa try to get their revenge, and witness the death of her mother. Through all of this, her character has grown so much. She's become a true leader who cares and has the sense of morality a leader needs. I think readers will be really impressed with Stevie's choices in this third book as she does something I would have never thought of in order to give her coven a chance to not only survive but to win the battle against Susan. 

In the second book, readers also saw a shift in personality with Vanessa's character. I'm happy to say that that continues in this third book as well. Vanessa, though terrified of her mother, knows that Susan is making malevolent and evil choices. She's worried for the safety of Charlie, who showed her extreme kindness in the second book. But Vanessa also knows that if she goes against her mother and Susan ends up winning... she'll make Vanessa's life a living hell. However, Vanessa isn't just going to stay out of it. She and Stevie end up making a little deal, a plan B if you will, which is both surprising and smart. 

Like previously mentioned, the plot of The Beacon revolves around the showdown between Stevie and Susan. The book follows the coven members helping Stevie prepare and figuring out how they will fight against Susan, who is all powerful thanks to her stealing of the amulet in the previous book. I think readers will be very happy with how this book turns out as it demonstrates a community of people coming together to fight against an evil threat. It's entertaining, easy to read, and engaging. I'd highly recommend the entire series to anyone who enjoys the supernatural genre with an empowered female main character and a little romance. 

Rating: 4/5 Cups

Read the first two books in the series:

34946772     35195775

Thursday, October 5, 2017

The Handmaid's Tale

38447Offred is a Handmaid in the Republic of Gilead. She may leave the home of the Commander and his wife once a day to walk to food markets whose signs are now pictures instead of words because women are no longer allowed to read. She must lie on her back once a month and pray that the Commander makes her pregnant, because in an age of declining births, Offred and the other Handmaids are valued only if their ovaries are viable. Offred can remember the years before, when she lived and made love with her husband, Luke; when she played with and protected her daughter; when she had a job, money of her own, and access to knowledge. But all of that is gone now...

*May Contain Spoilers*

I know I should have read this book way before now, as Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale has been on my list for a while. But, now I can say that I completed it and it was terrifying in both topic and possibility. 

Though this is a popular novel, for those in need of a little summary The Handmaid's Tale takes place in the future after a nuclear fallout. Women are becoming barren and in order to save the species, a strict social structure has been erected in which women are forced to have sexual intercourse with specific men in order to become pregnant. Women who cannot conceive are punished, as well as anyone else who breaks the rules. This creates a dark and frightening setting in which to examine the social ramifications of oppression and loss of equality between the sexes. 

Offred is the main character of this dystopian novel and her perspective is interesting because she remembers what it was like "before" and is living what it's like "after." By before, I mean before the fallout and before the stark shift in control and loss of equality. I think her character works both as a warning and an example in Atwood's setting. Before, Offred didn't fight for her beliefs and often ignored her mother's feministic viewpoints, which in turn becomes a symbolic warning against ignoring the issues that we face every day in society. Yet, as an example, Offred does break the rules that the new, more-controlling patriarchy has established, fighting back in small ways that could eventually lead to another shift. 

I think readers will feel on the fence about Offred's character. She doesn't do much to push forward, but sometimes a little nudge is all it takes. Offred isn't represented as a brave or courageous character, but she does have moments of resistance. She's kind of presented as being representative of the average woman. Her real name is never revealed and therefore her identity is fluid. This allows readers to see themselves in her and imagine what it would be like if society shifted to force oppression on its members. 

The plot of this novel follows Offred for a short time in her third post, post as in household in which she's supposed to become pregnant. Offred shares her memories of what life was life before, her emotional struggle with what she's lost, and her fear for the future. Though it is a controversial book with extreme actions and conclusions, Atwood's novel is definitely one to read. Not everyone will like it, as it isn't the happiest story to share, yet it's applicable to modern society and raises questions that we should be asking ourselves. 

Rating: 3.5/5 Cups

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

What's Next, Wednesday (75)

  •  To play along share a book you've been looking forward to reading, whether it's new or has been on your reading list for a while.


I'm looking forward to...

Brewing Up Murder by Neila Young. This murder mystery is up next on my reading list and it seems like it will be an easy and entertaining read. When a barista is found murdered, the coffee shop owner promises to find out who the killer is, but they might be coming after her next. 

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Teaser Tuesday (284)

Welcome to Teaser Tuesday, the weekly Meme that wants you to add books to your TBR, or just share what you are currently reading. It is very easy to play along:
• Grab your current read
• Open to a random page
• Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
• BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
• Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers! Everyone loves Teaser Tuesday.


The Beacon (Kindle 45%)
    - Chrissy Lessey

"Think of it. I'll expose the coven's darkness and heal your wounds, with all of my subjects standing in witness. The witches of Beaufort will know, without a doubt, that I'm a mighty queen, and I'm generous to those who serve me well." 

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Short Story Sunday - The Language of Thorns #1


Ayama and the Thorn Wood

A monstrous son is born. A king builds a maze to keep him trapped. Yet, he escapes. 

The village people suffer and no one is able to stop the monster.

A family ashamed of one of their daughters sends her to be a messenger with the beast in hopes that they'll become rich and the monster will stop terrorizing the town, or at least be rid of their daughter.

Ayama is the main character of this opening short story of The Language of Thorns. She's a girl who wasn't born as beautiful as her sister and is therefore ostracized by her family. She is treated like a servant, forced to sleep in the kitchen, covered in ash and responsible for all of the chores. She's silenced by her family until she almost forgets how to speak. Yet, she's the only one in the village who will try to face the beast, speak to him, and try to save the town. It's when she reaches the monster that her voice is revealed, as well as her sharp tongue, quick wit, and honesty. The fact that these character traits are all revealed under duress show Ayama's bravery and courage. It also shows that these traits can be found in unexpected people. It reminds me of the old adage, don't judge a book by its cover. Because we can't judge a person based on their looks. It's their personality, their characteristics that matter. Just as Ayama proves in this short tale. 

When she arrives at the wood, the beast demands she tell him a story in exchange for her life. She adds truth to a fairy tale and he lets her leave unharmed, promising to leave the town's livestock alone. Her family is rewarded but Ayama is still treated like a servant. No one cares about her, only about their own freedom from the monster. Until it seems that he has returned to continue his terrorizing. So Ayama is once again sent to the woods.  

She once again must trade a story for her life. She again adds truth to a fairy tale and survives, saving the village yet again. A village that didn't care for her. A village that was too afraid to face the monster a young girl could face. But saving the village wasn't enough for the King. He sent her back to the monster with a specially crafted knife with orders to kill him. Ayama returns and tells him another story and she finds out the truth behind the King's accusations and the village's torment. 

In the end, truth prevails and the true monsters of the story are punished while those who look like monsters, but aren't, are rewarded. This opening tale of The Language of Thorns sets the tone for this collection of short stories as honest and representative of the cruelty sometimes found in leadership, the selfish nature of humanity, and that things aren't always as they appear. Though this story had a happy ending, we'll see if that continues over the next few weeks. The power of this opening story has me really excited to see what power the following stories have. 

My favorite part about this short story is that Ayama saves her own life by telling a story, a fairy tale, but with truth added to it. And by truth, I mean realistic outcomes. She removes (part of) the fantasy of the fairy tale and exchanges it for something she has learned from her own life. This adds a sadness to the story but also twists it to make it true for the monster. This act gives the story, and the art of storytelling, power. It demonstrates that sometimes storytelling, or sharing, can provide peace and save a life. 

Next Week: "The Too-Clever Fox"