Countess of Čachtice (The Krampus Chronicles #2) by Sonia Halbach

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Synopsis: Three years after discovering Poppel – the hidden village beneath New York City – and uncovering the truth behind the poem, ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas, Maggie Ogden and Henry Livingston are once again reunited. The Foundling children are mysteriously vanishing from Poppel, and Maggie and Henry have been recruited to help in the search.
However, Maggie not only wonders if she’ll be able to get to the bottom of these disappearances, but she’s starting to doubt who she can trust – including Henry. But as Maggie gets closer to finding answers, the frightening creature, Krampus, also isn’t too far behind.
Over two centuries earlier, Lily leaves her sisters, Grace and Sarah, in hopes of regaining the immortality she had been forced to relinquish. Her journey takes her to the Kingdom of Hungary where she encounters the Countess of Čachtice and her son, Laszlo. Laszlo’s instantly enamoured by Lily, but it soon becomes apparent that they both carry secrets, particularly one involving his mother, The Countess – Elizabeth Bathory – which not only threatens Lily’s quest for immortality – but also her life.
Although centuries and an ocean separate Maggie and Lily, their journeys are more intertwined than either of them will ever know.

My review: I hadn’t read the first in this series however unlike with some books there was enough in the synopsis to not need it. I found it easy to follow coming into the story with the second book.

This is two stories in one – the continuation of Book 1 with Maggie  trying to find some lost foundlings and learn more about Krampus and the three sisters. The second part is made up of the story of Lily, her capture by the Countess of Bathory and subsequent friendship (not quite romance) with Lazlo who was one creepy guy!

I’ve read about Bathory before and she was quite the terrifying woman and I liked how her story is woven into this one. It’s a short book and it ends a bit abruptly but with the clear intention that there will be further books. Based on this one I’m happy to go back and read the first one. Looking forward to the next instalment

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Nothing Stays Buried (Monkeewrench #8) by P.J. Tracy

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Synopsis: When Minneapolis homicide detectives Leo Magozzi and Gino Rolseth are called to a crime scene in a heavily wooded city park, everything about the setting is all too familiar. And when they discover a playing card on the victim’s body, their worst fears are confirmed there s a serial killer operating in the city for the first time in years.
Across town, Grace MacBride and her unconventional partners at Monkeewrench Software find themselves at both personal and career crossroads. Weary of the darker side of their computer work for law enforcement, they agree to take on a private missing-persons case in a small farming community in southwestern Minnesota.
As the violence accelerates in Minneapolis, Magozzi and Gino soon realize their killer is planning to complete the deck, and they enlist Monkeewrench to help stop the rampage. As a baffling tangle of evidence accumulates, the cops and Monkeewrench make the unlikely connections among a farmer s missing daughter, a serial killer, and a decades-old stabbing that brings them face-to-face with pure evil.”

My review: I’ve adored the Monkeewrench series from the beginning and this one is no exception. This one has everything from a serial killer to Mexican drug cartels to a random FBI operation and the pace doesn’t let up from beginning to end. There are a few changes – Grace is 6 months pregnant and her & Magozzi are slowing building on their relationship and trust as they prepare for the new baby. There’s a new secondary detective that seems to fit in quite well and seems very easy on the imaginative eyes. The rest of the old characters are back. 

One of the things I have enjoyed from the beginning is the relationship between all the main characters. I love how the 6 main ones each have their own individual backstories loving created and that the stories can have all 6 and give equal book time. There is a lot of emphasis on the Sheriff and father of missing girl Marla as well as breaking in the new detective in this one so a lot of the characters take a back seat which while I understand and didn’t take away anything from the plot did make me miss my main guys. 

Overall great as always, I love the pace and structure. The writing as always spot on. Oh and I loved the rogue lion 🙂 Looking forward to the next one

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Seeker by Susan Kearney

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Synopsis: In 2405, Sara, a Martian archeologist, studies an old, glossy wooden box, inlaid with a woman’s image, and accidentally triggers a machine that brings sexy scientist and womanologist, Kendar, from the future.
She learns that women no longer exist on planet Mars in the future. And it’s her fault.
Kendar’s life’s work has been the study of Sara Tolliver’s doomed attempt to shut down the machine that ultimately obliterates the female population. In a race to interpret ancient Martian writings and find the truth about Sara’s heirloom chest, together they have a second chance to save all females, including Sara. They work feverishly to learn the secret to going back in time, into a past that holds the key to the future, to love itself.
Failure is not an option. Because failure means Kendar loses Sara to the same disaster that cost the world everything.

My review: This is a fun little erotic romance. It’s really short and can be read in a few hours which doesn’t leave room for a lot of plot. Or actually the erotic parts. Kendar accidentally sends himself back in time to the opening of the sleep pod of Sara as it’s arrived on Mars. The pod has accidentally triggered an illness that will wipe out the female population and it’s up to Sara and Kendar to find out how to save them all.

Erotic short stories do make me laugh sometimes – Sara wakes up and sees a naked man in her sleep pod and immediately they get down to it because she first thinks it’s a dream and then the after effects of the sleep serum. I have no problem with the speed but these stories do sometimes make you think ‘really????’

Anyway suspending belief for a bit it’s a fun story, doesn’t take long to get through and reading it isn’t  a bad way to spend a morning

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The House by Simon Lelic

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Synopsis: What if your perfect home turned out to be the scene of the perfect crime?Londoners Jack and Syd moved into the house a year ago. It seemed like their dream home: tons of space, the perfect location, and a friendly owner who wanted a young couple to have it. So when they made a grisly discovery in the attic, Jack and Syd chose to ignore it. That was a mistake. Because someone has just been murdered. Right outside their back door. And now the police are watching them…

My review: This is a gripping story from start to finish. I really enjoyed it. It starts at a frenetic pace and doesn’t let up til the end. The story is alternated by the 2 main characters: Jack & Syd as they move into a dream home, befriend a local girl who is being abused by her father which brings back bad memories for Syd, who has also suffered this way.

Confronting him though only brings about shocking results including the bad guys death. So who killed him and why? There are lots of twists and turns with an interesting twist of an ending. I often complain about lack of backstory but it’s not a problem in this book as the history of the characters plays a HUGE part in the book. The key players are well developed, the bad guys are suitably evil and deserve everything they get and a big plus for me we have an ambiguous ending rather than a neatly sewn up Hollywood one.

A brilliant book, well recommended.

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Convergence (Winter Solstice #1) by J.R. Rain & Matthew S. Cox

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Synopsis: Solstice Winters has spent most of her life halfway between normal society and the world of her magical parents. However, when getting caught between two worlds becomes more than metaphorical, being able to summon light or open locks might not be enough.
Neither her love life nor her professional life are going anywhere in a hurry. Her boyfriend is successful and handsome, but she constantly has to compete with his job for affection. At thirty-two, she works as a photojournalist for The Spirtualist, a small paper dedicated to magic and the supernatural―that most people regard as a tabloid. Desperate for that ‘one break,’ she’ll do almost anything to get that big story and get into a ‘real’ media outlet.
Years of always not quite fitting in begin to make sense after an error at a particle physics laboratory alters the dimensional alignment of the world, strengthening magic and revealing an unexpected truth to Solstice.
She’s not even human.
In the wake of an event her boss at the paper is calling The Convergence, magical beings are appearing all over the Earth. Solstice doesn’t hesitate, racing to be the first to capture indisputable evidence of mythical beasts. Alas, being a magical creature herself, she soon winds up in the cross-hairs of not only a three-letter government agency, but an ancient sect of mages with dark intentions.

My review: I liked this a lot. It’s like a mystery, chick-lit with elves and potential alternate worlds. I love it when genres are played about with. 

Solstice is a photo journalist for a small time paranormal magazine, snapping away at potential entities for a mag that has hardly any readers. She dreams of hitting the big time and moving to a heavy hitter newspaper. What she doesn’t dream of is being an elf! After an accident at Cern that ripples across the whole world she wakes up blonder and with pointy ears. Turns out the reason she always felt she didn’t fit in was because she actually IS different. 

I like Solstice. She’s honest with herself (does she love her man or just his waterfall shower?) and has a great take on life. Sometimes she sounds a bit younger than she is but who says who have to act your age anyway? I like the playing around with sexuality – again this is a woman who knows herself (even as an elf that part remains) and happily accepts it. 

The other characters are less rounded but then this isn’t about them. We have FBI, covert CIA, Solstice is kidnapped and somehow ends up in Russia and finally joins up with another covert operation. This time to save the world and other magical creatures. This is one busy woman. 

It moves at a great pace. It has the feel and tone of a chick-lit book with the first person writing style and it’s just a bundle of fun. Looking forward to the next one

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Dark Designs by Stefanie Spangler

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Synopsis: Twins Ivy and Violet Grant are opposites. Ivy, a hot-tempered redhead, couldn’t wait to get off the farm and see the world. Violet, a quiet brunette, was content to stay home and help their grandmother with the family business. The one thing they have in common is their magic.
Charlie Logan’s sinister obsession with Ivy Grant has ruled his life. When he discovers a book of dark magic during a burglary, he decides to return to Oak Hill and use his newfound power to gain control over Ivy.
Ivy and Violet, with help from their grandmother, need to practice their magic to overcome the evil seeping into their lives. A battle is coming, and Ivy’s life is not the only one at stake.

My review: I’m a little unsure about this book. It had some good ideas. I liked the idea of a man so obsessed with someone that they are willing to call up dark entities (even if potentially accidentally) to helped kidnap her. However I thought the way it happened was a bit hokey. Charlie s originally worked on Ivy’s grandfathers farm where he became obsessed with her as a young girl. When run off the farm he takes to robbery and finds a spell book which he then uses to track the now adult Ivy down and steal her for his evil whims. It’s very convenient.

The local police when they find out magic exists and can be used for more than helping the crops grow are remarkably accepting about the whole thing. Even when faced with potential magical death.

It’s a fairly quick read and does have a level of suspense about it. The characters for the main part are well rounded and easy to imagine. There is lots in the story about the twins mother being missing and father I believe died. I wonder if there are plans to follow this with Ivy tracking down her long lost mum as the abandonment runs throughout the book.

Not a bad story but left me feeling there was a bit missing

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Dead Girls Can’t Lie by Carys Jones

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Synopsis: Best friends tell each other the truth – don’t they?
When North Stone’s best friend Kelly Orton is found hanging lifeless in a tree, North knows for certain it wasn’t suicide. Kelly had everything to live for – a loving boyfriend, a happy life, and most importantly of all, Kelly would never leave North all by herself.
The girls have been friends since childhood, devoted to each other, soul sisters, or at least that’s what North has always believed. But did Kelly feel the same way, or was she keeping secrets from her ‘best friend’ – deadly secrets…
When the police refuse to take North’s suspicions seriously, she sets out to investigate for herself. But her search soon takes her to a glamorous world with a seedy underbelly, and before long North is out of her depth and getting ever closer to danger. Determined to find the truth, she soon wishes that dead girls could lie, because the truth is too painful to believe..

My review: Another book, another really good thriller about friendship. How well do we really know about our friends? North Stone believes she knows everything about her best friend Kelly so when she is found hanged by a tree on a popular jogging route she refuses to believe her friend had taken her own life. The despite all the evidence pointing to suicide.

It becomes quite obvious who the killer probably is quite early on however the trick with this book is how North can get to the truth and then prove the truth. That’s where the bulk of the story is. North, however is no stranger to tragedy as her parent disappeared at sea when she was young. The book effortlessly weave the past with the present with snippets of events in the friends lives that tie in with that part of the current happenings.

It’s quite taut, taking place over a short period of time. It doesn’t drag a bit. The secondary characters are there for support but don’t really have a lot to do or say beyond offering support/calling her mad. This is a story of friendship and the 2 women and only finding the truth matters.

I enjoyed it, it’s a great beach read for us crime/mystery fans. A big thumbs up

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Dead Jealous (Calladine & Bayliss #7) by Helen H. Durrant

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Synopsis: A teenage girl’s body is found in the back of a car on the notorious Hobfield housing estate. No one had reported her missing, but she’s been dead for a week.
Meanwhile, an old jar is brought into the station. It was found carefully wrapped in a blanket, with a child’s pink hairclip. The jar contains ashes and bone fragments. 
Seventeen years ago, Detective Tom Calladine had been part of a team investigating the disappearance of Jessica Wilkins. Her mother had taken her to Leesdon Park one summer afternoon. She went to get the child an ice cream and when she returned her daughter was gone. Over the years there were no sightings, no witnesses — nothing.
Will there finally be closure for this unsolved mystery?
And why was the girl found in the car killed and why are her friends not telling the police the whole story?
Detectives Tom Calladine and Ruth Bayliss will unravel a web of lies and pain, in this fast-moving and gripping crime mystery.

My review: I read this book crazy fast and after reading a few ‘meh’ books recently it was good to finally read something that gripped me from the start and that I could read in one day. 

Two interesting plots. A teenage girl is found murdered and hidden in teh boot of  a car and the remains of a toddler that went missing 17 years ago re-appear i a bricked up part of a house being renovated. Can they be linked? Like I’m gonna tell you. Read and find out. 

Sometimes when there’s multiple plot lines a book can end up with too many characters causing confusion but keeping the two crimes and suspects all contained within one block of housing estate flats really helped minimise that. I found it easy to follow the lives of these residents and each one was carefully crafted. 
Being book seven in the series the detectives are all fully formed entities with good strong personalities. However even with it being book 7, there’s enough little bits of backstory that if like me you’ve joined the party late that you don’t feel confused by anything. 

The two crimes and subsequent second recent murder are all linked by events on the estate and I liked how it all came together. The other thing I really enjoyed was when we find out whodunnit. Sometimes events happen in desperation and not every crime is committed by a bad guy (or girl). One of the reveals was quite quite heartbreaking. Sometimes bad things just happen and it’s how you deal with them afterwards that counts. It made a nice change from the cut and dried good versus evil. 

I thoroughly enjoyed this and will be happily going back through the other books to catch up shortly

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New York: The Queen Of Coney Island (The Change #2) by Guy Adams

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Synopsis: One minute everything was fine and the next… they arrived. Those that saw them died instantly. The unlucky ones survived. Now unimaginable things straight out of nightmares roam the streets of our towns and cities. Nothing is impossible. Nowhere is safe. And no one can escape The Change…
Grace just wants to find her brother, but she can’t go anywhere without the Queen of Coney Island’s permission to travel.
Now the Queen demands payment and Grace and her new friend, a man in a false beard who believes he is God, must journey into the nightmare world of Dreamland, a tourist park whose attractions are as lethal as they are bizarre.

My review: I was worried that as this is the second book in the series that I’d missed out on quite a bit of important information as to what brought on The Change and the apparent apocalypse. However reading through the reviews of that first book it seems that while there may be an overarching story each book has it’s own self contained tale. In which case this book is just as strange as I at first thought.

The book opens with young girl Grace on a journey to Rikers Island to see if her brother survived. On the way she picks up God (or at least in his head he is). I liked God the best of all the crazy characters in this book. He knows he isn’t really the Almighty and there are a few little winks to that for example where he says he could smite down the bad guys but it’s best to sometimes experience a beat down as a human would.

To get to Rikers they have to pass through Coney Island and gain permission from the Queen. As with all apocalypse tales it’s interesting to see how the dynamics change with people and in this instance the Queen appears to be a former ageing homeless woman.

The rest of the characters are ghosts, freak show small people (I think. I wasn’t quite clear about them) and babies with frightening sets of teeth. The imagination that went into these characters is brilliant and they’re for the most part really well developed.

The book is short and fast paced. There are two instances where I was left wanting more. Firstly there’s mention that the presence of Grace and God is awakening the park and not necessarily in a good way. The short answer to that is that they leave. I would have liked to have found out more about want would happen if they’d chosen to stay awhile. Secondly the end is very abrupt. They’re given the free pass to Rikers and a boat to take them there and then The End.

But what about the brother? Is he alive? Did they get to Rikers? And so on. Seeing as the next book is set in Paris we may never know. I am interested to see how everything develops and whether there is an overarching story to the books so I guess the shortness has worked it’s magic.

Overall an enjoyable read.

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Brew or Die: (A Java Jive Mystery #4) by Caroline Fardig

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Synopsis: Inspired by her past sleuthing successes, Juliet Langley has officially joined the ranks of Nashville’s licensed private investigators. Her best friend, Pete Bennett, doesn’t worry that her detective work might interfere with her full-time job running his coffeehouse, Java Jive. He just wishes she would spend her free time rejoining the local music scene instead of tailing cheating spouses. But when one of Java Jive’s baristas, Shane, asks Juliet to look into the suspicious death of his fiancée, Pete encourages her to plow full steam ahead.
Since his fiancée  died on the job, Shane suspects that her party-planning colleagues are up to something criminal—and will do anything to keep it quiet. After Juliet recruits Pete to go undercover with her at a wedding showcase, she discovers that white lace and black satin have a way of hiding big, fat secrets.

If that weren’t enough to fill her plate, her latest P.I. job has her crossing paths with her ex, Detective Ryder Hamilton. They’re barely on speaking terms, but to solve the case, they might have to cooperate. No matter where Juliet goes, she’s brewing up trouble.

My review: This is a fun paced murder mystery with a lot going on as new PI Juliet tries to solve two crimes. That brings a bewildering cast of characters and I’m still not entirely sure I worked out who all of them were. I liked the love triangle angle, it added a nice edge to the story and I’ll be interested to see what happens next with those characters. 

The first mystery is around whether a business owner is channelling dirty money through his business which also involves Juliet’s current boyfriend who may not be all he seems. This was the least interesting of the two for me. I just couldn’t quite care too much for it.

The second one was around the murder of a young woman, the human interest and the characters for this one were more interesting. I’d have been happier with just the one story around this particular murder. The characters seemed much more rounded and developed in this strand of the book. 

I found it a quick read and it had enough to keep me going without skipping pages. After four books Juliet and her men are well rounded with decent development as we go along. The female friends seem like add-ons. The main one Maya (Juliet’s boss) is sent out of the country at the beginning of the book and we don’t hear much from her after that. I’d say all in all it would make a good beach read for a lazy day by the pool.

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