Review: “Returning the Golden-Eyed Girl” by S.G. Meine

A review by Amanda.

A copy of this book was provided for free by the author in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Amelia Pritchett, seventeen-year-old, has accidentally set off a chain of events that could have devastating consequences. She has accomplished something that no one has been able to do in thirty years. The floating city of Ixus, populated by some of the world’s wealthiest and well-connected citizens, has been silent since one of the worst pandemics swept the Earth’s surface three decades prior. There has been no communication and no sign of life on Ixus, despite the development of a vaccine and subsequent recovery from the disease. Those who attempted to travel there via shuttle have disappeared. Amelia’s friend and neighbor, Lars, is incredibly intelligent and gifted in engineering. He believes that he has found a way to take a shuttle to Ixus and find out what happened there. Amelia has promised to keep Lars secret, but something goes wrong. Amelia soon finds herself stranded on Ixus, all alone, and in more danger than she knows.

Novels with futuristic floating cities are not terribly uncommon, but this one stands out. The writing style flows easily and moves the story along quickly. Amelia is a teenage girl who isn’t afraid to speak her mind. With several brothers, she emphasizes on multiple occasions how capable she is of taking care of herself. For such a strong young woman, however, Amelia is placed in the role of damsel in distress a bit too often. There could be more depth to her character as well, but this was a good first introduction. The supporting characters have nuanced histories and well-rounded personalities. The villains of the story are not as complex and don’t appear to have any redeeming traits; it is made quite clear who the bad guys are and their motivations are transparent.

As mentioned in the previous paragraph, Amelia is in need of rescuing on multiple occasions which is quite frustrating. It seems to be a common theme in many books, shows, and movies to build a woman up as strong and powerful and then break her down to be saved by someone else (usually a male). This book has good bones and is the first in a trilogy. Hopefully, we will see the characters grow and the author will allow Amelia to be the heroine that she should be. I look forward to the next book.

Content warning: attempted sexual assault, violence, gun violence

This is the debut novel from author S.G. Meine and was released in May 2017.

My rating: 3.5/5 stars.

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Review: “Agnes and the Hitman” by Jennifer Crusie and Bob Mayer

Review- “Agnes and the Hitman” by Jennifer Crusie and Bob Mayer

A review by Vanessa.

Cranky Agnes is a cooking columnist with an anger problem. She just wants to feed everyone she meets, write her next cookbook, and throw the wedding of the century for her goddaughter. If the men in her life would stop pissing her off, she wouldn’t have an anger problem. There is only one man she trusts, the old mobster Uncle Joey, and it’s him she turns to when a deranged dognapper shows up in her kitchen. But Uncle Joey knows why this sudden string of crazies is showing up at Agnes’s recently purchased (in need of major rehab) beautiful Southern home. So he calls the only man he can trust with Agnes’s safety: his nephew Shane, the government employed hitman.

Shane is too busy with a hit gone wrong to abandon work and rush to protect some little girl his uncle knows; but since it is the first and only time Joey has asked for help in 25 years Shane decides to honor his request. Imagine his surprise when Agnes turns out to be a cranky, comely, take-no-prisoners lady who cooks like a dream and knows how to defend herself: with her best heavy non-stick frying pan of course. Shane can tell something more is up than what Uncle Joey is willing to admit, and he is not going to leave until he can make sure that Agnes makes it through and gets everything she has earned. With an upcoming mob-wedding looming on the horizon, a ticked off rogue hitman on the loose, and the previous homeowner causing all kinds of problems, Agnes and Shane will have to work together to make it through.

As a follow up to my last review, I decided to review the follow-up collaborative novel by the Crusie/Mayer team; and as expected they did not disappoint. The excellent combination of situational humor, action, and searing romance wins again. Cranky Agnes is a totally lovable lady with a relatable dark anger simmering under the surface that makes her both multidimensional and captivating to read. She is both caring and unforgiving, with an attitude that brooks no argument but somehow still manages to inspire loyalty and support from the good people who care for her. Shane is a sturdy, reliably dependable contrast to Agnes. He is a steady, straightforward, problem fixer, which is a contrast in itself considering that Shane is a hitman.

It’s interesting to consider that he ended up in a violent lifestyle, even though his mobster uncle Joey sent him to military school to keep him away from the violent life of a killer. As per usual, the two leads are accompanied by a fascinating and varied supporting cast of characters. The old world Southern mafia is an amazing setting for the backstory, juxtaposed with Agnes’s modern world of cooking. The two blend well and make for a driving story arc that will keep the reader turning pages. The love interest between Agnes and Shane is incendiary, exploding at just the right moment and in the best way possible. Love it!

My rating: 5/5 stars.

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Review: “Killman Creek” (Stillhouse Lake #2) by Rachel Caine

Killman Creek (Stillhouse Lake #2) by Rachel Caine

A review by Amanda.

I received a copy of this ebook from NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review.

This review may contain spoilers for book one in the series, Stillhouse Lake.

Gwen Proctor, formerly Gina Royal, is on the run with her kids yet again. Her ex-husband, convicted serial killer Melvin Royal, has escaped from prison. He has help from Absalom, Gwen’s ally-turned-betrayer. Gwen has help this time as well, from someone she knows she can trust. Sam Cade, whose sister was Melvin’s final victim, is running with Gwen and the kids (fifteen-year-old Lanny and eleven-year-old Connor). Their partnership is beginning to blossom into something more, but at a glacially slow pace. Absalom continues to help Melvin track Gwen, calling to threaten and taunt her regularly, despite their vigilance with disposing of phones and staying off the grid. Eventually, Gwen decides that they need to go on the offensive and hunt Melvin before he finds them. She and Sam send the kids to stay with trustworthy friends, and the hunt is on.

Killman Creek is a creepy, thrilling page-turner that may need to be consumed in one sitting, if only to stave off nightmares. Told from various perspectives, readers get most of the story while certain characters are left in the dark. Even with that extra knowledge, the author manages to pull off surprising plot twists left and right. Gwen and Sam’s journey takes unexpected turns, including new information about Absalom and new doubts about Gwen/Gina’s innocence. Readers also get a peek into Lanny and Connor’s thoughts, which provides plenty of emotional depth.

This book will be released on December 12, 2017. I look forward to the rest of the series, especially if it keeps the intense pace of books one and two.

My rating: 5/5 stars.

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Review: “Final Girls” by Riley Sager

Final Girls by Riley Sager

A review by Amanda.

Ten years ago, college student Quincy Carpenter and five friends rented a cabin in the woods for a birthday party getaway. Quincy is the only one who survived after a deranged killer savagely murders her friends. Surviving made her a “Final Girl”, so called by the media, as a reference to the horror movie trope where the only person to make it to the end alive is the lone female character. Lisa, who barely lived through a massacre at her sorority house; and Sam, who survived a brutal attack at the motel where she worked, are also Final Girls, grouped together despite having never met in person. Quincy has done her best to move past that horrific event. She runs a successful baking website, has a solid relationship with a lawyer boyfriend, and maintains regular contact with the officer who saved her life. A Xanax prescription keeps her anxiety at bay, and her mind has protected her further by firmly repressing her memories of the attack. Everything that she has worked for is turned upside down when she gets the call— Lisa, her Final Girl mentor of sorts, has been found dead in her bathtub in an apparent suicide. Sam shows up out of the blue, the press starts harassing Quincy again, some of her memories start to return, and things are not lining up. Is someone coming after the Final Girls? What are Quincy’s memories hiding?

Final Girls is a rollercoaster of misdirection and plot twists. Readers will question everything and everyone by the time the explosive finale is revealed. Quincy is a ball of anxiety in denial. Her reactions after the massacre seem expected for someone who has experienced trauma; she absolutely has PTSD. Her relationship with her mother is strained and Quincy is encouraged to pretend like everything is fine. Shoving those feelings away instead of dealing with them in a healthier manner may work for a short time but eventually will backfire – which is exactly what happens, in surprising ways. The story is told in alternating perspectives, going from present day and first person from Quincy’s point of view, to flashbacks to the events leading up to the cabin massacre, told in third person omniscient. This adds to the suspense, especially as readers start to wonder if there is a connection to the present day. Readers will not want to put this spooky book down, particularly if they are reading at night. It does drag a bit in the middle, but the mystery keeps going and unraveling until the very end.

There is some sexual content, graphic violence, and strong language.

My rating: 4.5/5 stars.

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Review: “Indexing (Indexing #1)” by Seanan McGuire

A review by Amanda.

Special Agent Henrietta Marchen, or Henry as she prefers, works for an agency that doesn’t officially exist, called ATI Management Bureau. Her job, and that of her team, is to prevent fairy tales from gaining a foothold in the real world. The fairy tale narrative is almost a living being, and all it wants is to bring those classic stories to life, with disastrous results. The narrative seeks people who fit the circumstances of certain fairy tales and then manipulates events to get the story to play out, only no one gets a happy ending. Dispatchers at the Bureau monitor events for signs of incursions. Henry’s team is responsible for verifying and averting whichever tale is playing out, using the valuable company Index as a resource. The team is made up of people who are aware of the narrative and what it can do, either because of a brush with it on the periphery or because they managed to avert or pause their own story.

This book is a page-turner, especially for fans of twisted fairy tales and urban fantasy. Fans of Seanan McGuire’s other works, such as the October Daye series, will recognize her quick wit and clever twists. Henry is stubborn, intelligent, and thinks outside the box. Having a personal connection to more than one narrative, she is willing to do whatever it takes to keep fairy tales out of the real world. The supporting characters are diverse people with very distinct personalities. Plotwise, the twists and turns are well thought out and unexpected. The story does continue past what was assumed to be a natural ending, and gets a bit convoluted. Hopefully that will clear up in future books. There are several character dynamics that will be exciting to explore, both romantically and otherwise. Indexing not only turns classic stories on their heads, but also skims the surface of fate vs free will, and if good and evil are really so black and white.

The first two books have been released in both paperback and ebook format.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

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