Review: “Ride the Storm (Cassandra Palmer #8)” by Karen Chance

Review:

A review by Amanda.

This review contains spoilers from the previous books in this series.

Ride the Storm picks up right where the last book ended. Cassie is still chasing after Pritkin’s soul with Rosier, hoping to counter the deadly curse that has been cast on the rugged war mage. Cassie’s court had just been attacked, and losses and injuries are everywhere. Betrayal from those she has been trying to help has affected Cassie’s usual good spirits. Even vampire master Mircea is struggling to recover from the recent events. Cassie is yanked back and forth in time, shifting from Arthurian times, where they have tracked down a young Pritkin and are awaiting the arrival of his soul, to present day at Dante’s, where the attacks keep coming from all sides. Exhausting both the Pythia power and her personal energy takes its toll, with devastating consequences. An unexpected revelation from a trusted person in her small circle of allies has Cassie (and readers) questioning everything that has happened since the events set in motion in the very first book.

This book is an absolute whirlwind of action and exposition. The first half of the story is nonstop action, with a few too many back-and-forth shifts, making it difficult to follow. No rest for our protagonist means no rest for readers. It feels as though the author tried to fit two books’ worth of plot into one book. Thankfully, the story slows down a bit and the pace evens out by the second half. Long-awaited answers to burning questions come to light, and the romantic entanglement that Cassie has found herself in might finally be unraveling. While some long-standing issues get wrapped up, others, frustratingly, do not. Cassie heroically maintains her snarky and irreverent sense of humor despite the adversity. There are a couple of steamy sex scenes, although these are somewhat mild compared to previous books. I, for one, am looking forward to the next book with the great hope that we won’t be strung along for too much longer (at least in certain areas). While the convolution of the first half of this book did affect my overall rating, the second half still makes it worth reading.

If you would like to start this series from the beginning, book one is Touch the Dark. Karen Chance also has a crossover series, featuring characters we know and love (or hate), and exciting new ones. The first book is Midnight’s Daughter.

My rating: 3.5/5 stars.

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Review: “Chain Saw Confidential” by Gunnar Hansen

A review by Brit.

In the eyes of many horror fans, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre is one of the greatest movies within the genre. It was released in 1974 and was quickly renowned for its craftsmanship and surprisingly bloodless violence. It was hated as much as it was loved. And in the form of Chain Saw Confidential, the one taking on the telling of the film’s origin story (and the reckoning of its legacy) is Gunnar Hansen. Who better than Leatherface himself to take on this muddy tale of dead chickens, melted film prints and runaway eight hour makeup chair sessions?

This book is largely an oral history of the making of Massacre, from the origins in the head of cigar-chomping director Tobe Hooper to the placement of the film in the Museum of Modern Art (and the scathing reviews that choice inspired). Helpfully, the story is also organized in the order of the actual movie’s plot. Hansen’s perspective is somewhat limited due to his starring role in the film. But he interviews cast and crew members extensively, openly admitting when details are inconsistent or if something has been completely forgotten. Add in thoughts about the movie from figures like John Landis (director of An American Werewolf in London) and it’s a very fun ride.

There are two reasons why I did not give this book five stars. The first is that readers who are inherently interested in horror and/or the filmmaking process itself will have a much better experience reading this book than those who are not. It’s undeniable. I’m a huge fan of Massacre, so naturally I enjoyed hearing about the nitty-gritty details about chicken bones and poor set insulation.The average reader may not care to hear about the post-production money distribution web of confusion that happened after the movie took off.

The second reason is that some readers may find Hansen’s treatise on horror at the end of the book tiring. It’s understandable that he has strong feelings on horror being connected to violence in American culture. But it’s 2017, and this debate now largely takes place only in academic and highly political circles. Even if you have no plans to watch Massacre for yourself, this book is still a good testament to the power of research and desire to tell the “real story” of how a legendary phenomenon came to be. Hansen writes in a wry voice that often reminded me of my grandfather. He’s exactly the kind of storyteller to take on this twisted, fun story.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

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Review: “Silence Fallen” by Patricia Briggs

Review of Silence Fallen by Patricia Briggs

A review by Niraja.

After a nearly fatal accident, Mercy finds herself kidnapped by a powerful vampire who sought to use her in a plot against the Tri-cities.  Mercy escapes in her coyote form, only to discover she is alone in Europe without money, clothing, or a passport. Unable to rely on her mate or pack bonds to contact Adam and the pack, Mercy must use her wits to discover who she can trust as allies and who are the enemies she must fight, while simultaneously trying to prevent outright war between vampires and werewolves.  As if that wasn’t enough to handle, ghosts stir and an old power awakens in the heart of Prague…

Silence Fallen is the 11th book in the Mercedes Thompson series by Patricia Briggs.  I awaited it’s release with baited breath and am pleased to report I was not disappointed.  Yet again, Patty delivered​ an exciting plot and well developed believable characters that we love (or love to hate).

Mercy shines as our heroine as she uses her wit and resourcefulness to get herself out of, and back into, sticky situations.  True to form Mercedes faces her situation with inner strength and determination.  As a result she is both impressing and bewildering werewolves and vampires alike as they find her more than what she appears to be.  Once again Patty weaves elements from past books into Silence Fallen.  I appreciate this element of her writing because not only does this strengthen the continuity of her stories, it also makes her characters feel real.  As in her other books, Silence fallen had moments where I was cheering the characters on, feeling sympathy, getting anxious, laughing out loud, and happily feeling warm and content.  

This book differs from previous books in the series as it has several chapters from Adam’s point of view as he struggles with factors surrounding Mercy’s kidnapping and as he plots to recover her.  I enjoyed these chapters immensely as they not only grant insight to Adam’s emotions and thought processes but also show some of our favorite supporting characters from a different perspective.  Patty also throws in a small surprise twist at the end to which there are cleverly subtle clues, discoverable in hindsight (and a thorough reread of certain scenes).

Overall the book felt comfortingly familiar and yet held refreshing changes.  I was engaged in the story and felt connected to the characters.  If you are a fan of the Mercy Thompson series, Silence Fallen will not disappoint.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

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Review: “Losing It” by Cora Carmack

Review: "Losing It” by Cora Carmack

A review by Vanessa.

I purchased this book on Amazon after finding Cora Carmack as a New York Times Best Seller, because sometimes we have to remember that the commercially popular authors are the ones that keep us all in business.

Being a theater major is hard, stressful work. The only thing even more stressful for Bliss Edwards is explaining to her best friend Kelsey why it is that at 22 years old, she is still a virgin. Because the reality is that Bliss is a bit of a control freak, and her lack of confidence in her abilities has kept her at “not ready” status for a long time. She is not really ready to graduate in one semester. She certainly isn’t ready for Kelsey’s reaction, which is to drag Bliss out to the nearest bar and proceed with finding her someone to help her lose it, and quick. But Bliss is tired of the stress and the worry and the wondering why she hasn’t just done it, so she decides to just do it. Just find a guy, and get it over with. The only other thing she is not ready for is Garrick.

The beautiful, blonde, blue-eyed, British man reading Shakespeare in the back of the bar catches Bliss’s eye, and completely turns her on in a way she never has been before. But when it comes to crunch time, Bliss can’t go through with it. For one thing she still isn’t ready, and for another she actually really likes Garrick. Rather than explain the truth and deal with the situation, Bliss gives an awkward lie and bolts. She’s ready to pretend it never happened until she makes it to the first day of spring term the next morning. Guess who is the new professor of Senior prep class? Of course it’s the recently-finished-with-graduate-school, former alumni, gorgeous man whom Bliss had just left naked and wanting in bed. But not only is he just as sweet and charming as he had been before the debacle, he actually seems to like her. Is he worth a risk that might get them both into a lot of trouble? When other people’s hearts are thrown into the mix as well, will Bliss finally let go and make a bold choice for what she really wants?

A very engaging read, this book is satisfyingly predictable while also maintaining a status as refreshing and entertaining. Bliss is a very real character, with oodles of self doubt that any reader can relate to. Though her existence is very mainstream, in a social setting where virginity is something to be ashamed of while feminine sexuality is also something to feel shame about, Bliss finds her own way through. She uses her emotions to fuel her acting in a way that it is very easy to respect, and makes her an entirely likable character. Garrick is a very real character as well. He is completely straightforward, and very honest in his pursuit of Bliss. He does not play games, or throw around his authority over her. Their romance is tension filled, but also toe-curling. This book definitely falls on the side of cliche when it comes to the overall story as the romantic aspect dominates the story arc. There were some larger themes that I think could have been better embraced, while still paying proper tribute to the romance that was obviously the major focus of the book. A few things came a little too easily, but all in all it was still good writing and an entertainingly sexy read. I am very interested to read the next book in the series, Faking It.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

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Review: “A Court of Thorns and Roses” by Sarah J Maas

A review by Amanda.

Nineteen year old Feyre is the sole provider for her family. Her father is unable to work after losing the family’s fortune and his merchant business in a risky venture. Feyre’s two older sisters seem content to live off of what meager rations and coins her hunting brings in, while giving only bitterness and indifference in return. Feyre is accustomed to burying her hurt and anger under a mask of ice and is marking time until her sisters can be married off to become someone else’s burden. She longs to be free of her responsibilities but a vow made to her dying mother keeps her stuck in place.

Everything changes when Feyre hunts too close to the border between her human village and Prythian, a land of myth and magic ruled by faeries. Retribution comes in the form of Tamlin, a powerful faerie lord with a cold, secretive demeanor who gives Feyre a choice between death or captivity. She chooses to become his prisoner to live out her life in Prythian in hopes that escape might someday be an option. She does not expect to enjoy the beauty of Tamlin’s estate,nor to develop friendships with the faeries who reside there. She does not expect that the real danger of Prythian may be one that isn’t from the legends with which she is familiar.

A Court of Thorns and Roses is a beautiful reimagining of the classic Beauty and the Beast story. The inspiration is clear while reading, but Feyre’s story is uniquely her own. Feyre is a wonderful protagonist. She is rough around the edges, distrusting of everyone and everything, and incredibly stubborn. Her strengths and weaknesses are rounded out, making her into a whole person. At no point is she a damsel in distress, although she is put into dangerous situations, some of which require help from others for her to survive.

Romance has a natural progression in this story, and is given enough weight to feel real, but not so much that it overshadows everything else. The world-building is seamless and beautiful. The plot is character-driven, and perfectly paced. Supporting characters are well-rounded and given plenty of agency, although there is a lack of diversity in both ethnicity and sexual orientation. Future books may address this issue. There is some violence in this story but nothing terribly graphic. There are a couple of consensual sexual encounters, as well as some non-consensual touching and kissing (again, not too graphic), but without compromising the integrity of the story or the characters. Fans of the author’s other series Throne of Glass and fans of authors Cinda Williams Chima, Marissa Meyer, and Cassandra Clare may enjoy this book. Book two, A Court of Mist and Fury has been released in hardcover. The third book, A Court of Wind and Ruin, will be released on May 2nd.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

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Review: “At First Blush” by Beth Ellyn Summer

Review:

A review by Amanda.

At seventeen, Lacey Robbins has her future all planned out. She has spent years developing LaceyBlushes, her makeup tutorial channel on YouTube, although her romantic life has suffered a bit because of it. Her dedication has earned Lacey a coveted summer internship at On Trend, an online magazine. The internship could help Lacey reach her goals of finding sponsors for her channel and landing a contract with Glass Cube, a marketing and talent management company for YouTube. Life is looking bright for Lacey as well as her best friend Cynth who has the chance to intern for a late night show across the street. In a bid to help Lacey let some romance into her life, Cynth makes a bargain with her – she will accept the internship with the late night show if Lacey will flirt with hot guys at On Trend. Lacey reluctantly agrees, if only to ensure that Cynth takes the job. Little does Lacey know, the hottest guy at On Trend turns out to be their surprise guest editor and cover feature, musician Tyler Lance, whose reputation as a narcissistic party boy does not impress her. Add in a sponsorship from a subpar makeup company, family stress, and the struggle to keep her fans happy, and Lacey may have to reevaluate her life plan.

At first glance, this book may appear to be superficial and silly, like just another frilly story about a teenage girl falling for the cute boy. By the end of chapter one, however, Lacey has shown her potential to be a fully realized, multidimensional character. Her passion for makeup is not borne from a desire to simply look pretty; she has a natural eye and a deep appreciation for presentation and aesthetics. Lacey has found a way to turn her love of beauty into a profitable career, and she has sacrificed other aspects of a well-rounded life to make it happen. She has a genuine enjoyment of the process as well, from choosing the tutorials, to staging the background, filming, and interacting with her subscribers. While many adults consider teenaged girls to be silly and inconsequential, Lacey showcases the reality that girls can have ambition and goals beyond dating and boys. While there is romance in this story, it doesn’t dominate the plot. It is balanced nicely with both obstacles and pleasant surprises, and serves more as a metaphor for unexpected disruptions to even the best laid plans. The supporting characters have a realistic vibe and provide both drama and relief in Lacey’s life. There are some very minor cliché aspects, mostly regarding the romantic drama, and this is not a book that is full of dramatic plot twists but that does not take away from the enjoyment of the story. This is the first book from author Beth Ellyn Summer, and I will happily read future books.

My rating: 4.5/5 stars.

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Review: “Final Girls” by Mira Grant

Review- Final Girls by Mira Grant

A review by Amanda.

I received an e-copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Doctor Jennifer Webb has invented a new therapeutic treatment, which utilizes proprietary virtual reality technology to help people heal psychological injuries. Clients are placed in special pods, induced to deep sleep, and given carefully monitored injections. Technicians run a dream-like scenario through the VR program, which the client experiences as reality. Each scenario is tailored to the client, to help resolve their specific issues.

Esther Hoffman is a journalist who has made her career by debunking pseudo-science. Due to tragic circumstances in her own past, involving fraudulent regression therapy, Esther is out to prove that Doctor Webb’s work is phony at best; at worst it could be dangerous. Jennifer is determined to prove the safety and viability of her therapy and Esther reluctantly agrees to go through the process, to experience it firsthand. Things do not exactly go as planned, in either reality.

This is a novella written by Mira Grant, which is the pseudonym of best-selling author Seanan Maguire. It’s length does not diminish the horror aspects, thankfully. Readers get just enough insight into the main characters to care about their fates. Industrial espionage, murder, and supernatural elements mingle to make a perfectly horrifying tale. The science behind the therapy is explained in a way that feels natural and easy to understand, which is not always the case in science fiction. There are several delightful twists, and the ending is unexpected perfection. Seanan Maguire has also written the Newsflesh trilogy, a horror series, under the Mira Grant pseudonym.

My rating: 5/5 stars.

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