Saturday, 31 January 2015

Book Review: Claws by Ricky Sides

Alcorn Pet Food Corporation is working with an experimental cat food laced with hormones and appetite enhancers. The special food causes cats to add muscle, gain weight, and exhibit extremely aggressive behavior. When an employee threatens to expose the pet food as a threat to public safety, she finds herself out of work, her home ransacked, and all her carefully gathered proof missing. Meanwhile, animal rights activists release the cats involved in the testing because they are scheduled to be euthanized. These bigger, stronger, and more aggressive animals begin to prey on small game in the area. Then the ravenous cats turn their attention to people.

Lovers, runners, hunters, dogs, deer, rabbits, normal cats, and even motorists begin to fall victim to the predations of these enhanced felines. An unemployed scientist, a small special ops team, a grieving father, a chief of security, and a homeless veteran join forces to try to prevent a catastrophe. 

My Review:
Patricia is fired when she refuses to falsify paperwork for her boss to cover up that cat food ingrediants are making the cats hungry and dangerous. As the company starts a campaign against her, unsuspecting animal rights activists release the test subjects into the community. And then the killing begins...

I picked this book up free on a website because I liked the idea of killer cats and the cover looked cool. I admit that I didn't rush to read it, thinking it wouldn't be that good. In fact this turned out to be an unexpected little gem of a book! I don't like cats for a varity of reasons including the fact that the buggers keep crapping in my flowerbeds and trying to eat the birds that we feed! So a novel where they are running wild and need to be taken down really appealed to me in a twisted way!

Firstly, the characters in the book are really well written and continue to develop through the story. Patricia's boss really is Mr Evil and the way she was treated makes you like her instantly. She has morals, is honest and refuses to bend to pressure to keep her job and will not be silenced no matter what the company tries to do to her. A lot of the characters like Jerry, Robert and Charlie are also well written and you actually give a damn about what happens to them. That makes a difference in a horror/thriller as they go into danger and you hope that they are going to survive.

This book resists the temptation of the horror novel to go all out for gore and guts to catch your attention. The author has a simple and gripping way of telling the story that had me hooked from the very start. Night scenes are used to geat effect as you know what is lurking out there and you are right with Patricia, peering out into the dark night. It builds up tension in every scene where you know the cats are hiding and stalking some poor human or animal. The army are hunting the cats down in armed squads while a few humans out for revenge over dead relatives are also looking to destroy the predators. Domestic pets are gradually getting angry as the pet food reaches and infects them, taking their owners by surprise and adding new dangers for the good guys. Patricia is trying to account for each lab cat as the bodies of felines and victims start stacking up. And Mr Evil has a plan so much worse than anyone has realised.

I actually cut two paragraphs from the book blurb that appears on Goodreads as I feel that it gives too much of the plot away and I hate that. That's also why I don't want to go into detail about the tension filled scenes in the book. I don't want to spoil the book for anyone.

The good news is that you can get this book FREE on Amazon so why not download it and give yourself a scary treat! 

star rating photo: Four Star Rating 4stars.png

Stacking the Shelves #69

Stacking the Shelves is a meme hosted by Tynga’s Reviews
Stacking The Shelves is all about sharing the books you are adding to your shelves, may it be physical or virtual. This means you can include books you buy in physical store or online, books you borrow from friends or the library, review books, gifts and of course ebooks! Click on the link under the book to find its page on Goodreads or Smashwords.
Please note that I always leave a message on your STS/SP if you visit me, but if you use DISQUS or a similar third party I will not be able to leave a comment on your page. And sometimes, I have problems leaving messages on blogs hosted by Wordpress. 

Another good reading week for me! It has been a great month, completing 26 books and I hope to finish at least one more tonight. So my winter readathon so far has been a great success and I'm a good booky place right about now. It is sooo cold today and of course my computer sits in the one corner of the room where I have no heat from the fire reaching me. It could be a long day because I have a ton of book reviews that I've been promising to catch up on. Book reviews take me ages to do because I'm so fussy about what I want to say! But I've been putting it off for far too long so I need to catch up a bit today.
On the book buying front, I picked up a few downloads but I haven't really been looking for new buys this week. I'm still trying to show restraint though and not buy too much. That's tough when I have 3 Amazon vouchers burning a hole in my pocket! I managed to hit my target of reducing my tbr to 600 by the end of this month, so my next target is to get down to 550 by the end of February. It's quite exciting to watch the tbr dropping steadily! I'm back to feeling in control and enjoying my reading more!
So, to this weeks books. I picked up a couple of books in series I've already started, books by Sierra Dean, Annie Bellet and Kelly Meding. I did crack and pick up a few more books in the Monster Haven series. I had to buy the ebooks as they are not available in paperback in the UK. If you like paranormal romance and light urban fantasy, then give this series a go as it is really funny and full of action and magical creatures like Maurice the Closet Monster who is a super chef... You can check out my review of books in the series on this blog in January's posts starting with book one, Monster in my Closet.  

Friday, 30 January 2015

Book Review: Magic to the Bone by Devon Monk (Allie Beckstrom #1)

Using magic meant it used you back. Forget the fairy-tale, hocus-pocus, wave a wand and bling-o, sparkles and pixie dust crap. Magic, like booze, sex, and drugs, gave as good as it got.

Everything has a cost. And every act of magic exacts a price from its user - maybe a two-day migraine, or losing the memory of your first kiss. But some people want to use magic without paying, and they Offload the cost onto innocents. When that happens, it falls to a Hound to identify the spell's caster - and Allison Beckstrom's the best there is.

Daughter of a prominent Portland businessman, Allie would rather moonlight as a Hound than accept the family fortune - and the strings that come with it. But when she discovers a little boy dying from a magic Offload that has her father's signature all over it, Allie is thrown into the high-stakes world of corporate espionage and black magic.

Now Allie's out for the truth - and must call upon forces that will challenge everything she knows, change her in ways she could never imagine ... and make her capable of things that powerful people will do anything to control.

My Review:
Allie is a hound, someone who can smell and identify the use of magic in crimes. The use of magic comes with a health cost but criminals offload their 'payment' onto others to avoid it. When she scents her father's trail at the near death of a child that she knows, she is determined to confront him about it. Despite his denials, she doesn't believe him-until he is dead and she is framed. With only the help of her father's spy Zayvion Jones, Allie needs to find out the truth while avoiding those hunting her.

This book was kind of hit and miss for me. There were things that I liked and disliked about it so I decided to give it a reread before deciding whether or not to continue with the series. I did actually start book 2 but it wasn't really grabbing me and I chose not to continue with the series after that.

I liked the idea that magic might let you do something easier but that you will pay for it in your health in some way later. You can choose to have a headache for two days, a flu bug in two weeks time or lose a few memories. This was pretty unique to me and I liked that Allie had to think hard about what to do every time she wanted to use a spell. Allie usually forgets to choose her payment and ends up ill at the worst possible times, which adds a bit of interest to the story.

One of the problems with the book is that Allie is literally chasing her tail the entire time and continually going back to the same place, which makes it pretty easy to target her. She goes to investigate how Boy gets hurt, leaves, goes back there to hide out when in trouble, leaves, goes back, gets kicked out etc. She must have spent a fortune in taxi fares to keep going out to the bad part of town and all it got her was more trouble and paybacks for using magic. It was this going back and forward to Boy's house that got a bit dull.

I didn't like Mama much. It was obvious that she was using Allie and taking advantage of her kind nature to get free help yet didn't always return the favour. I didn't really take to Zayvion from the start and Allie was obviously not using her brain to get involved with someone she didn't trust and barely knew. His overall treatment of her was poor and I felt no chemistry between the characters. She should have listened to Nola about not sleeping with him. Allie herself is ok but she is a bit dumb, doesn't learn from her mistakes and always needs to be rescued from her latest bit of trouble. I'm not surprised that her father had someone spying on her. She is meant to be a hound yet can never remember to delay/offset the payback for using magic which suggests she is not very professional and explains why she only has the money to live in a hell hole.

The book plot as I said, goes round in circles and never seems to really get to somewhere interesting. There are a few good scenes but I felt that this book promises more than it really delivers in a lot of areas. Few of the characters are likeable, the plot is a bit samey and our heroine needs a bit more common sense. There is the potential for a decent series but it was not delivered in this book. 
star rating photo: Two Star Rating 2stars.png

Thursday, 29 January 2015

Book Review: What Zoey Doesn't Know by RL Naquin (Monster Haven #3.5)

Maurice the closet monster is an amazing cook, efficient housekeeper, fantastic problem solver, and the best friend anyone could ever have.

But nobody really knows what he does all day.

Bank robbers, a rare disease, and a visit from a bad-luck pooka are no match for a closet monster with time on his hands.

But don’t tell Zoey. She worries. 

My Review:
Maurice is one of the best characters in paranormal fiction. He is a Closet Monster, who happens to be an amazing cook, excellent house cleaner, part keeper/social worker to various creatures living in or near his home and a loyal friend to his human housemate Zoey. He looks after her, keeps the house secure and always has a good meal ready for emergencies. So the question is, what else does Maurice do with his day?

To keep up with his excellent cooking, Maurice needs supplies and no self respecting Closet Monster can just wander into the shops looking for food. Still, Maurice does believe in using locally grown produce, even if it means liberating them from the neighbour's gardens! That is just the start to a very productive day.

A visit from Silas the bad luck Pooka is not a welcome sight when you are lurking in someone else's vegetation in a hoodie. It is even more unwelcome when Silas tells him that Zoey's neighbours have a disease that is making them believe that they are Hidden and need help from Zoey and Maurice. Maurice figures this is why Gary is pretending to be a mummy and taking up too much of Maurice's time getting rewrapped. Silas tells him of a cure using a few household items that belong in other people's homes. It could be a long day when you have to deal with this, trying to rescue the hapless Zoey who is caught up in a bank robbery, and ensure his food does not burn in the oven...

All in a day's work for our favourite Closet Monster!!!

I loved this short story so much, as we get a glimpse of life for Maurice when Zoey is at work. He really is a super efficient guy and I wish he would move in with me! I think after the darker story in book three, we needed this lighthearted fun short story to make us smile, ready to move on with the series. I just loved this story and will read it again many times. Brilliant! 
star rating photo: 5 Star Rating 5stars.jpg

Book Review: Fairies in my Fireplace by RL Naquin (Monster Haven #3)

A migration of mythical creatures has begun, and more and more of them are landing on Zoey Donovan's doorstep. As the only Aegis left in the country, it falls to her to protect the Hidden and keep them safe—and her house has become a sanctuary for water sprites, goblins, harpies, djinn and more.

Keeping track of her boarders is a full-time job, and Zoey's already got her hands full trying to run her wedding planning business. Good thing she has a resident closet monster to keep her organized, and a hot Reaper boyfriend to help her relax every once in a while.

But she can't keep up monster-triage indefinitely, and as more Hidden arrive, it becomes clear that someone—or something—is hunting them. In the midst of planning an event for a notoriously difficult client, Zoey's got to figure out who's behind the hunt…and she's got to stop them before there are no Hidden left.

My Review:
Seriously, the more I read in this series the more I love it! I'm so attached to all the characters and anxious for their wellbeing, which shows that the author is doing a great job of making you care about them and drawing you into their world.

Zoey is recovering from her bad luck Pooka and her run in with the Board but she and Maurice are suddenly being overwhelmed by the number of Hidden creatures that are coming to her for help. Her garden is like the tent city in a refugee disaster zone-thunderbirds, harpies, djinn to name a few-and many are telling stories of being hunted or having family members go missing. It is a worrying time and the gang try to work out if there is a pattern to the problems they are facing while working to expand the safe zone. It is then that the hunters arrive in the woods beside Zoey's protected home and start grabbing her friends.

I was in a real state of fear when the attack happened. Darius, the boss of Silas the Pooka arrives in time to stop Zoey running into the battle, but my heart was in my mouth when Maurice ran into the woods. I was so scared that he would get grabbed. Despite their best efforts, Iris is taken by the hunters as he tries to stop them taking the fairies. Poor Iris! After Maurice, he is my favourite character and the thought of the big guy in prison was horrible.

The plot thickens when Zoey finds out that the missing creatures are going to be sold to rich humans at an auction, an event that Sara and Zoey have been hired to plan. Now they have to run two events back to back and find a way to rescue all the captured creatures during it. The Collector is in charge of things and she becomes aware that there is an Aegis is town, making the task more difficult. Things get tougher for Zoey when she finds out that the missing Aegis agents are being held by the Collector to look after the Hidden-and could perhaps include Zoey's mother.

This book is darker than the other books, which is to be expected with the plot. I was worried constantly by what was happening to Iris and the others, and as the auction gets nearer, the tension rises. Maurice and his friends are determined to do anything they can to rescue their comrades, making Zoey (and me) fear for his safety. There are a few tension filled scenes ie the warehouse that the gang go to search, where the creatures were held. The night of the auction was full of tension and trauma as events spin out of control.

There were a few lighter moments that I enjoyed. Iris with his Yeti girlfriend. Maurice pretending to be a slave closet monster belonging to Sara during the search for his friends. There were also some touching moments where a couple of kids were reunited with their rescued mother, Zoey seeing her mother and Molly's husband redeeming himself in defence of his family. And Alma gets a right dose from Zoey...YEA!

This is a BIG plot spoiler so if you don't want to know what happens at the auction, look away NOW! Don't look back until you see the spoiler end!

There was a horrific scene for me during the auction. It looks as if the Hidden have been successfully rescued and everyone is starting to relax, and then it happens. The bad guy with the gun points it right at Maurice and pulls the trigger. I was screaming 'noooo' in my head at the thought of a dead Maurice and then poor big brave Iris throws himself in the way to save his best friend. I was distraught. Not Maurice, but please not Iris either! I prayed that Zoey could help him, like she did with Milo. I was running with her as she sought to find her mother, who has the power to hold off death. I so wanted there to be a magical loophole...but Iris was gone. I sobbed from then until after they buried the big guy. I could not stop and I'm not sure I can forgive the author for this!

OK you can look back now. Yes I promise, it's safe! This was a really emotional book with danger around every corner, but with the right blend of tension, humour, sweet scenes and the disturbing. It was beautifully written and I was swept along for the ride. I did not put this book down from start to finish and I can't wait to read what comes next. This is one of the best new series that I've discovered and I need my next Monster fix! 
star rating photo: 5 Star Rating 5stars.jpg

Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Book Review: The Teratologist by Edward Lee/Wrath James White

Billionaire John Farrington is obsessed with the idea of offending God to the point that God would want to confront him in person. Farrington has abducted priests and nuns to commit sexual atrocities with the most grievously genetically deformed people he can find. People that he's also abducted and kept in such a high state of sexual intensity, with a drug his company produces, that they are just ravenous for physical contact. The abductees, with basically no self control, commit some of the most depraved sex acts, over, and over again. Westmore and Bryant, a photographer and journalist, are given the rare opportunity to interview the reclusive Farrington and see inside his mansion and operation. Only to find the horrors within, and who have become pawns in the mysteries they find behind every door. Farmington's plan may work, and to make sure he's successful, he will do whatever it takes to have the deity of man face him.

My Review:
I have read books by both authors and they delight in providing tales full of horror, gore, depravity and sex. I knew that going to read this book and most of that stuff doesn't really bother me for the most part. However I admit that this book was twisted on a whole new and unexpected level and not in a good way at all.

Abducting people that God favours like nuns and priests, spiritual leaders and people of good standing in the community, force feeding them with drugs to make them want to rape and violate is bad enough for some readers. To have their victims fed the same drugs, victims who are the most seriously mentally and physically handicapped you can imagine is a whole other matter. Strange as it may sound this was not the worst the book had to offer, not by a long shot. If your idea of fun reading is reading about people doing nasty toilet functions in other people's mouths, then read on and enjoy. Me, this is where I draw a big fat line and say no, as I resist the urge to gag and vomit. I felt sick and started gagging when I read it and just thinking about it as I write this now gives me the same feeling. I don't find that type of thing entertaining, amusing or anything except stomach wrenching, especially with a disabled victim.

There was nothing in this book that I liked. The subject matter and the writing were gross and twisted and I will be more selective about anything by the authors that I choose to read.
star rating photo: 1 star orange-1star.jpg

Monday, 26 January 2015

Reading with Chuckles #22

Welcome to Reading with Chuckles! This is where I fill you in on what I'm reading each week-what it is, where I got it or heard about it, what I think of it, if I'm continuing with it or abandoning it and any special offers I'm aware of where you can try the book yourself. Comments are welcome but no spoilers please! It's not fair to other readers!

I am now on to my winter readathon. This means I'm turning my attention to series that I've started and liked but never got round to finishing. So I hope to get through a LOT of books and catch up with a few favourites! 

This week I finished reading the Patricia Briggs 'Mercy Thompson series(at least so far), read the rest of what I had in the Monster Haven series and remembered to mention a few abandoned books from previous weeks!

These are recently abandoned books that I forgot to mention in previous posts:

Sunday, 25 January 2015

Book Review: Hell to Pay-Die Hard for Girls by Jenny Thomson

Nancy Kerr refuses to be a victim - even when she walks in on her parents killers and is raped and left for dead. Fourteen months later, she wakes up in a psychiatric hospital with no knowledge of how she got there. Slowly her memory starts to return. Released from the institution, she has just one thing on her mind two men brought hell to her family home. Now they re in for some hell of their own.

My Review:
Nancy walks into the home of her parents to find them both murdered, execution style, and the killers take the chance to rape her, leaving her for dead. But Nancy has somehow survived and wakes up in a mental hospital, recovering from her ordeal. She is obsessed with the idea of finding the thugs herself and making them pay.

Firstly, for those of you who shy away from scenes of graphic rape, you are safe to read this one. The rape scene is implied at the time and briefly remembered but there is no full minute by minute description of the act. There is less graphic violence than the book implies in the blurb so it is not a horror gorefest either. It is more of a thriller with a few violent scenes than anything else. So I think perhaps the 'die hard' and bloody revenge ads for the book might put off a few people who could happily read it.

It did make a change to see a book set in Scotland that doesn't involve snotty American girls complaining about everything and having horrible Scottish steriotypes. This book is set in the Glasgow criminal underworld so you expect it to be dark and grim, as that fits the plot perfectly. It was nice to recognise landmarks and get a lot of the references in the book. Usually in American set books I have no clue about some of the celebrities, shows and references being joked about! The plot is decent, the writing is uncomplicated and there is enough happening to keep you interested to the end.

Nancy feels pretty normal despite her hairbrained plans. She knows what she wants to do to the men but she is scared to do it and has the morals to question it. She is a good person whose mind has been filled with revenge because of what has happened to her family. She is terrible at planning and lands herself in a few dodgy situations because of it. I felt no sympathy for the bad guys-I never do feel bad when they get what is coming to them.

I did have a few niggles about the book. The police seemed to spend far too much time visiting Nancy and hinting that she knew more than she let on, was lying to them and was involved in what happened to the thugs. I just don't see how a cop could add 1 +1 and get 10 like that. The story was a little unrealistic especially taking the risk of going in disguise to have a drink with the guy who raped you and hope you weren't recognised. I also wondered why a woman raped by thugs would be jumping into bed with a man she barely knows in the middle of a revenge plot against them. I felt that the sex scene was included because it was felt there should be one, rather than it adding anything to the plot. I also felt it was a bit too feminist for me, with so much man hating going on. Men were bashed for having sexist views on women but Nancy was always coming out with thoughts that were sexist again men which seemed a bit hypocritical.

The good bits? Well there was some decent humour scattered through the book. I liked the showdown with the gangland leader, which had a nice twist to it that I wasn't expecting. I was also interested in the reveal at the end which was unexpected and a bit different.

This was a decent story that kept me interested to the end and it is a novella that could have a pretty broad appeal if you can ignore a few issues with spelling and formatting. I can ignore a few mistakes and found it an entertaining short read.

  star rating photo: Three Star Rating 3stars.png

Book Review: Unbelievable by Sara Shepard (Pretty Little Liars #4)

Four pretty little liars' charmed lives have turned into living nightmares. Emily's been shipped off to Iowa to live with her ├╝berconservative cousins. Aria's boyfriend is behind bars—because of her. Spencer's afraid she was involved in Ali's murder. But Hanna's fate is far worse: She's clinging to life in the hospital because she knew too much. If these girls don't start listening to me, Hanna's going to look like the lucky one. 

My Review:
I'm going to start this review by feeling a bit smug about getting half of the story right! And before people start pointing out that I'm writing this about 4 months after reading all the books up to book 9, I will remind them that I took notes and noted theories as I read books 2-8 over the space of a week in October and all I'm doing now is typing them up as I wrote them then. So I did guess who 'A' was by book 3, not after reading who was unmasked in book 4!

Hanna is critically ill in hospital and makes up with Mona at her bedside, where Mona admits to getting horrible texts from 'A'. The police discover that Ali was having a fling with Ian behind Melissa's back in spite of knowing Spencer had a crush on him. Emily runs away from Iowa and her parents agree to try to accept her choices and get to know Maya, who Emily suspects might be 'A'. Aria discovers the truth about the Jenna thing while Spencer and Mona suspect that Melissa killed Ali.

As before, if you don't want the big plot spoilers, I'd suggest you go and do some shopping or something!

After being caught cheating by Sean and moaning about him leaving her with nowhere to live, Aria has more complaints in this book when Ezra is fired and decides to leave town without her. She is forced to move in with her dad and his mistress. I'm getting a bit tired at Aria's selfishness. Everything is someone elses fault, never hers and she moans constantly. After all her pleas to her family about her sexuality and Maya, Emily gets the acceptance she wants...then decides she isn't sure if she wants Maya after all. Her indecision makes you want to strangle her sometimes!

Spencer of course, is in it up to her neck, and now manages to upset her parents by having second thoughts about still claiming the essay to be hers. What the hell is wrong with her parents? When they find out about her stealing the essay, they make her continue with the deception so they can have the glory of their daughter winning the prize? They really are losers who should never have had children. Is it any wonder the girls turned out the way they did?

The first big bit of fun in the book is finding out what really happened to Jenna. I loved this reveal! Jenna and Alison planned the whole firework stunt to expose what Toby was doing and have him sent away, but it went wrong and blinded Jenna by accident. Jenna knows who 'A' is because Jenna saw the only other person who was there that night but won't tell.

And now the big reveal! Yes, just as Hanna remembers in her hospital bed that she had worked it out before the accident, we find out who 'A' was and it is...Mona! Mona, as I guessed, found the diary in the stuff cleared from the house that was left out on the street. Mona who was always hanging around, hoping to be invited into the group but always ignored. But she tells Spencer something that none of them knew-the last diary entry from the night Ali died says she was going to meet Ian and force him to tell Melissa about them. Despite the ending her actions have caused, Mona's final revelation has Ian arrested.

I don't believe that Ian is the killer as it all fits far too easily. There is more to this story than that. My suspects for killing Ali at the moment are Melissa and Ali's mother, as there is something off about that woman. The only others I can think of are Ali's former friends who she suddenly dropped without any reason-there must be something in that but I'm not seeing it yet. I expect we'll find out about it at some point.

Still enjoying the series! 
star rating photo: 35 star rating 3-5-stars.jpg

Book Review: Perfect by Sara Shepard (Pretty Little Liars #3)

In Rosewood, Pennsylvania, four perfect-looking girls aren't nearly as perfect as they seem.

Aria can't resist her forbidden ex. Hanna is on the verge of losing her BFF. Emily is freaking out over a simple kiss. And Spencer can't keep her hands off anything that belongs to her sister.

Lucky me. I know these pretty little liars better than they know themselves. But it's hard keeping all of their secrets to myself. They better do as I say . . . or else!

My Review:
The liars are knee deep in lies and deception as they struggle to deal with the vindictive 'A' who still seems to know everything. Aria defies Hanna to keep seeing Sean though her mind is still on Ezra. Emily is finally seeing Maya and wants to tell the police the truth about Jenna's accident. Spencer is surprised to see that Melissa is back with her ex Ian, who Spencer once had a huge crush on, and her lies about the essay are going to come back to bite her. Hanna finds herself unpopular again after a huge row with Mona means they are no longer friends.

The intrigue is ramped up again so if you don't want to know what happens in this book or my theories, stop reading now!

I loved the bitch that is 'A'! As much as I like Spencer, she just can't keep her hands off anything that belongs to her sister, whether it is the essay or Melissa's boyfriends. I just can't believe how stupid she is at times. Aria is just as bad. She wrecks her friendship with Hanna to go out with Sean and with 'A' watching her every move the dumb bitch cheats on him with Ezra. I actually felt she and Ezra deserved the embarrassing visit from the police for being so stupid. Emily's decision to go to the police causes 'A' to release photos at the swim meet of her kissing Maya, causing her parents to start forcing her to a rehab that can cure her.

Hanna probably annoys me more than the rest of the girls because she is vain, selfish and smug-but she is an interesting character. I can imagine that having been the fat girl, she can't bear the thought of slipping out of that popular circle. Mona is such a scheming cow, trying to destroy Hanna's reputation because of a misunderstanding. She is right at the top of my suspect list for 'A' especially when the car runs Hanna down and puts her in hospital. Mona started life as a loser like Hanna, was never invited into Ali's inner circle like the group of losers, becoming Queen with Hanna only when Ali was gone. Would she try to kill Hanna? I can imagine her being angry at Hanna, feeling betrayed if she thinks Hanna is going back to that old circle of friends again. Whether she wants to kill her for it is open to debate.

I knew the author was sending Spencer having blackouts into the story as a bit of a red herring, just to get the girls wondering who to trust. Attacking Melissa...well lets just say that one sister is as bad as the other in this family! I did find it interesting that Spencer now remembers attacking Ali on the night she vanished. It opens up a whole new set of questions. What did they argue about? Who saw them? Is 'A' the same person who killed Alison or another person with a grudge? Well, I think they are two different people. Someone really hated Ali-a grudge, a dirty secret etc. But for me, 'A' has a grudge against the girls themselves. Perhaps someone was jealous of their elevation to Ali's friendship, which is why I suspect Mona.

How does 'A' know all their dirty little past secrets? Well I feel that is kind of obvious-Ali kept a diary full of the stuff she witnessed and all her friend's confessions and secrets. Remember when Emily meets Maya and sees Ali's things being removed from the house when Maya's family moved in? Perfect opportunity for anyone watching to have a look at her things and find the diary. People are always nosy when something like that is going on. So, easy for anyone to grab it. I don't suspect Maya because she likes Emily so much and would have no reason to hurt her or the other girls that she barely knows, even though she had the best opportunity.

I like the tangled web that the author is creating in this series, giving you extra bits of info at the right time to make you question your own theories. It keeps it interesting. I hope the TV series is as good when I finally get round to watching it.

star rating photo: 35 star rating 3-5-stars.jpg

Saturday, 24 January 2015

How to Tackle Mount TBR: A Survivor's Story!

Hello! My name is Chuckles and I'm a Bookaholic!

It started for me when I got back into reading after years in the wilderness-thanks to being forced to read Harry Potter by a friend at work! I started thinking how cool it would be to locate a few books about vampires and werewolves so I did a google search and found Goodreads. Oh boy was that a life changing event! Suddenly I had a list of authors-Charlaine Harris, Patricia Briggs, Kelley Armstrong, Jeaniene Frost, Carrie Vaughn, Jennifer Estep and more. Now my library sucks and is many years out of date but I did manage to grab Kelley Armstrong's 'Stolen' and Charlaine Harris 'Living Dead in Dallas'. Yeah I know, I hate not starting with book 1 but these were all the library had. And I loved them! Armed with the phrase 'Urban Fantasy' I was glued to Goodreads lists and searching bookshops and Amazon. And the books piled up very quickly. Within a year of joining my tbr was 600 books. I breezily ignored the issue and was grabbing books quicker than I could read them.

Then came the Summer of 2013 when I got the surprise birthday gift of a Kobo Glo. And I started doing Read and Review for Indie Authors. The floodgates opened with free and bargain ebooks flooding in every week and I was up to 800 tbrs in a few months. Due to family problems I barely read anything in 2014 compared to previous years and in September my tbr hit 900+. That was the final straw and I did not want a 1000 tbr in 2015! Something had to be done. Today, I stand proudly on a tbr of 605, well poised to get back under 600 by the end of January. So what was my cunning secret?

Chuckles Guide to Reducing the TBR:
1) I went back and re-read the blurb on Goodreads for each of the free books I'd downloaded and thought' do I really want to read this book?' I think I was able to delete about 30-40 books thinking 'why did I download THAT???' So take another look at those books and decide what you can live without!

2) I looked at the book reviews for all the free books that were left on my list, trying to carefully avoid huge plot spoilers. I was looking for multiple reviews of each book that mentioned the same things-very slow to get into the story/hardly any action in first half, horrible whiny annoying MCs that need a slap, MC 'heroes' who are unlikeable thugs/rapists/gangsters or who spend all their time drinking/drug taking, YA love triangles/instalove, more sex than plot/erotic storyline, books where the characters swear six times a sentence for the entire book. These are the things that most put me off books or make me abandon books, so I deleted the free books that fell into more than one of these categories. That took a whopping 100 books from the tbr! OK I might miss out on a couple of good books by deleting that lot but I can live with it!

3) I checked and noted the length of all the ebooks that were left on the list and made the shortest books my priority to read. As some of these introduction novellas are short, I could get maybe 6-10 of those read in a night, which served several purposes. Firstly, it gets a lot of books moved from the tbr to read list, bringing the tbr numbers down. It also let me see if I wanted to continue with a series after reading these short free prequels. A few I read made me want to read on with the series but quite a few weren't good enough for me to care what happened next so I was able to delete a pile from my wishlist too!

4) I have stopped going through free and bargain books on Amazon daily to see what I can pick up. Instead I joined a company who email me daily with details of a couple of free and bargain books featured on Amazon in my chosen genres. I add the odd one to tbr but it is a lot less than I'd add looking daily myself. For anyone interested it is Enter your email address, choose your categories and get the bargain list sent daily to your inbox.

5) Catch up on your favourite series because these are books that you can zoom through faster and you know you will enjoy them(mostly!). This was what I did during the Christmas holidays and into January.

6) My new rules-a) only download a free book if I really really want to read it, not just because it has vampires and is free. b) only buy ebooks under £1 if trying an author for the first time and can't get it free. c) try to borrow new releases from friends instead of just buying first!

So that reduced my tbr by about 350 books in just 4 months! Now every book I have are ones that I want to read. Of the 600 left I estimate about 350 are books where I have read at least one in the series and need to catch up. About 250 are new purchases by new to me authors. Some will be read and loved, some abandoned and disliked but at least I feel as if I have got control of that mountain of books for the first time in five years!

Are you managing your tbrs or are you in book pile chaos?

Stacking the Shelves #68

Stacking the Shelves is a meme hosted by Tynga’s Reviews
Stacking The Shelves is all about sharing the books you are adding to your shelves, may it be physical or virtual. This means you can include books you buy in physical store or online, books you borrow from friends or the library, review books, gifts and of course ebooks! Click on the link under the book to find its page on Goodreads or Smashwords.
Please note that I always leave a message on your STS/SP if you visit me, but if you use DISQUS or a similar third party I will not be able to leave a comment on your page. And sometimes, I have problems leaving messages on blogs hosted by Wordpress. 

January has been a great month for reading for me, finishing 20 books so far. A few of them were short stories but I'm still pleased to be making a dent in my tbr. Progress on that will be in my next blog post later today! It's great to start the year enjoying my reading and catching up with series that I was way behind in. The plan is to just read what I feel like at the time to keep my good streak going until the next reading slump hits me! I hope it is WAY in the distance...

My books this week are a bit of a mixture and a few are from over a week ago and didn't get put on my last STS. I only actually got the zombie and Monster Haven ones this week. I've been good and not spent much at all since Christmas while I try to get more reading done. I'm feeling a bit smug about how good I've been...Anyway the two Monster Haven short stories are numbers 2.5 and 3.5 in the series. I read them both as soon as I got them and I really loved 'What Zoey doesn't know' because it is written in the POV of Maurice the Closet Monster. I love that guy so much! New Order and Low Midnight are additions to series I am following.



Friday, 23 January 2015

Book Review: Hidden Holidays by RL Naquin (Monster Haven #2.5)

The holidays can be overwhelming for anyone, but Zoey is ready to explode when Maurice, her closet-monster roommate, takes celebrations to the extreme. When Zoey ducks out for a little fresh air, she finds a boy with a big problem -- a problem only a mythical creature can have and only Zoey can solve. 

My Review:
Zoey has never really been one for celebrating Christmas, instead going every year to a ski resort with Sara. But this year Maurice is full of festive cheer, stealing a ton of decorations from other people's closets and giving Zoey a massive headache with his cheer and the flashing lights. Plus Iris is ripping up a tree the size of her house to bring inside...

Zoey needs a break and goes to the beach to get her head together where she meets a distressed selkie whose pelt has been stolen. She is determined to find the thief and reunite the selkie with his family.

This was a pretty short story, only about 23 pages but it was still enjoyable. I can understand Zoey feeling a bit overwhelmed by the things Maurice is doing, and her conflicted feelings about Christmas which began when her mother vanished. I can really relate to that. Maurice is of course, the kind og guy you want to share a house with and his enthusiasm would sweep anyone along.

A nice short addition for fans of the series.
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Book Review: Pooka in my Pantry by RL Naquin (Monster Haven #2)

Zoey Donovan—empath, wedding planner, go-to girl for monsters with personal problems—has been marked twice for pickup by Death. On both occasions, Riley the smoking-hot reaper has refused to follow through. For his breach of protocol, Riley is now on probation. For her refusal to die on schedule, Zoey's right to live is challenged. She will have to undergo a life-or-death trial, but she won't know when or where it will happen…

Staying alive might not be so difficult if the Leprechaun Mafia hadn't strolled into town. Now every business owner with the slightest connection to the supernatural community is being threatened with the most appalling bad luck if they don't pay up. Mirrors are smashed, bodies are dropping, and Zoey's still got clients waiting for fabric samples.

With a little luck, she might be able to save everyone and still have time for a second attempt at a decent first date with her favorite reaper.

My Review:
If Zoey thought the incubus problems were bad, then her new set of problems are going to be worse. Riley is on probation for saving her and Zoey is being investigated and tested to see if she is useful to the Powers that Be. If she is, she will be forced to work for them like her missing mother, if not she will be killed. The Leprechaun Mafia are in town demanding protection money from Zoey and her friends or death will follow, Maurice leaves to try and save his marriage and a bad luck pooka moves in and throws her life into utter chaos.

Zoey is tested by being given bad luck to endure so the arrival of Silas the Pooka multiplies it. Suddenly Zoey can't walk to her car without an accident happening. There is a lot of pure slapstick fun as Zoey becomes the most accident prone person in the world. Her date on the cruise ship with Riley is very funny-spied on by the obnoxious Art and his clicking pen, followed by her bad luck Pooka and ending up in the mess from hell. I don't want to spoil it for readers but the whole scene is funny and totally over the top which appealed to my sense of humour. Sara has to come and stay with Zoey when bad luck starts rubbing off on her which leads to a lot of crazy things happening at the house with Maurice trying to keep things tidy without being seen. Iris of course is a bit more difficult to hide...

Don't panic if you are fans of Maurice because there is plenty of Maurice in the book to enjoy. He is even more concerned about everything that is happening to Zoey and proves himself to be a loyal friend as always. I still don't really feel the chemistry between Zoey and Riley but I do quite like him as a character so it doesn't affect my opinion of the book. I hated Silas to start with but he did grow on me as time went on. I also liked the gremlins who reminded me of Smeagol in Lord of the Rings, and the very cool Frannie. We see plenty of Sara, Andrew, Iris and co as well which is good. The Mafia make good bad guys and there is something that I really hated them for doing, something that made me cry like a blubbering wreck for several pages and curse the author many times . It was HORRIBLE and SAD!!!

There is plenty going on in this book. There are lots of things to laugh at, sad gut wrenching moments, tons of action, Zoey getting into lots of accidents and problems and a mystery to solve. It was interesting to delve into a bit of Zoey's past with a few hints about what happened to her mother, which seems to be explored more in the next full length book.

I'm enjoying this series and I'm now reading book 3 but I do have a slight concern about the next book involving a road trip for Zoey and Riley. If Maurice is missing, half the fun is gone!!!
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Book Review: Ill Conceived Magic by RL Naquin (Monster Haven #1.5)

Empath and caretaker to monsters, Zoey Donovan, finds a package on her front lawn. It cries a lot and wears diapers. It also has horns, cloven hooves, and green skin. Zoey and Maurice the closet monster look for the unlikely parents in a crazy attempt to bring together the mismatched family. A dangerous prospect, considering the family's hostile relatives.

Ill-Conceived Magic is a short story in the same world as the Monster Haven novels from Carina Press. It also includes a bonus first chapter of Pooka in My Pantry. This story can be enjoyed without having read the novels. However, it fits chronologically between book one, Monster in My Closet, and book two, Pooka in My Pantry.

My Review:
Having been surprised at how funny Monster in my Closet was, I couldn't wait to get onto this short story which I picked up free last year, to see what Zoey and Maurice did next.

Zoey finds a half satyr, half dryad baby abandoned on her doorstep and she and Maurice are clueless as to what to do. They decide to find the real parents to see if the problem can be solved which means facing down hostile dryad women and horny violent satyrs. Maurice is in a panic about Zoey's safety but she is only concerned with the baby's welfare.

For a short story, this had everything-paranormal action, lots of laughs and a big pile of Maurice! What else could you want? The fun comes in the form of Maurice and Phil doing karaoke to the Titanic theme with Phil of course using words that make sense only to him! I couldn't stop laughing! Instead of 'near, far, wherever you are' from Maurice, we got from Phil 'yawn, stew, forget my old shoe'. Very funny. Phil's guide to nappy changing was amusing as well. I was also amused in a sick way by the initial slimy introductions from the satyrs until they got nasty.

We also get the serious side, exploring the friendship between Zoey and Maurice, asking the question of can you accept friends for who they are, even if they have a side you don't like much? Poor Maurice really goes through hell on this journey, trying to keep her safe and fearing that he might lose her friendship. The story also explores the relationship between two enemy races and the prejudice that the resulting baby has to face from both sides, which I found pretty poignant.

Overall this was a great addition to the series and I really liked it. I recommend this series to fans of paranormal cozy mysteries and light urban fantasy.
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