Format: Audiobook

Review: The Sun Down Motel by Simone St. James

Posted November 11, 2020 by Holly in Reviews | 1 Comment

Review: The Sun Down Motel by Simone St. JamesReviewer: Holly
The Sun Down Motel by Simone St. James
Narrator: Kirsten Potter, Brittany Pressley
Publisher: Berkley
Publication Date: February 18, 2020
Format: eBook, Audiobook
Source: Purchased
Point-of-View: Alternating First
Cliffhanger: View Spoiler »
Content Warning: View Spoiler »
Genres: Horror, Gothic, Thriller
Pages: 327
Add It: Goodreads
Reading Challenges: Holly's 2020 Reading Challenge
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four-stars

The secrets lurking in a rundown roadside motel ensnare a young woman, just as they did her aunt thirty-five years before, in this new atmospheric suspense novel from the national bestselling and award-winning author of The Broken Girls.

Upstate NY, 1982. Every small town like Fell, New York, has a place like the Sun Down Motel. Some customers are from out of town, passing through on their way to someplace better. Some are locals, trying to hide their secrets. Viv Delaney works as the night clerk to pay for her move to New York City. But something isn't right at the Sun Down, and before long she's determined to uncover all of the secrets hidden…

I recently had a Zoom call with some book friends and Wendy the Super Librarian recommended this novel. It had been in my TBR pile for awhile, but I moved it to the top. I usually enjoy novels by St. James, but this one was of the better ones I’ve read in awhile. The creepiness of the motel, the alternating story-lines and the mystery of what happened in the 1980s was gripping.

When Carly’s mom dies of cancer, she learns of an aunt she never knew existed..one who disappeared in the 1980s that no one ever talks about. Determined to connect with her family history, she travels to Fell, New York, to see if she can uncover what happened.

In 1982, Viv Delaney hitchhiked to Fell, New York and took a job as a night clerk at The Sun Down Motel. She expected it to be a stop-over point on her way to New York to pursue a career in acting. But strange things are happening in Fell, New York, and creepy things go on at night at The Sun Down. It isn’t long before Viv is wrapped up in the mystery of several local missing or murdered women.

The story alternates between Carly in the present and Viv in the 1980s. Carly is trying to figure out what happened to her aunt, and we’re given small pieces of the puzzle from Viv’s point of view in the 80s. I really enjoyed the two narrators and how the story was woven between the two time periods. I figured out pretty early on where things were headed, but I still enjoyed watching the story unfold.

I was slightly disappointed in the end, but I’d still definitely recommend it if you’re looking for a creepy, Gothic mystery.

Rating: 4.25 out of 5

four-stars


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Review: A Heart of Blood and Ashes by Milla Vane

Posted September 14, 2020 by Holly in Reviews | 0 Comments

Review: A Heart of Blood and Ashes by Milla VaneReviewer: Holly
A Heart of Blood and Ashes by Milla Vane
Narrator: Nicole Poole
Series: A Gathering of Dragons #1
Publisher: Berkley
Publication Date: February 4, 2020
Format: eARC, Audiobook
Source: NetGalley, Purchased
Point-of-View: Alternating Third
Cliffhanger: View Spoiler »
Content Warning: View Spoiler »
Genres: Fantasy
Pages: 555
Length: 15 hours and 16 minutes
Add It: Goodreads
Reading Challenges: Goodreads Challenge, Holly's 2020 Goodreads Challenge, Holly's 2020 Reading Challenge
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four-stars
Series Rating: four-stars

A generation past, the western realms were embroiled in endless war. Then the Destroyer came. From the blood and ashes he left behind, a tenuous alliance rose between the barbarian riders of Parsathe and the walled kingdoms of the south. That alliance is all that stands against the return of an ancient evil - until the barbarian king and queen are slain in an act of bloody betrayal.

Though forbidden by the alliance council to kill the corrupt king responsible for his parents’ murders, Maddek vows to avenge them, even if it costs him the Parsathean crown. But when he learns it was the king’s daughter who lured his parents to their deaths, the barbarian warrior is determined to make her pay.

Yet the woman Maddek captures is not what he expected. Though the last in a line of legendary warrior-queens, Yvenne is small and weak, and the sharpest weapons she wields are her mind and her tongue. Even more surprising is the marriage she proposes to unite them in their goals and to claim their thrones—because her desire for vengeance against her father burns even hotter than his own…

I’ve been waiting for Milla Vane (aka Meljean Brook) to return to writing for years. When this book popped up on NetGalley, I actually squee’d out loud. Then I started it and…wasn’t in the mood. It had nothing to do with the book, I just wasn’t feeling a dark epic fantasy at that time. Fast forward to this month; I saw the audiobook and decided to purchase it. I’m really glad I did. I ended up loving the narrator.

Maddek is determined to avenge the death of his parents at the hands of a neighboring kingdom. When the traditional path is closed to him because of the alliance, he decides to take his revenge in another way…by killing the heir to their thrown. The problem? Yvenne is nothing like he expected. She’s small, weak and nothing like the warrior queen he expected. She’s also just as determined to bring her father down as Maddek is. Though he trusts her not at all, he agrees to take her as his wife if it means being able to kill her father and brothers.

The overall theme of this novel is very dark, and so are the actions of both characters. Maddek was bent on revenge and could see nothing else. Yvenne was determined to kill her father and claim her kingdom. She was also determined to make Maddek into a king, whether he wanted it or not. Yvenne was fierce, for all her physical frailty. I loved how she stood up for herself, and wielded her tongue like a weapon. I liked their dynamic, though his vow that he would rip her tongue out if she spoke of his mother was frustrating. I understood Maddek’s need for vengeance, but I didn’t love the way he treated Yvenne. I wish he’d have wised up a little sooner. In the end, I forgave him because Yvenne did.

I did think it moved a bit slow in parts and the world-building took some time, but I enjoyed the book as a whole.

3.75 out of 5

A Gathering of Dragons

four-stars


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Review: The A.I. Who Loved Me by Alyssa Cole

Posted August 24, 2020 by Holly in Reviews | 1 Comment

Review: The A.I. Who Loved Me by Alyssa ColeReviewer: Holly
The A.I. Who Loved Me by Alyssa Cole
Narrator: Regina Hall, Mindy Kaling, Feodor Chin, Therese Plummer, Dina Pearlman, Neil Hellegers, Adenrele Ojo, Kyla Garcia
Publisher: Self-Published
Publication Date: December 3, 2019
Format: Audiobook
Source: Audible Escape
Point-of-View: Alternating First
Content Warning: View Spoiler »
Genres: Science Fiction
Pages: 125
Length: 5 hours and 18 minutes
Add It: Goodreads
Reading Challenges: Goodreads Challenge, Holly's 2020 Goodreads Challenge, Holly's 2020 New to Me Challenge, New to Me Challenge
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three-half-stars

Listening Length: 5 hours and 18 minutes

A captivating romantic comedy with a thrilling sci-fi twist by award-winning author Alyssa Cole!

Trinity Jordan leads a quiet, normal life: working from home for the Hive, a multifunctional government research center, and recovering from the incident that sent her into a tailspin. But the life she’s trying to rebuild is plagued by mishaps when Li Wei, her neighbor’s super sexy and super strange nephew, moves in and turns things upside down. Li Wei’s behavior is downright odd—and the attraction building between them is even more so. When an emergency pulls his aunt away from the apartment complex, Trinity decides to keep an eye on him…and slowly discovers that nothing is what it seems. For one thing, Li Wei isn’t just the hot guy next door—he’s the hot A.I. next door. In fact, he’s so advanced that he blurs the line between man and machine. It’s up to Trinity to help him achieve his objective of learning to be human, but danger is mounting as they figure out whether he’s capable of the most illogical human behavior of all…falling in love.

I loved the narrators. They definitely made the experience for me.

Trinity is recovering from an accident at her previous job at a government research center. She’s trying to heal emotionally and physically. She spends most of her time in her apartment building, either hanging out with her two best friends or swimming or running. When she’s introduced to her neighbor’s extremely attractive nephew, Li Wei, she kind of goes into a tailspin. All of a sudden pieces of her memory are coming back, and what she sees in front of her isn’t adding up. When she realizes Li Wei is actually an A.I., she begins to question everything..especially her sanity, since she can’t deny her major attraction to him.

The story is told from both Trinity and Li Wei’s points-of-view as they both recover. Li Wei is working on recovering his memory systems and becoming a fully functional A.I., while Trinity is in physical and mental therapy. I really loved how they came to know one another, and how Li Wei insisted from the beginning that Trinity was to be fully trusted.

The world took a bit to fall into, since so much is strange and we see the majority of it from Trinity’s POV. I struggled with the first couple hours of the audio, even with the excellent narrators, but I’m glad I pushed through because I really enjoyed the story. I wouldn’t mind finding an AI like Li Wei for myself. I’m just saying.

I’m looking forward to more books in this series.

Rating: 3.75 out of 5

three-half-stars


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Review: Wishing for a Highlander by Jessi Gage

Posted August 10, 2020 by Holly in Reviews | 1 Comment

Review: Wishing for a Highlander by Jessi GageReviewer: Holly
Wishing for a Highlander by Jessi Gage
Narrator: Marian Hussey
Series: Highland Wishes #1
Publisher: Self-Published
Publication Date: January 31, 2014
Format: eBook, Audiobook
Source: Kindle Unlimited
Point-of-View: Alternating Third
Cliffhanger: View Spoiler »
Content Warning: View Spoiler »
Genres: Time Travel, Historical Romance
Pages: 344
Length: 10 hours and 35 minutes
Add It: Goodreads
Reading Challenges: Goodreads Challenge, Holly's 2020 Goodreads Challenge, Holly's 2020 New to Me Challenge, New to Me Challenge
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Ripped Bodice | Google Play Books
two-half-stars
Series Rating: three-stars

Single-and-pregnant museum worker Melanie voices an idle wish while examining a Scottish artifact, that a Highland warrior would sweep her off her feet and help her forget her cheating ex. The last thing she expects is for her wish to be granted. Magically transported to the middle of a clan skirmish in the sixteenth-century Highlands, she comes face to face with her kilted fantasy man.

Tall, handsome, and heir to his uncle’s lairdship, Darcy Keith should be the most eligible bachelor in Ackergill. Instead, thanks to a prank played on him in his teenage years, he is known for being too large under his kilt to ever make a proper husband. “Big Darcy” runs his deceased father’s windmills and lives alone at his family manor, believing he will never marry.

But a strangely-dressed woman he rescues from a clan skirmish makes him long for more. When the woman’s claims of coming to Ackergill by magic reach the laird’s ears, she is accused of witchcraft. Darcy determines to protect her any way he can, even if it means binding her to him forever.

Wishing for a Highlander is the first book in the Highland Wishes series by Jessi Gage. It was my first read from the author. I’ve had the second book in this series, The Wolf and the Highlander, on my wish list for ages. I was looking for a new audiobook, saw The Wolf and the Highlander and realized it was the second book in the series, so I downloaded this one instead. I got it from Kindle Unlimited and it included the audiobook as well. I liked the narrator, but the story wasn’t very good. It wasn’t awful, but I’m kind of sad I didn’t skip it and go right to the second book.

Melanie is a modern day girl who works in a museum. She got knocked up by her boyfriend of a year, only to find out he’d been cheating on her the whole time they were together and he wants nothing to do with the baby since he’s marrying the girl he’s been cheating with. On a whim, she makes a wish for a handsome Highlander of her very own on a new artifact the museum has acquired. To her surprise, her wish comes true and she’s transported to 1517, in the middle of a clan skirmish, where she’s forced to stab a man because he’s about to rape her. She’s rescued by a giant of a Highlander – Big Darcy – who claims responsibility for her. Within moments of arriving at his keep, they end up married to protect her. Still, Darcy vows to help her find a way home, and he plans to keep that vow.

Darcy is a giant of a man, and he’s never been with a woman because of it. One of the clan women refused him because of his size, and he’s been afraid of rejection (and hurting a woman) ever since. Marrying Melanie is the perfect way to get his laird off his back about taking a bride, and since she’s already pregnant he doesn’t have to worry about that, either. Until she makes him promise to get her back home. He’s a man of his word, so he’ll do it, even if he’s not happy about it.

I almost DNF’d this book early on, because the whole “He’s too big for any woman” thing is pretty ridiculous, plus Melanie’s dumb thoughts drove me up a wall. I ended up finishing it, however, and the second half wasn’t as bad as the first (as far as Melanie was concerned). I really liked Darcy. He was sweet and lovable, despite his insecurities. He was very supportive of Melanie and determined to do what he thought was right.

Melanie and all her wishy-washy thoughts drove me crazy. First she was mad because she thought Darcy broke his word, then she was mad because she wanted him to want her. It was ridiculous. That settled down in the second half of the book, however, and I really liked their romance and the way things progressed between them.

View Spoiler »

What really drove me crazy was the “villain”, however. Anya was a mean, petty woman who created havoc just to create it. The reason I’m mad I read this book first, however, is because Anya is the heroine of the second book. I’m not sure she can be redeemed, and even if she is, I’m not sure I care to read about her. I might try the book at a later date, but I need some space from this book before I try.

I did enjoy aspects of this book, and I’m low-key curious about the next book. I guess we’ll see if I decide to continue on.

Rating: 2.75 out of 5

Highland Wishes

two-half-stars


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Review: Stolen Songbird by Danielle L. Jensen

Posted August 3, 2020 by Holly in Reviews | 0 Comments

Review: Stolen Songbird by Danielle L. JensenReviewer: Holly
Stolen Songbird by Danielle L. Jensen
Narrator: Eric Michael Summerer, Erin Moon
Series: The Malediction Trilogy #1
Also in this series: Hidden Huntress , Warrior Witch
Publisher: Angry Robot
Publication Date: April 1, 2014
Format: eBook, Audiobook
Source: Purchased
Point-of-View: Alternating First
Cliffhanger: View Spoiler »
Content Warning: View Spoiler »
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
Pages: 469
Length: 14 hours and 30 minutes
Add It: Goodreads
Reading Challenges: Goodreads Challenge, Holly's 2020 Goodreads Challenge
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Ripped Bodice | Google Play Books
four-stars
Series Rating: four-stars

For five centuries, a witch’s curse has bound the trolls to their city beneath the mountain. When Cécile de Troyes is kidnapped and taken beneath the mountain, she realises that the trolls are relying on her to break the curse.

Cécile has only one thing on her mind: escape. But the trolls are clever, fast, and inhumanly strong. She will have to bide her time…

But the more time she spends with the trolls, the more she understands their plight. There is a rebellion brewing. And she just might be the one the trolls were looking for...

Stolen Songbird is the first book in Danielle L. Jensen‘s The Malediction Trilogy. I’m not generally a fan of YA novels, but I read and enjoyed Jensen’s The Bridge Kingdom series, so I figured I’d give this one a try. This is the first book in a trilogy, so it ended with something of a cliffhanger.

Cécile grew up on a farm with her siblings and her father, but she was promised to her mother on her 17th birthday. Her mother is a famous opera singer, and she plans to groom Cécile to follow in her footsteps. On the day before she’s supposed to leave for the city, she’s kidnapped and taken below the Forsaken Mountain to the cursed city of Trollus.

Five hundred years ago a witch cursed the Trolls to live forever Under the Mountain. They are bound to their city until the curse is broken. A new prophecy names Cécile as the one who can break the curse. She’s immediately bonded to the Troll Prince, Tristan. Now she only has one goal in mind..to escape Trollus and free herself. But nothing is as it seems in Trollus, mostly especially not her new husband…

Stolen Songbird is a well-written, very engaging novel. I really enjoyed the court politics and intrigues, and I loved getting to know the city. The secondary characters were wonderful, and I loved how nuanced they were.

I found Cécile to be rather impetuous and the way she and Tristan treated each other for much of the novel was frustrating, but I can’t say I blame either of them for acting the way they did. Tristan had lived his entire life hiding his true intentions, and Cécile had been stolen away from everything she ever knew. Their bonding meant they could sense the other’s emotions, and if one died the other was likely to die as well. I think this worked against the romance. I never really believed they had a true love connection. They spent little time together getting to know one another, and they never really came to trust each other. It felt like the only reason they were “in love” at the end was because they were forced to through the bonding. I’d have liked to see that play out a little different.

Still, I enjoyed the novel as a whole and I immediately picked up the second book. The politics, intrigue, hidden (and some not so hidden) monsters all made for lovely tale.

Rating: 4 out of 5

The Malediction Trilogy

four-stars


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