Title: Wrong Place Wrong Time by Gillian McAllister

 

Title: Wrong Place Wrong Time

Author: Gillian McAllister

Published: 12th May 2022, Michael Joseph

Status: Read June 2022 courtesy Penguin UK/Netgalley

+++++++++

 

My Thoughts:

 

Jen’s relief at her teenage son’s return home late one October Friday night, turns to horror as she witnesses him stab a man just meters from their front door. Todd is promptly arrested, and Jen, along with her husband, Kelly, are left stunned, unable to speak with him until the next morning when they can return with a solicitor. The last thing Jen remembers of that night is dozing on the sofa, but when she wakes she is in bed, Todd is in his bedroom, Kelly is at work, and it’s Friday morning …again.

Jen is confused, her son and husband are bemused by her story, and Jen allows herself to be convinced she dreamed the whole thing, but nevertheless insists Todd stays home, and as she’s falling asleep she is confident she’s avoided a nightmare scenario. So why, when she next wakes, is it the day before the day before?

Every time Jen wakes, she finds herself further back in the past, sometimes days, weeks and even years, eventually realising that to change the future, and save her son, she has to determine where everything went wrong. I felt sympathy for Jen as her whole life slowly began to unravel, her past revealing crushing secrets, and admired her determination to find the answers.

The plot is intricate, though not unfathomably so, once you become comfortable with the time slips. While I’m not a fan of time travel generally, I found I was quickly absorbed in this high concept story. The novel unfolds at a compelling pace, despite moving backwards from the crime to its cause, and offers plenty of surprising twists. The epilogue too is quite the stunner.

Intriguing and clever, Gillian McAllister presents an original premise executed with impressive skill in Wrong Place Wrong Time.

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Review: The Change by Kirsten Miller

 

Title: The Change

Author: Kirsten Miller

Published: 3rd May 2022, William Morrow

Status: Read May 2022 courtesy William Morrow/Edelweiss

++++++++

 

My Thoughts:

 

“Why do you think women are designed to outlive men? Why do we keep going for thirty years after our bodies can no longer reproduce? Do you think nature meant for those years to be useless? No, of course not. Our lives our designed to have three parts. The first is education. The second, creation. And in part three, we put our experience to use to protect those who are weaker. This third stage, which you have entered, can be one of incredible power.”

The Change is a wildly entertaining modern feminist revenge thriller with a supernatural edge from Kirsten Miller.

In the Long Island oceanfront community of Mattauk, three women embrace their destiny to avenge a murdered teenage girl discarded in a garbage bag amongst the dunes. It’s the recently widowed nurse Nessa who hears her ghostly cries, a talent inherited from her grandmother; gym owner Jo, who identifies the targets for their rage, while Harriet, whose stunning transformation from successful advertising executive to ‘wild’ woman, leads and inspires them.

As a woman very close to turning 50, suffering from the chaotic symptoms of peri menopause, uncomfortably close to becoming an empty nester, and angered by renewed attempts to subjugate women, I found something to relate to in all three of these characters. I enjoyed the fantasy of gaining power that defies western society’s general expectations for ageing women, particularly admiring Harriet’s metamorphosis and her new affinity for nature.

I was engaged by the mystery and its twists. With the Mattauk law enforcement seemingly dismissive of the victim found near the beach, the three women unite to determine the identity of her killer, eventually learning of more victims, and a shocking conspiracy perpetrated by the towns’ richest residents. I was fairly cheering as Nessa, Jo and Harriet wreaked their vengeance on the guilty.

With plenty of action and suspense, I thought the pacing was very good, and despite its length (480 pages) read the book almost in one sitting. I enjoyed the writer’s use of dark humour, and insightful, often blunt, commentary.

Compelling, witty and provocative, I found The Change to be a captivating, and even cathartic read, and recommend it without reservation.

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Review: One Foot in the Fade by Luke Arnold

 

Title: One Foot in the Fade {Fetch Philips Archives #3}

Author: Luke Arnold

Published: 26th April 2022, Orbit

Status: Read May 2022 courtesy Hachette/Netgalley

++++++++

My Thoughts:

“An Angel had fallen in Sunder City: bloody, broken, and the best thing to happen in seven long years.”

One Foot in the Fade, the third instalment of the Fetch Philips Archives fantasy series, from Luke Arnold, picks up about a year after Dead Man in a Ditch ended.

‘Man for Hire’ Fetch is as determined as ever to bring magic back to Sunder City, and rescue it from the grasp of industrialist, Niles. When an angel plummets to the ground at his feet, Fetch dares to hope that redemption may finally be within reach.

While mostly retaining the same noir tone of previous books, One Foot in the Fade leans more into adventure as Fetch, after catching a jewellery thief, sets out on a cross-country quest to claim a magical artifact, and save the world he broke. Accompanied by a librarian, a genie, a werewolf, and a young college student, Fetch encounters dragons, amalgams, crazed wizards, golems, and a Minotaur in pursuit of a crown hidden in a castle in Incava.

Convinced he has a real chance of rectifying his past mistake, Fetch seems to lose what little good sense he had. Already an anti-hero, Fetch steps closer to villainy, ignoring the means in favour of his ends. I was initially disappointed to see him lose ground made in previous novels, as Fetch, impulsive and abrasive at the best of times, becomes careless and sometimes cruel. Too caught up in his dream of magic returning, Fetch brushes over the harm he is doing until he’s forced to tally the cost of his actions.

This isn’t a series I’d recommend picking up midway as Arnold expands his world with each book, but more importantly, each story relies heavily on the character growth of Fetch.

With its entertaining mix of adventure, drama and dark humour, I enjoyed One Foot in the Fade. Though Arnold may have originally planned the Fetch Phillips Archives as a trilogy, I don’t think this is necessarily the last we will see of Fetch, a possibility hinted at in the last few pages.

++++++++

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Review: Her Fierce Creatures by Maria Lewis

 

Title: Her Fierce Creatures {Supernatural Sisters #8}

Author: Maria Lewis

Published: 8th March 2022, Hachette Australia

Status: Read March 2022 courtesy Hachette Australia

++++++++

 

My Thoughts:

 

Her Fierce Creatures is the breathtaking conclusion of Maria Lewis’s award-winning Supernatural Sisters urban fantasy series.

Since my very late introduction to this series with The Rose Daughter, I’ve tracked down the earlier instalments but regrettably not had the time to read them, so I was hesitant to jump into the finale. I was relieved to find my lack of familiarity with the series overall proved not to be a hindrance, and I quickly found myself absorbed in Her Fierce Creatures.

After centuries of oppression and increasing cruelty by the Trieze, the ruling class of the supernatural that live hidden among modern society, the time has come to revolt. The balance of power hinges on the safe delivery of banshee Sadie Burke’s triplets, and the best way to protect them is to disrupt and divide the forces of the Praetorian Guard, uniting races and clans in the fight.

Supernatural emissaries from all over the world gather in the Australian dessert to plan their rebellion. Vankila, the Scottish underground prison from which sprite Dreckly Jones is the only one to have ever escaped, is a priority target and they devise a risky plan in which werewolf Tommi Grayson gets herself arrested, to stage a break out, rather than a break in.

There’s lots of fast paced, high tension action as Tommi enacts the plan with plenty of help, while groups of volunteers simultaneously attack other Trieze facilities around the world. Dreckly Jones and Corvossier ‘Casper’ von Klitzing, also play major roles in the battle. The clashes are dangerous and violent, and there are losses that will weigh heavily on them all.

Meanwhile Sadie is hidden from the Trieze in a remote New Zealand stronghold, guarded by her family and Tommi’s Māori werewolf relatives. Sadie is struggling with both the physical and emotional pressures of her pregnancy, and her anxiety grows after a vision suggests that the Trieze will come for her. Werewolf Simon is tasked as Sadie’s personal guard, and I was surprised and delighted by the heartwarming romance that developed between the two.

Her Fierce Creatures is a must read for fans of the series, those familiar with the Supernatural Sisters will appreciate the elements of closure for the characters they’ve grown to know and love, and the ending is as dramatic and climatic as could be hoped for.

++++++++

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Review: Impossible by Sarah Lotz

 

Title: Impossible

Author: Sarah Lotz

Published: 17th March 2022, HarperCollins UK

Read: March 2022 courtesy HarperCollins/Netgalley

++++++++

 

My Thoughts:

 

I fell in love with Impossible (also published as Impossible Us) by Sarah Lotz a sublime romance with a fantastical twist.

When Nick sends an angry email to a late-paying client that is erroneously delivered to Bee’s inbox, her witty response and his sincere apology leads to daily exchanges, that quickly shift in tone from cautious and friendly to candid and flirty. Meeting in person is the obvious next step, but though they both claim to be waiting under the clock at Euston Station they can’t seem to find one another. While Bee assumes that her best friend, Leila, is right and she’s been had, Nick realises that something strange is happening…something impossible.

Unfolding through the email exchanges and first person narratives of Nick and Bee, Impossible offers a heartfelt romance thwarted by rules of physics. I don’t want to attempt a clumsy explanation of how this happens because you deserve to be drawn into their unconventional love story, and convinced by Lotz that the impossible is possible.

This is a book that appeals directly to the romantic at heart with numerous direct and oblique references to film and literary classics such as The Lake House, You’ve Got Mail, Sliding Doors, Rebecca, and Strangers on a Train, with a little David Bowie thrown in as a bonus, but nevertheless the plot feels creative and fresh. More serious issues are touched on too though including infidelity, suicide, domestic violence, and environmental harm.

I was entertained by the witty banter between Bee and Nick, and Lotz develops their chemistry with ease. Both protagonists are older than you might expect, Bee, a fashion designer with her own small business repurposing wedding gowns, is in her early to mid thirties, while Nick, a largely unsuccessful author, is forty-five. Credibly portrayed with a mix of strengths and flaws, they are appealing characters that I found easy to invest in.

Though quite different in tone and theme to her last book, Missing Person, Lotz’s flair for original storytelling, dynamic characterisation, and expressive writing remains compelling.

Witty, poignant, surprising and absorbing, I recommend you embrace the Impossible.

+++++++

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Review: Legends & Lattes by Travis Baldree

Title: Legends and Lattes

Author: Travis Baldree

Published: 22nd February 2022, Cryptid Press

Status: Read February 2022 courtesy the author

+++++++

My Thoughts:

Regular blog readers might think this is an odd title for me to be enthusiastic about, but I’m a fan of Dungeons & Dragons, currently working my way through Campaign 1 of Critical Role’s stream, while keeping up with Campaign 3 (and the animated series of Campaign 1 ‘Vox Machina’ on Amazon Prime). My son has been playing with a group fortnightly for five years and in the meantime we’ve accumulated a lot of D&D board games, books and resources.

So when I spied a post for the upcoming title Legends and Lattes by Travis Baldree on my Twitter feed I immediately added it to my TBR, curious about how the combination of cosy mystery and D&D themed fantasy would work. Then the author announced he was looking for reviewers and I signed up with my fingers crossed.

In Legends and Lattes, Viv, an orc-barbarian, has had enough of murder and mayhem and after tearing a stone reputed to bring luck from the cleaved head of a Scalvert Queen, leaves her adventuring party and sets off to the town of Thune. Relying on the pull of a dowsing rod, Viv is led to a near derelict livery, and after haggling with its owner, finally has a place she can call her own. Viv plans to introduce coffee to Thune by establishing the city’s very first coffee shop and, hiring a  taciturn hob named Calamity as her carpenter, sets about transforming the property.

The business gets off to a slow start, but with the help of Tandri, a savvy succubus looking to be taken seriously, and a ratkin, Mr Thimble, who produces the most divine pastries, ‘Legends and Lattes’ soon attracts regular customers. As the menu grows, so does the cafe’s popularity, but Viv can’t quite let go of the worry that she’ll lose it all.

There’s not a lot of subtlety when it comes to the story’s themes, but I was charmed by the way in which this group of disparate but delightful characters come together, accepting one another for who they are, and encouraging each other to be who they want to be. There’s also a sweet romance that develops between Viv and her assistant Tandri, with just a little angst stemming from their own insecurities as an obstacle.

There’s not a mystery per se in Legends & Lattes, but there is a little well paced, light suspense and drama when the neighbourhood gang insist Viv pay them for the privilege of operating in their territory, and a former party member decides he wants Viv’s reward from their last bounty. Though tempted, Viv is determined to not revert to her old ways of dealing with problems, even when it threatens to cost her everything.

As promised on the cover, Legends & Lattes is a novel of ‘high fantasy and low stakes’, a winsome, heart warming, feel good read to enjoy with your favourite brew and pastry.

+++++++

Available on Amazon, Audible/iTunes, and in paperback
https://www.amazon.com/dp/B09R9FSZB5

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Review: The Iron Sword by Julie Kagawa

 

Title: The Iron Sword {The Iron Fey: Evenfall #2}

Author: Julie Kagawa

Published: 2nd February 2022, HQ YA

Status: Read February 2022 courtesy Harlequin Australia

++++++++

 

My Thoughts:

 

“The end has begun. Evenfall is coming. Faery and every living creature that exists under the sun are doomed.”

While it’s not strictly necessary to be familiar with the Iron Fey series which includes the four books of The Iron Fey (The Iron King, The Iron Daughter, The Iron Queen and The Iron Knight) and The Iron Fey: Call of Forgotten trilogy (The Lost Prince, The Iron Traitor and The Iron Warrior), plus various novellas, you do need to have read the first book of this spin-off series, The Iron Raven, to enjoy this direct sequel.

The Iron Sword begins where The Iron Raven ended, though this time the story is told from Ash’s point of view, as Ash, the unseelie Winter Prince with a soul, and his wife, Megan, the human Iron Queen, learn that their son, Kierran, King of the Forgotten, is missing after his realm in the Between was corrupted by a shadow monster. Joined by Puck, assassin Nyx, and Grimalkin, the party sets off in search of Kierran while trying to learn more about Evenfall, and the shadow monsters invading Faery. Their journey takes them into the mortal world where Kierran is protecting the survivors of his kingdom, and it’s here, with some help from Megan’s half brother, and his wife, Kenzie, that they will find the answers they all seek.

With Ash taking centre stage as the narrator of The Iron Sword, Megan and Puck are essentially sidelined. Ash is not a terribly complicated character, and I felt his narrative reflected this. His internal monologues were quite repetitive, declarations to protect his family at any cost, and a debate, influenced by the negative emotions stirred by the various shadow monsters, about the consequences of unleashing, or failing to unleash, his full unseelie nature.

Fortunately there’s plenty of fast paced action in The Iron Sword because Ash is a dynamic fighter, A few smaller skirmishes eventually lead to an impressive multi-staged battle that the group seem on the verge of losing until some surprising allies step in. Kagawa is skilled at conjuring these scenes so that it’s easy to visualise the chaos of swords and magic as the hero’s and monsters clash.

I don’t want to spoil the particulars of what Evenfall is, but I do think it works well within Kagawa’s established lore. I also liked the connections she drew between the real world and fey elements.

Unsurprisingly the book ends on a cliffhanger, with the whole of faery, and the mortal world, in danger of shattering. I expect it will be Megan who will tell the final instalment of the trilogy, and I’m looking forward to it. The nightmare of Evenfall is upon us.

+++++++

Available from Harlequin Teen

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Review: A Marvellous Light by Freya Marske

Title: A Marvellous Light {The Binding #1}

Author: Freya Marske

Published: 26th October 2021, Tor UK

Status: Read January 2022 courtesy Pan Macmillan Australia 

+++++++

My Thoughts:

Blending fantasy, romance and mystery A Marvellous Light is a delightfully entertaining novel, the first in a new series, from Freya Marske.

As Mr. Edwin Courcey conjures a snowflake from glowing string above his office desk, it’s clear to Sir Robert (Robin) Blythe that his assignation to His Majesty’s Civil Service as Assistant in the Office of Special Domestic Affairs and Complaints has been a mistake, even more so when he is cursed by a group of faceless men in search of a document his missing office predecessor, Reggie Gatling, hid. It’s a rather harrowing introduction to a world of magic concealed from most of ordinary society, an unbusheling Robin would prefer to forget, but in order to have the painful curse devouring him lifted, Reggie, or the secreted contract, must be found.

When Edwin and Robin are unable to locate Reggie quickly, Edwin, who has a talent for understanding magic but is a weak practitioner, attempts to devise a way to lift the curse himself. Meanwhile the pair continue to seek more information about the magical artefacts demanded by the shadowy thugs, despite being assaulted by vicious swans, and a murderous maze.

Set in Edwardian England, Marske captures the period credibly, from the behaviour and attitudes of the characters to her descriptions of London and country manor estates. The magic system sits well within the world Marske has created, and I thought the basics were adequately explained. I really liked some of the more unique elements, such as using the movements of a Cat’s Cradle to cast spells, and the sentient nature of the magic that imbues family estates.

A Marvellous Light unfolds from the alternating perspectives of Edwin and Robin. Edwin presents as aloof, cautious and fastidious, while Robin is easy-going, and charming. Both men are from dysfunctional aristocratic family’s, though only Edwin is part of the magical community.

I really liked the dynamic between Edwin and Robin. While neither is particularly impressed with one another initially, they slowly become friends. Given the illegal status of homosexuality during the period, both men are wary of expressing their growing sexual attraction though. I thought Marske built the romantic tension between Edwin and Robin very well, and the mix of tenderness and heat in their relationship was appealing, though I wasn’t expecting the sex to be quite so explicit.

A Marvellous Light isn’t perfect but I fell into the story so easily, it’s charming, witty and fun and I’m already looking forward to the next.

+++++++

Available from Pan Macmillan Australia

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Review: House of Hollow by Krystal Sutherland


Title: House of Hollow

Author: Krystal Sutherland

Published: 30th March 2021, Penguin

Status: Read May 2021 courtesy PenguinRandomHouse Australia

++++++

My Thoughts:

 

“Dark, dangerous things happened around the Hollow sisters.”

 

House of Hollow is a beguiling story of sisters, secrets, and shadows by Krystal Sutherland.

Iris Hollow has no memory of what happened during the month after she and her sisters disappeared from a suburban street in Scotland as children, but there is no doubt that they were changed by their experience. Not only did their brown hair turn white, their blue eyes darken to black, and each bear a half moon scar at the base of their necks, they also possessed an inexplicable sway over anyone who gets too close.

Ten years after they were found, 21 year old Grey is a celebrity supermodel turned fashion designer, and nineteen year old Vivi tours European cities with her punk band, while 17 year old Iris remains at home with their mother, finishing her last year at school, and dreaming of attending a University where no one recognises her. With the anniversary of their abduction nearing, the three sisters arrange to meet but Grey never shows.

Drawing on faerie folklore enhanced by her own creative twists, Sutherland weaves a haunting tale of mystery and magic as Vivi and Iris search for their missing sister. Following a strange trail of destruction and death flowers with a dangerous man in a horned mask stalking their every move, it’s a quest that will eventually expose the terrible truth of what happened to them as children.

I loved the grim, urban fairytale quality of this novel. Sutherland invites us to slip beneath a veneer of beauty, exposing a dark heart of rot. It’s a tale of contrasts – love and loyalty countered by lust and deception. It explores tragedy, grief, the base instinct for survival, and the spaces between life and death.

The writing is lyrical, with a rhythm that leaves you slightly off-balance as you’re drawn deeper into the story. Sutherland’s vivid imagery appeals to all the senses, evoking a visceral reaction of unease that occasionally tips into horror. There is a touch of humour too, flaring briefly in the dark.

Imaginative, atmospheric and intense, House of Hollow is a compelling read.

++++++

Available from PenguinRandomHouse Australia 

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Review: The Iron Raven by Julie Kagawa

Title: The Iron Raven {The Iron Fey: Evenfall #1}

Author: Julia Kagawa

Published: 24th February 2021, HQ Young Adult

Status: Read March 2021 courtesy Harlequin Australia

++++++

My Thoughts:

With The Iron Raven, Julie Kagawa begins a fantastic and dangerous new adventure to delight fans of the Iron Fey series.

It’s not strictly necessary to be familiar with the Iron Fey series which includes the four books of The Iron Fey (The Iron King, The Iron Daughter, The Iron Queen and The Iron Knight) and The Iron Fey: Call of Forgotten trilogy (The Lost Prince, The Iron Traitor and The Iron Warrior), plus various novellas, to enjoy The Iron Raven, though it certainly enriches the experience. It’s been six years since I read The Iron Warrior, yet details came flooding back as I read.

In the Iron Raven, Kagawa places Puck aka Robin Goodfellow at the centre of the narrative for the first time, and the story unfolds from his perspective as a dangerous monster spreading hate and discord stalks the realm of faerie.

It begins when Kieran, son of the Iron Queen, former prince of the Iron Court and King of the Forgotten, asks for Puck’s help. Joining the King, and Keiran’s personal guard Nyx in the Inbetween, the trio confront a seemingly invulnerable mass of darkness and fury, but despite a fierce battle, the monster escapes into the NeverNever.

Puck finds himself changed by the experience, not only does he again have horns and cloven hooves but traits of the Robin Goodfellow of old are also bleeding through. While he continues to spout quips and make light of every situation, Puck finds himself simultaneously battling the re-emergence of his darker nature. I enjoyed having Puck tell the story in his own irreverent way, and being privy to his thoughts. His inner turmoil is interesting, as is the history he reveals of himself.

Some of that history naturally involves Puck’s relationship with his closest friends, Ash, the Winter Prince, and Megan, The Iron Queen. I loved seeing the trio reunited here, and fighting side by side again. With the monsters escape, Puck and Nyx travel to the Iron Court to ask for their help, but in their company, Puck is reminded of his hurt and resentment when Megan chose Ash over him, and under the sway of the monster he has to fight the temptation to make them pay.

Luckily for them, Nyx, the silver-haired Forgotten Sidhe assassin who once served The Lady and now serves Kieran, provides Puck with somewhat of a distraction. Singularly unimpressed by his legendary reputation, and his ego, Nyx is more than a match for Puck, and their developing connection was very entertaining.

There’s not really anything new or unexpected in The Iron Raven, it has a similar feel, rhythm, tone and progression to the other books in the series. This was a little disappointing because there was potential for Kagawa to add some maturity to the story, and the characters, to reward the fans who were teenagers when the earlier series were first published but are now likely well into their twenties.

Nevertheless, with Puck’s wit, plenty of action, and high stakes, The Iron Raven is an entertaining read. Evenfall is coming.

++++++

Available from Harlequin Australia

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