Yuletide Homicide by Jennifer David Hesse #BookReview

yuletidehomicideTitle: Yuletide Homicide
Author: Jennifer David Hesse
Series: Wiccan Wheel Mysteries #3
Format: Digital ARC, 320 pages
Publication Details: September 26th 2017 by Kensington
Genre(s): Mystery
Disclosure? Yep! I received a free copy in exchange for an HONEST review.

Goodreads 

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It’s Christmas in Edindale, Illinois, and family law attorney Keli Milanni is preparing to celebrate the Wiccan holiday Yuletide, a celebration of rebirth. But this Yuletide someone else is focused on dying . . .
 
After years of practicing in secret, Keli has come out as a Wiccan to her boyfriend, and she feels like this Yuletide she’s the one who’s being reborn. But the Solstice is the longest night of the year, and Keli is about to stumble on a mystery so dangerous, she’ll be lucky to make it to morning.
 
Paired with her unbearably stuffy colleague Crenshaw Davenport III, Keli goes undercover at a real estate company owned by mayoral candidate Edgar Harrison. An old friend of Keli’s boss, Harrison, is being blackmailed, and it’s up to her to find the culprit. But the morning after the company holiday party, Harrison is found dead underneath the hotel Christmas tree. The police rule the death an accident, but Keli knows better—and she’ll risk her own rebirth to nab a missing killer.

 

Review

Yuletide Homicide is the third in a series of cozy mysteries with a fun, witchy twist. I hadn’t read the previous books in the series but it stood-alone pretty well, so I wouldn’t let that put you off.

The story centers around Keli, who is exploring her Wiccan faith, mainly in solitude, but as the novel unfolds she becomes more open about her religion and practices. The Wiccan element is just one small part of Keli’s life however – she’s a busy lady!

Keli is an attorney who seems to spend her time as more of an amateur sleuth than an actual attorney. Along with her eccentric colleague Crenshaw, Keli is thrust straight into a murder mystery when her boss asks her to find out who is blackmailing him. Not only does she discover who the blackmailer is, but she also finds his body.

I really enjoyed this book. It was a little bit silly in parts, and felt like one of those books that you have to take with a pinch of salt, but it was paced-well, written nicely, and entertaining. I love a good murder mystery, and this reminded me of the likes of Midsomer Murders, which I love.

I enjoyed the dynamic between Keli and Crenshaw, and think it’s great to have a regular, down to earth, Wiccan, protagonist. The only thing that annoyed me was that she wasn’t more ‘out’ and proud as a Wiccan, like it’s something to be ashamed of. It felt a little old-fashioned in its approach in that respect. Hopefully though, that’s all part of the overall series arc.

Yuletide Homicide was a nice alternative to all the festive romances out at the time that I read it. I hope I get to read more in the series in the future.

unicorn rating 4

30 Days of Horror #16: The Merciless #HO17 #30daysofhorror

30daysofhorror

Join me for 30 Days of Horror in which we spotlight one horror book for each day until we reach Halloween!

Day sixteen and I’m choosing another fun but dark YA Horror. I bought this book based solely on the cover, and was so glad that I did! The story itself cheesy as hell, but it’s dark and gory too!

themerciless

Available in all formats (incl Audio), 279 pages

Published June 12th 2014 by Razorbill

Forgive us, Father, for we have sinned

Brooklyn Stevens sits in a pool of her own blood, tied up and gagged. No one outside of these dank basement walls knows she’s here. No one can hear her scream.

Sofia Flores knows she shouldn’t have gotten involved. When she befriended Riley, Grace, and Alexis on her first day at school, she admired them, with their perfect hair and their good-girl ways. They said they wanted to save Brooklyn. They wanted to help her. Sofia didn’t realize they believed Brooklyn was possessed.

Now, Riley and the girls are performing an exorcism on Brooklyn—but their idea of an exorcism is closer to torture than salvation. All Sofia wants is to get out of this house. But there is no way out. Sofia can’t go against the other girls . . . unless she wants to be next. . . .

 

Goodreads // My Review

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Have you read it? What did you think?

Up Next on Horror October:

 Flash Fiction Battle: Entry #1

Release by Patrick Ness #BookReview #LGBT #YA

releaseTitle: Release
Author: Patrick Ness
Series: n/a
Format: Hardback, 287 pages
Publication Details: 
May 4th 2017 by Walker Books
Genre(s): YA; Contemporary; LGBT
Disclosure? Nope, my copy came with a ticket to the book launch – I was under no obligation to post a review. 

Goodreads 

bookdepo

Inspired by Mrs Dalloway and Judy Blume’s Forever, Release is one day in the life of Adam Thorn, 17. It’s a big day. Things go wrong. It’s intense, and all the while, weirdness approaches…

Adam Thorn is having what will turn out to be the most unsettling, difficult day of his life, with relationships fracturing, a harrowing incident at work, and a showdown between this gay teen and his preacher father that changes everything. It’s a day of confrontation, running, sex, love, heartbreak, and maybe, just maybe, hope. He won’t come out of it unchanged. And all the while, lurking at the edges of the story, something extraordinary and unsettling is on a collision course.


Review

You should all know by now that I love Patrick Ness, so I was of course very excited about his new release, Release, especially considering my friend Dora and I got tickets to the premiere of the book tour.

I posted about the whole shebang here. It was such a great night with insightful and inspiring discussions that my already high expectation bar was pushed through the roof…and I can’t help feeling a little deflated by the whole thing now that I’ve finished the book. SAD PANDA.

Adam Thorn is a gay 17 year old with a bad-boy magnet best friend called Angela, a strict preacher father, and a couple of ex-boyfriends who have treated him pretty terribly. What could go wrong, I hear you say!?

I loved everything Patrick Ness said when discussing this book – the need for diversity in books to reflect the world we live in, the need for YA books with gay protagonists to not shy away from sex scenes, all of it, but it just felt a bit forced here and I think the story suffered because of that.

Release is actually quite a subtle book, and whereas I don’t think that’s a bad thing, I just wasn’t expecting that from all the passionate discussion points in the book launch. I’m not sure this is quite the book Patrick Ness thought he had written. It does spotlight some important issues, but I felt like it needed more drama to really pack a punch. In trying to make it tender, I think a lot of its potential was quashed.

Running alongside Adam’s story is a strange, morbid fairy-tale allegory about a faun and a queen who is actually the ghost of a recently deceased fellow student of Adam’s, and this just did not work for me at all. It came across as a bit pretentious to be honest and I ended up skipping nearly all of these sequences after about a third of the way through. VERY SAD PANDA.

It’s actually quite painful to slag off one of your favourite authors, but I’d be a pretty rubbish book blogger if I couldn’t be honest with myself about how I feel about a book. It has some lovely moments, and is of course written beautifully. And I love everything Patrick was wanting to say with Release, but I think maybe he tried a bit too hard and didn’t quite manage to pull it off.

unicorn rating 3

 

The Silent Songbird by Melanie Dickerson #BookReview #YA

silentsongbirdTitle: The Silent Songbird
Author: Melanie Dickerson
Series: Hagenheim #7
Format: Digital ARC, 304 pages
Publication Details: November 8th 2016 by Thomas Nelson
Genre(s): YA; Historical Fiction
Disclosure? Yep! I received a free copy in exchange for an HONEST review. 

Goodreads 

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Evangeline longs to be free, to live in the world outside the castle walls. But freedom comes at a cost.

Evangeline is the ward and cousin of King Richard II, and yet she dreams of a life outside of Berkhamsted Castle, where she might be free to marry for love and not politics. But the young king betroths her to his closest advisor, Lord Shiveley, a man twice as old as Evangeline. Desperate to escape a life married to a man she finds revolting, Evangeline runs away from the king and joins a small band of servants on their way back to their home village.

To keep her identity a secret, Evangeline pretends to be mute. Evangeline soon regrets the charade as she gets to know Wesley, the handsome young leader of the servants, whom she later discovers is the son of a wealthy lord. But she cannot reveal her true identity for fear she will be forced to return to King Richard and her arranged marriage.

Wesley le Wyse is intrigued by the beautiful new servant girl. When he learns that she lost her voice from a beating by a cruel former master, he is outraged. But his anger is soon redirected when he learns she has been lying to him. Not only is she not mute, but she isn’t even a servant.

Weighed down by remorse for deceiving Wesley, Evangeline fears no one will ever love her. But her future is not the only thing at stake, as she finds herself embroiled in a tangled web that threatens England’s monarchy. Should she give herself up to save the only person who cares about her? If she does, who will save the king from a plot to steal his throne?

Review

My request-happy trigger finger strikes again and I requested this book based on the cover alone. What I didn’t realise was that it’s number 7 (SEVEN!) in a series, and that Melanie Dickerson is a popular Christian author. Oh dear.

Thankfully, the books in the  Hagenheim series can be read as stand-alones. Some characters do seem to crossover but each book follows a different protagonist. So no disasters so far.

The whole Christian thing however, was slightly more of an issue for me. I’m not religious at all, but I like to think I have an open mind so I didn’t let it put me off. And to be fair, I still enjoyed the story, but I did get a bit bored with all the praying. As the story progressed it got more and more preachy.

However, let’s go back to basics. The Silent Songbird is a gentle story about Evangeline, a sheltered princess-type who feels stifled living in the King’s castle. When the King insists she marry his conniving but trusted adviser, it’s the last straw and Evangeline runs away.

In a bid to hide her identity, she becomes Eva, and claims to be mute. She ends up working as a (pretty terrible) servant and falling in love with a handsome farm-boy.

There was definitely a lot to like in this book. I enjoyed the romance and that Evangeline could be feisty. I liked that she was willing to fight for what she wanted and that she wouldn’t settle for what most girls of her stature usually would. I thought she was a good role model.

Lord Shiveley, the man whom Evangeline has been promised to was a great villain who left a bad taste in my mouth and I was rooting for our protagonist and Westley the whole time.

I did however find the story pretty predictable, and as I said earlier, the praying and god-talk got a bit much at times. It was also supposed to be a retelling of  The Little Mermaid and other than the protagonist having red hair and a beautiful singing voice, I don’t think that came through much. There did seem to be lots of nods to The Princess Bride though, which I loved.

This was a nice introduction to Melanie Dickerson, and despite the Christian theme, I’d be interested to read more of her work; it was a very readable, enjoyable YA historical fiction romance.

unicorn rating 3

 

 

Saint Death by Marcus Sedgwick #BookReview #DiverseBooks #YA

a1Title: Saint Death
Author: Marcus Sedgewick
Series: N/A
Format: Digital ARC, 272 pages
Publication Details: October 6th 2016 by Orion Children’s Books
Genre(s): YA; Contemporary; Thriller
Disclosure? Yep! I received a free copy in exchange for an HONEST review. 

Goodreads 

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A potent, powerful and timely thriller about migrants, drug lords and gang warfare set on the US/Mexican border by prize-winning novelist, Marcus Sedgwick.

Anapra is one of the poorest neighbourhoods in the Mexican city of Juarez – twenty metres outside town lies a fence – and beyond it – America – the dangerous goal of many a migrant. Faustino is one such trying to escape from the gang he’s been working for. He’s dipped into a pile of dollars he was supposed to be hiding and now he’s on the run. He and his friend, Arturo, have only 36 hours to replace the missing money, or they’re as good as dead. Watching over them is Saint Death. Saint Death (or Santissima Muerte) – she of pure bone and charcoal-black eye, she of absolute loyalty and neutral morality, holy patron to rich and poor, to prostitute and narco-lord, criminal and police-chief. A folk saint, a rebel angel, a sinister guardian.

Review

I’m a big fan of British author Marcus Sedgwick but the last book I read of his, Ghosts of Heaven was a monumental disappointment. I therefore went into this with some trepidation. Saint Death also feels like a bit of a departure for him, although I’m not sure why because he’s nothing if not eclectic.

In this story, Sedgwick returns to the YA genre but takes us to a whole new place – a slum on the US/Mexico border and immerses us in a  dark, spiritual culture. 

Arturo has learnt how to survive in Anapra. He knows how to collect water in old coke cans and feed himself on scraps. He knows not to look to the men in the big black cars with the neck tattoos in the eye. He knows to never owe anyone anything. 

But, when his best friend- who disappeared a year earlier- returns with his pregnant childhood sweetheart asking for his help, Arturo can’t turn him down. But in helping him, he will be exposed to all the things he’s learnt to stay away from – gambling, guns and drug lords. The only thing he can hope for is that the white lady, Santissima Muerte, AKA Saint Death hears his prayers and grants his wishes of protection.

Gah! I’m very torn by this one. It is a story which sheds light on an enigmatic, often brutal culture, with immigration at the heart of the matter. It is a story which is perhaps even more appropriate today than it was a week ago; portraying an important message that I think is wonderful to see in a YA book. 

However, my main issue was that it wasn’t very exciting. It took too long to get to the short-lived thrilling action in which Arturo is locked in a high-stakes (not just money-wise) game of cards with a drug lord in order to save his friend’s life. 

It was a quick read, yet the action felt slow and too simple. It was written beautifully, yet it never truly amazed me. It was just one big contradiction in my mind. 

I applaud Marcus Sedgwick for putting diversity at the forefront of another of his YA books, but Saint Death didn’t have the emotional drive that She is Not Invisible did. His writing is beautiful, as always, but there was something lacking here. Maybe the ‘message’ overshadowed fully developed characters and plot!?

The jury is still out for me.

unicorn rating 3

Saint Death is available in hardback or digital versions now. 

The Merciless II by Danielle Vega #HorrorOctober #BookReview

horroroctofficial2016

a6Title: The Merciless II: The Exorcism of Sofia Flores
Author: Danielle Vega
Series: The Merciless #2
Format: Hardback, 320 pages
Publication Details: July 5th 2016 by Razorbill
Genre(s): Horror; YA
Disclosure? Nope I bought it! 

Goodreads 

bookdepo

Sofia is still processing the horrific truth of what happened when she and three friends performed an exorcism that spiraled horribly out of control. Ever since that night, Sofia has been haunted by bloody and demonic visions. Her therapist says they’re all in her head, but to Sofia they feel chillingly real. She just wants to get out of town, start fresh someplace else . . . until her mother dies suddenly, and Sofia gets her wish.
 
Sofia is sent to St. Mary’s, a creepy Catholic boarding school in Mississippi. There, seemingly everyone is doing penance for something, most of all the mysterious Jude, for whom Sofia can’t help feeling an unshakeable attraction. But when Sofia and Jude confide in each other about their pasts, something flips in him. He becomes convinced that Sofia is possessed by the devil. . . . Is an exorcism the only way to save her eternal soul?

Review

!!Spoilers of book one lie head!!

I have to start this review by referring to the Beautiful-with-a-capital-B cover. The first book was amazing too, with its bright pink, leather-look hardcover and gilt pentagram, but I think I prefer this shiny gold beauty. They really speak to my 15 year-old goth and ‘ooh pretty sparkles’ split personality! 

This sequel begins not long after the horrific events of the first book in which Sofia’s school friends tortured bad girl Brooklyn in an attempt to exorcise the demon out of her, but ended up getting themselves killed in the process. Sofia was the only survivor, and we discover that she is now in therapy to come to terms with that fact there was no demon, just troubled teenagers who made bad choices.

Sofia is still struggling with this and feeling haunted by the past -in particular by Brooklyn who she sees and hears when no one else does – when her mother is killed in a car accident. Cue being sent to a creepy (although I wanted creepier) Catholic Boarding School.

Here Sofia hopes to start afresh. She has seemingly nice dorm-mates, an altar boy to crush over and Sister Lauren to look out for her. But Sofia doesn’t feel herself. She gets jealous of her friends, goes after the out-of-bounds guy and finds her roomies’ clandestine rabbit repulsive when everyone else thinks he’s cute. So naturally, she starts to worry that she’s evil. And unfortunately for her, she’s not the only one who has noticed…

As I’m writing this I’m realising how stupid this book was. The plot was pretty terrible and could have been so much better, and the characters were completely underdeveloped (as they were in the first book), but I can’t deny that I’m entertained by Vega’s stories.

Is it trashy and riddled with clichés? Yes.
Do you care about any of the characters? No.
Was there a great twist? No.
Are you going to remember this book? Doubtful.
But was it thoroughly enjoyable? Yes.

Bizarre, I know. But i still really liked this book. I wanted more from it, but it was such an easy-to-read, infuriatingly enjoyable read in which the pages just flew by. I’m not quite sure how she does it!

horroctrating-3

Labyrinth Lost #BookReview #YA

summer16.3Title: Labyrinth Lost
Author: Zoraida Córdova
Series: Brooklyn Brujas #1
Format: Digital ARC, 336 pages
Publication Details: September 6th 2016 by Sourcebooks Fire
Genre(s): YA Fantasy
Disclosure? Yep, I received a free copy in exchange for an HONEST review. 

Goodreads 

bookdepo

Nothing says Happy Birthday like summoning the spirits of your dead relatives.

Alex is a bruja, the most powerful witch in a generation…and she hates magic. At her Deathday celebration, Alex performs a spell to rid herself of her power. But it backfires. Her whole family vanishes into thin air, leaving her alone with Nova, a brujo boy she can’t trust. A boy whose intentions are as dark as the strange marks on his skin.

The only way to get her family back is to travel with Nova to Los Lagos, a land in-between, as dark as Limbo and as strange as Wonderland…

Review

I was dying to read this as soon as I saw that stunning cover. It’s also not often you come across YA books built upon Latin American culture. So WIN.

Labyrinth Lost is the story of Alex and her close family of bruja’s – sort of witches. Alex, a middle sister, should have come into her gift by now and had her Deathday ceremony just like her older sister and and her parents before her. Little do they know that Alex’s magic is much, much stronger than they ever imagined and she’s been hiding it for years. 

Unfortunately, an incident exposes Alex’s magic and her family rally around to arrange her Deathday party – the one thing Alex was fearing – as once the dead are raised and her magic is blessed, she will be stuck with it forever.

However, the ceremony doesn’t exactly go to plan for anyone, and Alex’s family disappear leaving just her and brujo Nova to journey through the Labyrinth of Los Lagos to reclaim their souls. 

This was a book of two halves for me. I was absolutely entranced with the  first half. I loved Alex and her family. Her relationship with her sisters was so full of love but fraught with annoyances it really rang true. 

I also loved the dynamic between Alex and her best friend, and felt for her for having to keep so many secrets from colourful Rishi. 

Córdova brings Latin American history, spirituality and mythology to the forefront in Labyrinth Lost and I found it spellbinding. I did however, think it lost a lot of pace when they got Los Lagos – a definite downside to creating a dreamy, psychedelic limbo – I did wish it moved along a bit faster during the second half. I also thought the believability factor was stretched to breaking point in parts.

Overall though, this was a quick, interesting read which stands out from a lot of generic YA fantasy. The mythology Córdova built on and evolved was a delight, and now I’d love to read more about Latin American beliefs. It was also nice to see a gay relationship in here – although I wasn’t convinced of Alex’s feelings half as much as I was the other character’s.

unicorn rating 3