Goodreads Monday: Sign of Portents (Greystone: Book 1) by Lou Paduano

This is a weekly meme where anyone can choose a random book from their Goodreads TBR and highlight it. This meme was formerly featured on LaurensPageTurners and was taken over by Budget Tales Book Blog.


Portents is a city like no other—and one that Detective Greg Loren can’t wait to escape. Since his wife’s death years earlier, Loren has looked forward to the moment he can leave the city of Portents for good—and never look back.

But fate has another plan for Loren. Called back to duty, Loren finds himself embroiled in a series of murders that has shaken the city. Together with Soriya Greystone, a young woman with unearthly powers, Loren must work quickly to find the otherworldly being that is killing citizens of Portents one at a time. Loren is tasked with deciphering the mysterious signs left at each of the crime scenes…even if it means traveling to worlds not his own to do so.

Fast-paced and thrilling, Lou Paduano’s debut novel Signs of Portents will leave you on the edge of your seat and turning page after page.

The Devil You Know (Detective Margaret Nolan: Book 3) by P.J. Tracy

Publisher: St. Martin’s Press, Minotaur Books

Date of publication: January 17th, 2023

Genre: Mystery, Fiction, Suspense, Thriller, Crime, Mystery Thriller, Contemporary, Adult

Series: Detective Margaret Nolan

Deep into the Dark—Book 1

Desolation Canyon—Book 2

The Devil You Know—Book 3

Purchase Links: Kindle | Audible | B&N | AbeBooks | Alibris | Powells | IndieBound | Indigo | BetterWorldBooks

Goodreads Synopsis:

LAPD Detective Margaret Nolan returns in The Devil You Know, the next book in the series where P. J. Tracy “seems to have found her literary sweet spot” (New York Times Book Review).

Los Angeles has many faces: the real LA where regular people live and work, the degenerate underbelly of any big city, and the rarified world of wealth, power, and celebrity. LAPD Detective Margaret Nolan’s latest case plunges her into this insular realm of privilege, and gives her a glimpse of the darkness behind the glitter.

The body of beloved actor Evan Hobbes is found in the rubble of a Malibu rockslide a day after a fake video ruins his career. It’s not clear to Nolan if it’s an accident, a suicide, or a murder, and things get murkier as the investigation expands to his luminary friends and colleagues. Meanwhile, Hobbes’ agent is dealing with damage control, his psychotic boss, and a woman he’s scorned. But when his powerful brother-in-law is murdered, he and Nolan both find themselves entangled in a scandalous deception of deadly proportion that shakes the very foundation of Hollywood’s untouchables.


First Line:

The ocean was singing in the hushed undulating tones of low tide on this still, damp night.

The Devil You Know by P.J. Tracy

While reading this book, I realized I need to read more mysteries that are only mysteries. I read romance, paranormal, and horror mysteries but never just plain secrets (if that makes sense). So, I was eager to read The Devil You Know. While I liked the book (and the story), I needed clarification during parts of the book. I don’t particularly appreciate being confused when I am reading. That did make for a less-than-ideal reading situation for me.

The Devil You Know had an exciting plotline. Detective Nolan has been assigned a disturbing case. A famous actor has been discovered dead in a rockslide. The death is suspicious because the day before, he had been the subject of a deepfake video that ended his career. Within a few days, the top executive where that actor worked is found murdered. The person that links the actor and the executive: the agent representing him and his family ties to the executive. It is up to Nolan to determine if the actor was murdered, committed suicide, or died in an accident. While doing that, she is assisting in the murder investigation of the executive. What Nolan finds out is so earth-shattering that it will shake her to the core. What does she find out? Who was willing to frame a well-liked actor in a deepfake video? Why? And how is the executive’s death connected to it?

The Devil You Know is the 3rd book in that Detective Margaret Nolan series. While readers can read this as a standalone, I recommend reading the books in order. Some parts of the book made me scratch my head because I didn’t know the backstories.

The characters in The Devil You Know were well-written, but I felt a certain disconnect with them. If I had read the first two books, I would have understood more about Nolan’s background. I also would have understood more about some of the secondary characters.

  • Detective Nolan—I liked her. She was smart, and she worked well with others. But there was also a sad element to her character. I feel it was because of her brother’s death (which is linked to another secondary character). She also emphasized with the victims’ families and, weirdly enough, the murderer. I loved seeing her process of finding out who the murderer was.

The Devil You Know fits perfectly in with the mystery genre. I loved the red herrings that she put out!! Talk about distracting, and I did feel bad for those two women (as vile as they were). The author kept me guessing until the end.

The storyline with Detective Nolan, the actor’s death, the deepfake, and the investigation were wonderfully written. The author had me double guessing if it was an accident (because of testimony from his friend/hostess of the party). Even when it was determined a murder (and no, not a spoiler, the detectives figured it out fairly early), I loved watching the investigation turn to suspects. There was another murder (with the same MO) and the revelation of the murderer. I was shocked at who it was because I didn’t see it coming. I also did feel bad for that person because of the trauma that person endured. But still, no excuse. Oh, and let’s not forget the deepfake. That was the cherry on top of this whole investigation. Once they figured out who it was, it was all downhill.

The storyline with Detective Nolan, the executive’s death, and the investigation were as wonderfully written as the first investigation. The author kept this one more under wraps than the other investigation. But still, I liked seeing how the detectives investigated it in tandem with the actor’s murder. There was a twist to that plotline that wasn’t revealed until the very end of the book. One that made me go, “Holy crap.” Because whoever went to jail for his murder didn’t kill him. The real killer’s identity stunned me.

The storyline with the agent, murders, his relationship with the movie star, and then his murder did take me for a ride. For the longest time, I thought the same thing Detective Nolan did. He did it and covered it up. Of course, there were a few red herrings sprinkled in that storyline. The big twist in that one was how the detectives figured everything out. I won’t say what, but he was a pretty intelligent guy for doing what he did.

I went back and forth on putting a trigger warning on this book. I ultimately decided to do it because what was discussed was disturbing. My trigger warnings are mentions of child pornography, deepfake videos, drug use, and alcohol use. If any of these triggers you, I highly suggest not reading this book.

The end of The Devil You Know was okay. The author wrapped up the first two storylines, and I thought they were over. But then the author tacked on that final chapter that blew everything about the second murder out of the water. It was indeed a twist that took me by surprise.

I would recommend The Devil You Know to anyone over 21. There are language, violence, and sexual situations. Also, see my trigger warnings.

I want to thank St. Martin’s Press, Minotaur Books, NetGalley, and P.J. Tracy for allowing me to read and review The Devil You Know. All opinions stated in this review are mine.


If you enjoyed reading The Devil You Know, you will enjoy reading these books:

Emily Wilde’s Encyclopaedia of Faeries (Emily Wilde: Book 1) by Heather Fawcett

Publisher: Random House Publishing Group – Ballantine, Del Rey

Date of publication: January 10th, 2023

Series: Emily Wilde

Emily Wilde’s Encyclopaedia of Faeries—Book 1

Genre: Fantasy, Romance, Adult, Historical Fiction, Fairies, Fae, Fiction, Historical, Paranormal, Magical Realism, Fantasy Romance

Purchase Links: Kindle | Audible | B&N | AbeBooks | Alibris | Powells | IndieBound | Indigo | BetterWorldBooks

Goodreads Synopsis:

A curmudgeonly professor journeys to a small town in the far north to study faerie folklore and discovers dark fae magic, friendship, and love, in this heartwarming and enchanting fantasy.

Cambridge professor Emily Wilde is good at many things: She is the foremost expert on the study of faeries. She is a genius scholar and a meticulous researcher who is writing the world’s first encyclopaedia of faerie lore. But Emily Wilde is not good at people. She could never make small talk at a party–or even get invited to one. And she prefers the company of her books, her dog, Shadow, and the Fair Folk to other people.

So when she arrives in the hardscrabble village of Hrafnsvik, Emily has no intention of befriending the gruff townsfolk. Nor does she care to spend time with another new arrival: her dashing and insufferably handsome academic rival Wendell Bambleby, who manages to charm the townsfolk, get in the middle of Emily’s research, and utterly confound and frustrate her.

But as Emily gets closer and closer to uncovering the secrets of the Hidden Ones–the most elusive of all faeries–lurking in the shadowy forest outside the town, she also finds herself on the trail of another mystery: Who is Wendell Bambleby, and what does he really want? To find the answer, she’ll have to unlock the greatest mystery of all–her own heart.


First Line:

Shadow is not at all happy with me. He lies by the fire while the chill wind rattles the door, tail inert, staring up at me from beneath that shaggy forelock of his with the sort of accusatory resignation peculiar to dogs, as if to say: Of all the stupid adventures you’ve dragged me on, this will surely be the death of us.

Emily Wilde’s Encycolpaedia of Faeries by Heather Fawcett

When I got the email inviting me to read/review this book, I was immediately taken by two things. The first was the cover. Now, covers don’t usually get my attention or play into why I want to read a book. Mainly because I read using my Kindle Scribed. But this one caught my attention because of how simple it was. The other thing that grabbed my attention was the blurb. A female professor studying Faeries in an alternative Norway in the 1880s? That is when I decided that I wanted, no needed, to read this book. And I am glad that I did because it was a good read.

Emily Wilde’s Encyclopaedia of Faeries takes place in the late 1800s in an alternative world where women could hold jobs and have the same rights as men at that time. 95% of the book is set in the fictional country of Ljosland. Now, I was curious, and I googled the country. It turns out that Ljosland is a village in Norway. The village is made up (I googled that too). I liked that the author created a whole country similar to Norway but simultaneously different.

The plotline for Emily Wilde’s Encyclopaedia of Faeries is an interesting one. In this alternative world, fairies are real. Emily Wilde is an expert on Faeries and is writing an encyclopedia of fairie lore, which will be the first of its kind. She is almost finished and is traveling to Ljosland to study the most elusive and feared Faery of that area, the Hidden Ones. A loner by nature, Emily struggles to make connections in the village. Connections that she needs if she is going to finish her encyclopedia. Help, or a hindrance if she had her say, comes from Wendell Bambleby. Wendell is her rival in the world of Faery lore. But there is something about him that Emily can’t put her finger on. As the winter rages on and her studies continue, Emily learns that Wendell is more than he seems. And when The Hidden Ones start taking children and creating mischief, Emily takes it upon herself to help. That sets off a series of events that forces Emily to reevaluate everything she knows about Faeries, herself, and Wendell. What does Emily learn? What does she find out about Wendell? Will she finish her encyclopedia?

Emily Wilde’s Encyclopaedia of Faeries is the first book in the Emily Wilde series. Usually, I would put in here if you need to read the other books in the series first or not. Well, since it’s the first book, it doesn’t apply.

The pacing of Emily Wilde (I am shortening the title for this review. Plus Encyclopaedia keeps getting autocorrected) is slow for the first 70% of the book. And when I mean slow, it was snail or turtle slow. There was a point in the book where I debated DNF’ing it. It was that slow. But, once certain things happened (I can’t say because of spoilers), the book picked up speed.

The characters of Emily Wilde were interesting and diverse. I liked that the author chose this alternative world to be LGBTQ-friendly (a lesbian couple is featured prominently in the middle and last half of the book). I enjoyed it. It was refreshing for the period it was in (as was Emily, 30 and unmarried).

  • Emily—She was an odd duck right from the beginning. She had zero people skills and managed to tick off not only her host but the unofficial chief of the village. Her only companion was an elderly dog named Shadow. She was able to win over a couple of the Fairy. One was a sprite who lived in a tree, and the other was a changeling who just wanted to go home to his mother. I did feel bad because she did try. I wasn’t prepared for what she did 70% through the book. I am not going to go into it much, except that it went against everything she had warned the villagers about during the first few days of her stay. But, in a way, it did make sense because she got the last bit of information she needed for her encyclopedia.
  • Wendell—Ok, so I figured him out from the beginning. I don’t know how Emily didn’t figure it out sooner. All the signs were there. I can’t get more into what I am talking about because of the spoilers. But it is something huge. One thing I can talk about is Wendell’s feelings for Emily. Even I could see that he loved her. He followed her to that snowy land and helped her with her research. And then, he stayed and helped her out when things went sideways. Wendell made me laugh because he did things to annoy Emily deliberately. Like adding entries into her journal or just being a pain in the butt. But he did have an alternative reason for being there. One that made me sad.

Emily Wilde fits perfectly into the fantasy genre. The author spun a world where Faeries were real and were studied. There were points in the book where I wished that it was true. But then I would read about the more dangerous Faery and say, “Nope, glad they’re fictional.

There was a slight, very slight, sliver of romance in Emily Wilde. It was so small that I almost missed it. But, towards the end, it became more apparent.

The storyline with Emily, Wendell, and the research into her encyclopedia was interesting. I couldn’t believe the different kinds of Fairies that Emily had encountered on her research journies. I wondered how much of the folklore was true and how much the author made up. Usually, I google this stuff, but I didn’t want to go down a rabbit hole, so I didn’t. The Faeries that Emily met in the north were as cold-blooded as the weather. There was a point towards the end of the book (after the rescue mission) when I worried for Emily. There was a neat twist in the plotline that happened after the tree scene. I did laugh a little at Emily’s dismay (what did she think was going to happen!!), but my laughter did turn to concern for her. Everything did work out in the end.

The end of Emily Wilde was interesting. I was slightly put off by how it ended until I remembered it was a series. It ended on a bit of a cliffhanger, and those annoy me. But it did its job and made me want to read book 2. I pray that it isn’t as slow as this one was. I couldn’t do that again.

I recommend Emily Wilde’s Encyclopaedia of Faeries to anyone over 16. There is mild violence, no language, and no sex.

I want to thank Random House Publishing Group – Ballantine, Del Rey, and Heather Fawcett for allowing me to read and review Emily Wilde’s Encyclopaedia of Faeries. All opinions stated in this review are mine.


If you enjoyed reading Emily Wilde’s Encyclopaedia of Faeries, then you will enjoy reading these books:

WWW Wednesday: January 18th, 2023

WWW Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Sam at Taking on a World of Words.

The Three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?


Personal:

I hope you all had a wonderful week last week.

Mine was alright, super rainy, but alright until Saturday. What happened Saturday? Well, for one, BK was away on business but was coming home that morning. Second, I ended up in a veterinary ER for almost 4 hours. Settle in, and let me tell you what happened.

I was in the kitchen with my girls and 3 out of the 5 cats. Miss R decided she wanted to make sunny-side-up eggs with toast for breakfast, Miss B was going to make scrambled, and I was supervising Miss R. Vinnie, Tony, and Jesper were sitting on our chest freezer watching the girls crack eggs (I think they thought they would get some??). Meanwhile, Loki and Snickers were going between the living room, Miss R’s bedroom, and the dining room.

I heard a commotion, though nothing of it because Snickers and Loki have a love/hate relationship, and figured she was chasing him again. Then Miss B noticed the blood on the floor. We checked our feet (to ensure no one was cut), wiped up the blood, and then checked Vinnie, Tony, and Jesper. I hunted down Loki while Miss R walked toward Snickers, who was lying in her room. Miss R screamed, and I came running. Snickers’s left eye was full of blood. So, I called my regular vet (who wasn’t in), grabbed the big cat carrier, and took her to the emergency vet. Thankfully, that was only 5 mins away. To make a long story short, after 4 hours, the vet saw her and told us that the tear duct and a spot on her lower eyelid got lacerated. She didn’t need stitches, but I have to give her a medicated eye ointment every 8 hours. I’m also taking her to her regular vet on Friday to see if any other damage was done. I am beyond thankful that this emergency vet opened up during Covid. Because I have a feeling her eye would have gotten infected if we had to wait until Monday.

So that was the extent of my exciting weekend/week. I was so stressed out on Saturday that it ruined the rest of the day. And ever try giving a cat eye meds? Thankfully, she’s good about letting me do it, but I have gotten scratched.

Reading:

I got a lot of reading down until Saturday. Then that happened, and I couldn’t bring myself to read. I was too upset to concentrate. So, it set me back a little but not much. I picked up my Kindle on Monday, finished reading one book, and started another (see below).

The longest book I read this week: Hello, Stranger. I started reading it on Friday and expected to finish it on Saturday. Then…..well, Snickersapocolypse happened. It took me three days to finish.

The shortest book I read this week: The Things We Do To Our Friends. I finished it within a day of starting.

How was your week? Read anything good? Did you do anything exciting?

As always, let me know if you have read or are planning to read any of these books!!


What I Recently Finished Reading:

Sadie Montogmery has had good breaks and bad breaks in her life, but as a struggling artist, all she needs is one lucky break. Things seem to be going her way when she lands one of the coveted finalist spots in a portrait competition. It happens to coincide with a surgery she needs to have. Minor, they say. Less than a week in the hospital they say. Nothing about you will change, they say. Upon recovery, it begins to dawn on Sadie that she can see everything around her, but she can no longer see faces.

Temporary, they say. Lots of people deal with this, they say. As she struggles to cope―and hang onto her artistic dreams―she finds solace in her fourteen-year-old dog, Peanut. Thankfully, she can still see animal faces. When Peanut gets sick, she rushes him to the emergency vet nearby. That’s when she meets veterinarian Dr. Addison. And she’s pleasantly surprised when he asks her on a date. But she doesn’t want anyone to know about her face blindness. Least of all Joe, her obnoxious neighbor who always wears a bowling jacket and seems to know everyone in the building. He’s always there at the most embarrassing but convenient times, and soon, they develop a sort of friendship. But could it be something more?

As Sadie tries to save her career, confront her haunting past, and handle falling in love with two different guys she realizes that happiness can be found in the places―and people― you least expect.


What I am currently reading:

Vikram Seth’s novel is, at its core, a love story: Lata and her mother, Mrs. Rupa Mehra, are both trying to find—through love or through exacting maternal appraisal—a suitable boy for Lata to marry. Set in the early 1950s, in an India newly independent and struggling through a time of crisis, A Suitable Boy takes us into the richly imagined world of four large extended families and spins a compulsively readable tale of their lives and loves. A sweeping panoramic portrait of a complex, multiethnic society in flux, A Suitable Boy remains the story of ordinary people caught up in a web of love and ambition, humor and sadness, prejudice and reconciliation, the most delicate social etiquette and the most appalling violence.


What books I think I’ll read next:

Working at the local processing plant, Marcos is in the business of slaughtering humans —though no one calls them that anymore.

His wife has left him, his father is sinking into dementia, and Marcos tries not to think too hard about how he makes a living. After all, it happened so quickly. First, it was reported that an infectious virus has made all animal meat poisonous to humans. Then governments initiated the “Transition.” Now, eating human meat—“special meat”—is legal. Marcos tries to stick to numbers, consignments, processing.

Then one day he’s given a gift: a live specimen of the finest quality. Though he’s aware that any form of personal contact is forbidden on pain of death, little by little he starts to treat her like a human being. And soon, he becomes tortured by what has been lost—and what might still be saved.

A Body Washes Ashore is the heart-racing sequel to The Killings Begin and Death in a Dark Alley that you’ve been waiting for. Bradley Pay’s signature blend of contemporary romance and psychological suspense will sweep you off your feet and into the thick of mortal danger. Tour Europe with Tracey’s new friend, Remy Martin, as she risks everything for the rush of true love.

Tracey’s new group of friends seems perfect. For as long as he could remember, he felt like an outsider, struggling to make connections, and living as an unknown serial killer certainly didn’t help. Now he and his new wife have discovered a circle of friends that begins to fill his need for close relationships. He’s one step closer to living a “normal” life despite the persistent cold-case investigators who refuse to ignore his murderous past in the US.

Remy Martin, a renowned professor of art history and one of Tracey’s new friends, also bears scars on her damaged heart. She has vowed to only sleep with married men to protect herself from heartbreak. However, the stakes rise when she breaks her biggest rule and takes things too far. But how can she resist? She never meant to fall in love or hurt anyone. Just like Tracey, though, she can’t erase her past. She must deal with the consequences of her affair, whatever the cost.

Don’t miss this landmark installation in the Spectrum Series saga, complete with the complex characters you love and a new romance you’ll never forget.

With the 80’s nostalgia of Stranger Things, this horror drama from NYT bestselling author Christopher Golden follows neighborhood families and a mysterious, lurking evil on one Halloween day.

It’s Halloween night, 1984, in Coventry, Massachusetts, and two families are unraveling. Up and down the street, horrifying secrets are being revealed, and all the while, mixed in with the trick-or-treaters of all ages, four children who do not belong are walking door to door, merging with the kids of Parmenter Road. Children in vintage costumes with faded, eerie makeup. They seem terrified, and beg the neighborhood kids to hide them away, to keep them safe from The Cunning Man. There’s a small clearing in the woods now that was never there before, and a blackthorn tree that doesn’t belong at all. These odd children claim that The Cunning Man is coming for them…and they want the local kids to protect them. But with families falling apart and the neighborhood splintered by bitterness, who will save the children of Parmenter Road?

New York Times bestselling, Bram Stoker Award-winning author Christopher Golden is best known for his supernatural thrillers set in deadly, distant locales…but in this suburban Halloween drama, Golden brings the horror home.

All Hallows. The one night when everything is a mask…

A playful and emotional romantic comedy from the author of Ten Rules for Faking It

Hailey Sharp has a one-track mind. Get By the Cup salad shop off the ground. Do literally everything possible to make it a success. Repeat. With a head full of entrepreneurial ideas and a bad ex in her rearview, her one and only focus is living life the way she wants to. No distractions.

Wes Jansen never did understand the fuss about relationships. With a string of lackluster first dates and the pain from his parents’ angry divorce following him around, he’d much rather find someone who he likes, but won’t love. Companionship, not passion, is the name of the game.

When Hailey and Wes find each other in a disastrous meet cute that wasn’t even intended for them, they embarrassingly go their separate ways. But when Wes finds Hailey to apologize for his behavior, they strike a friendship. Because that’s all this can be. Hailey doesn’t want any distractions. Wes doesn’t want to fall in love.

What could possibly go wrong? 

Shadowed Visions (The Guardians: Book 6) by Reily Garrett

Publisher:

Date of publication: December 16th, 2022

Genre: Romance, Suspense, Paranormal

Series: The Guardians

Shadowed Horizons—Book 1 (review here)

Shadowed Origins—Book 2 (review here)

Shadowed Passages—Book 3

Shadowed Spirits—Book 4 (review here)

Shadowed Intent—Book 5 (review here)

Shadowed Visions—Book 6

Purchase Links—Kindle

Goodreads Synopsis:

Silver Wade has never been one to back down from a fight. Facing off against an organization imprisoning those with psychic abilities has become the biggest challenge of her life. The fact she’s also a shapeshifter would make her a unique specimen in their collection.

New to the world of spies and terrorism, she and her sister cross paths with three teens fighting to stay ahead of skilled assassins, intent on their demise.

Dacien McGreggor is well known among his peers for his calm demeanor in times of stress. When ex-detective Silver Wade crosses his path, his worldview is challenged.

Each member of the team is paired with another according to their psychic ability. Dacien and Silver must set aside their differences and work together in order to survive.


First Line:

Never had evil penetrated Colin’s skin, flowing through his pores as if the barrier of his flesh were instead a sieve.

Shadowed Visions by Reily Garrett

I was beyond excited when the author approached me to read/review Shadowed Visions. Why was I so excited? Well, Dacian was getting his HEA. I had waited for six books to see who his love interest was going to be, and it was in book five that the author gave a hint. It was a given that I would accept the invitation to this book. I have become invested in the storyline and characters. I also want to see what wild ride the author would take me on in this book.

Shadowed Visions is book six in The Guardians series. While you don’t need to read the first five books in the series, I highly recommend that you do. There is so much background in each book that missing one could mean missing something important. Side note: I didn’t read book three and needed clarification about what was happening for a good part of book four. So, read the previous books.

Shadowed Visions is a fast-paced book that takes place mainly in Florida. Where in Florida, you ask? The Everglades. The author pained a perfect picture of just how deadly The Everglades was. One of the secondary characters, Colin (who has a fantastic ability), was attacked by a panther and left for dead. The other location that Shadowed Visions take place in is Connecticut. There are also talks about visiting the other group in Pennsylvania, but the author did not take us there.

Shadowed Visions is Dacian and Silver’s story. The fight against the organization that hunts down talented individuals and captures them is still intense. Silver, who is the last of Kiera’s siblings to be found, is a panther shifter who is an adrenaline junkier. She never backs down from a challenge. Nikolai has paired her with Dacian, who can control energy. They are tasked with finding the organization’s last American stronghold, kidnapping talented people, and experimenting on them. When looking for a group of teenagers lost in The Everglades, Silver contacts a large group of panther shifters. It is then that the last part of a prophecy is realized. Can Silver bring the shifters and the psychics together? Or will she choose a side? And what about her new relationship with Dacian? Can it survive the upheavals going on around them?

As with the last five books, Shadowed Visions characters were wonderfully written. Even the secondary character had a depth to them that I was surprised to find out. It made for a more fleshed-out and exciting book.

  • Silver—I didn’t get a chance to get to know her in the last book (Wade’s book). What I saw of her, I liked. She was headstrong, loyal to a fault, an adrenaline junkie, and independent. She was still a little wary of the family she found, but that was understandable. For years, it was just her and Wade. When the panther shifters showed up, I thought she would leave to stay with them. I wasn’t surprised by what she chose, though. I also loved her interactions with Dacian.
  • Dacian—I was so excited that Sparky was getting his match. I paired them up in book five and couldn’t wait to see what adventure they would lead me on. I do wish that the author had revealed more about his background. But that didn’t cut into my enjoyment of reading his story. 

Shadowed Visions fit perfectly in the romantic suspense genre. The romance was a little low-key, but with what was going on in the book, I agreed with it. And the suspense angle was terrific too!! Those two genres are among my favorites to read.

The storyline with Silver, the prophecy, the shifters, and the psychics was interesting. I figured out what would happen around the middle of the book (when Gabe allowed Dacian and others into the compound). But it was still fun reading up to it. Of course, there was a neat twist at the end, where the author revealed something HUGE. Huge as in, certain someone showed up. And the way this person did it was epic. It explained something that had bugged me since book 1. And now I know how the next romance is going to be!!

The storyline with Silver, Dacian, and their romance was sweet. Like I said above, the romance was a little low-key, but with everything happening, I didn’t expect it to be a big showy thing. It wouldn’t have made sense.

The storyline with Roth, the organization, the kidnappings, and the family were not what I expected. I got a significant insight into why Roth was the way he was (spoiler: it was unfortunate) and why he was going to the lengths to destroy his sister and her family. I loved seeing where the organization was holding the kidnapped people, finally being brought down. But then someone said, in America, and it made me wonder, were there other facilities around the world? Would the teams have to travel to release those people? Food for thought there.

I had questions about some secondary storylines that were seemingly left open. The main one was about Colin’s brother and Mary. I was trying to figure out if Silver and Dacian had found him. I know they found his girlfriend’s body, but with how his storyline ended, I figured he wasn’t found. I sure hope that he shows up in the next book. His ability to hold his breath for hours could be a game-changer for the group. The one with Mary seemed to have ended, but she’ll be back. People like her don’t go away quietly.

The end of Shadowed Visions left me very excited. As I said above, a twist in one of the storylines revealed someone I hoped the author would announce. With Roth being back in the picture, I think the next book will be the climax of the series. But I also have a slight, niggling feeling that what happened to Roth in the past wasn’t what it seemed. Maybe someone is showing up unexpectedly? I know this; I can’t wait to read the next book!!

I recommend Shadowed Visions to anyone over 21. There is no sex, but there is language and violence.

I want to thank Reily Garrett for allowing me to read and review Shadowed Visions. All opinions expressed in this review are mine.


If you enjoyed reading Shadowed Visions, you will enjoy reading these books:

The House in the Pines by Ana Reyes

Publisher: Penguin Group Dutton, Dutton

Date of publication: January 3rd, 2023

Genre: Thriller, Mystery, Mystery Thriller, Fiction, Suspense, Audiobook, Adult, Contemporary, Adult Fiction, Psychological Thriller

Purchase Links: Kindle | Audible | B&N | AbeBooks | Alibris | Powells | IndieBound | Indigo | BetterWorldBooks

Goodreads Synopsis:

Armed with only hazy memories, a woman who long ago witnessed her friend’s sudden, mysterious death, and has since spent her life trying to forget, sets out to track down answers. What she uncovers, deep in the woods, is hardly to be believed….

Maya was a high school senior when her best friend, Aubrey, mysteriously dropped dead in front of the enigmatic man named Frank whom they’d been spending time with all summer.

Seven years later, Maya lives in Boston with a loving boyfriend and is kicking the secret addiction that has allowed her to cope with what happened years ago, the gaps in her memories, and the lost time that she can’t account for. But her past comes rushing back when she comes across a recent YouTube video in which a young woman suddenly keels over and dies in a diner while sitting across from none other than Frank. Plunged into the trauma that has defined her life, Maya heads to her Berkshires hometown to relive that fateful summer–the influence Frank once had on her and the obsessive jealousy that nearly destroyed her friendship with Aubrey.

At her mother’s house, she excavates fragments of her past and notices hidden messages in her deceased Guatemalan father’s book that didn’t stand out to her earlier. To save herself, she must understand a story written before she was born, but time keeps running out, and soon, all roads are leading back to Frank’s cabin….

Utterly unique and captivating, The House in the Pines keeps you guessing about whether we can ever fully confront the past and return home.


First Line:

Deep in those woods, there is a house that’s easy to miss.

The House in the Pines by Ana Reyes

The House in the Pines was on my must-read list since I had seen it on another blog that stated they were looking forward to reading it. So, I was beyond thrilled when I got an email from Penguin House Dutton requesting a review. I couldn’t accept it fast enough. I had planned on reading this book as soon as I got it, but life happens, and it got put on the back burner. I finally read it right after Reese Witherspoon announced it was the book of the month in her book club (and no, it wasn’t because of that). I was let down by it. The House in the Pines didn’t live up to my hype, and I was disappointed.

The House in the Pines is a fast-paced book all over the place. It alternated between past and present without giving the reader a heads-up. I get why the author did it. But it didn’t work for me in this case. It only confused me and made me lose focus on what was going on.

This book mostly takes place in my home state of Massachusetts. Unfortunately, I grew up in coastal eastern MA, not in the west. But, I have been to Pittsfield, which is as pitiful as the book described. I have also been to Amherst (I had friends who went to college there), and I lived a quick 5-minute T ride outside of Boston for years (as well as growing up 25-30 mins east of there).

The characters in The House in the Pines alternated between me liking them and not believing their actions. I know it’s a huge difference there, but that’s how it was with me. The only character that I truly liked was Maya’s mother. She was solid and well-written.

  • Maya—She annoyed me for 90% of the book. I couldn’t understand why she didn’t tell Dan that she was going cold turkey from Klonopin withdrawal. He seemed like a decent person who would have helped her. Instead, she was sneaky about it. She is sneaky for almost all of the book and is borderline obsessed with finding Frank and confronting him about Aubrey’s death. But, as much as I disliked her, I did feel bad for her. She lived with the horror of seeing her friend drop dead before her and blamed herself for Audrey’s death. Her mother, who I liked, was vigilant about Maya’s mental health. I will not get into it here, but I blame her mother for pushing her down the path that led Maya to abuse Klonopin and become an alcoholic; what Maya needed after that traumatic event was a therapist, not drugs.
  • Frank—Oh, man, where do I start with him? He was indeed a scumbag, and I believe he targeted Maya because she was innocent. But, at the same time, I think he might have liked her. It was just the vibe I got from their scenes together. I did figure out his deal reasonably early in the book. The video clued me in, as did the book that Frank suggested Audrey read. But I liked seeing Maya’s journey to get to where I did.
  • Audrey—Even though she is dead, she is a massive part of the book. The author formed Maya’s whole adult identity from Audrey’s death. Maya was obsessed with connecting Frank to Audrey’s death and trying to remember what happened that day. The glimpses of Audrey that I got in the flashback, she was a good kid trying to look out for her friend and got caught up in something much bigger than her.

The House in the Pines was a good fit in the mystery genre. I also have it in the thriller and suspense genres, but they weren’t a good fit. I had everything pegged by the middle of the book. Even the twist didn’t take me by surprise. It fell flat for me.

The central storyline with Maya trying to find Frank, remember what happened that summer, and investigate another mysterious death was interesting. But, as I stated above, I figured everything out by the middle of the book. By the end of the book, I was waiting to see if any justice would be served, and I wasn’t surprised by what happened. But I was happy with what Maya was able to do.

The biggest thing that disappointed me about this book was the lack of closure at the end. Everything was left up in the air. I can’t say anything other than that because I am afraid of spoilers.

The end of The House in the Pines was anticlimactic for me. As I stated above, nothing was resolved. Wait, let me rephrase that. Nothing was resolved with Frank. Maya, on the other hand, was able to get some closure. But for the other stuff, everything still needs to be resolved. It was frustrating to read the end and realize nothing more was happening.

I would recommend The House in the Pines to anyone over 21. There is language, mild violence, and mild sexual situations.

I want to thank Penguin House Dutton, Dutton, and Ana Reyes for allowing me to read and review The House in the Pines. All opinions stated in this review are mine.


If you enjoyed reading The House in the Pines, then you will enjoy reading these books:

Goodreads Monday: Welcome to Sortilege Falls (Grape Merriweather: Book 1) by Libby Heily

This is a weekly meme where anyone can choose a random book from their Goodreads TBR and highlight it. This meme was formerly featured on LaurensPageTurners and was taken over by Budget Tales Book Blog.


Sixteen-year-old Grape Merriweather has just moved to Sortilege Falls and already she knows something isn’t right. A small pack of teenage models, too beautiful for words, holds the town in their sway. The models have no plans on making Grape’s life easy. But no matter how cruel they are to Grape and the other “Normals”, no one can stay angry with them for long.

Grape’s life changes for the better, or so she thinks, when Mandy, the only “nice” model, befriends her. But that’s when the trouble truly begins. Mandy’s friendship places Grape smack in the middle of a medical mystery that has the entire town on edge. One by one, the models fall ill from an incurable disease. Grape quickly realizes that the models’ parents are hiding a secret, even as they watch their children die. To save her only friend, Grape will have to find the truth–and that means putting her life in danger.

Son of the Poison Rose (Kagen the Damned: Book 2) by Jonathan Maberry

Publisher: St. Martin’s Press, St. Martin’s Griffin

Date of publication: January 10th, 2023

Series: Kagen the Damned

Kagen the Damned—Book 1 (review here)

Son of the Poison Rose—Book 2

Genre: Fantasy, Fiction, Horror, Dark Fantasy

Purchase Links: Kindle | Audible | B&N | AbeBooks | Alibris | Powells | IndieBound | Indigo | BetterWorldBooks

Goodreads Synopsis:

Son of the Poison Rose marks the second installment of New York Times bestselling author Jonathan Maberry’s epic, swashbuckling Kagen the Damned series.

The Silver Empire is in ruins. War is in the wind. Kagen and his allies are on the run from the Witch-king. Wild magic is running rampant everywhere. Spies and secret cabals plot from the shadows of golden thrones.

Kagen Vale is the most wanted man in the world, with a death sentence on his head and a reward for him—dead or alive—that would tempt a saint.

The Witch-king has new allies who bring a terrible weapon—a cursed disease that drives people into a murderous rage. If the disease is allowed to spread, the whole of the West will tear itself apart.

In order to build an army of resistance fighters and unearth magical weapons of his own, Kagen and his friends have to survive attacks and storms at sea, brave the haunted wastelands of the snowy north, fight their way across the deadly Cathedral Mountains, and rediscover a lost city filled with cannibal warriors, old ghosts, and monsters from other worlds. Along with his reckless adventurer brothers, Kagen races against time to save more than the old empire… if he fails the world will be drenched in a tsunami of bloodshed and horror.

Son of the Poison Rose weaves politics and espionage, sorcery and swordplay, treachery and heroism as the damned outcast Kagen fights against the forces of ultimate darkness.


First Line:

“Repel boarders!”

The cry rang through the ship, tearing Kagen from a dream of his family dining all together, the air filled with conversation and laughter and the smell of the Harvest feast.

Son of the Poison Rose by Jonathan Maberry

I love a complicated fantasy book that takes you down a road you didn’t think it would go. That was what I liked about Kagen the Damned and what I hoped that Son of the Poison Rose would do. This book not only delivered on that expectation but also exceeded what I expected.

Son of the Poison Rose takes place in a complicated but similar world to ours. It was a medium-paced book for about 85%, but it picked up steam towards the end. With how this book ended, any other pacing would have made it impossible to read and retain the information (fast) or made it so dull that people would DNF it after the first few chapters (slow).

Son of the Poison Rose starts shortly after the events in Kagen the Damned. Kagen is determined to discover what happened to his brother, Herepath, to make him turn into the Witch-King. He is not alone in his journey and is aided by his best friends, Tuke and Filia. Their journey takes them from the frozen north to the jungle to uncover secrets left undiscovered for millennia. This book also follows Ryssa as she tries to come to terms with the sacrifice of her lover, Miri, to the god Cthulhu; Mother Frey, as she sets in place a plan to take back the empire; the Witch-King and his cronies dealing with countries that oppose him, and the last two Seedlings, Desalyn and Alleyn, as they try to keep their identities in place and not become Garvan and Foscor, the Witch-King’s children. Enemies are made, countries are destroyed, and alliances are forged as people come together to battle the Witch-King forces. When the dust settles, who will be on top? Will Kagen find out what happened to his brother? Will Ryssa accept Miri’s death? Will Mother Frey get results from everything she’s been doing? Will the Witch-King triumph over his enemies? Will Desalyn/Foscor and Alleyn/Garvan keep their identities?

Son of the Poison Rose is the second book in the Kagen the Damned series. This book cannot be read as a stand-alone book. It will help if you read the first book to understand what is happening in this one.

The characters (primary and secondary) in Son of the Poison Rose were all wonderfully written. The author didn’t write these characters to be loved. These characters got under your skin and sat while you tried to figure out their next move. They were complex and had issues brought to life in the book. The author also didn’t hesitate to kill or maim primary and secondary characters.

  • Kagen—I wasn’t sure what I would get with him when I started reading Son of the Poison Rose. Finding out who the Witch-King was had badly shaken him at the end of Kagen the Damned. I mean, he had found out that his brother executed 2 of his siblings, their parents, and the entire royal line except for the twins. I would have been in shock too. But he didn’t dwell on it much. Instead, he decided to do something about it. He went north to recruit people to his cause. He discovered that magic had reawakened the world in terrifying ways. And he went to a kingdom avoided by other countries to try and find out how to defeat the Witch-King.
  • Ryssa—She didn’t get much page time in the book. But, man, it was intense when the author squeezed her in. She was evolving into something more than herself, something that even the Witch-King feared. I cannot wait to see what she will do in Book 3.
  • Mother Frey—Again, the author gave not much page time to her in the book. And, as with Ryssa, it was explosive when she was in the book. She reminded me of Varys in GoT (with her hands in everything). She manipulated events and people. Plus, she was a tough old bird, and I loved her!! Again, I can’t wait to see what she’ll bring in Book 3.
  • The Witch-King—He was vicious. His bringing in of the monks and turning people of various villages into undead, and allowing his enemies to find and be killed by them highlighted that to me. But I also got the feeling that he was losing power. There were scenes where he talked about killing Kagen, but after everyone left, he cried. That felt like his “real” personality was breaking through. I am curious to see what he will do after what happened in his tower. And I got some insight into why he targeted the Silver Empire.
  • Desalyn/Foscor and Alleyn/Garvan—All I have to say is those poor children. They witnessed so much (like their eldest sister’s rape and murder), and they were forced to do things no children should do. Like, beat each other with a rod when they touched. I did like how Lady Kestrel helped him in the end (she realized what was being done to them was awful). Again, I can’t wait to see where their characters will go in Book 3.

Before I get interrupted or forget, this is a long book. It has 704 pages. So you must read it in more than one sitting. It took me several days to read Son of the Poison Rose.

Son of the Poison Rose fits perfectly into the fantasy and horror genre. If I did have to get technical, this could be shelved as a dark fantasy. But since I’m not getting technical, fantasy, it will be.

I will only take the time to outline some of the main storylines in the book. It would make this book tediously long. I will briefly summarize what I thought of all the storylines. They were insanely good, and I couldn’t get enough of them. Even the little snippets of what was happening in the world once the magic was released were unique. My only complaint was that I thought the author drew the undead/pyramid scenes out toward the end of Kagen’s storyline. But it served its purpose, and I can’t wait to see what will happen in this world now!!

There are some major trigger warnings in Son of the Poison Rose. There are explicit scenes of child abuse, graphic violence, gore, self-mutilation, and sexual situations. If any of these triggers you, I recommend not reading this book.

The end of Son of the Poison Rose was a cliffhanger. Usually, I’m not too fond of cliffhangers. They annoy me, but they do their job. I am invested in these characters, and I need to read book 3 to see if there will be any resolution.

I recommend Son of the Poison Rose to anyone over 21. There is explicit violence, language, and sexual situations. Also, see my trigger warnings.


If you enjoyed reading Son of the Poison Rose, you will enjoy reading these books:

Book Blogger Hop—January 13th, 2023

The Book Blogger Hop was originally created by Jennifer @ Crazy-For-Books in March 2010 and ended on December 31, 2012. With Jennifer’s permission, it was relaunched on February 15, 2013, by Billy @ the Ramblings of a coffee addict. . Each week the hop will start on a Friday and end the following Thursday. There will be a weekly prompt featuring a book-related question. The hop’s purpose is to give bloggers a chance to follow other blogs, learn about new books, befriend other bloggers, and receive new followers to your own blog.


This week’s prompt: Are there any new books you’re excited to read in 2023? 

Today’s prompt got me thinking about what book I am looking forward to reading in 2023. There was a lot since I love to read and look forward to every book on my shelf. After some time thinking (and staring off into space; it is part of my blogging process), I picked one book. I decided on one because I didn’t want this post to drag on forever. Short and sweet is a motto that I try to live by (just not with blogging).

And here it is!! Let me know if you have read this book and what you thought of it.


Founded by the mysterious genius known as the Designer, the archipelago of Prospera lies hidden from the horrors of a deteriorating outside world. In this island paradise, Prospera’s lucky citizens enjoy long, fulfilling lives until the monitors embedded in their forearms, meant to measure their physical health and psychological well-being, fall below 10 percent. Then they retire themselves, embarking on a ferry ride to the island known as the Nursery, where their failing bodies are renewed, their memories are wiped clean, and they are readied to restart life afresh.

Proctor Bennett, of the Department of Social Contracts, has a satisfying career as a ferryman, gently shepherding people through the retirement process–and, when necessary, enforcing it. But all is not well with Proctor. For one thing, he’s been dreaming–which is supposed to be impossible in Prospera. For another, his monitor percentage has begun to drop alarmingly fast. And then comes the day he is summoned to retire his own father, who gives him a disturbing and cryptic message before being wrestled onto the ferry.

Meanwhile, something is stirring. The Support Staff, ordinary men and women who provide the labor to keep Prospera running, have begun to question their place in the social order. Unrest is building, and there are rumors spreading of a resistance group–known as “Arrivalists”–who may be fomenting revolution.

Soon Proctor finds himself questioning everything he once believed, entangled with a much bigger cause than he realized–and on a desperate mission to uncover the truth.


I was super excited when the publisher granted my wish for this book. I had seen some reviews on it and what I had read was good. Then I read the blurb and I needed to read this book.

The Rom-Com Agenda by Jayne Denker

Publisher: St. Martin’s Press, St. Martin’s Griffin

Date of publication: January 10th, 2023

Genre: Romance, Contemporary, Adult, Fiction, Contemporary Romance, Adult Fiction, Womens Fiction, Chick Lit

Purchase Links: Kindle | Audible | B&N | AbeBooks | Alibris | Powells | IndieBound | Indigo | BetterWorldBooks

Goodreads Synopsis:

A Most Anticipated Romance by PopSugar!

Vibrantly funny, endearingly sweet, and a love letter to all things rom com, Jayne Denker’s The Rom Com Agenda is a story of two people finding love right when they least expect it.

You know how the story’s supposed to go…but love makes its own plans.

STEP 1: Find yourself
Leah Keegan is used to being alone, especially after taking care of her sick foster mother for the past year. But now there’s nothing keeping her in the sweet town of Willow Cove. It’s time to move on. Again.

STEP 2: Win back the one who got away
Eli Masterson thought he and Victoria were meant to be together until she decided to jet off to Rome for a year. Eli is determined to win her back. But how?

STEP 3: Become a romantic hero
Changing Eli’s physical appearance is easy, but to turn Eli into the sophisticated-yet-vulnerable ideal man, his girl pals force him to watch classic rom-coms. And take notes.

STEP 4: Fall in love?
Inadvertently drawn into the makeover scheme, Leah ends up being Eli’s guide through the wild world of meet-cutes and grand gestures. Even though she believes Eli doesn’t need to change a thing about himself. Even though she just might be falling for Eli . . . and Eli falling for her.

“The perfect swoony, slow burn, sentimental romantic comedy that we all deserve .” –New York Times bestselling author Jenn McKinlay


First Line:

Leah Keegan was positive she was not meant to be a superhero.

The Rom-Com Agenda by Jayne Denker

Even though I like (and love) other genres, romance is the backbone of my reading experience. I was hooked when I started reading Harlequin book of the month romances in middle school. I also love rom-com. If I am in a bad mood or feeling blah, I can turn on Netflix and find many of them. So, when I got the invite to review from the publisher, I didn’t hesitate to accept it. But I was disappointed with The Rom-Com Agenda. Not that I didn’t like it (I did). The story fell short of my expectations.

The Rom-Com Agenda is a medium-paced book set in upstate New York. Leah had returned to Willow Creek to care for her sick foster mother. Now that her foster mother passed, Leah is at a loss for what to do. She holds multiple jobs, trying to make ends meet, when she overheard a disastrous proposal and break-up. Leah meets that man, Eli, when his sister and her friends are determined to give him a makeover and goes into the shop where Leah works. Leah is welcomed into the group by everyone (including Eli) and learns that Eli is determined to win back his girlfriend. That is when the Rom-Com agenda is formed. Eli must watch every rom-com movie the girls recommend to him to become a swoon-worthy man. They hope that he will learn something from them. Leah volunteers to watch them with him, and a connection is formed. Leah starts to fall for Eli, but she knows she is on limited time. Her foster mother’s son is coming back to town to sell the house, and Leah won’t have a place to stay. So, falling in love is the last thing on her agenda. Will Eli learn anything from the movies? Will Leah have to leave Willow Creek? And most importantly, will Leah and Eli admit their feelings for each other?

I loved the secondary characters and Leah in The Rom-Com Agenda. They were fleshed out, and I did form an attachment to them. The main characters were tough to like. Well, not Leah. She was sweet and reserved. It was Eli, and I’ll explain it in his section below. Let’s say that desperate is never good and comes off poorly.

  • Leah—She was a sweetheart. I wanted to scoop her up and shield her from the bad things in the world. I also couldn’t believe how reserved she was. I get why. I’m not going to get into her backstory, but it was excruciating and affected how she thought other people saw her. She decided to help Eli because she was a kind person and knew he was hurting. I loved seeing her character grow and understand her self-worth.
  • Eli—I couldn’t stand him. He is the reason why I rated this book three stars. He came across as desperate. What he did to Victoria (his ex) was not cool. They had only been dating for maybe two months when she went to Rome for a year. What did Eli do? He proposed marriage and then refused to accept the break-up. I was like, “what the heck, dude?” When his sister and friends decide to make him over (to help him get over her), he obsesses over her. I couldn’t even with him. I wanted to smack him and say, “Helloo, Leah, idiot.” This went on for almost the whole book.

The Rom-Com Agenda did fit into the romance genre, but it was slow-burn. The author went for a more relaxed, natural feel for the romance. While I did appreciate it, I sometimes wished it moved a little faster. But, overall, it was a good fit for the book.

The storylines in The Rom-Com Agenda felt a little meh to me. I was not too fond of that pseudo-love triangle in which the author tried to put Eli, Leah, and Victoria. As I mentioned above, it came across as forced and super creepy on Eli’s end. I did like the storyline where Eli’s friends tried to help him out of his depression, but I did find it odd that they wanted him to watch rom-com instead of him diving back into the world of dating. As for the storyline with Eli and Leah, I did like that one. It was sweet to watch them fall in love (even if Eli didn’t admit it to himself and kept obsessing over freaking Victoria).

There were a couple of trigger warnings in The Rom-Com Agenda. They were the death of a loved one by cancer, mental illness, foster care, and caregiver burnout. If any of these triggers you, I recommend not reading this book.

The end of The Rom-Com Agenda was your typical HEA. I liked that Eli and Leah got their HEA. I would love to see more books in this world. There are several characters that I would like to see more of.

I recommend The Rom-Com Agenda to anyone over 21. There is mild violence, mild language, and very mild sexual situations. Also, see my trigger warnings above.


If you enjoyed reading The Rom-Com Agenda, then you will enjoy reading these books: